Archive for July, 2009

compleat explication

At the writing workshop on Saturday I realised I really did want a couple of the threads within the poem to be more present. I wanted the reader to be with me in the moment of poignancy that spawned the image. It’s unusual, but nevertheless this prodded me, made me think I could write something about the poem that would be more in line with my aims. The discovery was that I here had an aim. I like that feeling.

The hidden snap that emanates from my neck is pedestrian. We all have these moments, odd structural shifts in our body that aren’t easily explained. You can research such things, sure, but you often don’t. There’s a complete science of cracking knuckles out there somewhere. Similarly, that clicking sensation you might have felt inside your skull can be explained, and there are some interesting medical factoids that could come out of such an explanation. But we leave these things alone and don’t puzzle too much at the unexpected announcements of bone and joint fluid. Perhaps this unexamined aspect is what is presented as the beginning of a poem. Perhaps it is the real subject of any poem, and can be explained as such, much like just about anything. From this point all that is needed is tool of comparison.

It becomes jugs full of ‘illusions’, a farcically standard cocktail made with midori. There was a time when I would go out with friends as an inexperienced eighteen year old alcohol expert, and we would order these things like wine aficionados, observing the gradations of colour, the waft of melon, the taste of expense. In a sense the metaphor comes about in just the same unexpected way. This is what the two things have in common and this is what they give each other. Parallelism and nothing more. It’s almost as tacky as the stuff you’ll find on the wall of a Hog’s Breath Café, but does the trick, in a way you presume no one would really utter aloud of the restaurant. The specificity of the year and the pat arrangement of feet just trails along out of the drinking idea. Feet. Who uses those old things anymore?

When I presented the paper on blogging in Canberra (the one that’s taken up so much space on this here blog), I worked myself up to the moment (even madly emending paragraphs minutes before the scheduled start, propped next to statue of Winston Churchill) and then felt kind of spent. I had no desire to talk to anyone anymore. I went outside and kept walking even though there were more official proceedings. I walked until I found myself in Civic, in a bookstore, and then in an Irish Pub. So many of these things are just pushed into place by their relative temporal closeness. It’s just a bit fresher than other more apt memories. That’s why things turn up. I reverse the logic of it all for a bit of ‘poeticness’, but that’s easy, and not too important. This is the mood, sitting in the pub, reading (but not Byron – he jumps out of Craig Shuftan’s book as one of the first ever emo rockstars) and observing the persistence of smokers as they persevere with their twin sins out on the pavement.

But why not? I don’t know. I wasn’t even too sure what ‘presage’ means when I came upon it sonically at the workshop. I know now, but only just. It doesn’t mean that much. But I had a feeling it wouldn’t. I combined this ignorance with a similarly ignorant manner of broadcasting what might not be fit for publicity. Anita Heiss was tweeting details of a date she was on, telling hundreds of people how things were going, down to something like ‘we’ve been holding hands’ issued from her bathroom. The likelihood of referencing that in a poem was intriguing and therefore it presents, however, without her name attached. So you see the voyage I go on. It’s refreshingly normal.

I’ve now reached the point that drove me to attempt this tract. The stories of child minding. That’s what I wanted to get across to you. These stories are very close and personal things, things that I probably can’t tell because of that. And yet, I splashed out the poem; at least to me, the poem revolves around them. Told to a trampoline because you (the you in question my love, and not ‘you’) were on a trampoline when I started speaking of the stories. He was six years old when I was left in charge (the checkers were not that age, but could have been I suppose – this was a point of workshop confusion for some reason); tazos are small collectible objects that were coming in chip packets in those days (I don’t know what they are doing with themselves now…); the ‘tone’ relates to a phone call that turned into another phone call and a lot of emotional upheaval – it’s one of the small parts I am not going to expand upon.

For some reason, the NSW Premier’s Prize shortlisted poet Sarah Holland-Batt praised a certain ‘violence’ in poetic images in perhaps three separate workshops while she was in town. Because of my job, I was privy to all of these workshops, and noted the repetition, this above all other things. (We take one small thing from most larger things – during Nathan Curnow’s stay it was ‘If you’re performing a poem about the circus, don’t wear a clown suit. That’s completely out of context and quite funny but we have heard ot before haven’t we…) As a meaningless response to Sarah’s advice – which is by the way, very good advice – I threw in the line. Is it joking? And if the stories about childminding are the most important things, why do I throw in a ridiculous in-joke like that? No one will understand. Am I courting a status of ‘misunderstood’? Yes and no.

