A Forum for Vigorous Debate, Cornerstone of Democracy

[For the journal (guidelines, focus, etc.), go to www.theamericandissident.org ].
Encouraged censorship and self-censorship seem to have become popular in America today. Those who censor others, not just self, tend to favor the term "moderate," as opposed to "censor" and "moderation" to "censorship." But that doesn't change what they do. They still act as Little Caesars or Big Brother protectors of the thin-skinned. Democracy, however, demands a tough populace, not so easily offended. On this blog, and to buck the trend of censorship, banning, and ostracizing, comments are NEVER "moderated." Rarely (almost NEVER) do the targets of these blog entries respond in an effort to defend themselves with cogent counter-argumentation. This blog is testimony to how little academics, poets, critics, newspaper editors, cartoonists, political hacks, cultural council apparatchiks, librarians et al appreciate VIGOROUS DEBATE, cornerstone of democracy. Clearly, far too many of them could likely prosper just fine in places like communist China and Cuba or Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Russia.

More P. Maudit cartoons (and essays) at Global Free Press: http://www.globalfreepress.org

Monday, September 22, 2008

Crony Capitalism Paving the Way to Crony Culturalism: the Massachusetts Poetry Festival… Brought to You by State Cultural Apparatchik, Charles Coe

What really pains—deeply pains—is the bourgeois grip upon poetry and the literary milieu. It is an iron grip not unlike that of the Soviet Writers Union under Stalin. It silences dissent effectively. Indeed, if one wants to be a “successful” poet (or poetry editor), one must not upset it, let alone question it. Thus is the sad state of the literary milieu today in America. The voice of dissent is out there, but it is up against a massive, impervious brick wall. So, for a poet today, the choice must be a conscious, deliberate one, between “success” and failure, repression and truth. For some poets, however, we do not have the choice. Truth is our muse.

Why, one could wonder, was I not invited to the Massachusetts Poetry Festival since I have been a long-time Massachusetts poet and an editor of a poetry journal based in Concord, Massachusetts since 1998? Why, one could also wonder, was The American Dissident, the journal in question, not invited to exhibit at the Festival’s small press fair? Well, the answer to those two questions is simple. Charles Coe, the Festival’s chief organizational apparatchik (i.e., Project Administrator—I just love the corporate titles these fellows adorn) and Massachusetts Cultural Council (see www.theamericandissident.org/LitCCC.htm) career cultural functionary does not like dissent at all, let alone vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy. Only a month ago had I attempted, in vain of course, to obtain from him some rather simple answers to some rather damning questions regarding MCC policies, including the public funding of organizations that form part of multibillion-dollar endowed private universities like Harvard Museums and Agni (Boston University) and the refusal to fund any literary journal not having a budget over $10,000—a very strange policy indeed, or perhaps not for it likely works against the dissident spirit.

As for the CEO of Concord Poetry Center (www.theamericandissident.org/LitCPC.htm), an active participant in the Festival, Joan Houlihan also detests dissent and vigorous debate. Once upon a time, she’d written me:

“The idea of your teaching a workshop or delivering a lecture on the art of literary protest or poetry protest, or simply protest (Concord is where it all started!) occurred to me even before you mentioned it, so, yes, it’s something I will consider as we progress (this is only our first event). However, I must say I don’t favor having you teach at the center if you protest the reading.”

How odd! Or am I the only one who can see the oddity? Later she wrote: “We welcome dissidents! All the best poets were dissidents.” But then I informed her that I was going to protest and to hell with the workshop possibility. Her response was again an odd one: “What are you protesting? Seems like you’d welcome a place in your area for poets who are not part of the poetry establishment.” But what was Houlihan talking about? Not part of the poetry establishment? Horseshit! She is part of the establishment, regularly gets funded by the establishment and only invites poets of the establishment to read at the Center.

Thus, I’ve been around protesting lame poets, poetasters, and poetophiles for the past decade and even longer for back in 1995 or 96, I’d protested against the corruption at Fitchburg State College and brought it to the attention of Pinsky, who was chosen as graduation speaker. Pinsky, of course, chose to take the money and, like a good establishment boy, remain deaf and dumb. Evidently, for the average established-order poet or established-order wannabee, protest is fine, as long as not against the poetry milieu. “Pissing off politicians, corporations, zealots, and/or lawyers is acceptable and, in fact, encouraged,” writes M. Scott Douglass, editor of MainStreet Rag. Well, I challenged him on that and asked why it was apparently not acceptable to piss off poets and poet organizations. He did not/could not respond. Logic has died or never did thrive in the hearts of established-order poets and editors.

