MORE OBNOXIOUSNESS FROM THOMAS BRADY!

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  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 action 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.

THE TECHNOLOGY REVOLUTION KILLS HARRIET

Harriet has shut down comments to its blog. 

What follows is Harriet’s explanation, with comments from Scarriet:

What’s New at Harriet

First of all, we’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who made National Poetry Month on Harriet such a great experience.  [No…Thank YOU...]

We had some of the most lively and engaging discussions over the past thirty one days, as well as profound stand-alone pieces.  True, it was a lot to take in over a quick month, but we’re confident the posts will remain touchstones for future conversations.  Thank you, writers and readers, for all your efforts.  [No…REALLY…Thank YOU.]

And now, we’d like to lay out what’s in store for Harriet[‘lay out what’s in store’  What ugly terminology.  Don’t like the sound of this…]

Asked to describe how poetry has changed over the past ten years, Ron Silliman wrote on our site that the ongoing revolution in communications technology has upended the power dynamics of the community as well as the way poets interact.  [Whatever that means…ALL BOW DOWN TO THE NEW GOD OF C-O-M-M-U-N-I-C-A-T-I-O-N-S  T-E-C-H-N-O-L-O-G-Y! ]

 “Poets blogging,” Silliman wrote, “is just a symptom.”  [just a symptom.  ... a symptom’ of what?]

Over the past four years we’ve been privileged to be a part of this revolution.  [ahh, the privilege of revolution!]   

From the early long-form journals on Harriet to the group blog, the style and format have evolved to match the moment, and we’re grateful for everyone who has participated, posters and commenters alike.  [yes...eternally grateful, no doubt...]

Recently, though, we’ve noticed that the symptoms of this revolution have changed.  The blog as a form has begun to be overtaken by social media like Twitter and Facebook.  [Twitter and Facebook???  LOL]

News of the poetry world now travels fastest and furthest through Twitter (as the thousands of followers of @poetryfound, @poetrymagazine, and @poetrynews can attest), with the information often picked up from news aggregator sites rather than discursive blogs.  [“News of the poetry world:" Damn those discursive blogs!]

Also, anyone involved in the more dynamic discussions of poetry, poetics, or politics in the past year knows that more and more of the most vibrant interactions have been found on Facebook.  [Facebook.  LOL]

We saw this happening last month as our National Poetry Month posts traveled far and wide through various status updates, wall postings, and links.  [FAR AND WIDE?? golly!]

 Setting aside the troubling issues of privacy and coterie this brings up, it would be foolish to deny it as a fact of the revolution.  [The “revolution” of “coterie.”]

As Craig Santos Perez recently joked, “it’s true, facebook killed the blogger star.”  And while that’s obviously not completely true (check out our new blogroll for evidence to the contrary), we feel that the new terrain calls for a new Harriet.  [Harriet jumps into Facebook river.  See ya…]

Starting this week, then, Harriet will transition into a space we hope will better serve the various poetry communities we’ve come to know over the past four years.  [Harriet wants to “better serve” Facebook and Twiiter.  LOL]

This new version of Harriet will feature on the main page a daily news feed with links and excerpts from other outlets around the world.  [Harriet evolves into a nothing which exists only to link to something else.  Vive la Revolution!]

We hope to point to the vibrant discussions happening online, as well as vital literary journalism, essays, and criticism.  [“We hope to point to…LOL]

In addition to this news aggregation, we will spotlight poetry communities and events.  [Harriet, the Community Calendar.  Yawn]

These features, which will appear under the name “Open Door,” will use multimedia journalism to showcase unique interactions between poets and poetry readers around the world. [Multimedia journalism!  You don’t say!]

 Look for “Open Door” features on the The Interrupture performances in Seattle, poetry night in Iraq, and circle dancing in Iceland in the coming months.  Click on the side bar link for a more in-depth description of this new feature.  [Harriet's got discount plane tickets, too!]

In addition to news and these Open Door features, Harriet will begin a new life on Twitter.  Each month a new poet will take over the Harriet Twitter feed and provide daily posts about his or her life, work, and interests.  Sign up to follow this month’s writer, D.A. Powell, at @harriet_poetry. [Celeb Twitter!]

