I do not know the American poetry critic-reviewer William Logan, but have read and enjoyed many of his reviews. The text below is satire, published two years ago, and perhaps far too sneery and unkind itself. It began life over a decade ago as a comment written in response to a Blog titled I Hate Poetry... Reviews?, written by the Memphis poet-editor Don Share and published on the Poetry Foundation's Blog Harriet, during its heyday at the very crossover from blogging to Facebook.
For a couple of years before it disabled its comment function, Blog Harriet was the online commons and front line of US poetry. It fostered a very democratic, healthy and vibrant come all ye conversational scene at the cutting edge of a pre-Facebook internet, premised on the bedrock of free speech First Amendment rights, and a constantly changing weekly cast of above the line, predominately US poets, who blogged for a week and usually got stuck into the comment section.
In which appeared the full range of bardic voices and grades of experience, learning and professionalism, from oblaire to ollamh.
Every Monday either a single practitioner or batch of blog-poets would appear and publish whatever they wanted for the next five to seven days, much of it spontaneously composed during the brief time of their tenure there; and it was great fun for the two years it lasted, circa 2007-9.
It had a very different tone and feel to the, by comparison, class and status conscious Anglophone internet poetry forums of Britain and Ireland, the predominant conversational feature of which was an endless chattering about what poet had won which prize/s rather than talking about their poems.
The conversation at Harriet when it was open for comments, was refreshingly unencumbered by this superficial obsession with corporate careers, as it's primary concern was with trafficking in concepts, ideas, and open discussion and debate.
My going after Logan was the purely instinctual (and joyful) act of a student bard in the eighth year of writing and studying what turned out to be before all I's were dotted and T's crossed, a sixteen year (and really ongoing) set-textual literary course and curriculum which was the foundation of Irish letters from their first appearance in the Ogham alphabet, to the sudden and swift end of the literary bardic tradition and ancient Gaelic civilization, at the start of the 17C.
I was led to revisit this post after reading Logan's most recent review of six new poetry collections, in which it is clear the joy of poetry has gone out of it for him.
Boston's most well known and widely read troll in poesy, and America's biggest satirical poetry critic, William Logan, has spent a career in one-sided bare-knuckle bardic bootbaggery; and what the Enniskeen Monaghan poet, Patrick Kavanagh, called in his poem Prelude, 'the unfruitful prayer of satire.'
His once crisp cutting-edge reviews were for many years very funny during the peak of his satirical career, but his writing star in the online age has dulled and ended with no place to evolve, his satirical tank has hit empty, the one trick shtick's washed up, and he knows now he is a fraud in Filiócht.
He is a laughably transparent critical hypocrite. When reviewing the Dennis O'Driscoll Stepping Stones interviews, and Heaney generally, he deploys the word 'cunning' a lot with a pejorative bias, stating parenthetically of the infinitely more eloquent, humanly warm, humble and talented Irish ollamh:
"The slyest moments here are his backhanded judgments on fellow poets."
...before indulging in the exact same practice:
"The richness of these interviews comes in part from the weakness of character inadvertently revealed. A poetry of warmth and humility has been drawn around a personality at times icy with conceit."
The obvious statement to make about Logan's style is that he has made a name for himself as a head-stomper, applying the sneeriest of standards to others, even though his own poetry is weak gruel and of an embarrassingly poorer quality than most of the people's he trolls.
Henry Lloyd Moon, an anonymous critic responding on the Guardian Books Blog in 2009 to a worshipful blurb by John Sutherland toadying up to Martin Amis - could equally be referring to Logan's overblown poetic standing when s/he writes of Amis:
"It's like laughing along with the worldly but weedy class show-off."
Poet-manque Logan is clearly more of an aging comedian past his best than a valuable literary critic professing praiseful, prayerfully, and with a sense of reverence for the art and objects in language that make a poem sing in the aural ear of everyone regardless of our education or standing. A once outrageously readable professional, now increasingly bitter has-been troll, among whose many glaring faults is one that anyone tutored by the people of the goddess Art can immediately spot.
Because for all the material comfort and socio-cultural prestige sneering at more talented poets has brought this envy-driven drek-specialist, it is clear he is spiritually unfulfilled in the role of poet.
These days virtually no Joy ever dribbles from his mental lips onto the review page, because he has written far too much satire. Like the once adroit, original and witty fun-filled voice of a senior pub bore whinging in the corner alone because their life-long endlessly repeated lists of what is wrong and not working, and what is rubbish and unworthy of this critical misanthrope's attention and time, over a career in corporate print, has been wrung empty of all its previously attractive comedic virtue, light-hearted gaiety, literary value, and spontaneity; to become predictable, depressing, and far too spiritually toxic for the junior alcoholics to imbibe and stomach.
