Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Hi everyone. Thanks for your kind words about my PW article. The discussion it’s spurred on the blogosphere is an inspiring example of the very phenomenon the article describes.

I’ve gotten one consistent criticism, from Shanna Compton, Reb Livingston, and others,—that no woman bloggers were profiled—which I’d like to address. It’s certainly true that writing this article for PW afforded me the opportunity to portray the blogosphere as a space for dialogue on all sorts of issues between and about women and men in poetry and literary culture in general, to show that men and women are equal contributors to the blog scene. Basically I picked Silliman because you can’t tell this story without him, and Corey because, to my knowledge at the time, his blog got the most visits next to Silliman’s. That may not be true—I did not check everyone’s site meters—but it seems likely. I did try to get an interview a woman Web-journal editor, but she did not respond to my queries, and I was on a deadline. Both Silliman and Corey are very outspoken commentators on the blogosphere as well as on poetry, so they were ideal subjects for interviews. But the reasons why those two blogs are the most prominent may speak to an unequal distribution of influence in the blogosphere.

It shouldn’t be overlooked, however, that in the same issue of PW I did a profile of the poet Kay Ryan, who is, among other things, a woman, and a very extraordinary person in general. In planning our poetry coverage, which, in PW, is basically confined to one annual issue, the other editors and I were conscious of not portraying contemporary poetry as an art form still dominated by male voices.

Regarding the blogging piece, this was, of course, a very cursory survey of a very complex and subtle scene (I didn’t, for instance, say much about flarf, though I would have liked to, because I didn’t have the room); it was targeted at an audience that potentially has little investment in or knowledge of poetry, let alone the online poetry scene. Writing it, I knew I wouldn’t have the chance to dig deeply. The story is far from being all told, and I think it’s important that someone else take up the thread and do another piece in a print magazine, one which is more of an insider’s view, which is something my piece for PW couldn’t be.


Reb said...


Thanks for taking the time to respond.

I am not putting the blame of women's continued overlooked status in contemporary poetry on your shoulders . . .

but the article does further affirm to the PW target audience that male poets are the ones being watched now (where all the "action" is) and the women, well, we'll hear about some of them after their dead. It furthers the ridiculous statements that there aren't women bloggers or women editors or women doing other important poetry-related work online. It's one in a long string of blatant missed opportunities -- and this was kind of a "high-profile" opportunity.

So yes, sadly, it's a disappointment to some, kind of tired disappointment.

Anonymous said...

It's hard not to piss people off, no matter what you do.

shanna said...

i'm really glad to hear you did attempt to interview a woman web journal editor. it's unfortunate still that you couldn't find a way to mention her name or that journal somehow, even under intense deadline pressure. ah well.

also, if you'd like to beef up (or beef down) your blogroll with some women, you might try looking through this one of 200+ women poetry bloggers. i notice you only include one girl on yours (assuming girlie groves is female) and that blog seems to be defunct.


Anne Boyer said...

Actually, anon, it's not that hard not to piss people off. For example, if you are writing an article about a cultural movement that involves both men and women, do not write the article as if only men are involved. It seems rather like common sense.

Jessica Smith said...

Hi Craig,
"In planning our poetry coverage, which, in PW, is basically confined to one annual issue, the other editors and I were conscious of not portraying contemporary poetry as an art form still dominated by male voices." - I think it would've perhaps been useful to thematize this rather than assuming that readers might pick it up from the juxtaposition of the two features you wrote.

As a sidenote (of the "mine's bigger" variety), I receive about 100 more daily hits than Josh... it seems that when a woman does have something to say, people are interested... although I take a more personal, less overtly academic approach to blogging.

Danielle Pafunda said...

Hi Craig and all,

Thank you for the kind mention of La Petite Zine. Unfortunately, I too was dismayed not to see more women in the article (and to see the few women quoted in sort of secondary source positions). I would've been more than happy, as co-editor of LPZ, to give you a quote.

When Jeff and I first took over the journal, we wanted to halt that same passive-agressive exclusion that went on in English departments for the better part of the 20th Century. I.e. no women writers on the syllabus because they just don't happen to write the most important work, not our fault, this isn't a women's studies dept. la la la. Though the exclusion of women is rather overdetermined, the inclusion is easy. You look for them, you find them. And, no surprise, they write plenty of quote/publish-worthy work.

