interview with Mark Prime by Ben Heine
“The idea of blogging to the powers that be
is terrifying and they’d love to control it”
Known as the “Poetryman”, Mark Prime is a prolific and talented American poet and Peace activist. He runs several blogs: "A Poetic Justice" (updated everyday, mainly with political poetry and illustrated with his own photomontages). He is also the head of other sites, such as "The Peace Tree" and "Poets for Peace". Sometimes he even writes plays, you can read his texts there: The Origin Theatre. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BH: You are a prolific American poet and Peace activist. You are also a blog expert and own several ones, including A Poetic Justice, The Origin Theatre, Poetic Justice Pictures, The Peace Tree, Poets for Peace…
MP: Prolific, perhaps in the since that I always have writers cramp. As for my myriad of blogs? I had to compartmentalize my various forms of expression for my own sanity and they each needed their own pages.
BH: When and why did you start to open your first blogs?
MP: I first began blogging, as a commenter, when I happened upon a blog called Crooks and Liars during a search for crooks and liars and politicians. But I repeat myself…
I suppose I was a bit out of the loop since C&L had been around for some time before I found it, but once I began to comment, there and around the web, I was quickly caught up in the liberation of personal expression and exchange of ideas. It wasn’t long after that that someone recommended I begin writing my own blog. I’m not sure if it was someone concerned about the bandwidth I was using at C&L (knowing the best way to remedy this was for me to begin my own blog), or if one of the many blogging friends I had on the web recommended I do so, either way it worked out well for me.
I soon began to summon my muse, or perhaps she summoned me, three or four times a day and the rest, as they say, is… I suppose the fact that I was so upset by my government’s occupation of Iraq, and other policy matters, that I couldn’t stop blogging even if I had wanted to.
Protest poetry, anti-war plays, photomontage, and anti-war videos are the forms I use, with poetry being my main blog’s focus. I feel that the arts are the most vital forms of expression we have and we’d better use them while we can.
BH: Which audience does your site(s) target?
MP: Certainly it (they) targets and receives a more liberal audience, but I have had right, left, center, Christian right, Christian left, communist, socialist, atheist, agnostic, and a myriad of readers, that don’t seem to fit any political mold, pay my site(s) a visit or two. I like a diverse readership; it is, after all, the liberal way.
BH: Is it manageable, in terms of time and finances?
MP: The Blogger platform, there are many others out there, is free which is the only way I could manage to do this at this particular juncture in my life. As far as time is concerned; it is only manageable because I don’t get much sleep.
BH: Some of your blogs are collective sites (The Peace Tree, Poets for Peace); how do you recruit members?
MP: I ask them via email to start, and always put it out there that I am open to contributions from any and all, as long as they match the sites intent of course. If they don’t, you may find me starting another blog so that they might have a home to express themselves.
I’ve stumbled upon some great talent by not closing myself off to a certain stripe or style. Just because I’m anti-occupation and a peace activist doesn’t mean that I should stop listening to any and all angles. It’s what an open-mind is supposed to do, right?
BH: Blogging about politics is a good way of taking part in the world’s affairs, which other advantages do you find in running a blog?
MP: The biggest benefit for me is the honing and use of my artistic expressions. It is a great release. Keeping these sorts of things bottled up inside might prove to be dangerous to one’s health. I also find that there are people out there, blogging or surfing the net, who will ask me questions and offer me stories that I might not hear were it not for my blog(s). I’ve heard and read so many points of view on any number of topics that I cannot help realize that this benefits me greatly. It gives me the chance to filter through emotions and points of view and allows me to see things more clearly by hearing the many voices around the globe. It’s not like talking to mere friends on any given day, with blogging I can converse and freely exchange ideas with people from any and every country on earth that is able to connect to the web… and freedom of expression and the exchange of ideas is never a bad thing, right?
BH: Have you been able to meet new people, poets, artists and peace activists through your blog activity?
MP: I’ve been introduced to artists of every stripe and variety. Blogging is a wonderful hodgepodge of people; idealists and realists, artists and non-artists, all coming together to express their ideas!
BH: Now a few questions on the digital divide: Although some analysts say they are mainly places for entertainment, do you think that the cybercafés (and the other public centers where a low cost Internet connection is available) are a good weapon against the digital divide in poorer countries?
MP: Without question. The mere fact that one has need to ask this indicates to me the enormous power within the question. Who gains from the free exchange of ideas? The people, everywhere. Who has the most to lose? Those who try to control the switches, be it in DC or Israel or Russia or East Timor or Darfur. The idea of blogging to the powers that be is terrifying and they’d love to control it. We must never let that happen.
BH: Don’t you think that the Western political rhetoric about the digital divide is a kind of political slogan which purpose is to force the countries of the Global South to conform their economic system to the Western one, for example, by inciting them to buy the same Western software and hardware?
MP: Absolutely. The game is money (control) whether it be called “oil”, “software”, “automobile”, “hardware”, “class”, “race”, “sex”, “age”, “the flag”, “god”, etc. The dynamics of competition are always at play, and in many respects that is very unfortunate.
BH: We have recently heard about very cheap « generic » laptops being sold in Africa and in India. Do you think that the individual access to these computers and their potential Internet connection might be better to bridge the gap than collective access in public centers? Wouldn’t it be easier for peace activists in poorer countries to work individually with these cheap laptops rather than in public centres where they often sit next to people who have no specific militant mood?
MP: Another absolutely! I think if one has to be “herded” into a group setting to access what many carry with them every day that this may constitute oppression.
This idea, from Apple I believe, is one that offers a great many the opportunity to be heard. I mean it is a human, fundamental right, in my opinion, to be heard, to express yourself, to call out for help, to offer your ideas. What on earth could be more fundamental in this electronic age than the world coming together on the web? Might we then be less inclined to want to go to war and kill them or they us, and might they be more able to see that not all Americans, etc, think like Blair and Bush or Sharon or Ahmadinejad or Bin Laden, or “fill in the ruler”…?
BH: My last question: How would you define the ideal digital society in a few words?
à Interview and portrait by Ben Heine