How many bards gild the lapses of time!
A few of them have ever been the food
Of my delighted fancy,- I could brood
Over their beauties, earthly, or sublime:
And often, when I sit me down to rhyme,
These will in throngs before my mind intrude:
But no confusion, no disturbance rude
Do they occasion; 'tis a pleasing chime.
So the unnumber'd sounds that evening store;
The songs of birds- the whisp'ring of the leaves-
The voice of waters- the great bell that heaves
With solemn sound,- and thousand others more,
That distance of recognizance bereaves,
Make pleasing music, and not wild uproar.
- John Keats
Part I: The Wondering Minstrels: A Rave
If I had to pick my favourite site on the Web, it would be, hands down, Minstrels. The Wondering Minstrels represents, for me, the single greatest act of genius on the World Wide Web. Other people can have their Googles, their Hotmails, I would have died happy if I'd just been the first person to come up with the idea for Minstrels.
Yet, as Keats would put it: "'tis is a gentle luxury to weep / that I have not the cloudy winds to keep / fresh for the opening of the morning's eye". The thing that makes Minstrels so brilliant, in my opinion, is not just the delightful idea of having a poem delivered to your inbox every morning (though there have been days where that poem, and that poem alone has been the thing that made life worth living). It's also the inclusiveness of the enterprise, and the sheer range of poetry that has resulted - so that it's hard to conceive of a richer or more varied collection of poetry anywhere on the Web. Over the years, Minstrels has been responsible for introducing me to a number of exceptional poets I'd never heard of before, and one of my favourite exercises is to spend hours going through their index trying to spot poets they don't have represented. It's a frustrating exercise at times, but also a delightful one.
The other thing that I love about Minstrels is its personality. Plenty of websites will give you a more extensive collection of poetry, but only on Minstrels will the poems come accompanied with commentary that is sometimes insightful, sometimes charming, and always, always, entertaining. There are literally times when the comments attached to the poem (and the discussion that follows on the website) can actually be as rewarding as the poem itself. There is a wide range of comments as well - from long critiques of a particular poem to descriptions of how the poem is personally significant to the person submitting it. It's the closest thing to having a community of literally hundreds of people who care deeply about poetry as I've ever experienced.
Which is why it's a shame, I think, that Minstrels seems to be drying up. The e-groups has been sporadic at best for over six months now, and the last poem currently on the site is dated Jan 19th - which is over a month ago. Surely this couldn't be because submissions are drying up, or because there aren't millions of good poems still left to be included? Any guesses on what's going wrong, anyone?
Part II: A shameless bit of self-promotion (aka the commercial)
In the meantime, in case you don't already know this, Black Mamba, along with Veena, has started a new blog called poitre which features, in addition to the poems themselves, recordings of said poems read aloud (sometimes by professionals, sometimes by people who should be professionals - see the Rivera submissions - and sometimes by rank amateurs who should, and do, know better but can't help themselves) - an endeavour they've been nice enough to include me in (thus undoing, in small part, the irreparable damage caused by my childhood experiences of being excluded from games at my neighbourhood playground). BM's original post describing the idea of the blog can be found here, and comments / suggestions / requests (no, Mister Rick, I will NOT play it again!) / members are always welcome.
Categories: Links, Poetry, Personal