Literary Letters: It Is Easy Enough For a Firm Man Who Knows The World To Brook The Rage Of The Cultivated Classes (part 4)

From Emily Crocker (Boulder, CO): For years I kept my past hidden from my parents and allowed them to peer at my world (of alcohol and drugs] with denial covered eyes, until recently when I let them in. It is always a risk to speak your mind and now I do so among a community of writers at Naropa University where I am obtaining my MFA in poetry and hope to teach high school and college kids the power of poetry. I appreciate your time and opinions and also the opportunity to submit my work. Similar post you should read.

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To Emily Crocker: What I really want is scathing criticism of Naropa. I’ve sent Waldman and Cie such critique and they react with silence. Shamefully, they refuse debate. Try writing something on the money trail and professorial perks at Naropa. Then see if Ann Waldman will smile at you. Also, writers do not belong in a comfy, self-congratulatory community like Naropa. They belong on the edge … and alone, though overtly critical of society. As for the power of poetry, that is a myth pushed by cowardly poets who desperately seek to elevate themselves in the eyes of the public. Poetry doesn’t wield any power at all today, except the power to earn money and brainwash the public into thinking that verse is another harmless product to be purchased like a DVD or self-help book. Poetling starlets like Pinsky, Collins, Dove, and Angelou keep their mouths shut for the dollar bill. They should be ashamed. Poetry has been coopted by academe which has been coopted by the corporation, and most poets have willingly sold out. Examine Poets & Writers, Inc.

Dear Alex Beam, Boston Globe columnist: I read your essay (1/6.04), “Writer’s block can be a beautiful thing,” a basic newspaper fluff piece indeed. If more people like you had writer’s block more often, there would be a hell of a lot less garbage in the form of journalistic essays, novels, poems, and even criticism … and indeed it truly would be a beautiful thing. Here’s a poem I wrote several weeks ago on the subject. It will not be published because it probably says too much in too little space.


To First-Person column, Chronicle of Higher Education: It is grotesque that you encourage academic cowardice by permitting your writers to sign their accounts with pseudonyms. Your First-Person writers really do come off in general as wankers … perfect fit-in academic wankers, who will unfortunately most likely grow into full-fledged fit-in academic weasels. You certainly must bear part of the responsibility for the proliferation of wankers in academe. Below is a non-wanker First-Person account of a videoconference interview with a Pennsylvania community college … where the interviewers were not angelic, but weasel in appearance and nature. Will you read it? I know you’re overwhelmed with wanker submissions … but this one is different. It is not a wanker submission. Unlike your wanker submitters, I sent the following account to the weasels themselves because responsible citizen academics need to muster a little courage now and then, even if not a wise academic-career move, and overtly criticize the academic weasels fermenting and thriving in our institutions of higher learning. Just how many responsible citizen academics do you think exist in America? One, two, five?

To Editors, The Terrarium–Nasty Commercial Poetry: “Please take a look around our site.This is the home of a new literary magazine. A literary magazine devoted to commercial poetry that is going to break down the barriers between poets and non-poets with its humor, thoughtfulness, and multiple references to drinking and sex (two thing we all can agree are cool). It is, in short: A POETRY REVOLUTION. (Okay, ignore that last part, we’re not dorks, we swear).” You sound like dorks or at best paladins of Barnes & Noble, Inc.! Pushing commercial poesy! Yes, make sure you wear ties and jackets, earring, and goatee. BTW, I could not locate your spiel on commercial poesy. If not dorks, than at best highly unoriginal as in booze and balling. We need to examine the educational system that produces poets like you who proudly embrace the corrupt commercialization and corporate cooptation of poesy.

To Don Selby and Diane Boller, editors of Poetry Daily (“the world’s most popular poetry website”, an online anthology of poetry published by The Daily Poetry Association, a not-for-profit charitable corporation under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code): You mention in your book how you took up Dana Gioia’s challenge to “make poetry more accessible.” Now, how about taking up The American Dissident’s challenge to make poetry more on the edge and risky? It certainly takes Gioia’s a good light-year further. If you are curious, unlike the very large bulk of academic literati, and do not restrict your diet to the safe poesy parameters they’ve set up, please read the unpublished manifesto already sent to a dozen academic lit journals. It is attached in a subsequent email, so that you might at least read this statement. Yes, I am aware you only publish pieces already published. Thus, your rigidity and curiosity or lack thereof will help determine the fate of the challenge. Challenges are important for they help stir things up by promoting concrete change and advancement. You might also wish to feature The American Dissident on your webpage. I’m sure that it might shake some of the lit monkeys out of their comfortable trees.

To Editor Goldstein (Michigan Quarterly Review, U of Michigan): Might you be apt to publish a highly caustic and unique essay on poetry and poets? It will no doubt shake certain academic lit monkeys out of their trees. Is Michigan Quarterly open to unauthorized critique? The essay is 12-pages long. The following is the first page. As for me, I am an unemployed professor of French and Spanish with PhD from France and tend to bite the hand that feeds. Thank you for your attention.

From Laurence Goldstein, editor of Michigan Quarterly Review: The editors regret that your material does not suit the current needs of Michigan Quarterly Review. We recommend that writers consult a recent back issue of this journal before submitting work for consideration. A sample back issue of MQR is $4.

To Carolyn Micklem, director of Cave Canem (Charlottesville , VA): “Safe havens” are doubtfully going to produce any black poetry worthy of anything. The very term sounds despicable. Poets need to be on the edge, alone, not swarming in safe esteem-bloating havens. So, you too are involved in promoting safe, comfy, dull multicultural pabulum in the schools. Who profits from this? The students? No! You profit from it! Get out of your black “safe havens,” make waves, criticize, seek the truth, not multicultural conformity!

