Originally uploaded by Pro-Zak
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about sharing poetry in different forums to help reach different audiences and how so many poems sound so similar because they are written for only one room. For me, one of those rooms include poetry blogs especially since they give a poet not only the opportunity to share their work but also give valuable insight into process, revision and recitation. Even though poetry blogs are still relatively young in comparison to the advent of the Information Age in general and incredibly new when compared to the Gutenberg Revolution, they’ve offered some great information about how poets think. They also offer a lot of crap about folks who seem to want to blog about everything except how they actually put a poem together.
One of the best places to see this mix of the dope and the whack in poetic action was the Poetry Foundation’s Harriet Blog. I say was because as of today What’s New at Harriet is that it has gone from being a crossroad of dialogue to a dead end alley of news links making it no more better and probably less efficient than setting up a Google alert for: poetry, poetics, poems.
How did this happen? How did poetry blogs become the literary internet’s equivalent to Friendster? Like most things in the poetry internet, it’s apparently because Ron Silliman said so. Since I don’t read Silliman’s blog, I clearly missed the memo and have been going on fine with how poetry blogs kept maturing as their practitioners were refining their own practice.
I also missed the memo that “the more dynamic discussions of poetry, poetics, or politics in the past year knows that more and more of the most vibrant interactions have been found on Facebook.” Especially since I’m not on Facebook. But it’s so simple to join… c’mon jump in! Yeah, I know but I’ve been on Facebook before, it was called MySpace, MiGente, Live Journal, YahooGroups and AIM before. I know what’s going down and way too often it boils down to this: Person A posts a derogatory remark about Situation B. Person A’s 100 “friends” all agree that Person A is right without thinking twice since they want to stay “friends.” If someone connected with Situation B tries to share some information or defend themselves, then Person A rounds up more “friends” and drowns out the detractors. Or, they just start de-“friending.” I know cuz I’ve been one of the sycophants out to help out folks without having all the facts at hand.
So what did I do? I walked away from that mess and created an open forum where anyone can challenge my position, I call it “Intuitive Intertextuality” and I’ve approved every comment that isn’t blatant spam and have been able to dialogue with a great group of people through it.
Of course, my blog doesn’t have anywhere near the number of commenters Harriet had and I’m sure it was a pain to be the curator overseeing all those comments. But, that’s what happens when you’re an authority, you have to work to maintain that authority. Harriet quickly became an authority in US Poetry through a diverse series of bloggers published good reviews, highlighted up and coming journals and put their political viewpoints on display. Yeah, some of them ran as far as possible from politics but that’s just another way of showing your political and poetical stripes.
With all this valuable content, a great center to share it from and the resources of one of the US’s most well-endowed poetic organizations at hand who would have guessed that Harriet’s next move would be to retreat from this position and become a glorified newsfeed? I’ll take Squandered Opportunities to Bring Poetry Into the Internet Daylight for $200, Alex.
I’m sure regulating the comments on Facebook will be much easier for the Harriet Editors and having a blogroll will keep them “current” (though not relevant since some of the links are outdated) but the chance to expand opinions and broaden the definition of contemporary poetry is on hold for now. Declaring blogs irrelevant in favor of closed communities (if I have to input a username and password, it’s gated) will probably go down as the poetic equivalent of deeming vinyl dead.