Of Poets And Bloggers Alike

by lizard

Poets often act like terrible people to fellow poets. Petty disagreements, jealousies, and competition permeate the academic/publishing circles where reputations are built, defended, and attacked. Today I got an interesting little peek into that underlying dynamic after visiting Spivey’s Books, a bookstore that specializes in old maps, rare books, and fine art.

After rummaging through the poetry section, I took the little stack I had accumulated to the counter, where Hans made note of my selections, nodding approvingly at the Thomas McGrath book I found, titled Letter to an Imaginary Friend, a narrative epic that McGrath worked on for over 30 years.

I ended up talking to Hans for about a half hour, and it was one of the best poetry discussions I’ve ever had, though way too brief. So much was packed into this exchange, I didn’t get all the names, like the last name of the man Hans took classes from, John, who was the primary source for many of the little vignettes Hans related to me.

For example, Hans talked about the poet James Wright, who, according to his mentor, was hounded by critics for a number of reasons, including teaching Walt Whitman, which I guess at the time was contentious. Apparently the poet Robert Bly interceded in Wright’s downward spiral, and helped him salvage his broken life, to a degree. I did a cursory search to verify this account, and found this:

At Kenyon College, Wright studied with John Crowe Ransom, published his first poems, and graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 1952. That year, too, he won the Robert Frost Poetry Prize. After graduation, Wright married Liberty Kardules, his high school sweetheart, and traveled with her on a Fulbright Fellowship to Austria for two years to study the poetry of Theodor Storm and Georg Trakl at the University of Vienna. Wright later published translations of works by these poets, as well as by Pablo Neruda, Herman Hesse, Cesar Vallejo, and Rene Char. Upon his return to the United States, Wright went to graduate school at the University of Washington, where he studied with Theodore Roethke and Stanley Kunitz. In 1957, his first book of poetry, The Green Wall was published in the Yale Younger Poets series. His first teaching job was at the University of Minnesota from 1957 until 1964, when he was denied tenure because of problems caused by his alcoholism. In his last years there, too, his first marriage dissolved. One of the most significant events in his career as a poet was meeting, in 1959, the poet, editor, and social activist Robert Bly. Bly helped Wright through a period of gloom and doubt and encouraged his transition from what Wright called the “old” poetry of formal metrics, in which he had begun to feel trapped, to a poetry of common speech, depth imagery, intuitive connection, and personal involvement. After two years of teaching at Macalaster College, he accepted a position at Hunter College of the City University of New York, in 1966, and taught there until his death.

Though I already knew there were plenty of competing factions in the American poetry world, and that egos vying for their little niches fueled all sorts of drama, especially when it came to the anthologies (who was the editor, who made the cut, which poems were selected, how many poems, etc.), what talking to Hans emphasized for me was how the hurt feelings, in many cases, carried through these poet’s careers, and affects who gets their names remembered, and who falls down the memory hole into obscurity.

At one point in our conversation, I told Hans I was in Kansas City visiting relatives and friends, and that I lived in Missoula, Montana. Hans lit up and told me how he once had a contract to write a biography on Richard Hugo, and that he got about 3/4 of the way through finishing before it fell apart, and he couldn’t get it done. During that process he spent a considerable amount of time in Missoula and Seattle, meeting literary figures like William Kittredge, hoping to finish his biography. He peppered the whole thing with little tidbits I gobbled up.

Honestly it made the whole “vacation” ordeal worth it.

Talking to Hans made me realize how lucky I am to have 4&20 Blackbirds as a venue to advocate for poetry and the poets I think are worth reading, and remembering. seeing that advocacy mentioned by the Independent further validates, for me, that sharing a few of the many poets/poems I like is a worthwhile part of our collective work here at 4&20-BB.

It also made me realize how similar poets are to bloggers when it comes to allowing petty bullshit and drama to distract us from the larger issues we are all trying to work through in our own ways. And I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to providing fuel.

