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

Monday, May 23, 2011

The House of Words (no. 27), Dave Bonta and the internet, 7


Dave's "porcupine tree,"
a ridgetop chestnut

MY: Moreover because you have no reluctance to give your blog "first publication rights" for poems or photographs or short films, you always have interesting and varied material. In fact, you have none of the need to tally up publications that so many poets do — so many being tied to colleges and universities. You appear to have a remarkable degree of freedom from ordinary ways of doing things. Related to this is your mode of making books. Nothing ever has to be finished; no order of poems, no table of contents is immutable. Everything can be put back in the pot and stirred. I’m wondering what other strengths and pleasures come out of this attitude of yours, this freedom from the usual modes.

DB: It's true that not having to worry about promotion and tenure credits allows me to do all kinds of things I might not do otherwise. It doesn't free me altogether from the desire to also make print collections, which is easier than ever in the age of Lulu, Createspace, Blurb, etc. But I do, as you suggest, feel a bit of apprehension about putting words into print, knowing that once a paper copy is out there, it can't be changed. Generations of poets have been taught to be absolute perfectionists and struggle against every word, because we all know how mortifying it is to have to look at a poem in print that we've long since revised. But the reality is that even still, poets routinely rework old material for volumes of selected or collected poems. Being mainly self-published and mainly online does allow for a more fluid conception of one's work, but I'm not sure it's a radical change. A more important kind of freedom, I think, is the freedom I extend to others, via a Creative Commons license, to reprint or even modify my work as long as they credit me. The attendant loosening of ego-attachment to the products of my writing has done wonders for my mental health, and has probably made me a better writer.

Bonta, chainsaw grooves

6 comments:

  1. I enjoyed this brief but illuminating posting! And Dave Bonta's poetry site is a cool place indeed.

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  2. Yes, it is--he really puts in a full-time effort, and it shows.

    More Bonta coming (and preceding) this one.

    He is an interesting model for what one might do as a blogger and more on the web.

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  3. Go, Dave!

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  4. "A more important kind of freedom, I think, is the freedom I extend to others, via a Creative Commons license, to reprint or even modify my work as long as they credit me."
    This is astounding, really - and rather wonderful.
    To allow one's writing to be modified and pushed out a-fresh is one of the most generous of things that a creative person can do. Hats off to Dave!

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  5. I admire you very much Dave for being able to let go of the ego in this way.

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  6. Thanks for the supportive reactions, y'all. It's worth pointing out that all CC licenses need not extend quite so much freedom as mine does; they can be tailored for one's specific preferences. Also, one can use other licenses, such as a few developed originally for software, to confer a very similar "copyleft" license to the CC Attribution-Share Alike license I use. If I were pursuing a career as a freelance writer, I might not use a CC license at all. The point is, I certainly don't prescribe my approach for all writers or even all poets, but I do urge those who can swing it to consider copylefting some or all of their work and becoming an active participant in remix culture.

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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.