The Pee in the Pool of On Line Poetry, by Terreson

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Editor’s note:

You’re a poet or you’d like to be, and you’re at home or maybe work, with your computer.    Wouldn’t it be great to write a poem and post it into a forum for others like yourself to read and give feedback on, maybe spiff up some of your work, get it ready to submit somewhere, learn a few things or a few things more, find some creative, inspiring people?

The forum conversations could tend along the lines of the letters between poet Hart Crane and the editor of Poetry, Harriet Monroe.    Within the recent article in the New York Review of Books, A Great American Visionary, Colm Tóibín discusses the give and take between Monroe and Crane after he submitted his poem “At Melville’s Tomb” to her.    Here is the end of that discussion:

Monroe had commented as well on the opening of the last stanza:

          Compass, quadrant and sextant contrive
          No farther tides….

“Nor do compass, quadrant and sextant,” she wrote, “contrive tides, they merely record them, I believe.”

“Hasn’t it often occurred,” Crane replied,

that instruments originally invented for record and computation have inadvertently so extended the concepts of the entity they were invented to measure (concepts of space, etc.) in the mind and imagination that employed them, that they may metaphorically be said to have extended the original boundaries of the entity measured?

In the same letter, he quoted from Blake and T.S. Eliot to show how the language of the poetry he wrote and admired did not simply ignore logic, it sought to find a logic deeply embedded in metaphor and suggestion.

Wouldn’t it be great to be a modern-day Hart Crane and find a Harriet Monroe to discuss such matters of creativity with? To this end, there is an article here at Clattery MacHinery on Poetry called 25 Online Poetry Forums and Workshops where you can click and explore select poetry forums.    To this same end, you could explore “The IBPC Boards” on the sidebar of The InterBoard Poetry Community web site to see where you might belong and how the conversations tend.    What a perfect place, the internet, where from the comfort of your own home, from wherever the creative urge strikes, you may share your poetry, and enter discussions on poetry with like-minded people.    Maybe, however, you cannot, or it is just not that easy.    Maybe there are community tendencies or social constrictions that would discourage you, and you would give up on this idea.    Maybe on line poetry has grown so large, that it is time for it to look at itself, like any legitimate field must.

Everything written below is by Terreson.

–Clattery MacHinery on Poetry

 

 

 

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Dear Reader,

Are poetry boards good for poetry?

I wonder if anyone else has wondered about something: are online poetry boards good for poetry?    A subset of questions might run something like this.    Do the boards benefit poets, the new and inexperienced especially who, in most cases, are grappling with the vital stuff of finding an authentic voice, gaining confidence in themselves, working through the canon, trying to figure out if they have something essential to say, and all at the same time?    Do the boards, viewed as communities, engender poetry whose language is also authentic or do they falsify the poetry experience?    Another question comes to mind.    Is even the notion of an online poetry community good for poetry?    And maybe one last question.    What impact on poets, and on poetry itself, do the parameters, the rules of conduct and the by-laws, of many boards have?

I think it possible that the poetry board experience falsifies poetry and renders it inauthentic, which is a peculiar thing to have to say about online sites many poets, new and experienced, flock to both in order to improve their skills and to find like-minded people who are devoted to the art in the first place.    In the history of poetry, and with rare exception, no such community of poets and their critics has ever produced first-rate poems.    To the extent poetry is a community it is more like an unendowed college, with each collegian operating in tandem and usually alone.    Simply put poetry has always had the features of a cottage industry standing outside notions of community.    A notable exception might be Mallarme’s famous Tuesday nights in Paris when fellow Symbolists gathered at his home to read their poems to each other.    Even here, however, I am not aware that those poets engaged in analysis, criticism, parsing and such.    Certainly they were motivated to create a, then, radically new aesthetic, a defined program in which they each had a vital interest.    But whether or not community, in and of itself, is beneficial or harmful to poetry is a larger question, looking almost existential actually, and best left to individual poets to sort through.    The smaller, more manageable question might again be this:    generally speaking, are public poetry boards operationally designed in such a way that they kill the art by falsifying the experience or do they benefit the art?

Here is some of what I’ve come to suspect, and drawing on nearly ten years of participating in various online poetry communities, both on the boards and in the chat rooms.
 
Terreson
 

 

 

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The Pee in the Pool of On Line Poetry: Are poetry boards good for poetry?

 

Notions of Community.

Boards and rooms tend to place first emphasis on community cohesion, with poetry, poetry-related conversation, and the free exchange of ideas viewed as secondary.    It is interesting to view a poem allowed in the name of free speech that expresses violence, threats of violence, bigotry, and sexism.    Then to notice how the exchange of views in heated debate is closely monitored by moderators, often admonished, sometimes deleted from a forum as inflammatory.    The contradiction is interesting.    What it signifies is that a particular board’s community cohesion, and its culture, is an animal in its own right and takes precedence over the artistic project(s).    The mantra frequently expressed is: ’be nice.’    The suspicion, however, is that what actually matters, and in top down fashion, is the board’s culture and not the poetry or the exchange over ideas concerning poetry.    So the question becomes: does such a culture falsify the poetry experience?    Does it tell the online poet, say, that parenthetical bitch language in a poem is okay, whereas honesty in critical discussion is not?    My sense is that the free exchange of ideas is viewed as dangerous to community, but that poetry is not, since, it honestly doesn’t matter.
 

Poet/Critic Dialogue.

Rarely, if ever, is the meaningful dialogue allowed between the posting poet and the posting critic.    Board guidelines tend to explicitly discourage the exchange.    Poets are even told to thank the critic no matter what has been offered in the way of critical response.    The password defining the parameters of the poet to critic relationship is “don’t crit the critter.”    It is a rule, an effective gag order, that causes the head to wag and wobble, and one again I believe designed more for the sake of community cohesion than for the sake of the poet and poetry.    The unfortunate consequence is that poet is put at the disadvantage, while critic is allowed to say practically anything with impunity, no matter how uncomprehending, or even biased.

Common sense suggests that the critic is no more likely to know the nature of good poetry than is the poet.    I know of no case in the history of literary criticism where a school of thought has not been superseded eventually by another or taken to task for what it failed to understand.    And the suspicion becomes twofold: comments on a poem are often made only to satisfy a required number of commentaries in order to get a poem posted, and critics can, often do, comment in a compensatory, self-serving fashion, or with a bias that frequently disenables their perspective.    Add to this the extent to which online critics often do not bother to ground themselves in both the canon of poetry and critical theory, and, again, question of motivation comes into play.

Why then should a commentator be given a license the posting poet is not allowed?    It was Auden who divided the world into two camps.    The prolific and the devourer.    In the first camp he put poets along with farmers.    In the second he put professional critics along with politicians.    This rather begs the further question: if poetry boards sanction the frequently inept critic for whom are the boards meant?    Are poets, the bread and butter of poetry boards, also its fodder?    If so, here again there appears to be a falsification of the poetry experience online that is not healthy, especially for the new poet.
 

Poetry Board as Workshop.

Then there is the proposition that poetry boards are intended to function as workshops.    I am satisfied that, by and large, the public boards fail in this function.    First, emphasis is placed on production and not on refinement.    Here too the system of criticism contributes by its own lack of authenticity, by its lack of in-depth reading, and by its lack of sincerity.    And, secondly, the sheer size of many boards is neither conducive to meaningful exchange nor to the kind of developed relationships between poets that can best benefit artistic growth.    Having been a member of a small, private board for nearly two years where the members have had the chance to follow each other’s progress and where, because of the shared history, each other’s poetry is followed, commented on, entered into with greater comprehension, I am convinced of the failure of the larger boards to function as workshops in a meaningful sense of the office.
 

The Insincere Reader.

Participating members can also contribute to the falsifying of poetry.    While I’ve met many poets, new and old, clearly devoted to the discipline for its own sake, and who have both the instinct and the hunger for authentic poetry, two contrary salients stand out.    First, there are the scores of posted responses to poems entirely lacking in sincerity.    They tend to be complimentary and generic.    Recently I was reminded how Donald Hall once decried America’s growing number of “McPoets,” products of false praise and encouragement without the supporting evidence of talent and ability.    If poetry is to be taken seriously the inflationary effect of the unwarranted compliment becomes a serious problem.
 

Anti-intellectual Element.

Then there is the anti-intellectual element on poetry boards.    If, as Yeats thought, poetry is to speak to the whole body and to the whole of the human experience, then it must speak to the whole soma, to the senses, to the ear, to the groin as much as to the head.    In brief: poetry must be as much a felt experience as the felt experience thought about.    And yet there are those, none too few, who would disallow from the boards exchanges in poetics, prosody, and critical thinking.    This is not a good sign.    It does not bode well for poetry.       

 

 
from Gitanjali and Fruit-Gathering by Rabinadrath Tagore, introduction by, the frontispiece by Nandalal Bose
 

Interboard Understanding.

There also seems to be a collusion between public poetry boards that speaks to something resembling a backroom politicians’ understanding.    On many boards, at least, members are not allowed to raise questions about other boards and, by extension, about the design and the parameters of the online poetry board system in general.    Again, the head is made to wag and wobble.    The circumstance speaks to a cartel of shared interests among board administrators.    It too suggests a culture that has less to do with poets and poetry and more to do with safe-guarding its own green zone, what again must end up falsifying the poetry experience on line.

If poets are discouraged from raising questions and challenging precepts in their own community how then can they be expected to see to one of poetry’s cardinal responsibilities, that of breaking taboo and challenging clichés in behavior, perception, and language?    Viewed from a certain standpoint, vital poetry keeps as a danger to the community, be the township bureaucratic, corporate, or domestic.    And I am persuaded that as much is expected of poetry by the many townships.    So what is to be made of a circumstance in which poetry’s own township displays the bunker mentality?   
 

Board Administrations.

I’ve saved the most serious question for last: does the poetry board infrastructure of moderators and site administrators benefit the poet and create a free range environment encouraging poetry?    Closest to the point, does it actually engender the community the system is designed to keep in place?    Here my question is rhetorical as I am persuaded the answer is no.    I have spent some few years as both a board moderator and as a poetry chat room host.    I am settled in the opinion that the greatest danger to poetry on line is the governing system of board moderators and site administrators, which system proves the Orwellian insight.    All animals are created equal, some more than others.    An insight that cannot be more abhorrent to artists in general, poets in particular, whose vocation requires they be slightly anarchistic, certainly free wheeling and passionate in their convictions, if they are to keep creative in their artistic personalities.

I’ve heard all the arguments for the necessity of the governance, which is what it is.    The salient of which might be that the system safeguards public poetry boards from so-called trollers.    The history of the system suggests that the abuses meted out by moderators and site administrators with the tools to delete posts and ban members rather outweigh the safeguards.    A poetry board’s rules and by-laws is often a matter of subjective interpretation, something that fundamentally comes into play.

On a member’s side of the divide, it is clear that moderators are allowed more liberties than they are.    And among members it is generally recognized that a moderator’s own poem should not be taken too closely to account, that a deferential comment, even if falsely given, is best.    (And I guess I must wonder how the circumstance affects the inexperienced poet who perhaps notices the insincere comment on a moderator‘s poem, often praising it without warrant.)    It is also clear that to question a moderator brings down on the member the approbation of other staff moderators, that to criticize a moderator’s poem can result in the same.    When this happens there is an unmistakable closing-of-ranks, and the divide that all too many members know becomes sharper, more well defined, and sends out a certain other, Orwellian message.    Of all the online poetry board features, the politics infused into the environment by the two-tiered system of moderators/site administrators and members may just be the most pernicious, may be what falsifies the online poetry experience the most, at least when the experience is viewed as an artistic project.

The on line poetry experience is not limited to the posting, public airing of a poem.    Nor is it limited to the poet/critic exchange.    To say it again, at its best it is a free range environment, call it a Montessori school yard.    As the system stands I think it possible it is not just a failure, but a betrayal of the instinct for poetry.    Back in 1991 Robert Bly put together a collection of essays on American poetry: “American Poetry: Wildness and Domesticity.”    The collection includes an interview with Bly, conducted by Wayne Dodd.    From the interview:

“Dodd: ‘It may also be that poets will be afraid to risk doing the really different thing, that might seem to be profoundly true to them nonetheless, for fear of being accused of peeing on the floor.’

Bly: ‘Oh, indeed!    That’s right!    I’m sure that the reviewers of Pound’s early work, which had a lot of freaky originality, accused him constantly of being poorly house-trained.    What would originality look like today? . . . It’s possible that originality comes when the man or woman disobeys the collective.    The cause of tameness is fear.    The collective says: “If you do your training well and become a nice boy or girl we will love you.”    We want that.    So a terrible fear comes.    It is a fear that we will lose the love of the collective.    I have felt that intensely.    What the collective offers is not even love, that is what is so horrible, but a kind of absence of loneliness.    Its companionship is ambiguous, like mother love.’”

In my view the collective Bly speaks of and the poetry board culture I draw attention to, at least as it perpetuates itself with an eye to its own maintenance, bear a certain family resemblance.
 

 

 

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Terreson is an itinerant poet, sometime novelist, short fiction writer, and essayist.    Originally from Florida he presently lives in Louisiana where he assists in research into honey bee genomics.    He welcomes your comments at terecone {at} aol {dot} com.
 

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1,490 responses to “The Pee in the Pool of On Line Poetry, by Terreson”

  1. Thank you. This is a subject that needs to be addressed for young poets, old poets, poets still learning unless we want to end up with poets who write to satisfy board monitors but have no individuality, are afraid to speak up and out…when that happens poetry will die alongside free speech.

  2. Hi Vintner,

    So your advise, then, is not to whine about the situation, but to buck up and take it? You seem to be confirming what Terreson is saying, just differing with him on whether to disagree with the situation, or maybe even whether to talk about it. Certainly if one talks about it, or especially if one writes an essay about it, it would be contrued by you as whining.

    C.

  3. Forums and workshops are clubhouses for those too overwhelmed by the loneliness of being a writer. That makes them handy things to have around.

    But poets in packs are an intolerant bunch and each forum’s participant’s narcissism amplifies their neighbors and the end result is an atmosphere antithetical to originality and creativity. That makes ’em poor things for a writer to rely on for anything substantiative.

    Oh, and Vintner’s response is a typical one for a forum habitue who thinks of them as something special, so he should be forgiven his blindness.

    -blue

  4. “So your advice, then, is not to whine about the situation, but to buck up and take it?”

    Take what? The generosity of those who host such sites? The sacrifice of those who administer and moderate them? The selflessness of those who take the time to give us their honest impressions of our writing?

    Short answer: Yes, with gratitude.

    “Certainly if one talks about it, or especially if one writes an essay about it, it would be construed by you as whining.”

    Yes, whining is whining. Spend some time on critical forums. You’ll see hundreds of Terresons and Beau Blues passing through.

    It’s always the writers whose work is savaged or ignored in workshops who whine about how such sites are run. Why do you suppose that is?

  5. Hi Vintner,

    “Take what? The generosity. . .?”, you ask.

    Take what? Abuse too? Among other things, the article pinpoints abusive communication at forums, mistreatment of poets.

    Now I’m speaking, Vintner, and Terreson can speak for himself, but I do not get ignored at the forums, never have. Why do you suppose I would welcome Terreson’s article here? Do you see Pat Jones’ comment above? Pat Jones is a gifted poet and gets ignored at no forum she posts on.

    Precisely which point that Terreson makes do you disagree with? And it’s fine if you do. I could find points to disagree with. But, you are personally attacking the writer, and ignoring both the intent of the article and any of his well-developed thoughts. This post is rocking online poetry right now. And, pardon the attack, but you sound like you are whining. Why do you suppose that is?

    C.

  6. Here are links to accessible poetry forums and blogs that have permitted their poets to discuss this matter:

    The Critical Poet (dot org)

    Babilu

    Books Inq.: The Epilogue

    FreeWrights Peer Review

    Poets.org

    C.

    ~~~

    It’s April 26th by the WordPress calendar, and I am editing in links to discussions at two poetry boards:

    Mosaic Musings

    SplashHall Poetry & Art Forums

    C.

    ~~~

    It’s April 28th, and another poetry forum has added a discussion thread:

    The Gazebo

    Point of information too: that these forums I link to in this response message, are of threads you may click into. Additionally, there are private discussions going on about Terreson’s essay on at least three other forums.

    C.

    ~~~

    It’s later April 28th, and I missed this discussion started a couple days ago:

    The Critical Poet (dot com)

    Developing at The Critical Poet (dot org) as I write: the site moderators are planning on closing that thread.

    C.

    ~~~

    It’s April 29th, and I stand corrected on The Critical Poet (dot org) closing their thread on this subject. See:

    Comment #104

    C.

    ~~~

    It’s April 30th by the WordPress calendar, and a blogger has started a thread:

    Significance & Inspiration

    C.

    ~~~

    It’s May 1st by the WordPress calendar, and another blogger has started a thread:

    Carter’s Little Pill

    Also, a poetry board participant has taken up Terreson’s article point by point in two ongoing discussion threads at these points:

    The Critical Poet (dot com)

    The Critical Poet (dot org)

    C.

    ~~~

    It’s May 2nd by the WordPress calendar, and two more bloggers have started a thread:

    Dragoncave

    Terminal Chaosity

    C.

    ~~~

    It’s May 3rd, and another poetry forum has begun a thread:

    Desert Moon Review

    C.

    ~~~

    It’s May 11th, and I notice two more forums have threads:

    Writers’ Dock

    Poetry in Baltimore

    C.

    ~~~

    It’s May 12th, and another forum has taken up the discussion:

    Poetry 4 Suzanne

    C.

    ~~~

    It’s May 25th, and there are two significant tangent threads:

    Poets.org: Locking Question

    Babilu: Questions for poetry forum survey

    Plus, for easy navigation, the Gazebo discussion is split into four quickly “archived” threads:

    Archived through April 29, 2008

    Archived through May 03, 2008

    Archived through May 04, 2008

    Archived through May 08, 2008

    C.

    ~~~

    It’s June 3rd, and I missed this discussion started May 4th:

    Between the Lines

    C.

    ~~~

    It’s June 27th by the WordPress calendar, and one week ago, another discussion began here:

    Poetry, Inc

    But, same forum, note here as well:

    Poetry, Inc

    C.

    ~~~

    It’s August 20th, and another forum has taken up the discussion:

    Arcanum Cafe

    C.

    ~~~

    It’s November 18, 2008, and I have not added two blog posts and a forum post where the discussion has been taken up since I updated this response last:

    Delectable Mnts

    Nanette R. Rivera: poetry board wars rage on

    Nanette R. Rivera: henry the just

    C.

    ~~~

  7. “Precisely which point that Terreson makes do you disagree with?”

    I disagree with the only point Terreson was trying to make: that workshops are evil because they tell poets the truth about their work from a reader’s perspective (i.e. the only perspective that matters). I don’t get the sense that Terreson is a self-promoting spammer like Beau Blue. The question arises: if these workshops are such dens of inequity why does Terreson frequent so many of them? Is he a hypocrite–the preacher caught in a cathouse? A pseudointellectual who tends to ignore the critical forums in order to use the site’s discussion venues to bore members with tedious rants like this one? A failed poet bitterly trying to shoot the messenger? A sociopath with a messianic martyr complex, desperate to save the world from the ravages of honest artistic evaluation? All of these?

    It matters not.

    “…from the comfort of your own home, from wherever the creative urge strikes, you may share your poetry…”

    As evidenced by the fact that your list of workshops conspicuously omits four of the more serious ones, you make the same error on which Terreson’s pouting is based. You don’t understand the difference between a vanity and a critical venue. No doubt you and he have either never joined such groups or have been ejected from them due to your misapprehensions. At the heart of Terreson’s lack of understanding is this:

    “The password defining the parameters of the poet to critic relationship is ‘don’t crit the critter’.”

    By posting our work in a critical environment we are asking for people’s honest opinions. Once the poet has received these impressions clearly enough what is there left to do but thank the critiquer? These aren’t chat sites; posting a poem is not an invitation to discuss its subject matter at length. If you feel that the critical skills of others are not equal to yours move to another venue. Alternatively, you can take the path chosen by most wannabe artists: blame the audience! Consider them obtuse (“lack of in-depth reading”), disingenuous (“lack of sincerity”), “inept”, “self-serving” or motivated by politics and personality. Walk away, shaking your head and muttering “They just don’t get it!” Continue to falsify the workshop experience. Do whatever keeps the truth of failure at bay. Don’t let a little paranoia (“…permitted their poets to discuss this matter”) get in your way!

    Clearly, Terreson, Beau Blue and you haven’t yet attained the maturity and detachment to benefit from critique. Give it a another decade or two. If you want to jump-start the process ask yourselves this question: “How would a stranger know, without seeing a word of it, that our work was ignored or rejected by knowledgable critics?”

  8. Hi Vintner,

    From the bias you bring to Terreson’s article, I am thinking that by serious workshop, you may mean the most insulting or stifling boards–but I do not know which four you have in mind. List them. It is okay to critique them here. This is what the article is about. You may know four forums I haven’t heard of. We can talk here, even if we cannot there, however.

    Beau Blue speaks for himself in the remarkable work he brings to us at his site: Beau Blue Presents. His commentary is welcome and respected here anytime. He is someone to be listened to, in more ways than one, as his work precedes him most anywhere he goes. Through his singularly creative efforts, he himself qualifies as a knowledgeable critic.

    This blog is one of my contributions to poetry online. Where are yours? When I read a comment by you, what back drop should I bounce it off? You attack Blue, but can you shine his shoes? maybe you can. But what is your work?

    But anyway, Terreson’s point is definitely not that workshops are evil. You made that up. The reason he frequents them, is that he loves them, the same reason he wrote the article. So your misread of what he says is not only apparently bias as above, but also quite basic. He is asking that we all who go to the forums, examine the practices that do not foster good poetry, such that we can foster good poetry. He itemizes these aspects, and critiques them. He has many others thinking, and has entered dialogue with them on the forums and through e-mail. Are you in that dialogue, are you thinking this through, or only reacting in a knee-jerk defense of some set-cement status quo you had been wading in?

    One feature of a good poetry forum, is that it allows poets and those commenting on the posted poems, to enter into conversation. That conversation is necessarily tangential at times. You seem, in your “immaturity” (to use your own insulting terminology back at you) to prefer the rigidity of boards that stifle the dialogue that goes on at true forums, a forum by definition being a place where we can all go and speak our minds freely.

    C.

  9. “But anyway, Terreson’s point is definitely not that workshops are evil.”

    Thanks, but I don’t need your help to read the article. Like you and to almost anyone but you it is transparent enough.

    Have a nice day.

  10. Hi Vintner,

    You cannot say anything without a put-down behind it, it seems. You must thrive on such forums, both in being put down, and doing it too. It’s too bad.

    But, yes, your reading was quite shallow. You are alone in this thread with such a poor read, but you caught a good guffaw over at the poets.org thread. It stifled conversation on the article there momentarily–but not here.

    C.

  11. “You are alone in this thread”

    Actually, we both are. The two spammers hardly count. So much for “rocking online poetry”.

    Since you have bought into Terreson’s sniveling I’m going to mark you down as voting for “whining creed”.

    Thank you for participating.

  12. Spammers?

    No no. In fact the only poet I am unfamiliar with is you, and I get around.

    The three other responders are terrific participants in the online community of poets, and pretty darn good themselves. Two of them have their own web sites designed to get the word out about other people’s poetry and ideas.

    What do you do?

    You can mark me down for anything you want. However, you come into a thread here, with the idea of insulting everyone else, everyone else. There’s Terreson, Pat, Beau, Jennifer, me . . . –and you. You better get a big pad of paper to make your marks on. That’s about the only place you’ll be making your mark.

    C.

  13. Vintner, given your position, and were I you, I woulde argue against my article point by point. Calling me a whiner rather puts you in a bad light. Raises the question that perhaps you have a vested interest in the system my piece looks to question. So prove me wrong. I would rather liked to be proved wrong.

    Terreson

  14. “…insulting everyone…”

    “Calling me a whiner…”

    Poor babies!

    Next you’ll try to convince people that the article isn’t an insult from beginning to end.

    I’ll wager that if you, Terreson or Beau Blue looked at your work from two years ago and your current efforts you wouldn’t see much improvement.

    Ask regular members of these online forums the same question and I’ll wager that at least 80% will report a marked improvement as measured by any criterion you choose: reviews, publications, readership, self-assessment, etc. No one seriously believes that this would be improved by allowing trolling, whining, libel, defamation, ad hominems or any of the other distractions that Terreson espouses.

    I know this. You know this. Terreson knows this. So how should we categorize his deliberate attempt to falsify the experience of all these satisfied participants?

  15. Vintner,

    You’re the poor baby. You insult us, and then follow up by calling us poor babies after the insult, as if you must have had some effect. Get over yourself and take up the discussion.

    Look at what you are doing. You are in a forum where you are allowed your free expression. What the hell do you think Terreson is talking about? If I were one of those moderators at what is apparently one of your favorite forums, I would have deleted your posts after I insulted you, and then registered you as a spammer so your messgaes could never again get through. According to your argument, this would improve your writing significantly in the next two years.

    The entire article is pro-poet. What the hell are you talking about? No one else is whining but you, kiddo. Plus, you’re attempting to critique Beau Blue and who knows who else, can’t tell, on the grounds that you disagree with him on Terreson’s article. This is malarkey.

    You must be saying that you have improved your own poetry these past couple years somewhere where the stifling conditions that Terreson speaks of are rampant. Where is this forum? Which is it? You may speak here, even if you may not there.

    I had asked you before to name the four forums you said were missing from the list. Which are they? You substantiate nothing.

    Now, Terreson has asked you to disagree with him point by point. From here on in, do this, and without any more of your whining.

    C.

  16. “Plus, you’re attempting to critique Beau Blue and who knows who else, can’t tell, on the grounds that you disagree with him on Terreson’s article. This is malarkey.”

    And marginally coherent malarkey at that but, hey, you wrote it.

    “I had asked you before to name the four forums you said were missing from the list. Which are they?”

    PFFA, QED, Thin Men of Haddam and, ironically, Poets.org.

    You also missed the venue with the most traffic: Zoetrope.

    Are you sure you want to discuss online workshops when you don’t even know the heavyweight players?

    Now, do you plan to answer any of my questions any time soon?

    “Now, Terreson has asked you to disagree with him point by point.”

    If either of you would care to review the thread you’ll find that I already have. I even quoted him. Perhaps you missed it because I don’t use six meandering paragraphs to say what can be expressed in 15 words or less.

  17. Hi Vintner,

    Now we’re talking.

    Although I respect Hedgie as a blogger, in fact I like him so much that way, his Compost Heap is one of the select few blogs on the sidepanel here, always has been. And I appreciate that PFFA has the poem-a-day activity that online poets go wild over. But, the treatment poets get there is awful. That’s what PFFA is most known for, for ill treatment of poets, for very good poets never wanting to go there ever, or, once there, ever again. There is no good need of what they do. The free-for-all does not mean free for all poets, it means a free-for-all pile up of moderators attacking poets. To find this out, anyone can go to the forum: PFFA. On any given day, in their topic areas called General Poetry, C&C, and High Critique, just look for the “Moved” poems. Chances are good, you’ll find a poet blind-sided and insulted to the point of verbal abuse, by an irrational and “unneccesary” gang of moderators. I say irrational, not only because of how quickly they are to read and act as a pack, but how often they misread the poem they are acting on.

    I am with Jennifer above on her critique of Poets.org. Click into her links. The point of receiving government money, and then banning poets with heavy-handed, irrational moderators themselves, has got to go. There, we find the case of a set of people, who have other talents, that should not be administrating forums. Have you gone into Jennifer’s site Poets.net?

    On Thin Men of Haddam, when I tried to get in there last, and someone mentioned them to me a couple months ago, the place looked defunct. Do you have a link? I’ll go check it out. If I find the activity there conducive to good conversation and constructive feedback on work posted, and I don’t mean perfection along these lines, I will add them.

    It’s been years since I was at QED, and I was not impressed at the time, and thus have stayed away. I’ll look again when I get a chance.

    Notice, however, that The Gaz is on the list. There is a legitimate case that that forum attracts very good poets. The Gaz actually seeks out fine poets. The fact that they are the ones famous for the “Thank you” rule, does not disqualify them from the list. I agree with Terreson, that they shouldn’t ptobably have it. But that’s their parlor game.

    What case do you make for those forums to be added–and I mean in light of the criteria that if I refer them, I don’t want them blindsided but, rather, welcomed and respected? That link of 25 is a fairly well-used resource by poetry surfers, so I want to keep it valid for its purposes.

    C.

  18. “That’s what PFFA is most known for, for ill treatment of poets,”

    http://www.everypoet.org/pffa/forumdisplay.php?s=8e54e286d5f40d1dda6895929a7f5b9a&f=20

    PFFA isn’t for vanity posters, poseurs, posers, poetasters or illiterates who can’t read guidelines. It ain’t for the thin skinned or the deluded. Don’t like it? Don’t go there. Sure, you have to attach a warning but that is true of all sites. You wouldn’t want to send a serious poet to a “petting zoo” like Zoetrope, right?

    “…for very good poets never wanting to go there ever, or, once there, ever again.”

    “There is a legitimate case that that forum attracts very good poets.”

    Most Gazebans, including all of its better poets that I can think of, are also members of PFFA.

    “I am with Jennifer above on her critique of Poets.org. Click into her links.”

    Am I going to hear both sides of the story there or only from the full-mooners?

    “The point of receiving government money, and then banning poets with heavy-handed, irrational moderators themselves, has got to go.”

    Moderated forums have guidelines. Sociopaths who violate them are banned. What does funding have to do with this?

    “What case do you make for those forums to be added–and I mean in light of the criteria that if I refer them, I don’t want them blindsided but, rather, welcomed and respected?”

    There is a workshop for every need. You’d probably like one of the cozier IBPC sites. Jennifer may be a malcontent but she’s giving you good advice: as courteous as the people are there, you aren’t ready for Poets.org yet.

    I assume Terreson has been banned from most of the serious workshops but he can always find a place on one of the fledgling sites or exploit an opportunity on either an unmoderated venue or one with an absentee administrator.

    The URL for Thin Men of Haddam: http://www.acoloutha.oli.us/index.php

    I assume that some prejudice against metered poetry explains why Eratosphere isn’t on the list.

    http://www.ablemuse.com/erato/Ultimate.cgi

    • “Moderated forums have guidelines. Sociopaths who violate them are banned.”

      Oh I didn’t realize that all the people who get banned from those don’t have a conscience. Now your concern is completely legitimate since we have that tidbit of information. It’s amazing that you have the ability to come to that conclusion just from a few comments posted on the internet.

  19. Vintner,

    I post a link that shows where people can go to see poets get abused, and you respond with “PFFA isn’t for vanity posters, poseurs, posers, poetasters or illiterates who can’t read guidelines.” Do you see the problem with your arguments? You do not answer people on their grounds. You assume that anyone who would not go there is a poetaster or something. You know, there are some very fine poets who would not put up with that stuff. I’ll go a step further to say that it is detrimental to online poetry, and that people have been driven away because of it. On very fine forums with very fine poets, they talk about how bad PFFA is.

    You say that I am not ready for Poets.org. I was a member there for years, when the production and active membership was quite high in both numbers and talent. I don’t like the new rules. I don’t like the way my fellow poets get treated and sometimes banned. By the way, if Terreson has a badge or two from speaking his mind and thus being banned at a site or two, we should think more of him. He is precisely the person to write this article. I have no such badge. The people running the Poets.org site ought to be paying close attention to each of his points, ditching some of thei rmoderators for better ones, beginning to understand that their pattern of rule creation makes no good sense. Nothing has improved, and good poets have left. There may be three in this thread.

    I was invited to edit at Alsops Review. I turned that down only because I have other projects. Life is long, and I should integrate over there sometime again. There are some good gigs there.

    On Thin Men of Haddam. That’s the link I have. Nothing is really happening. I cannot get into the flow. There are other very sleepy forums on the 25 list, but I know how on one someone has been ill, or how on another real fine poets come by and stay for while from time to time. So, there is nothing wrong with being slow-paced, certainly. But I haven’t caught the benefit of Thin Men. I am not against them, but why do you submit them for the list? I am listening.

    Oh, Eratoshpere. Right. I write in meter at times. One of my IBPC placing poems from Poets.org is a villanelle. I thought Eratosphere was going to be on your original missing four. My experience is that they circle the wagons, and condescend. They have their school of ideas, and are thusly stale with them too, but fall back on their expertise. I also question if the forum is good for the poets there. I know one very skilled on-line friend, in fact I go well back with, who feels, that for all that forum’s faults, that poet’s work is well-read there. Okay, but for anyone reading this, who is shopping for a forum, you are forewarned that they circle the wagons and condescend. In other words, Eratosphere is borderline, but I keep reaffirming that they should be off the list.

    C.

  20. “You do not answer people on their grounds.”

    I answered your question directly and honestly–a courtesy you have yet to reciprocate. Please, R.B., stop whining about the fact that mine wasn’t the answer you wanted to hear.

    “…good poets have left. There may be three in this thread.”

    Only one that I’ve seen, but I’m not sure Pat Jones is a Poets.org member; I’ve only seen the name on Eratosphere. Judging from the level of literacy you’ve shown on this site and the fact that you haven’t yet realized that Terreson is attacking the very sites you recommend and serve (he wouldn’t last 5 minutes on PFFA), it’s safe to say you aren’t one of them. Given his long-windedness–a natural outcome of being in love with his own typing–and his bitterness about the critical process, we can be certain that Terreson isn’t one. Barring the two spammers, that leaves only Pat Jones and me. While I’m flattered, I have to wonder who the third would be.

    “But I haven’t caught the benefit of Thin Men. I am not against them, but why do you submit them for the list?”

    Because, along with QED, it has the highest population density of great critics. Great critics are what I look for in a critical web site. I’m funny that way.

    “My experience is that they circle the wagons, and condescend.”

    As you perceive the folks on PFFA and Poets.org doing, no doubt. Good-looking people often complain about excessive sexual interest from others. Meanwhile, Phyllis Diller made a career out of portraying an unattractive woman complaining about how sexually uninterested her husband, “Fang”, was. So, my question is: why do you think so many bright people treat you in a condescending manner?

  21. You know, Vintner, the only one whining here is you.

    You’ve been squealing and crying for days now. All because there are people who don’t think poetry workshops and forums are the be all, end all, dream you think they are. Isn’t it terrible that some of us think that way? And isn’t it unfair that we may have reached our conclusions without your permission? Well, you’ll just have to learn to live with that, Vintner.

    You’ll also have to learn to live with the fact that some people, who have started more poetry forums than you’ve participated in, have seen your adolescent debate tactics before and are really unimpressed with meager understanding of internet poetry’s landscape.

    Personally, I’m only mildly amused at your reaction to my saying that forums were “handy things to have around.” See, I’m more used to being labeled a self-promoting spammer by the trolls on UseNet newsgroups than by some teenage wannabe who has had his feelings hurt by a big, bad, literary pundit from Louisiana.

    Grow up, kid, it’s not hard.

    -blue

  22. “I’m more used to being labeled a self-promoting spammer”

    I would think you would be by now.

    I invite anyone to check out Beau Blue’s “contributions” to online workshops. He’s a “member” of almost all of them.

  23. Member of? Hell, boy, I’ve started more than a few. Been the tech guru of a bunch more. Donated money to more than half a dozen. Maybe, when you mature, you can do more than cry out in pain when someone badmouths one. Maybe not ..

    -blue

  24. I am well aware of and respect your technical and financial contributions. If these come at the price of having to lie to you about your poetry or your attitude towards criticism, though, it exceeds my budget.

    Bad poet. Bad attitude towards critique. Could there be a causal connection there?

  25. Vintner,

    You’re still whining about whining. No wonder you call yourself Vintner. I hail thee king of all whinos: Vintner the Whino. Live with it, or change your ways. Your butt’s just been kicked by Beau Blue.

    You say to me:

    So, my question is: why do you think so many bright people treat you in a condescending manner?

    And I ask you if you’ve stopped beating your wife yet.

    That’s just the type of discussion poetry boards don’t need, all your insults. It’s a good thing Terreson wrote the article. You prove it every time you post.

    C.

    P.S. to all readers:

    There are more Vintners contaminating poetry discussions than you might believe. Whereas one or two forums have the tendency to condescend at times, Vintner here has the penchant for insulting all the time. There are others like him.

    They are called flamers, because they take over the discussions with personal attacks, and the subject matter never gets addressed. In this case, however, he represents one part of the problem. Sometimes people with his personality establish forums, or moderate them. If enlightenment does not come to these people, then at least the poets know there are alternatives, and we can all get experienced in addressing these issues that represent the “Pee in the Pool of On Line Poetry.” The goal is for any poet to be welcome, ply his or her craft, in environments that foster creativity.

    Can we get our best forums to operate at even a higher level than they do now? Can we finally put to bed the abusive forums that will not change their ways?

  26. As expected, a flame war started and maintained by predictable comments about whining, thin skins, and poetasters.

    You know, there are perfectly good poets out there on the boards who neither give abuse, nor put up with it. They give very good critique, when they are able, and they listen well. Terreson, who I’ve known online for over a decade, has consistently been one of those. So has Pat Jones. So have several others I could name.

    Whining about whiners is meta-whining. It contributes nothing to the discussion, because rather than offering a solution it claims that there’s no problem. Or rather, it blames the victim, so to speak. These are precisely the sort of ad hominem attacks on the person, rather than the writing, that are banned on most poetry critique boards. I actually agree with that ban, most of the time—so long as it’s not applied with a heavy hand—because I’m interested in the writing, first and foremost. Personal drama just isn’t that interesting.

    I’ve been on probably two dozen boards, trying them out. There have only ever been two or three that I could call “home,” though, starting with the late, lamented Canned Air (formerly part of Avatar Review). Another one I used to call home just self-immolated in the kind of firestorm that happens when autocratic personalities want to take over a board, then make changes, or choices, that get everybody in trouble. The first thing that happens, in such events, is that the poetry critique goes right out the window.

    Now, don’t get me wrong. I do not totally agree with all of my friend Terreson’s points in his essay. I will at some point get back here to talk about the essay itself, and those points. He’s used to that from me: we often disagree, but we can dialogue about it, and both clarify our thinking as a result. The dialogue of disagreements produces better writing, not hurt feelings.

    And that’s perhaps the ideal of how all this should operate.

  27. Ok. Vintner, I am not going to get personal here the way you have. Well, maybe slightly I’ll get personal. If you are who I think you are, and judging from your stylistic habits, you are Collin Ward aka Kaltica (a mod at Poets.org) aka Deni a brief time mod at TCP.com. Collin Ward has been attacking me for maybe two years now. Once he achieved mod status on that same gov funded site, Poet’s org, I knew I was screwed. And in the spirit of disclosure I was banned from the site…at my request and because of a deliberately posted message. The Collin Ward I know simply loves to delete posts in his capacity as mod. I think one night he deleted three posts of mine within a half-hour. Likely he felt justified and likely he still does, even though I was replying to a post he made, but then he decided was off-topic.

    That is as personal as I am going to get. Maybe it took abusive behavior at the hands of a mod to make me question the whole system, which is a good thing.

    And I do question the system. More to the point I question the top-down character of the culture. Truth is I think the culture of the board system has rotted on the vine. While I still beleive in the boards I think their admins, their mods, their clicques have made something that should be beautiful so god damn damaging to poetry. I am honestly saddened by what the system does to poetry and to new poets especially. This is the crux of my complaint.

    One last word. Before I made myself bannable at Poets.org I started a thread. My informants tell me that, as of this week, it has received over 19,000 hits. The thread is just about poetry. Poetry. If the boards are not about poetry what the hell are they for?

    So, yes, Vintner, I think the culture you defend is corrupt. I think your top-down culture hurts poetry. One last, last word. I have thought long on it. I stand by my essay. The poetry board culture is fucked up. And it is because of maverick mods, defensive admins, and a community-first mentality. ‘Let my people go.’

    Terreson

  28. I doubt that Vintner is Colin Ward. First, Colin is way more more mature and significantly more coherent when expressing himself than “Vintner”. Even when he’s trolling. Second, Colin isn’t into whining, but action. Also, when he disagrees with someone, he at least tries to appear rational and reasonable.

    No, this is someone more like Yankovich or Epstein or MacKensie. You know, real quick to pick a fight but with no real skills at doing anything more than embarrassing themselves.

    -blue

  29. Okay, Blue. So the essay’s question remains this: are poetry boards good for poetry? Yesterday I was told that a mod on one board, in response to my essay, actually said on his own board that poetry boards are irrelevant to poetry.

    Thinking on the mod’s comment I think I would disagree. But I do think there is much in the online poetry community culture that trivializes poetry, makes it even a tertiary concern, and that the problem starts at the top, with admins and mods.

    Somebody prove me wrong. Please. I am persuaded the system is fucked up. What is such a beautiful idea got mangled by board admins and mods.

    Terreson

  30. Interesting read and the essay has a lot of merit. That said, the goal seems lost within the smoke. The reason, imo, for poetry boards is multi-functional; one is to teach, the other is to commune. If you can get the two to coincide, you have ‘communitas’; community with purpose.

    I was weaned at ‘pffa’ and all the rumors are true. That I lasted 8 months without running afoul of the system is miraculous to say the least. That said, this is what I learned; I learned the basics of good, effectual poetry and even some rational I like to repeat at times, and I learned how NOT to treat poets, especially newbies. So, though the sign says ‘not for all’, I don’t think what pffa does is beneficial for people but it houses the roots of knowledge which you will never get at over 90% of the other poetry sites out there.

