Beginner's Luck

Beginner's Luck

Copyright 1996 Claire Smith



I was starting from scratch: brand new at the Internet, no idea of how to search. Could I find my way to material of particular interest to me? Well, first of all, I started all wrong. That is, I started by trying to specify in as much detail as possible what I was looking for. However, as it quickly turned out, that is not the way the thing works. A librarian friend explained that this is called a category search, in which you start with the most inclusive category and gradually narrow down to the item you want. Let me first tell you about some failures. In the course of the searching I used various search engines, with the following results.

First I tried Altavista, and entered poetry + Maine. My hope was to turn up some poetry slam sites, or some small poetry publishers, or some web pages with poets putting up their own work. I got a response of about 40,000 items! Quite a shock, but mitigated by the fact that a lot of it turned out not to be poetry, or even as far as I could tell, related to poetry. I am told that you generally get tens of thousands of responses. When you attempt, as in poetry + Maine, to be semi-specific, the manner of search is such that you get totally unrelated items. How they are pulled up is a mystery to me. The responses were pretty random at this point: health care for seniors, Christian music, record releases; I got Gun Control and Racism at one point.

For my next try on altavista I used poetry and got 100,000 responses. All items seemed to be poetry-related, but there were no subcategories to click on, therefore I assume you would have to go through all 100,000! Then I tried Maine, with 100,000 responses, again no subcategories,

This time I used a different search engine, Infoseek, and entered Maine with not much better results than with altavista. However, I could now click on several subsearches, one of which was "infoseek select sites." And then I was able to type in further information to narrow the search. Maine poetry turned up categories including poetry, writing poetry (but not limited to Maine as it turned out), but led me to the Electronic Poetry page of the University of Buffalo, with all kinds of fascinating stuff (not about Maine, however). So I still cannot find something to lead me to poetry festivals, workshops, etc. in Maine.

The next search try used Lycos, which I could access through Netscape, by choosing "Net Search." This gave me access to a number of other search engines. Maine got only tourist links, so I tried poetry +Maine. There are syntax rules about entering more than one term: in general, use quotes around more than one term if they must be searched for as a pair, but use the plus sign (with no space following) before additional associated terms. This time I got mostly poetry, including some I had not previously seen. Now I tried poetry workshops Maine and got some poetry, (somehow "Cafe Review", a poetry magazine in Portland, has managed to come up first in every search, lucky them!), and a lot of workshops in Maine having nothing to do with poetry.

So now I tried the search engine Excite. using poetry +workshop +Maine which got me no further in this hunt. I tried just poetry +workshop, and got a set of links which included "Poetry Workshop," Aha! But notice that these were all net workshops, not "real" earthbound workshops. Excellent general reference to poetry links of all kinds across the country (and world, I think). There were many links to poetry pages put up by individuals and groups, and links for information on poetry magazines. However, I still have not found a search that will turn up honest-to-god poetry workshops on dry land!

I am not discouraged; I now understand what surfing is all about. Serendipity is the name of the game, and if you look long enough you are likely to find what you want in the 100,000 possibilities. Clearly it is easier to find a completely discrete item. I located a long-lost colleague in nothing flat by searching for her internet address. But "workshops"? They are hidden in the mists of cyberspace.

Poetry hunt

To do some browsing for poetry, try:


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