Wednesday, August 04, 2010

A representative sampling of some of my email this week:

I can certainly understand your exasperation –– maddened by the buzzing of flies, as Mallarmé’s phrase has it––but I’m saddened to see the comments go.

 Or perhaps “Pitch deflileth” is the appropriate quotation, with its ugly echo of Berryman’s dysfunctional, yes, and pathetic, yes, dismissal of Creeley. Tiresome wars, and so many muscle-bound heroes sulking in their tents, as Joe Green once quipped about me in that very stream more than a few years ago.

 Truth to tell, I’d been feeling that the box had lost its spark. And taken some crass turns. But still...

It feels very weird not having your blog to go to check new comments. You feel more gone from it, somehow. I don't think I like it.

I was chagrined to see you close comments on your blog.  I understand the problem. There are a lot of crazies out there, to be sure.

Good call turning off the comments. Will probably draw criticism. Stick to it.

Ron, So you don't want to deal with heckle and "shekel". Your call; but surely you realize the horror of the loss of the huge amazing comment-stream archive. There's gotta be SOME way to get that up [?]. S'blog *did* become the post Poetics mecca for lively contro-versy

Thanks for your post.  I'm sorry that you have decided to turn off the comments box, as I've learned about many other books and writers via some of the comments in response to your posts.  But, I've gradually tried to ignore the argumentative and petty comments and just glean useful stuff.  I can understand that it is more trouble to moderate than it is worth, and after reading Jessica Smith's blog post (and the comments there), I think your decision to turn off your comments box is completely the right decision.

if I've played a part in shutting down such a resource, and I believe that I have, I am deeply sorry to you and deeply sorry to your readers

It's one thing to turn off a comments stream. It's another to (apparently) erase the record, as if there were nothing there of any value worth preserving.


That is a temporary glitch, one hopes


NB: It’s actually Blogger’s default action, Ron


Your attention to the work is deeply appreciated and, for me, really does overshadow the noise of the nut gallery.

Wanted to write also and say I think turning off the comments stream was a great move for all the reasons you mention.

please reconsider your new policy of not allowing any comments.

interaction is expensive, but it is also essential.

there is much chaff in the comments made to you, and some nasty stuff.

but there are also comments that truly need to be heard.

please do not shut down the conversation--the essence of social media--just because some people complain some times.

I, for one, applaud this move of YOURS. 'Twill be more like the "old days"  a "dialogue" between the writer and the reader  ... a revival of letter/e-mail, one-to-one writing/thinking  and maybe will lead to some productioning (?)

the mud--as dirty and slimy and smelly as it often is--is better than pristine unassailability.  As the internet matures, some of the novelty of it will wear off, and it will change.  Just in the time you've been up, the attention of the younger generation has shifted noticeably away from blogging, to twittering and black-berrying and text-messaging.  Blogging's really old hat now, an opportunity for those of us who still think in sentences, and paragraphs (!)--to discuss serious issues out in the open, on the run, in moments stolen from the day's busyness and nagging distractions.

Whatever your deeper reasons for wanting to close down debate, I think your audience--such as it is--will suffer for not seeing the little pitched battles that your posts inspired.  Your reluctance to engage there was something I noted often, and perhaps this is just another step in that direction, trying to simplify the process by cutting off one side of every debate.

Great job, Ron.

The fact of the matter is that when one is dealing with a highly subjective (at best) art form, the "yahoos" will always come out.  And, it's far worse online than in person.

I certainly understand why you needed to shut down your comment stream, but I think it's sad. There were a lot of obnoxious posters, but, on the other hand, I got to know ____ _____ through your blog. Still, when it gets to the point that one hates to be mentioned because of the attack that is likely to ensue, then something is very wrong. I bet you're getting a lot of email about this!

Reading (again) tonight in Mark Scroggins’ Zuk bio, I came to the part where he relates that LZ believed that Henry Rago was killed by bad poetry behavior.   I don’t know about that.  I tend to conclude that LZ’s as likely to be correct about that as Rexroth was about the guys in the Brooks Brothers suits killing Dylan Thomas.

I understand that the flaming of comment threads by senseless hate addicts is frustrating and, as you pointed out, potentially hurtful to the poets who are the subjects of those posts. I also understand that a middle-ground of filtering the comment thread could lead to accusations of bias and is also a big drain on your time. But those who leave comments that demonstrate the same rigour and consideration as the posts themselves enrich the experience of reading your thoughts/arguments immensely.


It is true that the blog form encourages instant response which can lead to vulgar, inconsiderate and downright mean sentiment. But it can also lay bare the thought processes of many people whose responses and deliberations I value and often admire. True, these 'considered' responses are also often flash-in-the-pan knee jerk reactions from embedded comfortable scholars, but more than occasionally there are real nuggets of worth. With your blog being at the foreground of online poetry for a sizeable audience, your comment threads also have overlaps and conflicts of opinion which rarely occur on other sites.


