A Forum for Vigorous Debate, Cornerstone of Democracy

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

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

Friday, May 4, 2018

Frank Bidart

Open Letter to Poetry Professor Frank Bidart
Why the Need for Hullabaloo in the Poetry Milieu?
It is truly amazing that few, very few if any, intellectuals question the literary prizes and wonder what might be the biases of the faceless judges awarding them.  In the world of establishment literature, just that thought alone constitutes blasphemy and makes this essay unpublishable.  Raise the thought and be prepared for full ostracizing.  When it comes to the literary prizes, journalists and literati are an open-wide-and-swallow groupthink mentality.  “Finally a comic novel gets a Pulitzer Prize.  It’s about time,” noted the Washington Post; “If we valued black art, Kendrick Lamar’s Pulitzer would have been for literature,” praised the Guardian; “Wellesley College professor wins prize for poetry,” stated the Boston Globe
Poet Charles Bukowski, one of the few known poets who dared criticize the poetry establishment, wrote:  “Poetry has long been an in-game, a snob game, a game of puzzles and incantations. It still is, and most of its practitioners operate comfortably as professors in our safe and stale universities.”  
So, Professor Frank Bidart, do you think your Wellesley College poetry students can understand the implications inherent in that statement?  In fact, are you yourself capable of understanding them?  And why didn’t Bukowski ever win the Pulitzer Prize?  The key to independent thinking is literary dissection, certainly not literary hullabaloo.  In his Boston Globe piece, Martin Finucane echoed that you, the new Pulitzer Prize-winner for poetry, are one of America’s most respected poets."   But what does that mean?  Was there a vote?  If so, who got to vote and who didn’t?  Who is doing the “respecting” and what does “respected” by the establishment really imply?  Moreover, can one be respected if one questions and challenges the “respecters”?  Likely not!  And that is the crux. 
Privileged poets get to anoint other privileged poets, who get to distribute the prizes, who get to dish out the grants, who decide who shall be published or invited to speak, who determines who gets tenure and who doesn’t, and most importantly who shall be ostracized, silenced, and censored.  They form the poetry establishment (i.e., the “respecters”), which normally consists of well-to-do privileged academic poets with bourgeois lifestyles.  They have real faces, some of which can be examined on the Academy of American Poets website.  How does one get to be one of those privileged poets?  Evidently, as mentioned, the road to privileged “poetdom” does not normally consist of questioning and challenging privileged poets.  On the contrary, it normally consists of praising those poets and their poetry.  Open wide and swallow is the requisite modus operandi of those wishing to join the gang.  Journalists in general share that modus operandi.  Just examine the diverse poetry reviews they publish in the New Yorker, New York Times, Poets & Writers, and Washington Post, for example.  They tend inevitably not to be critiques, but rather hagiographies. 
Regarding your Pulitzer-anointed book of poetry, the Globe article notes that Pulitzer administrator Dana Canedy declared it was “a volume of unyielding ambition and remarkable scope that mixes long, dramatic poems with short elliptical lyrics, building on classical mythology and reinventing forms of desire that defy societal norms.”  Canedy’s remark is in essence a flurry of highbrow vacuity with a touch of contradiction, for to be anointed, one can do anything but “defy societal norms,” unless of course those “norms” are left undefined.  What precisely have you done to defy them?   No examples are provided; no examples are demanded.  Is a lifetime career in the ivory tower a defiance? 
The principle “societal norm,” of course, constitutes, above all else:  thou shalt not criticize the academic/literary established order—its icons, its chancellors, its prizes, its literary journals, and its organizations.  You, of course, have bowed to that norm.  Your very career has depended on congealed genuflection.  The careers of aspiring poets, some of your students perhaps, depend on congealed genuflection.  
Today, poetry for the established order has come to mean anything but hardcore criticism of that order.  That has become the norm—the only real norm existent in poetry.  Break it and be prepared for full ostracizing, banning, and censorship.   The poetry establishment has no backbone.  And one can only make that discovery when one actually tests its waters, as I have done for the past three decades.   Categorical dismissal by banning, ostracizing, censorship, and ad hominem inevitably form part of those murky waters.   That has certainly been my experience.  Is the establishment open to criticism?  Certainly not!  In fact, I’d be amazingly surprised if The Wellesley News student newspaper would deign to publish this open letter. 
“I’m certainly very pleased,” you noted in that Globe article.  “When you start out as a poet, you’re very aware of older poets who have won the Pulitzer, and it very often happens that the poets I most admire won it in their old age, Wallace Stevens, for example. And I’m 78 now. So it’s very pleasing to have won before I climb into the ground.”  Well, when I started out, I didn’t give a damn about poets who won the Pulitzer… and still don’t.  Poets who win the Pulitzer are generally sellouts— highbrow bourgeois word spinners and slingers, far, far from risk-taking rude-truth tellers.   And on that note, how not to think of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance,” in particular, “I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges [e.g., Pulitzer Prize] and names, to large societies and dead institutions.  Every decent and well-spoken individual affects and sways me more than is right. I ought to go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all ways.” 
Perhaps you are teaching, via your own example, the very opposite of what Emerson had stated: “For nonconformity the world whips you with its displeasure.”  In other words, for conformity the world whips you with its pleasure.  Students of poetry should be taught to question the prizes—who are the faceless judges according them, what are their biases—and prize winners, not simply open wide and swallow in celebration!   
Finally, in 2013, I posted on my blogsite a cartoon I’d sketched on you, as well as an email written to the Academy of American Poets to which you served as one of its high-and-mighty chancellors.  Sometime later, you posted a comment.  Well, I just noticed it yesterday:  “I'm bewildered. When did I ‘favor the censoring of a fellow poet’? When did I favor censoring anybody, except those yelling fire in a crowded theater when there's no fire? I'm not without sin, but I don't recognize the incident or occasion or situation you're talking about. Your criticism would cut deeper if I knew what you're talking about.” 
And so, when did you favor the censoring of a fellow poet, me, for example?  The answer to that question oddly appeared right below the posted cartoon in that email:  “Might there actually be a freedom-of-expression proponent amongst you and/or the Chancellors today?  Might one of you actually be capable of thinking and acting exterior to the groupthink, established-order poesy box?  Have things changed at all at the Academy of American Poets since it censored and banned me in 2007 from commenting on its forums, or is it still censorship and indifference to censorship as usual?”  
Why didn’t you, chancellor at the time, stand up to protest the censorship (removal) of my comments from the Academy of American Poets website and the prohibiting of my further commenting on its site?  By remaining silent, you sided with and continue to side with the censors.  Is that so difficult to comprehend?  Apparently, it was and still is… for you.  In fact, do you expose your students to the critical viewpoints of those exterior to the poetry establishment like those published in The American Dissident, for example?  If not, why not?  Your college librarian won’t even respond to a request that he or she consider subscribing.  
Please note that this “Open Letter” was sent to your English Department colleagues at Wellesley in the hope that might help instigate you or one of them to respond.  It has been my long experience dealing with academics and other literati, which has led me to conclude they detest outside criticism and vigorous debate.  Groupthink echo is not vigorous debate.  Careerism, not rude-truth telling, tends overwhelmingly to be their and your m.o.  Diversity is hardly a strength with that in mind.  I’ve also sent it to student editors Jane Vaughan and Alexandria Otero of The Wellesley News, though doubt wholeheartedly they will possess the independence and courage to publish it.  In conclusion, I wrote the following in 2008 and sent it to the Chancellors, you included.  You, of course, never responded.  To this day, as far as I am aware, I am still prohibited from commenting on the Academy of American Poets website…  

