Most people have developed their own rationalization for not entering civil society as an engaged citizen, such as lack of time or know-how, or concern about slander or retaliation. [...] It was almost as if our community had the town citizen, the town drunk, and the town fool as unusual spectacles.
—Ralph Nader, The Good Fight
The following essay was published on the Underground Literary Alliance Monday Report (October 31, 2005).
What is a poet who cannot speak his or her mind in public, who cannot be him or herself? I'm not really sure... perhaps a wordsmith, not much else. As a poet, I am compelled by inner Socratic daemon to speak my mind aloud, not the groupthink-poet mind, but my mind! As a poet, I am compelled to be myself... and if that might offend a poet or group of poets, so be it. Let them ostracize me. I don't give a damn.
On October 16, 2004, I protested the opening of the Concord Poetry Center and its choice of Pulitzer Prize poet Franz Wright as speaker. Why? Not because Wright is a bad or good poet. That really had nothing to do with it. I protested for essentially two reasons:
1. The first reason had to do with what the Center's Director Joan Houlihan (see correspondence below) had written me: “The idea of your teaching a workshop or delivering a lecture on the art of literary protest or poetry protest, or simply protest (Concord is where it all started!) occurred to me even before you mentioned it, so, yes, it’s something I will consider as we progress (this is only our first event). However, I must say I don’t favor having you teach at the center if you protest the reading.”
2. The second reason had to do with what Emerson himself had written: “I AM ASHAMED TO THINK HOW EASILY WE CAPITULATE TO BADGES AND NAMES.”
Not a single member of the Concord Poetry Center was able to comprehend those two reasons. The idea was simply too "foreign." Indeed, it came from somewhere beyond the comfortable safe zone, which assured paradigmatic poet paralysis. The Concord Poetry Center group hubris was simple: how dare anyone criticize us, the poetry center, or poetry!
What marked and saddened me most during my protest was the incredible incuriosity of the local poets, poetasters, and poetophiles. How could poets be so un-inquisitive? Indeed, their incuriosity was so foreign to me. I could and cannot comprehend it. How could they be so bourgeois in spirit, so safe, so un-warring with this corrupt society, so gregarious, so team playing, so networking, so group thinking, so salivating before prizes and prize-winners? Unfortunately, I didn't have an answer. Sadly, each and every Concord Poetry Center member present during the protest proved entirely incurious, indifferent, and unwilling to discuss, even briefly, the reasons for it. For the "members," I was a phantom to be ignored.
When I arrived at the Emerson Umbrella Center for the Arts, the parking lot was almost empty. It was about 6:30, an hour prior to the event. Already, it was pitch black outside. Around my neck, I placed the cord of a placard, then put on my poet’s hat, and walked across the lot with a handful of flyers and two other placards, quotes by Emerson and Thoreau. I walked into the Emerson Umbrella, noted that the two flyers I’d placed on the bulletin boards several days before had been, unsurprisingly, removed. So, I hung two more, then stepped back outside, and placed the Thoreau placard on a step, leaning it towards the eventual flow of incoming poets and poetophiles. “LET YOUR LIFE BE A COUNTERFRICTION TO STOP THE MACHINE” would remain predictably unread and unheeded throughout my protest.
What constituted literature for the common, incurious, group-think poet and poetophiles of the safe zone? What constituted poetry for them, if not disengaged, intellectual, diversionary entertainment? The Aeolian side of Thoreau attracted them, sure, but not the counter-friction side. Indeed, they were not whole. Houlihan, looking much older and dowdier than in her internet photo, appeared and spoke.
—Are you the protester, G. Tod Slone?
—Yes, would you like a flyer?
—No, I already have one.
—Ah, did you tear it down from the bulletin board in the name of free speech?
—No, someone gave me one. I thought the likeness in the cartoons of me and Franz was good.
—Thank you. So, you’re Joan Houlihan.
A month before I’d informed Houlihan, Senior Poetry Editor, The Del Sol Review (webdolsol.com), and columnist for The Boston Comment, that I existed as a local dissident editor and poet, had been jailed for protesting the lack of free speech at Walden Pond State Reservation, and would be protesting the opening of the poetry center because of her selection of an establishment poet as guest speaker. She wrote back “We welcome dissidents! All the best poets were dissidents.” I thanked her for the brief response, sent my 20-page poet manifesto on rude truth, parrhesia and risk, rejected by over 40 establishment literary reviews, and noted: “Just the same, I shall be staging a nonviolent protest at your opening.” She responded: “What are you protesting? Seems like you’d welcome a place in your area for poets who are not part of the poetry establishment.”
—Do you know this quote by Emerson? (I held up the Emerson placard.)
—Yes, I do. You made me aware of that one in your email. So are you just going to stand there?
—Yes, I’m going to hand out flyers to anyone who wants one. I’m not going to bother anyone. I wouldn’t want the police to interrogate me.
—Well, that’s good.
Houlihan was quite preoccupied with the organizational aspect of the event and walked back inside, entirely un-inquisitive. That would be the last time I’d speak with or see her during the evening… or ever again. Interestingly, we had emailed back and forth for nearly a week. I’d suggested she invite me to speak on socio-politically engaged poetry at the center. Her response was noted above under reasons for the protest. I’d often wondered how individuals like Houlihan thought. Over the years, I’d run into many poets and academics with similar thinking patterns, marked by curious breaches in logic.
So, if I protested poetry, then the poetry director would not permit me to teach protest poetry. I wrote Houlihan, asking if in fact she had erred vis-à-vis her statement. But she wrote back noting she did not have time for such debate and permanently truncated our brief exchange.
By the front door, not blocking it, I stood with my placards and flyers. An old fellow slowly moseyed by and cast a gray glance at me. I spoke.
—Nobody seems to like this quote by Emerson, for some reason.
—Oh, so you’re the protester. I’ve read the emails you’ve sent to Joan and me.
—Well, maybe you should have responded, being a public arts director.
So, that was Richard Fahlander, Program Director of the Emerson Umbrella. He entered the building incurious and chuckling without a response. I wondered how much chitchat had gone on behind the scenes with regards my imminent protest. Well, I’d never know.
—Professor Slone, how are you? Remember me? I was a student in your night class.
—Yes, I do sort of remember you. That was about five years ago, right?
—Yes, don’t talk about it! (Two other women were with her. She introduced them to me.)
—You want a flyer? They’re free.
They took flyers. My former student attempted to read the placard around my neck.
DEMOCRACY NEEDS POET PARRHESIASTES
NOT PULITZER-PRIZE POET COURTJESTERS!
