Poetry Newsgroups:
A Cast of Characters


The alt.arts.poetry.comments and rec.arts.poems newsgroups, among others, feature a host of interesting characters. But, of course, you can't tell the players without a scorecard. This albeit incomplete listing is intended to introduce the newcomer to a snapshot of the cast and crew that haunt these cyberhalls of fame. Brace yourselves, though. No one ever told you that this place was for the faint of heart. And if you thought that poets were sensitive, mild-mannered souls who spouted nothing but soothing sonnets and pleasing pentameters...

Contributors to these newsgroups are categorized as either "must read" or "should read". Both should be seen as compliments. The difference is largely one of utility; those in the "should read" column tend to benefit the aspiring poet less directly or less often than their counterparts to the left.

"DI" refers to Distraction Index: the amount of time (expessed as a number from 0-10) that this individual spends dealing with trolls. Most agree that trolls are best left ignored. Hence, the lower this number the better our chances of actually reading something pertinent to the subject of poetry when we click on their posts.

This list continues to grow as we are reminded of the contributions of those whom we have forgotten or simply not gotten around to including as yet. If you feel that a name is missing please click here to let us know.

Note: We do not recommend that anyone read the dribblings of anonymous posters. There may be many good reasons to remain anonymous in a poetry newsgroup, but our experience thus far has been limited to those whose reasons are egregious and transparent.



Rank
Read Everything These People Post
DI
Read Whenever You Can
DI
1st
Colin Will
0
Sheila Miguez Herndon
2
2nd
David Rutkowski
4
Horatio
7
3rd
Peter J. Ross
10
Dai Crowther
1
4th
JAS Carter
6
Bindi
2
5th
Jim Sheard
6
Rik Roots
2
6th
Sophie
4
Joy Yourcenar
3
7th
Aidan Tynan
3
George Tolis
2
8h
Mike Billard
5
J. R. Sherman
10
9th
Dale Houstman ("dmh")
8
Peter Stewart Richards
5
10th
Elvira Selow
3
Robin Sommo
3
11th
D'huit
8
J. Rinier
8
12th
Mikel Potts
5
Michael Cook
7
13th
Andrew Kei ("Tiniap")
6
DHHarkness
2
14th
David Bolduc
3
Zinc
1
15th
Gary Gamble
8
Renay St. James
7



Other Notable Contributors

Tindal, Marian, Bill Trenholm, Beau Blue, Amathyzt, Dennis Hammes, Harper M. Wilson, Milo T. Briggs, Tom Woolery, Chandra P. Das, JeanneKhan, Veronica O'Donoghue, Thomas Dillion, Shambhu, Joel Harris, Gregory Jungheim, Gabriel Westling and ZPhysics--among others--are also very valued members of these newsgroups. We'd love to see more of them.



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Colin Will

Colin Will does not post enough for anyone's liking. His affable charm, fine poetry and impeccable demeanour is a great addition to whatever forum he graces with his "presence". A unanimous pick for "Man of the Year"--this and every year.



Sheila Miguez Herndon

Sheila has an extremely low Distraction Index. Her comments are invariably sharp, informative and to the point. Indeed, Sheila is one of the most under-rated authorities on poetry (and on a number of other subjects) that one will find on these newsgroups.



David Rutkowski

David's whimsical poetry ranks him as the very best active Usernet poet since Marco Morales and Ray Heinrich. His style is reminiscent of the latter in its focus on brevity and theme. Always a great pleasure to read. His correspondence with Sister Jeanne-Claude has a wonderful "Griffin and Sabine" quality to it.



Horatio

Horatio's critiques are only one of his strengths: always very direct and among the most helpful that we will find on these newsgroups. His poems follow this same pattern. They are simple, unpretentious and benefit from a clear, practical urban voice.

Caution: Do not try to drink, smoke or eat anything while reading Horatio's posts. He is the funniest thing we've seen since "Spitting Images". Your monitor and keyboard will thank you later.



Peter J. Ross

While "Boss Ross" does not suffer fools gladly, his critiques, wit and style make all of his posts a pleasure for everyone to read--except for the object of his acid tongue, at the very least.

