Tuesday, June 21, 2005

grass more

I've been tuning and adding to the previous post for several days, working on it just the way that I'd work on an essay or poem or story, until I realized that unlike all those forms that I'm familiar with, this is not how you do it with a Blog. Though I've kept republishing the entry, re-visitors waiting excitedly for the latest stuff from me will just take one glance and see that the title of the top entry hasn't changed, and then go away thinking disappointedly "oh, there's nothing new then." As a blogger I need to de-fictionalize my own time-sequence and signal to you quite clearly: Here I am. Sitting up here on my bone-heap. This is today.

The literary implications of blogging are seismic. Immediately the lecture-room, the novel and the book of lovingly crafted poems are all seen to be forward-pointing, teleological, goal-directed literary forms with a stringent requirement for study, commitment and supposedly a pay-off when you get to the last page. Perhaps an epiphany. And all the supposition that lies behind these forms is suddenly seen to be - unjudgmentally - Archaic.

The disjunction of the Archaic temporal sequence in a Blog requires re-training (for the writer) all down the line. As readers, it probably further undermines our already modest ability to attend to sequential argument. But as readers, not as writers, we have cast our vote. Blogs are what we want. A Blog with its insistence on privileging immediacy opens new possibilities so far as the relationship between writer and reader is concerned - it is participatory and a conversation, more like break-time and less like the classroom. Haven't all of us felt a certain sinking at the thought that it isn't worth us reading page 578 of some huge and reputedly glorious great novel until we've found time to plough through the previous 577 pages? It really was becoming essential to free ourselves from the overwhelming burden of long, difficult, rewarding writing. On the other hand, by further demoting the archaic forms we cast adrift many lovely things, almost everything good that's ever been written.

Stuff it.

Now we've got the blog, and it's becoming rapidly clear that though the "poet" appears to write the blog about poetry, what's really a truer description is that the new blogger writes the blog and part of the blog-theme is to celebrate its own effortless consciousness of its own power, by composing a majestic elegy on the archaic forms that it is literally displacing (every time the "poet" steps on to the blogspot the trickle of poetry breaks up, stagnates, evaporates...) . For example, we rush to read the Silliman family Blogs (don't miss out on Dan's), but will the poem Ron Silliman's working on ("Universe") ever see the light? - the answer's effectively No, even if he does write it. An archaic form is still something to read and write and enjoy, but the whole meaning of "archaic" is that it's evening, the light of our attention is draining away. It's all focussed on blogs instead.

[What I wanted to say followed straight on from the "apple silver" of yesterday's meditation. Driving the same stretch of road in the evening I noticed that the same verge was now a pale bronze and what's more, you could no longer see the meadow-grasses; everywhere was false oat-grass. I thought that was a striking illustration of how times of day affect the filter that we optimistically call "perception" - my mood changes, the grass changes, the light changes... Also I want to say that (though this is not very conducive to road-safety) you ought to keep looking at roadside grasses as you speed past, keep trying to observe and training your eye to recognize them and name them, just as you automatically name moon daisies or an elder-bush.]

4 Comments:

At 8:26 am, Anonymous Knut said...

I preferred what you had originally wanted to say. Is all the rest tongue-in-cheek, Michael, or are you serious about the blogs? Silliman's excellent but I'd trade it for "Universe" any day.

 
At 5:44 pm, Blogger Michael Peverett said...

Hej Knut! I'll write to you. No I was not tongue in cheek but I was experimentally building an argument that I both do and do not find personally distressing. Various counter-arguments suggest themselves, naturally. It is not exactly a new phenomenon that chatty articles about art (e.g. in week-end papers) are much more widely consumed than the art itself. My argument proposes that Blogs are something importantly new, different in significant ways from the familiar froth of the chattering classes (e.g. TV debates, the Sunday papers), but perhaps it's not so - what do you think? I would like to think I'd make the same trade as you, give up the ephemeral for the monumental. Does the evidence of my own life support this belief, though? - I feel uneasy when I consider how little my life is suited to giving great art the time and effort it mostly demands; how much better flitting around the Internet really suits my lifestyle... Is it time to question the way we privilege deep-sunk fortifications over the children's tree-houses - perhaps a more modest and ecological view of our place in the world would celebrate the ephemeral, the quotidian, the practical instantiation of our values, not the elaborated hymns of praise to values we only think we hold. - I don't know, I am by nature pre-disposed towards total reverence for poems and other high art (I absolutely do Not mean "reverence" in a tongue-in-cheek way)... I guess that's why I feel honour-bound to experiment with how things would look if I felt differently.

 
At 9:02 am, Anonymous knut said...

I guess I've just been around the internet too long (if that's possible, given its miniscule lifespan). Before blogs it was virtual real-time communities (MUSHes, MOOs, you name it). Before them it was hypertext. These were all something "importantly new, different in significant ways from the familiar froth." Which was in itself true enough, they _are_ different in significant ways, but that doesn't mean they're any more useful or destined for any kind of established place. And we need some established places to have common ground for our communications.

Something is clearly happening but I think we have a long way to go ("a long canvas to bleach" as the Norwegians say) before we can say what this "something" is, or was. Blogs strike me as another step on the stone path leading into the next part of the garden.

As to fortifications vs. tree-houses, I like your ecological argument. I've thought much aout arts, and much about ecology, but never the two together. Making room for the ephemeral is clearly something we're going to have to do. But still, the tree-house depends on a trunk, and roots, and a plot of earth that doesn't move.

I'm going off on vacation on Friday with three books:

- The American Woodland Garden, integrating the natural aesthetic of eastern American forests into domesticated plots

- John A. Williams' Appalachia: A History

- and Charles Wright's Appalachia, a book of poems

They sound somehow related to the discussion at hand!

 
At 9:00 am, Blogger Michael Peverett said...

Do I guess you're going to Appalachia? (About two days later I too am off, to Jämtland).

Ett fruset skidspår som svinner
i skogarnas ensamhet

Hopefully we'll both leave more summery (if no less ephemeral) tracks in the woods.

 

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