continued: "Freaky School Janitor Blows Geeky Poets' Minds"

Listen to this, for example. Here is John Oliver Simon, one of the most respectable and consistent voices on Harriet, trashing Brady way back in early July, and of course I’m implicated too as somebody who found Thomas Brady, as did Desmond Swords, refreshing and exciting.

But a little background first.

Alan Cordle had just said in passing, and politely mind you: “I hear rumors that the Foundation is devolving towards the status quo. I’m interested to see whose voice matters.” (click here) Don Share, not an on-line officer but nevertheless a very important presence on Blog:Harriet, expressed amazement: “Tell us more about these rumors?” he said, and Alan replied that the Foundation had sent out warning letters to “the more frequent posters, putting them in check.” (click here) — and yes, in fact Desmond Swords, myself, and Thomas Brady had received very strict warning letters from Travis Nichols, and Don Share was obviously shocked to find that out. Because yes, the more frequent posters had indeed been put in check!

John Oliver Simon then replied with the whole hook, line and sinker,  “And well they should. Harriet has recently witnessed an inordinate amount of dead horse beating, hobby-horse riding, and bandwidth hogging, with — one suspects but cannot prove — the same individual under two aliases sucking out the oxygen. None of us, most emphatically including the undersigned — is perfect, and our disagreements are what’s interesting, but a moderated forum tends to be a more civilized venue than the dreary default anarchy of cyberspace.” (click here)

And that became a refrain very quickly, every member in good standing echoing the chant, like Krista: “Worse than “Thomas Brady”’s inane bloviation on every subject is your sycophantic championing of Tom’s lame causes, Christopher. The combination causes a foul miasma to hover over every thread. Why not take a summer vacation and let in some fresh air?” (click here)

And this from Noah Freed: “Look: you’re writing shite, you always write shite. If you really think that telling Thomas Fucking Brady to shut the hell up is equivalent to Nazism & witch hunts then you need to spend some time in a rehabilitation camp. Why not compare your notes to reality before you subject this blog’s readers to more of your idiot blathering?” (click here)

This sounds like hysteria, this sounds like the build up to a rail, a tar and feathering, perhaps even toward some sort of cyber rendition. And does Travis Nichols scold Krista and Noah Freed? On the contrary, the Editor of Harriet, The Poetry Foundation of America’s official blog Editor, concurs, and even adds weight to the censure — he nicknames me “Cowpatty Hammer,” mocks me just like that! Unbelievable insensitivity toward a colleague, and happening right in the Poetry Foundation of America’s sanctuary! (click here)

What I’m talking about here is the obvious inability of the Harriet community to get its mind around Thomas Brady, demonstrating a complete lack of what Desmond Swords calls the capacity “to be orbital around a similar rim.” Tom had obviously not only hit a very sore nerve with his revision of our literary history, but his erudition combined with a total lack of self interest or pretension was mind-boggling, and completely unnerved the poetry elite. Indeed, the Harriet community simply wasn’t willing even to try to listen. They just stamped their feet and shouted in rage — in other words, had a tantrum. And the management concurred!

I expressed my own personal dismay at all this in this very personal reply to John Oliver Simon:

“I love the poems you post, John Oliver Simon, magnificent translations of poetry from a world of passion and magic inaccessible to me in Asia. Indeed, I always feel very annoyed when Thomas Brady does a send up of one of them, but then whatever you think I’m not my brother’s keeper.

And your little children—how they sing, John. How they raise the spirits!

So why can’t you see who I am too, with my old voice like a child’s? Why are you so threatened?

And why can’t you, of all people, deal with my metaphors? The “cow pat” one which so beautifully illiustrated the ambiguities of Robinson Jeffers, for example, or my “hammer” that softened some blows on the same thread? Why are you so angry at my poetry?

I talked quite a lot about something on the Robinson Jeffers’ thread, having one Faith. An individual human being is so lucky to grow up in one Faith, I said, and be fulfilled within a single tradition. Nothing could bring greater happiness than that. Yet the unexamined life is not worth living, I also said, and nothing brings greater unhappiness than smashing the tribe and its idols.

Have you read all that poetry and not yet realized that?

And yes, I did recieve one of those letters, indeed from the same officer who mocked my “cowpatty hammers” on the Keep the Spot Sore thread. And yes, Harriet does have to do some hard thinking.

And yes I am Thomas Brady, I confess I am. Indeed, I’m utterly exhausted at the stunt and that’s why I’m getting rid of this old guy sock-puppet. I mean, can you imagine what it takes to keep Christopher Woodman up day by day, and at the same time keep Desmond Swords convincing?”


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The unexamined life is indeed not worth living, and we poets all profess to respect that. But when a poet’s most cherished assumptions about what poetry is, how it’s written, how it’s read, and it’s historical value, are challenged, then we balk at the message and shout “No, won’t have it. Boring! Repetitive!” And the irony is that Thomas Brady’s thesis isn’t destructive at all because, after all, it’s just what always happens in history, re-interpretation, re-adjustment, re-evaluation. It’s just that we’ve been taught that in poetry what is new is best, and that new goes on ahead full-steam forever. The problem is that if it doesn’t, then by now our emperor may be very poorly dressed, and even naked.

Also in America today, poetry is a pretty big market, and each poet an investor. Take that away from American poetry, and what’s left?

Christopher Woodman

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