Dear Emily Post-Avant:

You and your bosses at Dispatches would benefit from more engaged, critical, supportive conversation. Instead of tearing down the same old institutions and straw figures, I’d really like to see you describe something currently vital. The language of the “post-avant” is dated, doesn’t reflect well the current range of concerns. The company the site maintains will indeed be happy to see Jack Clarke’s books. But don’t you ever feel that you’re yelling from the bottom of a well? It seems to me your project is a testament to aggressive egotism and aging misanthropy.
–Recently Tenured Professor of Rhetoric in Canada

Dear Recently Tenured Professor of Rhetoric in Canada:

Perhaps you might wish to scan the growing and rather impressive Authors list (tab at top menu) of Dispatches. These many poets, critics, and artists would seem implicated, too, in “aggressive egotism” and “aging misanthropy,” as you put it? Though, really, what’s wrong with “aging misanthropy” in a world where former rebels and gadflies cheerfully trade poetry for tenure and the behind-the-arras connections that get them in line for the next Big Prize?

Someone told me you were once, and not so long ago, quite the poetic insurgent, an attitude your teacher Ed Dorn apparently encouraged in you. And that (isn’t it interesting) you caused much of your boyhood trouble in close collaboration with one of the egotistic and misanthropic editors of Dispatches. Now I hear you are in line for department chair and have put all that childish nonsense behind you. Having come to your senses, you are a Tenured Professor of Rhetoric in Canada, writing banal poetry and predictable, academic criticism which you exchange for a big salary and health insurance. Not that you shouldn’t have health insurance… Congratulations, dear. I rest my case. Your kind is legion, and too easy. Keep reading. We know you will.


Dear Emily Post-Avant:
Have you seen the film Neruda, directed by Pablo Larrain? I’m very confused about Neruda. Is the film accurate? Did dear Pablo do those things we see in the film? Or is this slanderous? Yours truly,
–I Know It’s Fictional, But . . .

Dear I Know It’s Fictional, But…
No, I have not seen this film. But if you will tell me what kinds of naughty things Neruda does in it, I may be able to comment. Do you mean naughty things like writing Odes to Josef Stalin, comparing him to Christ? Things like conspiring with the famous muralist David Siqueiros to murder Leon Trotsky in Mexico? Things like raping his untouchable-caste toilet cleaner when he was Chilean Consul in Ceylon? Things like getting paid muchos rubles by the NKVD so he could have three mansions in Chile, two of them by the sea, filled with the most exotic curios, gewgaws, bibelots, and tchotchkes? Things like denying safe passage to Spanish anarchists on the Winnipeg rescue ship in France, and leaving them on the dock to be tortured and killed by invading Nazis? Things like that? Funny that some of his poetry is for the ages.


Dear Emily Post-Avant,
I have just read the first installment of micro-reviews by Justice Poeticus. I have to say that while I find your letters sometimes enjoyable, they are like little crumbs of stale muffin to the ten-layer banana-cream wedding cake of Justice Poeticus. Sorry, but just wanting to be honest.
–Fan of Justice Poeticus Who is the Best

Dear Fan of Justice Poeticus Who is the Best,
Don’t think I don’t know who you are, you squirming little maggot.