Saturday, November 19, 2011

Will I sleep? Will I dream of anthologies?

So here’s my dream:

The Poetry Foundation would fund the creation of an anthology of contemporary American poetry that would be edited by a board of diverse (aesthetically antagonistic, even) editors to attempt an accurate representation of the poetry that’s been written over the past 25 years, from Ai to Zapruder.

The anthology would contain no apparatus or introductions. It would be raw data, just “representative poems” that would be chosen by the editors, and then donated by the poets or their estates for free to the project.

The editorship would be the editors of several aesthetically diverse literary journals, and/or, it could be editors of aesthetically diverse presses, or it could be Don Share, Stephen Burt, Rosmarie Waldrop, and Cole Swensen, or Ron Silliman, Dana Gioia, Rebecca Wolff, and Natasha Trethewey. (You get the point. But, I would recommend that the editors remain anonymous.)

The anthology would be sold as a paperback at printing cost (which I’m guessing would be at most $7.00 or so a copy), and be distributed for free to libraries, local arts agencies, museums, and high schools. All members of AWP who teach poetry would agree to purchase this anthology for use in their creative writing classes at least once. Also, I think Robert Pinsky had an idea similar to this, years ago? He was looking for a way to get anthologies of poetry into hotel rooms? We should float that idea again. And there must be someone out there who knows how to get books into Walmart stores?

There is a lot of power in The Poetry Foundation. But there is also a lot of potential power in AWP, as well as the Poet Laureate who could talk up the anthology to Jeffrey Brown and various newspapers. And the First Lady. I bet she'd like this.

And, as such dreams go, it’s both utopian and would never happen. But doesn’t it sound at least a little fun?


In a related issue, I think The Poetry Foundation should fund the creation of an application for ereaders that wraps text properly for poetry. Unless someone has already done this? I don’t have an ereader, because when I looked at some, the poetry just looked awful. Has that been fixed yet?


At 11/19/2011 9:58 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

The *Poetry Foundation* should do this We're-All-in-One-Big-Tent-Now Anthology?

I'm aware the Field is far along into parliamentary protocols of ritual, tolerance, and vote lobbying--poetic Republicans on one side, Democrats on the other--and so such an idea is poignantly apropos the Times. But I'm afraid you may be seriously underestimating, John, the respect and credibility the Poetry Foundation has lost with a great swath of poets, here and in the UK, following their shameless cop-calling moves to arrest and incarcerate (they demanded this at a court hearing) peacefully protesting, um, yes, *poets*... So if the PF were to fund such a project, a large number of writers, I am quite sure, those still holding some feeling of principle on matters of basic ethics within the art, that is, would automatically boycott such pleasant and polite bouquet.

Here, by the way, is the letter the great UK poet J.H. Prynne sent me some days back, though as you can see, it really is meant more for the young poets of the Croatoan Poetic Cell. And for the Poetry Foundation... It appeared yesterday in issue #11 of The Fiery Flying Roule, of which more here:

The letter:

Hello Kent,
Everyone bleats off saying that the Occupy movements aren't serious, don't have any coherent ideas, have no positive understanding of important
issues. We hear a lot of that over in the UK, too. Of course this is rather amazing and paltry. Very large numbers of mostly modest citizens have come out of their passive shells and affirmed nothing more nor less than utter
distaste for the current political and economic machines that supposedly regulate our lives. Unlike formal revolution, which has leaders and defined purpose, this is revulsed protest on a massive scale. The sense of it is
not in articulate aims or ideas, but in the sheer fact of the numbers, the tidal waves of emerging intuitive refusal to accept the control frame of
social order imposed on the freedoms of human life. It's so obvious that the vast network of global capitalism is falling to pieces, not by antagonism from outside but by implosion from within. This system claims to
define and direct the practice of life on the planet, and now it's
evidently busted.
Poets and artists have an honourable share in resistance to imposed control, especially since language is a major instrument of social oppression by power-hungry institutions. So it's more than right that concentrations of power and control in the art world should be challenged, by spontaneous incoherence and flights of free invention. The Poetry Foundation building in Chicago deserves to be a prime target, because it's
a capitalistic formation based on undemocratically accumulated wealth: the place *looks* like the corporate headquarters of a banking conglomerate, and that's indeed how it functions. It seems like anarchism to say these
things, but actually it's liberational dissidence, to reclaim and occupy the free space of the mind and imagination, and to open these august portals of institutional repression.
Indeed it is a kind of trespass, to stream into controlled spaces and just overflow them, not by reasoned argument but simply by shared presence: demography! Thus the legal formats of punitive exclusion are also challenged, not by violence but simply by spillage of peoples in large numbers and by acts of individual self-positioning. The poets involved in
this struggle should stand firm and should not be intimidated.

