It Gets Verse

Why Does Seattle Promote Dumb, Bad Poetry?

Comments

1
and you know what's the weirdest part of the whole poetry-money relationship in this country? that bad poetry actually helps pay for good poetry.

let's say 500 bad poets and 10 good poets all pay 15 dollars to enter a poetry contest from a literary magazine.

well, i'm a poet, so i kinda suck at math, but the short version is that the bad poets all get their complimentary copy of the literary magazine, thereby promoting good poetry, and one of the good poets wins $1000, thereby promoting good poetry.

weird, huh?
2
I was present at the Post Populist reading and agree with you almost totally. The only exception being the poem by Osel, who I enjoyed, and who I believe was severely misquoted in your article. But, you're right Seattle poetry needs a makeover!
3
It's not just Seattle. Bad poetry flourishes everywhere, in part because if you write a negative review, you get slammed. Then the friends of the person you reviewed won't publish your work.

I recently quit a po-blogging gig after being told "it could be a problem" if past contributors to the associated journal were upset that I criticized their work which appeared outside the journal. Of course, the nasty ad homina attacks from one of these individuals were treated as totally appropriate responses to my calling out their limpid verse.
4
This is perfect, Paul.

As someone who has hosted quality literary readings and performed excellently in them yourself, your word is golden to me. But you went above-board in making this a spot-on criticism; you even gave some solutions.

You're going to catch shit for this, but it will be from people who are full of shit, so bless you for it.
5
With so many different tastes, it's hard to call any vast collection of poetry bad. To each his own.

Logan Lamech
www.eloquentbooks.com/LingeringPoets.htm…
6
I don't find bad poetry a crime against humanity -- this has been a long standing POV at The Stranger. Although I do also find a trouble with Redmond's idea that "Our artists should be beholden to their audiences."

The central thesis of Paul's argument isn't explored and he assumes it is a given. Bad poetry is bad somehow bad for the city or society. How is this so? I also find bad public art and bad poetry disconcerting, but on occasion it is also good, rarely enough that it makes you wonder if it is accident.

But how is bad poetry bad for a city?

I would say there is such things as destructive language. For instance, I would say the double talk of bureaucracies are bad (as Orwell made clear in the Politics and the English Language) and phrases such as "Extreme Interrogation Tactics" make sickeningly obvious.

Bad poetry by comparison is white noise. It has no agenda except to signify that it doesn't suck (which paradoxically affirms that it sucks).

Our own city bureaucracy has created a democratic process for promoting and creating a civic space around poetry that didn't exist. The existence of this space is a public good like a public green. Even though a park may in fact, as Jane Jacobs points out, be used for crime and become a dangerous negative space in the city -- these things are in fact part of the fabric of our city. Just about everyone is a bad poet. A park with a healthy ecology of use in fact, such as Carl Anderson Park on Capitol Hill, can become a vital central location in the civic space of the city. Parks and ordinances are the only thing a bureaucracy is equipped to do. Bureaucracies are not known for their aesthetic stylings. The term itself, bureaucratic signifies callous, brutal, and insensitive to aesthetics. This makes for something like downtown Seattle Public Library all the more miraculous.

The city program is kind of like a park, then. It may be used by crack dealers but also sever as an important meeting ground. While the "winning" poets may be bad year after year the program provides visibility and potentially access to poets such as Elizabeth Austen, Shannon Borg, Jared Leising, Molly Tenenbaum and so on. If bad poetry is the price for good poetry, that seems like a worthwhile price of admission. I do not want or believe it possible for the city to evaluate poetry based on such abstractions as good or bad. Bureaucracies operate by flowchart, form, and checklist. I do, though, appreciate living in a city that has this program.

I agree the product is often bad poetry. But perhaps the problem is less with the program and more with the fact that when presented with bad poetry people don't know that a poem is bad. Perhaps the program should be expanded to include educating people in reading poetry? Or you could limit the program. Only holders of a Master of Fine Arts degree or higher can vote? Then at least these degrees will have some value. You can bring your old diplomas from The Writers Workshop and UW down to the town hall.
7
Jesus, what a bunch of elitist drivel.
8
Hi Paul,

Here are some _lengthy_ notes for you to consider on the Poet Populist piece. Thanks for giving attention to the program and generating conversation about some interesting questions.

1 - The candidates. Your readers should know that the candidates were nominated by local arts organizations, including 826 Seattle, ArtsCorps, CD Forum, Cheap Wine and Poetry, Jack Straw Productions, Vital 5 Productions, and 7 others. All of these organizations want to get the work of poets and writers into the public, so your criticism of "public poetry" as "almost always bad" is quite an indictment of these organizations and their constituents, not to mention 2500 voters. (Info at http://www.poetpopulist.org)

2 - The vote. I'm glad you liked the work of candidates Elizabeth Austen and Karen Finneyfrock; I hope you voted for one of them. You could have also supported their candidacy in SLOG or in the printed paper. You could have followed up on your idea before the election started to nominate Blue Scholars' Geologic and could have organized a write-in effort for him. If you did none of these things, especially vote, then you missed the point of the program: to offer people a way to get involved and make a difference.

3 - On "public" poetry: you say "Public poetry is almost always very bad." What's a logical response to this, if it were true? Either (a) poetry should not relate to the public; (b) poetry should not be read in public; or (c) only fascists should write poetry? But luckily, your assertion is not true: the history of poetry as a private practice is only a few hundred years old, while the whole history of poetry is thousands of years old, and most of that as a social enterprise.

4 - On comprehending poetry: you say "Poetry, by its very definition, is a difficult thing to write and to comprehend." Certainly you can't mean this, or perhaps you are simply uninformed. Since Mallarmé and especially since TS Eliot, perhaps, poetry's hallmark is to be difficult, but again this is recent history given the history of bards: the Odyssey was the equivalent of a pulp fiction bestseller or action-adventure flick, ditto Beowulf and the Eddas. The Canterbury Tales, the Divine Comedy and Paradise Lost were intended to be blockbusters, not PhD theses. Shakespeare was not looking to mystify the objects of his love sonnets, nor is the work of Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, William Carlos Williams, Langston Hughes, Adrienne Rich, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Ntozake Shange, Sharon Olds, Saul Williams, Li-Young Lee or in fact most poets worth their salt supposed to be incomprehensible or even that difficult. As for difficult to write, that's like saying if Usain Bolt didn't have a hard time winning the 100m dash, then he shouldn't really win, or if Mozart didn't have a hard time writing an opera, then nope, not genius. Of course, practice never hurt nobody, least of all an artist.

5 - On critics: Why do literary critics (and in fact critics in all arts except music) insist on incomprehension by the public as a criterion for success? Here's why: because maintaining such a criterion is job security for critics, who can then decode the art. First of all, the idea of "art" as a secular pursuit needing criticism and demystification is only 270 years old (since Baumgarten, Kant, Hegel, on through Lyotard). This short history is dwarfed by the hundreds of millennia that preceded it--in all cultures--and the object of art therein: as Tolstoy puts it (in "What Is Art"): "The business of art consists precisely in making understandable and accessible that which might be incomprehensible and inaccessible in the form of reasoning. Good art is always understood by everyone."

(The same book says this about critics: "Critics are the stupid discussing the clever," a definition, says Tolstoy, that "however one-sided, imprecise, and crude, still contains a partial truth, and is incomparably more correct than the one according to which critics are supposed to explain works of art.")

So poetry should be comprehensible, and it is the audience's responsibility to communicate their degree of comprehension. Conversely and necessarily, artists should be beholden to their audiences, as you correctly quoted me. If an artist can't communicate with his or her audience, then--taking nothing away from their rights to express themselves--they don't deserve a public audience for that expression.

6 - On Spoken Word and Kenny G: You represent the program and poets reading in public as "spoken word poets." Five of the 13 candidates have experience doing spoken word; the rest do not. Nor do almost all of the 14 write-in candidates. I disagree that spoken word (which is a format) is qualitatively bad (in content). That's like saying that the soprano sax (Kenny G notwithstanding) cannot produce good music, OR that, god forgive me for saying this, that Kenny G is automatically that bad. Personally, I like Rahsaan Roland Kirk or Cannonball Adderley. But I wouldn't ban everyone everywhere from playing soprano, and if someone held an election, I'd vote for one of the good ones.

7 - On Nobility: you say that the program is a noble idea. Thanks for the sentiment, but it's not a noble idea at all. It's based on this regular, run-of-the mill idea: language lives among us, and like a good dog, we should treat it better.

8 - Correction: The goal of the program is not to support a medium or mediocrity, as you suggest, but to cultivate a relationship between artists and audiences, in effect instituting some accountability for public art. This actually sounds like something you would like--except perhaps that authority resides with the public. Since we live now more than ever in the age of open source and access, though--not to mention desperate times--I think you will not succeed in trying to serve as the arbiter of quality. The doors are way off those jambs…

So, yes--thanks for the coverage, however belated. See what you're generating though? (unless this long tome kills the thread). Next time, start this dialogue sooner! You could have had a big impact on the election and education of the general public about how we are (or are not?) important to the perception/ reception/ rejection/ appreciation of art.
9
Man, I really respect Mr. Redmond for breaking it down for Mr. Constant instead of just calling him ignorant. Which is what I would've done.
10
Thanks for the article.

I am really moved by poetry and would like to be exposed to more of it. I am not a writer or a poet. I'm a pretty good reader. I'm not particulary knowledgeable about poetry. But, like a typical American I feel like I can weigh in with an opinion anyway. 99.9% of the Metro bus poetry is flat, hackneyed, bland. It would be nice to stumble on something good and powerful while wandering around the city.

The Austen line you quoted: "'I reach for my yellow sweater/It bursts into flame,'" is amazing. Reading a line like that is like eating. (Like I said I'm not a poet so that's the best I can do to describe how I felt.)

