Foetry.com, Chatrooms, & The Decline Of Discourse
Copyright Ó by Dan Schneider, 11/14/04
A few months ago I was emailed by George Dickerson, who requested that I perhaps review his Selected Poems. I told him that while I thought the book, overall, was good, & his poems better, by a long shot, than most of the enjambed prose that is published & wins awards these days that I would not do so. My reason was that over the last couple years I’ve developed a relationship with him- well, more of a penpalsmanship. Therefore it would seem highly unethical of me to review his book of poetry. While I could be objective, point out his strengths & weaknesses as a poet, & explain why, the fact that even a quick glance on my website shows that I have been associated with the man, would kybosh my credibility by merely the hint of impropriety, & no matter how well-reasoned a defense I might give of a poem, it would appear I was merely shilling for a colleague.
In truth, I’ve never met the man personally. He emailed me out of the blue a few years back, I put some poems of his on my Vers Magnifique page, conducted an interview with him on my Omniversica radio show, & have averaged 3-4 phone conversations with him the last few years. Now, anyone who attended my Uptown Poetry Group knows that I spare no 1- not me, my wife, nor friends- from criticism of their work, & am confident I could have elucidated things pro & con in Dickerson’s book. But, the fact is I was aware of the seeming conflict of interest, as well as its easily reasoned seeming hypocrisy were I to do so. The same is rarely true in outposts other than Cosmoetica. Tales of cronyism in the art world are legion. Allen Ginsberg, for example, is known to have championed the work of any artists he liked, provided he stain their lips with his essence. The whole concept of schools or –isms is based upon promoting someone’s work for its similarity to your own, or work that you like, rather than any objective stab at excellence.
Why do you think that Beatnik poets rave about their kin, Languagists rave about their kith, & New Formalists echo their literary forebears in anything they deem too vers libre? The fact is that there can be good poetry found in any school or –ism, but its excellence will have to do with a handful of things not exclusive to that school- a mnemonic image or phrase, good music- provided by alliteration, assonance, rime, good enjambment, & the avoidance or subversion of clichés. All great poetry succeeds using these, & a select few other tools, in an infinite array of ways, juxtapositions, etc., while all bad poetry fails for the lack of those reasons. In short, greatness is its own company.
A great poem by Tu Fu, John Donne, Pablo Neruda, Gwendolyn Brooks, me, or a poet yet to be born, will fundamentally share far more qualities with each other than they will with lesser poems by those same poets, or poets in their particular school. That so few poets & critics have ever recognized this fundamental point is why there has always been such vicious sniping (add in my theory of the Divine Inspiration Fallacy as well). Lacking an internal barometer by which to measure poems of different stripes the poets almost invariably fall back on attacking their peers & competitors in ad hominem ways, not by exposing the weaknesses in their poetry.
In the last decade or so since the advent of the Internet there have been 2 interesting trends- the explosion of poetry websites & of online chatrooms. Often, these 2 volatile entities come together & the result is not pretty. There are millions of poetry websites out there; almost all are worthless- be they personal poetry pages, resource centers, or wannabe magazines; a form that seems utterly antithetical to the online possibilities of the media. As I write this piece Cosmoetica is listed as the #1 Poetry website online by a major ranking service- Ranking.com. Now, some may dispute that other, more well-funded sites- like Poets & Writer’s magazine, Poetry magazine, etc.- get more hits & are not included in this particular batch, & others may say that such ranking services have biases (I agree, & take such with a grain of salt, as many’s the time I’ve seen my site get inundated with hits, only to see my ‘ranking’ slip- huh?), but the fact remains that Cosmoetica has to be considered in the top tenth of a percent of poetry websites in terms of hits. The most obvious way I have achieved this is by offering something unique- a website that features quality contemporary poetry & its criticism. No other site online, that I know of, does this. Thus, I have gotten a readership of people who love good poetry & criticism, while all the poseurs, doggerelists, & phonies spend their time troving the 10+ million other poetry sites online. Even if I get a readership of only that tenth of that percent that’s a huge chunk compared to most sites that might crow about getting a millionth of a percent.
As for chatrooms- thankfully I am not a regular trover of them, nor a websurfer. I go online for 2 reasons- email, & to search out information for works of art I’m creating, or essays. Most chatrooms follow simple arcs. Someone says something, another person attacks that, there is a personalized argument, & others join in the fray. Usually the posters are people with no lives & they spend inordinate amounts of time sniping. Along with bloggers, chatroom mavens are among the sorriest lot of folk going- especially when the chatrooms have to do with art. I just wonder what could be accomplished by these chatters (& bloggers) if their energies were focused more on creative ventures.
