The Publishers’ Fetish: Poetry Or Perversion?

Copyright © 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:

“After Sunday School I walk home. Jesus

is with me, or at least a bit close, or

I'm just imagining it. Still, I don't

look over my shoulder to catch Him there

because I'm afraid. This must be the fear

of God that Miss Hooker was going on

about. No, wait--she said it means respect,

too. What was that other word? Reverence.

Children, she said, you have nothing to fear

unless you're evil, or doing what the Devil

wants you to do. I don't want to go to

Hell so I'd better be as good as I

can be or I'll miss out on Heaven and

if I live a long, long life I'd hate it

if I wasted it just to find myself


toasting 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 pubs. 

  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 and fame.

  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 poetry. 

And, 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.  The 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.

  There 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 religious doublespeak.

  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 perversion.

  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 there’s more.

  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 up.

  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 encyclopedia:

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 were one.

  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 it yet.

  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 onomatopoeia—something!

  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 guidelines.

  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.

  Understand, you 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 . . .


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