Showing posts with label poets.org. Show all posts
Showing posts with label poets.org. Show all posts

A Long, Long Time Ago (Monday Love)

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A long, long time ago...
I can still remember
How Kaltica v. TomWest used to make me smile.
And I thought if I knew my Poe
That I could make those people know
And they'd be enlightened for awhile.

But T.S. Eliot made me shiver
With every paper he'd deliver.
Griswold on the doorstep;
I couldn't take one more step.

I can't remember if I cried
When I read how Greeley's Tribune lied,
But something touched me deep inside,
The day the music died.

So bye-bye, Poets.Org,
Sang my song to Kaltica,
He's just a cyborg,
All the mods were thinkin' it's Houlihan's pie,
Singin' Christopher, you have to die!
Christopher, you have to die.

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Borg Queen's First Appearance



senilesovereign

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Did you write the book on Poe,
And do you have faith in God below,
If the Raven tells you so?
Do you believe New Critical
Can save your reading soul,
And can you teach me how to read real slow?

Well, I know that you're in love with Poe
'cause I saw you rhymin' at the Go-Go.
You both read his prose as well
All was fine until he fell.

I was a lonely teenage broncin' buck
With a notebook of poems and a pickup truck,
But I knew I was out of luck
The day the music died.

I startin' singin',
Bye-bye Shelley's music and Poe,
The Raven was the maven
Now it's college and Crowe,
Ezra Pound made it new,
But the new it won't go,
And the Fugitive boys are sadly unable
To say why so much depends on a patient etherized upon a table.

Now for a hundred years we're on our own,
And moss grows fat on university stone,
But that's not how it used to be,
When the critic sang honestly
Without Oxford and Harvard's ivy
In a voice that came from you and me.

Oh and while scholars were looking down,
An -Ism stole poetry's radiant crown.
Movements, cliques and schools
Proved at last that all are fools,
And while Eliot scanned the French,
Pound thought on a London bench
To pursue Yeats' used-up wench
The day the music died.




We were singing,
Bye-bye, Shelley's music and Poe,
Hello William Carlos Williams
And the stench of Rimbaud,
Art was once a noble calling,
And now it's all show,
This is the day that we die,
This is the day that we die.

Helter skelter in mid-century swelter,
Pound flew off to an Axis shelter,
Obscenity wins a Bolingen.
Then the troops return to college
Finding the Moderns in charge of knowledge:
John Crowe Ransom's professors win.

But now the Beats and Ginsberg loom,
Festive-counter to New Critic's gloom,
Whitman and Williams take the field,
Modern poets refuse to yield,
Do you recall what was revealed
The day the music died?

We were singing,
Bye-bye, poetry that is good,
Every animal's a poet in the Sacred Wood,
Society sucks so your sucking is good,
Singin' whatever is me is OK,
Whatever is me is OK.

Oh there was The Waste Land in one place,
e.e. cummings taking up space
As Emerson's Dial started up again.
So come on Pound be nimble, Pound be quick!
Butler Yeats sat on a candlestick
And William James is Emerson's dearest friend.

Oh, and as I watched the Modern stage
Consolidate its little rage,
No poet born in hell
Could break that Harvard spell,
And as the critics made it right,
The moderns won without a fight,
And Emerson was laughing with delight,
The day the music died.

He was singing,
Bye-bye Mr. Jingle Man,
England's my ruler and New England's my land,
There's a Golden Dawn coming that you don't understand,
My disciples call the shots, and I'll tell you why:
They made sure that you died,
They made sure that you died.

The 20th century sang the blues
While Eliot talked against the Jews
And Hugh Kenner knocked Millay.
I went down to the ancient store
Where I'd heard the music years before
But Vendler said the music wouldn't play.

Then all prayed to the Cred Machine,
The platitudes grew and the poets schemed,
Only blurbs were spoken,
Great poetry was broken.
And the three men I admire most:
Shakespeare, Pope, and Plato's Ghost,
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died.

And they were singin',
Bye-bye to Genius and Poe,
Brought Shelley to my teacher
But he wanted Rimbaud,
Warren, Tate, and Ransom
Crashed the Chevy below,
Singin' this is how we'll all go,
This is how we'll all go.

I started singin'
Bye-bye, Shelley's music and Poe,
The Raven was the Maven,
Now it's Workshop and Crowe,
Ezra Pound made it new
But the new it won't go,
Singin', "this'll be the way that we go,
this'll be the way that we go."



