JANUARY 2013 POETRY MAGAZINE REVIEWED, PART 2

Baudelaire: Scared the hell out of Poetry magazine contributor Daisy Fried

We now come to the prose part of Poetry’s January issue, which includes a series of “Reconsiderations” of well-known poets, called “Antagonisms” in the Poetry Table of Contents—which is a terrific idea, and we think it should be a regular feature.

Some of the Poetry hires go right after their famous counterparts, but others get cold feet, apologizing to the editors: I want to take apart Baudelaire b-b-but I just can’t!

Dylan Thomas is the first titan up, and Michael Robbins fearlessly takes him on .

“Reconsidering Dylan Thomas,” or “The Child That Sucketh Long” begins with an amusing Michael Robbins observation: phrases from Thomas’ poems sounds like the names of Heavy Metal bands:

They appear to be the names of  heavy metal bands: Plague of  Fables; Star-Flanked Seed; Serpent Caul; Murder of Eden; Altar of Plagues; Seed-at-Zero; The Grave and My Calm Body; Dark Asylum; Mares of  Thrace; Herods Wail; Christbread; Binding Moon; Red Swine. In fact they are phrases culled from Dylan Thomas’s poems — except that I threw two actual metal bands in there. Didn’t notice, did you?

When Robbins indulges in pure fun, as above, he’s enjoyable to read, but we’re afraid we’re going to have to take Robbins to task for some of his Thomas-bashing.

Robbins faults Thomas for “disregard[ing] what part of speech a word usually is,” but in Robbins’  example, “I fellowed sleep who kissed me in the brain, /  Let fall the tear of time,” the culprit is metaphoric vagueness, not the word, “fellowed.”

Robbins errs again when he calls the following “sentimental:”

No. Not for Christ’s dazzling bed
Or a nacreous sleep among soft particles and charms
My dear would I change my tears or your iron head.
Thrust, my daughter or son, to escape, there is none, none, none,
Nor when all ponderous heaven’s host of waters breaks.

Robbins follows the quote with: “Who does the guy think he is?”

Modern and post-modern critics, habitually rejecting what has come to be known as Victorian sentiment, are often blind to every modern lapse which plagues contemporary poetry: obscurity, ugliness, and pretentiousness.  Robbins is wrong: if there’s a problem with the Thomas passage it’s the failure to depict more accessibly its sentiment.  It is Robbins, the critic, who is being sentimental here.

Robbins correctly finds the Hopkins influence: “No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief…” and says,

Hopkins sincerely believed the state of his soul was at stake. All that’s at stake for Thomas is whether his self-pity has been gorgeously enough expressed. 

Sincerely believed?  Now who is being sentimental?

Expression is all—whether we judge Tennyson or Ashbery, and supplying biographical information to imply that one poet “sincerely believes” more than another is, well, sentimental.  We are not sure how the desire to “gorgeously express a sentiment” translates into “self-pity,” but worrying about the “state of one’s soul” does not. The confusion Robbins suffers from arises, not because moderns are no longer mawkish, but because they’ve erected an anti-mawkish standard on what they don’t seem to realize is mawkish ground.

“Who does the guy think he is?” Robbins cries, but he should look in the mirror and see how he resembles the old Moderns who looked back at Keats, Shelley and Byron, and cried, “Who did these guys think they were?”  The response is, “Who do you think the guy has to be?”

Robbins finishes his essay on Thomas by pointing out some other moderns who fell into what Robbins calls  “mannered mush.”  But here’s the problem: All poetry worth the name is, in some way, mannered and courts, to a some degree, sentiment.  When we are shocked to find, upon careful inspection, that modern poetry rises (or falls) to mannered sentiment, well, we shouldn’t be.  The critic needs to tell us how the manner and the sentiment fail—because of course they often do, in every modern poet there is—it is time we stop hiding, in our false modern haughtiness, behind the generalized and slap-dash accusation of “mannered mush.”

Like Hart Crane’s, Thomas’s faults protrude embarrassingly from the wazoo. Crane’s are easier to forgive, since he had vision, and Thomas was myopic. But at his best he has, like Crane, a towering presence of mind, a stranglehold on the language. Perhaps I’d love him more if   I hadn’t loved him so much, so early. I’ve made my peace with other early crushes who came to seem so much mannered mush: James Wright, Rilke, Neruda. Rereading Thomas now for this piece, I found myself thawing toward him, as I slowly did toward those others, whom now I love anew, love more clearly. So get you gone, Dylan Thomas, though with blessings on your head.

We give Robbins’ essay C+.

Jason Guriel goes off on E.E. Cummings—who was at Harvard with T.S. Eliot and belonged very much to the Eliot/Pound/Moore/Williams Dial clique—who is an easy target, and Guriel doesn’t miss.  The essay’s title, “Sub-Seuss,” bodes its take-no-prisoners approach.

The message Cummings communicates here — and which langpo
types and concrete poets continue to internalize — is remarkably 
unambiguous: words are toy blocks, and poems, child’s play. No one else has made making it new look so easy.

But Cummings’s poems themselves were only superficially “new.” Beneath the tattoo-thin signifiers of edginess — those lowercase i’s, those words run together —  flutters the heart of a romantic. (Is there a correlation between typographically arresting poetry and emotional arrestedness?) He fancies himself an individual among masses, finds the church ladies have “furnished souls,” opposes war. He’s far more self-righteous, this romantic, than any soldier or gossip — and far deadlier: he’s a teenager armed with a journal.

Guriel gets the job done.  A-

Thank God for Laura Kasischke.  She punctures Wallace Stevens with delicacy, modesty, and humor, and it’s a rip-roaring good time because she calls out this overrated, sometimes Sub-Seuss, poet.

I know only too well that it is my own failings as a reader, a thinker, 
a poet, and a human being that I don’t like the work of  Wallace Stevens. I know that there are scholars who have devoted their lives to his work, and done so out of  the purest motives. I know that there are poets who, without Stevens’s work to inspire them, would never have taken up the pen themselves. I know that there are students for whom “The Emperor of Ice-Cream,” upon first being encountered, cracked open a world of thought and language and helped them to pull themselves out of the gutter of cable television and to worship forever after at the altar of Wallace Stevens. I know that hundreds — thousands! — of far better readers, thinkers, poets, and human beings love the poetry of Wallace Stevens. Spiritually. In all sincerity. And completely.

But, honestly, how can they? I placed a jar in Tennessee…?

“No! Don’t! Please!” someone (perhaps that poor secretary to whom he supposedly dictated the poems every morning) should have said. She should have said, “Wallace, no. Don’t use the word ‘placed.’ It makes you sound so… so …  so full of yourself ! As if you think that every time you toss a candy wrapper out the window the landscape rearranges itself around you. The whole idea that someone (you) has put (I mean placed) a jar on a hill and then written
a poem about it — that whole idea is so ludicrous and disturbing that it will be discussed for decades in cold rooms with bad lighting. And the music of it! omg! It did not give of bird or bush… 
You really are joking now, aren’t you? This is like that other line, the one with the concupiscent curds in it? Right? You’re just trying to make the kids in Poetry 101 with hangovers start up with the cold sweats, right?”

But perhaps she never dared to say that. He was a powerful man. He was never told by anyone that a poem with a line that required pronouncing the name “Tehuantepec” repeatedly, followed by a line about the “slopping” sea, was stomach-churning. And no one ever asked him to explain how, exactly, a man and a woman and a blackbird can be one. No one said, “Nuncle, you must reconsider this hoo-hoo-hoo and shoo-shoo-shoo and ric-a-nic. And, of course, ‘cachinnation’ is going to require yet another footnote, you know. Maybe just say ‘loud laughter’?”

Just now I took out the Norton, thinking I must be misremembering these lines. No poet as beloved as Wallace Stevens could have written them. But the first Stevens line my eyes fall upon is “Opusculum paedagogum.  / The pears are not viols.” At least I don’t have to worry about those lines getting stuck in my head all day.

Was that “poor secretary” Helen Vendler, by any chance?

Stevens is often viscerally annoying—and any metaphysical apology misses the point.  More than that: Stevens, as Kasischke reminds us, is pretentious (or just silly) in sound as well as sense—and it’s natural to get called out this way since we are talking about poetry.

Laura Kasischke, you get an A.

Peter Campion finds the novels and essays of D.H. Lawrence stronger than the poetry, but we think his best poems hold up better than his prose.  But I suppose if one slogs through Lawrence’s “Collected,” the preachy pessimisim would probably overwhelm.  We feel the best of his poetry will outlast everything else.

Campion finds the “fatalistic and tender” a important feature of Lawrence and British poetry (Larkin, Ted Hughes, Alice Oswald).  We suppose he has a point.

We’ll give Campion a solid B.

Daisy Fried is clearly intimidated by Baudelaire, and in a fit of American self-hatred, finally succumbs to his lurid seduction.

After all, he and Poe invented poetic goth. It’s not Baudelaire’s fault his modern-day followers are goofballs. And not their fault I’m a boring middle-aged American. 

Objections to sexism in this passage are anachronistic; Baudelaire’s always most revolted by himself.
We in America could use more romantic self-disgust. (Frederick Seidel thinks so. Ooga Booga is the Fleurs du Mal of our time.)

Fried earns a B.

Ange Mlinko was given the most difficult task: Elizabeth Bishop, who is virtually untouchable these days.  The dialogue format she chooses works pretty well, but the content isn’t terribly interesting.  Mlinko finds Bishop chummy, congenial, wishy-washy, and formally rote.  Which seems completely wrong.  Bishop is actually quite surly in her poems.

We give Mlinko a C.

We now come to the final two January 2013 Poetry essays—by Ilya Kaminsky and Peter Cole; instead of short and sweet “antagonisms, these are lengthy, dreary affairs, tedious, and self-important, the sorts of essays that blot the literary landscape with cool quotes, cool locales, cool names—and rhetoric which serves no other purpose than background to the cool quotes, cool locales, and cool names.

Take Ilya Kaminsky’s “Of Strangeness That Wakes Us” (on Paul Celan).

Cool quotes: W.H. Auden: “Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.”  Theodor Adorno: “It Is Barbaric To Write Poetry After The Holocaust.”  Anne Carson: “Celan is a poet who uses language as if he were always translating.”  Eavan Boland: “It is the poet’s process that needs to be translated.”Emily Dickinson: “I Felt A Funeral, in my Brain.” Robert Kelly: We sleep in language if language does not come to wake us with its strangeness.” Check.

Cool locales: Czernowitz, Vienna, Paris.  Check.

Cool names: Paul Celan, Cesar Vallejo, Walt Whitman, Marina Tsvetaeva, Ovid, Breton, John Berryman.  Check.

Kaminsky ponders at the start of his essay, “Is Celan’s work too obscure, as some claim?”

The answer is simple in ratio to the rhetorical labor Kaminsky expends to prove otherwise: Yes, it is too obscure.

If we are honest, and admit obscurity right away, we don’t have to waste our time quoting Emily Dickinson, Eavan Boland, and Robert Kelly.  As long as Kaminsky can dance and beat a drum, he drags in another well-known quote to prove the impossible, and it is painful to watch.

Kaminsky quotes Zbigniew Herbert (of course!):

INTERVIEWER: “What is the purpose of poetry?”
HERBERT: “To wake up!”

But how does it wake us up?  And it wakes us to what?

Kaminsky gives us the answer (rather gallantly) by quoting from Genesis (a Biblical quotation!) backwards and claims there’s “more poetry” when we read the passage in reverse. 

“And there was light let there be God and said waters.” 

I suppose it might please an atheist to read “let there be God,” but poetry isn’t meant to please one belief system over another, is it? 

Kaminsky can’t seriously be saying any text read backwards will be more poetic, and thus, wake us up

What Kaminsky does explicitly say is that lyric poetry “wrecks normal language,” but this observation, which is nearly a truism, cannot make obscure poetry less obscure.

In the Genesis example—the crowning jewel of the essay—Kaminsky takes sacred, elevated language (Genesis) and “wrecks” it.

The backwards reading of Genesis, altering the intended meaning, takes authority away from God and gives it back to language. Since humans are limited in their perceptions, the atheist position is how all humans (correctly or incorrectly) experience the universe. So the backward phrase, “let there be God,” which finds the human-writing (truth) of Genesis, “wakes” us up to the atheist reality within a sacred text.

This is an interesting religious argument, but it has nothing to do with Kaminsky’s defense of Celan’s poetry.

Likewise, distorting or punning on famous words, as Kaminsky does with Genesis, is done all the time in the popular press—would Kaminsky call this “poetry” that “wakes us up?”  If a pun gives a ‘haha’ moment, perhaps ‘wrecking’ language can give us an ‘aha’ moment. 

This is an interesting linguistic argument, but it has nothing to do with reading Paul Celan.

Kaminsky is not writing an essay, but tip-toeing through the tulips of argumentation, dazzling with quotations; in Kaminsky’s rarefied realm of Zbigniew Herbert quotes, he appears to miss the common sense implications of his own rhetoric.

This is how Kaminsky reads Celan in the opening of his essay:

The deciphering of the text proves the worthiness of the reader.

Some of Celania’s poems are modern psalms; here is one:

Of  too much was our talk, of
too little. Of  the You
and You-Again, of
how clarity troubles, of
Jewishness, of
your God.

