I have been mulling over what to post here on Harriet, and when. I wanted to mention the passing of PK Page, for one, but she deserves a more well-thought out post than I could do in an hour or two. Then this morning I realized that part of what is making me reluctant to post is not the posts themselves, but the question of how much time I can give to the ensuing discussion. There are several posts in draft, but when I think of posting them, I know that in a way, the post is only the beginning.

When the idea of blogging for Harriet was suggested, this aspect gave me pause. The discussions generated from posts are often very informing, and I want to foster them. The biggest draw of Harriet is the possibility of new readers: how often does one get such opportunities? So ideally, one wants responses. And lots of them. But what kind of response?

I assume that is the mark of a successful post--it generates responses. And those responses, as we see here, can require more thought than the original post. But I am not sure that is an accurate mark of a successful post. I assume responses are in the air, and find their ways into lines of poems, and other posts, turning up, like volunteers in the compost bin, to produce something new.

That seems right. To be honest I have no idea where poets find time to craft the long responses we find in comment's threads. And so quickly. It becomes a matter of the quick-to-formulate generally directing the conversation. That's fine too, and some people have a great range of references which makes for illuminating discussions, but I sense some voices peter out simply because they can't keep up with the pace, not necessarily with the contents of the conversation. I know I do.

All of this makes me yearn for a slow blog, a slower return. And for someone as addicted to ever faster-paced multi-tasking as I am this yearning  says something. Perhaps the various methods of instant communication are wearing. Or perhaps I simply want a little more contemplation. All I know is I have been daydreaming of paddling in and around the Gulf Islands, solo, with not a word in the air, and of composing wee messages with squid ink on paper made of potato and letting them drift like silt behind me on the waves.

Originally Published: January 16th, 2010

Sina Queyras grew up on the road in western Canada and she has since lived in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, New York, Philadelphia, and Calgary where she was Markin Flanagan Writer in Residence. She is the author most recently of the poetry collection MxT (2014) and Unleashed (2010), a selection of posts from...

  1. January 17, 2010
     Kent Johnson

    Speaking as someone who often "formulates" quickly (inspiration of the moment has advantages and disadvantages), may I suggest Harriet add a function that allows commentators to delete their posts? Many blogs make this available.\r

    It might help a bit with the issue Sina points to above.

  2. January 17, 2010

    @Kent J.: I dunno - I've often deleted posts in afterthought - as another fast-responder type, and a manic-depressive i find i occasionally, er, drop the ball, or swallow it, or throw it at things). I was once the same with my poetry - very little survives twenty years of careening madness combined with a sand-painting nihilist attitude other than a few highly lost items in an ex-mother-in-law's basement being eaten by rats (including the original/only extant copy of my one claim to fame, the poem I whupped Evelyn Lau's butt with in a kiddie contest). Now, I feel that any scratchings we mae in the dry wind-whipped dust as we pass should be treasured, even the (owch ow ow) tracks of our tears. Ooh, I should be punished for that.\r

    @Sina: I like a long, long meandering comments section as much as I like good posts. I very much agree with you that speed isn't everything in posting - I don't mind picking up conversations weeks or years after, but the surging wordfoam of the interseas here tends to consume things quickly. I think that, as time passes, rocks reefs and islands like the ones you dream of will emerge from this sea, Until then, swim with slow strokes but strong ones, as you must when paddling also. If you're dreaming of the isles, I'm in your dream - I'm tapping away in my trailer/divorce-box/pension-hut/cat-cupboard-equipped Texada hide right now, third-growth forest looming on my left and deer poo ten feet from my window. Hell, I even have a faux-wood-grain fridge, dammit ('79 trailer). Pop by, lodge or blog - find me, my comms info, and a link to hundreds of my own photos of my previous/other life here: http://rp7o333.blogspot.com/\r

    ps regarding squid...i think we have some surprises coming our way. Where have all the salmon gone? And are squid organized? I've been having dreams...\r
    here's one of mine from memory so maybe wrong: Two hands, two eyes/and so we find the world/Eight-handed Voltaire,/where is thy work?.\r
    bye for now and thanks for a pleasant post,\r

  3. January 17, 2010

    pps OK, an edit feature would rule. I am Captain Typos on this little laptop.

  4. January 17, 2010
     Sina Queyras

    Ah, so you do that too? I would at least like to be able to edit my comments...

  5. January 17, 2010
     Peter Greene

    @Sina: I think, in my case if not in many, the little teeny comms devices of today are useless and damaging to language use simply because of their keyboard size. This has led to a lot of people crying out to herald the advent of new, shorter forms! - but short forms have always existed. I think what is needed is a keying machine echoing the shape and design of a sitar or similar cylindrical instrument might help with this issue (not just because I'm a boy - i think). I can't even manage to type right on this normal-sized laptop - I need a big archaic outboard keyboard. I make enough muffs without the help of these little, slippery keys. I like big tall heavily sprung ones. \r

    Ah, well, lack of an edit feature probably solves some kind of technological gordian knot or other for the site people, and in my case at least it will up the post count as I post corrections to my most egregious failings.\r

    P. (previously posting under '333', but goodness I grow tired of the web of nicknames we grow out here, so I think I'll start sticking to my natal one)