POETRY NEEDS TO BE MORE THAN DIVERSIONARY ENTERTAINMENT
LET IT SERVE AS WEAPON OF COMBAT
AGAINST OUR CORRUPT SOCIETY!
—Do you know what that word means, parrhesiastes?
—Well, let me at least teach you a new word for the evening. Parrhesiastes was an ancient Greek custom of speaking the rude truth to power. If power proved benevolent, it wouldn’t punish the parrhesiastes. If it proved autocratic, it just might kill him.
The women left chuckling and entered the building. I’m not sure if they had any idea what I was talking about. It was a lovely autumn evening, the air pure and crisp, though not cold for mid-October. A young woman, wearing a little name tag, indicating membership in the poetry center, stepped out of the building to chatter on her cellphone.
—Hi, how are you? Do we have a three-prong extension cord?
—That’s about as inquisitive as the poets get nowadays. Don’t you even want to take a flyer?
She didn’t respond and walked back inside. Would she call the police? Had my question constituted verbal harassment? A few more people arrived and stood in front of me jabbering. Another poet organizer stepped out, a tall fellow with a gray ponytail and gray face. He ignored me. I simply did not exist for the fellow.
—Don’t you want a flyer, man? They’re free. I don’t have a gun. I don’t have a knife. I’m just protesting the poetry center and its aversion to protest poets.
The ponytail chap walked back inside, then soon reappeared. He saddened me. The soft, gregarious team-thinking type, ever careful not to offend, seemed so prevalent today. Well, he offended me.
—Hey, man, don’t you want a flyer? Aren’t you at all curious? How can you be a poet and not be curious?
But the ex-hippie turned poesy organizer-bureaucrat refused to acknowledge my presence. He walked down the pathway, made a brief cellphone call, then walked back towards me.
—Boy, you’re incurious, are you the director?
He entered the building without a word. Was I badgering him? Perhaps. Then he came back out again. I couldn’t resist. How could I resist?
—Are you a poet, sir? Are you the director? Are you a poet director?
Still no comment. The female-cellphone poet stepped out to yap again. I asked who the guy with the ponytail was. She responded.
—He’s one of the committee members!
Two females walked towards the front door and me.
—Can I interest you in a quick read? Emerson. This is the Emerson Umbrella for the Arts, isn’t it? So why not read a quote by Emerson?
One of them read the placard aloud.
—“I AM ASHAMED TO THINK HOW EASILY WE CAPITULATE TO BADGES AND NAMES.”
—So, why are you capitulating? The badge is the Pulitzer and the name is Franz Wright, the Pulitzer poet.
They both walked up the steps and into the building without a response. They hadn’t understood. Yet, the concept seemed as simple as the night sky and was helping to undermine democracy. It was just too easy to become mesmerized by the familiar face and fame and money. A young woman walked by.
—How about a flyer? They’re free!
—No thank you! Franz is a friend of mine!
Wow! Now what would it be like to have a Pulitzer as a friend? I’d never know. A young man stepped out of the building.
—Would you like a flyer?
—I’m just smoking, dude!
—Well, good for you… dude!
He looked at me with a tint of anger in his eyes, walked off into the darkness and lit up under a tree. Another young guy stepped outside, dressed in sports jacket and looking quite functionary and satisfied… the complete man, indeed.
—How about a flyer, man? It doesn’t hurt to be curious.
He refused and ambled slowly away—another incurious poet? Then he ambled back looking at me, sizing me up bizarrely. Good for him! I spoke.
—You look like you’re a Concord Journal reporter. But why are you so incurious?
—I’m not! I work in the mental-health field.
He walked off again, then reappeared. I noticed he too was wearing an organizer’s badge. He spoke.
—You know, I was the only poet this year to win a Massachusetts Cultural Council grant… who didn’t have an MFA!
Well, goll-ly! He was oozing with pride and satisfaction, and left me speechless. He handed me a little postcard of the poetry center.
—Well, if I take that, then you have to take a flyer.
He took a flyer and walked off. Communication between the establishment poets, who thought they weren’t establishment poets, and the non-establishment poet protester was indeed minimal. Later it dawned on me that Franz Wright was also a local mental-health worker. Aha! The connection, the piston, the networking and voila, the cultural council grant! Another guy walked by and spoke.
—You look like you’re having a good time.
—Take a flyer. They’re free!
He took one and disappeared into the building. A young college-age black couple, rarity for Concord, approached.
—Would you like a flyer? They’re free.
The woman responded with a pout.
—Oh, no thanks!
Then the guy with two-foot long dreadlocks took one. I spoke, he remained silent.
—Glad to see that at least you’re curious.
A middle-aged couple approached. The man spoke, chuckling.
—Why are you protesting poetry?
—Take a flyer and find out.
They entered the building, both chuckling. I supposed there was a fine line between the town idiot and town protester. From the darkness, emerged four guys, one of whom I recognized: the evening’s poet star, Franz Wright, looking like a diminutive professor with sports jacket and brown leather attaché case and a bit older and balder than in his internet photos, the ones I’d used to sketch a satirical cartoon for my flyer.
—Would you like a flyer? They’re free.
Each one grabbed a flyer, each one chuckling and entering the building. They remained just past the door. I observed them through the glass. They were looking at the flyer and chuckling up a storm. A Harvard-looking and sounding fellow approached with tweed sports jacket and elbow patches.
—Oh, how could you possibly protest poetry and the poetry center?
—Well, for one thing, they hate free speech and probably democracy too.
He refused to take a flyer and entered the building. I opened the doors and spoke to the four guys still hovering in chuckles.
—Have you ever asked yourselves who the judges are for these prizes and contests?
They laughed, mockingly. Yes, for them, I was the town protester, or rather idiot. Franz Wright spoke and chuckled… probably nervously.
—Sure, and your father and George Will too. Don’t you ever question anything? Well, I suppose they’re feeding you too well for that.
They continued chuckling. Back outside, I resumed my post fully aware of the impossibility of dialogue with such poesy chucklers. They left me thoroughly saddened. How did the nation produce so many of them… and in literature and poetry no less? Well, they’d laughed at Dr. Stockmann, so they’d laugh at me too. Fuckem. That was part of the game… of life exterior to groupthink.
Later, Franz Wright stepped out alone, walked off into the darkness, lit up a cigarette, and prepared himself mentally no doubt for the evening’s feed, that is, read. A slight breeze wafted his smoke into my nostrils. When done puffing, he ambled back.
—You’re not even curious! Nobody wants to read my flyer! You’re not even going to read the flyer?
—Yes, I’m going to frame that cartoon! Seriously, I’ll give you $20 for the original.
He chuckled, fumbling through the stack of bills in his wallet.
