Saturday, June 23, 2007

Progress Notes

I have a few lines down for a new poem, but before doing much more, I must clear some work space. There are books and papers and journals piled everywhere on my desk--actually a door-blank set atop two metal filing cabinets--and my available work area has shrunk to the width of my computer screen.

I am not sure why cleaning up my studio is a good prompt to resume writing. It may be that I simply prefer writing to cleaning and after a bit of straightening, begin writing again to rescue myself. It may also be that moving books around and looking at notes and failed drafts gets me sorting, thinking, coming up with ideas for new work.

Anyway, that is how I am spending Saturday afternoon.

Several weeks ago, I said that I was going to concetrate on writing and try to avoid getting into arguments. I still am, but must say that I am tired of the number of literary and cultural critics who have leveled recent attacks against the web (and blogging in particular), claiming that bloggers are "amateurs" who will never replace serious criticism. A great deal of this commentary--and frustration--seems misdirected. It is hardly the blogosphere's fault that major newspapers and other other traditional media outlets have "dumbed down" or eliminated their coverage of fiction, poetry and art and that the "serious" critics are finding themselves out of work. The shrinking coverage of literature and art reflects decisions made in corporate boardrooms and editorial offices, not on the computer screens of America's poets and artists. How editors and publishers expect to sustain a market by making their product less appealing to an intelligent audience baffles me.

And, perhaps because of this void, there is a great deal of serious, lively and informed criticism now available on the web, particularly literary criticism. Websites like Bookslut, Maud Newton, and Edward Byrne's "One Poet's Notes" are performing a valuable function--and they are often doing so amid deafening silence from traditional media outlets.

To claim otherwise is to be willfully ignorant.

I don't consider the small part of the blogosphere I wander through to be "amateur" in any sense. The people I link to are serious, professional writers, many of whom have (or are building) distinguished publishing histories and academic resumes. Because they are working writers, their blogs are not always concerned with literary criticism, but by and large, their reading lists are eclectic and interesting, their discussions are intelligent, and the work they choose to publish (on the web and in literary journals) is accomplished.


Blogger Talia said...

Yes. The internet and the blog have done much to give a voice to all as the printing press did in its day. The same can be said for all aspects of the media--political especially.

4:43 PM  
Blogger Andrew Shields said...

We are not amateurs. Thanks, Greg, for putting it in such a straightforward way.

I was at a workshop, ten years or so ago, with Ellen Hinsey, and when I started to say something, she asked me to wait, because, as she put it, "you are a professinal." An important moment for me, long before I published any books of translations or my own stuff.

6:46 PM  
Blogger Leslie said...

Hear hear!!!

And happy writing day!

7:26 PM  
Blogger jenni said...

I think some people are still very intimidated by the possibility of the internet. But I've read great essays on blogs, Lyle Daggett's blog has some wonderful posts on poetry -- many of the poets I had never read but had to look up more work or even buy a book after the essay. I can't say that about many of the essays I've read in Poetry Magazine. Most of them just make me realize how trifling and snooty critics can be.

9:39 PM  
Blogger Edward Byrne said...


Thanks for the kind comments about "One Poet's Notes." I also appreciate the good company. By the way, your book cover looks terrific!

8:15 PM  

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