Let me return to my opening thrust on being aware of the appearance of impropriety, & its lack in the poetry world. Recently, I learned of a website called Foetry.com , in a New York Times piece of a few weeks back that lauded it, Cosmoetica, & a few other sites as notable poetic pit stops. Foetry’s main claim to fame is as self-described watchdogs regarding the ethics of poetry. In a sense, its mission is to arts ethics what Cosmoetica’s is to arts excellence. They hope to weed out poetry contest scams, & cronyism between judges, editors, & former colleagues & students. Now, everyone who is remotely connected to poetry realizes that the route to publication these days goes through a relative handful of mullahs who dole out increasingly smaller pieces of the arts pie in respect to grants & publication in ‘name’ publications & presses. Of course, all but a few people are willing to stand up to decry these practices, name names, & those few who do suffer from either not being good artists themselves- therefore making them myopic hypocrites, or they do so from the shadows, sometimes anonymously on chatrooms. Foetry takes this a step further. The site’s creators almost revel in taunting the site’s regular chatroom posters with their anonymity. They have good reason, as they point to examples of where ‘whistleblowers’ in the art have been screwed, & those who speak out against such have been marginalized & hectored. Believe me, I have been relentlessly pilloried with emails, threatened with copyright infringement & libel nuisance lawsuits, & harassed & threatened personally. Why? Because I dare to point out that contemporary poetry, today, is in bad shape, & go even further, by showing how.
Over the years I’ve gone to a few chatrooms- some poetry & most not- & the overriding similarity between all of them is that they are dominated by a handful of people who literally have no lives, & spend inordinate amounts of time writing posts, declaiming their views, rather than doing so in real essays like this. This phenomenon is true whether it's a religious chatroom, a celebrity chatroom, a political chatroom, or an arts chatroom. There are several known types of posters- there is the sincere tyro, claiming to have no strong opinions, & willing to append himself to a Master. There is the would-be Master- more often a sciolist adept at masking his ignorance, than a true Master. There is the eternal rebel- who tries to demarcate his difference from the mainstream, yet becomes a caricature of true dissent. There is a version of the rebel called the Bartleby- the person who will relentlessly contradict himself just to contradict others- no, No, NO! There is the Beta person- the go-between, who tries to smooth things over. & on & on. You probably know these types & many more, better than I do.
Yet, each chatroom has its own collective persona. My wife, Jessica, was
involved with an online Sylvia Plath chatroom years ago & was harassed by
several people simply because she did not buy into all the unadorned Plath
worship. These folk were mostly female & mostly under the age of 25. A year
or so later Jess was posting on the Atlantic Monthly’s chatroom Atlantic
Unbound & the posters were mostly middle-aged people who viewed poetry
as a way of self-expression & (ugh!) therapy. Of course, their opinions on
poetry had nothing to do with poetry as art, merely ways of networking &
backslapping each other on their ‘brilliance’. Another is the New
Poetry chatroom, a place where serial grumbler Bob Grumman, an aging
poetaster I destroyed a few months back, posts. Most of the posters to that
chatroom are over-the-hill doggerelists from the faded postmodern movements-
like LANGUAGE poetry, concrete poetry, as well as refugee Beatniks &
hipsters. Of course, as I showed in my
essay on Grumman, they say nothing & say it poorly- both in poetry &
their critical thinking on it.
Yet, worse than merely showing ignorance of whatever the subject matter
at hand is most netizens of chatrooms have a disturbing penchant for petty
bickering, childish namecalling & threats, as well as just meanspirited ad
hominem. Let me now give you some examples of the Foetry.com nonsense, in terms
of their chatroom community, & you will see how quickly the thread devolves
into the stereotype I’ve laid out. My 1st post was the day the
article hit print:
Sun Oct 03, 2004 10:01 pm
Post subject: Bravo
Found your site
from the same NYT Orr article that mentioned my site www.cosmoetica.com.
Glad to know I'm not alone, although Cosmoetica focuses more on the horrid state of poetry the art.
I did get an essay a few years back from an insider who exposed the workshop scams: http://www.cosmoetica.com/D4-BS1.htm
Anyone who claims that artistic fellatio is not rampant in the arts in general & poetry specifically is either willfully ignorant, a liar, or a beneficiary of said fellatio.
Keep on rocking- I'm adding a link to your site. And if the editors/contributors ever have a full length piece they want posted for greater exposure let me know.
As for libel/slander- those claims are usually made by bullies who rage because they've been caught. I've been threatened legally many times & am still around. Don't let them kow you into submission. Good work, Dan Schneider
Note: from post 1, I am not anonymous, I state my opinions, & these are generally recognized as articles of truth in the poetry world- although never stated directly, save for me.
A couple days later the site’s creators chimed in:
05, 2004 12:50 am
Welcome aboard. Glad to find your site too.
We're getting tired of our original tagline
Exposing the fraudulent
Tracking the sycophants.
Perhaps we could use your fellatio quote.
We'll be reading that essay soon. Thanks.
It's funny that people are talking about suing our pants off; shouldn't they worry about their presses, judges, and universities? It's just a matter of time before someone organizes a class-action.
