The American Dissident: Literature, Democracy & Dissidence

Focus: Literature, Democracy & Dissidence

For more recent additions to this website, including experiments in free speech effected on various college and university English departments, as well as cartoons critical of cogs (poets, writers, professors, editors, politicos, etc.) of the  established order, check out the latest AD BLOG.  Readers are encouraged to comment and, no matter how damning, comments will not be censored (i.e., moderated, in today's PC-euphemistic verb).   For another take on The American Dissident focus, read "The Cold Passion for Truth Hunts in No Pack:  the Case for Parrhesiastic Poetry, Writing & Art".

Uncle SamProponents of the academic/literary established order (i.e., the very large majority of professors, poets, writers, editors, and publishers) are characterized by a variety of troubling traits, including scorn for vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy; rejection of uncomfortable truths, especially vis-a-vis political correctness; quickness to censor; little respect, if any at all, for the First Amendment; use of ad hominem instead of point-by-point, logical counter-argumentation; hyperbole; self-vaunting; backslapping; and bland monkey-see, monkey-do sameness, if not outright mimicry.  Examine the front covers adorning the many literary journals exposed on NewPages which, by the way, simply refuses to list The American Dissident.  Also, examine the nation's universities and colleges and observe the uncanny sameness of course offerings, job announcements and, of course, departments of institutional diversity, though never departments of democracy. More than anything else, those literary journals tend to mirror an uncanny and overwhelming aseptic banality.   One would be hard-pressed to find just one cover photo or drawing that might be considered, even remotely, provocative. 

The adjectives used to describe those journals are repeated over and again on New Pages to the point where a thinking person would have to assume that "brilliant," for example, was just an elitist synonym for upper-class pedestrian.   “The oldest, boldest, and most distinguished monthly for and about poetry in the English-speaking world,” notes, for example, New Pages regarding Poetry Magazine.  Hyperbole?  You bet!  "The oldest, bourgeois" would be more like it!  But “boldest”?  I’ve looked through a number of issues of Poetry.  Bold is the furthest thing that would come to mind.  John Ashbery's brief statement about his life as a poet featured on the back cover of the March 2009 issue sums it up much better, than bold:  “living is a meatloaf sandwich.”  One might add "And Poetry magazine is the plate." 

John AshberyThe lack of accountability in American letters saddens me.  At times, I despair.  Why bother?  What the hell am I doing in the poetry business anyhow? I don’t even like poetry, at least not the kind of stuff I see in those journals over and again. 

On another note, every writer knows damn well what he or she shouldn't write about, and sadly almost every writer lacks the courage to write about those things.  Writers tend to excel in the art of rationalizing their very cowardice and inaction.  Shallow recognition, publications, prizes, laurels, and general career "success," for most, have become far more important than risky truth telling.  One could comprehend the lack of courage on the part of American writers, if the country were under a regime of gulags, informers, and little Caesar executioners, as in the former USSR, present-day China, or any number of Islamic countries.  It can, however, be explained if the demands of the academic/literary established order and the parallels between it and the Stalinist regime are examined.  Consider, for example, the following passage from Solzhenitsyn's The Oak and the Calf, a wonderful nonfiction account of the literary establishment under the Soviet regime:

The shrill, vainglorious literature of the establishment—with its dozen fat magazines, its two literary newspapers, its innumerable anthologies, its novels between hard covers, its collected works, its annual prizes, its adaptations for radio of impossibly tedious originals—I had once and for all recognized as unreal, and I did not waste my time or exasperate myself by trying to keep up with it.  I knew without looking that there could be nothing of merit in all this.  Not because no talent could emerge there—no doubt it sometimes did, but there it perished too.  For it was a barren field, that which they sowed.  I knew that in such a field nothing could grow to maturity.  When they first came to literature they had, all of them—the social novelists, the bombastic playwrights, the civic poets, and needless to say the journalists and critics—joined in an undertaking never, whatever the subject, whatever the issue, to mention the essential truth, the truth that leaps to the eye within no help from literature.  This solemn pledge to abstain from truth was called socialist realism.  Even writers of love poems, even those lyric poets who had sought sanctuary in nature or in elegant romanticism, were all fatally flawed because they dared not touch the important truths. I was in such a hurry because in my fifth decade I was bursting with all that remained to be written, and because falsehood stood only too firmly on its feet of clay—or rather its feet of reinforced concrete. 

It has been an eye-opener to observe how little academics, poets, and artists care or are even aware of the legislation and various pertinent court cases regarding  free speech and vigorous debate, cornerstones of democracy. Thus, the intent of The American Dissident is educational, while its very purpose is to promote democracy's cornerstones.  The journal, created in 1998 as a result of the editor’s confrontation with academic corruption at Fitchburg State University (MA), highlights literature that is critical of the established-order machine, as opposed to inoffensive diversion and intellectual cleverness.  "Let your life be a counterfriction to stop the machine," had advised Thoreau.  An integral part of that machine's modus operandi is censorship.  The Academy of American Poets, for example, censored the editor's comments and even banned me from participating in its online forums, though I'd made no threats or even used four-letter words.  However, I did make the “wrong” remarks.  Read the entire transcript of the censored comments).  As for Inside Higher Ed, my comments have been censored over a dozen times.  Should an academic newspaper be in the business of censorship?  Of course not!  Examine some of the censored comments, several cartoons, and correspondence with Doug Lederman, the journal's editor, at InsideHigherEd

Interestingly, or rather revealingly, Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors, Karen Wulf, director of PEN New England (“defending free expression everywhere” but not here or there, of course), and Gary Snyder, Zen/Beatnik tenured professor chancellor of the Academy of American Poets proved indifferent to those instances of censorship.  For satirical cartoons on those less-than-laudatory citizens, see the links above.   In America, censorship thrives and wears many masks and usually a suit and tie and speaks very politely, though scorns uncontrollably when confronted with uncomfortable, rude truths. 

Sadly, the literary established order is conducted by the large sums of money distributed by the National Endowment for the Arts, state cultural councils, universities, corporations, and private foundations.   Normally and logically, this money does not end up in the pockets of those creating literature (and art) that questions and challenges the machine, whose cogs and partisans tend to restrict debate and speech to requisite anodyne bourgeois taste and aesthetics. The American Dissident highlights players and proponents of the machine as often possessing a severe deficiency in logical argumentation and a definite distaste for debate.  So many of them seem oblivious to the fact that the Supreme Court in 1949 (Terminello vs. Chicago) argued that

[A] function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute.  It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger. Speech is often provocative and challenging.  It may strike at prejudices and preconceptions and have profound unsettling effects as it presses for acceptance of an idea.  That is why freedom of speech, though not absolute… is nevertheless protected against censorship or punishment...

Unlike most literary journals, The American Dissident not only brooks but encourages criticism.  The editor is open to changing his statements and ideas, though only in the face of cogent logic and/or fact.  Anyone critiqued on this site or in the hardcopy journal should respond.  The American Dissident will publish the response on this website.  Logical counter-argumentation is encouraged, as opposed to facile ad hominem rhetoric and dismissal of arguments with denigrating epithets. 

The American Dissident provides what the academic/literary established order egregiously fails to provide:  a forum for vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy.  What that milieu tends to offer is a hierarchy of set icons and a more or less inflexible sycophantic road map to its summit.  It firmly discourages any questioning and challenging of that map, its hierarchy, or its designated canon and icons.  It is much like the Vatican. 


In America, citizens have been accorded free speech and expression with legal impunity, except under certain restricted circumstances.  Yet the large majority of citizens fear exercising that right for all sorts of reasons, thus avoid doing so.  Poets and professors, for the most part, also fear doing so.  For most, it is as if that right doesn’t even exist.  The dissident, however, makes it a point to exercise that freedom, especially when such might be considered risky... not necessarily to life, but perhaps to career and any number of other things.  Those who dare not will inevitably view the dissident in a negative light, and label him confrontational, egotistical, offensive, rude, bitter, mean, etc.

Czech playwright Vàclav Havel wrote: "The dissident does not operate in the realm of genuine power at all. He is not seeking power. He has no desire for office and does not gather votes. He does not attempt to charm the public, he offers nothing and promises nothing. He can offer, if anything, only his own skin—and he offers it solely..."

