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Archive for the ‘Blogging Interviews’ Category

Robert Archambeau

Robert Archambeau

It’s safe to say I would not be teaching creative writing without Robert Archambeau. I took as many classes as I could with him as an undergraduate at Lake Forest College, and he has continued to be a mentor and friend to me after graduation. He is also one of the best bloggers on poetry and literature you can find on the web. His Samizdat Blog is must reading for me, as he is able to blend hyper-intelligent criticism with reader-pleasing wit.

Archambeau has written a collection of poems Home and Variations (Salt Publishing, 2004) and the chapbook Citation Suite (Wild Honey Press, 1997). His critical work includes the edited collections Word Play Place: Essays on the Poetry of John Matthias (Swallow Press, 1998) and Vectors: New Poetics (Samizdat Editions, 2001). He is currently working on a book of criticism about the Stanford poets who studied under Yvor Winters and a historical examination of aesthetics. He edited the international poetry journal Samizdat from 1998-2004, many of the issues can be found here.

When and why did you get interested in blogging?

August of 2004. I’d folded-up shop with Samizdat, the poetry broadsheet I’d been editing, and I missed writing the little editorials (700 or 1000 words) I’d put in every issue. I’d found them a very congenial and informal way of talking about literature: different from the book review or the scholarly article, and didn’t really have a replacement. Blogging was still new-ish as a medium for discussing literature, and there wasn’t much of a model for how to do it. I liked that. And I liked the immediacy of it: I didn’t have to deal with editors, or wait for a journal to appear in print.

Do you read blogs? Which ones? How often?

I read Mark Scroggins’ blog all the time, and Josh Corey and Ron Silliman less frequently, as well as Digital Emunction, a blog run by a bunch of University of Chicago guys. There are others (yours and Adam Fieled’s, among others) I catch up on, and then there are plenty of others I run across just by surfing around.

How does blogging affect your writing practice?

It is a significant part of my writing practice. I suppose it’s had a general effect on what I do, though, making things more conversational, and less governed by the relatively impersonal modes of scholarly and critical writing for journals. And it’s made me feel the constant presence of a conversation. It’s hard to paint, now, the curious silence that surrounded American poetry before the internet. Unless you were in some hotbed of poetic activity, you had to wait for the journals to come out, and they — with a few exceptions — felt more like isolated pronouncements than like conversations.

We’re in a good moment for blogging right now, I think. I’m afraid someone will come along and fuck it all up by turning it into something that graduate students in MFA programs are required to do, though. Then we’ll have people getting into it to advance their careers, not their thinking and their writing. But for now it’s all good. And it may stay that way.

Further Reading: The Kafka Sutra Cultural Society; “Storming the Museum of Irrelevance” (essay on manifestos) Poetry Foundation; “Glam Rock: The Poem” Absent; “Called Léon, a Leonardo” Seven Corners.

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Matt Briggs

Matt Briggs

Matt Briggs is one of my favorite contemporary prose writers, and I had the pleasure of meeting him after he read in William Allegrezza’s Series A at Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago, back in April 2007. After the reading, I began the process of tracking down Matt’s American Book Award winning novel Shoot the Buffalo. It was one of the best books I read in 2007,  is one of my favorite novels, and is a book I recommend constantly. I’ve also read The Moss Gatherers and Misplaced Alice, two of Matt’s short story collections, which feature little oddities and obscure occurrences: the uncanny. Matt other books include The Remains of River Names and The End is the Beginning. The End is the Beginning is in my queue of books to read, soon.

Matt Briggs blogs here. His blog is fantastic and has a lot of links and resources. He also writes regularly for Fictionaut blog, keeping a column on neglected fiction called Rediscovered Reading. He also writes regularly for Reading Local: Seattle.

Matt told me he is coming back to Chicago this fall to read in Series A again. I’ll keep you updated when I get a definite date and time.

When and why did you get interested in blogging?

When I feel lonesome as a writer like no one reads me, I write a blog post because then I can see how many page views my blog post gets. If my blog post gets a lot of page views, I feel like a less lonesome wrier. If my blog post gets no page views, I feel miserable. This is the when and why of my interest in blogging.

I have kept a blog since 2002. Using a computer is completely entangled in my writing practice, but I am old enough that I am aware that this isn’t a given. A person doesn’t need to use a computer to write, just as they don’t, technically, need a typewriter. They need technology of some kind, an alphabet (which is a technology), something to make a mark (a pen, a needle and some blood, charcoal, something), and something to store the mark, like paper. To be black and white about it, if you use a pen and an alphabet, you might as well use a blog.

