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, November 15, 2010

Censored! If Henry Could See THEM Now!

The following comment, “Pipe Dream,” was written in response to Ithaca College professor Michael Smith’s Inside Higher Ed article, “If Henry Could See Us Now” (see http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2010/11/02/smith). Sadly and unsurprisingly censored by Inside Higher Ed, which exists to propagate PC and the academic established order. Mention of the censorship incident was sent to History/Ecology professor Michael Smith of Ithaca College. Smith, as good academic, chose to accept the censorship incident and remain silent. Mention was also sent to Ithaca College’s student newspaper and members of Smith’s history department, as well as college president. It is particularly reprehensible that my comment was censored because my comment simply sought to present another side of Thoreau, a side that was not happy-face PC-friendly. Was the truth in my comment rude? Well, isn’t truth always rude when spoken to power?

Pipe DreamThe project to build a replica Thoreau shack on Ithaca College’s campus, as noted in Professor Michael Smith’s article, “If Henry Could See Us Now,” is diversionary. In fact, would Henry really be happy to see college students working with professors to build a replica of his shack? Thoreau was mostly a loner, not a team player. “The gregariousness of men is their most contemptible & discouraging aspect,” he stated. “See how they follow each other like sheep not knowing why.” Individualism is hardly a valued trait on college campuses today.
The president of Ithaca College selected Walden as required reading because the book is entirely “safe” from his perspective. Any number of quotes from Thoreau’s journal entries would have proven far more provocative and thus apt to instigate vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy, though evidently not of academe. How about this quote, for example: “It suggests that the one great rule of composition — and if I were a professor of rhetoric I should insist on this — is to speak the truth.” Imagine if an English professor at Ithaca College, or better yet the president himself, actually encouraged that on campus! It would set the PC myrmidons aflame! It would free the student newspaper!
Emerson noted, regarding Thoreau: “Such dangerous frankness was in his dealing that his admirers, called him ‘that terrible Thoreau’.” Clearly, Thoreau was not the kind of fellow apt to get tenure today. After all, imagine such frankness before the ruling tenured professors and administrators. Thoreau had written: “A cross man, a coarse man, an eccentric man, a silent, a man who does not drill well,—of him there is some hope. Your gentlemen, they are all alike. They utter their opinions as if it was not a man that uttered them.”
That quote evokes the civility mantra suffocating free speech at so many institutions of purported higher learning today.
Imagine, instead of another replica shack—Yes, there’s one at Walden Pond too. I was threatened by a state trooper for leaving my free-speech flyers in it.—, if professors like Michael Smith actually stepped out from the comfortable academic herd to actively test the waters of democracy on their particular campuses by performing experiments in free speech, that is, by daring to speak what in their hearts they damn well know will get them not more carrots, but rather the ire of the reigning academic established order. Imagine, if we could get them to heed Thoreau’s famous dictum: “Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine.” The result would surely be not continued academic censorship and corporatization of higher education, but rather fortified democracy and true appreciation for the First Amendment. Then one might truly and proudly ask: “if Henry could see us now.”

Monday, November 1, 2010

Scott McLemee

The following is the comment I attempted to post. It was, however, censored by Scott McLemee and/or his boss Doug Lederman, editor of Inside Higher Education. The comment pertained to McLemee's article, oddly enough called "Rude Democracy" (see http://www.insidehighered.com/views/mclemee/mclemee311). Note that McLemee boasts of not even holding a college degree. Yet, somehow, he's become a board member and regular columnist at Inside Higher Ed, an online newspaper devoted to matters of higher education. Only the Left could encourage a debate on the topic "Rude Democracy," while simultaneously censoring opinions it doesn't like. Should organs of purported higher education be in the censoring business? It is my humble opinion, as editor of The American Dissident and long-time professor, that they should not be. It is, however, the opinion of the president of the Association of American University Professors, Cary Nelson, that they should be. The Left clamors ad nauseum for civility. But is censorship civil?

Scott McLemee finally comes out of the PC-socialist closet. Bravo! He admits, though only indirectly, that he is not at all an independent journalist, but rather a doctrinaire socialist journalist who marches with the “Socialist Contingent.” “Full disclosure: I was part of this, and joined in chanting ‘We're gonna make Glen Beck cry!’,” he notes. Demonization of the likes of Beck or O’Reilly or Obama, for that matter, is a form of ad hominem which tends to be the way of the indoctrinated—left or right wing. The battle is clear today in America: free speech vs. PC civility (and accompanying censorship). Fox, at least, reports on that battle. And, yes, I tend to watch Fox more than CNN because CNN oozes PC.

These things said, just like McLemee, I’m definitely for “higher taxes for the rich and an end to the wars,” but unlike him I’m also for an end to facile demonization of those who are not for those things, for the creation of work programs for those getting free government housing and money (welfare), including Obama’s African aunt in Boston, and an end to PC tenure in the Humanities.

The problem with CIVILIY that is not mentioned in this article is its fundamental SUBJECTIVITY. Civil for you, McLemee, Herbst, and Lederman, might not be civil for me… and vice versa. That is why democracy demands a First Amendment and why perhaps Inside Higher Ed (IHE), though a private money-making organization, ought to embrace it. Sadly, it does not… or if it does, that embrace is highly superficial.

Susan Herbst is quite right, whereas IHE wrong: “Creating a culture of argument, and the thick skin that goes along with it, are long-term projects that will serve democracy well.” Her stats are of course quite frightening, though not at all surprising to me as a long-time professor: “72 percent of students agreed that it was very important for them always to feel comfortable in class.”

The thought I had the other day would be deemed sexist and thus dismissed… and probably censored. But I’ll evoke it here anyhow in the name of the FIRST Amendment: Have the soccer-mom tenured professors in power today in the Humanities, those women in purple, succeeded over the past several decades to coddle and otherwise cocoon student adults with their Safe Zones et al? Where are they hiding when right-wing student newspapers are burned and speakers heckled off the stage at college campuses across the nation? “Feeling comfortable and unthreatened intellectually is a value many students share,” notes Herbst. But is that really a value? What it does is foster cliquishness and lack of outside opinion and input. It fosters the knee-jerk, anti-Fox mentality.

McLemee has it right here and this is why he despises Beck: “Hence pursuing an argument is taken as very nearly an act of aggression.” BTW, I’m an out-of-the-closet atheist and even watch Beck now and then. Well, uh, I do tend to turn the channel to CNN when he starts spouting his god inanity. Oops, that’s an un-PC statement that might OFFEND and get this comment censored into oblivion in our so-called democracy.

McLemee notes: “The attitude that it's better to stay cool and amused than to risk making arguments or expressing too much ardor—this is not civility. It’s timidity.” But is he not being a grand hypocrite when those like me do express ardor, then are censored by his boss, while he remains silent with regards that censorship?

Finally, my comment regarding Herbst’s IHE essay on civility was censored by IHE. I brought that to Herbst’s attention in an email. Herbst, unsurprisingly or rather hypocritically, did not respond. Since it is perhaps likely that this comment will be censored to spare Herbst the embarrassment, it will be posted on my weblog. Thank you for your attention.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

On "Removing Incompetent Faculty"

Open Letter to Professor Glenn Petersen:Bravo for not writing anonymously. So many professors seem to choose that road today… at the expense of their own dignity. Anyhow, “Removing Incompetent Faculty,” the brief opinion piece you wrote in NEA Higher Education Advocate, struck a little nerve. Of course, by writing such an article, unquestioning and unchallenging academic readers will automatically assume that you must be competent. Yet you fail to even mention a working definition of the term “competent.” From my perspective, as an untenured rude-truth speaking individual, “competent” faculty tend, more than anything else, to be faculty who have learned to turn a blind eye, behave obsequiously (and collegially and without spine), never speak the rude truth, and cleverly rationalize these professional traits. Your 33 years at Bernard Baruch College surely indicate a large measure of such “competence.” By the way, Advocate and Inside Higher Ed censor opinions like mine. Editor John Rosales would likely never permit this opinion to appear in his pages. Are you also an advocate of censorship… from hippie to tenured professor advocate of censorship? Well, you certainly wouldn’t be the only one! Thank you for your attention. BTW, why not get BBC to subscribe to The American Dissident. Students would likely appreciate it, though I don't think faculty would.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Harris Gardner

Harris Gardner, Another Little Caesar CensorAbout a decade ago I met Harris Gardner at the Jack Kerouac Festival in Lowell. I was manning a table for The American Dissident in the small press area. Gardner and Jack Powers were the bosses of that area. I recall Gardner sneering down at a book I had on the table: FUCK MASSACHUSETTS. He chatted with Powers. Both questioned me as to whether they should permit me to keep the book there because, well, it might anger their puppet masters. Gardner is one of thousands of little caesar censors in the literary world. His principle concern is obtaining cash from the state politicos so he can dole it out to his literary cronies.

What of course viscerally disgusts me about Gardner, besides his evident disdain for vigorous debate and democracy, are his hypocritical statements. “The poets are today’s prophets,” he blathers. “Poets should be examples of social consciousness, and awareness.” But awareness of what? The viewpoint discrimination effected by the likes of Harris? And what is social consciousness, being conscious of PC and its nefarious campaign of censorship and indoctrination?

“Poets are social critics, and social criticism is one part of the art,” he states, while excluding me from his National Poetry Month because of my evident rude-truth social criticism. But for Harris some social criticism is clearly taboo because it inevitably denounces his ilk.

“Political poetry is only a problem when it becomes a rant,” he continues. Rant, of course, is key! Anything apt to expose Gardner's hypocrisy would have to be dismissed as RANT!

“If it is done well, it still is poetry,” he states. Done well? But according to whom? The real-estate-broker, friend-of-the-Chamber-of-Commerce Gardner?

“You can have political poetry that uses metaphor without shaking a fist in someone’s face,” he argues. But how not to “shake a fist” in his face? And who would want to hide the fist behind metaphor?

