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 12:51 pm (Uncategorized)
Remember when poetry and art used to dance? Poe and Tennyson were painted and illustrated constantly.
As for poetry and painting interacting after Modernism, what is the likelihood of two autistic persons dating?
We might even define Modernism as the artistic becoming autistic. Modernist poetry is when poetry ceased thinking pictorially. (Recall the Imagistes were not so much pictorial as minimalist.)
What painter wants to paint an Ashbery poem? A painter could paint a red wheel barrow, but why would this be interesting? If a painter were to paint a T.S. Eliot poem, what would they paint? Streets? Dooryards? “April is the cruelst month.” How does one paint that? Or, “Hurry Up, Please, it’s Time!”
Artists could have depicted any number of modernist poems, but the point is they did not.
Instinctively artists have felt, with the general public, that modernist poetry is insular and parochial.
They were never wrong, the old masters. They were painters and poets.
Although certain well-placed associates in the press have swooned over certain modernist “masterpieces,” one can only go so far with a jumble of cut & pastes from Dante and Andrew Marvell covered in a world-weary, sophisticated mist.
Even a popular 20th century poet like Frost: a painting of a man & horse in a snowy woods? It smacks of calendar illustration. To paint Frost’s most famous poem we’d have…what? A grassy path?
This, of course, is a truism: modernism ushered in specialization in the arts—essentially cutting genres off from each other. Painters ceased being poets and poets ceased being painters, as each modernist group became self-reflexive, self-quoting, and narrowly obsessed with what made their art unique: “I use language!” “I use paint!”
The modernists’ perception may be different, but for poets, the truth–in-the-mirror-of-art is plain to see.
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 29, 2009 at 7:59 pm (Uncategorized)
No, this isn’t Lotte Lenya. Eileen Myles enjoys ‘post-modern’ moment at the Serpentine. Du hast kein Hertz, Kunstler, und ich liebe dich so.
50-some poet, 36-hour poetry marathon at the Serpentine Gallery in London on October 17–18. Part of Caroline Bergvall’s dispatch on Harriet follows:
Although a number of the chosen artists are known for dealing with writing and language pertinently and intrinsically as part of their artwork (Susan Hiller, Tacita Dean, Sean Landers, Jimmie Durham, Jonas Mekas, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster), it was something of a disappointment to see so many of them react with undisguised anxiety at that same word, “poetry.” Otherwise lucid, articulate artists found themselves in the throes of open self loathing, “I don’t know poetry,” “I dont know what to read,” choosing to calm the audience by reading from known values such as Eliot, Ted Hughes, Lorca, and Hamburger’s Celan, rather than tracing their own engagement with writing as part of the event. Here, poetry itself was treated as a historical, in the sense of acquired, decorative, rather than productive, mode of functioning.
What happened? Tim Griffin, poet and editor of Artforum, said in his opening remarks that poetic investigation might provide a needed grammar for the arts in a period of crisis. This insightful point was echoed by Eileen Myles, who reminded us that a number of poets in the late-20th and early-21st centuries have certainly at times sought out arts environments for a wider, looser, more open renewal of their forms and modes, but that it was now time for the visual arts seeking out writing and literature to query their more profound questions about writing. How and why might they be courting poets and poetry, how and why might they wish to including reading and writing as part of their practices, and more pointedly, what were poets doing at the Serpentine?
So what’s the problem? Here again, it seems to me that the event confirmed that the debates between art and poetry remain superficial and usually kept on a back foot, or at arm’s length. Apart from artists or writers who specifically develop ways of working across these disciplines or modes, the cultural status quo is still very much, and in an often unexamined way, one of irreconcilable historic and formal differences between the literary and visual arts. The mood was certainly very different a year ago when the Serpentine hosted a large retrospective by the filmmaker, painter, and poet, Derek Jarman.
The prejudice of much art towards poetry is that it is inherently passeistic when not informed by artistic modes. The question of writings by artists is that writing is an instrumentalized, functional activity. This ignores the fact that the whole question of applied (or writerly) language is also that of histories of language and of literary and semiotic applications. All this forms a specific skills base that is indeed pertinent to the demagogic and mediatized rhetorics of our times.
The reluctance of the artists present to engage with poetic material and the absence of more British poets effectively created the feeling that the pink elephant in this open-air enclosure was language itself. Or rather, a fear of language, a fear about not controlling a knowledge of language that demands its conscious, careful, and studied semiotic and semantic manipulations across a whole range of environments. The fact that poetic and literary cultures in Britain are still resolutely separate from other artforms, unless dealing with theatrical performance, certainly plays an important part in generating this sort of sclerosis between verbal and non-verbal arts.
—Caroline Bergvall, October 26, 2009
I agree totally with what you say. Poetry is seen as a pejorative term by most people in general and perhaps by some artists. Or seen by artists as an inferior discipline which cannot achieve the same ends. I often talk to people who can talk to me at ease about contemporary art but when they find out I write and read poetry look at me like I’m a stamp collector and ask ‘what do I write about’ – meaning ‘what’s the topic of my poems?’ Is it about war? or maybe about seeing the strangeness in the everyday.
This is due to the canons of art and poetry not matching. Many people simply are not aware of contemporary poetry (hopefully this event will have alerted them) .Anyone who hasn’t dismissed the popular canon of poetry has no knowledge of possibilities: but they might well know text art. The problem lies with the fact that the popular canon of art is essentially contemporary whereas the popular canon of poetry is modernist (and almost to a state of regression): dull or embarrassing. —James Davies (Harriet comment)
October 28, 2009 at 9:19 pm (Uncategorized)
The one self-evident effect of the modernist revolution is that art appreciation has become an activity both intellectual and elitist.
Pound, for instance, has no popular following, but one cannot swing a cat in any discussion of literary modernism in the last 100 years without hitting Pound.
The 100-year-old gulf between art for the people and art for elites is widening, not shrinking. Think of a relatively short while ago, with a writer like Poe, (you guessed correctly, didn’t you?) when the gulf hardly existed.
Art for the masses lives in the movies, TV, and (with less frequency) the novel. Students in the universities can elect to skip literature and the fine arts completely. Those few who do care for literature go into creative writing. Movies, when they are not ‘torture porn,’ are typically comic books brought to life. The cleverest writers are those in TV comedy: sexual inuendo awash in sentimentality, reflecting, to a certain extent, real life, the entertainment concoction of the mainstream. Novels are mainly written to become movies. Ineffective political propaganda fills an artsy niche.
