Recurring Poetry, Recursive Readings

There is an interesting mini-debate on the Openned website, sprouting from one of its blog posts via that posts comments. The original post makes reference to 3 examples of poets currently self-publishing longer works serially on their blogs. Though surely many more examples exist of such instalment writing, there are not likely many examples as good as the ones cited here.

Of particular interest in the subsequent discussions (which are here), the comment that blog posts outside of the ‘poems proper’ actually form part of the wider reading of these poems — something which will surely be lost when finally published in its own context in a bound book. For sure, in the blog context, the composite texts arrive in a chronology which invites digressions, interruptions, as part of an ongoing reading process.

But this also hits on something of arguable importance — that the blog format itself is a medium which ought not to be ignored, and which carries with it unique elements stemming from a dynamic organisational structure which can be quite interesting for a reader.

To offer a simple example (and Sean Bonney’s The Commons will be the text to which I’ll refer), the present-to-past chronology of blog archives is designed in direct relation to the navigational strategies and ‘use values’ of blogging as system. I.e. the assumption is that the most recent post is the content demanded by the user, and therefore should be towards the top of the page for convenience. This is the opposite order to a regular journal, or a manuscript which a poet might write. All this is very obvious and needn’t be dwelled upon in great detail, but the point here is that one person following The Commons from the very first post right through to now will have a vastly different reading experience to someone encountering Sean’s blog for the very first time and browsing through reverse-chronologically. Pointedly, for a work which seems to thrive in its relation to the ‘outside’, being in a (to me) dynamic with a social political context, there is an important difference too between reading a work and being fed a work, across time, in separate chunks which leave one’s experiences between them as composite influences on subsequent instalments. But this is not so media-specific.

Publishing dates, feasibly removed from the actual date of writing, form another archival grouping. Again, a month’s worth of The Commons presents a new form of holistic reading.

Perhaps a more intriguing example is if one uses the search function to filter content based on certain vocabulary. If, for example, I type the word “voice” into Sean’s blog, I get several phases of The Commons containing that word, followed by Notes on Baudelaire. All extracts are joined together by an arbitrary string, but this facility alone in this medium makes viable — to my mind — such arbitrary systems as valid reading practices. And perhaps it’s not as arbitrary as it might at first seem; I chose “voice” because it seemed, to me, to be one of the pertinent pieces of vocabulary which seem to thread through the work. Trying the word “small” I get some sections of The Commons, again some Notes on Baudelaire, and a selection of tunes. Using such vocabulary as a reading catalyst offers a kind of vocal-thematic structure, which, whether intended or not, binds fragments both inside and outside of the work.

Intention is quite another thing, of course, and it’s quite possible that none of these poets Steve mentions are concerned with the above. Blogs are, too, simply a way of archiving the progression of a piece of work, or simply housing it. That said, I personally find it vital to consider how the structural and dynamic aspects of such archival system do and should inform and transform readings.

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