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Community, Awaiting Moderation, & Why I Heart Truong Tran

By Craig Santos Perez

in some ways, many of the posts from the current cohort of Harriet bloggers is about community: reading series, the commons, literary magazines, criticism, ethnic and gender organizations, humans and nature, academia. even Harriet itself is a kind of community blog.

as i mentioned in a previous comment field, there is always a dark side to community formation, always an exclusion, always the haunting of what a particular community will not embrace.

this dark side is rearing its ugly head again…

at the digital emunction group blog, folks are up in arms!

kent johnson writes:

One of the liveli­est, most inter­est­ing dis­cus­sions to take place at Har­riet in some time unfolds under _________ post on __________. I par­tic­i­pate in that quite actively, call­ing some rather ugly things out, though always with decent polite­ness and, I dare say, good humor. One of the topics bandied about there has been “policing of boundaries” in the “post-avant” sphere. I’ve just been told that all my com­ments will be held until fur­ther notice. Ah, creamy ironies of our poetic climes…

John Latta writes:

Post’d about fif­teen min­utes back to Har­riet, under the ________ thread: “Public ques­tion: why have Henry Gould and Kent John­son been put on mod­er­a­tion status for their con­tri­bu­tions to this thread?” In my cyber house, said post just sits there with: “Your com­ment is await­ing moderation” smirk­ing above it. Harriet’s a purga­tive.

another john writes:

I’ve been put on mod­er­a­tion at Har­riet too! And it came . . . with no notice, after I’d posted a reply to _______. Except by the time my com­ment went up, ______’s com­ment had dis­ap­peared, which made my com­ment non­sense — I was talk­ing to some­one who wasn’t there — a ghost! And so I imme­di­ately posted a reply to my com­ment, explain­ing what hap­pened — and that reply, explain­ing my embar­rass­ment, has been in mod­er­a­tion limbo! Speak­ing of edit­ing: the phrase should be, “Your com­ment is await­ing review by the moderator”; there was noth­ing immod­er­ate about my com­ment.

henry gould also:

They do seem to be having sort of a melt­down over at Har­riet. I gauge it as less high-​handedness & more an iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with [Harriet's] basic atti­tude. [Harriet] seems like a nice person who has a gen­uine anxiety-​aversion to intense verbal debate & dis­agree­ment on mat­ters of prin­ci­ple. It’s viewed as inher­ently “negative”, rather than a battle of 2 pos­i­tives. It endan­gers the pro­jected Har­riet audi­ence of poetry-​loving little-furry-animal-loving veg­e­tar­i­ans. The next step we will prob­a­bly see is a notice saying “this com­ment thread has been closed.”

and if you think Harriet only moderates men, here’s what ‘rachel’ wrote:

I tried to post a com­ment on Har­riet this evening in the trans­la­tion thread and received a reply saying my com­ment is being held for mod­er­a­tion. I guess I am one of the aggres­sive, non-​male respon­ders referred to in ______’s updated ini­tial post to the thread. Wow. I wrote to [Harriet] and told [her] I with­drew my com­ment. Even before I stopped by here and learned some of you are also being mod­er­ated, I knew my com­ment wasn’t going to see the light of day.

*

ah, community. personally, i’ve been enjoying the lively debate here on Harriet & the occassional sarcasm, and the fine combing of what ‘ad hominen’ means. so i DEMAND that the ‘awaiting moderation’ stigma be lifted on henry, the two johns, kent, and rachel (tho you can keep the ‘awaiting moderation’ on michael robbins because he’s always teasing me)!

TO SHOW MY SOLIDARITY, I AM GOING ON A BLOG STRIKE. I REFUSE TO POST HERE AGAIN UNTIL THE ‘AWAITING MODERSATION’ IS LIFTED FROM THESE GREAT MINDS! I AM ALSO STARTING A FACEBOOK PETITION!

Questions: who’s with me? why is harriet trying to stifle community? is harriet truly a community of bloggers? is travis a fascist? what can we, as a community, do to create productive dialogue here?

*

in a recent blogpost, johannes goransson wrote:

I’ve blogged a bit about my troubles with the valorization of “the community” in a lot of American poetry discussions. This strain of thought is perhaps most extensively expressed in my mentor Jed Rasula’s book American Poetry Wax Museum, which I think captures the essence of the pro-”community” rhetoric: the wax museum is fake, kitsch, “vocal prosthesis” (that phrase I think is about Plath); while the community is real, real interactions, real men and real women making real natural children.

obviously, this a simplification of ‘pro-community rhetoric,’ but i want to end this post with a valorization of community.

this past friday, i had the pleasure of attending the first solo art exhibition of the poet truong tran (his art website is here).

i heart truong tran because he was an important mentor to me during my mfa. he was also my first ethnic creative writing teacher. he also taught me how to take risks, in terms of exploring the relationship between ethnic identity & aesthetics. after i graduated, he continued to support my development as a poet & a publisher.

truong is well known in the bay area: he has taught at the university of san francisco, mills college, and san francisco state university–as well as the community organization kearny street workshops.

i was so inspired attending his art show because so many writers whose lives he affected in positive ways showed up. young poets from diverse parts of the bay area writing community (from all the dif programs) came through. former students drove hours to support his work. one former student flew all the way from new york city to be there; she said she wouldnt miss it for the world.

i carpooled to the gallery with poets oscar bermeo and barbara jane reyes, and after we left the gallery show (must have been 100-200 people who came through) we talked about how important truong was to all of us, how generous he has always been, how he’s created such a strong sense of community for so many of us.

thank you, truong.

Questions: do you heart truong tran? have there been any poets in your life that have taught you about community? who has been an important mentor to you as a poet? for the poets of color out there, did you have a similar experience the first time you were taught by another poet of color?

