The Process

Since we’ve been shamelessly plugging the excellent new LitKicks book “Action Poetry” here and elsewhere, I thought it’d be good to pause and find out what you all really think about this book, or about the online process that led to the creation of the book.

As many long-time LitKickers know, earlier this year we invited all site members to nominate a few poems or stories they’d read here for inclusion in the first LitKicks book. We got over a hundred suggestions, which Jamelah and Caryn and I trimmed down to about 25. We also added some selections of our own, and this final mix became one of the three sections of the book.

As one of the three editors of this volume, I have to say that the process was fascinating but probably completely un-scientific. The very concept of selecting a tiny number of poems from the huge collected works of a large online community is highly disconcerting. For every poem or story nominated, a thousand others are overlooked. And how much does “popularity” or personality have to do with the choices made?

Well, I really like the way the book turned out, and in fact I think the nomination process worked surprisingly well. There may have been some “popularity” votes or maybe even some sympathy votes, but I don’t think these made it past the final cut. It was also encouraging to see that some of the pieces nominated — at least a couple of which ended up in the book — were by writers who showed up once, posted a single piece, commented on nobody else’s writing, and never turned up again. Most of our favorite regulars made it into the book too. I think we ended up with a good balance.

But maybe I’m too close to it to see clearly. If you have a copy of this book, I’d like to know what you think of it. If you don’t have a copy, I’d like you to buy one, but whether you do or not, I’d also like to know if you have any thoughts about the general concept of online-based or community-generated literature.

33 Responses

  1. litkicks gone badI would like
    litkicks gone bad

    I would like to take this opportunity, since you did ask about online communities, to complain about the recent direction LitKicks has taken.

    The original thing I (and I’m sure most people) loved about LitKicks was the interactiveness and spontanaeity of the boards, particularly the Action Poetry board. What has happened to the best part of the site? Instead of freely jotting down your thoughts and feelings with a stranger, the site has taken on some strict rule-following process where it’s hard to get your comment posted — and even if you do, it’s going to be on a subject that someone else sets as a mandate. What gives? It’s like being back at school, where you have to write crummy essays on the topic the teacher chooses.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for playing around with the format of the site. But what’s happened is, we’re not expanding or going forward — we’re restricted, boxed in to topics and usual logical ways of thinking. Is it necessary to shut down the old boards? I really don’t understand all this.

    It’s sad to say, but if this site keeps up with this formalised restricted mentality, I’ll soon have no reason to log on anymore. That’ll be the end of 4 years of being part of an online community.

  2. A Night in Action Poetry
    A Night in Action Poetry Land

    … although I find the titles a bit misleading, after a late night sojourn into the LitKicks realm of writings I came away entertained and turned on to some writers I had never read before.

    … the book is a first class product with a dynamite forward by David Amram and excellent introduction that does a great job of explaining it’s content.

    … of the three sections I find the first to be my favorite. I really am glad to have copies of my favorite poets work on my bookshelf.

    … I can’t comment on the Quest because I seemed to have missed the whole program due to a hiatus from cyber land.

    … the 24 hour poetry party, now that’s up this wired man’s alley. the whole event was a spontaneous blockbuster explosion of creative energy and I agree with you that the final product speaks for itself.

    … and finally I want to say that the book is an entertaining read, diverse and full of surprises.

  3. Noah, I know you aren’t the
    Noah, I know you aren’t the only person who feels this way. And I think you’re right to bring this up here, because the experience of putting together the book helped inform our plan to redesign the site. The main goal of the redesign is to increase the quality of the writing on LitKicks, while also slowing down the quantity. We want to make the site more readable and more focused, and this should make the job a lot easier when it comes time to create the second LitKicks book.

    I miss the sheer energy level of the old site too. Sure, it was fun to watch threads on the old poetry boards grow by huge fractal branches each minute. But, having done that for three and a half years, we felt it was time for the site to move on to a different structure where we could explore specific themes and take our discussions deeper. I guess you could say we want to provide a full healthy meal of literary community, whereas the old site was only capable of delivering the sugar rush of fast response.

    We think the new site will find its own versions of the “sugar rush”, though. We are trying to find the right balance between what we had before and what we hope we can have. Your advice helps and we will keep it in mind, but please do give the new structure enough time to prove itself. It may turn up surprising results.

