I am no booster of the modest and unassuming person that I think performed the preeminent role in bringing about the critical shift in US poetry from dead white male Ivy league academics to the "multicultural inclusiveness” being celebrated in the recent Atlantic piece by Portland based Southern Oregon, Rogue Valley journalist and poet, Jesse Lichtenstein: "How Poetry Came to Matter Again" - and many times have satirically mocked them.
I have a list of numerous American critics, editors, luvvies and
literary poets I want to apologize to when the opportunities arise, who I
have satirically mocked in an excessively unpleasant way over the years
when one was a very gobby and at times literary loutish student of the
ancient bardic arts happily doing here in Dublin the sixteen years it
took me to complete in English translation what in the original Gaelic
was the twelve year bardic and literary Filí poet curriculum.
reading the Atlantic article it struck me that nowhere in
Lichtenstein's opinion-thesis charting and explaining the how, what,
when, where, and why of the rise of Millennidentitarian poets from a
fringe to a mainstream consciousness; does the name appear of the one
person whose editorial advocacy, I would argue, has been central to, and
most responsible for changing the critical and cultural focus of
contemporary US poetry away from a continual celebration of a handful of
monotone middle-class male academic poets, and onto what were
previously the marginalized and unrepresented communities and
demographics of poets that were until very recently wholly outside the
tent of Official Verse Culture in the US.
Editor of Poetry, the oldest, richest, and most critically regarded
monthly in the world dedicated to the publication of verse, who for six
years was the Senior Editor and theoretical second in command to the
former Editor of Poetry (2003-13), Christian Wiman.
began his tenure as chooser in chief at Poetry in 2013, after taking
over from his former boss, whose narrow poetic tastes and publishing
decisions during his decade in charge of setting the tone of US poetry,
were unadventurously ultra-conservative. Wiman's choices ran to
publishing month in month out
the usual merry-go-round of white Ivy League male insiders of Official
Verse Culture, with the odd token female, black and ethnic minority
academic poet thrown in.
Share however within a short space of time had totally overhauled
and changed the house publication of the Poetry Foundation, ditched the
dead white male Ivy League academics, and turned it into a contemporary
poetry publication that is the polar opposite of what it was under
Wiman; publishing many new voices from the previously silently excluded
demographics of the poets mentioned in Lichtenstein's piece.
The Atlantic article is, I would argue, the most recent iteration of a very cyclical 'Poetry is the New Rock 'N' Roll' meme. One that gets written
and published in a prominent Establishment journal every few years;
and, in this instance, contains the names of young ambitious hip hep and
wholly American poety poos doing their thang on the other side of the
The poets advertised in these pieces are usually also
friends and/or colleagues of the crafty composer of the prose vehicle
pushing a narrative that there is a movement of literary originals and
outsiders afoot, and something radically new in the realm of poetic
language is occurring. The creation of a collective poetic buzz, current
and wave emerging into mainstream consciousness.
Most of these
speculative vaticinations, inevitably, rather than prophetically
delineating the true tides and contemporary currents that end up washing
the name-checked newbs into the critically elite and spiritually
balanced ollavic golden circle; posterity, more often than not, proves
they were but little more than puff pieces and logrolling by the
authorial auspices of their fellow ambitious colleagues, strategically
marketing them to a wider mainstream audience.
However with the
indiscriminate-opinion masquerading as analytics model of previous
decades now redundant, Lichtenstein's claims are situated on firmer
critical ground, and are communicated in a more persuasive and plausible
form of literary analysis than before. In the fact that he identifies
the measurable role YouTube and social-media have played in the
emergence of the diverse bunch he is praising.
The one core
difference between now and pre-Facebook slammers, Twitter bards, and
Instapoets, is the fact that a majority of those mentioned in this piece
have bypassed what is increasingly a redundant monolithic
literary-gatekeeper model of poetry publishing; because to get their
poetry published, heard and read the emergent poets in the age of social
media are increasingly creating their own audiences on the strength of
their live recorded performances and writings alone.
the previously all powerful snobby cerberean taste-makers and pompously
imperious middlemen of the legacy media publishing process, by speaking
directly to the Reader online, without the need of submission to,
acknowledgment from, or validation of the editorial potentates and
curatorial pashas of Official Verse Culture.
So the jury is
currently out on how accurate the Oregon poet's piece of speculative
prose will turn out to have been in the years to come. But it is
refreshing to read of what by now after more than a decade of debate is
what appears to be the fully emerged new model of poetry and publishing
that has changed the very concept and meaning of what constitutes being
'published', and opened up the art form to anyone with a phone camera,
keypad and internet connection.