    I think the single largest truth I found about online poetry forums is this; the nature of poets is a solitary one and when you get too many together, without a vision that supercedes personal agendas, you have only a momentary explosion of creativity and furthering of the genre. And I’ve only been to one site which I have ever felt was unbiased toward learning the basics of effective poetry (yes, the assumed bias inherent that exists for a set of principles which if followed, raises the quality of the poetic piece above the typical tripe that is all over the net) and allowed discussion of any poetic topic, placing poetry first and relationships second, but with the hand-holding-leading sort of priority.

    In the end though, what I learned is that poets are like burning a candle at both ends; spectacular but too brief. Since a major reason I got hooked by the internet forum tragedy is the goodness I received by returning to others what had been taught to me, this has always been enough to continue on, even if in a limited capacity. Where I used to push those nuances which poetry showed me, I now wait for the open mind and heart to come ask. The effort has proven disheartening when I have sought to band together similar minds.

    The simple truth I’ve found with all the poetry boards is this; you have only two choices. One is to be part of the fluff-based commentary of over 90% of the boards in which relating to your fellow poet (and the warm fuzzies that come with attention) takes precedence, or two, be part of an arrogance that often seems justified by the ineptness of the far too many of, self-indulgent poets that come along thinking their words are the end all be all.

    The greatest pleasure I’ve had from online poetry forums is in looking back at those I’ve personally helped learn the basics and note how much better they’ve become as writers. If you can get some to actually trust you, can get them to take a chance on what you’re trying to teach, then watch as over time they employ the basics, THEN you’ll not have to say another word because THEY will be saying it in your place. That’s when I get to smile because I know the beauty and wisdoms I’ve gained are now being shared in fully mindful and heartfelt people. Without public poetry forums, I don’t see this as happening.

    Just my experience. The fact I used to routinely contribute to such essays/expositions as this one but rarely do so anymore, is directly related to how irrelevant poetry seems to have become. There is only the desire to be self-gratified and moments attained. There are little that believe growth comes with some pain and even fewer that understand that conflict is a good thing. How one delivers and embraces conflict, now that is perhaps where the rub is…

    Thanks for the moment to express myself.

  31. Terreson,

    Poetry boards are neither good for, nor bad for poetry. They’re just part of the landscape.

    Good for or bad for poets, on the other hand, is dependent on the individuals involved. Swinburne would’ve loved the current crop of elitist venues driven by the current crop of sado-masochistic administrators and forum participants, you know.

    Today’s workshops are communities of like-minded individuals in need of artistic reassurance and camaraderie. They’re a good way to network, make friends and stimulate appreciation for the art form as practiced by specific artists and specific styles. Nothing more.

    But they’re not poetry. They’re practice. And very little of what goes on within the forums after a piece has been posted can be called “criticism”.

    Real criticism is as hard to do as real poetry. And since so few people are any good at it, the boards are full of pot-shot S&M freaks, hiding behind “Thank You” rules, who think they’re critics and that the workshops are legitimate publication vehicles. They’re not.

    Nor do they accurately reflect the state of the art form. But poetry cannot be injured by any individual or group of individuals, no matter how mistaken their beliefs and practices.

    Your desire for something grander and more nurturing than the lone individual struggling in private is damn near universal. But that’s what the job is and looking for more in the company of others can only disappoint you. Poetry is an annoying habit and it’s a solitary accomplishment. It’s a bitch, but it’s the rules.

    -blue

  32. I dispute that real criticism can’t really happen on the boards. (Although I agree that real criticism is as hard to do as real poetry.) I have participated in two boards where it did. I know I’ve been part of giving real criticism, because to me I’m looking at the poem, and it doesn’t matter to me if it’s on a board or in a face to face critique group. I was part of a monthly poetry critique group that was a really good way to learn to critique; and I also improved as a poet during that period. That happened at the beginning, or just before, my online experience, and so I arrived online with some critical skills already in place, and beginning to write my mature poetry.

    I do agree that this is very individual, and that my experience is not necessarily a majority experience.

    Where I differ from the overall gloom and doom is that I have been part of two online poetry communities that really DID work, that really DID meet many of the ideals, and that really were quasi-anarchistic in their structures, so that real work was engaged with, and there was no heavy-handed Admin interference.

    So, it IS possible, and it HAS happened. I refuse to believe, therefore, that it can never happen again, or that it’s impossible. My experience belies that.

    I do agree, however, that in some ways it’s very difficult to achieve, and requires exactly the right mix of people to work. An Admin does set the tone, even if the tone is benign neglect. But I have been part of online poetry groups that were not top-heavy with heavy-handed interference by Admins and Mods. Therefore, if it happened before, it can happen again. It does need the right situation, the right mix of people, and the right attitude.

    I would submit that you’re more likely to find such havens in small, semi-private, non-IBPC, lower-profile poetry boards. It seems more likely that large public boards are always going to need Mods, because they’re so very public, and draw the attention of assholes, snerts, and flamers just looking to start something. Big public boards tend to develop a class-based system, it’s probably true; but smaller boards don’t have to.

    The truth is, I have a list of poets online whose poetry I like, and whose critique has been good for me, and vice versa. Many of them do not get along with each other, and dislike each other. I can’t control that. In my ideal board, I would run it by inviting the people I like to be there, and no one else. But even that group contains individuals who do not get along with each other.

    Therefore, I submit to you that it is not that poetry boards are bad for poetry, or rather for poets, but that poetry boards merely reflect the climate of competitiveness and personality-driven distemper that is general to artists (poets included) in most venues. I don’t think the problem is unique to poetry groups; I’ve seen the same dynamics in offline poetry groups. Ego-driven bullshit and taking umbrage. Fights about nothing. Things misunderstood that get inflated into umbrage and lead to mutual avoidance and dislike.

    So, I think the problem is really too much ego, no matter what the venue is. I think the problem is when someone gets an inflated ego—either on a power trip as an Admin, or on a power trip as an experienced long-timer on Board X—which leads to a sense of entitlement, which can lead to personal abuse, to people rushing to judge either other rather than come to an understanding, etc.

    If poets could just their goddamn egos and personalities at the door, so that we really COULD just talk about the poetry, that would be great. But that’s a general problem, not really unique to online poetry boards.

    As you yourself have opined, Tere, the reason there’s so much heat and smoke is because there’s really so very little at stake. LOL

  33. Now, here’s one more thing to consider.

    I already proposed that not only is it possible to have a genuine poetry board online, but it has happened. Twice, in my own experience; maybe two and a half times.

    But these things do have a limited time in which to thrive. Life moves us all in directions unexpected, and i suspect that ALL communities of artists—not only poetry boards—have a half-life, a limit to their duration.

    Nothing that good can be permanently sustained. People die. People move on. People develop other interests, or go to school, and no longer have time to devote to communitas on Board X.

    I also believe that it is very possible to have an anarchism-based board where there is no top-down Admin/Mod hovering, where people really are kind to each other, mostly, and work out problems themselves. I have been part of two such communities, in my long time online on the poetry boards. But again, there may be a half-life to such situations.

    Hakim Bey, anarchist and radical, postulated the idea of the “temporary autonomous zone.” This is a place, never permanent in duration, in which utopia CAN emerge. Utopia IS possible: but the mistake most people make is in assuming that ANY cultural situation can endure indefinitely. A brief look at history should educate one to the wisdom that nothing is permanent, nothing endures, and nothing can be sustained indefinitely.

    The trick is, letting go of the instance (the individual TAZ, or place, or board) while continuing to pursue the creation of the ideal, wherever possible. In other words, letting go of the fact of the individual instance, but not letting go of the ideal of the practice itself. In which case, a new TAZ can be created; or moved; or re-initiated, elsewhere, when folks meet up again. I have seen this happen more than once in my experience.

    I recommend reading this material for yourself. It’s all anti-copyright and it’s all available online, For example, here:

    http://www.hermetic.com/bey/taz3.html#labelTAZ

  34. “On any given day, in their topic areas called General Poetry, C&C, and High Critique, just look for the “Moved” poems. Chances are good, you’ll find a poet blind-sided and insulted to the point of verbal abuse, by an irrational and “unneccesary” gang of moderators. I say irrational, not only because of how quickly they are to read and act as a pack, but how often they misread the poem they are acting on.”

    I’m a member of over half a dozen online poetry boards (PFFA, GAZ, DMR, Wild PF, Penshells, Critical Poet, ITWS) and consider myself lucky to have found PFFA within a month of starting to write poetry seriously. I’ve found it a great forum to get a grounding in some of the basic elements of writing poetry, I suspect starting there rather than at a more ‘friendly’ forum helped me to learn at a much greater rate than I’d expect from a forum built on back-patting. The learning largely came from the in-depth critiques insisted on by the moderators (the insistence that I roll up my sleeves and learn to critique benefitted me even than other people critting my poems).

    My participation there and at other boards has made me a better poet. Not good, certainly not great, just better than when I started out and at a faster rate than if I had tried to work things out on my own.

    so for me the answer to this question:

    “Do the boards benefit poets, the new and inexperienced especially who, in most cases, are grappling with the vital stuff of finding an authentic voice, gaining confidence in themselves, working through the canon, trying to figure out if they have something essential to say, and all at the same time? ” is a resounding YES.

    As someone who writes poetry largely in the hope of communicating something of worth to other people the “Thank you” rule is simple: If someone, anyone , takes the time to read something you have written, and then give you any sort of feedback you say “thank you”. If the feedback is snarky or abusive I really don’t care, I have faith in my ability to work out what will be useful for me and what won’t. I’m thanking the critiquer for the time and effort they spent in reading my work, nothing more. If they give me feedback that is helpful to me I generally thank them specifically for that. If I feel unable to take criticism for a poem then I don’t post it. I’ve often had poems ripped to shreds when I’ve posted them, sometimes politely and sometimes rudely. I’ve never found it necessary to respond in kind.

    The ‘outside’ forum you link to at PFFA is one small element of what goes on there. the board is mostly made up of a series of critiquing and discussion forums that run very smoothly. The critiques are, for the most part, rigorous (particularly at the higher levels) and supportive at the same time. If you read carefully in the ‘Outside’ forum the issues usually stem from the poster ignoring the guidelines, getting called on it then blowing up at a mod. It’s not the most pleasant part of the forum but it serves a purpose for the hundreds of members who at any one point are actively participating there.

    When I see discussions like this on the forums it usually comes from the people who spend more time talking ABOUT poetry rather than participating in the workshops themselves. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing because I’m always tracking these discussions as best I can and often learn from them. I’m also not saying those people don’t write poetry, they might be writing great poetry. I just don’t put much stock in being told what’s being gained from a workshop by people who aren’t in there participating.

    Dave R.

  35. Sorry, I was cutting and pasting and moving things around on a separate document and a couple of things droped out of my post–firstly One of the boards I’m a member of is Poets.org and I’m a mod there.

    Secondly, one other benefit of participating in poetry forums is that I’ve gained a much deeper appreciation for reading and enjoying poetry and thinking about it than I ever realized I’d get. to have that is reward enough for me even if I never write another poem in my life.

    Also, thanks for posting the article.

    Dave

  36. I do love it when the gods and goddesses work synchronously. Right now, on the board sponsored by the Academy of American Poets, and partly gov. funded, some poet has been banned for something he/she said in PM to one of the board’s moderators. It appears the board has a relatively new guideline. A member can be banned from the “public” board for comments made in a private message.

    The board exchange rather highlights several points my article takes issue with. That mods are more equal than members, certainly allowed to use insulting language without fear of reprimand, that mods in fact tend to close ranks when board policies are questioned, and that (this is the big one)a board’s self-defined sense of community is placed above an individual member’s participation. All of which are problems my essay points to.

    I guess I could not have asked for a sweeter ongoing scenario to prove my point(s). The board system fails poets. And the board system fails poets when its priority becomes itself.

    Today I decided the online poetry board system needs a watchdog, certainly within the IBPC circuit. Board admin types and moderators cannot always be trusted. They are as subject to moodiness as any other poetry-minded person. If the Academy of American Poets sanctions the kind of censorship its online poetry board metes out without pause there is a big time problem in the online poetry community. Censorship is censorship. And too many of the poetry board admins and mods have gotten intoxicated with the delete/ban power.

    On the other hand, it makes for a rather delicious distinction to have been banned by The Academy of American Poets. Don’t you all see the problem?

    Terreson

  37. “some poet has been banned for something he/she said in PM to one of the board’s moderators. It appears the board has a relatively new guideline. A member can be banned from the “public” board for comments made in a private message.”

    Harrasing members in public posts or private messages is against the guidelines at that forum. Always has been.

    “Today I decided the online poetry board system needs a watchdog, certainly within the IBPC circuit.”

    That is the one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard.

    On the other hand, it makes for a rather delicious distinction to have been banned by The Academy of American Poets.

    Let’s be very clear now, you had to ask repeatedly to be banned in order to receive that delicious distinction.

    cheers,

    Dave

  38. “Don’t you all see the problem?”

    Yes, we do. You think you have some special insight that everyone else is missing and yet you lack the ability to impart it.

    For someone hiding behind a pseudonym you seem quick to attempt outing others.

    While we’re on the subject, though, I have a question for “Clattery Machinery”. How do you think the IBPC participants feel about your remarks regarding Poets.org now that everyone knows that you are Rus Bowden? You should take some trolling lessons from Terreson. He can probably show you all about proxy servers and how to vary your targets. As far as I can tell no one knows who he is. Mind you, that may be because no one cares.

  39. Please, all, keep these comments coming. For those outside the online poetry world, know that the participants here are strong participants at the poetry forums. The discussion, therefore, is becoming somewhat representational.

    In places around the web, I allow people to know who C.M. is, on my terms, for instance in a recent interview and within forum discussion. (I appreciated, Vintner, that you used my iniitials, before, btw.)

    In the online poetry world, C.M. is no secret agent man. Many C.M. posts take on such issues that I do not want it to be easy to find me. And I often prefer simply to write with a pen name. Etc.

    Part of the timing of the publication of this article has to do with e-mail loops that IBPC forum reps participate in or at least receive. The one previous to the looping of this essay by Terreson, involves sharing what the poets like most at the forums. IBPC as a group has the opportunity to move poetry forums deep and positively into the 21st century by sharing knowledge, such that we all become, not only savvy, but creative with this savviness. Precisely what future contributions IBPC can bring, is unknown. But my attitude is that we take those steps into the future, instead of accepting whatever good or bad status quo is here for us, and whatever tides drift us this way or that.

    As a group too, IBPC represents the largest and best representation of on-line poetry forums in the world (WWW). And if you disagree, then for the sake of this discussion allow that it should. I asked in that first constructive loop that the reps participate with an eye that something would be learned, and an improvement would then be made at the forum, some feature added.

    This essay by Terreson is the second loop. I have asked the IBPC forum reps to consider what is wrong about forums in general, and discuss it with “reply all”, yet made no stipulation or suggestion. If Terreson’s article is paid attention to, whether in agreement or disagreement, his topics must be addressed either for the first time, or anew, but especially in total.

    Here, we can talk. If the Poets.org group feels they have nothing to learn or gain from the perspectives shared in this discussion, I cannot help that. There was “fear” expressed of posting a link to this article at some IBPC forums. To Poets.org’s credit, they allowed a thread in. Hopefully, the participants feel free to post how they feel.

    C.

  40. “If the Poets.org group feels they have nothing to learn or gain from the perspectives shared in this discussion, I cannot help that.”

    Where do you get that from? As far as I know there hasn’t been a “Poets.org Group response” to this. I know I took great care to respond based on my personal experiences on poetry boards and focused, for the most part, on my experience at PFFA.

    I only declared my membership and the fact that I am a mod at Poets.org because it felt appropriate to do so, some people would know me by the ‘hatrabbit’ username already, those who don’t who are following the discussion now know it as well.

    Of course when Terreson followed up with what I thought were some pretty silly comments, I responded to that.

    Otherwise, I’m enjoying the conversation and still thinking about Terreson’s post and catching up with the earlier responses.

  41. See Vintner’s question:

    How do you think the IBPC participants feel about your remarks regarding Poets.org . . . ?

    I narrowed that from the wider “IBPC participants” to Poets.org as a group, as that is most pertinent. After all, each participant across the broader IBPCommunity gets to feels the way he or she wants to feel. That Poets.org allowed a topic for discussion on this matter meant that they have the opening to discuss this among themselves, as a Poets.org group.

    The rest of what I intended s/b obvious. Thanks for the request for clarification.

    C.

  42. Vintner,

    I sidestepped nothing. However, if you thought that somehow what I said could have been so misconstrued, or if you wanted me to touch on something other than what I did, then you could ask me yourself a clarifying question. Please do, especially if such a question would further this discussion.

    C.

  43. Are you really this obtuse?

    You run the IBPC. People expect impartiality and detachment from someone administering any contest. Is gratuitously and publicly badmouthing a participant in your contest your idea of impartiality and detachment?

  44. While I hate to reference Henry Kissinger, I would modify his famous quotation to read “[Poetry] politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.”

  45. Vintner,

    Oh, that’s right I forgot. I was suppose to give up my opinions and all online activity to boot, plus either delete everything or apologize profusely while retracting opinions from my past life. Oh well, too late now.

    Or wait. Maybe I should edit my selected list of forums to include those I would not want poets to go to, lest they encounter some of the hammering, flaming moderators who are out there. I should be hypocritical and devious in the cause of impartiality and detachment. You must be thinking of someone else besides me. Or, maybe I could then be like you instead of like me and defend those forums saying they are good for the poets. Okay, sure, sure. Uhm, I’ll sleep on it tonight.

    But, I gratuitously and publicly badmouthed a participant? Who? You mean a forum? I think in terms of poets. What do the poets like? Stop abusing the poets. What do they benefit from? What new features will foster better poetry? And so forth. I empower the forum reps, but I intend on empowering the member poets as well.

    Or maybe I should take a page out of the README files from some of those forums missing from the 25 list, and I should throw a few of the forums out of IBPC instead. One could interpret that as my duty, couldn’t one.

    You see, there are many ways of interpreting what my role ought to be. The worst one is that I would be a detached milquetoast.

    No, we discuss, openly. Period. I even let you do the same.

    Impartiality? I send all poems I receive along to the judge, with the same font, without the poet’s name or the forum that the poem was workshopped at, and lately in alphabetical order by title. I also try to get a qualified cross section of judges, different backgrounds in as many senses as I can. And I balance this with being thematic at the same time, whenever this might bring benefit to the poets, or suit occasions.

    C.

  46. While I hate to reference Henry Kissinger, I would modify his famous quotation to read “[Poetry] politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.”

    Comment by Stephen Bunch — April 25, 2008 @ 3:13 am

    Well, Bunch, this is a sentiment that really irks me. It bothers me as much as Vintner’s opportunism and hatrabitt’s apologetics. As crazy as it may sound, I figure poetry matters. In the context of the poetry boards I figures it matters much more than mods, admin types, and the self-serving culture they perpetuate.

    I remember slightly you are a mod somewhere. Hatrabbit is a mod somewhere as well. I am pretty sure Vintner is a mod somewhere also.

    There is a good possibility that you mods and your admins are what make online poetry irrelavent. Conratulations. Job well done.

    Terreson

  47. Dave R. made this comment:

    <>

    Dave, you have a point. But you also miss the point, which is: If you’re going to have an open forum, you need to let people do what they do. Your suggestion comes dangerously close to telling poets what they SHOULD do. If you don’t like being told something, but you turn and tell somebody something, that seems a little uneven. And you maybe miss some of the reasons WHY people might be on the poetics forums more than the poetry threads per se.

    For example, if a poet is in a fallow period, and isn’t writing much new poetry, maybe they want to continue to participate in the community by talking about poetry. Are you really suggesting that they should just shut up, instead? Talking about poetics is one more way that poets learn to be better writers AND better critiquers. I’ve heard lots of comments along the lines that a poet younger in their craft got a lot out of the poetics discussions, and learned things they didn’t get from the poem crit threads directly. Are you suggesting that that’s invalid?

    I seriously doubt it.

    Another reason is that a person new to a given board is testing the waters, learning about who people are, and where they stand, so that they can get a sense of what kind of critique they can expect, before they post a poem. This is especially true of those poetry board forums wherein a poet must have posted a minimum number of times before they can post a poem to that forum. I’m not suggesting that no poets ever build up their post counts in indirect ways, but on the other hand, engaging in poetics discussions is a great way to test the waters and see if one fits in on a given board. For example, if you’re a formalist poet and you find a new board, looking at the poetics discussions can tell you if anyone else shares your particular interests. Maybe you make a friend with similar interests. Or maybe you realize there’s no place for your particular poems on that particular board. It’s nobody’s fault but it IS a bad match.

    As for your accusation in your first sentence, actually the only poets I can recall who I’ve never seen post a poem of their own for critique are those very same trolls, such as the aforementioned Kaltica, who are quick to lash out but also quick to hide behind BS when actually called on their shit. They go around abusing everyone, but one way in which they don’t play fair is by allowing their own poems to be critiqued. That is another form of arrogance.

    As for all present, of all those who have posted here that I know, every single one of them has posted and critiqued mightily on many boards.

  48. Dave R. made this comment:

    “When I see discussions like this on the forums it usually comes from the people who spend more time talking ABOUT poetry rather than participating in the workshops themselves. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing because I’m always tracking these discussions as best I can and often learn from them. I’m also not saying those people don’t write poetry, they might be writing great poetry. I just don’t put much stock in being told what’s being gained from a workshop by people who aren’t in there participating.”

    Sorry that bit got dropped from my previous post, which of course was the bit I responding to.

    Ah, the joys of HTML and its spawn.

  49. I wondered why my ears were burning!

    This isn’t the first, fifth or tenth time I’ve seen this topic addressed. It’s pointless if only because there is not one policy change that “improves” all sites. Someone mentioned PFFA and Zoetrope. Each serves its constituency. What works on one would be ridiculous on the other. Vive la choix! Vive la difference!

    On the subjects of moderated forums and the critical process my position remains the antipodal opposite of Terreson’s and Beau Blue’s. Beginning with my earliest days on Usenet, the efforts of luminaries like PJR, the Millers and Hannah Craig have more than convinced me of the benefits of online critique. Meanwhile, trolls like Tom Bishop, Will Dockery and Charles Lysaht have made the advantages of moderation abundantly evident.

    If history teaches us anything it is that bombthrowers cause tighter rules, not looser ones. I am the wrong Colin Ward to speak on the subject of anarchism but joining moderated sites with the expressed intention of violating guidelines to “push the envelope” would seem counterproductive at best. As Talleyrand said: “C’est pire qu’un crime. C’est un faut!”

    Whereas Terreson’s actions refute his arguments, I can respect Beau’s stance because it is consistent with his behaviour. He posts his announcements and goes about his business. You could learn a lot from his approach, Terreson. It’s nice to see that I’m still in your thoughts, though.

    Best regards,

    Kaltica (accept no substitutes!)

  50. As the person who posted a link to this article on poets.org, I just wanted to say that, although I am unclear about some of the parameters regarding what constitutes acceptable versus unacceptable commentary on the site, I had no fear about posting the link. There is a guideline that says you cannot discuss other poetry boards, but since Terreson’s article did not mention any specific boards by name, I did not think posting a link to it would be in violation of board policy. I did not fear my post would be deleted or that I would be banned for posting it. I was unsure where to post the link, so the worst I thought would happen is that the thread would be moved. As to how my post would impact my standing in the poets.org community, well, I’ve been posting there long enough that I figured most people have already formed an opinion of me, for good or ill, and would likely view my action accordingly.

  51. I have just been reading through the Guidelines at poets.org, and I can’t seem to find anything that says you can’t discuss other online poetry boards. Maybe I confused this site with another one. Sorry for the confusion.

  52. Hi indy21,

    I came to work here thinking about that rule, just having discussed some IBPC questions of Vintner’s above. And since you brought it up—and there are IBPC boards with that rule—there would be no IBPC unless back in 1999, the poetry boards discussed each other, and decided that there ought to be a competition.

    I actually saw the thread that led to Mike Neff getting the site under webdelsol.com. It was on the old forum software The Block was using. A poet who posted at the old Cafe Utne, called Mask of Zero, brought up the idea there as people were discussing different poetry forums, and IBPC snowballed from there.

    Over at the old Atlantic Unbound at the time, I recall comparative discussions going on about who would have the best poetry, and such. And a lot of that I can see, were seeds that are just coming to bloom now and here. These issues, btw, have been sprouting it more and more around the forums as of late.

    9 years hence, and IBPC still pans this same old stream at times.

    C.

  53. About the Collin Ward post, I figure whether or not the present system of mods and site admins is good for the poetry boards is debatable. It would be nice to have the debate. What is not debatable is that the system, as it stands, is corrupt. Mods who can give insulting language the likes of which members get censored for; posts deleted for the flimsiest of reasons and the deletion always sanctioned by admins; people banned; admins and mods who bring prosodic, religious, and political biases to the boards; members who are friends of the mod staff not taken to task for outrageous behavior when others are; mod staffs closing ranks when a member questions board practices. The list goes on. The system has been corrupted. And I predict it will get worse.

    Terreson

  54. Please check out http://www.Poets.net

    Where freedom of speech still matters.

    Comment by Jennifer — April 22, 2008 @ 6:47 pm

    Somehow this comment seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle. Comment # 9 above, which supplies a link. The matter involves a person who got banned from Poets.org for comments he made in IM to two mods, both of whom have weighed in here, defending what they do.

    Click on the link. Read for yourself what was deemed a bannable offense by Poets.org’s site administrator. And then convince me these mods and admins are not out of control. Incredible. Just incredible.

    Terreson

  55. The discussion is winding down, as it should. There is only so much that can be said about the dysfunctional nature of poetry boards. Thanks, Clattery, for having the sense of honesty to carry an essay critical of a system you are much involved with. You are a big man in my eyes. I should like to toast you over a shot of Irish, aka mother’s milk.

    I want to be clear on something. In response to my article I’ve heard (read) the comment twice now that poetry boards are irrelevant to poetry. Both times, and oddly enough, the comment was made by board moderators. Thinking on it, I know I don’t feel the same way, or that poetry boards are irrelevant to poetry.

    But I do feel this and I feel it strongly. It is you moderators and you site administrators that have fucked up royally a knock-down beautiful idea. Maybe you love yourselves too much. Maybe you need to control conversation too much. Maybe your needs, brought online, are compensatory for something else you lack. But it is you, mods and site admins, that are central to the problem in online poetry venues.

    Of course, poetry will survive you all. Poetry always does.

    Good night and good luck.

    terreson

  56. Tere,

    I think you’ve mischaracterized my position. I don’t think poetry boards are irrelevant to poetry. I only meant to say that what happens on these boards and in the larger world of contemporary poetry is meaningless within the culture in which we find ourselves. That’s more a comment on the culture than it is on the current state of poetry and the subset of Web poetry boards.

    Regarding Mr. Woodman and his screed at poets.net, I think his piece speaks volumes about his state of mind. The fellow has a hobby horse and he beats it furiously. His use of his wife as “sock puppet” is disingenuous and laughable, if it weren’t so pathetic.

    I’ve given more time to this nonsense than I should have. Hell, we’ve got poems to write.

    Sorry it’s come to this point. Best to you.

    Steve

  57. “Hell, we’ve got poems to write”.

    Right on, Stephen. Write on, too…let’s get on with writing/righting poetry. I’ve been on several boards for many years, been banned for defending freedom of speech from only two. We all know which two they are. Banning me was the best thing they could have done for me and my poetry.

    Pat

  58. Okay, Steve. I’ve never had an argument with you. So Woodman got banned from your board because of his state of mind? And that his wife is a sock puppet lends credence to the banning I guess you figure is justified? Didn’t you tell me once you’ve cavorted with the likes of Ginsberg, Creeley, and Dorn? You really think they would be party to how your board proceeds?

    Here is the thing. Your board’s organization, The Academy of American Poets, just banned a poet for the silliest of reasons. Man, if I was you I would cut ties with the Academy. But then I am not you.

    Terreson

  59. Then there’s the boards one chooses to leave, rather than being banned, because the climate is not one of free speech. Some boards do bend over backwards to NOT ban people, which I appreciate. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean it’s all sweetness and light, or free speech and open discourse. The problem remains that the board’s climate might not be all that open, even if they try not to ban folks.

    This discussion is winding down? Sure doesn’t seem like it to me. Maybe that was just wishful thinking.

    I was sorting through some papers tonight, to recycle most of them. I ran across a broadsheet someone had printed up and given to me some years ago. The quote on it is from John Stuart Mill, and seems peculiarly appropriate to this discussion at this time. I think it is pertinent to the climate of boards, and the tenor of the ways people are dealt with on the boards; I think it speaks directly to the lack of tolerance for differing opinions, and even styles of poetry, that is notably lacking on many of the boards, including many of the IBPC boards. Here’s the quote in full:

    “Precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric. Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded: and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage it contained. That so few dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of the time.”
    –John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859

  60. Tere,

    I can’t imagine having used the word “cavort” in connection with those poets, but yes, I did cross paths with them on occasion and benefitted from it. Your question as to how they might react to poets.org’s fora is, of course, hypothetical, and all three are gone now. From what I know of them and their work, though, I suspect they would have had little use for workshops of any kind.

    Steve

  61. Steve gets at what may be the real issue, perhaps: “workshops of any kind.” There comes a point where the workshop ITSELF is harmful to the poet. I for one had been feeling like I wasn’t getting any really useful critique for many weeks, before the firestorm that broke The Critical Poet happened. I am sad to have seen that community divide and self-immolate, but that’s about friends rather than poetry. In truth, the last few new poems I had posted there, or elsewhere, had been so misunderstood, so poorly received, in in at least one case so openly and viciously attacked as “not poetry” that it caused its own little firestorm. Who wants to post a poem on a poetry board when that’s all you can expect? The whole point of workshopping is to improve as a writer, and to learn. When a workshop is no longer a learning environment, it’s probably time to move on.

    (I find it amusing that the Admin of Desert Moon Review posted a response on one of the parallel threads about this essay. The reason I find it amusing is that my experience of trying to join Desert Moon Review was an example of what Tere is talking about in this essay. I do wish people would look in the metaphorical mirror, sometimes, and realize how they are doing exactly what they claim to not be doing.)

    Which leads me to the truth that I need to go off and do my thing for awhile without any critical feedback. If I go down a blind alley with my poetry that nobody else likes, so be it.

    The argument FOR workshops is often about poets getting lost in blind alleys, wasting their time and effort on what turns out not to be their best work. The theory being that workshopping helps prevent that. But that argument doesn’t allow the poet freedom to make mistakes, and learn from mistakes. Not allowing people to make mistakes and learn from them is a form of parental autocracy.

    Similarly, the argument FOR workshops as communities has both valid points and also has some problems. I don’t think a lot of Mods and Admins realize how much their actions DO set the tone of a board. Actions ALWAYS speak louder than words, in every circumstance. I left Heretics Phaze 2, an otherwise great board with good folks on it, because two of three Admins were refusing to put a leash on the third Admin who was being very abusive towards almost everybody; they made excuses for his behavior, but they didn’t rein it in. (Can you say codependent enabling? I knew you could.) That drove away a bunch of folks. My friend there who had invited me to that board, who was one of those other two Admins, worked hard to try to convince me to stay; but my bottom line is that I was (and am) about the poetry, not about the bullshit. While the abuse was actively going on, no poetry could be dealt with. Poetry requires a certain amount of silence around it, which board drama destroys. So I left.

    Poetry DOES require a certain amount of silence around it. An aura of contemplation, perhaps one might call it. Sometimes a workshop is not good for poetry simply because most people are uncomfortable with silence. They need to fill every pause in a conversation with chatter, because silence is threatening, or scary. That’s never made much sense to me, when I see poets do that.

  62. Bummer. Just lost a comment to cyberspace.

    So let’s say I am wrong. Better yet let me riff on what Vintner posted early on, calling me a whiner. Instead of registering a complaint how about I offer an idea of how I figure the poetry board system can work at its best.

    I know it gets lost amidst the pyrotechnics, but my essay actually ends offering a notion of how the board system might reform itself. It is where I suggest that, at its most vital, poetry needs a free range environment, a Montessori school yard.

    I view Mallarme’s famous Tuesday night gatherings as just such an environment. Historically closer to home, I similarly view the Black Mountain school of poets from the fifties, up in North Carolina. The school not only had participating members on the grounds but there were others, such as Paul Blackburn, who associated themselves with the objectives of the group. At the school itself, the poet Charles Olson served as rector for awhile. But I am not aware he was given to the equivalent of deleting posts and banning members. Nor did the poet/critics try to re-form the poems of others in some strictly defined image of what good poetry should look like. And yet not only did the school’s participants work in tandem but the notions of good poetry they entertained still impact and influence the scene.

    Above, Arthur mentions a poem he recently posted on a board and that was attacked visciously. It was. I saw some of the more uncomprehending and narrow minded comments on the poem. The irony is that in the nearly ten years of visiting poetry boards I would include his poem as one of the best ten I’ve read. It has originality and authenticity. It is a pursuit in the poetic way at its best. (What was it Bly said about how Pound was initially received?)

    I want the Black Mountain model. I want the pushing and the feed-off between poets, not the tearing down that all too many critics call good criticism. I want the first-rate thinking that looks to take chances, push limits, get inside poetry, get perfect poetic expression. I do not want the second-rate, debilitating, limited sense of aesthetic(s) all too frequently setting the tone on the boards. I want the free-range environment, not the territoriality of silver backs that all too often produces turf wars. (I was actually taken to task once on a board for using the metaphor of the silver back to describe how poets can behave.) And I do not want the policing, since, all too often it leads to abuse and to the muzzling of the creative personality.

    So this is some of how I figure the boards can operate at their best. My essay mentions a private board where I sometimes participate. This is pretty much how its members proceed. So I know it is possible.

    Terreson

  63. Something else occurs to me. At poets.org there are two threads I started in its discussion forum. The threads have been in place since last fall. I am no longer allowed there but I am told that one thread has been viewed almost 20,000 times. The other thread has been brought up 10 to 12,000 times. Both threads are devoted to poetry, to poetics, to poetic thinking.

    What the stat suggests to me is that there are a bunch of poets out there wanting something. The threads’ number of visits could serve as a kind of poll of what it is they do want. And so I am going to ask this of all mods, site admins, and crtics. Are your practices and behavior, is the culture you assiduously maintain, giving poets what they want?

    Terreson

  64. Another argument that is made for workshopping is related to the one I already mentioned about blind alleys. Well-meaning critiquers want to keep their fellow poets from making mistakes and getting lost. The problem with that, however, is that what you often wind up with, in practice, is conformity. Again, the overall tone and contents of the board, which the Mods and Admin DO have a large degree of ability to set, can strongly affect this. I am used to being attacked for stating differing opinions. I have even been attacked, once or twice, by a Mod for doing what the board said I should do: give an honest response to the poem. It’s just that my response took the poem apart, line by line, to show where it failed; it was not a typical back-patting or cliquish response. In other words, because I did NOT give a critique that spoke to the board’s tone of conformity, I was attacked. (By the way, even the poet later said I was right about the poem.)

    To his credit, on one occasion the Mod did later apologize to me privately for going off half-cocked. I do not know if that was because another Mod had reined him in, when I asked the other (friendlier) Mod to intervene; or if this was indeed a genuine apology. I accepted it; but I didn’t trust that person ever again.

    But my overall experience has been the same as with newspapers: They almost never print retractions or public apologies. Or if they do, it gets buried somewhere because after all, “we’ve already moved on.”

    That too is a problem: So while the Admins and Mods can claim to have an open process, when someone is censured, and it turns out to have been an error, that is almost never addressed. THis speaks both to the climate of conformity and also to the tendency for people to want to be always in the right, and never allow others to see them with egg on their face. Shame leads to silence, even when it should not.

    As to critical conformity:

    Poetry IS subject to the winds of fashion; at least as much if not more than any other artform. There are always those who follow the tyranny of opinion, as John Stuart Mill said, and those who resist it. What is critically fashionable right now might produce guffaws in just a few years. (One thinks of the whole post-avant LangPo ur-fashion these days.)

    The problem is, on a workshop board as in an MFA classroom, there is usually a de facto tyranny of style. A typical tone that one had better adhere to; and very often a typical KIND of poem. Many boards focus on only one or two kinds of poetry. The Critical Poet Board actually was an exception in that they made a separate forum for those who were interested in focusing on haiku, ghazal, cinquain, and other “Short Forms.” Those poems just weren’t getting the attention they deserved on all the other boards. That ended being a great forum for a long time, full of smart people who were well-versed in those forms and very willing to teach others about them. (I count myself in that number.)

    My aforementioned bad experience at Desert Moon Review was partly because my poems were nothing like what one usually sees on that board; and they made it clear that they didn’t want none of my kind hangin’ ’round thar. It felt a lot like shunning. I actually didn’t take it very personally, because I did figure out on my own that it was a mismatch experience. Posting sonnets on a haiku board wouldn’t be a good match, either, for example.

    But this gets at my point: A lot of people on the boards don’t have a real center to their art. They are learning, or they are practicing, but in many cases they have no clear idea what they want to do. It is very easy to get them to follow the whims of the latest fashion. And where do you go if you write a diverse range of poetry on a diverse range of topics? Where do you find a home for that? Probably you’d have to live on multiple boards—and each board you post on doubles the amount of time you have to spend online, responding and critiquing; logistically, this is not always feasible.

    A lot of negative pillorying critique is very much about insider and conformist cliques: about in-groups and outsiders; about what people think poetry is vs. those who like to experiment and explore. Even the post-avant LangPo camp has closed ranks against most outsiders. I feel honored to be equally vilified by both the LangPoets AND the neo-formalists. LOL I guess I must be doing something right. (And I’ve written an entire essay about how the psychology of both of these camps are insider psychologies; cf. Eric Hoffer’s “The True Believer.”)

    The point is, if the Mods and Admins of a particular board do in fact want to walk their talk about being a board open to ALL kinds of poetry, they had better monitor for just this sort of conformity, cliquishness, and all their related symptoms. Granted, that can be a lot of work. But if the health of poetry is what really matters, then it’s worth it.

  65. Arthur, man, I will come back to your post in awhile. You make a very valid point. But I was just, this moment, reminded of a circumstance I had forgotten about. All of a sudden I am blown away by the recollection.

    Upthread I say the governing system of site admins and moderators is corrupt. My little tale is evidence to that effect.

    As has been touted some months ago, and at my urging, I was banned from Poets.org. It is the online site sponsored by The Academy of American Poets. Some while later I learned that the site’s administrator, who is a paid employee of the Academy, had instructed her staff of moderators, prior to my banning, they could not have pm contact with me. Since she has the capability of viewing all the board’s private messages, of course, she would know of any such contact.

    This is the kind of corruption, the kind of Orwellian mind control, at least one poetry board has descended to. All defenders of the system can call me a whiner until the cows come home and the chickens roost. But there is a problem in the board system. Read my essay again. Read it sentence by sentence and this time read it not dismissevly. If you are reading these words I figure that over on your favorite poetry board some site admin might have the capability to read your private messages and they might take exception to what you say.

    What is that old saying about how power corrupts and how absolute power corrupts absolutely? The system is just wrong.

    Terreson

  66. As has been touted some months ago, and at my urging, I was banned from Poets.org. It is the online site sponsored by The Academy of American Poets. Some while later I learned that the site’s administrator, who is a paid employee of the Academy, had instructed her staff of moderators, prior to my banning, they could not have pm contact with me. Since she has the capability of viewing all the board’s private messages, of course, she would know of any such contact.”

    O.K. Now you’ve just gone barking mad Terreson. Give it up, you’re making a fool of yourself.

  67. Tere,

    My recollection is that you asked and then demanded to be banned. The admin, as far as I know, is not paid for her work, and I can assure you that she never, never forbade PM contact with you. Your source for that misinformation is mistaken (or worse). I don’t mind a debate about how sites are administered, but I don’t like to see such assertions as these offered as fact. I have no argument with you personally, Tere, or with your topic, but I’m concerned about these misrepresentations.

    Steve

  68. Lordy. This afternoon several people have sent me messages saying that over at one of the TCP sites some mod has taken exception to this thread’s title, “The Pee in the Pool of Online Poetry.” Hatrabbit that be you, right?

    I think I read Clattery right enough to guess he is an honest broker. So I don’t think he will object to what I am about to say.

    The title of my essay is this: “Are Poetry Boards Good For Poetry?” On the other hand, I get what Clattery means. Too many of you mods, admins, second-rate critics keep pissing in the waters. You constitute the class of online poetry participants I most object to. Yours is the smugness online most damaging to online poetry.

    So while I didn’t come up with the phrase I’ll take it. Ya’ll just don’t get how much damage you’ve done.

    Terreson

  69. Steve, I was shown the message. I stand by what I said. So ask the Academy if your boss is not a paid employee. And, okay, Hatrabbit, if that is how you need it to be I am crazy. Ya’ll have more to defend than I do.

    Terreson

  70. Terreson,

    I couldn’t care less what the title is, I just made that point that it showed where you were coming from. If that wasn’t the title you wanted over your own post , it’s certainly not my problem. Work it out with your editor.

    What I said, in effect, was that you felt the mods of poetry forums were the ones pissing in the pool.

    And here, in your own words:

    “Too many of you mods, admins, second-rate critics keep pissing in the waters.”

    There. Something we’re in agreement on.

    I find it incredible that you were reduced to outright lies about the Poets.org Admin being a paid employee and non-existent memo’s to the moderators, as well as the clueless notion that the Admin or moderators of Poet.org have access to PM’s.

    Nice work.

  71. Hi Arthur,

    Sorry to take so long to respond.

