Blogger-hatred – Indie journalists über alles – A beauty in love with blood-and-gore

This collection of clips supports positions taken and points made in these recent entries on this blog: The rafts of the unwelcoming print journos; Stick to your Polish Joseph Conrad! –Whoa Cleopatra! ; and Ruth Padel and the presentation of intelligent pulchritude in everyday life .


Referring to January’s baffling announcement by a respected Old Media columnist, Simon Jenkins, that the digital revolution in publishing is being halted by ‘printed blogs’ , I mentioned print journalists’ seething hostility to the Blogosphere.

On Sunday I found this review of Digital Barbarism by Mark Helprin — an American journalist and novelist so angry about copyright violation on the net (a good cause) and the shift to e-media (a King Canute cause) that, by many accounts, not just Ross Douthat‘s, the book reads like the most intemperate raving by the maddest bloggers …:

The Internet multiplies arguments as swiftly as it multiplies pornographic images,[…] [I]t multiplies cautionary tales as well — feuds better left unfeuded, and rabbit holes that have swallowed writers whole.

Tellingly, it’s often older scriveners, unaccustomed to having their sallies met by waves of insta-disputation, who flail their way into embarrassment. […]

The novelist Mark Helprin is the latest distinguished writer to come undone this way. […]

[He has written] a furious treatise against the comment-happy horde. The resulting book, “Digital Barbarism: A Writer’s Manifesto,” is a vindication of the aphorism about the perils of wrestling with a pig. (You get dirty; the pig likes it.) [ Possibly not all pigs, though: the giant pink ‘un made by one arts group, WRAS, appears to be finicky — and if I read right, was distressed about getting … er, pig-like, on a recent trip to Spain. ]

I can’t think of anyone I’ve ever blogged alongside foaming at the mouth in quite the way Helprin does. Douthat, again:

[I]t’s hard to write a polemic premised on the assumption that your opponents are monkeys without sounding like a particularly high-vocabulary monkey yourself. Helprin variously describes his foes as “wacked-out muppets,” “crapulous professors,” “regular users of hallucinogenic drugs,” “a My Little Pony version of the Khmer Rouge,” “a million geeks in airless basements,” “mouth-breathing morons in backwards baseball caps and pants that fall down” and so forth. The overall effect is like listening to an erudite gentleman employing $20 words while he screams at a bunch of punk kids to get off his front lawn.

[ I actually had to google ‘$20 word.’ ]


In the last blog entry, I also pointed out that independent operators like freelance journalists – temperamentally, close kin to bloggers — are increasingly getting the scoops these days.

About Laura Ling and Euna Lee — two young Korean-American reporters for the fledgling Current TV sentenced by the North Korean government to twelve years in a labour camp — The New York Times conceded in a story that it featured prominently,

Start-up news organizations like Current TV are increasingly sending journalists to the world’s hot spots, putting a spotlight on news stories in new ways. It is, experts say, another consequence of the fragmented media landscape and the declines in international news coverage by traditional outlets.

[…] “There’s an impetus with any upstart news organization that you have to be bolder and you have to be more aggressive than other news organizations to get attention for your stories,” said Kevin Sites, a freelance journalist who covered conflicts for Yahoo. “That has to be admired. That also has a real inherent risk in it.”

This brand of journalist stealing the colours of conventional print and TV rivals is all the more brave because,

One of the risks of this kind of improvised, headlong journalism is that reporters lack the backing of large established news organizations that might have the experience and leverage to deal with foreign governments. While Ms. Ling and Ms. Lee, full-time employees of Current, have the backing of Al Gore, who is a founder of the network, they lack the support system that their colleagues at CNN and the British Broadcasting Corporation enjoy.

Since, as I showed last week, respected print journalists – and the layers of editors and subeditors vetting their work – are as capable of appalling lapses in fact-checking as anyone else, it’s getting harder to see what we’ll lose in the move to online and indy reporting.

Kathryn Bigelow -- 5 June 2009 -- AP photograph

Kathryn Bigelow -- 5 June 2009 -- AP photograph


A recent thread sparked by what our comrade @Hazlitt called the on yer bike look of the writer who became Oxford Professor of Poetry for roughly a weekend encouraged sparkling exchanges about changing female images and self-images that ranged as far as the portrayal of women in western art – which continued on the next thread.

Of course the bolder and more challenging expressions in female portraiture are reflections of collapsing stereotypes about what interests women, and about the limits of what they can do.

In no way does the stunning illustration for this profile of a director I’d never heard of, Kathryn Bigelow, prepare readers for what follows:

THE take on Kathryn Bigelow is that she is a great female director of muscular action movies, the kind with big guns, scenes, themes and camera movements as well as an occasional fist in the face, a knee to the groin. Sometimes, more simply, she’s called a great female director. But here’s a radical thought: She is, simply, a great filmmaker.


Although she now plays down the film, it seems like a template for much of her later work, with its emphasis on men, masculinity, violence and power.


yes, she’s working in an sexist field where even female studio chiefs are loath to hire female directors, but also because of the stubborn persistence of her artistic vision and intellectualism. She’s still investigating signs and meaning, but now through genres she deconstructs and sometimes immolates.

It’s telling, then, that after she made “The Loveless” a postmodern motorcycle movie in which she stretched narrative to the limit, she started receiving scripts for high school comedies, which she quickly realized was considered a suitable subject for her gender. “It was an intersection of absolutely inappropriate sensibilities,” she said, though I would love to see what havoc she could wreak on that genre. She was living in New York in a condemned building without heat and electricity. A juvenile comedy might have paid the bills, but instead she accepted an offer from her friend, the artist John Baldessari, to teach at the California Institute of the Arts, just north of Los Angeles. Hollywood was the inevitable next step. Through the director Walter Hill, she landed a deal at a studio, but it led to nowhere.

It was at this point, she said, that she understood “if I had a prayer of shooting something that intrigued me, I was going to have to be the architect of my own fate.”


The number of male mentors and aesthetic influences seems instructive as does her seeming discomfort when I ask why she likes to make movies about men. It’s one of the few times when she searches for her words. She mentions Richard Serra, whom she’s known for years, and “Torqued Ellipses,” his curvilinear steel sculptures that weigh about 40 tons apiece and which she describes as “real statements of power.” Suddenly I’m reminded of the moment in “K-19” when the camera glides between two submarines sitting parallel on the surface of the water, a glorious image of heavy metal that is itself a statement of power. When she was painting, she says, she loved “big, gestural, visceral, raw, immediate pieces.” She starts to move her fingers, as if she were sewing.

“Nothing really struck me,” she says, of the art she first loved, “that was tight and precise and patient and careful and perhaps more introspective. Perhaps,” she laughs, “it’s just a sensibility defect.”

I doubt that one Kathryn Bigelow, no matter how many copy-cats she inspires, will mean goodbye to the Jane Austen sensibility — her ‘little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush …’. Women always have been as different, potentially, as these two. But what a gap – a wow for the ages.


Filed under Editors and editing, Psychology, Social trends, The blogosphere, The Guardian

48 responses to “Blogger-hatred – Indie journalists über alles – A beauty in love with blood-and-gore

  1. anytimefrances

    i think there’s something to be said for this sort of criticism of the net and its hordes of bloggers. anything that’s much good gets drowned out in frenzies of heckling. yet still there’s a great deal to be said for the blogosphere. for one thing we don’t have to be guided by the print media about what’s important and what’s not. that’s determined by unprofessional contributers. i noticed at the supermarket this morning that the thing we should all be engrossed in and shocked by is Jacko’s death. who decides that’s what we should be reading about today? news moguls, but it’s not what I’d like to be reading about; what I’d like to read about isn’t important to the media tycoons; maybe it’s not shocking enough to matter. the journalists and media men are losing power with the rise of blogging and that i guess is why they’re lashing out against bloggers, but really they’ve had too much power all along, now others are having a say about what matters to them. my 2c

  2. A well-balanced comment, @atf.

    Real social damage can be done and a country can be put seriously at risk when journalists get too close to, and cover up for, the powerful.

    Here’s Christopher Hitchens — in ‘The Gentleman Delinquent’, an essay about the tragic life of a first-rate journalist, Henry Fairlie, whom he credits with inventing the term ‘the Establishment’:

    === I remember once being told that the editorial policy of The Times of London was determined by “a committee that never meets,” and Fairlie’s experiences as a writer on that newspaper were certainly of help to him in charting the various intersecting magic circles that somehow managed to exert the real power behind the scenes. But the way he made his charge stick was by pointing out that the reactionary old-boy network and all “the right people” had in fact conspired to protect the network of Communist traitors in the British Foreign Office who caused such embarrassment by disappearing and then reassembling in Moscow in the 1950s and ’60s. In the same net, therefore, he had caught both the hidebound and the subversive. This was radical journalism at its best, and Henry’s own tendencies toward the truant and the delinquent were quite probably of some use to him in making the diagnosis. ===

  3. … About bloggers, yes, the rudeness … ‘uncouth behaviour’ … and so on, … are the price of the freedom and spontaneity, still the most unimaginably wonderful gift to many of us.