It’s impossible to expect anyone not to be angry about what’s happening in this country and across the globe, but without keeping that broader perspective somewhere present in our thinking, it becomes easier to buy into the petty clash of egos so often measured by the ensuing brushfire sweeping across our little blogosphere.

So I’m going to finish off this post with a very short poem by Edward Abbey, originator of the dreaded EarthFirsters who recently caused quite a stir and, I would say, a somewhat petty blogger backlash among the usual suspects of our local blog-drama.

*

WHAT ZAPATA SAID

The land,
like the sun,
like the air we breathe,
belongs to everyone—
and to no one.

—Edward Abbey


  1. Pogue Mahone

    No one dreads the EF. It’s just that they have really accomplished nothing in Montana that I know of. They’re basically useless except as ego driven bodies to make the news. That’s all. If they disappeared ( of if they even exist) they wouldn’t be missed. And it’s that sense of nothingness that the haunts them. The ego must be fed. I’ll MEIC over EF any day, and so will Montanans. EF exists only in their minds.

    • lizard19

      you think EF is useless, but you think our energy huckster governor who championed clean coal and loves him some more pipeline is a friend of enviros. i don’t get you, larry. you also claim to despise wingnuts, yet defended a militia dude who shot at law enforcement.

      are you schizo or something?

      • Pogue Mahone

        Law enforcement is NOT EF’s friend! Or are you completely unaware?

        http://greenmuckraker.com/2010/11/17/targeting-earth-first-dave-foreman-and-the-first-green-scare-case/

        I think that my beliefs are a little more measured than yours. I love your passion, hate some of EF’s tactics. And as far as the nut shooting at cops, I’m just not convinced that he did. That’s all. Cops lie all the time in case you were born yesterday.

        My approach to enviro work is much different than yours. ‘Course, I’ve been hard core for twenty years, so I’ve seen lots. It’s tough, hard work. It’s not sexy. It’s not just showing up and playing drums and trashing the Capitol. In fact, those tactics are just showy. It took YEARS to stop heapleach mining in this state, and it took some serious, intelligent enviro work. At first it failed with I-122, but folks didn’t quit. They re-grouped and came up with I-137, and finally made it.

        But in those intervening years was a HUGE amount of work at education, public speaking, letter writing, fundraising, etc. It was NOT sexy! I’m thinkin’ that you EFers are looking for a quick win with goofy tactics. Well, it don’t work that way. The coal plant here in GF is another remarkable achievment withOUT any EF input. Serious, intelligent people with serious intelligent goals and tactics. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, and common folk.

        I’m sorry, but I just haven’t seen a whole lotta EF caused victories in the state. Maybe you have, but I haven’t.

        The tar sands is a crime against humanity. It is NOT Schweitzer’s fault at all. It is WRONG to target him. You folks forget that he is the governor of ALL of the state. And a whole LOT of the state supports that damn pipeline. And in terms of enviro degradation, it’s small potatoes. What YOU folks should be doing is educating about the tar sands itself. THAT is where your strategy and tactics need to be directed. You see, sumthin’ buried underground is hard to get excited about. But a THIRD of Alberta’s borreal forest destroyed and the resultant enviro damage IS a big deal!

        If I were younger, I’d sneak across the border and be involved in DESTROYING that equipment up there. But hell, it’s in another country. So, what do we do? The Canadians really have never given two shits about destroying their country anyway.

        THIS is the dilema we face, Lizard. Now, recognize the problem and design your tactics accordingly. That is all we Rangers have ever done. And if you fail, what are you willing to risk to stop it? Every man must answer that for themselves.

        We actually on the same side. All I ask of EF is that IF you should ever be granted an audience with the most popular governor we’ve ever had, make SURE that you don’t come across as morons! That didn’t happen ONCE here in GF. We always made our opponents look like the lying crooks they were. Ya gotsta know what you’re talking about. And we learned LONG ago that the ONLY truly unedited free speech is public comment. You just can’t blow that, and these guys did.

