Scott Kelly has responded to my complaints about his poem, "The Green Reich," and its inclusion in Star*Line.
I don't have time at the moment to respond to his various potshots. One thing he is correct about; in the heat of the moment, in the comments to the first post, I insulted him needlessly. My apologies, Scott.
"I find it very telling, Mr. Allen, that no supposed 'minority group' (your words) has stood up to express outrage and indignation at the hurtfulness and hatefulness of these lines that I have written."
There's no reason for you to take my word for it, of course, but I have indeed heard from folks belonging to such groups who found it hurtful. Whether or not you believe me, frankly, doesn't matter to me. (ETA: Here is one such public response, from Amal El-Mohtar. Others are in the comments below. And in the comments to the previous entries, for that matter. And now, a thoughtful and heart-breaking one from Mari Ness.)
"The bottom line is that I find it thoroughly disgusting (if pathetically predictable) that this 'certain segment of this poetic community' will use trumped-up outrage at my poem to attack Marge Simon, or diminish in any way her accomplishments as editor of Star*Line. Beyond disgusting is the fact that Ms. Simon is being forced to render apologies where none are needed."
Ah, yes, the "grudge" accusation! Surely that must be the cause of this. Surely there can't be poets in the community who've complained before about this issue and ended up disappointed and outraged that their complaints are apparently being ignored.
Listen. Marge apologized and explained. David Kopaska-Merkel and David Lee Summers, the new Prez and Vice-Prez, have given me very level-headed responses and comments. I'm grateful for that. And I don't have anything new to say about my original point, so I'll leave it be for now.
Gosh. On the one hand, people exhorting marginalized people to only care about "real racism," and on the other, people exhorting marginalized people to stand up to every micro-aggression in public with a megaphone or else it isn't real racism. Funny how that works.
It is the disingenuousness of this line—
And even if I WAS making fun of or being hateful toward “tri-sexual manFEM/cybiotic(s)” (which, to the very best of my knowledge, don’t actually exist…since I made them up in my head) how in the hell is that hateful to the regular old hetero/homo/bi-sexual folks?
—that I am seriously thinking of writing a comment about, if I can state it more eloquently (sorry, Mike) than LOGICAL FAIL REBOOT HEAD.
I'm trying to write a thoughtful engagement of the issue as we speak. In spite of having an album of beautiful music on loop, a bellyful of mighty soup, and a grey rainy day to assist, I can't get past the insidiousness of the fact that I HAVE TO ANSWER THIS BULLSHIT instead of doing any of the thousand other things I should be doing with my time, because if I don't answer it, some people will think there's no problem, and those people are the ones with the power to actually effect some kind of positive change, and the gulf between what I need to say and what they are going to hear is so vast and echo-y that I know there's not going to be any point to it -- except that the people who have less spoons to deal with this might at least feel that THEY don't have to waste their more limited resources because someone else is doing so.
By the way, so far as that goes? Thank you so much, Mike.
because if I don't answer it, some people will think there's no problem,
Yeah. I am having a cruddy day and really, I wanted to spend it translating Verlaine, writing about Jill Paton Walsh's Themistokles, and doing my actual job. Instead, I do feel an obligation to respond, because I do belong to a couple of minority groups and I am not all right with the poem. I'm just not clutching up my crinolines and fleeing in the kind of incapable horror Kelly seems to think I must be, when of course I'm not oppressing Marge Simon.
This. How dare we not all drop everything and rush directly to his blog to tell him all the ways we're trying to stir up trouble, because obviously he couldn't possibly have messed up? For his poem is far more important than anything in our lives.
There are several layers of disingenuousness (if we want to be extremely charitable) in Mr. Kelly's post, beyond the demand that busy, multiply engaged people take time to dis/prove assertions that retread heavily traversed ground.
One is the pendantic pseudo-profundity of "How can people be offended when all the lifeforms in my poem are imaginary?" (try "analogy" -- presumably familiar to a poet?) Additionally, the seemingly chivalrous declaration "Marge Simon approved this, so any disagreement tars her" essentially shifts all responsibility from the author to the editor.
There are several other tactics lifted straight out of derailment manuals, best left as exercises to the willfully obtuse.
For the record, this comment is sitting unapproved in the moderation queue at Kelly's blog entry:
"Hi, Scott. There’s one thing in this post I believe you’re right about. I shouldn’t have needlessly insulted you by name-calling. That was very junior high of me, and I apologize."
Edited at 2011-07-06 10:31 pm (UTC)
Forget about Marge and David have said or did for a moment. The object of this discussion is Scott Kelly's poem. And the sad fact is, as a poem, it really doesn't stand up to poetic scrutiny.
It reads like a hateful screed toting a political agenda, not as a good poem. Mike and other people are right to call this out for what it is. This is a case of reactionary politics with lineation. I would be more inclined to turn a blind eye to the politics of this poem if the form and execution were more artful. But it isn't. This isn't a case of Sylvia Plath or Frank Bidart writing a disturbing poem -- this more of a flawed, mediocre poem garnering attention because of it's racist and homophobic nature.
Controversy doesn't make good art. Good art makes controversy. And this poem is not even good "art."