    “Dave R. made this comment:

    “When I see discussions like this on the forums it usually comes from the people who spend more time talking ABOUT poetry rather than participating in the workshops themselves. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing because I’m always tracking these discussions as best I can and often learn from them. I’m also not saying those people don’t write poetry, they might be writing great poetry. I just don’t put much stock in being told what’s being gained from a workshop by people who aren’t in there participating.”

    I did follow up that first sentence with: I’m not saying that’s a bad thing because I’m always tracking these discussions as best I can and often learn from them. I’m also not saying those people don’t write poetry, they might be writing great poetry. So, in a sense I’ve already agreed with a lot of what you’re saying here. Maybe not as graciously as I could have.

    Re: “If you’re going to have an open forum, you need to let people do what they do. Your suggestion comes dangerously close to telling poets what they SHOULD do. If you don’t like being told something, but you turn and tell somebody something, that seems a little uneven. ”

    I think we’re talking about a continuum of openness here. Poetry forums are, mostly, not completely open. They are semi-directed, I’m aware some think overly directed.
    Terreson mentioned the word ‘organic’ in his article referring to the ideal structure of a forum, and I think that was an interesting term. Even an organic farmer thinks about companion planting, the layout of the land and where the sun is coming from and even what will sell at the farmer’s market. In other words there is some conscious direction required. I think most of the argument is about the level of intervention required to keep a forum moving along successfully. My view is that people are pretty much free to do what they want within the parameters set out at the forums I participate in, whether as a member or as a moderator.

    “For example, if a poet is in a fallow period, and isn’t writing much new poetry, maybe they want to continue to participate in the community by talking about poetry. Are you really suggesting that they should just shut up, instead?”

    No. As I said, I follow a lot of those discussions myself and learned a lot from the experience (funnily enough, the poetics discussions at PFFA, often cited as the most oppressive board, are where I’ve learned the most). There are a lot of members who exclusively, or almost exclusively, post on poetics threads at Poets.org and that is a meaningful and valuable contribution to the forum, often more so than critiquing. My problem was with someone who I saw as not contributing to critique forums telling those who do how those forums should be run. You said everyone posting here has a long history of contributions in that area so I’ll concede that I was misinformed and too quick to snark there. My apologies.

    Cheers,
    Dave

  72. Well, hatrabbit, unless my informants have lied to me I am representing what I believe to be true. And, yes, I did read the memo, as you put it. I suppose this means, again to use your verbiage, I am not the liar. Interesting representation you and bunch give.

    But you know something, rabbit? The tactic you are using in the discussion has become standard operating procedure among mods. Trivialize and marginalize any member who questions the system. It is precisely what you are doing now, rabbit. It is what both sbunch and Ward did upthread. What you did upthread too. It is what ya’ll do on your boards too. Here at least, and so far, I don’t have to worry about your powers to delete and an admin’s powers to ban. So I am going to call your system on its shit for as long as I am allowed to have a voice.

    Today I got an angry and passionate email from someone, I assume he is a young man, who has followed this conversation and who took me to task for caring about poetry when there is so much hatred, killing, and poverty in the world. On a certain level of course he is right. I told him so in reply. But I also told him that if poetry doesn’t matter what the fuck does? If the possibility of beauty in expressed freedom doesn’t matter than nothing matters.

    I am not the problem here, hatrabbit. The system you so need to defend is. You, as a mod, are party to that system, implicating you in the online corruption.

    Sorry to be so blunt. You’ve called me a liar and called me crazy. I don’t know your motives. But I question you.

    Terreson

  73. This will be my last post here.

    Terreson, you are free to believe whom you choose. In effect, you’ve called me a liar. I’m not, at least not in this instance. Seems to me that if you’re going to make claims about the poets.org admin, you need to back them up with something other than hearsay. Dave and I can’t prove a negative, and obviously we’re tainted because we’re moderators. You might contact the Academy and ask about their site admin and moderator payroll. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit that I’m afforded (but only recently) an annual membership, which entitles me to a t-shirt, a book, and some refrigerator magnets. (That’s right–I spend all that time and take all this shit for a tee shirt, a book, and some magnets.) Oh, and I think we get a 10% discount at the poets.org store. Yeah, it’s beginning to add up.

    And this to Rus Bowden, the founder of the feast here, I suspect, though I don’t know for a fact, that you know that Terreson’s allegations are false. If you do have that knowledge, your silence makes you complicit. It would be nice if you’d weigh in on these specific charges or at least ask Terreson to substantiate them.

    I’m done. Thanks for reading.

    S.

  74. Well, the defensiveness finally comes to the surface.

    Bunch, I did not say that you or any other moderator at Poets.org is a paid employee of The Academy of American Poets. I did say that the site’s administrator is. And if you say again the site’s admin did not admonish mods from having pm conversation with me in that private forum you all have you bet I will call you a liar. If you tell me you all don’t share pm’s received from members with each other I will again call you a liar. Your site admin, damned if I can remember her name, said so on your board last fall.

    One last item. Why are you taking exception with Rus Bowden for what are clearly my thoughts? He has attacked no one. Neither has Clattery. I guess you and the rabbit could feel under attack by me. If so, take me on and prove me wrong. Neither of you have proved me wrong.. What I take away from your last post is that if some blog meister makes available a forum for discussion that cannot be mod controlled you get uncomfortable.

    I thought more of you, bunch.

    Terreson

  75. Dave, thank you for that gracious apology about the people here all contributing to the poetry boards–the whole about people having participated, not just complained. Apology accepted.

    In the brief time I was at Poets.org, i was indeed one of those who only posted in the poetics forums, and not on the poetry forums per se. I frankly never liked or trusted the critique on poems themselves, although I did lurk on a few of those boards, and did post critiques if not my own poems for critique. I was even at one time specifically asked by Christine to post an educational piece about haiku on the “Poetic Craft–Resources” forum, which I did. I had prepared a second post at one time, but events interceded before I could follow through on that. It was also pretty obvious to me that hardly anyone was that interested in the topic, anyway. Which is all fine; it is what it is. I believe in enticing people’s interest in things that are new to them; I don’t believe in coercion of any kind, not even in coercing people to do things that prove to be good for them.

    Nonetheless, I have to say this about the discussions on the poetics forums at Poets.org: almost every time I opened my mouth on any of the discussion forums I frequently found myself attacked, often personally, and often predictably by two or three of the same names. (BTW, I save off to my hard drives copies of all such postings, as evidence should I ever need it. Which I have, once or twice.) The overall climate was not one of collegial conversation or rational disagreement; it was usually a hostile environment, in which rudeness was excused as “honesty,” and there was definitely a clique which included a few Mods who were in the lead on the dismissive remarks and hostility. Yes, I can name names (as I said, I save that shit off). As for honesty, I give very frank and honest critique, but if I can manage to do it without being rude or hostile, so can you. (Et vous, aussi.)

    The point, though, is that my experience of watching how this de facto clique worked led me to eventually leave. “Circling the wagons,” indeed. Nor was I the only one to leave when I did. Enough was enough.

    At the same time, there were lots of smart folks around who were willing and interested in engaging in discussions of poetics on a friendly and reasonable basis. That was encouraging at first, but when the same people predictably came along and shouted them down, and when a certain Mod predictably started deleting things he didn’t like (which I have seen him do on three separate boards where he became a Mod), it was very clear that there WAS in fact a division between the general membership and the Mods, and in fact “some people ARE more equal than others.” In the case of that certain Mod, who often seeks out power wherever he goes, corruption does indeed ensue. It would be hilarious if it weren’t so predictable.

    Poets.org is a huge effing board. It’s probably too big to manage. Still, it could be better managed, and with a lighter touch. It’s actually a relief (thanks, Mr. MacH.) to be able to talk about this stuff, finally, because all too often it’s not permitted anywhere. Most boards have a policy of NOT naming names or talking about all this stuff; on many boards, that’s an actionable offense. I understand the rationale behind that, but it also very clearly adds to the problem: Silence breeds resentments, and lack of trust, and (ultimately) resentment, and perhaps even vindictiveness. Many of the boards DO have a close-mouthed policy about disciplinary activities that does not lead to an environment of open justice and trust. (Watch any Western movie to learn about the archetypes involved.) As a general member–I have never been a Mod on any board any of you have ever heard of, and were I asked to become a Mod, I would decline–it is sometimes difficult to see decisions not made openly and publicly as anything but circling the wagons.

    The issue is that of appearance as much as of fact. I have raised the issue of appearance to many Mods on many boards, and only one or two have ever acknowledged that appearances can be a problem. Mostly, they just got defensive. (I frequently had to remind them that I was not blaming them, just pointing out how things looked from the outside. This frequently fell on deaf ears.)

    Again, thanks to Mr. MacH. for a place to air out all this dirty laundry without it being instantly deleted. It’s time to clear the air about all this–because every attempt I’ve seen on the boards themselves to discuss these issues and problems and behaviors HAS been summarily shut down, shouted down, suppressed, and/or deleted. It has always been denied, and it has always been autocratically dealt with, even by Admins who beforehand did not behave autocratically. In the past year or two, I have observed to happen at Poets.org, at The Critical Poet (twice at least), at Capriole, and elsewhere. I have even been personally targeted once or twice by a Mod who apparently went off the deep end and eventually imploded. I might add that all I did was disagree with him, and not even very forcefully.

    So much for the climate of open discourse without personal investment.

    It does lead one back to the recurrent observation that people let out their dark sides to play online in ways they never would face to face. There’s something about the relative anonymity of this text-only medium, and also something about its limitations (no ability to hear tone of voice, etc.), that seems to give certain people the feeling that have license to misbehave. Those of us who struggle hard in our lives to be authentically ourselves, online as well as off, can find this baffling. And yes, people DO hide behind pseudonyms. And some people who become Mods DO abuse the power given to them, aided and abetted by their anonymity and protection from repercussions. When’s the last time you saw a Mod publicly reprimanded, or banned? Hmn?

    So, Terreson’s argument about a climate of defensive management rings true, based on the evidence of observation.

    This doesn’t mean that poetry boards are all bad per se. It doesn’t even mean that the majority of poets involved are anything other than good and well-intentioned people. It doesn’t mean that the climate of hostility cannot some day be mended; and I agree with many of the suggestions upthread about what that might look like. I doubt Terreson would bother to have written his essay if he didn’t care about the future of online poetry in general, and of poetry boards in particular. What it DOES mean is that it is time to air out a lot of dirty laundry. You can all disagree with that, if you wish. You can even shout it down, here and elsewhere. But I hope you all realize that in doing so–or in merely dismissing and disparaging it, and refusing to deal with it–you are complicit in it’s continuation. That is not an accusation: it is an observation.

    As Edmund Burke once famously quoted, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” I do not say any of this is evil. I do say that doing nothing about it, however, can potentially fester and destroy the very things you all say you care deeply about.

    So, it is indeed high time to discuss it. So far, so good.

  76. I asked that my real name not be used. Call me Clattery, maybe Clay for short, C. for shorter.

    I got up early this morning, went to work, went to my uncle’s funeral, went back to work, went to Cambridge for a concert (Blue Heron: Music from the Era of El Greco & Velázquez: The Musical Patronage of Francisco Gómez de Sandoval y Rojas (1552–1625) Duke of Lerma). I certainly don’t feel complicit in anything by my “silence” as I catch up on my reading before going to bed way too late. For tomorrow, you can interpret my silence as being at work.

    I titled this article. I get to. What’s the problem? What’s the dig for? There something pure about the behavior that’s gone on at the poetry forums? How about in this thread alone? How about a build up of years of this malarkey? How about moderators flaming the threads of poets? How about the stifling, ridiculous rules of discussion that have nothing to do with making poetry that abound on forums? You’re a Martian landing today, looking at this thread, A to Z and back to A, and it supports up and down, by example, that there is territorial dog pee in the pool the poets are swimming in. This essay is one poet’s shot at a filter.

    We talk about poets leaving forums for other forums, and bicker that these are better than those. There are poets not in this discussion because the waters have not been fine. They’re gone from online poetry altogether, never to return. They were not accepted for who they were, but were shoved into rule-based forums, where there ought to be certification exams before posting a poem. Who could anticipate such insanity?

    I bring this issue up so that forums can improve. If admins and moderators choose to dig in and argue side points in order to discount someone they disagree with, in order to gain points toward a “win” like they do on the forums, it is their loss.

    You can interpret the upcoming silence as my going to bed now.

    C.

  77. What C. said.

    I’d like to underline one point: “If admins and moderators choose to dig in and argue side points in order to discount someone they disagree with, in order to gain points toward a “win” like they do on the forums, it is their loss.”

    I do find it fascinating how that same tactic is being used here as well as on the forums: the defensiveness and the need to reply and paint oneself as being in the right, often by impugning one’s person rather than responding directly to the issues raised. That actually began with comment no. 2 on this very thread, and has continued.

    It’s fascinating because the force of the denial speaks to the apparent uncertainty of the position being defended. If it’s a position that’s so strong that it needs no defense, why come here to defend it? That speaks to some deep uncertainty about the truth and fairness of one’s own position, perhaps even some insecurity, and it manifests as a lot of flailing around.

    No one is so insecure of his position as the one who feels a need to shout down all opposition and all questioners.

  78. Incredible to me how nasty the situation has become. On one board especially not only am I getting personally attacked but the host of this blog as well, both in public and in private. And, of course, on the boards there is nothing I can say for fear of reprisal. What a strange order has been created.

    Terreson

  79. Damn, Clattery. I’ve read and replied to Cleo’s comments on the essay. Very thoughtful, measured, even handed. Color me impressed and heartened. You do seem to have some fun friends. Thanks for the lead.

    On the subject of thanks, I want to thank the few people, people such as Arthur, who, over the last eight days, have looked for the constructive dialogue over the essay. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. Even my best friend takes issue with a point or two the article draws out. But calling someone like me, or even Clattery, the problem is rather like killing the messenger, which, in itself, suggests the problem lies elsewhere.

    Terreson

  80. Hi Terreson,

    Thanks go to you for writing and attending to your essay–even in the face of some of the nastiness. Both your strength and your weakness come from the sweet spot in your soul, which makes some (most) appreciate you, but others want to take you down and eat you for breakfast.

    No matter where you go in poetry, no matter the skill level, the genre, it does not matter–there are so many terrific people. I want the best for them, and we should hear all their voices. Your essay goes a long way toward bringing this about.

    This essay won’t die out. It will continue to live on the web. It will be referenced for some time to come. The comments that come months and years from now will be great to read.

    C.

  81. Clattery, I admire you for carrying the essay. Everyone knows your position in the online poetry board community. It would have been easy, effortless for you, safer actually, not to carry it on your blog. Letting someone speak up is a brave thing. Whether it be in the Defense Department, in Bejing, on the streets of Chicago, on the streets of Madrid, in Chile, or on the American poetry boards where I’ve sadly learned a few new/old lessons.

    I think I said upthread that poetry will outlive the boards. We all know it will. Hell, poetry outlives empires and religions. Politics too and economics. If my essay addresses a certain, local, problem concerning poetry boards, still the board system is just a gadfly to be swatted down.

    In the end, Clattery, and nobody has to believe me, by now many people have called my motives into question, it is the newbees, the first round poets, the passionate youngsters, girl and boy, the middle-aged woman going through a crisis, the older man and woman who for some reason they don’t know come to poetry, and all of these people having something true, sometimes incredibly perfectly beautiful to say, these are a few of the people I had in mind when questioning the online poetry board system. You just never know when your next Rimbaud or Dickinson will show themselves.

    I am satisfied the system sucks. I am satisfied that the system can correct itself. All it needs is for the poetic instinct to come first, and for the community minded (collective) instinct to come a late, late second.

    Terreson

  82. I’ve been reading a lot of the comments on the other boards Mr. MacH. posted above. The amount of vitriol is exceeded only by the number of vested interests who would love to dismiss all this, sweep it under the rug, and revert to their comfortable ideas of the status quo. I’ve even been reading the threads to which I will no longer contribute, having given my word that I would never post there again. It’s tempting but it’s not worth breaking my word, because the results would be as predictable as they have become. In a way, that’s really very sad.

    But I’m still glad this has all been brought up for discussion, despite the many veiled personal attacks and vested dismissals. It has festered for a long time, and it’s good to give the issues involved some air time. My more cynical side has no belief whatsoever that anything will come of it–people don’t like to admit they’re wrong, they don’t like to resign their positions of power, especially when they don’t see why they might consider it, and they don’t like to be told things that they disagree with. The more hopeful remains grateful that it’s been brought up and vigorously discussed, regardless. That way lies potential growth, potential resolution, and potential improvement. The “shut up” attitude, although those who promote seem blind to it, brings us only more of the same, a continuation and deepening of the worst aspects of the status quo, and no chance at all of rebirth. That way lies the victory of entropy–which in itself ought to be reason enough to resist that attitude.

    I just read a comment on another board about all this wherein the poet said he’s been getting emails on a poetry board asking him to not question other poets’ critiques and opinions. Beyond the sheer, astonishingly Orwellian aspects of such a request, that completely contradicts those many guidelines on those many boards who pay at least the minimum lip-service to the free exchange of ideas, information, and discussion and bout poetry. Such blatant attempts to stifle debate are truly stunning.

    La plus ca change, la plus meme chose.

  83. I find myself coming to this conversation very late. I’ve been involved in forums for quite a while, as an admin and mod for several years of one of the biggest (at a time when Tere was an assistant admin/mod), when Calitica’s/Colin Ward’s various aliases were rightly banned, as a current admin of the site Tere suggests represents what poetry sites can amount to when egos and stupidity don’t interfere, and as an active (1000 plus posts) at The Gaz.

    I agree fundamentally with Tere’s original post. I can’t be bothered getting into a slanging match, but in my experience the following statements prove themselves true over and over again.

    1) If Tere gets underneath people’s skn, it’s invariably because they have the sort of fragile self-esteem and psyche that is drawn to seeking small amounts of power in poetry forums. Almost invariably, they lack genuine poetic talent and as such are scared of having their opinions challenged.

    2) people who are drawn to moderating and admining poetry forums often do it because they have no other currency in the world of poetry. Publication isn’t everything (though for me is the goal), but generally admins remain marginal at best and seem to enjoy exercising the small amount of leverage their actual ability ensures they can never otherwise access. Nor are they driven by a desire to contribute to fostering an environment where poets can develop. Poetry isn’t the primary concern- ego is. Occasionally an admin goes against the grain (the Gaz is a good example of that, as ae many of the mods there,)but generally not.

    3) arguments here and elsewhere about the choice of title for the original essay are laughably juvenile and silly. They are the sorts of arguments people resort to when they feel threatened by someone, because they sense somewhere, deep down, that they are wrong.

    4) events a few months ago at poets.org, which i read after the fact, were a validation of my above comments about admins and mods. And, given who the original perpetrator was, it’s hard to see them as anything other than a very small, insecure person taking revenge for a series of bannings that had happened years previously, and an ego clash that was never resolved. The whole incident fundamentally reduces any claims poets.org has as a grownup, strong forum. An analysis of the level of poetry and crituque might lead to the same conclusion.

    5)similarly, events that haappened a few years ago at TCP, which resulted ultimately in a schism and the departure of half a dozen of that site’s leading practitioners, readers, and best people, validate the idea espoused by both Arthur and Tere that power corrupts and that, fundamentally, the sort of poeple drawn to leadership of online forums lack the people skills and ability for self reflection that are completely vital in any form of leadership.

    Like Tere, I have faith in online forums. Certainly, were it not for the encouragement and criticism of some absolutely first rate people, including Pat, Arthur and Tere, I wouldn’t be the writer I am today. For a young australian who’s poetic development occurred largely while living in China, the access to like minds and learning was extremely valued. But, generally speaking, they are riddled with hacks and wannabes, people with grudges to deal with, people who, because of their insecurities, feel threatened by the freeflow of debate and discussion.

  84. I would like to call to attention that both groups of agenda’s are seeking validation in the validated. That is all.

    Also, I’d like to add that the cut of your lip has left a bruise on the table. God forbid you learn to go down on the muse while she’s bleeding.

    P.S. The proof is in the pudding but not everyone has the same number of taste buds.

    End note. A list of books to I think people should read. “The Anxiety of Influence” Harold Bloom. Any Essay by Ralf Waldo Emerson. “Seuxal Personae”…sadly I forget who the author’s name. Um…”Letters to a Young Poet”, by Rilke, “What is Surrealism?” By Andre Breton, “Finite and Infinite Games,” By James something. A handful of poetry anthologies. Read contemporary stuff. The poet has the last word. Um, oh…and most importantly of all,

    those exhalted now…well they have yet to stand the test of time, and the likes of Hall or Collins or Ginsberg and Whomever, once they reach say 200 years, then maybe, possibly, they can be deemed as great….maybe. I don’t know.

    Some other books I think evey poet should have. A dictionary. An etymological dictionary. Poetics and Rhetoric by Aristotle. The Book of Forms by Lewis Turco. Um…hmmm…Books by poets in the locality that you live, whether nationwide, state, county, country….ect…

    oh and never ever trust anyone other than your self. I know that I don’t write great poetry, but I also know that everyone has their own agenda, their own schooling, their ‘favorite’ poets, writers, strippers, singers, pimps, prostitutes, sexual positions, fathers, mothers, spaceships, grandpas. Sasuage.

    Anyhow, I like this magic act of spit and palm, but I have to go.

    It’s been nice. When you guys are done being Polyphemus there’s poems that need to be critiqued, books to be read, and the great pursuit of selfishness that is always in art. Spit and palm. Stroke! Stroke! You guy are drowning.

    – Ryan Barrientos Wilbur

  85. Oh also, to T, I think you made some excellent points about workshops. You must have done a lot of work and spent may hours writing this. And I mean this in the most sincere way of possible. And as a reader and writer who knows that one can never get to where they’re going, only dance in the flux, it’s refreshing to read something that makes sense, and makes one evalulate communication and interaction. I wish more boards would propose questions to the poets. Not enough conversation. And if we are working in the same way that nature works, or if nature is working in the same way we work, it important as little cells of information that we share with each other. It gives a grand and wider scope of who we are in relation to our litte spot on this big cosmic body…which is of course a metaphor, God is not the cause it the Effect.

    Ryan Barrientos Wilbur

    I really only belong two sites Shakespearesmonkeys.com and Alsop…but honestly I’m about tired of workshops, not that I don’t mind valid opinions, but I think a lot of people are looking for justification, I just want to say do it, do it regardless of whatever anyone thinks. I mean, after so many rejections you’ll either get better or you won’t. And if you stick with it long enough you can be a handful of dust under somebody’s kitchen.

  86. Lot of mixed signals there, Ryan. first you mock then you agree? Which is fine, of course. But it definitely muddies the waters of your intent, rather than clarifying them. As for your list of recommended readings, it’s a nice list, and could be added to.

    “Finite and Infinite Games” is by James P. Carse. If you liked that book, you also might like his “Breakfast at the Victory.”

    “Sexual Personae” is by Camille Paglia. Radical provocateur. I assume you’ve also read her book actually about poetry, “Break, Blow, Burn”?

    As for the proof being in the pudding, many of those who have posted to this thread, or parallel threads elsewhere, are fine poets who have substantial bodies of good poetical work. That accusation keeps coming up: that people should shut up in talking about poetry and the poetry boards, unless they too are poets who have contributed to the scenes they’re critiquing. Maybe you didn’t get that far down the thread, but as I said before, yeah, these folks ARE poets, and good ones. They’re not talking about something of which they know nothing; quite the opposite. That’s why it’s worth listening to, and talking about.

    You also seem to imply that seeking validation for one’s viewpoint is a bad thing. You’re quite correct in that many people ARE seeking validation–often because they’ve felt stifled of shut up or invalidated previously, and have not had the chance before to air out their concerns this openly. But that is no bad thing. Everybody likes to feel as if they’re being heard. Speaking only for myself, my life would not be harmed in any way if no one validated me or my ideas: it’s nice, but I don’t need it, and my self-esteem doesn’t depend on it. Especially as a poet; I have to laugh out loud at the very idea.

    There are two ways to read your de facto mockery of people seeking validation (regardless of their viewpoint). (Oh and by the way, there are far more than just two sides to this issue; kindly don’t oversimplify it.) One way is to interpret your comment as an attempt to invalidate the entire argument. Another way to interpret it is that you yourself seek validation of your own outsider status to the issue. Both of these are fine. I’m just holding up a mirror.

    Oh, and also by the way, thanks again for the reading recommendations. Fortunately, they’re all titles I have on my bookshelves, and have already read. Except Aristotle, which I’ve read but don’t own. Cheers.

  87. I have been following this thread in hopes the substantive issues raised in Tere’s article would be taken up.
    Sadly, the discussion was aborted almost immediately by a cheap-shot artist. It seems to me that personal
    attack in lieu of reasoned argument is the last resort of petty power freaks. One of the very problems Tere seeks to address.

    I understand the need to face down
    such a person and I appreciate the
    uncensored environment in which the discussion has taken place. Maybe with time and cooling down, the real discussion can happen. I’ll be thinking on Tere’s points
    and looking forward to that time.

    For the record, I’m a member of poets.org and remember Tere’s participation there; it provoked thought and elevated/expanded the discourse. Often it was met with a volley of cheap shots, often by the mods. I never could figure that out. He rarely, if ever stooped to that level. His response to sincere input was always generous and inclusive.

    Many thanks to C for publishing this.

    Chris

  88. It’s not so much that I intended to mock the thread, I think there are extremely excellent points, I encourage communication to the highest and fullest, and agree most with what T has presented in his essay.

    But, I sit on the sidelines of this, and I read most of the thread, not all but most, and the back and forth became tiresome. So to clarify, yes, I agree with the thread, will it make a difference in the long run? I don’t know.

    But, to clarify more, I left the book list for those wishing, (and more importantly those who don’t have the proper equipment to par take in the discussion, such as younger or less academic writers)to expand there horizons. I’m by no means Mt. Sinai, nor do I claim to be. But…

    I feel that time is the ultimate tell all, which is nothing new, and everything is a nice golden froth, and it should be valued for what it is and isn’t.

    I look at it a number of ways, and the originality isn’t too alarming, there’s always going to be cliques, mirrors, handshakes, smiles, and frowns, ultimately, I guess what I was getting at, is it comes down to what you think, and how honest you are with your self. There’s nothing wrong with being your own critic, as long as you are genuinely honest, I write things all the time that I wish I could write better, so I try to, and if it doesn’t work it doens’t work. I don’t know where I’m going with this…but yeah, communication is key, it helps to harmonize reader and writer.

    What suprises me the most about validation, is that there are those who feel because they’ve attended such and such, and read so and so, that they are now the dog’s tooth in the lamb’s ear. As far as I’m concerned poetry speaks for its self, and you’ll know by any form it takes regardless of the light or shadow. After all it’s no coicidence that we call this universe, it just takes some people more time to appreciate the etchings of their hand.

    1. Be a servant to the masses.
    2. Be a servant to the academcis.
    3. Be a servant to your self.
    4. Be a servant to a particular philosophy.
    5. Die.
    6. Maggots rejoice in your skull.
    7. But in the mean time appreciate the contradictions and beauty (however you define it) and in your quiet solipsism you may come to find your mind is but a little bit of gray matter in a thing bigger than your self and at the same time exactly who you are and who you have always wanted to be.
    8. Then communicate your self to your self.
    9. Arthur did you see your face when you held the mirror up to me?

    -Ryan Barrientos Wilbur

  89. Well, certainly poetry speaks for itself. Whatever that means. It’s sort of a vague statement that doesn’t really tell me very much. I can assume it means that the strength of the poem is what matters; the quality of the writing, etc. But it remains a somewhat vague statement. (One can argue a long time about what quality means, too. There are several scales, and axes of interpretation of meaning.) There have been a lot of oversimplifications already on this thread, used to make rhetorical points.

    I do agree that the test of time is often the final arbiter of quality of creative work; what endures is often the cream rising to the top; although it is interesting to note that even the test of time is wrong about enduring popularity, if not quality. And some great works do get overlooked, too. Many of the great poems of times past are not all that well known. So the test of time is not perfect, although it’s often the only test that matters.

    It’s another sweeping generalization that contains some truth, but also has exceptions. I tend to avoid absolutist statements like that, simply because there are always exceptions, thereby proving that no absolute statements are absolutely true. Welcome to a universe that contains entropy: nothing lasts forever, and nothing avoids change.

    Your original comments, however, seemed to imply that no one here had written poetry that speaks for itself, but were non-poets kvetching about things. I doubt I was the only one who interpreted your remarks that way; but if I was, c’est la vie.

    As for your list of books, it’s not at all a bad list. But speaking of validation, why bother posting a list of books others “should” read? Maybe that’s just another kind of validation being sought. Or not.

    Funny thing about mirrors. Holding one up is an invitation to self-reflection. But not everyone wants to do that; it can take courage, too. Being evasive about it is just another form of refusal. My mirrors are fine, thank you.

  90. Much good thinking going on. Sam is incredible, bloody incredible with the way he synthesizes information. Arthur who has a way of seeing to details. And we all know the devil is in the details. And what about what Chris D says when she says maybe with time and cooling down the real discussion can begin?

    By now both my motives and sanity have been brought into question on a couple of boards. But Chris D is right. I too am looking for the real discussion.

    Terreson

  91. Vintner wrote: “PFFA isn’t for vanity posters, poseurs, posers, poetasters or illiterates who can’t read guidelines. It ain’t for the thin skinned or the deluded.”

    The only ones who are deluded are those who think PFFA isn’t the playpen for sadistic babies who have no power anywhere else, and masochistic poets who like bondage and discipline.

    Diana

    .

  92. Dave wrote:

    “some poet has been banned for something he/she said in PM to one of the board’s moderators. It appears the board has a relatively new guideline. A member can be banned from the “public” board for comments made in a private message.”

    “Harrasing members in public posts or private messages is against the guidelines at that forum. Always has been.”

    Dave you know perfectly well that members PMs to any mod or the site admin are posted again the the moderators’ private forum, which is invisible to members.

    PMs are Ms, but they are not P! Nothing warns members that they can be banned as a result of a Private Message they have sent to a mod or admin, and this is exactly what happened in Terreson’s case. I was there; I witnessed it; I resigned as a result.

    Private Messages are not private.

    Diana

    .

  93. steve wrote:

    “Tere,

    My recollection is that you asked and then demanded to be banned.”

    Steve, if you were being stuck with sharp sticks, wouldn’t you want to go somewhere else?

    Tere was vilified and so was I for defending him and we both left.

    Diana

    .

  94. Dear All,

    In response to Clattery MacHinery’s comment that the Critical Poet (.org) was in the process of closing down Tere’s thread on the subject, I just wanted to state that this is untrue (but an understandable comment). The thread has obviously brought about emotive responses, and any limits sought were based on the idea of the essay being placed in the wrong room there, a room that does not quite have the history of wide discussion as some of our other rooms do.

    The subject remains fully open, and welcomed.

    Jodi.

  95. “In response to Clattery MacHinery’s comment that the Critical Poet (.org) was in the process of closing down Tere’s thread on the subject, I just wanted to state that this is untrue (but an understandable comment). The thread has obviously brought about emotive responses, and any limits sought were based on the idea of the essay being placed in the wrong room there, a room that does not quite have the history of wide discussion as some of our other rooms do.

    The subject remains fully open, and welcomed”.

    Yes, that is true, Jodi. But isn’t it also true that the TCP.org room for discussion was locked by an administrator and is still locked? It certainly appears that it was locked to stifle discussion. If not, for what other reason?

  96. Dear Patricia,

    “To stifle discussion” is a somewhat worrying choice of phrase given that it presupposes a certain narrative of joyous expression and brutal repression – there was stifling certainly, but not in the sense that you put across; instead, it was owing to the following: in the aftermath of the split between Criticalpoet.com and Critcalpoet.org there was a debate on how .org could move forward – as part of that we spoke of censorship, and the idea of an ideological rebirth. The line was that we would be fine up to the point of personal attacks against individuals (directed against the self, not the beliefs), which is a fairly sensible suggestion, along with preliminary discussions on voted-in mods with term limits, and the hope that mod interference would be extremely low (most of us agreed that in principle a board without mods would be good). A few mods were appointed, myself included, by the site admin to help on a short-term basis with interim structuring after the split, and to essentially chair debates on the future guidelines of the site, knowing that there was a need for a revisiting of several aspects of openness that had troubled members into not moving on to the .com sister site.

    Thinking we weren’t being liberal enough (despite a promised wide berth for emotive outbursts, or singular instances etc.), a very small group of members personally attacked others with quite a deal of vitriol, wanting the full freedom of speech we should all have, but at the same time intimidating others who did not agree with the manner of its implementation, both by private message and in public; this was extended further into attacking the poems of others too. It was disappointing to me personally because I wanted to see a good debate on how to implement a nigh-on complete freedom, not with idealism, but with small steps and good poetry. As a consequence, the decision was taken by the site owner to close down the room traditionally used to talk about categories outside of the scope of the other rooms (the “Everything Else” board where most of this had all happened), and in the context of the fragility of the site at that time in the aftermath of the split, it was certainly the right decision (the “Everything Else” archives are available at Criticalpoet.org for your reference)

    The room has not since reopened, but it has been made clear on the board that we hope that will come soon (only the admin has control to do that, and is currently absent, but will undoubtedly take the advice of the mods that the room should be reopened). In addition, our belief is that everyone has the right to speak freely – we’d just appreciate it, as you would yourself, if they would attack each other’s ideas, not their individual personalities, or aspects of them that have nothing to do with the discussion. The very fact that Terreson’s essay is there at Criticalpoet.org, and discussed vigorously, is testament to the fact that the site has come through a difficult period to a point where we can now build a community again that is both challenging and representative of all manner of opinion.

    ^Jodi.

  97. Well I apologize Arthur, I’m not quite sure what for…since my oversimplification, sweeping generalizations, and attempt at an antenagoge or antanagoge following my first post seems to have gotten under your skin. And now since you’ve pointed out my oversimplification I will get down and dirty with T. But first

    “Your original comments, however, seemed to imply that no one here had written poetry that speaks for itself, but were non-poets kvetching about things. I doubt I was the only one who interpreted your remarks that way; but if I was, c’est la vie. ” Yes c’est la vie is what you should do, this is a neat little trick Arthur, call attention to the original post and not the one following it…I believe the second one is where the merit is, or at least how I truly felt about Ts essay. Your attempt at trying to show me as an asshole doesn’t work, because I know I’m an asshole that has nothing to say but a bunch of shit, take it or leave it. Everything is generalizations some more elaborate than others.

    And no where did I ever say I didn’t seek validation either Arthur. So stop trying to Lancelot me.

    Now on to T’s Essay.

    Dear Reader,

    Are poetry boards good for poetry?

    Yes and No. Everything is in flux and can change at anytime. I myself tend to be my own critic, and don’t post poem after poem, but poems I feel need ‘workshopped”, or poems I think could be improved.

    Do the boards benefit poets, the new and inexperienced especially who, in most cases, are grappling with the vital stuff of finding an authentic voice, gaining confidence in themselves, working through the canon, trying to figure out if they have something essential to say, and all at the same time?
    Some boards do, but the funny thing is, to me, as a personal opinion, you can’t create a poet. A person is either a poet or they’re not. It’s not something you can go to school for. Wow that sounds elitist, but I feel it’s true, you have so many people thinking anyone can be a poet. I’ll take this class, I’ll go to the this school, I’ll read these books, and then soon, and by golly, I’ll be a poet. I think if I can borrow out of context, Robert Frost said it best when he said “ To be a poet is a condition, not a profession.” But don’t misconstrue that, we all need proper training, and fellowship is a thing to be admired, so yes the books, the schooling, the influences are important….but it still takes more to be a poet. I think it’s impossible for the inexperienced/new writer, to do all that at one board, or all at the same time, it takes more measurements of time to achieve those things. I’ve been at this since I was in 5th grade, and since 5th grade I’ve improved, but I’m still learning, and I’ll still learn until the day I die. Poetry is always the same, it’s a mirror, but when you get tired of looking at your self, you start to notice the chair behind you, the room in the mirror, the window in the mirror, the shadows, ect…what’s important is it’s you and the mirror, but there’s also a room behind you. So to answer the question again, yes some poetry boards provide that, maybe all of them do, it may require putting up with bourgeoisie attitude of more academic boards, but fuck it, that’s life. It also depends upon how far the along the ‘poet’ is in his or her life. Everything is poetry, but not everything is a poem. And taste and styles will differ, and as they differ or evolve or simply perish, poetry is still there. Influence is the major contributor here, and everyone wants to jerk off their influence, no matter how aware of it they are or not, it’s natural.

    Do the boards, viewed as communities, engender poetry whose language is also authentic or do they falsify the poetry experience?

    Wow, I’ve been to boards whose poetry is authentic but wholly Tristan Tzara. I’ve been to boards, starting out, like poetry.com, who pray on people, but I was also 15 at the time. I was duped! But the Poetry experience can’t be falsified because poetry is the experience. Isn’t the point of a workshop to get to the point where you don’t need it anymore? Because you’ve got your own voice, your own honest critique, you’ve upped your knowledge? That’s what I always thought. Then again, I’m a weirdo.

    Another question comes to mind. Is even the notion of an online poetry community good for poetry?

    Community and fellowship helps to foster poetry, but so does something other than the internet, get involved, get off your computers, get back on your computers, communication is key. Even if it’s not communicating anything, but showing you the way a particular leaf looks against the pocked mouth of a meth addict. Community is detrimental when the poet relies on it. There is no reason, if you are a poet, who is strong voiced, who knows what he or she likes, who has found their self amid the myriad self, and is able to write great poetry , should be using it, then it’s showcasing, why not help the lesser poets, lesser writers. See that’s what I always got, there’s a bunch of great writers out there, and all they’re doing is showcasing their work, whether you like this comment or not, that is precisely what they are doing. They want confirmation, “yes that’s good work Ted.” When they know it is. All you have to do, is learn the rules, the tropes, read, and whamo! There you go. If these writer’s are so great, then they should be helping other writers be the best that can be by providing them with helpful critiques, not hateful, and a way to grow into a voice. But, there are a few times when the poet is unsure of his work, even the greats, and he will post his work in honesty to for help. So I guess I shouldn’t say that poets who’ve already grown into themselves are doing that, but just be aware some are.

    And maybe one last question. What impact on poets, and on poetry itself, do the parameters, the rules of conduct and the by-laws, of many boards have?

    I think more or less that by-laws are there to keep things moving along in a efficient, pleasant manner. One that I disagree with is to thank the critics and move along with no defense to your poem. Sure, if the poem is “My love is pretty, she is like a flower, I love her, she’s amazing…” Then yeah that poet has no room to defend his poem. But if it is something like this:
    Monroe had commented as well on the opening of the last stanza:
    Compass, quadrant and sextant contriveNo farther tides….
    “Nor do compass, quadrant and sextant,” she wrote, “contrive tides, they merely record them, I believe.”
    “Hasn’t it often occurred,” Crane replied,
    that instruments originally invented for record and computation have inadvertently so extended the concepts of the entity they were invented to measure (concepts of space, etc.) in the mind and imagination that employed them, that they may metaphorically be said to have extended the original boundaries of the entity measured?

    See this only works when one poet or editor to another poet, respects one another, not even respects, but knows they are in the know.

    What I find on most poetry boards are people who are in the know, and are absolutists, something to prove, how smart can I sound…pish posh. Just stick to the poem, be honest. If you respect the poet, see some inking of your self in her words then allow for questions, If you’re a good critic then it shouldn’t matter, plus you might be missing something, and if so, you’ve been thrown into a light or darkness greater than your self, and it’ll help you too.

    Great picture of Stephane Mallarme. =)

    “My sense is that the free exchange of ideas is viewed as dangerous to community”
    Of course it is. This is how it is anywhere. Whichever community you are a part of, there is things that can’t be said, or will be disagreed with, whomever the leading collective is. It’s sad, but true.

    “Then to notice how the exchange of views in heated debate is closely monitored by moderators, often admonished, sometimes deleted from a forum as inflammatory. “

    It’s an injustice but to be in justice is a farce. Let go and move on. Or better yet, make your own board. Be the collective make it how you’d visualize it.

    “The mantra frequently expressed is: ’be nice.’ The suspicion, however, is that what actually matters, and in top down fashion, is the board’s culture and not the poetry or the exchange over ideas concerning poetry. “

    Fuck that, be your self.

    “Rarely, if ever, is the meaningful dialogue allowed between the posting poet and the posting critic. Board guidelines tend to explicitly discourage the exchange. Poets are even told to thank the critic no matter what has been offered in the way of critical response. The password defining the parameters of the poet to critic relationship is “don’t crit the critter.” It is a rule, an effective gag order, that causes the head to wag and wobble, and one again I believe designed more for the sake of community cohesion than for the sake of the poet and poetry.”

    This is precisely what it is, say you write me a crit, whether right or wrong, I disagree, then you disagree, then I disagree, but instead of becoming a crit it becomes an argument on whose ass is smoother, and who should get a spanking, again, it sucks but it’s just the way it is.

    Public Boards Vs. Private

    If large boards don’t work for you, don’t use them. If private boards do, then use them. The only thing about private boards, or at least, in my experience, it becomes a jerking off ceremony, not all the time, but a lot of the time. But for the most part I agree, larger boards tend to stink when it comes to meaningful discussions and usually end up being pats on the back, but everything does once you start becoming a better poet.

