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By Eileen Myles

Harriet’s the second blog I’ve posted on. The last one was about art which could include poetry and I did it for a year.

It seemed to me that a blog is an extension of an earlier journalistic idea, the column, and in my own writing history, the column was a follow-up on my presidential campaign, circa 1991-92. The campaign was over but I still needed to talk. I mean publickly. The presidential campaign was a follow-up on improvisational performance art and the performance art was a follow up both on a life of writing and reading poetry aloud and also getting sober which encourages a person to talk a lot or learn to talk without a drink in their hand. I think language is a big drink. When I think about doing my first poetry readings there was a danger of being too loaded when I got up there so I tried to keep it to a few beers and I could get really blasted after. Once I stopped drinking it’d be diet coke or water. I think all the time about the phenomenon of watching the poet drink water, that silent pause in which the poet offers her throat to the room to keep the pipes wet and moving the words along. It’s sort of glorious to post here on poetry because it’s putting the beginning and the end of language together. Poetry being the beginning of language and the post representing now which is not an end at all but a kind of boundary. People get upset about how irresponsible the blogosphere is and it reminds me a little bit about the raging a few years back in the mainstream press about memoirs by people who had hardly had their lives yet. I remember one pundit calling these memoirs by people who weren’t yet tipping over into the grave “half lives” and coincidentally so many of these people were female authors and young. People not officially entitled to speak about their own existence yet. What do they know. In its heyday of the memoir definitely aired some hot topics. Incest was big, alcoholism still is, and if you can separate it from incest and we must the memoirist might even write about her family. Something the memoirist had survived – a mountain climb or a disease would also be a good subject.

At 13 posts to go after this I’m needing a little consideration of the form. And what about all its attachments, the thread. I sometimes write a post and don’t read the comments for days but they do come into my email, my home so to speak. Eventually I go. There’s something sweaty and heated about going down into that hall where all the talk is going on that just makes my blood pound. I just called someone (or a class of someone’s) ‘bozos’ which constitutes the worst name-calling I’ve indulged in so far though maybe homophobe, sexist and I forget what else are slightly worse. Bozo seems personal to me, verging on gross whereas the others seem like appraisals of someone’s thoughts and work. I know that these terms aren’t as easily used as they were even ten years ago because identity politics are supposed to be over but that seems so convenient for the people who don’t call themselves anything, just thinking men and the women who think just like them. I think all of us are complexes of stuff: gender and class and level of income and class affiliation and occupation and sexual persuasion and race and aesthetic, very important, and geographical location, age and ethnicity. You know what I mean. I kind of enjoy being down there in the thread once in a while where a lot less women go. Do women have better things to do, or just don’t read or write in blogs as much or would prefer to watch. I like to get down there and swing. As a little girl I liked to fight too. I love the experience of doing a blog and getting paid to do it (which I think is kind of tacky to mention but it’s out there, so…) justifies it to me in a way because though I do a lot of things for free including poetry which includes blurbs and recommendations, and talks and so much else I do have to make a living. And what a blog feels most like to me is talking. And getting paid to do it which is the best. I’ll talk about money for a while or slightly because I think my greatest crime in a recent post was contemplating the perceived wealth of another writer. Is that so bad. Yes. It makes people go crazy. And I honestly don’t know why except that someone has something to protect. What that something is: you tell me. But the blog is a synthesized version of all those things above – the column, the campaign and so on. And even one of those crazy teevee talk shows. Where people seemingly would say anything just to be on teevee. I don’t watch those but I really love it all. It makes me think about the life of a city street and New York where I currently have just come home to from a traveling summer and I remember reading a nineteenth century account of New York and how if a horse fell down in the street and a crowd gathered and someone would stick a handbill (selling something) on the felled horse. And things are essentially the same now. This ad, this already not so new tool is in my experience is a people’s art. Or a peoples’ practice. The public sort. If people sneer at how uncontrollable a thing a blog is that’s because really any bozo can stick an ad on a dying horse (our empire) and plenty of bozos write them. Some of those bozos are saving us from the mainstream news world which doesn’t tell us anything, and bozo world also frees us from the world of mainstream publishing which does publish some wonderful poets and other writers but mostly it underlines poetry’s weird and wonderful dilemma which is that no one’s really knows what a poem is – though lately I think of it as speech searching for itself in all directions. The innate unmanageability of poetry makes mainstream publishers either make conservative choices or be obedient to someone’s list or ideas but often it just seems like manners to me. We (and that’s an appropriated we) publish poets we’d like to have dinner with. It’s like the academy. We hire people who feel good in the room. And there is a room. Poetry is many rooms. How do we represent that. Poetry doesn’t mind so much if you don’t have dinner with it, though poetry needs to get heard and be read and that only eventually. At some point the message needs to arrive. There needs to be some hope of that. In the work or in the world. So poetry stays a little thin because not everyone can invite poetry to dinner in all its versions but it always finds a home and a blog is increasingly what is giving it that. It speeds things along, making connections which is the thing that gets obstructed most by our institutions and in our big (and failing) media. I hope it remains irresponsible. A spiky and oddly comforting place. After 32 years of living in New York I now have an air-conditioner in my apartment and I will soon write about that. I look forward to a flood of no comments. It’s cool in here in the now time of the fires and the floods and the big melt coming down. No more ice on the planet by 2013. We need to talk a lot, right

Comments (164)

  • On August 24, 2009 at 3:50 pm thomas brady wrote:

    Eileen

    Is it wrong to ask if a poet is rich?

    To those who say, yes, let them imagine what kind of society would make this inquiry forbidden. Would it be a free society?

    I just saw ‘Edge of Love,’ a “fact-based” film on Dylan Thomas: while a British soldier is away fighting the Nazis, Thomas sleeps with his wife, steals his money, and writes anti-war poetry.

    The entertainment industry will search out lurid contexts for obvious reasons, but the real question is, how legitimate is “context” when it comes to poetry?

    What if the context is ultimately more interesting than the poetry? Is this the fault of the poetry or the context?

    How can we escape context? We can’t. I do think it’s better to err on the side of too much context.

    I’ve studied Poe rather closely and much of Poe’s context is a distortion, or an outright lie, which has gone a long way to damage his reputation, and yet, even knowing this, I don’t think we should inhibit speculation regarding context; I still think it’s better to pursue context because 1) curiosity is inevitable and 2) a poet’s work, if it is really good, will shrug off even distorted context.

    Auden said he envied Shakespeare his anonymity, and certainly, in an ideal world, no facts would accompany the poetry at all. But is such purity possible? If there will be facts flying about, we might as well jump into the swirl and try and make some sense of them. No poet lives in a bubble. Therefore no poem does either.

    Thomas

  • On August 24, 2009 at 9:52 pm Rachel wrote:

    Eileen,

    I said that I found your other blog entry and the posts that followed it fascinating. Still do. The twists and turns in the debate made reading the thread kind of like reading a whodunit in which almost everyone ended up with bloody hands.

    I can honestly say that your bringing up the “wealth of another writer” didn’t make me “go crazy.” What I did find unsettling was the, um, gender tension in the thread. Sina wrote: “Here’s a little space for those we aren’t hearing from…particularly the women.” Margo responded, but her post soon disappeared. On Saturday morning I voted “like” to bring it back into view, only to see it disappeared again. Why? What was so objectionable about what she had written?

    OTOH, Heather posted this: “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.” Seriously? Why lump all guys posting in the thread into one category? For that matter, why assume Gary commented as he did simply because he is a man? Are there no women who might have agreed with his opinion?

    I took exception with your post to John, the one suggesting he get a life, because to me it was nothing more than a canned insult. Right up there with all the other generic insults one sees online (the ones about drinking, doing drugs, mental instability, sex, sexual preference, whining, blogging in one’s pjs from one’s parents’ basement etc.) It’s true I occasionally see one of these insults put to a humorous use, but mostly I find them ineffectual and boring. They tend to inject more heat than light into a discussion and often derail discussion altogether.

    Why more women don’t participate in online discussions is something I wonder about. Once on a board I frequent, which has only a handful of women posters, when the political discussion devolved yet again into a series of sexual insults, I wrote: “Ever wonder why there aren’t more women posting here? This is why.” One guy responded: “Uh-oh. Mom’s home.” Touché. Obviously, I’m not saying insults have no place in online discussions, but on too many sites, the insults are de rigueur, witless, a default setting.

  • On August 24, 2009 at 10:25 pm Rebecca Wolff wrote:

    Tacky!? Tacky? Eileen, I can’t believe you said that. I think this is my literalism kicking in–practically concrete, am I–but the fact of our getting paid to do this blogging seems like a completely requisite context to be in place for readers/responders. Otherwise there’s this artificial sense in place of the free flow of ideas, of the open space in which all can speak, when really we have been invited and paid and are required to speak. You indicated that this is kind of what you do anyway (flow), but this is totally NOT what I do (wrote about that too) and it makes sense to me to explain why I’m doing it. I think of you as being in favor of financial transparency in other realms: why does this strike you as different?

  • On August 25, 2009 at 12:42 am Terreson wrote:

    The first paragraph is actually some damn good writing. Keep it. Work it. You got a vignette going on there.

    But I am going to shut up. What Rachel and Rebecca Wolff say is much more interesting than what I could add to your thoughts.

    Terreson

  • On August 25, 2009 at 9:41 am Eileen Myles wrote:

    Truly Rachel get a life is such a cliche that I intended a ham-handed and even clownish response to what I thought was not so very bright or original. Sometimes as a woman I like to be deliberately oafish and if the exchange was aloud the voice I’d be using would convey my tone so your response suggests I failed or we don’t share a sense of humor. To say get a life in the 21st c seems really cheesey to me and I thought it was funny. A lot of my posting in the comments section is for fun. In part in response to the absence of a lot of women I like to response quickly and broadly and take some space and I’m noticing that the rage my remarks provoke only convince me of some of the things you are responding to as well – not to me but to some of the men, that if a woman acted even faintly like a man she’d be regarded as a danger or a monster or would be silenced swiftly by the forces that be. Thanks I appreciate your presence here.

  • On August 25, 2009 at 9:51 am Eileen Myles wrote:

    Rebecca I wasn’t responding to anything you said. I didn’t mean you were tacky. I meant I felt tacky talking about getting paid to blog. Not out of shame, not out of presumed wealth or privilege but because in general in journalism say the New York Times no one’s mentioning that they get paid to write. It’s work and I believe in a cultural as gone on money as ours we should get paid to write. Every time I get asked to be on a panel, travel to a conference, contribute to an anthology and I realize there’s no money attached I do grit my teeth because I think there’s an underlining assumption that we either have academic jobs, trust funds, wealthy partners or families underwriting our silly job. I think a lot of people who comment in blogs or write on facebook are at work so in effect they are getting paid. So though this might seem contrary to other remarks I’ve made here about writers presumed wealth I do assume the grace of one always getting paid and prefer to treat not getting paid as the exception. I know in the poetry world this is not the norm but I’m utopian in some particular ways and my working class utopianism in the poetry world is that all of us do, or should get paid to write and I try and live in that dream.

    So re the money issue I like it as a subject but not as an aside. The aside feels guilty to me and maybe the talk about money apologetic. You know when I worked at the poetry project in the 80s after years of being broke and not getting a lot of money there I realized I was being treated w resentment by people in the community because I was getting paid to do what they did for free. I think we are loaded w resentment in our world about these issues. But each of us is coming from a slightly different perspective. Totally sorry Rebecca if you thought I was talking about you. I think it wrecks my post in some respect to say blah blah blah I’m getting paid. Why not. I love the poetry foundation but I think they should pay us more. I want a raise!

  • On August 25, 2009 at 3:21 pm Rachel wrote:

    Here in NY the beleaguered Governor Paterson recently played the race card and blamed “a racist media . . . for trying to push him out of next year’s election.”

    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/2009/08/21/2009-08-21_gov_david_paterson_blames_call_for_.html

    The Governor’s approval ratings have sunk in recent months. Like a number of other governors around the country, some of his problems are not of his own making; some are. I’m sure there are racist elements in the media, just as there some racist elements in the population at large, but I think if the Governor believes what he is saying, he is kidding himself and ignoring his own mistakes. I also think he’s playing a very dangerous political game and could end up worsening race relations in the state. Just as faux rape victims hurt the cases of real rape victims, Paterson could cause (more) doubt to be cast on the real victims of racism.

    Eileen, even though our approaches are different, I, too, try to open spaces for women to participate online. And, like you, I have seen and felt the hostility and biases that sometimes get directed toward women in online venues. I’m sure some people objected to your previous blog entry because you are a woman and/or because you had the audacity to bring up the subject of money in the manner that you did, but I have to admit I’m not convinced that everyone who objected to your posts did so for those reasons. If you have compelling evidence to the contrary, I am open to that possibility and would like to hear it.

    (And if someone wants to try to convince me I’m wrong about Paterson and the media, I’m open to that too. I do know about some of the late night comedy sketches, which I think are appalling.)

  • On August 25, 2009 at 3:58 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    This medium, because it goes so fast, & because it’s sometimes hard to interpret the tone, makes it all too easy to assign motives we merely imagine. I was pretty harsh & negative on Eileen’s post. I suppose I have my own dark unexamined motives (there are many theories & books & ideologies about this), but I would like to think of myself as arguing on the basis of principle, not some ulterior or malicious motive – not ‘out to get” somebody, just disagreeing.

    & what gets left unsaid in these aggravated situations? In this case, among other things, the fact that I like EM’s poetry; that I’ve enjoyed hearing her read; that I’ve spoken with her (in Hoboken!), & as a result, she kindly sent some poems for my little mag – which I’m sure she’d never heard of at the time, & which I published, way back then…

  • On August 25, 2009 at 10:04 pm john wrote:

    “I think my greatest crime in a recent post was contemplating the perceived wealth of another writer. Is that so bad. Yes. It makes people go crazy.”

    That’s just not true, Eileen. Your post garnered a lot of praise (including from me), and exactly one commenter criticizing you for bringing up Eliot’s wealth: Kent. Eliot then stepped in and said, nope, you’re wrong, I’m not rich. *Then* you got a lot of criticism. It was for this:

    1. You published an unverified rumor.
    2. You judged someone’s character harshly based on that false rumor.
    3. When the person whom you attacked said the rumor is false, and you had no evidence other than the absurd “you asked for it by how you acted” defense, you took no responsibility for spreading the false rumor or attacking his character.

    As for my comment that was not so bright or original, here it is again:

    “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.”

    Here is your “joking” response (and please note that my quote from your original post was verbatim):

    “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.”

    This strategy of repeating your version of “reality” over and over in hopes that eventually people will get tired of correcting the record might eventually work, Eileen, I don’t know. Keep on playing the victim here if that’s what you want to do.