The American Dissident serves, amongst other things, as public record for the surprisingly frequent mendacious and/or illogical, if not absurd, statements issued by poets, academics, educationists, artists, writers, literary editors, publishers, and journalists.  In general, partisans of the academic/literary established-order status-quo intellectual autocracy tend to be cowardly, herd-like in behavior and thought, and bare at least partial responsibility for the increasing corporate co-optation of the arts, literature, media, and democracy in America. We rapidly approach 1984

It is certainly not the intention of The American Dissident to defame or slander anyone, despite the assertion of English Professor Phil Hey (Briar Cliff Review, Briar Cliff University):  "You slander good people who—believe it or not—are actually working to make the world a better place."  Sadly, Hey and, no doubt, numerous other professors are teaching the aberrant idea of equating valid criticism with slander.  That aberrant concept forms part of the happy-face indoctrination of students throughout the corporate university today.

Contrary to Hey's assertion, Bunnin and Beren (Writer’s Legal Companion) note that “A truth statement, no matter how damaging, can’t be libelous.”  Constitutional lawyers French, Lukianoff and Silverglate (FIRE’s guide to Free Speech on Campus) note that "The concept of defamation includes both libel (usually, written defamation) and slander (spoken defamation), although the two are frequently confused and lumped together.  […]  If you are accused of libel, don’t panic.  Although defamation is one of the most frequently made claims in law, it is also one of the most frequently dismissed.  […] If a statement is true it is not defamatory.  […]  A statement of opinion, by itself, cannot be defamation.  […] In other words, defamation is about objective harm, not about subjective hurt." 

Compare, however, those statements with freelance writer Nancy Hendrickson's assertion published in, and thus promoted by, Writer's Digest (March 2005): "Dishing dirt about private citizens can be cause for libel or defamation-of-character charges, regardless of the truth." Clearly, Hendrickson's statement serves corruption and intellectual fraud by giving fearful writers and poets yet another reason to keep their mouths shut. Besides, how can truth be considered "dirt" and telling the truth, "dishing dirt"? 


The American Dissident operates under the following evident premises: 

1.  America has existed as an oligarchy since its inception, though masquerades as a democracy.  We ought not be surprised considering that the New World was initially parceled out to large corporations, including the Dutch West India Company, Hudson Bay Company, and Northwest Company. 
2.  It is clearly in the interest of that oligarchy to control and otherwise maintain literature and art as mere forms of intellectual and/or diversionary entertainment (panem et circenses).  The NEA, NEH, Poets & Writers, Inc., Academy of American Poets, Poetry Society of America, and the bulk of literary journals, both academic and other, work towards that endeavor.  Note what Günter Grass wrote in his Nobel lecture: "At present its role [literature] is to entertain, to serve the fun culture, to de-emphasize the negative side of things and give people hope, a light in the darkness."
3.  On the other hand, it is clearly in the interest of democracy to reanimate literature and art, forge it (not all of it) into weapons of "rude-truth" critique and grassroots parrhesiastic activity. 
4.  Democracy depends on open debate. Indeed, vigorous debate is the cornerstone of democracy.  Oligarchy depends on staged debate as in the presidential debates where outsiders are uninvited, as in Ralph Nader at the University of Massachusetts during the 2000 presidential campain debates.  Currently, the doors of debate are closed not only regarding politics, but also with that of academe and literature.
5.  The corporate mindset of team playing and networking is now both the academic and literary mindset.  In fact, the corporation is perhaps, more often than not, pulling the academic and literary strings.  Read the 60 Minutes transcript.

Many, many more colleges operate in the manner of those exposed by the 60 Minutes segment than inferred.  The editor's own experiences underscore that dubious practices extrapolate to liberal arts colleges as well. 

The American Dissident serves as witness to the general herd-like behavior of "machine" academics and literati, as well as their general disdain for the free and open exchange of ideas, debate, and freedom of speech and expression—cornerstones of democracy.  "Let your life be a counterfriction to stop the machine," had written Thoreau.  How not to think about those "machine" academics and litterateurs when reading Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's "Live Not by Lies" and The Oak and the Calf. Such academics and litterateurs appear to disdain self-reliance and individualism perhaps because such condition does not depend on lifer-machine cogs for support. The American Dissident believes the poet should be a staunch individual whose quest is truth and nothing but truth.  It agrees wholeheartedly with poet Walt Whitman’s statement:  "…even in the midst of immense tendencies toward aggregation, this image of completeness in separatism, of individual personal dignity, of a single person, either male or female, characterized in the main, not from extrinsic acquirements or position, but in the pride of himself or herself alone" ("Democratic Vistas").  It believes the poet should possess the courage to "go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all ways" (Emerson) especially when it might entail standing alone against the herd... of poets... of colleagues... of friends.   

The American Dissident is engaged not to orthodox left or right-wing thought, but to truth.  The journal's goal is to publish poems and other writing and art that RISK.  Louis-Ferdinand Céline wrote: "Ce qu’il y a de bien chez Rabelais, c’est qu’il mettait sa peau sur la table, il risquait."  [What was good about Rabelais was that he risked his own skin.] Unfortunately, few poets and artists are willing to risk anything at all.  In fact, rarely does the editor ever receive writing that risks. Today that goal seems unattainable. In fact, rare is the poet who can even comprehend the RISK concept for anything exterior to the poet paradigm will be, more or less, incomprehensible if not reprehensible, which would explain the need some poets feel to denigrate and dismiss the concept. For them, quote Ezra Pound: "Se un uomo non é disposto a correre qualche rischio per le sue idee, o le sue idee non valgono nulla o non vale niente lui."  [If a man is not ready to take risks for his opinions, then it's because either his opinions are worthless or he is.] 

The literary establishment rejects PARRHESIASTES in poetry and thus bars it from the agora of ideas and debate.  As proof of the assertion, the editor's 24-page essay written on the subject, "The Cold Passion for Truth Hunts in No Pack," was rejected by over 40 academic-based literary journals.  Eventually, it was published by Pacific Coast Review, then by Modern Review, which paid a $150 honorarium for it.  Both those journals are not linked to academe. 

Even presidential poet Robert Frost noted: "You know the real thing is that the sense of sacrifice and risk is one of the greatest stimuli in the world.  And you take that all out of it—take that away from it so that there’s no risk in being a poet, I bet you’d lose a lot of the pious spirits.  They’re in it for the—hell of it."

More often than not silence is the response of academic poets regarding the RISK concept.  So, why bother with them?  The reason is simple:  they possess the power to determine what shall be and what shall not be read and seen.  On the rare occasions when actual comments have been issued, they've been quite revealing, if not disturbing.  As an example, cite Professor Steven Wingate, editor of University of Colorado at Boulder's Program for Writing and Rhetoric literary journal Divide, which oddly boasts: "We are committed to fostering creative and intellectual debate, and to placing side-by-side ideas which would not easily rest together elsewhere." In an email sent on April 20, 2005, Wingate wrote:

Dear Mr. Slone:  We thought and talked for a long time about publishing “The Cold Passion…,” since much of what you say in the core of your essay struck us as right on the money.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t get past the vituperative nature of the bulk of this piece, which obscures its essence.  So sadly, we must join the litany of magazines that have turned “The Cold Passion” down. 
Steven Wingate, Founder and Publisher, divide

The logic in Wingate's response is evidently lacking for how could someone declare agreement with "much of what" was said, while at the same time argue the piece to be obscure?  I challenged that lack of reason, and Wingate again responded... quite angrily:

Blah, blah. blah. Boring. We figured you couldn't leave well enough alone, Mr. Slone. But since you find a way to challenge my use of the word 'vituperative,' let me speak a plainer truth: nobody wanted to deal with you because you seem like such a creep.

Is Wingate's response unusual for a university professor boasting openness to debate?  Perhaps not.  Wingate has evidently been doing the right things regarding a career in academe and literature.  However, only by doing some wrong things might one truly learn and progress intellectually.  For the full correspondence aon this exchange, see divide.  For other no less astonishing responses, consult the Literary Letters rubric in each issue of The American Dissident.  Also, consult T. R. Hummer (Georgia Review), Garrick Davis (Contemporary Poetry Review), and Professor Phil Hey (Briar Cliff Review).   

Poets and artists should not fear naming names, unless their desire to become or remain careerists in the academic/literary established order is overwhelming, which sadly seems to be the norm, not the exception.  Naming names is a definite form of quality control, truth telling, and free speech and expression. Villon, Neruda, Solzhenitsyn, Pope, Swift, and Byron were not afraid to name names.  In fact, during Byron's time, it was a common practice.  Try to get critical verse of a poet laureate into an academic literary journal today to see how things have radically changed since then. "Bob Southey!  You’re a poet, a poet laureate,/[…] ‘A dainty dish to set before the King’," had written Byron.

Evidently, one reason the editor's essay on RISK was so widely rejected is that it does name names ("vituperative").  Another reason is jealousy.  Literati can be notoriously jealous of those who possess courage and are willing to RISK. 

