A Forum for Vigorous Debate, Cornerstone of Democracy

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A FORUM FOR FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND VIGOROUS DEBATE, CORNERSTONES 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

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

For Wont of an Engaged Focus, Self-Vaunt and Boast Hackneyed “Excellence”

Irreverence is the champion of liberty and its only sure defense... Independence is loyalty... to ones self and ones best principles, and this is often disloyalty to the general idols and fetishes...
—Mark Twain

As part of my ongoing experiment testing the waters of democracy in Academe, this blog entry (wwwtheamericandissidentorg.blogspot.com) was fashioned for the Creative Writing Program of the University of Oregon. Karen Ford, the director of the program, is urged to bring it to the attention of faculty members and students in the hope of instigating a little debate! The entry was inspired by my perusal of the Northwest Review website (www.uoregon.edu/~nwreview). The satirical cartoon arose from that site and might even be considered an unappreciated “hybrid form” (that seems to be one of the literary in-terms of the day), where engaged criticism is melded into art. It is likely far too “honest” and far too “unforgettable” for the review to publish.

What renders NWR quite unoriginal and sadly typical of academic literary journals are the self-serving comments of its purported greatness: “Among the nation's oldest and most esteemed literary reviews.” Well, I don’t “esteem” it at all. But I’m not a card-carrying member of the academic-literary established order that gets to do the official esteeming, kind of like the former Soviet Writers Union had done in the old USSR.

“The only criterion for acceptance of material for publication in Northwest Review is that of excellence,” notes the website, sadly however failing to define the term. Likely, most likely indeed, “excellence” as defined by the literary establishment is but a simple euphemism for “bourgeois acceptability”? “Excellence” is certainly not an objective term when applied to art and literature, though NWR certainly implies that it is. Besides, who ordained its staff to be the judges of “excellence”?

Finally, it is my humble opinion that not one English professor at the University of Oregon would dare display “disloyalty to the general idols and fetishes,” spoon fed to them by the academic-literary established order. What a bleak picture that paints of U. of O.! My experience has sadly supported the hypothesis that university English professors in America are essentially indifferent to such debate, intolerant to criticism, and entirely incapable of thinking out of the established-order box that pays them so nicely for that lack of capacity.

24 comments:

mather said...

Another example among hundreds of examples that prove your point...As you know, this kind of inbreeding and idol worship extends all the way down into the lower levels of the small press. I just read on Christopher Cunningham's blog where Father Luke has dubbed Cunningham and McCreesh "heroes of our time". And he thanks them for it. They are knights in shining fucking armor. Both of these guys cite American Dissident as their first publications. Look what has happened to them...One problem as I see it: when someone starts actually BELIEVING that they are great, or that they alone know what "excellence" is, it's all over...So many writers reach a point where they feel they are above criticism, and anyone who does criticism them at that point is simply a "troll" or a "douchebag", or simply, of course, "jealous"...

mather said...

I love the title of this toon, the concept, composition and the faces too! Those sad cancer countenances are your trademark! Their living death is show in their expressions.

G. Tod Slone said...

Please give me that blog URL. I want to check it out. It is difficult for me to believe what you say about it. Yes, you and I certainly agree on what happens when you criticize what should not be criticized. Hey, that's a beautiful description of the toons, the cancerous pusses. Thank you, Mather! BTW, I was reading two of your poems last night, standing in B & N. Hanging Loose mag (So now that you've gone on to bigger and better and "excellent," you too can say you were published in The AD). So imagine that, you are sitting in Burlington, MA... on the shelf with the Pinksys, Doves, and Angelous... and maybe even McCreeshes! BTW, Mc was a bouncer, a big brauny guy. I don't know if I've ever been sitting in Albuquerque, NM. “You have no place to sleep?” bellows some dude on cellphone who wandered over to where I was standing, as if I were a ghost, and interrupting my reading of your second poem. “Actually, I sleep in my car,” I say turning around to face him. “I was hoping you were going to offer me a place.” He chuckles, though a bit surprised to realize I existed. How strange this new cellphone generation! Earlier, I had a battle with some baldheaded cretin (ad hominem!)who was tailgating me, then honking hatred at me. In the lot, I got out of the car, walked across the lot, thinking it could be my last moment on the planet, right up to his shiny red, brand new truck. Fortunately for me, he turned out to be a young short guy w/o gun. "Why don't you get a haircut," he said to me. "Why don't you grow some hair," I said to him. Insanity. I know, I need to get my head examined for doing that. Something takes over in me and before I know it I'm on automatic pilot. BTW, not one of those English profs responded! Surprise! I've actually been corresponding with the editor of Agni. I did a toon on him and sent it to him and to my surprise, he actually responded. He's a full-time salaried editor, not a prof.