    And, if anybody from the Poetry Foundation is reading this, I will repeat: You shouldn’t publish unverified rumors that attack people; and when asserted facts are shown to be wrong, you should correct the record; furthermore, you have shown your stricture against personal attacks to be meaningless. This whole episode has really demeaned your publication.

  • On August 26, 2009 at 8:58 am Henry Gould wrote:

    Perhaps this is all clear as day in the blog’s guidelines. ??

    Here’s the Code of Conduct from the Foundation website (under “About”) :

    Code of Conduct
    A. All trustees, officers, employees, and volunteers of the Foundation must, in the course of carrying out the Foundation’s activities:

    Behave honestly and with integrity
    Act with care and diligence
    Treat everyone with respect, courtesy, and without harassment
    Comply with all applicable federal, state, and local laws, ordinances, rules, and regulations
    Comply with the policies of the Foundation
    Use Foundation resources in a proper and prudent manner
    Behave in a manner that upholds the Foundation’s interests, assets, resources, good name, and values
    B. All trustees, officers, employees, and volunteers of the Foundation must never, in the course of carrying out Foundation activities:

    Provide false, misleading, or incomplete information to a request for information that is made for official purposes
    Make improper use of inside information of the Foundation
    Make improper use of duties, status, or authority.

  • On August 26, 2009 at 11:31 am Krista Elliot wrote:

    Eileen, I love your defiance and your perspective. It’s a breath of fresh air in this hot sweaty hallway. Don’t apologize!

  • On August 26, 2009 at 11:56 am Daisy Fried wrote:

    Also liking Eileen’s posts. Thanks Eileen.
    Daisy

  • On August 26, 2009 at 12:17 pm Alan Cordle wrote:

    Posting the code of conduct made me laugh, particularly because the editors here violate it daily with “rules” which vary from person to person. The Foundation should bring in an outside speaker and give some of the editors a little workshop in cultural competency, ageism, classism, etc. I’m totally unsurprised that the “manager” of the Poetry Bus Tour — which only included minorities and women at some stops after poetry bloggers pointed out the problem — is one of the most problematic editors here. Or do I have the wrong Travis Nichols?

  • On August 26, 2009 at 12:32 pm connie wrote:

    here’s to liking eileen’s posts and to further evidence how money is a scarier topic than sex, religion, politics, etc.

  • On August 26, 2009 at 1:07 pm Tom Harr wrote:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2Frc9PYAW8

  • On August 26, 2009 at 1:17 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    Would you like to tell us about your personal finances now, Connie? Or perhaps you’d prefer one of the Foundation’s qualified professionals to handle that for you. They can draw up a complete profile on your wealth status for Harriet, citing chapter and verse, and notify us of any “lying incidents” in which you may be involved. Very useful for clarifying your position in the world order of po-biz. & this has a lot to do with Sean Hill’s review of… what was the name of that anthology?

  • On August 26, 2009 at 1:21 pm Terreson wrote:

    Offered in the spirit of transactional analysis:

    This is not going well, is it? Not for the blogger, the Foundation, the participating posters. What saddens me is to once again witness certain entrenchments, what upthread goes by the label defiance. What is even more sad are the standing, under-current, resentments fueling the discussion. Not a good thing.

    Terreson

  • On August 26, 2009 at 1:28 pm Bill Knott wrote:

    John, obviously you aren’t familiar with the traditions of PoChiMag—

    they print “unverified rumors” all the time,

    even in “reviews”— (in their reviews of my books for example) . . .

  • On August 26, 2009 at 2:01 pm Lemon Hound wrote:

    Ditto.

  • On August 26, 2009 at 2:30 pm Mary Meriam wrote:

    Is there anyone better than Eileen at asking questions without a question mark.

  • On August 26, 2009 at 4:29 pm Eileen Myles wrote:

    I’d just like to say that it’s great if a poet is rich. I’d like to be rich. I’ve made what I’ve considered pots of money at various points and spent it happily like an idiot. I have plenty of friends who are wealthy and no one gets blamey. Being wealthy is not a crime. When I was a college professor I was amazed at how marxist the bourgeois professors were. There was an attitude about displays of wealth. I don’t feel that way at all. Often broke people are quite unhappy. It doesn’t make one nice or meek or anything to be poor. I’m doing a reading in a few minutes. Felt like piping in.

  • On August 26, 2009 at 6:43 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    transactional analysis : what goes around comes around.

  • On August 26, 2009 at 9:11 pm john wrote:

    Eileen, I’m really struggling not to be dragged into the macho space you’re creating, where one never apologizes and never admits wrongdoing. You insulted Eliot and excused yourself by insulting him again — though that insult was absurd on its face — that he acted rich. You insulted me and excused yourself by insulting me again — you were joking around because I said something not bright and not original.

    I have tried answering you respectfully, and that has gotten me nowhere. So machismo wins out. You have insulted me. I demand satisfaction. Either you apologize or meet me in public for a poetry reading duel. Name the time and place. The Poetry Foundation is paying you to insult people; I will accept a plane ticket from them to meet you anywhere; or, we can meet in the Seattle area, where I live; or, we can schedule a time and a place convenient to both some time next summer, when I hope to do some traveling, if I can afford it (an open question at this point). You may name the poetic weapon — long poems, short poems, rhymed poems, free verse, performance poetry, visual poetry, improvised poetry, memorized original verse, memorized verse by others, ballads, narrative, eschatological poetry, political poetry, love poetry, free style — whatever you like. Let me know.

    You don’t know me, but we do have at least one acquaintance in common — Ken Mikolowski, my old teacher whom I last saw 2 years ago and who, if I’m not mistaken, has published you. He’ll vouch for me. I’m not widely published, but I’m versatile and I’ll give you a good showing. Let me know.

    I will still accept an apology in lieu of the duel.

    Thank you.

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

    Just one more thing, Eileen.

    You, and apparently many others, have this fantasy that men are bent out of shape because you’re acting as badly as a man. That’s crap. Men rhetorically beat the crap out of each other around here all the time. You can play the gender card, but you’re simply wrong. Again. Yes, you’re acting as badly as many men have — or worse — but you aren’t pissing people off because you’re a woman doing it, you’re pissing people off because you’re a person doing it.

    In my case, I’ve been more pissed off than I might have been because you’re a paid staff person doing it. A lot of people around here have gotten warning cards from the Poetry Foundation staff for saying things no worse — or not as insulting — as what you have.

  • On August 26, 2009 at 9:23 pm john wrote:

    Sorry, one more. I simply don’t believe you that you didn’t insult me out of anger. Own your own anger, Eileen. And argue with me if you can. Insults aren’t arguments. They’re just bullying.

    It’s really a drag, because — I’m with you on the importance of what Patricia Williams called positionality — the position from which Eliot W. criticizes people for their jobs, etc.

  • On August 27, 2009 at 1:06 am Margio Berdeshevsky wrote:

    Good to hear some new/old voice hereabouts.As I spoke in deep frustration in the politics post, we were devolving into power and its darker trenches, with little grace or poetry. And those were hardly cliches, there, or here, now. “Whether mythological, poetic, or mundane.”

    The gender busting does us no good at all. But it’s good to hear more coherent women’s voices coming forward, conscious thoughts rather than bluster or blather or defiance. In recent time, women have quietly called Harriet the boys’ club, with no small disillusion. hardly what it ‘should’ be, at any point. So Eileen, Daisy, Tara,Krista, Sina, Barbara Jane,Rachel, and guys with no axes to grind, whew! It was feeling pretty damn isolated last round. I’m glad to listen.

    margo

  • On August 27, 2009 at 5:37 am Alan Cordle wrote:

    Thanks for the video. Does your Travis exclude women and minorities from the game?

    Because the Travis here at the Poetry Foundation singles out people living in “different” cultures and older people, who are trying to post and leaves their comments in “moderation” for days at a time or just deletes them completely.

    Perhaps he and the hipsters should get on the bus and drive back to wherever poetry can be white, male, young, and safe.

  • On August 27, 2009 at 6:24 am thomas brady wrote:

    I think the big question is the one Eileen kept asking in her review of Sean Hill’s review: what IS political poetry? What does it mean to assemble political poems? To write political poems?

    Sean Hill seemed to find ‘war zone’ poetry authentically political, so Eileen wrote, “This is an anthology of political poems not a veteran’s anthology.”

    A Veteran’s Anthology.

    Then I thought, “is this all about MARKETING?”

    Potential reader: “I don’t like poems that much, but I’ve been raped, so this book of ‘Political Poetry By Women’ might interest me!”

    Or,

    “I don’t give a dang shit about poetry, but here’s a book of poems by soldiers. Let me give it a try!”

    In this scenario, poetry becomes secondary, and perhaps disappears.

    But I don’t think this what Eileen was talking about at all in her beef with Sean Hill (and, by extension, Eliot Weinberger).

    What I think Eileen WAS talking about, although she didn’t mention it specifically, was Politics needs to get away from victimhood. Eileen didn’t say this, but in her take-no-prisoners rhetorical style she certainly behaves like someone who is very political but is also sick and tired of being a victim, of stewing in the politics of victimhood.

    Why not have an anthology of people who have been in carwrecks? Poets who were run over by busses. And the more injuries they sustained, the more valid their “experience,” the more valid their political point of view. Isn’t this sort of thinking exactly what Eileen was faulting Sean Hill for? “The only political poetry that really counts is that written by soldiers who have been in the WAR ZONE.”

    Political poetry written college professors DOESN’T COUNT.

    And this is essentially what Eliot Weinberger says.

    This is what really got Eileen upset, I think. She’s trying so hard NOT to be a victim, and now here’s this rich white man with established political creds making her into a nobody, a victim of HIS politics, because according to him, HER whole political identity is too middle-class, and therefore doesn’t really count.

    Someone, somewhere, is always trying to make us into a goddamn VICTIM!

    Sheesh! We can’t win!

  • On August 27, 2009 at 8:13 am Desmond Swords wrote:

    Yeah Alan. It is a sad day when 70 year old highly intelligent and educated people with a very interesting and readable perspective on poetry and life, are excluded from here on the basis of..what exactly Trav?

    Why is Woodman frozen out of here?

    Because he is too clever, and makes highly non-offensive posts which piss off the paid staff doing it for money, hey Don Share, Trav Nicols?

    And now i will no doubt be put under moderation for daring to speak of it, hey money lovers?

  • On August 27, 2009 at 11:38 am thomas brady wrote:

    There is nothing new about what I say below, but I think it needs to be repeated.

    There are two basic aspects of human social interaction, Trivia and Concern.

    Trivia is overwhelmingly more attractive and more popular simply because it belongs to the quotidian: it belongs to “Hi, how are you?” and “Oh, I love your shoes!” and “Where do you live?” and “How about those Red Sox?”

    What matters overwhelming to people is their person, their home, and what decorates these.

    Music, painting, video, sculpture–arts associated with money–decorate the home. These arts exist materially in the quotidian universe.

    Popular novels—best sellers associated with money—overwhelmingly deal with person, home and what decorates them.

    Person, home, and what decorates them are not trivial, per se, but they belong to the insouciant world of “Oh, I love your shoes!” They belong to what makes us happy in a material sense.

    The category which I have named Trivia may contain nuances, but they are trivial nuances in the sense that they are material nuances of immediate, sensual gratification; they are not nuances of thought or concern.

    Poetry has long since given up its decorative quality. It is now firmly in the camp of Concern. The public does not experience that ‘comfortable, insouciant, sensual gratification’ feeling when they sit down with a poem, or hear a poem recited at a reading.

    Poetry now belongs to the concerns of modern philosophy and identity politics and class struggle and environmental destruction. Sure, poetry features the occasional exception to the rule: a burst of pretty language, or humor, or romance, or simple wisdom. But the common perception of those who live in the quotidian world is that poetry no longer belongs to their world of decoration and material nuance and sensual gratification.

    Poetry no longer has the sensual appeal of the Four Tops singing, “Baby, I neeeed your lovin’, GOT to have all your lovin…” and by giving up that sensual claim, poetry will not be popular until America radically changes (and poetry is too small to have a role in effecting that change).

    Poetry is now the unkempt guy ranting in the coffee shop. You can dress the guy up and make him a MFA professor, but that doesn’t change poetry’s fundamental non-existence in the society-at-large.

    The irony is that social performances in the quotidian Trivia realm can end up being quite significant, effecting radical changes in the realm of Concern. Having public appeal is paramount in making things happen.

    Intellectuals disdain the (non-ironic) quotidian at their own risk. Poetry is seeing to it that Concern is of no one’s real concern.

  • On August 27, 2009 at 12:26 pm thomas brady wrote:

    I wasn’t expecting what I wrote above to be a truth people wanted to hear. We all know it’s an unpleasant truth, so you can spare us the ‘red thumbs.’ If your response is, “I’m a deep person who cares about more things than shoes!” you’re completely missing the point.

    The point isn’t that poetry CANNOT or SHOULD NOT talk politically, or CANNOT or SHOULD NOT talk about confusing or unpleasant things.

    The point entails what has actually happened in the real world.

    Now, those inside the bubble of the academy can say: poetry that is complex and difficult works just fine in here!

    Well, yea, sure it does.

    But the MFA in poetry academy features extremely controlled conditions. If, upon leaving the bubble, those conditions EVAPORATE, you might have a little problem…

    Now popular appeal is NOT necessary for theoretical physics, for instance.

    But poetry is NOT theoretical physics. Poetry belongs to the realm of SOCIAL INTERACTION.

    There’s the rub.

  • On August 27, 2009 at 12:30 pm Eileen Myles wrote:

    Yikes, John.

  • On August 27, 2009 at 12:32 pm Eileen Myles wrote:

    I’m all for drag. I wear men’s clothes exclusively to the point where they just are mine and I think more men should put on a dress and calm down. I don’t mean anything pointed by that. I think there’s some really broad class issues in the arena of gender. Women are a class, men are too. I’m going to write my next post about it. Meanwhile thanks for your stimulating responses.

  • On August 27, 2009 at 12:39 pm Eileen Myles wrote:

    This is great, Thomas. Though maybe i’d replace the word victim with niche or some sort. We’re all always clearing the deck with what poetry or political really means. It’s just a naturally incendiary proposition to make an anthology and suggest there’s a throughline through any of these broad topics. If the throughline could be discussed openly and one’s own biases as well then we’d have a more interesting culture. Don’t anthologies generally piss you off in one way or another. If the take rankles then we feel the editor is suggesting they have a better handle on truth than we do. Anyway thank you for this. Presumptions make me crazy. Didn’t someone do an erotic anthology without a single lesbian in it. That made me nuts. How dare you presume to speak for the erotic w/out including what I do. It is fascinating and exhausting.

  • On August 27, 2009 at 12:40 pm Eileen Myles wrote:

    Thanks Krista. Wouldn’t dream of it. Luckily i’m not running for office.