I need a computer because I am dyslexic. As a dyslexic, computers are blessing and a curse. For example as I type text Microsoft Word “corrects” my mangled typing into a word that is actually a word in the dictionary. It may not be the right word, but it is in the dictionary, and my brain tricks me into seeing what I meant to say rather than what Microsoft Word has “autocorrected” incorrectly. I use two grammar checkers (Microsoft Word’s pretty lame one, and a still lame but less-lame grammar checker called, Grammarian). I still make typos that a “normal” person can see at six paces. And of course computer programs are still idiot copy editors. But my reliance on computers as a writer makes me suspicious of them, but also makes me willing to try new things with them all of the time.

I’m always trying out new word processors. Mostly I want to find one that has a grammar processor that is a like a portable copy editor and a brilliant substantive editor such as Maxwell Perkins. Perkins was a famous editor who essentially made the writer Thomas Wolfe by deleting piles of extra stuff Wolfe had written. You could say he set the precedent for Gordon Lish/Raymond Carver. Concision is something I can only do if I have a lot of time on my hands. I’d like a piece of software that could produce flawless copy edits according to the style manual of my choice and perform edits like the editor of my choice.

Before I had a blog, I was writing emails, and before I was writing emails, I was sending and receiving letters. Some people miss letters, but the fact is, they only send notes in FaceBook and the occasional email now telling me they miss letters. They don’t actually send me letters. I don’t miss letters. Letters were slow, and letters didn’t have Google Analytics.

Do you read blogs? Which ones? How often?

I read blogs all of the time. Everyday I’m reading something on a blog. Actually it has also come to the point where I am reading tweets about blogs, and may not actually read the blogs. The current book blogs I tend to check: HTML Giant, Ron Silliman’s Blog, Reading Local, The Rumpus, Fictionaut Blog, Bookslut, Luna Park, and The Elegant Variation. I also go through my blogroll and read blogs that way, as well.

How does blogging affect your writing practice?

I see blogging, the production of a steady stream of text, as an important part of my writing practice. It is however separate, or tangential to writing stories or books.

At first I thought a blog was a kind of a way to distribute writing. It was like a magazine. People could read it. But text on a screen that is accessible primarily through a screen and written primarily through a screen is different than text that is in a book. While most books are read on paper, even an ebook is contained in the metaphor of a page. A blog post, however, is not a printed page. A post is a malleable piece of media that can be manipulated, altered, and reused. It might be displayed in a Web page, but it also might be drawn into an application and used in some other way. Anything can happen to a blog post. It might be used to sell Viagra.

I’m working on a book about this called The Channel Manifesto. I wanted to call it The Channel Assembly, but had originally called the manuscript “a manifesto,” and the editor preferred the older, more confrontational declaration implied by the term “manifesto.” An assembly rather than a manifesto is a bundle of different parts that only belong together because they have been collected. An assembly is an arranged collection of objects. A manifesto, on the other hand, is a single object. It is singular, and agrees with itself. An assembly might not agree with itself. You can assemble things that do not go together. This seems more in line with the Web than making things agree with themselves.

A blog is more malleable than a publication. It may seem essentially the same as a publication. Words are written and put out and people read the words, sometimes. But unlike a publication, the author can adjust and fiddle with the text after it has been published. The author can measure the people who read these words. The author knows if something they have written has been read a lot of times or only a few times and where these readers come from — that is where they live, the kinds of computers they use, and where they have come from on the Web, and where they go after they read the blog. Sometimes these readers leave comments and notes to elaborate the post.

This does not happen at nearly the same speed with a book. A book may collect comments, reviews, and maybe even show up in people’s wish list online, or sometimes in reading guides. But the author doesn’t know how many people have read the book. He knows how many copies have sold, provided he trusts the number his publisher is giving him. But he doesn’t know how many used copies were sold. He doesn’t know how many people bought the book but didn’t read it. Or maybe read it and then loaned it all of her friends. He doesn’t know where this happens. Or what book they read next or the book they read before they read his book.