Story the second: I was nervous about the second debut of child minding. The boy was, and occasionally still is, a sleepwalker. At this stage of familial life I had no idea what I would do. So I worried it into a stultifying nervousness that was to no point, because he slept soundly. The heat of after that is somewhat an attempt to structure relief. And structuring things! My goodness! I awoke last week straight into the thought of how to write a poem. Should I be conceiving the images in all manner of situations, not simply when sitting down at the computer? With this in mind I found myself locating the most local of images and figuring myself into it: the eyes adjusting to the reality of air after sleep; the teardrop that can result. I simply become this large in the poem. It’s non-poetic but cleverly so, and so forth.

Later I’m thinking about this version of myself as teardrop. I’m trying to imagine that if I keep rolling it over in my mind, it will become legible, it will become real in a different way to that that is rendered concrete by hitting ‘save’. My mind is my database as I drive out to work, and now (as this manner of writing has no doubt led you to expect) we all realise the face of our car stereo was stolen from the car. It was my fault – I just left all the doors unlocked. I always do. And so now the consequence is I have to drive everywhere without music. I think maybe it will allow me to think more, but it hasn’t really turned out that way. I feel sleepy while driving. It’s a worry. But we keep driving because we were initially and now we drive through a different morning, where I’m frantically trying to sketch out a picture of the fog over the river. The river disappears on a foggy morning, and so you drive into a peculiar globule of white, akin to floating, but not quite. That’s there. The Gobbagombolin, the name of the bridge, has it’s own interesting story that could be delved into. It relates to two Indigenous tribes apparently – there’s a mythic love story that may have resulted in a love / death / merging, and the merging of two names into the awkwardly named bridge (which locals shorten to ‘Gobba’).

Finally, there’s the boring old reversal where I have an inanimate object do something, but here it’s an idea. The image confronts you – peruses you instead. I think to myself this is awesomely cool. The final failure of the poem is another idea for a poem. Me up in the Blue Mountains, thinking to myself, ‘construct this view…’ The real subject of the poem it seems is the lining up of failed poetic impulses. This might be a good idea. No. What about this? No. Maybe that’s what I’m hurling out at you. And of course that last sentence was written as I printed off copies of the piece for each and every member of the workshop group. I felt the thing needed something there, and hastily shoved it in. But why? Someone picked up on the fact that he title connects with this last sentence. I was neither happy nor displeased at that. It just does. I like the sportiness of all that, and now I shall actively presume this great long expulsion of words will be taken in good sport too.

sport

a hidden snap echoes from my neck joint

it’s like a midori jug, one collector-chic bar

& an early 2000 arrangement of feet on path.

blackguard irish pub sits reading byron, gauging the weather,

issuing schooners to a frigid table, & what else, as if all

luck were presaged by mobile updates bathroomwise?

then the stories of childminding told to a trampoline:

the first – six year old checkers; tazos; the killing

tone wavering from your expartner (sarah: ‘put more

violence into your poetry!’) the second: fretting about

the sleepwalking boy without cause; delirious in a heat

of afterthat. & now, as if characterised by

eyes newborn from a marathon sleep,

i’m the slowteardrop, this.

the stolen carstereo forces silence (aggresive)

while sluicing the gobbagombalin fog, & this

perusing your mind: construct a view as if leaning

from a mountain lookout. hurl something.

blogging the ethers, part 3. the end.

Motion

My blogging is quite boring when I begin, but seven months in I blur things a little with the post ‘endless repeat’. It reads:

liking how images are put. smiling at how ekphrastic stuff appears. enjoying all manner of subtleties. placing text sideward of reference. “there’s a movie on”. oh so, sure. & more when there is room. colour shade & choice might loom. love the whorl of it.

This isn’t a draft for a poem; I haven’t kept or worked on it. It seems more of an experiment with the blogging form – within there is a link to an image of a television. The post seems to be about the blogger’s personal life, or at least, there are some small journalistic elements. But it’s also poetry. I’m not directly recounting events in my life. My life is source material, but the blog is here used as a forum for new writing, merging imagery, narrative and unusual choices of word. Looking back at the phrase ‘Love the whorl of it’ I think it perhaps sums up how my blogging-thinking is progressing.

Later on in this same month I begin advertising. I write about a reading; I place links to the Cordite and Meanjin sites. Another facet of blogging is embraced. As the months move on, the blogging becomes a little more frequent. Too. The personal element doesn’t disappear, but it does lessen, and does become increasingly concerned with my life as it relates to poetry. So, within just one year of blogging my process has become habitual: I average 10 posts a month; half of these will be poems; the rest prosey thoughts about poetics, or links to events, publications; events in my life (most notably family affairs) pop up irregularly – (for example, I use my blog to post an ultrasound picture of my daughter in utero, and then to let everyone know about the birth. Most interestingly, I realise some out of interstate and overseas family are reading my blog occasionally).

