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Political Economy

By Eileen Myles

I’ve really taken my time having a go at Sean Patrick Hill’s review in Rain Taxi of State of the Union, the political anthology published by wave books. I know there’s been a tempest here about nepotism in the poetry world which I think is exactly as serious as nepotism anywhere else. But who is Nepot. Why do we name a vice after him. Most importantly I will confess to being one of the poets in the anthology Sean reviews. But I really don’t mind that he didn’t mention me or my terrific poem in what he wrote. I was far too busy researching him. I checked out his bio and his poetry to see who is he to be claiming to have a corner on knowing what the political in poetry is. I’m investigating the deep background to the dense harrumph through which he ventriloquizes this piece. Where’s Sean coming from. That’s my question.

His poems, kind of prosy, are gentle nature poems with an aesthetic burnish. So when I read his review of the State of the Union book I’m not more confused I’m depressingly lulled by instead how predictable his review is/was. His own work does not seem “political.” He begins the “review” like this: “…let’s be clear at the outset: for the most part, the generations of American poets writing today have experienced little of the world’s political strife beyond what they’ve gleaned from the proliferate media. From a casual look at the biographies of poets appearing in The State Of The Union: 50 Political Poems, one can’t help but admit that they speak from a certain privillege.”

That’s so full of assumptions that simply quoting him might be enough. I could stop. I could put a few beats or bullets zinging behind his grandiloquence and I think I’ve got it made, but wait it gets even absurder. “It is notable, even regrettable, that only one poet in the collection, Brian Turner (Ho-Hum) served as a soldier in an actual war zone.”

Since he does ultimately do the typical round up of who and what he does and doesn’t like in the book (Sean is a good boy after all and this is a review, despite the bombast he excitedly frames it in.) But the reason I’m writing is my own feeling that his frame is why he wrote the piece and so it not his poetic opinions (which were thin) deserves my attention.

I wondered what else (besides being a soldier) is considered political to this writer. I mean I noticed what wasn’t. Rape? Why isn’t rape considered political by Sean Patrick Hill? Isn’t rape part of war. I mean war everywhere. War in America for instance. I mean if the percentage of female contributors in State of the Union is in keeping with the rest of America it’s probably pretty high i.e. I’m thinking about the number of us who have been sexually assaulted. Should that be in my bio? Do homosexuals have any purchase on the world’s political strife. Guess not. Even though we see them hung in Iran. I think you have to be hung (internationally) to be taken seriously in this review. Be hung with a gun at war I mean. I know one gay contributor whose lover was murdered for being queer. That’s not political. I mean unless it appeared IN THE BIO.

So there’s a gross essentialism going on here in one single regard. Man at war. Instead of talking about the complexity of the question that frames the book he’s reviewing – what is a political poem today and how do we describe, experience, understand the intimate balance going on between information, sentiment and aesthetics that determines how we read a poem and whether it even seems political to us (because isn’t the notion of “the political poem” a complex projection and reception of self and selves onto the moving surface of the poem in its time? I think so. Isn’t every political anthology a new thesis of that. ) Sean has avoided the philosophical and aesthetic questions of the review he is writing to instead not so indirectly suggest that poets as a class are insipid. He cites as his one authority on that point, the critic and translator Eliot Weinberger. Sean’s own poems contain trips to Spain where maybe real political things are occurring unlike here. Like during the Spanish Civil War. Lorca was a political poet. Get it. He died. That’s a real poet. War becomes a new kind of romantic test here.

Whereas because I (and here I really mean “I” as a class) am a published poet and a former college professor he assumes we’re all middle class at least and have no experience with sexual abuse, sex work, discriminatory health care, bad education for being born in an unprivileged family… assumed we didn’t go to Vietnam nor our brothers or our friends, or our dads. Or feel the effects of it. Socially, economically. Our dads didn’t go to world war two and come back ruined and drunk and any activism of the mind or the body hasn’t been practiced by any of us here.

Sean didn’t serve. Is that the problem. Or he has a completely complicated relationship to class which he’s unwilling to discuss. Did anyone ever tell him a review isn’t a therapy session. The essence of his warm up (and closure) is the indirect corralling of all of us in the book into the state of his own embarrassed disconnect to the world’s strife and his consequent feelings of mediocrity. Because Sean feels mediocre we are all mediocre. That’s where the personal becomes political to him. It’s viral this lousy feeling he has about himself. He’s passing it on. The identification of Brian Turner as one who’s been in an actual war zone identifies him as a true player. That’s so extra-poetry. This is an anthology of political poems, not a veteran’s anthology. Being a soldier is political. This is new. New like Siegfried Sassoon. Being a college professor is not. You know why? Sean is one. This piece screams that what I hate most about myself is that I have a job. He sides with critic and translator Eliot Weinberger “in decrying the failure of American poets to engage politics on a deep level. Weinberger points to their willingness to work for the very society they accuse – as tenured professors, as grant acceptors, as silent contributors to the status quo. He even goes so far as to call these poets “wards of the state. “ Now I have nothing against poets and critics living on inherited wealth like Eliot Weinberger but it’s hardly a position to be scornful from. Tell you the truth what I would consider a political poetry anthology at this point in time is one in which poets and critics talk honestly about their own economics. I have sat at least at one table with Eliot Weinberger and another poet also supported by his family and they both talked disparagingly about teaching. I guess it was the rest of us being to polite and slightly embarrassed for them instead of calling their bluff and saying but you guys are rich that made this moment both sickening and possible and memorable. It was their privilege to assume that we wouldn’t call them out. I have nothing against rich people per se. I love some quite a lot. The ones I know. Work is not a shame. Wealth is not a shame. Lying is.

In the end Sean leaps to history, the great judge. The easily appropriated chorus. He shamelessly quotes what an “Irish Republican prisoner said about the Nobel ribbon around Yeats’ neck: “If he wrote the sort of poetry that told the truth he’d be more likely to have the other kind of noose slipped around it.” I love that Yeats was a pussy stands as Sean Patrick Hill’s final assertion – using a Republican Soldier as his sock puppet. Yeats was a pussy. Real men know that. Well that must feel good. Maybe Sean’s a political prisoner at the school where he adjuncts. Lots of us know the feeling, Sean. It’s political, too.

Comments (227)

  • On August 16, 2009 at 2:47 pm Paul Killebrew wrote:

    Well hell yeah, you tell em.

    And what’s so bad about the sidelines, anyway? The course of large-scale political events is as determined by the observers as anything else. From E.E. Schattschneider’s The Semisovereign People: “If a fight starts, watch the crowd, because the crowd plays the decisive role.”

    • On August 17, 2009 at 6:41 pm Eileen Myles wrote:

      I don’t just click like. I like this.

  • On August 16, 2009 at 5:53 pm NEG wrote:

    Thank you Eileen Myles!

  • On August 16, 2009 at 7:27 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    Eileen,

    Just a small correction, first: It’s Eliot, not Elliot.

    It’s strange that you lay into Weinberger like you do. And the stuff about his income seems a bit cheap. So he inherited an apartment building in NYC. Is that his fault? If that’s allowed him to devote a bit more time to the important writing he’s done, then all to the good.

    Anyway, attacking Weinberger in a post about “political literature” seems really weird, particularly since his What I Heard about Iraq is by far the most widely read work of “political poetry” by any living U.S. writer. Or by any U.S. writer of the past century, for that matter… It was an international bestseller, translated into many languages. A couple plays have been made of it in Europe, even.

    The public reach of that book is modest, however, compared to the massive readership he had for his serial, searing essays on the Bush Administration’s war policies, which were published in scores of major newspapers and magazines in dozens of countries. He’s much more well-known abroad than here.

    So, just to point out that I think your attack on EW is misplaced. He simply happens to be the most influential left-leaning writer in the orbit of the U.S. poetry world. And his talk there at the Poetry Project, which ruffled some feathers some years back, was a wake-up call that’s proven to have salutary effects.

    And hey, at least you were asked to BE in the anthology!

    Kent

    • On August 17, 2009 at 1:56 am Eileen Myles wrote:

      He simply happens to be the most influential left-leaning writer in the orbit of the U.S. poetry world.

      Kent that’s just really totally exaggerated. There’s a lot of left leaning poets who hear each other. I don’t even know what influential means. It’s too broad to be anything other than a blurb.

      I admire much about EW and didn’t attack him. I discussed his finances in light of both SPH’s use of him to make a generic criticism of poets who teach and EW’s own disparaging remarks about same group in my presence. I thought and still that sneering at people’s means of making a living seems actually very unpolitical especially if one is well off. I don’t think it’s an attack to suggest someone is wealthy. I think sneering at anyone’s work is an attack. There’s nothing wrong with work or wealth.

  • On August 16, 2009 at 7:43 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    >Anyway, attacking Weinberger in a post about “political literature” seems really weird, particularly since his What I Heard about Iraq is by far the most widely read work of “political poetry” by any living U.S. writer. Or by any U.S. writer of the past century, for that matter…

    the past *half-century*, I suppose it could be, depending on how one wants to define the “political” poem. Howl could be entered, I suppose.

    Kent

  • On August 16, 2009 at 10:18 pm Eliot Weinberger wrote:

    Eileen Myles, whom I’ve met once or twice, knows nothing about my private life, and, needless to say, the subject is hardly appropriate for the Poetry Foundation blog.

    And thank you, Kent, but I did not “inherit an apartment building in NYC.” As this is now a public matter, I suppose I should say that my father was an utterly middle-class accountant.

    • On August 17, 2009 at 6:44 pm Eileen Myles wrote:

      Damn it it’s Emily Post again. I meant no offense Eliot. Maybe it’s a rumor. Which I’ve heard for years. You just act like you have money. Parts of that are nice, but you are a big pontificator about other peoples lives and how they make livings so I think you have put this inappropriate issue out there for the commenting.

  • On August 16, 2009 at 11:52 pm nick wrote:

    Kent, if I were to die and leave you a nice apartment building, I suspect you’d have better manners than to put down folks who have to work for a living.

    Eileen’s critique is specific and pointed. The rich man will never have to face accusations of selling out; if he levels them at others, why can’t they point out his wealth?

  • On August 17, 2009 at 7:20 am thomas brady wrote:

    Eileen,

    You say the political poem is a very complex thing, and you’re sounding very close to Brecht: all poems are political, and if they’re not political, they’re political for that reason.

    But what happens in this case is that ‘the political’ essentially vanishes into an orchestra of personal complaints of varying intensity–with victimhood and privilege the two absolute poles.

    Every personal complaint by every person in the universe can be traced back to ‘the political.’ I don’t need to demonstrate this; we all know it’s true.

    So, where does that leave us? It leaves you and Sean agreeing, Sean a careless reviewer, and me rather bored.

    Thomas

  • On August 17, 2009 at 9:57 am John Oliver Simon wrote:

    Jack Hirschman is the most powerful left-leaning poet in the US poetry world. World seems a rather large word to attach to US poetry.

    • On August 17, 2009 at 6:44 pm Eileen Myles wrote:

      I’m sure the most left leaning writer is a woman.

  • On August 17, 2009 at 10:48 am Kent Johnson wrote:

    First of all, apologies to Eliot on the inaccuracy of the apartment building matter. Whatever his relation might be to an apartment building is beside the point, and silly of me to bring that up.

    Eileen, you said:

    >Kent that’s just really totally exaggerated. There’s a lot of left leaning poets who hear each other. I don’t even know what influential means. It’s too broad to be anything other than a blurb.<

    My use of “influential” (admittedly not the most precise word) refers to his very large international audience, which yes, far exceeds the audience for any U.S. poet writing in “political” mode today. This is simply true.

    (And in partial reply to Nick Twemlow, also) In regards to any commentary by EW on the Academy as proliferating habitus of “post-avant” writing, well, I’d say it obviously contains a strong element of truth, too. It’s exceedingly impolite in this period, of course, to make any mention of such fact, or to propose discussion of its problematic effects. But it’s an important topic that calls out for more candid discussion. Not excluding, perhaps, of the barbed and satirical kind…

    It’s very interesting, I think, that Institutional Critique (much of it perfectly public and “in your face”) is now a decades old phenomenon within the visual arts, while in the poetry world the slightest suggestion that its “vanguard” is increasingly, and for the most part uncritically, entangled with institutional forces and protocols can’t be abided– whether the topic be proffered at the dinner table or in print.

    Kent

    • On August 17, 2009 at 11:02 am Christopher Woodman wrote:

      “But it’s an important topic that calls out for more candid discussion. Not excluding, perhaps, of the barbed and satirical kind…”

      Oh no, no, no Kent. Not barbed. Not satirical. This is a discussion about poetry, not about politics. Please don’t get real life mixed up in this!

    • On August 17, 2009 at 1:40 pm NEG wrote:

      KJ,
      I love it how you talk smack on here and then take it back when the folks involved actually chime in (Lauterbach, etc.). Oscillation uber alles!

      • On August 17, 2009 at 1:46 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

        Sorry, but what did I “take back”?

        Kent

        • On August 17, 2009 at 1:55 pm NEG wrote:

          tis the neo-negation where anything stuck from the record still makes its original noise: When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang

          • On August 17, 2009 at 2:02 pm NEG wrote:

            “struck” but, yes, “stuck” too

    • On August 17, 2009 at 6:46 pm Eileen Myles wrote:

      C’mon Kent. Your opinion is your opinion. Nothing is “simply true.”

      • On August 18, 2009 at 9:09 am Kent Johnson wrote:

        Eileen, I referred to an anti-war work by Weinberger and pointed out the unprecedented international exposure and reaction it has enjoyed relative to any other anti-war or “political” work within the realm of U.S. poetry over the past fifty years, or so.

        If this is a matter of my subjective “opinion” (could be, I suppose!), then I would gather you have other works in mind that surpass its reach, in terms of publications, secondary commentary, volume of audience, and so on.

        I’ll go out on a limb here, actually, and make another proposal (again, I might be wrong): What I Heard about Iraq is the most widely read text to have emerged out of the general milieu of avant U.S. poetry since Howl. What do you think about that proposal? I think it’s true, and if so, might be a fact worth observing and thinking about, for those pursuing the why’s and what’s and how’s of “political poetry.”

        Finally, fully aware, given the justified popularity you enjoy, that to say as much will condemn this comment to a large number of thumbs-down, I wanted to say that your comment about Weinberger’s “behavior” is ad hominem and unfortunate. Once we start talking about “behavior” in the literary world, where do we stop and who is immune?

        However, please see my interest in hearing about other works, in regards to my remarks above.

        Kent

        • On August 18, 2009 at 5:44 pm Eileen Myles wrote:

          I think when we stop caring about “behaviour” in the literary world we’re a bunch of heads stuck on books and have lost some basic way of being alive.

          You keep acting as if I’m being hostile and Eliot and Sean haven’t made some ridiculously large charges against entire classes of people without including a shred where they stood. There’s a person writing. These supposedly aren’t fictions.

          I’m all for putting the hom back in the hominem and by the way the whole thing has been a nice ad for Eliot. He will gain some readers for his book. I might even pick up a copy. I’m still in the reading and living and liking community. No bad hom feelings here.

    • On August 18, 2009 at 11:16 am Eileen Myles wrote:

      Actually I don’t think institutional critique in the art world generally takes the form of calling art historians or artists teaching in universities wards of the state. I think you’re flattering Eliot to call what he’s doing institutional critique.

      • On August 18, 2009 at 11:49 am Kent Johnson wrote:

        Eileen,

        I can see how that mention of Institutional Critique might have been taken as a reference to Eliot’s work, specifically. Most of his work has nothing to do with that kind of critique, of course. I intended the point in a more general way.

        Kent

  • On August 17, 2009 at 10:50 am john wrote:

    Kent’s probably right that Weinberger is more widely read around the world than any left-leaning American poet. Weinberger, however, doesn’t claim to be a poet. Nothing wrong with that — I love his writing.

    Rich people criticizing middle class people for their jobs *is* political. It’s reactionary. Now, Weinberger may or may not be a rich man — the text is undecidable! And Weinberger doesn’t deny it but makes a counter-accusation, saying Myles knows nothing of his personal life, with no evidence in support. I liked Eileen’s commentary, unless it’s inaccurate, and except for her own therapeutic sneering at the reviewer’s expense, when she called him a “good boy.”

    Weinberger’s claim that a writer’s personal/political/economic circumstance should be off-limits is counter to his own practice; he often comments on poets’ travel histories, and he has criticized academic poets, even though roughly a third of the poets in the anthology he edited taught poetry, by my count. The widespread cultural reticence to mention people’s inherited wealth (whether he has any or not) is one of the wealthy’s great social/political coups. If Weinberger does have inherited wealth, that should be fair game for commentary.

    Since one of the topics here is the political morality of wealth, I’ve had reason recently to remember this quote: “Wherever there is great property, there is great inequality. For one very rich man, there must be five hundred poor, and the affluence of the few supposes the indigence of the many.”

    Marx? Bakunin? Mao? Nope. Adam Smith, prophet of capitalism, in the capitalist Bible, “The Wealth of Nations.”

  • On August 17, 2009 at 11:08 am john wrote:

    Kent,

    Modernist/capitalist culture has *adored* rebel-ism for at least a century. Going back to Marinetti, it’s probably only a slight exaggeration to say that everybody who’s said, “tear down the museum” has been absorbed into the museum. That’s part of what fascinates me about the Slam movement: The first, to my knowledge, non-anti-academic move in a hundred years. Has Slam’s indifference to the history of poetry and the academy hurt the academy’s feelings? Is that why it may not be absorbed into the academy’s histories? If so, good for Slam!

    I noticed this dynamic first in rock/pop culture. Rock ideology has no way of dealing with style moves that don’t present themselves as rebellious, that refrain from taking a rebel stance against previous styles but simply move on as if the past is irrelevant. My own obsession with aesthetic histories is part of what fascinates me about movements that ignore it — these people are unprecedented!

    True story: In the mid-’90s I jammed with a drummer who was a member of a touring punk rock band with a record contract who *had never heard of* Patti Smith or Television. Nice guy, pretty good musician. Blew me away. Bully for him.

  • On August 17, 2009 at 11:25 am Kent Johnson wrote:

    John said:

    >Going back to Marinetti, it’s probably only a slight exaggeration to say that everybody who’s said, “tear down the museum” has been absorbed into the museum.

    Well, that’s entirely correct. It’s what has happened to the Language poets, for example. That’s why the topic is current, some might say urgent, to the concerns of our poetic “politics.” (Apropos Marinetti and your point, Bernstein’s “subversive” tap of the hammer against the reading podium in the MoMA, some months back, is full of significance!)

    On Weinberger’s being a poet– Yes, I realize he doesn’t identify himself as such. There are different ways to read this, of course. In any case, his What I Heard about Iraq is very much within the tradition of Reznikoff’s Holocaust and Testimony. His experiments with the essay have also taken him into territory that is very much poetic.

    Kent

  • On August 17, 2009 at 11:53 am Kent Johnson wrote:

    I said:

    >It’s what has happened to the Language poets, for example.It’s what has happened to *Language poetry.*.

    My first formulation implies that the process comes down to a matter of individual responsibility, which is hardly the case. It’s a systemic phenomenon.

    Kent

  • On August 17, 2009 at 11:59 am Kent Johnson wrote:

    [Sorry, the last comment somehow got scambled. Again.]

    I said:

    “It’s what has happened to the Language poets, for example.”

    That’s poorly said. Much more descriptive and useful to say,

    >It’s what has happened to *Language poetry.*

    My first formulation implies that the process comes down to a matter of individual responsibility, which is hardly the case. It’s a systemic phenomenon.

    Kent

  • On August 17, 2009 at 12:12 pm Lemon Hound wrote:

    “Tell you the truth what I would consider a political poetry anthology at this point in time is one in which poets and critics talk honestly about their own economics.”
    Eileen,
    Yes, Eileen, it’s worth tracing the relationship between personal wealth and freedom of expression. Or more precisely, the ability to support a writing “career”. Certainly part of the promise of the MFA system–and it is certainly political.

  • On August 17, 2009 at 12:28 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    It was August, month of cat-fights, & it was really hot in the jungle. Four ferocious tigers (whose names were Russ, Chin, Rabia, & Merkan) were circling each other, snarling, on the verge of a vicious tangle. Suddenly, who came walking down the path, but Manny & Midge – two of the cutest little mice in the whole wild world! & as they walked along, they were having a spat.

    “I’m mad as hell, & I ain’t gonna take it any more!”

    “Wait a minute, you can’t use that line in my anthology!”

    “YOUR anthology? Since when do you get to edit OUR anthology, big shot?”

    “It’s about POLITICS, stupid! Besides, you own a fancy mousehole on the upper west side!”

    “Do not!”

    “Do too!”

    So the two cute little mice went scampering on down the trail, having their wee debate. Luckily the tigers were too busy to notice.

    • On August 18, 2009 at 8:42 am Henry Gould wrote:

      What, nobody likes political fables around here? Just political poetry?

      Tell you why I sent that. Alongside the very legitimate & interesting criticisms Eileen Myles makes of SP Hill’s review & the stance it takes, there is a kind of nasty ad-hominem tone to her critique. In my view, a critic’s personal poetry is irrelevant to their reviewing. If you have a critique to make, stick to the substance of your target’s argument, don’t dig into their personal background & make ad hominem analogies. The same goes with comparing Weinberger’s personal life to his political opinions. To me that kind of thing is out of order. It leads to the petty cat-fights which my fable symbolized, & which, time & again, sideline supposedly “political” poetry in its own parochial backwaters (very swampy).

      Stick with the rightness or wrongness of the opinions, don’t go this low road of po-biz spleen & malicious remarks. It’s demagoguing your readers; some people enjoy it. I don’t. I find it similar to the hectoring that’s going on at the health care forums.

      Sorry, that’s how I see it.

  • On August 17, 2009 at 12:54 pm john wrote:

    “What I Heard About Iraq” is, strictly speaking, a work of fiction, and its title is what makes it so. Weinberger didn’t “hear” those things — he read them, at least most of them. By using an idiom of gossip in his title, Weinberger attempts to create a persona for his reporter, someone who talks to a lot of people, as opposed to the incredible reader who is the writer. (He may be a perfectly sociable and garrulous man privately; I have no idea.) Since he’s just about the most bookish writer in the world right now, whose prose can go for pages and essays and whole books without a passage of direct personal observation, it’s an interesting move for him to make. I personally find the literary deadpan of the title cutesy — it weakens an otherwise powerful piece. The title, “What I Read About Iraq,” would have given the piece more immediacy. Obviously artificial personae create distance.

  • On August 17, 2009 at 1:17 pm Desmond Swords wrote:

    Hello Eileen.

    I like your straight talking spirit and working class pride.

    Essentially, I think the general problem your blog addresses, is that the sentinels secure in their bunkers, are primarily middle class people reared with a great sense of our opinions being somehow more important than what the may actually be. In light of the fact, that the only politics many working in po-biz engage in; are trivial, personal politics in which what’s most important to us personally, is the composition of freinds we cultivate with kind words and scratched backs; how we are reviewed by other poets in parties and cliques, gangs, mobs politically engineered in relationships where the verbal flight of a soul’s poetic centre, as straight and true as possible – is a secondary concern most are paying lip-service to.

    Behind the mask of a bore whose mom and dad praised them and made them feel important, the centre of an entire familial cosmos – is often peopel with more confidence than real poetic knowledge. As conversely there are quiet shy types who have the talent, but by accident of birth, not there werewithall to go about securing what people far less deserving or talented do in the old bores network where the money is.

    Having millions of dollars to spend one’s way into meaningfulness with: it is easy to blot out the reality of a career in poetry existing soley on the fact of being lucky with who our parents are, who they or we come to know when moving in the over-priviliged circles, out from which born-rich poets who band together, come spouting how clever and relevent their minds are.

    To claim dry dreary guff wrapped in tedious unreadable and univentive language – is somehow the writings of people who are taking an active part in the political business of a contemporary world: is the default setting of those who are brought up to believe their version of poetic reality is great, when usually it is just boring and no one is interested in it. Poetry is a subsidised sport in which the object of the game is to feel superior to one’s rivals by being the one others agree knows best. The final arbiter and settler of abstruse Homeric points; because poetry ultimately is an unbroken cycle stretching back to ther gods and goddesses we trade and work with in the attempt to make sense of the deepest questions, on the meaning of life.

    Unfortunateley, as is proven in most forums where access and appearance is controlled by a chosen few middel class bluffers: when another presence arrives and articulates an opposing poetic truth in greater clarity, more readable and with a better verisimilitude to it: the so called liberal arties, will prove all i have said in this post, to be correct. Because they start inventing reasons to dissapear those who are more real as poets than themselves; for the simple reason that over-priviliged guardians on ample guerdons, are not interesting in establishing the genuine higher truths others unlike themselves – without access to a lot of money at work, who are not paid to fly around a globe to feel good about themselves when talking rubbish with others about our guild — have as our own reality.