        • Dem Antidote

          If your tactics are in any related to HOW YOU!!! present yourself on the blogs, HARRY CRAZED (my clever nickname FOR YOU!!!), then there is nothing left to say.

        • lizard19

          If I were younger, I’d sneak across the border and be involved in DESTROYING that equipment up there.

          you think YOU are MORE MEASURED than me? you are advocating for the kind of targeted destruction ELF has engaged in, the kind our security state labels as domestic terrorism. you think that’s measured? you think that’s productive?

          besides, you obviously aren’t reading what i’m writing very closely, like the last post i put up that echoed some of the criticism other heaped on the “protest”. the difference is i didn’t decide to go after Matt because he had a legitimate gripe about how the ridicule of the protests focused on style and tone instead of the reason they were protesting, which is Schweitzer’s very public support of the keystone pipeline.

          you’re willingness to turn on a great advocate for wilderness shows how gutless you are. and comments you’ve made about me don’t make me very receptive to anything constructive you might have to say.

  2. Turner

    I don’t know why, Liz, you’re so measured and sensible about poetry and so angry and on edge about politics.

  3. groucho

    I just visited an old timer up the crick. He’s knocking on 90 and never lived in a town. He lives with the critters. Worked in the woods till he was almost 70. I wish I could get him an audience with the governor, the president, with Exxon, with my kids, and with you all . . . everybody should spend some time with this guy. His wisdom comes from years of contact and experience with the land, the animals, the weather, and people. His brand of common sense is rapidly disappearing as more people move off the land and into urban areas. He’s a simple man with a simple message: live now, live locally with an eye on the future; take care of the land and it will take care of you. I know it sounds like this is fiction, but it isn’t. And before I left he said: Let me put it this way: I eat when I’m hungry/ I drink when I’m dry/ i lay down when I’m tired/ and find salvation when I die. He’s a poet who never wrote. Here’s another one who did:

    The Peace of Wild Things

    When despair of the world grows in me
    and I wake in the night at the least sound
    in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
    I go and lie down where the wood drake
    rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
    I come into the peace of wild things
    who do not tax their lives with forethought
    of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
    And I feel above me the day-blind stars
    waiting with their light. For a time
    I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

    Wendell Berry

    Peace, ya’ll

  4. Gerald Walker

    Who wants to read about your petty complaints about other blogs. As far as I can see, the only blog attacking others is this one. It is profoundly boring.

  5. Steve W

    Gerald;

    “As far as you can tell…” is the key statement.

    How far can you tell?

    If you would like links I’ll do the work and provide them to you free of charge at my time and energy.

    Would you like that? Or not?

    I can also provide you with links to actual blogs (other than this one) where individuals openly fight with each other via posts.

    Would you like that as well? or not?

  6. ladybug

    Lizard,

    You are curious and investigate. You take action. You confound the cynics, and you appreciate and support poetry and poets. That counts for a lot in my book. Keep up the great work.

  7. Awesome read, liz. With a little luck, i think i brought the other Larry K. around a little bit.

    Out of state lobbyists chuck a pile of money into the legislature while EF! likely got a bigger bang out of their buck than any of the losers from the prison/industrial complex got out of the Statehouse but probably not what the extraction industries do.

    Keep it up, you rock!

    • Pogue Mahone

      Sigh. Still waiting for EF’s outstanding record of succcess. I’m beginning to think that you ALL are recent arrivals. You sure act like it. Ego driven babies. Jus sayin’. But please, where IS that EF record of success? GOTTA be right up there with MEIC I’m sure. It just hasn’t been published yet. And that’s too bad. But HEY! If you’re an EFfer, you JUST might get lucky with a hippie chick! (watch out for the Rainbow chicks though. they don’t shower!)