What do readers want from a blog then? It seems from this analysis that the answer depends entirely on how you style your online presence. The family and friends that are not involved in poetry at all, probably don’t get a lot from it. They obtain the odd snippet of personal information, the odd image, but not much more. Maybe they secretly think negatively of my blogging? The following is a comment posted in 2007 by a good friend of mine. (I discovered he was reading my blog, and coaxed him to respond to one of my poems (Motion, 2007)):

 

‘Perhaps there is a land beyond the realms of brain death Derek, where your delusional ramblings may garner some level of understanding. However, to those of us who inhabit the more lucid meadows of reality, your words are as the braying of a goat. Random, and of little consequence. P.S. – You’re rubbish.’

 

There’s humour behind this (?), but I still think maybe that it goes on in some readers’ minds. What it hints at is that the audience you garner is self-determined. You blog for yourself and others, but the others are a select group.

Myself? In June 2007 I began some splatter poems – one poem blogged every day of the month, with the ethos being little-to-no editing. The hits, the number of readers, the comments on my postings, all of these numbers went up with the increased regularity of posts. I also found that many of these poems were quite worthy. Accordingly, I continue to engineer new experiments in public writing – one in the past was a concerted poetic-response to a Radiohead album. Blogging helps me gauge what comes of such ventures. Often the knowledge that nothing has come of an experiment is still a useful result.

Others? The non-physical aspect of literary communication has always been apparent – the long history letter writing shows this. But I think I have previously assumed it came from the necessity of distance, when in fact, it might be productive for more important reasons. I’m not sure, but I have at one point blogged about the benefits of writing and communicating in public, at the same time as being non-present. The following 2008 blog excerpts also follow on from ideas raised in Goldsworthy’s HEAT article. I wrote:

 ‘physicality is a process in flux’ and then ‘…the sleep patterns of couples is prone to assimilation: positions are reversed: foetal positions facing the same direction for the most. & then even the rolls begin to subliminally coordinate – i face left, you face left; i roll, you roll.’  

and then…

‘there’s a need to gather one’s thoughts, desires & motives for action ([for] writing). supra-physical conversation & collaboration allows a gathering with immediacy. in fact it’s more physical as if by design. we are not products of our imaginations but products of our methods.

 

What might be seen as a ‘conclusion’…

Goldsworthy (again, from the 2008 HEAT article) says there is a ‘blurring of roles’ within the field of blogging, a ‘paradigm-shift’ from more traditional notions of writing and reading, where there is a clear delineation between who is producing and who is consuming. An idea she holds up while being a blogger herself, commending the unique conversational aspect of blogging. It’s something Fieled also shares, believing his public posts and communications and divergences are an important part of the poetic process.

Blogging can become a forum for group interaction (and the most popular interactive sites are flagged again and again in the literature as ‘news blogs’), but in my experience the most interesting poetry blogs function as personal forums. Extending your identity off into the ethers reinforces the notion that it is ‘all about me’, particularly when you can gather a professionally relevant group of readers to your feed. It’s a point of public actualisation. Yes, I am a poet. You put your composed material out there and the more it is read the more a collective and professional sense of who you are is affirmed. I would say this collective affirmation, (if gained– online networks are seen as ‘easy exit’ systems) even serves to strengthen you own sense of coherence. It’s a mirror-stage of recognition. And therefore, writing that constantly ponders its own purpose is not so unusual in this realm, because I think bloggers often wonder about the solidity that their invisible readership (their network) gives them. I wonder about this: I feel strangely confident when I’ve posted something that a lot of people read. Even more so when a lot of readers have been moved to comment, either to approve my posting or to debate it. Hence, the postings ruminate on the numbers, but underlying is the uncertainty: why have I become a different person after blogging?

Angela Meyer (2009) posted an article on ‘what makes a successful cultural blog?’, on her own blog. Within this post she highlighted some aspects she finds essential to the ‘successful’ cultural blog: embracing the medium; personalising, creating a persona; maintaining a theme; blogging for the love of it; and finally, interacting. Her final conclusion is ‘embrace in order to innovate’. I think all of these elements she highlights are somewhat important, and it is essential that poetry blogs embrace the medium. In their own different ways, both Fieled’s and Eldon’s blogs do this – the personas they have created function feel authentic, one academic and confessional, one wholly motivated by a poetic aesthetic. An example of a web-presence that doesn’t ‘embrace’ like these poets do would be a static author page, one that only contains information on how to buy the latest book. But what mainly interests me from Meyer’s analysis is the focus on theme and personalisation. I think these in turn lead to the creation of a persona, and this is how you come to be known amongst your particular blogging community, which, I think in my case, more than anything else is my poetry community. Notions of ‘success’ then become dependent on the persona. Does your persona seek diffusion, dissemination, above all else? If so, Science Fiction writer Cory Doctrow (2008) espouses a ‘dandelion’ method – your work should be freely available and reproducible, in order to place it in the most hands, or eyes. What do we think of that?

