Monday, August 23, 2004

Yes? Is that a question in the back?

I started blogging in January 2003 after having discovered the blogs of Ron Silliman, Gary Sullivan, Jonathan Mayhew, K. Silem Mohammed, and Stephanie Young. Initially the idea was to get used to being in public, to grow a public "skin" for myself. My first book had recently been accepted for publication and I knew that meant I had to get used to the idea of me and my work being reviewed and being talked about—something which both excited and appalled me. (Wilde: "There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.") There were other factors. I live in Ithaca, New York ("centrally located in the middle of nowhere") and while there is a lively (and growing) poetry community here, I was starting to feel a bit isolated. The kind of conversation that blogging encourages, less confrontational or dialogic than polyphonic, greatly appealed to me. I love the act of voluntary filiation that happens when you link to someone or something that you like (or hate!). Filiation, community, and plain old friendship are, for me, the most important byproducts of writing, enlarging the ramifications and possibilities of communication (though they also run the risk of putting fetters on one's imagination). I also thought that the casual yet intense discourse that blogging fosters provided me an ideal way in which to explore my jagged academic identity—to disover, stumblingly and in public, how to be a poet who's also an intellectual. Finally, the events of the past few years have served to radicalize me politically. Although I am as yet in no sense an activist, I am at least I think no longer merely an aesthete. The blog has provided a forum in which I've described my contact with various strains of leftist thought. Who knows? I might even have influenced a reader or two.

The remarkable thing about the blog is how richly it has repaid me for the effort of doing this sort of mental doodling almost every day. I've made dozens of new friends and acquaintances I might never have met otherwise. I've corresponded with poets and readers from all over the country and the world. I started the whole Aubergine thing (and I promise it will materialize in one form or another before the snow starts flying). I've turned myself into a more rigorous reader and thinker (having an audience for one's musings, like the prospect of being hanged, concentrates the mind wonderfully). I've also learned that one can in fact recover from saying stupid things in public; it's not the end of the world. And the negativity and blowback that I expected has mostly failed to materialize.

In some ways blogging is nothing new under the sun; it's another version of the columns in Blackwoods or The Tatler, or the feuilletons in nineteenth-century newspapers. What is radically new about them is the relative democracy involved: anyone with access to a computer and the desire can turn themselves into a writer and contribute to the ongoing, ever-ramifying conversation about poetry. My circle of correspondents (co-respondents) is growing every day. At some point I suppose that might become overwhelming, but for now it's an exhilirating way for a basically shy guy to enlarge his social, intellectual, and imaginative world.

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