Sunday, 19 March 2017

Morte de Blogger

 Inching my way back in after a four month hiatus (partner had a baby girl just before Xmas/bought a house and moved out of London/my old Vaio all but unusable due to the malware bundled onto my hard-drive the last time I tried to download an album that wasn't condoned by iTunes), I've had several moments of doubt as to the virtues of recommencing and in turn have fallen to wondering if blogging (poetry or literary blogging, I mean) is still the vital force it was five or six years ago when I embarked on Ictus and so many poets seemed to be adopting this medium and sending out regular posts with the alacrity of a William Caxton discovering print (and imagine how easy you have it with your MacBook Air compared to a hand-operated wooden printing-press). Looking down my Blog Roll, I see that the number of poetry blogs whose last post was over a year ago has risen to half a dozen or so, which is dismaying - and I already did a spring-clean of defunct blogs from this list only last year. (Gists and Piths, after a lengthy furlough, just escaped this by thankfully returning to the ranks last spring).
    For my part, last year was a lean one for Ictus as I only completed 11 posts, part of a pattern of decline since 2011 when I wrote what seems now the extraordinary number of 59 ,albeit glancing back I see that many of those were brief squibs or YouTube videos rather than considered pieces. I've certainly had less time to devote to writing in general the last few years and I suppose when I've had opportunities to write I've prioritised poems and other "proper" forms over what I see as the very much secondary, incidental jottings that comprise this blog. Secondary - but with the genuine value of keeping my hand in and allowing me to write in different, perhaps less convoluted or crafted formats and registers than other compositions allow, a narrow but refreshing tributary of the ongoing writerly process which I try to hold onto as of almost equal significance to the "finished" products that sometimes emerge from it.
   What are the reasons for poets turning away from blogging? The rise of Twitter has something to do with it, I'm sure, being both a more immediate and less time-consuming platform with more assured returns in terms of often instantaneous responses from your followers, far more effective than blogging if you want to draw notice to a reading, review or new publication or even to alert fellow-poets to a particular issue or news-story. I'm not a great fan, as it all too easily leads to the "Just had a bag of cheese and onion McCoys " attention-seeking tittle-tattle of Facebook, but I can see it has its uses, which strike me as distinct from the virtues and purposes of blogging.
    Which are? The possibility of a more expansive engagement with the contexts and processes of our writing; the beginnings of some kind of critical practice about contemporary poetry, sorely lacking outside a handful of specialist journals. Not that most blog-posts (and certainly very few of mine) often attain the status of serious criticism but just that they are able to contribute to a meaningful cultural debate about poetry and poetics, that the medium is used as something more valuable and enduringly readable than mere self-advertisement or diaristic anecdotage. It may be that some of the bloggers who had these kinds of aims when they begun have found other forms of internet platform better suited to their needs, which is the reason they've now moved on. In fact, who knows but that the demise of widespread blogging might have a positive aspect, if it means that the more resonant kind of poetry-blog (like Gists and Piths or the posts of Michael Peverett and Robert Shepperd) will gradually gain wider readerships and continue to develop and thrive? 


  1. Hi Oliver,

    Glad to see you're back on the blogging horse, and thank you, too, for the kind words about G&P. It's nice that people are still reading and enjoying our posts, hopefully as much as we've been enjoying our own renewed attention to the blog.

    As to the decline of blogging as a form, I'd noticed a similar process to the one you delineate above, and had come to pretty much the same conclusion as to the possible causal underpinnings for said decline. That was one of the primary motivations for kick-starting G&P 2.0: we didn't want to be part of that trend, and I'm very glad we escaped the blogroll spring-cleaning process by the skin of our teeth.

    I think you're absolutely right in that there's been a movement away from blogging to the more instant gratifications of Twitter, and the more closed community discussions on Facebook (I'm not on FB myself, but I'm assured that, when there discussion about contemporary poetry crops up, it's a really good source for engaged and serious debate). The problem is that Twitter and FB have very different MO's to the field of blogging, but people haven't necessarily taken that fact into account. Twitter, then, fulfils the role of newsfeed, and FB helps foster communities of readers and writers who, crucially, probably already move in circles where they already know one another, or know people who know people at least.

    Blogging's rather been left behind as a medium, and as such has perhaps been suffering something of a crisis of identity. But it's a crisis that's potentially liberating: if no-one's really paying attention anymore, and even the people who are committed to the form are wildly unsure of where to go next, then the field's open for some pretty radical - in the 'root and branch' sense - renovation an reform.

    Best wishes,

    Simon @ G&P

  2. Sorry Simon, for the delay in getting your comment out there. Part of the very inattention I was talking about. I share your faith in blogging as a medium full of untapped potential. If I could only concentrate long enough I might actually come up with a half-legible post or two...