A bit overwhelmed (though in a good way) by the conversation going on in my own comment box. It's the first time I've ever had enough comments here to actually think about the phenomenon. Shanna's right--they are one of the best things about blogs, making conversation possible in a medium that's often thought to be totally solipsistic--but they also weirdly (again, in a good way) make the blog no longer entirely written by you. I mean me.
Also I've been sidelined by some kind of computer meltdown, now fixed. A "shared library error." That will teach me to be generous with my books.
Okay, back to the topic. Excellent thoughts by Jonathan, Nick, and Anne Boyer about praise, criticism, and competition (in poetry and elsewhere in life). I'm still thinking, though, about the oddness of all these "poetry blogs" that are not blogs of poems. What are they then?
I said they're not blogs of poems or of primary "work." But then of course Stephen Vincent reminded me that both his and Nick's blogs have often reproduced journal and notebook entries that, if perhaps not always "poetry" in the strictest sense, are certainly creative work. But here again is an oddity: both Nick and Stephen have posted passages from notebooks already written, sometimes years or even decades in the past. It's my sense (I hope I'm not being presumptuous) that for them the (laborious) process of transcribing and posting that work is a kind of rewriting and rethinking--a pulling back from and examination of the work (and the self) even as it's also a reexperiencing.
Brian Campbell commented that he admires Simon De Deo's blog because "it reviews actual poems, which are the ultimate thing here, eh?" Fair enough--but there's that "actual poems" thing again, which always makes me wonder what "unactual poems" the rest of us are discussing.
My larger question, though: are reviews the "ultimate thing" among the poetry blogs I read? I'd say, frankly, no; if these are not poem blogs, they are also not criticism blogs in the narrowly evaluative sense. I suppose you'd say that on some days Ron Silliman is acting as a reviewer, but (to many people's frustration) he always goes far beyond the up or down judgment to some much more sweeping context.
So what are they? I guess I'd have to say they are poetics blogs, meaning by that discussion about and engaged with poetry in the deepest sense, but operating at some more general, abstract level, less interested in judgment per se then in an ongoing conversation about an unfolding aesthetic. Which means the scope is not limited to the reviewer's horizon: I think the best discussions I've had about individual poems out here have been about Shakespeare and O'Hara.
As soon as I say that I wonder where that places those blogs that blend poetics with the more diaristic aspects of the blog form--which are also some of the most exciting and compulsively readable, like Stephanie's and Jordan's. I actually don't think that's an accident; the blog's blend of formality and casual dailiness seems part and parcel of whatever poetics is being explored here.
But as I've said, I feel very uncertain about these generalizations I'm making; I feel the ground has shifted a lot. In part that's because I've left the physical community (the Bay Area) in which I started blogging; there was a brief period there where real and virtual communities seemed to be reinforcing each other, and things kind of took off and we couldn't blog fast enough. But that was also the root of my sense of this project as part of a supportive (non-competitive) community. Since then I've moved, started a job, and gone dormant for nearly a year, and am still trying to get my bearings again. I'm not sure whether my description is accuracy, or nostalgia.