Peter ranks in the upper echelons of internet poets, but you'll want to keep a dictionary handy when reading his works. I mentioned that "PJR" doesn't display great patience with the ungifted. He doesn't write poetry for them, either.



Dai Crowther

Dai Crowther should be regarded as the Pringle of Welsh poetry. Should there be any doubt in this regard, click here to hear some of his readings at the official alt.arts.poetry.comments FAQ site. True, he did have that one inexplicable lapse in taste during the dark days of the Vlek plague but, hey, we all have guilty pleasures, right?

Dai is probably the best technician and arguably the best overall poet that we will find on these newsgroups. Unfortunately, his new job as bartender/manager of a hotel in Wales has kept him too busy to contribute lately. We eagerly await his return.




JAS Carter

Julie has given everyone strict orders to never call her "Jules" or "Jewels". This is unfortunate, since she is one of the most precious assets to online poets. Julie not only runs the poetry telephone but brings significant computer skills to bear on the task of promoting cyberpoetry. Her all-too-rare critiques rank among the finest we will see.

Julie may be one of the very few poets that we will see who are actually better when they rhyme. She restricts herself to sonnets for the most part but her efforts outside that format are noteworthy.



Bindi

Bindi is one of the finest human beings that you will encounter on Usenet. Bindi's critiques and works lack a certain "punch": specificity, power and drive seem to be lacking here. As a poet Bindi is under-rated and all-too-often overlooked.



Jim Sheard

Jim Sheard is the keeper of the flame (i.e. the a.a.p.c. FAQ) and the "founding father" of that newsgroup. Since then, he has attained the exhalted status of a "voice of reason". Oh, and if you think "voice of reason" is faint praise, stick around.



Rik Roots

If you don't like Rik Roots, you don't belong here.

On the planet, I mean. Not just these newsgroups.

Rik's characteristic self-effacing humour and quirky perspective add a touch of levity to a place that would be much poorer without it. Rik has something which many other talented poets lack: modesty.

"Big deal," you say? Again, stick around.



Sophie

Perhaps no voice here rings with the same authority as Sophie's. No, not even PJR's. Always very measured in her analysis and rhetoric, Sophie will only descend to bluntness when this is clearly the native language of her unilingual intended audience.

How well respected is Sophie? We once saw JAS Carter defer to her, and JAS Carter defers to no one.



Joy Yourcenar

Joy is certainly one of the better poets that we will find and writes wonderful critiques when she puts her mind to it. Occasionally she is distracted by off-topic discussions.



Aidan Tynan

A relative newcomer, Aidan has in quick order established himself as one of the most incisive and helpful critics on the Usenet. He usually avoids petty off-topic squabbles, politics and name-calling in order to concentrate on the subject at hand: poetry.

Well, we did say he was a newcomer, right?

Of course, none of this serves to suggest that Aidan pulls punches in criticizing a vacuous work, as this quote from the "Facade" thread (2002-07-17) illustrates:

"Please give me [one] reason why the aforesaid could be classified as anything other than badly written, unimaginative and cliché-festooned. This poem, for lack of a more appropriate term, seems to represent, to me, everything poetry is not about, that is: vague references to vaguely traumatic personal events renumerated listlessly as a piece of abstract journalistic schlock (with random line breaks to disguise it as poetry) superimposed on a bland moral-aesthetic grid. Superficial in every way, and lacking any sort [of] effect."

Aidan forgot to mention whether or not he liked the poem.



George Tolis

Next to Colin Will, George Tolis ranks as arguably the most respected member here. Both his poetry and his commentary are top notch. Lately, though, we have seen little of George and even less of his poetry. His rare visits are either to make off-topic rebuttals or to write critiques which hint at the same busy schedule that must be keeping him from us. We want the old George back!



Mike Billard

Mike is renown as a "no nonsense" reviewer who, like PJR and Gary Gamble, will not mince words in telling aspiring poets that they have a long way to go before they reach the august heights of mediocrity. Nevertheless, his critiques rank among the best that we will see.

A fine poet in his own right, Mike is cursed with impeccable taste. This almost cost him dearly when he temporarily lost sight in both eyes during the infamous Vlek plague that struck a.a.p.c. last year.

