The Publishers’ Fetish: Poetry Or Perversion?
© by Ben Smith, 6/24/12
How many times need you read The
Complete Poetry of E.E. Cummings before you understand what e.e. is all
about? Of course, this is a trick
question, and the answer is, as it were, half-a-time.
Yes, one need only read half the book to not only “get the gist,” but
be dizzy with the punctuation’s play and the parting and parenthesizing of
words; you may have even gathered the reasoning behind why he capitalizes and
why he doesn’t here and there. You
may even know his best from his worst. Well
now, imagine you encountered a poetry journal requesting that you submit e.e.
cummings-inspired poetry. After
reading half of his Complete Works
you’ve got the idea, you know e.e. in and out; now time to get to work.
But get this, the journal asks not for a solitary e.e.-inspired piece but
three-to-five of them. Okay, now
you feel there’s something fishy here. Whoever
sits behind that send button is just, well, not quite right.
Why oh why would any poetry lover of any sane taste make such a request?
As one who has read half of the big book of e.e. yourself, you know there
already exist over one thousand pages of such works written by the famous poet
himself. Now why, why, why does
this strange fellow need more? And
these offerings inauthentic? Well,
don’t think so hard about it. Plainly
there is something off about this fellow. And
who really wants to write like e.e. cummings anyway?
Who wants to imitate this most idiosyncratic of poets?
Yes, this is an extreme example of the poetry publisher’s fetish, but
it begs the question: Who is hungry for these fetish-based works?
Let’s see. Someone who
tired of whips and chains, of women’s shoes, underpants, or lingerie?
Someone tired of feet, of porn, of spankings and other sexual favors that
will go unnamed? Someone tired of
the broad reach of poetry past, present, and future?
Or someone who knows so little of the workings of poetry that they
require the fetish to satisfy their taste, their “aesthetic?”
Yes, we know the answer, but why oh why is this phenomenon so common in
the publishing world of poetry? Now
I’ll try to cover a broad spectrum of such phenomena. Although a list of such fetishes in poetry could be endless,
we’ll limit ourselves in our examination to the strangest and the most common,
for the sake of both entertainment and elucidation.
Now, just in case a fetishist has crept up to this article looking for
such rubbish written in place of poetry, I shall not include in this review the
names of the journals. These culprits should stir disgust in any self-respecting
poet or lover of poetry.
Our first case is a class of zines that desire poetry about travel.
Yes, travel, poems about your latest trip to Europe, to Australia, or
perhaps, to California. To be
travel-inspired one may want to embellish ones journey, perhaps supply ones
verse with ones best vacation puns—you know you have an entire section of your
journal dedicated to such playful variations on the multiple meanings of drive,
plane, and trip. Regardless of your
destination, you must certainly ‘transport’ the editor to this location.
You must fill him with the desire to return to his career as a scribbler
of travel brochures. Retirement can separate such a man from the joys of his
trade. Please, offer this man
the respite he craves. But
remember, you must ‘move’ him, and quite literally, at that.
The brothels of Paris, the hemp houses of Amsterdam, the banks of
England—he wants it all. And, as
many of these perverse characters will request, make it good.
Throughout this paper I’ll be inclined to make my own suggestions for
required fetishes. At this point
one wonders why no one has honed in on that most entertaining of literary gems,
the Stalin quote. If only you could manage to make a Stalin quote—or multiple
quotes—your source of inspiration, you could really help me get my jollies. I
want to hear about all of the great advice the Great Red Dictator has bequeathed
to the world. As I have already
written such a poem, I may be the first to try to get myself to publish myself.
So be forewarned, you have competition.
The next preference is one of a collegiate variety.
Ironically, these pretentious prigs want a poetry that relies on the
colloquial. They want the everyday that you encounter and transform into
literary treasures. This great metamorphosis must leave traces of its
inspirational source, must really bring us down to earth (for certainly we
poetic types live in space), must drag us through the streets to a shop were we
can hear what we normally consider the boring or commonplace.
In fact the more clichés the better, for that is how most people speak;
add a soundbite or two, for that is how normal people think.
Give us such drab humdrum that we can snub our noses at.
And give us imagery, but make it common imagery, nothing special, just
the corner store or your grocery aisle. Maybe
you can include your habits, bad and good, as long as they are not anything
resembling the bizarre. The more I
think of this strange subject, the more I think there is something ironic in
having a fetish for the normal. This
is the request of someone who does not get enough of such.
Perhaps he is an ambassador tired of the drugs, drink, important meetings
(with prostitutes?), and official business in a foreign country.
Oh yeah, your common imagery should paradoxically evoke deep emotions.
Your dialogue should ‘show,’ as they say in creative writing
classes—which we love, by the way.
Never ‘tell,’ for such resembles the work of an amateur, if not an
outright master. And mediocrity is
what we’re after. We dig the
hypnotic power of banal narrative, and appreciate when you take on an
experimental approach to the unimaginative.
And, as we read somewhere—we can’t remember where—make it precise,
make every uninspired word, every insipid reflection (in dialogue, preferably)
count. Now, out of character, I
should make some insightful reflections into the actual verse that such zines
proffer. The poems in such a
collection are invariably so poorly lined that one can hardly tell them apart
from prose (not prose poems, prose). Most
of the works are completely banal and aimless in story, some dotted or even
larded with cliché, all encompassing a large chunk of trite sentences, a heap
of sentences to be more precise. The
reflections are more than uninteresting; in fact nothing of an inspirational or
moving character ever crosses ones path in such collections.
As the mission statements of such zines request, these poems emphasize
the triteness of common speech. They relate boring tales, tales of no interest
whatsoever (one would be hard pressed to find a bad short story lacking this
much in interest). Pacing and
rhythm matter not at all, not that the ride leads anywhere worth going.
And, as to the concern of succinctness, why even bother?
These prosaic messes are a waste of both syllable and word.
O do whisper, my dear, a sweet little nothing in my ear, and be sure to
make it a notta, nothing, an empty strain of words that leave me wanting.
There seems to be something about many of these phonies that attracts
them to the unimpressive, to the banal, poetry not even worthy of the name. When
I read that a pub wants what they consider ‘good poetry’ “planted in the
phantasmagoria of the mundane,” I just wonder at the idea.
I am at a loss at such an attraction.
It can only be justified as a form of fetish.
But what is even worse is when a publication manages seemingly to bypass
the need for fetish, asking for high-quality shit, and then they publish this:
Sunday School I walk home. Jesus
with me, or at least a bit close, or
just imagining it. Still, I don't
over my shoulder to catch Him there
I'm afraid. This must be the fear
God that Miss Hooker was going on
No, wait--she said it means respect,
What was that other word? Reverence.
she said, you have nothing to fear
you're evil, or doing what the Devil
you to do. I don't want to go to
so I'd better be as good as I
be or I'll miss out on Heaven and
I live a long, long life I'd hate it
I wasted it just to find myself
on a pitchfork and forever.”
