Is Blog Poetry a bit like Fluff?

Of course not, well at least not always, sometimes it is as sublime as anything you might read in a book…

This just in: The Pulitzer Prize for Poetry was not awarded to a blogger!

Go figure, it was awarded to W.S. Merwin. A good poet, one who does not blog, and did I mention that the Pulitzer Prize Committee was so uninspired by the general state of poetry that they awarded the prize to a guy who had already won one back in 1971?

It’s been a while since I have reached down, grabbed my big old foot, and shoved it firmly into my mouth by adding a critique to my site about the state of poetry, especially poetry that can be found on a blog.

Maybe the poetry on my blog is no exception, has no special dispensation, is not above the fray of the following criticism. I am a bit too close to it all to decide if it is, or not. You’ll have to add the voice of your own discernment to figure that out…but to me it seems that we poets are not doing much to forestall the collapse of whatever remaining esteem poetry might still have left in this fast paced world…by posting it to a blog.

This just in: Blog Poets as a group found to be responsible for a big sucking sound!

Let me be more direct. Blog Poetry Mostly Sucks. Or how about this less direct but more diplomatic statement – If we as poets don’t clean house and encourage other poets to post only poetry of the highest quality, then “Real Poetry” as an art form is doomed…

Folks it’s all about the attention span, or I should say the lack of an attention span. Who has the friggin time to figure out what poets are really trying to write – I know that I sometimes don’t…

This just in: Blog Readers of Poetry forget that the essential requirement for reading poetry is to add a smidgen of contemplation!

It makes me scratch my head – my poetry I mean…long winded, compressed metaphors that only the most ardent reader even wants to press ahead and define or unwind their way through…so maybe I am as irrelevant as the next blog poet; again, that’s for the reader to decide.

Back to my main point.

It is our responsibility to stop lying about the poetry we are reading – telling poets that they are great, that they are the next Dickinson or whatever, when they clearly are not the next Dickinson.

I suspect that we do this because they have written a poem we can quickly understand. Because they have written a poem that I am going to have to term as “Poem Lite.”

This just in: Poet Man makes wild and unsubstantiated claim that TS Elliot would have been largely ignored if he had been a Blogger!

To tell a poet how great they are when they are not great demeans both the reader and the poet. To in any way cause them to think that they have already arrived, that they have nothing more to do is to hinder the cause of quality poetry. Also, and here is the kicker, if you do so you will be part of their future bitter disappointment. Because at some point they are going to want to see their work in print, so they are going to submit their work to some esteemed journal for consideration, and when they do, and their work is rejected, they will experience a profound dissonance.

This just in: Blog Poets are no longer receiving positive comments!

That’s not what I am trying to suggest with this piece…that you shouldn’t post positive comments…what I am trying to say is…

That it is far better to say nothing. That’s right, say nothing – leave no comment when no comment is warranted. Think of your silence as an essential part of a writers process. Please do this only when the poem in question does not rise to a commenting occasion, does not have that necessary spark, or when you really don’t understand what the writer was trying to write.

This just in: When it comes to commenting about Blog Poetry, silence is sometimes Golden!

Your silence will cause the writer to try and figure out what might be missing from the poem. They might discover the coveted talent called editing…and if they do, it will make them better poets…it is far better to have the experience of silence, than to have received an unearned accolade…

Hey, but that’s just me…and my big old foot talking…which by the way is a mixed metaphor, and entirely verboten…

Poet Man

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20 responses to “Is Blog Poetry a bit like Fluff?

  1. Saw your tweet and came to read your point.

    I know a number of poets who agree with you. There is a lot of junk out there on the web, stuff NOT worth reading.

    But I don’t think it’s up to me to tell people their creative projects (whatever they may be) aren’t good enough to be published on their own personal blog.

    We readers vote with our feet. And as you point out, with our comments. It is easier to comment on an accessible poem.

    What’s happening on the WWW is similar to what happens in town:

    Poetry readings are similar. The features are usually worth listening to while most of the readers in the open mic are not.