To be invited to read at the Boston National Poetry Month Festival, one has to actually pass Gardner’s “audition,” as he terms it! Am I fucking dreaming? How did it ever get so rotten in the world of poetry? Where the fuck are the other barbarians? With flaccid bagel-bards like Gardner at the helm, the barbarians should be storming the gates in hoards!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Cary Nelson

CENSORSHIP and the President of the AAUP
The history of intellectual growth and discovery clearly demonstrates the need for unfettered freedom, the right to think the unthinkable. Discuss the unmentionable, and challenge the unchallengeable. To curtail free expression strikes twice at intellectual freedom for whoever deprives another of the right to state unpopular views necessarily also deprives others of the right to listen to those views. [...] If a university is a place for knowledge, it is also a special kind of small society. Yet it is not primarily a fellowship, a club, a circle of friends, a replica of the civil society outside it. Without sacrificing its central purpose. It cannot make its primary and dominant value the fostering of friendship, solidarity, harmony, civility, or mutual respect. To be sure, these are important values; other institutions may properly assign them the highest, and not merely a subordinate priority; and a good university will seek and may in some significant measure attain these ends. But it will never let these values, important as they are, override its central purpose. We value freedom of expression precisely because it provides a forum for the new, the provocative, the disturbing, and the unorthodox. Free speech is a barrier to the tyranny of authoritarian or even majority opinion as to the rightness or wrongness of particular doctrines of thoughts.
—Woodward Report to the Fellows of the Yale Corporation (1975), which set a standard for freedom of expression at Yale and for the rest of the nation

Inside Higher Ed, an online academic publication, has been CENSORING my voice for several years (see http://www.theamericandissident.org/InsideHigherEd.htm). There’s not much a staunch individual like me can do to contest incidents of censorship. Last year, I informed Cary Nelson, tenured English professor and president of the AAUP, that my opinion regarding his IHE essay had been censored. Nelson did not respond. Yet, Nelson is the author of No University Is an Island: Saving Academic Freedom. That's right: SAVING ACADEMIC FREEDOM! So, how does he define academic freedom? The freedom to be PC indoctrinated? The freedom to CENSOR and condone CENSORSHIP?
Thus, I satirized Nelson in the above cartoon. The only thing a lone free-speech advocate can do against the Nelsons (and Ledermans) is satire and posting blog entries. Fortunately, posting such entries enables recusant voices like mine to be "heard" on the Internet. Thus, when someone googles Doug Lederman (editor of InsideHigherEd.com) or Cary Nelson, he or she will eventually find my CENSORED opinion. Both of those fellows, if they had it their way, would likely desire to "filter" or "moderate" all such opinions on the Internet. Thankfully, they do not yet have their way. One day, I suspect, however, they will have their way as the cloud of PC Big Brother and Big Sister gets larger and larger.

Both Lederman and Nelson have been duly informed about this blog entry. Below is the harsh comment I tried unsuccessfully posting on Inside Higher Ed regarding Nelson’s self-serving, book plugging essay, “Solidarity vs. Contingency” (see http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2010/09/07/nelson), which makes him appear to be on the side of the “working” academic and further enhance his “tenured radical” image. But he is one of those riding on the comfy bullet-proof academic gravy train, a "successful" academic ladder climber. The comment below contains no threats, no four-letter words, and no pornographic images. It is thanks to the Ledermans and Nelsons that higher education has become anything but an arena for vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy.

Inside Higher Ed Censored Comment

It is difficult to believe in the sincerity of a Cary Nelson who perhaps earns upwards of $100,000 per year as a full-time tenured English professor at a big university teaching perhaps six measly courses per year, if that. It is indeed difficult to believe in an academic ladder climber, who once was a hippie. Indeed, how facile for Nelson to proclaim solidarity and equity, while enjoying what inequity and lack of solidarity have accorded him as a professor over the years: a life-time pass on the ivory-tower gravy train. Would Nelson be willing to scale down to the $20K per year those like me earn as adjuncts? Doubtfully. Would he be willing to give up just half his big salary, teach a few more courses, and spread the cash equally amongst adjuncts at his particular university? Now, that would be more than mere socialist feel-good jabber!
“Why congratulate ourselves for selling out?” asks Nelson, though I’m not convinced he realizes the depth of that selling out. And how to trust someone like Nelson who will not even stand up to decry censorship in academe? The last comment I’d posted regarding one of his articles was censored, and in vain I’d brought that to his attention. Nelson simply did not respond. Was I, an unconnected adjunct, simply naïve in thinking he might respond?
Nelson’s proclamation is as unrealistic and unattainable as it gets. The future is not in tenure and the cocoon security and salary that tenure affords professors. The future is online and the future is adjunct. I am happy with that situation because if it did not exist I would be without employment today. The Nelsons would certainly not be writing me three letters of recommendation or otherwise backing my quest for tenure. The AAUP and state college union stood idly by when I once fought corruption in the ranks.
Nelson’s comparison of adjuncts with sharecroppers is pitiful nonsense. Adjuncts are educated, while sharecroppers clearly were not. Adjuncts do not toil in unsanitary, menial, and physically exhausting hardcore labor. Adjuncts can seek employment in other spheres, while sharecroppers generally were stuck. Nelson belittles the tough life of sharecroppers by making such a comparison! One would have to believe that he’s never known the tough life of physical labor.
Unfortunately, I could not bring myself to finish reading Nelson’s lengthy article, stopped where he plugs his book, and wondered what he’ll be doing with the cash from book sales. Will he be refurbishing his little wainscoted luxury apartment or expensive home?
The problem with academic freedom is that tenure tends to be granted to those who would never speak out of line to begin with. In other words, it tends to be wholly unnecessary. Tenure tends to be awarded to those who play the game—to those who kowtow to the department chairperson Nelsons in power. I’ve seen it. I know it. Tenure has become in itself a rot in the heart of democracy, for it is a sham, a risible front. With all the tenured professors in the nation’s colleges and universities, how not to wonder why free speech and vigorous debate, democracy’s cornerstones, seem ever to be in peril in those very colleges and universities (see thefire.org). Indeed, it seems the tenured professors themselves are bent on keeping it that way. Yes, students, burn and steal those conservative newspapers! Yes, students, heckle that conservative speaker so he can no longer be heard! We’re in full solidarity with you. A-men.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Craig Teicher

To: craig@craigmorganteicher.com
Cc: admin@pw.org; calif@pw.org; directory@pw.org; friends@pw.org; advertising@pw.org; editor@pw.org; webmaster@pw.org; info_services@pw.org; rwny@pw.org; calif@pw.org; wex@pw.org; areditor@pacbell.net; mossotti@siu.edu; melissabroder@gmail.com; kubrickpoems@gmail.com; freelancewrite.guide@about.com; maryotte@riseup.net; klarimer@pw.org; mgannon@pw.org; spettypiece@pw.org; jhartig@pw.org
Sent: Sun, September 5, 2010 8:18:42 AM
Subject: Craig Teicher

To Craig Teicher,
You are featured in this week's American Dissident blog entry: http://wwwtheamericandissidentorg.blogspot.com/2010/09/craig-teicher.html. The good thing about the Internet and blogging is that people like me can voice opinions that people like you would normally CENSOR. Moreover, those opinions do appear when people like you are GOOGLED.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Arnie Danielson

Too Old for Democracy
Excerpt from Fierce Contention: Conversations with the Established Order
And Other Parodias de Discursos and Diálogos con Sordos

Into the darkness I’d shot some poems. I did that periodically, though certainly not widely and often. It was a means, amongst others, of testing the waters. An email arrived, announcing in so many words that my poems had been placed into the trash bucket. No problem. The Greater Brockton Society for Poetry and the Arts was probably no different at all from the myriad of other poetry and arts societies found all over the country to form one monstrously contented bourgeois smile. It had chosen a handful of poets to perform in front of X. J. Kennedy like a bevy of begging court jesters. Kennedy was chosen to be the judge. And indeed what better judge of bourgeois poetry than the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters award recipient for light verse. That’s right, light verse. Kennedy’s poems had appeared in more than one hundred fifty textbooks and anthologies! How much more established-order innocuous could a poet possibly get? Hell, he’d even been on the Today Show, Good Morning America, and Garrison Keillor’s radio programs.

Poetry had become mere highbrow entertainment, co-opted like everything else by corporate America, apt to upset nobody, not even the proverbial old lady seated in the audience. There was nothing at all dangerous about it, certainly not like it had been in the former Soviet Union and Catholic Paris of Villon’s day. Today, it was welcomed by the local branches of the Chamber of Commerce, public libraries, colleges and universities, not to mention grammar schools, and even during presidential inaugurals. It questioned and challenged little if anything at all. With that regard, I decided to assault the Greater Brockton Society for Poetry and the Arts with a good dose of logic and criticism. It would not be the first organization to rubberize its auditory ear canals.

Thus I wrote Frank Miller, one of its organizers, mentioned that not one dissident poet had been selected to present critical poems at the Brockport Public Library and asked how that might help further literature and democracy. How sad it was that poetry in America had become so domesticated and safe for public high school principals, university deans, college presidents, local politicos, and even Chamber of Commerce functionaries. People like Miller, X J Kennedy, Sheila Mullen Twyman, chancellors of the Academy of American Poets, which actually censored and banned me (see www.theamericandissident.org/AcademyAmericanPoets.htm), and the members-only of the Academy of Arts and Letters rendered poetry a mere diversion—comfortable, bourgeois intellectual entertainment.

As our society continued its downward spiral into happy-face positivism, plutocracy, and corporatocracy, poetry would certainly not be a threat. On the contrary, it’s become a threat not to politicians or Wall Street, but rather to democracy. To my surprise, Miller actually responded, though unsurprisingly ignoring the points made.

"I am too old to lose my temper so—Dissent is not poetry—it can be but does not automatically get the wreath. Line breaks ans [sic] stanzas do not create a poem. Descriptions of flowers are not in and of themselves poems. John Clare wrote poetry on his madness Hopins Blake Donne often wrote of acceptance although sometimes in violent tones. I a [sic] reading again Weigl's poetry—read his Song of Napalm—is this dissent. Try poetry because it is poetry not as a message bearer. Langston Hughes wrote poetry. I am not against dissent but it does not give words a pass to sleep on the page. Politics and poetry can mingle but the poetry must work on its own. Good luck."

To me, his little response was a paltry crock, a weakling's justification for running always with the herd! Yes, cite others, but what about him? When did HE ever "go upright and vital, and speak the RUDE TRUTH in all ways" (Emerson)? When did HE ever put TRUTH before CAREER? He and his literary ilk needed to be shaken up, needed to open the doors to hardcore DISSIDENCE and harsh critique of their little poesy circles, contests, and light-verse judge anointees... not for their sake... no, they and others were evidently already too, too far gone… but for the sake of young students not yet fully indoctrinated by their herd professors and teachers... and for the sake of literature and democracy in America. Young students need to be exposed to all viewpoints, not just PC-bourgeois, careerist hippie-sellout, yuppie viewpoints. I mentioned all that in my response and how they needed to invite those like me and others who did stand up, who did dare speak RUDE, nonconformist TRUTHS and at the expense of JOB and CAREER—things they obviously held far more important. For a poet, a true poet, that should not be the case.