    “While I’ve met many poets, new and old, clearly devoted to the discipline for its own sake, and who have both the instinct and the hunger for authentic poetry, two contrary salients stand out. First, there are the scores of posted responses to poems entirely lacking in sincerity. They tend to be complimentary and generic. Recently I was reminded how Donald Hall once decried America’s growing number of “
    McPoets,” products of false praise and encouragement without the supporting evidence of talent and ability. “

    I agree with this. But, then there’s nothing wrong with praise if it’s warranted, and sometimes its not, I hate it when I post a poem and someone says wow, that’s good, or whatever, it doesn’t help, but at the same time, I can honestly look at my work and say wow that is total shit. Scrap it or do something with it.

    Anti-intellectual Element.

    Would you like to discuss poetics with a Tzara? Or how about poetics with a Beat? Do you mean poetics and prosody in Turco’s case? Or Steeles? Does this include aesthetics? Plato or Rilke? If we were to get into a whole debate about such things, it’d be hours and hours, and hours long, in that time poems could be started and ended, or at least first drafts made.

    “On many boards, at least, members are not allowed to raise questions about other boards and, by extension, about the design and the parameters of the online poetry board system in general.”

    This is something I always found disheartening my self.

    “If poets are discouraged from raising questions and challenging precepts in their own community how then can they be expected to see to one of poetry’s cardinal responsibilities, that of breaking taboo and challenging clichés in behavior, perception, and language? “

    You hit the nail on the head but whose hammer did you use? Rhetorical question.

    “I am settled in the opinion that the greatest danger to poetry on line is the governing system of board moderators and site administrators, which system proves the Orwellian insight. All animals are created equal, some more than others. An insight that cannot be more abhorrent to artists in general, poets in particular, whose vocation requires they be slightly anarchistic, certainly free wheeling and passionate in their convictions, if they are to keep creative in their artistic personalities.”

    Oh pish posh, the greatest danger to poetry online is not the governing system, it’s playing the victim.

    That’s all I have to say. Great and amazing job T. Though I feel, that you make some great points, I want to say, oh well. You seem to be a very smart and validated person. Buck em? Know what I’m saying? Fuck em. Bend them over and fuck them. Or don’t do anything. See the thing about being human, is that they’re human too, and holding up a mirror to anything is holding up a mirror to poetry. So in the meantime, though I feel that you are correct in what you said…there’s poems to be critiqued, poems to be written, (good or bad) but poetry is always waiting.

    Yours Truly,

    Ryan Barrientos Wilbur

  98. Jodi, thanks for your explanation. I quit reading the board nearly two years ago and didn’t return until I heard the board had split so I missed the reasons for it. I certainly have no desire to read the archives. That’s the reason I quit visiting the board. I know you are working daily to make the TCP.org a better place to workshop and learn. As far as EE, the discussion room goes, it is unfortunate that your hands are tied for the moment I and others appreciate your efforts.

    Pat

  99. Thank you again, Clattery, for making the discussion possible. Board mods can bring my motives into question, which they’ve done. They can call me paranoid, which they’ve done. They can do what they do so well, which is to margianlize, trivialize, and, in the end, dismiss my essay, which some few of them have done. All of which is okay by me.

    What I particularly chuckle over is when I get called a whiner by a mod who then begs good intentions. In my neck of the woods begging good intentions amounts to whining.

    This essay raises so many and larger issues. I would rather go after the larger issues. I actually think the system could work. I also think a lot of people out there are sullying the boards with their dirt, admins, mods, and members.

    Poetry is the thing, people. Now prove my essay wrong.

    Terreson

  100. Hi Terreson,

    Saying something is one thing, and doing it another. I’ve sold cars long enough to know that it does not matter if a customer keeps saying “no” as long as she buys the car. Sometimes I might say, “You sure look like you’re buying it. Do you want to?” The reverse is true too, some customers say they are buying a car, but they sure don’t act like they are.

    Important work has been done, just by displaying the essay. You can hardly do more than have people engage themselves with it, no matter if it seems negative or positive. That’s the wind blowing.

    The comments are in the hundreds, the clicks on the essay link alone, the thousands, even as it appears as the feature. And, safe to say, most online poets, even at the IBPC forums, have no idea this is out yet. Word will continue to get around.

    So, prove it wrong? In their hearts many may try, some may succeed, and some of those may find themselves agreeing months or years from now. Others for any number of reasons will stay on the fence, or never comment about how the essay changed their points of view. It’s about positive change to me, not necessarily the argument(s) along the way.

    It’s about internalizing this knowledge that you have laid out. The muse was with you the day you began this essay. Poets know there’s truth in what the muse has us write.

    C.

  101. I am done with this. I have a garden to plant, poems to write, art to make…you all can keep having at it and I suspect will never agree.

    Hope someone lets me know know when it is over and we’re back to posting poetry.

    Having been banned online, my only advice is to find a poetry board that does not judge or ban you for your opinions or the content of your poems… or for speaking up for others chastised or banned. If you fall into the trap of wanting to please the mods and their followers on a poetry board…certainly not all boards, not respected boards…but if you allow any board to silence you, you will become, not an artist or a poet, but a poetry board puppet/pet.

    I saved a thread from a couple of years back on a poetry board because it was so offensive to me…an exchange where a moderator (whose poetry few have heard of) was so patronizing, self-absorbed in “fostering” new poets, that she referred to herself as the “motherator”, not a “moderator”. To me, that came damn close to pathological.

    You can guess what happened to me when I said so. : )

    Wishing you all the best…and goodnight.

    Pat

  102. Referring back to Tere’s comment upthread about what a good poetry board would look like, I read a comment about all this on a private board this morning, that said, in essence:

    It would be nice to find a poetry board where one could just be oneself.

    So, the goal is to hang out at a board where I can just be myself.

    I’m still looking, but at least that’s a positive goal amongst all the felgercarb.

  103. Here’s my idea for a board.

    1. Instead allowing for the critiques to be seen, have them hidden for x-ammount of days before they go public. I think that will eliminate the piggybacking of critics. And one will get more honest critiques, not just an echo of a homunculus, not that they don’t get honest critiques now, but I think it’d be interesting to see the difference before and after, and as a critic I’d still be able to compare notes and learn what other’s thought once it’d gone public.

    2. No by-laws. We’re all adults. You have the ultimate choice to be offended or not. If some word or person offends you, it is probably out of ignorance, stupidity is everywhere.

    3. Critiquing is open to question and discussion. No, thank the critic and move along now sir. But honest meaningful critiques, where it’s more than one side. I think as seasoned writers you’ll be able to tell who is letting the toilet run, and who isn’t. It’s as simple as this: Critic: Not bad…but…why…what’s good….but it doesn’t work because…. Poet: Thank you…I appreciate….but I feel you’re missing….ect.. If the critic or poet feels they’re both valid, or if the critic should change his mind, then, fine, if not, then fine. I think some people just want to beat a deadhorse until it is dogfood. Engage with each other, then let it go. But if a lot of the private critiques are saying the same thing, that should be a clue.

    That’s all I can think of right now.

    -Ryan Barrientos Wilbur

  104. I’ve read Larina’s alternative viewpoint three times now. I don’t find it entirely convincing. Of course, it’s not objective, it’s reactionary. Not that Tere intended to right something “balanced and fair,” as he was speaking up for issues that all too often have been silenced.

    Of course, there are points in the original essay I disagree with, too. But having read so many of Larina’s comments on the Poets.org thread, many of which pushed that line, and remembering her participation in the kerfluffle on Poets.org during which Tere left there, it’s hard for me to see as anything but even LESS objective (relatively speaking) than other voices.

    There have been several calls on the various threads for ignoring the back-stories, ignoring the histories, and just dealing with the here-and-now. The fatal flaw with that argument is that the back-history is EXACTLY what all this is about. It’s about telling the one side of the histories that has never been fully allowed to be told before, as it WAS swept under the rug and never fully dealt with. So, calls to ignore the histories and just deal with the here-and-now have the flavor, at this time, of just being more repression, even if they are well-meant. I have of course heard some of these comments from people who were not direct witnesses; I understand that viewpoint, but I do not agree with it. The histories AND their repeated repressions are exactly why we’ve ended up where we are now, in all this.

    As always, CTS (Consider The Source). Of course, I think a lot of Larina’s responses are post-CTS responses to Tere, because she doesn’t like him. It’s hard not for me to perceive them, because of the histories, as being anything other than tit-for-tat.

    Just my take on it, of course.

  105. Here’s a thought:

    Let’s redefine what Moderator means. Or rather, this is what it could become, rather than what it has been:

    The new definition would recall the root word “moderation.” They would not have powers beyond those of regular members. They would be called in to moderate, to reconcile, to arbitrate, to aerate. Tere, you once proposed the idea of an ombudsman, who might arbitrate between parties, and be able to step in when a wrong was given but not addressed. An ombudsman could moderate between parties, but also find their common ground.

    This is a more ambassadorial function, and the goal would be reconciliation rather than punishment.

    It’s a complete alteration in viewpoint and function, I realize. I think of Gandhi’s comment once: “And eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

    To make this work, of course, people have to be willing to soften and admit that they can be wrong. Even when they know they’re right, they must be willing to listen to the arbitrator’s viewpoint and feedback. They need to be willing to look into that mirror that is being held up to them. They need to be willing to change their position, and compromise. That is perhaps too much to ask of some people; they will go down fighting for their belief that they are in the right, and everyone else is wrong.

    So, it might come down to this, in the end. It might come down to the realization that poetry boards do NOT serve poetry so long as the current culture of reward/punishment takes precedence over the possible replacement culture of arbitration. It might come down to one simple psychological truth, a truth that will eventually kill boards, shut them down, even if only because all the good and moderate people can’t take any more drama and choose to move on. The truth is this:

    You can be right, or you can be dead.

  106. With respect to Larina’s article:

    Tere writes:

    “If poets are discouraged from raising questions and challenging precepts in their own community how then can they be expected to see to one of poetry’s cardinal responsibilities, that of breaking taboo and challenging taboos in behavior, perception and language?”

    Larina writes:

    “I always laugh a little when I hear someone say, ‘Moderators are opposed to certain ideas…and those ideas almost always come from the most creative people.’ Then I laugh even more because what usually follows is an explanation of how ‘artistic personalities’ are naturally ‘moody’ and if they become ‘passionate’ about their ideas, we should all just follow along because hey, Ezra Pound was a dickhead too. Being an artist does not entitle one to be an asshole, and being an asshole is not a prerequisite to being an artist.”

    Problem is, while Larina is laughing herself silly in response
    to a hypothetical, composite caricature, she hasn’t addressed Tere’s question. Who’s arguing for license to be a dickhead here?

    Yes, both sides of an argument should be presented. That doesn’t
    happen when one side is setting up
    straw dogs to knock down.

    Chris

  107. Part of the importance of poets being able to raise questions and challenge precepts, is that it is part of the creative process. It is very important that a poet be able to explore all ideas as they arise. This may be done by engaging another in a challenging discussion. Thus, I go for minimizing rules, on the grounds of creativity, but also on grounds of healthy (versus unhealthy) interaction.

    If various participants at forums often “need” to be reminded of a rule, then that rule is probably not a good one. When it happens fairly often, the rule proves itself to be incompatible with how poets naturally would discuss matters on a forum. However, it may be a functional one. The function it necessarily has is in the selection of who will be accepted into, or even within the community, and who will not or will no longer.

    Another function is that it shows who is in charge, and this gets into transactional analysis. In transactional analysis, the healthiest conversations are adult-adult ones. If not adult-adult, then we get into parent-child ones. This is the slippery slope moderators and admins have, the danger of sliding into treating adults, their peers, as children, assumed underlings.

    One stated reason to have forums rules, is to keep flames down. However, when looking at flames that take place in forum threads, more seem to be initiated by moderators and admins, than by the poet/members. For example, someone makes a comment say about another forum, and a moderator steps in, and a flame ensues about why there is such a rule that one may not talk about another forum. Another example, someone posts a poem, and another member gives a critique to that poem. The poet then responds; an admin comes in and says you cannot crit the critter, and a flame ensues as to why this is a good rule. The moderators hear the same reasons in different variations over and over as they restate the rule time and again, without seeing that the complaints are valid.

    Arthur is right, that we need to look at the role of the moderator. But I say to step back a moment, to realize that often what needs moderation, is the moderator-member interaction. Or better yet, no initial act by a moderator, and thus no rule. If there weren’t so many rules, there would be more natural conversation, and less guidelines and rules for moderators to step into.

    We need to be sure, that we are not having unhealthy discussions. One adult treating another, not as an equal adult eye-to-eye, is unhealthy for both parties. It is disrespectful.

    There we have the transactional way of looking at things. But, there is also the behavioral analysis way. We know that positive reinforcement is the best way to change behavior. We know that punishment and negative reinforcement pale in comparison, and can be detrimental to the receiver of the punishment.

    There simply is no psychological model that supports these stifling and oppressive forum rules, that disallow adult-adult communication by sparking parent-child ones. There is also no educational model that supports the strict classroom approach of not showing teeth or tongue. Full and supportive involvement is always the way to go. (I am a big fan of Alfie Kohn, by the way.)

    I am happy to be involved in what seems to be the constructive side of this discussion coming to the fore. Change and soul-searching is not easy, and the difficult involvement here is heartening. Together, we can find new ways of doing things, or be able to apply some tried and true ways to our internet poetry communities. We need a knowledge base. Thanks to all.

    C.

    .

  108. C. wrote:

    “One stated reason to have forums rules, is to keep flames down. However, when looking at flames that take place in forum threads, more seem to be initiated by moderators and admins, than by the poet/members. For example, someone makes a comment say about another forum, and a moderator steps in, and a flame ensues about why there is such a rule that one may not talk about another forum. Another example, someone posts a poem, and another member gives a critique to that poem. The poet then responds; an admin comes in and says you cannot crit the critter, and a flame ensues as to why this is a good rule. The moderators hear the same reasons in different variations over and over as they restate the rule time and again, without seeing that the complaints are valid.”

    I find this to be very true. I also find it telling that in many of the discussions on the boards that you’ve linked to in Comment 7 (above), most of the flames have indeed been initiated by the Mods and Admins. (Or in some cases, by ex-Mods and ex-Admins; obviously the mindset is still vested in being right, in those cases.) This is particularly telling on Poets.org; which is also the source of some of Larina’s “alternative view.” It’s one reason I find that alternative view unconvincing. First, it’s a rehash. Second, CTS.

  109. Well, I wish you guys the best of luck. All valid points, and I hope that I didn’t come of as a contradiction or Rubik’s mouth. I’m down with anything that encourages better writing.

    End.

  110. I share and workshop my poetry at Shakespearesmonkeys.com and Alsopreview.com. But more than anything I’m my own critic, and workshop only the poems that I feel need the most help. Shakespearesmonkeys is not so much a vanity site, but there are a few exceptional writers there, but not a lot o indepth critiques, and well the Gaz, I’m sure you know the Gaz, where I post under Rohan Pierre Amaya.

    -Ryan Barrientos Wilbur

  111. I have been on every possible side of this debate and, in the end, I think poetry boards, and poets, are better off if they don’t try to be everything to everyone, or even everything to anyone. We are all too varied, we all need too much, to find what we need at one place. If we don’t put too much stake in any one place, or any dozen places, we can’t be hurt by them, or let down by them, or destroyed by them. Poetry is bigger than boards. Poets are bigger than boards. Try new things. Don’t settle.

  112. I have read the article that started this discussion and most of the comments. The tone and tenor of the comments here are a good example of what can happen in the guise of freedom of speech on an internet forum.

    It has always fascinated me that people feel because they are relatively anonymous, then they can be as rude and abrasive as they want without consequences. Imagine saying what was said *in the way it was said* in a face to face interaction with a friend/co-worker/family member.

    Do you really believe that any reasonable observer would consider much of this discussion polite discourse?

    That’s my standard.

    I’m a long time moderator at Wild Poetry Forum. It’s an online poetry critique venue that has a large membership, from teen aged poets to old curmudgeons, from individuals writing their first poems, to those having published. As Julie points out, it is difficult to create an atmosphere that is all things to all poets. But, I work hard at making sure Wild is a place where the discourse is polite.

    That takes the patience of a saint, the communication skills of a diplomat, and the temperament of the Dali Lama. No moderator in the world exists to fill those shoes, but we do our best.

    For the most part, Wild stays a safe place for poetry workshop. That’s the starting place, for me. I don’t believe effective critique can happen if there isn’t safety first.

    In terms of critique, I can say that we have had poet members over the years whose work has evolved from clearly beginning work, full of flat language, cliched and overly sentimental to mature, sophisticated poetry. There are other poets whose work is stagnant and/or who do not seem to act on critique.

    That may be more a function of the individual writer and his or her developmental path than any failing of a workshop.

    I have taken poetry classes, been a member of juried (live) workshops, and participated in on line critique. Each has been valuable in its own way at different points in my writing. It’s up to me to figure out how to get the most from whatever venue I am writing through.

    Are poetry boards good for poetry? I can’t speak for poetry as a whole, but for individual poets, for my poetry, I would answer yes.

    What seems to be missing in this discussion is the responsibility of the individual writer to present his or her critique and commentary in a respectful and emotionally neutral manner. If everyone did that, there would be no need for moderation.

    –Lisa

  113. “What seems to be missing in this discussion is the responsibility of the individual writer to present his or her critique and commentary in a respectful and emotionally neutral manner. If everyone did that, there would be no need for moderation.”

    It’s funny. That’s exactly where the discussion has gone. In some ways it’s even gone there on this comments thread (eg. Terreson’s comment no. 68 above). It has also been directly addressed on the thread on thecriticalpoet.org, starting here. Well, maybe not explicitly as you’d like; but you can remedy that by bringing it up, and starting the discussion, too.

    I might add, I think Tom’s point by point response on that thread is one of the best summations of the entire situation I’ve ever seen. It’s masterful and succinct.

  114. “Do you really believe that any reasonable observer would consider much of this discussion polite discourse?”

    Compared to the tone and tenor of the arguments on many other occasions when it has come up before, yes, I’d say very much that this has been a (mostly) polite discourse. I’ve seen the same subject raised before on several other boards, and when it wasn’t just summarily deleted by a Mod or Admin, it has usually been a lot more heated. And it is interesting, I agree, to see who says what depending on what they’ve invested their time and talents in. Some retorts to the original essay have been glaringly predictable.

  115. Well it’s not my place, but Stephane Antsey runs it, as well as the magazine of the same name. He’s a great person…and like any site where you have a lot of posters you have to sift through the droll to the beautiful…but for the most part I find the site to be very entertaining to say the least, and it is warm, but there are poster’s there that if you ask, they will give you a very critical review, they have no problems breaking it down, and sometimes you don’t even have to ask.

    -Ryan Barrientos Wilbur

  116. “It has always fascinated me that people feel because they are relatively anonymous, then they can be as rude and abrasive as they want without consequences. Imagine saying what was said *in the way it was said* in a face to face interaction with a friend/co-worker/family member.

    Do you really believe that any reasonable observer would consider much of this discussion polite discourse?

    That’s my standard.”

    Wow.

    For the most part I think it is ‘polite’ but, you must live in a very strange world, and no I’m not being rude, I’m being realistic. I mean come on. Have you considered that some people are just naturally rude and abbrasive? Are you critiquing the poem or the poet? The world is not polite. Everything is born out of destruction. Everything is eating each other. For the love of God, the internet allows for you to shed the mask of politeness and get down to the nitty gritty, and if someone is truly being ‘offensive’ it’s as simple as ignoring them. The most dangerous thing anyone can give anybody is a false sense of safety. What amazes me is that you’ve never encountered anyone who willing to say whatever they damn well please regardless of who it is, whether boss, friend, wife, nun, second-cousin, ect…I use to live in an area where you better have a pair or you’re owned, and if you can’t get past the potty language to the core of what is being said. Shame on you. Good poetry grows overtime, great poetry grows no matter what, bad language and all.

    I think a majority of people have presented their arguements in the best manner that they can. You really want to encourage growth? Allow people to be their self. I’ll say it again. Great poetry grows no matter what, in the face of any adversary, whether benevolent or malevolent, perhaps you can take that back to your poetry board.

    Ultimately. What Lisa brings into question for me, is who needs to be protected? It’s a virtual identity. Is she so afraid that the trash heap of my larynx is going to infect the brains of little children? That somone’s poor little persona will suffer a blow, that an ego will be deflated or enraged? No no no! To try an elimanate these evils is asking us to be something other than human, to not feel, to not know confrontation, to feel that weird displacement of self, there is a importance of people like me I suppose, that the more…’domesticated’ often miss, with people like me, you wouldn’t know what a gee golly good person you are, even though you probably have some nasty dark little secret you won’t ever own up to because that will mean you are human like me.

    Now. To get back to the more rational state, all of this is as easy as turning off a TV. Or ignoring something that doesn’t interest you. Just walk away.

    Sidenote – this does not mean I advocate violence or hatred towards one another, but it does mean I advocate for people to genuinely and truly live, regardless of the outcome. I think by age 7 people know there’s consequences to the actions they do, I think people like me, don’t care. But as hostile as I may sound, in all actuality, I’m soft as a kitten in a freshly dried towel in a pile of feathers. It just annoys me to no further end, this idea of big brother watching me, soon we will need moderators for the moderators ad infinitum. As long as you’re in this world there is no safe place. As much as we’d like for this to be the most ideal place, it isn’t. And it’s terrible that it’s this way, and all that jazz, but that’s the way it is. Hasn’t changed in x years and it won’t change. After all is said in done, we all die a king’s death.

    Sorry that may or may not have any relevance, but, I just had to say that and I might be totally off base, but oh well, it wouldn’t be the first time.

    Ryan Barrientos Wilbur

  117. “The world is not polite. Everything is born out of destruction. Everything is eating each other.”

    Wow, right back at you, Ryan. I think you and I do live in very different worlds.

    Perhaps the main difference is that I view a poetry workshop as a community, rather than a reflection of the world of predator and prey. The world is not a safe place. That is true. Everything that lives, dies, and often violently. But we create islands of safety so that we can survive.

    “What amazes me is that you’ve never encountered anyone who willing to say whatever they damn well please regardless of who it is, whether boss, friend, wife, nun, second-cousin, ect…I use to live in an area where you better have a pair or you’re owned, and if you can’t get past the potty language to the core of what is being said. Shame on you. Good poetry grows overtime, great poetry grows no matter what, bad language and all.”

    Trust me, I have heard it all. Both in my personal life, my writing life, and in my profession. No thin skin or meaningless pandering to ‘self-esteem’ here–just ask anyone who has critted with me. I have ‘a pair’ as you put it. It’s not about me anyway. It’s about a philosophic difference between us in relationship to poetry boards.

    There is a vital difference between aggressive and assertive. I believe that critique can be honest and incisive without being cruel and I have ‘just walk[ed] away’ from individuals and communities that don’t share that view.

    Fortunately, the internet is a large place and we can each find what we need.

  118. Yikes!! Interesting discussion. Many thanks to Julie whose blog linked me here.

    Workshopping’s fine so long as you have the ability to take what you can use and leave the rest. It doesn’t hurt to have a thick skin, a good sense of self and the ability to respect those who deserve respect and to be at least semi-kind to those who don’t. Be able to tell the difference. Trust your own ear more than you trust the crits. Be wary of the egotist. Don’t be the egotist.

    Virtually all boards/workshops have their own politics and their own politicians. It’s probably wisest if you take them on only when you feel it necessary on a moral or ethical ground – not just because you can.

    I loved this whole discussion – this is great.

    Thank you.

  119. LJ writes:

    “Perhaps the main difference is that I view a poetry workshop as a community, rather than a reflection of the world of predator and prey. The world is not a safe place. That is true. Everything that lives, dies, and often violently. But we create islands of safety so that we can survive. ”

    It’s not a question of predator and prey usually (although mods can stalk particular members and have.)

    Poetry forums are little oligarchies. And the moderators and site administrators want to keep them that way.

    Whoever speaks truth to power in online forums is invariably told “we like it this way; we’ve done it this way for a long time; we’re happy with the status quo; if you don’t like it here go somewhere else.”

    That word “we” is the tipoff; the community is one entity and the site mods control them.

    If a town, state, country can design democratic governance why can’t a little old poetry forum?

    It won’t happen until members protest the attitude of ownership mods hold and express and demand democratization of guideline changes.

    Moderating a forum should be a service to the poetry community, not an opportunity to own it.

  120. There is Tribal level of reality, and there is the Individual level of reality. (Beyond that, there’s also the Symbolic level. I think the arts operate at the Symbolic level, mostly.)

    The Tribal reality is standard consensus reality, and it is quick to deny what it doesn’t want to accept. This is the slowest-moving of human levels, because everyone has to be brought along. That’s a lot of inertia to overcome.

    The Individual level is very hard to attain, because it means you have to start listening to your inner voices, and trusting your own intuition(s), and believing your own personal truth(s) to be as valid as anything you’ve known before. Everything you were taught as a child at your parents’ side, and in school, is Tribal-level knowledge. If you’re lucky, like I was, you got a few mentors who encouraged you to go your own way, and developed the self-confidence to do so.

    If you think the Tribe is going to support your decision to evolve beyond the parameters and laws they’ve lain out for you, think again. You will receive a constant barrage of conflict, doubt, attack, and “change back” messages. You will be vilified, you will be made to think you’re mad, and you will always find yourself a solitary in opposition to a larger group.

    Sound familiar? It’s what is going with Tere’s essay. Calling the Tribe to task for their bad behavior is never going to be easy, and probably never succeed. Groups evolve at a much slower rate than individuals because the group can never evolve faster than the slowest person in the group. When you question the group, that always is perceived as an attack on the group. “Group-think” is a powerful force. The intelligence quotient of a mob is always in inverse proportion to its mass.

    The Tribe’s power is to convince you that the Tribe is always right, and you’re wrong. When you’re an infant, that’s a good thing. When you’re an adult, it can be extremely bad for you.

    I’ve seen a lot of abusive family situations second- and third-hand. A lot of my inner circle has been through this, one way or another. I recognize the energy dynamic of this pattern in many areas of life. Online poetry boards are the same: Tribal. It’s very relevant here to talk about abuse AND about denial.

    Denial is one of the biggest forces of human shadow-will on the planet. Denial is what allows most people to go about their self-absorbed lives and never deal with bigger issues, or each other. Denial is a great way to avoid developing empathy. It’s not real, so you don’t have to deal with it. Denial is what allows war crimes to happen while people claim they had no idea what was going on. Denial always leads to some kind of larger or smaller holocaust.

    Denial is what Tere’s essay is all about, really. It’s also been brought home by all the comments on the various boards, and by the ad hominem personal attacks on the messenger(s). It’s shocking, but it’s also predictable. This whole issue is all about talking about things that have been suppressed, repressed, denied, deleted, ignored, and rejected. This whole issue is about discussing things that many would prefer to not discuss, and to deny ever happened.

    It’s not even about the factual record. You can present evidence to some people, and they will always reply with some equivalent of “Don’t confuse me with the facts!” Fixed beliefs operate at the Tribal level. They resist Individual analysis and perception because they are impervious to contradictory evidence. This is true both for cultural belief systems and myths, for example the myth that “creative artists are always misfits,” but also for personal myths that are self-serving.

    I would dare say the vast majority of oppressors have always believed they were good people doing the right thing for all concerned. Good people become complicit in atrocity when they do nothing. Doing nothing can come from emotional or spiritual paralysis, but it is driven by denial. Denial can be about the will refusal to believe something; but it can also come from the inability to perceive something so huge and so strange that no one knows how to deal with it. So, complicity is not always willfully malicious, but it can be that way in fact if its’ driven by denial.

    I can forgive a lot of the Mod/Admin culture that gets abusive on member-poets on online poetry boards. But I find myself unable to ever completely trust the people involved again—who knows when they will go off on someone again? Forgiveness is offered freely, by an act of grace. But trust must be earned all over again.

    Yes, Mods and Admins are only human—but that has become a refrain, and an excuse for continued bad behavior. If you’re going to take on the responsibility of being a Mod or an Admin, I don’t think it’s unreasonable that you be held to a higher standard of behavior than “I’m only human, I can make mistakes, too.” You are setting an example of behavior by your actions on your board; or you should be. Whenever I hear a Mod say “I don’t get it” about this, they must be reminded that even the APPEARANCE of an abuse of power is to be avoided, lest one create the dreaded bad impression. Those in power must be even more scrupulous and mindful of their behavior. The “I don’t get it” comment is ridiculous when anyone who pays attention can observe that the Admins and the Mods, by their actions, set the tone for the entire board. This is why an open disciplinary process (if there is to be one) is so essential: a closed-door and private decision-making process can make it seem, to the casual observer, that either the situation is being avoided and swept under the rug, or that no action whatsoever has been taken.

    The fact that we all make mistakes was never in dispute; what remains in dispute is what you do NEXT. It’s not the first episode of failing behavior, it’s the pattern of repetition that follows in its wake. The point is: we are also human in that we can learn from our mistakes, and not repeat them. We are capable of bettering ourselves. So, living up to a higher standard of behavior is the least one can do.

  121. I concur. Well said Arthur. I’ve yet to personally have any attack by a mod or a mini, but I’ve witnessed, and the name of the place will be kept in check, when a poster did go against the critic, and yowzers, that poor poet, not only did the critic lay into him, but his little group of henchmen joined in, as well as a few mods, now I can’t really remember if the abuse was warranted? Not that abuse is warranted at anytime, but looking at both sides, there are some poets who prefer to show-case their work, so when they get to a critical board, and their ego gets deflated, they may jump the gun, so to speak, but, well I don’t know…I’m just trying to look at both sides. It’s such a fine line and a bold endeavor, still, great write Arthur. I thik I agree with 90 percent of it, and what I don’t agree with I’ll keep to my self, one because it’s not that improtant, and two, because it’s hard to distinguish shadows of equal shade from each other, only the source.

  122. Poets is solitary creatures, they do not work well in groups. If they do, no doubt they are not poets.

    They do however, hunger for recognition & acceptance, that might lead them into dangerous waters. Call it that then: “The prolific and the devourer”–the creator and the destroyer–the latter vastly outnumber the former.

    There is difference between writing poetry, and having “a poetic experience.” There is, and always have been very few poets, but many who write verse. The passage of time whittles them down, winnows them out, dilutes them to an essence–

    by all means, continue; the ephemeral will pass away burdened by bruised egos, by legacies of almost was but could never be.

    The issue of Vanity is moot, in the end only the Poem remains and it despite the temporary storms which boil around it is unassailable.

  123. this is a copy of a post i just left at the Gaz- with a few juicy bits reinstated 😉 it’s a response to this thread and others that have emerged, as well as some comments on the site that has been my main home for several years now.

    Quite a few of the comments in this thread display a lack of understanding of how quite a few other poetry sites operate, particularly with regards to moderation and administration at the IBPC sites. That’s not necessarily a bad thing- in fact, i’m somewhat envious of those who seem only to know PFFA and the Gaz (actually, not so envious of those who only know PFFA…). Anyone who has been involved at IBPC sites like poets.org or either of the critical poet sites can probably get what Tere’s saying in that essay, especially if they have been involved in an admin or mod capacity and actually seen what goes on behind the scenes, the petty power plays and lack of real leadership. I cut my teeth at IBPC sites and there’s a reason I’m no longer at them. There’s a general tendency for them to be run by admins who have neither achieved anything in the world of publication, nor have the best interests of poets at heart. (and it’s hard to respect anyone who has done neither of these two things) They become riddled with politics and bogged down by staff who seek ownership, and indeed power, rather than the desire to contribute to poets and poetry. That the owner of the blog in question is who he is, and has said what he’s said in the course of discussions, is further evidence of that- there would be no person alive with a greater understanding of online communities, something that gives further credence to Tere’s essay.

    At the same time, I’d suggest that Tere’s essay isn’t applicable to the Gaz, where admin standards have been super while I’ve been here (though some mod choices have bemused, for instance almost completely inactive mods retaining mod status for months/years, which on at least several occasions i can remember led to mods stepping into discussions that had flaired up, playing the blame game, with no understanding of context. That’s not very common, however. Mostly, leadership is excellent, especially at the very top.

    There’s also an elitist side to me which gets confused by the apparent gravity afforded to the comments of certain long timers at the Gaz, including at least one who in years of posting I’ve never actually seen a poem from (nor seen anything published) and several others who completely lack ability but have been around enough, and have enough confidence, that inexperienced poets might think they speak with some actual merit. That’s something i was concerned about in a recent thread, and have been before, and it’s at the heart of why i think a truly strong community should encourage debate and be open enough to allow assertions to be challenged.

    i have far greater respect for people whose publications (or at posted poems), or at least some sort of demonstrable contribution to a community and its conversations, speak as loud as their criticisms. I give far more weight to a strong poem, than to a harsh critique. And I give weight to a critique which comes from someone who has earnt respect, and who patently has some understanding of contemporary poetics.

    One problem with such critiques is that they might be taken as gospel by genuinely talented writers who don’t yet have confidence in their own ability. And styles might be altered and one’s voice not trusted enough, ultimately leading to generic, crap poetry and the softening of ambition. I suspect if Simic, of Luke davies, or Luke Kennard (three very different, leading poets from the US, Australia and the UK respectively) came here tomorrow and posted work, they’d be shouted down by 1000-plus post posters who have basic understandings of the craft, enough to say ‘this is clearly a beginner’s effort’ but not enough to pick actual talent and help nurture it, and not enough knowledge to pick brilliance outside of their own limited experience. Online communities do, in my experience, tend to favour homogonised, mediocre poetry, at the expense of the 1 percent which readers aren’t talented themselves enough to notice is truly good. Such writers tend to flock together, comment in each others threads, boost each others egos, and sustain a culture of mediocrity. There are names i could mention in this regard, but out of propriety won’t. People who throw their weight around, who claim to be the be all and end all of poetry knowledge, when they in fact know very little. It is something ive noticed of late at the gaz, but if there’s any one thing ive noticed about online communities these past 5 years, it’s that all things are cyclical.

    They are some of the thoughts that occurred to me while reading Tere’s essay and the multiplicity of responses it has encouraged. Over the past 4 or so years tere has been a mentor to me, and remains one of the greatest poets i know, though for some time now not actively publishing. And this actually raises another issue, which is the importance of a mentor for a young writer- I’ve probably been more widely published in good print journals than perhaps any other gazzer over the past year, and for an emerging writer, having someone who can recognise and help foster that talent, while being critical when necessary, is far more important than being bagged out by people who have done nothing to demonstrate that their views hold any weight. (which isn’t bragging, but is to merely state an apparent fact. I’m shit at building things and occasionally am clumsy with interpersonal relationships, am mediocre at maths and have done some very silly things in my 27 years- it’s important to know what one’s strengths and weaknesses are. I’ve experienced enough in life, including seeing several dead bodies, having a gun and knife pulled on me, come very close to dying, hurt deeply from stupidity, been hurt deeply, and seen people’s lives crumbled to know just how close we all are, fundamentally, to having that happen to ourselves, seen immense wisdom and geneority from long time jail inmates, and stupidity and selfishness from respected members of society, to be a fundamentally humble guy and to have some insight into the minor mature of any ‘success’ i might achieve in my life). Though individual comments in threads are generally greatly appreciated and helpful in crafting individual poems, having someone in your corner, a mentor, who follows and encourages your work over a period of time, and thus who’s criticisms really hold weight, is also fundamentally important. This is relevant, however, only in the cases of that small percentage of writers who actually have the ability to go somewhere with their writing- we all know that a lot of new posters here, and a higher percentage of new posters at other sites, are complete beginners and lack talent. They write for other reasons, to discover whether they can do it, or because they love thew classics- but the above comments aren’t strictly relevant in those cases, though those cases remain important for the worlds of poetry in a broader sense, and obviously important to those poets themselves.

    This has been a bit of a rant. I’ve been questioning my own involvement in online communities recently, for the reasons noted above and because i’m lucky enough to have just moved back to a country (after 2 years in the third world) with a really vibrant contemporary poetry scene, with festivals are awesome journals and high calibre people, and thus don’t feel the pull ive felt towards online development over the past few years. I doubt i’ll be active again at the Gaz, mostly because (and this might simply be an indication of my own personality), for every Pat, or Annie, or Adam, people who make the Gaz a genuine pleasure, there’s an offensive fool with no knowledge of anything much waiting to smash posted poetry for reasons of ignorance and ego, and new posters who in response to serious 20 minute critiques of their work resort to name calling. And it’s easy to grow tired of that.

    All a learning and growing experience, i suppose. I’ll continue seeing some of you at the Lily Forum, will keep in contact with some via email, and will continue to follow with great interest who is publishing what, and where.

    signing out for now

  124. actually, i left out the names of people at the gaz Ive found truly rude and idiotic. seemed no point served by naming them.

  125. The suggestion has been made, more than once–Tere has made it himself before, more than once–of having in place a mediator, or ombudsman, or arbitrator, that would step in as a (relatively) neutral third party to settle disputes, resolve conflicts, and facilitate actual communication rather than name-calling. I think this has possibilities. It’s been suggested before, but it’s been mostly ignored. Actually, I’ve seen more than one poetry board consider the idea, even promise to put something in place like this, then not do it. Or, do it so far behind the scenes that the appearance was that it was swept under the rug. (Again.)

    The function of mediation is to resolve disputes not by determining who is right and who isn’t, but by finding common ground upon which to (re-)build a relationship. To facilitate actual communication, so that reconciliation is possible. Or at least polite in future, if not possible.

    In order for this system to work, of course, everyone has to be willing to submit to it, and keep an open mind. In my experience, the worst offenders on all sides of the issue lack the one essential thing notably absent in many of the counter-arguments presented in the comments here: an open mind. A willingness to be wrong. A willingness to actually listen, and be changed. Fixed opinions, fixed attitudes, entrenched positions, hiding behind the rules: these are all far more common.

    It is THIS that is what kills the poetry on the boards. (It kills it by creating an atmosphere in which the poetry itself is secondary to the climate of fear.) It is this that enables the abuse of power, that contributes to the climate of distrust and dislike. (It is disingenuous in the extreme for Admins and Mods to believe that their actions do not set the tone and climate of their boards. And it is irresponsible to deny that they have that ability.) It is this that makes it all very unlikely that this situation will ever change, as good as this discussion has become, as many viewpoints and solid bits of reasoning as have been shown, from many directions. (I refuse to oversimplify this discussion as an Us vs. Them binary polarity; it is far more nuanced that that, and comes from many different and equally valid viewpoints.)

    I await the actual implementation of the several solutions that have already been offered, such as an ombudsman or mediator. But I doubt that will happen. I fully expect to witness a big Nothing Happens. I wish it were otherwise. But the entrenched positions that many of the Mods and Admins frmo the larger boards who HAVE taken time to comment on this essay, here and elsewhere, seem very fixed. (Probably because self-esteem is caught up in being right about their positions.) That very fixity and lack of flexibility, that very brittleness, that very knee-jerk responsiveness, was not only predictable but is largely what the essay was addressing. It is that very brittle certainty and entrenchment that leads to the very abuses that have been objected to, all along. Once again, I am glad this discussion is finally happening. It’s overdue. I hope it clears the air, I really do. But I have few expectations that it will. I expect most of the nay-sayers to revert back to their original styles of actions, after all is said and gone, like moray eels who emerged to snap at a fish retreating back into their caves.

    Probably the only boards this is actually likely to have any positive effect or change on are the smaller, private boards. The big public boards haven’t found their way out of this morass, and their inertia makes it unlikely that they will any time soon, and not without a lot of pushing. That’s too bad, all around, but mostly for the poets.

  126. Upthread, C referred to transactional analysis. Specif- ically, healthy and respectful transactions are adult-adult as opposed to parent-child. To the extent that the boards institu-
    tionalize parent-child
    transactions, they are unhealthy and impede creativity. They are also insulting and engender bad feelings.

    Not all mods engage in this behavior. Conversely, some individual members assume a one-up
    arrogant tone in their dialog
    with other members.

    In his essay at thecriticalpoet.org, Simple Rhyme suggests a work shop model of interaction which includes an exacting level of scrutiny by the critic and a “defending one’s theses” response on the part of the writer. In other words, an adult-adult transaction which just
    might result in more precise thinking and more better writing.

    Problem is, response by the writer
    to critique is severely limited, if not prohibited on most of the big, public boards. That really could and should be allowed for.

    And why not have mediation when people get stuck in hardened, personally heated positions? Seems like a good idea to me.

    Chris

  127. A link was passed on to me for an essay by another poet that is relevant to this discussion:

    Accelerating Poetry: Finding Your Voice, by Jack Conway.

    There’s a lot in there to disagree with, actually. It comes over in some ways as your typical anti-online-poetry comment, and in other ways misses the point entirely. I haven’t time to dissect it at the moment, but I will later.

    Nonetheless, it’s another voice in the discussion.

  128. Hi Arthur,

    Good link. A lot of what Jack Conway says speaks into Donald Hall’s McPoem idea. He elaborates on how poetry forums can inhibit genuine and important creativity.

    I’ll take issue with a point he makes, the idea of writing like someone else, as opposed to finding your own unique and important voice, like Whitman did, say. If you are not an accomplished poet, and to some degree we are all on that scale, a great exercise, indeed an important period of development, entails writing like someone else. Adolescents grow by trying on Eminem’s or Madonna’s clothes. As they grow, they keep what fits, and discard what doesn’t work for them. So, in a workshop atmosphere, this mimicking can be a good thing—I suppose as long as the forum members recognize the healthy adolescent growth that can come of it, not to mention a gem of a tribute poem from time to time.

