July 4, 2011 at 1:19 pm (Scarriet, Scarriet Editors)
ALL SHE THINKS ABOUT IS MONEY
When the mounting sky spreads against the night at dawn,
all she thinks about is money.
When the heat of day begins to warm the rocks, money.
When the smooth geese stir in the reeds, money.
When the brown beaver gnaws in the shadow, money.
When the rapacious woodpecker awakens his meal, money.
When the yellow butterfly drowses on the green moss, money.
When the lake swoons into a deeper shade of blue at the beginning of the evening, money.
When night descends, bough by bough, through the pines, money.
When the moths mate in the dark,
I bring her some.
June 9, 2011 at 2:27 pm (Scarriet)
I lived in a storm for seven days.
My rival lives in a storm always.
Electricity races up his spine—
Mere fear and cowardice crawl up mine.
When song hums, he makes humming speak.
I listen to hymns at the end of the week.
I push the brake when I’m on the road,
He knows no stopping, carries no load.
I move quickly when the appointment is near,
He is the appointment itself that I fear.
I favor this, or do not like that.
He wears all things under his hat.
I describe the painting which you cannot see,
He is the picture and the original tree.
I spend time pouring water from a jug—
The water girl begs my rival for a hug.
I say in silence what I should say out loud;
He whispers and parts the surliest crowd.
After I’m drunk, I speak my mind,
My rival is quiet and kind.
I frown when I think, laugh when I do not.
He smiles to know all the knowledge he’s got.
When I am sorry, I apologize it worse.
He laughs when he puts it into reverse.
I wait for my betters to give the word,
He proves, by a look, authority absurd.
I go for my pillows and my comforts here;
He brings a comfortable atmosphere.
I size you up to see what I can get—
He makes sure you don’t forget.
I saw him with a young, beautiful girl—
He had nicer skin, and a swifter curl.
Surrounded by cats, large and clawed,
He wasn’t looking at them, or awed.
He lifts weight as if it has no weight;
I try the feather and find it great.
I saw him in Necropolis, at night,
Feeding the hungry a bowl of light.
I puzzled over what a poem could do;
He wrote one; as he wrote, it sang and flew.
When I told him, “You bested me, but everything dies,”
He vanished in clouds that grew bigger in the skies.
April 21, 2011 at 6:41 pm (christopher woodman, Scarriet, Thomas Brady)
1) You have been accused of not finding any value in poetry, how do you respond? Has your life been enriched in any way by your familiarity with poetry or is it just something to pass the time for you?
No value. No enrichment.
2) What, in your mind, is the point of Scarriet? Is it to improve poetry or to wallow in its failings? Is it something else entirely? Can you link to anything Tom has written that is indicative of the spirit of Scarriet as well as being substantial, based on concrete points and in some way worthwhile?
Wallow. No link is worthwhile.
3) How do you respond to charges that Tom is nothing but a common internet troll? Is such an assessment fair or unfair, and why?
4) How do you justify the hyper-reductive view of literature Tom presents here (that literature be purely sentimental and that his reviews need not be based on facts or even on having finished reading the work he is purporting to review)? Are you content merely to pass off Tom’s crude speculations as facts? Why or why not?
Crude speculations and no justification for them.
5) Tom has repeatedly attacked Bernstein’s “Official Verse Culture” and Silliman’s “School of Quietude” for being too vague but his own attacks on “incoherent” poetry are just as vague (perhaps more so). What do you think about this seeming hypocrisy?
I am quiet, incoherent—and hypocritical.
6) Where do you realistically see poetry going in the 21st century? Where would you ideally like to see poetry going in the 21st century? What has Scarriet done to help facilitate any forward movement?
Towards the 22nd century. Nothing.
I am happy to report, however, that Scarriet visits this month, April 2011, will exceed the visits of our first 6 months, September 2009 thru February 2010. We’re blind, but we’re headed for glory. –Thom. Brady
December 31, 2010 at 11:36 pm (Harriet, Scarriet, Tom Graves, Travis Nichols)
In a book aptly titled Iowa, (the death star of foetry?) the following lines are proffered by the Blog Harriet bully and poet Travis Nichols:
His thin story happened then while coat and pant cuffs flapped around a step-father and half sister. The memories true or not against him seem to be turning to steam, as I turned, all the while thinking of chewing out alone eventually through the ghostly meats.
We’ve seen far better work scribbled extempore from our English Comp. students. Does this pitiful poetry excerpt from Mr. Nichols explain his Harriet Blog bully behavior? Are they related?
Of course they are.
When high becomes low and low becomes high,
Distinctions end and all’s one: beauty’s truth and the foul-smelling lie.
Today the reigning pedagogy is to aspire to a niceness that sees goodness and beauty in everything; the result is a universe created by the mind of David Hume, where bodily sensation and doubt are all that exist, where the old enchantments and the old heroics and the possibility for new enchantments and new heroics, fade away in a welter of darkness, despairing laughter and confusion.
Scientific truths do exist; the David Humes of the world have not done away with them, and self-pity and doubt is not my message even as I point out the sorry state of certain contemporary niceties of culture. Travis Nichols’ wretched intellectual character is finally of no importance, nor does it finally matter how the Poetry Foundation chooses to run Blog Harriet, which seems to be successfully aping Ron Silliman’s cut-and-paste service at present.
Morals cannot finally be about morals, nor poetry about poetry. All attempts at moral self-analysis (whether universal or local) are too little, too late, for doubt never leads to anything but more doubt; rising from the ashes is a better strategy than accepting partial criticism; if wrong is not entirely overthrown, that wrong only comes back stronger; it needs but one small doubt of its wrong to succeed. Small exceptions bedevil every moral design, and their smallness is what allows them to ruin our chance for a heaven of happiness on earth, or in the poem.
So Plato was right to make beauty and the good the same in every aspect of mind and body; the good person can make bad poetry, for the good is more important than poetry at last, but just as true is that the bad person cannot make good poetry, and this is true not because poetry is important in itself, but only because poetry allows beauty and the good to separate for a moment, so that we know ourselves, which is to know happiness: for happiness is why the self, and the self’s ability to make poetry, exist.
Because poetry cannot finally be about poetry (and thus the cry, “it’s about the poetry,” when uttered, is always wrong); poetry exists as poetry only when it furthers the Good, i.e., the happiness of others. The unhappy person cannot make others happy (unless they are making a divine sacrifice—good luck with that) and this is why Travis Nichols bullying others when Blog Harriet was a truly interactive blog (he chose to censor intelligent contributions based on his simplistic sense of ‘playing nice’) will translate into wretched poetry written by Travis Nichols.
This is not a matter of morals so much as physics. This is pure science, yet we still live in the dark ages in this respect, because we still believe bad people (or simplistically nice people) can write good poetry. They cannot.
This is the great moral dilemma. If bad people cannot write good poetry, how shall the bad person be made good, for only with poetry, in the sense Shelley meant: imaginatively going out of oneself and identifying with others, can a person be made good? The answer is nothing the less than: the child must be given no chance to not become a poet, to not be imaginative. There is no vocation that is not poetic, no training that should not be poetic. Imagination, as Shelley understood, subsumes all.
And this is why Letters should be as free, open, uncensored, and democratic as possible; why poets should not be allowed to hide behind their professional reputations any more than critics should be allowed to scorn behind a critical veneer; and why pedantry of a professional turn should never be allowed to censor, regulate, and proudly reject the amateur. And this is not because everyone should be nice, or no one should have to wear, or not wear, shoes. It is because the poetry is the method to be nice, and to know nice, just as unity and consistency are tests for truth. Do biographies confute this? Do great poets sometimes have foul reputations? Check the reputation—it is most likely a lie. If a great poet was deemed guilty of personal wrong, check the ‘wrong;’ was the poet wrong, or were the worldly opinons and actions of the poet’s surrounding accusers wrong—perhaps in ways not immediately known? Or, if the poet is a vile person, check the poetry—is it really good? Of course this throws us back upon a world of the uncertaintities of individually flawed judgments, which is precisely why we need to give those individual judgments as much freedom, as possible.
Systems and institutions act as gate-keepers to keep riff-raff out and royalty in, but what if the royalty are also riff-raff? What if there’s no need for gate-keepers because the ‘gate’ no longer has any validity? Even if we agree that private property is sacred and civil authority necessary, do we also agree that critical health in Letters requires the same sorts of safeguards? Or not? Do the necessary safeguards to property and civility also apply to poetry? I would think not. Why then, do so many poetry professionals, who are the first to clamor for revolutionary justice when it comes to issues of property and civil reform, put up walls when it comes to freedom of speech where they live? It’s easy to pretend to ‘fight a system’ (the American capitalist one, for instance) when that system is so vast that the ‘fight’ is not finally having any affect at all, except verbally and abstractly. But as soon as freedoms begin to rattle personal, aesthetic, and pedagogical windows of the actual place where the poetry professional lives, the ‘revolutionary avant-garde theorist’ quickly transforms from 1792 Wordsworth to 1845 Wordsworth, from revolutionary to conservative, and so conservativism forever reigns, from tradition to police ation to police action. There’s always one side that needs another side put down. The cause of this is easy to see, but difficult to change, because it relates to the cause itself, the ultimate failure—on all sides of the social, religious, politicial spectrum—of the imagination. In our minds, the other side is always wrong.
This is what we saw in 2010 at Blog Harriet and Silliman’s Blog: Poetry professionals shut the door on speech.
Scarriet may not have the clout of a Poetry Foundation or a Ron Silliman.
But we’ll still be here, talking.
October 26, 2010 at 1:38 am (Scarriet)
Silence! Or else! Hsssssssssss!
In a democracy that’s not a sham, articulating and sharing public opinion is paramount; free speech is the engine of democracy.
Scarriet speaks its mind precisely in this spirit, and if you are one of our many readers who does not comment, we know why.
We forgive you.
A po-biz reputation is not born in a democracy. Poets don’t emerge from public debate, from heated public discourse, or from the popularity of books or poems sold.
The public muse is shaped in private; poetic reputations are made with a secret handshake, by the wink, or a nod, of a well-connected editor or professor. Perhaps all the expertise and wisdom in the world goes into the decision, but it’s not a democratic one.
When important decisions are made in private, it’s necessary that public discourse ‘follow along’ with this course of action; no ‘shouting out’ different opinions, no ‘calling out’ the annointed, no ‘ chasing down’ the embarrassing reality of the secret handshake; the private machinations must seem to be democratic and inevitable, not what they really are: secret, random, opportunistic.
But the center does hold, for we fear any sort of questioning or mockery will lead to riots, burnings, torture, the destruction of the state. So we hold our tongue.
Yet, in reality, open inquiry is the soul of Letters and contemplative, civilized existence.
Strange, how good is seen as bad and bad is seen as good!