Both the artistic and intellectual self is withering since intellectualism has been taken from the well-rounded person and handed over to the narrow eccentrics who are fit to survive in the realm of museum rank and critically acclaimed art bequeathed by the modernist revolution.
How did manifesto-ism narrow artistic endeavor so quickly? How did a handful of unknown writers, painters, and collectors during the Great War era triumph so completely in a couple of generations? If we look at Pound’s success we see the answer: one-tenth, so-so art, nine-tenths, patronage. Pound’s art has had a neglible effect on the world, but the Zeitgeist of the Pound era was patronage, and in the post-WW II Writing Program era, modernism extended its miraculous push directly onto the academic track.
The Bloomsbury aristocrats who practiced free sex, and funded Modernism, were Great War hawks and doves when Hitler was on the march. Later, when they weren’t founding the Whitney art musems or Marxist magazines, they were agents for the KGB, or drug use advocates during the 1960s. The modernist patrons were very well connected with each other and with the Zeitgeist. Hollywood threw money at Aldous Huxley, who didn’t produce much as a screenwriter, but he was a Huxley, and sought after among that set. A blind, coddled, sadistic, aristocrat, Huxley was one of the Zeitgeist elites who slithered from one superstitious fad to another from Bloomsbury to Los Angeles.
The transition from the Pound era to the Program era can be glimpsed in Robert Penn Warren and Cleanth Brooks’ ‘Understanding Poetry’ textbook which greeted millions of GI Bill students back from defeating Hitler with little chapters rapturously fawning over ‘The Red Wheel Barrow’ by Pound’s friend, Williams, and ‘In A Station in the Metro’ by Pound himself, next to a chapter reprinting Aldous Huxley’s mocking and acerbic put-down of Poe.
Huxley calls Poe “vulgar.” This by a man who wrote poetry like this, anthologized by H.D.’s husband Richard Aldington:
“God’s in His Heaven: He never issues/(Wise man!) to visit this world of ours./Unchecked the cancer gnaws our tissues,/Stops to lick chops then again devours.
Beauty for some provides escape,/Who gains a happiness in eyeing/The gorgeous buttocks of the ape/Or Autumn sunsets exquisitely dying.”
from “Ninth Philosopher’s Song” Aldous Huxley
Huxley must have felt proud to be so clever in a world-weary, English aristocrat way, comparing “the gorgeous buttocks of the ape” to “Autumn sunsets exquisitely dying.”
For Huxley, we can be sure that he really did find an ape’s buttocks gorgeous.
But “Ulalume,” by Poe, is “vulgar,” and Robert Penn Warren and Cleanth Brooks, the American wing of Pound’s Modernist triumph, were anxious to share this wisdom with the oncoming rush of students in post-war America.
October 28, 2009 at 3:07 am ("Make it new", Alan Cordle, Blog:Harriet, christopher woodman, Desmond Swords, Edgar Allan Poe, Ezra Pound, Foetry, Modern Poetry, Poetry Foundation, Scarriet, Stephen Burt, T.S.Eliot, Thomas Brady, Uncategorized)
I never had a chance to see your draft before you pulled it. Don’t be too self-critical — I sort of like it when we post a howler. It’s part of our style, isn’t it? I mean, we don’t even know what we’re going to post next ourselves!
I like the ‘LangPo v. Official Verse Culture’ just up because that’s IT in a nutshell for lots of poets these days. We’ve got to simplify it like that if we’re going to be popular at all. We’ve got to mine this whole Modernism thing–it’s pertinent, it’s relevant, it’s got legs, it’s known, it’s familiar to many, it’s sexy, and it’s Foetry-city, and it’s horribly sexist, in my opinion, and fascist, to boot, so if we can get people stirred up about it, we’ll have a huge audience.
I’m not a ‘knee-jerk’ leftist, Christopher; I like to think I transcend political labels, but right now I’ll do anything to get a discussion going. People who would otherwise be horrified at the true politics of the Modernists have given it a pass for the sake of ‘experimentalism’ and ‘aesthetic radicalism’ but I want to prove to the next generation of good people that we’ve been ‘had,’ and open up their eyes and tie it all into Foetics and then see where it leads, in a kind of Socratic manner: don’t know where the truth is exactly, but we’re looking for it…
You were at Cambridge, and I want to do an in-depth look at how American Modernism came out of the U.K. It’s really exciting…Bloomsbury and the Cambridge Apostles and the Aristotelian Society…all the New Critics were Rhodes Scholars, including Paul Engle…I’m sure the Plan was formulated in comfortable, cozy rooms above the green lawns of Cambridge University…some British Empire planner took a moment from his busy schedule of running the world…”Oh, what to do with Poetry? Well, let’s see…give me a moment…How about this and this and this?…very good, then!…carry on…”
So what was the Plan for Poetry? What is the Plan for everything? Consolidate power among elites, and I’m guessing the take-over works this way:
1. First, sow confusion in a ‘crisis’ atmosphere (Oh gosh what the hell is poetry, what is reality, anyway?)
2. Hand-pick those who are best equipped to respond to the ‘crisis’
3. Let these hand-picked be of two kinds: conservative and radical and let them feign disagreement while working towards the same end.
4. Stamp the hand-picked crisis-responders as the ‘new thing’ and have hand-picked associates in the press and in academia sound the alarm, but with grudging respect.
5. Relevance established, the ‘new thing’ is crowned savior and becomes the new status quo.
The whole thing ‘works’ precisely because the role of poetry no longer exists as poetry, but has been narrowed down into a kind of ‘movement’ which is ‘managed’ by a subsidized group; it is this ‘narrowing’ which provides the ‘energy’ that gains them advantage; they use poetry, instead of the other way around, they tie it into the current ‘crisis,’ and so the mere passive ‘appreciators of poetry’ don’t stand a chance–they’re slaughtered like cows.
I wanted to make this point to Des in our recent comments exchange on Scarriet. Destroying culture is like killing people. It’s serious business. Our mission to save poetry is not just about one’s individual right to write without criticism–it’s deeper than that
Alan’s got to be happy at how Scarriet is doing.
A poet friend of mine from Canada who I only talk to occasionally just sent me an enthusiastic message re: Scarriet. I’ll quote a part:
“Hi Tom, the Scarriet is amazing! we need something like this in Canada as its pretty lame here and no one is “kicking against the pricks” (sorry for my rather off colour language but this is an actual phrase that was popular in Canadian literary circles years ago) And I am not someone who can speak up unfortunately due to being shy! So congrats again on your feisty spirit and thats a lot of good work.”
