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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Why Blog My Poetry?

My blog on MySpace had had 30957 views last time I looked. Those people have given me ‘kudos’ for my writing only 1386 times, and I have received only 2130 comments. Some have been from the same people returning over and over again. Even so, I think that’s a lot more people than would find and like my poetry in any in-print Australian literary magazine.

My MySpace blog includes prose and has been going for four years. On Blogger I have three blogs just for poetry: a haiku page, a page of ‘verse portraits’ and a page for poetry in general. The haiku page was started in January 2007 and has received 736 visitors. The verse portraits began in June 2008 and have had 752 visitors. I started The Passionate Crone, where I post all my other poetry, in May 2006 and it has had 6973 visitors to date (already 30 this month, so far). Again, some are the same people returning many times; some visitors don’t stay to read for very long; and many more visit than actually comment.

These figures are ridiculously small compared to the traffic some other kinds of blogs have, with thousands of hits a day. For poetry, however, it’s a high readership, and it comes from all over the world. I have readers in India, Africa, Argentina, China (to name just a few) and all over Europe, as well as thick concentrations in Australia, New Zealand, all the north American countries, and Britain. This exceeds my wildest pre-internet dreams.

But is it only that I can’t get published in reputable journals? Admittedly I don’t try very often, but when I do, I don’t have any trouble being accepted. (I do, however, prefer online journal publication too, these days.) In previous decades I was widely published in prestigious places; also the people who now comment favourably on my work include poets whose own work I love and admire. Yes, every poetaster can now get a blog and a host of enthusiastic readers to go with it; lovers of real poetry can still discriminate.

There are blogging poets with readerships and reputations far higher than mine. Some of them publish mostly in blogs nowadays; others use their blogs as adjuncts to their print publications. Some of us put our first drafts on our blogs and submit our revised work for publication in journals. Some go straight from blogs to chapbooks, and it seems that enough of their blog readers want to have the work in book form to make that worthwhile.

Somewhere in the mix is performance, for decades a good way of getting your work known and building up a following. It still is, and often the two things go together. Many of the blogging poets I know are also performers. I seldom do that any more, though I was a high-profile performer in the past. I moved to a small town where poetry performances are a few hours’ drive away in various directions. Although from time to time people have tried to get things going locally, so far they haven’t lasted. And I’m older now, and don’t much like driving for hours through the night for any reason. I rely more and more on the blogs.

However, you can surely do both, and submit to journals and publish books as well, and they will all enhance each other. Even I still do a little bit of performing, submit to journals occasionally, and am gradually creating some chapbooks. Blogging doesn’t have to be a substitute for other kinds of exposure, but along with performance it has become one of the first and easiest places to get your work ‘out there’.

It’s good from a reader’s point of view, too. I love being able to read the latest pieces by my favourite poets with just a couple of clicks.

7 comments:

  1. it's great Rosemary. THanks.
    John Tiong Chunghoo

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  2. Thank you both, glad you liked it. :)

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  3. As you know, I took my poetry blog down recently and (as you also know!) I've not been very good at getting round other people's blogs (poetry or otherwise) lately. But this is mostly a time issue; I think the internet is a great medium for poetry and without it, there'd be a lot less poetry about. The only way in which I've ever found it to be a problem is when I've tried to send poems to print magazines and they've turned out not to accept material that's been posted online.

    Great post!

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  4. And as you know, I was sad when you took down your poetry blog; I enjoyed reading it. Indeed time is an issue — so many good poets, so little time to keep up with them all. But I prefer an over-abundance of riches to a paucity. In the days when print magazines were the way to keep up with what was being written and published, it was money which got in the way. They usually weren't that expensive, but there were a lot of them!

    Some editors do accept blogged work I suppose the only answer for the others is to keep your best work for submissions. As I say, I don't bother any more. But I have a poetic career behind me, such as it is. (Depending whom you ask, I'm 'established', past it, or unknown! But the blogosphere loves me, and knows I'm alive and well.) For poets trying to make a name for themselves, I expect print publication is still worth pursuing too.

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  5. yes, like this.

    blogging does get more eyeballs but because it is self-published, there's the sense that it is less "professional" not having gone thru third party hoops. I don't buy that personally.

    because people who buy journals doesn't have a high overlap with those who read blogs, by using the two as cooperative spreading of good words, you get more readership.

    I tend to blog poems I don't consider publishable in print and hold back others for print, or blog early drafts because people are persnickety about "published". If I blog it, it is considered public therefore not admissible to be published in print. but if I blog it I can't use it on a CV because it is not published by someone else. silly.

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  6. Yes, it's a cleft stick, isn't it?

    In Australia, our population is relatively small even compared with Canada; miniscule compared with USA or UK. So print journals don't really net a big radership. However it is of course considered a far more prestigious form of publication.

    I don't list every journal on my CV any more; I just say 'widely published in literary journals and newspapers' and list my books. The relevant journals are cited in the books; it'll have to do.

    But I am not saying mine is the way to go; I'm being self-indulgent in my old age.

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