The editor of The American Dissident was not normally sought after for interviews. For evident reasons, one who fights the established order is not normally going to be one invited to be interviewed by the established order. I've had to bang on doors to get interviewed. That's expected...
1. The Barnstable Patriot 2011
2. The Camel Saloon 2010
3. The Counterpoise Interview 2007
4. The Concord Journal Front-Page Interview 2008
5. The Poesy Interview 2007
6. The Angry Poet Interview 2006
7. Midwest Book Review Interview 2005
The art of confrontation and free speech
by David Stills II, Editor of The Barnstable Patriot
April 8, 2011 edition. David Still II photo (see right)
ON THE OUTSIDE – Publisher G. Tod Slone of Barnstable Village holds his most recent edition of The American Dissident, which has Sturgis Library Director Lucy Loomis on the cover. Loomis previously declined an offer to add the publication to the library’s collection.
Pushing the bounds of acceptability at Sturgis library
G. Tod Slone is used to rejection. It’s an expectation that convinces him that those claiming support for free speech and thought are often the ones suppressing both.
He is the publisher and editor of The American Dissident, a nonprofit publication now based in Barnstable Village aimed at challenging the difference between what Americans say and what they do regarding free speech.
The publication is not only a collection of writings on the topic, but is often used as a means to test it as well.
The cover of the latest edition is a Slone-painted watercolor of Sturgis Library Director Lucy Loomis guarding “Checkpoint Lucy.”
Loomis declined Slone’s offer to subscribe to The American Dissident for the annual $20 cost and later declined to accept the donation of a subscription. She also wouldn’t allow an open letter to her from Slone on that decision to remain on the library’s bulletin board.
In his writings, he describes her as an “authoritarian gatekeeper.”
The collection development policy at Sturgis, as well as bulletin board postings, are at the discretion of the library director. Loomis said that the library’s board of trustees did not want to discuss Slone at this time, as it is reviewing a challenge of her decision.
“It’s the norm,” Slone said. “I’m not surprised by the rejection.”
Confronting people and institutions, particularly those for which free speech and thought are primary tenets, to deal with subject matter and presentations that may make them uncomfortable is a motivator for Slone’s writings and actions.
“That’s my art,” Slone said.
The comments in Slone’s piece regarding Sturgis Library captures some of that spirit: “Left-wing leaning bureaucrats tend to occupy our cultural and educational institutions from the National Endowment of the Arts to the state and local cultural councils, public libraries and colleges, especially in Massachusetts. They tend to be shamefully closed-minded and will not tolerate any criticism with their regard.”
Statements like that get him labeled as right wing, but he said that’s not the case. He said he tends to take on the left because there’s more hypocrisy to be found, but he’s “quite on the left” personally.
He’s aware that he and his methods can make people uncomfortable. He has had a “no trespass” order placed against him by a library north of Boston where he said he was only trying to sell a subscription. He said he was also relocated from his offices at Fitchburg State College, where he taught French and Spanish, because of complaints from other faculty members.
He has published The American Dissident about every six months since 1998, originally from his home in Concord. It’s a collection of poetry and opinion that runs the gamut from political commentary to his own accounts of his efforts to get the publication entered into different libraries and funded by art organizations.
In 2007 The American Dissident received tax exempt status as a 501C3 nonprofit. Slone hoped that would open the door to grant support. That hasn’t been the case.
An application to the National Endowment for the Arts was returned with a single sentence capturing the rejection: “The artistic merit of the publication is low; the design and readability of the publication is poor.”
He wishes the response offered more constructive comments. The NEA is included among the organizations Slone considers part of the problem.
Of hundreds of requests, Slone counts about 17 libraries among his subscribers, including, he said, Harvard and Yale universities and the public libraries in Concord, his previous hometown, Newton and Carlisle. He prints between 100 and 125 copies of each issue.
He also has the support of Endicott College Professor Daniel Sklar. In an e-mail exchange, Sklar said that he’s invited Slone to his creative writing and literature classes for many years, most recently on March 29.
“I include the publication in my teaching because I think students should read all kinds of poetry and criticism to help them find their own writing voice,” Sklar wrote. “I also feel that The American Dissident is an important publication in that it often reveals how narrow-minded and humorless many academics and writers and officials can be.”
He called Slone “a genuine voice for free speech and democracy.”
As the editor of The American Dissident, Slone is in a position to reject the work of others and does. He said that usually it’s because there’s no personal stake in what’s written.
As with what he considered his art, which is personal and direct and in person, the pieces he tends to reject aren’t close enough to the authors.
“It’s so easy to make a general statement,” Slone said.
He explained that people need to be willing and in a position to deal with the consequences of what they say. As such, comments about a national issue from an uninvolved observer will often be rejected.
He plans to present The American Dissident to the Cape’s other libraries. He’s already received a rejection from the Yarmouth Port Library.
The next test for Slone is whether the Sturgis Library will allow him to present his artwork in the fall. He requested the opportunity to display his watercolors in a show at the library, which was granted for September. He plans to include the original watercolor of Loomis.
Loomis said that he remains on the schedule for his exhibit.
More information can be found at www.theamericandissident.org.
P. Maudit: The Exhibition
About the Artist
In Person - Questions for G. Tod Slone
by Christi Kochifos Caceres
G. Tod Slone is the founder and editor of The American Dissident, a 501 c3 nonprofit journal of literature, democracy, and dissidence. He holds a PhD from a French university and is a professor of English and foreign languages and a published (and unpublished) author. He lives in Concord, Massachusetts. His exhibit of critical cartoons can be seen at The Camel Saloon - http://thecamelsaloon.blogspot.com/.
How would you begin your day if you had no obligations or obstacles?
Oh, that’s a good one, isn’t it. Probably as I do everyday. But if I were completely free? I’d fly to the island of Anticosti or better yet travel around the perimeter of Iceland.
What is your drink of choice?
Red wine, vin rouge, vino tinto. And Calvados – and the one from the south of France…pastis.
Do you have a favorite food?
Smoked herring. I’m eating that now - mostly for health. Oh, and marcassin – wild baby boar. I haven’t had that for years.
What is your best time of day?
When the day is over; and it’s time for a laptop DVD, a glass of wine.
What do you wish you did not have to do?
Work. And die. I’ve had a thing about death for years. And as an atheist, death obnubilates any purpose. But I don’t want to depress you.
What touches you most deeply?
I guess vast expanses of the planet without human dwellings. Like you see up north. Newfoundland and Labrador.
What films or books and writers do you love?
My favorite film – Affliction with Nick Nolte. It’s a wonderful film; you have to see it.
Ironweed. The British film, Naked. I like dark. Books – Voyage au bout de la nuit, by Céline. Writers - Thoreau, Solzhenitsyn, Ibsen, Orwell, Pierre Falardeau, the poet, Raymond Lévesque. And I’m currently reading a somewhat unique novel auf Deutsch by Nobel Prize winner (2009) Herta Müller called Atemschaukel.
Where do you find inspiration?
January 1st I wrote something on that – I keep a journal. “It is overcast outside, I hunt for a quote on positivity…” I’m inspired by crap. I had an inspiration for a cartoon that day based on a quote by Kevin Larimer – “When inspired you are an inspiration.” But I turned it into a negative.
Which of your relatives or ancestors do you most relate to and why?
I don’t have a close family. I always liked my mother. She wrote too and she probably influenced me indirectly.
Who has influenced your life most profoundly?
Situations rather than people influence me. Direct encounters with corruption in colleges and universities (e.g., Elmira College and Fitchburg State College) have been a great source of creativity for me. Good writers like those mentioned above confirm my negative observations, rather than influence me.
What would you change about yourself if you could do it by just snapping your fingers?
Age. And second, my bankbook. I’m not discontent. People think I’m an angry person – I’m not, I’m critical. But we’re living in a very positivist world. Barbara Ehrenreich writes about this in Bright-Sided.
What do you consider to be your gift?
Rude truth telling… in a society that shuns it. I borrow the term from Emerson.
How do you think your therapist would sum you up in one sentence?
He would say, “Take these!” I always get to hear the negative things from my woman friend… I don’t know if I should tell you what they are.
What bugs you the most about other people?
I’m a pretty sensitive person. I pick up on things that maybe others don’t. I think, the unfriendliness of many people, their cocooning with just family or a very small circle of people. I hate the generation gaps. I want to speak with young people and old people, not simply people my age.
What helps you feel balanced in your life?
Probably a good three quarters of a liter of red wine. And running, physical exercise.
What will be the title of your biography?
Maybe, The Poet. But I don’t like poets, or poetry. The Dissident… or Furious Contention. The widow of poet Robert Creeley called me “furious” last year, so I borrow the word from her.
What question have I not asked that you would like to answer?
That’s a tough one. Why do I question and challenge when so many others don’t?
There’s a question for you.
Do you have an answer for that?
Yes, brushes with corruption and the ability to extrapolate those brushes. Most people, when they witness corruption, do not extrapolate. The 60’s leave me dumbfounded. Whatever happened to the 60’s? It just dissolved, out of the blue. My stuff comes from working in academia, which wasn’t at all what I’d expected. Instead of encouraged vigorous debate and criticism, I found conformity, obsequiousness, and careerism. What a sad discovery.
The Poete Maudit
G. Tod Slone paints above the signature of P. Maudit, a name derived from the French tradition of the poete maudit, usually translated as the accursed poet. According to the common story, the poete maudit chooses to live a life deliberately outside or in active opposition to accepted society. In one romantic version, the poete maudit abuses drugs and alcohol, adopts a criminal path, becomes violent, goes insane, and escapes the detested world with an early death. The term has been applied to Villon, Baudelaire, Verlaine and Rimbaud.
