TROUBLE AT THE POETRY FOUNDATION

Take a bunch of prickly, under-read poets who run a little magazine called Poetry and give them a hundred million dollars.

What do they do?

They change their name from Poetry to Poetry Foundation.

They hire accountants and lawyers.

They fashion a website, and after a trial, block comments, leaving a blog site of newsy poetry links, in the spirit of: Can you believe it? The New York Times mentioned a poem yesterday!

The blog site also features a twitter feed: random poet friends of the Foundation taking turns twittering to the world.

But no comments.  The public is not really allowed.

They build a twentyone million dollar building in the middle of Chicago, and for its opening party, they arrest a protestor.

After the arrest, there’s another protest in the building, including a large banner asking how Prozac would have influenced Emily Dickinson:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SsotfygDk-c&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL

The millions given to Poetry was a private donation—but it came from Big Pharma, the Lilly drug company that’s responsible for Prozac.

A pity the millions were not made from poetry, so poetry could have donated to itself, with Poetry the beneficiary.  But alas, the Poetry Foundation suffers from a classic Alienated Split: the meaty millions are concentrated in pill-form, and not scattered on the invisible wings of poesy.

None of this is big news.  Today, a banker sneezes and millions are moved about.  If a poetry magazine got lucky, why should we begrudge it?

On the other hand, why shouldn’t we question how a private fortune is dispersed in the name of a  public good?  The Poetry Foundation would be the first to defend poetry as a public good, and this worthy claim makes it vulnerable to questions of worth; perhaps not in the form of “pranks,” but don’t the “pranksters” have legitimate concerns, and don’t they warrant a hearing?  Is calling the cops on a (mild) prank the proper response of an institution ostensibly in existence because of public good?

What annoys us most about the Poetry Foundation is its thin skin, demonstrated when our mum, Blog Harriet, shut conversation down, setting in motion Scarriet’s genesis.  Poets, even with their feigning, are supposed to deal in truth, and how can thin skin exist with truth?

Scarriet would, with Plato, question poetry’s automatic status as a public good, thus deepening the whole issue; but how thin the skin gets, whenever automatic becomes the norm.

The art of poetry, since falling into its present existence as a deconstructed, free-floating public good, is free to be anything it wants to be, and now borders on being nothing at all, blandly and pedagogically filling a kind of gabby, social prozac, niche—look in the pages of Poetry—and, until it is absolutely nothing, the art of poetry will seek that freedom (having tasted for so long freedom as a self-reflexive good) which naturally leads it to that state which is nothing; indeed, for almost 100 years, being a free-floating nothing has almost been its (rebel) creed.

The art suffers from this counter-intuitive spin: with the loosening of poetry’s formal attributes, we see the bodily tightening of poets’ nerves.  Rather than resort to a good-natured, witty rebuke, poets tend to run and hide.

A friend on the grapevine wrote me:

Another interesting element to this is what the poster called ‘Don Sharey’ commenting on the Chicago Reader article  http://www.chicagoreader.com/gyrobase/poetry-foundation-clamps-down-on-activists/Content?oid=4844017&sort=desc&show=comments – writes

You only have to read Don Share’s recent poetry on his blog to understand how irrelevant the ethos of this organisation is. Tedious in the extreme.

Earth totters,
lifts up its horn to the heavens
while its inhabitants grow yet
rich and poor together
and speak with insolent neck.

Share has on his blog a blurb praising his ‘earnest’ poetry. An irony-free zone.

Corporate poetry

~

On Share’s blog now, the two recent blogposts of his that consisted of poems he wrote ‘in response to recent (world) events’, have been taken down so there’s no trace of the writing Don Sharey refers to.

Also the blurb commending Share’s poetry for being ‘earnest’ has also disappeared from the sidebar. This proves Share is not only closely following comments on the Chicago Reader about this hoo ha, but also he has a very thin and fragile critical skin when it comes to anonymous people commenting on his poetry.

Since Share is scared, Sharey gets the last word.

A hundred million should at least get you that.

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18 Comments

  1. M said,

    October 28, 2011 at 12:17 am

    Everything else you say in this typically imbecilic post is irrelevant, but I know Don Share & Chris Wiman, & to call them under-read is magnificently off the mark. What the fuck are you talking about? Graves, with his retarded anti-modernist campaign, is in a position to pronounce on the reading of two people he’s never met. You suffer from the usual tiny nobody syndrome, pal. A small mind with one small, wrong idea.

  2. M Is a Dickhead said,

    October 28, 2011 at 2:50 am

    Graves doesn’t say your bumchums are under-read, M; in fact he doesn’t even mention them. He’s obviously touched a nerve for you to come in here swaggering and sweary, ranting rubbish that bears no relation to what he wrote.

