For much of history, writing has been considered a solitary act. I would be lying if I didn’t have the occasional fantasy about being a romantic caricature, writing in some ivy-strangled brick workshop that I would call my fortress of solitude whenever friends came to visit.
Jed Perl questions the way we’ve come to view writing in the era of blogging and tweeting. Has the reading public begun to feel entitled to all of a writer’s writing whether it was intended to be published or not?
The strange thing about Other Flowers: Uncollected Poems—which contains 163 poems discovered among Schuyler’s papers in the Mandeville Special Collections Library at the University of California, San Diego—is that the editors, James Meetze and Simon Pettet, feel no obligation to explain why this book exists. Didn’t anybody wonder why these poems were not published during Schuyler’s lifetime? There are many possible explanations. Schuyler might have thought certain poems were not good enough. Or he might have thought there was some virtue in publishing less rather than more. Or it may be that an editor prevented him from publishing things he in fact wanted to publish. But none of these questions is even considered, at least not in the brief introductory texts that the editors have included with Other Flowers. The idea—extremely simple, even simplistic—appears to be that if it was written it needs to be read.
The magic of writing is the intimate one-on-one connection between writer and reader. Are we losing that intimacy and depth when the writer knows that this work will be read by millions as soon as she presses enter? Perl argues that writers must “to some degree believe they are alone with their own words.” Otherwise, if writers are always aware of their audience, can they really let their guard down and write with the raw emotion that can be beautiful and ugly, but is always inevitably true?
I’m not arguing that there are no emotional weblogs, but the majority of them are written on emotionally safe subjects or are written in a guarded manner. But if a blogger can actually write with their guard down, you probably have an exceptionally good weblog on your hands.