  4. Alive and KickingI thoroughly
    Alive and Kicking

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading my copy of Action Poetry from cover to cover over the weekend. I’m amazed to be included in such a group of sharp, dynamic writers; the book has a little bit of everything and it feels alive. It spans the spectrum of emotions and relevance.

    Even that hack Feral’s piece came off better than mine.*

    *I only call him that because he said it first. Feral knows I dig his style.

  5. Coolazice, I know how you
    Coolazice, I know how you feel. But I have to say this. I am getting a lot more writing done now than I used to. It was so easy in the past to play around on LitKicks that I would often leave projects uncompleted. Since the Mindless Chatter board has vanished, I almost have enough new short stories for a 2nd chapbook and I’ve been published on a couple of other e-zines. I also enjoy my interactions more on LitKicks because they are less frequent.

  6. exciting!I did receive the

    I did receive the book and was excited to get it. Congratulations on a great book that capture the spirit of the original boards. I think it will bring new members for the site. Preety cool!

    As for the site, I like the more focused approach. It has increased the quality of what is being written and helps focus it to more of a literary discussion site. Since I am not able to log on everyday it is good that there are a couple of active topics at one time, though I would like to see more available. I would like to see a monthly (or so) roundtable discussions area, kind of like a book club, where an assigned book is discussed, maybe focused on “new” writers or books. Maybe help the new writers get some exposure (and cash).

    I am sure that you will continue with events and workshops and I look foreword to that. The last poetry go round was fun with the movies and all. I hope we have more events like that. Keep up the great work and thanks for keeping me thinking about the good stuff. The Frisbee is cool too!

  7. Action PoetryI feel honored
    Action Poetry

    I feel honored to be a part of the new book and new process of litkicks. While I do have some nostalgia (under which I get caught) about the old way of litkicks where my poems come and go… I feel you’re onto something exciting here. However, I’ll have you know I’ve only written one poem since the change over… I’m blaming no one (haha).

    I think Action Poetry trips the light fantastic. It is new, fresh and accessible. I find that so many new authors are trying to be the contemporary version of something old, something already done…and this is something of its own which is entirely new. The light fantastic is definitely tripped.

    Thanks to all involved for contributing, nominating, writing, selecting, buying and reading. Let covers open doors open minds open thoughts open worlds.

    If you don’t have a copy of the book, what are you waiting for?

  8. I wondered what that
    I wondered what that beautiful sensation was…now I know…it’s the light fantastic being so tripped !

  9. Impure
    Impure Solipsism

    Community-generated prose is impure solipsism unless it tries to attract the attention of those literary twin towers, The New York Times Book Review and and its proletarian counterpart, public opinion, word of mouth, chattering classes, etc. where the only commandment of their arena is to be published or perish.

  10. Homage to Clint Eastwood:FOR
    Homage to Clint Eastwood:


    Oodles of noodles of poetry threads
    critics are wearily rubbing their heads:
    an aching jaw is the natural law,
    survival of fullest; eat s— and die,
    I’ll tell you no lie, it’s good enough to live
    without ever knowing why.

    I’m not sure why this poem rhymes.
    I hate rhyming, fretting a phrase
    “–in elegant ways”, twisting and turning
    like a rat in a maze, gnawing and pawing
    at the pleasure of Measure.

    Bah. Poetry: Subspecies of the Family
    Rodentia. We must gnash and grind our teeth,
    because they are continually growing;
    otherwise, our back molar might tear through
    our cheek, in a nighmare out of Bacon.
    The Painter, not the tiresome philsopher,
    prattling behind a curtain in Hamlet–
    oh no, what I have in mind is something
    MADE, smelling almost of excrement,
    dense oils and varnishes, filthy canvass.
    Rats crawling along the gutter of the subway,
    dragging heaving testicles behind them–
    Rats spawning on the garbage of Manhattan.
    Sure, that’s less than lovely; Walt would recoil
    from it, he would insist
    “I am a man, and I am every Man–“
    but then again, WE are NOT and HE;
    hell, not even he was HIM,
    the fully desired; the fullsomeness
    of Being.

    Bah, Poetry– if you want to understand
    the truth of our “profession”, read Kafka’s
    The Burrow.

