One of my favorite blog sites for posting my writing, mostly poetry, is OpEdNews, self-described as a “progressive / liberal news / opinion media blog community site”, because it functions in a very egalitarian way. Articles (poems in my case) gravitate upward to the top of the content pyramid based on number of reads. As new content appears, old content filters down into the archives. It’s not quite fair because there is plethora of good material that isn’t read simply because the author is new / unknown and there is a tendency for readers to stick with their tried and true favorite contributors. This is only human.
I have seen famous authors benefit from the loyalty of readers when some of their books, by any objective measure, were not worthy of the attention they were getting such as Vonnegut during his heyday. Prolific popular writers often make the mistake of thinking that the adulation of their fans means that they are worthy of adulation, when in fact they are simply flourishing at the center of a personality cult. Is there anything wrong with that? Not at all. But time will eventually winnow out the golden wheat from the chaff. There are many examples of this but the one that comes to mind is Herman Hesse. He was extremely popular in the 60s and 70s but in my opinion he only wrote a few books that deserve to be regarded as classics: Demian, Siddhartha, and the Glass Bead Game. But, in his defense, literature of the moment has its value and its purpose. And maybe that is a heroic function of modern or pop-literature, to promote works of dubious quality that serve as catalysts for change and transformation and even revolution, and the critics be damned.
So, where is this blog-post leading? Back to my own process of course: I am looking over a short list of the poems that I have posted on OpEdNews over the years that were rated most popular (of my posts) and I am surprised to find that they were of 5 distinct styles, and of wide-ranging quality . #1 and #2 are thoughtful, I would say thought-provoking, carefully written ones that I felt represented my best writing, #3 is “out there”, angry, sardonic, all over the place, raw. #4 is stirring, serious, a call to action, #5 is experimental: the style is spare and dreamlike with almost no punctuation, composed of barely related fragments, and #6 is funny but also shocking with an edge to it, about the fouling of the environment by industrial-scale pig farms. (All of these poems are addressing the existential crisis of our times from the perspective of the poet-activist)
In the interest of keeping this blog entry relatively short, I will conclude by saying that I have learned something from this review of which of my poems clicked with readers of this site. My readers seem to be less interested in quality than in the personality of the piece (the voice) and the content. Voice has to do with attitude and authenticity. All of these poems, regardless of the quality of the writing, were poems that I wrote out of the sincere need to express a true emotion or complex of feelings. I was not, in any of these poems, trying to promote myself. I was, as I hope I always am and will be, true to spirit of my art.