The posts and discussions of the past will all remain archived on the site, but in this new stage Harriet itself will no longer feature comments. [yea, who needs ‘em?]

This isn’t a decision we’ve come to lightly, but it has become clear over the past few months that it is time for Harriet to move on from this discussion model.  [Twitter is calling!  LOL]

The space was designed to be forward thinking and experimental, and so we look forward to continuing along that path.  [to Twitter.  LOL]

We’re grateful for everyone who has participated over the past few years, and we hope that the energy and thought that went into the best comments can be put into the wide range of other available and worthy outlets in the poetry world.  [for we, Harriet, are no longer worthy!]

We’re excited to follow Harriet on this new adventure, and we hope you are too.  [What is this ”adventure” again?  Kill discursiveness and embrace Twitter?  Gosh…thanks.]

Together we believe we can continue to highlight the new voices Harriet Monroe set out to find when she began Poetry back in 1912.  [“Together we believe…”  This never bodes well…]

Sincerely,

Catherine Halley and Travis Nichols

So here’s the question:  What happened to Harriet?

It seems Harriet is like an investor in clover leaf highways in the 1950s. 

Unable to bring substance, they are now latching onto mere technology as the answer.

The patient, poetry, has long been sick, the illness due to the obscurantism of the modernists, and Harriet believes the best cure for the patient is to block discursiveness.  Well done, Doctor!   

My hunch is that Harriet’s April (the ‘no comments’ experiment) saw hits go way down, and, disturbed, perplexed, perhaps even angered at this turn of events, Harriet decided poetry must really be dead…after all, Harriet offered all these articles from all these interesting poets…but interest was minimal and Harriet’s experiment was a failure, precisely because readers were not allowed to comment.  Harriet realized in horror that readers were not really interested in Harriet’s offerings—they just wanted to hear themselves talk.  

“We’ll show you…” has been Harriet’s reaction.  No one read Harriet in April because everyone was on Twitter!   That’s what Harriet told itself.   Blame it on the technology.  

The problem isn’t with Harriet or po-biz.  The problem is that damn ‘technology revolution.’  It’s all Twitter’s fault.

Nope. 

Everyone was reading Scarriet.

IT’S CURTAINS FOR YOU…CORDLE…CURTAINS…YA SEE?

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…

NEWS, NEWS, READ ALL ABOUT IT: ANNIE BUNDLED OUT OF HARRIET!


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.

Stephen

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!

FRED MOTEN
5
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

FRED MOTEN
4
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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FRED MOTEN
B 3
Dear Evie,

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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FRED MOTEN
Backlog 2
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.

CONTINUE READING THIS ENTRY » 02.06.10 PERMALINK | NO COMMENTS

FRED MOTEN
Backlog
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)

EVEN ROBERT BURNS GETS BLATHERED ON HARRIET


…………….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!
PG

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?

WHAT’S WRONG WITH HARRIET’S COMMENT STREAM IN THIS PICTURE?


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

And finally:

“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

Oh boy.

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?

HARRIET GOES DIRECT: DON’T JUST HIDE, DELETE!

Harriet has just lost its last shred of dignity. The recent Comment posted by W.F.Kammann on December 21st has been deleted.

All the Comment  said was that for a more balanced and in depth look you might want to check something else out, a piece of information Travis Nichols obviously felt was too disturbing for the Harriet readership.

We wonder how Gary B. Fitzgerald and Margo Berdeshevsky feel about this new move, both having expressed such relief at the decision to lift the Like/Dislike regime which had so spoiled Harriet for them  since September.

Do you feel this is better,  Gary and Margo? Do you feel relieved that the velvet glove has come off at last, and that there’s no more pretense at openness or respect for opposing views?

Can The Poetry Foundation not accept the fact that the real world is full of contrary opinions, not to speak of poetry? Will there be no more awkward discussions in the lab of  Travis Nichols’ new “experiment?” Is that the idea, to surrender all our differences as well as our hopes for a better world?