Open Letter to the Honorable Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets*
Only three of you have deigned to respond to my concerns of the censorship effected by the Academy of American Poets last July, though not one of you has proven eager to engage in vigorous debate with that regard.  As an American citizen, I therefore consider all of you far more reprehensible, than honorable.  Your blacklisting me as poeta non grata is shameful, to say the least.  By the way, your responses, names, and email addresses have all been incorporated into the updated webpage created to denounce the censorship approved by you (see http://theamericandissident.org/orgs/academy_american_poets.html). Please do examine it.  In fact, why not have your students examine it?!  After all, don’t you publicly consider their interests more important than yours?      
In case you are still unaware, vigorous debate is the cornerstone of democracy. Why, one must ask, is it not also the cornerstone of the publicly-funded Academy of American Poets?  And why do all of you shun it like the plague?  After all, almost all of you are or were tenured professors.  What on earth, one must wonder, are you or were you teaching your students:  sycophancy, censorship, political correctitude, speech codes, the benefits of McCarthy-like inquisitions?  Well, tenure tends to destroy minds; it doesn’t free them.  
Finally, prize-winning poets like all of you are perhaps known for your ability to spin an ingenious line of poetry, but certainly you are hardly at all known for the courage to act alone and against the grain of the established-order milieu awarding the prizes.  And that is precisely why you are not great and will never be great.  And that is why you will never be held in high esteem by any independently thinking human being.  Sadly, you’ve all become cogs in the machine.  “Let your life be a counterfriction to stop the machine,” had written Thoreau.  Well, that’s who I am, a counterfriction…

