2010 was a good year for Via Negativa and its sister sites. Just after the New Year, I got a package in the mail from Phoenicia Publishing which turned out to include a proof of Odes to Tools, first published here as a series beginning in August 2008. I called up the publisher, my friend (and qarrtsiluni co-editor) Beth Adams, to express my surprise and pleasure, and our phone conversation became the first edition of my new Woodrat Podcast. Odes to Tools thus became — as it says in the sidebar here — Via Negativa’s first book-spawn. It has garnered a bunch of favorable reviews, and has sold — Beth tells me — a few hundred copies. And the podcast has turned into an enjoyable if time-consuming addition to the mix, which has won new fans for Via Negativa and given me an excuse to harass friends and family and ask question of people I admire.
For (Inter-)National Poetry Month in April, I read and blogged about a poetry book a day, an exercise in close reading and creative reviewing. It went so well, I’m hoping to do it again in 2011.
Like a lot of bloggers, I’m continually thinking up new series and features, and always I have to ask myself: should this be part of Via Negativa, off in its own blog, or something in between? The mass adoption of Facebook has made this a little easier, though: my Facebook wall has become an aggregator for links to all my web publishing activity, taking the pressure off of Via Negativa to fill that role. Nevertheless, this year I added a top bar with links to my four major personal sites, blog network-style, and stats show a steady trickle of visitors from one site to another. The Morning Porch is now my most widely read blog, even though most of its readers catch it on Twitter or Facebook and rarely if ever visit the actual website. Its recent adoption as a daily writing prompt by one of my favorite poets, Luisa Igloria, has added another dimension to what was already, I think, a fairly unusual experiment in literary microblogging, now in its fourth year.
Moving Poems continues to win fans for videopoetry and related genres, and this year I added a news and discussion blog as well, optimistically titled Moving Poems forum, though most of the time I’m the only one posting. I’m delighted, though, that I can still find enough good videos to keep the main site going without too much trouble, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know a number of poets and filmmakers along the way. I have yet to resort to posting my own videopoetry on the site, aside from a couple videos I made for other people’s poems. Somehow, I feel I’d have a harder time turning down submissions to the site if I were publishing my own stuff there.
I must admit, however, there is a sense in which these other sites, not to mention intramural features such as the podcast and Smorgasblog, serve as distractions from my real task. How about original content at Via Negativa? What were my most successful posts of the past year?
This is the sort of question that most bloggers tend to answer in terms of hits or page views, or sometimes by the number of comments and pingbacks — reflecting, I think, a strong tendency in American society to treat popularity as a direct index of significance. Vox populi, vox dei. So here are the 10 most popular posts from 2010 based on the number of page views:
- Bear family
- How to format poetry on the web: an incomplete guide
- How to stay warm in a cool house: 20 tips
- An American Tune (guest post by Teju Cole)
- Woodrat Podcast 31: Emily Dickinson at 180
- Banjo vs. Guitar
- How to tart up a WordPress category page
- Black cherry: tree of affliction
- Poetry and extinction
Only one of those (“Banjo vs. guitar”) was in the “Poems and poem-like things” category, which accounted for 109 of my posts in 2010.
Then here are the 10 most popular posts based on the number of comments each received (in parentheses):
- How to stay warm in a cool house: 20 tips (89)
- How to format poetry on the web: an incomplete guide (61)
- The latest blog redesign: a quest for readability (42)
- Advice for silo bloggers (41)
- Bear family (40)
- Notes toward a taxonomy of sadness (38)
- Poetry Reading Month 2010: the upshot (38)
- Seven years of war and blogging (38)
- Sledding Plummer’s Hollow (37)
- Poetry and extinction (35)
Again, only one (“Notes toward a taxonomy of sadness”) is from my most-used category aside from Smorgasblog. Clearly, if I want to be more popular, I should write fewer poems and more “How to” posts.
Well, fuck that. I blog to please myself first and foremost, which is why I don’t have any “top posts” widget in the sidebar (which would quickly skew the results in any case, as even more people would visit those posts). Instead, every few months I go through the archives and select the best three to seven posts per month, based mostly on my own subjective evaluations, but influenced by laudatory reactions from people I respect — and, yes, sometimes by comment numbers, too. These are added to the Greatest Hits category, accessible via a link in the menu bar. You can browse through the category at your leisure; I have it set to display 15 posts per page to minimize clicking. But for the convenience of those who do read Via Negativa for the poetry, here are all the poems and poem-like things in the Greatest Hits category for 2010, in order of publication:
- Banjo vs. Guitar
- Snow Flea
- Glass Frog
- Banjo Proverbs
- Acorn Barnacle
- Du Fu: A Life in Poetry, translated by David Young (book review in the form of a poem)
- Bridge to Nowhere
- Notes toward a taxonomy of sadness
- World Cup haiku
- The Fly Emirates
- Curriculum Vitae
- To a Child in a Tree, by Jorge Teillier (translation)
- Failed State
- A Bigfoot Poem, revisited
- Étude for the World’s Smallest Violin
- Jersey Shore
- Stay (guest post by Luisa Igloria)
- To the Child I Never Had
- Kissing Bug
- Shackleton’s Banjo
- Memento Mori (guest post by Luisa Igloria)
A huge thank you to all who have visited here in the past year. It means more to me than I can say.
16 Replies to “Via Negativa’s high points of 2010”
A high point for me was discovering the wealth of literary goodness that you create. Thank you!
Aw, thanks, Donna!
Congratulations, again and again. Via Negativa has metamorphosized continuously over the past seven (?) years or so, and I never fail to learn something new–and not because of your “how-to” posts–visiting here.
Hey, glad to hear you’re still visiting! I’m honored.
Never could see how you did it all… I’ll be back to feast here later. Bravo and a very happy New Year!
How do I do it? Not having a life helps. Happy New Year to you, too!
I blog to please myself first and foremost
I share that sentiment, but would also like to say that your blog never fails to please this reader. I don’t comment often enough these days, but do appreciate all that goes on here – the photos, poetry, essays, videos, podcasts, or whatever. Keep on keeping on, Dave.
All the best in 2011.
Thanks, Bev. Glad you’re still reading, and I never have any particualr expectation that people will comment — especially since I am so poor at commenting on others’ blogs (yours included, I fear). Best wishes to you as well.
Happy New Year, Dave, and thanks for every word you’ve written in the past year. What keeps me coming back isn’t any particular category, but the mix, as well as a fascination with finding out what you’ve decided to do next (not to mention your personality!)
Thanks for reading, Beth. Happy New Year!
Happy New Year! Hope it’s good for you, things are certainly looking up for me!
about tojust took oatmeal cookies out of the oven for brunch at my sister’s… at which time I’ll also be seeing my stepmother (up from NYC) and get a belated birthday present from her, of a new camera!
Sounds good! (One goes up from NYC? I wouldn’t have thought was possible.)
Heh, you’re right — by convention she’s coming “down”, I was distracted. Incidentally, the cookies were a big hit, and the camera is sweet(A Canon PowerShot SD1300-IS, smaller, faster, and more capable than my old, dying, camera.)
That is a good camera. I’m hoping my five-year-old FinePix has a few more years in her, but when she fails I’ll definitely be looking for something smaller and more portable.
I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that the most “popular” posts are the how-to posts. I’ve been the recipient of help from some of those myself (for which I say thanks). Hopefully those looking for technical answers stick around to read some of the wonderful poems you share here. And, I think “I blog to please myself first and foremost” is probably the best distillation of what the best blogs are all about. Happy new year.
Thanks — you too. It sounds simple to say that, but a lot of blogging advice seems to lose of it.