What’s interesting about your articles, Tom [click 1.) here, 2.) here, 3.) here, and 4.)  here for Thomas Brady’s recent articles], is the way you go on working away at establishing your literary historical position while still reading with great insight even poets you regard as over-rated — like John Ashbery, for example. You express your doubts about John Ashbery, yet at the same time obviously love him, and are the first to admit it!

What is also obvious is that the establishment can’t deal with your balancing act at all — they just get angry and slam the door in your face as they did at Blog:Harriet.

The problem is that people in the poetry business can’t admit the emperor is naked because they themselves are tailors, and their whole reputation is built on the pedigree of the tailors who fitted the big boss out with the  “new” clothes in the first place.  They can’t see as you do that even though it is a charade, a literary historical sleight of hand, an alert reader can still enjoy the magic show they put on. I mean, John Ashbery is a prestidigitator of the highest order, even if his content is an illusion — he knows that himself, and has never claimed otherwise. Why can’t the literary establishment today in America admit that too? I mean, it’s so obvious John Ashbery’s show goes nowhere for humanity except up in lights!

Anymore than those beautiful bound feet above helped to make the emperor’s little girl lighter, or helped her to dance better. She was so beautiful, so perfectly refined, such a wonderful higher thought, transcending herself and her humanity — yet take her shoes off and she was ugly, distorted, and stank.

The point is that that show was tragic while at the same time contributing to one of the greatest human aesthetic accomplishments the world has ever seen, Chinese Mandarin culture. And what’s wrong if we say both?

But mind the girl today, that’s what we say at Scarriet, that’s our message. It’s time to get over the fetish!

Christopher Woodman


  1. poetryandporse said,

    October 13, 2009 at 7:42 am

    The next thing to do, is to write a letter to the Poetry Foundation President, John Barr, explaining how the mantra of ‘discovery and celebration’ has been perversley undermined because of the ego and hubris of one person. The proof is there in black and white: the traffic pre- and post-elimination of the voices who made the chat happen.

    If anyone can find an address for him, please post it up and I will send in my complaint.


  2. thomasbrady said,

    October 13, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    I think we need to make this point again and again, because it’s so important.

    Internet communication is a remarkable democratic resource, a fantastically beneficial ‘town square’ discussion phenomenon, in which many voices (different voices) can express themselves, without interference of ANY kind, since we are READING these voices–the voices are UNABLE to shout each other down, or act as policemen towards each other, and as TEXT, the voices are RECORDED proof of whatever ideas or concepts they seek to convey, without censorship, or distortion, by ANYONE. Truly, truly DEMOCRATIC. All classes, all levels of fame, all opinions, can interact, in real time, civilly, and intricately, and in the sweet silent climes of THOUGHT.

    Why should we, as a social people, REJECT this gift, this stunningly beautiful, important gift of DEMOCRACY?

    Such an ugly word: BLOG. But such an AMAZING THING.

    We need to say it again and again and really think about WHAT HARRIET DID.

    They took VOICES, not abuse, not spam, VOICES, and, on a whim, SILENCED THEM.

    I (Thomas Brady) was sneered at, and scorned, for being a “bore,” because I wanted to talk about the New Critics. I wanted to discuss literary history. I did not discuss MYSELF, nor MY LATEST BOOK, nor my trip to the grocery store, nor my latest poetry reading. I discussed the HISTORY of what we are ALL immersed in, as writers, as citizens, and as human beings.

    I was told to SHUT UP. The ‘Reply’ function was put in place. The Like/Dislike function was in put in place. I was still told to SHUT UP. Not ONE of my posts was singled out as being a problem. I was never rude or abusive. My posting was frequent, but no more than was reasonable; I didn’t block anyone, or get in anyone’s way, or prevent discussion; I often made discussion, and increased discussion.


    –FROM A BLOG, where people are expected to…you know…blog? Discuss things? Argue? Give their opinions? Express what they know and feel?

    I was an irritant, because I wanted to discuss poetry and pedagogy and its history. This was apparently “boring.”

    Louis Menand reviewed “The Program Era” by Mark McGurl in ‘The New Yorker’ earlier this year, and I was the first person to make note of Menand’s review and the book itself, on Harriet. (I have a subscription to ‘The New Yorker.’)

    One of the last things I wrote on Harriet was a little joke at the expense of Don Share, who wrote ‘Luke’ Menand, when “The Program Era” came up again a second time a month or so later, on Harriet.

    “The Program Era’ is a wonderful book, and let me quote a brief a passage from it; it shows, I think, that what Thomas Brady was discussing on Harriet this past summer was not merely a pet theme of mine, but an important theme rich in both historical and contemporary significance, and studied by others right now:

    “Thus if the call to ‘find your voice’ in the sixties must be said, on one level, to have occasioned a return to the preening act of self-expression so loathed by Flannery O’Connor [she was at Iowa w/ Engle–T.B.] and her New Critical mentors, it was nonetheless a return with an important difference in that it incorporated a great deal of the volkish and conventionalist ethos of the Southern Agrarian substratum of the New Criticism itself. It is true that the resurgent teller of sixties fiction draws attention to himself. As N. Scott Momady asserted, ‘To the extent that the storyteller re-creates his vision in words, he recreates himself…He declares in effect: Behold, I give you my vision in these terms, and in the process I give you myself…The storyteller and the story told are one.’ But the voice of this storyteller, in this case the Native American storyteller, was typically understood as a synecdoche for the voice of the (variably defined) social collectivity from which it emerged and into which it feeds back. Hence the reflexive ‘Jewishness’ of Roth’s Portnoy, whose verbal individuality is not only at war with, but also patently a product of, the talkative immigrant culture of his upbringing.”

    –The Program Era, Mark McGurl, Havard U. Press

    This is difficult stuff, obviously, but important for poetry and Letters; I think you can see how it relates not only to what I was saying on Harriet, but to any sort of writing on blogs like Harriet.

    Should someone be BANNED from a poetry blog for talking about this?

    Apparently, in my case, THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED.