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

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

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

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

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

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

Dah Daa. Enter The New Thing!

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20 Comments

  1. Christopher Woodman said,

    December 23, 2009 at 4:31 am

    John Oliver Simon, as rock steady a Harriet regular as you could wish for, has had a comment deleted as well. Apparently he tried to discuss W.F.Kammann’s ex-Comment, so inevitably a deletion followed that other deletion.

    Let’s just guess about the motives of everybody.

    And stay tuned!

    C.

  2. Christopher Woodman said,

    December 23, 2009 at 8:40 am

    But they leave this one up — guess they have to now that the whole issue is getting blown open.

    Just in case it gets deleted before you get to see it:

    No es que sea muy aficionado de los obsesionados ya exiliados a otro lugar, pero cada vez que se menciona el asunto, el comentario desaparece antes que nada. Raro.

    POSTED BY: JOHN OLIVER SIMON ON DECEMBER 22, 2009 AT 10:32 PM
    Report this comment

    Rare indeed — anyone dare to discuss what’s going on here, what is more to discuss it in our lingua franca? How could it possibly have come to this?

    C.

  3. thomasbrady said,

    December 23, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    Simon is the hero of the day, like the boy who questions the emperor’s clothes.

    Excuse me, Simon asks, what happened to that comment?

    Now Simon’s comment on the vanished comment has been disappeared from Harriet.

    Hey, Mr. Nichols, Mr. Share, it’s just poetry. It’s not national security. Shouldn’t democracy apply?

    Harriet links all the time. Kammann’s link (to Scarriet) was completely on-topic.

    Mmmmm.

  4. Christopher Woodman said,

    December 24, 2009 at 4:56 am

    But it’s still not South America, Tom, and look who says it? John Oliver Simon is really rocking the PFoA rock!

    Chilean writers have traditionally hated each other. Pablo de Rohka called Neruda a plagiarist and a sexual amphibian, and called Vicente Huidobro a señorito with fat pink fingers playing with Daddy’s money. Not to be outdone, Neruda called de Rokha a titanic goon.
    POSTED BY: JOHN OLIVER SIMON ON DECEMBER 15, 2009 AT 11:10 AM
    Report this comment

    Inevitable peanut gallery, we get to Bronx cheer both sides as hissy fits play out in public, making each principal look tawdry. Shall we lay odds on the passive-aggressive righteous wounded victim, or the huffing dismissive hollow dominant? Blood-pressures soar, obsessive ripostes await, but luckily, our all-too-reptile display behavior does not tarnish the poetry. I refer you to the nasty things said about each other in Chile in the thirties by Pablo Neruda, Vicente Huidobro and the Bukowski-like Pablo De Rokha.
    POSTED BY: JOHN OLIVER SIMON ON DECEMBER 21, 2009 AT 2:44 PM
    Report this comment

    And what was it W.F.Kammann said anyway, I’ve forgotten? Good Lord, it must have been awful — I mean, even John Oliver Simon wasn’t allowed to comment on it, so it must have been something much worse than those dreadful slanders of Pablo de Rohka and Neruda.

    Makes you not want to even think about it!

  5. Christopher Woodman said,

    December 26, 2009 at 1:37 am

    Who can wait for it or who can wait for it?

    RE-ENTER TERRESON!

    John Oliver Simon asks just above, “Shall we lay odds on the passive-aggressive righteous wounded victim, or the huffing dismissive hollow dominant?”

    The “huffing dismissive” Terreson, the Maverick Flamer who tries to sound passive-aggressive, assassinates posters on his own site if, like Trotsky, they fight the same fight but won’t carry his banner. So he’ll “wait and see”, he tells us — which means, like Gary, he still can’t keep away from Harriet’s honey:

    Interesting. I was notified by email about the blog’s policy change. I confess I am not sure I can see much of a change. What is management’s exact definition of how much “off-topic” is too much off-topic? Or where exactly is the distinction made between the abusive comment and the critical or even bitchy comment passed off as being humorous? And what is to keep the snarkiness from creeping back in by way of the “report a comment” function?

    I think I’ll wait and see. Trust is sewn with a slender thread.

    Terreson

    POSTED BY: TERRESON ON DECEMBER 24, 2009 AT 7:19 PM
    Report this comment

    The thread’s not too slender in Terreson’s case, as the previous deletions, one of a comment by William Kammann and the other by John Oliver Simon, don’t seem to bother him at all. But then he’s into that sort of self-delusion himself. His ears are so blocked and his skin so thick he obviously hasn’t noticed!