I think the first assumption we read blogs with is similar to that of any form of reading. We can assume the blogger wants to be read, and in some measure would like their writing and reputation to become diffuse. Following Doctrow’s advice, the authentic poetry-blogger persona will make poetry available online. They don’t hide their actual creative work away, saving it for a more valid forum, or a more ‘lucrative’ venue. Eldon just posts poems. I post a very high percentage of my new poems. Fieled posts some, when they fit in with his vein of thought. For this criteria I think we are all writers that embrace the medium, acknowledging the element of diffusion that readers read expecting. (Ah, good on us…)

The other assumption I’ve skirted around though is less easy to judge in terms of success / failure. This is the art of networking. We blog to make connections, to do what Meyer seems to identify as a criteria for success, to participate. This is a more selfish act, in that you are not doing this for all of your readers. It is a process of knowing who is out there creating interesting work in the contemporary setting. This is something again that is familiar in the way poets and other writers have always connected, but it functions differently from a blogging perspective. Connection is instant; connection is overtly public. Poets have comment-wars over on Ron Silliman’s blog, I think at times with an aim to get themselves noticed by the great Silliman, which, in turn will guarantee some hope of publicity, diffusion et cetera. Whether or not they are doing it in the right way, they are networking, with all the immediacy electronic communication allows.

Robert MacDougall (article mentioned in previous posts) thinks that sustained communication (similar to that one observes with blogging) can constitute a process of identity creation. I like this. Comparing blogging with the way we form an identity based on close friends and family, he says ‘…there is no reason to conclude that one’s experience of the world gleaned from interaction with and through these various media could not also be constitutive of an individual’s identity and sense of self in a profound way.’ So, taken together, these two critical assumptions (diffusion, and networking) inform the way we read, and create, the poetry blogger, the meaningful and profound social actor. The actor who recognises herself as an actor, a pretender, but yet nevertheless continues to act and to effect meaningful and poignant social relationships. The reality of the poet-as-physical-individual, or the poet as static-text-object, is subsumed. The actor amongst the ethers is the new being. And so far there is no real problem with this.

blogging the ethers – fieled & eldon (installment 2 of 3)

(Writing this paper made it apparent I really didn’t have the space to do it justice. These blogs all contain a huge amount of material. I apologise in advance for the 20min limit, silly brevity.)

Fieled

The visual presentation of the blogs in question (Fieled / Eldon / later me) don’t really vary. So what content is presented, and when, eventually determines the character, the feel. Adam Fieled posts regularly, usually every couple of days and often every day. His blog is the story of a poet’s journey through contemporary poetic thought, but it also aims to attract the reader – you can depend on their being a new post whenever you drop in. This is the narrative pull – Fieled never ‘disappears’ as many bloggers do, taking the ‘easy exit’ option. (btw I won’t link his name every time…)

Readership is essential. However, Fieled’s poetry blog is not just about poetry. Much intrudes, snippets of personal information. Fieled does maintain another web-journal that he ‘edits’, a venue only for poetry, so he certainly sees a difference between a web-journal and Stoning the Devil. It is perhaps the newness of the genre – the regular mini-essays on poetics, interspersed with irregular snippets of confessional anecdotes, all done publicly – that makes it hard though for him to define it. Fieled himself writes during 2006 ‘How much “truthiness” is appropriate on a “personal” blog?’ then ‘I’ll be damned if I know.’

Many poetry blogs can be self-conscious. Fieled is often muses about the form, structure and content of his online writing. And interestingly I find this level of self-conscious analysis is observable in a lot of online communication. Perhaps it is because of the lack of a physical ‘other’ that social networking and online communication promotes the ideal that it is all about the individual? In an article in American Behavioural Scientist Robert MacDougall (2005) writes that ‘Awareness of the self as social actor is enhanced in the text of a blog with the understanding that one’s words are then theoretically readable by the world.’ He sees it as commonsense that our self-referentiality is made more focal alongside the way we engage with life increasingly through text. I think there’s something in that.

