(After announcing the launch of Poets.net, I received the following message from Matt K., a fellow admin at the now-closed Foetry. He was gracious to grant me permission to post his sage words.)
I trust your sense mission and drive. Like I said, it's hard for me to get a good picture of Poets.org because I have been detached...not reading anything on the forum (except a couple scattered posts recently that Jennifer linked in e-mails).
I meant only to voice the general concern that if you [Poets.net] aim too low, you might condemn yourself to failure, even when you win. What I really want to do is trumpet out to all of you: "Don't be humbled! Kick Ass!" If you say that stirring the pot on Poets.org is the thing to do, then I trust you. Obviously you are all in the right in the arguments you are championing...but that's always the most dangerous place to be.
When I got myself kicked off the the most popular Jungian forum (shortly before the end of Foetry), the admins thought a banning would silence me. When I started my own forum a short while later, the "enemies" of the folks who banned me came over to say hi and give me a "Welcome to the Neighborhood" basket. It was then that the people responsible for my excommunication came crawling back to me to make nice. I.e., I was more powerful and threatening to them when I had my own space to speak in and from...as a competitor. On their forum, between heavy-handed moderation and general ideological conformity in many of the most active forum members, I was relatively easily silenced. But on the other side of the tracks, I couldn't be silenced.
It's like opening up a blues bar across the street from another bar that refuses to showcase blues music. You blast your blues out onto the sidewalk and more people will hear it. Go into the other joint and try to play blues and the "consensus voice" will boo you off the stage or the manager will tell you to get lost. When people want to hear the blues, they know not to got to a place like that. They'll go across the street... because that's where one goes to hear the blues.
So, I'm definitely down with Poets.net. Wail those blues. Make it the best damn blues joint in town.
As for me, I'd like to help you out in one venue or another, but I'm not sure I'll be able to. I've done all my songs and dances, and I repeated them each ad nauseum back on Foetry. I haven't read a single poem since before Foetry shut down...and the last new poem I wrote was maybe 5 or 6 years ago. So far, I in no way miss it. And I definitely don't miss the ridiculous antics of the PoBiz powers-that-be. I can't help but find the whole culture demeaning and distinctly adolescent. The art, I respect...but where is it these days? Not in the PoBiz. And the PoBiz IS poetry today. Even if we could tear it down with our left hands, our right hands would still have to learn how to build something new, some new vehicle for the art of poetry to ride on. I don't think that poets are psychologically and creatively secure enough to accept destruction without alternative creation. The prospect of anarchy (even if temporary) terrifies them more than any failure of ethics, any selling out, any amount of demeaning.
It reminds me of the film of Horton Hears a Who I recently saw with my son, Leo. The Who-Poets need their protective elephant (the PoBiz) that they feel is the only power that really "hears" them (because--cue violin music--they are so small and needy). We outsiders and dissidents are like the mad kangaroos and apes that want to boil the little clover of Whoville in Beezlenut oil...as far as the establishment poets and those who envy and admire them are concerned. To these poets, their elephant savior is wholly good and must be believed in and worshiped at all costs. There is far more at stake for them than honor or dishonor. They see the PoBiz as essential to their very survival and their identities as poets...so survival and existence. I'm not sure that teat can be pried away from them. Perhaps they need some kind of transitional object. Not just a scolding, but a potentially attractive alternative. (And so, making that alternative attractive in various ways is also essential.)
Currently, I'm fighting in the Jungian Wars. There are many parallels with the old Foetry vs. the PoBiz dynamic. Probably another unwinnable battle, but of course, I wouldn't have it any other way. If I can find the time, I'll try to do what I can for the heirs of Foetry.com, but I don't think I'll be able to weave any A-to-Z arguments that the Poets.org "Poetry-Belt" (you know, like the poetry equivalent of the Bible-Belt) will find convincing or even considerable. I felt that even on Foetry, my preaching tended to be too doom-and-gloom, too severe to win many minds. I have no hope that Poets.org members would be more interested or persuadable. If I can ever help strike a precise death blow to some fortification of the PoBiz to support the post-Foetry/Poets.Net mission, I may crawl out of retirement. For now, though, I will probably just remain a loyal fan.
(Welcome to the blues bar across the street.)