Year-End Wrap-Up 2018

CONCLUSIONS OR DELUSIONS?

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(Painting c/o wikipedia commons, “outsider art.”)

2018 was a challenging year, as we injected ourselves, on several occasions, wisely or unwisely, into debates in defense of free expression and of truth.

A score of posts at this blog were devoted to our investigation of the Junot Diaz Controversy. See one of our reports here.

We also came out publicly in opposition to the depublishing of poets in response to pressure by what I called “Poetry Cops.” One of our reports on that matter is here. In this post we asked the question, “Is American literature becoming a censorship horror show?” As of this writing it remains an open question.
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AMID the noise, we found time to present some of the best fiction and poetry found anywhere, from present and future literary luminaries and of all kinds and styles. Examine them and their work at our Features line-up here.
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OUR own highlight at this blog and in our lives in 2018 was this trip back up to northern Michigan’s Hemingway country, this time for distinctly personal reasons.
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What’s in store for New Pop Lit for 2019?

More new fiction and poetry,

BUT ALSO–

We’ll attempt to reinvent the short story. That’s all.
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit News

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Plagiarism Debate 2018

CONFLICTING VIEWS ON PLAGIARISM

250px-George_Gordon_Byron,_6th_Baron_Byron_by_Richard_Westall_(2)(Portrait of Lord Byron by Richard Westall.)

THE DEBATE over plagiarism which kicked off with the Ailey O’Toole revelations rages on. The latest: fledgling poet Claudia Cortese having aspects and wordings of her work apparently borrowed by poet Lisa Low in the journal Quarterly West.

EXPRESSED by different sides have been opposing viewpoints regarding questions of fair use, intellectual property, and the like.

At one pole, the online literary site Soft Cartel:

(Anything goes? The individual lost in the mob?)

AT the other pole might be members of the Poetry Cops, who’ve taken it upon themselves to eliminate writings and blackball other writers and journals to the fullest extent possible. A sample opinion:

Note the apologizing and “enduring punishment” part of the tweet– hallmarks of the would-be totalitarian.

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Where do we at New Pop Lit stand? I have a track record for speaking out publicly against plagiarism, dating back to 2005. I took a great deal of heat at the time from powerful literary personages for doing so. I leave it now to others to discuss the legal/philosophical aspects of the matter.

THE QUESTION I want to ask here is: Why does someone plagiarize?

The answer back in 2005, for the essayist involved, was pure laziness. The individual was writing long essays for a variety of high-profile magazines, making good money in doing so, and from lethargy, or ineptness, took as many shortcuts as possible.

What about today’s poetry borrowings?

The only excuse for doing it at all– having another poet’s work in front of you as you construct your own– is apprenticeship. Learning the craft. Even in that instance, one would expect the apprentice poet to A.) Use one of the acknowledged best at the game as model; a T.S. Eliot or Sylvia Plath.  B.) Never, never submit those practice poems to a literary journal for publication.

Which is where intent comes into consideration. The only reason to copy an unknown poet’s work, who moreover writes in the current fashion, is in an effort to be published.

These thoughts merely my own viewpoint. . . .

p.s. Lord Byron was involved in a plagiarism scandal over a novel fragment which may or may not have been plagiarized by another writer.
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Poetic Justice?

ONE REACTION TO THE AILEY O’TOOLE PLAGIARISM ISSUE

Ailey-OToole(Photo from The Rumpus.)

THE BIG NEWS in the U.S. literary world over the weekend was the accusation of plagiarism against young poet Ailey O’Toole. The past couple years O’Toole was incessantly networking a host of interconnected literary journals, becoming known within that well-protected, well-screened community as one of the art’s rising young stars– culminating in this interview at The Rumpus. Much drama there expressed. A troubled individual, no doubt.

NOW it’s discovered, by those who published and promoted her, that O’Toole was plagiarizing not just one writer, but a lot of them.

ANOTHER discovery has been less acknowledged– that Ailey O’Toole was an enthusiastic member of the so-called Poetry Cops. She worked hard at having fellow poet Rachel Custer removed as a reader at a lit journal called Barren Magazine— and blacklisted throughout the poetry world. (In this day and age, many literary journals actively support the idea of an ongoing blacklist of journals and writers.)

IS it poetic justice then for Ms. O’Toole to end up in effect banned herself?

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Is there a lesson in this?

IT MIGHT BE that more important than a writer’s perceived political stance is the quality of character. That when a poet is spending half her time trying to get other poets fired or blackballed– dissing and diming them out; instead of focusing on the art– it might be a sign of a lack of that long-forgotten quality.
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-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

Khabib, MeToo and Misbehaving Men

ARE WESTERN MEN TOO DOMESTICATED?

AP photoJohn Locher(AP photo/ John Locher.)

While the MeToo movement has accomplished many good things, exposing an array of real sexual predators, it has also occasionally strayed over the lines, in this commentator’s estimation. Lost in the effort to properly domesticate Western men is context. Context! Meaning, the relationships between men and women worldwide.

