Monday, October 29, 2007

poetry, publishing and blogs - what it means to be a poet on the internet

russell engages us in poetics conversation

this is a fabulous conversation, cherubs. if you haven't read into it yet, hop on over to Yuckelbel's Cannon and read the post he links to, read the comments on that post, read Russell's post on the matter, read the comments on Russell's post... then finally, add to it.

trust me, by the time you've read everything that's humming you'll have something to say... or you'll be writing your own blog post about it, furthering the conversation (and hopefully engaging new poets and talkers in the dialogue) like i am here.

the matter: professional poets. the question arose, what does it mean to be a professional poet?

never mind that. what does it mean to be a poet? that's a taxing question.

a poet: one who writes poetry. is this good enough? no, because then you get into the whole debacle of defining poetry. trust me i've tried this one, it isn't easy. in fact i sort of came to the conclusion that, like porn, you just know it when you see it.

a poet: one who calls him or her self so. a poet: me. a poet: russell. a poet: you.

we could go around in circles all day trying to figure out what makes a poet. i am a poet. the end. don't beat around the metaphysical bush, just admit to it, you are, otherwise you would not be reading this. promise.

so the real interesting issue here, for me, is how we, poets, share our work.

i made the analogy in russell's comment thread about the blogosphere being the new network of hipster cafes.

keats and wordsworth were the first of their kind. forget where i read it, but they made tea shops the place to be. today, poets make blogs the place to be.

but there's a problem, as russell notes, for poets who wish to gain recognition via publication online in order to someday find their name in print. publishers are beginning to deny poems that have already been published to blogs.

a catch 22
recently, whenever anyone has asked me how to get published, i tell them to start a blog.

all of my success in poetry publications to date are *directly* linked to my blog and the connections i've made with other blogging poets.

a collaboration i took part in with another blogger (someone i met through blogging) is being published before the end of this year--in print.

didi at mipo radio found me through my blog.

i was found by the editor of in our own words--a print anthology of poetry--via my blog.

we're all being included in the anthology of younger poets--another print anthology--because we blog.

and the lovely folks at the onion union found me through my blog.

it's interesting though... that publishers are beginning to realize, to notice the power of poetry blogs. look at the number of readers we share. hell, even if we're only reading each other, then some of us are getting more readers than some small presses.

i know that a hand full of people are going to see this post (and although they may not read it, they read the short poems i post, right ozy?).

maybe that's a problem for small presses though. blogs are easy. they're free. they're interactive. they're modern and they're everywhere.

the old argument that paper will stand the test of time holds true for me. paper is gorgeous. i LOVE print chappies and magazines and anthologies. nothing beats them.

but as a poet... what medium do you chose? or do you have to?

as magnificent as paper is... i build my micro-empire, built my name, on the web. on blog spot. thank you google.

i've even met one of my best friends through google's blogger.

so, as poets who blog... what do we think?

the real issue here... do we have to chose a format? or, how do we balance our worth in paper and continue to maintain a secure network of close, open minded poets whom we share our work with?


Russell Ragsdale said...

I agree with you about the value of both print and electronic media. I don't intend to give up either one.

Everybody has their own writing process and, for the last 3 years mine has very happily become that first and foremost, I wanted to share my poems with you who read me via blogelande. Yes, of course I am thrilled when I get an e-mail
from someone saying that they just read my work in some print media. I should be as happy as I get when a zine publishes me (but truthfully I’m not), after all, a publication (any publication) is a testament to others’ appreciation of your talents and abilities. I don't know why, but I'm not wild about it, I'm just real pleased. In contrast, I can't wait to put a poem on Y C and see what happens with it. I don’t have any illusion that Y C is like being in a zine, even a bad one.

Blogs are not good critique mechanisms. People avoid saying really negative things when they post a comment. Like Tiel says, for that you need to go elsewhere. Eratosphere and Poetry Free For All are fine places where you can go test the quality of your skin. I haven’t tried some of the places she goes to practice her work in but I’m sure they are good sources of real criticism. The rest of blogland is just for encouragement.

No matter what poetry you put and where you make it available, print or electronic, critical or encouraging, the real truth is that your readership is going to be mostly poets. I am very happy about that on the internet but downright blasé about it in the print media. That the reason is that you get comments on a blog entry is a no-brainer. I have come to think I am simply going to keep posting the majority of my poetry on my blog and take my lumps with the zines. The print media, well, I just don’t know what I’m gong to do about that but I’m not giving up yet. I’m looking forward to my chapbook coming out but it has been a huge amount of work, so far, and it is still quite a ways away from ready.

katy said...

thank you russell.

this is an ongoing and tasty discussion we're mixed up in. i love it.

my post is really a bunch of nonsense, reading it now ^_^ but you pulled some use ouf ot it. thank you.

it's valuable, as a poet, to know or at least think about how, individually, you stand on publishing in print and on your own blog.

one of the things i thought about but have not yet mentioned is the worth of the blog to the identity of the poet.

within the confines of google blogger we all create our ethos. and without that, we truly are nothing. we are ether, and blogs found us in something. a community. a conversation. a discourse if you will.

i feel like somethingkaty is my home base for the internet. this is where i come first to check out all my peers, to look through new editions of ezines, to shop, etc. it's my front page to every newspaper in the morning.

i'm sure other's feel the same way about their spots too.

unfortunately, i have to get my arse in gear and get to school... but more on this later.

hugs for you russell !!!

