Hi. I’m Dave Bonta, a poet and literary magazine editor from the eastern edge of western Pennsylvania, and this is my blog. (For more about me, see davebonta.com.) Conventional blogging wisdom says that in order to attract and retain readers, a blog should have a focus, and maybe that’s true. But if I had to stick to just one or two topics, I would’ve burnt out a long time ago. So, welcome to the melange! I post poems, photos, essays and videos, pen the occasional satire, and do a regular audio podcast. And since November 2010, I’ve been joined by master poet Luisa A. Igloria, who writes a poem every day in response to my observations at Via Negativa’s microblog companion site, The Morning Porch (and occasionally in response to other things).
Other, more occasional guest writers have contributed posts as well, including Todd Davis, Teju Cole, Steven Bonta (my older brother), Chris Bolgiano, and even my mom. Several additional writers have contributed to the Poetics and Technology series, and I’d welcome more contributions to that series especially.
Via Negativa is part of a mini network of sites, including the aforementioned Morning Porch; a site devoted to poetry films and videopoetry called Moving Poems and its associated discussion blog; and my Woodrat Photoblog, which is also a haiku blog, updated a couple times a month on average.
In short, Via Negativa is a personal web log with delusions of grandeur. I’ve been posting stuff on the web since early 2003 (beginning with a now-defunct Geocities site), and the great thing is, I still have no idea what I’m going to write about when I wake up in the morning. But as the Rene Char quote says, “How can we live without the unknown before us?”
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I’ve tried for five minutes to describe [Via Negativa] and can’t — make up your own description once you go there.
—Lori Witzel, chatoyance blogroll
Via Negativa started out as a Blogspot blog on December 17, 2003, and moved to WordPress on April 1, 2006 (which explains the lack of comments on posts written before that date — I used Haloscan for comments at the Blogspot site, and couldn’t import them). I am deeply indebted to my cousin Matt Albright for free hosting and tech support from April 2006 until March 2009, when I finally bit the bullet and moved Via Negativa to a regular shared webhost.
WHAT’S UP WITH THE TITLE?
Via Negativa is also: a British prog-metal band, a Polish ambient-electro-rock band, a popular episode of The X-Files, and, oh yeah, a 2,000-year-old tradition of religious agnosis. Vianegativa.us was named with the last of these in mind. The Latin term has nothing to do with negativity as it is generally understood. It’s a way of trying to honor the inexpressable and to live with the questions, aware that ultimate realties cannot be apprehended directly. Meister Eckhart’s sermons and the Cloud of Unknowing are perhaps the best-known briefs for this perspective in the West, while the opening verses of the Tao Te Ching are a good example of a non-Christian via negativa. This blog began as a more tightly focused celebration of the unknown, the unknowable, and the mystic experience, and some version of that remains at the center of my worldview and informs almost everything I write. (See “This I don’t believe” for some important qualifications, however.) Emily Dickinson may have said it best when she wrote, “Nature is a stranger yet… those who know her, know her less/ The nearer her they get.”
One of my favorite blogs, discovered early in my blog existence, had been Via Negativa, by Dave Bonta. I loved the range of his thought, his openness, his eye for detail, his kindness, his refusal to prettify. But he did a queer thing. He wrote poems. Just as if no one had ever told him that poetry was a dead language, as if he thought people still wrote in it. And they were good poems. Beautifully made things that held the best of his thought and his eye.
—Dale Favier, mole
Most kinds of comments and feedback are welcome, including friendly criticism and total non sequiturs — I love non sequiturs. Commenters own the copyright on their comments, though I reserve the right to delete for any reason (I try to be a good host, but see no reason to tolerate poorly behaved guests). If you ever leave a comment that doesn’t appear, please contact me right away (bontasaurus [at] yahoo [dot] com) so I can rescue it from the spam folder. I usually delete spam comments without looking at them — I get several hundred a day, and it’s just too time-consuming.
RIGHTS AND PERMISSIONS
Unless otherwise indicated, all my text and images on Via Negativa are original. They are protected by an Attribution – Share Alike Creative Commons License that grants permission to reproduce or to modify for any purpose, provided that any new works that alter, transform, or build upon mine distribute the resulting work under the same or similar license to this one, and as long as my original authorship is credited (for web use, a link will be sufficient). If you’d like permission to reproduce something of mine in a copyrighted work, please drop me a line. I’m easy. For more on my thinking about this, see “Should poetry be open source?”