Dah Daa. Enter The New Thing!

TRAVIS NICHOLS PLAYS HIS FINAL CARD, AND THE THUMBS ARE DOWN AT LAST!


“…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.

Thomas Brady,
Alan Cordle,
Desmond Swords,
Christopher Woodman

TRAVIS NICHOLS WARNS: LOUSY POETS WANT TO EXPERIMENT ON OUR BRAINS!

Beside running Blog-Harriet into the ground, Travis “The Enforcer” Nichols has another gig writing scientific articles for The Huffington Post. 

The mission: Attempt to make really bad contemporary poetry mainstream.

Step One.   Find a fairly eclectic topic covered by the mainstream press.

Take it away, Travis:

As you read this, Dr. Jacopo Annese is slicing up a brain. Not just any brain, but the brain of Henry Molaison, a man famous for his inability to form new memories after he underwent brain surgery in the early 1950s. Dr. Annese, a San Diego scientist, is digging into Molaison’s gray matter with hopes of figuring out exactly how human memory works. The NYT reports that recordings of Molaison’s brain slices will “produce a searchable Google Earth-like map of the brain with which scientists expect to clarify the mystery of how and where memories are created–and how they are retrieved.”

“The NYT reports…”   Good job, Travis!  That’s good. “The NYT reports…”  I like that.   OK…you’ve found something about the brain.  Good.  Someone is “slicing up a brain.”   That’ll perk their interest. 

Step Two.  While no one is looking, change the topic to poetry.

So Dr. Annese and his compatriots are, in effect, plunging into the greatest poetic mystery of all time.

Yeaaaa  “…greatest poetic mystery of all time.”   Way to go!   

Step three.  After mentioning a few dead poets in a erudite manner, politely name-drop your contemporaries as much as possible.  It might prove helpful one day.

Memory–and the wonder and terror it inspires–has generated great poems from Simonides, famous for eulogizing ancient Greek nobility, to Coleridge, who longed for his faraway friends in “This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison,” to the contemporary poets writing an “experiment in collective autobiography,” The Grand Piano. These poets–Ron Silliman,  Rae Armantrout,  Lyn Hejinian,  and Carla Harryman among them–have spent their careers using poetry to prod the brain in other areas besides just the comfortable spot where (to paraphrase Wordsworth) emotion is recollected in tranquility.

“…have spent their careers…”   Nice touch.  People will think you had no choice but to mention them in your article. 

Step Four.  Discuss the work of your contemporaries as if it’s new and important, even if it isn’t.

Poetry in this tradition–one that is less interested in telling stories and more interested in exploring how story-language works–attempts to make the emotion present in the reading experience. Tranquility can come later. They’re not re-telling memories in a poem (like the memory recounted in William Stafford’s much-anthologized “Traveling Through the Dark”, but rather using word combinations, sound patterns, and different types of sentences to engage a reader’s brain while he or she is reading (Bernadette Mayer‘s writing is a great example of this kind of thing). To varying degrees, these poets have delved into what literary critic Reuven Tsur has called Cognitive Poetics, a field of study that has taken “reader-response” theory to a whole other level.

For example:  “…using word combinations, sound patterns, and different types of sentences to engage a reader’s brain while he or she is reading…”  “…different types of sentences…”  Great!

Step Five.   By now, the only readers still with you are those contemporaries you’ve name-dropped.  So you might as well name-drop some more.

Tsur makes the case that certain sound patterns have inherent properties that fire up the “poetic” parts of the brain, and that by paying attention to those patterns we can read poetry in an entirely new way. A wave of contemporary poets–the Grand Piano folks as well as Clark Coolidge, Bhanu Kapil, Renee Gladman, Eric Baus,  Christian Bok,  and, in his way, Tao Lin–have taken up Tsur’s ideas about reading and used them in their writing. A “Cogntivie Poet” won’t simply say “When I first made out with so-and-so, I did the happy dance!” Rather, she will use word combinations that cause the attentive reader to feel, to create a new experience, a memory, by the act of reading. It will make the reader’s brain do the happy dance.

