[Scroll down for individual student comments.] Endicott College Professor Dan Sklar should be commended for ignoring his colleague's suggestion (see cartoon below). One of the most positive things for me as editor of The American Dissident has been his invitations over the past six years to his college classes. Dan is a rare bird in the academic nest. We both have a difficult time understanding why professors in general are not more open to permitting viewpoints with which they might disagree. And indeed, he is the only professor ever to have invited me to classes, and I have challenged many others to do so.
Dan first contacted me out of the blue in 2007 to subscribe. At the time, I was living and teaching in Louisiana and didn't know him. When I moved back to Massachusetts later that year, he invited me to Beverly, MA to speak to one of his classes—a wonderful experience. I felt honored. Thanks also to Dan, I was invited to read my poetry at a gathering at Endicott's library in February 2009. Dan invites other poets and editors with different perspectives to his classes, manifesting a perhaps rare openness in academe. His students are encouraged to be critical and speak their minds, not his mind. At my request, Dan asks students to comment after my visits and forwards those comments to me. Below are all the comments [in raw, unedited form] received to date. Some are very positive, others less so. But most have been positive. My reactions follow some of them.
April 29, 2014
Students of this class, Modern American Poetry, were by far the most tuned into The American Dissident I've yet encountered. Below are all the comments received from them.
G. Tod Slone’s The American Dissident detests the corruptive nature that is fabricated by censorship and the willingness to sell one’s soul to become “mainstream” with accepted ignorance and shallow intent. He uses absolutely no filter, which may tarnish people’s perception, but in my eyes it sheds light on the ridiculous intent of suppression. What exactly are we hoping to accomplish through censorship? The truth will always surpass the cover up, so why bother? I wonder if G. Tod Slone has read Fahrenheit 451, a great book about the destruction censorship brings to humankind and the ignorance it hopes to maintain. Censorship may seem as an institute to please people, but rather it masks the reality of humanity. I understand some censoring may be necessary through aspects such as early childhood education – but censorship will only prevail for so long. Rather than sugarcoat things and oppress diverse perceptions of the world, why not ignite the fire and accept the different views? Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. Poets should have the freedom to write what they want using the explicit words they choose to illustrate the raw emotions rather than use fluff to stitch stanzas together. Not everyone has the same view, thus not everyone is going to like the same poem – but who cares? If you write to please people, you’re not a poet, but a sell out.
A poem that caught my attention was We Keep Watching by Jack Phillips Lowe (p. 26). Its simplicity highlights the censorship we witness everyday, how the news carefully selects the sequence to place more value on positive aspects of humankind. It frustrates me that people tend to buy this garbage rather than read up on it or open their eyes for once. Half the time when I watch the weather they say it’s sunny and it’s really pouring outside. Do we expect individuals to let society control their thoughts and emotions?
Another poem was Plant Some Sweet Peas There, Too by Doug Draime (p. 29). The line that really struck me was “Plant tulips and roses and lilacs and carnations there, where blind conformity is sold” (p. 29). People are so willing to follow something sugarcoated without any apprehension to the hidden meaning. Also, the line “where the souls of your children are gutted like beast of prey, where the lies about the American Dream originated” caught my eye (p. 29). So often we instill false hope within people, teach them to blindly trust and to be naïve to corruption. It’s actually pretty sad what is concealed.
I love some of the responses G. Tod Slone gives to those who disown his work. He is witty and quick to rebuttal their claims. His openness to critique is how the world ought to function, open to diverse perceptions. We are constantly influenced to conform, to embody similar perspectives to create a peaceful and boring world. When someone speaks up we see it as an outrage – why? Doesn’t that go against our rights as humans? I don’t care if someone has different views, but they can open their ears and listen to mine for a change.
Introduction: Natalie Scardina, Endicott College, Early Childhood Education. The way I’ve introduced myself the past three years. Even in that string of words, my own name feels awkward. Yet I find myself chained to this institution, debt rising over my head as I attempt to gather skills applicable for a decent job. I sit through classes to learn about how to teach, when the professors don’t even know how to themselves. I remember the last names of my classmates, distinguishing whom I would trust with my own children some day. Most I would not. I hate ignorance and most of all people who lead with it. I can’t stand those who pride themselves on empty lies and fabricate a character worth nothing more than tarnished silver. I am very opinionated in the field of education and value my perceptions of teaching. Now I realize the corruptive nature of my past schooling and the crappy teachers I endured. I hope I never become a conventional teacher.
The American Dissident journal has been the most refreshing piece of literature I have read in months. The raw uncensored opinions of these poets were shocking yet crucial. My favorite part within the journal was the section titled The Racist and the poet Mather Schneider. Throughout the letter accusing A.D. of its supposed “drift into racism ” and then the editors response letter I was in shock. I found it to be actually quite amazing the amount of facts and validity that the editor had to prove the readers point wrong. It is news and activists such as himself that will better society and make people more aware of what is actually going on around them.
In Mather Schneider’s poem The Self-Anointed Outlaw Poets he describes how the poetry community emphasizes that poetry needs to “stay dangerous” yet how is that possible when everyone’s writing is only skimming the surface, shallow, and similar. I thought this poem was powerful because you could tell that he had witnessed many stereotypical poets and he wasn’t impressed. He ends the poem by calling poets out further for lacking originality and essentially beating poetry to death. Mather Schneider implicitly calls for the community to stop following the trends and become “real”. This is a trend amongst many different societal groups. No matter if you are a poet, into a specific music genre, or a sports player there are always trends and a certain stigma attached to what you involve yourself in. As Schneider has hinted at, it is up to individuals to change this view and go against what is “trendy”. If this happens then, for example, poetry will return to a state of honesty and truly be something dangerous.
The first poem that I picked was Literary Criticism on page 29. I enjoyed this poem because of its sarcastic tone and humorous situation. The way that the author writes so straightforwardly about poets that become sell outs is so starkly funny. I also enjoyed the format of the poems, the short lines and stanzas made the poem easy to read and added to the simplicity. Overall, I picked the poem because it made me laugh.
The second poem I picked was Obituary on page 5. I picked this one because again, it was straightforward. The author wrote about the obituaries in such an honest way. I always find it interesting how different people will describe the deceased, even if they were not such great people. Humans put aside all ill feelings when people die and do not mention them out of respect which is kind of nice but also disappointing how the bad can be so easily masked. People who die are constantly portrayed in a great light and the author describes how obituaries are all fairly uniform: time of death, cause, life accomplishments then when the funeral is. Although the whole tone of the poem is pretty somber, the end is uplifting, “come and read mine, when i die, please make sure, i am smiling.” Lastly, I liked how there was no punctuation and how all the words were lower case, it created an informal feeling with the poem and paired a long with the short lines, made it an easy read that I picked out quickly.
I really enjoyed all of the poetry in the journal, from the poems written by Slone to the ones he picked. All were entirely different than work you would find in a poetry book for school, so I really enjoyed the controversial topics and honest wording of a lot of the poems. They were refreshing and enjoyable to read.
The American Dissident is a journal put together by Tod Slone. The journal is made up of different poems from different poets that push the envelope on what some people in society would think are controversial topics or controversial subjects to write about. The American Dissident is also made up of funny cartoons that Tod Slone drew out himself pertaining to more controversial topics and there are also funny e-mails that he sent to people with no sense of humor and their responses included in this journal as well. After reading this edition of The American Dissident, I found that I wanted to focus my reflection on one poem in particular that I found to be somewhat of a “slam” poem and the back of the book where all of Tod Slones’ e-mails to and from certain people are.
The poem that I found stuck out to me the most is called Literary Criticism written by Doug Draime. I was drawn to this poem because of its straightforward message and the way that it was written. The way that I interpreted this poem is that critics keep looking for things to criticize. If there is a poem written by a poet that sucks or is not something that you’re fond of, why would you keep looking further into a poets work? And I feel as though the answer to that would be because critics, or “haters” as some may call them, try to tear poets down bit by bit so instead of stopping at one piece of poetry that may not have been the best, they feel the need to go further and completely rip that poet to shreds. In my opinion, Doug describes this in a short poem.
Continuing with the “slam” theme that this journal seems to have, my favorite part of this journal by far are the last few pages that contain e-mails from Tod Slone and to him that are flat out hilarious. Tod writes to different editors that don’t seem to have a sense of humor and some of the things he writes are down-right hilarious, as well as the responses. My favorite of these e-mails would be the two e-mails between Tod Slone and Heather Fisher, a faculty member in the English Department/Honors Program at California State University. These e-mails were over a cartoon that Heather found offensive so she asked him to take her off of Tod Slone’s mailing list. And Tod Slone gave a vivacious response slamming her attempt to defend a man named Troy’s “work, his philosophy, and his ethical stance.”
Over all, I found this journal to be down-right hilarious because of the different poets, their poetry, their little excerpts describing themselves, and the critics who think they’re “all that”, but are quickly reminded by Tod Slone that they are anything but. The American Dissident is a funny read and one well put together journal that I found enjoyable.
On page eight I enjoy the author description of Gary Goude. It’s comical but there’s one line that I like that has more of a serious tone to it to me even if he’s kind of kidding. The line goes, “Sometimes I almost envy those who believe in God.” As I read it again he’s probably just fucking around but I still like the line. I like it because I would say I agree with the statement. My stance on God right now is a little up in the air, not really sure what to believe. We were actually just having this talk today at the beach professor. I think we both agreed that it’s ok to still question. It’s fascinating to me how some people believe it, some people don’t, and neither way is the right way to think. Kinda cool how maybe we’ll never know. The poem he wrote too is cool. “Approach the Abyss of Death” it’s called. It has a Zen quality to it.
The poem titled, “We Keep Watching” by Jack Phillips Lowe was another favorite of mine. When I first read it I thought about sometimes I feel like the media is feeding us bullshit information. Trying to control us in a way. It’s funny though because in the poem he writes that he hears about a hopeful job market, a recovering economy, when I feel like the news most of the time is more negative. At least the past several years I’ve thought the economy has been pretty bad. Maybe it’s getting better, I don’t know. Anyway I like the approach he takes though because he says these smiling people he sees on the television is not when he sees from his neighbors and friends. Maybe the news is trying to make us believe that everything’s not as bad as it is. But I don’t know. I think this is a great poem because there is a level of awareness about not believing everything you see, read, and hear. Sometimes I feel like I should be doing more volunteer work because there’s always something needing help, so many places right near where I live could use my help. If we go around thinking everything is prefect and right and just than you’re just plain wrong. As much as there are problems though I think we live in a beautiful world where love could always be an option. Maybe that’s to hippie of me to say, but I said it.
I’m glad Tag is doing his presentation on Mather Schneider because his introduction in the book is awesome. I love his first line, “I am a cab driver who writes poems.” Matter of fact. Poetic in its own right. Another line that just hits me goes, “If the world isn’t giving you something to write about, you’re not paying attention, and if your heart is not in turmoil, then you’re already dead.” So damn right. To me there is so much going on around us, all the time, how could you not want to stop and be a part of the moment and write about it or sing with it or dance with it. From what’s going on around you, to memories to feelings to experiences how could you not find something to write about. I think the coolest thing is when I’m describing something I see around me and I’m going off about that for a while and then all of a sudden it reminds of this time in my life and then I start going off about that and then I’m reminded of something else and it can become this never ending stream of consciousness that is beautiful because it’s you and your thoughts and the way each of us thinks which is constant craziness in our heads that is so hard to control and even when you try to control it seems to become harder but you want to try because when your thoughts can stop for just that one moment when you can become free from these thoughts it feels wonderful.
I like the idea behind The American Dissident; I like the rebellious nature behind the idea. I also think it’s REALLY cool that this guy has, for a lack of a better phrase, the balls to do this! Few people today have the passion and dedication shown by G. Tod Slone. It’s clear he puts an insane amount of time into each issue of his magazine; the layout, the poems, the cartoons, the excerpts he writes, are all examples of this. His blunt way of writing and the bluntness of the poems he chooses are refreshing and a break from the sugar coated shit that is usually circulated around schools, universities, and professional offices.
There is very little tolerance shown to people who have opinions that differ from the masses. Pushed down and ignored, most people succumb to the social norm around them. It’s nice to see that not everyone is a pushover; that some people rebel- and not just this one man either, but everyone that he publishes. Every single poem was so real.
I also want to give mention to the correspondences in the back of the booklet. Slone’s dark sense of humor and sarcasm shows throughout the magazine, but it really shines in this section. It’s a look into Slone’s personal life, and the kind of feedback he gets from real people and his real reactions. It adds so much to his magazine knowing he really supports and preaches this stuff in real life.
“Walking Barefoot” – Juangelo Nelson
The imagery in this poem by Juangelo Nelson is vivid, and every line is so easy to picture that the reader can practically feel it. As described in the bio, Nelson spent eight years in prison, and the “cold & lifeless concrete on which I now walk barefoot” refers to the floors of the cell. I had initially read the poem before reading the bio, and this allowed me to view everything in different ways. I had not known about the prison the first time I read the piece, and thought about all of the various meanings the concrete floor could have, along with the fingers crying “out in feverish anguish,” and the “hope marbled with depression.” These lines all had strong meaning before the literal viewpoint was included for the reader, and being unaware of its context originally allowed me to apply the concepts to life in general and the way that it can seem hopeless and painful at times.
At the end, when it says, “ I see the desolation of those that have walked barefoot before me, & I see the desolation of those that have yet to walk these cold, lifeless floors barefoot,” I imagined the way that people have always struggled in the past and will continue to struggle in their daily lives; whether it be due to illness, stress, anxiety, tragedy, or any other complication, life is never simple and people will always have something that they have to push through in order to become stronger and to succeed. Despite the struggles, there will still continue to be hope and “fanatical imaginings of Freedom- Freedom that dances & laughs,” which will carry people forward and inspire them to improve upon their past and current conditions of life.
I really liked this collection of poems and short stories and other forms of writing mostly because of its very political outlook on things and sparky humor that was used throughout. I especially like the short pomes with accompanying illustrations because although they are simple and crude, they are pretty funny and the poems have some great points.
Another great theme that I pulled out after reading several of the poems was that nature was a big inspiration for some poets. For example, the poem Plant Some Sweet Peas There, Too by Doug Draime was very much meant to address the fact that nature is being destroyed and taken out of the world. The poet says to “Plow up the campuses and classrooms” and in turn “plant tulips and roses and lilacs and carnations there, where blind conformity is sold” This poet is very much in favor of a world of beauty instead of one with structure and rules and consequences. The poem continues to trash education, and how it leads to war and imperialism and corporate murder. This was a very strong poem that was specific in terms of things that were named and listed at times, and it had a very strong message.
This book had a great variety of poets throughout that all had their share of thoughts and ideas for the world. I have never really seen a collection of work quite like it but I like how all of this authors and poets were able to come together and share what they had to convey one big message to the world. A poem that I thought to be a prime example of this central message was called The Self-Anointed Outlaw Poets by Mather Schneider. His first lines really say it: “Keep poetry dangerous says the poet with his middle finger up in the camera” I think that many of the poems in this book were saying the same thing, as their message and tone was very upright and stern. One word to describe it would be edgy!
Addison Van Auken:
My first thought after reading to page 13 of The American Dissident is that I think my brother would enjoy this journal and I intend to give it to him. You see he likes the sort of truth that most people are afraid to admit or even talk about. I guess that’s where I got it from myself. Reading about Sloan attempting to have his journal circulated in the CLAMS catalog, of which I myself am a member, I thought how funny that I’ve been to the libraries he tried to extend himself to. I probably know the librarians that stuck their nose up and decided there was no place in the catalog for Sloan’s direct approach. Why is it that people are afraid of what they are not used to? I think that Sloan is trying to either quell that fear or fuel it, but either way he says what he means and I have to respect that even if I disagree with what he has to say. Though I could see myself in his shoes, picketing outside 4 C’s, as the locals call Cape Cod Community College most likely with my brother alongside me asking why they won’t accept my book or his poetry. I would be interested to meet Sloan, when he comes in I can hopefully have a chat with him about whatever is setting him off at the moment. I think that Sloan looks at things in a very different way and gleaning anything from his viewpoint would be advantageous, but also something I feel compelled to do regardless. There are just people that you read, that you want to meet, and I think he is one of them for me. I doubt he’ll like me very much, but in a sense I’d feel as though that were a compliment.
Of the poems I read I rather enjoyed “Poetry Readings are Cliché”. It describes an ordinary reading from Ochs’ perspective and his observations are what makes me think. You can figure a lot about someone from what they notice and I figure that Ochs wishes there were less pompous assholes on earth filled with self-entitlement and I can’t say I blame him. I wish there were less pompous assholes at this school who have accomplished nothing more than a sub-par grade point average, but act as though they run a multimillion dollar corporation. In reality Mommy or Daddy just worked their asses off, knew the right people, or were set up themselves. Magically that gives the child the right to be an egocentric, self-servicing, putz. But it really rubs me the wrong way when I try to have a conversation about books or movies or plays with one of these meathead who can’t wrap their head around the concept of the third person omniscient perspective versus the first person and what that does to change the plot. No he would rather make a comment about me being a nerd and then look on his phone to check his fantasy football bracket as if someday an NFL head coach will ask whether Aquib Talib should sit out with his history of not showing up to big games. See I can talk both sides of the conversation, but why can’t you join my side? I’ll stop the rant here, but know that I appreciate the journal and plan to subscribe as long as they all buy my book. Right?