    I knew one colleague when I was in prison serving time after being wrongly convicted of perjury (those who framed me were later jailed) who was muscled out of a prison poetry publication, Lags At It: by the warders charged with running it, who were typical thick prison gaurd types, young enough to be his children and grandkids. They used their positions, as people who thought they were arty when they were just smug paid preeners saying nothing new or of interest in Lags At It: who did not run the rag to seek the genuine poetic truths their shitty little mission statements claimes, but – from what I could see – to make dickheads of themselves in an underhanded manner, because when faced with a committed lover of poetry, they saw how fake they were and just because of their job, used this as the excuse of treating unfairly, a woman who had ended up in the prison, like me, due to a miscarriage of justice. She had also been framed, but luckily we both got out after proving our cases and ended up recieving very substantial damages supporting us in our respective practices.

    The two prison warders with pretensions of being poets, are both dead I think, forgotten entirely, their poems no more chance of being remebered than I have of being Dan Dare for the day Eileen.

    great post. thanks very much.

    • On August 17, 2009 at 9:06 pm thomas brady wrote:

      Des,

      “Because they start inventing reasons to dissapear those who are more real as poets than themselves”

      Can I buy you a beer?

      Thomas

  • On August 17, 2009 at 7:39 pm Terreson wrote:

    A good and necessary article. What is political in poetry comes in a bunch of different forms. Like the poetry of Victor Hugo and of Sexton, even of Millay and Dickinson. All political.

    Terreson

  • On August 17, 2009 at 9:01 pm thomas brady wrote:

    “In the end Sean leaps to history, the great judge. The easily appropriated chorus. He shamelessly quotes what an “Irish Republican prisoner said about the Nobel ribbon around Yeats’ neck: “If he wrote the sort of poetry that told the truth he’d be more likely to have the other kind of noose slipped around it.” I love that Yeats was a pussy stands as Sean Patrick Hill’s final assertion – using a Republican Soldier as his sock puppet. Yeats was a pussy. Real men know that.”

    Eileen sounds very angry. Why can’t someone present a slightly different take of Yeats than the standard one we get from Pound, Eliot, and their New Critical followers? Since when did a different view–based on historic fact–become a ‘sock puppet?’ Should Eileen’s strange venting about ‘real men’ be allowed to pass for scholarship? I don’t know why we presume to get all bent out of shape by a little history now and then. ‘Don’t touch my William Butler Yeats!’ Yeats isn’t yours. He belongs to history. Sock puppet?? If you only knew…

    • On August 18, 2009 at 11:30 am Eileen Myles wrote:

      There was a context Thomas. And by the way am I the first person here to sound angry. That’s kind of weird. When you guys are all flailing each other I don’t recall the accusation being thrown around that hey buddy you sound angry.

      But the context here is that the hero of Sean’s review is a soldier poet, not these professor ninnies and finally he ends equating up the republican soldier with the soldier in the anthology and the ninnies with Yeats. There was a parallelism that was ludicrous.

      Meanwhile your tossing in real men here in quotes seems aligned with my curious anger and behind that I suppose was the problem of a female writing with some feeling about a review that seemed to be ultimately about Sean’s disappointment that poets are not currently being action figures in the theater of our time.

  • On August 17, 2009 at 9:26 pm Christopher Woodman wrote:

    A very moving post, Desmond — and I for one am encouraged by it, to rise a bit above my own limitations. How many of us on Harriet can look back at ourselves out of a prison experience, or even just out of real personal risk? What Desmond has makes owning an apartment building or not a bit like owning a watch — which many, many, many people in my neighborhood don’t, by the way. Or even a bicycle!

    I like it when Desmond writes like this:

    “Unfortunately, as is proven in most forums where access and appearance is controlled by a chosen few middel class bluffers: when another presence arrives and articulates an opposing poetic truth in greater clarity, more readable and with a better verisimilitude to it: the so called liberal arties, will prove all i have said in this post, to be correct. Because they start inventing reasons to disappear those who are more real as poets than themselves; for the simple reason that over-privileged guardians on ample guerdons, are not interesting in establishing the genuine higher truths others unlike themselves – without access to a lot of money at work, who are not paid to fly around a globe to feel good about themselves when talking rubbish with others about our guild — have as our own reality.”

    In another context I wrote a comment about how easy it is to hire a hit-man where I live, and that as a result very few people arrive on the scene with an “opposing truth” and survive to fight for it. Numerous cases of prominent activists and human rights lawyers who have “disappeared” are stalled in the Thai courts because a.) the killers disposed of the body so well it was never found (the incinerators on the military bases are high-tech!), b.) the evidence presented by the police is so thoroughly scrambled by the time it gets to the court it all has to be thrown out as inconsistent, c.) the judges are at the heart of the old-boy network, and d.) nobody has any hope that this will ever change — which in effect means nobody cares.

    I do speak Thai, in fact I work in Thai, but if anybody asks my wife, “Does Christopher speak Thai?” she answers “No.” This is partly wishful thinking on her part, because she doesn’t want me to speak Thai, and never ever helps me with it, even when I ask her a specific question, like how do you pronounce this word (there are 5 tones in the language!). If anybody asks her she is also very upfront about her reasons: “Christopher phut phasaa Thai anderei!” she says, which means if Christopher spoke Thai it would be dangerous. (She means that with a mouth like mine I’d get bumped off in no time if I were able to speak my mind.)

    The main theme of Eileen’s excellent post is about this too. Speaking about sensitive political issues is always difficult because there is no human being who doesn’t belong to a political party, the totally disengaged person being of course one of the most politically positioned of them all. And the most explosive issue in politics is always the control of the resources, which in modern society boils down to the money. Who’s got the cash, who gets to keep the cash, and of course who gets to keep the cash in the next generation. And who can talk about this? Indeed, very few of us who have got enough not to care about it can make a good argument for how important it is not to care about it. Or vise versa.

    Did Franklin Delano Roosevelt succeed in this? Are Bill Gates and Warren Buffet the real thing? Or St. Francis? And what about a poetry activist like myself? Is the fact that I haven’t got a lot of poetry cash helpful or not in my arguments? Let’s say I had the sort of credits Bill Knott has, would you listen to me better? Would I make more sense?

    Christopher

  • On August 17, 2009 at 11:11 pm Henriette wrote:

    Great writing, Eileen. You’ve been missed. And great comments too all the way down through, a bit like it used to be. But who’s missing, I keep asking, beside me? Who’s staying away from the kitsch and the glitter? Who prefers the air-conned room, or the freshener?

  • On August 17, 2009 at 11:31 pm Bobby wrote:

    An honest question: If everything is (or can be) political, what’s the point of publishing an anthology of political poems?

  • On August 18, 2009 at 7:24 am thomas brady wrote:

    Bobby,

    Great question, THE question perhaps.

    My Dad said when he was in the navy, sailors on a ship were forbidden to talk religion or politics.

    Politics gets people angry, angry enough to sink a ship, enough to wreck the safety of our passage in the world with its emotion.

    Yet there’s a nagging question: if there’s all this emotion, isn’t that a sign of something genuine and real? Should we, especially as artists, censor and suppress those feelings?

    Is poetry the very act of taking those sort of emotions and cooling them, as with molten metal, and turning them into useful or beautiful shapes?

    But what about mere words–cool in themselves–which incite emotion in some person? There’s the rub. If Y, with presumptive facts on her side, states something cooly and rationally, backed by argument, even cloaked in decorative language, etc etc, and, upon reading this, X goes ballistic, who is at ‘fault?’ Should Y’s words be censored? Should X’s reaction be censored? Should X be made to respond cooly, or is Y, despite her cool manner, at fault for inciting X?

    A judge might say, ‘let us look at the content of what Y said, and then we shall know if anyone is at fault here.’

    So there’s the paradox; in an issue centered around emotion and anger, the whole problem is one of determining verity based on fact.

    But here’s a further paradox: we are not quite sure if the issue is one of ‘fact,’ since ‘facts’ can sometimes be true, and yet, offensive, in terms of how we first defined the problem: order and safety on board the ship.

    The wise judge, then, may have to censor ‘the truth.’

    I would argue that THIS censoring mechanism, in which a judge must decide how much/what kind of truth to allow in a debate, is what we are REALLY talking about when we use the word, ‘politics.’

    Poltics is a subtle form of censorship which oppresses us all; how subtly and cunningly we are able to respond to that universal need to censor in an orderly (not ‘just,’ ‘orderly’) society determines our worth, or skill, as political creatures.

    My standard of a great political poem, then, would evince a highly developed consciousness of what I have just described.

    A great political poem for me, would rarely be, but COULD be, a simple litany of wrongs, so long as those grievences were presented in such a manner so that each ‘wrong’ was felt instantaneously, not abstractly, and, at the same time, those wrongs were felt to have a universal application denoting them as wrongs worth contemplating as wrongs not just in terms of justice, but safe passage.

    Now, one could say that Letters, Literature, is precisely that which can resolve issues of justice WITHOUT having to worry about ‘safe passage,’ and this is how I WOULD define literature.

    The genius of the poet partly goes into the challenge of how to intelligently eschew that ‘worry,’ so that larger themes–justice, truth, beauty–might prevail.

    Anyway, to get back to your quesiton, Bobby: I would say the idea that ‘everything is political’ is both WRONG and suffocating, and that politics does have its own set of rules, and these rules ought to be defined before we proceed. This will free us up to be ‘political’ and (sigh of relief) NOT political, as we choose.

    Thomas

  • On August 18, 2009 at 9:12 am Sina Queyras wrote:

    Here’s a little space for those we aren’t hearing from…particularly the women.

    • On August 18, 2009 at 11:42 am Margo Berdeshevsky wrote:

      yes, I add another woman’s voice, Sina, because that’s mine. Add in a human voice, because that’s mine. My pockets are fuller than those on the street tonight. I’m traveling. And I’m in the third world at the moment, and as I scroll into this, from where I walked today, these arguments seem so strange. Of course “it’s” all political. What one may do with it is an art, if one has the breath and the resources or the mind-heart. While the plastic and the cooking fires coalesce into tonight’s dinners. While garbage covers rivers and temple walks, alike, or people leave offerings to say their believers’ thanks for the day they have, even so. Thanks, and helpfulness, and wealth and poverty– all–are essence. Only that. Deeply that. No one needs a badge to be a human.

      I’ll add that I just sat with some volunteers on the road where I am, who were watching a very old dvd, Zefferelli’s “Brother Sun Sister Moon”– and I remember that Saint Francis was a true helluva poetic politician. (The volunteers I sat with are midwives, bringing births into a dirty and empty pocket world. Political. Poetical. Touching daily life, and blood and have/have-not death.) Of course, it’s all political, and economic. Of course. Always. Anywhere. But much more obvious where there is less comfort. And if we are of a poetic mind or soul, then the poetry might be born of the same blood as any life. The same likelihoods of failure, or deaths. Just another war. Just another battle some survive and write about, some can’t. Some have no time or patience for.

      Maybe this counts as a woman’s pov, a human pov.Maybe. Where there is hatred. Where there is despair. Where there is pardon. Where there is a little bit to give. Maybe. May there be that thing with feathers.or pardon. or even the poem.

      margo

      • On August 18, 2009 at 12:49 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

        Margo said:

        “The volunteers I sat with are midwives, bringing births into a dirty and empty pocket world.”

        Is there, maybe, a connection here?

        “WASHINGTON (CNN) — The world’s population is forecast to hit 7 billion in 2011, the vast majority of its growth coming in developing and, in many cases, the poorest nations, a report released Wednesday said.”

        Maybe the volunteers, if truly caring people, should be distributing birth control.

        • On August 18, 2009 at 1:04 pm Margo Berdeshevsky wrote:

          gary, while I concur that family planning is a wisdom, the somewhat snide & more narrow attitude that you espouse above is healthy, good, comfortble for the comfortable, who are uncomfortable with too many persons of colors, faiths, economics being more populous.
          sigh.
          margo

          • On August 18, 2009 at 1:18 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

            You could not be more wrong, Margo, and your comment was condescending, very insulting and, frankly, ignorant. Has it occurred to you that the poor nations are poor BECAUSE of their populations? What does it have to do with ethnicity?

            So now, after all this brou-ha-ha about Eileen’s assumptions about Eliot Weinberger, you’re now going to do the exact same thing to me?

            • On August 18, 2009 at 1:32 pm Margo Berdeshevsky wrote:

              I make zero assumptions about you personally, gary. You may have to invent those for yourself. The rest of my comment is as it is.If you choose to find fault in it, I hope you better the world from your mountains, I will do my best as I walk what is obvious to my seeing and knowing. Yes, many difficulties occur to me.

              • On August 18, 2009 at 2:24 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

                If you want to talk about the economics of population and ethnicity, you might consider Ireland. The people there are as white as snow but back in the nineteenth century, due to their “faith”, they reproduced like white rabbits. The result was famine and poverty.

                What country are you in, BTW?

                • On August 18, 2009 at 2:47 pm Heather wrote:

                  Gary. Dude. It is not looking good for your gender here. Sina starts a comment thread hoping to get women to respond, one does, and immediately you jump in with your diverting quibbles. Do you see why this is problematic? Can you take a slightly larger view? I know I shouldn’t ask direct questions since it will only make it so you quibble with me, but someone needs to tell you this rather than just flee from you (and Harriet) sneering.

                  • On August 18, 2009 at 3:04 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

                    A) “Gary. Dude. It is not looking good for your gender here.”

                    Talk about stereotyping and profiling…and insulting.

                    B) “…and immediately you jump in with your diverting quibbles.”

                    I wasn’t aware that global overpopulation, and its potential consequence of extinction, was a “quibble”.

                    C) What is this…like…gender segregation now? Like Afghanistan or Iran? I apologize for daring to treat you as …gosh…an equal! I guess I should go play with the boys now.

                    D) And, most importantly, there is a certain individual who posts here who has more identities than Sybil, many of them female. I’d say there’s a fifty/fifty chance that ‘Margo’ isn’t even a woman. I’d sure like to know what country she’s in. Thailand, maybe?

                    • On August 19, 2009 at 12:50 am Michele Battiste wrote:

                      This thread is completely off the topic of political poetry and criticism of political poetry, but I feel I must respond. I’ve worked for years for an international health organization, and one of the largest obstacles to sustainability in developing countries is the dismal state of women’s health. Part of it is, yes, the lack of available birth control (or a woman’s right to CHOOSE to use birth control). Part of it is the lack of maternal health care. Women die giving birth. Women also get very sick giving birth. Because they aren’t healthy, women give birth to sickly babies who don’t grow up healthy and who don’t reach their cognitive and physical potential, perpetuating the cycle of poverty. Yes, women in developing countries need education about birth control and advocacy for their rights to choose and practice it, but they also need help ensuring their health and the health of the children they do have.

                      And Heather was right. It did seem a cheap dig, in the midst of a discussion of EM’s criticism of criticism, to reduce Margo’s post to a question of population control.

        • On August 19, 2009 at 3:19 pm Janet McAdams wrote:

          Ugh, Gary. So now first world volunteers should be telling third world women not to have babies? Reproductive freedom also means the right to prenatal care and the right to give birth in safe and healthy conditions. You need to think more carefully about what you are saying here.

          • On August 19, 2009 at 8:03 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

            Dear Janet:

            My response will be found at the end of the thread. I hate these smunched up sentences!

            Gary

          • On August 19, 2009 at 8:04 pm Margo Berdeshevsky wrote:

            Janet, Michele, Rachel, important points you are adding.My nod to you as I move along. Appreciate your considered continuation of discourse. health is also political, as the present US debacles are showing.

            With some sense of personal dignity and a refusal to enter the dog fighting, it possible to overcome the negativity. Meanwhile, fortunately, there are small clinics and devoted volunteers in international health who support choices, save lives, and respect populations who have values other than their own. It is useful to remember that many underdeveloped countries are “used” for the resources which keep them underdeveloped in their own lives, but provide hot water for a nice shower at home in the west.

            Today,a local newborn with a misshapen heart about to explode, literally; maybe surgery will save him, maybe not. Last week, a traveler whose dead fetus and a miscarriage in a village hotel brought her to the clinic and death’s step, and she was saved, and went home to her other three children and her husband, heading west.

            so it goes. one sees what one sees. one knows what one knows.

            best, margo

  • On August 18, 2009 at 10:00 am Eliot Weinberger wrote:

    Someone I don’t know writes a review of a book I’ve never seen. In the review, he paraphrases (does not quote), out of context, something I said more than six years ago. Eileen Myles does not like the review. To seal her case against the reviewer, EM states that she met me once years ago and it was “sickening.” She “discusses” my “finances.” Based on a “rumor” she heard and the way I “act” (must be all that bling I was wearing), she concludes that I am a spoiled rich kid. Moreover, I’m a “big pontificator” who “sneers” (the word is repeated ) at how other people “make livings” [sic], especially those who teach creative writing. The commenters then take off on the callousness of the rich, etc. There is speculation that I am a New York City landlord. When I protest that my private life is hardly germane to a discussion on the Poetry Foundation blog, one commenter writes that I should be supplying “counter-evidence”– which means, I suppose, a full financial disclosure, as though I were a public official.

    Since I only inadvertently walked into EM’s artillery fire on some young reviewer, and have nothing to do with all this, I debated whether to respond at all. But, as we know these days from the Obama “birthers” and “death panel” crowd, total lies have a way of becoming received wisdom. And EM, after all, is attacking not what I said, but what someone said I said, and not who I am, but what someone said I am.

    Of course I do not “sneer” at those who teach creative writing– they’re half the people I know. Over the years, I’ve written about what I think is the generally deleterious effect of the rise of creative writing schools on American poetry. Calling this a criticism of how people make their living is true in its way, but a reduction to absurdity. Obviously I was talking about the phenomenon as a whole, its sociological and aesthetic ramifications, and not about individual lives.

    As one who rarely writes about himself, it’s more difficult deciding whether to respond to the speculations about my life. To not respond is to be accused of evasiveness. So let me just say that I am not now, and have never been, a landlord. And if Obama manages to raise the taxes on the rich, as I hope he does, I will not be affected.

    • On August 18, 2009 at 11:59 am Eileen Myles wrote:

      What agony. What a beast I am to fire my artillery on some young reviewer. What I actually said was sickening was us listening to you and another man go on about why you wouldn’t/couldn’t teach. It seemed to be as much about the fact that you didn’t need to earn a living. If we (the poets present) had felt comfortable enough to say hey – but do you guys work? then we might have had a good conversation then. But nobody talks about economics in the poetry world. In the practice of such a symbolic art the absence of any conversation about class and wealth and work is pretty much the rule. So when I see – how young is Sean? Do you know him personally, Eliot. So when I read a review that cites you as the go to guy for thoughts on the inanity of poet teachers I recalled that gathering and actually enjoyed the opportunity to break the imagined silence. I don’t know of course the actual facts of your financial reality. We talk about those things a lot privately. I bet you do too, somewhere. I didn’t apologize because I ultimately don’t think your money is my business, I’m not the IRS, but I wouldn’t be upset if someone accused me of being wealthy. I’d think it was funny. I still don’t understand why it’s okay to laugh at a whole class of people but not abide questioning where you or Sean stand. I felt like Sean’s romance with war-time masculinity and yours about work and independence and economy were out on the line because of your pronouncements. I think the point of a blog is to be able to have public conversations in an increasingly silenced and silencing culture. I know one of the worst things to accuse a person of in the poetry world is being rich. It’s like saying someone is wearing a funny hat that we are not supposed to notice. My manners are bad. As a poet I reserve the right to say did you get the hat. Maybe it’s not your hat Eliot. I just thought I saw it. But I have definitely read and heard you speak in ways that beg the question. You did that, not me.

      • On August 18, 2009 at 12:08 pm Sina Queyras wrote:

        Indeed, Eileen. I understand the impulse to clarify points and defend one’s character if one feels slighted, and have some sympathy, but the responses here are quite bombastic and defensive. And definitely designed to shut down any such conversations about money, privilege, resources or even accountability vis a vis reviewing.

        In my time in New York I made the mistake of bringing up such topics on several occasions and was very publicly chastised. It’s crass. It’s just not done.

        No wonder the American economy was able to run on air for so long!

        • On August 18, 2009 at 1:16 pm Bobby wrote:

          I disagree, Sina. This discussion is crass, but not because taken a turn to the unspeakable subjects of money and privilege and class. It’s crass because Eliot Weinberger got dragged in a personal way into a fight that was not his.

          Eileen has an obvious (and, from the sounds of it, justified, though I haven’t read the review) beef against Sean Patrick Hill for an ad hominem attack he made against the authors in State of the Union anthology. She responded in turn with an ad hominem attack of her own–which, while no more convincing than what she quoted of SPH’s original ad hominem, was at least understandable. No one here has protested even slightly at this part of her post.

          EW has already laid out the very sensible reasons why he should have been left out of this from the start (a book he’s never read, a reviewer he’s never met, etc.) But if EM feels she has to bring him into it—because she disagrees strongly that writing programs are not good for poetry, or that people might be beholden to the institutions that employ them—why sideswipe him with a bit of hearsay? Why not take those offending claims on directly instead of implying that EW’s tax bracket disqualifies him from the conversation?

          • On August 18, 2009 at 1:24 pm Henry Gould wrote:

            Um, actually, I did protest against the launching into a post with an ad hominem against the reviewer.

            • On August 18, 2009 at 1:32 pm Bobby wrote:

              Sorry, Henry, I must have got lost in the funhouse. I stand corrected: “Almost no one…”

          • On August 19, 2009 at 12:24 pm Eileen Myles wrote:

            is this a real question. I think if a politician makes a big speech about dead beat poets living off the fat of the land one might look at some of his holdings. This is all so gentlemanly when what ad hominem attacks on people’s bios or people’s teaching job is somehow literary discussion. If you guys were to have your way we would not sign our pieces so they could stay in Olympus where they apparently emitted from. Why would Olympus care about how ordinary women and men pay their bills. I’m bugged by the quote of “wards of the state” when literally state universities which educate students of all classes but mostly working and lower are getting slashed budget wise and everyone who is teaching is working harder and harder and changing the lives and consciousness of kids who if left in the unthinking America that bred them would never have a chance to read and think about great literature and write and live differently. I really believe in higher education. My family couldn’t afford. Wards of the state gave so many of us our freedom. Tenure though so often an insurance policy for lame-os also really makes it possible for teachers to speak truth to power. Think about and research what they want.

            • On August 19, 2009 at 12:35 pm Henry Gould wrote:

              All I want to say at this point, Eileen, is that I believe personal attacks are INEFFECTIVE. Aside from questions of ethics or manners. They are irrelevant, they are pointless, they are self-defeating. If you are going to criticize a reviewer for that reviewer’s (philistine) focus on the personal lives of the poets in the anthology, well, your criticism is somewhat diluted when you open by doing the very same thing.

              If critics & critics of critics would only stick with the work at hand, and its political &/or artistic values & implications, we might actually learn something.

            • On August 19, 2009 at 1:11 pm Bobby wrote:

              It is a real question, Eileen, but I think you’re missing my point. I’m not saying that ad hominem arguments are always and forever out of place in literary discussions. The ad hominem is a logical (not a literary-critical) fallacy, and I don’t think that anyone here would argue against the notion that life matters to art or vice versa. I certainly wouldn’t, anyway.

              You could even, if you cared to, find Eliot Weinberger writing about poets behaving badly–see his essay on Ginsberg and Naropa in *Works on Paper”. But there are two key differences between what EW did there and what you did here. For one thing, his essay was about poets behaving badly. It wasn’t about some set of ideas that he tried to disprove by showing their authors’ bad behavior. By contrast, you challenged EW’s right to express scorn for a system he disapproves of on the grounds of his wealth. (“Now I have nothing against poets and critics living on inherited wealth like Eliot Weinberger but it’s hardly a position to be scornful from.”)

              For another thing, EW at least made an effort to get his facts straight. You demonstrated no such effort, and when you were corrected you took no real responsibility for your error. I have, until the moment I read this post, always admired and respected your work, which is why it was frankly embarrassing to see that instead of apologizing to him for your error, you blamed it on rumor and doubled down on your accusation on the grounds that he “acted” rich.

              As I said before, it sounded like you were right to protest against Sean Patrick Hill’s ad hominem (or ad feminam, as you please) judgment about you and your colleagues. And it was understandable that you’d want to respond to him in kind. And yes, there are important questions to be asked about the way class and privilege are and are not dealt with in America and in the poetry world. But–and I don’t like writing this, since as I said I really was an admirer of yours–it’s both cowardly and wrong to try to write off your attack on EW as an an honest example of such a question. I would agree that sometimes one has to be rude to speak truth to power, but that doesn’t mean that every act of rudeness is a heroic affront to the powers that be. Sometimes crassness is simply crass.