At 11/19/2011 10:20 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Will they boycott? That didn’t occur to me. Well, there will be chances to see if a boycott happens anyway, as they have a policy of inviting some poets like Zurita to read now and then.

I would still like such an anthology, though I wouldn’t personally care for most of the poetry included. Not everything has to be squabbles.

At 11/19/2011 10:31 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

>they have a policy of inviting some poets like Zurita to read now and then.

I know, that's one of the screaming, sickening ironies of this whole thing: That "they" called the cops on six young poets for offering something perfectly in line with (though less extreme) the sort of institution-critique gesture that Zurita and his comrades of the CADA are famous for having offered themselves (at Chilean poetry readings, art shows, the National Museum of Art, etc)!

Maybe you aren't aware of this:

Raúl Zurita, in the Chilean newspaper La Tercera (October 4, 2011) on the actions of the Croatoan Poetic Cell at Zurita’s reading at the Poetry Foundation (September 27, 2011): “Sentí una profunda ternura al ver a estos chicos, porque supe que era el signo de una lucha mucho más profunda, de la poesía contra los poderes de un orden avergonzante.” (“I felt a profound tenderness on witnessing these young people, because I knew it was sign of a much deeper struggle, that of poetry against the powers of a shameful order.”)

At 11/19/2011 10:40 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

So how long was your son in jail?

At 11/19/2011 11:02 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

He wasn't, as I think you know--he was able to get away, past the door-blocking "ushers," on both occasions (the PF, according to Salon, has dumped the insufficiently aggressive bouncer-staff and now hired a professional Security Guard company to keep any dissent away from their $21.5 million headquarters).

My reference was to Stephanie Dunn, who the judge had determined should go to the violence-ridden Cook County Prison for eight or nine days pending her trial. Astonishingly, the PF sent two representatives to this hearing to DEMAND that Dunn be so incarcerated. The judge gave his ruling saying that he "agreed with the Poetry Foundation." As luck would have it, an incredulous attorney who happened to be there for something else entirely, overheard the proceedings and intervened on Dunn's behalf (Dunn had gone without representation to the hearing, not expecting anything more than a slap on the wrist for her harmless performance-protest at the Wine and Cheese Gala) and convinced the judge to accept a "guilty" plea by Dunn, for fine, probation, and community service of some kind. Otherwise, our hallowed Poetry Foundation would have had its pleasure of delivering a young poet to the slammer.

At 11/19/2011 11:26 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

No, I didn't know. The You-Tube clip ends before they get out. And I wasn't sure how the first one went, and was thinking they’d all spent a few days in jail or something. Well, I’m glad to hear no one actually ended up there. As a father myself, I worry. I hate to think of either of my kids going to jail over something like this, even if they’re standing up for something.

At 11/19/2011 1:36 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

I’m not exactly sure what the intended purpose of this protest was. I have been an on-again, off-again subscriber to Poetry magazine for over forty years. Lately, I have been so disappointed that I just don’t subscribe anymore.

“The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference.”

Elie Wiesel

P.S, John, I dream your dream as well. Soon, it shall be.

At 11/19/2011 1:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't we all get along?