I parried, with some advice, & thus far little to complain of:
Tue Oct 05, 2004 12:17 pm
Post subject: Reply
I tend to doubt
it re: a lawsuit. The Dead White Males & PC Elitists are too similar, &
an outsider as myself, simply has no access to the system. The few people
willing to admit such on the sly will not in public.
1 aspect to note. It's not so bad to help others get published if pals- providing the work is good. Ezra Pound, for all his tsoris, is well regarded for getting Eliot, Frost, & some others published. The problem is that when a Jorie Graham, & a few 1000 others do all you get is clones. I defy anyone to read a copy of the APR & be able to differentiate any of the poetasters.
Like has replaced excellence as the currency in poetry critique. Subjectivity is the rage, yet 1 objective fact objectifies all. 1 can, for example, reasonably argue who's better- Maya Angelou or Donald Hall- both poetasters, or who's better- Robert Hayden or Robert Lowell- both who wrote great poems, but to try to compare 1 of the former pair to the latter is silly.
Difference in degree DOES become difference in kind after a certain level. I briefly skimmed through some other of your fora- I'd say don't sweat any threats. I posted, on my 1st page of Cosmo, a sect from the Copyright Code because several poets threatened to sue for copyright infringement. Oddly, not a 1 of the exc poets whose work I praised has.
This has become a hammer that some wield. I've had running tete-a-tetes w several poets- 1 whose ties you may wanna investigate is Arts Poobah Dana Gioia himself.
My wife recently bought a book called The Hand Of The Poet, edited by Gioia, which features a poem by Gioia & a comparison to Wallace Stevens- see the above on specious comparisons. He's also been instrumental in getting sycophants like a Jack Foley- whom I blasted- publications & gigs. Unsurprisingly the writing is a veritable Johnny Wadd of fellatio.
Were writers to spend more time working on writing, & less on networking, things wd be better, also damning the ART IS TRUTH nonsense. Art is communication. The art of a piece of artwork is not the thing, but HOW it affects the audience. Art is neither true nor false- it's a medium, not an idea. Philosophy is ideas. Art is ideas in motion. Enough. Soldier on. DAN
No reply from the Foetrymeisters, but this reply from a combination
would-be Master & Beta go-between, who is 1 of the top posters to the site:
Oct 08, 2004 4:26 pm
Post subject: Re: Reply
Cosmoetica is wonderful. Fascinating article on you: "cannot tell a lie, has no empathy." Nature has made the perfect critic.
Jack Foley distinguishes between "reviewer" and "critic" in an effort to deny you the right to "judge." Foley is wrong. Reviewer and critic both judge. You are correct to engage as you do. The polite arm's-length approach is boring. The polite blurb is mercantile and nothing more.
I agree on APR, but have you seen the latest? With Queen Graham on the cover? (Her hand in the photo seems masculine. Did you know that Emily Dickison had a masucline "hand?" I mean her handwriting. Have you seen it?) There is a poet in this issue, Richard Cecil, I don't know who he is, but his poems are funny, and don't belong in APR with Norman Dubie, etc etc. Check it out.
I was weaned on the Romantics, and for my taste, you overrate the Moderns and Ezra Pound. In "This Old Poem," you keep a Pound line which is perhaps the worst piece of doggerel ever written. I mean this one: "Your mind and you are our Sargasso Sea." One sounds like a dog in pain when one reads such a line aloud: u-r-r-sar 'you are our Sar' All those r's! It's horrible!
Your own criticism is rather aptly described by Malcolm Cowley on Pound:
"Pound, I know, is often a superb critic, but with blind spots and a habit of applying his principles as if with a fireman's axe. He abhors general statements in poetry, and even personal statements when they are baldly expressed. He has wit, but little taste for humor. He owns to an ingrained prejudice against iambic pentameter... He has a high disdain for repetitive patterns of any sort and excises every word that does not sharpen an image, even when the omission violates the meter and destroys the rhyme scheme. Essentially what he admits is a succession of discrete images, each presented in the fewest possible words... His greatest weakness as a critic (and in his own poems as well) may be his lack of feeling for architectural form: centeredness, balance, completeness. ...lack of feeling for sequence in general... He disdains to tell stories."
Pound did not get Eliot published. It was Bloomsbury. London, not the U.S., made poets well into the 20th century. Emerson was made in England. Henry James was Emerson's adopted son. Pound was made in England, as well. The land of 'the pound.' Frost was first published there.
Keep up the good work.
So far, so good. I dispute some of his claims, but nothing out of bounds
Fri Oct 08, 2004 6:17 pm
Post subject: reply
I try to get thru
APR ASAP. I'm actually gonna review the next issue, although it's akin to a food
critic reviewing butter & toast.
As for Pound- I meant he helped Eliot & Frost- whether or not he got them 1st pubs I am not sure, but both credited him. I tend to think the Moderns are very overrated. In 1 of my S&D essays on New Criticism I rip the NCs & Modernists. As for Pound's alliteration, I'd argue its a strenght, & along with hidden rimes, its 1 of the primary music makers in poetry- not the metric fallacy.