  6. thomasbrady said,

    December 26, 2009 at 3:04 am

    Let’s give Tere the benefit of the doubt; maybe he didn’t know of the Kammann and Simon deletions–after all, that’s the whole point, right? Erase, and then carry on like everything’s fine…

    “Off-topic” on Harriet is simply anything which offends, even slightly, the po-biz system. There’s a pecking order of distinguished prize winners who validate everything from English departments at universities to publishing houses, large or small, to distinguished persons in related fields who in turn support other departments and other institutions. So, for instance, if a guy with a Pulitzer wants to make potty mouth insults which have nothing to do with anything, this is not “off-topic,” as long as the pecking order is followed. Franz Wright (Pulitzer) can insult Henry Gould (no Pulitzer) with foul language. Harriet is happy to let this occur. But if Gould used foul language to insult Franz Wright, how fast do you think Gould’s comment would be deemed “off-topic” and deleted? The “topic” Harriet has in mind is not really a “topic” as in a topic of conversation; no, the unspoken “topic” as Harriet secretly defines it, is this pecking order, and sticking to it. The “smart” guys like Travis Nichols implicitly ‘get’ this pecking order business, but people like Desmond Swords and Christopher Woodman and Alan Cordle are offended by the whole idea, as all decent people should be.

  7. Christopher Woodman said,

    December 26, 2009 at 3:51 am

    Here’s an example of a comment I tried to post 3 times on Harriet, each time pruning it back a little to try to find out why it was deemed unacceptable. The answer was, of course, John Ashbery! — but who knows, there may even have been some sensitivity toward it’s larger subject, that poetry MUST be political or die a slow death (like Harriet!)

    This is the final version I tried to post on Eileen Myles’ thread called POST ON THE POST which was about precisely what I’m talking about in the comment. It was immediately put on “awaiting moderation” and then was deleted 5 days later when I was banned altogether.

    I read Ian McEwan’s Atonement just recently, and was very struck by the following. I’m sure there’s a great deal I don’t get in the passage that those of you with more experience in the publishing business will pick up. Of course I’m referring to 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.”

    Eileen’s recent POLITICAL ECONOMY thread has turned out to be a very hot one indeed, and I have a feeling the themes will be with us for some time to come. A good many of the comments on that earlier thread discussed the new voting system on Harriet and its political implications, and some of those comments were expressed in very sharp language. Yet the management refused to intervene, even when requested to do so. So that’s good, and bodes well for the openness of Harriet.

    Nevertheless, it’s not easy for everybody. I myself am on what’s called “awaiting moderation,” which means all my posts have to be vetted and are sometimes even deleted. I don’t know how many other regulars are on the same regime, but I’d just like you all to know that however much confidence you have in yourself, and however fiercely you stand by your values, it hurts!

    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 sort of invention is the key to truly effective political poetry as well as prose, that it does use wild ‘metaphysical’ imagery and is very often way 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. I’m not suggesting for a moment that Harriet is being “abusive” toward me or anyone else, just that it must clarify what the Poetry Foundation policy actually is toward political discourse. If it’s that poets should devote themselves exclusively to talking about the fine art of poetry 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. And I don’t think I’m alone.

    Because of course there’s always brave Eileen Myles along with such posters as Desmond Swords, Rachel and Terreson, for example (see the latter’s recent post about rape!), all of whom I’m grateful to for such courage and candor.

    Christopher

    POSTED BY: CHRISTOPHER WOODMAN ON AUGUST 25, 2009 AT 9:38 AM

  8. Christopher Woodman said,

    December 26, 2009 at 4:33 am

    To be completely frank, I also suspect this comment may have been deleted because the Poetry Foundation Management had already decided to ban the four of us a long time before September 1st, and the comment was obviously throwing a very big and nasty spanner in those works!

    Well, they got rid of me but they got Scarriet!

    And, of course, they got the New Look Harriet that has Travis Nichols so excited! [click here]

  9. thomasbrady said,

    December 26, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    Politics can hurt and ravage to the point where it can destroy art. Yet art needs a certain amount of political (moral) awareness, even if it isn’t overtly moral or political.

    Christopher, Harriet had you talking in such a way that you couldn’t help but talk about yourself because their Big Brother attitude forced you to keep justifying what you were saying, and then I’m sure Harriet kept reading your posts and remarking to themselves, ‘there he goes, everyone, talking about himself! that megalomaniac!’ And it became this feedback loop of horror, where one part of you desperately wanted to please and the other part of you wanted to lash out. Bad combination. This is what happened as soon as Harriet became irrationally censorious with you. They took an innocent person and turned him into the devil.

    They never blocked any of my posts. They never had a problem with anything I specifically wrote. I just woke up one morning and found I was cut off. They never screwed with my head, but they sure tried with you, Christopher. I don’t know why you bring out the sadist in people. But keep on keepin’ on, Christopher! The valley of the Harriet nightmare is over. We’re free.

