Showing posts with label censorship. Show all posts
Showing posts with label censorship. Show all posts

Friday, July 11, 2008

Dmanister Responds to Poets.org's Invitation to "Take it Somewhere Else, Tom"

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On May 23, 2008, TomWest posted an essay on poets.org, which was reposted on Poets.net forum: "Locking a thread affects all who had anything to do with that thread—readers, as well as posters. Locking deprives all rule-abiding posters from participating in a thread they intellectually own." More...


Evidently, Catherine (rogersc), a poets.org admin, was not happy about TomWest's discourse and promptly locked the thread, with this comment: "...I think I'll lock this thread right now, just because I can, so there."

On the Poets.net forum (July 10), dmanister responded with the following essay:


_____________________________________________


As a former mod at poets.org I can say that Catherine's attitude is not prompted by Tom West specifically, but by his expressed sense of his entitlement to criticize forum management ("picking fights" is the way management describes dissent.)

Tom was eloquent and precise in highlighting the injustices perpetrated by that forum's mods and admins. That makes him persona non grata.

"Take it somewhere else Tom" says it all; the poets.org management is unwilling to offer its members any say at all in how they are treated. I salute Tom for speaking truth to power, especially when his criticism is met with total dismissal and a suggestion that he go elsewhere.

I say that forums should run a slate yearly for mods. They should not be invited to join management by the site administrator, which is how it works now. That just produces tintypes of the admin. Anyone whose tendency to speak for members justice soon resigns or is drummed out. In my case on poets.org it was both.

Why is the membership not allowed to vote for mods? If that had been done at poets.org, kaltica would never have been made a mod and the entire Terreson injustice would not have occurred. I received many private emails during the wrangling over Tere from long-time poets.org members saying they were horrified when kaltica was made a mod.

In arguing for Terreson, I said (in the secret moderators' forum that is invisible to members) that if Tere were not treated justly I would resign. No one urged me to stay. One mod in fact posted a smiley face as his reply to my possible resignation. Now I see that my former colleagues are saying that "a good mod left" (they give my name) due to the flap over Tere, as if it were Tere who caused my resignation and not my disgust with their unjust and arbitrary treatment of him.

Mods at poets.org seem to be followers, not leaders. Any opinion the site admin has they back to the hilt. I call them suckups, but maybe they are just natural-born followers, otherwise known as sheep.

If Catherine reads this, I'd like to ask her to explain why the posting and of members Private Messages both in the public forum and in the mods/admins secret forum is not something about which the member should complain. If Catherine predictably expresses the poets.org ethos, she will describe complaints about that privacy-violating practice as just "someone wanting to pick a fight." Why not title the forum mailbox "Messages" instead of "Private Messages" if the mods and admin have no intention of keeping them private?

Why are private messages sent to mods and/or the admin used as a cause for banning? Catherine, if PMs can be a cause for banning, please cite the guidelines which say so.

A distinction needs to be made between private correspondence and posts in the public forum. They are treated the same, as if "private" means nothing.

The expression "pick a fight" needs to be unpacked. When all of its connotations are brought out it is obvious that it is used to smear dissenters by making them seem like schoolyard bullies who want altercations for their own sake, not because a principle of individual privacy or justice is being addressed.

The charge is laughable, because no member has any power at poets.org. Management can do whatever it wants. It is management which bullies the members, and yes, sometimes they "pick a fight" just to establish that they are in charge, as kaltica did with Terreson, deleting his posts almost as soon as kaltica received moderator privileges.

Tere's posts were not gratuitous nor off-topic. Those are other terms that management uses to dismiss member complaints.

Another loaded term is "tiresome." Recall that the poets.org site admin gave that as a reason for banning a member, as is quoted at the top of this thread.

"Tiresome" is not given in the guidelines as a cause for banning, it's another made-up reason for dismissing a dissenter.

Diana

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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Poets and Free Speech


"In our free speech they say/ There is protest."