Of
that.
On the day of an ascension, the
Minister stood over there, it sent
some gold across the water.

Of  your God was our talk, I spoke
against him, I
let the heart that I had
hope:
for
his highest, death-rattled, his
quarreling word —

Your eye looked on, looked away,
your mouth
spoke its way to the eye, and I heard:
We
don’t know, you know,
we
don’t know, do we?,
what
counts.
Zurich, the Stork Inn, tr. by Michael Hamburger

“Extreme clarity is a mystery,” says Mahmoud Darwish. “Clarity troubles.” Celan, often considered a difficult poet, is in this poem at his clearest.

Is Celan’s work too obscure, as some claim? Is it too hermetic? Too difficult? Real poems, Celan wrote, are “making toward something   …    perhaps toward an addressable Thou.” I would argue that, for any poet writing toward such a subject, regular words and syntax soon become inadequate (Hopkins, anyone?). Celan is an extreme case though, because he also had to contend with the inadequacy of the German language to express the experience of the Jewish poet, post-Holocaust. His is the lyricism of privacy (prayer is private, no matter with how many fellow congregants it is uttered or in how many prayer books it appears), not of hermeticism. In fact, Celan insisted to Michael Hamburger that he was “ganz und gar nicht hermetisch.” Absolutely not hermetic.

Does Kaminsky read Celan’s “modern psalm” backwards to understand it better? 

No.

Is Celan a punster? 

No.

Is Celan’s poem clear?

No.

Is Kaminsky able to make Celan’s poem less obscure for us?

No.

Is it at all clear what this “adressable Thou” is?

No.

The subject of Kaminsky’s essay simply doesn’t know itself.

Finally, Kaminsky’s main point is the “privacy” of the lyric poet—and he ends his essay:

A great poet is not someone who speaks in stadiums to thousands of  listeners. A great poet is a very private person. In his or her privacy this poet creates a language in which he or she is able to speak, privately, to many people at the same time.

But this doesn’t make any sense.  If one hears a poet’s words in a stadium among thousands of listeners, one is still responding as a private person to those words. “Creating a language to speak, privately, to many people at the same time” could signify a poet speaking in a stadium to thousands.  Why not?  And so where does this leave Kaminsky’s definition of lyric “privacy?”

We must give Kaminsky’s essay a C, because for all it brings, it is hollow at its center, arguing from scattered quotes rather than from common sense.

Peter Cole has something called, “The Invention of Influence: A Notebook/A Notebook: Seeking higher powers in the Middle East” in which he rambles, endlessly; like Kaminsky, Cole proffers quotation after quotation, never stopping long enough to  explore any one issue.  It’s the School of Harold Bloom: peeling the onion of reference after reference after reference to find at the center nothing but a tremendous ego who reads a lot.  Surely Peter Cole should be interesting—he reads so much! 

Cole’s essay is more personal than Kaminsky’s, which makes it ‘warmer,’ but also more helter-skelter; Cole made a much freer space for himself—though you end up wishing he hadn’t.  Cole tries to gives us: ‘here’s how I write/here’s how I think/here’s what’s going on,’ but ends up giving us, ‘would you look how much I travel/would  you look how much I observe/would you look how much I read.’  One cannot tell whether the failure of the essay is from the sort of person Cole is, or whether the failure is from the form the essay happened to take—and it speaks even worse for Cole that we cannot tell.  The essay is briefly everywhere and thus, nowhere.

When you read stuff like this from Cole’s essay, one can only think, will you please shut up?

Why did I have such a hard time coming up with an “antagonism” to write about for Poetry? Do the dead bite back? Or is it that I’m by temperament and training now so fastidiously turned against myself
that I lean into my antagonisms until they give way at a certain point like a secret door-in-the-wall to enthusiasm? James Merrill, for instance. Or Pope.

It’s a translator’s gift, and curse. A strategy of masking and, I suppose, also of evasion. Not only an ability to inhabit difference, but a desire and need to. As a source of pleasure, and nourishment — even wisdom. What others find in fiction?

Hence, too, the obsession of late with couplets, which I once despised. The desire to compose in rhymed couplets in such a way as to highlight the openness lurking in a certain closure. As organic as a pulse, or respiration.

It’s embarrassing to watch how ‘open and nice’ strive to hide ‘crazy and nasty.’  He’s too nice to give the Poetry editors an “antagonism.”  Well, not so much nice, as fastidiously turned against himself.  Too bad, Poetry editors. Mr. Cole fastidiously refuses.

Cole once “despised” couplets??  How can one “despise” couplets?  Oh, but dear friends, Peter Cole is now obsessed with couplets—in order to highlight openness lurking in a certain closure—and this (of course!) is organic. 

Good grief.

Cole gets a C-.

Finally, one lively Letter to the Editor is published, in which Philip Metres takes Clive James to task for “the idea that poems exist only for the page, [which] is lamentably myopic, and part of the predicament of  poetry’s marginalization in American culture.”

The lesson here, as we judge Poetry’s prose in their January issue,  seems to be: in Letters, antagonism is life and its opposite, death.

THE JANUARY 2013 ISSUE OF POETRY REVIEWED, PART I

Is Poetry magazine the place where American poetry happens, today?

We certainly think so.

How did Poetry gain this eminent place?

It has a history—so people want to publish there, an important first criterion.  Secondly, it has elevated criticism, honest, democratic criticism—rather than puffing—to an equal place with the poems.  Thirdly, it has no editorial bias for a certain kind of poetry.  Lastly, Poetry has a cheery, accessible, web-site, chocked with poems.  Blog Harriet is mere cut-and-paste and does not allow reader comments, but one can read the entire issue of Poetry on-line (and make comments).  Kudos to the editors.

Here’s our review of the most recent issue:

Sara Miller is first with five poems and she is one of those poets too clever for her own good, stating confidently in the abstract what actually makes very little sense; “Cairo” is plain-talk mysticism with metaphor inside of metaphor inside of metaphor:

CAIRO
The evidence was in and it went to the contrary.
The contrary wound around us rather like a river.
The river reacted, spider-like, tangling up its legs
with other wet parts we thought we knew,
such as creeks and fjords and deltas and such.
A beaver sits on the riverbank watching all of this unfold.
He doesn’t know what a fjord is, and he doesn’t care
for other waters, or even other beavers, or the merest
hint of other business, so he removes this evidence.
Then he builds a structure which for years he is rehabbing.
Inside it is hollow and there is his nest.
He is a dark little bastard, all the same.
The water had a fine way of   being, now it is tortured
by these nests and their vassal.
Yet the river doesn’t overthrow the beaver.
Quite the contrary. The river goes around polite as a snake.
It argues a tiny bit at the edges of the lodge,
where young beavers could be napping.
You and I would let loose a flood of tears. Not the river.
You and I would seep hotly into our darkest places.
Not the river. It is a long way from home
and has that on its mind, the day of rising,
when the temples will all be cleansed
and the whole unfathomable truth will out.
According to the waters. According to their book.

Yes, we get it, Ms. Miller.  The river and the beaver represent cooperative, unsentimental nature, and “you and I,” the humans, weepy and word-obsessed, will be cleansed.  The faster Miller’s waters clean us, the better.  Her poem rebukes us like a flood.  Oh, and hurray for the beaver. And we pray those young beavers are napping still.

The best of her five poems is perhaps the third one, “Gravitas:”

The overweight, overnight parts
that came to me in a dream.
Their clothes no longer fit,
it was this that brought them
to me crying, their faces twitching.
That had to end. No, they said,
it didn’t. So I rolled over to ghosts
that couldn’t dent a pillow.
The clock shed. Night pulled its
burdens into harbor and I woke,
glad for the day, its telltale light,
its flying minute, that genie work,
and the everlasting perturbations
of my people, their glories,
their heavy last words,
and for these, I rose.
Miller, like many modern poets, seems to have more faith in words themselves than how they ultimately fit together.  The poet should make the words obey the poem: the words themselves ought not to dictate what the poem is; Sara Miller is a little too enamoured of the words she manages to gather together in her poems. Her poem, “Gravitas,” unlike the others, manages to prevail, with a certain unified lyric grace, over the poet’s wordy education.
A poem should have an existence outside of its words, but since words naturally point to something outside themselves, a complacency too easily sets in:—mad moments of word-play become substitutes for poems.
I wish I could keep my thoughts in order
and my ducks in a row.
I wish I could keep my ducks in a thought
or my thoughts in a duck.
My point is that we all exist, wetly, in the hunt.
This is how “Countermeasures” opens, and one sees how much Miller is in love with words—which is all very nice, indeed.
Cairo C-
Spellbound D
Gravitas B
Countermeasures D
Moves In The Field C
Nocturne C-
Barbara Hamby has one poem, “Letter To A Lost Friend,” which reveals the modern poet’s faith in words—which can lead the poet astray.
Auden once said that ‘a love of words’ serves a poet better than ‘having something to say.’  We see the point—no one wants a poem to boss them around—but we believe the advice has done much mischief.  Poets have been erring in the other direction for quite some time: too modest to ‘have something to say,’ they aren’t shy about making ‘the words’ everything.
Hamby’s poem begins: “There must be a Russian word to describe what has happened between us…”
We see here, in Hamby’s opening, the modern poet’s obsession with words.  Poetry, however, is not Scrabble.
Hamby then rambles deliciously, impressionistically, nostalgically, with quotes from Pushkin anchoring a poem that feels like it belongs to its references more than to Hamby, the poet—but this, of course, is the modern sensibility, the 100 year old reaction against the Romantic ego: quote Pushkin (who ‘had something to say’) but don’t dare be a poet yourself who has ‘something to say.’  Pushkin’s dead.  Don’t be a Pushkin. Hide behind your references, your education, your words…  It’s all very humble and nice.  Poetry, however, has nothing to do with humility.
We give “Letter To A Lost Friend” a B.  We don’t love Hamby. But we feel this is the best poem she could possibly write.
Brad Leithauser gives us a rather long poem called “A Vase,” invoking a grandmother’s memory of a seventy years old purchase; the poem threatens to pierce our hearts, but never quite does, because Leithauser is finally so informative—lovingly informative, of course: Detroit and Japan figure prominently, but the ‘lovingly informative’ has ruined many a poem because even in subtle ways the information becomes a little too important; Poe’s ‘didactic’ warning is lost on so many. They say one avoids sentimentality in a poem by supplying it with concrete details; but everyone knows the realist is a secret sentimentalist.
“The Vase” earns a B
Fanny Howe has a lovely phrase early on in her poem, “Three Persons:”
the diamonds that pelt Neptune
But as a whole, the poem is mystically detached, drifting from vague observation to vague observation.  We like this:
Be like grass, she told me,
lie flat, spring up.
But why doesn’t Howe say,
Be like grass:
lie flat, spring up?
Why the “she told me?”
Is it that she doesn’t, as herself, want to be caught saying something so obviously quotable in a 19th century sort of way?
The poem provides no context for the “she;” the rest of the poem is “we,” “I” and “you.”
This is the problem: in Howe’s poem we get half-context. 
We want to advise the poet: Either give a full and necessary context, or give none.
Either tell us who the “she” is, or get rid of “she told me.”
We give “Three Persons” a C-
Julian Stannard’s poem, “The Gargantuan Muffin Beauty Contest” is meant to be social commentary by way of the ridiculous, or the reverse; we chuckled a couple of times upon first reading it, but we were tired of it by the second reading.  Fate plays a cruel trick on the poet who can entertain but once.
…We were hurtling back
to the 1970s and sometimes the 1970s are almost
as good as the 1930s
We can’t argue with this.
I saw Leonard Cohen crooning with a couple
of octogenarian muffins and I’m telling you now
the lobby was pleasantly disturbing.
I have two words for Mr. Stannard:  Mad Libs.
We give his poem a D+ and we think a D+ in the 1930s and the 1970s is about the same.
Matthew Neinow has four poems which are all self-conscious, carpentry lyrics.  They fail when too pretentious; they succeed when “song” and “shaped wood” manage to casually cohere.
Ode to the Belt Sander & This Cocobolo Sapwood B-
Ode to the Gain C+
Ode to the Steam Box B-
End Grain C-
The two poems by Barbara Perez have that bruised, confessional tone which forces you to sit up and listen, even though you don’t really want to.  We like “A mind, when playing tricks is at its most sincere,” but too often her poems do just boss you around.
Strange Little Prophets C
Not For You, Not For the World D
Shann Ray’s two poems feature one preachy little thing (“We need to know in America…”) called “My Dad, In America” and then a delightful poem, “Hesperus,” written by his daughter, really.  It’s about words, again, but it works in this case because it’s in the realm where it belongs.  We need to quote it in full:
My four-year-old daughter handed me a card.
To Daddy written on the front
and inside a rough field
of  five-pointed lights, and the words
You’re my favorite Daddy in the stars.
In this western night we all light the sky
like Vega, Deneb, Altair, Albireo,
the Summer Triangle,
Cygnus the Swan, our hair
tangled with wood and gravel,
our eyes like vacant docks
that beckon every boat.
Tell me about the word
stars, I said.
Oh, she said. Sorry.
I didn’t know
how to spell world.
We love this.  Who could not love this?My Dad, In America D+
Hesperus B+
“The Fisherman’s Farewell” by Robin Robertson is hewn from Old World craft:
and black in the undertow, blue
as the blue banners of the mackerel, whipping west.
Who can resist the elegance of the pirate, or the finesse of the fisherman?
to dream the blank horizon and dread the sight of land
*
Their houses, heeled over in the sand:
each ruin now a cairn for kites
Arrgh.  We give Robertson a B-
Wendy Videlock clearly belongs to the Kay Ryan/Heather McHugh School.  She has five poems and here’s two of them:
Bane
Full of strength and laced
with fragility:
the thoroughbred,
the hummingbird,
and all things
cursed
with agility.
I Don’t Buy It
I don’t buy it, says
the scientist.
Replies the frail
and faithful heart,
it’s not for sale.
The line “It is always darkest before the leopard’s kiss” from “Proverbial” reminds us of Kim Addonizio, and then Videlock makes it a couplet: “Where there’s smoke there is emphasis.”  Videlock doesn’t fear ‘having something to say.’  For instance (again from “Proverbial”): “He is not wise that parrots the wise.”  “Better late than suffer the long introduction.”  She at least deserves points for clarity.
I Don’t Buy It D
Bane B-
If You’re Crowish D
Proverbial B-
A Lizard In Spanish Valley C-
“Their Pleas” by Kelly Cherry dares the reader to feel something, to care, but we’ll go out on a limb and admit we don’t understand the poem—and therefore we don’t care.  We have to give the poem a D-.
Those are the poems of the January 2013 issue of Poetry.
Next we’ll turn to the prose.
(To be continued)

SCARRIET’S POETRY HOT 100!!