  10. bluehole said,

    December 27, 2009 at 12:41 am

    Travis Nichols and his friends feature prominently in the Foetry Book. So I wouldn’t say the Harriet nightmare is over . . . it’s just beginning for the Poetry Foundation. Happy New Year everyone!

  11. Christopher Woodman said,

    December 27, 2009 at 4:06 am

    Thanks, Alan — and I can’t wait to read the book!!!

    Any idea about when it might hit the shelves? Or do we get to do an advance review on Scarriet?

    C.

  12. Christopher Woodman said,

    December 27, 2009 at 4:14 am

    Tom,
    It’s very true they never blocked any of your posts, and indeed behind the scenes at The Poetry Foundation you were being discussed as a possible ‘Contributing Writer’ at the time. That was in June 2009. Early in July we received dire warning letters from Travis Nichols, and then shortly after the official announcement of the “new” Like/Dislike Regime went up, so obviously just the opposite of what might have happened, was already happening!

    The only way you can explain this swiftness is that there were, in fact, two parties slugging it out behind the scenes at Harriet, one which liked the way the site was opening up, a wonderful new-world poetry wildflower, and another which wanted to close it down, lay out its proprietary little hot-house plants, hoe, weed and discipline the plot for its own suburban-academic vision of the “new Harriet” [click here] instead.

    Here’s a copy of an e-mail I received from the On-Line Editor of The Poetry Foundation on June 16th, 2009. A post of mine was deleted, and Catherine Halley wrote me to apologize, telling me it had been the mistake of an inexperienced monitor (?). In thanking her I brought up the subject of you, Thomas Brady, as you were obviously the heart and soul of Harriet at the time, suggesting that you be considered as a ‘Contributing Writer.’ Catherine Halley wrote back very generously, as she always did:

    Hi Christopher–
    Thanks for the kind words about Harriet. Thomas Brady is someone I’ve raised as a possible candidate to my colleagues. You’ve both been a great help in keeping the blog discussions frank, spirited and civil. Thanks for that. And thanks for this suggestion. We’ll talk about it and see what we think. Of course if he takes over as a blogger, who’d leave essay-length comments?!!!

    Cathy
    [June 16, 2009 10:28:38 PM GMT+07:00]

    Such a positive response suggests there must have been some jockeying going on behind the scenes at the same time – and not every board member seems to have agreed with Travis Nichols’ attack upon you, Thomas Brady, even for “length!” In the end a cynical decision was obviously made by the PFoA, a puscht was gotten underway, 3 of the most active members were expelled altogether, including Thomas Brady, and everyone else who felt uncomfortable with what was happening simply left. Those who remained behind either liked it as it was or didn’t care, and of course everybody pretended nothing had happened.

    Not a single comment was posted about any of this in the following weeks and months after our dismissal. Even Gary B. Fitzgerald and Terreson, the only remaining regulars who might have cared, remained compliant.

    And then Amber Tamblyn spoke – and the rest is history!

    Christopher

  13. Christopher Woodman said,

    December 27, 2009 at 4:36 am

    I think my reply to Catherine Halley is also interesting — I had such hope at this point, and the relationship with Catherine Halley, and indeed the whole of Harriet, felt so positive.

    As to what I say about Thomas Brady, here it all is uncensored. Was I right in my guesses about him? Well, believe it or not I still don’t know!

    Cathy,
    I’m so happy to get your reply–I didn’t expect it.

    You know, Cathy, I don’t know who this man is at all! It’s extraordinary for me to have made such a deep friendship with someone whom I have no personal link with at all! Yes, he’s let drop a few details about himself, that he has two daughters, that he’s an overprotective parent, that he writes songs for them, a little about his fascinating family background, that he’s nevertheless quite shy and reclusive, etc. etc. But I have no idea how old he is, what his academic background is, or even what he does as a profession!

    What I’ve come to like about him so much is his sweetness–even when he’s devastatingly sharp he’s never mean and never descends to snark (new word for me!). So he’d make a perfect moderator in an on-line discussion!

    I have a feeling he writes so fast a whole essay appears as fast as his fingers can move, and hardly needs any revision. He can also write poetry like that–indeed he’s a very serious poet who doesn’t take himself seriously at all, and as far as I know has never even tried to get published!

    So I’m delighted you are considering him–and I haven’t mentioned a word to him about it either, and won’t. On the other hand, if you want to ask me for any help or advice from me do feel free.

