Monday, August 29, 2005

Blogs & Boards

This certainly is a different kind of format for someone used to the hubbub of message boards. It's still and solitary--which seems appropriate for a poet; but it is a change. The 3 message boards I've frequented over the years were loud, busy, contentious places, and that made them both interesting and annoying. The chief problem with them, for me anyway, is that an awful lot of people like to post on poetry message boards who have no interest in (let alone skill at) poetry. They just want to be noticed, and they don't care what they say, if only it garners them a little attention. At least that's not a problem here, and if it turns out to be, I see I've been equipped with a Delete button. How convenient.

Although I was going to remark that I don't know what it is about poetry boards that attracts so many trolls, so many half-baked half-wits, clamoring to be noticed and stroked--is it that poetry still has lingering trappings of prestige, vestigial survivals from archaic times?--the truth is that I'm not familiar with other sorts of message boards. For all I know, they have exactly the same problems. Maybe there are Quilting Trolls and Scrapbooking Trolls and Duckpin Bowling Trolls who haunt, menace, and disrupt their respective venues. I don't know.

But it is nice and quiet here.



Nevid said...

I think the thing is to just treat it as another tool, not a comprehensive answer to the question of what to do about publishing, or a reliable way to hear what readers think. That's the thing that spoils one at the message boards -- the immediacy of the responses, even Shechterian or Isobellian ones. (Yay, no ad hom police!)

I used to think blogs were having the effect of separating everyone, which they do, except that they also seem to have bred their own method of socializing -- the blogroll, or whatever it's called. The problem remains of whether it is better to have hundreds of monologues out there than a single conversation. But our online "conversations" are so monologue-y anyway it probably doesn't make too much difference.

The main thing, I realized after months of carping, is that a blog relieves you of the obligations of a message board. There are so many places where moderators will insist you post three critiques for every poem, and as we've often said, the pretence of being there for the "help" seems to be the price of admission for people who really only want to be read.

But yeah, I'm sure the quiet of a blog can seem lonely. It certainly isn't a substitute for the boards. I've been told bloggers are all highly self-absorbed, so if you put up links to them on your own site, they will reciprocate.

Still, it's a good, profile-raising exercise, and a way to put a lot of your stuff on display with little down-side. I guess it will take a little time for word to get around, and your hit-counter is all you have in the meanwhile. If all fails, you might try putting up photos of your pets.

RHE said...

I don't have an operative counter at the moment, so I'm assuming a Carl Saganish-readership--"billions and billions." And my pets are so much better looking than I am, that I am afraid to post their pictures. I suppose their noble presence would lend credence to my frequently heard claim that Matilda the German shepherd could write better poems than most of those read on message boards.

There are ad hom police here: they are I. (Like that? Ancient joke: Knock, knock. Who's there. It is I. Go away: we don't need any more school teachers.) I guess you'll be able to see if I'm offended by observing whether your Schechterian/Isobellian slur is deleted.


nevid said...

RHE, you've probably poked around in here yourself, but in case you haven't seen these helpful thingies, I'm copy-pasting links:

those look unwieldy -- hope they work.

Hannah said...

Blogs, usenet groups, discussion boards...yup, all of 'em. Trolls abound. Mostly, peace is found on heavily moderated discussions, which then (of course) come with their own issues [what to do when a flame war erupts, who are the moderator's friends/enemies, what to do with people who don't explicitly break the rules, but constantly disrupt, etc, etc, etc].

You might recognize some of these profiles:

I was having a nev-ish thought (along the lines of her second paragraph) the other day, though, when I was reading some letters between Niedecker and Zukofsky. The internet makes public a whole layer of formerly "private" discourse between "poets" (blogs, boards, whatever). But, at the same time, even if the conversations are now public, and open to participation by anyone (as opposed to written between 2 people)...they're also probably more manufactured for public dissemination...much less intimacy, less controversy, less biography, and yes, more monologue-ish (as if one were speaking TO instead of WITH). Dunno if that's good or not.

Dan said...

There are trolls everywhere, but poetry boards have their own particular problems, because a posted poem retains its quidditas whereas pretty much nothing else posted does.

Like if you go to a knitting boards, people post pictures of scarves and so forth, but a picture isn't the scarf itself, it's just a representation. That probably makes the discourse more detached and the assumptions governing discussion more obvious and universal.

Meanwhile, reading a poem on a bulletin board is functionally the same as reading it in a book, which is very useful for someone interested in quick-and-dirty publication, but also confuses plenty of people who have grown used to, or dependent upon, a culture where everything that used to be private is public. Working from the Jerry Springer or Dr. Phil perspective, a poem's very publicity makes them assume that it must be deeply private and therefore open to radical change and audience participation. Which, of course, a published piece is not.

Nowadays, the best way to publish is to avoid readers at all costs.

(Meanwhile, music, which used to be a public experience becomes more and more private).

RHE said...

The most interesting point to me remains, Why poems? It is self evident that most people posting on poetry message boards and poetry blogs (i.e., "most that I've encountered") know bugger-all about poetry, having read little and assimilated less. But still they want, if not to be Poets, those sensitive, suffering, receptors, the advance guard of emotional civilization [ahem], to be observed having written poems. They must have acquired the desire through osmosis, rather than through acquaintance with the breed.

Some of us wear boots and secretly see ourselves as Gary Cooper. Some of us wear chains and tattoos and see ourselves as...I'm not sure quite what. Some wear long black trenchcoats and dark glasses and are located on that murderously geekish axis somewhere between the Matrix and Columbine. And some of us want to be seen in public committing Poetry. Why is that? A temperamental affinity with Horace? A desire to show our parents that we've fallen on the Thorns of Life and require Band-Aids? It's not the furor scribens which puzzles me; it's the desire to be observed acting the obscure role.

Dan, Auden has an essay on the change effected in music by the phonograph. It used to be, he said, that great works were reserved for holidays of the spirit. You were lucky if you heard a piece like Beethoven's 9th 3 or 4 times in your life. Now, with all music instantly and simultaneously available, our attitudes towards it are certain to be different.


Dan said...


Man, that Auden was on the ball.

Anyway, poetry and poets are not nearly so obscure as you think. Poetry is on buses, it's in commercials and greeting cards, put a beat behind (or, just as often, in front of) it, and it's all over MTV. Poetry is the only artistic discipline to which every high-schooler is guaranteed to be exposed.

Sure, it's not much of an exposure, but it's more than painters or sculptors or composers get, and it's guaranteed. It confers a certain cachet. Anything someone can force you to read must have social value, right?

Given its pervasiveness and its Required Reading status, it's not hard to see how people might recieve a passing acquaintance with poetry. I think it uncharitable to presume they don't care about poetry. The real question is what kind of poetry they care about.

Meanwhile, 50 Cent goes platinum again.

Bird said...

The thing - a thing - with message boards and usenet and whatnot, is that they consist almost entirely of text. Words. Language.
So when the niceties and the unniceties meet on their endless plain of fortune and the flames are fanned etc etc.
And when all this is being done by poets -
There is an ├Žsthetic whizz to the whizz-bangs and even the bang is meticulously timed.
If you're lucky, anyway...

RHE said...

Bit startling to have a comment on this post 4+ years after the fact. The epigraph to this blog intends to convey just that attitude; and isn't it pleasant to think that text-only-no-pictures can accomplish whiz-bangs?

Richard Epstein said...

In the last couple days, 8 1/2 years after it went up, this post has experienced a rush of visitors. Why? I have no idea? What were they looking for? Were they disappointed? No clue. Undoubtedly.