—I don’t have it with me. It’s in my sketchpad.
—Who did it?
—Well, I did.
—A lot of people don’t like me either. I’ll give you ten dollars for another flyer. I want a clean copy so I can frame it!
—Ah, you’re trying to trick me, aren’t you? If I take your money, the cops will arrest me for selling without a permit. Here! Take one!
But he insisted, so I grabbed the ten, and offered to send him a copy of The American Dissident, the literary journal I’d founded. Whoopee, protester makes ten dollars protesting! Well, it was for the cause.
—Look, I just want you to know I’m not saying your poetry is good or bad. A lot of people come to the wildest conclusions. I’m really here just protesting the poetry center… well, and the Pulitzer too.
—Here, would you sign it?
He handed me a red pen. I signed, thinking I should have charged him $25 for the signature. That’s what he was charging for his. He walked off, chuckling.
—I’m going to frame it!
—Hey, the original is in color, you know… the blue suit and red superman cape.
He continued chuckling and entered the building. Maybe that would give him a little excitement for the night. Maybe he’d even use it in his introduction, yeah, the town protester outside.
—I’m protesting the Concord Poetry Center, mam. Would you like a free flyer?
—Why are you doing that?
—Well, they don’t like protest and I don’t think they like democracy either.
The woman took a flyer. Another approached.
—They don’t like dissident poetry here!
She refused to take a flyer. Another approached.
—Would you like a flyer?
—Thank you, but I already read your flyer and think it was very funny.
—Oh, how funny, indeed. But it’s really tragic… piteous!
A man walked by, took a flyer and chuckled.
—Well, I’m glad I can at least give people a chuckle, sir.
Another woman approached scurrying rapidly.
—Oh, I’m sorry but I have to get inside quickly.
A squad car drove by slowly. I brandished my placard and flyers. The lot was now full and the street too with parked cars. The center would be making a ton of money. That was what poesy was all about today—ten dollars a head and $25 for the reception and book signing… of the “prize-winning Walking in Martha’s Vineyard.” Now, why weren’t they doing that for my Martha’s Vineyard novel, Total Chaos: Behind the Scenes of a National Blue-Ribbon High School? Ah, it hadn’t won a prize. Hmm. How amazing it was that a name and badge could draw out the mobs like bloodsucking flies, gnats, and mosquitoes. There must have been at least a hundred people present. A female cop approached from the darkness. Was that it? Was it time to leave?
—Would you like a free protest flyer, mam?
—Oh, no thank you. Not right now. Thank you very much.
The woman entered the building. The females in blue were certainly much less intimidating than their male counterparts. She’d almost seemed friendly. Who’d called her on the cellphone? Or was she there because of all the money? One of the poet organizers, a different one, stepped out to see if it was the end of the money trail. She squinted at my Emerson sign and chuckled.
—Why do people seem to think that what Emerson said is so hilarious? I find it piteous!
She walked back inside without comment. The cop stepped back out.
—Have a good evening, sir!
—Thank you, mam. You too.
Nothing like a friendly exchange! Perhaps, though, they ought to require police officers to manifest interest in protest flyers. Yes, they ought to require them to actually read the flyers as part of their civic education. A woman and teenage daughter approached.
—I’m protesting the poetry center. Would you like a free flyer? They don’t like protest here.
—But how do you know they don’t like protest?
—Well, read the flyer and find out. Obviously, I wouldn’t be here if they did. Take a flyer. You might like the cartoon.
They walked inside without taking flyers. Another small group approached from the darkness.
—Would you like a flyer? They’re free! I’m protesting poetry!
—Oh, no thank you!
—Curiosity didn’t kill the cat, you know. Hell, I’m still living!
True, what relevance was any of it? The dark inky sky. The absence of stars. The leaves on the trees illuminated by the lone street lamp, a touch of damp odor in the air. Those leaves were my stars for the evening, as I walked back and forth pacing in the night alone. No doubt a reporter for the Concord Journal had walked past me to cover the event… and not a word from him or her, of course. In today’s Concord, such protest was news unfit for print. I peered inside the door. On the top of the stairs seated behind a long table were two faceless poet organizers counting money. Wow! It was odd to perceive such a spectacle—poets holding fistfuls of green bills. The night had been a great success… for them and for their poetry center! But with people like them and the bulk of the mob who’d passed by my eyes, the nation truly deserved, in the words of Nader, a Tweedledee or Tweedledum.
The stragglers had finally dried up. The evening had been successful for both the poetry center and me. They’d collected plenty of money, while I’d handed out plenty of flyers. Just the same, not one of the poets or poetophiles present would ever contact me.
Well, the reading had begun, so I walked back to the lot, opened my car door, and drove back home through the darkness of night. Inside, I turned on the tube and poured a glass of cheap red wine, while the celebrity poet basked in the darkness of fame, toasting champagne.
Correspondence with Joan Houlihan, Director of the Concord Poetry Center
Joan Houlihan, Senior Poetry Editor, The Del Sol Review (webdolsol.com), columnist for The Boston Comment and Editor-in-Chief of Perihelion is the founding director of the new Concord Poetry Center (www.concordpoetry.org) whose activities are and will be carried out under the mandate of the Emerson Umbrella for the Arts. It is distressing to witness how area pillars of the community seem to have succeeded in adulterating the teachings of both Emerson and Thoreau. In reality, Thoreau despised the money-obsessed pillars of Concord.
The following constitutes my correspondence with Joan Houlihan. It also includes the letter I wrote to Richard Fahlander, Program Director, Emerson Umbrella, Center for the Arts, which houses the Concord Poetry Center. Fahlander has yet to respond.
Email sent on 9/17/04
Dear Concord Poetry Center: Oddly, I found out about you in this week's Concord Journal article/advertisement. Is there a reason why you have not contacted me as Concord poet and editor of a semiannual literary poetry journal published in Concord since 1999 (the public library subscribes). Why not schedule a different aspect of poetry, the one that I represent: DISSIDENT POETRY CRITICAL OF, AMONGST OTHER THINGS, THE PULITZER PRIZE? By the way, I do not bite and can wear a tie if absolutely necessary. You might, if you are curious, wish to consult my mordant web site.
