- Canine Instinct
Perhaps The Barking isn’t as underrated as I feel they are. “It is?” I’m not sure whether we, as a society, have solidified the proper usage of language around collaborative blogs. Are they collective nouns, thus taking the singular? Or are they meant still to represent the individual contributors, thus taking the plural?
Let me back up.
The Barking is a collaborative literature blog, a promotional offshoot of sorts for Willow Springs, which is itself a promotional offshoot of sorts for the Eastern Washington University writing program. Helmed by editor Sam Ligon, the blog features a steadily rolling stream of contributors from the Willow Springs staff, past and present. It’s this wide array of voices that creates the similarly wide array of topics and points of view that gives The Barking its charm.
Whereas many, if not most, literature blogs exist to create and/or support their own aesthetic camps, The Barking is as varied as the candidates EWU accepts for its writing program. This could be argued as its own aesthetic camp, but from what I’ve gathered in following The Barking and in personal conversations with Ligon and students of the program, the powers-that-be at EWU work to create a program that accepts diverse styles to balance and play against each other, to expose people to other ways of writing or reading.
For better or worse, this tends to give The Barking the effect of sitting around a workshop table ten minutes before the professor (read: Sam Ligon) walks in. Sam Edmonds is in the corner with his headphones on, journaling away, or maybe chatting with Seth Marlin about old-school punk rock. Monet is scribbling away at her recent poetry challenge, trying to chew that last line into something more digestible. I just imagine Kathryn Houghton as a starer, sitting there watching everything, thinking of the larger implications of the way Amaris chews her pen. Essentially, while everyone is here for writing, they are their own persons.
Which brings me back around to those grammatical questions up top, and ultimately, to my opening statement: is The Barking underrated? Have you heard of them?
If you have, it’s likely because The Barking is the blog that blew the lid off that whole BlazeVOX [books] thing last year. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re probably the better for it, but there were some worthwhile industry discussions that arose from the tumult. If you’re interested in publishing industry hullabaloos, Google “BlazeVOX controversy” and take a couple hours to sift through the madness. Those 9,250+ Google returns are the progeny of Brett Ortler’s barking of a rather shifty exchange between himself and the editor of BlazeVOX.
Other than that, the folks at The Barking tend to keep to themselves. You rarely find contributors sounding off on the most recent industry shit-storm like you will at blogs like HTMLGIANT and We Who Are About To Die. You find instead writing challenges, whether Monet’s poetry challenges or a group of them embarking on whatever NaNo...Mo suits their genre. You find well-developed author interviews, reviews that provoke thought beyond whether you wish to buy the book-in-question. You find writers writing, reading, and writing about what they’re reading.
I don’t know necessarily if it’s editorial policy that keeps the contributors from really going out and trying to make a name for themselves getting into the thick of things or if they’re just the kind of people who like to keep it quiet—that whole “room of one’s own” thing. It’s hard to write or read when you’re spending so much time keeping up with all the latest industry tumults on other literary blogs, which is one thing I’ve always appreciated about The Barking: they are a group who likes to get the work done. [End Page 10]
Christopher Newgent lives in Indianapolis, where he founded Vouched Books to promote small press literature in his city. His chapbook, The Fullness of Everything...