*

some pics from the art show:

Comments (56)

  • On February 8, 2010 at 5:02 pm Michael Robbins wrote:

    It’s only on T. Donovan’s posts that any of this has gone on, which makes me wonder whether he is responsible. Whenever anyone has tried to register even the mildest opposing viewpoint under his posts, the comments are deleted without comment or never appear in the first place. It’s clear that he is opposed to the very notion of debate or disagreement, possibly because the number of inanely misguided things he says every time he opens his mouth constitutes a kind of maximum effect of the blogsophere, a reverse Planck level that cannot be exceeded. Call it the Donovan effect.

  • On February 8, 2010 at 5:09 pm Barbara Jane Reyes wrote:

    Haha, no one’s commenting because they are all in moderation!

    Seriously though, re: “community.” I talk about it all the time, and most of the time, it is so abstract to me. If it is that huge, amazing crowd who came out for Truong’s first visual art show, then yes, community is amazing and affirming and concrete, in terms of mutually showing support for one another as we continually develop as artists.

    Yes, I heart Truong Tran. He was never my teacher, at least formally, as he only taught undergrads at SFSU. But as with you, our conversations about poetry had to do with writing “ethnic” identity and “ethnic” political poetry that is interesting, not lazy, not relying on tropes.

    Other poets/mentors who taught me stuff about community would be Jaime Jacinto and Eileen Tabios. One conversation Eileen and I had when I handed her the first draft of my first book was about handling ethnic artifacts in different, interesting, not cliche ways. So this is similar to what I’ve just said about Truong.

  • On February 8, 2010 at 5:38 pm Mark Mitchell wrote:

    I wish there were another word besides “community” for this sort of thing. I feel like it’s been co-opted by every boring public service thingy in the world, and so the actual coming-together of people to form a vibrant group feels watered down and dead when called a “community.”

  • On February 8, 2010 at 5:47 pm Bobby wrote:

    always the haunting of what a particular community will not embrace

    I’ve mostly watched these conversations from outside, but it seems to me that one thing this particular community of current Harriet bloggers will not embrace is the idea that an artist might be more interested in making good art than in promoting the health of the community. The regnant philosophy seems to be that if and when a notion like “good art” comes in conflict with the aims of the community (because elitist, exclusionary, etc.), then the notion must go.

    This is where I think Johannes gets it wrong: the pro-communitarians are those who, like him, actively pursue the importation of art into life, those who think that the measure of the artist is the quality of her life. For those who feel otherwise, who think the point is to pour the life into the art, the idea that an artist (qua artist) would ever be more concerned with a community than with her art is absurd.

    It’s interesting in this respect, Craig, that your praise of Tran’s opening focuses exclusively on his person, without so much as a word about his art. I don’t mean “interesting” in any kind of snarky way, and your “pro-community” qualifier makes it clear you know what you’re doing. What intrigues me is that what you’re doing—praising an artist for his life rather than his art—is so common these days that you never hear a word against it.

    It intrigues me both because I hold the opposite philosophy and because I think there’s an old and durable tension in the history of art that’s at stake here. I’ve written a little about this at DE here, here, and here, but I’d be interested to hear others’ thoughts on it.

  • On February 8, 2010 at 6:07 pm Peter Greene wrote:

    Sometimes I appreciate moderators. But then sometimes I drink. The two may not be related
    in the way you might think.
    P

  • On February 8, 2010 at 6:12 pm Peter Greene wrote:

    On the fourth hand, what is really the point of moderation? You can always ban abusive, threatening or insane people. But then again, I’m clinically totally insane, and am frequently popular in (some) (perhaps those filled with other tooth-transmitter-wielding certifiable paper-bearing loobies like me comment fields.

    If you want to find out where the poetry of the Foundation poets and their various cohorts really fits, moderation would be the last thing a person should do. Monitors, of course – a really hot comment field can go out of control – but we’re talking a rule structure, not a subjective roomful of monkey fingers. (awaits moderation) (no, I don’t keep copies – this is a comment field, not the sages’ special scroll of ages).
    P

  • On February 8, 2010 at 6:16 pm Peter Greene wrote:

    @Michael: Naw, I never post much on Thom’s posts (too much talk of things I know not aught of), and I get chopped all the time. Of course, I’m a freak and wear my heart on my sleeve.
    P

  • On February 8, 2010 at 6:26 pm Peter Greene wrote:

    CSP: “for the poets of color out there, did you have a similar experience the first time you were taught by another poet of color?” Craig, I’m so old now. Is ‘of colour’ really a real term? Why does it feel so weird in the mind? I’ve never been taught by a poet of colour.

    All the ones I know of work in words, although B. Kapil colours well outside the line and is a source of deep textual shade.

    I suppose if I was going to be called a colour (other than white, which is another pail of shade), it would have to be purplish. At least, the skin highlights are. The rest varies rather with weather and mood, but shows clearly my relation to many others not like me.

    Not being American, and not having grown up with much culture conflict over colour (we’re money racists out here on the Cascadian Canadian Coast, be any multicolour you like, to match the money), I guess it just doesn’t fit my templates.

    Pink Peter

  • On February 8, 2010 at 6:28 pm Peter Greene wrote:

    A final question, for everyone (hopefully not too immoderate): Does culture have colour?

    P

  • On February 8, 2010 at 8:48 pm csperez wrote:

    @ michael: i think it’s crazy to think that thom is opposed to the very notion of debate! he’s been rigorously debating with most who have commented on his posts–including the (cough) crazy people.

    if anyone is to blame–i blame travis! not only is he most likely a fascist, but he’s probably also a pound scholar!

  • On February 8, 2010 at 8:51 pm csperez wrote:

    haha i just reported your comment barbara!