mather said...

Cunningham's blog is savageheavens.blogspot.com. Father Luke speaks about them being "heroes" in one of the most recent comments.

You can also visit Nibble Poetry Magazine website for more self vaunting and backslapping by the same crowd. In case you're wondering why there's no negative feedback or criticism of any kind on either site is because it's deleted immediately.

McCreesh doesn't have a website, but the two of them talk about their American Dissident history here: literarymary.com/forum/index.php?topic=10078.msg103890#msg103890.

They also appear frequently on the Bukowski.net forum, which they use to drum up admirers. I started paying attention to Cunningham, McCreesh, Barrett, etc. because the production quality of their books appears to be very high, (bottle of smoke press, sunnyoutside press), but the pretentiousness just wore me out and I found I could not join their club.

Funny you saw my poems in a journal...around here we would never have Hanging Loose just on the periodical shelf at the bookstore. Different world.

Funny also that you never told me what you thought of the poems. But I can guess...

mather said...

I had a run-in with three bored thugs in the park the other day just because I was walking and they decided I was someone to fuck with. They were probably nineteen years old, all of them over six feet tall, perfect health. Two of them, surprise, were black, the other a black-wannabe. They decided they didn't like me and started muttering, which slowly got louder as I walked past them: "FUCKIN' CROW-WALKIN' BITCH, LOOK AT 'IM! BITCH, YOU BETTER KEEP WALKIN!" Then they started singing: "HOMIE WITH THE UGLY HAT ON! HOMIE WITH THE UGLY HAT ON...!" I had on an old straw hat. I wasn't going to try to face down all of three of them. I just kept walking, the middle-aged coward, shame in my face like a bee-sting. When alone people don't do things like this, only within a group...

Today I went out and bought a new hat.

Funny about Agni. I just ten minutes ago got an electronic rejection from them.

G. Tod Slone said...

Thanks much for the info. I'll check it all out, activate myself. Well, your poems were good. They are well-written vignettes. I couldn't really find anything in Hanging Loose, however, that made it different from any other magazines. And I did hunt. In fact, I cannot remember what the cover was, which likely meant it wasn't memorable.
See, the key was my longhair and your hat. Wear or look at all different from the assembly line joes and it freaks them out.
Well, I don't think your walking away was at all cowardly, given the odds and the imbecility of the remarks. Cretins like that often have loaded guns with them. And you're also right--it's the group that turns them into vultures on the hunt for easy meat. It is the intense pressure not to appear different that irritates me. I have to fight it. Hell, I could cut my hair and look like everyone else. But I fight it. You need to put that old hat back on and say fuckem. It's what makes you and I different from the herd.
As for Agni, the fellow oddly has written back three more times in response to my comments. Usually, I never get a human response from a high-end aca lit review. Basically, I suggested it might be of interest to him to actually parlay with someone like me at direct antipodes. A certain "tone" must be injected into the writing for you to stand an even remote chance of having something published by Agni. Personally, I'm not quite sure what it is, but am certain there's something bourgeois to it. The guy who wrote a book on Orwell and Waugh recently mentioned it. He said, for example, that liberals were willing to listen to William Buckley, a staunch conservative, because he had the same tone as they did. In other words, he too went to an ivy-league joint. Orwell had always tried to fit in with the working class crowd. But he had an upper class accent and mannerisms, so always he failed. The workers would instinctively address him as "sir" (or some similar term), even though he was as blackened by the coal dust as they were. So, I would be very surprised if ever a mag like Agni published one of your poems... or one of my essays. As I've always said, the tone is the message is the tone. How the hell could a German living in Germany told Hitler in the right tone that he was screwing up the country? Not possible!

