Notice how every bad poet thinks s/he’s good?

When most people notice this folly, when this phenomenon is viewed from the outside, one thinks: I’d never want to be a poet: since every bad poet thinks s/he’s good, so the art of poetry must be like a drug which deranges the senses, maddens the ego, and makes one act as if all that is bad is good.

Unfortunately, this is quite true.  Poets are vain and mad, and all bad ones are certain they are good.  No bar blocks them.  The steeds of their poetry ride higher than any obstacle; their wisdom conquers, their strategy is winning, their aim is true, their swagger impressive, their speech, whether humble or high, tricky or plain, winds its way into the best ears, their genius is… genius.  No measure says otherwise.  They are never out of tune. They are understood—by the select who ought to understand them.

The poet is the reeling drunkard of the intellect.

Very few (one in a million?) are fortunate not to fall under the intoxicting spell of poetry’s mania.  Very few can practice poetry without looking like a jackass.

I, for instance, found poetry by studying the masters first (I wrote haiku at age 12 in school but didn’t try poetry again until I was 18, when I’d fallen in love with Shakespeare).  Poetry was not a madness, or a drug, for me, but a saving grace, a clarity, an appreciation, a discernment, a joy.  Poetry can do this, can it not?  It can make one wise, or make one a complete jackass, depending on how one comes to it.

And every perfection can be parodied, so finally no poet can escape forever the  donkey ears.

But they try.

Oh, do they try.

Poets should take cheer from the fact that parodies flatter as much as they wound—as do earnest attacks from other mere jackasses.  But poets are especially paranoid about the jackass label today.  Back in the day of Pope and Poe,  the jackass label would come find you.  Even in  Jarrell’s day, it might come after you.  But today, there are simply too many poets per critic; once, no poet was safe from a Poe; today there’s safety in numbers—almost no one is called a jackass anymore, even playfully.  The honest review has been replaced by the massaging blurb. The atmosphere is one of frigid politeness. Poetry sites—such as Harriet and Silliman’s—have banned commentary—which is part of this trend. Let no unkind words come near the poets! The poets must be treated with respect: no honesty, please!  Poetry communities bend over backwards to be nice. The good is not permitted to chase out the bad, nor is real debate permitted. All the sheep must be left to graze on their little plot of grass in peace, so they might fatten, and be awarded a poetry prize by the other sheep.

Americans are uncivil drivers, even though a slight mistake may cost lives, but when it comes to poetry, when a little honesty would improve things, the academic poets who rule po-biz are bland and civil to a fault.

Poets ripping each other to shreds is good for poetry, because ripping and tearing creates new parts and shapes; it’s much better incentive to receive real criticism than to never get it; if there’s no ripping and tearing, you get that one quilt which everyone handles gingerly; the same platitudes are sewn together in a feel-good exercise, everyone thinking alike because the quilt represents everyone’s desire to get along;  being polite is the only way to keep the group-quilt-thing going.

For example, take a look at the big, fluffy quilt being put together over on Blog Harriet right now: lots of poets are contributing little essays and growing the quilt, a nice, big fluffy one.  Here are some of the pieces of the quilt:

“Marjorie Perloff has claimed that a poet’s career is rarely made on one book, rather it’s the long and slow accrual of publications, activities, community service, and so forth that firmly establish one’s reputation. A perfect example of this would be the career trajectory of Charles Bernstein. While it’s hard to name Bernstein’s “best” or “iconic” book, it’s the decades-long tireless life in poetry which has made him one of our most important and beloved poets. His activities in support of poetry — be it his pedagogy, his work on cross-cultural poetics, his many volumes of criticism & essays, the founding of both the Electronic Poetry Center and PennSound, his tireless advocacy for poets, in addition to his own poetic output — all add up to a remarkably solid career.”  —Kenneth Goldsmith (4/6)

Cookies, anyone?

“Several complain about the fact that so-and-so is so popular and has received so much recognition and prizes because his/her mate is editor of one of the most influential magazines in the business. Others carp about the unfair influence of a long-surviving New England periodical that looks about as readable as mold on bread. Another group riles against that fang-burger who declared, in a major newspaper, that reviewing poetry was a waste of good printer’s ink and paper.” Wanda Coleman (4/6)

Careful to offend no one, the author mentions no one by name.

