Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Off the Cuff

I don't usually ad lib my posts - but there've been a few things on my mind lately that I'd like to share. I'm not sure whether this is going to be a rant or even where this is going. Bear with me. As some of you have noted - I have not, as of late, been "as engaged” with poetry as I've been in the past. Actually, I asked poetry to marry me. Bought a ring. Got down on one knee. She said yes, but jilted me at the altar. I'm kinda out there on the rebound - but I'll survive.

Then there's the fact that I've become rather disenchanted with this whole blogging spiel. I mean why should anybody give a crap that I post a poem or music clip or commentary or what you usually come across on poetry blogs: self-aggrandizement. There's enough hot air out in the blogosphere to fill the Hindenburg all over again and then some. Everybody is trying to sound so "deep" but all I keep hearing and reading out there are hollow words. Then when you actually find something on a blog that you want to comment on and do - God forbid if you disagree with the blogger. You're shunned like the proverbial plague. I don't do "brown-nosing" very well I'm afraid. If that means that I am destined to become a pariah in this literary community. So be it!

Strange, I thought that artists in the guise of poets and writers in general welcomed different perspectives. I was led to believe that they welcomed voices of dissent. Voices that were different from the common and that differed from their own. Voices that marched to the beat of a different drum. Is there no room for a poet that does not twist and pivot to the beat? Is there no room here for the stick which will not bend to the stream? Is there no place for a would-be poet that is not published? Must poets only be measured by the prizes and awards that they garner?

In 1901, Joseph Conrad, Thomas Hardy and Leo Tolstoy were all overlooked by the judges who awarded the first Nobel Prize for literature to Sully Prudhomme. Anybody read any Prudhomme recently? Literary awards have become so enormously important to writers and publishers that as Ellen Seligman of McClelland & Stewart says, “If a book isn't on a list, there's a sense in which it doesn't exist." (Well I guess that my poetry does not exist then. It is a figment of my poetic imagination.)

There was a time when writers weren't obliged to take literary prizes seriously. They understood the politics, the bargaining, the subjectivity and the sheer dumb luck that invariably goes into these decisions. Today the writer seems (IMHO) to take these awards too seriously. Your work must win prizes or at the very least be on a short (even long will do in a pinch) list of also-rans.Well, I have made no such lists. And you won't likely be seeing my name bandied about by publishers as an "also-ran".

I write poetry: bad or good, it's all I've got. It gives me pleasure to write and sometimes even to read it. Apparently, it's also given a few readers some pause. That's enough for me. If that makes me irrelevant in the literary world or even in this on-line poetic community - well then that's fine too! Somehow I'd lost track of what this is really all about - the poetry. It doesn't matter if I publish it or not - what matters is that it communicates something - anything.

I'm stepping off the soap box before I get pushed off. Thanks.


Collin Kelley said...

Maybe you need another blog break. I didn't think anyone cared about anything I had to say either, but I would like to think that between the shameless self-promotion and American Idol reviews, that I occasionally post something of interest to all readers -- whether its on poetics or politics.

Nick said...


As you can see from the response (or lack thereof) to this post - I think I've made my point re: "Who cares about what I post anyway?" I don't think it's a question of taking a "blog break" but rather should I can this blog altogether or leave it up in case I want to come back again ??? I thought that getting on facebook would get me back into blogging but it didn't do the job. In any case who wants to listen to my diatribes anyway? I might just turn this into a "Poetry in Vitro" blog with musical interludes and no commentary. I don't quite know what I'll do. Anyway I'll work it out somehow. See you somewhere on the ethernet. :-)

Harold Haller said...

I think a lot of what you say is right. There are a lot of people with big egos writing blogs. Maybe I'm one of them. I just started a blog the other day... but,
the benefit of all this blogging is that we have access to many more viewpoints than we had before. The downfall is that anyone can do it and a lot of it is subpar. At least we have the power to make the judgement between what we think is subpar and what we think is great without some corporation filtering everything.

if you want to be an "accomplished" poet, that usually means winning contests, selling books, and making a general whore out of yourself. (not that there is anything wrong with that) if you are a poet, you will write poetry anyway and put it in a drawer or burn it or fold it into little origami chickens, but you will write it. I am glad you are not letting the industrial nature of publishing get you down.

Brian Campbell said...

If you haven't won a prize or been at least a runner-up or published with a good press, you're scum, damn it, scum! And I'VE run up *and* am getting a book out with a VERY good press (rubbing it in with salt & sand), wooptie dooptie doo, so I know whereof I speak!!!!

(Change of tone)

All is vanity. Given our vast population and reduced sense of posterity (how can you have posterity when our survival as a species is in doubt?) and the power of media in our highly illusory world, it seems even us literary types live get ever more caught up in the egocentric now of celebrity culture – in that, even I am not exempt.

(Further change of tone)

If you do your best at what you do best – and I assume, in the realm of art at least, that’s poetry -- and share, if need be, with others -- there is eternity in that, regardless of worldly outcomes. The literary reputation game is indeed – at least in large part -- a sham. Take a break if need be, but keep up your highly intelligent blog. You’ve made all kinds of fine poems – & pictures, and insights -- available for others – it’s still googleable. I value this blog, and even if I don’t always comment or have the mental space to read the poems you post, I do visit from time to time.

We’re both in Montreal. Some day, we should meet.

Nick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nick said...


Scum it is...and proud of it!...Wasn't our survival as a species always in doubt?...A "highly intelligent blog"... not likely but honest at least - if that means anything anymore.

I was thinking about signing up for a poetry workshop over at the Quebec Writer's Federation with Carolyn Marie Souaid but could not fit it in my schedule. Still hoping to get into one some day soon. Perhaps this will light a creative fire or set off some poetic smoke alarm. I thought about joining up mainly based on your write up on Ms. Souaid and her work.

Thanks for supporting your local poetic foole! Grazie...a presto!

Brian Campbell said...

I've been there for many, many years, so I know what it's like. My blog isn't called Out of the Woodwork for nothing.

Nick said...

[I]f you are a poet, you will write poetry anyway and put it in a drawer or burn it or fold it into little origami chickens, but you will write it.

"Oragami chicken" ...Now why didn't I come up with that. ;-)

Harold, thanks for stopping by.

Pearl said...

jilted by poetry. Harsh. At least you got a chance to play around pre-maritally.

These things cycle. When I get too attached to feedback, it's time for blog break. It's got to come from love and interest or it's hollow, uninteresting.

If people don't interact enough on the subject of poetry or music, pah, their loss.

If you need to toddle off for a while, at least leave the blog up so the useful words are still accessible.

Nick said...

Pre-marital ars poetica isn't all it's cracked up to be. ;-)

vegetablej said...

Hi Nick:

I'm one who doesn't comment too much. It's because I'm waiting for more poems. :) I usually don't have much to say about the music, but I do admire your choices.

I say don't give up blogging. You could do like some, put up one post a month and see how that goes. Or you could put up more of your poetry.

Don't mind too much about the fame and recognition. Some of it is pure luck and timing. Have you read _The Tipping Point_?

A lot of what we write may be subpar or drivel, but every once in awhile we may get to something a little beyond that. And I agree that it is fantastic to have access to work that is not pre-screened by anybody but the writer. For that, blogs make the best reading, and besides they're available to people who can't afford to buy books. You might think of it as public service.

And I don't mind if you disagree with me.