Satirically trapped, unable to free his once witty mind from the chains of leaden mental slavery to his own fragile ego, WB Logan seems incapable of facing up publicly to his low literary station and initiating the sweeping cerebral changes which will reverse the mind's poetic polarity to draw forth and make sing the spirit of human happiness. One that those at the school for vampiric Loganites leach from all around when talking in print their poetically poisonous brand of increasingly unfunnier and unfunnier uncritically lazy, highly polished stand up doggerelist routines.
The simple humble human state of being in awe and wonder with the Divine, is something which has totally by-passed this awful doggerelist's plodding ditties, made from the most mediocre low quality psychic head-juice, and composed in an untutored joyless imagination and intellect that exhibits all the quality of the contemporary poetic equivalent of the lowest first grade 'culbard' ('back/rear-bard') of the eight in the ('servile/unfree') Dóer bard caste.
That any fewl kno' who has read the enumeration of the two castes and sixteen classes of bards on the first page of Swiss Celticist Rudolf Thurneysen's first (of four) Middle Irish metrical tract, "Mittelirische Verslehren", intended to enumerate and illustrate various metrical types, both common and uncommon.
Headed: Córus bard cona bairdni ‘The hierarchy of bards with its bardic composition/craft (bairdne)’, after the title heading which occurs in TCD MS 1308.
Sixteen bardic levels, eight in the ('servile/unfree') Dóer, and eight in the ('free') Sóer bard class, each with its own specific metre/s; that this dinosaur native of Boston Clowntalkin wud defecate his critical trews if presented with by someone possessing authentic knowledge of Filiocht, who came to expose his own doggerelistic practice by attempting to instigate a Bardic Colloquy with him.
Barely at the bottom, tenth and lowest grade ye start at on the twelve year literary Fili poet curriculum, an oblaire, ('apple'), who needed to have written seven pieces of satirical text to move up to the next grade in their studies.
And a species of crude rhymer that one ancient gloss describing Logan's art, defines as "the bastard sport of the juggler's apple".
Whilst another ancient Irish literary source labels this lowest grade "fuirseoir gan dán" "a buffoon without skill"; in the Liam Breatnach translated (1978) Uraicecht na Ríar/Primer of Stipulations.
A 10C legal text on the status of poets, that includes information on each grade of the three bardic subgrades and seven literary grades on the 12 year Filí poet course; the number, type, and form of compositions each had to learn; as well as the names and metres appropriate to each of the sixteen grades of free and unfree bards; and also the log enech 'face price' of each of the eight grades of free bards and seven literary Filí grades.
Log enech (Welsh equivalent - wynebwerth); was the value put on one's oath and word, and the amount of payment each meter and grade of free bard and literary Filí poet can expect for a text composed in the metres appropriate to their grades; as well as the set damages and compensation they pay out to others if they 'lost face'; or received, when successfully contending civil injury Brehon law cases, based on their social and literary status.
As well as the Reader learning exactly what textual material one must have memorized, written and be proficient in the making of to attain each literary grade and pass onto the next in their studies; most importantly of all, they were taught early on the difference between a literary Filí poet and common bard.
The highest of which in the free-bard (sóer) class was the rig-bard grade, with only eight years oral training, compared to the twelve of the fully realised courtly and aristocratic wholly literary filí poet yer man WB Logan reckons he is all about.
This long running what/who is, what/who is not a poet? debate, at the heart of which is the difference between the oral/bard and literary-filí; was settled recently on Oxford university poet and literary goddess Fiona Sampson's Facebook timeline; during a silent stand off between the 'Bob Dylan is a Poet' crowd, led by Carcanet hippy Michael Schmidt, and the 'how dare you dare you Bob Dylan is not a poet' contingent.
A spat in which both sides were unable to resolve the question because, it can be argued (in the purest theoretical sense), that members on both sides of the debate, by the standards of the Primer of Stipulations, are not filidh poets either, because, according to the authoritative definition on the matter: "Bard d(an)o: cin dligedfogluime is indtleacht fadeisin": "A bard, then: without the prerogative of learning (the twelve year set-textual filí course), but intellect alone."
Strictly speaking, from a traditional Irish poetry perspective, unless one has 'the prerogative of learning', has studied and passed the set requirements of the 12 year Irish literary Filí poet curriculum, they were considered a bard not a literary poet by those Writing Studies graduates that had completed the required twelve to sixteen years of exacting study and graduated to speaking fluently at the very highest of their potential, toxic in satire and splendorous in praise, wrapped in the shield of the eternal ever-loving warm witty kind voice of the people of our earthly island goddess Her.