      • C’mon, bro: reach out with your mind a little. Had Brian Schweitzer been a redstater, he would have likely tear gassed the protestors or worse!

        Old fart Democrats like you and me know democracy is about baby steps and patience. We don’t need to stoop to the underhanded crap that brought the Alan Hales of Montana into the legislature for their shitfest just to prove that radicals only get elected in red states. That’s the fastest way to drive young people like lizard out of the democratic process.

        We just have to prove that Democrats are more committed to jobs that ensure more wilderness preservation and sustainability than the GOP earth haters are. School boards, city and county commissions are the first lines of political defense. That’s where Democrats can make inroads that reach out to the needs of disenfranchised young people.

        Ignore the hopeless curmudgeons like Tokarski, lizard, hold your nose, vote for Jon Tester and help us reelect retake the legislature. Please stay in Montana and help us build your future here.

        • Pogue Mahone

          Is there a third way? How DO we keep lizard involved? I would think that that is up to him. Not my problem. He might try the green party. They’ve had lots of success in the past. tee hee. The bottom line is that Montana is nearly evenly split between wackos and Dems. Hence, radical lefties have NO chance. They can choose to work within the system or not. But what they CAN do is to learn how to build coalitions for the environment across party lines. Happens all the time here in Mt. Check out the Blackfoot Legacy some time. In SPITE of left right differences, envior work can be achieved. I-137 is a prime example. If lizard doesn’t want to be a Dem, well then, be the best enviro you can be!

  8. lizard19

    i appreciate all the feedback, positive and negative. thank you.

  9. Please! This is supposed to be a happy occasion. Let’s not bicker and argue over who killed who.

    Lizard, I respectfully submit that Matthew Koehler began this fracas with accusations of disrespect against Don Pogreba. What you call a “petty clash of egos” is in fact a substantive, and heated, debate about policy and the best way to achieve such for us all. That’s hardly petty. What is petty is a protest that comes and goes like the wind, leaving the rest of us to deal with the fallout (reality).

    As to Abbey’s poem, it makes sense in the ethereal acceptance that we are all of the planet Earth. In truth, Abbey pointed out (as he himself admitted) the fundamental conflict of our age. The land belongs to all of us, and none have premiere claim over it save those who need something from it. That need is the very wedge between ‘belonging to everyone and belonging to no one’. That wedge is not a petty thing.

    • Pogue Mahone

      I was terribly insulted that they did this to Schweitzer, the most popular guv we’ve ever had. And he’s popular for a reason. He’s a good man and a good guv. These outta state morons have NO reason nor NO right to come in here and dis the guv. That’s just pure bullshit and terribly misdirected aninus. On the enviro front, the guv and I will agree to disagree. He never claimed to be an enviro. But on EVERYthing else, we agree. SO, these bozos wander into town and attack him! I say bullshit! They haven’t EARNED that right in any sense. Why don’t they stay the hell home and pester their OWN guvs?

    • Dem Antidote

      Somewhat vapid, you think? It’s the ego that leads you to believe the words have substance. There’s nothing to grab hold of there.

    • lizard19

      who started it is besides the point. you say MK started it, and MK would say he was responding to the patchouli tweets.

      what is more disheartening is where it ended up, which is uglyville, like this comment you made:

      Kohler, I know you’re not a trust fund baby. You’ve written before about your daddy the house painter. (I don’t forget such things, but you apparently do.) You did however prove my point. Your ‘principles’ aren’t in any way what you really value. What you value is yourself above all things. And you really don’t care who or how you hurt others, as long as Matthew Koehler remains of value to Matthew Koehler. If someone disagrees with the vaunted Matthew Koehler, the first thing you do is defend yourself, not the ideal.

      I don’t hate you. I think you’re a fucking dick, and you’re doing a great job of proving me right, here and elsewhere.

      i read through all the crap at moogirl, intelligent discontent, and the sad remnants of LitW. it was the opposite of “a substantive, and heated, debate about policy and the best way to achieve such for us all

      • So, clearly stated, what’s petty is what you say is petty. Kind of petty, don’t you think?

