For five years, between 1996 and 2001, I wrote a quarterly column called Net Verse for the UK poetry journal Poetry Review. The column was a brief review of poetry-related websites and other Internet happenings of interest to poets and poetry-lovers. As I was restricted to 300 words per article, this could never hope to be anything other than a snapshot of sites (and newsgroups - though I rarely had anything good to say about those) that had caught my eye or been pointed out to me. Nevertheless, I think it gave readers useful and interesting pointers to places they might visit during a period when the Internet was still viewed with awe and some suspicion by more than a few. I received several comments from people who read and enjoyed my column, even though they didn't have web access. I often had readers suggest that I should have a longer column to give a bit more breadth and depth, but the editor of Poetry Review could never be persuaded to give it to me.
It was a period of extraordinary change on the Internet. When I started writing the column, sites were only just starting to depart from grey backgrounds, black text and blue hyperlinks. By the time of the last edition, the web was looking pretty similar to the way it does today.
I was pretty good at keeping to my allotted 300 words, so my submissions were lightly sub-edited, if at all. For the record, the versions that appear on this site are those that I originally wrote, without edition, except that my email address, which appeared at the end of each article, has been removed for this Web presentation.
Poets were early adopters of the Internet (or some of them were) and quick to see the possibilities for presentation, distribution and publication of poetry. Although poetry is, in the broad scheme of things, a minor player on the Internet stage, this series of articles does, I think, provide an interesting perspective on the development of the Internet over the period I wrote them.
I stopped writing the articles when I submitted my copy as usual, only to find that the editor had scrapped the Endstops section of the journal in which Net Verse appeared, in order to give more space to a two-issue 'retrospective' that marked the end of his stint in the job. Poetry Review has not given regular space to Internet poetry since then.
For this presentation of the articles, I have added some footnotes, indicating (where I know it) what has happened to a site or a newsgroup since I wrote about it. In many cases, of course, sites have disappeared, often without trace. In these cases, the original URL is given, but not hyperlinked. Where a site has changed its URL, I give it in a footnote. If you have any information that would make an additional footnote, or a correction to an existing one, I'd be grateful to hear it. If you want to search yourself for where a site might have moved to, you may find Wayback Machine useful. You can contact me via the feedback link at the top of this page.
Follow the link below to the index of the articles.