Step Six. It might make one or two people suspicious if you do all that name-dropping and don’t quote at least one bit of actual writing to demonstrate your thesis, so find a poem by someone hot and throw it out there.

Here’s how Bhanu Kapil handles a childhood memory in her poem “The House of Waters”:

Mud walls whose surfaces belonged to the plantar surfaces of human hands. I could see finger marks, whorls. Once, I was a living being, embellished with skin: fortunate and blighted in turns. I turned. In circles. In the adventure playground, which was concrete. When I fell, the nurse would daub me with yellow smears, that stang.

 “Mud walls.”  That’s good.   Now praise what you’ve just quoted and be sure to mention a dead poet in connection to it.

It’s heady stuff, and it follows in Gertrude Stein’s footsteps much more than Robert Frost’s.

Artsy-fartsy is the new brain science.

Step Seven. Finish up, lest a reader ask themselves what bad poetry has to do with the science of the brain.

It also can be full of messy failures that achieve nothing at all besides piles of linguistic gobbeldy-goo (it’s experimental, after all). For these reasons, only the most adventurous poetry readers have so far taken it up . This kind of poetry isn’t a comfort. Rather, it’s a challenge. It’s an experiment much like that of Dr. Annese, who, when he first sliced into H.M.’s brain uttered the quite expressive phrase, “Ah ha ha!”

“Ah ha ha!”  

Warn them, Travis, warn them!

HARRIET at the MARRIOTT


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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!)

Thomas Brady
Alan Cordle
Desmond Swords
Christopher Woodman

BLOG-HARRIET’S TRAVIS NICHOLS IS GOIN’ TO CLEAN UP THIS TOWN!

Hey, Nick…

And just to mix it up a bit with another 5 star metaphor, let’s go back to this one. Remember?

CLICK HERE for more on what happened on that messy September 1st, 2009 on the Falls at High Noon.

TENETS of FAITH: Being Right on the AWP, BAP, P&W, AoAP and even the PFoA.

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.

Thomas Brady -6

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!

Christopher Woodman

TRAVIS NICHOLS, POETRY GLADIATOR

Travis BUS

TRAVIS Saturated_________________

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,

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 analogyposting on a blog is compared to sitting in a restaurant and TRYING TO READ while a conversation is going on at the next table…

Huh????

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!
-Travis

Christopher, I think Travis owes us a lot of candy.

Tom

“HARRIET SEES NOTHING ON HARRIET!” An Open Letter.

Here’s looking at you, Don Share — “politically, personally, and poetically!”
_________________

w
“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!

EYE Don ShareBut 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!

EYE Don ShareSo 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!

Christopher Woodman

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.

THE DIGERATI SHOVEL BACK: Shoveling and Shoveling on Blog:Harriet..

Shovel Grab 0 copy

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!

To read the most recent of those comments and some even more staggering statistics, click here.

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!

THE STRANGE CASE OF GARY B. FITZGERALD, POET PREPOSTEROUS on HARRIET

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.

Christopher

SHELLEY’S BIRTHDAY, or “Real Life in Poetry with Don Share & Joan Houlihan:” exclusively on HARRIET

DON SHARE'S PUPPIES Yvor Winters Grab
DON & JOAN FULL

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.

WHAT YOU DON’T TALK ABOUT on HARRIET: Another Post Deleted by Travis Nichols

The following Comment was posted on Blog:Harriet on August 25th, 2009 but was put on “Awaiting Moderation.” It remained invisible until it was deleted altogether on Banning Day,  September 1st, 2009.

~

Blog:Harriet, a Reply to Eileen Myles’ “Post on the Post,” Aug 25th, 2009:
I read Ian McEwan’s Atonement just recently, and was very struck by the following, the brilliant ‘Rejection’ letter Briony Tallis receives from “C.C,” the editor of Horizon in 1941 — which shocked me into rethinking all sorts of things.

“You apologise in passing for not writing about the war. We will be sending you a copy of our most recent issue, with a relevant editorial. As you will see, we do not believe that artists have an obligation to strike up attitudes to the war. Indeed, they are wise and right to ignore it and devote themselves to other subjects. Since artists are politically innocent, they must use this time to develop at deeper emotional levels. Your work, your war work, is to cultivate your talent, and go in the direction it demands. Warfare, as we remarked, is the enemy of creative activity.”