I only include the first stanza (and its completion) because
I desire to spare you the headache. I believe this poem is so bad it requires no
commentary. Well, maybe I’ll
mention, using a certain technique of judgment of a certain well-known critic,
it reads the same written in prose as it does in verse, even though the early
part of the poem at first seems to use enjambment.
But, no. Oh, I didn’t
include the title; yes, what is even worse: “The
Truth Shall Set You Free.”
I assume those
pubs that desire a poem written without the use of ‘poetic language’ (the
notorious unpoetic poem) are unnerved by the range of rhetoric that makes up
broadly the poetic palette, the tools at disposal in any worthwhile verse; they
desire a prose unpardonably written to line; the unpleasing, please; forget all
you’ve learned, that you love; come dwell in the trenches where it is safe, we
love the surety of objective failure.
Some do not want anything abstract or at all opaque.
I’ve covered this in another essay, and I’ve shown very well-written
verse that includes much abstraction, some of it from unexpected sources.
Really this is just another example of editors who are disturbed by
poetic technique. Yes, this request
discounts works which include the vague, the obscure, and certainly says no to
anything that adds up to enigma; because these qualities often find themselves
in good and great works, a lower quality of poetry is preferred, no doubt, if
not assured. Fortunately for our
little study, I’ve actually read many of the poems that find their way into
such publications. For these
editors, a good poem is not one that excels aesthetically; a good poem is most
likely for these persons one that simply meets the arbitrary requirements of
their fetish, one that fits their shoddy mold.
It is often fun to read their mission statements, which more often than
not desire ‘well-written work’ in their non-abstract area of interest. I
have never found so much as a mediocre poem in such a journal.
A euphemism for this same type of work is ‘accessible.’
In other words, not difficult to read; they want a ‘once-over’ poem,
something that requires little or no thought.
And really, why waste time with thinking?
I have better things to do, like writing hatemail to these publishers.
Along these same lines you find the reality freaks, the ones who want the
“sense of what it means to live today,” with honesty to feeling and an
‘alertness’ about the world. They
may or may not give lip service to quality.
One sure sign that you’re dealing with the college bunch is the request
for work that ‘shows rather than tells.’
This mantra is repeated in creative writing courses and manuals
throughout the land. The fact that
they make such a dichotomy is pretty silly.
Really, by showing you tell and by telling you show; preferably this is
more a formula for short stories, but it is still quite absurd.
To show in writing, one must tell.
Anyway, much of this need to avoid abstraction, obscurity, difficulty,
complexity is a turning back from the horrors of postmodernism.
These folks see something revolting and decide they must retreat, instead
of bravely moving forward beyond the horrific mess of bad postmodernism.
Yes, there are some very good poems written in a clear or lucid style,
and some of them even hark back to classic styles, but why the complete aversion
to what is a newer development, to what is a bit more complex than a once-over
type of poem? But you can have it
your way. I know whom to avoid.
I am perhaps more puzzled by another call, that for emotion.
You see, most poems are filled with emotion, in their images, metaphors,
word choices, and whatever other elements.
To write of emotions seems to me rather silly.
“He was sad, no, sadder than sad, and he was even melancholy.” Yeah, you see what I mean.
To ask for a poem is to ask for emotion; yes, there are poems that are
even completely devoid of emotion, but we’re talking anomalies here, maybe
even rare accomplishments. But one
can find journals that actually dismiss form in favor of emotion.
This dichotomy is just unfounded. What
has one to do with the other? They
are certainly not in opposition.
Yes, specific, with clarity, wise, quiet, gritty, surprising—what are
you asking for? Oh, honest, true.
Yes, next time I write about a murder, I’ll make sure I perform one
first, and likewise a suicide. Um,
I hear you, brother, keep it real.
Oh boy. This one deserves a
reward. “The sublime found in the
mundane. . . Oddness, unexpected, and—dinosaurs!
Yes, this is an actual mission statement.
I am writing of the bizarre and unexpected birth of a dinosaur, a
seemingly mundane occurrence that I render sublime.
This is much better than the magazine that wants bold, edgy, and honest
work—that doesn’t offend. God
damn it, after the first three epithets I thought I found a home for “Kike.”
No, no, I’ll save that gem for the next magazine, which calls for a
reflection of reality with the doors wide open (extreme, man!)—but, “a
decent yardstick is the bible.” Where
the hell did that come from? Well,
it was good for a laugh. I need to
meet this guy. I’ll take bets on
whether or not he’s joking.
Mother-centric poetry, the maternal pen in hand, the kids in bed, the
husband washing dishes or perhaps drinking a beer.
Poetry about being a mother is in demand.
One wonders if they would accept such work written by a man.
I mean, does it need to be authentic like the books in Oprah’s Book
Club? Yes, poetry about giving
birth, breastfeeding, bringing up the little ones, the expectations and
disappointments, the love. Maybe
this stuff can’t be faked. And
why? This is a strange fantasy.
Are these zines read only by mothers?
I haven’t seen the poetry of these publications, but I imagine they are
not too impressive, poetically speaking. One
of the magazines speaks of the ‘complexities’ of motherhood and wants
‘top-notch’ work; how likely is it that you’ll receive good writing when
delimiting such a narrow genre? Those
expectations are obviously mere hyperbole.
Now, there are women’s journals that do allow submissions from men,
likely to improve the overall value of the work within, if history bears on
reality I think they realize that
women are not the ones who write most of the poetry about women.
One finds among the women’s journals many puff pubs, looking for a sort
of ‘inspirational’ verse. They
call for diversity, whatever that’s supposed to add up to, for the unique
works that please an international readership who seek to improve the quality
for their lives, a request better saved for the Department of Foreign Affairs. Such a pub of puff requires ‘intellectuality,’
emotionality, and spirituality, and further, ‘a moment of quiet reflection’
and a ‘creative connection between cultures’ and a ‘meeting of mind and
soul.’ What the fuck do you want?
Yet, some of these zines are more exclusive, asking for only woman poets;
I’ve known a lesbian or two who might prefer such a publication.
Most women I’m sure do not require such segregation, but not much to
say about this. On to a related
subject, related to the lesbians that is, we have the gay, lesbian, bi, and
transsexual (GLBT) publishers.
The gay and lesbian publishers seem perfectly understandable in their
interests, especially considering that your ‘regular reader’ may have little
interest in man on man and woman on woman relationships and the writings that
come of them. That said, what interests me is the possible work of
transgendered individuals; writing about assuming the role of the opposite sex
(or gender, if you prefer) or even about a sex change, the big transformation;
one wonders whether such poems could have reached the point of being good, or
even great—who knows.
