Welcome to the Course

Fall 2021

The class will begin on September 1.

Blogging

The biggest writing/publishing project that we will undertake is, really, this blog. It will be a space for conversation about the readings, excursions, and projects in the class. More to the point, we’ll approach the blog as a collaborative publication. Like the other forms under study on our syllabus, we will consider its form, history, constraints, and unique possibilities.

Note: while it is no longer the heydey of the “poetry blog,” blogging is still alive as a medium for commenting on the state of the art in bursts of more than 280 characters. Even though the poetry blog “scene” of the early 2000s has largely broken up and migrated elsewhere, its affect on poetry discourse remains legible. So, let’s be aware of, and reflective about, the form and context in which we’re blogging this semester.

Craig Morgan Teicher’s 2006 Publisher’s Weekly article, “Poetry off the Books,” is a quick panoramic of the poetry blog as publishing phenomenon. Writing at the peak of its popularity, he notes the vitality of the medium: more access to poems = more readers = more books! (No doomsday predictions that “now no one will buy poetry books anymore.”) Follow the many links (most still active) and get a sense of what is/was out there. If Teicher’s article captures the exuberance of that peak in popularity, Joshua Corey’s more recent article “The Golden Age of Poetry Blogging” (Plume, 2017) looks critically and nostalgically from the standpoint of its decline. Both past and present raise questions for the future.

As you read about the “poetry blog” in these two articles, think about how the medium of publication (the blog, in this case) shapes content. Poetry, and poetry discourse, spill to fit their container, and vice versa, new containers take shape to accommodate things that we want to say and hear. And this give-and-take does not happen in a vacuum: political and cultural forces are a crucial part of this shaping process.

After reading, please chime in with a comment. What is something specific to the blog format that you might appreciate/enjoy, either as a reader or writer? How does blogging compare with social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram?

16 thoughts on “Welcome to the Course”

  1. The blog format permits a sharper focus on the written word itself than social media platforms, such as Twitter or Instagram, provide, for in a blog, the author’s thoughts take center stage – this is how, for example, poets can share their original creations as poetry and art themselves. The blog bridges the wide chasm between book and social media platform. On social media, it is mere presence that is both noticeable and commendable. Instead, a blog spotlights language and the critical power it holds throughout life, much like a book does in the hands of its reader. Similarly, the author, writing to the entirety of the Internet like on social media, is nevertheless in control of the platform and the words expressed in it. A blog allows for a much more sustained, even nuanced approach to an issue than does a tweet or an Instagram caption. Unlike social media, which was designed to foster human connection, a blog cultivates literary connection. It, too, lives in the realm of hyperlinks, drawing an ever-more-intricate web between ideas and writings, but it is also a home for the thoughts of its author. It is akin to a physical journal intimately relayed across the vast Internet, a phenomenon that creates a personal space for the reader through the screen. By contrast, social media platforms prize connection, but often at the expense of individuality – there is less room for vulnerability, creativity, and introspection on social media than on a blog. A blog, then, maintains the individuality of a book, which is both written and read by individuals, while still permitting the ease of access available on social media, a balance that makes the experience enjoyable for both reader and author.

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  2. Nice points! The sustained, nuanced attention to an issue that you discuss is also true of podcasts, which has been a forum for poetry discussion of late. There does seem to be a value in connecting with one person(a)’s own embodied viewpoint over a series of posts or episodes.