Imagine believing that true artists aren’t political — in 1941!

Not so today, I hope. Certainly Eileen Myle’s recent POLITICAL ECONOMY thread [click here] was a very hot one politically, and a good many of the comments discussed local issues too, like the new voting system on Harriet — and sometimes in very critical language. And the management didn’t intervene either, even when requested to do so. So that’s good, and bodes well for the openness of Harriet toward political discussion.

On the other hand, I remain “on moderation,” and many of my posts get deleted.

What I suspect is different about me is that I discuss politics with a certain abandon and vividness of image that makes other posters as well as the management feel uncomfortable. For example, a while ago I compared a certain taste in poetry to a taste for bound-feet, and of course I was suggesting that although bound feet created an extraordinarily beautiful and refined environment the taste had a very sad effect on both the young crippled girls and the men who loved them. In a very recent post, now deleted, I combined a reference to female circumcision with an early memory of my mother confronting a big hairy truck driver who was eating his lunch parked by the roadside on Route 202 just outside our house in rural New Jersey in 1951 — outrageous, but I think in the context effective. Indeed, it seems to me that that those sort of inventions are key to truly effective political poetry as well as prose, that it does use wild ‘metaphysical’ imagery and is very often over the top. I would say all our most effective political satirists have always been over the top, even serving up babies as a way to reduce crowding in the home if you have to.

The answer to “C.C.” in the Horizon ‘Rejection’ letter must surely be that all poetry is political if the heart of the poet is engaged, because abuses will always stir up the heart of those who take the world seriously, and believe it can be changed. Perhaps the Poetry Foundation needs to re-examine its policy toward political discourse on Blog:Harriet. If it’s that poets should devote themselves exclusively to talking about the fine art of poetry as “C.C.” proposes,  and not about politics, and certainly not about politics in the house in colorful language, then they’re certainly going to continue to have a problem with me.

But I’m certainly not alone because, of course, brave Eileen Myles takes up political positions all the time as do such posters as Desmond Swords, Thomas Brady, Rachel, Bill Knott and Terreson, for example (see the latter’s recent courageous post about rape!), to all of whom I’m grateful for such vividness and candor.

Christopher

POSTED BY: CHRISTOPHER WOODMAN ON AUGUST 25, 2009 AT 9:38 AM [You will see that this URL has the comment # in it that it received when I tried to post it. The comment was deleted by the management before it became visible on Harriet.]

MEXICANS ON HARRIET: THE RED & THE GREEN

MEXICAN GRAB Best
DISLIKE GRAB
CORDLE COMMENT GRAB
LAST COMMENT GRAB

CLICK HERE to continue reading John S. O’Connor’s fine article,  “The Tree Inside My Head” — I chose it to illustrate my point because it is so direct yet  sensitive and subtle, and I thank him for it:

CLICK HERE to continue reading Travis Nichols’ ill-conceived and boorish “Like/Dislike” presentation;

CLICK HERE to open Alan Cordle’s Comment to see what he said that got -67 Red votes;

CLICK HERE to read Christopher Woodman’s final comment on the Like/Dislike thread and to see how many votes his proposal actually got! (I mean, if you had read that plea, would you have passed it by in silence? And should I have been banned for that sort of writing and attitude?

Do you think I look frightening like a Mexican? Do my metaphors threaten to cut Travis Nichols’ grass or to wash his car? Does my language threaten his English Literature establishment?

Well of course it does, all of the above, but do you not think Harriet is the healthier for it?

Finally, do you think Martin Earl, Annie Finch, Joel Brouwer, and Eileen Myles, such wonderful Contributing Writers,  felt limited by my presence? Did they feel cramped or threatened by my contributions? Did they feel the management needed to put me on censorship for almost 2 months and then to banish me altogether?)

CLICK HERE to go to The Poetry Foundation Contact Page to register  your dissatisfaction with Blog:Harriet’s discriminatory policies and editorial mismanagement.