One strange request I’ve encountered (more than once) in the area of
gay work is that for science-fiction written with such a bent; one may expect
such journals are looking primarily for short stories, but the call for poetry
is there. And there are the other
genres related (at least they are commonly requested in the same publications):
fantasy and erotica. The erotic
would appear to be the most seemly of the three genres in terms of poetry.
The aspects of erotica, less of the one-handed Fabio variety, come quite
naturally to poetry. Meanwhile,
fantasy surely does not. Now,
science-fiction, one could imagine the homosexual poetic version of 2001: A Space Odyssey being of some value.
I would imagine it would take some ingenuity to write gay science fiction
in poetry, and it may be interesting, but one would assume most such works would
amount to little—and yes, there is space enough for the little.
Why does a bearded William Burroughs come to mind?
I guess I’m mixing up my authors.
Lesbian poetry by itself, without the men, seems a very exclusive club.
Often this area of interest involves lesbian feminism—it’s a
difficult combination to avoid, as anyone knows who has a glancing familiarity
of this corner of the writing world. That
is what is so especial to this group, their exclusivity.
One wonders if they’d publish a poem on cunnilingus written by a man,
considering this is definitely a subject of interest to this bunch—I assume
one would have to use a feminine pseudonym to get it published.
Come on ladies, what are you hiding from?
A special category, which I have covered in an earlier essay, involves
the poet-editor who loves poetry that in some way resembles his own.
In the earlier piece the culprit was the publisher of a horrible online
journal. This gentleman loves to
throw in what I would call, hyper-contemporaneous references, in the middle of
an otherwise tame and conservative poem. His
chosen poems also showed this habit; it was obvious that at least most of the
poets in the journal were fans of the editor’s work.
And, yes, I put a few of the poems on trial, and not a one fared well.
So, what is this? A poet in
love with his own works wants all of poetry to look like his own.
In this editor’s case, this was rather unfortunate.
Yes, I could mention that I think he may have made underlings of his
readers and possibly even found himself guilty of sexual
harassment—considering how unattractive he looked in his various profile
pictures—but I won’t. I had a
lengthy email exchange with this dandy and discovered that he was completely
incapable of a dialogue on poetry; instead he launched a Fox-News-like ad
hominem attack that continued throughout our correspondence—it is too bad that
I didn’t save the record of the exchange, for that would have been much more
entertaining for my readers. Included
in his silly mission statement was this: “Mitteleuropean kunst und kultur are
especially appreciated.” Yes
pretension was his specialty; he even wrote to me in five or more languages, as
if that would prove his great intelligence.
And get this. The stats on his editing are as follows: 66.67% acceptances,
26.67% rejections, and 6.67% non-responses.
I guess there are many who meet his bizarre fancy.
In close relation to this particular publication are other magazines that
accept almost anything; in such cases rejection is a complement.
A strange request is the product of a rather uncommon mission statement,
the want of poetry in translation, from whatever language to English.
Translation lovers. (Related
in some way are the lovers of dialect.) Now
this is just funny, for as one who can almost write in French—yes, almost—I
could write a poem in English then translate it to French and pretend I did the
opposite. It would be an
experiment. But there is a
catch to all of this; all of the sites that I found that ask for such
translations have a 0% response rate. Are
they all run by the same fellow? He
maybe got only a few offerings and then gave up without removing his
publications from the publishing sites. Enough
of this one. Although I must add
that I encountered other pubs that had the 0% response rate, which I guess could
be considered sort of a sub-fetish, the editor who only rejects his poets. Of course, a likely scenario is that he just posts his zine
on the publishing sites to get readers and resorts to his friends for actual
submissions, nepotism: “Hay Harry, what do you have this month?” Related to
this is the zine with long response time: We can imagine the negligent editor
going through works that may have been stored in his computer for a year or
more, trying to find his pick at the last minute like a college student writing
his term paper overnight the day before it’s due. Caffeine?
Religion is a common source of material for poetry throughout the ages,
so we shouldn’t be surprised when many publications call for
religion/religious-based poetry. Most
of these zines at first appear to be straightforward, some requesting poems on
their religion of choice, others of a more universal bent, accepting poems
imbued with any of multiple religions. It
would seem that this banal choice of themes would require little to be written
of it. But some of these pubs also accept the work of doubters in
addition to the faithful, some are concerned with “fresh expressions of
liturgical traditions,” and there are other specializations in your various
Some Christian zines come out swinging, telling us the truth resides in
Jesus, and suggesting that you include their ideology either overtly or subtly.
Straightforward enough—though I do wonder what kind of response I could
elicit with a little prodding. Sometimes
these pubs will lead you on and then ambush you with the religious call,
building up to elevating “the sacred while exploring the mystery and meaning
of our lives.” They already have
the meaning figured out, but what does that matter?
Just like many of these fetishists, they desire quality work, yet one
knows better. Often they
enjoy using the word faith instead of religion, and they sometimes don’t admit
to their religious bias. They may
desire a mix of the ‘secular and the sacred,’ often proclaim themselves
‘intellectual,’ and inevitably cry for quality material, when really they
want a Christian screed. Especially
annoying is the doubletalk, the refusal to admit up front that they want
Christian writing; it’s as if for a moment they were considering some other
type of writing—but no! Christian dogma, please, and make it good.
Now, here is an example of an especially specific fetish.
This publisher want work only themed around the Seven Deadly Sins.
What is this? Can you imagine an entire magazine filled with variations
on this theme? And, what is worse,
one knows they wouldn’t accept a poem that actually illustrated these sins,
only those that condemn them. Guilty
as hell! A related theme is called
for in another magazine, the countdown to the apocalypse. Now, Jehovah’s Witnesses (and, most likely, Christian
Zionists) have a head start, but also those strange beings obsessed with ancient
calendars are welcome to submit. Let
us not get confused and think this a call for a dystopian aftermath poem, for we
know they know what the end of the world is meant to look like.
Now, related enough to general religious pubs is the recovery-themed zine.
Yes, if you’re in the twelve-step world, trying to shake the habit,
your poetry has a home. The more
platitudinous the better, I am sure. Don’t
forget your “one day at a time” or “God grant me . . .”
Hell, write an insulting piece about your sponsor who’s too busy
getting high to answer the phone in your time of need.
But, please, maintain your sobriety long enough to finish the poem.
Don’t think the Christians have this lucrative market cornered.
The ‘global occult,’ paganism, and magic have their pubs.