    As are art shows. Some open shows and even juried shows feature work that I don’t need to spend time looking at.

    But this doesn’t mean that I am going to restrict my reading to Pulitzer prize winners (even if I am a fan like I am of Merwin) or only go to BIG museum shows or look at art in books.

    Thanks for the chance to articulate my thinking on this. I may turn it into a blog post of my own; I’ll link to you of course. (links & time equal the currency of the web)

  2. so I did draft a post and will publish it on Sunday I think

  3. Well I just shut down my blog and am spending a week writing each piece now, not a few hours and I’m really pleased with the results…..I don’t see the point of posting poetry to blogs if your intention is to be published. Many people post for feedback aka positive comments simply because they don’t believe in themselves…….I have enough self-belief now to do my own writing, submit it, get involved in the IRL writing scene…..

  4. And hey, hello Poetman!!!

  5. art predator – so finally a tweet that worked, by that I mean someone came…

    I agree, unless asked and even sometimes not even then will I offer a critique of someone’s poetry…if I don’t like or resonate with their poetry I vote with a mouse and click off…

    “It is easier to comment on an accessible poem.”

    This is what I am partially writing about here, that the internet and our fast searching habits are dampening our ability to contemplate some of the deeper meanings of poems which are trying to express more complex meanings…

    “I’ll link to you of course. (links & time equal the currency of the web)”

    …and thanks in advance for any links you might make to this site. I do appreciate them…

    But, and I write this guardedly – I think that there is so much fluff content on blogs which make them pedestrian because so many sites are running themselves like popularity contest, I’ll link to you if you link to me, and so on…

    Thanks for coming and adding your voice to the din…

    Poet Man

  6. Hello Jo – and congratulations for making such a successful transition from a blogger to a published writer…well done!

    It is now starting to dawn on me that posting poems to a blog is no sure fire way to attract publishers to my poems…and to this I say, That Sucks, It Shouldn’t Be That Way…but it is that way, so adapt I must. No secret here, I did start this blog as way to attract a publisher…Silly Me…

    Your point about now having enough self belief to change from a writer who blogs, to a writer who publishes, stung me a bit…seems true…OH Dang, now what will I do…

    I know, I’ll ask my good friend Jo, if she will publish me in her magazine…seriously – I am asking…

    Be Well


  7. Mmm, I wasn’t trying to sound smug. I just no longer see the point…..though I admit, if it weren’t for blogging I’d never have started, and I’ve made some good connections…..for me too much blogging is about showmanship and attention-seeking (not everyone, mind 🙂 ). I cringed recently when I reread the early stuff I’d posted, I hope I’m light years away from that now — you’re right, time and care needs to be taken, not to feel like a post every day or so is necessary (or you might lose your audience lol); but I still believe in everybody’s right to put up what they like……as I’ve always said, you can vote with a click of the mouse into silence.
    And sure, send some pieces my way, we’d love to read them. Apologies if this is muddled, I just woke up 🙂

  8. In my pretty dream-world everyone makes their own magazines and their own books, and blogging (dear gods how I hate that word) sticks two fingers up to the publishing establishment. DIY rocks, yeah!

  9. Art Predator dragged me into this. I agree with most of what you have to say. Internet, blog, small press, big journal it makes no difference. There are always mountains of bad poetry masquerading as good poetry everywhere, people who knew nothing at all about poetry setting themselves up as authorities, a lack of genuine critique, a tendency for people to give compliments for sucky work in the hope of receiving compliments. There is a whole world of egotists with typewriters massaging each others egos and creating an illusion which sidetracks and wastes the time of a lot of people. Some of them have blogs and post in them and some of them don’t, they do exactly the same thing in the non-internet world, it makes no difference.
    Post, have fun, submit, publish, whatever.