______________________________________________________

More Borg Queen



CoyoteFitzy says,

Borg Queen, lonely at the top? The song is "Stop Coming to My House," by Mogwai. STAR TREK and all related images/media are owned by Paramount.
______________________________________________________

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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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HOMPRANG HAMMERED!

Please post your comment here.

(This comment has been moved up to a post--admin.)

Homprang Chaleekanha, the well-known “Maw Samunphrai” (Doctor of Herbal Medicine) and teacher of Thai Traditional Massage and Herbal Medicine all over the world, was not only banned from The Academy of American Poets Forum at Poets.org on May 22nd, 2008, but on June 4th, 2008, the thread containing all her 20 odd posts was deleted from the Forum altogether.

Along with the unique style and profound content of her posts, which were much admired by everyone who had the good fortune to read them, the whole record of her dispute with Poets.org has now been expunged.

Homprang’s only transgression was to write a series of clear, cogent and unfailingly interesting letters in defense of her husband, the poet Christopher Woodman, on a thread especially set up for her by the Site Administrator called “Complaints on the Forum.” Unfortunately for her and her cause, her letters attracted very considerable support from Poets.org Members, and her efforts highlighted the legitimacy of the struggle to speak openly about abuse not only on the Poets.org Forum but elsewhere on the net, including on the Poets & Writers forum at Pw.org.

On the penultimate day, May 21st, Poets.org’s case against Christopher Woodman collapsed completely when a key Moderator, sbunch (sic.), posted one of Christopher’s earlier PMs to him, thus breaking not only a key Poets.org injunction against posting other people’s PMs but exposing the whole Poets.org argument against Christopher to ridicule. Indeed, in the posts immediately following that faux pas, posts put up, take note, by members of the Forum in very good standing, it was clear that not only was Christopher being framed, he was being harassed—by The Academy of American Poets!

Later on the same day, still May 21st, 2008, Homprang Chaleekanha was issued a warning by the Site Administrator, Christine Klocek-Lim:

Posted: Wed May 21, 2008 1:50 pm

Homprang,

This conversation has become exceedingly tedious. Christopher was banned for violating the Guidelines. Nothing you say here in this thread will change this. It really doesn't matter to me what you or Christopher think happened. It doesn't really matter how unfair you think it all is. Christopher violated the Guidelines, was warned, was let back in, and then violated the Guidelines again. End of story.

You are on the verge of being banned for violating the Guidelines because of your continued agitation regarding your perceived interpretation of other people's behavior, your continued hijacking of threads (not this one, the other one), and your complete inability to understand that Poets.org has the right to delete, move, lock, and otherwise modify any posts made by any members if the Mods and Admins deem it necessary for the protection of our members and this site.

Homprang replied as follows—and her last post is important to read carefully in the context because it not only gives a good feeling for the tone and human quality of her writing, but demonstrates so dramatically how far such discourse is from anything that Christine Klocek-Lim had said about Homprang in her warning:

Posted: Wed May 21, 2008 10:11 pm

I'm not going to say anything I'm not supposed to say, don't worry.

Just two points.

First of all, both Christopher and I didn't like the Monster Moderator Satires on Poets.net, or at least we felt they weren't going to be helpful. We felt they were even a bit unfair in some ways because they hit at some things that were good in the moderators too, like what they said about Kaltica. That wasn't a good thing to say at all.

So let me say this. In this whole discussion about what Christopher has done or not done and, most importantly, what he stands for, some very good voices have been heard. I loved Larina's care for me even when she sometimes said things I didn't agree with, and Catherine too was always thoughtful and loving. Hatrabbit was so funny and quirky too, he made me laugh, and I know Christopher really likes his poetry. And Kaltica is always very fair. In fact Kaltica was the first Moderator to greet Christopher when he first came here, and that was very welcoming and positive and Christopher thanked him for that at the time. Kaltica also recognized the honesty combined with skill and professionalism in TomWest, who was a real tear-away (is that the word?) fire-brand (?) before he came here. As Monday Love he burned everyone to a crisp on Foetry.com, and as Sawmygirl he got ousted from Pw.org after just one month of brilliant but controversial critiques. In a way, Kaltica made TomWest by accepting him, it seems to me, and you are very lucky to have them both. That's my opinion.