    I sniff the acrid air. Slimy belly. Darting.
    Amputated tail (I lost it in the war,)

    ((Proust had a habit of visiting the local brothel, and request that they bring before him, in a box, two starved rats who would
    then proceed to tear each other to pieces))


    Actually, Bluejean Brother, I suppose I should
    take the time to thank you, for having
    created, in one incarnation or another,
    a place for poetry; though I must admit,
    I preferred the old way, I preferred the
    chaos, I prefer anonymity, I do not especially believe that “quality” should be preserved,
    I would not pay even ten thousand
    dollars for a first edition, first imprint folio
    of Shakespeare or of the King James Bible;
    I’m rather pleased by the notion that most of our contemporary
    literature is printed on acidic-paper, and will
    self-decompose; I’m also pleased that what we write and what we’ve written here will, for the most part, vanish– it feels almost like freedom, wouldn’t you agree?
    Embracing the void would seem only to have been self-awareness.

    Bah. There I go, sounding self-important.

    Nevermind me. I spend too much time reading, and perhaps all I’ve said had only been the ambivalent response of a man
    locked in the brutal hold of the Elohim;
    wrestling with books, and books about books,
    wandering the stacks and praying God show me the mercy of allowing me to go blind like Borges, rather than risking myself to the old
    Quixotean madness– but perhaps, it’s already too late–

    As for the book, haven’t had the opportunity to have a look at it; is there a copy at the Bowery, perhaps? Sorry I never spoke to any of you guys, the day you read your poem–
    please, don’t take it as insult, or a rejection–
    I’m just real particular, about remaining
    more-or-less anonymous. Like I said, it feels like freedom. If there’s one thing we particularly need to escape the oppresion of, it’s our own foolish selves.

    Bah: Self=Poetry=Rodentry.

    (Squeaking, he scurries off
    after a whiff of moon-cheese).

    may this find you well,

  11. Unlike that old crank Noah, I
    Unlike that old crank Noah, I do like the format since the ocotber thing. I really like the idea that everyone’s thoughts on the topic of the day or week come together in more focused way. And the topics have generally been really quite engaging.

    I hate to agree with Noah on anything at all, but the spontaneity was one of the most delightful things about the site. But this isn’t the only flaw of the new strcuture.

    I find the review process infuriating. Are the central committee trying to stop comments which may be offensive or even (shock horror) pointless? When I look over my posts from the days of yore, the most of them i find tedious and infantile. But the one or two gems in them probably came about after instantaneous conversations when, for over an hour, you would go back and forth with another writer and more importantly where you write and click – posted! no going back. i like that, there was not just spontaneity but some danger as well.

    I think litkicks is, even in its emasculated form, the best use of the www i’ve ever been exposed to. You guys have built a site which uses the best elements of the net to increase communications – and those dialogues have often been worthwhile.

    I say, lose the edit process and the spark will come back.

  12. Go With the WindI shall
    Go With the Wind

    I shall admit, I did not buy the book yet. But I feel I was around the process that which produced the book later (even if most of the time I didn’t know a book would be produced!). I feel as though the book is a mere snippet of the breadth and grandiosity of Litkicks. A casual sampler.

    Even if every work on Litkicks did not get into the book, we all have known which works and writers we’ve learned from and been inspired by. And that’s what’s important — memories. I know some others have been discussing that Litkicks has changed formats. Yeah, it’s different. But I guess I’ll support it, since before and so forth, I have gotten a lot out of LitKicks.

    I felt like nominating only 3 works was hard. So many more works stuck out in my mind. If we picked all the writings we wanted, the book may have been 16,000 pages long.

    I think the matter of popularity of votes means that some works just seemed to resonate with a greater amount of people. There was a key element or familiarity. I too have been inspired by some writers who were here but for a short while. And then read some stories that were posted some 3 years before I found them. It’s all a learning process.

    I don’t think online writing is different from any other kind of writing. I like the ability to share writing with others and get others to critique. That has helped me more than you know, and so I don’t find any medium at which writing is produced more superior to any other.

    That book that was just put out represents a snapshot of the beauty and community Litkicks has produced and so is a piece we who know it will hold onto and also allows others to see it who weren’t there.

  13. Hi Obma — well, the main
    Hi Obma — well, the main reason we review posts is to establish some standard of intelligence and relevance (not to mention spelling and punctuation). We don’t like to think of it as editing stuff out as much as editing stuff in. If we approve a post, it’s because we think there is something valuable in it. I know this is a big change from the open boards we used to run. Anyway, thanks for your comments overall, even if “emasculated” isn’t exactly the effect we’re going for (hah).