Terreson & Gary are united by their ‘love of the earth’ which is OK, but it’s not finally interesting…eco-awareness has been played as much as it can possibly be played in the mainstream press, and now it’s become a matter of policy and implementation. Poets playing it up seems a little beside the point, like saying education matters…
October 26, 2009 at 11:09 am ("Make it new", Alan Cordle, Blog:Harriet, Charles Bernstein, David Ignatow, Delmore Scwartz, Don Share, Edgar Allan Poe, Ezra Pound, Foetry, Ford Maddox Ford, Fugitives, Gerald Stern, Harold Bloom, Helen Vendler, Iowa Writers Workshop, John Ashbery, Jorie Graham, Louis Simpson, Modern Poetry, Monday Love, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Poetry Foundation, Stephen Burt, T.S.Eliot, Thomas Brady, Uncategorized, Wallace Stevens, Yvor Winters)
BAMA PANEL IV: SURVIVAL OF THE DIMMEST?
The Alabama Panel 25 years ago this month was essentially a high-brow rumble: LangPo taking on Official Verse Culture.
Two heavyweights of LangPo, 53 year old USC Comparative Lit. professor Marjorie Perloff and 34 year old L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E editor Charles Bernstein took on U.K. poet Louis Simpson, 61, former Nation poetry editor and Black Mountain associated poet, Denise Levertov, 60, David Ignatow, 70, poet and poetry editor of The Nation, Harvard professor Helen Vendler, 51, and Iowa Workshop poet Gerald Stern, 59.
Perloff and Bernstein were on friendly turf, however. 35 year old Hank Lazer, the ‘Bama professor host, was in Bernstein’s camp, as was 30 year old Gregory Jay, punk ‘Bama assistant professor.
Charles Altieri, 41, professor at U. Washington and recent Fellow at Institute for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Palo Alto, ostensibly had a foot in each camp, but you could tell his heart was with Perloff and Bernstein. The match-up was actually 5-5, so LangPo should have counted itself fortunate.
Also at the table 25 years ago was the elder statesman, Kenneth Burke, 87, a coterie member of the original Modernists–winner of the annual Dial Magazine Award in 1928 (other winners of the Dial Award in the 1920s: T.S. Eliot in 1922 for ‘The Waste Land,’ Ezra Pound, WC Williams, E.E. Cummings, and Marianne Moore.) Burke, chums with figures such as Malcolm Cowley and Allen Tate, was an editor at The New Republic 1929-1944, a radical Marxist, and a symbolism expert–if such a thing is possible.
The poet Donald Hall had been invited and could not attend–submitting in writing for the conference his famous ‘McPoem’ critque of the Workshop culture.
We already looked at how Gerald Stern embarrassed Bernstein by asking him to ‘name names’ when Bernstein raised the issue at the 25 year old panel discussion of ‘poet policemen’ enforcing the dictates of ‘official verse culture’ and Bernstein only coming up with one name: T.S. Eliot.
Then we looked at Vendler asserting the crucial modernist division between timeless criticism and “abrasive” reviewing–with Simpson retorting this was nothing but a status quo gesture on Vendler’s part, with Vendler weakly replying she was fighting the status quo in working to make Wallace Stevens more appreciated. Then in Part III of this series, we saw how Levertov roared ‘you parochial fools are ignoring race/unprecedented crisis/human extinction.’
Levertov, taking a no-frills Leftist position, and Simpson, with his no-frills aesthetic of pre-interprative Vision, proved too much for the LangPo gang.
Levertov became incensed with professor Jay’s post-modern argument that human language and interpretation are at the heart of human experience: “Bullshit!” Levertov said. Levertov and Simpson (with Ignatow) argued for universal feeling as primary.
Levertov argued for universal access as the very nature of language; Perloff countered that a small group of people might find meaning in something else.
Louis Simpson came in for the kill, asking Perloff:
“Suppose you found some people who were using bad money and thought it was good money. Would you be mistaken to point out then it was all forged?”
The audience roared appreciatively with laughter.
Bernstein, with his training in analyitic philosophy, was shrewder, finally, than Perloff.
Rather than confront the dinosaur Levertorous head-on, the furry little Bernstith sniffed around and devoured her giant eggs:
Bernstein: “We’re not going to to resolve philosophical & theosophical, religious differences among us. Religious groups have these same disagreements. I think the problem I have is not so much understanding that people have a different veiwpoint than I have–believe me, I’ve been told that many times (laughter) and I accept that.”
Here’s the insidious nature of Bernstein’s Cambridge University training–he seeks disagreement as a happy result; he embraces difference as a positive quality in itself. Bernstein gives up on universals sought by pro and con argument. Now he continues:
“What I do find a problem is that we say ‘poets’ think this and ‘poets’ think that–because by doing that we tend to exclude the practices of other people in our society of divergence.”
What are these “practices of other people?” He doesn’t say. But we can imply that these “practices” are radically different and reconciliation is impossible. Now Bernstein goes on to make a stunning leap of logic:
“And I think it’s that practice that leads to the very deplorable situation that Denise Levertov raised: the exclusion of the many different types of communities and cultures from our multicultural diverse society, of which there is no encompassing center. My argument against a common voice is based on my idea that the idea of a common voice seems to me exclusion.”
Bernstein’s Orwellian thesis is that the One does not include the Many; the One is merely a subset of the Many. Bernstein rejects the universalizing social glue necessary for Levertov’s democratic commonwealth of social justice; Bernstein promotes inclusion while positing inclusion itself as exclusion(!). Multiculturalism interests Bernstein for its severing qualities–Bernstein wants to break but not build. Logically and politically, he is unsound, and later on in the discussion–after Vendler breaks from ‘official verse culture’ and goes over to Bernstein’s side (thus giving Langpo a numerical 6-4 victory) with her ‘poetry makes language opaque’ speech–Levertov strikes the following blow:
Bernstein: My poetry resists the tendencies within the culture as a whole. What poetry can do is make an intervention within our language practice in society.
Levertov: I disagree. Language is not your private property. Language has a common life.
October 25, 2009 at 5:33 am ("Make it new", Blog:Harriet, Charles Bernstein, Ezra Pound, Ford Maddox Ford, Fugitives, Helen Vendler, Marjorie Perloff, Modern Poetry, Scarriet, T.S.Eliot, Thomas Brady, Uncategorized)
The Zombie-Modernists are:
1. Ignorant of material, social, political, elitist origins of Modernism.
2. Ignorant of the vicious, exclusionary, philistine nature of Modernism.
3. Ignorant of how much ‘Make It New’ was fascist razing and leveling, not democratic or revolutionary building.
Here’s what the Futurist Manifesto, published in 1909 on the front page of a major daily newspaper in Paris, said:
“We will glorify war—the world’s only hygiene—militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn of woman.”