    Here’s an important excerpt:

    Indeed, several poems that I did manage to place within the framework of poetry forums would have met a horrible end had I not been confident enough in my own work and abilities to further develop them. Ironically, a recent poem, “The Agamemnon Rag” was soundly cuffed about the had and shoulders at one web-based poetry forum only to find its way into the pages of the summer Poetry issue, nestled in among works by Billy Collins, Louise Gluck and Donald Hall. Another, “Sunshine Sandwich” received no support within a particular poetry forum and one lackluster critique went so far as to proclaim it wasn‘t even a poem. Diner, the notable poetry journal in Worchester, Massachusetts thought otherwise and accepted it for publication. Why do I mention this, aside from being blatant advertisements for myself, it demonstrates why poets should not engage in any serious discussion about poetry or their own work in web-based forums where the level of talent, ability and accomplishment is questionable. Poetry forums, if taken remotely seriously will ruin the “voice” of more aspiring poets than help them.

    I agree this is possible, if the feedback is in the form of “cuffing”. That’s the problem, the cuffing about the head and shoulders that takes place on forums. However, no matter how good you get, where you have grown to (or maybe have regressed to) on the poet maturity scale, reader feedback would be welcome from anyone sincere and well-intentioned. If it’s fan-based, great. If constructive toward your personal growth or the improvement of a specific work, all the better.

    But, behind the scenes of Conway’s article, there is the activity of a fairly well-published poet trying his hand at online poetry forums. This demonstrates the rift between what poetry forums are (as a whole) and what they ideally ought to and quite possibly can be. Not only are forums driving away forum newbies and newbie poets, never to try their hand at posting a poem online again, for all the insundry faux pas variations and categories out there, but here is the case of Jack Conway, a “mature” poet being driven away. Who’s left?

    There is the idea that poets will come to forums, get better, and outgrow them after they get so good. To a point, the data might be misinterpreted to show this. Look at the IBPC winners and placers from the last 10 years. I’ll venture to say that most of the poets no longer post anywhere. Why did they leave? Here, Jack Conway gives his own testimony. But how many testimonies would be similar from the newbie, the “adolescent”, and the “mature” poets?

    The problem has to do with, first, how poets are treated, the transactional analysis: parent-child cuffing; versus adult-adult and child-child workshopping. And, by the way, for creativity, the playful child-child communication is very important, and must be fostered without some parent breaking in.

    A second problem that Conway hits upon, is how the feedback is given, the cuffing. Cuffing is different from contructive feedback, the vocational reason why poets of all levels of experience and capability go to workshops of any kind in the first place. I can easily imagine twenty or so of the very best poets, sharing an online poetry forum. Why not? And this, just as there sure are some forums of newbie poets who get along with workshopping quite well.

    A third idea, is that, online forums have grown up in the wild. There are bound to be outlaw towns where oppressive bullies rule, and outposts where either true talent is simply unrecognized, or where methods of fostering creativity are unknown. This is why Terreson’s and Jack Conway’s articles can be important events. We have the opportunity to get together, get down to the roots of the situation, do some pruning, and come to know what a prize pumpkin and apple pie really look like.

    But the idea of the watchdog, I wonder if it would be possible to develop a poet satisfaction survey, with questions such as this:

    How satisfied are you with the feedback you received on your poetry?

    a. Completely satisfied.
    b. Very satisfied.
    c. Satisfied.
    d. Somewhat satisfied.
    e. Not satisfied.

    How satisfied are you with the way you were greeted by a representative of the forum?

    a. Completely satisfied.
    b. Very satisfied.
    c. Satisfied.
    d. Somewhat satisfied.
    e. Not satisfied.

    These threads created by Terreson’s article contain many concerns that poets have for what’s missing and wrong with many forums. Some such survey could be compiled from them. These questions are the type consumers are given when ranking their experience in buying a car at a Chevy store, or eating a pizza at Pizza Hut. Why shouldn’t poetry forum members and moderators be conscious that their forum ranking can slip in their Poet Satisfaction Index (PSI)? There are other measures and measurers. Some organization could send out mystery poets, like those who visit restaurants, and report on the different aspects, the ambience, the food, the service. What serious poet at whatever level, would not want to post at a five-star forum? And, by corollary, what forum would not quickly learn what needs to be done to be a five-star forum?

    C.

  129. The first problem I have with Conway’s essay–there are others–is that while he analyzes the problem rather well, delineating some of the same problems that have already been mentioned here by several people, he is essentially saying “There is no good poetry online, and never will be.” That’s just plain wrong. More on that later.

    It is wise to remember that if Terreson thought that there was no good poetry online, he would walked away from it all. I read his essay as an attempt to analyze and correct something he does care about. Conway on the other hand is basically totally dismissive. Oh, he applies a caveat or two, but they don’t read as sincere.

    Conway also points out that a poem by a great poet appearing on some of the online forums would be roundly hooted. And that has happened, certainly, so there is some truth to that; especially with regards to boards that have plateaued around static, conformist McPoetry; but then, ANY poet posting something different or unique would be hooted on those kinds of boards. Fortunately, in the wider context of online poetry, those are not the only boards around.

    Conway does place himself in that rejected-poem category, ignoring the wider context, which is hubris, though he denies it. What he seems not to understand is that it could happen to anyone. Many of us have had the experience he describes: a poem is vilified on the forum, but published in a (reputable) poetry journal. This is far less extraordinary than Conway appears to believe it is. I suggest he needs to get out more, and pay more attention to the larger context.

    I also have to say: He’s right, in that if he did post some of the poems of his I’ve seen online, or published, in some of the more rigorous forums online, they WOULD receive negative critiques. And those critiques would be valid, in some instances. Some of Conway’s stuff is crap–like every poet around. (Including yours, including mine.) Nor does comparing oneself to Billy Collins as a marker of (publishing) success or quality earn any points in my book. Collins for the most part is a poetaster with a knack for self-marketing. A few of the Conway poems I’ve run across are indeed witty. But there not much more than witty; and they don’t have a long shelf-life, after you get the gimmick.

    The point that Conway repeatedly misses, in his refrain that online poetry sucks, is that most print-published poetry sucks, too. His argument is essentially: online bad, print media good. How often have we heard that argument before? Often enough to know that it’s invalid, and misses the underlying truth that MOST poetry published in whatever medium sucks. Online is certainly no worse off than print. In fact, it might actually be better, because it’s a much broader selection of what poetry is; furthermore, there are poets published online who for various reasons have not made it into the print journals per se, whose work is as good or better than anything in any given issue of Poetry Magazine, etc.

    I do feel that Conway does accurately present the state of affairs, when he describes the situation. Some of that is very on-target. But his analysis as to WHY things are the way they are; that’s mostly BS. It’s hard not to view it as ignorant. I doubt he even has been “in the (online) trenches” enough to draw some of his conclusions. They pretty wildly miss the mark.

  130. I applaude the Collins as a poetaster part – not that I don’t like the very few poems he’s actually written…but, i can’t believe the praise that man recieves and that he was even a Poet Laureate. Some of that I base on personal taste, but, a lot of the things he stands for and his view points, well…I can’t get behind, but, that won’t be brought up here, I just simply wanted to echo your sentiments on Collins.

    -Ryan Barrientos Wilbur

  131. “I doubt he even has been “in the (online) trenches” enough to draw some of his conclusions. ”

    Just to set the record straight, Jack Conway has been banned (in some cases multiple times) from quite a number of poetry boards, including QED (repeatedly), Erato, The Gaz, PFFA, and several others because of his arrogance and extremely and violently abusive language towards those who negatively critiqued his work. In his case, I’d just say, “Consider the source.”

  132. Thanks, Hedge. There are valid reasons to ban a participant…and Conway has surpassed most all of them many times on many boards.

    Banning thoughtful discussion and banning outright abuse/disruption are two entirely different things. I think very few would defend the latter behavior.

    Pat

  133. “Banning thoughtful discussion and banning outright abuse/disruption are two entirely different things. I think very few would defend the latter behavior.”

    I quite agree. Conway is an interesting case study in terms of someone whose abusive and arrogant attitudes as a member got him legitimately banned for not playing well with others. I’m sure I would have agreed with this, had I been present to see it.

    The question then becomes: And when a Mod or an Admin acts that way, what can be done? That’s precisely when the “Mods are only human too” argument fails, and precisely when the conditions we’ve been discussing develop, and also when the solutions that have been suggested could be useful.

    Food for thought, once again.

  134. So I have been out of town for a week, worked hard, worked through the weekend, enjoyed every minute of it. I was in the Catskills overlooking the Hudson River, the birthplace of America’s first art movement, the Hudson River School. I was in apple orchards in blossom, seeing to honey bees traveling from place to place across the country and doing their pollinating trick. And I had no thought for the present discussion. Perspective is a wonderful thing when you stand back for a moment. Now I am catching up with so much I find thoughtful and, in many cases, thought through.

    First, it is interesting and to be noted that of all the discussions now taking place about the poetry boards, here and elsewhere, there are only three such fora where the discussion is reactionary and mostly carried on by mods and admin types. At least, this is the case so far as I can tell. All three forums are places where, in the past, I have questioned the behavior of management. This strikes me as telling. And I don’t expect anyone to believe me if I share that a mod from one of the three boards PMd me last week, expressing concern about my mental health as a result of my essay. Since he made a point of assuring me he is a doctor I have to assume he was serious. So I guess if I am crazy, and judging from the many ongoing discussions on the topic, a bunch of other people might also want to get themselves checked out….or checked in. That is my first thought.

    My second thought has to do with comment 121 above, Clattery’s. I could not have said better what is expressed there. Clattery has all but pointed to the way out of the boards’ dilemma. I honestly don’t expect many standing admins and mods to heed what he says, or even read the comment with anything other than glassy eyes. But I hold out for the hope that untrenched managers will be able to receive the spirit of what Clattery is after. It is the way to go. And I have to say that, at the age of 56, I too resent and mightily the parent-to-child relationship some, many, most, a bunch of mods and admins demand of participants. All the more so, since, as has been pointed out, too much of the board abuse encountered is initiated by these “parents.”

    Third thought. A number of people have said they agree with some, but not all, of what my essay draws attention to. Let it be noted that the essay’s author doesn’t entirely agree with it either. Somewhere, maybe it was here, I shared something a long time beekeeper said about beekeeping when it has become a kind of factory farming. Migratory beekeeping is a bitch, and all for the sake of pollinating so that we all have fruits and vegetables and nuts on the table. It is hard on bees and it is hard on beekeepers. But the man said this: “how can you take something so beautiful and turn it to so much s**t?” This is how I feel about the poetry boards and what, in many cases, has been made of them. The problem is not the idea. The problem lies elsewhere.

    Fourth thought. After a layover in Newark yesterday, and cruising at about thirty thousand feet, I was reading Neruda poetry. I came across an essay of his. Lifting selectively from his essay here is something I want to share. The essay is called “Toward An Impure Poetry.”

    “It is well, at certain hours of the day and night, to look closely at the world of objects at rest…In them one sees the confused impurity of the human condition, the massing of things, the use and disuse of substances, footprints and fingerprints, the abiding presence of the human engulfing all artifacts, inside and out…Let that be the poetry we search for: worn with the hand’s obligations, as by acids, steeped in sweat and in smoke, smelling of lilies and urine, spattered diversely by the trades that we live by, inside the law or beyond it.”

    I think of all my essay’s complaints the one most bothersome, at least to me, is the tendency on the boards for community to come first, poetry second. That is the most debilitating feature of the boards. That is the feature most lethal to poetry. And you bet. I place the blame squarely on the shoulders of admins, mods, self-serving critics, and members whose need for group acceptance outweighs their devotion to poetry. I want what Neruda wanted. I require of the boards they furnish just such an environment in which this ideal of impure poetry gets fostered, gets gestated.

    One other thing. A side note really. Don’t ever ask to get yourself banned from poets.org. Your online membership to the Academy of American Poets is automatically cancelled. (Head once again wagging and wobbling.)

    Terreson

  135. Fascinating. I see there are a number of Gazebo members addding to the thread. I am not a member of that board but I am sure it is a good spot for poetry. One member has sent me the link to the thread Sam started there, the one that links to this link. The most recent comment as of this writing is by a staff person who has just slapped the hand of a member for resorting to a “Nazis Germany comparison.” And yet, upstream, several people congratulate the Gazebo for its style of restrained moderation. Also earlier on someone faults my essay for its lack of specifics. I now present a specific of what, in my view, and more than anything else, stifles real dialogue on the poetry boards. But then I am not of the opinion that a moderator’s job is to direct and channel the give and take between poets.

    Terreson

  136. After-thought. If specifics are what people want I could give specifics, having just given one from a board that has always struck me as a little too in love with itself. I could give board names, mod names, admin names, names of long-standing members who sometimes strike me as a little too smug in their treatment(s) of poets not yet accepted into the cabal. I could do that. I could stoop that low. I just did (couldn’t resist the temptation). But what would be the point? And how would the exercise lend itself to righting what, in many quarters, has become a lousy situation?

    So, but for the one exception, I’ll stick to a certain program. I am okay with being called a whiner. I am okay with having my motives, somewhat disingenuously, being brought into question. I am clear on my motives. It is to have this discussion take place. I’ll presume my critics are clear about their motives too.

    Terreson

  137. ” The most recent comment as of this writing is by a staff person who has just slapped the hand of a member for resorting to a “Nazis Germany comparison.” ”

    Again, to clarify, the mod in question is in fact responding to a non-mod poster’s reference to “Untermensch inhabiting the board” which IS a reference to a Nazi concept (cf. Wkikpedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Untermensch); it is that poster and not the mod who introduced the subject into the discussion.

  138. Right, hedge. And said poster got her/his hand slapped for the comparison introduced into the discussion. Point stands. The greater argument remains. It is not a mod’s place to channel, direct, redirect, reform, or shape the give and take between poets. To take the argument a step further, it is not a board’s place to make members conform to certain ways its management thinks a poet should express what she or he thinks and feels.

    But both of us are remiss, my friend. The greater context of the exchange is that the poster was responding to another poster advocating a board for “pure poetry” inhabited by “real” poets, one on which lesser (I guess not real) poets should be excluded.

    See how screwy it all gets when mods force their personalities and biases onto the discussions? Said mod slaps the hand of said poster for her/his gut response to, what in my eyes at least, was a pretty outrageous suggestion.

    But there I go getting specific again. (Bless me, father, for I have sinned.)

    Terreson

  139. The idea has been raised to enable and utilize a Consumer Reports style media-watch organization or entity. It is an interesting idea. For it to work, however, there are a few things that must be carefully considered. I view these as requirements:

    1. Complete independence, and as complete objectivity as possible. This can mean speaking up will cost you friends. It can also mean that the board that is run by people you generally agree with can come under citation, and there can a price for that.

    A lot of folks don’t understand that independence doesn’t mean “except for me and my friends.” Abuse is abuse is abuse. Even on good boards, an abuse can happen. Even on small private boards. I got personally singled out for attack on a small private board last year. I’m back on that board, now that the offending Admin has disappeared, but trust will never be 100 percent there again, for me.

    2. A CR-type entity cannot afford to become overly confrontational. I am thinking of the late, not-very-lamented Foetry.com (or was it .org?) board. That board tended to be extremely negative, extremely aggressive, and extremely confrontational. Even when they were correctly reporting abuses and/or scams, which they usually were correct about, their attitude was usually more angry and aggressive than it really needed to be.

    This is also unfortunately the case with Cosmoetica.com, which I am affiliated with if not always in agreement with. The tone there can be pit bull rather than sheep dog, more often than not.

    A completely negative tone on a media-watch-type board will never solve the problem, and in the end will only self-destruct.

    So the tone MUST be kept neutral or positive at all times. Otherwise, frankly, and this too happened with Foetry.com, all it will do will create enemies, and its credibility will evaporate when people start to think it’s just a shit-list hit-list outfit.

    3. To follow up on 1. and 2.: Journalistic objectivity and integrity must be maintained, so that it doesn’t turn into something that can people can abuse for their own agendas, or if they have their own axes to grind. Facts would have to be confirmed before something could be posted. Even the hearsay of people one generally finds believable must be checked, even my own, for example, because everybody can have a bad day.

    This will take research time and effort, to verify reports. Who’s going to do that work?

    Anyone involved would have to be impeccable with their word, or the credibility of the efforts would come under a shadow.

    4. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who watches the watchers?) We’re taling moderating the Mods, administering the Admins, and watching the watchers. That might become a huge, daunting, impossible task.

    Essentially, this proposal is to create a meta-Mod organization. Who is to say that it will not become subject to the same abuses as the Mods/Admins we have been discussing have done? In fact, even if all decisions and made openly, with all the cards on the table at all times, this accusation will still be made. Are you willing to take that on? or rather, Who would be willing to take that on? I know who I would trust to take it on, but I doubt everyone would agree on that list of people.

    5. So, that leads us back to independence. That is, independence and objectivity will become even more critical, if this idea is to work well. Of course, not everyone will ever be convinced of the objectivity of those involved, nor will some people ever be convinced that it isn’t just revenge. One doesn’t need to reply to those biases, but one DOES need to free oneself from as many of one’s own personal biases as one is able. That is harder than it sounds.

    There are people I know who are capable of great objectivity. But not all the time. And not about all subjects. Sometimes their cynicism gets in their way. Sometimes their opinions about human psychology get in their way. I know very few people who are capable of true objectivity. Most people look through filters at the world: filters of their opinions, their experiences, their assumptions, and their judgments. I know a few people who are able to look at the world without prior judgments, and see what is actually going on. They dismiss nothing, neither do they let their opinions get in their way. That too is much harder than it sounds.

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who would you really trust to pull this off? I think is going to be an important question, if the idea is to be carried forward.

  140. All good points, good questions, Arthur, and worth raising. Recently, on one board I suggested the office of ombudsman/ombudsperson. In usual fashion the idea was received favorably and nothing has come of it. (That board managers are as resistant as they are to some form of oversight in itself speaks pretty loudly) But it has come down to that, hasn’t it? I think it was you who pointed out that forgiving a transgression on the part of a mod or admin type comes easy. Trusting again a board’s transgressing admins and mods is a bit more difficult. Yep. That is where I am right now.

    On a slightly different note, or, rather, viewing the topic from a slightly different angle, I wish I had remembered a silk-screen T-shirt when making my essay.

    A couple of years ago I was in touch with a brilliant poet going for her MFA in San Fran. She had a class project, something about when is and how is poetry made public. Thinking on her assignment, in IM I made an off-hand comment. I said: ‘Poetry is public when it puts in the forum what people conspire to ignore.’ My friend took the comment, made a bunch of T-shirts with the sentence silk-screened on front. I forgot to ask what kind of grade she got on the project.

    I figure it is something of this order Clattery has brought to the forum: a dirty little secret concerning poetry board operations we’ve all conspired to ignore.

    Terreson

  141. I want to make sure all know I am not the gifted poet Terreson spoke of, I was just one of the artists who responded to her project, his quote.

    Alas, like Terecone, I never heard how the project was received. I Hope she got an A.

    Pat

  142. Well, Clattery and company, it looks like things are getting troublesome for this poet. Three boards now, all IBPC associated, refuse me entry.

    Man, I wish I could make poetry offensive enough to warrant the dissing.

    Terreson

  143. There are many fine boards that do not participate in IBPC…I’ve tried to go back to one IBPC board after a long hiatus, a change in moderation of the board…but I was mostly ignored. I am happy with the boards I frequent now. And I can barely keep up with them. They are not overly, but skillfully, moderated, they give me encouragement and thoughtful, explicit critique…not always what I want to hear, but always given graciously and with the intent to help. That’s all I ask for in a poetry board. At my age, I do not need to be mothered by a moderator. : )

    Terreson has given us much to think about, things we should think about…to me personally, over the years, he’s been a harsh critic, a mentor, a friend and, most of all, he has taught me to trust my voice as a poet. I look for boards that do that for me and for others…and I have been lucky to find them. Hope you all do too.

    Pat

  144. I have one of those t-shirts, too. I just found it again while sorting through clothes while moving. I still want to do something with someday, but the quote itself is pithy enough as it stands.

  145. Sorry, Clattery. No sooner had I posted the message than I regretted it. Tried to figure out how to delete it even. The hour was late and I was feeling dispirited, which is my only excuse.

    So I guess I’ll leave the boards unnamed. With a clearer head I realize I want to keep to the larger issues, the ones we all want addressed.

    But I will say this. Boards do not have to give reasons for banning, disenfranchising, or refusing applications. That is the Orwellian beauty of it all.

    Terreson

  146. Dispirited? Of a divided spirit? Or disspirited? It makes a difference. I think the former is more salubrious and hope that was your intent.

  147. I want to widen the discussion a little, actually more than just a little. I am going to leave the particulars of the poetry board problem, which it is, to others. And I am going to leave the fix to the problem to others who are probably better mechanics, carpenters and brick layers than I am. My job, as I see it, is to be a gadfly.

    Under the heading ‘Interboard Understanding’ my essay sports this paragraph:

    ‘If poets are discouraged from raising questions and challenging precepts in their own community how then can they be expected to see to one of poetry’s cardinal responsibilities, that of breaking taboo and challenging clichés in behavior, perception, and language? Viewed from a certain standpoint, vital poetry keeps as a danger to the community, be the township bureaucratic, corporate, or domestic. And I am persuaded that as much is expected of poetry by the many townships. So what is to be made of a circumstance in which poetry’s own township displays the bunker mentality?’ The key phrase in the paragraph has to do with poetry viewed as breaking taboo.

    Over five years ago I had an essay carried by an ezine I think has since become defunct. It was a part of a series of essays on poetry related stuff. The essay is called, “Poetry as Taboo.” Here are two paragraphs from the essay having to do with taboo, the breaking of taboo, poetry viewed as the necessary taboo:

    ‘I bet everyone can agree that one of the first conditions of a poem, irrespective of its technical merits, is whether or not it strikes something true and, almost by definition, something dangerous. Does it cause the shiver? Does it involuntarily excite the body? Does it unseat habitual thinking, what is always a killer of the instinct? Does it discomfit the reader? Does it stimulate a non-rational response, animal instinctive? Does it cause a transitory imbalance in the reader whose sense of things has just been challenged and who involuntarily finds the challenge exciting? Or does it leave the reader doe eyed, semi-somnolent, even reassured, comforted and undisturbed? If the last is the case, could it be that the instinct for poetry has been crossed out by an interfering influence? And could the interference have as its source any of a number of other interior, interiorized, voices? Has the poet mistakenly, but understandably, heeded the good citizen voice, the good worker voice, the good child voice, the good domestic voice, the good corporate player voice, the good organization member voice, or any of the other internalized voices whose sole purpose is to maintain equilibrium in the community?’

    Now for the essay’s concluding paragraph:

    ‘If what I suspect is true, if what short circuits the first round poet more than anything else are these other interiorized receptors kept in Pavlovian fashion, the learned system of stimulus and response, there is something even more peculiar about the matter. What it amounts to is that a trick has been played on the novice poet, even possibly on the practiced poet too soon satisfied with poetry contest recognition. Always having been taught, as a member of any of a number of social, communal, or domestically organized groups, to maintain equilibrium, or to keep home and town free of disturbance, in fact the new vocation seems to require a contary thing. Something livid, something that peels away at the finger tips calloused by routine, something to kick start the perceptions fouled by habitual thinking, even something subversive, and, in a sense, immoral, is what the new poet suddenly finds is vocationally required. Closer to the point, and to sum up the thing as categorically as possible, I am inclined to think it is family, town, corporation, or bureaucracy that requires this immoral act, of one variety or another, of poetry. In other words, occupationally, the poet is expected to break rank, step out of the cave, cause a disturbance, unsettle the scene, or force an issue or two the group has tacitly agreed to ignore. When you consider it the expectation makes perfect sense. I mean what could possibly interest a reader in a poem that only reflects, in language, material, or its treatment, what is likely an all too familiar screen set of diminishment and monochromatic returns?…’

    Well, there you have it. To the extent poetry boards require of their members they be good organizational players, seeing to the community first, being nice, not questioning, not challenging, and, well it fits, towing a board’s party line, I submit the boards falsify the poetry experience by subverting its instinct for breaking taboo. And I’ll take it a step further. I also submit that poetry boards, viewed as community, are peculiar in this respect. Whereas other communities expect poets to break a taboo or three poetry boards require just the opposite if the participant wants to be in good standing with management.

    That is a damn bizarre thing to have to say about an unendowed college of poets.

    Terreson

  148. Boy, Clattery! I just visited one of the sites you included today. Man, did you ever think an itinerant poet’s comments would cause so much teeth gnashing? What was it Arthur said above about defensive behavior? Pretty wild.

    So last night I tried to post a poem that the present topics bring to mine. I lost the connection, so I want to try again.

    It is an elegy by Anna Akhmatova, dated Leningrad, 1944. I’ve always loved her genius for the personal political voice. The poem brings to mind a poet I know, someone singlemindedly devoted to poetry but whose voice, for reasons mostly environmental, has been taken from her. By extension I think of a bunch of poets I’ve met on the boards whose voice similarly has been taken from them because of a certain dominating tendency among board critics. Remember that my essay also takes such critics to task, critics in my view who operate in bad faith. Here is the poem.

    From “Northern Elegies,” the fifth, by Anna Akhmatova.

    I, like a river,
    Have been turned aside by this harsh age.
    I am a substitute. My life has flowed
    Into another channel
    And I do not recognize my shores.
    O, how many fine sights I’ve missed,
    How many curtains have risen without me
    And fallen too. How many of my friends
    I’ve not met even once in my life,
    How many city skylines
    Could have drawn tears from my eyes,
    I who only know the one city
    And by touch, in my sleep, I could find it…
    And how many poems I have not written,
    Whose secret chorus swirls around my head
    And possibly one day
    Will stifle me…
    I know the beginnings and the ends of things,
    And life after the end, and something
    It isn’t necessary to remember now.
    And another woman has usurped
    The place that ought to have been mine,
    And bears my rightful name,
    Leaving me a nickmame, with which I have done,
    I like to think, all that was possible.
    But I, alas, won’t lie in my own grave.

    But sometimes a madcap air in spring,
    Or a combination of words in a chance book,
    Or somebody’s smile, suddenly
    Draw me into that non-existent life.
    In such a year would such have taken place,
    Something else in another: travelling, seeing,
    Thinking, remembering, entering a new love
    Like entering a mirror, with a dull sense
    Of treason, and a wrinkle that only yesterday
    Was absent…
    But if, from that life, I could step aside,
    And see my life such as it is, today,
    Then at last I’d know what envy means.

    poem by Anna Akhmatova

  149. Clattery, something occurs to me that is causing a big chuckle. I mean how can I possibly be surprised at the vitriol, the aspersions, the character assasinations, the dissing, even the questions about my sanity? I ain’t leaving anybody any wiggle room am I? How can I really blame mods, site admins, managers, critics operating in bad faith, and other apologists of the board system for feeling under attack, certainly for feeling questioned? They are and no longer just by me. I am almost feeling sorry for the lot of them, truth be told. Almost.

    So what is that great old Don McLean song line? “Everybody loves me, baby. What’s the matter with you.”

    Then there are people like you, Clattery. Viewed from one standpoint the right or the wrong matters less than that the discussion is made possible. You say you are a used car salesman. You are the damndest used car salesman I’ve ever met. Way to go, man.

    Terreson

  150. Hi Terreson,

    As a car salesman, I have for a long time had a high customer satisfaction index. It has been years since a customer of mine has rated me any lower than “Completely Satisfied” on the survey that goes to their homes a few weeks after buying. I’m straightforward and leave no doubt on the table. Before shaking hands, we always know we have done the best we can, precisely what the deal is, and that that’s what we tried to do, or at least that we did the very best that can be done.

    Come to think of it, you got what you bargained for here, and you’ve done good things with the way you followed through. You should be completely satisfied with your effort.

    But I see this more positively than you. I see good ideas coming out of this conversation. It’s out there now. The measure will be durability, how many miles and for how long will this run. When you click into a new and thriving forum years from now and see ideas rooted from your essay, then you’ll know.

    C.

  151. You bet, Clattery. I get what you are saying. Comment 155 above I quote Neruda who talks about poetry “spattered by the trades we live by.” There is everything honorable in the trades. What is honorable in poetry is sometimes less certain I’ve discovered.

    And sure. While I confess to being worried about the immediate future of poetry on the boards I am not so worried about ultimate outcomes for the scene. For every poetry board apologist vested there seem to be two to five participants questioning of the system. Poets who want more than what the boards are giving them. Change is in the wind.

    Terreson

  152. I see you’re being sideways attacked again by the folks of Desert Moon Review. Interesting. My experience of them was that they were a sanctimonious clique who were not at all as open-minded or willing to discuss things as they claim to be. I joined that board a year or so ago, and hung around for awhile, and critiqued and posted poems. The best I can say about the treatment I got there was indifference. The more accurate way to describe my experience there was that they has very closed ideas about what poetry is, can be, or should be. Not even remotely open to the Taboo in poetry, as you put it above.

    So, once again, Consider The Source.

    I can’t take what Chris George says seriously, at this point. The only worthwhile comment on that thread at Desert Moon was Guy Kettelhack’s admonition to get back to writing the poetry. The rest is thinly veiled BS.

    Oops. There, I said what I wanted to say, and I named names. Sorry about that.

  153. Thanks, Arthur, for the comments. Truth be told, man, I can’t take the sideways attacks, as you aptly categorize them, seriously. An online friend, normally quiet but who is speaking up herself in the forums she visits, said something kind of funny over the weekend. In paraphrase she said, ‘They are always calling us whiners. So who’s whining now?’ Wasn’t there a country western song that used that line? And where is sweet Patty from Winchester, VA when you really need her?

    Interesting, don’t you think, how shrill the voice of objection to the essay has been in some quarters? Let’s hope that soon the real dialogue can happen.

    Tere

  154. FWIW, some excerpts from my post at the various Critical Poet Forums (two, the last time I looked), since those threads appear not to be accessible by non-members. Quoted lines are from Tere’s essay above. Sorry, but I’m afraid this may be a tad verbose given the already swollen size of this thread. Heck, they’re verbose in any context. 🙂

    “Do the boards benefit poets, the new and inexperienced especially who, in most cases, are grappling with the vital stuff of finding an authentic voice, gaining confidence in themselves, working through the canon, trying to figure out if they have something essential to say, and all at the same time?”

    Leaping to an unfounded conclusory opinion, I think the boards do, in fact, help new and inexperienced writers ‘work through the canon’ and they assist in that fairly efficiently. Whether the experience fosters authentic voices is much more problematic, IMO. But I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I?

    “Do the boards, viewed as communities, engender poetry whose language is also authentic or do they falsify the poetry experience?”

    Falsify? It seems to me that falsification implies that there is some unequivocal (or at least definable) truth that is being negated or a currency that is being counterfeited. If, for the purposes of argument, a great deal of awful romantic poetry was written during the 19th century for the express purpose of getting laid or setting the groundwork for a good grope of whalebone, did this amount to falsification of poetry? Even if it was sincere? Even if it worked? Even if she really did smell like a rose?

    For heaven’s sake, man, there was no match.com or eHarmony to broker the passions back then. Did these rakes, viewed as opportunists, engender poetry whose languange was authentic or did they falsify the poetry experience?

    I’m kidding, of course, but only to an extent. The undefined notion of falsity makes for a poor criterion, IMO, because it is the product of an enthymeme whose premises, if examined, cannot be assumed accepted by a consensus of your readership.

    “…My sense is that the free exchange of ideas is viewed as dangerous to community, but that poetry is not, since, it honestly doesn’t matter.”

    I concur with the first half of this sentence but not necessarily with the explanation in the second half. I’m more inclined to believe that a poem per se is considered less dangerous than free discourse because the poem itself is bounded. It cannot answer charges levied against it and it cannot further engage in insult (or, worse, challenge) directed at an individual or subset of the membership.

    [Note that if a poem is directed at an individual or particular “protected subset”, it IS viewed as dangerous and thus subject at some boards to summary censorship.]

    Conventional wisdom holds that communities and children need boundaries. In the case of children in particular, they actively seek out their boundaries. Even as they decry discipline and rules, children want boundaries and, thus, they test them from time to time if only to reassure themselves that the boundaries remain reliably in place. Few things are more feared than freedom.

    I’d argue that safety, especially among novices, is a much sought-after quality in an online community. Here, it is instructive to harken back to your opening: Are not beginning poets “grappling with the vital stuff of finding an authentic voice, gaining confidence in themselves, working through the canon, trying to figure out if they have something essential to say, and all at the same time?”

    My implied analogy–that beginning poets are somehow like children–would surely not sit well with a majority of poetry board members. Most are adults and some are mature adults. 😉 Nevertheless, I wonder whether the standard-formula board is capable of providing an appropriate degree of safety in the tender years while increasingly allowing members to be exposed to artistic risks as they mature as poets and critics.

    IMO, learning in a low-risk sheltered environment may have its place, but True Art™ without risk is an oxymoron. While that’s a broad enough topic to demand a complete essay of its own (and there are many such essays to be found out there already). I suggest that it’s axiomatic.

    The question, then, in my mind is this: Can the “standard” poetry board, operating as a one-room schoolhouse, attempting to serve K through postgraduate, balance the need for safety and borders at one end of the spectrum with the need to subject serious art to the crucible in which truth is separated and refined?

    “…Poets are even told to thank the critic no matter what has been offered in the way of critical response.”

    Hmm. [i]Thank you, sir, may I have another?[/i] Nothing childish about that, is there?

    [You do realize that tens of thousands of board poets are poised to crucify you for this heresy, don’t you? A lot of people have drunk that Kool-Aid for years and stand ready to defend it by citing chapter and verse. Moreover, they fervently believe that this is the only way critique can exist without plague-like consequences. This rule is as necessary as special military tribunals. Jes sayin… 😀 😀 ]

    “It is a rule, an effective gag order, that causes the head to wag and wobble, and one again I believe designed more for the sake of community cohesion than for the sake of the poet and poetry. The unfortunate consequence is that poet is put at the disadvantage, while critic is allowed to say practically anything with impunity, no matter how uncomprehending, or even biased.”

    You obviously don’t grasp the benefits and efficiencies of a Stalinist court system. What’s wrong with relying on a state-appointed lawyer to do your talking for you and defend you?

    Seriously though, while new writers may need to acquire the skill of hearing criticism (distinguished here from conceding merit to all criticism), that skill should have been mastered in the lower forms. In my view, it does not justify using the same teaching methods with post-doctoral fellows as are used in the second grade.

    Once again, I believe, safety is as much the objective as community cohesion, although both are sought. Considering that members are obligated by rule to contribute some number of critiques for every poem posted, it is as essential to the model workshop that critiquing be as safe as writing poetry.

    “Common sense suggests that the critic is no more likely to know the nature of good poetry than is the poet. I know of no case in the history of literary criticism where a school of thought has not been superseded eventually by another or taken to task for what it failed to understand.”

    I agree. Unfortunately, this is a poor argument when applied to a kindergarten or grammar school setting. There, pupils are not expected to supersede a school of thought; they are charged with learning the canon. Cold. Only after mastering the theses should they indulge in antitheses. (Or at least that’s the usual saw.)

    But perhaps more to the point, the argument suggests that the sole purpose of criticism is to judge ‘good poetry’ (however defined) and, perhaps, even to advance the art or the genre. I’d argue that the pursuit of critical skills is a legitimate end unto itself. If the process leads to members becoming better readers and critical thinkers, then that is hardly a trivial result. (Of course, whether that is, in fact, the usual outcome has yet to be examined.)

    At some platonic level or another, it surely must be true that nothing does less to falsify poetry than the proper education of readers.

    “This rather begs the further question: if poetry boards sanction the frequently inept critic for whom are the boards meant?”

    Nods. They are, of course, meant for both, as members are writers and critics. And let’s not forget coffee-klatchers and schmoozers as well. 😀

    re Poetry Board as Workshop: “First, emphasis is placed on production and not on refinement.”

    Amen! Granting my own premise that the boards work best when introducing novice writers to the cannon, it is not unreasonable to presuppose that development follows a logarithmic learning curve: Much is learned from the first trial, a great deal is learned from the second, and so forth, with diminishing returns. As the number of trials grows, incremental growth slows such that little is learned between, say, the 200th and 201st attempts.

    In the steep slope of initial board participation, new skills are acquired rapidly. Anyone paying attention knows what’s in this toolkit: identifying cliches, praising imagery, dissing abstracts, recognizing telly words, circling enjambed prepositions, jettisoning rhyme, making only authorized iambic substitutions, rejecting simile in favor of metaphor, avoiding repeated words, eschewing forbidden words like “shard”, anti-degerundizing (the practice of exorcizing poems of words ending in “-ing”, whether gerund, participle or true noun–they’re all the same 😉 ) and counting occurrences of the first-person singular pronoun (i.e., “I”).

    During this phase, it can be argued that frequent reps may be justified. That’s how we learned our times tables, isn’t it? And what better way of getting in these reps than signing up for the poem-a-day exercise? Inevitably, however, there comes a time (oh, let’s say six months to a year or two at a poetry board?) when the curve levels out.

    At this point, McStasis sets in. McStasis, it should be noted, is marked by a consistant ability to produce between one and four McPoems per week, each of which demonstrates basic mastery of the toolkit. Comments associated with McStatic works are laudatory, except for the droppings of the occasional troublemaker or ill-informed newbie who doesn’t know any better.

    A McStatic critiquer of a McStatic poet is obligated to find one or two nits per poem, but no more. Alternatively, a word or two may be singled out for triming in order to “tighten” the poem. (Acceptable poetry is, after all, always very tight and most can stand to have a couple of words trimmed!)

    Reading a poem thoroughly for content–much less for secondary layers and extended metaphors–is optional. In actual practice, it is not necessary to read the whole poem if sufficient nits or suggestions surface in time, except that the last line must be read to evaluate the close.

    So is there anything wrong with that scene? Well, I think it depends on the chosen objective. A lot of people enjoy being bad golfers and I doubt seriously that it has the effect of falsifying golf. They have no illusions that they will someday challenge Tiger Woods at the Masters and–who knows?–maybe some day they’ll get grooved and win their annual office outing on the second Wednesday in July.

    [Is this the rough equivalent of getting a piece accepted in a second-rate ezine? I dunno.]

    But if the objective is to become a serious poet (whatever that means) and write poetry with a scratch handicap, then what?

    OK, allow me to be preachy (I forgot that in my list of unpardonables above, didn’t I?) even though I am in no way qualified to fill my own pulpit. IMHO, before a poet settles into irreversible McStasis, s/he should be writing far fewer poems, reading better quality poems and learning to rethink, revisit, revise, revisit, revise, rewrite, revisit, revise and, more often than not, relegate to the round file.

    But it’s more than a matter of pace or work hours, isn’t it? It’s at least as much a matter of risk. Without risk, the poet won’t progress any more than Tiger Woods would progress if he layed up every time he missed a fairway.

    [Groan. My apologies for the dreadful sports analogy. Is anything more banal?]

    “Then there is the anti-intellectual element on poetry boards.”

    I agree. And I wish you had fleshed this out a bit further in your essay, though it’d be a slippery slope to climb in slick rubber boots. At the root, I think, is an all-too-widely-held belief that poetry is all about emotion whereas history, theories and facts should be relegated to other endeavors and disciplines. 😉 Although ancient poetry was a branch of philosophy, modern McBoard™ poetry has its own separate, self-defining epistemology.

    Two corollaries are obvious: (1) if a poem expresses true and heart-felt emotions it is good by definition and (2) poetry should be given the benefit of an absolute form of relativism (e.g., your image of something is as valid as anyone else’s image of something). Thus, metaphor, properly supported by imagery, is the poetic equivalent of truth. That said, intellectual discourse about poetry is always irrelevant or misplaced. Q.E.D.

    “On many boards, at least, members are not allowed to raise questions about other boards and, by extension, about the design and the parameters of the online poetry board system in general…The circumstance speaks to a cartel of shared interests among board administrators.”

    I’m unconvinced that this phenomenon is best characterized as a “cartel”. When I entered the workforce so many years ago, I learned early on never to knock the competition directly. I don’t think this was due to a cartel agreement exactly, but more likely the mutual exercise of “enlightened self-interest”: Who wants to start that war, when it’ll come back to bite us in the ass?

    When the underlying products are the same, branding is important, n’est-ce pas? While the competition may be fierce over taste and packaging, it is in no one’s self-interest to examine too carefully the ingredients they all use.

    “[D]oes the poetry board infrastructure of moderators and site administrators benefit the poet and create a free range environment encouraging poetry?”

    Allow me to divide the question, if I may. First, does it benefit the poet?

    In my view, which I hope I’ve exposed pretty fully by now, the board infrastructure benefits some of the poets some of the time. Specifically, I think it provides initial encouragement to write by supplying an audience with an incentive to read and comment. Further, the mods help provide a degree of safety which is perceived as important, especially to beginners. (And, naturally, the mods assist mightily in chanting those quotidian lessons too!)

    But does this unitary system “create a free range environment encouraging poetry?” Decidedly not. IMO, the model works to the point of McStasis, beyond which it cannot function effectively as an artistic community.

    “All animals are created equal, some more than others. An insight that cannot be more abhorrent to artists in general, poets in particular, whose vocation requires they be slightly anarchistic, certainly free wheeling and passionate in their convictions, if they are to keep creative in their artistic personalities.”

    Here we converge in agreement.

    At the same time, I’m inclined to be sympathetic to protestations to the effect that board administrations mean well most of the time.

    While I think that intentional and direct censorship may be rare at the Better Boards (© Better Boards and Gardens, 2008), that observation misses much of the point.

    Back in the days when the U.S. had a reality-based Supreme Court, it adopted the term “chilling effect” to describe how the color of authority can have indirect pernicious effects on free speech, free press and free thought. It’s a good term, I think, and apropos in this discussion.

