1. Natasha Trethewey Beautiful! Black! Poet Laureate!
2. Billy Collins Still sells…
3. David Lehman Best American Poetry Series chugs along…
4. Stephen Burt Harvard Cross-dresser takes Vendler’s mantle?
5. William Logan Most entertaining poetry critic…
6. Christian Wiman He’s the “Poetry” man, he makes me feel alright…
7. Sharon Olds Sock-in-the-gut, sexy frankness…
8. Tracy K. Smith Young Pulitzer winner
9. David Orr The New York Times Poetry Critic…
10. Harold Bloom Not sure on Naomi Wolfe; we know he abused Poe….
11. Matthew Dickman OMG! Is he really no. 11?
12. Anne Carson Professor of Classics born in Toronto…
13. Dana Gioia Famous essay still resonates & not a bad formalist poet…
14. Jorie Graham Judge not…
15. Rita Dove The Penguin Anthology really wasn’t that good…
16. Helen Vendler Almost 80!
17. John Ashbery Has he ever written a poem for no. 16? Where’s the love?
18. David Ferry This translator is almost 90!
19. Kevin Young We hear he’s a leading poet of his generation…
20. Robert Pinsky The smartest man in the universe…
21. Cole Swenson The Hybrid Queen, newly installed at Brown…
22. Marjorie Perloff “Poetry on the Brink” praises cut-and-paste…
23. John Barr Financial leader of Poetry Foundation and poet worth reading?
24. Seamus Heaney The inscrutable Irish mountain…
25. Geoffrey Hill A mountain who is really a hill?
26. Robert Hass West-coast cheerleader.
27. Stephen Dunn Athlete, philosopher, poet
28. Laura Kassichke Championed by Burt.
29. Mary Oliver The John Clare of today…
30. Kay Ryan Come on, she’s actually good…
31. Don Share Riding “Poetry” gravy train…
32. W.S. Merwin Noble, ecological, bull?
33. Dana Levin Do you know the way to Santa Fe?
34. Susan Wheeler Elliptical Poet. At Princeton.
35. Tony Hoagland Has the racial controversy faded?
36. Mark Doty Sharon Olds’ little brother…
37. Frank Bidart The Poet as Greek Tragedian
38. Simon Armitage Tilda Swinton narrates his global warming doc
39. D.A. Powell He likes the weather in San Francisco…
40. Philip Levine Second generation Program Era poet
41. Ron Silliman Experimental to the bone, his blog is video central…
42. Mark Strand Plain-talking surrealist, studied painting with Josef Albers…
43. Dan Chiasson Influential poetry reviewer…
44. Al Filreis On-line professor teaches modern poetry to thousands at once!
45. Paul Muldoon If you want your poem in the New Yorker, this is the guy…
46. Charles Bernstein Difficult, Inc.
47. Rae Armantrout If John Cage wrote haiku?
48. Louise Gluck Bollingen Prize winner…
49. Ben Mazer 2012 Scarriet March Madness Champ, studied with Heaney, Ricks…
50. Carol Muske-Dukes California Laureate
51. Peter Riley His critical essay crushes the hybrid movement…
52. Lyn Hejinian California Language Poet…
53. Peter Gizzi 12 issues of O.blek made his name…
54. Franz Wright Cantankerous but blessed…
55. Nikky Finney 2011 National Book Award winner
56. Garrison Keillor Good poems!
57. Camille Paglia She’s baaaack!
58. Christian Bok Author of Canada’s best-selling poetry book
59. X.J. Kennedy Classy defender of rhyme…
60. Frederick Seidel Wears nice suits…
61. Henri Cole Poems “cannily wrought” –New Yorker
62. Thom Donovan Poetry is Jorie-Graham-like…
63. Marie Howe State Poet of New York
64. Michael Dickman The other twin…
65. Alice Oswald Withdrew from T.S. Eliot prize shortlist…
66. Sherman Alexie Poet/novelist/filmmaker…
67. J.D. McClatchy Anthologist and editor of Yale Review…
68. David Wagoner Edited Poetry Northwest until it went under…
69. Richard Wilbur A versifier’s dream…
70. Stephen Cramer His fifth book is called “Clangings.”
71. Galway Kinnell We scolded him on his poem in the New Yorker critical of Shelley…
72. Jim Behrle Gadfly of the BAP
73. Haruki Murakami The Weird Movement…
74. Tim Seibles Finalist for National Book Award in Poetry
75. Brenda Shaughnessy Editor at Tin House…
76. Maurice Manning The new Robert Penn Warren?
77. Eileen Myles We met her on the now-dead Comments feature of Blog Harriet
78. Heather McHugh Studied with Robert Lowell; translator.
79. Juliana Spahr Poetry and sit-ins
80. Alicia Ostriker Poetry makes feminist things happen…
81. William Childress His ‘Is Free Verse Killing Poetry?’ caused a stir…
82. Patricia Smith Legendary Slam Poet…
83. James Tate The Heart-felt Zany Iowa School…
84. Barrett Watten Language Poet Theorist.
85. Elizabeth Alexander Obama’s inaugural poet.
86. Alan Cordle Foetry changed poetry forever.
87. Dean Young Heart transplanted, we wish him the best…
88. Amy Beeder “You’ll never feel full”
89. Valzhyna Mort Franz Wright translated her from the Belarusian…
90. Mary Jo Salter Studied with Elizabeth Bishop at Harvard…
91. Seth Abramson Lawyer/poet who researches MFA programs and writes cheery reviews…
92. Amy Catanzano “My aim is to become incomprehensible to the machines.”
93. Cate Marvin VIDA co-founder and co-director
94. Jay Wright First African-American to win the Bollingen Prize (2005)
95. Albert Jack His “Dreadful Demise Of Edgar Allan Poe” builds on Scarriet’s research: Poe’s cousin may be guilty…
96. Mary Ruefle “I remember, I remember”
97. John Gallaher Selfless poet/songwriter/teacher/blogger
98. Philip Nikolayev From Fulcrum to Battersea…
99. Marcus Bales Democratic Activist and Verse Poet
100. Joe Green And Hilarity Ensued…
October 17, 2012 at 7:36 pm (Alan Cordle, Alice Oswald, Anne Carson, Ben Mazer, Billy Collins, Blog:Harriet, Brenda Shaughnessy, Camille Paglia, Charles Baudelaire, Christian Bok, Cole Swensen, Dan Chiasson, Dana Gioia, Dana Levin, David Lehman, David Orr, Dean Young, Don Share, Eileen Myles, Elizabeth Alexander, Frank Bidart, Franz Wright, Fred Seidel, Galway Kinnell, Garrison Keillor, Geoffrey Hill, Harold Bloom, Helen Vendler, James Tate, Jim Behrle, John Ashbery, Jorie Graham, Kay Ryan, Kevin Young, Louise Gluck, Lyn Hejinian, Marjorie Perloff, Mark Doty, Mark Strand, Matthew Dickman, Natasha Trethewey, Neilson Poe, Patricia Smith, Paul Muldoon, Peter Gizzi, Ron Silliman, Seth Abramson, Sharon Olds, Sherman Alexie, Stephen Burt, Stephen Dunn, Terrance Hayes, Tony Hoagland, Tracy K. Smith, X.J. Kennedy)
1. Natasha Trethewey Beautiful! Black! Poet Laureate!
Should the poet ‘take positions?’ We say, invariably not, for partisanship always implies progress or improvement and such a position can never be timeless—since improvements always involve present problems. You don’t fix a leak in the roof with philosophy, symbolism, or beauty, and to write a poem out of some political position is just like assuming this.
The other problem with partisan behavior is that it forces us to adhere to a laundry list of associations with whatever we happen to support. For instance, if you support this good, it inevitably means you support, through a network of connections, that evil–and eventually this pins you down into a position fraught with embarrassment, and to be intellectually embarrassed is the worse thing that can happen to a thinker or an artist; it mars the artist’s contemplative solitude, it stalks with social frenzy the serenity the poet needs. The poet is naturally irritable, because he is more sensitive than others; but to be defensive in the face of social embarrassment undermines the irritable poet’s inspiration and takes the naturally private poet wholly out of himself.
Do not, then, stoop to politics if you wish to make art. Do not be political. Politics will not fix the leak or write the poem—it will hinder fixing the roof and writing the poem, because whatever aims to triumph in the realm of advice (the default rhetorical purpose of political discourse) hinders the artist (who is, if art is properly understood, not an advice-giver).
You must never attempt to triumph; the muse will have nothing to do with the artist who makes an attempt to win her. The muse must already be yours.
The artist must be victorious before the game even begins; the great artist sees the game entirely before it starts; the poetic work is simply copying out the pre-seen result. There must be no struggle, no harangue, no attempt to convince, no argument—for then the artist will be no artist at all, but a mere Emerson, a mere sermonizer. The art must flash upon the consciousness like a piece of music, the argument hidden in the folds of the exquisite notes.
If the argument is key, leave it for a sermon—as I am doing now.
Oh, and even better than the sermon is the dialogue. Allow comments on your blog.
Do not be like Poetry’s Blog Harriet or the blogger Ron Silliman.
The processes of invention or creation are strictly akin with the processes of resolution — the former being nearly, if not absolutely, the latter conversed. It cannot be doubted that the mental features discoursed of as the analytical are, in themselves, but little susceptible of analysis. We appreciate them only in their effects. We know of them, among other things, that they are always to their possessor, when inordinately possessed, a source of the liveliest enjoyment. As the strong man exults in his physical ability, delighting in such exercises as call his muscles into action, so glories the analyst in that moral activity which disentangles.
—The Murders in the Rue Morgue, Edgar Poe
Obstacles stimulate creativity—because we need to think harder to overcome those obstacles. Obvious, right?
A new university study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology states the obvious, but the folks at Wired and Blog Harriet are amazed at an apparent “paradox.”
Composing formalist poems fires the imagination more than composing free verse poems does.
A rat navigating a maze has to think about getting through a maze, but the free-verse rat, who is not in a maze, doesn’t.
This study—and the reaction to it—proves what we’ve always suspected.
Psycho-social “scientists” and free-verse “poets” are the dumbest people on the face of the earth.
Now beyond this obstacle-truism, one has to ask: does navigating a maze, for instance, improve your imaginative ability to write a sonnet?
Is the issue merely this: that challenges in general stimulate thinking, or is there a more sophisticated cause/effect relationship?
The study itself only used simple puzzles, nothing as sophisticated as actually writing a sonnet.
So the study is saying nothing more than: lifting weights produces stronger muscles.
We all know that.
But can we affirm that growing up in a tough environment will make you tough?
When a person faces the various challenges of overcoming all the obstacles to writing a sonnet, does this mean the person’s imaginative faculty itself improves, which in turn makes the person better at writing a sonnet, or is there a kind of formal sonnet-writing capacity which merely improves with practice? If the latter is true, well, who cares? and if the former is true, it begs the question: what do we mean by an “imaginative faculty,” one that exists separately from all those formal operations inherent in writing a sonnet—or navigating a maze?
Better ask the rat.
Don’t bother asking the psycho-social “scientist” or the free verse “poet.”
But instinctively, even the merest fool—one who grasps not “The Phaedrus” or Shelley or Keats—understands that writing sonnets is not like doing crossword puzzles—yet this is precisely the dead-end to which this new university study leads.
So let’s let the poet, with a true poetic philosophy, have the final word:
We have already said that “Gregory the Seventh” was, unhappily, infected with the customary cant of the day — the cant of the muddle-pates who dishonor a profound and ennobling philosophy by styling themselves transcendentalists. In fact, there are few highly sensitive or imaginative intellects for which the vortex of mysticism, in any shape, has not an almost irresistible influence, on account of the shadowy confines which separate the Unknown from the Sublime. Mr. Horne, then, is, in some measure, infected. The success of his previous works had led him to attempt, zealously, the production of a poem which should be worthy his high powers. We have no doubt that he revolved carefully in mind a variety of august conceptions, and from these thoughtfully selected what his judgment, rather than what his impulses, designated as the noblest and the best. In a word, he has weakly yielded his own poetic sentiment of the poetic — yielded it, in some degree, to the pertinacious opinion, and talk, of a certain junto by which he is surrounded — a junto of dreamers whose absolute intellect may, perhaps, compare with his own very much after the fashion of an ant-hill with the Andes. By this talk — by its continuity rather than by any other quality it possessed — he has been badgered into the attempt at commingling the obstinate oils and waters of Poetry and of Truth. He has been so far blinded as to permit himself to imagine that a maudlin philosophy (granting it to be worth enforcing) could be enforced by poetic imagery, and illustrated by the jingling of rhythm; or, more unpardonably, he has been induced to believe that a poem, whose single object is the creation of Beauty — the novel collocation of old forms of the Beautiful and of the Sublime — could be advanced by the abstractions of a maudlin philosophy.
But the question is not even this. It is not whether it be not possible to introduce didacticism, with effect, into a poem, or possible to introduce poetical images and measures, with effect, into a didactic essay. To do either the one or the other, would be merely to surmount a difficulty — would be simply a feat of literary sleight of hand. But the true question is, whether the author who shall attempt either feat, will not be laboring at a disadvantage — will not be guilty of a fruitless and wasteful expenditure of energy. In minor poetical efforts, we may not so imperatively demand an adherence to the true poetical thesis. We permit trifling to some extent, in a work which we consider a trifle at best. Although we agree, for example, with Coleridge, that poetry and passion are discordant, yet we are willing to permit Tennyson to bring, to the intense passion which prompted his “Locksley Hall,” the aid of that terseness and pungency which are derivable from rhythm and from rhyme. The effect he produces, however, is a purely passionate, and not, unless in detached passages of this magnificent philippic, a properly poetic effect. His “Œnone,” on the other hand, exalts the soul not into passion, but into a conception of pure beauty, which in its elevation its calm and intense rapture — has in it a foreshadowing of the future and spiritual life, and as far transcends earthly passion as the holy radiance of the sun does the glimmering and feeble phosphorescence of the glow-worm. His “Morte D’Arthur” is in the same majestic vein. The “Sensitive Plant” of Shelley is in the same sublime spirit. Nor, if the passionate poems of Byron excite more intensely a greater number of readers than either the “Oenone” or the “Sensitive Plant,” does this indisputable fact prove any thing more than that the majority of mankind are more susceptible of the impulses of passion than of the impressions of beauty? Readers do exist, however, and always will exist, who, to hearts of maddening fervor, unite, in perfection, the sentiment of the beautiful, that divine sixth sense which is yet so faintly understood, that sense which phrenology has attempted to embody in its organ of ideality — that sense which is the basis of all Fourier’s dreams — that sense which speaks of God through his purest, if not his sole attribute — which proves, and which alone proves his existence.
To readers such as these — and only to such as these — must be left the decision of what the true Poesy is. And these with no hesitation — will decide that the origin of Poetry lies in a thirst for a wilder Beauty than Earth supplies — that Poetry itself is the imperfect effort to quench this immortal thirst by novel combinations of beautiful forms (collocations of forms) physical or spiritual, and that this thirst when even partially allayed — this sentiment when even feebly meeting response — produces emotion to which all other human emotions are vapid and insignificant.
We shall now be fully understood. If, with Coleridge, who, however erring at times, was precisely the mind fitted to decide a question such as this — if, with him, we reject passion from the true — from the pure poetry — if we reject even passion — if we discard as feeble, as unworthy the high spirituality of the theme, (which has its origin in a sense of the Godhead) if we dismiss even the nearly divine emotion of human love — that emotion which, merely to name, now causes the pen to tremble — with how much greater reason shall we dismiss all else? And yet there are men who would mingle with the august theme the merest questions of expediency — the cant topics of the day — the doggerel Æsthetics of the time — who would trammel the soul in its flight to an ideal Helusion, by the quirks and quibbles of chopped logic. There are men who do this lately, there are a set of men who make a practice of doing this — and who defend it on the score of the advancement of what they suppose to be truth. Truth is, in its own essence, sub-lime — but her loftiest sublimity, as derived from man’s clouded and erratic reason, is valueless — is pulseless — is utterly ineffective when brought into comparison with the unerring sense of which we speak; yet grant this truth to be all which its seekers and worshipers pretend — they forget that it is not truth, per se, which is made their thesis, but an argumentation, often maudlin and pedantic, always shallow and unsatisfactory (as from the mere inadaptation of the vehicle it must be) by which this truth, in casual and indeterminate glimpses, is or is not— rendered manifest.
—A review of Orion: an Epic, R.H. Horne by Edgar Allan Poe
David Meltzer in his day
T.S. Eliot painted his face green, had a nervous breakdown, and imprisoned his wife, but he took poetry seriously.
John Berryman was a stinking drunk, but he taught Shakespeare.
When did poets start disliking poetry?
When did poets start being ashamed of poetry, so that all of a sudden poets were not talking about poetry anymore, but themselves and the scene?
Just take this piece by Garrett Caples from Blog Harriet, “The Maestro: David Meltzer, Part I” 5/24/2011. It is brief enough that we may quote it in full:
Michael McClure invited Andrew Joron and me to a reading in the Berkeley Hills, as we wanted to consult him in the course of editing the (forthcoming) Collected Poems of Philip Lamantia. Contact was made, a meeting was set up, and McClure would provide much valuable information regarding Lamantia’s activities in the late ’50s. His devotion to Philip is both inspiring and moving.
But something else would also happen that evening in the hills. Reading with McClure was David Meltzer, whom I’d previously met once when he read at City Lights with Andrew and Micah Ballard. Meltzer had done the cover collage for Ballard’s book Parish Krewes (Bootstrap Productions, 2009), so it seemed fitting to add him to the bill, and he read a new poem called “When I Was a Poet.” A short long poem—the best kind—“When I Was a Poet” has that easy virtuosity born of a lifetime pursuing said occupation. Micah invariably refers
to Meltzer as “the Maestro” and that’s just it: his touch is so light and low-key the lines feel almost unwritten, clear as air, the evolution of that Williams strain running through so-called “Beat” poetry. But Meltzer has a rhythmic swagger wholly absent from WCW, and “When I Was a Poet” sustains its lyric flight by chorus-like returns to its title-phrase. It has the sweep of a vintage Dylan epic but with a nimble, angular swing—Lenny Tristano kicking “Sad-Eyed Lady”?—and was definitely the showstopper.
