Some years ago, for a blog I no longer maintain, the blogroll was broken into categories named (kiddingly) after departments in some unnamed mysterious bureaucracy: Ministry of Buzz, Ministry of Informed Opinion, and so on. One of the categories was Ministry of Ministries, and into it went links to my favorite blogs on philosophical and spiritual matters. Some of these blogs were frankly religious, some more secular. One which didn’t fit neatly into either of those descriptions was whiskey river.
I know nothing about whiskey river: no idea who the blogger or webmaster might be, no real idea how long it’s been around, not even any idea (I haven’t bothered looking up) why it’s called “whiskey river,” or where (if anywhere) a real Whiskey River might be located. I sort of like not knowing all that stuff, if that makes any sense.
But the blog has always fascinated me: several times each week, the blogger posts a quotation s/he has come across and apparently found meaningful for some reason. Often, these quotations are from Oriental sources: Chinese poets, for example, or Sufi mystics. Sometimes they’re from someone theoretically less “airy” — Kurt Vonnegut, say. And as I looked back over a given week’s entries, I could often discern a “theme,” or imagined I could… and sometimes not.
My own blog entries tend to be sort of sprawling verbose things. The spare quality of whiskey river‘s entries strikes me, in contrast, as Zen-like whisperings in the ear, stray scraps of conversations overheard in the clouds: the verbal equivalent of a single snip of a bonsai branch.
Shortly after starting up Running After My Hat, without having planned it, on one Friday I decided I wanted to just turn over the floor to a selection from among those which popped up in the preceding week’s posts at whiskey river. That post didn’t fit exactly into the mold which the series eventually set into place, but it did kick off a weekly Friday series.
Each “whiskey river Friday” post begins with one or two (occasionally more) selections from among the most recent at whiskey river. At the top of the post is an image — sometimes a video — associations with which the selection(s) seemed to trigger in my mind. Following the whiskey river samples themselves, I include random selections of my own: not (usually) “my own” meaning that I wrote them; just meaning that I picked them, in a process something like free association or stream of consciousness. And at the bottom, every now and then, appears a video or audio player of something which likewise seemed apt at the time.
I try to keep commentary to a minimum, to let readers glean from the selection as a whole whatever they’d like.
whiskey river seems to get its quotations, often, from other blogs. These other blogs themselves have sometimes merely excerpted the quotes from a larger work, and sometimes they’ve introduced typos or altered the formatting of the quotes in ways not intended by the original authors. (The formatting is especially important in poetry.)
Eventually, for my Friday series inspired by whiskey river, I began trying to hunt down some original and/or authoritative — a so-called canonical — version of each quotation, and link back to it with a note which looks like this: [source]. (An authoritative source of quotations, in this sense, might be a Google Books scan of the page on which the quotation originally appeared, or another citation of the same work at a well-vetted site like poets.org.) If you don’t see such a note, either the post predated this obsessive habit of mine, or I could find no other source than whiskey river itself, or I transcribed it myself from a hardcopy or — if a song — by listening to it, perhaps with cribbed lyrics at hand, until I’m pretty sure I got the lyrics right.
Rarely, I will actually have put together one of these Friday posts on the Friday in question. More often, I start assembling them on Thursday — or even Wednesday. The time is probably roughly equally spent in tracking down free associations, and confirming those canonical versions I mentioned above.
Finally: although many of my whiskey river-triggered Friday entries begin with a poem, they don’t all do so. And they don’t consist of just poems. And, after all, the poetry isn’t really the point (just a fringe benefit, if you will). So I seldom if ever actually sign onto the weekly (and quite wonderful) Web-wide, kidlit-centered (but not exclusively!) Poetry Friday project. Please hold none of those fine folks responsible for my pokings-about here.