Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added)
is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers.
--John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The House of Words (no. 21): Dave Bonta, 2

Continued from Dave Bonta and internet publishing, 1

Dave Bonta, "Talus"
I don't regret the rise of Facebook, Twitter and company, because I think a lot of people who didn't really want to write used to feel pressure to engage in long-form blogging, and quickly burnt out on it and disappeared from the scene. And I think it's very important for writers to engage with others who are not writers. But I do miss the more in-depth conversations that used to take place in blog comment threads even as recently as five years ago.

MY: I started out as an innocent in the print and book world and met all the usual mad, mad world discouragements and fleabites: multiple editors who left for greener pastures and orphaned my books; great historical events nudging my book out of the way, Jonathan Franzen comically shoving my book and others out of the way (along with 9-11, not at all comically), multiple editors who fell out of the business for various reasons, the problem of being on great publishers’ lists but not getting a “push,” etc. I imagine that in some ways you avoid all the annoyances of print world (and when you do have a print book, as you now do, it emerges naturally from your online world) by having an online kingdom. Is that how you see it?

DB: Yeah. My mother is a mid-list nonfiction author with ups and downs at multiple presses, so the traditional writer's path held little romance for me. I had pretty much given up on submitting poems to print journals by 2001, when I racked up close to 40 rejections in a row before finally landing another acceptance. I just couldn't afford the postage. I approached blogging as a form of self-publishing from the outset; it's just that poetry didn't happen to be my focus at first. Though I abandoned all pretense of having a thematic focus after about six months, Via Negativa continued to be dominated by long-form expository writing about religion, philosophy, anthropology and culture for about two years, until I finally got that out of my system. But gradually the poems began to creep in, and I was encouraged by the positive responses from other readers and bloggers.

I've come to feel that blogging and poetry writing are an ideal match, at least for those of us who are shameless enough to share imperfect drafts with the world. One friend — Dale Favier — credits my posting of original poems at Via Negativa for sparking his own interest in modern poetry, which I find enormously gratifying. And I've watched any number of other bloggers grow as poets through blogging, myself included. In my case, I was never very good at keeping a journal — if no one but me was going to read it, what's the point? So the discipline of daily blogging has really whipped me into shape.

6 comments:

  1. Erratum: For "I approaching blogging..." read "I approached blogging..."

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  2. Got it!

    I must have corrected it in my mind when I read those lines... Thanks!

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  3. Dave,
    I totally sympathize with what you are saying, and I really must visit your blog, which I admit I have not thus far done! I share imperfect, multiple versions of poems on my blog, Shadow Knows. I feel exactly as you do about journals. I just don't fancy talking to myself, which is why I never gave up looking for a publisher, and appreciate that you have given my poems a chance in Qarrtsiluni after they too were rejected multiple times.

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  4. Robbi,

    Dave actually has a lot of readers online, and he gives some advice to bloggers and writers a bit later on in the series. I think there's a bit that relates to building audience.

    qarrtsiluni has that fun element of every-changing editors, and the multiple editors see everything and decide together. Not always the case elsewhere.

    G'night!

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  5. I am sure he has many readers; just not me so far because I have so little time.

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  6. Readers don't just show up when something is posted--years later, people still read.

    So just be engaging in the now...

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.