At any rate, Fieled the individual presents as an erudite poetry blogger, despite this self-consciousness. Some poets use blogs (and other sites) with the main aim of promoting events, new books, reviews (the collection of links referred to in the previous post’s comment thread). Their postings are irregular and impersonal. I would say they don’t really understand what the medium can offer. Fieled instead creates a dialogue with himself, publicly. This is productive: it allows real outside influence, a model of ‘influence’ that is not limited to the texts one’s solid and stable self chooses and reads in order to be instructed in the art of writing. In a prescient way, Fieled (2009 & 2009a) wrote two posts titled ‘In Praise of Flame Wars’ and then ‘Blogs and Groups’ on the 2nd and 3rd May this year, not too long after I had submitted the abstract for this paper. The content of the posts could fill a paper on their own, but the point is they are all about poetry, and online communication, and his answers look toward the future – we assume there will be further public exploration of the issues.

It shows that Stoning the Devil has a very particular purpose. It is a bastion of poetic inquiry, for one poet, and it also allows others into the dialogue. This is his chosen form, and we read with this in mind. We do not expect outlandish photos, jokes, or news about his upcoming readings. We don’t even expect poems in any great quantity. The assumptions we make about his work, as a reader, can be made quite quickly. There is of course the opening ‘Cut loose’ post (Fieled, 2006), but this is followed by two poems, and then a critical analysis of the poet’s own google addiction (Fieled, 2006a). We have enthusiasm, poetry, and critical analysis, and we quickly see these things becoming motifs. In the first month of his blog’s existence Fieled writes long and absorbing posts on writers such as Proust, Silliman, Pound, O’Hara, Perloff, Eliot, Byron, Bernstein, Sexton. But the art-form of online poetry as practised by Adam Fieled is to examine, but also be ruthlessly examined. This meta-awareness is to become his trademark: the blog is hyper-aware of it’s own situation of uncertainty, yet in a postmodern way, enjoys this predicament (note: I removed the word ‘postmodern’ when i spoke this sentence aloud in Canberra. Why did I do that?).

A few months into Fieled’s blog you can see he has found his style. There are two lengthy observations combining the themes of poetry and internet – ‘the poetic work in the age of digital reproduction’, and ‘Is cyberspace the new art-city?’ You come to expect this type of posting, and less regularly, evidence of the artist’s own poetic practice, or small clues as to his personal life (for instance, at one point Fieled informs us he finds internet porn worrying but addictive; and then goes on to publically analyse the way perhaps this phenomena has ‘de-glamourised’ the sex act (Fieled, 2006b).

So the assumptions with which we read Adam Fieled, the person and blog, the intertwined entity of the ethers, are as follows: we read expecting regular and serious discourse. He references many cultural art-forms – particularly painting and rock music – but always does this in a context of contemporary poetics, generally utilising his favoured term ‘post-avant’. He writes lengthy posts that require sustained attention. When his poetry appears it is often to illustrate an aspect of his current thinking on post-avant poetics. We very often find his discourse analyses it’s own form, the blog and online exchange. His sub-genre – if t can be called this – within poetry-blogging is academic /poetic. His writing is dense, but informative. The downside of his stance perhaps, the sub-genre he has adopted, is that personality gets equated with style. (But then that’s the interesting thing – it is the way with blogging perhaps. Blog = person more so than you find in other forums). And so, though not often, Fieled seems irritated by ignorant commenters (or, characterises them as ignorant with his responses?) as Paul Squires recently pointed out)). If you go against his post without a great body of evidence to back you up, you can expect dismissal. It might alienate the casual reader quickly. I read his blog but I must admit I very rarely enter the discourse via comments, as I almost don’t feel up to it. This can be at least somewhat problematic for the blogger. But then who wants ‘casual readers’?

  

Eldon

On Eldon’s most recent page of her blog – around 10 poems that have been posted since January of this year –the most frequently used word is the combination you and your, pushed together but separated by a forward slash – ‘you/r’.  The next most prevalent words are ‘make’, ‘watch’ and then ‘fake’. It’s an interesting way to analyse her work, and her blog, given that she provides almost no personal information, even though these are only 6 months worth of entries and her blog is 5 years old. This blog is all about the poetry presented; but, and maybe therefore, the poetry is all about reflecting you and your approach to reading. What do you make of the postings, and after regular reading, the whole blog? Who is watching who? If this blog does not present the real Anne Marie, even though her poetry, does it present a fake version of her that misleads the reader?