All ye need to know?

1. Rita Dove—Penguin editor reviewed by Helen Vendler in the NYRB
2. Terrance Hayes—In Dove’s best-selling anthology, and young
3. Kevin Young—In Dove’s anthology, and young
4. Amiri Baraka—In Dove’s anthology
5. Billy Collins—in the anthology
6. John Ashbery—a long poem in the anthology
7. Dean Young—not in the anthology
8. Helen Vendler—hated the anthology
9. Alan CordleTime’s masked Person-of-the-Year = Foetry.com’s once-anonymous Occupy Poetry protestor?
10. Harold Bloom—you can bet he hates the anthology
11. Mary Oliver—in the anthology
12. William Logan—meanest and the funniest critic (a lesson here?)
13. Kay Ryan—our day’s e.e. cummings
14. John Barr—the Poetry Man and “the Man.”
15. Kent Johnson—O’Hara and Koch will never be the same?
16. Cole Swensen—welcome to Brown!
17. Tony Hoagland—tennis fan
18. David Lehman—fun lovin’ BAP gate-keeper
19. David Orr—the deft New York Times critic
20. Rae Armantrout—not in the anthology
21. Seamus Heaney—When Harvard eyes are smilin’
22. Dan Chiasson—new reviewer on the block
23. James Tate—guaranteed to amuse
24. Matthew Dickman—one of those bratty twins
25. Stephen Burt—the Crimson Lantern
26. Matthew Zapruder—aww, everybody loves Matthew!
27. Paul MuldoonNew Yorker Brit of goofy complexity
28. Sharon Olds—Our Lady of Slightly Uncomfortable Poetry
29. Derek Walcott—in the anthology, latest T.S. Eliot prize winner
30. Kenneth Goldsmith—recited traffic reports in the White House
31. Jorie Graham—more teaching, less judging?
32. Alice Oswald—I don’t need no stinkin’ T.S. Eliot Prize
33. Joy Harjo—classmate of Dove’s at Iowa Workshop (in the anthology)
34. Sandra Cisneros—classmate of Dove’s at Iowa Workshop (in the anthology)
35. Nikki Giovanni—for colored girls when po-biz is enuf
36. William Kulik—not in the anthology
37. Ron Silliman—no more comments on his blog, but in the anthology
38. Daisy Fried—setting the Poetry Foundation on fire
39. Eliot Weinberger—poetry, foetry, and politics
40. Carol Ann Duffy—has Tennyson’s job
41. Camille Dungy—runs in the Poetry Foundation forest…
42. Peter Gizzi—sensitive lyric poet of the hour…
43. Abigail Deutsch—stole from a Scarriet post and we’ll always love her for it…
44. Robert Archambeau—his Samizdat is one of the more visible blogs…
45. Michael Robbins—the next William Logan?
46. Carl Phillips—in the anthology
47. Charles NorthWhat It Is Like, New & Selected chosen as best of 2011 by David Orr
48. Marilyn Chin—went to Iowa, in the anthology
49. Marie Howe—a tougher version of Brock-Broido…
50. Dan Beachy-Quick—gotta love that name…
51. Marcus Bales—he’s got the Penguin blues.
52. Dana Gioia—he wants you to read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, so what r u waiting 4?
53. Garrison Keillor—the boil on the neck of August Kleinzahler
54. Alice Notley—Penguin’s Culture of One by this Paris-based author made a lot of 2011 lists
55. Mark McGurl—won Truman Capote Award for 2011’s The Program Era: Rise of Creative Writing
56. Daniel Nester—wrap your blog around my skin, yea-uh.
57. Yusef Komunyakaa—in the anthology
58. Adrienne Rich—in the anthology
59. Jeremy Bass— reviewed the anthology in the Nation
60. Anselm Berrigan—somebody’s kid
61. Travis Nichols—kicked us off Blog Harriet
62. Seth Abramson—poet and lawyer
63. Stephen Dunn—one of the best poets in the Iowa style
64. Philip Levine—Current laureate, poem recently in the New Yorker  Movin’ up!
65. Ben Mazer—Does anyone remember Landis Everson?
66. Reb Livingston—Her No Tells blog rocks the contemporary scene
67. Marjorie Perloff—strutting avant academic
68. John Gallaher—Kent Johnson can’t get enough punishment on Gallaher’s blog
69. Fred Viebahn—poet married to the Penguin anthologist
70. James Fenton—said after Penguin review hit, Dove should have “shut up”
71. Rodney Jones—BAP poem selected by Dove riffs on William Carlos Williams’ peccadilloes
72. Mark Doty—no. 28’s brother
73. Cate Marvin—VIDA and so much more
74. Richard Wilbur—still hasn’t run out of rhyme
75. W.S. Merwin—no punctuation, but no punk
76. Jim Behrle—the Adam Sandler of po-biz
77. Bin Ramke—still stinging from the Foetry hit
78. Thomas Sayer Ellis—not in the anthology
79. Henri Cole—poetry editor of the New Republic
80. Meghan O’Rourke—Behrle admires her work
81. Anne Waldman—the female Ginsberg?
82. Anis Shivani—get serious, poets! it’s time to change the world!
83. Robert Hass—Occupy story in Times op-ed
84. Lyn Hejinian—stuck inside a baby grand piano
85. Les Murray—greatest Australian poet ever?
86. Sherman Alexie—is this one of the 175 poets to remember?
87. Geoffrey Hill—great respect doesn’t always mean good
88. Elizabeth Alexander—Frost got Kennedy, she got Obama
89. A.E. Stallings—A rhymer wins MacArthur!
90. Frank Bidart—in the anthology
91. Robert Pinsky—in the anthology
92. Carolyn Forche—in the anthology
93. Louise Gluck—not in the anthology
94. Keith Waldrop—his Hopwood Award paid her fare from Germany
95. Rosmarie Waldrop—her Hopwood helpled launch Burning Deck
96. C.D. Wright—born in the Ozark mountains
97. Forrest Gander—married to no. 96
98. Mark Strand—translator, surrealist
99. Margaret Atwood—the best Canadian poet of all time?
100. Gary B. Fitzgerald—the poet most likely to be remembered a million years from now

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.

AND IF YOU HAD TO CHOOSE NOW, SCARRIET OR HARRIET?

We hadn’t checked it out since New Years, so what a shock to find it simply hadn’t moved on at all — same shops, same chaps, same figures.

Yes, there’s Christopher Woodman’s name still down there at the bottom, as if the PFoA were just waiting for him to come in again. The last time he tried was in response to Annie Finch on J.D.Salinger comin through the rye, poor body, but the comment he submitted just drew a blank. So he hasn’t tried again, though sometimes he’d like to.

Because he’s not at all happy with what’s happening at Scarriet either, and feels he might be happier back in the PFoA fold, he’s that old. True, there’s no commentary there (how many comments did you say there were  last week?), but at least he wouldn’t have to compete with Marla Muse praising Bob-and-Tom for dunking a new poem a second — or listen to that awful deaf-to-English-Fox that Scarriet calls our ‘coverage’ of the big Poetry Game.

Not a parody but a travesty!

And what an irony, because Scarriet’s numbers are truly running riot! But is this really what you want, my friends? Are you here just for the beer, is that it, or are you laughing at us, at the comics and antics we offer instead of poetry?

Why are you here, in fact? To watch us self-destruct on that rock in the Rhine, or sail on for another day and more questions than answers down the river?

Give us some feedback before it’s too late!

IT’S CURTAINS FOR YOU…CORDLE…CURTAINS…YA SEE?

We don’t read Harriet anymore.  It’s too dreary, too artsy-fartsy-friends-puffing-artsy-fartsy-friends, too boring.   But our man Gary Fitzgerald was kind enough to email us today to let us know that John Oliver Simon has not forgotten us.

Thanx, Gary Fitzgerald, John Oliver Simon, u rock.

Harriet, the Poetry Foundation Blog, who banned Thomas Brady, Alan Cordle, Desmond Swords, and Christopher Woodman at one stroke on September 1, 2009, is going through a little identity crisis at the moment: how shall I moderate?  How shall I banish?  Are those who post on my site a community?  Can posters police themselves?  What is my responsibility towards them, if any?

Before we start equating the firing on Fort Sumter (THE UNION IS DISSOLVED!) to the sarcastic squabbling between Kent Johnson, Michael Robbins, and Henry Gould and the current crop of boy scouts and girl scouts on Harriet, let’s remember that once a self-infatuated twit, always a self-infatuated twit.

Boyd Nielson suggested in a comment on a Harriet post recently that Harriet is a private blog  and can therefore ban and delete as she pleases. But instead of embracing this reality, Boyd Nielson continues, Harriet is failing to make her authority transparent, hiding behind proxies such as ‘thumbs up/ thumbs down voting’ and ‘report this comment’  to punish, to delete, to ‘hold for moderation’ and ultimately to ban, in a faceless manner that  is irresponsible, cowardly, and weak.

Scarriet (ya got somethin to say, say it)  is blissfully free of this.

To Harriet’s “identity crisis,” and to all the winding, administrative hair-splitting discussion it might elicit, we say: pffft.

Self-important Harriet, and other blogs like it, will 1) banish, 2) delete posts reporting the banishment, and 3)  delete posts complaining of those deletions and 4) practice this for infinity, a black-hole-ish, whirling cesspool of censorship.

Paul McCartney will play a concert for Harriet, and their devoted acolytes will sing:

Well, the rain exploded with a mighty crash as we fell onto a limb,
And the first one said to the second one there, I hope that you can swim!
Banned on a whim!  Banned on a whim!

Private enterprise is wonderful and Harriet’s status as a private club allows her to throw bums to the curb with impunity.  But merely being private is not the great thing, by any means.

Private enterprise is not wonderful because it allows Harriet, the private club, to throw to the curb whomever she chooses, for if it stopped there, ‘private’ would be synonymous with ‘tyranical.’

Scarriet’s existence fills out the formula of private enterpise as something truly good.  The private by itself is not good, nor is the private masking itself as the public good, either.

It is only competing private entities which allow for something truly wonderful: real freedom, real debate, sweet discovery, hot thrills, trembling chills, and freezing kisses, warm and exciting.

Ya got dat?…Travis…ya dirty rat…

NEWS, NEWS, READ ALL ABOUT IT: ANNIE BUNDLED OUT OF HARRIET!


Off with her head!” the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. Nobody moved.

“Who cares for you?” said Alice (she had grown to her full size by this time). “You’re nothing but a pack of cards!”

At this the whole pack rose up into the air, and came flying down upon her; she gave a little scream, half of fright and half of anger, and tried to beat them off, and found herself lying on the bank, with her head in the lap of her sister, who was gently brushing away some dead leaves that had fluttered down from the trees upon her face.

~

Robert Burns and J.D.Salinger have indeed been blathered, and despite Annie Finch’s best intentions, both on Harriet and Scarriet, and our own attempt to bridge the divide as well (we were yet again deleted for our efforts!), Harriet remains in the dumps, otherwise known as denial.

Here’s what Harriet sounded like last summer:

Great to see this here, posted ipso facto in honor not only of of Salinger’s deathday but also of Robbie Burns’ birthday two days earlier–for those who don’t know, a huge national and global celebration of the poet and of Scotland. It’s one of my favorite Burns poems (I have another posted for the occasion at my blog AmericanWitch http://annieridleycranefinch.blogspot.com/)

This has one of the best singing tunes of any of his poems imho, and it is one of the relatively few where female sexuality is celebrated in its own right..it really feels like a poem that could have been written by Jenny herself, coming through dew-wet fields early in the morning to slip into bed after a night out. Thanks, Travis!