  10. My original motivation for creating a blog was simply that of having a platform to participate in the Macquarie University philosophy blog. I posted a few phil-inclined opinion pieces and then started experimenting with poetry. Then I discovered the poetry prompt sites and thought I would have a go. Bingo! Suddenly I was getting all these wonderful comments about my poetry. All very nice and encouraging, and I have met a huge variety of writers in the process. Paul was among the first who really took the time to direct his comments at my work. Since I was writing from instinct rather than from training and reading, these were the comments that really encouraged me to think about what I was doing and how to make it better. Based on that experience, there’s not much about your post that I can disagree with.

    As for the idea of voting with your comments, I find it difficult to comment on a lot of really good work these days simply because I don’t have the skills and the knowledge to express my reactions in a way that I think would be valuable. Interestingly, my readership is higher now than when I was following the prompts and madly seeking attention, and the comments per post are going down. Furthemore, I can see a huge decline in the readers from the point that I left the prompts, and it’s been stepping up ever since. Now that’s not to say the prompts weren’t valuable. Instead, I would say that I have learnt a hell of a lot about writing since I left.

  11. Jo – I agree with you, and I didn’t find your comment to be smug…but this sentence of yours points the way to an aspect of my point…”

    “And sure, send some pieces my way, we’d love to read them.”

    I have over 200 poems on this blog, you have read many of them…as a reader and now small press publisher (someone who knows my work, and who knows the direction of their own magazine) I would think that it would be easier for you to choose one rather than have me try to figure out which one you would find appropriate…Peace

    Paul – Your point is very well made, and while writing my post, for some reason I completely overlooked the comparison which you have so adeptly written.

    Thanks for taking the time to directly comment…for adding your perspective…Well Done

    Brad – I am not suggesting that one vote with their comments, although I did write in my comment to art predator that I’d vote with my mouse by clicking off…that was me being a bit tongue in cheek…

    Overall what I am saying is that it is far better to not gratuitously comment on a poem, or any blog post for that matter solely as a way to gain readership to your blog, or get people to like you…to not do this especially when you are commenting on the work of someone who is seriously trying to be a better writer; that to do so demeans us all…maybe, oh hell, who knows…

    It’s great that you had the experience of Paul commenting directly to you about the essence of the poem, or piece that you were writing. And I agree that this is so much more helpful to a writer than a commenter who excerpts a line of your poem and says…I really liked this line…

    I commend you in not commenting on a poem when you feel that you don’t have the knowledge or skills to do so, however I would challenge this a bit as well – In the same way that you gained the skills necessary to wriet poems and other post by writing poems and other post, so can you gain the skill at commenting on poems by commenting on poems…I sure that this skill is within you…

    It’s incredible how much better as writers we become by the simple act of writing everyday, or at least with greater frequency…

    Thanks for coming and for you many fine points…


  12. Sack Posset – I agree, DIY does rock, but sometimes being by one’s self ain’t as tasty as a piece of cake…


  13. Poetman, I’m working ten hour days just to keep on top of the magazine (our submissions are through the roof) and the press, never mind my own stuff. Much as I’d love to reread the pieces here I’ve loved, I simply don’t have enough time in a day to write, edit, live 🙂 You’ll have to send them in, I’m afraid! J

  14. Jo- sorry bout that, what you are doing takes dedication and nerve, and a love for poetry…take care…

  15. Hey, Mr. Poet Man. Interesting topic. I guess I came to blogging with a different perspective. I never thought posting work on a blog would attract publishers. As a matter of fact, I realize that it may even diminish my chances with some elitist types.

    T.S. Eliot wouldn’t have needed a blog. He had Scofield Thayer and Conrad Aiken. He went to Milton Academy and Harvard. He studied in Paris. Not all of us have those kinds of connections. I received a free MFA in exchange for teaching at a state university in rural Ohio. I will forever be grateful for the experience and opportunity. My teachers were big names who were busy publishing their own work. But other than an education and a pat on the back for my potential, I have had no help from big name academic poets. I have met other poets who are helping to promote me, and some of them came via blogland.

    For me, poetry blogging started out as a networking tool. It still is. However, I’ve never taken it too seriously (and it never takes much time). My blog is in addition to what I’m doing with my work.