So that's a lot of moderators, and they're all very good people I know--even if some of them make me so angry at times, and say different things when they want to.

Christopher often talks about Jonathan Swift. He says Jonathan Swift would have torn any moderator to shreds but that he never confused a moderator with a person. He always loved individual people, Christopher says, but hated people in positions.

The other point which may surprise you is that Christopher freely admits he is very dangerous, and if he had stayed he would certainly have caused you all sorts of problems. Because he's different from all the other poets on this site, you see--he's a poet who has no career as a poet, and never will have. He didn't start writing poetry until he was 50, for a start, and now at almost 70 he knows no one is ever going to read his books, which he loves so much. So he is not afraid to be misunderstood or even humiliated, and he is not afraid to take on anybody. He would have come back over and over again to the same abuses, too, and particularly the ones that involved him personally.

The most dangerous thing of all about Christopher is that he is always considerate and careful, and has no need to insult people. So your rules could never have stopped him, and had he stayed he would certainly have made you think about everything.

He says he's going to write something about all of this for Poets.net, and hopes very much you will all get to read it. He says he hopes he is going to be able to write it in such a way that you will also like reading it. I think he will.

And me? I'm a doctor, a herbalist, a midwife and a therapist. I've done my best to spread a little healing around here too, and I hope you can accept that. Christopher says I have helped him a lot to understand why there is so much pain and confusion here and everywhere else. I hope I have helped you with that too. I'm not involved myself, you see, so that makes it much easier for me. I couldn't do this in my own country, to stay calm and clear like this when everything is turned upside down.

I wai you, and that's the best I can do. If you go to my website you can see a photograph of my most important teacher on the page with my credits. If you look at her and her husband and then think about yourselves, maybe you will understand why we have all come together.

Homprang Chaleekanha

Immediately following this conciliatory and “healing” post, the whole thread was not only locked, but Homprang Chaleekanha was banned from the Forum altogether with these words from the Poets.org Site Administrator, Christine Klocek-Lim:

chrissiekl
Site Admin

Joined: 07 Jun 2005
Posts: 3708
Location: Pennsylvania, USA
Posted: Thu May 22, 2008 6:48 am


Yes, we are done with this thread now. Apparently, rancor has a longer shelf life than a twinkie.

On June 4th, 2008, Homprang Chaleekanha’s thread was erased from the records of The Academy of American Poets altogether—in the Poets.org euphemism it was “pruned,” not “deleted.” This indefensible response to Homprang’s dignity, clarity and patience makes any kind of public assessment of Christopher Woodman’s cause now a great deal more difficult. But history shows that such draconian measures tend to have the opposite effect in the long run--many people made copies of the thread, needless to say, and indeed the discussion of the whole matter is just beginning!

Christopher has fought hard against the business interests that are so distorting the work at both Poets & Writers and The Academy of American Poets, and we feel he is to be congratulated for having behaved so politely and constructively in all his dealings with them. Those of you who have followed this saga over the past six months, both for him and against him, surely have by now formed your opinion of why he and his wife were banned and all their writing deleted. Please do feel free to comment as freely as you feel you can below, and Anonymously too if you wish, of course. Do not spare the rod if you feel this couple have been snide, tricky or abusive, and please do not spare the details if you feel they are in fact martyrs to a worthy cause.

Or anywhere in between.

Guest Writer: Jepson Responds to Christopher Woodman

I go by Jepson on poets.org. I am new to the site. Sadly, I joined poets.org shortly after your departure. I have enjoyed my time so far there. The moderators have been very helpful and friendly with me so far.

I respond to you [Christopher Woodman] as a gentleman representing nobody but himself. I have no sides in this argument. I’m here out of my own personal interest.

Would it be fair to say that the discussion you bring to the table involves the ethical and business reputations of some well known individuals? If I owned a forum I would be wary to allow personal attacks to continue. A site is not obligated to give any individual a platform for public defamation, especially at the expense of the organization’s own reputation, whether it is credible or not. You’ve listed names and have drawn some very convincing dots, but do you believe it is a ‘me vs them’ fight going on? Maybe the site wishes to remain neutral for now. It would be impossible to remain neutral when a member is ‘naming names’ while calling the reputation of American poetry into question. The situation might’ve been that you flew a little too close to the sun. The actions of the AAP might not have been to cover up and protect a couple of individuals, but an attempt to keep their own integrity intact.