  14. “Twin towers” is an
    “Twin towers” is an interesting phrase. Are these towers even still standing?

  15. Litkicks againLitkicks was my
    Litkicks again

    Litkicks was my first experience in online community-generated literature. It was good. It still is, but I also miss the other board format. The tree-thing was great.

    To read and to write in a language that it isn

  16. A Terrible ConfessionI have
    A Terrible Confession

    I have not yet purchased the book, because I am a broke high school student without a credit card.
    In order to do my part, I wrote a phony review at Amazon which is now featured on the page (don’t tell anyone, though).

    But I do have a thought on the style of writing which came out of this site; it is so wildly unhampered by the academic drudgery that has infested artistic literature, that it can not be overlooked.

    I do not know how well the book will sell. I don’t even know how often this site is being visited, but the movement which I joined for its last several months is indeed a revolution, and I am positive that whenever I get around to buying the book, I will be pleased with the content.

  17. Hey, every Amazon review
    Hey, every Amazon review helps — fake or real or anywhere in between. Thanks.

  18. I’m interested in your phrase
    I’m interested in your phrase “the language of the oppressor”. Hmm, that could call up a discussion in itself.

  19. My understanding of the
    My understanding of the oppressor’s language is that it comes out of a position of dominance — whoever has the power gets to control the language. The conquerors get to force their language on the conquered. Historically, even English was formed this way… for example, the Norman invasion in the middle ages left English with a lot of French-based words.

    Now, English is spoken worldwide, and it’s expected on the part of (at least American) English-speakers that if they travel to another country, they’ll encounter someone who speaks English. Here in the United States, foreign language study is typically an elective, not a requirement. It’s rare to encounter a multi-lingual high school graduate. There’s a joke someone told me when I was traveling abroad that sums it up —

    Q: What do you call someone who speaks two languages?
    A: Bilingual.
    Q: What do you call someone who only speaks one language?
    A: American.

    …at least that’s my understanding of it.

  20. To add to what Levi said, I
    To add to what Levi said, I also think that the discussion aspect is still available, and that challenging people to think about their ideas, discuss, question, etc., can happen in the comments, though admittedly not quite on the same instantaneous level as before.

    I agree that sometimes a real gem doesn’t come along until someone has said or asked something that sparks a new thought; all of that is possible, though it takes active discussion and focus on maintaining a high level of dialogue.

  21. Any review is a real review.
    Any review is a real review. You have as much right and insight as anyone, maybe even moreso than a “professional reviewer.” I’m going to read your review now.

  22. That reminds me of me. I have
    That reminds me of me. I have a Greek brother-in-Law and a deaf brother-in-law. Almost everyone in my wife’s family knows sign language and some Greek. I’m just too dumb or lazy to learn either one. This is because I’m an old goat.

  23. commenting on bill’s comment,
    commenting on bill’s comment, i’ve got to say that i believe you, bill, you who write articles and interviews, sing songs and create tales of wonder.

    i’d never have run across your words without the Kicks. If you’re in the book, the book must be better than any anthology i’ve read.

    no doubt about it, i’d like to see the book, and fervently wish the best to all those in charge of seeing that mail actually arrives one day to this bizarre sand dune somewhere on the planet.

    …read out loud, meanwhile, please!

  24. An ExoticI didn’t receive the
    An Exotic

    I didn’t receive the book yet in good ole Europe — however, already I do agree with all that Andeh had to say.

    The old version of Litkicks meant a beautiful relaxation and ‘meditative space’ for me, after (and during) work, a place for ‘managing’ my thoughts, for fun, for times of despair, for training of expression, cleansing of thoughts, distilling cathartic shivers, exchanging feelings, sharing assessments, on the common ground of literary excitement, sometimes warming Beat fanatism. We see the hungry sprouting when a ‘day being good for writing poetry’ is announced. But the other days, I scribble on, for myself, rain dripping.

    On the other hand, the October Earth experience was great, oriented towards facets of
    content/associative meaning which literature has to offer. A nice eexperiment, however exhausting (for me).

    On the old site, I could choose between just reading or quickly throwing in a haiku when I just felt for that kind of carving or tooling. It didn’t feel thoughtless, or mindless, either — and if it did, it felt so good, was needed.