    I’ve been busy, but also thinking quietly about what can be done about bloggers’ conflicting interpretations of the same behaviour, … misunderstood intentions, … and mostly – with genuine mystification — about how people can get so mightily upset on their own behalf, or other people’s, when we’re nearly all blogging under pseudonyms, for heaven’s sake. Some with scant or no details of our offline identities. . . And as anyone alive and keenly interested in fellow-humans would agree, fully embodied people can be all but unknowable even when you _do_ know what they look like, their entire life stories and in some cases, what they have discussed with psychiatrists . . .

    Some outrageously insulting comments have been made about the person presumed to live behind your screen name and mine – but since I don’t see mine as _me_, and am not really the same person on and offline – I just find the rudeness funny and hugely revealing about the spear-throwers, or certainly the onscreen personae they’ve chosen. . .

    How @exitbarnadine can be so exercised on behalf of the would-be footwear correspondent when I haven’t the faintest idea of who lives behind the screen identity StP – and perhaps he doesn’t, either – passes all understanding.

    As for your contretemps with @Alarming last week … I have wondered whether ‘fighting Irish’ – if there’s anything to that phrase – might refer to people who, like most Italians I know, simply don’t take anyone popping off at anyone all that seriously … whereas extreme Englishness – which might or mightn’t apply to @Alarming … could mean being careful, sparing and deliberate with words, except in extremis. . . My impression is that he took your quarrel far more seriously than you did, but that you also mistook affectionate and humorous grumbling about you – earlier, before this site became a battleground — as genuine criticism.

    … Not sure what anyone running a blog can do to avert or divert these outbreaks of hostilities.

    … Nor can I relate to the enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend mentality – or any form of groupthink or thinking in defensive packs, … not stopping at merely expressing agreement or disagreement, but implicitly demanding a wolf pack’s demonstrations of solidarity, such as storming off huffily.

    As I’ve said from the beginning, what I’ve been doing here is learning about this medium through experimentation – and sometimes serving as my own crash test dummy.

    . . . running the blog’s click count up and then down again by choosing one subject or another; openly taking strong positions or staying strictly neutral …and then one day, perhaps I’ll put acciaccature to bed for the last time. . . I have nearly done that more than once, only I haven’t been able to stand the thought of losing the easiest way to stay in touch with everyone who has ever posted here, whose company – with a single exception — it’s been a joy to have.

  4. anytimefrances

    it seems to me that a lot of the sort of trouble you point to wordy is due to a system of ranking that takes place. some people are quite happy to accept a hierarchy – see how bm always comes in for praise and acceptance as leader…- others want equality. those who like hierarchy will take offence if the pecking order isn’t honoured. some take offence if they are not envied by some one else; they feel they should be; they feel they ‘know’ they are better and that should be acknowledged. they feel upset and anxious if their status as a higher-up is challenged in any way, even by implication. I’ve seen someone being scolded for praising something another had written; at first I thought ‘how strange is that?’ and then realised that the praise was seen as ploy to establish superiority and therefore rejected.

    when people get together they automatically start ranking each other. a chief will emerge, even without language being used at all eye contact will establish a ranking order. someone who doesn’t want to play along with the ranking system will be seen as an enemy of it and might become a target of the others. so finding allies is a protection against this and however one might not want to get into groups it will happen because finding an ally is what defends you against hurt.

    i think you may be a bit mixed up between pinkroom and stP as they are not the same as far as I know. the stereotype ‘fighting irish’ of course comes about because of the superior/inferior stereotype; if a supposed ‘inferior’ is continuously being pushed off s/he has the choice to go or to ‘fight’ for the same rights as the others, which won’t be granted and so the scrapping ensues.

    I think the only journalism/journalistic style writing i’ve ever really taken to has been Orwell; most journos are privileged and hang around politicians most of the time. Irish journalism and broadcasting has always seemed to me to be very right wing and oppressive.

    ISA might have some opinions as he writes a good deal about politics and newspapers but to me they’ve always been to wealthy and privileged to have anything to say that would appeal to me; they tend to have the same prejudices all professionall classes have; the rights of the poor are usually ignored.

  5. Fascinating to compare notes on behaviour, @atf.

    I think you might be on to something extremely important — and disappointing — in the dynamics of blogging, here:

    someone who doesn’t want to play along with the ranking system will be seen as an enemy of it.

    I think that my disenchantment with a blogger I won’t bother to name began on, or soon after, the thread discussing the hilarious Christmas poem contest – and I’m not referring to the self-styled grey eminence (‘Grey’) I so enjoyed teasing about the result. . . What this blogger, Disenchanting, did, was to post a comment naming a few of us on the thread .. . who were regulars on it … and declaring us the ‘élite’ of the biblioblog.

    I remember cringing inwardly, thinking, but that’s not why I’m here _at all_ – to help replicate the hierarchies of the offline world. . . bah! … And, as Disenchanting had only arrived on the biblioblog a little over a month earlier – or so I believe – I recall the remark also striking me as presumptuous.

    The first and greatest delight of blogging, to me, is the pseudonymous, faceless chatting … exchanging opinions and information without the usual external markers of status, looks, age and so on … and with everyone treated as essentially equal, even if we are all bound to find some people more congenial than others. So I saw Disenchanting’s remark as very much a case of two steps backwards.

    … I wonder whether there mightn’t be a shortage of people willing to assume the role of patriarch or matriarch in the Boomer generation as a whole – and whether Grey, being a fairly rare exception in that respect, isn’t subconsciously welcomed by some comrades as a comforting ‘dad’ substitute or supplement. . . Now that’s only speculation, but it is based on a visceral perception – right or wrong.

    … The wolf – perhaps more hyena (? 😉 ) – pack I’ve mentioned does overlap with Grey’s following, but follows different rules, perhaps perceiving and defending the kind of aggressively-enforced hierarchy you have in mind.

    … The second great joy of blogging, I’ve found, is contact with a few wildly creative people, and none of these have any time for pack behaviour – although they might support or rescue someone they find sympathetic now and then. You are right to say that ‘finding allies is a protection against this and however one might not want to get into groups it will happen’ … but I’d say that the writers of the posts I’ve consistently found most stimulating largely avoid even that.

    . . . Real artists aren’t subversive for the sake of subversion, in my experience, but because if your business is stripping away to the truth of things, then you can seldom keep in with a pack – and will almost inevitably disturb or damage a hierarchy, at some point.

    Willa Cather in The Song of the Lark:

    Artistic growth is, more than it is anything else, a refining of the sense of truthfulness. The stupid believe that to be truthful is easy; only the artist, the great artist, knows how difficult that is.

    … But a long way from ‘great artists’, exemplary practitioners of specialised crafts tend to be exceedingly independent and rarely fit into any sort of group. I’ve found this in places far away from anywhere I grew up, in cultures unimaginably different from any I knew as a child. . . among all sorts of people … carpenters, even car mechanics known for miles around as exceptionally skilled.

    In this obituary of a renowned diamond-cutter, Antonio Bianco, I wasn’t surprised in the least to read a few hours ago:

    Diamond cutting is a contemplative art … For Mr. Bianco, cutting a large diamond was a protracted courtship that could take nearly a year. Before he began cutting, he spent months studying the stone, slicing and polishing tiny ‘windows’ along its exterior so he could peer into its heart … Mr. Bianco had always worked for himself, and he prized his independence fiercely …

    See? No interest in being a leader or follower or a member of a team or club.

    … Blogging, at its best, doesn’t just allow these people their independence but celebrates it. . . permits its fullest expression.