  • On August 27, 2009 at 3:24 pm thomas brady wrote:

    Look who is disagreeing with me…

    No, not the red thumbs, I don’t care about them…

    Ezra Pound!

    Chapter one of ‘How To Read’ (1929)

    Pound (arrogant as hell, of course) begins: “Literary instruction in our ‘institutions of learning’ was, at the beginning of this century, cumbrous and inefficient. I dare say it still is.”

    “Certain more or less mildly exceptional professors were affected by the ‘beauties’ of various authors (usually deceased) but the system, as a whole, lacked sense and coordination. I dare say it still does.”

    “When studying physics we are not asked to investigate the biographies of all the disciples of Newton who showed interest in science, but who failed to make any discovery. Neither are their unrewarded gropings, hopes, passions, laundry bills, or erotic experiences thrust on the hurried student or considered germane to the subject.”

    I said in my post above that poetry is NOT theoretical physics.

    According to Pound, poetry IS theoretical physics.

    “Hugh Selwyn Mauberley” should be set beside Newtonian physics.

    Both Newton and Pound’s private lives are off-limits, because the former is a scientist and the latter is a…poet.

    Einstein’s physics is comparable to the line breaks of H.D.

    Imagism is comparable to the advanced discoveries of Laplace.

    Yes, yes, Pound must be right!

    This, of course, is nothing more than the NEW CRITICISM.

    Pound’s friend T.S. Eliot was already busy at it, and here is Pound asserting it, as well.

    Poetry is Scientific. (And Pound, of all people, should be trusted to assert this!)

    Pound and Charlie Bernstein are scientists, leading us to Scientific Knowledge that very few can actually understand (and that’s why it’s Science!).

    Before Pound’s New Criticism friends took over the Academy, professors were “cumbrous.” Afterwards, professors became “workshop magicians and poets.”

    Activities of human beings in poetry are not to be questioned. Remember that!

    Advanced theoretical physics is sacred, and poetry is, too, in precisely the same way.

    “Beauties” and “biographies” are swept away by the science of Ezra Pound.

    The personal motivations of poets can never be questioned. (Because poets are scientists, you see. Poets are towering sphinxes of expertise.)

    Here is the Eileen v. EW issue in a nutshell.

    Here’s the seed: Pound, leader of the reactionary, modernist, men’s club.

    Eileen wants to talk about people, their jobs: the whole human landscape.

    EW doesn’t. (Unless it apply to narrow expert-ism based on special kinds of experience)

    Wasn’t Weinberger faulted for his “new” poetry anthology published in the 1990s which contained almost entirely Pound and Pound’s friends?

    Eileen and EW are in many ways, very close, but in this crucial area: miles apart.

  • On August 27, 2009 at 3:35 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    Maybe you & Eileen could start a talk show, Tom – talk about people, and stuff. Talk about some people that you heard some other people talking about. Get the lowdown.

    I heard the other day while I was waiting in a line in a store that TS Eliot was actually a squirrel in his private life. He used to collect nuts & store them in a special hutch next to his copy of Walter Pater. & I heard Edgar Allan Poe was way rich – he just liked to pretend po’. Po’ Poe. He owned 3 apartment buildings in Baltimore & he used to make fun of the way teachers smelled. Bad Poe. Poe bad. Pass it along.

  • On August 27, 2009 at 4:25 pm thomas brady wrote:

    That’s neither pertinent nor funny.

    Too bad, Henry, because you can be funny.

    You’re missing the whole point.

    “Talking about people and stuff.”

    So, “people and stuff” are off-limits?

    So what SHALL we talk about? What do you talk about?

    Do you think, Henry, because you are virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?

    That “people and stuff” will NEVER be talked about?

    I’d really like to know your philosophy on this.

  • On August 27, 2009 at 5:26 pm Rachel wrote:

    Ah, Tom, I thought Henry’s post was funny. But to be fair, I thought this comment of yours was funny too:

    “Pound and Charlie Bernstein are scientists, leading us to Scientific Knowledge that very few can actually understand (and that’s why it’s Science!).”

    Be careful though; your starting to sound a little schoolmarmish yourself:

    “That’s neither pertinent nor funny.”

    Maybe your girdle’s too tight.

  • On August 27, 2009 at 6:06 pm Rachel wrote:

    Tom,

    In the other thread, Henry 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.”

    I gather you disagree.

    “That “people and stuff” will NEVER be talked about?”

    Well, if we are going to talk about “people and stuff,” I think we need to do so with accuracy, wouldn’t you agree?

  • On August 27, 2009 at 7:45 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    “And what a blog feels most like to me is talking. And getting paid to do it which is the best. I’ll talk about money for a while or slightly because I think my greatest crime in a recent post was contemplating the perceived wealth of another writer. Is that so bad. Yes. It makes people go crazy. And I honestly don’t know why except that someone has something to protect.”

    Here’s the thing : this is well-written b.s.

    The issue was not money, or its protection. The issue was the bath of innuendo. “Living context” is all. A reviewer was slammed for a review which rated the poetry based on the (assumed, imagined) personal lives of the poets. The blogger zeroed in on the REVIEWER’S personal background – his own poems – to call his cred into question (tit for tat). & to reinforce that argument, the blogger summoned up a THIRD poet – who, as it happened, was quoted by the reviewer – &, in so many words, based on personal anecdotes of bague provenance, branded that 3rd bystander a rich, elitist liar.

    This is fascinating stuff, granted. It’s very personal; a lot of living context. It’s sexy. The actual work under review, or the reviewer’s logic in its evaluation, tends to get lost in the shuffle – but hey, we’re out for blood. This is how street cred is built; this is how righteous crowds are formed. Study the rhetoric closely. There’s always a scapegoat somewhere.

  • On August 27, 2009 at 7:51 pm john wrote:

    I shouldn’t have posted my last comment in such an abbreviated fashion — I had to rush off before finishing and shouldn’t have posted.

    One of the points that’s gotten lost in the wealth talk & anger & anger about who’s really angry about what and whatnot is that — what Patricia Williams calls “positionality” in her great, great book “Alchemy of Race and Rights” really is pertinent to any political discussion. (Others have used the term too, but that’s where I learned it.)

    So, IF Weinberger was criticizing poets for earning their livings as professors, THEN his own position is open to question. I wasn’t at that dinner, but it is true that Eliot has written prefaces for Clayton Eshleman and blurbed Kent’s books (both make their livings as academics) and included lots of professors in his anthology (Olson, Creeley, Eshleman again . . . ).

    Raising the question, though: Fine. Publishing a false answer: Problematic. Refusing to admit a mistake: Problematic. Using your paid publishing gig to rewrite what happened: a problematic exploitation of one’s “position” in the Patricia Williams sense. Attributing any criticism to sexism: Cowardly and inflammatory.

    But when you got a crowd of people cheering you on for ignoring criticism, the temptation to continue ignoring criticism must be very tempting. Again, the power dynamics of positionality here are interesting.

    Yes, blogging often has an overly-combative atmosphere; yes, most of the combatants have always been men (me included, I’m well aware); yes, that dynamic historically has driven away many women; and yes, I can imagine how the spectacle of a woman unapologetically smacking back at men could be cathartic or symbolically gratifying — and yes, my own position as a man implicates me in that dynamic, I’m aware.

    But that still doesn’t excuse responding to criticism by ignoring it, flaming your critics, and denying the facts.

  • On August 27, 2009 at 10:11 pm thomas brady wrote:

    So Eileen said that EW has 5 nickels in his pocket and it turns out he has 4. Oh wait. WE DON’T KNOW HOW MANY NICKELS EW HAS IN HIS POCKET. EW wouldn’t tell us. He said his father is middle class. Maybe EW lives on a trust fund from his mother’s side. Maybe she gave him 10 nickels and 2 shiny pennies, too.

    So…where does that leave us?

    Henry Gould, are you counting the nickels?

    Because we don’t want to get our “facts” wrong.

    Shall we get to the heart of what Eileen is talking about?

    Shall we actually (horrors!) have a discussion about some of the points that have been raised?

    No, let’s not have a real discussion. Because Henry Gould WANTS TO GET TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS. Henry Gould wants to find out exactly how many nickels there are. So we’re going to put any real discussion on hold.

    After all, to insinuate a person has a bunch of nickels in his pocket is a real “personal attack!”

    Oh my!

    Seriously–

    What are we talking about here, people?

    Shall we put Eileen in irons? Shall we have her whipped? Hanged? People are crying about “facts,” but there are NO “facts.” Eileen threw a fastball and we don’t know whether EW hit the ball or missed–BECAUSE WE DON’T HAVE THAT INFORMATION. The screen went blank.

    This just in: Eliot Weinberger has worked as a coal miner his whole life.

    Everybody at once: “We’re sorry, Mr. Weinberger!”

    Except for Eileen. Apologies will not help her. Put her in JAIL.

  • On August 27, 2009 at 10:26 pm Eliot Weinberger wrote:

    Forgive me if I remind the commenters that their characterizations of my beliefs are based entirely on 1) Eileen Myles’ paraphrase of a short book review that, in a passing half-sentence, happened to paraphrase something I wrote years ago; and 2) her account of a personal conversation that happened so far in the past I don’t remember it at all.

    To criticize the banking industry is not the same as saying that anyone who works in a bank is a jerk. Obviously whatever I’ve written or said about the MFA industry is not about individual lives, jobs, needs, or predilections.

    As for the continuing characterizations of my personal life, it is repulsive, and I am shocked that those responsible for this blog are allowing it to continue.

  • On August 28, 2009 at 5:38 am thomas brady wrote:

    http://jacketmagazine.com/16/johns-iv-weinb.html

    In this interview of EW by Kent Johnson (which is great by the way–both men come across as insightful and funny) EW says “I am not a critic” when asked about avant-garde poetry.

    From this interview, I gather that EW is a social critic, not a literary critic.

    I simply cannot imagine a social critic NOT talking about actual human beings as being “rich” or “poor,” at least occasionally. I cannot grasp this at all, but then I am a literary critic and not a social one, though literature certainly overlaps with the social, unless one is a hard-core New Critic, like T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, though come to think of it, Eliot and Pound did involve themselves in the social sphere in some bizarre ways, which no student of literature doesn’t have some familiarity with; perhaps Robert Penn Warren, no, that’s not a good example, either, because he won the Pulitzer for writing about an actual political figure…it seems “stuff” will come up, as literary as we try to be.

    Perhaps we need to be simpler in our rhetoric; words like ‘culture’ and ‘political’ now come equipped with their own smoke-making machines and we know less after we’ve used them, not more; we should use words like ‘artistic’ and ‘beautiful’ and ‘poor’ instead.

    We don’t have to use the word ‘money,’ if it makes us uncomfortable. Since I am only literary critic, I have no idea what that word means, anyway.

  • On August 28, 2009 at 8:14 am thomas brady wrote:

    Rachel,

    I really don’t think “accuracy” applies here, because the discussion was more in the realm of “what do you think of religion/politics/teaching?” “I heard he’s rich.” “I heard she’s poor.” It was intellectual chatter, though of a pretty high order, I thought, as Eileen RAISED a lot interesting issues in her review of Sean’s review. Was the discussion about “and the dollar amount of Eliot Weinberger’s bank account is…?” No, it wasn’t. So, I don’t see why “accuracy” applies, in this case, really. How can we speak of “accuracy” when falsehood and truth are not even on the table? I’m disappointed that EW didn’t come here as an intellectual voice, but instead a diffident, offended man. Character means more than money, and when it comes to EW, I feel I know something about the former, now, and nothing at all about the latter. When you say “accuracy,” I think you’re referring to money, but I don’t think money is the issue at all. I mean, how “accurate” do we have to be? Isn’t EW offended by the notion that we would even try to be “accurate” regarding the very issue that is offending him? I sincerely believe that Eileen stayed within the realm of intellectuality–and that’s where we should stay. “Accuracy” is a loaded term no matter which side brings it up.

    Thomas

  • On August 28, 2009 at 9:51 am Henry Gould wrote:

    An egregious mis-representation of my comments, Thomas. From the beginning I have been protesting AGAINST the personal attacks, the innuendoes, the rumor-mongering about private lives. I have said they are out of order.

  • On August 28, 2009 at 9:53 am Kent Johnson wrote:

    >So, IF Weinberger was criticizing poets for earning their livings as professors, THEN his own position is open to question. I wasn’t at that dinner, but it is true that Eliot has written prefaces for Clayton Eshleman and blurbed Kent’s books (both make their livings as academics) and included lots of professors in his anthology (Olson, Creeley, Eshleman again . . . ).<

    Weinberger, in comment above, nicely dispatches this silliness.

    But have to say I had a good chuckle over John’s reference to my being an “academic,” an adjective I suppose that’s meant to put me on a sociological shelf with, say, Jane Hirshfield, Charles Bernstein, or Dean Young.

    It’s true I teach for a living: at a community college– 18 credits worth of remedial English composition and elementary Spanish each semester. We’re unionized. I’ve never taught a creative writing class in my life. And so far as I know, the nearest publishing poet to my house (I’m not kidding; I live in rural northwest Illinois) lives forty miles away in DeKalb.

    Kent

  • On August 28, 2009 at 9:54 am Henry Gould wrote:

    My apologies if my comments have unwittingly passed along some of the “personal” fabrications. My own aim has been to debunk them & disallow them here.

  • On August 28, 2009 at 10:19 am Daisy Fried wrote:

    Somebody should run a contest to see who’s the truly-least-academic, claiming-to-be-non-academic-but-working-in-a-teaching-capacity-for-a-university, poet around. (I wouldn’t win.)
    Daisy

  • On August 28, 2009 at 10:41 am Kent Johnson wrote:

    Daisy said,

    >Somebody should run a contest to see who’s the truly-least-academic, claiming-to-be-non-academic-but-working-in-a-teaching-capacity-for-a-university, poet around. It would be an interesting contest.

    If you added a community college sub-component to your “teaching in a university” criteria, I suppose I could play.

    But before setting up the rules of the game, take a look at Bourdieu on the sociological/institutional/status distinctions between “technical schools” and the University!

    Kent

  • On August 28, 2009 at 10:46 am Daisy Fried wrote:

    I clicked like, Kent.
    Yrs.,
    Daisy

  • On August 28, 2009 at 10:48 am Kent Johnson wrote:

    Here’s a passage from my conversation with Weinberger in Jacket that is directly relevant to this discussion. Who is insulted here? No one, so far as I can see…

    Kent
    *

    KJ: By the way, I mentioned our mutual acquaintance in the question above, and I know that right after you had spoken to his classes at Harvard last year, three or four of his students were inspired to drop out of school so they could take up being full-time writers. As someone who has written often and in sometimes cynical terms about poetry’s relation to the academy, how — as they used to ask on campus in the sensitivity workshops of the 1980’s — does that make you feel?

