margaret atwood

Short Blog #7

I began this project with hopes of trailing slightly away from researching only within Facebook and, thus, started searching profiles through Twitter. Upon Twitter, longtime followers and advocates can be traced more easily than within Facebook communities, as people post, reply, or retweet statements, publications, features, and networks within their short and concise, 140 character tweets. Through hashtags (#helpful), which allow people to follow certain topics that are currently trending, we are able to follow specifically what we want. Twitter gives us a full display of each profile’s tweets, including an archive of past tweets, thus offering the “what you see is what you get” mentality of a no hidden attachment sign-up. On Facebook, it’s often irritating to “like” something or befriend a page  that, once you sign up, you are sent an eyesore of event invites to places that you’d never go to, let alone never heard of. This said, even though Twitter is a bit harder to maneuver and lacks the visual appeal of seeing familiar faces upon Facebook, I feel that it offers just as much as the notorious Book, as news becomes plainly stated…or is this a counterargument to my previous post, and is Twitter part of why humans are becoming less “literary”?

To further explore Twitter’s networked connections I began by looking at the Poetry Foundation’s Twitter, which currently has 13,078 followers. The Poetry Foundation is a highly extensive site that offers information about the poetry culture in primarily the Western World. The site offers articles, news, book reviews (offering lists of the top five best sellers in categories such as contemporary, anthology, children’s literature, and small press titles), and links to poetry resources, national programs (including Poetry Out Loud), and a blog (Harriet the Blog) that features articles concerning the literary world of poetics. Founded in 2003, the Poetry Foundation website came out of the Modern Poetry Association (founded in 1941), and was able to expand due to what they state on their “About” page as being a “large gift” (what I assume to be a donation) from a woman by the name of Ruth Lily, and states that they stand as a 501c3 foundation that accepts donations in order to progress the literary and poetic culture, everywhere. They further that they wish to shift the view of poetry from being a marginal view in today’s culture, stating, “the Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry”. The masthead of the site consists of over fifteen individuals, and invites writers from everywhere to contribute (in perusing I found CU’s own Julie Carr as a contributor). The Poetry Foundation is planning on entering the “real world” with the advent of a new building in downtown Chicago which plans to open in June of this year. As for their involvement in the digital community, the Poetry Foundation is highly active on Twitter (tweeting 20 times only yesterday), and has a fan base of 21,360 people on Facebook. The most recent tweets include promotion of the site itself, and are links to recently published articles in so that it’s followers are currently up to date.

The Poetry Foundation follows Writing Women, which spotlights roles of women in the literary world, past and present. Writing Women’s Twitter page has a following of 2,926 individuals (the large majority of them most likely being women), all of which the profile actively engages with in consistent tweets (tweeting 8 times yesterday). Most recent tweets include “Where do your Good Will donations really go?”, with an attached article and slide show concerning the beneficiaries of our donations, and a second tweet regards an article entitled, “Deliver Me From Filmmaking”, a memoir featured on talkingwriting.com. With a mission statement of “good writing requires much more than physical strength” upon the top of their profile, Writing Women unfortunately does not have a link to a personal website (and they’re unsearchable on Google); instead, they offer a link to Writing in Public’s website which they state that they are affiliated with. Though the authors remain anonymous, it appears that the genre of Writing Women’s tweets include topics surrounding women in any form of the finer arts, and spotlight the work that women writers have done in the past. Their profile photo is a painting of Virginia Woolf, thus sending the message that their inspiration comes from women, like Woolf, who write for truth and of “moments of being”.

Writing Women is followed by Poetry Out Loud, which is a national organization that is partners with the National Endowment for the Arts, The Poetry Foundation, and State Arts Agencies. Within Twitter, Poetry Out Loud has 2,075 followers, and a following of 1,683 fans upon Facebook. Poetry Out Loud appears to be very closely aligned with the Poetry Foundation, and one can understand the mission of both, when viewing Poetry Out Loud’s website, as both are striving to place poetry and writing on a level of  greater understanding and appreciation amongst the masses by promoting it through younger generations. When searching “Poetry Out Loud” upon YouTube, one can see the growing numbers of participants and views, as the program has finally dug its heels in. Starting with pilot programs in Washington DC and Chicago, Poetry Out Loud was begun in 2006 with tens of thousands of high school students participating. Finals occur every April, just in time for the school year to wrap up, giving students a chance to work on recitation for the year’s length.

From Poetry Out Loud, I found the New York Observer, who also follows the Poetry Foundation and subsequently follows many similar interests of mine concerning design schools on the East Coast. I constantly look at the Observer’s profile because it offers information about schools such as Pratt, Parsons, FIT, and RISD, and the upcoming seminars, projects, and courses being offered. After first following the Observer, however, I found that the actual website reads similarly to the New York Times, offering a myriad articles and topics from Media, to Culture, to Politics, to Technology. The page offers editorial articles from a staff of authorial specialists in each category, inviting the reader to return to the page each day for consistent news of the topic of their liking.

Writing in Public, which is followed by, and follows, the Poetry Foundation, is also followed by McSweeney’s as well as Poetry Out Loud. Their website states the following:The mission of Writing in Public is to promote the art of the essay across boundaries and borders, showcasing a diversity of innovative and thoughtful essays in English (or in translation) from independent, online journals around the world.” One can see where Writing Women, who appears to worship Virginia Woolf, queen of the essay, would be associated with Writing in Public, as many essays and research pieces by women today are in dire need of publication in the densely saturated world of publication. The page states that it supports creative ideas outside of mainstream media, which, plainly put, translates to mean that they think outside of the box. They have a submissions application, as well as a contact through which one can request to list their own journal, thus knitting a closer web of online publications and getting them all into the same tide-pool.