Bad poetry read aloud is excrutiating. You've never truly experienced cringing until you've witnessed a man hissing about his egg-shaped testicles to a surburban mom, seated in the front row with her preteen daughter--the mom was actually a decent poet, the best one there--or a rhyming poem about a Thanksgiving turkey.

Really good poetry read aloud is extremely moving, but hard to come by and hard to explain to people who don't get it.

I'm going to check out the poets you mention (Nufer, Finneyfrock and Austen).
11
That's just, like, your opinion, man.
12
Ignorant elitism is not useful criticism. Please try again.
13
Years ago someone alleged that poetry was dead. It's tough to argue that it's not.

I think instead we find it in a different form (or maybe forms, but I've only taken a stab at one).

Poetry is not dead; we just sing it now.

http://poetryforanewgeneration.blogspot.…
14
Mr. Constant,

You have to have to HAVE TO start writing better articles. Mr. Redmond did an outstanding job of showing how this piece was poorly conceived and poorly executed. If it was submitted to an English 101 class, I'm sure it would get no better grade than a C-. You owe it to us readers who are adults that actually read. I'm begging you. Please. Put down the Raging Angry pills and pick up the Happy Coherency pills.

That's my opinion, dude.
15
Well, I'm just thrilled to heck that I have a poem riding around town on the bus. The year I won , the absolute best poem was written by an 8 year old girl. She didn't like her poem much and told us it was her second choice.

My nephew was terrified to the point of tears because my poem was about riding the bus and he knew I rarely did. He thought I was going to prison for telling lies.

I love telling lies. And stories. Popping words together like legos, easy and bright. Not everyone can do it well but everyone should have the chance. Like fingerpainting in kindergarden, flying kites, or riding naked on your bike.
16
I got a call from a friend who told me about this article and I was prepared to write a defensive somewhat outraged response to it.

It is unfortunate that the article has several broad sweeping statements and decides that public poetry is BAAAD poetry, but a lot of the criticism regarding Poetry on the Bus (it is FLAT and lacks edginess, wit and cleverness--mostly)
and the Poet Populist makes some good points.

I disagree with some of the points, but they are stated clearly. Everyone has a write to their opinion.

I curate and host 3 open mic venues per month. I include 2 to 4 featured readers and often employ a round robin style of presentation. I also attend two or three other open mics per month--sometimes more. I'm on the board of PEN USA, was the executive vice president of the Washington Poets Association (and tried for over 3 years to get a Seattle writer/critic to attend the Burning Word festival on Whidbey Island).

I don't believe Paul has ever been to an open mic that I curate, host, or one where I read something or just visited. I've hosted and curated over 600 during the last 8 years and even at the worst readings there were a few good poems read and usually more than half of the material read was worth listening to.

Paul could have dropped in to the Kings Books reading in Tacoma last Saturday and witnessed more than a dozen accomplished area poets in less than 5 hours.

Paul's vision of what 'public poetry' is I fear is somewhat myopic. He doesn't seem to get out much to see a lot of poetry (admits he doesn't do enough) and the poetry he has seen has a very specific agenda (contest type poetry/ slam poetr). Contest poetry participants often try too hard to please an audience. No not all participants try to please.. some present their art and wonder if the audience will understand, appreciate or respond to it. A popularity kind of contest, sees people vying for ....(wait for it...)... the title of most popular.
Slam poets compete for MONEY--which doesn't always bring the best poets out to the stage.

There are very specific rules for the Poet Populist contest as well. Both the poets who participate and the voting has to be done by Seattle proper residents... so some poets who live a bit outside of the city can't participate at all.

Elizabeth and Karen don't manipulate the audience the same way other less experienced poets do it... but they chose to enter the contest and participate. When they were nominated by organizations, they accepted the nominations and took it seriously enough to show up at readings.

Real writers and poets are indeed part of this contest.

Yeah, I wish the people who voted on the internet for the poet populist exposed themselves to all the poets in competition and voted for the best poet and poetry then out of friendship or a quick first impression---but I also wish
they would give Oscars to films and performances truly deserving--rather than just once in a while get it right.

There are dozens of brilliant spoken word poets in this city and dozens more very much worth listening to that have consistent flashes of brilliance worth paying attention to.

I'm sorry you don't get out more and experience the richness of the poetry community. There are teacher's and published page poets reading at open mics, as well as up and comers.

There is a lot of baaaad poetry out there...but there's also a lot of very good poetry out there and if you are going to try to convince us that most public poetry is bad... you really should go to a few dozen open mic venues around the town before making such a declaration.

You have a hopefully widely read forum giving voice to your opinion.
Sweeping, broad generalizations based on minimal research is something I expect from Political hacks not literary critics and journalists.

And by the way... I often truly enjoy reading your columns...so please get out more.. and don't be afraid to go to some readings where alcohol is NOT served.

Just because there is some truth in what you have written doesn't excuse the disservice you do to spoken word poetry with your damnation of its quality based on inadequate research.

I invite you this December to check out Parkplace Books in Kirkland on December 10th at 7 p.m. or Bookworm Exchange on December 19th at 7 p.m. You might want to drop in for a very loose ecclectic open mic called the North End Forum at Bai Pai restaurant in Ravenna (it gets going at around 8 p.m. and ranges from quality offerings to the banal but I've always had a good time and heard something very very good when I've been...). Often the 3rd Saturday Afternoon reading at the Greenlake Library has excellent poets reading. Hugo House hosts some good poetry readings (not every single one.. but a lot of them).

Yeah you'll hear some bad poetry and quite a bit of mediocre poetry too, some of which can be excused based on the age and experience of the reader--hopefully the hosts have a format that doesn't torture the audience and allow bad poets to read for too long. However you'll also discover and perhaps be surprised by how many very good poets exist in this city--some of them even read their poetry out-loud.

Christopher J. Jarmick
Writer, Poet.
17
As someone who attended the reading I am pretty put off by this article. But first, let me say that I agree that the winner, Mike Hickey, read bad poetry and I’m not sure he should have won. I did not enjoy it and thought it just seemed a bit silly. I also agree that Ananda Saleh Osel’s poem about conformists was not great, but the reviewer picked the worst one to review. He read six or seven pieces including one that was an intensely insightful frozen in time look at a summer day spent sunbathing, which was by far the best work of the night. The reviewer writes that spoken-word poetry tends to forgive shallow work but fails to mention the spoken-word performance Chelsey Richardson gave which was especially typical and awful and if anything deserved to be slammed in your article it was her work, along with Roseanne Estelle McAleese’s which was also painfully shallow. In my mind this article forgives the shallowest work of the night, and punishes those who were pushing the envelope.

I also disagree that poetry is by definition a “difficult thing to comprehend.” This is just not true and I think that another poster had it right when he said that Mr. Constant is simply uninformed about literary history in this particular aspect. But, I do agree with the reviewer in some respects, although the article does seem quite elitist.
18
Paul-
Bob Redmond just schooled your ass. Try not to be such a dick especially when you are spouting off your own ill-informed opinions. This coming from someone who really doesn't like any poetry, but at least I don't go around bashing other people's work.
19
Considering what a disgraceful job the Stranger has done promoting Poetry in Seattle the last 15 years I would say they don't get a vote on it.

It is possible that none of the thousands of poets who have read in the city in that time have done anything worthy of consideration -- possible but not likely. Reading you're hipster rag, that is the conclusion one would come to. You appear to define good poetry as 'stuff I like' -- but only ever give a couple lines and no justification. If good poetry is really so personal and self evident then why are you writing anything at all? I would demand more of a review of a pop musician.

I could give a shit about what you have to say in the matter simply because I have never heard you actually support something good. You give your little shouts out -- which for all we know is just to people you know -- but you don't have an actual opinion on a poem in this whole article.

"I like it -- it was nifty." is not an opinion, it is an assertion.

It is easy to find bad poetry -- which is probably why you and your ilk are so good at it. You are lazy -- your opinions are common and you don't push them too hard. I would love just once to open a Stranger article on poetry and find an actual thoughtful review of something worth reading.

But you have made your name on drunken rants spewed out an hour before deadline and given one editing pass -- so how foolish am I for expecting more?

James D. Newman
20
There once was a girl from Nantucket.
Got fat off that KFC Bucket...
blah blah blah.
We broke up.
21
Whenever I get on the 169 bus on 256st avenue and crowd into a bunch of Section 8's with kids, junkies, mall gangbangers and criminals heading to the Norm Maeling Justice Center, I certainly appreciate being able to look up and read some fey head trip poetry from a "seattle artist". This lets me avoid having eye contact with the rest and make the journey to transitioning to the 150 where I can ride with the DUIs -- much safer.
22
PC got pwned. lol.
23
@ James D. Newman
You get real articles of criticism from writers like Jen Graves or Charles Mudede, not hacks like Paul Constant. His "writing style" seems to be only making assertations about what he likes and dislikes with absolutely no valid criticism or room for disagreement. Sometimes I may agree with his outcome, but I never agree with his superficial and chronically misinformed articles. Working at a bookstore and reading books does not make one qualified to be a books editor. Proving that one can write thoughtful critiques of the written word does. Mr. Constant writes like a man with no time for contemplation or due thought. His is a life of snap judgements, with nothing but arbitrary standards and ideals.

Perhaps you could stay as books editor but get someone else to write the criticism. It doesn't even seem like you enjoy your job at this point.
24
Bravo to Redmond!

While reading your article it became obvious to me that you mustn't have any roots or deep experience within the artist community, which settled my offense for a short while, but you quickly began to sound equivalent to an adolescent Caucasian trying to critique and comprehend the Blues.
Your article gets more and more ridiculous as it goes on.