Well, Miller wrote again.

"First I am n [sic] America. Second I try to judge poetry for its worth not by any political or social theme. I hope you can understand that the concept of poetry as needing to fit any form is foolish. I have written poems against the establishment. I studied with Bruce Weill—read his Song of Napalm—stop being so set in your opinions—I am old and know nothing."

Old or not (hell, he looked like he wasn’t that much older than me!), he was still an established-order propagator of the banal. The problem with him (and others) trying to judge "poetry for its worth" was that the judgments always seemed to end up apolitical and bourgeois in nature. It was sad that he, the Brockton Public Library, and Brockton Poetry Society refused to open up to alternative poetry—political poetry, highly critical poetry, poetry against the local literary apparatchiks, etc., etc. It was sadly typical that the library would not even consider subscribing to The American Dissident for the simple reason that the journal offered a concrete alternative to the business-as-usual apolitical and bourgeois poetry always offered by the library. The ALA BIll of Rights clearly stipulated that libraries should offer such alternatives. Sadly, however, most librarians just wanted to offer People Magazine and Poetry Magazine. They operated as paladins of the town pillars and Chamber of Commerce functionaries. I'd also cc’d my correspondence to Sheila Twyman, the director of the Society, who responded, though only indirectly. She wrote Miller and cc’d it to me.

"Frank, I can see you getting madder and madder at this character. It's no wonder he doesn't have a job anymore...probably got fired. I assume his reference to "that lady from the brockton poesy society" refers to me. I don't think it's worth my time to even give him a response. He's just an angry unemployed teacher who didn't win the $500."

Addressing someone indirectly was just another cowardly, haughty bourgeois ploy. Yes, let's pretend that I simply do not exist. Dare stand up and away from the happy-face herd, and it would inevitably respond: he's just angry. He doesn't wear a constant smiley face like us, doesn't speak niceties all the time, doesn’t maintain a healthy positivist outlook, and actually questions and challenges things we'd never dare question and challenge. It was as if somehow being a little angry regarding the evident National Poetry Month, National Public Radio, PC perversion of literature was so terribly bad. As if being ANGRY at the tax-dollar supported Academy of American Poets for its penchant for censorship was so terribly bad. The problem with their ilk was that they’d become a democracy-scorning plague of little ceasar censors proficient at rationalizing their actions. Poetry needed to be more than ENTERTAINMENT and DIVERSION! It was evident that message would NEVER be able to penetrate their self-satisfied skull. I also wrote another member of the Society, Arnie Danielson, who managed the art exhibits at the library, requesting he consider doing an exhibit of my highly critical watercolors and cartoons, one of which featured him. I sent that particular cartoon to him and the others. He never responded. Miller, however, did respond. He deserved kudos for at least engaging in debate.

"You are indeed a pitiful figure—a child stamping his feet to attract attention. You flaunt your degree like a codpiece stuffed with paper. It is not your opinions which turn me away from your work—it is, quite simply, its lack of art. n [sic] I have paid attention to you once more. Relish the feeling in the corner."

“Pitiful figure” or just good old American satire? If he couldn’t take the satirical heat, perhaps he ought to consider getting out the poetry oven. Name calling seemed all that Miller was capable of. He was the one on YouTube, reading his verse, not me! So who was trying to attract attention? Moreover, it was indeed my "opinions" that he rejected! Such opinions could never be presented in a manner that he and others like him could ever consider “artful” because to do so would automatically dilute and irrevocably alter them. “Artful” was not an objective term, though he and others of the established order wanted us to believe it was. On the contrary, “artful” for him would definitely not be “artful” for me… and vice versa. Why couldn’t he understand that most basic of premises? Where did his teachers and professors go wrong? It was indeed my "opinions" that he, Arnie, and Sheila rejected because he, Arnie, and Sheila rejected democracy and its cornerstone, vigorous debate. They sought to restrict the arena of ideas and creativity. That was their shame, not mine. That was what the bourgeoisie had always sought to do. Well, it got a little more interesting. Arnie still refused to reply. Instead the director of the Brockton Public Library, Harry R. Williams, III replied.

"Gross hypocrite here... Disappointing how many statements below are painted with such broad brushes. I have no knowledge of any of the "backstory" on the exchange or any that preceded the messages below. (Apologies that my email seems to mess up the formatting of everything that is punctuated.) I read with concern but felt personally unscathed until I got to the end of the most recent entry. I invite anyone, including Dr. Slone, to test the accuracy of the "hypothesis that you [Frank Miller], Arnie, and Sheila would never permit my ideas at your poesy readings," by signing up for, or simply attending, the open microphone portion of any of our programs. You will see that there is no censorship, nor any favoritism. Newcomers are encouraged, "regulars" welcomed back, and everyone is held to the same time limit. You might also discover that although some of the readers may well represent "the bourgeois ilk," the opinions and forms range from greeting card verse to formalism and from old (and young) Marxists to a World War II veteran's brand of patriotism, to paeans to nature or baseball. I don't know if Dr. Slone looked at our poetry collection - or visited the library at all—before branding me a traitor to the principles of my profession. Would I be unfair to use words like "hostile" and "aggressive" to characterize such a description from one who has never met me? Actually, Dr. Slone may be quite a seer—I haven't written a poem since 1969, but prior to that I did one in which I referred to myself as "The Supreme Hypocrite." How did he know?
Peace be with all of you, and as a veteran of the sixties I cannot resist ending thus: Can't we all just get along? Kumbaya...
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions."

Thus, I contacted the director, Sixties Sellout, thanked him for the response, and even complimented him for responding since cogs of the power structure rarely did respond. I filled him in on how the exchange began with my seeking to get his library to subscribe to The American Dissident and noting the ALA’s precept that libraries should offer all points of view. Most librarians would much rather subscribe to Elle, People, Entertainment Today, etc., etc. They'd always use the excuse that their patrons wanted those magazines. And they’d always pout when I mentioned the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights, if in fact they'd even aware of it.” Williams, III would of course remain silent on that note and in fact would not respond again. I noted that “open mike” was not an invitation per se, since anyone could attend and recite. What I really meant (and he knew I meant it) was the kind of invitations (one poet per invitation!) accorded by the “Friends” of public libraries. Here in Concord, the Friends would never invite someone like me. In fact, they wouldn’t even respond to my queries regarding the criteria for their choices. Thus, calling open mike an invitation was fraudulent.

Most librarians were indeed probably hypocrites regarding the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights, National Poetry Month, and Banned Books Week (what about including periodicals like The American Dissident that were banned by most libraries?). Ferlinghetti celebrated banned books week, yet banned books from his City Lights Bookstore. Did Williams, III give a damn? Of course not! Finally to top off the Brockton exchange, Arnie’s wife, Stephanie Danielson, wrote:

"Thank you for bringing a bit of brevity to my day. Anyone who would accuse my husband of not enjoying a vigorous debate surely has never taken the time to meet him or get to know him."

Well, Steph, your hubby has yet to engage in this little debate! Strange, corrupted minds exist in the nation today, spreading like a plague from coast to coast!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Kerry Anne Rockquemore

Sophomoric Bliss in Chevrons
Advice for the Advice Giver. Consider this: those who have nothing important to write need tips and tricks to get them to write. Since your inner critic has obviously failed, you need to find a good outer critic to counter the endless stream of vacuity and ream-filling endeavors coaxing you on. But don’t worry, you’ll be safe and comfy with the censor on your side. Inside Higher Ed censors outer critics.
—Comment censored by InsideHigherEd.com and Professor Rockquemore, regarding her Career Advice column, "Tame Your Inner Critic" (see http://www.insidehighered.com/advice/summer/summer7)

To Professor Kerry Ann Rockquemore:
Here’s what you wrote regarding a cartoon I sketched for a previous blog entry: “Lol! That cartoon just cracked me up! I look forward to reading your blog!!!” Now, what shall you write regarding the one depicted above (http://wwwtheamericandissidentorg.blogspot.com)? “You racist sonofabitch?” No, you probably wouldn’t do that. SILENCE is the more likely response. Anyhow, all I’m trying to do here is present a critical voice you’ve likely never heard before under the shroud of positivism hermetically safe-keeping Academe today. Who knows? You might actually take a step back and contemplate a moment, though I doubt it. After all, your career clearly depends upon a certain blindness, one you seem to have adopted eagerly and joyfully. Helas, c’est ta vie et heureusement pas la mienne! As you know, Inside Higher Ed regularly CENSORS comments, and of course you back that censorship either actively or passively. Your career depends on such support. So many there are like you grouped together in an oddly cocooned academic herd. In a democracy, why should my critical voice be periodically eliminated from the arena of debate regarding Inside Higher Ed and elsewhere in Academe? Perhaps you should talk to Doug Lederman to at least make an attempt to convince him that CENSORSHIP does not benefit DEMOCRACY and its cornerstone, VIGOROUS DEBATE. It only benefits the corrupt status quo. BTW, I did a cartoon ages ago on writing opposites: Theroux vs. Orwell. Evidently, you are Therouxian, while I Orwellian. And I sort of like the double entendre in the latter. For that toon, see http://www.theamericandissident.org/CriticalEssays.htm. NO RESPONSE WAS EVER RECEIVED FROM KERRY ANNE ROCKQUEMORE, evidently a true believer in controlled, inoffensive debate, cornerstone of a thriving PC-ocracy.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

University of Venus

Express everything you like. No word can hurt you. None. No idea can hurt you. Not being able to express an idea or a word will hurt you much more. As much as a bullet. [...] A lot of energy is wasted on these superficial things [speech codes]... I can’t get upset about ‘offensive to women’ or ‘offensive to blacks’ or ‘offensive to native Americans’ or ‘offensive to jews’... Offend! I can’t get worked up about it. Offend!
–Jamaica Kincaid (Washington Post 1991)

The above satirical watercolor was inspired by the censorship of the comment I posted on Inside Higher Ed regarding the mission statement presented by its new blogging duo of insipidity, the two women depicted in the sketch, the "new breed of heroes,” who created the University of Venus blog (see http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/university_of_venus/mission_of_venus#Comments).
Inside Higher Ed’s other equally vacuous blogs include Mama PhD, Confessions of a Community College Dean, Provost Prose, University Diaries, and The Education of Oronte Chum (see http://www.theamericandissident.org/InsideHigherEd.htm). Ages ago, I’d asked corporate-minded Inside Higher Ed editor Doug Lederman if he would consider including The American Dissident blog with the other blogs listed on his Inside Higher Ed website. In the name of PC, restricted ideas, and limited debate, he chose not to respond. Evidently, The American Dissident blog would have been much too OFFENSIVE in its hardcore questioning and challenging of academics. Today, censors like Lederman were needed to protect the thin-skinned from potentially offensive thoughts and ideas.