As for critic- that was a qu by a pal of mine who gets too worshippy. Principally, I write great poetry because of great empathy. I do not dole out sympathy- that's the crux. Don't really think the Pound summary applies to me, though. 1) I have fun w poetry & its criticism, 2) I recognize & minimize my own biases, & 3) I tell plenty of tales in poetry & let the content have its way w form. I'm not stuck on imperatives, as Pound so notedly bitched to Whitman.
Here's hoping your love fills the week. DAN
So, a day or so later we get the 1st sniper, a dolt named
Sat Oct 09, 2004 6:19 pm
Post subject: Fading Credibility
My faith is
failing in my co-posters. Have you actually read any of Mr. Schneider's
essays, or poetry? Here's a sample by the poet who has described himself as
"better than Whitman":
The hairs on his fingers
do not curl anymore
like worms. They, too, are old
and arthritic as the fingers
themselves. Yet, together
they hum steel scissors
about many old heads spewing
stories of their war, their action.
And in his two chair shop-
only one of which is ever used-
he mumbles on in foreign tongues,
somehow coherent to his customers,
of his youth- his hazy past
lost amidst the others' vivid tales.
And as The Chairman croons smoothly
in the background a strobed siren streaks
by and off his front window barber pole
yet beaming the noonday glint of sun
so brightly that he closes his eyes,
momentarily, and is back in his village
during the raids. The sun burns
through his eyelids like an incendiary
fire which lighted his parents' cellar,
This is a typical post on boards- where an anonymous moron asserts
something without even a hint of explication. Similar thrusts were attempted by
Jack Foley on my poem The Film Goddess, & Bob Grumman on the 2
sonnets from an article on me in City Pages. The problem is they are
trying to slam great poems, & they do so with ludicrous assessments that
reveal their own lack of acumen. This poem lacks clichés, has music, is
enjambed for maximum effect, yet these are all things beyond the ken of Watson.
Sat Oct 09, 2004 7:27 pm
Post subject: Watson
So, are you
trying to say the snip you chose is not well-written? Compared to Whitman or any
current doggerelists? If so you show 2 things- 1) why Foetry needs to exist. 2)
Why Sherlock always got top billing. DAN
Note: just as I did against Foley & Grumman I lacerate the dope with
humor. Then I found some more nonsense which gives a sense of Watson’s utter
lack of poetic acumen:
Sat Oct 09, 2004 7:45 pm
particular order, and still writing:
Lucie Brock-Broido, Brenda Hillman, Anne Carson, Mary Jo Bang, Louise Glück, John Ashbery, Jorie Graham, W.S. Merwin, Carl Philips, Li Young Lee.
Not that I think that they are the best poets, necessarily, though some are.
Saw this elsewhere. Ashbery & Merwin were the only poets w potential on this list & Ashbery the only 1 who reached greatness. I love it when people reveal their doggerelist heroes, for it only manifests why bad writing spreads. DAN
Of course, Watson has no rebuttal, so another sniper, Tech, emerges:
Sat Oct 09, 2004 10:43 pm
problematic poetry, for sure.
Nobody says amidst. You mean, "within" or "in"?
how does that "momentarily" work, syntactically? This is just sloppy. And people complain about workshops. A good workshop my just catch this sort of error.
"beaming the noonday glint of sun"? hahaha. This sort of arch-romantic language that was never even spoken by the stuffiest of Victorians, well, there's a reason it doesn't get published.
This guy says he's better than Eliot and Whitman. It's a conspiracy that Eliot is considered important!! And Whitman, too!!! hahahaha.
Of course, I meant amidst, as it can mean between, as well as
several other meanings in/within cannot, hence giving the line a multiplicity of
meaning- something published contemporary poetry lacks. He then calls a phrase
Romantic, as if that’s a slam, but, of course, it’s a) not remotely Romantic
& b) not used in a Romantic context. I rip him for his tit-for-tat nonsense.
This is the Bartleby gambit, & I nail him:
Sun Oct 10, 2004 1:01 am
& black is
white & white is black. Amidst means amidst- & you're correct-
workshoppists would not use such a word- thus their workshop status. & what
is syntactically wrong with momentarily? Just sticking a tongue out says
nothing. This is just the sort of bad thought & silly attempts at conformity
that result in every poem in the APR looking & sounding the same- 'beaming
the noonday glint of sun'- red it in context- it's a memory poem & a segue
from old age to war- boy, cannot be subverting a known trope in a new way.
Another thing workshops avoid. As for Eliot, I never said he was not an
important poet- import does not equate with excellence nor being overrated.
Picasso is also a great painter, but overrated. The tendency for small
conformist minds is to conflate things to a reductive- all good/all bad ratio.