(This isn’t really that negative, so I apologize in advance if this is sent to him)
My favorite thing that G Todd Slone said was, “Professional writing is not good for professional writers.” Slone then went on to say that when writers have to write and have a deadline they end up writing “fluff”. I feel this way especially when I am writing essays. I feel a great sense of pressure and limitations because I feel like I never have enough to say, and then it just becomes exhausting to meet to requirements of the paper. Also, requirements and time limits make the process of creative writing very unenjoyable. When I am told to write a certain amount of pages, to have a certain word count, and to write something that I am not ready to write, I do not enjoy doing it. Then at the end of the day when I somehow to find time to write creatively on my own terms I feel like I just don’t have it in me anymore. I feel like all my motivation has been sucked out of me. Instead of school encouraging me to express myself and to write, I feel like it does the opposite sometimes. I feel like this is a terrible phenomenon in education, but it is such a built in part of it that I cannot see it changing. But in the end it’s really just what you make of it, and what you get out of each class. The bright side is that not every class and professor is like that. Even though there are few exceptions, this pushes me forward. When someone finds that one person who cares enough to read through their papers, stories, and anything they write, and doesn’t have these hidden expectations, suddenly the motivation comes back.
G. Tod Slone’s presence brought substance to his writing, paired a face to the anger, and strengthened my appreciation for his ridicule of censorship and conformity. When he started talking about education, I found myself agreeing – though soon to be teacher – with his dislike for the corrupt system we base our grading on. Today, there are some who wish to diminish letter grading as to provide equal motivation to all. If you deserve an A, you get an A. If you deserve a D, you’re getting a D. We start sugar coating things at such a young age, where does the censorship end? If we baby the younger generation, then they’re going to expect it for the rest of their lives. Also, I enjoyed his perception of the colleges he worked at and his underlying mission to expose the corrupted behaviors he witnessed. Every college president thinks his or her campus is flawless – but just ask any undergraduate student for the real perception. We hold on to this ideal image in our heads and when we show up to freshmen orientation, we realize college is just a bigger high school where now you also sleep. We still have rules, we still are censored, and we still cannot practice freedom of speech. Long gone are our parents, now replaced with teachers, advisors, and coaches.
Another question G. Tod Slone answered that captured my attention was his willingness to include negative comments in his magazine. We often read the garbage reviews at the end of the book – the ones carefully selected to bring out the pretentious writing. However, what happens to all the negative responses? Once again, we are censored from the true value of the text. We live our lives based on false pretenses that everything around us is good. Can we facilitate ignorance? It seems as if society would run better that way – but where would our identity be then? Personal freedoms are what exemplify our nation – we learn to adapt to diverse views and cultures, whether we support them or not. Why doesn’t this hold true in writing? Is it because once it’s written it can never be forgotten? It holds an ever-lasting quality of life, writing set in stone that lives past generations. But bold writing is what brings change to our society, highlights our weaknesses, and strengthens our understanding of unity. We should be open to interpretation regarding our livelihood, not squander any perceptions diverse than our own.
When G. Tod Slone mentioned his time in the military, I instantly made a personal connection to his writing. My father was a Naval Captain of a ship and my brother is currently on a Naval submarine. To them, there is no disobedience. You obey the commands given without blinking an eye. When asked if I too wanted to join the military, I firmly said no. I can’t live by another person’s thoughts. I’m opinionated and to dissipate my perception would be to violate the respect I have for myself. I understand that the role of a future teacher requires obedience, but it is an opportunity to share my knowledge with others – not force them to conform to my own beliefs. I want to utilize my personal freedoms.
I really appreciated the opportunity to listen to G. Tod Slone in person and see his reactions to our questions. The personal background he provided only strengthened his responses and shed light on the corruptive nature of censorship. We do not live in a perfect world, nor should we try to cover up the negativity that presumes.
It was very interesting have G. Tod Slone visit. His answers to questions were unique and thought provoking, many of his answers I agreed with. I enjoyed listening to him explain how his creative process works, how he just writes when he is inspired and does not try to force it. I really was interested in his comment about how poets make “bad” literature because they force themselves to write and mostly end up with fluff, I completely see where he is coming from with this, some poetry I have read just seems like it was written to be poetry and the poet just needed something on paper. His story about the library was funny but at the same time I understand where the librarians are coming from with banning him, nobody likes to be outwardly criticized however I think it is important to take constructive criticism. The main thing I did not agree with him on was his stance on higher education. I personally feel that it is important and helps shape young people and aids in furthering of knowledge, it was crazy how many schools he has taught and how they were only for short periods of time. Overall, I found his criticism of people and institutions refreshing. You rarely hear of people teaching at colleges and challenging them while there and not being afraid of being fired. His overall attitude of not caring what people think of him is something I feel is rare in poetry. With a lot of poetry I read I feel as though it is poets trying to fit the “poet mold”, poems filled with obscure meanings and confusing metaphors. I really enjoyed G. Tod Slone’s straightforward approach in everything he does; it was really great having him come into class and experience first hand his personality and beliefs after reading The American Dissident.
When G. Tod Slone visited, one of the first things he said was that he never sits down and makes himself write; he only writes when inspired to do so. He explained that his writing is based on the stupidity of others, which some may view as rude, but in his eyes, it is his right to criticize and write about it. I agree to a certain point, because many times people act in ridiculous ways or say pointless things and nobody comments, and it is good for people to get their eyes opened sometimes. However, I think that sometimes he may take it a bit far, as it can really hurt somebody’s self esteem, especially if he criticizes something that they are insecure about.
G. Tod Slone said that he does not support professional writing, as it “encourages fluff,” or meaningless words on a page. I definitely agree with this, because people who are paid to write things tend to include several pointless, filler sentences in order to meet requirements, deadlines, and to get their money for the job. When people write, it should be meaningful, and it should expose to light things that are otherwise hidden. It should make the reader really think, and if words are thoughtlessly thrown onto a page, this will not happen, and the writing will not be good.
His book The American Dissident was inspired by the corruption in academia and then also that in literature. This is interesting, especially because he continues to teach at schools despite his negative opinions on the establishments. One would think that if somebody were so against something, that person would avoid it, but in his case, he emerges himself in it and allows it to continue to inspire his writing. Slone said that the only topic he is hesitant to write about is religion, or Islam especially, because he does not want to be followed by guards in his old age. I respect this, but I wonder if there are other topics he would be cautious approaching if he were inspired as well. Maybe he simply hasn’t come across anything else that has made him want to write that would get him into serious trouble.
While he said that there should be an aspect of criticism in poetry, I think that he also means this for any form of writing in general. His advice for writers in the class was for us to ask ourselves, “What shouldn’t I write about?” and use that to inspire our work. I agree that this can be an inspiring topic, but I don’t believe that all writing should be critical. Sometimes it is nice to read something calm and beautiful, as it can be relaxing and therapeutic. If everything is offensive or critical, reading would not be as soothing as it is now.
I really enjoyed the presentation by G. Tod Sloane. It was a change of pace from the usual class and it gave us all the chance to hear from a real writer. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Mr. Sloane was not as scary of a person as I had imagined. I did not really see his confrontational side though so maybe he is a bit scarier when in an argument. It was great to meet the man behind the American Dissident and hear his thoughts and reasoning. I think the writings and cartoons in the journal have more of an impact and meaning now that I have met him. His work raises many valid points about freedom of speech. I don’t believe most people are aware of the intense censorship that is going on even here in the “land of the free”. I know G. Tod Sloane wanted some negative feedback but I really don’t have any. I guess if I could pick at one thing it would be that he lost track of what the question was more often than not but that lead to some interesting stories and ideas. Sorry, Mr. Sloane but I think you’re pretty cool and I like your hair.
It was very interesting to have G. Tod Slone come in and visit our class. I really enjoyed the experience and I think he did as well. It was clear he had no problems voicing his opinion and I liked that about him. It made him genuine. There were times though that he seemed to get himself into a pickle with certain subjects that might be considered controversial. I thought he handled himself pretty well though.
One part of the class that I really liked was when he talked about his writing career and how he never thought he was going to be a writer. Also even when he became a writer/poet he didn’t like most things that other people had written because it was either boring, useless, cliché, or not honest. He went on to say that he doesn’t like most poetry and that through all the literature he has read he is yet to find someone that writes about anything with real meaning to it.
It was clear to me during this whole back and forth discussion that he doesn’t like “the institution” very well. Whether it is higher education, publishing companies, or the government. He feels as though all the institutions are blocking and censoring our right to free speech. To an extent I would have to agree with him. I feel like if you really want to say something controversial and meaningful to the world there are few outlets that you can do that through without getting a knock on your door or kicked out of school/work.
The conversation we had during class was very helpful for me because I saw what it was like to be a non-traditional writer. I saw what it was like to play by your own rules and not take orders from a big company or organization. After seeing him in person I had a much better understanding of why The American Dissident was so out there and wild. I think having him come into class was a great experience for me and everyone else who participated.
I enjoyed G. Tod Slone’s visit to our poetry class this Tuesday. I must say, for a man who does not care about what others think, challenges authorities, and speaks his mind, he certainly looked the part! One of the things that interested me most about him is that he isn’t a mean guy! In fact, he’s pretty nice, just brutally honest, which some people may interpret as mean. In my opinion, people who dislike G. Tod Slone’s opinions and find hatred toward him are probably extremely close-minded and stuck in their own worlds; these usually the type of people who will fight to the death for their one point of view and will never consider the ideas or beliefs of others. Ultimately, it’s their loss.
After G. Tod Slone’s visit, I found myself wondering, what is so wrong with being honest? Why should he be censored, banned, and rejected from publishing? How would these publishers or writers, whom dislike his honesty, feel if they were rejected or denied just because they spoke up for what they believed in or simply because they spoke their minds? I can bet they would not like it much at all. Again, it’s their loss for not publishing him in their works.
What I liked most about G. Tod Slone’s outlook was that he would rather not be published at all than be published in these ‘foo-foo’ poetry and literary magazines with crappy, mainstream, undistinguishable writers and poets. Nothing to set them apart but their poems, which by-the-way have to fit the mainstream topics of writing, or they will not be published. So how unique and special can they be anyways? I never really thought of literary magazines and journals in this light, because they are praised by so many. So who is to judge whether or not a poem is good enough to make it into publishing: The expertise of an editor who is interested time and time again by the exact same types of poems? No diversity there. No boldness there. Nothing new, fresh, or exciting there. It’s crap really. Why waste your money on the newest issue of a popular poetry magazine when it’s likely going to be an exact replica of the last issue; new poets, new poems, same bullshit.
Sometimes I think about how cool it would be to make a living as a professional writer or poet. Write what you want, write what you feel, and maybe make some money off of it! Then I think, is it really that easy? You only get noticed if you write along the lines of the mainstream popular topics that get published time and time again, with new characters and different plots: a couple falls in love over a summer vacation at the beach, a vampire mysteriously sucks the blood out of an entire town, all while attending high school, and a young teen uses magical powers to defeat monsters and evil spirits invading his kingdom. Today, these plots are found in the books that many people in America consider good literature. How can American be the infamous “land of the free” if writers cannot publish their true feelings or beliefs without being reprimanded, punished, shunned or ignored? Sadly, no one has stepped up with an answer.
I enjoyed G. Tod Slone’s visit to our class. His honesty about his opinions makes it interesting to hear what he has to say. One thing he talked about was that he would write only when he had something to write about and never forced himself to sit and write if he wasn’t in the writing mood. I think this is a good strategy and when he said that writers block shouldn’t exists I agree but unfortunately in school there are so many guidelines and professors are so specific that there is little freedom that we as students get to write about. This also makes me think about writers and what they write about. I don’t think anyone is really just a writer you have to have different live experiences and adventure to write about. G. Tod Slone has had these experiences through travel. Travel is a great way to be inspired and to watch how other people live in different cultures. In this past year I traveled to France and London and it was interesting to be somewhere different outside of your comfort zone people were speaking a different language, there was different currency, and a different way of daily life. There was also a short discussion on education. G. Tod Slone talked about how he isn’t the biggest fan of higher education. As a future teacher I find education very important but also frustrating. Trying to become a teacher has been a challenging process. I want to give children the opportunity to be creative and learn some lessons on their own and to be able to explore on their own and with their peers. But sometimes all of the guidelines a teacher has to meet including standards from the Common Core don’t allow teachers to teach how they hope. I think education is important but I also think G. Tod Slone is correct in saying there needs to be some changes. I think G. Tod Slone offered some knowledge and advice by not only telling us but showing us through the American Dissident that you should be honest and to leave no information out or names out even if you think it could get you in trouble. I think G. Tod Slone’s biggest argument is the right of freedom of speech.
G. Tod Slone was an interesting change of pace for our modern American poetry class. His energetic energy and question-based presentation style brought about many interesting discussions within the class. Many of the topics discussed and questions asked in class brought about great conversation and were extremely captivating.
One of his more captivating “rants” (for lack of a better word) was about censorship. I really liked how passionate he was about the issue of censorship and his belief that censorship is crap. He spoke a great deal about the University of California school system and their laws / rules about what students and faculty can and cannot say and / or write. G. Tod Slone spoke passionately about the censorship being ignored by students and faculty and he remarked that the people at these schools did not even know about the censorship laws; however, being from California, I remember seeing many protests at the University of California: Berkeley campus about this issue specifically. Therefore, I believe that G. Tod Slone’s argument was a little bias because he did not acknowledge that there are professors and students in these schools who are aware and upset about the censorship laws.
The issue of education was also discussed during G. Tod Slone’s presentation. He discussed a great deal about how he has taught at many different schools, but only for a short period of time. He spoke about how his opinions and radical opposition for formal schooling made for short-lived careers at these different schools. When asked about his thoughts of primary and secondary education, G. Tod Slone remarked that he believed students should be taught from a young age how to think critically and question their learning. I liked this idea as a future educator. Children should be taught to critically think and question their learning opposed to blindly memorizing facts and figures. I thought he would have a much longer rant about the educational system and his short answers to the questions about education took me aback a bit.
While reading the American Dissident I took time to read through each poet’s biography, besides the response section in the back I think that these were my favorite parts of this collection. I enjoyed reading about each different poet and their perspectives on society. The section I liked the most was the assault on the first amendment. I think that in todays society this has become such a big topic and we have seen it in many circumstances such as what children can and cannot bring to school or even things like whom they can and cannot bring to prom. When reading G. Tod Slone’s opening to this section I think that it really set the reader up for the next poems coming and opened their eyes to more problems within society today.
Having a response section in the back of only negative commentary was something I have never seen before and this really intrigued me. I have probably read this section over two or three times just because I find it that funny. I loved how Slone would respond to these people and publish it for the world to see, usually making those who wrote to him seem dumb for doing so. This section is so unique to the writer and this series, which makes it so exciting.
Overall I enjoyed reading the American Dissident and look forward to G. Tod Slone’s visit to our classroom. During his visit I hope to learn more about his views of society, such as the education of our society and also his political views. Another thing that I hope to learn about during Slone’s visit to Endicott is why he started writing these books and what made him start to include the response section in the back of the book.
Upon Slone’s visit to Endicott I was unsure what to expect. When you had described him to us and after reading the American Dissident I was not sure what our class was getting into. Before his arrival that morning the classroom was full of chatter about what was going to happen, how we would greet our guest with a boisterous applause, and any more ideas for questions people had.
Once Slone arrived I started to feel more comfortable, his sense of humor lightened the mood and made the conversation flow. An hour and fifteen minute class that once felt like we would run out of questions and have blank idle time flew by without much of a quiet moment. I was interested to hear Slone’s perspectives on the education system and also to hear about why he started writing the American Dissident. I liked how Slone was able to keep questions flowing out of us through what he brought up in the answers to previous questions, soon the questions were not what we had written down prepared to ask but just flowing like normal conversation, each building off the next.
I also liked how Slone was able to explain the cover of this book to us and also his process for making the cover and cartoons. Hearing his explanation of his cartoons made them make more sense to me and also allowed me to get another perspective on his sense of humor.
Even though I was a little unsure of what to expect in the beginning I think that the visit with G. Tod Slone turned out to be a success for our class and we were all able to take a lot from the experience to use not only with our poetry but also with other aspects of our writing.
G seems like a good guy. you painted us a picture of what to expect but honestly he didn’t seem as pessimistic as he could have been. maybe he saved his strongest thought for another time but he seemed relatively calm when touchy themes made their way into discussion. the hair. the hair was pretty awesome. it brought everything together, the glue if you must. the freeness combined with the fraying exemplified G. his mind is moving a mile a minute, thinking up twenty ideas at a time and analyzing the world with each flicker of an eye. it’s built with genius and crazy. both things you need in life and especially in poetry. i’m in the same boat when it comes to education. learning’s important, yeah, but not when someone tells me what’s important, what I need to know, what’s most useful. my mom’s a second grade teacher and is both a genius and crazy. but you need that combination to inspire, guide, help and teach 6 year olds day in a day out. anyways, I think G was an awesome addition to class. the world needs minds like his.
