The American Dissident: Literature, Democracy & Dissidence

Suffolk University Poetry Center—Free Speech in Peril

Dostoevsky was made by being sent to Siberia.  Writers are forged in injustice as a sword is forged.


In the free pile at the library in Hyannis (MA), I picked up a copy of the most recent issue (spring 2012) of Sanctuary, The Journal of Massachusetts Audubon Society.  In it were two poems, one by Robert Cording and the other by Fred Marchant, who once upon a time I’d briefly met while protesting in front of the Concord Poetry Center in Massachusetts. 


Fred MarchantMarchant was predictably closed-minded and otherwise disinterested in my protest.  After all, he was not only a poet but also a tenured academic, entrenched at Suffolk University, where he directs the Creative Writing Program and had established its Poetry Center, which unsurprisingly refused and refuses to subscribe to The American Dissident or even invite the editor to speak to students on poetry as dissident expression. 

Marchant’s poem was predictably soft, and shamefully so, since the issue was devoted to environmental activist Rachel Carson.  Indeed, why feature the work of two rather flaccid, see-no-evil, hear-no-evil academics in such an issue?  Well, for one reason, the journal’s poetry editor, Susan Richmond, is a friend of Marchant's and is clearly not a proponent of dissident poetry. After all, she is a founding poet of the Concord Poetry Center. But why not step out of that mind-trap for a moment in honor of Carson and instead feature several tough, dissident poems written by environmental activists instead?  Why does poetry have to be so inoffensive, smiley-faced, and bourgeois-friendly?  Richmond, to whom the editor sent this page, of course, refuses to respond.  She wears fluffy earplugs, just like Marchant.   

“To a branch my black bead eyes/ missing nothing wanting nothing more than the sound of this/ that is all I am, be patient lord O be” constituted the last line of Marchant’s “O Be” poem.  Amen!  But Carson was not patient.  She pushed and shoved and dared go against the grain, something Marchant would never do.  What really pissed me off regarding his and Richmond’s ilk is not so much the fluffy nature, but rather the closed mindededness to and scorn for points of view that went against the grain.  Certainly the very large majority of academics sinecured in the nation’s English and Creative Writing departments fell into that piteous category.  Over the past two decades, the editor has been contacting them.  Only one ever agreed to invite me to speak to his students on literature, democracy, and dissidence.  In fact, he’d contacted me.   

Scores and scores of English professors simply choose not to respond, steadfastly opposing vigorous debate, democracy’s cornerstone. They do not wish to expose their students to other alternatives, as in writing against the established-order grain to which their professors eagerly sold their souls.  The only explanation for their refusal, as far as I could figure, was that my questioning and challenging would inevitably make them look bad in the eyes of their students.  Indeed, far too many writing professors rarely if ever questioned and challenged the hand that fed them so nicely, preferring to turn a blind eye in an effort to climb the academic/literary latter to “success.”  They were not "forged in injustice as a sword is forged," but rather in comfy writing communities and poetry centers.  Marchant, Richmond, and so many others favor keeping voices like the editor's out of the arena of debate—out of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival, out of the Concord Festival of Authors, out of the Concord Poetry Center, out of Sturgis Library, and out of Suffolk University Poetry Center, for example. They do their students a grave injustice by refusing to introduce, by refusing to encourage them to engage in risky writing and otherwise follow, not in the obsequious footsteps of their professors, but rather in the courageous footsteps of Villon, Neruda, Solzhenitsyn, Thoreau, Orwell and others.  They do the nation a grave disservice by forming a hermetic wall of political correctness.   Finally, the question needs to be raised:  What kind of poetry center would willfully prohibit certain poetry and ideas regarding poetry?  Surely, a most intellectually corrupt one! 


Below is the full correspondence I had with Marchant and the student newspaper, The Suffolk Journal, which eventually published a letter by Ally Thibeault, "'The American Dissident Takes on SU Poetry Center, Prof. Marchant," and the cartoon above. In the letter, Thibeault quotes Marchant and his diverse justifications for censoring and banning poets and poetry he does not like. My responses figure below and unfortunately were NOT included at all in the student newspaper.


Subject: Open Letter to the Members of the Suffolk University English Department
Date: Mon, 28 May 2012 12:56:50 -0400
Open Letter to the Members of the Suffolk University English Department
Might there be ONE of you, yes, just ONE of you, who might actually be a proponent of vigorous debate and freedom of speech, cornerstones of a thriving democracy? If so, please DARE comment on the Fred Marchant satirical cartoon now posted for this week’s American Dissident blog entry ( As you well know, Marchant is one of your colleagues. Why not surprise your present and future students by manifesting unusual CURIOSITY and OPENNESS, normally absent in the minds of most university professors of literature and creative writing. Tell them about the blog entry! Encourage them to comment and participate in vigorous debate… regarding literature! Show them that you do not fear outside criticism and, in fact, welcome it because you can, now and then, even learn from it. Show them that you are not a mere academic ladder climber to dubious “success”,but rather an individual of courage, someone not afraid to openly express uncomfortable opinions now and then.
Sadly my two-decade long experience dealing with academics indicates it highly unlikely that NOT ONE of you will deign to respond.
Note that the Suffolk University Poetry Center, which Marchant created, rejected my request that it consider subscribing to The American Dissident, a nonprofit journal of literature, democracy, and dissidence. In fact, it did not even respond. And Marchant rejected the thought of inviting me to the Center and/or to his Creative Writing classes to introduce Suffolk University students to the possibility of poetry as an expression of hardcore dissidence. Rather than sit as established-order gatekeepers of literature, why not instead stand up against the rampant censorship (exclusion or whatever you wish to term it) and ostracizing of those few who dare go against the grain of the literary machine? Rather than being a cog, why not be a staunch individual and supporter of liberty instead? Why not be a real role model for your students. Thank you for your attention.
N.B: This letter was also sent to the student newspaper, The Suffolk Journal. Sadly, the editors of such papers tend to be like their professors: mere organs of institutional happy-face PR.
G. Tod Slone, PhD and Founding Editor (1998)
The American Dissident, a 501c3 Nonprofit
Journal of Literature, Democracy, and Dissidence
217 Commerce Rd.
Barnstable, MA 02630

Date: Tue, 29 May 2012 17:03:14 -0400
Subject: Piss off, I don't give a fuck about PR.

"The editors of such papers tent to be like their professors: mere organs of institutional happy-face PR." <-- True our system is set up to reward those who stick to the fluff, but you're mistaken in this instance. I have already e-mailed my editors and we'll have someone cover your letter, delve into the situation, and get quotes from Merchant. Expect to be contacted by a reporter soon enough.

Also my father used to do work for General Dynamics, which I'm sure you're farmilliar with if you did, in fact, spend time in Groton. I'm originally from New Haven. In fact, I've even been censored before, for work in this paper -- but look at me now. Sorry for the language used in the subject, but PR should not be aligned with journalism. Journalism should be a raw display of the facts, not a fluff piece designed to sway everyone that our world is stable.
Ethan M. Long

Alex K. Hall
Managing Editor

The Suffolk Journal
41 Temple Street
Boston MA 02114

ph: 617-573-8323
fx: 617-994-6400



Subject: RE: Piss off, I don't give a fuck about PR.
Date: Thu, 31 May 2012 11:21:51 -0400

Hi Ethan,
Your subject line was perfect: “Piss off, I don't give a fuck about PR.” But then I was somewhat disappointed because I thought it was a professor responding. Well, unsurprisingly, not one of the bunch I emailed responded.