John is thinking of ways of getting poetry anthologies selected by Cole Swensen and Ron Silliman into Walmarts and Mr. Johnson nixes this anthology-paid-by-the-Poetry-Foundation-idea because capitalism is evil and Poetry Foundation goons tried to arrest his son and incarcerate a fellow occupy-Lilly prankster.

Despite that letter from England citing the "massive" revolution underway, you can't fight philanthropy and prozac, Johnson. Forget about it.

As for your idea, John: do you really think shoppers at Walmart are going to be enlightened by the likes of Stephen Burt, Ron Silliman, and Rosmarie Waldrop, whose philosophies were born in wind-storms? Let their favorites remain scattered where they belong---in university press remainder bins---a poem selected by Ron Silliman would do no good gathered into a book for patrons of museums and hotels and Walmarts! LOL John, you like this stuff, but don't kid yourself that mainstream America's going to like it---no matter how it might be packaged and sold. Movies that cost hundreds of millions to make and advertise bomb at the box office. Ron Silliman in a Walmart? You're kidding, right?

A modest project to expand poetry's audience might include a book of Billy Collins, Gary B. Fitzgerald, Tony Hoagland, Mary Oliver, Dean Young, Stephen Dunn, Franz Wright, perhaps one of the Dickmans. But why would you need this great roomful of antagonistic editors? The result would be a horrible, pretentious mess. It would be easy for one regular dude to pull it off.

Thomas Brady (Scarriet)

At 11/19/2011 2:17 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


You’re missing the point by making it. We are FULL of polemics and themed or targeted anthologies, from Garrison Keillor, to The Best American Poetry, to the Pushcart Prize anthology, to the stream of Nortons floating around. The one thing we don’t have is a Big Tent anthology. Sure, I fully expect people to dislike a lot of the poets I like, but, you know, I read once an interview with an NFL football player who liked to read John Ashbery poems. Who knows why? Maybe he just didn’t know he was supposed to hate them.

The point is, yes, take your Mary Oliver and Billy Collins and I’ll bring my Rae Armantrout and John Ashbery (or Rachel Zucker and Matthew Zapruder and Bob Hicok and and and), and we make one anthology of the representations of the gamut of what’s going on. Make it 900 pages, like the Norton Introduction to Literature. Print it on those tissue-paper pages. And then distribute them to Walmart and MFA programs alike.

Maybe the common currency would allow poets to see what they’re doing differently. Perhaps they would love the Billy Collins and hate the John Ashbery. Or whatever. But do it without apparatus, without the critical glaze, so readers could browse the landscape, everything from Michael Dickman to Nikky Finney. Take all the critics and the polemics out of it and just put it out there. Maybe there would be more acceptance than you think. Or maybe not.

And yes, put Silliman (if Silliman ended up in it) in Walmart. You would also be putting Hoagland (if he was in it) in SUNY Buffalo. Maybe we’d all be better off.

At 11/19/2011 4:28 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 11/19/2011 4:36 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

I'm sorry if I came off a little harsh in my previous post, but I saw my name included in a list of poets whose poetry I really don't like.

None of these poets reflect the work I am doing and I was offended.

Nothing personal, but please don't try to put me in a box.

At 11/19/2011 6:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A modest proposal indeed. Expand poetry's audience -- with empty calories.

At 11/19/2011 8:01 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Well, like I said, it was a futile dream anyway.

At 11/20/2011 5:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I like your idea of having no stamp, no brand, no 'Garrison Keillor' or 'Norton' or 'Best' on the cover, no introduction, no commentary, no polemics, just a plain, well-bound, durable, hard-cover book of recent work---you said of the last 20 years, I'd say maybe 50?---and plunk it down in great numbers in hotels and Walmarts for the masses. Yours is a good idea. It would also have to be beautifully and tastefully printed; with its rugged binding, it would also have to elicit a certain austere beauty and taste in the inner lay-out, but I really like the idea of having no clue on the book of who published it---a true 'bible,' if you will.