Jen Spanedda: I thought that American Dissent was incredibly powerful. I love the idea of having a punch-its-readers-in-the-face collection of work that reflects on today’s society and policies. The brutality of the opinions in the text is exactly what needs to be brought out in the world more.
This. Is. America. This is
freedom of speech. This is freedom
of press. This is enlightenment.
This is the release of throttled throats and
sock-stuffed mouthed and duct-taped lips.
This is the blood of Patriots bubbling up
under thick skin and bursting out. This
is the remedy for tongues swollen with
words unspoken and the vomiting of
all the bullshit we have swallowed for
so long... This. Is America.
This is what we need.
Sorry for that. I started writing my opening paragraph and all of a sudden just had to write a poem because long-sentence, proper paragraph form just wasn’t enough. And I think that in itself is exactly why continuing to publish American Dissident is so important. The government preaches that anyone can come to their state office and propose a bill, or sit in with a senator or representative… but there comes a point in time when one feels so passionately about something that it is no longer possible to write out a thoughtful and polite proposition. And there comes a time when the words just spill out, when thoughts bleed out through ink. The comics, poems, and brief rants within American Dissident are perfect. They are the boiling point. I love how reading it makes me slightly uncomfortable, but also empowered. The amount of vulgarity is overwhelming, but I get hyped up reading it. I can’t help it. Ironically, it makes me feel patriotic.
Thinking back, maybe it’s not so ironic. This country was founded on people shaking their fists for change. We are referred to as “red-blooded Americans,” and it’s true. I feel like our population has lost its fire, and this collection of work is a fiery blue flame. The text in here is pure, and because of that, it is scalding. It is effective. It is something that many people are feeling but not many have dared to speak aloud. Small collections like these are exactly what America needs.
As a further response, I wrote a poem with what I hope is the same kind of anger in American Dissident. It’s dedicated to myself, for falling into a small depression this past winter that I feel, hopefully, I’m coming out of now:
Pathetic. Yes, you. So pathetic. And weak.
Oh, you are so weak.
Stand up. Stand the hell up. Now.
Get up off your knees. You have legs. Stand on them.
Do it. Get your cheek off the cement – no, I don’t care if
it’s bleeding. Get rid of those tears while you’re at it,
wipe the water away with the blood.
I never want to see you cry again.
You disgust me. Look at you.
God gave you arms, use them.
Hold the door closed as the
darkness barges in. When did
Tim Murphy: As far as specific things that we did in class go, I really enjoyed learning about G Tod Slone, reading some of his work and then having the pleasure of him coming to our class one day. It was very interesting and entertaining having G Tod Slone as a guest speaker. It was good to hear him talk about what inspires him and I was surprised with how open he was to others opinions. Although he is a man who challenges a lot of things and stays strong in what he believes in, he still understands where other people are coming from (for the most part) on debatable issues. I found him very persuasive and he had really logical points for everything that he talked about. One of the main things we ended up talking about in class was why people would write something anonymously. G Tod said these people should have a back bone and some courage to put their name on the things that they say. I definitely agree with him on this point. I think it is important for people to stand up for what they believe and say why they feel such a way.
Cat Flaherty: I didn't expect to enjoy G. Tod Slone as much as I did. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed having him come in to class. I thought he would have some very unreasonable opinions and that I would disagree with him most of the time. However, I found I understood most of his opinions, even if I totally disagreed with them. I found myself questioning him a lot, and in this process developing opinions that I may have not had before. I think this is really important.
We need more people like G. Tod Slone to go against the popular opinion in order for people to develop their own opinions and feel passionate about them. Before I heard him speak, I didn’t really feel much one way or the other on freedom of speech, but now I have started to develop actual thoughts on the matter. I found myself asking, should there be a limit on freedom of speech? If it’s not constructive and it’s strictly offensive or angry, then should it be allowed? But who are we as people to say that another person can’t say what’s on their mind? Maybe we have become too sensitive. If we don’t like someone’s opinion, then maybe we shouldn’t hang around him or her. But at the same time, where’s the sense in allowing a group of people to openly hate another group of people for what they think? Maybe it is better we keep our thoughts to ourselves if they have potential for hurting others.
I was disappointed to have such a short time for discussion and would absolutely not be opposed to having G. Tod Slone come back to our classroom. It is pretty crazy to me that people are so opposed to what he has to say that they simply deny him his right to speak. Why deny him, why not try and argue with him? Wouldn’t that be more constructive? Denying him his right of speech won’t make his opinions go away. Allowing him to speak in a setting where people could counter his argument, and perhaps change his mind seems far more constructive to me; and it gets the brain flowing, and thinking, and then people can actually become passionate about something.
I feel that passion is deteriorating from our society. I have a close friend who’s passionate about women’s equality, and every time she speaks her mind jaws drop. People shouldn’t be so scared of hearing opinions, and right now that’s what our society is headed for. Everyone’s scared to speak his or her mind. Maybe one day we’ll just stop speaking all together.
Sarah Johnson: I agree 100 percent with what G Tod Slone is doing with the American Dissident and life in general. The American Dissident is a short book about people who are speaking their mind about whatever they feel strongly about. I think this should even be done more often than not. G Tod Slone talked about the risk of speaking your mind, and with everything we know and what G Tod Slone taught us about the first amendment, there should be no risk at all. The first amendment is what makes us a free country, having the freedom of speech is what we pride ourselves on. So why are we not allowed to speak our mind? Like G Tod Slone says, we all need to toughen up, the world is a corrupt place and we need to get over the fact that not everyone is going to be super nice.
I also cannot believe how he was treated at Fitchburg State To me that is absolutely absurd that mid semester they just moved his office to a different building. He was just trying to inform people of the way life is, maybe not in the best way, but its his choice on what he wants to do. I think that people need to hear what he has to say, and yes people will get offended with some things, but suck it up. He may not like to hear the things you have to say, so that would make it even. Right?
One thing that really caught my eye was what he was talking about the people who were hunted by Islamist assassins. People are getting hunted and getting killed for speaking/writing what is on their mind. Im sure back in the Islamic countries there are people who write and speak of hate against us, and you dont see us just going over there and killing that one person. ( I mean maybe we do, Im not really sure) I personally am not the biggest fan of Islamic people and often when I see them I get disgusted, due to 9/11, among other things they have done. So what, now that I wrote that on a piece of paper, and I now being hunted? We should be able to say what we want, I agree sometimes it is best to tone down what you are saying, but you should not be afraid to say it or write it.
I really enjoyed G Tod Slones presentation and I have never experienced one like this before. It was eye opening to see what other people think and how corrupt the world can be, even here in Massachusetts. I am surprised that no other professors have wanted G Tod Slone to some and speak to their classes, especially at the collegiate level. Students at this age are aware of most things going on, and listening to someone who truly cares about a particular subject would be beneficial to them!
Jibrael Younis: To begin I must say that G. Tod Slone is a unique individual. He reminded me so much of a famous actor that I cannot think of at this moment, however if I were to make a film and G. was a character I would most definitely cast this actor to portray him, though I cannot think of who it is. It may be Christian Slater combined with Michael Douglas if I had my way. Though neither of them with their acting skills combined could truly capture the essence of this man G. I really wanted to ask him what the G. stood for but did not find an opportunity to. Upon seeing him I did not even recognize him from the picture we were shown because he has seemed to age a little, and as he said, lost 30 pounds.
He was a particular man. He moved about almost not able to support himself. He was very witty and comical and had very energetic personality about him. I could tell that from his behavior that this guy not only questions people, government and society for the pure reason of skepticism and hopes of a better alternative, however I could tell that he likes to question people just to get under their skin and get a rise out of them. I think he likes to stir up trouble. I think there is a part of him that likes to agitate and likes to offend. Enjoying the tension created by magnifying hypocrisy and injustice is most likely something that he is innately attribute with because why would he subject himself to it if he did not enjoy it? I am not saying that we should not point out the corrupt or the unjust or the ignorant, but that the ignorant, corrupt and unjust are the ones in power who have been and always will be creating an army of irrational and uneducated fanatics that are already seething with hate and contempt for their own life situation, and in turn they are just looking for someone to blame or to crucify so, the corrupt elite will always use them as pawns and will falsely direct their anger towards people like G. who pose a threat to the system because they question the hypocrisy of the elitists. This is basically what we talked about when we discussed the imams putting death warrants out on journalists and editors of comics or whatever it was.
I liked how G. stuck to his guns. Some people tried to falsify his claims or question him, which I’m sure he wants, but he did not waiver in his beliefs, but I sense he still considered what was being asked to him unlike many who would not consider alternatives because they always think they are right. G. seemed to be a very open minded individual.
I agreed with most of the things he said. I share many of the same philosophies as he does. I also am very fascinated by the universe and do not believe in a god who is sitting on some throne in heaven weighing my sins. I believe there is something going on much greater than us in the universe and when you think about it rationally we are no more than a mistake or by product of something larger. We are so insignificant when you think about it. I guess our greatest ‘blessing’ and most prolific attribute is our ability to think and use pure and practical reasoning. I don’t know what the hell is going on up in the cosmos with God or Jesus, Allah or Bugs Bunny, and neither does anyone else. I think that when people turn away from reason they are easily lead to do something stupid or to be used by whoever is controlling them whether it be a king, priest, imam, president, father or mother or teacher. I think ‘thinking’ and using reason and questioning even that reasoning is the most beautiful and productive thing one can do, and it are those in power who do want this because knowledge is power, so they will spoon feed you that ignorance is bliss. I appreciate G. coming in because now I know that Bill Maher and I are not the only ones who feel and think this way. I just need to get the hair like they have to become an official member.
Karyn Plante: I thought that G Tod Slone was a very interesting person. At first all I knew was that he had a conflict in power and tended not to agree with many people. He was not afraid to speak his mind. But I thought it was interesting to hear about how he tended to write about things that go against the first ammendment. There are so many different ways of thinkinig about things, and there are so many points of view. And society has conditioned everyone to think a certain way and act a certain way. G Tod Slone isn't afraid to oppose this status quo. I am surprised that you arethe only professor to teach his work.
A few things I thought were interesting were that he would have been a lawyer if he hadn't taken up writing and that he strongly disagreed with annonomous writing. First of all, lawyers have one of the most controversial professions in the US. Slone is a person who stands up for what he believes in. But what would happen if he didn't trust his client, or his client was guilty but his job was to prove he was innocent? That seems wrong. But I'm sure he has a different perspective ont he issue. Also, he feels so strongly
about standing up for something that he seems to take offense to people who are afriad to do so. I somewhat agree. I think that you should be able to stand by what you believe in, but I can also see how someone's name isn't the most important piece to the puzzel. If the person is saying something
important, it's still going to be important. Regardless of whether or not their name is on the paper.
Daniel Pennellatore: Personally I thought G Tod Slone was exactly what we need more of in this country. Someone with some balls who isn't afriad to stand up for what is actually right. Someone who is not afraid to talk back to authority within reason and when it is right to do so. We have plenty of those fucking idiots in this country who talk back to authority figures just because they want to hear themselves talk, and have absolutely no idea of what they are even talking about when they are ranting. I thought he brought up a lot of good
facts and things about our country that need to be said and approached. Personally I think a guy like G-tOD would not last a second at this school because he wouldn't be kissing ass which would probably be an issue with most deans and authoritive figures at this school. So kudos to G Tod for having some cajunas.
Ian Chandler: Greetings: My name's Ian Chandler and I was in Prof. Sklar's class that you spoke to today. I just wanted to say I very much enjoyed your visit and I'd like to submit a response and a couple poems for your journal.
Thanks for everything,
Today you came to class and I was ready to dazzle and amaze with a slew of prepared questions to ask you. I had some real beauties ranging from: “What's the “G” in your name stand for?” to, “Is your dick as big as your giant testicles?” but I didn't ask any of them because the tone of the discussion was so serious and political. When it comes to politics I'm mostly indifferent towards the subject in general. I don't care who throws us under the bus, because it will inevitably be one elected official or the other. In fact I generally just pick the ugliest one because I feel they're more deserving. This gets me a great deal of flack from some people I associate with (my mother mostly), but you discussed a great deal about how the modern college environment is stifling our ability to speak our minds and question authority and I feel like that's a loaded statement. I came to a college with my own conceptions and political affiliations and, though the past several years have shown me countless opposing views to my own, I don't think the environment has stifled me as much as it has encouraged me to listen. Sitting idly by is one thing and I can't deny I do my share of idle sitting, but I feel more compelled to listen and discuss a topic being in a college environment then I do elsewhere. At home it's just grunting and pancakes, but here there's this competitive energy that drives me to get vocal, flip tables, and be the change. Today even: I saw some guys scaring the ducks so I ran towards them screaming and flailing and I scared them. It's something about the college environment that brings this out in me, when I would normally care less, and because of this I feel like blaming the school for my occasional apathy would be illegitimate. I do, however, think that our school's president should stop buying mansions for himself- and you can send that to him with my name in BOLD.
The urge to sit by,
while nobody cares.
Just watching the coffee boil.
In a jungle of loose-meat sandwiches,
wouldn't it be easier
to eat this bagel
out of the trash?
Yes, it would.
The captain is charging a dollar
and fifty so I'll walk,
it's nice outside,
it's rainy outside,
it's blue outside,
but the bill-board's
and this time about:
“tests all males should have!”
“Maybe next week
I'll pass them
when I'm up to it,
get my pants cleaned,”
but nobody heard that.
I like monotony,
if you can believe it.
“My names Phil!”
“How may I help you!”
Until it's time to
pull up the covers and slink
into a think slab of solitude
and think about the past.
“I'd like a world
where it's all green:
like a big meadow without
and tooth decay,”
Yet I emerge
from the vacuum
not saying much at all.
Against the Man, Against Myself
Fuck all of this horse shit,
let's make the glue out of
our human hands!
Let's be the splinter
in the wooden planks,
and stuck to the
cement and traditions
Let's take the plow
out from underneath
our stacks of
eat a 10-piece bucket
and burn our
riots in our eyes.
We approach with
death as a certainty.
But how can we curb
without adding to it?
We stand with
the burning bottle ready.
But is there a way to
make waves without
making ourselves the martyr?
We throw without looking back,
our conviction as justice.
Are we cogs in this clock?
Or are we just cognizant douche bags?
I remember our mentality:
“fire brings change,”
and yet so does the
resolve that fights it.
Ashley Vitale: G.Tod Slone was definitely one of the most unique people I have ever come across in my life. His whole demeanor was just so different. When I had envisioned “G.Tod Slone” that morning before I met him, I pictured a very professional looking man with glasses, who had a big belly and a sweater on. That was not the case when I met him. As he started talking, I realized this look was definitely him. I liked how he wanted as many questions as possible, and that he wasn’t set on a strict “agenda” for the class. I also liked how he went in depth about his personal career paths.
G.Tod Slone’s professional career veered away from the norm, and that’s what I liked. He didn’t care what “authority” said and he wasn’t afraid to state his opinion…about anything. It’s hard to find people like that in today’s world. Everyone either says things people want to hear, or doesn’t say things because people don’t want to hear them. I like how he stands up for his beliefs and preaches his students to do the same. I also like how he isn’t afraid to “get in trouble” or more so be criticized for his work. He believes in the first amendment strongly and doesn’t back down from it. I think G.Tod Slone is a role model and should be recognized more for his work.
Anne Wilcox: I thought G. Tod Slone was interesting. I enjoyed hearing all about the different schools that he taught at. He ended up answering a bunch of the questions that I had for him just in talking. I found it interesting that he taught in France and that he was able to speak French. I always think it is so beneficial to be able to be fluent in another language and it gives you an edge in the world. I think that it would be really fun to live and teach in France. I know he taught other places as well and I think that probably helped to make him a rounded person and gave him all the perspectives that he has on the world and on life.
I thought it was interesting to hear his take on how he thought of students at the other schools that he taught and the problems he ran into for just being himself. The fact that he was not afraid to print all that he has to say and not care about what other people think of it. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and they should speak out about it. He has been a very outspoken person and I give him a lot of credit for not seeming to worry about what anyone else has to say on what he has to say.
Sarah Swymer: G Tod Slone’s visit went very much how I expected it to. He was just as controversial in class as his book depicts him to be. However, I respect him very much for having the courage to ask the questions everyone is thinking in their heads but will not dare address. I respect the fact he stood up for what he beloved in at all of the colleges where he taught; because I know at this point in my life I don’t think I would be able to challenge superiority as much as he does. I remember his saying something about anonymous letters, and that you shouldn’t be afraid to put your name to your opinions. You should stand by your opinions, because if you feel that greatly about a subject to sand by it then you should put your name on it.
Another thing he discussed was the Phelps family and overall he said he would agree with the judge’s decision about their free speech rights. I agree with that in a sense because I do feel as though everyone should have the right to freedom of speech. However, I disagree with the way they demonstrate it. I do not believe someone having the freedom of speech justifies them from ruining a families closure at a funeral of a fallen soldier.
