Editor's Notes upon entering our third
year of the publication of SWITCHED-ON GUTENBERG, A Global Poetry Journal,
on the World Wide Web:
Along with freak ice storms and hurricane-force winds, the Northwest winter of 1995 brought a hike in postal rates, a rise in the cost of paper and photocopying, and news of the eminent dismantling of the National Endowment for the Arts. Living in the paper-producing capital of America, I witnessed ever-growing patches of "harvested" (read: clear-cut) forest quilt the Cascade foothills, while piles of wood pulp necessary for publishing vanished from neighborhood mill yards. It was in this hostile climate that I and University of Washington Extension founded SWITCHED-ON- GUTENBERG, an electronic poetry journal of the English-speaking world. Our goal was to publish good poetry to as wide an audience as possible with all possible haste. A cyberspace magazine could accomplish this by reducing the processing time in addition to almost eliminating the costs of production. In short, we wanted to cut to the chase and create a globally available, semi-annual Twenty-first Century "Zine."
The students (many of whom already have MFA's) submitted their best writing. We invited authors whose poems we studied and admired to submit work. In order to get our publication on-line, my assistant editors (Kathy Banas, Linda Malnack, and Donna Waidtlow) and I expanded our own feeble semi-adequate knowledge of computers before turning to the Olympic Web surfers in our families and even to their students and secretaries. Not without the kindness of strangers was Switched-on born and immediately noted by the print media. Instantaneously, our sudden cyberspace readership responded with helpful comments. We received editorial communiqués from as far away as South Africa and inquiries concerning submission from Europe and the former Soviet Union. Judging from the number of "hits" we got, our "circulation," if one can still call it that, appeared to be between five and ten thousand readers.
In the third issue, after we'd gotten our proverbial sea legs as cyberspace poetry editors, we opened up submission to the e-mail public. One of our workshop members, Joan Ross Blaedel, is a celebrated Northwest painter and we began illustrating our cybertext with her art as well as the work of other invited guests. We solicited commentary and reviews from Seattle poet and poetry bookstore owner, John W. Marshall. We now think of him as the virtual Herb Caen of poetry, reporting on his corner of the actual world near Wallingford and 45th in Seattle.
In this (Vol. III, No. 1) our fifth issue,
not only have we commissioned a new masthead of Johann Gutenberg from poet
and artist Robin Lindley, but we have committed Mary Mackey's poem, "Net
Surfing 2:00 AM," to audio file. In our next issue we jump into the
deep end of cyberspace soup by soliciting poems on a theme: anything concerning
the life, friendships, and/or art of Frida Kahlo and/or Diego Rivera. Vol.
III, No. 2 will appear on-line when we have achieved an adequate exploration
of the world of these two innovative and important artists. --Jana Harris