Understand, that my grievance is quite simple. I firmly believe that institutions of higher learning should keep their doors open to an array of opinions and encourage, not stifle, vigorous debate. Sadly, that just ain’t the case, which is why I constantly let “the professors” know of their great failing, as in the case of Fred Marchant.

There is hope. YOU are it. Pray you don’t fall into some rattrap of a newspaper where you MUST spew the partyline, whatever it is, right or left. “Journalism should be a raw display of the facts, not a fluff piece designed to sway everyone that our world is stable,” you state. Well, that’s an excellent statement! Here’s another such statement I found the other day written by journalist Diana West: “News organizations are responsible only to pursue the facts. This should be obvious; but our media, Left and Right, have for so long become captive to ideology that they no longer see their overriding professional responsibility.”

Did I mention Groton? Hmm. I’m not sure why, but yes, I spent time at the base as a radiation monitor, midnight shift… snoozing here and there hidden in a corner of some submarine.

You state, “In fact, I've even been censored before, for work in this paper.” Well, an essay with that regard would be something I’d probably and eagerly like to publish in The American Dissident. Sincerely!

Don’t apologize for the language. It was well placed because TRUTHFUL vis-a-vis PR, though of course I NEVER stated ALL student editors are PR cogs, just most of them. That’s been my experience.

I look forward to hearing from your reporter.

G. Tod


Date: Mon, 4 Jun 2012 15:24:04 -0400
Subject: Suffolk Journal request for interview

Hello Mr. Slone,

My name is Ally Thibault and I am a writer for the Suffolk Journal. We would like to interview you for a story on the open letter you sent to Suffolk University's English Department and the cartoon you drew of Prof. Marchant regarding free speech and censorship of ideas. Please let me know if you would be open to a phone interview.

Thanks for your time,

Ally Thibault

Photographer, Party Earth
Asst. Arts Editor, The Suffolk Journal
Contributing Writer, The Next Great Generation


Subject: RE: Suffolk Journal request for interview
Date: Tue, 5 Jun 2012 11:15:21 -0400
Hi Ally,
Thanks much for contacting me. I'd have to say your newspaper must be exceptional. In any case, I don't have a phone. Could it be an email interview? You could send a question. Then I could respond, etc. Thanks again.
G. Tod

Date: Tue, 5 Jun 2012 13:24:43 -0400
Subject: Re: Suffolk Journal request for interview

Thanks for responding so quickly. We are trying to wrap up our paper tonight, so I hope you are able to respond sometime today.
Here are a few questions to start:

1. What is your background with poetry writing and censorship? On your blog home page, you have a long list of what you have dubbed "democracy-adverse organizations". What aspects/actions of these orgs do you find to be democracy-adverse?

2. In your bio on the blog, you briefly discuss being dismissed from Fitchburg State University. You also discuss related issues at length on your "genesis" blog post, but I was wondering if you could describe exactly why FTU dismissed you and more specifics of the first hand problems you say you have encountered with institutions?

3. How did you first meet/interact with Prof Marchant and the Suffolk Poetry Center? What leads you to see Marchant as the gatekeeper you portrayed him as in your cartoon?

4. Finally, I was wondering if you could discuss further a comment you made about The Journal in your letter. You said, "Sadly, the editors of such papers tend to be like their professors: mere organs of institutional happy-face PR" ... I wonder if this was just a generalized statement from experiences you had with FTU's school paper or if you have read issues of The Journal and feel this way about our publication's work?

Feel free to add any thoughts you have regarding this story that don't fall into one of the question categories.

Thank you for your time,

Date: Tue, 5 Jun 2012 17:46:22 -0400
Subject: Re: Suffolk Journal request for interview

I don't mean to hound you, but we need to finish production on the paper tonight... even if you dont have time to give an in-depth response on all the question, if you could please just send along a few statements on the ideas or your aim that would still be helpful!

Thanks again,

Subject: RE: Suffolk Journal request for interview
Date: Wed, 6 Jun 2012 14:46:34 -0400

Hi Ally,
Sorry, I don’t have the net at my house, so I have to go to the library each day for it. Evidently, my response will thus be too late for this issue of your newspaper. Hopefully, it will be made available for next issue. Here goes.

1. What is your background with poetry writing and censorship? On your blog home page, you have a long list of what you have dubbed "democracy-adverse organizations". What aspects/actions of these orgs do you find to be democracy-adverse?

It would be too lengthy for me to go into each organization. In brief, it has been my experience that organizations like Suffolk University Poetry Center tend to exclude voices that criticize the establishment. Yet university organizations should instead encourage such criticism, at least that’s what I believe. The Academy of American Poets, staffed by tenured-faculty chancellors, actually censored my comments and banned me from participating in its forums. That’s a fact. PEN New England (“protecting freedom of speech everywhere”), entrenched at Lesley University, refuses to respond to my grievances. What is wrong with Karen Wulf, it’s director? Well, she is a friend of Marchant’s. Indeed, poets like Marchant ought to stand up to protest censorship and banning. But they do not do that. Why should my ideas be prohibited from their forums? The journal I’ve been publishing since 1998 was created as a direct result of corruption experienced at Fitchburg State University. The Massachusetts Cultural Council refuses to help fund it. The Mass. Poetry Festival refuses to list it with other journals listed. Poetry Foundation also refuses to list it. Do professors like Marchant care? Not in the least and that is their shame. I of course could go on and on here. In essence, as soon as one questions and challenges the Marchants in power, one is automatically ostracized. That has been my experience. I thus seek to make that fact known. Concord Festival of Authors refuses to invite me, yet I was an author and living in Concord. Well, Marchant also knows its director.

2. In your bio on the blog, you briefly discuss being dismissed from Fitchburg State University. You also discuss related issues at length on your "genesis" blog post, but I was wondering if you could describe exactly why FTU dismissed you and more specifics of the first hand problems you say you have encountered with institutions?

I was not “dismissed”from Fitchburg State. My contract was simply not renewed after five years, at the end of which I was paid an extra year’s salary as a result of arbitration hearings. Clearly, institutions do not pay such sums to professors unless they are in the wrong, though of course Fitchburg refused to admit anything. Sadly, Massachusetts does not possess a Freedom of Information Act like Florida and other states. Thus, the arbitration transcript is not available to public scrutiny… and that of course serves corrupt professors, deans and university presidents quite nicely. In brief, my teaching evaluations were not objectively performed. My initial chairperson kept inviting me to his house alone. I stopped accepting the invitations after several months. His positive evaluation suddenly became one for termination (First Year). He is now professor emeritus at that institution, which says a lot about what emeritus can mean. Subsequent chairs, friends of his, worked to get me out. It took them five years because my student evaluations were good, and I was indeed doing my “job.” Because I challenged the university, my career as a professor never did quite recover, for I continued to question and challenge when employed at subsequent institutions. That is a taboo in higher education for a professor, in case you’re unaware.

3. How did you first meet/interact with Prof Marchant and the Suffolk Poetry Center? What leads you to see Marchant as the gatekeeper you portrayed him as in your cartoon?

I first met Marchant when I was protesting in front of the Concord Poetry Center about five or six or seven years ago. He was entirely disinterested in my protest, which was against the Center’s express statement to me that I would be unwelcome if I indeed protested. Later, I discovered that Marchant was friends with the Center’s director Houlihan and with others at the helm of Mass. Cultural Council, including Charles Coe. He is a gatekeeper because he refuses to permit my ideas regarding poetry within his Poetry Center and refuses to introduce his students to them. Essentially, my ideas are quite contrary to his, for I firmly believe poets should be rude-truth tellers, daring to criticize power, especially local, and not simply obedient (tenured) ladder climbers. Sadly, most poets disagree with my point of view. But does that mean it should be excluded from the arena of ideas… at Suffolk University, for example? Only one professor, Dan Skalr of Endicott College, has ever invited me to speak to students, despite my having asked many, many professors over the past decade. In fact, Dr. Sklar has been inviting me each semester over the past four years (however, this semester he is on sabbatical). All student comments regarding my visits are included on the website They bear testimony to the fact that I am not dangerous, do not swear like a loon, or make threats.