The American Dissident exists not to please readers and obtain maximum circulation, but to question, challenge, and otherwise criticize society and its cohort of court-jester literary, academic, and cultural icons and functionaries. It is a no-bullshit, no-hype literary journal emphasizing ideas, criticism, and debate, as opposed to "credentials" and dubious literary celebrity—who you know, which muzzle you adorn, where you've been published, and which contests you've won.  

To date, not one public organization has helped fund the journal—not the National Endowment for the Arts, NEH, Concord Cultural Council, Cape Cod Cultural Council, or the Massachusetts Cultural Council, though they do fund literary journals.  Read the editor's "battle" accounts with Poet Charles Coe, Coordinator for Organizational Support, Massachusetts Cultural Council, and Concord Cultural Council. 

The American Dissident makes a conscious effort not to engage in the sad, all-too-common egregious backslapping and self-congratulating that have come to characterize both academe and literature.  In fact, unlike the bulk of literary journals, The American Dissident tends only to publish negative comments with its regard.  It does not engage in networking, which has become obligatory for entrance into the “closed-in circle of the literary intelligentsia” (Trotsky).  The editor will not compromise his principles in an attempt to enter that circle, nor to seek a place in some university archive à la Ginsberg, Borroughs, Corso, Waldman, A. D. Winans, or Ferlinghetti.  What is thus created will likely end up in the literary oubliettes.  Why, therefore, bother creating at all, if recognition is likely to be non existent?  Perhaps the creating constitutes the prime reason—conscious pretense—for continuing to exist in an increasingly meaningless society. 

The two most disheartening discoveries made during the editor's earlier years as full-time professor and novice poet were that professors and poets, in general, tended to be anything but dissident, as described by Havel (see above). Contrary to dissident, professors and poets, for the most part, seem to have a desire for office and gathering votes. They attempt to charm the public; they offer something and promise something. They do not offer their own skin, however. Their actions or rather inactions emphasize their obedience to and belief in power. They are embedded in the existing structures and placed in positions of blind obedience to them.  Such functionary careerists allow grassroots corruption to thrive because they simply do not have the courage to criticize it. Their careers, pocketbooks, and colleagues are more important than truth telling. They only dare break their silence when RISK becomes negligible, that is, when the corruption is remote (e.g., the Bush administration) and speaking out will not likely result in loss of career, money, invitations, or networking cronies. Yet grassroots corruption needs to be eviscerated before one can expect higher-up corruption to be lesser. People who throw stones should not live in glass houses is a pertinent adage for those who dare not criticize corruption on the grassroots level. 

John Dewey, education philosopher, noted: "The serious threat to our democracy is not the existence of foreign totalitarian states.  It is the existence within our own personal attitudes and within our own institutions of conditions which have given a victory to external authority... The battlefield is also accordingly here--within ourselves and our institutions."

Most careerist apparatchiks dare not criticize the literary and academic infrastructure because doing so would probably hurt, if not destroy, their very careers and prospects of winning prizes, awards, fellowships, and grants, and jeopardize speaking engagements, festival invitations, and publishing opportunities. They are thus shamefully content to allow corruption to thrive in their particular domains. Most would perhaps even deny its very existence or label it "politics" in an effort to excuse it, as well as their own cowardly silence. Most would also not hesitate to denounce, ostracize, or ridicule the rare poet, artiste, or academic in their midst who actually dares  criticize. Most would define poetry as clever wordplay, adept versification, effete wit, and evoking feelings, though rarely if ever justified indignation and anger.  "One writes in order to feel: that is the fundamental mover," stated former poet laureate of the USA, poet laureate of Virginia Rita Dove. In other words, the purpose of writing, according to that pillar of poetry, is to "feel." The American Dissident defines writing differently, not as a mere means to “feel,” but rather one of truth telling. To be a poet is to seek the truth, write the truth, and speak the truth… not simply feel.  Why is someone like Harvard professor-poet Jorie Graham so quick to threaten lawsuit and so slow to seek the truth? 

Our society continually tries to drown its citizens in the diversionary entertainment of celebrity functionaries, including that proposed by poets, artists, actors, writers, and journalists, so that it may continue functioning in its dubious business-as-usual modus operandi.

Whenever the editor has dared "go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all ways" with regards academic or literary pillars, poets and professors have ineluctably reacted not with reason, but with scorn and/or mockery (for another example of such adolescent mockery, see Foetry) The editor's diverse experiment-in-free-speech encounters, including those with Concord Poetry Center, Stone Soup Poets, Jack Kerouac Festival (Lowell), Robert Creeley Award Event (Acton), and Festival International de la Poésie de Trois-Rivières (Québec) are detailed on this website. 

Each profession has its code of silence. The cop doesn't criticize other cops; the doctor doesn't criticize other doctors; the professor doesn't criticize other professors; and the poet doesn't criticize other poets.  The American Dissident breaks the code of silence and encourages and seeks to publish poets and writers who dare question, challenge, and act as individuals, as opposed to networking, carrot-led-and-fed, conformist, group-think, societal-cog, diversionary entertainers. 

It constitutes an instance of secular heresy and will be offensive to those used to compliments and esteem-building feedback, as opposed to rude-truth critique.

The American Dissident was founded as a direct result of the local (and student) press's refusal to publish anything the editor submitted regarding corruption at Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts, where the editor was teaching as an assistant, tenure-track professor.  Nearly all of the editor's writing and artwork have resulted from overt questioning and challenging of power, mostly local, literary, academic, and cultural.  Those who dare not question and challenge will inevitably not like the editor or the views presented in The American Dissident and will be tempted to shoot the messenger... to avoid dealing with the message.  Those fortunate citizens, though unfortunate writers, who have not tasted injustice, smelled its stench, bitten their shiny white teeth into its rot, and have otherwise never gone against the grain, never rocked the boat, and never made waves, let alone rivulets, will likely not be able to comprehend anything at all regarding The American Dissident.  The temptation to shoot the messenger and ignore the message will simply be overwhelming.  More often than not, for example, the editor has been labeled angry with the implication that injustice ought to be forgotten rather than remembered and fought.  ''The injury cannot be healed: it extends through time," wrote Primo Levi.  Read the poems of Dylan Thomas, Mario Benedetti, and others with regards the docile, castrated citizens (and poets) who have lost the ability to get ANGRY!  Contrary to Catholic dogma, ANGER is not a sin, it is a citizen's duty!  ANGER augments the message.  Were not the American revolutionaries and slaves ANGRY?  Were not the poets of the Soviet gulags ANGRY?  Why aren't the poets of the American office cubicles ANGRY too?  

C. Tarvis, social pyschologist, noted "The ideas that rebels expound tend not to be attacked by those in power.  The latter are inclined rather to kill the messenger by character assassination. For example, one rebel was said to be a womanizer... bitter... disloyal... and even, in the words of one accuser, dangerously mentally ill."  

As mentioned, when it entails RISK, poets and artists rarely speak truth to power, preferring instead team playing and networking, as opposed to biting the hand that feeds them in order to keep them in line and silent.  Let the multitude of other poetry journals thus publish those who dare not.  Like it or not, The American Dissident seeks to publish those who dare... and if only a few dare, so be it.  The journal also seeks to showcase issues, not names and credentials.  Most other journals do the opposite.  In America, names and pretty faces sell; issues do not.  And sadly, in America, it's all about selling.  Poetry is not an exception; it too has become all about selling—selling, amongst others, Billy Collins, Robert Pinsky, Jorie Graham, Rita Dove, C. D. Wright, Franz Wright, Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, Bukowski, Ginsberg, Waldman, Creeley, and Kerouac.  One must wonder how and to what degree this shapes and castrates the arts and literature.  One must also wonder how and to what degree foundations, cultural councils, universities, endowed literary journals, and profitable magazines shape and castrate the canon. 


While art and literature in America may not be controlled by decrees and orders, it is by grants, invitations, fellowships and professorships.  Such control limits the scope of art and literature by favoring some artists and writers over others.  It shapes it in accord with the dictates of those at the helm.  Favored artists and writers fall within the controller-vision scope.  Money is the prime determinant for the ascension of controllers and their acolytes.   Lorenzo de Medici and Peggy Guggenheim are excellent illustrations of this principle. They favored artists whose art was essentially disengaged.  So do the diverse money-granting foundations.  A thinking person must inevitably ask:  What and how much art and literature have been buried in time because it fell exterior to the controller-vision scope? Why do so many today prefer poetry as a conglomeration of "deceptively modest metaphors," a term used to describe in a nutshell the verse of Pulitzer Prize poet, ex-insurance CEO Ted Kooser?  In fact, when asked what enraged this bland, smiley poet, he responded wittily:  "Hitting my thumb with a hammer or dropping a cement block on my foot."