Witchcraft, magick (with the Crowleyan K), hermeticism, gosticism, Afican
Diasporic traditions, shamanism, and all varieties of alternate religions are
covered. Why a particular
demographic must be chosen for your pub is a mystery. But even Satanists, I suppose, deserve their chance at wealth
I must say,
probably because of my own past experience, that the spiritual publications
annoy the fuck out of me. So much
can be written of this choicest of themes, yet what one finds in these journals
are generic poems filled with a vibe mawkishly positive enough to make you sick
and written so plain it pains. Religion and spirituality covers such a broad range,
historically, symbolically, mythologically, metaphysically, and on and on, yet
no one wants to get his effete little hands dirty.
Nothing disturbing, Satanic, nothing of the dark side of spirituality,
and yes, there are very dark sides to spirituality—just ask a Tibetan monk
when he’s not on a publicity campaign. The
beatific joys of sadism would be a nice antidote to the shit-sifting of these
rags. Why not the thrill of sacrifice? Could
I, perhaps, tie the crucifixion of Christ and the Eucharist (and
transubstantiation) to its primitive basis in the breaking of taboo, both of
sacrifice and cannibalism?
My personal experience of spirituality, all from earlier years, much
earlier, is of a mixed sort. I encountered much in the way of positive experience, through
contemplation, meditation, and study, yet I encountered much in the way of the
negative, both in a personal way and through the acts of others, spiritual
folks. Anyone who has ever
encountered the fearsome manifestations . . . Enough!
You’re going to think I’m a kook.
These sorts of experiences, that I will not elucidate for the sake of my
own dignity, which are in the realm of aliens in terms of believability, seem to
accompany the spiritual experiences of some, though I venture to say that most
do not take the practice far enough to encounter these dimensions, this
disturbing panoply of experiences. Also,
most spiritual outlets skirt the issue entirely of bizarre encounters; they also
try to hide the abuses of leaders and deny their isolationism.
Anyone who dared the world of spirituality, and even those who didn’t,
know of the variety of interesting and disturbed leaders.
I, for one, in my several years of spiritual practice encountered, in
addition the positives, many negative side-effects, hallucinations, alien ideas,
‘encounters’ (there goes dignity), and various psychoses—all of this lined
my spiritual path. Such are rarely
spoken of in spiritual circles, and how much less in public, so I don’t expect
a piddling spiritual rag to be much different. A part of me assumes that these
happy, leaping souls are dabblers, both spiritually and poetically.
But have not these happy souls not heard of the misdeeds, even the
murders and suicides, committed in the name of what is spiritual and
high-minded? Have they not
discovered the wraiths in waiting along such a gilded way? Have they not
suffered the abuses of teachers and gurus, been mired in the controversy that
suffuses many of these groups? Oh
yes, the goody-goody works that meet their expectations. The poetry is bad. So
I guess they should continue with the miasmic quasi-spiritual rant, and go banal
into their silly half-lived netherworld nirvana on their way to an afterlife cut
from the common cloth.
And there is a place for every sort of spiritual dabbling:
‘personal’ spirituality, Buddhism, the occult and the esoteric (which
I’ve mentioned), even personal growth and social issues. Sometimes a spiritual
zine will even call for the rebellious and revolutionary—take that to mean
what you want. I take it to mean
something markedly un-revolutionary and too acquiescent to be at all rebellious.
If this presentation seems a bit desultory in its approach, it is because
of the broad range of fetishes I have encountered; I am at a loss to place some
of them, and others have multiple concentrations.
Yet my war with these publishers continues; I desire to expose their lack
of aesthetical concern; I desire to show that they are making the poet’s
‘job’ even more difficult than it need be.
Already the poet is in a position to receive little or no approbation for
his efforts; yet these characters will go as far as to make a Hades for the
sub-levels of verse instead of rewarding the well-written work.
Well, ha ha. The humor-based publications.
Enough said? No, what about
humor with an emphasis on travel—the eye of the needle, or what?
No, we want serious subjects handled with humor, you know, so we can feel
the irony—no, they also desire an approach of charity—forget the irony.
Why would wit infect the pages of a humorous magazine?
I’ll send my humorous poems to the religious pubs.
Our next category is a favorite of mine, the short poem.
These zines make for a good laugh, or at least a giggle.
Now, we know there have been many great short poems, haiku or not,
written by good poets. But don’t
get your expectations stuck in the clouds.
Yeah, as I said, haiku or whatever.
There are other Japanese forms, and even the proverbial postcard poem. Although
on the surface such an interest appears to be completely understandable, one
still smells the sex of fetish in the room.
Why shorter works cannot exist beside longer works is not such a mystery;
indeed one expects that these venues know that the shorter works tend to
encounter difficulties when placed in competition with the wordier long poem.
And some of the other varieties of short poem: the renga (a
‘symbiotic’ poem), the tanka, the haibun, the ghazais, the sijo, the sedoka—and
some pubs accept even combinations of these forms, for who knows what reason.
You may even find pubs that find it necessary to argue that haiku is real
get this, one journal actually says, “not restricted to any style,” right
after they tell you they only accept haiku poems; and, what is worse, they
request that you include a seasonal element.
No restrictions for sure! Another
zine refers to its short offerings as ‘compressed poetry.’ And yet another zine is interested in diversity and goes as
far as to list demographic categories that they find acceptable; of course they
are actually on a political mission, so one is just left to wonder why they
chose short works. And don’t
forget ‘quality.’ Post poems,
by the way, are poems five to seven lines that will fit on a postcard.
But who really cares? Who is
the idiot who thought this one up?
A piddling request is one for song lyrics.
I, like many young men, played music and wrote songs as a teenager.
But, as a poet, why would I want to be known for my song lyrics?
I had quite a few clever little songs, some sung by me, some by others,
but what a world away is my poetry. I
love song lyrics, I love music, but let us please separate the one from the
other, song and poetry; the gap is wider than apples and oranges.
Not too distant from a thirst for song lyrics is a yearning for ‘the
living language.’ I guess this implies that you should leave your years or
decades of study behind, and whatever you do, do not
open a dictionary or thesaurus. The
living language is much like the ‘common tongue,’ only not the common tongue
of the educated. The fact that I
love and collect odd words, rare words, which add color to the lyricism of a
poem, exempts me from such writing. I
do not even have a common tongue; I’ll naturally use terminology that ranges
above sea level. Call it my
malaise. Call me a pompous asshole.
Regional poetry is definitely a legitimate area of interest, yet it reeks
of the fetish. I am to write of
rural Australia, this surely far from the wonted themes of poetry.
The fact that there exist those interested in reading such work remains a
wonder to me. Class-specific
writing falls into this category because of its demographic emphasis, and you
could have guessed that the most common of such requests is for working-class
writing. One wonders here if
working-class writing should include aspects of ones working life, drinking and
drugging life, or something else, maybe family life or history. Close on the
tail of the class distinction is the quest for the verse of ‘marginalized’
groups and colonized peoples. Here
I am really at a loss. Okay, not a
vestige of the bourgeois culture. Of
course, even a working class poet has dealings with the bourgeois, if only
because he is engaged in what has historically been a bourgeois activity,
writing poetry. The fact that they
don’t admire the outcast culture of the middle class puzzles, until you
realize they don’t give a shit about poetry at all anyway.