Tech's just defined his own limitation. APR awaits! DAN
After vanquishing Tech, here comes the resident sciolist- a fellow
calling himself Desnos- after French doggerelist Robert Desnos:
Sun Oct 10, 2004 7:03 am
I love you.
I mean your points are well taken.
That very fuckable foto of Jorie on APR, it was taken by Jim Harrison. Was Jorie fucking Jim? Foets want to know. And that hand: did she give him a H=A=N=D J=O=B? You dish the dirt.
to hell with Pound cake and Elliotics
give me the whitman sampler, dan
A little later another typical post from Desnos:
Oct 10, 2004 8:39 am
Post subject: WHACKING!
Caught in the act, huh. And you thought I didn't even know what APR stood for. Well grease me up and bend me over, but girls just want to have fun. I have lost my mind, mallie, what little there was of it, and when I visited Cosmos's website I almost choked on my own spittle. I immediately called up Ranger West and Monday Love for reinforcements. Really, I need to have some fun. I need a laugh. Thank god for tech and watson and mallie, thank god, or whomever, for you.
But really, don't you think that's a beguiling photo of Jorie?
I didn't even have to read her poems. But I hate making fun at Ms. Graham expense. It's low. I need H=E=L=P.
I'm lost and out of sorts. I may be burnt out. I think I just may make an attempt at praying.
Note the emergent childishness- my website’s dissed, but for what?
There’s the attempt at collegial inside joke, but the import is in Desnos’s
needing to get reinforcements to back his own warped view of my website.
After his call the vaunted Watson re-emerges:
Sun Oct 10, 2004 7:42 pm
nothing as pitiful as an idiot with ambition.
There are 20 or 30 separate warring worlds of poetry out there, traditionalists, New Formalists, Post Avants, Modernists, ... from the Behrles to the Hillmans to the Guddings to the Dunns. Dissing virtually all of them and establishing yourself as an authority that no one has ever heard of is one of the sadder things I've considered today.
Again, he doesn’t answer my earlier queries, nor do any of the posters-
they cannot, so hide behind snideness & name calling. To a casual reader
this may seem to be just typical chatroom lack of etiquette, but it also
manifests the fact that chatrooms are not places for discussions of topics, but
territorial pissing. Despite the noble motives of Foetry’s founders, the fact
that they’ve ceded control of their boards to ignorants & cretins does not
bode well for their future.
About the only person who even addresses some of my points is the
aforementioned Monday Love:
Oct 11, 2004 8:48 pm
Post subject: Re: reply
Good luck on reviewing an issue of the APR. It begins with 'nine poems' of Norman Dubie and from these you may never return. It takes a brave explorer, one stout of heart, to make the journey through 'nine poems' of Norman Dubie. Prepare yourself. Steal yourself. I don't know if APR is 'butter and toast' so much as a nest of wriggling worms. In fact, one searches in vain for simple 'butter and toast,' and sorely wishes for 'butter and toast' after swallowing another tenuous mass of soft and writhing creatures fresh from the brain of a Norman Dubie. But "A Lesson in Generosity" and "Ars Poetica" by Richard Cecil will be a good chew.
Yea, Pound. He's maddening--and mad. Madder than a hatter and his alliteration is a matter of reckless and maddening madness far outmaddening the maddest of the mad. I suppose he helped "The Wasteland," but it's hard to believe Eliot would not have made those revisions himself, eventually. Musical phrase v. metronome? Pound was creating a straw man in that metronome. Time is the essence of music. And what I mean by that is, feeling manipulates time, and music is the result. Of course one is always going to win points by saying "music" rather than "time" or "metronome," but the truth isn't interested in playing for those points. The poet, when musical, manipulates time, and time alone (the metronome) --everything else is window-dressing and fopology.
I think Pound would havel liked your poetry. You see well. Example. In the poem of yours that was dragged in: seeing the hairs on the barber's fingers and comparing them in terms of arthritic flexibility shows a very sensitive eye indeed. "Amidst" and "momentarily?" I don't see anything wrong with their use here. But you've set up yourself for a fall, claiming to be a great poet, etc. I wouldn't have done that. If certain poems are dragged before the bar, any poet can be made to look bad, Keats, Whitman, I don't care who it is. The very bright light will diminish even the greatest of poets. Appreciation of poetry requires the shadow. When I was a school-boy, Yeats could do no wrong--in his Selected Poems. When I read his Collected, even his great poems lost power. A curtain should never be raised on a poem. It must be found in a lost nook alone. The greatness of poetry must seem to be a happy accident. Some old poets (and a few moderns) who loaded every line of their verse with cunning music is something else again. Here we have a more measurable gift. But even music is resented and there are many complex reasons why prose is more desired. Critical judgment is caught in a vortex today, and I think a wild, fearless criticism is the only way to resolve some large issues which have never been honestly addressed, even if such criticism offends that politeness which lubricates and offends that praise which nurtures.
