Putting the verse in metaverse: George Murray gets social with a private online network for poets

Poet, essayist, teacher … social-media guru. St. John’s poet George Murray is all of the above, the last a result of his newest endeavour: a private online forum for poets to gather, talk shop, share favourite poems, network, and workshop new material.

Front of the Line, a private social-media site exclusively for poets, is billed as “a welcoming and accepting safe space to explore, grow, network, and learn.” An adjunct to Murray’s Walk the Line Poetry series of online courses, the social network aims to provide a place to discuss the craft and appreciation of poetry outside the noise and acrimony of traditional social-media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

“The idea of a ‘safe space’ is coded into the whole thing,” says Murray. “We’re not here to enforce a code or style or aesthetic, but rather to cheer each other’s successes and bolster each other after failures. We’re not about taking people who are dabbling and trying to whip them into literary shape so much as give them the tools they can use to better themselves.”

The site includes a sidebar that features bios of all the members along with writing prompts and exercises, a poetry marketplace, and tips about the business side of writing.

“The basic idea came from the poets themselves,” says Murray. “I would get emails from former students asking if I had anything new to take, so I developed this. I thought a place where people could go to continue the information and advice exchange of a workshop without the constraints of a workshop might be a good idea. They can come and go on their own schedule, leaving messages for one another and posting work and articles.”

There are also live online readings, including one on Thursday, April 21, with poets Paul Moorhead, August Bourré, and Donna Kane. The site also features bi-weekly silent writing sessions via Zoom, during which participants are invited to mute their microphones and work individually in a group setting. Murray’s idea is to recreate a café environment in an online locale. “It’s about practice and regular commitment,” says Murray. “Sometimes whole poems come out, sometimes only a few lines. But those who attend do tend to write more.”

Front of the Line cleaves to Murray’s overall philosophy about poetry, which is predicated upon community and the idea that the skills required to become a working poet can be learned.

Recent posts include recommendations for Canisa Lubrin’s Griffin Poetry Prize winner The Dyzgraph*st, a link to CBC’s list of Canadian debut poetry titles to check out, and an interesting exchange of ideas about reading anthologies versus single-authored collections. There is also a short video (from Murray) on the subject of enjambment, tips on how to know when a poem is finished, and discussions of homophones and epigraphs.

As a private, members-only initiative, the site offers paid subscriptions for &19.99 per month, or $200 per year. In the spirit of collaboration and community, Murray is making Front of the Line free for a ten-day trial during the rest of April, which is National Poetry Month.

Putting the verse in metaverse: George Murray gets social with a private online network for poets
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