Thanks again for your reply and for the time you've taken to respond to my excessively long post.
Who DOES have the time for such things? I can only steal time to write what I do here or anywhere. I've chosen to pour my writing time into my posting and activity here . . . but I know few others would be willing to (or should) do so.
I write in no conventional style (I'm not saying it might not seem conventional); I am associated with no aesthetic movement; I've been influenced by no living poet. At least since Elizabeth Bishop died and I was too young then for that to count. (Hope this paragraph doesn't seem like flaunting creds; I'm not quite clear on where your line in the sand is on this particular question.)
Not at all. I don't want to draw a line in the sand . . . nor do I have much of a problem with "flaunting creds" in the service of example or anecdote. I am only suspicious of substituting creds for communication or engagement with others. And that is not relevant here.
It remains unclear to me whether or not an unaffiliated or dissenting poet can find approval and promotion through the PoBiz . . .
It's rare, but it happens. I can think of three people offhand. Not counting myself, since I'm still preoccupied about keeping my feet on the right side of the line of sand, lol.
Let's chuck the sand. I am satisfied with your gestures of good faith, and I have said my rah-rah bit about the good of the Foetry community. I think I CAN speak for all in saying that we are interested in your experiences and opinions . . . and are likely to agree with some opinions and disagree with others.
. . . I have absolutely no idea what Language Poetry is, have never managed to comprehend it, or fail to comprehend it, if that's what one is supposed to. But when questioned before about what it is, I go blank. Dull thousand-yard stare. And I have some answer at least for most questions.)
Yes, this is, I believe, the intended effect of LangPo . . . a pre-hypnotic suggestivity that the Pods hope will make the "initiate" more susceptible to the podding process. They like to follow this up with a propaganda stream.
Some, thankfully, are immune. Others get MFAs :twisted:.
Just teasing, you MFA-heads out there. We love you, too . . . but we're going to try to remove those chips from your heads.
However back to the original question. You have pointed out to me that people on Foetry are not a monolith, with the same experiences and opinions and credibility and responsibility. They are individuals: some thoughtful and smart and good writers, and others bitter and vitriolic and adolescent, as if this were a free-for-all newsgroup, rather than a serious attempt to make necessary reforms.
Well, I see at as both. Regrettably, the two have commingled in such a way that the reforming institution has become more sullied than I would have liked. I agree with you that this is a problem and a clear flaw of Foetry.com. This is something that we are trying to work on.
Our plan is to better differentiate the journalistic/reformist institution from the "free-for-all" of the forums discussions. We are at work on a mission statement, a set of proposed contest guidelines, an extensive FAQ of our "official positions", and a number of other things. But this process has only just begun, and we are radically understaffed. I'm afraid that we won't have this new face until the end of the summer.
I think that new face will be more in line with what you are suggesting. Our goal is to make Foetry transparent and to provide a fact-checked and fact-verifiable information source about poetry contests along with op-eds about the PoBiz and American poetry trends.
But I will reiterate that any "ugliness" that has emerged on the forums here is, I believe, the result of a grassroots coagulation of outrage and dissident opinions. An inevitability. I see it as raw material we can work with and transform rather than something to be ashamed of or repress.
Although my personal goal is not a more "polite" Foetry, it is a more credible one. But it is also my belief that increasing the credibility of Foetry is also likely to aggravate those in the PoBiz who have been behaving most unethically. That is, increased credibility means increased effectiveness.
We are not apologizing for growing out of outrage and frustration. I can't and don’t want to speak for all, but I, for one, feel no shame in being an unpoet . . . and will not have my barbarous ways conformed to "upper class" or establishment ideals. But this doesn't mean there is no honor or civilization among the barbarians.
We will grind away the burrs . . . but in the end, we will have more reach, more impact, cut more sharply. We will not be commodified or intimidated by the PoBiz. We will not be complicit.
I imagine well-established poets might be more willing to come out in favor of the good things Foetry has accomplished if parts of this site were less gleeful in their attacks on certain unfairly maligned poets and presses (and I'm not talking about the Iowa/Denver/Georgia triangle).
I agree. I know some have definitely attacked "foets" with glee. I won't condemn them for this, but it is not my "way" . . . and I hope, at least in this aspect, to be able to influence Foetry as an institution. I think such glee (though understandable) does nothing to further the goals of Foetry.com. Also, I'd like to see us become a consumer-advocate, not a foet-hunter.
I don't have a persecutory instinct. When I see people suffering, I want to help them . . . not dish out more suffering.
In my opinion, the so-called foets are not monsters, but weaklings, failures of Poetry itself, of the art, of their students, of their readers. We want to note them, but not dwell on them. We will dwell on reform and helping the disenfranchised.
