During each election cycle, the establishment politicians, Republicans and Democrats, present their sanetized sound bites of carefully parsed bullshit. What about the sanetized sound bites of the establishment cultural apparatchiks and their poetaster courtjesters? Well, the best web site to read about them is of course the Academy of American Poets.
Perhaps the high-and-mighty chancellors of the Academy, all of whom endorse censorship and carefully controlled debate, which of course is not vigorous debate, ought to heed Chief Justice William O. Douglas: "Literature should not be suppressed merely because it offends the moral code of the censor."
Perhaps the chancellors—most, if not all, of whom are entrenched, sinecured academics—ought to heed George Bernard Shaw: "All censorships exist to prevent anyone from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently, the first condition of progress is the removal of all censorships. There is the whole case against censorships in a nutshell."
Sadly, those chancellors refuse to heed such wisdom. Thanks to them, the Academy of American Poets operates as one of a number of modern-day LITERARY CENSORING ORGANIZATIONS akin to the Catholic Church of yesteryear renowned for, amongst other things, its Index Librorum Prohibitorum.
Note that an essay created out of the egregious incident of censorship described below was published online by the Underground Literary Alliance. The Journal of Information Ethics published a shortened version of the essay in its Fall 2009 issue and paid the editor a $50 honorarium. My thanks goes to editor Robert Hauptman for having the openness to publish it.
The Literary Survey,created as a result of the censorship incident and disseminated to over 130 "high-end" literary journals (e.g., Agni, Ploughshares, Poetry, and Kenyon Review), resulted unsurprisingly in only several responses and only one completed questionnaire. The survey was published in Counterpoise for Social Responsibilities, Liberty, and Dissent, which asked the editors of those journals to respond. Not one of them ever responded. Vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy, is not very vigorous at all within the academic/literary established order.
Academy of American Poets "banned" me permanently from participating in its online forums on July 6, 2007. What surprised in our democracy was the number of professors, poets, and other so-called "learned" citizens who actually favored censorship, though would never have the guts to outright make that declaration.
Thomas Jefferson duly noted that "In every free and deliberating society, there must from the nature of man be opposite parties, and violent dissentions and discords."
My discord was not even violent! What irks me and ought to irk all citizens is the fact that the Academy of American Poets is heavily funded by the taxpayer-funded NEA, which outright rejected The American Dissident proposal for a relatively tiny grant. Why does the NEA favor according grants to organizations (e.g., NewPages.com, P$W Inc., and the Academy) that favor censorship and a party-line restricted agora of ideas? Evidently, it does so because that bolsters the power of the oligarchs ruling over the American "democracy." Poetry and literature in general serve the wealthy only when poetry and literature serve as diversion and evidently do not question and challenge, for example, the iron grip of the wealthy (bourgeoisie) upon poetry and literature.
The following is an account of arrogant censors at work, including three distinguished tenured poet/professor laureates of the U. S. Library of Congress.
Proponents of censorship, including those connected with the Academy of American Poets, are apparently unaware that vigorous debate is the cornerstone of democracy. Whether or not such debate might risk offending them and otherwise expose them as fascist poseurs is immaterial. If they are at all interested in further educating themselves, they might wish to begin by examining pertinent quotes on censorship by, amongst others, famous writers and Supreme Court judges. Contrary to the evident opinions of the administrators and chancellors of the Academy of American Poets, childish mockery of unpopular ideas will not make those ideas disappear.
Regarding the Academy's decision to censor me, never did I use four-letter words and never did I threaten anybody, except perhaps with the dangerous idea that responsible poets ought to overtly and periodically question and challenge literary icons, canon and institutions. For proof of this assertion, examine the entire uncensored uncensored transcript deleted from the Academy of American Poets website.
Aberrantly, for in flagrant contradiction, Klocek-Lim responded with a simple quote by Stephen Fry: “Poetry is not made to be sucked up like a child's milkshake…"
Date: Wed, 05 Dec 2007 16:06:22 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Academy censorship... and YOU
Sharon Olds is unavailable via e-mail. Please fax her, care of the Creative Writing Program, at 212-995-4864. Thank you.
How odd for a professor to be unavailable via e-mail in these days of high connectivity! As for Poet/Chancellor/Professor Ellen Bryant Voigt, she does not even use the Internet, so had subordinate Amy Grimm send her message to me.
