Via Negativa is a unique experiment in daily, poetic conversation with the living and the dead. Dave Bonta founded the site in 2003 and Luisa A. Igloria joined in 2010. Guest authors contribute as well. Both poets are based in the eastern United States: Dave in the mountains of central Pennsylvania and Luisa in the Tidewater area of Virginia, where she teaches in the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University. Poems first posted here have found their way into prize-winning collections: Luisa’s latest book, Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser, won the 2014 May Swenson Poetry Award, chosen by Mark Doty, and Dave’s chapbook Breakdown: Banjo Poems won the Keystone Chapbook Prize from Seven Kitchens Press, chosen by Sascha Feinstein. Dave writes daily erasure poems from the 17th-century diary entries of Samuel Pepys, in addition to other things, while Luisa has been writing and posting a poem a day since November 2010, often in response to Dave’s posts at The Morning Porch. Her next-to-most-recent book, The Saints of Streets, also includes many poems first published here.
Via Negativa will never have a Facebook page, though Dave and Luisa are both active there on their own pages — it would just seem redundant, somehow. We did create a public Facebook group for the Poetry from the Other Americas project, however, and you can also follow us on Twitter if you’re into that sort of thing. And we’re grateful for all shares and forwards. Facebook is now the single largest source of visitors to Via Negativa. (So did it really kill blogging, or simply make it less chatty — enabling more focused experiments like this one?)
Go read Dave’s blogging manifesto if you’d like a better sense of where we’re coming from here.
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All Dave’s writings here are licensed for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).
Other contributors to Via Negativa, including Luisa A. Igloria, have not chosen to apply a Creative Commons license, but will probably be pleased to grant most requests. And of course you don’t need to ask permission simply to quote and link.
Via Negativa started as a Blogspot blog on December 17, 2003, and moved to an independently hosted WordPress installation on April 1, 2006 (which explains the lack of comments on posts written before that date — Dave used Haloscan for comments at the Blogspot site, and couldn’t import them). We’ve moved twice since then, and have been through half a dozen different WordPress themes at least.
Why “Via Negativa”? Dave explains:
As its perhaps unfortunate name might suggest, Via Negativa didn’t begin life as a literary blog, but as a more tightly focused celebration of the unknown and the unknowable, in literature and science as well as in religion. The via negativa, a 2000-year tradition of religious agnosis most prominent in Eastern Orthodoxy, has nothing to do with negativity as it is generally understood. It’s a way of trying to honor the inexpressible and live with the questions, aware that ultimate realities can’t 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. Though weighty religious and philosophical disquisitions long ago ceased to be a central feature of this blog, the name stuck. And why not? A kind of apophatic faith remains at the center of my worldview and informs almost everything I write.