G. Tod Slone said...

I checked it out, though very quickly. Not my cup of tea at all. I don't like all that self promotion and babble a la Bukowski about oh, yeah, well that poem of mine was published in Rattle a few years ago and oh, you like that poem, it was published in the Tarp. But somehow, isn't that what you want or wanted? Wonder why ole Hosho stopped contacting me. No matter. Onwards said the walking deadman to the other walking deadman. Miserable, rainy, cold day today and I gots to kick myself in the rump for a run down Harrington Avenue where the turkeys gobble and the swamp monster (see my photo) loom.

mather said...

Thanks for the compliment about my "vignettes". I don't like anything else I see in Hanging Loose, never have. They really like Sherman Alexie, Hollywood Indian. I have no idea why they publish me, although I did get a note one time from one of the editors who said he couldn't wait for their "school-teacher readers" to read my poems. They have published four of five of my poems. They pay me ten dollars a pop, ha ha...

Speaking of getting rich...I got a THREE DOLLAR CHECK from Fight These Bastards...not sure how to spend it.

You're probably right about Agni and many others, but usually once a year I send a submission to some big magazines which are RUMORED to be more open minded, such as MISSOURI REVIEW, AGNI and ANTIOCH. Are they different? No... But I generally dislike small journals as much as large journals, net zines and staple jobs, they're all about as bad, boring and humorless. AD is the only "different" journal I've ever come across.

It drives me crazy that you can't get more people posting on the blog, I really don't understand that because I know there are thousands of blog-hounds who disagree with you. In general people are very mouthy and free-swinging on the net from what I've seen, and yet no one comes here with it...strange. Many places delete negative comment, and here you not only refuse to delete it but you actively invite it, and still no one writes. What's your site meter like?

mather said...

Yes, a part of me wants what those guys have...but as you can see it is not the whole of me that wants it or I would have had it by now. I am forty years old and have never done it yet...no self promotion beyond the submission process...I have had no interviews, write-ups, blogs, websites, self-published books, fliers, press-releases, etc. and I have not sought them out. I don't tell people how great I am or allow my friends to say it either. I am not great.

My problem with people like Cunningham and McCreesh is not that their poetry is worse than anything else that's being written, or even that they are worse writers than I am. My problem is that they are not NEARLY as good as they claim to be. They expect accolades that they have not earned. This is pretty much the definition of pretentiousness.

Have a good run. Yesterday I went for a three hour (35 mile) bicycle ride in the 101 degree heat. Was so wiped out afterwards I could barely talk.