From: "Amy Grimm" <email@example.com>
To: "George Slone" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Academy censorship... and YOU
Date: 06 Dec 2007 12:30:48 -0500
Dear George Stone,
Since I don't follow online forums, I have no way of assessing whether those conducted by the Academy of American Poets involve reasonable or unreasonable guidelines, or whether you have been unfairly censored. I will, however, ask the usually very helpful and open-minded Academy staff about your charges.
Needless to say, Voigt's statement that the Academy staff was "usually very helpful and open-minded" was akin to Bush stating that his staff was also thus. In other words, it was hot air of the luminary poet variety. No further response was ever received from Voigt or her "very helpful and open-minded" staff. My response to her was the following:
From: "George Slone" <email@example.com>
To: "Amy Grimm" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: From Ellen Bryant Voigt
Date: Thu, 6 Dec 2007 11:09:05 -0800 (PST)
Dear Ellen Voigt,
Thank you for your response. That in itself is generous. Please do keep me abreast as to the Academy’s reasoning et al when you ask it about my “charges.” You might also wish to ask why ALL staff members, including Tree Swenson, have refused to respond to my “charges” of censorship. Others have written to her and the Academy regarding the “charges.” They too have yet to receive responses. For these reasons, I chuckled reading your statement about “the usually very helpful and open-minded Academy staff.”
As you well know, there ought to be zero tolerance for censorship in universities and poetry academies. Yet the reality is certainly not that at all. The Academy censors and also refuses to respond to queries from entities not of its apparent liking. It refuses, for example, to list The American Dissident, a 501 c3 nonprofit literary journal with other journals it lists. I’ve made periodic requests and have received nothing but silence. If that is “very helpful and open-minded,” it is only thus to the status quo.
If you doubt me regarding institutions of higher learning, allow me to introduce you to the fire.org, which has catalogued many, many instances of college and university censorship and censorial speech codes. Moreover, in vain, I attempted to interest The Chronicle of Higher Education regarding my “charges” of censorship.
As for the third responsive chancellor, the following is her brief email:
From: "lyn hejinian" <email@example.com>
To: "George Slone" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
CC: "Tree Swenson" <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Academy censorship... and YOU
Date: Wed, 5 Dec 2007 19:14:41 -0800
Dear George Slone,
I know nothing about the circumstances you are referring to. I don't support or condone censorship. I should add that I do consider libelous, murderous, defamatory, and hateful comments unacceptable--but freedom, including freedom of speech, always entails obligations. For example, we enjoy many freedoms, each of which obligates us to allow equal freedom to others and prevents us from criminal freedoms.
Needless to say, I pushed Hejinian, tenured professor at the University of California at Berkeley, to be more specific and to act against censorship, but she chose not to further respond. As underscored on this page, vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy, is scorned by the Academy of American Poets and its diverse human cogs.
From: "George Slone" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "lyn hejinian" <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Academy censorship... and YOU
Date: Thu, 6 Dec 2007 12:11:02 -0800 (PST)
Dear Lyn Hejinian,
First, thank you for engaging in this dialogue, though I suspect that engagement will be quite brief. Just the same, you are the first chancellor of the Academy of American Poets to respond to my grievance of being censored by that organization last July. Not one staff member has yet responded to my grievance.
By responding, you prove yourself different from the other chancellors. No doubt, they rationalize their silence with the old “no-time” argument. How sad to discover so many poets and professors have no time for vigorous debate, yet plenty of time to hatch out another ineffectual poem or lecture!
From one of your photos posted on the Internet, I notice you were once a hippie. But evidently, you’ve since “grown up,” that is, become part of the “system,” which you once likely and rightfully decried as corrupt. As a former hippie myself, it is always interesting and usually quite sad for me to “see” where others of that generation have ended up (e.g., Bill and Hillary). Indeed, the present mirrors the very fraud of that past.
