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.’
‘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.