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

It’s like all attacks on orthodoxy — if a criticism contradicts a tenet of faith it’s not only inapplicable but invalid!

Ask Barack Obama about that one right now, ask any Israeli or Palestinian, ask a Urighur or even the Dalai Lama. But hey, why not ask yourselves about your Poetry Faith too, the cards you carry as a Poet, the cabals and clubs and cartels you belong to, the schools, schedules, scores, deals, bonds and promisory notes you honor, even as poets? Ask around your Department, for example, or ask down the corridors of poetry power. Because even when there are such good people involved in such good work, so much good will and so many good reasons to make sense out of such good, good intentions, in Alabama, Chicago or the Upper West Side — oh, watch the Big Sheriff in you take over, the Travis Nichols right under your big cowboy hat and the “peacemaker” strapped to your hip.

Thomas Brady -6

Let’s look at this.

If the tenet of faith is that guns make you free, then guns are a non-negotiable matter. If it’s a tenet of faith that sex is bad then sex-education is a non-negotiable matter. If it’s a tenet of faith that men have a much higher sex drive than women, as it is in a great many cultures in the world today, including where I live, and that true men are truly driven by sex, then you get boys taken by their fathers to brothels at 14 while the mothers wait at home with the daughters until they can be married off as pure virgins–and the crowning irony of that absurd tenet of faith is that in addition to brothels on every street corner you get men who are butterflies and women who run the whole show!

The tenet of faith in American poetry is that the true poet is the product of not just higher but higher and higher and even higher “learning,” and that the more a poet pays (or gets paid) for it the more right he or she has to be called “successful,”  and the final arbitrator in doctrinal disputes!

Anyone who suggests that the poets, critics, editors or publishers who are running this extravagant industry are self-interested, or even, God-forbid, in it for profit or life insurance, is considered not a real poet. Indeed, I myself have been mocked as a jealous “loser” a number of times, and dismissed as “the product of a willful misunderstanding of the process of editing and publishing poetry in America!”

And you know who used those specific words? A famous contemporary “poet” and “critic” who is also involved in the business of getting poets published. [click here]

And you know where she spoke those words? In Poets & Writers magazine, that bastion of our contemporary Faith in exactly what sort of training you need to get published in America today, plus the retreats, conferences, camps, travel groups, summers abroad in castles and wine tastings and weekends you have to attend– and what they cost!

But you say you think the son should at least wash the dishes before he goes out to the brothel at 14 with his father?

Just ask the mother for an answer to even that question. “You must be joking,” she’ll reply. “Any true mother would keep her daughter carefully cleaning as well as clean at home so she can attract a true man for a husband!”

Ask David Lehman about Stacey Harwood. Ask Stacey Harwood about Seth Abramson. Ask Joan Houlihan about me!

So that’s a problem, both for the sex where I live and for poetry in America.

Yes indeed, ‘tenets of faith’ always polarize, always lead to intolerance, always lead to abuse.

There’s nothing wrong with virginity per se, of course there isn’t, any more than there’s anything wrong with sex. But oh the heart-ache when too much stock is placed in either!

There’s nothing wrong with training poets either, even in castles, it’s just when you make a religion out of it, install priests at all the altars, and charge an entrance fee not only to get into church but heaven!

And, of course, excommunicate those who say it ain’t necessarily so or, God forbid, come up with some statistics that don’t quite fit in like Seth Abramson!

Christopher Woodman


  1. thomasbrady said,

    November 15, 2009 at 1:00 pm


    Here’s what happy customers of Houlihan’s Colrain Manuscript Editing Retreat say in their ad:

    “showed us what an editor is seeking”

    Imagine a poet changing his or her manuscript based on “what an editor is seeking.”

    I find this incredibly creepy.

    Is it “an editor” or all editors? And who has the authority or knowledge to say what all editors seek?

    What poet with any self-respect would pay money to allow themselves to be told “what an editor is seeking?” That ‘happy customer quote’ sums up for me the entire self-deluding, business-model poison of this whole ‘teaching poetry’ industry.

    If we like, we can read between the lines: “Oh, now I see what my Colrain tutors, Jeff Levine & Joan Houlihan, who are also editors–and publishers, are seeking. They are seeking my cash for their Colrain retreat, seeking my manuscript to look the way they want it to look, so they can use that manuscript as a publisher and also create a happy customer. A self-perpetuating, self-deluding vanity business model for the ages. When this model takes over, then there does become a kind of sameness to what “all editors want.” Business kills poetry, and this is how it works.


  2. thomasbrady said,

    November 15, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    As for the cultural part of your piece: the Thai boy going to a brothel with his father and the virgin girl staying home cleaning with mom, is also an absurdity, like the ‘pragmatism’ of the Colrain robbery.

    The Thai situation you have outlined is an anti-poetic situation; it steals poetry from a society in a hard-headed sort of way. The boys learn that sex is a mundane piece of business, and thus ‘feminine wiles’ and ‘sexual bewitchery’ become less important in courtship–instead the guy looks for a wife who can clean, rather than one who ‘looks hot.’ I can see the practicality of it, because ‘hotness’ and ‘sexual bewitchery’ is an absurdity, too, and leads to broken hearts, unhappiness and dirty, unkept houses.