The writing of the South, meaning the southern US, has a rich history,
but that history is beyond many of the pubs that call for such writing.
You get calls for ‘Whiskey drinking’ and ‘Hellbound’ work,
whatever that means. I guess one
could get drunk and scribble something on a bar napkin while living in Georgia
and post it to these folks. What
else? Cowboy poetry. Yes, the prairie and the cattle, the canned beans and the
warm whiskey. I’m out of
stereotypes here. Perhaps we could drop in a few clichés from the wild west,
the gunslinging and hustling, the whores and gambling, the sheriff with his
impossible task, Doc Holliday and all the rest.
Here I return to the sci-fi submissions, this time less queer.
In these pubs you’ll encounter the phrase, speculative fiction, often.
This broad-ranging term encompasses fantastical, science-fiction,
fantasy, horror, supernatural, superhero, utopian, dystopian, apocalyptic and
post-apocalyptic works, in addition to alternative history (thanks, Wikipedia).
Yes, genre-specific work with a wide reach. Again, the fetish, and why?
This is the call for something specific for the sake of the
generic—generic, genre, get it? Yes,
as you can guess, there are no masterpieces of genre writing in these pages.
What one generally finds is derivative crapola.
But at least you know what to expect; no surprises here.
Specializations in this sphere include works that speak of colonization
of our solar system, works that relate your typical fantasy themes, verse that
celebrates the zombie apocalypse, and every other variety and mix of genre work
you could think of, maybe cowboy sci-fi, utopian fantasy, fantastic horror, and
on and so on.
Back to the good old real world, we have the socio-political zines.
political publishers, taken generally, are just irksome; rarely do they assert
their biases, so one could imagine a libertarian sending his well-thought-out
screed to an editor socialist in his leanings; the poor poet has poured out his
political pathos for nether and naught; our liberal editor laughs at the words
of our writer and maybe sends a misleading rejection letter that calls for
another attempt at publication (the all too prevalent positive rejection).
O to be socially engaged, taking on social injustices, challenging the
mainstream, showing your colors, repeating the worldview of your party in a
spectacular screed. Yes, in a sentence, social change ‘about something,’
unusual or entertaining, taking contemporary culture to task, being politically
progressive in poetry, taking on current events, writing about television news,
being diverse, exhibiting your awareness, being soulful and spirited about place
and social justice, to write of the news-related and topical, aware of current
affairs (no, not the old TV program), championing human rights and environmental
and social wellbeing. There is one
magazine that has a more specific request: a response to the BP oil disaster in
the Gulf of Mexico and Hurricane Katrina, also, of course, in the Gulf of
Mexico. Yes, these mags are for
screedsters; you have a place in which, good for you, quality means little in
contradistinction to content.
is a call from many pubs for surrealist (small s)
poetry; this to me is an oddity unless you consider the possibility that they
know not what they are asking for. Anyone
who has the most passing knowledge of Surrealism (capital S), knows that their person of primacy, if you will, André Breton,
called for automatic writing, the seemingly choiceless writing of word to page
as they occur to the writer (straight from the subconscious, or so it is
assumed), Breton abhorring even the term, aesthetics. The Surrealists were, more or less, continuing and further
developing the Dadaist movement, with more an eye for the Freudian, or the
psychology of the time. As an extra
interesting note, Surrealists dabbled in communism before they found it
incompatible with their cause, which strange enough, was more based in
aesthetics than they would admit—communism, of course, wants only proletariat
propaganda of art. Now, although
Breton called for automatic writing, it is important to mention that he and the
better Surrealist writers strayed from this practice.
Why? Because it was not
conducive of good art. These
writers have also been known for their repetitive use of certain grammatical
structures and a collection of types of phrases and metaphors. Now, what these fetish-starved editors call for is certainly
not the chaos of automatic writing; one even wonders if these persons know
anything of the history of Surrealism.
There are also magazines that ask for Dada poetry, one of
them requesting contemporary Dada poetry, which is a poor combination of words.
Dada poetry is anachronistic by definition.
It is, also by definition, of poor aesthetical quality.
The darkness, realm
of everything disturbing, murder, the evil occult, Satanic slaughters, rape,
incest, whathaveyou. But there are presses looking for ‘dark verse’ that
‘doesn’t step on any toes’—perhaps it should cut them off.
What to send them? Your masterwork on the great glass walk?
Inoffensive but dark, P.C. Satanism.
Yes. The story of the
celibate rapist. The murderer with
a mind for affirmative action. Another
pussified magazine asks for dark work ‘that shows the light at the end of the
tunnel.’ They especially like work about vampires.
Now, if you really want darkness, why the need for a caveat?
I guess evil is so repulsive to these nosegays that they have to see the
flowers that grow above the grave, no doubt their interpretation of flowers of
evil. Perhaps it would just be
better to hunt these pansies down and show them what darkness can imply.
What about the crimies? Crime
seems the perfect subject for a well-worded poem.
But what do we find in such zines? Banal
relation in place of profound evocation and insight, the trite as a stand-in for
the tantalizing. Even the third-person relation, “this is what I think about
such and such a crime.” Come now,
can’t we even visit the shoes of the criminal?
I’m out; no thanks. “The
thief descends the staircase/with his goods . . .”
Great. We’ll continue to
write of crime in its myriad shapes, but we won’t send the results to you.
One of the more exclusive magazines, a print publication, wants work
related to the experience of being a Jewess.
Why can’t I send them a poem about my ex-girlfriend then?
I don’t know. But I do
know that they wouldn’t publish it. So,
why not have her write it? Well,
for one, she is one of those paradoxical characters who has a 160 IQ and can’t
write even a grocery list. Yet
their mission statement is clear, and there certainly are plenty of Jewish
poetesses. Besides, I have written
poems about the ex, and nothing of Jewishness, nothing of her atheism or her
lack of a racial identity. I
won’t write that she is not at all Jewish, merely a white girl with a
neglected ancestry. Oh, what about
the call for the Jewess experience through the eyes of a madman?
Other types of Jewish publications first of all beg the question, how did
a radically homosexual Jewish writer like Allen Ginsberg manage to become so
well-known and even celebrated without these strictly Jewish rags?
Then one wonders if they would accept his submissions.
And, yes, a portion of these mags are Zionist in their interests.
Everything about these magazines is questionable, their obvious
preference for a political bias over the aesthetic, their claims of dissent,
their ‘hidden’ nationalism, their silly notions of anti-Semitism, while
promoting their brands of racism and racial purity.