  • On August 18, 2009 at 10:56 am Christopher Woodman wrote:

    I did vote, but unfortunately I could only vote once. So this is to say it was Green!

    Also to say, dear Eliot, how lucky we are anyway to have poetry people like Eileen who dare to say what they want to say and are actually allowed to say it. Because had she not written that wonderful article at your expense I wouldn’t have gotten to read what you just wrote and then to add my two little giggly green votes. And to get to know you!

    And see Thomas Brady just above for ditto, who has already garnered all sorts of red for yet another one in just a few moments — oh those laurels he so proudly sports wherever he goes! This wonderful site lets us embrace us all in such a wonderful whirlygig, gorge-rising, God-affirming rite to be free.

    Called Harriet!

    Christopher

  • On August 18, 2009 at 10:58 am john wrote:

    Since the Poetry Foundation is paying its front-page bloggers, it should edit them. I would hate to see the Poetry Foundation liable for libel on a professional blog. The proscription against personal attacks in the comments should apply to the front page too, unless the attacks are based in verifiable fact.

    Eliot, I can understand your being angry about being put in a position where you need counter-evidence to a lie, but I mentioned that you hadn’t provided any because your first comment could have been read as a non-denial denial. Your new comment provides more detail. I say, good for you for nipping Eileen’s false and demeaning rumor in the bud. And, since I’m unexpectedly in the position of quasi-conversing with you publicly — thanks for all the terrific writing through the years.

    Eileen, spreading false rumors isn’t a matter of bad manners, even if you believe them to be true. Not apologizing for spreading false rumors is worse than bad manners. Saying that you intended no offense is a non-apology.

    And, Henry, you might want to re-post your last comment in full as a non-reply, because, since you appended it to a disappeared comment as a reply to it, your new comment is automatically disappeared. For the record, I voted to “Like” your fable. I rarely click on those anonymous voting machines, but I saw that your comment was heading toward Disappeared-ville, and I disagreed with that trajectory.

    • On August 18, 2009 at 11:06 am Henry Gould wrote:

      Thanks, John. I’ll let people dig around for it.

      Finding aid : folks, it’s in Hallway 13 of Circus Maximus North. Follow the red thumbs.

  • On August 18, 2009 at 11:44 am Christopher Woodman wrote:

    Quite seriously, aren’t we ready yet to accept the fact that no opportunity comes without problems? Freedom included?

    Or that no problem comes without opportunities, like the ones we are facing on Harriet? Are they so surprising, after all, our problems? Did nobody ever explain to us it might be hard, or that the more we tried to say something the more we might doubt it?

    I disagree with you completely that Harriet should edit anybody, John, even the paid writers. We’re all poets, after all, and surely have arrived at the point where we can deal with a good person writing a wonderful article that proves to be flawed, just as each one of us knows very well that the last poem we wrote didn’t answer any of the questions it set out to, or even said anything we were proud of, what is more what we meant.

    Read Robert Frost’s “Directive” again, and then tell me why it’s so wrong to get lost.

    I say thank you, Eileen, for having the courage to get that all out, and I say thank you, Eliot Weinberger, for taking it even deeper than she meant.

    I mean, why else come here? Why else particpate on such a site?

    Are you afraid not to be right?

    Christopher

  • On August 18, 2009 at 12:37 pm john wrote:

    Eileen, it’s not just that you spread a false rumor that Eliot’s rich, you extrapolated from that false rumor that he’s a hypocrite and pretty much said that he’s a liar. That’s a personal attack. (“Work is not a shame. Wealth is not a shame. Lying is.”) Of course the responses are going to be intense. Your sarcasm and defensiveness do you no credit.

    Don or Travis or whoever’s responsible, you really should clarify Harriet’s policy on publishing false and damaging information about living persons. You really should edit the writers you pay. Blogging is constantly accused of spreading false rumors. A professional blog has no excuse.

    • On August 18, 2009 at 12:44 pm Eileen Myles wrote:

      John,

      You are flaming. Go read what I said. I said Wealth is not a shame work is a shame, lying is. You are getting all worked up manufacturing quotes. I didn’t call Eliot a liar though I’m getting pretty close to calling you one. Maybe you ought to be a soldier. You are all excited, dying to defend someone, or attack someone or fix Harriet. Don’t you have a job or some work or someone to help. This is only vicious cause you’re framing it so. Do something constructive, John. Have a family, grow a garden. Go hunting. That might make you feel good.

      Eileen

  • On August 18, 2009 at 1:06 pm Rachel wrote:

    Fascinating thread. I enjoyed reading the original blog and many of the subsequent posts.

    “Don’t you have a job or some work or someone to help. This is only vicious cause you’re framing it so. Do something constructive, John. Have a family, grow a garden. Go hunting. That might make you feel good.”

    sigh Nothing personal, Eileen, but I hate it when someone makes a comment like that online, as is too often the case. Talk about being condescending and patronizing. And, unless you know John, talk about making assumptions. Why.

    • On August 19, 2009 at 12:26 pm Eileen Myles wrote:

      Rachel I’m sorry you are so literal minded. I was being excessive and funny I thought. I was being condescending but deliberately so. I do act here like I’m around friends and my friends would’ve laughed. God!

      Get a job, grow a garden. What sign are you, Rachel. Libra?

      • On August 19, 2009 at 2:08 pm Rachel wrote:

        Eileen

        Let me guess: you and your friends decided to go off your meds en masse. No? What cha smokin’ and can I have some.

        Gemini, so take your pick.

  • On August 18, 2009 at 1:40 pm john wrote:

    Thanks Rachel.

    For the record, I didn’t manufacture the quote, I copied and pasted it from Eileen’s original post, and gave a reasonable, and, in my opinion, justified, interpretation of it based on its context (though I didn’t supply the context, which the whole thread would have provided, I thought).

  • On August 18, 2009 at 2:56 pm Rachel wrote:

    John,

    I, too, thought Eileen implied Eliot was lying. I’m happy to hear she wasn’t. I also thought her comments to you were political and were meant to disempower, disenfranchise and shame you into silence. But maybe I’m wrong about that too. Language is so permeable it is easy to misread another’s intentions online. The boon of poetry is the bone of contention in rhetoric.

    Been thinking about a quote from Rich as I was reading through this thread and was able to locate it:

    “In 1969 I wrote in a journal:

    ‘The moment when feeling enters the body–is political. This touch is political.

    By which I mean, that politics is an effort to find ways of humanely dealing with each other–as groups or as individuals–politics being simply process, the breaking down of barriers of oppression, tradition, culture, ignorance, fear, self-protectiveness.’”

    From “Dearest Arturo” in What Is Found There

  • On August 18, 2009 at 3:25 pm Daniel wrote:

    I appreciated the original post, and I’m glad that E.W. has had a chance to go on the record; but is it not time for the Harriet powers that be to close this thread already?

  • On August 18, 2009 at 3:41 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    I want to repost my reply to Heather here so it is readable because I think this is important as far as the Harriet ‘community’ is concerned. I did edit it a bit.

    A) “Gary. Dude. It is not looking good for your gender here.”

    Talk about stereotyping and profiling…and insulting. In fact, it’s actually a little sexist.

    B) “…and immediately you jump in with your diverting quibbles.”

    I wasn’t aware that global overpopulation, and its potential consequence of human extinction, was a “quibble”.

    C) What is this, like…gender segregation now? Like Afghanistan or Iran? I apologize for daring to treat you as …gosh…an equal! I guess I’m supposed to go play with the boys now.

    D) And, most importantly, there is a certain individual who posts here who has more identities than Sybil, many of them female. I’d say there’s a fifty/fifty chance that ‘Margo’ isn’t even a woman. I’d sure like to know what country she’s in. Thailand, maybe?

    • On August 18, 2009 at 3:54 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

      Oh, and did I mention rude?

      “…but someone needs to tell you this rather than just flee from you (and Harriet) sneering.”

      Fear not. I think I’m the one who’s going to flee. Harriet has evolved from one of the nicest places on the net to one of the nastiest. A shame.

    • On August 19, 2009 at 1:35 am Margo Berdeshevsky wrote:

      Not even worthy of a response.

      margo

  • On August 18, 2009 at 5:09 pm Mary Meriam wrote:

    Eileen says: Maybe it’s not your hat Eliot. I just thought I saw it.

    I’d appreciate hearing more from Eilot on his haberdashery.

  • On August 18, 2009 at 6:51 pm Terreson wrote:

    Wowzer! Talk about getting political. I see gender issues, class issues, even poor country/rich country issues getting brought to the fore. This is a damn fine thing. Something Eileen Myles says upthread kind of resonates: “I think the point of a blog is to be able to have public conversations in an increasingly silenced and silencing culture.” I don’t know if the writer has in mind the culture of the American poetry scene or if she is speaking more generally. And it wouldn’t matter. Either way the point holds true: silencing is a present killer.

    In my rich interior life I would like to forget the trees and focus on the forest for the nonce and get back to what, I at least, took from Eileen Myles’ article. That what is political ranges across many, many human-centric dynamics: gender, class, economics, race, and the familial. That is what I got, at least.

    But what do I know? I am such a slow Cracker I am still trying to figure out why my compliment of Eileen Myles article earned me three thumbs down.

    Terreson.

  • On August 18, 2009 at 8:07 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

    Octavio Paz, of whom Eliot Weinberger is the principal, and excellent, translator into English, abhorred political poetry, with reason. I got in a tussle with Weinberger twenty years ago because I called out Paz on his negative attitude toward the Sandinistas. Turns out Paz was largely right about Daniel Ortega. And Eliot is an infkluential left-leaning political writer. I haven’t read his Iraq book, and have no more clue than has Eileen as to the guy’s finances. When you attack, get it right.

    Paz’s own work is infused with political sensibility (do read Piedra del sol), but it’s hardly doctrinaire. The one thing a young Mexican poet couldn’t do over the last twenty years of Paz’s life (and be supported by the generous state-funded program of grants and publishing, which was dominated by Paz) was write blatantly political poetry. I’ve often thought of collecting an anthology of awful Stalinist poetry; Peru’s Luis Nieto would very likely be the worst:

    Comrades, advance! Proletarians on the march!
    …and if I die fighting or singing, I ask you
    to put on my grave a Hammer and a Sickle.

    Pablo Neruda enthusiastically blurbed the book that came from. Go figure. Upthread I nominated Jack Hirschman as the best political poet in the US. Jack is Poet Laureate of San Francisco. He’s a Stalinist. I’m not. His thousand-page book THE ARCANES (2006) is probably impossible to find back east. I open the book at random to a brief passage, the end of a section:

    Love weeps in the darkness that walks
    with each ravaged soul. So I put

    my hands to your sleeves, camarado,
    camarada, and I urge: What else

    is all this maiming dying and sorrow
    crying out for but Change! It’s not the

    book’s worst word, and its deep sister,
    Revolution, opens all the doors! Outside

    Revolution, we’re all choking on slavery.
    Let’s stick together as never before.

    • On August 19, 2009 at 12:30 pm Eileen Myles wrote:

      And I’ve loathed Paz and his thinking for years. He’s an elitist and a sexist and a homophobe. I use these words to cut to the chase. I wrote about his bio of Sor Juana in the voice in the 90s. It was a beautiful book in many ways, but ah the thinking. It was like a movie about women that should have called some women in to help him with his blind spots. That’s what i mean by the ists above and the “phobe.”

      He’s an enemy of political poetry I would say kind of a ward of the state. At the very least a controversial figure. Not my dad.

      • On August 19, 2009 at 1:36 pm Eliot Weinberger wrote:

        Alas, Eileen, you know even less about Paz than you know about me.

        “Homophobic” is flat-out slander. He spent his life in a milieu of gay artists and writers, and in thirty years of close friendship I never heard him make a homophobic remark.

        “Sexist”: Apart from being a Mexican man born in 1914, he supported women’s rights, sexual freedom, reproductive rights, abortion, etc. He is single-handedly responsible for the resuscitation of Sor Juana’s reputation, spent 10-15 years writing that book, and actively promoted many contemporary women poets (Olga Orozco, Blanca Varela, Isabel Fraire, to name a few that immediately come to mind).

        “Elitist” is a meaningless term.

        Are you capable of disliking a person’s work without stereotyping the person?

        And, by the way, as you’ve become so enraged by my phrase “wards of the state” (which seems to pop up in most of your replies) perhaps you might consider actually reading the context in which it occurs.

        • On August 19, 2009 at 3:57 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

          Sorry, but this is really getting to be too much, Eileen.

          I suppose that if Paz was a “homophobe,” then Weinberger is probably tinged with the sickness, too, since he was a close friend of Paz’s and is the poet’s most important English translator? Given the very personal attacks leveled here against EW, one can only wonder if that’s part of the subtext of the charge made against Paz.

          It might be mentioned that the “homophobic” Paz wrote a major, groundbreaking study of Xavier Villaurrutia’s poetry. Villaurrutia is one of Mexico’s greatest poets and also a hero to the gay community there. Weinberger translated a major book by Villaurrutia, Nostalgia for Death. Where does that leave us?

          I wanted to come back to my earlier claim in this fraught discussion that Weinberger’s What I Heard about Iraq is the most widely read and influential “political text” to emerge from the environs of U.S. poetry in the past fifty years. Eileen stated that this was just my “opinion.” I then asked her to provide other texts that might rival it in that regard. She hasn’t so far, but I wanted to invite her again to do so. In fact, I just saw this on Weinberger’s Wikipedia page. It gives a good sense of the impact that work has had (see below).

          I’m surprised that Matt Zappruder has not chimed in here, since it was a review of the Wave anthology he edited that provoked this discussion. I’d be interested, for example, to hear why portions of What I Heard about Iraq were (I believe this is the case?) not included in the book, since the readership and effect that work has had far exceeds, safe to say, anything else included there.

          Here’s the portion from Wikipedia:

          >His political articles are collected in 9/12, What I Heard About Iraq, and What Happened Here: Bush Chronicles, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award for criticism and selected for the Times Literary Supplement’s “International Books of the Year.”[2] The Guardian (UK) said of What I Heard About Iraq: “Every war has its classic antiwar book, and here is Iraq’s.” [3] It has been adapted into a prize-winning theater piece, two cantatas, two prize-winning radio plays, a dance performance, and various art installations; it has appeared on some 100,000 websites, and was read or performed in nearly one hundred events throughout the world on 20 March 2006, the anniversary of the invasion.<

          Kent

        • On August 30, 2009 at 12:38 am goo wrote:

          Roberto Bolano. Consult him about Paz.

  • On August 18, 2009 at 8:22 pm Desmond Swords wrote:

    How much do you earn for writing here please Eileen?

    And what about your job, please?

    I am on 200 euro a week welfare, after the recession hit, and live in a one room attic, where I moved to after coming out of Dublin’s premier homeless hostel.

    cheers.

    • On August 19, 2009 at 12:34 pm Eileen Myles wrote:

      We get $500 a month for eight posts. I’m unemployed though I get a very small UC retirement for my five years of labors in academe. That’s $865 and change. My income’s low enough to get cheap NY state health insurance. You know but I make my living writing and doing readings. I don’t know if i’m middle class but I have middle class reach – ie my friends are and wealthier too. If something really bad happened to me I’d probably (I hope) be treated like I’m wealthier than I am. I don’t require this kind of recitation of anyone else but since I got the ball rolling. I own some nice art. I haven’t sold my papers yet. I’m okay.

  • On August 18, 2009 at 9:23 pm john wrote:

    Dear Harriet,

    The honorable and ethical thing for you to do at this point is to post a retraction to Eileen’s false accusation against Eliot, and you should do it in two places.

    First, on the front page, for people who may have read Eileen’s original post and then never read the comments.

    Second, at the head of Eileen’s post, for people who may come to it later via Google or some other random web surf, and then not go on to read the comments.

    As for Eileen’s off-the-wall macho drip-droppings against me; her belief that it’s OK to spread false rumors against people, and make false accusations of hypocrisy against them, as long as they’ve done something to offend her first; her responding to a verbatim quotation from her post with a false accusation that she was misquoted, and then not acknowledging the falseness of her accusation when it’s pointed out to her — they speak for themselves. But you, Harriet, should do what you can to un-do the damage that her original post may have done, in case people have read it or will read it without seeing the refutations. Not to do so would be unethical and irresponsible.

    • On August 19, 2009 at 12:35 pm Eileen Myles wrote:

      John this is kookie.

  • On August 18, 2009 at 9:42 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    John:

    Eileen has done a fine job of standing up for herself here.

    You’re beginning to sound a little petulant.

  • On August 18, 2009 at 10:37 pm Terreson wrote:

    Oh, Harriet. What a snarky environment your new rule engenders. What is to anonymously dislike about my most recent post where I suggest the conversation gets back to the blog’s intention?

    Terreson

  • On August 19, 2009 at 7:01 am Rachel wrote:

    Gary,

    “D) And, most importantly, there is a certain individual who posts here who has more identities than Sybil, many of them female. I’d say there’s a fifty/fifty chance that ‘Margo’ isn’t even a woman. I’d sure like to know what country she’s in. Thailand, maybe?”

    If you really want to know, you could click on Margo’s name or try googling her.

    • On August 19, 2009 at 7:31 am Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

      Thank you, Rachel. Sorry Margo.

      I am reminded here why I always stay out of politics. I’m going to go find some bandages now.

  • On August 19, 2009 at 7:21 am Rachel wrote:

    Terreson,

    “In my rich interior life I would like to forget the trees and focus on the forest for the nonce and get back to what, I at least, took from Eileen Myles’ article. That what is political ranges across many, many human-centric dynamics: gender, class, economics, race, and the familial. That is what I got, at least.”

    That’s what I took from Eileen’s article as well and would like to see discussed.

    If Eliot Weinberger is comes around again, perhaps he’d like to address these issues Eileen raised:

    “He sides with critic and translator Eliot Weinberger “in decrying the failure of American poets to engage politics on a deep level. Weinberger points to their willingness to work for the very society they accuse – as tenured professors, as grant acceptors, as silent contributors to the status quo. He even goes so far as to call these poets “wards of the state.“”

  • On August 19, 2009 at 10:08 am Kent Johnson wrote:

    John Oliver said:

    >I got in a tussle with Weinberger twenty years ago because I called out Paz on his negative attitude toward the Sandinistas.<

    John, just an anecdote of interest on this: The first publication of my interview with Ernesto Cardenal was published back in 1985 in Uno mas Uno, then a leading left daily in Mexico City. Though the debate in Mexico between Vuelta and supporters of the FSLN had been underway for some time, the publication of the interview (Cardenal’s most developed discussion of the Poetry Workshop debate raging in Nicaragua) caused a big stir in Mexico, and it apparently made Paz very angry. There was much discussion around Cardenal’s comments in the Mexican press and cultural circles.

    During that trip to Managua in late ’84, when I interviewed Cardenal, I also conducted extensive interviews on the cultural politics of the Revolution with Tomas Borge, the poet and Minister of the Interior (I later co-translated a book of his poetry, published by Curbstone); Omar Cabezas, the Vice-Minister of Culture and winner of the Casa de las Americas Prize; Sergio Ramirez Mercado, the novelist and Vice-President of the country; Rosario Murillo, head of the Sandinista Cultural Workers Federation and wife of Daniel Ortega (during which meeting I also chatted for a while with Ortega); and Ramiro Lacayo, the head of the Sandinista Film Institute. All of the interviews, with the exception of the Lacayo (which was published in Cuba), were published in Uno mas Uno in 1985.

    I’ve always thought that these together would make for a nice historical document someday, for those studying the fascinating debates around culture in Nicaragua during the Revolution. Most are translated and all, including the tapes, are in the archives of my friend Russell Barley, a former History Professor at UW/Milwaukee (his wife, Sylvia Yoneda, came along with me as photographer on the trip), now living in California. I wrote about those culture debates in more detail in The Nation and in NACLA journal years back.

    Kent

  • On August 19, 2009 at 10:32 am elijah wrote:

    OMG. A thin post about a thin review about a book of thin political poetry engendered THIS!!!!! Wow, you guys need a hobby; the responses stopped being relevant just after Kent Johnson commented a few pages/miles/millenia? back.

    • On August 19, 2009 at 1:17 pm Daisy Fried wrote:

      Actually, it was not at all a slim post. I don’t know if it was perfectly fair–not having read the book or review. Does everything have to be perfectly completely fair in the blog context? Or is unfairness a charge we pull out only when we get pissed off and are ready to be unfair back? Eliot Weinberger question aside, since I don’t know anything about him except “What I Heard About Iraq” which is fantastic, I thought Eileen’s post was a great post, great as in fascinating, great as in raising important questions about reviewing political work, and who gets to write political work. Very often negative reviews of political poetry are from people who simply don’t agree with the politics–but said reviewers never own up to that. They should be called out. Again, I don’t know if this is the case with the above reviewer, but the bits Eileen quotes are kind of damning.
      Daisy

  • On August 19, 2009 at 10:41 am thomas brady wrote:

    “I don’t believe the sky is blue.”

    –Bei Dao, “The Answer”

    Bobby,

    You wrote no one “protested even slightly” Eileen’s attack.

    I protested, while pointing out to Eileen the problem with the Brechtian dictum ‘all poetry is political.’ As with Henry’s disappeared protest, I guess mine was overlooked, too.

    Speaking of what I said: if we do assume ‘everything is political,’ doesn’t it follow as night follows day, that the personal will quickly become fodder for the political, and we’ll run smack into the EM/EW train wreck just witnessed?

    I was a prophet (a very minor one) of sorts, but unfortunately my little blue oracle was tossed into a grave of red.

    The sky isn’t blue here; it’s red and green.

    Not that I object to ‘dislikes,’ it’s just discourse disrupted when trying-to-establish-parameters, part-of-the-discussion remarks are buried makes me wonder: is this enthusiasm a bit misplaced?

    Even if a remark deserves it’s dozen dislikes, wouldn’t a reader newly coming upon the discussion be curious to know WHAT got all those dislikes?

    May I assume it doesn’t matter that a post is disappeared, or not–to those readers who hit ‘dislike’ and move on–in terms of comprehending a thread?

    WHO then, for the sake readibility, benefits from the practice of vanishing NOT spam, but comments (liked or disliked) cogent to the topic?

    I have no problem wearing red, but can it at least be under a blue sky?

    Thomas

  • On August 19, 2009 at 11:14 am thomas brady wrote:

    I searched the web for Sean Patrick Hill’s review in question, but couldn’t find it, but I did find short essays by Sean on the site, Fringe, and here’s a couple of excerpts:

    http://thenounthatverbsyourworld.blogspot.com/2008/10/poetry-in-age-of-fellowship.html

    “I find these “awards” troubling. How can I not notice that those who win grants, more likely than not, are artists already published, comfortably employed, and financially secure? The apparent purpose of “grants” and “fellowships” seems not to be in support of artists and writers with demonstrated financial need—those very creative-class types who tend to be young, trying to get their foot in the door of the writing community.”

    “…the granting of grants seems to closely resemble the structure of the rest of the economy: resources are allocated to those who already have resources. The rest of us are left to fend for ourselves not only artistically but fundamentally and economically. If the rich get richer, the poor take temp jobs, come home exhausted, and write poems about it.”

    That’s where Sean’s coming from: he’s an on-the-ground radical, he’s a ‘soldier,’ if you will, (apologies to Eileen) and so you can see why Sean might not like the idea of ‘grant-getting professors’ parading in a political anthology as good political soldiers fighting the good fight. For Sean, politics is personal in a very real sense. This view does resonate with a lot of ‘powerless’ folks.

    Now, if EW supports Sean’s view, is it going to matter to Sean whether EW is ‘rich’ or not? My guess is, no. The ‘rich’ aren’t competing with Sean for the grants he would like; the ‘middle class professors’ are. If the ‘rich’ step in and aid the poor against the middle class, my guess is that Sean, who sees himself as poor, would have no problem with that.

    Since Eileen is middle class, or, a notch or two above Sean in any case, she, quite naturally, objects to Sean’s views.

    Is this the gist of it?

    Thomas

    • On August 19, 2009 at 12:11 pm Eileen Myles wrote:

      Hi Thomas,

      But how can the point be whether Sean’s next thoughts or other thoughts enhance or line up with what he wrote in Rain taxi. I’m sure I agree w plenty he thinks but the easy assessment of grant-fat college professors in the pages of the one book is still undeniably wrong – it’s quite possible that young Sean is more $-fat than me. Lots of people in that book don’t have a nickel or have the same nickel as Sean. I wrote the piece because I thought there was something hiding in the bushes of his assessment that another writer can only throw sneakers at but ultimately can’t suss out.