Although one thing we talked about got me thinking, and that was about other countries rights and lack of rights. We talked a lot about Fatwa and people beginning assassinated for their writing and works of art. Even though it has happened here in the US I feel as though it is a great thing that our country has an amendment protecting our citizens from this kind of behavior. Because although we may not agree with something somebody says, they do have the right to say it. If we all were censored in what we say our country would be very corrupt and essentially overtake the public. This is why our freedom of speech is such a valuable right to every US citizen.
Tim Murphy: It was very interesting and entertaining having G Tod Slone as a guest speaker in our class the other day. I really enjoyed putting a face to the name who's work we had read over the past week or so. It was good to hear him talk about what inspires him and I was surprised with how open he was to others opinions. Although he is a man who challenges a lot of things and stay strong in what he believes he, he still understand where other people are coming from (for the most part) on debatable issues. I found him very
persuasive and he had really logical points for everything that he talked about.
One of the main things we ended up talking about in class was why people would write something anonymously. G Tod said these people should have a back bone and some courage to put their name on the things that they say. I definitely agree with him on this point. I think it is important for people to stand up for what they believe and say why they feel such a way.
One thing that I wish G Tod did more was explore other things. By this I mean that he seemed to be really focused on and really specific in his writings and when he talked to the first amendment of freedom of speech. I would enjoy if he talked about how he felt about a lot of other things like different amendments or controversial issues such as abortion or the death penalty. I know what he strives to do in his writings is to exercise his right to the first amendment but I would like if he got into his opinions on
a wider variety of issues.
Overall, it was very enjoyable to have G Tod Slone as a guest speaker in our class. It truly is something that no other teachers would do but I think the whole class learned and benefited from it. Thanks.
Matt DeOliveira: When I saw you walking in with him, the first thought that came to my mind was how he looked like the crazy scientist from back to the future. I would have never pictured him to look like that. In a way though, his image fits his character once I heard him speak so it works well with him. He can definitely be an awkward guy if you don't give him something to speak about, but once you do he will go off on the topic and branch onto other topics. I respect G. Tod Slone just because of his attitude towards authority. He basically has none. His attitude reflects on his thoughts put into words and like he said, everybody has a freedom to speech so why not seize the opportunity to use that freedom.
I found it interesting that he spent some time at a predominantly black college at Grambling State. I wonder if being at a mostly black school sprung up some of his rebel writings G. Tod Slone also had a sense of humor that I liked. I just don't think you can go forward in this life without a sense of humor. Even though G. Tod Slone writes and publishes material that questions authority and other aspects of life, he is able to keep his wit and sense of humor which enables him to keep doing this stuff until he can't no more.
I thought Slone was a good person to bring in to a class like ours. I can understand why other gerbil sucking professors don't invite him to speak but I also don't see why not. It's not like Sloan is going to brainwash the student population into believing something completely ridiculous. If anything, he is teaching the student body a valuable lesson and that is hold on to your word and don't be scared to voice it. Even if it is wrong or right, voice it because you never know where it can go or what it can do. I enjoyed G. Tod Slone day and I hope that other schools eventually open up to letting him share his philosophies.
Allison Forgues: I really enjoyed G Tod Slone. He is a guy who is not afraid to say what is on his mind. He crosses the lines, but knows how to do it in the right way. He reminds me a lot of a few teachers I have had. While a lot of people would think the way he acts towards students is inappropriate, it is the exactly opposite. Slone lets people in and becomes their friend, and then he talks about what he believes in. He publishes foul language and controversial topics, but he delivers his message and when someone leaves his discussion he or she is more informed. People today don’t learn by sticking to the books and the rules, they learn by the way they act. People let others in when they speak on the same level.
Slone also has been fired, has had his writings banned, and has gotten into trouble in many other ways. But he doesn’t boast about this, he shows that being whom you are and saying what you believe in may not always be acceptable, but eventually it will get you to where you want to be and you will feel better about yourself.
If there’s one thing I wish I always knew,
it is you should always let people know the real you.
Open the doors and let people in.
Know sometimes you lose and sometimes you win.
You’re not always right, but it doesn’t mean you’re the only one left.
But to change your ways is a sign of theft.
Don’t rob yourself or anyone else.
Live by this and you’ll feel better than you have ever felt.
I think G Tod Slone’s point of view on the first amendment “hit the nail on the head” as people say. I agree with Slone’s ideas and opinions on how even though America is considered “a free” country, freedom of speech is restricted. I don’t think that this will ever change, unfortunately. I think everyone should have the option of expressing their own point of view even if it contradicts or challenges other view points; everyone should have a right to their own thoughts and expression. Isn’t that what freedom of speech is really all about? Apparently after listening to the critics of Slone’s work this is not the case. I cannot believe that Slone was thrown out of work for expressing how he felt. It doesn’t make sense to me that our country allows this to happen. After listening to him talk, I thought a lot about what America stands for and what people believe America represents. I think a lot of the things that America is portrayed as is a stretch of the truth. If freedom of speech was the case, Slone or other poets and writers similar to him would not be looked down upon by authority figures. But I guess that the real answer lies within the fact that people, especially the government does not like to be questioned about their actions and additionally people are a notion within their minds that there is only one way to think and act: there way. Opposition to the “popular” viewpoint is looked down upon.
The handout that was given out in class stated that “In Europe and Canada, one can be brought before a court of law for merely criticizing Islam (and other religions) even if what one says is TRUTH.” I think that facts that are true and based on evidence should be allowed to be expressed no matter where you are around the world. This idea of contradicting ideas that may be offensive to other people who believe in other things should not be discouraged. Its challenging people’s view points and beliefs which in turn enables growth and for people to potentially not be so narrow minded.
Lauren Seabrook: G. Tod Slone was very interesting. It was great to hear his poetry and have him read in the class. He is very eccentric, I liked a lot of his poems. One that sticks out in my mind was the poem that addressed the flow of life and how people who work and become educated do so just to keep the flow flowing. His poems and some of the haikus he read were very zen. There were a lot of poems about nature. Many of his poems were also non-rhyming and long, therefore I noticed an element of contradiction. Additionally, he said that he often writes while living in a moment or to reflect back on a particular moment, this is also a very zen quality. Again, I enjoyed having G Tod in class!
Bailey Marquis: I was intimidated, empowered and confused by G. Tod Slone. He waltzed into the room, telling us how Sklar was the only professor who invited him to speak in a classroom. And to that, I say thank you to Professor Sklar. It is important and interesting to hear multiple differing and extreme viewpoints, and those who wish to close their eyes and ears to other opinions are ignorant. I disagreed with some of Slone’s ideas, thinking they were too extreme. But I really respected him for being open to dialogue and conflict. I think it’s more frustrating to have a disagreement and not be able to get across my viewpoint to a person who refuses to listen than it is to have a back and forth of conflicting opinions. I would rather my opponent listen to what I have to say and then give me their opinion, than for them to just write me off, closing their mind to what I think. I am a pretty level headed person, though, and usually end up compromising in these back and forth situations. From the impression I got from Slone, it seems that he wouldn’t compromise as easily or often as I would. I don’t think he’s stubborn because he wants to hear the opposition’s argument, but he has very strong opinions that he won’t compromise so easily on.
One obvious subject that Slone is passionate and opinionated about is free speech. On this subject, I disagreed with him only in some circumstances. Free speech is a difficult subject for me because when I first think about it I think, of course there shouldn’t be limitations on free speech; people should be able to say what they want when they want. But, especially from minoring in communications I have learned that it really isn’t that simple. You have to consider the security of others, be able to sympathize with people and protect certain information. I disagreed with what Slone said in reference to the protests of gay soldiers at their funeral, saying he’d agree with the judge’s decision that it was okay. I think these protests are completely disrespectful and ignorant. If these protestors wanted to start a dialogue like those that Slone supports, they would’ve chosen a different time and place to express their views. Clearly relatives and friends of the soldier who died would not be responsive to these protests, not even responding to what they had to stay, just hurt by it. It’s a tough call, because technically they’re just exercising their right to free speech. It was constitutionally sound but not morally. Anyway, I disagree with Slone in that way, believing there are some limits to free speech. I didn’t exercise my right to free speech in class by expressing my opposition because I’m a pretty quiet person, afraid to speak up usually because I can’t articulate myself verbally as well as I can on paper. Also, I get nervous with confrontation.
Another thing that Slone said that struck me was how only one college newspaper would publish his material and one college president put the school newspaper on freeze while he was employed there. I think that’s sad and stupid. Also the fact that a college wouldn’t print the story of him getting kicked out of his office was frustrating to me. If it’s factual and related to the school why wouldn’t they print it? It frustrates me even more because I know Endicott wouldn’t publish a story like this, or articles/cartoons by Slone. Our newspaper is a lot fluff. I enjoy writing for it, but I feel like there aren’t enough real or hard hitting articles. Editors admit that they can’t put Endicott or faculty in a hard light because they are the biggest supporters of the publication.
At the end of class though, Slone inspired me to voice my opinions more often and actually made me want to write some angry essays.
Nick Bouchard: This was not the first time that I have been in your class when G. Tod Slone came to visit and talk to us. I thought compared to the other time I had seen him he was much less controversial and radical. I think it’s because he was trying to read his poems with Zen qualities and nature, so I guess in a way we got to see how his Zen poems are much more peaceful and contradict his normal nature. Just like before I thought he was very entertaining and I like how he has his own point of view that he thinks is right and isn’t afraid to voice it. Many people will not say what they are thinking if they aren’t part of the majority or if what they have to say isn’t popular. He isn’t like that and although I don’t agree with everything he has to say I respect his courage and ability to stand up and say what he believes.
I don’t really think of him as a Zen poet. His poems do at times have qualities of a Zen poem and he did write a Haiku that he read, but I still don’t think his poetry fits the category. It is definitely interesting to hear him talk and listen to his writing. I would have liked to hear him read more of his controversial writing when he came to visit.
Ending A Friendship
I saw the wood decay,
the nails protrude
and catch our threadbare facades.
So I lit the ship on fire
and watched it burn into the sea.
I stand braced for the hidden cat o’ nine tails,
unaware that the pain has always been
Jamie D'Amaral: I personally respected Mr. Slone's philosophy. I liked how he was himself and did not conform just to please his peers. He was an interesting man with some good outlooks on life. I also liked his work. It was different from stuff that I have heard in the past. It had a nice unique quality to it. Both his work and his personality had an appeal to it. I cannot describe what exactly it was but it was inviting.
Why is it that the famous poets write about buttons, roads less traveled, or love that kills,
What about the ways of the world and the people who made it that way,
Through silence they tell you don’t be an individual, don’t voice opinions, or question authorities,
Don’t write about challenging topics or controversies, or harsh visions, even,
For they are “circular, sloppy”, they make you an idiot.
Those who don’t get it, don’t get it, but they need to be accepted,
Its free speech, individualism, reality.
Instead of being whipped, being held on a leash but the world that won’t allow harsh criticism,
Rather they tell you what to think, and how to be,
They think they have the upper power,
OPEN YOUR EYES, to those who have them closed,
Voices speak, so speak it.
I thought Thursdays poetry class was very interesting. I think Mr. Slone has a lot to say, and in a lot of ways just can't say it, or express it. I feel really bad because although I did not agree with all of his poems, and ideas, I think he has a right to express himself! I honestly DO NOT understand what the big deal is. Yes, he's different..but different is good. Poetry should not always be about flowers and love, it should dig up some of the dirt as well. Again, I feel that in the art world, they can express themselves any way they want and it is considered art. The fact that no one really accepts Slone's poetry boggles my mind. It seems to me they just do not want any sort of conflict, so when he sends a controversial poem to them, they instantly write him off because of this. They do not want to deal with the backlash of other poets, and people criticizing them for it. It’s stupid.
[Well, to say "no one really accepts Slone's poetry" is not true. After all, I've had two books published by two different strangers and have had tons of poems published. What is true is that the elite will not accept it, will not accept criticism of it, its icons, canon, etc.—GTS]
I thought that Mr. Slone lead a very interesting discussion. He seems like a man who embraces controversy and one willing to share an opinion even when it contradicts his own. I like his views on establishments and how they should always be challenged and agree that there is not enough of that in today's world.
We enjoyed hearing directly from G. Tod Slone in Dan Sklar's class. The American Dissident does give more than strong hints about what we would hear and it was worthwhile to have him in class.
Iconoclast is a good description and character I.D., but it can be carried to extremes. It is important to question and perhaps deplore society, but you still have to live within it. You are free to go as far out as you wish but then don't inveigh against those who don't want you around. They are responding to extreme messages you send out, but they stop listening and blame the carrier.
There is a quietness that makes people listen. Your voice is raised to a pitch people find hard to hear. The shrillness and anger obscure the reality, the truth of it.
I think I prefer the broad reach of social criticism in The American Dissident, much more than the condemnation of conventional poetry associations found in Oil of Vitriol. The overkill misses its mark; denotes disappointment, resentment rather than a better approach to poetry, life and more conventional societal norms.
Thanks for the visit. I have a few poems I will send in a separate email. You may find one that fits into your format. I too can get very angry.
Abolish the Canon
What makes one person’s writing more important than another’s? Why is it that the world of literature only includes some works in the “canon?” If you ask me, all writing is important. Maybe to our professors, writing filled with emotion and passion doesn’t matter, for all they seem to care about is grammar and sentence style, but to me, to a real human, to the reader, emotion and passion are all that matter. The canon should not be exclusive. Is it a party for the rich? A resort for the wealthy? A homeless person will never be in the canon. A prisoner will never be in the canon. Why? Because they aren’t part of the “extremely literate world,” the world where people are accepted in the canon. The canon shouldn’t be what the heads of the literature world think is best- for who chooses who chooses what’s in the canon? Why can’t I help choose what’s in the canon? The canon should be an accumulation of all different types of things- not a collection of the same old crap. I want variety in the canon- it’s all too often that I am reading the same things. In the end, the canon is full of shit that seems like duplicates. I want it to be a broad spectrum, a rainbow of information that could give you an understanding of the world- about many subjects and many eras. Why does the canon even exist? It’s like, I’m reading a book that I enjoy, and I get a dirty look because it’s “not part of the canon”, so it must be bad or something. No, actually, I enjoy reading about emotion. Also, when are things added to the canon? When does a piece reach the point that it’s “accepted” into the almighty canon? Is that like, a goal of writers these days? If you ask me, I feel it’s an unreachable one. In order to get into the canon, your writing would have to be the same old shit that has been in there for decades. Talk about cliché. You know what else, most of the crap I’ve read from the canon is all about the same stuff. No sex, no politics, no religion, no drug abuse, no alcoholism, no naming names, no racism or sexism, no greed, no sins, and nothing against political correctness. Nothing in the canon represents the real world… so why do we idolize it? Shouldn’t we idolize the poem written by the suicidal single mother? Or story by the homeless man whose kids won’t talk to him? Or the essay written by the college student who sees corruption in the government? Where is the opinion in this canon? All it does is represent nothing but an empty fantasy world that will never exist.
I think that all writing is acceptable, interesting, and right. There’s no way to “write wrong.” As long as the words come out, and as long as they come from a human, as long as someone writes them, they say something. They may look like little black spots on a page, but to at least one person in the world, they mean something. Shouldn’t that be enough?
Seeing G. Tod Slone is a great experience. I am and always have been a fan of people willing to go against the grain. It takes a lot of courage and love of what you do to not care what other people think and I admire that a lot. In class I enjoyed seeing his open attitude to what everyone had to say. He asked if anyone wanted to disagree and said we were entitled to our opinion and he was just giving us his. No matter who you are not everyone is going to like you, he just has more than most people but he embraces it and that is an extremely respectable quality. There aren’t many places you can go, or people you can talk to who are willing to give it to you straight or say it how it is, but he does that and I wish more people would. Holding grudges and keeping things to yourself does nothing and solves no problems. If someone truly stands for something that you disagree with, they will stand against you. Unfortunately it always seems as though the people who don’t respond are the ones with the power, leaving the argumentative powerless and looking stupid. That is what people want to make of G. Tod Slone, but somehow he has always found a way to persevere. I don’t always agree with everything he says, but I agree with the way he goes about his life and handles his business. As Coach Orion in Mighty Ducks D3 says “don’t be careless, but don’t be too careful either. You cannot be afraid to lose!” I believe that is the way G. Tod Slone lives his life and I admire that very much.
I think that what G. Tod Slone had to say, although valuable was very critical and I guess I just don't see myself as being such a critical person. I understand why he is the way he is I guess. But I feel like I am the exact opposite of him. I often do things to make people happy. I am always smiling to hopefully brighten someone elses day. And I feel like G. Tod's outlook is the exact opposite of that because he is criticizing everything.
But in listening to him speak about the hardships he has felt and the lack of support he has had I find myself having empathy and almost even feeling sorry for him. Because that's what I do. So instead of opposing his opinion the way he probably generally enjoys since that is what he does, I just listen and take in his beliefs. Although I don't necessarily agree with what he has said. But I guess that is just me. I am a pleaser and like to make people smile and feel good about themselves.
