Back in the early 2000s, when surfing the Internet was still, for me at least, somewhat new, I wrote a long fragmented poem that employed shifting (and disappearing) points of view. I drew from a number of poetic forebears, but it was the Internet that really unsettled my relationship to diction, anonymity, history, space and time.
In a poem, association often gets you from one place to another, an image that triggers a radical shift in context or tone. And it is association that governs our experience of navigating the Web. Think of the huge leaps we take, the strange paths we wander by simply following a string of links. Everything that happens in a poem is governed by some kind of compression, but I suspect that narrative in poems is at once bigger and stranger, and more tightly compressed, than it was a generation ago. Then I remember “The Waste Land,” and I begin to feel that the Internet has simply succeeded in reinvigorating a set of ambitions and capacities that have been available to poets for a very long time.
- Tracy K. Smith, talking about how the internet has changed writing, in a 2013 "Writing Bytes" over at The New York Times. You can read the whole thing here.
Thank you to Matthew Zapruder's Why Poetry?, where I first encountered this quote.