|TomWest wrote, among other things which are being discussed elsewhere:
|7. Further, is there any art, even one such as music, in which the will, the character and the personality of the practitioner, as well as ALL that is NOT directly related to that art but is IMPORTED into that art (from ‘outside’) in order to shape its essence on a practical level, are THESE (both artist and outside influence & content) not MORE VITAL than what can be learned, in a focused, textbook manner, of the art itself?
I was very struck by a letter which appeared a few months ago in Poets & Writers Magazine(ROTTEN GRAPES, P&W Magazine Nov/Dec 2007) in which a well known critic and poet defended the conduct of two equally well-known editors and publishers who had been caught red-handed abusing their positions. One of the editors had systematically undermined the integrity of a well-known poetry prize for 20+ years, bestowing the bi-annual awards on his friends and cronies and sometimes not even bothering to read the other manuscripts, including 12 of my own, by the way. The other editor sent xeroxed “personal reviews” to 100s of hopeful poets, including myself, all of whom had entrusted him with their best and most precious work. Even worse, the editor in question suggested to us all that we might be able to lift ourselves “up a level” (his exact phrase) if we sent him an additional $295.00, checks made out to him personally. “But will we get published this time?” I’m sure we all asked ourselves.
“I don’t rule out the possibility in some cases…” went the classic come-on spiel.
What upset me more than anything about the ROTTEN GRAPES defense of the two compromised editors was that it accused the whistle blowers, myself among them, of a “willful misunderstanding of the whole process of editing and publishing poetry.” We were all “losers,” the letter suggested, clueless incompetents who had nothing better to do than to “smear” their betters, and even if some mistakes had been made by the two editors, what we had done was far worse!
So I want to know what the process of editing and publishing poetry entails that we didn’t understand? The answer seems to go like this—I’ve heard it hundreds of times. If a publisher’s “lists” are “good,” that’s all that really matters. The taste with which the “lists” get drawn up is what the process is about, not who gets left off or whose feelings get hurt, which is inevitable. If the “lists” are “good,” it doesn’t matter what fees are collected, for example, or who knows the judge or is just about to marry her or is baby sitting for her right now on the campus where the decision is being made. Great editors and publishers are above such venal concerns. They devote themselves to such a high art in such a selfless way and for so very, very little money, why trouble them with your small-minded obsessions?
“The will, the character and the personality of the practitioner,” says TomWest in the quote just above. To what extent should such qualities in our editors and publishers also be part of the process?
A Commoner replied to Kaltica:
|I don’t agree that TomWest is talking about “how readers become writers,” not at all. He’s talking about how the whole new industry of teaching writing has been based on a false premise the purpose of which is to conceal one of its primary motives, and that is to convince as many hopeful poets as possible that if those aspiring poets pay the right money in the right places they too can become what TomWest calls “successful poets.”
“Aspiring writers” being used cynically by “successful writers”–that would seem to me to have been TomWest’s theme, and I think it ought to be discussed. Leave out the names by all means—the facts are all in the public domain in any case, and indisputable. More disturbing is the reluctance of the poetry community to look at its emperors’ new clothes. Why is the view so threatening? Why are we all in such deep and impenetrable denial?