Blogs and Blogging

I finally got around to joining Goodreads, the social network for readers. If you’re a member, please send me a friend request. Here’s my author page.

Hard to say yet how I’ll use the site, but I don’t want to use it just to promote my own books. That would be really lame. So I’ve taken the time to add some favorite books to my virtual shelves there, identify a few favorite authors (some of whom, by sheer coincidence, also happen to be friends or fellow bloggers), and I hope to link to all my book reviews here at Via Negativa going forward. (It’s no longer a good idea to cross-post the full content of anything to multiple sites — the latest Google search algorithm penalizes that kind of behavior.)

I also imagine I’ll be using my Goodreads author blog from time to time to post stuff directly relating to the site or to my books. In fact, I have a post there now announcing that Breakdown: Banjo Poems is due out in September. As publication time nears, I’ll probably do a giveaway with a few of my 50 (!) free author’s copies. Pre-release book giveaways are apparently a pretty big deal at Goodreads, and they seem like a much cooler way to promote a new book than (for example) paying for an ad on the site.

Sorry for my absence around here. I’ve been setting up a new author’s site — take a look. I wasn’t sure I really needed such a thing, but the domain was available and the previous owner (another Dave Bonta, naturally) didn’t want it back, so I thought, what the hell. As I say on the current front page of the site, I never wanted Via Negativa to be primarily about me, and it felt good to move my bio page over there. I’ve also set up a books page, something I’ve needed for a while, and have added a few gruit ale recipes to a brewing section. (Eventually that may bud off and become its own website, but probably not for a few years.)

I’m trying to be selective in what I put up there, because I think too much information is of no use to anybody. The Elsewhere page, for example, contains only those websites and social media sites where I regularly post new content. Google works perfectly well for those who, for some perverse reason, would want to find every site where I’ve ever had a presence. What Google can’t do as well is tell readers, editors, and other folks with an interest in my work what I consider important. As an editor myself, I’ve been frustrated by writers who don’t have easy-to-find, easy-to-navigate author sites (though sites that are simply online business cards without any originality and quirk can be disappointing, too).

I’ve been inspired by three friends who have recently launched or completely over-hauled personal websites (which are all worth checking out, by the way): Steven Sherrill at, Will Buckingham at, and Swoon Bildos at My new site isn’t as pretty as any of theirs, but you know me — I like the minimalist look. That, and I’m way too cheap to pay a web designer. But I love the typography of the theme I’m using.

There’s something refreshing about setting up what will be, aside from occasional updates, a static site. It makes one’s life feel more meaningful, somehow — more precisely delineated and, you know, complete. So unlike a blog, where you’re only as good as your next post.

Chicago Public Library at night

“Electronic literature might also be called born-direct literature.”

“I love the messiness of digital space.”

“Blogs and online magazines with comments best embody the literary anarchy of the web — a literature without gatekeepers.”

“I’m sorry, I like gatekeepers. I don’t have the time to decide what to read.”

“A kind of hypertextual tunneling.”

“It’s emblematic of our societal discomfort with poetry that so many blurbs for poetry books use the word ‘unflinching.’ Actually, I think poets should flinch. We need to get better at flinching.”

“I practice a pedagogy of emergency.”


“The Seminary Bookstore at Hyde Park is the best bookstore in the world. I was jilted by Powell’s.”

“To give a poetry reading is to feel the phantom limb of the musician’s audience.”

“I make 40 to 50 thousand dollars a year traveling around playing the fiddle and reading poetry.”

“If you funk up a cliché, it becomes genius.”

“I was a whore at the poetry bordello.”

“She ripped the cigarette out of his mouth, broke it in half, and jabbed the lit end into his cheek.”

“Not many parks, but lots of feral space.”

“Just because you know how to write doesn’t mean you know how to read.”

with Susan Elbe
With poet and Chicago native Susan Elbe