POSTED BY: ANNIE FINCH ON JANUARY 31, 2010 AT 11:37 AM

This is, in fact, a comment Annie Finch posted on Harriet a week ago in a vain effort not only to make a discussion on Burns and Salinger more relevant but to breathe some life back into the moribund Poetry Foundation community.

And did she succeed? Did she strike a chord, arouse some enthusiasm for poetry, get some rewarding feedback?

Hardly. The following is the only subsequent comment after Annie Finch’s generous, warm, independent and sexy brave effort:

Just because Salinger died.

Stephen

POSTED BY: STEPHEN STURGEON ON FEBRUARY 1, 2010 AT 1:28 PM

In other words, a good kick up the backside!

~

And as if that weren’t 52 Pickup enough, here’s the latest spectacle in The Poetry Foundation’s limelight, yes, right up there to welcome you on Blog:Harriet’s masthead. And you bet how Travis Nichols is glad-handing the regulars —  tailors, courtiers, and suckers!

FRED MOTEN
5
At circle time on Thursday, Lorenzo declared that when he makes smores for Julian (which I wasn’t aware that he’d ever done) he makes them with bricks, sticks and snow.

CONTINUE READING THIS ENTRY » 02.06.10 PERMALINK | NO COMMENTS

FRED MOTEN
4
A lot of it is just trying to figure out how to say something. How to read. Not how to offer a reading, or even an interpretation, but a performance of a text, in the face of its unintelligibility, as if one were forced/privileged to access some other world where representation and unrepresentability were beside the point, so that the response to the terrors and chances of history were not about calculation, not bound to replicate, even in a blunted and ethically responsible way, the horrors of speculation, where new materialities of imagination were already on the other side of the logic of equivalence.

CONTINUE READING THIS ENTRY » 02.06.10 PERMALINK | NO COMMENTS

FRED MOTEN
B 3
Dear Evie,

Remember when we read together in November, and afterwards you asked me about a particular poem of mine, and seemed to wonder, rightly, why my reading of it didn’t acknowledge or account for the spacing of/in the poem? I figured that question was a statement and you were right. Philip’s theater is this fragmentation of the sentence and the word, where every fragmentation is also an augmentation, bespeaking multiplicity.

CONTINUE READING THIS ENTRY » 02.06.10 PERMALINK | NO COMMENTS

FRED MOTEN
Backlog 2
The commitment to repair is how a refusal to represent terror redoubles the logic of representation. The refusal of our ongoing afterlife can only ever replicate a worn-out grammar. The event remains, in the depths. The event-remains are deep and we stand before them, to express them, as their expression.

CONTINUE READING THIS ENTRY » 02.06.10 PERMALINK | NO COMMENTS

FRED MOTEN
Backlog
I didn’t stop logging, I just stopped posting. I think I got waterlogged from not being able not to try to get too deep. I got into some kind of double trouble from blowing bubbles, I guess. Anyway, here’s some more stuff, along the lines I promised, though I might want to make another promise now. The other thing is that this is driven by the chance to see some of Hong-An Truong’s film and installation work and from reading Gerald Barrax’s poetry and from a friend sending me the catalog from the Xenakis exhibit at the Drawing Center in New York. I just wanted to mention these not in order to provide the key to what I’ve been trying to write but just to commend them all to you because they are beautiful! As is Beth at the Jordan Lake School of the Arts, refuge for the new X-Men, where the superkids go to play. OK: back to my misbegotten ideas on poetics, in approximately 300 word installments.

CONTINUE READING THIS ENTRY » 02.06.10 PERMALINK | COMMENTS (1)

WHAT’S WRONG WITH HARRIET’S COMMENT STREAM IN THIS PICTURE?


To access our initial graphic of the man peeing in the stream,
click here — and unlike Harriet, let’s discuss it!

Congratulations, Harriet.  You’ve managed your first 100 comment thread since you diverted the waters to Scarriet 5 months ago, but look out for your malodorous ditch!

Has anyone forgotten just how much water was flowing in your streams before the September 1st blockage? Just look at the raw statistics. Back then there were even 200+ threads — and 100 was quite normal, the streams were so clear and intense.

And now? Just look at the Jan. 25th article, “Poetry & Gender: Why Don’t More Women Do Blog Oriented Writing?” C. Perez sets it up like this, and in bold no less:

“questions: do you think women’s self-promotion in poetry differs from men’s self-promotion? what do you do to self-promote your work? are certain kinds of self-promotion gendered in identifiable ways?”

Gender differences in self-promotion?   LOL

Yea, this is why I’m a poet.   To contemplate issues like this.

The discussion quickly devolves:

“having grown up in a mostly athletic blue collar fraternity house atmosphere, crazy as this is going to sound, i came of age believing that the creation of any art, especially the writing of poetry, is for sissies. “

POSTED BY: SASSJEMLEON ON JANUARY 25, 2010 AT 2:45 PM

First Amber Tamblyn.   Now this.

“I always feel ashamed, in my blog (not this one, my other one — see, it feels wrong even to write the name of that other blog!), if I directly mention a publication, or a book that’s come out.”

POSTED BY: BHANU KAPIL ON JANUARY 25, 2010 AT 2:58 PM

ZZZZZZZ   At least the ‘sissies’ comment was slightly controversial.

Half the comments on the thread are by 3 people, ‘blue collar,’ the writer of the post, and a blogger named Greene.

So there’s this:

@All: This is the most fun comment thread I’ve had in…I mean jeez, you guys can all spell! Shoulda hung out with other writers more all these years, I guess…

POSTED BY: PETER GREENE ON JANUARY 26, 2010 AT 11:37 AM

And finally:

“I’m not sure why you guys are bothering to engage with this obviously very myopic and ignorant blog troll. He is insulted by affirmative action and thinks women have more time to write because they’re housewives… why is that worth engaging?”

POSTED BY: JESSICA SMITH ON JANUARY 28, 2010 AT 2:13 PM

Oh boy.

The Poetry Foundation blog may be a very dull place these days, but let’s look on the bright side.

Travis Nichols doesn’t have to invent clever ways to suppress discussion.

John Oliver Simon doesn’t have to be exposed to ideas he doesn’t agree with.

And that’s a good thing, don’t you think?

POETRY BELONGS TO POETS, NOT INSTITUTIONS

Poetry should belong to poets, not institutions.

Trying to enrich poetry with endowments and gifts is pointless.

Poetry is not like a highway or a school; it doesn’t require funding like that.

Popular appeal is, we feel, an important resource, one which poets once used, but which has dried up due to institutional machinations.

Poetry in China was a required skill for government employees for years. But this was not some charity move to enhance poetry; poetry was seen as a legitimate part of a well-rounded person.

Poetry has historically been a subject in school, but not because efforts were being made to give poetry special protection; poetry, as it existed, was a worthy example for those studying language and history.

Now the cart is before the horse. Poetry does not drive human excellence as an independent force; it is a mere charity case.

Treated as a charity case, this is what it has, in fact, become.

It is precisely the idea that poetry needs special institutional support which prevents poetry from retaining its former glory, since the resource of popular appeal is barred from the poet unable to compete with institutional might.

We cannot get our minds around the fact that billions of dollars of institutional support for poetry has actually hurt poetry.

If you took all that money away, and allowed the poet who appeals to the people to triumph—just allow that process to play out—there’s no telling how much more important poetry would be to us as a culture. Were the muse permitted to be on its own and survive through poetry’s appeal to the public alone, there is no telling how this might enrich us as a people.

Let there be a genuinely popular poet, rather than ten thousand endowed poets, and let us see what follows. We don’t know what that poetry would look like in this scenario, because it hasn’t been allowed to exist. We’re not talking about a Robert Frost either, who was in some ways an institutional product, and somewhat popular as well. We’re talking about a Robert Frost x 100.

How would poetry flourish without any institutional support? Let’s see what poetry would look like, that in order to survive, must intoxicate the masses.

IMITATION IS FLATTERY — COPYING IS PATHETIC.

As everybody who’s interested in poetry  knows, The Poetry Foundation has banned me, Alan Cordle, along with Christopher Woodman, Thomas Brady, Desmond Swords, and who knows how many others.  So it seems odd that staffers there incessantly and obsessively read this blog and our side projects.

Granted, they seem to be out of ideas and desperately unable to encourage dialogue, and the statistics are certainly painful.  It’s no wonder they’re now “borrowing” from Scarriet.  And by borrowing, I mean “stealing.”

On December 8, 2009, The Poetry Foundation published the following article by Abigail Deutsch:


___________________________________________________________

This would have been fine if Scarriet’s Thomas Brady had not published a post entitled The Good Bad Poem just 10 days earlier.

___________________________________________________________


___________________________________________________________

“This is no coincidence,” Thomas Brady tells me.

“My article originated because I happened to take an old book out of the library, it wasn’t from any current event . . . Abigail got her idea from Scarriet. Well, well, well. I’ve commented on it just now on ‘The Good Bad Poem’ on Scarriet.”

New Year’s Resolution for The Poetry Foundation and Harriet: stop preying on the intellectual property of Scarriet. After all, some organizations make plagiarists walk the plank.

Others just vaporize the opposition!

Alan Cordle

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!

GOLDEN GLOBES SNUBS KEATS FILM ‘BRIGHT STAR’

Jane Campion’s gorgeous film, Bright Star, as noted here on Scarriet  [click here and here for our 2 articles], was hardly discussed on the Poetry Foundation’s Blog:Harriet  despite the well-written and timely article by Abigail Deutsch [click here] — yet another example of the failure of Harriet  to discuss anything to do with poetry after the blood-letting of September 1st.

We at Scarriet  had a feeling this sobering, sad, but breathtakingly beautiful effort on behalf of the poet John Keats and his friend Fanny Brawne, by one of the best directors in the business, would be ignored by the entertainment industry’s honoring system as well.

Avoiding every pitfall of the Hollywood bio-pic, Bright Star  features an intelligent script, extremely moving performances by Ben Whishaw, Abbie Cornish, Kerry Fox, Paul Schneider, and Edie Martin, (as Fanny’s little sister) and  is a feast for the eyes and ears.

The old days, when films such as Amadeus and Room With A View earned major nominations and awards, seem to be gone.

Let’s skip the rant on the increase of cultural ignorance—for such a thesis could only be a rant.

We’ll just recommend you get the CD soundtrack, or see Bright Star, with its moving depiction of Keats,  Charles Armitage Brown, Fanny Brawne and her family.

And switch from Harriet to Scarriet, of course, to stay abreast of what’s really happening in poetry!

TRAVIS NICHOLS PLAYS HIS FINAL CARD, AND THE THUMBS ARE DOWN AT LAST!


“…to-day the editor of Harriet holds a show of his own, and wins applause by slaying whomsoever the mob with a turn of the thumb bids him slay…”
……………………………………………loosely adapted from Juvenal, Satires (III.36)

For a beautiful example of everything George Orwell tried to expose in Politics and the English Language, read The Poetry Foundation’s letter just posted on Blog:Harriet [click here]

In the Letter, the Editors try to cover up the appalling mess Travis Nichols made out of what had been one of the most vibrant poetry discussion sites in America.

Today Harriet is at Zero!

Yes, the Like/Dislike thumbs are down at last, having served their purpose — which was simply to remove four figures, Thomas Brady, Alan Cordle, Desmond Swords and Christopher Woodman.

Now with Harriet on her back in the blood soaked dirt, weakly raising her left hand for mercy, Travis’ hysterical fans indicate no mercy — and the stunt becomes a fait accompli. Harriet is dead now for sure.

Of course there’s no mention of any of that in the letter. Just spin, faulty figures, bluff, and bravado — like the last administration on the state of Iraq in the months following the invasion!

Indeed, not one word of this Poetry Foundation letter is truthful. Like the stats in it — foully cooked! Everybody knows you can cut the stats on a blog in a thousand different ways, and not one of them will give you a true figure. Travis has cut the Harriet stats all in his own favor — and just look at him up there in the picture to see where he’s at!

And dear Catherine Halley, the On-Line Editor at The Poetry Foundation, you should be ashamed to add your signature to that letter. You did your best to prevent the debacle, we know that, and are tremendously disappointed in you for capitulating now.

We’d love to post a list of the myriad voices who have vanished from Harriet since the ugly puscht, lending us their support through their silence.  Those of you who know the Blog can trot out their names with ease. Their absence cries shame on you, Travis and Catherine. Shame on your petty vendetta.

And shame is the word.

Thomas Brady,
Alan Cordle,
Desmond Swords,
Christopher Woodman

HARRIET at the MARRIOTT


_____________________________________________________

Dear Friends of Scarriet,………………………………………….November 25th, 2009

Just to remind you on the eve of Thanksgiving that we the undersigned were banned from Blog:Harriet three months ago for writing too much and too passionately about poetry. Yes, and on the very same day that we found, not by direct communication but by trial and error,  that we were no longer welcome on Harriet, Travis Nichols welcomed Amber Tamblyn as the new generation Contributing Writer.

As a preliminary to our big THANKSGIVING POST (coming up next!), we offer this as a sample of the commentary Travis had in mind for the new Harriet. Can’t say we wish we weren’t there, but then we’re very glad so many of you have decided to be here with us on Scarriet instead.

