Let No Act of Censorship Go Uncriticized
Left or Right: Thou Shalt NOT Criticize the Poets!
FrontPage, an online right-wing journal, had rightfully been denouncing the increasing incidents of left-wing assaults on freedom of speech, especially with regards the shutting down of debate and creation of safe spaces and speech codes, on college campuses across the country from Yale to Missou to Smith to Vasser.
Hypocritically, its moderators (i.e., censors) also shut down debate. Indeed, they refused to post my critical comment regarding a glowing review written by Mark Tapson, Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, of a book of poetry written by Michael Finch, Chief Operating Officer also at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. The egregious hypocrisy of that act of censorship left me fully disgusted. And not one person at the Horowitz Freedom Center would respond.
What had provoked me to comment, in the first place, was the very crux of the review, as clearly stated by the reviewer: “But as many conservative writers such as Andrew Klavan and myself have noted for years, reclaiming America means reclaiming the culture, and that means engaging in the arts.” Contrast that statement with the rather innocuous verse presented by the reviewer, as if somehow that verse would help in “reclaiming the culture.” Mind-boggling!
In my initial comment, I criticized the crux statement as insufficient. Indeed, mere “engaging in the arts” would accomplish little if anything. What was needed was active questioning and challenging of the “arts” machine, which I’ve come to term the academic/literary established order. The poem fragments taken from FINDING HOME: POEMS IN SEARCH OF A LOST AMERICA clearly did not even remotely attempt that. Note, for example:
My mind remembers a soft, warm wind,
Sweet earth scent, and billows of clouds
In a wide prairie sky of youth’s eternal hope.
Where have you gone?
Now, how might those lines even remotely help the right-wing in “reclaiming the culture” in an effort to establish… its particular forms of censorship, let alone expose the lack of objectivity, egregious hypocrisy, and especially visceral knee-jerk rejection of any criticism regarding the left-wing “arts” machine? Here’s another verse presented by Tapson:
Years from now when the winds blow again,
When you stare at the midnight’s blue of
The setting sun, lined mountains black against
A cobalt sky, do one thing for the one who loved you:
Think of me when your eyes gaze at the wondrous sky,
Your eyes searching the heavens for one,
When the breeze blows one last time through your hair,
Do one final thing. Think of me.
Another big problem with the “arts” machine is the M.O. of egregious backslapping and self-congratulating. In that sense, Tapson partakes in it, promoting the poetry of his admitted “friend.” What else is new, eh? Frank Kotter, whose comment was not censored by the moderators, sums up the inanity confronting poetry today.
I have not heard such touching and meaningful prose since Paul de Lagarde. May this also usher in a new era in our nation's consciousness just as those have who come before you. I have ordered but am disappointed to see it is not offered in hard cover—A shame as this book will be cited in history books in centuries to come.
More often when someone like me questions and challenges the “arts” machine (i.e., the academic/literary established order), the latter will respond with proverbial deafening silence. Imagine, for example, I had the gall recently to question and challenge the new poet laureate of Boston, Professor Danielle Legros Georges, who, as the Boston Globe headline stated, “wants to make poetry comfortable for all.” Of course, by simply mentioning that fact here, I greatly lessen my chances of getting this essay published because it contravenes the first commandment of the “arts” machine: thou shalt not criticize poets!
Because I’d sent my q&c to the student newspaper editors of Lesley University, Legros Georges’ employer, and only cc’d it to her, she called me “cowardly” in her response and wrote that if I really wanted debate then she was ready for it. So, I wrote with that regard… and received no response! Then days later, I wrote again, asking what happened to the will for debate. And again, no response was received. In essence, that deafening silence was the reason I’d chosen to write the student newspaper. My long experience dealing with machine literati was deafening silence. Sadly, my experience with student journalists had not proven much better, though a little bit. Considering the innocuousness of the poem fragments illustrated in Tapson’s hagiography (for the entire piece, see
http://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/260860/finding-home-poems-search-lost-america-mark-tapson), Michael Finch should have no problem at all getting published in “arts” machine magazines like Agni, Ploughshares, and Poetry magazine.
Finally, Thoreau famously urged: “Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine.” To that, I’d add left or right-wing machine. And tis better to chime with Thoreau, than climb the ladder in search of vacuity, that is, fame, awards, invitations, tenure, and all the other crap serving to muzzle the truly cowardly like left-wing Legros Georges and right-wing Michael Finch…