The Maudit of this exhibition is a different man. Drugs and alcohol do not fuel him; he is not a criminal and does not endorse violence; his sanity is not in question; and he did not die young. Now in his early sixties, he continues to follow an academic life with remarkable commitments to free speech, democracy and poetry. As editor for over a decade of The American Dissident, Slone uncompromisingly provides a forum to certainly dozens, and more probably hundreds, of poets whose voices have been refused and rejected by a literary establishment that hypocritically abandons those who best embody service to the Muse: the seeking and speaking of the hard truth.
It is not a pose. Slone relentlessly insists that a poet must face his or her self in the coldest of mirrors. Within that mirror is the question the poet sees only in the reflection of his or her own eyes in the unforgiving light, the question of the veracity of the poet’s work. Slone doesn’t have the answers, only the questions. And, in his guise of P. Maudit, Slone’s got plenty of those. Has the poet who has written 4,000 poems ever written a single one? Does the laureate lose the mantle of poet when he or she accepts an honor bestowed by an establishment deliberately blind to truth telling? What value does the poet find in Pushcart nominations, pages of publishing credits, acceptance by The New Yorker? Is the poet serving the Muse, or the Ego? Does the poem challenge the powers that be? More than anything else, is the poem honest?
It is to these questions that Slone devotes himself—in life, by pen, and through color and brush. He holds himself to the same challenge of silver and glass that he asks of others, and he’s paid a price or two for it. For anyone claiming the title of Poet, the artwork presented here will create an opening for a rededication of our work to the Craft. Anyone else can quit claim to the deed.
The Camel Saloon
Literature, Dissidence, and Democracy: An Artist’s Statement
Tough criticism in the form of art and literature regarding today's academic/literary established order has become taboo in America. Inevitably, those belonging to that order will demean it as "sour grapes," as if art and literature were only permitted to consist of laudanum-injected sweet grapes. Ubiquitous laudation, omnipresent hagiography, panegyric, eulogy, homage, praise, and tribute— whatever one chooses to call it—have all but smothered vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy, in the artistic milieu. Indeed, take a peek inside the doors of any university. How many professors dare "go upright and vital, and speak the rude in all ways" (Emerson). My experience as a professor indicates that very, very few do.
In America, painting is rarely ever critical and socio-politically engaged. Watercolor paintings are perhaps never thusly. So, why not break the matrix of dictated esthetics? "Sour grapes'"? Pour on the vinegar!
Actual people (real names!) are rarely if ever targeted. Yet naming names is an excellent form of quality control. Almost always I depict real people and send my depictions to those people. Too many cartoonists do not do that, which is why their cartoons tend to be PG syndicated. Too many risk nothing at all, not even the ire of other cartoonists.
Take, for example, famous Sixties radical cartoonist CRUMB. What does he risk? The only risk he’s ever taken is to offend puritans with his sex toons. Yet sex as a subject is diversionary entertainment. It doesn’t hammer the corrupt at all. It only keeps the people entertained.
I like what French journalist Martin Leprince wrote: «Ils aiment se présenter comme des trublions pour mieux se vendre, mais sont finalement des artistes frileux qui pratiquent l'autocensure et exploitent un humour qui se fait sur des chemins balisés. La rectitude politique qui a envahi nos sociétés a aussi poli cette sphère de la culture.»
I’ll translate : « They [cartoonists] like to present themselves as trouble-makers in order to sell better, but are really nothing but fearful artists who practice self-censorship and exploit humor that has become acceptable on pre-tested venues. PC, which has invaded our society, has also polished that area of culture.”
If there is a lie in my satire, it is up to the target to stand up and let me know about it. I’m more than open to correct myself. To date, however, not one of my bull’s eyes has found a lie. I do not lie. I do not need to corrupt the words of poets and artists. Their words denounce themselves!
As my old friend Juvenal once wrote: "Difficile est saturam non scribere, nam quis iniquae / tam patiens urbis...?" [In times like these it is difficult not to write satire.] Thus, I sketch satire because in times like these too it is difficult not to write it. My targets tend to be overstuffed academics, poets of the innocuous, hippie and Beatnik sellouts, journalists of the chamber of commerce, and others for whom free speech and courage to speak one's mind ought to be the prime motivating concern, instead of a dead carcass in the back of the bus.
For a couple of years, I've been a book reviewer for Counterpoise for Social Responsibilities, Liberty, and Dissent. Leila Adams, its editor, suggested the interview, which appeared in the Nov/Dec 2007 issue, which appeared in May 2008. For me, it was astonishing to see the issue, a tribute in a sense to my long uphill battle against the machine. It was astonishing to see my face on the front cover.
"Poet against the Machine"
George Slone is the founding editor of The American Dissident and one of Counterpoise’s dedicated reviewers.
I received your most recent issue of The American Dissident in the mail yesterday and despite a few cartoons and writings that went over my head, I was overall refreshed by the level of realness at which you and your contributing writers expressed themselves. Could you explain more about your literary journal and its purpose?
The American Dissident was created in 1998 as a direct result of the corruption I experienced first-hand at Fitchburg State College (MA) as a professor. After teaching four years, my case went into arbitration, and I was awarded a year’s salary, which I’m not supposed to mention, even though FSC is a public institution! Unlike Florida and other states, Massachusetts has no FOI law. That is her shame. That is what protects corruption-as-usual in the state. The college never admitted wrong. Do they ever?
I tried to interest the student newspaper, local newspaper, and Boston Globe… over and over. The case went on for half a year. None of them would publish my story on corruption. Hell, I was even evicted from McKay campus and could face charges even today if I were to step foot there. Yet I have no record of violence whatsoever! So, it was the corruption and the refusal of the press to cover it that got me truly angered… and turned me into a dissident.
What I did is what most don’t do when wronged. I extrapolated. In other words, I didn’t simply focus on my little problem, but opened up, and realized intellectual corruption was perhaps widespread in the nation’s colleges and universities. Thus, The American Dissident was born. Also, I became an autodidactic cartoonist in order to illustrate the journal.
Its focus is critical writing. It does not seek to publish part-time or armchair dissidents. In other words, it will not publish a poem or essay written by a university professor critical of Bush. How facile! How utterly risk-less! And, yes, I do get plenty of such poem submissions. I always respond, requesting the professor in question send something critical of his department and/or university. Rarely, if ever, do I receive further communication.
The AD provides a forum for, amongst other things, examining the dark (corrupt) side of the Academic/Literary Industrial Complex. It has also reintroduced an old concept, parrhesiastes, into poetry. Rarely, if ever, does it receive poems of this nature. Parrhesiastes were citizens in Ancient Greece who dared criticize power. They risked death. The AD does not ask poets to risk death, not even job, for that matter. But it does ask that their poems risk something… perhaps the ire of the poet community, invitations, grants, publications, sabbaticals. But rare are the poets who would do that. And because of that I find myself publishing too many poems that do not risk. If I didn’t, The AD would have to fold.
At this point in my life, I make it a point to risk job. Hell, one only lives once, why not live in the truth! As an example, at my last job at an all black university, Grambling State, I made it a point to periodically submit to the student paper essays likely to risk the ire of my colleagues and administrators. A number of those essays were published, including one that questioned the legality of religious prayer at all faculty meetings. After all, this was a public university! Only two professors ever responded to my essays, none in the student paper. Students responded. What I do now is ask myself what I should not write about… then kick myself in the ass and write it… and kick myself a bigger one and send it off for publication. Every writer and poet knows what they shouldn’t criticize in public… and sadly most refrain from doing so.
That is one reason why American writing has gotten so bad. This week I am going to solo protest in front of the Concord Poetry Center for two reasons: 1. Joan Houlihan, the director, stated to me several years ago: “The idea of your teaching a workshop or delivering a lecture on the art of literary protest or poetry protest, or simply protest (Concord is where it all started!) occurred to me even before you mentioned it. So, yes, it’s something I will consider as we progress (this is only our first event). However, I must say I don’t favor having you teach at the center if you protest the reading.” Needless to say, I chose protest over a lecture possibility! Needless to say, I have yet to be invited to the Center, even though I live in the town and publish a lit journal in the town. 2. Emerson stated: “I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names.” The Center only invites name-brand poets to speak.
I see that the market for your journal and your mission is very small, but at the same time you occupy an important space in our society. In The American Dissident, you publish poems and writings that criticize and question the institutions that the writers intimately interact with on a daily basis. I agree that that individual risk is important, rather than people, like some university professors you suggested, aiming their criticism at distant and therefore safe targets, i.e. the Bush administration. At the same time, if professors don’t aim their arrows at the Bush administration, then who will?
A mix is necessary: lambaste Bush, definitely (and let’s not forget Hillary and all the other fraudulent politicos with their clown-like smiles), BUT ALSO lambaste that university feeding you, that is, if you’re a professor. Universities—probably all of them—are rife with intellectual corruption. How does a grown man or woman remain silent in the face of egregious, intellectual dishonesty and gross breaches in logic? I don’t know—I don’t know how to remain silent… and I like to think it’s because I’m a poet, BUT I’ve known far too many poets, so know better. The example I like to evoke regarding risk-taking and the professorate is what happened this year: Fifty-two weekly columns were published by a tenured professor in the News-Star (Monroe, LA), praising/glorifying ULM, his university. Not one professor at ULM dared write one counter column, critical of that university. So, I fought tooth and nail to convince the reluctant newspaper editor to permit me one critical column (see News-Star).
Universities today have been co-opted by the “corporation.” Their fundamental purpose seems to be GROWTH… and keeping the clientele happy! The lingo used is the same as that used in corporate America; for example, team playing, classroom management, and assessment outcomes. Some even refer to students as clients. And indeed a professor must keep the client happy… or find another job! “Collegiality” is a term appearing in nearly every job ad for professors today. I have yet to see the word “truth” in such a job ad. Isn’t that aberrant? In other words, professors today are being hired on their proven ability to “fit in” (certified by three letters of recommendation!) to a team or department (i.e., to be collegial). And one does not (can not) fit in, if one tends to have a critical mind and a little courage to express oneself. Professors are not being hired because of their proven ability to muster the courage to openly speak or write truth, as well as to instigate vigorous debate, make waves, go against the grain and otherwise rock the boat! That is the real shame of higher education today.
