Saturday, June 29, 2013

SLATE's Katy Waldman also objects to the Mark Edmundson HARPER'S article.

The above article is by SLATE assistant editor Katy Waldman.

Here are the first two paragraphs:
Hi, Mark Edmundson, you big-time poetry troll. I am not sure where to start with you. You took to Harper’s this month to denounce contemporary American poets. You upbraided them for their “inwardness and evasion,” their “blander, more circumscribed mode,” and claimed that they cast “unambitious spells.” You scolded them for playing “small-time games” with “low stakes,” timidly avoiding the words “we” and “our,” neglecting pop culture, and refusing to offer up a “comprehensive vision,” a “full-scale map of experience” encompassing politics, childhood, love, death, society, and nature. You scorched them in aggregate and you scorched them individually: W.S. Merwin is “oblique, equivocal, painfully self-questioning.” John Ashbery “says little.” Of Anne Carson: “The title of a recent profile in the New York Times, ‘The Inscrutable Brilliance of Anne Carson,’ has it half right.” Jorie Graham is “portentous,” Paul Muldoon “opaque.” As for Adrienne Rich, “the gift for artful expression is not hers.” You go after Sharon Olds, Mary Oliver, Charles Simic, Frank Bidart, Robert Pinsky, and Robert Hass, even the late James Merrill, all of whom deserve pages and pages of defense (and are likely getting it: I don’t even want to think about the contents of your inbox right now, Mark). Yes, your screed was a passionate piece of writing, dripping with erudition. You quoted great poets down through history: Dante, Milton, Emerson, Wordsworth, Yeats, Frost, Plath, Lowell. You did exactly what you want today’s poets to do, which is make a sweeping, fervent argument about something that matters. Unfortunately, you are completely out of your mind.

Even after poring over your 6,000-word essay, I’m still not exactly sure which themes you believe are appropriate for poetry—good verse apparently has to illuminate the world post-9/11, or describe the decline of the human race, or something. (At one point you praise Lowell for “looking at the world as though from outer space, like a graying weary seer, and pronouncing judgment.” Not exactly the clearest marching orders.) But I do know for sure that today’s poets are hardly limiting themselves to hermetic introspection (not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Nor are they avoiding overtly political content. A relatively recent New York Review of Books is lying on my desk. Let me open it up to the first poem I see: “Green Absinthe,” by Frederick Seidel, which contains the lines: “Bashar al-Assad (may his tribe increase!)/ Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace, / And saw, within the moonlight in his room, / The dead about to lead him to his doom.” Nope, not political at all. And farther down, an icy deployment of the same prophetic “we” you argue has gone extinct: “Something is coming more than we know how./ More than we know how. An asteroid. Soon.” You complain that poets these days only want to write about their own thought processes. I suppose you’re not interested in Sharon Olds on assisted suicide or Paul Muldoon on Obama or James Merrill on World War I or Natasha Tretheway on colonialism in the Americas. I suppose you don’t care that Louise Gluck’s latest book, A Village Life, is all about crafting a communal voice, capturing that strange collective pulse small towns know. So many lyrics out there bypass the personal, or use it to leapfrog into the abstract, that I’m unsure if you’re joking when you say that poets have given up on grand claims in order to cocoon themselves in lilting idiosyncrasy. Of course, you do admit that there’s no end of poetry being written and published out there: one can’t generalize about it all,” before, um, generalizing about all of it.

And here's the final paragraph:
But, you cry, “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world!” [W.H.] Auden’s tart rejoinder was that “Poetry makes nothing happen.” (“It is a way of happening,” he adds, “a mouth.”) Auden wanted to steer the art away from truth-claims and toward something more flexuous and subtle—a mode, not a message. For Auden, poetry unfolded in hypotheticals, in half-truths and possibilities, toggling between feeling and thought. You may find this subjunctive space wishy-washy and esoteric, but, in it, anything can occur. That is how poets become reformers and activists. That is how change starts. But if it’s not enough for you, if you are still intent on the “legislators of the world,” then put down the anthology and turn on C-SPAN, you crazy person.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

My two cents on the "Poetry Slam" article in HARPER'S.

The article in Harper's is written by an English professor at the University of Virginia. And it's essentially someone adopting a rebel-in-academia stance venting about poets (Merwin, Muldoon, Graham etc.) being too "opaque and evasive" when writing at length, not to mention not writing verse more actively engaged with the modern world as it is.