Why do so many today prefer poetry as witty, diversionary entertainment?  Does that not render poetry non-vital? Poet editor Matt DiGangi of Thieves Jargon perhaps holds the answer:  "Exactly what I want to run!  I want people to have fun with what they're reading on the Jargon, I'm looking to give them something to print out and read on the bus ride home, make them forget about the eight hours of neon they've just had to endure." 

Gulag Poet"If it isn't fun, it's not poetry," wrote Beatnik poet Robert Creeley. One must wonder what the Spanish civil-war, gulag, and dissident Latin-American poets would have thought of Creeley and DiGangi. Look into the eyes of the two gulag poets depicted to the right. Do you think, if they'd lived, they would created more powerful verse than Billy Collins or Rita Dove?


Oddly, while solo protesting C. D. Wright's reading and reception of the Robert Creeley Award in Acton, the editor was suddenly assailed by poet Martin Espada's wife.  I thought she might start swinging her fists because she was so angry about the flyer I'd been distributing.  It had  brought Robert Creeley's widow to tears (see cartoon on Creeley Award page). She rapped on and on how great Creeley was (he'd helped husband Espada get tenure at the University of Massachusetts and who knows what else) and seemed utterly incapable of comprehending that to "go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all ways" was apt to upset somebody.  She could not comprehend that a poet thus had to choose between exercising free speech and shutting his or her mouth to avoid offending.  She promised to continue the debate by sending an email, which of course she never did.  Hubby Espada was too high and mighty and immersed in the dubious world of award presentations to even enter into the "debate." 

DiGangi argues "endure."  But why not stand up instead, criticize, get pissed off, step the hell out of the neon mold of enduring, and shake things up a little?  How wily and successful power and its money can be!  DiGangi also argues "I was with you from the start, but you use language that insulates yourself from a common reader.  I've managed to forge more of a connection with cubicle geeks, barstool storytellers and taxi cab drivers, not academics and theorists."

Gulag PoetInsulation from "the common reader"?  But who or what is "the common reader"?  Is there a myth of "the common reader"? On the back of a Curbstone Press book is the blurb:  "His [Mario Benedetti's] poems are characterized by clarity of thought and originality of language and imagery, and thus readily accessible to the common reader."  How does "originality of language and imagery" automatically render poetry "readily accessible"? A thinking person would conclude the opposite.  Breaches in logic have become ubiquitous in today's America from the presidency all the way down to poetry pushers.  It appears that pleasing "the common reader" is a good thing.  DiGangi defines the beast for us:  "cubicle geeks, barstool storytellers and taxi cab drivers."  What more can one say? 

If the language is too tough and otherwise inaccessible, why not crack open a dictionary?  Learn a new word or two or three rather than arguing "the common reader" likely cannot understand and accusing the writer of insulating himself from "the common reader." Also, why not get a grip, exert a little self-control, shake off the lethargy, and argue precisely and logically where the editor's logic and reason fail instead of denigrating him as academic, theorist, self-insulator, pompous, or simply pissed off, and otherwise signing off because you have more important things to do like reading or publishing entertaining poesy?

As for being a "theorist," the editor has simply argued that poets and other writers ought to speak out, criticize, risk, bite the hand that feeds, and rock the goddamn boat!  Hell, we only live once!  So, if that's a theory, just how abstruse and out of the grasp of "the common reader" can it possibly be?  Poet Mario Benedetti exposes the intricacies of the editor's supposed "theory" with a tad more elegance in a poem written in 1966:

Arte poética
Que golpee
hasta que nadie
pueda ya hacerse el sordo
que golpee y golpee
hasta que el poeta
o por lo menos crea
que es a él
a quien llaman.

Unfortunately, quite aberrantly and probably despite himself, poet Charles Bukowski taught "the common reader" of the "cubicle geeks, barstool storytellers and taxi cab drivers" ilk that enduring tedious employment is somehow cool.  In any case, The American Dissident would love to hear from a representative of "the common reader" regarding this matter.  So, please send an email if you are of "the common reader" ilk and not fearful of healthy debate.  For a conversation with a "common reader," read the extract from the editor's unpublished manuscript, Dissident X.


DiGangi's criticism is highlighted on this page because, ironically, it mirrors what intellectually lazy and/or inept academics, theorists, and other literati might say and have said regarding The American Dissident

Joan HoulihanAs for the cartoon on the right, what would make a poet like Joan Houlihan, Director of Concord Poetry Center and adjunct instructor at Lesley University, utter such an absurd statement... and refuse to rescind it?  Clearly, the answer is not dissidence, but rather common, unoriginal "selling out" and public monies.  For evident reasons, the term "selling out" has become a convenient anachronism, thanks to the herd of hippie flower children, or "generation of swine," in the words of Hunter S. Thompson.   Perhaps Bill and Hillary are the most egregious examples of that "generation of swine."  Note Houlihan was a flower child, not a dissident.  Her Concord Poetry Center is an aberration because, in reality, it disdains dissidence, as proven by the editor's protest at its opening night, starring Pulitzer Prize Franz Wright.  Visit the Concord Poetry Center page to read his aberrant reaction to the protest and view a satirical cartoon of him.  What kind of poets would mock and scorn dissidence, if not purchased ones? 

Concord, Massachusetts, where the editor once lived and published The American Dissident, has become a piteous paradox.  On the one hand, it is known for and prides itself as cradle of American revolutionaries and home of staunch dissidents Thoreau, Emerson, and Alcott, who helped make it famous; while, on the other hand, its bourgeois, three-car garage "liberal" reality disdains dissident free speech and expression.  Today, Concord is home of Thoreau Society, Thoreau Institute, Thoreau Corporate Outings, Concord Poetry Center, and Emerson Umbrella for the Arts, replete with members who detest debate, free speech and expression. 


Unsurprisingly, not one poet or artist member proved gave a damn about the editor's arrest and incarceration for a non-violent, legal dispute with a park ranger at Walden Pond State Reservation, as well as subsequent evictions from Walden Pond, once by a mounted police officer for simply asking why the park ranger detested free speech on public grounds and on another occasion by state and local police for simply and silently holding a placard by the park's entrance:  NO FREE SPEECH AT WALDEN POND!  Interestingly, during that silent protest, poets of Stone Soup Poets (Cambridge, MA) walked past the editor indifferent on their way to "read" witty verse at Walden's amphitheater.  With regards the arrest and incarceration, read what paralegal Ed Cantarella wrote.  His view of reality lays opposite that of The American Dissident.  Cantarella believes the cop was right regarding the arrest, but conveniently ignores the judge's decision to throw the case out. Pro-establishment orthodox opinions must reject logic and fact, or those opinions crumble.  The American Dissident welcomes criticism, even if lacking logic, from citizens like Cantarella.  As mentioned, it will publish it.  If living today, George Orwell would have probably written 1984 II.


By the way, The American Dissident website used to be hosted by Yahoo Geocities until it was censored and deactivated as a result of one complaint lodged by a former chairperson of the Dedham Cultural Council (branch of the Massachusetts State Cultural Council), Ival Kovner.  Big Brother Yahoo did not bother to inform The American Dissident, nor did it even accord it the opportunity to correct  the "problem."  It simply and permanently "deactivated" free speech and expression.  Its "Terms of Agreement" stipulate that to "upload, post or otherwise transmit any Content that is unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, tortious, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, libelous, invasive of another's privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable."  Vague all-encompassing rules of behavior with regards "offending" evidently serve to encourage self-censorship and discourage open criticism and free speech and expression, the very cornerstones of a thriving democracy.  Without the latter democracy will always, considering human nature, evolve into oligarchy, or rule by wealthy elites.  Poetry is no exception.  It too is ruled by wealthy elites.  In other words, if one wishes to be hosted by Big Brother Yahoo, one best fully comply with the ambient diktats of "happy-face fascism" largely characterizing American society today.  Heed well sellout Bobby McFaren's corporate drone song "Be happy, don't worry"!  Orwell's excellent essay, "Prevention of Literature," ought to be obligatory reading in the nation's universities:

Daring to stand alone" is ideologically criminal as well as practically dangerous. The independence of the writer and the artist is eaten away by vague economic forces, and at the same time it is undermined by those who should be its defenders.

Although the point of emphasis may vary, the writer who refuses to sell his opinions is always branded as a mere egoist. He is accused, that is, of either wanting to shut himself up in an ivory tower, or of making an exhibitionist display of his own personality, or of resisting the inevitable current of history in an attempt to cling to unjustified privilege.

