In lieu of new content

One great thing about blogging is that whenever writer’s block strikes — or even writer’s ennui, which is all I think I’m afflicted with at the moment — I can always tinker around under the hood. And since I have more than one blog, that makes for a lot of tinkering! Here’s some of what I’ve been up to lately.

Shadow Cabinet move and redesign

Shadow Cabinet has now followed Spoil off of and onto The new address is I know a few of you link to the collection from your blog sidebars, for which I’m grateful, but please do change the links when you get a chance. For now, I’ve left a page up at the old domain directing people to the new one. Obviously, any links to specific poems, from old blog posts or elsewhere, will no longer work, and I’m afraid you’ll have to visit the site to get the new links, because I’ve changed and simplified the permalink structure. In other words, you can’t just switch the domain part of the URL and expect it to work, because I’ve removed the month-and-day part.

Social media prompts

Ten days after moving onto its new host, Via Negativa continues to enjoy much faster load-times than before, and stats have improved as a result. I’m cautiously introducing a few new plugins, such as Sociable, which generates the icon-links at the foot of each post. I’m trying this instead of the more elegant-looking ShareThis icon, which I’d had before, for two reasons: the code is leaner and thus less of a drag on load-times, and I think having an unobtrusive visual prompt to share content on Twitter, Facebook, and so forth is half the point. I don’t care for clutter, so I’m keeping the list as brief as possible, excluding social bookmarking sites I don’t want traffic from (i.e. Digg) or doubt that my readers use. But if you’re fond of a social media site or bookmarking service I haven’t included, please let me know and I’ll put it in.

New commenting system

I’ve changed the template here to include the new comments functions that came with the most recent major version of WordPress (2.7): comment threading, and javascript-ennabled comment forms that update the comments thread without reloading the entire page. Comment threading, in layperson’s terms, means that you now have “reply” links below every comment in a thread. I currently have it set so comments will nest up to six deep; any more would probably look goofy given the width of the column.

I’ve also switched on avatars, to see if I can get used to having them — it’s doubtful. But if you’re wondering how you can get one to appear beside your own name, here and on other WordPress blogs, you have to register with Gravatar (stands for Globally recognized avatar) and remember to put the same email in the comment form each time.

By the way, if you, like me, are on an independently hosted WordPress installation (i.e. using with a theme that hasn’t yet been updated for 2.7, I found the following tutorials invaluable:

Basically, I added the necessary line of javascript to header.php, replaced my comments.php file with the one for the default theme, then modified the sections of my stylesheet relating to the comments and comment form, borrowing both from the default theme and from Chris Harrison’s example. Of course, it helped that my theme happens to use similar CSS classes to the default theme.

Postal Poetry has turned into a static site

Submissions to Postal Poetry have really dropped off in the last couple of months, and it became obvious to Dana and me that we’d either have to become permanent cheerleaders and devote an increasing amount of time to hassling poets for submissions, or stop publishing new work and convert the site into a static gallery of poetry postcards. After much agonizing and discussion, we chose the latter course. At present we’re continuing to use the same theme with a newly widened archive page pushed to the front, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for other free or affordable WordPress themes that may work better. Permalinks to individual postcards won’t change. The present theme, designed with photobloggers in mind, is hard to beat for simplicity and usability, especially now that we’ve added category links below each postcard.

We hope the postcards on the site will continue to inspire Postal Poetry’s visitors and past contributors, and as we say on the About page, we encourage you to keep experimenting with poetry postcards, sending them to your friends, and posting them on your blogs. We’re proud of the work we’ve published there and grateful to everyone who made cards for the site, whether or not we ended up publishing them. It’s been fun.

Other news

I’m continuing to discover great new video poems, mostly on YouTube, for my Moving Poems site. I’m currently feeding it at the rate of a new post every weekday, though I expect that will slow eventually. I’m trying to avoid posting things that could be subject to take-down from YouTube for copyright infringement, because I don’t fancy having empty archives, so there are some slick documentaries that won’t make it in.

Open Micro, the group blog for micropoetry, continues to chug along with a new post or two roughly every day, and some lively discussions in the comment threads. If you haven’t jumped on the Twitter bandwagon yet, and are wondering if there’s any truth to the critiques of Twitter and similar sites as irredeemably shallow outlets for the attention-challenged, I’d encourage you to check out some of Open Micro’s contributors (linked in the foooter). Many of us see the 140-character limit of microblogging as ideal for haiku and other short poetic forms, and haiku is all about paying attention. Or as the editor of Cordite Poetry Review‘s new Haikunaut issue, Issa translator David G. Lanuoe, puts it:

Haiku is a posture, a way of seeing and being, a philosophy of life in which one dedicates one’s self to noticing, not ignoring; to being open, not closed; to discovering, not defining; to inviting meaning onto a page, never imposing it. Poets of haiku peer expectantly into the moments and moods of this universe of which we are part, ready always to be startled, to receive with open eyes the treasures and enigmas that others miss in their hell-bent rush through traffic and life.