At the same time, Adrienne Rich is downgraded by Mr. Edmundson for not having enough of "the gift of artful expression" and giving audiences "eloquent, polemical prose." Notice the slap of the word "prose" in his quote.

It's an essay that seeks to slaughter sacred cows (Edmundson's comments about the homogenizing effect of MFA programs on poetry match up with what Billy Collins said a few years back at a Skirball Center reading in West L.A.), but also proving that Mark Edmondson doesn't want to take any time looking at small presses and lesser-known print and online journals to familiarize himself with men and women that aren't Household Names in the world of poetry (a la Brendan Bernhard's article in LA WEEKLY about fourteen years earlier).

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

NEW YORK magazine columnist Frank Rich on David Gregory and Glenn Greenwald.

On SundayMeet the Press host David Gregory all but accused the Guardian's Glenn Greenwald of aiding and abetting Edward Snowden's fugitive travels, asking, "Why shouldn't you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?" Was Gregory over the line? And, speaking to his larger point, do you see Greenwald as a journalist or an activist in this episode? And does it matter?
Is David Gregory a journalist? As a thought experiment, name one piece of news he has broken, one beat he’s covered with distinction, and any memorable interviews he’s conducted that were not with John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Dick Durbin, or Chuck Schumer. Meet the Press has fallen behind CBS’s Face the Nation, much as Today has fallen to ABC’s Good Morning America, and my guess is that Gregory didn’t mean to sound like Joe McCarthy (with a splash of the oiliness of Roy Cohn) but was only playing the part to make some noise. In any case, his charge is preposterous. As a columnist who published Edward Snowden’s leaks, Greenwald was doing the job of a journalist — and the fact that he’s an “activist” journalist (i.e., an opinion journalist, like me and a zillion others) is irrelevant to that journalistic function. If Gregory had integrity and guts, he would have added that the journalist Barton Gellman of the Washington Post, who published the other set of Snowden leaks (and arguably more important ones), aided and abetted a crime. But it’s easier for Gregory to go after Greenwald, a self-professed outsider who is not likely to attend the White House Correspondents' Dinner and works for a news organization based in London. Presumably if Gregory had been around 40 years ago, he also would have accused the Times of aiding and abetting the enemy when it published Daniel Ellsberg’s massive leak of the Pentagon Papers. In any case, Greenwald demolished Gregory on air and on Twitter (“Who needs the government to try to criminalize journalism when you have David Gregory to do it?”). The new, incoming leadership of NBC News has a golden opportunity to revamp Sunday morning chat by making a change at Meet the Press. I propose that Gregory be full-time on Today, where he can speak truth to power by grilling Paula Deen.

(Quoted from

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Seth Abramson and Mark Edmundson's differing views on contemporary poetry.

Here's a link to an everything's-just-peachy-and-glowing-about-poetry-today HUFFINGTON POST column by Seth Abramson:

Abramson's writing this as apparent rebuttal to a recent essay in HARPER'S magazine titled "Poetry Slam" by Mark Edmundson.

Edmundson's essay is gated online to HARPER's subscribers only.  But I'll quote several excerpts to give readers of this post a notion as to why Abramson felt he needed to respond.

"Most of our poets now speak a deeply internal language not unlike [W.S.] Merwin's.  They tend to be oblique, equivocal, painfully self-questioning.  They not only talk to themselves in their poems; they frequently talk to themselves about talking to themselves...At a time when collective issues--communal issues, political issues--are pressing, our poets have become ever more private, idiosyncratic, and withdrawn.  Their poetry is not heard but overheard, and sometimes is too hermetic even to overhear with anything like comprehension."

"Contemporary American poets now seem to put all their energy into one task: the creation of a voice.  They strive to sound like no one else.  And that often means poets end up pushing what is most singular and idiosyncratic in themselves and in the language to the fore and ignoring what they have in common with others.  The current poet may give a certain sort of pleasure by his uniqueness, but no one reading him will say what [Ralph Waldo] Emerson hoped to say when he encountered a poet who mattered: 'This is my music; this is myself.'"