-----------Mark Yakich, The Importance of Peeling Potatoes in Ukraine
-------------(Poetry collection, Penguin, April 2008)

_______________________________________

(Disclosure: I found this quote in the May/June issue of Poets & Writers, page 12.)

Guest Poet: AT THE "FEDERAL CENSORSHIP AND THE ARTS" SYMPOSIUM (Bill Knott)

Just as the Nazis never proscribed Rilke
(he was no Expressionist, no Degenerate,
no Art-Bolshevik), so most of us poets
are thought no threat by those in authority—

Halfhass, for instance, his books won't get banned:
his Rilkemanqué wins awards, his "spiritual
progress" and "earned words" (—to paraphrase Wilde,
his genius gives good guru Po-Biz style while

his talent brooks those so serious ergo poems)—
what might please our fuehrers even more is
his patriot's part in The American Poetry Series.

Better silence than that? Better to hide, to write
for one's cabinet? (To paraphrase Benn,
the aristocratic form of publication.)


__________________________________________________________


[Poet's] Note: This poem was deleted from my collected comic poems by the publisher, BOA, whose chief fund-raiser at the time was Robert Hass. . . .

I've often wondered if the BOA editors censored this poem on their own
initiative, or whether they were ordered to do so by Hass.


__________________________________________________________

Admin note: I have "propagated" this poem as per Bill Knott's statement to readers:

"ALL MY POETRY, EVERY POEM I'VE WRITTEN SINCE 1960, IS POSTED [ON MY SITE] FOR OPEN ACCESS, PERUSAL AND PROPAGATION: YOU HAVE MY THANKS TO PLEASE COPY/DISTRIBUTE WHATEVER YOU LIKE."


Poem copyright Bill Knott, August 2007

Friday, May 30, 2008

Thought Policing on Forums


"Thought policing" (taken from George Orwell's novel 1984) on forums occurs when

...Someone trolls the forums looking for posts that do not align with their political, religious, or moral values. When they find a post that they do not agree with, they post messages in that post to incite people to bring attention to that post to get it locked or deleted.

This phenomenon is widespread in forums and motives can vary, but what they accomplish is to stifle freedom of speech and open and honest discussions on topics they feel could be a threat.

--From Wikipedia

Poets.net allows and even encourages differing viewpoints.

1984 in 2008?


One broken windmill, so many sheep.

Friday, May 23, 2008

TomWest: On Locked Threads

Locking a thread affects all who had anything to do with that thread—readers, as well as posters. Locking deprives all rule-abiding posters from participating in a thread they intellectually own.

Even banned posters have intellectual validity in the atmosphere of reflective discourse, for both the good and the bad help to formulate those ideas which make any discourse valid. All ideas, even ideas which give rise to discourses (and even behavior) we don’t like, feed the atmosphere of self-conscious, universalizing discourse which should be held sacred in any community which values intellectual freedom.

We have laws, prisons, and the military for state defense; we have police, laws and manners for community defense.

Poets.org permits powers to revoke membership and silence speech to defend its internal integrity.

Locking a thread, however, can only be compared to shutting down a newspaper, for it censors general discourse, the protection of which ought to be unquestioned.

This goes beyond the issue of ‘moderator power’ or ‘rights of members.’ Shutting down discourse violates a principle both human and universal.

If moderators can ban posters and delete posts at will, what possible defense, or just punishment, or good, is served by locking/ending a current and active thread?

Locking a thread not only capriciously punishes, it violates a bedrock principle of civil and intellectual life.

Once a poster crosses a certain line, that poster gives up their rights to exist on poets.org.

When a post is deemed inappropriate, that post is whisked out of sight.

But a thread is different; a thread belongs to all; to censor a thread is to turn the will of a community--a principle which defines the very existence of the Academy--against itself.

TomWest

********


(This thread appears as a LOCKED thread on Poets.org as Locking Question. Reposted here with permission of the author.)

This thread is open for comments.

Yabbut, What About Those Trolls?