I also agree with you about Ashbery, since his obscurity is 100% pure and absolutely sincere; that's the secret of his success and why he towers over the other unpopular post-modernists of his day: there's an unspoken feeling that the rest are, to some degree, earnest in being understood on some level; they are, perhaps, 95% or 98% or 65% obscure, but Ashbery is allowed in the Court of Public Opinion as the jester who may wear royal robes---in jest:---but whose identity is cleary understood; Ashbery's been around long enough that we 'get' his elaborate thesis is fully a joke. Thus we may read Ashbery without effort, not as we would read a thriller or a mystery or a self-help or a romance. Will the Walmart shopper 'get' this, though? Maybe a few will.

But your 'Big Tent' is a problem: first, because if you mingle Ashbery together with a lot of near-obscure poets, the public will be confused as to what's going on, and secondly, the sort of poets Burt and Silliman and Waldrop like are those who reject 'Big Tent' in the first place. The math doesn't add up. Billy Collins + Billy Collins has an appeal which Billy Collins + Rae Armantrout will never have. There's nothing 'Big Tent' about Billy Collins + Rae Armantrout. You can put them in the same book, but it won't matter---they will create their own tents: Collins will be in the big one, and Armantrout in the very, very small one.

T. Brady

At 11/20/2011 5:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey John,

Here's a serious question for you: Do you think all those poets would agree to be in one anthology together? Do you think most poets would agree to participate in a big tent solution that would be sold at Walmart? Or are some poets too invested in an us versus them mindset, with the us and them being some combination of poets versus other poets and/or poets versus certain readers?

At 11/20/2011 5:59 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Hi Anon,

Yes, I think the poets would be great with it. I believe this, because, now and then, some reading series, journal, or festival will have aesthetic diversity. It's not common, but Michael Palmer did go to Breadloaf one year, and other poets from that "list" have read with poets from the other "lists."

A quick answer to Tom,

I should compose a better answer, but I'm need to make breakfast for my daughter and five of her friends who spent the night from her tenth birthday party last night. It will be pancakes and bacon, FYI. Maybe some OJ.

But, I think when the numbers of poets that would be included were fully tallied, you'd find a majority of them would be closer to Collins than to, say, Armantrout. It wouldn't be quite as lopsided as you see on Poetry Daily or Verse Daily, but I believe there would be more Marie Howes than Lyn Hejinians on there, just looking at the numbers.

I chose 25 years because that seemed somethign that could keep it under a 1,000 pages. Make it fifty and there would have to be two volumes. So why not just make two volumes? Bring Kenneth Fearing and William Bronk back. I'd be pleased with that.

At 11/20/2011 6:02 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


I also forgot, there have been several "experimental" (or what name you want) poets on The Academy of American Poets along with radically different, aesthetically at-odds, poets. I think the possible "super committee" problem of the editorial board would be more of a hurdle. I would recommend that the editorship be anonymous.

At 11/20/2011 7:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Wow---5 overnite friends for your 10 year old daughter? You either have a pretty big house or lots of patience. Were they listening to Ke$ha and Taylor Swift? Were there Barbies and stuffed animals about? My daughter had a play date yesterday, but not a sleepover. Our family had pancakes, bacon and OJ this morning: my son's 12 and my daughter's 9. Lately we've introduced 'blue' and 'green' juice to the menu and they've proved more popular than 'orange,' if you can believe it.


At 11/20/2011 8:06 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

For rural America, I think it’s pretty average-sized (1,500 square feet), but it starts to feel like a shoebox when six kids are running and screaming at eleven at night. I thought they must be reading Ovid or something.

If I can endure such things, certainly I can endure a little Mary Oliver, which also teaches me patience. See how helpful art is?

It was Selena Gomez and Usher, mostly, I think, but Taylor Swift, Ke$ha, and Miranda Cosgrove made cameos.

