Blog Manifesto

by Kiko Matsing

Butch Dalisay recently reprinted a letter I wrote in reaction to his column Penman, which appears every Monday in the “Arts and Culture” section of the Philippine Star. The article, “On literature’s frontier” (12/17/2007), ruminates on the status of the blog as a literary form, with insights from Butch’s own experience as a blogger (he has just marked his 100,000th hit!). I quote, here, what particularly caught my attention:

I shared [the] enthusiasm for blogging as a means and a medium of literary expression — I think the best of the form and of its use is yet to come — but I’m not as sold as I should be on the idea of “Literature Without Frontiers” (it’s a phrase from the PEN Charter) as a present or even imminent reality. It’s one of those notions that sound very smart and timely, that are supposed to give us a warm and fuzzy feeling—almost as if we held hands and sang “It’s a Small World” — but I deeply suspect that it just isn’t true: it hasn’t happened yet, and might not happen soon.

My cousin-once-removed, who lives here in San Francisco, where I am currently visiting, saw a T-shirt that puts it more succinctly: “Nobody cares about your blog”. How so PoMo.

Anyway, Butch kindly asked me if he could reprint my email, and why not, I replied, it could only increase my readership (dream on…). So, here, I reprint the reprint:

From reader Ted Limpoco — a true-blue Atenean judging by the company he keeps — came this reaction to my second-anniversary musings on blogging:

“I agree that frontier-less literature is a cute misperception, even with the broadened possibilities of cyberspace. Most Internet users are urban and cosmopolitan, which immediately marginalizes a substantial number of readers and consumers of literature. I do not have the romantic notion that my blog reaches legions of readers. The audience that I have in mind are the few friends who know about my blog, and, hopefully, casual strangers that accidentally come upon it and just so happen to share my interests. Given that I do not purposefully seek out blogsites myself, and just stick to the few that are my friends’, I presume that the latter group is perhaps statistically insignificant. But, the possibility still exists, and I cling to it out of my own need to have an audience as a writer.

“I used to write a bit of poetry before I left for graduate school in the US. I was miserable during my first year here, and what helped me the most was my small investment in a Moleskine notebook that encouraged a modest habit of journal keeping. I tried keeping journals before without success, perhaps because of my aversion to gushing, lurid confessionals. I like keeping myself in check — in other words, to edit myself. My friend Rofel Brion asked me if I would consider collecting my émigré e-mails/journal entries and publishing them. I felt that, somehow, the written page was not the proper home of these informal wandering texts. And then I discovered the possibilities of the blogosphere through my friend, the Mindanao artist Jean Claire Dy, and have been blogging ever since.

“I love the open, unstructured format, and also its immediacy. This gives the form a certain exuberance that attracts youth. This also makes the need for self-editing more urgent, which I continue to strive for. Most of all, for me, the blog is a way to converse, with friends, with like-minded people, and — as Jonathan Franzen says in How to Be Alone — with writers I love to read.

“I read or heard somewhere that people marry essentially to find a person to be a witness to their lives. I think the same need is at work here. It can have extreme narcissistic manifestations in the form of reality TV, but it also drives great writing that connects us with people and with our inner selves. The blog can be both.

“Somehow, after finishing a blog entry, I feel the same way I do after e-mailing friends, which is just not the same feeling I get when I write in my Moleskine journal: I feel less alone.”

Very well put, Ted. It’s unusual, though, that you even think of self-editing, when many blogs seem to be written for precisely the opposite purpose — to serve as a bedpan for a kind of digital diarrhea. But then again that’s literature in its infinite and ineluctable variety, the vigor that comes with rawness and audacity. Here’s to both livelier and more thoughtful blogging in 2008.

This appeared in the 12/31/2007 (“A paucity of pockets”) issue and in Butch’s blog, after which Orbis made its 2000th hit, thanks to a burst of 64 views. My fifteen minutes of fame. Bow.

Thanks guys for keeping me company, for at least two-thousand times!

Happy New Year!