Wednesday, January 22, 2003

In the past week, I’ve read on various discussion lists that nobody reads blogs but other bloggers. I’ve also read that bloggers “control” poetry. I’ve seen an article that quotes incoming Guggenheim executive Edward Hirsch calling language poetry a “cult,” & read another listserv message suggesting that there were far too many avant-garde or experimental poets – an estimate of 10,000 was offered. There does seem to be a diversity of opinion.

The fear of an Other is an interesting, if sometimes dangerous, phenomenon. Denial of its existence and/or importance is really only the flip side of the paranoid nightmare that It, whatever It may be, has overrun & secretly governs the world. Need I suggest that the truth is probably somewhere in between?

One of the values of blogging for poets is that it can deepen the degree of critical thinking poets themselves do, more so I suspect than the scatter of listserv discussions. If there is a bias hidden in the blogging form, it’s toward poets who think critically, but that by no means ensures that said poets will be post-avant, let alone any particular flavor thereof. It also suggests that there is a role for critical thinking & writing outside of the received forms of the academy – & I am convinced that this is all to the better as well.

If there is a potential for post-avant poetry in raising the bar of critical thinking, it might be to help address the question that is rather unspoken in that wildly overdone estimate of 10,000 experimentalists: how, as the post-avant heritage expands to yet another generation, are those poets going to create the necessary sense of shape to differentiate between all these young, interesting poets? If the New Americans broke uneasily (& somewhat too artificially) into their various clusters of NY School, Projectivism, Beat & SF renaissance – the latter is almost entirely a fiction – when there were only a hundred or so poets practicing in the Pound/Williams tradition in the 1950s, how many such tendencies are really just waiting to (a) get their act together and/or (b) be recognized as such? That problem of “shape” or differentiation is I think – I know I’ve said this before, I know I’ll say it again – the primary critical issue facing younger poets in 2003. The squabble among Canadian poets between those interested in the use of forms & those more interested in, say, a politicized version of the NY school is at the least a sign of life. I’m in favor of both sides of that debate. As I am heartened every time chris cheek complains that some version of post-avant history is too book & page oriented, even though I’m certain I must be part of that problem.

Another value I’d hadn’t anticipated from blogging is the simple verification effect of being able to register how many readers come to one’s site. Ten thousand visitors to this blog in just four months should answer any fear I might have that Ed Hirsch is correct in his assessment of my work, or even the idea that it’s simply an elite practice, too arcane for many.* Currently, this blog averages slightly over 130 readers per day. Yesterday saw 198 visitors to this blog, the most ever – that the average number of readers can continue to expand in the face of the explosion of poetry blogs makes me realize just how much we need to rethink the idea of the post-avant audience. It’s larger than we imagine.

But of greatest value to me are all the other blogs that are now focusing on poetry, poetics & closely related literary concerns. Not only are the numbers increasing, so is the diversity – aesthetically & otherwise. Below is the list of the literary blogs that I currently check at least once or twice per week. One thing I’ve definitely noted among these blogs is the presence of several people who might be characterized as either New York School, gen XXXVII or as post-NY School (there being different ways of looking at this), a tendency previously imagined by some folks as allergic to critical thinking. Guess again. This may be the most significant theoretical development that has come out of blogging to date & it will be interesting to see how it evolves.

The list below consists of 37 bloggers, maybe 28 of which are less than six months old. “The creation of new forms as additions to nature,” as William Carlos Williams wrote. There is a group blog, an audioblog & even a blog that denies its own blogitude.

Since “abortive” blogs are also a part of the phenomenon, I’ve only included sites that have updated since the beginning of this year with the notable exception of Camille Roy’s site, Ich Bin Ein Iraqi, which uses the blog form for a piece on the subject of her Iraqi childhood. It may be the first instance of serious blog literature – as distinct from literature merely published in a blog – & absolutely needs to be read.

<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>Cahiers de Cory (Josh Corey)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>Chaxblog (Charles Alexander – the background color really does change as you read)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>Eeksy Peeksy (Malcolm Davidson)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>Elsewhere (Gary Sullivan)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>Equanimity (Jordan Davis)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>for the Health of it (Tom Bell)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>Free Space Comix (Brian Kim Stefans, one of the first bloggers)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>HG Poetics (Henry Gould)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>Hypertext Kitchen (Blog of Eastgate, the hypertext software folks)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>Ich Bin Ein Iraqi (Camille Roy)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>Ineluctable Maps (Anastios ??)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>jill/txt (Jill Walker)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>Jonathan Mayhew’s Blog (His list of the best sax players includes neither Steve Lacy nor Anthony Braxton?!)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>Josh Blog (Josh Kortbein)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>Laurable.Com (One of the first poetry blogs & one of the best – with a focus on recordings of readings)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>Lester’s Flogspot (Patrick Herron’s sock puppet has an attitude)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>lime tree (K. Silem Mohammad)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>Mike Snider’s Formal Blog (the only new formalist blog I’ve found)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>Million Poems (Jordan Davis’ blog for his poetry)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>Nether (Angela Rawlings)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>Overlap (Drew Gardner)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>Pantaloons (Jack Kimball, currently trying to forget everything Joe Brainard ever remembered)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>Pepy’s Diary (The Ur-blogger has risen from the grave – welcome to 1659/60)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>Possum Pouch (Dale Smith, though he denies it’s a blog, has converted his web newsletter to…a blog)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>process documents (Ryan Fitzpatrick’s long poem in progress)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>Ptarmigan (Alan de Niro)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>reading & writing (Joseph Duemer)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>rrrart (Judy MacDonald, a fiction writer)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>San Diego Poetry Guild (a group blog)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>SpokenWORD (Komninos Zervos’ Australian audioblog)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>Squish (Katherine Parrish)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>texturl (Brandon Barr)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>The Tijuana Bible of Poetics (Heriberto Yepez, who also has a poetry blog in Spanish)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>The Year of Living Musically (Joseph Zitt, poet, musician & webmaster of the long-running John Cage listserv, Silence)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>Ululations (Nada Gordon)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>Virgin Pepper (Jim Behrle – is there a sock puppet here?)
<![if !supportLists]>§         <![endif]>Wine Poetics (Eileen Tabios)

My own blog would make 38 & I’m sure that I’m missing some. I’m finding that the ones I learn the most from are not necessarily those that may appear closest to my own aesthetics – in addition to Camille Roy, Jonathan Mayhew, Heriberto Yepez & Nada Gordon have all kept me awake at night, rethinking my assumptions about the world.

That’s the point, isn’t it?

* I’m a subscriber to the theory that the only people who find langpo “difficult” or “obscure” are a small set of people who have become developmentally challenged through graduate school.