  6. anytimefrances

    hi wordy. yes, group behaviour is interesting. i used to read a little about it and about types and styles of leadership. there’s a ‘strong’ type of leader and at the other extremes a type and style based on understanding. i think a lot depends on the needs of those led. the architypes are there in Stalin and Mussolini and, at the other ends, Ghandi and other religious leaders. Your ‘grey’ as opposed to say bm whose type is benign and whose style is ‘lasseiz faire’. some people need ‘strong’ leadership as the protectiveness of it makes them feel secure; others – i probably fit into this category – like to less dependent.

    there are areas of social life where its study must be fascinating, as in the Mafia, where absolute ruthlessness is the requirement and at the lower ends of the pyramid complete subservience. i suppose you could say there’s the system based on fear and that based on love at the extrmes.

    in the group situation at the very beginning where no words are spoken looks determine the hierarchy. s/he who get the most looks is the chosen leader. the members relieve their anxieties about being in a strange situation by looking around and making assessments; this one is ‘weak’ that one is ‘strong’…this one i can ‘trust’ that one i can’t; the one who gets the most looks then will return the looks of those he favours so he virtually determines the hierarchy. those who give looks which are not returned are down the bottom. it’s sometimes obvious on the blogs when some bloggers respond to comments who they favour.

    i’m mostly a loner by nature. i don’t fit into groups easily at all. but i have the consolation that those i do get on with are nearly always good people, trustworthy and with some intellectual interests.

    it’s strange the way something very dramatic can be going on for one which is unnoticed by others. i never really took any notice of D and the name doesn’t mean anything and yet someone else feels that they’re being ‘hanged’. i think you’re Grey is probably a type who feels that they must be leader otherwise it’s battle. i’m happier with the more open egalitarian sort of ethos in which everyone is more or less respected. i suppose it’s all really a learning thing but i do miss the atmosphere that used to be on potw. i thought it became v contentious at one point and never recovered its former easy going relaxed – for a poetry forum anyway – atmosphere; some people have a need to be ‘on top’ all the time and are always vigilant in scrutinising for anthing that might be a challenge; often i think it’s not about the poem but who’s higher/lower than whom, which in itself can be interesting. Des seems to be able to be both at the top and at the bottom all at once 🙂

  7. === i think you’re Grey is probably a type who feels that they must be leader otherwise it’s battle. ===

    No, no … Grey sees himself and is accepted by followers and admirers as a cuddly and slightly clownish — and sometimes Uriah Heep-like — paterfamilias. That’s the persona: underneath, there’s a drive for power and status that waxes and wanes but is, overall, far above average. . . Yes, status and aligning himself with the biblioblog’s managers are of the very greatest importance to Grey.

    Disenchanting likes a ferociously rebellious image — and has acted in accordance with that — but is also an apple-polisher, at times. A fascinating range. . . Not really contradictory aspects, though, since both kinds of behaviour are consistent with a precoccupation with hierarchical power.

  8. Hi Wordy & AnytimeFrances

    Hope you don’t mind my 2 cents worth as well. If you cut to the chase, the bottom line is that with blogging groups, it’s a case of blind loyalties. There is a superficial safety in numbers. Each praises the other no matter the throw of the dice. You couldn’t get sweeter words than instant flattery. For many, this is a sharp needy fix for one’s 15 minutes of fame. It’s also necessary and acute in such a competitive world. Among such posters, a primitive even barbaric quality upholds the secret foundations of every desired intellectual measure.

    I’ve observed the blogging scene from the sidelines for some years now, I think from 2004.
    The aesthetics are quite startling to put it in a crude raw way – let’s say just from my inate experience.

    There are cliques that go on all over the world and I have met 4 hyena packs so far. Each pack is linked by a similar pattern. The most foul-mouthed betel-nut chewing, spitty one that I’ve seen is the Kuwaiti. But like him in a subtler fashion, most ‘leaders’ & and one or two group members would concoct false assumptions from slander because it’s a way to keep their popularity intact. It’s necessary and there are groups that continue to pick on certain people all the time. Sometimes, the ‘leader’ gets angry with a particular commentor on a totally distant blog – something that got his goat up – and the ‘leader’s followers would all agree. Devotees in an ashram…really, tell me how different the score is. It isn’t! 🙂

    Cliques like these do shy away from drastic individual forethought. No one would dream of bringing a different school of thought with heartfelt passion to their ‘leader’, surely.

    But others operate by different measures to keep their selected cliques happy. There are emails and forums for secret slander and gossip. Sometimes spiteful anonymous notes can turn up unexpectedly in your mail box. If you’re a loner, hoping for congenial conversation, you may not have a clue until it’s too late.
    But then if you’re a loner, you’ll always be comfortable under your own skin.

    It’s quite amusing really, if you have the gumption to watch this sort of thing long enough from the sidelines.

    Mostly, the ‘leaders’ – those who condone immoral, unethical ways of popularity – of these hyena packs are under-achievers in real time. They’re older folk, having misled their dreams somewhere along the way. Who else is left to tell them they’re genius, if you get the picture, atf. 🙂

    Especially too with writers and among the lower-grade writer groups who may have had an agent or 1 or 2 published books that no one has heard about. Their contracts may have been cancelled as such. Their books were a flop etc etc.
    You’ll find them get together in big groups and this is prevalent in some quarters in England. I’ve come across one or 2 groups like these especially women. What happens is that they keep praising each other’s industry no matter the third-grade output; and even when on purchase of one of their books, you’ll find the standard an inferior quality.
    I say this from real-time experience.
    All they do is just continue to praise each other’s ‘talent’, make the right sympathetic noises, collect their desired friends etc. These keeps the comment boxes full, makes sure they get listened to etc.

    I remember one particular English lady famous for slander, held a group like this. A blogger, a one-man show thought she was wonderful and published her. She kept boasting about her novel. It turned out to be a dismal failure and especially that she had this large group of women earlier telling her how wonderful she was and that it was going to be a bestseller and all that. She was a true hyena pack leader. She commanded the urgent wit to keep her fans. I think it’s a case of being ambitious enough to work hard to do this, like a ruthless agenda, because when you observe it in an introspective way, without the blog, an individual is nothing.
    All her life, she was nothing more than a village schoolteacher, conducting humdrum everyday things. She often complained about domesticity on her blog. Whereas in the blogging world, she had fame.

    Same in the Far East. You get big groups and cliques, like packs of stray dogs, attacking anyone who may not agree with them. In the same way, in KL, there is an English woman (a teacher) married to a Malay for almost 30 years. She places her profiles as writing for newspapers and magazines, and giving creative writing courses. She used to hold big groups on her blog but she is now meeting her downfall; her earlier popularity has waned.
    Anyway, when you strip of the paint, no one publishes her reviews, a newspaper now hires their own reporters, a magazine folded up and she has never published anything herself. Mostly people flatter her and use her comment box to advertise their own events. But she needs the popularity so much. But she is an older retired lady who probably never knew attention more than a few visitors for tea in her living room. I say this, as her neediness often came through.

    When she first started blogging in 2004, I remember that all her profile had going for her was her love for classical music and her Amazon book reviews. What would someone like this do without the popularity?
    She’s like a thug. If you don’t agree with her views, her band of commentors will literally attack you with spiteful notes, rude remarks, like a cowboy saloon…
    Once someone quoted me in the Sunday newspapers for a book review and she scolded that reporter on her blog. That’s how far unethical methods thrive. That newspaper had failed to use her review and instead published my quote. It was too much. But she had all these people nodding her heads…
    Also, you know the words that band an inferior clique fantastic, bestselling etc. 😉

    I’m glad I’m no longer interested in groups like these. People like me, when you’ve gone through the mill with certain harsh issues in life and back, and when you find that you’ve often had to seek solutions for yourself, you come up the drowning waters with your sanity intact. You don’t need to kow-tow to someone for a back pat. You know who you are.

    And I think you would both hold a similar individuality in distinct ways, Wordy and Atf. I couldn’t see the two of you succumbing to a formula while an eee-dee-yacht (Nigerian for idiot), holds the whip.

  9. anytimefrances

    i’ve often used that word or ‘dingoes’ to refer to the way, on workshops, that they’ll gang up and continually undermine. it’s often fascinated me in a scary way how they can form this symbiosis as though becoming a virtual tribe.

    but to look at something we seem to have an interest in, african language and the way English has been taken up there and becomes a comic sort of puzzle. because these pidgins are half english they can be nearly interpreted by English users. @suzan will be able to read these but to others they’ll be amusing to figure out – though the book i got from the library this morning, bought from the uni, is on West African stories. happily when i went this morning I found the increase in library prices take effect in Sept so I was able to renew for another year for £15!

    this is a story:

    Can you guess?

    Sohm dei bin de, trohki laik hohk taim no de. dem laik dem sehf plenti. ehni taim dem bin di kohnggohsa plenti. hohk laik trohki boht i tink sei i pas trohki fohseka sei i sabi flai.

    sohm die nau, hohk go foh go foh kash bif foh i pikin dem. i wan go i mitohp trokki foh rod. trohki salut i, i sei: ‘hohk, hau yu de?’

    this comes from Cameroon.

  10. Dear @Suzan, dear @Frances,

    Such rich, thought-provoking posts … I’ll reply as soon as I can — which can’t be this instant, alas . . .

    Thought you might enjoy looking at your ideas and words — indeed this whole blog — in Swedish:

    I have no idea who did that, but it suddenly popped up on the ‘dashboard’ … Maybe someone jealous of @atf’s pidgin post … 😉 ?

  11. Peck, peck, effin peckin orders, all sorts of people, striving for status and poor susan having to put up with the hell, the sheer tormenting nightmare of beastly horrid psychic vibes which have left her a crushed fairy, a broken doll, trembling at the wickedness of a host of baddies hating her for the simple pleasure of being a committed blogger loving only everyone.