G. Tod Slone, Ed.
The American Dissident, a 501 c3 nonprofit literary journal providing 
a forum for vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy
1837 Main St.
Concord, MA 01742
*Frank Bidart (Wellesley College), Lyn Hejinian (University of California at Berkeley), Sharon Olds (New York University's Graduate Creative Writing Program), Kay Ryan (New York’s Central Park Zoo), Gerald Stern (University of Iowa Writers' Workshop), C. K. Williams (Princeton University), Rita Dove (University of Virginia), Galway Kinnell (New York University), Carl Phillips (Washington University at St. Louis), Gary Snyder (University of California at Davis), James Tate (University of Massachusetts at Amherst), Robert Hass (University of California at Berkeley, Nathaniel Mackey (University of California at Santa Cruz), Robert Pinsky (Boston University), Susan Stewart (Princeton University), and Ellen Bryant Voigt (Warren Wilson College)

NB:  As expected, not one English professor, including Bidart, and neither of the student editors deigned to respond to this open letter.

From: George Slone
Sent: Thursday, April 19, 2018 7:44 AM
To: thewellesleynews@gmail.com
Cc: fbidart@wellesley.edu; kbrogan@wellesley.edu; wcain@wellesley.edu; mcezaire@wellesley.edu; dchiasso@wellesley.edu; pfisher@wellesley.edu; ogonzalez@wellesley.edu; ahickey@wellesley.edu; ylee@wellesley.edu; klynch@wellesley.edu; smeyer@wellesley.edu; jnoggle@wellesley.edu; tpeltaso@wellesley.edu; lrodensk@wellesley.edu; lrosenwald@wellesley.edu; msabin@wellesley.edu; vshetley@wellesley.edu; yko@wellesley.edu; msides@wellesley.edu
Subject: Open Letter to Frank Bidart

To Co-Editors-in-Chief Jane Vaughan and Alexandria Otero, The Wellesley News, Student Newspaper of Wellesley College:
Please publish the following “Open Letter,” regarding one of your professors, Frank Bidart.  Of course, I am a realist and would be surprised if you decide to publish it, let alone respond to this email.  Why?  Well, evidently colleges have become training facilities, as opposed to educational ones that reflect democracy’s principles, freedom of speech and vigorous debate.  Also, I did contact your paper in 2013, regarding another issue, and never received a response.  In any case, thank you for your hopeful attention.

From: George Slone
Sent: Friday, April 27, 2018 7:10 AM
To: tcushman@wellesley.edu; csowa@wellesley.edu
Cc: thewellesleynews@gmail.com; fbidart@wellesley.edu; kbrogan@wellesley.edu; wcain@wellesley.edu; mcezaire@wellesley.edu; dchiasso@wellesley.edu; pfisher@wellesley.edu; ogonzalez@wellesley.edu; ahickey@wellesley.edu; ylee@wellesley.edu; klynch@wellesley.edu; smeyer@wellesley.edu; jnoggle@wellesley.edu; tpeltaso@wellesley.edu; lrodensk@wellesley.edu; lrosenwald@wellesley.edu; msabin@wellesley.edu; vshetley@wellesley.edu; yko@wellesley.edu; msides@wellesley.edu
Subject: Testing the murky waters of democracy at Wellesley College

To Thomas Cushman, Director, and Caryn Sowa, Program Manager, the Wellesley College Freedom Project,
Please distribute this email to the other Freedom Project members.  It might or might not be of interest to you that in vain I contacted the Wellesley News student editors on several occasions.  No response was their freedom response.  Also, in vain I contacted the English professors, offering a highly critical essay on one of them, Pulitzer poet Frank Bidart.  No response was their freedom response.   Is silence the new vigorous debate at Wellesley?  Will no response be the Freedom Project response?  On yet another occasion, I contacted an English professor, Dan Chiasson, who did respond by essentially calling me a racist and threatening to contact campus police.  

Can professors really be so fragile at Wellesley College?  And if so, what does that teach their students?  Well, it teaches them that feelings trump freedom of speech and vigorous debate, cornerstones of democracy!  Moreover, Prof. Chiasson requested I cease contacting him and anyone else connected to the college.  So, here I disobey that request by contacting you.  Please do not send your Campus Police down to Cape Cod to put me in handcuffs for my various speech crimes!  

For the email (and cartoons) I sent to Prof. Chiasson, as well as his rather troubling email response, please do examine http://wwwtheamericandissidentorg.blogspot.com/2018/04/dan-chiasson.html.  Also, below you can read the essay I sent to the English professors, as well as my correspondence.  Do you think the items might warrant imprisonment?  It is true that my "tone" might not be in-line with expected academic "tone," but from my perspective the tone is the message is the tone.  Besides, I never make threats and have no criminal record of violence whatsoever.  Hopefully, you will not agree with Prof. Chiasson, regarding the Campus Police…

[No response was ever received.] 

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