And so, writing becomes engaged in a different but related way to the writing of books and stories when the writer blogs. There are so called “Internet writers” or “Blog writers” who are in their twenties now. They seem to dislike this term. I think they assume there is a kind of smallness or fakeness to this term. After all, in their writing practice there were blogs pretty much before they started to write. They assume the things that are knowable on a blog are knowable because they know them about their own blogs and their own writing. They know who reads there blogs, and the numbers, and the kinds of things they write on their blogs that cause interest and the things people are not interested in. This is to them is simply “writing.” Writing includes this feedback loop. There is nothing as far as they can see that separates them from writers who do not blog.

But I know writers who do not blog and they are not interested necessarily in knowing the things that are knowable about the readers of a blog. These writers are content with the mystery that is part of writing a book and then publishing it. Maybe you see someone on a bus with your book. You can see them, but you don’t know their name, or where they came from before they got on the bus, or where they are going to go after they leave the bus. There are thoughts inside of their head as they read the book you wrote where you took thoughts from inside your head and put them down on maybe three hundred and eighteen sheets of paper over a six-year period. They are holding all of that thought you had and you know nothing about them except they are holding the book in their hand and their head with the eyeball part pointed at the open surface of the book. Maybe they turn a page while you are watching them. You assume they have read the words on the page. But you don’t know that. Maybe they can’t read and they just like to pretend to read books? And they are pretending to read a book you wrote. You get off the bus because it is your stop and they go off to wherever they go off to and you as the author are completely absent from the reader’s point of view.

Some writers like it that way, I think, or maybe they aren’t suckered into believing the metrics collected from a blog about people reading the words you wrote provide insight into that transaction. What would Hemingway do for instance if his short stories had page views? Would we get more “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” and less “Hills Like White Elephants”? Maybe it would have been a good thing if Hemingway had Google Analytics.

Further Reading: “Knot” at Birkensnake; shorts and short fiction; essays and nonfiction; media a/v.

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Mike Theune

Mike Theune

Mike Theune is a poet and professor of English at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington. I first met Mike at the Matt Guenette/Jason Bredle I mentioned in a previous interview post. Luckily, I’ve gotten to know Mike much better now that I’ve relocated to Bloomington-Normal. He’s a super-smart critic and has encyclopedic knowledge of contemporary poetry, and we’ve definitely had some great conversations that have enlightened me and clarified my thinking about poetry.

His first book, Structure & Surprise: Engaging Poetic Turns (Teachers & Writers Collaborative, 2007), is an excellent resource for poets and teachers. It is essentially a study of poetic structures and poetic rhetorical moves. The focus is how poems make meaning via turns or changes/leaps in thought. Not only is this book great for poetry lovers, but it is also the book I recommend to teachers who have a difficult time teaching poetry. Mike began blogging in support of this book this year on his Structure & Surprise blog, which lets him keep the book current and add new content. He also writes regularly about poetry for the journal Pleiades.

Mike Theune is reading with Chip Corwin at Illinois Wesleyan’s Hansen center today, September 24 at 8 pm. They will be reading from their collaboration The Divine Pregunta (responses to Neruda’s Book of Questions) and The Book of Exclamations, funny and engaging “punchline poetics.”

When and why did you get interested in blogging?

I got interested in blogging because I got interested in other blogs.  Over the past three(plus) years, I came to realize how much of the conversation about contemporary poetry was occurring online.  I wanted in on the action.

More specifically, in 2007, I published a book, Structure & Surprise: Engaging Poetic Turns (Teacher & Writers, 2007).  This book, I think, starts a new strand of conversation about what (a lot of) poems are and how they work.  Starts—the book itself acknowledges its own status as a conversation starter by, for example, including a section of supplemental poems in each of its chapters.  The blog allows me to continue such threads of conversation.  For instance, I have posts and pages devoted to additional supplemental poems and even to structures that I’d not had the space to include in the book.  I also try in many of my posts to show how the conversation started in Structure & Surprise interfaces with the larger, ongoing conversation of and about contemporary poetry, reviewing relevant publications and discussing trends in poetry pedagogy.

Do you read blogs?  Which ones?  How often?

I read blogs all the time.  Off the top of my head, I read Ron Silliman’s blog, Harriet (the blog of the Poetry Foundation), Seven Corners, Mark Wallace’s blog (wallacethinksagain), and American Busboy (Matt Guenette’s blog).  And I employ the links they use, so I end up reading a lot of blogs (along with other online content) in my forays into the blogosphere.  I check in on Silliman’s blog and Harriet about every other day.  The others, I check about once a week.

How does blogging affect your writing practice?