“The business of trying to write timeless poems reminds me of Langston Hughes’ declaration in a 1926 essay that a black poet who wants to be just a poet, not a black poet really wants to be white. Hughes makes the issue about the poet, and maybe unfairly distracts us by that gambit. But the really question has to do with the poem. That is what he is asking. He is asking how does one write a poem that is simply a poem and not a black poem? He has his own answers. For him, anyone who attempts to write a poem that is not black and that is simply a poem is unaware of the racial superstructure of American society in which “American Standardization” is essentially white.”  Kwame Dawes (4/6)

Standardized, milk & water rhetoric washes over prickly politics. 

“In response to this one’s continuous muttering of exhausted inane yap punctuated by some light bitching about being too currently pastly and futurely dumb to write any public speak, my three-week old daughter June put down her copy of Melmoth the Wanderer for a minute, though keeping on her headphones which were feeding her a shuffle of songs including, I think, if I’ve been accurately identifying what’s creeping into the air, Brian Eno’s Music for Airports, the Eric B. and Rakim number “I Ain’t No Joke,” the Townes Van Zandt version of “Poncho and Lefty”, “If You Don’t Cry” by Magnetic Fields…” Anselm Berrigan (4/6)

Does anyone else find this self-indulgent?

“Gillian asks about the line in the 22nd century, what will it look like and do. It’s a question that helps me get at another question that has been hounding me of late, one that concerns a certain strand of thinking that tends toward protecting poetry as if it’s an endangered species. This tendency seems to manifest itself in a concern for content, tone, or accessibility, but mostly it’s around the shape of the single poem; that short squirt, usually of formal verse, that many see as the primary, or originary shape of poetry, everything else being pale imitations or strange mutations or defacements of the latter.

Perhaps this is partly why my visceral response to your question, Gillian, is dismay. Not that I’m not curious as well, but because I wonder why we are so concerned with controlling poetry? Why, to such an extent that we want to worry about what the line will be like in the 22nd Century. Are we that afraid that if we let poetry run its course we won’t understand it in a hundred years? That poetry might evolve into something indiscernible to the Romantic soul?”  Sina Queyras (4/6)

“something indiscernible”—like this essay of Sina’s—such a brave  attempt to break Lord Byron’s heart…

So there you have it. These Harriet entries are boring and trite

Now a reader’s first impulse might be to think: this is bad.  “Boring and trite?”  These Harriet bloggers are accomplished writers and good people; why upset them, and make yourself look unfriendly?

But I am not these writers’ parents, siblings, or friends. I am a reviewer.

Imagine a society which, by law, has no reviewers and no critics.

You see?

Thomas Brady isn’t bad.

He’s good.

For a moment, you fell under the spell of the poet’s mania, there, didn’t you?

Do you see how easily it happens?  How easily poetry makes you think the bad is good, and the good, bad?




  1. Nooch said,

    April 7, 2011 at 11:09 am

    Since “Notice how every bad poet thinks they are good?”
    Is grammatically incorrect,
    How about, “Notice how every bad poet thinks s/he is good?”

  2. Mark said,

    April 7, 2011 at 11:18 am

    I actually agree with much of this, Tom. So I’ll just point out a few minor quibbles I have with what you’ve written.

    “nor is real debate permitted” – by passing over questions and refusing to stand behind what you’ve said in the last 3 threads I’ve commented in you’re essentially not permitting debate. Ignoring debate is the same as putting strictures on it. In essence, you’re just as bad as the people you’re railing against. You’re an equal but opposite form of this sickness. Surely you can see that.

    “Imagine a society which, by law, has no reviewers and no critics.” – I imagine a society which insisted on informed criticism, a society in which the reviewer actually has to read the work they are reviewing and present an informed opinion supported by facts (rather than gossip-column speculations). Can you ditch the shallow self-congratulation and rise to that standard, Tom? It would make for much better use of your time. I promise.

    “Thomas Brady isn’t bad.” – Do you mean you, Herr Graves?


