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IN PRAISE OF THE WORLD WIDE WEB

For Steve Crewe

 

A journalist friend of mine in Jakarta

sends me articles online, which, in turn,

I share on Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter,

making me seem, after Francis Bacon –

who was purported to have read every

book ever written – the most erudite man

in Europe: an article, for example,

explaining that Plato was right when he claimed

the world is made of cubes, or another

about cougars in Yellowstone Park

occasionally dying from the plague.

 

The internet brings to my door swizzle sticks,

and tea-lights, the Selected Poems

of Norman Rosten, and the Complete Writings

of Phyllis Wheatley; provides unfettered

knowledge or illusions, the schooling that suits,

that sticks; takes instant messages of protest

to my MP, and the Prime Minister;

bonds me to an ubiquitous tribe

of iconoclasts; shows me not only

that the Emperor has no clothes but also

there is no Emperor nor ever was.

 

As I write I think of who might read this

published on my website – in sunlight

on their phones, beneath a lamp, rain drubbing

on window panes; at what latitudes

and longitudes, on what continents,

in what tropics and what temperate zones;

actual and virtual friends, and strangers;

a humbling fellowship.

 

 

 

© Copyright David Selzer
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9 Responses
  • John Huddart
    March 26, 2021

    We Wait Willingly for your Words, Whimsies, Wisdom. Happy to be in your World Wide Web. Bear Witness, share Wonders, Weave magic. Forever.

  • Anne Wynne
    March 26, 2021

    Beautiful, David – your words reveal that we’re all connected not just by the WWW. And love the details of the everyday – the sunlight on phone screens – the rain, the tea-lights and letters to MPs – it’s all so recognisable and comforting. x

  • David Selzer
    March 26, 2021

    Yes, Anne, on balance I do find the WWW comforting, precisely because of what represents for the most part – the best of us.

  • John Williams
    March 26, 2021

    The poem explores some of the vexed issues surrounding the World Wide Web, its benefits, dangers, blessing and terrors. While the poet values its rich resources and the ease whereby it maintains relationships across the world, he also throws into relief the dangers of a society eagerly spellbound by trivia, vanity and predatory media.

    The playful tone expresses a seductive delight not only in the detritus of swizzle sticks and tea lights, but also in the illusory erudition and imaginary ‘humbling fellowship’ on offer. The internet peddles its wares in the same way, publishing poetry, novels as it does alternative views of the universe in Plato’s dialogue Timaeus and his ‘cube world’.

    Here the power of the internet to both delude and enchant is laid bare. Yet although he readily affirms his ‘ubiquitous tribe/of iconoclasts’, the poet avoids sharing with us just how such judgements come about, content to acknowledge ‘the schooling that suits/that sticks’ and impressions that ‘show’, ironic since the poet displays faith in the power of language, choosing words such as ‘seem’, ‘purported’, ‘explaining’, ‘read’ and ‘published’. It serves a purpose to debunk ideas and beliefs, but ironic to affirm a belief in poetry to express the debunking.

    Subsequent readings give the sense that this poem enacts the very subtleties of the internet it exposes, a skilful and fruitful ambiguity. Maybe Selzer could have drawn on Plato’s attitude to poets when the philosopher dismissed them from his Republic and banished Homer in book X, 595a-c. Not only is Selzer’s internet Emperor debunked, but Plato would banish his poems, too!

  • David Selzer
    March 26, 2021

    I mention Plato and his views, including the banishment of poets, as often as I can in my poems. He’s dead and I ain’t – yet! So while not the last laugh…

  • Ferne Braudel
    March 26, 2021

    Swizzle sticks??? You’re drinking too many alcopops!

  • Jane Barth
    March 27, 2021

    I love David’s optimistic view of the w.w.w.. Someone (can’t remember who) described her relationship with it like a baby on the teat – how we rush to it when we want to find something out! There are books on our shelves which would have the answer but the electronic teat is so much more tempting – and interesting: it takes us to other places on the way. I’m hoping that users will discover that ‘there is no Emperor nor ever was’ but there are some false emperors out there.

    Swizzle sticks? – no, we may not need them but what richness to know that they are there if we do.

  • Steve Crewe
    March 28, 2021

    As the Indonesian source so kindly referred to, I was so pleased that this poem should evoke such interest. For me WWW opens up a source of much information and crosschecks on diverse subjects to satisfy my boundless need for information. Had I to rely on books as sources, as in years gone by, how much poorer I would be due to their lack of ready availability. For all its faults, long live WWW.

  • Jeff Teasdale
    March 31, 2021

    Having just cleared about 2000 emails from my inbox which must have been important enough to someone to send them, but of little consequence to me (though within ‘Delete’ there might have been some useful nugget I had neither time nor inclination to reread – hopefully nothing vital!), this mass of communication is at times overwhelming.
    As with books and works of art….I used to say to students that they can’t read every book in the library, nor study every scrap in The National Gallery et al – and why would you want to? – so just settle on the few opinions/poets/writers/artists that really chime and allow the ripples to spread wider as the understanding sinks deeper. However, the ‘chance meeting’ can often be the most rewarding.

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