    & thanks for sharing with us about jacinto & tabios…i bet they have both mentored many poets. i’m looking forward to what other writers of color have to say about their mentors.

    here’s to fried chicken sandwiches! yum!

  • On February 8, 2010 at 9:01 pm csperez wrote:

    @ mark: in That the People Might Live: Native American Literatures and Native American Community (1997), jace weaver uses the term ‘communitism’ (combining community & activism). literature is ‘communitist’ “to the extent that it has a proactive commitment to Native community, including [...] the ‘wider community’ of Creation itself.”

    He also writes: “[h]ow a given work is received, consumed, appropriated, by Native community is part of the work itself. It helps complete the process. Communitism is, as the word itself implies, communal. It is part of a shared quest for belonging, a search for community. It is the valorization of Native community and values and a commitment to them that may be, in part, politically unconscious” (45).

    i dunno, do you like that term? or have another proposal?

  • On February 8, 2010 at 9:21 pm Bhanu Kapil wrote:

    Damn. Driving home today, I composed the following post in my head: “Violence and Community.” I also considered: “Aggression and Community.” The post was going to be: “Discuss.” Shit.

  • On February 8, 2010 at 10:03 pm csperez wrote:

    @ bobby: thx for your thoughtful comment. lots to think about. first, when did i ever say i do not embrace “the idea that an artist might be more interested in making good art than in promoting the health of the community”? obviously, both notions of ‘community’ and ‘good art’ are subjective– and their relationship in constant flux. so i’m really not sure where you locate this ‘regnant philosophy’.

    second, i think johannes gets it wrong even before that: there is no ‘essence’ of ‘pro community rhetoric’–community formation is much more complicated than that. plus, there are many different communities that to think you can distill their diverse rhetorics into a single essence is just silly.

    i also think your thinking about art & life is too either/or…too one-directional. for me, it’s more true to say that one’s life and one’s art intersect, collide, contradict, influence, push and pull in unpredictable and exciting ways. one doesnt overdetermine the other.

    you’re right, i didnt talk about truong’s art or poetry. i think he is both an amazing poet & artist. i linked to his author page and his artist website–so you & others can judge for yourselves. in terms of the content of this post, i wanted to focus on the feeling of community at the gallery (focusing on something is not the same as “rathering”).

    that being said, i don’t think there’s a determining correlation between the ‘quality’ of one’s art and the ‘quality’ of one’s community engagement. some great poets are bad at community–or just not interested. some bad poets are great at community building–and less interested in art. to me, truong is both a wonderful poet & awesome community builder. a rare combination, perhaps.

    i will try to catch up on your DE posts–thx for links!

  • On February 8, 2010 at 10:14 pm Michael Robbins wrote:

    I would love to know what I wrote that was “crazy.” All I ever did in that discussion was defend the ideas that one should read Pound & that one should welcome debate instead of shutting it down by deleting comments that respectfully dissented from prevailing views. If he loves debate so much, why has he not condemned the banishment of Henry Gould, who contributed not a single heated word to the discussion?

    It’s remarkable to me that my views on poetics, as expounded here or at DE or in the pages of Poetry or the London Review of Books, might be characterized as “crazy.” Perhaps you mean it’s crazy to bother intervening in discussions whose moderators delete anyone’s comment if enough people click “report this comment.” If so, I agree.

    Of course, if you want to pretend that anyone suggested that Travis or anyone else is a fascist, then there’s nothing to discuss.

  • On February 8, 2010 at 10:23 pm Rachel wrote:

    Thank you for your post, Craig. And thanks to Fred, too. I decided to respond in this thread, because I was mentioned in it.

    It wasn’t clear to me from Thom’s original post on translation that he wasn’t advocating avant translations over old-fashioned ones. It wasn’t clear to me until John Oliver Simon wrote:

    “Conceptual translation as a twee thang can only exist in relation to very standard texts. Even Brandon Brown has to go to a straight translation if he wants to know what Catullus wrote. A plethora of pre-existing inventive and scholarly Catulli gives his project elbow-room to transgress while googling fedorae.”

    Then John Sakkis reiterated his point, and Thom responded:

    “thanks John. I should have mentioned this earlier… ugh!”

    John Oliver Simon also wrote: “That said, even we staid straight (or, maybe, gay) translators know that accuracy is fickle and there is an inevitable quantum space between faithfulness and sparkle.”

    to which Henry Gould responded:

    “No argument with this. All I’m saying is that you need BOTH to dance. I think that’s what you’re saying, too… if I’m conceptualizing & paraphrasing your statement correctly.”

    My own stance, as I pointed out, is similar:

    “I think there is room for both avant and old-fashioned forms of translation.”

    I did take a few swipes at avant translations when I thought they were being promoted as the new, only, best way to go. Both Larsen and Brown made clear in Thom’s update to the original post that this was not the position they were advocating.

    Now about meanness and community. First, I want to say that Travis wrote to tell me that my post was held for moderation due to glitch in the system, not because of my post’s content. So, Travis is not a fascist, although the computer haywiring may be.

    I have learned the most about community from the women in my local writing group. We used to get together twice a month to write and share what we had written. Now we only meet once a year, sometime around the summer solstice. The last time we met, someone mentioned a writing prompt I brought several years earlier: “Negative Capability: How to Talk Mean and Influence People” by Tony Hoagland. Here’s how Hoagland begins the essay:

    “Lying here together goes back so far. . .
    it becomes still more difficult to find
    words at once true and kind,
    or not untrue and not unkind.
    — Philip Larkin

    Meanness, the very thing which is unforgivable in human social life, in poetry is thrilling and valuable. Why? Because the willingness to be offensive sets free the ruthless observer in all of us, the spiteful perceptive angel who sees and tells, unimpeded by nicety or second thoughts. There is truth-telling, and more, in meanness.”

    http://www.cstone.net/~poems/essahoag.htm

    Later in the essay, Hoagland writes:

    “If the poetics of empathy can sometimes be simple-minded, satire also can be blind or petty, full of self-satisfaction without self-examination.”