As Anne points out on her blog, menfolk aren't the norm. The absence of women on a blogroll, in a journal, in an article, looks bizarre to any thinking person.

Obviously, you, Craig, are not the sole perpetrator of boys' club blogging/publishing. You're guilty of taking the male privilege for granted in this instance (and don't we all take our privileges for granted), but hardly more guilty than other man-type parties. Your oversight is, at the moment, a good, tangible example of the almost unconcious macho posturing out there that shuts down thoughtful debate and leaves women with little motivation/space to participate in the discussion. Often, I don't choose to comment on an issue I care about because it's devolved into a thinly veiled pissing contest. I suspect other women, and likely plenty of men, feel the same? And that's an issue far beyond this blog/article, but perhaps one we've opened the door on?

Danielle Pafunda said...

Oh, that came out wrong? I don't mean to say that your article is full of muscle man poses...just that its result is similar to the results of macho posturing--women excluded.

I should point out that I'm really glad to see you writing on this topic, and always thankful when it gets airtime. We're in a publishing revolution, we're building community big and fast! Enormously exciting.

Brenda said...

I am amazed at how many women here are blatantly using the feminist cause as a justification for their disappointment in personally not being included, and therefore not getting publicity from, this article. If we are counting heads here, there were only 2 heads mentioned, and the female head (which would have been a third) did not find the article worth her time to respond. No one wants to blame a woman of course, but if you wanted to be fair, you'd say she, that female blogger who blew off the article, let all of womankind of the blogosphere down. It sounds pretty silly, doesn't it. Are women overlooked? they are in many cases, but it dilutes the feminist struggle to say that in this article, women got the shaft once again. When a masthead has a male/female ratio of 10 to 1, yes, when positions of power are filled only by men, yes, but did any of these female respondents so "tired" and "disappointed" at the lack of female representation bother to look at the masthead of PW? That's right: a female editor-in-chief and deputy editor, executive editor, reviews director, managing editor, and that's only at the top. These "feminist" complainers are not really paying attention to "women", or they would have noticed some of the women involved in this issue of PW. I think they are simply looking for their own names in print, and blaming a man for the absence. I for one am disappointed and tired of selfishness maquerading as feminism. Tired of feminism being coopted to justify individual women's need for self-promotion. Not a single woman complainer picked up the fact that the one annual profile of a poet that PW published is of a woman. That is a wonderful feminist article: a West Coast lesbian to boot. Let's celebrate that for a minute, for the presence of women poets in mainstream publications, instead of saying "you could have tried harder, what a missed opportunity, it's always men men men." I've been a feminist my whole life, and in my definition, feminism is about "women" not about "me". I hear people complain about petty "what about me?" issues, it's not usually about feminism but about sour grapes. Real feminists would celebrate someone like Kay Ryan and blog about her, not try to count how many "female" blogs are on the author's list, implying that there is underrepresentation there as well, which is a lame personal dig.

Reb said...

Brenda, maybe nobody brought up (here -- it's been brought up other places) Kay Ryan or the PW masthead because it has nothing to do with the subject at hand -- there are many women actively participating in poetry blogging and online journals -- doing "big" things and they were completely shut out/ignored/dismissed whatever you want to call it in an article that's supposed to be covering poetry blogging and online journals. Craig's response added to that disappointment because it implied that making an effort to more accurately represent what's going on would somehow change the shift of the "general" focus -- whereas as it was pointed out by others, it instead made it the focus.

Saying hey simmer down, there's a piece on Kay Ryan, that ought to hold you -- is, at the very least, blurring the issue, if not completely avoiding it. And this whole I contacted a woman editor and she never responded so I covered my bases -- well, it doesn't.

And the last thing I'm looking for is a personal mention in a PW article -- if there's only one place setting at the table earmarked for a woman, there are plenty of better choices. There are plenty of choices for whatever style or discourse you'd want to highlight.

I'm sorry you have issues with "feminism" -- I do too, don't we all. Too bad you're using your issues attack to women who are trying point out something very obvious.

And it's sorry you consider criticism coming from women as a "lame personal dig" and a need for self-promotion. It's really sorry. We only speak up for our own personal agenda? Whatever. And now we aren't even allowed to be "tired' or "disappointed."

brenda said...