I'm glad someone more eloquent than I was able to hand you your ass in a proper fashion and hopefully remind you to humble yourself. What you have to say about something you're looking in on and don't have direct experience with the process of is still legitimate, but, as you say, "That's only true if the work is good", that's only true if you're honest about your perspective.

25
Paul Constant is right. The money would be better spent promoting good poetry rather than anything chosen by voting. Especially the perfectly unreliable nonsense of internet voting.

The harmless, Motel-room blandness of the top-voted photos on Flickr, or the most popular news stories in Yahoo, or the most popular porn clips on Megarotic is more than enough evidence that democracy doesn't pick the best art. And then there's Top 40 music. Think about Top 40 music for a minute, and then tell me saturating us daily with the most popular art is good for us.

No matter how many classic zingers you quote slamming critics, I don't even want to know what the #1 most popular book on Amazon is, let alone read it. Any critic can be wrong, and some critics are incompetent, but you can find good ones, and when you do, you should trust them. And, no, that is not fascism. Get a dictionary, please.

This voting thing is a gimmick, and after the novelty passes it will be forgotten.
26
So let me get this straight, Paul. You wrote about this program, and you realized that it "seems fair" to give the head of said program equal time only after the piece published and the program head had to resort to commenting on The Stranger's Web site to give his side of the story?

That, sir, is some quality journalism!
27
Thank You Mr. Redmond.

I think the Stranger needs to step back and realize how influential it is in the community.

Perhaps instead of crushing amateur KOMO 4 news anchors (who's crappy work makes very little difference) and fledgling Churches (who's difference-making is even less) you could start developing and helping organizations that you think could be better (ie. Poet Populist)
28
elenchos-
You are an idiot with your frequent-commenter head so far up the Stranger's ass, it's pathetic. The Poet Populist is not the equivalent of poet American Idol. It's simply meant to take poetry out of books and stuffy headspace and make it an organic, living thing. Whether it does that or not is valid debate, but you don't even have a fucking clue what anyone's talking about. Your opinion is about as well formed as Paul Constant's ridiculous article.
29
Paul's right. I love poetry, just not THAT poetry.

Several months ago Real Change investigated WHY the poetry signs were posted on the ad display at the rear of the bus and not at the front. Well, didn't you know, it allows fed up passengers to scribble critical and engaging remarks about the POETRY.

I think I've only read one poem from the Poetry on Buses series that made sense. Many of the poems start out with interesting subjects and then end up weird. As a result, many bus passengers scribble very funny remarks on the signs. One day while riding on the #12 bus, the featured poet wrote about her summer vacation, which included smashing dragon flies on the front porch. A few days later, I got on the same bus, sat in the back and started to read the same poem. A passenger was disgusted by the poet, Tammy, and what she had done to the dragon flies. The boldly written comment said: "Hey Tammy you must be sick! You need to see a psychiatrist or something!"
30
Bee, that hilarious. Scroll up just a bit and get a load of some other guy who also goes by "Bee" who is pissed at Paul Constant for making assertions without supporting them. What are the odds of there being a whole other "Bee," who likes assertions with no support? I guess if I'm an idiot then there's no need to refute what I say. I do sort of wonder why this is different than American Idol, what with my total ignorance and all.

Anyhow, I can see we're in for another round of the wounded The Arts Community circling the wagons. Pass the popcorn and a big box of tissues.
31
Any art worth existing can withstand some criticism. Criticizing art doesn't make someone a dick. Go ahead, duke it out over issues of content and quality--people should be passionate about art, passion fuels disagreements--but attacking Constant for daring to assert that public poetry is bad comes off as grandiose and narcissistic.
32
I remember looking at the bus poetry when I used to live in Seattle. The best ones were invariably written by young children.

The people defending public poetry here have many good points, but in my heart I agree with Paul. I don't think the problem is with poetry, or with poets; I think there's something deeply broken about the way we conceive and execute public art of all kinds at this particular time in our particular civilization. Someone should write a dissertation on it or something.
33
Thanks Bob!

Sorry for jumping in so late.

I have myself said that spoken word has lost some of its freshness in recent years, possibly becoming formulaic.

But, as I've said many times, critics of spoken word and more "popular" poetry criticize these genres while all the while benefiting from them.

Its like Twyla Tharp criticizing "The Nutcracker" for not being high enough art--how do people think others get exposed to art in the first place? "The Nutcracker" was the first dance performance I'd ever seen and I've gone on to be a supportive audience member (and fundraiser!) for almost every major dance company performing today.

So with poetry. Accessible works can pique the interest of an individual enough for that person to want to learn more, delve deeper.

I believe the visibility, accessibility, interactiveness and immediacy of spoken word and other public poetry will insure the future of the form.
34
PS--

I agree with "frank."

That the article lacks a direct quote or comment from Mr. Redmond or Licata is just a little bit (sad? dishonorable?) reflective of poor journalism.
35
Can someone, in very concrete, tangible terms, explain to me what's so "bad" about "Held" by Ray Baldwin, as cited by Esteemed Journalist Paul Constant?

Thanks in advance.
36
i was appalled at the way you treated poetry in this town, (or anywhere). some people like picasso,some don't. there is graffitti on the bus i like better. the stranger always misses the point of grassroots art anyhow. don't you (mostly dumbass white men) know that while kurt cobain may have not been appealing to the masses,(we know he didn't want to), he lived as long as he did because his art prolonged his life? don't you know a rap song is a poem. kids write those instead of shooting people, plus it gets them to write and read. don't you have any common sense about art at all, you of all people?as shallow as some of the poetry, songs or visual art may be to some of us, it might just save the life of the creator. lighten up you haters of poetry, it is the oldest and cheapest of most art for the masses to do... sure promote finneyrock, she's great, but there is a huge social movement of writers, (many in their teens and 20's )in this town who are light years ahead of what a "big" publication like the stranger knows about. art saves lives, period. and you mr. bigshot newspaper hater, don't have a clue of the real haps in the underground writing community. there are legions of people promoting reading and writing with all kinds of people, without grades, with love... something your paper will not delve into. we seriously hope you get the help you need to understand this town. try not getting so drunk and whacking off. look into a regular creative person's eyes and find god.
37
holy shit!
paula constant the fat effeminate asshole points out the obvious again....
The Stranger should hire a fucking monkey... at leaast i would enjoy it's articles...
38
PLAY
Art is color play
Sculpting is shape play
Drawing is line play
Music is sound play
Pottery is clay play
Drama is pretend play
Cinema is story/visual/sound play
Singing is voice play
Writing is word play
Dance is movement play
Quilting is fabric play
Sports are game play
Chess is strategy play
It is only work when a critic ruins the fun.
39
Thank you, Bob Redmond.

Spoken word is a genre and, like any genre, it has its good and its completely horrible. There are a lot of elitist assholes out there who "hate spoken word," especially slam, and have no idea what's really out there. There are MFA-graduate, published, well-respected, BRILLIANT spoken word artists (as I live in the Bay, I'll cite Daphne Gottlieb as an example) whose work holds up on paper.

And, of course, there are tons of really shitty poets doing spoken word. But think about ANY poetry open mic you've been to - most, if not all, of the poetry is bad. The question, then, is: what is the point of writing and performing poetry? Poet Populist draws its nominees from organizations that, for the most part, believe that much of the beauty is in the act.

The arts are important to public life, whether or not those making art (including poetry, music, whatever) hold up to Paul's - or anyone's - standards.
40
The attacks lobbed at Constant have been far worse than anything he's said about public poetry and amount to nothing more than displays grandiosity and narcissism.

One of the major criticisms of Seattle's character is that its people can't handle conflict or disagreements. This thread certainly supports that criticism.

It's okay that some things are better and some things are worse. It's also okay that people disagree and argue about what falls into which category. It's also possible to disagree and argue without assaulting someone's character. Um, that's what makes life interesting.

Art of all stripes may incorporate play but it's not necessarily soley about play. Check out an Anselm Kiefer painting or Raymond Carver's writing and you'll see what I mean. And, please don't read this comment to mean that playful art is necessarily bad because that's not what I'm saying. Rather, art can incorporate a larger range of human experience than just fun.

Just another day in obviousville, overstating the obvious, obviously.
41
Mr. Redmond FTW, in an intelligent, funny, classy smackdown. It's easy to be a sarcastic, smarmy cynic like Constant, broadly disparaging anything that doesn't fit into his perception of what art should be. Mr. Redmond sounds smart, cool. Constant reveals himself as a condescending asshole.
42
I nominate Bob Redmond for the new Books Editor.
43
Not a bad idea!
44
My first thought was "Oh, look. The Stranger is critical of poetry for a change."

But as I read further, I had more thoughts:
1) Thanks Paul for stimulating the conversation, it was great reading.
2) Thanks Bob Redmond for making the points that were occurring to me, but making them more eloquently.
3) Thanks everyone for illustrating that poetry is in the eyes, ears and mind of the beholder. Bad poetry - even if everyone in a society agrees that it's bad - is just a reflection of society's norms. Even "bad" poetry grows the culture.
45
don't you (mostly dumbass white men) know that while kurt cobain may have not been appealing to the masses...


Um...

"Nevermind became a surprise success in late 1991, largely due to the popularity of its first single, "Smells Like Teen Spirit". By January 1992 it had replaced Michael Jackson's album Dangerous at number one on the Billboard charts. The album has been certified ten times platinum (10 million copies shipped) by the Recording Industry Association of America."
46
Hi, Paul,

I'll be frank: I'm disappointed to see you following in Christopher Frizzelle's footsteps here. As another commenter has already stated, I know that blanket critique is indeed part of the Stranger's MO--especially, it seems, when it comes to local lit arts. But, upon your ascendancy to lit-editor, I was hoping for some diversification of this sad little meme.