The comment that was censored is the following:

Yes, there is a crisis in higher education, but you don’t seem to know what it fundamentally concerns: not flooded markets with overqualified applicants and limited budgets for junior faculty, but rather thinking in the PC box, rampant censorship, careerism, and absence of courageous rude truth telling. Your call for change echoes Obama’s hollow politician’s call for change.
“At University of Venus people raise questions that are not being raised and draw attention to issues that are being ignored,” you state, yet fail to illustrate that assertion with one concrete example. Why?
“…the lives we lead as GenX women,” you state. Will you thus be excluding men, both older and younger? And if so, is that not sexist and ageist? Will you also be excluding older women?
“University of Venus is a global space for building community, empowering people to share their voices and inspiring them to make change happen,” you stipulate, yet fail to underscore which people you seek to empower and what changes you seek to make.
“We are thrilled to be partnering with the expertise of Inside Higher Ed and to be joining with you in creating a larger conversation about the future of higher education,” you state. But are you aware that IHE acts as a PC censor, regularly censoring comments from its forums? Thus, your first step will have to be to accept IHE censorship and keep your feet firmly implanted in the PC box. Yes, change we can count on. Tell me about it, baby, or rather babies!
“If you are interested in writing a guest post or being interviewed for the blog, please send us an email,” you state. Well, I’ve just done that. Will you respond? Will you even be curious regarding my decades-long critique of higher ed (see www.theamericandissident.org)?

Needless to say, as an ardent enemy of censors and censorship, I expressed my indignation to the "new breed of heroes," one of whom responded, though in vacuous fashion:

Thanks for contacting us. I think it is necessary for change to happen across the spectrum of viewpoints and I think your work is just as necessary as ours. Dissidence redraws the boundaries of what is possible.
Mary Churchill

In essence, Mary Churchill, the Executive Director of the University of Venus blog, ignored my censorship complaint. Can one possibly be more hypocritical? After all, how can one create “a larger [more diverse] conversation about the future of higher education” by censoring opinions on higher education that one does not like? By doing so that "larger conversation" will simply remain business as usual... though larger.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Counterculture Farce

This toon was inspired by last month's issue of The Smithsonian, which featured, though not on the front cover, the photos of Beatnik academic Allen Ginsberg, who was, more than anything else, an expert marketer and literary ladder climber. In the long run, his poetry was not in the least threatening to the established order. Hell, Ginsberg became the established order, a bona fide high and mighty bourgeois member of the exclusive American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Saramago... muerte

Nosotros estamos asistiendo a lo que llamaría la muerte del ciudadano y, en su lugar, lo que tenemos y, cada vez más, es el cliente. Ahora ya nadie te pregunta qué es lo que piensas, ahora te preguntan qué marca de coche, de traje, de corbata tienes, cuánto ganas…
—José Saramago, El Mundo, Madrid, 6 de diciembre de 1998

Saramago died yesterday at 86. I liked some of his writing and posted an essay of his a decade ago on The AD web page en espanol (see http://www.theamericandissident.org/CriticalEssays/Saramago.htm).

The cartoon above was sketched about a decade ago also. As with all rich and famous writers and poets, things are not always as ideal as depicted. They are flying Saramago's arse all the way to Lisboa from Lanzarote in the Canarias in a very expensive looking coffin where they will incinerate him, then throw his ashes to the wind. What a waste of money, especially for a devout atheist like Saramago! The communist Saramago doesn’t make much sense here, unless of course one can and does divide communists into the wealthy and the not-so wealthy. By the way, I've been to Lanzarote, an amazing island of volcanic beauty... other worldly. In fact, it was where Planet of the Apes was filmed. Get there, if ever you can!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Chloe Garcia-Roberts

Why Poetry Doesn't Matter
Dear Chloe Garcia-Roberts,
Since you have refused to respond to my correspondence (three emails since last November!) and my request that The American Dissident be listed on the publicly-funded Mass Poetry Festival website as a "partner" next to other such Massachusetts literary journals, I have satirized you in a P. Maudit cartoon. The little fellow on the stick with court jester hat is, of course, Charles Coe. What else is a common, unconnected citizen to do in the state of Cronychusetts? It is absolutely shameful that you head a publicly-funded organization as a director and call yourself a poet. Clearly, you don't give a goddamn about free speech, vigorous debate and democracy! The cartoon is attached and also constitutes this week's American Dissident blog entry together with this email. See http://wwwtheamericandissidentorg.blogspot.com/2010/06/why-poetry-doesnt-matter.html. You are, of course, encouraged to engage in vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy, on my blog site. Unlike you, I would never CENSOR comments, no matter how unusually TRUTHFUL.
G. Tod Slone

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Robert Pinsky

For Justice, Equity, and Freedom of Expression in Massachusetts

[Essay sent to Massachusetts Cultural Council, Concord Cultural Council, Massachusetts Poetry Festival, Massachusetts Attorney General, Boston Herald, Boston Globe, Concord Poetry Center, University of Massachusetts, Lesley University, Salem State College, and Others (see below for email addresses)]

As a citizen of our purported “democracy,” I write to inform of various grievances, mostly occurring in the State of Massachusetts over the past 15 years. This initiative was sparked by one of those grievances with regards the taxpayer-funded Massachusetts Poetry Festival, sponsored by the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, which simply refuses to respond to my queries sent last November, this May, and again on the first of June as to how The American Dissident, a 501 c3 nonprofit journal of literature, democracy, and dissidence, might become a “Poetry Partner” and be listed on its webpage next to, amongst others, Cave Canem, Bagel Bards, Wild Apples, Concord Poetry Center, and Citizen’s Bank, which by the way is my bank. Its Director of the Massachusetts Poetry Outreach Project, Chloe Garcia-Roberts, will not respond. My list of grievances include the following and mostly pertain to the State of Massachusetts:

1. The ACLU of Massachusetts refused to help me and the state press refused to report on my tenure battle at Fitchburg State College in 1996, where corruption included highly whimsical faculty evaluations, nepotism, and my eviction mid-semester from my office w/o due process. Unlike Florida and other states, no Freedom of Information legislation exists in Massachusetts. The transcripts of my arbitration hearing are thus kept secret. Why do journalists and others accept this sad status quo of lack of transparency? For actual documents, including a rather humorous page I managed to grab from the arbitration transcript, consult www.theamericandissident.org/FitchburgStateCollege.htm.

2. The state police arrested and incarcerated me in a Concord jail cell in 1999 for protesting the absence of free speech at Walden Pond State Reservation. The refusal of the local and state media to report on the incident was deplorable. Moreover, the state park continues to refuse to permit me to stock flyers critical of it and other state matters at its kiosks, despite the following:

“Since the Supreme Court’s decision in Hague v. Committee for Industrial Organization (1939), it has been settled in the law that public parks—since they are held in trust for the public and have traditionally been used for assembly, communication, and public discussion—are ‘traditional’ public forums. […] Once a place has been designated a public forum, the government’s power to limit speech there is extremely narrow. Viewpoint discrimination is never permissible. Content discrimination (discrimination based on the subject matter of the speech, whatever the point of view taken on it) is acceptable only if the government can show the following:

1) There is a compelling state interest for the exclusion.
2) The regulation making the exclusion is narrowly drawn to achieve that state interest
3) The regulation leaves open ample alternative channels for the communication.
Speech has been broadly defined as an expression that includes, but is not limited to, what you wear, read, say, paint, perform, believe, protest, or even silently resist. ‘Speech activities’ include leafleting, picketing, symbolic acts, wearing armbands, demonstrations, speeches, forums, concerts, motion pictures, stage performances, remaining silent, and so on." (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education)

For details and documents regarding my arrest and incarceration, consult http://www.theamericandissident.org/WaldenPondStateReservation.htm.

3. The publicly-funded Concord Poetry Center ostracized me as a local dissident poet. Director Joan Houlihan sums up its twisted mentality: “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.” Evidently, I chose to protest and was thus never offered a workshop to teach. For details on my protests at the CPC, consult http://www.theamericandissident.org/ConcordPoetryCenter.htm.

4. The publicly-funded Academy of American Poets censored (i.e., removed) my comments and banned me from participating in its online forums in 2006. The AAP is connected with the publicly-funded Massachusetts Poetry Festival and sponsors National Poetry Month, which is propagated in the nation’s public schools and colleges. For details, censored comments, and AAP chancellor remarks, see http://www.theamericandissident.org/AcademyAmericanPoets.htm.

5. The Massachusetts Cultural Council refuses to accord public-grant monies to The American Dissident because the journal has an annual budget inferior to the Council’s arbitrarily imposed $10,000 annual budget minimum for grant applicants. It thus funds journals like Agni, which is connected to Boston University, which has an endowment of over one-billion dollars. For my attempts to breach the proverbial brick wall, consult my correspondence with Council apparatchiks, including Council coordinator Charles Coe, who is also a founding director of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival, at http://www.theamericandissident.org/CharlesCoe.htm.

6. The Concord Cultural Council adopted a regulation in 2009 prohibiting funding to any project it arbitrarily deemed to be of a “political nature. This regulation was clearly adopted to prevent The American Dissident from receiving public funding. Indeed and in futility, I’ve been applying as a publisher and poet in Concord for such funding over the past decade. The Concord Cultural Council, Massachusetts Cultural Council, and state Attorney General Martha Coakley refused to address my grievance with this regard. For details, see http://www.theamericandissident.org/CCC.htm.

7. Director Karen Wulf of PEN New England (“defending freedom of expression”) refuses to respond to any of my grievances regarding impediments to my freedom of expression in New England. It is likely that Joan Houlihan (see above) and PEN director Karen Wulf, both comfortably installed at Lesley University, are friends. It is likely that Charles Coe is also a friend.

8. Professor Fred Marchant, director of Suffolk University’s Poetry Center, refuses to respond to my requests that it consider, for the sake of students, including The American Dissident. Marchant is a friend of Houlihan. For a cartoon depicting the rampant cliquishness of the poetry milieu in Massachusetts, see http://www.theamericandissident.org/SuffolkUniversityPoetryCenter.html.

