We don’t read Harriet anymore.  It’s too dreary, too artsy-fartsy-friends-puffing-artsy-fartsy-friends, too boring.   But our man Gary Fitzgerald was kind enough to email us today to let us know that John Oliver Simon has not forgotten us.

Thanx, Gary Fitzgerald, John Oliver Simon, u rock.

Harriet, the Poetry Foundation Blog, who banned Thomas Brady, Alan Cordle, Desmond Swords, and Christopher Woodman at one stroke on September 1, 2009, is going through a little identity crisis at the moment: how shall I moderate?  How shall I banish?  Are those who post on my site a community?  Can posters police themselves?  What is my responsibility towards them, if any?

Before we start equating the firing on Fort Sumter (THE UNION IS DISSOLVED!) to the sarcastic squabbling between Kent Johnson, Michael Robbins, and Henry Gould and the current crop of boy scouts and girl scouts on Harriet, let’s remember that once a self-infatuated twit, always a self-infatuated twit.

Boyd Nielson suggested in a comment on a Harriet post recently that Harriet is a private blog  and can therefore ban and delete as she pleases. But instead of embracing this reality, Boyd Nielson continues, Harriet is failing to make her authority transparent, hiding behind proxies such as ‘thumbs up/ thumbs down voting’ and ‘report this comment’  to punish, to delete, to ‘hold for moderation’ and ultimately to ban, in a faceless manner that  is irresponsible, cowardly, and weak.

Scarriet (ya got somethin to say, say it)  is blissfully free of this.

To Harriet’s “identity crisis,” and to all the winding, administrative hair-splitting discussion it might elicit, we say: pffft.

Self-important Harriet, and other blogs like it, will 1) banish, 2) delete posts reporting the banishment, and 3)  delete posts complaining of those deletions and 4) practice this for infinity, a black-hole-ish, whirling cesspool of censorship.

Paul McCartney will play a concert for Harriet, and their devoted acolytes will sing:

Well, the rain exploded with a mighty crash as we fell onto a limb,
And the first one said to the second one there, I hope that you can swim!
Banned on a whim!  Banned on a whim!

Private enterprise is wonderful and Harriet’s status as a private club allows her to throw bums to the curb with impunity.  But merely being private is not the great thing, by any means.

Private enterprise is not wonderful because it allows Harriet, the private club, to throw to the curb whomever she chooses, for if it stopped there, ‘private’ would be synonymous with ‘tyranical.’

Scarriet’s existence fills out the formula of private enterpise as something truly good.  The private by itself is not good, nor is the private masking itself as the public good, either.

It is only competing private entities which allow for something truly wonderful: real freedom, real debate, sweet discovery, hot thrills, trembling chills, and freezing kisses, warm and exciting.

Ya got dat?…Travis…ya dirty rat…


  1. Christopher Woodman said,

    February 14, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    Here’s Kent Johnson quoting a letter to Travis Nichols on Digital emunction (Feb 6th):

    “Of course, you made the first mistake when you kicked the present Scarriet crew off Harriet without notice, a sorry move you are now trying to keep hushed (any post with the word “Scarriet” in it you delete). I had made the suggestion at the time of those problems that establishing a daily limit of four or five comments per individual would take care of the comment-​flood imbroglio that had arisen. This would have been a much better course than the iron-​fist one, which would seem to have kind of created a certain mood, or predisposition, now, in the control office at Harriet.”

    Here’s Tom Brady by e-mail today:

    “I don’t agree with Kent that one needs to limit individuals to four or five comments per day…how is one to police that? Why should moderators have to count everybody’s posts and then cut them off—like they’re drunks at a bar? And why should an individual be so limited?

    During that summer on Harriet, there were always many threads sitting there with no, or few, comments, where we, the great offenders, never went, and nobody went there, and where we did post a lot, and it was always in the flow of the conversation, and it got more people involved in discussions, and our posting never STOPPED anyone else from commenting… but I’m glad Kent said something…”

    Me too — but why did Kent have to wait 5+ months to say it? There wasn’t a squeak about all this on Harriet or anywhere else until just recently. And now look at Harriet. Introverted. Same note. Complacent.

    And what’s happened to the big voices? Why have all of them left, even when they weren’t forced to do so?

    And look at Scarriet by comparison? Why is there none of that fun and pushing the poetry envelope on Harriet?


