The monthly "Pruning" of the Forum at The Academy of American Poets starts tomorrow, May 5th--how much of this invaluable "oral-history" will we lose to protect poetry's celebrity faces?


Joan Houlihan and I know each other pretty well—for a whole year now she’s been following me around everywhere, and I’ve been getting in touch with her every time I noticed it.

The following paragraphs are for archivists and historians—they're as dense as they're ephemeral, so if you're satisfied that you know the story then just skim the following. The gist of the argument starts in the "JEFFREY LEVINE AND JOAN HOULIHAN, BUSINESS PARTNERS..." section.


As a start, Joan Houlihan and I debated face to face AGNI's intervention on Foetry just a year ago:

(She was ‘rperlman’, I was ‘Expat Poet’, Steven Ford Brown was ‘Thewayitworks.’ ‘Monday Love’ was Monday Love—we went on for pages!), and she even quoted some of her parts of the argument on the Buffalo Poetics List a month later, particularly the parts about “this Christopher Woodman guy.”

All that has probably been deleted now, but it was just a copy of the Foetry passage anyway, so here it is in the original--and do note her threat in the 2nd post on 'Defamation' to expose AGNI for its lack of "editorial integrity!"


After Joan Houlihan published her letter in the Nov/Dec 2007 P & W Magazine, I went straight to the P & W Forum to try to get a hearing there. And sure enough, there was 'rperlman' lurking around what I was writing yet again, starting here and going on for pages about why I was so angry with her and her partner, Jeffrey Levine:;post=256080;page=2;sb=post_latest_reply;so=ASC;mh=25


I asked Joan Houlihan/'rperlman' by PM to participate in the dialogue, twice in fact, but she never came on, or even replied, but of course she hadn’t yet admitted she was ‘rperlman’ at that point, though we’d all guessed it! I also applied formally to join one of her Colrain Manuscript Conferences in the Berkshires, and we corresponded a bit over that—she felt I was unsuitable, and on reflection I must admit I couldn’t agree more, though I was serious when I applied--I thought I should give it a chance. Finally, she came on-line at almost immediately after I was banned from the Speakeasy last March, I mean within minutes (how did she know?)--and of course I got banned two weeks later from the Forum as well for specifically discussing her Nov/Dec 2007 Letter to Poets & Writers Magazine, though the Administrator trotted out the usual charges about "offensive material" and "abrassive" conduct. All that’s been deleted on now, of course, so you’ll have to go here to find it—we at save everything deletes; it’s always so historically important:

That was just the first time, and the post lasted just 8 minutes that time (, “The First Amendment & Forums,” Tue Mar 25, 2008 4:06 am > Tue Mar 25, 2008 4:14 am), so obviously somebody was well-primed and waiting. The second banning was when I wrote about some “white mansions in the Berkshires,” and suggested Joan Houlihan and Jeffrey Levine were probably listening and would perhaps give their views on the issue:

If they were, they didn’t--but then I was zapped out of the water right then and there, minutes later once more! Here’s a little more detail on that last catastrophe:

--it's all gone, you know where.

So we have quite a history together, Joan Houlihan and myself, and I guess she’s winning if bannings followed by deletions are the way you define your victories!


In fact our history goes back to the moment Joan Houlihan’s publisher/partner in the Colrain Manuscript Conferences, Jeffrey Levine, sent me one of his famous “Template Personal Reviews” after the Tupelo Press Open Reading in Nov 2006 and asked me for $295.00 to get some extra help from him, to "lift [me] up a level!". Here’s a copy of the actual signed document I received:

(Reply # 179 April 06, 2007, 01:11:56 AM)

Indeed, Joan Houlihan got into my really bad books (what a metaphor!) when she decided, yes, to defend Jeffrey Levine’s abuse of my trust in her Nov/Dec 2007 P&W Letter,

--almost as if I were a woman who had been asking for it. That’s how she made me feel in her ROTTEN GRAPES defense of the man, and that’s certainly why I’m raging at her still. Or mothers who cut their little girls in Ethiopia.

I’ve been following the development of Joan Houlihan’s Colrain Manuscript Conferences from the start—here are a few URLs for those of you who are not familiar with the Colrain phenomenon, to get you quickly acquainted:





To be quite frank about these conferences, what astonishes me is that so many obviously intelligent, well-educated and highly sensitive people (look at the photos!) who are also serious poets, including Joan Houlihan herself, could have become so confused about what poetry is, how a person becomes a poet, how a book gets written, who reads that book, and most important of all, why anyone would read a book of poetry who didn't have to! I’ve become a poetry activist at almost 70 specifically because of contemporary movers like Joan Houlihan, and though I’m still writing poetry, hard, and sending out my work as much as I can, I’m more concerned about poetry pollution at the moment than I am about my own career!