9. The Watertown Free Public Library issued me a no-trespass order without due process for my attempting to interest its reference librarian, Ardis Francoeur, in subscribing to The American Dissident. Again, State Attorney General Coakley and the press refused to respond regarding my grievance.

10. Word censorship is now automatically effected by The Boston Globe on its website. Globe journalists favor that censorship. I was censored by them. For a cartoon I drew regarding that indifference, featuring Jeff Jacoby and Editor David Beard, see http://www.nationalfreepress.org/cartoonists-mainmenu-250/g-tod-slone-mainmenu-406.

11. Some 200 Massachusetts college English professors were contacted regarding my attempts to interest them in radically altering the academic culture of sycophancy, turning a blind eye, careerism, PC, prevarication, and apathy to censorship. Only four responded. Professor Ruth Jennison wrote: "Please remove me from your list." Professor William Nelles briefly argued: “you loser.” Professor J T Skerrett, Jr. was a little more voluble: “Do you really think that insulting and reviling the faculty is the way to persuade us to read your publication?” As for Professor Jack Conway, read his lengthy diatribe (with student support) here: http://wwwtheamericandissidentorg.blogspot.com/2008/11/unspoken-mantra-of-u-mass-english.html. Yes, how dare anyone think, let alone state, that all is not rosy in academe in Massachusetts. University of Massachusetts poet-professor, leftist luminary Martin Espada refuses to respond to any of the criticism I’ve sent his way. After all, silence, not democracy’s cornerstone, vigorous debate, is always the most effective response for those in power positions, no matter how little.

12. As testimony to the ambient ideological requisites for teaching in Massachusetts, cite North Shore Community College, to which I’d applied unsuccessfully for a job as an English instructor: “Appreciation of multiculturalism required.” Well, I brought that to the attention of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which then wrote the college, resulting in the college’s removal of that unconstitutional requisite. Sadly, however, the concept still remains firmly implanted in the brains of the administrators and faculty who enacted it.

As a footnote, the response of Paul Lappin, director of the Parker Lecture Series (University of Massachusetts at Lowell), to my query is quite interesting and revealing in its refreshing honesty. I’d asked whether or not the PLS was closed to dissident voices as lecturers and only open to those who would please the comfy bourgeois mindset. Lappin responded: “comfy bourgeois” [only].

Finally, my staging of various solo protests critical of state-sponsored poets and poetry events at the Concord Poetry Center, Concord Free Public Library, Robert Creeley Prize in Acton, and elsewhere confirm the indifference of poets, teachers and professors to questions of free speech and vigorous debate. My numerous critical letters to the editor of student newspapers at colleges employing me over the years confirm professorial indifference to matters of corruption, free speech, and vigorous debate For examples of these letters, consult http://www.theamericandissident.org/ElmiraCollege.htm and http://www.theamericandissident.org/GramblingStateUniversity.htm. Unfortunately, during my five years at Fitchburg State College in Massachusetts, the student newspaper refused to publish anything I submitted of a critical nature. It is truly appalling to observe how little so many well-educated persons really care about censorship and democracy.

Will any of the individuals and organizations contacted stand up to help me open Massachusetts to equality of opportunity and freedom of expression, including and especially regarding dissident points of view? How did it ever get so bad, where literature operates like politics and anything but truth and courage becomes manifest? Money? Is that how? Democracy is in peril in Massachusetts. It is in peril when persons in publicly-funded positions remain unresponsive to citizen grievances, preferring instead to ostracize such citizens.

It is my experience that NONE of the individuals and organizations contacted will respond and stand up apart from the literary herd where the feed is quite plentiful. We’re talking here not about the myth of the proverbial starving poet, but rather about the fattened academic poet. It is astonishing how very bourgeois literature has become today. Take a look at the Lesley University Creative Writing faculty page, where most of the instructors simply link to their publishers. You’d be hard-pressed to find personal email addresses for the instructors, who proudly equate themselves with their published books… and sadly not much else. In America, it’s all about gaining a recognizable name a la Simic, Pinsky, Gluck, or whomever. And once you’ve reached that stage of intellectual sellout, then you’re all set monetarily and with invitations and prizes galore. It is sickening that our students are not being taught to question and challenge that troubling status quo. Can this sad sell, sell, sell of names be stopped? Probably not. It’s become an integral part of America. Our students are being taught to blindly admire the famous and strive to become one of them. Buck that trend and expect severe ostracizing.

What can you, the individuals and organizations contacted, do as citizens? Well, for starters, you could write the freedom-disdaining organizations mentioned in this missive and tell them that you’ve been made aware that some of they censor, treat with inequity, break the law, scorn vigorous debate, do not tolerate criticism, demand ideological adherence, etc., and that you do not favor those things. In fact, you could also request to have your organization removed from the Massachusetts Poetry Festival “Poetry Partner” list. Pipedream? But of course!

letterstoeditor@bostonherald.com, mfreidson@metro-boston.com, jacoby@globe.com, beard@globe.com, mfeeney@globe.com, jackson@globe.com, ago@state.ma.us, fjmarchant@aol.com, mina.wright@art.state.ma.us, dan.blask@art.state.ma.us, voltairepress@live.com, paullappin@hotmail.com, chloe@masspoetry.org, Paul_Marion@uml.edu, bootstrapproductions@gmail.com, info@bostonbookfest.org, writers@capecodwriterscenter.org, wendycobb@ccpoets.org, alisonmeyers@ccpoets.org, camillerankine@ccpoets.org, editors@wildapples.org, joan@concordpoetry.org, connect@echoditto.com, favpoem@bu.edu, mollywatt@comcast.net, jenise@alum.mit.edu, info@fordhallforum.org, info@frostfound.org, sonya@grubstreet.org, whitney@grubstreet.org, chris@grubstreet.org, doug_holder@post.harvard.edu, m@mwest.com, Admin@PoetryJam.org, Charles.coe@art.state.ma.us, ibbetsonpress@msn.com, pen-ne@lesley.edu, Bertin@ncac.org, mespada@english.umass.edu, rpinsky@bu.edu, joan@concordpoetry.org, cpc@concordpoetry.org, fwright@brandeis.edu, jvanderv@lesley.edu, scramer@lesley.edu, alison@blueflowerarts.com, info@tsellis.com, delliott@conknet.com, sugoodman@aol.com, Michael.lowenthal.90@alum.dartmouth.org, lychack@gmail.com, lorraine.allison@salemstate.edu, dorothy.anderson@salemstate.edu, mary.balestraci@salemstate.edu, Elizabeth.bates@salemstate.edu,
Paul.beauvais@salemstate.edu, marc.bootsebenfield@salemstate.edu, h.branscomb@salemstate.edu, susanna.brougham@salemstate.edu, patricia.buchanan@salemstate.edu, maura.bullock@salemstate.edu, nicole.buscemi@salemstate.edu, susan.butterworth@salemstate.edu,

Monday, May 24, 2010

Experiments in Free Speech & Democracy

University of Pennsylvania
Open Letter to the Professors of the English Department

The American Dissident, a 501 c3 nonprofit journal of literature, democracy, and dissidence, would like to know what you think, as individuals and, even moreso, what your students think. The journal believes that all icons and institutions should be open game for hardcore criticism. Oddly, or rather conveniently, however, the large majority of established-order poets seem to think that poetry organizations, celebrities, prizes, and journals should be off limits. And indeed, established-order poets tend to live in protective cocoons of incessant praise and funding. It is next to impossible for outsider organizations like The American Dissident to get satire to penetrate those buffered cocoons.

The American Dissident is a firm believer in free speech and vigorous debate, democracy’s cornerstones. Yet how can debate be vigorous when, for example, the Academy of American Poets censors opinions it does not like and its professor chancellors respond with indifference (see http://www.theamericandissident.org/AcademyAmericanPoets.htm). And when most college professors seem to favor censorship (either turning a blind eye to it, preferring euphemisms like moderation, civility, and good taste, and/or proferring to be too busy to be concerned), democracy itself is in peril. What do you think? Have you perfected excuses as part of rationalizing your silence?

The cartoon above, inspired by a brief review appearing in Entertainment Weekly, which normally critiques the love-life and attire of Hollywood celebrities, satirizes your colleague Charles Bernstein. Yes, yes, we all know that he is revered by the academic/literary established order and has climbed that ladder, wearing blinders wherever necessary. But should criticism of Bernstein be taboo? What do you think?

For more unusual critique of those who are rarely if ever criticized, examine The American Dissident, which firmly believes that poetry should be more than mere intellectual ENTERTAINMENT and diversion or bourgeois past-time. In fact, why not subscribe to the journal (only $20/year) to help expose your students to alternative negative viewpoints regarding literature and the literary establishment. Are the doors of the English department at the University of Pennsylvania like those of so many other universities hermetically sealed against uncomfortable outside critique? Do you help your students create and fortify “mind-forged manacles” like those observed by William Blake? Your SILENCE will certainly support that hypothesis!

Thank you for your cordial attention.