Her poems are stylistically immersive and, I think, overtly sexual, so the analysis is apt. Though there is no personal information given about the poet, so much feeling is given. For example, her poem ‘chewu’ contains these lines:

 

my very rocket teeth gasp that

and that and momentary

tactics and full gone

play velvet

for you

eat against cheek mm-sway against better

judgement a glut savvy a dripbint

tendency giveaway maybe

pterridae bloys a’tinkle

in the cumsee

disp-

lay

pretend fingertip mop up my thattering slobber

 

Her poems seem to be all about, or circling (‘all about’? my goodness…) the body’s sway on intellect, and accordingly they refuse to stop and speak of this in an intellectual fashion. On taking up the blog-form Eldon has seen fit to use it continually (for the past 5 years) but has not in any way altered the content to fit the form. This to me is an indication of her constructed self: she will not explain her work, but let it speak for itself, regardless of the position it now occupies, glamorously displayed on any computer in the world (as opposed to the rarer ‘book’).

I know from other interactions with Eldon that she is a real person, capable of direct and transparent communication. She once commented on a Facebook comment I made. But in keeping with her electronic persona, these easy communications have been rare. So as readers we inevitably judge the success of her blog (how good it is, how interesting it is, whether we feel moved to bookmark it, follow the rss feed et cetera) based upon our opinion of Eldon’s poetic style. We are not going to assess her as an academic, and she is in control of this. I think she writes form a position that foregrounds the body’s lack of coherent control – control over language, desire, feeling, intellectual statement. This is why words constantly blur other words, why passages seem to take over in an erotic frenzy. It all negates a vision of the self as authoritative commentator. Her blog effectively functions as an extension of her poetic identity. One assumes with Anne-Marie there is some demarcation between a public and private self, but in terms of her poetic self, there is none. Out in the ethers she is the same personality, sublimated in her poems.

I find her blog equally intriguing for this quality. How can she continue to post material like this? Is there never an urge to analyse or to publicise, within this venue, but to do it outside of the poem form? So far, throughout the 5 years of posts, there has been nothing of this sort. Whereas Fieled sees it as a critical function of the blog to air his poetic thinking publically, and to respond to issues thereby raised, Eldon obviously values the way her thinking is purely constrained by the poem form. She doesn’t even respond to comments, and in this way directly opposes the value many commentators see in the blog dialogue, where issue are raised in comments and responded to by the blogger (either with panache or with anger). It’s interesting, because instant and public critical discussion does seem to be one of the major aspects blogging offers poetry. But, on the other hand, I can testify to the fact that if you are posting poems, the discussion can be problematic in itself. Comments such as ‘I really like this’ inspire a sort of blank nothingness, or a cursory ‘Thanks!  Hope you enjoy reading my work.’; and then comments that really do dissect your poem can be hard to take in a positive sense, especially when the commenter is not known personally to you, or the comment seems offhand (I refer once again to a commenter writing ‘I don’t get this at all’ – I felt annoyed initially, I don’t mind admitting this, and then I felt like giving a flippant response, along the lines of ‘That’s okay, this poem was written for a different person’.) Nothing was really gained from the exchange, and I often think it is the way with posting poetry on blogs. The dialogue generated around poetic issues, generally responses to tracts written in prose, is far more interesting and vital. So in a sense, for someone committed to poetic expression as their only front, maintaining a silence around the display of poetry makes sense. Not entirely – but I would hazard to say this is a really useful pole to examine Fieled’s dense poetic postings against, and then in turn and interesting way to move into the territory of my own blog, which is neither as dense as Fieled’s nor as poetically formally totalising as Eldon’s. Have I found a happy medium? The most accommodating and successful format for a poetry blog? Although it might be a nice anonymous comment to find on my blog, I don’t think so.  

tomorrow: me. that + absolute conclusions.

blogging / ethers / anti-coterie / installment 1

unlike astrid – who has presented her entire paper in its fineness – i am as always in favour of doing things by halves, or quarters, or less if possible. here’s the first part of what i recently read aloud in canberra (replete with arch-post-delivery edits):

 1

My first encounter with the internet was in 1996 when I began University. Before that such a thing existed, but it was kept safely locked away in the library. Using it meant liaising with the school librarian, and I didn’t like her.

I studied computing at school without the internet. It wasn’t needed. I imagined I would design computer games.

When I began tertiary study (in mathematics) internet traffic (implying thoroughfare) had become a commercial reality. Accordingly, we were given email accounts, web access, and server storage space. I created a ‘Derek Motion’ Homepage, my first virtual identity. Perhaps like a lot of things that you look back on from a present-day viewpoint, it seemed a simple thing to do then; but full of interesting complexities now.

That homepage is lost to the virtual ethers now (one might also conceptualise this space as ‘the cloud’. I wouldn’t. But go ahead…) I do remember some of the content though: my name; my university; a picture of me; there were also ‘personal’ links. At the time this design seemed like the best way one could display a sense of ‘self’ on a website – you shared an image, and some basic details. It was personal; it was you.