One that has silenced the
literary experts predicting from the doom and gloom department of legacy
media; that during the mid-Noughties were decrying the pesky internet
poets and wailing like Medieval scribes at the arrival of the printing
press; claiming the sky was falling in with the opening up of literacy
to the masses and arguing only a tiny elite of trained custodians of the
real literary Gospel, i.e., themselves, could possibly write anything
down and publish it. On velum, bound in leather and brass.
on what language Tradition creates your bardic perception and
world-view, and how long you have served at the front line as a souljah
in the Poetry Wars, a relatively recent/ancient and far more
intellectually dense and pretentiously elitist variation of this
periodic 'poetry is the new rock 'n' roll' trope, spluttered onto the
digital page in 2009 from the keyboard of a Harvard bardic bluffer that
doesn't know their arse from their Auraicept na n-Éces, the academic
critic and transitioning literary artist formerly known as Stephen Burt.
Stephanie Burt, they have most recently been cited in reports from the
front line of the Culture Wars due to their craven and utterly insincere
for what they claimed was a momentary lapse in editorial 'standards'
(presuming they had any to begin with) when publishing several weeks ago
in The Nation a wholly harmless persona poem by North Dakota, Fargo
poet, Anders Carlson-Wee.
In the imagined voice of a homeless
disabled HIV positive street begger; that from the vernacular spelling
of the language was assumed to be by those infuriated beyond all reason
with the letters in it; a literary high crime and what would be, if the
extremists had their way, a felony of cultural appropriation.
wholly unreal voice of a fantasy American that does not exist outside
of the Reader's mind; as the Poetry Police prosecuted it; by the
vernacular spelling alone was a profoundly hateful literary
thought-crime of the most ableist, disrespectful, illist, insulting,
libelous, offensively problematic, and quintessentially racist sort.
a lot of equally insincere social-media trolls got professionally
offended about on behalf of a slew of communities they do not belong to;
and cowed by a mob of hate-filled joyless morons Burt cast out
Carlson-Wee from the bus, grovelled for forgiveness, and, with their
Nation co-editor, solemnly renounced their decision to publish the
harmless persona poem by Carlson-Wee, as a temporary aesthetic
And, without even naming him in his apology to the
vigilantes, Stephanie dumped the North Dakota poet's reputation into the
Revealing, in one of the most culturally craven and
editorially ignoble events in US poetry so far this summer; exactly what
the ancient speckled art of praise and blame means to them, and what
the true critical regard and quality of poetic eyes and literary
integrity they were in possession of three weeks ago. None whatsoever.
decade before the Orwellian un-personing and sacrificial eradication of
Anders Carlson-Wee's nascent professional self-identity by an
institutionally all powerful mercenary critic-editor and their
dishonorable fauxpologizing to appease an imbecilic mob of virtue
signalling fascists for the newly invented social-media 'hate' crime of
not being pre-cognitively attentive enough to the fake emotional
sensitivities of people arrogating themselves membership of numberless
communities they do not belong to for the sole purpose of pretending to
be mortally outraged on behalf of them; Burt published a
pseudo-intellectual piece of blurbastic propaganda in the Boston Globe:
"The New Thing (2009)".
In which the foreteller formerly known as
Stephen, prophesied that the voices of a few unremarkable dead-white
all male academics and Ivy League-like pals of his were at the forefront
of an elite wave of spiritually superlative and culturally
ultra-relevant incredibly contemporary mono-tenured poety poos
practicing beyond the cutting edge and articulating ahead of time what
the future of American poetry was likely to become when it established
itself as: "The New Thing."
Anyone remember that?
am very happy to be wrong, but what I would love to know - and as a
wager am willing to bet the result will be zero - is how many disabled
homeless African-American street-beggars with HIV voiced to the editors
how terribly upsetting they found this Carlson-Wee persona poem to be on
When I first read about this I wrote a couple
of pieces in response, publishing one on Carlson-Wee's Facebook before
taking it down several days later, and now I see it looks like he has
deactivated his account.
This after the poor poet himself
appeared emotionally browbeaten by the malignant zealotry created by the
angry and illiterate emojinal social-media bigots and hypocrites that
collectively coerced an artist into writing and publishing an apology
that read like the odd and fearful literary equivalent of a hostage
video in which the kidnapped prisoner is clearly saying whatever they
are told to or feel they must in order to stave off further attack from
the irrational and demented maniacs.
Apologizing for an entirely
non-existent language crime his entirely imaginary voice in persona did
not cause in the empty selfish heads and shallow hollow hearts where
swing on string the bricks of these anonymous and callously cold-blooded
radically anti-intellectual dumbbell executioners of some
ultra-nihilistic cultural revolution birthed from human jealousy,
depression, misery, misanthropy, and a virulent highly destructive
Hunting in packs for heretics, apostates,
and non-believers in their pie in the sky religion founded on the
principles of hatred, anti-intellectual bias, censorship, mob
intimidation, sweeping injustice, and a fanatically blind intolerance of
everything and everyone that doesn't align with and share their
insanely dangerous and unhinged, wholly incorrect perceptions of reality
as an either or zero sum game and binary choice between 'us' and
And part of me wonders, if this is not a Conceptual art stunt, where's the apology to Carlson-Wee?
he deserves one, after being thrown to the wolves of the world wide web
by the editors who exposed only that they were concerned about what
total strangers on social media think and feel, and not at all concerned
about the feelings of the person who wrote a poem they chose to
publish, before labeling it problematic, and the imagination of its
author all but ableist, and racist.