"Yabbut some threads just attract trolls. Often, trolls disguise themselves as Reflective Posters and it takes us a while to catch on. Or else, we believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt, and we do, until it becomes clear that they are just well-dressed trolls..."




Christopher Woodman and Homprang Chaleekanha in July 2007 in the Wind River Mountains. Trolls thrive in that sort of environment.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

THREAD: When Should Forum Threads be Locked?

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See poll at left.

Or post your narrative comments on this thread.

Friday, May 16, 2008

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

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Monster-ator Mash


Motet, monster-ator of P &W Speakeasy (not!), bans members for mild, satiric bantering, tends to sulk, needs attention, defends "regulars" who have been there forever and add little to the site, has trouble stimulating discussions on her own, which are few and far between on the Speakeasy.

Motto: "Waaaaaahhhhhhh!"

Worst move: Banning Sawmygirl.



Chrissiekl, monster-ator and former Borg Queen of Poets.borg, recently demoted by inside poets.borg moderator coup, operates with band of moderator-helpers (a.k.a. "The Hive"), Sbunch, "Mr.Kansas," Kaltica, Mr. DUM DUM DUM, Billy 'Go Away' Blazes, but reports to Robin Beth, a young, aspiring "poet" recently short-listed for chap-book contest by Jeff Levine, "critic," publisher of Tupelo Press, and business partner of Our Lady of Poets.Org, Joan Houlihan.

Motto: "You will comply."

Worst move: Banning ACommoner.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

On Suppression...



Literature should not be suppressed

merely because it offends

the moral code of the censor.


--William O. Douglas

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Thread: What is Libel and Slander? What is the Difference Between the Two Terms?

In a forum that imposes few boundaries, these are important questions, and, certainly, the answers are not cut and dried.

We would like to hear what you think about libel and slander, so feel free to post in the comment section, which is wide open.

I would like to elevate TWO well-written comments to post status, preferably someone who has NOT yet had an elevated post in this forum.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Second Open Letter to Tree Swenson, President and Executive Director of the Academy of American Poets

Dear Tree Swenson,

Of course I understand that The Academy of American Poets is a separate entity and that the Poets.org Forum’s administration is not under your direct control—indeed, I had exactly the same conversation with Jason Chapman, the IT Director at P&W, who was furious when I wrote Kevin Larimer, the Deputy Editor of P&W Magazine, after I was banned from the pw.org Speakeasy last March. But do take notice, my argument was not that Kevin Larimer should intervene, but simply that he should know what was happening on the Speakeasy. He was after all the Editor who wrote directly about both Jeffrey Levine and Bin Ramke in the Magazine, and it was Joan Houlihan’s attempt to white-wash them both in her Letter in the Nov/Dec 2007 issue that led directly to my banishment.

The whole Poets & Writers Community needs the facts, dear Kevin Larimer and Tree Swenson—they need their own history. My thread called “Does A Poet’s Behavior Matter?” is at present locked on pw.org, and I’m sure the plan is to delete it. Ditto the passionately argued “Mediation” thread which in the end exonerated ACommoner, i.e. me, completely. If it’s all gone, then Poets & Writers descends back into ignorance, and I mean the community does, I mean you both do, and I mean me.

That’s the point.

There are two other points I want to make as well. First of all, the Poets.org Forum is probably the most active meeting point for poets of any website in the world, and that’s a huge responsibility. And why is it so famous? Because I tell you from my own experience it’s certainly NOT because the Site Administrator has created such a free and welcoming environment! Indeed, you should be aware that the whole site is school-marmish, and that most of the participants are as dutiful as boyscouts longing to get those badges one by one so that eventually they too can stand up tall in the parade as Moderators! Olie North’s on Parnassus, so salute!

The Poets.org forum does some wonderful work with its young people, but it’s youthfulness is also a very big part of the problem, particularly when a 68 year old man like myself gets banned on trumped-up charges. The Academy of American Poets has to represent views as uncomfortable as my own too, you know, unless you think poetry has no room for the uncomfortable. Because if your website has no room for a 68 year old expat maverick with degrees from Columbia, Yale and Cambridge, a bunch of credits anyway, and a passable but peaceful essay style, then you’re not serving the poets of America. You’re just serving the Moderators!

