I have a friend who’s been published everywhere. A few times over, in fact. He’s won awards. Published two or three books of poetry. But he’s got something against blogging and it’s an issue we argue about. I suppose he sees it as irredeemably trivial and as superficial as Facebook. I concede that it can be. No doubt there’s a great deal of mediocre writing in the blogosphere. Then again, most of the writing on the shelves of a bookstore are worse than mediocre. And the point I try to make is that there’s the possibility of screen brilliance. That in fact, I’ve seen it. That I’ve been moved and inspired by writing I’ve found on the blogs of Australian writers.
A medium will always offer a set of potentials. A stage poet has physical presence to embody a poem. There’s the literal voice of the poet defining the voice of the poem, when on the page the same poem can speak in different voices, and reveal nuances of tone and suggestion even the author wasn’t aware of. On the stage a poet brings a personality and presents himself as the author. What they’re wearing on a given day is going to have an effect on what we hear, no matter how superficial that is. It’s hard to enjoy the poem if we don’t like its author. That goes the other way as well. A poet can dress fashionably and present herself with demure calculation and we applaud because we’re taken in by that pantomime.
The page gives us poetry stripped back to its bones, but then clothes it in the prestige of the literary magazine or anthology it comes presented in, and there are the voices of every other writer in the journal, before and after a particular issue, forming a literary pageant for this one poem we’re reading. There’s the validation of print and editorial sanction for a piece of writing, but it’s still one person’s opinion.
A blog is unmediated by that kind of decision making. It is not filtered through the learned and over-read decisions of an empowered literary figure bestowing upon the work an aura of authority. Yet the actual ‘authority’ of work put out by a writer themselves is more sincere and real. The author reaches out and offers up her work to the reader wholesale. The blogger might have written it the night before and it can still bare the traces of the raw work of creation, or it may have been polished to pristine brilliance. If you’re interested in writing, both are fascinating. Both can be inspiring. The immediacy of good blogging, transmitted daily, reaches us still buzzing with those inspired moments of conception.
What’s immediately clear is that the Internet breaks down the power structures that surround news and the dissemination of information. It defies the authority of the literary Intelligencia and the channels of nepotism. It opens a new intimacy with the authors themselves as they move through their daily world. It flows along in time and can come with images and musings about family, weather, books and movies that have inspired, etc. It continues to evolve.
When the novel began to develop, (not so long ago actually) the French gave it that name, because it was a novelty. Theatre and poetry had more claim to serious contemplation than the romances and dramas of those early potboilers. Authors like Charles Dickens and Jane Austen weren’t just great novel writers. They were campaigners, out to prove that the novel could have profound importance and have psychological perception, embody the sublime and reveal the depths of pathos. They were intent on giving it range and lasting value. The writers of novels now take on that legacy as though they invented it for themselves.
Film was a new medium only two or three generations ago and developed a whole system of grammar and narrative that has shaped and changed how we look at everything. Television has done similar things to attention span and rapid focus. The internet is the latest medium to offer us ways of looking at ourselves and blogging has arisen from it to define culture and give that technology a voice. It is still the novel thing. It has yet to create its grammar or define its narrative techniques. But we’re all watching it unfold now.
–> A final note: Recently Karen Andrews had the idea of putting together the best of Australian blog writing in a project that was announced here on the Overland blog a few months ago. It’s called Miscellaneous Voices #1, Australian Blog Writing. There’s a chance that an anthology like this might open the eyes of those that still dismiss everything on blogs as superficial and trivial. I’m delighted to be a part of it myself, and I’m even happier that I’ll be sharing those pages with good blogging friends like Maxine Clarke and Mark William Jackson.