HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SCARRIET

From Infant to All-Too-Human: Scarriet’s First Year

Could any living creature survive the dynamic changes wrought by and upon Scarriet in its first year of existence?  We doubt it. And yet Scarriet IS a living creature, its blood and viscera made up of its manifold contributors and admirers, a roster that runs the gamut from the illustrious to the notorious, from Billy Collins down (or is it up? Let the Muse judgeth!) to horatiox. Its spark of life, however, its animating spirit, is its poetry, ranging from ABBA to Zukofsky. There is room for all, for as the children of the ‘50s were all Mouseketeers, so all those who are childlike in spirit in the noughties and tennies are all Scarrieteers. The blog is named Scarriet for a reason — no prim Harriet reciting in a stuffy drawing room, but rather a rushing birth of blood, placental fluid, and, within the mass of sodden tissue, life itself. The wail issues out of said mass: Scarriet liveth. Liveth in the offices, supermarkets, alleys, and few remaining factories, in blue jeans or ties, democratic without being demotic, and aristocratic only in matters of the spirit. Heroines most welcome, even nigh deified; heroin disdained as a soul-killing crutch. A manifesto? Let it be so, and let it be burnt.

Cut to the present: the same infant now grown to full immaturity, eager to sift and build upon the ruins of worlds past. And how much built after one short year!  A year of tumult, that witnessed the phenomenal success of March Madness, an expansive merriment that served as nothing less than a lightning rod for the poetry world. Sparks flew, sweat poured, backboards were shattered, and, in keeping with Scarriet’s primal origins, blood flowed — and out of the agony and ecstasy came a greater realization of the role poetry continues to “play” in our contemporary world(s). Scarriet’s world(s). Not all were happy, as not all can ever be, save in that Paradise in which the mass of men once put great hope. A founder of Scarriet, Christopher Woodman, departed from the masthead. The pain was felt keenly amongst those who treasure the art of poetry and discriminating criticism of same, especially with regard to the lyric bards. His voice is still heard on occasion, and his posts still extant — but as the balladeer Carly Simon has sang, “I know nothing stays the same/but if you’re willing to play the game/it’s coming around again.” And so it is. And so it always shall. Selah.

More on March Madness, for this was a threshold for Scarriet, a crossing of the Rubicon, and like all momentous undertakings, was not without peril or controversy. Was the event, which ran coeval with the NCAA basketball finals, closer in spirit to Napoleon’s invasion of Russia or FDR’s invasion of Europe?  The debate continues to rage in precincts where strong drink and stronger poetry are freely indulged. Did Scarriet lose its soul during March Madness, or did it gain it, and the world as well? Was it a “Faustian bargain” or just “fargin’ boasting”? Numbers don’t tell a whole story, certainly, but they can instruct when viewed in a spirit of equanimity and in the proper light. And Scarriet’s numbers soared during the March festivities. But was quality sacrificed to attain popular success? We doubt it, for March Madness was met with approval ranging from guarded to raucous from world-class poets such as Alan Shapiro, Lewis Buzbee, Stephen Dunn, Janet Bowdan, Reb Livingston, William Kulik, Billy Collins, Bernard Welt, Robert Pinsky and Brad Leithauser. No visit from Sharon Olds, but then she didn’t make the Sweet Sixteen.

So the numbers were there, along with approval by world class, nay, heaven class poets — where was to be found the always present snake in the garden?  Why, where it always lurks, in our hearts, in the hearts of all who draw breath. And yet the snake was tamped down for those precious moments in which great poetry was shared and exalted and glorified — not placed into a glass case for bored schoolchildren to parade past, but ricocheted off a glass backboard and hurled recklessly down a parquet floor as poets strutted their most glorious moves in all their testostrogen-fueled glory. A celebration of fertility over futility. Of passion over pedantry.

Of poetry over prose.

Happy Birthday, Scarriet.

It’s been one hell of a year.

26 Comments

  1. Al Cordle said,

    September 1, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    Congrats, Tom! I know what energy it takes to run a blog of this scope! Don’t burn yourself out — you have too much brilliance bottled up. Pace yourself.

  2. thomasbrady said,

    September 1, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Thanks, Al and thanks for CREATING SCARRIET one year ago!

    Brilliant!

    Tom

    • Al Cordle said,

      September 1, 2010 at 5:34 pm

      Anyone can start a blog — it’s the follow through that counts.