In any event, now that you are well aware that vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy, is not a cornerstone at the Academy of American Poets , where you preside as a “distinguished” chancellor, why haven’t you expressed outrage? After all, you clearly state: “I don't support or condone censorship.” But you do conveniently rationalize your inaction, acceptance of censorship, and lack of outrage with a politically-correct, dogmatically fixed statement: “I do consider libelous, murderous, defamatory, and hateful comments unacceptable.” That statement, of course, echoes the many speech codes enacted by the nation’s university professors. In case you are not aware, many of those codes have been deemed unconstitutional and struck down in courts of law throughout the country. In case you are unaware of the censorship effected at the University of California at Berkeley , where you occupy a tenured post, please consult: www.thefire.org/index.php/schools/220.
Your statement in favor of curtailing freedom seems somewhat aberrant or at best unclear: “For example, we enjoy many freedoms, each of which obligates us to allow equal freedom to others and prevents us from criminal freedoms.” It is as if, for you, the institution can do no wrong, and therefore my grievance must automatically be deemed superfluous or at best without justification. There are certainly many, many out there like you. Institutional patriots will cause the demise of democracy.
By doing nothing when informed about an act of censorship, you clearly prove you do support and condone censorship. How can you not possibly perceive that self-evident truth? Have “badges and names” perhaps blinded you over the years? Have they blinded you to comprehending what Emerson once said, regarding them? As for the “dead institutions,” he decried, how not to think of the pomp and circumstance-oriented Academy of American Poets ?
Regarding “libelous,” examine Bunnin and Beren’s Writer’s Legal Companion, which stipulates that “a truth statement, no matter how damaging, can’t be libelous.” Arguing “libel” or “defamation,” as you’ve suggested, is an easy and corrupt way of rationalizing censorship! Apparently, that is your intention.
“Hateful,” an intrinsically subjective term, can be applied whimsically to almost anything by anyone. How very easy to label my criticism of the academic/literary established order to which you now proudly belong, “hateful,” or even label this very email to you, “hateful.” Of course, deeming speech “hateful” is an intellectually lazy and easy way to kill vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy. Yet why the rush and fervent desire to kill debate? Supreme Court judges have ruled that speech is not protected under the First Amendment, but only when “hateful” or “harassment” is pervasive. Clearly, one alleged instance does not constitute pervasive!
If you are really against censorship, why haven’t you even taken the time to examine the details of the Academy censorship incident, clearly detailed on The American Dissident website? When, as now seems to be the case, large numbers of professors and poets censor and/or have no time for vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy, perhaps then we no longer have de facto democracy. But who cares, right? Hell, I have life-time job security, money in the bank, health insurance, pension, and big fat house in Berkeley ! Instead of democracy, for example, we have the Academy and its array of fascist chancellors and staff members.
How can one not think of the golden years of the Nazi regime, where so many professors colluded? Back then, as it is today, the cocoon of tenure was far too comfortable to exchange for moral and democratic principles! How not to think of those professors after that regime’s defeat, declaring they, in your words, knew “nothing about the circumstances”? How not to think of the Stalinist poets, when thinking of the poet laureates of the U. S. Library of Congress?
In any case, I do hope that this email might provoke a little memory, if not thought, in the distant recesses of your cerebrum and that you might actually take a stand against censorship and initiate the procedure necessary for the Academy of American Poets to apologize for heinously engaging in it and welcome me back as a critical poet. Pipe dream? But of course! It would be so much easier for you to simply truncate this dialogue, adorn the black gown and parade in the chancellor herd, holding your hand out for yet another award or fellowship or speaking engagement or another nomination for a Pushthecart or appearance in the Best American Poetry anthology...
PS: When employed, I too am a PhD professor, but of a much different sort… for the prospect of job comfort will never tempt me to muzzle myself or alter the logic in my soul.
PPS: Is vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy, also dead in the English Department at Berkeley ? How sad… for America ! How did you ever descend to the high established-order position of tenured curator and chancellor? Silence! That’s all we can get out of you and yours today. Silence! Well, at least I suddenly emerged into your comfortable cocoon realm of self-congratulating stupor to shake you up a tad, if that is at all possible.
What are your ideas, woman? Not a word about them, not even on your Berkeley webpage. All we get is an endless list of sycophant credentials. Why have lists of prizes and publications and positions supplanted ideas in the world of Academe today? How convenient!
