01 September 2010

Always late to the party

That’s me, late to the party. Very late, as in: I have a hard time squeezing through the door for all of the people rushing out. I don’t know if they’re going home or to some awesome after-party that I don’t know about. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, because I’ll only end up late to whatever comes next, so I’ll just sit here and hope there’s still someone hanging around.

Part of the reason I’m so late to this particular party is my suspicion of the whole thing. By which I mean poetry blogs in general, though it’s not necessarily the poetry part I’m suspicious of. No matter how over-the-top dramatic—or how obliviously self-important, or how minutely contentious—these online discussions of poetry and the writing life have become over the past few years, I’ve been following along, reading and thinking. No, what’s bothered me is a good deal more simple: the word itself is just awful. Blog. It’s bad enough for a writer to use blog as a noun for the format, the venue, the thing itself. But when poets—writers capable of doing simply beautiful things with syllables and sentences—begin to describe themselves as bloggers or lament with no sense of shame or irony that they haven’t blogged in a while? Well, that was almost enough to keep me away forever. Of course, I’ve also stayed away because of a deeply felt fear of being uninvited or unwelcome or whatever.

That worry is not gone, of course, but I’ve been reading and writing all summer, trying to find my poems a place in the world, trying to figure out what exactly my place might be in a larger community of poets and writers. With the summer winding down and another academic year about to begin, I decided to crash this party and see what happens. In any case, I’m here and hoping not to be standing in the corner of an empty room talking to myself for too long.

I’ve stolen my title from this well-known passage from Paul Celan: "A poem, as a manifestation of language and thus essentially dialogue, can be a message in a bottle, sent out in the—not always greatly hopeful—belief that somewhere and sometime it could wash up on land, on heartland perhaps. Poems in this sense too are underway: they are making toward something."

I don’t know if this space is heartland or not, and I sure can’t promise to contribute much to any larger conversations. I don’t really plan to argue about schools and movements or MFA rankings or paying for electronic submissions or which famous-poets are overrated. Instead, what I see myself doing here: writing about poems and poets and literature in general. Posting the occasional draft. Writing about music and television and sports. Writing about being a father and a teacher. Spreading the word about books and journals and poems I like (including, sometimes, my own). Beyond that, I don’t really know where this space is heading or what it’s making toward.

Music at the moment: The Avett Brothers, Four Thieves Gone 

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