4. Finally, I was wondering if you could discuss further a comment you made about The Journal in your letter. You said, "Sadly, the editors of such papers tend to be like their professors: mere organs of institutional happy-face PR" ... I wonder if this was just a generalized statement from experiences you had with FTU's school paper or if you have read issues of The Journal and feel this way about our publication's work?

Well, I have been contacting student editors over the past decade. Only two or three have ever responded. That is why I was quite surprised when you responded. I have never read a copy of your paper. Syracuse University’s student paper published my open letter this year, though not the cartoon that accompanied it (see When I was at Fitchburg State, the paper (The Point) refused to publish anything I sent its way, unless happy-face positive. It refused to even publish the fact that I, a professor, was evicted from my office mid-semester—ONE professor (friend of the chairperson) complained to the dean that she was afraid of me—, given a no-trespass order regarding that particular part of campus, and had to have the location of all my classes changed mid-semester. Clearly, the English and Mass Comm professors were doing a horrific job at teaching students the value of free speech and vigorous debate, cornerstones of democracy.

“Feel free to add any thoughts you have regarding this story that don't fall into one of the question categories,” you state. Well, there are so many thoughts. Professors like Marchant do poetry and their students a grave disservice by discouraging vigorous debate in the milieu. That is why I sought your attention. Clearly, such professors will not change in the absence of accountability. Publishing this in your newspaper would serve as a form of accountability and perhaps even “force” Marchant pushed to respond. That is what happened at Syracuse. Why are so many professors see-no-evil, hear-no-evil team-players, instead of rude truth tellers? Why do they seek to stifle the voices of those few who do stand up? Well, I’ve only got one possible explanation. Poets like me, who dare speak out, make poets like him and them look bad. How else to explain it? We cause discomfort in their hermetic worlds of poesy and academe. For this reason, they are compelled to keep us out. We dare upset the business managers who pay for their organizations, events, prizes, and invitations. We are a danger to their comfort. Librarians are also gatekeepers and have for the most part refused to open their doors to dissident publications like The American Dissident. My own alma maters, Northeastern University and Middlebury College, refuse to subscribe (only $20/year). Sturgis Library on Cape Cod even banned my flyers on its public grounds and ordered me not to speak to staff about it. This might be hard for you to believe. But stand up alone someday, if you haven’t already, to protest, and it will be a lot easier to believe. On a positive note, the librarians at Harvard, Brown, Yale, Johns Hopkins, as well as public libraries in Concord, Carlisle, Lincoln, Newton, and a few others, have proven to be open-minded and actually not only responded to my queries, but subscribed. Finally, the problem with an interview like this is that it will be here today, but completely gone tomorrow… and the doors of Suffolk University Poetry Center will remain closed to uncomfortable dissidence. By the way, not one of the English and Creative Writing professors I contacted at Suffolk ever responded (see the blog entry for their names). Please feel free to ask more questions, request proof of assertions, etc. Please also let me know if any of this will be published. Thank you for your time and interest.

G. Tod Slone, PhD and Founding Editor (1998)

The American Dissident, a 501c3 Nonprofit

Journal of Literature, Democracy, and Dissidence

217 Commerce Rd.

Barnstable, MA 02630

Date: Sun, 17 Jun 2012 08:54:14 -0400
Hi Ally,
Did you get my responses to your questions? If so, are you going to publish them? Thanks.
G. Tod Slone

Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2012 12:57:02 -0400
So, Ethan, what’s up? No further response from your reporter. Why not? Silence from my perspective and experience tends to be very meaningful. Thanks for your attention.
G. Tod Slone, Founding Editor (1998)
The American Dissident, a 501c3 Nonprofit
Journal of Literature, Democracy, and Dissidence
217 Commerce Rd.
Barnstable, MA 02630

Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2012 13:40:19 -0400
Subject: Re:

Hey --

My writer told me she had received no response from you by the time our deadline hit. The article was published two weeks ago now. I believe once she got the response she was going to work it into the story online, which I'll remind her to do.

--Ethan Long


Subject: RE:
Date: Thu, 21 Jun 2012 11:23:43 -0400
Thanks for the quick response. Your reporter gave me one day to respond and I was gone that day. The link isn't working for me.
G. Tod



‘The American Dissident’ takes on SU Poetry Center, Prof. Marchant
June 6, 2012 · by Ally Thibault · in Campus, News
G. Tod Slone, editor of the biannual journal The American Dissident, has a problem with Suffolk University’s Poetry Center and its director, Professor Fred Marchant. In an open letter and a political cartoon sent to the school’s English department faculty and The Suffolk Journal, Slone depicts Marchant as a free-speech-oppressing gatekeeper who wants to censor outsider thoughts.
In his letter, Slone writes, “Suffolk University Poetry Center, which Marchant created, rejected my request that it consider subscribing to The American Dissident, a nonprofit journal of literature, democracy, and dissidence.” He adds that Marchant also “rejected the thought of inviting me to the Center and/or his Creative Writing classes.”
“The Poetry Center doesn’t subscribe to any journals,” Marchant told The Suffolk Journal. The library or individual departments can subscribe to publications but the Poetry Center “has no say” in those decisions, he said.
Marchant was totally surprised upon receiving Slone’s letter and seeing himself depicted in the cartoon. “It came out of the blue,” he said. “I vaguely remember getting a request” for an invitation to the Poetry Center from Slone, Marchant said. The Poetry Center receives at least one request, if not more, per week from writers who wish to use the space, according to Marchant. “When I get a request, I first look at the writing” of the individual, he said. “I don’t know of his poetry, if there is any.”
After reading through Slone’s blog, Marchant made his decision not to invite him to speak. “The Poetry Center is about showcasing literature, not about argumentation,” he said, “My responsibility to the community is to make a judgment on whether a speaker merits [the Poetry Center’s] time and limited resources,” he said, “and his work doesn’t merit our time.” For this, “[Slone] calls me gatekeeper. I say no—I must make judgments.”
In his letter, Slone criticizes the ‘literary machine’ for “ostracizing the few of those who dare go against the grain.” He believes that decision makers like Marchant attempt to “reduce speech” and “limit debate.” He calls on Marchant’s colleagues to “manifest unusual curiosity and openness, normally absent in the minds of most university professors of literature and creative writing” in their classrooms.
“Might there be ONE of you, yes just ONE of you, who might actually be a proponent of vigorous debate and freedom of speech, cornerstones of a thriving democracy? If so, please DARE to comment,” Slone wrote at the beginning of his letter. He notes later, “not one of the professors contacted deigned to respond.”
On The American Dissident’s blog, Slone has posted many cartoons of academics he sees as oppressors to freedom of speech and curates a list of well-known literary and academic organizations that he dubs ‘democracy-adverse organizations’ “as tested by the editor.”
“Slone may have a grudge against an organization,” Marchant said, “but denying a request doesn’t make an organization ‘democracy-adverse,’ these claims are deeply inaccurate and disqualify him as a speaker for us.”
As Marchant scrolled through the organizations listed, he was baffled to see Pen New England among them. Pen, which has chapters all around the world, was originally founded during the Cold War to help imprisoned writers express their ideas. Their core ideal is to preserve the freedom to write. Marchant is a former chairman of Pen New England.
“We believe in free speech,” Marchant said, “Slone’s speech is not censored, he has a platform to say what he wishes on his blog.” Marchant stresses that he does not want to get into an argument with Slone over this and “takes no glee” in denying his request.
“I respect him and his efforts,” Marchant said, “If it weren’t all in that one argumentative note, it would be a good debate to have about the sociological dimensions of literature, like the status of publishing today or the meaning of creative writing at schools.”
“He has a point of view, and I’m glad he brings it out to the world,” Marchant said, “It’s just not exactly what we discuss at the Poetry Center.”