    Finally, Cathy, why don’t posters on Harriet go farther with the poems that get posted? I’ve only been on for a short time, and have very little internet experience, so maybe there’s a dynamic here I don’t understand. I loved the Jane Miller poem you posted and tried to get some discussion going on it, but there was just silence. Same with the “One Sentence” poems–I loved what was happening there, and put quite a lot into it. But once again just silence.

    Don’t bother to answer that question–I’m sure I’ll get my mind around it.

    Thanks again, Christopher
    [June 17, 2009 09:04:09 PM GMT+07:00]

  14. thomasbrady said,

    December 27, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    Christopher,

    Don Share lost patience with me at least twice on Harriet, hissy fits really, not very attractive from someone in his position, especially someone who supposedly with no authority, per se, on the Harriet-blog, a ‘Poetry’ magazine editor, Share a self-professed old-fashioned believer in hard copy worth, and supposedly he’s neutral re: the blog itself. Interesting how they say Harriet traffic is small compared to the whole Poetry Foundation site’ traffic, and yet Share takes such an interest in Blog-Harriet. The ‘pecking order’ rule says, however, that his tantrums were my fault, not his. He got mad, I didn’t. He lost face. I did not. I think that was my doom.

    You got in trouble for what you said about the living (Levine, Houlihan, Harriet management, etc); I got in trouble for what I said about the dead (Jeffers, Poe, Ransom, etc).

    Your mistake seems to have been writing private messages to Harriet management; mine, not to have done so, at all.

    We’re both learning how powerful foetry is, Christopher. Fools, we keep thinking it’s about the poetry.

    Thomas

    • Christopher Woodman said,

      December 30, 2009 at 3:54 am

      Tom,
      If I might be so bold, I make the mistake of being too enthusiastic and open, I think, and much too frank. I don’t hide behind scholarship, position, or connections, partly because I’m so old I don’t have to worry about how I look, and partly because I’m so out of the loop I haven’t got a single master or obligation I must observe. That makes me extremely difficult to handle, as you can’t shame me into line.

      When I wrote my initial e-mail in reply to Travis Nichols attack upon us, I cc’d my reply to a number of other Harriet participants at the time, including two Board Members and two Contributing Writers. Travis never forgave me for that indiscretion, and I was placed on “awaiting moderation” immediately, no explanation, no respite — until I was banned altogether almost 2 months later.

      What Travis said is that I had sent abusive letters to the staff.

      On the other hand, an important Contributing Writer replied like this:

      “Let me just say that I think everyone will agree that your comments are invariably gracious and respectful…

      I know your comments will continue to be gracious and perceptive, at whatever length and frequency you post, and I very much look forward to continuing to read you on Harriet.”
      XXXXXXXX

      A Board member concurred, praising me but also, take note, respecting Travis’ position.

      Christoper–
      I agree wholeheartedly with XXXXXXXX but I’m glad Travis thought to warn you of the upcoming changes…
      YYYYYYYYYYY

      That’s important, to see that a Board Member can respect me and still respect his or her professional obligations. Because, of course, Travis was suggesting I was playing one staff member off against another, whereas I was just making honest contact with everybody.

      That’s what I do, Tom. That’s my blessed fault and sacred sin of Adam!

      C.

  15. majawalk said,

    December 29, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    Aw, how cute. The trolls have found a home of their own. Congratulations guys.

  16. Christopher Woodman said,

    December 30, 2009 at 1:51 am

    Dear Majawalk,
    We were pleased to have your comment on Scarriet and hope that the latter part of it was what you really meant.

    As I understand it, a troll on the internet is a negative voice that pops up from time to time with mocking comments that humiliate posters, interrupt discussions, and in general undermine the coherence of a site — and then the troll goes back into hiding under the bridge, taking no responsibility for the havoc he or she has wrecked.

    There was never a moment when Tom, Desmond, Alan or myself behaved like that on Harriet. Whatever our views, we were always open, fair, respectful — and generous.

    If you disagree with something on this site we would be very pleased to have your input, and will almost certainly get back to you. Indeed, nothing would please us more. We have a very large audience, but few visitors have the courage to engage us — or dare risk being associated with us, more likely. CVs. Position papers.

    We do hope you are the exception and will actually want to join in our discussions. Indeed, we can go anywhere here, so please do feel free.

    Christopher Woodman

  17. thomasbrady said,

    December 30, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    majawalk,

    It’s all about context, isn’t it? Look, now you are a troll.

    You have no power here. Be gone! Before someone drops a house on you.

    Thomas

  18. bluehole said,

    December 30, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    I wonder what the law firm of Cahill Gordon & Reindel’s policy is on trolling.

  19. December 31, 2009 at 5:28 am

    [...] Others just evaporate the opposition [click here]! [...]


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