A Forum for Vigorous Debate, Cornerstone of Democracy

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

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

Tuesday, 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!

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