Post a Comment On:The American Dissident

Subject: Poetry Center et al
Date: Tue, 26 Jun 2012 13:54:12 -0400
Hi Ethan Long,
Well, I finally managed to connect to the link you gave me. Thanks for being somewhat unique and posting my cartoon. As mentioned, most student newspaper editors would not do that. And I’ve been contacting such editors over the past several decades. Since your reporter did not respond to my last email, I send this response to you RE Marchant’s “responses,” which seemed to avoid and weasel around everything and anything I stated. He is unable to simply state that, yes, Slone was indeed censored by the Academy of American Poets. The documentation is on my site. It is a fact, not a supposition. Please let me know what you will do with it, as well as the questions I responded to vis-à-vis your reporter. Will you not print any of it in a hardcopy issue of Suffolk Journal? It would not surprise me that what I write is simply not within the realm of general student interest, let alone in the interest of students of literature. And if I were to suggest ONE book to the latter, it would be Solzhenitsyn’s The Oak and the Calf. Why? …for the simple reason that so much of what Solzhenitsyn experienced and described regarding literature under the fascist Soviet dictatorship, I have experienced here in capitalist America.
Thank you.
G. Tod

The Bottom Line: Academic Gatekeepers Serve to Keep Critics and Uncomfortable Ideas out of Their Turf and thus out of the Minds of Their Students
And why shouldn’t they? After all, its a lot more comfortable and ego-boosting to bask in the hermetic ambiance of the honorable Dr. this and the estimed Dr. that, you slap my back and I’ll slap yours, low-accountability ambiance of pomp, circumstance, and chevrons on the sleeve.
Marchant’s responses to my comments are really not really responses at all. They essentially evade, rather transparently, every point I or the interviewer made. He states: “When I get a request, I first look at the writing of the individual. I don’t know of his poetry, if there is any.” Well, why didn’t he request to look at my writing or better yet, spend 30 seconds on Google to find out if there is any? As I recall, he didn’t even bother responding to my invitation request.
Academics like Marchant must get so used to being insincere and small talkie that eventually for them insincerity becomes truth.
For what it’s worth, I have written well over 1,000 poems and have been published in many journals over the past several decades. But publication credentials are irrelevant. Look at all the crap out there being published, especially in poetry! In fact, poems I can’t publish are probably much better than the ones I can publish, because the former are likely riskier and simply too provocative to interest a publisher.
Why invite me to speak? The reason is simple, and Marchant has weaseled around it: I write poetry that is highly caustic and critical of gatekeepers like him. Few poets today dare do that because few poets dare speak the “rude truth,” preferring instead to win prizes, invitations, grants, promotions, tenure, etc.
Also, I encourage students to question and challenge their very institutions and professors. Indeed, I’d challenge students to test the waters of democracy at places like SU Poetry Center, then write up the results, “poemify” the results. That makes me, as a poet, VERY DIFFERENT from poets Marchant knows and likely invites. By keeping me out, Marchant does students a grave disservice by not exposing them to someone who actually does dare criticize the poetry machine and academe.
Contrary to his assertion, Marchant IS a gatekeeper, one of many gatekeepers, all of whom seek to keep poetry safe, uncontroversial, and essentially lame. Yet poetry should include all possibilities, not only those approved of by poetry gatekeepers. My poetry generally questions and challenges, pushes the envelope. Marchant rejects it because of that. It questions and challenges academics like Marchant who live comfortable and predictable lives, rarely if ever on the creative edge of conflict. Of course, my work and ideas DO NOT “merit”Marchant’s time. That’s the point!
To dismiss, for example, the facts that my comments were censored by the Academy of American Poets or that PEN New England absolutely refuses to respond to my grievances by arguing I “have a grudge” is an example of how to avoid reality and truth via ad hominem. Shoot the messenger (say he’s a grudge holder) to avoid dealing with the message (censorship and Marchant’s lack of courage to challenge it!). To dismiss all of what I state as “claims are deeply inaccurate” is no less than shameful for a professor. The fact that I was censored is not a mere claim. It is a fact. There is documented proof of it on my website. Marchant’s responses prove how closed his mind has become. He cannot look at a fact, if that fact is uncomfortable and implicates him, and not denigrate it as a subjective claim. I’d much rather be an unemployed PhD than to have ended up a full professor of the established order like Marchant. Truth is what I seek. Marchant seeks and has likely always sought to climb the established-order ladder. There’s a world of difference between him and me.
PEN New England’s Karen Wulf, no doubt Marchant’s friend, who is friend of Concord Poetry Center’s Joan Houlihan, who is friend of Charles Coe at Massachusetts Cultural Council, who is friend of Harris Gardner of Boston’s National Poetry Month, etc., etc. REFUSES TO RESPOND TO MY GRIEVANCES. Do you not see how it works in this state? Friends and cronies form a solid barrier to keep criticism always at bay. That’s what Marchant helps to do. The normal response is to ostracize the rare critic and avoid responding to his criticism. That’s what Marchant did, until you went to him and “forced” him to respond. Did you not notice how he avoided the fact that PEN New England does not respond? PEN is not some perfect organization, if there is such a thing. How could it be when people like Marchant come to direct it? All the World War II blablabla does not explain away what PEN has become today, essentially run by politically-correct literary and academic apparatchiks.
BTW, as a critical poet, I was just issued a permanent no-trespass order by a library receiving public funding without warning or due process. I had written and posted on my site two open letters to the library directors in the local system here in Barnstable, MA. That’s all it took. Should I waste my time contacting PEN New England, the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, or Marchant with that regard? Would they/could they respond intelligently to what occurred?
Marchant does not understand the basic premise of the FIRST AMENDMENT. Allow me to repeat here, though not for him, because he chooses de facto not to understand it. The speech one hates the most should be the speech one fights to protect. That is the fundamental tenet. Instead, Marchant and his friends seek to bury the speech they hate. That is not called democracy. It is called leftist fascism, which is ever growing in the USA. If, for example, Marchant had been censored by the Academy of American Poets, I would have immediately wrote a letter of protest to its chancellors, despite the fact I do not respect the person. Marchant would not do that in my case because he’s got friends in the Academy and doesn’t want to upset the Academy because he wants to get into the Academy, if he isn’t already. That’s his goal. My goal is truth, as I perceive it.
“We believe in free speech,” says Marchant. And that is a bold-faced lie. He does not believe in free speech. He believes only in speech that does not question and challenge him and/or his friends. If he really believed in free speech, he would have invited me for the sake of students because I would have spoken to them, not about Whitman, Ashbury, Pinsky, or Dickinson, but rather about democracy, dissidence, and literature.
“I respect him and his efforts,” says Marchant with my regard. Well, I don’t believe that at all. Do you? It is hot air. Besides, I certainly do not respect Marchant and his efforts to quell my speech. How could I respect him when he and his friends keep me from public funding (Massachusetts Cultural Council), poetry festivals (Mass. Poetry Festival), and from speaking at colleges to curious students?
Do you not see how easy it is for him to dismiss me and my writing (2000 pages of essays, a 743 page novel, plays, tons of poems, not to mention tons of literary cartoons) with one simple phrase: “If it weren’t all in that one argumentative note.” What would he have preferred? All in that one smiley-face note? Shame on Marchant for resorting to such a monstrously all-encompassing dismissal of my “work”! And I place the term in quotes because work to me is tough physical labor, something I’ve known and do today.
“He has a point of view, and I’m glad he brings it out to the world,” says Marchant. Glad? At least be honest! Well, honesty was never high in academic priorities. “It’s just not exactly what we discuss at the Poetry Center.” Of course, it isn’t and of course Marchant acts as gatekeeper, preventing students from examining all points of view with regards poetry. My point of view is barred from his Center. It’s not discussed. Period. Is that what Academe has come to at Suffolk University? Academe should be an arena of open, no-holds barred debate. That’s what his Poetry Center should be. Sadly, he has the full backing of every professor in the English Department at Suffolk University to keep it from being thus.
My passion is for those few poets who have dared risk their lives for truth: Francois Villon, Kenule Saro-Wiwa, Osip Mandelstam, Albrecht Haushofer, Garcia Lorca, and others. That is not Marchant’s passion.
I seek to elevate poetry and writing to something much more than simple intellectural diversion, the kind Marchant promotes at his Center, the kind promoted in just about every university in the country. How I’d like to show students that one can create literature that strengthens democracy from conflict with professors, poets, academies, cultural councils, librarians, publishers, etc. Oh well. Not at Suffolk University. But at Endicott College, yes!
G. Tod Slone