So that’s my first point—you simply have to get in there and change the management style so that the Forum gets out of the kindergarten where it’s stuck. My case should have alarms bells ringing all over the place, and I sincerely hope they’re being heard. Use my death well, lay a little wreath on my gravestone, even if most of the lettering has been deleted and the rest will go as soon as the mourners go home. If you lay that wreath in good faith, learn something from my demise, and keep my work up as SIGNIFICANT POETS.ORG HISTORY, that’s all I could ask. Indeed, that’s what I came for, not to be critiqued or get medals!

The final point is about Alan Cordle’s threat to you, dear Tree Swenson. I have no idea what he was referring too, and I don’t want to know either. I just have to say to you as I have said above to Joan Houlihan and Janet Holmes, if one is stalking oneself then one’s going to get stalked. The only way out of it is to get out of it—refuse to participate in isolating anyone, refuse to accept one iota of harassment, marginalization or destructive innuendo. Make the Academy truly the Academy of American Poets, where such behavior is not only unacceptable but unthinkable.

With very best wishes,

Christopher Woodman

Monday, April 28, 2008

Thread: Why Poets.net Exists and When "Pruning" is Another Name for Squashing....

...Serious Debate.

ADDED 4/28: Today, I received a letter from PEN, which, in support of releasing 38 Chinese imprisoned writers before the Beijing Olympics, quotes Don DeLillo's views on freedom of speech for writers:

A writer's freedom of expression is synonymous with his right to live. Writing is more than a profession and a duty--it is a writer's life-blood, and when the state denies the free flow of language and ideas, it defines itself in important ways in the eyes of the world. The more nearly total the state, the more vivid and living is the imprisoned writer.
Now it might be argued that DeLillo was referring to oppressive societies, and that is absolutely right. Most reasonable people would agree that a government denying its writers freedom of expression is an abomination.

But the same principle could be extended to the oppression of outsider writers in a free society, their views squashed and ignored by "important" publications and forums under the ruse of "civility." In some ways, this kind of oppression is more insidious than the blatant kind because it is widely practiced by those in positions of power and accepted by those who are scrabbling for the top.

Often, those who disagree with the majority viewpoint are trampled by those in power and stepped upon by those on the way up.


April 9, 2008: The "pruning" thread has been "pruned" over at poets.org, so I'm reposting my rationale for Poets.net here:

Poets.net exists because of what has happened [at poets.org] and at another forum.

I assure you all that developing a new forum was not a part of my summer plans.

I used to tell my students (and others) that poets.org was a good space for new writers, but now I'm rethinking that.

ACommoner came to this forum wanting to discuss some important issues facing the literary community (an overall silencing of opposing viewpoints being his major concern). He thought this would be a good place.

But he was told to go somewhere else.

If a poet cannot express (on a forum that accepts public money) controversial ideas and, yes, unpleasant information about known foets, then it's business as usual, no?

In short, if you don't like someone or what he/she has to say, just take away his/her voice, which is apparently what poets.org does with its banning and "pruning" policies.

I welcome ACommoner and whoever else wants to show up at Poets.net.

Jennifer

If you had your text "pruned," feel free to replicate it here.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

AN OPEN LETTER TO TREE SWENSON, President and Executive Director, Academy of American Poets

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.

Christopher Woodman

Friday, April 25, 2008

Guest Writer: Matt Koeske Offers a Message to Christopher Woodman and Other Poets Outside of the Po-biz

Dear Christopher,

I'm very sorry that this has happened to you. The trumped up charges are a pretty clear indication that your banning was less a matter of what you wrote on Poets.org than what you represent in contrast to the ideology and tribal participation of the PoBiz establishment. You are an incompatible element with the "Utopian" ideal of a place like Poets.org. I know you from back in the Foetry days, and I see you as one of the most honorable, considerate, and affectionate people I've ever met. These qualities stand out in what I suspect is an online poetry world where most forum posters are in their 20s or maybe 30s (i.e., a post-adolescent peer competition environment). You have a sense of grace this is fully adult and very wise . . . and this quality is sadly not recognizable in the very adolescent poetry world today.

