Blogs as Creative Labs, Italian Examples

Most American poetry blogs are critical in nature. They tend to consist of mini-reviews and ruminations on literary topics, interspersed with diary entries. Poems are posted, but mostly to illuminate a critical point. Rarely do they take up an entire blog, as in K. Silem Mohammad's Squirrel in my Attic, and no one seems to treat the blog format as a laboratory to experiment with new works. Not so in Italy, where many poetry blogs are more or less playgrounds for poets to goof around, test new ideas. Gherardo Bortolotti maintains eight blogs in Italian and/or English, each organized around a concept. They are basically conceptual blogs. His low-level techniques, for example, is described as "me + google + babelfish = transnational literature," while his le avventure di bgmole is a series of banal vignettes from the life of an overworked and bored "bgmole." I translate three consecutive entries from March of 2007:

adventure n° 1011
March 25, 2007

bgmole caresses a friend's cat.

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adventure n° 2765
March 23, 2007

Falling asleep, bgmole cannot follow the sentences in the book he's reading. He continues to read the same phrase over and over, beginning: "if one of the two appears as a theorem."

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adventure n° 1230
March 20, 2007

While eating dinner, bgmole watches the television news. Raising his eyes from the plate, he sees images of some corpses, on a street in Baghdad.

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Gherardo Bortolotti is also involved with GAMMM, a literary journal that functions more like a group blog, since its contents, always first rate, in Italian and English, are updated often and irregularly by four editors. Nazione Indiana is another fine webzine disguised as a blog. Even more informal is The Flux I Share, initiated by Marco Giovenale, with many non-Italians among its "crew." I don't pretend to have more than a cursory view of this most exciting scene. I just want to point out an essential difference between American and Italian poetry blogs, with one emphasizing analysis, cheerleading and judgement; the other, creative play. To close, I translate four entries from Vanni Santoni's personaggi precari, his precarious characters:


Penelope sleeps more and more. When she was small, she already slept nine or ten hours a night. During adolescence, it rose to thirteen hours then appeared to stabilize when she was nineteen-years-old.

Instead, now that she is twenty-nine and lives alone, maintaining herself on profit from some real estate, she has become accustomed, within a few months, to sleeping eighteen, nineteen or even twenty hours a day. When she wakes up, Penelope is always in a great mood.


Zippo is a clown in the Mariposa circus. His real name is Guglielmo Diné. Gugliemo has killed his cousin and two other pieces of shit over money. Has raped his sister and caused a miscarriage with his kicks. When Guglielmo is Zippo—one hesitates to say—he’d feel an infinite tenderness at the sight of children laughing at his skits.


Galatea is a normal girl. She’s five-feet-seven, a brunette, with brown eyes. Neither beautiful nor ugly. Neither brilliant nor an idiot. Neither good nor evil. She likes the singers Battiato and Carmen Consoli, the books of Milan Kundera, Hello Kitty accessories, decoupage. She studies physical therapy and plays volleyball.

Her father, one of the greatest literary figures of his epoch, cannot resign himself to the quiet normality of Galatea, and has begun to suspect that she is not his daughter.


Barozzo, baron of Montamaro, sent for three hundred Swiss mercenaries to defend his fiefdom from hostile neighbors. The Swiss arrived and saw that the fiefdom was vulnerable yet prosperous, so they promptly sacked it, raped whoever was rapable and laid siege to the castle. The castle’s weak defense was breached after three and a half hours, and the siege concluded with them drinking wine from cracked casks and sodomizing the baron amid loud laughter.


differx said...
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differx said...

Thanks a lot, Linh.

The map of italian sites is strange and complicated and rich, but the starting suggestions you give here, linking the blogs, are really useful. (not a simple "cursory view", in fact).

More. I agree: the Italian weblogs are in most cases individual/collective laboratories and attempts in creative research, more than examples of firm places connecting the voices of what one could call "literary system" (or net, or anything else).

Criticism in not absent but it seems to me that it lacks a method (reflecting a crisis in the academic world - maybe).

Rachel Loden said...

Linh, you raise some really interesting issues here about North American poetry blogs. I think Anne Boyer's odalisqued is a playful blog -- check her "antiquities" links, for example, although she has various modes, including the diaristic and the critical, and that keeps things fresh.

There's playfulness elsewhere, in pinches (and probably lots that I'm missing). But in the main you're spot on. I have real doubts about continuing my own very new experiment if what I'm doing is cheerleading for instance. Or mouldering in my thoughts.

But I've had those doubts from the beginning. Love your translations of the personaggi precari. Really funny and cruel, in a sense, if one can be cruel to imaginary people!

Linh Dinh said...
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Linh Dinh said...