Part of the issue is that so many poets, and those interested in poetry, are teachers, and teachers naturally fear irreverence and disrespect—once students cross that line (they think) chaos will result, so heaven forbid we insult the poetry we teach; we must be respectful, polite, quiet. But this muzzling finally shortchanges students and poets, even as it facilitates the random status quo.
Ultimately the status quo is disrespectful. True debate in the public square is finally the most respectful kind of discourse there is.
Like Socrates, we’re looking for the good. And we’re here to stay.
April 11, 2010 at 1:35 am (christopher woodman, Scarriet, Uncategorized, William Carlos Williams)
…………….For a larger view of this detail click here. For the whole painting click here.
The Adoration of anything you think you own is idolatrous.
The Adoration of anything you think you own, even Poetry, even Baseball, is idolatrous because, like the Critic on his knees in this painting, the fire’s in your own head. You worship at the shrine but you’re looking not into it but out at us. You’re looking back at your audience to be sure they’ll know how astute and well-informed you are, and, of course, how properly dressed. In turn, your ‘readers’ have a choice — to play ball or cry FIRE!
With regard to baseball, the strange beauty and fascination of it have never been explored more deeply than in the following poem. So what is it? And why has the discussion of poetry on Scarriet becoming so ugly and savage?
………………………..The Crowd at the Ball Game
………………………..The crowd at the ball game
………………………..is moved uniformly
………………………..by a spirit of uselessness
………………………..which delights them —
………………………..all the exciting detail
………………………..of the chase
………………………..and the escape, the error
………………………..the flash of genius —
………………………..all to no end save beauty
………………………..the eternal -
………………………..So in detail they, the crowd,
………………………..to be warned against
………………………..saluted and defied —
………………………..It is alive, venomous
………………………..it smiles grimly
………………………..its words cut —
………………………..The flashy female with her
………………………..mother, gets it —
………………………..The Jew gets it straight – it
………………………..is deadly, terrifying —
………………………..It is the Inquisition, the
………………………..It is beauty itself
………………………..day by day in them
………………………..the power of their faces
………………………..It is summer, it is the solstice
………………………..the crowd is
………………………..cheering, the crowd is laughing
………………………………………………………William Carlos Williams (Dial, 1923)
[This poem has been posted twice on this site, here and here. The response has been desultory, though the themes have been crying out for discussion.]
April 3, 2010 at 12:15 pm (christopher woodman, Cleanth Brooks, Edgar Allan Poe, Ezra Pound, John Crowe Ransom, March Madness, Modern Poetry, Modernism, New Criticism, Robert Penn Warren, Scarriet, T.S.Eliot, Thomas Brady, Uncategorized, W.K.Wimsatt, William Blake, William Butler Yeats, Yvor Winters)
March Madness has been a study as much as it has been an intoxication; the New Critics erred in thinking the emotive and the cognitive could not be combined; of course they can, by any astute critic (Poe is a shining example, who the New Critics, from Pound to Eliot to Warren to Winters to Brooks to Wimsatt carefully ignored or played down.). The New Critics made no satisfactory criticism; they merely introduced mumbo-jumbo, mere terms, such as paradox, ambiguity, irony and symbol and nothing about it was original or coherent, it was finally nothing but mumbo-jumbo for the self-elected priesthood.
The professional priest will lord it over the mere amateur, but such religious hierarchies do not belong in poetry, not artificially, anyway; Letters is not science, but finally morality for the many, and this is the ugly, primitive secret which the sophisticated modernist Oxford erudite fop dare not face.
………..The Lord in His wisdom made the fly
………..And then forgot to tell us why.
…………… ……… …………Ogden Nash
The paradox here lies not in the fly or in the Lord’s wisdom but in what a poem can say that ordinary language can’t. You don’t need Pound, Eliot, Warren or Winters, or anyone from Oxford for that matter, to help you out with that, or even a High School diploma. Indeed, “The Night Before Christmas” is loaded with paradox, as is Pooh’s poetry, the Beatles, nursery rhymes, limericks and gospel. You can laugh or cry as much as you like, but still you can’t say what it is without saying what it isn’t.
The ambiguity in this poem lies in the absurdity that gets to the very heart of what bothers human beings about life, the complexities of it – how a creature so indispensable to the health of the planet should be so small, for example, yet so insistent, fickle, and in your face, so disgusting yet impossible to swat.
The irony lies in the fact that the Lord in His wisdom forgot to tell us just about everything, and even when the scientist has done his or her very best to remedy that, and even shown us photos of the fly’s eyes and cultivated its filth in a petri dish so we could actually see the link between flies and disease, and then gone on to save lives by cleansing wounds with maggots, we still can’t decide who we are. And then along comes poetry, of all crazy stuff, and tells us!
Love hurts. Grief heals. The meek inherit the earth.
As to symbols, there are none in this poem in the usual sense. Indeed, symbols are rare in poetry worth reading because the whole idea of poetry is to rewrite the comfortable shorthands, cultural icons and codes we depend on. Indeed, when poetry is most effective even the symbols come off the rails, so to speak, and wreck our understanding of everything. For a moment we just have to stop — my God, my God, what is it?
Take the Rose in William Blake’s poem, “O Rose Thou Art Sick,” for example, or the Tiger in “Tyger, Tyger, Burning Bright.” Only beginners talk about either as “symbols,” because the moment you think you know what they mean you’re lost. You lose the thread, you lose the argument, you lose your soul to the facts already stuck in your head. And you can’t move on.
Symbols are for simpletons, not for Ogden Nashes!
Had Ogden Nash written a whole series of poems about flies, as Yeats did about towers, for example, then we might want to consider “why” in a broader sense, and “the fly” might even be considered a symbol in the little poem above. And hey, why not? Life’s too complex not to accept what little help we can get from the way we human beings use language!
But we don’t need a Professional Priesthood for that, though sometimes we get one, boo hoo. Then abuses do follow, and yes, we do get Reformers, Counter-reformers, New Critics, Anti-new-critics, Pound-profs or Poe-profs or Flat-earthers, you name it.
Fortunately, most of us move on with the baby still in our arms and not lying there blue on the floor with the bathwater.
Most of us also examine our lives in privacy too, I might add, even if we also love frisbee and beer. And the best poetry, of course, remains private in public.
March 29, 2010 at 5:34 am (Annie Finch, Harriet, J.D.Salinger, March Madness, Poetry Foundation, Scarriet, Sina Queyras, Uncategorized)
We hadn’t checked it out since New Years, so what a shock to find it simply hadn’t moved on at all — same shops, same chaps, same figures.
Yes, there’s Christopher Woodman’s name still down there at the bottom, as if the PFoA were just waiting for him to come in again. The last time he tried was in response to Annie Finch on J.D.Salinger comin through the rye, poor body, but the comment he submitted just drew a blank. So he hasn’t tried again, though sometimes he’d like to.
Because he’s not at all happy with what’s happening at Scarriet either, and feels he might be happier back in the PFoA fold, he’s that old. True, there’s no commentary there (how many comments did you say there were last week?), but at least he wouldn’t have to compete with Marla Muse praising Bob-and-Tom for dunking a new poem a second — or listen to that awful deaf-to-English-Fox that Scarriet calls our ‘coverage’ of the big Poetry Game.
Not a parody but a travesty!
And what an irony, because Scarriet’s numbers are truly running riot! But is this really what you want, my friends? Are you here just for the beer, is that it, or are you laughing at us, at the comics and antics we offer instead of poetry?
Why are you here, in fact? To watch us self-destruct on that rock in the Rhine, or sail on for another day and more questions than answers down the river?
Give us some feedback before it’s too late!
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…
February 7, 2010 at 4:40 am (Alice in Wonderland, Annie Finch, Harriet, J.D.Salinger, Poetry Foundation, Robert Burns, Scarriet, Travis Nichols, Uncategorized)
“Off with her head!” the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. Nobody moved.
“Who cares for you?” said Alice (she had grown to her full size by this time). “You’re nothing but a pack of cards!”
At this the whole pack rose up into the air, and came flying down upon her; she gave a little scream, half of fright and half of anger, and tried to beat them off, and found herself lying on the bank, with her head in the lap of her sister, who was gently brushing away some dead leaves that had fluttered down from the trees upon her face.
Robert Burns and J.D.Salinger have indeed been blathered, and despite Annie Finch’s best intentions, both on Harriet and Scarriet, and our own attempt to bridge the divide as well (we were yet again deleted for our efforts!), Harriet remains in the dumps, otherwise known as denial.
Here’s what Harriet sounded like last summer:
Great to see this here, posted ipso facto in honor not only of of Salinger’s deathday but also of Robbie Burns’ birthday two days earlier–for those who don’t know, a huge national and global celebration of the poet and of Scotland. It’s one of my favorite Burns poems (I have another posted for the occasion at my blog AmericanWitch http://annieridleycranefinch.blogspot.com/)
This has one of the best singing tunes of any of his poems imho, and it is one of the relatively few where female sexuality is celebrated in its own right..it really feels like a poem that could have been written by Jenny herself, coming through dew-wet fields early in the morning to slip into bed after a night out. Thanks, Travis!
POSTED BY: ANNIE FINCH ON JANUARY 31, 2010 AT 11:37 AM
This is, in fact, a comment Annie Finch posted on Harriet a week ago in a vain effort not only to make a discussion on Burns and Salinger more relevant but to breathe some life back into the moribund Poetry Foundation community.
And did she succeed? Did she strike a chord, arouse some enthusiasm for poetry, get some rewarding feedback?
Hardly. The following is the only subsequent comment after Annie Finch’s generous, warm, independent and sexy brave effort:
Just because Salinger died.
POSTED BY: STEPHEN STURGEON ON FEBRUARY 1, 2010 AT 1:28 PM
In other words, a good kick up the backside!
And as if that weren’t 52 Pickup enough, here’s the latest spectacle in The Poetry Foundation’s limelight, yes, right up there to welcome you on Blog:Harriet’s masthead. And you bet how Travis Nichols is glad-handing the regulars — tailors, courtiers, and suckers!
At circle time on Thursday, Lorenzo declared that when he makes smores for Julian (which I wasn’t aware that he’d ever done) he makes them with bricks, sticks and snow.
CONTINUE READING THIS ENTRY » 02.06.10 PERMALINK | NO COMMENTS
A lot of it is just trying to figure out how to say something. How to read. Not how to offer a reading, or even an interpretation, but a performance of a text, in the face of its unintelligibility, as if one were forced/privileged to access some other world where representation and unrepresentability were beside the point, so that the response to the terrors and chances of history were not about calculation, not bound to replicate, even in a blunted and ethically responsible way, the horrors of speculation, where new materialities of imagination were already on the other side of the logic of equivalence.
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Remember when we read together in November, and afterwards you asked me about a particular poem of mine, and seemed to wonder, rightly, why my reading of it didn’t acknowledge or account for the spacing of/in the poem? I figured that question was a statement and you were right. Philip’s theater is this fragmentation of the sentence and the word, where every fragmentation is also an augmentation, bespeaking multiplicity.