McSweeney’s is Dave Eggers’ publishing house. With almost 91 thousand followers, McSweeneys has made itself a cult-following for those who, like myself, are curious and perhaps obsessed with the creative outlets through which McSweeney’s promotes itself. Based out of San Francisco, McSweeney’s fan-base appears to be one that loves creative popular culture, as the profile is tweeting about once every five hours about topics of just that. Their most recent tweets include, “If the Beach Boys Had Lived In Great Britain” and “Mission Street Food”. Though many of the tweets of McSweeney’s appear to be far less literary than those of The Poetry Foundation or Margaret Atwood, the page’s following, which trails back to  a worship of Dave Eggers, himself, states that “literary” perhaps concerns more than what the traditional meaning originally strove for.

And, finally, is Margaret Atwood. Though she does not follow McSweeney’s (something which I find admirable), she does follow the Poetry Foundation, and is followed by ABOUTAWORD, Writing in Public, and the Poetry Foundation. Atwood has a following of 153,948 followers, and appears to actively engage with those who tweet to her, as at the current moment it appears that she is responding to them, one by one. Though she’s not in conversation with all of them, one can see the kind-heartedness of her engagement with the digital world, which makes me appreciate her presence upon Twitter that much more than pop icons who have publicists handling social media for them. Her page offers a link to her most recent book, Year of the Flood, which gives a breakdown of Atwood’s works, as well as her involvement elsewhere in the literary space. When looking at her Twitter profile, Atwood has mutual follow-ee’s to myself, as she also follows the grotesque writer Neil Gaiman. Her involvement within the literary community extends far past only highbrow literature, as her work also takes shelter in lesser-known presses such as Gigantic Sequins, or Writing Women’s archives.

Short Blog #2: Analysis of a Prose-Based Blog

Foremost, I want to pose a question as to what categorizes a prose-based blog from a photo-journal. As with the post-modernist ideal of art, can we not claim that many visual artists are essentially creating prose within their visual projects? Can we not argue that Scott Schuman’s http://thesartorialist.blogspot.com/ is a site full of prose-based sartorial criticism? Though short-winded in verbosity, I stand to argue that The Sartorialist is a website of vast depth and critique that analyzes a universal characteristic of mankind: personal expression through garment presentation. Schuman accompanies exquisite photos of ordinary international citizens with beautiful anecdotes of the way we, as humans, dress and express ourselves within our surroundings. Fashion design and presentation is considered a visual and tacit art which, by definition, aligns itself within the umbrella term of “Fine Arts” that is also inclusitory of poetry, prose, photography, painting, digital media, etc. If we are to look at these photos in a chronicalized order, do we not take something with us? A better understanding of self-representation and self-awareness over time or within the past five years of style? Though relatively recent in terms of origin, The Sartorialist, if continued over time, could visually teach us the evolution of stylistic trends as rooted from social and political happenings within our global culture. For example, how did we get from punk to grunge? What is the significance of veiling in the East (pre and post Reza Shah)  and how has that evolved through modernism, here in the West?

A friend recently showed me this absolutely amazing and wonderful website called cardboardgods.net. The writer of this blog, Josh Wilker, has a goldmine of baseball knowledge that is arguably competitive with the years and years of first-hand game viewing that your grandpa spent along the third-base line of Giants, Athletics, Rockies, Mets,or Yankees games. You get the point. Wilker chronicles his site by team name and those players who played for each team…like Ted Simmons . . . you have to love Ted Simmons and his unyeilding love for antique furniture. Not only did he have a batting average of .332 and catch for the Cardinals but in an interview after a tedious game that followed an 11th inning win, all he wanted to discuss was furniture and decor. (read this: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1093723/index.htm) Wilker accurately depicts each and every player in a way that ESPN can’t: his included anecdotes of everyday life, breaks down typical baseball discourse, and shows even a sports-resistant citizen that baseball is something that is part of the American spirit.

Finally, I want to spotlight a couple of music blogs that are similar to the structure of The Sartorialist but include more dialogue. I’m sure you’ve all heard of Pitchfork Media (http://pitchfork.com/), a music blog that your average hipster goes ga-ga over and tailors their entire iTunes library to their “Best New Tracks” list. Though a little trendy, Pitchfork has great commentary, comparisons to other artists and albums, and a surprisingly accurate grading scale of new releases. Similar to Pitchfork, yet really, its not, Funky16Corners (http://funky16corners.wordpress.com/) is a blog-based music compilation of soul and funk artists from vault of bygone eras. Started in June 2006, the blog offers playlists of hard-to-find artists whose records sound exquisite on vinyl.

I took a course on Grotesque fiction last year and some of the short stories that we read were absolutely amazing! Check out our collective prose-based blog to read story analysis and art critiques here: http://summergrotesque.wordpress.com/.

Some more literary-based and authorial blogs also worth checking out:

Margaret Atwood: http://marg09.wordpress.com/ (Such a goddess)

Jenny Boully: http://jennyboully.blogspot.com/ (Upcoming innovation)

Mark Frutkin: http://markfrutkin.blogspot.com/ (Canadian)

Neil Gaiman: http://journal.neilgaiman.com/ (Grotesque writer)