At 11/20/2011 11:00 AM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

You know, the more I think about John’s idea the more I like it. It could be the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ of poetry anthologies. Take it out of the hands of the Poetry Foundation and big publishers, though, and (please) do away with editors entirely. Invite 50 poets to participate and ask them to cough up $20.00 each. This would be more than enough to self-publish a volume. If you want to be true to your idea, then let the chips fall where they may. Let the poets themselves decide if they want to be in the book, not editors. This could be a whole new trend in poetry.

At 11/20/2011 2:42 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

Speaking of the Poetry Foundation, I take the liberty of forwarding this post by Ian Keenan. It concerns John Barr, the President of the Poetry Foundation. It appeared today at Montevidayo blog. It might give some "context" for comprehending why the Poetry Foundation Board is so loose and fast about trying to arrest and send to prison young poets who peacefully protest in the PF's $21.5 million sanctum.
Some info on Barr:

1. “The Illinois State’s Attorney is looking into allegations of poor “fiscal practices, conflict of interest, nepotism and playing fast and loose with the rules of charitable organizations” (concerning the Poetry Foundation)

2. “Penny Barr, wife of John Barr, who admits she is “not versed in poetry,” was paid $23,000 by the Foundation for setting up a poetry contest.”

3. “The Poetry Foundation also plans to build a $25 million mansion in the Gold Coast with accommodations for visiting poets of its choice and a stage to host readings on. An ex-trustee accused the Foundation of acting like a “private club” and using Ruth Lilly’s money for “personal gratification.”

4. The company Barr founded, Dynergy, frequently likened in business columns to Enron, paid out a $3 million fine for accounting fraud (after Barr left as an executive) and a US Attorney said in a letter “We have become increasingly concerned that Dynegy’s `cooperation’ is more apparent than real.”

5. John Barr donated the maximum to Rudolph Giuliani in early 2007, a month after Giuliani declared his candidacy. Giuliani’s accomplishments as mayor of NYC including a smear campaign against contemporary artists and the Brooklyn Museum that displayed them, attempting to defund the institution. Soon after Barr’s donation, Giuliani named as his foreign policy adviser Norman Podhoretz right after he published the book World War III which advocated a global war, who in a previous life as a literary editor engaged in critical attacks against Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac.

6. Barr’s current company is lobbying foreign governments, mostly Spanish speaking countries in the hemisphere, to privatize their natural resources on behalf of his clients.

7. Robert Pinsky takes credit for selecting Barr for his position.

At 11/20/2011 4:09 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

OK, that number seven there, that's pretty funny.

At 11/20/2011 5:29 PM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

When I first began reading poetry I was spending a lot of time with my sister who lived on Charter street in Boston. There was this bookstore somewhat nearby called Trident's. they billed themselves as Boston's alternative to Borders.

While flipping through their poetry section I found these broadsides. On the front was a short poem. On the back was a manifesto of sorts. They called themselves the Guerrilla Poetry Project. Basically, you would donate a small amount of money and they would send you broadsides each month. You would then go to libraries, bookstores, offices etc and slip these broadsides between the books of your choosing.

Looking at the poems now (I still have a few), I think they're awful. The idea itself was, and still is brilliant. While I think it would be great to have some sort of anthology that showed a wide range of what's happening, it seems it would be something that came from the ground up.

At 11/20/2011 5:31 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...


2. "Penny Barr, wife of John Barr, who admits she is “not versed in poetry,” was paid $23,000 by the Foundation for setting up a poetry contest."

Jeez, where's 'Foetry' when you need them?

So much for Jorie Graham. Apparently she was just a light-weight

WV: Foritic. Now is that weird or what?

At 11/20/2011 6:44 PM, Blogger Jeremy Stewart said...

Dear Fuzz Against Junk,

a thing similar to what you describe occurred in northern British Columbia a couple of years ago. The broadsides were free so as to be truly gratuitous. There was even a sort of manifesto.

At 11/20/2011 7:01 PM, Blogger David Grove said...