Here’s the thing: I think my kind of blog affects my writing practice very little.  My blog isn’t really that expressive or experimental, rather it is an extension of my book.  Thus, in my blog I try to write clearly and succinctly for a general audience.  I try to use some wit to keep things alive and moving, but in general my blogging is a good deal of business—important business, I think, but business nonetheless.

If you want to see a blog that I think really reflects and encourages a style, you should check out Matt Guenette’s American Busboy.  (Matt’s previous blog was Exquisite Platypus.)  Matt is a terrific poet, and he’s a terrific blogger, and the blog has to encourage the kind of thinking that goes into his poems.  Matt’s posts are funny and thoughtful as heck, but also at times outraged, despairing, bemused—just like his poems.  And, in fact, I know Matt has had poems that have grown directly from his posts.  Sometimes, he incorporates new poems into posts.  Here is a poet who uses the blog in the same way that poets (up to just a few years ago) would have used a journal: to think, to inspire, and to activate.  If I start a personal blog, I will aspire to write one like Matt’s, one that I’m sure will feed into my own poetic practice.

Further Reading:  Seven Corners; Aphorisms @ All Aphorisms, All the Time; “Ballade” & “I Saw it Move” @ Sedge w/ Chip Corwin.

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Kristy Bowen, Chicago Poetry Mogul

Kristy Bowen, Chicago Poetry Mogul

Kristy Bowen is one of the most dynamic personalities in contemporary Chicago poetry. Not only is she an excellent poet, publishing books like in the bird museum (Dusie, 2008) and the fever almanac (Ghost Road Press, 2006) but she also edits the journal wicked alice and runs the accliamed dancing girl press chapbook series. Under the moniker dancing girl press & studio, Kristy also creates  distinctive “book, paper, ephemera and vintage-inspired arts and crafts” for her online store dulcet.

Kristy also founded the Chicago Poetry Calendar.org, a collective blog on Chicago poetry happenings.

Her next book girl show is forthcoming from Ghost Road Press this fall (2009).

When and why did you get interested in blogging?
I first started my blog (kristybowen.blogspot.com) mostly as just a personal journal to go along with my website. I had for years kept a written diary/journal, but liked the idea of doing it online where I could access it anywhere. This was sometime in 2003, and I started the blog in Xanga, which I eventually abandoned for blogger in early 2005. It felt like an amalgamation of things—diary, journal, calendar, scrapbook, a venue for conversation & dialogue, a place to post drafts, notes, new work in a more immediate way than my formal website. Also, publicity and news for the press, the etsy shop I run.

Around this time, alot of poets were starting blogs, doing all and any of the above with them. It was exciting and led me to this vast network of poets and journals and presses that I probably never would have encountered in the pre-internet days.

Last year, in addition to my own blog, I started a group blog for folks to post their local poetry news bits and calendar listings, whose primary goal is to disseminate information and allow the various corners of the community to let the others know what’s going on. It was a slow start to get readers and iron-out the design elements and what worked in terms of layout, but the past several months the word has definitely gotten out.

Do you read blogs? Which ones? How often?
My daily routine includes quite a few literary and local blogs like Bookslut, Gapers Block, The TimeOut Books Blog , Chicagoist, as well as occasional glances at various blogs written by poets (A lot of poets have sadly abandoned formal blogging for facebook these days, which serves a similar purpose, but I find it a bit more limiting and a bit too frantic.) I try to check in with everyone I have either bookmarked or in my links list at least once a week to see what they’re up to. I’m also addicted to style and design blogs, which I check just as frequently.

How does blogging affect your writing practice?

I used to post a lot more drafts of work, but in the past few years, since I was sending things out pretty quickly and to a lot of online journals, I curtailed that practice, figuring I’d give those journals first crack at it, and some want exclusivity. I’ve also used it as a way to post various writing experiments—NaPoWriMo, 30 days of form challenges, things which involve a lot of poets doing the same things. I think mostly just engaging in dialogue with other poets about various subjects has also been instrumental in facilitating my work.

Further Reading: “Isabel of the Wreckage” DIAGRAM; “fret” 42 opus; 3 poems Dusie; 4 poems Seven Corners.

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matt guenette

Matthew Guenette is a poet and educator. He teaches English at Madison Area Technical College. Matt blogs at American Busboy, which is also the title of a book of poems he has in the works. His books include the collection Sudden Anthem and the chapbook A Hush of Something Endless. He responded to these interview questions from Wiesbaden, Germany, where he is on a three-month writing residency from the Hessen Literary Society.