The critic Marjorie Perloff, whose job is to glorify kooky, 20th century modernism, excuses these words, saying Marinetti didn’t really mean it.
Perloff is not the only one, of course, who finds the manifesto-ism of Pound and Futurism full of “charm.” Here’s more from that 1909 document:
“Courage, audacity and revolt will be essential elements of our poetry.”
“We will destroy the museums, libraries, academies of every kind, will fight moralism, feminism, every opportunisitic or utilitarian cowardice.”
“We affirm that the world’s magnficence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing car whose hood is adorned with great pipes, like serpents of explosive breath…”
“We intend to exalt aggresive action, a fervent insomnia, the racer’s stride, the mortal leap, the punch and the slap.”
October 24, 2009 at 1:52 am ("Make it new", Abigail Deutsch, Blog:Harriet, Charles Bernstein, Ezra Pound, Foetry, Helen Vendler, Marjorie Perloff, Modern Poetry, Scarriet, Stephen Burt, Uncategorized, Wallace Stevens, Yvor Winters)
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 18, 2009 at 3:04 am (Blog:Harriet, christopher woodman, Eileen Myles, Poetry Foundation, Travis Nichols, Uncategorized)
The following Comment was posted on Blog:Harriet on August 25th, 2009 but was put on “Awaiting Moderation.” It remained invisible until it was deleted altogether on Banning Day, September 1st, 2009.
Blog:Harriet, a Reply to Eileen Myles’ “Post on the Post,” Aug 25th, 2009:
I read Ian McEwan’s Atonement just recently, and was very struck by the following, the brilliant ‘Rejection’ letter Briony Tallis receives from “C.C,” the editor of Horizon in 1941 — which shocked me into rethinking all sorts of things.
“You apologise in passing for not writing about the war. We will be sending you a copy of our most recent issue, with a relevant editorial. As you will see, we do not believe that artists have an obligation to strike up attitudes to the war. Indeed, they are wise and right to ignore it and devote themselves to other subjects. Since artists are politically innocent, they must use this time to develop at deeper emotional levels. Your work, your war work, is to cultivate your talent, and go in the direction it demands. Warfare, as we remarked, is the enemy of creative activity.”
Imagine believing that true artists aren’t political — in 1941!
Not so today, I hope. Certainly Eileen Myle’s recent POLITICAL ECONOMY thread [click here] was a very hot one politically, and a good many of the comments discussed local issues too, like the new voting system on Harriet — and sometimes in very critical language. And the management didn’t intervene either, even when requested to do so. So that’s good, and bodes well for the openness of Harriet toward political discussion.
On the other hand, I remain “on moderation,” and many of my posts get deleted.
What I suspect is different about me is that I discuss politics with a certain abandon and vividness of image that makes other posters as well as the management feel uncomfortable. For example, a while ago I compared a certain taste in poetry to a taste for bound-feet, and of course I was suggesting that although bound feet created an extraordinarily beautiful and refined environment the taste had a very sad effect on both the young crippled girls and the men who loved them. In a very recent post, now deleted, I combined a reference to female circumcision with an early memory of my mother confronting a big hairy truck driver who was eating his lunch parked by the roadside on Route 202 just outside our house in rural New Jersey in 1951 — outrageous, but I think in the context effective. Indeed, it seems to me that that those sort of inventions are key to truly effective political poetry as well as prose, that it does use wild ‘metaphysical’ imagery and is very often over the top. I would say all our most effective political satirists have always been over the top, even serving up babies as a way to reduce crowding in the home if you have to.
The answer to “C.C.” in the Horizon ‘Rejection’ letter must surely be that all poetry is political if the heart of the poet is engaged, because abuses will always stir up the heart of those who take the world seriously, and believe it can be changed. Perhaps the Poetry Foundation needs to re-examine its policy toward political discourse on Blog:Harriet. If it’s that poets should devote themselves exclusively to talking about the fine art of poetry as “C.C.” proposes, and not about politics, and certainly not about politics in the house in colorful language, then they’re certainly going to continue to have a problem with me.
But I’m certainly not alone because, of course, brave Eileen Myles takes up political positions all the time as do such posters as Desmond Swords, Thomas Brady, Rachel, Bill Knott and Terreson, for example (see the latter’s recent courageous post about rape!), to all of whom I’m grateful for such vividness and candor.
POSTED BY: CHRISTOPHER WOODMAN ON AUGUST 25, 2009 AT 9:38 AM [You will see that this URL has the comment # in it that it received when I tried to post it. The comment was deleted by the management before it became visible on Harriet.]
October 17, 2009 at 1:15 am (Alan Cordle, Blog:Harriet, christopher woodman, Desmond Swords, Foetry, John S. O'Connor, Poetry Foundation, Thomas Brady, Travis Nichols, Uncategorized)
CLICK HERE to continue reading John S. O’Connor’s fine article, “The Tree Inside My Head” — I chose it to illustrate my point because it is so direct yet sensitive and subtle, and I thank him for it:
CLICK HERE to continue reading Travis Nichols’ ill-conceived and boorish “Like/Dislike” presentation;
CLICK HERE to open Alan Cordle’s Comment to see what he said that got -67 Red votes;
CLICK HERE to read Christopher Woodman’s final comment on the Like/Dislike thread and to see how many votes his proposal actually got! (I mean, if you had read that plea, would you have passed it by in silence? And should I have been banned for that sort of writing and attitude?
Do you think I look frightening like a Mexican? Do my metaphors threaten to cut Travis Nichols’ grass or to wash his car? Does my language threaten his English Literature establishment?
Well of course it does, all of the above, but do you not think Harriet is the healthier for it?
Finally, do you think Martin Earl, Annie Finch, Joel Brouwer, and Eileen Myles, such wonderful Contributing Writers, felt limited by my presence? Did they feel cramped or threatened by my contributions? Did they feel the management needed to put me on censorship for almost 2 months and then to banish me altogether?)
CLICK HERE to go to The Poetry Foundation Contact Page to register your dissatisfaction with Blog:Harriet’s discriminatory policies and editorial mismanagement.
