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

Friday, January 2, 2009

Oil of Vitriol

What a blessed world of snivelling nobodies we live in!
Oil of vitriol must be applied.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Above is the front and rear cover of my new chapbook, Oil of Vitriol, which contains 50 pages of mostly critical poetry and costs $10. Finding a publisher to publish poetry highly critical of the academic/literary established order is like finding a dissident professor on a college campus today. Kudos to Jeff and Ruth of Petroglyph Books. If interested in purchasing a copy, kindly send a check to
G. Tod Slone
1837 Main St.
Concord, MA 01742

Below are three poems taken from the chapbook. For a scathing critique of them, read Mather Schneider's comments in the comments section for this entry. My scathing critique of a Schneider poem was added to this blog (see below) only after reading Schneider's critique of my poems. The animosity between Schneider and me began, as mentioned previously, when I dared criticize his poetry though only after he'd lambasted mine on several occasions. Previously, we were friendly and corresponded frequently. I'd even offered a truce, but Schneider refused to accept it. He was irrevocably wounded by my critique. Thin skin plagues democracy today. Far too many citizens have learned to accept only self-esteem building cookies and pretzels. The nation's educational institutions are largely responsible for conditioning citizens to reject criticism via whimpering and calling mommie or daddie to the rescue.

Ordinarily, I save such critique for poems written by poets of the known variety. But I thought it might be helpful for Schneider to look in the mirror, something he hates to do. Vigorous debate is the cornerstone of democracy. I am a fervent believer and promoter of it, which is why I include it here. The Academy of American Poets censored my comments on its website by removing them and even banned me from participating in its online forums (see http://www.theamericandissident.org/AcademyAmericanPoets.htm). I will not imitate that action by removing Schneider's comments from this forum.

After a while, however, debate in Schneider's case seems to turn always to tedious ad hominem. That's when I tend to cease responding.

The Canon

A group
of men
Mister X
to be the
finest writer
of the past
few decades.
That group
with quite similar
tastes and aesthetics,
as well as parallel
apathy to engagement,
both social and political,
draws others to it
like chicken to feed,
pigs to troughs,
or cows to bales of hay.
Its opinion
permeates increasingly
like an oil spill into a harbor
or fumes into a town or city
propagated by a member
of the chamber of commerce.
Its opinion
hardens more and more
like adipose deposits in arteries
or a viagara-induced erection
until it appears as if objective
and none dare otherwise contest it,
well, almost none…

In a Society of Whores

I too have been one of those publishing gangsters in the New York lit world. I even
get a pretty good table at Elaine’s, for old times sake…
—Michael Mooney,
self-avowed lit whore, former editor of Harper’s
Perhaps there is nothing
than a whore who declares
he has been
as if that declaration
in a confessional
before a Catholic priest
and thus absolves him
of past and future whoring.
Our society would not be
if suddenly
all the absolved

The Poet Is

Not Because He Writes Poetry, But Rather Because He Resists
For its very survival, society constantly
smothers the citizenry—oh, we do dwell
at alienated antipodes, she and he,
separated by her great ocean of crap,
crap that blinds,
that suffocates,
that offers salvation…
How not to gasp for air, for the respite
of days off,
and in the teaching profession
relatively frequent they are, yet
hardly frequent enough!
Red wine flows into his veins, as
daily fluid of evenings
to help ease the deadliness,
to enable implacable struggle,
to assure survival against
the omnipotence of the structure
housing him with sole purpose
to digest, and otherwise crush!
A poet needs to be sharp sighted to see
beyond the laurels, anointments,
and herding circles,
or he shall meld into it unconsciously—oh,
how easy to adorn the titles, to feel the
comfort of brotherly approval, and the
satisfaction of winning, but winning what,
if not relief from the agony of not having
to stand upright, so alone,
relief from sharp-mindedness itself,
to lull in the soporific, to bathe in the analgesic!
Surrender! whispers the Siren and ye
shall have an audience of friends,
clappers and blurbers
Surrender! whispers the Siren and ye
shall be the very erasure of individuality,
relinquished into unquestioning conformity,
the ultimate dissipation of the prime essence
of what it means to be poet.