  3. thomasbrady said,

    April 7, 2011 at 12:47 pm


    What “debate” exactly, am I “ignoring?”

    Remember back in the early stages of our discussion when I wrote I thought it was time to print out poems to facilitate our points? You have not heeded that plea for specifics.

    The gist of our debate is this: I started off by focusing on the fact that Silliman posits this divide between the ‘quietists’ and the ‘accessible’ and the ‘mainstream’ poets on one side, and the “unconventional” and the “avant-garde” and the “difficult” on the other, with the assumption that the latter is finally smarter and more vital and more forward-looking and more important.
    And my example was Silliman saying before Kooser and Collins, there was Edgar Guest. I am saying this divide is false, a red herring, the fantasy of an insecure pedant. You disagree, but I think you’ve missed my point. For instance, at one point you shouted, “See! Olson is not incoherent!” But I never said Olson did not have flashes of coherency. My point is that once coherency comes into play, this divide of Silliman vanishes. I admit my point is a simple one, and it perhaps seems more complex only because you persist in not understanding it.


    • Mark said,

      April 7, 2011 at 8:56 pm

      “I am saying this divide is false, a red herring, the fantasy of an insecure pedant. You disagree”

      I don’t necessarily disagree with this, either. In the case of Billy Collins specifically (from what I’ve read) it makes sense but not when it’s applied broadly. What I found absurd was the way you set up the argument and the leaps in logic you made therein. That’s what I said in the first post and that’s still the position I maintain.

      If you want to present a viable alternative you have to be better, Tom. You’re making lazy points and you’re making them badly. You’re still doing so, Tom… Calling Silliman an “insecure pedant” – you’ve never met the guy. How would you know? You’re assuming far too much and proving far too little. We need you to bridge that gap. I’m not asking for equations on the blackboard and dna evidence, just that you rise to a level of discourse somewhere above tabloid journalism.

      Finally, don’t put words in my mouth and I’ll try not to put words in yours. This is an internet debate – everything that’s been said is written down. If you want to know what I said, then look – don’t guess. You’ve become slack with the standards at Scarriet and there’s no reason for that to be the case.


  4. Kevin said,

    April 7, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    I have to agree with Mark, Tom. I have been lurking on the thread where you blatantly refused to answer questions posed by a very patient and persistent person, by totally ignoring them. It reminds me of PC Simon Harwood answering questions at the ongoing inquest into newspaper seller, Ian Tomlinson’s death, shortly after being violently batoned and forcefully pushed by Harwood, as he was making his way to the tube station to return home, after work, threading his way through a mass protest against a G8 meeting in central London.

    Tomlinson was only caught because of footage shot by protesters that the Guardian published, and it is clear that he had his back to the police, walking away from them, and that he was struck in the back. Harwood however, has been trying to maintain that Tomlinson didn;t have his back to him, at first claiming he was facing him, standing still, acting beligerently, in fact, the very opposite of what was happening. He maintained this position even as he was evidence in front of the jury, as the various footage was being played to the court, his answers wholly uncredible in face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

    You can tell reading the transcript of the questioning by Matthew Ryder QC, acting for Tomlinson’s family, that this police officer, is losing the verbal game and being proven to be talking in the same way as you have been with Mark. Like Harwood, your absurd claims about blah blah blah, they are all rubbish, blah blah blah, there’s only me between Obamacare and Communism, blah blah blah, it’s all a load of empty meaningless waffle, blah blah blah, when you say incoherency versus sharpness, you mean Poe is..blah blah blah.

  5. Kevin said,

    April 7, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    However, we all know this. What surprises me is that Mark can be arsed trying to debate with you, when it has been clear to everyone here for over a year, that you are the tourettes critic, unable to stop yourself from spamming out another ‘March Madness’, that showcases your mental illness and geeky obssession with trying to be cool via the vehicle of baseball and poetry, masquarading as critically-lite, chumsy, informal musing-by-an-expert, schooled in Borinsgsville New England blah blah blah, who used to be interesting before Travis Nichols decided to bin you out of Harriet coz he couldn’t play fair and admit you were the best debater about.