    EW: The strange part was that I hadn’t even told them about my own dubious past — and now the parents will probably sue me.
    I dropped out of college after (barely) one year to follow the Ezra Pound course in everything (except economics) that one needs to know to be a poet. (I was also miraculously in touch with Octavio Paz very early on, and published my first translation of one of his books at nineteen.) You’re supposed to graduate the Ezuversity at 30, at which point you’re ready to begin writing poetry. At 30, I realized I was really a lousy poet and unhappy writing poetry, but I could apply all that I’d learned to writing prose. Suddenly I was happy, or almost happy, again, and the stuff wasn’t as bad. So that’s what I did. It kept me off the streets and didn’t harm anyone.
    Unfortunately, what I knew best was poetry, so that’s what I wrote about at first, and I was labeled, completely inaccurately, as a ‘poetry critic,’ even though — unlike real critics — I was mainly interested in writing sentences. In America, I’m still somewhat trapped there, though I rarely write about poetry these days. Abroad, where the essays on poetry aren’t published, and where no one knows (or cares) that I’m a translator, they think of me as an entirely different kind of writer.
    Back to your question: I of course think that the retreat of American writers into the creative writing school diaspora has been a sociological disaster, even if, at the individual level, the pay’s not bad and the hours short. It’s much healthier when writers are out in the world. In Mexico, for example, 90 per cent of poets — they did a survey! — work in what is called ‘cultural diffusion’: columnists in newspapers, editors at publishing houses or magazines, screenplay writers, art critics, workers in the huge Mexican arts bureaucracy, cultural attaches abroad, and so on. This means that they are plugged into the intellectual and political life of the country in ways that are unimaginable here.

  • On August 28, 2009 at 11:35 am thomas brady wrote:

    “I’ve never taught a creative writing class in my life. And so far as I know, the nearest publishing poet to my house (I’m not kidding; I live in rural northwest Illinois) lives forty miles away in DeKalb.”

    Because of where I live, I trip over Jorie Graham and Helen Vendler nearly every day…

    I suppose this makes me guilty of something…

    When EW says:

    “To criticize the banking industry is not the same as saying that anyone who works in a bank is a jerk.”

    He makes an excellent point.

    Ultimately NO ONE is a jerk.

    Except, perhaps, Ezra Pound…

  • On August 28, 2009 at 11:50 am thomas brady wrote:

    “It’s much healthier when writers are out in the world. In Mexico, for example, 90 per cent of poets — they did a survey! — work in what is called ‘cultural diffusion’: columnists in newspapers, editors at publishing houses or magazines, screenplay writers, art critics, workers in the huge Mexican arts bureaucracy, cultural attaches abroad, and so on.”

    Since when was working in a “huge arts bureaucracy” considered “out in the world?”

    I’m also curious: When, exactly, did Mexico become the new Paris?

    I think I understand the motive: the Modernists (Pound, Williams, etc) have made English so ugly, people want beauty again, and Spanish IS a beautiful langauge…

    I welcome a Spanish renaissance…

    Of course that doesn’t mean I’m going to worship every American who goes abroad and translates something…

  • On August 28, 2009 at 12:36 pm Dermot wrote:

    Nah. Spanish doesn’t have enough words.

  • On August 28, 2009 at 1:22 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

    ¿Cuántas palabras (o palabrotas) necesitas, Dermot, para merecer un pulgar rojo? A lo mejor podrías comprar uno en la pulga. O a menos un paraguas para tu parabrisas.

    Seriously, folks, I’m afraid that without the worship of Thomas and his ilk (Harriet is seeking virgins for the volcano; will Vendler and Weinberger do?) our nascent cult of divine hispanophile poet-translators will wither on the vine.

  • On August 28, 2009 at 1:54 pm thomas brady wrote:

    Estoy esperando a Eileen Myles y Sean Patrick Smith a estrellarse en el techo juntos.

  • On August 28, 2009 at 2:28 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    Office Conversation

    Smith :

    – & so the long Friday afternoon winds down
    & the ends of the comment thread begin to fray
    & the Omnium-Gabberii have their say-say-say
    diligently unweaving what went before.

    Jones :

    – & maybe that’s a good thing, in this case.
    Don’t try to fight the tide, Canute.

  • On August 28, 2009 at 3:25 pm thomas brady wrote:

    Henry,

    It’s Fiesta Friday at the Octavio Paz State Bureau of Poulty, Poetry & Grain Commission Studies Office here in the new wing of the old university. Room 99176 B.

    Do stop by!

    Ole!

    Thomas

  • On August 28, 2009 at 3:39 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    Mr. Brady wrote:

    >Estoy esperando a Eileen Myles y Sean Patrick Smith a estrellarse en el techo juntos.

    Grammatically speaking, that would be (without revising the somewhat banal and awkward formulation) as follows:

    Estoy esperando *que* Eileen Myles y Sean Patrick Smith *se estrellen* en [though not really the most appropriate preposition] el techo juntos.

    Don’t want to seem overly pedantic, there, but if you’re going to present yourself as expert on things “Mexican” and “Spanish” for purposes of sneering at their “importance,” you might first demonstrate a working knowledge of the reflexive and the subjunctive.

    Kent

  • On August 28, 2009 at 4:08 pm Dermot wrote:

    And yet, Kent, it remains a language without enough words.

  • On August 28, 2009 at 4:11 pm thomas brady wrote:

    “Don’t want to seem overly pedantic…”

    si, senor.

  • On August 28, 2009 at 4:36 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    It’s true. My last comment was ill-advised, inasmuch as the quasi-racist tenor of recent comments here is beneath contempt.

    Kent

  • On August 28, 2009 at 5:40 pm Bill Knott wrote:

    “quasi-racist”, you say, Kent . . .

    you mean, like, imperialistically co-opting plagiarizing ripping-off the poets of an Asian country nuked by our country, to steal the verities of their verse, to trivialize via hoaxification the true themes of their lives and deaths,

    just in order to advance one’s avantgarde cred,

    that kind of quasi-racism?

    i guess it takes all kinds

  • On August 28, 2009 at 6:09 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    Oh Please. Not this again.

    Given your charges, Bill, I will offer a link to this, a talk I gave last year at the Walker Arts Center, where I take up such misinformed and confused interpretations, if you care to consider.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUEHNrh55qM

    There’s a book of essays on the Yasusada debate, with various contributors, coming out in the UK early next year. You might want to check that out, too, and weigh some of the readings there against your own assumptions. Not that doing so would change your mind (sounds like you made it up quite some time ago–like back in the 90s, when these accusations were flying about), but there could be some stuff therein, who knows, that might get you to reflect some more. One of the essays, in fact, is by the critic Hosea Hirata, whose family is from Hiroshima. Some of his relatives are still-living hibakusha.

    Man…

    Kent

  • On August 28, 2009 at 6:19 pm Bill Knott wrote:

    USA oligarchy exploits the labor and material of poor countries around the world,

    so in line with that a USA poet feels entitled to exploit the labor and material of foreign poets

    for his own benefit,

    and for our lit crits to fodder their nests—

    the fake Hollywood version usually grafts more attention than the original—

    for the latter, see “The Poetry of Postwar Japan”, ed. Kijima Hajime, ISBN 0-87745-063-3

    ….

  • On August 28, 2009 at 6:25 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    Again, this is exactly what I take up in that talk (have done so in various print venues, as well). I even talk about books like the one you mention, and put Doubled Flowering in comparative light!

    It’s simply that you’re operating from a whole set of simplistic, misinformed assumptions when you make accusations like this.

    Kent

  • On August 28, 2009 at 6:34 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    In other words, and last comment on this from me:

    The aesthetic and ethical spirit of the Yasusada writings, as many readers have come to see after the initial “scandal” ran its course, is exactly the *opposite* of what Bill Knott claims.

    Kent

  • On August 28, 2009 at 6:34 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

    Hey, Kent, my girlfriend Becky lives in DeKalb. There are some good poets in that town. I get back there a couple times a year. We should hook up when I’m next in Illinois.

  • On August 28, 2009 at 6:41 pm Bill Knott wrote:

    “There’s a book of essays on the Yasusada debate, with various contributors, coming out in the UK early next year.”

    oh yeah—?

    and where’s the book of essays on the real postwar Japanese poets like Tamura and Tanikawa et al—

    ?

    Shamefully many fatuous lit critters are more beguiled by Smith’s sensationalist grabjobs

    than they are by the authentic originals whose verse he traduced and exploited—

  • On August 28, 2009 at 6:50 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    Sure, John. Taht would be nice. We’ll get John Bradley and head on over to Sully’s Tavern, one of the best places west of Chicago. Let me know.

    Kent

  • On August 28, 2009 at 6:51 pm Bill Knott wrote:

    Smith simply did what Hollywood does
    all the time—

    he stole the productions of foreign artists

    and bastardized them (americanized them) into a mockery of the originals—

  • On August 28, 2009 at 6:58 pm Bill Knott wrote:

    i repeat:

    “The Poetry of Postwar Japan”, ed. Kijima Hajime, ISBN 0-87745-063-3

    and i repeat: where’s the “book of essays”

    about Kijima’s anthology?—

    Smith’s hollywood version deserves a book of essays,

    but the real Japanese poets don’t, because they are not as important as him?

  • On August 28, 2009 at 7:19 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    >…than they are by the authentic originals whose verse he traduced and exploited—

    Seems like the season for slurs on Harriet.

    Sorry, but can’t let this garbage go unanswered.

    There is almost no direct textual appropriation in Yasusada. There is some paraphrase from Kawabata in a couple pieces and from the Tale of Genji in another, and the citation is quite open. There’s some paraphrase from a contemporary critical book on the adaptation of Western visual traditions during the Meiji in one of the letters. The work’s a fictional construct, and it’s composed almost entirely of imagined writings.

    I can see that you’re angry, but again, you’re quite misinformed.

    Let me offer one more piece, this by Forrest Gander, originally in The Nation over ten years ago, which pretty effectively reveals how shallow and confused these attacks are.
    http://jacketmagazine.com/04/ganderyasu.html

    Kent

  • On August 28, 2009 at 7:31 pm Bill Knott wrote:

    major postwar figures like Takahashi, Tanikawa, Tamura, Shiraishi (to name a few notables)

    have been published in book-length English translations,

    but according to the litsnob contribs to that “book of essays” about what’s-his-yada,

    the works of those real Japanese poets are of less significance and importance than Smith’s batch of ‘transgressive’ pastiches—

    it takes one to know one, i guess—

  • On August 28, 2009 at 7:50 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

    I’m not gonna subthread on Dermot’s weirdness about Spanish not having enough words, because two more red thumbs and he will disappear, taking replies with it.

    It’s true that Spanish has no word for toes. “Dedos de los pies” is the best it can do. On the other hand, my son-in-law’s mother, who is certainly an integral memeber of my family, needs four words in English to denote her, while in Spanish she is simply “mi consuegra.”

  • On August 28, 2009 at 7:50 pm Terreson wrote:

    I see that once again a conversation here has gone in-bred, which is such a killer. Ya’ll know each other, have your gripes, and so the issues get lost. I also notice how women poets drop off the screen, but only to give the anonymous dislike vote. I was raised by three strong women who taught me to put a name to my actions.

    Wienberger is right, by the way. A poet’s business is in the dirty streets or in the truth slinging of experience, but never in the Academy.

    Terreson

  • On August 28, 2009 at 8:20 pm Bill Knott wrote:

    “Let me offer one more piece, this by Forrest Gander, originally in The Nation over ten years ago, which pretty effectively reveals how shallow and confused these attacks are.”

    —gee, i missed that Nation piece by Gander:

    wait, was it in the same issue where they reviewed Harold Wright’s Selected Tanikawa? (or was it the Elliott/Kawamura Selected Tanikawa)—

    maybe i’m confusing it with the Nation’s review of Christopher Drake’s Selected Tamura (or was it the Grolmes/Tsumura Selected Tamura)—?

    or maybe it was one of the Shiraishi collections?

  • On August 28, 2009 at 8:32 pm robbins wrote:

    As for the continuing characterizations of my personal life, it is repulsive, and I am shocked that those responsible for this blog are allowing it to continue.

    Yes, the phrase “beneath contempt” comes to mind. But that’s blogging for you: no need to admit you’re wrong, ever, but plenty of stimulus to defend yr initial errors with a shrillness approaching hysteria.

    Meanwhile, those who love only the sounds of their own voices will crash around embarrassing themselves by, say, insisting upon the hoariest clichés in the third-wave feminist handbook (“rape is about power not sex”—as anyone in college in 1992 remembers, & as anyone awake & literate since then has learned to recognize for the pablum it is), or pronouncing judgment upon Spanish-language poetry while demonstrating their utter ignorance of basic Spanish grammar.

    The hits keep on coming on Harriet, an echo chamber for doddering Foetry refugees, actual bigots, & liberal pietists. Fun times!

  • On August 28, 2009 at 8:35 pm Bill Knott wrote:

    from Hiroaki Sato’s great anthology “Japanese Women Poets” published last year,

    (and not reviewed by the Nation or Jacket: they love baloney Smith, but disdain real Japanese poets)

    (and not reviewed by PoChiMag either)—

    a poem by Ishigaki Rin:

    *
    ATOMIC FAIRY TALE

    The war began.

    Two planes flew up from two
    countries
    and simultaneously dropped atomic
    bombs on each other’s countries.

    The two countries were destroyed.

    The only survivors in the whole
    world
    were the crews of the two planes.

    How they lived, sadly
    and intimately—

    That, perhaps,
    may become a new myth.

    (dated September 1949)

    . . .

  • On August 28, 2009 at 8:38 pm Bill Knott wrote:

    oops i lost the right linebreaks on two of those lines:

    Two planes flew up from two countries

    The only survivors in the whole world

  • On August 28, 2009 at 8:46 pm Bill Knott wrote:

    sorry . . . i can’t type the linebreaks right in this:

    and simultaneously dropped atomic bombs on each other’s countries

    is one line in the book—

    whose poems were all translated by the editor, Hiroaki Sato—

    Sato is of course a major, perhaps THE major translator of Japanese verse into English—

    has the Nation, has Jacket, has PoChiMag

    ever reviewed a book by Sato?

  • On August 28, 2009 at 8:51 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    “I think we should turn this thread over to the robots now.”

    “Confirmed. Protocol 90 is activated.”

    “On to the next post.”

