Poetry book blogging: where are all the men?

Two days ago, the small pile of qarrtsiluni’s first chapbook still sittting on the end of my desk caught my eye. We’d sent out a bunch of copies of Pamela Johnson Parker’s A Walk Through the Memory Palace to the chapbook contest entrants, and a few for lit mag review, and these were the ones left over from that initial big wholesale order. I had a sudden, fairly obvious idea: Why not try giving them away to bloggers who’d be willing to commit to writing a review of at least three paragraphs? Sure, anyone can review the contents of the book, since it’s all online, but nothing beats having the paper copy in your hands. I emailed my co-editor Beth, and she wrote back immediately to say “Sure!”

So mid-afternoon on Saturday I posted the offer to the qarrtsiluni news blog, linked to it from our Twitter account, and circulated the link via direct message to the 339 members of the qarrtsiluni Facebook group. I said that the review didn’t need to use academic language, and that we welcomed any kind of blog — we weren’t looking exclusively for book- or poetry-bloggers. We said that supplies were limited to just ten copies, though subsequent to posting the announcement I scrounged up another five and we decided to add those as well. Emails began to pour in, just as we’d hoped. We had our first ten bloggers within about six hours, and all fifteen by this morning.

The respondents were diverse in terms of location and the size and focus of their blogs (though most were literary blogs, most of the time), and it wasn’t until I was addressing the cover letters that I noticed something peculiar: 14 of the 15 were female. Why so few men?

Well, for starters, only about a third of our Facebook group members are male (I counted). That makes sense based on my own observations of how people behave on Facebook: women are more social than men, and thus, perhaps, more likely to join groups like ours (even though like most Facebook groups it’s pretty inactive except for the occasional announcements we send out). It’s harder to know the gender of Twitterers, but scanning through our 402 followers, it appears that closer to 50 percent are male.

Other possible contributing factors that occur to me:

  • Maybe the majority of literary bloggers are female (I’m guessing between 60 and 70 percent, but I could be way off).
  • Female bloggers as a rule might be more interested in reading and reviewing books (as opposed to — say — pontificating).
  • Male bloggers otherwise inclined to review poetry might not have been as interested since the book had a female author.

It’s this last possibility that disturbs me.

12 Replies to “Poetry book blogging: where are all the men?”

  1. Just for what it’s worth, I will review any poetry book, by any author on any topic. I’ve posted two reviews already, and the book by the female poet, that focused on primarily female topics was quite fascinating to me. A good read.

    1. Mark, you’re a member of Read Write Poem, aren’t you? If you want to hold out for a free review copy, RWP will be coordinating a blog book tour for us starting in mid-January. In the meantime, of course, feel free to review it based on the online version if you like.

      1. Yes, I am. Although my participation has been spotty this month due to NaNoWriMo. I’m almost done with that and the month is almost over. Both of which are great news to me.

        Mid-January, time wise, would be much better for me. I love the chance to read new poets.

        But, I wasn’t fishing for a free copy. I was just trying to say that your last point didn’t really apply to me personally. I should have been much clearer about what I had to say. Sorry for any confusion.

        1. Well, I’d like to think that generalization doesn’t apply to me, either, but I don’t review books much at all, so it’s hard to say! Gender certainly doesn’t influence my choice of reading matter, which is why I was sort of taken aback by this.

          I hope nobody feels accused by my suggestion. Charges of sexism, like charges or racism or any other form of biogtry, aren’t — or shouldn’t be — about the moral quality of individual offenders. We can be decent, progressive people and still fall prey to sexist behaviors or attitudes. For example, with my decisions about what to include in Smorgasblog, I try to regularly examine my motives and ask why a certain blog post struck me as important and quote-worthy while another did not. To what extent am I seduced by the authoritative voice most commonly evinced by male bloggers, to the relative neglect of less assertive, more questioning voices, which often happen to be female? Just f’rinstance.

    2. Oh, and as I just said to Thomas below, if you’d like to be considered for possible future offers, please send a note with your postal address to qarrtsiluni(at)gmail(dot)com and I’ll add you to the list. Thanks!

  2. The sample’s small enough that I think the first and second factors would be enough to account for it — the first alone would lead you to expect ten of the fifteen to be female, and if the second factor similarly weighted, that could get you up to twelve or thirteen. From there a little random jiggle gets you to fourteen, easy.

    I doubt that your third factor plays much. I hope not, anyway.

    1. Hi Thomas – See my answer to Mark, above (you can join Read Write Poem if you’re not already a member). We would like to send out more review copies to bloggers, but we have to break even. If we sell a bunch of copies because of the first round of blog reviews, we will almost certainly plow that money into buying and mailing out more review copies. My hope is that this will prove so worthwhile that in the future we’ll decide it makes sense to provide unlimited free review copies.

      If you’d like to be considered for possible future offers, please send a note with your postal address to qarrtsiluni(at)gmail(dot)com and I’ll add you to the list. Thanks very much for your interest.

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