Equally foreign to the PoBiz (and one of its minor "cells" like Poets.org) is the attitude that holds ethics, honor, and integrity above ambition, undisciplined/unconsidered expression, and status-mongering. Again, this kind of honor comes from maturity. Although to the adolescently-minded poets of Poets.org and the PoBiz establishment today, your humanity must seem anachronistic, this really reflects a distinct lack of vision, depth, and mature perspective on their part. This lack of maturity (in the Jungian world, we might say it's a lack of initiation) has enormous impact on and implications for today's poetry. The Old Soul that was long a staple of poetry (just as much as its essential half, the New Soul or daring innovator) has become utterly alien to the poetry coming out of the PoBiz today. Your experience with the Poets.org forum has merely made you into an example of this great loss to the most ancient (and once sacred) literary art form.

Although I fully support you and Jennifer and agree that you should acknowledge and record all of these goings on for posterity or at least for public knowledge, I worry that the root of this unfair and adolescent usage of power in the Poets.org forum administration lies in the very ideology (or impaired ideology) I described above. It is good to stir up support and focus outrage on incidents like this, but I don't think it will change the attitudes and opinions of the people that run Poets.org or its forum. My recommendation is that we who care try to direct our outrage from incidents like this into a deeper and more detailed (and above all, well documented and absolutely fair) criticism of the PoBiz mentality. That is, we need, I feel, to take our energy and drive it into the investigation of the question "Why?" Why do so many PoBiz cogs and tools and "nobles" and "peasants" alike behave and think the way they do? Why do they have such a minimal grasp of ethics? Why are they so tribalistic, cronyistic, status-hungry? Why do they hold the various (never questioned) dogmas about poetry and poetry publication and poetry community that they do . . . and why do they refuse to question them? Why has the experience of "initiated" or mature adults with adult experiences and feelings and ideas eroded away from today's poetry?

I think that in the investigation of such questions, we will (or at least should) find that the poets who have gathered under the wing of the academic PoBiz establishment are, despite their misdeeds and apparent lack of fully evolved ethics or consciousness, really not much different than those who find themselves opposed and embattled with them. What I mean is that, poeting today involves a number of standard choices. Like, do I go to an MFA program or don't I? Do I seek publication by any means necessary or do I bide my time and hope to be "discovered" without networking or favor trading? Do I associate myself with people that are perhaps slightly "corrupt" and may require that I think and write more like them or do I go it alone and follow my own artistic vision? Do I dare to love and learn from writers who are not on the academic approved lists? There are hundreds, maybe thousands of questions like this that everyone seeking to write and publish (and maybe make at least part of a living off of) poetry faces. Most of these questions can and must be satisfied with Yes or No answers. At every fork in the road, taking one path excludes the possibility of taking the other (unless we are willing to backtrack, and that can be a whole new kind of grief).

I think that poets like some of the Poets.org forum staffers have made a number of choices in their quests to "become poets" that led them to their current state of impaired ethics and adolescent grasp of both complex ideas and relationship with others. When you or anyone else ask them now to consider ethics more closely or whether a poet's behavior matters, you are not asking them something that they have ready access to. They are not like you, a mature adult who has wandered up and down and around and through the various labyrinths of life. Rather, they are like rats in a maze that have kept moving forward on the impulse of short-term thinking and immediate gratification and lost site of the innumerable branching options that there are in life and in the evolution of a human personality. To ask them to consider ethics in a complex, long-term fashion is to ask them to go back to some very early part of their maze and start over.