    It’s not on.

    My own career as a blogging bore has moved on. Once they let me back on the books blog, i sensed some natural ending of a two year swim, from a rough edged pleb to a lout who learnt the tricks of our trade, howq to deploy the full swag and unselfconsciously use one in relation to oneself, from effer to one in a two year plod of spam and slag.

    The game ended with that poet who was getting lashed by pink, the faber bod, who i defended his right to be treated as a human, and then sarah linden came in who was the mod operating the shoot-on-sight policy, asking if the Redear needed educating too, which i took as a sign that finally i had won the long haul.

    And it all co-incided with getting a perch on the Harriet Blog at the poetry foundation in Chicago, which has a poster there who remionds me of you atf, Thomas Brady who does devasting demolitions of the Fugitive/New Critics who changed the face of poetry criticism in the early part of the 20C and effectively institutionalised it, to the extent that now, 95% of poets are working in universities. He is the one voice seriously pissing off the profs, as he writes the most convincing and readable gear.

    The thing with status in Critcism, the net is democratizing it, as now we ca all be heard, and after two years at the guardian, i have learnt to trust in the power of the text.

    When i first started, for some bizzare reason i thought that if the above liner didn’t reply (a la shirley dent) then the words must not have registered, whereas now it is clear that of course they read the responses, and i am having great fun sporting with Charlotte Higgins, Arethusa, having got the hang of winding ’em up and seeing the real impulses behind their posts.

    She had a pop at gee gee greer today about some minor technical flaw in Greers analogy of Jacko being like Orpheus, just showing off her knowledge, and i went in saying that gee gee was doing a broad brush and had an audience of millions who didn’t need to know the finer points and generally knowing how to fine tune the energy.

    So if the first impulse is to say, get lost yer silly meff, you can refine it into eloquent non-offensive copy which delivers the same charge and blow, but in a lingo which cannot be pulled up – being crafty, learning how to to it proper.

    And when i was getting on the Harriet, during the thick of the padel walcott hoo ha, i could say stuff there which you couldn’t on the guardian, because it’s America and they do not give a fig about the british sensibility, that unspoken assumption that one cannot say certain things for fear of offending the important people who have titles.

    And then, the Harriet were taking their lead from the books blog, so the chat i wanted to say got out anyway, the stuff that the mods might chop in the UK, once it appears in the states, the geni’s out the bottle and now, that is the new books blog, along with a site called poetryetc where the university crowd gather and all the scholarship is getting outed after a few bores actually started engaging with the Amergin text after four years trying to get it spoken about.

    Peckin effin orders, down with the duffers !!

  12. Hi Wordy

    striving for status and poor susan having to put up with the hell, the sheer tormenting nightmare of beastly horrid psychic vibes which have left her a crushed fairy, a broken doll, trembling at the wickedness of a host of baddies hating her for the simple pleasure of being a committed blogger loving only everyone.

    Just to put you in the picture that this is Des’s sardonic wit…his mild sarcasm. I am not a poor anything. I am living life to a hilt at this moment and Des knows it. 🙂

  13. A pity that our @Hazlitt doesn’t often have the time to come ping!…ing in here, @atf, @Suzan and @Des, … since I suspect that he might have posted some lines from his namesake’s essay, On the Pleasure of Hating (1826).

    For all he says about hating as a universal tendency, I can’t imagine that William Hazlitt would have enjoyed ripping @Suzan apart, (oh I know you’re tough as boots, Miss Sozhee – and that Dessie is both being descriptive and teasing 🙂 ) … She’s been gored in several ways by the same group … first, with sustained personal attacks illustrated with skulls dripping blood, for a fortnight, on a web site created for the purpose … and since then, by that attacker and some of his cronies … For a group of men to pick on a lone woman suggests an alarming excess of the bile WH mentions at the start of these clips from his essay … and what he says also made me think of the spirit of evil that takes over in Lord of the Flies:

    [W]e have always a quantity of superfluous bile upon the stomach, and we wanted an object to let it out upon. […] Even when the spirit of the age (that is, the progress of intellectual refinement, warring with our natural infirmities) no longer allows us to carry our vindictive and head strong humours into effect, we try to revive them in description, and keep up the old bugbears, the phantoms of our terror and our hate, in imagination.

    […] [T]hey carry us back to the feuds, the heart-burnings, the havoc, the dismay, the wrongs, and the revenge of a barbarous age and people-to the rooted prejudices and deadly animosities of sects and parties in politics and religion, and of contending chiefs and clans in war and intrigue. […]

    The cannibals burn their enemies and eat them in good-fellowship with one another: meek Christian divines cast those who differ from them but a hair’s-breadth, body and soul into hellfire for the glory of God and the good of His creatures! It is well that the power of such persons is not co-ordinate with their wills: indeed it is from the sense of their weakness and inability to control the opinions of others, that they thus “outdo termagant,” and endeavour to frighten them into conformity by big words and monstrous denunciations.

    … certainly supports @Suzan’s use of the word ‘barbaric’.

  14. Hi Wordy,

    I can’t imagine that William Hazlitt would have enjoyed ripping @Suzan apart,…

    I read Hazlitt’s pocket-book on The Pleasures of Hating last year and remember his expansive subject on anger. No Wordy, he wouldn’t have ripped me apart…there’s no denying the writer’s Christian conscience would have told on him..and such a conscience is not to be reckoned with…I’ve experienced its dire effects many times myself. It may shadow you for years like a gloomy premonition, if you don’t give it some kind of moral turnaround in pretty good time.

    Rather, I daresay that Hazlitt would have quickly dispensed with me at the earliest opportunity…having imagined that I would have been long swallowed and digested by my prey. The analyst would then have gone to town with rolled-up sleeves, ready for industry and fortitude – that he may have deemed his necessary research – stripping the cracked rubbery skins of my various mottled foes…one after the other, and studying closely too, a science that formulates group-blogger hatred akin to say, a primitive tribe of any one of a number of indigenious people in isolated regions; scantily dressed groups who gather by their firewood each evening relishing in gossip and whispers; eager to prove their prowress of strength and stubbornly selfish with their territories.

    Hazlitt would have concocted essays on how group-blogger hatred could be built so carelessy on false assumptions and a zero tolerance for compassion or empathy.

    He would have titled his papers, The Uncultured Intellectual or otherwise, Self-Proclaimed!

    Or if I were more cruel, maybe Hazlitt would have even termed it, The Barbarian’s Literary Pursuits. Yes, that would have been more telling.

    He would have concluded that the absence of culture and good manners were the missing elements that made for such a strange creature. He would have traced habits to genetics and genetics to a bully’s parents and ancestry.

    As for me, I was not ever once ripped apart.
    Hazlitt would then have discovered with wry amusement, that I was very much alive and well. He would then have searched for bite marks and realised with a grin, that my enemies were tootless!

    Although I’d say it was a nice try. You must ask Des sometime, how much I’ve laughed in the last weeks, at the Mishiwags and the Pollywags of the 21st century. 😉


  15. … well, we got onto this extremely unpleasant subject because @atf wanted to be fair to critics of the Blogosphere by discussing what justification there might be for hating bloggers. And I agree that the hyena aggression — picking on lone opponents in packs — is by far the worst thing about this medium.

    === how group-blogger hatred could be built so carelessy on false assumptions ===

    Yes, @Suzan, I expect that that reminds you of the Malaysian playgrounds of your earliest childhood — just as it does the rest of us of their equivalents elsewhere. . . What I mean is, it’s all so astoundingly infantile.

    The usual explanation for bad behaviour on the net is ‘anonymity’ — even if most of us actually post under pseudonyms. But that’s flimsy, to say the least. Some of the most hostile and aggressive bloggers we all know — and certainly one — post under their actual names.

    It’s saddening that no one has any good suggestions (or any suggestions at all) for discouraging the hyena attacks or, … what is almost as disappointing, … ‘A’ flouncing off a blog in a great hissy fit because the blog writer has been friendly to ‘B’ — with whom ‘A’ has fought on another site or thread.

  16. atf

    @des i have looked at that harriet link, but couldn’t find anything that looked like me, that sounds like somebody else telling me i’m like someone in a comic. i didn’t realise i’d make such a big splash in the criticism area.

    no one interested in the pidgin, enough to try to gloss the story in English? surprised at that but I googled it after and found just one hit on a few words of it.

    Sohm dei bin de, trohki laik hohk taim no de. dem laik dem sehf plenti. ehni taim dem bin di kohnggohsa plenti. hohk laik trohki boht i tink sei i pas trohki fohseka sei i sabi flai.

    sohm die nau, hohk go foh go foh kash bif foh i pikin dem. i wan go i mitohp trokki foh rod. trohki salut i, i sei: ‘hohk, hau yu de?’

    here it is if you’re interested – if not skip!

    starting with the last which is the easiest bit because it’s like txt mssngng. ‘hohk, hau yu de?’

    how you do? ‘How are you?’ and ‘hohk’ simply ‘hawk’ the hawk you would probably guess from the sound but the other character in the story isn’t guessable; ‘trokhi’ is a tortoise so it must come from the other african language.