This year, while employed at Grambling State University, I wrote and published a criticism of that university in the student newspaper. What would be the most “risky” thing for me to write about regarding it? Religion, of course! GSU is a historically black university (HBCU) with religious roots and was once private. BUT today it is public, part of the Louisiana state university system… and still has religious prayer séances during faculty meetings and other events. I also published in the paper a satirical cartoon on the subject. “Dr. Slone, you really have balls!” said Kellen, one of my students, hitting the bull’s-eye without realizing it. Indeed, why should it take balls to criticize at a PUBLIC university? That, in a nutshell, is the problem with today’s universities.
The risk for a university professor to criticize BUSH is zero… unless you happen to be a professor at Oral Roberts University or some such other institution.
Sometimes you appear to be racist, like when critiquing Grambling State University or characterizing Bennett College as ‘an entirely un-diverse, highly pampered and indoctrinated student body of black women only,’ and further smashing the African American icon, Maya Angelou, by deeming her a ‘poet-cook-greeting-card-saleswoman-millionaire trustee… who boasts on her website that she is ‘a remarkable Renaissance woman who is hailed as one of the great voices of contemporary literature.’ You further state that ‘she is the kind of bland, pompous personage the corporate folks (and PBS) like to put on TV now and then, as well as on greeting cards.” Do you ever feel you should express more empathy towards African Americans, especially a community that has struggled just to get a positive person in the media, a community that is constantly kept down and whose greatest leaders of the twentieth century have been assassinated (Look out Obama!). Do you ever critique yourself and question your own perception when judging this community and wonder whether or not you’re being considerate of cross-cultural differences? On the other hand, as a dissident what good do you feel you are doing by bringing attention to the binding ideologies that have originated years ago in AME churches and in other Protestant institutions long before then, and have since bound the minds and actions of African Americans?
As for appearing racist, that is not a concern for me at all. I know who I am. People can call me whatever they like… and people have. But let’s not forget that name calling is an easy way out: shoot the messenger to avoid dealing with his message!
My only concern is truth and reality. Labeling someone racist today is an ad hominem. In other words, calling the guy racist somehow enables one to dismiss all of his arguments, no matter how logical or truthful. It is a despicable way to avoid truth. CNN’s Lou Dobbs, for example, has been called racist because he is against illegal immigration, which is beneficial to corporations greedy for cheap labor, the corrupt Mexican government which doesn’t seem to give a damn about its citizens, and harmful to American wages.
Keep in mind that the only two institutions of higher learning that would hire me over the past decade were black (i.e., HBCUs)… and that says a lot. In other words, white liberal professors don’t want to teach at such institutions because the pay is generally lower and the student populace less academically inclined. That’s the reality. Call it racist if you like. But that is the only thing that can explain how I, a professor apt to criticize openly, got hired.
What I did find at both HBCUs is that black professors and black administrators were no different than their white homologues regarding spinelessness, bureaucrat mentality, fixation on career, disinterest in truth, and general incuriosity. Now, how can you label that racist? Is that not egalitarian?
The diversity mantra in higher education today has all but replaced truth seeking and truth speaking. Sadly, diversity not of ideas but of superficial skin color is being pushed. Speech codes have become rampant in higher education, even though they tend to conflict with First Amendment rights. The codes seek to enforce that students (and faculty) avoid offending at all costs, including the cost of truth and vigorous debate, a cornerstone of any thriving democracy. What I criticized at Bennett College was the president’s constant use of the term diversity itself at an institution that was exclusively composed of all black women. How can such an institution possibly be considered diverse, even in the most deranged minds?
As for my “smashing the African American icon, Maya Angelou,” are not common citizens like you and I permitted to question and challenge (i.e., “smash”) holier-than-thou icons? You will notice on my website that I “smash” many more white male icons than black ones! So, how does that make me a racist? If I didn’t “smash” black icons at all, then you could logically consider me a racist who hates whites. Anybody who boasts about themselves on their websites, I will likely criticize, black or white. Self-vaunting and backslapping in the ranks of the professor-poet herd has become grotesquely widespread and unchecked. Thus, I make it a point to “check,” whenever possible. Angelou sells Hallmark greeting cards, like it or not! She is as corporate-friendly as it gets, which is Hallmark selected her and why I made that statement. I don’t give a damn if she’s white, black, or Latino! But can a poet get any lower than Hallmark verse, especially one who doesn’t even need the money?
By the way, make certain to read the wonderful “smashing” Wanda Coleman, a black poet, gives to the black icon Angelou (see Coleman). Coleman got hell for it. But she didn’t care. Her interest, like mine, is truth seeking and truth telling, not the blind worship of icons. What is shameful about higher education today is precisely that: Professors seek to indoctrinate students in the blind worship of persons they’ve chosen to mold into icons.
If I were to express “more empathy towards African Americans” today, I would be doing “them” a disservice. Equality does not mean more. I seek to treat African Americans as equal, nothing more and nothing less. Besides the Coleman essay, other black writers are featured on The American Dissident website, including Frederick Douglass, James Baldwin, and Kenule Saro-Wiwa. Would a racist do that? Do you have the capacity to perceive “racist” as a trait of some black citizens? If not, I strongly urge you to teach at an all black university and/or live in Louisiana for a year or two.
The worst thing for you or anyone else is to consider the black population as intellectually monolithic. And it seems to me you are doing precisely that. You cannot logically and realistically view all black people as “a community that is constantly kept down.” That very viewpoint (i.e., the victimization mold) in itself serves to keep black people down. It also serves to buffer (from criticism) multimillionaire pro-capitalist blacks, including Oprah, Cosby, Powell, Rice, Jordan, and Angelou, to name but a few.
As an individual, I make it a point not to treat all blacks as a monolithic community, something you seem to be erroneously, if not “racistically,” doing, and I suspect your politically-correct, indoctrinated college professors are responsible for it.
Clearly, I am against the placing of a particular segment of the population in a protective-status cocoon. If I were to refrain from criticizing black people because it is politically incorrect to do so, I would be a racist and responsible for trying to keep black citizens in psychic jails. What journalist Pete Hamill wrote is particularly insightful: “Today, we too often find Americans whose essential slogan is, “I’m offended, therefore I am.” […] If you reduce yourself to some sociological category instead of being fully human, you will also be building your own little ‘psychic jail.’”
By the way, you failed to mention the cartoon I sketched depicting Bennett College students as obese. A black female correspondent brought it to my attention this year because she thought it was racist. Yet how should I have depicted my largely obese black female students, as thin models? Just the same, she was unable to comprehend the purpose of the cartoon, which was clearly to criticize the black female college president’s decision to support the local black male Krispie Kreme franchise owner by leading her obese black female students on a two-block weekly walk down to buy donuts. Diabetes kills. That president didn’t seem to give a damn. But I did.
As for your last question, I am an ardent atheist. Religion counters logic and reason, which is why it does not belong in higher education. I do hope that you will rethink your placing of all blacks into one category, as in my purported “bringing attention to the binding ideologies that have originated years ago in AME churches and in other Protestant institutions long before then, and are now binding the minds and actions of African Americans?” Black atheists exist! Blacks have managed to take those mind-binders off! And I say bravo to them for having the courage and intelligence to do so! Let us not forget that Protestantism was imposed on black slaves.
I agree with what you’re saying, I just hesitate to judge the black community because there seems to be a racial dynamic/solidarity that I do not feel I have the right to interrupt. But after what you have said, I feel a well-guided interruption is probably warranted, and perhaps even a social responsibility.
The racial solidarity you mention works against the individual conscience, which is too bad for the citizen who wants to be an individual, as opposed to a group member. I’d sure hate to have to haul around the thought-baggage of “my people” all the time. Personally, I don’t feel I have a “people.” Most whites do not have that as baggage, as compared to blacks, Native Americans, and now Latinos. However, Latinos in Mexico, of course, don’t have the “my people” thing as baggage either. But think differently from the black mold and you’ll be called an Uncle Tom or sellout to one’s people. That’s how it works. The leaders of the black community, of course, profit immensely from propagating the false idea of a monolithic black community.
Again, truth guides me, not concern about interrupting this dynamic or that dynamic. Think of the Soviet dynamic and how anyone who dared behave as an individual was automatically placed into a gulag prison… and labeled a counterrevolutionary. How convenient! It is akin to calling me racist! The very same dynamic is at play, which is why we must force ourselves to question and challenge all dynamics, including those that appear to be beneficial.
What I like most about AD is that you publish correspondence, like the one we are having now, at the end of your journal, pages of emails between you and professors at universities, members of poet societies, etc. debating censorship, the corruption of universities, and other sensitive issues. Your truth-telling upsets and offends some, while others appreciate your insights. What are the outcomes of these debates? Do you ever see anything good materialize out of them?
Your question on whether or not anything good materializes out of my purposeful conflicts with power, as illustrated in the ample literary letters section of The AD, is a good and difficult one. How to define good, for example? Much more often than not, nothing tangibly good results at all, though I do obtain most of my creative work from such conflict, including poems, essays, cartoons, and even a handful of autobiographical novels. Almost everything I do creatively stems from it. Also, I like to believe that people used to positive feedback, when suddenly confronted with negative feedback, might actually stop and think for a moment. In that sense, something good must inevitably stem from my purposeful conflicts.
By the way, two English professors have used The AD in their classes. One invited me to speak at one of his classes. What those professors appreciated more than anything else was my constant questioning and challenging of all things. They’d like their students to do the same. But why only two out of the scores and scores of English professors I’ve been in “touch” with?
Much more often than not, people I’ve criticized prefer truncating debate almost immediately. That refusal of vigorous debate by the seeming immense majority of academics and poets is the key conclusion resulting from my diverse conflicts. And since vigorous debate is a necessity for any thriving democracy, the absence of it must indicate something other than democracy is at play.