    Sadly, this gaffe has been a stage showcasing your radical freefall from poetic grace. The once elegant, interesting and eloquent New England hipster, the mind behind the mask behind the man masquarading as an All American Legend, when exposure came, you became smaller in our eyes. The make-believe evaporated and now even your closest blog-aquaintances turned on you like rabid dogs, all three of us, our Log nEnech, bardic “face-price”, devalused and debased by this loss of poeticness by your poo-er self, mate, Brady-Graves spam-bot..

    But that aside, I actually read Harriet before I came here and found this new post, and you are right, a fluffy quilt, $50 a pop, Berrigan’s the laziest, Goldsmith’s I thought was one of the best, because behind the surface supercficialty, he makes a serious point. Two ‘poets of color’, raved on as if anyone actually gives a fuck whether you’re black, white, brown, pink, red, green, yellow or a grey reptilian from Zeta Reticuli. Wanda Coleman impressed me as going beyond the deadpan, straightface demand to be recognized on equal terms as blah blah blah, and being up there in the top four…

    Ada Limón, what an ass-licker, ‘so appreciative to be part of this community’ of fifty buck a blog poets. As for Ange Mlinko, Daisy Fried, Rachel Zucker and Kathleeen Rooney, the middle-class yummy straight yoga-loving smug majority, it is great to see ’em united in their fear of the one poet there who is a natural, Alicia Stalling, old A.E., in Greece, kids talking Homer from the cradle, relaxed, gifted, intelligent and the rest of the career gals, knockled into touch by this titan..

    But essentially, yeah, the usual suspects are dead, long live the usual blah blah blah..

  6. thomasbrady said,

    April 7, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    Thanks for your feedback, Kevin.

    What are these questions that I’m not answering? Do you know what they are?

    Does Mark want me to bring him up to speed on the last 200 years of Anglo-American poetry? To “PROVE” my thesis in a few sentences? How can I expect to do that? I’m having trouble keeping up with everything right now; I don’t have time to spit out 50 pages of “proof.” Sheesh.


  7. Kevin said,

    April 7, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    Tom,. he nailed yo ass on the thread where he displayed unflagging politeness and patience about your two bugbears, Collins and Bernstein. Basically he displayed a higher quata of intelligence and wrote in a more considered style, coming across as a person who loves poetry and is serious in his commentary on it. You, unfortunately, kept coming across as someone who doesn’t, perhaps because you’ve been ranting into the void here, unchallenged, for so long; that when a mature, sensible sounding specialist arrived to lick yo ass, it became painfully apparent thatv the sharpness and wit you displayed ages ago for that brief flash of Harriet greatness, had deserted you.

    O fickle Muse, tommy lad, when you were king of the heap, showed favor, you had a cast of fluffy quilt-makers to hone your intepersonal and debating skills upon, but here you have only Nooch and the other fluffy doggerelists or, I assume, sock-puppets of your own creation, and this, mixed with the feelings of unfairness shown to you by the Poetry Foundation fo America, coupled to a rampant ego living on past glories, makes for a tragi-comic brew of utter pointlessness. Though, in your defence, Mark, after besting you, did fall into an ungracious and triumphalistic braying and bashing of a bore when he’s down, that is a tad distasteful and unmeritted, considering you took a fairly solid pounding and were intellectually exposed as a lightweight cultural commentator of the pop-pyshcologist variety.

    Now it has become a somewhat gruesome spectacle, two anals arguing over who’s got the biggest dick. Entertaining, in a vulgar way.

    • thomasbrady said,

      April 7, 2011 at 8:28 pm

      “Tom,. he nailed yo ass on the thread where he displayed unflagging politeness and patience about your two bugbears, Collins and Bernstein.”

      Kevin, it doesn’t sound like you read the articles or the threads.

      But thanks, anyway!


    • Noochinator said,

      April 7, 2011 at 9:22 pm

      Kevin, welcome back, and
      “Thanks” for the back-hand!

      “As poetry gushed from that sacred place,
      ‘My Scar’yet runneth over,’ she primly said;
      ‘Everyone wants to comment, it seems,
      On my modest but life-giving maidenhead.'”

