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Thursday, 7 February 2008

What Is A "Literary" Blog For?

This is my 840th post at Eyewear (give or take, some have gone by the wayside). I confess to being agnostic about blogs - the fact I have one should not be considered a ringing endorsement. I blog, therefore I am in the blogosphere, but where that gets me, or you, or anyone, is another matter. I think that this uncertain (or to be more stylish - say problematic) genre which is a blog leads to errors in reader response - though, how can any reader ever be really wrong about their own reaction? It is my experience that the Internet is not a cool medium. Or do I have that inverted? What I mean is, it evokes strong, near-instant responses. Blogs are emotive. They employ and discharge feeling - in that sense, they are like elements within poetry. But blogs also use (usually) prose, and are informative, and discursive - hence, the rational patina of much blog writing.

Still, the writing may appear calm and cool and collected, but the impression, of a reader, upon finding their name, or book, or other cultural object, mentioned or reviewed, on a blog, is often visceral. One of the problems with a new medium is that no one knows what it is yet. They used to use phones, in Budapest, to deliver the morning news, like radio - every house would be called simultaneously, and someone would read the listeners the news. Blogs are a bit like that too - the messenger and message are still confused.

In other words: the urgent immediacy and in-yer-faceness of the blog format is actually the medium's fault, not the individual blogger's style - yet too often, readers fume and chafe, not against the medium, but the messenger. So it is that, every week, or so, some well-known literary figure, critic, or other "name" appears, to carp about something I have written.

It strikes me as curious, that, in this busy, aggressive British media world, poets and other writers think they have the right to bully bloggers for expressing their own opinion (David Wheatley has been known to blog about my blog, accusing me of whingeing, for instance). If I've put a foot wrong, and said something personally hurtful, I will remove it at once, of course - that's my policy. Unlike critics such as Logan, say, in the States, I never seek to mock or belittle. Gently chide, perhaps, but never mock. I use a blog because, unpublished in the UK in book form, and without a big publishing marketing machine, a fancy education or trumped up prizes to back me up, I have only my own wit and writing to get by on. But, as I have found in these least literary of literary worlds, polite dissent is not brooked in this poetry turf war.

Without Official Puffery there is only panache. But, is that reason enough to waste time, yours and mine, on this hybrid form (confessional, diary, ledger, day-book, review, essay collection, memoirs, etc)? Likely not, but I shall continue to assay it, as best I can.
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