And the truth is that back when they made those early decisions, they were children (at least psychologically), they were afraid and fragile and sought immediate rewards like comfort and protection. They had no idea that as they continued down these paths, this initially embracing and seemingly unconditional comfort and protection would cut them off from so much that is human. So when they are asked (as you have asked them) to look back to these early forks in their poeting road, they are terrified of what they might lose and of how fragile and confused they were back then. Essentially, you are asking them to individuate, to "grow up", to get initiated, to evolve . . . and from their perspective, you are asking them to do this just so a particular grievance or notion of yours can be validated. They don't understand that your particular grievances and interests have more-universal implications, implications that even would be meaningful to these PoBiz tribe members and also to human beings beyond the "small" (small in intellectual, emotional, and spiritual scope, more so than in actual population) world of poetry.

It is easiest for them to say, "Christopher Woodman is just a foolish and selfish old man who doesn't speak for anyone. He's an insignificant nobody and a nuisance. We, on the other hand, are a tribe, a group, a community, a society. We are right and Woodman is wrong, because we are numerous and connected and he is singular and disconnected." If they didn't say this (and of course, to say this is very childish, very prejudicial, and very offensive), then they would have to go back to the kindergarten of their rat maze and stick their thumbs in their mouths and still whimper for the Great Mommy of an institution like the PoBiz to swaddle them up and suckle and stroke them. And to face and rise above that would require them to be, like you, like Christopher Woodman, an individual who like all real individuals is forced to stand alone, to stand with integrity and honor (which must have first been hard won and painstakingly cultivated).

This kind of individuality, this dread of loneliness and lack of protection from the group is foreign to them. They are terrified of it (just as preadolescent children are terrified of the burden of adult responsibility when they begin to get a whiff of what that really means). The predicament you are in when trying to engage in ethical debate with these people is that, in order to face you, individual to individual, they would have to acknowledge their infantile fragility, fear, and smallness. Regrettably, one of the most attractive lures of poeting today (in the PoBiz age) is the potential to not be "small" or alone. The romantic notion of the poet is that, by force of individuality alone, s/he overcomes his or her initial smallness. Vision, talent, genius . . . are the romantic's medicine for the "disease" of smallness and anonymity. The PoBiz has developed an alternate system and branded its own "medicine" for the same disease poets have always struggled to overcome. This PoBiz "cure" is tribalistic aggrandizement and status-sharing. One has only to sacrifice to the tribe's specific gods and totems, accept its taboos, and stay in line, and a certain portion of medicine is handed out. All who abide can partake of the ritual of "status" to at least some small degree. Those who can work this system to their advantage (who have a talent for being able to do this), can get more of the curative PoBiz drug for the "dreadful condition of smallness and anonymity".

But, of course, it is this entire totemic, tribalistic system that affords these portionings of status medicine. And the old romantic notions of individualistic vision, talent, and genius are anathema to the totemic system of the PoBiz. The PoBiz system is really not fundamentally different than the situation of modern business in which we see conflict between corporate giants and small, independent businesses. What is sacrificed in actual integrity by corporatism is "made up for" with PR, with spin. In business this is generally a conscious decision . . . but the decision itself is totemized and considered an unquestionable Good. In poetry (where philosophies for living have not real need to be non-fanciful), it is perhaps less conscious, but true-believers in a lie are always the best liars.

All of this is terribly regrettable for the state of today's poetry. The qualities of poetry (and poeting) that you (and I and many others) admire and are outraged by the absence of today are not accidentally left out of the PoBiz dogmas and ideals. They are overtly and intentionally excised. They are the only real dangers to the power of the established PoBiz system. Their exclusion and elimination and tabooing are the first and greatest Commandment of PoBiz Law. Like true scapegoats or taboos, once the tribal elders drove them off into the Wilderness, any further mention of them was strictly forbidden and punishable in the most vicious and absolute of ways. So your simple questions about ethics are, for people like the Poets.org administrators (and all devoted members of the PoBiz) actually traitorous, sacrilegious, religious violations, sins . . . deadly sins and heresies. That is absurd, of course, even somewhat laughable . . . but that absurdity stands as one of the great pillars of the PoBiz and its pledge of allegiance.