Ferlinghetti was out of town when Meltzer read at City Lights. But when I arrived at the reading in the hills, there was Lawrence! I say “!” because I’ve never just bumped into him at a reading before, in Berkeley to boot. At the time, besides editing for City Lights, I was also working as his assistant, so naturally I never knew where he’d be. The reading was actually an opening for a sculpture show by Amy Evans McClure, in a small art gallery attached to a large
house whose owners are Lawrence’s friends, so he decided to make the scene. Clearly some stars aligned that night. Meltzer again ended his set with “When I Was a Poet,” wowing the packed audience. After the reading, I made my way over to Lawrence. He seemed excited.
“What’d you think?” I asked.
“That was an extraordinary poem!” Lawrence said with decision. “We should publish it!” He paused a moment, then almost sheepishly added: “Ask him if it’s available.” Though Meltzer was only a few yards away, Lawrence is actually a little shy—back in 1955, when he caught the first public reading of “Howl” at the Six Gallery, he sent Ginsberg a telegram the next day asking to see the MS—so his reticence here was hardly surprising. As I slipped through the crowd
over to Meltzer, two thoughts occupied me: 1) This is so fucking cool—it’s like “Howl”; 2) A big shot like Meltzer must have books in the works, so someone’s probably already claimed the poem. As it turned out, however, Meltzer and his poem were both available, and pleased to be asked. As it also turned out, the most recent volume in the Pocket Poets series was #59. Wouldn’t Meltzer make a good #60?
“Yes,” said Lawrence.
The scene is everything—we get people’s names, addresses, books, presses—and the poem, raved about, is not even worth quoting. Not a line of the poem, but there’s time for a cool reference to a long Blonde On Blonde song and a jazz artist. (It’s Lennie, not Lenny, Tristano, by the way.)
“A short long poem—the best kind” it seems, but the “best,” how short, or long, is it? A car alarm is always too “long,” so if we were to say a “short long car alarm—the best kind,” it would have no meaning. Since we haven’t the faintest idea of how good the poem is, the reader has no appreciation of “short long,” unless we mean Poe’s “The Philosophy of Composition,” but that work of Poe’s considered a famous poem, “The Raven.” “When I Was A Poet” is unquoted and unknown. Beat culture has that tendency to have no real poems, short, long, or short long; the Beats’ most famous poem, “Howl” is boring half-the-way-through, (can anyone quote the last two-thirds of that poem?) but no matter, the scene around the poem is all we need. The 1955 Gallery Six reading—which of course gets a nod by Caples—a handful of drunks nodding off in a little room—is now mythic, even though an obscenity trial and Look magazine put “Howl” on the map, not any actual utterance of its inanities in public. But the subject of Caples’ piece is a poetry reading and the discovery of a “short long poem,” not Main Street v. Obscenity—so rose-colored Gallery Six it is.
Caples’ ecstatic “Yes!” at the end of his piece reminds me of John Lennon climbing the ladder of Yoko Ono’s art exhibit in London, before they were a couple, and finding the tiny word ‘Yes’ written on the ceiling. A 1960s icon died at that moment. Had only the ceiling said, “No.” Then the 1960s might not have turned back into an even more stupid 1950s, disguised as the 1970s. From the moment John was inspired by that “Yes,” it was only a matter of months before the song-writing Beatle genius with wife and son and twenty-five number one hits, would transform into the self-pitying junky of the Plastic Ono band, with one number one hit left in him, a song performed with Elton John.
After landing John, Yoko, the artist, would surround herself with yes-men; sadly for all mankind, one of her yes-men turned out to be John himself—as it began with a yes, continued with heroin, and fizzled into May Pang and LA benders, finally dying in the mawkishness of “Starting Over.” Starting over? In a self-imposed prison with Yoko?
Caples positively revels in the positive, yes yes yes “so fucking cool” vibe of the hipster clique—the rule is: ‘yes, yes, and always yes, while sitting in the circle of the clique.’ Everything revolves around good vibes and friends, all poets, and every poem written and read is magic.
Here, again, is the description of the Beat poet, the Beat Maestro, the Beat WCW, the Beat Dylan, and the Beat poem with lines that “feel almost unwritten:”
A short long poem—the best kind—“When I Was a Poet” has that easy virtuosity born of a lifetime pursuing said occupation. Micah invariably refers to Meltzer as “the Maestro” and that’s just it: his touch is so light and low key the lines feel almost unwritten, clear as air, the evolution of that Williams strain running through so-called “Beat” poetry. But Meltzer has a rhythmic swagger wholly absent from WCW, and “When I Was a Poet” sustains its lyric flight by chorus-like returns to its title-phrase. It has the sweep of a vintage Dylan epic but with a nimble, angular swing—Lenny Tristano kicking “Sad-Eyed Lady”?—and was definitely the showstopper.
And now, without further ado, we quote the first portion of the poem itself:
When I Was A Poet
When I was a Poet
I had no doubt
knew the Ins & Outs of
All & Everything
seed stuck to
formed a word
When I was a Poet
the World was
a cluster of Words
splattered upon white space
When I was a Poet
I knew even what I didn’t
I thought I knew the Game
whereas the Game knew me
played me like an ocarina
When I was a Poet
I was an Acrobat
a Tightrope Walker
in my slippers
on a wire above
Oh I did prance
the death-defying dance
death defines each second
When I was a Poet
everyone I knew
were Poets too
& we’d gather at spots
Poets & Others
met at & yes
w/ no Answer
into the core of it All
When I was a Poet
was back to back w/
side by side
on the Trail of Tears
—from David Meltzer’s “When I Was A Poet,” published by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
This poem, with its childish platitudes and hammy beats, was a showstopper?
I guess you had to be there.
Notice how every bad poet thinks they are good?
When most people notice this folly, when this phenomenon is viewed from the outside, one thinks: I’d never want to be a poet: since every bad poet thinks they’re good, so the art of poetry must be like a drug which deranges the senses, maddens the ego, and makes one act as if all that is bad is good.
Unfortunately, this is quite true. Poets are vain and mad, and all bad ones are certain they are good. No bar blocks them. The steeds of their poetry ride higher than any obstacle; their wisdom conquers, their strategy is winning, their aim is true, their swagger impressive, their speech, whether humble or high, tricky or plain, winds its way into the best ears, their genius is… genius. No measure says otherwise. They are never out of tune. They are understood—by the select who ought to understand them.
The poet is the reeling drunkard of the intellect.
Very few (one in a million?) are fortunate not to fall under the intoxicting spell of poetry’s mania. Very few can practice poetry without looking like a jackass.
I, for instance, found poetry by studying the masters first (I wrote haiku at age 12 in school but didn’t try poetry again until I was 18, when I’d fallen in love with Shakespeare). Poetry was not a madness, or a drug, for me, but a saving grace, a clarity, an appreciation, a discernment, a joy. Poetry can do this, can it not? It can make one wise, or make one a complete jackass, depending on how one comes to it.
And every perfection can be parodied, so finally no poet can escape forever the donkey ears.
But they try.
Oh, do they try.
Poets should take cheer from the fact that parodies flatter as much as they wound—as do earnest attacks from other mere jackasses. But poets are especially paranoid about the jackass label today. Back in the day of Pope and Poe, the jackass label would come find you. Even in Jarrell’s day, it might come after you. But today, there are simply too many poets per critic; once, no poet was safe from a Poe; today there’s safety in numbers—almost no one is called a jackass anymore, even playfully. The honest review has been replaced by the massaging blurb. The atmosphere is one of frigid politeness. Poetry sites—such as Harriet and Silliman’s—have banned commentary—which is part of this trend. Let no unkind words come near the poets! The poets must be treated with respect: no honesty, please! Poetry communities bend over backwards to be nice. The good is not permitted to chase out the bad, nor is real debate permitted. All the sheep must be left to graze on their little plot of grass in peace, so they might fatten, and be awarded a poetry prize by the other sheep.
Americans are uncivil drivers, even though a slight mistake may cost lives, but when it comes to poetry, when a little honesty would improve things, the academic poets who rule po-biz are bland and civil to a fault.
Poets ripping each other to shreds is good for poetry, because ripping and tearing creates new parts and shapes; it’s much better incentive to receive real criticism than to never get it; if there’s no ripping and tearing, you get that one quilt which everyone handles gingerly; the same platitudes are sewn together in a feel-good exercise, everyone thinking alike because the quilt represents everyone’s desire to get along; being polite is the only way to keep the group-quilt-thing going.
For example, take a look at the big, fluffy quilt being put together over on Blog Harriet right now: lots of poets are contributing little essays and growing the quilt, a nice, big fluffy one. Here are some of the pieces of the quilt:
“Marjorie Perloff has claimed that a poet’s career is rarely made on one book, rather it’s the long and slow accrual of publications, activities, community service, and so forth that firmly establish one’s reputation. A perfect example of this would be the career trajectory of Charles Bernstein. While it’s hard to name Bernstein’s “best” or “iconic” book, it’s the decades-long tireless life in poetry which has made him one of our most important and beloved poets. His activities in support of poetry — be it his pedagogy, his work on cross-cultural poetics, his many volumes of criticism & essays, the founding of both the Electronic Poetry Center and PennSound, his tireless advocacy for poets, in addition to his own poetic output — all add up to a remarkably solid career.” —Kenneth Goldsmith (4/6)
“Several complain about the fact that so-and-so is so popular and has received so much recognition and prizes because his/her mate is editor of one of the most influential magazines in the business. Others carp about the unfair influence of a long-surviving New England periodical that looks about as readable as mold on bread. Another group riles against that fang-burger who declared, in a major newspaper, that reviewing poetry was a waste of good printer’s ink and paper.” Wanda Coleman (4/6)
Careful to offend no one, the author mentions no one by name.
“The business of trying to write timeless poems reminds me of Langston Hughes’ declaration in a 1926 essay that a black poet who wants to be just a poet, not a black poet really wants to be white. Hughes makes the issue about the poet, and maybe unfairly distracts us by that gambit. But the really question has to do with the poem. That is what he is asking. He is asking how does one write a poem that is simply a poem and not a black poem? He has his own answers. For him, anyone who attempts to write a poem that is not black and that is simply a poem is unaware of the racial superstructure of American society in which “American Standardization” is essentially white.” Kwame Dawes (4/6)
Standardized, milk & water rhetoric washes over prickly politics.
“In response to this one’s continuous muttering of exhausted inane yap punctuated by some light bitching about being too currently pastly and futurely dumb to write any public speak, my three-week old daughter June put down her copy of Melmoth the Wanderer for a minute, though keeping on her headphones which were feeding her a shuffle of songs including, I think, if I’ve been accurately identifying what’s creeping into the air, Brian Eno’s Music for Airports, the Eric B. and Rakim number “I Ain’t No Joke,” the Townes Van Zandt version of “Poncho and Lefty”, “If You Don’t Cry” by Magnetic Fields…” Anselm Berrigan (4/6)
Does anyone else find this self-indulgent?
“Gillian asks about the line in the 22nd century, what will it look like and do. It’s a question that helps me get at another question that has been hounding me of late, one that concerns a certain strand of thinking that tends toward protecting poetry as if it’s an endangered species. This tendency seems to manifest itself in a concern for content, tone, or accessibility, but mostly it’s around the shape of the single poem; that short squirt, usually of formal verse, that many see as the primary, or originary shape of poetry, everything else being pale imitations or strange mutations or defacements of the latter.
Perhaps this is partly why my visceral response to your question, Gillian, is dismay. Not that I’m not curious as well, but because I wonder why we are so concerned with controlling poetry? Why, to such an extent that we want to worry about what the line will be like in the 22nd Century. Are we that afraid that if we let poetry run its course we won’t understand it in a hundred years? That poetry might evolve into something indiscernible to the Romantic soul?” Sina Queyras (4/6)
“something indiscernible”—like this essay of Sina’s—such a brave attempt to break Lord Byron’s heart…
So there you have it. These Harriet entries are boring and trite
Now a reader’s first impulse might be to think: this is bad. “Boring and trite?” These Harriet bloggers are accomplished writers and good people; why upset them, and make yourself look unfriendly?
But I am not these writers’ parents, siblings, or friends. I am a reviewer.
Imagine a society which, by law, has no reviewers and no critics.
Thomas Brady isn’t bad.
For a moment, you fell under the spell of the poet’s mania, there, didn’t you?
Do you see how easily it happens? How easily poetry makes you think the bad is good, and the good, bad?
The following quotes were taken from the “Poetry Foundation’s 15 most-read Poetry Foundation and Poetry magazine articles.”
“America’s poets have a minimal presence in American civic discourse and a minuscule public role in the life of American democracy.” —David Biespiel (no. 6)
“The most prevalent poetic representation of contemporary experience is the mimesis of disorientation by non sequitur. Just look into any new magazine. The most frequently employed poetic mode is the angular juxtaposition of dissonant data, dictions, and tones, without defining relations between them. The poem of non-parallelism—how things, perceptions, thoughts, and words coexist without connecting—is the red wheelbarrow of Now . . .” —Tony Hoagland (no. 5)
To write a good poem about an ugly thing, as Seidel does often, is not to write an ugly poem . . .” —Molly Young (no.2)
“Since very few non-poets read poetry, it makes sense that our audience is 98 percent poets. And poets are more easily manipulated than most artists. Our art is based on the most subjective of terms—it rises and falls based on nothing tangible. One minute you’re Mark Van Doren, the most important poet in the world. The next you’re Yvor Winters, mostly forgotten.” —Jim Behrle (no. 1)
No suprise these sentiments (which by now are truims) on the zeitgeist of American poetry were the most-read.
poets have minimal presence
disorientation by non sequitur
our audience is 98 percent poets
The most-read Poetry Foundation sentiments of 2010:
Tiny, incestuous, impotent enclave of poets reading non sequitur, hoping against hope that a good poem on ugly isn’t ugly.
Harriet has shut down comments to its blog.
What follows is Harriet’s explanation, with comments from Scarriet:
First of all, we’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who made National Poetry Month on Harriet such a great experience. [No…Thank YOU...]
We had some of the most lively and engaging discussions over the past thirty one days, as well as profound stand-alone pieces. True, it was a lot to take in over a quick month, but we’re confident the posts will remain touchstones for future conversations. Thank you, writers and readers, for all your efforts. [No…REALLY…Thank YOU.]
And now, we’d like to lay out what’s in store for Harriet. [‘lay out what’s in store’ What ugly terminology. Don’t like the sound of this…]
Asked to describe how poetry has changed over the past ten years, Ron Silliman wrote on our site that the ongoing revolution in communications technology has upended the power dynamics of the community as well as the way poets interact. [Whatever that means…ALL BOW DOWN TO THE NEW GOD OF C-O-M-M-U-N-I-C-A-T-I-O-N-S T-E-C-H-N-O-L-O-G-Y! ]
“Poets blogging,” Silliman wrote, “is just a symptom.” [just a symptom. ... a symptom’ of what?]
Over the past four years we’ve been privileged to be a part of this revolution. [ahh, the privilege of revolution!]
From the early long-form journals on Harriet to the group blog, the style and format have evolved to match the moment, and we’re grateful for everyone who has participated, posters and commenters alike. [yes...eternally grateful, no doubt...]
Recently, though, we’ve noticed that the symptoms of this revolution have changed. The blog as a form has begun to be overtaken by social media like Twitter and Facebook. [Twitter and Facebook??? LOL]
News of the poetry world now travels fastest and furthest through Twitter (as the thousands of followers of @poetryfound, @poetrymagazine, and @poetrynews can attest), with the information often picked up from news aggregator sites rather than discursive blogs. [“News of the poetry world:" Damn those discursive blogs!]
Also, anyone involved in the more dynamic discussions of poetry, poetics, or politics in the past year knows that more and more of the most vibrant interactions have been found on Facebook. [Facebook. LOL]
We saw this happening last month as our National Poetry Month posts traveled far and wide through various status updates, wall postings, and links. [FAR AND WIDE?? golly!]
Setting aside the troubling issues of privacy and coterie this brings up, it would be foolish to deny it as a fact of the revolution. [The “revolution” of “coterie.”]
As Craig Santos Perez recently joked, “it’s true, facebook killed the blogger star.” And while that’s obviously not completely true (check out our new blogroll for evidence to the contrary), we feel that the new terrain calls for a new Harriet. [Harriet jumps into Facebook river. See ya…]
Starting this week, then, Harriet will transition into a space we hope will better serve the various poetry communities we’ve come to know over the past four years. [Harriet wants to “better serve” Facebook and Twiiter. LOL]
This new version of Harriet will feature on the main page a daily news feed with links and excerpts from other outlets around the world. [Harriet evolves into a nothing which exists only to link to something else. Vive la Revolution!]
We hope to point to the vibrant discussions happening online, as well as vital literary journalism, essays, and criticism. [“We hope to point to…LOL]
In addition to this news aggregation, we will spotlight poetry communities and events. [Harriet, the Community Calendar. Yawn]
These features, which will appear under the name “Open Door,” will use multimedia journalism to showcase unique interactions between poets and poetry readers around the world. [Multimedia journalism! You don’t say!]
Look for “Open Door” features on the The Interrupture performances in Seattle, poetry night in Iraq, and circle dancing in Iceland in the coming months. Click on the side bar link for a more in-depth description of this new feature. [Harriet's got discount plane tickets, too!]
In addition to news and these Open Door features, Harriet will begin a new life on Twitter. Each month a new poet will take over the Harriet Twitter feed and provide daily posts about his or her life, work, and interests. Sign up to follow this month’s writer, D.A. Powell, at @harriet_poetry. [Celeb Twitter!]
The posts and discussions of the past will all remain archived on the site, but in this new stage Harriet itself will no longer feature comments. [yea, who needs ‘em?]
This isn’t a decision we’ve come to lightly, but it has become clear over the past few months that it is time for Harriet to move on from this discussion model. [Twitter is calling! LOL]
The space was designed to be forward thinking and experimental, and so we look forward to continuing along that path. [to Twitter. LOL]
We’re grateful for everyone who has participated over the past few years, and we hope that the energy and thought that went into the best comments can be put into the wide range of other available and worthy outlets in the poetry world. [for we, Harriet, are no longer worthy!]