The whole thread then veers off into arguing over supposedly humorous
doggerel. Monday Love, even, cannot stay on target. Yet, the named folk above
are the greatest posters on Foetry in terms of volume. 1 wonders why more time
is not spent on writing poetry- the few poems posted are not worth comment, for
that is not the thrust of this essay. The answer is manifest. While the posters
like poetry they’re not real poets. Those folk avoid chatrooms. Yet, every so
often an anonymous wannabe comes close to the truth:
Fri Jul 30, 2004 4:27 pm
It's my belief the tensions, resentments, sniping expressed here and elsewhere about the perceived poetry world are for a variety of reasons. I speak for myself here, but one reason is self-loathing, in that we love something that seems almost wholly ignored, so validation is fleeting, and we're tired of the smirks when we tell people we write poetry. And there are more petty reasons (again speaking for myself) that because of this nebulous poetry world, we know that any flake with access to a photocopier believes that his or her work is just as valid, acclaimed and well wrought (and who's gonna argue?) because they may have sold 160 copies at the record store or meditation center, and you sold 159 on Amazon, and neither of you are known to Helen Vendler. Then there's the perceived gatekeepers, mostly editors/chairs of writing programs, and perhaps you've never gotten their attention and hate them for that, trying to lump them into some singular ball of capital P poetry, or you've met them, and believe they're complete and utter frauds, and feel sick to be associated with their little sphere. (But in truth, the gates are wide open.)
While self-loathing indeed exists, it’s also a great deal of self-love, taken to the nth degree. For example, while self-loathing explains the attack on the start of my great poem, The Barber, the how of the attack, & the self-referential condescension is an attempt to puff oneself up that mere self-loathing cannot attribute. It is in this combination of both misplaced emotions that the truth lies.
All these things are rooted in the lack of market. Because of this, yes, this should be obvious, universities shoulder contemporary American poetry. However, there is absolutely no such thing as academic poetry (unless you want to arbitrarily assign it to the vast expanse of all free verse). (Some would argue that writing programs should be more academically rigorous. Most aren't.) Resenting that this has happened in the last 50-odd years is okay by me, but it's the same as resenting any other arts-related industry: film, music, visual art, composition, fiction, etc. (Actually, the only other art that comes close in its model to poetry, is music composition, except composers rarely get to hear their symphonies performed, as the cost is much greater than producing 1000 copies of a book. And obviously, there are not so many composers shuffling for a seat at the table.) I resent that it's helpful to move to LA if you want to work in the film industry. So go ahead, join me, resent away. Pick up a copy of "Art in America" and look at the gallery listings, count the number in NYC and compare it to the rest of the country. (How I wish poetry truly had a gallery system.) But if you imagine that everything that passes through Los Angeles or New York is the same, you are mistaken. Yet it won't bother me if you try and change it. Change is inevitable anyway. Move painting from Paris to New York, move music from Vienna to Prague, or if prefer alt-rock, from NYC to Athens to Austin to Seattle to Chapel Hill and back again, hell, I don't care, as long as stuff gets made.
The problem is not lack of market, there are more venues than ever before- 100folds more. The problem is that the poets, in general, do not produce anything worth reading. There are no images, lines, phrases, etc., that stick with people- i.e.- no mnemonics. Mnemonics is at the center of any great work of art. The gallery system is de facto the Internet. How many ‘Featured Poets’ are there, juried by an anonymous (or not) gray band of poetasters, or poetastry lovers?
If my writing of commerce causes tension, well, that's another source for some. It's a sad fact that poets are usually only sought out at weddings and funerals, because of some idea of ethereal importance, biblical associations, some shaman-like higher consciousness. If that's what someone believes poetry is and it gives them pleasure, I'd not deny it, but please don't resent when someone calls him- or herself a poet with a straight face, and then, god forbid, seriously pursues it as an art.
The major problem, though, is that most ‘serious’ poets do not
seriously pursue poetry, they pursue being poets, or being thought of as such.
Let’s see how this poster was answered:
Sep 10, 2004 7:13 am
I respect you for all your previous posts and for the thought you put into your posts. quackcap really isn't worth resonding to.
You are wrong. Poetry lovers like myself don't experience self-loathing. We love great poetry and we forgive poetry that is not great. We take what is good and forget the rest. It is not a matter of life and death. It's just poetry. It doesn't mean anything. Academics, we know who is academic; it's evident in the way they write. Free verse, you're dead wrong to think that academics have any hold on free verse. Ask any ten poetry lovers and they will tell you they prefer free verse.
The claim for loving great poetry is balderdash, otherwise all the bad poetry would not find a home in publication, nor on people’s shelves.
Commerce, we poetry lovers love sucessfull poets. It's you poets who can't stand to see another poet sucessfull. See Collins. See Grahm.
While it’s true most poets exhibit jealousy, look at this poster’s definition of success- it’s not poetic success, but commercial success. When bad poets get published, recognized, granted, it does cause resentment, & a legitimate 1.
