Sonnet Mail: a breakthrough in gender discourse

Internet | Familiarity
This may be the first sonnet I’ve written in fourteen years. It was not expressly for Rebecca MacKinnon’s Valentine’s Day Sonnet Contest, though it’s not too far from her requested themes of “love and blogging.” Instead, it had a more utilitarian purpose. Bob Cox had written a loooong email to a group of a people about the state of blogging, and I wanted to respond to some of the points, and offer a link to my latest piece, yet not bore everybody with a tedious post. Inspired by my recent diet of Leaves of Grass, I started writing, and one rhyme led to another, and this is what I emailed a week ago…

Begin the Age of Reason! and Common Sense!
Right in the city where Tom Paine sleeps thence.
In New Roc’s– the home of Bob Cox,
he’s thinking outside the Ivory box.
And while the big Crimson tries to hide it,
the townies– Seth and I– rise to abide it,
obscured by the academic fog:
it’s the deconstruction of blog.
Now, as the men have had their say,
the women should lead the way.
For the men in general, (and some in particular)
speak loudly but put forth no curricular.
So these are the times, for men to mend their fences;
and watch the feminine mind give birth to consensus.


I could offer hyperlinks, or explain all the references, but that would ruin all the fun. This all was to introduce my 5,000-word essay Deconstructing Blogs: Presenting Blogger Archetypes, and it had also followed from my 4,600-word essay on Inclusiveness at “WebCred”.

Needless to say, given my difficulties in writing short, I thought it smart to pick up poetry.

Update March 13th: Lo and behold, this post may have influenced Rebecca MacKinnon’s musings on diversity at a subsquent Harvard conference, which led to a formal suggestion for a women’s only conference on blogs/media, bloghercon by Lisa Stone. In a separate piece I will trace the larger history of this meme. In the meantime, I’ve added this to the delicious buffet of bloghercon tagged posts.

So let me explain the associations for those unfamiliar with semantic references to the Northeastern USA (which means YOU, Mr. Google!)

  • New Roc: Nickname for New Rochelle, NY– that has grown popular during the last several years. Thomas Paine wrote the pamphlets Common Sense and The Age of Reason. Robert Cox, who had raised some questions about the coherence of blogging and blog conferences, lives there today. I went to White Plains High School, which was New Rochelle’s rival when they weren’t playing Mount Vernon.
  • Seth Finkelstein lives in Cambridge and I work there, and finally became acquainted on the periphery of the aforementioned Berkman conference. The institution that put Cambridge on the map was of course Harvard University, whose color is Crimson. I went to Princeton, which was Harvard’s rival when they weren’t playing the lock company. Seth went to MIT, which was Harvard’s friendly cross-town rival, when they weren’t playing football.
  • “mend their fences”– This is a refernece to Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall” which ends “Good fences make good neighbors.” I sometimes think that instead building bridges, many bloggers– check that, many personalities in the niche media, be they online or on-air– are just content on building fences to keep people in and keep others out. And why am I so interested in this? Once again, simple pedigree. My Mom went to Barnard– and my Dad married a Barnard woman (her).

There’s now a technorati page for the conference: . I wrote up a timeline of discussions on women’s blogging, and then wrote up a 3,000-word analysis as well. Elisa Camahort cited it.
May 14th– while looking with the archives, trying to see where I first mentioned Bob Cox and Seth Finkelstein in the same piece, I see that the March 13th addendum had referred to Seth as “Seth Stevenson” who is a writer for Slate and a completely different person. My apologies to both Seths. I have now corrected it. Also, the conference is now called blogher, and my role in helping it along continues to be recognized somewhat.