Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Poet bloggers

Poetry is not my strong point but it seemed like a good idea to go out and find out what the act of blogging is doing to poets and poetry for an article I ended up submitting to Poet's Letter.

The responses were interesting...

Numerous poets have embraced the chance to blog on an almost daily basis, a welcome change from working away in isolation appearing for occasional readings, signings and new book releases.

Becoming a blogging poet posting poems and thoughts about writing and literature provides their readers with a chance not just to see the thought process in action but also to interact in a completely different way.

The benefits for the reader are clear, with access that would have been restricted to a mere handful of people now open to everyone, and it is having a positive impact on the poets as well.

“The blog has embedded me in daily practice. Poets often say, ‘Write every day, no matter how little.’ But I was never able to do it. Since 2003, I more or less have. Also, I keep a small notebook close to me at all times. I've always used notebooks, but writing for the blog has reinforced that practice,” says Mairead Byrne.

“ It has become a very really daily force in my life. I am indebted to the poetry editors and publishers of my world but I am an advocate of self-publication too, and the Internet allows that, not just for poetry, but for every sort of information,” she adds.

For others the chance to promote their own work has been a welcome alternative to the traditional routes to get published. For Martin Locock that was the main motivation of becoming a blogger.

“The main reason was my discouragement at the process of trying to get the poems into print. I had been circulating small collections among my friends, but these were by their nature limited by duplication costs and whether people had expressed an interest in receiving them. I thought that if I put them on the Web then maybe more people would find them,” he says.

For Reyes Cardenas it was the speed of the web that offered the main attraction: “I started my blog as an alternative to publishing on paper which of course involves time. And as a lot of my poetry is time sensitive a blog is the ideal vehicle.”

Another advantage that blogging can provide is a platform for poems to reach the world with feedback from readers that can offer poets vital encouragement.

“I don't post for critique as much as for pleasure. But one ‘Good poem!’ comment goes a long way. The trick is to not read silence to mean ‘You suck.’,” says Alice Hudson.

The comments might not be the sort of critical analysis that reviewers and peers might provide but as Bob Hazleton has found it be valuable nonetheless: “It's mostly general encouragement, which of course helps greatly.”

Being online has also led to new friendships and most poets have experienced interaction with readers well beyond the boundaries of their local community.

“The Internet certainly opened up my connection back to Ireland. I emigrated [to the US] in 1994 and, after five years or so, re-connected with Irish poetry at a level that was more suited to me, through American and British poetry listservs,” says Byrne.

“ I know people from different parts of the world read my blog. Some of them are old friends. Maybe some of them will be new friends too. But we're not talking about large numbers. Poetry is a one-by-one sort of art,” she adds.

Understandingly blogging, where the expectation is that there will be regular posts online, has also had an impact on the way poets write.

“I write more, I try to write a little everyday. For some weird reason though, posting my poems online sometimes makes me feel a little cheap, easy, desperate. Like the screen isn't as legitimate as paper. And sometimes I think I rush a poem to get it posted that day, when maybe if I wasn't blogging I would have taken more time to develop the thought,” says Hudson.

Lacock also feels the pressure but has a relaxed approach to developing poetry online: “The immediacy of writing online has led to my writing very short poems: a lot of haiku, for example. In an informal context, a poem doesn't have to be big or clever to be worth writing, so I write more often.”

The openness of the web can cause some challenges with poets being able to see each others work, gauge the popularity of certain styles and as a result possibly be influenced to change their own style.

“Sometimes I read other poems that get a lot of comments and I say to myself ‘I wish I could write like that,’ but then I always realise I can only be me. But it does inspire me to be more experimental on occasion,” says Hazelton.

The web is offering a much larger audience for poets, the chance to develop new relationships and adapt writing styles. With an increasing number of poets embracing online tools to share and publise their work it is to the web that the health of the poetry nation will have to measured in the future, not on the bookshelves.

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