Monday, October 27, 2008

Back to the Blog

It's been 3.5 months since my last blog entry, over 100 days. I took a break because I was busy reading other blogs, because other projects intervened, and because of blogger's angst: not so much the lack of anything to write as an excess, the need to be selective--that and the sense that no one looks at this compendium of miscellany anyway. Not that I'm addressing an audience here. Some blogs seem calculated to start or perpetuate a conversation, but I've never quite seen this one in this way, though I welcome the few readers I have.
I've been pondering the value of a blog, in the same way that for years of on-and-off journal keeping I've weighed the worth of notebooks, diaries, commonplace books, daybooks, whatever you call them. Do they energize the writer, furnish a stockpile of ideas, consitute a valuable record, provide a low-risk blank canvas to fill? Or do they sap the writer's energies, draw away from other more worthwhile projects, become self-indulgent?
Poet Marvin Bell writes, "Why a journal? Well, I like writing that spills over. I want to live as much as possible at the ends of my fingertips rather than, say, in the capillaries of the brain. I like it when the soup simmers, the kettle hisses. I want it, I require it, I trust it." Yusef Komunyakaa says, "For me, there has to be an absolute flexibility in maintaining a notebook. My notebooks are really scrapbooks--pieced together with fragments, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, long and short passages, magazine and newspaper clippings, postcards, etc. Thus, I attempt to avoid any kind of rote structure." And, according to Heather McHugh (also a poet), "The notebook is a site of insecurable premises: it's where a writer can turn and return to the unprefixed. The notes entered in a writer's notebook--unlike headnotes and footnotes--are not appendage; they depend from no foregone body of work." Writers give multiple reasons for keeping track of words and ideas in notebooks, and those reasons no doubt change from page to page.
But blogs are different. The are composed by computer, so the format gives them a facade of polish and formality, even if the writing is rough and tumble. There's the pretense of a public audience, which notebooks or journals don't have. Blogs allow more readily for smoothly interfaced visuals, esp. photos. And there's the public permanence of blogs. They're out there in the blogosphere until the writer eliminates them. They're both more permanent and more evanescent/more compact than bulky written notebooks or journals. They don't take up much space and memory, but they can expand to great dimensions.

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