It was darkly golden, the thing that was thrust into my hands with little ceremony. Harsh tendrils of semi-molten metal twisted about and obscured the core of indeterminable gems. It was weighty and sluggish as it sat slowly squirming in my palms. It felt… magical; it felt… meaningless. It was named The Far Queue , I was told, though that name seemed to lay fitfully on this strange object rather than being a true part of it. The thing was beautiful, at the very least. It would take further inspection to determine whether the beauty was superficial or born of unfathomable artistic function.
I won’t subject you to any more on that nonsense, but the above is what artsy blogs do to me when I read them for too long. Somewhat fortunately for TFQ, this review actually caught me in the middle of a melodramatic and misanthropic mood which TFQ managed to reflect; unfortunately for me (and you), it reflected well enough that it put me in that mood for a couple of days. Had it caught me in one of my more manic episodes I am unsure how I would have reacted, but I can guarantee it wouldn’t have had me writing soggy mush like that paragraph above, and I doubt I would have had the patience to push past my typical reaction to poetry blogs. (“Yeah, I get it, you’re angsty and everything sucks. Put down that rhyming dictionary. Aurgh.”)
Go look at it right now. I want to compare some notes with you. Go on, it’ll take but a moment. Gather your first impressions. Got ‘em? Good.
If your mind works anything like mine (you poor, poor fool), your experience was probably something like this: the first thing you notice is that the blog is beautiful. It has a dark, simple je ne sais quoi that only comes from actually planning a website and rarely appears in blog form. Of the aesthetics of the blog, I have nothing but good things to say, and so will say no more.
The second impression you got was something akin to, “What is all this bullshit?”
Over the days I was reviewing TFQ, there were five posts on the home page, each prominently featuring an image – mostly works of art, presumably not of the author’s making. Spread over these posts was two short poems and two uncontextualized, unrelated paragraphs that appeared to be excerpts from a larger story. Under each of these posts were rating boxes labeled subterranean, grounded and transcendent. (Did you giggle at those? Because I did.) The only explanatory or introductory text is found above the navigation menu: “ANTI-PROFIT/NON-PROPHET” which I can totally get behind, although at this point I’m really not sure how it has anything to do with anything.
The message being conveyed is “I am a deep, dark writer-type who likes to use words in surprising ways and I take myself very, very seriously. Also I am a huge asshat and I probably wear a fedora.” (To paraphrase my English teacher, “deep” and “dark” are reserved for oceans and pussies; I have no patience for the mystery wrapped in an enigma routine.)
I ended up staring blankly at the pleasantly dark background and then played with the hover effect on the navigation menu for a bit. The realization that the navigation menu is both more interesting and more comprehensible than the content of the blog is, I suspect, a tipping point for most visitors. This time I would not have the luxury of totally dismissing TFQ, so I forced myself to read on.
Bolstered by beer, I first visited the biography. It appears that our author uses a lesser-known definition of “biography,” as I was instead greeted with two thousand words on the history of South Africa before anything personal and relevant appeared. We eventually learn that "Pisces" is a creative atheist who likes music and apparently wrote a book. Super. I rather wish he'd just left it at a simple “I'm just zis guy, you know?” because it's infinitely more brief and just as accurate.
I then realized TFQ is very large. It spans across several domains like a web of dark gossamer silk (sorry) and its archives reach into the dim shadows of 2006. All the inter-linking between posts and indexes creates a novel website structure - more visually pleasing than the use of tags, at least - but the whole thing is terribly awkward to navigate. It's organized less like a website and more like a virtual hedge maze with short fiction at the center.
Oh yes, I finally found what the main strength of this blog is: short fiction posted in paragraphs at a time. (It is mixed in with copious poetry, a form of which I am neither a fan nor a critic, so I will let those alone) There is very little of anything bloggy on this blog – in my reading I didn't get any real sense of Pisces at all, aside from a few flashes of “this guy is a prat” while reading the comment sections of some older posts. Yet, you can clearly witness the development of Pisces over the years, from a sort of generic romantic-misanthropist to someone who actually has some fun without overthinking and forcing "deeper" meaning .
And I suppose that's the main gist of it, eh? It is a feat to walk that line between visionary and self-important twat. A sense of inflated artistic ego and the stench of overwrought depth hovers just above most of the posts on TFQ, occasionally descending to infest the writing itself. To be absolutely fair to TFQ, the cringe factor of the past couple of years is decidedly less than that of most similar blogs. To be absolutely honest, the cringe factor is still there.
So, the big question: is TFQ just another poetry blog? Well, in many aspects it is – a fair number of the posts I read were artistic fluff – inspirational quotes and non-original artwork. A large number was short poetry of the kind that is always in danger of having the multiple multi-syllabic words obscure the meaning. But every writer has their gold, and Pisces produces some intriguing short and micro fiction. Given that I didn't hate it, and that some parts were too good to bore me, I'm awarding two stars:
Use them well.