That said, since you’re evidently content with censorship at the Academy of American Poets , how about subscribing to The American Dissident? I’m sure Berkeley could afford it. After all, Harvard, Buffalo , Brown, Wisconsin , Michigan , and Catawba Valley have subscribed. Your students would no doubt love it! But perhaps you and your staid colleagues wouldn’t. Silence…
Sadly, perhaps many poets, writers, professors, journalists and others will censor glibly. They'll do it, then chuckle with one another about it and will rationalize theirs is not censorship at all, but rather editorial discretion or whatever. They have become a reality in America today. Many of the characters named on this page (see below) have won numerous awards, but what does that imply about awards? No wonder poets and professors today have been accorded little prestige from the thinking citizenry—so little indeed that they must brew up their own prestige in whirlwind ceremonies and festivals of rampant backslapping, self-congratulations, not to mention icon worship. They create academies and foundations for the same purpose.
The Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets was formed in 1946 in accordance to the guidelines set forth by the Academy's founder, Mrs. Marie Bullock, who stated: "These men and women must be chosen from amongst literary persons of the highest standing. They must themselves be known for their good judgment and eminent integrity of opinion. They should geographically represent the entire United States, so that their choices will be representative of the nation as a whole, and not of one trend of thought, or literary clique, or section."
But how can the current chancellors be known for their "good judgment and eminent integrity of opinion," if they condone censorship in any of its subtle and not so subtle forms?
The Board of Chancellors serve several functions. "They advocate for the programmatic work of the Academy; act as consultants to the organization on matters of artistic direction and programming; elect the recipients of some of our awards, including the Academy Fellowship; and serve as ambassadors of poetry in the world at large."
But what kind of ambassadors do censors make? As for its President/Executive DirectorTree Swenson, she has proven indifferent to censorship and, perhaps unsurprisingly, served as director of programs for the Massachusetts Cultural Council and publisher and executive director of Copper Canyon Press. Perhaps also unsurprisingly Tree has an MA in Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to protest against Academy censorship, not for me... but for you! Email each staff member, moderator, and chancellor listed below. Only together can we stop censorship from corroding democracy.
The Censoring Chancellors
All but one or two of the poet chancellors are entrenched professors. In that respect, diversity is certainly not the Academy's modus operandi. So many entrenched professors in the milieu will inevitably place a particular "cloistering" spin on poetry and the canon—yesterday's, today's, and tomorrow's. Professors tend to be well indoctrinated, as opposed to free thinking, and tend to bow before "badges and names," as opposed to questioning and challenging them. Recall what Ralph Waldo Emerson had said:
I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions. Every decent and well-spoken individual affects and sways me more than is right. I ought to go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all ways.
Moreover, professors tend to be "safe-playing" careerists, not courageous truth tellers. They tend to relish in pomp and circumstance, engage in rampant sycophancy and self-vaunting, and for that reason they tend to abhor vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy. Thanks to their mass and money, thus shall be the direction of poetry... like it or not. The following are the chancellors. Send them an email. See if you get a response. Frank Bidart (email@example.com), Lyn Hejinian (firstname.lastname@example.org), Sharon Olds(email@example.com), Kay Ryan, Gerald Stern, C. K. Williams (firstname.lastname@example.org), Rita Dove (rfd4b@Virginia.EDU), Galway Kinnell, Carl Phillips (CPhillips@WUSTL.EDU), Gary Snyder (email@example.com), James Tate (firstname.lastname@example.org), Robert Hass (email@example.com), Nathaniel Mackey (firstname.lastname@example.org), Robert Pinsky (email@example.com), Susan Stewart (firstname.lastname@example.org, and Ellen Bryant Voigt (email@example.com).
The Censoring Staff Members
Tree Swenson, President / Executive Director (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Elaine Bleakney, National Poetry Month Coordinator (email@example.com)
Eric Engleson, Financial Manager (firstname.lastname@example.org)
C. J. Evans, Audio and Awards Associate (email@example.com)
Audrey Ference, Membership Coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Beth Harrison, Associate Director / Director of Development (email@example.com). She was formerly the Development Specialist for Literary Publishing at the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses, and has worked as a freelance grant-proposal writer for arts organizations and nonprofit presses. Beth has also worked as an editor for several book publishers, including Princeton Architectural Press and Oxford University Press. Beth has a B.A. in English/creative writing from Miami University and is the founding editor of the literary magazine Spinning Jenny.
