It’s that eerie time between Christmas and New Year when all the clocks and calendars seem bewitched. There might be a plate of Stollen and a cup of eggnog at your elbow, another mince pie and a mug of liquorice tea nestling against your mouse. You might be thinking about poetry blogs: starting one, finding some to read or even discovering what a poetry blog actually is. OK, that might not be you, but SOMEONE is thinking about it because “How to start a poetry blog” “Poetry blogs” “good themes for poetry blogs?”, and similar, turn up time and time again as search terms on this site. Also, my piece ‘Blogs by poets as opposed to Poetry Blogs’ is one of my most viewed posts. So, if it is you, HELLO! I’m going to address some of these terms. Consumption of Christmas refreshments is welcome but not compulsory as you read on. (NB I’m mainly talking about WordPress blogs because that is what you’re reading at this moment. Much of what I’m saying applies to other blogging platforms, such as Tumblr (owned by Yahoo) and Blogger (owned by Google). I’ve tried all three platforms and found WordPress the easiest to use but it’s worth experimenting as you might prefer something else).
What is a Poetry Blog?
To my mind, there are three main types, with a fourth, interesting and exciting, category just emerging.
1. A place to publish your own poetry.
Once you’ve set up a blog, you have the means to publish your poems on the internet and the world can read your work. Of course, there are a lot of poetry blogs out there – enter “poetry” or “poetry blog” into any search engine and you’ll see what I mean. Persuading people other than your friends and relations to read your poems might be harder than you think. Who would you like to read your work? If it’s the editors of poetry magazines and poetry presses, you are better off submitting your work to them in the usual manner rather than asking them to read your blog. Also, be aware that most reputable magazines and competitions want unpublished work – once your poetry is made public on your blog it will be ineligible. However, you can build up a following of readers of your work if you publish regularly and allow interaction in your comments section. But you might enjoy ringing the changes and writing other kinds of posts, in between your own poems. In which case, read on.
2. A place to talk about poetry and things to do with poetry.
These are quite popular with published poets, judging by the number of poets who blog. It’s not possible to mention all of them, the ones I’ve listed here are just a few I regularly enjoy.
More than a website, as well as contact details, where to buy the poet’s books, samples of poems, recordings or videos of readings, listings of events, readings, workshops the poet is giving, these sites provide poets with an online place to talk about what they’re thinking, reading and doing. They are often entertaining and thought-provoking. Poets often share other people’s poems (Anthony Wilson, Kim Moore, Abegail Morley, Carrie Etter, Christine Murray, among others, regularly do this), write about workshops they’ve given (Pascale Petit’s blogs about her courses at Tate Modern were very good) or places they’ve travelled to (Pascale also does this, as well as George Szirtes and Alvin Pang, among others).
Clare Pollard’s posts about becoming a parent have been very interesting, proving that there is no aspect of life that doesn’t feed into poetry and writing. In May this year, Rebecca Goss transformed her blog into an anthology of ‘Heart’ poems, to raise awareness of Children’s Heart Week. It’s not the first time that Rebecca has been creative with the blogging format: in previous posts she’s collaborated with a visual artist to produce word and image pieces on her blog. Poetry reviews and interviews with poets also fit well on a poetry blog, as does close reading of poems – try Clarissa Aykroyd’s The Stone and Star. And Maria Taylor shines light on all sorts of interesting aspects of poetry in her blog.
Robin Houghton writes in a lively, chatty style about poem submissions, rejections and acceptances, as well as write-ups of poetry events, readings, and workshops she’s attended. It’s a terrific blog to follow and will give you lots of ideas for posts, as will blogs by Isabel Rogers (who also writes fiction and scripts), poet and novelist Hilaire, Jayne Stanton, Rebecca Gethin, John Foggin and Jean Atkin among many others!
3. A place to publish other people’s poetry.
Make your blog into a poetry magazine, journal or anthology. I did this myself when I set up And Other Poems in August 2012. Michelle McGrane’s Peony Moon (currently on sabbatical) was there before me and The Open Mouse is another long-running site. Amy Key and Nia Davies set up Poems in Which in 2012 and, now with an expanded editorial team, it aims to publish three or four issues a year. Three more sites, which have sprung up in 2014 and are worth investigating, are Nutshells and Nuggets, The Stare’s Nest, and Proletarian Poetry.
Once you’ve decided on a name for your site, and thought of a tagline, you’ll need an ‘About’ page and possibly a ‘Submissions’ page if you want to encourage people to send you their work. You can always contact people directly by email or by using social media to ask them to send poems. You will increase the reach of your project if you share what you’re doing on social media sites and if your contributors share the links to their poems by posting them on Twitter and Facebook, etc. Don’t forget to ensure that you have their permission to publish their work and that they own the copyright.
There are probably many more poetry sites publishing poems this way. Leave a comment below if you have any recommendations.
4. Something Else!
I mentioned a fourth category of poetry blog. It’s possible to use a blog to do something different, as Jo Bell did in January 2014 when she started 52 and created an online community of poets brought together by reading and sharing their responses to a weekly writing prompt provided by Jo and guest contributors. Perhaps you know of other blogs which are engaging with poetry in an imaginative way. As before, please feel free to let me know in the comments section.
That’s all for now. I haven’t mentioned choosing a theme for your poetry blog or anything about how to gain followers and build a readership. I’ll leave that for another post. In the meantime, Happy New Year and thanks for reading!
Best wishes, Josephine x