Is John Barr related to Bob Barr? Is there a Barr cord between them?

At 11/21/2011 7:07 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

By way of J.H. Prynne, this classic in relatione to the corruptte matter of the Poetry Foundation:

At 11/21/2011 7:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

“Penny Barr, wife of John Barr, who admits she is “not versed in poetry,” was paid $23,000 by the Foundation for setting up a poetry contest.” --Kent Johnson

"Jeez where's foetry when you need them? --Gary Fitzgerald

The response to Foetry, when it existed, was scorn and revilement from 99% of poets & profs.

I'm fortunate to say that I was part of the 1% who supported Alan Cordle and Foetry, and now Blog Scarriet belongs to the 1%, still carrying on the same fight, but a little differently.

Unfortunately, Penny and John Barr are still the rule in po-biz, not the exception.

Since then, many people have seen the light, and many realize that Foetry wasn't the 'bad guy' after all. Foetry changed thinking, and now Foetry comes up naturally in conversation, as it did in Gary's remark.

But slimy tactics are still everywhere, and Alan Cordle can't fix everything for you; you have to do it yourself.

Scarriet is fighting the good fight in a wider sense. Penny Barr was paid $23,000. But how can you put a price on what Scarriet is doing? Solving Edgar Poe's murder. Revealing the truth of Shakespeare's Sonnets. Exposing the Foetry of Modernism's 'Golden Age.' How can you put a price on that?

Anyway, it's all good. The more we know, the better.

Thomas Brady

At 11/21/2011 12:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What are you talking about "Robert Pinsky takes credit for selecting John Barr?" Are you kidding?! Pinsky has made public statements criticizing Barr's anti-intellectual, popularizing stance. There are articles in major newspapers quoting this criticism. Including one in which he compares Barr's argument to that of someone who imagines a mythical American past in which everyone walked around "chewing sarsaparilla." Your ad hominem protests might be more effective if they weren't so inaccurate. First the dumb and inaccurate Prozac joke on the banner and then this. Get it together.

At 11/21/2011 2:03 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

True or not true about Robert Pinsky, and according to John Barr, it’s true,

I thought it was funny that Johnson, or whomever he’s quoting (if he’s quoting), would think that an endorsement from Pinsky would be reason to discredit Barr. I never thought of Pinsky as that much of a lightning rod, that a nice word from him would be a taint. He always seemed OK to me.

I really wish I could mention The Poetry Foundation without this sort of back and forth breaking out.

For the record, here’s the article that Johnson cites. It’s from 2009, when Ruth Lilly died:

At 11/21/2011 2:25 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

When one starts getting called suddenly by last name, one might sense a change in the atmosphere of "hospitality"...

Anyway, I believe I made it quite clear that what I posted was a forward from something someone else had posted at Montevidayo.

His last name is Keenan.

At 11/21/2011 2:37 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Hi Kent,

Apologies for calling you by your last name. I should have used your full name, I suppose. I have a habit when I'm talking to a third party about someone, to use their last name, unless we're all friends.

Yes, I saw that you said you forwarded it, but when I went back to see where from, I somehow missed it there. And then I saw that some of what you had here was in quotes and some not, so I wasn't sure is all of it was a forward or if only some of it was. That's why I said that it might be you or a quote.

I wish The Poetry Foundation didn't have such controversy surrounding it. It could have been a much more positive force, and John Barr bears most of the blame. I've never liked one thing Barr has said about poetry. I wish he had a term or something that could come to an end.

At 11/21/2011 2:52 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

>"I wish The Poetry Foundation didn't have such controversy surrounding it. It could have been a much more positive force, and John Barr bears most of the blame."

Well, I think that skirts the problem. It takes a village. And people choosing to continue keeping house there.

At 11/21/2011 3:08 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 11/21/2011 3:32 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Since your son is the only name I’ve so far seen in relation to this group, I think you know if or not this comment came from his group. You don’t need to play coy.