Of course, all of that is speculative. I don’t know the specifics surrounding your banning. The best I could gather from the threads is that it dealt with a PM behind the scenes. However, all of this becomes a distraction from this message that you have been campaigning.

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that you are accurate in your discussion. There is corruption in poetry from the very top. A massive cover up operation has been taking place, because they don’t want the truth out. The question now is this: What do we do about it? Should we aspiring writers grab our pitchforks and torches and riot outside the gates, demanding the heads of those leaders responsible? Should the ‘who’s who’ in today’s poetry create a committee to investigate the matter internally? Should we do away with poetry contests? What direction should we move in? What is your solution to the problem?

Eliminating poetry contests won’t solve the issue that dominates in almost every field of entertainment and politics: It’s not what you do, but who you know. People are people both good and bad. There will always be an ‘in’ circle. Will taking down the reputation of a few individuals save poetry?

Will it hurt it?

If I submitted a manuscript to a contest for publication and was rejected then began hearing about ‘corruption’ that would make me wonder. Did my manuscript get turned down because I wasn’t sleeping with the judge, or was it really crap anyways? It would be easier to accept the first scenario. I’m not implying you in this situation, but a hypothetical “me” instead. Regardless, the fact is that hardly anybody in America is reading poetry today. They aren’t turning it down because of conspiracy theories either. There aren’t many outlets of poetry publication anymore. What will fill that void if we tear down what’s left? Will it get people reading again?

____________________________________

This comment has been elevated to a post because Jepson has raised some good questions and is deserving of his own thread.

Posted with author's permission.

Jennifer
admin

Comment on Poets.org Secret Survey

In response to the poets.org secret survey, I emailed (on May 23) the following to Larwar:

Larina,

This survey ought to be conducted in a PUBLIC THREAD, not behind the scenes.

As a member of poets.org (I joined long before I started Poets.net), I am not afraid of the results, even the ones that disagree with my views.

What are you people so afraid of?

The truth?

Jennifer
No answer, of course.

Guest Writer: NOTES FOR 21st CENTURY POETRY HISTORIANS & SOCIOLOGISTS (Christopher Woodman)

...JOAN HOULIHAN, JEFFREY LEVINE, & THE ACADEMY OF AMERICAN POETS

The monthly "Pruning" of the Poets.org 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 STALKS ME...

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.

JOAN HOULIHAN POSTS AS "rperlman"...

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

http://foetry.com/forum/index.php?topic=1067.15

(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.”

http://listserv.buffalo.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0704&L=poetics&D=0&T=0&P=23750

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!"

http://foetry.com/forum/index.php?topic=1067.30

JOAN HOULIHAN PUBLISHES THE ANGRY "ROTTEN GRAPES" LETTER IN P&W....

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:

http://www.pw.org/speakeasy/gforum.cgi?do=post_view_flat;post=256080;page=2;sb=post_latest_reply;so=ASC;mh=25

P&W DOES NOT PRINT MY REPLY TO JOAN HOULIHAN'S "ROTTEN GRAPES" LETTER AND BANS ME FROM THEIR WEB SITE...

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 Pw.org 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 Poets.org 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 Poets.org now, of course, so you’ll have to go here to find it—we at Poets.net save everything Poets.org deletes; it’s always so historically important:

http://www.poets.net/2008/04/thread-acommoner-responds-to-rotten.html

That was just the first time, and the post lasted just 8 minutes that time (Poets.org, “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 Poets.org 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:

http://poets.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=15405&start=135

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:

http://www.poets.net/2008/04/guest-writer-christopher-woodman-speaks.html

--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!

JEFFREY LEVINE AND JOAN HOULIHAN, BUSINESS PARTNERS...

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:

http://foetry.com/forum/index.php?topic=850.165

(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,

http://www.poets.net/2008/04/thread-acommoner-responds-to-rotten.html

--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:

1.) http://www.colrainpoetry.com/

2.) http://www.concordpoetry.org/Colrain/May/mp-faculty1.htm

3.) http://www.colrainpoetry.com/May/omnis-news.htm

4.) http://www.colrainpoetry.com/February/omnis-comments.htm

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.

ROBIN BETH SCHAER OF POETS.ORG ON JEFFREY LEVINE'S SHORT LIST...

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 Poets.org 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:

http://joanhoulihan.blogspot.com/2008/03/how-many-aholes-does-it-take-to-fill.html

“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

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

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.