Speaking of the distribution of your journal, how might you be able to partner with librarians (the bulk of our readership) and other individuals to help get your journal into more reader's hands? Didn't you mention at one point that a librarian put together an exhibit on dissidence and included your journal in it? Do you ever get invited to speak at university or public libraries?
Good question on distribution. I wasn’t expecting that one. BTW, the AD received 501 c3 nonprofit status last May (costs about $500), making it eligible for NEA grants. I have applied. Some literary journals get thousands of dollars from the NEA. Threepenny Review, for example, received $30K in one year! Oddly, the Massachusetts Cultural Council will not fund literary journals with annual budgets less than $10K. The AD budget is about $1K.
From perusing many, many literary journals, it seems The American Dissident is quite unique in its contrarian stance and constant—seemingly in vain, especially regarding the academic/literary milieu—search for and instigation of vigorous debate, cornerstone of any thriving democracy. Trying to build a library subscriber-base has been very difficult and disappointing, though libraries of Harvard U, Brown U, Buffalo U, U of Wisconsin, and U of Michigan are now subscribers. Concord Free Public Library, Lincoln Parish Public Library, and New York Public Library are also subscribers. But it’s taken me 10 years to get those libraries. Compare that with Threepenny Review, for example, which boasts over 150 library subscribers! I have knocked on many doors. I even sent out to about 50 libraries with special collections and had no luck at all… Not even one response! As an alumnus, I can’t even get Northeastern University or Middlebury College libraries to subscribe. Grambling State University wouldn’t subscribe, even though I was teaching there. In fact, the English Department was entirely indifferent to The AD.
Local libraries prove the most frustrating to deal with. They stock plenty of Dummy and Idiot books, and then tell me they don’t think their patrons would be interested in something like The American Dissident. So, what does that say about what they think about their patrons? Another librarian told me they only buy periodicals from their distributor. Excuses abound. I’ve even had difficulty obtaining permission from librarians to hang a simple flyer on their public bulletin boards. Pre-approved speech is not free speech. Librarians need to understand and ought to take a good look at the Library Bill of Rights of the American Library Association. I put it on The AD website a long time ago (www.theamericandissident.org/Library.html). Right #4 stipulates “Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.” The librarians I’ve come into contact with, for the most part, do not abide by that “right,” nor do they by “right” #3: “Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.”
Many public libraries have adjunct associations of essentially bourgeois/business oriented-people who control events that take place at the library. They call themselves “Friends of the XXX Public Library.” I’ve tried dealing with the one in Concord, which simply refuses to respond to my concerns. The Concord Festival of Authors, which takes place at the library, refuses to inform me what criteria it uses in selecting its chosen authors, has yet to invite me and, unlike most of the authors selected, I actually live and write in Concord! In fact, the Concord Poetry Center also has yet to invite me.
Actually, it wasn’t a librarian who invited me to set up a display on The AD as part of the exhibit on dissidence to be held at the Tsongas Museum (Lowell, MA) this winter, but Director of Marketing & Public Relations for The Thoreau Society. I’d been “battling” with the latter regarding its utter indifference to my concerns of lack of free speech at Walden Pond et al for over a decade. Finally, it has opened up a tad. Persistence!
Not one library has ever invited me to speak. Only one university professor has ever invited me to speak, and that was Dan Sklar at Endicott College (MA) several weeks ago. It was a wonderful opportunity. I enjoyed it thoroughly. Students were very receptive and had great questions to ask. Each had a copy of The AD. Frequently, I challenge English professors by email, responding to their job adverts, not “collegially” but “truthfully.” Almost never do they respond to my challenge. The great shame of higher education today is its prioritizing of “collegiality” over “truth” and vigorous debate. Professors also send submissions to The AD, but never critical of their immediate milieu. My recent response to the director of the writing center at one university was the following:
“What to say about your poems? They are absolutely RISKLESS in nature, clones of so many unoriginal poems written by so many unoriginal academic poets. Why not forge poems as weapons against the festering corruption at Ohio State University (e.g., against your corporate-model colleagues, who call themselves professors and poets), instead of simply closing your eyes to it, so you may continue filling your pockets and FITTING IN and being COLLEGIAL? Why not become a poet warrior, as opposed to a careerist, tenured, professor-poet toady? Why not step out on to the edge naked and “go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all ways? (Emerson). Do you even realize how common and ineffective you probably are as director of a writing center, director of a multitude of writing beavers and beaverettes? Do you even realize the damage you do to your students and our democracy? Well, I’m certain mine are wasted words, but if you can bear this harsh criticism, read the guidelines, and please try again.”
To my surprise (professor poets almost never respond to my critique), the director (Doug Ramspeck) actually responded:
“Thank you for taking the time to write such a refreshingly honest (however scathing) rejection note to the poems I sent you. You surely have a point that I have slanted my poems toward the academic to try to "fit in." You state your case in a more extreme way than I accept (and I do like some academic poetry a great deal, including, for example, Edward Hirsch), but I don't think your words were wasted (you implied they probably were). And although I suspect I am unlikely to produce the kind of work you are looking for, your note accomplished something that rejections don't usually accomplish: I've spent much of the day thinking about it. Best Wishes, Doug Ramspeck, The Ohio State University at Lima, Director of the Beavers and Beaverettes at the Writing Center.”
Unfortunately, the director will likely continue on his merry monetary way as director of the Beavers and Beaverettes.
I'm sure your "purposeful conflicts with power" have incited others to censor you. When is the last time you were censored and by who?
As for censorship, I’ve been censored right and left. Hell, I spent a day in a Concord jail cell for expressing myself in public. Academic literary journals refuse to publish anything dissident I write and submit (see www.theamericandissident.org/ColdPassion.htm). The Concord Chamber of Commerce refuses to permit me to stock The AD in its Concord Visitor’s Center next to other journals and books. NewPages.com, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Poetry Foundation, amongst others, refuse to list The AD with other journals in their listings.
But most recently, this past summer and to my sincere surprise, the Academy of American Poets censored me, that is to say, removed all of my entries and responses to my entries from its online forums and banned me from participating in future forums. What had I done? Had I promoted sex with children like one of its members, Alan Ginsberg, had done? Not at all! Had I used any prohibited four-letter words? Not at all! Had I threatened anybody? Not physically, but no doubt intellectually! And that was the problem. For the full transcript (fortunately, I saved it prior to its erasure) et al, see www.theamericandissident.org/AcademyAmericanPoets.htm.
To date, not one AAP staff member has responded to my complaints of censorship. Not even Professor Poet Gary Snyder, AAP Chancellor, has deigned to respond. In fact, I devised a literary questionnaire, including several questions regarding censorship, sent it out to over 130 “high end” literary journals, including Poetry, Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, and others so often found on the shelves of public libraries. Only one editor filled out the questionnaire and responded he would not contest my being censored by the AAP. In a sense, I was and am still outraged by the deafening silence and indifference…
Since you compared the subscription base of your journal to that of Threepenny Review, do you think more libraries would subscribe to your journal if you had more book reviews and made the journal more into a literary review journal on poetry and the like? In it, you and others could write the unique reviews that you have written for Counterpoise. That way, librarians could use your journal more as a tool for beefing up their collection rather than depending on others to like your journal and stock it on their shelves.
From what I’ve seen, The AD is different from the bulk of literary journals in that it actually has a definite focus (i.e., Literature, Dissidence, Parrhesiastes, and Democracy), as opposed to mere poetry for the sake of poetry (as in l’art pour l’art). A principle part of that focus is its encouragement and active seeking of vigorous, no-holds-barred debate with your so-called scholarly literary journals, editors, professors, librarians, and poets, nearly all of whom shamefully discourage such debate, preferring to live in comfortable scholarly cocoons of rampant self-congratulations and backslapping, where few dare question and challenge that modus operandi. By the way, such individuals need to be constantly reminded that vigorous debate is in fact a highly pertinent cornerstone of any thriving democracy.
The uniqueness alone of The AD ought to interest librarians. But I think the journal’s title alone turns so many of them off, for librarians tend not to be much different from the bulk citizen herd, which tends to be hyper-patriotic and scorn protest and dissidence. Or in the case of the bulk liberal herd, librarians tend to be equally orthodox and inflexible (e.g., one cannot possibly be a liberal, if one doesn't have the audacity to criticize liberals). Several times, for example, I’ve solo protested in front of the local poetry center’s bourgeois poetry gatherings and have been amazed to witness grown adults manifest dumbfounded surprise at my protest. “How can anyone possibly protest poetry?” several of them asked bewildered. That seems to be the general attitude. For some reason, the scholarly bourgeois mentality has deemed poetry off-limits to hardcore protest and criticism. Perhaps that is what is rendering it increasingly uninteresting and disengaged (read my review of Best American Poetry to see the kind of poetry the established order considers “best”).
In any case, The AD will never alter itself in an effort to get more subscriptions… or grant money. Turning it into a review journal on poetry is not what I would want to do, for most poetry is boringly predictable, if not unreadable. But including more reviews is certainly an option.
By the way, it might be interesting to note why I write reviews. I write them because I consider them a valid literary genre, if not essay, close to it. In fact, they more or less serve as another platform for me to get my ideas on paper and out there. I also write them in direct opposition to the general two-thumbs-up review writer, rampant in the nation. Thus, I do not write them like many academics… to add to the resume.
Well I must say that I highly disagree with your general characterization of librarians as “hyper-patriotic citizens” who “scorn protest and dissidence” and who are “equally orthodox and inflexible” as the “bulk citizen herd.” I know different types of librarians. Some are activists, socially conscious of the world at an advanced level, open-minded and concerned about the state of the environment, the state of technological warfare, and several other issues that only citizens living outside the herd would care about. Others, however, are perhaps some of those that you have come across – rich, older bourgeois intellects who only care about appearances. But these are only the 10 librarians that I have in mind, and just like you can’t “consider the black population as intellectually monolithic,” you also do a disservice to librarians and yourself by characterizing them in the same manner.
