Blogging by the Book November 17, 2011Posted by Mark Folse in books, New Orleans, Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
I walked up to a table of local poets outside a coffeehouse, waiting for an event to start. Someone at the table I didn’t know asked if I was also a poet, and someone else answered, “he’s more of a blogger than a poet.” I learned later that to be insulted by this person is a common as loaning another local poet $20, and I’ve seen him many time since and spoken pleasantly. Still, at that moment, I wanted to say: that’s fine, but have 60,000 people read a poem from your last book? That’s how many people visited Toulouse Street last year.
Sure, some of them wandered in here for reasons that having nothing to do with what I’m about, or at least not what I’m about lately. Some 4,300 came here after searching on Haiti and found a few posts I made after the earthquake and hurricane. Another 2,700 were researching cargo cults and found an old photo post of what looked like an old-fashioned, hay-wagon style Carnival float carriage decorated with beads and bits of what washed up in City Park in 2005. Another few thousand came looking for a music video I posted of one of my favorite street musicians, Grandpa Elliot, appearing in a Playing for Change music video and perhaps 1,800 came looking for a post tied to my annual list of the murdered in New Orleans. God knows how many have stumbled in here looking for the Doobie Brothers, but at least if you search Toulouse Street on Google I come up ahead of the band.
Still, knock off that 10,000 or so and any fraction you think reasonable of the remaining 50,000 people but some goodly number in the tens of thousands came looking for something else and landed here, and I hope they enjoyed what they found. Twenty-four thousand landed on the home page, and found whatever was lately on my mind. Almost 800 found Gian “O Beautiful Storm” spoken word poem used on Treme. About 6,000 people came to find something literary, my own short pieces here or something quoted, and 2,300 came directly to an Odd Words Entry. Some 7,300 came for something that clearly falls under the category of Odd Bits of Life in New Orleans.
In the end, I don’t write for an audience, I write for myself, but any writer who tells you he or she doesn’t want an audience is lying to you or themselves. Of course I want an audience. I was a featured reader to an audience of maybe 25 people at 17 Poets! last week and sold I think four chapbooks but muy old, abandoned poetry blog got 1,951 visitors over the last year. Carry Me Home sold less than 200 copies, but the numbers for Wet Bank Guide were—when Katrina and the Federal Flood were in peoples minds—astronomical compared to Toulouse Street. Local authors found me. David Simon found me, and cited Wet Bank Guide as one of his original sources for the concept of Treme.
Why do I write here? Because here is the largest audience I have found. Even if only 10,000 of those 60,000 came to read something I wrote,, the rest stumbling in here by accident, that is more readers than most literary fiction or poetry “bookers” can even dream of having.
I’m not fond of e-books, preferring the age old sensation of the physical thing, and of course I am thrilled to see me word on a page, was ecstatic when my name popped up in a micro-review in Publisher’s Weekly for the Chin Music Press Anthology What We Know: New Orleans as Home. I may have to pay dearly for the experience of a beautiful, well-made book of the sort Chin Music specializes in and always will. I hope someday to slog through the almost 1,000 posts here that constitute a narrative and assemble them into a manuscript.
Why do I write here instead of writing queries (which I plan to start doing shortly since my employment with Moloch ended) or sending out submissions to literary journals (I have a stack of submission cover letters to print and mail this week)? For the same reason Willie Sutton robbed banks. Here is where the readers are. There is as good if not a better chance of someone stumbling in here by Google search and liking what they find than there is of someone picking up a title off a bookstore shelf while browsing. Because whatever writers of literary works tell ourselves, communication to a reader is the ultimate goal.