Guest Writer: An Open Letter to Alan Cordle

Dear friend and mentor, Alan Cordle,

You can't imagine how hard this is for me to say, but I still feel what you wrote in your Comment following my last post is just plain unacceptable. What you threatened to do on Poets.org was to tell dirty secrets about someone if they didn't knuckle under, and I say that even if you're right that "if" makes it wrong. It always does and it always will, and I wish you would decide never to threaten that way ever again.

I wish you would come out and say that too, Alan. Go ahead, spill the beans on Roy Cohn or Max Mosley all you can, or Karl Rove, but only if you have to spill them to make the world a better place, never just to control it! Come out and say you've learned that the hard way, and that you want everyone to know you stand for that too.

Having said that, dear friend Alan, I understand entirely where you're coming from, the monumental frustration you feel, and above all the anger that someone who blew that golden whistle so well and so far should have to suffer so much for it. The ignominy that in the end Alan Cordle should be the one who's so often attacked under the cover of darkness, and disgraced!

So I want to say right here is that you are in very good company in your war, Alan Cordle, and to be sure everyone understands exactly what I mean by that, I'll just call a spade a spade. I myself received several harassing e-mails from Janet Holmes just this month, for example--and I had never even heard of her until she assumed "Christopher Woodman" must be Alan Cordle, and thought she would demolish his cover and, of course, little old ME in Thailand (what a shock it must have been to find out I didn't have any—I tried to talk to her on the phone but she refused!). Indeed, Janet Holmes is quite a well-known critic and poet at Boise State University, I think, but was involved in a number of scandals that Foetry uncovered. That's why she's so vindictive. Indeed, I have watched her try to get at Alan Cordle ever since—I've seen it with my own eyes on my own iMac screen!

I also got savaged by Joan Houlihan a number of times on the internet, and she's another quite well known critic and poet, and certainly not someone who should be doing such dirt. Moreover, now that she has admitted on her own blog that she is 'rperlman,' I want to say that I saw with my own eyes 'rperlman' lurking on the pw.org Speakeasy Forum every time I got near Joan Houlihan in my posts, and since I entered the site to respond specifically to her Nov/Dec 2007 Letter in P&W Magazine, I had occasion to talk about her views quite a bit. Most striking of all, 'rperlman' made a visit to the Speakeasy just 30 minutes after I got banned from pw.org for talking about among other things her Colrain Manuscript Conferences, her partner in it, Jeffrey Levine, and her publisher (EUREKA! the same). The lightning post-ban visit was co-incidence perhaps, but she hadn't looked in for 10 days before that—and she visited over and over again during the shambles that immediately followed my departure—I always had another Login as "CSWoodman" so I watched with my own eyes.

And of course that's why I got banned from Poets.org too. It's a no-brainer, but could never be said. Indeed, Joan Houlihan's name has been central every time I have run into trouble anywhere this year, indeed ever since she wrote that letter in Poets & Writers ["Rotten Grapes"] and I objected--including twice at Poets.org, of course. She has also attacked me personally at least three times on the net in broad daylight, "that Christopher Woodman guy," she calls me. "Why does he think he's owed an apology?" she asks, as if she didn't know exactly what I'm talking about!

Finally, I have seen the cyber logs posted on the web so I know where else she visits over and over and over again, obsessively.

Not a pretty picture at all--also not my scene, and I have no intention of pursuing it further. On the other hand, many of you do, even some of you 'respectable' poets, teachers, critics, editors and publishers, and I say you are tarred with exactly the same brush if you do. The difference between you and Alan Cordle is that he tells the truth, you just stalk and you stab because you've been found fiddling the books--and that's the right image when you're talking about publishers and poets!

Just before I sent my Open Letter to Tree Swenson to Poets.net yesterday, I deleted a paragraph that might have made all the difference. I regret that now very much, because I feel that had I supported Alan Cordle more fully he might not have lashed back at you all as he did. This is what I deleted--indeed, I want you to see the deleted words in the context so you'll understand exactly what they mean:

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. He was eventually outed in a most unconscionable way, and he and his wife are still being harassed almost daily for their service to humanity--he's writing a book about it so very soon everybody will know--and the same names will resurface, don't worry. 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 RĂ©sistance Intellectuelle!) fighters.