Despite the editor's constant efforts, bookstores will not stock The American Dissident.  The Concord Bookshop, the only bookstore to do so, decided to terminate its gesture of openness and adhere more closely to the Orwellian-like slogan:  Literature IS Business.  Only 16 libraries in the nation subscribe to The American Dissident, including Harvard University's Widener, Buffalo University, Wisconsin University, and the Concord Free Public Library. Sturgis Library, not only rejected a free subscription but prohibited the editor from leaving flyers on its grounds. Compare the 15 subscribing institutions to with the 150 possessed byThreepenny Review, 500 by Agni, and likely well over 1000 by Poetry magazine. 

The publication of The American Dissident constitutes a continuing EXPERIMENT IN FREE SPEECH AND EXPRESSION carried out in the academic, cultural, and literary arena (i.e., the Academic/Literary Industrial Complex). And The AD blog is an integral part of that experiment. 


The Chronicle of Higher Education publishes accounts of corrupt college presidents, deans, and their fawning kowtows, not to mention the huge amounts of taxpayer money public universities use to pay off their corrupt presidents. How can students complain about higher tuition rates and ignore the salaries of college presidents like former public-university president William Bulger (University of Massachusetts), who received a one-million dollar severence package? Note what Roger Bowen, general secretary of the American Association of University Professors, stated:

These huge salaries feed into the ongoing corporatization of the academy.  Universities do not exist to make money but to educate our students and citizens, a role that is central to our democratic society. We send the wrong message when we transmogrify our campus presidents into C.E.O.'s.

The American Dissident is an ongoing battle with bureaucratic academic/literary functionaries, who, for the sake of democracy, need to be vigorously criticized and otherwise denounced.  The general conclusion drawn from the The American Dissident experiment is perhaps unsurprising, at least to those who have dared criticize academics, educationists, poets, other writers, artistes, publishers, editors, and others.  Shamefully, most of the latter prefer to ignore the criticism, shoot the messenger, and otherwise behave as if the very concept of free speech and expression were not at all pertinent to them.  The myth that the poet/artist/academic is more open than most to debate, criticism, and other ideas, runs counter, of course, to this conclusion. Weak minds, fragile self-esteem, lack of principles, fear of solitude, careerism, money, and control of turf are responsible for the piteous rejection of criticism and debate by establishment apparatchiks. 

The American Dissident seeks to expose and criticize the Academic/Literary Industrial Complex, the very core of the nation's intellect, oligarchic organ of diversionary entertainment and enemy of democracy.  Indeed, the Complex detests anybody daring to "go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all ways" and will be quick to ostracize or otherwise punish anybody daring to do so.  Québécois poet Raymond Lévesque insightfully stated:  "Si au Québec on ne peut plus exprimer une opinion contraire sans crainte de subir l’ostracisme, c’est qu’il y a quelque chose qui ne va pas."  [If in Québec one can no longer express a contrarian opinion, something is seriously wrong.]  Sadly, the editor's experience with both Québec and American literary milieus underscore that something IS seriously wrong in both Québec and America.

The American Dissident encourages writers to become activists and bite the multiple hands that feed and seek to silence them.  It encourages the carrying out of experiments in free speech and expression on the grassroots level and the crafting of the resultant observations into literature.  The concept of democracy in the American mindset has been largely simplified and sadly reduced to mere voting every four years for one of two oligarchs.  The Academic/Literary Industrial Complex, which acts as a Ministry of Information for the nation's ruling families, Republican and Democrat, bears the responsibility for this frightening reduction.  Hardcore criticism, an integral part of any thriving democracy, has largely been replaced by positivist, self-esteem building thanks to academics and other educationists.  The Academic/Literary Industrial Complex constitutes an army of cultural functionaries and bureaucrats, including poets, writers, editors, publishers, two-thumbs-up critics, anchor men and women, pop stars, artists, professors, and teachers.  It seeks to instill in the nation's populace a general worship of fame and wealth, happy-face fascism, and modus operandi of groupthink, team playing, and team denying, as opposed to individual free expression and intelligent criticism.  In the minds of herd members and proponents of the Academic/Literary Industrial Complex, criticism is to be denigrated and otherwise equated with negativity, anger, complaining, get a life, and loser.  Free and open criticism, however, as opposed to pre-approved party-line criticism, constitutes the cornerstone of any thriving democracy.  Without it, democracy devolves into oligarchy.  Our democracy is devolving into oligarchy.

The American Dissident encourages writers to openly question and challenge their professors, teachers, colleagues, editors, publishers, and fellow poets, as well as their infrastructure publications, organizations, prizes, grants, workshops, fellowships, etc.  It insists, however, that such critique be backed by logical argumentation and, whenever possible, factual evidence and statistics.  Show them where they are wrong and attempt to get them to show you where you might be wrong... with logical argumentation.  Logic, of course, has not been a strong point with American elites since the inception of the nation.

See your Declaration Americans! ! ! Do you understand your own language? Hear your languages, proclaimed to the world, July 4th, 1776—"We hold these truths to be self evident—that ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL! ! that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness! !" Compare your own language above, extracted from your Declaration of Independence, with your cruelties and murders inflicted by your cruel and unmerciful fathers and yourselves on our fathers and on us -- men who have never given your fathers or you the least provocation! ! ! ! ! ! [...] Has Mr. Jefferson [President Thomas Jefferson] declared to the world, that we are inferior to the whites, both in the endowments of our bodies and our minds? It is indeed surprising, that a man of such great learning, combined with such excellent natural parts, should speak so of a set of men in chains. I do not know what to compare it to, unless, like putting one wild deer in an iron cage, where it will be secured, and hold another by the side of the same, then let it go, and expect the one in the cage to run as fast as the one at liberty. [...]  Mr. Jefferson's very severe remarks on us have been so extensively argued upon by men whose attainments in literature, I shall never be able to reach, that I would not have meddled with it, were it not to solicit each of my brethren, who has the spirit of a man, to buy a copy of Mr. Jefferson's "Notes on Virginia," and put it in the hand of his son. [...] I say, that unless we try to refute Mr. Jefferson's arguments respecting us, we will only establish them.  (David Walker, "Appeal," 1829)

In each issue of The American Dissident, a section is devoted to literary letters.  The editor often baits partisans of the Academic/Literary Industrial Complex, an amazingly easy thing to do, and often catches classic-response fish from the putrescent waters where they tend to thrive. The following correspondence illustrates one such successful hooking.  The editor encourages writers to submit similar correspondence for publication. 

Subj:  Spanish/French position
Date:  5/19/2004
From:  enmarge
Dear Dr. Robert Carey, Dean of Graduate Studies, Empire State College (Saratoga Springs, NY):  I am interested in applying for the Spanish/French position at Empire State College.  Regarding your "preferred qualifications, what does "diversity leadership" really mean?  It seems like such a nebulous term.  Recently, I taught two years of Spanish/French at an all-black female college in the south and questioned and challenged its leadership.  Might that be considered "diversity leadership" or is it anti-"diversity leadership"? I also published thought-provoking articles in the student and local newspapers and in that sense coaxed my black female students to consider the paradoxes with regards the college's "diversity leadership" orthodoxy.  For example, I got them to think about the college president's constant remarks about the importance of diversity.  The college of course is entirely un-diverse.  I'm just curious... always curious, questioning and challenging. 
Sincerely, G. Tod Slone, PhD


Subj:  Spanish/French position
Date:  5/19/04
Sounds to me like you have hit all the numbers on that scale--a "divertuoso."


Subj:  Spanish/French position
Date:  5/19/04
From:  enmarge
Dear Dr. Carey: Well, I suppose your comment is funny, though really tragi-comical, typical and quite unoriginal. Don’t you ever think about the educationist doctrine, or do you simply take it for granted and open your mouth wide and utter, AH… whenever the spoon is placed in front of you at the obligatory educationist workshop? If you did think about it, you would of course be quite different from the clone-model dean… and after 20 some years, I’m still trying to meet a dean who isn’t of that model. Does he or she really exist? I have my doubts. Evidently, I’m not your ideal candidate, for I think quite out of the academic box.  Good luck to you, especially if you ever decide to open your eyes.  And if you did ever decide to open them widely, you’d no doubt discover that the clone-dean is an integral part of the massive problem confronting higher education and democracy today.   [No response]

The above correspondence constitutes an excellent illustration of a key-behavior pattern sadly shared by the herd partisans of the Academic/Literary Industrial Complex.  Debate is the cornerstone of democracy.  Yet careerist, money-oriented, positivist, esteem-needy partisans of the Academic/Literary Industrial Complex abhor it and will resist it whenever possible because it threatens their intellectual and physical turf... comfort and safety.  They prefer the latter to the intellectual  growth that debate and critique can often incite.  When debate does occur it is more often than not staged as in the presidential debates.