We’re excited to follow Harriet on this new adventure, and we hope you are too. [What is this ”adventure” again? Kill discursiveness and embrace Twitter? Gosh…thanks.]
Together we believe we can continue to highlight the new voices Harriet Monroe set out to find when she began Poetry back in 1912. [“Together we believe…” This never bodes well…]
Catherine Halley and Travis Nichols
So here’s the question: What happened to Harriet?
It seems Harriet is like an investor in clover leaf highways in the 1950s.
Unable to bring substance, they are now latching onto mere technology as the answer.
The patient, poetry, has long been sick, the illness due to the obscurantism of the modernists, and Harriet believes the best cure for the patient is to block discursiveness. Well done, Doctor!
My hunch is that Harriet’s April (the ‘no comments’ experiment) saw hits go way down, and, disturbed, perplexed, perhaps even angered at this turn of events, Harriet decided poetry must really be dead…after all, Harriet offered all these articles from all these interesting poets…but interest was minimal and Harriet’s experiment was a failure, precisely because readers were not allowed to comment. Harriet realized in horror that readers were not really interested in Harriet’s offerings—they just wanted to hear themselves talk.
“We’ll show you…” has been Harriet’s reaction. No one read Harriet in April because everyone was on Twitter! That’s what Harriet told itself. Blame it on the technology.
The problem isn’t with Harriet or po-biz. The problem is that damn ‘technology revolution.’ It’s all Twitter’s fault.
Everyone was reading Scarriet.
February 14, 2010 at 5:06 am (Alan Cordle, Blog:Harriet, Boyd Nielson, christopher woodman, Desmond Swords, Gary Fitzgerald, Harriet, Henry Gould, John Oliver Simon, Kent Johnson, Michael Robbins, Poetry Foundation, Scarriet, Travis Nichols, Uncategorized)
We don’t read Harriet anymore. It’s too dreary, too artsy-fartsy-friends-puffing-artsy-fartsy-friends, too boring. But our man Gary Fitzgerald was kind enough to email us today to let us know that John Oliver Simon has not forgotten us.
Thanx, Gary Fitzgerald, John Oliver Simon, u rock.
Harriet, the Poetry Foundation Blog, who banned Thomas Brady, Alan Cordle, Desmond Swords, and Christopher Woodman at one stroke on September 1, 2009, is going through a little identity crisis at the moment: how shall I moderate? How shall I banish? Are those who post on my site a community? Can posters police themselves? What is my responsibility towards them, if any?
Before we start equating the firing on Fort Sumter (THE UNION IS DISSOLVED!) to the sarcastic squabbling between Kent Johnson, Michael Robbins, and Henry Gould and the current crop of boy scouts and girl scouts on Harriet, let’s remember that once a self-infatuated twit, always a self-infatuated twit.
Boyd Nielson suggested in a comment on a Harriet post recently that Harriet is a private blog and can therefore ban and delete as she pleases. But instead of embracing this reality, Boyd Nielson continues, Harriet is failing to make her authority transparent, hiding behind proxies such as ‘thumbs up/ thumbs down voting’ and ‘report this comment’ to punish, to delete, to ‘hold for moderation’ and ultimately to ban, in a faceless manner that is irresponsible, cowardly, and weak.
Scarriet (ya got somethin to say, say it) is blissfully free of this.
To Harriet’s “identity crisis,” and to all the winding, administrative hair-splitting discussion it might elicit, we say: pffft.
Self-important Harriet, and other blogs like it, will 1) banish, 2) delete posts reporting the banishment, and 3) delete posts complaining of those deletions and 4) practice this for infinity, a black-hole-ish, whirling cesspool of censorship.
Paul McCartney will play a concert for Harriet, and their devoted acolytes will sing:
Well, the rain exploded with a mighty crash as we fell onto a limb,
And the first one said to the second one there, I hope that you can swim!
Banned on a whim! Banned on a whim!
Private enterprise is wonderful and Harriet’s status as a private club allows her to throw bums to the curb with impunity. But merely being private is not the great thing, by any means.
Private enterprise is not wonderful because it allows Harriet, the private club, to throw to the curb whomever she chooses, for if it stopped there, ‘private’ would be synonymous with ‘tyranical.’
Scarriet’s existence fills out the formula of private enterpise as something truly good. The private by itself is not good, nor is the private masking itself as the public good, either.
It is only competing private entities which allow for something truly wonderful: real freedom, real debate, sweet discovery, hot thrills, trembling chills, and freezing kisses, warm and exciting.
Ya got dat?…Travis…ya dirty rat…
January 1, 2010 at 5:03 am (Alan Cordle, Aldous Huxley, Allen Ginsberg, Allen Tate, Anne Sexton, Ben Franklin, Ben Mazer, Billy Collins, Blog:Harriet, Brook Farm, Byron, Charles Bernstein, christopher woodman, Cleanth Brooks, David Lehman, Delmore Scwartz, Desmond Swords, Dial Magazine, Dial Prize, Donald Justice, Edgar Allan Poe, Edmund Wilson, Edna Millay, Ellen Wheeler Wilcox, Emily Dickinson, Emma Lazarus, Ezra Pound, Ford Maddox Ford, Frank O'Hara, Gertrude Stein, Haiku, Harold Bloom, Harriet Monroe, Helen Vendler, Iowa Writers Workshop, John Ashbery, John Berryman, John Crowe Ransom, Jorie Graham, Longfellow, Mark McGurl, Phillis Wheatley, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Southern Agrarians, T.S.Eliot, Uncategorized, W.H.Auden, William Blake, Yone Noguchi, Yvor Winters)
1650 Anne Bradstreet’s The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America: By a Gentlewoman of Those Parts published in London.
1773 Phillis Wheatley, a slave, publishes Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral
1791 The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is published in Paris, in French. Ben Franklin’s Autobiography appears in London, for the first time in English, two years later. Had it been published in America, the Europeans would have laughed. The American experiment isn’t going to last, anyway.
Franklin, the practical man, the scientist, and America’s true founding father, weighs in on poetry: it’s frivolous.
1794 Samuel Coleridge and Robert Southey make plans to go to Pennsylvania in a communal living experiment, but their personalities clash and the plan is aborted. Southey becomes British Poet Laureate twenty years later.
1803 William Blake, author of “America: A Prophecy” is accused of crying out “Damn the King!” in Sussex, England, narrowly escaping imprisonment for treason.
1815 George Ticknor, before becoming literature Chair at Harvard, travels to Europe for 4 years, spending 17 months in Germany.
1817 “Thanatopsis” by William Cullen Bryant appears in the North American Review.
1824 Byron dies in Greece.
1824 Lafayette, during tour of U.S, calls on Edgar Poe’s grandmother, revolutionary war veteran widow.
1832 Washington Irving edits London edition of William Cullen Bryant’s Poems to avoid politically offending British readers.
1835 Massachusetts senator and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier mobbed and stoned in Concord, New Hampshire.
1835 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow appointed Smith Professor of Modern Languages at Harvard.
1836 Ralph Waldo Emerson publishes 500 copies of Divinity School Address anonymously. He will not publish another book for 6 years.
1838 Poe’s translated work begins appearing in Russia.
1843 Transcendentalist, Unitarian minister, Harvard Divinity School student Christopher Pearse Cranch marries the sister of T.S. Eliot’s Unitarian grandfather; dedicates Poems to Emerson, published in The Dial, a magazine edited by Margaret Fuller and Emerson; frequent visitor to Brook Farm. Cranch is more musical and sensuous than Emerson; even Poe can tolerate him; Cranch’s poem “Enosis” pre-figures Baudelaire’s “Correspondences.”
T.S. Eliot’s family is deeply rooted in New England Unitarianism and Transcendentalism through Cranch and Emerson’s connection to his grandfather, Harvard Divinity graduate, William Greenleaf Eliot, founder of Washington U., St. Louis.
1845 Elizabeth Barrett writes Poe with news of ”The Raven’s” popularity in England. The poem appeared in a daily American newspaper and produced instant fame, though Poe’s reputation as a critic and leader of the Magazine Era was well-established. During this period Poe coins “Heresy of the Didactic” and “A Long Poem Does Not Exist.” In a review of Barrett’s 1840 volume of poems which led to Barrett’s fame before she met Robert Browning, Poe introduced his piece by saying he would not, as was typically done, review her work superficially because she was a woman.
1847 Ralph Waldo Emerson is in England, earning his living as an orator.
1848 Charles Baudelaire’s first translations of Poe appear in France.
1848 James Russell Lowell publishes “A Fable For Critics” anonymously.
1848 Female Poets of America, an anthology of poems by American women, is published by the powerful and influential anthologist, Rufus Griswold—who believes women naturally write a different kind of poetry. Griswold’s earlier success, The Poets and Poetry of America (1842) contains 3 poems by Poe and 45 by Griswold’s friend, Charles Fenno Hoffman. In a review, Poe remarks that readers of anthologies buy them to see if they are in them.
1848 Poe publishes Eureka and the Rationale of Verse, exceptional works on the universe and verse.
1849 Edgar Poe is murdered in Baltimore; leading periodicals ignore strange circumstances of Poe’s death and one, Horace Greeley’s Tribune, hires Griswold (who signs his piece ‘Ludwig’) to take the occasion to attack the character of the poet.
1855 Griswold reviews Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and calls it a “mass of stupid filth.” The hated Griswold, whose second “wife” was a man, also lets the world know in his review that Whitman is a homosexual. Whitman later includes the Griswold review in one of his editions of Leaves.
1856 English Traits, extolling the English race and the English people, saying it was English “character” that vanquished India, is published in the U.S. and England, by poet and new age priest Ralph Waldo Emerson, as England waits for the inevitable Civil War to tear her rival, America, apart.
1859. In a conversation with William Dean Howells, Emerson calls Hawthorne’s latest book “mush” and furiously calls Poe “the jingle man.”
1860 William Cullen Bryant introduces Abraham Lincoln at Cooper Union; the poet advises the new president on his cabinet selection.
1867 First collection of African American “Slave Songs” published.
1883 “The New Colossus” is composed by Emma Lazarus; engraved on the Statue of Liberty, 1903
1883 Poems of Passion by Ella Wheeler Wilcox rejected by publisher on grounds of immorality.
1888 “Casey at the Bat” published anonymously. The author, Ernest Thayer, does not become known as the author of the poem until 1909.
1890 Emily Dickinson’s posthumous book published by Mabel Todd and Thomas Higginson. William Dean Howells gives it a good review, and it sells well.
1893 William James, Emerson’s godson, becomes Gertrude Stein’s influential professor at Harvard.
1897 Wallace Stevens enters Harvard, falling under the spell of William James, as well as George Santayana.
1904 Yone Noguchi publishes “Proposal to American Poets” as the Haiku and Imagism rage begins in the United States and Britain.
1910 John Crowe Ransom, Fugitive, Southern Agrarian, New Critic, takes a Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford University.
1910 John Lomax publishes “Cowboy Songs and Frontier Ballads.”
1912 Harriet Monroe founds Poetry magazine; in 1880s attended literary gatherings in New York with William Dean Howells and Richard Henry Stoddard (Poe biographer) and in 1890s met Whistler, Henry James, Thomas Hardy and Aubrey Beardsley. Ezra Pound is Poetry’s London editor.
1913 American Imagist poet H.D. marries British Imagist poet Richard Aldington.
1914 Ezra Pound works as Yeats‘ secretary in Sussex, England.
1915 Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology published. Masters was law partner of Clarence Darrow.
1917 Robert Frost begins teaching at Amherst College.
1920 “The Sacred Wood” by T.S. Eliot, banker, London.
1921 Margaret Anderson’s Little Review loses court case and is declared obscene for publishing a portion of James Joyce’s Ulysses, which is banned in the United States. Random House immediately tries to get the ban lifted in order to publish the work.
1922 T.S.Eliot’s “The Waste Land” awarded The Dial Prize.
1922 D.H Lawrence and Frieda stay with Mabel Dodge in Taos, New Mexico.
1923 Edna St. Vincent Millay wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
1923 William Butler Yeats wins Nobel Prize for Literature
1924 Robert Frost wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
1924 Ford Madox Ford founds the Transatlantic Review. Stays with Allen Tate and Robert Lowell in his lengthy sojourn to America.
1924 Marianne Moore wins The Dial Prize; becomes editor of The Dial the next year.
1924 James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children opens.
1925 E.E. Cummings wins The Dial Prize.
1926 Yaddo Artist Colony opens
1927 Walt Whitman biography wins Pulitzer Prize
1930 “I’ll Take My Stand” published by Fugitive/Southern Agrarians and future New Critics, John Crowe Ransom, Robert Penn Warren, Cleanth Brooks, Allan Tate defend ways of the Old South.
1932 Paul Engle wins Yale Younger Poet Prize, judged by member of John Crowe Ransom’s Fugitive circle. Engle, a prolific fundraiser, builds the Iowa Workshop into a Program Writing Empire.
1933 T.S. Eliot delivers his speech on “free-thinking jews” at the University of Virginia.
1934 “Is Verse A Dying Technique?” published by Edmund Wilson.
1936 New Directions founded by Harvard sophomore James Laughlin.
1937 Robert Lowell camps out in Allen Tate’s yard. Lowell has left Harvard to study with John Crowe Ransom at Kenyon College.
1938 First Edition of textbook Understanding Poetry by Fugitives Brooks and Warren, helps to canonize unread poets like Williams and Pound.
1938 Aldous Huxley moves to Hollywood.
1939 Allen Tate starts Writing Program at Princeton.
1939 W.H. Auden moves to the United States and earns living as college professor.
1940 Mark Van Doren is awarded Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
1943 Ezra Pound indicted for treason by the United States government.
1946 Wallace Stegner founds Stanford Writing Program. Yvor Winters will teach Pinsky, Haas, Hall and Gunn.
1948 Pete Seeger, nephew of WW I poet Alan Seeger (“I Have A Rendevous With Death”) forms The Weavers, the first singer-songwriter ‘band’ in the rock era.
1948 T.S. Eliot wins Nobel Prize
1949 T.S. Eliot attacks Poe in From Poe To Valery
1949 Ezra Pound is awarded the Bollingen Prize. The poet Robert Hillyer protests and Congress resolves its Library will no longer fund the award. Hillyer accuses Paul Melon, T.S. Eliot and New Critics of a fascist conspiracy.
1950 William Carlos Williams wins first National Book Award for Poetry
1950 Gwendolyn Brooks wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
1951 John Crowe Ransom is awarded the Bollingen.
1953 Dylan Thomas dies in New York City.
1954 Theodore Roethke wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
1957 Allen Tate is awarded the Bollingen.
1957 “Howl” by Beat poet Allen Ginsberg triumphs in obscenity trial as the judge finds book “socially redeeming;” wins publicity in Time & Life.
1957 New Poets of England and America, Donald Hall, Robert Pack, Louis Simspon, eds.
1959 Carl Sandburg wins Grammy for Best Performance – Documentary Or Spoken Word (Other Than Comedy) for his recording of Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait with the New York Philharmonic.
1959 M.L Rosenthal coins the term “Confessional Poetry” in The Nation as he pays homage to Robert Lowell.
1960 New American Poetry 1945-1960, Donald Allen, editor.
1961 Yvor Winters is awarded the Bollingen.
1961 Denise Levertov becomes poetry editor of The Nation.
1961 Louis Untermeyer appointed Poet Laureate Consultant In Poetry To the Library of Congress (1961-63)
1962 Sylvia Plath takes her own life in London.
1964 John Crowe Ransom wins The National Book Award for Selected Poems.
1964 Keats biography by Jackson Bate wins Pulitzer.
1965 Horace Gregory is awarded the Bollingen. Gregory had attacked the poetic reputation of Edna Millay.
1967 Anne Sexton wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
1968 Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, directed by Zeffirelli, nominated for Best Picture by Hollywood.
1971 The Pound Era by Hugh Kenner published. Kenner, a friend of William F. Buckley, Jr., saved Pound’s reputation with this work; Kenner also savaged the reputation of Edna Millay.
1971 W.S Merwin wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
1972 John Berryman jumps to his death off bridge near University of Minnesota.
Berryman, the most “Romantic” of the New Critics (he was educated by them) is considered by far the best Workshop teacher by many prize-winning poets he taught, such as Phil Levine, Snodgrass, and Don Justice. Berryman’s classes in the 50′s were filled with future prize-winners, not because he and his students were great, but because his students were on the ground-floor of the Writing Program era, the early, heady days of pyramid scheme mania—characterized by Berryman’s imbalanced, poetry-is-everything personality.
1972 Frank O’Hara wins National Book Award for Collected Poems
1975 Gary Snyder wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
1976 Humboldt’s Gift, Saul Bellow’s novel on Delmore Schwartz, wins Pulitzer.
1978 Language magazine, Bernstein & Andrews, begins 4 year run. Bernstein studied J.L Austin’s brand of ‘ordinary language philosophy’ at Harvard.
1980 Helen Vendler wins National Book Critics Circle Award
1981 Seamus Heaney becomes Harvard visiting professor.
1981 Derek Walcott founds Boston Playwrights’ Theater at Boston University.
1981 Oscar Wilde biography by Ellman wins Pulitzer.
1982 Sylvia Plath’s Collected Poems wins Pulitzer.
1984 Harold Bloom savagely attacks Poe in review of Poe’s Library of America works (2 vol) in New York Review of Books, repeating similar attacks by Aldous Huxley and T.S. Eliot.
1984 Marc Smith founds Slam Poetry in Chicago.
1984 Mary Oliver is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
1986 Golden Gate by Vikram Seth, a novel in verse, is published.
1987 The movie “Barfly” depicts life of Charles Bukowski.
1988 David Lehman’s Best American Poetry Series debuts with John Ashbery as first guest editor. The first words of the first poem (by A.R. Ammons) in the Series are: William James.
1991 “Can Poetry Matter?” by Dana Gioia is published in The Atlantic. According to the author, poetry has become an incestuous viper’s pit of academic hucksters.