G. Tod Slone, Ed. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The American Dissident (www.geocities.com/enmarge)
A Literary Journal in the Samizdat Tradition of Engaged Writing
Providing a forum for Examining the Dark Side
of the Academic/Literary Industrial Complex et al
“Truth, Wisdom, and Protest in Poetry and Writing in the Spirit of Revolutionary Patriots”
1837 Main St.
Concord, MA 01742
PS: Most likely I shall stage a solo protest on Oct 16th at the Emerson Umbrella when you open your fall season. The protest will be against poetry as feel-good, status quo diversion and amusement, while it will be in favor of poetry as an arm against corruption. BTW, I am author of a published novel (copy at Concord Free Public Library): TOTAL CHAOS: Behind the Scenes of a National Blue-Ribbon High School (Martha's Vineyard Regional HS!). I shall bring copies of the book as well as The American Dissident, and perhaps sell one or two. Hopefully, police will not try to arrest or kick me off of the grounds. Perhaps I shall also recite famous "engage" poems by Villon, Neruda, Ferre, Jeffers, and others.
PPS: Too bad you didn't include Emerson's "Self Reliance" under that author. You might enjoy this poem I wrote on my visit to his home. No doubt, it represents the other side of the white-washed coin.
Subj: Re: Site Mail -- I Haven't Answered
Date: 9/17/2004 5:06:09 PM Pacific Daylight Time
From: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Mr. Slone,
The reason you weren't contacted is because we didn't know of your existence. We welcome dissidents! All the best poets were dissidents. I will check out your web site and please feel free to check out mine. I think you'll find we have some things in common.
I will add you to my email list of poets interested in the center
(unless you tell me otherwise.)
Joan Houlihan, Director
Concord Poetry Center
Emerson Umbrella for the Arts
40 Stow Street
Concord, MA 01742
"Just the same though, I shall be staging a nonviolent protest at your opening."
Tod, what are you protesting? Seems like you'd welcome a place in your
area for poets who are not part of the poetry establishment.
On Poetic Blasphemy
Hi Joan. I think I'll turn this letter into an essay and if this were an essay, I suppose I would begin it with a suitable quote as in "Buy Franz Wright books at BN.com." Well, perhaps the quote by Sinclair Lewis appearing at the end would be more appropriate. Thanks for inciting my mind. Best, G. Tod
Anyhow, you certainly MUST be different - you're actually CURIOUS! I have had many, many contacts with poets and professors over the years and RARE is it for me to find a CURIOUS one! So, bravo to you (and I mean that seriously w/o any sarcasm whatsoever). I suppose my contacts with local poets (those of Fitchburg State College, Stone Soup in Cambridge, those meeting at Walden Pond, and those congregating at the Jack Kerouac Festival in Lowell) have pushed me to form a rather negative opinion of the BEAST. Just the same, I certainly leave the door open. Miracles, after all, do and can occur. One miracle, for example, was my coming into contact with a Georgia state-college professor recently, who purchased 20 copies of The American Dissident to serve as the text in a new course that he put together thanks to The American Dissident on dissident poets and writers.
As for my protest, it is currently in gestation. One element, however, would include the aberrant, conditioned adulation of the citizenry for literary prize-winners, literary celebrities, and litterateurs with cash and comfort (e.g., Updike, Pinsky, Collins, and Angelou). Recall Emerson: "I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions."
Another, though really the same, element would include protest against the ESTABLISHMENT, that is, the literary establishment, or literary "machine" as in "let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine" (Thoreau). It is my opinion that the literary establishment is part of the general establishment currently under corporate/ oligarchic domination.
Corporate America is indeed pulling the strings behind the scenes and even overtly, co-opting academics and poets, with alarming success. Ex-corporate executives, including the likes of Dana Gioia, John W. Barr, and Franz Wright are even appearing today as poets. Now, what do you think these poets learned from service in the corporation? Most likely, they learned obedience, loyalty, teamplaying, backslapping, networking, silence (if not complicity in ethical lapses), and conformity, as opposed to self-reliance, truthtelling, whistleblowing, and Emersonian "whoso would be a man, must be a non conformist."
As for Gioia, who admitted being fearful of letting others know he even wrote poetry while VP of General Mills Corporation, is he the desired kind of "leading" citizen-poet to head the NEH? I suppose so… if you get my gist. On another note, subjective terms such as "leading" and "best," as in poet or poetry, seem to be considered as if they were objective by the bulk citizenry. Perhaps this is because our "leading" and "best" poets and academics do not encourage student citizens to question and challenge. This I find to be perturbing.
As for Wright, from what I can see, he is a willing participant in, if not pillar of, the oligarchic status quo that pays him nicely and in reality seeks to quell real protest. Academic poet Charles Simic has characterized him as a poetic miniaturist, whose "secret ambition is to write an epic on the inside of a matchbook cover." Well, clearly I have different ambitions than this Pulitzer Prize winner. With regards that famous prize, Wright's own father was a recipient. Should we all now be cheering for literary nepotism? Having contacted the Pulitzer a while ago, I was able to learn that it does not have any criteria for "best" poetry or poet and that its judges in poetry are almost always academics. Because no criteria exist, one must conclude that the best poet (e.g., Franz Wright) is the one who has the best networking skills and best letters of recommendation.
At your opening, I shall be handing out a short version of the latter, which, I suppose, is a manifesto of sorts. If you are really curious, you might wish to read the attached long version (and check out my website) to better understand my "hostility" vis-à-vis the literary establishment, which evidently maintains a closed-door policy vis-à-vis outside critics. Indeed, the American Academy of Poets, National Poetry Month, NEH, National Endowment for the Arts, Pen Club, Chronicle of Higher Education, Concord Cultural Council, as well as nearly 40 academic literary journals, have all either refused to list or support The American Dissident and/or publish mention of its focus. As you will note in manifesto, I tend to feed upon and utilize criticism. So, your critique would certainly be most welcome.
If you think there might be interest (and there very well might not be because of successful conditioning RE what poetry is supposed to be and what it is not supposed to be), I'd love to do a workshop or deliver a speech on protest poetry at the Concord Poetry Center. I do not holler, can control my language, and do not bite, at least not physically. I could also, in contrast to Wright's Walking on Martha's Vineyard Pulitzer work, read several of my 100 poems written while teaching high school on Martha's Vineyard several years ago.
Finally, besides being a poet and blacklisted college professor, I am also a literary cartoonist… so, might also distribute a satirical cartoon on the CPC. Poetry, essay, and cartoons are my weapons, not very powerful at all, but better than nothing...
PS: "All prizes, like all titles, are dangerous. The seekers for prizes tend to labor not for inherent excellence but alien rewards: they tend to write this, or timorously to avoid writing that, in order to tickle the prejudices of a haphazard committee. And the Pulitzer Prize for novels is peculiarly objectionable because the terms of it have been constantly and grievously misrepresented. […]
If already the Pulitzer Prize is so important, it is not absurd to suggest that in another generation it may, with the actual terms of the award ignored, become the one thing for which any ambitious novelist will strive; and the administrators of the prize may become a supreme court, a college of cardinals, so rooted and so sacred that to challenge them will be to commit blasphemy. Such is the French Academy, and we have had the spectacle of even an Anatole France intriguing for election.