    “10/4″

  • On August 28, 2009 at 9:11 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    Personal Life

    I was born on top of a volcano in Teotihuacan, in the year 1952, surrounded by fire and volcanic ash. My parents were very wealthy, having descended from the original Conquistadors mixed with Aztec royalty. From the third day of my life, it was apparent to the gods, & to my extended family, that I was destined for greatness, since I displayed the most immense hatred for both women & men, as well as a quenchless thirst for melted cheese. I speak fluent Nahuatl. Say that again : “fluent Nahuatl.” Say it 30 times, as fast as you can. Dunk your head in a barrel of boiling cheese. I will eat you for lunch. My mouth is wide, & stuffed full of fangs, like an early Olmec idol drifting in remorseless jade. “Remorseless jade.” Parse. Divide. Swell up & die. I am the cruel god of the comment thread : if you have come this far, you will never go back again.

    In early April, 1983, I received a check for over 1 million dollars from my sickeningly wealthy father. I quit my job as an adjutant grad grade adjuster (part time) & began to impersonate Frederick Seidel. Then I began to channel Michael Robbins – who, rumor has it, has 6 toes on his left foot, & walks like an aging ball player from Houston, whose name will remain under lock and key, under the jade idol, forever & ever.

    Go back to the beginning of time, & eat your ancestors, just as the volcano has eaten me. Let the thread burn up, & Ariadne weep : Theseus has betrayed her yet again. The Minotaur laughs his evil laugh. & the labyrinth… the labyrinth is cold & dark, as usual.

  • On August 28, 2009 at 9:12 pm Bill Freind wrote:

    Bill,

    I’m not sure I understand your beef with the Yasusada project. Specifically, how is Yasusada “imperialistically co-opting plagiarizing ripping-off the poets of an Asian country?” Yeah, it constructs a persona, but that’s very different from ripping off a poet.

    Would you have less of a problem if more Japanese poets were reviewed in US journals?

    Also, what do you find interesting about “Atomic Fairy Tale?” I’m not trying to be polemical, but it seems like a pretty flat and uninteresting poem to me.

    Let me ask an even more pointed question: how is that poem any better — or even as good — as, for example, Yasusada’s “Mad Daughter and Big-Bang?”

    Bill Freind

  • On August 28, 2009 at 10:24 pm Bill Knott wrote:

    speaking of women poets,

    and thinking of some postwar Japanese women poets i’ve read in translation—

    there’s the two-volume anthology of contemporary Japanese women’s poetry from Stone Bridge Press,

    unreviewed by the Nation/Jacket (not to mention PoChiMag),

    and the Sato anthol from last year,

    the Tada Chimako Selected, the assorted Shiraishi collections,

    the famous “Salad Anniversity” of Tawara Machi (the Winters trans. and the Stamm trans.),

    and no doubt others i’m not aware of:

    i repeat: has the Nation/Jacket ever featured or reviewed any of those books and anthols featuring Japanese women poets in translation?

    They have plenty of space to advertise the pathetic hoaxes of the ErnMalignant Smith, but none it seems for these authentic Japanese poets—

    not to mention our host PoChiMag, which doesn’t review them either—

    ….

  • On August 28, 2009 at 10:49 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    You’re too much, Henry Gould. You are the best!

    And Mr. Knott, Mr. Johnson, & Mr. Robbins…and Thomas and Terreson and Mr. Simon, where would Harriet be without you? Please don’t ever go away and die. We all love you.

    Sincerely yours,

    the grateful dead

  • On August 29, 2009 at 12:12 am Bill Knott wrote:

    this thread is about politics and wealth, no?

    so it seems apropos to consider why that political magazine the Nation

    should spend its page-space dollars to defend and promote the fake Japanese poet Smith

    while ignoring and paying no tribute or attention to for example the women i mention above,

    who, the Nation knows, are real Japanese poets

    and therefore of less interest and importance to the Nation

    than the “real” Japanese poet Smith-san . . .

    It’s those inverted commas, the Nation knows, that make all the difference—

  • On August 29, 2009 at 12:47 am Desmond Swords wrote:

    Here here. Don’t leave us you GUYS.

    I really love it here, because it is so warm and welcoming and open to all different points of view, reality-takes and persuassions.

    I particularly admire the way younger people respect their seniors and don’t act like horrid thrusting at work types of bluffer bores here on the strength of being able to waffle rubbish about the craft and what it means and blah blah blah.

    I like the command of intellect that goes on here. The people tasked with making it all run: background artists with title, position and key to petty cash, who really treat their seniors with the utmnost of respect and don’t start spouting a lot of patronising tosh if they don’t like them because they’re jealous or acting under the counter – then in an act of total and genuine unfairness, freeze them out the frame by bluffing.

    I love it here, it is so warm and friendly and non-competitive.

    Thank you so much, all you marvelous wonderful posters working on the lowest rung of showbusiness, where fame is three people knowing our name, and more than four in the audience.

  • On August 29, 2009 at 1:14 am Bill Knott wrote:

    when the Nation chooses to ignore real Japanese women poets

    and chooses instead to honor support defend promote the flimflam Smith-san,

    their choice seems to me to be political, sexist and racist—

  • On August 29, 2009 at 1:48 am Bill Knott wrote:

    Smithsada-san up the line here called me “angry”—

    gee, if i’m angry, imagine how

    Hiroaki Sato and Thomas Fitzsimmons and William I. Elliott and Kamura Kazuo and Christopher Drake and Leza Lowitz and Miyuki Aoyama and Juliet Winters Carpenter and Samuel Grolmes (and his collaborator Yumiko Tsumura) and Makoto Ueda and James Kirkup and Harold Wright and Alfred H. Marks and Atsumi Ikuku and so many others (too many to name)

    who have devoted their lives to the labor of translating Japanese verse into English—

    hell, if i’m angry imagine how THEY must feel

    when they see a respectable magazine like the Nation or Jacket (or how many others)

    devote its pages not to the commendable efforts of them and their colleagues,

    but to a rip-off, a ponzipobiz scam, a flimflam sham by the Bernie Madoff of USAPO,

    old what’s his name, Yasoldyasoda Smith—

    Well, how do you think they feel?

    i would eagerly read “a book of essays” about the work of Hiroaki Sato,

    but i’ll never waste another second reading any more vindications of this parasitical hoaxhack—

    ….

  • On August 29, 2009 at 3:10 am john wrote:

    And an irony is . . . I’ve heard an unverified rumor that the translation of “The Night” by Jaime Sáenz that Kent did with Forrest Gander didn’t get any reviews either.

    I recently got “The Night” (translated) from the library, and it’s a marvel. (Kudos and thanks to Kent and Forrest for the translation.) I’ve read a lot of the Yasusada too, and find “The Night” much richer.

    People dig in their heels. (Me included.) Not being in the room together, we forget that our correspondent is an actual person. (I’m guilty of this too.) And, confident of the purity of our intentions and the justice of our judgments, we can’t imagine how anybody could find fault with any of our pronouncements. (Me included.)

    Well, we’re all human, we’re all liable to slippages of tone and unconscious aggression, we’re all in the room together, it’s OK to disagree, and we all deserve some slack.

    Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to our joint poetry reading, Eileen, followed by beers, preferably at the White House.

  • On August 29, 2009 at 8:51 am thomas brady wrote:

    Kent,

    Thanks for linking that youtube talk of yours.

    I had never heard of this hoax, but I must say I was insulted when the guy who introduced you said the Hiroshima survivor fraud belongs to “us,” not “you.”

    Wow. Talk about supreme assumptive arrogance.

    The public, thankfully, doesn’t care, however. 146 views? In today’s media, that translates to ‘me and my friends.’

    I side with Mr. Knott on this issue.

    Kent, I’m sure your’e a nice, hard-working, well-meaning guy, but I don’t think it profits you to play the ‘quasi-race card,’ especially when it’s not warranted at all.

    I wasn’t ‘sneering,’ as you put it; I was having a little fun. When different cultures get along, they can joke; when they don’t get along, they can’t.

    You, apparently, assume the latter scenario exists here at Harriet, and I find this assumption on your part, well… disturbing. Please correct me if I’m wrong. And then I’ll be glad to accept your apology.

    A piece of advice to you, my friend. Don’t cut off avenues of communication. Don’t buy into “contempt.” Keep talking.

    In whatever language you like.

    Thomas

  • On August 29, 2009 at 9:46 am robbins wrote:

    i clik likey …
    toes … hurt …
    papyrus …

  • On August 29, 2009 at 11:12 am thomas brady wrote:

    Besides being afflicted by a Camille Saint Saens melody lately, I’ve been turning over in my mind this line by EW:

    If you criticize the banking industry, it doesn’t mean you’re saying that everyone who works in a bank is a jerk. –EW

    This is the essence of a certain kind of intellectualism. It attacks abstractions: ‘the banking industry’ but it basically leaves individuals alone–except for famous persons who are essentially abstractions in themselves, George Bush, etc.

    This sort of intellectualism ‘works’ until a banker gets offended; in this case, Eileen, representing middle-class academia; she chose to ‘call out’ an intellectual, Eliot, who, from a distance, abstractly attacked middle-class academics.

    Now, this, in itself, is not particularly new, or interesting. It’s a truism, really. Neither Eliot nor Eileen ‘meant harm’ in what they were doing; they were both acting like intellectuals. Both got burned a little bit, when the abstract dipped a little too close to earth, touching an actual person. This happens all the time.

    But what’s interesting to me is how it connects to manifesto-ism in poetry.

    The biggest cultural movement in our time is Modernism, and the chief representative in poetry of that movement is Pound, with his many followers, and this leads us to the author of that wonderful quote: Mr. Weinberger, whose public identity as a poetry anthologist puts him squarely in the Pound camp–still the biggest camp, by far, in poetry today.

    ‘Successful’ manifesto-ism, by its very nature, assumes the mask of progress, of a new, important phase, of real change, NOT in the eyes of a few intellectuals, but for everyone, for society at large, because society at large is, ultimately, in the manifesto-ists’ view, mutually effecting that very change.

    In this case, Pound did not abstractly attack ‘the banking industry;’ he abstractly attacked ‘Victorian poetry.’

    And, by association, Romantic poetry, etc.’ None of the Victorian poets were “jerks,” but Victorian poetry (and Romantic poetry, etc) came under attack.

    Here’s the great question none dare ask: In real terms, is the poetry of Pound and Williams and T.S Eliot, looking back from where we are now: was it then, or now, BETTER, to the public–the public, NOT the manifesto-ists themselves, the PUBLIC–was it then, or now, BETTER than Tennyson or Elizabeth Barrett, than the Victorians– or the Romantics who preceded them?

    The manifesto-ists won, in the sense that they ‘happened,’ but did they win in the core reality of what they were ostensibly all about, REPLACING, in the public eye, Victorian poetry?

    No.

    The Modernists didn’t win in the sense of what they were. William Carlos Williams did not IMPROVE on Tennyson.

    This is the simple, indisputable answer which calls into question the whole modernist enterprise–which exists precisely to make an important fetish of itself.

    Actual progress, which affects society, was not made. ‘The Banking Industry’ may still exist among bankers, but, among poets today, ‘Victorian poetry’ WAS successfully slain. Abstractly. No one says Tennyson is a ‘jerk,’ but “Victorian poetry” is, abstractly, a jerk. That’s why Modernism (in the abstract) “won.”

    But here is where intellectualism of this kind is impotent.

    The Masters of War (if I may call them that) can point to the fact that NEW weapons today are a material IMPROVEMENT over weapons that existed when Pound was first writing his manifesto against “Victorian poetry.”

    If all is mutability, as Shelley said, if the only constant is change, and we wish to talk about real, material change, not change in the abstract, not change on a drawing board, but REAL CHANGE, who has changed?

    Poets, or weapons manufacturers?

    Weapons manufacturers have progressed.

    We can see this change quite clearly, in the material existence of the weapons themselves.

    What of the so-called material change in poetry? Does it exist?

    A bomb can now kill 50 million, and when Pound was writing his manifesto against Victorian poetry, a bomb could kill 500.

    Have the Pound-ian manifesto-ists, in their campagin against Victorian poetry, increased, or renewed, or enlivened, or improved, ON ANY LEVEL, in ANY significant way, ANY interaction between Letters and society at large?

    No. Who can point to any improvement in poetry, anywhere? Besides the resume’ of Marjorie Perloff? Besides that, I mean.

    I could expand this discussion, but I better stop, or it will get away from me (I’m afraid it already has). When Martin Luther attacked “the Catholic Church” with HIS manifesto, did it make life significantly better, or did it bring war after war after war?

    Has ANY good ever come from attacking ‘the banking industry’ from the sidelines, safely apart from the real world of real and actual jerks?

    Has ANY good EVER come from attacking ANYTHING in the ABSTRACT?

    This does not mean that I will go and read only Victorian poetry. What it does mean is that I will use Victorian poetry as one measure when I read contemporary poetry. I will never throw Victorian poetry away. And I will not be impressed by anyone who attacks anything in the abstract, even when that abstraction DOESN’T MOVE.

  • On August 29, 2009 at 11:23 am John Oliver Simon wrote:

    Fame: more people know you than you know.
    —Lew Welch

  • On August 29, 2009 at 12:25 pm Don Share wrote:

    Contrary to popular belief, I’m not a moderator or administrator on this blog – but I want to express my sincere appreciation for John’s thoughtful remark above, and my respect for all those who have things to say in these discussions. I hope we can be civil, even if impassioned, when we disagree, and that we can be accurate and thoughtful in our characterizations of people and things here. These are my two cents, accompanied by apologies to all who have come by and left with bad feelings.

  • On August 29, 2009 at 1:11 pm Bill Knott wrote:

    i hope a few who might be considering wasting their money on that “book of essays” about Smith-san’s Yasoldyasoula “Project”

    will opt for this instead:

    Modernism in Practice: An Introduction to Postwar Japanese Poetry
    by Leith Morton

    (reduced cost copies available at amazon)

  • On August 29, 2009 at 1:54 pm Bill Knott wrote:

    unfortunately Leith Morton’s “An Anthology of Contemporary Japanese Poetry” (published in 1993)

    is out of print and not available on amazon or abebooks . . .

    included in it are several sections from the book “Mother Burning” by Soh Sakon,

    about which the bio note remarks:

    “[R]egarded as his greatest triumph, this book-length poem focuses upon the death of the poet’s mother in an incendiary raid in 1942, and the subsequent burden of guilt. [Published in 1967,] “Mother Burning” was awarded the Rekitei poetry prize the following year and is commonly recognized as one of the greatest works of poetry to be produced in postwar Japan.”

    Sadly for Soh, he’s a real Japanese poet,

    and therefore of little or no interest to anglo crits and crats who would rather celebrate a “real” Japanese poet like Smith-san . . .

    with so much ink and wank devoted to the latter,

    there’s no venue or value left in our insular litslots

    for Soh, who interestingly according to the 1993 bio note translated Roland Barthes into Japanese—

    the death of the author is the life of this party:

    “Oh why do we need Soh

    [I hear the contribs to that “book of essays” all tipsily chorus]

    when we got the Yaddayadda Project!”

