Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Philosophy of Poetry Snark, Part II: On Anonymity

I saw some peeps talking about Poetry Snark on this message board, and there was some back and forth about anonymous blogs. So I thought I would go over this one more time.

First of all, anonymity has always played a vital role in the blogosphere. Many, many bloggers use pseudonyms. This is nothing new. Anonymity on blogs is, of course, in many ways an outgrowth of the medium: the fact is, in the vast majority of cases, you can't really tell if someone is telling the truth about their identity anyway, hence all the concern about pedophiles, etc. If I wanted to, I could easily make up a "real" identity behind Poetry Snark and announce it. As long as I didn't use someone's real name, there would be no way of knowing the difference. In fact, when Silliman told us he wouldn't post a link to this blog unless I provided him with a real name, I thought briefly about sending him some random name. I decided that would have been lame, so no link for us...

Secondly, as one commenter on the message board I just mentioned put it: "There's a sort of art in itself to the pseudonym." I don't pretend to any of the pseudonymical genius of Robert Frost, Henry Dagger, or R.C. Bald, but their blogs are fucking hilarious and make brilliant use of the media's fundamental anonymity.

Finally, as Trochee discussed in a previous post, anonymity can be a healthy corrective for what I've elsewhere called the "cult of niceness" infecting American poetry. It is only in the 20th-century that signing one's name to literary reviews became the norm. If you take the time to look back to previous eras--times when poetry enjoyed a healthier relationship to public audiences and a more prominent cultural role--you'll find that many, many reviews were anonymous. In some of the snarkiest and best journals, like the Edinburgh Review (our favorite), most reviews were anonymous. Also, the stakes are pretty low here: nobody sitting on a tenure committee or with their hands on the grant money is going to take a blog like Poetry Snark seriously. And it's not like we're making serious accusations or attacking peoples' ethics or their fundamental characters. We think the poets we snark can handle it just fine, and it they can't, that says more about them than it does about us. As anyone reading our comments sections can tell, we welcome all snark and delight in all the snark you all have heaped on us (and that we here heap on each other). So snark on, snarkers, for as Yeats once put it, "we traffic in snarkery." (Hmmm, something tells me ol' "monkey glands" Yeats wouldn't have liked this blog...)


Anonymous John Doe said...

does that mean you're a pedophile, Snark?

10:57 PM, May 29, 2005  
Blogger Agent Trochee said...

Snark isn't but Bill Blood might be.

2:05 PM, May 30, 2005  
Blogger R.C. Bald said...

Ah dear Snark I delight in your amicable nod, though I must be perfectly frank with you: I am unashamed of my identity & have made little effort to conceal it (except changing my name into that of an elderly scholar of Shakespeare). Nay, my prose itself fluorishes of its own accord & would, dare I say it, assume the same countenence regardless of its authorship. Yes, yes, friends, it may as well be written by Vigo Mortenson, I say!

7:54 AM, May 31, 2005  
Anonymous renata said...

Vigo! Vigo! do not pick on Vigo, lest I unleash an army of undead vixens to chop off your arms and boil them in a sweet and sour brew

10:03 AM, May 31, 2005  
Blogger Agent Trochee said...

did you know that Vigo is a subpar poet?

10:12 AM, May 31, 2005  
Anonymous Vigo the Carpathian said...

Drat! Blasted ectoplasm!

10:28 AM, May 31, 2005  
Blogger Snark said...


Send in the undead vixens!

11:19 AM, May 31, 2005  
Anonymous renata said...

Yes, I did know that Vigo is a subpar poet. And thank you for bringing the word 'subpar' into my day. I am going to chant it as I do my errands.

9:57 AM, June 01, 2005  
Blogger Ginger Pennebaker said...

Okay, I have to real name's not Ginger Pennebaker, it's Petrov Gustafson. I'm currently under the occassional employ of the Jordanian and Latvian intelligence services. I enjoy gun running, heroin smuggling, and lawn bowls. I'm now on a special CIA assignment to infiltrate the American poetry community and report on un-American activities. I apologise for my use of a pseudonym, it was a huge and complicated mistake. I can no longer carry on this pitiful ruse, and I intend to pledge my life to the goal of healing the wounds that divide the poetry and spy communities.

1:18 PM, June 01, 2005  
Blogger Alan Cordle said...

Dear Snark,

You need to be more careful about your anonymity. I already know where you live. I'd be happy to give you some "cloaking" tips. Just send me a Private Message on the Foetry Forum if you're interested.

6:52 AM, June 04, 2005  
Blogger R.C. Bald said...

But what of my residence, dear foetry?

7:29 AM, June 06, 2005  
Anonymous Wang Su Phat said...

an opium den in Tai Pei, right beside me, stretched on a rotted mat playing with a one eyed monkey. Represent, rc!

3:40 PM, June 06, 2005  
Blogger R.C. Bald said...

Wang Su, how precise your vision has proven, in spite of the opiate haze about our sleepy craniums!

10:34 AM, June 08, 2005  

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