My use of the internet has changed now, as has society’s at large. I utilise email more than other forms of communication. Social networking sties too. I keep track of writers and artistic events online. And, one of the main presentations of my ‘self’ to the world is my / this personal weblog: an evolving archive of my writing, and to a lesser extent, my life. It’s why I’ve started thinking (aloud, in text, online) about the different roles blogs can and do take on for writers and readers.

In what ways can a ‘blog community’ be compared to any other literary community: that of readers, writers, critics. After all, networks are things that can serve or impede various groups. As a method I propose to focus on the weblogs of three poets. Stoning the Devil by Adam Fieled (from America), Anne Marie Eldon by Anne Marie Eldon (from England), and Typing Space maintained by myself. I didn’t set out to select blogs from all corners of the globe; this is perhaps just an interesting coincidence. I chose these blogs because of how they function. Fieled’s and Eldon’s blogs are extremely good examples of what I locate as indices, polar forms of the poetry blog. Fieled’s is extensively critical and analytical, and never ‘light’ (while always looking at poetry); Eldon’s blog is entirely composed of new poems, enabling her very particular poetics of identity.

I’ll place mine somewhere in between, with it functioning as a space for poetry, criticism, networking, and bulletin-board. Why not.

I know that I don’t read all blogs in the same way – so let’s draw some more general conclusions from this fact. Would we all read these poetry blogs in similarly different ways? I think maybe yes. And so the idea is that sections of a blogging community can be read, but more importantly usefully read, with some critical assumptions.

And there is reason to think they will keep being read:

Micro-blogging has become very popular recently. Everything new and popular is worth analysing. But, it is finding and sharing that micro-blogging allows, as well as a macrocosmic view of what’s really going on out in the world, what’s ‘trending’. Micro-blog interfaces like Twitter, and the Facebook status field, limit space. The tweet almost functions as a blurb, or a media release, leading you on to the more extensive narrative which will be housed elsewhere – which is very often a blog-post. The size of a micro-blog statement casts it as ephemeral, not too important, but also terrifically popular, like text messaging. And so, the popularity of the blog might decline, but, then like the ‘literary’ novel, or even the long poem, they may continue to be valued by critical readers. Scott Rosenberg, the author of Say Everything – a book on the history and future of blogging – recently said the following in interview (2009):

There have always been two types of blog posts: brief incidental blurts—really short one-line things, quick links—and more substantial statements. Twitter has taken that brief, blurting blogging and put it to rest. That pushes blogs toward a tradition of real writing.

The (my?) ‘literary’ metaphor might be sustained. It means the task of thinking about what the different forms of blog do is important – blogging does enable ‘real writing’, and, writing we might call poetic. Blogs can become noted cultural markers.

 

 

Erik Wilde wrote in The Online Information Review (2007 (you’ll need some kind of university-endowed research access to see this article, which seems strange, given the title…)) that ‘When blogging started in the mid-1990s, it was the first movement where producing content became a possibility for average web users…’ This development set an ideal stage for creative writers to enter – the web itself is built out of text, but with the advent of Web 2.0 applications (participatory models, of which blogging is one of the first) that textual knowledge need not be technical. The web is effectively now a venue for publication.

And blogs have taken off. Technorati has indexed 133 million blogs in the past few years. The figures aren’t reliable, but it does seem likely there are many more than this out there, and perhaps two times as many people who are not bloggers but read blogs. In 2008 Technorati was recording over a million blog posts each day. There is a phenomenal volume of content available, even when you start to sift through the content and find your niche, such as poetry. One needs only to look at Ron Silliman’s blogroll to see this.

Blogs allow us to create publically but also seem to demand that we create often. Wilde (2007) posits that this ‘act of creating often’ creates a blog’s context, and isolates them as ‘tools of information diffusion.’ I think traditional modes of publication have diffusion as an aim too: we (me) write and submit the writing for publication, hoping our writing will be read, will become known. With the agglomeration of numbers (hits?), readers may become familiar with our style, or character, and they might then be supportive of our future ventures. When comparing blogging to paper-based publication then, in terms of diffusion what should be analysed are the different modes of delivery, and the relative effectiveness. Is the pressure to ‘create often’, but moreover to create often publicly, in any way justified? Stephanie Trigg, writing in HEAT (2007), feels one of the ways blogging can be opposed to other forms of writing, particularly academic writing, is its temporality. She writes that blogging ‘…offers the hit and rush of putting words together, without the compulsion to go back and qualify every stage of the argument…’ Erik Ringmar, author of A Blogger’s Manifesto also comments on this freedom from self-censorship and academic authority – he called his first blog Forget the Footnotes to celebrate the mode, the freedom from academic style. And the language both of these writers use when talking about blogging suggests its addictiveness. Even if this form of writing is somewhat conditioned by ‘generic restriction and conventions’, the freedom is different, has the feel of otherness. It is appealing.