    If there were two opposing sides in the translation debate, and I don’t think they were as clearly demarcated as the evolving debated at first seemed to indicate, then perhaps one side tended to see the other as empathic and simple-minded, while the other side tended to see their “opponents” as blind and petty. Both sides may have seen the other as being “full of self-satisfaction without self-examination.”

    The women in my writing group are my friends. I don’t expect them to be gratuitously mean to me, and vice versa. The emphasis is more on community than on art, to bring this discussion around to Bobby’s interesting question. Although none of them participate in online writing communities, their real life support enables me to participate in a forum like this one, where I don’t expect everyone to be nice to me and where, alas, I am not always nice to everyone. Unless it was designed as invitation only, if I gave a poetry reading and only my friends showed up, I wouldn’t consider it a success. Community is necessary and can be lovely, but expanding community is fickle, glitchy, sparkly, sparky and shitty. Maybe the mistake is in thinking it could/should/would be otherwise. Here’s Hoagland again:

    “Welcome to Poetry City: Hurt someone’s feelings: Go to jail.

    The problem with such civility is that it excludes all kinds of subject matter which cannot be handled without contamination of the handler.”

    Ah, there’s the rub. I apologize for any gratuitous meanness my comments may have contained and for any not so gratuitous hurt they may have caused.

  • On February 8, 2010 at 10:54 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    I agree with Rachel. Basically, poets are positive people. They want to affirm things, & each other. I think the poetry community (as reflected here) were taken aback by the intensity & vociferousness of James Stotts’ & my criticism of Thom Donovan’s position. & maybe the two of us stepped over the line of polite & mutually-affirming conversation.

    But the important point is, we weren’t arguing about poetry. We are arguing about translation. JS & I were objecting on a single point of principle, which, if you look back over all that caterwauling, is pretty clear. Thom & Brandon had developed a position which was centered on the idea of “deconstructing” faithful translation. JS & I were opposing that position, & pointing out that variations in translation depend on a basic trust in clear transmission – a measure of accuracy. You have to have both to dance. I think that was JO Simon’s point also.

    So there you have it. The rest has been rhetoric & melodrama & sarcasm & one-upmanship & panic. I confess I contributed to that, & I’m sorry… but I think that’s all a side issue. People in community have to be willing to reason together peaceably over differences of principle & logic & opinion. Kent Johnson & others have been trying to do that here. I know sometimes I would rather make hay with sarcastic jokes at my opponent’s expense… but I’m open to the same : as long as it doesn’t get personal. Then on principle we should take it outside.

  • On February 8, 2010 at 10:55 pm bscg wrote:

    Best teacher I’ve had it when it comes to community, and everything else, is Josh Bell, who ran the senior workshop when I was an undergraduate at CU. His total openness, his willingness to take any poem on its own terms, made everyone else more receptive. It wasn’t something he ever talked about, but something he did, an attitude and a practice–not even (directly) towards people but towards text–that somehow resulted in conviviality and kindness. And heightened engagement, and better discussions, and better poems. And (the community part) acquaintances turning into friends, who now write collaboratively.

    So organic, though (or because?) not based on an aesthetic or an identity, but simply the practice of care–of the text, and so of others. Which is what I, at this point, want out of Poetry: a life practice whose every dimension, especially the social, is enriching.

    It would be easier to care about “good art” if the scope and scale of the contemporary scene didn’t tend to dwarf “achievement.” Which is not to say that I want to read or write bad poems, but that it’s hard to imagine what “good art” could mean, for someone who doesn’t treat it as a professional activity, outside of the context of its reception. Or, why the making of beautiful things needs be distinct from the making of a beautiful life. And I’m not talking about aestheticism here, but real, joyous relations between people.

    It probably helps that the kind of community I’m talking about doesn’t have any expressly political “aims.” I recognize that this is probably naive but don’t know what to do about it.

  • On February 8, 2010 at 11:52 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    & by the way, BRAVO, Craig. FREEDOM, FREEDOM. Freedom of expression; freedom to disagree & debate.

    As for learning from people of color, I’m not a person of color, but I’ve learned a lot from my sister, who is, & I’ve learned from Alexander Pushkin, the Russian national poet, of African descent – who lived and died for the dignity & independence of the name & vocation “poet” : in other words, for the very breath of freedom. The world loves to shut it down, & enslave itself in various ways, large & small… but we were made to be free.

  • On February 9, 2010 at 12:30 am john wrote:

    Craig — thanks, for your freedom of conscience and your thoughtfulness — all very interesting. I hope you don’t actually go on strike though.

    Michael, I thought Craig was *teasing* with his mentions of teh crazys and allegations of fascisms, and I didn’t think he was teasing anybody in particular, just a mode of rhetoric that was a considerable exaggeration of the complaints going around about immoderate moderation.

    For a long time, in aesthetics, I’ve preferred to think of “communion” rather than community. Total strangers can share communion — at its best, a good conversation at Harriet can create a sense of communion. Communion may or may not lead to community over time, and I guess I can understand people feeling that they have an online community, but I don’t feel that way. I heard the word “community” in my activist life long before I ever commented on a blog, and I got sick of it then too (much like Mark, above), because of its inherent mushiness. Does it mean polity, neighborhood, business association, interest group? Yes. The warm and fuzzy car-towing community. Etc.

    That said, I’m all for trying not to “say” anything online that I wouldn’t say to somebody’s face; and I’ve really gotten into spiritual and emotional trouble — and massively irritated other people — when I’ve strayed from that principle. In other words, take or leave community, disagreement is fine, but trying to consider one’s interlocutor as an actual person is necessary for emotional health.