      My own class/$ is undeniably unstable though it doesn’t make me mad you assume I’m richer than I am. Maybe you will bring me good luck. I’m really and simply against assumptions about the thoughts and incomes of poets yet I did assume things about EW based on the nature of his remarks about another class of writers/intellectuals. Have an economy of some sort is inescapable so when we talk about another’s economy our own flashes up like a decoy. We’re just so gone in this country on class because it’s so unclear and so hush-hush especially in an industry that does still venerate poverty and outsiderness as a higher road to independent thought. People are ashamed of being broke (it’s hard) but they’re even more ashamed of being rich, or wealthy. I did actually leave my short stay in the academy cause it wasn’t my cup of tea and I’d already been thoroughly trained in not being middle class so I figured I could go it again. But I support the possibility of people in the academy being as free thinking as people anywhere else and I have to say not being broke really helps sustain free thinking as opposed to always looking for your next buck. That really gets to be an abstraction. I don’t smoke anymore either but perversely I support smokers rights, miss the smoking restaurants and bars and refrain from calling my smoker friends toxic pigs. I remember and love that dark edge.

  • On August 19, 2009 at 11:16 am Desmond Swords wrote:

    Actually, loathe though i am to admit it: i think Nicol’s red and green idea, has spawned a useful dynamic.

    When it first came out, yeah, i was mad: mad as hell and not feeling very warm towards Trav, being honest, not liking it one bit and thinking it was only done to stop me and me pals having fun spamming reams and reams of blather and totally dominating the gig.

    But crude as it was, Trav’s ploy worked and i stopped for a week, thrown by it: the armchair liberal in me, who is a lip-service fighter for any cause under the sun i knee jerk about and work the head up to a lather for – very miffed my fuin had been interrupted. It also worked on Tom, who stopped for a while, and only Chris was taking the fight to the System.

    When i returned after a week, i got a straight 20 reds, and though i tried to pretend it meant nahthink – it affected me, at the base level i as a pretend intellectual would never publically reveal, prior to today.

    The rules had changed. No longer could us spammers who had started to take over, take over – and though my instinct said Trav was out of order and up to machevellian all sorts, using the lame excuse of the thumbs being ‘handy’ little icons, for like – what?

    For shutting up the ranters, hey Trav, hey?

    Of course, and though i didn’t like them at first, pretended to take it all in my stride, really he did me a favour, because i backed off and came to realise that, yeah, i had been spamming far too much, letting it all out and without a real strategy other than to sound off.

    At first, anyone who had greens in front of them, particularly staff like Don adn Trav, I would red ‘em, feeling that they were only getting greens of the ass-sucks and goodie two shoes – a sneery smile mentally going through my head as i did so, thinking, ha ! that will wipe the smugness off yer gob you entirely unknown people who are but textual constructions to moi.

    But then, when other people came and started talking, what i percieved to be, rubbish, in relation to trivial points, calling for intervention from the Harriet authorities because blah blah blah – and they started getting reds: the shallow bluffer that i am suddenly became in favour of the scheme.

    Now, i think i have cracked it: it’s neither here nor there really. I went through 120 bannings from the guardian books blog in two years, every time re-joining immediately, with periods of calm postings before i said something too no no in that Monarchy, something awf and republican, not bending pyshcologically, and by the end, had learned uniquely because of the way it went with getting banned so often in the early days, for speaking my truth. Now, they love me, but 150 name changes, i ended up taking nothing for granted, even now if some mistake happens and i think – again, now there is no emotional investment in it. Same as the red and greens.

    A daft idea, that somehow, works. Don’t ask me how or why, but blunt as it is, some balance it brings. Or maybe not, i dunno.

    • On August 20, 2009 at 5:40 am thomas brady wrote:

      Des,

      I, too, have no problem with the like/dislike feature.

      I can also live with the fact that a brilliant, germane remark can get 100 likes and 107 dislikes and be deemed unfit to read, looking for all the world like the brilliant and germane remark has been rejected. It really hasn’t been rejected. It isn’t unfit to read.

      As long as this is understood, I think we can all carry on quite nicely.

      Thomas

  • On August 19, 2009 at 3:14 pm thomas brady wrote:

    Eileen,

    “I’m sure I agree w plenty he thinks but the easy assessment of grant-fat college professors in the pages of the one book is still undeniably wrong…”

    Yes, I agree with what you say here, and this is what I said in my first post on this thread–I said you and Sean are BOTH progressives, AND i said his review was “careless.”

    I also said I was “bored,” because I thought, ‘well, I’ve seen this one before. Sean’s got a ‘ground-level’ litmus test and you’ve put him under your litmus test, one that works under slightly different (more forgiving, more pragmatic?) terms.

    When EW entered the picture, up loomed the idea, ‘live by class-struggle, die by class-struggle.’ Maybe you’re not a prof any longer, but, Eileen, you were taking the ‘middle class prof’ position and kind of getting squeezed between EW above and Sean below.

    I thought, ‘if EW is writing good things, I don’t care if he has a harem which feeds him grapes.’

    I couldn’t care less if EW is rich. EW has won a very prestigious Mexican Government medal, Order of the Eagle, also won by the Shah of Iran back in the 70s, as well as Queen Elizabeth II, etc, so let’s just say EW must be pretty well-connected. One can be ‘rich’ in more than just money.

    The Mexican government, of course, can give out any sort of medal to anyone they choose, and this shouldn’t reflect badly on anyone, because, and here’s what I was saying about politics earlier in this thread–politics is essentially about DIPLOMACY. The world is not a watch we you can stop and fix; the watch has to keep running while it is fixed, and the mere fact that the watch has to keep running is UNJUST, since its mere ‘running’ is keeping alive the INJUSTICE which goes back to the beginning of history; so diplomatically you have to keep society running (unless you are an anarchist who wants to kill all the rich, or something ridiculous like that) and this means understanding the importance of compromise.

    Let’s say, as president of Country X, you make a peace-pact with war-like Country Y. You go back to your citizens and say, “Rejoice, o you citizens of X! I have made peace!” Meanwhile, Y is making war against other countries, killing and enslaving innocent people, etc. Citizens in X begin to suggest you attack Y. “But I am for peace,” you say, “no war! I cannot order young men of X to die in a war!”

    My ‘simple’ example above is 1) modern 2) pertinent 3) political 4) highly complex and 5) extremely polarizing.

    I’m going to take a wild guess and say Sean would be in favor of attacking Y, while you would be in favor of keeping your country at peace. Now this is POLITICS. This falls under the rubric, diplomacy. You and Sean have different diplomatic positions. (Maybe you guys would have the same position, but I’m just making an example; another solution might be to secretly sabotage the government of Y, but I digress…).

    Mexico has a right to give medals to leaders in other countries as a mean of facilitating its friendly standing in the world with other countries, as a purely diplomatic gesture. EW is the recipient of a diplomatic prize and therefore he must have some clout, and it is not for any of us to insinuate anything in this regard; it is beyond people like us; it is truly political, in the sense that its upper-level, where poltics is played out in a context that few are able to see.

    Unfortunately, what ‘is not seen’ is always at the heart of diplomacy, and thus, politics.

    Example: If you, as president of X, made a pact with Y TO FACILITATE Y’s attack and enslavement of other countries THEN, in our example, the situation is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.

    The heart-felt opinions surrounding the issue, held by various citizens, could be the same, all the ‘democratic political views’ could be exactly the same, but the UNSEEN information would make ALL THE DIFFERENCE.

    What I am trying to write now is PHILOSOPHY, not poltics.

    Politics is really about things which are grounded, mechanical, and invisible.

    This is why confusion and anger almost ALWAYS accompany political discussions. Because politics, by its very nature, partakes of the hidden.

    My whole beef with modern (or modernist) poetry is that I believe its obscurity, its difficulty, its anti-populist character is due to the fact that it reflects the politcal reality which I have been describing; modernist poetry plays up the hidden, the reader is expected to add the missing meanings, the New Critical professor supplies the secret code to understanding the poem, the ‘insider knowledge’ (either really existing or slyly alluded to, or faked) is paramount. The poetry of Pound and Olson and Ashbery which few (none?) can understand is anti-democratic; it is ‘political’ in the sense that it traffics in the hidden.

    Whether you agree with my general take on modernist poetry or not makes no difference, really. Whether you do or not, I’m going to assume that you DO approve of political poetry that people can understand.

    Now, along comes Sean, trying to find ‘the hidden’ in the political anthology, because for many people this is an unspoken truth about politics–it involves something that’s unseen–and Sean looks past the poetry to the poets and pronounces them politically unfit–middle class professors, etc etc.

    You sort of mirrored this, looking past EW’s opinions (quoted by Sean) to EW’s political (material) reality.

    And, of course, as someone pointed out, we still don’t know everything about EW’s material circumstances, and then John saying it’s really important the specific error be corrected, but anyway, one can see how politics traffics in what is essentially not known. I don’t know how far I should pursue this thesis, in saying ‘a little learning is a dangerous thing’ and if I should assert that politics is poison as far as real knowledge goes, but that’s for another time…

    So: politics is essentially a process involving hidden, material reality which we, as political creatures in a democracy, are always striving (without success?) to bring to light.

    My insistence that everything is NOT political is based on the idea that we CAN be philosophical and we CAN be poetic WITHOUT partaking of the nightmarish confusion of politics, which catches ALL of us in its net–as soon as we try to speak politically, and especially when we insist that ‘everything is political.’

    I apologize for saying I was “bored.”

    I guess I’m really not.

    Thomas

  • On August 19, 2009 at 6:37 pm elijah wrote:

    Daisy, I didn’t say anything about fair or unfair and I said thin, not slim. And perhaps you shouldn’t comment at all having not read the book (!!!!) because you might find it thin yourself if you read it. I read the book, in fact I paid for it from my meagre working class budget for books, and I think the writing was dull, thin, and in some cases, whiny. Politcal poetry, whatever it does, does not whine. Ironically it was EM’s poem, along with a couple of others, I found jarring enough to think of as political in any real political sense.
    But all this bs about Eliot Weinberger owning property in New York and showing disdain for teachers is just that.

    • On August 22, 2009 at 8:07 am Daisy Fried wrote:

      Thanks for the advice, Elijah, on what to read and when to comment. I’ll be sure to give it as much thought as it merits. Thanks also for the important distinction you make between the words “slim” and “thin.”

      Interesting comments about whininess. You’re saying political poetry can’t whine. Political poetry is simply poetry that deals with public power. Since whininess is one response to political events it is hard to see why we would exclude that as a tone for political poetry. Surely you’re not saying certain tones don’t belong in poetry, political or otherwise.

      The question of whininess, however, has nothing to do with my original point, which apparently needs reiteration. Eileen’s post was valuable because it raised questions about the biases of those who review political poetry but refuse to own up to their biases.

  • On August 19, 2009 at 8:12 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    .
    Dear Janet McAdams:

    I am hesitant to post here because ‘Dislikes’ significantly hurt my feelings. Unfortunately, I’m one of those who just can’t stand unanswered correspondence.

    So, in reply:

    Upstream, regarding reproductive issues, Heather advised me to “take a slightly larger view”. Margo said my attitude was “narrow”. Personally, I think it is your view, not mine, that is parochial and provincial. ‘This world, that world, this country, that country, this culture, that religion.’ But you should keep in mind that when our sweet ol’ planet goes, all of us go with it. Sinking boat and all that.

    Of course I don’t believe that any one culture should inflict itself on another. But we must educate all of those (and, regretfully, so many in our own country) who simply do not get the “larger view”. There is only one problem facing us and it drives all the others, economic, environmental and social. These lesser problems are but symptoms. The real problem is human overpopulation. Shit, I remember this very theme from the first Earth Day at my High School…almost forty years ago. There were only 3.5 Billion of us back then and we noticed the problem.

    Gary

    P.S. I always think very carefully about (and proofread and edit) everything I say here.

    (Unless I’m loaded, of course, but by then I usually just start posting poetry). :-)

    • On August 21, 2009 at 10:30 am Janet McAdams wrote:

      Gary,
      However well intentioned your original comment was –and however deep your concern is about global overpopulation — surely you can see that it is not possible to raise that concern in a vacuum. When certain cultures, communities, ethnicities, etc. exist in a world where powerful nations–through war and commerce– continually devalue their existence, how does someone from one of those nations speak of ‘overpopulation’ without being complicit? You seemed on the verge of dealing with these issues sincerely, but then you went into ‘aw shucks’ mode, as if the most important thing here is for everyone to know what a nice guy you are. I’m sure you are, but this isn’t really about you (or me), is it? What about genocide? Sterilization? The fact that U.S. drug companies first test potentially dangerous birth control methods on the very populations you think should be being counseled about birth control rather than being supported to deliver their children safely?

      • On August 21, 2009 at 12:11 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

        Janet: Again, I would like to reply to you in the main thread to avoid that irritating sentence compression. Besides, this thread, what with all the ‘disappeared’, is totally screwed up anyway.

  • On August 19, 2009 at 9:07 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    .
    So (since I’m snockered), and to the point…a poem.

    .
    People

    People, people, people, people, people,
    birds, people, people, people, people,
    people, deer, people, people, people,
    people, people, trees, people, people,
    people, people, people, land, people,
    people, people, people, people, people
    people Earth.

    So many people. So many dead.

    .
    Copyright 2008 – SOFTWOOD-Seventy-eight Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald

  • On August 19, 2009 at 10:49 pm Christopher Woodman wrote:

    I agree with Thomas Brady that poetry is not at all like politics, at least if it’s healthy it isn’t. Eileen’s main point is that a poet should be beholden to no one, that a poet should speak out of an inner integrity that rises above position, social and financial, as well as above professional considerations. Right to the end of this discussion, Eileen Myles has stuck to that position, and still maintains that the poets and critics she found fault with in the original article, even if they weren’t guilty of the specific deeds and alliances she accused them of, were still guilty of hauteur (fascinating that that French word still says what that means better than any English equivalent, like “Chanel” or “foie gras!”). What I feel is that whether Eileen is right about that or not, and I really mean this, I admire both her position and her courage to express it. I also admire Harriet for giving her the space to say it, defend it, modify it, retract it, reassert it, and then to go on to posit a fiery, unassailable, in-your-face “BUT!”

    Desmond Swords and Thomas Brady have put different spins on that in their recent posts, but what both acknowledge is, of course, mea culpa. And me too, I acknowledge that too. I have huge problems with my own hauteur, or at least what comes over as that, because I know that what I write makes many of you feel very uncomfortable — I got 5 reds in as many minutes one midmorning your time, and yes, it did hurt. More than that, the atmosphere around me makes people suspect that I’m not me at all, the most recent suggestion being that I’m really Margo Berdeshevsky (cf. Gary above — and what a compliment!).

    So who are we when we write poetry, and who are we even more when as poets we talk about poetry together? I’m blessed to have quite a wide correspondence with Harriet regulars, most of whom have contacted me because they liked something I said and wanted to discuss it more in private. Which may be one of the keys to what comes over to some of you as “hauteur,” that I tend to talk about things that make me look as if I’m talking over your heads. The irony is that I’m probably the least well-informed of you all, yet I give the impression I know more, whereas all I’m doing is talking in private. I’m not a professional at all in the sense that I’m not in any poetry profession, and never have been. So the things I say sound arrogant whereas they’re just off-the-wall or naive!

    I also was trained in expressing myself in a different epoch from most of you, and my writing is sometimes a little too good to be true. I guess that’s why many of you have assumed I must be Thomas Brady or even Desmond Swords (a real stretch with Desmond, but that’s what it means to have quality!). The next thing is that somebody will say I’m really Gary — and that his recent attack on me was just his own, self-serving cover-up!

    So hauteur, that’s the topic — as if in the world of poetry there were class, and that we’ve all got to be Marxists or Monarchists to cut it. The irony is that I come over as an aristocrat, whereas I wouldn’t even qualify in America for middle class — nowhere near, as I don’t even earn enough to pay taxes! I don’t own a single credit card, keep a small checking account in Wyoming just for my $25.00 here and there for you know what (and even then I bounce them!), have only an old bicycle for transportation, don’t own a watch, a handphone, an MP3 player or a stereo, and work on a computer that would otherwise be in a museum.

    And all that may actually be the key to the problem, that you Americans do define class in terms of income, whereas when I was brought up (and I’m not defending this at all!) class was determined by your work and your social position. A Working Class worker worked with the hands, a Middle Class person worked but not with the hands, and an Aristocrat (not the word we usually use but still the best) didn’t work at all. In that system a doctor or a lawyer was still thoroughly middle class, and so was Thomas Lipton, “Sir Tea,” so much so that the Royal Yacht Club didn’t admit him as a member even when he financed all those America’s Cup challenges!

    You get what I mean, anyway, and I’m sure you can apply all sorts of ramifications of this to the dispute between Eileen Myles and Eliot Weinberger.

    And I still maintain the dialogue is a valuable one, and hope we will have many of them to come.

    No blame — except that I still don’t know who I hate more, a working class upstart who gets angry or a self-satisifed aristocrat who just doesn’t have to care!

    Eileen’s point

    Christopher

    • On August 20, 2009 at 1:41 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

      Christopher: I apologized to Margo but failed to apologize to you. I’m sorry.

      • On August 20, 2009 at 6:13 pm Margo Berdeshevsky wrote:

        yes, I saw it, gary. Thank you for the apology.

      • On August 20, 2009 at 8:06 pm Christopher Woodman wrote:

        You have nothing to be sorry for, Gary — I thought the remark was very funny in the context, and if there is anybody on Harriet I would like to be confused with it would be you. And I mean that quite seriously.

        The irony is that you can say anything you want on Harriet, and you’ve unloaded some pretty ripe stuff on me in the last three months. At one point you joined the hounds at my heels with such relish I’ve never recovered. That was way back in July on the “Keep the Spot Sore” thread, and my posting privilege’s have been restricted ever since.

        It’s for that you really owe me an apology, as it still hurts.

        Christopher

  • On August 20, 2009 at 12:45 am john wrote:

    Considering my proposal of last night, that Harriet post a correction to Eileen’s post in two places, a suggestion that has been so roundly Disliked and called “kooky,” I realize that what I suggested isn’t common practice in Blogland — it’s just what I had done when I had posted erroneous information on my blog.

    Although posting a correction in two places isn’t a common blog practice, posting a correction prominently on the original post is standard. It’s standard in journalism, and it’s standard in blogging, professional and amateur, if the blogger cares about his or her credibility.

    Given how Eileen has treated Eliot Weinberger, Paz, and others on this thread, she has made it clear that if she cares about her credibility, it isn’t a normative understanding of credibility — it’s opaque at best. But I do hope that the Poetry Foundation cares about its own credibility — about decency and fairness. Expecting people who may have read or who may still read Eileen’s post to find the correction to her error-based attack on Eliot by reading all the comments is simply sub-standard practice.

    In case anybody is interested, here’s what I did. I had written a book review and gotten a fact wrong. A writer had trivialized some of John Cage’s thinking; I misremembered the passage when I wrote my review and accused the writer of not explicating Cage’s thinking but merely telling charming, slightly mocking stories about Cage. I realized my mistake and posted corrections, one in a brand new post and one on the original post. Better to err on the side of overzealousness in correcting errors rather than the reverse.

    http://preview.tinyurl.com/mzrjvu

    • On August 24, 2009 at 11:17 am Eileen Myles wrote:

      Again, you are trying to make whiny boy stuff sound professional – how I “treated” EW. Like that has nothing to do with me being female and how I’m supposed to treat men who say arrogant things in public like potential employers or dictators of small countries.

      Retracting what?

      C’mon. I was responding first to SPH’s dumb review which is long gone in the minds of you climbing bozos and in ref to EW I was responding to his very clearly intentioned writing and attempting to give it living context. It hasn’t even come up that Eliot blurbed Kent Johnson’s last book of translation and declared it better than the original. Some of EW’s greatest defenders are wards of the state of EW. I’m glad that people I blurb don’t think I’m so weak and defenseless or precious that I need them positioning me so desperately or in the case of you demanding retractions like you’re working in some cheap law office. I still work in the realm of ideas and you’re trying to give parking tickets.

      • On August 24, 2009 at 12:03 pm Henry Gould wrote:

        Thanks, Eileen, for providing some living context. Now it’s much clearer why the book review by Sean Hill was so bad : it’s because one of the people he quoted in the review, Eliot Weinberger, is rich, and one time you heard him say something bad about teaching. Not to mention the other living context you provided : that you don’t think Sean Hill’s own poetry is up to snuff, either. Thanks again for the living context. In general, I now have a better sense of the dense forest of innuendo & bad-mouthing which suffuses the odiferous atmosphere of American po-biz.

  • On August 20, 2009 at 12:54 am john wrote:

    Oops, sorry — wrong cut and paste — here’s a direct route to the example I was linking to.

    http://tinyurl.com/mzrjvu

    • On August 20, 2009 at 8:38 am thomas brady wrote:

      John,

      I’ve decided you are the most interesting voice for the moment on Harriet.

      You wrote above that EW’s finances were fair game, then demanded an apology and correction from Harriet when no error regarding EW was proven. Ah, the hidden aspect of politics! EW said if taxes were raised on the ‘rich’ he would not be affected–but we all know that the ‘rich’ are often able to avoid paying taxes–no matter what the tax rate is. EW said ‘I am not a landlord.’ But no one ever said he was.

      Politics = Partial Information.

      Poetry = Whole Information.

      I am a landlord. It’s no big deal, really.

      I have not inherited any wealth. There. That wasn’t hard to say, either.

      It did show character on your part to correct your review of Alex Ross’s book on 20th century music–great read, by the way.

      John Cage: “Beethoven was wrong.”

      Yea, sure he was…

      Does a statement like that even NEED an explanation…?

      Thomas

  • On August 20, 2009 at 1:08 am john wrote:

    Margo,

    Thank you for your comment reflecting on your travels. I was dismayed by Gary’s response — it’s not an either/or situation, as you said in your original response to Gary. Family planning AND natal, prenatal, and post-natal care — and, in places where family planning is banned or unavailable, heavens yes good natal (+ pre- & post-) care is essential and political.

    And I love the Dickinson allusion in your comment. I set that poem to music when my dad was dying.

  • On August 20, 2009 at 2:04 am Desmond Swords wrote:

    Thanks very much Eileen.

    If you are ever in Dublin, you can stay with a friend of mine who has a fairly large apartment, where there is a spare room. We could hang out and go sit outside Grogans, watching the rivals jangle and blather.

  • On August 20, 2009 at 4:02 am Desmond Swords wrote:

    Oops, i have just got up Eileen, and reading back the last piece, us two not knowing one another, grasping it may read brusque, as though a weirdo were talking: please let me guff a bit more in order to try and out the human.

    If you are ever in Dublin, there is always a free place to kip for a wekk or so here, saving you seeveral hundred dollars, plus food and a tour guide around the various gallery’s and monuments to a final living source of poetry as practiced by a range of practitioners, from the worlds most feted to some of the most hated and begrudged.

    Only joking, being a lip-service liberal (in the positive humanistic sense, not dangerous commie tool of our Nation’s enemy: Terror) it is a win-win offer, because:

    1 – the chances of you coming here are super slim

    2 – if you do, what larks to tell your fans.

    Cheers

    I admire your straightness, willing to talk of the unmentionable and tasteless topic of one’s personal income. The final frontier to real human being, in todays climate non, mon amis Eileen?

  • On August 20, 2009 at 8:47 am Eliot Weinberger wrote:

    Who can know the ways of the Harriet blog?

    Because readers disliked EM’s comments on Octavio Paz, my reply (although “liked”) has been similarly disappeared. (Or more disappeared, as there is no indication of its existence.)

    I thought the exchange telling. It follows John Oliver Simon’s comment on Paz and Latin American revolutionary poetry.

  • On August 20, 2009 at 9:14 am Kent Johnson wrote:

    Travis, Don, Catherine,

    What’s the story on this? Eliot’s reply to Eileen’s accusation that Octavio Paz was homophobic and sexist has vanished. And my comment right under Eliot’s, noting Paz’s major book on Mexico’s most famous gay poet (and Eliot’s translation of that poet’s most famous book) has vanished, too.

    Is this a new practice Harriet is adopting, to simply erase posts, without even informing people?

    Could you please clarify?

    Kent

    • On August 20, 2009 at 9:21 am Henry Gould wrote:

      It’s there, fellas. Just click on Myles’s reply to J.O. Simon’s post on Paz. Where it says “click to show comment”. Weinberger’s follow-up follows. These are the ways of the Harriet blog.

    • On August 24, 2009 at 11:18 am Eileen Myles wrote:

      Are you referring to Sor Juana who Paz happily closeted.

  • On August 20, 2009 at 9:18 am elijah wrote:

    Perhaps Ms. Monroe can speak from the grave and let us know what exactly did happen to Mr. Weinberger’s comments.

  • On August 20, 2009 at 9:52 am Kent Johnson wrote:

    Henry wrote, in regards to the vanished comments by Eliot and me on Paz:

    >It’s there, fellas. Just click on Myles’s reply to J.O. Simon’s post on Paz. Where it says “click to show comment”. Weinberger’s follow-up follows. These are the ways of the Harriet blog.

