Well, "elsewhere" is here.
I am honored to have been invited by Poets.net to report on what has been happening at the Poets.org forum. And to make it easier for those of you who are just coming here for the information you can’t get elsewhere, I ‘m going to provide the essential documents first and then gradually work back through the details in subsequent posts.
But before I do that, I want you all to know how moved I have been by the letters of support that have been arriving by e-mail in the last few days, and most of all from the students who have been following all this but can’t speak up in public. It is for you I am writing above all, you new poets, it is for you that I put up with the little whips and scorns of those who have sold out to the "aspiring writer" business. And it’s laughable, isn’t it, the posturing, the trotting out of the Guidelines over and over again, the school-marm scolding! But it hurts too, you know, it's never easy to be dismissed over and over again as a crank, a loser and a bore. So it's better you let this old man carry it because he has no career or position to protect, or to prepare for either. If you young poets just understand what's happening, that’s enough. That's all I need.
Almost as much I want to thank those who have NOT supported me but still dared to contact me, in particular those few in significant positions who in the end had to tell me they couldn’t help me at all, that they had to support the decision to ban me. And I do understand that too--if you’ve landed a very good job in Poetry Management you simply can’t hang out with awkward whistle blowers like me, or even be seen talking with us. Yes, I understand that you simply have to close in behind the wagons when the going gets rough in the office. But I want to thank you good people anyway for giving me just that little tiny glimpse of favor that you did—because I know that one day when you are in a position to help you will!
So what you’ve all been waiting for: the famous/infamous PM we’re not allowed to see!
The first one went to the Poets.org Moderator named “sbunch” who had just challenged me out in public and right out of the blue, “I have no idea what happened to you when you ‘brought in material from the outside,’ and I have no additional idea why you ‘don't dare discuss material that's not already on the board.’ So many windmills, so little time.” [Fri Apr 18, 2008 10:28 pm] Knowing full well that his intention was to get me to say something about the “deleted” (more anon, I promise!) threads in public and thus get myself banned for breaking the “rules,” I replied to him by PM:
From: ACommoner To: sbunch PM: Fri Apr 18, 2008 7:50 pm
Knowing how vindictive 'sbunch' could be, and how often the Site Administrator had already accused me of writing abusive PMs “behind the scenes,” as she called it, I sent a copy to the Moderator, Kaltica, as well. Kaltica is a very fine critic who is extremely active on the site and, indeed, we had had many, many interactions along the way, some of them very fertile. Because I respected Kaltica a lot I decided to send him a copy--in a sense to protect myself from slander!
I'm trying so hard to say what is important to say without breaking the rules of the forum or lowering its tone. You yourself have been involved in a number of the discussions that took place around the time of my banning, but as they've all been deleted now I don't think I would be allowed to refer to them.
So just for your own eyes, if you have a Saved Copy of the deleted threads, try "On Pruning," Tue Apr 08, 2008 4:15 pm. Even more poignantly you might want to look at the exchange you had with my wife on the thread called "Just One More Point Re: First Amendment...May I?" Wed Mar 26, 2008 4:35 pm--now also deleted. She is not a native speaker and comes from an entirely different cultural background so your response was extremely insensitive.
I have no bone to pick with you whatsoever, sbunch--but if as a Moderator you also function as an agent provocateur, that's not fair.
If I'm being paranoid, please do forgive me. And frankly, I think this thread has demonstrated its value a 1000 times over. Slip ups are inevitable when working so near to the edge--I do hope you'll warn me if you feel I'm in danger.
And many thanks for all your good work too, and I mean that, Christopher
From: ACommoner To: Kaltica PM: Fri Apr 18, 2008 7:55 pm
I just sent the following PM to sbunch--I did NOT tell him I was copying it to you.
I do hope you will feel that it was appropriate for me to contact him in this way--and of course that it is appropriate to contact you in this way too.
(You're a thrilling critic!)
All the best, Christopher
[+ copy of the PM to sbunch.]
And that’s all—that’s what got me banned!!! The Site Administrator, Chrissiekl, described the above Personal Messages as “harassing” the Moderators and “flaming" them. In her last e-mail to me she called the letters “rude and manipulative” and concluded, “I gave you many warnings...my decision is final.”
No mention was made by her at any point about what I had been discussing on the thread, nor to the specific names I had mentioned along the way. No reference was made to my last post either, and it did carry some pretty hard stuff—polite, appropriately expressed, reasonable, to the point, but nevertheless HARD.