Frizzelle, as lit editor, operated from a space of almost exclusive disdain for anyone not already recognized as "important" or "good". As such, his reviews tended to fall into one of two categories: teh suck and Charles D'Ambrosio.

I really appreciate the fact that you're willing to give more nuance (as well as more attention) than your predecessor usually allowed--even mentioning Karen Finneyfrock by name, for example--but I'm disheartened that you seem to give in to The Stranger Trap. It's the reason I've stopped relying on The Stranger for arts--it's the reason, in fact, I tend to swing wide around any Stranger-sanctioned event: the blanket negativity is toxic and destructive.
47
It is a bit of a reach to make a blanket statement on the Seattle Poetry scene, or even the spoken word scene based on a poet populist reading. While spoken word as a whole, can be weaker than contemporary literary works, some writers, including many in this city have risen above the standard.
Google local artists Danny Sherrard, Anis Mojgani, and Jack McCarthy, and you'll realize that this blanket critism is simply inaccurate
48
#1) Everyone knows the nirvana story. The point is, without music, cobain’s writing is poetry. It may read like the bad stuff you don’t like. “smells like teen spirit” is not understood by many people, but the tag line is good, the sound is catchy. He felt very misunderstood most of his life and after fame hit, he did not like it. He felt that the fans didn’t understand what nirvana was about. He had a disdain for how phony the fame and the tours felt. He had depression and stomach pains which he self medicated. I could have used another example of “bad poetry” that has been made famous, but since the stranger only values fame and money, I tried to explain it in terms you could understand. Music can mask, “bad poetry”. All lyrics are poetry or storytelling. I sent a poem to the stranger magazine last night because the book critic continues to be a white man, (pick a name), who arrogantly critiques spoken word as some poor form of poetry when In fact he doesn’t know enough about poetry to realize spoken word just gets the words auditory. It gets it off the page. I am not a spoken word poet. In my opinion, some of the most magnificent artists in this town have painted me pictures with their verbal poems, (did you ever enjoy a story read aloud as a child?)

I regret writing while I was angry. i try not to be mean, but I got someone’s attention. I don’t mean to hurt Constant or others. I feel he thoughtlessly lobbed a turd-bomb. Critics (and their friends) can’t take criticism… big surprise. I used the term, (“mostly dumb-ass white men” to describe the staff). The stranger reflects the mostly white liberal male point of view. It’s true. PROOF: In 2004, when I addressed the “regrets of 2003” article as bigoted because writing, “dyke slam poetry” is similar to saying “asian drivers” or “all Irish are drunks”, dan savage said he ,”loves dykes, hired them”. When I again said putting “dyke” in front of “slam poetry” is bigotry, he turned a blind ear. Respect begets respect, (For the record, I adore a great many men of all colors) It is always a bigger crime to attack white men. They cry foul at the top of their lungs. The truth is, of the mostly white male staff at the stranger, the leadership is insensitive, mostly white males. When you’re from the ruling class, you don’t have to care about people different than you are. Some men are paying attention and are trying to represent the community at large.

The slamming down of the poet populist was very unkind. What if someone jumps off a bridge that you so lightly lampooned last week? If I were that poor man singled out like that, I would be very distraught. It may have been the most joyful accomplishment of his life. This man bared his writing without apology, (I don’t know him, did not see the show). I feel that you owe him an apology for not being a better, more articulate writer yourself. Your paper is not a friend of the arts. It is just another capitalistic venture that neglects/denigrates people who don’t spend money with you: the poor, disenfranchised and of color, (where the greatest art has been born.) I don’t need hundred dollar college words to know that. Do I have to spell everything out for you?
49
"don't you know a rap song is a poem. kids write those instead of shooting people, plus it gets them to write and read."

Oh, word?
50
First: To those of you accusing me of bad journalism: This was a piece of criticism. It was not journalism. Second: To those of you accusing me of bad criticism: there are many who'd agree with you. This is why you should read the Weekly's literary criticism.

Here--late, I know--are my comments for Bob's notes.

1. See (2.)

2. Honestly, for the most part, I sat out endorsing in this year's Poet Populist competition because this is my first year as books editor here, and I wanted to see what the program was like before I got involved. I didn't know anything about the Poets Populist Program and wanted to see it in action. So say that I did endorse Geologic. Let's even suppose that my endorsement would somehow result in Geologic winning the title of Poet Populist. So Geologic is the Poet Populist. What does that prove? It proves that he got more internet votes than any of the other candidates. And it doesn't make any of the other bad candidates any less bad. And next year someone else would win, in an internet vote. My complaint is not that Matt Hickey's poetry is bad (although my very small amount of experience with Matt Hickey's poetry has all been bad), my complaint is that you somehow getting a bunch of your friends to vote for you online does not a populist make.

3. Public poetry is almost always very bad because the people who choose it are very often bureaucrats looking for the safest or most generic poetry so as not to offend anyone. It's the same reason why public sculpture and murals are almost always very bad. But this competition, opening it up to a popularity contest, is going to result in some very bad poetry getting chosen, too. The Poet Populist program is as flawed as the bureaucratic public art programs, but in different ways. The best way to present art to the masses is very much in the same way that you all at One Reel bring artists to the people at Bumbershoot: by having one knowledgible person, or a committee of people who really know their stuff, choosing the artists for us all to see. You all do an excellent job, year in year out, of picking artists for Bumbershoot. An ideal Public Poetry Office would use the same procedures that you all do in choosing your performers and artists. But thanks for invoking Godwin's Law with the suggestions of poetry fascism so early on this comments thread.

4. Look: you want a populist poet? Jay-Z. Li'l Wayne. Geologic. Those are the poets who are doing the stuff that Shakespeare and Chaucer were doing. And, like Shakespeare and Chaucer, their poetry gets better the longer you spend with it. They have unreliable narrators and dense wordplay and allusions to things that you might not know unless you do a little digging. I'm not saying that poetry has to be incomprehensible. But Hickey's poem about Sarah Palin dancing on a table didn't deserve further introspection. Do you know why? Because it was shallow and stupid, as was most of Osel's poetry. Jay-Z is not shallow or stupid. Shakespeare is not shallow or stupid. The best poetry sticks in your head and grows and expands—I'm still thinking about Elizabeth Austen's poem from that night, several weeks later. So we already have a ton of Poets Populist. You can enjoy a sonnet by Shakespeare by just scanning each line, like eating corn on a cob, but it's not until you live with that sonnet that you really get it. And that's what a good poem does.

5. It's ludicrous to say that I need to insist on incomprehension, and I defy you to find four book reviews of mine that demand something become more incomprehensible. I have reviewed pulp novels and a great deal of comic books, memoirs and humor books. A few of the books I've reviewed haven't been for general audiences, but if everything was for general audiences, we'd be living in Mouth-breather's World. The job of a critic is not to decode art. To my mind, the primary job of a critic is to shine a light on the works and artists that he or she determines is worthy of greater inspection. And I did that in this piece--I named twice as many good poets in the piece as I did bad poets. (The secondary job of a critic, I think, is to suggest why something is bad. I do that in my theater reviews, and I usually try to point out a way to improve the bad aspects. And when I spoke of the bad poetry in this piece, I didn't point out why the poem was bad due to space concerns, but in the case of the Poetry on the Bus that I quoted, I put the entire poem in to let the reader decide for her or himself.) But with all due respect to Mr. Tolstoy, not everything that is understood by everyone is good art. Sometimes it's just...well, stupid and shallow. We should rise to meet good art, and good art should come down to meet us in the middle. Otherwise, what's the point?

6. I contend that, like almost everything else, 99% of spoken word is crap. And just because a spoken word poet makes an audience laugh doesn't necessarily mean that she or he is a good poet. It could just be that he or she is very funny. This is the thing with spoken word: A lot of the time, artists who do spoken word are rewarded for being funny, or gross, or having a few good lines. It doesn't mean that they are good poets until they can actually create a good poem. Many spoken word artists don't go that far, because it's not as rewarding as being funny, or gross, or clever. Insofar as your Kenny G metaphor, though: I loathe the saxophone, and if I had my way, I would eradicate it from the face of the Earth, Huey Louis and the News notwithstanding.

7. I love your phrase "language lives among us, and like a good dog, we should treat it better" and I will quote you at every opportunity.

8. This is really the whole point: The program doesn't create a relationship between artists and audiences. It creates a relationship between poets and their e-mail lists. It's an inclusive thing, like a poetry reading. I don't believe that this internet voting is bringing anyone into poetry. And I don't believe Poetry on the Buses brings anyone into poetry. (Although the poems written by children are often hilarious and charming, and I should've mentioned that in the piece.) Hip-hop brings people into poetry. And I believe that putting more good poetry out there in the world, as I suggested in my piece, would bring people in to the world of poetry. Nothing would create more good poetry than more public exposure to poetry. But if Matt Hickey somehow brings good poetry into the world, I think it will be entirely by accident. And the forty people who were there on the night of his coronation were not disinterested people, wandering into a poetry reading. They were all there rooting for their friends. There's nothing wrong with rooting for your friend. People do it at poetry readings all the time. But pretending to be on the side of the people when you're just creating an extended game for a tiny—2,500 votes!—segment of the population in the name of bringing poetry to the masses is not populism, either.
51
Mr. Redmond: I am also impressed at your thoughtful reply to this article and you make some great points. But come ON! There's no way you can think most of the Poetry on Buses is even decent.

I think Poetry on Buses would be an amazing idea if there were some bar of entry to ensure that only reasonably interesting or insightful poetry made the grade. What happens instead is that hundreds (thousands?) of people who already *think* they hate poetry because the only poetry they have ever been exposed to is schlocky self-important crap are forcibly exposed to inexcusably bad poetry that only serves to reinforce all of their negative preconceptions. This works AGAINST the goal of fostering public appreciation for poetry.

