Internet Fiction Digest, 21st February | Digital Writers’ Festival | Anthony Hecht | Natalie Eilbert

Posted on February 24, 2014


DigitalWritersFestivalAs I write this there are panels and workshops going on over, under, and through me in internet waves for the Digital Writers’ Festival, and their super-diverse calendar of events is full of videos that you can dip into to learn something about writing in the digital age. There’s a panel on experimental internet writing, a wee bit bashful panel on sex-writing, an interview I did with Canadian author Robin Sloan on new media, and a bunch of other panels and workshops on a whole range of topics. It’s a tricky thing to curate, a festival with no physical locus. There are arguments to say it is both the most accessible and the most inaccessible a festival could ever be, depending on how internet-native you are, and also depending on whether you believe in digital events enough to put watching a certain stream at a certain time into your real-life calendar. Because as a post-event archive of video material, it’s admittedly not as compelling — not too many people will strap in for 30+ min videos unless it’s full of visual thrills or has a huge name, I would wager — but I found that watching live was far more magnetic, so I’d suggest checking out the rest of that calendar and marking something into yours.

The next two things I’ve dug for are both at the cross-section of fiction and poetry, specifically, poems that pack meaning at two points, both at the end of each line, and as you hit the full stop. Take for example, this very short poem by Anthony Hecht, which adds meaning and emotional weight delicately, line by line, and accumulates as one perfectly grammatical sentence that you drive toward the end of. Alison Syring’s analysis below the poem is very apt (if quite technical), and it shows that ‘art of the sentence’ + ‘art of the poem’ can merge into something quite magical if the two forms are working for each other.

And this poem by Natalie Eilbert, called Man Hole, achieves much of the same effect, if in a far more transgressive, unusual way. It’s a bizarre, at times frightening, but very curious piece, that uses the sentence as a beat, and reads like a piece of prose — but also relies on its line breaks for affect, for keeping the reader off-beat… Maybe just read it…

“…To call a woman a hole is to suggest immediate use.

To call a man a hole suggests grave incivility.


Incivilities I place like a knife at the windowsill to cool.

I’ve set a wishbone in boiling water to watch its holes appear.

When I weep, my calcium brittles. My men limn in sinkholes

until they are again important, until their duress makes me faint in my delicate sovereignty…”