October 16, 2009 at 2:21 pm ("Make it new", Blog:Harriet, christopher woodman, Colrain Manuscript Conferences, Delmore Scwartz, Ezra Pound, Foetry, Fugitives, Joan Houlihan, Jorie Graham, Modern Poetry, Scarriet, T.S.Eliot, Thomas Brady, Uncategorized)
Christopher, I remember how you tried to reach out to Joan Houlihan, how you even tried to join one of her Colrain Manuscript Conferences and talked about how you would like to have a coffee with her, that you were sure you would in fact find you had lots in common. But you forget how vindictive she remains, aloof, a figure, lurking, ice-cold in her sad attempt at superiority–a coverup for plain old insecurity and fear — reminding us of the nasty state of current American poetry, where all poets are essentially alone, moving in a miasma of cred-hunting, ego, and truism shaped by facile modernist scholarship.
Delmore Schwartz, who traveled on the edges of the “in” circle of the mid-century modernist revolution, but was finally too sensitive to fit, published an essay in The Kenyon Review in 1942 which reveals the terrifying Foetic state of American poetry–see how the curtain slips, and for a moment in Schwartz’s essay in John Crowe Ransom’s magazine, we see the true horror:
“He [the modern poet] does feel he is a stranger [Schwartz had just quoted Baudelaire’s poem ‘The Stranger’], an alien, an outsider; he finds himself without a father or mother, or he is separated from them by the opposition between his values as an artist and their values as respectable members of modern society. This opposition cannot be avoided because not a government subsidy, nor yearly prizes, nor a national academy can disguise the fact that there is no genuine place for the poet in modern life. He has no country, no community, insofar as he is a poet, and his greatest enemy is money, since poetry does not yield him a livelihood.”
I’m not saying there is not a trace of paranoid, Baudelarian, self-pity going on here, and Schwartz’s personal disintegration was due not a little to this bathos, but there, is, in fact an ‘objective correlative,’ the Foetic fact, the ‘government subsidy, the yearly prizes, the national academy,’ trying to ‘disguise’ the truth, and of course what Schwartz meant by this was the ‘cred hustle’ which he obviously felt as early as 1942. This is more proof that Foetry did not begin with Jorie Graham. It was going on in the world of John Crowe Ransom, Ezra Pound, and T.S. Eliot.
October 16, 2009 at 5:53 am (Academy of American Poetry, Alan Cordle, Blog:Harriet, christopher woodman, Desmond Swords, Foetry, Poetry Foundation, Poets.org, Pw.org, Scarriet, Thomas Brady, TomWest, Travis Nichols, Uncategorized)
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 15, 2009 at 1:41 am (Academy of American Poetry, Blog:Harriet, christopher woodman, Monday Love, Poetry Foundation, Poets.org, Thomas Brady, TomWest, Uncategorized)
Just a year ago, Poets.net, a small, independent poetry forum, did a study of the mother of all Poetry Boards, The Academy of American Poets’ own Poets.org.
On a thread entitled The State of the Onion, a Report on Poets.org, Poets.net hosted a discussion of recent events at Poets.org that involved some controversial departures similar to those on The Poetry Foundation’s own Blog:Harriet.
Thomas Brady had just completed a two month long debate with Poets.org’s leading critic and administrator, Kaltica, resulting in the most popular thread Poets.org had ever hosted. Called On Aspiring Writers Becoming Successful Writers, it involved 259 replies and 72829 views, Indeed, Poets.org experienced a flowering during the time of Thomas Brady’s participation that it has never been able to recapture, anymore than Blog:Harriet has — the heart simply went out of both sites when they were unable to sustain a more passionate and independent sort of dialogue. All that remains without such engagement is desultory, I-score-you-score chit-chat [click here or click here — and on this latter, has anything changed a whole year later?].
It’s important to emphasize that Thomas Brady decided to leave Poets.net voluntarily. He never felt comfortable there, and couldn’t express what was on his mind without sneers and threats from the management and its clique of supporters who obviously felt threatened by him. I myself, on the other hand, was summarily axed, and as mysteriously as on Blog:Harriet. Indeed, I seem to lack friends in high poetry places. And the sad part is that that’s only partly a joke — because my story proves that there are, in fact, special interests in very high poetry places!
The State of the Onion: A Report on Poets.org — a fascinating piece of on-line skull-duggery, and some of the revelations are startling.
It’s important to notice that Thomas Brady’s last post is dated June 14th, 2008, and that this Report was compiled on September 17th, 2008. When you look at the statistics of “Visits” and “Replies” on the 1st page, you can calculate how little had transpired in those three intervening months.
Finally, Thomas Brady goes by the name of TomWest on Poets.org, and I’m A Commoner. On Poets.net, Thomas Brady is Monday Love, Kaltica is Pirvaya, and I’m still A Commoner.
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]
October 13, 2009 at 4:03 am ("Make it new", Blog:Harriet, christopher woodman, Ezra Pound, John Ashbery, Modern Poetry, Thomas Brady, Uncategorized)
What’s interesting about your articles, Tom [click 1.) here, 2.) here, 3.) here, and 4.) here for Thomas Brady’s recent articles], is the way you go on working away at establishing your literary historical position while still reading with great insight even poets you regard as over-rated — like John Ashbery, for example. You express your doubts about John Ashbery, yet at the same time obviously love him, and are the first to admit it!
What is also obvious is that the establishment can’t deal with your balancing act at all — they just get angry and slam the door in your face as they did at Blog:Harriet.
The problem is that people in the poetry business can’t admit the emperor is naked because they themselves are tailors, and their whole reputation is built on the pedigree of the tailors who fitted the big boss out with the “new” clothes in the first place. They can’t see as you do that even though it is a charade, a literary historical sleight of hand, an alert reader can still enjoy the magic show they put on. I mean, John Ashbery is a prestidigitator of the highest order, even if his content is an illusion — he knows that himself, and has never claimed otherwise. Why can’t the literary establishment today in America admit that too? I mean, it’s so obvious John Ashbery’s show goes nowhere for humanity except up in lights!
Anymore than those beautiful bound feet above helped to make the emperor’s little girl lighter, or helped her to dance better. She was so beautiful, so perfectly refined, such a wonderful higher thought, transcending herself and her humanity — yet take her shoes off and she was ugly, distorted, and stank.
The point is that that show was tragic while at the same time contributing to one of the greatest human aesthetic accomplishments the world has ever seen, Chinese Mandarin culture. And what’s wrong if we say both?
But mind the girl today, that’s what we say at Scarriet, that’s our message. It’s time to get over the fetish!
