Friday, December 11, 2009

The Age of Aberrancy & the Poètes moignons by Tod Slone

(Click to enlarge)

This is taken from Tod Slone's American Dissident site: you know you are doing something right when Slone attacks you....

As part of an ongoing experiment to test the waters of democracy, especially in the academic and literary arenas, notice of this blog entry was sent to each of the persons depicted in the above watercolor (see below). Will any of them dare comment? Likely not. Their shame is that they do not cherish, but rather scorn, vigorous debate, democracy’s cornerstone. Their shame, at least those in the teaching profession (Pinsky, Marchant, Houlihan, Wright, and Espada), is that they do not seek to expose their students to all points of view and all possibilities for inspiration with regards writing, including and especially dissidence and purposeful conflict with power. Their shame is their contentment that dissidents like me and others are kept out of their festivals, kept from public funding, and kept from the eye of youth. Their shame is that my freedom of expression and that of other American dissidents is being crushed at every corner. Some of them have even become millionaire professor poets. Indeed, how can one possibly expect raw, visceral truth from such persons?

The idea for the above watercolor brewed over several weeks time and was likely sparked by the probable clique connection existing between Joan Houlihan, Director of the Concord Poetry Center, Karen Wulf, Director of Pen New England, Joan Bertin, Director of the National Coalition against Censorship, and Fred Marchant, Director of the Suffolk University Poetry Center. Both Wulf and Houlihan operate from Lesley University (Cambridge, MA). Both Wulf and Bertin refuse to address the freedom of expression and censorship issues I’d brought to their attention. Why?

The only concrete explanation I could come up with was the clique. Marchant often reads paired with Houlihan. Then Charles Coe of the Massachusetts Cultural Council and Massachusetts Poetry Festival refuses to address my request to be invited to the latter. To that concoction, I added Doug Holder of Ibbetson Press, who interviewed Coe and didn’t seem upset at all that I was not invited to the Festival. Then, to fill out the picture, I added Robert Pinsky who received an award from Holder, Martin Espada of the University of Massachusetts for diversity’s sake, and Franz Wright of Brandeis University, who was invited by Houlihan to read.

Of course, many others could have been added to the picture. Duke University professor Gary Hull, Director of the Program on Values and Ethics in the Marketplace, for example, could have been added. He refused to respond to my emails requesting he place my signature, as editor of The American Dissident, on a petition he created to decry Yale University’s decision to censor cartoons. Has it perhaps gotten that bad that petitions are only open to certain categories of citizens?

In America, perhaps we are indeed now in the Age of Aberrancy, where censorship has become rampant and censors extolled as moderators of pre-approved bourgeois aesthetics. George Orwell would have gone nuts with so much material to write about!

In essence, the rancid odor of cliquishness characterizes the established-order academic/literary scene. Offend the clique and risk ostracizing. It’s quite that simple. What really concerns the clique is not literature per se and certainly not democracy, but rather the marketing of clique members and their books.

As noted in the watercolor, its idea was also inspired by Brueghel’s painting, “The Cripples” (or “The Beggars”) and Léo Ferré’s 1956 preface to "Poète...vos papiers !" (see In the quote, Ferré mentions that poets cut off their own wings, leaving just enough “moignon” (stump) so they may flutter about in the Literary Poultry Yard. He also mentions that we may expect little, if any, hope from poets of that sort

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