N.B.: Notice of this blog was sent to The Daily Pennsylvanian student newspaper and the following English instructors and professors:

eng111@mailman.ssc.upenn.edu, charles.bernstein@english.upenn.edu, nauerbac@english.upenn.edu, rbarnard@english.upenn.edu, hbeavers@english.upenn.edu, nbentley@english.upenn.edu, tbowers@english.upenn.edu, bushnell@english.upenn.edu, cavitch@english.upenn.edu, pconn@english.upenn.edu, rcopalan@english.upenn.edu, tcorriga@english.upenn.edu, davistm@english.upenn.edu, degrazia@english.upenn.edu, dcherney@english.upenn.edu, deng@english.upenn.edu, jenglish@english.upenn.edu, esty@english.upenn.edu, afilreis@english.upenn.edu, mgamer@english.upenn.edu, jajii@english.upenn.edu, amkaplan@english.upenn.edu, kaul@english.upenn.edu, kazanjia@english.upenn.edu, zlesser@english.upenn.edu, loomba@english.upenn.edu, loveh@english.upenn.edu, cmazer@english.upenn.edu, amparo@english.upenn.edu, jnpark3@english.upenn.edu, perelman@english.upenn.edu, jmrabate@english.upenn.edu, prackin@english.upenn.edu, psain@english.upenn.edu, sanchezm@english.upenn.edu, pstally@english.upenn.edu, steinerer@english.upenn.edu, wsteiner@english.upenn.edu, stillet@english.upenn.edu, dwallace@english.upenn.edu, cmyang@english.upenn.edu, madams@sas.upenn.edu, rallen@ccat.sas.upenn.edu, janthon2@english.upenn.edu, maxapple1@verizon.net, azzolina@pbox.upenn.edu, psethbauer@hotmail.com, beckmank@sas.upenn.edu, benamos@sas.upenn.edu, blochj@english.upenn.edu, broussard@writing.upenn.edu, kbrownie@sas.upenn.edu, dburnham@english.upenn.edu, lcary@english.upenn.edu, ADeCurtis@aol.com, kathydemarco@writing.upenn.edu, tdevaney@writing.upenn.edu, djanikia@writing.upenn.edu, edwards@english.upenn.edu, despey@english.upenn.edu, marciaf@english.upenn.edu, dfox@sas.upenn.edu, lf@lisefunderburg.com, funkhauser@adm.njit.edu, agaedtke@gmail.com, pgaffney@sas.upenn.edu, gautsche@writing.upenn.edu, kg@ubu.com, devin.griffiths@rutgers.edu, adhall@english.upenn.edu, sharzews@english.upenn.edu, khellers@sas.upenn.edu, phendric@english.upenn.edu, mjens@sas.upenn.edu, jjossely@writing.upenn.edu, mkant2@english.upenn.edu, iamblel@aol.com, adlevy@english.upenn.edu, mlotto@english.upenn.edu, rmalague@english.upenn.edu, jmalcolm@english.upenn.edu, maxwellr@sas.upenn.edu, mmazaj@sas.upenn.edu, cmcgrath@uchicago.edu, dianemw@sas.upenn.edu, mamills@sas.upenn.edu, lizmoore1234@gmail.com, susan.murray@nyu.edu, michols@phillynews.com, cristinp@english.upenn.edu, polman@writing.upenn.edu, tipowell@sas.upenn.edu, jrezek@sas.upenn.edu, riebling@english.upenn.edu, krile@writing.upenn.edu, vross@writing.upenn.edu, rydel@sas.upenn.edu, schlatt@english.upenn.edu, rebecca@sas.upenn.edu, a.shonkwiler@gmail.com, scottstein@verizon.com, tarr123@gmail.com, vtodoroz@sas.upenn.edu, traister@pobox.upenn.edu, tricia@pointedpress.com, catumer@sas.upenn.edu, valterza@sas.upenn.edu, wahlert@english.upenn.edu, kwatters@english.upenn.edu, lweissbe@sas.upenn.edu, emilyw@sas.upenn.edu, abrahams@english.upenn.edu, curran@english.upenn.edu, rlucid@english.upenn.edu, vmahaffee@illinois.edu, randkregen@juno.com, jrichett@english.upenn.edu, gweales@english.upenn.edu, swenzel@english.upenn.edu

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sam Hamill

From Fierce Contention: Conversations with the Established Order and Other Parodias de Discursos y Diálogos con Sordos

While hunting for a photo of Ron Camel, co-founder of Nickel Chasm Press, I came across an interview. Camel was a fattish gray-haired character, a little older than me, and with heart problems. I’d been fishing around his Poets against Conflict website and didn’t like some of the things on it at all, including its highlighting of established-order poet Martin Blada. So, I wanted to cartoonify the fellow. That’s what I did, I cartoonified established-order fellows, mostly literary and academic, sometimes big, often little. I read through the interview, which resulted from Camel’s appearance at a university in the mid-west. So, I contacted the Chairperson of the Poetry & Writing Department of that institution, Barbara B. Bright Meth, and threw out the ole gauntlet:

As a dissident poet and editor, perhaps I would make an unusual speaker at your university. As a Poet against Prominent Poets, I would stand in direct antipodes to Ron Camel and his Poets against Conflict. If there is no chance, as I highly suspect, might there be a chance that your university library would subscribe to the nonprofit journal I’ve been editing since 1998 (only $20/year)? It might be of interest to your students to be exposed to the alternative viewpoints expressed in the journal.

It was tough as nails getting universities to subscribe… for evident reasons. But I persisted and persisted and persisted over the years. To my surprise, Meth actually responded. Normally, challenged professors did not respond. Her response was a good one in its revealing brevity: “How could you possibly be against Ron Camel? Ron is a dear friend of mine. What did he possibly do to you?”
So, Camel was a friend. The poetry networks fostered backslapping, eulogy ad nausea, and general incest. Throw in a sudden jolt of fiery critique and it would shock the system like a stick in the spokes of business as usual, though only for a moment. The American Academy of Arts and Letters didn’t even try to hide the incestuous nature of its system. To become a member, one had to be selected by a member. Thus, Ginsberg chose Burrows who chose Ferlinghetti who chose Creeley who chose Snyder who chose Baraka. In any case, Meth’s was the old don't criticize my good friend because if you do, I'll shut the door on you. But since she asked, I responded:

It is really amazing to me just how closed so many academics can be to criticism. Yes, Camel is your friend, so anyone daring to criticize him must be ostracized and excluded! How sad. It is as if your poet friends are somehow above reproach. But poets are not gods. They are mere mortals. Yet you and so many like you seek to deify them, always pushing the fame of their names. Camel parades around as a dissident, but was pumped up by established-order monies. How to explain that? He drools obsequious thank-yous to the NEA on his website, yet the NEA is a corrupt public organization if ever there was one. Moreover, it is an easy thing to criticize war afar, but a difficult one to criticize the very close-to-home academic hand that feeds a lot of the Poets against Conflict, especially the “prominent” ones (did you hear that?).
Camel doesn’t want to heed that criticism. I suppose academe has been feeding him well too, directly or indirectly via invitations like yours, etc. He will not put my anti-war poem on his website… probably because it is critical of leftists Hillary and Obama. He will not include my essay on socially-engaged poetry with other essays he’s included… on socially-engaged poetry. He probably won’t do that because the essay is very critical of academic poets, including the ones he’s published.
Camel admits he made an error by voting for Obama, the anti-war candidate war president. But I ask how someone his age could have been so easily duped, unless of course he buys into PC, heart and soul. In fact, one must ask how someone like him was invited to the White House in the first place. Evidently, he and the other “prominent” invited poets were perceived to be docile… and for good reason.
Camel provides a separate page on his website: “Poems by Prominent Poets.” But what constitutes a “prominent poet” and why should a “prominent poet” write better poems about war than poets, who, for example, actually spent time fighting in war? Evidently, “prominent poets” are poets who, for the most part, acquired a certain expertise at playing the game of climbing up the ladder of “success”, turning a blind eye, right and left, making sure not to criticize, making sure to kiss ass wherever ass should be kissed. They are poets of the system—the established order. Finally, it seems that the creation of Poets against Conflict was a nice ploy for Camel to further his name and give himself a title, Director of Poets against Conflict. Christ, do we really need a director of that? SILENCE (is always golden in academe).
BTW, I just noticed Branchlet Benson, CEO of the Academy of American Scribes was CEO of Camel’s Nickel Chasm Press. The Academy censored and banned me. So, let’s add that to the list of why I think Camel ought to be criticized. Would you protest the censorship incident? SILENCE.

No response. I waited two days, then shot out a brief email: “Nothing like VIGOROUS DEBATE, CORNERSTONE OF DEMOCRACY, eh?! What about my comments on your friend Camel?” The democracy-catch was my customary bait. Sometimes it worked, most times it didn’t. But Meth responded, this time even a tad more vigorously.

Maybe white/Western democracy, but not Native-American democracy, where true democracy was stolen. I am an Iroquois woman! I don't have time to argue with someone who simply wishes to argue. Good bye.

Again, I responded:

So, I take it your answer is NO regarding a possible invitation and subscription? Too bad for your students who would likely benefit from an alternative viewpoint, one critical of academics and academe. It would likely open their eyes a tad. But apparently you want to keep their eyes closed and focused on literary icons and the positivist literary established order.

And again, she responded, this time longer and even more revealing.

Some of us have to work to feed our families, versus attacking people who are working, or other poets who we do not know. The academic field differs little from the tobacco field, or cracker factory. My dissent, for the moment, is taking issue with some white male who lurks on the internet attacking poets for pleasure.

The cracker factory! Now how could you beat that one? Yes, teaching 2-3 hours per day differed little from the 60-hour work week of a cracker-factory worker. That one reminded me of Frank’s comment that his teaching college courses was akin to sharecropping. Christ, they couldn’t even recognize how relatively easy their jobs were! I worked at a factory, I welded at a shipyard, and I taught college courses. But I know damn well what was tough and what was not. College was not. Hmm. I wonder if Meth were trying to insult me with the C-word, “cracker.” And how they hated the white male! He was the cause of all their problems, including their salary raises, paid-vacation sabbaticals, three-hour workdays, and even their new president Obama, not to mention their life-time guaranteed job positions. I wrote back.

“Some of us have to work to feed our families,” you state, echoing the excuse of so many professors who would dismiss anyone critical of them for not manifesting the courage to speak rude truth. And yet the tenured professor, unlike other professionals with the exception of the supreme-court justice, enjoys life-time job security that can only be revoked if laws are broken. So, how can one possibly explain the amazing silence of 99.9% of the country’s tenured professors regarding the corrupt institutions and administrators that feed them? In other words, your “some of us have to work to feed our families” excuse is nonsense. SILENCE!
You even use that excuse to dismiss the rude truth. After all, that rude truth inevitably makes those who have to turn a blind eye so they can feed their families, though they don’t really have to, look bad. No matter. The criticism remains valid. And there will always be excuses for keeping ones mouth shut in the face of corruption, which is why whistleblowers should be commended. In fact, rare academic whistleblowers should be honored with statues on their respective campuses. Because you have to work to feed your family and thus must not criticize the academic hand that stuffs your face does not mean that I cannot criticize it and that my criticism is not valid. At least have the intellectual integrity to recognize that fact. SILENCE!
Criticism ought to be examined and point-by-point refuted if you, for example, believe it not to be valid. Dismissing it as “ATTACK” has become a truly sad modus operandi of academic established-order literati. And I can back that assertion with scores of actual examples and statements, adding your correspondence to the sad, sad pile! Christ, what do you teach your students: the art of literary icon worship and groveling for three letters of recommendation?
Evidently, you've become yet another closed-minded academic of the literary established order—Iroquois female or white male, what difference? None at all! Sadly, you can't admit that even to yourself. You cannot even admit to having writer’s taboos, as in do not criticize the corrupt academic hand that feeds and do not criticize established-order icons. You cannot even admit that there is an academic/literary established order and that those like me who dare stand up on their hind legs apart from that herd to criticize it must be dismissed as angry or whatever and banned, censored, and ostracized. How sad… for literature AND democracy.

