After receiving an e-mail from someone who did not remember submitting poems to the site (in early 2001, I still have his original e-mail archived), I found myself looking at an archive.org copy of the site from more than seven years ago. This was from before 9/11 happened, before the site found itself collapsing under hundreds of submissions every week from inexperienced poets who were jumping on the poetry bandwagon as this nation struggled to deal with its newfound rage and grief. This was before the site had to be closed to submissions and rewritten from the ground up thanks to the sudden closing of our original host server, basic page formatting that was written exclusively for the original host server and was not compatible with any new host, and an update system that could not be maintained under the surge of traffic and submissions that the site had begun receiving.
It was a very different time, back then. I’ve always been very hands-on in building the site. Even today, while I may not have written the programs that operate the site, I have read through every script and studied every line of code to make sure it all operates the way I want it to. But back then, the pages were created in Notepad (with occasional help from Netscape Composer). Each page was its own creation, hand-crafted to take the reader on a journey through various emotions.
Comparing the site then to today, the best analogy I can come up with is this: PoetsHaven.com 2008 is like the perfect cake bought at the best bakery in town. It is nearly perfect. The edges are straight, the frosting is even, and the decorations are photo-realistic. PoetsHaven.com 2001 (and earlier) is like the homemade cake. Some parts are thinner than others, but where the cake dips you get a thick gob of rich icing. It’s sometimes imperfect, but heart went in to every bite.
The site is drastically more professional today. While I would certainly never go back to running the site the way it was run back then, there are aspects of it I miss. Back then, I could name every poem and author I had ever published. I could even recite a good 40 to 50 percent of the poems on the site. Today, I find myself unable to remember how to spell the name of a writer I only published a few weeks ago, and unable to remember the titles of the poems I published by that author. I no longer have the personal connection with every item I publish. I review the work, decide if I want to publish it or not, and then click “Accept” or “Delete.” In the drive for professionalism and efficiency, have I lost the key aspect that made the site my labor of love for the art? Is my professional detachment from the work being published part of what is driving me to build a new, more personal experience with the Poet’s Haven open-mic events and the podcasts?
My mind is still racing, and now I want to go bake a cake…