    What I take from this post is how irrelevant the in-crowd wallowing in Lilly’s millions really are. As Franz Wright, or some other poet recently wrote, the problem with American poetry today is it’s all so unbeleivably dull and forgettable. Big on voices waffling on about the past poets, but very few writing any decent poems themselves. Marty Robbins, Share, Winman the committed God botherer and his simpering faux profund mask hiding an incredibly irrelevant and staggeringly dull doggerelist. All the nice chaps at PF, there poetry will die with them and be rightly forgotten once they aren’t bigging one another up in the subsidized big-pharma funded corporate pages of their little cliquey club, M, you fuckwit.

  3. M said,

    October 28, 2011 at 3:11 am

    Wow, you’re … you’re right! I’m so sad now. I hope you’ll share some of your “decent poems” with me so I can learn how to write like the really important poets who will be rightly remembered into shining posterity. Congrats on joining that exclusive club, you truth-telling man of courage.

  4. M said,

    October 28, 2011 at 3:12 am

    And, um, Don Share & Chris Wiman run Poetry, & Graves does too call them “under-read,” so eat it, you rebel.

  5. M Is not a Dickhead said,

    October 28, 2011 at 7:39 am

    Where does Graves write that the forgettable duo you know are under-read, please M?

    And yes, of course, If you pay me the appropriate amount, what my poems are worth, then yes, I will share one with you. $5000 and you can read one of my poems.

    That’s the sort of money I am used to making from one of mine.

  6. M said,

    October 28, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Wow, you really are a bile-filled, bitter bunnny, aren’t you?

    Look, just because I know people at the Poetry Foundation, it doesn’t mean we are involved in some kind of grand conspiracy to take over po-biz. The guys there have been incredibly supportive and are, unlike you losers, never intemperate in speech. You know why? Because we have class. Something you lot know nothing about.

    We are alert to the changes in the ‘scene’ and write accordingly on that. We don;t all hang around patting each other on the back, but we do support up and coming talent. So there!

    • M said,

      November 4, 2011 at 4:17 am

      I did not leave this comment. Any other comments left henceforth by “M” are not mine, either, as I have no intention of ever visiting this blog again.

      • M said,

        November 4, 2011 at 4:57 am

        If I can just clarify. I would never leave a statement that misspelled a word. Being a very well known, intelligent, civilized and incredibly cultured person who is, actually, a very important poet, I don’t have the time or inclination to bother with those far less talented or serious about being famous than my very fucking brilliant self, you scumbags.

        Drop fucking dead.

        Now, I will arise and go to speak of other very fucking important poets with some of America’s most gifted intellectuals and academics who do know what the fuck we are on about.

  7. thomasbrady said,

    October 28, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    M,

    I was using “under-read poets” the same way one would say “under-read novels.” I meant the “poets who run a little magazine” don’t have a wide readership for their work—not that the poets themselves don’t read a lot.

    “Reading a lot” doesn’t mean anything, of course. “Magnificently off the mark” is an odd phrase. Does this mean the Poetry poets are “magnificent” because they read a lot?

    The magazine Poetry and the Poetry Foundation have no identity, no focus. They are soul-less ‘cut-and-paste.’ T.S. Eliot’s Tradition is foreign to them. They have no sense of what matters, and what does not. They are not critical. They have neither taste nor discrimination. They are merely another bulletin board.

    They are inarticulate and thin-skinned.

    Much like you, M.

    Tom

    • M said,

      November 4, 2011 at 4:15 am

      For the record, I left the initial “M” comment & its follow-up. I did not write the third comment. I would never misspell “bunnnny.” (I wouldn’t put it past Tom to make up comments for me.) As someone who is published in the top journals and anthologies, whose name you would recognize, I have to laugh at the insecurities of my $5,000-a-poem interlocutor. Jack Conway, is that you, you sad little fool?

  8. October 29, 2011 at 4:15 am

    Jabberwocky

    T’was brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
    All mimsy were the borogoves,
    And the mome raths outgrabe.

    “Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
    The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
    Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
    The frumious Bandersnatch!”

    He took his vorpal sword in hand:
    Long time the manxome foe he sought—
    So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
    And stood awhile in thought.

    And as in uffish thought he stood,
    The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
    Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
    And burbled as it came!

    One, two! One, two! And through and through
    The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
    He left it dead, and with its head
    He went galumphing back.

    “And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
    Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
    O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
    He chortled in his joy.

    T’was brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
    All mimsy were the borogoves,
    And the mome raths outgrabe.

    – Lewis Carroll

  9. marcusbales said,

    October 29, 2011 at 11:57 am

    Poetry Jobbers

    ‘Twas skoulas, and the wiman shares
    Did gyre and gimble in the barr;
    All halley were the swisher’s airs,
    And nichols younged sitar.

    “Beware the Hlywak, son!
    The garbutt bite, the jaws that jest!
    Beware the noriega, and shun
    The kaminsky brianwest!”

    He took his scarriet blog in hand:
    Long time the schober foe he sought —
    So rested he by the johnson tree.
    And stood awhile in thought.

    And as in slosek thought he stood,
    The Hlywak, with eyes of flame,
    Came esching through the amos wood,
    And gilmered as it came!