  • On August 29, 2009 at 1:56 pm Dale Smith wrote:

    Wow. Another toxic thread. Indicating, perhaps, very little of substance can be addressed in the blog-o-blah.

    There is this, however, (though I don’t think it will assuage Bill Knott’s apparent envy of the Yasusada thing): http://www.lang.nagoya-u.ac.jp/~nagahata/yasusada-bib.html.

    (Bill, didn’t you stage your own demise once upon a time to promote your poetry or something, or was that someone else?)

    Anyway, there’s an interesting list of critical commentary on Yasusada that addresses many of the weirdly tardy accusations etc going on here.

  • On August 29, 2009 at 2:03 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

    Since Tom’s remark will soon disappear, I won’t subthread. I’m trying to suggest, with examples, over and over, that poetry HAS to change for generational reasons. Young folks gotta break with the stuffy practice of their elders, much as it once passed for radical. I’m not sure I see progress in this — Millay or Bishop is not better than Sappho — but I do see evolution.

    Tom knows more about Byron and Shelley than I do; they loved Pope, he corrects, but hated Wordsworth and Coleridge. Better and better for my thesis. I love Tennyson; I recite Ulysses almost from memory as I kayak: “strike off, and sitting well in order, strike/ The sounding furrows, for my purpose holds/ To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths/ Of all the western stars, until I die.”

    Poetry changes. Language changes. My dad (who was not my father — another story) hated neologisms, thought things were going to hell. Is the English language in Trouble? ¿Tiene problermas el idioma español?

    I don’t blame Tom his primitive Spanish grammar, I don’t expect him to listen to what anybody really has to say, but I do appreciate his personal resilience and good humor. I’m glad that the red thumbn prevents him from monopolizing the discussion. He reads only to dismiss or to puff, and he’s two centuries late on a lost battle, he’s part of the fauna.

  • On August 29, 2009 at 2:04 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    Certain Dantesque flavor to these endless comment threads. You read (ie. travel) around in wide subterranean circles. Eventually, inevitably, certain familiar figures re-emerge from the deep; certain themes recur, over & over. Ah, Bill Knott! I slew you in the battle of Portofano, in 1232! Ah, Kent Johnson – you here, too! We fought together so long ago, in Buffalo! The inveterate posters (among whom I include myself, alas) – these masters of excess, who cannot restrain the hot breath which emerges from their gaping mouths at the advent of each “topic” – have titanium hooks stuck through their lolling tongues; the hooks are attached to “posts”, and follow the “posts” wherever they go, round & round, lower & lower, for eternity, in a long smoldering dim labyrinthine ramble. ABANDON HOPE, ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE…

    Yikes !!! Is this Chicago, Dorothy? Where’s Kansas, Harriet?

  • On August 29, 2009 at 2:09 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    Interesting, to say the least, how the dynamic has unfolded on this thread, which was originally about a new anthology of political poetry. Now that the ad hominem attacks against Eliot Weinberger have been exposed for what they are, much to the discredit of those who made them (watch the thumbs, I guess), it’s somewhat “apropos,” I suppose, that the slurs now get turned onto my person and Doubled Flowering, a work I am connected to, given that Weinberger himself played a prominent role in the history of the Yasusada writings (via two early articles in the Village Voice, where he defended the work).

    The first of those two articles (this was back in ’97, I believe), focused, very critically, on Carolyn Forché’s witness poetry anthology, Against Forgetting, which had appeared the year before. It was a very controversial article that generated much discussion around the concept of “witness” and its relation to the broader case of “political poetry.” In short (though the article is much richer and suggestive, obviously), Weinberger argued that Forché’s parameters of “witness” were overly limited, artificial, and contradictory.

    Somewhat amazingly, a couple years after this article appeared, Forché–whose organizing principle for Against Forgetting certainly seemed more or less to be that “the poets had to be there”–wrote to me, fully aware of the work’s fictional nature, to say that she would have readily included selections from Yasusada had she known of the work in time. And she sent me the following comment, inviting me to use it in any way I might wish, which I did, as an epigraph (along with APR editor Arthur Vogelsang’s “This is a criminal act” remark), heading a lengthy exchange at Jacket with one of the leading Japanese critics of U.S. poetry, Akitoshi Nagahata: “’Yasusada’s’ writing is an entry into a spiritual space . . . It is a work of art in the largest sense.” A rather ironic turn of events, one can see, in light of the experiential drift of her introductory essay in the AF anthology and Weinberger’s polemical article…

    Anyway, it occurred to me last night that it’s fortuitous that John Bradley’s name entered the thread above because there’s an anecdote related to him that bears some relevance to Bill Knott’s histrionic garland of character-assassination here, which seems based (as Bill Freind points out above) on a patently ludicrous notion that Yasusada “disappears” Japanese poets: Bradley is the editor of the Coffee House anthology Atomic Ghost: Poets Respond to the Nuclear Age (which contains poems later included in Doubled Flowering) and an anthology of essays on the atomic bomb and U.S. culture from U of Arizona, Learning to Glow: A Nuclear Reader. A couple years after Atomic Ghost appeared, Bradley was invited by the organizing committee of the annual commemoration in Hiroshima to read at the main ceremony on August 6th, at Peace Memorial Park. Bradley devoted his short reading to a couple poems from Doubled Flowering, which he presented to the thousands of people there as the fictional poetic diary of a survivor of the atomic bomb, as idiosyncratically imagined by an anonymous writer (or writers) in the United States. Afterwards, as John related to me, he was approached and thanked by a number of people, including some of the hibakusha poets with whom he had read, not least the great, by then octogenarian, Kurihara Sadako, who spoke of the poems as “moving” to her in their conception. No one there raised any questions about the poems’ legitimacy (though that’s not to say Doubled Flowering hasn’t been debated in Japan, too, because it has).

    My point is that there’s a problem with Bill Knott accusing Yasusada of “speaking for” the poets of Japan. Because really, it’s he who is doing the “speaking for,” under apparent impression that the poets of Japan require special poetic dispensation. Fact is, the presumptions behind his hyperbolic “defense” are freighted with an unacknowledged and embarrassing condescension.

    In the spirit of John Shaw’s comment above, I hope we can stay focused on the arguments, here, and steer clear of the personal slander.

    Kent

  • On August 29, 2009 at 2:09 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

    As for Knott and Kent Johnson, ay mí.

    Knott’s always right, and he’s always angry, he has no other mode. I wish he could let go of being right. And being angry.

    (Me included).

    I think Kent got swallowed by a poetic peronsa which seemed like a good idea at the time. Our mutual buddy John Bradley wrote from a fictitious Italian poet named Roberto Zingarello, and won the Word Works prize for Love In Idleness. I agree that translation doesn’t get enough review and credit. This place stinks of red herring. I look forward to a beer with Kent, though Becky and I seem to prefer the Twin Taps on South Fourth Street.

  • On August 29, 2009 at 2:16 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    Dale,

    Just to note that the bibliography you link to hasn’t been updated for over ten years! Most of the substantial stuff that’s been done is not on there. That’s my fault, entirely, not Nagahata’s, who has kindly hosted the bib at the Nagoya University web site.

    Kent

  • On August 29, 2009 at 2:21 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    John Oliver Simon said:

    >I think Kent got swallowed by a poetic peronsa which seemed like a good idea at the time.

    Still quite here, John…

    And yes, The Twin Tap is great. But it can’t beat the working class air of Sullivan’s. We’ll go to both, how’s that?

    Kent

  • On August 29, 2009 at 3:08 pm Bill Knott wrote:

    i have no interest in reading or refuting the theses theories which valorize Smith-san’s
    boring scam . . .

    but i think it’s sweet that Dale Smith should come to his grandfather’s defense like that—

    and what’s even cuter is the way the two of them take every opportunity to tagteam attack

    the poor little flarfpods—

    i myself would prefer the raucous wit and lyric zest of the flarfistes

    over the sanctimonious smarm fumes emitted by the Smith clan,

    but hey i could be wrong (not

    a chance)

  • On August 29, 2009 at 3:13 pm Bill Knott wrote:

    smith, johnson, i can’t keep these boring names straight—

    it’s Kent Smith in the Cat People movie,

    and it’s Kent Johnson (or Van Johnson)

    in the Hiroshima Mon Royaltycheck movie

  • On August 29, 2009 at 3:50 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

    Brad Pitt plays Dale Smith.

    Paul Giamatti plays Kent Johnson.

    James Cagney plays Knott.

    Dersu Uzala plays Yasasuda-san.

    We need a role for Eileen.

  • On August 29, 2009 at 3:56 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

    Both Sully’s and Twins sound good, although for lunch in DeKalb you can’t beat Bea’s Wok ‘n Roll on Sycanore Road, where the late poet Ed Smith (1941-2004) startled the eponymous Bea over spicy chicken dish by addressing her in the fluent Vietnamese he had taught himself before being whisked out of country because of perhaps knowing too much about the assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem in November 1963. Now that I’ve told you about this I’m gonna have to kill you.

  • On August 29, 2009 at 4:17 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    ”The fastest way to become famous is to throw a brick at someone famous.”

    – Walter Winchell

  • On August 29, 2009 at 4:20 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    Is there a technical name in the literature yet for a nervous breakdown that unfolds in a blog comments box?

  • On August 29, 2009 at 4:22 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    Desmond Swords said:

    “Thank you so much, all you marvelous wonderful posters working on the lowest rung of showbusiness, where fame is three people knowing our name, and more than four in the audience.”

    That was absolutely brilliant, Desmond.

  • On August 29, 2009 at 4:36 pm Bill Knott wrote:

    the flarfoids at least have a sense of humor,

    something Dale Johnson and his granddad Kent Smith

    don’t . . .

  • On August 29, 2009 at 4:44 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    Courage, Bill. And just remember: The number is 911.

  • On August 29, 2009 at 5:32 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    [Actual note sent just minutes ago, responding to a solicitation for poems]:

    Dear E.

    Hey! It *has* been a long time. Did you by chance meet my son Brooks when he was in Buffalo two weeks back? He and love interest were there for a couple days with G. I think they saw R. and D., too, though I haven’t had the full report.

    Thanks for asking this, I appreciate that. But right now I am totally dry (in fact, I am so dehydrated, I’m about ready to go into immutable shock, I fear).

    But if I should by miracle stumble into some muddy oasis yonder the next dune, I shall inform you immediately by means of the telegraph. But what would the deadline be, if I am not dead before the line?

    And how have you been?

    It’s not even October, and Bill Knott is turning suicidally beautiful today over at the Harriet blog and galloping himself with a terrible force against my body.

    But don’t tell anyone at Harriet I alluded to that poem; it might spark up the Red Guard and ignite a new war!

    Kent

  • On August 29, 2009 at 5:36 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

    Say something funny, Bill.

  • On August 29, 2009 at 6:41 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    >the funniest part of it is, he actually takes it seriously

    But Will! (You and I are the only two people reading this, so may I call you Will?) *You’re* obviously taking it seriously. You’re taking it so seriously that you can’t keep banging the keyboard there, sending streams of foam-flecked anti-Yasusada glossolalia out across the ether, as if some white-haired screaming St. Geraud on winged steed, his holy eyes rolled back into his head, like cue balls.

    Really, Willy, the funny thing is that as caretaker of the Yasusada writings, I’ve spoken very little about the matter over the past few years, or so, because the matter has now moved on, into another area, another kind of discussion. Things are calmer now, less fraught– until you came on, that is, yesterday, like a babbling ghost out of the late 90s, accusing me all bug-eyed of being a racist and a thief and a rapist and a serial murderer of every Japanese poet going back to the Edo. And then, after I give you a spanking on your anxious wrinkled bottom, and send you back to your little peck of dirt on that grave you wrote about in those minimalist poems fifty-seven years ago in Intro, you come running back, accusing me of not having a sense of humor. So then, OK, I try to humor you with a couple of lighthearted comments, to relax you up a bit, make you less stiff, and then you come back howling at me to spank you again.

    What is going on, Will? Never in my all my years of being involved in discussions around the matter have I encountered another poet as wackily obsessed with Yasusada as thee! It’s just looney tunes! This is why I want you to keep that 911 number I gave you handy. The gentleman or the lady will answer, and you should sit down and calmly tell him/her how you are feeling. And then you should follow her directions to the letter until the beautiful car with the colored lights arrives.

    Everything will be fine.

  • On August 29, 2009 at 6:57 pm Eliot Weinberger wrote:

    In 1966, the poets I knew were devastated by a mimeographed letter informing us that Bill Knott, who wrote under the pseudonym Saint Geraud, had committed suicide at age 26 in a Chicago tenement. A virgin and an orphan, he could no longer endure being so unloved.

    It was revealed, much later, that the author of the letter was Bill Knott.

    The cover of his first book, The Naomi Poems, identifies the author as “Saint Geraud (1940-1966).” It is only inside, in Paul Carroll’s introduction, that one learns that Saint Geraud is Knott, and that Knott is alive.

    It is within this context that one should read Knott’s attacks on Kent Johnson and rehashing of the Yasusada controversy (now in its second decade):

    “he knew his only path to fame and name-recognition and career-advancement in the pobiz

    was to create some scandal . . . some PR stunt”

    (Whether the Poetry Foundation should be posting these personal attacks on both Johnson and Knott is another question.)

  • On August 29, 2009 at 7:38 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    OK, though there is obviously a “context” for it, and though it’s in tongue-in-cheek tragicomic spirit, and is nothing, really, compared to Bill Knott’s serial slander and innuendo since yesterday, I do regret succumbing to the (illusorily) cathartic temptations of that last comment. My apologies.

    fini.

    Kent

  • On August 29, 2009 at 9:05 pm goo wrote:

    Bill Knott you are funny. I used to call him Kenji Jolson, but the Yaddayadda project is pretty good too.

  • On August 29, 2009 at 9:40 pm goo wrote:

    “A rather ironic turn of events, one can see, in light of the experiential drift of her introductory essay in the AF anthology and Weinberger’s polemical article…”

    Not really ironic, really, when you consider that some works in the witness anthology (and certainly of that whole genre) as well as the Yasusada hoax trade in an ‘authenticity’ achieved through naturalistic, simplistic poetry. Ie the people who like that sort of thing don’t really care if it’s really real anyway–they just want to have that “authentic experience”. It doesn’t keep people from identifying if it’s a fiction. I know it didn’t seem that way in the nineties, but in the end does it really matter whether one project (the Yasusada one) has big scare quotes around it or not – when the people are ultimately going on the same ride?

  • On August 29, 2009 at 10:31 pm robbins wrote:

    Yeah, I’ve been hoping someone would bring up Saint Geraud. I mean, really, Bill, did you think people wouldn’t notice that you’re attacking Kent for doing the same thing you did?