October 12, 2009 at 4:00 pm (Academy of American Poetry, Alan Cordle, Amber Tamblyn, Blog:Harriet, christopher woodman, Foetry, Poetry Foundation, Travis Nichols, Uncategorized)
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.
October 12, 2009 at 8:28 am ("Make it new", christopher woodman, Edgar Allan Poe, Ezra Pound, Fugitives, Harold Bloom, Modern Poetry, Monday Love, Scarriet, T.S.Eliot, Thomas Brady, TomWest, Uncategorized)
Thomas Brady is the inspiration for this site, and his essays on it are not only a testament to his integrity and passion but express his unique position with regard to American poetry. The following is a letter to him which tries to examine his position in a wider, freakier but also friendlier perspective than men of letters usually get– for Scarriet is dedicated to making poetry not only comprehensible once again but actually worth reading as opposed to just winning a prize, getting reviewed, or even getting a promotion!
Dear Tom,……………………………………Chiang Mai, Thailand, 10/12/2009
So many conflicting thoughts, so many paradoxes.
I hear you so clearly, championing a different voice, one that harnesses the natural music of the human heart as it manifests in the cultural forms of people who still know who they are and what they say. Yes, ‘natural’ poetry like John Clare, the lyrics of the Scottish isles or even of Appalachia, Bengali poetry, the incantations of the Kalahari, Langston Hughes or early Dunbar, The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa, the Psalms, and even sometimes when you’re in just the right mood and something truly wonder-ful has happened, a Hallmark card, perfumed, in the mail!
What you are so railing against is “make it new,” I know that, Tom, the obligation imposed on poets by fundamentally displaced persons like T.S.Eliot, Ezra Pound, Ford Maddox Ford [Hueffner!] or a Starretz Sufi Supra-Rabbi Roshipatagon like Harold Bloom. Yes, that’s what I said, displaced persons! (Or sshhhhh, how about just Fugitives? Won’t that do?)
Whereas the poets you are attempting to resurrect, like S. Anna Lewis, Edgar Allan Poe, Sydney Lanier (and hey, why not?) and Edna St.Vincent Millay can still speak in their own gifted voices and are not the least bit afraid to say exactly what they mean. And of course they’re God’s own children, which helps!
So that’s the divide, isn’t it? Between poetry as a natural voice like a waterfall, a thunderstorm, or the literal last breath of somebody you can’t live without, as opposed to poetry as an esoteric diddle that nobody, not even the poet himself or herself (usually the former!) would dare profane by saying what it (say it!) means. Because if a poem says what it means then it becomes a cultural artifact and belongs to the whole community, to be praised on the front porch and memorized and handed around to the neighbors like a barbecue, whereas the poetry you dismiss, Honest Tom, is the poetry of pretension and deliberate obfuscation written by people who haven’t the foggiest idea who they are — but of course feel far, far superior to the Hallmark hoy-poloy who, shudder, know what they like and where to find it!
As if life weren’t deep enough without a critic to fend for it!
Because, of course, the “make-it-new” poetry is as aristocratic and conservative as the ivy-covered cloister which coddles it, and needs both the Priest and Hierophant before you get baptized in it what’s more have a chance at Fame, or Heaven!
October 11, 2009 at 2:27 am (Edgar Allan Poe, Harold Bloom, Modern Poetry, Thomas Brady, Uncategorized)
Today marks the 25th anniversary of one of the silliest screeds in the history of Letters, Harold Bloom’s review in the New York Review of Books (Oct 11, 1984) of Edgar Poe’s handsome Library of America 2 volume set, ‘Poetry & Tales,’ Patrick Quinn, ed. & ‘Essays & Reviews,’ G.R. Thompson, ed.
Bloom’s savage (and spooky) article is remarkable for two reasons: its attempted ferocity and its summary of Modernist pedagogical history as a “conservative” critic abuses a timeless poet with crudely “radical” rhetoric.
In Part 1, Bloom uses Aldous Huxley to beat down Poe’s poetry, copying Huxley’s Miltonic parody of Poe, also found in “Understanding Poetry,” an anti-Poe textbook by the Fugitive New Critic Robert Penn Warren. Bloom calls Warren “the most distinguished living American writer.” Huxley’s 1930s charge that the French were wrong to admire Poe (!) was picked up by T.S. Eliot in his 1949 attack on Poe, and here in 1984 Bloom repeats it, as Poe’s verse is held up to ridicule.
Part 2: The prose is condemned as well, dismissed with the quotation of a single paragraph. “Poe’s actual text does not matter.” Bloom has a certain respect for ‘Eureka,’ which he feels is “Poe’s answer” to Emerson’s ‘Nature.’ But it’s science (Poe) v. rhetoric (Emerson)–they’re not comparable. Bloom makes no attempt to cover Poe’s vast territory. Instead, he writes: “Whether Eureka or the famous stories can survive authentic criticism is not clear.” Poe’s stories are “best read when we are very young.” “Poe’s survival raises perpetually the issue whether literary merit and canonical status go together.” “Mark Twain cataloged Fenimore Cooper’s literary offenses, but all the exuberantly listed are minor compared to Poe’s.” Strangely, even though Bloom feels Poe’s stories are “best read when we are very young,” Bloom confesses “Poe induced nasty & repetitious nightmares that linger even now.”
Bloom, in this half-deeply personal, half-frothily anglophilic essay, clutches the teddy bear of Emerson’s ‘self-reliance’ as ‘original sin’ (associated with Poe) moans beneath his bed. Allen Tate, Yvor Winters, and D.H. Lawrence are brought in to help Bloom vanquish Poe, although Bloom terms Poe “inescapable.” Bloom wants Poe out of the canon (and his bedroom) but the professor admits it will not happen.
In Part 3, Bloom’s assault now turns on crude cultural politics: “Poe, a true Southerner, abominated Emerson, plainly perceiving that Emerson (like Whitman, like Lincoln) was not a Christian, not a royalist, not a classicist.” Lincoln was a Christian, Whitman and Lincoln could not have been more different, and Poe was anything but a royalist, and no more Christian than Emerson. It’s difficult to tell whether Bloom is baiting a certain kind of reader, or writing in pure ignorance. How a man so erudite could be so ignorant is perhaps something only Harold Bloom could explain.
Part 4 looks at the Freudian aspect of Poe’s novel, ‘Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym’ and quotes Adorno calling Poe & Baudelaire “the first technocrats of art.” It’s not long, however, before Bloom turns on his chainsaw again: “Poe is a great fantasist whose thoughts were commonplace and whose metaphors are dead.” Poe’s “speculative discourses fade away in juxtaposition to Emerson’s, his despised Northern rival.”