With very best wishes,
Christopher Woodman

__________________________

(Admin note: I know for a fact that Alan Cordle and Christopher Woodman are two distinct people; I can see that Christopher Woodman's visits originate from Thailand.)

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

What's Wrong with This Picture?



Inside, an invitation to join the Academy of American Poets:



The only time these people are interested in my voice: when I speak the color of green.

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

Thread: ACommoner Responds to "Rotten Grapes"

(Corrected entry)

Evidently, freedom of expression at Poets & Writers is afforded to some poets and writers and not extended to others, taking literally the Orwellian notion that "All pigs are created equal, but some pigs are more equal than others."

Poets & Writers pretends to represent its subscribers and membership, but, in fact, it represents only the politically sanctioned viewpoints of the the power structure: those who hand out prizes and keepers of the status quo.

Dissenting viewpoints not welcome.

Christpher Woodman, a.k.a. ACommoner, a
Poets & Writer reader, wished to respond to the following Joan Houlihan letter to the editor, which appeared in Poets & Writers Magazine Nov/Dec 2007):

A STUDY IN DENIAL

ROTTEN GRAPES?

Craig Morgan Teicher's profile of Bin Ramke ("Noble Rider," September/October 2007) referred to the now-defunct Foetry.com as a "poetry watchdog," with a legitimate point of view in a "squabble." But thanks to that "watchdog," one of the best poetry series in America has been dismantled (the Contemporary Poetry Series), an independent press was smeared (Tupelo Press), and Ramke, one of poetry's most dedicated editors, chose to retire. Any influence that Foetry wielded came about through its bullying tactics and sensationalist accusations, which were far more serious than what Teicher calls "sour grapes." They were the product of a willful misunderstanding of the process of editing and publishing poetry.

So on November 2, 2007, Mr. Woodman wrote directly to P & W editor Kevin Larimer:

Dear Editors,

I couldn't believe my eyes when I came upon Joan Houlihan's letter "ROTTEN GRAPES" in your current issue. I've admired her too, a lot. So how could she be so blind as to defend the extinct Georgia Contemporary Poetry Series against the very fair and detailed accusations leveled against its editor, Bin Ramke, NOT against the Series? After all Bin Ramke never dared to defend himself--which he could have done so easily by revealing the records voluntarily. When those records did get into the public domain everything Foetry had said about his bias proved to be 100% correct, and he resigned, he didn't "retire!"

Of course there were fine books published in the Series--but the question has to be what even finer and more original, grass-root or autodidact, books were never even looked at? And how sad such a distinguished series should have had to be closed down too--I submitted no less than TWELVE m.s. to Bin Ramke over the years, and would have continued to do so had it not been for his self-serving sleights-of-hand and cronyism. Bin Ramke took something away from me when he fell too--he deprived me of something so valuable in my life. Bin Ramke did that to me, let's be clear about that, not the Series!

I've been reading P & W for years--sometimes I subscribe but at the moment my postal service is so erratic I don't receive it if I do. I've also written to you a number of times, including twice before about Jeffrey Levine. Now you've published this letter of Joan Houlihan--surely you've got to let me be heard at this point too. Because I really am the real thing--the poet unattached, unfettered, uncompromised. Indeed you can check me out at my wife Homprang's website, www.homprang.com (is my e-mail address p.c. or is it p.c?).

I wish I could have made the following shorter--I've tried for days and days and just can't say what needs to be said any more succinctly. If you can prune it more do feel free to do so--but be sure it continues to say what it says. Foetry did wonders for me--and I suspect it has changed things for all of us more than we can possibly see at the moment.

With many thanks too for your good work--you can't imagine what a wonderful resource P & W is for isolated writers like myself!

And one last point, dear P & W Editors--do you hear any sour grapes in my voice--or my verse?

All the best, Christopher Woodman


ACommoner added an ATTACHED LETTER TO THE EDITOR, November 2nd, 2007

WILLFUL MISUNDERSTANDING!

Your grapes are truly rotten, Joan Houlihan. As a start, Bin Ramke didn’t retire, he resigned—under relentless pressure from the public and from the University of Georgia Press. Secondly, the dispute wasn’t about the Contemporary Poetry Series but about the selection process. In top-flight poetry book contests all the finalists are the very best, and for that reason it’s even more important they all get an equal hearing. If a judge favors a friend or someone connected to an institution he likes, then another equally gifted but different finalist doesn’t get recognition—and when that happens over and over again for years it’s destructive to the whole poetry environment. If only one species of poetry is propagated the art ends up as dead as any other ill-adapted species, a dinosaur, a haemophiliac crown prince, or an emperor with inadequate clothing!