Meth responded: “I am not tenured, nor tenure track. You are wrong.”
Well, the response was laughable. Okay, I was wrong. She’s not tenured. And so what? I wrote again, but this time attaching a cartoon I sketched featuring Meth, Camel, and Branchlet.

I repeat: Will you consider inviting me as a rare dissident poet? Will you ask your university library to consider subscribing to The American Dissident so that it might abide by the ALA Library Bill of Rights, as in "Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view..." not for the sake of faculty, but rather for that of students. Attached is a satirical cartoon I just drew on you and Ron. Enjoy.

No further response would ever come from her Barbara B. Bright Meth. DOA.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Penelope Creeley

A previous blog entry described my protest against the anointing of Gary Snyder with the Robert Creeley Award in Acton (see http://wwwtheamericandissidentorg.blogspot.com/2010/03/fierce.html). The protest was staged because Snyder was a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, which had censored and banned me. Snyder was indifferent to that censorship incident and banning. The directors of the Robert Creeley Award, including Bob Clawson and Penelope Creeley, were also indifferent to that censorship incident and banning. Clawson would later inform me that Penelope had mentioned during the ceremony that she respected my right to free speech, that is, to protest... as if I'd needed her "respect" with that regard. The cartoon explains why that "respect" was as vacuous as vacuous gets.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Experiment in Democracy: Goucher College

Notice of this blog was sent to the president, provost, members of the English and Cultural Sustainability faculty, and to student newspaper staff of Goucher College in the hope of inciting vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy. One student eventually responded... anonymously. She (?) did not however respond to my critique of her response.

Why criticize Goucher College in Maryland? I don’t know anyone there or who even went there. Nevertheless, while hunting through the job lists I came across a want-ad for an English professor with the following stipulation, as accurately noted in the cartoon above: “Goucher College is committed to increasing the diversity of the campus community and seeks applications from those who will contribute to this effort.”

What that statement clearly implies is that job candidates are expected to espouse and foster and even somehow prove their adherence to a particular politically-correct viewpoint, one that evidently does not favor a diversity of opinions at all. Although Goucher is a private institution, its policy is still a slap in the face of democracy. Likely, the policy is legal. However, if the college states that it adheres to the principle of freedom of expression, it might not be legal. The cartoon, of course, is meant to satirize yet another instance of the PC-plague wreaking havoc in academe and stir up debate, though likely that won’t happen at all… unless of course Goucher’s faculty and student body are somewhat unique.

Diversity and multiculturalism have proven to be wonderful diversions away from truth and the courage to speak truth. Often, they serve as last refuge for sellout Sixties scoundrels. Today, universities in America are shamefully more likely to affix “diversity” in their academic mottos, web pages, and job ads, than “truth” and the “courage to speak unadulterated truth even and especially if doing so might prove offensive and otherwise harmful to ones career.” Sadly, academe seems to have become a refuge for careerists, not for truth tellers.

The problem with the multicultural ideology pushed in academe is, of course, the faulty reasoning (all ideologies tend to contain faulty reasoning) that, for example, would argue that I as a white man would bring, more than anything else, the perspective of a privileged European American, member of the ruling class, to the arena of ideas. Nothing of course could be more stereotypically false! The faulty reasoning of multiculturalists would also have us believe that a black man or Latino, who has played the game and sucked up to the system all of his or her life, would bring the perspective of an oppressed Afro-American or Hispanic. Instead, what he or she would bring is the perspective of a faithful careerist bureaucrat, nothing more and nothing less. Instead, I as a dissident would bring the perspective of a man who has actively questioned and challenged academe, the ruling class, and its diverse established-order apparatchiks—black, white, and Latino. Sadly, that is precisely the perspective that academe will not tolerate, though from which it could evidently most benefit.

Administrators and faculty generally will not respond to criticism, unless forced. Vigorous debate is rarely if ever something they hold dear, which is why, in the context of these experiments in democracy, I also make it a point to contact the students at the helm of the college newspaper, in this case, The Q, whose motto is “Reliable, Trustworthy, Comprehensive.” Nevertheless, chances are slim that even one student contacted will prove sufficiently curious, courageous, and un-indoctrinated to actually respond. Comprehensive? We’ll see about that!

By the way, Goucher’s MA Program in Cultural Sustainability really exists (see http://www.goucher.edu/x33261.xml). Personally, I thought it odd, if not absurd, to devote an entire Master’s degree program to the topic, an evident specialty in the area of sociology. But such programs tend to proliferate in academe today because they reflect PC ideology and more importantly attract money for the professors and respective institutions. Will we ever see an MA Program in TRUTH and the COURAGE TO SPEAK TRUTH? Likely not! Would Goucher College ever hire a professor like me? Certainly not! Welcome to the brave new world of America.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Provosts... of Business as Usual

This brief comment was written as a response to Idaho State University Provost Gary A. Olson’s article appearing in The Chronicle of Higher Education (http://chronicle.com/article/The-Academic-Job-Search-and/64861/?sid=wb&utm_source=wb&utm_medium=en) this week. In vain, I attempted to post it. Thus, I sent it and the cartoon to Olson. Will he respond? Of course not! As for the cartoon it was drawn a while ago, instigated by a different article penned by Olson.
Rather than business-as-usual passive acceptance of a dubious policy, why not actually question and challenge the policy? Professional references, as they’re called, act as certificates of safety and conformity. Is that what the nation needs in academe of all places? In other words, those three letters of recommendation certify a candidate to be apt not to question and challenge the academic machine. They certify him or her to be apt to turn a blind eye in the face of institutional corruption. They certify him or her to be a team player (black-gowned herd member) not apt to question the team and not apt to “go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all ways” (Emerson). Those three letters assure business as usual in the one place where business as usual ought to be shirked: academe, the nation’s intellectual core!

What ought to be done is eliminate the three letters and replace them with a simple police-background check. Or why not three letters that stress a candidate’s courage and critical nature, as opposed to his or her likelihood of being sheep-like?

It really does perturb me to read this provost’s article because it really does underscore how hopelessly bad it’s become in the ivory tower. Wall Street has not only taken over the government, it’s taken over the nation’s colleges and universities too.

“Whether the candidate had any skeletons in the closet that would come back to haunt the university [or rather university’s image]” becomes the sole concern for persons like Olson. But screw the damn university! Bring back truth and democracy! Get rid of PR and the deans and students of PR! We need to get rid of business-minded and trained provosts and replace them with truth and courage-minded provosts.

Oh my, what if we hired a man or woman apt to go against our comfortable grain, buck the system that’s been feeding us so nicely, and otherwise question the Faustian pact that’s enabled us to have such nice homes?!

The problem is that "people who engage in this kind of amateur detective work” (i.e., seeking damaging info against someone on the Internet) really don’t end up shooting themselves in the foot. They end up climbing the academic ladder yet another rung or two!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Gary Snyder

The following is an excerpt from Contention: Conversations with the Established Order and Other Parodias de Discursos.

I tried to read Synder but couldn't get into anything he wrote. But in poetry reputation is what matters not what you write. There is also something askew when a counter culture poet gets on some council, its like he's been given the good housekeeping seal of approval.
—Dave Ochs

Stand alone to decry censorship in the midst of a herd of incoming poets, professors, and poetophiles, and expect not one herd member to support your cause. On the contrary, the literary mass will likely chuckle in harmony, scorn a tad, chuckle again, then dismiss you as an egotistical attention seeker. In the skull of that literary mass, a myriad of reasons will ferment to justify inaction and consequent acceptance, if not outright support, of censorship.

It wasn’t like I hunted for trouble. Illogical nonsense was ubiquitous in America. Step out of the house and there it was sticking its drooling tongue out at you, provoking you to respond, that is, if you had failed the happy-face, positivist citizen indoctrination test. Or even just stay in the house, and there it was mocking away at intelligence. In any case, a correspondent informed me that a poet had just croaked: “Well todd mo/ ore is dea/d did you he/ ar? Check this ridiculous letter that Moore wrote Scot Young.” So, I checked it out and ended up writing and posting a comment. That seemed to have become my profession: comment poster. But the comment was censored. America today was educating an army of little caeser censors obsessing over possible offensiveness, while ever rationalizing censorship and truncation of free speech and expression. The brave new world was here now. Some called it PC.

A back and forth email battle had ensued with Fred Wright because the censor, Scot Young, had sent my comment to him. Moore’s buddies and family were attempting to canonize him. But now the only hope for the poor fellow was a post-mortem Robert Creeley Award, though that hope was a dismal one because, to date, not one post-mortem had been designated. Moore had paraded around as one of the “outlaw” poets, yet he’d spent most of his life as a tenured high-school English teacher and hadn’t even spent a day in jail. Hell, I’d spent a day and so had Henry D, but we weren’t “outlaw” poets. Villon was an “outlaw” poet, spent time in a donjon for murder, was almost executed, and deserved the designation.

It was about 6:15 and still with plenty of daylight. Spring was just around the corner. It had seemed like the longest, coldest winter I’d yet experienced. I was like a bear just out of hibernation partly stunned by the sudden warmth in the air. First, I stopped off at the local library to dump off some DVDs, then headed to the next town over, got lost, then found my way again, and pulled into the lot. I’d prepared a broadside, reworked it a number of times and even drew a cartoon for it. Thanks to friend Dan, I had 50 copies to distribute. Dan had been inviting me to his English classes once every semester for the past three years. Amazingly… astonishingly, he was actually using The American Dissident in those classes.

My protest was against tenured professor poet chancellor beatnik Gary Snyder, who was going to read and receive the Robert Creeley Award. Creeley had lived in Acton before he’d kicked the bucket. Now, he was comfortably enshrined in the literary canon.