G. Tod Slone said...

OK, now I'm getting jealous! $10 a pop! Thanks much for comment on "poor" and "low" (NEA) AD. I too can use a good compliment now and then. I didn't know FTB are actually paying now. I think you'd like the front cover the new AD out in two weeks or so. I did it on NewPages.com. This way I will actually send a copy to them and ask if they'd consider listing The AD. Perhaps they'll threaten lawsuit because I did it so you can easily recognize Casey Hill and wife Denise Hill, the publishers. I thought, that's a good idea. I'll feature someone real on each front cover then shoot it out to them. It was a choice this time between NP and the pres. of the Amer Assoc of Univ Profs. Well, I just suck at marketing... really bad. Hell, I'd be open to having guest bloggers blog here too. Oh well. No matter. But I have to tell you I really got turned off quickly by C's blog. I killed it almost right away. I better not say any more bec. maybe c & h will stop mentioning they were pub. in The AD. Hell, that's about my only advertising. I think what you said is on target. They prefer pretending I don't exist. Never looked at the site meter. Not even sure how to do it. You're right about people deleting the negative. That disgusts me, especially when it's an academic based thing like Acad of Amer Poetlings. I also think some people just don't want to spend the time reading and commenting. Others are sensitive, fearful of saying something stupid or even nasty.
It's good you have that point of honesty to admit that you'd like some of the action. I suppose we all would. But you know that moment of glory is so ephemeral. I had two books published this year and was the semester poet at Endicott College and, sure I felt glory but only for a moment. With the books, I'm often amazed how little satisfaction I feel. When I get something published in a mag, I look at my poem, skim through the rest and that's it. A momentary high (20 min!), then so what. I'm sure different people react differently to "success." For me, death is the great obnubilator. I know that all I do now will soon be entirely irrelevant. Why therefore do? That's a question that's been plaguing me from day one. I do however feel a void when I'm not working on something, a toon, an essay, a poem, whatever. Void. An unpleasant emptiness, uselessness.
Hey, that bike ride sounds beautiful. I've forgotten that 101-105 degree heat like in Louisiana. I used to love it. Here, it was 55 and rainy all day. I wore a longsleeve shirt.
Well, it's good talking with you, man. I don't know why we have such battles. But it's good we can drift out of them, stand up, and shake them off. Today, I feel useless. I'm just watching DVD films on the laptop. I don't even feel like reading. I take them out from the library. Time for another ship. I liked what Buk said "On Fame." Good poem on that site you gave me.

G. Tod Slone said...

Clearly, I’ve invited scores of professors and even students to comment here. Not one has yet deigned to do so. Clearly, they are stuck in their particular established-order box, one that does not value vigorous debate and clash of opinions. Their box values backslapping and self congratulating, overall happy-face positivism, careerism, networking, ladder-climbing, and unquestioning reverence for the icons and canon spoon fed to them. Evidently, I failed to get any of them to think outside that box. After all, I am not a miracle worker.

mather said...

"obnubilator"? That word is not in my dictionary...

I just think it's strange because on some of these other forums they seem to have to fight the negative commentors off with a stick. Maybe it's because you are talking mainly about print journals and most internet people don't know anything about print journals...many of them seem to think literature, and life, started with the web.

I thought everyone who has a web site looked at their site meteras a amtter of course...Christopher Cunningham told me in a since-deleted comment on his blog: "And while you're at it you can stop coming to the site every day, the site meter doesn't lie." He was trying to embarrass me I guess, as if I was sneaking around and he had caught me! Har har!

Charlotte W. said...

(I suppose what I am going to add here could be considered off topic about a blog entry about Univeristy of Oregon, but the comments usually stray from the topic so I will do that too this time. Its sort of related in some ways.)Whenever I see notices of authors/poets who are giving readings in Iowa City, home of the University of Iowa's Writers Workshop, I try to find contrasting reviews of their published books or even different views about specific published poems.

I can rarely find anything critical. Its hard to believe that some authors even get published but even harder to believe that there have not been any critical reviews on the work of some who do readings here. If there are critical reviews, I sure can't find them.

Today I was trying to find different opinions on writings of Mary Swander who is the current Poet Laureate of Iowa. She will be reading from her new book, "The Girls on the Roof" which was reported to be a poetic novella. I noticed from her webpage that she got her MFA from the University of Iowa's Writer's Workshop, a blazing red flag as far as I'm concerned.

http://www.maryswander.com/

Have any of the "dissident" readers of this blog ever submitted reviews on any published work on either Barns and Noble or Amazon? It seems like that could be a place to express and share alternative opinions on published work that is being sold on those sites.