Subject: PEN et al
Date: Fri, 6 Jul 2012 12:34:32 -0400
Fred Marchant,
Your responses were predictably evasive and issued only because I’d contacted the student editor. Total ostracizing has been the common response to my criticism. It has been your response and that of Suffolk University Poetry Center. I do not exist. My criticism of it, you, and the poetry milieu does not exist.
Sure, as you stipulated, I do have free speech rights, but only on the Internet. Apparently I do not have them relative to numerous publicly-funded organizations from the Mass Cultural Council to the Mass Poetry Festival, Concord Poetry Center, Sturgis Library, and Suffolk University Poetry Center.
Why the fear of a little dissent in your midst? It is no less than mind-boggling to me. Instead, why not simply open your doors to dissent, instead of keeping them hermetically sealed? That’s the question, the one you clearly avoided and the one that inevitably shames you.
Is it that you are simply intellectually incapable of responding to criticism with cogent counter-argumentation, as opposed to evasiveness? And if so, how did the educational system fail you so terribly and now how are you, as an educator, failing your students so terribly? Did you receive far too much positive feedback? Indeed have you simply been wallowing in it? Is that the answer?
Will Karen Wulf respond this time to my free expression grievance vis-à-vis Sturgis Library? Why should she?
Finally, why will not one college or university permit me to teach the attached course that I created?
Well, I do not expect you to respond for you have proven like your crony friends scornful of vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy.
Regarding PEN NEW ENGLAND, it has to date refused to respond to my emails. So, why were you surprised PEN was on my list of free-speech scorning organizations? Will it respond to my latest email regarding the permanent trespass order without due process issued by publicly-funded Sturgis Library? And why do you and so many others simply not care about that shameful order?
As you well know, rampant cronyism is the fuel that makes this state run so crookedly. And of course the cultural sector is no exception. Marchant (SU Poetry Center) knows Houlihan (Concord Poetry Center), who knows Wulf (PEN), who knows Coe (Mass Cultural Council), who knows Holder (Ibbetson Press), who knows Gardner (National Poetry Month), who knows Ansara (Mass. Poetry Festival), etc., etc. Criticizing one of them is like criticizing all of them: a poor career move. But cronyism does not serve literature. It only serves the cronies.
G. Tod

Subject: PEN's predictable SILENCE
Date: Sun, 15 Jul 2012 18:24:36 -0400
Fred Marchant,

As predicted, PEN New England did not respond to my email.And that is why it is on my list of freedom of expression-adverse or at best apathetic organizations.So, why were you surprised?SILENCE… of course!
Clearly, PEN is only interested in protecting the speech of foreign writers and American writers in prison.As soon as an American writer dares criticize organizations like PEN or its academic proponents like you, it ceases to respond.That’s clear.Would you/will you write the director of PEN New England to ask why she refuses to respond and express an iota of interest in the fact that I, an American writer against the grain, was permanently trespassed from a publicly-funded library without warning or due process for writing two open letters? SILENCE… of course!
So, now at least you understand the crux of the problem, since, well, you are the crux of the problem.I’ve added your response to the student RE PEN to my old essay on PEN.Read it.You’re in it! See below. Will you actually manifest curiosity? Naw. You're a prof emeritus! Perhaps you’d like to help me find a publisher for it?
Thank you for your attention… and SILENCE.
G. Tod Slone
PEN: An Ethical Consideration

Our mission is to advance the cause of literature and reading in our region and to defend free expression everywhere.

—PEN New England

The obligation to choose either the left or the right and to be politically correct has replaced independent thinking; if the voice of the writer is not swept into the global chorus, and if he fails to give his allegiance to a political party, he will be marginalized.

—Gao Xingjian, “Literature as Testimony:the Search for Truth”

Most of my criticism and satire has been directed unequivocally against academe and its literary established order.It is my contention that, contrary to its assertion, PEN does not defend free expression everywhere and, in fact, manifests with that regard viewpoint discrimination and is not therefore an organization of ethical integrity.

Should one be surprised that a tenured professor, founder of Suffolk University Poetry Center, and former chairman of PEN New England cannot fathom Gao Xingjian’s above statement, to which one ought to add “if he also fails to avoid being critical of the literary established order, he will be marginalized.”

The professor in question is Fred Marchant.And by naming him here I transgress yet another implicit taboo: naming names.Marchant would not respond to my criticism.Non-response tends, after all, to be the accepted modus operandi of most academics when criticized by an outsider. However, he found himself forced to respond after I’d contacted the editor of his university’s student newspaper.

“Slone may have a grudge against an organization,” Marchant argued, “but denying a request doesn’t make an organization ‘democracy-adverse,’ these claims are deeply inaccurate and disqualify him as a speaker for us.”

Note how the tactical term “grudge” is used to undermine and otherwise dismiss anything and everything I might have expressed.Note also how he argues all my “claims” to be “deeply inaccurate” without even having examined them.How does a professor get away with such a shoddy analysis?

Sadly, the student journalist who’d interviewed him did not ask that question. All she did was note:“As Marchant scrolled through the organizations listed, he was baffled to see Pen New England among them.”How could Marchant possibly argue my claims to be “deeply inaccurate” by simply scrolling down a list?And indeed rather than respond cogently to my grievance against PEN New England’s absolute refusal to respond to any of my correspondence, he completely diverts attention away from it:“Pen, which has chapters all around the world, was originally founded during the Cold War to help imprisoned writers express their ideas. Their core ideal is to preserve the freedom to write.”

Yes, “freedom to write,” but of course not at Marchant’s Poetry Center!“We believe in free speech,” he told the student journalist. “Slone’s speech is not censored, he has a platform to say what he wishes on his blog.”

