Dear Tree Swenson,
This letter is part complaint and part apology—a difficult stunt to pull off!
The complaint first
--I think in its context you and your colleagues may be surprised at the apology!
As I feel sure you will all be only too aware, I got banned from the Poets.org Forum very recently. Indeed I got banned TWICE—the first time for talking about what eventually became the huge, fertile, sprawling thread called "On Aspiring Writers Becoming Successful Writers." The second time was for saying exactly the same thing yet again--same cause, same effect!
But what was the cause, that's the question? What was it really?
For a start, both expulsions were sudden—and in neither was I provided with a coherent explanation. After the axe fell the second time I couldn’t even track down the Site Administrator, the forum [at] poets.org address was malfunctioning (!), and it was only through the good graces of my Thai wife, Maw Homprang, that I eventually forced Christine Klocek-Lim to explain that I was banned for "harassing" Moderators and sending them "flaming" PMs. No evidence was provided, just the word of the Site Administrator on the thread.
To make a long story short, in the end Christine Klocek-Lim admitted that there was only one offending PM, so we don’t have to do a lot of research to take the next step to arrive at a conclusion.
Well, I've posted that PM now for all to examine here on Poets.net, and if it's neither "harassing" nor "flaming" (Christine Klocek-Lim's own terms), which I think everybody agrees it isn’t, then you've got a problem. At the very least you’ve got to acknowledge that I was banned for something else--and that that something else was what I had been saying in public, not in private. The problem with the trumped-up “harassing/flaming” charge is that it would suggest the management doesn’t want to admit to the real reason, that it was, in fact, certain persons and issues that could not be discussed on the site that got me banned--not my style or my tone. And this is a very serious difference, and has very serious implications for Poets.org as it's managed today.
Here's the link to the document in question--you can judge the evidence for yourself:
And the apology?
Oh dear, oh dear. It's for what a poster called 'Foetry' said to you on-line—something which, dear Tree Swenson, I want to say is completely and utterly unacceptable. Though not involved in expressing that threat myself, I want to apologize for it anyway—as somebody has to, and profoundly. On the other hand, I do want to say in the same breath that in my experience there is no such thing as a Foetry Gang out there, if such a group ever existed. Foetry has always been just a loosely associated brother/sisterhood of mavericks like me—look up the word for the image to really get teeth. Also read Matt Koeske, who talks a lot about that phenomenon in both his letters just below.
As to myself, I only discovered Foetry.com just a few months before it was dissolved last year. At that time I wrote quite a lot for it, having been very badly abused, and very personally too, by two important editors to whom I had been sending my work for 10 long but hopeful years. Call me naïve if you wish—I’d rather call myself the very rare poet who had never passed through the PoBiz system and was therefore blissfully unaware of it! So when the mask fell away and I saw the Machiavellian deceit of the faces behind it, I looked for help, and Foetry was the only relief I could find. I was 67, lived on the moon, had published my first poem at 52, and had no connections with any poetry community anywhere on earth! And then I went on to write for Foetry, quite a lot too, because it helped me. Indeed, I have come to admire what it stood for, and to admire it a lot—just like Matt Koeske.
I want to assure you, dear Tree Swenson, that what I am doing on Poets.net will never include smearing people, and that indeed if I feel anyone is being treated vengefully, being humiliated, or threatened with exposure on the site just to gain points or advantage, I will do my best to stop it--and if I can't stop it, I will quit. As simple as that.
I have also discussed this with the Poets.net owner/editor, Jennifer Semple Siegel, and she is in complete agreement with me on this. She will never let this happen on her site.
On the other hand, we all know there are a lot of things in the world that have to be said that some people would do anything to cover up, like the Bushes oil, or Enron--or Roy Cohn or Max Mosley their sex lives. Of course, there are moments when such private information is so relevant it has to be leaked, like the fantasies of the perpetrators of Watergate or Abu Graib. In Roy Cohn’s case it was not the sexuality but the hypocrisy, and we needed the essential sexual information to get closer to Joe McCarthy's own will to destroy so many lives. In the case of Max Mosley it's also not about the sex but the politics--and of course they were masquerading as each other!
I'm writing this letter to you partly because as President and Director of The Academy of American Poets, you need to be aware of aspects of your very worthy cause that may be in trouble and/or inappropriately supervised. I feel it was a great mistake to ban me at all, and if you read what I was writing I think you will see that both my posts and PMs were always well-focussed and dealt with even the most sensitive issues in a constructive and humane way.
I myself have used The Academy as a major resource in my exile for many, many years, and I am very grateful for its existence. I have nothing but positive feelings about your personnel as well--I just think you have to be very careful about the issues that are so advanced they are almost unthinkable, and one of them is that certain figures in the poetry establishment, among them perhaps some of your own friends, are engaged in business activities that cannot be publicized without serious moral questions being asked. You must be very careful that the Academy does not cover up for such people, especially when the going gets rough--and the names are right there in my own personal banning!
And one word about another famous name, Alan Cordle--a man whom I deeply admire. Alan invented the Foetry movement all by himself, and went on to reveal and substantiate in very great detail the unthinkable all by himself--through very hard work, persistence, and uncanny intelligence. So I understand Alan Cordle’s impatience completely even if I don't share his tactics in threatening you as he did. Never will I compromise on that!
On the other hand? On the other hand, who asks for scruples from the Scarlet Pimpernel, after all? Even Simone Weil was ready to parachute behind the lines and wreck havoc among the innocent in the Second World War, even this angel so pure she couldn’t eat! I compare Alan to both. He’s a hero for me, and I place him right up there with the world’s greatest RI (La Résistance Intellectuelle!) fighters.
I wish you the very best in all your good work.
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