Case in point is Saturday night’s UFC mixed martial arts fight between Conor McGregor and Russian Muslim Khabib Nurmagomedov, which Khabib won fairly easily.

Conor McGregor had been the Gold Standard for macho male misbehavior. Saturday night he was out-macho’d and out misbehaved. First Khabib defeated McGregor in the Octagon, then climbed out of the cage they’d fought inside and began beating on McGregor’s trainers. A domesticated male? Not hardly.

khabib with wife(Khabib with wife.)

Khabib Nurmagomedov comes from an ultra-macho culture, and an extremely populous (1.5 billion-and-growing) male-dominated religion in which women are manifestly subservient.

While Western Man is becoming feminized.

bora(Bora Zivkovic with friends.)

Think I’m joking? Poster Boy for Male Misbehavior on the literary scene might be Monica Byrne Target #1, 125-pound Bora Zivkovic, aka “The Hugger.” His modus operandi wasn’t jumping out of ring cages and punching out people, but being in effect “one of the gals.” Harmless– one would think.

Ah, but then those dastardly male hormones kicked in. Out with Mischievous Monica for a drink, married Zivkovic confided– as any “gal” might do– in Monica about his unsatisfactory sex life. That was enough. Outrage! Zivkovic career destroyed. The poor soul still doesn’t know what hit him. As befuddled as Conor McGregor after last night’s fight. As if Bora himself had been in the ring with dangerous Khabib.

What happened to Bora Zivkovic? Check out this article by Amy Alkon from 2015 and read the gory details.

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(NOTE: Monica Byrne’s next hapless target was discredited for giving Monica an actual hug, at the end of a night of drinking.)

Monica+at+15(Monica Byrne at 15.)

Never mind that Monica Byrne lifts weights, beats men at arm wrestling, and might give Khabib Nurmagomedov a tougher battle in the MMA cage than did Conor McGregor.

arm wrestling2(Monica arm-wrestling.)

WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?

The solution isn’t to turn Western men into walking wimps afraid to raise their voices or offer a difference of opinion to women. (Both instances used as evidence of abuse in the Junot Diaz case.)

NEITHER is it to pretend men and women are physically and temperamentally the same. (Volatile Celt Monica Byrne notwithstanding.) On the whole, by nature women are less aggressive, and more easily triggered– as events have shown– than males of the species. A distinction which can’t be wished away, no matter how many Gender-and-Feminism 201 courses are taken stating otherwise.

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NOR is the solution to divide men and women forever into opposing camps of incels versus radical feminists, each side alienated and angry, warring with the other everywhere but in the MMA ring.
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elcid2(Charlton Heston as “El Cid.”)

The solution? Perhaps the solution has been with us all along, in the chivalric ideal of knights powerful and pure of heart. Mighty in battle but behaving with deference and gentleness toward the esteemed ladies who give their quests purpose.

Such ideal is considered woefully obsolete in this unhappy period of Harvey Weinstein pigs and purge-hungry Poetry Cops. In this timid time of self-censorship and safe zones. Of sexless Mao-jacket sameness in all things.

Could the chivalric ideal of gentlemen and ladies return?

Should it return?

You tell me.
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-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

Media Insanity Report

KEEPING UP ON MAINSTREAM MEDIA ANTICS

beautiful and damned

-A NEW FEATURE-

WE JUST learned today that the term “lady” is now considered unacceptable by the Orwellian arbiters of thought and language. I’ve seen the notorious wannabe-totalitarians known as the Poetry Cops complain about the term. Now, from someone a bit higher up on the media power ladder– Ginia Bellafante of “paper of record” The New York Times.

QUESTIONS arise.

-Is the term “gentleman” also considered offensive? (Does this explain Brett Kavanaugh‘s alleged behavior in the past?)

-Does the prospective outlawing of these terms explain a lot of behavior from a great many people in recent years?

And finally–

-WHO is going to tell Lady Mary?

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THE spectacular success of Downton Abbey (movie version being filmed as I type this) might be because a large part of the populace is tired of people looking like slobs. They’d like a return to those old-fashioned concepts of grace, beauty, class, and style.

Even (gasp!) a return to ladies, and gentlemen.
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Poetry Cops: An Investigation

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FINDING THE RIGHT ANALOGY FOR TODAY’S CENSORS

WHO are the Poetry Cops? How do we best describe them?

We’ve already used the pod person analogy from “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Close, but incomplete.  How about Programmed Robots? Blackballers use stock phrases and code words as if the phrases had been programmed into them.

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OR: Leninists?

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SPEAKING of which, there’s this. A Poetry Cop?

Their biggest mistake? Calling her a lady.

“That’s no business, that’s social injustice.”
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The “Mean Girls” analogy has already been put forward–

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FINALLY, we come to the most accurate parallel: Carry Nation:

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–and her acolytes:

prohibitionists

The cause may have changed, but the impulse remains the same: Stamp out bad behavior and the hint of untoward words, opinions and ideas wherever they’re found. BAN THEM!
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Beneath the silliness is a core truth. Freedom of expression is a value for the public-at-large. But for the artist, the writer, the musician, the poet, it’s VITAL. It’s everything.