Even the foets are pawns of the PoBiz. Like all of us (to some degree), they have been indoctrinated into a destructive mindset. They are victims of their own propaganda and flawed ideologies. They only have as much power over us as we choose to give them.
So, my belief is that they should be named publicly so an eye is kept on them . . . but they shouldn't be persecuted. The idea is not to give them any more undue power to harm others. Their belittlement serves no function . . . and in fact, can serve to re-institute their power by making them seem like victims. THEY are NOT the victims.
If innocent parties have been maligned, we will have to sort this out. I'm not aware of all of the cases of "foetic behavior" mentioned on the site, because almost all of them predate my joining. I believe Alan has given all the information required to verify his claims . . . and if there are situations in which this information was hard to access or split between multiple posts and forums and pages, we will do our best to reorganize it into easily intelligible, verifiable blocks of information.
And, again, we will separate our op-ed interjections from our information presentation.
Yeah, well, the situation of American art is grave, as is the situation of American public schools; if fact, the situation in America in general is grave. The notion that poetry should operate with a level playing field when virtually nothing else in this country does strikes me a bit naive. And what is a level playing field? After a certain level of competence, judging poetry is a matter of taste.
I also believe that the situation in America in general is grave . . . and that there is abundant injustice. But I don't see why this HAS to be the case . . . or why poetry HAS to also be unjust. I tend to think of injustice as the product of our ignorance and lack of engagement/participation with (and valuation of) others. There have always been more used than users . . . and the used are only as free and empowered as they are organized.
The goal of Foetry is to start organizing the disenfranchised community of unpoets and those poets who have grown disgusted with the PoBiz.
The "level playing field" is an ideal. I don't think there is much chance of ever achieving an absolutely "fairness" and meritocracy in American poetry. It's just not a characteristic of the human species. But better regulation and consumer-education can go a long way.
A desire for reform is not naive . . . to think such a thing would be absurdly cynical. Why go on living if all is doom, doom, doom? The expectation of a utopian state of poetry WOULD be naive . . . but who expects such a thing? I would say that the Foetry community tends to be on the cynical and suspicious side. There aren't a lot of starry-eyed kittens here. Most of us have quills and nasty dispositions and maybe some venom, to boot.
What WOULD be naive would be the expectation that, among the disenfranchised and disgusted, one is more likely to find naiveté and youthful hope for providence.
We are, I think, far beyond looking for providence. What we want to do is make a difference . . . because if people like us don't try, nobody will.
As for poetry judging being a matter of taste, there's no doubt about it. I find most differences of aesthetic opinion to be affectations (my own included). I don't think anyone expects their poetry submissions to evade the precepts of individual taste among judges, editors, and screeners.
I guess the hope is that regulation of contests could provide an entrant with a better idea of the actual odds of winning. Maybe any editorial tastes could be illuminated by making the contests more transparent. I do think that there is a consensus here that contests should not be subject to the ignorance of unqualified screeners.
The idea of "celebrity" judges is that we think we are more familiar with their tastes . . . but no one wants to be undermined by some kid screener who doesn't know poetics from petunias. Just as no one wants to be undermined because their credentials page has fewer lines on it than someone else’s.
The tastes of the judges and/or editors are acceptable criteria for fair competition, I think.
Whether any of our tastes in poetry have any validity, well, that's another matter entirely. Personally, I feel that our aesthetic tastes are only as valid as our arguments for them are sensible. There is no "good taste" beyond good argument.
If I've made the same point multiple times (and it can't have been that many, since I haven't posted here very much), it was in different threads in this forum. I certainly haven't read every thread on this forum and imagine, perhaps incorrectly, that possibly other people don't either.
If someone says, "Georgia was NEVER a contest," I'm going to argue that, because I know it's not true. Even if I'm repeating myself.
I have no gripe with this or anything you may have repeated. I thought I was responding to your own acknowledgment that you were repeating yourself (but no one was listening).
If I misunderstood or was out of line, I apologize.
Well, it doesn't feel harmless to newbies without hostile intentions (which I don't have). It feels like there's an amorphously defined party line one must follow, or you get blasted.
I'm sorry it feels this way. I never felt like this when I was a newbie, and I have always had significant disagreements with other members here . . . including a number of the core members of V.1 of Foetry. Some of them even, once or twice, sniped at me, but I never felt threatened. I merely fought back (as is my inclination).
If there is any respect for me here, it is due to my willingness to participate and my ability to write intelligently. Honestly, I don't expect to be evaluated by any other means. I am responsible for the way I present myself here and for all of my claims and theories.
I would have it no other way. This IS why I write.
I don't expect you to go back and read my ridiculous tonnage of previous posts, but I will (once again) reiterate that I have disagreed on numerous issues with other Foetry members . . . and I even think that I am quite atypical in my ideologies and aesthetics of the "average member" here.
