Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Whither BLOG?

Stephanie asks:
But if it's at all true that the proliferation of poetry blogs changes their social function or dynamic, then where is poetry BLOG going, and might its social energy be re-articulated towards supporting or creating an alternate retail-distribution model or marketing arm for poetry publications, I mean the kind printed on paper? Is that even desirable?
I've been meaning to respond to this post for days, because it gets at a lot of the anxieties I've been having about blogging of late--well, not so much anxieties as a sense of disorientation, ungroundedness.

It's funny that in some ways, poetry blogs are starting to become more like what some naysayers wanted them to be at the outset: more like forums for discussion and debate--more formal and critical--and less local, daily, diaristic. Or perhaps it's that my blog seems like it's going that way. There's no question that there's been an explosion of discussion: just look at the spikes in posts in anybody's comment box. Enough so that flamers are actually bothering to take their venom there. (Was there no room left at the Poetics list?)

The odd thing about the appearance of flamers is that they're usually a sign of a forum crossing a certain threshhold of publicness and impersonality. If you're going to tell someone you know that he's an idiot you'll probably do it privately. People usually only feel safe enough to engage in public nastiness when there are no personal consequences; once the blogger becomes a "public figure" he/she is fair game.

And hence the increasing difficulty of coming to terms with what Stephanie's calling all-caps BLOG: the whole universe of poetry conversation going on out there. Even a year ago it seemed like it was possible; now I'm more and more aware of the concentric circles of blogs that I read, and how there are always more beyond that. This is, perhaps, why it's starting to look more like debate: what I think of as the original group of poetry bloggers I read seemed, as if by coincidence (though of course it wasn't), to share some kind of baseline aesthetic. I would venture to say that that's no longer the case; a more explicit discussion of aesthetics has become necessarily precisely because the poetry blogosphere is growing, and getting less homogeneous as it does.

I don't know what this says about the future of poetry blogging. I'd like to think, as Stephanie suggests, that it can continue to remain a form with its own integrity, a true alternative to the poem-on-the-page-surrounded-by-white-space of print publication (or the justified margins and neat columns of print criticism). But I wonder if it will increasingly become an adjunct of print culture, a mere pointer to the "real" work that is going on elsewhere.


Lyle Daggett said...

Interesting what you say about flamers, the recent increase in comment posts, and crossing the threshold into another level of publicness. I supposed this was to be expected. To publish, after all, means "to make public."

I'm new to blogging -- just started my blog about a month ago -- though have been doing poetry a very long time. My intention with my blog is to talk about poetry and related things; I haven't used it to publicize my own poems particularly, I haven't posted my own poems in my blog, or put specific weblinks to poems of mine online.

(I do have lots of links in my blog, to a wide range of poetry websites and other people's blogs, and some other types of sites, but none specifically to any of my own poetry.)

It's true that in the articles I've posted on my blog so far, the poetry I've talked about has existed originally and primarily in print on paper.

In that sense, my blog is functioning (however little or much) as an adjunct of print culture, as you phrased it.

This doesn't particularly bother me; I'm not that concerned with creating an alternative to the poem on the page surrounded by white space.

When I'm reading poetry, I actually prefer it on a page surrounded by white space. This is certainly, in part, because I grew up before computers and cyberspace pervaded daily life (for people fortunate enough to afford computers and with access available to the internet, etc.).

More deeply, I prefer the more direct, tactile, palpable, sensory and sensual contact with the living and organic world that poetry on a page, in a book, provides.

I find it difficult to read poetry on a computer screen, it seems two-dimensional, ephemeral, a mirage. Too hurried. A click of a button and it's gone. It can seem real, momentarily, but it's not quite. (It's called "virtual" for a reason.)

Talk about poetry, on the other hand -- the immediacy of communicating ideas -- seems to me well suited to cyberspace.

It might relate to the old distinction Marshall McLuhan made between "hot" and "cool" media. Computers, internet, email, are (I think) essentially cool media. Poetry -- as distinct from discussion about poetry -- is (mostly, I think) a hot medium, or at least a warm one. When they (poetry and cyberspace) come in contact with each other, it's to be expected that mutations would occur in each medium.

Sorry if I've been overly long here. This is still a work in progress in my thinking about all of it. The above is where I sit with it right now.

Anonymous Poet said...

The nature of the medium is to be dispersed and spontaneous. Probably, to some extent, posts will merely point to "other" work going on out there. But there seem to be a number of poets who have published who post their work for discussion. In addition, there are many poets who combine their text with photos -- a "real" form of work that often does not appear in traditional print forms.