Jennifer Kronovet, Editor, American Poet / Executive Associate (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Jennifer Kronovet was born and raised in New York City. She holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Washington University in St. Louis, an M.A. in Applied Linguistics from Columbia University Teachers College, and a B.A. in English from the University of Chicago. She is the co-founder and co-editor of the journal Circumference: Poetry in Translation. Her poems have appeared in Crowd, Pleiades, Ploughshares and other publications.
Robin Beth Schaer, Chief Online Editor (email@example.com). She has taught literature and writing at Columbia University and Cooper Union, and was educated at Colgate University and Columbia University's School of the Arts. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Saltonstall Foundation and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize.
Elliott Liu, Audio & Web Associate (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Billy Merrill, Web Associate (email@example.com)
Jocelyn Casey-Whiteman, Academy Intern, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Christina La Praese, Academy Intern (email@example.com)
The Censoring Moderators:
Christine Klocek-Lim (firstname.lastname@example.org), Site Administrator
Gary Charles Wilkens (email@example.com)*
Dave Rowley (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Catherine (rogersc) Catherine Rogers
Larina Larwar (email@example.com)
The research was time-consuming, hunting for the email addresses of the chancellors and moderators, who do, however, have their poems posted right and left, boasting about the prizes they've won, entirely incapable of contemplating the often corrupt nature of the prize-awarding machine. And the poems, all of them I’ve glanced at, tend to be fully submissive to the power standing ubiquitously in the background—submissive in innocuousness, blandness, childish cleverness, lack of questioning and challenging, and general banality. The poem, "Thursday," by moderator Gary Charles Wilkens, serves as an egregious example. It is the type of poem MFA programs tend to get students to write. "Now, everyone choose a day of the week and write a poem about it!" Whoopee! Wilkens boasts on his website and proudly refers to himself as "dazed and hallucinated, that’s me." Tell us about it, man.
After I informed Klocek-Lim to tell Wilkens his poem would be published on this site, Wilkens quickly contact me, exposing his concealed email address (see below). My service provider sent an email noting Wilkens had lodged a complaint, though did not request I remove the poem. After reflection, I decided to remove it anyhow since it was easily located on the Internet and also I'd had a bad experience with a previous provider, yahoo-geocities, which removed my entire web site without even first issuing a warning. That site was removed as the result of one complaint lodged by a cultural council jefe. For more on the threat to free speech, consult cease and desist letters.
In any case, the poem, "Thursday," begins thusly: "I would love to wax romantic about poetry and many other things,/ but Thursday won’t let me. Thursday won’t even let me use it as a symbol-/ Thursday stands for everything mundane and prosaic in the world." Well, Thursday must certainly be Wilkens' special day! If you want to read more of that poem, and I suspect you won't, hunt for it on the Internet.
Finally, those who censor, like Wilkens and Klocek-Lim, inevitably possess faulty logic. Because of that, they opt for ad hominem shoot-the-messenger name calling. Wilkens is or was in the MA in English program at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX. That institution and its professors must bear some responsibility regarding Wilkens' censor-the-voice-of-anybody-you-don't-agree-with modus operandi. Yeah, I loath the sonofabitch. Don't you?
Date: Fri, 13 Jul 2007 09:08:05 -0500
From: "Gary C. Wilkens" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Only Warning
Use "Thursday" on your rancid website, and I will contact your IP provider and threaten legal action to have it removed. It would be a clear violation of copyright, you'd lose. Just don't do it.
My response follows and was not answered:
Date: Fri, 13 Jul 2007 08:03:37 -0700 (PDT)
To: "Gary C. Wilkens" <email@example.com>
Subject: Only Warning
First, you and your established-order poet cronies, who evidently and unsurprisingly favor censorship, are wrong! Robert’s Rules of Order or other speech codes should never be invoked to stifle ideas and opinions!. You need to carefully study the plethora of quotations with regards censorship. You can easily find them on the Internet. I suggest, for example, http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/censorship.html.
Sadly, in America , the censorship mentality is likely rampant in the ranks of poets and professors, and that problem can likely be traced to the education dispensed by the nation’s universities. That, of course, explains your mentality.
Your poem serves to illustrate a point and you, as a 501 (c)(3) moderator at the Academy of American Poets, serve as a public entity, which is why the poem will remain posted. However, if you can send me the precise text of the copyright law as it relates to the Internet and public entities such as The American Dissident, I will gladly consider your request.