    One, two! One, two! And through and through
    The scarriet blade went snicker-snack!
    He left it dead, and with its head
    He went chiapettang back.

    “And hast thou slain the Hlywak?
    Come to my arms, my shehan boy!
    O sasaki day! Callooh! Callay!”
    He litwined in his joy.

    ‘Twas skoulas, and the wiman shares
    Did gyre and gimble in the barr;
    All halley were the swisher’s airs,
    And nichols younged sitar.

    • thomasbrady said,

      October 31, 2011 at 2:27 pm

      As Harry Potter would say, “Brilliant!”

  10. marcusbales said,

    October 30, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    http://www.thenation.com/article/164186/just-say-william-carlos-williams?page=full

    “The International Exhibition of Modern Art, organized by the Association of American Painters and Sculptors, opened in New York City’s Sixty-Ninth Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue on February 15, 1913. The exhibition, which quickly became known as the Armory Show, … galvanized the art world by attracting as much outrage as approbation. … Not only painters but American writers and musicians were delighted by this home-grown eruption of modernist scandal, and Herbert Leibowitz maintains in his new biography of William Carlos Williams, “Something Urgent I Have to Say to You”: The Life and Works of William Carlos Williams, that the Armory Show was a watershed in Williams’s career …., an event that transformed a backwoods imitator of Keats into a great American poet.

    “But there’s a problem here. “Bill did not attend the first Armory Show,” remembered Williams’s wife, Floss, “though he always insisted he did.” Williams did claim in his autobiography, published in 1951, that he’d attended, but he was in fact remembering a later exhibition; having spent his life championing the idea of American art, he needed to imagine himself participating in what had became a highly symbolic moment in the history of American modernism. Sharing that need, Leibowitz doesn’t mention Floss Williams’s memory, eager to perpetuate a well-known but misleading tale, one that skews our sense of Williams’s career toward equally misleading notions of what constitutes innovation not only in recent American poetry but in the history of poetry at large.”

    • thomasbrady said,

      October 31, 2011 at 2:41 pm

      Thank you, Marcus, for quoting this Nation review of W.C Williams bio.

      The world slowly catches up to Thomas Brady:

      “The Golden Treasury of the Best Songs and Lyrical Poems in the English Language, edited by Francis Turner Palgrave in 1861, was often condescended to by polemical modernists, but the widely distributed anthology was in fact instrumental in turning both Victorian and modernist taste away from the discursive verbosity of narrative poems to the compressed intensity of the lyric. The first edition contained no Victorian poems, retrograde or otherwise, but every edition contained many of the greatest lyric poems in the English language—poems by Sidney, Shakespeare, Donne, Jonson, Gray, Blake, Keats and many more. The proposition that Williams’s early efforts could fit snugly into this company would have seemed ludicrous to Williams, but for Leibowitz, all that matters is that Williams’s early poems are (like poems by Shakespeare or Keats) metered and rhymed.

      What truly matters is that the early poems [of William Carlos Williams] (unlike poems by Shakespeare or Keats) are ineptly metered and rhymed.”

      This Armory Show was crucial, and a man who was instrumental in setting it up was John Quinn, Pound and Eliot’s lawyer, a figure ignored, but very important.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Quinn_(collector)

      The biographer and reviewer assume Williams improved after his hack attempts to sound like Palgrave’s, but the truth is a little closer to this: the failures turned into what we know as modernism, as less-than-talented, but worldly and well-connected, individuals co-puffed up each other’s reputations.

      Tom

  11. thomasbrady said,

    November 4, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    So now it appears that neither M nor M nor M is Don Share.

    Thanks for clearing that up!

  12. Antschel Adams said,

    November 13, 2011 at 7:25 am

    The arrested protester you speak of shoved a security guard and then began grabbing the guard’s genitals while taking her own clothes off. Those are the facts. Since you support her actions, I assume you will not be so “thin-skinned” as to call the police when I grab you by the testicles, drop my jeans, and start shouting my political beliefs in your ear. I’m told that’s what passes for foreplay amongst “important poets” these days.

  13. Scarriet Support said,

    November 24, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    Dear Antschel Adams.

    Please accept Scarriet Supports’ most deep and sincere apology for what happened that fateful night. If Scarriet Support could reverse time with some kind of supernatural aid, we would. We would return a hot sexy poet couple – an Italian re-incarnation of Dante in the form of Marlon Brando circa 1953 and Elizabeth Bishop in the form of a Venezuelan singer-movieactor-producer-director poet also the worlds most alluring supermodel – to where the two artists where drinking prior to the event.

    Dante and Bishop would then make a positive intervention by debating with Johnson and Dunn the meaning of life and poetry. Totally blowing their minds with somethng so far more real and exciting than the concrete vaults of America’s most sacred sterile area, that the course of history is changed as Dunn and Johnson get so far down with Dante and Bishop, that the incredibly serious poetic reality in the temple founded with the aid of anti-depressant drugs, carries on without them there, and thus going down in the annals of world poetry, as one of the most moving and unattended events anywhere in Chicago that night.


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