On Parody and Satire...

Emperor "What-Me-Worry?" Dubya

Parody: any humorous, satirical, or burlesque imitation, as of a person, event, etc. --Dictionary.com

In satire, human or individual vices, follies, abuses, or shortcomings are held up to censure by means of ridicule, derision, burlesque, irony, or other methods, ideally with an intent to bring about improvement.

Although satire is usually meant to be funny, the purpose of satire is not primarily humor in itself so much as an attack on something of which the author strongly disapproves, using the weapon of wit.--Wikipedia


  1. There are two ways that people and/or institutions who are the object of satire attempt to deflect the criticism from themselves.

    1.) They attempt to discredit the satire and/or the author of the satire by saying he, she or it is "unfair" or "mean-spirited," and that the parody is "ridiculous," "insulting" or "disgusting." By focussing on the uncomfortableness of the satire's discourse rather than on its meaning, they assure the message will be ignored.

    2.) They attempt to side-track the satire by focussing on the small details of the issue, or of the author's relationship to it, even better, in order to show that the attack is petty, the facts dubious and the motives personal. That last one is a favorite: the satirist is a loser, a bored and jealous little person who can never get enough of nipping at the heels of his or her superiors (cf. ROTTEN GRAPES, P&W Nov/Dec 2007).

    The following satire of the Monster Moderators is attempting to expose not Pw.org's Dana Davis, Poets.org's Christine Klocek-Lim or The Academy of American Poets' Robin Beth Schaer, but rather to cast light on the roles they play in an unbalanced and deeply unconscious system. The satire is a spotlight--glaring, of course, unmerciful--but let's see what there is to see there before we dismiss it as intrusive!

    Here's a very relevant parallel from my own experience. In the late 50s in New York City it was not hard to satirize a city cop, any city cop at all, I mean, because specific cases of abuse were so rife that any one of them could stand for what was wrong with the system. Today the New York City police force has been entirely and most admirably reinvented, and individual police officers are no longer walking parodies of the abuse of authority. The on-line Moderators in the following satire are pre-reform Moderators, so to speak, and part of the intention of posting these parodies is to raise consciousness, in those Moderators as well as in ourselves, take note. It's a step toward a new world, as is everything this site unfolds, even those pigs!

    And our patron saint is George Orwell, of course, and we try to be that fair as well!

    (Get back to us when we're not--we listen.)

    In fact there are two abuses that are endemic in the American poetry world today, and the following satire of the on-line 'Poetry Police' beautifully parodies them both. One is that there is an elite of celebrity poets, editors, publishers, mentors and academics, sometimes in the same person, too, wearing all the hats at once, who call the shots, and as in all power networks it's very much in the interest of the leaders that the scandals such power inevitably spawns are kept under wraps, like the mafia its "mistakes!" In all Third World countries the ruling elites use the Police to cover their asses in exactly the same way as do our celebrity poets, critics, editors, etc, and those Moderators we're satirizing are our Poetry Police. Indeed, American poetry today is very much in the Banana Republic stage--as my own case so eloquently testifies (cf. Notes for 21st Century Poetry Historians and Sociologists below).

    The second abuse is far more insidious and therefore much more difficult to identify what is more to uproot--as it is in Third World communities as well. As Americans so painfully discovered in both Vietnam and Iraq, the ordinary people not only believe in their 'superiors' but organize themselves and their lives around defending the status quo in astonishing ways, even to the death. Imelda Marcos is still worshipped in the Phillippines, a stunning example, and Joseph Estrada will soon be returned to office. Where I live Thaksin Shinawatra is still running the whole Thai government even when he is banned from politics for five years for very well-documented fraud and corruption, and he's able to do that because the ordinary people regard him as a saint--like Evita!

    In America today there are legions of young poets who worship at the MFA shrine, and long for the day they may be allowed to enter the ranks of The Successful Who Provide All the Poetry Services. And they love their Moderators too, those club members, like school boys love their school marms--they quake and they wet their pants when the Moderator growls but then rush home to tell their parents when the Moderator pats them on the head and puts them in the running for a job.

    So the Moderator is, in fact, a creation of the needs of America's poetry-people to be disciplined, and arises as does the whole poetry edifice out of the classroom. I have in my possession private PMs between both 'Motet' and 'Chrissiekl' with recalcitrant posters that read just like something out of the Sopranos! I can't post them because they're not mine, and I won't, but I tell you the discourse is shocking enough to deserve every bit of the parody that follows. The Moderators deserve everything they're getting here, in fact--but I still say the problem is probably only about 25% of their own making. They're doing what the "Patrons" (that's the in-house word on P&W!) need them to do--and what the underlings want them to do too, of course--"Hey guys!" the jolly crew says, and "YAY!" And the tragic part is that the underlings will go on to do exactly the same thing themselves just as soon as they can mange to get 'made!'

    That's what this site is about--poetry as a way to get made!

  2. Dear Speakeasy visitors,
    'Swannee,' my sock puppet, signed off forever from the P&W Speakeasy just 12 hours ago, and already you are back to square one. Indeed, if you reread the thread, Citizen Poets & Commitment, you will find that every single point 'JoanneMerriam' and 'Babiak' have just made following my farewell post have been dealt with in detail, and what might be called their 'recidivism' is ample proof of precisely where the "dead horse" lies, and of course lies entirely unbeaten.

    There's an important point I didn't make above but should have. In NYC in the late 50s, the assumption on everybody's part was police are by definition adversarial--I was a student on Morningside Heights and I know I felt that way, and crossed the street to the other side if I spotted a policeman on the sidewalk. We all did, and we were the elite who should have known better.

    So part of the problem was in our expectations of the role of authority, and indeed our negative assumptions about authority locked each and every police officer into a negative role. Because, of course, there were a great many good men and women in uniform even back then, perhaps even the majority of them--the problem was a.) the image, b.) the lack of accountability, and c.) the fact that the powers that be still needed their asses to be covered--no mean ingredient either (that's 'Babiak's "dead horse" in the world of poetry!). Well, subsequently all three of those endemic failures have been largely addressed in the police force, and now NYC's finest really are.

    In the country where I live today, nothing has yet been done to sever the connection between the police and the country's entirely unaccountable leaders, political and economic. Ditto the police in both Italy and France up until very recently, and still not all the way there!

    The Moderators we are satirizing, 'Motet' at P&W, 'Chrissiekl' at Poets.org, and 'Robin' at The Academy of American Poets, aren't necessarily bad people, but they play bad roles in a bad system--and have been recently caught up in what could be described, to extend the metaphor, as 'police brutality.' I'm bruised, that's why I'm writing you here.

    I wrote you at the P&W Speakeasy, and told you that my bruises would have been worthwhile if you could just acknowledge them and move on to do better. Well, so far you at least two of you, 'JoanneMerriam' and 'Babiak,' haven't.

    So who are you protecting, David Harris or Dana Davis? Do they need that protection? And why? To what end?
    Respectfully, Christopher


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