Blaming the invited passenger
for the clown-car crash they the designated drivers caused. They claim,
whilst under the influence of some debilitating cultural intoxicant
that removed their critical faculties, like Hillary Clinton blaming an
underling for not telling her she was breaking the law. For the crime of
writing a text in the voice of an entirely non-existent wholly
The aural performance and source of which, as
all literary creation, and as all writings are; is birthed, lives,
exists, and is heard, performed and read solely at the bio-electrical
synaptic level in the colorless, genderless spiritual imagination of the
readers' and writers' silent aural minds.
If s/he the genderless
aural mind of Carlson-Wee had merely added an extra speech mark and two
letters 're', to make the 'you', 'you're', we are supposed to believe
that this would be acceptable and no offense would have been occasioned
in the phony-fragile minds of the utterly insincere and humorless
pseudo-intellectual social-media bardic trolls masquerading as literary
Filí poets that speak only from the blame side of the poet's tongue,
with nothing from the positive praise side about anything except when
praising their own virtuous thoughts?
Who learned to (not) write
on the craft of the Tuatha De Danann people of the goddess Art, by
studying on the many identical (rip off) American MFA (Toilet Paper)
Not by grounding their practice in the
Precepts of Poetry from the countless texts on the unimprovable original
voluminous twelve-year set-textual literary Filí poet curriculum.
original Gaelic and English translations of which are easily accessible
online, and you can get it all in apple pie order in your first
language, after sixteen years joyously arduous cerebral slog.
we learn, the difference between the ordinary unlearned oral bard
('Facebook troll') and literary Filí poet, from the ancient 8C
poetico-legal text, Sequel to Críth Gabhlach, "Sequel to Branched
"Bard d(an)o: cin dliged fogluime is indtleacht fadeisin."
"A bard, then: without the prerogative of learning, but intellect alone."
When bardic intellects "without the prerogative of learning", are devoid of curiosity for the Filí curriculum, ignorant of Auraicept na n-Éces, the "Precepts of Poetry", they wander directionless without the discipline imposed by this felicitously fixed literary course.
without knowledge of the basics; amorphous, orderless, the perpetual
beginner grade oblaire remains an "apple" at the bottom of Her poetry
tree: fuirseoir gan dán, "a buffoon without skill".
That will not
transition through three bardic sub-grades: oblaire, taman, drisac, and
without even knowledge of the two-leaved fochloc, "their art as slender
as a sprig of brooklime" facing upward to diligently climb five more
literary grades of poetic wisdom, then reach a "noble stream" of Anruth,
"at the heart and in the middle of their disciples who are learning
Said to be named for four reasons: "the splendor of
their teaching, for the numerousness of their interpretations, for the
eloquence of their speech, for the extent of their knowledge. Indeed
they are found in each division of learning, whether poetry or Latin
learning, or historical learning, the only thing being that they have
not reached the summit."
Lessons of the seventh year a
poet ought to know: the "servile/unfree" dóer-bard meters, brosnacha
suad ("kindling/faggots of the wise"); the two divisions of it, dechnad
mór, sned & trebrad "swift" & "plaiting".
eight fiscomarca filed (“wisdom-tokens of the poet"); dúili berla
("living language"); clethchor choem (“fair palisade").
roscadach ("rhapsodic poems"); with laíde (another metrical form);
number six is teinm laída ("chewing of the pith/illumination of your
song"); (7) is imbas forosnai ("great wisdom that enlightens"), and (8)
díchetal do chennaib na tuaithe ("incantation from your tribal head").
penultimate requirement is the topographical dinshenchus ("lore of
place-names"), one hundred and seventy-six remaining onomastic poems;
plus "all the principal tales in Ireland in order to relate them to the
kings, lords, and gentlemen. For the filí poet is not yet perfected."
nine ... I could go on; but you get the picture, four more years to
attain an ollavic ear, mind and tongue to hear think and air in praise
and blame the voice in perfect balance that has reached the lofty height
of "glorious profit", speaking the poet's spiritual song purely
praising all Creation. Anamain.
The Ollamh, Poetry Professor: "A
great sage then, s/he does not apologize for their ignorance of anything
in the four divisions of learnedness" (Latin, Law, History, Poetry),
and one "who is not found to be perplexed in the mass of their craft."
"a bard, then: without the prerogative of learning, but intellect
alone", never steps in through the door of otherworldly learning their
aural results are quite plain to read. Blame-filled hate speech from
untrained minds of the professionally offended masses masquerading as
the warm kind praising prose of professionally trained literary lovers.
As an American poetry friend told me when we communicated about this: "It's
all about maintaining a reputation in the face of the p.c. hordes. I
don't think it's possible for Burt or Wee to say what they really feel.
It's pure fear which is operating."