I'm sure that you spent a lot of time mulling the decision over before disabling comments so this e-mail isn't an attempt to convince you to change your mind but rather an acknowledgement that when they were there I found them enriching and educational, and that if you did have the time or energy to find a way to bring them back in a form that you are comfortable with, I think it would be time well invested.

Sorry to hear about the comments section but I certainly understand having read them for a good while now.  You've chosen the best route, I think, though it is unfortunate not to be able to interact with folks. 

Your contextualization of "the poetry world" certainly brings the point home. For a profession that holds itself as holier than thou, we should all hang our heads.

…by not attributing the remarks to one individual (mostly), you condemn all of us who have ever commented on your blog.

It's not fair! 

NB: It’s true that the problem of racist, sexist language
can be traced to a few –
more than one – individuals
but the “Shark Week” feeding frenzy cannot
& that is ultimately what made up my mind.


I've been out of touch for the last couple days and didn't realize until today that you had cut off your comment stream. I'm very sorry to hear that, but I know it has to be the right decision for the time. I'm just sad that's come to pass. What you do is necessary and good. I'm not saying we should all agree, but that we all should argue constructively and be willing to see things from other people's eyes.

…asking about the comment archives. Have you chosen to hide those from public access? Or is it just a temporary glitch (or place holder while you adjust dials to block further comments under old strings)?


Concerned. Still hoping you plan to bring back access to the whole archive ASAP.

I can see wanting to bend over backwards to accommodate the younger generation.

But the idea of the victimization through blog comments is quite a stretch, even for you.

You have no doubt been treated to an exhausting amount of correspondence consisting of contradictory opinions about what you should do with your blog and its comments.

Whatever your intentions, it would be helpful to display the archives of the comments field for at least a few days to allow people to back up content from the past few years.  I had been intending to create a computer file of my comments that could be used to rework ideas for essays, and now wish I had done so earlier.

You can turn off new comments for new posts without turning off the comment thread for old posts and "hiding" the archive.  If you don't want to allow new comments for old posts, you can simply use the moderation function, direct the comments to an email address created for that purpose, and ignore the comments (letting people know that new comments won't be read and approved).

I assume you're getting inundated with emails about the blog comment boxes. I hope that at least some of them are positive. I wanted to send a short message to say that your maintenance of a relatively free-range comment field for so many years now has been a gift given to the poetry community (and perhaps taken for granted), not a responsibility (legally, ethically, or in any other sense).



Ron, I totally sympathise with your turning off the comments stream. Reading through some of the crap you actually tolerated makes me wonder how bad the responses you had to delete must be. The human race is deeply depressing sometimes.

The fact that on a daily basis you had to monitor the nitwits who post outrageous comments to get attention, or are cowardly in not identifying themselves is an annoying task. It is akin to having a legitimate discussion on any issue and a clown in the room diverts the conversation to base bigotry to disrupt the flow.  We have all ignored people like this or simply told them to get lost.

The cries of censorship from some are amusing to me. Although blogs appear in the public domain of the internet, they are in fact covered by the first amendment for the blog author only.  The author of the blog maintains the right to screen and publish comments that he/she believes is relevant to the blog post.  Newspapers and magazines routinely decide what letters to the editor and op ed pieces to publish. The same applies to blog authors.

Bravo. Nothing is worth the time and trouble and washes of dreck that you got by patiently monitoring Poetry's various Glenn Becks. I am glad you gave it up. That is my considered opinion. You were incredibly patient, actually. Even preternaturally so. I hope losing the comments has freed you up a bit.

NB: The following note from Jessica Smith’s
comment stream would seem to answer questions
about the preservation of comments
for those who imagine them to have been
“a major poetry archive”.

The Way Back Machine can be used to recover old states of many webpages. you can also use google’s cache function … . just search for the url you need on google, and click “cache” under the desired result. for the most part, nothing on the internet every really disappears, even if the content publisher deletes it (which is probably just as scary to some people as the idea that some content can be lost forever).

on the other hand, Silliman has no responsibility to archive comments on his own blog. it’s a little hard for me to see why anyone would assume that someone else has the obligation to archive something you want to keep. you would archive a letter that you sent to someone. you would never send the original (and only) copies of your poems to a publisher under the assumption that they’d keep track of it for you. anyone who wants conversations that happen on the internet to be saved needs to be archiving for themselves, and then backing them all up somewhere else.

really, we should be writing to blogger (the blogging service Silliman uses) asking them to introduce a function where individual users can archive their own comments. many sites offer this function,
does not.