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.