      • Christopher Woodman said,

        April 8, 2011 at 1:09 am

        I wish I’d written that, Bob — and if I had I wouldn’t have been surprised, or minded, if you’d said it was “bad,” i.e. disgusting, even if you meant it was “bad,” i.e. cool, or “bad” i.e. good.

        And since I know you’re interested in the anatomy of poetry, the “sacred place” is an established trope for the mons veneris, and, as Jonathan Swift and Pablo Picasso both so memorably illustrated, the place usually being veiled, air-brushed or sanitized by romantic love or reverence, the fountain runneth over every time the muse pees.

        At your best, and I mean like in these four lines, Bob, you’re very close to the kind of poetry Tom in his blinkers calls “bad” because it’s multi-referential, nuanced, hard to access, and, though as scurrilous as any number of Latin, Medieval or Restoration poets, and as formal as well, quintessentially post-modern.

        I personally love it.


      • thomasbrady said,

        April 8, 2011 at 10:15 am

        Nooch is the true spirit of this place, not me—
        Ask: Is Brady, Nooch, not is Nooch, Brady.

      • Christopher Woodman said,

        April 8, 2011 at 10:46 am

        A beautiful example of the density of Brady. Presumably he read my comment but obviously didn’t grasp what I was suggesting about “that sacred place.”

        Tom has no feeling whatever for nuance, no sensitivity to ambiguity or word play, and assumes two contrary thoughts cancel each other out to make zero.

        He skims poetry for sense but doesn’t read it.

      • thomasbrady said,

        April 8, 2011 at 6:59 pm

        “Presumably he read my comment”

        That’s presuming a lot.

  8. Mark said,

    April 7, 2011 at 7:58 pm


    Let’s not get carried away. This is just an internet debate, not real serious business like the Harwood case. I even suspect both Tom and myself had been having a pretty good time at it until the last couple days (when my discourse dropped and Tom took the step from avoidance and misrepresentation to full-on lying: neither of which were very cool).

    I actually have a broken leg and have been laid up – that’s the only reason I can be arsed, I swear. It’s another month before the cast comes off and my doctor is insisting I stay off it. Do you think Tom can hold out until then? He might, in fact, be stubborn enough. I don’t know.

    I’m just shocked to imagine that there was a time/place when Tom could have been considered the best debater. All I see is a bitter ideologue who carefully avoids any points that damage his utterly transparent and deeply flawed stance. I wonder what the old Tom would think of this new Tom…

    Re: “Two ‘poets of color’, raved on as if anyone actually gives a fuck whether you’re black, white, brown, pink, red, green, yellow or a grey reptilian from Zeta Reticuli.” – Not for nothing, but I actually WOULD care if a poet was a grey reptilian from Zeta Reticuli. I would totally buy his/her/its book. Don’t front and pretend you wouldn’t too. 🙂


    I actually agree with you that I’ve been a immature and vulgar. My childish taunting was, at first, a sarcastic response to Tom’s single-minded insistence that he had “won” and I had “lost” (when, as I’ve said repeatedly, I have little interest in either), then I began using it as a way to goad Tom into having a real debate, then I actually started to like it…

    I’m truly embarrassed at this latter point. I’ve been considering since yesterday how to turn this into a real debate but every time I sink to a new low, Tom goes even lower.

    I now realize that when I call on Tom to rise to a higher level of discourse, I need to put my money where my mouth is. I don’t want to be some crass spectacle, nor do I honestly care about “besting” Tom or anything like that…

    I’ve just been pounding away at this for two weeks… it’s a long time to wait for a response to a couple simple questions.

    • thomasbrady said,

      April 7, 2011 at 8:36 pm

      Don’t worry, Mark, we’ll get it together.

      We’re just catching out breaths, folks!

      Don’t you worry, I got plenty left!

      • Mark said,

        April 7, 2011 at 8:58 pm

        You need to up your cardio, Tom.

        It shouldn’t take you this long to catch your breath

  9. Kevin said,

    April 8, 2011 at 12:57 am

    There was a time on Harriet when Tom Brady, before he had outed himself as Gravesy, still an unknown writer and lover of Letters, was clearly the most fascinating voice on that now gated ‘community’. The Harriet posts of spring/summer 2009, is where Graves, speaking as the anonymous Thomas Brady, whupped the regular All American poet-stars in their own backyard. The difference being, of course, that the environment there was wholly dissimilar to the one-on-one adversarial theatre of your recent Collins/Bernstein comedy.