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The commitment to repair is how a refusal to represent terror redoubles the logic of representation. The refusal of our ongoing afterlife can only ever replicate a worn-out grammar. The event remains, in the depths. The event-remains are deep and we stand before them, to express them, as their expression.
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I didn’t stop logging, I just stopped posting. I think I got waterlogged from not being able not to try to get too deep. I got into some kind of double trouble from blowing bubbles, I guess. Anyway, here’s some more stuff, along the lines I promised, though I might want to make another promise now. The other thing is that this is driven by the chance to see some of Hong-An Truong’s film and installation work and from reading Gerald Barrax’s poetry and from a friend sending me the catalog from the Xenakis exhibit at the Drawing Center in New York. I just wanted to mention these not in order to provide the key to what I’ve been trying to write but just to commend them all to you because they are beautiful! As is Beth at the Jordan Lake School of the Arts, refuge for the new X-Men, where the superkids go to play. OK: back to my misbegotten ideas on poetics, in approximately 300 word installments.
CONTINUE READING THIS ENTRY » 02.06.10 PERMALINK | COMMENTS (1)
January 31, 2010 at 4:22 am (Annie Finch, christopher woodman, Harriet, J.D.Salinger, Kent Johnson, Peter Greene, Robert Burns, Scarriet, Thomas Brady, Travis Nichols, Uncategorized)
…………….Peter Greene…………….Kent Johnson
@Kent: The thing that confuses me is the way most poetry blogs contain…little poetry. Here at Harriet, that’s normal – this is not a ‘personal’ poetry blog but a discussion room and (for me) education centre. But on the blogs of so many poets…no pomes. Are the things so hard to come by? Valuable, yes, but a poet is wealthy with the things, notebooks running empty, mystery scrawls everywhere. More poems on poetry blogs today!
POSTED BY: PETER GREENE ON JANUARY 27, 2010 AT 11:10 AM
Did it ever occur to anyone on Onan:Harriet that there were other poems out there beside the ones that bloggers write themselves? Has anyone noticed the Robert Burns that just got posted by Travis, for example — who is obviously still sensitive to our criticism here at Scarriet that, since we left, nobody at Harriet talks about poetry anymore, just about themselves?
Check out the 3 Comments on that thread for a shock on that, how they ignore the poetry to show off what they know/don’t know about Salinger. Even Holden Caulfield could have done better!
And can you imagine what Thomas Brady would have had to say, Burns being one of his favorite poets? Or Christopher Woodman on how to pronounce the scots, his children having been to a one-room school house in the hills up above Dumfries? Their dialect became so broad he couldn’t understand them in the kitchen after they had walked home from school, he says, two miles in the gloaming. His daughter Sophia even won 1st prize in the annual Robert Burns Poetry Contest — she recited the master’s poetry by heart even better than the shepherd children, who still spoke the dialect.
Eskdalemuir 1969, he says. The end of the world.
But then that’s precisely why Christopher Woodman got banned, for talking that way. Hi-jacking, Travis would have called it had Christopher come in on his Robert Burns thread. Making it relevant, we would say, empowering the poetry to speak for itself, not for the brown-nosed poetaster.
And we say good point in your sage comment, Kent Johnson. You know your Burns even if you’re deaf to his poetry and have no interest whatever in the best move Travis Nichols ever made. Indeed, you’ve condemned yet another Harriet thread to oblivion in your comment — set the mood for more cynical blather.
Who would dare to talk about poetry under such an asthmatic shadow?
In another way, all the comments on Poetry & Gender (Part 1): Why Don’t More Women do Blog-Oriented Writing? are under the shadow of Annie Finch’s truly expansive threads on Harriet last summer (Muse Goddess, Why I am a Woman Poet, and Women’s Work, those three in particular) all on the same topic, and which sparked some real participation, some of it so fiery it had to be deleted. And not because of unacceptable language or content either, but because of the fascinating glimpses the comments gave into various conflicts behind the U.K. poetry scene, Harriet was reaching out that far back then!
Frankly, we agree with those deletions — the deleted comments were too raw, the authors not ready yet for hanging out such linen. Indeed, some of the deletions were of comments by quite well-known U.K. female poetry figures who were letting too much hair down, and needed protection — from themselves!
Sensitive editing we’d say that time, Travis, and we feel sure that Annie Finch herself must have been consulted.
Was Annie Finch consulted when you deleted Christopher Woodman over and over again, Travis, and finally banned him altogether for talking about poetry in a manner you and your friends found threatening?
Did you learn anything at all from the Burns either? Do you have any feeling for what it might have been like for Holden Caulfield to be banned from his school, and why he might have brought that particular poem out into the real world with him?
January 30, 2010 at 8:25 am (Harriet, Poetry Foundation, Scarriet, Travis Nichols, Uncategorized)
To access our initial graphic of the man peeing in the stream,
click here — and unlike Harriet, let’s discuss it!
Congratulations, Harriet. You’ve managed your first 100 comment thread since you diverted the waters to Scarriet 5 months ago, but look out for your malodorous ditch!
Has anyone forgotten just how much water was flowing in your streams before the September 1st blockage? Just look at the raw statistics. Back then there were even 200+ threads — and 100 was quite normal, the streams were so clear and intense.
And now? Just look at the Jan. 25th article, “Poetry & Gender: Why Don’t More Women Do Blog Oriented Writing?” C. Perez sets it up like this, and in bold no less:
“questions: do you think women’s self-promotion in poetry differs from men’s self-promotion? what do you do to self-promote your work? are certain kinds of self-promotion gendered in identifiable ways?”
Gender differences in self-promotion? LOL
Yea, this is why I’m a poet. To contemplate issues like this.
The discussion quickly devolves:
“having grown up in a mostly athletic blue collar fraternity house atmosphere, crazy as this is going to sound, i came of age believing that the creation of any art, especially the writing of poetry, is for sissies. “
POSTED BY: SASSJEMLEON ON JANUARY 25, 2010 AT 2:45 PM
First Amber Tamblyn. Now this.
“I always feel ashamed, in my blog (not this one, my other one — see, it feels wrong even to write the name of that other blog!), if I directly mention a publication, or a book that’s come out.”
POSTED BY: BHANU KAPIL ON JANUARY 25, 2010 AT 2:58 PM
ZZZZZZZ At least the ‘sissies’ comment was slightly controversial.
Half the comments on the thread are by 3 people, ‘blue collar,’ the writer of the post, and a blogger named Greene.
So there’s this:
@All: This is the most fun comment thread I’ve had in…I mean jeez, you guys can all spell! Shoulda hung out with other writers more all these years, I guess…
POSTED BY: PETER GREENE ON JANUARY 26, 2010 AT 11:37 AM
“I’m not sure why you guys are bothering to engage with this obviously very myopic and ignorant blog troll. He is insulted by affirmative action and thinks women have more time to write because they’re housewives… why is that worth engaging?”
POSTED BY: JESSICA SMITH ON JANUARY 28, 2010 AT 2:13 PM
The Poetry Foundation blog may be a very dull place these days, but let’s look on the bright side.
Travis Nichols doesn’t have to invent clever ways to suppress discussion.
John Oliver Simon doesn’t have to be exposed to ideas he doesn’t agree with.
And that’s a good thing, don’t you think?
January 16, 2010 at 3:55 am (Alan Cordle, Byron, Dante, Edgar Allan Poe, Foetry, Franz Wright, Harold Bloom, Helen Vendler, Joan Houlihan, John Keats, Longfellow, Monday Love, Philip Sidney, r perlman, Robert Creeley, Scarriet, Thomas Brady, Uncategorized)
Pardon us as we take a fanciful page from the book of George Gordon, Lord Byron.
……………………….WHO KILLED ROBERT CREELEY?
……………………….Who killed Robert Creeley?
……………………….Twas I, Foetry. Yes. Really.
……………………….Now exiled here by the site that bans
……………………….We’ve dealt a mortal blow to Franz.
……………………….You cannot know where your reputation’s laid,
……………………….Or who pays you, at last, and who finally is paid.
……………………….Beware, you swaggerer, with cred and name
……………………….Who comes to quell: first, you lose, then, you swell our fame.
Franz Wright’s recent visit to Scarriet reminded us of the time when Robert Creeley came calling on Foetry.com shortly before he passed away in March of 2005.
John Keats was treated so rudely by the press a rumor began that a harsh criticism had killed him. The poet is the most vulnerable to criticism since the poet and the critic both use words. Poetry, by its very nature, has a It is so because I say it is so existence. Words are cheap, and the poetry world is small. Poetic reputations are fragile and can disappear overnight.
Longfellow was a wealthy titan whose poems were widely read in expensive and beautiful volumes. Poe was a poverty-stricken, contentious critic who insulted and berated poets like Longfellow; Poe was reviled by many literary elites of his day. Poe, however, now towers over Longfellow and poets who are utterly forgotten. Those who ‘go about their business’ and who are ‘above’ the sort of battles Poe indulged in usually sink into oblivion. The trouble-makers survive.
Alan Cordle’s revolutionary Foetry.com turned po-biz on its head almost overnight with his controversial claims. Controversy is catnip to fame. Perhaps Creeley and Wright knew what they were doing when they jumped in the Foetry dirt.
Flowers (and fame) need dirt to grow.
Thomas Brady of Scarriet was obviously out of his mind, temporarily, let’s hope, when he wrote the following as Monday Love on Foetry.com:
And what’s this crap about how a “librarian” [Alan Cordle] can’t express an opinion on poetry or the poetry world? Jeez, what a lot of snobby rot. Since when did degrees and publishing creds and ‘official poet’ stamped on the forehead decide who can or cannot speak on poetry? Did Keats have an MFA? Philip Sidney, one of the world’s most prominent poets, never published a poem. And what of Harold Bloom and Helen Vendler? I can’t find any of their poems, but the world bows to their opinion. If some twit gets an MFA and publishes a few books of obscure poetry scribbles, that twit should then have some kind of authority because of his CV?
No, poetry is naturally fitted for something more democratic and honest. R. Perlman [since discovered to be Joan Houlihan] disgraces himself [herself] when he [she]indulges in this ‘poetry-cred’ nonsense–99% of the time such a gambit is merely an attempt to paper over stink. I have never asked what his [her] creds are, nor do I care. Those who come here trailing the glory of their creds in their wake tend to get slaughtered. We don’t care who they are. Robert Creeley came here and was treated like anyone else–in other words, a bit roughly. We don’t care for that phony ‘respect,’ which the pompous desire. Only the argument you make here counts.
Poetry was invented so that the learned could speak to the unlearned. Poetry is for the unlearned ear, because it had its origins, as Dante points out in his Vita Nuova, in the following circumstance: the learned fop was mad for some illiterate serving girl and therefore had to remove all that was phony and elevated in his speech to reach her heart. The opinion which the poet craves is always the simplest and heart-felt one. The ‘learned’ opinion is not to be trusted, finally. Every poet in secret knows this. This does not mean the poet writes simplistic twaddle, for the poet still must impress in a powerful manner, but that manner is not learned fops stroking each other’s learned egos, which only ruins the art.