Perhaps not censored, but definitely“marginalized.”The question of course remains intact, despite Marchant’s feeble attempt to annihilate it:why does PEN New England refuse to respond to my correspondence?Why does PEN New England not care at all that I, a New England writer, was permanently trespassed without warning or possibility of due process from a publicly funded library for having written and disseminated two open letters critical of the library directors in the Clams Library System of Cape Cod?That question remains unanswered.

PEN, as Marchant noted, was founded with a noteworthy purpose.And it does possess a somewhat glorious reputation. But today many of its members and administrators are well-off writers and academics, who probably would not have supported PEN’s early purpose of helping writers punished mostly under left-wing fascist, communist regimes.

And what about “marginalized” writers here in America? PEN’s prison-writing program helped prisoners express themselves.But what about others not in prison? PEN, for example, was surely not “advancing the cause” of my literary expression. As mentioned, PEN New England had proven entirely apathetic to my grievances of restricted free expression in New England and elsewhere in America, yet I was a New England poet, professor, and editor.Was my literature too critical and too close to home for those manning the PEN helm, including chancellor-professor poets Frank Bidart and Robert Pinsky of the Academy of American Poets, which had indeed censored and banned me from participating in its online forums (for the censored transcript, see

The problem with PEN today is its deep roots in Academe. The office of PEN New England, for example, was located at Lesley University and now at MIT. In the name of “free expression everywhere,” one had to wonder, given the known abhorrence of university business-minded administrators and most professors to open no-holds-barred debate and criticism, to what extent such expression might be restricted with their regard.

My raising such a question to Karen Wulf, Executive Director of PEN New England, was in itself obviously quite unacceptable. Her silence proved the point. In fact, questioning and challenging PEN, in general, was unacceptable and simply not done, at least not by writers of the established order. What irked me was PEN’s self-glorifying and egregiously hypocritical statement: “defending free expression everywhere.” EVERYWHERE! Indeed, with such a statement, how could it possibly justify its complete lack of response to my correspondence?The answer to that question was perhaps a simple one.

In all likelihood, politically-correct academics, entirely intolerant to criticism of the left, controlled organizations like PEN, the Academy of American Poets, American Library Association, National Endowment for the Arts, state cultural councils, publicly-funded libraries, and the ACLU.As for the latter, Wendy Kaminer’s Worst Instincts constitutes a more than convincing denunciation.It is likely that what Kaminer state’s regarding the ACLU sadly applies to PEN, for example:

None dare call it censorship. Liberal advocates of banning "hate speech" or other forms of incivility tend to regard censorship as a conservative vice, despite their own embrace of it. They assert their respect for free speech by denning it narrowly: "Free speech doesn't include hate speech" or the right to "offend," they insist nonsensically—as if we'd need free speech guarantees to protect the right not to offend. Restraints on speech are also cloaked in the therapeutic rhetoric of tolerance, sensitivity, psychic safety, or civility. Appropriately, perhaps, the liberal romance with censorship is a love that dare not speak its name.

PEN council members acted as censors (viewpoint discriminators) or, at best, subtle supporters of censorship. Of course, council members would not call it censorship, preferring any number of euphemisms. I’d love to get their opinion here, but they simply refused to respond with that regard.Likely, they behaved in the same manner as the staff of the New York Times, perceiving censorship as “we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.” “Moderation decisions” sounds a lot better than censorial ones. “By screening submissions, we have created a space where readers can exchange intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information,”noted the Times. In other words, anything arbitrarily deemed not to be “intelligent and informed commentary” would simply be censored, uh, moderated.From that, one might extrapolate to PEN.After all, how could“intelligent and informed commentary” be critical of PEN, its literary luminaries, and other apparatchik administrators? Why else would PEN New England not respond to my correspondence?

Having just read an article by Chinese dissident Ma Jian, I thought of PEN and decided to write an open letter to about a dozen or so staff members and post it on my blog site in the hope that perhaps one or several would actually respond, and not in the polite bureaucratic non-response sense, but in the sense of sincere appreciation for vigorous debate, cornerstone of a thriving democracy. How wrong I was to be hopeful! Not one of them deigned to address my concerns and criticisms—the very same silence I I’d usually received when I’d criticized academics.

My disillusion with PEN began sometime after my invitation to the Festival International de la Poésie de Trois-Rivières (Québec) in 2001, where, as a rare dissident poet I was asked to present a poem by a dead dissident poet in the context of the PEN reading segment of the Festival. Thus, I chose a poem by Kenule Saro-Wiwa, translated it into French, and read it. To test the waters of democracy—perhaps that should be the principle “job” of a poet andacademic—, during the Festival, I also composed and read highly critical poems regarding the Festival’s organizers, especially Gaston Bellemare, who, for example, had expressly prohibited, to my utter amazement, invited poets from debating poetry at the Festival.

Le Nouvelliste, the local daily, refused to print my alternative viewpoints. Le Devoircensored, uh, moderated, my online comments regarding the hagiographic piece it published on Bellemare years later. My poems were also highly critical of the invited poets, who’d chosen money and networking opportunities over speaking truth to power. Present were 150 publicly-remunerated poets. Sadly, for freedom of expression in Quebec, I ended up“marginalized” and would never again be invited back to the publicly-funded Festival. Several years later I wrote Peter Meyer, Director of Literary Programs, PEN Literary Awards, mentioning, amongst other things, the Festival and my thoughts on PEN:

Of course the ineluctable problem with your awards is that a poet, essayist, and/or editor might not even be known to you and yours because of the near impossibility of publication and distribution of highly dissident works here in the USA. As you are aware, the publishing industry tends to largely reward diversionary writing, as do the nation's public libraries (e.g., Harry Potter). The small radical press tends to prefer publishing orthodox liberal works. I abhor orthodox anything. The literary journal that I have been publishing and editing for over eight years now is stuck in its microscopic niche and can be found in only three libraries across the nation. Of course, you've never heard of it. My fear with Pen Club is that it is now an old organization and run by tenured-academic types who would never consider my work because it is highly critical of them. In America (and no doubt elsewhere), Academe rejects any outside criticism of itself. […] So, why should I become a member of YOUR club?

Meyer did not respond, but one of his underlings did:

Many thanks for your message. I believe you are referring to the Nora Magid Award. This award is given only via internal nomination by a PEN member. In general, the guidlines [sic] and requirements for all our awards are on our web site:
Best wishes, Andrew

“Internal nomination”! Certainly, that’s an effective way of keeping criticism at bay. In 2004, I wrote PEN (John Morrone) regarding its “international work with writers, especially those who are enduring state-sponsored censorship.”

Well, I sure as hell think I'm being censored in America by the whole Academic/Literary Industrial Complex, which, no doubt, supports PEN. Isn't that odd? The Complex tends to reject/censor automatically any poetry, essay or novel that criticizes it. Having just read The Oak and the Calf, I cannot help but perceive evident parallels between Solzhenitsyn's banging his head against the brick wall of the Soviet Academic/Literary Industrial Complex and my personal experience here in America. What thinkest thou?

Needless to say, Morrone did not respond. On another occasion, I wrote PEN America to, amongst other things, denounce the Festival International. It responded with hollow empathy:

In general, we at the PEN America Center have no involvment [sic] with events that take place in Canada. It sounds like your experience has been unfortuanate [sic].

It also responded regarding my query on becoming a member: “Regrading [sic] your query about joining PEN, currently membership is by nomination (either internal or external) and is entirely voluntary.”So, how to get nominated? Brown-nose an academic writer like Pinsky? How not to be nominated? Be openly critical and exercise “free expression” regarding PEN and/or its academic-writer members like Bidart? Closed-circuit clubs were indeed strange.