Another difference also being, we are told by the literary Filí poet: "though the bards are not bound to have a knowledge of letters and syllables they must be able to distinguish and recognise correct consonance by ear and by thought."
Powerful, a handful of words settles it, so that there is no disputing from those Oxbreligious ivy leaguers one would expect were able to contend with a werking-klaws dirteh lettle oink spewking with a voice of Lancashababru from Ormskirk bygone times.
Translated by Liam Breatnach, (1987, p98), Uraicecht Na Riar - The Poetic Grades in Early Irish Law, thus: "the essential difference between the Filí and the bard is the latter’s lack of professional training".
Exactly the important point Robert Graves emphasizes in the opening of his first of the 1954/5 Cambridge University Clarke Lectures, with a subject of Professional Standards in English Poetry: The Crowning Privilege:
Unlike stockbrokers, soldiers, sailors, doctors, lawyers, and parsons, English poets do not form a closely integrated guild. A poet may put up his brass plate, so to speak, without the tedious preliminaries of attending a university, reading the required books and satisfying examiners. Also, a poet, being responsible to no General Council, and acknowledging no personal superior, can never be unfrocked, cashiered, disbarred, struck off the register, hammered on 'Change, or flogged round the fleet, if he is judged guilty of unpoetic conduct.
The only limits legally set on his activities are the acts relating to libel, pornography, treason, and the endangerment of public order. And if he earns the scorn of his colleagues, what effective sanctionscan they take against him? None at all.
Because the poet is a member of what Graves calls an anarchic profession, their responsibility must be to the Muse alone, and because no guild confers a diploma on English language poets, hence, any literary lummox such as Logan can rudely stamp upon the corporate page as a critic-poet, even though in the eyes of others s/he can be cast as a mere satirical troll akin to a second grade taman.
That anyone can set ourselves up as with the click of a mouse, which creates a world-wide page on which to release the toxic bardic bootbaggery Logan has made a very successful corporate career out of engaging in.
A taman was the middle of the three satirical bardic sub-grades on the 12 year Filí literary poet training course, a student full of satirical toxicity, glossed 'taman', the headless ('trunk' 'stock') state of a decapitated body, which ‘assaults everyone with his recitations’, ‘does not make the apportioning of the truth’, will ‘oppress the chiefs of the court’, and ‘spew their brute mouthfuls’.
One below the drisiuc (thorn-bard), with this bardic subgrades's name coming from a doérbard' of the third degree, and a low satirist and lampooner, and so called thorn because s/he 'sticks in the face of all.'
A trafficker in mockery, as all begin as, satirically sneering at those above us in the tree of literary Filiocht/poetry. Before we come to learn from our studies how to praise after completing the requirements of the early satirical grades. And exiting the drisuic grade--that had to have written a total of 20 pieces--before s/he could start the studies of the first literary beginner's grade, Fochloc, in the third year.
In one's own third year of writing I was still at this stage, on the final year of formal education at the Conceptual, Concrete and Linguistically Innovative Poetry School, having completed two very joyous straight years of Modern American Poetry modules on a joint Writing Studies BA.
That began in year one with Pound's A Few Don'ts, and working through the American canon until going out the door with a full working knowledge of the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry taught to us by well known Edge Hill University experimental poet brawlers, Robert Sheppard and Scott Thurston.
Two greatly feared London avant-garde heavyweights, and veterans of many brutal no holds barred academic straighteners and epistemological dirty fights. Sheppard having gained his reputation as a terrifying intellectual boot-bagger of Movement squares when risking everything at the front line of the Earls Court PoSoc (Poetry Society) Wars, as an underage mercenary who'd fought his way up from the streets as part of an out of control linguistically dangerous cadre of modern American-poetry-inspired outlaws and guerrillas in the British Poetry Revival, that seized executive and administrative control of the Poetry Society by committee coup, and launched what Charles Osbourne Director of Literature at the English Arts Council of the time, furiously labeled: "A treacherous assault on British poetry".
By English poets inspired by the American Black Mountain scene, Objectivists, WCW, New York School and the Beat poets, with the fascist tool Pound their intellectual thought-leader. These literary influences are now of course mainstream, but in 1971 this sort of thing was considered heresy and treason by the culturally conservative corporate mainstream of England's Official Verse Culture.
And thus, as entertainingly documented by insider Peter Barry in his authoritative account of this history in his 2006 book, Poetry Wars, the radical red-leftist literary hippies took over the administration, programming, petty cash tin and drinks budget of the UK's Poetry Society, as well as its flagship publication, Poetry Review; and their DIY ethos launched the great flowering of the British Poetry Revival.