1996 Jorie Graham wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
1999 Peter Sacks wins Georgia Prize.
1999 Billy Collins signs 3-book, 6-figure deal with Random House.
2002 Ron Silliman’s Blog founded.
2002 Louis Menand’s The Metaphysical Club wins Pulitzer Prize.
2002 Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems published.
2004 Foetry.com founded by Alan Cordle. Shortly before his death, Robert Creeley defends his poetry colleagues on Foetry.com.
2004 Franz Wright wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
2005 Ted Kooser wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
2005 William Logan wins National Book Critics Circle Award
2006 Fulcrum No. 5 appears, featuring works of Landis Everson and his editor, Ben Mazer, also Eliot Weinberger, Glyn Maxwell, Joe Green, and Marjorie Perloff.
2007 Joan Houlihan dismisses Foetry.com as “losers” in a Poets & Writers letter. Defends the integrity of both Georgia and Tupelo, failing to mention Levine is her publisher and business partner.
2007 Paul Muldoon succeeds Alice Quinn as poetry editor of The New Yorker.
2008 Poets & Writers bans Thomas Brady and Christopher Woodman from its Forum. The Academy of American Poetry On-Line Editor, Robin Beth Schaer, is shortlisted for the Snowbound Series prize by Tupelo at the same time as Poets.org bans Christopher Woodman for mentioning the P&W letter as well.
2009 The Program Era by Mark McGurl, published by Harvard University Press
2009 Following the mass banning of Alan Cordle, Thomas Brady, Desmond Swords and Christopher Woodman from Harriet, the blog of The Poetry Foundation, a rival poetry site is formed: Scarriet.
Harriet’s policy is sure to win admirers in the banal, small-minded circles of po-biz.
Did Ruth Lilly give all that money so her memory could lie down with pettiness and paranoia?
The dear lady, who loves all Harriet Monroe stood for, must be outraged.
Readers of this blog: shouldn’t you be, too?
The Poetry Foundation’s Blog-Harriet has deleted on-topic posts and comments without explanation. Yes, Harriet has inhibited discussion with secretive, autocratic vitriol.
Please make your feelings known on Harriet.
We are banished—no reason ever given—so we cannot express our feelings on Harriet.
Which is just as well.
We are having such an awfully good time — right here.
“A Blessing” by James Wright is maudlin crap, perhaps the worst poem ever published.
The lust for horsies and the ’break into blossom’ trope is embarrassing in the extreme.
“Northern Pike” is a close second: “we prayed for the muskrats”
“I am so happy.” Good grief.
His football poem isn’t much better; “gallup terribly” is a trite way to describe the violence of football. One can tell he’s just a nerdy observer.
“Their women cluck like starved pullets,/Dying for love.” Lines like these are destined for the ash heap.
Don’t get me started on the treacly, self-pitying exploitation of George Doty, the executed killer.
What to do with James Wright, who is nothing more than smarmy Whitman-haiku?
[Note: No woman poet seeking entrance to the canon would be permitted to get away with Wright's metaphorical slop.]
“Depressed by a book of bad poetry…”
“I have wasted my life.”
The times (1972) were right for Whitman-haiku poetry, so James Wright’s Pulitzer is no surprise. Plus, Wright was associated with a lot of big names: Roethke, Kunitz, Tate, Berryman, Bly.
Franz faced a difficulty as a poet. His father was a name. Say what you will about Whitman-haiku, his father did it well.
Franz seems to have genuinely admired his father’s poetry and made no attempt, as a poet, to get out from under his father’s shadow.
Junior poet looks up to senior poet and uses the same straight-forward, plain-speaking, self-obsessed, sentimentality of approach: Look, reader, here is my transparent chest; take a look at what I am feeling. You might think I’d be sad—and good Lord, I have reason to be—but something about the inscrutability of the universe and my inner faith makes me happy.
Recently on Harriet, Franz Wright wrote the following, which Franz never should have written and which Harriet never should have published, and which we publish here because…oh, we forget why.
[Warning: Wright's comment on Harriet does contain abusive language]
Henry–I have no opinion about your “work”, or the “work” of others like little Kent and the others you masturbate with. My suggestion to all of you is: give up everything for the art. Everything. Can you do that? I did it 35 years ago–do you think that might have something to do with what you little whiners call “being on the inside”? I am not on the inside of shit. I gave up everything, everything, to be a poet. I lived in financial terror and homelessness, sometimes, for nearly 40 years. Can you do that? You little whining babies. –Franz Wright, 12/20/2009 Blog:Harriet
Now, that’s poetry.
Granted, it’s hyperbolic to say you gave up everything to be a poet. What does that even mean? No one wants to suffer, and to say in hindsight that you suffered for your art is arrogant, because even if you thought it were true, it can never be proven by anyone, anywhere, that the more outrageously you suffer, the better your art will be. There’s no substance to such a “brag.”
But we love the balls of it.
December 21, 2009 at 6:49 pm (Abbie Cornish, Amadeus, Ben Whishaw, Blog:Harriet, Bright Star, Charles Armitage Brown, Edie Martin, Fanny Brawne, Golden Globes, Jane Campion, John Keats, Kerry Fox, Paul Schneider, Poetry Foundation, Room With A View, Uncategorized)
Jane Campion’s gorgeous film, Bright Star, as noted here on Scarriet [click here and here for our 2 articles], was hardly discussed on the Poetry Foundation’s Blog:Harriet despite the well-written and timely article by Abigail Deutsch [click here] — yet another example of the failure of Harriet to discuss anything to do with poetry after the blood-letting of September 1st.
We at Scarriet had a feeling this sobering, sad, but breathtakingly beautiful effort on behalf of the poet John Keats and his friend Fanny Brawne, by one of the best directors in the business, would be ignored by the entertainment industry’s honoring system as well.
Avoiding every pitfall of the Hollywood bio-pic, Bright Star features an intelligent script, extremely moving performances by Ben Whishaw, Abbie Cornish, Kerry Fox, Paul Schneider, and Edie Martin, (as Fanny’s little sister) and is a feast for the eyes and ears.
The old days, when films such as Amadeus and Room With A View earned major nominations and awards, seem to be gone.
Let’s skip the rant on the increase of cultural ignorance—for such a thesis could only be a rant.
We’ll just recommend you get the CD soundtrack, or see Bright Star, with its moving depiction of Keats, Charles Armitage Brown, Fanny Brawne and her family.
And switch from Harriet to Scarriet, of course, to stay abreast of what’s really happening in poetry!
December 19, 2009 at 9:09 am (Alan Cordle, Blog:Harriet, Catherine Halley, christopher woodman, Desmond Swords, George Orwell, Poetry Foundation, Politics and the English Language, Scarriet, Thomas Brady, Travis Nichols, Uncategorized)
“…to-day the editor of Harriet holds a show of his own, and wins applause by slaying whomsoever the mob with a turn of the thumb bids him slay…”
……………………………………………loosely adapted from Juvenal, Satires (III.36)
For a beautiful example of everything George Orwell tried to expose in Politics and the English Language, read The Poetry Foundation’s letter just posted on Blog:Harriet [click here]
In the Letter, the Editors try to cover up the appalling mess Travis Nichols made out of what had been one of the most vibrant poetry discussion sites in America.
Today Harriet is at Zero!
Yes, the Like/Dislike thumbs are down at last, having served their purpose — which was simply to remove four figures, Thomas Brady, Alan Cordle, Desmond Swords and Christopher Woodman.
Now with Harriet on her back in the blood soaked dirt, weakly raising her left hand for mercy, Travis’ hysterical fans indicate no mercy — and the stunt becomes a fait accompli. Harriet is dead now for sure.
Of course there’s no mention of any of that in the letter. Just spin, faulty figures, bluff, and bravado — like the last administration on the state of Iraq in the months following the invasion!
Indeed, not one word of this Poetry Foundation letter is truthful. Like the stats in it — foully cooked! Everybody knows you can cut the stats on a blog in a thousand different ways, and not one of them will give you a true figure. Travis has cut the Harriet stats all in his own favor — and just look at him up there in the picture to see where he’s at!
And dear Catherine Halley, the On-Line Editor at The Poetry Foundation, you should be ashamed to add your signature to that letter. You did your best to prevent the debacle, we know that, and are tremendously disappointed in you for capitulating now.
We’d love to post a list of the myriad voices who have vanished from Harriet since the ugly puscht, lending us their support through their silence. Those of you who know the Blog can trot out their names with ease. Their absence cries shame on you, Travis and Catherine. Shame on your petty vendetta.
And shame is the word.
We loved your latest Hawaii/Benazir Bhuto dream essay, but we noticed you haven’t been participating in the conversations of other posts on Harriet.
It’s not enough to just send missives.
You need to be present.
That blog needs your help.
And you can help yourself by sharpening your intellectual teeth there.
I know there’s not much to choose from. Harriet doesn’t have much going on.
Perhaps you feel intimidated.
Allow us to break down for you a recent Harriet post and comments.
A post by Kenneth Goldsmith quotes Christian Bok (it’s the one with the guy who looks like he’s got indigestion, holding a book in front of the mike, blue background).
Christian Bok is a Canadian professor who wrote a best-selling novel consisting of chapters which use only one vowel. He read the dictionary five times before he wrote it. That’s all you need to know about him, really. Not particularly original, he’s one of those contemporary exotics doing wild experiments in the corner of some ancient fingernail.
Let’s look at the key portion of the lengthy Bok quotation in Goldsmith’s Harriet post.
We”ll look at it in two parts.
“I’m probably technically oriented and it seems to me that among the poets that I know, many are very lazy and very dumb. I always joke with my students that poetry couldn’t possibly be as hard as they think it is, because if it were as hard as they thought it was, poets wouldn’t do it. Really, they’re the laziest, stupidest people I know. They became poets in part because they were demoted to that job, right? You should never tell your students to write what they know because, of course, they know nothing: they’re poets! If they knew something, they’d be in that disciple actually doing it: they’d be in history or physics or math or business or whatever it is where they could excel.”
Don’t be freaked out by this, Amber. It’s pretty simple.
This is lifted right from the Greek philosopher Plato: “If they [the poets] knew something, they’d be in that discipline and actually doing it: they’d be in history or physics or math or business or whatever…”
Plato’s argument is quite sound and the only decent refutation of Plato’s point of view comes in the form of poems—by poets who happened to be very much tinged with Platonism themselves: Dante, Milton, Shakespeare, Shelley, and Keats–which is all that can be expected.
Your typical inferior poet, however, becomes upset when they hear Plato’s argument. They’re not up to Plato’s challenge.
This is the first part of Bok’s quote you need to understand.
Here’s the second part (as quoted by Kenneth Goldsmith in his Harriet post) :
“I find this very distressing that the challenge of being a poet in effect to showcase something wondrous or uncanny, if not sublime, about the use of language itself, that we tend to think that because we’re conditioned to use language every day as part of a social contract, we should all be incipient poets, when in fact people have actually dedicated years or decades of their lives to this kind of practice in order to become adept at it and I think that craft and technique are part of that. If poetry weren’t informed by models of craft then nobody would need take a creative writing course. I joke with my students again that if it was simply a matter of saying, “You know you’ve written a good poem just because; you’ll know it was a good poem when it happens.” To me, that’s tantamount to telling your students that “You should just use the force, Luke” in order to write a poem. I don’t think it’s very helpful. But to be able to say “Here’s a series of rules of thumb that always work under all circumstances and if you adopt them slavishly, blindly, you can always be assured of writing something, producing something of merit.”
Again, this doesn’t require much thought.
Here Bok is making use of the Greek philosopher, Aristotle. Aristotle didn’t ban the poets from his ideal “Republic” as Plato did. Aristotle accepted poetry as something humans do, and focused on whether it is done well, or badly.
Aristotle would not have accepted the notion we are all poets, and Bok, when he mentions “people have dedicated years or decades of their lives to this kind of practice…” is implicitly agreeing with the philosopher.
Bok didn’t mention this, but I want to mention it to you: Aristotle did pay heed to Plato’s objection that poetry makes us “soft” with fake emotionalism; Aristotle got around Plato’s objection by saying that poetry’s indulgence in emotionalism purges these emotions from us. Aristotle managed to turn a drawback into a virtue.
But here is why Platonic poets tend to be the best: They take to heart Plato’s objection, rather than using Aristotle’s glib betrayal of it.
As soon as you start believing in Aristotle’s purging theory (Catharsis) you make a fatal error; you buy into the idea that poetry’s emotion is a separate thing from it, and then you essentially become a pedantic, doctrinaire kind of poet.
Anyway, the important point that Bok is making in the second part of the quote here is the Aristotelian one: there’s a proper way and form and method to making poetry.
As he did with the purging theory, Aristotle resorts to a doctrinaire pedantry in order to ‘get one past’ his master (Plato was Aristotle’s teacher).
This is important to understand, Amber. You’ve got to go Greek, and you’ve got two choices, Plato’s truly challenging road, or Aristotle’s pedantic road. Most people don’t go Greek at all and groan under both Plato and Aristotle. But you can’t escape them, really.
You can see this in the reactions to Bok in the comments to Goldsmith’s post:
Carolyn, the first one to comment seriously, writes this, “I honor people’s attempts to express themselves in whatever manner suits them.”
Here is the typical modern response. As you can see from her statement, and from what I told you above, she rejects Plato and Aristotle. She has no Greek. She is ignorant. You can ignore these people. Better to be a pedant than to be someone who says ‘express yourself in whatever manner suits you.’ This point of view loses in philosophy what it gains in being nice. It is a tempting vice, this point of view. Avoid it at all costs.
Silem’s post #7 basically sums up the Plato and Aristotle positions and then repeats Bok’s mention of ”the uncanny,” which is largely the basis of Romanticism: the “Sublime,” produced when Platonism contradicts itself and produces poetry–a sly but positive phenomenon which I alluded to above. As Longinus said in his famous treatise “On the Sublime” 3rd century, AD, the sublime is both “moral” and “fearful.” The sublime is a contradictory idea–which is the secret of its religious power and appeal.
Comment #8 is by Henry Gould. We can sum up all his comments this way: Mumble.
Comment #9 is by Kent Johnson, who is poison. Here’s a sample. It should make you shudder:
“I strongly suspect that from the bourgeoning technical-hip formation represented by Bok and Mohammad (and both of them very brilliant, to be sure) a more elevated measure of professional status for the poetic vocation will come, via ever more sharply defined knowledge-sets and rigorously applied instrumental techniques.”
Gary Fitzgerald made a witty remark, but was buried by negative votes.
Conrad and ZZZZ had a brief dispute on what position the “avant garde” should take in relation to the mainstream. Pedestrian stuff, really. Not worth your while.
The remaining comments fizzle away into inconsequence.
Maybe Terreson will add something interesting.
(But we’d rather not encourage him.)
And there you have it, Amber. Harriet 101. I hope this helps!
December 8, 2009 at 4:37 pm (Bernadette Mayer, Bhanu Kapil, Blog:Harriet, Carla Harryman, Christian Bok, Clark Coolidge, Cognitive Poetics, Gertrude Stein, Henry Molaison, Huffington Post, Jacopo Annese, Lyn Hejinian, Rae Armantrout, Renee Gladman, Reuven Tsur, Ron Silliman, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Simonides, Tao Lin, Travis Nichols, Uncategorized, William Stafford, William Wordsworth)
Beside running Blog-Harriet into the ground, Travis “The Enforcer” Nichols has another gig writing scientific articles for The Huffington Post.
The mission: Attempt to make really bad contemporary poetry mainstream.
Step One. Find a fairly eclectic topic covered by the mainstream press.
Take it away, Travis:
As you read this, Dr. Jacopo Annese is slicing up a brain. Not just any brain, but the brain of Henry Molaison, a man famous for his inability to form new memories after he underwent brain surgery in the early 1950s. Dr. Annese, a San Diego scientist, is digging into Molaison’s gray matter with hopes of figuring out exactly how human memory works. The NYT reports that recordings of Molaison’s brain slices will “produce a searchable Google Earth-like map of the brain with which scientists expect to clarify the mystery of how and where memories are created–and how they are retrieved.”
“The NYT reports…” Good job, Travis! That’s good. ”The NYT reports…” I like that. OK…you’ve found something about the brain. Good. Someone is “slicing up a brain.” That’ll perk their interest.
Step Two. While no one is looking, change the topic to poetry.
So Dr. Annese and his compatriots are, in effect, plunging into the greatest poetic mystery of all time.
Yeaaaa “…greatest poetic mystery of all time.” Way to go!
Step three. After mentioning a few dead poets in a erudite manner, politely name-drop your contemporaries as much as possible. It might prove helpful one day.
Memory–and the wonder and terror it inspires–has generated great poems from Simonides, famous for eulogizing ancient Greek nobility, to Coleridge, who longed for his faraway friends in “This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison,” to the contemporary poets writing an “experiment in collective autobiography,” The Grand Piano. These poets–Ron Silliman, Rae Armantrout, Lyn Hejinian, and Carla Harryman among them–have spent their careers using poetry to prod the brain in other areas besides just the comfortable spot where (to paraphrase Wordsworth) emotion is recollected in tranquility.
“…have spent their careers…” Nice touch. People will think you had no choice but to mention them in your article.
Step Four. Discuss the work of your contemporaries as if it’s new and important, even if it isn’t.
Poetry in this tradition–one that is less interested in telling stories and more interested in exploring how story-language works–attempts to make the emotion present in the reading experience. Tranquility can come later. They’re not re-telling memories in a poem (like the memory recounted in William Stafford’s much-anthologized “Traveling Through the Dark”, but rather using word combinations, sound patterns, and different types of sentences to engage a reader’s brain while he or she is reading (Bernadette Mayer‘s writing is a great example of this kind of thing). To varying degrees, these poets have delved into what literary critic Reuven Tsur has called Cognitive Poetics, a field of study that has taken “reader-response” theory to a whole other level.
For example: “…using word combinations, sound patterns, and different types of sentences to engage a reader’s brain while he or she is reading…” “…different types of sentences…” Great!
Step Five. By now, the only readers still with you are those contemporaries you’ve name-dropped. So you might as well name-drop some more.