In 2005, being uninsured, I looked up health insurance on the Internet and again examined PEN Club membership, since it offered insurance to members. But it was expensive. As usual, I’d signed as editor of The American Dissident. As usual, PEN expressed no interest whatsoever with that regard (i.e., dissidence in America). Several years later—I was quite persistent—, I wrote PEN Quebec to denounce the Festival International. Martel, its president didn’t respond. I then composed the following poem and sent it to him.

Poème pour M. Emile Martel, Président

du Pen Club, Québec Centre

le stylo

pour questionner

et pour mettre au défi

le stylo

pour parler librement

et pour s’exprimer ainsi

et le stylo

pour dénoncer le

Pen Club

pour son silence

et sa complicité—

vive l’autocratie littéraire !

il était une fois

que j’étais debout là

pour lire d’intrépides vers

contre la flaccidité

perpétuée—exigée !

—par les gérants

j’étais debout là

pour lire contre leur autocratie

et ce serait la dernière fois

qu’ils m'y inviteraient

or, les gérants du Pen

des années après

continuent à fréquenter

ce Festival International

comme si rien ne l’était

comme si les gérants

la censure

n’exerçaient jamais...

Again, Martel didn’t respond. So, I wrote him a final email, which of course met with the same deafening SILENCE.

T’es-tu mort ou vivant ? Comment restes-tu muet devant mes accusations vis-à-vis de Gaston Bellemare et la façon autocratique qu’il gère son Festival International à Trois-Rivières ? En 2001, j’y ai été invité et ai lu des poèmes de Saro-Wiwa dans le contexte du Pen Club. Si j’avais su, j’aurais lu le poème que je t’ai envoyé il y a déjà quelques mois. Mais pourquoi vous acceptez nonchalamment la situation corrompue là ou le débat est même défendu ? Réponds-moi au nom de la démocratie et du débat vigoureux, sa pierre angulaire ! Ou est-ce que t’es simple fonctionnaire culturel ? Est-ce possible au Pen Club ?

Eventually, I also queried PEN America about obtaining a grant for The American Dissident, but received no response with that regard.

How about giving me a small grant so that I might propagate my literary journal? You will note that my journal is certainly more in line with PEN’s purpose of “defending free expression everywhere,” than previous grantee "Honorees" Askold Melnyczuk (Agni), Herbert Liebowitz (Parnassus), Wendy Lesser (Threepenny Review), Stanley W. Lindberg (Georgia Review), and Peter Stitt (Gettysburg Review). In fact, none of those journals would permit my criticism in their precious pages. Thank you for your attention.

PEN also published a literary journal, PEN America: A Journal for Writers and Readers, which was named one of the Ten Best New Magazines by Library Journal, which refuses to even review The American Dissident.With that regard, one of its reviewers, Steve Black wrote:

LJ has me review periodicals that are new or that have been recently redesigned or renamed. It doesn't seem that American Dissent [sic] falls into those 2 categories, but you're welcome to send a sample to my editor [i.e., Anna Katterjohn, Assistant Editor, Library Journal Book Review] and ask her to consider it, anyway.

So I wrote Katterjohn.But she never responded.The circle was indeed a vicious one.Work form PEN’s journal had been selected forBest American Essays and the Pushcart Prize, whereas I’ve written and published essays (and sketched cartoons) highly critical of both of the latter.In any event and to no avail, I challenged PEN’s literary journal.

"Members only" and "high literary standards and taste" stinks of academe! It sure does not reflect the stereotype of Pen Club as an organization devoted to the First Amendment and writers ostracized and otherwise persecuted for exercising it. You need to better reflect that noble raison d'etre in your literary journal. You need to reserve a section in that journal for American writers who have been ostracized (by academic and pseudo-academic journals and publishers) for exercising their First Amendment rights AND duties. Otherwise, what is the point of your literary journal if not to simply echo unoriginally the large bulk of academic lit journals flooding the nation with diversionary high-brow oligarchic entertainment? Pen Club is now on my website... in a negative light.

In 2008 and 2009, I wrote Karen Wulf, Executive Director of PEN New England, regarding a number of newer concerns, including:

1. the outright censorship of my comments by moderators of the Academy of American Poets and banning of my participation in its forums;

2. the new regulation by the Concord Cultural Council prohibiting public funding to any project it deemed of a “political nature,” enacted because of my “free expression”political grant proposals;

3. the prohibiting of my flyers at the Concord Visitors Center by the Concord Chamber of Commerce;

4. the prohibiting of my teaching a course on dissident writers at the Concord Poetry Center because, well, I chose to express myself freely; and

5. the prohibiting of my flyers at Walden Pond State Reservation and my protest by its entrance against the absence of “free expression.”

Unoriginally for PEN, Wulf chose not to respond at all. As mentioned, several PEN council members, Bidart and Pinsky, were Academy chancellors and had proven entirely indifferent to the Academy’s eradication of my “free expression” on its website in direct contradiction to the policy Bidart and Pinsky were supposed to be upholding as PEN council members.Moreover, Pinsky was the Honorary Chair of the Thoreau Farm Trust’s campaign to preserve the Concord birthplace of Henry David Thoreau, yet didn’t give a damn about Walden Pond’s prohibition of my protest flyers on its grounds. Was the Academy of American Poets feeding PEN money? As for Joan Houlihan, director of the Concord Poetry Center, who teaches English courses at Lesley University, home of PEN New England, she wrote aberrantly that

The idea of your teaching a workshop or a delivering a lecture on the art of literary protest or poetry protest, or simply protest (Concord is where it all started!) occurred to me even before you mentioned it, so, yes, it's something I will consider as we progress (this is only our first event). However, I must say I don't favor having you teach at the center if you protest the reading.

Of course, I chose protest over teaching opportunity.And for that I became persona non grata at the Concord Poetry Center…and PEN New England.It was indeed a small world, as they said.PEN members like Wulf, Pinsky and Bidart, like our corrupt financiers, need to be held accountable. They constitute a blight on democracy in America, especially since they prop themselves up as democracy’s purported defenders. With their regard, how not to think of Ma Jian’s statement: “The idealistic writers who marched through the streets in 1989 are now luminaries of the literary establishment. The Chinese Writers' Association has provided them with villas in the countryside equipped with saunas and gyms, and almost limitless expense accounts.”

Perhaps Wulf, Pinsky, Bidart, and others had never been idealistic and never marched anywhere at all. But the NEA, university and diverse foundations had certainly provided them with villas, etc. Being a harsh critic of poets, writers, editors and academics in America, I now find myself ostracized and unable to find full-time employment as a professor of English. When employed at American colleges and universities, I tended to “go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all ways” (Emerson). For that, I now find myself at the end of the employment line. On several occasions, I’d yet criticized another academic PEN-luminary, Virginia Tech’s Nikki Giovanni, for the following racist, PC-statement she made and perhaps continues to make in her classes:

Black students will inevitably run into some white classmates who are troubling because they often say stupid things, ask stupid questions and expect an answer.

Reverse that statement and find yourself in the PC-jailhouse! Giovanni of course chose to remain silent regarding the satirical cartoon I’d sent her with that regard. Note also that her College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences—and no doubt she had a major influence—sought to threaten freedom of conscience, which is constitutionally protected, via a proposed policy of evaluating a faculty member's worthiness for promotion and tenure with "special attention" to the candidate's "involvement in diversity initiatives.” The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education challenged that policy: “This emphasis requires faculty to adopt fundamental viewpoints with which they might not agree in order to be eligible for promotion and tenure.” How, one must ask, could PEN embrace a writer like Giovanni who actively seeks to limit the freedom of expression of her own colleagues?