Paul, I disagree that poetry should be difficult to write or read in order to be "good." The truth is that if you have the soul of a poet, words and images cascade from your experiences effortlessly. There is hard work, to be sure, but mostly in the discipline of harnessing and improving what comes naturally. Like any artist, a true poet is one who can't help but write poetry.

This is not to say that there is no benefit in sponsoring programs that use poetry as a tool for worthy goals like empowerment, therapy, and community building. I'm sure poetry can be an invaluable tool for all of these things. But when the goal is community outreach? Well, then it's in your own self-interest to make sure you only post stuff that's good.
52
a rose is a rose is a rose is a rose...
-gertrude stein-

a stone is a stein is a rock is a boulder is a pebble."
_ernest hemmingway_

a turd is a shit is a swirling heap of dung is mass doo doo pile of bad poetry and saxophones playing music to your nightmares while pouncing leprachauns drink the rest of your booze and the hangover in the morning can't be quelled while evil bus poets scribble feces as a verb,noun and synonym for "the stranger" -kind-of-day.

-zan, rad dyke "bad" poet
53
a turd is a turd is a turd
54
...and apologies to Matt Hickey, whose name I stuck in there in the place of Mike Hickey. It is late. I am tired. I am sorry.
55
Mr. Redmond-
I'm not a poet, nor do I take too much of an interest in poetry, but god damn are you butthurt.
1. If local arts organizations nominated A.I. as a great movie, does that make it so? Who cares if 2500 people voted for crap? It's still crap.
2. Yes, Constant and the Stranger could have done more for these poets! It's definitely their fault that your show sucked and that the people who should be helping promote good poets (you) aren't! Way to pass the blame!
3. Public anything is almost always bad. It has to appeal to more people, more people are available to show their work thus more bad people will show... it's just sort of logical. Example: you're in a neighborhood, and you're trying to decide what to paint the houses. Most people have different opinions and it's difficult to decide. It seems that your solution would be to paint all of the houses beige. Then most people are unhappy except the two idiots who love beige which is a shitty color. So what do you do? Tell those idiots to fuck off and make something beautiful with the help of a designer (critic). Jesus.
4. Guys! History! What something was hundreds of years ago totally means the same thing it does today! Seriously, nothing ever changes! And if it did it doesn't matter cause those classical guys mean more than anything today so like... they're still relevant? I don't know where I'm going with this, you guys. Also, two examples make the rule, didn't you know? If it's easy for one person to do something it's easy for all of us to. (That was me summing up what you said.)
5. You talk a lot. You seem to think that means something. Please see number 2.
6. I mostly agree with you here.
7. You just can't come to terms with your baby project maybe not being that great? It was indeed noble for you to try, but I agree with Constant in saying that the way public poetry is now, it's... not really working. Better luck next year!
8. That's not the goal of the program but it's certainly the outcome.

"You could have had a big impact on the election and education of the general public about how we are (or are not?) important to the perception/ reception/ rejection/ appreciation of art." Man that would have been great, eh? That election... it could have changed people's lives. ;_;

In conclusion: Just get over it. You're defending this poetry not because it's good (it's not) but because you just don't want to be wrong. Accept, move on, get better, learn from your mistakes.
56
It's funny, I've actually had direct experiences with all three of the poets you mentioned: I took a class with Austen at the Hugo House, one with Hickey at the Experimental College, and a few years back Osel published a couple of my poems on his website. Austen, in my view, is the most sophisticated of the bunch, and incredibly knowledgeable about poetry. But Hickey knows his stuff too: he studied at the University of Washington and Arizona, and has been writing for years. My feeling is that the two poets are simply coming from different perspectives. Mike very much wants to broaden the readership of poetry; I'm not sure that's so much a priority for Elizabeth. In which case, the position of poet populist seems uniquely suited for a poet like Hickey.
As for Osel, I think "viciously thin" about sums him up.
57
what a fascinating discussion (save the silly rants). Paul Constant wrote an interesting criticism of the *idea* of a populist poet and the *process* of selecting one, while also making true and indisputable comments that 99% (or whatever) of everything is crap. Mr. Redmond had a well thought out and well written response, which Mr. Constant published.

I would put the discussion in this context. The discussion we are having right now, about poetry, is more thought than is given poetry in all but two or three other american cities.

I would never say I am an expert on poetry. I would say that I've read more poetry (and especially poetry by people that are alive today) than 99% of the population. And I have provided substantial financial support to small literary magazines that publish substantial amounts of poetry. Though I don't agree with Mr. Constant on everything, I think it's remarkable that there are posts *every day* about books and readings in SLOG. I think it's remarkable that Mr. Constant promotes readings by "good" poets (his plug for John Witte's readings this summer come to mind).

--

A public poet? Let's just say we are very fortunate right now to have a very, very good poet (Kay Ryan) succeed a pretty good poet (Charles Simic) as our national Poet. Her work is easy to read, intelligible, and devastating, with ripples that echo for weeks and months. She was not selected by an internet vote, and it is, i'm sure, an accident that she made it through whatever process is used to select the national Poet.

--

How about when this is over, everyone chill the fuck out and go buy two books of poetry - one for yourself, and one to give someone else as a gift.

58
Oh, I think it's unfair to say the Stranger critics are uniformly unfair. And it's certainly unfair to paint Mr. Constant with that brush. He is very often laudatory, enthusiastic, and (as demonstrated by his habit of publishing SLOG HAPPY reviews of books) open to letting other folks promote their opinions.
59
Bumper sticker seen this morning

Criticism: It's not for the weak
60
It's interesting to say that a good public poetry program would work like Bumbershoot, with knowledgeable people screening the poets and presenting them to the public. I'm relatively sure that the foremost consideration when booking bands for a festival is draw -- how many people can reasonably be expected to attend a performance. There's a basic dollars-and-cents bottom line there that I'm not sure is really present with poetry.
61
Paul: The Stranger's books section has improved tremendously since you started editing it. I can't believe you got people this worked up about poetry! Keep up the good work.
62
My dear friend J.R.
He likes to drive his grandma's car
But he doesn't go very far...
He goes to the store to buy bologna
And sometimes macaroni
63
Karen Finneyfrock's work saves my life... I am so excited by the her new stuff. Fucking christ almighty...

If you haven't yet - check out her book "Welcome to the Butterfly House"... her poem "yes" is one of my favorite poems of all time.
64
Mr. Constant

Do you ever feel that you have gotten in over your head? That 90% of your audience is smarter than you are? Yeah. I have the same feeling.
Maybe it's time to let somebody else take over. We could have an internet vote to decide.
What do you think of that?
65
Up front: I'm a policy kid, not an arts kid.

For me, this piece was really about one thing: the effectiveness of a public program. Paul's concern over the quality of the program is predicated on the idea that the program either is, or could be, effective. That is, the Poet Populist program could "promote the literary arts and local arts organizations to a general audience city-wide." If the Poet Populist is incapable of reaching a general audience, then who cares who holds the title?

Paul seems to believe that a "good" Poet Populist would reach a greater audience. He is approaching this position, though, based theory (as is Bob Redmond, frankly). I would like to see some data.

Paul should have contacted local poetry teachers, merchants, and editors to see if they think the Poet Populist program has brought more people into the poetry community. This seems to be Paul's ultimate goal - bringing people into the poetry community.

Bob's goal - a wider exposure for poetry within the general community - seems impossible to address intelligently. A telephone survey, perhaps? Who has read, heard, or considered a piece of modern poetry this week?

Or perhaps I misread entirely. Perhaps Paul wishes to honor those who have brought poetry to the general community and Bob wants to give a hand up to those who might.

Regardless, the entire discussion reads as genuinely nice people talking past each other.
66
People are very upset over Paul Constant's critique. I suggest they write a poem that will prove him wrong.
67
Since Mr. Constant has an obvious hard-on for me I suppose that I’m expected to respond. First, let me just say that I agree with much (not all) of Paul’s criticism. I agree that spoken-word tends to forgive shallow poetry (writing) because it allows the poetry to hide behind the veil of the performance; although, this alone does not condemn spoken- word is an art form.

On the other hand, Paul’s statement that “poetry, by its very definition, is a difficult thing…to comprehend” is as absurdly overreaching as it is imprecise. This notion alone illustrates Mr. Constant’s extraordinarily narrow view of what, in his mind, poetry should be or is, and, further illuminates Paul’s manifestly limited knowledge about contemporary literature. In other words, poetry does not need to be esoteric to be “good” as Paul Constant so directly claims.

But, the truth is that Mr. Constant is entitled to his opinion and to his principles, as we all are. My work has received exceptional reviews from multiple poetry critics which, given Paul’s review, is a telling sign of the diversity that exists among people who read and enjoy poetry. So, I’ll assume (for the sake of whatever) that Mr. Constant’s vicious criticism of my work in particular (as a “type” or a “kind” of poetry) is entirely rooted in his constricted perception of what poetry should be; after all, what else could it possibly be rooted in.

With the above said, it might be useful to point out, that in the human tradition of self-affirmation Constant has confirmed his own hypothesis with his few confirmations but has ignored the overwhelming amount of disconfirmations. For this reason, the article reads more like a narrow and callous conversion manual to a certain type of poetry than an honest critique by a well meaning and educated student of poetry. I could’ve made the argument more plausible in my sleep. Just my OPINION.
68
Oh, nunya @ 64, you're so cute. I'm not putting my job up to an internet vote. First, it's my job and I kind of need it. Second, the next books editor would no doubt be praised by you until they didn't like something you liked. Third, the comments have been nowhere near all negative. And even if they were all negative, I'd still be books editor and you wouldn't. You're all precious when you get huffy and ridiculous and righteously indignant, though.
69
Right on, Mr. Osel. And may I congratulate you for doing so well without even being on the ballot.
70
However you feel about this article, at least it’s gotten people talking about poetry. I think good points have been made on all sides.