There is one such publication that has a 60% rate of acceptance; one
supposes the other 40% had difficulty proving their Jewishness, or maybe they
weren’t Zionist enough in their writing.
What is especially interesting to me is that such rags consider
themselves to be very intellectual as they promote their racist agenda and
The Eco poetry pubs are close kin to the ‘current state of mankind’
political presses; this is where you can make public your eco-political screeds.
A poem or two by the great rambling Nobel-winner Al Gore would be found
in these pages; and, like Gore, forget the fact that brilliant scientists are
hard at work coming up with solutions to technological, health, and ecological
problems, folks without the funding of a Gore.
Yes, also forget the fictions of such a man’s beliefs; come up with
something else. Let’s throw in a
celebration of UN Agenda 21, the need for smart growth, for sustainable
development, the elimination of the suburbs.
All of you ignorant screedsters, bring your ignorant causes.
Some of these presses want nature, just nature; now, nature poetry can be
quite appealing and engaging in addition to being good, but when your emphasis,
like all of these fetishists, is on content instead of quality, the odds of
finding such well-worded works in their pages are more than limited.
Likewise we have the pantheistic, but also the polytheistic, and the
pastoral, a celebration of nature by any other name.
More specific example of the eco-call are ocean-related poems, a mix of
various related themes, recreational, spiritual, scientific.
And place as a theme is often included in this genre of fetish.
Often these people emphasize that we are separated or distant from
nature. Other watchwords to look
for are plants, animals, topography, interconnectedness, prairies, landscapes,
flowers, grasses, savannas, wetlands, wildlife, the physical world, ideas of
place, and, as usual, you will read lipservice to the god of art, aesthetics,
which no one who knows anything would believe.
More activist-based themes to account for are presses that concern
themselves with anything from Agent Orange, Monsanto, and other chemical
companies to pollution in all of its forms.
Ecology, environmentalism—we get it.
But why not a poem about that greatest champion of the environment, the
Luddite mail-bomb murderer, Ted Kaczynski?
Of the ethnic journals, (and the nationalistic) this is how it usually
works; if you are of the prized ethnicity, your poem can be set as you see fit;
for those of us not so prized, we must write about the ethnic experience.
Already you can say that not only does this make little sense, this also
rings oh so unappealing. The day
you find me writing of growing up Asian in America is the day you know I’m
pointlessly groveling for acceptance, and why?
And there I am, dried up in terms of inspiration and purpose practical or
un-, ready for the proverbial bullet to the cranium.
Pretty, pretty please, put me down; this dog is done.
The call for the Arab-American (why not the al-Qaeda terrorist?), the
indigenous or diasporic, the Canadian, the call for any variant on the
ethnic/cultural/national spectrum—except the white American male.
A few magazines either call for prose poetry or suggest it as an
alternative. There is nothing wrong
with this on the surface. But when
you realize that often the call comes from people who know nothing of poetry,
the idea becomes more questionable. Some
indication of this comes from one rag in particular, which suggests that such a
work should contain ‘elements of character and plot’—in other words, this
one wants short stories. Yes, this
zine also wants ‘motion,’ a ridiculous inclusion.
You plotless 19th century Frenchies beware.
It appears straightforward enough, erotic verse.
And the steamier, the more lewd, the better, right?
Maybe that’s just me. But,
thinking about it, I’ve never used the big C-word in a poem to date.
One moment, I have to get to it . . . But what especially makes this a
fetish is that these pubs actually do want poetry more of the ‘one-handed’
variety. They don’t want quality
love poetry, as far as I’ve seen anyway.
What do we find in an example of such a zine?
The request for ‘intelligently erotic’ verse.
“It’s about what you say and how you say it.”
Well, they covered their bases there.
But these folks want feelings and morality.
What? Yes, to moralize in
erotic verse. More generic,
“It’s more about what goes on above the waist than below it.”
Yes, these people are lacking in something essential.
How qualified do you think they’ll be to judge your poetry?
Well, if you are desperate enough to submit to this publication, note
that they dislike rhyme (which generally means they despise the musical aspect
of all things poetic, and probably the poetic aspect itself).
But, to their credit, they do comment that they’d like you to send
something you’re “ashamed for someone else to see.”
The real question is whether you’re ashamed of the content or the
poetry itself. As an after thought, they add the magic word of their
ignorant editor: honesty. Okay,
they are lacking in general intelligence; what do you expect of their intellect
regarding things literary? I could
have included other examples, but it’s safe to say not a one of them
understands what makes poetry poetry. The
only advice I have in this area is this: no matter what you include in your
writing, don’t forget the big ending. Indeed,
why not a request for pornographic poetry?
We want to ‘get off’ on your literary spew.
Send us three to five poems written about medicine.
Yes, patients, doctors, nurses, lab techs, surgeries, cancer, AIDs,
recovery, death. We at least assume
this is a call for such people. Or
. . . or, are there those with such a fixation on things medical that they fill
entire journals with clinically inclined verse?
Yes, yes, this man lives, he eats and bleeds medical concerns: “Oh, let
me send in my series on a heart transplant.
That will surely capture their fancy.”
More power . . . brother. I
have a family that includes several individuals employed in the medical field,
and I myself have spent far too much time in a hospital or two.
I’m goddamned clinical. Literally.
Anyway, not to boast, I think I wrote the first poem (as far as I know)
about a foot doctor; my doctor requested it, and I delivered.
The science or scientific poem is intimately related to the medical poem;
in fact I have seen poetry contests that asked for either.
Although this category may appear broad, like that of science-fiction, it
is just one of many fetishes that litter the world of poetry publication.
Write a poem about Stephen Hawking, or even Einstein—are you going to
send it to a pub that wants only this type of poetry, a pub most likely run by a
scientist and not a poet? Yeah.
Now experimental writing. What
exactly is it? A science experiment
in words? Writing in odd shape
(concrete poetry)? Perhaps the
writing unpoetic? One suspects the last, but who can really know?
Only the editors who yearn for this pabulum.
Although plenty of zines ask for such writing, one publication in
particular, an e-zine, struck me as especially fetish-based; every poem in this
man’s pages was constructed with an odd lining, often in odd shape, and get
this: every poem there was worded in such a way as to be completely
meaningless—and unpoetic, lacking in lyrical, rhetorical, musical, and
grammatical skill—lacking in anything of the realm of poesy.
Now I suppose if someone had time he could try
to make meaning of this jumbled nonsense, but for me it seemed an ostentatious
exhibition of what I can only call, outright idiocy, a phrase I now use
regularly to describe such works; such poetry is worse than a hundred musical
instruments all playing out of tune and not even attempting any variety of
melody or harmony—forget counterpoint. No,
it’s worse than that. The man who presides over this particular page is our
uncrowned emperor of the fetish. He
comes across in his communications as arrogant, self-obsessed, and, one must
say, mentally disturbed. Bizarre is
all one can say of his very specific preferences.