I enjoyed G. Tod Slone's visit to our class. I may not agree with EVERYTHING he has to say, but I can certainly see where he is coming from. I think the idea that I most agree with is the ridiculous and immature use of ad hominem in an argument. I know that I am a young adult and that I don't understand everything in this world. I especially don't know a lot about the government, but I do understand respect. I find it appalling that some of
the veiws Slone makes to well-educated, high on the totem pole people are replied with "You're a loser". Funny, these people are often looked up to. I don't know if I can respect someone who argues like that. It's very contradictory to the education they stand for. I thought his visit was valuable in that it made me see another side to the politics while also reaffirming what I believe in.
G Tod Slone is someone who cannot help but to speak his mind in public. Why that is looked upon so often as a bad thing is beyond me. He’s a harmless man who strives for truth and openness within our corrupt society. It baffles him, the way society crafts us, the youth, to be so close-minded. We are taught to engulf anything we are told without questioning or disagreeing with it. Chaos is a bad thing and quarrels are negative also. We take what is taught unconsciously and do not explore what information is being given to us, we accept it even if we do not completely agree with it because disagreement has become such a negative concept. One could claim they don’t just conform to society’s ways but if you are honest with yourself, we all do it. We all bite our tongue to disregard the reckless argument it may spark up. G Tod Slone looks at these arguments in a positive light. He has the guts to come out and say what he’s thinking, a trait others should envy. We live together in this world no matter what, if we can agree to disagree with each other life would still be civil. It’s being fake to one another that seems to be corrupting us. We give fake smiles, agree when we know that we don’t, and go along with certain things that give us a bad feeling inside. We all do it and letting go of these bad habits could help us regain our freedom because society in itself seems to be imprisoning us with its norms. G Tod Slone is so open to his opinions because he believes one should share their thoughts and not be looked at differently for them or cut out of the group we call society. Even though criticizing often has led him to give a lot up, he still sticks to his theory of challenging everything and never keeping quiet if you disagree. This theory could be used in a small conversation among friends or a complete rant about why our government is corrupt. As a creative writing major I see it all the time, the slow demise of creativity among college students. We are robots designed to regurgitate information. I am lucky enough to say that Professor Sklar was the one English Professor to “allow” Tod Slone to speak at one of our classes. This is the second time I have heard him speak here at Endicott and his theory on life and writing, which go hand and hand with each other, naturally sparks creativity. Questioning everything allows exploration to occur inside our growing minds, that’s important. I take this theory and apply it to my writing. It is sad to think that other colleges are filled with students writing things that they think there professor wants them to write instead of writing from an idea that came from an exploration of their own minds. Exploration seems to be banned in colleges; Close mindedness seems to be becoming more of a glorified characteristic. G Tod Slone is a man who sticks to his passion and I feel if education remains the way it has been that no one will follow their passions and instead stick to things others expect of them, they’ll simply conform to the expectations of others.
Erika: G. Tod Slone’s class presentation, although different from what I expected, was very refreshing. Before his arrival, I imagined a wild-haired, ranting, and boisterous man who did nothing but complain about society and the lack of dissent in today’s academics. However, he was very calm upon arrival and answered all questions in a collective manner. His answers were genuine and true to himself, and he was very relatable. When he spoke, he targeted the young audience and didn’t try to overwhelm us with a large and unknown vocabulary. From listening to him speak, you would never guess he was a poet, but it’s nice to see that poets do not always have to be mysterious and intellectual. Poetry is written for expression, and G. Tod Slone certainly knows to express himself.
Christina: After attending college for almost four years and having to deal with the politics and strict policies of a private institution of higher education (Endicott) it was refreshing to listen to someone who challenges board members, trustees and tenured professors. Before even coming to college, I was constantly receiving mail and having to go to orientations about how perfect and amazing the colleges I was applying to were. Obviously, there are flaws everywhere. I appreciate that G Tod Slone, a professor himself, has the courage to actively criticize colleges, even the ones he is invited to speak at. His words inspire me to be more critical of the world I live in.
Andy: G, as I would like to refer to him as was not what I expected at all. I was expecting a cold, dark man who wanted nothing to do with the people in our class that were going to be asking him questions. Instead, what walked through that door was a man who believed in what he was doing and wanted to share with us what he was doing. He actually wanted to talk to us, not just push us off. He seems like a very interesting guy, someone who might have some great views on the way our world is running and being ruled.
I especially like the way he read his poetry, he added that tone and persona to it that is just not there when read by a second party. He added something to it, I can’t quite describe it, but it almost seemed like it came to life. You could definitely feel his passion in the poem he read about the dead crow he came across while walking in the woods. This also allowed us to see a softer side of what was most likely a hard shelled man who doesn’t let many people into where he keeps his feelings. He actually felt for this crow and was upset that it had passed for whatever reason. He had feelings and I think that is something that drove him to write about it. After all, G would probably want us to feel for the crow as well, he seems like an activist of nature and I think that’s why he was so passionate about this bird.
Nicola: I think too many Americans are concerned with being perceived as anti- America, and their fear gets in the way of true democracy. I think everyone needs to start taking more and more risks. I lived in London recently and while I was there I did the whole backpacking thing in Europe and it was funny cause when we were in the hostels people would ask me and friend where we were from and we would usually say London instead of saying the U.S. We didn’t want to say we were American cause of the negative connotation associated with being an American. The way America is perceived is a big problem. I’m also disappointed in politicians, I don’t vote and its seems such a big deal that I don’t vote because I’m not expressing my democratic right, but there’s honestly never been a candidate that I’ve been really interested in and would be excited about voting for.
I agree, that one should always write what they know. I think people are afraid of conflict and afraid of challenging those ideas that are considered so holy.
People don’t like to question, they like to keep things just the way they like them, never changing. But I think change is a good thing and its important.
Before G. Tod Slone I never questioned higher education, now I question it all the time. I mean sure it’s great and all, but sometimes it stifles my creativity. I know I don’t take enough risks, but I’m going to start taking more and more. I feel like Ill learn more from taking risks than anything else. I need to start having more and more experiences that can help shape my writing. I can totally see how injustice can make a writer, it almost makes me wish that I could be Dostoevsky and be exiled in Siberia. But then again I’m sure I could find some injustice much closer to home or at least somewhere I want to be. It interests me to be fluent in another language and to be able to express oneself in another language. I want to be able to write in another language now. It’ll probably be French, which I should probably work on. But maybe Spanish one day too because that’s the next language I want to learn.
Margie: After looking at the American Dissident website it is evident that G. Tod Slone has a very open and free outlook on what he thinks about not only writing poetry but also the idea that people should have the freedom to say what they want. The website voices an opinion that I think is a good one. It says that everyone should be allowed to say what he or she wants about whatever they want. He also makes the point that people are afraid to voice their opinions because they don’t know how others will take what they believe is true. G Tod doesn’t understand the logic in freedom of speech when people are afraid to say how they feel. The website American Dissident is a place where people are free to say how they really feel, which I think is a good idea because if others see that people are voicing their opinion they will be less afraid to say how they feel.
Nicole: “I really enjoyed the presentation by G. Tod Sloan. I had a bias against him at first from the thoughts and feelings people were saying about him prior to his arrival at Endicott. I didn't think I was going to like him. I pictured this old, grey haired man that talked slow and barely made sense. I guess this is why you can't always judge before you meet someone. I ended up really liking him. He has a good sense of humor and his way of writing is unique and interesting. I like how he continuously read little poems he had written and made comments here and there. Usually I am not intrigued at presentations but he had my attention. I enjoyed it. I'd like to hear him present again. He's interesting. He's unique. I liked it.”
Reaction: I liked your description of me as a possible old geezer, and thank you for the compliments.
Courtney: I personally, dislike negative, harsh poems like G. Tod Slone’s. I feel that life is unpleasant enough so why write about horrible things and become more depressed. I do understand journals and people getting out their feelings, so if it is that kind of thing then it is ok. I do also believe in freedom of speech, but again, why make up things that are depressing. I think creative writing is wonderful and yes, who wants to listen to all those famous poets all the time, but G. Tod Slone goes over and above this. You can be outspoken and unlike other standard poets without having to be so harsh about everything.
Reaction: Ouch, that hurt! BUT I’m glad you have the courage to speak your mind even when so HARSH! (Just joking with your word “harsh.”) Actually, I do not normally “make up things.” The reality of my various encounters is more than enough to keep me sparked creatively.
Mike: After waiting about half an hour, G. Tod Sloan arrived. I had high hopes at the start of it because it seemed like he was an interesting guy. The main point of his argument was to express yourselves and not let the teachers hold our thoughts back. So therefore that is what I am going to do in this review. It started off being very boring, with a few nice poems read. I confidently looked up and was waiting for it to get better. That never happened, it seemed like he was going on rants about certain types of people and things he didn't like. I especially hated when he read poems in different languages. We are at Endicott College in the United States of America, read the poems in ENGLISH. Not many people can understand your languages. We get the idea its the "cool" thing to do to know all of these languages, but most students cannot understand the different world languages he used. At the end of the day, bringing it all together the poems were not that bad. They had some meaning if you thought and focused, so that was a nice thing to have amidst the negative things about all other types of people but poets.
Reaction: Ouch! BUT I am glad that you have no problems expressing YOUR mind, even though as a RANT sort of way! (Just joking with your word “rants.”) Of course, regarding the languages, I read only one short poem in French, the translation in English, then one extremely short one in Spanish. You make it sound as if all I were doing was reading in foreign languages. Also, the USA is a multilingual country. Spanish is spoken by millions of American citizens. Parts of New Hampshire and Maine, not to mention Louisiana, are French speaking. And as mentioned, learning foreign languages opens the doors to other cultures and hopefully opens ones mind while doing so. By the way, two students liked the fact that I read those poems in foreign languages. So, evidently with that regard, I could not please everyone. In fact, a dissident certainly cannot hope to please everyone. If he pleases the majority, he is not a dissident, but a politician. As for “boring,” it can refer to any number of things, including to ones own inability to connect to what is being said. In other words, it is not necessarily the speaker’s flaw, but can also be that of the listener.
Liz: I enjoyed the poetry reading presented by G. Tod Slone. I think Slone’s personality came out in his poetry which made me enjoy it even more. He was a very honest man; he said what was on his mind without regard to others. One of my favorite things about Slone’s poetry is the fact that many of his poems were written in other languages. Even though I didn’t understand the poem he read in French, I thought it sounded beautiful. Sometimes the way something sounds makes it special, even though I didn’t understand the meaning or the vocabulary of the poem. It was beneficial when Slone discussed why he wrote each poem and the story behind it, before reading it. This allowed me to understand where the poem came from. Such as that poem he wrote when he was holding a sign at Walden Pond when the poets walked by. Had I heard that poem without hearing the background information I would have had no understanding of the meaning. Slone was a funny guy, I enjoyed when he referred to his wife as his female friend. I feel that I benefited from the reading; I learned that anything can inspire a poem to be written.
Reaction: Thanks much for the kind words!
Emily: This is a man who has no problem offending people with his opinions, and in my opinion, we are better off for his blunt insight. There is a time and place for everything, and it seems that G. Tod Slone has found his place in a dark, venomous, and brilliantly unique world all his own. He expresses his very essence in his writings, writings that are earthy and grounded. Most major poets work hard to build labyrinths with their words, which I sometimes feel are meant more to impress than to inspire or convey an emotion, event, or experience they had. G. Tod Slone, however, is not a poet like that. He tells you like it is in language we all use and comprehend. It is his blunt simplicity that moves me to call him great.
Reaction: Thank you for the compliment! I shall have to put that comment on my resume! Just kidding, of course.
Liz (2): I know that in the beginning of his seminar he said that he wasn’t going to be an entertainer, but then again he also said he wasn’t going to bore us, which seemed to happen. For a lot of the event I was bored and unfazed by what he was reading. I was scanning the crowd to see who attended and finding several ways to entertain myself. It seemed to me as though his poems were too scripted and there wasn’t enough freedom to them, but maybe then again it was the way that he was reading them. I wish he had put more emphasis and emotion into his reading that way the audience would have been more involved and engaged in what he was saying. I did like the way that everything he read was so different from one another. It was as though he was reading a bunch of different poems by different poets. I think it’s nice to have different ways to go about writing and that when it’s all very similar it tends to get old. I’m not going to lie; I definitely wouldn’t have attended this event if I wasn’t required to. It wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever been to, but it wasn’t the worst. I liked the way that it was an open poetry seminar and that people could share poems and pieces of writing that they wrote. I would never have the guts to do something like that, so it makes me respect those people and their confidence in their writing. I think the whole event just needed more excitement to it, in order to keep people’s attention and to get people involved.
Reaction: Ouch! But glad you have the courage to express yourself openly, even and especially when critical! Of course, I was concerned that I might have been akin to a preacher speaking to a roomful of atheists. Some would say, however, that it was not for me to dumb down and try to sing and dance on stage in an effort to grab your attention. Again, it takes two to tango. In other words, if the listener does not know, or has no interest in, what the speaker is talking about, it is inevitable the listener will become bored.
Kevin: “But at the same time I think he does some things just for a reaction. Like when he said the "N" word in class talking about something that he saw in NC.”
Reaction: Actually, I was not trying to get a reaction by using that word. Just the same, we’re adults, so if we all begin saying the “n” word, then we all fall into collective cowardice. Say the word! Not to say it constitutes the banning of a word. Journalists have been shamefully teaching us to do that. Orwell’s 1984 shows where word banning leads to. Also, perhaps trying to get a reaction is not necessarily negative.
Kevin: “I also think some of the stories he told he did not give the whole story, like when he was kicked out of the library. I feel as though he had some form of guilt, he didn't just get kicked out for being G.”
Reaction: Very good point. Indeed, how could someone w/o similar experience believe it actually possible that I hadn’t done anything wrong? This of course leads me to think about the Innocence Project, which has exonerated over a hundred prisoners, some incarcerated for murder and rape. They were in prison because of corrupt police, corrupt district attorneys, and false witness testimonials. Many people will still believe they’re guilty, no matter what. Also, with my regard, I was not offered possibility of due process. In other words, the librarian got to serve as judge and jury, while I didn’t even have the opportunity to pose my defense. That’s not supposed to happen in America! But it does and did.
Nick: “I liked to see that there are negative posts up on the blog as well. Seeing that he is not afraid to face criticism, and is willing to write responses to it rather than let it scare him off.”
Reaction: Good observation. Clearly, I could have “moderated” those blog comments, but if I had I would not have been any different from others who “moderate” (a nice word for “censor”). Many blogs have a list of rules, many of which are vague and clearly open to subjectivity. In fact, InsideHigherEd.com “moderates” and censored one of my comments. Because of that I was inspired to do a watercolor of the editor/moderator. In my humble opinion, “moderation” (i.e., censorship) does not belong in higher education at all and that includes censoring the word “nigger” by calling it the “n” word. BTW, I do not use that word to refer to blacks. I taught four years at two black colleges (HBCUs) and that enabled me to get a close look at black youth. It opened my eyes a tad. I know that there are all kinds of blacks just as there are all kinds of whites. Others, however, do use that word. Let’s bring that out into the arena of vigorous debate.
Katie: “The first thought that popped into my head when I open the website for The American Dissident was utter chaos. There is so much written on the first homepage, that I was not really sure where to begin my journey on the site.”
Reaction: Keep in mind that “chaos” means lack of organization. I have spent years organizing The American Dissident website. Clearly, it is organized. Perhaps you meant “chaos” in your mind as a result of seeing so much material?
Sarah: “When I first went to the website for "The American Dissident," it struck me how cluttered the home page is.”
Reaction: “Clutter” and “erratic” (Kristen’s word below) infer “chaos” or lack of organization. Rather than “clutter” or “erratic,” I think it would have been more appropriate to state there was a lot of material, much of which seemed foreign to you… or something like that. Just the same, I shall have to contemplate this criticism of “chaos,” though I do think “chaos” is not the appropriate term. Because you look at something and find it “overwhelming” or even “confusing” does not necessarily make it chaotic.
Kristen: “After looking around the website I was somewhat confused. I read some of the essays, none of which were by G. Tod Slone, and saw that they all had the common theme of 'telling it like it is'. […] When I went to the poem section I saw that Slone didn't have any writings there which I found strange. I feel as though if he was going to make a site that he should put some of his own ideas in writing.”
Reaction: Actually, many of my essays are posted on the website, but not on the page of essays written by famous persons. I wanted to avoid putting my name next to them, for evident reasons. Yours is a strange criticism because, if anything, I think there is too much, not too little, of my own writing on the website. In fact, that would be my major criticism of the journal: too much of my writing et al in each issue. However, I justify that by the fact that I rarely if ever receive a sufficient number of good submissions to fill a given issue.
Jill: “As an entertainer, you would have to write in a style that attracted others specifically so I think that is why we may have not enjoyed his poetry as much as he does himself.”
Reaction: Yours is a tough criticism for me to respond to. Perhaps the following Bukowski quote serves as a good response: “When poetry becomes popular enough to fill cabarets and music halls, then something is wrong with that poetry or with that audience.” Indeed, if everyone liked my poetry then clearly it would not possess such a critical bent. Moreover, if so many liked it, I suspect I’d be trying to please, as opposed to speaking the rude truth as I saw it. For me, a poet should always choose the latter, not the former. Also, it’s best for you to speak for yourself and not speak for the collective (i.e., “we”). Doing the latter is a hackneyed, hollow rhetorical tactic. Besides, how do you know how everyone thought? As you can read here, some did in fact like it. So, avoid using “we.” Just a tip.