That’s probably just as well!

One final link between Joan Houlihan, Jeffrey Levin and myself at the Academy of American Poets--indeed, the current link, and why I'm writing now.


The Tupelo Press just announced the Finalists of its 2008 Snowbound Chapbook Contest, and among them is Robin Beth Schaer, the Chief On-Line Editor on the board of The Academy of American Poets, and the Supremo in charge of the whole Forum.

I was banned from that Forum twice, of course, and both times for mentioning the Editor and Publisher of The Tupelo Press, Jeffrey Levine, together with his “business partner,” Joan Houlihan.

I’m not for a moment suggesting Robin Beth Schaer had anything to do with my banning, but since there can be no doubt in anybody’s mind as to WHY I was banned, nor that I was banned TWICE for the same offence, i.e. mentioning Jeffrey Levine’s and Joan Houlihan’s business activities, the suspicion has to be that it had something to do with loyalties and/or special interests within The Academy of American Poets. It would not have needed anything special from Robin Beth Schaer anyway, there are so many ways influence can make itself felt, but even if she just knew about it she has compromised herself, I’m afraid. And I say that with great compassion for her, having lived a very long life and regretting many, many foolish things I’ve let happen by turning a blind eye or conveniently forgetting!

And did Robin Beth Schaer attend a Colrain Manuscript Conference too; did that help her like so many other “top poets” get the ear of the “top editors and publishers” that that high-end service provides? Of course I will never know that unless some brave Colrain participant lets me know, or Robin does herself, which would be even braver. And even if you did, dear Robin, you obviously haven’t done anything wrong by that either, just helped to stack the deck a bit more against the poets who weren’t there, who perhaps wouldn’t have wanted to be there, like me, or couldn’t have afforded it. You also will never do anything wrong subsequently if you always resist the temptation to advance the interests of either Jeffrey Levine or Joan Houlihan at The Academy, but that will be much harder once they become your publishers. I do hope you win the Snowbound Chapbook Series, but if you do you’re going to have to be very strong and very alert not to become part of a much wider problem!

The last Colrain publicity I saw proudly announced that the poetry books and/or chapbooks of no less than 16 Colrain participants had subsequently found publishers, and I’d say that’s a lot!

I’d also say it doesn’t bode well for poetry in America, and it certainly doesn’t bode well for me personally! And that’s also the main bone of contention between Joan Houlihan and myself, that not only is she associating with unsavory activities, but she’s gaining influence in unsavory ways. I would even call her own Blog a bit unsavory, at least if this page is anything to go by:

“INVESTIGATIONS OF AND OPINIONS ON CONTEMPORARY POETRY,” she calls it—I’d say it sounds more like stalking, and even if one wins at stalking one’s humanity is lost!

Anyone at odds with Alan Cordle to this extent has got to have a lot to hide, as whatever you think of his methods he investigates not "opinions on contemporary poetry" but options, and she's clearly taken out a few too many of those for her own good. And of course, anyone who needs to take it out on someone's wife, and a fellow poet to boot, is clearly well below the belt!

Indeed, I'd say the lady doth protest way too much!

Christopher Woodman


  1. To all of those I mention by name in these notes, I want you to know I did my best to persuade the Editors of Poets & Writers Magazine to publish my reply to Joan Houlihan's Nov/Dec 2007 Letter, but they chose not to. That's why I went straight on to try to express those opinions on the Forum, The Speakeasy, but those views were met with my being banned from the Forum. That's why I went on to try to get a hearing on the Forum, thinking The Academy of American Poets had less business connections and might therefore be in a better position to integrate an opposing position. The result was the same, only much, much quicker, and indeed I got banned from the Academy site TWICE for my efforts.

    What do you make of that?

    I've said enough, now it's your turn.

    Christopher Woodman

  2. To Robin Schaer:

    We will certainly delete your word-for-word email to Christopher Woodman down; however, Christopher can legally PARAPHRASE your letter--as long as he attributes the original message to you.

    Would you prefer this?

  3. Dear Anonymous,
    The Chief On-Line Editor at The Academy of American Poets, Robin Beth Schaer, has asked us to remove the Letter we posted just above.

    I have just replied to say that I had considered writing a paraphrase instead, "but thought you might feel better about just letting your reply and my initial letter stand there side by side so people could judge for themselves."