"What happens when poets at the height of ambition somehow feel the need to be programmatically obscure?  The obvious result is that they shut out the common reader.  But they also give critics far too much room to determine poetic meanings--and this may be why some critics so love [Jorie] Graham and [Paul] Muldoon and [Anne] Carson and [John] Ashbery.  Their poems are so underdetermined in their sense that the critic gets to collaborate on the verses, in effect becoming a co-creator.  This is a boon to critics, but readers rightly look to poets to make sense of the world, even if it is a difficult sense--and not to pass half the job off to Ph.D's."

"Any modern poet who thinks of himself as creating a full-scale map of experience would be dismissed as hubristic and probably out of his mind.  The poet writes the fragment that is given to him to write; the idea of channeling all experience, or all experience that matters, is entirely foreign.  Poets now are music makers, not mythmakers.  Their poems are like isolated droplets shimmering beautifully on a pane of glass.  [Edmundsen goes on to dismiss individual poems by Sharon Olds, Mary Oliver, Frank Bidart, Charles Simic, Robert Hass and Robert Pinsky.]  All these poems are good in their ways.  They simply aren't good enough.  They don't slake a reader's thirst for meanings that pass beyond the experience of the individual poet and light up the world we have in common."

"Contemporary American poetry speaks its own confined language, not ours.  It is, by and large, pure.  It does not generally traffic in the icons of pop culture; it doesn't immerse itself in ad-speak, rock lyrics, or politicians' posturing: it gravitates to the obscure, the recondite, the precious, the ancient, trying to get outside the mush of culture that surrounds it.  The result is poetry that can be exquisite, but that has too few resources to use to take on consequential events."

"Mass culture and mechanical reproduction surely play a part in the current retreat of American poetry, but what about MFA programs?  Poetry now is something of a business.  You make your way into the game by getting a sponsor: often it's a writer-in-residence from your undergraduate school.  Then comes the MFA and the first book, both of which usually require sponsorship--which is to say pull."

"To thrive in this process you often must write in the mode of the mentor--you must play the game that is there to be played.  You must be a member of the school, you must sing in the correct key.  If you try to overwhelm the sponsor, explode his work into irrelevance--well, the first law of success is simple: Never outshine the master.  The well-tempered courtier knows how to make those above him feel surperior.  He knows that in his desire to succeed he must not go far in displaying what he can do.  The master will not like it--and there will be no first book, no fellowship, no job, no preferment.  It is only by making the master look more accomplished, by writing in his mode, becoming a disciple, that the novice ascends."

Monday, June 24, 2013

Dave Marsh on the late blues vocal legend Bobby Blue Bland.

From ROCK AND RAP CONFIDENTIAL.  Free subscription if e-mail address sent to

CRY, CRY, CRY…. Dave Marsh writes: Bobby Bland was, in his prime, the most powerful blues shouter of all time, though capable as well of a caressing tenderness. "Turn On Your Lovelight" is what the rock world knows, I guess, but the man's legacy is also in "Ain't Nothing You Can Do," "Farther Up the Road," "I'll Take Care of You," "I Pity the Fool," "Cry Cry Cry," "If You Could Read My Mind," to my ear the finest "St. James Infirmary" of them all, the entire Two Steps from the Blues album (the best Southern soul album, even including Otis's; it has the impeccable and beautiful and scary "Lead Me On," for many the greatest performance of his career. The list goes all the way up to his Malaco sides, particularly "Ain't No Love In the Heart of the City." It is not true that Bobby Bland never made a bad record; it is true that his ratio of great to mediocre is as high as any other singer you can name, in any genre you care to cull.
To call him Bobby "Blue" Bland always seemed redundant to me—as if he could be heard for so much as eight bars and you wouldn't know that this was his core, his essence and, one way or another, a heap of your own.  But you can make too much of this essentialism--finally, you know Bobby Bland's name and music less well because he was like his audience. He was a key voice of the black Southern working class from the '50s onward. His role was to play the shouter from the anonymous ranks, the totally heart broken man among an all-but-totally heart broken folk. (And of course, once in a while, shouting with all the more exuberance because of that every day heartbreak.)
He was completely non-intellectual about the whole enterprise, as far as I can tell. He told Peter Guralnick that his ambition was to be able to sing each song the exact same way, every time he sang it. A strange kind of perfectionism. But his command of tone and phrasing was so great that  for me he held the place that Frank Sinatra held for a lot of other people. "Lead Me On" in particular has never not brought me to tears. Not once, though I sometimes listened to it many, many, many times in a row--when I was by myself, the way that particular act of allegiance is best performed. And you know what? He sings it the same way every time.
Perfection is something he knew a lot about. And I, especially the I who found him on the radio and held him very close to the center of my being for the better part of half a century, will never be able to thank him enough. Or often enough. Or even express what I'm thanking him for altogether adequately.
I will tell you the real truth: He was, for me, probably the greatest blues singer of any kind, and the reason I can say this now instead of at the beginning is quite simple: I started listening to Two Steps from the Blues.
"No matter what you do, I'm gonna keep on loving you and I'm not ashamed, oh no, I'm not ashamed."

