Showing posts with label oppression in poetry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label oppression in poetry. Show all posts



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

Guest Writer: Matt Koeske Responds to Dawn

Dear Dawn,

My memory is a little foggy at this time, but as you mention you posted on Foetry occasionally, let me be forthcoming and say that I was the admin for its last year of existence after Alan Cordle retired. That was where I first met Christopher.

As to your comment about my "blanket dismissal" of "poetz" . . . first, I believe I actually referred to them as "PoBizzers", i.e., poets who seek indoctrination, allegiance, and status through the official PoBiz channels, primarily academe and the contest system . . . publication in poetry journals is more complex. I am not quite sanctimonious enough to declare all poets who seek the fruits of the PoBiz "fakes", which is what I, at least, feel a neologism like "poetz" would imply. A semantic quibble, but an important one to me, as the mistake you made in evaluating my rhetoric, though tiny on the outside, carries major subtextual and rhetorical implications. For instance, if I was actually dismissing all poets who have gone to school, won contests, or obtained college and university teaching positions, my argument would easily be dismissible as that of a total crank.

I accept that this misunderstanding was purely accidental, but I would like you (and others) to know that we who are, for lack of a better term, "PoBiz dissidents", are commonly having our arguments "unintentionally" misread so that the readers don't have to more deeply consider their validity. The reason I joined and became an active member and eventually an admin there was not that I thought attacking individual poets who were involved in contest and publication impropriety was the right thing to do. I did not then and do not now agree with this tactic. I joined Foetry because I saw that there was, despite some vitriol and obvious (justified) outrage, a very valid argument to the main gripes of Namely, the corruption in the contest system (and perhaps the contest system itself) was, logically, destructive to the quality of the poetry publish through it. I saw many critics of come on the site to chastise and issue "blanket dismissals" at the members simply because these members were pissed off and wanted change. Such chastisement was the easiest way to both ignore and seemingly discredit the Foetry members' arguments. As Foetry's admin, I was constantly encouraging the members to pull back from personal attacks on poets and focus on logical arguments and evidence . . . in the hope that PoBiz devotees (and more importantly, those riding the fence) would be less capable of ignoring the validity of the arguments that were being made.

In general, I decided to do what I could do to bring stronger argumentation and intellectual credibility to the arguments that were already being made on

Secondly, as to a blanket dismissal of poets who seek support, fellowship, audience, and status through the PoBiz, I issue no such thing. That would be a dangerously simplistic argument. What I am saying is that the PoBiz as an institution (and, notably, an institution that not all of its members even recognize as a whole interconnected system) promotes beliefs, laws, and indoctrination rituals that are the main cause behind the decay of contemporary American poetry. We who seek or have sought to enter into this system of indoctrination and conformity have been asked in various ways to make choices between an inner creative vision or drive (which requires an ethical commitment, not just "selfishness") and being accepted and credential by the PoBiz system.

The PoBiz makes it exceedingly difficult to survive as an individual or innovator. The chamber of conditioning is the university, of course. But the real conforming gallows (in my opinion) of the PoBiz is the poetry contest. The contest is the gatekeeper of PoBiz credentialing. If it is dysfunctional, the poetry and poets that are credentialed will also tend to be dysfunctional. The more these dysfunctional poets, poems, and poetics are credentialed by this gatekeeper system, the greater the power of the system to conform and limit poetry to not merely dysfunction, but also a sanctified dogma of dysfunction. That is, I think, a logical conclusion. What Foetry illuminated was that the contest system was indeed dysfunctional.

In my opinion, the subtleties are very complex. There are no literal "puppet masters" conducting the PoBiz. Indoctrination and dogma are the real masters, and individual ambition and contemporary university administration practices provide the instinctual drive and resources. I think this all trickles down from ideological dogmas that became popularized in the universities in the 20th century (and were put into official practice with the rise of the university writing programs, which had a strong upsurge in the 70s, especially). At bare minimum, we have developed an ideological system with the writing programs that we have not adequately studied the impact and implications of (much as the "externalities" of modern industry went unchecked for ideological reasons until very recently . . . and even today, the battle for regulation and sustainability in industry is entirely uphill) . . . and we continue to live in an academic age in which university writing programs (as they now exist) are not very criticizable. Why? Because they are usually very profitable. Many people who would not attend college or would drop out (and take their tuition with them) will stay around for a creative writing education. There are even many MFA programs that take paying graduate students to help fund the program (in addition to undergraduate tuition fees). Essentially, the administration of the universities (which has grown increasingly business-like and less "educationally-oriented") doesn't really care if academic integrity is high in writing programs, just as long as they continue to be profitable.

