Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Retro-Bloggers Manifesto

When it comes to technology and media, some people are Early Adopters. We're not. And it's not just that we're cheap. We genuinely never think anything's going to last. Then it does -- just long enough so that when the lights come back on we're the only boys with their underwear down. We're Late Resuscitators. And since we can't help it, we try to make a virtue of it. It's like with vinyl records. Now, we're not saying that blogs are the vinyl records of the Internet, but... They quite demonstrably are, so we don't have to say it. Compared to their successor forms, they contain more sensory information per unit of whatever and they have a richer, more emotive sound. In fact, the instant we felt ourselves becoming nostalgic for blogs (We were watching our Twitter feeds swiftly dither by and we thought, "This is the Brownian Motion of culture, this is entropy itself, and we love it, it's freeing the tyrannized peoples of countries we don't have to live in, except that's since we're Twittering too it's probably about to die out completely, except in Yemen") we decided to write one. The formatting and the other tricky stuff that used to cost $5,000 is easy now.  Like most things that no one wants to do anymore because they overdid them and ruined them, it's so easy, in fact, that it practically runs up and does itself for one, then flatters one and adores one and even offers to pay one a little bit for letting it do it. So, there's that. Also, have you read a magazine lately? We love the Kardashians (they're so old Hollywood!), but most of the articles are shorter than this post and they're all about diving watches. Yes, there is The New Yorker. Of course. And the Atlantic Monthly. And also McSweeney's and its sister publication and Tin House and Open City and the Virginia Quarterly and so on. (Or did that close?) And Vanity Fair! We really don't know about Harper's, though. Those depressing art photographs of massive chemical spills at dawn as seen either from space or from the implied perspective of one of their aboriginal victim's ghosts that the editors always run above the stories are not only pretentious in a way you don't see a lot in New York-based smart publications anymore, they truly do depress us after a while. They make us feel nihilistic, not engaged. Or weirdly angry. And so does the sad-ironic Harper's Index, which is basically a masochistic thrill for thoughtful medium-high-income liberals at this point,  and so do the exquisitely-counterpointed-so-as-to make-you-smirk-suicidally-at-the-moronic-folly-of-it-all-but-then-you-read-something-great-and-moving-and-hate-yourself-for-smirking Harper's Forum pieces. What is the editorial goal of Harper's? Honestly. To publish often-superb writing in such a way that no matter what the individual pieces are about the reader will always go away thinking:  "I should never under any circumstances reproduce and next year at this time I should probably go to an assisted-suicide legal-marijuana state and, while dressed in clothing of the other gender, die?"

We would prefer not to. We would prefer to do this.  Since nothing pays anymore anyway, why not?

And why should you possibly mind?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Sorry, trouble posting comment.

    I started blogging about a year ago, and it seemed like blogging had jumped the shark even then. I didn't think I'd enjoy it much, but the reality is, I do. I've seen a couple places recently that blogging has peaked, and I suppose that means we're all supposed to stop doing it, which is why I love that you're just getting started. One does get tired of people willingly, almost gleefully, moving on to the next thing.

  3. I posted this on FB, but why not here too?

    "I like this guy. I liked him before he was cool. My "like" turned to worshipful appreciation when he wrote about the pitiable, back-scratching state of book reviewing in this country. I, too, am Retro. So are most poets. Some of us are so retro that we count our syllables and stresses on our fingers. I suspect Mr. Kirn would like that himself. And I don't mean FB "like." I mean L-I-K-E. But do I really have to click on the ads?"

  4. You had me at "... Early Adopters. We're not." And so I will add this blog to my bookmarks and will dutifully, happily, expectantly visit each day to cheer on your Internet atavism.

  5. There *is* something discouraging about the physical object of a Harper's magazine, as it lies there at the bottom of the mail pile all month, with one of its white, unopened corners peeking out in mute reproach.

  6. I started a blog called "I Hate Blogs" but couldn't even find my self motivated to post on that really.

    Frankly, I'm glad to see you on Blogspot Walter. It's like having a picnic with someone you admire in a big backyard that's not choked by cookie-directed advertising down one side (ala Facebook) or limited to a handful of characters (ala Twitter).

    Keep it simple, and it's the words that will matter most. (the pic of your girlfriend doesn't *cough* hurt either *coughcough*)

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  8. censored? deleted? say it aint so? very uncivil of ya, mate?