    Ah, freedom. A few weeks ago I was at a training of team leaders for the one night count of the homeless in my town. A long boring meeting — hooray. When the meeting ended a woman at my table who I assumed (perhaps wrongly) from her appearance was homeless herself (she was overweight and walked with a walker; most of the people there were social workers, and social workers in her condition both dress better than she was dressed and don’t take part in the one-night count) — this woman said when the last speech was made, “Free at last.”

    Always delighted to hear a quote from Martin Luther King (this was a few days after his birthday), I smiled and said it twice, “Free at last, free at last!”

    And she smiled and said, “Or at least, reasonably inexpensive.”

  • On February 9, 2010 at 2:48 am Bobby wrote:

    when did i ever say i do not embrace “the idea that an artist might be more interested in making good art than in promoting the health of the community”?

    I don’t know whether you’ve said it here at Harriet, Craig, but you have at your own blog, as here, where you call it “annoying” that “even in an org/contest that is supposedly ‘activist by definition’, aesthetics trumped identity. or, perhaps, aesthetic activism trumped identity-based activism.”

    there is no ‘essence’ of ‘pro community rhetoric’

    Sure there is: the essence of pro-community rhetoric is the advocacy of community as an end/goal/product of art.

    i also think your thinking about art & life is too either/or… for me, it’s more true to say that one’s life and one’s art intersect, collide, contradict, influence, push and pull in unpredictable and exciting ways.

    Yes and no. Yes because, as I wrote at DE, while I do think that the two philosophies are theoretically incommensurable, I also think that in practice you’ll never find one without the other. Even the most caricatured avatar of a New Critic you can summon will still depend, in some measure, on his/her persona; contrariwise, whatever the successes of performance art, most people still ask for something tangible or saleable from would-be artists. No because as working artists we choose day to day what we want our art to be: our work or our person. I’m not saying that that choice can’t change on the hour every hour, only that it’s a mistake to think we can choose both at once.

  • On February 9, 2010 at 9:14 am NEG wrote:

    “Poetry or the London Review of Books”

    Congrats on that. And congrats on that poem in the New Yorker.

  • On February 9, 2010 at 9:52 am Johannes Goransson wrote:

    This is not my beautiful wife… Or however that Talking Heads song went…

    I really don’t know what I’m doing in this post, Craig. Why did you invoke my post? You take a little piece out of context simply to dismiss it. I just can’t undersatnd what the point of that is.

    On my blog I have written a bit about community – ways that I’m interested in community, things that irritate me about communiy, about anti-community rhetoric.

    The piece you quoted is pretty specific about a certain strain of pro-community rhetoric. And you can agree or disagree or whatever, but to dismiss it seems totally pointless.

    I agree that it was a careless mistake to suggest that this was “the essence” of community formation, that’s to overstate the case, you’re right, and I certainly simplified it for rhetorical effect, but that simplification came after many posts about this matter, and I still believe this is an important feature of a lot of the community discussions, and I have disscussed it at some length.

    So what I’m saying is, why are you invoking my argument without engaging with it for a second?

    Johannes

  • On February 9, 2010 at 10:04 am Michael Robbins wrote:

    Noah? Sarcasm? Whoda thunk it?

  • On February 9, 2010 at 10:08 am Johannes Goransson wrote:

    Never mind, Craig. I read the post again. I’m very sleepy this morning. Clearly your response does include a counter argumnet – implicit in your description of the event. And it’s a nice argument because you don’t contradict my argument – the appeal of community here seems to be exactly as I noted it in my critique – withthe important exception that it’s a community of folks that have often been excluded from communities on account of them not being “real” (ie foreigners, minorities etc).Of course the critique of “realness” is still relevant.

    Also, Bobby, I’m not lookign for a quality of life; but certainly art happens in life, and art is received (not received, ignored, censured whatever) in life.

    Johannes

  • On February 9, 2010 at 10:43 am Johannes Goransson wrote:

    OK, one more sleepy comment.

    Bobby,

    You’re right that I don’t believe in the distinction of art and life. But I don’t see how this would interfere with my making the art I want to make. On the contrary; it seems an effect of precisely that. Of course I don’t really believe in standards of evaluation; I believe in art that interests me; perhaps that’s what you mean.

    And one more thing Craig:

    I noticed that you said my statement was “silly”, but you pretty much recap the argument in your post… So why is it silly?

    This is a strangely disrespectful way of holding an argument. Very un-communal of you.

    Johannes

  • On February 9, 2010 at 11:39 am Bobby wrote:

    You’re right that I don’t believe in the distinction of art and life. But I don’t see how this would interfere with my making the art I want to make. On the contrary; it seems an effect of precisely that.

    Hi Johannes,

    Yes, absolutely. One of the reasons I like reading your thoughts on this stuff is that you’re admirably frank about what you’re doing and why. (Which is not to say that every artist needs a theory backing his practice, only that theories can be interesting, too.) I think we disagree at a pretty fundamental level in our approaches to art—epitomized by our opposite feelings about kitsch—but that doesn’t mean I’m trying to convince you or anyone that you ought to change what you’re doing or thinking. I’m more interested in how and why one half of the debate (mine) has gone so completely underground in the current situation.

  • On February 9, 2010 at 12:29 pm csperez wrote:

    @ michael: i wasnt at all suggesting that you were one of the crazy people! your comments have always been pointed–and i agree re: pound–tho i did disagree re: zizek.

  • On February 9, 2010 at 12:31 pm csperez wrote:

    @ peter: ‘of color’ is really a real term. tho a bit outdated i must admit…i alternate btwn ‘of color’ ‘ethnic’ ‘minority’ just for variety.