If you know you shouldn’t “cross blogs like this” then why do it? It’s because you’re trying to get publicity for your son’s group in a way that you can later say wasn’t really them, if you feel like it.

And since this is already going on at a different blog, why not keep it there? It seems like you’ve a good fight going. I’d rather not have it going on here.

At 11/21/2011 3:53 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

John, you might not have seen the full Salon interview with the CPC, posted at John Latta's blog a few days ago. The six activists who have directly participated in the two actions are named there. But as they say therein, there are a good deal more.

I thought it was a really unusual, fun, and brilliantly put comment, so that's why I shared it. But I respect your wishes in this regard, so will delete it.

At 11/21/2011 3:55 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

I did not ask you to delete it. If you delete it, it's because you want to.

At 11/21/2011 3:58 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

No, I think you were right. It was on a different topic. It was like posting a poem, or something.

At 11/21/2011 4:08 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Just because I’m curious, and there might be some ramifications in the real world, is the Seth that your son’s group is talking about hypothetically puncturing in the neck with an army knife, Seth Abramson? If so, does this mean that the meeting you and Seth were going to have at AWP is called off? If not, I feel maybe I should warn him or something.

At 11/21/2011 6:32 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

I’m sorry to be off topic, but I just can’t let this remark go by without comment.

John Gallaher said:

“I did not ask you to delete it. If you delete it, it's because you want to.”

Kent Johnson replied:

“No, I think you were right. It was on a different topic. It was like posting a poem, or something.”

Communicating, even debating and arguing, in verse and poetry was an ancient Celtic custom and is still greatly revered in Scotland and Ireland. It’s a shame that most Americans either don’t know or, at best, don’t appreciate this.

Your comment, Mr. Johnson, is the internet equivalent of the very ignorance that you condemn John Barr for. Things would be much more interesting, intelligent and intense if people would, or could, actually express themselves in verse on blog posts.


At 11/21/2011 8:53 PM, Blogger Seth Abramson said...

Just got an e-mail telling me to look at this thread. My reaction: Whoa... puncture who in the what now?

(to/re: John): Kent and I met in Madison and he was incredibly kind and gracious. I've also (albeit briefly) met his son -- in Arena, Wisconsin, a couple years ago. As with most real-time interactions I have, things were very cordial on all sides in both those encounters. I have to think there's some misunderstanding? Where is this army-knife reference?


At 11/22/2011 4:02 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


Sorry, it must not have been you then. Kent posted a comment he said was from another blog, that he was praising for its brilliance and humor. He said he thought it was from someone in his son's anti-Poetry Foundation group. It was a reply to someone named Seth. He then took it down here (as you can see). When I went looking around for it, I couldn't find the comment on a blog, and wondered if the Seth was you. Apparently it wasn't. Apologies for the misdirection. The world contains many Seths!

At 11/22/2011 4:31 AM, Anonymous Hotel in Riyadh said...

thanks ,,

At 11/22/2011 4:50 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

And once the comment stream gets hacked by a Hotel in Riyadh, you know there no place safe to stay.

But anyway, I just thought an anthology like this would be nice, and a good project for The Poetry Foundation.

I acknowledge my naiveté.

At 11/22/2011 7:13 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

For god's sake, John. What a bizarre comment. Well, I guess Seth A. cleared it up for you. Anyway, the army knife image, if you read it, is not issued by Yo Mama So Fat as an actual personal threat, it's presented to puncture the hilarious presumptuousness of the apparently ingenuous white MFA'er (though not entirely clear how serious this student is) he's responding to. It's posed as a hypothetical question to a queer hipster white boy campily critiquing the Gurlesque over at Montevidayo (this hipster boy actually very imaginative and amusing in his own way) who's casually throwing around calls for more male "violence" in poetry to counter and best the "violence" of the Gurlesque. To take back violence for boys, etc. Yo Mama So Fat intervenes to make the point, and with lovely language and panache, that the comfy MFA latte-drinking "experimental"-poet white kid with Fence and Poetry subs has no idea what the real world of daily violence is for the millions who don't share his obvious privileges.