    Operating behind closed curtains, a mod board inexorably becomes a hegemon. The mods themselves do not have to do anything overt to achieve this status, because the perception of power is more important than any list of delegated, legitimate powers. Indeed, the perception of power IS actual power. Always.

    In my view, the conclusion is simple enough: The presence of a hegemon is anathema to a community of artists.

    ****

    If I’m even half-right in distinguishing between two de facto communities–one consisting of beginners through McStatic yeomen and another pursuing the objective of transcending McPoetry–I don’t know where that leaves me.

    My thinking is that what’s needed for the serious poet to advance much beyond a cookie-cutter intermediate is:

    1. Taking more risk
    2. Subjecting works to less forgiving critical and intellectual discourse
    3. Defending one’s theses (or, if indefensible, rejecting them)
    4. Reading better poems
    5. Writing fewer poems
    6. Increasing reading diversity (i.e., outside one’s “own niche”)
    7. Taking longer time intervals
    8. Putting as much or more time into revision than original writing
    9. Asserting more artistic freedom

    After a point, though, almost everything about the conventional poetry board works at cross-purposes with this list.

    Risk is conveniently managed by the guidelines. “Less forgiving” critical and intellectual discourse is scarce because it is typically suppressed or discouraged as being (a) off-topic, (b) unnecessarily intellectual, (c) unkind, (d) rude or (e) inflammatory. Defending one’s own theses (a well-recognized virtue in academia) is disallowed by rule. (Remember, we mustn’t crit the critter or defend our poetry.)

    Given the frenetic pace of the larger poetry boards, most or all of the time and energy available for reading poetry is consumed just getting through what friends have posted on a given day.

    [And, face it, most of it is quite bad. That, in itself, may be a problem: What is the effect of reading dreadful poetry day-in and day-out? Does any study suggest it may cause brain damage?]

    The fast pace also operates as an incentive to churn out poems too frequently. In the past, I’ve noticed that if I don’t post a new poem for three weeks, people start asking if I’ve been ill or if I’ve left the site.

    The expected duration of the revision cycle (one or two days, or before the poem rolls to page 2, whichever comes first) is far, far too short. (“Bumping” is, of course, an unpardonable and selfish sin.) Curiously, some boards do not permit revisions. (After some prescribed time has passed, the poet may repost in a new thread. EEEEWWW!)

    The buddy system discourages real risk taking.

    My conclusion? The stock poetry board is useful to a point, after which it threatens to become a bad habit.

  155. I want to post here what I have posted elsewhere:

    i think Tom’s overview is the most rational, non-partisan, and accurate summation of the state of affairs that I have yet encountered, here or anywhere else. Tom’s viewpoint is full of insight and wisdom. The conclusion he reaches is one I wholeheartedly agree with, and full endorse.

    Now, of course, if we want things to be better than that, if we truly want online poetry to be that haven of creativity that Terreson has proposed, more than once, in his comments here, there’s work to do to make it so. Tom’s overview provides a very good place to start, to make whatever corner one wishes to improve, actually improve.

  156. So some people are asking for specifics as evidence supporting the opinions my essay expresses. Mostly I have refused the bait. Now, I see the evidence has been supplied without any effort on my part. The link given under #183 leads to a thread that makes for some pretty revealing behavior. Two items strike me. First the shrillness of the tone displayed by moderators. Secondly, a mod threatens to lock the thread, then (I think) thinks better of it, then congratulates himself on allowing a lively, heated debate. A debate, by the way, said mod is mostly carrying on by himself.

    Over the years I’ve noticed a certain strategy some board managers keep to when treating with questions they find uncomfortable. First, try to trivialize the question. Secondly, try to minimalize the person asking the question. Third, dismiss both question and questioner. But sometimes the strategy fails. When it does, there is no choice but to attack character.

    I sure hope people take a moment and read the “fresh hell” thread. Viewed from a certain standpoint, the turn the conversation took is fortuitous. This is precisely what some, a few, a bunch, many of us have come to expect from some, a few, a bunch, many poetry board managers.

    Thank you boys for making my case. I could not have done it without you. But can we please stop the name calling and get to the more substantiative issues the essay raised, the same as Terrible Tom riffs on?

    Terreson

  157. It truly is amazing. Actions really do speak louder than words. It’s nice when they make your arguments for you, by their actions, so all one has to do is point and say, “See? That’s what we’re talking about.”

    At the same time, it’s truly sad to see. It reflects poorly on all involved, and on the board in question.

  158. Arthur, the managers are counting on people like you and me giving in, going quiet, going away. I want the days before the managers back. I remember those days. They were fertile days. The worst thing that ever happened to online poetry might just be the enfranshisement of a management class. Yep. I am sure of it.

    Terreson

  159. I suppose I should equivocate a little here before making any more enemies.

    I accept that the management class is here to stay. I also get that there are many poetry board participants who feel safe and secure with the presence of managers. Not that I understand the need but I get it.

    Having said as much my sense is that the pendulum needs to swing a little the other way. To moderate a poetry board is not the same as modulating board exchanges between poets. Post deletions and shunning of members has long since become a problem. So there are two correctives I would propose. Self-policing is essential. As is the stated standard for what is deletable, shunnable, bannable. Back in my AOL hosting days there was no gray area and small room for the subjective interpretation of rules. I could delete a post or shun a member for three reasons only: hate speech, threats of violence, intentional sabotage (talibaning) of a thread. That was it. And every time I deleted a post I had to file a report to ownership. One other thing. When I entered a room or board in my offical capacity it was understood I represented an organization. I could not express the opinions of a member only.

    So here are my suggestions for reforming the system. Self-policing. Setting standards for mod actions. Mods required to represent their boards, not themselves, when acting in an official capacity.

    Terreson

  160. I remain glad for this discussion. It was overdue, and it was good to air out a lot of dirty laundry that had been stifled for far too long.

    Still, I am cynical about any real change happening. Those invested in the status quo are too entrenched, and unlikely to either want substantive change or be able to effect it. Things build up inertia all on their own, and sometimes even well-meant efforts are too little, too late.

    The best option I can see is to start over, in another place, using Tere’s suggestions for how it could work, and let the dead bury their dead in all the existing dead zones.

  161. “Over the years I’ve noticed a certain strategy some board managers keep to when treating with questions they find uncomfortable. First, try to trivialize the question. Secondly, try to minimalize the person asking the question. Third, dismiss both question and questioner. But sometimes the strategy fails. When it does, there is no choice but to attack character.”

    Or, as a last resort, they lock the thread. That happened this morning at poets.org when one of the site admins locked the thread “Complaints on the Forum,” saying: “Yes, we are done with this thread now. Apparently, rancor has a longer shelf life than a twinkie.” Freedom of speech, apparently, has a shorter one.
    http://www.poets.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=15632&start=75

    The whole thing saddens me. As you often say Tere, “It hurts the heart.”

  162. Another thing, less drastic than locking a thread, that sometimes happens when mods are questioned about something they’ve said in a thread, particularly if that something was provocative, is that they decide it is time for them to bow out of the conversation and then suggest anyone who is interested should take up the topic with them in PM. This happened recently at tcp.org:

    http://www.criticalpoet.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=37859&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=120

    Threads like these don’t get locked, but conversation is basically shutdown because members know they aren’t going to get a public response to public statements made on the board.

  163. Wow! Just Wow! I hope it is understood that poets.org is the online venue owned, operated by the Academy of American Poets. The Academy of American Poets!

    And, yes, Halifax, I saw that message too at TCP.org. And, yes again, theirs is a means of censorship typical to them, typical to a bunch of IBPC associated boards.

    This Orwellian shit of group think and thought control has got to stop.

    Terreson

  164. Silly hyperbole. Orwell wouldn’t have known poets.org if it had bitten him in the ass. This whole colloquy is an amazing exercise in bloviation. Play on, mo’ fo’s.

  165. Tere,

    I have decided to give the mods at tcp.org the benefit of the doubt and have PMed
    the mod in question an apology for assuming his motivation was to end the discussion. I regret that statements made in public couldn’t continue to be discussed in public, but I understand the move to bow out of the conversation may have been motivated by a desire to avoid further conflict. As you yourself pointed out, the discussion had shifted from systemic problems to personal ones and had ceased to be productive.

    Alf,

    Orwell may never have heard of poets.org, but the real question is: has poets.org heard of Orwell? Orwell is dead so he can’t bite them in the ass, but maybe group think will. I don’t know.

  166. Deermeat, I can’t be bothered with your likes.

    Halifax, I got this little cricket in my left ear. His first name is Jiminy.

    Terreson

  167. Hi All,

    I just updated question #7.

    Two threads tangential to this conversation have been brought up at Babilu and Poets.org, plus for easy navigation, I entered all four thread links to the Gazebo discussion.

    Here is the Poets.org thread: Locking Threads, begun by TomWest. In his post, he discusses the moderators’ practice at that forum of locking threads, not allowing any further discussion. He begins like so:

    Locking a thread affects all who had anything to do with that thread—readers, as well as posters. Locking deprives all rule-abiding posters from participating in a thread they intellectually own.

    A moderador there, the only respondent to his thoughtful post, instead of furthering the conversation, writes back among other things, this paragraph:

    I know I’m about to blow my reputation as the gentlest, most moderate of moderators here, but I can’t help myself: I’M SICK AND TIRED OF PEOPLE PICKING FIGHTS HERE. And that’s what it is, despite the butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-my-mouth rhetoric and lofty-sounding appeals to principle.

    That’s not only in caps, but in red as well. Believe it or not, she locked the thread.

    At the Babilu thread, Questions for poetry forum survey, there is a call for ideas for a survey of online poets. I want to note here a tool, that there is polldaddy, a free online resource for surveys and polls, which can be embedded into blob posts.

    C.

  168. Thanks, Clattery for the update. The information concerning poets.org is both interesting and timely.

    As it happens two threads have been locked on the board this week, both of which addressing issues concerning board politics and management problems. Additionally, threads earlier locked, maybe because management found them uncomfortable, have since been deleted. Then there is the case of a husband and wife who have been banned from poets.org for asking questions deemed inappropriate. See item 10 above for a link that gives their side of the story.

    I wasn’t the first to point out as much here but, at the expense of getting specific, it bears repeating. Poets.org is the online site sponsored by The Academy of American Poets. All of a sudden the questionable behavior of management working for some small board takes on a new dimension. I wish I could remember the membership the board likes to boast about, but it is in the tens of thousands. Why? Because the board is sponsored by The Academy of American Poets.

    Friends tell me I shouldn’t take the circumstance as seriously as I do, or that a poetry board whose practices of censorship have become so egregious is a part of the Academy’s organization. What they can’t know is how seriously I do take the board’s managing practices. Here is why.

    This is a partial list of some of the Academy’s past chancellors that have served on its board:

    Louise Bogan, W.H. Auden, Randell Jarrell, Robert Lowell, Robert Penn Warren, Archibald MacLeish, Marriane Moore, James Merril, Robert Fitzgerald. Just a few of the early chancellors. Stanley Kunitz comes to mind as does Robert Pinsky.

    Some months ago, long before my essay got written, I tried to contact the Academy to complain about their board’s management behavior. Tried twice. The first time my email was rerouted to the very site administrator whose practices I objected to. The second time my letter was simply dismissed. In a way I suppose I should thank the Academy for its response. It is what steeled me to take to a broadsheet approach to the board problems I have addressed.

    But here is the thing, what has become a real rub. If The Academy of American Poets sanctions the behavior of its board managers I got a big time problem. The board censors discussion, shuns members who they find troublesome, deletes posts, locks threads, and pits its staff against individual members they find irksome. Everything stated here is factual. Some of us out here have taken to saving to our pc’s the more unbelievable exchanges we’ve read on the boards between management and members. There is a record.

    And here is my question, this is what I find so damn discouraging. Where the hell is the spirit of Bogan, Jeffers, MacLeish, Moore, Auden, Jarrell on this board? Where is the sense of free speech and the free exchange of (dangerous?) ideas? Where is the latitude for questioning? Where is the fostering of individualism when it questions authority?

    There is no point in trying to contact the Academy a third time. I choose to assume that the problem of indifference stops at middle management. But I have no way of knowing.

    A moderator at poets.org said once the Academy has no interest in the board’s activities. It is just what he said in public. I can’t know. If it is true then I think the Academy should do one of two things. Shut down the site or reform it, starting at the top.

    Terreson

  169. Terreson,

    The Academy of American Poets is mis-named. It’s true name should be the Academy of New York Poets. They’ve never really shown any interest in anyone but those from the northeast coast of the US for a long time. You attribute too much weight to their influence. They’re part of the reason poetry books no longer appeared on bookstore’s shelves. They’re out of touch and have been for a while.

    Seriously, their idea of an American Poet is some pansy with an MFA prostrate before them waiting for his ‘Golden Recognition Award’. Laugh at them, it’s all they deserve.

    -blue

  170. Okay, blue. While I don’t agree with your characterization of the Academy I get what you are saying. The most vocal critic of the Academy I know of is a New Yorker, a published poet and displayed artist. If you are right then I am wrong for still thinking the Academy can self-correct. We’ll see.

    Terreson

  171. Well, okay. I have a question for the current chancellors of the Academy.

    Frank Bidart, Victor Hernández Cruz, Rita Dove, Lyn Hejinian, Sharon Olds, Ron Padgett, Carl Phillips, Robert Pinsky, Kay Ryan, Gary Snyder, Susan Stewart, Gerald Stern, Ellen Bryant Voigt, C.K. Williams.

    Chancellors, is it true, as I’ve been told, the Academy has no interest in its poets.org’s discussion board and the poetry carried there? Are you people okay with the discussion board’s rules and by-laws. Do you approve of what amounts to censorship and the shunning of members at the Academy’s discussion board?

    I have no other way of contacting you folks or your organization. I tried. This is the best chance I got. It is an easy question. I would just like to know what you folks think about your discussion and poetry board and its practices.

    Terreson

    terecone @AOL.com

  172. to me the question really is, why do you care? if you do not want to post, read, or discuss poetry written on poetry boards, then don’t. it boggles my mind how much people care about what other people do. if i want to write 50 poems a day and post them online it is no concern of yours. grow up and find something better to do with your time, like improving your own mediocre writing skills.

  173. Well, barry graham, bless your heart. Your comment almost pulled me in. Had you resisted from ending on the personal insult I think you might have had me. But you know how it goes, man. Personal insults always speak to motive. So now the return question could be this: why do you not care?

    Terreson

  174. “In fact, I think I’ll lock this thread right now, just because I can, so there. If the Admins and my fellow mods decide I’ve flown off the handle too soon, they can fix it and that will be fine with me.

    You don’t like it? Read my new sig.

    Catherine
    Moderatrix
    Borg Queen Wannabe”

    Since no one has corrected this mod’s comments on the Poets.org board, one has to assume that this kind of domination, censorship is sanctioned by the Academy and the management of their board. That’s really sad.

    Pat

  175. the reason i don’t care is because it is no concern of mine or anyone else’s. that’s just good old common sense. its ashamed that your belief system includes the idea that everyone who has an opinion has a secret agenda. that’s your shortcoming, no one else’s.

  176. barry graham, it is a case of my bad maybe. But I can’t make sense enough of your post to figure out how to reply, what to say, what shortcoming to account for or defend. Sorry, guy. Got to pass you over.

    Pat Jones, about your #204. Bless her heart, this Catherine person. She has no idea how quickly her sign-off made its way through the web. Clattery’s post above, #196, is actually coming late. So many people at poets.org have emailed the person’s sign-off to friends saying, in effect, what the f**k? In a sense this person has become a poster child for a certain type of mod behavior. It is unfortunate.

    In a way, however, I admire this person for her honesty. She at least tacitly admits to what in a few, some, a bunch of poetry boards the office of moderator has become. That of the moderatrix. (If only she had resisted the Borg thing at least.)

    Whether or not poets.org’s parent cares, The Academy of American Poets, no one can say.

    Terreson

  177. And yet you yourself care enough about what other people do to tell them to grow up and improve their own mediocre writing skills. And you went out of your way to say so.

    Seems to me like you care a lot more than you let on. Seems to me you’re doing exactly what you tell other people not to do.

    Which is why I can’t take your comments seriously. They are self-contradictory.

  178. Regarding the locking of threads, as Clattery links to in comment #196 here, it’s as I have been saying for a very long time:

    Actions speak louder than words.

  179. ‘contradiction is an indicator of human genius” – albert einstein.

    thats exactly my point arthur. do you believe that anyone actually cares whether or not you take them seriously? how strange when people take themselves so seriously that they think their opinion matters to anyone but themselves. when i said that terreson’s writing skills were mediocre it is because i believe they are and said so. i didnt say it to encourage others to feel the same way, i was only stating the obvious.

    but indeed you are correct. i care today. tomorrow… we’ll see. thanks for the discussion.

  180. Well, Barry, you’ve again gone out of your way to make your comments. It seems to me that you have much more invested in this than you are letting on.

    One of the patterns that has emerged in this discussion is how invested some folks are in there positions, and how far out of their way they’ve gone to be In The Right. This has been particularly true of those in power who have become invested in maintaining the status quo. It’s the tactic of being unable to dismiss the argument for change, so they are left with attacking the messenger(s); numerous examples of that have occurred on this thread, and on the other threads linked to in Comment 7. What you’re doing here looks an awful like that tactic, which is one reason it’s so unconvincing.

    You undermine your own point about not-caring, which indeed has some validity—as has been said, sometimes the only reason an argument gets so heated is because there’s so very little at stake LOL—when you end your point with what amounts to a personal attack. I doubt you’ve read enough of Terreson’s poetry (or mine, or anyone else’s here) to call it mediocre, or anything else. You also seem to imply that your opinion has more validity than anyone else’s, which is in contradiction to your position on not-caring.

    You can claim the Einstein quote for yourself if you like, but that only further undermines your position by implying arrogance and superiority. It might have been better to quote the Tao Te Ching about independence and humility, for example.

    So, since you started this particular mini-discussion within the larger discussion, one is still left with wondering why YOU care so much, and why you’re invested in being right.

    Not that I care, actually. I’m just pointing out some issues your actions have brought to the table. It’s all food for thought, at this point.

  181. Oh, and in point of fact, I do think that many people DO care whether or not we (or I) take them seriously.

    That’s why they’ve gone so far to extremes in their responses to the original essay. That in itself is an indicator of how invested they are in a particular outcome, as opposed to being open to constructive criticism of the system.

    Which is what you also appear to be doing, at the moment.

  182. Hi Barry,

    Thanks for joining in.

    I cannot find that Einstein quote on contradiction that you have cited, “contradiction is an indicator of human genius.” Do you have it? I was looking for context. For instance, here a famous one by him:

    The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.

    C.

  183. hello clattery – the quotation in question is actually in a collection of correspondences between einstein and max born. i was reading in translation, i do not speak german. thank you for welcoming me to the discussion.

    and arthur – you still don’t get it. your little line in 211 is priceless:

    “Oh, and in point of fact, I do think that many people DO care whether or not we (or I) take them seriously.”

    hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahhaha

    that was worth the price of admission. i will certainly be left laughing for months.

  184. Hi Barry,

    Thanks, but can you give an excerpt that includes the quotation?

    Now I am wondering if they were discussing the contradictions of wave versus particle theory, or more broadly the contradictions between general relativity theory and quantum mechanics.

    I’d like more context if you have it there to share.

    C.

  185. dear clattery –

    its been so long since i read the exact passage, but i remember they were discussing the need for particles, electrons in prticular, to have a separate reality/identity independent of its measurements, even when it is not, technically, being measured.

    thanks again for the discussion. i guess this is where i sign off. i’ll scroll through my old notebooks from grad school. when i find the quote i’ll send it your way. take care.

    p.s. still laughing at arthur’s pretensions. hilarious.

  186. “look in the mirror”

    hahahahahahaha. like you’re ten years old or something. man you’re killing me. ha ha ha

    ok. im signing off now, really. this is too much. ha

  187. Anon, your comment is just a variant on another tactic of refusal to engage the issues, which is often stated as, “If you don’t like it here, go away.” That’s sandbox-level dismissiveness.

    As to actually starting one’s own board, that takes time and effort, too, and one finds oneself in the role of Admin, rather than contributing poems. Even if it ends up being a drama-free board with no autocratic tendencies, it doesn’t really change anything. It’s not a solution. It just perpetuates the cycle.

  188. From the blog “Significance and Inspiration,” cited above (#7) and independently maintained by one of poets.orgs site administrators:

    “Other people and journals that I discovered during this conference and would like to recommend include Dogz Plot (Editor Barry Graham says, “I just like good writing…

    http://larina.wordpress.com/2008/05/26/new-discoveries-at-a-new-kind-of-literary-conference/

    So I guess this barry graham, while meting out his insults, didn’t see the need to make public his association with the site administrator whose board management practices have come under question. I suppose it can be assumed his sudden appearance at Clattery’s is something other than happen-chance?

    Anyway, 222 posts into the discussion and still no cogent arguments defending the board system as it stands. Only the personal insults, the marginalizations, the trivializations, and the dissmissivness.

    Terreson

  189. i wrote this to tereson a long time ago and do not see it on the blog- and did not hear back- so am sending it again

    now that i see so many responses to tereson i am worried that he might be quite important and i better read all the entries and actully see what he said (i tend to shoot from the hip)

    to clattery-nice illustrations on yr. site-

    to tereson- another person who won’t identify who he/she is- isn’t transparency a good thing? honesty?

    u guys seem a bit non/ not political (now i have to re read)

    2/3rds of the earth’s pop goes to bed hungry or without shelter
    the world descends to the right (the night) into the violence of iraq and global warming

    what the fu k is poetry going to matter then?
    pray tell?

    a lot of responses (i haven’t even read them) sort of parse crap into crap-minutiae

    auden- stevens- crane (yes- u can wonder how i rank them as political poets, but i do ( i have sublety) the great poets address the political issues- it may be indirect but-

    u guys- (well, maybe not u) but creely, ashbery, bukowski- “flarfling”- most of the language school- they seem to be gazing at their own navels-they r like pimples on somethings great arse- occasionally catching a whiff of a sad right wing fart

    a person like blake would curse and roll over and go back to sleep

    the moderns i like? how nice of u to ask- heany, rich, bly, snyder, forche,

    now…let me read these comments and come up w something really considered

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  190. Hi Songbird,

    I read the article, and found it to be dated in ideas, but a contribution to this discussion in the sense that it points up what might be ideal, what could be striven for. The end of the article bore me out in the dated aspect, in that most of the links to poetry sites are broken. My interest there was to look for new sites to add to the list, and I found not one. Although looking served to be a trip down memory lane to a degree.

    Terreson’s article delves into what is wrong and how it is that it is wrong. In itemizing, he challenges each of us to make our poetry forums better, whether we are admins, moderators, or poet-members. His is a call for a movement to the ideal.

    Another important contribution that your link makes, is that when we go back, we can all see what we used to be up to. I met some great friends on line, some whom I have met and had great times with, friends for life online and off.

    Go back to the 3rd reply in the Gazebo thread. Sam Byfield says this:

    I agree Pat, the essay and many threads that have appeared addressing it are a good warning about what can happen in online forums and the things we need to be careful of.

    What we are talking about here is either what can happen or, in far too many cases, what has happened at online poetry forums. For instance, in the article at Perihelion by Pamelyn Casto, she mentions that a good poetry board would not tolerate flaming. Part of the problem is that many boards a few years ago were attacked by both flamers and spammers. Many of the oppressive rules and moderator activities have been applied in reaction to those events, which some forums simply did not survive.

    It led to rules that fill respondent’s lips: when-someone-does-this-you-must-do-that rules. And that led to threads wherein moderators would sidetrack the discussion between two intelligent and grown adults, to say what must be said, and how the rules were not read or abided by, and so forth. It is not that Terreson’s article is imbalanced, but that, as I read it, he would love to get balance back.

    Also, it seems far too obvious that Terreson loves online poetry. That is what underlines each sentence in his essay. Thus, there is no such thing as an argument that purports that he is speaking with a forked tongue. I don’t know how else to read the essay, but in that it is written to have each of us consider well each and every point that he has made. Thus, if there are poets who are at ideal or nearly ideal forums where none of Terreson’s points apply, then we can take Sam Byfield up on the essay being “a good warning about what can happen in online forums and the things we need to be careful of.”

    Otherwise, as Terreson is doing, it’s time to address these issues head on. No poet should ever be treated the way some are being treated right now, as I write, on too many forums. Look just a few comments back, a locked thread after an insult by a moderator. And how about here: Terrible site. These are just the closest threads to me these past couple days. This happens all the time. How can we continue to allow poets to be treated this way? What can be done about it?

    C.

  191. Okay. Before sending my essay to Clattery I sent it to three poets who play on the online poetry boards. The first poet helped me both expand and focus on the problems the essay looks to address. The second poet took me to task for being too nice, and equivocal, about online poetry board conditions. The third poet pretty much said that he and his cast long since let go of poetry boards, and so my essay arrived on his cyber-steps like a dead baby.

    Since the essay’s first appearance here, a few or some poets have taken it to their respective boards. Some have gotten heat for doing so. One poet still gets personally attacked. Another has become afraid of her standing on two boards because she wanted to post the essay. Think about it. What is the deal when poets have to be afraid of speaking up on a poetry board?

    Here is something I’ve decided. Online poetry boards amount to a gorgeous idea. Democratic too. And beautiful. And crystalline. As for poetry board managers…? Oh, hell. Maybe there is pee in the pool.

    Terreson

  192. Here are a couple of comments I made on the board, Babilu, in an ongoing discussion on the topic of poetry boards. They came to my like a realization of what the real problem is:

    Diana, your comment about dissent, speaking truth to power, and what makes for normal makes me reflect on something.

    The Oxford Companion to Philosophy has this marvellous article under its entry for poetry. Here is something the writer, a Scottish philosopher, says about the subject:

    “Poetry is forever fighting against the pressures and seductive power of ordinary language to falsify experience in easy, slack cliche. Poetry feels itself up against the ‘limits of language,’ and forced to modify, maybe do violence to, normal syntax.”

    You are the better versed deconstructionist than I am. So you know well the integral connection between language and social constructs. I don’t need to point out that what is true for poets in language is true for poets in relationship to the falsification of all experience. Remember what my essay asks? Do poetry boards falsify the poetic experience? I suppose I could have said do the social constructs of poetry boards, such as the two-tiered system, the favoritism shown critics, the self-serving critic, the insincere reader, the shunning of undesirables, the banning of members, the silencing of debate, etc., falsify the poetic experience? (You bet these are the social constructs of a few, some, a bunch of poetry boards.) And remember what else the essay points to? Poetry’s responsibility to break taboo.

    My point is this. I don’t view myself, you, or any of the many people now speaking up across the boards as dissenters. Just as I don’t view the falsification of any experience, in this case the poetry experience, as normal. I’ll take it a step further. It is the breaking of taboos I view as normal to poetry, and for the reason my Scottish philosopher suggests. Dissent, for lack of a better word, is not a danger. The falsified experience, however, is not only a supreme danger but a killer, certainly a killer of poetry. This right here was the essay’s impetus. Perhaps if people, some people, a bunch of people could step back from the tableau for a moment and see this the rancour getting played out in some quarters of the debate would ease up.

    Tere

    (and again)

    Still thinking about my last post, the one that mentions a philosopher’s comment on poetry.

    I don’t know how it is for anybody else, maybe others share the same view, but I just realized that this is the crux of the problem. Herein lies the real problem. It actually has less to do with an entrenchment and the sometime abuse of power than with a certain falsification of experience. This is why the debate matters. This is exactly why the breaking of taboo matters. Any good existentialist philosopher would get it. And I bet a bunch of poets and poetry readers instinctively get it, even those on the other side of the debate. It would be so fine if the barricade could be torn down. Here, right here, is the common, shared ground.

    “Mr. Gorbachov, tear down this wall.”

    Terreson

  193. as a wannabe poet**, i’ve tried a couple of the poetry sites, and found much of what you say to be true.

    many of these places have almost a cliquish atmosphere…if you belong, your work receives toady/smarmy compliments – if you don’t, you get eviscerated, AND your work gets disparaged in creatively vicious terms…

    either way, few of us get any real critique.

    maybe a BFA ~is~ the only way to go…

    **anymore, i pretty much stick to doggerel.

  194. Catnap, this is the sort of comment to make the heart hurt. Scew the poetry board cartels and cliques. And don’t settle for the doggerel.

    Terreson

  195. Here we are, weeks into this, and I just came here with my Firefox browser, to discover that the italics never got closed from the beginning.

    My apologies to all who have not been using IE coming here. And now I understand the commenter who said the font was so terrible.

    C.

  196. I received this via e-mail, and think it should be part of the discussion. It is a quote from a Gary Hart article in the Huffington Post: The Perserverance of Idealism:

    As many people seem to be born either liberal or conservative, so many also seem naturally inclined toward either idealism or pragmatism. Overly simplified, the pragmatist says “tell me how the system works and I’ll do my best within it,” and the idealist says, “let’s change the system.”

    Here is part of what the e-mailer said:

    I came across this article online today by Gary Hart, and in a strange way, it reminded me of the difference between those on poetry boards who want to maintain the status quo and those who want to change the system. The mods/admins tend to be pragmatists while the reformers tend to be idealists.

    C.

  197. I dunno. I think calling the reformers idealists implies that the writer thinks they’re not at all pragmatic. That is contradicted by the specific suggestions and proposals that have been made. There is a certain cynicism to labeling the mods/admins as pragmatists, too, because that implies they’re incapable of having or upholding ideals. I don’t think that’s true, either.

    Because there HAVE been boards, ones I’ve been on before for varying amounts of time, on which the “ideal” of a functional system without a lot of oppression or drama HAS been maintained much Admin oversight, and on which even people who didn’t like each other didn’t go out of their way to stifle each others’ viewpoints. The so-called temporary autonomous zone, which is self-regulating and doesn’t need policing, is feasible, and I’ve been in places where it’s happened. In this case, the pragmatist is the one who realizes such a state of affairs is probably temporary, whereas the idealist would like to sustain it indefinitely. But both are correct, from a certain point of view.

    I still think it comes back to the personalities involved. When you give someone power who likes to abuse that power, I’d hardly call them pragmatists. People who have repeatedly demonstrated that they WILL abuse power, if given it, on more than one board, are much more like “idealists” in that they are driven by power-mongering and personal ideology, and do not tolerate questioning or disagreement. That’s a state of mind much more akin to idealism, if you think idealism is somehow disconnected from the nuts and bolts of actual human interaction.

  198. I too recently was sent a link. Because of the heat I’ve received across a few poetry boards my initial reaction was to tell the person that perhaps he should broadcast the information. Having thought on it I’ve decided the issue is much larger than any personal discomfort.

    I’ve read the article. I know neither the principals involved nor poets.org’s side of the story as to why the person was banned. But I am struck by a certain symmetry to the experience described. In all events the information should be out there for people to make their own judgement calls.

    Terreson

    http://www.theamericandissident.org/AcademyAmericanPoets.htm

  199. Been thinking about the Gary Hart article. Here is what it brings to mind.

    Einstein opined that there are two fundamental attitudes towards the universe: that it is a friendly place or that it is an unfriendly place. I think Einstein was right. Aliens are going to arrive and they are either going to wipe out the race or they are going to help us get over ourselves. Or maybe this. The cosmos either amounts to a closed system or an open system.

    Now what about a third type of personality, the tragic hero or heroine who says, ‘Okay. So what if the Milky Way’s center is an enormous black hole that will eventually suck up the whole of this beautiful galaxy? So what? That doesn’t mean I can’t or shouldn’t struggle against the inevitable.’

    In the end you got to feel sorry for the pragmatist who settles for less, either out of the fear Bly mentions or out of sheer inertia.

    Something else I’ve noticed in all the poetry board hoopla. It is easy, really requires no fortitude or stamina, to go on the attack when at your back is a system in place. Interesting study it has all been.

    Terreson

  200. Revisiting all this briefly: a discussion that is not done, even if everyone wants to move on.

    It strikes me that there is something else that gets lost in all the fanfare when poetry boards turn autocratic.

    The idea of service.

    The idea of being OF service: to others, to self.

    It’s an example of classic police-state thoughtlessness: instead of serving the members, the board begins to serve its own (governmental) agenda. The idea of being of service to the poetry community, or at least the poets on that particular board, gets completely drowned in the desire to manage and control, even when the desire to manage and control is a positive one with good intentions. (We all know what the road to hell is paved with.) The desire to ban assholes who do nothing but disrupt and cause chaos is not a bad urge; it is indeed a form of peacekeeping. But in taking over the role of police watchdogs, the administrative functions in a community must be careful to not lose sight of why the community first formed, and what it was first focused on. That happens fairly often. The policing function has a tendency to become self-perpetuating, and to exist for the sake of its own existence. Most such functions do: lots of institutions become self-supporting and self-perpetuating.

    What matters here is the motto one can see on the sides of police vehicles in many large cities: the motto “To protect and serve.” Policing needs to always remember that it is a SERVICE occupation, and that it serves at the pleasure of the people. The goal of service is ultimately altruistic: to serve others, to help all involved to make a better world. (The obvious knee-jerk cynical rejoinder is to deny the possibility of making a better world. Yet so many cynics are bitter, disappointed idealists.)

    So, it strikes me that it is possible to have an online poetry board in which the service ideals are not lost. This requires the administrative voices to always remember that they exist to serve, that they don’t own the playground (even if they nominally do), and that their purpose is to keep the playground safe, not distort it for any personal agenda.

    I’m just rephrasing things that have already been said from a new perspective. I find it useful to remember that service requires humility, and humility is sadly lacking in much of what I have seen opined about this subject.

  201. Arthur, it is true. There are a number of people, managers mostly I think, who want to move on. The discussion has been effectively shut down on three boards I know about. On a few other boards where the link to this site has been posted I’ve noticed how a mod type has stepped in, said something in the spirit of ‘well, this certainly doesn’t apply to us,’ and the discussion has come to a stop. On the other hand, and this is telling, on one board the post linking to essay and Clattery’s ongoing discussion I noticed last week had been viewed over 2,000 times. Interesting don’t you think?

    But your larger point is well made and more important. The best board mods, I’ve noticed, facilitate, incite, nurture, encourage both poetry and discussion. The lesser sort look to channel, direct, stamp their own views on, and, in the end, kill poetry and discussion they don’t like.

    I’ve said it before, man. The principal problem right now on some poetry boards is a top down problem. As you say, management needs to remember it is here to serve. Speaking as a one time waiter I know there is respectability in service. You bet humility is key.

    Terreson

  202. “Poets.org Forum Index
    Critical Information

    You have been banned from this forum.
    Please contact the webmaster or board administrator for more information.”

    This is the message I get when trying to access Poets. org. Getting banned from the Academy’s discussion area gets a person banned from the entire site.

    We are talking about The Academy of American Poets.

    Terreson

  203. Amazing what a stupid little essay will result in.

    A moderator on the poetry board, TCP.org, who has been dogging me ever since my essay appeared has now banned me from the board. Not satisfied with that he has also banned any discussion critical of board practices. Still not satisfied, he has started deleting posts made by anyone taking exception to his behavior.

    Here is the kicker. As moderator he was invested with admin powers to delete posts and ban people less than twenty-four hours ago. It blows me away how quickly online people can get drunk on the powers.

    Initially I was a little hesitant about Clattery’s chosen title for this thread. Now I realize just how fully accurate is the characterization.

    Terreson

  204. A correction to post # 241. It is not entirely accurate to say discussion critical of poetry board practices has been banned from TCP.Org. However, the wording of the announcement makes it clear that any such discussion is discouraged and difficult to enter into given the mod’s stated parameters.

    Terreson

  205. Bloody Sunday Bloody. If I were into conspiracy theories I might think some actions are more orchestrated than coincidental. TCP.org has a sister board, TCP.com. I discover today I have been banned from it too.

    Note to Clattery. There are consequences for criticizing poetry board managers.

    Terreson

  206. They proved your essay to be right and accurate by their actions today. It’s stunning. It’s also unfortunately amazing how quickly the abuse of granted power was fallen into. Everything you have said about this subject was just proven to be true, again, today. Truly amazing.

    I doubt they’re even conscious of it. I doubt they even realize they’re not walking their talk. I doubt they even realize that they have also proven once again that there is a double standard for behavior: Mods and Admins can do whatever the heck they want, and get away with it; but they ban regular members for doing it, too. So, Mods and Admins are not bound by the guidelines that they supposedly are there to uphold. They break their own rules, and suffer no consequences.

    Banning you from the sister board just proves this, as well.

  207. I have learned that my banning from the TCP.com site was, in fact, made in the spirit of preemption. It seems that my comments critical of its management on the .org site was offense enough. I have also learned that a second person has been banned from the .com site for comments made on the .org site, and again in the spirit of preemption. Only this time the member’s critical remarks were limited to management practices on the .org site. And now this post where an admin openly expresses his attitude on banning.

    Terreson

    http://pochapocha.com/babilu/read.php?3,976,976#msg-976

  208. Steve–the comparisons of a poetry board and it’s authority structure to that of a civil authority, namely city, state or country government is pretty specious–the analogy only goes so far.  Let me give you an analogy that is much closer to the reality–a lot of this back and forth is due to the badness of the analogy, which as you’ve seen could be argued indignantly and endlessly.  The better, more apt analogy is that of a home.  The host of this home is the “authority structure.”  It’s not about judges, juries, cops or any civil authorities, but guests and members who are friends that have been invited to a party.  The theme of the party is poetry and the goal is reading and discussing it, and perhaps even writing it, with the hope of gleaning audience response and discussion.  

    When a guest gets drunk, or for whatever other reason arrives with a grudge or personal agenda and begins to argue about politics–something which isn’t the theme of the party, they may have to be asked to leave.  If they begin to criticize the host and perhaps even throw punches at other guests, or at the host because the host reserves the right to redirect the discussion from politics back to poetry, or if the guest complains about the food, or the host’s parenting methods, or any number of other things not related to the point of the gathering, they may have to be forcibly removed from the party to keep the party on track and fun for the rest.  Same goes for party crashers.

    Is another person’s home a democracy–maybe yes, maybe no.  It’s the homeowner’s business, and entirely up to them what kind of parties they want to host, whom to invite and whom to let stay.  They call the shots, because they are the hosts, and they have spent their own money on the guests.

    This is Anne’s home, and she’s put you in charge of the party.  You have a responsibility to play the host.  When someone openly says they either have no interest in posting poetry, or are afraid to or whatever, which is the point of the gathering here, I’d take that as a bad sign.  If they want to persistently harangue you about your abuses of power, seemingly endlessly, ignore your attempts to get back to the point of the gathering repeatedly, and lecture you about your poor treatment of another guest who had openly let it be known he had no interest in posting poetry here, and your forcible removal of him as a last resort, then I’d say you may have to ban this guest too, just to allow the other guests the freedom to do what they were gathered here to do.  This guest is a broken record who’s only purpose is to waste your time and keep you from other more important duties, like running the board and workshopping poetry  and allowing poetry to be workshopped for those interested in doing so.

    For those interested in knowing why we banned Tere at .com, it was because we knew had no interest in posting and critiquing poetry, but only wanted to air old grudges and misperceived wrongs, attack the host, and distract us from our true mission: workshopping poetry.  We watched him do this over here, and didn’t need to watch him do it over there before we had to forcibly remove him.

    Oh and by the way, a word of advice from an old hand who watched how amnesty worked at the ezboard TCP.  It worked about as well as an unmoderated site here.  Old wounds rubbed raw and a whole new set of hurt feelings.

    You’re on the right track, but you might need to start banning a little more freely and stop entertaining all the whining–it will never stop and you will just continue to be distracted from your real mission and responsibility here.

    Frankly, since Anne is absentee, if I were you, I’d lock all the forums, close up shop and focus my energies at .com…you will always be on borrowed time and money here, my friend.

  209. One last thing that needs to be noted here by me, since I have a long history with the site.  Part of the reason this confusion exists in the analogy of a privately owned poetry website and civil government authority structure, and can be so hard to argue with and even see through the fallacy of such an analogy is that TCP in all three of its incarnations has distinguished itself as a larger board that has striven to be democratic, impartial, reasonable and welcoming of diversity and loathe to censor.  We haven’t been forced to, and everyone knows examples of other sites which obviously don’t bother themselves with such noble aims, but we have chosen to.  Which is why voices like Tere’s are tolerated as long as they have been.  If the site’s goals/ambitions were less above board they would have been silenced after a day rather than months of the same stuff.  Will you laugh with me about the irony in this?  

    Power abuse?  No, simply taking ownership, and trying to guard the mission.

    Invariably what you see after flame wars in any poetry workshop are splits and divisions in the leadership, and folks stepping down from those roles or leaving the site, who have volunteered to help serve the mission, admin and mods who are emotionally drained and weary, whose talents, training, dedication and skills don’t come cheap, and members who’s artistic creativity wanes in the aftermath.  This is what I’ve personally witnessed repeatedly month after month for years as a moderator at an online poetry workshop.  It’s still worth it–the mission is–but it would be so much better without all the strife.  However–there is a latin phrase–don’t remember it, but do the english–whoever wants peace must prepare for war…this is true because of the nature of humans, even in poetry it seems.

  210. The above comments that were quoted out of context at Babilu and then linked here are quoted from TCP.org in their entirety now by me here at Clattery. Halifax, please be so kind as to quote me as completely as you did yourself. I noticed that the two most important points in my posts were snipped off by you. This leads me to believe you were trying to soundbyte me for the purposes of shading the truth in a particular way. For the record to any concerned, take the whole thing in context. Since Tere was banned from .org, people have started posting poetry again, and elsewhere than the Everything Else forum–this only supports the action taken–so that the poetry can regain the focus of attention at any given board, once the source of irritation and distraction is removed.