Mike is one of the "staff" at the Gazebo, which, along with the Poetry Free-For-All, is one of the best poetry critique forums on the web.



J. R. Sherman

J.R. is our resident watchdog, alerting us to any lowering of the group's average I.Q. caused either by dilution from outside sources or by the spread of ignorance from within. Should you run afoul of this Cyberus, apologize profusely and back away slowly. J.R.'s stamina and determination are downright...well, dogged.

Jim's poetry has a very informal, meandering charm. We'd like to see more of it.



Dale Houstman

Dale is very much like Mike Billard both as a poet and as a commentator. If either of them deign to critique your work thank them. Profusely. The difference between "dmh" and Mike and is that Dale is more likely to be drawn into off-topic political debates than Mike.

A sidebar to Canadians: South of the Canada-U.S. border, Dale's political views are actually regarded as left wing. No, seriously.



Peter Stewart Richards

Peter brings his characteristic even-handed approach to his critiques. We would all like to see more of that--and Peter.



Elvira Selow

Elvira is our charming German connection. Known best as "E. Selow", she is not as prolific as we might hope but her poetry and commentary makes her one of the most authoritative voices on the newsgroups.



Robin Sommo

When she is around "RSommo" is one of the most valued members of these haunts. Robin avoids flame wars and is known for her calm, mature voice.



D'huit

Never shrill or antagonistic (except towards trolls, and trolls don't count), Kate stands out as one of the most helpful and level-headed habitués. There is a softness and warmth which emanates from her poetry and critiques. As a commentator, D'huit will be a favourite among newcomers.



J. Rinier

J. Rinier's poetry has a bright, quick and incisive quality to it. His critiques are direct and blunt. J. Rinier has never been accused of pedantry. His ability to spot a moron from half a planet away is rivalled only by PJR's. His ability to tolerate such morons is not nearly so prodigious.



Mikel Potts

Mikel Potts is one of the more serious and practical reviewers on the newsgroups. His poetry is like his critique: simple, straightforward and disarmingly unpretentious.



Michael Cook

Michael Cook may be a surprise entry for some, but his contributions to newcomers are too significant to ignore. He is patient, helpful and tactful in his dealings with novice poets. The same may not be said of his reactions to trolls.



Andrew Kei ("Tiniap")

Andrew Kei is one of the most prolific and helpful commentators here. His postcard poetry is quirky, allegorical and image-laden. Andrew's critiques accent these tastes as he focuses on technique rather than substance. Advice for new poets: take Andrew's suggestions to heart. You won't get a better critique here--or anywhere else.



D. H. Harkness

Dean, himself a relatively new poet, approaches critiquing more as a sibling, absent any of the patronizing tones that others may or may not display. As such, Dean's commentary might be among the most acceptable to newcomers. If Dean remarks that a poem is sub-par the writer should seriously consider a return to the drawing board.



David Bolduc

No other poet brings to life the grit of the urban gay experience with the panache that David does. If you want to see the effectiveness of concise language check out our very own "DB". This master of brevity makes that Colin Ward guy seem longwinded.



Zinc

Zinc has really come into his own lately. Polite, self-effacing and reserved, Zinc is a developing poet with a fresh perspective. His critiques lack the bite of a PJR or Mike Billard effort or the detail of Tiniap's but will be invaluable to the beginner. Next to Colin Will and Rik Roots, Zinc is the most charming male contributor on these newsgroups.



Gary Gamble

The renowned Gary Gamble has returned to these newsgroups after a long absence. A master of bluntness, this PFFA moderator is quick to focus on the pretentious, hypocritical or downright stupid. Not a favourite among misguided newcomers, his acid humour and unequalled wit are treasured by the cognicenti. While he wastes far too much time humiliating imbecilic trolls, the atmosphere always livens up whenever "GG" posts.

It might be said that while PJR doesn't suffer fools gladly, Gary doesn't suffer them at all. Gary is to these newsgroups what Scavella's mantra (i.e. "You aren't as good as you think you are!") is to PFFA.



Renay St. James

While Renay sometimes gets bogged down in pointless discussions with witless trolls, she brings an irresistible charm and honesty to discussions. Her critiques are always direct and helpful. Her poetry, though sadly scarce, has a characteristic informal charm.



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