  3. jimmy said,

    September 2, 2010 at 12:08 am

    Happy birthday you wacky kids

  4. September 3, 2010 at 2:25 am

    Dear Bob, Tom and Alan,
    I’ve tried to resist coming in on this but I can’t. I still feel too upset by the steps Scarriet took to become what it is today, and still haven’t gotten over the loss.

    The photo you’ve chosen for Scarriet’s birthday beautifully illustrates your insensitivity, and it makes me angry all over again. Because you still never LOOK — at life, or at poetry, or anything else. Like your article about Margaret Atwood’s “Bored” and Franz Wright’s “A Happy Thought”. It’s such a travesty! Back then you thought the raw pain on the girl’s face was the simple-minded “boredom” you read in Margaret Atwood’s poem, and that “A Happy Thought” was the light at the end of Franz Wright’s tunnel!

    Do you have any eyes? Do you have any ability to read what a poem says beyond the knee-jerk literal?

    And here you’ve done it all over again with your “birthday” illustration, which is way beyond inappropriate. It’s heartless to show it in this context, it’s profoundly unkind. Indeed, out of respect for both the mother and the baby that photo ought never to be shown in public. For that baby has just been battered by birth, and it’s abuser is reveling in the joy of the terrible deed that’s been done. Oh the irony, the paradox, the unkindest metaphor of life. But you didn’t bother to look, you boys, you boy-scout anti-new-critics!

    A boy-scout site, that’s what you’ve made Scarriet, and no woman, including me, is ever going to participate in it again.

    Christopher

  5. wfkammann said,

    September 3, 2010 at 3:10 am

    “as the balladeer Carly Simon has sang”

    Says it all!

    Missgeburt, Fehlgeburt!

    Sloppy mess!

    • Bob Tonucci said,

      September 3, 2010 at 11:47 am

      “Abortion”, “miscarriage”,
      For the lesson, thanks for giving.
      But I got bad news for you and CW:
      That baby it’s a-living

      • Wfkammann said,

        September 4, 2010 at 1:09 pm

        If you call this living, Doppelgaenger.

    • The Noochie-Coochie Man said,

      September 4, 2010 at 2:27 pm

      http://www.archive.org/details/KierkegaardAndTheCrisisInReligion

      For a noble German
      Without the Wille to scoff, man,
      Check out these lectures
      By the great Walter Kaufmann.

  6. September 3, 2010 at 3:45 am

    You say the popularity surge at Scarriet was due to ‘March Madness,’ yet the numbers increased hugely in January and were right up there by the end of February.

    You may be right that it was the Basketball Series that sparked that interest, but it might just as well have been the quality of the discussion, which was very intense for those 3 months. Never has Scarriet had deeper or more far-reaching dialogue — and of course the core issue was the identity of Scarriet, and what talking about poetry meant to us there. That was truly a spectacle worth tuning into.

    The later Baseball Series was not accompanied by any discussion at all, and died a quick and painless death.

    ~

    To prove the World Quality of Scarriet you point out that it had visits from Alan Shapiro, Lewis Buzbee, Stephen Dunn, Janet Bowdan, Reb Livingston, William Kulik, Billy Collins, Bernard Welt, Robert Pinsky and Brad Leithauser. You don’t mention the fact that Bob Tonnucci sent e-mails to each and every one of them, inviting them personally to come in. You also don’t mention the fact that none of them stayed beyond the initial, and obligatory, hello.

    You also don’t mention the number of people, some of them well-known too, who were not invited but came in because they were interested, and actually joined the discussions. Since March not one of them has ever come back.

    Of course you are right that things move on, and of course Scarriet may go through yet another life-crisis and come back to life. But at the moment it’s a shadow of what it was before, and I suspect most of the present visitors stop by for a laugh.

    Fair enough, if that’s what you want. For me it wasn’t.

    Christopher

  7. September 3, 2010 at 6:47 am

    Billy Collins was me, as were probably a few others, so you didn’t really have Billy Collins come here, you had me pretend to be him in a one line hello.

    You never publish your stats, just murmer that they are high, and when I asked you for them, believing I had a right to know because when this dump started you were very much giving out that it was a collective of the oppressed, but quickly turned into the very kind of controlling editor you lambasted Trav for being.

