WordPress: Plenty Of (Fish) Poets?

I find it hard to write opinion pieces.
There is a very deep-seated fear that someone reading will be offended, won’t agree with me, or won’t understand. Then there’s the worse alternative in this online world, they’ll leave a nasty comment or, horrors! Unfollow me.
This little bit of soapbox has been calling to be stood upon since earlier today when I read a piece by a writer whose work I admire. This person has a hard-hitting style, visceral and in-your-face. His work attracts a lot of attention and rightly so.
The particular work that struck a chord was regarding the nature of the people who like or comment on his poetry. The words stirred some old observations of writers, readers, genders and the internet. I’ve been writing on the internet for a few years now and for the most part enjoy it. Some of the pitfalls though are very real, sometimes hurtful, sometimes frightening, even illegal. Humans can be both exceptional in their behaviour and they can be absolute shitheads.
I can only speak from my experience. I am keenly aware that there are different ones. I think one of the prime things for Readers to remember is that – writers write. We write and that is all. It is often a real or current experience but not always and I think it is critical to not make assumptions about the person behind the writing.
I think it’s a fair generalization to say that most females feel words more than males. They are more inclined to respond with likes and comments when they perceive that the writer is angry, lonely, hurt. The key word being, perceive. They are also far more likely to act on their perceptions and that is where boundaries tend to become fuzzy here on the internet.
It is not okay to read someone’s work and start private messaging condolences, sexual offers, advice, not even cookies. Unless you know this person – use your common sense – we are all essentially strangers. The hardest thing I’ve done in recent years is be in a relationship with a talented and very attractive poet. He is a grown man with a lot of experience to draw from and he often writes about sadness, hurt, loneliness. So many times, this was taken as an invitation by readers / other writers when in fact; he was in a long and happy relationship. Note Ladies: sometimes spouses / partners are on the admin board of these blogs.
Many of us here want an outlet for our emotions but it isn’t a given that we have no support in our real lives. The comments are welcome and valued but in sharing them, it’s important to be respectful, to not make assumptions and to not attempt an intimacy with a stranger. Dangerous and exciting? Perhaps. Just as many times it’s stupid and predatory.
We all of us are voyeurs here to a certain extent. Voyeurs by invitation. I think it’s important to not cross that line. Just like in real life relationships, closeness comes with time and with many interactions.
I’m wondering what it is that draws so much attention and interaction to some writers and not nearly as much to others. What are your thoughts on the way that we communicate here? Is it a little hotbed of plenty-of-fishness or a meaningful platform for writing?
This (very quiet for the most part) poet would like to hear your opinions.

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23 thoughts on “WordPress: Plenty Of (Fish) Poets?

  1. This is a great read, if only because the piece I posted this week sort of aligns with it very well – being that it is a poem dedicated to every man who tried to seduce a woman through poetry over distance and failed.

    Where I don’t agree with you is that writer’s write and that is all. Here, we all do one other thing in as much as we publish. Writing is an act of humility or utility – publishing is an act of vanity. If writing was the thing in itself, what need is there for a poem once it is written? File it away, put it in a drawer and begin again. Why do we need to display our work for the admiration or reinvention of others? That is a whole, ‘nuther motivation and a whole ‘nuther world of pain.

    Thus, I always think that when you put up your work in a social media context you enter a form of marketplace and, whether you like it or not, your work competes for attention based on market forces just as much as a brand of beer or one of the less well known Kardashians does. Slightly different forces, but the same rules apply. And, while quality is a factor, it is neither a consistent one nor a predictable one. I used to marvel at the fact that I could get almost 10,000 views a week on my blog while writers that I was embarrassed to be listed alongside, so good were they, would barely get 20. Like it or not (and this I where my point intersects neatly with yours) the biggest single driver is in such a fluid market as social media, is how the writer chooses to market themselves, be it through familiarity or mystery.. It happens on the more social writing sites to hilarious and embarrassing degrees and, to some extent, it happens here (witness the hideous spectacle here when a writer is placed in Freshly Pressed – the self congratulatory, fatuous “Look at me, I have just been freshly pressed” blog being a ubiquitous example).

    I also don’t think you can blame a reader for making assumptions. I think it is a writer’s job to trust a reader enough to make assumptions and to be a good enough writer to steer them to correct assumptions. Even if we don’t talk directly to people here the way we may have back on the then huge poetry market of MySpace. we still leave a pretty decent biography behind in our work. How we sanitized (or muddy it) and how other people put it together is a risk engendered the minute we take the fool notion to press the word publish. I am often pulled up when my narrative deviates from the story I have set down in previous blogs (a risk when you don’t publish chronologically consecutive pieces), so I believe people do form their own images of your story and their own expectations of how you, as an unreliable narrator, act within it.

    Thank you for a fascinating article.

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    • You know, you’re right about the “why not file it away?” I know for me, I want to be heard. I think some of what I have to say is worthwhile. I do suffer from a bit of “why the hell do they get 100’s of likes and comments and I get less” and not so much in a jealous way as I wonder why I’m not connecting with people. I don’t have what I call a typical female style – cause I’m not – and I don’t like the thought that it may be off-putting to readers.
      Much food for thought in your response Seb. It’s always good to see you here. Take care.

