& it’s over. Alas there was no fanfare, no elaborate celebratory drinks nor victory speeches at the fourW launch in Melbourne, because, to tell you the truth, the awesomeness of the original idea had faded somewhat by then.
Nevertheless there must be some vain boasting. Just a few words. Nathan Curnow vs Derek Motion. I won. Take that. I seriously am the victor. It’s like, pretty good to be the best.
Now there was going to be a detailed count here, wherein we would tally up all the votes & eliminate the multiples, also the bloggers’ own comments, but thanks to one of Nathan’s supporters – the mysterious ‘bean’ – I don’t think such a thing is necessary. Let’s just leave the count as is, & say it was a close thing. I narrowly escaped from this battle with a win: 86 comments to 81.
What needs to be said here? Well, firstly, this battle was always meant to be fun. I have to stress that Nathan & I are good friends in real life; we are not poetic enemies, with each one of us trying to sabotage the other’s literary career in any way possible (to the person who seemed to think the part about Nathan not giving any money to charities is true – I had hoped I’d injected enough overblown exaggeration into the post to make it clear my main technique throughout was irony. I will now stress this though: I have never seen Nathan light a cigarette with a pre-polymer $50 note. I have never seen him answer the door to someone from Oxfam. Although these things may have happened (you must decide for yourself whether you think they are probable) I have never witnessed them. I do not know).
& also, there is no such thing as the $20 Nathan keeps insisting I owe him. The true story is as follows. Nathan was a guest of the Booranga Writers’ Center, this much is fact, & while here we covered his expenses. During the residency Nathan performed two poems at an Albury festival dinner (he was supplied with dinner & wine). Afterwards many in the crowd wanted to talk to him about how good his performance was. Nathan complied. So much so that he didn’t want to leave. I retired to the hotel, possibly around midnight, while I suspect Nathan stayed on & talked about what it’s really like to stay in a haunted house until even the cleaners had left. This must be the point at which he purchased a Chicko Roll & beer. Even if we were American I doubt any small-claims court in the land would order me to repay Curnow this $20.
I digress. The battle was Nathan’s idea, but I was not caught off-guard. We talked about it beforehand & I thought yes, why the hell not? Like cutting a poem into a canola field in 100m high font, then sending 1000 sheep through the letters, then flying a hot air balloon full of literary critics over the poem to interpret its meaning, it’s It’s not something I’ve done before. & you know, I thought people might talk about the thing, start reading our blogs…
To reflect: very soon I started feeling uneasy about the battle. The comments did come thick & fast, but many people were taking the thing seriously. A theme I noticed was ‘why?’ Why can’t there be two poets out there writing blogs, & more to the point, shouldn’t there really be more poetry blogs? What damage is this battle actually doing to online literary culture? I wasn’t sure how to answer this. I still am not.
Tiggy wondered whether the competition was a ploy for Curnow to close down his blog, a method that would help create ‘publicity’ for the act, something we all know as his trademark. This did lead me to think the same thing – Bel mentioned Nathan had been talking about shutting the blog down a long time ago. But, after thinking about this, I have to say I think Curnow’s purpose wasn’t to simply commit blog-suicide, but to simply reinvigorate his online activity. It was a test. Are there really people out there reading you? Do people want you to keep blogging? It’s something it can be hard to know at times.
On both sides we had real supporters. Many chose to make their votes null & void by voting on both posts. Even if some read ambivalently, people are reading our blogs & are interested. But then many also seriously considered the issue & voted according to whose blog they thought should continue. I did want to engage with all the comments here – there are some really interesting points made on both blogs – but it has proved too big a task. Eventually though, the real issue arose. How far was I willing to go to win this competition?
Both of us took the first step of advertising the battle on Facebook. We threw up links to our individual posts, & did it a few times over the first few days. This of course brought in a number of commenters. But I knew there were more people out there. I also knew that Nathan’s Blogger blog required commenters to have a google account, whereas my WordPress set up does not. Surely people will leave a comment if I just ask them?
So I made the devious move of going through my email contacts, & sending a group message to all writer types. I know this is something other writers do – send messages about opportunities, launches etc to all writers in their email list. But this is the first occasion I’ve ever been moved to do so. From what I can gather from Nathan, he thinks it a devious step. I’m not so sure. I do know though that as I work at a writers’ centre, I have quite a large contact list of writers. I thought I could win this based on my networking reach.
This didn’t guarantee me victory though (did Nathan send a group email too perhaps, despite his aversion to the idea… hmm…), the contest was still very close. My finally ploy was sending group messages to facebook friends, 20 at a time. It took me about half an hour one morning. I realised that many facebook people miss the links you put up; some are not regular users. But a personal message will grab more attention. This was my final gamble & it got me over the line. As you can see, as the comments list goes on, you will find an increasing number of people who are not regular bloggers commenting, people who have probably never read my blog before. These people are all real, are all real supporters, but the morality of it all is cloudy – my cousins and primary school friends were not going to read & evaluate both blogs for literary merit.
But then what wasn’t cloudy about the whole thing? Where should we have drawn the line? Inventing quotes by the likes of Tara Moss & Marieke Hardy (I do at least know Tara was not offended). Was Curnow’s ‘I love Tassie – please vote for me’ too much’? I say no. This event was all about self-discovery. I think we’ve both learnt there is a limit to how far you should go to promote yourself (I did not go down the path of wearing a t-shirt with my blog address printed on it… though I have heard of one particular blogger doing that in the past…). We also were forced to think a little more about what we do as bloggers, & how much we value our blogging space & readership. I leant that I had no intention of giving up my blog. This was weird, because I then didn’t know what to do if in fact I did lose. The only answer was to propel myself to victory by any means. But I also think Nathan learnt he does have a large audience interested in his work (including me) & many of these people do find out about his activities online, or want to.
So, the conclusion. Nathan is killing off his blog. This had to be the outcome. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Many of you may have already been thinking though, will the loser simply start a new blog, import all their posts, that kind of lame cop-out. The answer is no. There will however be a compromise. This is something that the winner has to allow the loser (or indeed something the winner can’t stop the loser doing). I discovered that Nathan has many readers, many supporters, & that indeed I enjoy reading his blog. His posts don’t come up that often, but I always read them through if it shows up in my feed. Dammit, I do want to know what journal is publishing his latest poem, or which fabulous spoken word evening in Melbourne he is featuring in. So the compromise is that Nathan now has a new web-presence, something that is not a blog, but is more suited to his activity.
Nathan Curnow’s myspace page will contain audio, video, & writing. I anticipate is will not lapse into the static ‘author page’ I am no fond of.
By the way, I’ve had a myspace page for years.
It is extraordinarily static though. Maybe Curnow’s foray into Myspace will see me update my page, do something new. It is unlikely though. Typing space suits me. I type. Into the virtual space.
What can you expect to see on typing space, now that I have won this contest? Definitely not more of the same. Expect lucky reader prizes, limericks of the month, a snazzy flower theme, oodles of interactivity, forays into multimedia vodcasting, surprise guests, & more (or less, including perhaps none of these things. Who knows.) Just wait & see. Watch this space.