TRAVIS NICHOLS, POETRY GLADIATOR

Travis BUS

TRAVIS Saturated_________________

Just as Thomas Brady was breathing new life into Blog:Harriet, and even being considered as a potential Contributing Writer by the Board, Harriet’s editor, Travis Nichols, published this article in Poets & Writers [click here to read the rest of the article].

Little could anyone have imagined how literally Travis Nichols envisioned himself as that “poetry gladiator fighting to the death” for his ideals, or how ruthlessly he would strike down those who did not share his vision of poetry on Blog:Harriet. It was certainly a shock to Thomas Brady, Desmond Swords, and Christopher Woodman when virtually out of nowhere a poster named ‘Nick’ popped up on Joel Brouwer’s “Keep the Spot Sore” thread to slam what he felt were people doing bad things on Blog:Harriet:

There are certain sorts of people–I will not indulge in sociological generalities about them, except to say that they are virtually always men–whose thirst for online bloodshed cannot be quenched. Such people ruined the Buffalo poetics list; ruined Silliman’s blog; etc……Michael, I imagine, knows the story. Good places for online discussion are few, and fragile. I’m out, as they say when leaving other forums/
POSTED BY: NICK ON JULY 7, 2009 AT 6:32 PM

Every blog and forum has such malcontents, but what was so different about this intrusion was that the Editor himself, Travis Nichols, actually welcomed the mole and his bile, and even went further in trashing those “certain sorts of people” — an obvious reference to Thomas Brady, Desmond Swords and Christopher Woodman (who has been known as “Cowpatty Hammer” ever since!). Indeed, Travis replied like this:

Hey Nick, I definitely hear you, but I don’t think there’s a formal solution to the problem you’re presenting. We have a couple different formatting changes in the works that I think will help people skip past commentary they have a stated distaste for, but beyond that the only way the discussion becomes valuable for people is if they participate in it. It’s a big responsibility in a lot of ways, and I completely understand using your time for other things, but I, for one, would greatly appreciate you hanging around and offering up your two cents from time to time. It can get a bit cult-like in here (let’s go ahead and talk about it like a room; it feels that way sometimes, like when you’re in a room just trying to read or write down a thought or enjoy a meal and some guy at the next table is going on and on and ON (sheesh!) about his medical experiences or his politics or how he totally almost scored on his last date, and it’s all you can do to not start yelling or making some kind of gag out of napkins and notepads and endpapers or just thinking the world is a terrible no good very bad place full of asshats and douchebags (as they say) . . . but, you know, really it’s not like that. All the time. Is it? Maybe it is. But it doesn’t have to be.), and simple one or two sentence sober thoughts can cut through the funk very nicely. As you have done upthread, I think. So a plea for you–and for others reading and thinking of chiming in but holding back for fear of the cow patty hammer or whatever: don’t leave. Your presence will help make things better. Promise. Maybe we can come up with a rewards system. Free candy for pithy on-point commentary! -Travis PS: Clearly, no candy for me this round.
POSTED BY: TRAVIS NICHOLS  ON JULY 8, 2009 AT 9:00 AM

Thomas Brady wrote a critique of this post on the recent thread called  “Harriet Sees Nothing on Harriet” which casts so much light on Blog:Harriet and the mindset of its “Poetry Gladiator” Editor, Travis Nichols, we decided to elevate it to an actual post. So here goes:

~

Nick writes, “there are certain sorts of people…”  certain sorts of people…?? And then Nick tars ‘certain sorts of people’ with his brush, and then announces he’s leaving in a huff… Travis responds:

Hey Nick,

Hey Nick –note the familiar tone…Hey Nick…

I definitely hear you, but I don’t think there’s a formal solution to the problem you’re presenting.

I definitely hear you… in other words I completely ascribe to your ‘certain sorts of people’ tone of bitchiness and disrespect…  but I don’t think there’s a formal solution… Immediately Travis jumps from the bitchy complaint to…oh how can we come up with a solution to make things better for Nick?

Why does Travis have to jump when Nick says jump? How does Nick suddenly become the authority here?

We have a couple different formatting changes in the works that I think will help people skip past commentary they have a stated distaste for, but beyond that the only way the discussion becomes valuable for people is if they participate in it.

And now Travis slips in something that’s actually an intelligent and proper response to Nick (the angry and the deluded)  “THE ONLY WAY THE DISCUSSION BECOMES VALUABLE FOR PEOPLE IS IF THEY PARTICIPATE IN IT.” Bravo, Travis! But where did that come from? If only this had been Travis’ sole reply, the world might be different…

HEY NICK, THE ONLY WAY THE DISCUSSION BECOMES VALUABLE FOR PEOPLE IS IF THEY PARTICPATE IN IT.

But alas, Travis did not respond thusly, and, to please Nick, launched into the following:

It’s a big responsibility in a lot of ways, and I completely understand using your time for other things, but I, for one, would greatly appreciate you hanging around and offering up your two cents from time to time. It can get a bit cult-like in here (let’s go ahead and talk about it like a room; it feels that way sometimes, like when you’re in a room just trying to read or write down a thought or enjoy a meal and some guy at the next table is going on and on and ON (sheesh!) about his medical experiences or his politics or how he totally almost scored on his last date, and it’s all you can do to not start yelling or making some kind of gag out of napkins and notepads and endpapers or just thinking the world is a terrible no good very bad place full of asshats and douchebags (as they say) . . . but, you know, really it’s not like that. All the time. Is it? Maybe it is. But it doesn’t have to be.), and simple one or two sentence sober thoughts can cut through the funk very nicely. As you have done upthread, I think.

Now Travis makes this weird analogyposting on a blog is compared to sitting in a restaurant and TRYING TO READ while a conversation is going on at the next table…

Huh????

Oh…so Nick WAS TRYING TO READ…and Christopher, you and I were TALKING…so he couldn’t READ… LOL

So a plea for you–and for others reading and thinking of chiming in but holding back for fear of the cow patty hammer or whatever: don’t leave.

“Holding back for fear of the cow patty hammer…?” Yea…it’s called a METAPHOR, Travis…why would someone FEAR that? What’s to fear in another’s words and opinions? [Click here for some background on that metaphor.]

ANY discussion on the web offers the SAME THREE RESPONSES, cow patty hammer or not, Travis. You 1.) agree, you 2.) disagree, or you 3.) ignore comment X, –or some combination thereof. That’s it! Simple! You can ALWAYS do this–unless you are censored.

These are ALWAYS the choices, whether Christopher Woodman and Thomas Brady are part of the discussion, or not. Travis? Nick? You know this, don’t you?

Let me say it once more. In ANY discussion, you only have 3 choices: Agree, disagree, ignore. These are ALWAYS the choices–no matter who you are having a discussion with. It doesn’t matter if Woodman or Brady are in the discussion, or not. These are the 3 choices one ALWAYS has.

Your presence will help make things better. Promise. Maybe we can come up with a rewards system. Free candy for pithy on-point commentary!
-Travis

Christopher, I think Travis owes us a lot of candy.

Tom

OPEN LETTER TO JOEL BROUWER

SpeedR Title 3SpeedR just Reviews

SpeedR jusy label

Hayden Carruth Grab Title

Hayden Carruth Grab LabelKeep the Spot Grab Title

Keep the Spot Grab Label___________________________________________________________

Dear Joel Brouwer.

You’re a fine writer and a very positive presence on Blog:Harriet, both in the articles you write and in your participation in the discussions.

The “Keep the Spot Sore” article was your first as a Contributing Writer, and I admired you both for the humility with which you presented it and the challenge you offered — fantastic! Indeed, you must have been astonished by the diversity and passion of the responses, but little did you realize that the fate of your three most enthusiastic respondents, Desmond Swords, Thomas Brady and myself, was hanging in the balance. Indeed, all three of us have now been banned from Blog:Harriet, and it was in the context of your first article that Travis Nichols made it clear we were no longer wanted.

Nevertheless, despite the shadow, there were 103 comments, and a great deal was accomplished. I personally loved it.

Your 2nd article, “Hayden Carruth,” was an even greater hit with 255 responses, including a most interesting tussle over the meaning and value of anthologies — not strictly on topic but worth every minute of it. What you may not have realized is that that was the first thread under Travis Nichols’ new Like/Dislike voting function, which wrecked havoc. I was very embarrassed to see dozens of posts closed down so that you had to “click” even to see them!  I’m sure you were aware of that, but what you probably didn’t realize was that the sole purpose of the function was to bury one poster, Thomas Brady, and boy did it ever.

I myself was simply placed on “awaiting moderation,” and because I live so far away and it took up to 3 days for my comments to get passed by the censor, I was effectively out of the discussion.

Yet I still enjoyed it!

Now you are posting articles in a very different environment, and there’s no longer any passion at all, just shop talk. 10 comments on “SpeedReviews (TM),” no hits, no runs, no errors. P-c. but cliquish, full of little fetishes and in-jokes — just a pale shadow of what you engaged with before.

So what has happened to Harriet, and why are you, such a good writer,  now addressing such a small, introverted, parochial community? What about all those passionate amateurs, those unpublished poets and poetry lovers that are also avid readers all over the world? For what Thomas Brady (Boston), Desmond Swords (Dublin) and myself (Chiang Mai) all have in common is that none of us have a professional or academic relationship to poetry, so a topic like “SpeedReviews (TM)” is unlikely to engage us. “How many review copies of poetry books do y’all receive?” you ask. Well, nobody has ever sent me a book to review in my life what is more reviewed one of mine. So how many people are you talking to beside the small circle of colleagues in the poetry profession? Does that make poetry in America?

10 comments you have here and, I wonder, how many readers? I go back and look over “Keep the Spot Sore” and “Hayden Carruth” just for pleasure, and each time I’m enriched. Yes, “SpeedReviews (TM)” is still a fine piece of writing, Joel, but it’s not enough to make Blog:Harriet universal or interesting. Indeed, no blame, but I’m afraid it’s mostly just cynical!

Christopher Woodman

Is Speedwriting Comments on Harriet a Summer Factory Job or a Fetish?

POETRY READING GRAB

The question is, what do you make of these comments? Is Greg clever or is he trying to get banned? I mean, I never said anything as provocative as that to Travis Nichols, though almost everything he posted was a fetish, and he obviously loved it. Like this one, do you remember, the guys laid out on the parquet floor under the big blackboard? Or this one, the guy with the hair and what’s her name with the big mouth and the penis? I personally enjoyed both posts, a lot, but when that’s all you get you start asking questions — and when you get banned by the same guy it really matters!

The other aspect of this post that might be worth a comment — the voting. So what do you make of it? Now I just voted once for each myself, but I won’t tell you which one or how I voted, one up, one down, both up, or both down in the dumps and deflated. So how did I vote, and what did I mean? That’s a serious question because voting on such matters at all is yet another of Travis’ fetishes!

And Thomas Brady got banned because all his posts got buried in Red and still he remained not only cheerful but enormously creative right to the end. He was never scolded or warned or given any explanation by the management but just simply exited (that’s in the passive voice, take note, and that’s where it’s at!).

Ditto Desmond Swords with his huge, irrepressible  talents — what a contrast to these two little comments, or to anything that has been posted on Harriet since he left. And how does The Poetry Foundation of America feel about that?

Well, that’s why we’re here having a lot more fun on Scarriet than anybody seems to be having on Harriet.

Christopher Woodman