Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Behind the Blog

I am allowing myself to be self-indulgent and write about me, and my blog, rather than compose my usual essay. I justify this by having filled yet another administrator’s page of 25 post titles.

My Art
Last year, in early summer, I mused that in late summer there would be the convention for “readers, writers and publishers,” When Words Collide. That might be a good time, I said, for diverting my man-hours away from my hobby of crafting essays; instead, I could put in long hours writing fiction. Reading my musings, my best blog fan wrote in to comment. She suggested some important topics to cover before I might switch to fiction. I happily did so, and then… I never did switch to fiction. Something happened.

You see, in the late spring of 2014, at the Alexandra Writers Center, with the intention of improving my prose, I took a weekend “poetry” class from Sheri-D Wilson. I was probably the only one there who didn’t write poems, the only one who didn’t know who Wilson was. The class filled up quickly as poets were attracted by their deep respect for Sheri-D. It was a good weekend. Because she liked everyone there, on late Sunday Sheri-D invited any student interested to keep on meeting with her. Six said “Yes!” three showed up, two of us have stayed the course with our eyes on the prize: a coherent “book” of poems. Not a book-sized collection of assorted poems. No, a real book is much harder but more rewarding.

It’s strange. I came into writing through hard-nosed practical journalism; I would have thought I had nothing in common with poets. Wrong. Poets are “spiritual warriors,” as Sheri-D says, and like a martial artist I will be trying to get better at technique, and more centered at my soul, all my life. I am saying that when poets are chewing their pencils and leaning over their paper, suspense is in the air; when they are publicly reciting, the stakes are high.

How queer to include myself as an “artist” and a “poet.” I used to see such people as “they.” Now I can revel in saying “a fellow poet.”

A fellow poet, middle aged like me, has been meeting with me and the white haired lady I think of as being our sensei, Sheri-D Wilson, for over a year. If there were colored belts for what we are doing we would surely both have changed belts. We can both see our progress… hurray! And because my book is rushing to completion I have less time for essays, no time for fiction.

My Blog
Before attending When Words Collide last month, I thought: What if someone there asked for my website address? I would reply, “You’ll never remember such a long URL, better to search for “essays by Sean.” So of course I realized I had better “search-engine” myself: Lots of other Seans are writing, but there I am, at the top of the search page.

A little further down, among references to other Seans, there was a site that analyzes my site. I don’t know why. Maybe blogs are analyzed, like Neilson rates TV shows, in order to guide advertisers. Happily, my ego is secure: I have little interest in hosting advertisers or getting lots of readers, little interest in “search engine optimization” (SEO) That’s partly why I don’t make links, as I said in No Links is Good Links. (July 2012) Still, I was curious, so I clicked.

I learned that I’m “readable.” That makes sense. As a former reporter, I don’t string many “clauses” together, I habitually avoid long “complex compound” sentences. But let me note that I do have some harder denser posts.

I learned my site is safe for children, “trustworthy” and mostly positive. No surprise. A “low traffic” blog. No surprise. An “extraordinary global rank.” Big surprise.  

Although I had known I was being translated a lot, I said: “Wow.” I guess “citizenship” is a keen interest all around the globe.

Being fond of foreigners, sometimes I feel guilty at using big words that a nonnative English speaker wouldn’t know. Here’s my essay philosophy: While people overseas are welcome, and are expected to listen in, my true focus has to be people in my own backyard. Hence big words, despite small paragraphs.

I have to chuckle: As I write this “summing up” post, my greatest number of hits, in this most recent of my 25-title pages, has been for the previous summing up post, Poetics of Keeping Three Wishes Ready, archived March 2015. To explain poetics: For many weeks I was making posts with “poetics” in the title as I thought this was more accurate than writing “poem.” For each poetic post I was tacking an essay onto a poem I had memorized long ago, with the prose being as important as the poem. In case you’re wondering: Including a poem with an essay hasn’t hurt or helped my hit count. My run of “poetics” ended when I ran out of memorized poems. (Hey, I forgot about Winnie the Pooh’s poems)

As usual, some of my favorite posts have been the ones with the lowest hit count. For example, Poetics of Gettysburg (July 2015) had surprisingly few readers, even though it was posted while the confederate flag controversy was lingering in the news. I had relished explaining the British view of North and South to readers in Canada and Mexico.  

My Thoughts
As for Mexico, some readers down there have been translating my essay/movie review (Fears of) Elysium, (October 2013) perhaps because I write of a future where U.S. citizens have consciously changed their culture from embracing a melting pot to valuing pluralism over assimilation. (Who says a culture can’t change?) I suppose for folks living in crowded Mexico where, having so little immigration, (Europeans and Nazis favor South America) they have never needed to think about a melting pot, this vision of the future would be comforting. By the way, someone told me Argentina has so many Italian immigrants that, despite the UK being part of Europe, during the Falklands War the Italians favored Argentina.

In the age of Elysium if parents feel no shame, no social pressure to assimilate, then it becomes easy for a mother, speaking Spanish, to address her teenage daughter as the girl comes home from the salmon festival wearing a short skirt, “Look at your skirt! If you don’t start acting like a traditional Mexican, then none of the Mexican boys will want you… and I don’t want to be speaking to my son-in-law in English!”

Sean Crawford
~Part of the reason I kept meeting to make a book was I got to keep meeting Sheri-D Wilson, as she is well worth knowing. No, I won’t expand on that.

She is a leader in Spoken Word poetry. Here is a Youtube link to her reciting a spoken word poem, video fashion, called Spinsters Hanging in Trees.

~My fellow poet Mary said it’s OK for me to link to her site. While her exciting forthcoming book has long poems, her site has short ones, like quick darts. Here is the link to her Scribble Darts from the Heart.

~I touched on why a not-so-practical journalist like me, or an engineer, would memorize poetry in Memorizing Poetry, archived June 2015.

~While two of my August essays might have naturally held a footnote to link to an essay with “jetpacks” in the title, I chose not to footnote. Not then, but now if you want to try one of my harder denser essays, try Jetpacks and TV News, archived June 2012, where I showed the public’s non-awareness, or denial, that TV shows and TV news must be radically different than print.

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