The same personal agenda masquerading as feminism is once again in operation in reb's last comment: It's as if she's saying "we don't care about those women over there (editors and poet Kay Ryan) we care about these women over here, in the blogosphere (i.e.: us). we're the women being shut out/ignored; those other women are doing fine." It's still self-serving. But in the interest of individual agendas, I feel certain that even women bloggers, that great underrepresented population who are doing "big things", can also benefit by the presence of powerful women in publishing and in poetry. If they choose not to put these influential women in a separate category to dismiss.

J.B. Rowell said...

The article was about poetry on the web - bringing in another article that had a woman in it to justify the absence of women is beside the point.

A journalist who says he is being objective because he thought he included the two most visited blogs without really checking site meters is not being objective according to his own criteria.

Women bloggers who point out the wrongness of the article and the follow-up justifications for leaving women out should not be dismissed as being self serving, angry, or using feminism.

Feminism can't be used. It is a loaded word which at its face value means being committed to women getting the same rights and opportunities as men.

Did women bloggers even get an opportunity to be included in this article? (The excuse of an editor not returning queries seems an attempt to shift blame.) I personally did not feel left out, but some important women poetry bloggers did.

It's a shame - not just the article, but that women aren't even being allowed to complain about it and be taken seriously.

shanna said...

brenda, are you serious? that's a good trick, calling us whores for publicity. where have i heard that before? (for the record, i've been mentioned or reviewed or quoted in poetry-related articles about 5 times in publishers weekly that i can think of over the last several years.)

i didn't come over here to jump on craig, and i haven't. i just thought since he did have a blog, and a bunch of us were talking about the article elsewhere all day yesterday, it'd be kinda weird not to bring the question to him directly. so i just asked why no women bloggers were included in an article about how the internet is the new utopia of poetry. and craig unfortunately offered answers i found just as troubling as the lack that inspired the question. (i did mention the kay ryan piece on my own blog, which i was glad to see, sure, but as reb says, it's not an answer to the question we're asking. i also know the magazine is edited mostly by women. it's mostly read by women too, i imagine. the whole industry is more than half female. also beside the point.)

none of us can speak to why the (unnamed) woman editor who didn't respond to craig's questionnaire, because we don't know who she is. maybe she's a blogger as well as an editor and was exactly the right person to ask. her inclusion certainly would have quashed my complaint on this particular score. but it's ridiculous to imply--or to say that i or reb or whomever you are referring to in your comment would ever claim--it was *that woman's* responsibility to make sure the article was an accurate reflection of the community/phenomenon purported to describe.

the piece simply doesn't describe the poetry-related internet i know. that's it, basically. i really expected craig's answer to be either "gee, i didn't realize" or "i'm also disappointed but i couldn't find a single other woman to talk to after the first one turned me down"--both of which are problems in themselves, because neither *should be* true in the absense of actual bias.

what really disturbs me about your comment is this part: "the feminist cause as a justification for their disappointment in personally not being included." i don't see how you could so confidently claim to know what my motivations are, assuming i'm among the "many women" you're designating. but it's not the first time somebody i (presumably) don't know accused me of doing something i never did. that's the kind of nonsense i don't have any need to defend myself against.

anyway, i do appreciate being able to talk about this kind of thing out here. i hope it's clear where i'm coming from, and if not, well i guess you can assume whatever you like.

Reb said...


I really don't get your accusation that I have in any way said or implied I don't care about "those women over there" -- I said, my comments aimed towards the article regarding the online poetry scene. That is the discussion at hand -- in addition to being a blogger and online poetry editor, I'm also a poet and and I'm very happy Kay Ryan got a nice write-up.

And what is most mind-boggling and frustrating with your comments is your implication that my (and others) critique of the ARTICLE is based on our personal problems with men, our failures in life and in poetry and our insatiable desire for attention. Nobody here has made such outlandish personal dismissals of Craig -- nobody said women were omitted from that article because he has a problem with women -- cause that would be baseless and uninformed and shitty and really counter-productive. Nobody accused him of having an agenda or any malice.

So why is it OK for you to say I have problems, am self-serving and blame all my failures on men? Do you know me? What are my problems? Tell me more about my personal agenda.

Anonymous said...

Entertainment is irreplaceable.

Thanks, everyone. Especially Ms. Boyer.

Anonymous said...

Surely nothing is more emasculating than having your girlfriend defend you.