    Sohm dei bin de. is the typical beginning for stories ‘once up a time’ and seems to come about in some way like, some day that has been.

    …a time tortoise and hawk were very friendly. (‘dem laik dem sehf plenti’ is very guessable as *they like they self plenty*) . They liked each other very much and often chatted together. (That ‘kohnggohsa’ must be from the african language as it doesn’t seem to have an english sounding equivalent – there’s something here which says it might be a ‘Fante’ word.) Hawk liked tortoise but thought that she was better than he because she could fly.

    One day hawk was out hunting for food for her children. (That ‘go foh go foh kash’ is an interesting one with its repetition of ‘go foh’ and is the equivalent of the English ‘going to go (hunting:kash). She met tortoise on the road. (‘rod’ is easy as ‘road’). (‘Salut’ here is easy as ‘salute’ but actually could be taken from Fr as some pidgins are influenced by spanish and fr). Tortoise greet her and said ‘Hawk, how are you?’

    I hope that hasn’t been immensely boring but still i’ll spare you the rest of it…but it really is interesting. I googled a few consecutive words and found only one hit in a book by someone who’s researched c 100 pidgins and creoles and gives examples of the Fr and Sp ones. I think I’ll head out for the rest of the day.

    trying to figure how to say cheers/goodbye…can’t find but maybe negate greet so, here goes



  17. This post here atf, has Brady talking about the cult of Ashbery.

    His basic philosophy is quaoted here:

    “Here’s something poets need to understand: Poetry is underwritten by historical studies.
    The fortunes of poets live or die in judgments made by cross-departmental scholars; it has little to do with which poets win the Pulitzer prize or which poets infest the latest anthologies.
    Poems accepted by a thousand different poetry editors will die at the whim of one historian or one critic (who does not write poetry).
    The irony here is that this was the battle won by Modernist poets: the discursive writing by which Modernism launched itself, and by which the poet-critic heroes made themselves felt in the 20th century—essays by Pound, Eliot, Tate, and Ransom and those of their myriad associates—railed against historians in English Departments who “watered the gardens” of their expertise in various historical eras as ivory-tower historians unqualified to judge actual poems and lay out the mechanics of the composing of poems and explaining how poems actually ‘worked.’ The study of poetry as a branch of history did not include close-reading, or criticism of, poetry–at least this is what men like Tate and Ransom said, and so it was demanded that the colleges create a department where poets—as poets—could exist separately from the historians and the language departments, departments which were also implicitly condemned: Greek, Latin, French, German, Italian, Chinese, etc where the great literature and poems of these languages were studied.
    The learning of poetry (its place in history, its place in the world’s languages) was jettisoned so that Modernists could make the ‘new poetry’ without having to worry about history or languages. Pound made bogus translations; Eliot trashed whole swaths of poetic history with scholarly aplomb; Tate, Pound and Ransom bashed the mere professors of literary history and the coup of the creative writing program was accomplished by Paul Engle (whose Yale Younger had come from a Fugitive poet judge) and the Modernist/Fugitive/New Critical army.
    Thus, between the two World Wars a quieter War was fought, and won, by a band of rebels who pushed poetry out on a tightrope without history and language, armed only with crackpot manifestos and the two mantras: ‘publish-and-praise-your-friends’ and celebrate ‘freedom.’ One of the first children of the Modernist coup was Delmore Schwartz, an instant star who quickly soured on two points: the first point was acute paranoia, for poetry had quickly become a social game, and the second was a translation of Rimbaud which was laughed at because Schwartz didn’t know French. Pound’s children didn’t have to know languages. That was for the old bores in the old literature departments which Modernism had overthrown.
    Modernism succeeded wildly in one area and failed miserably in another. The architects of Modernism itself are assured lasting fame and influence, and those who manage to appear to be riding on Modernism’s wave should likewise do well. But the irony is this: Modernism, whose whole point was to free poets from the obligations of history departments, will live or die as a poetry phenomenon historically; its poetry will ultimately survive as a history or sociology department concern, while those poets today, practicing in the wake of this historical coup, will most likely vanish into obscurity, especially if they have no manifesto or philosophy to keep them afloat.”

  18. atf

    thanks des for posting that. interesting. i must spend more time on it this evening. i found this in a book i bought from the library yesterday and thought the critics Leavis/richards had ideas going way beyond literature – to the society as a whole and I think what he had to say was predictive of the state we are in today; one in which huge amounts are spent on things not needed and positively detrimental to us. the weather’s been stifling today. have been out but it’s as bad out as in.

    “Leavis’s literary/psychological method is in fact grounded on a fathomless gullibility, since in leaping from the advertisers’ boasts to the ugly ‘sensibility’ behind them, it never stops to enquire into the motives for these quoted claims. The literary method seems to be able to inspect a text exhaustively for signs of unhealthy mentality, but since this mentality is seen as the ‘truth’ of the text, its real factual content goes unchecked. If the text’s statements are fraudulent, the critic can only reproduce the fraud in inverted form. The consequence is a massively inflated estimate of the importance of advertising in the modern economy. Leavis twice quotes without qualification the view of the Criterion: ‘The material prosperity of modern civilization depends upon inducing people to buy what they do not want, and to want what they should not buy.”

  19. I’ll search out the links, but this gives a fair idea of Brady’s take.

    He is proving to be the online tutor whose breadth of knowledge vis a vis American poetry, is like having one of the best profs about to tell you the scroe which sounds the most accurate of anyone writing there. This thread was about creative writing classes that had a poll at the top of it:

    “I knew I had read this poll ‘question’ somewhere recently…ah, yes, Menand in the New Yorker–I think I was the first to mention this article on Harriet… I voted ‘no,’ because I don’t think this was the ‘theory’ behind the genesis of the Worskhop.

    Shouldn’t we look at the genesis? The Modernist/New Critics brought the Workshop into the University and there’s a documented philosophy of these men who made it happen.

    Allen Tate published an essay around the time he founded the Writing Workshop at Princeton in the early 1940s called ‘Miss Emily and the Bibliographer:’

    “Mr. Babbitt saw on the one hand the ignorant journalist critics, ‘decadent romantics,’ for whom intensity of feeling was the sole critical standard; and on the other hand the historical scholars, who had no critical standard at all but who amassed irrelevant information. It was–and still is–a situation in which it is virtually impossible for a young man to get a critical, literary education.”

    Babbitt was Tom Eliot’s professor at Harvard. We see here in this short passage almost the whole issue laid out.

    First, notice the stridency of Tate’s polemics: ‘virtually impossible for a young man to get a critical, literary education.’

    Secondly, we see the continuity between Eliot’s Modernism via Babbitt (anti-romantic emotion, anti-history-sans-critical-intellect which sums up T. Eliot) and the Fugitive/New Criticism of Tate and his colleague Ransom.

    “The specific property of a work of literary art which differentiates it from mere historical experience he [Babbitt] could never understand; and it is this specific property, this particular quality of the work, that puts upon us the moral obligation to form a judgment. Mr. Yvor Winters remarks that that Mr. Babbitt never understood ‘how the moral intelligence gets into poetry.’ It gets in not as moral abstractions but as form, coherence of image and metaphor, control of tone and of rhythm, the union of these features. So the moral obligation to judge compels us to make not a moral but a total judgment.”

    “Not being a literary historian I do not know when the literary professor lost confidence in literature; I suppose it was a gradual loss; we see its beginnings in the English romantics, and we do not yet see the end.”

    “I am not attacking the study or the writing of history for use in the criticism of literature. I am attacking the historical method.”

    We can see Tate hectoring with his Modernist/New Critical sword–attacking the romantics, attacking historical scholars, attacking the historical method. He is obviously ‘protesting too much,’ for how can one possibly tar all historical scholars and all the romantics with one brush? But he does. And meanwhile he boasts a erudition of ‘form,’ as if romantics and historical scholars don’t know what iambic pentameter or rhythm or tone or a sonnet is–but of course Tate and his friends, unencumbered by romantic emotion or factual history, *do.*

    This is so obviously a swindle, so obviously a salesman trashing his competition–but it worked. Tate and his friends *won.* The referenced Winters set up the first important Workshop on the west coast.

    John Crowe Ransom was the best polemicist in this regard; Pound, with all his bluster, and Eliot, with all his sagacity, laid down certain principles, but the Fugitive/New Critics got the job done. They forced the college doors open and got inside.

    Ransom, in his essay, “Criticism, Inc.” (1937) does not beat around the bush:

    “Rather than occasional criticism by amateurs, I should think the whole enterprise might be seriously taken in hand by professionals.”

