Thursday, February 01, 2007

American Dissidence?

I got an interesting rejection notice in the mail last week, and I thought I'd share it with whoever chances upon this blog. I'd sent a few moderately political poems about Iraq, the President etc. to a magazine called "The American Dissident" run by a gentleman called G. Tod Slone. Here's what he wrote back to me:

"As a poet (untenured!) myself, I hate to tell you this—or maybe actually I love it—but your cover letter listing your miraculous publications credits + your poems mirror many other professional submissions I've received. In other words, it is an easy thing to criticize afar, while a RISKY and tough thing to criticize near as in the English Department [...] Capiche? Dwell, reflect, the try me again if you have any COURAGE. Careerism vs Truth and Real Excellence!
Best, G. Tod"

After getting this remarkably self-congratulatory missive, I revisited the submission guidelines for "The American Dissident," and found that the journal is intended, to "amongst other things, provide a forum for examing [sic] the dark side of the academic/literary industrial complex". Well, I thought, no wonder he is so delighted to have the opportunity to reject my work! That's the whole point of the journal, it would appear—to reject work by poets who make a living as teachers, and who manage to find things outside the "academic/literary industrial complex" that are politically relevant. I just wonder what "other things" Mr. Slone wants his supposedly "engaged" publication to deal with, besides his personal grudge against the academy he no doubt feels has somehow snubbed him. My big mistake, clearly was in overlooking his (entirely reasonable if somewhat peculiar) demand that poets who submit to his journal should include a "cover letter containing not credits, but rather personal dissident information and specific events that may have pushed you to reject indoctrination..." By indoctrination, he seems to mean higher education, since for him the "academic/literary industrial complex" apparently acts as "Ministry of Information and Entertainment for the nation's ruling families, Republican and Democrat, white black and Hispanic." Pretty paranoid stuff, I think you'll agree, and possibly motivated by the fact that (as the flier he included with his note complains) "The NEA, NEH and Massachusetts Cultural Council have all refused to accord the American Dissident grants." Sad, no doubt, but sadder to see another self-professed poetry lover confuse official rejection with political relevance or artistic integrity. My advice to Mr Slone, should I write back to him (I'm still debating that) would be (and I borrow his majestic all caps): "GET OVER YOURSELF!"

Nevertheless, I was moved to read over the enclosed flier touting the journal's agenda and immediately composed a haiku using some of Mr. Slone's favorite epithets:

Happy-faced fascists
hogging the copy machine;
God, I'm radical!

That seemed like a rather thin poetic offering for this month's blog, though, so I'll tack on another Iraq poem, sort of a sequel to last month's offering. I'm not sure if it has COURAGE or not, but here goes.

Saddam Hussein at the Gallows

I approve of the noose you placed around my neck.

It has long been anticipated.

I approve of the trial you offered me,

where I could match your lies with mine,

where I could shout, “Long live the nation!”
and “God is great!” as you read out my sentence.

I approve of the fact that you captured me,

and I offered no resistance.

I approve of the speed with which you convinced

yourselves that you had defeated me,

and then forgot the power I will possess in death.

Everything you thought were my mistakes

were moves in a much greater game

than you could possibly understand.

You will notice that I am the only one

on this platform without a mask.

Everything has been explained to me;

I will stand where you want me to stand

and test the strength of your rope with my weight.

If it holds—and why should it not?

I trust you are not quite incompetent—

I will die in the manner I would have chosen

for myself some time ago, if given the chance.

Perhaps my approval will give you pause,

and make you question your vengeful ways,

but do not stop the procedure now;

I would be less prepared to go with each interruption,

each show of human decency,

and I might even begin to pity
those who are doomed to execute me,

and that would scarcely befit a man

such as you have made me, such as I will become.