For these PoBizzers to grant you the right of a voice (in their kingdom), the status of valid humanness, they would have to question the makeup of their entire totemic belief system, the entire structure on which they have risen or which has sheltered them from their infantile fears. Telling true believers that their god is a sham, a phony, a delusion is never going to win them over to your perspective. They have far too much riding on the unquestionability of their beliefs. If they are contented believers, they will mock, ignore, and/or swiftly reject you. If they are slightly more uncertain believers, they will feel compelled to destroy and make an example of you and your heresies . . . because questioning themselves is radically dangerous and likely to cause an inner rupture. There is no room in their minds or in their beliefs for tolerance and consideration of your Otherness.

I feel and worry that your attempts to introduce these ideas into PoBiz bastions (regardless of their tact, honor, or foundational correctness) cannot succeed. And I worry that, this failure being inevitable, you will be unnecessarily hurt and defiled by the way you have been and will be treated. And even as my blood boils, my heart also sinks to recognize this. It is unjust, but this particular injustice cannot be directly or linearly combated. You will never win a case against a PoBiz credo when the judge and jury are determined by the PoBiz. You cry out for justice, but justice will never be given to you . . . because the system of power the PoBiz uses and is, is not just, is not constructed with any sense of justice in mind. The only justice you will find is that which is inside you, that which you make. And you can bring it to the PoBiz, right up to its bejeweled gates, but I don't think you will be allowed to bring it inside the kingdom.

And I don't think you actually have to. Right on the outskirts you can hang your protest signs and raise your pickets and pass out your fliers . . . because there will always be a steady influx of potential PoBiz inductees trudging hungrily and longingly right through your encampment. And even if these inductees still choose to go inside, the seed you wish to plant can sometimes be planted with them. Not with the already-indoctrinated (who have too much to lose and to whom you are too alien). Some you will even persuade not to go in at all. And inside the walls of the PoBiz kingdom, occasional dissatisfaction will lead people to peer down into the outskirts and wonder if your ongoing protest and campaign might have some merit. Additionally, the occasional seeds you managed to plant (probably unconsciously) in the new inductees might find ways to take root and sprout inside the PoBiz walls, increasing dissent in a grassroots, evolutionary fashion. That is, by planting these seeds (or by devoting yourself to such seed planting outside the PoBiz kingdom) you increase the chance that even poets that pass through the indoctrination and perhaps even find their way to PoBiz success or status might someday be struck with a deep feeling of dissatisfaction or even disgust. A kind of "midlife crisis" of the poeting life, and these empowered individuals may be able to disrupt the inner structure of the PoBiz in ways people like you and me never would have the opportunity to do. So, it is of the greatest importance that these seeds have strong genes that can grow deep-rooted, resilient trees. When the dissident thought awaken in a PoBizzers mind, they have to be pernicious and impossible to entirely dismiss.

And this perniciousness is not impossible to create, because it is also the quality of all great poetry. Even if poetry isn't its medium, it is a poetic thing essentially. These seedling ideas need to be able to truly endanger the sanctity of the PoBiz mindset and conditioning. They can't be merely selfish wishes. To be truly dangerous and effective, they must be true.

It's a long-term strategy, but I think it is more functional than trying to forcibly convert those who are already deacons of the kingdom or more functional than trying to shame the high priests into submission from our esoteric, little pulpit in the excommunicated wilderness. At the very least, I suggest that this kind of long-term strategy be given equal energy and time as those shorter-term strategies that currently prevail among the PoBiz resistance.

Whatever the tack taken, let us always remember to keep our dignity and self-possession and honor and not throw them before hungry dogs like some unwanted table scraps. We can't do this and then convince the dogs it would be unethical to devour them. Don't let the fools and goons of the PoBiz shame you or take advantage of your immense decency and integrity.