—Monday Love, Foetry.com 2007
It is not our intent to dance on anybody’s grave.
We salute Mr. Creeley for not going gentle into that good night.
And God bless Franz Wright, too.
December 31, 2009 at 4:46 am (Abigail Deutsch, Alan Cordle, christopher woodman, Desmond Swords, Harriet, Poetry Foundation, Scarriet, Thomas Brady, Uncategorized)
As everybody who’s interested in poetry knows, The Poetry Foundation has banned me, Alan Cordle, along with Christopher Woodman, Thomas Brady, Desmond Swords, and who knows how many others. So it seems odd that staffers there incessantly and obsessively read this blog and our side projects.
Granted, they seem to be out of ideas and desperately unable to encourage dialogue, and the statistics are certainly painful. It’s no wonder they’re now “borrowing” from Scarriet. And by borrowing, I mean “stealing.”
On December 8, 2009, The Poetry Foundation published the following article by Abigail Deutsch:
This would have been fine if Scarriet’s Thomas Brady had not published a post entitled The Good Bad Poem just 10 days earlier.
“This is no coincidence,” Thomas Brady tells me.
“My article originated because I happened to take an old book out of the library, it wasn’t from any current event . . . Abigail got her idea from Scarriet. Well, well, well. I’ve commented on it just now on ‘The Good Bad Poem’ on Scarriet.”
New Year’s Resolution for The Poetry Foundation and Harriet: stop preying on the intellectual property of Scarriet. After all, some organizations make plagiarists walk the plank.
Others just vaporize the opposition!
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.
December 3, 2009 at 1:50 pm (Amber Tamblyn, Blog:Harriet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Scarriet)
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
November 26, 2009 at 5:18 am (Blog:Harriet, Harriet Monroe, POETRY, Scarriet, Uncategorized)
………………………………………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.
November 25, 2009 at 10:31 am (Amber Tamblyn, Blog:Harriet, Don Share, Poetry Foundation, Scarriet, Travis Nichols, Uncategorized)
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!)
November 22, 2009 at 6:38 am (Bin Ramke, C.S.Lewis, Chogyam Trungpa, christopher woodman, David Lehman, Ezra Pound, F.R.Leavis, Hilda Dolittle, Joan Houlihan, Kenyon Review, Marilyn Hacker, Modern Poetry, Modernism, Poets & Writers, Scarriet, Stephen Burt, Thomas Brady, Tony Woodman, Uncategorized)
Tony Woodman and me at the Gran Prix of Czechoslovakia, Brno, 1963
My hunch is that your emphasis on “rhyme” in your previous article is going to be misunderstood. I think it will give those who don’t want to hear you at all the excuse not to read you, and may weaken your argument even for those that are willing to give what you say a try.
Let me say this first: I’m a curious critic because I’m so sophisticated yet so naive and trusting — I know so much (or at least ought to, considering the length and expense of my education) and yet am so obviously an innocent. I deliberately didn’t say ‘ill-informed’ there, because what I do know I know quite well, and my eyes are always wide-open. It’s just that I’ve only been engaged with the history of ‘modern poetry’ since I started writing it at 50, and have never sat in a modern poetry lecture and rarely attended a reading, have scarcely ever even started to read a contemporary literary-historical text, know no editors and only one poet who just happened to come to my house in Chiang Mai last Christmas. And of course I only got interested in ‘Modernism’ when I realized that the 14 precious packets I had sent to Bin Ramke over the years at Georgia probably never even got opened, and that my 8 packets to Tupelo hadn’t deterred its editor from sending me a form letter pretending to be a personal critique of my work and suggesting that just $295.00 more might make all the difference. Then Joan Houlihan scolded me in public (P&W, Nov 2006) for my limited understanding of editing and publishing poetry while praising the very editors who had abused me, and I knew modern American poetry was in deep trouble.
And of course, Joan Houlihan was right, too, in a sense, but I’m still nowhere near ready to concede that the situation she regards as normal is ethically acceptable or conducive to the development of good poetry. Indeed, for challenging just that I’ve been banned on-line by P&W, The AoAP, and The Poetry Foundation — not a very promising start to a new career, particularly not at 70, but revealing.
So what should you call me, then, and how can my input be useful?
Hardly a “noble savage,” as my style is too perfect even if my content is analphabet. Yet I am a “peasant” in poetry when you compare me with somebody like Stephen Burt or David Lehman, for example — and indeed, one of the reasons I got put “on moderation” (aka censorship) at Blog:Harriet so early was that I annoyed the hell out of people who knew a hell of a lot more than I did. Yes, who was I to strew the nice Harriet ground with metaphors that exploded with such devastating effect, even taking out the management? [Click here for a fatal example]
What I have (and this is all about that word “rhyme,” of course, Tom) is my Rip Van Winkle status, a contemporary poet back from the dead. Because my anomaly is that I was so highly and successfully educated in literature (Columbia, Yale, King’s College, Cambridge, summa cum laude, phi beta kappa, Woodrow Wilson, Kellett Fellow [a whole decade before David Lehman!], C.S.Lewis, F.R.Leavis, Fellow of Christs, you name it) yet I never got educated in modern poetry, not once. So I go straight from the 30s in which I was born and jump straight to 1992 in which I got published for the very first time by Marilyn Hacker in The Kenyon Review — sans mentor, sans prize, sans compromise.
So I can see a lot — and since I’m much too old for success, and nobody is ever going to hire me what’s more give me a prize, I’m free to burn any bridges I want behind me, which is rare.
A “noble non-starter,” I might be called, playing on Joan Hoilihan’s “loser.” Or a “noble non-shopper,” or a “noble non-whopper,” or a “noble non-accredited accomplisher” — because the irony is that my publishing credits are not bad at all, considering my age and when I started, but I have no position and no reputation to advance or defend.
So “rhyme,” then, Tom. I’m sure you know exactly what you mean by the word, and you do know the literary-historical details like the back of your hand. But what you don’t know first hand is the snobbery that lies behind the creation of modernism, the revulsion with which those early 20th century poets around Pound and Hilda Dolittle rejected the late 19th century mush so loved by those who had just emerged from the crude working class. Because the Hallmark-type “rhyme” was not the actual hallmark of the verse they despised, but rather the feel-good sentimentality which celebrated the feeling you got when you sat down at last to ‘dinner’ together around a ‘table’ or ‘read’ together in the ‘parlor’ — which factory workers were still not going to do in Britain or America for a long time to come (which is a huge social and educational grey area, of course, and not yet quite out of the bag like what happened to the Native Americans!).
That’s what I know about more than most of you who are reading this and interested in our struggle. Because I was brought up in the 19th century, and I was a snob and mush made me feel unclean too, so I know the feeling only too well. I spent my early years in Gladstone, New Jersey, after all, the Gold Coast, and in my American childhood never met an African-American or a Jew and very few Catholics not descendants of Diamond Jim Brady (my mother’s family in Boston in the 30s didn’t mix with the Kennedys, who were Irish like the servants, and my mother was terribly distressed when I named my second daughter Delia Orlando, the middle name also being mistaken for Italian!).
And to our great credit, but goodness knows why, we ran, my brothers and I — my younger brother westward to Wyoming, myself eastward to Cambridge, and our older brother just really really fast (he was the first American to have a big success in Gran Prix motorcycle racing in Europe until he broke his back in the Northwest 200 in Ireland in 1965.) And I ran, and I kept bees, and I fiddled around with Trungpa, and I sailed, but mostly just fell in love with my wonderfully wrong women — and little by little I sloughed off that good taste and sense of superiority which went along with the family silver (I still have a trunkful somewhere, and enough 18th century willow pattern china to serve you all at once, though goodness knows where that is as well) — and now I’m writing to you like the fool…
No, it’s not the rhyme, Tom — it’s the snobbery of a new intellectual class that is still not too secure and needs to put a lot of distance between itself and the petit bourgeois poetry that makes sense when you finally arrive on the first rungs of the new upwardly mobile America.
And should the ‘petit bourgeois poetry’ of the 19th and early 20th centuries be re-evaluated, then, should that forgotten corpus be restored to grace? Hardly, but the alternative “make it new” movement at the opposite extreme must be re-assessed as ‘petit bourgeois poetry’s’ shadow, in the Jungian sense, so that those aspects of our western poetry traditin that got debased and/or hidden by ‘Modernism’ can be brought out into the open and liberated — like feeling, like music, like value and meaning and even, when its applicable, like rhyme. Indeed, all the underpinnings of Modernism must be fearlessly re-examined, and it’s tendency to sew new clothes for the emperor ruthlessly exposed, as we’re doing — and how the courtiers do kick and howl!
That’s our theme, of course, and it’s a big one, and one for which I think I’m well-equipped even with just a small “compatty hammer” [click here] in my hand.
November 19, 2009 at 1:58 pm (Fanny Brawne, Helen Vendler, I.A. Richards, John Keats, Lilly Pharmaceutical, Prozac, Ron Silliman, Scarriet, Stephen Burt)
In a recent article, Poetry and Project Runway, on the Poetry Foundation’s Website, Stephen Burt, some guy who attended Oxford and Harvard and now is trying to be the next Helen Vendler (see Scarriet’s piece on the Dr. Phil of Criticism) defends his rosy view that a criticism is not a criticism—that critics should ignore the bad. Scarriet recently pointed out that this is like telling a philosopher to ignore the bad. Put this way, Burt’s rosy view appears silly, which is proper.
In this essay, Burt uses the TV show Project Runway as a platform for his pedantry.
“Project Runway,” Burt informs us, “holds lessons for poetry critics,” but first we must learn “how the TV show works.”
Contestants design clothes.
Enter Stephen Burt with ill-fitting analogy.
“Ron Silliman has examined the show at length” and “a poetry blogger from New Zealand” has blogged on the idea of “Poetry Runway,” so Burt is ready to launch. [click here]
Ruffles, buttons, ribbons, white T-shirt, striped button-down, jacket…ready.
“Poets, like clothes designers, love technical challenges.”
Design a dress made from newspaper. Write a poem about a red wheel barrow. OK.
I.A. Richards, Burt informs us, encouraged his students to make “snap judgments” on “unfamiliar poems” in an exercise of “Practical Criticism.”
Judging is Fun. Alright. So far, so good.
But now Burt wades into deeper waters.
And is quickly in over his head.
Happily reveling in the fact that TV overlapping poetry is pretty cool, Burt reaches for his drug of choice:
The happy drug, designed by the Lilly pharmaceutical company.
“Aspects of the TV show,” he tells us, make him “uneasy” in terms of “how we judge poems.”
The show, Burt warns, tends to highlight “contestants who flounder.”
Criticism. Not good in the world of Stephen Burt.
