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, March 6, 2009

Nikki Giovanni

It is an easy thing for so-dubbed “internationally acclaimed writers” like Soyinka, Gordimer, and Coetzee, to decry the incarceration of writers abroad, but a very difficult one for them to decry the inherent corruption of the diverse hands feeding them cash, prizes and accolades here in the USA.
—P. Maudit

Dear Pen Staff (Michael Roberts, Executive Director; M. Mark, Editor Pen America; Caro Llewellyn, PEN World Voices Festival Director; Stacy Leigh, Readers & Writers and Open Book Director; Anna Kushner, Freedom to Write Coordinator; Sarah Hoffman, Freedom to Write Associate; David Haglund, Managing Editor, PEN America; Alena Graedon, Executive Assistant; Nick Burd, Literary Awards Program Manager; Linda Morgan, Development Director; Larry Siems, Freedom to Write and International Programs Director; Stefanie Simons, Readers & Writers Associate; Jackson Taylor, Prison Writing Program Director; Elizabeth Weinstein, Public Programs Associate; Michael Welch, Planning and Finance Director):

Having just read an article by Chinese dissident Ma Jian, I thought of you and decided to write in the hope that perhaps one of you would actually respond… and not simply in the polite bureaucratic sense, as in an out of office autoreply. [Of course, not one of them would ever respond!]

“There is little need for literary censors these days,” noted Ma Jian, regarding China. “The writers have learnt to do a proficient job of censoring themselves.” With that regard, how not to think of America and her proficient self-censoring poets and writers? Why did PEN America seem to avoid that egregious reality? By pointing almost always to injustice abroad, it seemed to be acting as a propaganda arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It possessed a Freedom to Write and International Programs Director, but not a Freedom to Write and National Programs Director.

Last August, I wrote Pen New England, which chose not to respond. In vain, I’d brought to its attention the fact that here in Massachusetts, as a highly critical dissident author and publisher, I had been ostracized and was being punished. The Concord Cultural Council, for example, enacted—because of me—a new provision excluding from public funding any proposal it subjectively deemed to be of a “political nature.” The Massachusetts Cultural Council simply refused to respond to my questions. For example, why did it fund Agni, which was published by Boston University, a private institution with over one-billion dollars in its endowment fund, while refusing to accord any monies at all to The American Dissident, the journal I publish?

Also, in America, as I’m sure PEN was aware, writers could indeed be arrested and incarcerated. For example, I was arrested and incarcerated in Concord for a day, yet all I'd done was speak freely (www.theamericandissident.org/WaldenPondStateReservation.htm). Surely, other American writers, not of the "internationaly acclaimed" variety, had much more serious tales to divulge. Sadly, Pen of New England didn’t seem to give a damn about mine. What about PEN America?

On another—though really always the same—matter, as a rare dissident poet at the Festival International de la Poesie de Trois-Rivieres (Quebec) in 2001, I was highly critical of that festival’s management and had not been invited back since. Management oddly, or perhaps not, prohibited debate during the festival, while invited poets, both Canadian and international, lamely acquiesced. In the context of its Pen segment, I was even invited as a known dissident to read a translation of a Kenule Saro-Wiwa poem I’d prepared. Needless to say, I’d end up sending a complaint to Pen Quebec, which simply did not respond. In 2004, I mentioned this to Pen America, which responded with hollow empathy: “In general, we at the PEN America Center have no involvment [sic] with events that take place in Canada. It sounds like your experience has been unfortuanate [sic].”

I’d also asked how I might become a PEN member, so that I could help bring to light the rampant, though often subtle, censorship existent in America, thanks to its army of obsequious writers, academics, and other luminaries. PEN responded thusly: “Regrading [sic] your query about joining PEN, currently membership is by nomination (either internal or external) and is entirely voluntary.” Well, that didn't sound very democratic at all.

Being a harsh critic of poets, writers, editors and academics in America, I now found myself unable to find full-time employment as a professor of English. When employed at American colleges and universities, I tended to “go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all ways” (Emerson). For that, I now found myself at the end of the line. On another note, the Academy of American Poets, sponsor of National Poetry Month, censored and banned me from participating in its forums a year and a half ago. With that regard, I’d contacted each of its tenured-professor chancellors, each of whom evidently favored censorship (www.theamericandissident.org/AcademyAmericanPoets.htm). More recently, InsideHigherEd.com censored my comments.

Finally, Ma Jian wrote: “A savvy young Chinese writer who spoke in London recently was asked about his views on the Tiananmen massacre. He said with a self-satisfied smirk that he was asleep in bed when it took place, and that he never joined the marches because he found them exhausting. There is a word in Chinese that describes this attitude: xiaosa. It means imperturbable, detached, nonchalant. This carefree denial of the meaningful role of an artist in society is a blight that inflicts great numbers of China's unofficial cultural elite.”

Again, how not to think of America and her OFFICIAL cultural elite (e.g., multimillionaire Toni Morrison), funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and promoted by, amongst others, the Library of Congress and Academy of American Poets? Hopefully, Ma Jian would become aware of the hypocrisy here in America before some American university ended up purchasing his soul. Indeed, American universites were quite adept at the art of soul purchasing. Think of Beatniks Ginsberg and Snyder, as well as dissident foreigners Yevtushenko, Wole Soyinka, and Dennis Brutis. As for Nikki Giovanni, another PEN-favored writer, she made a blatantly racist statement, though of PC variety, that “Black students will inevitably run into some white classmates who are troubling because they often say stupid things, ask stupid questions and expect an answer.” I challenged her on it. She remained silent.


mather said...