I first came across Matt Guenette’s work in Another Chicago Magazine (ACM), where his poem “A Brief History of the Home Gym” was published. As you might glean from the title, the poem is humorous and clever, but the poem also displays serious research in its composition. Matt has a knack for writing poems that not only use popular culture and humor, but also have pathos, resonance, intelligence, and surprise.

Later, I had the privilege of meeting Matt after a reading at Myopic Books, Chicago, one of the best reading series in the city, where he read with Jason Bredle, another poet I admire. The reading was a blast. Matt Guenette is a dynamic reader and performer. This past summer, I had the privilege of reading with Matt as well as Chip Corwin and Michael Theune, at the McLean County Arts Center in Bloomington. As the comedians say, he killed.

Here’s the interview:

When and why did you get interested in blogging?

I got interested in blogging when I was going through a writing dry spell. I figured the pressure of a blog (which is the pressure to be interesting for a potential audience) would help jump start the muse. And it worked. I’m not saying the first blog I started (or the one I keep now) is interesting; but it did get me to work.

Do you read blogs? Which ones? How often?

I read a few blogs regularly. Silliman’s Blog, of course, is required reading for poets. I’m amazed at his energy. He puts everyone else to shame. Mike [Theune]’s Structure & Surprise blog is good as well: I find myself rediscovering poems there. I also like The Poetry Foundation [Harriet] blog.

How does blogging affect your writing practice?

I guess I alluded to this already, but blogging forces you to consider your work in a classical rhetorical context: not only why you are writing, but why you think anyone should read what you write. As a poet, I’ve become fiercely concerned with the concept of audience: I want to write the type of poems that, when I read them at a reading, make the audience feel like it was worth their time. That they were energized AND entertained by something that is thoughtful. And I want my blogs to do that, too.

Another thing: Though I don’t blog constantly, I find that when I manage a good blog post, one that gets some comments from readers, it often contains the seeds of a poem. That’s been an excellent surprise, one that has made me more aware about how important it is to see your writing–any writing–as an inherently social act.

Further Reading: Verse Daily, “Sestina Aguilera”; DIAGRAM, “Future Poem”; diode, 4 poems; Seven Corners, 8 poems

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In accordance with asking all of you to blog as part of the practice of being a creative writer, I’m starting a series of mini-interviews with writers who blog.

Since I am the person most readily available to begin, here goes.

When and why did you get interested in blogging?

I got interested in blogging during my time in New England College’s MFA program. It was the summer of 2005, and I had been following my former teacher Bob Archambeau’s Samizdat Blog. He was getting into some interesting territory about the end of the age of indeterminacy in contemporary poetry, pushing for what he calls poetic contingency, an intertextual, investigative, relational poetics.

This blew my mind and set the stage for a vast widening of the lens through which I viewed what could be done in poetry and creative writing. Shortly after, I began to blog at Fluid / Exchange and edit a blog-based online journal, called Seven Corners.

Do you read blogs? Which ones? How often?

I follow many blogs across different blogging subgenres in Google Reader. I currently have 108 subscriptions, and my list keeps changing and growing. I check Google Reader daily like e-mail, but I’ve now subscribed to far too many blogs to read them all daily.

I read Samizdat Blog, Silliman’s Blog, Structure & Surprise, Harriet, Exoskeleton, swoonrocket, {LIME TREE}, Hot Chicks with Douchebags, wordlustitude, Forgotten Bookmarks, and many others.
How does blogging affect your writing practice?

Blogging has definitely helped me connect with writers I would not have under different circumstances. Whether we meet face to face or not, I feel I know these people somewhat because blogs are a semi-formal writing space through which we can learn quite a bit about the blogger’s personality and thinking.

Editing Seven Corners has been a life-changing experience. It has helped me codify my own ethos as a writer, allowing me to really support local poetry while also supporting poetry globally, and it has given me a great deal of confidence as a writer and editor.

Honestly, I wish I had more time to blog. Then again, blogging is a huge part of my pedagogical practice, so I blog often, really. I guess I feel guilty about not being able to blog more regularly at Fluid / Exchange, which I view as my first blog. I have a few interesting draft posts there that I haven’t published. Being in the academy makes me more shy to publish posts on a whim.

At this point, I wish all my blogs were on WordPress, which is far superior to Blogger. Maybe that’ll be my big blogging project, to covert my blogs to wordpress.

seven corners logo

My Seven Corners logo.

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