Burt informs us what works on TV–and “rightly so” (Burt doesn’t want to appear as a scold)–are “flagrant failures” and “life stories.”
A TV show, Burt admits, “devoted wholly to winners’ techniques—how to sew this and pleat that, how to get collars right—might not even make sense to me.”
Now Burt gets down to the nitty-gritty:
“Those truths [popular appeal of negative focus and life stories] affect, not only the judging of hurriedly-assembled cocktail dresses on television, but the reading and reviewing of new poems. The broader the audience, or potential audience, the harder it is to talk about technique, and the more tempting it is to fall back on the poet’s life: Keats‘s tuberculosis, or his failed romance with Fanny Brawne; Robert Browning‘s successful romance with Elizabeth; Emily Dickinson‘s isolation (so often exaggerated); William Carlos Williams‘s medical practice, and so on.”
Burt’s reasoning is fatally flawed on two counts.
1. Does he really believe reviews of “new poems” are marred by reports of medical ills and romantic intrigues? When is the last time a review of a new book of poems came down the pike with delicious details of the poet’s love life? Is this really an issue, today? Note that all of Burt’s examples are poets born in the 19th century. Is it really true that poets born in 1980 are aesthetically challenged–because reviewers and critics keep focusing on their romances?
2. Any legitimate historical, philosophical, and cultural view of Keats that flies above mere New Criticism would obviously need to pay attention to a great deal more than Keats’ “turberculosis.” (Though someone should tell Mr. Burt it was kind of a big deal—it killed him.) Meet Mr. Burt’s straw man. Mr. Burt evades the responsibility of the critic who whould investigate more than “getting collars right” by categorizing biography as “failed romance” or “TB.” Burt, the New Critic, derides biography, and thus historical scholarship, by diminishing its scope—assuming the topic is little more than sordid gossip.
Burt is most troubled, however, by “the dangerous ease of a focus on failure.” What does this mean? Why isn’t he worried about a “dangerous ease of a focus on” glib praise? The latter is far more prevalent than the former, and surely Burt’s prozac approach to poetry has a lot to do with this bland and sorry state of affairs in the first place. Burt is like someone who complains of a bean bag’s hardness.
Mr. Burt now sheds the playful attitude he had towards the TV show completely, Silliman’s appreciation be damned:
“Project Runway gets most of its suspense by punishing failures.”
Shades of Blackwoods! Say it ‘aint so, Professor!
Unable to face even the idea of failure, Burt, seeking out more serotonin, announces: “But it’s not good for readers and critics to treat poets this way.”
Burt demands nice—or else.
Critics must be nice to poets.
Great. The prozac is kicking in.
Burt quotes Randall Jarrell, saying we should judge poets by good poems. Well, sure. Judge poets accomplished by their good poems. Sort of obvious, isn’t it? Pope warned against fastidiously finding fault if the poem triumphs as a whole, and this is more to the point: we should protect ourselves against the pedant—but Burt wants to protect us against the truth.
Because Wordsworth wrote dreck at times and was faulted for it, Burt proclaims, “Wordsworth would have never lasted on Project Runway.” But he did. He’s Wordsworth.
Now Burt brings out the heavy artillery: “Reviewers and critics and readers of poetry should consult, first and last, ourselves.”
A noble sentiment, but what if “ourselves” is a prozac buzz?
Finally, the bow-tied New Critic steps from behind the Reality TV curtain: What is important, Burt intones, is “whether and how poets can make it work.”
The very phrasing is right off the New Criticism rack: doctrinaire, tweedy, and square-jawed, with a whiff of the musty.
A little tip for Stephen Burt (and Helen Vendler):
1. A criticism is a criticism.
2. Criticism should consider everything–the poet’s mentors, associates, politics, in short, the life.
3. Use tact and taste (this goes without saying).
November 17, 2009 at 9:51 pm (Alan Cordle, christopher woodman, Foetry, Monday Love, Scarriet, Thomas Brady, Thomas Graves, TomWest, Uncategorized)
Thomas Graves, a.k.a., Monday Love, a.k.a. Thomas Brady–poet & oxygen-sucking blogger.
Alan Cordle was the mind of Foetry.com. Christopher Woodman was its heart. Monday Love was its soul. Monday Love’s anonymous poems on Foetry.com have received over 74,000 hits–and counting. The impulse of the true poet–who cares who wrote them?
The following poem, in which ‘telling all’ destroys the poet, is more than just a confessional poem; in the new post-foetry climate, the paradoxical reigns: self-pity turns into a boast; anonymity is the way to be more revealing.
…..Poetry Is Where You Tell All
…………Poetry is where you tell all.
…………It takes no talent or skill.
..……….Make yourself small
…………By telling all.
…………Poetry does not take learning.
…………It is but a fury, a burning,
…………A passion which makes you small
…………By telling all.
…………You enter rooms watching your back,
…………Your life in place, your pride intact.
…………But you must burn, crash and fall
…………By telling all.
November 16, 2009 at 7:10 pm ("Make it new", Cezanne, Cubism, Curtis Faville, Dial Prize, Ezra Pound, Foetry, Imagists, Marianne Moore, Modern Poetry, Modernism, Paul Bunyan, Picasso, Robert Browning, Ron Silliman, Scarriet, Scofield Thayer, Surrealism, T.S.Eliot, Thomas Brady, Uncategorized, William Carlos Williams)
Do American poetasters love their William Carlos Williams, or what? They dream William Carlos Williams. Their tails wag when they hear the name, “William Carlos Williams.” At the end of their lives, with their last breath, they cry out, “William Carlos Williams!”
William Carlos Williams is both naked and covered in –isms. He’s everything!
Here’s a typical gushing paean from Curtis Faville on Silliman’s blog– the whole sentiment expressed has become a ritual repeated ad nauseam:
“Williams began as a very traditional poet, writing rhymed poems about Spring and love and delicate ironies. But by the mid-’Twenties he had pushed into formally challenging constructions influenced by Cubism, Surrealism and the speech of the common people. Hardly anyone had thought to make poems out of the simple vocabulary and inflections of conversational speech, he was really the first to do it well.
In addition, he managed to throw out all the fluff and lace of traditional cliches and make little naked constructions from the raw timber of American life. They look like scaffoldings, their structure plain and unadorned like a newly framed house. “The pure products of America go crazy”–who else would have thought to write a line as accessible (and telling at the same time) as Williams? Their deceptive simplicity masks a complex kinetic energy which the line-breaks and stanzaic pauses and settings underscore.”
–Curtis Faville, July 2008, Silliman’s blog
Among the chattering classes, sprachgefuhl will take on a mind of its own, but Williams-worship is unconsciously ingrained to the point now where a healthy curiosity on these matters has been bottled up completely.
Faville and his somnambulant ilk are apparently too sleepy to see the contradictions here. We count 13 in Faville’s brief post alone:
- ‘Williams began as a very traditional poet.’ He did, and he was being published in ‘Poetry’ as a very traditional poet with his friend Pound. All but the very gullible will quickly assume Williams was an item not because of his groundbreaking poetry, but because of his membership in a clique. Why would his hack rhymes be published, otherwise?
- ‘By the mid-‘Twenties he pushed into formally challenging constructions.’ Ahem. The Dial Prize in 1926 was Williams’ first real public recognition; the editor of ‘The Dial’ in 1926 was Marianne Moore. The content of the ‘The Dial’ was mostly European avant-garde: Picasso, Cezanne & T.S. Eliot (who won the ‘Dial Prize’ in 1922). Williams was not ‘pushing.’ He was being pulled. He was 43 years old and had known Pound for years—he was finally ‘getting with the program’ and doing what the clique required. Moore won the Dial Prize in 1924—she had known then-Dial editor Scofield Thayer (T.S. Eliot’s old schoolmate at Milton Academy), as well as Pound and William Carlos Williams for years at that time.
- ‘Influenced by Cubism, Surrealism and the speech of the common people. How nifty. ‘Cubism’ (!) and ‘Surrealism’ (!) ‘the speech of the common people.’ Yea, they go hand in hand. Maybe in some pedant’s dream…
- ‘Hardly anyone had thought to make poems out of the simple vocabulary…’ This is utterly false. Compare any century of poetry with Williams–his vocabulary is not simpler.
- ‘Hardly anyone had thought to make poems out of the inflections of conversational speech.’ Again, false. Robert Browning is far more conversational than Williams. Williams’ poetry is actually less ‘conversational’ than examples from the 17th century.
- ‘He was really the first to do it well.’ Another whopper.
- ‘He managed to throw out all the fluff and lace of traditional clichés…’ Oh-kay… William Carlos Williams personally threw out ALL the so-called ‘fluff and lace’ which centuries of poetry is burdened with. Every so-called ‘traditional cliché’ evaporated before Williams’ magic touch.
- ‘Little naked constructions.’ What are these? Elf robots which dance in poetaster’s dreams?
- ‘raw timber of American life.’ William Carlos Williams as Paul Bunyan…
- ‘They look like scaffoldings’ We are not sure what ‘they’ are. Ideas? Poems? Fragments of poems? By now, of course, it doesn’t matter…
- ‘their structure plain and unadorned…’ Ah, yes. They’re ‘raw.’ They’re honest.
- ‘Who else would have thought to write a line as accessible (and telling at the same time) as… “The pure products of America go crazy.” This is accessible? And telling?
- ‘Their deceptive simplicity masks a complex kinetic energy…’ OK, we’ve heard enough.
Egad! We can quote from this hyperbole no longer.
What’s that? WC Williams’ ghost is a Martian! and he’s beaming radio transmissions of kinetic energy to selected earthlings like Curtis Faville?
Why didn’t someone tell me?
This explains everything!
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 14, 2009 at 6:21 am (Alan Cordle, AWP, David Lehman, Foetry, Poets & Writers, Scarriet, Seth Abramson, Stacey Harwood)
Poets and Writers magazine published Seth Abramson’s (middle left) MFA program rankings in the last issue of 2009 [click here]. Stacey Harwood (bottom left), wife of Best American Poetry series editor, David Lehman (top left), wrote on the BAP blog that Abramson’s ratings are “based on bogus research methods. The author of the rankings has no credentials as a pollster.”
In the comments field she says, “we have received several comments from Mr. Abramson, which we cannot post not only because they are far too long but because they are inappropriate and defamatory.”
One wonders if the “inappropriate” comments mentioned that Lehman published Harwood as one of the best American poets without acknowledging their relationship.
AWP sided with Lehman and Harwood.
Now Seth Abramson’s blog is missing.
Luckily, I saved his response to Lehman, which reads in part,
Three years ago I objected (as an artist) to the editorial work of David Lehman on the Best American Poetry series on the grounds that habitually and indisputably publishing your friends, co-workers, students, assistants, and family members in a nationally-publicized, highly-selective annual anthology is not a creditable editorial policy per se–and is therefore an affront to art . . . more than two years ago–I became embroiled in a Wikipedia-editing debate with Mr. Lehman’s wife (Stacey Harwood) about whether the Wikipedia entry for Best American Poetry should acknowledge that, historically, the series has been criticized in the poetry community for cronyism.
