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!