(Sort of comes down to Mt.Parnassus or the Marriott. But let’s be clear about that too — it’s not that the Marriott ought to be shut out from the Poetry Foundation’s goal to “foster and cultivate an open community” (see the P.F. Guidelines just above), but neither should Parnassus!)

Thomas Brady
Alan Cordle
Desmond Swords
Christopher Woodman

MONTY MEETS A FOET AT THE DOOR

Dear Friends,
We know we’re very near the edge of copyright infringement here, but hope Jim Meddick will allow us to make a point that’s so hard to get over without getting someone like him involved. For Jim Meddick’s satire is truly rare, and his angles on our contemporary prejudices and ugly little blind spots so invaluable. We have so few allies who have the wit and courage to explore the inexplorable today, which after all used to be the province of our poets too until they took the vow to make it new!

As a frontline artist, we feel sure Jim Meddick will forgive us in the hour of our need!

MONTY HEADLINEMONTY 11.16
………………………………..copyright  Jim Meddick/dist. by NEA, Inc.

So this is who we are at Scarriet and what we stand for:

Frequently in human discourse, the tenets of faith provide a sacred style and language which survives long after the contents have ceased to make sense or to convey any comprehensible message — if indeed there ever was one. At that point all societies, even developed ones, create the myth of a golden age when the truth was recorded, and the style and language of those “scriptures” are situated beyond enquiry what is more reproach.

When Thomas Brady opens the door, this is what he hears. The Poetry Establishment, which looks and sounds just like Jim Meddick’s little Ezra Pound at the door, also speaks of “the way of truth… and self-esteem… and personal fulfillment… and Uh… um…”

But the punch line today is a little different, because we now believe in anything “new.” When Thomas Brady asks, as he does in his previous article on William Carlos Williams, for example, “You’re making all this stuff up, aren’t you?” the poetry establishment gets very angry and dismissive. “How dare you!” they shout. “Why,  this is modern scripture! This is what Ezra Pound laid down for us to make us modern! This is what we are and why we’re truly New!

Then they beat him with -32 Dislikes, and when even that doesn’t discourage him, just pull the plug.

What’s so tragic is that human beings can always talk about things, exchange ideas and brainstorm, but even at a noble not-for-profit arts organization like The Poetry Foundation, if the material has become the stuff of faith, forget it. Then the dissenting voice is drowned out by the furious congregation and censored by the priests, and only when the dust has settled can something fresh, old or new yet equally crying in the wilderness, be heard.

BLOG-HARRIET’S TRAVIS NICHOLS IS GOIN’ TO CLEAN UP THIS TOWN!

Hey, Nick…

And just to mix it up a bit with another 5 star metaphor, let’s go back to this one. Remember?

CLICK HERE for more on what happened on that messy September 1st, 2009 on the Falls at High Noon.

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

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

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

Thomas Brady -6

Let’s look at this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christopher Woodman

TRAVIS NICHOLS, POETRY GLADIATOR

Travis BUS

TRAVIS Saturated_________________

Just as Thomas Brady was breathing new life into Blog:Harriet, and even being considered as a potential Contributing Writer by the Board, Harriet’s editor, Travis Nichols, published this article in Poets & Writers [click here to read the rest of the article].

Little could anyone have imagined how literally Travis Nichols envisioned himself as that “poetry gladiator fighting to the death” for his ideals, or how ruthlessly he would strike down those who did not share his vision of poetry on Blog:Harriet. It was certainly a shock to Thomas Brady, Desmond Swords, and Christopher Woodman when virtually out of nowhere a poster named ‘Nick’ popped up on Joel Brouwer’s “Keep the Spot Sore” thread to slam what he felt were people doing bad things on Blog:Harriet:

There are certain sorts of people–I will not indulge in sociological generalities about them, except to say that they are virtually always men–whose thirst for online bloodshed cannot be quenched. Such people ruined the Buffalo poetics list; ruined Silliman’s blog; etc……Michael, I imagine, knows the story. Good places for online discussion are few, and fragile. I’m out, as they say when leaving other forums/
POSTED BY: NICK ON JULY 7, 2009 AT 6:32 PM

Every blog and forum has such malcontents, but what was so different about this intrusion was that the Editor himself, Travis Nichols, actually welcomed the mole and his bile, and even went further in trashing those “certain sorts of people” — an obvious reference to Thomas Brady, Desmond Swords and Christopher Woodman (who has been known as “Cowpatty Hammer” ever since!). Indeed, Travis replied like this:

Hey Nick, I definitely hear you, but I don’t think there’s a formal solution to the problem you’re presenting. We have a couple different formatting changes in the works that I think will help people skip past commentary they have a stated distaste for, but beyond that the only way the discussion becomes valuable for people is if they participate in it. It’s a big responsibility in a lot of ways, and I completely understand using your time for other things, but I, for one, would greatly appreciate you hanging around and offering up your two cents from time to time. It can get a bit cult-like in here (let’s go ahead and talk about it like a room; it feels that way sometimes, like when you’re in a room just trying to read or write down a thought or enjoy a meal and some guy at the next table is going on and on and ON (sheesh!) about his medical experiences or his politics or how he totally almost scored on his last date, and it’s all you can do to not start yelling or making some kind of gag out of napkins and notepads and endpapers or just thinking the world is a terrible no good very bad place full of asshats and douchebags (as they say) . . . but, you know, really it’s not like that. All the time. Is it? Maybe it is. But it doesn’t have to be.), and simple one or two sentence sober thoughts can cut through the funk very nicely. As you have done upthread, I think. So a plea for you–and for others reading and thinking of chiming in but holding back for fear of the cow patty hammer or whatever: don’t leave. Your presence will help make things better. Promise. Maybe we can come up with a rewards system. Free candy for pithy on-point commentary! -Travis PS: Clearly, no candy for me this round.
POSTED BY: TRAVIS NICHOLS  ON JULY 8, 2009 AT 9:00 AM

Thomas Brady wrote a critique of this post on the recent thread called  “Harriet Sees Nothing on Harriet” which casts so much light on Blog:Harriet and the mindset of its “Poetry Gladiator” Editor, Travis Nichols, we decided to elevate it to an actual post. So here goes:

~

Nick writes, “there are certain sorts of people…”  certain sorts of people…?? And then Nick tars ‘certain sorts of people’ with his brush, and then announces he’s leaving in a huff… Travis responds:

Hey Nick,

Hey Nick –note the familiar tone…Hey Nick…

I definitely hear you, but I don’t think there’s a formal solution to the problem you’re presenting.

I definitely hear you… in other words I completely ascribe to your ‘certain sorts of people’ tone of bitchiness and disrespect…  but I don’t think there’s a formal solution… Immediately Travis jumps from the bitchy complaint to…oh how can we come up with a solution to make things better for Nick?

Why does Travis have to jump when Nick says jump? How does Nick suddenly become the authority here?

We have a couple different formatting changes in the works that I think will help people skip past commentary they have a stated distaste for, but beyond that the only way the discussion becomes valuable for people is if they participate in it.

And now Travis slips in something that’s actually an intelligent and proper response to Nick (the angry and the deluded)  “THE ONLY WAY THE DISCUSSION BECOMES VALUABLE FOR PEOPLE IS IF THEY PARTICIPATE IN IT.” Bravo, Travis! But where did that come from? If only this had been Travis’ sole reply, the world might be different…

HEY NICK, THE ONLY WAY THE DISCUSSION BECOMES VALUABLE FOR PEOPLE IS IF THEY PARTICPATE IN IT.

But alas, Travis did not respond thusly, and, to please Nick, launched into the following:

It’s a big responsibility in a lot of ways, and I completely understand using your time for other things, but I, for one, would greatly appreciate you hanging around and offering up your two cents from time to time. It can get a bit cult-like in here (let’s go ahead and talk about it like a room; it feels that way sometimes, like when you’re in a room just trying to read or write down a thought or enjoy a meal and some guy at the next table is going on and on and ON (sheesh!) about his medical experiences or his politics or how he totally almost scored on his last date, and it’s all you can do to not start yelling or making some kind of gag out of napkins and notepads and endpapers or just thinking the world is a terrible no good very bad place full of asshats and douchebags (as they say) . . . but, you know, really it’s not like that. All the time. Is it? Maybe it is. But it doesn’t have to be.), and simple one or two sentence sober thoughts can cut through the funk very nicely. As you have done upthread, I think.

Now Travis makes this weird analogyposting on a blog is compared to sitting in a restaurant and TRYING TO READ while a conversation is going on at the next table…

Huh????

Oh…so Nick WAS TRYING TO READ…and Christopher, you and I were TALKING…so he couldn’t READ… LOL

So a plea for you–and for others reading and thinking of chiming in but holding back for fear of the cow patty hammer or whatever: don’t leave.

“Holding back for fear of the cow patty hammer…?” Yea…it’s called a METAPHOR, Travis…why would someone FEAR that? What’s to fear in another’s words and opinions? [Click here for some background on that metaphor.]

ANY discussion on the web offers the SAME THREE RESPONSES, cow patty hammer or not, Travis. You 1.) agree, you 2.) disagree, or you 3.) ignore comment X, –or some combination thereof. That’s it! Simple! You can ALWAYS do this–unless you are censored.

These are ALWAYS the choices, whether Christopher Woodman and Thomas Brady are part of the discussion, or not. Travis? Nick? You know this, don’t you?

Let me say it once more. In ANY discussion, you only have 3 choices: Agree, disagree, ignore. These are ALWAYS the choices–no matter who you are having a discussion with. It doesn’t matter if Woodman or Brady are in the discussion, or not. These are the 3 choices one ALWAYS has.

Your presence will help make things better. Promise. Maybe we can come up with a rewards system. Free candy for pithy on-point commentary!
-Travis

Christopher, I think Travis owes us a lot of candy.

Tom

“HARRIET SEES NOTHING ON HARRIET!” An Open Letter.

Here’s looking at you, Don Share — “politically, personally, and poetically!”
_________________

w
“To grasp the essence of what our species has been and still is: this is at once political, personal… and poetical.”

Dear Don Share,
I had good times with you for the whole month of June on Blog:Harriet, particularly right at the end of Martin Earl’s wonderful thread, The Fish II,  when we talked big fish! [click here] More than that, I also enjoyed a private correspondence with you behind the scenes even after I got put on “moderation”  — as I’m sure you all know, my posts on Harriet were monitored for almost 2 months, occasioning long and painful delays, and over 20 were summarily deleted. [For some details on that 1.)  click here, 2.) click here, 3.) click here, 4.) click here, and 5.) click here. And for a fuller summary elsewhere, click here and click here.]

But just to be sure there’s no suggestion of impropriety behind these revelations, Don, let me be very clear that you never compromised your position at the Foundation. You never said a word about colleagues, or the chain of command, or policy, or gave me any hope that you would intervene on my behalf– yes, you were very free with me, open and interested, but never for a second did you let your professional mask slip. You weren’t involved in any way in the management of Blog:Harriet, you insisted, and even sought my help to get Alan Cordle to remove a paragraph from his Bluehole blog that held you partly responsible for what had happened [click here] — which Alan did, and with good grace. And I was very proud of that too, because I know we are like that, always willing to admit a mistake and do something about it.

Indeed, a lot of good things happened in those early exchanges. Michael Robbins came in on Alan’s blog too, for example, and bitterly protested our interpretation of his involvement, and we responded immediately to that as well, and not only apologized to him but praised him for his openness and courage. [click here] Indeed, that moment with Michael Robbins was one of the most positive moments of our whole protest, and we are still very grateful to him for that as well as for his decision to distance himslf from Blog:Harriet — not in solidarity with us at all but because he felt badly about what the atmosphere at Harriet had done to him personally. Because, of course, it brought the worst out of everybody!

EYE Don ShareBut you did nothing whatsoever, Don Share — almost as if you didn’t see anything happening. And here you are today writing all this wise and well-informed poetry stuff about deep human issues, who we poets are, what matters, what poetry can accomplish, what art,  what passion, however foolish, what the spirit can achieve [click here], yet you didn’t engage yourself at all when you were face to face with the REAL THING — a real poetry massacre! Because we were deeply involved in these very same issues in July and August, of course,  but on a much, much deeper, more meaningful, and more tangible level than on Harriet today. And then on September 1st we had the plug pulled on us,  and we were all summarily executed. Yes, and you were right there and said nothing.

And look what’s left on Blog:Harriet today? Just look at the response to your sensitive and exceptionally well-written new article, for example? [click here] A dry board-room discussion of the niceties of copyright law combined with some fawning, some clichés, and some banter. Before you were face to face with the real censorship of actual living American poets, ones who weren’t hiding behind anything at all, and were therefore extremely vulnerable. And you watched the axe fall on them, and you did nothing whatever!

That photo above is of me in Brooklyn, New York when I was Head of the English Department at The Brooklyn Polytechnic Preparatory School in Bayridge in the 80s. A lot of my students were from John Travolta’s neighborhood too, and they loved it because I taught poetry in a fever as if it were a real Saturday-night thing, as if poetry really did dance and rumble and matter — over the top sometimes, for sure, but that’s what energy and commitment bring out, a rage to inhabit the mountain peaks with the Saturday-night gods. When I first wrote like that on Blog:Harriet, I felt the same sort of resonance that I did in Bayridge, and even the Contributing Writers got excited, and praised me for my efforts — and yes, some of them even talked to me off-line like you did…

And then I got banned!