G. Tod Slone said...

Well, you do what every good writer should do... and I fear so many don't. Try this: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/obnubilation. I probably created a neologism out of obnubilate to incarnate the term into a type of person. I think the likely reason why so few ever come to this site is simple failure at marketing coupled with the subject, which is not very interesting to established-order writers and hacks. No, I've yet to look at the site meter. I've been belittled by the likes of NewPages.com, which boasted huge numbers of visitors compared to The AD. In America, Quantity always beats quality!
You've definitely hit on a reality, Charlotte! Most reviews are written to promote. America has been ridding itself of the critical in favor of the happy face, as I'm sure you know. "Poetic novella" sounds like a nightmare to me. I'll have to take a look at her stuff and maybe do a review... unless of course Mather would like to give it a whirl. By "red flag" do you mean communist? It would be a good idea to give Amazon a whirl just to see what its restrictions might be regarding reviews. Good idea!

Charlotte W. said...

Tod, you asked "By "red flag" do you mean communist?"

Though I think you may be joking, perhaps the "red flag" reference was not used much where you have lived.

In case you were serious, I think the common use of "waving a red flag" may have come from how bullfighters try to enrage their bull-victims by waving a red flag.

As with some of my other hot button issues, just the mention of the UI Writers Workshop is like waving a red flag to get my quick and skeptical attention.

Charlotte W. said...

Tod, I sure agree with you when you said,

"Poetic novella" sounds like a nightmare to me.I felt the same way when I read that description of the book.

G. Tod Slone said...

Actually, I wasn't joking, Charlotte. So, thanks for the clarification. I am right now examining Swander's website, thanks to your tip. Ugh. She appears to be everything a poet ought not to be--oh, but of course: political appointee, "distinguished" professor, comfy job secure, utterly contented, National Public Radio PC-matron, etc. Okay, I'm going to do a cartoon satire on her and post it as the next blog and next experiment in democracy and send it off to the deaf ears and blind eyes of her English-department colleagues.

Charlotte W. said...

Tod -- that is great news. I will be very interested to see what you create.

The UI Writers Workshop crew might be interested too.

mather said...

I never heard of Mary Swander, which seems astounding to me after I read her bio, wowzers, New Yorker, "Distinguished" professor, media appearances, npr, etc. I couldn't find any examples of her work on her site, big surprise. No doubt she has been advised that to give your writing away on a free website is to devalue it.

I look at her face there and I can already see Tod's rendering...I look forward to the toon.

G. Tod Slone said...

Well, I'm not quite sure what to do with her yet. The problem with these Big Poets (Pinsky, Dove, Hass, the usual suspects) is finding just ONE poem of theirs that even vaguely might be considered BIG. Look at Pinsky. His BIG poem is "The Shirt" or whatever the hell it's called. Mather, you know, you rightfully tore the tidbit apart. So, show me just one Swander poem that would even vagurely merit the prizes and all the "distinguished" horseshite she's been saddled with. Obviously, poetry is at a grand nadir today.

G. Tod Slone said...

The other day I noticed on the shelf of a local library, Bedford Public Library, which refuses to even consider subscribing to The AD, an $8 pamphlet production of the inaugural poem. $8 for that banal piece of tedium!

mather said...

I did a quick Google and couldn't find any accessible Mary Swander's poems. They're all protected behind her artistic and forgettable bookcovers. I guess you'll have to look her up in the library to find an actual poem.

I haven't seen any new ad hominems up on the page for a while...

mather said...

I see a lot of journals and web zines go down because of "lack of time" or "lack of funds" and I always think of you and your insistence that it is not that expensive to produce a regular, nice looking journal. And you prove it, too. The truth is these people simply lose interest because they were not that passionate about it to begin with. They thought it would be "cool" and "fun" and when they found out otherwise they quit. Every time I see a journal or web zine bite the dust I feel good about it.

G. Tod Slone said...

Glad you picked up on that, Mather. With just a little work it is not difficult to break even running a journal, that is, if one does not hope to earn a living doing it. PASSION is the key, as you note. Look at FTB editor. I forget his name. It took only one or two years for him to call it quits. I agree with you entirely. I too feel good when one of those mags goes bust. Hey, you had more poems published than me in Endicott Journal! No fair!!! I haven't read them yet, but I will. Glad you got into it. Keep in mind that my comment on passion was censored by Inside Higher Ed.