    I asked you numerous times for this one simple access to stats, because I wanted to guage what audience (if any) my writing here had; yet you played dumb, ignored the requests and then pretended you didn’t know what I was asking for when you did deign to reply to such a trivial and unimportant thing as a writer wanting to know who is reading them.

    I thought you were smart, clever, and a lover of poetry, for many months when you were Tom the victim of the editorial tossers who conspired against your genius; yet came to understand that this was a false impression of you, when you set up this place and turned into just another petty, negative ranter with no audience but yourself and a few other Seth Abramson-like bores happy to churn out screeds of uninteresting trivia about MFA courses, dressed up as hot news.

    • Bob Tonucci said,

      September 3, 2010 at 11:43 am

      OK, so Billy Collins was a fugazi,
      Thanks, Des, for finally owning up to crazy.

      But Alan Shapiro, Lewis Buzbee, Stephen Dunn, Janet Bowdan, Reb Livingston, William Kulik, Robert Pinsky and Brad Leithauser all responded personally to my emails,
      That’s a true story.
      And I don’t see how their response to me
      Was in any way obligatory.

      They could have ignored me,
      If they’d had the inclination,
      But they appreciated the efforts
      Of Scarriet nation.

      As for CW’s remarks
      On the baby and the lady,
      It’s clear Scarriet’s better off
      In the hands of Thomas Brady.

  8. September 3, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    Sorry about misspelling your name, Bob, but not sorry for still wondering — who are you? Why do you bother?

    You caused so much heartache with your bother when Scarriet was folding, and everybody asked you to stop.

    Why didn’t you?

    C.

    • The Noochie-Coochie Man said,

      September 3, 2010 at 5:04 pm

      (Readers, please don’t think it rude of him
      Who on the net uses a pseudonym.)

      The Three Questions

      “Who are you?”

      I hate to pin down who I am
      And that truly gives me sorrow;
      For I may be someone completely diff’rent
      Next week or even tomorrow.

      “Why do you bother?”

      The poetry world has its own unique glamour,
      And of it I’ve found I’ve become quite enamoured.
      Not the glamour of Ivy League poetry events,
      But the glamour of language and beauty and sense.

      “Why didn’t you [stop]?”

      I couldn’t stop, I was intoxicated fully,
      By e-mails from poets, full of encouragement.
      With professional writers praising my efforts,
      I wasn’t to be stopped by others’ discouragement.

      And now I’ve been bitten, learning more and more,
      What works to exalt and which to disdain;
      Casey Jones, Ozzy Osbourne, hang on tight:
      We’re going off the rails on a Scarriet train.

  9. thomasbrady said,

    September 3, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    To clarify the numbers:

    This past month, August, has been our best month so far. We’re still going up.

    March and April 2010 were much, much higher than Sept thur Feb.

  10. September 4, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    Bob,
    One of the cruelest forms of bullying is to answer in rhyme, and to mock genuine emotion by mimicking it. Playgrounds are full of such mindless abuse, to the detriment of sensitive children — and the real tragedy is that some of those hurt children grow up to mimic their tormentors in turn, and don’t even know what they’re doing.

    You yourself have no voice that I’ve ever heard but mockery, and no repertoire but what you know by rote.

    And of course you’ve found the perfect playground in Scarriet — and as long as you don’t know where you are you won’t be lonely.

    Certainly women, old men, and poets won’t ever come in, but you won’t notice that either.

    Just as you didn’t notice I was leaving along with everybody else but Tom.

    ~

    You’re a crowd, Bobooch. You make all the difference on Scarriet.

    • Wfkammann said,

      September 5, 2010 at 12:59 am

      But why does the “bobooch” sound just like Tom? Went to different schools together?

      • Babooshka said,

        September 5, 2010 at 10:42 am

        A lovely voice
        A lovely tush
        Ladies & gents
        Ms. Kate Bush.

    • Al Cordle said,

      September 6, 2010 at 2:59 am

      Bullying is much more serious when lives are lost. Just ask Ted Genoways.

  11. Bobooch said,

    September 4, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    “Bobooch today,
    Boboochka tomorrow,
    Then maybe Zora
    The day after Zorro!”

    Take a mask from off the wall,
    And put the warm one back.
    Mix it up, the spice of life
    Is right there on the rack.