Friday, June 21, 2013

The private Paula Deen overwhelms the public Paula Deen.

From the Food Network's PAULA'S HOME COOKING web page (still online as of this writing), this description:
"With small-town life as her inspiration, Paula Deen brings uncomplicated and delicious home cooking to a series dedicated to the American traditions. Whether it's her stories or her recipes from her country kitchen, Paula has always had a gift for lifting spirits."

Now, here's most of the comment made by June Pagan on's Comments section under the updated article about Paula Deen and loss of endorsements (plus the Random House book deal):
"Discrimination on any level is not to be tolerated let alone endorsed. The Food Network and any business that is ethical should not be supporting any business that treats it’s employees like second class citizens. It is not right for employees to have to endure racial slurs and pornographic material in the workplace. Obviously ,the employees were afraid of losing their jobs. Paula Deen is a Southern cook who hit a stroke of luck by getting picked up by the Food Network. They gave her fame and she should have passed on that opportunity by making sure that all of her and her co-partners in business supported the people that supported them. Making uncomfortable statements, jokes and exposing them to unfair treatment was and is disghusting, low class and unacceptable."

Friday, June 14, 2013

HOLLYWOOD ELSEWHERE commenter on superhero comics vs. their movie adaptations.

Turning the floor over to Jay Shooke--context is a HOLLYWOOD ELSEWHERE website commenter discussion re Joe Queenan's dismissal of the superhero film genre in THE GUARDIAN:
This is the kind of whining that comes from having no awareness of the comics industry at all. Like its already been mentioned, comics haven't been "cheap" or disposable for 25 years, or since they changed the distribution model to the direct market. Comics are now niche collectibles, printed on extremely high quality paper, cost 3 to 4 bucks a pop, and only available at small specialty stores. But that's besides the point...

The problem with superhero movies (and I want to make this distinguished, comics are a vast medium that tell many, very disparate types of stories) is not the source material being vapid or inferior, but in the poor adaptation of them. Comics, even superhero comics, have been home for some of the most out-there, cerebral and and almost inaccessibly dense genre stories being published. Writers like Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis, and Jonathan Hickman are pushing incredibly daring and literary ideas, they just happen to be illustrated by some intensely eye-popping illustrative and graphic design work. Its the studios dumbing down the source material to hit all four quadrants [meaning every age level of moviegoer], and that's when you get repetitive narratives and senseless violence.

I get the complaints against the assault of cape movies every summer, but there's a reason they keep getting made. People love em, and its certainly not just geeks keeping them afloat. The most popular comic books are lucky if they sell 90k copies every month. Man of Steel is going to make around 300 million dollars domestic, so obviously its not just the basement dweller set making them happen. Average people want to see grand spectacle and larger than life characters when they plop down 12 bucks, and this is the type of movie that delivers that.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


I keep my mouth shut
I keep my mouth shut
I say nothingnothingnothing
Who will be this season's judges
Look at that dog opening a door
on YouTube.
Will it be worth it to rejoin
the new MySpace?
But people want to see:
who I'm e-mailing
who is e-mailing me
who I called on the phone
who called me on the phone
and who I called on the phone
in a foreign country
that already has cameras
taking pictures of
people just walking
down city streets
Should I be afraid?
Or should I trust the President
as much as (or more than)
many people trusted
the previous President?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

American Idiocy: A Twitter commenter on Edward Snowden.

Posted (by someone who I won't reveal here) as a response to a article about Edward Snowden remaining in Hong Kong:
" @Salon And he is so self righteous. Ugh!  Watched too many Superman/Batman films I guess.  He shd be prosecuted."
Here's a link to the article:

Monday, June 10, 2013

Re the NSA spying revelations--plus a prediction.

Must say: pretty disappointed with former Lefty warriors against Bush Admin surveillance lining up to defend Obama Admin surveillance.--Tom Belknap via Twitter.