The third of Houlihan’s distortions is the worst--to suggest the whistle-blower is a “bully” and the message just “sensationalist accusations.” No, the “willful misunderstanding of the process of editing and publishing poetry” was not on the part of the watchdog but on the part of the editor/publisher with the secret agenda. It was Bin Ramke who destroyed the Series, not Foetry--and the proof is it’s coming back so quickly without him!

Like a teacher, a priest or an elected representative, an editor has an almost sacred responsibility to the public, especially in the high art of poetry. Bin Ramke was in a position to help American poetry to evolve honestly and naturally, not to foist on it his own claustrophobic hothouse variety!

And Jeffrey Levine? If the Watchdog was rabid then so was P &W, because all the facts were repeated in the magazine too and nobody challenged them. Levine was also given the space to refute the charges, and his excuse was not that Foetry was wrong but that the mess was all due to pressure and fumbling, and he just wished the whistles would stop blowing! Perhaps they will, but not if you try to bully them with your rotten gripes, Joan Houlihan. That will just make them shriller and more frenzied, and suspect that you too have your interests!

Christopher Woodman
Chiang Mai, Thailand


These letters were never published in the print or the online versions of P & W, effectively silencing Mr. Woodman. On March 17, 2008, Mr. Woodman, posting as ACommoner, brought his plight to poets.org, and started a lively 2-page thread called "The First Amendment & Forums." There he posted the above unpublished letters. He also posted the following (among other entries):

I was very struck by a letter which appeared a few months ago in Poets & Writers Magazine (ROTTEN GRAPES, P & W Magazine Nov/Dec 2007) in which a well known critic and poet defended the conduct of two equally well-known editors and publishers who had been caught red-handed abusing the trust of those who had placed their work in their hands. One of the editors had systematically undermined the integrity of a well-known poetry series for 20+ years, bestowing the bi-annual awards on his friends and cronies and sometimes not even bothering to read the other manuscripts, including 12 of my own along the way. The other editor sent xeroxed "personal reviews" to 100s of hopeful poets, including myself, all of whom had entrusted him with their best and most precious work. Even worse, the editor in question suggested to us all that he might be able to lift us “up a level” (his exact phrase) if we sent him an additional $295.00, checks made out to him personally. “But will we get published this time?” I'm sure we all asked ourselves.

“I don’t rule out the possibility in some cases…” went the classic come-on spiel.

What upset me more than anything about the ROTTEN GRAPES defense of the two compromised editors was that it accused the whistle blowers, myself among them, of a “willful misunderstanding of the whole process of editing and publishing poetry.” We were all “losers,” the letter suggested, clueless incompetents who had nothing better to do than to “smear” their betters, and even if some mistakes had been made by the two editors, what we had done was far worse!

So I want to know what the process of editing and publishing poetry entails that we didn’t understand? The answer seems to go like this—I’ve heard it hundreds of times. If a publisher’s “lists” are “good,” that’s all that really matters. The taste with which the “lists” get drawn up is what the process is about, not who is left unread or whose feelings get hurt, which is inevitable. If the “lists” are "good," it doesn’t matter what fees are collected, for example, or who knows the judge or is just about to marry her or is baby sitting for her right now on the campus where the decision is being made. Great editors and publishers are above such venal concerns. They devote themselves to such a high art in such a selfless way and for so very, very little money, why trouble them with your small-minded obsessions?


On March 25, 2008, poets.org site administrator chissiekl posted:

Christopher (ACommoner),

If you wish to continue to debate this topic, you are free to create your own blog or website to do so. If you wish to discuss poetry, poems, the po-biz in a non-defamatory manner, you are free to start a new thread in this section. Any more defamatory content will be locked and further warnings will be issued. Thank you for your cooperation.


"The First Amendment & Forums" thread was locked, and, for a time, ACommoner was banned from the forum. He was later reinstated with a warning.

An interesting side note: both
Poets & Writers and poets.org feed at the government trough. Perhaps shutting down an exchange of free ideas and factual information might give those who dole out free money for the arts pause in awarding future grants.

In any case, ACommoner's thread has been reopened here.

Bring it on!

Jennifer

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