Wednesday, March 2, 2011

More Banjo, Less Frost? More Frost, Less Banjo?

A happy Wednesday, all.  I’m checking in with an introspective post today—perhaps the new month, with its promise of eventual spring weather after a long & difficult winter has put me in this mood.  But however that may be, introspective is the note for the day.

When Robert Frost’s Banjo started out in August of 2008, the blog really was “A miscellany like Grandma’s attic in Taunton, MA or Mission Street's Thrift Town in San Francisco or a Council, ID yard sale in cloudy mid April or a celestial roadmap no one folded—you take your pick.”  I found it no problem to write about some arcane Borgesian theory of time on one day & about some diner in Vermont I used to frequent the next.  Music & poetry (the banjo & the Robert Frost, so to speak) wove amidst these other flights of fancy—& actually, for the first several months there was very little original poetry or music on the blog.

As time passed, I began to post more original poetry: both poems I’d written in San Francisco in the 90s & also poems that I’d begun writing since undergoing a sort of “poetic renaissance” in 2008, prior to the blog’s inception.  I was gratified by the way commenters/followers/subscribers responded to the poems & eventually ended up self-publishing books of poems from both those time periods, as well as a book of poems from my graduate school days in the 80s in Virginia. 

But at the same time, my life as a musician was undergoing some profound changes.  Eberle & I had performed together since the late 90s, either as members of larger ensembles or as a duo.  In 2008, she decided that she had to scale back on performing & I was left figuring out where that left me.  Throughout the whole time, I’d thought of myself as a good solid backing musician but not someone who performed out front, let alone solo.  However, I made a virtue of necessity & found a way to do that, & as I did, I began sharing more of my own music on the blog.  Once again, I was gratified by the response & the interest people showed—& I must say, by their generosity, especially in the case of some of the earlier efforts.

But it strikes me that lately there has been a lot of “banjo” in proportion to the amount of “Frost”—a lot more music than poetry in this space, & very few of the side excursions that once were standard fare.  I’m not sure what to think about this—subscribers continue to increase at a steady rate, & the blog gets a nice amount of traffic, & most importantly, I enjoy the cyber company of the regular (& irregular) commenters, tho I do miss some of the "old familiar faces."  It is also true that I feel quite disconnected from my poetic self these days, really more disconnected than at any previous time in the past few years.  I’ve always been a writer who composed from what can only be called “inspiration”—I know this concept is the bane of many writers who rightly see what they do as work & a discipline.  It’s really not that I’m a completely undisciplined fellow myself: I’m very disciplined & conscientious about music, & I put in a lot of practice hours, & focused practice too.  But I’m not that way with poetry.

When I was young, it was somewhat of a moot point about inspiration versus discipline because while I still wasn’t disciplined in my practice of writing, I ended up writing a good amount of poetry anyway, & it was the poetry I “wanted” to write.  Speaking for myself, I’ve never been happy with writing poetry to “keep my hand in,” as it were, tho I acknowledge that this is certainly a legitimate enterprise.  

Now you may be interested to know that I wouldn't argue with anyone who said I'm a better poet than I am a musician; I think you could make that case.  On the other hand, I make a significant portion of my income from music when you consider teaching as well as performance, & in that sense it's more "my life" at this point.  As far as profiles of other musicians go, they are some of the perenially popular posts on the blog.

So—understanding that all things are in flux & constantly subject to change, I ask you, dear readers: do you like the more music-focused blog?  Do you miss the poetry?  Do you miss the other features that old time readers at least will recall?  Do you feel there’s too much banjo in proportion to Frost & frivolity?  I can’t promise wholesale changes, because I’ve let the blog go whither it will over time, but I am curious to know.

Thus ends the introspection.  Have a great Wednesday & please tune in for Writers Talk with New York-based freelance journalist Lana Bortolot tomorrow!


  1. I like where you take us, wherever that is on a given day.

  2. I have to admit that it's more the music that draws me here; I pretty much have a deaf ear for poetry. But this blog is one of ther places I make sure to read every day.

  3. John, I love this blog. Thanks to the balance of topics and the great writing, it is one of my favorite places on the internet.