This seems like a great place for me to mention a poetry book I’m putting together. The deadline was actually yesterday, but since so many people are discussing poetry here, I’ll extend it one more week for anyone who is interested.

Jacob Brooke Press is accepting submissions for a poetry collection. All poems must be about or related to Capitol Hill, Seattle. Capitol Hill need not be the focus, but it must be somehow included.

Please send no more than 3 poems of 50 lines or less each to SdotBarker@gmail.com. Include the word “submission” in your subject line and include a brief bio in the body of the e-mail. We’d rather know who you are than where you’ve been published.

Payment will be two contributor’s copies.

Thanks!
71
the worst thing about the article is your headline reads, "why does Seattle promote dumb, bad poetry?" then you go on to focus on two amateur opportunities for the citizens to participate in. that is a contradiction and a slap in the face to academia and fledglings alike. i don't know Redmond or you but i do love poetry. you hurt people about something you don't know much about...and 2500 people participating in a vote...well maybe that is a lot of friends supporting friends. one person contacted the whole, important staff of the stranger about voting in the poet populist? how very inconvenient for big important people like you.

yes we all rocked the vote for obama, and some of us worked that day too. some of us sent money to defeat prop.8 in california. it might just be that anytime thousands of americans can attempt some art or call friends to support a little show at a coffee house, we don't need some (mostly white guys in ivory towers) shooting our joy from their easy chairs. watch what you write constant. do you really want to destroy people's creativity, even if it is "a few good lines" and then the poor schlub has to go to the office or back to a lousy job? maybe attempts to get people writing anything is better than getting drunk and criticising the world or only watching tv.
yes paul look at books and advise or whatever it is you think you do... but right now learn a lesson and don't pretend you are a 100 percent right on this. give up that privilege a little bit. not all "high art" is good either. it was just applauded by the right critic, i suppose, or a rich person liked it, or a bunch of well moneyed friends promoted it... so when a grass roots thing gets a little bigger, the stranger,(which hates poetry and lost most of its good writers over the years), finally notices, they hire someone with the party line to say, "oh how amateur". big whoop!

at least try to focus and have the title match the content. write before the second tumbler of whatever it is the stranger staff found on sale. by the way, we do read the weekly and they don't tend to warrant as much ire because they have better writers. they are not forty and fifty year olds with teenage angst, like y'all. we will read you every week because it is like watching george W. when he thinks he's right. how deep can your foot go? keep explainng. also the stranger should stick to reviewing their advertisers venues of really bad poetry set to worse music so you can pretend you are friends and get really drunk. that never happens. i don't go to stranger sanctioned events either. all you do is get drunk and pretend you are somebody... i love the "last days" and the horoscope as regular features. i anonymous is amusing at times. my opinion of your paper is it is great bird cage liner. don't take it too personally Paul, the stranger has sucked for years. i finally pulled my advertising after 16 years. i couldn't let such hateful ill informed messages receive another dollar from me. We don't need to read the new column,(i rarely do, it's soooo dumb and bad), we can just watch you parody yourself over and over again. this is gonna be fun!!!!

do things


if you worry about everything you write being good, then don't write.
if you think everything painting shoud be devine, don't be a painter.
if you demand excellence in everything you do,
you will suffocate from fear.
if all crops failed, a farmer would no
longer plow.
there are enough bumper crops to make up
for the weaker yield.
how many times did Einstein crumble a paper?
do you suppose Rembrandt loved everything he did?
to deny your contribution to the world is to live a half life.
to hell with being the best at anything-
do things to find that rare moment,
when the masterpiece is in the doing, not the result.
72
Paul Constant was dead on in his initial piece, and Mr. Redmond's rejoinder only made his position worse. I have to admit, that when I first read about the "Poet Populist," my first reaction was, "Not more of this crap." Anyone who follows the arts in any real way hears this sort of self-absorbed argument all the time, and its especially rabid when it comes to poetry.

Let's face facts: Most art isn't very profitable, even popular art like rock music or hiphop. Then when you get to things like visual art or poetry, it's virtually impossible to make a living doing it. A good playwright can't make a living at it; typically they have to write bad movies or t.v. to pay the bills. A successful literary novel (i.e., the publisher will pick up a second book from you) is expected to sell around 5,000 copies. But for some reason, there are lots and lots of people making this stuff with a big old chip on their shoulders who are convinced that the problem is that their work isn't making it to the masses and that there should be some "fix" for this.

And attendant to this line of thought is a resentment against what they see as the problem in their own art form. This really got revved up in poetry circles a couple years ago, when John Barr--the wealthy president of the Poetry Foundation, which itself received a $100 million-plus endowment from an Eli Lily a few years back--wrote a piece lambasting the poetry "establishment" of today for exhausting the potential of its forms, protecting itself through tenured posts at universities, and opposing the brave new world of poetry that he, apparently, intended to let loose upon America.

"The need for something new is evident," he wrote in 2006. "Contemporary poetry's striking absence from the public dialogues of our day, from the high school classroom, from bookstores, and from mainstream media, is evidence of a people in whose mind poetry is missing and unmissed."

And so what is the Poetry Foundation doing with all that money? Why, paying to print poetry in newspapers (according to Feb. 2007 article in The New Yorker), just one more way these new, populist rebels are putting poetry in our faces and circumventing the old, elitists holding back the popular wave from their lairs in the Ivory Tower.

And so we have Ted Kooser's syndicated column, with "poems on comforting American themes (neighbors, chores, raking)" at the national level, while locally we have poetry on buses for the masses to have their say, and poetry slams and spoken word for poets who wanna be a little more rock-and-roll (and try to make a little money at the door), and American Poet Idol elections on the Internet to reward the sort of poetry the People like with $500 and publicity. And what is a "poet," anyway? More people know Bob Dylan's words than Dylan Thomas's, so let's just open this up to singer-songwriters and rappers, because that's the popular music the kids are all listening to today and hey, we need to be democratic about everything.

Yet still, after all this, it's not enough! Dare to call bus poetry insufferable crap you can't stand to read? You're elitist! Call the poetry this massive democratic experiment is promoting simplistic, even pandering to the lowest common denominator? Well, they respond, who are you to say that poetry has to be challenging?

And so we wind up with this pathetic, dumbed-down, t.v. version of poetry, replete with all the stupid human tricks and reality show competitions that keep the vast majority of Americans eating this slop out of the trough week after week. And in all of this, have we ever managed to get a poem by Wislawa Szymborska up on a bus? Have you even seen Osip Mandelstam or Pablo Neruda poems on billboards in Seattle? Has Milosz's "Campo dei Fiori" been thrown down in the heat of a poetry slam, Hughes's "Advertisement for the Waldorf-Astoria" set to a beat? Hell, let's leave aside the icons and Nobel Prize winners: Go pick up a copy of Tin House and find out what all of this populist poetry outreach is doing for a single one of the writers in that journal.

The answer is nothing. Everyone's been so busy assuming that "the people" just need to be exposed to the right sort of poetry and then bam!, poetry's back in. It'll be a real part of the cultural and political discourse, people will pay attention to it again, people will start buying it again. And then the world will be right.

The problem with their entire misguided race to the bottom of the poetry barrel is that it's become the lie of consolation for dozens of second- and third-rate poets convinced that anyone besides themselves is to blame for their lack of success, or at least their empty bank accounts. It's the desperate excuse offered by people convinced that they had something really important to say and are ticked off that every critic, talking head, politician, and t.v. host hasn't bothered to bring up their brilliant pearl of lyrical wisdom. In short, it's the product of people with unrealistic expectations.

And don't take this to mean that I'm against efforts to promote poetry: there are many great ways to do so, from child literacy programs through prizes, awards, and sure, making it publicly available some how. No, what really bothers me is that the people I'm complaining baout here--and yes, the Poet Populist crew is included--are all making a really harsh judgment about the work of many talented writers today: that poetry's in its death throes and needs to be saved; that salvation means taking poetry to the masses, and making more poetry the masses like; and finally that poets' poetry is elitist, and that we need to thing outside the proverbial box and start including lyricists in poetry competitions. Again, not to hate--I like Blue Scholars--but the idea that Geologic, who can sell out moderately-sized clubs here in town, could have collected a $500 prize meant to support poetry seems completely backwards to me. I think these organizations need to re-think how they operate, and maybe consider offering support to artists who actually go against the grain, whose work is (or could be) important but isn never going to cross into the mainstream, and reward the courage and talent of those artists instead of pretending that with enough effort, we can create a generation of Shel Silversteins that everyone will love, read, and talk about.
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The term, "Poet Populist," suggest a person who represents the masses, not someone who represents those who define good taste. However, Paul Constant exposes himself as just another person with an opinion--not necessarily an educated, sensitive arbiter--who attempts to define bad taste, by what is not his taste. Of all the things you could criticize in this sad world (war, prejudice, violence, hunger, addiction, and rampant apathy), why poetry? Leave the poets alone and pick on someone bigger (Bush, Cheney, Rupert Murdock, the military gov't in Myanmar).
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paul it must be neat that your friends came to your rescue today, monday couldn't come soon enough)? (mostly white guys that follow the arts, and think money is what makes art valid, hmmm). well
i don't ride the bus much and i have no part in the populist thing, but rescuing constant with art knowledge is impressive. have a drink with paul, console him a little, rub his footsie wootsies guys...
plenty of people in this town love and support poetry that you have never heard of, don't know and have plenty of money other ways. i don't know who you are referring to who wants a big revival in poetry. For most of us it is a way of life, thinking and knowing. we know that it never went away. go get drunk with one of the bands who play bad music and masking bad poetry.(hello i love you, can you tel me your name, hello i love you can i jump in your game?) go ahead, take savages advice, get drunk, keep telling yourself you are smart and above all, right and all knowing about what is good art and what is bad. do you think in black and white, straight and gay too? hmmm, that's so interesting. where can i get a degree that tells me i know better than everyone else? gee pauly, you do have friends, you do!
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Amen, Jeremy M Barker. But do you really want to see Pablo Neruda on a billboard? Call me selfish, but I like to maintain the illusion (because it's not as though no one's ever heard of Pablo Neruda) that the really good stuff is a little bit just for me. So to some extent I think of the bus poetry and billboard poetry and other happy-crap poetry blather as a smokescreen to keep away people who don't really care.
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Mr. Constant,