See Bly, See Gioia, see the pattern of young poets assassinating their fathers or any who don't write in the form they prefer. Bly did it, Gioia did it: the only diference is Bly earned the right, Gioia did not. Gioia is a man of low character, compared to Bly. Witness their recent activity.
Look how quickly the points, right or wrong, veer off into ad hominem, & away from objective critiques of art.
Poetry, as an art form for practicioners, attracts people who don't know their place, who are unsure of themselves, who can't make their way in the world, or if they can, it is not enough for them, they have to measure themselves some other way: for some it is mountain climbing, for some mountain biking, for some jogging, for some mediatating, for some hunting, for some, marxisim, for some family, for some it is just enough to be an asshole, but for most it is validation, that I am different, I am smarter, I am more sensitive. Is that reason enough to call yourself a poet?
The poster is correct about current credentials that folk use to call themselves poets. But he follows up his good point with this:
But for most it means, I am a failure. For every poem written competes against every poem ever written.
It is clear that poetry is a very competitive field.
Yet as the quality of the NBA has been diluted by expansion, so has poetry.
Somewhere it all went wrong.
I suspect it went wrong when we bought into the idea that Elliot, Stevens, Wallace, Berryman, and Lowell were great poets. They were all terrible poets. Forget with what you were indoctrinated. Read. Think.
So we have what we have. The names mentioned on foetry and you, posting to foetry.
It is a shame.
We go from a moment of clarity to 1 of self-loathing on the claimed poetry lover’s part, then a riff into dissing name poets for the hell of it, with no rationale. 1 might counter it’s unfair to point out such inconsistencies in a chatroom post, which is not a fleshed out essay, but most ‘essays’ on poetry are like this- we get mere assertions of things that are not, say, stating ‘saying your emotions run hot & cold is a cliché’. These sorts of assertions require at least a sentence or 2 of backgrounding.
Yet, this is, perhaps, why chatrooms exist- to allow unbridled bitching, people with no talent nor insight to stroke & auto-fellate themselves. Every board on any conceivable subject- arts, sports, history, politics, science- devolves to such. The well-reasoned are driven out by an overwhelm of ignorance.
As example, I ran across a posting regarding Robert Bly & his import, with the posters arguing back & forth. I chimed in:
Oct 10, 2004 6:15 am
What killed Bly's poetry was his
forays into translation- he's a horrid translator who needed to become political
& bring 3rd world poetasters into English- that among other vices. DAN
To which this retort came:
What killed Robert Bly’s poetry, or do you mean who or what killed Robert Bly’s reputation. Nothing. Nobody. Attempts were made by inadequate assassins, but they were not successful. Bly is successful, there’in lies the rub.
Notice how my specific answer of a previously posted query is ‘rebutted’- with a simple feint to denial.
“Jealously, pettiness that plays so rough, walk upside down inside handcuffs kick my legs to crash it off say ok I’ve had enough what else can you show me”, something like that Bob Dylan said and any person who’s been victimized in that way takes heart in those words.
Poets are petty people, jealous and spiteful and they can’t stand to see another poet successful. It’s all personal to poets. Like a gang of drunken thugs they love to pile on.
While his characterization of poets is correct it also highlights his own penchant for being a salonista- believing something uncritically because, well, he believes it!
To imply that Robert Bly’s weak translations negate all the good work he has done only serves to clarify what I just said.
Robert Bly doesn’t need me to go to bat for him. His poems continue to speak for themselves.
Of course, the poster states something I, nor the thread said. To say
what killed his work implies it was once living, & good. That makes his
tumble into doggerel all the more disheartening because, unlike a Maya Angelou,
he actually had talent!
Then, a bad poem is posted, with no referent as to whether it’s Bly’s or not. Then, the silly Desnos pops up:
Cosmo, it is not evil for one to be ambitious, not even wrong, nor is it a crime for ones reach to exceed ones grasp. Put yourself on the scales of poetic justice and tell me which way do the scales tip? What has been your contribution? Weigh yourself carefully then weigh in on Robert Bly.
Notice how Desnos subliminally equates contribution with publication
& name value, not artistic merit. Yet, he & his ilk on Foetry could not
even see the greatness in the imagery & lines in the 1st ½ of The
Barber, because no ‘expert’ had done their explicating. Weigh myself,
indeed. Compare the 60+ poems I have on Cosmoetica to any other published poet,
remove the names, give them to young readers & writers who have not been
banally neutered by college courses, & I have no doubt that my poems will
dominate the Top 10, Top 20, etc., of any comparison with any other poet,
certainly a talented, but ultimately unaccomplished could’ve been like Bly.
Notice, I did not even get into the borderline ad hominal waste of his talent
with political prostitution!
I recently pointed out on a blog called Choriamb
a similar situation, where their posters, & readers in general, merely
regurge whatever criticism they read- with no ability to discern the mechanics
of good writing. The particulars were a rewriting of Robert Frost’s Birches,
where I trimmed redundancies and banalities, only to have some posters defend
them. I countered that if the redacted version were read 1st by most
readers, & the original then shown, its flaws would manifest- a claim I make
from the feedback of many Cosmoetica readers over the years. Of course, little
came of such an exchange- what could?