Kelly: “However, like G. Tod said, all professors do not fit that mold. I agree that you most definitely don’t fit that mold, but I think he is being a little harsh saying that 99.99% do. There are other professors out there, even some at Endicott, that shares a similar philosophy.”
Reaction: Good point. However, I base that 99.99% on my experience over the past several decades of constant questioning and challenging of professors throughout the USA. Rarely, indeed, do I ever receive a response. Perhaps 95% would have been a better figure. Ninety per cent would have definitely been too generous for that would constitute one out of ten. My experience dictates the number to be more like one out of 100 or even higher. My testing the waters of democracy in academe supports this statement.
Kelly: I was a bit taken aback when he stated that poets are not meant to entertain. He went on to say that he was entertaining at the moment and was therefore a hypocrite. Why can’t poets entertain? Aren’t they writing so that someone can read them? Reading a poem in itself is a form of entertainment. I think that at times he may try to put too many restrictions on what it is he does. He appears to be a man who writes when he wants to write and does what he pleases. We do not need to define a poet. A poet just is.
Reaction: Good points here. I did want to bring that contradiction to light, which is why I mentioned it. But what I really stated, or at least wanted to state, was that FOR ME a poet should not be an entertainer (i.e., a court jester or courtesan), but rather a rude truth teller. Again, this is my opinion. What I actually said during the reading was that by standing up in front of people, it was automatic that I was expected to entertain them. BUT I did have the choice between acting as a court jester of poetic fluff or as a teller of hard truths. Thus, I chose the latter. You’re right, there was a definite conflict in my mind with that regard. Hypocrisy? Perhaps a little. But I’m not fully convinced. Yet how else to get my message out there in the agora of ideas that is supposed to be our democracy? In other words, I could justify my appearance, arguing that by standing in front of professors and students I could be highly critical of them, and that was an opportunity not to be missed. Most poets today were careerists. In that sense, most did not dare “go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all ways” (Emerson). What they sought to do was win prizes, get published, and become famous.
Kelly: “I’m not sure why, but I found it uncharacteristic that he had prepared what he was going to say. I have never met him before, however from what I had known of him I expected him to stand up there and wing it. Just read some poems and tell us about himself.”
Reaction: Again, yours is an interesting comment. I’m not really a “winger.” Good writing inevitably requires much organization, research (looking up words in the dictionary or whatever), and editing, quite the opposite of “winging” it. Some poems, at least of mine, do not read well out loud. Thus, I wanted to go over my poems at home to make sure they read okay, fluently. Some I decided were too long, so didn’t use them. It’s always a tough call and subjective. Preparation is important. Because I have a dissident (questioning and challenging) mind does not automatically mean I don’t prepare or wish to prepare. On the contrary, I’ve got to reflect and prepare perhaps more than most because I want my arguments to be solid.
Caitlin: “However; as I continued to read I found some things to be a bit offensive. When describing the purpose of this website the following statement was made, "An integral part of the journal's focus includes the highlighting of intelligent, often educated people (e.g., professors, teachers, poets, and editors) oddly possessing a severe deficiency in the area of logical argumentation. One might indeed label them Mentally Challenged, in the PC sense, though unlike the retarded, they are not challenged in the areas of memory and successful conformist functioning in society." I did not like how he originally called the Mentally Challenged, mentally challenged and then later referred to them as "retarded." I thought that his statement was a bit offensive. I also think that he should not be categorizing. I thinking that he is making a lot of stereotypes and I didn't really like what he had to say. However, I read one of his articles any ways.
Reaction: Here’s a great quote on OFFEND from a black female writer, Jamaica Kincaid: “Express everything you like. No word can hurt you. None. No idea can hurt you. Not being able to express an idea or a word will hurt you much more. As much as a bullet. [...] A lot of energy is wasted on these superficial things [speech codes]... I can’t get upset about ‘offensive to women’ or ‘offensive to blacks’ or ‘offensive to native Americans’ or ‘offensive to jews’... Offend! I can’t get worked up about it. Offend!” I agree with her entirely. Our educational system is forcing students to be overly concerned with offending and little concerned with truth telling. I mean and meant no mockery whatsoever with regards the “retarded.” Too many students (and professors) today focus more on PC terminology, than on logic and truth… and that is what is so very sad. “Mentally challenged” or “retarded”? What’s the difference? It’s a simple matter of superficial semantics! Why should “mentally challenged” be kinder than “retarded”? To me, the former sounds absurd and forced upon us by leftist PC educators. No thanks! Perhaps if I’ve “offended” you then indeed I did my “job” as poet. I am far more concerned not with offending you, but with you being easily offended. Democracy demands spine (and tough skin)! Yet citizens today seem to have less and less of it. Truth by its very nature will often be offensive. Given the choice between truth and being offensive, I’ll always choose the former. Also, I did not write ALL poets, ALL professors and ALL editors were thus. I simply mentioned them as examples of “educated” classes of people.
Caitlin: “I decided to read his article on The Academy of American Poets. I decided to go in with an open mind but I found that in the article he repeatedly bashed "wealthy" people. I personally do not agree with the statements that he's making. First of all don't trash people because of their economic standing. A lot of people work hard for the money they make and to sit there and rip apart people for being wealthy just sounds to me like a case of jealously!”
Reaction: Well, yours is a tough one to respond to, especially since I failed to define what I really meant by the “wealthy” in that essay. Am I jealous of the “wealthy”? Well, I don’t go around all day long wishing I had great piles of money. Still, “wealthy” should have been defined. What I do not like is the inequity in America. Of all the industrialized nations in the world, America has the largest gulf between the “wealthy” and the poor. And that gulf is ever increasing. And that gulf has been compared to gulfs much more characteristic of third-world countries, than with those of the so-called industrialized ones. The “wealthy” have far greater access to government than the poor. One citizen, one vote is simply an American myth. The “wealthy” have far more power than one vote. The “wealthy” financiers have brought this nation to its very knees today, helped destroy the life savings of average Americans, and now have the nerve to beg for money from them. The “wealthy,” perhaps often, evade paying their fair share of taxes. For example, the New York Times reported several days ago: “UBS, the largest bank in Switzerland, agreed on Wednesday to divulge the names of well-heeled Americans whom the authorities suspect of using offshore accounts at the bank to evade taxes.” What we need in America is less capitalism and more real democracy and humanism. Indeed, one day I suspect the “wealthy” will have so much in America, while the poor so little, that the latter will have no other choice but violent revolution. Perhaps rather than the constant inculcation of the Protestant work ethic, which by the way does not promote accumulate, accumulate, accumulate and consume, consume, consume, we ought to begin inculcating in the citizenry the “question and challenge” ethic. Our nation and democracy depend on it. Oligarchs rule America, not the citizenry. That is a reality. Lobbyists rule the government, not the citizens.
Brian: “Though not necessarily intentional, I found it fitting that he showed up late as it proved he really wasn’t interested in what other people think of him. This isn’t to say that he is rude, but simply not fazed by the way other people may perceive him.”
Reaction: In reality, I intended showing up 15-30 minutes early, not late. After all, I had a lot of free time to kill at Endicott College in between the class in the morning and the reading in the late afternoon. In reality, it was an embarrassing failure on my part to show up on time. My watch was really and truly OFF. By showing up late, I was perhaps embarrassing Prof. Sklar who had the generosity and kindness to invite me in the first place. I did apologize to the audience and him. So, please, don’t think I showed up late on purpose. As a professor, I usually always show up on time for my classes. Actually, I am human and cannot say that I am entirely unfazed by what others think of me. Of course, I’m influenced by what others think.
Brian: “However, in his 6th poem or so he made the mistake of telling how he does all these things he shouldn’t and using the line “he leaves when he is not supposed to leave.” As soon as he said this I was out of there and back to work because oddly enough he inspired me not to stay.”
Reaction: Good for you! It's always good not to follow the herd now and then.
Brian: What I found the hardest to believe out of everything that he said or did was his uncanny physical similarity to Christopher Lloyd’s character Doc Brown in Back to the Future. I have inserted a photo for proof.
Reaction: Well, I told this one to my woman friend, who got a big laugh out of it. I suppose it adds a little humor, which is always good, though it is also akin to playing with someone's name. Some have called me Dr. Groan, for example and Gee Tod. Such superficialities, though perhaps humorous, tend to divert away from the arguments in the same way ad hominem and red herrings do. Often people who are either too lazy or insufficiently intelligent to think of cogent counter-arguments will revert to them.
Kerry: “The others don't see the point until it is pointed out to them that to truly know a person, you must watch how they treat people who are lesser than themselves. It is also interesting to read how this corruption affected the writer personally and to see how they've grown from it.”
Reaction: Excellent statement.
Morgan: “What was most interesting was that although he presents many cases against what the academy did, he never actually says what it is that he was banned for. I think that it is important for the readers to understand what kind of language he was censored for. He is obviously a very intelligent, but confrontational person based on his articles, so I have to say that I can't form an opinion for or against his censorship until I know what it is that he said.”
Reaction: Actually, a link to the entire uncensored transcript is embedded in that article. You must have overlooked it. Thus, I left it up to the reader to decide what was so horrendous about the “kind of language” I used. It is sad that you cannot form an opinion for or against my being censored. In other words, please take the initiative to study the First Amendment and censorship. Since the Academy receives thousands (perhaps even millions) of taxpayer dollars, it should not be in the censoring business and in doing so it violates the very spirit of the First Amendment. Also, it is shameful to think that an academy of poets would condone censorship. My fear is that far too many students (and professors) are ignorant with regards the First Amendment, which is why I discussed it briefly in class. The health of democracy depends on an informed citizenry!
Morgan: “I also find it very strange and almost unprofessional that he would list all of his former colleagues' email addresses on his web page, and encourage reads to harass them. If he told his readers what he was banned for, and gave a good case against it then maybe he could put the email of his previous boss for readers. The only case in which I would find it appropriate to exploit his previous boss' email would be if the company had actually committed an illegal crime against him. However, from my point of view, he may have been the one committing the illegal acts.
Reaction: They were certainly not my colleagues! They were Academy chancellors, proponents of censorship, who refused to engage in vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy. Thus, upon my website they stand, as they should, naked and accused. And what does “professional” mean or imply? That is really the crux. Does it imply keeping ones mouth shut in the face of corruption? Does it imply being nice to ones colleagues when they are corrupt (I’m not saying they are, but rather if they are)? Does it imply acting as a sheep, rather than an individual? Does it imply jumping on the bandwagon to put a scarlet C upon the forehead of a critic in the midst? I’m afraid it probably does, and in that sense we need to question and challenge the very meaning of “professional.” For example, I think of all those very professional bankers who have all but bankrupted the nation because of their very professional greed and indifference to democracy. I did not encourage readers to “harass” those chancellors, but rather to challenge their approval of censorship. There’s a world of difference between “harass” and challenge! Never assume somebody has committed “illegal acts” without having any evidence whatsoever to support that assumption. In fact, no “illegal acts” were committed. Apparently, the Academy, as a private institution, does have the right to censor. However, when it does it violates the spirit of free speech and expression as well as democracy. Besides, it is sponsor of National Poetry Month, which is celebrated in most colleges and high schools across the country. Be very careful with your reasoning and get the facts straight. It is apparent that for some reason you thought I was employed by the Academy of American Poets and that they were my “boss.” Yet nowhere does the essay state, let alone imply, that.
Tristan: “If you question everything, you are losing trust and faith in other people. These are very important qualities in my opinion. Without trust and faith you are just looking over your shoulder or worrying about every little thing. Have trust in other people and you might be surprised that they pull through for you.”
Reaction: If we do not question, then we are to blindly “trust” and have “faith in other people.” Clearly, America is on the verge of collapse today because we did not question, but rather trusted and had faith. Hopefully, you will rethink your statement. An educated person (and not just with a college degree) is a person who will question and challenge, not one who will simply have faith. History tells us that having blind faith in people (e.g., Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Franco) can be very, very dangerous to people. Think of the Catholic child-molesting priests who preached faith! Well, they’ve cost the church millions of dollars in reparations, not to mention the suffering of countless parishioners who had trust and faith! Hopefully, college will help you choose the route of ACTIVE questioning and challenging to that of having PASSIVE faith.
Bailey: “I thought it was so great that the page wasn't designed to promote G. Tod Slone as a poet but to open minds to the possibility of change and freedom and the security of a site and an audience to talk about issues and writing.”
Reaction: I am pleased that you could see that! Most poets who have websites do nothing but promote their books and themselves. Sadly, self-promotion seems to be the way of the present and future. But I say, promote ideas, not self!
Michael: Slone opens his poem [“The Bitch Goddess of Capitulation”] with self-observation of the fact that he always feels a need to censor himself. The evil he speaks of when he says he should not see, hear, or speak evil is outspokenness to established order. The idea of giving in to the order of establishment has been ingrained in his mind, to a point where it feels unnatural to fight it.
Reaction: I’d be surprised if anyone did not feel the compulsion to self censor! Good point on fighting feeling unnatural.
Michael: “It’s simply easier to comply than to be difficult.”
Reaction: Allow me to replace the pejorative word “difficult” with “a responsible citizen.”
Ian: G. Tod Slone's website “The American Dissident” is a self run topical outlet, where the poet writes to “promote vigorous debate” and “criticize partisans of the academic/literary” among other things. The portion I read was the latest update on his blog, and it was very heated post to say the least. In this he was calling out Dahn Shaulis- a contributor of his- that had accused him of being sexist and racist in his writings, on his website. G. Tod proceeds to explain why this man had thought of this way, and discusses specific portions of his writing that Shaulis had thought to be examples of sexism and racism. Throughout the post G. Tod remains cemented in his stance that he does not promote bigotry, but at the same time he is able to remain upbeat and not resort to being overly aggravated. A line that demonstrates this is “I’d been accused of a lot of things before, but that was, as far as I could recall, the first time I’d ever been accused of sexism and racism. Well, perhaps not.” He also includes several drawings that serve to convey the point that he is trying to make, and these serve their purpose quite well. These are commonplace in his writing, and are a very effective tool in delivering his messages. He continues to bring up situations where he has been considered either sexist or racist, and poignantly refutes the claims by providing evidence to support his claims. When Shaulis comments on Slone's claim that Obama is “Bubba with a black face,” Slone replies that “For me, however, it simply recognized that Obama had been stocking his cabinet with former Clinton (i.e., Bubba) cronies. I’d certainly be very interested in hearing from others why they thought that comment a racist one.” If taken at face value, the quote “Bubba with a black face” can seem racist in denotation, but in fact- as G. Tod explains- it has little to do with his race, and instead was just commenting on his choice of cabinet members. I think the blog- this entry at least- is written very decisively, and most assuredly promotes the sites cause; which is to insight debate.
Reaction: I am so glad that you have such a wonderful ability to reason, as illustrated by your comments on the blog on sexism and racism.
Caitlin: “I found that section of scrolling quotes to bring forth all relative and important thoughts that we may think but not express to other people. It makes you think about all the people who are going to be graduation but know little to nothing about their constitutional rights and the laws of the nation they live in. Which is probably true for most young adults and even those who are older.”
Reaction: How very right you are! It is the very shame of our system of higher education! How can so many graduates be so very ignorant of their “constitutional rights and the laws of the nation they live in”? We need to do something to change that!!! Prof. Sklar knows that and perhaps that’s one reason he invited me.
Rob: When I first looked at the website, I had no idea what it was. Then when I started reading some of the websites homepage I realized that this guy is a nut. When I read that people of Concord wanted to shut the site down and arrest him. Then the best part came when I looked at the blog and saw some of the responses that Endicott students left about his presentation. I thought that some of them were hilarious and kind of wish I could of made the presentation. I especially liked Courtneys response on the blog that said he had harsh poems and wrote about negative things. She was basically bashing him and he responded with thanks for speaking your mind. I couldn't help but burst out laughing. I found it pretty humorous. I also liked that Sloan had no problem offending people. I especially liked this quote by Emily which made me wish again that I went, "G. Tod Slone, however, is not a poet like that. He tells you like it is in language we all use and comprehend. It is his blunt simp!licity that moves me to call him great." I love people that are blunt and are straight shooters. Many people should be more honest in today's society.
Reaction: See introduction above. Good point on honesty! We couldn't agree more, you NUT!
Sarah: I was very disheartened when you and Mr. Slone mentioned the sacrifices he has made in order to be who he is. To me, he is a man who states the facts, and challenges the herd mentality that we all tend to agree with. The fact that he doesn't want to be part of this massive stupid herd, and that he must sacrifice greatly in order to be his own person made me think more about society. I'm a very negative person, and I think a conversation with him would be an agreeable one for me. However, I did hear from other students how crazy he was, and how miserable he was. It's a shame that there are so few people like him. I especially liked how he didn't translate the Spanish poem simply because he didn't feel like it. I also liked how he talked about himself and his own life, with blatant disregard for the common "filter" that most guests would use. I had a great time listening to this guy complain for a little under an hour. Thanks for the opportunity and the insight.