I am precious. I hug myself to sleep every night.
I am cute. I was voted Best Looking Poet in Seattle by all my girlfriends.
I have researched this thing you call a 'job'. I concede that you do indeed need a job. But how about a different one? You are not good at this one.
I may have issues with the next books editor. Isn't that the point?
It appears from your articles that you are not beholden to writing logically. And you are not beholden to your readers since if all the comments were negative, you wouldn't care.
To what are you beholden? I am pretty sure it is your paycheck. But I will give you a chance to prove me wrong. And please reply in 4 sentences or less. Your paragraphs bore me to tears.
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Paul--

Pretty interesting dialogue overall. Thanks again for your part in it--I second some of the SLOGgers' opinions that you have brought welcome attention to literary arts in this city. Here are a couple things that I hope you will consider:

On voters: You didn't mention the election during the 6 weeks it was happening, and now criticize the program for not getting more of the general public's attention. That's pretty disingenuous, seeing as how you help regulate information to the public. (For the record, the election did devote funds to advertising to help get beyond the friend-circles of voters. But we also rely on news outlets to cover news. If you're interested enough in the program to cover it after the fact, you could also have shared the news that the election was on without "getting involved.")

On Fascism: I did not mean to be incendiary but to raise earnestly this question: who is the "group of experts" who gets to pick good art for everyone? And who picks those people? Or put another way: how should the public be involved, and how do we measure that? Is there any measure of the public's active claim to something other than dollars?

On Football: I don't purport to say that the best poet is the winner of Poet Populist election any more than I agree that the BCS can generate the best college football team (hello, Texas!). The BCS system can't be perfect, but that doesn't stop there from being a champion. The Poet Populist program is all about establishing relationships and involving people so that the whole presentation of poetry can be improved, and so that we do hold up good work to the public (friends and converts both). You're right: 2,500 people is miniscule, compared to votes on American Idol. On the other hand, it's a lot--you can win a primary election for Seattle City Council with less than 16,000 votes (and Joe Szwaja spent $43,000 in 2007 to get there, and I'll bet he asked his friends to vote for him!).

Here's an idea: As others have commented, you deserve kudos for writing book news and opinions. Describing good art in an article, though, is not the same as presenting work, which you also recommend. So how about publishing some poetry? Perhaps the Stranger could publish a poem every week (trying to keep a straight face here…) even for a short time. Can you imagine?

Invitation: to anyone who wants information about nominating someone for the next year's Poet Populist election (in the fall), email info@poetpopulist.org. If you have an idea that has not been voiced in this thread, you can send that too.

Event (Sunday Jan 25, 2:00 pm): To everyone: Come hear the fuss for yourself: new Poet Populist Mike Hickey, last year's office-holder Cody Walker, and special guest Jack Hirschman (San Francisco Poet Laureate), plus other poets (and poetesses) at the Central Library downtown. Drinks afterward at a place TBD where we can argue the difference between Laureates and Populists and quote Russian novelists over vodkas and furious gnawing of the ermine sleeves of our winter coats.
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Howdy Nunya: I am beholden, as I said in my original piece, to good work. As are we all. If I were beholden to a paycheck, believe me, I'd be looking somewhere outside print media. I love my job and I love getting to read a whole lot and communicate about writing with lots of readers for a living, in the best book town in the United States.

But you're the one who's not making logical conclusions in your comments here. If you consistently don't like my writing, I suggest you stop reading it. You'll probably live a little longer without the stress.
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Mr Constant,

You are beholden to good work, huh? First of all, that really means you are behholden to work you like. That much is clear from other's comments. Second, it is about the most vanilla generic statement I can imagine. It is a cliche and is lacking of any meaning.
If you are not paid enough, you should look for a job outside the print medium. I love Seattle TOO! Word, dog.

I can read what I like. You should write better articles. And thanks for the medical advice. You really are a jack-of-all-trades.
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Hey Bob,

I did mention the events for the lead-up to the Poetry Populist election in the Readings Calendar, which is where every event that is sent to me gets mentioned. Any more space than that is not guaranteed to anyone. I only get, at most, a page and a half a week to write about Seattle literary arts and I wanted to experience the Populist program firsthand before I wrote about it.

I would like to say that I'm glad you're doing something and I appreciate it. The mark you have made on Seattle arts is huge and overwhelmingly positive, and I have no doubt that you are wholeheartedly dedicated to the city, its poets, and its arts.

This last Friday, inspired in part by your competition, I started something called The Seattle Poetry Chain on Slog. Every Friday at noon, I'll run a work by a Seattle poet who will then choose the next poet (should a chosen poet decide not to participate, I'll ask a third party to choose the next link in the chain.) And I'll write more about poetry, too. As I admitted in my piece, it's been a weak point of my tenure as books editor thus far.

I only have one question remaining: Why do you bristle so much at the "group of experts" choosing poetry for public spaces idea? Isn't that what you do with Bumbershoot? Giving an organization like this a face and identity—and thusly some accountability—can often be the way to get good stuff done. I think maybe the major part of the problem is that we have wildly different ideas about internet votes and what they represent. Having received any number of wheedling e-mails from Poet Populist candidates trying to get out the vote on their own behalf before the election, I have to say: I don't believe it's flattering for poetry or for the arts, and it's not indicative of anything related to quality or to merit. I think perhaps you're just more optimistic in this regard, in that you think it'll get out the word about Seattle Poetry, and I tend to think of it as a self-inclusive distraction of a game. You've seen the number of participatory voters increase--what? a hundredfold?--since you've started the program nine years ago, and so maybe you're right. I think that maybe there's a better way to go about things. And I guess that's where we really disagree.

And I think that's all I have to say.

Hi-ho,
Paul
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Hey Bob,

I did mention the events for the lead-up to the Poetry Populist election in the Readings Calendar, which is where every event that is sent to me gets mentioned. Any more space than that is not guaranteed to anyone. I only get, at most, a page and a half a week to write about Seattle literary arts and I wanted to experience the Populist program firsthand before I wrote about it.

I would like to say that I'm glad you're doing something and I appreciate it. The mark you have made on Seattle arts is huge and overwhelmingly positive, and I have no doubt that you are wholeheartedly dedicated to the city, its poets, and its arts.

This last Friday, inspired in part by your competition, I started something called The Seattle Poetry Chain on Slog. Every Friday at noon, I'll run a work by a Seattle poet who will then choose the next poet (should a chosen poet decide not to participate, I'll ask a third party to choose the next link in the chain.) And I'll write more about poetry, too. As I admitted in my piece, it's been a weak point of my tenure as books editor thus far.

I only have one question remaining: Why do you bristle so much at the "group of experts" choosing poetry for public spaces idea? Isn't that what you do with Bumbershoot? Giving an organization like this a face and identity—and thusly some accountability—can often be the way to get good stuff done. I think maybe the major part of the problem is that we have wildly different ideas about internet votes and what they represent. Having received any number of wheedling e-mails from Poet Populist candidates trying to get out the vote on their own behalf before the election, I have to say: I don't believe it's flattering for poetry or for the arts, and it's not indicative of anything related to quality or to merit. I think perhaps you're just more optimistic in this regard, in that you think it'll get out the word about Seattle Poetry, and I tend to think of it as a self-inclusive distraction of a game. You've seen the number of participatory voters increase--what? a hundredfold?--since you've started the program nine years ago, and so maybe you're right. I think that maybe there's a better way to go about things. And I guess that's where we really disagree.

And I think that's all I have to say.

Hi-ho,
Paul
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Hey, cool about the Seattle Poetry Chain--that's great, and as Eric F said, kind of groundbreaking.

As for calendar listings, it should also be noted that Jen Graves slogged Arne Pihl's candidacy... that could have generated hundreds of votes, eh?

As for your main question, I bristle not about curating (heck, that's my day job) but about groups of experts managing ALL public art programs as a rule. Curating has its place, and so do number of units sold, but there has to be a way for the general public to participate directly in valid artistic commentary, especially in this day and age.

I agree that we do suffer mediocrity too easily. The attempted solution offered by this program is not simply to remove the public from the process, but the reverse--to provide more engagement, more accountability, and eventually, stronger work. The election of Obama proves that we do in fact have the capacity not just to support, but to help institute, an articulate vision--perhaps we can do this with other things: art, mass transportation, ecology.

