Surfing around, looking for new poetry blogs and sites that might interest me, I found this one which captured my attention the other day. Unfortunately (for me at least) after two years, its author, Dale Smith, has recently decided to put it to rest. In his parting reflections, Smith expresses with extraordinary eloquence pretty much my own "blogging philosophy", as well as mixed feelings about blogging itself:
The blog medium itself disturbs me. To do it right requires a considerable amount of self-investment. The blogs I admire--Rue Hazard, Wood's
Lot, Texfiles, Orpheus in Boxers, Equanimity, Third Factory--manage to make connections that are thoughtful, understated, and arranged in ways that reveal the state of the art with transpersonal values. I mean, poetics is central, not the person behind the blog. And I have a fairly extended notion of "poetics." I don't mean a person isn't present behind these sites, but "person" is an instrument toward some greater agency beyond their own limited field range. These are trustworthy observers of the state of the art because the blog medium is arranged formally--according to each distinct perception--to reveal something we didn't know before.
Too many blogs wallow in in the pigsty of personhood. Instead of making an instrument of themselves, they are vacuums of attention. While picking on Silliman's blog is hardly new or useful, one thing about his that has not been mentioned elsewhere is the commitment to Enlightenment rationality. His blog prose at times is equivalent to Sir James Mackintosh, the 19th c. lecturer who Coleridge excoriated in letters and private notation. Silliman's ongoing history of the "post-avant" po scene is terrific, in its way, but you have to endure the discursive prose and categorical feather-fluffings.
Blogs that reveal a situation and that work according to the diverse motivations behind the scene are useful tools or gauges through which we can evaluate the larger field. A commitment to that should be commended, but it is a time-consuming and challenging task to use the blog with such force and attention.
Yep, you bet. If I have any difference with the above, it's the perhaps excessive value Dale gives to "understatedness". I'm still youthful (immature?) enough to be turned on by an "over the top" blog as long as it's fired by raw, brimming insight. (Usually the insight is short-lived, though...)
Right now the benefits -- all that I'm learning about contemporary poetry and poets, the opportunity to hone what were once rusty writing skills, the delight of posting articles and reaching an audience immediately -- outweigh the drawbacks, particularly the amount of time it takes, time that could be better spent writing and revising more poetry, reading books, even sending out to reviews. (C. Dale Young is apt in calling his blog "Avoiding the Muse".)
But who knows how long that will last? It seems recently that a number of poetry blogs have petered out after about two years' dedicated output -- and two years does seem a reasonable amount of time to be doing this sort of thing. (Hey, I'm approaching that... Woodwork started on Blog City in May, 2004.) Quite a few writers -- off the top of my head I can thinkof A.D.T. , Eduardo Corral, Emily Lloyd, Simon Dedeo, Henry Gould -- have dramatically pulled the plug only to come back a few weeks or months later. Of the blogs Smith mentions above, only Wood's Lot, Equanimity and Tex Files are still operating, and the latter, at least at first glance, seems to have devolved into exactly the kind of personal pigsty he detests. (This I find is an all-too-common tendency...)
Whatever a poetry blog is, to deserve my time it's gotta be educational -- a product of intellectual discipline, a process of evolving insight, a sharing of literary discovery. All the blogs among my current fav's, to varying degrees, fit that description. A great many of the others do too ... although for one reason or another they have either failed or ceased to snare my attention the way those "top blogs" do. (The "faves" list changes pretty much on a monthly basis, by the way.) If ever I start posting frequently about my cats or the contents of my room or what my girlfriend and I did today, I'd appreciate it if at least one of you out there gently suggest I unplug all life-support systems and put this basket case out of its misery.