Finally, Ma Jian wrote: “A savvy young Chinese writer who spoke in London recently was asked about his views on the Tiananmen massacre. He said with a self-satisfied smirk that he was asleep in bed when it took place, and that he never joined the marches because he found them exhausting. There is a word in Chinese that describes this attitude: xiaosa. It means imperturbable, detached, nonchalant. This carefree denial of the meaningful role of an artist in society is a blight that inflicts great numbers of China's unofficial cultural elite.”

With that regard, how not to think of America’s OFFICIAL cultural elite (e.g., multimillionaires Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Robert Pinsky, and Gary Snyder), funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and promoted by, amongst others, the Library of Congress, censoring Academy of American Poets, and PEN? Hopefully, Ma Jian would become aware of the hypocrisy here in America before some American university ended up purchasing his soul. Indeed, American universites were quite adept at the art of soul purchasing. Think of Beatniks Ginsberg and Snyder, as well as dissident foreigners Yevtushenko, WoleSoyinka, and Dennis Brutis. It was an easy thing for“internationally acclaimed writers” advertised on PEN America’s website like Soyinka, Gordimer, and Coetzee, to decry the incarceration of writers abroad, but a very difficult one for them to decry the killers of “freedom of expression” who were feeding them, including the universities employing them and, in America, the NEA, Academy of American Poets, and any number of other official cultural organizations dishing out the accolades to them.

They reaped money from public grants, private foundations, and universities and were thus beholding to a certain politesse, taste, and aesthetics and especially to a certain turning of a blind eye. Yet should that define the writers we’re supposed to admire? Why didn’t the likes of Wulf, Pinsky, Giovanni, and Bidart cherish, encourage, and defend vigorous debate, democracy’s cornerstone? “Defending free expression everywhere,” except here or there and especially when it might be offensive or when it might be considered impolite or when it wasn’t in good bourgeois taste or academic aesthetics or when it might be considered un-PC, or should I rather say un-Pinsky? Was that how it worked at PEN? If so, indeed, there was little point at all in any of those elite PEN members to ever respond to my critique. After all, what could Wulf or the others possibly have replied in defense of their purported goal of “defending free expression everywhere”? How much inherent corruption had she witnessed at Lesley University? How much self-censorship had Lesley professors engaged in, willingly or not? How much had Wulf herself engaged in… under the banner, of course, of “free expression everywhere”? Indeed, how could she possibly have responded to my correspondence? Evidently, PEN had been co-opted like the ACLU, digested, and spit out as a partially fraudulent cud by the reigning established order dressed in academic regalia.

Finally, the pomp and pretense, not to mention the Orwellian inanity, really did viscerally disgust me. How had writers gotten so bourgeois in America? What monstrous Faustian Pact mill had been churning them out? In the name of free expression and diversity of ideas, my challenges met with silence. My request that PEN New England include The American Dissident on its list of online resources next to Agni, which stood at direct antipodes to it, met with silence and thus was refused. How to shake Wulf and others from their well-remunerated stupor?

“There is little need for literary censors these days,”noted Ma Jian, regarding Communist China. “The writers have learnt to do a proficient job of censoring themselves.” With that regard, how not to think of America and American writers? Why did PEN America avoid that egregious reality? In a sense, it seemed to act as a propaganda arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce by pointing always to injustice overseas, while mostly ignoring it here. Indeed, it possessed a Freedom to Write and International Programs Director, but not a National Programs Director. PEN needed to open its council, not simply to friends of friends, but also to hardcore dissidents apt to question and challenge the council itself.

This essay was sent to PEN New England and PEN America: A Journal for Writers and Readers, both of which did not respond.It was then sent to the Journal of Information Ethics, whose editor informed me that the “reviewer was very reluctant to say no” and “anything less assertive is always welcome.”


Subject: Marchant and Suffolk Poetry Ctr
Date: Sat, 1 Sep 2012 21:37:44 -0400
To Ethan M. Long, Editor-in-Chief, The Suffolk Journal,
Relative to Marchant and his Poetry Center, there were some very pertinent matters. Yet you just let them go. I’m not sure why, but perhaps you do care about PR after all. For a newspaper editor, I’d have to give you a C- and that’s due to grade inflation.
Thanks for your attention.
G. Tod Slone, Founding Editor (1998)
The American Dissident, a 501c3 Nonprofit Journal of Literature, Democracy, and Dissidence
217 Commerce Rd.
Barnstable, MA 02630

Date: Sat, 1 Sep 2012 21:56:42 -0400
Subject: Re: Marchant and Suffolk Poetry Ctr
I'm was employed finally after a year. School is not in session. We've been changing editors, it's a college paper. I just moved and don't have internet right now. I've had a break from Suffolk for two months and I enjoyed what I could. We're picking back up in a week or so -- the writer from June is out of the states so send me your email correspondance and I'll get it to the new News editor.
Just to be frank -- our paper was about a C+ the past year or so. I've just been planning since orientation was over.
Ethan M Long

Subject: RE: Marchant and Suffolk Poetry Ctr
Date: Sun, 2 Sep 2012 09:14:06 -0400

So, what you’ve basically said is the Smart Phone is not so smart. Also, you are no longer editor. Okay. Please then forward this to the new editor:

1. Suffolk University Poetry Center should be OPEN to all points of view regarding poetry. Yet it is closed, for example, to the critical point of view expressed in The American Dissident. The Center therefore serves students as a poor reflection of not only what literature ought and could be, but also what democracy should be. Clearly, Prof. Fred Marchant serves as a poor role model with that regard.

2. PEN New England and Prof. Fred Marchant, its former director, prove to be hypocritical boasting “defending freedom of expression,” while at the same time NOT defending freedom of expression and proving grotesquely indifferent to violations with its regard. PEN and Marchant will only respond if pressed by student editors.

3. Student editors ought to be, above all else, interested and educated in issues of freedom of speech and vigorous debate, democracy’s cornerstones. It is my experience that, more often than not, they scorn, like their professors, the latter.

4. Student editors ought to devote a page in the student newspaper to issues of democracy, especially those on the local level touching students and their immediate vicinity. Campus speech codes need to be examined, as well as those instituting them.

My assumption is that these important matters will be ignored by future editors.

Thanks for your attention.

G. Tod Slone, Founding Editor (1998)

The American Dissident, a 501c3 Nonprofit Journal of Literature, Democracy, and Dissidence

217 Commerce Rd.

Barnstable, MA 02630

Subject: The Banned Books Week FARCE
Date: Mon, 1 Oct 2012 11:14:06 -0400
It is Banned Books Week! But should we celebrate that when so many librarians and professors seem to ban books, periodicals and viewpoints? Suffolk University Poetry Center, for example, has banned The American Dissident and its viewpoint. Students should demand that the Poetry Center open its doors to all points of view, including those that criticize poets, poetry reviews, and poetry centers. Fred Marchant serves as gatekeeper of the center and refuses to permit The American Dissident on its shelves. Students should demand their professors not serve as gatekeepers of rigid viewpoints. They should demand their professors introduce them to all points of view. For more on the hypocrisy of Banned Books Week, see
G. Tod Slone, PhD and Founding Editor (1998)
The American Dissident, a 501c3 Nonprofit Journal of Literature, Democracy, and Dissidence
217 Commerce Rd.
Barnstable, MA 02630



‘The American Dissident’ takes on SU Poetry Center, Prof. Marchant

‘The American Dissident’ takes on SU Poetry Center, Prof. Marchant

‘The American Dissident’ takes on SU Poetry Center, Prof. Marchant