I sit here waiting for the cold medicine to take effect. Yes, my cold has resurrected itself (insert heavy sigh here). Let me be honest, as colds go, it's more an annoyance than anything major. Still, I'm aware of my skull and my sinuses in an unpleasant way. At least it seems to respond to over the counter medication.
I had begun to feel the cold resurrecting itself on Thursday, but I responded to Dave Bonta's call for poets to make recordings in honor of Emily Dickinson's 180th birthday. He then went on to create an impressive podcast. I'm so happy to have been part of it (I'm at minute 32 or so). I listened to the whole thing straight through. How intriguing to hear the voices of all these poets, most of whom I had never heard before, although many of them I know through their blogs.
An interesting epistemological question: can we really know each other from reading blogs? (the grouchy philosopher might chime in here to ask: "Can we really ever know each other at all?").
I certainly feel like we can know each other from reading blogs, although when I'm writing to poets whom I know through their blogs, I remind myself of the importance of boundaries. I don't want to seem like some crazy poetry stalker, after all. I remind myself that I'm often more aware of poets whose blogs I follow than they are of me.
Still, I've felt very lucky to have fallen into this world of blogging. I've made some connections that feel more like friendship than fandom to me. For example, when Dave Bonta called me to record my Emily Dickinson entry, we chatted for a bit as if we were old college friends. And a day earlier, Leslea Newman wrote me an e-mail to ask me about my experiences with chapbook publishers--me! I remember reading her book Writing from the Heart (almost 20 years ago!)and wishing that I could have the life of a writer. And now, I do have the life of a writer. I wrote a blog posting that mentioned my delight at appearing in the same journal as Leslea Newman, and she wrote me an e-mail. We exchanged books--what a treat that I never would have hoped for, back when I was that solitary writer first starting out, reading books like Leslea's for inspiration.
And then, last night, a real treat in the mail: a handmade collaged card from Sandy Longhorn, whose blog I love, and whose poetry writing excursions often inspire mine. I'm speechless with happiness.
This year is the first year that I'm going to the AWP. In the past, I've read about bloggers who meet each other in real life at the AWP. This year, perhaps it will be me!
But even if these Internet connections never move to a more conventional type of friendship, I'm still happy to have this community. I remember years ago thinking about MFA programs. People said, "But you already have a PhD. Why would you want an MFA?" For me, it was about the possibility of a writing community. Of course, I've talked to enough people to know that one might not find that writing community in an MFA program. One of the best writers whom I know in real life was so scarred by her time with MFA students that she was in danger of never writing again.
Happily, the connections that I've made on the Internet provide the kind of community I've always wanted. I like having far-flung connections. I like sitting down to my desk, knowing that Sandy will soon be sitting down at her desk, that Dave will be crafting a microposting and a longer posting to document his day, that over on the Pacific coast, Kelli and Susan will be writing soon enough too. I like reading about January's juggling work and motherhood and poetry, and I live the life of a vintage bookstore worker vicariously through Kathleen's blog. I'll likely never live in the wilds of Montana, but Sherry makes it so appealing that I'm tempted to pack my bags. Likewise, Jeannine usually moves to intriguing places; I live vicariously through her blog. I love reading about Diane's forays into the world of book trailers, and I envy her reading events. Likewise, I envy Sandra's schedule, her residencies. Rebecca makes me want to garden and cook and take up the violin, and Beth's blog makes me want to brave a Canadian winter, so as to have such wonderful multicultural opportunities (I want to sing in a cathedral! I want to paint and draw! I want to ride my bike down the streets of a metropolis).
Some days, I worry that I've stopped reading, but it occurs to me that I'm still reading as much as I ever did, but the delivery system has changed. I do read fewer books written on paper, bound between covers. But I read a tremendous amount online. And many of these blogs offer postings every bit as wonderful and carefully crafted as the writing that in pre-Internet days, I'd have found in books. These blogs offer essays about living the writer's life, essays about food and cooking and every other possible topic, book reviews, writing prompts and tips, and all sorts of other instructions.
I'm not one of those writers who worries about the Internet meaning the death of books, the death of writing, the death of reading. On the contrary, I think the Internet offers more of us more opportunities than we would have had otherwise: reading opportunities, friendship opportunities, networking opportunities, educational opportunities, opportunities for all sorts of community.
The Summer of Reading
5 days ago