Russell Ragsdale said...

Praise be to an omnipitent diety that I have no more classes to teach or take today and, on top of that, I've got all my students' midterm grades posted. I can go home for the day. It's been a hard semmester so far and I'm tired. I'd like to say some about our blogs as home bases 'cause that's true but I need to gather my thoughts.

I'll catch you a little later, sweet one, *Hugs* to you too.

katy said...

[at school.]

let's take a minute here to talk about commenting.

i've had conversations with others about this before, particularly t.j. morgan. yeah, here we're all nice. we're all pals. if you don't like something, typically, you stay quiet about it.

i miss him, but brian boutwell is excellent when it comes to constructive criticism. and it surprised me to see other readers of somethingkaty near-to attack brian for posting a critical comment.

i wonder what it is about this format that compels us to be so friendly. is it because these blogs are our homes and you don't criticize someone in their own home? i don't know.

it's an etiquette, but where does it come from? and how does this rule for behavior effect our thoughts on the idea of a blog as a home base for a poet?

katy said...

oh, i also wanted to bring up an idea i had...

i think someone on russell's blog brought this up as a possibility...

the schism with publishing to a blog and in ezines or print journals... the poem has already been read if placed ona blog... well... i don't know about anyone else, but the poems i put up on my blog are drafts and i have, several times before submitting, gone back and revised my poems. does this act as a solution? if we view our blogs as journals, copies of drafts, works in progress? do you think publishers/editors would buy that?

Anonymous said...

Hey Katy,
Send me something for my new online magazine and then you can say I found you on your blog as well! it out...and SUBMIT!

Russell Ragsdale said...

Hi Katy! Sorry for the long pause but I got knocked down pretty hard by the flu.

As I have told you, I'm getting a book together right now. There are something like 200 to 300+ poems on my blog. When I do a revision on a poem I (or a lot of poems like now) generally print it out in paper form and start the process of working it over. In addition, when a poem is two or more years old it has become too old to suit me currently as I am constantly in the process of experimentation.

You are precisely correct when you say that what gets posted on the blog is a poem which is very early on in it's developmental phase.

The issue of commenting brings up another facet of blogs. I, like Tiel, or Roger Stevens, don't put things on my blog expecting to get good creative criticism. Blogs as a social convention seemed geared more toward polite encounters. There are other places to go within the blogsphere to get useful critiques. Most poets practicing here seem to accept and know how to function with this situation.

So, at least for me, a blog is an early trial ground, just a phase in the development of a poem which is not yet even focused on useful criticism. Therefore it is inaccurate and unrealistic to treat the poems to be found there as finished works as the zines are starting to do.

In reality, we just preview our poems on our blogs, let them rest a bit and, later on, pick back up on the process of revising and finishing them up.

Wow, I feel better now that I got that off my chest!

arch.memory said...

Wow! How did I miss this for so long? Well, I'm glad I finally found it. I feel that I'm repeating myself when it comes to discussions of poetry (especially with you, Katy, as we've gone over it at length before), but since it's been so long, for what it's worth, I thought I'd share my 5 cents on it.

I thought it would only be a matter of time before print journals start rejecting work posted on blogs as "previously published" (not that they're lacking for excuses). But that doesn't stop me from posting (almost) every poem I write to my blog. (And the ones I don't are usually the ones I think are too bad, rather than what I think is "my best".) The way I see it, my blog is a repository for my poems, a place where I can access them wherever I am. Yes, it also happens to be public; I'm not going to pretend that doesn't matter. It's true that some of our blogs attract more readership than some small zines; still, the way I see it, it is simply stupid not to consider a poem just because it's been posted to a blog before. Would those venues not consider poems just because they were read out loud in public before? After all, some blogs readership is smaller than that of some reading circles. If anything, that should be a reason to publish a poem, not the opposite. Just the way "Best Poetry" anthologies are culled from already published work, journals should see their function as editorial, as in doing the search and selection for the readers. After all, exclusivity is irrelevant in an age where anonymity is all but guaranteed by the sheer volume of production (most of us are as visible as a needle in a haystack).

As for commenting and criticism, I frankly don't find the lack of it that lamentable. I believe poetry, especially now, is so subjective that most acts of criticism are useless. I find the editorial process more relevant: you like what you see, you pick; you don't like, move on! How do you even critique anything when aesthetics are so conflicting?

(Ok, I need to go pick Wojtek and Foxy up, so I'll post this before I forget.
PS: You have an extra dot in "my best friend"'s link ;)

Russell Ragsdale said...

I put a new reply to Ashraf's post on my blog. He has brought up some really important issues. You can find it HERE

Russell Ragsdale said...

Oops the link I gave above has a flaw. You'll want to go here: LINK