I recommend the book The Elephants Teach: Creative Writing Since 1880 by David Gershom Myers, which gives a pretty even-handed account of the origins of writing programs (although it doesn't follow them into their more contemporary mode).

So, the core of what I'm saying is that we have to look more closely in the mirror and try to figure out if we have turned an art form into a commodity or market, and if so, what can we do to correct this?

Although I do think that going through the PoBiz indoctrination system is likely to limit the originality and perhaps also the depth of the poets who accomplish this, I by no means think that PoBiz-credentialed poets are untalented. But a close examination of the system of indoctrination suggests (in my opinion) that poets with very high degrees of potential talent are not likely to have that talent facilitated, developed, cultivated . . . and possibly even recognized in the PoBiz. The PoBiz system is not one that orients itself to the recognition and development of poetic talent. Rather, it is "designed" (really it's a byproduct of unconscious, tribalistic sociality, so we could more accurately say it "evolved") to capitalize on poetic ambition (which is like a potent natural resource) and turn this into an affordable status attainment market. It greatly resembles the New Age and Self Help markets in this way.

More importantly, I think we (even we who are strongly critical of the PoBiz) need to recognize and admit that we are part of the system. Detaching ourselves from it is like unplugging oneself from the Matrix. We don't want to do it, and if we manage (usually by some kind of accident), we find ourselves terribly weak and nearly useless. The "enemies" are within, not without. We all carry various degrees of this PoBiz indoctrination. And the truth is that, we are so symbiotically connected to these beliefs and conditionings that we don't know how to functionally conceive of poetry and poeting without them. What we have in front of us is first the "unplugging" or reconditioning or epiphany of PoBiz destructiveness (to both the art and to those who are driven to practice it), and then the long, hard scrabble to reinvent ourselves and our poetry and poetics (and perhaps, eventually, our publication system).

No one should be shamed for stumbling about in the dark in quest for this Holy Grail. That is the nature of all self-discovery . . . and of all art. Frightening? Hell, yes . . . and the PoBiz promises in its PR to limit this terror as much as possible. But without the full reality of this terror, this loneliness, there can be no genuine self to discover, and no bravery in the act of creation. Innovation must be met heroically, defiantly. We cannot both belong to the tribe unconditionally and create art for that tribe, art that tries to comprehend it.

For what it's worth, I would prescribe empathy for all of us who struggle with PoBiz indoctrination. Some have already "lost their souls", we might say, and are probably beyond redemption . . . but most of us are simply being human. A significant part of being human is being both ambitious and afraid, being unconscious, not knowing but wanting. This doesn't make us evil; it's merely what we are.

Poets and critics who work on the fringes of the PoBiz can remain relatively untainted by indoctrination . . . but at the same time, they might also remain forever ignorant of the way the system works. And so, many of these "fringe PoBizzers" are quite likely to assume that nothing is rotten in Denmark . . . and that those people who complain about the stench are cranks and embittered losers (as many of them clearly are . . . but they are not ONLY these things, that's the important distinction). Regrettably, the PoBiz as an organization feeds off of this collaborative ignorance and uses it to help prevent dissent from penetrating its walls. It all boils down to the old adage "Question Authority". So long as this is done, so long as we (as they say in left-wing politics) "follow the money" and see how the organs of the system interconnect, I think we will start to see many of the problems I and others have been noting for some time now.

Why then do so many remain ignorant and disparage people like Christopher Woodman and the members of Simply because the cost of knowledge or consciousness is dissatisfaction, a dissatisfaction that is likely to cut the umbilical cord to the larger body that sustains almost every poet in some manner or other. Consciousness is always this dangerous.


(Dawn, I would be happy to move your response to Matt here as well; if you wish this, simply give your permission, using the same Blogger ID, by responding in this comment section. You are also welcome to expand on your original comment. --Admin)

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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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.)

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