Everyday must count until the great void,
everyday battle must be waged against her,
but how to fight—and fight he must or
subtly slide capitulated, decapitated
—the army of dulling colleagues, jabber
and insouciance, surrendered so long ago.
Oh how destroyed they do appear, limping
and hobbling their obesity, here in herds
of acolytic swarming—so many lieutenants lost!

Of course, it was Schneider who indirectly incited me to put a few of my poems up on this blog and to mention the publication of my new chapbook. He’s been a pit-bull critic of my writing. It was like holding a fistful of fresh meat, blood oozing out. Yes, ole Schneider came running to it like a famished mutt, even faster than he usually does. Well, below is the poem Schneider had published in the most recent issue of Fight These Bastards. God, it’s really quite easy to know where to start with this poem, to paraphrase a Schneider comment on my poems. It is perhaps the worst poem in that issue. So, I guess I’ll quote Schneider, who described my poems: “First of all, the message is not a very strong message and definitely not a new message, so in order for that message to mean something it better be convincingly given.” Yes, Schneider, it better be convincingly given! But what is the grand message in the poem below? Not much of anything at all per usual—just an unoriginal Bukowski-wannabe vignette of the lowlife. “So, I look at the quality of the poems themselves. This is the great disappointment,” writes Schneider regarding my poems. Well, I’m not really disappointed in Schneider's poem at all. It makes a good filler piece for a journal with no purpose at all but poesy for the sake of poesy, which is not really the purpose of Fight These Bastards—did Schneider pay for a subscription to get it published? “Artlessness,” says Schneider about my poems. Well, what about the poem below?

The poem below is critical like most of Schneider’s poems, but only critical of faceless characters he either works with or transports in his cab—evidently, intellectually limited in scope. In this case, the poem is entirely disengaged—doesn’t say much at all about society—and critical of a working-class man, one of his colleagues. Its end is typical of Schneider’s poems (and Bukowski’s, though Bukowski is the master, while Schneider the pale imitator): cutesy wit. Schneider excels at vacuous cutesy wit. His comments are riddled with it. Oddly, he argues he doesn’t even like that kind of writing. Perhaps he doesn’t even like the poem below, but his drive to get published pushed him to send it out, right and left and all over the place. His poem is entirely devoid of metaphor, "unimaginative" or not. The character depicted in it is of course “dumb.” Everyone Schneider works with is “dumb.” Schneider is the only smart one at the job… or, on the other hand, since he’s been there for so long, paralyzed and unable to move on, he too might actually be “dumb enough/ and mean enough/ for the job.” How else to explain it? “Newbie,” is that a “schoolboy” word?

Eric was kicked out of Hooters
for saying something
to a waitress

he’s one of our
new cab drivers

he’s dumb enough
and mean enough
for the job

if he’d start
slobbering out
the side of his mouth
he’d be perfect


G. Tod Slone said...

These are the worst poems I've ever read! There's no rhyming, no metaphors, and no cutesy wit. They read like prose! In fact, you're not even a poet! You even use "o'er" and "oh." You're a journalist! [I'm just beating ole pit-bull grudge-holder Mather to the punch! Hahaha.] Happy New Year to ye all! (Oops, I used "ye"!)

Anonymous said...

My opinion: good poems with good messages.

Also, I liked the follow up comment which showed a bit of humor/sarcasm. It surprised me.

Happy New Year to Tod and to all who read his blog. Maybe I should say, I wish a Happier New Year to Tod and to all who read his blog.

mather said...

Happy new year.

Just to clear some things up: I hate rhyme, would never say your poems are the "worst" I've seen and do not advocate "cutesy wit". Also, your poems do use metaphor, however unimaginatively.

