Poetry might not be the first thing you think of when you think of the Internet. But Plume, a new poetry journal, has flourished on the Web, thanks to its founder and editor, St. Petersburg resident Daniel Lawless.
In the year since its inception, Plume has published original work by an international roster of contemporary poets, including such literary heavyweights as Rae Armantrout, Charles Bernstein, Lydia Davis, Tess Gallagher and Paul Muldoon.
"People have been so generous, it's just unbelievable," says the soft-spoken Lawless.
He decided to create Plume after encouragement from Jason Cook, owner of Ampersand Books, an independent press in Gulfport. Lawless says he placed requests for submissions at other poetry journals online last year. "Within three hours, I had a poem from Alicia Ostriker," a noted feminist poet and National Book Award finalist. Soon after, he had one from Charles Bernstein, a poet, scholar and fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Plume was on its way. It has now published 14 monthly issues at its elegantly designed website, plumepoetry.com. The site, Lawless says, gets about 2,000 visitors per month. Each issue features 12 poems contributed by poets from around the world. Many of the poets are American, but others live in Macedonia, Taiwan, Ireland, Ukraine — a global roster.
That international scope is just what Lawless had in mind. Lawless grew up in Louisville, Ky., and was swept away as a teenager by a love for modern poetry. His "Eurocentric" tastes led him to such writers as E.M. Cioran, a Romanian philosopher and essayist; surrealists such as Andre Breton and Paul Eluard; and a variety of other modern poets whose work, Lawless says, exemplifies "knee-slapping bleakness."
Lawless earned a master's degree in English and creative writing at the University of Louisville and taught in France and England before joining the faculty at St. Petersburg College, where he is a professor in the English department — and teaches his classes in online formats, too.
Starting up a literary journal used to be a fairly expensive proposition, usually requiring affiliation with a university or some other funding source to cover printing and mailing costs. Publishing one on the Web means costs are "minimal," Lawless says, minimal enough that he's been able to do it independently.
And now Plume has come full circle from digital to print. The Plume Anthology of Poetry 2012, its first print collection, will be published in September by Pequod Books. The book features more than 70 poems, most gathered from Plume's first year, some new, by a remarkable array of prize-winning poets.
It also features a dozen poems by M. Vasalis, a Dutch poet and psychoanalyst who died in 1998. Her poems are printed on facing pages in Dutch and in English translations, by David Young and Fred Lessing. (Other poems in the collection that are translated also include their original versions, such as those by Taiwanese poet Hsia Yu, whose poems appear both in English and Chinese.)
"It's really been amazing," Lawless says of the response to Plume. "I think poets are just happy to have their work be read."
Colette Bancroft can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8435.