On another note, though really always the same note, why the NEED for egregious, ubiquitous self-vaunting in the poetry milieu, as in “The Massachusetts Poetry Festival is a three-day celebration of the poets, poetry, and literary heritage of a state whose contribution to American poetry is unsurpassed in the nation”?Is Massachusetts, a state plagued by rampant cronyism in all sectors including the cultural one, really “unsurpassed” in the realm of poetry? Perhaps in the realm of cronyism, but certainly not in poetry. Why the NEED for such feel-good exaggeration? Shouldn’t we expect more from poets and poet organizers? Moreover, a thinking poet—how few of us there are!—ought to ask him or herself who were the appointed judges who selected the appointed poets to read at the festival and, in fact, who appointed the judges in the first place. One could also ask why the judges (Coe?) chose to invite the usual suspects Pinsky, Espada, Sanders (The Fuggs?), and Dubus. Likely, they (or he) did so because they are dazzled by literary celebrity, know the chosen poets are safe, inoffensive, and do not question and challenge (i.e., think as individuals, disconnected from the crony careerist network). BUT does poetry really need INOFFENSIVENESS or does it need DISSIDENCE, QUESTIONING AND CHALLENGING of poetry events made safe for the bourgeois pillars of society, and POETS WHO WOULD DARE GO AGAINST THE GRAIN OF POETRY AS USUAL? Given the sad state of the nation, and not simply with regards the economy and war all the time, the answer to that question ought to be crystal clear. Crony capitalism has given way to crony culturalism.

Well, since I stand in direct opposition to the hypocrite Houlihan and for the sake of democracy, shouldn’t the Massachuestts Poetry Festival at least place a link to The American Dissident (and this blog!) in the list of links on its webpage? Let’s see what Coe has to say about that, though I already know what he has to say about it: NEIN!

Today, I swam across Walden Pond likely for the last time this year. The water is getting chilly! A dissident needs to stay in top physical shape, while on the other hand, a cultural council apparatchik will likely get as flaccid as a porker.


Jon Gregory said...

Unfortunately, what you describe is true not only of poetry but of all creative pursuits in this society. You name it, and it's essentially a pyramid scheme that's mainly about social connections. And disturbing subject matter isn't welcomed at all.

Here where my wife and I live, in Fort Worth, Texas, there's a man named Jesse Sierra Hernandez who's arguably the best fine artist in town. But he paints barrio/pachuco/low-rider imagery, which doesn't sit well with the art establishment here, which has long been in bed with old oil money. Perhaps the best-known local artist is Nancy Lamb, who specializes in photorealist paintings of people hobnobbing at swank parties, images literally taken from snapshots she takes at such events. She's BS'd her way into New York shows; meanwhile, Jesse has trouble getting shows in Fort Worth because his subject matter seems to smell too much like chili powder for the swells to cozy up to it.

My wife does surrealist pen-and-ink, and she's hit her head on that glass ceiling a lot.

The local poetry scene got away from the MFs from about 1997 to 2003, but they're back in control, with a vengeance. I was one of the troublemakers back then, and I'm definitely on a blacklist now when it comes to being invited anyplace or asked to read anywhere.

Anyway, it seems to be a sad condition in all creative endeavours in America. I hope it's different in other cultures.

mather said...

It seems like doing a blog could get old but these first ones are good. I can't believe you have to have a 10,000 dollar budget to get a grant! Those fucking gavel-wielders! I'd like to shove their gavels up their asses! What perfect logic they pass between themselves, like stolen notes! Creeps! Don't worry, they are only in charge of everything fasle. That seems like everything, but it's not. 10,000 bucks! Imagine! 10,000 bucks every year, and then begging for more! And getting it! Your need must be qualified, registered and approved. In other words, your need must be false. Fuck their lying little birdy asses! They think that anything universal is unsophisticated, because their world is reduced to the level of a limited society. Society is everything! Society makes meaning! It's so easy, with the numbers on your side, for people who have never grown up. It's so easy sucking on the tit of art, camera-ready, without ever looking up into mama's savage face. Keep at them Slone.

G. Tod said...

Thanks for the comments Jon! Well, as mentioned, Mather, I don't intend doing this but once per week and only when I have something to say. Otherwise, I'll wait two weeks. I like your "gavel wielder" comment! What really pisses me off is that the state cultural council gives taxpayer money to Agni, which is published at Boston Univ, which has over one billion dollars in endowment funds. And it also gives public money to Harvard Museums. Harvard as over 40 billion dollars in endowment funds. I asked for a logical explanation from Coe and got the party line.