Reaction: I'd be very interested in knowing how you got to be a “very negative person” and precisely how you got to “thinking more about society.” I’m really not that “crazy” or “miserable.” Writing and drawing and traveling and vino tinto and running in the sunshine keep my spirits high. Watch out for words like “complain.” They have a definite pejorative connotation. I much prefer “criticize,” though I suppose that too has a somewhat pejorative connotation.
Maryanne: Personally, I found G. Tod Slone’s commentary very refreshing because although by nature he is a bit blunt, he’s very honest, and it was enlivening to hear what was on someone’s mind that has very strong opinions. It was a bit comical to hear the conflicts he gets himself into, but one thing I learned from this experience is that conflict leads to debate and debate often times leads to change; because conflict gets his pen moving and the reason he writes is to expose lies, I think his personality and talent go hand-in-hand because we need people who are willing to speak out about the truth. Meanwhile, G Tod Slone may end up not being liked too much, perhaps by some women poets, for instance, but I don’t think he cares. He may lack a bit of tact when dealing with people he’s in disagreement with, but the world needs more people who are willing to stand up for what’s right, who don’t care so much what others think, and who aren’t only out for number one and the most they can get out of situations. This was my first time going to a poetry reading, so I wasn’t too sure what to expect, and I’m not sure if this is typical of all readings, but I really liked how he would explain the context of the poem or perhaps give a little bit of background information through a story. He made his readings more personal and informal this way and even by stopping in the middle of a poem to comment on something, which I was surprised about. I think I expected a poet to just read one poem after another, very formally. It was interesting to have him explain exactly what he was trying to portray in his poetry; therefore, making it more factual, than always have to guess interpretations. Also, it added to his presentation by saying some of his poems in French or Spanish, which interested me by switching it up. I wasn’t sure what to expect by people’s comments about him, but he was surprisingly really likeable. I’m glad I had the opportunity to read his material and learn about him before the poetry reading in our other class. It added to my attention going in there with preconceived beliefs and opinions about him and then seeing what he was really like.
Reaction: Thanks much for the feedback and comments!
Allison: G Tod Slone is a very interesting individual to me. He adresses issues and speaks the truth when others choose not to or are afraid. He believes in free speech and feels he should be able to express on paper exactly how he feels inside. He disagrees with things that America has done and has chosen to write about it. Some people do not enjoy his writings because they feel all he does is criticize the place where he lives and does not provide any suggestions to improve or solve the problems. He took a chance in his writings which is something not many poets do. I can understand why you enjoy the presence of G Tod Slone. He is a very witty man who has an interesting way of expressing himself. I felt it was interesting listening to his poems and comical at the beginning when he was nowhere to be found. I am glad he showed up and we were able to hear his work. It reminded me of last semester when he came to class in creative writing and we read poems from his book.
Reaction: As for "suggestions to improve or solve the problems," well, I'm quite the pessimist. BUT society needs pessimists, as well as optimists. My first suggestion to improve things is of course to be openly critical about them. By doing so, we'll know better what in fact might need improving. If, for example, nobody openly criticizes the academic culture, we'll not know where it is faulty and where it needs improvement. One thing I just contemplated last evening is the need to create a nonprofit organization to help professors, both morally and financially, who’ve been rendered jobless (like me) because they exercised free speech at the college or university once employing them. Such an organization might encourage more professors to speak openly regarding their particular colleges. Money of course would be needed to create such an organization. Another suggestion I've made was for me to volunteer at the local Concord Cultural Council as a member to help it become more sensitive to the need to help fund dissident cultural projects. It rejected that suggestion. Another suggestion I'd put forth was to present highly critical watercolor exhibit at the Concord Free Public Library to show citizens that one can also create from the negative. The library, to my surprise, agreed and permitted me to do an exhibit last August. I have made other suggestions. Thus, it is not true to state that I never offer suggestions on how to improve things.
Alexandra: G. Tod Slone’s website and publication of The American Dissident offers anyone the chance to criticize, and those criticized to respond. One comment on the website that is humorous but possibly insulting is “An integral part of the journal's focus includes the highlighting of intelligent, often educated people (e.g., professors, teachers, poets, and editors) oddly possessing a severe deficiency in the area of logical argumentation. One might indeed label them Mentally Challenged, in the PC sense, though unlike the retarded, they are not challenged in the areas of memory and successful conformist functioning in society. Indeed, they tend to excel in those areas.” I like how Slone expresses his outright opinion, because I have a lot of thoughts in my head about people, but I usually do not express them. I think we need people in world like him to express the truths in our society and world.
I like reading the biographies of the poets featured in The American Dissident. Charlotte Walker noted that “My rather dissident independent reputation began when I was in the 8th grade. I was giving a dreaded speech before the class when my English teacher stopped me midway. She scolded me for talking like a Communist and told me to sit down.” People of authority do not understand the influence they have over others, whether it is positive or negative. One teacher unknowingly impacted this person’s life when she was in the eighth grade, and forever changed her future.
The poem, Pax Saturni by Ezra Pound powerfully expresses satire about our country. She uses phrases as:
“ Say there are no oppressionsSay it is a time of peace,Say that labor is pleasant,Say there are no oppressions,Speak of the American virtues: and you will not lack your reward.
Say that the keepers of shops pay a fair wage to the women:Say that all men are honest and desirous of good above
You will not lack your reward.” I think that authors and poets such as these share great hope in our country, as people are able to express their thoughts and possibly be heard by others in order to create change.
Slone’s opposition to authority at Walden Pond is interesting, considering the ideals of the pond that Thoreau contemplated. Slone remarks that, “would Thoreau have been offended to learn a State trooper sent by State-Park Reservation authorities had accosted me on those grounds nine months later (5/17/00) to inform he would arrest and fine me if I continued leaving my flyers in the replica shack at Walden Pond State Reservation? Would Thoreau have been offended to learn a State trooper on horseback half a year after that (9/7/00) had literally pushed me off the pond grounds with his horse's snout because I’d simply asked a park attendant why he did not believe in the First Amendment? The attendant argued my wish to exercise free speech was an instance of harassment.” These are appropriate considerations and would be interesting to really learn what Thoreau would think. The accusations seem so idiotic, and it is humorous that Slone would publish them on his website to criticize such institutions.
Reaction: Great observations!
Tue, 25 Mar 2008
Dear G. Tod Slone,
Thank you for taking the time to come to our Fiction and Poetry class to talk about your writing and answer our questions. You mentioned that people always say that you are not what they expect, and this is true for me as well. I pictured you, the creator of such an honest and controversial magazine to be mean or scornful, but you were not at all, instead, you were very nice, humble and almost, slightly, timid.
You gave us some great advice, you told us to write when you have an idea, not when you are forced. I agree with this, as a college student, writing has become somewhat of a chore for me. I am forced to write essays about topics that I have no interest in. I almost dread sitting down at my computer, opening up Microsoft word and typing whatever thoughts come into my head. I think that as adults, paying for our own education, we should be able to write whatever we want, whenever we want and not be forced to write what bores us. I think that school has taken the pleasure out of writing and it is dangerous because writing is a powerful tool that should be enjoyed. I am studying to be an elementary school teacher and one of my goals is to make writing enjoyable for my students.
Thank you for all of your advice.
Unfortunately, I was not able to attend your visit to our class at Endicott, but I’m sure you’ll receive 100% positive responses from my fellow classmates after hearing the feedback. Why wouldn’t you? We’re a bunch of early 20 year olds still clinging on to a yearning for rebellion and the entire premise behind the American Dissident feeds into that desire. Every word you uttered was undoubtedly welcomed with admiration and awe as for a brief moment those students actually considered becoming “a counter friction to the machine.” Heaven forbid they ever come across Kerouac and are actually persuaded to follow through. But I’ll stop here. I’m not here to be a critic.
One thing that I really enjoyed was how he kept talking about getting "the boot", and the way he said "boot" and how he kicked his foot out a little every time he said it.
Dear G. Tod Slone,
I find your honesty and remarks to be fascinating. I think that most people are afraid to speak their minds and only talk about things that society defines as acceptable. It’s interesting that you would rather speak your mind than keep your job! You questioned the prayer tradition and they did not like you speaking against it. I think this is funny because it’s something I have always thought about and didn’t understand. If you are at school, why are you praying? I feel as though some people take religion to a whole new level. I, for one, would not have the courage to say something about it to authority figures, but I admire your nerve to do so!
After reading your magazine, I realized that it’s okay to be completely honest. After all, you are writing what you want to and it makes you happy. One thing you said will always stick with me. It was something along the lines of, “you shouldn’t have to force yourself to write something, it should come naturally.” I agree with this, and as an aspiring writer I know that I will have to find a career that I find interesting and suitable for myself. If I don’t, I will probably have writers block every day of my life. You remind me of Bukowski, as he is also very honest and tells it the way it is. I like that you have humor in your pieces. It’s always nice to read something funny to brighten up your day.
Thank you for coming to speak to our class!
Dear G. Tod Slone,
First of all, thanks for visiting at Endicott. It was interesting to meet the person behind The American Dissident (you were humbler than I expected, to be honest), and I do feel like I learned something. It made professor Sklar’s day, that’s for sure. He was so excited you were coming!
When you came, we applauded, but most of us were too shy to raise our hands right off the bat. I did eventually. I was the one who asked if you revise your work or keep it true to the first draft, like Professor Dan Sklar tends to do, and I also asked if you had suggestions for how people can become more honest with their writing. You said to think about what you shouldn’t write about, and then write it. And that you are always rereading and tightening up your work. You also said, quite simply, to write when you have something to say, and not to when you don’t because it sounds forced. That’s why I like Dan Sklar’s class- because he says “Write about this. Or don’t. Or write about something it makes you think about. Or don’t. Eh, just write about anything you want.” It’s all about Zen, he says. Go with the flow.
So I’m looking at The American Dissident, at a story you published by Ed Galing from Hatboro, PA, “A Poet at 90”, and I’m wondering why you chose to print this particular piece. I mean, I admire this man for his blunt honesty. He did just what you said an honest writer should do; he wrote about all the depressing thoughts old people with breaking bodies think. We don’t often get the chance to hear such opinions because we would rather put the elderly in homes with pudding and arts and crafts (not that one shouldn’t enjoy arts and crafts and pudding- they are the luxuries of this overdeveloped society). But Ed put his un-sugar coated thoughts on paper and you published them in The American Dissident because they are honest and unfiltered, right? It’s the truth, and you want us all to hear the true (completely reasonable) and borderline suicidal thoughts of a lonely old man who can barely manage to go grocery shopping without killing himself (hmm two meanings there I think). And upon reading it, most of us sympathize and furrow sad eyebrows just like the clerks at the supermarket in his story, because watching such suffering induces helplessness and that can be worse than being the one who is suffering (although Ed might disagree there).
But aren’t Ed’s comments the antithesis of your entire movement here? Ed is old, he says he has no one; he can’t buy liters of soda or canned goods because they are too heavy for his brittle knees. He tells us in his bio that being published, winning awards, living, suffering, dying… it doesn’t matter (“So what, eh?”). If nothing matters, I wonder why we should write to the Man, complain about the Man, challenge anything or anyone ever if the bottom line is that some people will die crying, hating the healthy and the happy, head buried in weak arms at a kitchen table with heavy melting ice cream in a paper bag at their feet. Ah, what’s the point?
I want to give Ed a hug, but that won’t help. He needs new knees, or according to him, he should just die, because no one will care or notice. What a horrible notion. I suppose that a lonely person sees pen and paper as their best friend (not that surrounded people don’t too). Ed wants someone to know what he’s thinking, so that someday, he will die and we’ll be either sad to lose an honest man or relieved that his suffering is over. With that or anything else in mind, he submitted “A Poet at 90” to The American Dissident, and you published it. To me it’s so ironic… the message I hear is “Write and work to change the world you live in, but keep in mind that eventually, we all die.”
And by the way, I didn’t get the chance to ask you my other question when you visited Endicott. It was “Do you consider yourself an optimist, a pessimist, or neither, and how does this affect your writing?”
Well, I think I know Ed’s answer….
Hi Prof. Sklar!
I wanted to say thank you for getting us those books. I really like the poems in there; they're really different, and daring. It’s like reading a dark side to something we ignore, and pretend its not there because we're scared that if we go there we'll lose control, lose balance, and disconnect from the strong binding that society has on us. The minute I came back to my room I wrote a poem, and…I've never written anything like it before. It’s a little scary, and after I read it to myself out loud I felt like someone else was saying exactly what I was thinking. This new idea of putting ourselves out there without boundaries and closing our eyes and jumping forward brings out unexpected things. There are some issues with language in the poem. I really don't even know where it came from. I'm a little annoyed with myself for trying to defend myself and want to change it, but I don't think I should. It’s a harsh poem, and it makes me feel uneasy. But for some reason, I can't bring myself to find what I could change, or if I should change it at all? Anyways, I wanted to ask when I could stop by your office and share the poem with you. I'd really like your opinion on it. And, Thanks again for Today's class, I think it was the best one out of all my classes, all semester!
when you've got something to say - WRITE IT
be critical, not mean...write truth
the things that are hardest to write about are those which hit closest to home
keep your clients happy
have a language under your belt (a different point of view from another language)
even published writers need "a little kick in the rear" to say what they want to say
he was a fantastic guest (not what i expected at all; for some reason i thought he would be a real jerk, or bitter...but hes actually a very kind man). he was very humble as well as had some EXCELLENT pointers. it was nice to hear that even he gets stuck sometimes as well as that he is sometimes unsure if he "can/should" write on a topic. i greatly enjoyed listening about his travels and strongly agree that you need variety in your life AS WELL as knowing another language. he said that he had spent time in france and enjoys speaking french; that is MY preferred language (and i am currently attempting to become more familiar with it). i love that he takes a stand but is only pointing out the truth (...you cant get in trouble for stating the truth). its sad/funny that he was banned from part of a college campus because someone was "afraid" of him (and just for being himself, that must hurt the soul a little). fantastic guest, i feel i understand his writing style much better now that i have met him and have heard him speak.
thank you for inviting him to our class!!!
Having G. Tod Slone visit our classroom was a very interesting and informative experience. I changed my opinion of him after meeting him personally rather than keeping the opinion I had of him after just reading his work. He really didn’t have much to say about himself personally because he was expecting to be bombarded with questions. I thought he would walk into the room and immediately begin a discussion about The American Dissident. Instead, he waited for us and our questions. This very different form of lecture is something that made me respect him more because I realized that he is not trying to force feed us his opinions. I thought his opinions, overall were interesting and I liked that he was open to criticism.
Reflection on G. Tod Slone
I thought G. Tod Slone was an interesting character. He seems to have a lot of strong opinions about America. I thought it was interesting that he said “If I had the right to live elsewhere and work elsewhere I would.” It seems that it wouldn’t be that hard for him to be able to do that though, I wonder if he has ever actually given serious thought to it. I liked his comment that “politicians are puppets” and how we are not really a democracy because we basically just get to vote every four years and then the president makes all of the decisions after that. I never really thought about that but I think he has a really interesting point. I agree with his idea that one should question and challenge everything that goes on, however I find myself as one who just tends to go along with things.
I think it is interesting that G. Tod Slone thinks one of the ways that America can improve is through its colleges and universities. This is so contradictive to what many people think is one of the stronger aspects of America. Most people pride on an education at a college or university in America. I liked his idea that a professor should be trying to build confidence in the students and the students should be questioning and criticizing the president and professor but I think it is important that the criticism and questioning goes both ways. Another interesting point that G. Tod Slone mentioned was that America is the number 17th best country to live in, and that we should question why we aren’t number 1. Although this is high up the list considering how many countries there are in the world, I was rather surprised by this fact. I thought we would have been in the top five or ten at least.
G. Tod Slone had a lot of interesting things to say at his visit. I was surprised that he said he is very sensitive to others opinions of him when he so strongly expresses his opinion. I was surprised by this because I think I am very sensitive to others opinions of me which tends to make me hold back my opinions more I think. It was interesting to hear that Bukowski was G. Tod Slone’s inspiration to write and that he gets his ideas for writing from conflict.
I really enjoyed having G. Tod Slone come to talk with our class. It was interesting to get his perspective on the “American Dissident” after reading it for class. I think that he is an interesting character that is just trying to express himself and his opinions. He is by no means an angry person, in fact he is quite sensitive, and I think it was nice of him to open up to our class to share this quality about himself.
I feel that G. Tod Slone’s work is meant to question today’s society and standards to ultimately exercise our right to free speech. I found his opinions about the U.S. government to be interesting. I liked when he said, “We are now like the Roman Empire – on our way down.” In reference to the current financial crisis and the economy, I agree that this is true. It’s sad, but true. What a remarkable connection though, I would have never thought to connect our country’s position to the Romans. I also agree with his comment that criticism is discouraged in business and the government. Being a business major, I know that it’s best to keep your mouth shut if you have nothing nice to say.
