I was tired. Now, I know that that’s the worst way to start a story, but I was fucking exhausted. I had spent eight years of my life writing poetry on blogging platforms. I had improved with each piece; had done the reading and the research; had worked through writer’s block, and had done everything possible to make a living out of art. But I had miserably failed. There I was, lying on my cot, wondering where I had gone wrong.
I had a blog with twenty followers. Twenty fucking followers after eight years of agony! They say that insanity is doing the same thing on repeat and expecting a different result, and by that definition, I was a lunatic. I had two choices: Quitting blogging or changing the content of my blogs. I decided to give it one more try (being the madman I was) and started stalking the blogs of people who had thousands of followers. What ensued is an unbelievable tale of deception, success, guilt and apathy. And yes, in that order.
When I first visited the sites of these power bloggers, I expected to be awed by the content. But what I read appalled me! I found self-indulgent, verbose poems, written in barely passable English, revolving around death and lust. I found horrible prose written without proper syntax about vague ideas. The writers were mostly women who hailed from the Indian subcontinent. What was even more terrifying was that people from all over the globe lauded the content and compared it to the writings of Plath, Bishop and Olds! This challenged everything I thought I knew about reality, and I spent nights squirming with anxiety. What in the bloody hell is going on! How is it that writers who know nothing about metre, rhyme schemes, allusion, hyperbole, tone and form are out there selling books? And more amazingly, how are people devouring these books with an insatiable appetite and then writing reviews the size of a dissertation? I wondered, stupefied.
I became obsessed with these blogs. I studied the poems, wondering if I was missing something. But I only found poorly written sentences revolving around Eros and Thanatos time and again. Perhaps it is the unintended Freudian aspect of these poems that tickles both the perverts and feminists, I contemptuously thought. One playing with his balls while the other fondles her tits! My mind cried in disdain. After multiple rereading, I memorised the poems. My mind replaced Keatsian odes to Autumn with a cacophonous, “My lips hump in the red moon sky while layers of discordant silver coat my nefarious skin/ Then I know a poetry.” I bashed the walls of my bathroom until my fists bled. I was furious.
One day, after smoking many cigarettes to fight the bitterness growing in me, I decided to rant. What followed was an expletive-ridden diatribe against sitting mediocrity on a throne and garlanding her with Jade Vines and Ghost Orchids. I peppered my post with real and invented adages, and the result was a fiery maelstrom of angst and criticism. The truth is that a lot of what I wrote came from the heart. I believed that comparing someone who could not speak English properly to Sylvia Plath was an insult to her legacy and the articulate, well-spoken, beautiful woman she was. But I forgot that I was living in the age of punk-rock feminists who relentlessly bash men for no reason, and call a man who speaks his mind a narcissistic mansplainer. Some women on blogging platforms gang up on any man who isn’t a fucking simp. As long as you’re ensconced in simphood flattering every female writer, thinking she’ll fall for you, you’re safe. The moment you drift from lying prostrate on that flowery carpet of yellow hearts and purple flowers and call the bitch out for the lousy writer she is, you’ll find some blue-haired, masculine dyke bringing her posse and cutting you down.
Like I said before, I had a blog with twenty followers, but an army of five hundred Xenas brought their swords to the battlefield. This discombobulated me. It also destroyed my spirit. But then after a month-long, self-destructive bender, I realised that the only way to fight them was to become them (as ludicrous as that sounds). And so, I deleted my blog, created a new email id, and started a new blog using an Indian woman’s name. I wrote cryptic, morose, vaguely erotic poems. I initially did this out of spite. I wrote burlesque versions of the poems I’d read, but people started flocking to my blog! In three months, I had three-hundred followers! With each, Your pendulum is clarity within my petals in the phosphoresce air, my follower count increased by ten! A wicked idea then originated in my mind, and I decided to seek the help of a friend.
Smitha is a goofball who loves taking risks. She has her idiosyncrasies and loves playing pranks on people. She’s also very good looking and tech-savvy. I approached her and asked her to help me with my ‘project.’
“I need digitally altered images of you that I can use on my blog,” I said, cutting straight to the point.
“What the fuck!”
“I’ll pay you for them. Don’t worry; I’m not asking for nudes. Just pictures of your face that don’t resemble you too much.”
“Why do you need them?” She nervously asked me.
“Because I plan on getting a book published as a woman, and need credibility. You will receive forty per cent of the earnings.”
I proceeded to explain my plan to her in detail, and after much persuasion, she agreed. Soon I used her photos as my display pictures and wrote and wrote. My follower count rapidly grew, and at that point, I could have written a poem entirely in onomatopoeia and still gotten a hundred likes. I also started interacting with many of my followers via email and realised that horny men were all over the blogosphere. I didn’t outrightly dismiss them, but I felt sick to my stomach every time I read an email that talked about a ‘collaboration piece’ about making love. A gay man might have enjoyed this, but I felt dirty. Entirely rejecting these poets in heat would have ended in my statistics dropping, and so, I pretended to be the demure lass who is also hard to get while I puked in my bathroom. But this only titillated these animals further and soon they started sending me dick pics.
Finally, I got the attention of the hardcore, man-bashing dykes. Since this was my plan all along, I started engaging with them more than I did with other bloggers. These people were part of the cliques that was the blogosphere’s inner circle. I needed in because that circle helped writers publish books. I joined collectives, wrote a Damn! What a beautiful prose! Comment when I had to, and continued writing crap and defending it as absurdism and surrealism when some sincere blogger asked me about the meaning of my poems. I pretended to be the modern, fashionable Indian girl who smoked cigars but ironically couldn’t speak English properly.
Then the day came when one of the publishers asked me if I wanted to put a book out, and I enthusiastically said yes, but later regretted it. I started feeling guilty and wondered if I had taken things too far. I thought of confessing, but I was too scared. I had also made a promise to Smitha. So, I finally said yes, and gave them a collection of dadaist doggerels that they edited, and published. I got everything I wanted: the power blog, the feminists, the connections, the book, and the reviews. But I couldn’t live with myself for a while.
Finally, I grew apathetic and realised that the only way to compete with mediocrity was to become mediocre yourself. Today, I’ve forgotten about poets like Tracy K. Smith, Gregory Pardlo and other Pulitzer Prize winners who once inspired me. I’ve forgotten everything about poetry I learned in Masterclasses by people like Billy Collins. I don’t care anymore. I’m making money.