My Very Best,
Matt Koeske

______________________________________________

(This post has been elevated, with permission from the author, from the comment section.)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

GUEST WRITER: Christopher Woodman Speaks Out

Poets.net is pleased to offer a platform for Christopher Woodman (also known as ACommoner). In essence, ACommoner was banned from two forums for speaking his mind on the state of modern poetry. On poets.org, he was told to start his own forum or go elsewhere.

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

Dear sbunch,

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

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!

From: ACommoner To: Kaltica PM: Fri Apr 18, 2008 7:55 pm

Dear Kaltica,

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.

Christopher

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.

Christopher Woodman

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

News: 2008 Jefferson Muzzle Awards

This may not be totally on topic, but here's a link to BOB EDWARDS INTERVIEW ON MUZZLES RESCHEDULED, an article on the Thomas Jefferson Center For the Protection of Free Speech website.

Two of the 2008 Jefferson Muzzle awards:

Lewis Mills High School Principal Karissa Niehoff and Connecticut Region 10 Superintendent of Schools Paula Schwartz for not allowing a student to run for class office because she posted comments critical of school officials on an Internet blog.

and

Scranton (PA) Police Department for charging a woman with disorderly conduct for screaming profanities at an overflowing toilet inside her own house.

Also, I wonder if non-profit organizations can be nominated for this prestigious award?

A rather amusing article, I must say.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Posting at poets.org

Just posted the following at poets.org:

Poets.net...

...Will not "prune" your threads.

...Will not censor your ideas, no matter how unpopular with the literary establishment.

...WILL allow posters to talk about other forums, especially when they have been "pruned."

So I invite you to check out www.Poets.net. The comment section is wide open.

We are currently in blogger mode but will soon be launching a forum.

Best,

Jennifer

www.Poets.net
www.PostFoetry.com

Monday, April 7, 2008

Open Thread: What Happens When A Thread is Locked?

A Commoner (as he was known on the Speakeasy thread) was banned (and remains banned) from the P & W Speakeasy forum. After a week of heated discussion (March 17-March 14, 2008) The Posting Related Question Thread (under"Mediation"), which I have archived, was locked after this message from motet/Dana, a moderator, appeared:

If you want a pulpit for your conspiracy theories and other extraneous conversation, you'll need to find it someplace else.

The Speakeasy is a private message board and a free service to patrons who post in a civil and respectful manner, are topical with their posts and follow the stated guidelines for posting original work. More than 99% of patrons who come to the Speakeasy easily meet or exceed those standards. It really isn't difficult to do....if you actually want to do it. However, when those standards for participation are not followed, that person is no longer welcome here. You may not like it but while the Speakeasy is a place for most people, it is not the place for everyone.

As Jason has already said, you may not like that answer but that's the only answer there will be. You can either live with those parameters or find some other board on which to participate. It's pretty simple and this conversation is over.

Dana


Well, Dana, this conversation is NOT over. It has just moved somewhere else. If anything, the conversation has become more urgent than ever. Speakeasy may be a private forum, but let me remind you: The Poets & Writers organization feeds at the public trough, and your banning of free speech may raise a few bureaucratic eyeballs.

Also, Poets.net is NOT afraid to take this conversation on, especially when the issue of free speech is at stake--even on a so-called private board. "Poetry" has too long been a place where outsiders have not only been "politely" silenced but also ridiculed.

I see nothing in A Commoner's posts and others that warrants a banning of anyone; your moderation and administration are heavy-handed and petty.


Re: Alan Cordle/Bluehole's statement and question to Dana, "I assume Jason's IT position is paid. Is Dana's moderator position paid?" These are very valid issues to probe because if these positions are paid, then Jason and Dana are simply puppets, and we must question everything they post. It also suggests that freedom of speech is simply a commodity to be bought and manipulated.

In any case, the literary field is much too polite especially when it comes to squashing anti-establishment ideas.

"The river glints, a knife in the land."

Indeed, JoanneMerriam.


More like, "The river glints, a knife in hand."

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