I actually don't know who wrote that comment. It may be from across the pond, maybe one of the communist Brit poets--the references to location (the ghetto) might point to a Black poet in England, though the Croatoans live in the ghetto, too. So it's a mystery who this Yo Mama So Fat is, but I hope we hear more from him or her or them. Speaking of which, there has been some talk among Left poets over there in UK (good-source rumor) to do actions similar to the Poetry Foundation ones by the Croatoans, except with the ****** ******* as target. Institution critique: It's in the air.

At 11/22/2011 7:31 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


I just made a post about a nice little anthology that I wish The Poetry Foundation and AWP, etc, would come together and create. You’re the one who brought the dramatic hypothetical knifing here and then deleted it. I couldn’t’ find the comment on Montevidayo when I went looking and then had a question as to who the Seth might be that was the subject of this hypothetical knifing. I even wrote “hypothetical” in my comment above.

I know you and Seth Abramson had an exchange on this blog awhile back, and I did not know that you were friendly now, so I wondered if the Seth in the comment that you posted then deleted was the Seth I knew, that’s all. So in what way has my behavior been bizarre?

This sort of diversion wouldn’t have occurred if you hadn’t posted in the comment in the first place. You posted it for attention, and it got my attention. So I asked a question. If you don’t want me to ask questions about what you post, you shouldn’t post things, especially things about hypothetical knifings and head kickings.

I seem to recall a comment that was made by a person named Don one time, and you then sent an email to Don Share, accusing him of something or other, I forget. Anyway, it turns out that wasn’t Don Share, then, and it turns out this wasn’t Seth Abramson now.

Again, I fail to see that I’ve behaved in a bizarre manner. It was probably bizarre of me to imagine that people could make such an anthology. There’s not a very good atmosphere out there right now.

At 11/22/2011 7:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why does Kent Johnson object to being called by his last name? Everyone knows in Letters it's a sign of respect: My dear Byron, my dear Keats, my dear Shelley. Homer, Dante??? The formal becoming familiar is a vital direction in the poetic vein.


At 11/22/2011 7:59 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

OK, I just found out who (that could be plural) Yo Mama So Fat is--author(s) of the most amazing comment in poetry blog history.

At 11/22/2011 8:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Suggestions for Kent Johnson's literary name:

John Kent
Kent John
Kant Johnson

Anything but Kent, or Kent Johnson!


At 11/22/2011 9:05 AM, Blogger David Grove said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 11/22/2011 9:11 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

Hey, thanks for all the love.

At 11/22/2011 9:21 AM, Blogger David Grove said...

Sorry, Kent. I didn't mean that.

At 11/22/2011 12:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dads of misbehaving kids deserve love.

I'm a dad. I get it.

You go, Jawnsun!


At 11/22/2011 1:51 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

Wheeeee, doggies! Talk about your two roads diverged. And to think that John gripes just because I post a topical poem every now and then.

But seriously, John, you should consider my suggestion, reposted below. It is your dream (however facetious) so you should take the bull by the horns and make it happen. Start cranking out those e-mails and looking for a publisher. Poetry Foundation, Poetry shmoundation!

“You know, the more I think about John’s idea the more I like it. It could be the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ of poetry anthologies. Take it out of the hands of the Poetry Foundation and big publishers, though, and (please) do away with editors entirely. Invite 50 poets to participate and ask them to cough up $20.00 each. This would be more than enough to self-publish a volume. If you want to be true to your idea, then let the chips fall where they may. Let the poets themselves decide if they want to be in the book, not editors. This could be a whole new trend in poetry.”


P.S. By making the project ‘by invitation only’ then any editing will have been automatically accomplished. Three poems per person, period. The diversity of your invitations will result in your “big tent”. Shit, you could become famous from this, like Carruth or Strand!

P.P.S. And don’t forget Knott.


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