    “Professor Crane published recently a paper of great note in academic circles, on the reform of the courses in English…under the title ‘History Versus Criticism in the University Study of Literature.’ He argues there that historical scholarship has been overplayed…”

    “the students of the future must be permitted to study literature, and not merely about literature.”

    “In a department of English, as in any other going business, the proprietary interest becomes vested, and in old and reputable departments the vestees have uniformly been gentlemen who have gone through the historical mill. Their laborious Ph.D’s and historical publications are their patents. Naturally, quite spontaneously, they would tend to perpetuate a system in which the power and glory belonged to them.”

    “Babbitt could make war on romanticism for purely moral reasons; and his preoccupation was ethical, not aesthetic.”

    “Following…the Humanist diversion, there is now one due to the Leftists, or Proletarians, who are also diversionists. Their diversion is likewise moral.”

    “The department of English is charged with the understanding and the communication of literature, an art, yet is has usually forgotten to inquire into the peculiar constitution and structure of its product. English might almost as well announce that it does not regard itself as entirely autonomous, but as a branch of history…”

    “Contemporary literature, which is almost obliged to receive critical study if it receives any at all, since it is hardly capable of the usual historical commentary, is barely officialized as a proper field for serious study.”

    “Here is contemporary literature, waiting for its criticism; where are the professors of literature? They are watering their own gardens; elucidating the literary histories of their respective periods.”

    Do we see Ransom’s problem?

    HE has published poetry (”contemporary literature”) which is getting very little attention, as is true for almost all the self-important Modernists.

    Poets like Millay–curse her–are selling books, but what of the Modernists, those true geniuses?

    The English departments are too preoccupied with history–with significant literature in the context of human life. “Where are the professors of literature” to teach MY poems? Ransom asks.

    Do we see how Tate and Ransom’s rhetoric–though they don’t come out and say it–is clearing a space for the Creative Writing Workshop?

    At one point Ransom calls poems the “product” of English departments. How deluded his ambition has made him, and how prophetic and ironic his error! Mr. Ransom: poems are not the “product” of English departments! They are the product of hopeless amateurs like John Keats!

    Imagine if history departments WERE attached to English departments–which today pursue their creative writing business models without ANY scholarly oversight? Ransom grumbled that English departments were not autonomous. Imagine a humanities department which actually functions like a disinterested whole, which combines history perspective with literary judgment! That model was appalling to Ransom and his friends and so today, instead, we have isolated literary judgment within creative writing business models, where the publishing of contemporary literature has become an assembly line process with no reason to exist beyond itself.

    The insanity of Modernism has triumphed in poetry not only aesthetically, but professionally, commercially, and pedagocially.”

  20. atf

    thanks for that post des and the link; i’ve been looking at the discussion on metrics and found it extremely interesting. you’re in there at the deep end imho – hope you don’t go off the deep end(joke; i’ve decided to flag all jokes from now on as my little poem on potw just closed was taken amiss – that discussion looks like rocket science to me but a book i mentioned on the blogs to someone recently deal with metrics in a basic easy sort of way; you might come across it in your rummaging about, it’s called ‘Anatomy of Poetry’ by marjorie boulton but i think maybe you’ve been through it a few times in your student days.

    really top notch stuff there; some expertise floating about which is good to know as the level of discussion elsewhere can be pretty dismal. good to get a little bit of it on here too.

  21. Thanks from me, too, @Des — for introducing us to the Harriet blog and those irresistible extracts from Brady. Have only had time to skim your exchange with @atf — a delight — but will read slowly later. This caught my eye and struck me as fascinating and very possibly true — and I’ve been giggling at the deployment of ‘infest’ here … how true:

    === The fortunes of poets live or die in judgments made by cross-departmental scholars; it has little to do with which poets win the Pulitzer prize or which poets infest the latest anthologies.
    Poems accepted by a thousand different poetry editors will die at the whim of one historian or one critic (who does not write poetry). ===

    All in all, Brady seems — from first impressions — a real discovery.

    Btw, people have been clicking furiously on your Harriet link — more than for any other url anyone has ever posted …

    … @atf, my answer to your pidgin posts was Swedish …:) … I read what you wrote with real pleasure … the mere _idea_ of having Cameroonian dialect on here is such a joy, even if I failed the test and would rank at the bottom of the class. . ., Also forgot to say how thrilled I was by your library subscription coup.

  22. That Le Sidekique jab was a classic atf, and it was only when you mentioned it, about Carol being frosty i noticed that she was rather.

    All the hard work spamming at the guardian paid off, as now the gas has shifted to the Harriet and Carol will have to be nice to me from now on, or i won’t come out and play.

    I think i might ask her to apologise, see what she says.

    ha ha ha ha

  23. But the irony is this: Modernism, whose whole point was to free poets from the obligations of history departments, will live or die as a poetry phenomenon historically; its poetry will ultimately survive as a history or sociology department concern, while those poets today, practicing in the wake of this historical coup, will most likely vanish into obscurity, especially if they have no manifesto or philosophy to keep them afloat.”

    Not _quite_ so sure about Brady after reading that bit, @Des. . . A touch of jabberwocky about it … History is competing records of what happened. . . What does he mean by freeing poets from ‘the obligations of history departments’? I never knew that they had any. . . Also disagree that poets need a ‘manifesto or philosophy’ as the best guarantee of being remembered. . . I’d say, making their poems beautiful and true is the best guarantee of that … set beside which, the making of manifestoes is mere guff.

  24. atf

    I hope @Des will answer directly wordy but in the meantime I think you may have a point that Brady generalises too much, which ‘history departments’ and does ‘Modernism’ have only one ‘whole’ point? In what way were poets under obligation to these departments before modernism.

    I found this sonnet in a book I bought from the library on monday and leave in a little of the context to make the point, as it seemed very relevant to the discussion that @des was involved in on Harriet about scansion. This is an opposite, and v hostile view from a poet who had the Chair at Oxford in 1906 and seems to be very hostile to the whole concept of ‘literature’, something I’ve come across on GU quite a bit and it seems this might be the source of it:

    “A close examination of Raleigh’s cynical reflections suggests that his problem was closely related to the conflict between the requirements of literary teaching and the ‘personal’ conception of literature and individual genius discussed above. This sonnet of Raleigh’s ties them together:

    I never cared for literature as such.
    Iambic, dactyl, trochee, anapaest,
    Do not excite my interest in the least;
    And cultured persons do not please me much.
    Great works may be composed in French or Dutch,
    Yet my poor happiness is not increased.
    To me the learned critic is a beast;
    And poetry a decorated crutch.

    One book among the rest is dear to me.
    ‘Tis when a man has tired himself in deed
    Against the world, and falling back to write
    Sated with love, or crazed with vanity,
    Bemused with drink, or maimed by fortune’s spite,
    Sets down his Paternoster and his Creed.

    Here the root of his bitterness can be located in the loss of an ideal heroic literary authenticity —an ideal which recurs in his writings as often as his cynicism, and is in fact the reverse side of it. Raleigh always prized what he took to be the real human presence of an author over against the boring technicalities of literary works themselves.”

  25. === the boring technicalities of literary works themselves.” ===

    What a find, @atf! — considering that he had that job. . . An all-round fascinating excerpt. I’m sure I’m not your only appreciative reader of your comment.

    Have only read @Des on Walcott on the Harriet blog so far. . . will go back there to see what you mean when I have some time (you wouldn’t happen to have the url for the particular web page, would you?) . . . He didn’t tell us that the owner of that blog, the Poetry Foundation, is the beneficiary of the biggest single donation ever made to poetry — as far as I know. . . by the widow in the Reader’s Digest couple.


    === The Poetry Foundation is a Chicago-based American foundation created to promote poetry in the wider culture. It was formed from Poetry magazine, which it continues to publish, with a 2003 gift of $200 million from philanthropist Ruth Lilly. ===

  26. ISA

    Hi Wordy,

    I am back for a bit? How are you. How’s everybody? Fighting the good fight I see. With vigour “avec beaucoup de fresher”.

    BTW Check out Dave Loffman’s photographs. I love them. Dave is a colleague. He has an auto-immune disease that has meant he had to amputate his legs last year, but the man is a power. Take a look at his pictures. Every one is like a thrown lance.

    He is also a religious poet.

    Visit it if you like and leave a comment. He would appreciate some blogging company.

  27. I _do_ like his haiku, @ISA, … this one especially, of the ones I’ve read … I’ll go back for more:

    Tuesday, June 23, 2009

    restless humid night
    in the sunken garden
    a sun dial

    … Just those few lines, and I can feel the heat wave you’ve all been through better than from any newspaper report. Overall, a good site not just for the poetry but for alleviating (acute) long-distance nostalgia … thank you.