A visitor to this website mentioned the site never explained how one might rebel while at the same time remain part of the Machine, as in "let your life be a counterfriction to stop the machine (Thoreau). The editor explained that one cannot remain part of the Machine, if one seriously rebels against it. Those who manage to remain part of it evidently do not speak the "rude truth in all ways."  The visitor also mentioned he'd been published "quite a few times" despite his espousal of "left-wing opinion and position" such that, in his words, he had not "sold out."  First, one must wonder what selling out implies.  Most people do not sell out because they do not hold serious principles to sell.  The large majority of leftist hippies (and beatniks), on the other hand, did espouse serious principles and did sell them to the highest bidders.  They are, as mentioned, currently in full power of the Academic/Literary Industrial Complex.  The editor suggested the visitor try criticizing the “left-wing opinion and position," as well as some of his lefty friends, in order to fully comprehend what it means to speak the "rude truth in all ways."  The visitor did not respond.  Orthodoxy is the espousal of left-wing or right-wing "positions." The American Dissident is against orthodox positions, left or right, because they inevitably win out whenever in conflict with truth.  The American Dissident abhors orthodoxy, leftist or right-wing.  When one is used to praise ad nauseam, a sudden uncomfortable or unwanted truth can rapidly hurt feelings of the overly sensitive and esteem deficient.  When feelings are hurt, the mind often becomes dull.  Truth, as they say, does hurt.  A dull mind will not have the strength to argue with logic.  Instead, it will either refuse to respond or resort to responding with denigrating epithets and/or ready-made "reasoning" provided by orthodoxy. 

The current literature confirms the widespread nature of intellectual corruption in education, where corporate manager, political hack, and academic administrator often tend to be one and the same. William Bulger, ex-state senate president, ex-president of the University of Massachusetts, and Cultural Council board member, is an egregious example. Bulger's brother is a serial murderer recently captured.  Some 20-30 murders were committed by the brother in the Boston area while William was state-senate president.  The brothers were very close. 

The Academic/Literary Industrial Complex rejects hardcore criticism of academe and literature.  It is logical that partisans of the Complex do not declare the subject taboo.  Instead, they argue the subject boring, without interest, jaded, and/or déjà fait.  They would also argue anybody writing about the subject to be angry, negative, insulting, complaining, and/or simply arrogant. The editor has been labeled those epithets many times by poets, editors, publishers, artists, teachers, and academics of the Machine.     

"He who pays the piper, calls the tune."  So, who is paying all the little pipers?  Who is calling their diverse little tunes?  If you're reading this page, you probably already know, and are most likely not one of the little paid-off pipers of academe and/or literature because the latter dare not venture into unapproved territories such as this one.  The logical unorthodox, thus harsh, criticism published in The American Dissident has been deemed unfit to print by the vast majority of piping editors and publishers spread peanut butter-like throughout the nation. 


Garrick Davis, editor of the Contemporary Poetry Review, A Journal Devoted Exclusively to the [Safe and Approved] Criticism of Poetry, for example, refuses to publish anything proposed by the editor of The American Dissident.  "The CPR Archive is the largest online collection of poetry criticism available in the world."  Largest, of course, does not always mean best, and criticism, especially in the world of indoctrinated, backslapping piping fops, doesn't always mean critical (see the editor's correspondence with CPR). For reality's sake, CPR ought to change its name to CORPSE... Contemporary Obit Review of Poetry Serving the Establishment.   

On another note, though always the same stinging note of hypocrisy/orthodoxy, “The very mention of the Patriot Act is enough to drive many publishers, writers, librarians, bookstore owners, readers and concerned citizens into a near-paranoid frenzy at the idea that the government is intruding into their personal business, although few can cite specific instances in which that is the case" (Rachel Donadio, NYTimes Book Review editor).  Indeed, American publishers and editors have risen indignantly to condemn government censorship, which might prohibit them from publishing writers from Iran, Sudan, and Cuba.  The American Dissident condemns their hypocrisy for they are also in the censorship business by refusing the voice of American writers critical of their Academic/Literary Industrial Complex, whose very function is one of censorship and propagation of diversionary literature.   Rachel Donadio, NYTimes Book Review editor, noted:

Indeed, the marketing department of any given publishing house probably has far more power over free expression in America than any government office; if it decides a smart book won't sell, the publisher may not sign it.

Citizens of Concord have also been up in arms over the Patriot Act, yet don't give a damn when one of their fellow citizens is incarcerated in a Concord jail for exercising the First Amendment or when the public library refuses to post American Dissident flyers on its bulletin board despite the American Library Association's stipulation that "Intellectual freedom encompasses the freedom to hold, receive and disseminate ideas." Library directors need to contemplate that statement, as well as the ALA's Library Bill of Rights.  Citizens of Concord also don't give a damn that the Emerson Umbrella for the Arts, Thoreau Society, Thoreau Institute, Concord Journal, Concord Cultural Council, and Concord Poetry Center prove, perhaps often, to be largely apathetic to such quelling of the First Amendment when it involves the harassment and/or punishment of a local politically-incorrect dissident.

Subject:  The Patriot Act and other acts...
Date:  12/18/2003
From:  Enmarge
Dear Robert Plotkin:  Please send me a copy of the Patriot Act article and petition.  It seems there were problems prior to 9-11, as I was arrested and incarcerated several years ago for having a non-violent dispute with a park ranger at Walden Pond, then was pushed out of the park several months later by a mounted statie because I asked the same ranger why he hated free speech so much, then several months later accosted by another statie who warned he would incarcerate me if I put my flyer in the Thoreau shack again, then several months later by both state and town cops because I was standing by a tree holding a sign protesting the absence of free speech at the park.  All of that occurred prior to the Patriot Act.  Downtown Concord they removed the public bulletin board, which was wonderful because it was the only place I could place an opinion (The Concord Journal refuses my voice in its letters section, yet I am nonviolent, do not swear and threaten anybody... well, except with logic perhaps).  It was replaced by a padlocked window display case to my disgust.  See my website for details on these concerns.  I'd actually be curious if the new local herd horrified by the Patriot Act would give a damn about these things. 


Subj:  The Patriot Act and other acts...
Date:  12/21/03
Dear Mr. Slone: Attached please find a copy of the Warrant Article and a petition in support of the warrant article. Thanks for your interest.


Subj:  The Patriot Act and other acts...
Date:  12/21/03
From:  Enmarge 
Dear Mr. Plotkin:  It is interesting (or revealing?) that you have chosen not to comment on my letter at all.  BTW, I had an interesting thought regarding you… a conclusion in effect.  Your real fight is not for the First Amendment but rather against Bush.  In reality, you don't really care about the First Amendment.  You simply want to nail Ashcroft and Bush.  Why were you not up in arms-and I'm damn sure you weren't-when Clinton signed a bill drastically limiting habeas corpus?   Most likely you are one of those sad liberal ideologues that Bernard Goldberg hammers in his two books, Bias and Arrogance.  Read those books.  You might learn something.  [No response]

For the nation and democracy, nothing is worse than a blind patriot... or piper.  For literature and democracy, nothing is worse than a blind piper poet and writer.  Unfortunately, the nation is crawling and swarming with legions of them because of copycat MFA programs; highly conformist, careerist, see-no-evil-hear-none-either professors; widespread politically-correct indoctrination; money as muzzle and carrot; worship of famous literary stars and prizes; the war against negativity (and truth!) waged by "liberal" educationist proponents of smiley-face, feel-good, and self-esteem building activities; and the general fear and hatred of outside criticism.  Let culture (literature and art) offend, let it shake people up, and let it make them think, rather than fall asleep!  Let it question and challenge our unjust society, ever drifting away from democracy, irrevocably entrenching itself in a sad state of materialist war-mongering plutocracy. “Culture is the cry of the people, the cry of the ground and earth,” wrote a SMART WHITE WOMAN Meridel LeSueur.  “It must come out of that and not on to it.”  Unfortunately, the STUPID WHITE WOMEN in charge of the Concord Cultural Council prefer the plutocracy and view culture as safe, sufficiently infantilized, inoffensive, diversionary, entertaining, and thus constituting, in their words, "enrichment activities" with "strong community benefit."  

The following quotes sum up the viewpoint of The American Dissident.  Most poets, writers, and artists will not be able to comprehend that viewpoint because it not only implicates them as cowardly, careerist conformists, but also falls well beyond their accepted, socially-imposed paradigm of behavior and thought.  Indeed, it simply falls beyond customary groupthink. 

