Thursday, April 26, 2012



It seems amazing to me that in the 400 plus pages of Brecht's Collected Poetry, the English translation edition entitled "Poems 1913-1956" (Methuen, 1976), religion is so infrequently addressed or barely even mentioned in passing.  "The Tailor of Ulm, 1592" (from '5 Childrens Songs', 1934, is the only pure example I could find poring through its pages— I may have missed some things, but obviously for the Marxist Brecht, or at least in his verse, exposing the oppressive policies of the Church was not a priority. Poems protesting against the Fascist takeover of his own country and all of Europe, yes, there are many of those. But the Vatican's political and financial support of those Fascist coups, with Mussolini in Italy and Franco in Spain, its Concordat with Hitler, its refusal during WWII to condemn the Holocaust, and after the war its concealing and convoying of Nazi war criminals to safety? Not a word.

Sadly, this seems the same with many other Socialist poets of the 20th Century. Look at "The Penguin Book of Socialist Verse": there's almost no overtly anti-religious poetry in it.  I could only find 2 or at the most 3 examples—


take "Red Sky at Night: an anthology of British socialist poetry"—editors Andy Croft/Adrian Mitchell, published in 2003 by Five Leaves Publications— again, I can't find a single anti-religious poem in its 300 bloody pages. Lots of admirable agita about dictators and plutocrats and war and Hiroshima and Warsaw Ghetto and Chile Allende and Mrs Thatcher and fascist sprats in general and specific, but not a peep raised in protest against the Church which supports all these Hitlers and Pinochets and Thatchers and militaryindustrial oligarchies, the Church which justifies every pogrom of oppression the Uberstate seeks to impose on its slave populations. The Church which, as Marx summarized religion, is a dope pusher, forcing its opiates of ignorance and prejudice down the throats of the common people, drugging them into obscene stupors of 'savage servility' (Robert Lowell's phrase) and suicidal submission.

Fascism, Capitalism, Racism, Sexism, et al:— poets seem to be willing to protest those evils and their representatives.  But the clergy, religion, no.  Church and State: poets will write poems against the iniquities of the latter, but the former gets a free pass.

And contemporary USA poets?—

In theory USA public officials are free to be nonreligionist, but in practice almost none are; and USA poets, are they similarly "free"?

Don't take my word for it, take amazon's: type in "religious poetry" you get 21, 915 results; "atheist poetry" brings 44 results.

Almost 22 thousand versus less than fifty. Roughly 500 to 1. 

Those are your odds, contemporary USApoet: 500 to 1.

A democracy in theory, a theocracy in practice: USA public officials are free to be atheist, but none choose to be, which is their democratic right, they freely choose to not be atheist, 

just as USApoets freely choose to not write atheist verse 500 to 1. 

Everybody's free!  USA!

So if you choose (500 to one) to write religious poems (500 to one) you're making a free (500 to one) choice, aren't you?   You're free to write religious verse 500 to one, aren't you?   Of course you are.    Free.   You're making a free choice in a free society, aren't you?   Just like those politicians.

And all those poets in the 02/12 issue of Po(Chi)Mag, they're all freely choosing to pontificate their 'spiritual' poetry theories, they're all freely choosing to not write atheist verse, aren't they?   Free. 

They're free, I'm free, you're free. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Young poets looking for a model of success in USAPO-Biz should look for careerist opportunist savvy howtodoit tips from the Gregory Orr Story: 

when DeepImagism was "in", Greggo was a DeepImagist; then, 

when Confessionism was the thing, GO became a weepy Confessor; and now, 

when the country has swung politically toward rightwing GOP christerConservatism, 

and consequently USApoets are tripping all over themselves to proclaim how "spiritual" their verse is, 

old Orr is right there among these postulates:

 see the 02/12 Po(Chi)Mag for his smarmy holierthanthou twaddledoo.

(oh, and then there was his 'NewFormalist' phase—I almost forgot about that one!)


Saturday, April 14, 2012

blazevox redux

this is worth reading (all of archambeau's posts are worth reading):


the nea should be funding blazevox and other poetry presses, not banning their authors


if blazevox got a dime everytime the media called some poptunester a "poet" they could publish a hundred titles a year


i would certainly pay blazevox to publish my poetry, if they thought it was good enough, which of course they never would


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

read this poem

which should be published on the front page of every USA newspaper magazine and website—

Poem of the Week: Joel Dias-Porter

Joel Dias Porter
Photo by: Taylor Mali

is a story of steam,
rising like
a swarm of hornets,
singeing sight from eyes.
a parable of lava
moldering down a mountain
igniting all green to ash,
the song of a hit recorded,
number 1 with a bullet.