But I don’t churn out the blog entries without thought. People will read them; people will comment. This is a recent comment on my blog responding to a poem. It reads: ‘I don’t understand this poem at all’ (you know who you are…) You cannot court a readership and simultaneously post swathes of nonsense. There is a balance to be found between writing well, writing regularly, and writing publicly. The temporality of blogging (the time-spans of regular conception and delivery associated with this form) is a consideration, as is the underlying process of diffusion. For me, someone who often presents as a poet, and a poetry-blogger, these issues must be examined with reference to poetry.

Even within the sub-genre of poetry-blogging there are a number of modes to apprehend. Fieled begins Stoning the Devil in 2006 with a post entitled ‘Adam Fieled cuts loose’; it consists of only the words ‘Welcome aboard. Get ready to ride.’ Eldon begins her blogging two years earlier by posting a whole raft of poems, and she begins with a poem called ‘post-modern pandora’s queasy turn’ which – depending on how you read the poem – might also be seen as some sort of introduction to what will follow (2004). I begin my blogging in late 2005 (around the same time as Fieled) with a post somewhat prosaically titled ‘a first posting’ (2005). Within this posting I write ‘…just created a blog. On blogs you can share stuff with the world…’ I think you can already read some intentionality in these first posts: one assured, one opaque, one uncertain. With a blog what’s written today is the beginning in this reverse-chronological mode. Despite the way I begin by looking at the initial entries on the respective blogs, the past is behind us. You can plumb the depths of a blog, and trace the narrative of a person, a poet. It’s almost reality: we present the most recent and attractive version of our selves, our work. The earlier self is buried by layers, but nevertheless, the intrepid may endeavour to peel back the layers, to excavate and unearth a theory of who you are. So let’s do this.

tomorrow maybe. my linking finger tires.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

pursuit

there’s at least one person who only reads what i post on either wordpress, facebook, or twitter, so sometimes i do find myself putting the same things up on all three. not quite though. i couldn’t have typed all that has just been typed into a micro-blog field, so, this blog-entry is the place you’ll see me get the most expansive about the same issue. & it is this:

i’ve just found out The Monthly are putting all their content on the website now, & as such an article written by Alice Pung is now available for online linkage: http://tiny.cc/FoO0i 

if you read through it all you’ll see she mentions an Albury high school & Wagga juvenile detention centre i took her to, as part of my Booranga duties. it’s a really interesting read. for one thing, the visit to the detention centre was quite short, & i wouldn’t have suspected it made much of an impact on Alice. which just goes to show that people harbour things; that of course makes perfect sense.

but also, the thing she doesn’t mention is that the boys who attended her session were selected to go too. this sort of equates them with the private school boys, the members of the literary club who pop up earlier in the article, appearing all polite & interested. 

there’s some sort of parallel to be drawn, by someone other than me. maybe Alice could do it, in an article for The Australian, or something.

Custom/Made

Here’s the official media-release:

Cordite 30: Custom/Made is now online. The guest poetry editor for this issue, joanne burns, has custom-selected forty four poems from a diverse range of makers including Geoff Lemon, Anne Elvey, Sue Stanford, Ouyang Yu, Sam Twyford-Moore, Lee Kofman, Derek Motion and Bonny Cassidy. As is customary, the issue is presented in its entirety on the Cordite website, and can be accessed here:

http://www.cordite.org.au/custom-made

Over the coming weeks, Cordite will also be posting a second set of poems by the contributors to the issue. These poems will be ‘made’ using the texts from other contributors’ poems. Think of it as a kind of re-mix, sans Auto-tune (sorry, Kanye). Keep an eye out for other new content on the site, including new audio poems, features, interviews and, of course, Cordite’s fortnightly book review. 

 

(note that joanne’s name is in lower-case in the blurb). my poem design brief.pdf is included. i was just thinking, that over my career (?) Cordite is by far the venue i’ve published the most of my work with. i could say something like ‘it’s because Cordite is the most innovative, forward-thinking venue for contemporary poetry – the editor & guest editors have VISION, man’, but i don’t know if that’s true… even if it is to a certain extent, saying it makes me sound like a wanker, so i won’t. i don’t know anything. that’s why i blog. answers please.


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