Cross-genre (before it was cool)
Genre seems like a rote device, four solidly identifiable modes of writing: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama. But long before writ- ers added hyper- links and embedded video to their work and called it mul- tigenre, tangible changes were un- derway to subvert rigid methods of expressing oneself. From gothic fiction to the invention of political science, writers were more inventive than any traditional view might hold.
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Blogging: the Post-Memoir
The idea of the memoir has evolved beyond its former printed self. A traditional memoir details the personal accounts of one’s life in a book or a short story. While blogging follows this idea, the style is looser and written in a series of online entries that are updated regularly, giving bloggers the ability to add to ongoing conversations that are currently popular. But what makes these blogs interesting enough to read?
The same could be asked of memoirs on the shelves of our local book shops. When we pick up a book, we rarely question who wrote it. What difference does it make? We choose a book because we are interested in its themes: sadness, hardship, or maybe the love of a family. The author’s name is rarely the first thing to catch our attention. It’s not until we read and enjoy the book that we actively seek books by the same author. So is there really a difference between grabbing a printed memoir and scrolling through the posts of a blog about someone’s life? Successful blogs, like memoirs, use themes to draw readers in. It doesn't matter who wrote it. It’s what the story’s about.
Take, for instance, unknown musicians and film makers who use YouTube as a platform to start their careers as professionals. They aren’t famous. They perform in front of a video camera and post it online to get feedback and throw themselves out into the world. And then they are discovered. Who watches these videos and discovers these young people? Everyday, ordinary YouTube users who share similar interests. YouTube is post-television, in a sense; in turn, it leads us to the conclusion that blogging is the post-memoir.
Say you’re interested in running. Maybe you want to train for a marathon, or maybe you just want to get off your couch. There’s a large running community and with it comes an abundance of books, especially memoirs. You go to the book store and look for just that – a memoir about running, because that’s what you’re interested in.
Maybe, instead, you sit down at your desk with your computer. You want to find out about running through personal experiences. You want trails, warm ups, the best athletic wear. The blogger may log in miles per week and discuss what has helped him work past that knee injury he’s had since last spring. Hey may post about his diet or how he’s been training for a specific race. His success and experiences are different from any other blogger’s. A blog offers much of the same information as a memoir. You get a firsthand account, and instead of reading about something that has already happened, you are in step with the blogger, living and reading as he is living and writing. You are carried along for the ride. It’s a memoir unfolding, and you are observing the process.
In addition to blogs that center on a theme, there are just as many that are personal. These are the bloggers that captivate readers with their lives and the honesty behind their words. Blog posts often read like chapters of a gripping memoir. Instead of focusing on a theme and projecting it out into the digital world, personal bloggers pull the world in. As a people, we are enthralled by the lives of others. We read novels and memoirs about individuals we have never met. We want to know secrets that should be tucked away but instead are splayed out before us like Hershey bars on Halloween.
Let’s not forget that while there are a great number of blogs that are worth reading for literary value, there are just as many that are not. There are blogs that feature pictures of cats in boxes, blogs used as social networking platforms, and blogs for everything in-between. These are wonderful to surf on nights spent sitting pretzel-style on your bed, but if you’re looking for a blog that encompasses the idea of the post-memoir, you’re hard pressed to find it here. Blogging allows the reader to read a memoir as it happens, but that does not go to say that every blog you stumble upon will be literary.
Still, in the trending new genre of post-memoir, more blogs are taking on that literary oomph. Because blogs are kept current, the writer knows what readers want to hear based on responses and trending topics. Individual bloggers give readers information that can’t be found anywhere else but through that one unique lens. Blogging adds to the conversation, and with it come readers who are ready to discuss it.
Google Poetry, Authorship, and Copyright
In October 2012, a poet named Sampsa Nuotio created a site called “Google Poetics,” which posts submissions by poets from around the world, each of which is created in a nontraditional way. Each submission is derived from Google’s autocomplete suggestions, which appear when any Google user is typing in a search phrase. The suggested searches are predictions about what a user might be searching for, based on common searches performed by other users:
The suggested searches can form a unique and sometimes moving series of phrases that read like poetry: they demonstrate poetic repetition, show a particular mood or theme, and evoke an emotional reaction in the reader. A recent example from November 5, 2013 demonstrates how these poems can be very moving. The first line shows what the poet typed, and the following four lines show Google’s suggested searches:
The result reads like a poem, with the repetition of the phrase “Though I” as a way of contrasting the different lines. It has the tone of a poem, speaking about love and death, which are common themes in poetry. It even makes the reader consider the deeper meaning behind the lines, such as what the poet “disagreed with” and whether the “departure” in the last line might be an implied death. These elements are all common in poetry, but is this really a poem? Three important questions emerge when considering this style of poetry. First, can such a poem be considered a creative or literary work, when it was randomly generated with very little influence from the poet? Second, can the poet truly be considered the author of the poem, when they didn’t write it, but instead discovered it? And third, should such poems be protected under copyright, or instead be considered part of the public domain?