Despite this experiment with blogging, I remain jittery about how computers have changed our experience of poetry, and our experience with each other, which is a bigger question that isn’t suitable to being addressed in something as ephemeral as a blog entry. Some quick thoughts though, from a computer know-nuttin, Harriet’s one and only dial-up blogger…

A certain type of poem seems to be well-served by the more populist aspects of the poeticocyber culture as it exists now. That is, one can receive “a poem a day” from more sources than are absorbable—poetry daily, verse daily, writer’s almanac etc. The computer has made it possible to be bombarded by poetry, and yet this format pushes its poems toward a certain style—relatively short and closed-system-ed (“like the lid of a box clicking shut”: I forget who said that). And the system favors poems that are accessible, though I do not like that word (I especially do not like the way “Billy Collins” has become a shorthand for something that is ostensibly wrong with poetry, a problem that remains so ill-defined that it eludes me). And we breeze through these poems, as they are meant for breezing-through, while we are supposed to working on the computer at our jobs doing, who knows, filling the orders for the widgets.
This makes poetry more predominate in our lives, and paradoxically more disposable (the barrage and the breeze) and less disposable, through the process of “calling out” a poem and disseminating it--for example, the post-9/11 dissemination of Auden’s “September 1939”. I can’t think of other poems that were brought into public prominence via the internet, though I have discovered poems that I have a personal fondness for, poems I wouldn’t have been aware of had they not been sent me.
Obviously, time spent on the Internet has to be subtracted from the non-cyber elsewhere. The time I’ve spent blogging got subtracted from other forms of writing and reading, though I did still make the time to run the dog in the field. A disabled person, I like the fight to retain a presence in the meat world, despite the meat world’s difficulty and solitude. Retreating to the cyber-world would be both too easy and too hard. While it is easy to sit at a desk and tap, I discovered through Harriet that I’m not cut out for the combat of blogging-commentary. And I would feel odd with the male-ness of that sport. It’ll be interesting to see what will happen when the bloggers change.
I hope I can break, though, my addiction to checking out Harriet each day, just as I hope to break my compulsion to dial in for my email each morning, even though I rarely get any. Here’s to more writing, more reading, more time in the field.

Originally Published: August 29th, 2008

Lucia Perillo grew up in the suburbs of New York City. She earned a BSc in wildlife management from McGill University in Montreal and worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before earning an MA in English from Syracuse University. Perillo was the author of numerous collections of poetry, including Dangerous...

  1. August 29, 2008
     Mary Meriam

    Of course I don't know how it feels to be "up there" as the blogger, but as a reader of Harriet, I find the whole thing amusing and not at all worrisome. My lifestyle sounds very similar to yours, Lucia, and not just being on dial-up. The whole rural cultural isolation thing, but I put a happy spin on it by calling it seclusion, like the Taoist priestess-poet, Wu Tsao, was secluded towards the end of her life.
    I like hanging around with poets - mostly I hang around at poetry workshops - but Harriet - not being geared towards productivity - is more social. I'm slowly getting to know the various characters: the hilarious Henry Gould, the compassionate Matt, the combative Michael Robbins, the philosopher Jane, the fabulous Don Share (kiss-kiss, want a poem?), the still mysterious Lemon Hound. It's like being in a play, and who better to play with than a bunch of poets? And we all know how important play is to creativity, right?

  2. August 29, 2008
     Michael Robbins

    I challenge you to point me to a single instance in which I was combative!!!

  3. August 30, 2008
     Sheryl Luna

    1). Ugh, now------
    2). When you diss poets that you don't like assuming your opinion is the end all of poetic aesthetic opinion---- which it isn't.

  4. August 30, 2008
     Don Share

    I feel the way Mary does about the blog... & wow: thank you for those nice things you said!
    Of course we want poems; get all the details here!

  5. August 30, 2008
     Michael Robbins

    Hey, Sheryl, way to miss my obvious joke. I mean, really, someone says I'm combative, I respond by being combative, like, you think? I don't use that many exclamation points fer realzers, yo.
    & I think you're thinking of some other posters -- the arguments I get in here aren't about dissing poets or about my own aesthetic taste. Seriously this time: if you can point me to an example, I'll wear my hat.