Tsur makes the case that certain sound patterns have inherent properties that fire up the “poetic” parts of the brain, and that by paying attention to those patterns we can read poetry in an entirely new way. A wave of contemporary poets–the Grand Piano folks as well as Clark Coolidge, Bhanu Kapil, Renee Gladman, Eric Baus, Christian Bok, and, in his way, Tao Lin–have taken up Tsur’s ideas about reading and used them in their writing. A “Cogntivie Poet” won’t simply say “When I first made out with so-and-so, I did the happy dance!” Rather, she will use word combinations that cause the attentive reader to feel, to create a new experience, a memory, by the act of reading. It will make the reader’s brain do the happy dance.
Step Six. It might make one or two people suspicious if you do all that name-dropping and don’t quote at least one bit of actual writing to demonstrate your thesis, so find a poem by someone hot and throw it out there.
Here’s how Bhanu Kapil handles a childhood memory in her poem “The House of Waters”:
Mud walls whose surfaces belonged to the plantar surfaces of human hands. I could see finger marks, whorls. Once, I was a living being, embellished with skin: fortunate and blighted in turns. I turned. In circles. In the adventure playground, which was concrete. When I fell, the nurse would daub me with yellow smears, that stang.
”Mud walls.” That’s good. Now praise what you’ve just quoted and be sure to mention a dead poet in connection to it.
It’s heady stuff, and it follows in Gertrude Stein’s footsteps much more than Robert Frost’s.
Artsy-fartsy is the new brain science.
Step Seven. Finish up, lest a reader ask themselves what bad poetry has to do with the science of the brain.
It also can be full of messy failures that achieve nothing at all besides piles of linguistic gobbeldy-goo (it’s experimental, after all). For these reasons, only the most adventurous poetry readers have so far taken it up . This kind of poetry isn’t a comfort. Rather, it’s a challenge. It’s an experiment much like that of Dr. Annese, who, when he first sliced into H.M.’s brain uttered the quite expressive phrase, “Ah ha ha!”
“Ah ha ha!”
Warn them, Travis, warn them!
Your guest appearance on Harriet was kind of a bust.
It wasn’t really your fault.
You could not have known the secret plan of Harriet’s management: (which I’m giving a pretty name, after Emerson) Operation When Half-Gods Go, The Gods Arrive.
The editors of Scarriet were sent packing from Harriet on September 1.
Your reign as guest writer began on September 1.
The fireworks of the summer—tons of comments, thought-provoking responses, nudity (OK, 2 out of 3) proved too dangerous for Harriet (pants and noses were singed).
With the Scarriet editors gone, and others embarrassed by Harriet’s house-cleaning (done without any explanation) you entered a Harriet Blog-Site reeling from a bad judgment.
You entered a dead zone.
Your Scarriet Buddies
………………………………………Harriet Monroe, editor ‘Poetry.’
………………………………..We have been, and now we are.
………………………………..The planet was red—how blue, this star.
………………………………..In the mist and confusion of those days
………………………………..Harriet never dreamed of Scarriet.
………………………………..Now, distantly in the dusk, music plays.
Dear Friends of Scarriet,………………………………………….November 25th, 2009
Just to remind you on the eve of Thanksgiving that we the undersigned were banned from Blog:Harriet three months ago for writing too much and too passionately about poetry. Yes, and on the very same day that we found, not by direct communication but by trial and error, that we were no longer welcome on Harriet, Travis Nichols welcomed Amber Tamblyn as the new generation Contributing Writer.
As a preliminary to our big THANKSGIVING POST (coming up next!), we offer this as a sample of the commentary Travis had in mind for the new Harriet. Can’t say we wish we weren’t there, but then we’re very glad so many of you have decided to be here with us on Scarriet instead.
(Sort of comes down to Mt.Parnassus or the Marriott. But let’s be clear about that too — it’s not that the Marriott ought to be shut out from the Poetry Foundation’s goal to “foster and cultivate an open community” (see the P.F. Guidelines just above), but neither should Parnassus!)
And just to mix it up a bit with another 5 star metaphor, let’s go back to this one. Remember?
November 15, 2009 at 8:47 am (Academy of American Poetry, Alan Cordle, AWP, BAP, Blog:Harriet, christopher woodman, Colrain Manuscript Conferences, David Lehman, Foetry, Joan Houlihan, Modern Poetry, Poetry Foundation, Poets & Writers, Poets.org, Pw.org, Scarriet, Seth Abramson, Travis Nichols, Uncategorized)
It’s like all attacks on orthodoxy — if a criticism contradicts a tenet of faith it’s not only inapplicable but invalid!
Ask Barack Obama about that one right now, ask any Israeli or Palestinian, ask a Urighur or even the Dalai Lama. But hey, why not ask yourselves about your Poetry Faith too, the cards you carry as a Poet, the cabals and clubs and cartels you belong to, the schools, schedules, scores, deals, bonds and promisory notes you honor, even as poets? Ask around your Department, for example, or ask down the corridors of poetry power. Because even when there are such good people involved in such good work, so much good will and so many good reasons to make sense out of such good, good intentions, in Alabama, Chicago or the Upper West Side — oh, watch the Big Sheriff in you take over, the Travis Nichols right under your big cowboy hat and the “peacemaker” strapped to your hip.
Let’s look at this.
If the tenet of faith is that guns make you free, then guns are a non-negotiable matter. If it’s a tenet of faith that sex is bad then sex-education is a non-negotiable matter. If it’s a tenet of faith that men have a much higher sex drive than women, as it is in a great many cultures in the world today, including where I live, and that true men are truly driven by sex, then you get boys taken by their fathers to brothels at 14 while the mothers wait at home with the daughters until they can be married off as pure virgins–and the crowning irony of that absurd tenet of faith is that in addition to brothels on every street corner you get men who are butterflies and women who run the whole show!
The tenet of faith in American poetry is that the true poet is the product of not just higher but higher and higher and even higher “learning,” and that the more a poet pays (or gets paid) for it the more right he or she has to be called “successful,” and the final arbitrator in doctrinal disputes!
Anyone who suggests that the poets, critics, editors or publishers who are running this extravagant industry are self-interested, or even, God-forbid, in it for profit or life insurance, is considered not a real poet. Indeed, I myself have been mocked as a jealous “loser” a number of times, and dismissed as “the product of a willful misunderstanding of the process of editing and publishing poetry in America!”
And you know who used those specific words? A famous contemporary “poet” and “critic” who is also involved in the business of getting poets published. [click here]
And you know where she spoke those words? In Poets & Writers magazine, that bastion of our contemporary Faith in exactly what sort of training you need to get published in America today, plus the retreats, conferences, camps, travel groups, summers abroad in castles and wine tastings and weekends you have to attend– and what they cost!
But you say you think the son should at least wash the dishes before he goes out to the brothel at 14 with his father?
Just ask the mother for an answer to even that question. “You must be joking,” she’ll reply. “Any true mother would keep her daughter carefully cleaning as well as clean at home so she can attract a true man for a husband!”
Ask David Lehman about Stacey Harwood. Ask Stacey Harwood about Seth Abramson. Ask Joan Houlihan about me!
So that’s a problem, both for the sex where I live and for poetry in America.
Yes indeed, ‘tenets of faith’ always polarize, always lead to intolerance, always lead to abuse.
There’s nothing wrong with virginity per se, of course there isn’t, any more than there’s anything wrong with sex. But oh the heart-ache when too much stock is placed in either!
There’s nothing wrong with training poets either, even in castles, it’s just when you make a religion out of it, install priests at all the altars, and charge an entrance fee not only to get into church but heaven!
And, of course, excommunicate those who say it ain’t necessarily so or, God forbid, come up with some statistics that don’t quite fit in like Seth Abramson!
November 12, 2009 at 2:48 pm (Blog:Harriet, christopher woodman, Don Share, Joel Brouwer, Modern Poetry, Modernism, Poetry Foundation, Poets & Writers, Scarriet, Thomas Brady, Travis Nichols, Uncategorized)
Just as Thomas Brady was breathing new life into Blog:Harriet, and even being considered as a potential Contributing Writer by the Board, Harriet’s editor, Travis Nichols, published this article in Poets & Writers [click here to read the rest of the article].
Little could anyone have imagined how literally Travis Nichols envisioned himself as that “poetry gladiator fighting to the death” for his ideals, or how ruthlessly he would strike down those who did not share his vision of poetry on Blog:Harriet. It was certainly a shock to Thomas Brady, Desmond Swords, and Christopher Woodman when virtually out of nowhere a poster named ‘Nick’ popped up on Joel Brouwer’s “Keep the Spot Sore” thread to slam what he felt were people doing bad things on Blog:Harriet:
There are certain sorts of people–I will not indulge in sociological generalities about them, except to say that they are virtually always men–whose thirst for online bloodshed cannot be quenched. Such people ruined the Buffalo poetics list; ruined Silliman’s blog; etc……Michael, I imagine, knows the story. Good places for online discussion are few, and fragile. I’m out, as they say when leaving other forums/
POSTED BY: NICK ON JULY 7, 2009 AT 6:32 PM
Every blog and forum has such malcontents, but what was so different about this intrusion was that the Editor himself, Travis Nichols, actually welcomed the mole and his bile, and even went further in trashing those “certain sorts of people” — an obvious reference to Thomas Brady, Desmond Swords and Christopher Woodman (who has been known as “Cowpatty Hammer” ever since!). Indeed, Travis replied like this:
Hey Nick, I definitely hear you, but I don’t think there’s a formal solution to the problem you’re presenting. We have a couple different formatting changes in the works that I think will help people skip past commentary they have a stated distaste for, but beyond that the only way the discussion becomes valuable for people is if they participate in it. It’s a big responsibility in a lot of ways, and I completely understand using your time for other things, but I, for one, would greatly appreciate you hanging around and offering up your two cents from time to time. It can get a bit cult-like in here (let’s go ahead and talk about it like a room; it feels that way sometimes, like when you’re in a room just trying to read or write down a thought or enjoy a meal and some guy at the next table is going on and on and ON (sheesh!) about his medical experiences or his politics or how he totally almost scored on his last date, and it’s all you can do to not start yelling or making some kind of gag out of napkins and notepads and endpapers or just thinking the world is a terrible no good very bad place full of asshats and douchebags (as they say) . . . but, you know, really it’s not like that. All the time. Is it? Maybe it is. But it doesn’t have to be.), and simple one or two sentence sober thoughts can cut through the funk very nicely. As you have done upthread, I think. So a plea for you–and for others reading and thinking of chiming in but holding back for fear of the cow patty hammer or whatever: don’t leave. Your presence will help make things better. Promise. Maybe we can come up with a rewards system. Free candy for pithy on-point commentary! -Travis PS: Clearly, no candy for me this round.
POSTED BY: TRAVIS NICHOLS ON JULY 8, 2009 AT 9:00 AM
Thomas Brady wrote a critique of this post on the recent thread called “Harriet Sees Nothing on Harriet” which casts so much light on Blog:Harriet and the mindset of its “Poetry Gladiator” Editor, Travis Nichols, we decided to elevate it to an actual post. So here goes:
Nick writes, “there are certain sorts of people…” certain sorts of people…?? And then Nick tars ‘certain sorts of people’ with his brush, and then announces he’s leaving in a huff… Travis responds:
Hey Nick –note the familiar tone…Hey Nick…
I definitely hear you, but I don’t think there’s a formal solution to the problem you’re presenting.
I definitely hear you… in other words I completely ascribe to your ‘certain sorts of people’ tone of bitchiness and disrespect… but I don’t think there’s a formal solution… Immediately Travis jumps from the bitchy complaint to…oh how can we come up with a solution to make things better for Nick?
Why does Travis have to jump when Nick says jump? How does Nick suddenly become the authority here?
We have a couple different formatting changes in the works that I think will help people skip past commentary they have a stated distaste for, but beyond that the only way the discussion becomes valuable for people is if they participate in it.
And now Travis slips in something that’s actually an intelligent and proper response to Nick (the angry and the deluded) “THE ONLY WAY THE DISCUSSION BECOMES VALUABLE FOR PEOPLE IS IF THEY PARTICIPATE IN IT.” Bravo, Travis! But where did that come from? If only this had been Travis’ sole reply, the world might be different…
HEY NICK, THE ONLY WAY THE DISCUSSION BECOMES VALUABLE FOR PEOPLE IS IF THEY PARTICPATE IN IT.
But alas, Travis did not respond thusly, and, to please Nick, launched into the following:
It’s a big responsibility in a lot of ways, and I completely understand using your time for other things, but I, for one, would greatly appreciate you hanging around and offering up your two cents from time to time. It can get a bit cult-like in here (let’s go ahead and talk about it like a room; it feels that way sometimes, like when you’re in a room just trying to read or write down a thought or enjoy a meal and some guy at the next table is going on and on and ON (sheesh!) about his medical experiences or his politics or how he totally almost scored on his last date, and it’s all you can do to not start yelling or making some kind of gag out of napkins and notepads and endpapers or just thinking the world is a terrible no good very bad place full of asshats and douchebags (as they say) . . . but, you know, really it’s not like that. All the time. Is it? Maybe it is. But it doesn’t have to be.), and simple one or two sentence sober thoughts can cut through the funk very nicely. As you have done upthread, I think.
Now Travis makes this weird analogy… posting on a blog is compared to sitting in a restaurant and TRYING TO READ while a conversation is going on at the next table…
Oh…so Nick WAS TRYING TO READ…and Christopher, you and I were TALKING…so he couldn’t READ… LOL
So a plea for you–and for others reading and thinking of chiming in but holding back for fear of the cow patty hammer or whatever: don’t leave.
“Holding back for fear of the cow patty hammer…?” Yea…it’s called a METAPHOR, Travis…why would someone FEAR that? What’s to fear in another’s words and opinions? [Click here for some background on that metaphor.]
ANY discussion on the web offers the SAME THREE RESPONSES, cow patty hammer or not, Travis. You 1.) agree, you 2.) disagree, or you 3.) ignore comment X, –or some combination thereof. That’s it! Simple! You can ALWAYS do this–unless you are censored.
These are ALWAYS the choices, whether Christopher Woodman and Thomas Brady are part of the discussion, or not. Travis? Nick? You know this, don’t you?
Let me say it once more. In ANY discussion, you only have 3 choices: Agree, disagree, ignore. These are ALWAYS the choices–no matter who you are having a discussion with. It doesn’t matter if Woodman or Brady are in the discussion, or not. These are the 3 choices one ALWAYS has.
Your presence will help make things better. Promise. Maybe we can come up with a rewards system. Free candy for pithy on-point commentary!
Christopher, I think Travis owes us a lot of candy.
November 7, 2009 at 11:29 am (Blog:Harriet, Claude Levi-Strauss, Desmond Swords, Don Share, Martin Earl, Michael Robbins, Modern Poetry, Modernism, Poetry Foundation, Scarriet, Thomas Brady, Travis Nichols, Uncategorized, William Butler Yeats)
Here’s looking at you, Don Share — “politically, personally, and poetically!”
Dear Don Share,
I had good times with you for the whole month of June on Blog:Harriet, particularly right at the end of Martin Earl’s wonderful thread, The Fish II, when we talked big fish! [click here] More than that, I also enjoyed a private correspondence with you behind the scenes even after I got put on “moderation” – as I’m sure you all know, my posts on Harriet were monitored for almost 2 months, occasioning long and painful delays, and over 20 were summarily deleted. [For some details on that 1.) click here, 2.) click here, 3.) click here, 4.) click here, and 5.) click here. And for a fuller summary elsewhere, click here and click here.]
But just to be sure there’s no suggestion of impropriety behind these revelations, Don, let me be very clear that you never compromised your position at the Foundation. You never said a word about colleagues, or the chain of command, or policy, or gave me any hope that you would intervene on my behalf– yes, you were very free with me, open and interested, but never for a second did you let your professional mask slip. You weren’t involved in any way in the management of Blog:Harriet, you insisted, and even sought my help to get Alan Cordle to remove a paragraph from his Bluehole blog that held you partly responsible for what had happened [click here] — which Alan did, and with good grace. And I was very proud of that too, because I know we are like that, always willing to admit a mistake and do something about it.
Indeed, a lot of good things happened in those early exchanges. Michael Robbins came in on Alan’s blog too, for example, and bitterly protested our interpretation of his involvement, and we responded immediately to that as well, and not only apologized to him but praised him for his openness and courage. [click here] Indeed, that moment with Michael Robbins was one of the most positive moments of our whole protest, and we are still very grateful to him for that as well as for his decision to distance himslf from Blog:Harriet — not in solidarity with us at all but because he felt badly about what the atmosphere at Harriet had done to him personally. Because, of course, it brought the worst out of everybody!
But you did nothing whatsoever, Don Share — almost as if you didn’t see anything happening. And here you are today writing all this wise and well-informed poetry stuff about deep human issues, who we poets are, what matters, what poetry can accomplish, what art, what passion, however foolish, what the spirit can achieve [click here], yet you didn’t engage yourself at all when you were face to face with the REAL THING — a real poetry massacre! Because we were deeply involved in these very same issues in July and August, of course, but on a much, much deeper, more meaningful, and more tangible level than on Harriet today. And then on September 1st we had the plug pulled on us, and we were all summarily executed. Yes, and you were right there and said nothing.
And look what’s left on Blog:Harriet today? Just look at the response to your sensitive and exceptionally well-written new article, for example? [click here] A dry board-room discussion of the niceties of copyright law combined with some fawning, some clichés, and some banter. Before you were face to face with the real censorship of actual living American poets, ones who weren’t hiding behind anything at all, and were therefore extremely vulnerable. And you watched the axe fall on them, and you did nothing whatever!
That photo above is of me in Brooklyn, New York when I was Head of the English Department at The Brooklyn Polytechnic Preparatory School in Bayridge in the 80s. A lot of my students were from John Travolta’s neighborhood too, and they loved it because I taught poetry in a fever as if it were a real Saturday-night thing, as if poetry really did dance and rumble and matter — over the top sometimes, for sure, but that’s what energy and commitment bring out, a rage to inhabit the mountain peaks with the Saturday-night gods. When I first wrote like that on Blog:Harriet, I felt the same sort of resonance that I did in Bayridge, and even the Contributing Writers got excited, and praised me for my efforts — and yes, some of them even talked to me off-line like you did…
And then I got banned!