    I do see a difference in quality, and this gives the balance with regard to crowded threads hiding real efforts of mindful analyses, but aside from that, also some warmth got lost (and some/many ‘friends’/beloved weirdos/other exotics). Maybe that’s not what a literary site is for, and — as my wife told me when discussing this matter: perhaps it built up to be too much responsibility apart from the literary core itself, and too much work to get the mindless ones domesticated (?).

    After October, we’re often even drifting away from the literary context — but we’re whole people, aren’t we ? That’s OK too. And very interesting. And still addictive.

    I wonder how this friendly staff of amazing experts is doing this. This is making me confident that they know where to go (Quests, Workshops, Parties, More …)

    I’m sure evolution and surprises will get and keep us all satified in the end.

    Yes: alive and kicking. Thank You.

  25. Perhaps then I’m doing my
    Perhaps then I’m doing my part with the second half of your tower theory…

    I have already used two poems from the action poetry book in my literature classes … actually, one of them is published on my chalk board right now with the caption: “poem of the day”. Many kids have written it down in their notebooks out of identification, admiration and inspiriation.

    and so it is…

  26. ARAHH, I think your wife put
    ARAHH, I think your wife put it well about “too much responsibility apart from the literary core”. It just wasn’t satisfying enough, in the previous format, for us to keep it the same after three and a half years. We enjoyed the chaos too — we wouldn’t have stuck with it for so long if we hadn’t. But after a while one begins to yearn for more than the same chaos, day in and day out.

    I like the phrase “exotics”, though, and I only hope you’ll include me in that category too. Aren’t we all …

  27. Nothing but goodI just
    Nothing but good

    I just ordered a copy of Action Poetry the other day, so I haven’t gotten it yet and therefore can’t comment on it (Long overdue, I know, but college is killing me slowly.) I’m sure it’s awesome; I can’t wait to read it.

    As for online communities:

    Good stuff. Just the idea of a space where people from across the world can meet to exchange ideas and literature — how can that possibly be bad? Communities virtual and actual are important to art of any type (something I learned partially from watching what goes on at Litkicks); the online ones have that added plus of immediacy — instead of waiting for a group or running to someone’s house at 3am to get feedback on a poem, just post it and it’s out there, reaching a larger audience than it otherwise might have done.

    I owe a large debt to Litkicks in general for being the best creative writing instructor I’ve ever had. In the time since I first started posting poetry on the site, my idea of what it is to write and how one can go about doing it have changed ever so slightly, and I think my writing has improved because of it.

    The Quest was a big thing for me; without that gentle push I’d still be sitting around waiting for inspiration to smack me upside the head. I didn’t think I was capable of turning out good material on command, but writing to assignment got me motivated enough that I’ve started doing similar exercises on my own when I have the time — calling friends up, asking for a topic off the top of their head, and writing about it. It’s helped.

    I like the new direction the site’s taken — I never was much for posting on the chatter boards as I don’t spend much time online and usually came to Litkicks for the express purpose of literature. I do think a little more focus and structure is better for facilitating creativity, but there is one thing I miss: the rolling insanity that was the action poetry board. Doing poetry like heroin: directly in a main vein.

  28. hopefullyI’ll get one next

    I’ll get one next payday.

    is there anyway to post to this topic later? or an earlier post? I noticed they only last for two or three days or so.

  29. Thanks a lot, Jennifer.
    Thanks a lot, Jennifer. You’re our ideal kind of LitKicks writer — you write good stuff, and you actually show up at the shows. We’ve got some Action Poetry going right now, come on by …

  30. Hi bluefire — sounds good.
    Hi bluefire — sounds good. About the posts, yes, we basically like to keep only a couple of conversations going on at any time. This is basically just to keep the process manageable. Anyway, hope you’ll check out the book.

  31. Action PoetryI remember late
    Action Poetry

    I remember late nights around the Litkicks pool:
    creative explosion
    giddiness glow

    I look fondly upon those times, still with butterflies in my stomach! It’s only natural to miss what’s no longer around–it’s also very healthy to continue the evolutionary process of such a creative, dynamic and blessed project! Life and the progress of humanity is made through change, coping, adapting and achieving. Keep up the good work…

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Litkicks is 26 years old! This website has been on a long and wonderful journey since 1994. We’re relaunching the whole site on a new platform in June 2021, and will have more updates soon. We’ve also been busy producing a couple of podcasts – please check them out.

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