Begin restricting language, the free expression of opinions and ideas, and you kill art.
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“Poets in Name Only”

When you’re squealing and snitching and stoolin’ and lying,
when banning other writers takes up all of your time,

Hunting down opinions different from your own,
not thinking of the damage and destruction you have sown.

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You’ve lost your credibility, poetical integrity.

You’d like another target, another carcass on your wall;
Kill ALL the other poets you’ll be the fairest of them all–
(you think)–
but the portrait in your closet says your cause is gonna stall.

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We don’t want your duplicity, mendacious mediocrity.

It’s ego it’s ambition it’s politics it’s pose,
narcissistic bonfires of art is how you want to close.

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Keep your hellish attitudes, your social justice platitudes. . . .

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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Power Grabbers of Literature

HISTORY DOES repeat itself, but in vastly different ways. The patterns are there if you look for them.

Sea_Trials_of_RMS_Titanic,_2nd_of_April_1912

The ship of culture– even of literature– floats placidly along, but below deck revolution is taking place. All is conflict. The takeover of the ship is of a Gramscian variety– one room at a time.

SIMULTANEOUSLY occurs a struggle within the revolution itself, the pertinent question there being: Who controls it?

It’s a truism that in revolutions the communists devour the anarchists. (See Russia 1918; Spain 1938.) Philosophically, this is happening in the English language poetry scene– Control Freaks taking over, seeking to eliminate all who hold the opposite viewpoint. To shut down those who believe poetry– art itself– is imaginative commotion. Who think the way to attain this is through unrestricted expression. A vanishing attitude being squeezed between Left and Right. For the Control Freaks– the Poetry Cops and their go-along-to-get-along acolytes– this casual attitude is dangerous.

(The P.C.– Poetry Cops– are extremely casual about the poetry itself– but not about what it says, or who says it!)

DIFFERENT patterns from the past occur throughout the ship. One is a last gasp reaction of the (academic) aristocrats, similar to what happened in Russia during the civil war of 1919 between “Reds” and “Whites.” It’s what the noise of Jordan Peterson, Claire Lehmann, Quillette Magazine and their allies is about. This is doomed to failure. You can’t reimpose an ancien regime.

The question remains–

WHO CONTROLS CHANGE?

Old power structures are beginning to crumble, and a new paradigm in which a multiplicity of voices and identities hold authority is emerging. 

This is a quote from an article at Dispatches Poetry Wars, one of the new literary outfits struggling to get to the forefront of radical change in the poetry field. The key to their mindset is to “hold authority,” because that’s what the poetry wars they promote and document are about. Publicly denouncing alleged abusers like Joseph Massey is a means toward that end. It’s not about the poetry. For thirty years or more it hasn’t been about the poetry– which is why an Anders Carlson-Wee poem in The Nation won’t find too many defenders, because in truth it’s not very good. It’s political posturing more than poetry.

IT’S NOT SURPRISING that most if not all of the writers being attacked or taken down by MeToo advocates the past six months or last few years have been on the Left– because that’s all who inhabit the scene. (Not surprising that both Joseph Massey and Anders Carlson-Wee have had poetry in the faux-Leftist magazine The Nation, which publishes short examples of the dwindled art on their site, in-between splashy ads for hyper-priced Alfa Romeos.)

What a Dispatches Poetry Wars is about is the total politicization of the art.

I’ve read their manifesto. I have to say, I agree with much of it. It could’ve been distributed fifteen years ago by the Underground Literary Alliance and no one would’ve been surprised. But let’s understand why these fellows are using activism– for the same reason the ULA used activism: To increase their profile. To upend the literary scene and become a credible player within that scene. With DPW however I smell a trace of phoniness– in that they don’t really want to liberate “autonomous” zones (safe spaces). They don’t actually support unruly, “wild poets,” because otherwise they wouldn’t be joining the chorus of Poetry Cops eager to remove from the scene the work of all those who scribble or act outside the lines of acceptable behavior. (A Rachel Custer, say.) But they do see in which direction the parade is headed. They call for Robespierre-style denunciations and more denunciations.

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–we’re appalled by the silence emanating from institutions that have supported this person and granted him platforms from which to extend his predation.

A LITTLE CHECKING reveals that Dispatches Poetry Wars is run by two older white guys, Michael Boughn and Kent Johnson, who have ties of their own to the established poetry world. Boughn (if it’s the same Boughn) seasonally teaches at the University of Toronto, Jordan Peterson’s old stomping grounds. Kent Johnson (if it’s the same Johnson) has received grants from the heart of the cultural establishment, including a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship and a PEN grant.

I suspect their position is analogous to that we outlined here of Boston Review editor Joshua Cohen. Unleash the mob and it may someday turn on yourself!

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(Titanic paintings by Karl Beutel and Henry Reuterdahl. Portrait of Maximilien Robespierre by Labille-Guiard.)

-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS