IT’S CURTAINS FOR YOU…CORDLE…CURTAINS…YA SEE?

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…

EVEN ROBERT BURNS GETS BLATHERED ON HARRIET


…………….Peter Greene…………….Kent Johnson

@Kent: The thing that confuses me is the way most poetry blogs contain…little poetry. Here at Harriet, that’s normal – this is not a ‘personal’ poetry blog but a discussion room and (for me) education centre. But on the blogs of so many poets…no pomes. Are the things so hard to come by? Valuable, yes, but a poet is wealthy with the things, notebooks running empty, mystery scrawls everywhere. More poems on poetry blogs today!
PG

POSTED BY: PETER GREENE ON JANUARY 27, 2010 AT 11:10 AM

Did it ever occur to anyone on Onan:Harriet that there were other poems out there beside the ones that bloggers write themselves? Has anyone noticed the Robert Burns that just got posted by Travis, for example — who is obviously still sensitive to our criticism here at Scarriet that,  since we left, nobody at Harriet talks about poetry anymore, just about themselves?

Check out the 3 Comments on that thread for a shock on that, how they ignore the poetry to show off what they know/don’t know about Salinger. Even Holden Caulfield could have done better!

And can you imagine what Thomas Brady would have had to say, Burns being one of his favorite poets? Or Christopher Woodman on how to pronounce the scots, his children having been to a one-room school house in the hills up above Dumfries? Their dialect became so broad he couldn’t understand them in the kitchen after they had walked home from school, he says, two miles in the gloaming. His daughter Sophia even won 1st prize in the annual Robert Burns Poetry Contest — she recited the master’s poetry by heart even better than the shepherd children, who still spoke the dialect.

Eskdalemuir 1969, he says. The end of the world.

But then that’s precisely why Christopher Woodman got banned, for talking that way. Hi-jacking, Travis would have called it had Christopher come in on his Robert Burns thread. Making it relevant, we would say, empowering the poetry to speak for itself, not for the brown-nosed poetaster.

And we say good point in your sage comment, Kent Johnson. You know your Burns even if you’re deaf to his poetry and have no interest whatever in the best move Travis Nichols ever made. Indeed, you’ve condemned yet another Harriet thread to oblivion in your comment — set the mood for more cynical blather.

Who would dare to talk about poetry under such an asthmatic shadow?

~

In another way, all the comments on Poetry & Gender (Part 1): Why Don’t More Women do Blog-Oriented Writing? are under the shadow of Annie Finch’s truly expansive threads on Harriet last summer (Muse Goddess, Why I am a Woman Poet, and Women’s Work, those three in particular) all on the same topic, and which sparked some real participation, some of it so fiery it had to be deleted. And not because of unacceptable language or content either, but because of the fascinating glimpses the comments gave into various conflicts behind the U.K. poetry scene, Harriet was reaching out that far back then!

Frankly, we agree with those deletions — the deleted comments were too raw, the authors not ready yet for hanging out such linen. Indeed, some of the deletions were of comments by quite well-known U.K. female poetry figures who were letting too much hair down, and needed protection — from themselves!

Sensitive editing we’d say that time, Travis, and we feel sure that Annie Finch herself must have been consulted.

Was Annie Finch consulted when you deleted Christopher Woodman over and over again, Travis, and finally banned him altogether for talking about poetry in a manner you and your friends found threatening?

Did you learn anything at all from the Burns either? Do you have any feeling for what it might have been like for Holden Caulfield to be banned from his school, and why he might have brought that particular poem out into the real world with him?

Christopher Woodman

“I GAVE UP EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING TO BE A POET” –FRANZ WRIGHT

…….Franz Wright Grab

 

James and Franz Wright, poets, and miserable sons-of-bitches.

“A Blessing” by James Wright is maudlin crap, perhaps the worst poem ever published.

The lust for horsies and the ‘break into blossom’ trope is embarrassing in the extreme.

“Northern Pike” is a close second: “we prayed for the muskrats”

“I am so happy.”    Good grief.

His football poem isn’t much better; “gallup terribly” is a trite way to describe the violence of football.  One can tell he’s just a nerdy observer.

“Their women cluck like starved pullets,/Dying for love.”  Lines like these are destined for the ash heap.

Don’t get me started on the treacly, self-pitying exploitation of George Doty, the executed killer.

What to do with James Wright, who is nothing more than smarmy Whitman-haiku?

