Ron Silliman thinks that
there’s going to be – already is, I suspect – some clashing over whether it’s possible to do serious critical writing in this form [i.e., blogging]. One of the most interesting things about last December’s MLA convention in Philadelphia was listening to one fifteen-minute paper after another & realizing that two-thirds had less in the way of ideas than the average blog note. And this was, by all standards, an excellent MLA convention. Try writing 200 MLA presentations in one year, tho, and your whole idea of what constitutes a critical piece of thinking is going to change. In this sense, the real promise of blogging is the one that it holds for changing what constitutes critical thought, literally marginalizing the academy as a site for such about poetry, returning critical writing instead to the poets themselves, most of whom do not teach, or do so only under the most abject of adjunct circumstances. Perhaps marginalizing is too strong a term – there are, after all, good people in the academy who do serious work – but at least “de-authorizing,” de-legitimating academic critical writing as such, forcing it to compete on an equal basis with the “deep gossip” of poets writing about their own work & that of others. Nothing could be healthier than that.
I mostly agree with this, but I think Ron both exaggerates the extent to which the academy any longer engages in "critical thought" about poetry (especially current poetry) and fails to reserve a place in the critical consideration of poetry for critics other than poet-critics.
University literature departments have long ceased to be (if they ever were, except in the creative writing programs and the literary magazines many such programs sponsored) the centers of serious literary criticism (criticism of literature, not criticism that happens to include literature as a target of theoretical or cultural analysis), especially criticism of poetry. (See Jonathan Mayhew's post on this subject.) The "deep gossip" of poets on blogs and in other non-academic publications already in my opinion vastly exceeds in its utility the pseudo-commentary emanating from academe, although I like to think that in its seriousness of purpose, most of this blogcrit goes well beyond "gossip."
Insofar as blogging about poetry (and fiction as well--academic criticism about current fiction is hardly any more useful than its poetry counterpart) does succeed in "marginalizing the academy" even further, this can only be a good thing, so long as academic criticism continues to view literature simply as a "specimen" to be examined for all but its literary qualities. But I also think there is room in poetry blogging for critics who are not also (or perhaps not primarily) poets themselves. Such critics would have "deep" sympathy for the practices and assumptions of working poets but would also provide a critical perspective (ideally buttressed by a similarly deep familiarity with literary history) that didn't reflexively privilege one or another such practice or assumption and that approached both poetry and fiction from the standpoint of the engaged reader rather than the writer and his/her perhaps partisan inclinations. (Which isn't to say the non-poet blogcritic would have no such inclinations, but they would be anchored at a different angle of approach.)
At a time when literary blogs do indeed show an increasing ability to "deauthorize" academic criticism as it has established itself over the past fifty years, it would be a shame if the cleavage in contemporary literary criticism--between academic critics on the one hand and practicing poets and novelists on the other--were to be permanently hardened with little space in between for critics who want to write about literature but who don't ultimately consider themselves either "scholars" or poets. Both poetry and criticism would suffer from such an unyielding opposition.