    This was because there were far more voices responding to the blogs, and Tom had an interesting position; that Mark McGurl expounded over the course of his most recent book on the rise of the creative writing program. Not that any of us knew about this book prior to its publication, Mark.

    Hmm, imbas forosnai or coincidence?

    Either way, Tom was happy, acting incognito and out-starring the very competitive poets online desperate to be listened to. I learned a lot from Tom, about the lineage of New England American modernism, enthralled for a while until I outgrew his, increasingly, one-note tenor articulating an argument none of the jokers on Harriet managed to expose. It took another semi-anonymous critic to do that, Mark.

    But the rapid-response, quick-fire online discussion is nought but propoganda masked as conversation. The interesting point is that three of us ended up gravitating toward one another, as the major windbags on Harriet prior to Travis and co closing the comment box, which is a whole other story I won’t bore you with here, but basically boiled down to having to resort to the most transparently desperate trick in the book to silence ‘Brady’, and proving in the process, regardless of the validity of Tom’s poetic arguments, that the Poetry Foundation of America, had been bested by Graves writing anonymously.

    Unfortunately, Tom took it quite badly and it’s only you who’s perked him up a bit since then.

  10. Kevin said,

    April 8, 2011 at 1:19 am

    Anyway, take no notice of me Tom, I am only honing the harsh, dark-lipsticked Cruela de Ville persona-in-print, using your persona as a punchbag, knowing it is vulgar, ungracious and all the rest of it, but thinking only of the comedic value.

    I stopped bothering with chatting here ages ago, going from contributer to lurker, the gaps between vists getting longer and longer; until this latest scuffle. My interest is more on the esoteric realities of the unexplainable and ifnored baffling events mainstream life ignores because the possible explanations are too divorced from our tv engendered ideas of authentic existence.

    I’ve been reading a lot of the alternative scientists and caught this documentary the other night. It;s the most in-depth, interesting and scientific study of crop circles undertaken and offers the listener, an entry into the alternative-to-this reality that may yet prove itself so. Certainly their are more wonders beneath heaven and on earth, than all our theories combined and squared, methinks.

    This is far more intersting than most of what Collins or Bernstein can offer our mind.

  11. thomasbrady said,

    April 8, 2011 at 2:27 am

    • Mark said,

      April 8, 2011 at 5:45 am

      Wow Tom,

      Even the Crop Circle people find your arguments to be far-fetched and hard to believe… That really says it all, doesn’t it…

      I think you posted the wrong video though. Either of these would be much more representative of what Tom Graves is all about:

  12. April 8, 2011 at 2:28 am

    I feel obligated to chime in here and note that the quote from Kenneth Goldsmith’s comment on Harriet in the post above is taken totally out of context. It is not only inaccurate but borders on improbity. His comment is anything but “fluffy”. In fact, Tom, it supports some of your views about contemporary poetry. If you read the entire thing you will see just how insightful and topical, if not prescient, it actually is.

    I clearly remember commenting about ‘Issue 1’ on a number of blogs at the time and distinctly remember Mr. Silliman’s threat to sue. It was a classic scam that hilariously exposed the crass egotism of contemporary poets that Goldsmith addresses in his post.

    • thomasbrady said,

      April 8, 2011 at 10:19 am


      Do you mean the Goldsmith sucking up to Bernstein quote?

      If that was ‘out of context,’ I apologize. That’s what I saw on Harriet. I’ll go look at it, again, or if you could just quote the essence of what I missed, I would appreciate it.


      • April 8, 2011 at 10:48 pm

        It is customary to read the whole book before writing a book report.

      • Mark said,

        April 8, 2011 at 10:57 pm

        Not on Scarriet it isn’t

      • thomasbrady said,

        April 9, 2011 at 12:34 am


        A book report. What a quaint idea.