  211. Hi dmehl808,

    Thanks for adding your side, with edification. It is appreciated. And I want to stress this as I take up a tangent—with questioning and disagreement—one avenue of your thoughtful and edifying posts here at Clattery MacHinery on Poetry.

    You point out that more poetry has been posted since Tere’s banning, and that he does not post poetry that often, or any longer. I’m not sure it is wrong for someone to only use discussion forums. I think, rather, that that should be greatly appreciated. Thoughtful input anywhere, is thoughtful input.

    I don’t need to tell you that the biggest ingredient to your poetry forums having strong activity, such that TCP.com had in March and TCP.org had in April–is the feedback the poets receive on their works. Interesting that these two banner months for the TCP forums followed directly, the internal turmoil involved with the .com/.org split.

    I’m not sure you can reasonably say to a poet: “Post your work here or leave” or, fully reasoned, make that part of a decision for banning. There are strong posters who simply don’t write that often. There are others who may be writing, but for the time being anyway, not wanting to post their works for workshopping. There may be poets who use a number of forums, and think that whatever they are working on now is, with due respect, better off somewhere else. There are all sorts of rational and even irrational things going on in the mind of someone who has just completed a poetic creation.

    No matter where Terreson posts, there will be people who will disagree with him. I disagree with some of what is in his essay. But, that’s a good thing in my book. And this holds true for you and I, that wherever we go, people will disagree with us vehemently. In another world, I am a managing editor, and I have been told by great authoruty, that such disagreement is a necessary part of the deal. This is the same with forum administration. So, the idea that Tere is airing old grudges, is another way of saying he still disagrees. It is, rather, a good thing that you disagree with him, and he with you.

    I think as it is important that we embrace where we disagree, we need to breathe sometimes, and find the places where we have common ground too. Maybe this is what you are detecting, the need to breathe out. But this should not include spitting out Terreson, whom we have more in common with than not.

    Terreson has been on an earnest campaign to make poetry forums better. He is one of us. He is on our side.

    C.

  212. Might as well ban me, too, then, by that criteria, since all I’ve posted for months have been in discussion fora. That’s partly because since the split at TCP happened, and because of the terrible way in which it was handled (not to mention the non-apology that was posted months after the fact, which led to the current discussion there, which led to Tere’s getting banned), it’s partly because I’ve been too upset by it all to want to write a goddamn poem. And more importantly, my trust in those fora has been completely eroded to nothing; because it is very apparent to me that banning is about stifling dissent, and not much else. So much for “discussion.”

  213. This is good. This is actually a healthy sign. It is also good the entire texts of Dmhel’s posts are presented, and at his discretion, for everyone to read.

    Here is the thing. I cannot, nor can anyone else, make honest posts free of poetry board fear and loathing on boards not just moderated, but modulated. This is key to the health of any poetry board. Moderators should not tell members what to say or how to say it. Site admins should not throw down the lightening bolt in the spirit of harmony. Said management practices kill poetry.

    Funny. Clattery’s blog allows people to speak up, even disagree with each other without fear of getting banned.

    One last note. Dmhel’s post rather dissimulates. He knows the dozens of poems, prose poems, and vignettes, and the thousands of comments I contributed to his board before getting shunned.

    The discussion here is not about Dmhel and his site and it is not about me. It is about the health of online poetry.

    Terreson

  214. Oh hell. If Aurthur gets banned can I get banned twice? I rather enjoy the bloke’s conversation and company.

    Terreson

  215. Arthur, I’m most sorry to and for you for all that’s happened, but we’ve talked about that. You seem to have chosen what you will and will not believe about it all.

    Tere, what could possibly make it right between you and I at this point. You left our board four years ago for reasons we don’t need to go into here, because it would probably be embarrassing to you. After the split happened, which was unfortunate but inevitable at some point, you saw an opportunity to complain to and about us. I really don’t know what I can do for you. But I’m willing to talk if you are, and am above all interested in the causes of online poetry and workshop excellence. Let’s talk here then, if you like.

    Rus, you remind me of the child that is too young to understand why his parents are fighting and must divorce. “But don’t you love mommy, daddy?” “Well, yes, Russy, I do but we just can’t live together anymore…”

  216. The justification that was made to ban Tere from TCP doesn’t wash. It really doesn’t. As Clattery said:

    “I’m not sure it is wrong for someone to only use discussion forums. I think, rather, that that should be greatly appreciated. Thoughtful input anywhere, is thoughtful input.”

    I agree. And I can attest to the thousands of critiques, poems, and poetics discussion that Tere not only posted to, but initiated, on lots of boards, including TCP. So, that’s a bullshit excuse to ban someone: in fact, that’s exactly what it was: an excuse.

    One of the biggest problems with TCP has always been that certain kinds of discussion were always stifled. A free and open discussion on some topics was never permitted. You could never, for example, name names when discussing the problems people had with bad management at other sites. You could never even mention the names of other sties, in good or bad context, without getting slammed for doing so. There were other rules, of course, and the point is that there were rules that were often in direct conflict with open discussions of even poetic topics. Some of the rationales behind some rules were legitimate—copyright infringement, for example—but they were in the end all fear-based. There is no courage in it. Avoiding risk isn’t even the best way to live, much less the only.

    TCP has already had numerous rules added to as well as clarified, perhaps far too many rules. Poetry.org follows in that tradition of having lots of rules. Even when one wants to follow the guidelines, one can run afoul of them, because there are so many.

    The suggestion has been made, on this thread, on TCP, and in other venues, that a lighter touch might be more beneficial for online poetry. Mods as peacekeepers rather than police. The ideal of service, rather than what Tere calls modulation, which I have talked about on several threads: or rather, the lack of service ideals that I see throughout the online poetry world.

    Rather than reaffirming the status quo, perhaps TCP.whatever could adapt to make things new again. I don’t hold out much hope for that, though, as all I see is continued justifications and redactions of history. This goes beyond a difference of opinion—of course, that can be dismissed as just my opinion—because those in power at both TCP boards have gone beyond relating their version of vents to actually redacting and deleting posts and threads that contradict the party line.

    This, again, is a seriously bad way to rebuild trust. It creates an antithetical environment in which to be creative, and be poets.

  217. If I’ve chosen what to believe, Dave, it’s because you never gave me enough of the story with which to make up my own mind. I’ve already stated this clearly on more than one thread, at TCP. I stand by it.

    You cannot expect me to be convinced of your side of the story when out of discretion you refused to tell it. I mean you collectively. The excuse has been made again and again that the three Admins who caused the split would not talk about it, for the sake of being discrete. Well, duh: How the fuck am I supposed to believe I’m not being lied to when nobody will tell me what the fuck they think happened.

    No one can be convinced of anything in a vacuum of information. It just ain’t gonna happen.

    And you also seem to believe that I am still defending Anne. I never was. I only repeated information that had been given to me.

  218. I’ll just add this: I haven’t CHOSEN to believe anything. I continue to keep an open opinion, and my opinion is also influenced by what I see, what I hear, and the actions I see people take. I keep an open mind.

    There are people who I no longer trust, because their actions have repeatedly shown them to be untrustworthy. Some of these people have been and are currently Mods and Admins on various poetry boards. Their actions speak louder than their words, because actions always do. Does this mean I will never trust these people again? No. It DOES mean they’re damn well going to have to re-earn my trust. They no longer have the right to assume it. And they will have to continue to act in good faith, and not fall off the wagon, as it were, in order to keep that trust in future.

    This has always been about people walking their talk. When they are not in integrity—and when they do nothing, apparently, to explain their actions and get back into integrity—then I reserve the right, as all poetic prophets always have, to speak up about it. I do not expect to ever be loved or appreciated for being honest. That expectation has left my life for the final time.

    This applies to everyone: Mods, Admins, members, drive-bys, whoever:

    Abuse is abuse. Period.

    Abuse of power comes as no surprise. Especially when power is granted to those known to have abused it before, already, previously, whatever. (Some of those have been named here, and it’s up to them to object if they feel wronged. Actions speak louder.) That keeps happening. Why? Because those folks seek out power: power over others. Not power with others, but power over others.

    The whole Mod/Admin problem would be solvable if it didn’t so often involve decisions being made behind closed doors, which are then never explained. Or actions made seemingly in a fit of anger or pique or fed-up-ness. Actions made in haste, without due consideration. The cloak of secrecy really makes things worse. It creates the APPEARANCE of abuse, even when there has been none. But in a ringing silence of no information, especially no information to contradict the appearance, what is one to believe. The idea of “choosing” to believe is offensive.

    You’re goddamn right that Mods/Admins need to spend more time on transparency about what has been decided. The appearance of abuse can never be countered by silence. And I do reserve the right to speak my mind whenever and wherever I choose. THAT is my only choice in operation here.

  219. I am not interested in personalizing the board problem as Dmehl is trying to do. I am not at all embarrassed about stepping down from his board as a moderator. Given the circumstances then I would do it again. And for the same reasons. Interesting to note that an admin uses the same tactics of trivializing a participant’s comments in order to maintain control.

    I am more interested in Durkee’s last post (#259). This gets to the raw of the problem. This gets to why poets feel dispossessed and disenfranchised on one, two, three too many poetry boards.

    If only mods and admins could get beyond their own egos and ask themselves the question: why does the majority of our membership keep so damn quiet?

    Terreson

  220. I’ve read dm’s comments in full and
    as quoted by Halifax. The only thing H. left out was the self-serving hot air.

    The demeaning, dismissive response to
    clattery which compares him to a hapless child is bad form, inept reasoning and truly bad writing. Yup, it’s time to move along, there’s nothing else to see here folks.

    Chris D.

  221. dmehl808 wrote: “The above comments that were quoted out of context at Babilu and then linked here are quoted from TCP.org in their entirety now by me here at Clattery. Halifax, please be so kind as to quote me as completely as you did yourself. I noticed that the two most important points in my posts were snipped off by you. This leads me to believe you were trying to soundbyte me for the purposes of shading the truth in a particular way. For the record to any concerned, take the whole thing in context.”

    I wanted to quote you in full but thought you would object to that. I tried to follow what I thought would be fair usage guidelines. I wasn’t trying to soundbyte you or shade the truth. If I had been trying to do that, I wouldn’t have given the links to your original posts and encouraged people to read them. I quoted one of my posts from the tcp.org thread in full, because I felt free to do so. I didn’t quote the entirety of Hall’s essay if you’ll notice, nor did I quote the rest of my own posts in that thread. Perhaps you think I was purposely trying to soundbyte and shade the truth in those instances as well? Of course I wasn’t.

    I basically responded to your metaphor about poetry board house parties, and that was the part of your post I quoted. If I had known it would be okay to quote you in full, I would have. I will update my posts on other boards and link to this thread, so that people can read your comments in their entirety without going to tcp.org.

  222. Can this all be fixed? Maybe. I don’t hold out a lot of hope for it, though.

    On the other hand, to get the personal attacks over with, let’s just all agree that everybody can be an asshole at times.

    But just because someone is an asshole, doesn’t mean they’re wrong.

    It’s amazing to me that people still just don’t get that truth, and conflate a person’s self with their work. Plenty of assholes have been great artists. You don’t dismiss great artists on those grounds, so why would you do that here? It makes no sense. (Unless of course it’s just another double standard.)

  223. I noticed that the two most important points in my posts were snipped off by you.

    What were the two most important points in your posts as you saw them? As I said, I was interested in exploring the house party metaphor, so that was the part I quoted. Personally, I think that analogy, like the legalistic one you objected to, “only goes so far.” I agree, however, that “the civil government authority structure” analogy doesn’t work either. What I am beginning to realize, and I don’t mean this to be facetious in any way, is that you can’t be a little bit democratic anymore than you can be a little bit pregnant.

    You wrote: “However–there is a latin phrase–don’t remember it, but do the english–whoever wants peace must prepare for war…this is true because of the nature of humans, even in poetry it seems.”

    Are you saying that folks who question, speak up and dissent on poetry boards are the enemy, enemy combatants or terrorists? One of Bush’s former education secretaries, Rod Paige, referred to the NEA as “a terrorist organization,” which came as a shock to NEA members. I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation with you before, and I am sorry if you consider me the enemy.

  224. The house party analogy fails on one crucial point: an online poetry board isn’t a house. It’s not even a virtual house. It’s certainly not a community in any actual sense of the word, although people can come together and depart in virtual community.

    It has always been ironic to me that those poetry boards that most often state their community values also seem most likely to have lots of rules, lots of bans, and a lot of denial about what goes on behind the scenes. TCP does fall into this category; it did so even when things were basically going smoothly.

    An online poetry board is not at all like a house, or a home. (“An inn is not a home.”—Marianne Moore). A poetry board is more like a public space, a city park with microphones, or a coffeeshop, or high school gymnasium. It is an open space in which people can enter and leave more or less at will, most of the time. I don’t know about you, but this describes no house or home I have ever lived in, or visited. (Maybe a farm house with a big extended family might live this way, perhaps.) It might describe an inn; or a hotel; or a bed and breakfast; or a public library. But a house? Nope.

    I am not avoiding the question of ownership with regards to online poetry boards. (I probably understand this aspect better than most poets, since I am a domain owner/operator and website developer myself.) That an individual owns a website, because the domain name is registered to them, and/or they paid for that registration, is not the point. The point is how that domain name is operated, supervised, handled, and dealt with. As has been said before—a point I don’t really feel has been responded to very well, or very often, by the Admins/Mods’ side of the argument—the tone of the entire space is set BY the owner, by the Admin/Operator/Moderator. The style of interaction displayed by the Owner sets the tone for everyone’s experience.

    What I still haven’t gotten a response to—not that I’m holding my breath—is the issue of accountability, of responsibility for setting that overall tone. The typical responses fall into a couple of categories, which are not real responses:

    1. “If you don’t like it here, I invite you to leave.” In some cases, admission of responsibility is made by the Admin; but their idea of addressing perceived abuses is to reject anyone’s opinion who disagrees with them, and to invite people to leave.

    2. Denial of overall responsibility for setting the tone.

    3. Denial of abuse of power, and justification of abuse of power, even when it’s transparently obvious and virtually the entire membership thinks it was abuse. Here comes that double standard again: Mods get away with behaviors that average members get banned for. We have seen this over and over now. It happened at TCP right after the split, more than once. It just happened again.

    So, what about Mods’ accountability? I don’t hear many Admins/Mods addressing that very often. Except sometimes to agree with me, then go off and abuse their same privileges again. This is really schizophrenic, and it needs to be held accountable.

  225. Wow, dmeh,

    I respectfully welcome you, and then engage you on your points, in comment #251, and somehow that triggers your disrespectful response to me in comment #255. For some reason after I did not reveal your real name, you chose to reveal mine, after we already covered that in this thread. Ya know? That’s disrespect. Why would you do that?

    You made yourself look foolish, and it is almost like you made some Freudian slip or something, revealing the truth behind your “house” metaphor. You’re the mommy. Terreson’s the drunken daddy you’re throwing out of the house. And I’m junior with hurt feelings. How old am I? How badly does it hurt? Please, go on . . .

    C.

  226. Point one. No analogy ever describes or explains a set of dynamics. The poetry boards do not constitute a house. They do not constitute a civil, commonwealth structure. There cannot be a divorce, as Dmehl has put it, since there never was a marriage. And the relationships between mods and members do not parallel the relationships between parents and children. What the poetry boards do constitute is a free association of people who happen to be interested in poetry. Ideally it should be and can be a free association of equals. Herein lies the rub. One, a a couple, a few, several, a bunch of poetry board participants have raised their hands and demanded that one, a couple, a few, several, or a bunch of admin types and mods see them as equals.

    Point two. Over at Babilu’s a new friend needed some convincing before he could allow that the management abuses many of us have spoken about actually occur online. It has simply not been in his ken of experience. At least now he does allow as much. But he has persuaded me of something too. He is a mod on at least one site and maybe more. He has persuaded me to allow also that the kind of board mismanagment my essay addresses and that has subsequently been addressed by others is not the norm, not the rule. According to my new friend mods and admins are barely visible on his board. The perspective is important.

    Point three (subset to point two). I’ve recently discovered two new poetry boards and one old poetry board where, in fact, the footing is more equal between management and member. On the two new boards, Babilu and Poetry.net, the site owners recently posted their philosophy on how boards should be administrated. In brief, I find the environment they look to create friendly to poetry and to all of us crazy ass poets. On the old board, The Gazebo, I am struck by the abscence of two salients I find on boards unfriendly to poetry: the mods do not look to modulate discussion and the exchange of ideas and they do not, as a group, gang up on a member.

    Point four. I’ve been following my essay as it has gone from board to board. On a number of boards the admins have shown a capacity for self-reflection. They have not reacted defensively. On a couple they have engaged me in equal conversation, or without talking down to me. It quickly comes clear that my issues are non-issues for them, since, their management style is not in the least offensive, abusive, unfriendly to their members. This too is an important perspective.

    Point five, the main one and the last. I keep trying to find some dialogue with admins such as Dmehl. (Just giving his name as an example. There are others.) So far, there has been no dialogue. Only the name calling, personal attacks, trivializations, dismissiveness, the sniping, the attempts at discrediting me as some kind of weirdo with a grudge, etc. I almost forgot to mention the bannings on trumped up charges. The response on the part of certain mods and admins amounts to adopting the defensive posture. My essay did say something about a kind of bunker mentality some management displays.

    I want to try a different approach. I want to give a list of specifics I personally do not want to have to treat with when I go to a managed poetry board. Maybe this way the discussion can be raised to the level of issues, not reduced to the level of bickering. For me, this whole debate is not about personalities. It is about practices, specifically management practices, harmful to the freeness of online poetry. Here is my list, given in no particular order of importance.

    I do not want to see anymore board mods ganging up, in group, on a member they declare is undesirable or uncomfortable to them. I think that banning should not be discretionary in the sense of being determined by interpretation of both rules and behavior. (This is what has caused so much fear and loathing.) I think banning should be limited to the most egregious offenses: hate speech, threats of violence, and spamming only. I think moderators should not be allowed to edit a member’s post. (It has happened.) I think moderators should not be allowed to delete a member’s post except at the stated request of the member. I think that moderators, some at least, need to rethink their role. Their rightful job is to facilitate conversation and exchanges. Their wrongful job is to modulate conversations and exchanges by telling members how they should think and speak. (In this respect the two best mods I’ve ever met would be Brenda at TCP.com and Dmanister at Poets,org.) I think that poets, and I am particularly passionate about this point, should always and everywhere be allowed to challenge the comments, assumptions, and sometimes the abusive bullshit, of their critics. Why should a poetry board sanction the critic when it puts a gag order on the poet who was the brave one in the first place? I think both admins and moderators should also have to follow a limits rule on posting poetry, but of a different order. For every poem they post they have to comment on 25, 50, 75, or 100 poems posted by members, depending upon the board’s ratio of members to mods. (I am dead serious. This is the only way to give the boards back over to members and to their poetry.) The last thing I think is this. Site admins and site owners, at least some of them, need to rethink their roles. Being an admin or owner does not give the person privelige or ownership. In poetry there are no priveliges or ownership. There is only talent and the lack of talent. The role does, however, place a particular responsibility on the admin. To administer can mean two things. On the dysfunctional boards it has come to mean to maintain control over. On the functioning boards it has always meant to administer to. Big difference.

    Well, Clattery? You now got my magna carta. I ain’t lettin up. This is important because poetry is important. My essay addressed many issues concerning the falsification of the online poetry experience. Most of them had nothing to do with poetry board management. But I guess the management problem seems to be the most lurid. Come to think of it, I almost feel sorry for board managers. But then I think of so much harm I’ve seen them do and I change my mind. Poetry is the thing.

    Terreson

  227. “I think that poets, and I am particularly passionate about this point, should always and everywhere be allowed to challenge the comments, assumptions, and sometimes the abusive bullshit, of their critics. Why should a poetry board sanction the critic when it puts a gag order on the poet who was the brave one in the first place?”

    Yes, that’s another rule that never made any sense to me.

    Granted, it is possible for a rebuttal to escalate into name-calling and abusiveness, but in that case the Mod’s job is to intervene and restore the discourse to being about the poem and/or the issues the poem raised.

    Instead, what has happened to me several times (mostly at TCP), because of the literalist interpretation of the “don’t critique the critiquer” rule, is that I was taken to task for replying to a post on a thread that began with one of my own poems (!) in which the discussion veered into poetics and/or philosophy. We were all told to stay “on task,” as if it were a kindergarten and we weren’t adult enough. Not to mention that the discussion WAS on target, being some interesting larger issues brought up by the poem.

    At another time, a Mod on the most difficult forum openly attacked one of my recent poems as being “not a poem.” His attack was personal, and as I proved using logic and rebuttal, his attack was based on moral grounds, not poetic ones. (He is a neo-formalist, a physician, and has the arrogant attitude of both. And I’ve been around doctors my whole life, so I know whereof I speak.) I posted a series on my own blog about all this, in addition to posting my replies on the threads at TCP. I do give this Mod credit for acknowledging my points that his attack was a moral one only, and I give him points for apologizing to me later. At the same time, this same Mod has been one of the more critical, personal, and vindictive attackers since the split at TCP. He is convinced his is In The Right, of course.

    And people wonder why I feel bruised by my recent experiences at TCP, and why I have said that it’s no longer a safe place in which to post my poems.

    No accountability for that has been addressed, either. I did received private emails agreeing with all my positions of the above, during events, by other poets who felt they could not speak publicly, for fear of retribution.

    And this is supposed to be a climate of trust? This is supposed to be a house? This is supposed to be a safe place in which to give and receive critique?

    It’s not if you’re spending 90 percent of your energy defending your poem’s very right to exist.

    This experience was very revealing, I’ll say that much.

  228. “dmehl808 and others,

    I invite you to join and post at

    http://poetryinc.net

    The Poets.net Forum is always interested in clarification and both sides of the story.

    Comment by Jennifer — June 30, 2008 @ 8:10 pm”

    Regarding this post ( #263, above) I wish to bear witness to the openness and sincerity of this Forum. Not only are both sides always represented, but I have personally been allowed to say anything I damned well pleased. In fact, I think I’ve used all seven of Carlin’s ‘words’ and they haven’t kicked me off yet! Go figure.

    We just call it freedom of speech.

    Oh yeah…and there’s even real poetry there.

  229. Clattery wrote”

    “Wow, dmeh,

    I respectfully welcome you, and then engage you on your points, in comment #251, and somehow that triggers your disrespectful response to me in comment #255. For some reason after I did not reveal your real name, you chose to reveal mine, after we already covered that in this thread. Ya know? That’s disrespect. Why would you do that?

    You made yourself look foolish, and it is almost like you made some Freudian slip or something, revealing the truth behind your “house” metaphor. You’re the mommy. Terreson’s the drunken daddy you’re throwing out of the house. And I’m junior with hurt feelings. How old am I? How badly does it hurt? Please, go on . . .

    C.”

    I am waiting for the answer to this question, DMEH…is it never okay to reveal a real name, okay to reveal it if it serves your board’s purpose? Such a flap has been made over revealing a name many already knew and now you come in and do it to Clattery here? How do you justify that?

    Frankly, I am astounded. Would love to hear your answer.

    Pat

  230. Okay, here’s the bottom line for me:

    I can understand how a person might be banned from one site, because they are perceived to be stirring up trouble, refusing to Let Go of an issue, and being a provocateur. I can understand that, even if I don’t agree with it.

    But to then ban this same person from another site, eg. a sister site, before they have done any actions on that other site that are bannable offenses—that stepped over the line.

    People should be judged purely on their actions, on a site by site, case by case, basis. Banning someone BEFORE they have broken the rules and violated the guidelines really steps over that line from management into abuse.

    There is no such thing as preemptive banning, or there should not be. Each person should be allowed to prove themselves a troll, each time, on a case by case basis.

    Does that make the world a little more troublesome, a little less controllable, does that make life a little more anxiety-ridden? Yes, it does. But that is the price one pays for being alive: that uncertainty about other people.

    Preemptive banning is autocratic and totalitarian precisely because it doesn’t wait for someone to act, it presumes their ill intent before they have been given a chance to prove, via their actions, what their intent is. It presumes an Enemy, and thus it must put a stop to that Enemy. This is a form of authoritarian psychology that presumes that the possibility of ill intent is enough to act upon. What it leads to are summary drumhead trials, and make no mistake that they ARE trials, in which the person is presumed guilty, with no possibility of innocence. It is precisely this attitude that one of the Founding Fathers was warning against when he stated, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” That phrase has been twisted by totalitarian after totalitarian into the idea that vigilance means Control. But that is the opposite of the statement’s intent; it’s true spirit was to guard against that very totalitarian urge to control what cannot be controlled.

    Control is about fear. A preemptive ban is about fear: fear that someone MIGHT stir up trouble you don’t want to deal with. In no paradigm or model of online poetry can this be justified. No matter how it is justified, no matter what is said about it, the action itself speaks loudly, and speaks to motivation, and that motivation is fear and hatred.

    Are you all so afraid of things that you must cover your eyes with your fists, like an infant, so that they go away? That truly is infantile.

    This is where TCP.whatever stepped over the line, in my opinion. Until then, they could have had a good argument. But when both sites banned Tere, when his arguments had only been posted on one of the sister sites—that truly was the action that revealed the corruption behind the facade of good fellowship.

    It was a completely unjustifiable act. And they know it: that’s why it’s being defended so loudly, even when nobody was talking about it yet.

    (Just to be clear, I believe this to be the actions of one or a few people acting out of fear and/or frustrated exhaustion. I do not blame the general membership, most of whom probably neither know nor care what has been going on. But even though this might explain, it cannot justify.)

  231. Thinking on Arthur’s post, #269. Please all to reread. His anecdotes are not the product of an overly active imagination. The stories are real and fairly represented. When I think of the many instances of abuse I have both experienced and witnessed Arthur’s stories are rather mild. But if I cite the stories here it will only result in more bickering, more counter-attacks, more defensivness on the part of (some) mods and admin types. Much mention has been made of the sister TCP sites. But I can think of two other boards on which similar abuses have been meted out by other mods and admin types. So while I want to believe my new friend at Babilu, that the problem is exceptional and not the norm, I am not persuaded it is of local extent only. Now back to the issues.

    Post #268. There I give something of a magna carta. If I can get anything across to management in general, and if I can get any of my critics to hear me, the sum of the situation would be this: less management is more conducive to an environment friendly to poetry, and to the board exchanges, than more. Less stamping down, less intervention, less coercion, and much, much less modulation of discussion lends itself better to the freeness of poetry than more. Poets don’t need sherriffs, as one mod is fond of styling himself. Poets don’t do well when they are forced to keep an eye for what may be over their shoulder, worried that some admin is ready and poised to pounce on them for how they express themselves. In essence, and on the boards only where mods behave badly, an air of fear and loathing has been produced by the intrusivness of managers and by the double standards maintained where what constitutes a personal attack is different for mod and member. I honestly don’t understand why the principle of less rather than more is so difficult to grasp. But for the extraordinary and rare cases of hate speech and threats of violence, what exactly is it poets need to be protected from? Judging from the actions on some boards I suppose the answer seems to be they need to be protected from themselves. That is the logic of some management actions.

    Something else comes to mind here, and I think I can say this without restarting the bickering. Much has been made by my critics for the personal attacks I am supposed to have made and for which I’ve been banned from two boards. I got two thoughts about this. My personal attacks have amounted to a harsh criticism of individual managers whose behavior I have watched for years. I am guessing my twin banning came after I posted a message, telling a site admin on a board not her own and, at the time, unmoderated, she was not fit to be an admin. or maybe it was when I told another site admin i’ve known for years he has done much harm. If that is a personal attack then so be it. I’ll own it. But I want to know what is the difference between a personal attack and a judgement based on years of observing abusive and manipulative board behavior? Second reflection is this. It has been over two months now, since the 20th of April, of being on the receiving end of personal attacks, character assignation, and general dissing by my critics, some of whom are mods, one of whom is now a site admin. Something to think about the next time someone calls me an asshole.

    One more item, a partial repeat of what was posted upthread. It has to do with not respecting the use of peoples’ given names. As I’ve said a site admin found, or was given, not only my given name but my full name. In an attempt to intimidate me he posted it on his board. I want to be sure the full irresponsibility of what he did gets underscored. He can’t harm me. I’ve become a boring late middle-aged man, soon to be a grumpy old man. But he did expose a bunch of really fine people to cyber-space mischief. And so I am going to say he is not fit to be a site admin too. Imagine if I was a woman, maybe a single woman, raising uncomfortable questions and getting outed for it. Imagine the danger I could have been placed in. The lack of shame blows me away.

    How can these people so believe in the rightness of their collective position? How can they not wonder why some or a bunch of us have come to suspect their motives.

    Clattery, the entrenchment of it all truly does blow me away.

    Terreson

  232. Over on Babilu, we’ve turned towards mockery, which is probably the healthiest response so far. The Mocking of the Popes is a good sign. Perhaps the Liturgy of the High Church of Forumology has more to contribute to this discussion than anything else.

    Since, after all, the Pope IS quite naked.

  233. As I mentioned in a previous post, I travel during the week, and have one day off (with computer and internet access). I hope to respond to each post–this week being a holiday weekend, I have two days off. Please be patient with me and refrain from posting new subjects until I can address each post? otherwise it may become impossible for me to keep up and address everyone…

    Let me just say right off the bat that I’m sorry about my initial post–it started me off on the wrong foot definitely.

    Clattery, in particular–I had no idea that folks didn’t know the identity of the person hosting this site–no idea. Please delete my post addressed to you–I would if I could, but I don’t think I the site enables me that function here. My apologies for revealing your real first name here.

  234. Arthur (answering 257)–I’ve been an admin at TCP for something like 4 years and was a moderator there for 2 years approximately before that. It’s a fair amount of time to see a variety of different kinds of people, poets, and trolls come and go or stay as members. The rules are set up as format for protection to safeguard the mission and the members. They are to provide a veneer of civility–I don’t believe that any society, organization or group of any size can operate for long without them.

    I think the gravest threat to poetry and honest free artistic exchange in online forums is morale that suffers after disputes, rivalries, flame wars. Membership morale can suffer if moderators abuse their power, or even if people are merely arguing unproductively. It can be particularly distracting and destructive if members are arguing about things which have nothing to do with poetry.

    I think it’s important to note that the rules are pretty basic at TCP–primary is no personal attack, no hate speech. The discussion forums are more highly moderated than the poetry forums–there’s almost no censorship of poetry in the poetry forums and the rules there are critique a certain number of poems for every poem posted, don’t argue with the critique and don’t post spam or hate speech. The discussion threads are more open to locking–we hardly ever delete anything–if people get heated and start attacking one another. Politics and religion in the past can be pretty volatile, but there hasn’t been a big problem for 4 years that I can recall. The rule about talking about other sites good or bad is reasonable, because talking about folks behind their back is always bad form, and unprofessional to host this talk–it’s gossip and unproductive and just doesn’t need to happen as far as I’m concerned.

    I’m not sure what threads have ever been stifled. The roles of moderators often becomes a role of mediator between two friends who are fighting–sometimes a moderator will step in to remind folks to stay on track in a thread and avoid attacking one another, or mediate a dispute once one has happened, especially in incendiary topics. It’s a tough job, and not an enviable role to play at times. I hate to see my friends fighting or being attacked.

  235. Arthur (258)–not all dirty laundry needs to be aired to everyone. During the split in particular, I was an admin who was around the least amount of time. There are things that happened that I still don’t know all the details about, but must take the words of others and piece together what happened. If a person isn’t directly involved they don’t need to know, or need to know every gory detail about who did what and why. Discretion is keeping quiet about what doesn’t need to be known by the general public, and sometimes this can look like deception, or power abuse, conspiracy, when it isn’t.

  236. Arthur (259)

    I think we all choose to believe what we believe–sorry if it seemed I was singling you out.

    You don’t know how many times mods and admin tender their resignations because the work is so thankless–you don’t know how many times I have wanted and tried to resign, and this is true of many of those I’ve worked with–there isn’t really any power that is that attractive–mainly the way I see it and I’m being really frank here is that it’s job that others can’t or won’t do and so you step in and say, I’ll do it then. Here’s the worst part of it, you see you’re friend fighting and you have to try to get them to stay friends, not leave the board in a huff, and stay, just so you can continue to have the priviledge of reading their poetry. This is the main part of the job for me as an admin–being a diplomat/mediator between friends and poets who are opinionated and have fiery temperaments. The funny thing is, that you have no idea how I grieved when Tere left our board 4 years ago, and how pleased I was when he reappeared and started critiquing poetry again a few months ago on TCP. When Tere stopped critiquing and made it clear he wouldn’t post poetry again, and became abusive in the discussion threads–the input stopped being thoughtful but was hostile and trollish–that was the reason for the ban. When the destructive outweighs/counters/negates the constructive–this is when a tough decision needs to be made. I am always the last person to want to ban anybody.

    Moderators make mistakes–sometimes bad ones. They should apologize–it’s in the interest of the board, for morale sake–because everyone’s eyes are on the leaders as examples and quick to remind and bring this up later when mistakes are made etc., but some folks have big egos–on the membership side as well as the moderator side–it goes with the territory of poetry–people are flawed–poets are wounded–this is the nature of the online workshop, all we can do is try for fairness, impartiality, reasonableness, and justice and to maintain peace and free expression–why, for the sake of the poetry of course. You say you haven’t written a poem in a long time, because of all the drama and hurt and bad feelings surrounding the split…I don’t think power abuse was the cause but damage and emotional upheaval.

  237. Let me back up a moment–I missed a couple of posts–

    C (252)–the issue is never just disagreement, or even heated disagreement–

    if that’s all it was then there would be no problem. It’s when the discussion forums stop being “thoughtful input” and turn to destructive, abusive, haranguing commentary about a pet agenda or another member or members. Tere’s discussions stopped being about poetry TCP a long time ago. This is a huge loss to TCP, because discussions with him involved were some of the best we ever had.

  238. #276. I am glad to see that Dmehl is willing to enter into an exchange. I am hoping other admins will do the same. I am especially hoping they can enter into a conversation in the true spirit of an exchange among equals, as we all are at Clattery’s. No modulators here. As for TCP’s policies and rules, please to reread the essay starting off the discussion. Then reread #268, point five and #273, par., two. Stated as neutrally as possible management practices at TCP, among other boards putting into practice their guidelines, served as my essay’s template.

    One other thought for now. Stating a board’s policies and guidelines is not quite the same as answering questions raised. That indeed would be a brave act on the part of any admin or mod. On the other hand, it suddenly occurs to me that the paternalism expressed in #276 is precisely what a few, some, or a bunch of us have come to object to. Guess we’ll see if in fact an exchange is even possible in the first place.

    Terreson

  239. Tere (253)–Is this really about the poetry or something else? Honestly, ask yourself that. Please.

    If you so disliked our board and how it was run and the rules it was governed by, why would you come back–why would you want to post there? I really don’t understand, Tere. As I said before I missed you when you left, and was damn sorry to have to “shun” you, but that only happened after it stopped being about the poetry and became an anti-authority/rules jingo.

    I am very interested in knowing the difference between moderating and modulation. Could you elaborate on that?

  240. Chris D. (260)

    Do I know you? Do you know me? How can you attack my post (when you know nothing of the context behind it), and me, and say I’m full of hot air when we know nothing about one another?

  241. Halifax (262)–Thanks for making the adjustment–it’s always best to quote folks in full when possible.

    by the way, I enjoyed your don hall quotes. The cafe metaphor is most apt of all. The funny thing is, that I own one, and have hosted writer’s groups there. As the owner I can still refuse service to someone who gets out of control–it’s not that far from the homeowner analogy except that products are being sold rather than given (as in a home). We don’t sell coffee in an online workshop, but the members are more like customers than party guests, even if they are not paying for anything–wait, by critiquing others perhaps they are paying, just not in money. Every metaphor breaks down at some point.

  242. Jennifer (263)–thanks for the invitation, but it looks like the discussion is taking place here and everyone can speak freely (and even attack ona another if they wish)

    Why continue to repeat the advertisement though–after the second or third time it’s starting to look like spam.

  243. Arthur (264)”On the other hand, to get the personal attacks over with, let’s just all agree that everybody can be an asshole at times.”

    Yes, 🙂

    I would be the first to admit that about myself.

  244. #279. Goodness, goodness, goodness. And it starts already. Personalize the issue(s) and you trivialize the questions. Well, what the hell.

    Dmehl is right. My poetry discussion threads were some of the best on his board. It is the same where ever I have posted. It is less because of my comprehensions than because of my devotion to poetry as a thing in itself, with no agendas. He is right too that my participation there became less about poetry. But here is where #279 trades in the half-truth. What my discussions became more and more about were poetry board politics. And it started when I was a TCP mod back in that hidden forum accessible to mods and admins only. That was the first place and time I was told to shut up and where I had a thread locked. That was the first place and time I questioned management practices. Think about it. If a mod can’t ask questions in private and raise topics uncomfortable to management without feer of reprisal who the hell can? And then there is this. Poetry, and the discussion about the same, never flourish in a repressive environment. It does however turn its attention to the repression itself. That is what makes poetry, and the poet, political.

    It would be so much better if we could keep to the issues rather than turning aside to the particulars. But heh. If need be I’ll play the huckleberry, point by point.

    Terreson

  245. See #287 in response to #282. And, yes, of course this is all about poetry and the extent to which poetry board practices can and on some boards do falsify the poetry experience. Stated again a certain education started in board politics in the mod forum #287 mentions. But it didn’t end there. Repeated patterns elsewhere is what finally produced the essay.

    Terreson

  246. halifax (265)

    The two central points according to me:

    A) poets who stop posting in the poetry forums, but continue to post in discussion forums on topics unrelated to poetry not only cease to be “valued” contributors, but if hostile, antagonistic, abusive, trollish are become liabilities through distraction and destructive influence which negatively impacts not only the discussion forum but often other forums on the site, causing a choice to be made to warn and eventually ban the “non”contributing member. If someone only posts only on discussion forums it’s okay, but the main point of a workshop board is the workshop. If the discussions pertain to poetry it’s still valuable. If they never do, it’s of little value to the site as a whole, and can be costly. If they are incendiary, controversial, off topic as far as the core mission is concerned then they become work to monitor for the moderator, a distraction for the membership and a liability to the site. It’s a tier of priorities and pragmatics, and an issue of morale. No one who hasn’t had to mediate and monitor these difficult threads knows anything about how time consuming and emotionally exhausting this task can be. Tere has, I believe, moderated the EE forum at TCP (and should know all about this dynamic), and I have. The scale is one of constructive versus destructive, and weighing pros and cons, time consumption and cost in members or moderators before one, as a last resort, locks, a thread–rarely is anything deleted, but sometimes, if letting the information stand is hurtful to a member.

    B) Flame wars are costly in moderators, admin (volunteer staff who resigns after them), members who leave the site after a “discussion” which wasn’t even pertinent to the posting or discussion of poetry. Morale and the atmosphere/tone/climate of a site are crucial and directly proportional to the quality and quantity of poetry posted in an online poetry board–leadership diplomacy is a crucial factor in the morale equation because it directly ties in–how long one lets an unproductive thread often relates to the health of the poetry forums, and discussion forums bleed over into the workshop forums. One has to be tolerant but not too tolerant or you lose members or moderators. Flame wars cost a board, especially if unchecked, and most often occur on threads not pertinent to the board’s mission (religion and politics as two common examples). Respect is the key ingredient to the health of any board. Free and open discussion depend on it.

  247. Okay. #282 again. We need to clear up a misconception. My essay, this blog, the ensueing discussion(s) is so not about TCP. TCP is a poster child only, one of several, used as an illustration of, and to say it again, the extent to which the poetry experience can get falsified by management practices. (Of course it is about other aspects of the situation too.) While I sympathize with an admin’s inclination to view the discussion as about his board only, doing so works against the exchange, if exchange at all is possible. An admin type is going to have to disengage for a moment, step back, reclaim a bit of neutrality if he is going to actually get what is being objected to here. That would be a big step to take.

    As for my own small set of objections, as said upthread, please refer to my essay, to #268 point five, and to #273 par. two.

    Terreson

  248. Tere (287)–I would love nothing more than to not personalize the issues, but don’t know how to avoid it. I posted here initially because I felt I was quoted out of context at babilou, and wanted to make sure-especially you–who couldn’t see the full quotes–could see them. Tell me what issues of a nonpersonal (TCP related issues) you wanted to address and specifically how you wanted them addressed. I”m offering you personal opinions based on my experience on a specific board (don’t have a lot of experience elsewhere).

  249. Arthur (266)–I think home works to an extent, just like any other analogy does, to an extent. Your other analogies do too (park, library, etc.–except an online workshop has an owner or owners, a staff, a membership, and a mission or goal for the gathering–I think it is a community–why wouldn’t it be–many of the same people show up everyday, friendships and artistic endeavors evolve, people even meet up nonvirtually.

    “1. “If you don’t like it here, I invite you to leave.” In some cases, admission of responsibility is made by the Admin; but their idea of addressing perceived abuses is to reject anyone’s opinion who disagrees with them, and to invite people to leave.”

    This sometimes happens, it’s true. If a person shows up wanting something we don’t offer, or they want what we offer to become something the other members collectively don’t want, it’s in their interest to find what they want somewhere else, isn’t it?

    “2. Denial of overall responsibility for setting the tone.”

    I think administrator’s and/or owners of a site should accept responsibility for setting the tone–how could they deny it really?