A male-female couple about my age, looking definitely like they were going to the reading, were walking ahead of me. They entered the school. I stood outside the doors. Then soon they walked out of the school and were standing in front of me.
—So, you’re the guy hanging up fierce things on poets!
—So, it’s not here?
—No, this is the junior high. The high school is down the road.
The grayish-blond haired woman did the talking and pointed down the road. Several years before I’d protested against the John Ashbery reading. The couple walked on back to the lot. I followed them. The woman had a thick accent.
—Did you say, fierce?
—Yes. Fierce.
—Well, that’s a first. I’ve been called lots of things, but never “fierce.”
—Someone I know was concerned about you.
—You mean that I might have a gun or something?
—Yes. Something like that.
—Well, I suppose I could say the same about that person or you for that matter. So, you’ve seen me before?
—Yes, I’m William Creeley’s widow.
—Ah, so you’re the woman who cried after seeing that cartoon I sketched and distributed?
She didn’t seem angry, just aloof—bourgeois aloof. The boyfriend or friend or whomever remained silent, though seemed to be listening. He had short gray hair, was well-groomed and attired, and definitely looked the part of the proverbial academic poet—no fangs, no rough edges, just proper word craftiness, probably a former hippie turned established order. Clearly, neither he nor she had any interest whatsoever in my protest.
—You know, I wrote something about you just this morning. Another poet died and everyone was praising him. But I didn’t like the guy, so criticized him. And, of course, that upset the poets. One of them wrote: "next time, send condolences to a person's family instead of desecrating his grave before they have even put him to rest." But I figured since they were pushing for canonization, they should be prepared for not just happy-face commentary. If the family really wanted peace, it shouldn’t have been pushing the fame button. So, of course, that reminded me of you.
She didn’t respond. Perhaps she didn’t quite understand. But evidently the same thing pertained to her husband, who she’d help canonize with the Award.
—Are you Deutsch?
—No, I’m from New Zealand.
They walked over to their car, while I to mine and without good-byes or see-you-laters. Last time I'd protested in Acton, the gala was indeed held at the junior high school. So, maybe Snyder was higher up in the bourgeois poet-pecking order than Ashbery, since his reading was at the high school.

Students were hanging around mostly in little groups by the front doors, where I planted myself like an unruly cactus. Now and then, mommy or daddy arrived to pick some of them up. I placed my two small placards against the wall: HATE FREE SPEECH, LOVE CENSORSHIP, MOVE TO CHINA! and DEMOCRACY NEEDS MORE THAN SMILEY-FACED POETRY! On the door was a little sign indicating the Snyder reading. Creeley’s widow and beau were pacing around, probably waiting for someone. Eventually, they were standing in front of me, though not really out of interest. The beau seemed hyper-timid, even somewhat fearful, kind of like a handsome squirrel. I opened my mouth. What the hell.
—No curiosity?
—What do you mean?
She seemed to have a difficult time concentrating on my presence as a human being. She really didn’t look at me at all, not even when she spoke to me.
—Well, you didn’t want to take a flyer.
—Oh, I’ll take one. Why are you protesting?
—Well, simply put, Snyder’s a censor, that's why. I’m a fervent free speech advocate and against censorship. If they censored you, I’d be here right now at your side to lend support.
—Well, I don’t think anyone would want to censor me. My son is a free-speech lawyer.
—Well, that’s interesting. I really do have a passion for the subject, especially regarding colleges and universities.
—Have you ever heard of FIRE?
—Sure, I’m in contact with them periodically. It’s a great organization.
—Well, my son works for them.
—Well, that’s interesting.
It was as if somehow by proxy what the son did made her important. She was not interested in any further details regarding Snyder. She’d folded up the flyer and had placed it into her pocket without even looking at it. No doubt the nearest garbage bucket would be in for a treat.
—His name is Will Creeley.
—Ah, yes, I know the name.
—He’s a poet too.
She looked at the beau, so evidently didn’t mean the son.
—Yeah, well, poets are probably all over the place right now.
The beau smiled in agreement. How not to think of the Quebecois term, platte. Indeed, he was as platte as it got. Bourgeois platte. And she was as platte as it got. Bourgeois platte. They disappeared into the building… platte. No good-byes and no see-you-laters. Poets and poetophiles were now arriving in a constant flow.
—Protest against the poet!
—Really? Come on, now.
—Why, isn’t that possible?
—Take it easy, dude, I’m just surprised.
Well, he at least took a flyer and smiled. Was Snyder that bland? A young high-school student walked up to me, stood in front of me, and actually held out her hand and with a big smile.
—Could I please have one?
—Yes, we’re having a poetry reading tomorrow in class.
—Well, then you’ll have to mention my protest.
—They’d kill me!
She took a flyer and scooted off to where her two friends. Poets and poetophiles kept arriving, flowing by, and into the building. If popularity was a measure of greatness, then Snyder had probably achieved it. But if popularity was only a measure of inoffensiveness, nicety, and not going against the established-order grain, then Snyder was perhaps a lousy poet, though a popular one.
—Curiosity is the first step to enlightenment!
—Thank you, sir.
—Thank you, mam.
A woman approached and stood in front of me. The light of familiarity suddenly glowed inside my head.
—May I have one?
—Ah, it’s Madame Le Poutine!
I hadn’t seen her in 15 years, more or less, but recalled her name because of its Quebecois origin. Once upon a time, she was one of my adult evening students at Fitchburg State and had even slapped the make on me suddenly in her car one evening. But that was as far as it got. She appeared quite surprised, laughed, fully recognized me, and stood by my side for a while, waiting for a friend. Well, that was nice, an ally of sorts. We chatted while I intermittently inserted a “Protest against the poet! Protest against censorship!” She was curious. Most were not curious.
—Why are you protesting against Snyder?
—Well, he’s a member of the Academy of American Poets, which censored and banned me.
—Really? What did you do?
—Well, I didn’t do anything. I just expressed an opinion they didn’t like. Should poets be into the censoring business? I didn’t threaten anyone, nor did I use four-letter words.
—Do you know Marie Ponsot?
—Never heard of her.
—She just became a chancellor. She’s 85 years old and a very good poet. She's a friend of mine.
—Good poet? Of course, she must be "good," but "good" at playing the game. "Good" for you ain’t likely gonna be "good" for me.
—What do you think poets should do then?
—Poets should speak truth, that’s what they should do. They shouldn’t be playing established-order games and climbing ladders all the time. A good poet should be a truth teller, not a blind-eye turning careerist!
—You must like doing these things.
—Well, I do sort of get a jolt of adrenaline, but actually I don’t like doing them. I have to force myself to do them. Who wants to drive 10 miles to see a bunch of scorning free-speech hating faces? My experience tells me that not one person here will even respond to my flyer.
—So why do you do this then?
—For free speech and democracy. There’s a principle involved. And you probably won’t understand that.
—Oh, I do.
—Can you believe someone actually said I might be dangerous?
—Well, I know. I’ve heard that too. People think you’re angry.
—I’ve heard that a lot. But weren’t the Revolutionary Patriots pissed off or were they smiley and happy?
—Yes, but angry isn’t always good.
—Well, it’s always good for democracy. And why should happy be good? Take a flyer! Here, take one, it’s free! Why are poets so incurious?
The pod of passing poets and poetophiles didn’t want to take flyers. My temporary ally actually tried unsuccessfully to interest a couple of them.
—Come on take a flyer.
—See, they’re not curious.
Then her friend arrived and she suggested I write.
—Why don’t you email me?
—Well, why don’t you email me?
—Is it on the flyer?
—Yes. And let me know if he does his Smokey the Bear poem.
They entered the building, and that would probably be the last time I’d see or hear from her. How to make the bourgeois understand? It was simply not possible. Ole Harry Haller couldn't do it. So how the hell could I do it? Well, they couldn't understand. That was why they were bourgeois. Droves of them were arriving, passing by me as if on a merry-go-round. It was a free reading. And free always meant droves. It was free thanks to the state cultural councils. Even the Concord Cultural Council was paying, yet the event wasn’t even in Concord. I was in Concord, but it wouldn’t give me a cent of a grant.
—Protest against Snyder! Take a flyer!
—But I like him! I don’t want to read a protest about him.
—Now, that’s a good one! Blind poets are just like blind Obama-philes. They just don’t want to see. Here, take a flyer!
—If he’s writing poetry, he’s okay!
—Well, I’m writing poetry too, but evidently I’m not okay.
The dude disappeared into the building without taking a flyer. Why did so many poets seem to experience such difficulty with basic logic? How did it get that way?
—Protest against Snyder! He’s a censoring chancellor!
A passing poetophile chuckled, then another chuckled, then another.
—We’re for free speech too!
—Sure, tell me about! Free speech for you, but not for me.
—Thank you!
—Well, thank you.
Then a pod of dowdy, hefty females arrived chuckling at me and refusing to take flyers. Probably from Concord Poetry Center. Then another pod arrived and another wave of chuckling. Free speech protest and censorship had become a chuckling matter in bourgeois circlets. On the ground, I spotted a rolled up bill. I picked it up. A buck, my payment for service to democracy! Whoopee. Another passing pod chuckled.
—Protest against censorship! Take a flyer.
—No, thanks!
—Today you chuckle at censorship! Tomorrow we’ll have dictatorship, and you’ll damn well deserve it!
No coppers were in sight. Usually the coppers arrived.
—Free flyer!
At about 7:15, I ran out of broadsides. Yet still waves of poets and poetophiles were arriving. So I began handing out AD flyers. I watched the kids run around the lit-up track on the embankment across the parking lot. It had slowly gotten darker. It was a beautiful spring evening. I breathed in the scented air.
—Spring! Spring is here! Ah, Beatniks! More Beatniks! Protest against Beatniks!
They chuckled. Well, at least I could amuse them.
—Ah, here comes a couple of Beatniks! Protest against Beatnik Censor Chancellor Tenured Poet Professor Snyder! Here come more Beatnik poets! Whoopee! Protest against Beatnik Snyder!
—Because he’s a censor. He belongs to a censoring academy.
But the poet or poetophile just chuckled and walked by.
—Yes, chuckle away! And soon we’ll have censors all over the place! Well, I guess you must be a Beatnik.
But the kid was only about 20 years old and looked at me like what the fuck are you talking about. I wonder if he even knew what the word beatnik meant. Snyder was cocooned in fame. It was difficult to penetrate that kind of armored veneer. I doubted he’d even get word of my protest. Well, I did email the broadside to his university address. They must have shuffled the old bugger in through the back door. I didn’t even get to see him. Interestingly, three different high-school kids had approached me separately and actually wanted flyers. “You must really have great teachers,” I’d said to one of them. Well, the gods were with me. The gods wanted me to protest. If it had been the night before during the great deluge, I wouldn’t have bothered showing up. Longhairs and beardos and typical dumpy older females kept flowing into the building. Another day of confirmed total alienation would soon be over for me. At about 7:30, I walked back to the car, my black shadow preceding me on the pavement. I opened the door, got in, and drove the hell out of there, while the poetry legend was probably being applauded by professors, politicians, town leaders, town businessmen, librarians, prize judges, students, and of course Great Book readers.