Danielle Pafunda said...

And on the meta- side, I'd hope that none of us in this conversation really believe in such a thing as a discreet and singular "feminism" or the "real feminist." Who's got the authority to decide what is authentic feminism, what is counterfeit feminism? Such essentialist terms embrace the ol' all-seeing God-eye and shunt all debates about gender right back into the ghetto. Under such a conception, it wouldn't much matter if Craig mentioned twenty women or zero women, as we'd always be the fixed category object Woman.

If I were angling to get my name (and not just my journal's name) in print, I'd find a less slippery drum to beat.

And on the meta-meta- I love that Craig's blog has now become the site of feminist blogger debate! (Still with us Craig, or did the topic get highjacked?)

Jordan said...

Who's this coward "anonymous," anyway. Dude, dudette whatever, step up.

Seth Abramson said...


You deserve better treatment than this. Much of what is happening to you at the moment can be explained by the fact that some people have too much time on their hands, and apparently too little of actual importance to which to bend their attention and efforts.

There is nothing more disheartening than seeing the monotone of selective indignation. Yes, yes, the whole situation is very unjust--and the fact that it is unjust has been militantly called to your attention by some individuals whose nose for injustice only works on alternate Fridays, during solar eclipses, and, oh yes, whenever their personal agendas are implicated.

Sexism, feminism, and poetry have absolutely nothing to do with any of this rigamarole.


Seth Abramson said...

Well, that sounded quite a bit harsher than I intended it to. I just feel like I'm watching a train-wreck here--a decent person getting castigated because of what his actions are believed to represent, not because of any presumed or implied (let alone proven) malice. And tilting at this particular windmill (i.e. Craig) does feel to me like a diversion from other larger and more important injustices--including in the poetry community!--which frankly I rarely see addressed by poets on their blogs (let alone non-poetry issues of great moment), in deference to (I suppose) more trivial entertainment such as this, which you'd think we all have more important things to attend to...sexism in our culture is rampant and a vital topic for debate; I just think this is a totally wrong and inappropriate vehicle for that dialogue.


Tim Peterson said...


I think it's great that you wrote an article about the blogs, because there needed to be one. But with the exception of Silliman, I hardly recognize your map of prominent bloggers at all, and I've been doing this for a few years now.

Obviously, it's a glaring error to leave women bloggers out of the piece, particularly since (in my experience) blogging has been one of the mediums in which women often say they feel more comfortable, more able to speak their minds and their lives without being flamed as on a listserv.

I wonder if it might be a good idea to think more about the notion of "prominent" bloggers -- could it be that your impression of the prominent bloggers could be derived from the fact that some bloggers feel the need to advertise/broadcast/crow about their own self-importance more than others? And could it be that perhaps most of the bloggers who do this are men? (nudge, nudge) A projected (absent) reader often plays out differently than the real thing, in this case.

Lola Mink said...

I just read your PW piece. AlthoughI found it well written, it is, afterall, a load of crap. Tghe Internet WILL NOT, HAS NOT and NEVER WILL be anything more than a nice place to visit but not take seriously. Come on, please, the stuff including "blogs" are a cry for help and a demonstration of low-self-esteem. "Please read my blog! Please llok at me! I'm somebody! Get real. It's play time and nothing more and equating some of these wretched little webzines to real magazines is a travesty. Shame on you. Grow up.
Lola Says: Not worth much. Move along.

Kevin Doran said...

Do i smell sour grapes? Wait, no: crusty balls.

And Craig, don't worry too much about Anne or Reb.

Pearl said...

Good article and interesting links, a couple new to me. Do you know http://robmack.blogspot.com/?

I can see where you're coming from. To look at the ones that deal only with poetry and poetics and manage to be have populist appeal thru loads of visitors make sense, especially as a survey article.

When you look at link lists, a lot of male blogs tend to have predominately male readers and blogrolls and visa versa. To my mind this is normal. One talks with people one is most comfortable understanding and there is a gendered speech and diference in interest.

It makes sense also that you would reports on people you read. To go out and alter to make a gender balance for its own sake looks nice but would be p.c. The focus is on what poetry is not what politics should be.

At the same time, I can see where critics are coming from. Another list of leaders and women not there. It reinforces gender reality by being part of it.

The solution to my mind is for complaintants to make their own list.