~

Blog:Harriet is a tiny bit of The Poetry Foundation’s on-line commitment, I know, only 3% of the traffic, but it’s where the free voice of poetry really matters. Because Blog:Harriet is financially independent and doesn’t have to balance the books, satisfy institutional requirements, or mollify advertisers, corporate or even college presidents. Most important of all, it doesn’t have to take sides in the wonderful complexities that blossom when poetry rumbles as if it were, wow, Saturday night in Chicago!

W.B.Yeats is dead, and we’re still wondering, who was this ridiculous genius? How could our greatest modern poet be such an enigma, and what if anything did he accomplish beside all that inconceivably beautiful, deep and earth-moving verse he left behind? And now the intellectual conscience of the modern era,  the creator of our most modern discourse, Claude Levi-Strauss, he’s dead too — and we can celebrate his Triste Tropiques as one of the greatest modern explorations of what human expression can accomplish — in its author’s own style, and in the sacred communities he initiated us into.

Well, I’m 70, and my writing matters too, Don, particularly as I’m just as passionately committed as Claude Levi-Strauss ever was, and just as nutty, passionate and lyrical as Yeats. And that’s true, even if I have no creds, no prospects, no mentor or editor or maneuvers for tenure or a pension or even a credit card in my wallet!

And you banned Desmond Swords too with all that next-generation Irish brilliance, and Thomas Brady who put Blog:Harriet on the map with his well-informed, startling, and indefatigable genius. And Alan Cordle, perhaps the best-known and effective social critic on the contemporary poetry scene in America — summarily chopped for just being who he was!

EYE Don ShareSo what are you going to do about all that, Don Share? Just let it slip, just let all those hurt feelings and that outrage fester? Just let Harriet go down the tubes as an accident, the usual sort of bumbling and grumbling which takes people over when they refuse to talk to each other, what’s more listen? Are you trying to prove that even at The Poetry Foundation poetry doesn’t matter, that it’s all just business as usual even with the blessings of Ruth B. Lilly’s profound good-will and all her benificent millions?

So why did you bother to write  that article on Yeats and Claude Levi-Strauss then, or don’t you take any of it serioously? I mean, is that just what you do for a living, to write like that? Is that just your thing at The Foundation?

And I know that’s not it at all, dear Don, but sooner or later you’ve got to say what it is, and take action.

Sooner or later you’ve got to stand up and be counted!

Christopher Woodman

This is the first of the Personal Statements of those who were banned from Harriet on September 1st, 2009. Stay Tuned for the accounts of Desmond Swords, Alan Cordle, and Thomas Brady.

THE BLAH BLAH BLAH SCHOOL: AMBER TAMBLYN LEARNS FROM THE MASTER

Blogging on Harriet!

Rebecca Wolff and Amber Tamblyn!

YOU CAN’T TELL THE DIFFERENCE!

AMBER TAMBLYN HAS ARRIVED!

#1 “I’m finally back in New York Citayy on a mini break from tour.  Good thing too, because some H1N1-style critter has crawled up into my throat and built a throne, barking exhaustive orders at my immune system and leaving me couch ridden.  Prior to the cold, I was able to make it to Rachel Mckibbens’ book release party at the Bowery Poetry Club.  I had my book release party there as well back in September, and the energy can sometimes be stressful and a little crazy.  Rachel was incredible and her book Pink Elephant is filled with the kind of poems some women spend their entire lives trying to write.  It was a magical evening.”

#2 “Back from reading at Cleveland State University on Thursday. It was hard to follow Kate Greenstreet–she has the most ingratiatingly nearsighted stage presence. You really feel as though she is speaking to you–Because she is! In various deft registers of notation and declamation and preoccupation. She’s on this massive, amazing, awe-inspiring reading tour. Please go see her if she’s coming to a venue near you and I bet she is.”

#3 “Went to see a band last night in the nearby town of Hudson, New York, called The Akron Family. They all sing together and have a very collective, trance-y, barn-dance vibe. The kids are so positive these days! (The kids who don’t write poetry, that is.) I’ve always thought a band called Meds would be great, but maybe now this moniker sounds too cynical or snarky.”

Cynical or snarky?

We think not!

THE DIGERATI SHOVEL BACK: Shoveling and Shoveling on Blog:Harriet..

Shovel Grab 0 copy

Today on Blog:Harriet, November 1st, 2009, marks The 60th day After the Banning of Thomas Brady, Desmond Swords, Alan Cordle and Christopher Woodman. To commemorate the occasion, we take the opportunity to examine the only thread in that period that has attracted more than a handful of desultory comments, and that is Kenneth Goldsmith’s rip-roaring, The Digerati Strike Back with a staggering 55 Comments!

To read the most recent of those comments and some even more staggering statistics, click here.

But don’t expect much about poetry, as even the posters themselves acknowledge it’s just shoveling, and because they are Travis Nichols‘ friends and colleagues, they’re obviously proud just to snip, snap and snuggle. Because that’s how you comment if you’re really on the  ‘in’ in the poetry establishment, unlike Thomas Brady, Desmond Swords or Christopher Woodman who actually read and write it, or Alan Cordle, so passionate and well-informed on the ethical and social issues, and a well-trained librarian.

But no passion please, we’re Blog:Harriet — no risk, no commitment, no challenge, no outrage or devotion, no Annie Finches, no Martin Earls, no Eileen Myles, no one who posts poems because they actually love them like Catherine Halley, or poets they would like to understand better like Joel Brouwer, and who give others both the space and the encouragement to explore difficult subjects in depth. Excellent Contributing Writers, and there are still some of those left, deserve better respondents — not just cynics and academics and a handful of groupies, insiders and glad-handers.

How sad, and nobody at The Foundation seems to care that Harriet is vacant. I guess that’s the way the Management  likes it, though how that serves Ruth B. Lilly’s larger mission remains to be seen!

BEGUILING MY SAD FANCY INTO SMILING: WHY DOES HORROR HAVE TO BE SO HORRIBLE?

 

 

HORROR, the genre, must be horrible because horror, the reality, stalks us daily;  the relief of laughter, and the relief of revery inspired by beauty, both exist partially as an antidote to anxiety.  Directly confronting fear (in a horror film, for instance) triggers a physical response which competes with laughter–a bodily response–and pleasurable swooning–also a physical response.  The comedic, the beautiful and the horrific are sisters.  Art deftly combines them, and the skill in combining these three marks the great artist. 

Fictional horror gives a crude psycho-physical pleasure in the use of contrast as it diminishes the banal horror of ordinary worries and anxiety–the less intense dread we feel in varying degrees in our own lives.    

The cure is the poison itself; fear in life seeks out more intense fear in stories; ironically, more palpable fear comes to us through fiction; the horror genre is a vaccine of ‘dead’ (fictive) horror for our ‘live’ (real) anxieties.     

But why does horror have to be horrible when it can be comedic and beautiful too–and not merely full of horror?  We can have our poem and eat it; the art that is beautiful and comedic and terrifying all at once  is the greatest gift art can give. 

Alfred Hitchcock won no Oscars, and the terrifying film “Bright Star” will win none, and Poe, who they say ‘is not really that scary’ (of course not! his genius was not merely out to scare) was the Hitchcock of his day, winning no ‘Oscars’ (Poe was shut out by the literary establishment, despite his popularity).  I’ll name one more figure who fits into the category of aesthetic balance–and for that reason gets rejected by various camps: Camille Paglia.  A highly controversial, contradictory, but rich, thinker, (who has wasted her talent on political blogging to some extent) Paglia provides more than single-genre types can chew on.

On this Halloween, here’s to celebrating books, films, and art that are scary, funny and beautiful in tasteful, ingenious combination. 

Take fright and add a little light.  The dark doesn’t have to be so stark.                                   

WE WERE THERE TOO: But We’re Banned from Blog:Harriet now. And WHY? Did Martin Earl find us troublesome? Or what about you, Annie Finch, or you Camille Dungy? Don Share? Cathy Halley? You were all there along with Gary Fitzgerald and Michael Robbins? Who in the light of the International Poetry Incarnation of 1965 could possibly have allowed this to happen in 2009, and at The Poetry Foundation of all places???

International Poetry Incarnation,
The Original Program,
The Royal Albert Hall, June 11th, 1965,
Smoking Permitted.

Albert Hall 1aAlbert Hall 2

FISH II GRAB

Thomas, Gary, Christopher, Camille, Annie, Michael, Don, Cathy, others…

I certainly don’t see a problem, and I second Thomas’s drift in this comment. The thread is about open space, cornfield, Nebraska style space. Thomas has a point. You read what you want to read. Volume can only be stimulating, especially when the discourse is conducted at such a high level. I’m sure this is exactly what Ms. Lilly had in mind, free and open forums which grow organically. Any given post can sustain pointed commentary for only so long before drift, meta-commentary, opinion, personal ideology and the gifts of individual experience begin to take hold. I, for one, feel extremely lucky, as one of the hired perpetrators these last few months that the threads unfold the way they do. Maybe Gary has a point – some people could be scared away by the clobbering breadth of the most enthusiastic threaders. But perhaps not. I suspect a lot of people are reading just for the fun of it, for the spectacle, without necessarily feeling the need to contribute. And I’ve seen enough examples of people, late in the day, breaking in without any trepidation. Thomas has brought up a lot of good points here about the way things are supposed to work. And I would say, having observed this process over the last six months, that, given the lawlessness, there has always been a sense of decorum, even decorum threaded into the syntax of insult (a wonderful thing to see). We are all at a very lucky moment in the progress of letters. A kind of 18th century vibrancy is again the order of the day. We should all thank the circumstances that have led to this moment. We should drink a lot of coffee and get to work.

Martin
POSTED BY: MEARL ON JULY 6, 2009 AT 12:02 AM

Honestly, you all, go and read such passionate and well-informed commentary, and BLUSH! Go and read it right here, and then look at Harriet today!

Christopher

“How American Modernism Came Out:” Tom writes it in a letter.

….

Hi Christopher,……………………………………………………………..10/27/2009
I never had a chance to see your draft before you pulled it. Don’t be too self-critical — I sort of like it when we post a howler. It’s part of our style, isn’t it? I mean, we don’t even know what we’re going to post next ourselves!

I like the ‘LangPo v. Official Verse Culture’ just up because that’s IT in a nutshell for lots of poets these days.  We’ve got to simplify it like that if we’re going to be popular at all.  We’ve got to mine this whole Modernism thing–it’s pertinent, it’s relevant, it’s got legs, it’s known, it’s familiar to many, it’s sexy, and it’s Foetry-city, and it’s horribly sexist, in my opinion, and fascist, to boot, so if we can get people stirred up about it, we’ll have a huge audience.

I’m not a ‘knee-jerk’ leftist, Christopher; I like to think I transcend political labels, but right now I’ll do anything to get a discussion going.  People who would otherwise be horrified at the true politics of the Modernists have given it a pass for the sake of ‘experimentalism’ and ‘aesthetic radicalism’ but I want to prove to the next generation of good people that we’ve been ‘had,’ and open up their eyes and tie it all into Foetics and then see where it leads, in a kind of Socratic manner: don’t know where the truth is exactly, but we’re looking for it…

You were at Cambridge, and I want to do an in-depth look at how American Modernism came out of the U.K.  It’s really exciting…Bloomsbury and the Cambridge Apostles and the Aristotelian Society…all the New Critics were Rhodes Scholars, including Paul Engle…I’m sure the Plan was formulated in comfortable, cozy rooms above the green lawns of Cambridge University…some British Empire planner took a moment from his busy schedule of running the world…”Oh, what to do with Poetry?  Well, let’s see…give me a moment…How about this and this and this?…very good, then!…carry on…”

So what was the Plan for Poetry?  What is the Plan for everything?  Consolidate power among elites, and I’m guessing the take-over works this way:

1. First, sow confusion in a ‘crisis’ atmosphere  (Oh gosh what the hell is poetry, what is reality, anyway?)

2. Hand-pick those who are best equipped to respond to the ‘crisis’

3.  Let these hand-picked be of two kinds: conservative and radical and let them feign disagreement while working towards the same end.

4. Stamp the hand-picked crisis-responders as the ‘new thing’ and have hand-picked associates in the press and in academia sound the alarm, but with grudging respect.

5. Relevance established, the ‘new thing’ is crowned savior and becomes the new status quo.

The whole thing ‘works’ precisely because the role of poetry no longer exists as poetry, but has been narrowed down into a kind of ‘movement’ which is ‘managed’ by a subsidized group; it is this ‘narrowing’ which provides the ‘energy’ that gains them advantage; they use poetry, instead of the other way around, they tie it into the current ‘crisis,’ and so the mere passive ‘appreciators of poetry’ don’t stand a chance–they’re slaughtered like cows.

I wanted to make this point to Des in our recent comments exchange on Scarriet.  Destroying culture is like killing people.  It’s serious business.  Our mission to save poetry is not just about one’s individual right to write without criticism–it’s deeper than that

Alan’s got to be happy at how Scarriet is doing.