        I read the rest of the Goldsmith post. Yawn. You didn’t see I was only selecting excerpts from a number of Harriet posts as a sampling?—that was obvious in the article. The intention was not to write a book report on the Goldsmith, who never qualified his Bernstein ass-kiss, by the way, so your charge of toxic “out-of-context” reporting on my part is… extremely odd, indeed.

        Finally, now that Harriet and Silliman are embracing tweets, you ought to go tell them to write ‘book reports.’ I’m doing just fine in the essay department, thanks.


  13. Christopher Woodman said,

    April 8, 2011 at 2:32 am

    I agree, Kevin, fascinating, but you’ll end up being another Noochinator if you get us to discuss it now, Tom being let off the hook grace à crop circles!

    Oh. and I’m more into ley lines anyway.


    So back to this:

    thomasbrady said,
    April 7, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    “Tom,. he nailed yo ass on the thread where he displayed unflagging politeness and patience about your two bugbears, Collins and Bernstein.”

    Kevin, it doesn’t sound like you read the articles or the threads.

    But thanks, anyway!


    The joke is that it doesn’t sound as if you read them either, Tom — which is the trait I found so annoying in you that I eventually just couldn’t take it anymore and started to challenge every word that you wrote. Your response was to bring in Marla Muse and Bob Tonucci, and then put up one bombastic half-baked-pie-in-your-face article after another — 29 in March alone — until in despair all the regular debaters, including myself, simply quit.


    As you once admitted to me personally, when you are writing you can say anything and don’t really care if it’s true or consistent as long as it’s fun – and gets attention. In that way your writing on Scarriet has become just like the poetry you so despise — inaccessible, incoherent, clubby, and bad.

    What you never understood, which was the true pity, is that the popularity of Scarriet in January and February 2010 was not at all a sign that everybody loved your March Madness series, which hadn’t begun yet, after all, but rather that the genuine heat in the discussions between you, Bill Kammann, Kevin Desmond, Gary Fitzgerald, Franz Wright, myself, and many others, had become interesting. Indeed, I really believe that had we continued we could have created a discussion site even better than Harriet, which was good while it lasted. But you got carried away by the “numbers,” as you called them at the time, 300 a day in January, 500 a day in February, and seized the goose with both hands — and broke its neck altogether.

    And everybody left. March Madness petered out, the baseball crashed, and Scarriet headed for the bushes. Then in despair you thought you’d do it again, eureka, a Second March Madness, even bigger and faster, but what you couldn’t do is bring back the intellectual excitement that Scarriet had before, and which only a lively, alert, committed, receptive community can generate.

    Alone you just spin your wheels, Tom. You just get more and more stuck in denial and dress up more and more ridiculously in the sound and fury of a bad actor.

    And then Mark came in, and thanks to his broken leg and my broken arm (I shattered my left arm and had major surgery in late January, and am still unable to reach even the shift key) the fight started again, and the audience started to build up and follow us like before.

    And now Kevin’s back too (or ‘Desmond’ as I like to call him in my grey knee socks at school) knocking at the door once again to see if anybody’s still there, and then Bill — and for the first time in well over a year Scarriet’s worth reading!

    As Mark says, pay attention, Tom.


  14. Mark said,

    April 8, 2011 at 5:44 am


    Apparently there’s an epidemic of broken limbs sweeping the globe. Heal up soon, man. I know what a nuisance that cast can be.

    “As you once admitted to me personally, when you are writing you can say anything and don’t really care if it’s true or consistent as long as it’s fun – and gets attention. In that way your writing on Scarriet has become just like the poetry you so despise — inaccessible, incoherent, clubby, and bad.” – Classic troll behaviour. I could have guessed as much 🙂


    I’ve been watching your posts on here wane over the last couple weeks. You’re barely posting at all anymore. Do you ultimately NOT want to have a discussion? Why do you post about how important discussion is to Scarriet if you’re unwilling to engage in any? All I’ve seen from you is one-note put-downs and unsubstantiated claims.

    Now you’ve resorted to just posting youtube videos with no text at all…

    I guess Silliman hit the nail on the head – you’re all about quietude lately.

  15. April 10, 2011 at 1:55 am


    Kenneth Goldsmith, or The Art of Being Talked About

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