(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.)
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’?
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
eat against cheek mm-sway against better
judgement a glut savvy a dripbint
tendency giveaway maybe
pterridae bloys a’tinkle
in the cumsee
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.