But this community tolerates and even at times appreciates me and my participation . . . an experience utterly unlike those in all the other poetry groups I've been involved with. I can only commend them for tolerating where others have hated and ostracized.
And hard as it may be for the regulars on Foetry to believe, newbies have big problems about trusting people here. Not because they're hiding. But because this is an uneven site, that has pointed out unethical situations, but also taken shots at poets and presses who don't deserve it. I would never endorse Foetry because of that. OTOH I do endorse the light it's thrown on some unethical behavior and am glad changes were made because of that light.
I have seen this same sentiment expressed about Foetry on other blogs and websites. "Unevenness" is often the result of diversity. But still, you are correct in faulting us on tone (I remain uncertain about shots taken at undeserving poets . . . but that should be addressed on an issue by issue basis).
I hope we get to the point where others who feel as you do will feel more willing to endorse Foetry.com's mission AND means. And I hope we are able to achieve this without sacrificing anything essential to the cause or blunting our teeth. We have our work cut out for us . . . but I have faith that we'll pull it off.
In the meantime, I appreciate that you will take the time to post your opinions here even if you don't feel capable of fully endorsing Foetry.com. I wish there were more like you . . . because the alternative (as no similar site exists that I know of) is to accept and maybe even embrace PoBiz corruption.
That's the way I've seen it at least. Either I could try to counterbalance the gruff or destructive tendencies of Foetry in the only way I felt able (as an active member) or I could endorse the PoBiz and contest corruption. I saw these as my only viable alternatives. I was actually quite sad to see that few others saw it the same way. In their shoes, I would have felt complicit with the PoBiz . . . especially since I would have no influence over its dynamics or ideologies.
At Foetry, I had a voice. I had a chance to speak up and oppose certain things or to try to nudge the group in one direction or another. Again, the possibility to influence. Many of my posts over the last year and a bit have been sermons calling for change (within and without).
But, in the PoBiz, I would not have had an individual voice. I would have been silenced.
The decision was really quite easy to make . . . when seen in this light. The "right" thing to do was to stand with Foetry . . . even when I did not agree with everything it did or how it did these things. Again, it's community vs. club. Democracy vs. totalitarianism.
But I don't expect anyone else to see the moral issue the same way I do. I'm not going to extend into righteousness and judge others. And my suspicion is that many others who had the same initial impression of Foetry's tone and didn't do what I decided to do did not so much "fail morally" as they failed to thoroughly analyze the situation and think through the possibilities and repercussions.
Whatever the case, I don't hold it against them . . . and I even hope to encourage them to give us another shot.
Seems to me that if language, even language used on the internet is as important to you as you say it is, a certain civility would be important (and I'm not addressing this to you, since clearly you are capable of it), because it more often than not makes for more effective communication. If the goals of Foetry are to improve the ways in which poems are published, and to diminish, if not eliminate, unethical systems, those goals might be more readily accomplished if people coming to Foetry for the first or second or third time weren't so put off.
I agree with you. I do my best to be forgiving of those who "violate civility". Everyone is a valuable individual, and as long as they aren't sociopaths, they deserve some attention and respect. We all have personas and fronts . . . sometimes more so in our writing. I've never accepted that this is all there is to people. I've met plenty of people that are all thorns on the outside . . . but are deeply worth knowing if you can get beyond this.
I even think of myself as such a person . . . so I try to extend every courtesy.
I think our much-promised FAQ will help significantly. I do feel it is worth pointing out though that many newbies come in on the defensive based on what they had heard about Foetry or what they Googled or something. These folks don't always have a fair perspective. And, although I do my best to be gracious, we don't make a habit of wooing the people who are hell-bent on judging us unfairly.
I am as apologetic and deferent as anyone here, I think. By I don't stand for being abused (either overtly or subtextually). We can only be deodorized to a degree . . . beyond that, tolerance has to be mutual. And some of us have horns. Blame God.
contests and Jorie Graham et al? Just a thought. Accomplish one thing, or at least make a big difference in one thing, and move on to something else that might be helpful, while still keeping a watchful eye?
We are thinking alike . . . but the gears move slowly.
Perhaps focus more on ethical contests, receptive editors? Welcome information from poets who have some experience in this difficult pursuit? Help establish friendships between poets offline (difficult now, because this does not seem a safe place to expose one's self, even if one is not a foet)? Pair up older poets with young ones (and I'm not necessarily speaking chronologically here)? I don't know--I mean it's not my site, but perhaps some of the enormous energy here could be moved into something more positive.
These are all useful and appreciated suggestions. I can't predict what we will evolve into or how "positive" it will be. My current desire is for us to be credible and audible. But I DO see Foetry as an ever-evolving thing. We seek to adapt and grow and learn.