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 8, 2009 at 10:51 pm (Camille Paglia, David Lehman, Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson, Ezra Pound, Frank O'Hara, Harold Bloom, Imagists, John Keats, Modern Poetry, Modernism, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Scarriet, Stephen Burt, T.S.Eliot, Thomas Brady, Uncategorized, W.H.Auden, Wallace Stevens, William Butler Yeats, William Carlos Williams, William Logan, Yvor Winters)
David Lehman uses half his introduction to Best American Poetry 2009 to attack William Logan.
Now we know things are really out of hand.
Lehman creeps up on his prey by first alluding to negative criticism in general:
“The notion that the job of the critic is to find fault with the poetry — that the aims of criticism and of poetry are opposed — is still with us or, rather, has returned after a hiatus.”
But who would argue against the idea that one of the functions of criticism is to find fault with poetry? Lehman implies that this “hiatus” was a good thing. No finding fault with poetry! Ever!
Even if Lehman is speaking of criticism rather than reviewing, why shouldn’t criticism be able to find fault?
“The critical essays of T. S. Eliot and W. H. Auden are continuous with their poems and teach us that criticism is a matter not of enforcing the “laws of aesthetics” or meting out sentences as a judge might pronounce them in court. Rather, the poet as critic engages with works of literature and enriches our understanding and enjoyment of them. Yet today more than a few commentators seem intent on punishing the authors they review. It has grown into a phenomenon.”
Lehman has obviously never read T.S. Eliot’s criticism of Edgar Poe (From Poe to Valery, 1949) in which Eliot “punishes” Poe severely. Poe alone has been attacked by any number of critics: Yvor Winters, Aldous Huxley, Harold Bloom, T.S Eliot, Joseph Wood Krutch, and earlier this year in the New Yorker by a history professor at Harvard. In fact, there has been no “hiatus” when the target is America’s greatest writer. Negative reviewing was, of course, practiced by Poe, among other things, and Poe said it very explicitly: “A criticism is just that—a criticism.”
When Lehman says, “A critic engages with works of literature and enriches our understanding and enjoyment of them” he sounds like a person who wants to eat without chewing. When did “enjoyment” of literature preclude honest opinion about it? Does Lehman seriously believe that being “nice” to a poem is how we “enjoy” it? What does he think we are? Little kids?
Lehman, like Camille Paglia, is dismissive of ‘French Theory:’
“The characteristic badness of literary criticism in the 1980s was that it was heavily driven by theory and saddled with an unlovely vocabulary. T. S. Eliot, in “The Function of Criticism” (1923), says he “presumes” that “no exponent of criticism” has “ever made the preposterous assumption that criticism is an autotelic activity” — that is, an activity to be undertaken as an end in itself without connection to a work of literature. Eliot did not figure on post-structuralism and the critic’s declaration of independence from the text. If you wanted criticism “constantly to be confronted with examples of poetry,” as R. P. Blackmur recommends in “A Critic’s Job of Work,” you were in for a bad time in the 1980s.”
But even worse than critics off in a world of their own, according to Lehman, are critics who review poetry without being nice:
“Every critic knows it is easier (and more fun) to write a ruthless review rather than a measured one. As a reviewer, you’re not human if you don’t give vent to your outrage once or twice — if only to get the impulse out of you. If you have too good a time writing hostile reviews, you’ll injure not only your sensibility but your soul. Frank O’Hara felt he had no responsibility to respond to a bad poem. It’ll “slip into oblivion without my help,” he would say.”
Actually, it’s not “easier” to write a “ruthless” review–erudition and patience go into “ruthless” reviews all the time. It’s easier to be funny, perhaps, when being ruthless; this, I will grant, but ruthless without humor falls flat; ruthless and humorous is devastating–the review every poet fears.
As for O’Hara’s remark–echoed by contemporary critic Stephen Burt: Isn’t the critic a philosopher? And when would you ever tell a philosopher: ‘only write about the good stuff?’
Now Lehman goes after his real target–William Logan.
“William Logan typifies the bilious reviewer of our day. He has attacked, viciously, a great many American poets; I, too, have been the object of his scorn. Logan is the critic as O’Hara defined the species: “the assassin of my orchards.” You can rely on him to go for the most wounding gesture. Michael Palmer writes a “Baudelaire Series” of poems, for example, and Logan comments, “Baudelaire would have eaten Mr. Palmer for breakfast, with salt.” The poems of Australian poet Les Murray seem “badly translated out of Old Church Slavonic with only a Russian phrase book at hand.” Reviewing a book by Adrienne Rich is a task that Logan feels he could almost undertake in his sleep. Reading C. K. Williams is “like watching a dog eat its own vomit.”
For many years, Logan reserved his barbs for the poets of our time. More recently he has sneered at Emily Dickinson (“a bloodless recluse”) and condescended to Emerson (“a mediocre poet”).”
Oh Lehman, stop being such a big baby. Emerson was a mediocre poet. Logan has praised Dickinson’s work–calling her a ‘bloodless recluse’ is well…kinda…true. Should there really be a law against giving Frank O’Hara or C.K. Williams or Hart Crane a bad review?
Far better poets have been far more vilified–and for political reasons, too.
Logan is merely expressing his taste.
Lehman, you shouldn’t take this so personally.
One person finds the weather too cold and goes indoors; another remains outside because they find the weather pleasant.
‘But,’ Lehman might reply, ‘ poets are not the weather, they create in order to please.’
All the more reason why there should be a wider divergence of opinion on poems than the weather.
Poems ask us to love them, and in ways far more nuanced than a breezy, foggy evening balanced between warm and cold.
There is nothing worse for poetry in general than telling people they have to like it. Critics like Poe and Logan actually help the cake to rise.
Don’t you remember what Keats said about the talking primrose? It tells us to like it. So we don’t.
It goes without saying that I don’t agree with all of Logan’s judgments, but simple common sense impels this question:
Which statement is crazier?
I don’t like Hart Crane’s poetry.
Everyone has to like Hart Crane’s poetry.
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)
“To grasp the essence of what our species has been and still is: this is at once political, personal… and poetical.”
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?
November 5, 2009 at 9:47 pm (Alan Cordle, Blog:Harriet, Camille Paglia, Edgar Allan Poe, Ezra Pound, Foetry, Jorie Graham, Modern Poetry, Scarriet, Thomas Brady, Uncategorized)
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?
November 4, 2009 at 8:40 pm ("Make it new", Ezra Pound, Fugitives, Haiku, Imagists, John Crowe Ransom, Modern Poetry, Modernism, Russo-Japanese War, Scarriet, Southern Agrarians, Thomas Brady, Uncategorized, William Butler Yeats, William Carlos Williams, Yone Noguchi)
Everyone knows the Poetic Modernism Revolution begain with the Imagists, but few appreciate the role of poet, fiction writer, and critic, Yone Noguchi (1875-1947) –the Japanese Ezra Pound.
Noguchi conquered the West in three steps: San Francisco, 1893-1900; New York City, 1901-1904; and England, 1903 & 1913. He befriended William Michael Rossetti (one of the seven founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood), Arthur Symons, William Butler Yeats, and Thomas Hardy. Not bad.
Noguchi got raves in Poetry magazine as a pioneering modernist, thanks to his early advocacy of free verse and association with modernist writers Ezra Pound, Richard Aldington, and John Gould Fletcher. (Fletcher, from Arkansas, was part of Pound’s circle, and, later, John Crowe Ransom’s Southern Agrarians.)
So Noguchi pushed all the Modernist buttons: Pre-Raphaelite, Pound’s Euro-circle, Agrarian New Critics, and Chicago’s ‘Poetry.’ Bingo.
Modernism is usually associated with WW I, but the Russo-Japanese War played a key role on more than one level.
Noguchi’s suggestion to write haiku in his “A Proposal To American Poets” had a great impact in the wake of Japan’s stunning victory (aided by Japan’s alliance with Great Britain) in the 1904 Russo-Japanese War, as Japan took the world stage by storm. Britain gained as a sea power in competition with Russia–soon rocked by revolution after its humiliating defeat by Japan.
Now, what are WC Williams‘ ‘The Red Wheel Barrow’ and Pound’s “In A Station Of the Metro” but haiku (and rather bad ones at that)?
The Modernists would rather not call Pound and Williams writers of haiku. It makes the whole ‘Imagiste revolution’ seem a little quaint and second-hand.
Also, World War I is a lot sexier than the Russo-Japanese War.
So there’s a good reason why today Yone Naguchi never shows up in the history of Modernist verse.
Oh, and just to complete the Pound analogy; Noguchi gradually became more militaristic and ended fully supporting Japan’s imperial war designs in World War II.
Crush the West! They never did get Haiku.
November 3, 2009 at 10:51 pm ("Make it new", Amber Tamblyn, Blog:Harriet, Poetry Foundation, Rebecca Wolff, Scarriet, Thomas Brady, Uncategorized)
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!
November 3, 2009 at 12:06 pm (Amelia Earhart, Barren Virgin, Bleeding Mother, Camille Paglia, Edgar Allan Poe, Foetry, Harold Bloom, Horror, John Keats, Monday Love, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Scarriet, Socrates, Thomas Brady, Uncategorized)
WHAT HAPPENED TO CAMILLE PAGLIA?
ALL communication is a warning.
The more articulate a person, the more they are experiencing what they are warning us about.
All information presupposes danger. The menu cries out against the horror of starvation–the diet warns of the menu. The chef who starves cooks best.
Priests are unable to warn directly, since the more articulate the priest, the more that priest personally knows the very sin against which their sermon is a warning.
The dilemma of the articulate priest is at the heart of all moral philosophy and its intellectual, political, cultural, and pedagogical conflicts.
Loyalty is the quality which attempts to stave off this conflict. Loyalty to group or tribe warns against the dilemma of the articulate priest. The truly articulate priest disrupts loyalty and its certainties; this is why prophets are hated in their own land.
Camille Paglia is an articulate priest who smashes loyalites. She offends all groups. All have reason to despise her: Democrats, Republicans, independents, feminists, conservatives, gays, Catholics, and scholars.
Paglia is the Barren Mother and the Breeding Virgin of intellectual culture.
She is a lustful Socrates, whose questing, intellectual advocacy is centered on ecstatic pleasures and sexual beauty–hers is a warning against what she, personally, has secretly suffered: chastity.
Obviously it’s nobody’s business how much someone gets laid, but my thesis is based on a guess that during Paglia’s development as a young person, she didn’t get laid. This was both her strength and her weakness.
Paglia fell in love at a very early age with Amelia Earhart’s lone flights—the poem “Alone” by Edgar Poe probably best sums up her soul. Paglia was a virgin during the 60s and adopted the brazen lesbian role as a graduate student to hide the shame of her uncool virginity.
