Dear Ms. Emily Post-Avant:

I am a famous – some would say infamous – writer with a problem. I hope you can help me.

I mostly write in the genre of satire, which explains the infamous thing, including literary forgeries which I have been associated with in the context of critiquing certain contemporary self-serving hypocrisies about the ontology of authorship. Some years ago I managed to step on the toes of someone – let’s call him Carl Putzareli, a wannabe beatnik poet laureate who hasn’t cut his hair or had a new idea since 1964. His critical vocabulary seems to consist mostly of ad hominem attacks – “moral nitwit,” “liar,” and “dupe” constituting the limits of his analytic skills.

Dear Carl has for some reason taken it upon himself to write and post a couple of doofus poems (it must have been a stretch for him) and attribute them to me. Moi. Yers truly. And then – da da – that was the setup – here comes the punch line – accuse me of hypocrisy for asking him to take them down. Get it? He has trapped the liar in his net of lies. Sweet guy. But not too bright, if you catch my drift.

Why, you may ask, would he bother? Because he considers literary forgery to be “lying,” and lying is bad, especially in the discipline of poetry, which he tells me he reveres. There’s a lot I could say about this, starting, I don’t know, maybe with Plato, but I know you are a busy woman and don’t have a lot of time to spend reading primers on language, representation, and morality so I’ll spare you.

My problem is this: how do I respond to the Putz? He has set a subtle trap to snare me. If I answer his provocation, I just help spread news of the vile verse he has attributed to me. Not only that, he will loudly and widely accuse me of hypocrisy for not equating his spiteful act, an act with no thought beyond let’s fuck him up, with my carefully thought out and executed happenings that materialize the actual dynamics that run the official literary world; or, do I just shut up and wait for the stupid little things to fade from sight, perhaps to rise occasionally as anomalous literary curios that pique the curiosity of some future historian, but otherwise sunk beneath the waves of Eternity.  And sink they will, for sure, since the guy who “forged” them has a worse tin ear than the Thracian Maenads and they sound nothing like anything I have ever done.

Come to think of it, I could get hold of George Bowering. I hear he knows some guys in the Kootenays that have been known to help out poets in situations like this.


–Infamous and Confused


Dear Infamous and Confused,


While I have nothing but the deepest respect for your discretion, come on, sweetie, don’t be coy – do you mean this? As actually written by this wacky Biblical Prophet fellow? Perhaps not, but I can’t help wondering.

I can understand your distress, though – up to a certain point. I suppose I wouldn’t have wanted such a mug to invent poems for me, either!

Now Michael Palmer (sigh), or Barrett Watten (dreamboat), or Kevin Young (fetch me the vibrator), you betcha. But not this Poetry Disaster Artist in a Moses suit.

That said, I think you’re making too big of a deal out of this. If you are who you say you are, you are, yes, infamous for often acting like a spoiled drama queen. And here I think you are doing it again. Acting all hot and sweaty because… why? Because someone who’d just gotten his poetry GED in the nut house put some soft doggerel in your campy mouth fourteen years back? Why don’t you look at it as a nice thing? I mean, do you know how many poets go through their whole lives never having had the honor of being stalked by someone with a giant club who thinks he’s a Beat Prophet from the Book of Exodus?

Really, you’re making a species-ending super volcano out of a dog fart, as my daddy used to say. Take deep breaths, fan yourself, and drink some iced tea. Because the only real drama queen around here worth her drag, honey, is me.

So no, I’m not even going to tell you what I think you should do. It won’t really matter one way or the other, anyway, because the stakes are so damn low, much as you would like to think they are sky-high.

But I will, though, give you one little nugget of advice: Don’t ever start a letter you intend for public airing with the clause “I am a famous poet.” You already have a failed poem at Dispatches titled “It’s Hard Being a Famous Poet,” and you should just leave it at that, lest on top of being a drama queen, people start thinking you’re a delusional one.

So fire me, Kent Johnson.

Oh, and George Bowering, yeah, I love him. He’s even sexier than Kevin Young. If you talk to him, tell the grizzled old hunk I said so.

—Emily Post-Avant