Between the Pulitzer Prizes, the American Academy of Arts and Letters and its training-school, the National Institute of Arts and Letters, amateur boards of censorship, and the inquisition of earnest literary ladies, every compulsion is put upon writers to become safe, polite, obedient, and sterile. In protest, I declined election to the National Institute of Arts and Letters some years ago, and now I must decline the Pulitzer Prize.
I invite other writers to consider the fact that by accepting the prizes and approval of these vague institutions we are admitting their authority, publicly confirming them of the final judges of literary excellence, and I inquire whether any prize is worth that subservience."
Many thanks for sending your essay. I enjoy your wit and agree with many things you say--as you can see from my essays, I've walked the same
terrain. The idea of your teaching a workshop or a delivering a lecture on the art of literary protest or poetry protest, or simply protest (Concord is where it all started!) occurred to me even before you mentioned it, so, yes, it's something I will consider as we progress (this is only our first event). However, I must say I don't favor having you teach at the center if you protest the reading. Also, you would need to be more careful about the facts. For example, read more on the background of
Franz Wright--he is a total antithesis to your characterization: "Ex-corporate executives, including the likes of Dana Gioia, John W. Barr, and Franz Wright are even appearing today as poets. Now, what do you think these poets learned from service in the corporation? Most likely, they learned obedience, loyalty, teamplaying, backslapping, networking, silence (if not complicity in ethical lapses), and conformity, as opposed to self-reliance, truthtelling, whistleblowing, and Emersonian "whoso would be a man, must be a non conformist."
Wright couldn't be further from a "corporate type". His poetry arises from much suffering in his life and he currently volunteers his time to work with children who are grieving the loss of a parent and with people suffering from addictive and mental disorders.
In any case, I would like to continue any further communication with you by phone. Please send your phone number with a good time to call. Or you can call me at 978-897-0712.
Thanks again for your response. Actually, I'm aware of Wright's writing, his aloofness and hubris, but cannot help but think of him as ex-vice president of an insurance company. Besides, anybody who wins the Pulitzer or any other big prize must be full participant in the networking, teamplaying, mouth-muzzling game of corporate poesy America (did you not read my letter?).
One of your comments is all too revealing, frightening and astonishing in the Orwellian sense, though really quite common: "However, I must say I don't favor having you teach at the center if you protest the reading." How odd for someone who stated "All the best poets were dissidents." Did you make a mistake? How can the two statements possibly coexist in your mind? In other words, if I am to "teach" protest poetry I am forbidden to protest poetry. Wow! Just the same, I'm certain that academic poetry teachers across the country would agree with that comment, though no doubt tacitly. And I'm sure many could also harbor the egregiously conflicting statements. What would Solzhenitsyn have done given such a black and white choice? Well, we know what he would have done, don't we? What about Wright, Pinsky, Collins, Gluck, Angelou, Gioia and Barr? Well, we know what they would have done too, don't we? If I were to follow footsteps, I can think of none better than Solzhenitsyn's. Indeed, I shall always choose protest (i.e., rude truth) over teaching protest. How about you? Which would you choose? How can you declare that you "walked the same terrain" as I? In reality, the only "safe" protest poet is a dead one… like Emerson and Thoreau locked up in their respective Concord museums and library archives and fully adulterated by societies or foundations such as the Thoreau Society and Thoreau Institute. Below is my Thoreau poem to illustrate the hypocrisy of the latter.
Once again, as far as protest, I would simply be standing with a placard and handing out flyers and certainly not blocking anybody or anything. Wouldn't it be great to have a little protest, stir things up a little at the Emerson Umbrella? Well, I suppose most poets and poet fans would find that offensive and not desire to take a flyer at all. Of course, I am not seeking to connect with those people, but only with those rare few who still have the spark of self-reliance curiosity. I'm sure you could get the Concord police to throw me off the grounds easily enough and the Concord Journal would not report on that and I would leave peacefully, once again quite disappointed with Concord… "where," in your words, "it all started!" Those words are really quite deceptive because they imply that Concordians are a special breed of suburbanite. What precisely does that phrase mean and infer? Sure, there was the Revolutionary War and Thoreau and Emerson. But in reality the Concord mentality has radically changed since that war. Also, let's not forget that Thoreau really despised Concordians, their pettiness, acquisitiveness, and worship of the greenback. What he loved was the woods and Walden because Concordians were rarities in those parts. Imagine what he would have thought about Walden today… the trinket shop, the mounted cops, the prohibition of free speech and expression by Walden Pond State Reservation authorities, and the brown-rug efforts to stop natural erosion.
G. Tod Slone
(978) 369-0597 (I prefer emailing.)
PS: Please do not think that I am a nasty person. I am not. I just think, question and challenge. It is my Socratic daemon that directs me, rather than prizes, contests, teaching and publication opportunities, or book sales.
The Travesty of Thoreau
Through the gates of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, alone
and for the first time ever, I walk
past those tombstones and little American flags,
on a bright, sunshiny Fall day, dressed in tee shirt,
in search of Authors Ridge and Thoreau,
past chipmunks, squirrels, and tumbling leaves.,
until the grave marker, modest and quite small,
HENRY, and that is all.
There, I pocket the coins peppering his stone,
aberrant homage to a man who detested commerce.
There, I place my poem and anchor it with three stone.
2. The Travesty of Thoreau
It is no compliment to be invited to lecture before the rich Institutes and Lyceums… There is the Lowell Institute with its restrictions, requiring a certain faith in the lecturers. How can any free-thinking man accept its terms?… They want all of a man but his truth and independence and manhood.
-Thoreau, Journal: 16 November 1858
Is it not the pinnacle of travesty to create a "rich Institute,"
"Artificial and complex," "bolstered up on many weak supports,"
Staffed with "preachers and lecturers" who "deal with men
Of straw, as they are men of straw themselves,"
Who seek to "keep the mind within bounds"?
How Thoreau reviled gentlemen of Institutes,
Their artificial politeness and eagerness to "drill well,"
Their absence of curiosity and robotic civil obedience,
Their very lives serving not as "counter friction,"
But as lubrication to keep "the machine" functioning!
Imagine Henry David Thoreau today in Concord
Walking down Main Street, gagging and coughing,
As careening trucks spew exhaust in the name of enterprise,
And searching-between the ubiquitous and massive
Three-car garage boxes, fringed by blue-tinted chem lawns-
for peaceful space to wander around.