The quotes from the chinaman were great, or is that a racist word? Giovanni has always bored me, have you ever read her books? Black and hip, white and hip, okydoke, and black students never ask stupid questions.

mather said...

It's boring when you restate the same injustices all the time, which have been well documented. Your point is well taken, however. I think of how Raymond Carver, who I like a lot, was accepted like a sacred child into the academic world, but Bukowski was not. Why? Many of their stories seem almost to be written by the same person, but one was hated and one was adored.

G. Tod Slone said...

No, I haven't read Giovanni. She gave me no reason at all (via inspiring words of wisdom) to do so.

If it's boring that I state the same injustices, then I shall have to find some new ones for you. Just the same, those injustices I refer to never did have resolutions, which is why they are always present. They also will always seek to illustrate points made.

Carver admired Bukowski and wrote a poem or two about him. I used to like Carver, but then found his stories got all too predictable and he was never critical of the bourgeois hand that fed him. Bukowski on the other hand could be quite quite critical. Bukowski was not entirely rejected by Academe. Locklin, a lifer academic, embraced him. He is on the Academy of American Poets website and in a number of the academic literary anthologies. That story of rejection has become a myth today. Carver seemed to write just like Andre Dubus. There was a kind of formula involved to the writing. It became his money vein to always write in the same manner. That kind of thing serves to stultify writers and artists.

G. Tod Slone said...

Regarding my repetitive injustices, Bukowski could, as you well know, be the most repetitive of persons regarding his sexcapades and horse races. That is why I no longer read his books with delight. Instead, I race through them looking for the one or two poems out of 200 that might be of interest.

mather said...

Yes, once you read Carver's stories they become predictable. Once you read anyone's stories they become predictable. I think there is that one poem by Carver about a party where Bukowski was threatening to throw people out of a window. You Don't Know What Love Is...? It was obvious that Carver admired him, yes. But, Carver received guggenhiems and other awards that Bukowski didn't. Yes, Locklin is an academic, ok, but Carver was a regular in the god damned New Yorker for christ sake.

Don't know Andre Dubus, I'll look him up.

mather said...

Yes, Bukowski repeated himself endlessly, I too find most of it boring. The early two or three books were the ones that did it for me.

mather said...

Your drawing is good, the kind of cancer-victim-look she has, droopy eyes, hair-falling-out, like a lot of your characters, seems to capture the mood. It's a style that seems to come from the subject itself: sick.

G. Tod Slone said...

Actually Bukowski WAS a Guggenheim fellow! He drove around in a new BMW. Carver drove around in a jalopy. No matter. I'd done that toon five years ago or so. I'm now striving for more accuracy in the faces, so those whom I satirize can easily recognize themselves. I'll reread the blog, perhaps change things. I always do that. Sometimes I get too anxious and shoot something up that wasn't quite ready.

mather said...

Well, I'm not a certified researcher, but to read Buk's and Carver's biographies you'd think just the opposite. I didn't know Buk got a guggenheim. But you're right: no matter. To me your faces are recognizable, the only time I don't recognize them is when I don't know them.

G. Tod Slone said...

En fait, t'as eu ben raison. You're right. I cut the repetitive injustices down. See, I do and can listen and even effect changes due to the critique.

mather said...

Giovanni's poems are messy, prosy piles of crap, the kind of stuff that the academy would laugh off if she wasn't such an efficient brown-noser, and negroid of course.

Any new word on your battle with Shaulis or is that over?

G. Tod Slone said...

Shaulis has evaporated. He will likely not contact me again.
Yes, color is very important in the Academy! Having the correct diversity is far more important than truth. As mentioned, I've read probably well over 1000 job ads for English professors over the past years. Not once have I ever come across the word TRUTH. And almost always I've come across the word DIVERSITY. That's what the 60s hippies brought us: DIVERSE FALSITY.
It's your call. Again, I'm open to having you write a harsh criticism of The AD and me for next issue. There's still 2 months left before I send out to the printer's.

mather said...

First I've heard of a critique of AD...Did I miss something?

G. Tod Slone said...

That was probably the third time I made the proposal.

From: George Slone todslone@yahoo.com
To: mathereider@cox.net
Sent: Thursday, January 22, 2009 5:12:45 PM
Subject: The American Dissident
Send me a two-page resume of your endless harangue against me AND The American Dissident so I can publish it in next issue. Use as much of it as you can from your blog posts. If you choose not to, then I will have to create a compilation… and you just might not like the order of sentences chosen. I’ll give you two full pages. Take your time. Thank you.
G. Tod

mather said...

That was written a while ago, obviously you were still hot, and maybe you still are. I don't want to write something up like that. Go ahead and compile something if you want, I'm not ashamed of anything I wrote.

I've still got that "Shirt" critique waiting for you...

G. Tod Slone said...

No, I'm not in the least angry and am happy we're both still "talking" to one another, though via this blog. I never was angry. You were angry, not I! Maybe I'll compile something then. It is time consuming to do that and nobody of course appreciates it. I did it with Ed. The "Shirt" as you know didn't do it for me.

mather said...

I was joking about The Shirt...I was thinking of writing a critique of Thieves Jargon. If I wrote it would you be willing to look at it?

G. Tod Slone said...

Yeah, I'd definitely be willing to look at it. BUT I don't want to battle over it, as we did with the "SHIRT"!

mather said...

Ok, fair enough.

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