I’m always intrigued when poets put down technology. Blogs, Twitter, the Internet, email, even computers themselves come under attack from poets who believe that in order to keep themselves pure they must not just eschew technology, but actively talk about how much they eschew it. Just as some poets consider it a badge of honor to not write “ironically” or follow “trends,” poets who put down technology are usually damn proud of the fact.
For me, when I write—and this is, I understand, completely personal—I like to have the full range of human emotion at my disposal. That includes irony. So why claim I never compose on a computer?
I started my blog, The Unruly Servant, in February 2004 after receiving a complaint from a former teacher tired of receiving an email every time I had something published. (I haven’t published that much.)
The New Yorker described me as a “young poet and blogger,” which I suppose was meant to be disparaging. But when I think about the Poetry World, I think of bloggers first, the Establishment (whatever that is) second, or as ancillary to what is usually most revelate and relevant. Ron Silliman is the Master Control Program in this Troniverse, but there are poets like Reb Livington and Shanna Compton who had blogs well before me and who taught me by example how I might go about mine.
Reb and Shanna—and, clearly, Ron—have done more with their blogs than I have with mine, launching No Tell Motel and No Tell Books in Reb’s case and Bloof Books in Shanna’s. I use my blog as a platform to announce publications, quote Emerson, and sometimes voice my opinion. Were it not for blogs or online publications like UbuWeb or Jacket2, the poetry world would, for me at least, be much more boring. I live isolated from major concentrations of poets so to be able to keep in touch with poets I love or discover new poetry from around the globe is liberating. How can this be a bad thing?
Twitter is another creature that gets talked about like it’s destroying language. What is a Twitter feed but an enormous exquisite corpse? Far from confusing people, it moves everyone closer to Niedecker’s condensery. I have tweets from Neil deGrasse Tyson, Chuck D, Scientific American, and Occupy Wall Street interlocked with tweets from D.A. Powell, Jim Behrle, Sommer Browning, and Ange Mlinko. And there are hundreds more. If one of the basic features of poetry is form, 140 characters for a tweet is just as strict as 14 lines for a sonnet.
Is blogging dead? Ron shut off his comments last year and started promoting his use of Twitter. Now that establishment entities like the Poetry Foundation, the Paris Review, and, yes, even the Best American Poetry have jumped into the fray, how distasteful (or edgy) can blogging be? One glance at Ron’s blogroll and you can see that there are more than a few poets who have found the form as useful as a yellow pad and a No. 2 pencil.