The following is an
interview that took place between September 2001 and January 2002 with
Jennifer Crystal Fang-Chien . The interview was conducted via email
and the responses have been edited for content.
kiyotei: When and why did you create
Jennifer: I created "Poetry at the End of the Rainbow"
in October 1994, near the advent of the world wide web. Before that,
I had used this internet tool called Gopher to host poems online, which
was a file-sharing program, but couldn't create graphic interfaces.
In late 2000, the site became "The Portal", as I had developed
several thematic websites that needed an entry hall, so to speak. It's
hosted at http://www.art.net/Studios/Poets/Jennifer/
I created the website because a friend of
mine at Art on the Net, Simran
Singh Gleason, had invited me to host a website here and the idea
of working in this new medium intrigued me. It was low-cost, and easy
to publicize and produce. It offered the opportunity to explore the
intersection between graphic design and poetry.
kiyotei: Simran's stuff is pretty amazing.
When I asked you for a picture to use for this interview, you gave me
this ferocious looking tiger. What's up with that?
Jennifer: I don't really have anything terribly current - the
tiger is actually my Chinese zodiac sign.
kiyotei: My Chinese sign is the rat.
Are we compatible? I just checked out your web site again. Very nice.
Can we look forward to some new stuff from you online?
Jennifer: Can you believe this interview actually prompted me
to add some more info to my site? I felt like someone was reading and
wondering what I've been up to. So now people can have a few more pointers
(navigation, about the site, what's new, etc.).
kiyotei: Have you been able to make
new contacts as a result of your page?
Jennifer: Yes, early on, there weren't that many websites, so
the feedback was more frequent from visitors. I've made writing contacts
online that include other writers, admirers, people who wish to perform
my poetry or write about it in their papers, journal editors who solicit
my work, students, and others just visiting. In the last few years,
the email contact that the site generates is less frequent, though I
get about as many visitors. People just have so many websites to look
at these days and are much more savvy about what they're looking at.
kiyotei: Have you found the Internet
to be useful for collaborations or exposure?
Jennifer: Yes and no, in a strange way. The internet community
traditionally has been separate from the literary community, meaning
that exposure on the Internet doesn't necessarily translate into success
in print publications. Historically, print publishers also had a disdain
for the lack of editorial standards in online publications and self-publishing
on the Internet However, as the technology infiltrates more of our lives,
that attitude has changed somewhat. My
only collaborations have been online, as somehow it's easier to communicate
words and images on the internet's instant capacity for sending information.
With words, editing and adding to a collaboration is also easier on
the computer. Usually people have seen my work online and we start bouncing
kiyotei: Can you tell me more about
your ex-boyfriend's suicide?
Jennifer: Hm - it's actually rather strange as I hadn't talked
to him in maybe a year and half - I found out from a friend of a friend
of a friend - a long chain of events to find its way to me. Then upon
investigation by phone and email, I found out that it had happened a
few months earlier, not recently, at his family's hometown no less.
I looked around on the Internet some more and found a short prose piece
that he had written and published online maybe in the last year or so,
which was actually about us, I think. Excerpts of this piece are now
part of a series of poems I wrote called "fade
to dark" about the whole incident. Also the strange thing was
that a good friend of his who had been his roommate for a few years
never found out about the incident either, except when I was looking
around and asking. So, I imagine that his spirit found its way to me
and to his ex-roommate as a matter of settling the peace.
kiyotei: Is it easier to write when
you are happy or when you are sad?
Jennifer: Neither really, although I suppose when I'm sad there
is a kind of therapy value in writing. I've written less lately because
I have more work responsibilities these days, and I also happen to be
happy, but that's by coincidence. I look forward to the day when less
work and more poetry writing can be accomplished. But hopefully - not
coincidentally with more sadness.
kiyotei: Well here's wishing you more
happiness and more time to write! Have you been able to get published
as a direct result of your work online?
Jennifer: Yes, both with online journals and print publications.
Usually people see some of my work on the website and ask for submissions.
Somehow I've also gotten onto some artists' lists and get announcement
for new journals and online publications that need submissions.
kiyotei: What other Internet resources
do you use? Newsgroups like rec.arts.poems?
Jennifer: I used to be a part of the rec.arts.poems newsgroup
in the early 90's and quite active. However, it's gotten a lot of traffic
over time and it's hard to keep up with all of the writing. Occasionally
I solicit feedback on draft poems from email correspondences with people
that I met online or responded to my website in the past.
kiyotei: One of my favorite poems is
am a dot, in your paragraph ...-for you." In fact we collaborated
(unsuccessfully) on it in the past. Can you tell me more about what
influenced this poem? What does it mean to you?
Jennifer: I'm not sure what happened to that collaboration? That
would be interesting to clarify. In any case, the poem is from a series
of time when I was writing a lot about the metaphor of water and emotional
life, the various manifestations of such, and the feelings of being
unable to obtain the attention of certain people. What can be less compelling
or noticeable than being a mere period in a piece of text?
kiyotei: Well it never turned
out great for either of us. I wanted to have the words floating over
water and a seagull dipping one wing in the waves. I probably have it
on disk somewhere but the resolution was so bad that it never printed
out very readable. I still have our other collaboration online from
my ancient Biphasic
Effect entitled Sutra.
I noticed that you are a member of the poetry
webring. What can you tell me about your experience with this group?
Jennifer: The poetry
webring that my site is part of is the original poetry ring - since
then many others have sprouted up. Originally it was helpful in bringing
traffic to the site and seeing other poetry sites, but lately it's grown
to about 1500 web sites, so as you can tell, it becomes a rather large
entity. I think that my site ID, which are assigned to keep track of
your location, is #3 since I signed on very early on. I also helped
to design a few of the graphics that individuals used to navigate the
kiyotei: How do you think computer-based
media affects poetry writing?
Jennifer: The advent of the computer
and Internet have affected not only the form of poems, but also their
typographical appearance. Due to the nature of how words appear in different
backgrounds, fonts, and environments, a new wave of poems written with
the computer and/or Internet in mind as to their physical appearance,
line rhythms, length, and many other factors have come into play.
kiyotei: I read something on your website
about a poem called "stigmata" that you plan to write about
recent events. Can you give us a sneak peek? Is this related to the
9-11-01 WTC attacks?
Jennifer: I haven't started this one
yet - it will be about recent events. I'm not sure if I will start it
or if it's just an idea in limbo. In any case, it's a parallel between
the growing violence of the world and the phenomenon of spontaneous
bleeding (supposedly due to supernatural/spiritual forces).
kiyotei: Tell me a deep dark secret
that you haven't told anyone and wouldn't put online except because
of my prodding you to tell and get if off your chest.
Jennifer: A deep dark secret? Most
of my deep dark secrets are somewhere in my poetry. I guess it's just
figuring out what's real and what's fiction. =)
kiyotei: You mean it's not ALL real?
Oh well, thanks for letting me prod you a bit, I enjoyed going over
your web site and corresponding with you again. Good luck with all your
future projects and let's collaborate again soon.
Jennifer: Well - it's been an interesting
journey with online art and writing. It will be fascinating to see the
evolution of the medium and what kinds of innovations arise. Thanks
for your opportunity for an interview!