Initially, I began blogging poetry because I was tired of having scattered word documents floating around my computer, not being put to any real use. Other than the haphazard competition entry, I felt like I was doing a lot of writing without much purpose.I liked the idea that I could have a place to organise, present and receive feedback on my poetry, and a blog seemed like the best idea!
Poetry publication, from what I understand, is a delicate and ambiguous field. Along with short stories, the other medium in which I dabble, it is notoriously difficult to get poetry published in the mainstream. I never harboured any grand ambition to have my poetry published in hard copy.
Though this has changed since I began blogging, (as I have felt myself improve, and have received positive feedback from readers), I still struggle to commit myself to finding a publisher. For me, blogging is its own kind of publishing – I feel I have an audience who appreciates my writing and with whom I experience a unique dialogue I might not have in print form.
Blogging poetry can most certainly be an avenue to mainstream poetry publication – though as bloggers, we have to take certain precautions. Often, entering competitions or submitting for journals specifies in submission guidelines that the poetry must not have been previously published in any way – including blogs. So whilst it can be a wonderful means of displaying your activity and commitment to the artform to prospective publishers, a blog can also harm your chances of monetary gain for your work – if that is indeed your motivation. I myself tend to keep my “really good” poems under wraps for submission, and post poetry that I want feedback on for improvement.
(Louise points out that a reworked poem, if done up sufficiently, can consitute an unpublished work).
What kind of poetry do you read?
I first studied poetry several years ago. We did “The Romantics” – Coleridge, Shelley, Blake, Wordsworth and Keats. I fell in love with all of them, Keats most of all for his achingly beautiful imagery and the sad, gentle tone of his expression. After this I discovered a new form of Romantic – the beat poet. Ginsberg, Bukowski and Carlos Williams have all been hugely influential.
Reading poetry aloud is powerfully underestimated. I recently had the experience of having a stranger read my poem to me in a workshop, and immediately I noticed flaws in the tone and the word choice – when she took too long a pause, or stumbled over a more difficult passage. It should be a compulsory exercise to have someone else read your poem aloud, cold, without reading it in their head first.
Poetry bloggers must focus on quality if they want readership – like any other website. It’s all very well to write for oneself but if your aim is comments, page views or subscribers, the only thing that can achieve this is quality work. I feel I am too inconsistent with quantity – some weeks I will publish nothing at all – but I am fortunate to have dedicated readers who forgive me this laziness and come back to me!
What kind of future do you see for your poetry?
Though it sounds cliched, I really do write poetry for myself.(not cliched at all!) I truly believe that if no one else read it, or enjoyed it, I would still get immense pleasure from writing it. It is the truest expression of myself that I know. I have bits and bobs published in local publications and obtain enormous satisfaction from this small output.
My advice is not to be discouraged by the number of poets out there – simply because there is no one else quite like you. Your words are your own and they capture your own feeling – successful or not, widely read or by a small few. That ambiguity and subjectivity about poetry and other artforms is what makes them so appealing! Find your passion and don’t lose it.And read. There is nothing more important in the world.