        • Steve W

          Rob, you are a poopy head.

          But we will give you a shout out any way!

          Hey Everybody Go on over to left IN the West and read bad writing by a poopy head who likes to attack posters and call them names.

          There you go buddy

  10. larry kurtz

    C’mon, bro: reach out with your mind a little. Had Brian Schweitzer been a redstater, he would have likely tear gassed the protestors or worse!

    Old fart Democrats like you and me know democracy is about baby steps and patience. We don’t need to stoop to the underhanded crap that brought the Alan Hales of Montana into the legislature for their shitfest just to prove that radicals only get elected in red states. That’s the fastest way to drive young people like lizard out of the democratic process.

    We just have to prove that Democrats are more committed to jobs that ensure more wilderness preservation and sustainability than the GOP earth haters are. School boards, city and county commissions are the first lines of political defense. That’s where Democrats can make inroads that reach out to the needs of disenfranchised young people.

    Ignore the hopeless curmudgeons like Tokarski, lizard, hold your nose, vote for Jon Tester and help us reelect retake the legislature. Please stay in Montana and help us build your future here.

    guess my ip address looks like spam.

  11. Dem Antidote

    Matt Koehler is educated, well-informed, confrontational, and has a long record of productive work on environmental causes. It should come as no surprise that Democrats attack him, as he represents what environmentalism should be. Democrats generally smile for photos, accomplish nothing, and resent anyone who calls them out for being shams and poseurs.

    The idea that you can work through the Democratic Party to accomplished progressive or environmental goals is foolish, like driving the wrong way on the freeway to get to a destination. And it is both odd and telling that a guy who really does work his cause gets pilloried and judged by lesser mortals on the blogs.

  12. ladybug

    Action. Doing something. Expressing one’s opinion with purpose is indeed action. It is a critical step toward innovation, which, I believe, is seriously lacking these days. Attacks on opinions for simply challenging orthodoxy — in style or substance — undermine participation. Right now our democracy needs greater participation, not greater control over dissenters. Why not celebrate effort and passion, especially when the approach is somewhat spontaneous and unconventional? From humble beginnings.

  13. Show me one substancive thing that came out of that protest, please. I would be willing to bet a fairly large sum of money that more will come out of the suits being filed against Tonbridge for their blatant land grab than will ever come out of that protest. Sadly, those suits are not being covered by the press and have received a bare mention in the Montana blogs.

    A Canadian Company is blatantly stealing land from Montana Citizens to make money. What part of that doesn’t make you madder than hell? I do admit to a certain sense of irony over the situation, but I cannot believe that both the right and the left are not spitting mad and making a HUGE stink over the whole thing.

    • Dem Antidote

      Too soon to tell on the fallout, for most of us anyway who do not have your crystal ball. I’m not a big fan of protests, especially if they are an end in themselves, like the Stewart/Colbert rally in DC. But sometimes they work to draw attention to an issue, and that appears to have worked in this case. That you think that the people who did it wore inappropriate garb and behaved badly, well, that is the sort of thing the media loves. Without that, there’d be no coverage at all.

      Mixed bag at best.

      • (yes, I know, don’t feed the trolls, but I do have make a correction here)

        You have no idea what I think (other than I have stated that I feel the protest was counter productive).

        • Dem Antidote

          The fact that you don’t like me (you and your brother lack gravitas and are all bluster and ego) does not make me a “troll”. That’s a silly debate tactic used to avoid people who have your number.

          Nic try. Bring it some time, Dude. I’d love to have more than a few words with you before you slink off, as is your custom.

        • Dem Antidote

          Of course I know what you think, unless you don’t know to use your words.

    • Steve W

      Are you signed up to circulate petitions yet, moorcat?