You note: “Well I must say that I highly disagree with your general characterization of librarians as “hyper-patriotic citizens” who “scorn protest and dissidence” and who are “equally orthodox and inflexible” as the “bulk citizen herd.”
Hmm. I too think that statement is a bit too much. I’m not proud of it. Let me back off from it. Show me I’m wrong with a little reason and logic, as you did, and I will be eager to back off from a statement and apologize and correct it. Hell, I don’t know that many librarians out there to make such a statement; besides, I have met several good ones. So, please excuse me on it. The librarians I was thinking of are the handful of librarians I’ve approached around here, though even around here, two have subscribed. The University librarians simply tend not to respond to my queries, though a handful have subscribed. Thanks for challenging me on that one.
Now I have one more question – what do you think about the upcoming election? Have you watched any of the candidate debates? Do you even think the president has much affect on managing the country anymore? Because I tend to think corporations - insurance companies and other big businesses who act above the law and to the disinterest of the people - have more control and power than the president. In other words, shouldn't we be more worried about the next corporate merger than the next president?
What do I think about the election? Wow. I’m not quite sure where to start. I’ve always liked Nader. In fact, he’s the only one I’ve ever liked and voted for. But he’s not in the race this time around. I liked Nader’s open anti-corporate-grip on politics stance. To me that is the key… to democracy or not to democracy. I was against Gore because I wanted regime change and an end to the smooth Bubba talk. Now, I’d probably get off my butt and vote, if GORE stood up and became a candidate, though I don’t think we expect too too much from him, as a lifer politician. Evidently, we must get rid of Bush and the war, both of which are destroying the nation perhaps irrevocably. Just wrote a poem on the situation last week. It doesn’t risk anything, just tells it as I see it.
Bleakness on the Brink
While the dollar plummets, the
deficit soars, and inflation knocks
the pants off of most of us, we
continue waging wars; oil grows
scarcer, its price steadily rising;
and our wealthy compatriots don’t
give a damn, for cheap labor
over the southern border
While health care soars in price,
CEOs babble on about free trade,
corporate-style “democracy” rules,
Mexican cartels take over our
China purchases our infrastructure,
journalists push celebrity and wealth;
yes, while all of that,
so many of us don’t have
jobs or health insurance
While we suffer the last days of
Bush, Cheney, and Condoleezza,
helplessly we follow the new generation
of famed power mongers—Giuliani
and Romney thinking we actually want
more of the same, Hillary pondering
her days as a hippie, playing it safe,
neutral, and light-hearted and, of course,
Obama talking about getting tough,
while only seeking revival in faith…
As for Hillary, no thanks. I’ve read too much about her; besides, she’s sucking up corporate dollars like everyone else and seems as dishonest as it gets and can’t give a no or yes to a simple answer… like the rest of them. Of the known bunch running, I’d have to go for Edwards but he hasn’t come out with an anti-corporate stance, and we both know corporations want to transform the nation into a third-world nation via NAFTA and their new behind-the-scenes negotiations. Alas, our presidents are only corporate puppets. Yours is a statement worth quoting: “In other words, shouldn't we be more worried about the next corporate merger than the next president?” What an interesting concept!
It is difficult for me not to perceive America as a great experiment, not in democracy, but in commerce. For me, America isn’t a country, it’s a big business—sell, sell, sell—and that’s why she doesn’t give a damn about my not having health insurance and my being put out of work at a public university by a Mongolian with a green card who, of course, would never ever criticize that public university. Good functionaries are prized in America, you see, not good citizens apt to “go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all ways” (Emerson) and let their lives “be a counterfriction to stop the machine” (Thoreau), the rampant commerce machine that steamrolls over everything. America is indeed quite colorblind when it comes to good functionaries!
We have got to stop indoctrinating future citizens to focus on wealth and celebrity, if ever we hope to resolve the problem of the nation as runaway conglomerate commerce. We have got to say no to CEO Vice Presidents like Cheney. We need to establish core curriculum in all public schools and universities devoted to the ideals of democracy, free speech, and vigorous debate, not to politically-correct thought control. Race is not the issue!Diversity has become a convenient diversion away from the real issues of great-wealth discrepancy and corporate control over the nation. Black wealth exists! We all know that. But Black wealth does not fight corporate wealth: It is corporate wealth! We need to stop according tenure to certified professor kowtows of the system. Many of our universities have gone politically-correct whacko, probably because of that very reason (see thefire.org for a list of institutions gone whacko like the University of Delaware, for example). Yes, education is the only answer, but not that offered by our increasingly corporate-co-opted public universities bent on creating fit-in functionaries and bureaucrats, as opposed to courageous questioning and challenging citizens. Our public university professors and other educationists need to stop playing monkey-do, monkey-see. They need to rethink the requisite three letters of recommendation that only serve to create faculties of like-minded, see-no-evil, hear-no-evil professors. How can democracy possibly thrive with such creatures at the helm of higher education? It cannot and has not.
This interview was on the front page.
Concord — G. Tod Slone calls conflict his muse.
“I think I’m different than most because I write mostly from conflict,” said Slone, a writer, critic and watercolor cartoonist. “Conflict makes me think, makes me question, makes me challenge.”
Conflicts, both local and national, inspired many of the watercolors Slone, the founding editor of Concord-based literary journal “The American Dissident,” is presenting this month in the Concord Free Public Library’s art gallery in an exhibit titled “Literature, Democracy and Dissidence.”
The watercolors, with prevailing themes of literature, democracy and dissidence, depict scenes of Slone’s struggles with local and national organizations, and of a sansepoir, or “no hope,” theater showcasing political puppets waving in a way that suggests fascist undertones.
“The things I do tend to be critical in nature,” said Slone, an occasionally confrontational advocate of free speech. He is pointedly disapproving of “the herd,” which he says worships wealth, celebrity and job-security, and therefore accepts self-censorship above the principles of democracy.
Slone is especially perturbed by what he perceives as a lack of support for his work — and, by turn, for free speech — in Concord, a town that embraces with open arms homegrown dissidents Emerson and Thoreau.
“To me, that is mind-boggling,” Slone said Monday surrounded by his watercolors in the art gallery. “Even at this library, you can’t have a flyer on the bulletin board unless it is pre-approved and has to do with an event.”
One local cartoon shows Slone standing against a tree with a sign proclaiming “No Free Speech at Walden Pond” around his neck, while being questioned by two police officers. Another is of the Emerson Umbrella for the Arts sheltering itself from Emerson’s words, which in the watercolor rain down onto an umbrella.
Slone said he has been disallowed to post flyers for “The American Dissident” at places like Walden Pond and the visitors center downtown. His books and journal have been kept from the shelves of many local libraries and bookstores, Slone said.
The Concord Chamber of Commerce controls the visitors center, and Chamber Director Stephanie Stillman said the center is focused on providing information for tourists and helping them find locations and events in town, as opposed to serving as a vestibule for promoting political views or individual agendas.
“We suggested he approach the book stores in town, because he has a publication, or that the library might be interested in promoting a local author,” Stillman said.
And they were.
Library Director Barbara Powell said the library “played it right by the books, as libraries always should,” and brought Slone before the jury charged with selecting artists to host the gallery. Slone’s published books are also available in the library’s Concord author collection, she added.
“It’s not any particular largesse on our part,” Powell said. “It’s not anything other than the library treating him no differently than anybody else.”
Slone’s exhibit also includes “Transcendental Trinkets” like four open letters to Henry David Thoreau and four broadsides waxing on Walden Pond State Reservation and other topics.
Vigorous debate and free speech are cornerstones of democracy, according to Slone, a former hippie and sometimes college professor. He said his colleagues favor job security over truth and subsequently shun debate in academe and in the poetry milieu.
“That’s why I have a forum for vigorous debate,” Slone said about “The American Dissident,” the literary journal he started in 1998 because of his problems getting published while a professor at Fitchburg State College.
He said the title is an oxymoron, as dissidence is a term Americans generally reserve for Russian, or Chinese malcontents.
“In my view, a poet ought to be, above everything else, a truth teller, rather than a networker, prize-winner or whatever; someone who tells the truth. I think if poets were more like that, people would look up to poets,” he said. “But today, it’s rarely, if ever, like that. I think poets to tell the truth have to take a risk. They’ve got to risk here and there. They’ve got to risk their career as a poet, for example; risk getting an invitation at this university or that. Or even possibly risk their job as a college professor.”
Poesy magazine is partly edited by Doug Holder, with whom I've battled over the past decade. So, it was surprising to me that Doug eventually softened to the idea that his co-editor Brian Morrissey interview me. I'd also battled with Brian. All I've really sought has been an openness in the literary milieu to alternative ideas and, for that matter, poetry. Both Doug and Brian should be commended for their openness.
Unedited Poesy Magazine Interview
Question #1: What is the mission of AD? It seems your role is a revolution against the establishment of poetry. Are you trying to cut the fat off excessive contemporary poetry to get to the meat of it all, the “rude truth?” It seems to me that the “rude truth” in your eyes equates to struggle, grim reality and anger. Can a poet be constructive if they tend to lean toward the positive notions of life and refrain from shaking it up? Who are the “Happy Idiots?”
Response: The mission of AD is to provide a forum for no-holds-barred criticism of the Academic/Literary Industrial Complex, which includes established-order poetry, other writing, poets, other writers, editors, publishers, literary journals, professors, educationists, and journalists, as well as established-order canon idols and works. It seeks also to promote risk-taking on the part of poets, writers, journalists, and professors. In other words, all writers know precisely what they should not write about, that is, if they wish to further their careers as writers and be “successful.” (Of course, being “successful” usually implies concluding a Faustian Pact, where one trades the freedom to “go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all ways” (Emerson) for fame, money, publications, tenure, invitations, speaking engagements—you name it.
The AD thus seeks to promote writers who will consciously write about what they know they should not. It would also like to promote whistle-blowers by publishing their accounts.
