Wednesday, November 17, 2004

I’m doing an interview with/for Frances Raven & it begins with some questions about blogging.


(1)    When did you start blogging?


This one is really easy, because I’ve maintained the same web site – with archives – since day one. The answer is August 31, 2002. I’d thought about the idea, off & on, for a couple of months before – and with some serious concentration during the weeks immediately prior to starting, when I was mostly away from PCs altogether, staying in a cabin on Brier Island, off of what’s known as the Digby Neck in the southwest corner of Nova Scotia.

(2) How have blogs changed your poetry?


Suddenly the questions get harder. In terms of my writing, as such, I’m not sure that it has. While I’ve been blogging the past 2+ years, I’ve been finishing one long poem project (I still have some work to do typing up the final section of The Alphabet, but the writing itself is done) and thinking about starting another, Universe. A lot of my blogging has been a meditation on how to think through issues that will arise in Universe, but I’m still so new to the poem itself – really a cycle of 360 distinct works, each roughly booklength (albeit “poetry book” length rather than “novel” book length) – that it’s impossible for me to know quite yet just how this is playing out.


On the other hand, blogging has given me a renewed visibility as a poet that I haven’t had since the heyday of language poetry in the late ‘70s & early ‘80s – I’ve been asked to give more readings over the past two years than over the previous six or seven combined. Which actually leads me to your next question.

(3) How have they changed poetry in general, if at all?


There are, in the blogroll on my weblog, just under 400 weblogs listed, of which something like 97 percent are poetry blogs. With some exceptions, say, Nick Piombino, Stephen Vincent, Barrett Watten, the vast majority of these blogs are being produced by relatively young poets, or at least poets who are relatively new in terms of their presence in the larger public poetry community. For a number of them, blogging appears to have led directly to the publication of a first or second book. In short, it’s become a mechanism for an entire generation of new poets to reach out & discuss poetry at whatever depth they find comfortable. That, in & of itself, is a good thing, even a great thing. Tho, I have to admit, I suspect that there remains a gender bias in poetry blogs that is skewed male & which replicates that which has existed for generations in poetry.

(4) Are there any precursors to blogs in the poetry world?


Absolutely. My interest in Robert Duncan’s The H.D. Book was rekindled after many years precisely because of its relationship to the dynamics of blogging – that use of writing as a mechanism for sorting out thinking, especially writing which is then made public in some fashion. I think all notebooks can be thought of as close kin to blogs & I do agree with Mayakovsky that one definition of the modern poet is the person who goes around with a notebook (I tend to carry more than one around with me, especially if I include my Palm Pilot among them – I was down in Baltimore last weekend with three at hand). I tend to think of Walden as the first blog, but you will note that someone else has been arguing for the diary of Samuel Pepys.

(5) What are your favorite poetry blogs?


This is an impossible question. It can change day to day, week to week. I value thoughtfulness & diligence more than, say, wit or cutting humor, and tend to be most drawn to those blogs that exhibit these qualities, such as those by Chris Murray, Heriberto Yepez, Jonathan Mayhew & K. Silem Mohammad. But it can be difficult to sustain that level of focus for any great length of time – it’s an effort – and a number of the very best poetry blogs of 2002 – such as those by Tim Yu & Laura Willey – have been largely dormant of late. In Yu’s case, he moved to start his first real teaching job and hasn’t been heard from since. One more case of the academy proving to be the enemy of poetry.




There was no sixth question. I wonder why. It’s absence reminded me of the internet equivalent of M. Night Shyamalan’s breakthrough film, The Sixth Sense: I see dead links. Is there a connection?

(7) What would you change about blogs to make them better at presenting poetry?


None of the blogging programs that I’ve tested have been good at formatting poetry if & when the poem takes even the slightest step from the left margin, let alone does anything unusual with fonts. I’m not a web designer by vocation, by any means, but I don’t think that a poet should have to be one. I’ve learned how to muddle through in Blogger, but there is a lot to be desired. (For example, I cannot figure out why the gratuitous “Blog search” tool at the head of my weblog produces itself more or less correctly in Firefox, but not in Internet Explorer.)

(8) What are the differences between poetic blogs and political blogs?


All poetry blogs are inherently political, even (especially!) those that imagine themselves to be apolitical or neutral. None of the political blogs are inherently poetic, tho. So it’s not a two-way street. When I invoke politics in my weblog, it’s part of my poet-as-citizen role, but I’m not sure that it necessarily follows that there is an inherent citizen-as-poet role that might then proceed in the other direction.