Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Contra Dicta

How is it that I ever stopped going to Nick Piombino's blog? Bad I.

Nick's Contradicta--a winning set of micro-meditations on the interpersonal ethics of making art--condense what was most distinctive about his blog in the days when his good sense and kindness cooled many a flame meme. Nick's aphorisms are more general and abstract now, like pictures from an observation balloon that permit a view of the topography all the blurred little trees occur in below.

Factory School is due to publish a selection of writings from Nick's blog as a book in its Heretical Texts series next year. Nick's committment to blogs as a major force for change in American poetry has always come with a willingness to push the form. He was one of the first bloggers I know of to interleaf his posts with excerpts from old notebooks, carefully chosen to skew the linear sense of time the blog template enforces. (I wonder if the unapologetic "I" that organizes most blogs is a function of the same template feature.)

The new direction of his Contradicta, and the forthcoming "translation" from blog to book, got me thinking about the unique thing that makes blogs blogs, not just online journals. What range of expression can the form accomodate? When does it make sense for a blog to cross over into book (with the risk that runs of making the blog look like a 'pre-book', one step lower on the food chain), and at what point does print kill the shimmer that made blogs so attractive in the first place?

One criticism of books online is that it's a hassle to read for long stretches at a screen. Yet maybe the main feature that distinguishes blogs from books is their length, and beyond that, the potential for endless content. I'll visit two or three dozen different blogs a day without blinking, but give me a "13 printed pages" Jacket essay, or a 20-page PDF of poems, and I'm out.

It's not just the screen, it's the rhythm of reading you get used to online, where there's always an awareness of OTHER INSTANT CONTENT pressing down on you. Hyperlink to this. Check Google for that. See Wikipedia for the history of the Chilean comic book industry referred to on p. 69. Online, the white space talks, like reading Ulysses with James Joyce over your shoulder to annotate the margins in real time.

One consequence is that poetry as it's conventionally read and received doesn't really cut it on blogs. The slower rhythm imposed by the silent page feels wrong on the Web. Nick's thoughtful Contradicta feel to me like they're evoking a page around them, trying to see if you can conjure the condensare of the aphorism online, where content wants to sprawl.

When Pompeii went down, the ash was so fine that it preserved, unbroken and whole, a single egg.

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