    The virgin male poet mooning over his lady love is less likely in Thai society if our young male would-be-poet has seen the secrets of feminine allure trampled on and despoiled in the brothel room. No romanticism, no poetry.

    Thai society is, like all societies, a pragmatic response to Nature.

    Colrain is also, I suppose, a pragmatic response to Nature, but on a more twisted, vain, self-serving level.

  3. fglaysher said,

    November 15, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    All literary periods go through this. In fact, it’s part of human nature, to herd together, huddle for warmth, comfort, create a department. The weak and cowardly are especially given to this impulse. While it increases what passes with many for survival, those who go out of the cave in pursuit of the Real, slay the Beast, ultimately providing provender for the fearful and vulnerable.

    That is what all the great poets and writers did. Rabelais and Cervantes, Melville and Robert Frost, many others, into their heart and soul, not some contemptible university or creative writing program and the subsidies that keep their seemingly hegemonic dominance afloat.

    I first subscribed to Poets & Writers when it was the earliest incarnation of a newsletter, the name of which escapes me now, in the 1970s. It was evident even then, to me, that a coterie was forming, analogous to so many, as in the Provencal poets, Japanese literature from time to time, and elsewhere. That it has become the rapacious monster that it has is no surprise, known to all. I have thought for decades that there is only one way to slay it. The test and ordeal of the spirit that the greatest writers have always had to face and go through. That of writing the book that overturns the entire prevailing outlook, as Cervantes did with all the cloying works of chivalry. In other words, it must be earned through perseverance (Johnson on Shakespeare), diligence, independent study, confronting the darkness in one’s own soul and time, and perhaps the blessings of the Muse.

    Nothing could be more contrary to the cynical, contemptible university system of patronage and extortion of public funds that passes for literature today. All the more reason that the lone, solitary writer, dedicated to the literary tradition of what is the most noble and true in human nature, seeking the truth, not tenure, service, not the approval of parasites, can, as Saul Bellow phrased it once, bury them and reorient aright the great ship of literature.

    Frederick Glaysher

  4. thomasbrady said,

    November 16, 2009 at 12:38 am


    I like your metaphor of the cowardly seeking comfort in groups, hiding in caves. That’s apt.

    As Rabelais, who pseudonymously attacked academic elites, said, “Tell the truth and shame the devil.” That’s what we’re doing here at Scarriet, and what we did on Foetry.com.

    Another of my favorite quotes from Rabelais: “Remove idleness from the world and soon the arts of Cupid would perish.”

    That’s the Thai ideal, in a way, that Christopher described: Send the boys to the brothel; make the girls clean. Don’t be idle.

    Eros is almost as dangerous as Dionysius.


  5. cowpattyhammer said,

    November 17, 2009 at 10:58 am

    Thank you so much for your interesting and valuable comment.

    We have hundreds of regular visitors on Scarriet and would love to have more feedback, but obviously the poetry world regards what we are doing as subversive, and even those who are sympathetic to our position are reluctant to be seen among us. Indeed, I would say the lack of commentary on such a popular site is a sure sign that Scarriet is genuinely important.

    I’d also like to say that we regard our isolation as a hardship, that we all loved what we were doing on Harriet and would have liked to stay on there in the fray — which we felt was rewarding even when we were so abused. I myself was “on moderation” for almost two months, which meant my comments appeared long after the dialogue moved on, and frequently my best posts were deleted. Thomas Brady had almost all his comments buried under red “dislikes” and “hidden” every day, yet he never raised his voice or pulled a punch, not once. And Alan Cordle only posted briefly, 5 or 6 comments in all, and was banned not for what he said, which was always factual and decorous, but for what he stands for — openness and accountability. And of course there’s our Dublin bard, Desmond Swords, who was banned for just plain brilliance!

    What I particularly want to thank you for is your last comment:

    All the more reason that the lone, solitary writer, dedicated to the literary tradition of what is the most noble and true in human nature, seeking the truth, not tenure, service, not the approval of parasites, can, as Saul Bellow phrased it once, bury them and reorient aright the great ship of literature.

    That’s what we hope too, and it means a great deal to us that someone dares lend us such encouragement.

    Christopher Woodman

  6. poetryandporse said,

    November 24, 2009 at 4:25 am

    Fred, you have interesting things to say. The words in your patter fulfill the Horace requirement Hecht ventriloquized through Auden: spoken by H to an audience, with the subtlety and skill of Jane Hirshfield making good play in novel and unexpected arrangements of what word fulfilling first the laws of prose and poetry, Tony H here, speaks of; and why this is not an urgent nor important thing to say, unimportant to most: but still and placid as the moon phased above us Frederick the Timid.

