Dear Emily Post-Avant,

Me and my friends in the program here at Temple were wondering what your “position” is on Frank Sherlock having been in a fascist skinhead band when he was eighteen and nineteen, as recently revealed and suddenly all over the internet? Everyone in the poetry world so far seems to think he should be shot.

—A Poet at Temple


Dear Poet at Temple,

It’s Post-Avant Po-Biz as usual, darling. The Khmer Rouge Po-Police are out for hot blood.

Wassup and where do you live, sugar, as Frank O’Hara liked to say.

Of course, it’s never good—as Frank Sherlock has openly admitted—to have been a young skinhead in a far-right punk band. Much less to have gone on record (even as a troubled kid in a working class neighborhood where racism was rampant) about the virtues of White Power.

But consider what is happening in this case. Even when the person at issue has expressed absolute contrition, even mortification, for his misdeeds (in the case of Mr. Sherlock, misdeeds committed when he was a teenager), when he has transformed his life through considerable struggle, when he has changed himself into a public figure of generosity and creativity, he is extended not an iota of forgiveness or compassion by the Khmer Rouge Po-Police. Even then, even after the person has spent decades trying to make up for those bad errors by performing, and through deeds, the morally opposite of fascist or racist spirit, he is still condemned and held to be beyond redemption.

Why, you ask? Could it be that the pure little darlings, with their intact essentialist identities unchallenged, don’t know what it means to change and grow, never having changed or grown? It does seem there is an acute shortage of soul at work here. In fact, there is almost as little soul as there is little talent. You know what I mean? The two can go hand in hand, in poetry as in politics. Shouting for someone’s head at a Show Trial is a time-proven way of marketing oneself to the ruling bien-pensant institutions (and their associated head honchos) that tacitly endorse and promote such mob behavior. A reward here or there might follow—no less so in the Cancel Poetry Culture of the moment than in 1930s Moscow.

Here’s an example, one within a deluge, already, on Twitter, by one Sara Bess:

>I don’t know the story and I don’t need to but I will say that the question should never be “can a fascist change?” but “should a fascist be allowed to change?” and the answer is “no.”

Hey, nice one, Sara.

And here is another, from the editorial staff of Called Back Books, whoever they are, too:

>Frank Sherlock, poet, used to be a Nazi, remained in silence & deception, what kind of forgiveness is to be expected? None, for us, none at all. Warsaw uprising ethics. Hey Frank, fuck you.

Well, I would say, hey, Called Back Books, fuck you, actually. What kind of person uses the memory of the Warsaw uprising for some cheap rhetorical gesture? A gesture, to be sure, that is itself fascistic in spirit?

Or this one, from our old, ex-friend, CA Conrad, writing about a prominent project he had published in collaboration with Sherlock:

>In light of Frank Sherlock’s revelation that he was a former skinhead, I have asked Shanna Compton (of Bloof Books) to please stop selling the book he and I wrote together.

It’s all Cancel Culture. Once you are convicted by the mob, darling, you can’t climb back. You are shamed, condemned, tarred, and banished. You may not be taken away in a dark sedan in the middle of the night, but the righteous and faultless ones will do their best to have your poetic life disappeared from the face of the earth.

Alas, what none of these Po-deplorables seems to have realized is that what we actually want and need is for more skinheads, especially the teenage kind, to awaken to the evils of racism and hate and turn around their lives. Like Frank Sherlock did, or at least is still attempting to do.

Ask your friends at Temple to think about it.

Long live poetry. Down with totalitarian spirit.