Paglia, the scholar of sex, shone, as the scholar, herself, remained virginal, or, if not virginal, deeply ashamed of losing out to more successful schmoozers in sex and career.
The virgin is alone more profoundly when surrounded, and not barred from, sexual activity. For whatever reason, actual sex wasn’t a fit, so Paglia became an artistic fan of pornography—but not out of a feeling of deficiency, for she was an Amelia Earhart in her soul, flying above the boorish crowd.
We warn of what we know—the awed, hurting mind produces what the sensual, happy mind cannot.
Sexual Personae marked the start of a brilliant career. Her gadfly presence in magazines and the lecture circuit, in the wake of the success of her historical treatise, was truly exciting. But the promised second volume of Sexual Personae never arrived. Then she began to write on politics, speaking of presidents and secretaries of state as if she were making snarky judgments at a high school dance. It never quite rang true.
Paglia also boxed herself in as a hater of ‘French Theory;’ it was always obvious to me this prejudice of hers was linked to her mentor, Harold Bloom, who, like many academics, is explicitly pro-Emerson/anti-Poe, and this Anglophone school can never forgive the French for loving Poe.
Then she took five years to write Break, Blow, Burn, her book on poetry, a tepid close-reading exercise of some of her favorite poems.
How in the world did the author of Sexual Personae morph into Cleanth Brooks?
And five years…think of it. That’s the writing career of Keats, the recording career of the Beatles (almost), the entire career of the Doors, to take a few dozen short poems, many loved and adored since childhood, and riff on them…this took five years?
Couldn’t most of us do this in a week?
Paglia still blogs on Salon and most readers hate her; the consensus of Salon readers seems to be, I HATE THIS B***, FIRE HER!!!
Which is great. We at Scarriet understand. But what happened to you, Camille?
November 1, 2009 at 3:52 pm (Atlanta Review, Blog:Harriet, christopher woodman, Pushcart Prize, Scarriet, Uncategorized)
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!
October 31, 2009 at 4:10 am (Alfred Hitchcock, Bright Star, Camille Paglia, Edgar Allan Poe, Horror, John Keats, Poetry Foundation, Scarriet, Thomas Brady, Uncategorized)
HORROR, the genre, must be horrible because horror, the reality, stalks us daily; the relief of laughter, and the relief of revery inspired by beauty, both exist partially as an antidote to anxiety. Directly confronting fear (in a horror film, for instance) triggers a physical response which competes with laughter–a bodily response–and pleasurable swooning–also a physical response. The comedic, the beautiful and the horrific are sisters. Art deftly combines them, and the skill in combining these three marks the great artist.
Fictional horror gives a crude psycho-physical pleasure in the use of contrast as it diminishes the banal horror of ordinary worries and anxiety–the less intense dread we feel in varying degrees in our own lives.
The cure is the poison itself; fear in life seeks out more intense fear in stories; ironically, more palpable fear comes to us through fiction; the horror genre is a vaccine of ‘dead’ (fictive) horror for our ‘live’ (real) anxieties.
But why does horror have to be horrible when it can be comedic and beautiful too–and not merely full of horror? We can have our poem and eat it; the art that is beautiful and comedic and terrifying all at once is the greatest gift art can give.
Alfred Hitchcock won no Oscars, and the terrifying film “Bright Star” will win none, and Poe, who they say ‘is not really that scary’ (of course not! his genius was not merely out to scare) was the Hitchcock of his day, winning no ‘Oscars’ (Poe was shut out by the literary establishment, despite his popularity). I’ll name one more figure who fits into the category of aesthetic balance–and for that reason gets rejected by various camps: Camille Paglia. A highly controversial, contradictory, but rich, thinker, (who has wasted her talent on political blogging to some extent) Paglia provides more than single-genre types can chew on.
On this Halloween, here’s to celebrating books, films, and art that are scary, funny and beautiful in tasteful, ingenious combination.
Take fright and add a little light. The dark doesn’t have to be so stark.
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 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)
October 23, 2009 at 4:18 pm (Blog:Harriet, Charlie Brown, christopher woodman, Gary B. Fitzgerald, Kenneth Goldsmith, Modern Poetry, Scarriet, Stephen Burt, Uncategorized, 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 22, 2009 at 3:18 pm (Charles Bernstein, Dancing with the Stars, Helen Vendler, Joan Houlihan, Monday Love, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Scarriet, Thomas Brady, Uncategorized)
For Scarriet’s many friends from the U.K. and Down-under, Dancing with the Stars is a popular American TV show in which a dancing star partners with a celebrity who cannot dance, and the couples compete in front of judges.
HERE WE GO!
..Joan Houlihan …………..and …………….Percy Bysshe Shelley
Dancers, take your places.
Both poems we are looking at by Houlihan and Shelley are songs.
In Shelley’s poem, the music supplies helpful adornment, pleasing the investigator of Shelley’s idea– as the music harmonizes with Shelley’s idea.
The purpose of poetic speech is NOT to make language “opaque,” or to make the reader aware of language’s “materiality,” or to “problematize language” by making it less “transparent.” These are the words of Helen Vendler, who sought to agree with Charles Bernstein as she expressed this opinion at the October 1984 Alabama Poetry Conference, hosted by Hank Lazer.
Vendler’s analogy fails.
Language is NOT glass; transparency is the character of glass, and coloring it alters mood as well as vision, until too much darkening ends the function of the glass as glass.
Language, let us repeat, is NOT transparent like glass; even the simplest language is NOT simple, and Bernstein with his Cambridge Analytic philosophy background would be the first to understand this. Language is NOT transparent; it is made transparent through the poet’s harmonizing skill. Seeking opacity, as Vendler recommends to the poet, burdens the muse unnecessarily.
Rhyme, meter, metaphor, and assonance are not strategies in the direction of opacity, but are harmonizing elements in the direction of transparency.
Pater’s “hard, gem-like flame” has bewitched many an aesthete—but poetry has more to do with air and light than stone or concentrated flame. The skill of the poet adds transparency to language, it does not take it away; “difficult,” muddy, opaque language brings out materiality in a way that might please a Valery, but thickness of tongue and poor handling of theme inevitably create an opacity that finally hinders poetry’s higher design.
As we compare the Houlihan and Shelley, note how Shelley’s theme is transparent and rich with harmonic accompaniment.
Compare this to Houlihan’s poem: her theme lacks transparency; Houlihan’s theme is obscure, it lacks focus; thus her song-like attempts at opacity lack harmony.
As we see in the Shelley, harmony should be the end of language’s materiality, the materiality should never be an end in itself–unless we are writing pure nonsense poetry.
We can see in Houlihan’s poem the less than happy result of reaching after materiality or opacity as a capricious end in itself.
In her poem, “I Sing To You, Offering Human Sound,” words like “here,” “finger,” “hair,” and “weather” do present the reader with a powerful potential for harmony; the mere resemblance does please to a certain degree, but the poem’s theme, as rich and mysterious and heart-felt as it is, is neither robustly presented, nor clear; it wanders too much, and thus the opacity is finally wasted, for the web of the poem’s language is unable to contribute to the harmony of the poem as a whole.
Shelley’s “An Exhortation” is problematic, as well, and feels like a ‘throw-away’ by a young poet in some respects, but Shelley’s genius for harmony and transparency shines upon the reader in no small degree, despite his theme’s highly metaphoric and fanciful nature.
…………………..by Percy Shelley
Chameleons feed on light and air:
Poets’ food is love and fame:
If in this wide world of care
Poets could but find the same
With as little toil as they,
Would they ever change their hue
As the light chameleons do,
Suiting it to every ray
Twenty times a day?
Poets are on this cold earth,
As chameleons might be,
Hidden from their early birth
In a cave beneath the sea;
Where light is, chameleons change:
Where love is not, poets do:
Fame is love disguised: if few
Find either, never think it strange
That poets range.
Yet dare not stain with wealth or power
A poet’s free and heavenly mind:
If bright chameleons should devour
Any food but beams and wind,
They would grow as earthly soon
As their brother lizards are.
Children of a sunnier star,
Spirits from beyond the moon,
O, refuse the boon!
I Sing to You, Offering Human Sound
…………………………..by Joan Houlihan
Come here. Let me finger your hair.
I like the way you imitate weather:
a white breath here and there
the rush and sting of pinkened air
a coven of crows talking briefly of home
and then the pelted tree.
By these shall I know ye,
bless yer little round mug.
Oh, my semi-precious, so much slow time
so much crawling and browsing
so much fascination with harmful insects
and corrosive sublimate.
As if you have as many eyes
as many eyes as the common fly,
and every one stuck open wide
to the wonderful, wonderful world.
So, I get up at 4 am, finally, to put on some tea—
a soothing explanation for steam.
Children grow into themselves, then away.
We musn’t worry when they’re gone—
or worse, not-quite-gone-yet.
The roots of things connect
where we can’t see.
When I was born, Mother began counting
to herself. Something in the middle
must have gone missing.
Fortunately, I have all my faculties.
In fact, I still remember to turn
every small thing until it gleams:
like your favorite airplane pin
there, riding on its own cotton wad.
Now come here so I can see
through your eyes to the sky within.
You are my only animal—
my animal of air.
October 21, 2009 at 12:51 pm (Annie Finch, Charles Bernstein, Foetry, Gerald Stern, Helen Vendler, Iowa Writers Workshop, Louis Simpson, Modern Poetry, Scarriet, T.S.Eliot, Thomas Brady, Uncategorized, Wallace Stevens)
BAMA PANEL III: Indeed, Denise Levertov is increasingly appalled…
The third in a series of 5 articles on the 1984 University of Alabama Poetry Conference by THOMAS BRADY.
A perception of Wallace Stevens as participant in the “common life” was all Helen Vendler had in her defense against Louis Simpson’s charge that she (Helen Vendler) was a living embodiment of the staus quo. Vendler’s “aim in life,” she said, was to “change the status quo,” and the example she produced in Alabama that morning was that she was on a life-long quest to find some way to convince people that tubby Wallace Stevens was not a wealthy, racist snob who wrote show-offy, goofball verse. (Good luck with that, professor Vendler. You might want to check out William Logan’s review of the new ‘Selected Stevens’ in this month’s New Criterion.)
Charles Bernstein, with his back against the wall, finally…after a ‘Stern’ grilling…named… T.S Eliot.
Hendler Vendler…zonked by the poet Louis Simpson…attempted to save herself… with… Wallace Stevens.
Both Eliot and Stevens were students of the aesthetic philosopher George Santayana at Harvard.
Vendler was a full professor at Harvard.
Bernstein studied under Stanley Cavell at Harvard.
Denise Levertov, poetry editor for The Nation in the 1960s and Mother Jones in the 1970s, had heard enough. She exploded. She hit the ceiling. She yawped.