Meanwhile, here’s the best a Desnos can do:
Sun Oct 10, 2004 8:02 am
Post subject: You are absolutely right!
I checked out your website http://www.cosmoetica.com./S&D.htm and read your rant about Bly among others.
You must be right.
At least you are passionate about what you believe.
I like Robert Bly's poetry, but then I'm not an arbiter of taste.
Don't feel that you have to respond to my post. I have a feel for where you stand.
In typical fashion, Desnos, like most chatroomers, cannot make reasoned
arguments- as I do in my detailed analysis of Bly, so we get a little
gamesmanship. Great, but what of the art?
This last question is at the center of why chatrooms & poetry &
art should exist, yet it’s rarely tackled. Why? Because most of the wannabe
poets are incapable of tackling it, of writing good poems. Instead ad hominem
rears its head. A month or so before the New York Times piece that mentioned
Foetry & Cosmoetica there had been a running argument (really an attack)
against Plagiarist.com founder Jough Dempsey. It was not long before posters who
did not like my comments linked me with the nefarious Jough, simply because I
had a piece on his site & he on mine. I’ve never met the man in person,
& have no personal nor business ties, yet, this was enough to somehow
‘defeat’ my arguments.
Basically, Jough argued that Foetry was cowardly for not putting their
names out there, yet this is clearly wise if they want to still play the Poetry
Game & worm their way through the System. As I don’t care to play this
game, & attack it from the outside, I don’t worry that I’ve been
blacklisted at many websites & magazines affiliated with the poetasters I
have lambasted. Yet, the assumption was that Jough & I were somehow in
league, cabalistic, in our assault on poetry’s bigwigs, even though I clearly
disagreed with his stated views about Foetry, & when, a few years ago he
queried my opinion of his poetry I stated I did not think it was good &
showed why. As I did with my request from George Dickerson to review his book I
was up front on all reasons. This is something the Foetry posters do not get, as
they childishly ape the very foundations that they criticize in their own
mealy-mouthed way in the chatrooms.
Worse, most rip Foetry for so-called ‘unfounded’ accusations, yet
most are documented on the site. Yes, no 1 can prove motive, but if a knife is
in a back, & the blood is on your hand, there’s a high likelihood the 2
events are linked. Here’s a perfect example of the mere ad hominem engaged in
by not only the Foetry cowards, but all chatrooms. Some anonymous poster claims
Jough cheated him on a transaction:
Sat Sep 18, 2004 6:55 pm
"Remember, getting help is
NOT the same as cheating. You'd be foolish to try to complete your assignment
Yeah, tell that to my partner, a
college composition teacher, who has had to spend hour upon hour scouring the
web to prove suspected plagiarists.
plagiarism in the classroom is an epidemic. But if you read the Plagiarist.com
site you'd see that the name is meant to be ironic.
Dr S Russ
Town/City of Residence:
This person was never a customer of mine, although his girlfriend (who posted the only follow-up to his claim) was. She tried turning in our bullet-point notes as her essay (to her credit she removed the bullet points and made sentences out of the notes), but of course not being an essay, with no thesis, proof paragraphs, logical conclusion, etc., she failed her course.
Somehow this was MY fault, even though it says on both the site and in the notes that you CAN NOT turn in our work as your own and expect to get a good grade or not be caught for cheating.
I guess reading comprehension is an epidemic too.
Sun Sep 19, 2004 1:49 am
Post subject: Text Message
I looked up Jough
too. He's all over the web. He has no life.
Best of all, he has a way to text message his phone:
Not that I encourage anyone to tell him what we think of him.
Question 1- re: Foetry. This sort of post should be deleted. Even were
Jough a swindler or phony, to encourage criminal harassment is beyond the pale
of discourse. Question 2- ala what is asked of Jough, where do these chatroomers
get the time- even if retired? Like or not Jough’s site he’s at least
putting out material for public consumption- most of it free, & at great
expense of time, ala me & many other sites that harbor poetry resources.
But, that’s how it goes. The amount of time & energy wasted on these sorts of boards is unreal. Foetry.com should be commended for its attempt at exposing corruption, its motto, ‘Exposing the fraudulent "contests." Tracking the sycophants. Naming names.’, such as Jorie Graham, Richard Howard, Mark Strand, Charles Wright, Kevin Walzer, David Lehman, Brenda Hillman, & Molly Peacock, but far more so than being chided for its anonymous founders it should be encouraged to actively foster something more than another Lowest Common Denominator chatroom. Only when such inclinations to take control of creations become widespread can the greater call for restraint of not giving in to the temptation to help a colleague’s good work get a wider audience take root. In short, Foetry sees the Emerald City, but has to pooper scoop its own Yellow Brick Road, as well.
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