A poet friend of mine from Canada who I only talk to occasionally just sent me an enthusiastic message re: Scarriet.  I’ll quote a part:

“Hi Tom, the Scarriet is amazing! we need something like this in Canada as its pretty lame here and no one is “kicking against the pricks” (sorry for my rather off colour language but this is an actual phrase that was popular in Canadian literary circles years ago) And I am not someone who can speak up unfortunately due to being shy! So congrats again on your feisty spirit and thats a lot of good work.”

Terreson & Gary are united by their ‘love of the earth’ which is OK, but it’s not finally interesting…eco-awareness has been played as much as it can possibly be played in the mainstream press, and now it’s become a matter of policy and implementation. Poets playing it up seems a little beside the point, like saying education matters…

Tom

~~~~~ WHO WOULD KILL POETRY? ~ ~ ~~


TWO WEBSITES 5


LANGPO SLAYS OFFICIAL VERSE CULTURE AS VENDLER GOES OVER TO BERNSTEIN

BAMA PANEL IV:  SURVIVAL OF THE DIMMEST?

The Alabama Panel 25 years ago this month was essentially a high-brow rumble: LangPo taking on Official Verse Culture.

Two heavyweights of LangPo, 53 year old USC Comparative Lit. professor Marjorie Perloff and 34 year old L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E editor Charles Bernstein took on U.K. poet Louis Simpson, 61,  former Nation poetry editor and Black Mountain associated poet, Denise Levertov, 60, David Ignatow, 70, poet and poetry editor of The Nation, Harvard professor Helen Vendler, 51, and Iowa Workshop poet Gerald Stern, 59.

Perloff and Bernstein were on friendly turf, however. 35 year old Hank Lazer, the ‘Bama professor host, was in Bernstein’s camp, as was 30 year old Gregory Jay, punk ‘Bama assistant professor.

Charles Altieri, 41,  professor at U. Washington and recent Fellow at Institute for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Palo Alto, ostensibly had a foot in each camp, but you could tell his heart was with Perloff and Bernstein.  The match-up was actually 5-5, so LangPo should have counted itself fortunate.

Also at the table 25 years ago was the elder statesman, Kenneth Burke, 87, a coterie member of the original Modernists–winner of the annual Dial Magazine Award in 1928 (other winners of the Dial Award in the 1920s: T.S. Eliot in 1922 for ‘The Waste Land,’ Ezra Pound, WC Williams, E.E. Cummings, and Marianne Moore.)   Burke, chums with figures such as Malcolm Cowley and Allen Tate, was an editor at The New Republic 1929-1944, a radical Marxist, and a symbolism expert–if such a thing is possible.

The poet Donald Hall had been invited and could not attend–submitting in writing for the conference his famous ‘McPoem’ critque of the Workshop culture.

We already looked at how Gerald Stern embarrassed Bernstein by asking him to ‘name names’ when Bernstein raised the issue at the 25 year old panel discussion of ‘poet policemen’ enforcing the dictates of ‘official verse culture’ and Bernstein only coming up with one name: T.S. Eliot.

Then we looked at Vendler asserting the crucial modernist division between timeless criticism and “abrasive” reviewing–with Simpson retorting this was nothing but a status quo gesture on Vendler’s part, with Vendler weakly replying she was fighting the status quo in working to make Wallace Stevens more appreciated.   Then in Part III of this series, we saw how Levertov roared ‘you parochial fools are ignoring race/unprecedented crisis/human extinction.’

Levertov, taking a no-frills Leftist position, and Simpson, with his no-frills aesthetic of pre-interprative Vision, proved too much for the LangPo gang.

Levertov became incensed with professor Jay’s post-modern argument that human language and interpretation are at the heart of human experience: “Bullshit!” Levertov said.  Levertov and Simpson (with Ignatow) argued for universal feeling as primary.

Levertov argued for universal access as the very nature of language; Perloff countered that a small group of people might find meaning in something else.

Louis Simpson came in for the kill, asking Perloff:

“Suppose you found some people who were using bad money and thought it was good money.  Would you be mistaken to point out then it was all forged?”

The audience roared appreciatively with laughter.

Bernstein, with his training in analyitic philosophy, was shrewder, finally, than Perloff. 

Rather than confront the dinosaur Levertorous head-on, the furry little Bernstith sniffed around and devoured her giant eggs:

Bernstein: “We’re not going to to resolve philosophical & theosophical, religious differences among us.  Religious groups have these same disagreements.  I think the problem I have is not so much understanding that people have a different veiwpoint than I have–believe me, I’ve been told that many times (laughter) and I accept that.”

Here’s the insidious nature of Bernstein’s Cambridge University training–he seeks disagreement as a happy result; he embraces difference as a positive quality in itself.   Bernstein gives up on universals sought by pro and con argument.  Now he continues:

“What I do find a problem is that we say ‘poets’ think this and ‘poets’ think that–because by doing that we tend to exclude the practices of other people in our society of divergence.”

What are these “practices of other people?”  He doesn’t say.  But we can imply that these “practices” are radically different and reconciliation is impossible.    Now Bernstein goes on to make a stunning leap of logic:

“And I think it’s that practice that leads to the very deplorable situation that Denise Levertov raised: the exclusion of the many different types of communities and cultures from our multicultural diverse society, of which there is no encompassing center.  My argument against a common voice is based on my idea that the idea of a common voice seems to me exclusion.”

Bernstein’s Orwellian thesis is that the One does not include the Many; the One is merely a subset of the Many.   Bernstein rejects the universalizing social glue necessary for Levertov’s democratic commonwealth of social justice; Bernstein promotes inclusion while positing inclusion itself as exclusion(!).  Multiculturalism interests Bernstein for its severing qualities–Bernstein wants to break but not build.  Logically and politically, he is unsound, and later on in the discussion–after Vendler breaks from ‘official verse culture’ and goes over to Bernstein’s side (thus giving Langpo a numerical 6-4 victory) with her ‘poetry makes language opaque’ speech–Levertov strikes the following blow:

Bernstein:  My poetry resists the tendencies within the culture as a whole. What poetry can do is make an intervention within our language practice in society.

Levertov:  I disagree.  Language is not your private property. Language has a common life.

THE STRANGE CASE OF GARY B. FITZGERALD, POET PREPOSTEROUS on HARRIET

An Interlude at the Bama Conference — performed outside the curtain.

A letter to my friend the poet, Gary B. Fitzgerald, who gets so upset when his poems attract so many Dislike votes on Harriet:

“Your poems are very pure, Gary — indeed they’re unique in that. Because you bring no artifice to them, no stunts, no tricks, no riddles, no performances, no arcana, no complexities of any sort, no contradictions, no obscure references, no quotes, no citations, no buried hints, no deep alchemical or esoteric or psychological knots, no sleights of hand, no fits of madness, no fluff or flarf or fiddling, no lists, no inner flights of foolery, indeed almost no imagery at all, no sacred symbols, confessions or paradoxes, no minimalist self-abnegations, and, most unusual of all, no pretense. Finally, although your poems are almost always philosophical you don’t need to know one thing about Wittgenstein or Rorty, A.J.Ayer, Lyotard or Lao Tzu to understand them.

“All you need is a.) to be a human being,  b.) to know how to read slowly and deeply, with a pure and open heart, and c.) be able to trust something in words without any irritable searching after something even more fashionable to compare it with, or something even wittier, negative or positive, to stump the poem completely.

” You simply don’t give the Harriet readers anything to get their perfect teeth into, Gary — in fact, you make them choke. You make them feel that all that expensive orthodontistry they got done at Iowa or Stanford wasn’t even worth the smile! Because you don’t give them any chat-fat to chew on, and if they actually did read one of your poems, which they don’t, they’d just feel angry, as if you’d tricked them. Because your poems are THE REAL THING in an unwrapped nutshell, and an on-line love-you/hate-you show like the new regime at Harriet can’t deal with poetry that’s humble and, most unnerving of all, doesn’t even try to make it new!

And if you read this as an insult, Gary, or any other poet, you don’t deserve the name or the blessings it could bring you.

Christopher

SHELLEY’S BIRTHDAY, or “Real Life in Poetry with Don Share & Joan Houlihan:” exclusively on HARRIET

DON SHARE'S PUPPIES Yvor Winters Grab
DON & JOAN FULL

This article builds directly on Thomas Brady’s last comments following the previous Delmore Schwartz post [click here], and indeed tries to pull all the pieces of Scarriet together. What it is not is negative, and certainly not toward Blog:Harriet which has given its authors such pleasure. It’s sole target is the very poor taste and mismanagement of Harriet’s editor, Travis Nichols, who we feel should be fired point blank.

Toward the underlying controversy itself, Scarriet is tolerant — we feel the issues involved are so close to us they are difficult to unscramble. Indeed, our position is like the two sides of our poetry’s coin, and denying one or the other would be fraudulent.

Our position is that having banned one side of the coin Harriet is now bankrupt.

Don Share wrote the original article called REAL LIFE [click here] with great sensitivity and insight, and we are sure gave everyone pleasure. Don Share is not being attacked in this post — he is simply a piece in a much larger puzzle that without him would not yield its whole picture. But his side is GREEN, lots and lots of it, and indeed in his person Don Share embodies the ‘ruling’ position — no blame, but there we are. What is undeniable is that that position gets all the votes — and of course, in less than a month from this very moment Thomas Brady will be banned from Blog:Harriet altogether.

Yvor Winters is a matter of taste, and he’s dead. He’s an important figure in the original article which draws him in here, but he doesn’t speak, and nobody is voting for or against him, or at least not directly. On the other hand, he’s a crux in Thomas Brady’s literary historical argument — a true eminence grise casting a shadow over all of us, and making it hard to read Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Some birthday — indeed, the only warm light comes from the poet’s funeral pyre!

Joan Houlihan is drawn in because she is Sheila Chambers in the penultimate comment, and another large piece of the puzzle. Not only does she get +14 GREEN votes for one very small offering, she expresses most starkly the attitude that lies behind the extraordinary ill-will that Thomas Brady gets buried in (look and see for yourself!). She’s the very Avatar of RED in her compulsion to demonize the opposition, and insists that hooligans like Brady are not to be tolerated anywhere within the pale. She’s angry, dismissive, and will stop at no limits.

Joan Houlihan attacks Thomas Brady specifically for his phrase, “the machinations of the grooming process,” and she should certainly know about that because she runs one of the most expensive “grooming” consultancies in the poetry business in America. Called the Colrain Manuscript Conferences, her outfit offers sophisticated weekends in white mansions in the Berkshires during which you get to meet hot editors and publishers like Jeffrey Levine — available to anyone with an unpublished book to be groomed and an extra arm and a leg. So she’s really passionately opposed to this discussion on Harriet, because Thomas Brady is threatening not only her purse but her cachet. She wants him stopped, in fact. Period. And ditto Christopher Woodman — as he was on Pw & Poets.org.

The comments that follow form an uninterrupted sequence from Thomas Brady’s initial thanks to Don Share for the REAL LIFE post to Joan Houlihan’s cat out of the bag. It’s a shambles, a shocker of the first order, a disgrace to The Poetry Foundation and to all poets and poetry. Indeed, it should make us all blush to read it (but you can’t really read it, of course,  because the whole opposition is closed down, like in Singapore!).

We have decided to post typescripts of the first 3 exchanges because they express the gist of the argument, and need to be read carefully (don’t forget that both of Thomas Brady’s comments are closed in the original — some dialogue!). We also provide a typescript of Joan Houlihan’s and Thomas Brady’s last comments at the end — and, of course, Thomas Brady is closed there too with -23 Dislikes!

Enjoy, we’d like to say. But that would be nasty.

CLICK HERE to read the most important part of this article.

WHAT YOU DON’T TALK ABOUT on HARRIET: Another Post Deleted by Travis Nichols

The following Comment was posted on Blog:Harriet on August 25th, 2009 but was put on “Awaiting Moderation.” It remained invisible until it was deleted altogether on Banning Day,  September 1st, 2009.

~

Blog:Harriet, a Reply to Eileen Myles’ “Post on the Post,” Aug 25th, 2009:
I read Ian McEwan’s Atonement just recently, and was very struck by the following, 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.”

Imagine believing that true artists aren’t political — in 1941!

Not so today, I hope. Certainly Eileen Myle’s recent POLITICAL ECONOMY thread [click here] was a very hot one politically, and a good many of the comments discussed local issues too, like the new voting system on Harriet — and sometimes in very critical language. And the management didn’t intervene either, even when requested to do so. So that’s good, and bodes well for the openness of Harriet toward political discussion.

On the other hand, I remain “on moderation,” and many of my posts get deleted.

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 those sort of inventions are key to truly effective political poetry as well as prose, that it does use wild ‘metaphysical’ imagery and is very often 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. Perhaps the Poetry Foundation needs to re-examine its policy toward political discourse on Blog:Harriet. If it’s that poets should devote themselves exclusively to talking about the fine art of poetry as “C.C.” proposes,  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.

But I’m certainly not alone because, of course, brave Eileen Myles takes up political positions all the time as do such posters as Desmond Swords, Thomas Brady, Rachel, Bill Knott and Terreson, for example (see the latter’s recent courageous post about rape!), to all of whom I’m grateful for such vividness and candor.