Imagine him today in Concord, sauntering by Walden Pond
Past the bronze sculpture in his effigy, though once
He'd declared "no statue be made of me," and
Past the Walden boutique trinket shop, where
Hazarding to speak truthfully to a park ranger, who,
Would have him escorted dutifully from State Property
By a mounted police officer, or two or three.
Imagine Henry David Thoreau today in Concord
Proudly affirming before the Thoreau Society,
While lodging gratis at the Thoreau Institute-
Thanks to taxpayer and corporate funding-
"I will not consent to walk with my mouth muzzled,
Not till I am rabid, until there is danger
that I shall bite the unoffending…"
Imagine the horror on the faces of the Executive Directors!
Is it not the pinnacle of travesty to create a "rich institute"
Around a man who would have despised it,
For its inevitable condemnation and censorship
Of "free-thinking" and "truth and independence"?
How Thoreau loathed the "well-disposed"; those "thousand
And one gentlemen with whom" he met,
He met "despairingly and but to depart from them, for"
He was "not cheered by the hope of any rudeness from them"!
Imagine the despair he would have felt today, meeting
Members, managerial functionaries, and sous-secretaries
Of Thoreau Society and Thoreau Institute…
Let's face it. Concord Poetry Center will most likely keep its doors closed to a poet like me… just as Del Sol, Boston Comment, and Perihelion. Yes, I sent my essay "Cold Passion" to webdelsol ages ago… not even response. No matter. I shall read your essay "Robo Poets" and determine why it was easily published as opposed to "Cold Passion," though I probably already know why. I shall also read what Possum has to say. Let us attempt to keep the dialogue open.
Ok, Tod, that's fine. I am interested in continuing our dialogue though a little puzzled that you seem to associate what I'm trying to do with some kind of poetry "establishment." Quite the opposite--I'm trying to create a place for unaffiliated poets (though not excluding anyone). The Poetry Center is in its infancy, really. I chose Franz Wright to launch it as he reaches across different poetic audiences and he has an integrity I find unusual and bracing. I also admire the emotional and spritual depth of his poetry. He is not a "networker", not even connected to an "academy" never mind a "corporation" of any sort, and his winning of the Pulitzer was refreshing. And yes, I do believe teaching is far better than a protest in conveying important ideas to people. I also think writing is more effective. Your essay is well-written and impassioned, engaged. It is itself a protest.
I don't run Web del Sol, I work on some aspects of it. By all means read some of my Boston Comment essays--and yes, check out the outcry they produced in the "blogs" (Skanky Possum, et. al.). You will see that I have been under fire for my ideas and not afraid to speak my mind.
Hi Joan. First, I did err RE Wright. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I mistakenly was thinking of Kooser, the new poet laureate ex-insurance company executive. As for Wright not being a networker, I think that is HIGHLY unlikely. How can anyone win the Pulitzer w/o networking, w/o rubbing elbows and curtsying before academics? Look at me. We both live in Concord, and you've never heard of me… despite my protesting at Walden Pond now and then and being editor of a literary journal. How could I possibly win the Pulitzer? Evidently, my forte is not networking and pushing poesy. How can anyone possibly win the prize if critical of academe and academic poets? The Pulitzer is a prize that certifies the winner not to be either of those things. Did you even read the letter I sent written by Sinclair Lewis? Did you read the quote by Emerson on names and badges? Aren't you bowing before names and badges by selecting Wright to be your first reader? Well, I'm sure you'll ignore that question.
As for "establishment," if you are getting grant monies and selecting people like Wright, then you must be establishment or at best not anti-establishment. Wright is establishment. His winning of the Pulitzer proves it.
By the way, I have no problem whatsoever admitting errors. Do you? I noticed and find this quite typical amongst academic poets that you simply ignore egregious contradictions when I bring them to your attention as in:
"However, I must say I don't favor having you teach at the center if you protest the reading." How odd for someone who stated "All the best poets were dissidents." Did you make a mistake? How can the two statements possibly coexist in your mind? In other words, if I am to "teach" protest poetry I am forbidden to protest poetry.
Are we not all affiliated somewhere? As publisher, I am affiliated with The American Dissident. You are affiliated, amongst others, with Webdelsol, which refuses to publish anything I submit. Perhaps you need to find a more appropriate vocabulary word.
"Your essay is well-written and impassioned, engaged. It is itself a protest." Then why have 40 academic journals and some non academic journals, including Del Sol, simply rejected it almost all w/o comment? I believe the essay is really quite unique. Did you read the letter in appendix by the Georgia Review editor who rejected it? He had the nerve to state it was quite common. But that's an academic for you (I believe I did tell you that I am a blacklisted professor. I do thus know the BEAST quite well.).
As for your essay, I could not really find anything of interest to me, as a dissident. I'm sorry, I did try. I have not yet read the Possum critique.
Finally, why are you so against protest? Why not both protest and teaching at your center? Why should one eliminate the other? Why do you refuse to address this pertinent question? If you are intent, as you wrote, in "not excluding anyone," then why would you exclude a poet who dared protest at your center?
You mentioned your ideas, yet what are they? You certainly know what mine are.
PS: I am not at all trying to be antagonistic. I am simply responding with logic and thought.
My responses below. I wish I had more time to engage in a debate with
you, but unfortunately, I don't. I've already given much more time to
this than I normally give to people writing emails and wanting to
debate. I have to work! So this needs to be my last missive to you.
Hi Joan. First, I did err RE Wright. Thanks for bringing it to my
attention. I mistakenly was thinking of Kooser, the new poet laureate
ex-insurance company executive.
Ah. Ok, that explains your reaction. I don't know anything about
As for Wright not being a networker, I think that is HIGHLY unlikely.
How can anyone win the Pulitzer w/o networking, w/o rubbing elbows and
curtsying before academics?
First, they need to have a body of published work. After that, it's
highly speculative re: the elbow rubbing part. I just know for a fact
Wright is neither an academic nor a networker.
Look at me. We both live in Concord, and you've never heard of me…
despite my protesting at Walden Pond now and then and being editor of
a literary journal.
And have you heard of me? I don't see that this proves anything except
lack of publicity.
How could I possibly win the Pulitzer?
I don't know. How can I? Do you have a substantial body of published
work that could be nominated? I don't.
Evidently, my forte is not networking and pushing poesy. How can
anyone possibly win the prize if critical of academe and academic
What about Sinclair Lewis?
The Pulitzer is a prize that certifies the winner not to be either of
those things. Did you even read the letter I sent written by Sinclair
Did you read the quote by Emerson on names and badges?
Aren't you bowing before names and badges by selecting Wright to be
your first reader?
No. I told you why I selected him. Did you read it?
Well, I'm sure you'll ignore that question.