    “3. Denial of abuse of power, and justification of abuse of power, even when it’s transparently obvious and virtually the entire membership thinks it was abuse. Here comes that double standard again: Mods get away with behaviors that average members get banned for. We have seen this over and over now. It happened at TCP right after the split, more than once. It just happened again.”

    It happened at TCP how and where specifically–hard to refute an accusation without knowing specifics. Generally it isn’t a question of whether or not power abuses will occur at any given site, but what is done about them after the fact. Everybody makes mistakes, exercises power wrongly if they have it, and is fallible. What do they do about it after the fact determines their level of integrity and humility?

    “So, what about Mods’ accountability? I don’t hear many Admins/Mods addressing that very often. Except sometimes to agree with me, then go off and abuse their same privileges again. This is really schizophrenic, and it needs to be held accountable.””

    Moderators are ultimately accountable to admin. Admin are accountable to the owner and themselves. There isn’t any overseeing body, so it’s up to the member to decide if they like a board’s tone/leadership–if not they leave. I did speak with Diana at one point when she raised the issue about a greater body of accountability and am not opposed to the idea of some–it could be a valuable resource to all concerned to have oversight, but who, how and what body would do the overseeing is the difficult point to detail out. I suggested to her that a body of peers (other admin from other boards) would be doable for me. Ultimately the member calls the shots–they can stay or go–I’m not being crass–it’s a fact–they are not paying for a service, and they are not being held against their will. They dictate where they will spend their time and artistic energy. Simple as that isn’t it? I think a board has a responsibility and an incentive to retain good and productive contributing members. This is why they should want to behave and conduct themselves above board.

  250. C (267)–You’re right, I did make myself look foolish, and it was wrong to mention you by name (I didn’t know you were incognito), and I’m very sorry about the comment.

  251. #289. And so who mod’s the mod? Who checks the checker? Who ensures the double standard is not applied when treating with mod and member behavior? Who defends a member from the snarkiness of the mod? Who gets to define a flame war? Who keeps mods from ganging up in a pack on a member declared undesirable? Who keeps an admin type from signalling to mods a member needs to be driven from the scene. Who ensures a posting poet can defend a poem against the stupidity of the uncomprehending critic?

    This is where the paternalistic and moralizing stance expressed in #289 breaks down. Of a sudden, and making a small leap here, I am reminded that Plato would drive poets from his ideal Republic because of the danger they represented to ideal order.

    Terreson

  252. Arthur (269)–Perhaps you’re right and the ban was pre-emptive and unjustifiable. I’m not sure it’s all as cut and dried as that, though. The situation is muddied by the fact that TCP.org and TCP.com should be one and the same site, in principle–even though there are different owners. they should be one site, but aren’t. The other complicating factor is that Tere was attacking/abusing/whatever folks at the .com site, so by extension he was banned at .org for attacking folks at .com!? I think the only reason he was not banned prior was because the moderator had no admin power to do it. What is the gain of letting someone antagonize your board–who has no wish to contribute productively? especially when the member who banned Tere at .org is an active member at .com. If there were any constructive reason for not banning Tere at .com we wouldn’t have done it. Perhaps we made a mistake, perhaps not–now that it’s done, it can’t be undone. I don’t know, but I knew if we didn’t, there would be a cost of other members. An admin at any given board is always trading costs–part of the job–in friendships and poets and members. It’s probably the main source of turnover in moderators/admin–having to be in the middle between two friends. Personally I hate it.

  253. I’m not sure why I’m being painted as the bad guy by you. Really in that respect I don’t think you know what you’re talking about:). As for your point 5, I am here, not afraid, and am talking with you…

    “I do not want to see anymore board mods ganging up, in group, on a member they declare is undesirable or uncomfortable to them. I think that banning should not be discretionary in the sense of being determined by interpretation of both rules and behavior. (This is what has caused so much fear and loathing.) I think banning should be limited to the most egregious offenses: hate speech, threats of violence, and spamming only. I think moderators should not be allowed to edit a member’s post. (It has happened.) I think moderators should not be allowed to delete a member’s post except at the stated request of the member. I think that moderators, some at least, need to rethink their role. Their rightful job is to facilitate conversation and exchanges. Their wrongful job is to modulate conversations and exchanges by telling members how they should think and speak. (In this respect the two best mods I’ve ever met would be Brenda at TCP.com and Dmanister at Poets,org.) I think that poets, and I am particularly passionate about this point, should always and everywhere be allowed to challenge the comments, assumptions, and sometimes the abusive bullshit, of their critics. Why should a poetry board sanction the critic when it puts a gag order on the poet who was the brave one in the first place? I think both admins and moderators should also have to follow a limits rule on posting poetry, but of a different order. For every poem they post they have to comment on 25, 50, 75, or 100 poems posted by members, depending upon the board’s ratio of members to mods. (I am dead serious. This is the only way to give the boards back over to members and to their poetry.) The last thing I think is this. Site admins and site owners, at least some of them, need to rethink their roles. Being an admin or owner does not give the person privelige or ownership. In poetry there are no priveliges or ownership. There is only talent and the lack of talent. The role does, however, place a particular responsibility on the admin. To administer can mean two things. On the dysfunctional boards it has come to mean to maintain control over. On the functioning boards it has always meant to administer to. Big difference.”

    This is interesting–I think it’s the first time I’ve actually gotten to see specifically what you’re asking for and wanting from a board and a management style. Your essay was so general that I didn’t find it that helpful–but this is good and something to think about Tere. Thanks.

  254. Arthur #269

    I think you’re right, a poet should be able to elaborate their intent to a critic, and discussions can get really interesting when this happens–we changed the guidelines in the upper forum (HD) to reflect that opening up of the guidelines about a year or two ago. We have been talking about changing it in the middle forum (C&R) as well. There’s a couple of schools of thought on whether a poet should need or be able to explain their poem–the opportunity doesn’t happen anywhere but a workshop–but it is true that interesting discussions and a lot of tangential learning can take place for all concerned. “Don’t crit the critter” should be changed to “don’t attack your critic” really.

  255. Okay, Dmehl. I am not looking to paint you as a bad guy, as you put it. Fundamentally, I bet you are an okay person. I am, however, as are others, taking issue with certain board practices, presently as involves management, in the first forum in which I or anyone else has been allowed to raise certain uncomfortable questions. (To my mind this is key. That Clattery has made available a forum in which dissenting voices can be heard free of reprisal. Don’t you get it?)

    As for finding my essay too general, the point was to raise a long-time festering issue, which it did. As for the specifics of what any of us might envision, when did you or anyone else ask me or anyone else for specifics? When have any of my critics asked the question? There have been attacks, dissing, scoffing, trivializing, in the end, banning. Not one critic, not one mod or admin type felt put on the defensive, has asked, ‘What are you talking about, man? What is the problem? What do you dissenters want?’ Nor have you or anyone else asked me or anyone else here. The info was voluntary and made in the spirit of getting past the fricking bickering.

    I thank you for the several posts you’ve made today. In brief they amount to a site admin’s position paper, which is a good thing. Everybody now can read the opposing positions of two poets who, in the end, and I remember this about you too, are in it for the poetry. And you bet. It comes down to a fundamental, philosophical disagreement. Only, I am going to ask you to read the thoughts of others who have spoken up about what they too view as a lousy situation on a few, some, a bunch of poetry boards. Mine is not the only voice of dissent. I have been hearing their voices raised on a few, some, a bunch of poetry boards for awhile, or at least until they were told to shut up.

    So let’s get past this personal stuff and let’s get to issues.

    One more thing. When I read your posts, #289 especially comes to mind, I realize something. I realize just how right Einstein was when he said there are two fundamental attitudes about the universe. For some it is a friendly place. For others it is as essentially an unfriendly place from which people have to be protected. In my view the paternalistic bent places one in the latter camp. But that is just my view.

    I’ll give you something else too, Dmehl. You have the distinction of being the first and only admin or mod to step out into an uncontrolled environment. Other mods have shown up here, but only on the attack. I respect that.

    Terreson

  256. dm,

    This is what I know of you. You compare poetry work-shops to house parties, hosted by mods and administrators.

    You responded to clattery’s gracious and welcoming comments with dismissive sarcasm. You also ignored
    his explicit request not to reveal his name. Disrespectful indeed.

    I know of you what you have revealed of yourself here.

    I see the conversation has taken a more positive turn and I am pleased to see that. I’ve been away from the computer for a while
    so I am just catching up and responding to your response, upthread.

    Chris

  257. I want to go back to post #248. The author’s maintenance is that it is the text of a message made in full, given as advice to a fellow site admin on a sister board of his. It would be good to read the whole message for the sake of context. But it was the second to last paragraph that stopped me up short.

    “You’re on the right track, but you might need to start banning a little more freely and stop entertaining all the whining–it will never stop and you will just continue to be distracted from your real mission and responsibility here.”

    After reading the post I kind of riffed on the message on another board, Poets.net. It put me in mind of something an abbot is famously supposed to have said in one of the darkest moments of Christendom, when Christian turned murderously on Christian. Here is what came to mind.

    ‘I am a great fan of Troubador poetry and of the Civilization out of which it grew. At its height in the 12th C, and from Provence to Catalonia, there was this flourishing in the arts, sciences, commerce, philosophy, religion, and civic life. But the region’s Cathars, a religious order more gnostic than Pauline in its faith, were declared heretics by Pope Innocent III. And he declared a crusade, since known as the Albigensian Crusade, named after an important town in the south of France. Armies came in mostly from north France. They raped, pillaged, murdered, dispossessed, and generally wiped out the populations of whole towns. (No exaggeration.) Because theirs was a holy war these armies were assured eternal salvation for their holy work.

    In 1209 the city of Beziers was beseiged and eventually taken. There was present a certain spiritual guide, the Abbot of Citeaux. Some of the conquering knights were a little troubled in their consciences because of the sanctioned mass murders. One knight is supposed to have gone to the Abbot and asked how could he distinguish between Catholic and Cathar. Famously the abbot is supposed to have replied, “Kill them all, the Lord will recognize His own.” I guess there is precedent for the site admin’s promotion of preemptive banning. Ban them all, the board in the sky will recognize its own.’

    At the expense of begging the obvious, how is anyone to reconcile the advice to a fellow site admin to “banning a little more freely” with the protestations of good faith the same author is now pleading? What is scarier is trying to figure out the notion of a site admin’s “real mission.” In the land of poetry, always artfully dishevelled, the notion of a real mission makes for some scary shit.

    Terreson

  258. Oh hell. Did I forget to say that out of the 1209 Crusade the Holy Office of the Inquisition was born? And that poets, the Troubadors, were some of the first to be brought before said office? Maybe it is something to think about the next time a board manager declares any one of us a troll, just before the ban notice.

    Terreson

  259. I just reread the essay. It has been long enough since that it comes as news to me. The message seems pretty clear.

    Poets, demand more of your boards. Demand more of your critics, challenge them, and keep them honest when they take on your poetry. Demand more of your board managers. If you don’t keep them honest nobody will. And demand more of yourselves. If you fall into the comfort zone of poetry board culture your poetry is the loser. Rather, your job is to challenge that culture in all the little ways big poetry is made.

    My sense is that today’s Rimbaud or tomorrow’s Dickinson will not be found on the streets, in a book, or in the recording studio. He, as likely she, will be found here, in cyberspace, maybe on a poetry board. This is why the conversation matters.

    Clattery, I’ve decided you are a prince.

    Terreson

  260. dmehl, why can’t a banning be undone by those who done it in the first place? Seems like you abandon authority when it suits you to do so. You can undo a banning in a trice and you know it.

    You come across as a bad guy because you compare adminstering a poetry workshop/forum to hosting a party in your own home for guests you have invited and can disinvite at your pleasure.

    That analogy betrays Your mental state as being other than one of service to the community.

    You’re the gardener, man, and the poolboy and the house painter. You maintain the site.

    Your analogy expresses your sense of ownership, power and entitlement. Some registered members are sick of being treated according to the whims of administrators with that attitude.

    And just because you think TCP.com and TCP.org “should be the same site” (your words), they are not the same site. And you have banned registered members from “your” site based on their behavior in another forum. Where does it stop?

    This is the wire-tapping mentality rife in the U.S. now. But at least Bush claims to be looking for terrorists. What’s your excuse?

    Diana

    .

  261. Tere (290)–“An admin type is going to have to disengage for a moment, step back, reclaim a bit of neutrality if he is going to actually get what is being objected to here. That would be a big step to take.”

    I am trying, listening, and thinking through the issues. To me this isn’t a sparring contest but engagement.

  262. Tere (294)– “And so who mod’s the mod? Who checks the checker? Who ensures the double standard is not applied when treating with mod and member behavior? Who defends a member from the snarkiness of the mod? Who gets to define a flame war? Who keeps mods from ganging up in a pack on a member declared undesirable? Who keeps an admin type from signalling to mods a member needs to be driven from the scene. Who ensures a posting poet can defend a poem against the stupidity of the uncomprehending critic?

    This is where the paternalistic and moralizing stance expressed in #289 breaks down. Of a sudden, and making a small leap here, I am reminded that Plato would drive poets from his ideal Republic because of the danger they represented to ideal order.”

    My responses to this can be found in two posts above this post, here, in “the paternalistic and moralistic post” to you Tere (289): “Respect is the key ingredient to the health of any board. Free and open discussion depend on it,” and here to Arthur (292): “Ultimately the member calls the shots–they can stay or go–I’m not being crass–it’s a fact–they are not paying for a service, and they are not being held against their will. They dictate where they will spend their time and artistic energy. Simple as that isn’t it? I think a board has a responsibility and an incentive to retain good and productive contributing members. This is why they should want to behave and conduct themselves above board.”

    By the way, Plato’s distrust and banning of poets from the Republic wasn’t a political ideal but an artistic (philosophical/religious?) ideal he objected to–he disliked artistic representation of any kind because it diluted through derivation the ideal form rather than representing it in truer form–or as we commonly think of poetry and fiction, a form of truth through lying.

  263. Tere (299)”Okay, Dmehl. I am not looking to paint you as a bad guy, as you put it.”

    thanks, I appreciate that.

    “Fundamentally, I bet you are an okay person.”

    heh.

    “I am, however, as are others, taking issue with certain board practices, presently as involves management, in the first forum in which I or anyone else has been allowed to raise certain uncomfortable questions.”

    In my defense, and perhaps my site’s, you could have posted this essay on our board and we would have discussed it. When a link to this site and the essay was posted in our discussion forum, I was one of the few people to actually respond to your essay and try to bring the thread back to the original point after many tangents had been made and the thread had veered off in other directions.

    “(To my mind this is key. That Clattery has made available a forum in which dissenting voices can be heard free of reprisal. Don’t you get it?)”

    Yeah, I get it, but the problem with a forum like this (just like anywhere) is that it gets diluted with complaints and tangents and the nuggets of real reform potential are tucked away hidden amongst the irrelevant–may I suggest you post a revisit at some point highlighting the key general points and doing away with the personal and specifics for those who don’t have time to wade through the hundreds of irrelevant comments.

    “As for finding my essay too general, the point was to raise a long-time festering issue, which it did. As for the specifics of what any of us might envision, when did you or anyone else ask me or anyone else for specifics?”

    now.

    “When have any of my critics asked the question? There have been attacks, dissing, scoffing, trivializing, in the end, banning.”

    banning was after months of sniping,trollish behavior, petty abuse on an unmoderated board which was brought to a crashing standstill as a result of yours and a few others–is this your solution? I think the largest response to your essay on other boards, with the exception here and at TCP was apathy and indifference?

    “Not one critic, not one mod or admin type felt put on the defensive, has asked, ‘What are you talking about, man? What is the problem? What do you dissenters want?’”

    Actually, I had enough respect for you, and several other mods at TCP did, to ask those questions of ourselves and our site.

    “Nor have you or anyone else asked me or anyone else here. The info was voluntary and made in the spirit of getting past the fricking bickering.”

    May a lot of people didn’t want to enter the fray of bickering, or don’t perceive the problem as being theirs, or that pervasive? I know I thought twice about it.

    “I thank you for the several posts you’ve made today. In brief they amount to a site admin’s position paper, which is a good thing.”

    You’re welcome. I have put myself and my board in a vulnerable position of scrutiny and subject to all kinds of criticism and attack. Hopefully the dialog can remain fruitful and productive for both sides?

    “Everybody now can read the opposing positions of two poets who, in the end, and I remember this about you too, are in it for the poetry.”

    I’m glad you are not only willing to recognize this but acknowledge it–thank you.

    And you bet. It comes down to a fundamental, philosophical disagreement. Only, I am going to ask you to read the thoughts of others who have spoken up about what they too view as a lousy situation on a few, some, a bunch of poetry boards. Mine is not the only voice of dissent. I have been hearing their voices raised on a few, some, a bunch of poetry boards for awhile, or at least until they were told to shut up.

    So let’s get past this personal stuff and let’s get to issues.”

    You’re having a positive impact on my perception of how to run a board through this discussion that hasn’t devolved into a shouting match and name-calling…it needs to be noted that I am not a lone maverick admin but share a position with 3-4 other admin at TCP–and we are all following this discussion.

    “One more thing. When I read your posts, #289 especially comes to mind, I realize something. I realize just how right Einstein was when he said there are two fundamental attitudes about the universe. For some it is a friendly place. For others it is as essentially an unfriendly place from which people have to be protected.”

    The responsibility of any management style in any organization is to run at a level of efficiency and to set goals and try to meet them. The customer or membership or community or party goers demand this of the host, wouldn’t you agree. It isn’t always as sinister as you would portray it, but at the same time, you bet–there are wolves who would ravage the sheep and the admin sometimes plays the shepherd–would you deny this and suggest the world is full of rainbows and gentle sunbeams and fluffy white clouds, all the time?

    “In my view the paternalistic bent places one in the latter camp. But that is just my view.”

    fair enough. I wear a few hats–not just one.

    “I’ll give you something else too, Dmehl. You have the distinction of being the first and only admin or mod to step out into an uncontrolled environment. Other mods have shown up here, but only on the attack. I respect that.”

    thanks. feeling’s mutual or I wouldn’t be here. I’m genuinely glad for the discussion and think it will definitely affect the management style at TCP in days to come.

    Terreson”

  264. Chris (300)”dm,

    This is what I know of you. You compare poetry work-shops to house parties, hosted by mods and administrators.”

    What’s wrong with that? As I said earlier, every analogy breaks down. Why doesn’t this work for you? There are several that could apply to the online poetry workshop…the pervasive analogy that was being used against me and that spurred my counter reply and analogy was that a poetry board was like a civil government/democracy. Now you know the context of my reply.

    “You responded to clattery’s gracious and welcoming comments with dismissive sarcasm.”

    Yes. Partly I was irritated with C, because of a reply he made on our sister board. But I regret my actions and have apologized and asked that that comment be deleted–are you willing to reassess your opinion of me now? I spoke out of anger and shouldn’t have.

    ” You also ignored
    his explicit request not to reveal his name. Disrespectful indeed.”

    This may sound stupid, but I didn’t know this was bad form because I didn’t know there was any question in anyone’s mind of the identity of the host here. He posts announcements on other boards, linking this board with his real name, and I thought it was common knowledge that Clattery was his blog.

    “I know of you what you have revealed of yourself here.”

    true enough. I hope i’m representing myself better now.

    “I see the conversation has taken a more positive turn and I am pleased to see that. I’ve been away from the computer for a while
    so I am just catching up and responding to your response, upthread.”

    I’m glad you’re interested in positive discussion. The rest is a waste of everyone’s time, but people like to rubberneck–it’s a fact of the highway and human nature.

    Chris”

  265. Tere (301)–

    Wow, can you be serious? Are you actually equating actions on an online poetry board with a genocide and a religious war?

    I am wondering if, knowing my religion, you are now trying to mock me for my faith.

    Or is the hyperbole of comparing religious mission with organizational or business “mission” somehow relevant to this discussion?

    If this is a subtle form of mockery for my faith, that’s a little below the belt and personal, rather than rising above the specifics to the general issues that you called for earlier, wouldn’t you say?

    What am I to think about this when you make such outrageous comparisons? Is banning you from a poetry board for unrestrained abuse against us on a sister board, like burning you at the stake or running you through with a sword?

  266. Tere (303)–“My sense is that today’s Rimbaud or tomorrow’s Dickinson will not be found on the streets, in a book, or in the recording studio. He, as likely she, will be found here, in cyberspace, maybe on a poetry board. This is why the conversation matters.”

    This is an interesting proposition, and one that would be worth exploring in another discussion. I doubt Dickinson would have posted on the net, but perhaps she may have–if she had, could she have held onto her individuality and idiosyncrasy–could Dickinson have been an online workshopper and become a Dickinson–we’ll never know 🙂 Interesting to think about. Or could she have been even greater for the workshopping and surpassed herself? Do unknowns on poetry boards have a stab at the same posthumous recognition because they post online? Different topics for different days, but yes, your injunction is a good one, I’d say.

  267. Diana (304)–“dmehl, why can’t a banning be undone by those who done it in the first place? Seems like you abandon authority when it suits you to do so. You can undo a banning in a trice and you know it.”

    We have a “once banned, always banned” policy. We have tried amnesty before with a 99 out of 100 failure rate. I won’t say it never works but it almost never works. If I were to unban Tere, I’m guessing I would be trading him for X amount of other members, some of whom would be moderators and some of whom members who would see the action as inconsistent, unfavorable, and unfair to those who weren’t offered the same opportunity to be unbanned. It would set a new precedent, which when we tried it before, almost brought the board to its knees, because the sudden influx of unbanned members could forgive and forget that we had once banned them. The other question is whether Tere would wish to return, on what terms and in what way, and whether he would really want to participate fully as a contributing member in good standing. All this said–I would consider it. To unban would be a risk to TCP with no guarantee of gain to anyone–him or us. Does this help outline the complexity of the issues to you?

    “You come across as a bad guy because you compare adminstering a poetry workshop/forum to hosting a party in your own home for guests you have invited and can disinvite at your pleasure.”

    I honestly don’t see why this makes me a bad guy 🙂 I mean seriously, it’s about the poetry, and all about the stinking poetry–not management styles and conflict. Why can’t we keep talking about something interesting, like whether Dickinson could have been a Dickinson, if she posted online?

    “That analogy betrays Your mental state as being other than one of service to the community.”

    I don’t see how–a party host is above all a servant–it’s the guests who really get to enjoy the party–all the host does is work, and hopefully enjoys being a host and servant to the community and sneaks an oeur’doeurve and drink as they can…

    “You’re the gardener, man, and the poolboy and the house painter. You maintain the site.”

    Diana–hahahahahahahaha–man have you got that right. heheheh.

    “Your analogy expresses your sense of ownership, power and entitlement. Some registered members are sick of being treated according to the whims of administrators with that attitude.”

    Am I to be ashamed of being the site owner, host and admin now? I am open to constructive criticism and change, but may not always be able to make concessions to individuals when group membership needs are at stake–that’s part of the democratic nature of operations within a large group, eh?

    “And just because you think TCP.com and TCP.org “should be the same site” (your words), they are not the same site.”

    No, you’re right–one is an archive and a virtual graveyard–the other is a thriving poetry board.

    ” And you have banned registered members from “your” site based on their behavior in another forum. Where does it stop?”

    I’ve explained this repeatedly in prior posts–read back, if you haven’t noticed.

    This is the wire-tapping mentality rife in the U.S. now. But at least Bush claims to be looking for terrorists. What’s your excuse?

    Diana”

  268. A bunch of posts there, dmehl. I would say you have caught up nicely. Now for a few responses.

    First off, someone’s personal faith is none of my business. It is not something I need to think about or, in the context of the present discussion, take into account. On the other hand, all that has happened and is noted in the human record is my business and mine to take account of, no matter whose faith, persuasions, or convictions it might it enjoin or even compromise. Anyone who feels insulted by mentions made of what is squarely in the record is going to have to deal with it on their own time. It is not my problem.

    As an aside and before getting to point two, up thread I was asked to draw out the distinction between moderating and modulating. Dmehl has just supplied an example of modulating the conversation by telling me how to think and how to express myself. With all due respect in this venue Dmehl is not in a position to tell anyone how to express themselves.

    Now for point two. The context of my little anecdote about a certain abbot was clearly given. “…start banning a little more freely and stop entertaining all the whining…” It is incredible to me that even its author is not struck by the outrageousness of the attitude.

    Point three. I see once again the charge is levelled at me for “blatant personal abuse.” Please refer to #273, par. 3. To say again what I said there I am guilty of harshly criticizing two, I think it was only two, site admins for their management practices. If that amounts to personal abuse I’ll own it.

    Point four. Dmehl, I need to disabuse you of a misconception. I have no desire to ever again visit TCP. The well is poisoned there. You have several mods who gang up on members. You have mods who can be snarky in their treatment of members. You have a site admin who sets a certain tone and signals to the mod staff who they should diss. You have a mod forum that, unless things have changed, is an ugly hothouse where members get talked about disrespectfully. And lastly, most egregiously of all, you have two members who were involved in outing me by being privy to supplying my full name to your sister site’s admin. Seriously, you can check off your list of things to consider with respect to unbanning me.

    This is more personal than I wanted to be and more direct. But I didn’t bring the topic up. Nor did Dmanister who couched her language in general terms. You turned the comment to my case. So don’t worry your head about, man. As I said before there are four boards I consider poster children for intolerable management practices. I have no desire to contribute my poetry and my thinking about poetry to any of them.

    Terreson

  269. Thanks for clearing all that up. Talk to you in a week, assuming there’s any reason to think something productive may come of it. by the way, I too am sorry I’m not answering the questions/issues raised in a way that satisfies you! I’m not the only modulator around here, bud!

  270. Clattery, let be noted for the record please that this particular poster is quite satisfied with Dmehl’s answers to the issues raised. Any chance passerby can draw her own conclusions on the strength of what has been presented. In itself that is something productive.

    Terreson

  271. dm,

    By your own admission, you’ve made insulting, inappropriate comments in the course of your comments here.

    Your comments were not deleted and you were not banned. Your ideas and your behavior were challenged. You were given unlimited space, time and freedom to respond. You have been treated respectfully. Something for you to contemplate, though I doubt you will.

    Has my opinion of you changed? I
    don’t know, on the one hand you’re
    “glad” I’m “interested in positive
    discussion”, in the next breath I’m implicitly accused of “rubbernecking” and thus I am dismissed.

    For all your efforts to appear reasonable, I think you are not.

    Chris

  272. Well, Chris. Speaking as one rubber necker to another, boy do I love the work out. It so relieves the kinks, don’t you think?

    Clattery, I am finally ready to challenge this whole concept of poetry board ownership. The recent analogy of poetry board being a house, site owner the host, members guests at the poetry party puts a few things into focus for me. Two things come to mind: sweat equity and natural resources.

    In labor economics the concept of sweat equity holds that the factory worker, by virtue of his labor, makes a greater investment in the factory than is compensated for through wages. In brief he is a part owner in the factory, along with the capitalist and possibly the share holder whose investment(s) the capitalist depends upon. I am not proposing yet another analogy for describing poetry board workings. The sweat equity that poets invest on a poetry board through poetry posted, comments made on other poems posted, general participation, and sometimes lit crit type discussions, all of this amounts to an investment and, according to the model of sweat equity, makes them part owners. There is no way of getting around it. The point is valid.

    Second point. Site owners set up shop with absolutely no natural resources. They do not have poetry on a large enough scale. They do not bring participation. They do not bring comments enough on poetry that isn’t available yet anyway without the resource of members. And they do not bring the kind of lit crit and poetry discussions on which many boards thrive. Members do. In fact members not only bring the resources they are the resources on which poetry boards depend for their livelihood. Again, there is no way of getting around this. It really isn’t an arguable point.

    To recap. Board members, by virtue of sweat equity, are not only part owners of any board created, they are also the resource on which the board depends in order keep active. Just ask any board owner whose site has gone defunct through lack of activity if this is not the case.

    Over the years I’ve known many members who have invested in a board through sweat equity and whose participation amounts to a valuable resource. There is this one member who, to all the boards on which she participates, brings literary information gleaned from different sources. Her posts frequently start up conversation, which, of course, is the life blood of boards. Another member I know does something similar. She enters into a discussion, then after having done a little reading and research, adds substantiatively to the proceedings. A third member not only adds to any discussion in which he enters but he shows the board of his choice some of the best poetry likely to be found online. Then there are the countless, countless, countless posting poets who invest so much time in the comments they make on the poetry posted by others. In my case I have a kind of interesting situation going on. On a board from which I was banned about six months ago I left a few posts in the discussion forum. Posts involving lit theory, poetics, and lit crit. One thread is presently at 22,000 plus views. Another thread now has 14,000 plus views. Somebody is getting something out of those threads, and the board is getting the visits. You reckon I should demand residuals?

    So I guess I want to know who the hell owns these boards anyway? And if it is true, which of course it is, that members are part owners, shouldn’t they have some meaningful say in how boards operate?

    Here is a little story underscoring my point. Some years ago I was touring an antebellum plantation. The tour group was all white…except for one African-American couple. You bet I knew what was coming. Can’t remember the original plantation owner’s name. Let’s say it was Beauregard. Tour guide is intoning on how Mr. Beauregard cleared the virgin forest, built the house, drove his cotton a hundred miles to the river, etc. While, of course, Mrs. Beauregard was credited with having seen to all the family’s sewing needs, maintained her favorite rose garden, landscaped the grounds, and still found time to take care of the meals. Anyway, I hung to the back of the group just so I could observe. Sure enough. First the sidelong glances between the Black couple. Then the sharper looks exchanged as the tour progressed. Then finally the looks of incredulity as they realized the extent to which they were witnessing the rewriting of history still in progress.

    Clattery, I’ve decided that irony sometimes lies in perspective.

    Terreson

  273. Permit me to comment on the idea posted upthread that poets in poetry forums should post more poems if they are posting in discussions.

    That’s just another way of getting rid of articulate dissenters!

    Who in hell are mods and admins to tell a poet how much poetry to write?

    If a poet is publishing outside the forum, winning prizes like Terreson is, how does anyone know how much writing the poet is doing on a daily basis?

    Maybe the poet hasn’t got a poem ready to be workshopped. That’s true of me this summer for example. Maybe he or she has got writer’s block. In that case the pressure to post poetry in a workshop will only make the block worse.

    Not only do the guidelines they have written tell members how we have to respond to our ctitics in the forum, but now they want to tell us how many poems we have to workshop!

    Next they’ll be asking to approve of our dates!

    dmehl makes autocracy sound benevolent when he mentions democracy or the greater good. What democracy?

    Guidelines are written by management without any input from members and sometimes over members’ objections.

    Management does not feel compelled to observe their own guidelines, as Leona Helmsley once said about paying taxes, “that’s only for the little people.”

    And worse, management can wield power in a hurtful manner and write the guidelines to justify their actions later.

    *************

    dmehl, where is the guideline that states that a member’s criticism of management in another forum is grounds for banning?

    *************

    Like Tere, I respect your engaging in this discussion, but I feel you still aren’t getting it.

    Diana

    .

  274. Consider this, when you start to compose the new TCP guidelines requirements for ongoing postings of poems by members.

    T.S. Eliot published Prufrock in 1917 and published The Waste Land in 1922.

    In between were years where he wrote no poems.

    T.S. Eliot might have been banned from discussions by The Critical Poet for not writing enough poetry!

    Diana

    .

  275. Hi dmehl,

    On comment #279.

    That message of mine that you responded to, #251 was in relation to banning someone for not posting a poem.

    You say:

    “C (252)–the issue is never just disagreement, or even heated disagreement–”

    I didn’t say that it was. Your “issue” in your statement is a different issue, it seems. The issue addressed here is this relatively new idea that someone should be banned for not posting poetry, or not posting poetry for some length of time; banning someone for only using the forum for its discussion threads.

    Thoughtful posts in a discussion forum should be welcomed, even from those who never write poetry at all. There is a sense that I get that sometimes this new idea for a rule, to insist on poems from people who participate in discussion topics, is being used to increase the number of poems posted. It comes off as a striving toward bigness; either that, or the opposite, a fear of winnowing out.

    C.

  276. Clattery, having read back through the discussion and exchange with one board’s site admin, here are a couple of reflections brought to mind.

    In ancient Greek religion there was a sea god named Proteus, from which the words changable and mutable derive. Proteus predated the arrival of the Olympian, offical state, religion, but he was then adopted by the new religion. He was made into the son of Posiedon and he was given the job of protecting Poseidon’s seals, which made him the bull seal at the center of the pod. He was given the power to tell the future, which he was forced today if and when captured. He was also equipped with the ability to change his shape in order to elude capture. I often think of Proteus when debating and exchanging ideas. He comes to mind whenever the interlocutor changes the shape of his argument in order to avoid addressing a single issue or a set of issues raised. It is actually a pretty common practice in debate. But any forensics coach will tell you it is one of the weakest tactics that can be used.

    Second reflection. In logic, and going back to Aristotle, there is the concept of the ignoratio elenchi, which stands for the irrelevant thesis or irrelevant conclusion. It is popularly known as a red herring as in, ‘that is just a red herring,’ or the argument that does not address the issue in question.

    It is always fascinating to find the red herrings and the protean mutability in a debate.

    I was not declared an undesirable at the admin’s board for a lack of poetry posted. Were that the case, I should think the scores of comments posted on the poetry of others would have off-set the lack. In my view commenting on the poetry of others is far more valuable to a board than constntly posting your own.

    #287 squarely addresses, no coyness, the red herring raised. It was having questioned board politics, especially with respect to its two-tiered mod/member system that led to being declared an undesirable.

    But I think I can suggest a way out of the board admin’s dilemma with respect to a certain set of questions. Certainly it would forestall the red herring need.

    A board’s guidelines could include the clause: ‘No questioning of management practices will be tolerated, nor will any criticism of mod/admin behavior. Doing so is cause for immediate banning.’ They might want to window dress the guideline a little for the sake of recruiting new members. But this could be the message. And all would know the board’s parameters before hitting that button that says, ‘Yes, I agree to the terms.’

    Anyway, this would be my suggestion to all site admins who share the kind of paternalistic, some say autocratic, philosophy about board management having been expressed here. Suddenly no more need for red herrings and the Proteus position. And everybody knows where they stand. Much healthier this way. Don’t you think?

    Tere

  277. It is just self-evident that a forum
    or a workshop is nothing more than the interaction of its participants, without whom it does not exist. A home-owner who hosts a party does not depend upon the attendance of the guests for the very existence of her house. Party hosting is just
    one, very minor element of home ownership–for most folks. But this is all too obvious, kind of like arguing that water-boarding really is torture. What’s the point?

    I’ve noticed how this discussion has evolved without any imposition
    of control by management. I’ve also noticed that those who argue most vehemently for rigid control in the name of order and civility are the least civil and most disorderly. Yet even their flame throwing has not burned the place down. Seems like a group of mostly civilized grown-ups really are capable of engaging one-another without calling the cops. This discussion is the best evidence that Tere’s onto something.

    Chris

  278. I wasn’t going to bring it up this morning, but the topic of changing arguments has been broached since.

    In comment 282, there is this statement made by dmehl808 in response to Terreson:

    As I said before I missed you when you left, and was damn sorry to have to “shun” you, but that only happened after it stopped being about the poetry and became an anti-authority/rules jingo.

    The morphing that has taken place is in changing Terreson’s argument from being against what he sees as poor moderation and administration at forums, to making him anti-authority. As the writer of this essay that has stirred so much discussion, we may agree with him or not, but if he wasn’t before, he has become quite the authority.

    If we replace “anti-authority” with the more precise “mis-management”, a better descriptor for his cause, for the sake of furthering this point we get:

    As I said before I missed you when you left, and was damn sorry to have to “shun” you, but that only happened after it stopped being about the poetry and became a mis-management/rules jingo.

    The word “jingo” loses its extremist connotation and, upon reflection, takes on the connotation of a champion of a real cause instead. However, this switch would make Terreson the authority and dmehl808 the anti-authority, but in a different sense of what authority is. We get the fuller meanings and association of “authority” as in “author” or expert, versus the idea that authority is mere power, in this context via ownership or bestowed by ownership. With this latter definition, if one is “anti-authority”, one is indiscriminately anti-power. Terreson’s essay and his ensuing cause-related actions are much more than that.

    C.

  279. Changing the rules again:

    Never heard of anyone at TCP ever being banned before for NOT posting poems. Reasons for previous bans were along the lines of disruption, being a pestilence, etc. But for NOT posting a poem? That’s completely new. Or if it’s not new in the written guidelines, it was certainly never enforced before.

  280. About #321. Note to self: this Chris D is not only a close reader of text but of nuance and tonality, and what it all speaks to motive. And, yes, Chris D. Six months ago I might have equivocated, being uncertain, about the need for moderators and modulators on a poetry board. I am no longer uncertain. The need is muchly inflated. Instances of hate speech, threats of violence, intrusive hard core porno, spamming, the sometime talibaning of a thread are easily, and can be quickly, dealt with. What more needs to be modulated? Closer to the point, what is the extent of the harm when more is modulated?

    #322. Oddly enough, Clattery, within moments of seeing the post I read an email from someone else who was alerted to something in #282. Only, my correspondent keyed in on the word shunning and sent me a link to a Wikipedia article on the concept. It makes for some pretty interesting reading.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shunning

    Pretty wild what associations a word can bring to mind.

    Terreson

  281. So, Clattery. I have a radical, late night notion just before locking the door and turning off the radio. I am struck by the beauty of it.

    I remember some years ago resigning my position as a poetry board mod. This may sound incredible but I experienced a period of feeling dismembered, dislocated, not sure of who I was or what I was. I also remember that board members on the same board on which I had moderated suddenly treated my poetry differently, less deferentially, more critically. That especially bothered me because I realized their prior assessments had been less than honest, more colored by my mod status. It actually hurt. But it made me realize something big about titles and entitlement. People, not even poetry people, see the man or woman behind the office or the badge. Not even poetry people.

    So, Clattery, I am going to suggest something to all the mods and to all the site admins of poetry boards who’ve maybe been at it too long. (Three years is too long, five years way past too long.) Step down, take off the robe, remove the miter, divest yourself of your office, even sell off your site. (You can always make a new one, if from scratch.) Become a member poet again for at least a year, maybe two. Perspective is a wonderful teacher. Even if sometimes she is a harsh mistress.

    Terreson

  282. Tere,

    I will go one step further and suggest that any organization, from a sewing circle to a nation, that does not permit its members a voice in selecting its own government and governors will suffer from authoritarian abuses.

    Any one-party government is totalitarian by definition. It controls information by censoring the media. It holds itself above the laws which it creates and to which it subjects its members.

    The internet is now one of the few means of disseminating criticism of such one-party, self-electing governments. Even China is failing to completely block incoming and outgoing information.

    The internet is our way of taking our complaints to the streets. The more the authorities attempt to control free speech not only on their own patches but web-wide, as they have done by banning you and others who complained about mismanagement outside the boundaries of the forums in question, the more all members with grievances should make them known.

    Diana

    .

  283. You get no argument from this quarter, Diana.

    On one poetry board there has been talk about creating a poetry board survey, something modelled, I think, after the Consumer Report idea. And why not? The features of the different boards could be gleaned from both each board’s guidelines and from documented board practices. Poetry boards could choose to be included in the site’s listing or they could decline to be listed. Boards included could have features bulleted: board tends to light verse, board promotes hard discussion and hard critique, board is primarily devoted to closed form poetry, board is eclectic, board requires of its membership this, that or the other, board’s management closely monitors poetry and discussion, board’s management does not closely monitor poetry and discussion, and so forth. Poetry boards declining to be included in the survey would also be listed.

    I figure something of this order is the next step to take. It is both positive and objective.

    Back before the poetry boards, in my opinion, were mod heavy, there was a lot more freedom. Freedom is both a good and not so good thing. I miss the raw, unmodulated, naive and damn fine poetry and poetry discussions I used to read in those days, don’t see so much now. I don’t miss the snarkiness. On the other hand the too strict controls since then, maybe well intentioned, have robbed the scene of that beautiful, unselfconscious naivete. I want it back.

    I figure something on the order of a poetry board survey, a clearing house of information, could be the kind of corrective right for the scene.

    Terreson

  284. Tere,

    You may know that poets.org posted a survey but not many of their members participated.

    That’s understandable since they ban members at whim.

    I am working with someone on developing a survey to be posted on a neutral site with enlightened management practices, but my guess is that members of other forums will be afraid that they will be punished for filling it out. Even if it’s done anonymously, site admins have ways of finding users’ IP addresses so it’s simple to figure out who the anons are.

    I don’t know enough about html to know if a workaround exists for this.

    Poetry forum members have been made fearful and docile. Quel domage.

    Diana

    .

  285. I’m a multiple poetry forum member, and I assure you I’m far from fearful or docile, Diana. Who are you talking about exactly? Are you fearful and docile? Are the others here? Or are you wanting to protect those people who easily become fearful and docile? If so, I suggest you snuggle up to them and give them some support. The Net can be an intimidating place, and some people do need support. Why not teach them how to navigate its hazards? I don’t know if it’s realistically possible to empower everyone out there. But I do buy into the idea of online community (to some extent) and the inherent compromises that that notion entails, just as it does in any other community.

  286. Steve:

    You need to check out the Poets.net Forum. Sounds like it’s right up your alley.

    P.S. I don’t know if you were just kidding, but ‘Quelle’ would be incorrect.

  287. Yeah, ‘Quelle’ just seemed highly appropriate for some fazy reason. Sorry, havin a larf.

    Poets.net… Hmm, they didn’t even acknowledge my application a while back. Like a few others.

    Cheers.