On another note, I request that you and your crony moderators cease censoring me from the Academy of American Poets forums and issue a formal apology. My request is based on the following regulation:
FINAL-REG, TAX-REGS, §1.501(c)(3)-l. Organizations organized and operated for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes, or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals
An organization may be educational even though it advocates a particular position or viewpoint so long as it presents a sufficiently full and fair exposition of the pertinent facts as to permit an individual or the public to form an independent opinion or conclusion. On the other hand, an organization is not educational if its principal function is the mere presentation of unsupported opinion.
This is a key principle regarding advocacy.
By the way, try maturing and not calling people names so readily, as in “Toddy” and "rancid" and whatever else you called me in that forum. Instead, try disputing the arguments presented... with logic and reason. In essence, I could sue you for defamation because of your statement made during that forum that I was probably part of a Nazi organization. Fortunately, I was able to save the transcript of that censored forum. You cannot win this debate. Censors always lose! Stalin lost! Hitler lost!
BTW, thank you for your email address. I could not locate it on the Internet. I shall now post it on my website. Sincerely, G. Tod Slone, Editor
Dave Rowley's tardy response follows below. Note the smug attitude with regards his backing the censorship mob. Is there any hope at all for people like him?
Date: Sat, 21 Jul 2007 20:04:43 -0700
From: "dave rowley" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Acadamy Rant
I stand by my comments and actions. Feel free to publish my email address too, I couldn't care less. If anyone emails me I'd be happy to respond, though I doubt there's anyone out there actually reading this tripe.
My response follows:
Date: Sat, 21 Jul 2007 20:04:43 -0700
To: "dave rowley" <email@example.com>
Subject: Acadamy Rant
There is no excuse for censorship in a democratic society. It really saddens me that you got through college without anybody ever teaching you that... and that is the principle problem with higher education today... it's become corporate education. Feel free to dialogue. Dialogue is also of the utmost importance. Sadly, Bush isn't even aware of that.
More recently, I discovered a few more email addresses of chancellors and issued the following open letter:
Open Letter to the Honorable Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets*
Only three of you have deigned to respond to my concerns of the censorship effected by the Academy of American Poets last July, though not one of you has proven eager to engage in vigorous debate with that regard. As an American citizen, I therefore consider all of you far more reprehensible, than honorable. Your blacklisting me as poeta non grata is shameful, to say the least. By the way, your responses, names, and email addresses have all been incorporated into the updated webpage created to denounce the censorship approved by you. Please do examine it. In fact, why not have your students examine it?! After all, don’t you publicly consider their interests more important than yours?
In case you are still unaware, vigorous debate is the cornerstone of democracy. Why, one must ask, is it not also the cornerstone of the publicly-funded Academy of American Poets? And why do all of you shun it like the plague? After all, almost all of you are or were tenured professors. What on earth, one must wonder, are you or were you teaching your students: sycophancy, censorship, political correctitude, speech codes, the benefits of McCarthy-like inquisitions? Well, tenure tends to destroy minds; it doesn’t free them.
Finally, prize-winning poets like all of you are perhaps known for your ability to spin an ingenious line of poetry, but certainly you are hardly at all known for the courage to act alone and against the grain of the established-order milieu awarding the prizes. And that is precisely why you are not great and will never be great. And that is why you will never be held in high esteem by any independently thinking human being. Sadly, you’ve all become cogs in the machine. “Let your life be a counterfriction to stop the machine,” had written Thoreau. Well, that’s who I am, a counterfriction…
*Frank Bidart (Wellesley College), Lyn Hejinian (University of California at Berkeley), Sharon Olds (New York University's Graduate Creative Writing Program), Kay Ryan (New York’s Central Park Zoo), Gerald Stern (University of Iowa Writers' Workshop), C. K. Williams (Princeton University), Rita Dove (University of Virginia), Galway Kinnell (New York University), Carl Phillips (Washington University at St. Louis), Gary Snyder (University of California at Davis), James Tate (University of Massachusetts at Amherst), Robert Hass (University of California at Berkeley, Nathaniel Mackey (University of California at Santa Cruz), Robert Pinsky (Boston University), Susan Stewart (Princeton University), and Ellen Bryant Voigt (Warren Wilson College)