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  3. I’ve never really been one to keep up with blogs of any kind, unless you count the shorter formats found in different social media platforms, but I do think the format is interesting! As a writer, I like that it’s a way to spill out your emotions onto a public platform, to share various ideas, memories, or events that take up space in your brain. The best part, at least to me, is that you can do all of that under a pseudonym, and it allows you to anonymously post what you wish without having your real name directly tied with it; the drawback, of course, is that it opens the door to a host of potential problems, like forgetting that there’s a human behind the work. Blogging also allows for comments or criticisms to be made about your work, which, if taken or done correctly, can be beneficial to the writer, perhaps to gain a new viewpoint on a topic or to simply improve their writing. In terms of anonymity, certain comments could be rather harsh or rude should the commentor not have a name tied to them, but their words must always be taken with a grain of salt regardless of what is shared.
    I think that blogging is actually pretty similar to certain social media platforms, especially those like Tumblr and Reddit. With those two specifically, they’re made to act similar to a blog with a more ‘social’ aspect, for lack of a better word; they’re made to get the writer, artist, etc. directly involved with their audience in a quick-fire manner. Twitter and Instagram work in the same way, but with fewer characters. Numerous individuals have created threads on Twitter which have similar ties to blogging, for they’re able to state their opinion on a certain topic or idea, or even share their own works, in short spurts of 150 characters or less. With the ability to post more than one picture in a single post, Instagrammers have followed a matching path to those on Twitter. Those on Instagram can share in up to ten pictures their writing or work, even including a caption that adds more to whatever they’ve shared. Although limited due to the formatting of the platform, Instagram and Twitter users have found ways to work around it, reshaping blogging to fit with their platform of choice. I don’t believe anything will ultimately beat the original style of blogging, but that doesn’t mean that the style hasn’t taken on new forms over time; rather than die out, it’s simply evolved to fit the time.

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    1. Your comment captures an interesting ambivalence about the role of the “self” in the blog. On one hand, there’s room for personal ‘spillage’ (emotions, ideas, etc.), and on the other hand, it can be anonymous (as you point out) and even pretty disconnected from those who comment (some of whom may be /likely are strangers). It’s an interesting feature of this medium–diary-like but at the same time anonymous/at a remove from the person.

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  4. Two comparisons come to mind when I think of the appeal of blogging: that between a blog and a conversation, and that between a blog and a journal. I think blogging is an appealing forum for discussion, especially about literary topics, because it allows time and space for an author to develop his ideas to his satisfaction before receiving feedback. Reactions to a certain post also have the opportunity to be equally developed. Through this give and take of elaborate thought, the blog functions like an ideal conversation, where the participants can exchange ideas about poetry and other literary topics, and so learn from each other. While the fullness of ideas is achievable through most written media, the blog might be unique because of its journal-like qualities. A blog consists of the author’s thoughts, and they need not be on a consistent subject or of a pre-specified category. Joshua Corey in “The Golden Age of Poetry Blogging” describes using his blog as a space for writing that doesn’t fit anywhere else [find quote]. The resulting miscellany of theories, critiques, and snippets of writing form a record of an author’s thoughts, much like a diary. I imagine, therefore, that blogging is as much a medium for an author’s self-reflection as it is a forum for readers’ and other authors’ dialogue, simultaneously personal and interactive, and that it is this duality that suits it to the purpose of discussing poetry and literature.

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  5. Blogging platforms continue to promote an innovative means of communication between publishers and readers-which ultimately contributes to a distinguished and unique understanding of a vast array of diverse topics. In addition, modern advancements in networking operations have allowed publishers to connect directly with their readers like never before.

    One of the most significant advancements to the blog format that I personally appreciate, both as a reader and a writer, is the ability to have access to a diverse response platform. I believe that having the opportunity to publish one’s work to a wide array of individuals is one of the most valuable writing tools a successful writer can utilize. The best pieces of literature have come to life through multiple revisions and productive feedback, including criticism.

    Many of the components that make up blogging compare with social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram in powerful ways. These famous social media platforms offer their viewers and participants the unique ability to connect with a multitude of different people and connect with people who share similar interests and viewpoints. Just as social media platforms stimulate engaging conversations and offer people a unique way to express themselves-so does blogging. Blogging continues to thrive and flourish as it has found its new medium on the internet.

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    1. It’s interesting that you mention “publishers” – I wonder if you’re referring to all bloggers (i.e., they publish their own blogs, so in a sense, they are the ‘publishers’ of their blogs) or to literary publishers/magazines specifically? It’s funny, because there ARE some blogs by literary entities–magazines (e.g., Spoon River Poetry Review), for example, and organizations (e.g., The Poetry Foundation), as well as small press book publishers (e.g., Action Books). Not just individual bloggers/poets-with-blogs, these entities use their blogs to gather the thinking of their contributors and readers on issues/questions of interest (usually, they gather posts by several invited “guest” bloggers). Lately, blogs like this have been really wonderful spaces for finding book reviews. Anyway, just some info to help solidify your terminology and locate you in the whole idea of a poetry blog. 🙂

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  6. Overall, most if not all social media as far as I am aware, seems to be able to be used at least somewhat similarly to blogs. But I believe it should also be noted the ways that some, such as Instagram and Twitter, have partially separated from the ideas of blogs too. For example, how Twitter gives you a certain number of characters per message, or how Instagram was originally mainly used as a place for photography and pictures with shorter captions. Blogs, on the other hand, have a strong focus on writing and text.