I got the sense that the same writers offered him work over and over;
they had come upon his desired structure and content.
There is really nothing in the history of poetry to compare to his
fetish; some postmodern madness comes close, but does not justice to this
Not so unlike “experimental’ poetry is concrete poetry, which is much
more authentically poetic, at least when it tries to be a poem.
Okay, some is good, while most is atrocious.
But, but! There is also
graphic poetry; any true lover of words is left to laugh at such offerings.
Just imagine a neon sign with a poorly written line of writing.
Most such poets could give a damn about poetic technique; what is more
important for such men of ‘mixed media’ is the all but stupid or senseless
‘shock’ of their art. One reflects on such work, and he sees neither good visual
art nor good poetry—it’s the worst of both worlds.
The irony of all this postmodern madness, when viewed from on high (or
while high, if you’d prefer) reveals itself a heap, if not of excrement, of an
effluence seen easily offal. The
mavens of the minor leagues can have these magazines all to themselves;
unfortunately these types of outlets make up what appears to be the majority.
So where does that leave those who work with, and are inspired to write,
actual art, poetry as mere poetry sans sacred fetish?
We are about to head into the realm of the poetry request beyond
category. And some of these
publications are so horrible that there is little to say of or to them, unless
you find their peculiar pretensions, their false claim to anything artistic,
unless you find them to be especially offensive or entertaining (in the wrong
way). Before we enter the chaotic
zones, I’ll reflect on a few oddities. For
one, some publications are so ‘classic,’ old and established (outdated?),
that they require postal submissions; why they would place their call for
material on the internet and then require a hardcopy is an unforgivable
incongruity. Another oddity that is
not so offensive, at least to me, is the audio poetry journal; recorded poems
are nothing new, this just another way to appreciate the works.
My final concern before going on is simple, the cliché-fest.
Now, just take into account the conspiracy this entails.
The writer himself must not mind them, the editor and possibly his team,
if he has any help, must not mind them, and one imagines the audience of the pub
must not mind them. Poetry journals
that take this route resemble the work you can find in the garbage disposal of
poesy found on Facebook sites and other such amateur outlets
Now, for the sake of publication, let me organize my poems by theme, tear them from my journals and organize them by type in terms of fetish fulfilled. But do I even want to see my work displayed beside those written to tickle the tastes of the fetish man? No, I really don’t want my works playing with yours. Yes, the time of day is late when I proffer my poems to these creatures; I would indeed await patiently and earnestly their all too friendly rejection letter.
Before we go on to the promised fetishes that almost defy
categorization, I’d like to stretch my imagination and think up a couple
possibilities. Of course we could
go with the more literal fetishes, The
Leather Bar, maybe Whips and Weal,
even The Lusty Geriatric.
I could see a journal dedicated to the quibbles of marriage, the science
of creationist theory, the tentative voice of the battered wife, the vociferous
voice of the abuser, the sheer thrill of the crank call, the eulogy pages (I
think this one exists): a place to mourn the deceased in verse (or the
obituaries), an outlet for the creative mathematician (possibly poems written
only in numbers, equations, algorithms), cooking recipes as a form of
poetry—is that enough? Enough, yes. But
I’ll warn you now, this is going to be a mess, so don’t
get messed up. Where should I send
my poems about all of the atrocious things I did in the service years ago?
Lucky for me there is a pub for veterans—oh, and for current service
personnel in the two big current wars (I guess they didn’t hear the news, or
they didn’t bother to change their mission statement).
Deployment, non-deployment, transition back to normal civilian life—all
included. I killed a lot of people, so I have a lot of poems about my
time behind the rifle. But enough of that because I’m on to the all-too-common
art based on other art type of arrangement.
You know, a poem based on a painting (ekphrastic poetry) or a photograph
and a painting or photograph based on my poem, the whole train game.
Soon enough, I’m on to the arena of ‘human conflict,’ of faith and
doubt, of the death not dead, of hope and hard-fought experience, or joy and
reprieve, of the working class, poetry that endures, laughs, cries, and sings;
um, yeah, this is the grab bag fetish, the fetish of the somewhat indecisive;
they want everything, anything, as long as it sticks to, uh, whatever you
please—nevermind, we have no idea what we want, but we know we want it (maybe
we’ll know it when we see it). Yes,
oh yes, the Rush song, “You can choose not to decide, but you still have made
a choice.” I guess that sums it
I’m not sure why I’m writing in a new paragraph.
Oh, yes, because these pubs just can’t decide.
The next pub actually says it’s not sure if it wants good
poems—he’s looking for his kind of poems.
This is the ultimate in fetish, the confession of standards, or
non-standards, of likes! I like what I like and I’ll know when I like it; you must
forgive me because language is difficult for me, I mean, despite the fact that
I’m publishing literature—oh yeah, that.
Better than this indecisiveness, a magazine of note asks for your
obsession. Yes, now we have
authentic fetish, the obsession, plain as—hey!
Look at this! ‘Flarf’
poetry. Now what the hell is this?
We’ll need to consult Wikipedia, for we know this will not be in the
Flarf poetry can be characterized as an avant
garde poetry movement[. . . .] Its
first practitioners used an aesthetic dedicated to the exploration of “the
inappropriate” in all its guises. Their
method [ . . . ] was to mine the internet with odd search terms then distill the
results into often hilarious and sometimes disturbing poems, plays, and other
texts[. . . .]
Yes, somebody had to get more absurd than the Burroughs cut-up method and
the Surrealists’ automatic writing, even all of the Dadaist nonsense.
I like that they call this ‘an aesthetic.’
When the obtuse get going the half-witted get half-baked. Just another
bunch of bums picking through the garbage.
Don’t think it doesn’t get worse.
Contemporary ‘visual’ poetry (in contradistinction with concrete
poetry), build a barn with words, the Mona Lisa texted across the page; I’m
not an painter or a poet but the best of both—believe me.
Next is a favorite of mine, as anyone who knows my work will tell you,
realism, which one magazine so expertly puts it “is art in the image of
unfiltered truth.” Forget that
words themselves are a filter, forget that the mind that interprets
‘reality’ is a filter—we can assume these fellows are not philosophy
majors. More indicative of this
area of interest is the near-word salad, silver-tongued woman and the man with
the iron stomach, both of whom are perfect candidates for this type of
authorship. And, like most of the senseless additions that fetishists enjoy
employing, these writers will have ‘lived and will die for the content’ of
their works, which of course ‘mirrors the content of their lives.’
And then we get the false claim that ‘realism is the ugly part of life,
made beautiful.’ No, it’s not. But
we prefer realism. I’d prefer
that they don’t even explain—unless there’s a question and answer period.