Christopher Woodman
Alan Cordle
Thomas Brady
Desmond Swords

ACADEMY & FOUNDATION: LINEN ON THE LINE!

GUARDIAN GRAB ++
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?

Christopher Woodman

Return of The Poetry Foundation

W Sepia
Alan ‘Foet-eyes’ Cordle

You all know by now about my little incident with the Poetry Foundation.  In addition to deletion of politely written and signed posts by me at Harriet, a staffer banned several other posters, without explanation, and finally trolled my personal site, searching for my name, along with the words “dumbshit” and “asshole.”

One suspect, Travis Nichols, has more reason to hide his tracks than the second.  The second suspect turned our inquiry about Harriet policy into his own little pity party.  Reluctantly, I took his name off of my blog . . . for now.  If he’s truly not involved with what happened, he should have, at the very least,  advocated for us.  As far as I know, he didn’t.  Not all librarians are proponents of free speech.

I’d admired Poetry (the paper version) for its willingness to print negative reviews and dissenting views.  Harriet is the party-line opposite, the super-suck-up-fest.  And it’s dying.  I mean, come on . . . Amber?  Shall they invite poets Leonard Nimoy and Ally Sheedy to guest blog too?

It’s no surprise that Scarriet‘s been getting substantial traffic since its launch.  It’s even less of a surprise that the Poetry Foundation person is monitoring our every move.  As you can see below, on October 8 he visited my personal blog, and bungled his effort to mask his identity with a web-based proxy called “hide my ass.”  Sorry dude, it didn’t.

hide_my_ass

WHY THE BANNED BIRDS SING

HARRIET BANNER GRAB

.Thomas Brady, Desmond Swords,
.
Alan Cordle, Christopher Woodman
POETRY IS DEAD GRAB

Writers keep blogging about the end of writing [and brilliantly, Abigail Deutsch. It's a most wonderful article, and would we were there to honor it. Indeed, this one could  be well over 100 comments in a few days, and really be worth saving as a resource too. So we apologize for the satire, but what can we do?].

The English department is declining. Book reviews? Print journalism?  The on-line poetry-establishment non-profits like Pw.org, Poets.org, and Blog:Harriet?

There’s just one problem: no one gets into details. We want to know exactly when and why poetry croaked.  Did it happen in bed or on the beat? Did poetry die in peace, or in the ambitious twilight schemes of on-line editors in the back rooms at the American Academy of Poetry or the Poetry Foundation? Did Travis Nichols get short-listed for a prize like Robin Beth Schaer, or did they all get together for a ‘Compleat Retro Refit’ in Stockbridge or Lake Forest?

And so, in the style of the solemn journalism covering this crisis, we offer a few speculative reports for a nonexistent newspaper (call it The Daily Travesty).

They Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: Chicago Gang Takes Over, Ghetto Population Soars.

BOSTON– [on schedule]
DUBLIN– [tomorrow]
PORTLAND– [evening edition]
CHIANG MAI– [Sunday magazine section]

[STAY TUNED. The samizdat articles are coming in hot off the underground press -- and if you don't receive your copy it means you're part of the problem! ]

TRAVIS NICHOLS – FALL and FALL!

Harriet strip grab

Travis strip

Fall is here, which means ponderous Hollywood movies, funky potpourri, [W]ild [T]urkey, and of course, lots of new bloggers on Harriet to make up for all those we lost in September.

Today, we say our goodbyes to Thomas Brady, Christopher Woodman, and Desmond Swords.  They’ve done a wonderful job here on Harriet, and we hope they’ll share a thought or two with us on their exciting new blog, Scarriet.  From everyone here, let me offer them a hearty thanks for their dedication and service.  Huzzah!

I know.  It is sad.  But all is not lost!  We still have John Oliver Simon, Terreson, Noah Freed, Nick, Bobby, Krista, and of course me, Travis Nichols, to help transition us to this new season.  And!  We have a great new river with a great wave and a really, really great run. No more boring comments on Harriet anymore — hey, we’re blogging!

Travis Nichols

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