To add to Mr. Belknap's observation:
This won't stop people (from centrists to "progressives") from voting for Hillary Clinton in 2016 (in part to "make history") and later discovering she's keeping the chain of throwing a superwide surveillance net over Americans unbroken.

Friday, June 7, 2013

When celebrities attack their interviewers.

"What's changed about [the practice of interviewing Famous People] is the more papers panic about sales, the more they want lowest-common denominator, headline-grabbing, negative stories, and the more celebrities become paranoid of it. There are old-school celebrities who see the interview as being a tool to help them, whereas the newer people just think of the celebrity interview as an irritating fly they have to swat."--Chrissey Iley describing an encounter with Mila Kunis.

The full article (From Rhys Ifans to Madonna: writers on their worst celebrity interviews) can be read here:

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Rock critic Dave Marsh on new book about U2's Bono.

Reprinted from an e-mail sent by Dave Marsh's ROCKNRAP CONFIDENTIAL:
RRC Extra No. 35 May 2013

Bono: Mascot of Neoliberalism

by Dave Marsh

reprinted with permission from CounterPunch []

In 1984 I wrote a hostile (to both music and words) review of U2’s Unforgettable Fire. Some weeks later, I found myself dragooned (by a force too absurd to mention) into a late afternoon conversation with Bono. It wasn’t an interview. He wanted to talk one-on-one about why I’d written such a negative estimation of the record.

I arrived bemused, only to become more so when I was sent to the hotel’s penthouse. I knew this hotel, the Who made it their New York headquarters (Keith Moon got the suites about to be remodeled to save on demolition costs). I’d interviewed some other famous rockers in their rooms there, too. But I had never been to the penthouse. Yet here sat a young Irish star, who’d never had a top ten album or a top 20 single in the States.

We had a conversation, not that either of us listened too much. I asked Bono if he knew why I’d brought him a copy of my book about Elvis. He didn’t. “Because, if you read it, you’ll know pretty much exactly what I think about Elvis,” I said. “But I’ve listened to that song, ‘Elvis Presley and America,’ a dozen times and I still can’t figure out what you’re trying to say.” He didn’t have anything much to add. Or subtract.

This is the part that’s hardest to believe: For roughly the next ten years, every time I ran into Bono, he tried to re-engage me about that review. Once, backstage at Madison Square Garden, he walked the circumference of a small knot of people that included Sting, Bruce Springsteen and Peter Gabriel, in order to pursue Moby Reviewer. It was dumbfounding.

But after reading Harry Browne’s The Front Man: Bono (In the Name of Power), I think I understand. I had said no. The review called him out as at worst a fraud or at least an incompetent. Face to face, it may never have happened again in the last three decades.

The Front Man is about a boy who never grew up or faced facts. Through very careful accretion of detail it left me feeling that Bono resembled no entertainment or arts figure nearly as much as that other sad, sheltered boy, George W. Bush. In fact, what surprised me most about my reaction to the book was how my response changed as I read. At first, the prose seemed too reserved, too cautious, incapable of capturing the outrageousness of Bono, one part talent to nine parts hubris. But as the pages turned, what engrossed me was another portrait: Bono as that little boy in man’s boots, surrounded by forces he fathoms no more than a five-year-old fathoms the perils of the sea. In the end, Harry Browne’s Bono is not so much a huckster as a sucker; not a con man so much as a victim of the world’s greatest con artists; not an egomaniac but someone so insecure he has found ways to be shielded from almost all harsh realities (well, at least his own). If this were a movie, you might be able to measure the price paid just by the way he looks at himself in the mirror.

Most less than adulatory writing about Bono, including my own, is a blend of anger, contempt, condescension and frustration. The Front Man recognizes all these instincts, but keeps them under tight command. For instance, Browne allows himself to be angrier (in tone) at Bono’s wife, Ali, whose business machinations are real but comparatively trivial, than at Bono, himself. There’s kind of a shadow behind such moments, as if we’re meant to glean that the book’s protagonist can’t be judged like other men, not because he is extraordinarily gifted or brave or empathetic, but because he’s so lost, frightened and pathetic. Bono may be the personification of all that’s evil about contemporary celebrity culture and all that’s worse than bankrupt about liberal capitalism (and liberal capitalists) but there’s also a real person in there, and he’s spent most of a lifetime making himself what history must surely judge—perhaps not with as much restraint as the author—as a fool.