As for a “revolution against the establishment of poetry,” I do not harbor such illusions of grandeur and doubt very much AD will change anything at all. Corporate interests are much too powerful. They have been alarmingly successful at co-opting poetry. Consider Poetry Foundation with its $200 million-dollar corporate gift. It has business managers on its board and spends $1 million annually on Poetry magazine’s website alone! Compare that to the 27 dollars spent annually by AD on its website. Millions of dollars will certainly succeed in changing the very face of poetry. It is in the interests of Big Business to render poetry a safe diversion. Big Business does not want American citizens to think. Instead, it wants to keep them entertained.
In academe, the situation is equally bad. As an example, I publish caustic essays in the student newspaper critical of the university—yes, the one currently employing me. Students have said, in a nice way, that I am “crazy” and “have balls.” That’s indicative of just how sad things have become regarding democracy in America and especially in higher education, where one would expect caustic critique and debate not to be unusual. But professors are functionaries (not good citizens) and their students are being bred to become functionaries (not good citizens)… and functionaries do not by nature speak out, they function.
As for cutting “the fat off,” I am really trying to sensitize the established-order (and often that means using a sledgehammer) regarding its implicit ban on critical poetry. We need to examine and decry the close ties binding state cultural councils (that fund poetry) with state chamber of commerce organizations. National Poetry Month, which also receives plenty of corporate dollars, promotes precisely the kind of poetry Big Business wants. Simply examine last year’s NPM poster. The verse is so inoffensive and innocuous that I find it quite offensive and don’t give a damn who wrote it. The copy of the poster I got off the Internet is so small I can’t see the names of the poets who wrote the following: “She sang/ Beyond/ The genius/ Of the sea,” “Body/ My house/ My horse/ My hound,” “The waves/ Are running/ In verses/ This fine/ Morning./ Please come/ Flying,” “What thou lovest well remains,/ The rest is dross,” “I wake,/ To sleep/ And take my/ Waking slow.” The tone is happy-face in each of the verses on that poster. Po ets & Writers, Inc. is another organization that receives plenty of funding and is adamant against hardcore critique. It will not publish any critique I send it.
As a poet, I do not believe that the subject matter of poetry should be restricted. I do not argue all poetry should be critical. I simply argue critical poetry ought to be considered as a viable possibility and be permitted in the agora of literature. It is rare to find a critical poem, especially of the poetry establishment, in an establishment literary journal… and those are the journals that get the publicity. In other words, for the established order, such poetry is essentially not permissible and not publishable. It will probably deem it offensive. Today, labeling a “rude truth” to be offensive constitutes an easy way to bury it. Civility is the big word today, not truth.
Regarding “rude truth,” you suggest “struggle, grim reality and anger.” Yes, that sounds good. But for me, it is especially Emerson’s meaning where in reality “rude truth” constitutes a pleonasm. In other words, if the truth is not rude, it is probably not worth writing about. The “rude truth” is precisely that truth every writer knows he shouldn’t write about because if he does he knows damn well he’ll get grief for doing so. We need to encourage writers therefore to step out on to the “rude truth” edge and write about the experience.
I’m not sure poets are necessarily “constructive,” nor if being “constructive” ought to necessarily be a poet’s responsibility or goal. I like to visualize the poet as an ideal—a man or woman who dares speak “rude truth,” where others don’t. Of course, the reality of today’s poet is anything but that. If a poet actually speaks “rude truth,” other poets will likely either ignore him or seek to diminish him by calling him names like Mr. Truth or Mr. Dissident or some other inanity. Poets need not risk their lives in America . Under Stalin in the USSR , they did and some were murdered. So, in America , to speak the “rude truth” is almost never life-threatening. When one does not speak the “rude truth,” one not only diminishes democracy, but also diminishes oneself and ones dignity as a human being.
You’d have to give me the context for “Happy Idiots” before I can respond to that question.
Question #2: [Morrisey says, “Forget the “happy idiots” part of the question, it is a bit off the subject. I read it in some correspondence with someone on your website. No problem. Although we may not always see things eye to eye, I think you have an interesting approach and addition to the poetry world.”]
This is an interesting perspective. Can a poem be successful in your eyes if is not critically proclaiming any rude truth? Do you ever find it hard to be artistically inspired by constantly taking a constant critical approach to your poetry? I would think that the satisfaction from speaking the rude truth would eventually dissolve into a negative outlook on the world and lead into depression. Depression is a lonely road to writer’s block for myself.
Response: By rude truth, I mean truth spoken to someone likely to feel uncomfortable upon hearing (reading) it. Poetry is of course wide open, so yes to your question. My tastes just happen to be rather restricted to poetry that has something to say, if possible, refreshingly rude. What I am asking is that the established order open its doors to “rude truth” poetry and critique.
A unique beautiful place like the Labrador coast, for example, or conflict with others generally inspire me. I do write poems on nature and my travels.
As for the world, I certainly do have a very negative outlook on its human part. At times, since I do not believe in angels and a hereafter, I do get depressed… by the very futility of the fight and of writing poetry itself. Depression strikes me sometimes too when intelligent people respond to argument with name-calling, as opposed to logical counter-argument. Sadly, the name-calling, non-argument reaction of intelligent poets, editors, and professors is alarmingly frequent. Nature—beautiful sunshine, mellow breeze, ocean expanse—will usually extirpate me from the gloom… or even a good movie or book. Now and then a publication will raise my spirits too… your interview, for example! As for writer’s block, I am against the very concept because it implies forcing what ought not to be forced. Too many writers force daily quantity production. I only write when inspired.
Question #3: Do you find the rude truth is a vehicle for inspiration because you feel there is a lack of raw emotion in poetry? Or in editorial approaches? Is too much poetry glossed over with images workshopped so much that no raw emotion is left?
Response: Yes, to your question. Certainly, far too much poetry is contrived… as in I think I’ll try to write a poem now… or okay class, your assignment is to write a poem on your grandfather. It is important to have passion as a fuel. Passion does not only occur when one meets someone new and ones sexual impulses are titilated. It can also result from first-hand experience/observation of injustice and corruption. The corruption I witness in the literary milieu, for example, often brings my blood to a boil. That I witness on the job in the university does the same.
Question #4: [Slone suggests: “Since we're at it (and I have read today's question yet), I do hope we can somehow integrate the following into the interview, since it is a key point in my thinking and writing: the Faustian pact so many poets, no doubt the vast majority, make with the established-order literary milieu that dispenses teaching positions, prizes, grants, letters of recommendation, speaking engagements, etc. One cannot be a poet laureate, for example, and be a “rude truth” speaker and writer. If one pleases the bulk poet herd, one has to be doing something wrong! Recently, I challenged a poet/editor/tenured professor that he indeed had to have made a Faustian pact, one in which he traded part of his human dignity (i.e., being able to speak and write the “rude truth”) for life-time job security.
He did not (how could he have?) fully deny this, though did attempt a lame rationalization as in I’ll fight the system from inside and some people move slower than others. One cannot be a “rude truth” poet and be tenured in a university. That would be an oxymoron.
Another part of my thinking is that poets tend to push a certain poet myth, an aggrandizement of the poet. It is the old romantic view of the poet. I’m all for this “larger” vision, which is why I insist the poet, perhaps more than anyone else in society, ought to “go upright and vital, and speak rude truth in all ways” (Emerson). Unfortunately, it is my experience that the average poet does anything but that… just like average professor.”]
I know we talked some about the poem you wrote, “Villon died for his verse…”, but are you fighting the same fight as Villon, for the injustice of man? Is the outing of literary corruption as important as Villon’s quest? You find your inspiration in critical analysis of high powered literati, but are there any writers or editors today publishing poetry comparable to Villon, and Whitman who lived and died for the word?
Response: Villon fought for justice and freedom… especially his own. He risked his life by openly criticizing in verse the high clergy of Paris . I’m not big on Whitman. He was much too positive, which explains why he became so big in the USA . I critiqued his 1855 “Preface” in an essay, the canon bearers refuse to publish. Whitman states: “Of all nations, the United States with veins full of poetical stuff most need poets and will doubtless have the greatest and use them the greatest.” Regarding the need for poets, America does indeed need them, but not more of the tie-and-jacketed tenured emeritus variety with letters of recommendation from dubious college deans. My fight is the very same as Villon’s; that is, to openly criticize the corrupt. I am fighting to open the doors of the literary agora of ideas and debate. Currently, little or no debate at all occurs between the university gate holders and others. No criticism from others is permitted through their gates, especially if critical of those gate holders.
If Villon were alive today, let’s hope he’d be doing what I’m doing: fighting for free speech and criticizing those gate holders who determine what poetry is and what it is not, who want poetry to sell like burgers and those eating it to feel good, complacent and comfy… just like the poets writing it.
Although as editor, I stay clear of orthodox poets, right or left, I do publish Villonesque writers though usually post-mortem and from other countries ( Russia , Cuba , Quebec ). Nevertheless, the corruption is so thick in America —in all her institutions—that risk-taking poets inevitably must arise and do exist here and now. But sadly they are few.
Question #5: [Morrisey notes, “Below kind of answers my question for what types of corruption you are up against: ...“the Faustian pact so many poets, no doubt the vast majority, make with the established-order literary milieu that dispenses teaching positions, prizes, grants, letters of recommendation, speaking engagements, etc. One cannot be a poet laureate, for example, and be a “rude truth” speaker and writer. If one pleases the bulk poet herd, one has to be doing something wrong! Recently, I challenged a poet/editor/tenured professor that he indeed had to have made a Faustian pact, one in which he traded part of his human dignity (i.e., being able to speak and write the “rude truth”) for life-time job security.
He did not (how could he have?) fully deny this, though did attempt a lame rationalization as in I’ll fight the system from inside and some people move slower than others. One cannot be a “rude truth” poet and be tenured in a university. That would be an oxymoron.
