Welcome to the all-new niallosullivan.co.uk!
It’s been an interesting couple of months. At around the halfway point of January, I decided to read out one of my little paragraphs to the audience at the end of Poetry Unplugged one evening. I quickly navigated to my website on my phone browser as I introduced the piece to the audience . . . and found that all the content of my website was gone. I fired off a few quips and brought the evening to a close. Then, after grabbing a beer and unlocking my phone, I tried again. Gone.
No worries, I thought, I’ll try again in a few minutes. Gone. I’ll try again on another computer. Gone. I’ll try again tomorrow. Gone.
Acceptance set in. The very nice people at the Seattle call centre of my website provider couldn’t help either.
Something else set in after that. I had lost nine years’ worth of content and the world went on as normal. I thought about the time when the British Library had offered to archive my website. It took me about a year to get round to replying and the person that made the offer no longer worked there.
This was when I started to have thoughts about letting it all slide away into nothingness. Wasn’t entropy the natural state of the universe and wasn’t my career as a poet already chugging along towards that blissful state of absolute zero? Perhaps it was time to let it all go. Nobody cared that all of this work stopped existing, so maybe it was time for me to join in with them?
Then I remembered that I had made a New Year’s resolution to learn coding. The end product was to be a brand new, clean and unfussy version of my website. I trawled through cached google pages, my own drafts and the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine and it was all there. It really was true that nothing vanishes on the internet.
After that, I finished off the html and CSS tutorials on codeacademy.com and got to work. This is the result. A simple new website that has been coded from scratch. This was all done the hard way, copy pasting from the archives and caches, adding the code and then uploading each page to my domain. So what if my career is probably history? That doesn’t absolve me of the responsibility of documenting the graceful curve of its decline.
Here’s a story that I love telling. When I was touring the country with Apples and Snakes in 2005, the first stop was a Slam at the Old Vic in Bristol. The Slam-master was awe-struck when he met one of my touring partners, Dike Omije.
Dike was a legend of the Manchester Slam scene to the point that he had to retire to give other poets a chance.
All the Slam-master wanted to know was whether a certain story about Dike was true. This was the one where, in the middle of performing a poem during a Slam, Dike forgot his next line. He didn’t apologise or break the fourth wall, he stepped backwards and entered a state of suspended animation.
After a seeming eternity had passed, he raised his head, stepped back towards the mic and cooly announced, “I’m back.”
The crowd wet their collective knickers and not only did Dike manage to finish his poem, he also won the Slam. Dike smiled as the Slam-master regaled him with the story and confirmed that it was true.
A few months later, Dike sent me a message via myspace (this was the mid noughties remember!) asking me how I was doing. I never got round to replying, just like I took too long to get back to the archive guy at the British Library. A few months after that, I got the news that Dike had passed away. He was terminally ill during the tour and chose not to let us know.
After hearing the news, I went to myspace to read his unanswered message and found myself lingering on Dike’s page. His voice whispered back from the speakers of my laptop. Despite the decline of myspace as the social network of choice, Dike’s voice is still there, still ready to resume his poem.
I’m glad that I made the choice to step back towards that microphone. It’s always worth keeping a little cosy corner in this great digital abyss. You never know who might pop by.