Does this make Harry Browne’s Bono less easy to despise? Probably but it also makes him easier to understand. Here, Bono becomes less the many-sided symbolic figure and more a fallible (sometimes likable, sometimes detestable) human. Think of the former Paul Hewson as the first self-created one dimensional man (all front, no back). Browne’s dug past the PR and the rhetoric and found…a Mad Men cliché for our times.

But that’s not why you need to read The Front Man. You do need to. Not because you want to better understand Bono, let alone empathize with his plight, but because what topples is not only Bono’s stature but the excuses his chosen trade, liberal philanthropic paternalism, makes for itself. Langston Hughes wrote that the animal that should be chosen to represent liberals is not a donkey or an elephant but an ostrich. This book could be subtitled Bono (With His Head in the Sand).

The Unforgettable Fire was just sort of a second-rate record by a pretty good but not great rock band, one of maybe a hundred records I reviewed that year. I wasn’t a U2 fan. I was disappointed because I thought the previous album was better. But U2, not its front man was my concern as a critic.

So I didn’t start writing about Bono—not U2, Bono– and talking about him on the radio because he seems charismatic. (Too desperate for attention and adulation for that.) Bono proves a useful tool for understanding the forces around him because his behavior exemplifies the way that liberals, especially neoliberals from Clinton and Blair to Obama, not only played into the hands of reactionaries but vanished every time they got a chance to act like liberals are supposed to act.

Liberals have usually not lived up to their rep. They derive the bulk of their glory by taking credit for the achievements of radicals. The current crop, whose respect for civil liberties is nil and whose attitude toward the suffering is STFU, sets new lows. It is now easier to name a liberal Supreme Court Justice who thinks Roe V. Wade a mistake than to find one who will make any meaningful effort to stop illegal detention, de facto segregation in everything (schools, housing, jobs, the Obama cabinet), or prevent the incarceration, even murder, of political opponents without trial. Liberals claim the entirety of the moral high ground as their turf, but at best, they’re absentee landlords.

Harry Browne reserves his sense of outrage in The Front Man for a rendition of the liberal and neoliberal subversion of human rights. He pays especial attention as that subversion is accomplished under cover of noble goals as articulated by Bono and his guru, the austerity (for others) loving pinhead Jeffrey Sachs, one of the early proponents of TINA (there is no alternative). The TINA doctrine almost literally forms the wool over Bono’s eyes. It boils down to the rich should rule the world, and the richest become the most powerful. The portrait here of how Bono, a man of only marginally inconceivable wealth, has been passed around, mostly without compensation to the suffering or often even himself, resembles a nonfiction Sister Carrie. If I knew how to get my remaining liberal friends to accept evidence-based political journalism, I’d say this book has redemptive power. Alas, there is that ostrich and an abundance of sand, already forming a dune around the person of the former Goldwater volunteer.

The Front Man is, in addition to being an important book about Bono and celebrity, one of the few books about contemporary music that understands issues of colonialism and white privilege, especially in regard to Africa. But Browne doesn’t spend enough time on religion, and in defining the Christian humanism that informed all of Bono’s early work and still empowers his evangelical rhetoric about TINA. This is why Bono is not a unique figure. Actually, he’s a type and the type is not all that new. Consider a paragraph that C.L.R. James wrote in 1950:

“The Christian Humanists have a systematic political economy. They propose decentralized self-governing corporations of private property with every worker in his place. They have a philosophy of history. They believe in the eternal ambiguities of the human situation and the impossibility of ever attaining human freedom on earth. They have a theory of politics. The natural and ideological elite must rule, the masses must not have absolute sovereignty. Since evil and imperfection are eternal, they say, the alternatives are either limited sovereignty or unmitigated authoritarianism.” (from State Capitalism and World Revolution)

Even Browne has given us no better way to account for why Bono misunderstands the meaning of his own successes (there have been some, and not only onstage) and why he cannot recognize his most significant failures, either as a rock star or as a political figure.

Browne also doesn’t talk enough about music, which is especially disappointing because he’s insightful where he does. He was probably prevented by neoliberal copyright laws from quoting many of Bono’s lyrics (a mixed curse in this case) but there are elements of the group’s music, the way it is powered and the way it is manipulated, the sources it draws upon and who it is (and is not) aimed at that merit inclusion in this discussion. So far, no copyright act prevents one from describing and drawing conclusions from guitar licks and drum beats and vocal phrasing. So far.