Hi Rachel,

You're right, Anne Boyer's blog is playful, but has several modes. What makes Gherardo Bortolotti's blogs different from Anne's is that he sticks to a single mode and concept for each of his blogs, which are an ongoing creative projects, developed incrementally in the public view, with the possibility of instant public feedback, although, judging from the mostly empty comment boxes, not too many have taken up this offer. All blogs are performances, sure, but Gherardo's and Vanni's are strictly creative ones and not, for example, lectures or fireside chats.

What you're doing is certainly very useful. And so is what Ron Silliman, above all, is doing. Ditto with Barbara Jane Reyes, K. Silem Mohammad, Pierre Joris, Barret Watten, Amy King, Tony Tost and many more. I'm amazed at the critical energy all these folks have devoted to their blogs. This generosity is beautiful to behold and something to be envied, even, by those writing outside English, but let's play in the mud a bit more, goddamn it, even if no one's watching!


Anonymous said...

Thank you Linh for your kind and careful post. As for my work with blogs, that I try to run exactly as you point out, that is in a "conceptual" manner, I must say that blogs like those of Jukka-Pekka Kervinen or the really engaging Bill Marsh's one ("My Life by Lyn Hejinian") were important sources of inspiration.

Linh Dinh said...

Hi Gherardo,

Thanks for pointing out Bill Marsh's exceptional blog, which I never knew about, although I know Bill, since he published my book, "Borderless Bodies." "My Life by Lyn Hejinian" is wickedly cool!:


Linh Dinh said...

Hi Gherardo,

As I've told you before, my sequence of prose poems "Fortunes," in my book "Jam Alerts," was inspired by one of your blogs. I couldn't get over the fact that almost all the comment boxes in your "le avventure di bgmole" were (0), so I made all the comment boxes in my "Fortunes" (0) also. A reading of this is available on YouTube:


Anonymous said...

very interesting

Rachel Loden said...

[let's play in the mud a bit more]

Absolutely, Linh, let's muck around more -- and thanks for encouraging us to reframe our thinking in this way.

Bill Marsh's blog is really interesting. If there are others we ought to look at in this light, I hope people will mention them.

Linh, Gherardo, and others, I'd love to hear your theories on why there isn't more "instant public feedback" on projects like these, since the comment boxes are there, pregnant with possibility.

One pitfall of a conceptual blog might be that inevitably there will be a certain sameness to it. That is I suppose one of its strengths as well -- aesthetic consistency.

Not sure what I think about this yet! There's something delicious about variety in any form, not knowing what's going to come next.

Anonymous said...

yes, Marsh's blog is truly amazing: what a great idea this use of appropriation and mere transcription! And yes, you wrote me about Fortunes - that I read and appreciated so much!

As for the comments, I guess the fault is mine: I never answer back so there's no engagement or anything like that (or maybe my micro-texts leave everybody speechless ;-)
Seriously: a blog used in a "conceptual" way is no more a place of exchange but a kind of broadcast (well, not so broad, actually, and having nothing to do with traditional broadcasting media - much more like the Voyager Golden Record, I guess). I mean that the way posts are conceived and offered makes feedbacks (that is: comments) redundant or a sort of. Anyway, I must say that in one at least of my blogs you can find rare but effective and sometimes very very witty comments.

Rachel Loden said...

Gherardo, I was only referring back to Linh's statement that these were "ongoing creative projects, developed incrementally in the public view, with the possibility of instant public feedback..."

It's not that I thought the blogs seemed incomplete without comments -- not at all. It was a lot of fun to zip around in them (and between them) and I intend to go back.

differx said...

I want to suggest one blog more, by Gherardo (with Michele Zaffarano):


take a look at the pdf files up there!

that's what I call cool and interesting conceptual work!


Anonymous said...


first of all thanks a lot for your interest, as well as the accuracy and dedication you put in your translation work.
In Italia, there has been quite a bit of literary experimentation around the blog format. What maybe we lacked (and still lack) is any kind of organization, something creating a real poetic network (classic online magazines proved inadequate, while freelinking is just dispersive).

Uh and of course i linked you linh , u know blogger things ^^

Anonymous said...

On the "magazine" issue: of course i love some of the italian literary magazines (the outstanding GAMMM being one): what I mean up there is the lack of an online "object" that allows proficient communication between people involved in literay research. Something that overcomes the magazine format to be a real community, while not being just a loose directory of name/works without a direction.

Anonymous said...

I'd also like to recommend a really special blog for people who understands italian. It's full of peculiar, evocative short stories. It's young but I do believe it will soon become famous.

the link to the blog is:


have a nice reading :)

Danny Snelson said...
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Danny Snelson said...

this is an old monkey!

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