[Note: No woman poet seeking entrance to the canon would be permitted to get away with Wright’s metaphorical slop.]

“Depressed by a book of bad poetry…”

“I have wasted my life.”

Yea.

The times (1972) were right for Whitman-haiku poetry, so James Wright’s Pulitzer is no surprise.  Plus, Wright was associated with a lot of big names: Roethke, Kunitz, Tate, Berryman, Bly.

Franz faced a difficulty as a poet.  His father was a name.  Say what you will about Whitman-haiku, his father did it well.

Franz seems to have genuinely admired his father’s poetry and made no attempt, as a poet, to get out from under his father’s shadow.

Junior poet looks up to senior poet and uses the same straight-forward, plain-speaking, self-obsessed, sentimentality of approach: Look, reader, here is my transparent chest; take a look at what I am feeling.  You might think I’d be sad—and good Lord, I have reason to be—but something about the inscrutability of the universe and my inner faith makes me happy.

Recently on Harriet, Franz Wright wrote the following, which Franz never should have written and which Harriet never should have published, and which we publish here because…oh, we forget why.

[Warning: Wright’s comment on Harriet does contain abusive language]

Henry–I have no opinion about your “work”, or the “work” of others like little Kent and the others you masturbate with. My suggestion to all of you is: give up everything for the art. Everything. Can you do that? I did it 35 years ago–do you think that might have something to do with what you little whiners call “being on the inside”? I am not on the inside of shit. I gave up everything, everything, to be a poet. I lived in financial terror and homelessness, sometimes, for nearly 40 years. Can you do that? You little whining babies. Franz Wright, 12/20/2009 Blog:Harriet

Now, that’s poetry.

Granted, it’s hyperbolic to say you gave up everything to be a poet.  What does that even mean? No one wants to suffer, and to say in hindsight that you suffered for your art is arrogant, because even if you thought it were true, it can never be proven by anyone, anywhere, that the more outrageously you suffer, the better your art will be.   There’s no substance to such a “brag.”

But we love the balls of it.

DEAR AMBER, BE NOT “LAZY” OR “DUMB”

We loved your latest Hawaii/Benazir Bhuto dream essay, but we noticed you haven’t been participating in the conversations of other posts on Harriet.

It’s not enough to just send missives.

You need to be present.

That blog needs your help.

And you can help yourself by sharpening your intellectual teeth there.

I know there’s not much to choose from.   Harriet doesn’t have much going on.

Perhaps you feel intimidated.

Allow us to break down for you a recent Harriet post and comments.

A post by Kenneth Goldsmith quotes Christian Bok (it’s the one with the guy who looks like he’s got indigestion, holding a book in front of the mike, blue background).

Christian Bok is a Canadian professor who wrote a best-selling novel consisting of chapters which use only one vowel.   He read the dictionary five times before he wrote it.    That’s all you need to know about him, really.  Not particularly original, he’s one of those contemporary exotics doing wild experiments in the corner of some ancient fingernail.

Let’s look at the key portion of the lengthy Bok quotation in Goldsmith’s Harriet post.

We”ll look at it in two parts.

First part:

“I’m probably technically oriented and it seems to me that among the poets that I know, many are very lazy and very dumb. I always joke with my students that poetry couldn’t possibly be as hard as they think it is, because if it were as hard as they thought it was, poets wouldn’t do it. Really, they’re the laziest, stupidest people I know. They became poets in part because they were demoted to that job, right? You should never tell your students to write what they know because, of course, they know nothing: they’re poets! If they knew something, they’d be in that disciple actually doing it: they’d be in history or physics or math or business or whatever it is where they could excel.”

Don’t be freaked out by this, Amber. It’s pretty simple.

This is lifted right from the Greek philosopher Plato “If they [the poets] knew something, they’d be in that discipline and actually doing it: they’d be in history or physics or math or business or whatever…”

Plato’s argument is quite sound and the only decent refutation of Plato’s point of view comes in the form of poems—by poets who happened to be very much tinged with Platonism themselves: Dante, Milton, Shakespeare, Shelley, and Keats–which is all that can be expected.

Your typical inferior poet, however, becomes upset when they hear Plato’s argument.  They’re not up to Plato’s challenge.

This is the first part of Bok’s quote you need to understand.