    … But with bloggers like him, how could anyone hate the Blogosphere? ( nodding to one of the topics … ; ) …)

  28. A particularly gorgeous — the words and the image — post over at Dave Loffman’s:

  29. atf

    yes, wonderful photographs, thanks for the link @ isa.

    @wordy i’m not familiar with that site yet and have looked for the posts but things have moved on there it seems and couldn’d find them. maybe @des could let us know where he’s engaged with this high end discussion; one was on scanning and metrics and the other, i’m not sure as i didn’t read it all, on Minoan culture and its influence. i’m trying to keep away from my crt for a bit as i’ve been getting muzzy headed, i think from the radiation.

  30. @atf, thanks for trying — I haven’t tested the Harriet blog’s search tools, and perhaps they work well, but it doesn’t seem the easiest place to find threads a few days old from the menu bars.


    About bloggers and the Blogosphere … an argument that’s the subject of a piece on The Times site seems rather stale . . . The people mentioned are disagreeing over whether consumers should expect to get Old Media content free. But some of us have moved past that and want to know how _bloggers_ can be paid for all the site traffic we bring to eg., newspapers. But that’s not even mentioned in the article — here’s an extract:

    he ignores the central conceit of the book that consumers now fully expect to pay nothing. Anyone under 30 finds it laughable that paying for news, music, television, film or social networking could ever be considered a default position. While it is true that the digital age means there are no iron laws, anyone operating a business online has to define themselves against free competition.

    … But if blogging is the ‘free competition’ for the online newspaper sites, we’re also helping to make those sites viable with the engaging comments we supply.

    If they can’t pay us in cash, shouldn’t they at the very least be linking their blogs to _our_ sites? …

    I don’t mean this new LinkLog series on the bibioblog — listing urls for sites we’ve never heard of, some better than others. I mean, linking to the sites of the people who post — or have ever posted regularly — on the GU arts blogs, and have helped to build traffic there . . . That’s what they should be doing to say thank-you and be assured of our continuing support as readers and commenters.

  31. Dear All,

    Remember Zonkladim who’s now called The Bearded Lady?
    She has a creative way of going about things.
    She now asks for a donation for anyone reading her site comprising shorts & short stories. I so loved her poem on Egypt. I think our Zonky is a smart lady.
    More details here:



    As for Des, he’s asleep right now but I’ve gone into his bookmarks and found the Harriet blog url overall which is Harriet’s Blog.

    He comments actively there all the time now, regaling himself in a style which reminds me of OY – I think the site is American – and if you go on to the second most recent post, you can see at least 3 lengthy comments by Desmond Swords.
    Here’s the one:

    Second most recent post on Harriet’s blog with Des’s comments.

  32. Good for Zonk, @Suzan.

    I did look in on her site some months ago, and I found a short story or two I rather enjoyed.

    I noticed then that she was asking for donations — which made me smile at her chutzpah.

    How about asking her not for an exact sum, but whether she’s earning enough to support a few days, … weeks, … months … of writing/blogging?

    … Of course the question I’ve asked in my last comment in this thread is different. I want to know whether Old Media’s managers are willing to help both our financial viability and theirs with intensive cross-linking …

  33. Sorry, I made a mistake with the Harriet Blog url which should read:
    Harriet’s Blog.

  34. Wordy, yes, I’ll be contacting Zonky.

  35. There are sometimes several posts a day get posted at Harriet, and i think i mentioned what they do is give the above liners a tenure of four months before they stop and get new people in, so there isn’t the staleness of having the same gods all the time.

    The best bet is to just click and check the posts, the two most interesting voices to my mind in the comment section are Christopher Woodman who lives in Thailand and Brady, with the above liners being Martin Earl who lives in Portugal.

    Annie Finch is ok as well, a femminist but man-freindly and free of the narkiness of the more radical members in the sisterhood.

  36. atf

    thanks for the post about the foundation. i was puzzled by it as I thought it was that one set up by Motion from his Laureate funds, and thought it looked more american. i wish des would keep us better informed; it almost seems we’re not good enough for him anymore. i never reckoned much on his loyalty at the best of times…i’m only on for a few minutes now as i’m convinced my h/aches are from exposure to radiation so will try to have 3/4 short sessions a day rather than one rather long one.

    the storms i anticipated after such hot weather hit this morning with thunder and lightening and downpours; the local stream is positively impressive with its massive torrent of water through a narrow way, which will fill up the lake again.

    if you could find a minute to post up one of those reviews you mentioned, and also, if you could, lineate the last few lines of that sonnet as it’s come out in a block. the capitals show the beginnings of the lines. it’s worth the effort as it is a very concise expression of an anti academic opinion held by so many about poetry/fiction.

    good luck to susan in her new travels; we’ll be eagerly anticipating despatches from the exotic world with its mix of crazy, and no so crazy characters, and contretemps…

    trying to get all the little cleaning jobs done for the visit…sheets are washed and ironed…plenty of which roses out now which will yield a select few for the bedside table…a joyce cd waiting in the player for casual b/ground sounds. and trying not to bite too hard on anything or i’ll have a ferocious toothache from a troublesome tooth for a week…

  37. Yeah, i have no need for football mates now, only my new muso pals, and this will be my final post cuz i got what i wanted, i made it to the top of the heap, top o the world ma,

    ha ha ha ha..

    Do not worry atf my stalwart pal, i will not desert you, i have just been caught up in the changeover. Carol has never wanted me in her playpen, prickly from the off and i always wondered how long the guardian gig would last, as i arrived there after 6 years writing and it was a great place to learn, but they have the same writers all the time and it gets boring. I know i got bored with myself over the time there.

    Anyway, this will give you a laugh, a post by Annie Finch, advertising a new forum she set up with whatisface, the Warwick Laureate.

    Most of the posts you’d be interested in reading have been edited out, but there was a right ding dong going on, and i ended up being told by you know who:

    Kevin Desmond, we don’t need your craazy here, we’ve got quite enough already..

    And basically ion an avanty garde site, acting like a straight square. The editor only took the comments of mine off after a week and everyone had read ’em and hers, he took off straight away.

    final vindication in the court of fair play..

    Why don’t you join the poetic justice forum atf, as i am sure there will be serious people there…

  38. @Des, I just read this on Yahoo — … it left me weak with laughter. This man makes me think of over-zealous mods doing in their own sites:

    === A German gardener’s house was left a smouldering wreck on Friday after he set it on fire while trying to get rid of the weeds with the help of a flame-thrower, police said.

    After accidentally setting his hedge alight, the 54-year-old’s garden shed was soon also engulfed in flames and despite efforts to extinguish the fire with a garden hose, the blaze spread to the roof of the house.

    Seven firemen were needed to put out the blaze in Tangstedt near Hamburg in northern Germany, which occurred on Thursday. Police said the house was now uninhabitable. ===

  39. @atf,

    I’ll go in and make the changes to the sonnet’s formatting as soon as I can … will have to be done with care, and I’m in too much of a rush at present.

    I’ve already posted the Byron review for you — please look at the Stick to your Polish! thread.

    Yes, I always look forward to @Suzan’s travel dispatches — nothing like anyone else’s I’ve ever read. . .eg., … @Suzan, if you’re reading this: collecting suitcases as a reason for going to Dar isn’t something I’ve ever heard of before, but I can’t wait to see what those lovely people are like on this trip …

    @atf, you have a lucky sister … freshly-cut scented roses on a bedside table … mmmm …

  40. Dear atf,

    Keeper of the following quote…
    Kevin Desmond, we don’t need your craazy here, we’ve got quite enough already….

    as relayed to you by Desmonds Swords above was of one Jane Amsterdam. 🙂

    Collecting luggage from Dar is quite the normal thing for my crazed windblown spirit. All my winter luggage is stored in it and I did find a spare key here in Dublin, so I won’t need a locksmith when I get to the hotel.
    I miss all my acquaintances and friends in Tanzania.

    I just got a text from a safari guide, Ibrahim, in the Kilamanjaro who is also a friend and he asked me when I wanted to go to the Serengeti. I called him and we spoke awhile and already my heart was pulling me so strongly towards Africa and Des could see how joyful I was. I was happy and laughing so much. And suddenly the exhilaration of the wildlife and flamingos…it all came back and the lively African band music that personalises restaurants, shanty shacks and ferry rides, mostly played by believe it or not…Congolese musicians and Ugandans, I could hear them once more.

    I’ll be more professional in my despatches this time round but I won’t be going for at least 3 weeks yet. If I can’t hold off Africa in my spirit, then 2 1/2 weeks from now. I’ll take pains to add colour and depth to my stories. It’s a nice warm feeling in fact, I feel humbled, that anyone like atf and yourself, Wordy would be interested at all in my travels.