Another part of my thinking is that poets tend to push a certain poet myth, an aggrandizement of the poet. It is the old romantic view of the poet. I’m all for this “larger” vision, which is why I insist the poet, perhaps more than anyone else in society, ought to “go upright and vital, and speak rude truth in all ways” (Emerson). Unfortunately, it is my experience that the average poet does anything but that… just like average professor.”
Morrisey notes: “I will add it to the beginning of your answer to question #5. Does this sound like a good approach to working it in?”]
I would think that poetry, of all circles, would not be corrupt. Aside from the POETRY FOUNDATION, is there really all that much to debate about in poetry to fixate on it as a focus for inspiration? Most poets and editors usually stick together and rarely search for the corruption under the desks of fellow editors and poet because we are a dying breed of artists who support each other so poetry does not fade out of society all together. I am not looking forward to a “Slam Poet” nation. No one that I know of, besides vanity presses, is making any money off poetry. How much harmful corruption is really going on? Can you give me some examples of any major battles you have had with a poets or editors? If you are going after the tenured emeritus variety, why waste time with recognized poets and editors in the small press (i.e. Brian Morrisey, Doug Holder, A.D. Winans, Todd Moore, etc.)? What do you hope to achieve with these battles? To expose any hidden literary corruption or change the approach to portray poetry in a light similar to the way Villon might see it?
Response: One would have hoped that poetry, of all circles, would not be corrupt. But the reality is that poets tend to be average Joes, compelled not by truth, but rather by fitting in, loyalty, climbing the ladder, enticements, etc. Intellectual corruption in the milieu perturbs me and that includes rampant backslapping, self-congratulations, cronyism, toadying, idol worship, turning a blind eye, careerism, fame-seeking, and all the other things that serve to diminish truth and counter the natural questioning-and-challenging of the intellect. You mention supporting each other; well I have found little support from the established order of poets and poetry. The likes of Christian Wiman, C. D. Wright, and Franz Wright, for example, would never climb off their high horses to dialogue with a fellow poet like me because I am an unknown dissident. At different times, face-to-face, I confronted, not violently, both Wrights, who both simply refused dialogue. In person, they are little people. Franz, with coterie, chuckled like a schoolboy when he had to pass me, a protester, at his reading in Concord . BTW, I also consider as a type of corruption, those who would form, for example, literary societies around the likes of rude-truth writers Thoreau, Emerson, Orwell, and Villon, while at the same time not dare speak or write rude truth and even mock anybody daring to do so.
The “harmful corruption” of poetry is taking place today and on an increasingly large scale thanks to corporate and public monies. The money evidently serves to promote poets and poetry not apt to criticize it or society. It serves to give voice… and to prevent voice. It serves to castrate poetry, render it a mere entertainment, and keep it apolitical and diversionary. We have politicians playing actors today, though bit roles. I predict soon we’ll have politicians playing poets too… or better yet, poets playing politicians. Perhaps you want to rethink poets not as a “dying breed of artists,” but rather as an oddly proliferating one. I too am not thrilled with “slam,” because it is so horrendously cliche and image uber alles… just like rap music and rap attire and the whole idiotic rap scene… multimillionaire rap poets parading around as ghetto thugs, bellowing niggah this, niggah that!
Well, unlike you, I can think of many poets rolling in the dough, from Pinsky to Collins to Giovanni to Angelou to Wright to Hass to Ferlinghetti to Codrescu. In fact, most any poet sitting in a tenured professor’s chair will be doing just fine financially, a number of them making over $100,000 a year.
As far as “battles” with poets and editors, I’ve had so many, and they’ve almost all ended up the same way, as if those poets and editors had all taken the same MFA course in how to deal with uncomfortable truths and criticism: they ignore the critique put forth, resort to name-calling (egotist, bitter, angry, etc.) and otherwise seek to kill the messenger. Rarely do they resort to intelligent counter-argumentation. Now and then, some of them actually like my ideas, are tempted to publish them, but inevitably come to realize that they themselves are the herd-member functionaries I criticize. I’ve had battles with ContemporaryPoetryReview.com, Briar Cliff Review, Alehouse Press, Turnrow, Chronicle of Higher Education, Divide, Georgia Review, Foetry.com, Stone Soup Poets, NewPages.com and, as you well know, Poesy (so bravo to you for not being a grudge-holder and even more so for desiring to open the gates of the agora of discussion to different voices, even negative ones).
As for Holder, Winans, Moore, and others, I am not “going after” them per se, but rather after the poetry they tend to push (exclusively) and/or the things they say in their writing. To seek to render poetry polite and/or fun entertainment (a la National Poetry Month) constitutes a grave disservice, if not insult, to all those poets who’ve suffered for not keeping poetry in that grain, including Villon and the scores of Soviet gulag poets. It would be nice to think that maybe by “going after,” I might be able to instigate thought, though I’m doubtful, for it is next to impossible to make a poet functionary realize he or she is precisely that. So, I do not really hope to accomplish anything with the exception of maintaining my own dignity by striving to speak rude truth. As Wole Soyinka rightfully noted, “criticism, like charity, starts at home.” Thus, I start at home… and poetry is my home. As for Villon, I do not claim or wish to be his inheritor, even though he is certainly to be admired because he did risk. I am my own person and would much prefer to be considered a loose canon (yes, let’s spell that with one ‘n’!).
Question #6: [Morrisey notes, “These are great answers. I doubt I can cut very much out either because it is all vital to the conversation. I think this will be a good interview. I am not sure how much more I can fit in (I like keeping the mag at 16 pages). Let me digest it for a day and see if there is anything else I want to ask you.”] [Slone notes, “Yes, I think the interview is/was very good. I've thoroughly enjoyed it. We didn’t get to the origins of my dissidence, though I fully understand we can’t do everything and you do have page restrictions like everyone else. Did we get to the crux? The crux:
The doors of the agora tend to remain shut to me as a dissident because I criticize the gatekeepers of the agora. Dee p down the gatekeepers know just how vulnerable they are to criticism. For example, I dared criticize NewPages.com for listing only those lit magazines it deemed good. NewPages therefore shut the door in my face. The question must be posed: Why do literati hate criticism so much and why are they so ineffectual responding to it? Why do they denigrate critique and dialogue? “Anyway, i'm always open to criticism and dialogue,” wrote Todd Moore. Then after a very short exchange, where I questioned and challenged him and the outlaw thing, he truncated dialogue with “Now, all I really care about is working the poem.” Go figure, as my ma says.]
So adhering to the characterization of a dissident, are you a dissident of America? Or just American Poetry? How did you evolve into a dissident?
Response: Sure, I’m a dissident of all things American, though with a specialty, if you will, in poetry and academe. For me, America is not a country. It is a business. It is not a democracy, but rather an oligarchy. I was in college in the late 60s/early 70s, but was really just a conformist hippie like everyone else—the long hair, music, dope, and all the other look-alike, sound-alike inanity. My dissidence really started as a professor at Elmira College (NY) in the late 80s, where I began writing essays and poems against administrators and fellow professors for the student newspaper, which in a sense selected me as dissident of the year. (see student newspaper articles at www.theamericandissident.org/ElmiraCollege.htm) It was there where I made the sad discovery that students were clients, while professors, salesmen who had to keep their clients happy… or look for another job. Quite naively, I’d thought academe was supposed to be a place where questioning and challenging were current, not taboo. Of course, I brought that to the attention of the college. Prior to that experience I attempted to write poetry a la Bukowski. Later, I found the same kind of intellectual corruption—outright administrative/professorial prevarication, image distortion, cronyism, backslapping, self-congratulating, and cowardice—at Fitchburg State College (MA), my next “job.” Since the student, local, and state press (Boston Globe and Boston Review) proved entirely indifferent and uninterested in my accounts of public-college corruption, I ended up creating The American Dissident in 1998. My “case” at Fitchburg went to arbitration, which ended up in my winning a monetary settlement that shamefully I am not permitted to divulge. Years later I could still be arrested for stepping foot on the college campus, despite the fact that I threatened nobody. The arbitration transcript is not available to me or anyone else, though I was able to get one page of it. That page is revealing of the nonsense that goes on behind closed doors. It is the account of a Harvard lawyer grilling me over my use of a French TV ad on rum in my class of adult students (see http://www.theamericandissident.org/FSCRum.html). He was essentially accusing me of trying to push rum on the students (killing the messenger!). In the late 90s I became more involved in poetry and came to conclude that corruption was also perhaps rampant in that milieu. Stone Soup Poets in Cambridge , for example, proved quite closed to my kind of dissidence (criticism of poets and the milieu). In fact, its president, Jack Powers (I believe Doug Holder was present during the discussion), wanted to censor one of my books, Fuck Massachusetts !, which I had on the small-press table during the Jack Kerouac Festival in Lowell . On another occasion, I was protesting the lack of free speech at, of all places, Walden Pond . Stone Soupers and other poets walked by me and my protest sign in complete indifference. On an earlier occasion, I’d been arrested and incarcerated in Concord for having a non-violent argument with a park ranger. No poets wanted to hear about any of this. Still later, in Quebec , I’d been invited and paid (a free hotel room for 10 days plus an $800 stipend) to read my French poetry at its international poetry festival. Out of 150 invited paid poets from around the world, I was the only one who dared criticize the festival management right in front of its snouts. And for doing so, I became the “star” of the festival… and, of course, was never invited back… but I knew damn well what I was doing. I was willing to sacrifice future paid invitations to write and read poetry on precisely what I knew damn well I shouldn’t. And to me, that is precisely what a poet should do: know the taboos and write about them!
[Slone suggests, “Here’s a quote that might be of interest for the interview because it is the crux of the interview: “It would be a great service to students [and poets!] if it was explained to them when they begin college that, although politeness may be nice, it is of miniscule importance as compared to robust discussion.”—Greg Lukianoff, Constitutional lawyer and President of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, www.thefire.org. Again, you’re the boss, use what you think would be best.”]