Our American professors like their literature clear and cold and pure and very dead.
—Sinclair Lewis, Nobel Lecture

Mon devoir est de parler, je ne veux pas être complice.  [My duty is to speak out.  I do not want to be an accomplice.]
—Emile Zola, "J’accuse"

Literature was not promulgated by a pale and emasculated critical priesthood singing their litanies in empty churches—nor is it a game for the cloistered elect, the tinhorn mendicants of low calorie despair.

The ancient commission of the writer has not changed. He is charged with exposing our many grievous faults and failures, with dredging up to the light our dark and dangerous dreams for the purpose of improvement.
—John Steinbeck, Nobel banquet speech

I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Criticism, like charity, starts at home.
—Wole Soyinka

...If a university is a place for knowledge, it is also a special kind of small society.  Yet it is not primarily a fellowship, a club, a circle of friends, a replica of the civil society outside it.  Without sacrificing its central purpose [to discover and disseminate knowledge], it cannot make its primary and dominant value the fostering of friendship, solidarity, harmony, civility or mutual respect... It may sometimes be necessary in a university for civility and mutual respect to be superseded by the need to guarantee free expression...
—Report of the Committee on Free Expression at Yale (Undergraduate Regulations)

me diste con la leche y la carne las sílabas          
que nombrarán también los pálidos gusanos
que viajan en tu vientre,
los que acosan tu sangre saqueándote la vida.

[you {Chile} gave me along with the milk and meat the syllables/ that will also denounce the pale worms/ that travel in your gut,/ those that disturb your blood sucking out its life.]
—Pablo Neruda

A la literatura se le da una importancia excesiva, es un juguete al que se le subieron los humos -asegura- y los escritores tienen un prestigio injustificado, están subidos en pedestales ridículos.  La literatura se ha convertido en una operación de márketing, en un remolino de relaciones públicas. Es algo muy sucio lo que está pasando, la banalización hace que lo más simple sea lo que se impone, como el “fast-food” se impone al “slow-food”. Es lo mismo que tirarlos a la basura...  Me doy cuenta de la pedantería que gira alrededor de la literatura.  Que todo es, más o menos, una farsa".  [Literature has been converted into a marketing operation, a whirlwind of public relations.  Something very dirty is occurring… I am aware of the pedantry  that hovers around literature.  Everything has become, more or less, a farce.]
—Héctor Abad Faciolince, escritor colombiano

Je ne suis que la mauvais’ tête/ Qui met des vers où c’qui faut pas [I'm only the bad guy/ who poetisizes what one ought not]
—Léo Ferré

Mehr Licht.  [More light]

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos.  [Reason's dream produces monsters.]

The peculiar nature of this [the writer’s] responsibility is that he must never cease warring with it [society], for its sake and for his own.
—James Baldwin

In its own way, literature always was, is, and must be intolerant.   And the clearer it is, the more intolerant it is—that is part of its nature.  We can have lunch every day in the Writers’ Club with anyone we want, or go fishing with anyone we want.  But the minute we begin turning a blind eye to what we don’t like in each others writing, the minute we begin to back away from our own inner norms, to accommodate ourselves to each other, cut deals with each other over poetics, we will in fact set ourselves against each other, because we will naturally begin to subtract from our own uniqueness and thus retreat from ourselves—until one day we will disappear in a general fog of mutual admiration. 
—Vàclav Havel, “On Evasive Thinking”

I think it only makes sense to seek out and identify structures of authority, hierarchy, and domination in every aspect of life, and to challenge them; unless a justification for them can be given, they are illegitimate, and should be dismantled, to increase the scope of human freedom.
—Noam Chomsky

We are prone to let our mental life become invaded by legions of half truths, prejudices, and propaganda.  At this point, I often wonder whether or not education is fulfilling its purpose.  A great majority of the so-called educated people do not think logically and scientifically.  Even the press, the classroom, the platform, and the pulpit in many instances do not give us objective and unbiased truths.  To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education...  The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically... we must remember that intelligence is not enough.  Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education...   
—Martin Luther King, Jr., “The Purpose of Education”

Interestingly, "dissident literature," more often than not, refers to Russian, Chinese and Czech writing.  "Dissident American" has become an oxymoron in the nation's psyche.  In Mythical America, the term is simply not permitted to exist.  Plugging in "dissident poetry" in the search engine Google will result in absurd, out-of-place entries by the Academy of American Poets, which refuses to even respond to the editor's request to list The American Dissident on its website next to Poetry "the pharmaceutically-funded" magazine, Agni, Kenyon Review, Threepenny Review,, and scores of others.   As part of its "online poetry classroom," the Academy does include a lame, academically-tedious discourse on the poet as dissident written by William Meredith, who no doubt knows nothing about what it is to be a dissident. 

"Arts and Letters Daily," a service of the Chronicle of Higher Education, with its aberrantly hypocritical motto VERITAS ODIT MORAS refuses to respond with regards The American Dissident request to be listed on its site.  Well, The American Dissident ODIT MORAS  and strives for VERITAS.  So what do piping lit fops Denis Dutton, editor, and Tran Huu Dung, managing editor, have to say?  Nothing at all, of course.  They, like so many others, prefer silence to debate. 

Boston Review and Poets & Writers, Inc., amongst others, also refuse to respond with regards requests The American Dissident be listed. The consensus conformist-literati hubris is quite simple:  HOW DARE YOU CRITICIZE LITERATURE AND US! 

Higher education has accepted, too frequently, an Orwellian concept and practice:  In order to ensure “diversity” and “tolerance,” it will censor and silence those who are different or independent.
—FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education)

Glavlit is the Russian acronym for the body which censored all printed matter in the USSR.  Each glavlit censor was supplied with a secret book of instructions, constantly amended and updated, which lists the topics that may not be mentioned in print.
—Vladimir Lakshin, Solzhenitsyn, Tvardovsky and Novy Mir (1980)

Finally, for those who are not interested in principled arguments, remind them that history shows us that the censors of one generation are the censored of the next. […] You are part of the community; do not let the administration that it must censor speech to please the community.  The idea that there is a conflict between free speech and the academic community fundamentally misunderstands both the goals of higher education and the nature and role of free speech.
—George Orwell

Ah, but George, how do we get the self-satisfied glavlit censors a la Therese Eiben, Suzanne Pettypiece, Casey and Denise Hill (, Michael Marcinkowski (Poetry Foundation), and Kevin Larimer (P&W, Inc. CEOs) to think about such things?

The following is the unanswered email sent to Poets & Writers magazine, which boasts being "The nation's largest nonprofit organization providing information, support, and guidance to creative writers."  What it really ought to boast is its aim to be the American Glavlit, as well as its support and promotion of new-age, cutesy crap writing that makes no waves, just fun diversionary horseshit for the lollypop generation.  Its cover story for August 2006 supports this assertion:  "Having each published a successful debut novel, Emily Barton and Gary Shteyngart realized there was only one thing left to do—write a second one. But first they had to confront their fear of the follow-up flop."  There ought to be a term for this kind of fawning, desperate-to-be-youthful, journalistic writing.

To Kevin Larimer, Senior Editor, Poets & Writers magazine:  As poete-maudit editor, am I officially banned from the pages of P&W?  If not, why not review The American Dissident in your Lit MagNet column? The Chronicle of Higher Education refuses to list the journal in its Arts&Lit section. Why?  It won't tell me.  SILENCE is what rude-truth often receives in guise of response from establishment lit cronies.  There's plenty to look at on my website. BTW,  P&W has not responded to my queries RE my 18-page (SASE included) essay, "The Cold Passion of Truth Hunts in No Pack," which was sent over a year ago!  Would you like me to resend it, so you can at least forward a form-rejection?  You might wish to examine my politically-incorrect literary cartoons also on my website and ask yourself why P&W would never publish them.  You might also ask yourself why, in America, so much rude-truth writing is simply eliminated, as if it didn't even exist?  How much gulag writing do you suppose has disappeared forever? Why are dissident writers like myself crushed into oblivion?  How can America hope to create a great literature given the current status quo of lit networking and groupthinking?  You might also ask yourself why P&W refuses to include a little column on rude-truth dissident American poetry and poets.  Where is democracy when rude truth is so easily discarded as potential defamation?  Where is it when censorship eliminates the potentially offensive, though quite truthful?  Where is it in the halls of the Academic/Literary Industrial Complex? 
PS:  Why do you refuse to list THE AMERICAN DISSIDENT with the other 149 literary journals on your site.  Is there a fee to be paid?  If so, how much? 
PPS:  As a literary corporation, do you publish a financial statement?  If so, where might I consult it. [No response]
As for Contemporary Poetry Review, it too refuses to list The American Dissident as if inexistent.  For evident reasons, the literary establishment prefers to keep dissidence, including that of Villon, Jeffers, Thoreau, Emerson, Ibsen, Céline, Orwell, and Solzhenitsyn, at a safe distance preferably in museums, institutes, literary societies, behind public-library display cases, and in anthologies and textbooks. The wisdom must not leave the classroom!  Professors serve as credible role models in that respect.