Christopher

POSTED BY: CHRISTOPHER WOODMAN ON AUGUST 25, 2009 AT 9:38 AM [You will see that this URL has the comment # in it that it received when I tried to post it. The comment was deleted by the management before it became visible on Harriet.]

MEXICANS ON HARRIET: THE RED & THE GREEN

MEXICAN GRAB Best
DISLIKE GRAB
CORDLE COMMENT GRAB
LAST COMMENT GRAB

CLICK HERE to continue reading John S. O’Connor’s fine article,  “The Tree Inside My Head” — I chose it to illustrate my point because it is so direct yet  sensitive and subtle, and I thank him for it:

CLICK HERE to continue reading Travis Nichols’ ill-conceived and boorish “Like/Dislike” presentation;

CLICK HERE to open Alan Cordle’s Comment to see what he said that got -67 Red votes;

CLICK HERE to read Christopher Woodman’s final comment on the Like/Dislike thread and to see how many votes his proposal actually got! (I mean, if you had read that plea, would you have passed it by in silence? And should I have been banned for that sort of writing and attitude?

Do you think I look frightening like a Mexican? Do my metaphors threaten to cut Travis Nichols’ grass or to wash his car? Does my language threaten his English Literature establishment?

Well of course it does, all of the above, but do you not think Harriet is the healthier for it?

Finally, do you think Martin Earl, Annie Finch, Joel Brouwer, and Eileen Myles, such wonderful Contributing Writers,  felt limited by my presence? Did they feel cramped or threatened by my contributions? Did they feel the management needed to put me on censorship for almost 2 months and then to banish me altogether?)

CLICK HERE to go to The Poetry Foundation Contact Page to register  your dissatisfaction with Blog:Harriet’s discriminatory policies and editorial mismanagement.

Christopher Woodman
Alan Cordle
Thomas Brady
Desmond Swords

ACADEMY & FOUNDATION: LINEN ON THE LINE!

GUARDIAN GRAB ++
Click Here to continue reading this GUARDIAN article.

Why are we doing this? Is this just more watchdog barking, is this just Foetry II? Indeed, what do we hope to achieve on Scarriet?

Because it comes at a price, this work of ours, and if you read the comments following the last article just below you can see how much. Desmond Swords is ready to move on because he feels we’ve achieved a lot, and isn’t willing to limit his own huge creativity to such a parochial little struggle. Tom and I are veterans, on the other hand, we’ve been banned from Poets & Writers, The Academy of American Poets,  and now The Poetry Foundation, so we’re running out of legitimate space to write in as legitimate travellers. I mean, we’re writers, not Black Panthers — and if you don’t understand how depriving creative people of their voices creates that sort of nightmare, you know nothing about the history of protest. Nor how tragic it can be, and particularly for those who have the gifts to be heard — how that hurts, how that rankles and drives them on!

The previous article just below, The State of the Onion, was posted to help anyone who cared to re-examine what happened last year on Poets.org, and we may or may not choose to comment on that ourselves. We’ll see. But whether we do or not, it’s up to all of you to decide about each one of us individually, and add your voices to ours if you feel what we’re saying deserves to be heard.

As to myself, do you feel I’m a libellous cad whom any self-respecting on-line venue ought to shun, indeed worse than Jack Conway [Lola] — as Kaltica [Pirvaya] suggested? [click herepassim] Or am I simply uncontrollable in any other way than banning. Is that why the lights went out for me so quickly on Blog:Harriet? I mean, I was placed in the hands of the Foundation Censor way back on July 14th, just days after the Like/Dislike function was introduced, and Thomas Brady, who writes twice as much as I do, and is far more influential, survived until September 1st!

And just look at those accusations levelled at me — yes, yet again that I wrote “abusive letters to the staff” and “hi-jacked threads,” exactly the same accusations as Chrissiekl, the Site Administator at Poets.org, had levelled at me the year before — even though Kaltica admitted it was really because I spoke about people who “weren’t there.[click herepassim]

So who were those people, and why couldn’t the Academy Administrator just ban me for libel? I mean, that’s clear, isn’t it, if I attack others in a groundless slur, the Academy just steps in to protect them? So why was I dismissed for writing abusive letters to the staff instead of for libel? Why the smoke screen?

Was it that my remarks were already well-established in the public domain, that I was referring to material that had already been published in Poets & Writers, for example, that everybody knew what I was talking about but that the individuals involved still had enough clout on the inside to hush me up? [click here]

Copycat or what, “abusive letters” and “hi-jacking?” I mean, everybody knew there were no abusive letters at all on either venue, and none has ever surfaced, or ever will. And there are no hi-jacked threads either. Or is there something else, perhaps “clique and manipulation” as John Sutherland calls it in The Guardian article. And if so, what are those towering pillars of the poetry establishment going to do about it? Because Scarriet has no bones to pick with The Poetry Foundation or with The Academy — except that both seem to turn a blind eye when special interests are so obviously able to manipulate  some of their employees’ editorial decisions, and that’s where it matters!

So where does that buck stop?

Christopher Woodman

THE STATE OF THE ONION: A Report on Poets.org.

POETS.ORG GRAB
***********************************************************************POETS CROPPEDONION SCAN 3___________________________________________________________

Just a year ago, Poets.net, a small, independent poetry forum, did a study of the mother of all Poetry Boards,  The Academy of American Poets’ own Poets.org.

On a thread entitled  The State of the Onion, a Report on Poets.org, Poets.net hosted a discussion of recent events at Poets.org that involved some controversial departures similar to those on The Poetry Foundation’s own Blog:Harriet.

Thomas Brady had just completed a two month long debate with Poets.org’s leading critic and administrator, Kaltica, resulting in the most popular thread Poets.org had ever hosted. Called  On Aspiring Writers Becoming Successful Writers, it involved 259 replies and 72829 views, Indeed, Poets.org experienced a flowering during the time of Thomas Brady’s participation that it has never been able to recapture, anymore than Blog:Harriet has — the heart simply went out of both sites when they were unable to sustain a more passionate and independent sort of dialogue. All that remains without such engagement is desultory, I-score-you-score chit-chat  [click here or  click hereand on this latter, has anything changed a whole year later?].

It’s important to emphasize that Thomas Brady decided to leave Poets.net voluntarily. He never felt comfortable there, and couldn’t express what was on his mind without sneers and threats from the management and its clique of supporters who obviously felt threatened by him. I myself, on the other hand, was summarily axed, and as mysteriously as on Blog:Harriet. Indeed, I seem to lack friends in high poetry places. And the sad part is that that’s only partly a joke — because my story proves that there are, in fact, special interests in very high poetry places!

The State of the Onion: A Report on Poets.org — a fascinating piece of on-line skull-duggery, and some of the revelations are startling.

It’s important to notice that Thomas Brady’s last post is dated June 14th, 2008, and that this Report was compiled on September 17th, 2008. When you look at the statistics of “Visits” and “Replies” on the 1st page, you can calculate how little had transpired in those three intervening months.

Finally, Thomas Brady goes by the name of TomWest on Poets.org, and I’m A Commoner. On Poets.net, Thomas Brady is Monday Love, Kaltica is Pirvaya, and I’m still A Commoner.

Christopher Woodman

Return of The Poetry Foundation

W Sepia
Alan ‘Foet-eyes’ Cordle

You all know by now about my little incident with the Poetry Foundation.  In addition to deletion of politely written and signed posts by me at Harriet, a staffer banned several other posters, without explanation, and finally trolled my personal site, searching for my name, along with the words “dumbshit” and “asshole.”

One suspect, Travis Nichols, has more reason to hide his tracks than the second.  The second suspect turned our inquiry about Harriet policy into his own little pity party.  Reluctantly, I took his name off of my blog . . . for now.  If he’s truly not involved with what happened, he should have, at the very least,  advocated for us.  As far as I know, he didn’t.  Not all librarians are proponents of free speech.

I’d admired Poetry (the paper version) for its willingness to print negative reviews and dissenting views.  Harriet is the party-line opposite, the super-suck-up-fest.  And it’s dying.  I mean, come on . . . Amber?  Shall they invite poets Leonard Nimoy and Ally Sheedy to guest blog too?

It’s no surprise that Scarriet‘s been getting substantial traffic since its launch.  It’s even less of a surprise that the Poetry Foundation person is monitoring our every move.  As you can see below, on October 8 he visited my personal blog, and bungled his effort to mask his identity with a web-based proxy called “hide my ass.”  Sorry dude, it didn’t.

hide_my_ass

WHY THE BANNED BIRDS SING

HARRIET BANNER GRAB

.Thomas Brady, Desmond Swords,
.
Alan Cordle, Christopher Woodman
POETRY IS DEAD GRAB

Writers keep blogging about the end of writing [and brilliantly, Abigail Deutsch. It’s a most wonderful article, and would we were there to honor it. Indeed, this one could  be well over 100 comments in a few days, and really be worth saving as a resource too. So we apologize for the satire, but what can we do?].

The English department is declining. Book reviews? Print journalism?  The on-line poetry-establishment non-profits like Pw.org, Poets.org, and Blog:Harriet?

There’s just one problem: no one gets into details. We want to know exactly when and why poetry croaked.  Did it happen in bed or on the beat? Did poetry die in peace, or in the ambitious twilight schemes of on-line editors in the back rooms at the American Academy of Poetry or the Poetry Foundation? Did Travis Nichols get short-listed for a prize like Robin Beth Schaer, or did they all get together for a ‘Compleat Retro Refit’ in Stockbridge or Lake Forest?

And so, in the style of the solemn journalism covering this crisis, we offer a few speculative reports for a nonexistent newspaper (call it The Daily Travesty).

They Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: Chicago Gang Takes Over, Ghetto Population Soars.

BOSTON– [on schedule]
DUBLIN– [tomorrow]
PORTLAND– [evening edition]
CHIANG MAI– [Sunday magazine section]

[STAY TUNED. The samizdat articles are coming in hot off the underground press — and if you don’t receive your copy it means you’re part of the problem! ]

TRAVIS NICHOLS – FALL and FALL!

Harriet strip grab

Travis strip

Fall is here, which means ponderous Hollywood movies, funky potpourri, [W]ild [T]urkey, and of course, lots of new bloggers on Harriet to make up for all those we lost in September.

Today, we say our goodbyes to Thomas Brady, Christopher Woodman, and Desmond Swords.  They’ve done a wonderful job here on Harriet, and we hope they’ll share a thought or two with us on their exciting new blog, Scarriet.  From everyone here, let me offer them a hearty thanks for their dedication and service.  Huzzah!

I know.  It is sad.  But all is not lost!  We still have John Oliver Simon, Terreson, Noah Freed, Nick, Bobby, Krista, and of course me, Travis Nichols, to help transition us to this new season.  And!  We have a great new river with a great wave and a really, really great run. No more boring comments on Harriet anymore — hey, we’re blogging!

Travis Nichols

A BURNING QUESTION FOR THE WORLD AND THE POETRY FOUNDATION TOO

Filipinos jpeg

So here’s a really big one, Barbara Jane Reyes. Isn’t the looseness in the creative souls of your Filipino poets, the flexibility, the disorder even in their language, isn’t that actually an advantage? And don’t they get that freedom precisely by being part of a marginalized, deracinated culture? Isn’t that their big reward as artists?

When you’re shut out, can’t you also feel liberated by not having to make sense in the eyes of the establishment? Can’t you even survive better by realizing you’re your own Cirque Soleil, and the sky is your tent and anything you say way up on a very high, and very shaky, high high wire?

Like Cockney humor when London was such a God-awful place to be a worker, or Puerto Rican street talk when so-called ‘Latinos’ were just a Westside Story? Or Gypsies anywhere in Europe, even now, or the really great Yiddish in the Ghetto. None of those people wanted to be understood, their language was their hidden treasure!

And isn’t the creative nonsense-genius you get in English from Latinos, Cockneys and Filipinos just the opposite of Flarf, for example, or Stephen Burt’s  ‘New Thing,’ both of which are so studiously the product of too much money, too much leisure, too much education, too much self-regard, and cultural cabin fever?

I hope you’ve had a chance to read Thomas Brady’s two essays on the Not A Radical Treatise thread (click here, and here). Isn’t the role of what he calls “Limits” applicable to all ‘overly-racinated’ cultures, not just mainstream American poetry — bound feet in China, for example, what a heart-breaking limit that was? And if you begin to feel too privileged with Franchisement, might you not begin to affect Disenfranchisement today, pretend to be a Revolutionary, and start another very self-conscious, very rarefied, very hard to understand and therefore very deep New Movement? (I almost said “fake” there, but the tragedy, of course, is self-delusion. Yes, it’s “new” alright,  but so what? The question is, is it genuine? Does it have any genuine human value?)

And the real thing, the diamond, Desmond Swords, isn’t he just the opposite of a Stephen Burt? I hope you’ve read Desmond too — he writes about his struggle as a working class Irish poet to get accepted by the British blog establishment (click here). He also reflects specifically on his experiences on Blog:Harriet  (click here)  and goes international on the Guardian Blog — quite a read, including the flabbergasted responses!

So what do you think it did to Desmond’s voice when he found out it was just being read as “blather,” Or getting booted off The Poetry Foundation’s site for that matter? How much pleasure did that give him do you think? How high did that make him fly?

Or even in a tiny little way, the three of us here on Scarriet, Tom, Des and myself, uprooted from Harriet and cast adrift by The Poetry Foundation of America? Aren’t we sort of lucky?

Christopher Woodman

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