Part 5: Poe’s ‘Ligeia’ may have been read by Helen Whitman and Elmira Royster, and perhaps this is why these women did not marry Poe. (!) Bloom, who seems to be looking to trade 3 Jesus Christ cards for one Emerson and one Whitman, writes, “…the northern or Emersonian myth of our literary culture culminates in the beautiful image of Walt Whitman as wounddresser, moving as mothering father…”
Part 6: Bloom doesn’t like Poe’s criticism, either, and dismisses Poe with a couple of obscure quotations. Bloom champions, instead, the late Victorian criticism of Arnold, Pater, and Wilde.
Part 7: “Poe was savage in denouncing minor Transcendentalists.” And Poe, according to Bloom, is racist–because “he would have loved”–published after Poe’s death–‘The Nigger Question’ by Thomas Carlyle. (Emerson, whose ‘English Traits’ is explicitly racist, was Carlyle’s literary agent in the U.S.) And one final, embarrassing cheer from Bloom for Emerson: “Poe, on a line-by-line or sentence-or-sentence basis is hardly a worthy opponent.”
Twenty-five years later, is the popular Poe still giving Bloom–and anglo-american ‘zine modernism–nightmares?
October 10, 2009 at 3:04 am (Academy of American Poetry, Alan Cordle, Blog:Harriet, christopher woodman, Desmond Swords, Poetry Foundation, Poets.org, Pw.org, Thomas Brady, Travis Nichols, Uncategorized)
.Thomas Brady, Desmond Swords,
.Alan Cordle, Christopher Woodman
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]
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! ]
October 9, 2009 at 12:57 am (Uncategorized)
Dealing with Personal Issues on Harriet
CLICK HERE to read the whole article.
The following are some new comments on this article that have sparked off a lively exchange, one of the first really entertaining moments on Harriet for weeks.
CLICK HERE for more fun commentary, including Neruda’s e-mail address!
So why do poetry people post comments on-line anyway, and why specifically on Harriet? What do they get out of it?
And what was learned from the Like/Dislike debacle that so decimated the comments? Why didn’t Harriet lose all of its regulars in the process, I mean in addition to the four of us who got banned? And why did those who stayed on stay on, and why were there among them an on-line activist like Terreson so opposed to Poetry Board mismanagement? Or a poet as battered as Gary B. Fitzgerald (-4 just yesterday!)?
And who else would you like to talk about?
October 8, 2009 at 7:49 am (Uncategorized)
Freaky School Janitor Blows Geeky Poets’ Minds
A freaky feast indeed, the comments following Thomas Brady’s new treatise, A Brief Lesson in Foetics — go read them if you haven’t already.
Desmond Swords writes in his latest comment:
“High claims to be making, and on its own, a sermon from faery dollar moat; stern, passionate, utterly seductive… One needs to be orbital around a similar rim of ability and experience, to fully grasp the pertinent charge, claim and accusation being prosecuted by Eddie [A.E.Poe] here tom, i think.” [click here]
The problem at Blog:Harriet in a nutshell, the inability to be “orbital around a similar rim.” That’s what Thomas Brady is exploring, the ‘reader’s block’ that has been conditioned into the American critical mind by the genteel phantoms that haunt our literary history.
That’s our nutshell on Scarriet. That’s where we’re at — demonstrating the limitations of the American poetry mind. And the object lesson is, of course, exactly what happened.
Think back a bit, those of you who know and love her well. Thomas Brady made Blog:Harriet, he really did, and everybody knows that too. Indeed, Thomas Brady was just about to be selected as a Contributing Writer when all this blew up, and that’s indeed the essential twist that lies behind all the turmoil. There had just been a Poetry Foundation On-Line Board meeting to finalize the new selection of writers, and there was a big brouhaha. Not everybody agreed, and as the dust settled it became apparent the problem was hugely divisive, and was simply not going to go away unless Brady was gotten rid of. So the next step was to devise a plan to undermine and eventually dismiss him…
Click here to continue reading this article.
October 6, 2009 at 9:12 pm (Uncategorized)
above: Tate, Engle, Ransom
A BRIEF LESSON IN FOETICS
Modern students of literature are well-trained to detect irony in texts.
Why, then, are students today clueless when it comes to irony in human behavior?
The ‘Fugitive’ cult of New Critics (Ransom, Brooks, Warren, Tate, et al) was both politically right-wing AND Modernism’s career-advancing wing in the United States.
Allen Tate, John Crowe Ransom, and Robert Penn Warren– “I’ll Take My Stand” (1930)–were Old South Agrarians and New Critics and Writing Program mavens who were closely tied to Pound & Eliot’s Modernist priesthood, by which poetry, as a ‘thing of beauty’ loved by the people—in the spirit of poets like Shakespeare, Poe, Shelley and Keats–was turned into a tool of academic power and abuse.
Let’s begin with the mid-19th century Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood—its very name betokens the cult-like modus operandi of Pound, Eliot and their followers, who abused, downplayed, or ignored whole eras of great art–the Renaissance and the Romantics and the Enlightenment–in the name of some tenuous idea of ‘modernity,’ which turned out to be a reflection of their own private sicknesses. This Brotherhood spawned Ford Madox Ford, a Pre-Raphaelite painter’s grandson, who worked in the U.K. Propaganda War office on behalf of Great Britain in the butchery known as World War One.
Ford, who changed his German name, met child of U.S. mint, Ezra Pound, right off the boat in London before World War I, and introduced Pound to rich, sordid circles of aristocratic privilege which bankrolled various elitist, cynical, crackpot art movements.
In the 30s, while Eliot was denouncing Jews at the U.VA., and Pound was settling comfortably into Mussolini’s Italy, Modernist Ford made his way to the Confederate flag-bedecked home of New Critic godfather, Allen Tate, in Tennessee, (where manic-depressive Robert Lowell soon dropped in as houseguest, dropping out of Harvard on the way to study with John Crowe Ransom at Kenyon.) It almost sounds like a Country Western song, doesn’t it?
What were these ‘good old boys’ trying to accomplish in terms of academics and literature, anyway?
CLICK HERE to continue reading this article.
October 6, 2009 at 4:17 am (Uncategorized)
Eileen Myles is educating Harriet right up to her last post! [CLICK HERE]
Yesterday we showed you how she blogged just how tiring blogging really is, a genius idea — and sure enough, the dutiful Harriet community took her literally and criticized her for doing exactly what she was trying to do, and doing so brilliantly. Today she’s on a bit further even than that, criticizing our eating habits, and sure enough, the posters are all taking it as a personal disorder not worth thinking about instead, of course, of sex. Oh dear.
