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The lost poems, or the space of blogging
Where do you find the time? That’s the question most often asked of me when the subject of blogging comes up. Particularly over the past three months of posting on Harriet, keeping up my own blog, Twittering, teaching, and so on. There are several strands of thinking that emerge from this question for me, once one gets past the idea that of course it isn’t enough, one hasn’t done enough, or done it well enough, and there are always a barge of ideas waiting to be done…and done better. Aside from that, the idea of service arises, that to some degree it’s our responsibility to discuss the work we care about, and so there’s little choice. The idea of practice arises too, a kind of daily writerliness that helps build community as much as one’s muscle, a dailiness that has been, in a sense, transferred to the public realm. Finally my belief that no writing is wasted.
This latter notion is important for a number of reasons and a variety of stages of one’s writing life it seems to me. Here it’s about the fear of losing creative energy by blogging. And one does feel the blog posts chewing up a good deal of creative energy–potential poems flashing like the backs of trout at dawn, or more likely for me, like tufts of earth pawing up between drifts of hard snow, or strands of green in soggy, dead brown clumps.
But on a deep level I believe that no writing is wasted. Cheesy it may be, but I believe in writing the way a runner believes in running: you do it daily, you take it seriously; you get your mileage in no matter where that “material” ends up, which often means the recycle bin. No matter though, even the discarded writing lives on in the shadows or textures of the writing to come…
But waste or not the publicness is strange. Initially I found it quite disturbing, nearly paralyzing, the veering in and out of poetry, and so publicly. I worried what this form of composition would do to my practice. Impossible to tell early on, and once into the game I thought it would be difficult to assess. While to me there is never a solid line between poetry and prose, or even essay for that matter, there was a solid line between process and publication, private and public–with blogging that seemed permeable too. Yet how can a writer not engage with the tools of her time? I was too curious to resist.
Blogging, for a few years now, has became my morning run, which is fine, except for me writing usually happens through some, or often many kinds of transformations and so choosing how to do that with texts that have been published so to speak, has been an intriguing problem…some authors, the wonderful Mairead Byrne for example, have composed poetry on the blog and are now publishing that poetry. Nick Piombino has also published blog posts in a book form. The question is, does this reverse migration work? And if so, how? Or, what kind of text does blogging produce over time?
Having recently edited my blog down to manuscript form to be published in book form, I spent a good deal of time going back over my posts in a way I had never done before. I was struck, not necessarily by the number of posts that had slipped into poetry, or revealed the bones of lost poems, or by the number of posts that given a nudge, could veer off in either direction, but by the number of posts that seemed to inhabit an entirely new writing space (or voice ) for me. Kate Eichhorn, my editor, noticed it too and we decided to let that space (however tentative) guide us for selection and then in editing the selection down.
The space or tone of writing that developed, I suspect developed out of the pressure of composing “in public,” which it feels like one is doing once one shifts the site of composition into a blogging software, but also, in a way, from the desire to create an indirect way of thinking about poetry. Not wanting to engage in what we think of as traditional, evaluative criticism, but rather to think openly, associatively about what I was reading. Looking outward is, to use my friend Jen Duncan’s word, a way of biggening. Looking out over the city, at visual art, provided a nifty way to refract thoughts. Not quite ekphrasis, but in the same genre of gesture.
Blog writing then, is a bit of a hybrid, a bit mercurial, it has, perhaps, a little more swagger and range than other writing (poetry or fiction). I’m not sure why, perhaps partly due perhaps to the division between self and blogging self (Women are realizing the freedom of the heteronym, of the crafted public self.), and partly the slight of hand one can perform: by looking in the opposite direction I allowed myself to create a more ludic, experimental space (and voice, I imagine since I adopted a name not my own), one where thoughts can turn on a dime, ideas get fluffed up, sniffed at and moved on from in a turn. At least that’s what Unleashed seems like to me.
Writing here on Harriet in my own name has proved a different kind of challenge, and I have been grateful for that, and for the readers and comments. There is something very strange about our mass migration toward instant publication, and toward composing in the public sphere. I still have no idea where all of this technology is taking us. But I think that in embracing, and working rigorously and critically with these new technologies, we may not only be finding new ways of publishing, but new ways writing and thinking, and ultimately new ways of reading.
I urge more poets, particularly women, to blog, and to enter the comment streams, even when the rhetorical style exhibited there doesn’t quite mesh with your own…more might be gained than lost.
As for those poems: they weren’t lost at all. They simply became something else.