As for "establishment," if you are getting grant monies and selecting
people like Wright, then you must be establishment or at best not
anti-establishment. Wright is establishment. His winning of the
Pulitzer proves it.
The logic here is so faulty I can barely respond. By your logic anyone
who wins the Pulitzer is "establishment." Does that include Lewis? He
won it, he just didn't accept it. He must have been networking and
rubbing elbows like crazy to have won it in the first place (by your
logic). Faulkner? Welty? Elbow rubbers? Give me a break. How about
Pound--now there's a hail-fellow-well-met. Of course, they have to be
*known* to the nominators. But what does that prove about the nominee?
By the way, I have no problem whatsoever admitting errors. Do you?
I noticed and find this quite typical amongst academic poets that you
simply ignore egregious contradictions when I bring them to your
attention as in:
Tod, this is an error. I am not an "academic poet." I work as a poet
on my own, have supported myself through work outside the academy.
"However, I must say I don't favor having you teach at the center if
you protest the reading." How odd for someone who stated "All the
best poets were dissidents." Did you make a mistake? How can the two
statements possibly coexist in your mind? In other words, if I am to
"teach" protest poetry I am forbidden to protest poetry.
No, Tod, the question here is how can the idea of you protesting the
grassroots start up of a place for poets to gather and learn possibly
co-exist in your mind with the idea of you teaching there? Why would
you want to teach at a place you don't even want to exist?
Are we not all affiliated somewhere? As publisher, I am affiliated
with The American Dissident. You are affiliated, amongst others, with
Webdelsol, which refuses to publish anything I submit. Perhaps you
need to find a more appropriate vocabulary word.
Yes, I agree. "Affiliated" is a broad term. I don't have a better one
at the moment, it encompasses what I want even if it is too broad.
"Your essay is well-written and impassioned, engaged. It is itself a protest."
Then why have 40 academic journals and some non academic journals,
including Del Sol, simply rejected it almost all w/o comment? I
believe the essay is really quite unique. Did you read the letter in
appendix by the Georgia Review editor who rejected it? He had the
nerve to state it was quite common. But that's an academic for you (I
believe I did tell you that I am a blacklisted professor. I do thus
know the BEAST quite well.).
My work and the work of many writers is rejected constantly. Only 40
journals have rejected it? Not many.
As for your essay, I could not really find anything of interest to me,
as a dissident. I'm sorry, I did try.
That's strange. I have eight essays on the site, by the way, not just one.
I have not yet read the Possum critique.
It wasn't a critique, it was an outcry against my seventh essay (which
mentioned their journal).
Finally, why are you so against protest? Why not both protest and
teaching at your center? Why should one eliminate the other? Why do
you refuse to address this pertinent question? If you are intent, as
you wrote, in "not excluding anyone," then why would you exclude a
poet who dared protest at your center?
See above. It's illogical to me that someone would try to undermine a
place for poets--they have little enough community--never mind try to
undermine and then expect to be welcomed by it.
You mentioned your ideas, yet what are they? You certainly know what
My ideas? My ideas about what subject? Poetry? I have pointed you
toward my essays on that subject. I suggest you read them if you want
to know some of my ideas about poetry.
As I said, I can't continue spending time on this correspondence,
interesting though it may be. Do you work, Tod? Just wondering where
you get all your free time.
PS: I am not at all trying to be antagonistic. I am simply
responding with logic and thought.
PS: Same here.
Hi Joan. Clearly, I have offended you… with certain truths. Well, if you won't be responding anymore, hopefully you'll at least be open to reading this final missive. Hopefully, you will learn (think) from it. First, something seems to be seriously wrong with your reasoning and logic. But that is understandable for you are trying to speak for the establishment, while sincerely believing you are not establishment. The I-don't-have-time-for-debate comment is one I've heard quite shamefully often from POETS and ACADEMICS. Yet debate ought to be the poet/academic's prime purpose, as opposed to networking, workshopping, backslapping and self-congratulating at poesy centers. Could you imagine Socrates declaring: "I wish I had more time to engage in a debate with you, but unfortunately, I don't"? Just the same, only the truth can prevail, which is why I certainly can comprehend your desire to truncate this discussion and to keep me out of the Concord Poetry Center. I knew that would be the case from the very beginning.
To obtain a "body of published work" as you call it, a poet must be a networker, must not irritate important poet pillars, and certainly not academics, who tend to be the Pulitzer judges (Read my essay (www.geocities.com/enmarge) on the Pulitzer.). How can you simply deny this? Wright is not a critical person, not a vocal dissident, and not warring with society (in the words of Baldwin)! Since as you proclaimed the best poetry is dissident poetry, why the hell did you invite him? Evidently, networking must have something to do with it. You invited him because he is now a name with a badge (the Pulitzer)! Ah, what did Emerson say about names and badges? Can you not really perceive the fundamental conflict in your system of thought? I suppose you probably cannot. Yet how can you really be a poet if you fool yourself?
"Substantial body of published" work jives with America's quantity uber quality precept. So, I can comprehend that. Just the same, what the hell is quality in poesy? It is all quite subjective, yet those who admire the likes of Pulitzer-prize winners seem to think it is all objective! Students are taught not to question and challenge, but rather think it is all objective.
Actually, yes, I did hear of you… a week prior to my hearing of the Concord Poesy Ctr. I found your essay, I believe, on the Chronicle of Higher Education web site. Why would they publish that essay on that site and refuse to respond to me with regards my essay, "The Cold Passion…," which is unique? The answer is evident. Yours is academic-friendly, mine is not.
Sinclair Lewis made his famous statement after receiving the Prize. I doubt very much he would have received it if he'd made it prior to receiving it. Do we agree here… and despite the "substantial body of published work"? Couldn't you figure that out? If I had said Concord Poetry Ctr is a sham prior to being invited to teach, do you really think I'd be invited? Just the same, I do not know whether or not it is or may prove to be a sham. A true poet speaks the rude truth to power, even small-time literary power. Poets like Wright are really nothing more than versifiers, heads in the dirt ostriches. If the likes of him are to be representative of the Concord Poetry Ctr, well, then…
"The logic here is so faulty I can barely respond. By your logic anyone who wins the Pulitzer is "establishment." Does that include Lewis?" In a sense, yes, Lewis has become "establishment." Establishment is really all we have as far as past authors are concerned. Anti-establishment Bukowski in a sense too has ended up establishment. Thoreau and Emerson are really establishment… especially in their adulterated Thoreau-Society approved forms. In those forms, they are okay for the school children. Sure, there are rare exceptions. Actually, I can't really think of any. But I'm sure there must be some. Clearly, Lewis was establishment at the time of his selection. In any case, this is a complex question, one that needs to be studied and further contemplated. Of course, we must first define what "establishment" means. We could begin with the pillars of the community. Pound and Faulkner certainly began as establishment writers. I do like some of Pound's essays, though find Faulkner to be wholly unreadable… he is certainly not harmful to the establishment. The bottom line is who pushes these fellows? Generally, it is the academics and school teachers who push! If they did not push Faulkner and Pound, F and P would simply disappear. Perhaps one of these days I shall examine this question in detail and scope. As mentioned, it is complicated though fascinating. It would be interesting to examine writers having an aura or perhaps pseudo-rep of being anti-establishment. We could look at Dylan with his limos and mansions, for example. RE Wright can you direct me to his dissident essays and poetry, material that would offend Pulitzer judges and academics? I would like to examine such documents.