    The friendships I’ve formed are an added benefit. I’m actually surprised that anybody would want to meet me in real life, but some are. That is a big plus for a shy, social reject like me.

    I understand what you mean by the popularity contest and linking, but that should also be taken with a grain of salt. People come and go. If I have two comments or twenty, it doesn’t make me a better or a worse poet. Honestly, I really don’t care. I always comment back to people who comment at my site, but I don’t go searching for new people. I’ve enjoyed the conversations, even from people who don’t really get me.

    Sure, there’s a lot of crappy poetry on blogs. But there’s also a lot of amazing and excellent poetry on blogs. Some of it is astounding. Some of it SHOULD win prizes, which is why the established machine hates blogging so much.

    I tend to see a lot of the “rough” poetry from a teacher’s perspective. Some of it has much potential for excellence. Even the people who will never be poets in the sense that I am a poet can improve and enjoy the experience. What’s wrong with that? I’m a big fan of “poetry for the people.” We can all learn from each others’ life experiences. I have seen poets who started out with poetry as you describe it above, and months later, they produce an amazing gem. That gets me excited! It really does. I love to see people who aren’t traditional poets produce that kind of work.

    Poet bloggers get kicked around enough in the academic world. Why not support each other? If comments aren’t welcome, they can be turned off. When I tell someone they have written an excellent poem, I mean it. If they submit because of my praise and get rejected, that’s called living the life of a poet. They must learn to grow a thicker skin. A poet’s life is chock full of rejection. My rejections are not anyone else’s fault. I am also learning from my rejections.

    Thanks for letting me add my thoughts. I hope your week is going well. Take care.

  16. Hello Julie,

    It’s interesting that so much can be commented on in relation to my post…and that was kinda the point of the piece.

    My last poem on this blog got a total of 3 comments.

    One of the commentators took the time to parse the piece and the other gave it a compliment. And then nothing…but write a post about the state of blog poetry and the comments fly aplenty.

    Which is fine…it’s all good, however my question is Where is our attention span, and is it getting smaller…?

    I think that it is…

    Thanks for adding your thoughts to the mix…

    Poet Man

  17. now i have read between the lines and I cant make direct comments…though i feel the discussion on your post is much more intriguing and i have read every bit of it…I don’t think we must judge a poet blogger’s capacity…I mean what is a fine poem after all?to you it may be a perfect match of words,wisdom,situation..for me it might be a blend of humor, simplicity and perfect rhyme…but imagine my child(HELLO i am giving an example…I am 19 by the way.. 🙂 )writes a poem on say her doll..and the poem is crappy i tell you..because i am a poet i can find out 100 flaws in what she thinks is a might read ‘doll doll doll,you are so tall’..and i understand this if posted on any blog with my name can attract a million negative comments…but what if i say a little girl wrote it…the whole scene changes and all the comments coming would sound ‘wow’,’cute’,’sweet’ et cetera..the whole point i am trying to explain(i admit it was a stupid example..)is that why judge poetry on blogs?you can anytime stop reading them…what you think is a stupid work might be the dearest thing to someone’s heart..and also what you think is a masterpiece is in somebody else’s opinion a fit for the thrash can!

  18. Narendra – Context is a very important quality to take into consideration…I think that this is what you are communicating…and if this is what you are trying to communicate than I agree.

    I would not appraise a child’s poem in the same light as one by Byron…

    The point I am trying to make here is that of contemplation…that it takes time to contemplate some poems, that those that take this time seem to go overlooked on many blogs, and that is likely because, on the internet most things are traveling so fast…also when we as readers don’t comment within a defined context, and heap a large praise onto a pedestrian poem, that we are diminishing the overall possibility of that poets future as a writer…

    Thanks for the comment…

    Please someone bring me another cup of coffee..

    Poet Man

  19. At your service, sir! *one cuppa steaming hot kailua kona*

    [the debil made me do it!]

  20. Janetleigh – Thanks, I needed that…Peace…PM

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