Thursday, December 06, 2007

the power of blogging

More poetry: A coin you dropped when you took your pants off
is still on the floor. Please come back and pick it up.

More: The scar on my hand I got cleaning the house for you
has outlasted you. In this way you are indelible, but only as
long as I have my hand.
Sarah Manguso, Siste Viator
There is the immediate that compels, and the afterthought that lingers; some keep a hold on the mind for years. When those interested in reading and talking about poetry and theory and other literatures not as culturally above-board as fiction and non-fiction discovered the power of the web-log (blog), from the essay to the short review to even the base opinion, much was opened up in the conversation. As Robert Kroetsch once called it, all literature is a conversation, and there are certainly as many ways to enter that conversation as there are voices within it, whether posting a poem from a book worth pointing out to others, a short review of a chapbook, or even a journal of poetry by either a selection of other writers, or just the author of the blog.

There are a couple that I try to visit daily, including Ottawa poet Amanda Earl’s blog, poet Sina Queyras lemonhound, Edmonton poet Shawna Lemay’s capricious hold-all and California poet Rachel Loden’s wordstrumpet, where the above quote is taken from, watching her weave her magnificent way through lines or pieces that catch her attention. There is a wonderful kind of grace to Loden’s posts, writing on such diverse subjects as Susan Sontag, a quote or two by the poet Sarah Manguso, and ideas of American humour (or should I say, “humor”). Even her titles are graceful, in that wonderful mix of pure line and envious phrase, titling her Manguso post “Rose, Oh Pure Contradiction” (a line very much worth stealing). I even loved those lines from Sarah Manguso so much that I immediately ordered review copies of her last two titles.

Part of the wonderful timing of blogs is the dearth of reviewing and other literary criticism in print journals and newspapers these days (at least in Canada), compared to what there was, say, in the 1980s. It’s why I post as much as I do; it’s the same reason Stephen Brockwell and I started our online critical journal

But does criticism change through the process of short posts? And further, what makes a blog interesting, and even worth reading? Queyras, these days in Calgary as writer-in-residence at the University of Calgary, is another author I try to dip into daily, to catch her posting on photography, artwork and writing, or even just highlighting a particular poem or poet that spark her attention. Blogs, by themselves, have turned media into more of a democracy, as anyone with a computer and internet connection can put their thoughts immediately into the world, to the point that American political pundits and candidates, certainly, have been forced to react to the blog world for the past few federal elections; to the point that journalists in both print and television media have been “encouraged” by those that employ them to start posting their own blogs (whether this is a good or a bad idea, I haven’t quite decided, as I deliberately ignore all of that). Still, it brings those with theoretically the least power more into the forefront, from teenagers posting journal entries and poems about feeling bad (thank you, overgeneralization) to poets and small press publishers, and those otherwise without the same opportunities for larger voice.

And then there’s American L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poet and former editor of same, Ron Silliman, master of us all, posting practically daily on the literary world, from longer posts on particular authors and books, to a roll of links that move further and further out into the world; it was certainly no surprise when his numbers hit a million last year. I wonder, too, if such a known quantity in the small press/avant-garde writing world such as him has brought a credibility to literary blogs that otherwise wouldn’t have been there?

Through blogs I have discovered the works of various authors that I might otherwise have not; through blogs I have entered conversations and heard about events, whether before the fact or read reports on them after; I have read entries that have made me sad for the entire conversation about writing, and others that have made me thrilled and hopeful for the same. But still; but still?

Writers are a series of individuals that exist in a community of people who rarely see each other; made up through public events (readings) and the printed word (bookstores, magazine stores) including the mail (whether personal correspondence or other “correspondences” through contributor copies of journals and anthologies). Just how have blogs shifted this consideration of literary communities?

My friend Randy Woods once called the internet a series of hubs, instead of a straight line of linear communication; there are probably more people around the world who first read the name John Newlove on Ron Silliman’s blog or on Australia’s Jacket magazine than ever discovered him from an anthology such as New Wave Canada (1966), Poets of Contemporary Canada 1960-1970 (1972) or from the original 15 Canadian Poets (1971); information without the filter, perhaps, of critical selection (but for the self). But what does it all mean?

Through writing this piece over the past few days, I find it an interesting coincidence that Queyras just posted two blog entries wondering if anyone “out there” even reads these, referencing blogs (“blogging vs. journaling”) and social networking sites such as facebook (aren’t you on it yet?); what the purpose of it all is.
So what are we making with all of this effort to connect?

I would say the counter on mine (200+ daily) or Ron Silliman’s (more than ten times that) easily contradicts her worry. It seems funny, too, since Queyras has one of the best Canadian literary blogs out there (and still she worries), posting more than, say, diary and/or journal elements of her living day and more of her thinking day (I would rather know what an author or simply a reader is reading and thinking about than where they went out to purchase milk, for example).

Oh Sina Queyras, I was so very sad when you stopped blogging how long ago; please never leave us again…

related notes: my list of other blogs by Canadian writers;

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