Quixotically...
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Hey Paul,
Good idea with the Poetry Chain. Kudos.
I second Bob's motion to publish a poem a week in the print version. I think this would do a lot for poetry in the city. I also think it would give the Stranger a literary credibility I'm not sure it currently has.
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dear paul, wow, i had no idea this was going to go anywhere except an endless loop, but dude, thank you for the wonderful poem by nufer. i just went to the slog,(for the first time). you are right, he's great! and thank you for sharing that with me. maybe i can let go some of my stubborn ways too.i think the dialog in these comments showed the power of words, good and bad,(very over used here)and i personally feel that a gift has been given that i least expected: poetry at the stranger!!! if i don't like a selection, i will not villify that person. i will be happy that they are there trying their best to convey something that may go right over my head. a lot of you are really smart!!! but i'm learning, and i love poetry!
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So far as I can tell Ananda Selah Osel is the only poet populist candidate who has written in to defend himself, and quite well I might add. Where is the big winner Mike Hickey in all this? His work was slammed also. How about the spoken word people? How about the rest? I’d like to see the other candidates show some balls, some guts, a little passion. If the performers had any guts they’d write in to tell the people what’s what and stop hiding from the critics. Why should Redmond and Osel have to represent for them all?

Sharon W.H.
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"Poetry should be incomprehensible and incommensurable." - Goethe

"All art is that way to some degree, but much art seems flat and lacking in courage because it neglects to be difficult." - Michael McClure

"A poet is a time mechanic, not an embalmer." - Jack Spicer

P.S. Red Sky Poetry Theater Reunion, Sunday, December 7 - 7P, Richard Hugo House:

Judith Roche, Charlie Burks - Features
http://www.splab.org/Reunion_Flyer3-2.pd…
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to Sharon W.H.: the other poets and persons don't write in b/c that would be taking Mr. Constant's bait. To him, they are basically little nobodies. If they did write in, they would be mocked or ignored, much like Mr. Osel was. Who wants that?
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I enjoyed the article and am happy that I stumbled on it. The only problem is that the author makes sweeping claims and doesn’t really back them up with anything substantial. Although, I think they pinned spoken-word down pretty well. I actually reviewed Ananda Selah Osel’s book “The Meter Is Running & We’re Almost Out Of Change” last year for a British literary magazine and agree with the author on some points although the criticism was very sweeping, as I said before. I received a lot of flack for my review also but it’s significantly more detailed. If anyone wants to read a fuller and more accurate deconstruction of Osel’s work I’ve posted a link to my year old review below.

Thanks,

Neil Hirsh, Word Riot Magazine

http://www.wordriot.org/template_2.php?I…
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Thank you Sharon! I’d like to see the candidates give their opinion as well. You’re right nobody has any guts and everyone is probably writing under some stupid alias. I don’t think that Constant is trying to get anyone to take the bait. A discussion is a discussion and Constant has promoted a lively one. I think Redmond and Osel acknowledged that this is a debate that clearly needs to happen in their responses.
90
Hey Zan,

Speaking as someone who moved here in 2000 and has been reading The Stranger a lot longer than I've been in The Stranger, I've always been fond of your ads and other appearances in the paper. I still remember your righteously angry letter to the editor after a mean joke. I'm a Zan the Rad Dyke Plumber Fan is what I'm saying.
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And everyone else: I don't think that Mike Hickey has to "defend himself" here; he's not on trial. If I had to defend myself against every attack, I'd never get anything done.
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Mr. Constant,

You don't get much done as it is.

This is what I think: I think you owe every one of the Poet Populist nominees [and winner] and everyone who ever had a poem on the bus an apology.
93
I have recently relocated to Seattle from NYC. I am delighted Seattle has art projects such as the Poet Populist competition. While criticizing the poetry arising from the competition can be productive, I think calling for the discontinuation of the Poet Populist competition or the poetry on buses is a wasteful destruction of art. Be patient. Let the program grow its roots and broaden its reach. Older cities have many venerable art projects that are treasured by their communities. Many of those projects went through fledgling stages when only a few hundred (or less!) community members were even passively aware of their existence and when the quality of their production was not widely appreciated.

Public artistic projects require time, but there is no doubt that their very existence has often created new avenues and forms of artistic expression. Additionally, nothing about the Poet Populist competition undermines academic, commercial or other established avenues for poetic expression. If PC’s attitude prevailed at the advent of many public artistic movements and institutions, art would have suffered many losses. The dramatic competitions of the 5th century BCE in Athens produced some work that was not appreciated by audiences and also generated controversies about whether the judging should be more popularly based or relegated to an aristocratic committee. Notwithstanding the forgettable entries and the controversies, many treasures were produced over the many years of those competitions.

It appears that all agree that at least a few fine poets have competed in this year’s Poet Populist competition. The City of Seattle chips in. 2500 people voted. These sound like modest accomplishments, but they are actually quite significant in light of the inauspicious beginnings of many institutions that New Yorkers currently hold dear. In my view, chances are very good that the Poet Populist competition, if given time, will become a widely valued institution in Seattle and will be an avenue (other than the academic or commercial) for poets in Seattle to edify as well as irritate the community. (Then some upstart will complain that it is too established and bourgeois!) - CML
94
soul sister

it's like star
soul's too close to the bone
her cutthroat world anatomy
brings me down
but I wear her big girl underpants, just the same

stroke pretty hair the color of winter snow
pee in the firmament
some strands of gold leftover for my scrapbook
in between the Steely Dan legacy, and my Preparation-H receipts

oh, if I were her
oh, if I were

(hee hee. Sorry, couldn't help myself.)
95
Nunya, let it go. Move on. We all have.

At first I thought you were clever and witty for taking Mr. Constant to task regarding his imperfect article on poetry in Seattle, but now it's become pretty apparent to myself and I'll bet everyone else who's reading these comments that you, sir, are nothing but a bully. And the only thing more sad and pathetic than a bully, is an internet bully. Tell me, how many times an hour do you come back to this page to see if anyone has posted anything that you can ridicule? Jesus, what a bunch of ignorant drivel.

Also, for the record Mr. Constant, it's Huey Lewis, not Louis.
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Mr. Hadem, consider this: "Karen Finneyfrock is a rare example of a slam poet who writes excellent poetry; for every one of her, there are a thousand people who should be ashamed to share their work with others." It seems only fair that Mr. Constant stay attentive while these thousand slam poets write in to tell him he should be ashamed of his own work, or some variation on that theme. That is not going to happen. So I am doing my part to fill that need. And that is only one group he insulted. Consider how that number should be much higher.
97
nunya = John Bailo = Mr. Poe
98
dear paul & y'all, i swore i wouldn't write back to this, but let me just respond, i hope one last time. #1) please go to the slog to see that Mr. Constant has given us a big gift. that's right... and hear nufer give us that timely poem. that's what this is all about... and after 95 letters, poor constant feels hammered enough, (i did plenty of it and it is called passion. i did change my name & style a couple times). he is acknowledging that he heard us. i am exhausted from it myself, (personally,this is much harder than plumbing). this is the time of year we become forgiving, charitable and help each other through the winter; we can all be bullies when we defend something we love. on monday, I imagine Mr.Constant had to talk to the boss to allow blog space, write his own column, have a life and finally do the work necessary for the poetry chain site to be on line and to get us this far inside of a week! WHEW!
#2) no one wants to get in fights on thanksgiving weekend except heterosexual evangelist republicans(the gay ones have sex), drunks, finnicky pagan artists, raging bulldykes, hams and turkeys; so if a poet in the populist group did not sign up here to be the center of the bullseye , i totally understand. i have cried a few times this weekend, november 4,5,6,7... yesterday and today. okay i'm peri-menopausal, have pms, a poet and i worked in a ditch today with fig roots and boneless brown trout... the point is: let people be who they are. that is democracy, anarchy and slackerism all rolled into one. we are messy, free and want our civil rights! believe me: poets have guts. some people are working, traveling or with their families. I think some people did write but used aliases... live and let live.
#3) we love words. Some people are Rhodes scholars and have a place here too. there are poets who sell "real change" and could use understanding also. most of us are people who hover in the middle of those positions in life, but we are writing for them too. the main thing is: be true to yourself, write for yourself and to hell what anyone thinks of your writing! write because you love it and because you have to!
#4) btw joan baez was here on monday. she was a college dropout immediately. i don't think dylan went to school much either. some of our best writers put the world on paper as they see and feel it; as they live it and there is no formula.
#5) i read ginsberg's "howl" again this morning. that was written the year i was born.
#6)paul and bob and others,maybe we should all meet somewhere like caffee vita over the holidays or after. i think we will see that we aren't so different and we are onto something even greater than we could do alone or in "our" circle.
#7) reading and writing can free a person from the ghetto of their own mind. it has actually liberated people and whole nations like nothing else. viva le difference!
99
I grew up near Seattle but have been living in Massachusetts for the last 5 years. I am a poet, and teach creative writing at a university. I would love to move back to the Seattle area to be near my family, but the literary scene there seems terrifyingly provincial. And yes, I am aware that makes me sound like an elitist. The problem is that aside from The Beats, most Seattle poets only seem interested in reading themselves or their friends. Growing up and reading avidly through high school, I never heard of John Ashbery, John Berryman, or even St. John of the Cross. I heard a lot about Richard Hugo, though. I was under the impression that if you were writing poems, they should be a) Beat/Spoken Word or b) zen-like "deep" nature poems or c) about fading rural towns. Thank God City Lights published O'Hara's Lunch Poems and a copy worked its way into my 11th grade hands!

I am also aware that there are some exciting things happening in Seattle, not least of which is the continued existence of Open Books. Wave Books has been publishing a lot of interesting poets, as has Copper Canyon. Bird Dog is a very good literary journal, as is Hobart, which I think isn't based in Seattle anymore.

As for public poetry, check out the Ashbery Bridge in Minneapolis. There is a great essay about it by Eric Lorberer it in jubilat #13.

That's all, back to my life now. Please prove me wrong, Seattle, read some Eugene Ostashevsky and some Robin Schyff. I really like the way you smell, and the Gold Rush museum.
100
Hey Nunya,

Enough with the wankery already. Sheesh. Back off, or write something worth reading. Quit wasting our time.