  6. August 30, 2008

    The following message you sent me exhibits why I am not comfortable commenting now.
    Seriously, Sheryl, the sarcasm of this comment: "I challenge you to point me to a single instance in which I was combative!!!" is not embarrassingly obvious to you? Like, how dumb do you have to think someone who makes a comment like that really is not to see what the kids wrongly call the irony of it? Wow, give a guy a little credit.
    Also, sarcasm in and of itself is defined at
    :sar·casm Audio Help /‘sarkæzəm/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[sahr-kaz-uhm] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
    –noun 1. harsh or bitter derision or irony.
    2. a sharply ironical taunt; sneering or cutting remark: a review full of sarcasms
    When someone disagrees with you, it does not mean they are "dumb" and to "challenge" someone does appear combative to me.
    I don't have time to wade through your comments here. There are so many.
    I do appreciate your willingness to question yourself. I must do so as well.

  7. August 30, 2008

    Personal tastes aside, hasn't Billy Collins just made the mistake of allowing himself to become financially successful? I know that's apparently a cardinal sin for a poet, but whenever I hear someone say "Billy Collins is what's wrong with poetry," I'm tempted to jump up and down pointing at them and yelling "sour grapes!"

  8. August 30, 2008

    "Retreating to the cyber-world would be both too easy and too hard. While it is easy to sit at a desk and tap, I discovered through Harriet that I’m not cut out for the combat of blogging-commentary. And I would feel odd with the male-ness of that sport. It’ll be interesting to see what will happen when the bloggers change."
    Perhaps the reason there's so much maleness in blog-combat is that so many women choose not to participate in it.
    It's like if there was a basketball game where one team forfeits and then accuses the other team of bad sportsmanship for not forfeiting also.
    I know that women often get ignored or insulted by men when they try to participate in these things, and I think the best way to fight this would be to, well, fight! (Maybe that's what you're alluding to when you say "It’ll be interesting to see what will happen when the bloggers change"--i.e. more women getting into the fray. Let me know if I'm wrong.)
    But I wonder if this might just be a poetry blog problem. I mean, on every political blog or comment stream I've seen, there seem to be as many women as men flinging the excrement, especially this election year. It's great.
    Now some people might say, instead of everyone being equally mean, how about everyone be equally nice? But I just think it's better to put everything on the table. (White people still don't like to talk about racism, for example. This isn't healthy.)

  9. August 30, 2008
     Michael Robbins

    My sarcasm was clearly directed at myself. Obviously I wasn't really "challenging" anyone to anything, but to challenge someone to produce evidence in an argument is not combative at all. The joke wasn't any good to begin with, but I shouldn't have to explain it.

  10. August 30, 2008

    I thought Michael's comment was funny. And was glad people tolerated my putting up a picture of my dog.
    Matt--the sports trope and the word fight (now this may be a joke I'm not getting) are what make me say nooo to broadband. I have this theory that men come to computers through gaming, whereas women come to computers through social networking. But of course that's a false dichotomy if applied in strict terms. Just a passing bloggy thought.

  11. August 30, 2008
     Michael Robbins

    Lucia, your dog is beautiful. And that's not sarcastic.

  12. August 31, 2008
     bill knott

    Billy Collins is one of the best poets alive, in my opinion . . .
    "Claire" above is right: it's sour grapes–
    or in this chain of comments,
    sourcastic . . .

  13. September 2, 2008

    Dear Lucia,
    Thank you for your insights, I have enjoyed reading them. Thank you, also, for your "how about this feeling that the twilight is salting me like a rib steak?" line that has been knocking around my brain pan for the past few days.
    I would like to pat your dog.

  14. September 4, 2008

    I like the fact that I get " "s, Bill!

  15. November 8, 2008
     David C.

    Spicy ephemera...
    Writing in/on/to/for a blog is like talking from the inside of the TV. Suddenly, you're tapping on the glass: yoo hoo! is anybody really out (or should I say, in) there?
    Lucia's poetry is sizzling and Billy's is the only serious-comic verse of our generation, though he's not as good as he used to be. Read "The Apple that Astonished Paris" or "Questions about Angels"--every first line is a metaphysical kneeslapper. And I'm not being sarcastic...

  16. November 11, 2008
     unreliable narrator

    I'm fascinated by the fact that, in a comment stream for a post musing on both the ease and difficulty of reading and mis- on this here interwebs, what should appear but lo, a classic case of misfired irony.
    It's of course notoriously difficult for Web 2.0 newcomers to catch the ebb and flow of rapid-fire snark which finally has offered so many of us a playing field for our most beloved idiom–a forum for an elegant form, a home we may not have had in public discourse since, let's say, Versailles in 1794?
    Or maybe, the monthly church ice-cream supper in my hometown. Cos anyone who thinks word-fights are the exclusive online (or otherwise) purview of males...well, spending some time at might change your mind on that front. Or, you know, a little time reading about those social networking heroines Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir....
    I'm not saying; I'm just saying. As the kids say today. Sometimes sincerely, sometimes sarcastically.