I quote this last ACommoner post because I think it is absolutely relevant to my banishment. The PMs are, in fact, no grounds at all—the following post is grounds if you don't want to discuss what it says, or even more so if you are the successful poet-publishers who are mentioned in it and don't want negative publicity for your business activities, or to be associated with business at all!
Posted: Sun Apr 20, 2008 5:10 am “On Aspiring Writers Becoming Successful Writers”
That's beautiful, Noldo, that's a much better way to say it than I did.
Like "Zen in the Art of Archery." The physics of the action is easy, and the equipment uncomplicated. The problem lies in our separation from the trajectory of the arrow, and to reconnect with that we have to work very hard for years to recover the simplicity of the original flight.
Or meditation as the shoe we wear so that one day the foot can touch the ground--I used that image before, I think. Or what I wrote to you just above about Yeats, Frost and Neruda--"To say [such work] is obvious is not to say it's easy, God forbid--how they worked for it to arrive at such generous transparency!"
My argument is that some poetry today is more difficult than it needs to be because our teachers model difficulty as a virtue. Because who would pay that much money to a teacher that just kept handing out three sprigs of green and a small pot to arrange them in each day year after year after year? And if the teacher got the job without knowing how to place those three sprigs in the pot in the first place? Why, that teacher would talk up a storm to make it look as if the transformation were taking place anyway, and then define it in terms that nobody could understand without his or her or a colleague's professional help.
And then publish it, give it a prize, make that a big credit, raise the bar even higher, gather everybody together in a mansion in the Berkshires for the weekend to explain how it works--and if you're still willing even then, and sound right, of course, you're in!
But how's your poetry? How has it fared?
That's the risk, you see, Noldo. Deliberate obfuscation is the danger--pretension, convolution, boutique spectacle and speciosity, all of which I would say are just the opposite of the sort of rigorous study you're talking about which whittles and pares down to the bone and beyond like the artist in Ted Hughes' "Thrushes!".
And are prosodists like Kaltica part of that problem, Noldo, or TomWest? Well, let's hear from them about that.
Or Jorie Graham herself, or Joan Houlihan or Jeffrey Levine, all three of whom I feel certain are following this thread. Our trend setters in the editing and publishing of poetry in America today. Let's hear from them.
This is the third time in 2 months I have been banned from a poetry forum, and in each case the charge was trumped up. At the Posts&Writers Forum in March 2008 I was banned in the first instance for 1.) using a counterfeit Login and b.) for welching on a contract I was supposed to have made with the Administrator. When both these accusations were exposed as a set up, I was dismissed for repeatedly "misreading" other posters and thus "looking down" on them. Specific examples were discussed in detail on the site and in every case I emerged as fair and considerate--that indeed, it was I myself who had been slandered by the Administrator.
And of course the two offending threads were locked, one called "Does a Poets Behavior Matter" and the other just "Mediation!"
On the Poets.org Forum I was first banned on March 25th for having posted "defamatory material," but after three days of clarification by other posters I was reinstated. In fact the material was already in the public domain and had already been proven to be true so the Site Administrator had no alternative but to restore my privileges. She also accused me at the time of repeatedly writing inflammatory PMs and ignoring her "numerous warnings." These latter facts were never examined because I was so easily reinstated.
And the present case is, of course, all clarified just above.
What I want to do in my next posting on Poets.net is to reveal what actually happened in all three cases behind the scenes, what facts were consistent in each and what names and personalities were involved. Indeed, I want to focus on a new aspect of the "aspiring writers" industry that is gaining a lot of influence and kudos for some very highly placed editors and publishers, yet as far as I know has never been discussed before, or even properly identified. Indeed, it is that subject that has proved so explosive in all these three instances of unfair dismissal, and I will bring the subject back in detail on this site in my next post.
So yes, the "flaming PM" is just a cover-up, and I intend to bring what it is covering up out in the open here on Poets.net where it is safe to do so. Of course I will be scrupulously fair. I will only quote facts, documents and publicity that are legitimately available in the public domain, and will make it clear when what I say is just a personal opinion on the ethical matters arising. Indeed, I would welcome comments. Poets.net is not in the Forum mode yet, but it will be soon. Meanwhile we can do a lot just like this!
So I welcome your participation.