Blog:Harriet is a tiny bit of The Poetry Foundation’s on-line commitment, I know, only 3% of the traffic, but it’s where the free voice of poetry really matters. Because Blog:Harriet is financially independent and doesn’t have to balance the books, satisfy institutional requirements, or mollify advertisers, corporate or even college presidents. Most important of all, it doesn’t have to take sides in the wonderful complexities that blossom when poetry rumbles as if it were, wow, Saturday night in Chicago!
W.B.Yeats is dead, and we’re still wondering, who was this ridiculous genius? How could our greatest modern poet be such an enigma, and what if anything did he accomplish beside all that inconceivably beautiful, deep and earth-moving verse he left behind? And now the intellectual conscience of the modern era, the creator of our most modern discourse, Claude Levi-Strauss, he’s dead too — and we can celebrate his Triste Tropiques as one of the greatest modern explorations of what human expression can accomplish — in its author’s own style, and in the sacred communities he initiated us into.
Well, I’m 70, and my writing matters too, Don, particularly as I’m just as passionately committed as Claude Levi-Strauss ever was, and just as nutty, passionate and lyrical as Yeats. And that’s true, even if I have no creds, no prospects, no mentor or editor or maneuvers for tenure or a pension or even a credit card in my wallet!
And you banned Desmond Swords too with all that next-generation Irish brilliance, and Thomas Brady who put Blog:Harriet on the map with his well-informed, startling, and indefatigable genius. And Alan Cordle, perhaps the best-known and effective social critic on the contemporary poetry scene in America — summarily chopped for just being who he was!
So what are you going to do about all that, Don Share? Just let it slip, just let all those hurt feelings and that outrage fester? Just let Harriet go down the tubes as an accident, the usual sort of bumbling and grumbling which takes people over when they refuse to talk to each other, what’s more listen? Are you trying to prove that even at The Poetry Foundation poetry doesn’t matter, that it’s all just business as usual even with the blessings of Ruth B. Lilly’s profound good-will and all her benificent millions?
So why did you bother to write that article on Yeats and Claude Levi-Strauss then, or don’t you take any of it serioously? I mean, is that just what you do for a living, to write like that? Is that just your thing at The Foundation?
And I know that’s not it at all, dear Don, but sooner or later you’ve got to say what it is, and take action.
Sooner or later you’ve got to stand up and be counted!
This is the first of the Personal Statements of those who were banned from Harriet on September 1st, 2009. Stay Tuned for the accounts of Desmond Swords, Alan Cordle, and Thomas Brady.
November 6, 2009 at 5:33 pm (Blog:Harriet, Chester Kallman, Christopher Isherwood, Don Share, Horror, John Keats, Modern Poetry, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Scarriet, Smoking, Thomas Brady, Uncategorized, W.H.Auden, William Butler Yeats)
Drugs like caffeine and nicotine are wonderful stimulants for poetry.
Five packs a day, and you, too, could be a great poet.
In 1939, a transition year marking the start of WW II, the poet W.H. Auden was divided.
Auden was between jobs, homelands, faiths, political beliefs, romances–as well as drags on his cigarette.
The English poet was about to settle in the U.S. (New York) say goodbye to friend Christopher Isherwood (who moved to California in April) meet and“marry” Chester Kallman–a devotee of anonymous men’s room sex, abandon his atheism for the Church of England, give up his Marxism for a belief in Western Democracy, and abandon travel reporting for college teaching.
In a Nation article in March 1939, Auden played prosecutor and defense—rhetorically dividing himself—in debating the poetic worth of W.B. Yeats–who had died in January of that year.
Yeats’ death surely made Auden, famous and middle-aged in 1939, reflect on his own worth as a poet, and, naturally on the worth of poetry itself in a brutal age approaching war.
Are we surprised, then, that poetry’s most divided and ambiguous statement about itself, emerged in March of 1939, in a poem by Auden on W.B. Yeats?
We really don’t need to puzzle over the meaning of “Poetry makes nothing happen,” for it is clearly the utterance of a helplessly divided and self-pitying man: “Poetry makes Auden happen” is closer to an accurate statement, for poetry makes a great deal happen. Auden, the famous poet, felt sorry for himself as he contemplated the death of another well-known poet (Yeats) falling like a tiny droplet in the ocean, a day when a “few thousand” were aware of something “slightly unusual.”
Or, if Auden wasn’t pitying himself, the phrase probably sprang from Auden’s sense–which one can detect in the Nation article–that Yeats was (and this is probably correct) a right-wing loon; ”poetry makes nothing happen“ was a description of Yeats’ poetry, not poetry.
Auden looked around at the world in 1939 and said, rather gruffly, after smoking a pack of cigarettes with a few Pinot Noirs, ’look, Yeats believed in fairies and Hitler is about to set the world on fire…
It was Yeats–Auden thought he was a freak.
Auden knew poetry–in general–made things happen.
After all, poetry created the poet, Auden, who made the ambiguous statement, ‘poetry makes nothing happen,’ in the first place.
The idea that ‘poetry makes nothing happen’ is…silly.
Auden married Kallman–and, to no one’s surprise, Chester broke Wystan’s heart. Shall we say, then, “Marriage makes nothing happen?”
We should remember that poetry is much larger than W.H. Auden or W.B. Yeats, or any individual, and that sordid details and facts pale beside universals, and small facts can suddenly become universals, depending on the context. We should remember what Percy Shelley, whose poetic treatment of the death of John Keats blows away Auden’s ditty on Yeats, said in his A Defense of Poetry:
“The frequent recurrence of the poetical power, it is obvious to suppose, may produce in the mind a habit of order and harmony correlative with its own nature and with its effects upon other minds. But in the intervals of inspiration, and they may be frequent without being durable, a poet becomes a man, and is abandoned to the sudden reflux of the influences under which others habitually live.” –Shelley, A Defense
A long poet does not exist.
Sure, a poem, or a poet, or poetry might–sometimes–make nothing happen.
Fairy dust and puffs of smoke make nothing happen. Most of us know that.
But, again, Shelley:
“The exertions of Locke, Hume, Gibbon, Voltaire, Rousseau, and their disciples, in favor of oppressed and deluded humanity, are entitled to the gratitude of mankind. Yet it is easy to calculate the degree of moral and intellectual improvement which the world would have exhibited, had they never lived. A little more nonsense would have been talked for a century or two; and perhaps a few more men, women, and children burnt as heretics. We might not at this moment have been congratulating each other on the abolition of the Inquisition in Spain. But it exceeds all imagination to conceive what would have been the moral condition of the world if neither Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Calderon, Lord Bacon, nor Milton, had ever existed; if Raphael and Michael Angelo had never been born; if the Hebrew poetry had never been translated; if a revival of the study of Greek literature had never taken place; if no monuments of ancient sculpture had been handed down to us; and if the poetry of the religion of the ancient world had been extinguished together with its belief. The human mind could never, except by the intervention of these excitements, have been awakened to the invention of the grosser sciences, and that application of analytical reasoning to the aberrations of society, which it is now attempted to exalt over the direct expression of the inventive and creative faculty itself.” –Shelley, A Defense
What was Shelley on, anyway?
Since Alan Cordle’s Foetry.com got major media attention and made Foetry a household word, a quiet revolution has taken place. Publishing and prizes are no longer assumed to be pure. The ‘Cred Game’ has been exposed.
Here’s a random example from the world of poetry bloggers: http://irasciblepoet.blogspot.com/2007/09/what-makes-me-want-to-vomit.html
From the list of 10 things that makes this poetry blogger “want to vomit:”
Vomit #4: I want to vomit when presses that are vanity exercises continue to publish their friends and exclude new voices.
We think it’s wonderful, thanks to Alan Cordle, that new understanding and outrage exists, but further education is needed.
What made Alan Cordle so dangerous and hated, was that he named names. He was not content to just bellyache. Foetry.com named, and brought low, big names, because, as more and more realize today, “vanity” in po-biz goes all the way to the top.
Big names intimidate, allowing foetic practice to continue where ‘the gods’ play.
But not everyone is intimidated by big names. And the word is getting out that Foetry did not begin with Jorie Graham. The word is getting out that many of the icons of Modernism–which so many people worship because they learned about them in school–were foetic frauds.
It takes critical acumen to detect foetry in history, foetry in the canon, and foetry in contemporary big names.
This is what Scarriet is here for.
All that juicy and critically acute stuff.
The poetry blog which I quoted at random is called ‘The Irascible Poet,” with the following quote on its masthead:
“I Have Never Met a Poet Worth A Damn that was Not Irascible” –Ezra Pound
Here’s what we mean by education. Our blogger needs to be educated. The foetic Modernists really brought very little new to the table that was not merely crackpot. We really hate to keep going back to Poe, and making this an issue of Pound v. Poe, but this did fall into our lap.
Before Pound recommended “the irascible poet,” Poe wrote the following:
That poets, including artists in general, are a genus irritable is well understood, but the why seems not to be commonly seen. An artist is an artist only by dint of his exquisite sense of Beauty – a sense affording him rapturous enjoyment, but at the same time implying, or involving, an equally exquisite sense of Deformity or disproportion. Thus a wrong – an injustice – done a poet who is really a poet, excites him to a degree which, to ordinary apprehension, appears disproportionate with the wrong. Poets see injustice – never where it does not exist – but very often where the unpoetic see no injustice whatever. Thus the poetical irritability has no reference to “temper” in the vulgar sense, but merely to a more than usual clear-sightedness in respect to Wrong, this clearsightedness being nothing more than a corollary from the vivid perception of Right, of justice, of proportion. But one thing is clear -–that the man who is not “irritable” is no poet.
This is from Poe’s Marginalia. Is it not a rapturous paean against foetry? And as we close this post, let us quote Poe again from his Marginalia, and this, too, could be a pledge against all foetic affliction.
Take heart, my friends!
Literature is the most noble of professions. In fact, it is about the only one fit for a man. For my own part, there is no seducing me from the path. I shall be a litterateur, at least, all my life; nor would I abandon the hopes which still lead me on for all the gold in California. Talking of gold, and of the temptations at present held out to “poor-devil authors,” did it ever strike you that all which is really valuable to a man of letters, to a poet especially, is absolutely unpurchaseable? Love, fame, the dominion of intellect, the consciousness of power, the thrilling sense of beauty, the free air of Heaven, exercise of body and mind, with the physical and moral health which result, these and such as these are really all that a poet cares for. Then answer me this: why should he go to California?
Blogging on Harriet!
Rebecca Wolff and Amber Tamblyn!
YOU CAN’T TELL THE DIFFERENCE!
AMBER TAMBLYN HAS ARRIVED!
#1 “I’m finally back in New York Citayy on a mini break from tour. Good thing too, because some H1N1-style critter has crawled up into my throat and built a throne, barking exhaustive orders at my immune system and leaving me couch ridden. Prior to the cold, I was able to make it to Rachel Mckibbens’ book release party at the Bowery Poetry Club. I had my book release party there as well back in September, and the energy can sometimes be stressful and a little crazy. Rachel was incredible and her book Pink Elephant is filled with the kind of poems some women spend their entire lives trying to write. It was a magical evening.”
#2 “Back from reading at Cleveland State University on Thursday. It was hard to follow Kate Greenstreet–she has the most ingratiatingly nearsighted stage presence. You really feel as though she is speaking to you–Because she is! In various deft registers of notation and declamation and preoccupation. She’s on this massive, amazing, awe-inspiring reading tour. Please go see her if she’s coming to a venue near you and I bet she is.”
#3 “Went to see a band last night in the nearby town of Hudson, New York, called The Akron Family. They all sing together and have a very collective, trance-y, barn-dance vibe. The kids are so positive these days! (The kids who don’t write poetry, that is.) I’ve always thought a band called Meds would be great, but maybe now this moniker sounds too cynical or snarky.”
Cynical or snarky?
We think not!
Though the Orwellian Poetry Foundation’s blog, Harriet, banned Scarriet’s Christopher Woodman, that hasn’t stopped him. His poem “”He Mistakes Her Kingdom for a Horse” appears in this Fall’s The Beloit Poetry Journal, and was nominated by them for a Pushcart Prize.
Also forthcoming is Christopher’s “The Frangipani Tree,” a poem about his lovely wife, Homprang. It will appear in the Fall Issue of The Atlanta Review – it’s the same poem Martin Earl praised on Harriet just one month before Christopher was made “unperson” by the staff.
So here at Scarriet, you might wonder: does censorship work? Does banning prevent dangerous poets from speaking the truth in verse? Christopher theorized that his poems got taken because he’s got name recognition from Scarriet and Foetry, but I don’t believe that for a moment. He writes great poetry and has persistence. He does this despite thousands of miles and despite Harriet
And I’m so happy to be able to congratulate him.
November 1, 2009 at 2:41 am (Alan Cordle, Annie Finch, Blog:Harriet, Catherine Halley, christopher woodman, Desmond Swords, Eileen Myles, Foetry, Kenneth Goldsmith, Martin Earl, Poetry Foundation, Scarriet, Thomas Brady, Travis Nichols, Uncategorized)
Today on Blog:Harriet, November 1st, 2009, marks The 60th day After the Banning of Thomas Brady, Desmond Swords, Alan Cordle and Christopher Woodman. To commemorate the occasion, we take the opportunity to examine the only thread in that period that has attracted more than a handful of desultory comments, and that is Kenneth Goldsmith’s rip-roaring, The Digerati Strike Back with a staggering 55 Comments!
But don’t expect much about poetry, as even the posters themselves acknowledge it’s just shoveling, and because they are Travis Nichols‘ friends and colleagues, they’re obviously proud just to snip, snap and snuggle. Because that’s how you comment if you’re really on the ’in’ in the poetry establishment, unlike Thomas Brady, Desmond Swords or Christopher Woodman who actually read and write it, or Alan Cordle, so passionate and well-informed on the ethical and social issues, and a well-trained librarian.
But no passion please, we’re Blog:Harriet — no risk, no commitment, no challenge, no outrage or devotion, no Annie Finches, no Martin Earls, no Eileen Myles, no one who posts poems because they actually love them like Catherine Halley, or poets they would like to understand better like Joel Brouwer, and who give others both the space and the encouragement to explore difficult subjects in depth. Excellent Contributing Writers, and there are still some of those left, deserve better respondents — not just cynics and academics and a handful of groupies, insiders and glad-handers.
How sad, and nobody at The Foundation seems to care that Harriet is vacant. I guess that’s the way the Management likes it, though how that serves Ruth B. Lilly’s larger mission remains to be seen!
WE WERE THERE TOO: But We’re Banned from Blog:Harriet now. And WHY? Did Martin Earl find us troublesome? Or what about you, Annie Finch, or you Camille Dungy? Don Share? Cathy Halley? You were all there along with Gary Fitzgerald and Michael Robbins? Who in the light of the International Poetry Incarnation of 1965 could possibly have allowed this to happen in 2009, and at The Poetry Foundation of all places???
October 30, 2009 at 8:33 am (Alexander Trocchi, Allen Ginsberg, Andrei Voznesensky, Annie Finch, Blog:Harriet, Camille Dungy, Catherine Halley, Chogyam Trungpa, christopher woodman, Don Share, Gary Fitzgerald, Gregory Corso, Harry Fainlight, Laurence Ferlinghetti, Martin Earl, Michael Robbins, Pablo Neruda, Poetry Foundation, Scarriet, Thomas Brady, Uncategorized, William Burroughs)
International Poetry Incarnation,
The Original Program,
The Royal Albert Hall, June 11th, 1965,
Thomas, Gary, Christopher, Camille, Annie, Michael, Don, Cathy, others…
I certainly don’t see a problem, and I second Thomas’s drift in this comment. The thread is about open space, cornfield, Nebraska style space. Thomas has a point. You read what you want to read. Volume can only be stimulating, especially when the discourse is conducted at such a high level. I’m sure this is exactly what Ms. Lilly had in mind, free and open forums which grow organically. Any given post can sustain pointed commentary for only so long before drift, meta-commentary, opinion, personal ideology and the gifts of individual experience begin to take hold. I, for one, feel extremely lucky, as one of the hired perpetrators these last few months that the threads unfold the way they do. Maybe Gary has a point – some people could be scared away by the clobbering breadth of the most enthusiastic threaders. But perhaps not. I suspect a lot of people are reading just for the fun of it, for the spectacle, without necessarily feeling the need to contribute. And I’ve seen enough examples of people, late in the day, breaking in without any trepidation. Thomas has brought up a lot of good points here about the way things are supposed to work. And I would say, having observed this process over the last six months, that, given the lawlessness, there has always been a sense of decorum, even decorum threaded into the syntax of insult (a wonderful thing to see). We are all at a very lucky moment in the progress of letters. A kind of 18th century vibrancy is again the order of the day. We should all thank the circumstances that have led to this moment. We should drink a lot of coffee and get to work.
POSTED BY: MEARL ON JULY 6, 2009 AT 12:02 AM
Honestly, you all, go and read such passionate and well-informed commentary, and BLUSH! Go and read it right here, and then look at Harriet today!
October 28, 2009 at 3:07 am ("Make it new", Alan Cordle, Blog:Harriet, christopher woodman, Desmond Swords, Edgar Allan Poe, Ezra Pound, Foetry, Modern Poetry, Poetry Foundation, Scarriet, Stephen Burt, T.S.Eliot, Thomas Brady, Uncategorized)
I never had a chance to see your draft before you pulled it. Don’t be too self-critical — I sort of like it when we post a howler. It’s part of our style, isn’t it? I mean, we don’t even know what we’re going to post next ourselves!
I like the ‘LangPo v. Official Verse Culture’ just up because that’s IT in a nutshell for lots of poets these days. We’ve got to simplify it like that if we’re going to be popular at all. We’ve got to mine this whole Modernism thing–it’s pertinent, it’s relevant, it’s got legs, it’s known, it’s familiar to many, it’s sexy, and it’s Foetry-city, and it’s horribly sexist, in my opinion, and fascist, to boot, so if we can get people stirred up about it, we’ll have a huge audience.