But that’s not much to complain about. For the activist beginning to confront the obstacles neoliberalism places under all of our footsteps, as well as the rock fan trying to imagine a world without charity records and broadcast benefit concerts, and especially for those who still revere Bono and his many works, The Front Man serves as both an effective cautionary tale and an excellent how-to-book on avoiding the traps of neo-liberalism. On top of that, it offers the tale of a mannish boy who’s genuinely incapable of grasping why some folks just plain don’t like his act.

Maybe Bono himself will read it. It might be painful but even that couldn’t hurt.

How I ruined it for everyone.

Here's a coda to the Yahoogroups CobaltPoets situation:

I recently accessed the at-that-time-open archives for the purpose of seeing whether a poet who hosts one week of the Rapp Saloon's reading series (I host the second week) had posted an announcement there.

Only then did I notice the discussion about the Monsanto protests.

To restate my earlier opinion in a more temperate way--I do understand the list proprietor's feelings that it's his domain to regulate as he pleases.  But once the not-a-poetry-announcement subject of Monsanto appeared (and was allowed to stay), then it should have continued, so long as the participants didn't try to strangle each other rhetorically.

Of course, it doesn't help that the list proprietor and I have had a history of disagreeing with each other--though I have, on occasion, acknowledged his talent and value (the latter in terms of his long-running reading series and pioneering poetry website).

I'm not comfortable with keeping things secret (whether they're poetry announcements or discussions/arguments within the "poetry community"). 

But other people are.

So now you have a poetry listserve mainly consisting of poetry announcements (which, ideally, should be available to the entire public) kept under lock and key.  And you have to be approved by the proprietor before being allowed to join.

And it's all my fault. 

Or is it?

UPDATE: Rick Lupert, CobaltPoets proprietor, replies to the above.  Here's his complete answer.
"oh,'ve received a couple of request from people (one recently and one not so recently) to delete past messages that had content they had written that they were concerned would come up as potential employees researched them on the web that they thought might not shed the best light on them. It was suggested to me that making the archives available only to members would make those posts not accessible by google searches etc while still allowing anyone who was part of the group (which is open to anyone to join) could still have access. So, yes there is an extra step for the public to get to the archived material, but it's still available and you, So you've ruined nothing and, Terry, you are more than welcome to rejoin the list if you'd like access to it. Re the Monsanto piece, I also received NUMEROUS requests to nip the conversation in the bud and a handful of "Thank Yous" after it was done...people tend to be pretty finicky about the amount of email they receive and when so much, to them, irrelevant material is posted to a list they're really just looking for poetry information on, it leads to people unsubscribing in flocks...many folks would just unsubscribe without bothering to send an email requesting the list remain focused on poetry...the main point being that the Cobalt list's primary purpose is to support the Cobalt reading...although it's very liberal on allowing other people to post news and information and marginally liberal on allowing occasional commentary and conversation on things involving poetry, when items like the Monsanto conversation come up directly cause people to want to leave the list, it becomes clear that the main purpose of the list begins to take a back seat which does not serve well the reading series or anyone interested in that primary purpose, which is most people on the list. Thanks, by the way, for the kind words you wrote about my website and me. I enjoyed your occasional picture from Italy and hope you and Valerie had an extraordinary experience there."

Saturday, June 1, 2013

No pro-and-con disputes on Monsanto allowed on CobaltPoets list.

Rick Lupert takes the floor:
I'd like to ask once again that this conversation be taken elsewhere. The Cobalt Poets email list is open to anything revolving around poetry, poetry events, , poetry announcements and any civil conversation regarding issues of poetry.

Thanks in advance for not responding to this email or any future emails to this list on the topic below.

[I was out of the country on vacation, so I came to this dispute on CobaltPoets' Yahoogroups list only a few minutes ago.
But I'll butt in and say that--even if the topic inspires heated and sometimes ill-considered remarks--topics such as Monsanto and its practices pro-and-con should get a discussion on a poetry listserve, for the sake of those who write poems about topics that aren't intended for workshops/MFA classes.
Someone like Phil Ochs would have a tough time on some of today's poetry listserves.]

CODA (6/3/13): The CobaltPoets Yahoogroups archives are now blocked to non-members.