  6. January 18, 2010
     Bhanu Kapil

    "and of composing wee messages with squid ink on paper made of potato and letting them drift like silt behind me on the waves." I thought when I read this line a couple of days ago that I thought it was very beautiful. The next day, I saw a canoe on the side of a U-haul: I think the state of Michigan: and thought of your sentence, the hand trailing over the lip of the little boat, a line of animal ink in the water. I noticed I was thinking of Harriet in a place not Harriet, but then, last night, which is my report, I DREAMED I was in a dorm room at a writing retreat of some kind. I walked through the building to a back room and there, I found two people having an animated conversation. One was excitedly gesturing to a large machine in the corner of the room between the bed and the wall. "It's a machine," said the writer, "for..." I can't recall the exact words but basically it was a machine for slicing potatoes not into chips but "paper-thin" circular tablets that a person might write on. He'd built it. The writer was a playwright from Cuba, so I don't know how that fits. And the writer on the floor was a novelist from Tennessee, so I don't know how that fits either. John McManus, in the unlikely event that you are reading this, hi. You were wearing the pink spirogyra scarf in the dream! You were sitting on the floor gazing up at Rogelio, transfixed by his deranged speech about the miracle of having invented potato paper. You were wearing a sort of faded light blue shirt.

  7. January 18, 2010
     Sina Queyras

    You see, such is the power of the post, now traveling on the side of U-Haul's, a rod in its hand...wonderful response, Bhanu, thank you. Your sentences are quick and sharp as those passing vehicles one can't mistake for a lake, unless one is ever so hopeful of transporting one's aching winter-cold body anywhere south...\r

    Where are the salmon? Good question, Peter. We've seen this coming for several decades now, our means of taking the salmon having long outstripped their ability to reproduce. Still the boats go out, the nets come up, still the fish farms go in and so on...\r

    Up in the Skeena last year, the men in their hip-waders were still catching big ones, so I hear. But the bears coming ever closer to town tell another story: what have they to eat?

  8. January 18, 2010
     Wendy Babiak

    I love the idea of slow blogging (I like slow poetry and slow cooking, too). If Harriet allows us to carry on conversations for a while, it's possible, too, that a deserving post that requires a little more thought for response can ripple out into time nicely.\r

    As far as editing or deleting comments, the problem with that is that it becomes too easy for the antagonistic/conflict-addicted types to post things to which others respond and then alter/delete them, making peoples' responses to them not make any sense. It puts the integrity of the conversation over the ego of the individual poster. That's not so bad, really. And should urge people to think twice, at least, before they hit .

  9. January 19, 2010
     Wendy Babiak

    Oops, that should read hit "return," 'cept I put it in little brackets that made it disappear.

  10. January 19, 2010
     Sina Queyras

    One thing that can happen in comments streams is people actually listen/hear each other. Sometimes they come to some kind of mutual understanding. I mention this because rather than delete the offending post/comment, it can be interesting to watch the hot heads inch closer. It's good to see productive disagreements.

  11. January 19, 2010
     Peter Greene

    @Sina: Our fishing methods leave one awhirl with nauseated awe, don't they? I think there are even greater shifts in the seacology than our coastal disasters at play here, too. I have heard that the deep-sea pack-hunting squid known as the 'Red Devil' (among other names) is not only capable of but quick at building complex, cleverly engineered structures incorporating traps, mazes, escapes and ambuscades when given machined (threaded, toothed, etc.) PVC parts in captivity. I've seen myself video of a diver researching the animals tricked, ambushed, and nearly murdered by a hunting pair, one of whom used cryptic signals to hold the diver rapt whilst the other crept up to attack. These normally deep-sea and little-seen animals have been invading the Florida coast for some time, and are ravenous fish-eaters. Now, they are washing up here in B.C.'s Gulf islands. They LIKE salmon, and seem to be smart. Perhaps even smart enough to have a sense of vengeance.\r

    What have we been doing in the dark deeps? Destroying, on a scale that makes Montana look miniature. Want earthquakes? Aceh was the site of a gigantic experimental undersea project which pumped billions of gallons of freezing cold seawater deep into the Mother's mantle in an effort to raise trapped oil and gas from Vulcan's realm. No connection heavier than a butterfly's wing there, I assume from the lack of lawsuits and public question on the matter.\r

    So what have we raised from the deeps? \r

    Perhaps they could be our friends.\r


  12. January 25, 2010
     Sina Queyras

    Peter, it is depressing. Not sure how one can take in the catalog of destruction. It's the scale that we have to deal with as contemporary poets: how do we even begin to talk about, to take account of what we have done, and are doing...whether it's squid, or weather anomalies...the sudden plunges in temperature and so on. \r

    I look to posts such as Thom's for ways to cope:\r

    "By planting and yielding 5,000 pounds of wheat in an abandoned property (what, for a time, in England, would have been called a “wasteland”) Denes simultaneously kindles the hope of reclaiming blighted land/property while drawing-out the antinomies of New York’s real estate market (after Denes yielded her crop the land she had brought back to life was immediately bought by developers)..." \r

    And I'm always looking for poetry that is getting at this.

  13. January 25, 2010
     Peter Greene

    @Sina: I look to Gilgamesh for hope. This has all happened before. We'll learn, or if we don't, She will, and her next hire for our position will do better (my money/'s on the crows and rats). \r