To I made an attempt to ascertain what precisely your site concerns. It appears that your purpose is to “give students and educators direct access to the texts and voices of esteemed poets.” Indeed, BUT what precisely is an “esteemed poet”? As a professor, I would request my students to define such a nebulous term. Do you define it as “you’ll know one when you read one”? Can a poet be considered “esteemed” if highly critical of poets and things poetry, for example? Or does “esteemed poet” really mean a poet who does not make waves and is a celebrity and pleasing to the common poet, as in Billy Collins? Do you define “quality of writing” exclusively as writing that does not upset literary mandarins and their mimicking chimps? Would your site-in the interest of students, especially-include the writing of poets who write from the edge and are otherwise critical of the poet scene? If not, why not? For you, is “diversity of culture” more important than truth and ruffling the feathers of those who would choose to ignore it if it threatened them and the power they’ve acquired? I look forward to your response.

To Milkweed Editions, “award-winning, nonprofit literary publisher of highquality books that places an emphasis on cultural diversity, environmental stewardship, exceptionally crafted poetry, and insightful literature for adults and children in the middle grades”: In addition to publishing Outsiders: Poems about Rebels, why not publish poems BY rebels? Wouldn’t that be more enlightening and pertinent for your adult and child readers?

To National Poetry Month: Why does NPM seek to keep American dissident voices and dissident publications from participating in the NPM poetry carnival? Why will it not list such publications on its site?

From Akhim Yuseff Cabey: Enclosed are the poems “Pomfret Center,” “Ball,” and “Use of Skin” for your consideration. Briefly, I am the 2003 recipient of the Ohio Arts Council grant in Creative Writing and a Lecturer of Composition and Literature at the Ohio State University. I grew up in the Bronx, New York and reside, now, in Columbus, Ohio. In addition, these are simultaneous submissions, and I will promptly notify your magazine if any or all of these poems are accepted elsewhere. Thank you for attention to these poems.

To A.Y. Cabey: Read my guidelines then send me something critical about the hand that feeds you, Ohio State.

From Rejean Bonenfant (Trois-Rivieres, Quebec): Il y a des gens de ma famille, il y a trois jours, avant meme que toi tu ne le fasses, qui m’ont informe que ma correspondance PRIVEE avec toi se trouvait sur ton site. Je desapprouve un tel procede que je trouve impoli et grossier. Tu me publies sans mon autorisation. C’est evident qu’un poete a le droit d’etre impoli et grossier, selon ce que tu crois. Mais aucun homme, aucun etre humain, n’a ces droits. [.] Je te reitere un souhait ancien : essaie d’etre heureux un peu. Je te souhaite de connaitre la paix. P.S.: Je t’avais demande de retirer mes coordonnees de ton carnet d’adresse. Je te reitere cette demande … en sachant bien que tu ne le feras pas.

To Rejean Bonenfant: Toi, Boisvert, Marchamps, et qui sait combien d’autres habitues pas mal remuneres par l’establishment vous vous etes bien moques de moi car j’ai ose alors que vous aut’ n’osent jamais. Ca m’est egale en fait et en fond. Or, je me moque de vous aut’ maintenant avec vos propres reponses dans vos propres mots sur mon site Web. C’est maintenant pour toute personne independante qui le consulte de decider qui en fait a raison. Et oui, quelqu’un en a! Pour souligner que quelque chose ne va pas chez les litterateurs de l’establishment, je me sers de ta correspondance, ainsi que celle d’autres litterateurs y compris quebecois et etatsuniens. Ta correspondance, en particulier, sert a illustrer un bizarre manque de logique que je trouve generalise chez les litterateurs de l’establishment une fois critiques par quelqu’un exterieur, non lu et non approuvee. En plus, elle sert a illustrer une aberrante indifference a la liberte d’expression a, par exemple, un festival international de poesie. Puisqu’il n’y a pas de loi contre ce que je fais, c-a-d contre mes efforts d’eclaircir le public sur la perpetuation par litterateurs, artistes, et universitaires de l’establishment, souvent grace a l’argent public, de la repugnante hypocrisie, de l’ubiquiste autofelicitation, et de la honteuse eparpillement d’ecriture du genre << divertissement sans portee >> (les mots sont de Camus), je garde ta correspondance sur mon site. Or, s’il y a une loi a propos de l’Internet, stp, informe-moi sur les details. Sinon, tu es officiellement dans les archives du American Dissident. Felicitations! J’espere que ma critique mordante et tres necessaire vous manque a vous aut’ a Trois-Rivieres car vous aut’ me manquent! Enfin, du fait que j’ai l’oeil critique et le courage pour dire a haute voix mes quatre verites, cela n’a rien a avoir si je suiss heureux ou non. Ton << souhait ancien >> n’est que du vent chaud. Il faut pour nos deux democraties en voie de devenir (ou deja le sont) oligarchies que de plus en plus d’entre nous aut’ se tiennent debout et commencent a demanteler ce que vous aut’ ont bati a votre profit. Je n’eprouve aucune haine pour toi, Rejean. Au contraire, j’ai bien aime notre correspondance.

From Arthur Murray: I’m a business writer for Business North Carolina magazine in Charlotte. I’m working on a story about Bennett College President Johnnetta Cole and I’d like to talk to you about her, since you have a different perspective on her. Please email me your phone number, if you’re willing to talk. Don’t be fooled by the fact we’re a business magazine, we’re not in bed with the subjects of our articles. I really need to talk to you, I’m having a hard time finding anyone who doesn’t think she’s the greatest. [Murray called. We chatted for half hour. The great shame of professors is their cowardice and indifference to the First Amendment. They make very poor role models.]

Emerson, Ralph Waldo