Well, this is a tricky dicky, slick willy way to get out of admitting to a ridiculous statement. I suppose indeed you do have a tough time admitting wrong. Your response to "if you protest poetry at our center then you will not be permitted to protest poetry" was "No, Tod, the question here is how can the idea of you protesting the grassroots start up of a place for poets to gather and learn possibly co-exist in your mind with the idea of you teaching there? Why would you want to teach at a place you don't even want to exist?" Again, I never wrote that I did not want the center to exist! It is interesting and no doubt revealing how you transformed my simple desire to protest in front of the center in the name of dissident poetry, as opposed to Pulitzer poetry, as an indication that I did not wish the center to exist. Why do you reason thusly?
I don't really give a damn if it does exist or not. And I certainly know my own power or lack thereof to do anything about it, one way or the other. Indeed, never did I think I'd have the power to eradicate a feel-good, school-children and pillar-of-the-community friendly poesy center! I simply stated I would protest in front of the center, especially RE the Pulitzer invitee. How convenient for you to turn my simple desire to protest into "It's illogical to me that someone would try to undermine a place for poets--they have little enough community--never mind try to undermine and then expect to be welcomed by it."
"My work and the work of many writers is rejected constantly. Only 40 journals have rejected it? Not many." Hmm. That's an academic response! However, I'm surprised that you didn't mimic the not-unique response.
Again, I underscore that I did read your essay, "Robo-Poetics," and found nothing in it that stirred anything up as opposed to what the advertisement stated. Possum Pouch wrote this: "I sent the following e-mail to Joan Houlihan a few moments ago. She has been writing a series of uninformed and stupid articles at Web del Sol." Just the same, I think it puerile for its editor to shoot the messenger as in "is she brain damaged?" I am against this kind of puerile rhetorical response so prevalent in academe. In fact, I was not impressed by his open letter at all. (BTW, I did not write that you were an academic. You simply seem quite like the academic poets I've known over the years.) In any case, your essay gave me no desire whatsoever to read seven more of the same. You will note that my essays stem directly from personal experience and often risk. Do yours? I don't really think you read my essay. You did not respond to my question RE the editor of the Georgia Review's letter at the end of it. I am still really curious about your ideas with regards your statement on the best poets being dissidents. Of course, dissident can probably mean anything today. Perhaps you'd like to rescind that statement.
No comment on your funding of course! Top secret! Hmm, maybe William Bulger's cultural council is giving you a little cash, eh?
I did mention my occupation... professor (French, Spanish, and English). I have a doctorate. Am I an academic? I suppose so… but blacklisted just the same. You have not mentioned your occupation. I have been looking for work for two years, though willingly abandoned my previous job teaching at an all black female college in the south because I was being smothered alive by colleague personages probably not too different from you. Currently, I am teaching two online English courses for cash. That is all I can find. I am 56 years old and as we both know, academe is as ageist as they come. Now, what do you do???? Oops, I forgot, the debate is over.
Since clearly both of us have nothing to hide, I shall post our correspondence on my website. Also, I shall sketch a lit cartoon on you as poet pillar of Concord, as opposed to what James Baldwin had in mind. Again, I stress my disappointment in your not having time for debate. Thank you for the grist.
PS: Since I am not destitute, I always make certain that my work as poet, including debate with other poets, takes precedence over everything else in my life, including job.
Dear Richard Fahlander, Program Director, Emerson Umbrella, Center for the Arts:
As a Concord poet and editor of The American Dissident, a semiannual literary journal devoted to critical poetry and essays, I wish to express my concern relative to a remark made by Joan Houlihan, Director of the Concord Poetry Center.
"The idea of your teaching a workshop or a delivering a lecture on the art of literary protest or poetry protest, or simply protest (Concord is where it all started!) occurred to me even before you mentioned it, so, yes, it's something I will consider as we progress (this is only our first event). However, I must say I don't favor having you teach at the center if you protest the reading."
The last sentence is troubling. Do you think Thoreau or Emerson would have understood it? What do you think Solzhenitsyn would have chosen given the choice of teaching protest poetry or protesting poetry? Is it your implicit intention to keep Concord dissident poets out of the Concord Poetry Center because they may choose to protest certain readings? Is it your intention to keep a Concord literary journal out of the center because of its critical stance? Is it your intention to define art as child-friendly, feel good and non critical of the local pillars?
Thank you for your attention. I look forward to your response. And I hope it will not be a simple "I know nothing about this" because now you do. You also now officially know of my existence! You also now know that I was incarcerated in a Concord jail for having had a non violent dispute with a park ranger at Walden Pond. You also now know that I was requested to leave Walden because I was holding a placard: NO FREE SPEECH AT WALDEN POND! You also now know that the Thoreau Society did not give a damn. "Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine" (Thoreau). That is what I do. Recall Emerson: "I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions." Recall also his proclamation in "Self-Reliance": "go upright and vital, and speak the truth in all ways." How does the Emerson Umbrella whitewash that statement?
G. Tod Slone, Ed.
Just wanted to let you know that your cartoon is now up on my website. I couldn't even get a response from the Umbrella chief. At least you responded, n'est-ce pas?
G. Tod Slone
Hi Joan. My criticism of the poet members and Concord Poetry Center is now up on my site. You might wish to examine it in the context of one of your meetings. Yes, how refreshing that would be! Indeed, poets who actually examine criticism, as opposed to ignoring it as if it didn't even exist. Yes, that would probably be unique in the annals of the nation's poesy centers, circles and other herds. No doubt you're now rolling in the dough of establishment cultural council grants et al. Peering upstairs Saturday night, I was amazed to observe two of your poet members counting stacks of green bills. What a sight! But keep in mind that dough will not make you... au contraire, it will probably break you and otherwise pabulum-ize you in totem.
G. Tod Slone, Ed.