  41. @Suzan:

    === for my crazed windblown spirit. ===

    The poet:


    in this moonlit night, they have gone wandering
    ……………………………………… the forest
    drunk with the young wind of springtime.




    in this moonlit night, they have gone wandering
    ……………………………………………in the forest
    in this mad springtime wind, in this moonlit night


    Mizz Nigeria said:

    === I’ll be more professional in my despatches this time round ===

    … You’ll do what you’ll do, but I’m voting for you to write just as you did before — can’t wait for more reports in your very own style, … like the one about outwitting the she-Sumo wrestler in Customs … the Conference on the Locked Suitcase … the catamarans in the harbour …

    Not sure where this came from, but I’ve just heard a voice oddly like Carly Simon’s singing …


    Don’t go changing, to try and please us,
    You never could become a bore,
    Don’t imagine, you’re too familiar,
    And we won’t read you anymore. . .



  42. @atf,

    I think I’ve straightened out the lines of the sonnet the way you wanted me to. Let me know, please.


    Sorry I haven’t had time for Harriet. Now that we’ve been told who just who you were fighting with there, I’m less keen to go . . . Did you keep copies of your censored posts? You know that you can always put them in Salvage Operation 2 — yes? I’d love to see what you said.

  43. atf

    yes, that’s fine wordy, easier to read and it brings out the contrast between the schooled and the ‘natural’ writers. not that i’m taking sides here but find it exactly expresses concisely so much of the opinions on blogs, though it’s a pity that the word ‘populist’ has to be used as alternative to ‘elitist’.

    a lovely day here again today. the kind of weather americanos are always complaining about on the net, too hot, too hot, usually while we’re freezing here, same with the ozzies, too hot.

    i wondered how long @des would last over there…they seemed to have been feasting and toasting him. my belief is that poets are fascists, all they ever do is delete…stamp on us like cockroaches so they do. they soon got rid of my long poem on the poetry Ireland site…i was slagging them off on account of being the world’s rich living in cloud cuckoo land; it’s a pity they didn’t leave my prophecies there but is there anything in the world as hypocritical as the irishman? answer: i don’t think so. rum bs. they wouldn’t let their own citizens work there at one time unless they could speak Gaelic, now they’re translating everything so that the natives can understand poles, nigerians, latvians, etc when they want to shop for rice and nookie.

  44. atf

    this is a piece i came across this afternoon and was struck by the way it applies to the argument about Indian poets writing in English; it’s from a book by P Lal I picked up at the library this morning and it reminded me of something I read a while back about Bahktin’s ideas about the multiglossal aspect of literature, the way in which in a work we do not read the ‘voice’ of a single author but a multitude of voices mixed over time (my own take; probably miles from what was intended) but see how the ‘language problem’ pans out the same for nearly all nations that were colonised at some time; problems being faced by Irish, African and Indian writers, and writers just about everywhere…but here it is so well expressed and the name ‘Bose’ is one that was come across in other quotation,

    “I agree with Mr Bose that we (the poets writing in English) are the “outcome of Anglo-mania” which seized our parents under British rule; further I be-lieve that these are the very circumstances that led to the “inconceivable loss of the mother tongue” which he (Mr Bose) finds difficult to ascertain. interesting the way he trashes the idea of the use of Eng to reach mass audiences,

    1) I personally use English for writing my poems be-cause for me it is my mother tongue, having been brought up by an Irish family in India and then finishing my schooling in England. If poetry is an expression of one’s total being then images and words felt in childhood and the impressionable years will form the basic material of one’s poems also. I feel there is a whole generation who like me “think” in English.

    2) If the term “Indo-Anglian” means Indians writ-ing in English, I agree that this is a proper assessment. I do not think there is any point in discussing the Indo-Anglian background. The background is there and no wishful thinking can remove it. This is a parti-cular phase in our history, we are the result of British rule here, and for this particular moment in the development of our country’s culture, we are as valid in our writing as any poet writing in Tamil or Telugu.

    3) English is an Indian language today, but this I do not mean it was or will be. I believe that we are in a period of transition using whatever tools are at hand as best we can. I do not believe the motivation in writing poetry in English is to reach large audience. Poetry is primarily not concerned with the audience but with the self and the language selected is that which best expresses that self.

    4) I think the analogy incorrect in that the audience can never be the prime motive in selecting language.

    5) One must define “real public”. Does it mean the same as large audience? If so, then there is no real public for poets writing in English in India. But if we mean by real public, those who themselves are in our Indo-Anglian situation (and there are many such in the larger cities of India) then we do not lack an audience.

    As for appreciation in England or the U.S.A., this can only be a secondary consideration. First we are Indians whatever be the language we use and we can realize our writing is valid only if it is understood by our own people.

    I do not think validity in any of the art forms depends on the numbers who can appreciate or under-stand. Poetry is not mass communication.

  45. Hi Wordy,

    I like your moonlight lines. I wrote this below, the last time I was in Dar…

    I is singin a handsom song.

    I is singin a handsom song for you my lady frien
    I is singin a handsom song for you.
    Moon shinin low n I is waitin you my lady frien
    Moon shinin low n I is waitin you.
    Kissin my lippy n I will marry you my lady frien
    Kissin my lippy n I will marry you.

    – Miss Niger

    (When I said that I would capture episodes with more colour and depth, it’s probably that I wouldn’t get so careless. The last time, I just scribbled out stuff like …going here or going there… I didn’t write about the sights, smells and sounds of extraordinary places in the way I wish I had.
    The only story I took a deep interest in was the one on the ships – and you are right – visible from the harbour outside my window.
    This time I’ll also be going to the Ngorongoro Crater which is purely Safari & Masai territory, so let that be my moment of redemption.

    Gosh, I had forgotten the larger-then-life Customs lady at the airport. 🙂

  46. And Wordy,
    I wrote this also while in Dar. You can delete it after a read.

    Gawd Blass Dar Watar

    *Gawd blass dar watar that yar goodself Mama be drinkin n dat your skin becomin bootifool by the die and the hawa. – Miss Niger in Tanzanian English.

    *(Translation: God bless the water that your goodself Mama be drinking and that your skin becoming beautiful by the day and the hour.)

  47. @atf,

    I can’t believe how much time is wasted on debates about this ‘language problem.’

    All that matters to me is, does someone scribble well or badly in the chosen language? … I only ever pay attention when self-appointed gatekeepers and literary politicians try to dictate what languages people are entitled to write in … and we got into this subject because that silly man William Logan plainly thinks that Walcott has no business writing brilliantly in English and should be scribbling in nothing but West Indies patois. . . Then there’s a whole class of editors who apparently want writers to conform to both subjects and languages _they_ deem suitable for them — and to the cliches about their cultures of origin.

    Modern Indian painters have also been heavily influence by the west — this from an obit yesterday about Tyeb Mehta who died at 84 in Mumbai:

    Some critics have speculated that Mr. Mehta’s Shiite upbringing contributed to his focus on images of martyred victims. Whatever the source, his resulting art was as politically fraught as it was ideologically abstract, owing as much to Francis Bacon and Indian narrative miniatures as to Picasso and Matisse.

    … So there again, I’d say, fine about his being influenced by Bacon, etc. . . . since his being influenced by foreign techniques clearly didn’t mean turning his back on his own people or their suffering.

    I _do_ wish there were a way to stop the subject of this next extract, though — auctioneers getting rich off the backs of artists who struggle all their lives, along with the other breadwinners in their families … Mehta’s wife, for instance … And I care about their not having the right personalities to protest about the inequity, and insist on their share of the profits:

    === In 2005 his 1997 painting “Mahisasura,” an image of the Hindu buffalo-demon defeated by the goddess Durga, sold at Christie’s New York for $1.58 million, the highest price ever paid for the work of a living Indian artist. It was also the first time a piece of contemporary Indian art had crossed the million-dollar mark. (Another painting by the artist sold for $2 million last year.)


    It is difficult to image anyone less suited to the role. A frail, soft-spoken artist who lived with his wife, Sakina, in a small walk-up apartment in a Mumbai suburb, Mr. Mehta was dismissive of the association of art with money. He had spent a lifetime living lean and would continue to. He made nothing from the auctions; the paintings sold had long been out of his hand.


    His perspective on all the attention was consistently one of gracious diffidence.

    “I have always been a loner,” he said in a 2006 interview, “and am still quite a bit of a recluse. My happiest moments are spent with myself and my art.” ===

  48. @Suzan,

    That wasn’t my poetry about the springtime wind and the moonlight … I was just quoting someone I’ll be writing about here, some day …

    Admired your Mizz Nigeria lines, though … hope her book is coming along well.

    … You were writing about ‘going here or going there’ but at blogging speed, so we didn’t expect polished prose you’d meditated on for months … the freshness and spontaneity were rare and engaging … You anyway write in different styles, dont you?

    … No I wouldn’t dream of deleting that bit in dialect — I find all the variants of English riveting.

    … Thank you for giving us a look at your stunning crater. . . Soon, we’ll all be lining up with @Hazlitt, offering to carry your suitcases.

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