I’m not a ‘knee-jerk’ leftist, Christopher; I like to think I transcend political labels, but right now I’ll do anything to get a discussion going. People who would otherwise be horrified at the true politics of the Modernists have given it a pass for the sake of ‘experimentalism’ and ‘aesthetic radicalism’ but I want to prove to the next generation of good people that we’ve been ‘had,’ and open up their eyes and tie it all into Foetics and then see where it leads, in a kind of Socratic manner: don’t know where the truth is exactly, but we’re looking for it…
You were at Cambridge, and I want to do an in-depth look at how American Modernism came out of the U.K. It’s really exciting…Bloomsbury and the Cambridge Apostles and the Aristotelian Society…all the New Critics were Rhodes Scholars, including Paul Engle…I’m sure the Plan was formulated in comfortable, cozy rooms above the green lawns of Cambridge University…some British Empire planner took a moment from his busy schedule of running the world…”Oh, what to do with Poetry? Well, let’s see…give me a moment…How about this and this and this?…very good, then!…carry on…”
So what was the Plan for Poetry? What is the Plan for everything? Consolidate power among elites, and I’m guessing the take-over works this way:
1. First, sow confusion in a ‘crisis’ atmosphere (Oh gosh what the hell is poetry, what is reality, anyway?)
2. Hand-pick those who are best equipped to respond to the ‘crisis’
3. Let these hand-picked be of two kinds: conservative and radical and let them feign disagreement while working towards the same end.
4. Stamp the hand-picked crisis-responders as the ‘new thing’ and have hand-picked associates in the press and in academia sound the alarm, but with grudging respect.
5. Relevance established, the ‘new thing’ is crowned savior and becomes the new status quo.
The whole thing ‘works’ precisely because the role of poetry no longer exists as poetry, but has been narrowed down into a kind of ‘movement’ which is ‘managed’ by a subsidized group; it is this ‘narrowing’ which provides the ‘energy’ that gains them advantage; they use poetry, instead of the other way around, they tie it into the current ’crisis,’ and so the mere passive ’appreciators of poetry’ don’t stand a chance–they’re slaughtered like cows.
I wanted to make this point to Des in our recent comments exchange on Scarriet. Destroying culture is like killing people. It’s serious business. Our mission to save poetry is not just about one’s individual right to write without criticism–it’s deeper than that
Alan’s got to be happy at how Scarriet is doing.
A poet friend of mine from Canada who I only talk to occasionally just sent me an enthusiastic message re: Scarriet. I’ll quote a part:
“Hi Tom, the Scarriet is amazing! we need something like this in Canada as its pretty lame here and no one is “kicking against the pricks” (sorry for my rather off colour language but this is an actual phrase that was popular in Canadian literary circles years ago) And I am not someone who can speak up unfortunately due to being shy! So congrats again on your feisty spirit and thats a lot of good work.”
Terreson & Gary are united by their ‘love of the earth’ which is OK, but it’s not finally interesting…eco-awareness has been played as much as it can possibly be played in the mainstream press, and now it’s become a matter of policy and implementation. Poets playing it up seems a little beside the point, like saying education matters…
October 26, 2009 at 11:09 am ("Make it new", Alan Cordle, Blog:Harriet, Charles Bernstein, David Ignatow, Delmore Scwartz, Don Share, Edgar Allan Poe, Ezra Pound, Foetry, Ford Maddox Ford, Fugitives, Gerald Stern, Harold Bloom, Helen Vendler, Iowa Writers Workshop, John Ashbery, Jorie Graham, Louis Simpson, Modern Poetry, Monday Love, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Poetry Foundation, Stephen Burt, T.S.Eliot, Thomas Brady, Uncategorized, Wallace Stevens, Yvor Winters)
BAMA PANEL IV: SURVIVAL OF THE DIMMEST?
The Alabama Panel 25 years ago this month was essentially a high-brow rumble: LangPo taking on Official Verse Culture.
Two heavyweights of LangPo, 53 year old USC Comparative Lit. professor Marjorie Perloff and 34 year old L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E editor Charles Bernstein took on U.K. poet Louis Simpson, 61, former Nation poetry editor and Black Mountain associated poet, Denise Levertov, 60, David Ignatow, 70, poet and poetry editor of The Nation, Harvard professor Helen Vendler, 51, and Iowa Workshop poet Gerald Stern, 59.
Perloff and Bernstein were on friendly turf, however. 35 year old Hank Lazer, the ‘Bama professor host, was in Bernstein’s camp, as was 30 year old Gregory Jay, punk ‘Bama assistant professor.
Charles Altieri, 41, professor at U. Washington and recent Fellow at Institute for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Palo Alto, ostensibly had a foot in each camp, but you could tell his heart was with Perloff and Bernstein. The match-up was actually 5-5, so LangPo should have counted itself fortunate.
Also at the table 25 years ago was the elder statesman, Kenneth Burke, 87, a coterie member of the original Modernists–winner of the annual Dial Magazine Award in 1928 (other winners of the Dial Award in the 1920s: T.S. Eliot in 1922 for ‘The Waste Land,’ Ezra Pound, WC Williams, E.E. Cummings, and Marianne Moore.) Burke, chums with figures such as Malcolm Cowley and Allen Tate, was an editor at The New Republic 1929-1944, a radical Marxist, and a symbolism expert–if such a thing is possible.
The poet Donald Hall had been invited and could not attend–submitting in writing for the conference his famous ‘McPoem’ critque of the Workshop culture.
We already looked at how Gerald Stern embarrassed Bernstein by asking him to ‘name names’ when Bernstein raised the issue at the 25 year old panel discussion of ‘poet policemen’ enforcing the dictates of ‘official verse culture’ and Bernstein only coming up with one name: T.S. Eliot.
Then we looked at Vendler asserting the crucial modernist division between timeless criticism and “abrasive” reviewing–with Simpson retorting this was nothing but a status quo gesture on Vendler’s part, with Vendler weakly replying she was fighting the status quo in working to make Wallace Stevens more appreciated. Then in Part III of this series, we saw how Levertov roared ‘you parochial fools are ignoring race/unprecedented crisis/human extinction.’
Levertov, taking a no-frills Leftist position, and Simpson, with his no-frills aesthetic of pre-interprative Vision, proved too much for the LangPo gang.
Levertov became incensed with professor Jay’s post-modern argument that human language and interpretation are at the heart of human experience: “Bullshit!” Levertov said. Levertov and Simpson (with Ignatow) argued for universal feeling as primary.
Levertov argued for universal access as the very nature of language; Perloff countered that a small group of people might find meaning in something else.
Louis Simpson came in for the kill, asking Perloff:
“Suppose you found some people who were using bad money and thought it was good money. Would you be mistaken to point out then it was all forged?”
The audience roared appreciatively with laughter.
Bernstein, with his training in analyitic philosophy, was shrewder, finally, than Perloff.
Rather than confront the dinosaur Levertorous head-on, the furry little Bernstith sniffed around and devoured her giant eggs:
Bernstein: “We’re not going to to resolve philosophical & theosophical, religious differences among us. Religious groups have these same disagreements. I think the problem I have is not so much understanding that people have a different veiwpoint than I have–believe me, I’ve been told that many times (laughter) and I accept that.”
Here’s the insidious nature of Bernstein’s Cambridge University training–he seeks disagreement as a happy result; he embraces difference as a positive quality in itself. Bernstein gives up on universals sought by pro and con argument. Now he continues:
“What I do find a problem is that we say ‘poets’ think this and ‘poets’ think that–because by doing that we tend to exclude the practices of other people in our society of divergence.”
What are these “practices of other people?” He doesn’t say. But we can imply that these “practices” are radically different and reconciliation is impossible. Now Bernstein goes on to make a stunning leap of logic:
“And I think it’s that practice that leads to the very deplorable situation that Denise Levertov raised: the exclusion of the many different types of communities and cultures from our multicultural diverse society, of which there is no encompassing center. My argument against a common voice is based on my idea that the idea of a common voice seems to me exclusion.”
Bernstein’s Orwellian thesis is that the One does not include the Many; the One is merely a subset of the Many. Bernstein rejects the universalizing social glue necessary for Levertov’s democratic commonwealth of social justice; Bernstein promotes inclusion while positing inclusion itself as exclusion(!). Multiculturalism interests Bernstein for its severing qualities–Bernstein wants to break but not build. Logically and politically, he is unsound, and later on in the discussion–after Vendler breaks from ‘official verse culture’ and goes over to Bernstein’s side (thus giving Langpo a numerical 6-4 victory) with her ‘poetry makes language opaque’ speech–Levertov strikes the following blow:
Bernstein: My poetry resists the tendencies within the culture as a whole. What poetry can do is make an intervention within our language practice in society.
Levertov: I disagree. Language is not your private property. Language has a common life.
October 25, 2009 at 5:33 am ("Make it new", Blog:Harriet, Charles Bernstein, Ezra Pound, Ford Maddox Ford, Fugitives, Helen Vendler, Marjorie Perloff, Modern Poetry, Scarriet, T.S.Eliot, Thomas Brady, Uncategorized)
The Zombie-Modernists are:
1. Ignorant of material, social, political, elitist origins of Modernism.
2. Ignorant of the vicious, exclusionary, philistine nature of Modernism.
3. Ignorant of how much ‘Make It New’ was fascist razing and leveling, not democratic or revolutionary building.
Here’s what the Futurist Manifesto, published in 1909 on the front page of a major daily newspaper in Paris, said:
“We will glorify war—the world’s only hygiene—militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn of woman.”
The critic Marjorie Perloff, whose job is to glorify kooky, 20th century modernism, excuses these words, saying Marinetti didn’t really mean it.
Perloff is not the only one, of course, who finds the manifesto-ism of Pound and Futurism full of “charm.” Here’s more from that 1909 document:
“Courage, audacity and revolt will be essential elements of our poetry.”
“We will destroy the museums, libraries, academies of every kind, will fight moralism, feminism, every opportunisitic or utilitarian cowardice.”
“We affirm that the world’s magnficence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing car whose hood is adorned with great pipes, like serpents of explosive breath…”
“We intend to exalt aggresive action, a fervent insomnia, the racer’s stride, the mortal leap, the punch and the slap.”
October 24, 2009 at 1:52 am ("Make it new", Abigail Deutsch, Blog:Harriet, Charles Bernstein, Ezra Pound, Foetry, Helen Vendler, Marjorie Perloff, Modern Poetry, Scarriet, Stephen Burt, Uncategorized, Wallace Stevens, Yvor Winters)
A second Open Letter to my friend the poet, Gary B. Fitzgerald, who gets so upset when his poems attract Dislike votes on Harriet,
or even when an admirer gives him too much attention!
If you want to know how your poems make the Harriet posters feel, or at least that portion of the Harriet posters who feel compelled to vote ‘Dislike’ for every poem you post, look at Charlie Brown. For Charlie Brown, of course, is a poet, and you can tell that by how strongly he feels about that little red-haired girl. Indeed, that’s the first requirement, to have strong feelings, and the second is to have the courage of your convictions and, of course, get those convictions into words. You have to say what you mean, in other words, and say it loud and clear — even if it means your commitment knocks the little red-haired girl right out of her desk and onto the floor!
Because, of course, that’s the curse of being a poet as well, that if you say it too loud and clear the whole world will laugh and point — which is why most true poets never quite manage to become adults.
And would this set-back discourage Charlie Brown? You bet it would, and he’d go home and sit down in that big chair and hurt.
And would Charlie Brown not write another poem the next time, and even post it on Harriet again despite all those horrible sophisticates he knows are going to dump Red all over it?
You bet he would — and will.
And would Yvor Winters find himself in the same predicament, or Kenneth Goldsmith, Stephen Burt or Travis Nichols? Never — they’re too smart and know too much, and deal with all poetry affairs circumspectly. They also know the little red haired girl couldn’t care less, and they’re certainly not going to risk their reputations by foolishly writing a poem for her. Because like her they’re cynics, which makes them always safe — and, of course, superficial poets.
October 20, 2009 at 5:52 am ("Make it new", Blog:Harriet, christopher woodman, Gary B. Fitzgerald, Kenneth Goldsmith, Modern Poetry, Poetry Foundation, Scarriet, Stephen Burt, Travis Nichols, Uncategorized, Yvor Winters)
An Interlude at the Bama Conference — performed outside the curtain.
A letter to my friend the poet, Gary B. Fitzgerald, who gets so upset when his poems attract so many Dislike votes on Harriet:
“Your poems are very pure, Gary — indeed they’re unique in that. Because you bring no artifice to them, no stunts, no tricks, no riddles, no performances, no arcana, no complexities of any sort, no contradictions, no obscure references, no quotes, no citations, no buried hints, no deep alchemical or esoteric or psychological knots, no sleights of hand, no fits of madness, no fluff or flarf or fiddling, no lists, no inner flights of foolery, indeed almost no imagery at all, no sacred symbols, confessions or paradoxes, no minimalist self-abnegations, and, most unusual of all, no pretense. Finally, although your poems are almost always philosophical you don’t need to know one thing about Wittgenstein or Rorty, A.J.Ayer, Lyotard or Lao Tzu to understand them.
“All you need is a.) to be a human being, b.) to know how to read slowly and deeply, with a pure and open heart, and c.) be able to trust something in words without any irritable searching after something even more fashionable to compare it with, or something even wittier, negative or positive, to stump the poem completely.
“ You simply don’t give the Harriet readers anything to get their perfect teeth into, Gary — in fact, you make them choke. You make them feel that all that expensive orthodontistry they got done at Iowa or Stanford wasn’t even worth the smile! Because you don’t give them any chat-fat to chew on, and if they actually did read one of your poems, which they don’t, they’d just feel angry, as if you’d tricked them. Because your poems are THE REAL THING in an unwrapped nutshell, and an on-line love-you/hate-you show like the new regime at Harriet can’t deal with poetry that’s humble and, most unnerving of all, doesn’t even try to make it new!
And if you read this as an insult, Gary, or any other poet, you don’t deserve the name or the blessings it could bring you.
October 18, 2009 at 5:08 pm (Blog:Harriet, christopher woodman, Don Share, Joan Houlihan, Modern Poetry, Monday Love, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Poetry Foundation, Poets.org, Pw.org, Scarriet, Thomas Brady, Travis Nichols, Uncategorized, Yvor Winters)
This article builds directly on Thomas Brady’s last comments following the previous Delmore Schwartz post [click here], and indeed tries to pull all the pieces of Scarriet together. What it is not is negative, and certainly not toward Blog:Harriet which has given its authors such pleasure. It’s sole target is the very poor taste and mismanagement of Harriet’s editor, Travis Nichols, who we feel should be fired point blank.
Toward the underlying controversy itself, Scarriet is tolerant — we feel the issues involved are so close to us they are difficult to unscramble. Indeed, our position is like the two sides of our poetry’s coin, and denying one or the other would be fraudulent.
Our position is that having banned one side of the coin Harriet is now bankrupt.
Don Share wrote the original article called REAL LIFE [click here] with great sensitivity and insight, and we are sure gave everyone pleasure. Don Share is not being attacked in this post — he is simply a piece in a much larger puzzle that without him would not yield its whole picture. But his side is GREEN, lots and lots of it, and indeed in his person Don Share embodies the ‘ruling’ position — no blame, but there we are. What is undeniable is that that position gets all the votes — and of course, in less than a month from this very moment Thomas Brady will be banned from Blog:Harriet altogether.
Yvor Winters is a matter of taste, and he’s dead. He’s an important figure in the original article which draws him in here, but he doesn’t speak, and nobody is voting for or against him, or at least not directly. On the other hand, he’s a crux in Thomas Brady’s literary historical argument — a true eminence grise casting a shadow over all of us, and making it hard to read Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Some birthday — indeed, the only warm light comes from the poet’s funeral pyre!
Joan Houlihan is drawn in because she is Sheila Chambers in the penultimate comment, and another large piece of the puzzle. Not only does she get +14 GREEN votes for one very small offering, she expresses most starkly the attitude that lies behind the extraordinary ill-will that Thomas Brady gets buried in (look and see for yourself!). She’s the very Avatar of RED in her compulsion to demonize the opposition, and insists that hooligans like Brady are not to be tolerated anywhere within the pale. She’s angry, dismissive, and will stop at no limits.
Joan Houlihan attacks Thomas Brady specifically for his phrase, “the machinations of the grooming process,” and she should certainly know about that because she runs one of the most expensive “grooming” consultancies in the poetry business in America. Called the Colrain Manuscript Conferences, her outfit offers sophisticated weekends in white mansions in the Berkshires during which you get to meet hot editors and publishers like Jeffrey Levine — available to anyone with an unpublished book to be groomed and an extra arm and a leg. So she’s really passionately opposed to this discussion on Harriet, because Thomas Brady is threatening not only her purse but her cachet. She wants him stopped, in fact. Period. And ditto Christopher Woodman – as he was on Pw & Poets.org.
The comments that follow form an uninterrupted sequence from Thomas Brady’s initial thanks to Don Share for the REAL LIFE post to Joan Houlihan’s cat out of the bag. It’s a shambles, a shocker of the first order, a disgrace to The Poetry Foundation and to all poets and poetry. Indeed, it should make us all blush to read it (but you can’t really read it, of course, because the whole opposition is closed down, like in Singapore!).
We have decided to post typescripts of the first 3 exchanges because they express the gist of the argument, and need to be read carefully (don’t forget that both of Thomas Brady’s comments are closed in the original — some dialogue!). We also provide a typescript of Joan Houlihan’s and Thomas Brady’s last comments at the end — and, of course, Thomas Brady is closed there too with -23 Dislikes!
Enjoy, we’d like to say. But that would be nasty.
The following Comment was posted on Blog:Harriet on August 25th, 2009 but was put on “Awaiting Moderation.” It remained invisible until it was deleted altogether on Banning Day, September 1st, 2009.
Blog:Harriet, a Reply to Eileen Myles’ “Post on the Post,” Aug 25th, 2009:
I read Ian McEwan’s Atonement just recently, and was very struck by the following, the brilliant ‘Rejection’ letter Briony Tallis receives from “C.C,” the editor of Horizon in 1941 — which shocked me into rethinking all sorts of things.