Led for the next six years of occupation by the 1960's and '70s Fagan of London Poetry's Underworld, the legendary do it yourself Writers Forum creator, Bob Cobbing.
With Commander in Chief of the Rebellion, and Editor of Poetry Review (1971-7), Eric Mottram, who was Sheppard's PhD supervisor.
Sheppard himself - a front line participant in the campaign - was the very inspiring PhD supervisor of poetry special forces commando Scott Thurston, who when he left Edge Hill's literary SAS training camp muscled in on the toughest patch in England, and carved out his turf on the cobbles of Salford, where he gained his current reputation as our now greatly feared and seldom crossed poetic intellectual hard-man, and co-editor of the Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry.
Whose love for the world's most experimental poetries kick-started Manchester's Linguistically Innovative Other Room Scene. Pound for pound, one of the toughest most formidably experimental academic avant-garde poetry minds this side of New York City.
I first called Logan out years ago, in the genesis of this text that was published in 2009 as a comment on an article written by Don Share, titled I Hate Poetry... Reviews?, published on the Poetry Foundation's Harriet Blog at what is now The Donald's vibrant and inclusive come all ye bland to brilliant multicultural Foetry Poundation, when Share was still assistant to the editor at what was then still Christian Winman's literary showcase for exclusively dead white male Bawsten poetry. Demanding the critical poetry clown and literary liquidation expert Logan debate me when I was a younger gobby amateur with another eight years of studying ahead of me.
Pointing out that the all American bardic buffoon and modernist spewing his brute mouthful of mass mockery without the prerogative of learning but intellect alone, our third-rate drisiuc thorn-bard that sticks in the face of all, was working with only half the ingredients in the poetry kit-bag, the "Fi" of "toxic in satire", and none of the "Li, splendor in praise".
Both of which make etymologically up the two halves of a superlative literary Filí poet's tongue. And that 'it is various the poet speaks' with to create the speckled art of poetry, consisting of two ingredients, Praise and Satire.
Here are a few lines from the resident know all whose mediocrity knows no bounds:
After the Blitz, her mother had begun an affair. So she said.
No one would have called her wellbred,
but she knew how to fill a low-cut dress,
had a fetching smile and a tongue for success.
...and on and on adinfinitum, no half or slant acoustic concordance, and deploying all the plodding amateur rhyming skills and doggerelist intelligence he lambasts the targets of his critical misanthropy for displaying.
I read the Boston spirit strangler's collection of critical carnage and butchery, Our Savage Art, recently (in 2009, prepping for this inevitable clash), littered with allusions and references to figures from Greek myth, as Logan tried to strike a balance between being bare-knuckle bore, and belabouring his points about the fine art of civilised literary Criticism.
Seemingly blind to the irony that most examples of what he is saying about all the poetaster critics of yesteryear - are richly applicable to his own doggerel:
"Blackmur, who, though a brilliant critic, was a dreadful poet."
...and quoting Coleridge:
"..a critic most hates those who excel in the particular department in which he, the critic, has notoriously been defeated.."
The problem with aging two-dimensional ditty makers who have little in the way of poetic talent and lots in the way of ivy league bravado and unearned bardic attitude, who fall into safe comfortable corporate numbers as a jolly pit-bull critic sneering at all and sundry - is that eventually they become spent grumps put out of their misery when a funnier smarter kinder and more literary learned wit enters the bardic octagon, and, playing them at their own no holds barred game, knocks them satirically spark out out with the first shlap from the heart and soul of the true people of the goddess Art.
One that leaves the outcome in no doubt when bodies forth a voice of filliocht from our only loving earthly son of the sacred heart in heaven, mother be the name, filled without and within, by and from, the eternal faery maternal love all purely Her.
I have stated before, i am keen to debate Logan, with or without satirical gloves, anywhere online or in print. Although i am confident he has not sufficient literary courage to bardically debate because s/he his mind knows one's own is superior in both intellect and artistry.
WB Logan is a brutal bardic conman, satirical literary lightweight and Filliocht poetry faker, no more a qualified literary Filí poet than i'm a tree who's a planet or a moon fully Spanish.
More, he's a weedy armchair wannabe oi wish Rambo who's gob dribbles pap for the Pop Idol audience and generation of second rate satirical ditty readers.
The Werking Krap Shlap in Shwelly Voice by William Logan. Critic manque, forgettable ditty maker.
Be Warned. Ye gorra 'av a lawf. Innih?