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Slow response on this one. I shouldn't have qualified the entry guidelines--there are two left. E-mail me. They're beautiful.

K.I.N.G. Wenclas

I know this Ashberry has a huge reputation-- but he strikes me as something of a mediocrity. (In this poem he's writing about a lot of nothing.)
What truly worries me: I'm something of a novice at poetry (zeenster first; essayist second). I write poems to have words to read at open mios. Yet I think even I can easily outdo this guy, John Ashberry. He has no depth, no reach and little range. He constructs hardly a rhythmn and his images are ordinary. When he reads his stuff he must put audiences to sleep.
Can you see how weak,lifeless, and washed-out today's poetry is compared to recent greats like Berryman, Rexroth, Dylan Thomas?
Wake up people!
I want to write poetry that burns down halls and causes people to run out the doors with energy. That's the goal. Anything less is dead, has given the word "poetry" its sleepy reputation which must be overturned.
My next poem will be better, and the one after that, better yet.
The frauds you promote, my friend, are easily overturned.




Let's see one of those poems of yours, King. Until then...

K.I.N.G. Wenclas

Uh, try clicking on my name to see my latest-- which I acknowledge could use some improvement, but is still not lost in vague pretentiousness as is Ashberry's work.
How good can he be if you're unable to defend him, to mount a coherent justification of your claims for him?
Most of his poem is windy nonsense.
"Above you, horses graze forgetting
daylight inside the barn."
Wow! That's so . . . so moving, so meaningful, so profound.
(The image of great piles of horseshit accompany the poem.)
Michael, at least be honest and admit your giant conglomerate is not publishing the best that American letters has to offer. You got a ton of attention for the Dishwasher guy, a fifth-rate zeen writer. Myself and my colleagues write ten times better-- and actually have an idea or two to boot in our work-- yet the safe and quirky curiosity is the one this corrupt and mediocre society, represented by conformist monopolists, chooses to promote.
Why is that, do you think?


and you think
"McCartney at Starbucks/Harry Potter at Borders"
is something original or even interesting?

You're entitled to your opinions about Ashbery, but it's clear that your thoughts and your creative writing lack any subtlety or nuance and you're a waste of time.


Uh, oh my god, I can't believe I didn't realize I should click on your name. Jeez, I'm an idiot.

Yes, truly brilliant. It's like reading one poem twenty times. You are the definitive bard of the counter-culture. And I've never ever heard of an anti-capitalist poet before. Hail to thee, O, Puppet Master of Subversion!

Your attacks on Ashbery (one 'r') are subtle and devastating. Explicating that one poem over and over really debunked his fifty years of poetic output. Ashbery once said his aim was "to produce a poem that the critic cannot even talk about." Though I look forward to your addled response to that quote, it speaks, partly, to my appreciation of his work. There is a latent joy and incredible spontaneity that he never ceases to express--almost as a bi-product. And he's kept it up for over 50 years. If you'd like to disparage one poem, dismiss it, and place yourself above it, go ahead, but to address the breadth of Ashbery, you'd have to do it a thousand times over. And, knowing you, you'd only make a fool of yourself.

And though Dishwasher met with great attention and some success, he's not the only one keeping this ship afloat.

K.I.N.G. Wenclas

But that's the poem of his YOU chose to highlight on your blog!
Who am I? A philistine, yes-- an objective unbrainwashed reader. That's how I came to literature. I entered your world with no preconceptions about what your literature offers. Yes, I find it a failure.
I've read a few other Ashbery poems. They fail to stir or move me in any way-- as I suspect they fail to move most ordinary readers.
Where's the originality in Ashbery? The poem you present is being done in creative writing program after creative writing program in university after university. It doesn't even try to connect with the reader by addressing real life. (Only a stale simulation of it with the same tired motifs of horses and barns.) It offers not energy but ennui. I at least know, as do underground poets better than myself, what poetry NEEDS to do to revive itself. We know how to connect with an audience because we do so-- we test our work in open mics against the best of hip-hop spoken word artists. We hold our own and sometimes outdo them.
Our direction is the future-- we try to build rhythmn as do hip-hoppers, but we also do more.
Your direction is wrong; it's the direction of marginalization and failure. Ashbery, from what I know about him, has been your (the established poetry world's) icon for more than forty years-- and in that time "poetry" has lost its value with the larger culture, has become a synonym for tired blandness, and there is not one academic poet who can fill halls and arenas as the old-time greats (or as the Beats) did.
You represent the Literary Past.
So, where's your defense of Ashbery's poem? Explain what makes him a giant. Point out the greatness of his lines and phrases. Can you do so? The evidence is, no.
About as likely that you can defend the Dishwasher (you don't even bother), who, again, is not by any measure the best of the underground, but he is safe and harmless.
You're not publishing the new and you're not publishing the best. You stay afloat like General Motors stays afloat-- for the moment-- but your best days are behind you; you're so immersed in the stagnant codes of bureaucratic thought that hints of change or dissent are anathema to you. Like General Motors, you'll always be one step behind the curve.


You are tiresome. Just because you make declarative, hyperbolic statements doesn't mean you've proven a thing. You've only presented your subjective opinion. I chose that poem because it happened to fit that day, for me. That's a subjective decision on my part. And yes, it's the poem I chose, but you decided to dismiss the entirety of Ashbery. YOU extended the criticism beyond the post, not me.

You say you are an "objective unbrainwashed reader". How can you place yourself above subjectivity? Are you more than man? Each one of us has only the strength of his or her argument to defend a statement. Hyperbolic accusations, rampant contradictions, ad hominen dismissals, and obvious political leanings do not make for sound arguments.

I agree that art must be continually revived. But I'm damn sure you're not the one to do it.