“You apologise in passing for not writing about the war. We will be sending you a copy of our most recent issue, with a relevant editorial. As you will see, we do not believe that artists have an obligation to strike up attitudes to the war. Indeed, they are wise and right to ignore it and devote themselves to other subjects. Since artists are politically innocent, they must use this time to develop at deeper emotional levels. Your work, your war work, is to cultivate your talent, and go in the direction it demands. Warfare, as we remarked, is the enemy of creative activity.”
Imagine believing that true artists aren’t political — in 1941!
Not so today, I hope. Certainly Eileen Myle’s recent POLITICAL ECONOMY thread [click here] was a very hot one politically, and a good many of the comments discussed local issues too, like the new voting system on Harriet — and sometimes in very critical language. And the management didn’t intervene either, even when requested to do so. So that’s good, and bodes well for the openness of Harriet toward political discussion.
On the other hand, I remain “on moderation,” and many of my posts get deleted.
What I suspect is different about me is that I discuss politics with a certain abandon and vividness of image that makes other posters as well as the management feel uncomfortable. For example, a while ago I compared a certain taste in poetry to a taste for bound-feet, and of course I was suggesting that although bound feet created an extraordinarily beautiful and refined environment the taste had a very sad effect on both the young crippled girls and the men who loved them. In a very recent post, now deleted, I combined a reference to female circumcision with an early memory of my mother confronting a big hairy truck driver who was eating his lunch parked by the roadside on Route 202 just outside our house in rural New Jersey in 1951 — outrageous, but I think in the context effective. Indeed, it seems to me that that those sort of inventions are key to truly effective political poetry as well as prose, that it does use wild ‘metaphysical’ imagery and is very often over the top. I would say all our most effective political satirists have always been over the top, even serving up babies as a way to reduce crowding in the home if you have to.
The answer to “C.C.” in the Horizon ‘Rejection’ letter must surely be that all poetry is political if the heart of the poet is engaged, because abuses will always stir up the heart of those who take the world seriously, and believe it can be changed. Perhaps the Poetry Foundation needs to re-examine its policy toward political discourse on Blog:Harriet. If it’s that poets should devote themselves exclusively to talking about the fine art of poetry as “C.C.” proposes, and not about politics, and certainly not about politics in the house in colorful language, then they’re certainly going to continue to have a problem with me.
But I’m certainly not alone because, of course, brave Eileen Myles takes up political positions all the time as do such posters as Desmond Swords, Thomas Brady, Rachel, Bill Knott and Terreson, for example (see the latter’s recent courageous post about rape!), to all of whom I’m grateful for such vividness and candor.
POSTED BY: CHRISTOPHER WOODMAN ON AUGUST 25, 2009 AT 9:38 AM [You will see that this URL has the comment # in it that it received when I tried to post it. The comment was deleted by the management before it became visible on Harriet.]
CLICK HERE to continue reading John S. O’Connor’s fine article, ”The Tree Inside My Head” — I chose it to illustrate my point because it is so direct yet sensitive and subtle, and I thank him for it:
CLICK HERE to continue reading Travis Nichols’ ill-conceived and boorish “Like/Dislike” presentation;
CLICK HERE to open Alan Cordle’s Comment to see what he said that got -67 Red votes;
CLICK HERE to read Christopher Woodman’s final comment on the Like/Dislike thread and to see how many votes his proposal actually got! (I mean, if you had read that plea, would you have passed it by in silence? And should I have been banned for that sort of writing and attitude?
Do you think I look frightening like a Mexican? Do my metaphors threaten to cut Travis Nichols’ grass or to wash his car? Does my language threaten his English Literature establishment?
Well of course it does, all of the above, but do you not think Harriet is the healthier for it?
Finally, do you think Martin Earl, Annie Finch, Joel Brouwer, and Eileen Myles, such wonderful Contributing Writers, felt limited by my presence? Did they feel cramped or threatened by my contributions? Did they feel the management needed to put me on censorship for almost 2 months and then to banish me altogether?)
CLICK HERE to go to The Poetry Foundation Contact Page to register your dissatisfaction with Blog:Harriet’s discriminatory policies and editorial mismanagement.
October 16, 2009 at 2:21 pm ("Make it new", Blog:Harriet, christopher woodman, Colrain Manuscript Conferences, Delmore Scwartz, Ezra Pound, Foetry, Fugitives, Joan Houlihan, Jorie Graham, Modern Poetry, Scarriet, T.S.Eliot, Thomas Brady, Uncategorized)
Christopher, I remember how you tried to reach out to Joan Houlihan, how you even tried to join one of her Colrain Manuscript Conferences and talked about how you would like to have a coffee with her, that you were sure you would in fact find you had lots in common. But you forget how vindictive she remains, aloof, a figure, lurking, ice-cold in her sad attempt at superiority–a coverup for plain old insecurity and fear — reminding us of the nasty state of current American poetry, where all poets are essentially alone, moving in a miasma of cred-hunting, ego, and truism shaped by facile modernist scholarship.
Delmore Schwartz, who traveled on the edges of the “in” circle of the mid-century modernist revolution, but was finally too sensitive to fit, published an essay in The Kenyon Review in 1942 which reveals the terrifying Foetic state of American poetry–see how the curtain slips, and for a moment in Schwartz’s essay in John Crowe Ransom’s magazine, we see the true horror:
“He [the modern poet] does feel he is a stranger [Schwartz had just quoted Baudelaire's poem 'The Stranger'], an alien, an outsider; he finds himself without a father or mother, or he is separated from them by the opposition between his values as an artist and their values as respectable members of modern society. This opposition cannot be avoided because not a government subsidy, nor yearly prizes, nor a national academy can disguise the fact that there is no genuine place for the poet in modern life. He has no country, no community, insofar as he is a poet, and his greatest enemy is money, since poetry does not yield him a livelihood.”
I’m not saying there is not a trace of paranoid, Baudelarian, self-pity going on here, and Schwartz’s personal disintegration was due not a little to this bathos, but there, is, in fact an ‘objective correlative,’ the Foetic fact, the ‘government subsidy, the yearly prizes, the national academy,’ trying to ‘disguise’ the truth, and of course what Schwartz meant by this was the ‘cred hustle’ which he obviously felt as early as 1942. This is more proof that Foetry did not begin with Jorie Graham. It was going on in the world of John Crowe Ransom, Ezra Pound, and T.S. Eliot.
October 16, 2009 at 5:53 am (Academy of American Poetry, Alan Cordle, Blog:Harriet, christopher woodman, Desmond Swords, Foetry, Poetry Foundation, Poets.org, Pw.org, Scarriet, Thomas Brady, TomWest, Travis Nichols, Uncategorized)
Why are we doing this? Is this just more watchdog barking, is this just Foetry II? Indeed, what do we hope to achieve on Scarriet?
Because it comes at a price, this work of ours, and if you read the comments following the last article just below you can see how much. Desmond Swords is ready to move on because he feels we’ve achieved a lot, and isn’t willing to limit his own huge creativity to such a parochial little struggle. Tom and I are veterans, on the other hand, we’ve been banned from Poets & Writers, The Academy of American Poets, and now The Poetry Foundation, so we’re running out of legitimate space to write in as legitimate travellers. I mean, we’re writers, not Black Panthers — and if you don’t understand how depriving creative people of their voices creates that sort of nightmare, you know nothing about the history of protest. Nor how tragic it can be, and particularly for those who have the gifts to be heard — how that hurts, how that rankles and drives them on!
The previous article just below, The State of the Onion, was posted to help anyone who cared to re-examine what happened last year on Poets.org, and we may or may not choose to comment on that ourselves. We’ll see. But whether we do or not, it’s up to all of you to decide about each one of us individually, and add your voices to ours if you feel what we’re saying deserves to be heard.
As to myself, do you feel I’m a libellous cad whom any self-respecting on-line venue ought to shun, indeed worse than Jack Conway [Lola] — as Kaltica [Pirvaya] suggested? [click here -- passim] Or am I simply uncontrollable in any other way than banning. Is that why the lights went out for me so quickly on Blog:Harriet? I mean, I was placed in the hands of the Foundation Censor way back on July 14th, just days after the Like/Dislike function was introduced, and Thomas Brady, who writes twice as much as I do, and is far more influential, survived until September 1st!
And just look at those accusations levelled at me — yes, yet again that I wrote “abusive letters to the staff” and “hi-jacked threads,” exactly the same accusations as Chrissiekl, the Site Administator at Poets.org, had levelled at me the year before — even though Kaltica admitted it was really because I spoke about people who “weren’t there.” [click here --passim]
So who were those people, and why couldn’t the Academy Administrator just ban me for libel? I mean, that’s clear, isn’t it, if I attack others in a groundless slur, the Academy just steps in to protect them? So why was I dismissed for writing abusive letters to the staff instead of for libel? Why the smoke screen?
Was it that my remarks were already well-established in the public domain, that I was referring to material that had already been published in Poets & Writers, for example, that everybody knew what I was talking about but that the individuals involved still had enough clout on the inside to hush me up? [click here]
Copycat or what, “abusive letters” and “hi-jacking?” I mean, everybody knew there were no abusive letters at all on either venue, and none has ever surfaced, or ever will. And there are no hi-jacked threads either. Or is there something else, perhaps “clique and manipulation” as John Sutherland calls it in The Guardian article. And if so, what are those towering pillars of the poetry establishment going to do about it? Because Scarriet has no bones to pick with The Poetry Foundation or with The Academy — except that both seem to turn a blind eye when special interests are so obviously able to manipulate some of their employees’ editorial decisions, and that’s where it matters!
So where does that buck stop?
Just a year ago, Poets.net, a small, independent poetry forum, did a study of the mother of all Poetry Boards, The Academy of American Poets’ own Poets.org.
On a thread entitled The State of the Onion, a Report on Poets.org, Poets.net hosted a discussion of recent events at Poets.org that involved some controversial departures similar to those on The Poetry Foundation’s own Blog:Harriet.
Thomas Brady had just completed a two month long debate with Poets.org’s leading critic and administrator, Kaltica, resulting in the most popular thread Poets.org had ever hosted. Called On Aspiring Writers Becoming Successful Writers, it involved 259 replies and 72829 views, Indeed, Poets.org experienced a flowering during the time of Thomas Brady’s participation that it has never been able to recapture, anymore than Blog:Harriet has — the heart simply went out of both sites when they were unable to sustain a more passionate and independent sort of dialogue. All that remains without such engagement is desultory, I-score-you-score chit-chat [click here or click here -- and on this latter, has anything changed a whole year later?].
It’s important to emphasize that Thomas Brady decided to leave Poets.net voluntarily. He never felt comfortable there, and couldn’t express what was on his mind without sneers and threats from the management and its clique of supporters who obviously felt threatened by him. I myself, on the other hand, was summarily axed, and as mysteriously as on Blog:Harriet. Indeed, I seem to lack friends in high poetry places. And the sad part is that that’s only partly a joke — because my story proves that there are, in fact, special interests in very high poetry places!
The State of the Onion: A Report on Poets.org – a fascinating piece of on-line skull-duggery, and some of the revelations are startling.
It’s important to notice that Thomas Brady’s last post is dated June 14th, 2008, and that this Report was compiled on September 17th, 2008. When you look at the statistics of “Visits” and “Replies” on the 1st page, you can calculate how little had transpired in those three intervening months.
Finally, Thomas Brady goes by the name of TomWest on Poets.org, and I’m A Commoner. On Poets.net, Thomas Brady is Monday Love, Kaltica is Pirvaya, and I’m still A Commoner.
Eavesdropping Not On Harriet but on Scarriet:
It’s one thing to practice free love, it’s another thing to adorn one’s free love lifestyle with all sorts of ‘religious’ and ‘artistic’ allowances. A rogue without money remains a mere rogue, but a rogue with money and publishing credentials is a wonder and an inspiration and seduction which very few can resist, the pot of gold at the end of the pyramid scheme. [click here -- we tend to do this on Scarriet!]
The greatest novel ever written about this “rogue with money” is called Quartet (London, 1928) by most people though it was also published a year later in America as Postures (New York, 1929) — good title, too, but much too obvious. The author was a very great artist and knew how to let us figure that out for ourselves, even if her more naive American editors didn’t quite trust her — I mean, they were queuing up for hand-outs on the Bowery as well as in the Academy!
The name of the author with the perfect white skin, the even more perfect, indeed truly porcelain style, and the devastating self-candor was Jean Rhys. The ‘hero’ of the novel, ‘Hugh Heidler,’ a “picture dealer” (yes!) in the Latin Quarter (yes!) is none other than Ford Maddox Ford (yes, Hueffner!) who was in Paris at the time editing (yes, you heard it!) The Transatlantic Review!
You wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t tell you, would you?
And friend D., and others of your ilk, if you’re following us here, which I suspect you are, I wish you’d come in and discuss some of this, it’s all so a-quiver — and Quartet is such an unashamedly great, great, great piece of writing too. And of course, the whole story also fleshes out those character traits Tom needs to keep his own huge literary-historical ur-novel humming!
I mean, the alternative is Amber Tamblyn gabbing away on Blog:Harriet! [click here]
I think we need to make this point again and again, because it’s so important…WHAT HARRIET DID. Because they took VOICES, not abuse, not spam, VOICES, and, on a whim, SILENCED THEM. [click here]
What’s interesting about your articles, Tom [click 1.) here, 2.) here, 3.) here, and 4.) here for Thomas Brady's recent articles], is the way you go on working away at establishing your literary historical position while still reading with great insight even poets you regard as over-rated — like John Ashbery, for example. You express your doubts about John Ashbery, yet at the same time obviously love him, and are the first to admit it!
What is also obvious is that the establishment can’t deal with your balancing act at all — they just get angry and slam the door in your face as they did at Blog:Harriet.
The problem is that people in the poetry business can’t admit the emperor is naked because they themselves are tailors, and their whole reputation is built on the pedigree of the tailors who fitted the big boss out with the ”new” clothes in the first place. They can’t see as you do that even though it is a charade, a literary historical sleight of hand, an alert reader can still enjoy the magic show they put on. I mean, John Ashbery is a prestidigitator of the highest order, even if his content is an illusion — he knows that himself, and has never claimed otherwise. Why can’t the literary establishment today in America admit that too? I mean, it’s so obvious John Ashbery’s show goes nowhere for humanity except up in lights!
Anymore than those beautiful bound feet above helped to make the emperor’s little girl lighter, or helped her to dance better. She was so beautiful, so perfectly refined, such a wonderful higher thought, transcending herself and her humanity — yet take her shoes off and she was ugly, distorted, and stank.
The point is that that show was tragic while at the same time contributing to one of the greatest human aesthetic accomplishments the world has ever seen, Chinese Mandarin culture. And what’s wrong if we say both?
But mind the girl today, that’s what we say at Scarriet, that’s our message. It’s time to get over the fetish!
You all know by now about my little incident with the Poetry Foundation. In addition to deletion of politely written and signed posts by me at Harriet, a staffer banned several other posters, without explanation, and finally trolled my personal site, searching for my name, along with the words “dumbshit” and “asshole.”
One suspect, Travis Nichols, has more reason to hide his tracks than the second. The second suspect turned our inquiry about Harriet policy into his own little pity party. Reluctantly, I took his name off of my blog . . . for now. If he’s truly not involved with what happened, he should have, at the very least, advocated for us. As far as I know, he didn’t. Not all librarians are proponents of free speech.
I’d admired Poetry (the paper version) for its willingness to print negative reviews and dissenting views. Harriet is the party-line opposite, the super-suck-up-fest. And it’s dying. I mean, come on . . . Amber? Shall they invite poets Leonard Nimoy and Ally Sheedy to guest blog too?
It’s no surprise that Scarriet‘s been getting substantial traffic since its launch. It’s even less of a surprise that the Poetry Foundation person is monitoring our every move. As you can see below, on October 8 he visited my personal blog, and bungled his effort to mask his identity with a web-based proxy called “hide my ass.” Sorry dude, it didn’t.
October 10, 2009 at 3:04 am (Academy of American Poetry, Alan Cordle, Blog:Harriet, christopher woodman, Desmond Swords, Poetry Foundation, Poets.org, Pw.org, Thomas Brady, Travis Nichols, Uncategorized)
Writers keep blogging about the end of writing [and brilliantly, Abigail Deutsch. It's a most wonderful article, and would we were there to honor it. Indeed, this one could be well over 100 comments in a few days, and really be worth saving as a resource too. So we apologize for the satire, but what can we do?].
There’s just one problem: no one gets into details. We want to know exactly when and why poetry croaked. Did it happen in bed or on the beat? Did poetry die in peace, or in the ambitious twilight schemes of on-line editors in the back rooms at the American Academy of Poetry or the Poetry Foundation? Did Travis Nichols get short-listed for a prize like Robin Beth Schaer, or did they all get together for a ‘Compleat Retro Refit’ in Stockbridge or Lake Forest?
And so, in the style of the solemn journalism covering this crisis, we offer a few speculative reports for a nonexistent newspaper (call it The Daily Travesty).
They Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: Chicago Gang Takes Over, Ghetto Population Soars.
BOSTON– [on schedule]
PORTLAND– [evening edition]
CHIANG MAI– [Sunday magazine section]
[STAY TUNED. The samizdat articles are coming in hot off the underground press -- and if you don't receive your copy it means you're part of the problem! ]
Fall is here, which means ponderous Hollywood movies, funky potpourri, [W]ild [T]urkey, and of course, lots of new bloggers on Harriet to make up for all those we lost in September.
Today, we say our goodbyes to Thomas Brady, Christopher Woodman, and Desmond Swords. They’ve done a wonderful job here on Harriet, and we hope they’ll share a thought or two with us on their exciting new blog, Scarriet. From everyone here, let me offer them a hearty thanks for their dedication and service. Huzzah!
I know. It is sad. But all is not lost! We still have John Oliver Simon, Terreson, Noah Freed, Nick, Bobby, Krista, and of course me, Travis Nichols, to help transition us to this new season. And! We have a great new river with a great wave and a really, really great run. No more boring comments on Harriet anymore — hey, we’re blogging!