Date: Fri, 20 Dec 2002
Subject: Re: To blog or not to blog

I'm glad Nick Piombino weighed in about the blogicization, and it's helpful that he used that self/affect slant that he's good at and that's an ideological/poetics position of his, as I'm not as good at it--- Last night, when I looked at Nada Gordon's one-entry blog, strangely, I felt similar emotional regret, nostalgia, disconsolate, etc.,--- not because she was writing poorly or anything like that--- but, a little bit of a feeling of "Another one bites the dust", another Stepford blogger. Pod people become blog people. It's also striking to me that it's, so far, mainly East Coast and New York City poets who are blogging themselves away. Is this not a post-9/11 effect? The saddened feeling that I felt was that it somehow increases our solitude.

I lean toward M. Palmer's (first name?) response: he said "reactionary" and, last night, I thought "counter-revolutionary"; it seemed to me like people were sneaking back in through the "back door" what they'd just thrown out the front; etc. Nick gets to the point: "Why write frequently on the poetics list when you can have your own blog?" My version of that was: why would people ever want to blog? what could possibly motivate this wave? Jonathan Mayhew's blog is candid: he unsubscribed in reaction to Richard Tylor's anti-Americanism (Mayhew calls him "some poet in New Zealand"). A blog

(1) takes conflict-aversion to the next level of removing oneself from the possibly risky environment that many have objected to in the List's social unpredictability (there's a photograph in my family's album of my sister as a child, in a party dress, sitting on the carpeted floor in her bedroom by herself, caught by surprise, playing with all the toys and birthday things she was just given at a birthday party in progress at that same moment with friends all outside the bedroom whom she'd left behind: blogs remind me of that protective self-insulation)--- you can hold forth without interruption, rebuttal, or disagreement;

(2) a blog allows you to be found by a Google search, whereas the Poetics List does not: moreso, by writing about poets and keywords that others would be searching for, people can be lead to discovering you by Googling after those other names;

(3) importantly, a blog, with its representational self-depiciton, by returning to all the Foucauldian "Techniques of Self" mechanisms, allows self-invention --- one is not merely a practicing poet but someone consummately preoccupied with poetry in every waking moment and every thought, the poet who is more than a poet (read: bad faith) (I'm often taken aback at how bloggers stick to the subject so. Like, don't these people ever go to the opera [Ron's blog has already stated his antipathy and condemnation of that] or anything?? Isn't there another channel that they switch over into? Why is their self-portrayal so lacking in normal multifariousness, O'Hara's "grace to live as variously as possible"? It seems like it would be healthier, given this day-by-day/hour-by-hour reality TV look into their solitude, for them to just forget about being a poet some of the time and change the tune every now and then. I'm amazed at how obsessively they stay on target); . . .

These blogs, so far, are by no means the Goncourt brothers' journals. Regardless of how the bloggers might actually live, these self-portrayals are typically catching them at their most a-social, connecting only through the mediation of what literature they have opinions about.

I find that this "self redux" or "pre-self" that's emerging in their self-portraits is curiously lacking in sympathy to themselves, too. It's lacking in ideology and it's somehow short on compassion for the very pathos that they're revealing about themselves. --- Granted, there was remission from psychosis involved, but if you think of the self-writing in Morning of the Poem, when James Schuyler returned to mimetic self-depiction after years of writing in less-/other-signifying modes, the weakness and frailty of self that he had the courage to show: I'll never forget that puffy plastic WonderBread bag he went out to buy for his sandwiches. But how it would tarnish their authority, to make a sandwich (white bread). To return to diary as a literary form is one thing, but to then behave as those these "discourses"
and rhetoric were completely natural, in no way to wink, and to conduct re-construction of self with the same, unconscious prerogatives as the New Formalists . . . !

Of course, there always had to remain a dialectic between Language writing (with its various semblables) and the ongoing momentum of institutionalized normative autobiography, ---if the latter were to disappear, a world overrun with nothing but Language would be bedlam,--- but the blogs, like some of the print essays and interviews that were creeping up to this, seem blithely oblivious to that original agonistic struggle that these poets' poetry is based on,--- so that they themselves are simultaneously re-enforcing the very dominances that their poetry is challenging, as if undoing with one hand what you'd just done with the other, language a row of buttons (clothes buttons) that you take off only in order to put it back on again, language the zipper.

The positive side is that the pendulum must have swung too far, that it's a free market after all and not capitalism, and that those weren't crashes, they were "market corrections." I'm trying to see it along the lines that Pierre Joris suggested, a helpful reminder that it's all (maybe) rhizomatic, and not defection from a utopian collectivity and the hope of

--- I admit to generally skipping over Richard's posts. But I read one the other day (considering what slim pickin's there are, these days), his uncontrollable enthusiasm and curiosity thinking that dcmb had actually spent an evening with the grand J. Ashbery himself, just as Richard's earlier post had fantasized to do. But when Richard, parenthetically, wound up including this little, peripheral detail about having lived at home with his mother all his life until she died when he was 53, and how he wouldn't listen to "dissonant" music as much as he might've liked to because the sound of it might've bothered her in the next room--- ---that's excruciating! The sympathy just ripped through me. This is what brought down the project of a poetics community and drove professors of literature into hermetically sealed sound-proof booths?! This is getting like Sullivan in the computerized cartoon Monsters, Inc. where the monsters try to be so scary but they're terrified of a little child. Meanwhile, the bloggers' armor. . . . Will they ever get there? Could they? Or: the self imago in Heather Ramsdell's Lost Wax who is always rummaging through closets and drawers for a pair of missing socks. But the bloggers don't seem to know where Samuel Beckett took things. The narcissistic incapacity of the individual to admit to any vulnerability or weakness completely parallels the current national defense. (Whatever his prose's other flaws, it should be said in favor of Richard's posts that he's never erected a reified concrete self as totem in his writings.) --- But maybe it's positive: maybe these blogged missteps are paving the way, a gradual loosening of poetry's puritanical rejection of some badly needed ballast of self. I guess I had expected it to be more conjectural and avant-garde, though. Who told them they are these characters? The use of "personal criticism" by feminists or queer theorists, which Maria rightly mentions,--- wasn't it always an attempt, though, to maintain at all points the partial, perspectival, therefore qualified and limited nature of all writing, to localize each thought, in refutation of the depersonalized and therefore more effectively dominant (male) voice of criticism (that I often slip into)? It's the difference between fetish and, say, surveyor's tripod, the latter being all about a measurement of distance between objects. My myopia, my color blindness. The "personal criticism" that sticks in my mind, for example, was queer theorist D.A. Miller putting himself completely on the line in The Novel and The Police by describing an appointment with a psychiatrist who diagnosed him as Borderline,--- (then, what's the rest of the book!? Auto-symptomatology?) or his ambiguous, seemingly gratuitous self-portraiture in the Roland Barthes book as on his back doing bench press in the gym (man of steel, or vain conformist? half-naked and at risk of the barbell he was holding falling down to crush him if his partner slipped). (I don't recall if it was word of mouth or in his writing, but I also remember his "personal criticism" including his fear of becoming the man with the poodle and beret, that somehow stereotypes are true.)

Yes, Richard, yes. He had a small rose watercolor by Pierre-Joseph Redouté on his wall.