    It’s a brand new “way,” then. I do hope it’s just a glitch.

    Kent

    • On August 20, 2009 at 10:07 am Henry Gould wrote:

      No, it ain’t new, Kent. The accordion file for thumbs-down posts takes its replies along with it. Melville wrote about this in Moby Dick.

  • On August 20, 2009 at 10:19 am thomas brady wrote:

    What’s good for the red goose is good for the green gander…

    or something like that…

    And now a Paz in the action…

    (Is Paz just a rambling intellectual apologist for the U.S. Poetry Modernists…? Say it ‘aint so!)

    Continue…

  • On August 20, 2009 at 6:56 pm Terreson wrote:

    Man, but I am hating this in a big way. No matter the efforts to bring the dialogue back around to Eileen Myles’ thesis the conversation keeps getting pulled into a sort of black hole, the event horizon of which is the like/dislike function. Travis Nichols and all, I tried to warn you of what would come of the function when it was first introduced. I am neither clairvoyant or particularly smart. My prediction was experience based, involving many on line (poetry board) environments. Ya’ll may or may not know more about poetry than I do. But it is clear that management here knows little about on line behavior and the dynamics that take on a life of their own. The function has engendered snarkiness and fostered confusion, which was predictable. Something else was predictable: the lack of management response to the several addresses concerning the function. Function. Function. Function.

    Terreson

    • On August 21, 2009 at 1:08 am Margo Berdeshevsky wrote:

      A yes to this post of Terreson’s, no use of fingers, thumbs or otherwise. Just a considering mind. One of numerous voices. Signals for destruction, stadium style, have NO place in a forum for poets. An ongoing invitation to herd mentality is a sad thing to see here.
      margo

  • On August 21, 2009 at 8:15 am thomas brady wrote:

    Terreson, Margo, Christopher,

    Yea, what people are saying about the ‘herd mentality/thumbs down’ function chimes in with what I said a little while ago about politics v. poetry (disappeared in a hail of red).

    In my aphoristic glee I’ll keep it coming, because philosophy is what po-biz needs right now, not fawning, hyper-praise, blurb-speak, collecting its trophy case of green thumb’s up symbols.

    (Hello, Mr. Red. Yes, I’m talking about you.)

    Why is rap a million times (literally) more popular than poetry? Because it’s more artful? No. It’s because the former SPEAKS ITS MIND and the latter doesn’t. Sure, there are exceptions in the latter instance, but in its totality, this is the general perception, and general perception, unfortunately, as we all know, tends to rule.
    Most rap annoys the hell out of me, but I also know which the way da wind blows.

    Now, ironically, the like/dislike function here at Harriet IS a kind of ‘wind meter,’ a small-scale popularity meter which imposes a certain ‘street’ mentality on poetry discussion: ‘Dey don’t like you, dude, Tom Brady, don’t you get it?’

    Maybe I should ‘get it’ and go away.

    But the pool here is much too small to reflect true popularity; this is mere high-school clique-ism, reflecting a moribund scene trying to protect itself in a tic of inferiority and defensiveness re: its marginal existence in the nation at large, a mere symptom of its lack of true popularity.

    Poetry needs real voices like Eileen’s and Christopher’s; only voices like theirs will break through the smugness log jam.

    But back to my remark on poetry and politics; aphoristically, I said:

    Politics = partial knowledge
    Poetry = whole knowledge

    What that means is that politics is based on partial information, it comes to us in partially-realized contexts which are as complex as the world itself; it requires almost super-human objectivity and patience to navigate the bombs and mines of politics. It requires tact and diplomacy more than anything else. We usually associate politics with a screaming match, but this is only a small part of it; successful politicians are tactful, and I’m sure we all know this from experience; of course, it’s more than just how an individual comports herself: material, far-off factors, mighty, complex, historical, and unseen, play into the equation as well, and we are like armies in the dark trying to assert ourselves positively in the monumental, quotidian murk.

    The poem, on the other hand, is a remedy to all this, and when I say it is ‘whole’ knowledge, I don’t mean all there is to know is contained in one poem, of course not; rather a poem (a good one) is complete in itself, it demonstrates for us the ideal of unified expression, of cogency, of clarity, of consistency, the ideal of beginning-middle-end, if only as a signpost to that sort of existence as a posibility in our mental and emotional lives.

    Bad, obscure, inartistic poetry often gets a free pass within a manifesto-driven context for the very reason that the Poem is essentially a political manifestation, (not by its content, but by its very existence as a document) and thus the poem is considered ‘real’ not in spite of, but because of, its inartistic, its anti-poetic nature. The poem is assimilated by the very poltical nature of reality which the poet (unconsciously or consciously) feels powerless to resist. Scratch the poet/critic who supports this kind of aesthetic and you’ll find a bureaucrat/politician.

    Political self-censorship often wins the day, like alcoholics who cannot stop censoring their brain cells by indulging in their disease…the petty, power-grab, manifesto-created pathology takes on a life of its own…

    Witness politics. Witness this thread, full of spaces and holes, confusions, and covered-up remarks.

    One more point. Navigating the world politically is a normative process. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have politics. We must have it. It would be impossible not to have it.

    But let us know it. Let us not let it overwhelm us.

    Thomas

    • On August 21, 2009 at 10:46 am Margo Berdeshevsky wrote:

      Well spoken, Thomas. I prefer to say so sans any thumb.And Elijah, yes there is seeing, saying, prophesy, and simple, pithy comment much more important to me, at least, than the fiddle that plays while the good Rome of our minds is turned lion-ward, or enflamed and turned toward aggression and the cliqu-ism Thomas notes above.

      Politics is no desirable end.It is for seekers of power, and control.And/but, yes, the tact of diplomacy is one of its tools. And/but, power & control are there to be manipulated when a group accepts to behave like a herd and to be so led. And most of our social orders accept that mode, largely to the collective detriment.

      As poets, we (might) aspire to better. If the wholeness of a poem, Thomas, is a workable paradigm for you, I’d urge “go for it.” My personal and global and poetic walk looks in so many directions for what I find, or hope to find whole. Even in the dark. Even under rocks. Even amid what’s broken. But not in stadiums with eager emperors or herds. And not by encouraging their symbols.

      & I don’t advocate a return to the blather. I think the verbosity was being greatly abused. But the newest behaviors here elicited are no help. Far from it, & the fiddle is outta tune.

      margo

  • On August 21, 2009 at 8:24 am Dermot wrote:

    Poetry = nothing happens

    Politics = nothing is learned

  • On August 21, 2009 at 8:54 am Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    I sure wish you guys would vote and release my poem from its invisibilicaptivity up there. I don’t believe you can really appreciate the intended multiple meanings unless you read it two or three times but, unfortunately, it has been imprisoned in limbo by the dark side.

  • On August 21, 2009 at 9:03 am thomas brady wrote:

    At first I was afraid, I was petrified,
    kept thinkin’ I could never live without GREEN THUMBS by my side.
    But then I spent so many nights thinkin’ how you did me wrong, and I grew strong, and I learned how to get along.

    And so you’re back from outer space;
    I just walked in to find that GREEN THUMB on your face.
    I should have changed that stupid lock, I should have made you leave your key if I’d known for just one second you’d be back to bother me.

    Gone on now go, walk out the door!
    Just turn around now, ’cause you’re not welcome anymore.
    Weren’t you the one who tried to hurt me with a RED THUMB goodbye?
    Did I crumble? Did you think I’d lay down and die?
    Oh no, not I,
    I will survive.

  • On August 21, 2009 at 9:37 am elijah wrote:

    Margo, I gave you a green thumb because I liked your stadium analogy and…. “I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all
    this fiddle”.

  • On August 21, 2009 at 10:43 am john wrote:

    Well over a decade ago, I remember reading in the comic “Dykes to Watch Out For” a witty satire of the horrific “she dressed like she wanted it” defense of sexual assault: in the story, if I recall correctly, a man had been mugged, and two female friends tease him that since he was dressed like a rich man, he had it coming. Alison Bechdel, the author/cartoonist, is talented and she made it funny.

    How bizarre that Eileen has used the same defense in apparent seriousness to explain why she carelessly spread a false rumor about someone being rich in order to substantiate a judgment about his alleged hypocrisy: “You just act like you have money,” she commented directly to Eliot. “Parts of that are nice, but you are a big pontificator about other peoples lives and how they make livings so I think you have put this inappropriate issue out there for the commenting.”

    Harriet bloggers have frequently fretted about the intersection of poetry and real life. Harriet’s refusal to step up to the plate in this episode, a real live flare up of real life into this poetry publication, trashes its credibility as a publication. The laissez-faire attitude toward paid poetry writers trivializes poetry; it brackets poetry as a “special” endeavor where widely shared
    “community” standards of professionalism, decency, and fairness don’t apply. Speaking of money and politics, that’s a helluva thing to do with inherited millions from the pharmaceutical industry.

    http://dykestowatchoutfor.com/

  • On August 21, 2009 at 11:26 am R.L. wrote:

    Gary,

    it is commendable that you seek to look for the “larger view,” which is the rescue of our planet from overpopulation. What is not, however, is the manner in which you seek to solve this larger view—at least, the manner you introduced early into this discussion.

    In your language, yet again we find a common formula: blame the natives, blame the poor, they are causing the problem—overpopulation. Except you are speaking directly to women (one marginalized group) who are largely people of color. I don’t mean to belittle your inclusion of Irish history in this discussion, but “ethnicity” matters little here. No: we are speaking of “race.” The two are not, not, not, not, not, not the same. Never have been, maybe never will be.

    You said: “Course I don’t believe that any one culture should inflict itself on another. But we must educate all of those (and, regretfully, so many in our own country) who simply do not get the ‘larger view.’” —Your choice phrasing, “who simply do not get the ‘larger view’” is particularly…nauseating to me, but I will move on.

    While you claim to not believe that one culture should inflict upon another, that is, in fact, exactly what you are proposing: for it will be one’s culture’s research that, presumably, will educate the senseless, the naïve, the natives—right?

    This is not unlike Sara Baartman. This is not unlike controlling, or attempting to, control the bodies of women of color, except that in the former it was for entertainment and the good of [pseudo-]“scientific” research; for the latter, we’re using—as I’ve admitted—a commendable end to justify dehumanizing measures.

    I am only speaking to what I see or have seen in your language: a sort of logic that has been ticking for centuries, as early as those first colonizers of America who related that Natives had no “civilized” concept of true familial patterns & bonds. Thus, they needed reeducation.

    Everything is complicated. Here is the time we admit it. Here is the time when we must understand that simply saying to a woman—hopefully, in her own language—“you need—you can’t—have more babies. Use this. It’s called birth control” is offensive and won’t solve any problems. Here is the moment where we investigate all possible sources—critical race, feminist, queer and economic theories—for an answer.

    Isn’t it true the enormous wealth in the Industrial Age lead in North U.S. was based, quite lietally, off of the backs of slaves—I mean, from the cotton they produced? Similarly, isn’t it true that “the West” has profited based on the fact that he has stripped the natural resources from the very lands, today, marked as Third World (indeed, Cortez sailed for glory, god and /gold/, right?). One man gets the clothes /from the / backs of a woman, no?

    I mention this because, earlier, you suggested that these Third World countries are poverty-stricken, solely (I say solely because you added nothing more), because of the fact that they are overpopulated. I would argue, they are overpopulated because of the fact that they are poverty-stricken, and they are poverty-stricken due to these history I have briefly (albeit too simply) discussed. Isn’t it often two parent families—that often obtain what little money they can through agricultural or factory labor—birth many children in order to sustain themselves? The more hands for the field, the more hands for the machine.

    Here is the moment when the privileged take a cold look in the glass, as in the beginning lines of Baldwin’s “Giovanni’s Room,” so that they’ll see: “…a face like a face you have seen many times. [A face whose] ancestors conquered a continent, pushing across death-laden plains, until they came to an ocean which faced away from Europe into a darker past.”

    Terreson,

    I commend you for trying your best to get this discussion back to topic. As it would seem, more are so desperately interested in either trying to boast or to save the reputation of man (who, might I add, whether he should have been mentioned or not, is only done so briefly, and in the end at that), rather than discuss (face?) the possibility of, as Eileen points out, rape as political.

    Eileen,

    if you are angry, so am I.

    • On August 21, 2009 at 8:43 pm Rachel wrote:

      RL,

      A few days ago I wondered why this thread had gone off in the direction it has. I, too, wondered, if maybe it had to do with, among other things, folks not wanting to “discuss (face?) the possibility of, as Eileen points out, rape as political.” Although it’s true Eileen didn’t bring up EW until near the end of her blog entry, she spent more time speculating about EW’s wealth and psychoanalyzing the reviewer’s well-researched background than she spent on the politics of rape. I wonder if Henry Gould didn’t have it right early on in a comment that has been disappeared:

      “If you have a critique to make, stick to the substance of your target’s argument, don’t dig into their personal background & make ad hominem analogies. The same goes with comparing Weinberger’s personal life to his political opinions. To me that kind of thing is out of order. It leads to the petty cat-fights which my fable symbolized, & which, time & again, sideline supposedly “political” poetry in its own parochial backwaters (very swampy).

      Stick with the rightness or wrongness of the opinions, don’t go this low roa I don’t. I find it similar to the hectoring that’s going on at the health care forums.”d of po-biz spleen & malicious remarks. It’s demagoguing your readers; some people enjoy it.”

      Of course Eileen is not responsible for how people responded to her entry, but maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that so many people responded in kind and with the same proportionality of concern she evidenced in her original post. Yes, no?

      • On August 21, 2009 at 8:57 pm Rachel wrote:

        Ack! I screwed up Henry Gould’s post. The second paragraph should read:

        “Stick with the rightness or wrongness of the opinions, don’t go this low road of po-biz spleen & malicious remarks. It’s demagoguing your readers; some people enjoy it. I don’t. I find it similar to the hectoring that’s going on at the health care forums.”

  • On August 21, 2009 at 11:30 am John Oliver Simon wrote:

    I think the red/green is a useful community empowerment which enables us to resist the tyranny of the loudest bore. The thumbs didn’t impel Eileen to make unsustainable accusations against Eliot Weinberger, nor impede clearer heads from nailing her on it. Desmond seems to have gotten it that past a certain point voluble blather becomes abusive, but that shorter chunks will fly. Thomas is still a self-pitying victim, buried under a sea of red, but it wasn’t long ago that every thread was helpless hostage to his monomania of Brooks & Warren vs. Poe. Gary, if you post your own poems every time you’re drunk, you have to take the chance that people won’t like them. As for me, it was nice to take a break from Harriet while on vacation, and it’s good to rejoin this healthy, thriving, imperfect community.

    • On August 21, 2009 at 12:10 pm thomas brady wrote:

      John Oliver Simon,

      “Tyranny of the loudest bore.”

      Why, that’s a boring remark. A crass one, too. You ought to look up ‘tyranny’ in the dictionary.

      A ‘tyrant’ isn’t someone who speaks of a topic which happens to ‘bore’ you.

      You are tyrannized by the poet Edgar Poe?

      Poor man!

      If you don’t know anything about Brooks, Warren or Poe, that’s not boredom, that’s merely your own lack of knowledge.

      Why crow about it: calling your ignorance ‘boredom,’ making yourself the poor ‘victim’ of it?

      Good return, my dear Simon.

      You sound relaxed and refreshed.

      Welcome back!

      Thomas

      • On August 21, 2009 at 1:08 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

        Thank you for your welcome back, Thomas. I look forward to our jousts continuing. As to my ignorance, well, I know some things I know. Would you care to discuss Rubén Darío and the langusge-wide influence of his Modernismo?

        • On August 21, 2009 at 1:47 pm thomas brady wrote:

          John Oliver Simon,

          Please! I’d like to learn!

          And I swear I won’t characterize your discourse as the ‘tyranny of a loud bore.’

          Lay on me that fashionable modernism…err…modernismo…

          Thomas

          • On August 21, 2009 at 2:12 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

            RubEen Darío was both in a corner house on a cobbled street in León, which is the second or third city of Nicaragua. His house is now a museum dedicated both to “the divine Rubén” as to a cousin (alln the Nicaraguan poets were cousins) of Alcfonso Cortés, who went mad and was chained to the bars of the window, fromn which he wrote, peering up between eaves, “un trazo de azul/ tiene más intensided que todo el cielo (a patch of blue/ is more intense than the whole sky).”

            In common with many great poets, and many olf us I suspect here — I was fourteen — Rubén started writing poetry when he was very young, very precocious. HJis first poem, aged twelve, a flaw2less sonnet, is preservede in the museo. The plaque on the wall reeads “HE CUT WITH HIS HANDS/ BOUQUETS OF STARS.” He’s buried two blocks away in the Cathedral. He went to the capital, Managua, and attracted patrons by writing an elegfy for a deceased politiciam, then returned to lEón, where he was busted for vagrancy, age 17.

            2b continued

            • On August 21, 2009 at 2:20 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

              Should be “Rubén.” I didn’t mention he was born in 1867,

              Darío took the Spanish world by storm around 1900 with what he called Modernismo. It is very pretty, very musical.

              And when, at midnight, Philomel pours out
              her timeless grief in arpeggios on golden notesw
              and the white swan, like an ivory gondola, prints
              its wake upon the tranquillity of the pool.

              Much more like Yeats than Pound. Maxfield Parrish, very well done, with rhyme and tone. What Darío did, a Colombian poet named William Ospina writes, “was to untable the language of poetry in Spanish, which had developed a comnpletely trreansposed and tortured syntax, so that even when his sunbject matter is frivolous and trivial, he is writing what ordinary people thought.”

              Darío edited a luscious little magazine in Paris. He fell in love in Madrid with Francisca Sanchez, who bore him two daughters ilegítimas. He was Nicaraguan envoy to the Couret of Spain, He drank too mmuch. He returned to León in triumph in 1907 and wrote a poem for the little girl who ended up as Somoza’s widow: “Margarita, está linda la mar…”
              (more)

              John

              • On August 21, 2009 at 2:34 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

                Darío malso had a political arrow in his quiver, saying to Teddy Roosevelt,

                With the voice of the Bible, or the vision of Walt WHitman,
                one would have to reach you, Huntsman!
                Primitive and modern, simple and complicated,
                one part George Washington and three parts Nimrod.

                You are the United States,
                you are the future invader
                of that naive America that still has Native bnlood,
                still prays to Jesus Christ and still speaks Spanish!

                Darío came home again to León to die in 1916, in a horror of cirrhosis of the liver, occupational disease of alcoholic poets, and doctors with leeches. When he died they removed his brain, which shone like a gigantic cauliflower in the alcohol. One night a homeless guy drank all the alcohol and the rest they tossed in the garbage.

                Darío spawned a host of very respectable poet-allies and mentees or imitators: Leopold Lugones in Buenos Aires and and Julio Herrera de Reissig in Montevideo, Ramón López Velarde in Mexico. The hegemony of Modernismo lasted about 20 years. Darío died in 1916. Around 1920, in synchronicity with your loower-cass modernism, comes the reaction, which is called in Latin America la Vanguardia. Much more experimental, post-avant. César Vallejo, the Contemporáneos in Mexico, early Neruda. “Wring the swan’s throat,” Mexican Enrique González Martínez begins a poem.

                Esposing a dialectic view of poetic history, I say Darío had to break the mold, the mode of 19th-century verse, and he gave rise to some glorious poetry. The Vanguardistas also had to break with his decorated rhetoric. Vallejo’s “Trilce” was the one book I carried all the way down South America.

    • On August 21, 2009 at 1:13 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

      Mr. Simon:

      A) I don’t post “every time” I’m drunk.

      B) I write them all sober. They are all in book form and I just copy and paste from the galley pdf.’s saved on my computer.

      C) I only post poems if they are relevant to the topic.

      D) Most people like my poems.

      • On August 21, 2009 at 1:33 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

        I dunno, Gary, your poems have their moments, but if it were true that most people liked them, wouldn’t they fail to disappear under the dread red thumb? Would you prefer forthright criticism (or praise, you never know) of a given poem?

        I admire your couraqe, Gary, in posting your poems. I haven’t posted my own, preferring to use this medium primarily to highlight others of my esteem (Jack Hirschman, Charles Potts, Juan Felipe Herrera, Rusty Morrison, lots of Latin American poets), but maybe I will post one of my own sometime. Your doing so gives us all permission, but the self-reported linkage between snockered and poem is cause for concern.

        The working-well of the red/hreen hands will even it out. Post poems that take more risks, Gary, and you’ll see.

        I go on writing hendecaseyllabis poems addressed to my granddaughter. When it seems germane I’ll post one.

  • On August 21, 2009 at 12:13 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    Dear Janet:

    Your points are irrefutable, of course. I am not in favor of suffering or disease or of the powerful taking advantage of the weak. I am, however, almost traumatized by the destruction I have witnessed since I was a boy. I remember Jacques Cousteau telling us the oceans were becoming deserts forty years ago. All my life I have heard about the rain forests, the whales, the tigers, coral reefs, Whooping Cranes, old growth forests, overfishing, etc., etc. yet on and on we go. Now it’s melting ice caps and glaciers and even the atmosphere itself. Nobody (in power) listened, nobody cared. It’s probably too late now, anyway.

    I really had no business diverting the topic stream here like I did (even though I guess the subject still qualifies as ‘political’), but I was struck by the contrast in Margo’s post between population and poverty. It may be because I’m just an old tree-hugging misanthrope, and maybe I am a spoiled Western elitist living in the past, but I feel a similar resentment when I see stories about poor people needing financial help in order to feed their sixteen kids. At some point all of us must accept some responsibility and accountability.

    Unfortunately, when all is said and done, I’m afraid human nature will never change. People will always kill people and people will always make more people. In fact, this is the natural state for all animals and we will always be part of it.

    Gary

    BTW, I’m not really a nice guy at all. I don’t care much for people. If a human and a cat were drowning, I’d probably save the cat.

    Heaven and Earth are impartial;
    They see the ten-thousand things as straw dogs.
    The wise are impartial;
    They see the people as straw dogs.

    Lao-tzu
    (trans. Gia-Fu Feng)

  • On August 21, 2009 at 12:14 pm thomas brady wrote:

    Overpopulation

    Let us reduce the living world
    To a little patch of green,
    With people we like on either side,
    And Wordsworth in-between.

  • On August 21, 2009 at 12:45 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    Dear R.L.:

    You are a little off-base about my sentiments. I agree with your position and it’s clear that Caucasians have done most of the damage on our planet, social as well as physical. The brief history you recite is certainly accurate. But that was then and this is now. We must not allow the injustices of the past justify those of the future. The people we discuss are not primitives living in caves. Modern technology: computers, automobiles, airports, electricity, are found in every nation. Nairobi, Buenos Aires, Calcutta, Phnom Penh, Dakar, Quito…all are full of skyscrapers and cell phones. I don’t think it is fair to compare the treatment of Native Americans by Europeans in the Nineteenth Century or the colonization of the tropics to the relationship between developing and undeveloped nations today. If anything, by portraying these individuals as poor, helpless victims, it is you who patronize and demean them.

    • On August 21, 2009 at 12:55 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

      ‘developed’ and undeveloped nations, I meant.

      Some people seem to relish their ‘Thumbs down’s, but I really can’t stand it. If you can’t say it to my face then fuck off.

      I’ll be back when this voting idiocy is over.

      • On August 21, 2009 at 1:20 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

        I for one value your presence here, Gary. Please don’t go, we’ll eat you up, we love you so. And if I had a quarter for every time someone played the I’m Leaving card in an internet community and then came back tail between legs como si nada, I could probably go to the ball game and sit in the bleachers.

    • On August 21, 2009 at 1:17 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

      If you’re a public-health helper in the Third World, as my girlfriend’s daughter was for a year after college in a village in Uganda, family planning is probably one of the things you talk about, along with purifying the water. It was the tone of should in Gary’s post which justly aroused ire. Some lines are fine, but there, sometimes we cross them and hopefully learn from the ensuing ruckus.

  • On August 21, 2009 at 12:51 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    “Your choice phrasing, ‘who simply do not get the ‘larger view’’ is particularly…nauseating to me, but I will move on.”

    This statement I don’t understand. Please clarify. I was referring to the average truck/SUV driving, football-loving, over-eating, ‘American Idol’ watching, new house building, mall cruising American consumer.

  • On August 21, 2009 at 3:26 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    Dear John (Simon):

    As noted earlier, I can’t stand unanswered correspondence. It just seems rude to me, so, in reply:

    You may have missed a lot in your absence regarding the ‘Dislike/Like’ feature. Many people are troubled by this. I would especially refer you to Terreson’s observations. In my opinion, some people are not voting based on their reaction to the comment but, rather, to the commenter. I think that there are some cowardly trolls out there who are simply being mean. I have made statements that got a ‘Thumbs down’, been taken to task for them and then changed my mind and concurred with the opposition…and still got a thumbs down. I posted one longish comment that got a thumbs down in less time than anybody could have possibly even read or considered it. The first comment I had ‘collapsed’ to invisibility was this: “I never knew there were so many angry poets out there.” Watch out…don’t let the irony drip on your clean shirt.