    My only honest comment would be that I can't keep up with it. I read most things via RSS, and I subscribe to 200+ sites. And that's the number after a lot of weeding. If you only posted two or three posts I week, I could keep up.

    My favorite posts are your editorials, be they the recent one about OLGA or even about the state of the blog itself. You are a thoughtful person with interesting, deep opinions. The music and poetry features are great and a good way to build a community, but don't forget that the most interesting thing expressed on RFB is probably just your brain.

  4. Hi Jacqueline, Roy & Scotty

    Jacqueline: Thanks so much for that. Your consistent & generous support over time has meant a lot to me. Thanks!

    Roy: Yes, I know you for a music guy! But I really appreciate your support & thoughtful, consistent comments. Thanks!

    Scotty: Thanks--I really appreciate your support too as one of the "3-D" friends who also is a RFBanjo follower. I hear what you're saying, & I will keep that in mind moving forward--I do have a couple of editorials in mind, including another on copyright law, which is a favorite topic of mine. I actually have been scaling back a little bit in terms of posting, but I doubt I could get down to 2-3 per week. But I know what you mean about keeping up with RSS feed--I have trouble, & without giving numbers in public, I subscribe to a fraction of what you do! Thanks!

  5. I think you keep a nice balance on the blog and you shouldn't worry about veering us more in one direction than another.

    I agree 100% with what Jacqueline said!

  6. Hi Raquelle: Thanks! & as you echoed Jacqueline's sentiments, I'd echo my response to her by saying how m uch I've appreciated your friendship & support since the blog's early days!

  7. Go With The Flow John.Everything Is Fine.More Of EVERYTHING!!!!

  8. As a fellow musician and one playing within the same genre as yourself, I'm happy with all the musical items that you've been posting. And I have a copy of 'Ghazals', which I'm enjoying greatly. So I'm getting a balance of both. But the crucial question really is what do you want from your blog?

  9. Hi Tony & Dick

    Tony: Thanks! Will do. Have a good one!

    Dick: Good point. I go thru these phases, which is why the blog has changed over time. Perhaps I have this subterranean feeling that it's time for a new direction. But in any case, there'll always be plenty of old time music here!

  10. Its all good, John. Ipve started reading your blog regularly and enjoy the variety. Music and poetry and everything else I find it all interesting!


  11. I post about all kinds of stuff. Some people probably find my blog scattered and don't know what to make of it. Some like the variety.

    I like a lot of things and it seems you do too!

    In the words of The Hoosier Hotshots, "I Like Bananas Because They have No Bones!"

    The Monkey

  12. Hi Doug & Monkey

    Doug: It's great to have you as a reader here--I also enjoy your blog, tho I admit I don't really comment. My dad was a woodworker--cabinet maker--& I dabbled in it a far amount at one time, & so the luthier's craft (assuming luthier works for dulcimer maker) has double interest to me. Glad you're enjoying things here!

    Monkey: How did I know you would be a Hoosier Hot Shots fan! You're blog is like diversity itself & grand at that!

  13. I do like the mixture : music, poetry, old news items, thoughts. It is like one of those old biscuit tins full of a variety of different biscuits : you dip your hand in and are never quite sure which delight you will pull out. Generally speaking, discipline sucks (as the youth of today would have it)

  14. Hi Alan: Thanks for the vote of confidence & your trenchant observation regarding discipline! Your support is much appreciated!

  15. What you're doing with the blog is good. I enjoy both the poetry and the music (you've introduced me to some great music). Plus there's always an interesting mix of things, with the interviews, photos, and Adams County posts. So whatever you're moved to share with us, please do - it's a delight.

  16. Hi HKatz: Thanks so much. I always appreciate your support a whole lot!

  17. Just be yourself. I seem to have a similar relationship with poetry and music - the music is a constant, the poetry comes and goes as it pleases (if I force it the results are frankly rubbish). I worried, too, recently, that my blog was getting too music-orientated but I've decided I've just got to follow my preoccupations where they lead (the beauty of blogging is that one can do this) and feedback I've had suggests the few who read me are quite happy for me to do so. Your blog is one of those places where no-one tells you what to do, so I'd go with the flow. If you post stuff that inspires you, you'll probably inspire us!

  18. Hi Dominic: Great points all, & especially coming from another musician-poet. Thanks!


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