Notes On Poetry, Online And Otherwise
Where Are the Poetry Blogs?
Published on October 18, 2011 by guest author: Dan Schneider

A couple months ago, I was considering starting a blog, perhaps about poetry. And though I had always considered creating a site to promote my own work completely self-indulgent, I was beginning to reconsider. Perhaps blogging has become more acceptable, a way to get one’s work out there, connect to fellow writers, or start a conversation.

But before I engaged in such an act of shameless self-promotion, I wanted to see some other poets’ blogs that would show what was possible and help me decide on a format. Would it be better to post my poems or others’ poems I like and admire? Would it be interesting to write about day-to-day life and include ideas for writing, or keep discussion limited to poetry and poetics? Would there be a way to combine the two? How could one make interesting use of the internet as a medium?

As I fired up Google, I figured everyone must have a blog by now, so I started by looking for blogs of my favorite poets. I searched "Billy Collins blog," "Thomas Lux blog," "Stephen Dobyns blog," among others, but came up surprisingly short. Jean Valentine? No blog. Charles Simic? A quick scan of searches revealed that he’d written articles for the New York Review of Books blog, but I didn’t come across a blog he was writing himself.

Finally a search for ‘Mark Doty blog’ revealed an entry into the vast world of poetry bloggers.

Doty has been widely published in the poetry world and now teaches at Rutgers. His blog is pretty much just that—a blog of his thoughts, musings, events from daily life that seem interesting enough to write about. He describes his summer in Provincetown, movies he and his partner watch, poems he’s reading that he wants to share, and links to other blogs. Doty has written two non-fiction books as well as poetry, and his clear, descriptive writing makes the everyday events of his life something you’d like to read.

I enjoyed the post about how a woman notices him in the Little Rock airport. As a poet he’s used to being pretty much anonymous except at readings, so it’s a bit of a surprise when a TSA agent says she’s a fan. Later at the reading Doty contrasts this event with a woman who casts a disapproving eye on some of the poems in his new collection, which though not autobiographical, use the author’s voice to tell the story of drug use and recovery. Doty says:


What difference does it make, the relationship between the poem and the biography of the poet? I'll be the first to say that I'm terrifically interested in poets' lives, but a poem is not a report on an experience. A poem can't really be "about" drug use or recovery; it has to create an experience in language, and then to reach inside that language in the direction of making meaning. If a poem merely tells us a story -- well, is it a poem at all?

Real life does sometimes, oddly, intersect with abstract notions such as authorship, poetics, the nature of reading. Doty captures these moments under cover of an ordinary .blogsport web address.

Another site I came across, not technically a blog, but something worth sharing is a set of animations based on poems by Billy Collins, former Poet Laureate, and one of the few poets recognizable to a large slice of non-poet readers. A number of different animators each created a short movie with the author reading the poem in the background. Some animators combined words and images scrolling across the screen, others used the animation to illustrate, comment on and converse with the poem as it was being read.

I found "Forgetfulness" particularly compelling. As the poet describes the inevitable process of forgetting, images wash across the screen as if from a scratchy Super 8 movie reel. Then they are quickly erased as the poet forgets each item, moves on, forgets, dives deeper into a world where memory is all but a fleeting image. "Some Days" turned a poem that I hadn't really appreciated into a meditation on chance and the mocking turns life gives us. And the mice in "The Country" are completely suited to Collins' blend of whimsy and wonder at the possibilities of the smaller details of life.

There is a lot of poetry out there on the web that can be classified, without too much argument, academic or otherwise, as garbage, but it was heartening to see that there is interesting stuff being done on the Internet with poetry, ideas that move poetry forward and keep it current for our times. I don't pretend to know what might attract more readers to poetry (and some even argue that poetry shouldn't ever have a mass readership, though I disagree), but at least a few sites hold out the possibility of showcasing poetry in new ways. At least these two are pages that, like favorite poems, I'll come back to again.

Dan Schneider is a high school English teacher outside of Rochester, N.Y., who is taking a break to care for two kids and a scholar, and make these clicking noises on his keyboard.


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