Why do I not make exhaustive defenses of Ashbery and Dishwasher Pete? Well, because I don't have to, I don't want to. It's not worth my time and would do more to stifle editorial creativity than to promote it. *I'm adding here. I'm not the editor for either author.*

Well, that's that, you old goat. I don't care if you like Ashbery or not. Enjoy your "hip-hopping." No one is stopping you. (Was that good? Did that have rhythm?) And since your such a self-assured genius and innovator, why are you constantly whining on this blog? Why not focus on the art you are so surely making?

K.I.N.G. Wenclas

Getting rather hysterical, aren't we?
Why do I occasionally post here?
1.) It's an open crack in the monolithic wall of conglomerate blackballing (which is accompanied by an insular complacency).
2.) I love the exchange of opinions and ideas. Part of the ULA's campaign is to use ideas to change the literary scene.
3.) Posting here is a way to expose the intellectual and aesthetic bankruptcy of the status quo literary scene.
The fact is that you're the one engaging in "ad hominen" dismissals and personal insults.
You're a representative of a gigantic publishing entity, part of an even larger media monopoly; a mandarin making decisions about what is considered literature in our society; ostensibly, one of the best of the best of the literary establishment.
Yet the defense you offer of Ashbery and his work is worse than weak. You haven't said one thing about what makes his poetry great or necessary.
It's a sign of the casualness of insularity.
You should be thanking me for forcing you to think about what you're doing, what you're publishing, what you're posting, what you're defending.
Instead you prefer to live in a bubble where everything in literature today is okay and anything you say here about art or particular writers has to be accepted because, well, because you say it.
Ashbery is simply one example of the stagnation of the so-called mainstream.
He's been an icon for more than forty years and everyone accepts this as a matter of course. It's unexamined and unquestioned.
I've merely questioned it.
Heavens! Dare someone allow a ray of light into the moldy atmosphere of the literary museum? Not done!
(I'll be posting more about this on my "Demi-Puppet" blog. Thanks for the encounter.)


I'm hysterical in general.

You opinions on Ashbery are your own. Really, I'm not trying to change them. When you asked for me to defend him, all I did was express my viewpoint. I find merit in his work. I'm not going to fold just because you insist. Your "questioning" of Ashbery and corporate publishing are not the first rays of light to be shed on the matter. Stop pretending to be so ideologically mighty for opinions that are expressed time and time again. You're not the first and won't be the last. Your whole schtick is "status quo."

There are thousands upon thousand of books published every year by mainstream publishers--are you really being blackballed? It's an inherently rough game--but not one that automatically shuts out certain opinions. Large companies continually take chances on counter-current themes. It's the work of poor quality and immaturity that they tend to shut out.

And I "should be thanking" you? Yeah, that's not smug at all.

Shall we examine you instead? Would you like to be a target?

Anyway, keep chipping away. Can't wait for the post!


...I think it's pretty obvious that King thought he was expressing his subjective opinion. He said near the beginning, "...but he strikes me as something of a mediocrity." Yes, King may think his opinion is correct, as might you, as do many people probably, in my opinion (hehe). I agree with King's opinion in general here. I'd have to read more of Ashbery's work to comment on his writing in the overall, but this poem is just okay to me, like it doesn't have the life-spark I look for when reading. It's possible you could have picked a better one for showcasing.

"Shall we examine you instead? Would you like to be a target?"

--Do you really need to ask King this??? He's posted here before; if I'm not mistaken (and I may be), he doesn't necessarily mind being a target, or at least if his writing's been targeted. I think many writers outside "mainstream" society wouldn't mind having their writing targeted sometimes (Michiko Kakutani could skewer my writing on every page of the TNYT, but I wouldn't give a damn because my writing's existence will have then been publicized all over TNYT). More ATTENTION is what they need, more access to a potential READERSHIP. Instead of complaining about King's posts here (which I think is your right, it's your blog), why not review one of the ULA's books? Why not do something that actually engages your critics? Why not do something that might--dare I say--please them a bit? Why not try changing your tactics one time? Why not simply try CHANGING? Maybe your critics wouldn't be so critical then.

Giving someone other than the same someones more attention--what skin off your nose would that be? Would you sprout tentacles from your hypothetically skinned nostrils if you more often published and/or promoted writers not published by "acceptable" large mainstream outfits and not published by "acceptable" mostly-compliant-with-the-larger-publishing-industry small presses, and writers without previously approved MFA- or other writing-related credentials? I don't mean just you personally, I mean the whole industry behind you, which in my opinion often focuses on everything BUT the actual writing writers produce, is more focused on who writers are, on what their credentials are, their physical appearances, their friends, their whatevers. Today, it's primarily about the artist and not the art.

"Your "questioning" of Ashbery and corporate publishing are not the first rays of light to be shed on the matter. Stop pretending to be so ideologically mighty for opinions that are expressed time and time again. You're not the first and won't be the last."

--Reread that please. Do you think you should have written that statement in that way--I mean, to me it sounds arrogant, almost boastful. Honestly, why the hell would anyone in your position not feel like an ASS for having said that? If those critical opinions are expressed time and time again and you think that criticizing will continue, MAYBE THE PEOPLE EXPRESSING THOSE CRITICISMS ARE ONTO SOMETHING, and you should LISTEN HARD instead of dismissing. That King isn't the first and probably won't be the last to criticize the publishing world should make insiders feel BAD about that world, should make them doubt it, should make them examine that world more self-critically--and hopefully change it.

In my opinion, "Night of the Living Dead's" a great movie because what I think is its main fictional theme is so true in real life: the dead are more alive than many of the living.


Weird. I recently posted a link on my blog about the Underground Literary Alliance. Strange to come across them again.


That's a good link. Thanks, Jilly.

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