    This then means that a blog or social media site then really depends on what the user and creators want to see. People who want a longer and more detailed written description or story are much more likely to enjoy a blogging format.

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  7. What is most appealing about the blog is its resemblance to correspondence. Before the emergence of the internet, telephone, and other technologies, the only means of conversation was letter writing, something to be later known as “snail mail.” The nature of such means of communication meant that there was an economical incentive to write meaningfully and thoroughly. We can see this take place is letters between Rene Descartes and Princess Elizabeth, for example. The benefit of the blog is the instantaneous delivery. No more waiting weeks or moths to get a reply. Furthermore, the early blog maintained the same thoughtfulness of letter writing. As Joshua Corey points out, if someone wanted to respond to a post in the early days of blogging, they would have to privately email the author or create their own blog.

    As Corey reflects, however, the benefits of the blog were only temporary. With the rise of social media such as Facebook and Twitter, blog websites felt the need to compete as visitation shrank. This meant incorporating a comment section (just like the one I’m typing into now. Irony, anyone?) similar to that of social media websites. Facebook and Twitter encourage content that raises emotional responses or or exploit our evolutionary psychology which focuses on the short term benefits of our material reality rather than on the future. Its much easier to commit to opening twitter and reading at least one 250 word or less comment than to read a long form blog post. Additionally, the emotional responses rewarded in the social media likely created behavioral conditioning in users. Hence, creating “flame wars” became the best means of bloggers’ time. Nothing gets someone more attention than creating social tribes, and being the head of such tribes means lots of exposure. Furthermore, anonymity gives users a sense of invisibility. I chose to use my first name publicly, but I could have easily strung together some terms and numbers like “BlogCommenter7843” (or if I wanted to play the emotional game: “TikTokRulez_BksDroolz”). I have peers and staff who write on this blog as well so my “invisibility” is compromised, but, if that weren’t a factor, I could smear other commenters and blog authors without facing any real social repercussions. Emotionally charged, easy-to-read content will always garner more attention than thoughtful and thorough writing.

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  8. In a way, I think blogging has always existed, even before the Internet did. It just didn’t necessarily go by that name. I refer back to writers like Arthur Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens, both of whom had short stories or sections of stories published in newspapers rather than immediately using a book format. One may even try to argue that editorial columns would be like a blog in that others want to share their ideas, and some were able to do that on a regular basis. Obviously, time has switched us to electronic platforms, even ones where individuals are able to essentially be their own publishers.

    On that note, while I’m not exactly one for blogging, I appreciate the fact a blog gives me the opportunity to do things on my timing. The publishing process can be long and hard to dictate at times; editors not understanding the format or “fixing” something you did with intent, waiting months on actually seeing your work on a platform, or even being disappointed in the appearance of whatever was published. Then comes the legal side of publication and the idea of copyright law. While the latter is still in effect for blogging, it’s much less hassle to go through. But there’s still some downsides to blogging: missed typos, lack of other’s professional opinion, and the fact there’s a stigma around self-publishing formats.

    All of those points — good and bad — apply to social media. There’s also the fact that whatever you post must be quick and eye-catching. A countless amount of posts and accounts on social media are passed over because they lack those things. It’s also important to build an audience by inviting others to interact with you, whether it be though sharing the opposite opinion or inviting criticism or compliment or maybe even asking a simple question to start a conversation.

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  9. While blogging and social media do share an abundance of similarities, I feel that the blog format allows more freedom than other social media platforms. Sites such as Instagram and Twitter are spaces where people can share images and ideas, however, I feel that the blog is a safer space than these platforms since the blog is meant to be a place focused on an author’s thoughts and ideas. A few months ago I created my own blog as a way to make my writing feel more exposed and purposeful, and I’ve found that it almost acts as a published journal in a way that social media cannot. Social media is more focused on utilizing captions and brief character counts to capture the attention of users, whereas blogging is limited only to what the author can think of. In this way, the blog becomes a safe space for stories, poetry, as well as various other ideas to flourish.

