Literary letters: it is easy enough for a firm man who knows the world to brook the rage of the cultivated classes. their rage is decorous and prudent, for they are timid as being very vulnerable themselves (part 2)

From Al Filreis: I replied only briefly because I am the single parent of two school-aged children and needed to spend lots of time yesterday helping them with their homework. I am busy but it is not because I am the sort of unresponsive fat-cat tenured prof in your stereotype of me but because I have many personal demands on my time. I’m not a stereotype but an individual. I will look hard at your site, looking for verse for my site on modern & contemporary American verse. All the sites linked there are specifically about verse. There is nothing “shameful” in my creating a web site that is relatively specific. Best wishes … [And that was it from Filreis]

To Professor Louise Gluck, Poet Laureate of the U.S. Congress: I’d congratulate you on your appointment as Official State Poet, but how difficult for me to perceive of poets attaining certified, political recognition as anything but sellouts. Regarding the NY Times brief on your avenement, why concentrate on promoting young poets … perpetuating ageism, and the cult of youth? I’m 55 and am having great difficulty finding another teaching position because your colleagues are prejudiced against hiring older people. Why not rather concentrate on the rare poets amongst us–no matter what age bracket, color, sexual orientation or gender they might belong to–who dare criticize the multiple hands that feed, and who actually do, in the words of Emerson, “go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all its ways”? Why not be the first truly different State Poet?

Hell, you’ve got nothing at all to lose! You’re tenured, Pulitzered, anthologized, and state poesified! Besides, a little controversy might spark your chapbook sales. On another note, why not open your parameterrestricted framework to actually question contests, rather than simply push them? Why not encourage youth to question the Pulitzer, for example, the hand that fed you a prize? Why not encourage youth to examine who tend to be the judges holding the silver spoons, what tend to be their biases, and why the inexistence of criteria? Ask yourself how the inherent network of academic cronies behind the Pulitzer might pervert the Pulitzer? Why do so few poets and writers follow in the footsteps of Sinclair Lewis, who rejected the Pulitzer because “Between the Pulitzer Prizes, the American Academy of Arts and Letters and its training-school, the National Institute of Arts and Letters, amateur boards of censorship, and the inquisition of earnest literary ladies, every compulsion is put upon writers to become safe, polite, obedient, and sterile”?

As a professor, you ought not to wallow in prizes and recognition, nor engage in backslapping and self-congratulations. Instead, you ought question and challenge all things, including literary ones. You ought teach your students to do this. By the way, with regards your predecessor Billy Collins, what kind of pabulum poems has he been feeding the schoolchildren? Have you ever wondered? Finally, since your obligation is to deliver and organize readings, why not invite me to one of the latter? I am a poete maudit who would be more than willing to discuss, among other things, the above concerns in public. if given the opportunity. Ah, but we mustn’t allow that, should we? It would surely upset the happy-face masque placed upon poesy by the textbook anthology corporations, Library of Congress, National Academy of Poets, and National Poetry Month.

To the NEH: On February 18th, I sent you an email. Did you receive it? Will you respond? The following is the substance of that email. I noticed you accorded funding to an online literary journal, Words Beyond Borders. How might I apply for such funds as an American citizen and creator/editor of The American Dissident (1998), a unique literary journal, desperate for funding to help purchase an ISBN number, increase circulation, and improve the physical quality of the product, amongst other things? The state cultural council refuses to help at all, preferring rather to fund happy-face type projects. The American Dissident is unique in that it actually serves as a forum for examining the dark side of the Academic/Literary Industrial Complex, which apparently appears to have engulfed the NEH itself. Indeed, it would not hesitate to criticize the NEH and state cultural councils.

Dear James Olney, editor of The Southern Review, Louisiana State University: The following is evidently not a poem for submission, but rather one for your contemplation. Will you be able to comprehend it?

To Blackbird, Dept. of English, Virginia Commonwealth Univ.: I noticed “bold perspectives” several times on your website. I find that amusing, though probably all too typical and semantically aberrant. at least for academic publications. Perhaps you are different … though that is highly unlikely. That said, can I interest you in the unpublished and frequently rejected nonfiction essay, “The Cold Passion for Truth Hunts in No Pack: The Case for a Different Kind of Poet and Poetry”? It will surely startle and derange your complacent, “bold perspective” readers because it names names and questions and also challenges academic poets to RISK speaking truth to power.