    Basically, I don’t think negative responses to my poems really have anything to do with the poems themselves. Who would find offense in my simple little philosophical Nature poems in the first place and, if they were that bad, who would care enough to even respond? I think it’s fun to throw in something completely unexpected now and then. Besides, what have I got to lose? All five of my books are for sale on Amazon or B&N.com and I’ve posted probably 50 poems on twenty different blogs. Nobody has been offended. Blog owners don’t HAVE to post every reply they get, you know. I get positive feedback. And I don’t find posting topic-related POETRY on a POETRY blog unusual at all. Where else…CNN?

    Gary

    P.S. Now, watch how quickly this goes ‘red’. Unlike Thomas, it hurts my feelings. I know where I’m not wanted.

  • On August 21, 2009 at 3:35 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    P.S. If it wasn’t personal who, exactly, would ‘dislike’ a comment in favor of protecting the Earth and our environment? Go figure.

  • On August 21, 2009 at 4:24 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

    Next time you post a poem, Gary, I won’t use a thumb. I’ll give you a critique. I might like it or not, and I’ll say why. Fair enough?

  • On August 21, 2009 at 4:27 pm R.L. wrote:

    Gary,

    You wrote: “I don’t think it is fair to compare the treatment of Native Americans by Europeans in the Nineteenth Century or the colonization of the tropics to the relationship between developing and undeveloped nations today. If anything, by portraying these individuals as poor, helpless victims, it is you who patronize and demean them.”

    It’s clear you didn’t exactly understand my points. I wasn’t so much as equating one to the other, as I was saying that present condition of Third Word or underdeveloped countries is the legacy of that ugly history. If you still someone’s gold and other resources, those resources won’t just–poof!–reappear, / unless it is actively returned./ As much you may (or may not–you have told me that I misunderstand your sentiments) want to, we can not divorce history from the present, then “then” from “now.”

    I wish not to portray these individuals as poor, helpless victims. I wish to portray them as their own agents, trying their best to survive in hollowed conditions: hollowed because their wealth, resources and, in some cases, humanity, which include the freedom or not to procreate, have been historically stripped. And aren’t we the stuffed men? Living off that bread.

    If you’d like to learn more about that history, and how it has and continues to affect Third World countries, I recommend this book, “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa”: http://www.amazon.com/Europe-Underdeveloped-Africa-Walter-Rodney/dp/0882580965

  • On August 21, 2009 at 4:31 pm R.L. wrote:

    Also, you said: “computers, automobiles, airports, electricity, are found in every nation.”

    Uhm. What world is this? And even if this is true, just because computers, cars, etc., can be found “somewhere” in every nation, that does not mean that every citizen of said nation has access to / these privileges. / Not everyone in the U.S. has access to these privileges!

  • On August 21, 2009 at 6:15 pm robbins wrote:

    Jesus Christ, Gary. You don’t have sixteen kids because you want to. You want to stop people from having kids? Raise their standard of living. Foolproof, throughout history, check it out.

    Certain strains of “environmentalism” treat humans as if they were not part of the natural world, as if they were outside ecology. Thus the right-wing extremism of someone like Edward Abbey.

    The problem is not overpopulation per se but the unequal distribution of resources. Do you suppose you were just born with a natural inclination to understand the human impact on the non-human world? Do you never wonder how your beliefs might be different if your primary concern each day were how to keep from starving to death? And all those irresponsible people you disapprove of: how exactly did they get so irresponsible? Were they born that way? Or were they perhaps born into conditions of extreme deprivation, such that they have neither the education nor the luxury necessary to reflect on their lack of consideration for the moral qualms of first-world tree huggers?

    And, yes, these countries are not just poor through some weird random operation. The rich countries got rich in the first place, in part, through the expropriation (theft) of their labor & resources. Most of the food in our supermarkets was grown in countries more than half of whose population is at risk of dying early from malnutrition or easily preventable disease.

    You & I, Gary, are responsible for the conditions of immiseration that keep people uneducated & living at subsistence levels–conditions tailor-made for having sixteen kids. But don’t worry, Gary, about half of those kids will die from diseases we could prevent for a couple of bucks.

  • On August 21, 2009 at 7:50 pm edward mycue wrote:

    this is an education just reading all these posts on the blog-post titled POLITICAL ECONOMY by Eileen Myles. spritely and invigorating.

    since my bookstore crashedunder i’ve be going about with my head down. not even mark morford could get up my dander.

    i’m going to have to read that ICELAND book of essays of hers– big enough to be a doorstop –that she read
    (on the same bill with OWEN HILL of MOE’S books of berkeley — his new number of his bisexual bookscout detective ‘CLAY BLACKBURN’ series CHANDLER APARTMENTS)
    bits from on wednesday aug 19 at san francisco’s BOOKS AND BOOKSHELVES
    that david highsmith has in a line of 40 years of bookshops and publishing houses there at 99 sanchez & 14th street since dennis koran established his press there in 1969.
    (it was an electric reading from she and from owen hill, but i didn’t know she could attract lightening as is here evidenced in her blog.)

    edward mycue (a now punched-up 72 year old w/new tires)

  • On August 21, 2009 at 8:07 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    Look, everybody…first of all, you’re preaching to the proverbial choir. I’m a liberal, for chrissakes (well, actually an independent centrist) AND I went to Woodstock! :-)

    Secondly, it seems insane for me to continue a debate when all of my comments keep vanishing.

    But, I’m also a realist. This is the classic ‘deck chairs on the Titanic’ scenario. Again, you are all correct. Facts is facts! But, like rabbits squabbling over a tuft of clover in a field as the mower approaches, you are still missing the ‘big picture’: no Earth, no rabbits!

    So, would we prefer the intelligent options of choice and birth control or the Chinese solution: Law! That is the true abrogation of birth rights…not the decision of the potential parents to forgo another child, but that of a Government!

    Of course, there’s always plan B: we all die, rich or poor.

    Gary

    JOS: I doubt if I will be posting any more poems here until the anonymous ‘peanut gallery’ goes away. I wonder what they threw at Shakespeare’s plays. Did they have peanuts or tomatoes in England by then?

  • On August 21, 2009 at 8:25 pm Desmond Swords wrote:

    Welcome back S, and thank you very much for the heads-up on that poet who wrote in spanish, wotsiface whose name i have forgotten because his stuff was rubbish sir John,

    ha ha ha duh dums! – only joking. Great poem to Roosevelt, personally my chunk highlight of the thread thus far, a rejoinder in verse, marrying in one’s mind, to Eileen’s answer to a simple question, $62.50 a pop for dumping in Harriet’s ring: peace poetry.

    Is it a translation or did Darío write it. I googled the first line and it returned a zero, which i took as a sign that it may be your own translation. If so, i am very impressed (you talented git) and hate you more and more the cooler and happier you become Sir john.

    only joking Seán. Trav did me a favour really, because i had been writing up to 5000 words a day, for the past two years, working up from a a few lines a day when i began in 2001. Unlike the geni you mention who all started young: it was 20 years travelling as a simpleton, before God came calling and told me to water the seed within and spread what gospel blooms here without, on the pages of lurve 4 UToo fwendz from ‘arry 8 ‘n H. here in the theatre of red Hate and Green love.

    I had a week off and you get to see it for what it is: a lot of people all sending our own version of God out there, in the hope we might get some action on with hot poets of the same, or opposite gender, and maybe – who knows – meet and have affairs, then use that private stuff as the basis for our poems. I want to meet an American stunna who is born rich, attractive, young’ish, 18+, who is looking for a man to guide them to the Lord of Poetry, His Highness Ogma of the Tuatha De Dannan, whose representitive on earth, i am pretending to represent, because i can and because why not?

    Why not tell lies and make things up, to be happy and let a little ray of sunchine into the lives of they who hate us for being better at meeting rich single women with emotional probs, and turning their lives around by offering religious and poetic instruction: as a prophet?

    I tried to stay pissed at the red development, but remembering the first rule of PM, avoided the trap of becoming a bitter bore because one’s voluminous waftings are rejected as not the work of Harriet’s prophet in res.
    The golden rume of modernism, is to accept the other viewpoint of what Art is, as valid and legitimate, if the author of the other presents their claim framed as the other being so.

    Ever since Marcel Duchamp reversed-psychology upended the art world by prioritizing and framing ideas instead of objects, by the simple act of rotating a standard Bedfordshire urinal 90 degrees, giving it a title of Fountain and signing it “R. Mutt 1917″ – the subsequent success of Conceptual art has been assured.

    I was in danger of becoming a self-pitying plagarist without talent, a victim burying itself benath a sea of red and green

    I had the house painted red and green.

    I had the kids painted red and green

    Me oh!

    me ah ay oh !
    me ah ay oh
    Sam McGuire never comes to me owair – Achill was the place
    in the sound at the House of God, we got baptised

    Mayo, red and green, flag n the plain of yew: too Mayo i’m three-quarter red and green, a quarter more red from the republic of Cork, Bohola’s red and green: Bunacurry’s, red and green, Aughamore’s red and green, Macroom’s red and so well done John, great poem and i added arpeggio to the stock of musical terms; and to respond in kind back, feel free to use this page fwedns from H; the word accelerando, at the free thesaurus, a page of top Latin technical terms for various melodic procedures and musical honey-pot.

    cheers.

  • On August 21, 2009 at 10:11 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    A personal message to Mr. Robbins:

    “Jesus Christ, Gary. You don’t have sixteen kids because you want to. You want to stop people from having kids? Raise their standard of living. Foolproof, throughout history, check it out.”

    Nobody has to fuck if they don’t want to.

    “Certain strains of “environmentalism” treat humans as if they were not part of the natural world, as if they were outside ecology. Thus the right-wing extremism of someone like Edward Abbey.”

    Not my strain, son. I think that humans are (genetically speaking) barely 3% over Chimpanzees.

    “The problem is not overpopulation per se but the unequal distribution of resources. Do you suppose you were just born with a natural inclination to understand the human impact on the non-human world?”

    Yes. That’s why I’m a poet. And you too.

    “Do you never wonder how your beliefs might be different if your primary concern each day were how to keep from starving to death?”

    No. None of us are really that far away from that.

    “And all those irresponsible people you disapprove of: how exactly did they get so irresponsible?”

    I disapprove of no living thing.

    “Were they born that way? Or were they perhaps born into conditions of extreme deprivation, such that they have neither the education nor the luxury necessary to reflect on their lack of consideration for the moral qualms of first-world tree huggers?”

    I don’t know.

    “And, yes, these countries are not just poor through some weird random operation. The rich countries got rich in the first place, in part, through the expropriation (theft) of their labor & resources. Most of the food in our supermarkets was grown in countries more than half of whose population is at risk of dying early from malnutrition or easily preventable disease.”

    Socialist Bullshit! The ‘rich’ countries got rich in the first place through WORK and INNOVATION. Inventing things…like sailing ships and electricity and trains and cars and factories and steamboats and such. And WORK is why so many people from the so-called “Third World” are coming to the “rich” countries these days, no? It’s only the ongoing transition from the agricultural to the industrial. Ask the Irish. Also, the ‘Second World (Communism) is no more, so now the “Third World” is really the “Second World” (or should we now say the ‘Other World”).

    “You & I, Gary, are responsible for the conditions of immiseration that keep people uneducated & living at subsistence levels–conditions tailor-made for having sixteen kids.”

    I agree.

    “But don’t worry, Gary, about half of those kids will die from diseases we could prevent for a couple of bucks.”

    Again, I agree. But I don’t want anyone to die. I cried for a week when my cat was killed. That was pretty mean, Michael.

    Gary

  • On August 22, 2009 at 12:13 am John Oliver Simon wrote:

    My series of posts on Rubén Darío has disappeared because they were replies to Thomas’s post which people disliked. Ah well. I suppose the point I was making is that the poetry world is larger than the US poetry world.

    John

  • On August 22, 2009 at 1:36 am Desmond Swords wrote:

    Interesting development, which negates somewhat Trav’s handy icon idea/s.

    I have rescued you both back to being unconcealed John.

    Seven reds is the point at which you appear on a click of the four words click to show comment

    The aggregate of green-red in the sub-thread’s cumulative posts, is only three or so reds, because you have a few greens for speaking on Rubén Darío, who i didn’t know before now, and the reason i thanked you for doing so; was because you added further to the context of Poetry per se: the final statement of understanding and – crucially – our own poetic/s.

    Conceivably, a series in the ‘click to show’ post can posses more green than red, and because the series are concealed due to the red-count of the deposit heading it; this is perfect poetry. In the sense that what started out as one experimental response to the very real probs of a few spamming their own propoganda more coherently than the rest, and putting off those less insensitive than a tiny cohort of colleagues on the blog, to such things as polite, meaningful words – suddenly turns in unexpected consequences of the decision to introduce the colour and concealement issue.

    Because the very opposite of its intended purpose will probably now happen, at least once, in that what is jinged up to the green realm, a reader has to click to see – thereby the essential premise and purpose of these iconic handies, is rendered redundant, in a very poetical manner of coming about.

    This different reaction to a process than was expected: the wholly hidden and unpronounced outcome of one thing being the exact opposite of what was thought it would be, when first we set forth with masterplan and prophecy for Form to appear as we controller and controlling ones wanted in the first off – yeah –

    Dear John
    We are saddened to hear of this unexpected loss. It was not our intention when introducing the handy downs and up here on Harriet, to discombobulate or discomfort any of our very valued readers and bloggers, especially the ones who our community indicate we are drawn to readeing for the right reasons. Reasons which a community of intellectuals can cherish in the knowing that disruptive elements will not silence our cause of bringing to the people of this Nation and beyond, across the global theatre of poetry: Verse of the firmest order

    An chara Seán

    i am a translator of lay and rann
    on the old fashioned wagon of dán

    poetry, gift-talent-vocation,
    fate-destiny as a unitary concept
    -

    the druidic dictionary states
    is a Gaelic word for verse, grá

    love the green and red
    of Mayo and sing to us, again

    at the Poetry Spam Championship
    Leinster heat in O’Neill’s pub

    Suffolk Street, Dublin one day

    Darling Conceptual john doe
    poetry anonymous, John Daly

    thank you very much for a love-in of eternal greenery and the read heart of a Mayo dreamer being in Letters
    spam champion, improver, failing wonderfully at home.

  • On August 22, 2009 at 3:51 am Margo Berdeshevsky wrote:

    yes, JOS, you (might) now see why the thumbs are damaging.
    Other posts, my own that included discussion of global health, its economic/political tragedies, has also disappeared because it was “attached.” Too bad. Maybe the “sub-threading” is a useless tool, maybe people will begin to ignore it, to maintain clarity.

    But as Sina suggested to me on another site (wom-po) where there is a bit more openness and a bit less narrowness of thought, and more women’s voices, certainly, she reminded me that health care at this moment is actually the elephant in the middle of the room. And that certainly has included this room. Most folks are not engaging in rational thinking about it in America. Or about the global picture that “should” be seen with open eyes and open hearts, and by poets, and here. It is generally not.(And of course, this IS part Eileen’s initial subject.)

    Yes, the poetry world is far far larger than the US one, as is the larger planet. And population is only one cell of a moving and ill form. But defenses are up here, prejudices are rampant, and here we be. Too bad for us. And too bad for Harriet to be making no changes in its management of this forum.

    Thank you RL for bettering the communication on at least this aspect of my disappeared communications: fortunately, there are small clinics and devoted volunteers in international health who support choices, save lives, and respect populations who have values other than their own.Who see the dangers of contraceptive implants and injections.Who deal with daily life and death. And who know– It is useful to remember that many underdeveloped countries are “used” for the resources which keep them underdeveloped in their own lives, but provide hot water for a nice shower at home in the west.

    Maybe the wholeness of a poem that Thomas alluded to would be far better… (one of few subjects of his posts that I seriously cheered) Maybe that wholeness will find us each in the dark this night. I hope so.

    margo

    • On August 22, 2009 at 4:15 am Margo Berdeshevsky wrote:

      & to be fair, I should add that Sina’s comment of the elephant in the room pertains to her perception of otherwise good people who don’t wanna pay for others’ health care with their dollars. One of our current American miasmas. But to me, the beast is an even fatter pachyderm. It’s reality is the “me.” Whoever we construe “me” to be, & leaving out the “thee.”

      m

  • On August 22, 2009 at 7:08 am thomas brady wrote:

    John Oliver Simon,

    Thank you for sharing Ruben Dario, modernismo, Vanguardia, etc

    “Wring the swan’s neck.”

    Beautiful, and leave it to poetry to say IT. I know most people don’t FEEL in a negative way what Modernism did to arts and science, but I do, and that line by Enrique Gonzalez Enrique Gonzalez says it all for me, and if I were to write a book on the problem, I would make that the title.

    Was it an accident that the Vanguardia arose in 1920, or did these guys share ideas with Oxford and Harvard, Ford Madox Ford and Pound, you know, the Anglo-Americans? I can’t but believe there must have been some sharing. (This is where I start googling on biographies and get to the bottom of the secret…)

    These words of yours say a lot as well:

    “Exposing a dialectic view of poetic history”

    “Dario HAD to break the mold of 19th century verse”

    “The Vanguardistas also HAD to break with his decorated rhetoric”

    Why is it NECESSARY to REACT NEGATIVELY to what has gone before?

    Doesn’t this well-traveled word ‘dialectic’ imply that poets must be broken into little historical bits? Because ‘history’ is BIG, they (the poets) must be SMALL?

    Poe [here I go, again!--paul mccartney] did it ALL, celebrated Pope & Swift, the ancients, Dante, the Romantics; he was classical, modern, extremely inventive (more so than anyone else) and as A SINGLE artist did this WITHOUT FEELING IT NECESSARY TO WRING THE SWAN’S NECK or BREAK with past masters.

    Why do we HAVE to ‘break with decorated rhetoric?’

    Obviously, I don’t expect everyone to write like Dario. Of course not. But why wring his neck? Why kill him?

    “Dialectic,” or not–writers BEFORE that word became fashionable–down through history, were different from each other, Pope and Byron and Shelley and Poe are very, very different, precisely because they didn’t let history break them into little ‘dialectic’ bits, precisely because they were INDIVIDUALS who did NOT belong to a coterie with a manifesto that said they HAD to wring the swan’s neck…

    Obviously I am simplifying what you were saying, but I’m just trying to get at something which I think is very important.

    You also said something about “tortured syntax” which really got me thinking, because you implied that Victorians use “tortured syntax” (over-decorated is perhaps what you mean), that 19th century poetry had to be cleared by Dario of its “tortured syntax.” 1) I’m sorry if I’m misquoting you and 2) I have to refer this to poetry in English.

    There’s this assumption that the ‘decorative’ style of poetry of the 19th century was often guilty of ‘tortured syntax’ and Modernism, with its plain, forthright speech fixed this fault. But if you actually read the poetry, you find this isn’t true at all!

    That’s just one more huge assumption which the ‘dialect’ modernists tend to make, which I think needs to be addressed as well. I don’t have the time here to go into it, here, obviously, but give me time and I could find armfuls of examples…

    OK, Simon, a good ‘joust,’ I’d say.

    Thank you, again.

    Thomas

    • On August 22, 2009 at 10:55 am John Oliver Simon wrote:

      I’ll try the subthread route one more time and hope Tom’s auto-red community thumb-down doesn’t sink my reply.

      Byron and Shelley were certainly a coterie (coming just behind Wordsworth and Coleridge) with a determined program to break with what they saw as the previous century’s affectation and unnatural language.

      Over and over again, time after time, culture by culture, young poets achieve escape velocity by taking on their elders and wringing the swan’s neck. The content of the program doesn’t matter so much; it might be the Preface to the Lyrical Ballads, it might be Flarf — what matters is the energy you accrue by killing Daddy.

      Of course, if they live long enough, the young poets become Daddy. That’s the joke.

      When this doesn’t happen, the whole enterprise strangely sags. Colombia is the one country in Latin America that didn’t have a Vanguardia in tkhe 20′s reaction to Darío’s Modernismo. They just kept writing decorated flowery stuff that got weaker decade by decade. Finally they had some crazies in the sixtries who called themselves Nadaistas and palmed the wafer in the cathedral so nhey could write obscene lyrics on the Host. But that’s another story.

      • On August 22, 2009 at 12:19 pm thomas brady wrote:

        John Oliver Simon,

        “I’ll try the subthread route one more time and hope Tom’s auto-red community thumb-down doesn’t sink my reply.”

        No worries. I gave a call to Jim Behrle. He’s going to take care of the ‘reds’ for me.

        “Byron and Shelley were certainly a coterie (coming just behind Wordsworth and Coleridge) with a determined program to break with what they saw as the previous century’s affectation and unnatural language.”

        Byron’s favorite poet was Pope and he ridiculed Wordsworth and Southey. This is mere Modernism speaking: “break with the previous century’s affectation and unnatural language.”

        No, John Simon, Shelley and Byron had no problem with “the previous century.” They actually had more problems with the contemporary Lake School. Bashing ‘the previous century’ is how we were schooled to talk in the 20th century by the humbug of Pound.

        Shelley and Byron would have laughed at the idea of calling Pope’s language “affected and unnatural.” Bad poets’ language is ‘affected and unnatural.’ It doesn’t belong to ‘a century.’

        This sort of rhetoric is extremely fashionable, so I don’t fault you for using it, but it’s the blind leading the blind into a ditch, I’m afraid.

        Pope’s language is more natural than Merwin’s, for instance.

        True, Poe found fault with Shakespeare’s stage asides, finding them ‘unnatural,’ but this is how criticism works: it compares what works with what doesn’t; it doesn’t cut the ‘previous century’ just to artificially present itself as ‘new.’

        Secondly, Byron and Shelley did not puff each other in the press, award each other prizes, and praise each other in textbooks.

        We should make this clear: A friendship between great poets is not necessarily a coterie. (Compare Byron & Shelley with Pound, Eliot, Ford, Williams, Ransom, Tate, to see the difference.)

        We moderns often have trouble telling the difference. Even Gioia, who I like a lot, couldn’t tell the difference in his famous essay.

        “Over and over again, time after time, culture by culture, young poets achieve escape velocity by taking on their elders and wringing the swan’s neck. The content of the program doesn’t matter so much; it might be the Preface to the Lyrical Ballads, it might be Flarf — what matters is the energy you accrue by killing Daddy.”

        Obviously rivalry and influence exists, but ‘killing Daddy’ is simply cartoonish, another 20th century half-truth, I’m afraid.

        “Of course, if they live long enough, the young poets become Daddy. That’s the joke.”

        The joke seems to be that Daddy in our time is completely dead.

        “When this doesn’t happen, the whole enterprise strangely sags. Colombia is the one country in Latin America that didn’t have a Vanguardia in tkhe 20’s reaction to Darío’s Modernismo. They just kept writing decorated flowery stuff that got weaker decade by decade. Finally they had some crazies in the sixtries who called themselves Nadaistas and palmed the wafer in the cathedral so nhey could write obscene lyrics on the Host. But that’s another story.”

        How was the Renaissance a ‘vanguard?’ It was quite the opposite. Catholic painters during the Renaissance were painting religious works pregnant with symbolic meaning AND erotic pagan myths pregnant with symbolic meaning AND landscapes AND realistic self-portraits. Whence came all this energy? All this ingenious variety? The ‘vanguard’ impulse? Or quite a different one? How does your thesis explain the renaissance? The Elizabethans? The Romantics?
        I’m afraid it doesn’t. It explains the narrow manifesto of Ezra Pound.

        Thomas

  • On August 22, 2009 at 7:12 am thomas brady wrote:

    Enrique Gonzalez Martinez! I mangled his name above…sorry…

    but I will not forget your words, Enrique!

  • On August 22, 2009 at 7:47 am thomas brady wrote:

    Des,

    I can stand in front of a Titian for an hour.

    Duchamp (ha ha) I walk by. Five seconds. Very funny. I get it.

    Going forward, which should we venerate as a society?

    There’s a dozen jokes in the Titian; I’m IN the Titian, I live in it, I don’t just walk by it.

    How long can we laugh at one joke?

    ‘But the Titian exists because of historical circumstances.’

    Precisely.

    Thomas

  • On August 22, 2009 at 9:35 am thomas brady wrote:

    If animals were voting, Gary would be golden. :)

    Two crucial parts to this ‘overpopulation’ debate.

    1. I agree with Robbins that overpopulation is NOT the problem.

    2. I agree with Gary that not all wealth is the result of theft. We should never assume that some people ARE poor BECAUSE some people ARE rich. Someone quoted Adam Smith saying this, recently–I forget who–but this does not make it so. Unfortunately, enough theft does occur that it is unfortunately easy to make that assumption. And it isn’t just ‘theft;’ it unfortunately gets more insidious, as when Britain rammed opium down the throat of China to make it weak; that’s ‘theft’ with even greater malice.

