November 24, 2005

Blogs and Freedom

A plug here for the Electronic Freedom Foundation-
Besides their other causes,EFF has a goal to "give you a basic roadmap to the legal issues you may confront as a blogger, to let you know you have rights, and to encourage you to blog freely with the knowledge that your legitimate speech is protected."

Though the Poets Online blog is not intended to be controversial or political, you never know where the winds will send you...

If you blog, check out the Legal Guide for Bloggers, a collection of blogger-specific FAQs.

Bloggers are entitled to free speech
Bloggers have the right to political speech
Bloggers have the right to stay anonymous
Bloggers have freedom from liability for hosting speech the same way other web hosts do
Find out more about EFF

November 13, 2005

Moderating Comments

This blog has "moderated" comments. This means that I have to approve or reject a comment that someone posts.


It took only a week after I started the blog for it to begin getting comments that had nothing to do with poetry (including people trying to link to all the same crap that you get in your email - Cialis, cheap drugs, moneymaking schemes and a few obscenity-filled rants on politics).

This week there was an anonymous post about the blog being moderated. It said:
"I feel this blog is rubbish, moderated by either a foolish and whimsical comment nazi or a lazy sod, rarely updated and no good for discussion."

Comment nazi is an interesting term. Perhaps it's too many years of teaching that makes me want to organize and put a format to the blog. I think it's still a valid forum for discussion - about poetry. The main site (Poets Online) is similar I suppose. We offer a writing prompt. We consider only poems that address the prompt. I regularly get more poems that DO NOT address the prompt than do. (Large numbers of religious poems, for example, and - sadder to reject - poems that appear to be earnest poems by young people.) But that's the caveat that comes with the package. (Double checked that - a caveat is "a modifying or cautionary detail to be considered when evaluating, interpreting, or doing something")

The comment continues: "There will be no discussion."
That would be unfortunate, since discussion was half the intent. (Expanding on the prompts was the other half.) Still, if you survey the blogosphere, you will see that there are many blogs that allow no commenting at all. " A weblog or blog is a web-based publication of periodic articles (posts), usually presented in reverse chronological order. It is an online journal with one or many contributors, " says Wikipedia. And I think I fit safely in that definition.

Caveat lector.

November 7, 2005

About Peace

I used the poem "Peace" by C.K. Williams this month as our writing prompt model. (You should be able to read it here.)

That poem looks at a kind of peace - first by looking at its absence - in a relationship fight that wears on even into sleep and dreams. (Look at "Peace" by Lesley Ullman for some contrast.)

However, "peace" holds different meanings for each of us at different times. In times of war, the absence of war is likely to be the first definition to come to mind. When "we fight for hours", as in his poem, I would guess that tranquility, quiet and harmony in our relations would better fit the bill. We even use the word at times to ask for silence or calm or as a greeting or farewell.

I like that this poem takes a different take on the meaning and, in fact, doesn't use the word within the poem, and yet it does arrive at a kind of peace.

Having grown up in the 1960's, peace was frequently a symbol both literally & more figuratively. I knew a number of people who went off and joined the Peace Corps. There is a Nobel Prize for Peace. We can do a meditation for peace and it can be to bring our own inner peace or as part of a group's efforts to bring peace to the world. There are plenty of organizations working for peace - like

In "Peace, after Long Madness" by Ned O'Gorman, peace is an assassin. And I suppose that reading poems about war might actually be a way to approach peace too.

November 1, 2005

Proustian Memory

Reading "The Lanyard" from Billy Collins' newest book, The Trouble with Poetry we find the line "No cookie nibbled by a French novelist could send one into the past more suddenly"

So, in our October writing prompt we addressed Marcel Proust's madeleine cookie, which I said was once a rather snooty literary reference that has worked its way into pop culture.

The prompt is to "try writing a poem that begins with or concentrates on this Proustian Memory experience where an unexpected re-encounter with a scent from the distant past brings forward a series of memories."

Here's some more on that Proustian memory info for you to use...

read the original passage by Proust at

A novelist I enjoy reading is Umberto Eco - his newest novel, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, has a protagonist who has forgotten who he is.
"All that he can remember are the things he's read or seen in movies. He has no personal identity; his memory is just a torrent of novels, cartoons, ads and poems. Let's call such a narrowly focused amnesia the "Umberto Eco Syndrome," given the famous novelist's seeming ability to remember everything he's read. He has more than 50,000 volumes in his two libraries back home in Italy, and sometimes, in such works as "The Name of the Rose" or "The Island of the Day Before," he seems intent on citing, quoting, parodying or reflecting on all of them... Marcel Proust famously claimed that all art is distilled and ordered memory. The term "Proustian memory" refers to the way a single stimulus -- the taste of a sweet cake -- can unfold a world of personal associations. As Eco says, "Memory is identity. Memory is the soul. You cannot be punished in hell without the memory of your sins."
read more about the book at

The science of memory & smell
and the psychology

Look at an earlier prompt from Poets Online on childhood memory where Ellen Kaplan addressed this idea

Any thoughts on Proustian memory or useful links? Perhaps you want to add to our discussion but it's not coming out as a poem...