God, it's hard to know where to start with these poems of yours. First of all, the message is not a very strong message and definitely not a new message, so in order for that message to mean something it better be convincingly given. So, I look at the quality of the poems themselves. This is the great disappointment. The poems show some pretty obvious characteristics: artlessness (ending poems with three dots, no consistency in language, no sign of the poems having been reread or revised) listlessness (three lines with three words as in "had/been/made") redundancies ("alienated antipodes", "unquestioning comformity") general chaos of adjectives, adverbs and fancy words ("increasingly", "suddenly", "constantly", "acolytic", "adipose") and garbled strings of schoolboy alliteration ("subtly slide capitulated, decapitated...") Any one of these areas would exaust a reviewer, so I'm going to focus on one thing and just ask you this: you say "...but winning what,/if not relief from the agony of not having/to stand upright, so alone..." Do you mean you win relief from the agony of NOT HAVING to stand upright, or should it be the agony of HAVING to stand upright?

G. Tod Slone said...

Thanks Charlotte! As for Schneider's comments, I respond to them in the edited blog.

mather said...

I "indirectly incited" you to put your poems there? That's a typical, vague, ball-less statement, borderline oxymoron. I think your real incitement was to try to sell some of your books. That's like saying my poem was "perhaps" the worst poem in the issue. Make a decision, for christ-sakes.

I was assuming you chose three of the BEST poems to put on your blog, and to compare them to my little poem in FTB is not a very effective argument. Besides, your words against my poem hardly can be defined as "scathing".

By pointing out his dumbness and meanness I was pointing out my own dumbness and meanness, which was the whole point, and is why the poem worked.

To continually give your readers an incomplete and biased history of our argument is riduculous and anyway it's just a way to avoid the things I am saying now.

You said nothing about those confusing lines of yours. I believe you say in that poem exactly the opposite of what you think you are saying, or what you want to say. If I'm wrong, maybe you could clarify my mis-reading.

mather said...

You continually call me "thin-skinned" and it just doesn't make any sense. I am arguing and debating and criticizing here, I am not running away from you, and I am taking criticism from you, but you are still not satisfied. I think it's much better now than our previous relationship, because now we can be honest and not pretend we like each other.

mather said...

Your whole rewritten history of the origin of our argument, no matter how many times you repeat it, remains untrue and meant to make you look like a saint and me some kind of crazy anger-management case, which makes the whole thing irrelevant to what I said about your poems and a pretty obvious recourse to ad hominem. Also, your attack on my poem is ad hominem. You are welcome to critic anything of mine whenever you want, but when you launch into this attack as a direct response to my critic of your poems, that is ad hominem. You are not logically addressing anything I said, merely trying to undermine my authority, character, abilities, etc., albeit in an embarrassingly ineffective way.

mather said...

My response was to address the poems you posted for public scrutiny, and then also because you begged me to say something with your misleading comment, which Charlotte thought was so full of humor. I critiqued your poems without attacking you as a person. Your response to me was to start talking about irrelevancies meant to attack my character. That's what ad hominem IS.

G. Tod Slone said...

Well, actually, I did like you. I wasn't pretending at all. I don't pretend.

The history of the origin of our dispute can easily be proven and was proven in previous comments. I have the emails to prove it.

Thin skinned means you were easily offended by my remarks and will hold a grudge until the day you croak.

Your critique of my poems was a definite attack on my person: "schoolboy".

Apparently, your anger blinds your reading ability. Reread the blog. You did incite me to put my poems up. What, I thought, would delight you the most, if not poems? Putting them up was akin to my standing naked before the henchman. I had no doubt whatsoever that you would attempt to hammer them into pulp. So, I did what most would dare not. Capiche, pobrecito?

I have admitted on this very blog that I do use ad hominem rhetoric. But, I also stated that, unlike most people, I make a conscious effort not to use it. So why do you keep repeating that I keep saying I never use it?

Yes, that was such a great successful poem you wrote, Mather!

G. Tod Slone said...

PS: A pit bull never quits! And I suppose that's a compliment. I too have that trait. So, indeed, you and I do share a few things in common.