Is not a story
about "fucking coons"
that "always get away."

This is not a poem
about Emmet Till,
Amadou Diallo,
or James Byrd Jr.

It is not the tale of
a "suspicious" hoodie
in the wrong neighborhood
or a trigger finger with
a "squeaky clean record."
Is not a fable of a corpse
with a bullet hole
that was tested for drugs
or a hand freshly coated
with the back flash of phosphorus
that was not.
This is a story
that checks out,
so the only charges
will be on a credit card
for funeral services.

I did not write this poem
in anger,
I did not write this poem
in "Self-Defense."
I did not write this poem.
Because my pen is empty from
having already written & written this poem.

These words can be heard
only because
while facedown
on the concrete
of the righthand lane
at 10:37 AM
on April 15th, 1987
at 19067 Greenbelt Road
my name was not Gregory Habib,
my sternum
could stand the weight
of the knee between
my shoulder blades,
and the monomaniacal eye
at the back of my head
was a .38 revolver
with a 15 lb. trigger pull
and not the 8 lb pull
of a Glock 9mm.
Because it was all just

a misunderstanding
and have a nice day, Sir.

It is not true that
my eyes are red
as a bag of Skittles
as I write this,
and if my page is dotted
with drops, it is only
Arizona iced tea that is spilled.

This poem pertains to no crime,
contains no trees
with branches strong enough
to bear the weight of a black boy,
contains no rope (of any length),
contains not even a single slipknot.

But it does loop,
like a wandering moose,
a homeward goose,
or a four hundred year old

-Joel Dias-Porter

Used by permission.

Joel Dias-Porter (aka DJ Renegade) was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, and is a former professional DJ. From 1994-1999 he competed in the National Poetry Slam, and was the 1998 and 1999 Haiku Slam Champion. His poems have been published in Time Magazine, The Washington Post, Callaloo, Ploughshares, Antioch Review, Red Brick Review, Asheville Review, Beltway Quarterly and the anthologies Gathering Ground, Love Poetry Out Loud, Meow: Spoken Word from the Black Cat, Short Fuse, Role Call, Def Poetry Jam, 360 Degrees of Black Poetry, Slam (The Book), Revival: Spoken Word from Lollapallooza, Poetry Nation, Beyond the Frontier, Spoken Word Revolution, Catch a Fire, and The Black Rooster Social Inn. In 1995, he received the Furious Flower "Emerging Poet Award." Performances include the Today Show, the documentary SlamNation, on BET, and in the feature film Slam. A Cave Canem fellow and the father of a young son, He has a CD of jazz and poetry entitled 'LibationSong'.

Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this email, including this request. Thanks!

I read this poem there, and thought it was great, and I left a comment saying so but they deleted my comment because praise from me is an insult I guess.  Or something.  Anyway, their deletion is more evidence confirming my post below:


Monday, April 2, 2012

p.s. on BAP and DL


All kidding aside, David Lehman is to be commended for his valiant efforts to keep the Best American Poetry anthology alive for so long.  I've written some bad jokes about him and BAP over the years, I've "roasted" him in print too many times, but I must confess my admiration for his superlative service to poetry and for his unique accomplishments. 

I should apologize for all those carping comments.  Consider them as nothing but spite and envy.  My poems were never good enough for BAP, and that made me bitter, and I expressed my resentments with vitriol and sarcasm.

He is so well-known for his civic leadership in the poetry community, his role as the public persona aegis of BAP's success, and for being the face of USA poetry as it were, that his own distinguished and marvelous verse is perhaps sometimes lost in the shadow of that spotlight fame, and doesn't get the recognition and acclaim it deserves.  

He should put out a big Selected Poems, and it should win the Pulitzer on the strength of its own merits alone.   

And parenthetically I must say that everyone I ever met who knew David Lehman personally, everyone I have ever heard speak of him, all of them were unanimous in praise of his generosity and kindness and warm affable demeanor.  He seems to be not just a great poet/writer/editor, but a real gentleman as well.