  • On August 30, 2009 at 6:00 am john wrote:

    The Saint Geraud suicide hoax isn’t much like the Yasusada project: Bill’s early poems don’t depend on the persona of the suicide and have not been read that way for 40 years; I admired the poems for 2 decades before I heard the suicide story.

    One similarity: Both hoaxes push Aristotelian rhetorical buttons: They both make a demand on people’s sympathy. And such demands made under false pretenses are provocative. I’m always bugged when a provocateur gets all pissed off that his provocation has succeeded.

    That said, while it’s legitimate to lament that Yasusada gets more attention than Japanese poets (or other poets in translation), the mutual name-calling is doing nobody any good.

    Three cheers for Hiroaki Sato! (A big influence, Weinberger has argued, on the Yasusada writer.)

  • On August 30, 2009 at 6:46 am thomas brady wrote:

    “I hope we can stay focused on the arguments, here, and steer clear of the personal slander.” -Kent Johnson

    Keep in mind, Kent, that Bill’s attack on you was initiated when you played your ‘quasi-racist’ card against me.

    Yes, let me second what you said. Thanks.

    Some cause wounds, some heal them, and others exploitatively open them up.

    Most people can tell the difference.

  • On August 30, 2009 at 7:27 am thomas brady wrote:

    “Since Tom’s remark will soon disappear, I won’t subthread.”

    The invisible nay-sayers are a nuisance, aren’t they? Well, I write for the public, and this is just a small annoyed, clique. Have no fears, mi amigo. They’ll love me, eventually.

    “I’m trying to suggest, with examples, over and over, that poetry HAS to change for generational reasons. Young folks gotta break with the stuffy practice of their elders, much as it once passed for radical. I’m not sure I see progress in this — Millay or Bishop is not better than Sappho — but I do see evolution.”

    So you’re saying that Sappho is not ‘better’ than Bishop, just more ‘stuffy?’ Shelley was a ‘stuffy’ elder for the Victorians? Is Ginsberg a ‘stuffy’ elder for me? Is this what all your ‘examples’ point to? Is this the heart of your thesis? “The stuffy elder?” My dear Simon, you are making me blush!

    “Tom knows more about Byron and Shelley than I do; they loved Pope, he corrects, but hated Wordsworth and Coleridge. Better and better for my thesis. I love Tennyson; I recite Ulysses almost from memory as I kayak: “strike off, and sitting well in order, strike/ The sounding furrows, for my purpose holds/ To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths/ Of all the western stars, until I die.”

    I love the kayaking anecdote! I’m glad you love Tennyson, but I must confess I’ve lost the thread of your argument. No matter. Lovely lake. Or is it a stream…?

    “Poetry changes. Language changes. My dad (who was not my father — another story) hated neologisms, thought things were going to hell. Is the English language in Trouble? ¿Tiene problermas el idioma español?”

    Poetry changes. This is all well and good, John. My coffee is getting cold. So runs the world.

    “I don’t blame Tom his primitive Spanish grammar, I don’t expect him to listen to what anybody really has to say, but I do appreciate his personal resilience and good humor. I’m glad that the red thumbn prevents him from monopolizing the discussion. He reads only to dismiss or to puff, and he’s two centuries late on a lost battle, he’s part of the fauna.”

    John, I almost consider you a friend. But I do listen. Mostly I’ve heard it all before, but I do listen. Two centuries late might be two centuries early. Watch out, kayak man! Here I come, reciting Shelley in my canoe…

    Thomas

  • On August 30, 2009 at 10:58 am Bill Knott wrote:

    my objections to Clark Kent’s Assholeyourcola “project” would fall silent if it were endorsed

    by Hiroaki Sato or Tanikawa Shintaro or Shirasishi Kazuko or William I. Elliott et al—

    his present defenders/advocates don’t impress me . . .

    Of course as all the commenters above point out, my own poetic career is a fraud, but one wrong hardly justifies another, does it?

    besides, i’ve paid the price for my crimes, haven’t i: my poetic career is nugatory; no editor will countenance my work; i’ve been forced to self-publish my poetry in vanity volumes; i am persona non grata and universally despised or ridiculed by everyone in the poetry world . . .

  • On August 30, 2009 at 11:14 am Joel Brouwer wrote:

    It occurs to me that Bill Knott is America’s E. M. Cioran. Ecstatically nihilist. Grandiosely self-abnegating. Famously not-famous. Always out and about announcing his reclusiveness. No wonder I’ve always cherished his work.

  • On August 30, 2009 at 11:20 am Bill Knott wrote:

    please won’t you all pithify your negnotes so i can add you to the rollcall:

    *
    “[Bill Knott’s] poems are so naive that the question of their poetic quality hardly arises. . . . Mr. Knott practices a dead language.”
    —Denis Donoghue, New York Review of Books, May 7, 1970

    [Bill Knott’s poems are] typically mindless. . . . He produces only the prototaxis of idiocy. . . . Rumor has it that Knott’s habit of giving his birth and terminal dates together originated when he realized he could no longer face the horror of a poetry reading he was scheduled to give.”
    —Charles Molesworth, Poetry (Chicago) Magazine, May 1972

    “[Bill] Knott’s work tends today to inspire strong dismissal. . . . [He’s] been forced to self-publish some of his recent books. . . . [B]ad—not to mention offensively grotesque—poetry. . . . appalling . . . . maddening . . . . wildly uneven . . . adolescent, or obsessively repetitive . . . grotesqueries . . . . [His] language is like thick, old paint . . . his poems have a kind of prickly accrual that’s less decorative than guarded or layered . . . emotionally distancing . . . . uncomfortable. Knott . . . is a willful . . . irritating . . . contrarian.”
    —Meghan O’Rourke, Poetry (Chicago) Magazine, Feb 2005

    “[Bill Knott’s books are] filled with venom. . . . Knott seems to hate himself . . . and he seems to hate his readers.”
    —Kirk Robinson, ACM (Another Chicago Magazine, date?)

    “[Bill Knott’s work] consists almost entirely of pointless poems, that say disgusting things. . . . [His poetry is] tasteless . . . and brainless.”
    —Michael Heffernan, Midwest Quarterly, Summer 1973

    “Knott is making capitol on poetic fashion, attempting belatedly to enter the canon of the Language poets by reviving the idiom of Ezra Pound. [His poetry] so successfully defies communicating anything that one wonders what [his publisher] had in mind. . . . Knott, it may be recalled, “killed” himself in the early 1960s.”
    —R. S. Gwynn, The Year in Poetry, DLB Yearbook 1989

    “Consider Bill Knott, a poet who writes lots of very short poems that are nothing but bombast. . . .”
    —Josh Hanson, Livejournal, 28/06/07: http://josh-hanson.livejournal.com/26249. html

    “Eccentric, uneven . . . poet Bill Knott is not [fit] to win prizes . . . [His work is] thorny . . . rebellious, avant-garde . . . .”
    —Robert Pinsky, Washington Post.com, April 17, 2005

    “[Bill Knott’s poetry is] queerly adolescent . . . extremely weird. . . personal to the point of obscurity. . . his idiosyncrasy has grown formulaic, his obscure poems more obscure, his terse observations so terse they scoot by without leaving much of a dent in the reader. . . . There is a petulance at work [in his poetry]. . . . [H]is style has grown long in the tooth. . . . In fact, [at least one of his poems is] unethical.”
    —Marc Pietrzykowski, Contemporary Poetry Review (http://www.cprw.com/Pietrzykowski/beats.htm)

    “Bill Knott’s [poetry is the equivalent of] scrimshaw. . . . [He’s] either self-consciously awkward or perhaps a little too slangily up-to-date.”
    —Stephen Burt, New York Times Book Review, November 21, 2004

    “Bill Knott[‘s] ancient, academic ramblings are part of what’s wrong with poetry today. Ignore the old bastard.”
    —Collin Kelley (from “They Shoot Poets Don’t They” blog, August 08, 2006)

    “Bill Knott bores me to tears.”
    —Curtis Faville, http://compassrosebooks.blogspot.com/2009
    /05/moore-formalism-post-avant-part-three.html

    “[Bill Knott is] incompetent . . .”
    —Alicia Ostriker, Partisan Review (date? 1972?)

    “Bill Knott’s poems are . . . rhetorical fluff . . . and fake.”
    —Ron Loewinsohn, TriQuarterly, Spring 1970

    “Bill Knott . . . is so bad one can only groan in response.”
    —Peter Stitt, Georgia Review, Winter 1983

    “Bill Knott [is] the crown prince of bad judgment. . . .”
    —Ron Silliman, Silliman’s Blog, June 26, 2007

    “[Bill Knott is] a malignant clown.”
    —Christopher Ricks, The Massachusetts Review, Spring 1970

    “Bill Knot[t] sucks.”
    —Marcus Slease (from “Never Mind the Beasts” blog, June 10, 2005)

    “Bill Knott’s a prissy little moron.”
    —Matthew Henriksen, http://hyacinthlosers.blogspot.com/, March 23, 2009

    “Bill Knott should be beaten with a flail.”
    —Tomaz Salamun, Snow, 1973

  • On August 30, 2009 at 12:29 pm Bill Knott wrote:

    isn’t it resourceful how my guilt absolves you all—

    my poetry is a fraud, my life is a fraud,

    ergo

    Clark Smithson and the rest of you

    are not frauds . . .

    the knott fraud makes everyone else

    a not fraud—

  • On August 30, 2009 at 1:10 pm thomas brady wrote:

    The difference between Ezra Pound and Bill Knott:

    Ford Madox Ford
    H.D.
    Richard Aldington
    William Carlos Williams
    William Butler Yeats
    Senator Bronson Cutting
    Mussolini
    T.S. Eliot
    Harriet Monroe
    Hugh Kenner
    T.E. Hulme
    Margaret Anderson
    Dorothy Shakespear
    Olga Rudge
    Wyndham Lewis
    Hemingway
    James Joyce
    D.H. Lawrence
    a patroness, or two, or three

    “The apparition of these faces in the crowd.”

    It’s got nothing to do with the poetry, folks…

  • On August 30, 2009 at 1:30 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    Hi Bill,

    Sorry again for having stooped in that prior post to your level with the name-calling thing.

    but since you raise Hiroaki Sato and the Japanese angle, here are a couple observations:

    I met Hiroaki Sato, someone I’ve long admired, a few years back in Providence, when I was there to give a reading (with Kasey Mohammad, which may seem funny to you, given what you say above about me in relation to Flarf!). The meeting was following a reading by Yoshimasu Gozo, Japan’s famous experimental poet (very radical in performance, probably not your cup of tea, I suspect). I had a very nice conversation with Sato there, he’s a wonderfully kind man, and we’ve corresponded a bit in most cordial way since then in relation to “avant-garde” uses of the renga in Japan, his recent encyclopedic work on Japanese women poets, a book I published a few years back in which he appears, and other things. I also published a number of his translations in the first issue of Fascicle magazine, in a vast section on translation I edited that ran in the first issue.

    Sato expressed when we met a strong interest in the Doubled Flowering writings. It’s possible, of course, that he was just being polite– I can’t say I really know what he thinks of Yasusada because I haven’t broached the matter with him since our meeting in Providence, though maybe I will now! (Yoshimasu Gozo, incidentally, is quite aware of Yasusada, and from what I gathered through his translator–a brilliant student at Brown at the time, it’s terrible I can’t recall his name at the moment–he is intrigued and not hostile at all. But this is admittedly a general impression.)

    After the Asahi Shimbun published a front page story on Yasusada some years ago (the Asahi Shimbun is like Japan’s NYT), there was some discussion and debate there, and a few more articles followed in that newspaper and others. Later, the discussion entered academic circles, when the critic Akitoshi Nagahata published articles on the controversy and when Hosea Hirata, who chairs the Japanese Studies Dept. at Tufts (and who’s published books on Japanese modernist poetry with Harvard and Princeton, including study of the great Nishiwaki Junzaburo, whose theories of “translation” are suggestively akin to ideas at work in Doubled Flowering), delivered a keynote talk on Yasusada at Japan’s version of the MLA, the National Institute of Japanese Literature. The journal of the Institute published that essay and another essay appeared in Modern Japanese Literature, one of the major journals there–both of these studies are very positive in their interpretation of the work. Translations from Doubled Flowering have also appeared in Japan. I mentioned above, I believe, that Hirata’s father is from Hiroshima (he happened to be out of town on August 6th), and some of his immediate relatives are survivors of the bomb, so no doubt his interest in Yasusada is partly related to that. He has argued that Doubled Flowering is a strange though empathic work that has come to be–however problematically and indirectly–an intrinsic part of atomic bomb literature. Naturally, there are Japanese critics who would strongly disagree with him, I’m sure.

    There is more to say, but my point is to suggest to you that your position on all this is really very shallow and naive. The issues are much more complicated than your polemical anxieties would have it, guided as they are by your patronizing assumptions about what’s “really Japanese.”

    Kent

  • On August 30, 2009 at 1:39 pm Eliot Weinberger wrote:

    Curious how Knott has created this internet persona as the “universally despised” poet:

    “my poetic career is nugatory; no editor will countenance my work; i’ve been forced to self-publish my poetry in vanity volumes; i am persona non grata”

    In 2004, he was published by Farrar Straus and Giroux; the book contains poems that first appeared in The New Yorker. He did self-publish some chapbooks, but he also, in the last 25 years, has had books from Boa (2), Univ. of Iowa, Univ. of Pittsburgh, and– Random House. A quick google search turns up many rave reviews, praise by well-known poets, etc.

    The “persona non grata” is indeed a persona, and a kind of elaboration of the suicided Saint Geraud.

  • On August 30, 2009 at 1:56 pm Terreson wrote:

    For some perverse reason I’ve kept up with the conversation. All I can say is WOW! I stand in awe. Ya’ll are definetely out of my league. I know again why I’ve given the poetry scene a wide berth. It all seems so mean.

    Terreson

  • On August 30, 2009 at 2:24 pm Bill Knott wrote:

    as i understand the argument of those above,

    my fraudulent poetry/life

    excuses and justifies

    Smith Clarkson’s plagiarism of postwar Japanese poets—

    i don’t see how i can refute that logic . . .

    they obviously win the debate

  • On August 30, 2009 at 2:33 pm Bill Knott wrote:

    okay, Smithkent:

    get Sato to write a blurb praising your “project”,

    and you’ll never hear another word out of me about it . . .

    and while you’re at it you might tell your pals at the Nation and Jacket to run some feature reviews

    of Sato’s books . . .

  • On August 30, 2009 at 2:41 pm Bill Knott wrote:

    . . . if you’re not convinced by the quotes i posted,

    Weinberger, i don’t know what to say—

    won’t you please give me another to add to my list?

    i value your disapprobation . . .