  • On February 9, 2010 at 12:41 pm csperez wrote:

    @ bobby: interesting quote to pull from my blog. here’s the difference: i was talking about a judge for a contest not an “artist interested in making good art”. i blogged about that specific contest a number of times…and the ‘aesthetics trumped identity’ was a nice way of saying that that judge was pretentious.

    that is not the ‘essence’ of my pro-community rhetoric! and why this obsession with essences?

    again, i just disagree that we have to choose one OR the other. and i’ve read thru your DE posts on the subject, and i question why these are so separate for you…so much so that you could read the whole debate on criticism as breaking down to a simplistic choice. however, i do agree that SOME artists will choose the social aspect of being a poet over the more private aspect of writing the (non-collaborative) poem (collaborative poem making throws a wrench into your binary). but SOME poets def are interested in both making the best art they can and living the most artful life possible (whatever those may mean for them). i’m just saying, not everyone fits into this either or category you’ve constructed.

  • On February 9, 2010 at 12:43 pm csperez wrote:

    @ rachel: glad to hear your voice here! i will respond substantially to the translation debate in a separate post–but just wanted to say glad you aren’t leaving harriet!

  • On February 9, 2010 at 12:44 pm csperez wrote:

    unless it’s cold outside, of course. as i just wrote to rachel, i will write a post on translation thinking about the issues you’ve brought up. thanks henry!

  • On February 9, 2010 at 12:46 pm csperez wrote:

    thx for your comment bscg. i think that openness is a wonderful quality in a creative writing teacher. one of my mfa teachers, rusty morrison, had this quality & i learned so much from her teaching style (both about poetry & about teaching).

  • On February 9, 2010 at 12:58 pm csperez wrote:

    thanks you for commenting, john. i am serious about the strike, but it seems most of the commenters have returned–except for kent…is he still in moderation limbo? i guess i’ll wait till tomorrow, when i’m ‘supposed’ to post again. fat chance with that pound scholar moderating everyone’s comments ;)

    i like what you say about communion, but i’ve always resisted that word cuz i’m a ‘recovering catholic’ (dont tell my grandmother).

  • On February 9, 2010 at 1:08 pm csperez wrote:

    @ johannes: yay i’m glad you commented! this is actually the second time i quoted you at harriet (out of context, too, so my apologies for that–i will be more careful next time). i was just hoping to bring you into the conversation since you have lots of provocative things to say about community (i subscribe to your blog, fyi). & i usually don’t engage with what i quote in the posts, i try to save it so i have something to say in the comments.

    so i also apologize for calling it ‘silly’–a bit of displaced aggression as bobby’s comments always get me fired up (in a good way). so yes, i do think calling it ‘essence’ was careless, but i do agree that the invocation of ‘realness’ is a strand of pro-comm rhet. however, my own valorization of community had nothing to do with ‘realness’ (nor intended to put down its anti-). my point was to point to another strand of po-comm rhet: coming through or showing up. with community organizing of any kind (in art or politics) it’s so hard to get people to come through. truong is able to do it. this has nothing to do with realness.

    i should also say that truong’s community crosses ethnic boundaries–he brings many different people together.

    much apologies again for being un-communal–i hope you know i love ya :)

  • On February 9, 2010 at 1:26 pm Peter Greene wrote:

    @CSP: I know, didn’t mean to be annoying. I just find it all beyond me and a bit painful. I have odd fur, and odd ways, so I do understand social division. I never really experienced racism ’til I worked in a big Toronto kitchen. Wow, everyone’s into it. It’s just too weird.

    Hey! I got less moderated on this thread about moderation! Glad I checked back. Now I can go off in a happy huff, and puff and puff and inflate my ego.

    P

  • On February 9, 2010 at 2:06 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

    The poet who taught me most about community was Carol Lee Sanchez, who preceded me as Statewide Coordinator of California Poets In The Schools. “Don’t nickel and dime the program,” she would say.

    I value Kent’s contributions. Contrarianism is an important part of the mix.

    A few weeks ago I tried to post in reference the now-banished foets who made our life so tendentious here last summer. The post never registered. There must be a list of words that will cause a post not to appear.

    On strike! Shut it down! ¡El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!

  • On February 9, 2010 at 4:07 pm Boyd Nielson wrote:

    There are at least three separate issues that this conversation is threatening to conflate: 1) the specific incident with Kent, Henry, John, Rachel and others in the translation thread 2) the moderation process of Harriet generally and 3) the very large question of community (we might even call that 3a and posit 3b as the gap between being an artist and making art). I have nothing to say about the first that hasn’t already been said better elsewhere, and I’ll leave the third for another time, but the second is something that needs to be addressed. As I noted at DE, Harriet is a private blog and as such has no obligation to let anyone post; Harriet clearly has the right to moderate however it wants, since it pays people to post here and it pays people to make sure there are no personal attacks. To put it bluntly, even if you don’t like how Harriet does these things, you still have the option of going somewhere else.

    There is absolutely nothing, generally speaking, wrong with moderation. The problem is that for a long time those in charge of Harriet have seemed to think there is something wrong with moderation. And so we have seen Harriet do nothing until the vitriol got so bad it could not be ignored (as though personal attacks could be self-correcting); we have seen the silly fiasco of thumbs up and thumbs down on comments (as though a “hidden” comment—hidden perhaps because others disagreed with it, or because they dislike the person posting it, or, it may be, because they wanted to be mean—were the same as an objectively inappropriate comment). And now we see a weird process wherein comments can be held for moderation and then posted and then censored because someone clicked “report this comment” (as though the comment, which had presumably already been reviewed to see whether it violated the standards of Harriet, suddenly became inappropriate just because someone—or a number of people—clicked on it). I find the latter method of moderation to be especially noxious and confused, since it wants to claim the banner of the commons while potentially repudiating disagreement or dissention that constitutes the very possibility of the commons—all the while doing so without even minimal transparency. To put this differently, what is offensive at Harriet is not that blog comments are moderated but that Harriet is engaged in a process of moderation that implicitly includes feedback from some readers even as it refuses feedback to others by censoring certain comments without specifying why or how those comments exceeded the boundaries of the appropriate. Who, after all, is responsible when a comment appears and then disappears soon after? It can’t be those in charge of Harriet presumably—otherwise they wouldn’t have let the comment appear in the first place. And it can’t be the anonymous readers who clicked on “report this comment,” since we don’t know why they clicked on the comment, and, it goes without saying, we certainly can’t ask them.