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  2. I totally relate to what you’re saying. It is hard to put your opinionated work out there, especially when writing that’s really not so great gets so much attention. I feel this often in my own literary blog. My advice would be to keep writing and posting, because there will always be those writers who really do admire your work (like myself!).

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    • I find it hard to navigate here sometimes but I do think you’re right. Keep writing and posting. What touched this off was two-fold; I find myself reluctant to like or comment too often, regardless of how great a piece is because I don’t want to look like I’m fangirling or worse. I know this comes from my experience on the other side of overzealous readers and I don’t want to be seen as a “Writer Wench”. The flip is that I do love interaction and discourse on my work (and when I know it’s welcome on other folks). It kinda ticks me off that blogs that read like plagarized “How To Be A Great Lover” with a side of Harlequin Romance (“not that there’s anything wrong with that” (: ) get reams of attention, where other’s that are truly meaningful, beautiful, interesting go ignored (not mine per se – just an observation)
      Thanks so much for popping by and reading, K

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  3. This is a great post with a whole lot to think about. I have a couple of bloggers that comment very frequently as I do with their posts. I think over time we have achieved a bit of comfort with each other, although certainly not in a weird or voyeuristic way. We have never said anything inappropriate at all therefore I find this type of friendly banter to be quite acceptable. On the other hand anything that we post is open to interpretation and as such one should expect all sorts of comments, appropriate or not. I personally click many more likes than post comments. In my view the likes (I do read everything that I click like on) still show that I appreciate the time and effort that the writer put into their post whether I agree with it or not. In all the time I have been here on WordPress, to my knowledge I have never been disrespectful to another writer, mostly because I don’t think it is appropriate, but also because I would hope that whether someone liked what I wrote or not I would receive the same respect in return. I do think that boundaries need to be respected in this virtually anonymous world, just as they should be followed in our face to face relations back here in the real world. I realize this response is not the smoothest thing that I have written, but I think you get my point. Thanks for the great piece.

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    • I agree Dom. I think a good rule of thumb is: is you wouldn’t behave this way in person, don’t do it online. I should probably qualify some of what I’m saying with, I was off WP for an extended period due to the actions of some folk. My experience outside of that has been very positive and nurturing. I’m more of a “liker” than a “commenter”. If I click that button, I’ve read and enjoyed or empathized with that writer’s words.
      Thanks for jumping in, I’ve been curious about some of the things I’ve seen. It’s great to hear another voice.

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  4. Thank you for opening up this subject which I have been mulling over for quite some time. You raise some wonderful issues for discussion. We start the conversation by posting. Someone responds with a ‘like’ or comment and the conversation either ends there or it continues, usually on the blog but sometimes off the blog. We are all adults and presumably we all know how to end an inappropriate conversation, how to test for seriousness, how to redirect a conversation. My point is that I don’t think we can lay down hard and fast rules such as “not attempting intimacy with a stranger”. Just as in real life conversations are infinitely variable with subtle nuances that may or may not invite further intimacy.

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    • Interesting points Malcolm. I did mention that I was speaking solely of my experiences and none were subtle or nuanced. Perhaps I should have said “forced” or “contrived” intimacy as it describes more accurately what had happened. I do agree that as you describe the potential interaction, wonderful relationships can develop.
      Thank you so much for taking the time to join in and share your view.

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    • Thank you and yes, a very good point. The most important takeaway in this experience of writing, or having any online presence, is that there are many fictions spun, many masks worn.

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  5. An excellent post! I view posts as a generous sharing of thoughts, ideas, images and imagination, in the form of poetry, with no strings attached. As described.. a gift to be shared. And this (very shy for the most part!) poet knows it is a 100% meaningful platform!
    Greg

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    • I agree. What I’d picked up on from the post that started this was, a certain type of reader can mistake that gift as a personal token. With the proliferation of provocative avatars / descriptions, and people creating alternate personalities and blogs, sending sexual offers, all in the name of forcing contact with a writer, his description of his reader base – though it was in a much more gentle and general vein – struck a chord. Only because I’ve seen it and the way it can escalate from the other side. Is it the norm or widespread? I doubt it and it won’t stop me from writing. My experience here has been wonderful and very meaningful – that one part of it being dealt with and done.
      Wow… this (mostly very quiet) poet has become rather verbose in the last couple of days!

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      • I believe this to be neither the norm, nor widespread. It just comes with the territory! We have all undoubtedly met our fair share of similar people/approaches in person, at work or at leisure, for example. And I still work and continue to take my leisure..seriously! 🙂

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      • I’ve not had anyone in my real life behave this way. Not to the extremes that occurred online. People can’t hide who they are in the real world.
        I take my leisure much more seriously… I think it’s long past “Win The 649″ o’clock” for this girl, who now must go clock in with “The Man”.

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