Dear Ms. Emily Post-Avant:

I am a student at a small Bible college in Iowa where I am learning how to write poetry. I am a bit of a rebel and have followed your columns with great interest, although, frankly, most of my fellow poetry students (we have joint Creative Writing classes with the struggling secular school across town) don’t much care for you. They think you are mean and not very funny. Although I did hear my friend Amy laughing about your column on the dentist poet would-be laureate back East. Personally, I consider you a bit dangerous, but sexy, and though I don’t often agree with your assessment of the current poetry scene, your naughtiness can turn me on. I like it, I admit, when you talk dirty. So I wanted to ask you this question: What’s going on with the AWP? They are firing people in hotel lobbies and, from what I hear, are kind of falling apart. Some people think this is a bad thing for poetry, but I heard that the head U.S. advanced poet, Charles Bernstein, thinks it’s a good thing because the guy who got fired wasn’t “theoretical” enough. Apparently, the guy who got fired has laid into Bernstein more than a few times, calling him a hypocrite and a closet academic disguised as avant-garde. So is this turmoil something I should worry about as I launch my career as a poet (i.e., should I just shut my mouth really tight), or is it just the noise of big egos blowing around in the wind.

–Your Captivated Fan in Iowa


Dear Captivated Fan in Iowa,

Well, hon, you make me blush. I would say let’s get together, wherever you are in those rolling Bible corn hills, and that the first five drinks and a coke snort are on me. Yet, alas, if you saw me, you wouldn’t think those sexed-up thoughts anymore. Unless you’re into 64 year-old gals with plaque psoriasis all over, who weigh over 250 lbs. (as per my checkup three days ago). So you’ll likely want to keep things chaste and intellectual, as they say.

Speaking of the AWP and talking dirty… Back when I was young and still a man, very much in my prime and lithe and handsome as could be, I went to the AWP in Albany. I’d gotten back to my room quite drunk, and went to bed (because I had to get up very early to give a paper on the poetry of the Salvadoran commie Roque Dalton), having suavely turned down five or six proposals for sex from other younger poets or critics, four from women and one or two from men. Then, with my clothes still on and a bit of vomit caked around my lips, I started to have this dream that I was part of a wild and dirty orgy, where everyone was wearing these bird masks with long curved beaks and pecking each other in the privates. I woke up, in a cold sweat, and soon realized why I was dreaming such a vivid dream: Because through the paper thin walls of the Marriot I could clearly hear, in the room next door, a torrent of utterly filthy things being screamed and moaned in what was, evidently, a very real giant orgy! And this room next to mine was the same room in which I knew there to have been an “invitation only” Cash Bar given by the SUNY/Buffalo Poetics Program earlier that evening! (To which I hadn’t been invited, even though my book of epigrams, poking good fun at 118 living poets, had just appeared.)

Well, you would not believe the shocking, depraved things I heard that night. It was positively thrilling! It took every measure of my self-control, in fact, to keep myself from taking the bowie knife my dying Grampa had given me when I was twelve and hacking a peep-hole into the wall! (This was when you could still carry bowie knives on airplanes.)

Now, I think I know what you are thinking: You are thinking, Hmm, I wonder who was part of this giant orgy in the room reserved for a “Cash Bar” by the SUNY/Buffalo Poetics Program, in Albany, in 1999? And of course it is understandable you would ask yourself such a thing. But I am afraid I have no idea, because I was too drunk to be able to stay awake, after I had relieved the tension I was feeling in my groin area, if that’s not too much information.

As for your specific question, about the unfortunate ex-AWP Executive Director David Fenza getting fired in such a tawdry, unscrupulous way, and Mr. Charles Bernstein apparently thinking it was just dandy to do so because Mr. Fenza was and is “anti-intellectual,” or whatever: Well, darling, let me write you with my thoughts some other time on that, because I am in a hurry to do something more vital and closer to nature: I have to go take my #1 good-looking movie-star guy for a walk so he can pee-pee. Here he is, Ben Jonson, next to a UDP postcard in my study that reads, “Who Needs Poetry?” Sometimes the ridiculous politics of poetry just have to take a back seat to the needs of a dog—dogs being much kinder and more loving beings than most poets have ever been, going back to the fifth century BC.

In fact, “Who Needs Poetry?” is an uncomplicated question you and your friend Amy might want to think and talk about, ASAP, before it gets too late, and your lives become forever ruined.

A loving, wet kiss on the mouth,

–Emily Post-Avant