  • On August 30, 2009 at 2:46 pm robbins wrote:

    Besides being published in The New Yorker & by FSG, Bill Knott’s poetry has, according to his recent comment, been reviewed in Poetry, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, & Partisan Review, among several other journals.

    In the face of such overwhelming neglect, who could dispute his assertion that his “poetic career is nugatory,” that he is “persona non grata”?

  • On August 30, 2009 at 2:56 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    >Smith Clarkson’s plagiarism of postwar Japanese poets—

    Bill, it’s fine if you wish to keep repeating your juvenile taunts with my name, but at least don’t keep repeating misstatements of fact I’ve already corrected you on. As I said, in regards to your charges of “plagiarism” in Doubled Flowering:

    “There is almost no direct textual appropriation in Yasusada. There is some paraphrase from Kawabata in a couple pieces and from the Tale of Genji in another, and the citation is quite open. There’s some paraphrase from a contemporary critical book on the adaptation of Western visual traditions during the Meiji in one of the letters. The work’s a fictional construct, and it’s composed almost entirely of imagined writings.”

  • On August 30, 2009 at 3:17 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    .

    What a wonderful irony. Bill Knott said:

    ‘besides, i’ve paid the price for my crimes, haven’t i: my poetic career is nugatory; no editor will countenance my work; i’ve been forced to self-publish my poetry in vanity volumes; i am persona non grata and universally despised or ridiculed by everyone in the poetry world . . .”

    Welcome to greatness, Bill:

    SELF-PUBLISHED POETS OF NOTE:

    Alexander Pope
    William Blake
    Walt Whitman
    Ezra Pound
    T.S. Eliot
    E. E. Cummings
    Edgar Allan Poe
    Robert Bly
    Lawrence Ferlinghetti
    Robinson Jeffers
    Alfred Lord Tennyson
    Percy Bysshe Shelley
    Robert Service
    Carl Sandburg

    I say this in all sincerity, Mr. Knott, because I am not a fan of your poetry, but it doesn’t really matter who is. It only matters who someday will be.

    The irony is that, five years ago, I intentionally chose to self-publish in order to emulate my heroes (see above) and eschew the “Po-biz” and Academia. Now, due to public indifference, I feel forced to go the “Poetry Business” route and am preparing my submissions to The New Yorker and Poetry Magazine.

    Like Hell!

    :-D :-) :-D :-) :-D :-) :-D :-)

  • On August 30, 2009 at 3:49 pm john wrote:

    Gary, your comment on self-publication interested me, and so I clicked “Like,” but the vote recorded as “Dislike,” alas.

    Just wanted you to know. It’s an impressive list you got there!

    Travis (or whoever), please take note.

    Thank you.

  • On August 30, 2009 at 4:21 pm Terreson wrote:

    Adding to Gary’s list of the self-published: Virginia Woolf, Robert Graves, Laura Riding Jackson, Anais Nin.

    But what I really came back to say is what I should have posted immediately upthread.

    “Let’s sing another song, boys.
    This one has grown old and bitter.”

    L. Cohen said that.

    Terreson

  • On August 30, 2009 at 4:23 pm robbins wrote:

    And then there are the forty million self-published poets you’ve never heard of.

  • On August 30, 2009 at 4:23 pm Eliot Weinberger wrote:

    In Bill Knott’s litany of bad reviews (which we all have), it struck me as odd that Robert Pinsky would pan anybody in his old “Poet’s Choice” column in the Washington Post. So I checked it out.

    Here is Knott’s redaction:

    “Eccentric, uneven . . . poet Bill Knott is not [fit] to win prizes . . . [His work is] thorny . . . rebellious, avant-garde . . . .”

    And here, in its entirety, is what Pinsky actually wrote– it is followed by two complete poems:

    “Eccentric, uneven, brilliant, authentic, the remarkable poet Bill Knott is not the type to win prizes, become the pet of academic critics or cultivate acolytes. But this thorny genius has added to the art of poetry.

    “As if tired of the flat, all-purpose formal sameness of the lines and structures in so many new books of poetry — including would-be experimental ones — Knott includes a number of sonnets in his latest book, The Unsubscriber. Sonnets may be a surprise from a rebellious, avant-garde figure. But he handles the form in a manner as inventive as his quirky, penetrating language.”

  • On August 30, 2009 at 4:25 pm robbins wrote:

    Oh, that’s not the only one of those, Eliot. Bill cuts up his many positive reviews to make it seem that no one likes his stuff. Read Burt’s piece in its entirety, for instance, or check out the context of the Salamun quote.

  • On August 30, 2009 at 4:52 pm Bill Knott wrote:

    gee i wish you guys would give me some good quotes to add to my wall of shame…

    what i’d really love is a good slam from Wm. Logan,

    but a nice slur from Weinberger or Robbins or Brouwer

    will do in a pinch . . .

    (not Clark Smithson, though: he’s no good; nobody ever heard of him)

  • On August 30, 2009 at 5:34 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    Were any of them any good, Mr. Robbins? And who do we leave it to to decide?

  • On August 30, 2009 at 5:57 pm Bill Knott wrote:

    oh oh oh i shouldn’t respond to you on this, Weinberger,

    i’ll only get into more trouble, but what the hell:

    i can understand your puzzlement, and

    if i had lived elsewhere than Boston for the past 30 years i wouldn’t perceive the Pinsky review the way i do—

    i’d see it as you do, as a positive not a negative:

    but i have to read it in context of my experience there in Boston,

    where Pinsky ruled the roost—

    where Pinsky’s magazine Agni returned every poem i sent them with a form rejection slip,

    where Pinsky invited every poet in town to read at his school (Boston University)

    except me,

    where the Massachusetts state arts council over the 3 decades i lived there gave annual cash grants to hundreds of poets but not a penny to me,

    where Pinsky— well, this list of slights could continue, but let me cut to the quick of it:

    where, when I see Pinsky begin “Bill Knott is not the type to . . .” I immediately insert his real message:

    “not the type to join our country club of poetry here in Boston. He’s not our type, he’s not fit to be one of us, he’s rebellious, thorny, avant-garde, he’s too quirky.”

    From Pinsky these are not words of praise: rebellious, avant-garde, quirky—

    believe me, from Pinsky these are insults, and I know he meant them as insults.

    The gloze of crittalk he laved his insults with, may deceive the casual eye—

    I can’t interpret his words from your neutral viewpoint as an outside observer, Weinberger,

    I can only read them as for example a message to Jonathan Galassi the editor/publisher of Farrar Straus,

    who regularly publishes Pinsky:

    He’s not our kind! he’s not one of us! you can’t publish me and Frank [Bidart] and, and Louise [Gluck]: you can’t publish us

    and him too! not that knottwad! he’s “not the type”!

    I have no doubt that similar protests from others on the Farrar Straus poetry list flooded in . . .

    in the upshot of which, i’m no longer a FSG poet (never was, really, just ask any legitimate FSG poet you meet),

    i’m a Lulu.com poet: all my vanity volumes can be downloaded for free from there . . .
    my books cost nothing because they’re worth nothing—

    in the end i’m nothing—

  • On August 30, 2009 at 5:58 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    Nobody mentioned self-published prose writers here, Terreson but, since you brought it up, here’s the second half of my list:

    Not to mention,

    R. Kipling
    H. D. Thoreau
    W. E. B. DuBois
    W. Cather
    T. Hardy
    N. Hawthorne
    E. Hemingway
    V. Woolf
    O. Wilde
    D. H. Lawrence

    Jeez…go figure! We even know their given names, these complete unknowns who first self-published.

  • On August 30, 2009 at 7:24 pm Bill Knott wrote:

    i have to grudgingly admit that Smith was shrewd in his choice of Hiroshima

    as the site of his “appropriation” or “fiction” or whatever doubletalk he dresses it up with—

    imagine the response if he had impostered a book ms. by a pretend poet-survivor of Buchenwald, and had eucred APR and other mags with such a persona—

    or say he had fabricated poems by an unknown feminist martyr poet (approximating the lines of the Tsvetaeva trajectory, maybe)—

    surely his ruse would have been seen through,

    his con game would have been exposed

    and he would have been—

    what?

  • On August 30, 2009 at 7:40 pm Bill Knott wrote:

    hey Robbins, man, that’s what, 2-3 out of thirty which

    i misrepresent (according to you: i don’t agree with your interpt, but c’est la vie)

    :

    —so when your first book is reviewed and you have 30 poems in it and the reviewer only notices the 3 worst, you might feel misread
    a little bit, no?

    (it’ll never happen of course, since every reviewer of your first book will know to not bop a compadre: as you must realize, by establishing yourself as a pocrit (Mr LRB) it guarantees you’ll never get a bad review in your life; now i wonder how that feels in your white sport coat and pink carnation to KNOW that you’ll never read a negative word about your verse ever (unless of course you go all Logany, but you won’t),

    does that make you feel, i don’t know, SECURE?)

  • On August 30, 2009 at 8:15 pm Bill Knott wrote:

    thankfully, not all verse about the subject by English-speaking poets is as bad as poor Johnson’s—

    some have spoken to it with great address:

    John Wain’s “A Song for Major Eatherly”

    is one example . . .

    [Eatherly piloted the Nagasaki bomber]—

    you can find Wain’s poem right there on your shelf,

    in Larkin’s Oxford Twentieth Century Verse.

  • On August 30, 2009 at 8:41 pm robbins wrote:

    Look, Bill, the trouble is I like yr stuff. If Poetry would let me review a PDF on Lulu (how about it, Don?), I’d gladly take you up a peg.

    But if you really want some disapprobation, I can provide you with something:

    Reading Bill Knott’s poetry is like being smacked in the head by a sasquatch. You know it’s not good for you, but the experience is so novel that you don’t want it to end.

    Now, you can redact this like so: “Reading Bill Knott’s poetry is like being smacked in the head … it’s not good … [Y]ou … want it to end.”

  • On August 30, 2009 at 8:45 pm robbins wrote:

    Also, if you’d read my reviews in Poetry, you’d know that I’m hardly averse to going “Logany,” if that means risking offense. My negative reviews of Ruth Stone, Reginald Gibbons, &, in the forthcoming issue, J. D. McClatchy, could not be harsher.

  • On August 30, 2009 at 8:49 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    Alright already. Let’s dance.

    http://www.digitalemunction.com/2009/08/30/next-week-at-harriet/

    l to r: Myles, Share, me, Knott, Robbins.

  • On August 31, 2009 at 10:03 am Kent Johnson wrote:

    Bill Knott said:

    >okay, Smithkent: get Sato to write a blurb praising your “project”, and you’ll never hear another word out of me about it . . and while you’re at it you might tell your pals at the Nation and Jacket to run some feature reviews
    of Sato’s books…

    So Bill, I just heard this morning from Hiroaki Sato. I’ll check back in later, and tell you what he said. His message is not in the form of a “blurb,” but I hope you’ll stick to your promise above, after you see. You can of course contact him to verify, later, if you wish.

    Kent

  • On August 31, 2009 at 10:10 am thomas brady wrote:

    “Let’s dance.”

    That was painful to watch.

    Robbins: nice beard.

  • On August 31, 2009 at 12:42 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    OK, Bill.

    Not many readers will see this, since the post is now in the “older posts” index, but here’s a synopsis (with portion of letter) from what Hiroaki Sato said, since you invoked his name yesterday, asserting (calling me all sorts of bad things as you did so) that you would “never say another word about the matter” if “someone like Sato” expressed any kind of support for the Yasusada work.

    The email from Sato came this morning. It begins with him saying it’s been a long time and that by coincidence he was about to write me on something else [added funny salutations, etc.] Then he says, in regards to the “Araki Yasusada affair,” that he remembers being called, some thirteen years ago by the author of the Lingua Franca article, but can’t remember exactly what the conversation was about or what he even said [added funny remark about his memory and such]. Then he goes on to say:

    “My first question is: If it has been recognized that Doubled Flowering is
    something made up literarily, why does Bill Knott (of whom I know
    nothing) continue to attack you or anybody else, for that matter, at
    this late date? Second, when some weighty, erudite people like Forrest
    Gander and Hosea Hirata made positive statements on the affair such a
    long time ago, why does Knott keep harping on the matter, or what more
    can I add to pacify him? (I have just read Forrest’s thoughtful comments
    online. As to Hosea, I am not conversant with Derrida et al., as I said
    when I reviewed his Nishiwaki book.) Perhaps there is something I don’t
    know about. (I am not used to the blog business, and seem unable to go
    to the posting you have specified.)” [More salutations, etc. and link to a recent review by him for an English-language newspaper in Japan.]

    (signed) Hiro

    So, there you go. Have a good day, and keep practicing those dance steps.

    :~)

    Kent

  • On August 31, 2009 at 2:28 pm thomas brady wrote:

    Kent,

    If Bill Knott is nothing to Sato, how can it possibly mean anything to anyone, other than yourself, what Sato says to you in private correspondence re: Bill Knott, when you clearly told Sato that Bill Knott “attacked” you. What is Sato supposed to say: ‘It’s good, at this “late date,” that Bill Knott “attacked” you!’??

    Further, Sato clearly doesn’t remember, or care, about Double Flowering, and naturally has nothing to say, since he perfunctorily defers to someone else’s (your friend’s?) “erudition.”

    If you think Bill is going to be impressed by this, you must not think him very savvy.

    Thanks for sharing, though. It gave me a chuckle.

    Thomas

  • On August 31, 2009 at 2:50 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    Kent:

    Sato-san said: “I have just read Forrest [Gander]’s thoughtful comments online.”

    Where would one find these?

    Thanks,
    Gary

  • On August 31, 2009 at 3:19 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    Gary, I’m pretty sure he’s referring to this:

    http://jacketmagazine.com/04/ganderyasu.html

    The piece is also contained in Gander’s collection of essays, A Faithful Existence, and if you like his stuff, you should check out this book, where the essay form gets taken in some strange, inspiring directions!

    Amazing that people are still reading this thread!

    best,

    Kent

  • On August 31, 2009 at 7:12 pm Terreson wrote:

    Kent Johnson says: “Amazing that people are still reading this thread!”

    For me at least it has been because the thread has proved mightily instructive, just as was the Myles/Wienberger stand-off, of what goes down in what one poetry blogger has called the poetry industrial complex. Are the pickings so slim poets have to bare their teeth and raise their hairs in order to make themselves look bigger than they are? To me it’s all just silverback behavior.

    Terreson

  • On August 31, 2009 at 10:18 pm Terreson wrote:

    I see my most recent post has garnered 2 negative, anonymous votes. I’ll be clear. I call those two anonymous voters cowards. Also in my view when poets go anonymous poetry becomes as trivialized as most people see it. You cowards in poetry rather prove the point.

    Terreson


Posted in Uncategorized on Monday, August 24th, 2009 by Eileen Myles.