Thursday, September 3, 2009

Poet Bloggers, or Why I Haven't Had Much To Say

There's an interesting discussion on the topic of poet bloggers going on over at Hayden's Ferry Review. Darren Morris wonders whether poet's blogs detract from readers' experiences of their work while Sandra Beasley notes that her creative life is on a "different plane" from her personal life, which is another way, I guess, of agreeing with Morris' assertion that we poets who blog hope readers will be able to "erect a partition" between our blogs and our poems.

Morris and Beasley make great points. However, it is the fear of what Morris articulates in his post, the TMI cloud, that has kept my blogging to a minimum over the past couple of months. Does anyone really need to know the details of my trip to Eastern Europe? Is there anything worthwhile that can be gleaned from my bitchy overanalysis of the 2-day chapbook rejection I just received?

Occasionally I have insightful things to say and occasionally I say them. Ideally, everything I write here would be considered, well-written, and a vibrant addition to the discourse surrounding contemporary poetry. Or a funny-as-hell send-up of the ridiculousness of contemporary poetry. Or something. Or not. Maybe, ideally, my most concerted writing effort would be spent on my poetry.

Beasley writes, "You’re not doing things right unless you’re getting on someone’s nerves. Unless you’re an anesthesiologist." It's a clever statement, but I have to take issue. Anyone who's ever taken in the flame sessions that pass for comments on Harriet is familiar with the effects of this approach to blogging. The definition of "right" is up for debate, of course, but the idea that a good argument = emotional disturbance is tied up in our American obsession with polemics and self-identification via ideas. That is, Love me, love my ideas. Hate my statements, hate my person. Which is dangerously close to Know the poet, know the poem and vice versa.

Anyhoo, I'm still grappling with it all. I will continue to grapple. I will continue to blog as I grapple. I will continue to write poems.


Emily said...

Ah yes. To blog or not to blog. A worthwhile grapple. Keep grappling, and I'll keep reading.

Brandon Shimoda said...

TB -- I'll have to go read the original discussion, but I wonder -- without having done so -- what D. Morris and S. Beasley might have to say about journals, letters, daybooks, etc. -- other diaristic media -- and whether or not they read them and, if so, if they see any correlation between those forms and today's blogs. In other words, would they also say that reading Kafka's diaries detracted from their experience of reading his fiction? Or that reading the correspondence between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell detracted from their experiences of their respective poems? Is it -- for them -- a matter of the immediacy of blogs, versus receiving the keystone writings of writers like Anais Nin or Virginia Woolf only after the fact of their creative work? But even this isn't true. Hmm ... I should have consulted D. Morris and S. Beasley themselves BEFORE writing my comment to you. As it is, it looks as though I have to consult a BLOG in order to do so. Well, see you later for chicken and biscuits -- B

Brandon Shimoda said...

Yikes. I just read D. Morris's post, and though there are some interesting questions raised -- (i.e. "what is the effect of this [blog] phenomenon on contemporary poetry?" -- despite any genuine attempt to think through the answers to that question -- -- -- the majority of it is profoundly narrow in its experience of POETRY, and yes, doesn't even begin to contextualize blogs within a larger history of such "autobiographical" writing. Its fairly difficult to read beyond his characterization of poet-bloggers as "super hip, insecure, admittedly fallible, often brilliant, and sometimes humble archangels of all things poetry" -- I would love for D. Morris to be specific here, lest his characterization ring (needlessly) as a base and isolated instance amplified into an actually accepted demography. I would also love to hear more about this assertion: "I firmly believe that poems gain power when their creators remove their fingerprints from them" -- which is not really within the same argumentative sphere as poems vs. autobiographical writing, but more so poems vs. poems -- different kinds, different poets. Is he saying that he prefers Ashbery to O'Hara? Or that he fundamentally agrees with the project of Language poetry? Or ... what the f**k is he saying? (Funny too how he raised the specter of Robert Lowell as an example of ... well .. of what?). Much to think about here, and thanks for pointing out this little opinion piece. I wonder -- will having read this piece by D. Morris detract from my experience of reading D. Morris's poems?