    Let me be absolutely clear about this. When I say that Harriet is a private blog, I’m by no means celebrating that fact. But I am pointing to what those in charge of moderating Harriet have consciously are unconsciously been trying to avoid: as a private blog, someone has to define generally what is permitted in this space and someone has to have the final say on whether any particular comment fits that definition. And if they do have that final say, it seems reasonable to expect them to articulate their reasons for making that decision. Harriet is responsible for what goes on here, for what is allowable and what is not, for who gets banned and who doesn’t. It can’t pretend there is some invisible hand that does the work of moderation while everyone is safely browsing Flickr or uploading their lives on Facebook.

  • On February 9, 2010 at 4:07 pm Michael Robbins wrote:

    Yeah, I see that now. I am like Yosemite Sam. Try to be less like Yosemite Sam, I tell myself. Except the mustache. Work on the mustache.

  • On February 9, 2010 at 4:09 pm Michael Robbins wrote:

    [furiously clicking 'report this comment']

  • On February 9, 2010 at 4:34 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    I KNEW it was you all along, Robbins! You are so frigging immoderate! You need MAJOR moderation, man! The Red Labyrinth symbol beside your comments means that Report This Comment Function has been elevated to Orange Crush – in other words, the Masters of Moderation [who shall remain nameless] have evoked Executive Privilege all over your … all right, we won’t go there. This is a Family Chicken Farm – Free Range, Organic! NBN : Now Be Nice!

  • On February 9, 2010 at 6:09 pm roz wrote:

    I love John’s idea of communion, but then again I’m not a recovering Catholic! :)

    Seriously, though, I feel he accurately describes the experience of connecting with another through words, ideas, conversations, poetry. The other might be alive or dead, live on a different coast or different planet, you might have nothing in common with them in real life or even find them annoying or objectionable as a person, but for that one moment or many moments there is that connection, that spark of understanding. This kind of dovetails with Sina’s latest post on what keeps poetry alive, which I hope to comment on if I can get my puppy to stop chewing on my new scarf that’s dangling off the side of the monitor…

  • On February 9, 2010 at 7:09 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

    What Boyd said.

  • On February 9, 2010 at 10:20 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    What John Oliver Simon said.

  • On February 10, 2010 at 8:06 am Richard Villar wrote:

    Mentors. There are two for me: Martín Espada and Willie Perdomo.

    Amongst young students of color here in New York (high school ages, mostly), and among the students my fiancee Tara Betts mentored back in Chicago, the one poet who gets mentioned/taught/read the most has to be Willie. I don’t know if I can exactly quantify why, except that there is a fearlessness to his language that resonates on many levels. It’s interesting formally. It’s interesting sonically. It makes strong arguments. He brings his locales and the characters within them to life, in a way that anyone can understand, even if you didn’t grow up in East Harlem. (He kinda makes you wish you did, though.) The lesson I learned from Willie about truth in vernacular speech was a lesson I sharpened later reading Sterling Brown. So it was empowering to hear the work as a beginner, and humbling reading it later on, because I was able to see myself in a continuum and tradition.

    As for Martín, I was a lonely undergrad at Montclair State University in 2002 when he came to do a reading there. I went to it at the behest of one of my professors, and I don’t think I’d be writing at all if I hadn’t. Espada gave me the permission to be Puerto Rican and Latino, with all the (sometimes) contradictory experience that defines those terms, in the fledgling bit of poetry I had scribbled in my books up til then. And as with Willie, the more I read and wrote and experimented, the more I was able to appreciate the formal strategies in Martín’s work, and particularly the conversations it was (is) having with the rest of (Latin) America…the América of De Burgos and Neruda, that is. Being Latino, for me, is not a limiting thing when placed in that context, and I know that many of Martín’s mentees (there are a lot of them) feel the same way.

    Funny isn’t it, how poetics…the deep study and reading of poetry…can deepen one’s identity/politics in a non-surface way? If you listen to some of the assnecks who bash political poetry (some on this blog, in fact), you’d think we were all ranting lunatics who don’t read books. Perhaps that’s for another thread, though.

    One last point: It is also important to me that I can genuinely call these two poets my friends, to the point where I can have conversations with them that have absolutely nothing to do with poetry. I have poet friends who don’t always remember to do that, and it annoys me to death. If I CONSTANTLY had these kinds of meta-conversations about language, power, syntax, formal strategies, and the po-biz, I think I’d be a seriously unhappy bastard. And in that vein, I’m really tired of seeing/reading/hearing poets who are genuinely unhappy boy-children, because they invariably end up clogging threads like this one by waving their wangs at each other and demonstrating to the world how much they haven’t read yet. Fuck Ezra Pound. Have a muffin instead.

  • On February 10, 2010 at 11:36 am Travis Nichols wrote:

    Thanks, Boyd. There’s a lot to think about here. I agree that despite our best efforts—-in previous posts, in the Harriet “about” page, and in the notice that appears when users first sign in—-confusion remains about how we moderate the comments. Your input—-and the entire thread—-has given us a lot of food for thought as to how we can continue to feature voices from emergent and vibrant poetry communities in this space without getting sidetracked by discussions of administrative procedure.