  14. lizard19

    if this thread descends farther into the same old same old, comments that engage in further personal attacks will be deleted. i’m putting this comment down here so as not to single any one person out. thank you.

  15. ladybug

    M-cat,

    Utilitarian side reigns don’t begin to understand or fairly assess free expression. Try another frame. Why the rush to judge others? I just want to celebrate young folks taking it to the right address. Perhaps your frustration is with the media more than with imperfect protests and protesters.

    • Really not sure what you are trying to say here (I just be a dumb Native). In answer to what I do understand, I am not “rushing” to judge anything – I go by what I see. Regardless if “young folks [took} it to the right address], it accomplishes nothing if they don’t engage in a manner that promotes engagement. What I saw didn’t do that. In fact, what I saw seemed to encourage disregarding these “young folks”.

      Now I will be the first to comment about the utter contempt I have for today’s mainstream media. That said, I have seen three videos of the event and I don’t need the mainstream media to tell me it was counter-productive. I can determine that all on my own. Nor did I express frustration. That is someone else’s windmill to tilt at. What I have expressed was distaste, bordering on contempt for people that are so focused on being angry that they miss the oppurtunity to actually accomplish something.

  16. ladybug

    One man’s “accomplishement” is another man’s folly. By any definition, you are judging the actions of others by your own arbitrary standards, which I said I thought were unecessarily “utilitarian.” Try to think beyond commodity, or direct benefit, in the tangible sense. Is a sunset worthless? What makes art valuable? Music? Or how about poetry — getting back to the original post? You are, of course, free to judge anything, and anyone, you wish. However, that makes you no more, and no less, serious than the protesters you expend energy to rail against. And yet, you insist they accomplished nothing. I happen to think judging based largely on personal taste teaches little, informs less and takes a lot of the fun out of life.

  17. Sadly, I must live in reality and the Reality is that there was – so far – no tangible benefit to that protest. Was eliquent all you want, it doesn’t change the reality. I can appreciate a great sunset (or a wonderful hike up Birch Creek with my wife) but fail to see the benefit to useless protests. What is tangible and measurable (in terms of polls ect) is the general disgust many have expressed with the protest. Since organizations like the ones that staged that failed peice of work live and breath off donations, you have to wonder what effect that protest had on their bank accounts. These are all measurable metrics and do not rely on my “opinion” or “personal taste”. As a person who can (and has) supported certain conservation and political causes before, I would not “waste” my money supporting such a protest or the groups that sponsored it. Feel free to tilt at windmills all you want. You won’t guilt me or insult me into supporting your cause. It won’t happen. If you want my support – either by my words or my wallet – you will have to show me reasonable argument and cause that I should support you. I have certainly given you various avenues to explore in that respect. Sadly, you focus instead on my distaste for the protest, resort to insult and guilt in a vain attempt to change what is quite obviously a fairly strong opinion. This is the “symptom” of the problem with the “professional” left (I do kind of like Wulfgar’s new phase “emoprogs” as it seems to accurately describe actions such as yours in dealing with others). Instead of engaging in reasoned and considerate talks, they have taken a page from the hard right and becomes offensive, confrontational, and rigid. It is too bad, because I actually have some sympathy for the issue at hand.

    • lizard19

      you were speaking reasonably up until this point:

      Sadly, you focus instead on my distaste for the protest, resort to insult and guilt in a vain attempt to change what is quite obviously a fairly strong opinion. This is the “symptom” of the problem with the “professional” left (I do kind of like Wulfgar’s new phase “emoprogs” as it seems to accurately describe actions such as yours in dealing with others). Instead of engaging in reasoned and considerate talks, they have taken a page from the hard right and becomes offensive, confrontational, and rigid. It is too bad, because I actually have some sympathy for the issue at hand.

      that’s when it appears you are just shilling for bro, considering everything you accuse could be applied to him.

  1. 1 An April Feast Of Poetry « 4&20 blackbirds

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