Here’s the second part (as quoted by Kenneth Goldsmith in his Harriet post) :

“I find this very distressing that the challenge of being a poet in effect to showcase something wondrous or uncanny, if not sublime, about the use of language itself, that we tend to think that because we’re conditioned to use language every day as part of a social contract, we should all be incipient poets, when in fact people have actually dedicated years or decades of their lives to this kind of practice in order to become adept at it and I think that craft and technique are part of that. If poetry weren’t informed by models of craft then nobody would need take a creative writing course. I joke with my students again that if it was simply a matter of saying, “You know you’ve written a good poem just because; you’ll know it was a good poem when it happens.” To me, that’s tantamount to telling your students that “You should just use the force, Luke” in order to write a poem. I don’t think it’s very helpful. But to be able to say “Here’s a series of rules of thumb that always work under all circumstances and if you adopt them slavishly, blindly, you can always be assured of writing something, producing something of merit.”

Again, this doesn’t require much thought.

Here Bok is making use of the Greek philosopher, Aristotle.   Aristotle didn’t ban the poets from his ideal “Republic” as Plato did.   Aristotle accepted poetry as something humans do, and focused on whether it is done well, or badly.

Aristotle would not have accepted the notion we are all poets, and Bok, when he mentions “people have dedicated years or decades of their lives to this kind of practice…” is implicitly agreeing with the philosopher.

Bok didn’t mention this, but I want to mention it to you:  Aristotle did pay heed to Plato’s objection that poetry makes us “soft” with fake emotionalism; Aristotle got around Plato’s objection by saying that poetry’s indulgence in emotionalism purges these emotions from us.  Aristotle managed to turn a drawback into a virtue.

But here is why Platonic poets tend to be the best: They take to heart Plato’s objection, rather than using Aristotle’s glib betrayal of it.

As soon as you start believing in Aristotle’s purging theory (Catharsis) you make a fatal error; you buy into the idea that poetry’s emotion is a separate thing from it, and then you essentially become a pedantic, doctrinaire kind of poet.

Anyway, the important point that Bok is making in the second part of the quote here is the Aristotelian one: there’s a proper way and form and method to making poetry.

As he did with the purging theory, Aristotle resorts to a doctrinaire pedantry in order to ‘get one past’  his master (Plato was Aristotle’s teacher).

This is important to understand, Amber.   You’ve got to go Greek, and you’ve got two choices, Plato’s truly challenging road, or Aristotle’s pedantic road.  Most people don’t go Greek at all and groan under both Plato and Aristotle.  But you can’t escape them, really.

You can see this in the reactions to Bok in the comments to Goldsmith’s post:

Carolyn, the first one to comment seriously, writes this, “I honor people’s attempts to express themselves in whatever manner suits them.”

Here is the typical modern response.   As you can see from her statement, and from what I told you above, she rejects Plato and Aristotle.  She has no Greek.  She is ignorantYou can ignore these people.  Better to be a pedant than to be someone who says ‘express yourself in whatever manner suits you.’ This point of view loses in philosophy what it gains in being nice.  It is a tempting vice, this point of view.  Avoid it at all costs.

Silem’s post #7 basically sums up the Plato and Aristotle positions and then repeats Bok’s mention of “the uncanny,” which is largely the basis of Romanticism: the “Sublime,”  produced when Platonism contradicts itself and produces poetry–a sly but positive phenomenon which I alluded to above.  As Longinus said in his famous treatise “On the Sublime” 3rd century, AD, the sublime is both “moral” and “fearful.”  The sublime is a contradictory idea–which is the secret of its religious power and appeal.

Comment #8 is by Henry Gould. We can sum up all his comments this way: Mumble.

Comment #9 is by Kent Johnson, who is poison.  Here’s a sample.  It should make you shudder:

“I strongly suspect that from the bourgeoning technical-hip formation represented by Bok and Mohammad (and both of them very brilliant, to be sure) a more elevated measure of professional status for the poetic vocation will come, via ever more sharply defined knowledge-sets and rigorously applied instrumental techniques.”

Ugh.

Gary Fitzgerald made a witty remark, but was buried by negative votes.

Conrad and ZZZZ had a brief dispute on what position the “avant garde” should take in relation to the mainstream.  Pedestrian stuff, really.  Not worth your while.

The remaining comments fizzle away into inconsequence.

Maybe Terreson will add something interesting.

(But we’d rather not encourage him.)

And there you have it,  Amber.    Harriet 101.   I hope this helps!