  2. Christopher Woodman said,

    February 14, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    One of those “big voices” now conspicuously absent from Harriet is Annie Finch, and of course just recently she tried to broker a peace between Scarriet and Harriet, coming on both to try to encourage a larger sense of community. I swallowed my pride, and risked Thomas Brady’s scorn too, by the way, by following her advice and attempting to start again on Harriet.

    The comment I attempted to post and some thoughts about why it was summarily rejected by Travis can be found here. Perhaps Kent Johnson, Henry Gould, Bobby Baird or Michael Robbins might care to comment.

    Indeed, I’d like to know why I was put “on moderation” months before anyone else? What is it about my voice that is so threatening? I received personal praise and encouragement at the time from Annie Finch, Cathy Halley, Don Share and Martin Earl, among others, but still I was shackled by Travis.

    I never hide, I never pull punches, I’m never abusive or snide, and I spend a lot of time working on my contributions to make them as clear, entertaining, positive and relevant as I can.

    Am I a just a “foet,” as John Oliver Simon suggests? Yes, I had 12 m.s. over the years at Georgia and 8 at Tupelo, and yes, I was propositioned for that $295.00 and scolded by Joan Houlihan for complaining about it, but do you feel that makes my words dirty, or my ideas dangerous?

    Why was I banned, then?

    And Desmond Swords from Dublin had never even heard of Foetry, so was he a “foet” too, John Oliver Simon?

    Alan Cordle posted just 4 comments, all of them short, apt and informative, so why was he dumped? Was it just for the past, or was it prophylactic?

    Or Tom Brady? Was he a “foet?” He wrote a lot about Poe, Pound and Warren, true, but what’s “foet” about that, then? And he wrote so much more that was hugely entertaining and important!

    What’s so stupidly obvious is that NOBODY YET IS ADDRESSING THE ISSUE!


  3. thomasbrady said,

    February 14, 2010 at 4:16 pm


    People have their pride. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel obligated to register outrage on our behalf, or to apologize.

    I’d rather they not.

    I’m merely having fun. Let them be.

    Poetry is no longer an honorable profession. There’s no more Keats. It’s all Blackwoods.

    Poetry never belonged to anyone, not even the poets, and now it’s been taken over by teachers.

    Socrates is gone. The sophists have won.

    Do you notice how every artist/poet is now a teacher, adored not by the public, but by students, who slavishly love their mentor as a dog loves its master, in the cynical pyramid scheme of students fawning over teachers so that they might be teachers in turn? The teaching is increasingly watered-down, ‘creative-writing,’ artsty-fartsy gruel, but all that matters is that mentors continue to exist; mentoring is how the factory runs, and slavish, hypocritical affection greases the wheels.

    Scarriet is a miraculous sky-balloon in the age of the internet, triumphant in 6 months, requiring no fawning homage, no comment stream of wisecracking Goulds and Robbins, or pontificating post-avants, or earnest Finches or mod talk.

    Don’t need it, don’t want it.


    We’ve got work to do.

  4. Wfkammann said,

    February 15, 2010 at 12:17 am

    As my friend Thom Weaver wrote:

    Nobody really gives a damn
    The lion long ago devoured the lamb

    Don’t believe me
    It’s your ass

  5. February 15, 2010 at 12:37 am

    Well, I, for one, really like Travis Nichols. Travis likes cats and poetry and so do I. When I first meet someone I always ask: “Do you like cats?”.

    If they say no, then I know I’m not dealing with a poet. If they like dogs or horses or tigers…well, that’s okay, but if you don’t like animals at all:


    Travis said yes.

    But I also like Henry Gould. He’s funny.
    and Kent Johnson…he’s pretty smart.
    and Michael Robbins…a poet indeed.
    and Thomas Brady (loves poetry but, sadly, a critic. Not as nasty as Logan, though).
    And Christopher Woodman,
    Joan Houlihan,
    Franz Wright,
    Bobby Baird,
    Annie Finch,
    Don Share,
    Cathey Halley,
    Martin Earl and, of course,
    et. al. ad infinitum.

    If you’re a poet (and like cats) then you’re okay with me.



  6. February 15, 2010 at 12:59 am


    A) Mis-typed Cathy Halley.

    B) Forgot Forrest Gander.


  7. thomasbrady said,

    February 15, 2010 at 2:57 am


    So is there room on the ark for me, or not?


  8. February 15, 2010 at 3:15 am

    You, Thomas, are the ark. We, the poets, are but the animals transported across stormy seas.

  9. thomasbrady said,

    February 15, 2010 at 3:51 am

    Extreme Makeover
    Ark Edition

    Move that bus!

    Harriet, check out your new home!

  10. chuck.godwin said,

    February 17, 2010 at 4:08 am

    I am having a real issue with the business of being “banned” from Harriet- Please enlighten me. Where you actually banned? Did someone from Harriet – Travis Nichols, say, or Don Share – actually say to you “you are banned from Harriet”.? Or did your posts just stop appearing. I have this habit of reading Harriet everyday if someone I enjoy reading is posting or not at all if not, so I guess I missed something. But “banned” is a big thing. Reeks of Big Bro, and Nazism and xtian fundamentals like Southern Baptists.. EEK!! Anyway, press on. (and then a techy question.. do i have to check the notify boxes each time or will the wordpress gnomes remember if i do it once?)

  11. thomasbrady said,

    February 17, 2010 at 3:47 pm


    We are getting a lot of play from this ‘banning’ thing, aren’t we? Kind of like the ‘Boston Massacre’ which on the grand scale of things wasn’t really a ‘massacre;’ George III was a nice old king, actually, and never would have ‘massacred’ his subjects.

    So, since we are getting play from the ‘banning,’ the Travis Nichols/Don Share side is going to take the position, ‘what banning? you were never banned. It was a technical glitch.’ or however they choose to spin it after the event. They could have sent an email; I don’t know what the dudes were thinking.

    We were banned.

    Big Bro? Nazis? Southern Baptists EEK!!?

    To Quote Ashbery, “naw.”

    Just asshat.

    Which, given the world we live in, is close enough.

    As for your technical question, wordpress is just a car I drive, I don’t look under the hood. I hope it remembers you. You seem OK.


    • Anonymous said,

      February 17, 2010 at 4:13 pm

      Thanks, Tom
      Methinks I was a little overwrought last night after reading about the “banning” here and at DE.
      and just so you know, I thought your “Road to the Final Four” on Harriet last April, pre “banning”, just great and was surprised no other poets joined in the fun.

      • Chuck Godwin said,

        February 17, 2010 at 4:16 pm

        ok so I get it now, sorta. I didn’t intend that last to be anon.

  12. thomasbrady said,

    February 17, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    Thank you, Chuck.

    I am working on a new ‘March Madness’ Final Four’ this year

    It entails reading all of the Best American Poetry volumes since its founding in 1988 and every other source I can get my hands on.

    The competition will be lyric or shorter poems published in English over the last 25 years or so. 64 seeds.

    If you have any suggestions that are not in BAP, or even that are, send them my way.



    • Chuck Godwin said,

      February 18, 2010 at 11:43 pm

      Thanks. I am sure this March Madness will be as exciting as the last. So when you invited my input, I immediately thought Geoffrey Hill, but then deemed him ineligible, being British. So I spent a lunch hour in the San Francisco Public Library reading through the BAPs – the 90s were poorly represented (checked out, missing, in transit), the two 80s were on the shelf but nothing screamed DUKE! or NORTH CAROLINA! or even CAL! But I did find a couple from the 2000s, and so I offer up Kay Ryan’s “Home to Roost” in 2005 (Muldoon editor) or “Token Enabler” by Anselm Berrigan (Hejinian, 2004). Based on that one might think I view the last 25 years as a poetic landfill; that is not the case. There is, after all, Ange Mlinko.
      In any case, thanks again. I await the choosing of the 64.

  13. thomasbrady said,

    February 19, 2010 at 2:30 pm


    It all comes down to THE JUDGES.

    What are they looking for? What do they want? Who do they know?

    Who the hell are they, anyway?

    Are they short? Are they tall? Are they on crack?

    You are now a judge…your input is duly noted…Ryan 2005, Berrigan 2004…

    Rumors have it tons of seeds are coming from Richard Howard 1995…but these are just rumors…

    Tension is already high…

    Judgement is still divided over whether it is “judgement” or “judgment.”

    The judges are looking at this one closely.

    Most judges (from what I’ve heard) favor the mid-length poem that avoids cleverness and brevity of the epigram and lengthy, over-the-top, rhetorical excess…

    The bastards!

    Stay tuned…