(about 1800 words)

d a f f o d i l o n e

1st March 2001

occasional email news of http://www.publicwriting.net


c o n t e n t s

1. purpose

2. news of www.publicwriting.net

3. why daffodil?

4. subscribe/unsubscribe

5. copyright and copyleft


1. p u r p o s e

Though reluctant to accept fixed aims I admit that in sending this newsletter I have several:

to inform those who may be like to know of changes to my website

to celebrate and to enjoy the new freedom to write publicly on a website (without commercial, political or editorial limitations)

to explore the possibility of a new culture appropriate to the presence of the internet and other 'soft technologies'

and now, having some found words for these aims, I will try to live to them for a time and see what happens


2. n e w s o f www.publicwriting.net

I have not changed the first version of my website since it appeared on the web in October 1999 but today I am adding another. The new one, version 2.1, can be reached via the same URL and is subtitled 'my public writing place'.

Not wanting to tie it to specific purposes I describe it as:

the world seen as poetry and colours
thanks to the imaginary rock foundation
and everything

and also as 'parts of a culture'

The 'parts' to which this refers are a growing number of linkwords, arranged in alphabetical order. Here are sixteen that I hope will appear on the new homepage on 1st March or soon after - but it may be some time before all the linkwords are activated and working properly as I am a beginner in writing HTML (suggestions are welcome):

invisible books
creative democracy
found poem
after giraldus
the internet and everyone
the whole

Previously I called all things that appears on the internet 'parts of the cyberepic'.

(...but today, 1st March 2001, a few minutes before noon when I've promised to send this email, I find that only the more poetic linkwords:

found poem
the internet and everyone


are functioning...

...I hope to activate some other links later today but just now it seems I cannot... )


3. w h y d a f f o d i l ?

Some of the thoughts that led me, in 1999, to choose this name - and some speculations on 'the anthropology of the present':

part 1. opening and welcome

screen 1.1 This daffodil is the first of a series of occasional emails (or public writing spaces) in which I hope to share my recent writings almost as soon as they happen. If you receive this first one (which I am sending to a list of people who have communicated with me before) you are welcome to subscribe (or not to subscribe if you prefer not to receive the daffodils which I hope will follow).

Why daffodil? (according to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary it was originally affodill, the genus asphodelus - 1607, but now restricted to genus narcissus - 1629)

I was thinking of each email as the opening of an imagined flower, perhaps the asphodel ('that greeny flower' which inspired William Carlos Williams' poem of that name) or a daffodil as we know it (which in Wales is called 'cenhinen Bedr' or Peter's leek, the national emblem - which provokes me to say 'croeso i bawb', welcome to everyone, me also, to this opening).

screen 1.2 And then I recalled William Wordsworth's poem about daffodils which many people have learnt by heart:

I wandered lonely as a Cloud
That floats on high o'er Vales and Hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd
A host of dancing Daffodils;
Along the Lake, beneath the trees,
Ten thousand dancing in the breeze.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Outdid the sparkling waves in glee:-
A Poet could not but be gay
In such a laughing company:
I gazed - and gazed - but little thought
What wealth the shew to me had brought:

For oft when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude,
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the Daffodils.

(earliest version)

screen 1.3 I read, (in Stephen Gill's 1984 edition of the poems) that Wordsworth said 'The two best lines are by Mary', his wife:

They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude

and I note what his sister Dorothy wrote in her Journal after she and William had seen the daffodils along the western shore of Lake Windermere in 1802 :

'I never saw daffodils so beautiful, they grew among the mossy stones about and about them, some rested their heads upon these stones, as on a pillow, for weariness and the rest tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the lake, they looked so gay ever glancing ever changing'.

screen 1.4 why screens? I am numbering this electronic daffodil in screenfulls, instead of pages and I'm limiting each 'screen' to 300 words - which I guess is about as many as fill anyone's computer screen if the text is set to 12 point or so. Each daffodil will also appear at the website (where the each screen may include a hypertext link to the next?)

screen 1.5 what will I write about? Anything that comes to mind, prompted by memories, news items, readings, walks, experiences of any kind, and by my strong feeling that there is something wrong with or missing from this culture of ours, some mismatch between people and machines that has provoked me all my life to think and to do what I have done, or refrained from doing. I will try, in how I write what follows, to embody rather than prescribe my idea of how to put things right.

And some of what I write will I hope be 'virtual fiction' - which means that it will be true, to itself, if I can keep a distance from the culture we inherit while reacting to it, or against.

These daffodils are of course imaginary, though composed of real words you might say, but then everything has to be imagined in the act of perceiving, does it not?. What we see is how we are, and that changes all the time, especially between generations.

screen 1.6 how often, and why? I am thinking that once a month is often enough if I am to keep up the effort and if computer memories are not to overflow. But perhaps it will be less frequent than that. It's an experiment - and I may fail to keep it up.

I must admit that writing an occasional news letter was partly inspired the example of S. T. Coleridge's 'The Friend' in which he sought to communicate 'principles', rather than 'news', to a list of subscribers in 1809-10.

I was also inspired by the news letter which Ursula Huws sends to subscribers who wish to be notified of new items on her website and of her recent views.

But my first influence was the presence of the internet itself, which allows anyone, at last, to be able to write in public without the need to pay for a print run or limit what is said to what a sufficient number of people will buy. Perhaps the day will come when literally everyone will 'write in public' on the net, as some us already do. And then the unpleasant distinction between those who are 'writers' and those who 'are literate, but not in public' will be gone. You can now write to everyone by the same means that you write to a friend!

part 2. the anthropology of the present

screen 2.1 Thinking how to begin I ask myself what kind of a culture is appropriate to living with the new technologies that are now feasible, or soon will be? Whatever it is I'd like my answer to be a part of the new culture that is needed now, and not just a carry-over from a way of living that is finished. I'd like what I write to be itself a little step into this newness - both in its form and its content, each inseparable from the other. But can I do it? Can anyone step beyond the recent past and become, as she or he writes, not a person apart from what is going on but a composer of it?

My immediate answer was this brief description of the needed culture:

non-hierarchical and non-divisive,
with everyone sharing the responsibility and with a shared belief,
as in a 'global tribe'
(one to which all people can belong
without renouncing the various cultures they were born into).

But as soon I wrote it I saw that this answer is not in itself non-hierarchical - it's a statement or an edict, as if from 'above'.

So I say to myself 'think again' and 'try to DO it (however modestly), not just prescribe'. Remember this is a daffodil, not a plan for others to carry out but something good in itself, even beautiful, even scented! '

screen 2.2 OK. Then I'll simply say that writing this daffodil IS a way of acting non-hierarchically,

that provoked nothing that I want to write only silence

so I decide to write eight lines of silence

(the number 8 being chosen by chance process).

but then
while proof reading the final text of
'the internet and everyone' (a recent book)
I realised that the way to continue
is already described and exemplified there
and all I need do now
is to write my actual thoughts
however rough or unseemly they may seem
and see what comes of them!

more silence



4. s u b s c r i b e / u n s u b s c r i b e

I am sending this first daffodil to a hidden (Bcc) list of about a hundred people with whom I have exchanged emails.

If you want to subscribe to future issues please send me an email with the word 'subscribe' in the subject line. You won't receive subsequent daffodils if you don't subscribe.

If, having subscribed, you want to stop receiving daffodils, please send me an email with the word 'unsubscribe' in the subject line (remembering if possible to inform me of the email address you had when you subscribed - not always an easy thing to discover).

I am dealing with subscritions manually - not via an automatic program.

You may forward daffodil to anyone.

If I receive emails from subscribers I will publish a few of them - selected without bias by chance process.


5. c o p y r i g h t a n d c o p y l e f t

I am trying to respect both traditional copyright and the more netual principle of 'copyleft' in this newsletter and website. This leads me to ask you to observe the following condition:

You may transmit this text to anyone for any non-commercial purpose if you include the copyright line and this sentence and if you respect the copyright of quotations.

(c) 2001 john chris jones

e n d / d i w e d d