  • On February 10, 2010 at 12:44 pm Bobby wrote:

    Ah yes, my favorite thing about the internet: the way it magically turns the person you disagree with into an unhappy, friendless, illiterate castrato. Nice to know you’re above wang-waving.

  • On February 10, 2010 at 1:02 pm Bobby wrote:

    Craig, I’ll cop to exaggerating the dichotomy to make a point, but it does seem a point worth making. As I said before, we’re in violent agreement about whether “SOME poets def are interested in both making the best art they can and living the most artful life possible.”

    Not sure why I deserved the crack about obsession and essence. You took Johannes to task for identifying pro-community rhetoric in certain poetry circles, arguing (I thought) that the way people advocate for community is so various that it makes no sense to talk about it as a thing. I think it’s a thing, and I said as much.

    It wasn’t my intention to get you or anyone “fired up,” even in a good way, and I certainly don’t want to be accused of clogging up any more of your threads, so I think I’ll leave things there.

  • On February 10, 2010 at 1:22 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    > I’m really tired of seeing/reading/hearing poets who are genuinely unhappy boy-children, because they invariably end up clogging threads like this one by waving their wangs at each other and demonstrating to the world how much they haven’t read yet.<

    You know, these poetry blogs with their comment threads would be so much better if readers were more like COWS, don't you think? Just placidly chewing their cud, feeding quietly on the poetic grass & legumes we provide to them, uttering occasional moos of praise & grunts of contentment… & believe it or not, this is becoming scientifically feasible – I mean, cloning & grafting poetry readers genetically with cows… it could happen someday. I look forward to it. Wouldn't the world be a better place if we just stopped disagreeing about things? I mean, if I were an Harriet poster, I would not like to have people questioning me or disagreeing with the foodstuffs they receive so generously from us. Cows would make better people.

  • On February 10, 2010 at 2:55 pm Thom Donovan wrote:

    one of my first and best teachers in college (also, as it turns out, the chair of my dissertation committee in grad school) was Myung Mi Kim. I owe a lot to Myung–my life in certain ways–but foremost, to her generosity, a teaching practice (I feel myself often trying to conduct my own classroom like Myung’s), a way of reading ‘difficult’ poetry (Myung initiated me into a discourse about New American Poetry, Objectivism, Susan Howe), and ways of thinking radically about the relationship between language and power, something every word of Myung’s work investigates and bears witness to. were I to admit poets and artists of color who have influenced me, the list would be a very long one. but I mention Myung here because I can think of no other person in my life who has so consistently helped me discover a poetics at different moments of this process, and as such helped me and my work to mature. eternal thanks to her! read her new book Penury (off Craig’s own Omnidawn) whose every word is an overtone/tonal field a la Messiaen or La Monte Young, echoing through silent, open page space (a Chora of sorts). diacritical/punctuating marks scoring “articulations of sound forms in time” …

    –Thom

  • On February 10, 2010 at 3:01 pm Thom Donovan wrote:

    yeah, and what about “inoperative community,” and “disavowed community,” and the “coming community”? was very sorry not to be able to attend that Bay Area conference on “aggression,” which I got an ear-full about from friends who were there…

  • On February 10, 2010 at 4:56 pm Johannes Goransson wrote:

    Hey Craig,

    No problem.

    But notice how the concept of community in your post consists of getting real places into real spaces. (Or private faces into public spaces…). And “heart”-ing real people with sentimental good feelings.

    Bobby: I want to know how this impairs my artmaking? Is is because it makes me less likely to believe in objective evaluative standards? If so, I of course agree.

    Johannes

  • On February 10, 2010 at 6:29 pm Richard Villar wrote:

    @Bobby: MY favorite thing about the internet is how people can ignore three-quarters of one’s comment and focus on the contentious part. And badly, at that.

    Since you bring it up: Never said I disagreed with anyone. Never jumped into an argument. I just expressed a general sigh at reading comment streams that invariably digress into the same arguments amongst the same people, almost every time. This blog in particular is great for that.

    @Henry: Sarcasm is an overutilized device in most comment streams, but your example here is quite good. Still, I submit even you get tired of the same cast of characters doing battle again and again. (Unless you enjoyed Rockys 2 through 6, that is.) Such is the nature of the internet beast, I suppose, but if you’d prefer to continue screwing that particular pooch…or if you’d like to keep STARRING in that movie…well, feel free, Sylvester.

  • On February 10, 2010 at 6:34 pm Richard Villar wrote:

    Sorry for the double post. Not used to the threading here.

    @Henry: Sarcasm is an overutilized device in most comment streams, but your example here is quite good. Still, I submit even you get tired of the same cast of characters doing battle again and again. (Unless you enjoyed Rockys 2 through 6, that is.) Such is the nature of the internet beast, I suppose, but if you’d prefer to continue screwing that particular pooch…or if you’d like to keep STARRING in that movie…well, feel free, Sylvester.

  • On February 10, 2010 at 7:36 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    Aw, your just jealous, Rich. I get there fustest with the moostest. Moo, moo….

  • On February 11, 2010 at 3:46 am Kevin Simmonds wrote:

    Craig,

    I am amazed to find this post! Truong Tran is a friend/colleague/mentor and I’m delighted he harmonized three of my recent photographs into this astounding show. Actually, those photos are from my MASS Project that he helped inspire. His work as a poet and visual artist infected me with bravery.

    I’ve lived in San Francisco for years but I’ve not met anyone as generous as Truong. If you know him, you know he says that, in San Francisco, you’ve got to create your own community and you’d better not every become a snob or he’ll rag on you publicly. I heart the guy. And I xoxoxo you Craig for sharing this on Harriet.

    k~


Posted in Uncategorized on Monday, February 8th, 2010 by Craig Santos Perez.