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  12. Dear Dan (and Walter),

    Dan, your use of the word "civil" here--I am from the South, and thus I immediately attach it to "rights"--is most appropriate in more ways than you can possibly have guessed. You will not believe what has happened NOW, and I need the help of anyone and everyone who who will help disseminate the following story.

    I have been publicly disgraced by BOOKPAGE, the venue cited above, by Lynn Green, my editor there, and by Michael Zibart, the owner. From all accounts, and I have heard them over the space of a quarter-century, Michael is a very difficult man with whom to get along, and I do not blame Lynn--who has been described to me as "stupid," but how stupid she was I had no idea--for whatever tactics of appeasement she must use to keep her job.

    But, to use a quote you should find, but may well not, in the first paragraph of the print edition already available around the country, "the time has come to call a halt."

    In the first paragraph of the print edition, I am cited as spelling Billie Holiday’s name in one more usually associated with “the Kid.” At the end of a paragraph about Robert Pinsky's SELECTED POEMS, I had a line of paltry praise for Herbert Leibowitz's SOMETHING URGENT TO SAY TO YOU.

    Trying very hard to impress upon everyone at "Beep," as a former employee used to call the wretched place, that Leibowitz’s long-awaited biography of William Carlos Williams would doubtless sweep every major award for literary biography in this country and possibly abroad next year, I sent an e-mail asking that some lines from Williams--those utterly true and utterly famed from "Of Asphodel, That Greeny Flower" as well as those from which Leibowitz takes his title--replace the introduction in the online edition of the print version.

    I asked that two more things be added: Afaa Michael Weaver's "What Elizabeth Bishop Could Not Know" to the section about Bishop, wherein the Billie Blooper appears--my editor did not even apologize! she simply said there was nothing she could do!--saying that Varella might well agree with Mr. Weaver. I also asked that she print the link at which BLUEPRINTS: BRINGING POEMS INTO COMMUNITIES can be downloaded for free at either the Poetry Foundation or the University of Utah Press, once again emphasizing that this is likely to prove a major document for our times.

    I was informed on Friday that we were at an impasse about an online special feature called "The New Black." Suffice it to say that the feature was cancelled because I was unwilling to do as my editor asked: cut the piece down to four or five writers and sacrifice the rest. Those who were less known. Those who did not publish with the same megacorporations that subsidize BOOKPAGE itself. For my impulse is to be American, to be inclusive, NOT to sacrifice poets who have not yet attained a certain level of "name recognition" on behalf of those who have. The issue is money. The issue is race. BOOKPAGE never wanted to run this piece because my editor and its owner do not believe that A-A's read or buy books.

  13. It's not as though I didn't have regrets and reservations about the piece from the start. Lynn and I agreed that there wasn't sufficient quotation. But the entire point of "The New Black" was that the sheer number of books published, awards and distinctions conferred, etc., upon African-American writers in the calendar years of 2010 indicates that we are in the midst of a great third flowering of A-A poetry.

    (I have called "blog," "blurb," "crotch," "fungus" and "mudkill" the five ugliest words in the language; Douglas Brinkley says the last sounds as though it comes out of a snuff film, and it does, and I also think he would agree that few of us remember the term or to what it referred. Nor do I like the term "black," for Obama is as much Irish as he is African, and I used to screech at Larry King when he would use it.)


    I am a very private person. I have taken on a task of literary journalism that has exploded beyond all previous expectation, but as I say in an essay that began in mid-October at 13,000 words called "Controversies and Connections," which began with the Poetry Society of America's co-sponsored events with Tulane and Emory in August and October of 2010, it has now ballooned to 20,000 words because of two more "controversies"--one over HBCUs and another over Claudia Rankine's AWP presentation regarding Tony Hoagland's "The Change," which, I learned on Nordette Adams' b-site, had been leadening her soul for eight years, but I also say there what I will say here: leave the poor woman alone! The Academy of American Poets renewed this third controversy (Go, please, to 17 March 2011 @

    Diann Blakely: “Stanley and I are very, very sad that Alex died exactly a year ago, and that we never managed to schedule that interview---"I tend to evacuate during August," he said in our last phone conversation--but we are happy knowing that if he went to the other side, he would have CHOSEN to do so on St. Joseph's Day. Thank you, Mr. Alex Chilton of Treme, NOLA, USA.”

    Alex Chilton on 120 Minutes (1985)
    Alex Chilton appears on 120 Minutes on MTV to promote his new record on Big Time called Feudalist Tarts, which came out in 1985, so I'm guessing that is when this segment aired.