“I’m getting increasingly appalled…”
“OUR DISCUSSION KEEPS GETTING MORE AND MORE PROVINCIAL, PAROCHIAL…”
A feeling of shame moved through the panelists…
“WE KEEP IGNORING…”
“The Crimson began to turn red…”
“THERE IS A WHOLE BODY OF LITERATURE…”
Sweat trickling down the faces of every professor in the room…
“VERY EXCITING LITERATURE…”
Panelists frozen in horror…
“DEVELOPING AND BEGINNING TO FLOURISH WILDLY AND WONDERFULLY…”
“Wildly and wonderfully?” Denise, get this over with! Kill us now!
The panelists and the audience (all white) were suddenly drained of color.
“AND CHICANO POETS.”
Damn! Not Chicano poets, too!
(Maybe she said Chicago poets! no…no…Chicano poets. We’re cooked.)
Denise Levertov wasn’t finished.
The panelists didn’t move.
“All this is totally ignored and perhaps even more important…”
No one breathed. Not even Louis Simpson, the WW II vet, batted an eyelash…
“we are talking away here…talking about prizes and naming names…”
Bernstein and Stern looked at the floor…Vendler began to chew on her lip…
“and all this is absolutely parochial irrelevancy and IGNORES THE FACT…”
The panelists, one by one, began to slowly hide under the table…
“THAT AS A SPECIES WE ARE STANDING ON THE VERY BRINK OF EXTINCTION…”
Vendler, under the table, drank a glass of water very fast…
“THAT WE LIVE IN A TIME OF UNPRECEDENTED CRISIS.”
Louis Simspon, WW II vet, is now weeping into Vendler’s shoes…
I MEAN…TALK ABOUT FIDDLING WHILE ROME BURNS!!
It brings the house down. Furious applause. Papers, books, flying everywhere. Spontaneous suicides.
Alabama has never seen anything like this.
End of Part III.
Part IV will examine everything else you’ve wanted to know about how American poetry got to be where it is but didn’t know how or what to ask.
STAY VERY FINELY TUNED…
October 20, 2009 at 2:19 pm (Annie Finch, Charles Bernstein, David Ignatow, Delmore Scwartz, Foetry, Gerald Stern, Helen Vendler, Iowa Writers Workshop, Jorie Graham, Louis Simpson, Modern Poetry, Scarriet, T.S.Eliot, Thomas Brady, Uncategorized, Wallace Stevens)
BAMA PANEL II: Foetry covered up in leaves, Vendler style.
The second in a series of 5 articles on the 1984 University of Alabama Poetry Conference by THOMAS BRADY.
..Helen Vendler,…………Louis Simpson,…….Simpson, Vendler and Bernstein
There were more fireworks at Hank Lazer’s 1984 Tuscaloosa Conference.
The distinguished poet Louis Simpson, steely, feet-on-the-ground, World War Two veteran, rebuked panelist Helen Vendler’s attempt to take the high road above the foetic mire.
Simpson to Vendler: ”The status quo. If the establishment ever spoke, it would say exactly, I’m sorry, what you just said.”
What did Vendler say to elicit this response?
Vendler was obviously taken aback by Simpson’s remark. She had just addressed what she termed the panel’s “ill feelings” (especially those of Bernstein’s) with a long speech.
Simpson’s reply must have felt like a slap in the face.
The distinguished poet Louis Simpson was like knight royal at the conference; he was the only male U.K. member, rather elderly, and he was also the best poet there.
In her speech, Vendler, the plumpish bird of Keats/Stevens plumage, played her ’Tenured Queen of the Criticism Priesthood’ card, obviously an attempt to 1) restore order to the proceedings, 2) give dignity to the proceedings, 3) soothe hurt feelings as a mother might and 4) impress everyone.
Simpson’s remark was so wounding that all Helen of Harvard could make in the way of reply was that she had worked hard all her life to make people realize Wallace Stevens was no snob, but a real man, and…and…if that wasn’t using the High Road of Criticism to challenge the status quo, then, what was?
Simpson, silent and unmoved, must have thought to himself, ‘Wallace Stevens? Is that all you’ve got?’
All Bernstein had was T.S. Eliot.
Now all Vendler had was Wallace Stevens.
O O O O that Official Verse Culture-
It’s so elegant
Vendler began her speech by juxtaposing the practice of high and beautiful Criticism with the practice of low and necessary Reviewing.
Contemporary reviewing, like the game of love, was bound to make people unhappy; rejected by a lover because you are not a beautiful blonde, rejected by a tenure committee because you are not Helen Vendler, rejected by a prize committee because you are not Jorie Graham, are just parts of life and it’s best not to nurse grudges and throw stones at tenure committees and call them old fogies because, dear Charles, you just have to be patient, OK, sweetie? What really matters is how we feel about the dead, with all personal jealousies and animosties removed, time and death fostering a love of what is true.
Foetry covered up in leaves, Vendler style.
“When we are all safely dead…”
“Temporary abrasiveness between prize committees & reviewers and the poets they’re judging or giving prizes to shouldn’t be confused with differences between poetry & criticism.”
Ah, but Helen, this sort of abrasiveness isn’t temporary.
It lasts forever.
One can hear the anger even in the playing of that blue guitar.
Vendler: “Milton cannot feel bad that Dr. Johnson didn’t think well of his poem, ‘Lycidas.’”
Stern: “He’s furious.”
End of Part II.
Part III will deal with multicultural wrath in Alabama.
Sound good? STAY EVEN MORE TUNED…
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 19, 2009 at 12:40 pm (Alan Cordle, Annie Finch, Charles Bernstein, David Ignatow, Foetry, Gerald Stern, Helen Vendler, Iowa Writers Workshop, Modern Poetry, Scarriet, T.S.Eliot, Thomas Brady, Uncategorized)
BAMA PANEL I: Charles Bernstein does NOT name the ‘Official Poetry Policemen.’
The first in a series of 5 articles on the 1984 University of Alabama Poetry Conference by THOMAS BRADY.
Charles Bernstein, Gerald Stern, and T.S.Eliot.
Gerald Stern: “Names…of the policemen.”
If this October 20, 1984 panel discussion had taken place in London or Paris, or one of America’s major universities, it might have struck a mythic chord in American Letters. If poetry mattered more to the American public, we might still be discussing the poetry session which took place 25 years ago this month.
Helen Vendler, Marjorie Perloff, Charles Bernstein, Denise Levertov, Kenneth Burke, Louis Simpson, David Ignatow and Gerald Stern put on a show in sleepy Tuscaloosa, as post-modernism faced off against modernism in a throat-ripping dog fight
Modern poetry’s factions exploded in the flesh, as po-biz insiders erupted in a spontaneous public quarrel.
The more dignified members of the panel probably regret their trip to U. Alabama in those controversial days of the 1980s culture wars. I’m guessing most of the participants would prefer this conference be forgotten, but we at Scarriet would hate to miss an opportunity to see big players like Helen (of Coy) Vendler and (Prince) Charles Bernstein naked.
We want to thank Annie Finch for finding the transcript of the panel discussion–we would have missed it otherwise.
Scarriet will do a series of posts on the ‘Bama Panel, as we observe its 25th anniversary. There’s too much great stuff here for just one post.
So here we are back in 1984. When asked a bland question by the conference host:
“What do you perceive the function of poetry to be, Charles?”
Bernstein, the unemployed ex-editor of the magazine, L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, quickly got himself in a foetic tangle:
“[it] has to do with audiences, distribution, jobs, professional networks, things like that, which I think we tend to underrate. It seems interesting to me that professional academic poets are making this particular issue apparent in this context…”
“I think it’s unfair not to realize that it’s actually poets who are the policemen of official verse culture in the United States. And so from the perspective of a poet outside the academy and from the perspective of many people that I know who are not associated with academics, cannot get teaching jobs…”
Iowa Poetry Workshop teacher and poet Gerald Stern broke in:
“I don’t think you’re right, Charles. Who? What poets are the policemen? Would you like to name some poets who are the policemen?”
This was the defining moment of Bernstein’s career. Had Bernstein “named names,” backing up his claim that ‘policemen poets’ were oppressively enforcing ’official verse culture,’ he might never have found a job in academia.
Bernstein replied, “Yeah, I’ll give you a group, I’ll give you a group.”
Stern was a bulldog. He would not let the matter drop.
“Names…of the policemen.”
Bernstein: I’ll give you a group. You want me to? No, I’m not going to, I’m going to give you institutional groups, I’m going to say those poets, those poets who…
Stern: I’ve got the names of thirty-seven hard, fast Communists in the State Department…McCarthy never named one…
Hank Lazer, ‘Bama host, and friend of Bernstein, attempted to smooth things over by leading the discussion back to the ‘function of poetry’ question. Lazer must have been thinking: ‘My conference is going to destroy the career of my friend!’
But Stern wouldn’t quit: “Would you tell me who the policemen are, please, Charles? Would you give me a list of names?”
Bernstein answered foetically: “Yeah, I’m talking about those poets who are involved in the award networks, the creative writing programs, and the major reviews.”
Charles Bernstein was explicitly talking foetry 20 years before Cordle and Foetry.com.
The only difference between Cordle and Bernstein was Bernstein was not naming names–and not naming names was, to the poet Gerald Stern, an even worse McCarthyist offense.
Stern had won the Lamont Poetry Selection 7 years prior, when Stern was 52: judges Alan Dugan, Phil Levine, and Charles Wright. Doors had obviously opened for Stern since then, leading to his job at Iowa, and his invitation to this conference.
Did Stern think Bernstein was going to name Dugan, Levine, and Wright? Who did Stern think Bernstein was going to name? Who did Bernstein have in mind back there in 1984?
In the end, after more McCarthyism talk from Stern, Bernstein saved his career and meekly mentioned one poet, a dead one:
Bernstein used another dead poet to save himself:
“I would give you as a central instance the person that William Carlos Williams called the great disaster for our letters, T.S. Eliot…”
Bernstein made a non-answer.
Eliot’s “officalizing role” as a poet is a truism.
Everyone knows Williams and Eliot shared many mutual friends, including Pound. Williams and Eliot both gained credentials by their accentuated differences: Williams’ obscure career was made to seem more ‘popularly American,’ while Eliot was assured high-brow points in the comparison to the Jersey scribbler. The whole matter is the very opposite of the played-out platitude in the po-biz press. Rather than shedding crocodile tears for Williams, was Bernstein instead playing on the opposition between revolutionary secular Jew and conservative Christian? This is more likely.
To the Eliot v. Willams charade, Ignatow said, “You’re right there.”
Bernstein: “Thank you.”
End of Part I.
Part II will examine Helen Vendler’s role in the same 1984 panel.
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.
CLICK HERE to read the most important part of this article.
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)
Click Here to continue reading this GUARDIAN article.
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?
October 14, 2009 at 3:48 am (Amber Tamblyn, Blog:Harriet, Celebrity, christopher woodman, Ford Maddox Ford, Jean Rhys, Modern Poetry, Scarriet, Thomas Brady, Uncategorized)
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]
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