The following is an interview by Brent Brooks, editor of TheAngryPoet.Com. Brooks contacted me for the interview, not vice versa.
the creative process
a question and answer session with author G. Tod Slone
date and place of birth: 7.30.48 new rochelle, ny
irl name: G. Tod Slone
web page: http://theamericandissident.org
his jones: dissent
question: what drives you to express yourself creatively?
answer: Good question. I am creatively driven, almost entirely, by the intellectual corruption and intellectual cowardice of others--colleagues, literati, etc. I have what is called a Socratic daemon in my innards. That daemon compels me to speak out when I know I shouldn't. That speaking out becomes my creativity and vice versa.
question: what made you a radical?
answer: The 60s started me off, but I really first became "radical" as an individual (as opposed to a hippie herd member) in the late 80s when tasting first-hand intellectual corruption and cowardice as a new professor at Elmira College in upstate New York. There, the deans were and probably still are corrupt, while the colleagues cowards. It was there where I first began writing dissident poetry and essays. It was there where I first took "professional" risks.
question: what is your beef with Martin Espada?
answer: I really don't have anything special against him in particular. However, he is a minor celebrity literati and tenured professor. In other words, to get where he is, he had to play the suck-up game and bend his ideals if he had any to begin with. That's my beef against him and all those like him. Any tenured professor, even so-called tenured radicals, has to do that at one point during his or her precious career. Also, I lost a little more respect for him when I protested C.D. Wright's receiving of the Robert Creeley Prize last year in Acton, MA. He was the ceremony's Chief Literary Backslapper (CLB). He should have come outside, like his wife did, and dispute the points I'd made in the flyer I was handing out. Some radical he is. Never heard a word from him--hell, it might have hurt his precious poesy CAREER if he'd approached me. I detest that kind of backslapping! It's ubiquitous in academe and in literature. He should be ashamed of himself for engaging in it.
question: what is orthodoxy in relation to the arts?
answer: Good question. Orthodoxy in general is anything not bucking the system and questioning and challenging it. Orthodoxy in the arts is accepting something because others say you should accept it. "Success" in the arts depends absolutely on conforming and not criticizing. Because THEY say the Beatniks are great, then they must be great. If a mega-wealthy non-artist bitch like Peggy Guggenheim says Jackson Pollock is great, then he must be great. It's fairly simple. That's orthodoxy. And orthodoxy must inevitably come into conflict with TRUTH.
question: what are its affects on the arts community
answer: Widespread kowtowing, conformity, banality, and lack of creation on the edge are its affects. Money often plays a huge role in the corrupting effects of orthodoxy. Generally, anything critical of the accepted canon is automatically omitted, ostracized, and murdered.
question: if you had to single out one individual who has distorted the artist's obligation to his/her audience, who would that one individual be?
answer: Martin Espada! No, I'm joking of course. I can't single out one because in doing so, I'd be minimizing the responsibility of all the other corruptors. In general, I'd have to say 99% (perhaps more!) of all the US and state Poet Laureates, prize-winning poets (Pulitzers, Push-the-carts, Nobels) , McArthur and Guggenheim fellows, NEA, NEH and state cultural council grant recipients, and poets invited to speak at college graduation ceremonies.
question: in your columbine article you wrote about the happy culture,what can writers and artists do to shake up the culture of happy idiots.
answer: It is wonderful if a dissident manages to shake anything up at all. However, that is not the goal of the dissident. The dissident's goal is to "go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all ways" (Emerson). Protest is always good. Get your asses out there and protest the LOCAL arts events. It's too damn easy to protest against Bush. There's no risk at all in it. Feel the fear when you stand alone at some local poesy event, handing out flyers. Feed creatively from that fear! Stand in the faces of the HAPPY IDIOTS. I found it quite satisfying, for example, to be able to simply and personally hand a highly critical flyer to both Pulitzer Franz Wright and McArthur "genius" C.D. Wright. It was comical. Both looked utterly bewildered. How can someone possibly protest against us or the poesy scene for that matter?
question: what can you say to today's writers and artists who are afraid to challenge the status-quo?
answer: Nothing in the world I say will change them. The best thing I can do is try my damndest to shove some of my hard critique under their porcine snouts… and that I do quite frequently via my website, letters, etc. I actively seek them out and have received all kinds of interesting (quite revealing) responses. For example, University of Colorado Professor Steven Wingate,editor of Divide, wrote: "Blah, blah. blah. Boring. We figured you couldn't leave well enough alone, Mr. Slone. But since you find a way to challenge my use of the word 'vituperative, ' let me speak a plainer truth: nobody wanted to deal with you because you seem like such a creep." And that's coming from a professor/editor who boasts openness to debate!!! When literati are dumbfounded by sudden critique, they tend to stoop to name-calling. They cannot respond to logic with logic. The wife of French writer Celine (who I think wrote the best novel ever) said: "The most beautiful flowers grow out of shit, and it is shit alone that helps us create." And indeed, it is from the Wingate kind of horseshit that I create. So in a sense I am really indebted to him and the multitude like him. So, fearful writers and artists, try standing alone and protesting in public. You might be surprised at the resultant creative energy and material you might obtain.
By the way, many of the fearful ones, seem to be coming from MFA programs nowadays. Those programs are fed tons of money and encourage artists and writers who have nothing really pertinent to say. And I wonder what ever the hell made them decide to become artists and writers in the first place. Perhaps, the decision was simply made, in most cases, because they could draw well or maybe were precocious readers and had great big brains to memorize vocabulary and rules of grammar and canon names and works. As opposed to this type of artist and writer so very prevalent in our society, I became a writer/artist later in life and because I had something burning to say, to reveal, to decry. I never majored in English or art. I never took a fuckin creative writing or critical thinking course in my life!
question: do you think that universities hand out mfas and phds in the arts as a way to control writers and artists?
answer: Definitely. It's a definite way of rewarding suck-ups and blind swallowers of canon. After all, universities are vital organs of the oligarchs who rule and otherwise control society. The university poetry anthologies are loaded with crap--crap that doesn't question and challenge, crap that doesn't OFFEND anyone... except those few who question and challenge. Again, if the writer/artist wants to "SUCCEED" he MUST suckup. If he's critical of his professors, etc., who the hell will be willing to sponsor him/her in a doctoral program? Who the hell will be willing to write him a fuckin letter of recommendation? Who the hell will want him as a networking cohort?
question: how do we do away with the bullshit laureate system in this country?
answer: Well, I don't think we can change the system at all. It is omnipotent. It excels at cooptation. As an example, look at all the 60s sellouts: Dylan selling underwear; Jagger and the Stones, Mercedes Benz; Paul McCartney, Fidelity Investments; Clapton, gentlemen's clothing; Ginsberg, friends and himself; and on and on and on. Look at fuckin Rolling Stones Magazine! However, those of us with hardcore ideals need to keep speaking out. Your website, my website, etc. I don't know where this country is going… probably civil war down the road between the extremely wealthy and the extremely poor… unless the former manage to completely brain wash the latter in total blind admiration. And that might very well occur.
question: in your estimation, who are the people who are controlling the publishing industry, and what, aside from profits, is their agenda?
answer: The industry is a puppet of the wealthy. Perhaps its only agenda IS money. In reality, the plutocracy doesn't give a damn if you're black (look at Oprah, etc.), white, Asian, Mexican, or French. Besides money, its agenda is to ever strengthen capitalism and clear the road for greed heads to acquire more and more and more. Its agenda is the continued indoctrination of the citizenry to worship celebrity and wealth… via diversionary entertainment, including idiot books, high-brow literary reviews, backslapping blurbs, bestseller thrillers, and backslapping, happy-face newspaper reviews.
question: let's say for the sense of argument, a majority of writers and artists broke away from the controlling interest and began to create works that provoke the comfortable senses of the masses. you must know that those who have a strangle hold on the arts industry will only shut those voices out and find other fools to propagate their message of conformity and blind acceptance of their pablum. to combat this what would you suggest be done?
answer: This simply won't occur. It could only following a major nuclear holocaust. Money seems to motivate most artists and writers, who are really no different from most citizens. The entire educational (indoctrinating) system would have to be RADICALLY altered to change this modus operandi. It is a vicious circle. In other words, to change the system, the educational system would have to change. But for that to occur, the system would have to change. Too many writers and artists are fat and content. That's the problem. It would take a major catastrophe to change this. Just the same, in answer to your question, I'd suggest constant attack in the form of flyers, letters to the editor, protests, satire, anything else like that. Also, creating our own forums is important… like the one you've created. I am entirely convinced that LOGIC is on our side and working always against THEM.
question: other than yourself, in your own estimation, who is doing the right thing out there today?
answer: There are a few lit journals out there and a few websites, though I can't really think of any doing precisely what I do, constant questioning and challenging of literati in power. I'm probably not that well informed. BUT one ought not to be surprised that I can't come up with names, given how difficult it is for, say, a mag like The American Dissident to get "out there." So, there must be others. Indeed, there are others. My 50 subscribers, for example. But go to any poesy gathering and you'll be damn lucky if you can just find one. We are NOT by any means numerous.
question: what do you think makes an artist genuine?
answer: An artist who genuinely seeks to expose the TRUTH and combat LIES and fraud in his creative compositions. Last year, I visited MoMA (Museum of Modern Art, NYC) several times and was astounded after examining perhaps several hundred paintings that only one or two were truly critical of society. With regards the art scene, not one painting was critical. MoMA directors would much rather hang a blank canvas! Yes there were about four or five such blank paintings, one in blue, one in white, etc. So clearly my definition of a genuine artist does not jive with that of the art mandarins.
what's my mood: even
what i'm reading: pasolini poems in italian
the song playing in my head: brown eyed girl / van morrison
what am I watching on television: el mar / a spanish movie with javier bardem
where I'd like to be right now: iceland / serious, i love that place
word of the day: reprobate
who's at the top of my shit list: I treat them all as equals