For The American Dissident, it has been impossible to obtain funding.  Even the local Concord Cultural Council refuses to help (see Cultural Council).  Other literary journals with patent establishment-friendly focus, nonprofit status (one needs to pay the federal government $500 for the application fee and hire a lawyer to fill out the paperasse), and lack of need rake in large quantities of money.  This year, the National Endowment for the Arts, for example, awarded nonprofits Antioch Review (Antioch University) $10,000, The Idaho Review (Boise State University) $10,000, Agni (Boston University) $15,000, Colorado Review (Colorado State University) $8,000, Gettysburg Review (Gettysburg College) $15,000, Kenyon Review $15,000, Ploughshares (Emerson College) $16,000, The Missouri Review (University of Missouri) $30,000, River Styx Magazine $5,000, Calyx $15,000, Fence Magazine $10,000, Hudson Review $12,500, Painted Bride Quarterly $7,000, and Threepenny Review $20,000.  In fact, the latter has a budget of $200,000!  The NEA also helps fill the coffers of Poets & Writers, Inc., which is hardly a proponent of the First Amendment.  Nonprofit, of course, does not prevent editors and staff from drawing hefty salaries.

It does anger The American Dissident that the NEA refuses to accord grants to small literary journals without apparent financial endowments and wealthy backers.  But the NEA is just another faceless bureaucratic organization of paradigmatically-paralyzed orthodox leftists.  The snail-mail letter sent by the editor never received a response.  Where to lodge a complaint?  The only email address on the NEA website is for the webmaster who at least did respond to my query:  "Yes, even a one-person operation needs to be a non-profit.  Congress has prohibited us from funding individuals except for literature fellowships, so I'm not really sure where you should lodge a complaint."  In other words, life in the plutocracy as usual.  The webmaster gave me the email of Amy Stolls, but she refuses to respond.  I wrote back to the webmaster, who now also refuses to respond.  N.B.:  I did not use four-letter words or insults in any of my letters, though perhaps I should have.  Someone suggested I write my congressman because the NEA is after all public.  I of course chuckled, knowing at best I'd receive a robot response.  Just the same, I wrote Congressman "The Honorable" Martin T. Meehan, as well as my two state multimillionaire senators, Kennedy and Kerry.  To date, no response has been received, nor is one expected.   Pen Club also accords grants to literary journals, but...
Subj:  Shabby response...
Date:  9/10/04
From:  Enmarge

A paltry, if not pitiful, response indeed, one that seems to corroborate the suspicions noted below in my letter to you, especially with regards your awards.  You can't even write your name at the end of your emails? How about giving me a small grant so I might propagate my literary journal.  You will note that my journal is certainly more in line with PEN than previous grantee "Honorees" Askold Melnyczuk (Agni), Herbert Liebowitz (Parnassus), Wendy Lesser (Threepenny Review), Stanley W. Lindberg (Georgia Review), and Peter Stitt (Gettysburg Review). Thank you for your attention.
Subj:  Grants
Date:  10/7/04
To:  enmarge
Many thanks for your message.  I believe you are referring to the Nora Magid Award.  This award is given only via internal nomination by a PEN member.  In general, the guidlines and requirements for all our awards are on our web site: Andrew
It is the opinion of The American Dissident that students, university and other, should not be indoctrinated with regards literature, art, or anything else.  On the contrary, students should be taught to question and challenge all things, including their very professors and teachers, literary prizes, programs, canon, classics, celebrities, etc.  They should be taught that good or bad literature and art has largely been a subjective determination... exclusively made by elite, bourgeois critics of the Academic/Literary Industrial Complex. 
For The American Dissident, literature and art critical of the Machine (see Thoreau quote on masthead) is of utmost importance, as opposed to that which "says" not much at all, though might be considered experimental, witty, deconstructionist, "genre-crossing form of speculation," or whatever the oligarch litterateurs come up with. 

Today, education, literature, and art have become, for the most part, controlled (regulated and approved for dissemination) by the Machine, thanks to the obedient legions of academic, educationist, literary, journalist, and political-hack intermediaries.  By no means is The American Dissident the first to come to this conclusion.
This is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people no longer.  It is a government of corporations, by corporations, and for corporations.
—President Rutherford Hayes, 1884

Since World War II, American culture has been redesigned for the comfort of the corporation.
—Lionel Basney, poet and English professor

The government has ceased to function... the corporations are the government. The American press, with a very few exceptions, is a kept press. Kept by the big corporations the way a whore is kept by a rich man.   
—Theodore Dreiser 

Each [presidential candidate] is going to serve the corporation and the corporation is going to determine what foreign policy is, what economic policy is they will sooner or later take over (although they’re not too god at it) our artistic policy.  At present they’re content to just make sure that the majority of books that are sold are best sellers and will improve no-one’s mind at a disastrously quick rate.
—Norman Mailer

They'll put ads on our eyeballs, if they could develop the technology. They [the corporations] are making sure they [the nation’s children] grow up corporate… The drunken power binge of the insatiable corporate culture.
—Ralph Nader
The essential purpose of The American Dissident, as a subversive literary journal, is thus to provide a forum for the questioning, challenging and, if need be, angering of careerist hack professors, poets, writers, editors, actors, workshop leaders, movie stars, pop singers, MFA program directors, Pulitzers, Gugs, town mothers and fathers, and whoever else has sold out to the Machine.  The American Dissident  will fight, satirize, and expose, wielding logic and reason against celebrity, diversion, herd mentality, conformity, and truth-evasive, shoot-the-messenger rhetorical strategy. 

If only poets and other writers endeavored to be something more than just “working” the poem or novel and filling out applications for grants, fellowships, and contests. If only they questioned and challenged the latter, instead of automatically reacting awe-stricken when in the presence of a Gug, Pulitzer, Push-the-cart, or state Laureate.   If only they heeded Emerson:  “I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions.”  Imagine, for example, if on the contrary most poets and other writers were willing to “go upright and vital and speak the RUDE TRUTH in all ways” at PERSONAL RISK and with regards matters of intellectual corruption in their immediate surroundings. That might effect change, certainly more than that resulting from the projects of Poets Laureate Pinsky, Collins, and Gluck. Regrettably, most writers will not decry intellectual fraud on the local level. Most, including poet ex-corporate executives Barr, Gioia, and Kooser, well versed in team playing, networking, and conformity as opposed to self-reliance, whistleblowing, and truth telling, will not criticize anything apt to entail PERSONAL RISK, a modus operandi that will probably render their work ineffectual, if not irrelevant, in the long run. 

America urgently needs a hierarchy-free, loosely-knit army of writer-activists injected with the COURAGE to speak truth to power, both local and global, and in all spheres.  Let such writer-activists, as opposed to the networking Pulitzers and laureates, be known as the ones in the multitude most apt to manifest the audacity to speak the “rude truth in all ways.”  Infused with uncanny valor,  such writer-activists might indeed be looked upon by the public as truly special people, rather than as DIVERSIONARY ENTERTAINERS and COURT JESTERS holding mikes at the public library or on HBO or shaking hands with Bill Moyers on PBS or reading cutesy, flaccid verse on Jim Lehrer’s newscast. 

Unfortunately, most poets and writers seem to have become nothing more than scribbling litterateurs—beavers of mass-produced verse—no more courageous than Joe-average. In fact, they—excessively gregarious, comfortable, inbred, backslapping, and self-congratulating—are average and otherwise quite incapable of standing alone ON THE EDGE and against the herd.  Let courageous writer-activists bite the multiple, dubious hands that feed cash, privilege, tenure, publishing opportunities, promotions, prizes, speaking engagements, and letters of recommendation.  Let them hazard to criticize and experience the energy produced by the interior conflict pitting the fear warning not to against the courage urging to do so.  Let them  harness that energy and create poems and essays of rude truth that RISK ostracism from the cozy network, loss of reading invitations, chapbook contracts, prizes, money, or even job.  Let them seek the truth, while on the edge and experience VISCERAL INDIGNATION.

"[The wolf] is hunted by everyone.  Everyone is against him and he is on his own as an artist."
(Ernest Hemingway)

Walk on the Edge!
Speak Truth to Power!
Bite the Hand that Feeds!