    I know a Face

    …couldn’t help it, when playing with words just then Fred, to add the word timid as an epithet, moniker, label, brand of philosophy in post-noughtie American English Lit that communicates Parochial in a global tenor of Going Rogue: the gr gr GREAT american being the best – as usual.

    I know of Nass

    …novel and unexpected: the phased repetition of Old English literate devices mechanically melding the words together with the earliest recorded metrical alliteration there, here in E, phasing a pattern – metric – nail, bricks, nouny moundy bits of summat BiG; with tender and sensitive mouth-keepers of the avian road

    I know a place.

    What you say about the cliques and drip, drip, drip of association at the global well of make-it-uppiness Fred: seems a propelant charge that raps kaleidoscopically, on the make most native to dán and of a dna the don’s profile when at dámh duties, circuits with an ollamh, ticketing filíocht for home and away. American English Literature constituting in fact, far far more benign ways now human love has broken out, than the American ‘yous’ of the commie and U’s who are us in purgatorially disguised in contemporary imperial plays, at Collegium Pontificum’s main stage, where the Law of Letters preached, passed down to us, from Homer to Hecht and Hugh Wynstan, Dr Phil in Iowa and eye howiya, yabba yabba do – Glaysher, please do not go away and leave our community alone, bereft of contestants for most Po-Biz Central, several Americans tempered by a certain sensibility brought from Europe, the old world who seeded A in more or less everything the English, Angle, Norse, Jute Pict Romano-Saxon and then Norman’s, did as Plantagenet, Angevins — seven High Medieval French Angevin Kings of Norman-English feudalism, for a couple of hundred years at the north of midway point of a Middle Ages millennium — splat bang first surge past centre of the whole 1000 year span, before the Lancastrian and the Tudors came. The bastards.

    A Period in English History that was defined by Crusade, to a holy real-estate, for spiritual purposes – yeah, right, Glenn Beck might say as an expert in everything, hey Beck – to capture the holy of holies thousands of miles away at the fringe of a Europe that had been warring with itself since the Roman collapse, at the beginning of the Middle Ages that began in Europe with a Dark Age, 4-9C AD: kicking off with Rome’s collapse in on itself, and the sleight of hand, the imperial ermine importance of it all, overtook by an energy of expansion – withered immediately to chaos and madness: everywhere except the places Rome did not touch, colonize, appropriate both culturally and economically 100%: such as the area of land that is currently known as England.

    A hollow place

    A relatively tiny patch on the global scale – then: only a few million people competing, warring between themselves for whatever it is they did, wanted materially, I suppose: from before the Romans came, when the real-estate became Roman, and after they had left to beyond that period, when the competing tribes from N Europe, who had not been part of the Roman occupation of Europe, flooded onto the island, for a purpose of fighting their way to nothing special in human terms – even though they had all kinds of highly silly and stupid ideas about Reality as it is Materially at quantum, religious levels – continually warring and making short term accommodations with each other over the ebb and flow of centuries of scion and Duty to the symbol of the main players competing for a Crown, who came out on top to become, er..of the whole dump.

    A monumental triumph of ego and exhibitionism, we stuck with it for the first half of the Middle Ages, until the Normans came and stopped all the fighting, by brute and ruthless physical force on which Feudalism was founded when the Normans came as the new hard-knockls who got the rest of the hard-knockls combined because the N’s being a people who came into being when the Vikings took over Northern France during their spell at the top, where a migrant bunch of millionaires who where only a century or two away from the Terror.

    So, it’s a tough, tough call about the mouth-keepers of this thing called Poetry, po-biz, ditty-making warblers and pontifex in the collegium of natty dreads, turn on the 2c for: the greater good of Majesty within and without, that does not come with bells and whistles, horse parades and changing of military personnel, the Matter of history is unimportant to the one’s who compete in Afghanistan for their ‘there’ that is but ‘here’ in their terms: Vietnam and Cuba, Mexico and Venezuela, don’t take cash mister, when disagreeing with the American English poet and scholar deeply ensconced in the game of Language, playing jokey and light in the verse –

    I know a place

    gods and goddesses

    Desmond Swords

  7. July 2, 2012 at 2:34 am

    Since I mentioned in comment #3 a “writing the book that overturns the entire prevailing outlook, as Cervantes did with all the cloying works of chivalry,” I want to let readers of Scarriet know I’ve finished it and the first chapter is a FREE DOWNLOAD:

    Summer serialization of all twelve “Books” or chapters of The Parliament of Poets: An Epic Poem, by Frederick Glaysher, in the manner of Charles Dickens and other 19th Century writers, will be available once a week throughout the entire summer of 2012, on Sunday mornings, by 10:00 am EST.

    BOOK I, with the Preface and Introduction, is a FREE PDF DOWNLOAD.

  8. thomasbrady said,

    July 2, 2012 at 9:06 pm


    Long time, no see!

    Congratulations! This looks terrific!

    Scarriet will do a feature on this soon, I promise!


  9. July 5, 2012 at 1:16 am

    Thanks, Thomas, for the good word and interest. I appreciate it.

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