Monday, May 11, 2009

NaPoWriMo Project Thoughts, part 5

I didn’t expect any reaction. I get so few comments on this blog. But, you now, I’m ever hopeful! No good at publicizing myself or my poems but it’d be nice if somebody read!

When I see other people answer the question: Why Do You Write? – they usually say something about how people reading them gives them incentive. Well. People don’t read me. (Except, OK, two or three people. I know, it’s like when someone walks into a concert hall and looks around and there are five or six seats taken and the person who just walked in says, “Nobody’s here!”) So I’ve gotten accustomed to putting a bunch of effort into writing that, so far as I can tell, goes unnoticed. Why would my April project be any different?

I did wonder if using the names of the people killed would make LuvSet show up in searches for those people. I didn’t think LuvSet had a high enough profile to bring attention, though. And I was right. For 29 out of 30 days, that is. Where else you gonna get a prediction 97% accurate?

During the month, the site’s stats bounced around as the search engines briefly brought visitors looking for information about person X or Y or Z. Just about all these visitors quickly moved on. K says the poems didn’t strike him as much different from a news report. They were all pretty bare.

So what about that one day somebody noticed? On April 2nd I edited down a news item about an elderly man strangling his ex-wife. I got two comments – both hating on the piece. One scolded me for not knowing whether the dead woman “loved flowers, or that she loved babies, or that she gave her whole heart to her family.”

I didn’t know anything about the dead woman. That was so. I didn’t know anything about any of the people I was writing about. Learning biographies was not part of the project.

This commenter accused me of making the dead woman “an irreverency.” I hadn’t thought of the series as irreverent, but rather a form of prayer. A meditation on transience. A daily pause to reflect on unexpected death.

Should I have used the real names? If I hadn’t I doubt anyone would have found their way to LuvSet looking to find out about the stories I appropriated. It’s not like I was looking to build an audience that way, anyhow. It did make me uncomfortable – the thought that someone might come across a loved one’s name in this peculiar context. I figured I’d let that play out, though. Probably nobody would, right?

I don’t know whether the commenter knew the dead woman. She doesn’t say. She’s offended for the dead woman or for her relatives or for the very idea of talking about this woman in this manner. Something like that.

A day or two later another commenter showed up, somebody claiming expertise in Death. Her scolding was more sophisticated than commenter #1 and more vicious (& started out with an hors d’oeuvre of self-promotion). Commenter #2 called me (in a particularly clumsy coinage) a “Death Vulture” and accused me of “prey[ing] on celebrity … for personal financial gain.” As she herself quickly acknowledged, there isn’t any money in poetry blogs so the “financial gain” accusation had no traction. And far as I could tell the only celebrity the dead woman had was conferred by the sensational nature of her death – that is, that she was an old woman strangled to death by an old man. The police lieutenant said such a death was “somewhat unusual.” So my exploiting her celebrity? Seems a bit of a stretch.

On the other hand, it hardly came as a surprise that some people were upset by a death. Nor did it surprise that those people would scold me. Commenter #2 did something commenter #1 hadn’t. Commenter #2 (after slagging me) asked me to remove the post.

I didn’t remove the post but I redacted the names? I took out the names because the names were bringing a lot of visitors and I decided LuvSet being a destination for people looking for information about this killing was not what I wanted. I may return the names to the poem in another version. I may redact all the names in the series. We’ll see.

2 comments:

David Lee said...

My first reaction when I get what I think is a rude comment is usually to think of a rude response. But then I usually just thank the person for taking the time to comment.

Glenn Ingersoll said...

Getting any response was a surprise - it was my first glimmer of sympathizing with the idea that people would welcome unpleasant response, finding it better than no response at all.