    If you’re bored with being pink-skinned,
    Try a brown-skinned mask for size.
    Wear long sleeves and gloves of pigskin,
    Fool your own and others’ eyes.

    Tired of being a male Caucasian?
    It’s all about the imagination.
    Spend the day as a female asian,
    The mirror’s truth’s abomination.

    Wear a mask, be Dirty Harry,
    Be a Jesuit or a Bedouin.
    Life’s more fun when it can vary
    Without the need of booze or heroin.

  12. September 5, 2010 at 3:40 am

    Bob,

    Integrity is a curious word, and full of paradoxes.

    Trust is the heart of love among human beings, for when we love someone we open ourselves up and become vulnerable. We want to be sure it’s safe to open ourselves up like that, we want to be sure we know who’s there and that we can trust that person to be honest in return, careful, attentive and forgiving.

    At heart what we all want is to be understood, and we reveal ourselves more willingly when we sense another person is not too fastidious, or demanding, or rigid, or censorious. We can be put off when a person is too serious as well, of course, determined, or goal-oriented. But we can equally be put off when a person is too flippant, careless, exhibitionistic — lacks a sense of self, in other words, i.e. gets high on himself to the point of self-absorption. Indeed, a lack of self-respect underpins most of the most selfish human behavior.

    And what an irony that is.

    ~

    Scarriet emerged out of an unlikely friendship bordering on love between Tom and myself — unlikely because we were so different, indeed had nothing whatever in common but the fact that we found ourselves trapped together in a very tight spot, like those miners in Chile.

    For 6 months Tom and I worked side by side, tirelessly consulting each other and even editing each other’s material. We would never have thought to post an article without the other’s approval, and feedback was endless. Then Silliman noticed us, Digitalemunction and other frenetic hot-pots were boiling to our tune — Franz Wright attacked, the cyber world rushed in, and we were made. Indeed, Scarriet was up to 400 visits a day by the end of February.

    And suddenly Tom stopped consulting with me. He got an idea for a series and just posted it article after article willy-nilly. Indeed, he posted 3 articles for my every one, or four even — and you, Bob Tonucci, filled in all the gaps. “My buddy,” Tom told me, “worked in the same bookshop with me in Harvard Square.”

    “But don’t worry,” he assured me, “he’ll do anything I say.”

    And I presume you still are.

    ~

    Happy Birthday, Scarriet — it’s a shame the year of your success only saw half of the team survive it. It’s a shame too it had to go the same way as Blog:Harriet in the end, the victim of management on rails.

    Christopher

    • Noochinator said,

      September 5, 2010 at 10:37 am

      I thought you said women, old men and you
      Would no more visit Scarriet with a will that is free.
      And yet here you are; and you’re 70 years old?
      Huh — well at least you’re still 1 out of 3.

      • Babooshka said,

        September 5, 2010 at 10:57 am

        Oops, you said “women, old men, and poets
        Won’t ever come in,” I’m sorry for the erratum.
        And to show how bad I feel for misquoting you,
        I won’t put a rhyme at the end of this line.

  13. Christopher Woodman said,

    September 6, 2010 at 2:23 am

    But for sure you will come in — 8 no-comments in a row both to manipulate the Recent Comments list and to tap up old articles as Top Posts.

    Happy Birthday Scarriet indeed.

    ~

    In case you hadn’t noticed, Bob, I was expressing myself as honestly as I could. The fact that no one on Scarriet can reply with the same candor is adequate proof of where it’s at now.

    Because it was unique before, a place where sensitive, well-informed people came together to talk new things about old poetry — and even more strikingly, vise-versa.

    Now it’s just another boy’s blog.

    • Nooooooooch said,

      September 6, 2010 at 9:48 am

      You make a good teacher
      (You find the right mixture),
      But the role, sir, of preacher
      It just doesn’t fit ya.

      It don’t fit me either
      For better or worse;
      I guess we’ll continue
      Being each other’s curse.

      Oh! A bell just went off
      And it was a real clanger —
      Maybe, just maybe,
      You’re MY doppelganger!

    • Tattooch said,

      September 6, 2010 at 12:10 pm

      I’d like to focus solely
      On fanning the Scarriet fire,
      But half my non-comments are spent on
      Defending ‘gainst your arty fire.

      But I mustn’t get diverted from
      My vision of what Scarriet could be,
      By those who imperiously dictate
      What a poetry blog SHOULD be.


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