    Does this matter for poetry? Yes. The arts do become tangled in politics. Absolutely.

  • On August 22, 2009 at 2:09 pm Terreson wrote:

    From an article in a Rand MacNally World Atlas called “Upsetting the Balance: human life,” and dated 1992.

    “Human numbers grew very sowly through most of our history. Births and deaths remained more or less in balance. Our best estimate of world population in A.D. 1 is 150 million. By about 1650 the total was up to 500 million. And then, the explosion.

    “By 1850 there were 1.2 billion people in the world. By 1950 that number had doubled to 2.5 billion. By 1990 human numbers had doubled again, to 5.3 billion. It is likely that that another three billion will be added to world population by the year 2025.

    “This explosion is not fueled by an increase in birth rates. People have not been having anymore children then they used to have. The critical difference is a major decline in death rates. More food, better sanitation, better housing, and better health care combined to extend the average life span and dramatically lower infant mortality.

    “But then in Europe, Japan, and North America – the industrialized countries where the benefits of a higher standard of living were spread widely through the population – birth rates began to go down. Instead of having six or eight babies in her lifetime, the average woman had two…

    “The situation in Third World countries is quite different. There improved health care has lowered death rates, especially among children, but birth rates have remained high. Growth rates of 2 to 3 percent are common, which means that numbers will double in less than twenty-five years.

    “The countries with the high growth rates are also the countries least able to cope with the social, economic, and environmental consequences of such growth…”

    (Please to note that the prediction concerning world population by 2025 has proved too conservative. By 2009 and already the number has reached 7 billion. Also, please to note that 1 billion of that total live in poverty.)

    I have no debate with anything anybody has said. Most everyone gets to be right. (Well, maybe I find calling Edward Abee an extreme right winger a bit kooky. He wasn’t an extreme right winger. He was, however, an extreme conservationist. As am I, since, I can’t figure out why the human animal is any more or less precious to the earth than are her other animals.) But in the sum Gary gets to be most right. This upsetting of the balance is a function of numbers pure and simple, and from which all the social, economic, politial, and environmental consequences issue.

    What is it the priest says in the ancient movie, Solent Green? Something like too much. Or maybe he said too many.

    Terreson

  • On August 22, 2009 at 3:27 pm Terreson wrote:

    Well, what the heck. Having received a thumbs down for my immediately preceding post in less than an hour I feel inspired to sign it:

    Terreson-the-tree-hugging-old-growth hippie-convinced-that nothing-less-than-a-return-to-the-material-level-of-human-occuptation-of-20,000-years-ago-is-likely-to persuade-Gaia-not-to-rub-the-species-out.

  • On August 22, 2009 at 4:33 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    John Oliver Simon said:

    “Next time you post a poem, Gary, I won’t use a thumb. I’ll give you a critique. I might like it or not, and I’ll say why. Fair enough?”

    Fair enough! And you, too, Terreson, Thomas, Margo, et.al. Following are two poems I believe to be germane to my position here. Have at it!

    .
    Ask any fresh new family out here
    in their brand new country home,
    four bedrooms on an acre, custom
    built just for them. They are the
    modern and genteel, on the web,
    I-pods, cell phones, brand new cars.
    Ask them about all these wars, about
    these violent, bloodthirsty hordes
    who have crossed our history and lands
    with genocide and death,
    invaded and murdered and conquered,
    how almost every nation now was
    carved by a nation of invaders.
    Ask them about that.
    Not me, they’d say… we are civilized…
    middle class, good schools, big TV, SUV,
    politically correct and morals uncompromised.
    We are innocent of such crimes.

    And what shock would come to them
    in learning of the slaughter
    their invasion has produced,
    the families sundered,
    the infants crushed,
    the great communities reduced
    as the bulldozers blundered
    through tree and brush,
    the instant death and flight
    of the survivors into the diaspora
    of roadkill.

    Copyright 2008 – SOFTWOOD-Seventy-eight Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald

    • On August 22, 2009 at 5:11 pm Terreson wrote:

      What is there to earn a thumbs down about a poem that honors life and mourns the extinction of species. If the thumbs down comes from a poet, she or he is not a poet I would want at my table. This function is crazy and spinning out of control.

      Terreson

      • On August 22, 2009 at 9:44 pm Terreson wrote:

        I see my post has so far earned 2 thumbs down. Perhaps I haven’t made myself clear enough. I categorically call a coward anyone who uses an anonymous, and institutionally sanctioned, function to disapprove of anyone who opines. No real poet would so hide.

        Terreson

  • On August 22, 2009 at 4:36 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    .
    Such disdain have we for Nature
    for it destroys with such abandon;
    the striking snake and dead-eyed shark,
    marauding wolf and mountain lion,
    those who kill without decision.

    So good that we, the pinnacle,
    the apex chosen, divinely made and special,
    are so much better than are they
    since we can murder without purpose
    and they but for some good reason.

    Copyright 2008 – HARDWOOD-77 Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald

  • On August 22, 2009 at 4:39 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    Damn! I just got a Thumbs Down in .003 seconds! A new records

    Eat your heart out, Thomas Brady!

    • On August 22, 2009 at 6:40 pm thomas brady wrote:

      Gary,

      I think you annoy poets who are too shy/afraid to post their own poems here: you make them face their worst fears.

      They’ve probably ‘won’ a prize with a ‘legitimately’ published book of poems and they consider this accomplishment sacred.

      ‘Amateurs’ like yourself who just–oh my god!–put your poems out there to spice up blog conversation fill them with horror.

      These ‘disliking’ poets feel, in their arrogant trepidation, that poetry needs to be regulated; it needs creds; I’ll bet anything you’re getting thumbs-down from poets who have gone the MFA route and get approval from the ‘correct’ channels. They are too unsure of their own work to just throw it out there without fanfare, without a nice, proper introduction from a professor in a proper venue.

      They’re hoping to publish in ‘The New Yorker’ one day, and how would it look if they just put one of their poems on a blog? They feel a bit ashamed of this–they are poets, after all–and this makes them all the more uneasy when confronted with your nonchalance.

      It has nothing to do with the quality of your work–or theirs.

      They hate you because you honor poetry while they honor its offices.

      Thomas

  • On August 22, 2009 at 4:50 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    ‘record.’, that is. Jeez, I freaking HATE typos!

  • On August 22, 2009 at 5:10 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    And, Jeez…I freaking HATE these stupid ‘Thumbs’! Who the fuck ARE these people?

  • On August 22, 2009 at 5:18 pm Terreson wrote:

    Gary asks: “And, Jeez…I freaking HATE these stupid ‘Thumbs’! Who the fuck ARE these people?”

    The answer would run something like what Robert Redford recently said about the late Bush administration’s last, and late night, attacks against environmental policies. These people are smarmy.

    Terreson

  • On August 22, 2009 at 8:29 pm Paul Killebrew wrote:

    I apologize for walking into the room again so late in the day, but I’ve been thinking about the proposition, All poetry is political, even when it doesn’t have overt political content, because the lack of overt political content is itself political. If I say, All poetry is about 19th century English tea spoons, even when it doesn’t explicitly mention 19th century English tea spoons, because the failure to mention them is itself a statement on 19th century English tea spoons, my statement has a nonfalsifiable quality. Show may any poem you like, and I’ll show you a poem about antique flatware. In the process I doubt whether anyone’s appreciation of poetry or spoons will have deepened much, though it might. But my sense is that the exercise would only end up clarifying my assumptions without explaining why those assumptions are reliable. Inevitably you would end up asking, So what is it about spoons or politics or love or the moon that convinces you that every poem is, in some way, about that? And I think my answer would be something along the lines of, Politics is so pervasive in this life that it manifests itself in everything, and even its apparent absence is evidence that it’s been blocked out. To me that means that “all poetry is political” is a statement about the pervasiveness of politics, not a statement about a special receptivity of poetry to political content.

    Is that just totally off the mark? I mean, maybe what we mean by “all poetry is political” is “all art is political,” and that when you do art, you’re also doing politics in a way that you’re not doing politics when you’re picking your nose or moving your head from left to right. But the problem there is that we can certainly think of arguments for why nose-picking and moving one’s head or any other activities are also political activities (think of it through the lens of agency: there are those who can’t move their heads, or could with the proper rehabilitative treatment, or who can but have chosen not to, or are not being allowed to, and so on). I don’t have any special problem with conceiving of politics in all-encompassing ways, I mean, whether we define politics as “the process through which burdens and benefits are distributed” or “show business for ugly people,” I think it’s a pretty all-encompassing aspect of the world.

    I’m not sure where I stand in all this. On an old Ali G. show, Baron Cohen interview Boutrous-Boutrous Ghali and asked him why Disneyland isn’t in the UN, to which Ghali gave the totally interesting answer, “Because Disneyland is not doing politics.” I love that answer because asking why a place isn’t in the UN actually raises some tough questions. Do you have to be a state recognized by other states? Is nationhood sufficient? And Ghali’s answer cut through all of that to a simple reason: whatever Disneyland is doing, it’s not doing politics. Certainly Disney is involved in all sorts of political issues, but when we’re talking about UN membership, there’s a good reason to draw a line. Do those reasons fade when we talk about membership in the category Political Poems so that we’re willing to talk about politics in the most encompassing way we can? Or are there reasons to draw a line around the category so that we can distinguish political poems from other kinds of poems?

    In a way the proposition “all poetry is political” involves a kind of cross-talk attributable to the slipperiness of the word “political”. On the one hand, “all poetry is political” stands for the proposition that politics is pervasive in life, and for what it’s worth I think that’s basically right. On the other hand, saying “all poetry is political” rankles those who would like to talk about political poetry in a way that deepens our understanding of how poetry can engage with political events or content in interesting or poignant or effective ways. But can’t you admit that politics is pervasive while also wanting to think about particularly interesting uses of political content in poems?

    Maybe to be clearer we should stop talking about a category Political Poems, as if there were any other kind, and come up with a name for the category that better captures what it is we’re trying to get at. It reminds me of how Fairfield Porter resisted using the term “abstraction” in his art criticism because he believed that all painting involved abstraction, so what other people called abstract painting he called nonrepresentational. I think what we want to talk about when we say political poetry is poetry of active political engagement. I know it’s clunky, but does that sound about right?

  • On August 22, 2009 at 8:44 pm Desmond Swords wrote:

    THEY hate you, me, brady and T gary mate: the four who got the ball rolling when we mosied in from the freak show-boards we’d each, individually, been honing our logorrhea in.

    Like it or not, we are a four-quare mob of spammers, and Spam poetry is hated by the sqaures. We are the radicals Gaz mate, me and you, here to prove our God’s the one true Holy Peace and Light of luvvie theatrics Fitzgerald: familial nomen, bound by blood to the same race, our poems a passport to posthumous greatness and eternal rememerance, by the many.
    As in poetry, such is life.

    The red-green is all rubbish Gaz, take no notice. If you ever go the Guardian comment is free, you find politicians writing and the comments which pour blunt vitriol in offensive speech upon the author: have hundreds of recommendations, thumbs up. They only have a recommend icon there – greens – but the reds are also effectively green, recommend icons whose post is all red against the writer of the articles.

    And when you see 89 recommends for a post hating the author, in effect 89 reds, it puts things into some perspective. Seven reds and the post gets concealed – which is a number arrived at not arbitarily by Trav – i’d guess – but because this is the average he needs to conceal the protaganists in his working drama. In the theatre of his own practice, there are posters who he’s working towards concealing their posts here, because the thinking is the longer, windier sort, can disrupt what it is Trav’s trying to achieve here as a custodian of Letters and poetry – hence where we are now.

    They have done my own writing a world of good, because it led to an honesty, the capturing of the floe within, coinciding with the development of ability, to express ourselves as we truly are: the inner voice and source of soul, if you like, that all people in our race have. Humanity.

  • On August 22, 2009 at 8:50 pm Christopher Woodman wrote:

    That sounds exactly right to me, Paul — and you certainly arrive at that question after a clear and worthy exploration of the issue.

    Like you I have walked into the room late, or at least I’ve come back into it late as I have engaged this issue a number of times since Eileen’s article was first posted. Indeed, I’ve been so sporadic I have even contradicted myself, having firmly stated on different occasions that poetry both was and wasn’t political!

    Now you’ve helped me out of my wet paper bag — by the waters of Babylon, so to speak.

    Try this.
    All poems are about love. Love Poems.
    All poems are by the woman in each one of us. Women’s Poetry.
    All great poems are open-ended. Great Open-Ended Poems.
    All great poems are religious. Great Religious Poems.
    All failed poems are manifesto poems. Manifesto Poems.

    Christopher

  • On August 22, 2009 at 9:56 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    Dear R.L.:

    My original intention was to deconstruct and reply to your comments sentence by sentence. I discovered in the effort that I was chipping away against a very large mountain with a very small hammer. I was unable to find a single thing that you said with which I disagree.

    Gary

  • On August 22, 2009 at 11:15 pm thomas brady wrote:

    Paul Killebrew,

    Fine post.

    I like your proposal. I’ve been thinking about this issue for a number of days now, and I’m thinking that when we equate art or poetry with politics, do we mean, instead, law?

    A truly ‘political’ poem is actually a witnessing, is it not? A law document?

    For when we say political, don’t we mean a complaint, a document which witnesses some wrong, since the wrong cannot be resolved between two people in a private manner?

    Petrarch wasn’t able to resolve his issues with Laura privately, or, even in the presence of a few others, so he made a public complaint; he brought his complaint to the court of public opinion, to poetry.

    The poet as lawyer.

    Plato, with his sense of housekeeping, order, keeping, said poetry could be allowed in the republic, but only if it praised heroes and gods. [see 'The Republic'] Let the courts and the laws take care of complaints which cannot be resolved privately. Poetry should not complain, according to Plato, but praise. Plato, clearly, then, did not allow political poetry, or poetry which participates in grievances of the law.

    Petrarch, one could say, transcends the pagan Plato with his Christian interpretation: his love complaint is actually religious praise, and his poetry therefore earns admittance to philosophy’s republic.

    Plato is the first political poet, not because of his politics or his poetry, per se, but because Plato’s interpretation of law was the most profound in literature up until that time, transcending Homer’s law in its critique of Homer, Plato becoming, then, a template for Shakespeare, Keats, Shelley and others.

    Plato as poet is political, and so Plato the poet is not allowed in Plato’s republic. This, in my terminology, is ‘Plato’s Paradox’ and much use of this have I made as poet and critic.

    All poetry, then, is not a law document.

    ‘I hate you’ is a private statement, and thus not of the law.

    ‘She loves you’ involves three people, not two, and for this reason, might pass as ‘political poetry’ in the anti-Platonic sense. Perhaps not, however, since ‘she loves you’ is praise; it seems this could go either way.

    ‘She hates you’ does meet the standards of ‘political poetry,’ for obvious reasons.

    And so on.

    Thomas

  • On August 23, 2009 at 12:18 am robbins wrote:

    Socialist Bullshit! The ‘rich’ countries got rich in the first place through WORK and INNOVATION. Inventing things…like sailing ships and electricity and trains and cars and factories and steamboats and such. And WORK is why so many people from the so-called “Third World” are coming to the “rich” countries these days, no? It’s only the ongoing transition from the agricultural to the industrial.

    This is a joke. Right? I can point you to a dozen mainstream (not “socialist”) economists off the top of my head who explicitly reject this premise on page one, since only people who are untutored in basic economics fail to register its obvious contradictions. Where, for instance, did a soil-poor country like England get all the raw materials necessary to fuel the wonderful innovations you mention? Africa, you say? Wait, aren’t we back to expropriation? Or were you under the impression that the Crown duly compensated the dusky natives for their labor & wealth?

    Enough. It’s not worth my time. If you want to understand why & how you’re as wrong as any person could ever be about anything, I can recommend some basic places to start.

  • On August 23, 2009 at 12:31 am robbins wrote:

    Just for instance, Gary—your naivete here is so infuriating that I’m going to limit my comments—the British were able to import timber, pitch, flax, hemp, & tar (the materials from which they built those ships you’re fond of) by exporting tobacco, rice, sugar, & cotton to Germany & elsewhere. Those products came from British colonies in North America & the Carribean. Guess who the workers were in those fields. Guess how much they got paid. Yep, hard work fueled industrial development—the hard work of African slaves.

    • On August 23, 2009 at 12:50 am John Oliver Simon wrote:

      And theose sailing ships made a nice four-way run: slaves from west Africa to the Caribbean; molasses from the canefields of Jamaica to New England; rum from Boston to London. Later England fought a war to keep the opium flowing in China. Very poetic.

      • On August 23, 2009 at 8:24 am thomas brady wrote:

        Then Henry James & T.S. Eliot went to London and all was forgiven.

    • On August 23, 2009 at 7:37 am thomas brady wrote:

      We all know about the British Empire, Robbins.

      Thanks for the info.

      But Gary is not disagreeing with this.

      Gary was simply making an additional point (ingenuity and innovation as factors, too) which you are doing all in your power to ignore–which makes your pedantic rage:

      “your naivete here is so infuriating that I’m going to limit my comments”

      rather silly.

      ‘Please, please, wise man robbins, don’t limit your comments, oh please don’t, I promise to listen to you and be nice…!’

  • On August 23, 2009 at 1:51 am john wrote:

    Politics, economics, poetry.

    I agree with Eliot Weinberger’s position (if I understand it rightly), that the explosion of poetry MFAs has contributed to poetry’s loss of cultural prestige, glamor, general public interest, whatever you want to call it (though “cultural capital” sounds like a clumsy metaphor). Nothing against MFA teachers or seekers; it’s just a hunch about the culture, not a criticism of any individuals. (Some of my best friends have poetry MFAs.) One of poetry’s old glamors was that it was perceived as independent & Romantic; MFAs give a patina of professionalism that damages that facet.

    I very much agree with Eileen’s position that rape is political, that it has political effects. Since the reviewer (with which this thread began) seemed to find war-zone veterans glamorous, it seems to me that rape’s main political effect is that it makes almost any American city or town after dark into a war zone for women, as Eileen said.

    Eileen and Harriet’s irresponsibility toward E.W. doesn’t negate the justice of her other points; nor does the justice of her other points pardon her irresponsibility.

    • On August 23, 2009 at 9:22 am thomas brady wrote:

      John,

      “Politics, economics, poetry.”

      A volatile mix.

      Today’s headline: Britain receives a portion of Libya’s oil profits and the Brits have just been accused of making a deal to get the Lockerbie bomber released. We were just talking about the British Empire. Here’s the ‘partial information,’ materialist, ugly side to politics which poetry can hardly touch without becoming propaganda.

      “I agree with Eliot Weinberger’s position (if I understand it rightly), that the explosion of poetry MFAs has contributed to poetry’s loss of cultural prestige, glamor, general public interest, whatever you want to call it (though “cultural capital” sounds like a clumsy metaphor). Nothing against MFA teachers or seekers; it’s just a hunch about the culture, not a criticism of any individuals. (Some of my best friends have poetry MFAs.) One of poetry’s old glamors was that it was perceived as independent & Romantic; MFAs give a patina of professionalism that damages that facet.”

      John, this kind of sums up the whole tawdry business for me: “Some of my best friends have poetry MFAs”

      I hate to beat a dead horse, here, but I’m curious why no one is interested in exploring the actual history of the MFA; it’s clearly documented where it came from and who specifically was behind it.(I’ve mentioned the pertinent facts–see John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, Ford Madox Ford, etc–several times on Harriet) It’s dumbfounding to me that no one seems the least bit curious about such an important phenomenon in American poetry. While I agree with your general point: “MFAs give a patina of professionalism that damages…” the whole issue is much larger than that and goes back to activity in the early 20th century which came to fruition 2 generations later.
      “Praising It New: the Best of the New Criticism” Garrick Davis, ed. is a great place to start.

      “I very much agree with Eileen’s position that rape is political, that it has political effects. Since the reviewer (with which this thread began) seemed to find war-zone veterans glamorous, it seems to me that rape’s main political effect is that it makes almost any American city or town after dark into a war zone for women, as Eileen said.”

      I don’t know if rape is ‘political’ so much as it is a concern of the law.

      Poems which say ‘rape is bad,’ are not going to win much praise. As citizens, we know that rape is bad.

      The question becomes: are there enough laws in place regarding rape? Are they good laws? Are they fair? etc etc

      So, it’s really a question of law, not politics–whatever we might happen to mean by this latter term, which I am not faulting, per se, but just trying to get a handle on.

      One can see why Yeats, for instance, is better able to explore the issue of rape by dipping into myth; Zeus allows the poet to ‘look at the object as it really is’ in the Arnoldian sense, instead of covering it up in moral platitudes.

      Yet immediately we are struck by the irony: we see things as they really are in myth??

      Here then is the great paradox which must afflict poets like Eileen, anxious for poetry to further political enlightenment.

      Shall there be poems on the horrible, feverish lust of amoral men? Is that the bar we need to rise to?

      Or is actual rape–or the accusation of rape–a matter of law?

      And is law poetry’s domain?

      And if not, how can poetry be truly effective in tackling political subjects beyond matters of pure aesthetics?

      Thomas

      • On August 23, 2009 at 7:09 pm Margo Berdeshevsky wrote:

        Rape is about power, not sex,Thomas,of course it’s political.Law is only one small octopus arm of power. Jeeeez!

        Could poetry reach a chord to match rape’s scream? or silence? Find or fault such a “poem.” In your point, that’s what matters. But don’t insult the subject by cornering the act into a safe box that you can handle. Please!

        margo

        • On August 24, 2009 at 10:43 am thomas brady wrote:

          “Rape is about power, not sex,Thomas,of course it’s political.Law is only one small octopus arm of power. Jeeeez!”

          Margo,

          I’m familiar with this tired cliche, but how can you be sure it’s ‘not about sex’ or any number of things?

          Taking music lessons, or getting a good job, is ‘about power.’

          Do you really think ‘about power’ gets to the heart of the matter when ‘about power’ refers to a million things?

          Law is more specific than vague terms like politics or power.

          I’m not saying ‘politics’ and ‘power’ are not important terms–yes they are very important–but if we don’t really know what we’re talking about, we’re in trouble.

          Thomas

    • On August 24, 2009 at 11:21 am Eileen Myles wrote:

      Thanks John for your balanced response. Though I still don’t get my irresponsibility in quoting Eliot whose thinking in writing in this case I found quixotic and classist and err irresponsible.

  • On August 23, 2009 at 2:28 am Terreson wrote:

    Robbins says this: “Just for instance, Gary—your naivete here is so infuriating that I’m going to limit my comments—the British were able to import timber, pitch, flax, hemp, & tar (the materials from which they built those ships you’re fond of) by exporting tobacco, rice, sugar, & cotton to Germany & elsewhere. Those products came from British colonies in North America & the Carribean. Guess who the workers were in those fields. Guess how much they got paid. Yep, hard work fueled industrial development—the hard work of African slaves.”

    At the expense of pointing out the obvious I will remind Robbins of what is a matter of record. The majority of African men and women who got exported to European countries and then to America were first captured by other African peoples who found it profitable to sell off their ethnic rivals to a white man. The record is clear. There just might not have been a slave trade but for Africans willing to bring other Africans in bondage to the Ivory Coast and to places like Cape Verde.

    Terreson

  • On August 23, 2009 at 12:23 pm thomas brady wrote:

    John Oliver Simon,

    A crushing criticism of Gary’s poem; this is every poet’s worst nightmare. Poets lose sleep over such things: ‘Am I really any good? Will I survive Criticism and Time?’

    This is why the cocoon of the clique is so attractive. ‘Let friends, and friends only, judge my poems, and I may have a chance,’ the poet thinks.

    But for Gary’s and poetry’s sake, let’s put things in perspective.

    Your critique–as far as it went–showed solid perceptiveness and intelligence. You also deserve kudos for using the Arnoldian ‘touchstone’ technique–which Poe advocated prior to Arnold–comparison with other poems helps in ways which all the abstract criticism in the world cannot.

    For instance, you write:

    “The poem argues sentimentally in favor of Nature but shows no evidence of ever stepping out of doors with fresh eyes. Syntax is sacrificed to rhythm, and then rhythm to argument. The poem tells, but cannot show. Have you ever witnessed one animal kill another? could you describe that, make it real?

    Here’s some real animals in poems: the clown-faced woodpecker in Robert Hass’s Meditation at Lagunitas. Richard Eberhart’s dead eponymous groundhog. D.H. Lawrence’s snake. Stafford’s road-killed deer. Jeffers’ hurt hawk. Lots of them in Mary Oliver. Blake’s Tyger.”

    First,

    Gary’s poem is not ‘sentimental.’