That sounds like excellent advice for anyone afflicted with writer’s ennui, as well — blog tinkering be damned.

20 Replies to “In lieu of new content”

    1. Yes. And I’m glad you’ve stayed faithful to your Haeckel shell. When people switch avatars every few months, it seems to defeat the whole purpose of creating a recognizable visual handle.

      1. Let’s give this ‘threaded’ feature a try — I’ve been curious how it would work on blogs.

        I think of an avatar as a ‘recognizable visual handle’, too. It makes sense to me on Facebook that people change their photos often, as it’s supposed to be about faces (I, of course, use the shell.)

        But I understand the draw to playing with different self-images.

  1. I like Lanuoe’s understanding of haiku as a way of seeing the world rather than a formal genre. I don’t call my Twitter-things haiku because they aren’t “trying” to fit any particular genre; all they’re “trying” to do is capture some experience of “now” within the space constraints. But this idea of haiku as being a way of seeing nicely corresponds with the connections I already see between my prosaic writing & my Zen practice. My Twitter-things simply try to condense all “that” into 140 characters, without photos: a different kind of exercise than what I do on-blog.

    1. I’ve been really impressed by what you’re doing on Twitter, Lorianne. Your Zen sensibility combined with your training in writing and the enforced concision of Twitter is certainly producing things that read very much like poems. As for whether they qualify as haiku, I just finished the second essay in that issue of Cordite, Minato Keiji’s “Notes on Modern Haiku,” and he concludes:

      Haiku is a literary form. That is not to suggest limiting the realms covered by haiku but rather opening up its possibilities. Various beliefs that say “Haiku must be this or that” have some relevance as far as you are also conscious of their limits. Furthermore, writing haiku in non-Japanese languages necessarily poses questions about what is relevant in contemporary, global haiku. I would like you to know that Japanese haijin are as unsure as you are, and I believe that it is a healthy situation for a literary form that is vital only as far as it is open to the future.

  2. Dave, thank you for all your work on Postal Poetry. It would not have gotten as far as it did without all your help, your ideas and your dedication to it. I really appreciate all you did for the site.

    1. Hi Dana. Funny — I keep thinking it was you who did most of the major work with PP! Be that as it may, though, I think it was time well spent, and I’d do it again. I think my own “Postcards from a conquistator” series is one of the more innovative things I’ve done here, and it wouldn’t have happened without the inspiration of PP. And I believe many of the people we’ve published feel the same way about their own forays into postcard-making. So thanks.

  3. It’s always a treat to read what you think about nuts and bolts in addition to bolts and nuts. Thanks, Dave for continuing to inspire me.

    1. Thanks for saying that. I’m feeling rather defeated by the code right now, though — I’ve just given up on trying to make alternate comment colors behave.

  4. When I visited postal poetry after reading your email announcement, I was struck by how beautiful all the postcards look on the front page. It’s like going to an art gallery. It’s nice of you to keep the site up, and I’m sorry to hear you’re not accepting new work. But I do understand.

    I thought Open Micro was on Identica. I guess I need to go look. It’s another great idea. A way to hold those ephemeral flashes of inspiration for a moment or two.

  5. And here I was planning to incorporate postcard poetry into the NPM activities at after-school sites.

    N.B. DB that your Conquistador link appears to be wonky. Crafty infidels.

    1. None of my series links work now! Crap. Guess I do have more tinkering to do. And just this morning I was feeling so pleased with that plugin because it seems so well integrated into the back-end. Guess I should’ve checked to see if it was actually working on the front end…

    2. O.K., I’ve fixed the series page links. (It was a conflict with another plugin, which I’ve now disabled.) Thanks so much for calling that to my attention, Julia.

  6. Do you find anyone actually uses the sociable plugin (or the previous one)? Is there any way of telling?

    I sort of vaguely assume that anyone who uses social bookmarking sites will already have their own established shortcuts – bookmarklets or whatever – for posting links to them. But I guess for some of the marginally less geeky options like Facebook or Twitter that might not apply.

    1. A more sophisticated stats program than the one I’m using (’s — hey, it keeps me from obsessing!) could tell where people went after visiting pages here. And of course even these minimal stats do tell me when people come in from StumbleUpon etc., though not whether someone clicked on a button to begin with. In general, I agree that most people who use those services are quite capable of using bookmarklets, which as I say is partly why I switched to the direct visual prompts approach–to give people a nudge. And you’ve correctly intuited why I’ve givenTwitter and Facebook pride of place. There have to be plenty of new users of both services who haven’t yet figured out how to post links, or who may not know how to find a permalink, or even how to copy and paste.

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