    As a reader, I appreciate that the blog format feels like a conversation. One could say that it’s like a network of readers interacting with each other in response to a topic they all care about to some degree. In that way, I think that blogging conversation promotes a sense of community- even between people who have never met each other. There are some very interesting blogs out there, enabling readers to experience posts that would otherwise go unpublished. The immediate access to posts along with the community of readers that blogging creates makes it a format that I find very valuable and worthwhile.

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  10. As a reader, I have always thought of the blog format as more formal than posts on social media, but less formal than a published manuscript. The post format of the blog allows for longer and more creative conversations than the limited posts of social media, but that also puts more pressure on the blogger for quality control. On the other hand, the personal blog post also does not have to be approved by anyone other than the writer himself, making clear that the responsibility of any mistakes or omissions lies on the writer alone. I admit that the idea of autonomy in both writing and presenting my work to a wider audience than I could reach physically, yet also being able to expect a small piece of professionalism, is the most attractive feature of the blog format to me as a writer as well.

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  11. I’ve never truly understood blogs…are they a book? Are they social media? They’ve always seemed very artsy and poetic and something well above my understanding. I’m not exactly “one with the technology”, even though I grew up in the 21st century technology is not something I’ve been very interested in, and therefore by association, neither have blogs. Blogs really just seemed very 90’s or very hipster, not something I would ever imagine to be used in this semi-professional manner we’ll be using it in, and that is already something I’ve learned from this class. Things aren’t always what they seem to be. I’ve had to do an immense amount of art critiques and peer reviews for my major(s), but strangely enough, none of them have ever taken on the form of ‘blog’.

    Not only does the blog format present us with the opportunity to have conversations and discuss scholarly topics, but the format does so in a not so scholarly way. I find this format of blog very similar to that of books, we don’t know who is going to engage it because once we write it, it’s out there, it’s in the public domain, and it’s for the world to decide what to do with it. While blogs are still similar to that of self publishing and therefore may not be taken *as* seriously as other forms of publishing, they are an easy way for us to get used to the idea of publishing without getting too intimidated.

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  12. I personally have never been sucked into the deep internet that is blogs. They seem to always be connected to the author or emotion as many novels do but because they are usually published at an “awkward” length of text, it seems that there is not much deepness to the writing. I usually appreciate the length of a book because of how much you can be invested in the story and delve into a completely different world. It seems to me that it is much harder to do that with a blog. On the contrary, with social media, the goal is completely opposite of that of a book: to convey a thought with a short caption or sentence. On Instagram, that short context involves a visual aid as to publish a thought. I love the additional support of an image because of how it allows there to be more explicit and visual contact to the context. I think it will be tricky to find a balance between the two to write blogs during the semester, but I am really looking forward to this new experience.

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  13. There have been numerous times in my life that I’ve attempted to start journaling; I tried several times to start a diary as a child, I’ve tried to maintain a bullet journal for the sake of staying organized, and I’ve tried to use a journal as a means for writing down and documenting some of my creative writing ideas. However, no matter how many times I’ve tried, journaling has never really stuck with me, and I think the format of blogging might be the solution: to me, a blog feels akin to a personal journal, but with the added benefit of promoting discussion and feedback, something I particularly enjoy as a means of motivation to continue improving my writing. While I’ve never had the courage to properly take up blogging – publishing my works for anyone to see is a daunting prospect – I am interested to see how the process of blogging, of using this particular public format, will help me to overcome anxieties about publishing my work, a factor that will undoubtedly be of great benefit to me as I gradually move into the professional sphere.

    When it comes to other forms of social media, blogging seems more professional, less caustic. Twitter in particular is where joy and creativity go to die, with character limits and the constant anger that seems to permeate the platform. While social media has certainly made more diluted forms of blogging available to a wider public, as tweeting, commenting, and Facebook-posting all share the qualities of blogging that promote personal expression and discussion, social media platforms have also taken clear strides that separate them from the traditional blog. And, quite frankly, most social media sites are not enjoyable to use.

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