I do not necessarily agree with all of G. Tod Slone’s opinions, but I understand where he is coming from. For example, I am not crazy about either Presidential candidate – they both have their flaws- however, I think it is very important for everyone to vote. Just as we have the right to free speech, we also have the right to vote. G. Tod Slone said, “Patriotism is questioning and criticism.” I agree with this statement because if you care about your country you will question it to make it better and to make improvements. One way to do this is to express your opinion through voting! I believe that voting is patriotic and that whether we are bridge builders or bridge burners we should all take a stance and vote for our country’s future.
response to G. Tod. Slone
I really enjoyed talking to G.Tod Slone on Wednesday. I've always had this problem with out government- it seems like it's all just one big conspiracy. What the hell is wrong with everything right now? We are in this terrible war wasting money, we are in this awful financial crisis, and we are wasting all of our energy resources and ignoring the ones we have that DON'T kill the environment. All people do is bitch and whine about who our president is- but who do you think elected him? THEY DID. Why is it that people think they have the right to complain about something if they didn't do a damn thing to stop it. My brother never votes, and yet every year he complains about the president. Maybe if he had voted, it'd have made a difference. People don't educate themselves about the issues. How many people do you actually think know that clean coal doesn't do shit for our environment? Did you know that all "clean" coal does, is take sulfur out? What are you left with? Three times as much CO2 released as gasoline. Why, then, does Coal supply over half of the electricity in the US when we have alternate resources. Why are we electing presidents who "promise" things, but aren't specific on their opinions. Do our presidents know the issues? Do they have a PhD in anything? Have they actually studied anything in the past about ANYTHING they will be in control of in January? No, of course not, why would America want an intelligent person to run the country. We'd rather someone with charisma, someone who has money. Screw that, I'd rather not set our country into a nuclear war over the last few drops of oil.
I can't help ranting, our country is so stupid. Why can't people just listen, why do we all have to say, "I'm voting for _____ because my mom is!!!" People just listen to their parents, and don't make their own opinions. I'm voting for someone and i don't know who everyone else is voting for. I don't care either, I care about making my own opinions and educating myself and not letting other people's judgments. When you are in that booth, no one sees what you mark down. Fake it if you have to, tell them you'll vote for number 2, but if you like number one, vote for them. Do the right thing. If patriotism is questioning everyone and everything that goes on in this country, why don't we question ourselves?
Hey Dr. Sklar- I'm not sure if this is the assignment but I'm hoping this is correct. In response to the "American Dissident" and viewing G Tod Slone, I thought it was a very interesting event. He has a very unique point of view and it shows in the pieces of poetry that he chooses for the "American Dissident". The fact that he said that he was more of a bridge burner then a bridge builder was interesting to me. Resting Aging Bones was my favorite poem from the dissident and I enjoyed reading it. G Tod Slone seemed very into what he was doing and that's ultimately all you can ask from a professor. Although some of the views that he has I may not necessarily agree with, I do agree with how he views the government. He definitely hit the nail on the head when he said that whoever is president is really just a puppet. The people who make the real decisions are faceless people. I agree.
I really enjoyed the presentation on Wednesday. Mr. Slone was a very interesting man to have present to our class. His views on the role that government plays in our lives seemed a bit radical to me, but I still respect his opinion, and to some extent I very much agreed with this. One of the things I that really liked and admired about him was the fact that he responded in a positive way to any skepticism regarding his ideas. One example of this was when he was asked by one of the students what he might have to offer as a solution to the problems he so directly points out in our society. Rather than taking the defensive, or being rude, he actually did offer some answers. Not only this, he acknowledged and seemed to understand skepticism to his theories.
However, I definitely agreed with him about the importance of continually questioning the establishment, event he one from which were getting our education. I also agree with the comments he had on the way were learned to be in order to get ahead. It is definitely a negative mark of our society that people have learned to keep their mouths shut in order to propel themselves forward on the career ladder. This was an excellent point
He definitely opened my eyes to things I never really thought about before.
Reaction to G. Tod Slone
I kind of expected to drown in anti-political and anti-American babble when G. Tod Slone came into our classroom. To be honest I was not really looking forward to what I had anticipated. I didn’t want to sit in my uncomfortable desk/chair for fifty minutes being yelled at for being someone that likes to conform to rules (most of the time) and be a non-confrontational member of society. I don’t take kindly to people that challenge how I choose to do things, especially when I think that I am doing the right thing.
However, I enjoyed my time listening to Slone answer our classes’ questions. Although I found him to be very opinionated, which is a good thing, he never pushed his opinions on to us. I was very intrigued by his demeanor and how he talked. I can’t figure out why but I liked it. I quite liked how we got to talk about his aspirations to start a new class based upon the American Dissident at Tufts University. I thought it was great that we as a class generated the conversation. By having us ask the questions and answering what we wanted to hear made the presentation so much more interesting.
October 17, 2008
G. Tod Slone
After reading the American Dissident, I had no idea what to expect from the man who put it together. When Professor Sklar told us that he had invited G. Tod Slone to speak to us in class, I was expecting a pessimistic speech, trying to convince us that what we had been learning forever was false, that our country is run by buffoons, and that we should all be anti-government. However, what we received was much different than this.
G. Tod Slone opened us up to his own ideas on what is going on with our country. I have never sat back and really thought about our most important constitutional right, the freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is to be able to speak freely with no censorship or limitation. G. Tod Slone challenged us to do just that. He encouraged us to question what is brought forth to us rather than just live with it. Without this, are we really considered a free country? Do we really have a chance of improvement (especially in times like today)? I had never really thought about the fact that we do have the ability to do this, and without this freedom we are not, in fact, a democracy.
Every question brought forth to G. Tod Slone was answered fully and to the point. He has his viewpoints and in no way was he trying to instill them into our mind. However, he made us question what we thought to be true with what he thought about different situations. When reading his work, it angered me that we live in a society that people would not allow him to publish his work, ESPECIALLY after commemorating it. What an idiotic, hypocritical thing to do. No body wants to be challenged anymore. No body wants to have their “perfect society” portrayed as imperfection. No body wants to think that we have opportunities out there to be better than we are.
Although there were limited suggestions G. Tod Slone had to improve upon what is going wrong, I commend him for standing up and saying that our country has problems and they stem from the highest political positions. Continue to criticize, to question, and conflict what is being done, because after listening to the way people react to his work, it looks like few people will.
October 17, 2008
When we were listening to G Tod Slone speak I had a few mixed feelings. I agreed with him when he was talking about the democracy and how the rich people run the world because it is true. If people have enough money that they can use it to their advantage then it only helps out them and not the people who are middle class or lower class. In our society today the richer get richer and the poor get poorer and it just is not fair. I don’t understand how a government could be corrupt that they don’t really care about the people who are struggling. I also agreed with him that there are no candidates for president that strike my interest. I like the way Obama is approaching the people but there is no many people who like the idea of a black president and McCain just I don’t even know how to explain it besides old. If he is in there who know how long he will be in office isn’t that guy like 70 years old?
As for my other thoughts, if you don’t like the United State why do you live here. I understand that you say there are things in the U.S. you do not agree with then why don’t you move to Europe where their health care and stuff is more for the people? Or go to Asia or Russia since you say that those countries are good places to live. I just don’t see why you don’t like the United States so much. I know there are things that people don’t agree with but no matter where you live there will always be something wrong that you or other people do not agree with. I also know you say you don’t go looking for arguments or conflict. If you don’t go looking then why do you criticize everything? I know the United States is not perfect but if people are also was saying what is wrong then it show that people don’t like the United States. No place is perfect and no government is the right way to run a country. With every plus there are negatives. You need to take the dice and just roll with them. If they go your way then good, if they don’t then just smile and roll again not much you can do.
Fri, 5 Oct 2007
Dear G. Tod Slone
I really enjoyed your visit to our class the other day, and I have loved reading the American Dissident. You presented me with a new perspective on how to view the world. Before hand I never realized how snooty the academic world could be, and that you didn’t have to just be a part of it, you could resist it. The quote from Thoreau you mentioned, “Let your life be a counter friction to the machine” really stuck with me and hopefully I can try and live my life in a counter friction way. It made me realize that I don’t question things as much as I should and I think that the more I question things the better my writing will become. Your ideas about self-censorship also stuck with me, I never realized how much I do censor myself and the extent to which people around me censor themselves or others, its almost constant. I hope to write more freely and without constraints; before I took this class I was scared of poetry. I thought about poetry as being done by all those snobby academic people and that it was really hard to understand, but being in this poetry class and being exposed to your work and those in the American Dissident made me realize that poetry is supposed to be scary but free flowing and about what you want it to be about. I really enjoy poetry now instead of fearing it, and I want to continue to write poetry to my own accord.
Thoughts on G. Tod Slone:
I think he should go speak in my English class that I took my sophomore year in high school, Honors American Lit, with the devil woman teacher, Petullo. Petullo was pretty much in love with Henry David Thoreau and everything he wrote and anything that was related to him and his existence, including the Thoreau Society. We even had a 10x15 foot square on the classroom floor marked off with masking tape to represent, you guessed it…the dimensions of Thoreau’s cabin. Which was fine, until we started having some classes with all 20 of us students squished cross-legged into the tiny square. (Not an optimal learning environment let me tell you). Yes, Petullo’s obsession was to the utmost extreme, and if anyone had any thoughts on Thoreau that differed from her own, she basically loathed the student and didn’t promote them to Honors Brit Lit for junior year. No, she dropped them down a level.
I never quite bought into the whole “Thoreau is God” theme that dominated her classroom, yet I felt too small and insignificant and conformed to act against Petullo. Sure, us students would gripe about it amongst ourselves over lunch in the cafeteria, but that is about as far as it ever went…..If only I had known about G. Tod Slone while I was taking this narrow-minded course, I would have realized that there is more than one perspective on Thoreau, as well as anything in life for that matter, and I wouldn’t have let the devil woman teacher drill biased thoughts into my fellow classmates and I. If G. Tod Slone is looking for conflict to feed off for a good experience-based writing idea, then I highly suggest he have a chit-chat with Anna Petullo, English teacher at Billerica Memorial High School.
P.S. She is a feisty one.
Although everyone may not agree with G. Tod Slone's sentiments, everyone should listen to what he has to say. In a world of conformity and unoriginality, Slone isn't afraid to say what's on his mind. His agenda is so effective because he does not simply call names, he uses genuine arguments and facts as reason. Individuals are quick to state their love of the First Amendment, but how many are so quick to defend it? Citizens of the United States are lucky to have an envelope pusher like Slone, this is what makes our nation free. He does not simply preach about going against the system, he advocates writing from personal experience and feeling. Too often people forget to write like that. Honest writing often times is the best writing there is.
Dear G. Todd Slone,
When I first heard of you coming to Endicott to speak to our class, I thought, wow what an abnormal name. Who has their first name as simply G.? This must be a very unique person, and man was I right. I could not have been more surprised that you were not the typical guest speaker every teacher has coming into their class. You did not change your ideas to what we as students "should" know and hear. It was refreshing that you did not speak of the typical "cookie cutter" ideas on school, democracy, and others in general. I may not always have agreed with what you were saying, however "agree to disagree" is sometimes my motto. I guess you caught me on a good day. It was also refreshing to know that you take no side but your own. I liked this idea of "your own side" as opposed to the liberal attitudes and ideas always impressed upon us here at Endicott. I like how you thought for yourself, made your own decisions, and formed your own opinions about the subjects at hand. Your stories of adventure and controversy kept me on the edge of my seat, reeling me in from one story to the next. You gave me hope that, for once, I finally see not everyone is the same. Not everyone will conform. Thank God. Overall, you made a great impression on me, even though I still think the "G." is abnormal. I guess I should have asked you about that. Thank you for your time!
I really thought you would be different than you were—meaner, cockier, more condescending. In reality though you were more laid back and not at all mean seeming. I enjoyed your stories, especially all the ones regarding your experiences teaching, but most especially the one about Thoreau and Walden State Park and the Concord Museum. I want to go there with a stack of your poem “The Travesty” and post them all over the place, then watch as they go around angrily disposing of them!
While I sit here, still enjoying to read and write love poems and mushy poems about generic feelings, I must fully and whole-heartedly thank you for telling me—as a young writer—that it’s okay to write about anything, especially if it pisses people off!
They deem him their worst enemy who tells them the truth. -Plato, philosopher (427-347 BCE)
Tue, 9 Oct 2007
He made me think about what it is that I am doing here. I would not say I am Endicott's biggest cheerleader and I think that there are so many things that are corrupt with the system here. For example, not having textbooks in the library because the library is "supporting the bookstore". What?! He made me want to visit Walden Pond just to see the statue and laugh because these people who want to praise Thoreau don't even know much about him. That is the true American way of thinking. They don't even care enough about Thoreau, it is all about what they want and how they can spend their pretentious money. I am very glad he came. Thank you G. Tod Slone.
The information provided was very well presented. G Todd answered all of our questions very thoroughly and with great detail. He was very open and honest with his answers which were very interesting to me. I also enjoyed the stories he told dealing with the colleges he either was "dismissed" from or resigned from. He is a very interesting man who feeds off conflict. I thought that he was going to be a little tougher, but I sensed a softer side to him. He seems to be a very genuine man with a lot of interesting life experiences.
Dear G. Tod Slone,
I truly respected your confidence the other day when you came to our class. It was admirable to see someone who believes in what they are doing. You are confident in yourself as a teacher, and you believe that you exemplify what is to be "good teaching." Regardless of the fact that you left several colleges and universities because of students, faculty and/or administration disagreeing with your teaching methods, your confidence in your teaching never diminished. The way that you still carry your confidence in what you do after many people have told you otherwise is inspiring. I related this to my college life with my professors. However, by me looking at it from a student's point of view, I should carry enough confidence in my work so that no professor's grade or criticism can alter what I think of my own projects. I realized that having confidence in me and the work I produce is so important, and no grade by a professor should make me feel worse or indifferent about it.
Journal Entry #26 (October 4, 2007)
Ideas on G. Tod Slone
He was a lot less intimidating than I thought he was going to be. He looked a little crazy at first (no offense!) so I was scared to say the wrong thing, but he turned out to be a nice guy. He doesn’t just create confrontation with everyone he meets as I thought he might, but he capitalizes on those moments of confrontation and uses those as inspiration. He was almost Dead Poet Society-esque (if that makes any sense). He challenges society and is not a victim of self-censorship which he feels we all do too much. You know what I say to that? You go and keep doing your thing! I’m behind you 100 percent! And I really truly am. He doesn’t act like he’s better than anyone else or has a big head about his work. I really give him credit. I love his letter to Thoreau, it’s really truthful and written like its spoken - I love it.
Come speak at Endicott – to the whole school, to all the English teachers that have ever existed – show them that all these famous poets and writers, they’re all HACKS!! Writing in such a pretentious, hoity-toity manner, thinking they’re so much better than the rest of us, thinking their ideas are the best ideas ever and they are revealing the most profound ideas ever heard to mankind and nothing that anyone will ever write or has written in the past will ever compare. THAT’S HORSE SHIT! All these poets writing about old themes and the same old clichés and things that have already been said, SHUT UP!! They are no better than me or you, they are posing. Trying to make themselves feel important and intellectual – get your own ideas! All those English teachers out there, worshipping famous writers as though they were Gods …give me a break!! Stop conforming to the machine! It’s all bullshit!!
Dear G Tod Slone,
Thank you for you visit at Endicott, it was a refreshing breath of air to have you as a guest in our poetry class. Your personal experiences are very amusing and I think that your poetry reflects it. Your lack of self-censorship is great; you are almost like a child who acts upon instincts only, an amazing and dangerous way to live. Thank you for not being a yawn-generating speaker!
Thu, 11 Oct 2007
My thoughts and feeling about G. Tod Slone
After I read your work in the American Dissident, I wasn't sure if I was going to like who I met in person. There was a lot of criticism in your poems towards other writers and people, so I thought that was how you would be towards our class. I now understand more now that you explained where your poetry and thoughts come from. You are just expressing whatever is on your mind, and that's what writers should do. I liked how you talked about writer's block and that you never get it because if you can't think of anything then you just don't write. I thought that was a good concept. I also like how you said that all you're poetry comes from personal experience. That is what I like to write about as well, because it’s showing your reality and what you are feeling at the time. I think it was brave to come into our classroom knowing that our class had just read your work and was probably thinking “who is this mean man and why would we want to meet him”. At first I thought the things you wrote about the other writers were harsh but you're intension was not to bring them down. Your honesty showed a great deal about yourself and it shows that you are straightforward and don't care what others think about you and your work, and that it definitely a good quality to have. Thank you for taking the time to come to our classroom!
Hey professor sklar this is my letter, sorry it took so long to get to you my computer got wine spilled on it.
I really liked the entire discussion. I enjoyed his sense of fire and furry. The way he seemed to have a command on his life and not cared what others thought about that. He had no boundaries and was just himself and doesn’t seem to let others shape him. He was a bold and proud and a bit outspoken man. But he was diffidently cool and even though i may not have agreed with everything that was said i accepted what he said because he was not scared to show the exact person he was. I thought it was very cool how he upfront he was with us and did not hold back. He wasn’t a phony or a fraud however, from his book and what we had heard about him I was kind of disappointed that he wasn’t a little angrier and wasn’t more of a spit fire. All in all I thought he was a legit guy and a cool guy.