    The term ‘sentimental’ is vastly over-used as a pejorative; it isn’t ‘sentiment,’ per se, which is the culprit in 9 cases out of 10 when the term gets used in contemporary criticism, but rather poor execution, which has nothing to do with ‘sentiment,’ per se, and yet there is a certain hard-hearted critical temperament which likes to fall back on the vague accusation: ‘sentimental.’ There are probably more contemporary poems which die for want of sentiment than for too much of it; but, really the term has caused so much confusion it should simply be retired.

    Secondly,

    Gary’s poem does not feature one animal, so it’s really unfair to compare his poem to Lawrence’s snake, Stafford’s deer, Eberhart’s groundhog, or Blake’s tiger.

    Thirdly,

    The Blake is successful through its use of language, not because the reader gets the idea that Blake stepped out-of-doors to describe an actual creature, which you insist Gary do.

    Fourthly, and this actually builds on the first point:

    We could fault Blake for his repetition: ‘tyger, tyger,’ an ‘unnatural’ utterance just for the sake of building a rhythm, a highly ‘sentimental’ gesture, we might say, but would this be a fair criticism?

    If the critic go hunting for sentiment in any poem at all that speaks like a person, by God, the critic would find it, and the critic, therefore, can doom any poem they want with the charge, ‘sentimental.’ This, in fact, is a chief ploy of the modernists.

    In addition, Stafford’s deer poem is as sentimental as any in the language, much more sentimental than Gary’s. But this is the value of the touchstone method, for we see exactly the difficulty any poet must overcome in trying to do what Gary is trying to do; and it also helps to put in perspective abstract terms like ‘sentimental.’

    Finally, the Hass poem describes his woodpecker thusly:

    “All the new thinking is about loss./In this it resembles all the old thinking./The idea, for example, that each particular erases/the luminous clarity of a general idea. That the clown-/faced woodpecker probing the dead sculpted trunk/of that black birch is, by his presence,/some tragic falling off from a first world/of undivided light.”

    Hass’s woodpecker isn’t so much described as USED for a philosophical point.

    I don’t think “probing” is the most original way to describe what a woodpecker is doing, yet Robert’s poem is held up as an ideal, while Gary’s is faulted for having a snake “striking.”

    It is obviously not helpful to compare every point of the Hass and Fitzgerald poems, which are doing two completely different things (the Hass poem is loaded down with sentimental touches and observations, while Fitzgerald’s is not), but I thought it important to point out that Hass’s woodpecker is not described in an especially arresting manner, (nor does it have to be.)

    Gary’s poem, sentimentalizing neither Nature, nor humankind, (damn, I was going to retire that word!) accomplished what it set out to do.

    As correct in many instances as you were, I’m not sure the same can be said of your criticism.

    Thomas

  • On August 23, 2009 at 3:19 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    .
    “We’re all ignorant…just in different subjects.”
    – Will Rogers

    I will admit to Mr. Robbins that I am not well versed in Economics. I would also remind him, though, that I was in class learning about World History while he was still getting his jollies on Sesame Street. I am well aware of the history that you remind us of here. Can you find, though, a single tribe or clan or nation on any continent (not counting penguins) that has not made war on or suffered due to a neighbor? Name just one country that, at no point in history, did not clash with another. La de da. People kill people. And? But, it is no longer an issue of internecine aggression, but of mass suicide.

    Ultimately, I guess, there really isn’t anything any of us can do about it, including our ‘leaders’. It would be like Congress passing a law against hurricanes. Good luck!

    Dear Mssrs. Simon and Swords, et al:

    I am honored and flattered that you not only took time to read my poem, but also to consider and critique it. Your thoughtful observations were very impressive. Of course, I still think you’re basically full of shit! But please don’t take this personally. If you regularly hit the usual internet poetry sites then you will know that my opinion of critics (and editors) is no secret.

    John, you mentioned how you once thought that you might have had to kill a rattlesnake. Let me tell you a story. I live out in the country in Texas and, believe me, Snakes R Us! One day I had a well-known critic up from Houston out on the farm. Earlier, I had been chopping up branches with my axe so I left it on the back porch.

    We were sitting on the porch visiting, having a beer, when a huge Water Moccasin apparently crawled across the yard from the pond and came right up on to the porch. Startled, he stopped right in front of my visitor…then coiled and was about to strike. Luckily, as I said, my axe was right there so I cut the bastard’s head off. As I finished my beer, I watched the snake slowly make his way back to the pond.

    At any rate, as for me and politics and war and genocide and disease and poverty and reproductive rights, all I can do about it is write poetry.

    Green Revolution

    The agricultural revolution changed us
    from animals into men, from hunting
    in the forest to beasts well fed and penned.
    It moved us from furtive campfires,
    hidden in our caves, to furrowed fields
    and gathered tents together.

    Villages grew up around us, then towns,
    and like a package of firecrackers,
    one revolution led to another:
    writing and art, the law and musical sounds.
    Then the great cities and states,
    empires and nations and streets,
    armies and church spires, and so came
    civilization, the wild to tame and smother.

    The industrial revolution turned it all
    upside down, brought us to today…
    dirty and brown, a world soaked in oil
    and money and greed, a chaos of wealth
    and desperate need, violence and war.
    The green fields of crops killed the wild
    that was green, then brought us full circle
    back to the jungle, a different green,
    the hunger of our lust, of desire,
    back to mere survival, that law that rules
    every other.

    Copyright 2009 – Tall Grass & High Waves, Gary B. Fitzgerald
    .

  • On August 23, 2009 at 3:54 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    And…and…and! You wanna fight, boys and girls, huh? Take THIS! (Hey…I ain’t proud).

    .
    Antipirates

    A sloop on the horizon, approaching.
    White sails and black flag on blue seas.
    Closing on a fat, laden galleon, rolling
    like a pig in the swell, heavy with gold
    from a government’s plunder,
    the theft of a culture,
    now plundered by those of no flag.
    Sound and smoke of a cannon.
    A predator encroaching, surrender demanded
    from men condemned to have no tales to tell,
    on a vessel abandoned and reeling
    and soon to go under.
    A raw justice, indeed. An irony
    by the buccaneers laid:
    the theft of that which was stolen.

    Today the pirates still plunder,
    but black flags in the breeze don’t portend the raid,
    for those that are taking the treasure
    pillage all that will sell or is sold,
    all that’s of value to bring them more wealth;
    privateers underhanded and stealing,
    not silver or rum or emeralds or lace,
    but the womb of our birth,
    the soil and the oil and the trees.
    No more honor among thieves
    or brigand’s democracy,
    for nothing is sacred except money,
    not even the adventure of obtaining it.
    A raw injustice, indeed,
    for they commandeer not the gold
    from government ships, but rape
    and disgrace the very Earth.

    .
    Copyright 2005 – Evolving – Poems 1965-2005, Gary B. Fitzgerald
    Copyright 2006 – Specimen – Selected Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald

  • On August 23, 2009 at 5:12 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    Well, besides screwing up the title of my own book, I also left out a word in my own poem. It totally screwed up the rhythm.

    If you can find it, you get a free book. The book is free. And the signature is only twenty-five bucks. :-)

    All of you people…ALL OF YOU…take Harriet, and yourselves, way too seriously. Get over it. In fifty years we’ll all be dead.

    Chill!

    None of us are really that important to the Earth. Or to God, for that matter.

    .

  • On August 23, 2009 at 6:34 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    John Oliver Simon said:

    “Have you ever witnessed one animal kill another? Could you describe that, make it real?”

    Now you’ve really pissed me off, son! We see more violence and animal blood in a month out here in the country than you’ve probably seen in your entire life, city boy! How dare you? You want sentimental? Try this.

    .
    Rabbits and Mice

    Serrated, sharp with purpose,
    razor hook and pointed saw,
    deadly bite and slashing paw,
    dangerous, meaning business,
    designed for humorless need.

    Yet beautiful, these predators,
    how they touch our hearts.
    How we admire their majesty,
    their patterns and their power,
    forgetting how they, too, with
    savage jaw must feed,
    forgetting who must bleed,
    who, lying in the mud
    will die today.

    So magnificent and regal they,
    such grace and speed,
    such colorful spots and stripes.
    We overlook the function
    of hissing fang and strike,
    the result of tooth and claw,
    overlook the severing of parts,
    the pain and slice and blood
    of helpless prey.

    You can not love life without
    acknowledging its wages, or beauty
    without knowing its price.

    .
    Copyright 2008 – HARDWOOD-77 Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald

  • On August 23, 2009 at 7:53 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    Hey. I’m on a roll.

    .
    Easter Sunday

    Late Spring, still cold
    this dark, metallic day.
    The pond looks like quicksilver.
    We’ve been expecting robins and roses
    but still the light comes down solid
    like steel, down
    slow and hard from leaden gray.
    Rain since not quite dawn, no sun;
    not expected to soon return.
    A puddled lawn, more topsoil,
    even some driveway washed away.

    We stood shivering in the sharp spring rain.
    The cat watched us from the wood.
    Stark and wet, leafless trees impaled
    in earth like spikes of blackened iron.
    We gathered at the Paschal grave,
    the muddy soil easily turned
    as we buried the poor baby rabbit.

    .
    Copyright 2008 – HARDWOOD-77 Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald

  • On August 23, 2009 at 8:01 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    Yes, I’ve got more poems about pain and sorrow and death and blood and loss and suffering than you have seen in your entire life, Mr. Simon.

    Be careful what you wish for.

  • On August 23, 2009 at 9:41 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    This is our final transmission.

    We came in search of intelligent life

    and so must abort our mission.

  • On August 24, 2009 at 7:39 pm Terreson wrote:

    I am already disliking myself for making this post. The thread has gone so far south and mostly thanks to Mr. Brady. Above Mr. Brady says so many stupid things.

    “I don’t know if rape is ‘political’ so much as it is a concern of the law.

    Poems which say ‘rape is bad,’ are not going to win much praise. As citizens, we know that rape is bad.

    The question becomes: are there enough laws in place regarding rape? Are they good laws? Are they fair? etc etc

    So, it’s really a question of law, not politics–whatever we might happen to mean by this latter term, which I am not faulting, per se, but just trying to get a handle on.

    One can see why Yeats, for instance, is better able to explore the issue of rape by dipping into myth; Zeus allows the poet to ‘look at the object as it really is’ in the Arnoldian sense, instead of covering it up in moral platitudes.

    Yet immediately we are struck by the irony: we see things as they really are in myth??

    Here then is the great paradox which must afflict poets like Eileen, anxious for poetry to further political enlightenment.

    Shall there be poems on the horrible, feverish lust of amoral men? Is that the bar we need to rise to?

    Or is actual rape–or the accusation of rape–a matter of law?

    And is law poetry’s domain?”

    Then he says:

    “Margo,

    I’m familiar with this tired cliche, but how can you be sure it’s ‘not about sex’ or any number of things?

    Taking music lessons, or getting a good job, is ‘about power.’

    Do you really think ‘about power’ gets to the heart of the matter when ‘about power’ refers to a million things?

    Law is more specific than vague terms like politics or power.

    I’m not saying ‘politics’ and ‘power’ are not important terms–yes they are very important–but if we don’t really know what we’re talking about, we’re in trouble.”

    These comments say two things to me. That for Mr. Brady rape could be a sexual act between two equals. And that calling rape a political act of violence is a cliche. It is clear to me Mr. Brady is talking like a man too secure in his cubicle.

    I got raped once. This was over thirty years ago when I was a young roustabout on an oil rig in the Gulf. The rape was the then way of initiation. It was their way of saying you are one of us. It took five men.

    Rape is political because it is an act of dominance. Rape is violent because it is against one’s will. Not that I expect mr. Brady to get this or any other connection.

    Terreson

  • On August 24, 2009 at 9:50 pm thomas brady wrote:

    Terreson,

    Your reasoning gives me great comfort.

    Your philosophy is this: all rape is bullying, all rape is political dominance.

    Thus, the substance of what you are saying is:

    Bullying is bullying.

    I guess it’s pretty simple, then.

    I do like simplicity, so I will defer to you.

    The argument is yours.

    You win.

    I take back all I have said on the subject.

    Thomas

  • On August 24, 2009 at 10:12 pm Rachel wrote:

    Thomas wrote: “but if we don’t really know what we’re talking about, we’re in trouble.”

    Ah, the irony.

    Margo wrote: “Could poetry reach a chord to match rape’s scream? or silence? Find or fault such a “poem.” In your point, that’s what matters. But don’t insult the subject by cornering the act into a safe box that you can handle. Please!”

    Although Terreson’s post wasn’t a poem, I felt the silence in what he wrote. I agree with Margo about the humanizing effect a good poem can create.

  • On August 24, 2009 at 10:26 pm Rachel wrote:

    “Or is actual rape–or the accusation of rape–a matter of law?

    And is law poetry’s domain?

    And if not, how can poetry be truly effective in tackling political subjects beyond matters of pure aesthetics?”

    Thomas, you are right that rape is a matter of law. It’s also a matter of who writes the laws and who carries them out. Would it be possible for poetry to get politicians and lawmakers in this country to process rape kits and get the DNA of rapists filed into a national database? If so, do you really think a mythological approach would be the best one?

    BTW, I apologize for the cheap shot in my above post. sigh Your response to Terreson was puzzling to me.

  • On August 25, 2009 at 1:09 am Margo Berdeshevsky wrote:

    Respectful thanks to both Terreson and to Rachel, in this part of the discourse. “Rape is political because it is an act of dominance. Rape is violent because it is against one’s will.” yes, Terreson, yes.

    Bullying? What a trivialization. Any individual who has known a rape,(yes, I have) could not ignore the primary element of forced dominance, and could not fail to understand what has been spoken here.Scream, and silence, but a crime of power. And political. Rape is/has been an act by armies and their soldiers, husbands, abusers, torturers, teenagers, and violent women, also, strangers, friends, land owners, slave owners, (and includes the rape of land.)

    No question that law pertains, and should. Ancient crimes of power. HARDLY CLICHES. Whether mythological, poetic, or mundane. To intellectualize it, to make it about words that stay in their corner, so it does not hurt – is one more failure of this exchange.

    Rachel, you mention on the adjacent post on posts– why few women participate in this Harriet space. This subject has been a case in point.

    margo

  • On August 25, 2009 at 7:30 am thomas brady wrote:

    I’m not trivializing the subject, nor do I want to turn it into a game of who can express the most indignation on the subject.

    When someone reasons on a subject, why do you assume they are ‘trivializing’ it?

    You guys are reducing the act to bullying–that’s essentially what you are doing. Which is fine.

    I’m trying to get at the complexity.

    Bill Clinton was accused of rape.

    Depending on what political party you belonged to, that charge was taken seriously, or not taken seriously.

    The ‘power’ of the rapist and the ‘power’ which protects the rapist, or the ‘power’ which accuses a person of rape are different types of ‘power.’

    Shall we reduce the whole discussion to ‘everything is about power?’ I suppose we could.

    To say rape is ‘about power’ is a little too vague for me. It really does get said again and again, and after a while people stop really thinking about the subject. That’s how I feel. That’s all.

  • On August 25, 2009 at 8:13 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    My! I have just learned, for the the first time in my life, that, apparently, I have an enemy. Reason unknown.

    You win!

  • On August 26, 2009 at 11:55 am Dorothea Lasky wrote:

    This is a great post, Eileen. I truly loved reading it.

    My favorite part is this: “I have nothing against rich people per se. I love some quite a lot. The ones I know. Work is not a shame. Wealth is not a shame. Lying is.”

    Some of the layers to the discussion in this comments section don’t interest me. To me, two key takeaways are that 1. Poetry reviewers are in general glib these days. 2. Political means the whole polis (which of course includes poets).

    The first thing is that it is fair game for Eileen to question the reviewer’s motives and to look at his own poetry as a way into understanding them. Are the reviewer’s motives more aesthetic than political (aesthetic being its own kind of politic)–I don’t really know. Nevertheless, this would be a good trend, I think, for poets to be part of the review discussion again, for real. I don’t know. I have only written two poetry reviews in my life and it is a hard job when it is done right. I don’t think most are done right. I think, in general, the role of critic has become smashed with the role of poet and not all critics are poets, and so many of them really just don’t know what they are talking about.

    The second part is that it is fair and wonderful for Eileen to bring up the idea that anyone alive today has reason to write a political poem if they so choose. Why is combat fighting now a street cred element when it comes to speech and language and what they represent? Is blood entirely literal now? War has a different meaning in our age (and now that we understand it to). This kind of good/bad, real/unreal thinking is too early 2000s Bush administration thinking for me and I want out of it. Identities and roles in the 21st century are malleable. When people fight in wars they might not always have the means or position to speak about it (or the desire to convey it in written or spoken language). Is it not the role of the artist to both speak of their own real experiences and to reflect the concerns of the entire society? Come on now. Everyone knows that language is a summation of a society. There goes the fact that anyone who can or is willing to speak has the political right to represent the society equally. If people are asked to be in a political anthology, then they have every right to say their piece. They represent our society in doing so, regardless of whether they represent the part of society a reviewer of a political poetry anthology has the ability to comprehend or not.

    Anyway, I think a much more productive discussion would be to discuss here at least point 1, if not point 2. Maybe some people are already doing so. I can’t lie: I have not made it through all the comments.

    Thanks again for writing this piece, Eileen Myles!

    Good day to all here,
    Dorothea Lasky

  • On August 29, 2009 at 10:27 am Eileen Myles wrote:

    I bow to you.

  • On August 30, 2009 at 6:30 pm Sarah Browning wrote:

    I woke up this morning intending to weigh in on the Poetry Foundation blog, Harriet, about Eileen Myles’ response to Sean Patrick Hill’s review in Rain Taxi (not available online) of State of the Union, the anthology of political poems published by Wave Books. I haven’t seen the anthology yet, or read Hill’s review, and I certainly don’t have time to read the hundreds of comments generated by Myles’ opinion piece. Still, I have a lot to say about political poetry and Myles makes good points in her critique of Hill, who apparently voices the tired position that in order to have the standing to write a political poem one has to have directly experienced war or some other form of violence and persecution.

    But every time I try to go to the site today my browser seizes up – I can’t scroll, I can’t do anything. And the Wave Books page on the anthology seems to be down so I’m having trouble finding out who’s included in the collection. Telling? Hmmm – technological helplessness… as metaphor for women’s relative powerlessness in cyberspace? Should I write a political poem?

    Of course I’m being glib, but let’s examine Hill’s basic premise: that only certain people — veterans of conventionally understood war zones — have the standing, the right, to write poems about the broader world. Only in America have I heard this position asserted. In Italy I had to explain at length why we needed Poets Against the War or Split This Rock. Italians couldn’t imagine poets who write socially engaged works feeling isolated from the poetry mainstream.

    We are all citizens of this fast-dying planet; we are responsible for its death. As Americans we consume the cheap products of poorly paid and otherwise exploited workers in our own country and around the world. We were governed for 8 years by a murderous, lying political regime. Even today, the Obama administration continues to wage wars in our name, to turn a blind eye to Israeli occupation and oppression of Palestinians, to impose US military bases all over the world, to support economic policies here at home that keep the poor and working classes powerless. Our systems of education, criminal justice, and health care are grossly inequitable.

    Myles makes the critical point that if we are female or queer or a person of color, everyday life is a war zone in the United States: rape, hate crimes, violence in our neighborhoods and homes.

    But even if we are “comfortably middle class,” as Hill apparently accuses the poets in State of Union of being, it seems to me that we’re not given a pass. Indeed, we have an extra responsibility to speak out, to expose the inequities, to make clear the ways in which we benefit every day from, as in my case, white skin, education, heterosexual marriage.

    I also deeply resent the notion that we should take some part of our lives (our relationship to the wider world) and rope it off, not write about it. Please don’t tell me what I can’t write about. I assert: Any topic is worthy of poetry. John Updike wrote a poem to a particular turd he “struck off” one afternoon. Childish? Perhaps. But no one told Updike what topics he should consider worthy of poetry.

    I have read hundreds – perhaps thousands – of “political” poems while editing Poets Against the War anthologies, curating the Sunday Kind of Love reading series at Busboys and Poets in DC, and organizing now two Split This Rock Poetry Festivals. The fact of the matter is that there are as many ways to write a political poem as there are poets. More, in fact, since many poets write lots of different kinds of such poems. Poets are writing challenging, funny, grieving, confounding, angry, hopeful poems about our benighted and beautiful world. American poets are doing this and doing it in all kinds of interesting ways, far more poets than we can hope to feature in a decade of biannual festivals. I salute you all.

    Rather than tread the tired territory of whether one should write political poems, and who deserves to do the writing, again and again, let’s read this work, spread the good word, celebrate these poems and poets. We could begin – and I will – with the poets who will read at Split This Rock next year, March 10-13, 2010. Check out this list: Chris Abani, Lillian Allen, Sinan Antoon, Francisco Aragón, Jan Beatty, Martha Collins, Cornelius Eady, Martín Espada, Allison Hedge Coke, Andrea Gibson, Natalie Illum, Fady Joudah, Toni Asante Lightfoot, Richard McCann, Jeffrey McDaniel, Lenelle Moïse, Nancy Morejón, Mark Nowak, Wang Ping, Patricia Smith, A.B. Spellman, Arthur Sze, Quincy Troupe, and Bruce Weigl.

    All of these poets are in the world, are poet-citizens, in a variety of ways. Lillian Allen is an originator of dub poetry and a leader on diversity and culture in Canada. Fady Joudah was a field doctor with Doctors Without Borders. Cornelius Eady is a founder of Cave Canem, the organization for African American poets. Jan Beatty has worked as a welfare caseworker and an abortion counselor. Mark Nowak facilitates “poetry dialogues” with Ford autoworkers in the US and South Africa.

    And their poetry reflects this diversity of experience and background: Jan Beatty’s plainspoken explorations of gender and working class life; Mark Nowak’s documentary poetics, weaving news accounts and corporate instructional guides into the poems; poem-songs of Lenelle Moïse; the often short sharp lyrics of Cornelius Eady; A.B. Spellman’s jazz-inflected sounds.

    Political poetry – even the term is tainted, in America; at Split This Rock we often call it socially engaged poetry or social justice poetry –contains multitudes. To further adapt Walt Whitman, the godfather of these poets, social justice poetry is not a bit tamed, it too is untranslatable, it sounds its barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

    NOTE: This evening I can access Harriet without my browser freezing up, so I’m now posting this rant in its entirety here, even though I ended up writing it this morning for my blog (shameless plug: http://www.sarahbrowning.blogspot.com). I couldn’t figure out where to excerpt.

  • On August 31, 2009 at 9:54 am thomas brady wrote:

    Hi Sarah,

    Are you related to Robert Browning?

    I don’t think the eleemosynary is good for poetry.

    When the picturesque went out of painting, the revolutionaries decided poetry should not concern itself with the beautiful, but even as painting has remained colorful– since the eye cannot be convinced to be utterly betrayed– poetry gave up the glories of the ear in order to wander where it wanted in the mind, the reaches of which are so vast, the art became less an art than a window into everything, and everything, as you know, is the enemy to art, which lives by an ecstasy of delimitation.

    The raptures of art, like love, are selfish. The delight given by the painting, the poem, or the beloved is not contrived for anyone’s advantage; the pleasure is anonymous and unconscious; the delights are not aimed to help, they belong to their own life alone.

    Political poetry seeks the good; its realm is the polis, not the ecstatic, which inhibits sober reasoning on that count.

    Political poetry is oil and water; it offends the Muse.

    Lincoln was a statesman, a politician and an orator. His Gettysburg address, placed in an anthology of poems, would immediately stand out as an historical document—its aura belongs to its historical occasion; its atmosphere does not arise from the intricate beauty of its rhetoric, but rather from the swiftness of its appropriateness delivered with sober, surgical skill. The acknowledged legislator of the world succeeds as an orator; Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was a speech—not a poem. Had King interrupted his address with “I’d like to read this poem, now” the oration would have fallen into a pit of aesthetic darkness from which it would have never recovered. The orator would have been slain by Whitman’s private ecstasy.

    One would not stand up at a Teamster’s meeting, or in the halls of Congress, or a local town hall meeting, or a local school board meeting, or a local zoning board meeting, and read a poem, if one were serious about proposing an important piece of legislation, or effecting real political change. One would instead use statesmanship, oration, political savvy, and if, once in a blue moon, a poem might come in handy at a certain moment, one might even use that, but the poem would be subsumed under the larger category of legislator.

    The political poetry conference, Split This Rock, is not about poetry nor politics, but a kind of tame blending of the two, making politics and poetry both less effective. I’m sure the people gathered there will be well-meaning, intelligent, nice, and maybe even funny. But wild horses couldn’t drag me to an event like that. The eleemosynary will murder the poetry and the politics will cover up the deed.

    Thomas


Posted in Uncategorized on Sunday, August 16th, 2009 by Eileen Myles.