Dig this example of the fetishist’s smorgasbord: poetry in shape of
ghost sightings, horoscopes, obituaries (preferably yours), fortune cookie
fortunes, talks of UFO abductions, and home-made love spells (preferably ones
that work). Okay, at least it shows a sense of humor, but unfortunately
they are serious. Why don’t you
choose and write me back. In such
cases, why even specify that you want a certain type of poetic content?
One can see a certain campiness to the collection of calls, but.
I guess I could have classed these zines as ‘the indecisives.’ Another one of these requests poems ‘based around the
themes of pin up, retro, burlesque, rockabilly, goth, and whatever strikes our
fancy.’ Another collection of
camp, with the addition of goth. Come
on, man. This sounds like the scat
porn of poetry all collected in one place.
‘Whatever strikes our fancy’: a declaration of fetish if there ever
Performance poetry, hip-hop, and spoken word—sorry, that’s not
poetry. You tried to convince us
that it was, and I’m sure you had a good time doing it, you received your
adulations from an ignorant crowd, but you are not a poet.
You are an entertainer, but not a writer of worth.
The infinite monkey theorem: you are the monkey, and you haven’t nailed
Often in collaboration with other calls, but sometimes used as a single
rule, some publications just do not want rhyming. One
can easily extrapolate from this that they do not want music at all, no wordplay
in whatever form. This glaring
declaration of the despising of such a major element, or collection of elements,
of poesy just strips you of any credibility.
Without music, your poetry will suck.
Become a journalist already, start a news rag.
Some magazines skirt the issue by declaring that the rhyming ‘should be
well done.’ Shouldn’t everything be well-done? You don’t like rhyme, perhaps because of your mega-modern
bias, you just do not like rhyme.
The historical importance of rhyme in poetry is unbreakable.
And if you don’t utilize rhyme, you should include some variety of
music; otherwise your verse is lacking in a major way.
Alliteration, consonance, assonance, even dissonance and
Maybe I should mention the patented shifting fetish, which desires that
each issue of a magazine be ‘devoted to a specific kind of poetry.’ This
‘kind’ refers to both themes and actual form.
This and ‘poetry for children’ I shall avoid elaborating on.
Yes, I kiss a curse to both. I
should mention that there is, now that I reconsider it, another category I could
have recognized, the wide category of anachronistic poetry.
This includes any call for the poetry of a bygone age, Surrealism,
Dadaism, Modernism, Romanticism, Victorianism, Abomunism, you name it.
If you enjoy emulating the poetry of other ages, go for it; I’m sure
there is even a fetish mag focused on your time period.
To put the dead to rest, I’ll list a variety of the remaining fetishes:
poetry that captures a certain chapter of ones life, poetry that wants
more ravens, elegies, poetry that relates to people and objects (with bizarre
thematic angles), poetry that has been rejected before (however many times,
often requiring proof), poetry based on prompts and exercises.
These and a thousand more. At
some point one wonders if this is a collection of literary Olympic events, for
we know that an entire publication will be filled with one ‘type’ (read,
fetish) of poetry, and therefore all will be competing within particular
More fetishist even than the obsession poetry is that based on pain and
suffering, on despair and angst. This
is the call of the sadist for his counterpart.
One can truly respect such a bold declaration of perversion.
In fact, short of begging for the writer’s perversion itself, I think
this one shines above the rest. I’m
almost inclined to leaf through the pages of such a publication; if only I
didn’t know better. The
only thing better than a poem about suffering is a poem worth reading.
And I guess we can put this lengthy examination to bed with the
publications that are themed around sleep. Oh,
dreams, beds, naps, insomnia, sleepwalking, procreation and death in bed,
reading in bed, breakfast in bed, sleep deprivation as torture, coma, putting a
child to sleep, sleep rituals, a glass of water next to the bed, counting sheep,
masturbation, praying, the escape of sleep, sleep euphemisms, sex in bed—have
they left anything out? I stopped
before they could claim copyright infringement.
Okay, yes, this is a particular magazine.
And I’d prefer any of those things in their reality to writing a poem
for these frauds. I can’t help
thinking of Christian Slater in Pump Up
the Volume, requesting that his writers cover their letters in blood,
ectoplasm, and cum.
Something worth inserting late in our writing are publications that boast
of the publishing of a particular writer, celebrated or not, who happens to be
horrible, and you know him to be such. This
is more of a warning than anything else they could include in their mission
statement. The sign says, ‘we
suck,’ and so do their contributors, so unless you suck . . .
And, can you believe it, some of these pubs charge for submission?
No, dear editor, I’m going to make you submit, and I’ll charge you
for it. Good lord have mercy!
“I have over a thousand poems published,” says the most mediocre old
poet I’ve ever read. To be in print, at what cost?
Poems can even be known by
the company they keep; I want nothing to do with this trifling nonsense.
The world of poetry and the poet is already difficult and thankless
enough without the help of these mentally-unsound fetishists.
It may be more interesting, after all, to publish my interaction with
these sick minds, than to publish anything in their worthless rags.
fetishists, you are the enemies of good poetry, and until you decide to pull
your ostrich skulls out of the entrails of your likes, you’ll weigh the world
of verse with your well-meaning nugatoriety, senselessness, you curses to the
word. I am crazed, yes. If I could simply cut short your lives so valueless in
literary terms with the swift swing of the reaping hook, I would, if only to
restore a space for life, vitality, to the world of poetry publication.
Wake up, you half-beasts of legend.
I want to know that if my work is not made public there is something better
in its place, not worse.
Hello, my friends. My name is now anathema, and I desire to explain my curse.
Why am I an outcast unfit to fill the molds they’ve made, the criteria they
carry with the utmost care, the purr they pet with a worthless love and all the
sympathy of something dead? This is
no less than a pathos of perversion; they want you to craft your verse to their
sick vision, their unimaginative likes.
And finally, as I do peruse the pages of their publications, I eventually
become overwhelmed by the mediocrity, and I grow too weary to go on.
I’m done. I want only to
destroy you all, to reveal your idiocy naked for all to see.
I want you worse than dead. Yes,
I do. But should I, as a test of patience more than craft, actually pen poems to
suit their strange interests? No,
no, no. I’d rather, in fact, to
assault such outlets with sound criticism, perhaps using wit to wail and whelp,
leaving them to respond (and rarely will they) with the stupidity of their
assiduous attack—on what? against whom? On
works much better than theirs, on the strawmen they need to find in their
delusions to maintain the semblance of self-respect.
I wouldn’t mind, in fact, showing the public the malice with which
these maniacs respond to a critic. But
that later, in a more enjoyable essay. I
am presently too enervated to provoke a humorous exchange with these little men.
The humor for later . . .
Return to Bylines