A mole passed on to us this annotated typescript that was smuggled out of the Chicago office. It certainly helps to understand how the minds of the staff as opposed to the posters at Harriet work, and why Eileen’s pearls are such bitter pills to the swine! (Chaque à son gout, as the French say — i.e. if you shack up with a pig you get gout.)
October 5, 2009 at 5:30 am (Uncategorized)
We’re hard on Harriet — I mean, we got treated pretty shabbily! But there are a whole lot of people there we’d stand up for wherever, and I mean stand up for and fight!
And one of them is Eileen Myles, who is actually past her expiry date on Harriet and still blogging, hurrah! And the interesting thing about Eileen, of course, is that she always gets everything that matters right were it belongs, down on the bottom line. Like? Yeah, you guessed it. Apartments!
So this is a little thanks to Eileen from the denizens of Scarriet, who got such a lot from her, and want to sit down and talk with her about it a little bit more.
Like this, hot in the old e-mail tray from you know whom:
“The only other thing i wanted to say, but thought i wouldn’t as it is one of those things like ‘racism’ sexcism, this ism that ism – basically, not focus soley on the actress. Mainly because chicks make us with dicks, often idiots drooling, so the best would be to cut her, she’s had the welcome, now bat on as usual, according all bores at the previous dump, equal showtime. ~ Des.”
And by contrast, look what Gary Fitzgerald replies to Eileen on Harriet: “Way past time to get over yourself, isn’t it, Myles?”
What I mean by this is why do you have to wear your homosexuality on your sleeve like it’s…I don’t know…the Medal of Honor or a big red ‘A’ or something? What do these personal details contribute to poetry, after all? I think most people are sick and tired of this ‘us and them’ bullshit: gay and straight, black and white, liberal and conservative, rich and poor, cool and uncool. Why would any poet want to compartmentalize and limit themselves like that? ‘Gay’ poet, ‘Feminist poet’, ‘Latino’ poet, ‘Political’ poet. Can’t we just be poets? Jeez, get over it.
POSTED BY: GARY B. FITZGERALD ON OCTOBER 4, 2009 AT 4:43 PM
So what do you think? Did we go over the top with Amber Tamblyn? And what do you think about the Barbie School of poetry? Does Jorie Graham’s hair matter, like in contrast, say, to Eileen’s? And do you think this will get discussed on Harriet?
October 4, 2009 at 9:20 pm (Uncategorized)
Jorie, Marie, and Lucie have ROCKED Po-Biz for years, in what is known in more sophisticated circles as the Barbie Doll School of Poetry. Don’t let their looks fool you. Emily Dickinson is their Muse, and they have more poetry prestige between them than a thousand male professors. Jorie married into the Graham (Washington Post) family and was going to be a filmmaker until she overheard a T.S. Eliot poem being read. Speaking of film, Amber Tamblyn (you can read her blogs on Harriet right now!) is dating the actor who played Allen Ginsberg in the recent Bob Dylan film I’m Not There which also included the actor who just played Keats in Bright Star. She’s also on a reading tour for her second book of poems. The question is, does Amber have what it takes to belong to this prestigious school of poetry?
October 4, 2009 at 12:11 pm (Uncategorized)
I saw the best blogger dudes and chicks of my generation, writing poetry, hysterical, naked, surfing iphones, looking for another Multicultural MFA in Creative Writing second book prize fix!!
October 3, 2009 at 2:56 pm (Celebrity)
The minute I logged on your blog,
I could see you were a man of distinction,
Wouldn’t you like to know what’s goin’ on in my mind?
So let me blog right to the point:
I haven’t got a f*cking idea in my heaaaaaaad!
Give a little blurb to me,
Give a little blurb to me,
Give a little prize to me,
Give a little prize to me…
(Music swells for a vamping finale)
(in a sexy whisper) Jorie’s got a chair at Harvard, so anything’s
October 3, 2009 at 1:26 am (Celebrity)
WELCOMES AMBER TAMBLYN, STAYS TOONED
memo from the office, Friday, 9.27 pm, Chicago
Has she ever been to Chicago?
If not, have her see Kent about the school. He might really like her.
Also talk to Stephen about the next big one.
Have a look at Scarriet — those guys really know the traffic.
Get Brady on the phone for me.
How bout this one? (Get her some shoes that fit, Cathy.)
Paris’s still waiting to hear (you’re on that one, Don).
Yeah, I said give her Brady’s fucking list, it’ll make her!
So CLICK RIGHT HERE — but be sure to shred your copy or I’m dead!
October 2, 2009 at 5:09 am (Blog:Harriet, christopher woodman, Desmond Swords, Poetry Foundation, Scarriet, Thomas Brady, Travis Nichols, Uncategorized)
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!
October 1, 2009 at 5:32 am (Uncategorized)
Let me start by saying I love this medium, I love this artist, Cathy Bleck, I love this particular image (click here for Fred Sasaki’s beautiful Blog:Harriet article), and I love the way it looks and what it conveys on the cover of my edition of POETRY that just arrived in my mailbox in Chiang Mai just ahead of Ketsana, the terrible tropical storm that has ravaged the Philippines, Vietnam, and Cambodia and is now on my doorstep (fingers tightly crossed!). Indeed, the photo of the Filipinos reaching out to you in the previous Blog:Scarriet post survived the same storm just two days ago, and they’re reaching out for help.
Not for What Art History Says!
This Blog:Scarriet post is about commentary that matters, and there’s precious little of that left on Blog:Harriet at the moment. For example, what do you make of this?
O.K, so Poetryfoundation.org “welcomes comments” (put your glasses on and read the fine print just above) — “comments that foster dialogue and cultivate an open community.” But how “open” is a community that ends up talking like this?
For a start, do you think the comment is about the image or the commentator? Does the commentator say what the image says or does he say what art history says in the beautiful volume of El Greco he has conveniently resting on his coffee table (along with the copy of that letter he wrote to Merwin from Toledo, of course, and those notes from the margins of his well-worn Baedeker)? But hey, why El Greco at all? Wouldn’t Cathy Bleck have been enough, such a fine artist illustrated so well in Fred Sasaki’s gallery right before him? I mean, why do we need El Greco already?
And what sort of “dialogue” do you think will follow this cerebral hi-jack, and can it be called a “community” when three of its most ardent and faithful members have been banned precisely because they did NOT talk like this, i.e. that they refused to talk shop?