Jonathan describes his "blogger's code," which "says not to criticize the poetry of another blogger who is known to me primarily, or principally, as a blogger, and is not a quote unquote famous poet."
I think I probably feel that way as well, although I've never really articulated it to myself that way. But what I've really been thinking is that Jonathan's tenets only make sense given the peculiar traits of the poetry/blog community we're a part of (although the boundaries of that community have gotten a lot blurrier to me of late). Among them:
1. No one in this community, with the possible exception of Ron Silliman, is a "famous poet": i.e. I wouldn't know them through a significant body of published and widely read work before encountering them in blogland. Those who have published books have usually published one book and/or maybe a few chapbooks. (This is getting more complicated as more established poets start to write blogs; but I'm guessing that Jonathan would not view such poets as immune to critique.)
2. The primary purpose of blogs in this community is not the publication, exchange, and critique of our own poems. Many of us never post our own poems on our blogs at all, while others keep separate poetry blogs. When I have posted a poem on my blog, I don't think I've ever received a direct comment on it. That's in sharp contrast to the way poetry circulates in other online venues (e.g. discussion groups, message boards, or even other kinds of blogs), which function as something like virtual workshops or poetry-swaps.
I don't object to this element of poetry blogging; in fact, I rather like that the poetry/poetics blogs I read are something onto themselves and not merely channels for the propagation of "real work." But I wonder why this is the case.
3. The relationship between this group of bloggers is communal rather than competitive. As Nick and others have pointed out in Jonathan's comment box, that's rather surprising: in most other spheres it's natural to view other poets as "the competition." But it seems as if most of us, in blogging, are wearing our reader/responder hats (appreciation, analysis, critique) rather than our poet hats (awe, envy, resentment, theft).
For some, this communal sense is actually a weakeness of blogging: we're all buddies who would never say a bad word about each other. The Chicago Reader (irritatingly little of which is available online) ran a story in last week's books issue on book review blogs, noting that print reviewers tended to view bloggers (among whom the author counted herself) as "one big, giddy circle jerk." I'm thinking also of a recent blog entry by Patrick Rosal on the productive value of competition, of "trying to write a better poem than someone else" (while remembering "we all got to eat at the same table").
Personally, I prize that sense of community; but perhaps that's because I'm uncomfortable with the kind of naked striving (after publication, awards, publicity) that seems to characterize the lives of many professional poets (and others, honestly; it's why I decided in college I could never be a journalist). In the one place I've seen a real, thriving poetry community--the Bay Area--it always seemed to me that a community produced work as effectively as did a bunch of individuals competing: people doing good stuff encouraged you to do good stuff too, but not necessarily to beat them.