    Christopher A. Brazell and Ted Barron like this.

    Diann Blakely Bringing the Music Back to New Orleans

    Diann Blakely Isn't this illegal? I Do Not Care: Concrete Blonde Vampire Song - Free MP3 Download

    Diann Blakely "Hooray! Once again I thank my friends at the Academy, the PSA, and all the states art advocacy group who labor so tirelessly and thanklessly for championing that most anti-consumerist and thus counter-cultural of arts: poetry itself."

    The Change: Poets Expand the Dialogue on Race- - Poetry, Poems, Bios & More
    Dear Friends, Despite all our differences — in race, region, gender, creed, and aesthetic — most American poets share a faith in the capacity of language to bridge these divisions. I said as much while introducing Claudia Rankine at th...
    March 17 at 6:01am · Like · · Share

    Cynthia Atkins likes this.

    Diann Blakely
    March 19 at 6:43am · Like

  14. All I ask is that people wait until the online changes have been made on Monday, which presumably they will be, for I have done my dead-level best to ensure that she and Michael Zibart, the owner of BOOKPAGE, will be made to feel that the combined forces of the PSA, the Academy, the Poetry Foundation, Cave Canem, LGBT Alliance, Act Up, VIDA, SheWrites, the Nuyoricans Cafe, and every other possible person or organization willing to come to my defense will end up on their doorstep--and yes, I have the address--with the rage of Patricia Smith's Blood Dazzler [Patricia is another person I wanted to add to "The New Black" but needed to do research on the play that has been based on her book around the country; Patricia, Katie Capello, and I were all reviewed in the Winter 2010 edition of POETS QUARTERLY. Julie Kane reviewed the book for PRAIRIE SCHOONER. I must always stifle the impulse to send any and all reviewers flowers, but I had to restrain the impulse strongly when she (, Jennifer Horne
    (, and Jim Murphy (SOUTHERN HUMANITIES REVIEW, Winter 2010) did so. To the one reviewer who offered reservations about the book, asking whether I had considered thoroughly the sufferings of A-A women in the South, I wrote responded by asking whether she thought Tina Turner--who used to babysit for my ex-husband and a
    a sonnet sequence about whom, "A Call and Response" being the subtitle, ends the book--were white.

  15. Warning: be careful what you write whether in poems or in reviews, for it comes true. Much of CITIES is fictionalized wildly, but every word of that particular sequence is pure, verifiable fact. It contains a poem called "Gimme Shelter, 1970." I grew up with a poster of Mick Jagger in full Altamont regalia on my teenage bedroom wall; the man to whom I am currently married is Stanley Booth, who was present at the event.

    One March 29, 2001, I published He responded with a one-sentence note of thanks that took me two months to answer because he looks elderly in the photograph and I had previously written a number of reviews about the cultural essays of Albert Murray. These resulted in a series of late-night phone calls that culminated in an invitation to be his date at the 80th birthday gala held in his honor at Lincoln Center. He explained that his wife “didn’t get out much.”

    As I have confessed, I am from Alabama. This man was old enough to be my great-grandfather. I nearly crawled under the kitchen cabinets and I know I turned bright red and began to stammer wildly. I retain great, great respect for “Mr. Omni-American”--, and Stanley, who does as well, as does Malcolm Jones of NEWSWEEK/THE DAILY BEAST. Stanley added a post, after I had made one or two about my outrage at Kenneth W. Fearing’s previously published essay, my even greater outrage that Harvard--to which I have a very strange connection that ended up, somehow, even more strangely, being posted as my initial query to Claudia--was lending its imprimatur and thus its endorsement to this man’s book, and told part of my very, very, very strange family history at

    If Spike Lee couldn't foresee the BP oil slick and had to stop filming in the middle of IF GOD IS WILLING AND DA CREEK DON'T RISE, well, not only do I not feel too imbecilic, but I will say that Mr. Lee, with all due respect (and he is due much), don't know from "foresee," and that I need the help of every single person and news organization I can find to disseminate the story of what has happened between BOOKPAGE and myself.

    Yours most sincerely, and with great appreciation for providing this forum,


    Diann Blakely

    Member: Academy of American Poets,
    National Book Critics' Circle, Poetry Society of America, Pushcart Series Nominating Editor, SheWrites, VIDA

    Antioch Review, BookPage, Chapter 16,
    Harvard Review, Option, Swampland, Village Voice Media