Dear Emily Post-Avant,

Did you see the gentle criticism of your piece on the Nation/Anders Carson-Wee scandal, by Aldon Nielsen, in Plume?

Don’t you think he has some good points?

–A Yank Who is Sick of It All, in Sussex, England



Dear Yank Who is Sick of it All,

Yes, I saw that. The Editors of Dispatches sent me the link. I was planning already to say something. What are you doing in Sussex? Studying with Keston Sutherland?

Aldon Nielsen has a fine mind. His books are important and clearly written. They have none of the sideshow performative bullshit that’s been with us too long. Hats off to him on that. (Marjorie Perloff may be LangPo’s favorite Neo-Con racist, but she writes clearly, too.)

Still, I don’t completely agree with Nielsen on this. Yes, the poem inhabits a Black and subaltern voice. The poem is thin, awkward, and a big “WTF?,” as I said. But is it deserving of the Show Trial pile-on spleen it received? Did it merit the Editors’ cringing confession in the docket of the Court of Currently Correct Poetic Behaviors? No, I don’t think so.

I am not sure why I am writing in these staccato-like sentences. But I am strangely enjoying it! Who can explain the utter mystery of Being itself? As my favorite poet once said, My love is coming in a glass the blood of the Bourbons.

Poets are free to inhabit the voice of any other imagined human or non-human being they wish, I assert. That is the law of poetry. It is an Eternal Law. Simple as that. The eternal law of poetry rules all qualifications. Does fiction prohibit the inhabiting of other voices? Of other races? Of other genders? No, it does not. Why, then, should poetry? Would you not have Othello?

This doesn’t mean that all crossings into otherness will be worthy or wise. Most often, in fact, they are not. Like in this case. Or like the case of John Barr, the first President of the Poetry Foundation, who wrote one of the most bizarrely racist book-length poems of all time. The Poetry Foundation has never offered a word of contrition. Why have no poets spoken forth about that? Isn’t that interesting? Hm.

But the embarrassment of the Nation poem is nothing compared to the embarrassment of what the Nation Poetry Editors did. As I said, they should resign in shame. Look what they did to this naive, basically well-meaning kid. And they did it to preserve their positions.

Nielsen says he can’t figure out why the Nation Poetry Editors published such a poor, minor “poem.” I would encourage him to reread what I said. I explained very clearly there why they published it. This is also why the two self-serving Editors should resign in shame. There is nothing complicated about it.

Poetry in the Northern American continent is in deep shit right now. Not that it ever wasn’t. Which is quite interesting. It’s just that now the shit is a bit deeper than it usually has been, and since Anne Bradstreet. Why is that? I will tell you.

The Universities. The State. The Corporate Foundations. The Prize System.

Althusser went berserk and murdered his wife. But if you read him in tandem with Bourdieu, some things come clear. Like the blood of the Bourbons.

Say hi to the Brit Academic Marxists for me.

–Emily Post-Avant