    I concluded with: "So it's your call now, Robin--if you want me to, I'll remove your Reply as it stands in the Comment section. If so I will paraphrase what you say and write it up as a discussion of the Academy's response, including the ideas in this letter, of course [I outlined my arguments]. On the other hand, if you prefer we can leave it as it is.

    "Do let me know which you would prefer--if I don't hear from you I will make my own decision.

    "Respectfully, Christopher Woodman"

  4. Christopher,

    I have removed your comment, which included Robin Schaer's email to you.

    Feel free to repost your own comments with a PARAPHRASE of Ms. Schaer's email.

    Thank you.

  5. The Chief On-line Editor of The Academy of American Poetry, Robin Beth Schaer, e-mailed me a response [RE: FORUM INTEGRITY CHALLENGED
Date: May 5, 2008 11:43:46 PM GMT+07:00] in which she said she was aware of my “continuous complaints” at but that she stood behind the decision of the “volunteer moderators and administrators” to ban me. The reply was brief and formal, a mere 144 words, and merely emphasized that the Forum Guidelines had been developed “to provide a comfortable and respectful space for all.” She said the Guidelines were “clearly posted throughout the Forum,” a fact which I can certainly confirm from my own experience, and that the moderators and administrators were free to use them entirely at their own discretion.

    Though Ms. Schaer signed this short, official response “Best, Robin,” she made no reference at all to my personal letter to her, and it never occurred to me that she felt the reply was part of a private correspondence. I do apologize to her for not having been more sensitive.

    In my own letter to her [FORUM INTEGRITY CHALLENGED Date: May 5, 2008 10:56:19 AM GMT+07:00] I made it very clear that I wished her no harm, and that I had indeed provided her with all the “shelter” I could despite the compromising position in which she had found herself. I concluded my letter with this final paragraph:

    “I wish you the very best, Robin, and I mean that. If you use this right you'll become not a only a real asset to the Academy of American Poets but a much better poet when you're by yourself--which is the only place where real poetry can be written!”

    I do offer my apologies again to Robin Beth Schaer and The Academy for having posted a copy of their letter without permission, but I also stand behind the sentiments I have just expressed. I also think it would have served their purposes better to have allowed everybody to see both sides of the correspondence.

    Christopher Woodman

  6. OPEN LETTER TO ROBIN BETH SCHAER, Chief On-Line Editor, The Academy of American Poets.

    I don't think you will find my sort of patience very often, Robin, but then I'm an old man living in an old place. Indeed, you have to understand that I'm a very serious poet too even though I'm old and live so far away. Because of course, by pursuing the whole issue of that fake "Personal Review" Jeffrey Levine sent me in November 2006 I've made myself very vulnerable, and probably wrecked my own career. But you also have to understand that had Poets & Writers Magazine published my reply to Joan Houlihan's Nov/Dec 2007 Letter in the first place, this would never have happened as I would have from the start been allowed a free and open portion of the forum. The same would apply to my getting banned from never even got started on my reply before you banned me, you know, and you might have been surprised to see how charitable and, yes, even helpful I could have been--as I have been to you personally, Robin, I know I have!

    You say in your official reply to my "complaints," as you call them, that the Guidelines are there "to provide a comfortable and respectful place for all." Well, that's simply not true, anymore than it's true that in the pig sty all the pigs are equal. Indeed, it's clear to me that in some Forums a comfortable and respectable place is provided for celebrities who aren't even on-line at all, or at least who aren't posting, just lurking (what a horrible cyber word that is, what George Orwell wouldn't have made of that!).

    The only reason for blocking what I say is if a crime has been committed. On the other hand, if Jeffrey Levine has a clear conscience he has nothing whatever to worry about, and if he did just hurt an old man's feelings he could have taken that old man's advice way back in November 2006 and made something out of it, for himself. Indeed, I argued at the time that if he spoke honestly and openly about what had happened he would become a great editor!

    So much for that!

    Cancelling me out, on the other hand, left me no alternative but to struggle on against the unfairness. You're young and extremely well educated, Robin, and you certainly ought to understand this, politically, historically and psychologically.

    Christopher Woodman

  7. Oh, this was just another snark post.

    My mistake--I assumed from the title that you were posting your poems here.


The following are subject to deletion:

--Comments with outside links
--Off topic comments
--Advertising and general spam
--Hate speech
--Name calling
--Bad language

We are Indies

If you are an Indie writer,

please consider joining

on Facebook.