Dear Emily Post-Avant,

So you obviously have to say something about the Bob Hicok vs. Timothy Yu thing!



Whadya think, Ms. Emily? We’re waiting.

–The Resistance Front at the University of Texas Michener Center for Writers



Dear Resistance Front at the University of Texas Michener Center for Writers,

You 20-something Michener Fellows getting 50-grand a year to do little but drink coffee, do light drugs, and attend corporate-funded Self-Pleasuring Poesy Workshops are a freaking piece of work.

So what is your “Resistance” resisting, presently? Maybe Barrett Watten’s impoliteness to his English Department colleagues at Wayne State University? Bad Barrett!

While the ice caps melt, the permafrost vomits methane, and the ocean phytoplankton enter feedback-velocity death (2/3 of Earth’s O2, hello Venus).

Anyway, fine, I’ll weigh in, though having just gotten back from an unsuccessful fishing trip, I should be deadheading the coreopsis.

So, despondent Bob Hicok begins his Utne Reader article thusly: I write this because I’m dying as a poet. My books don’t sell as well or get reviewed as much as they used to.”

To which I say (Jesus), Buck up, dying whitey Bob! You will certainly continue to do fine in remission, ye Prize-winning, lachrymose boy!

Then, ruthless Timothy Yu, jumping all over it, writes in The New Republic: The irony, of course, is that Hicok’s essay, though it is about the alleged fading of the white male poet’s star in favor of poets of color, succeeds in putting the white male poet, and his feelings, right back at the center of the conversation.”

To which I say (Jesus), Relax, you privileged finger-wagging Academy town-crier! You will survive, too, ye upmarket windbag in Tom Wolfe drag, stabbing at every white poet at the faculty party with a Stalinoid icepick!

Seriously, these two guys are, in fact, peas in a Poetry-Field pod, representatives of competing, but like-spirited camps, whining or snarling it out for position and advantage in the Official Poetry Parliament. And even in their antithetical preening, both display utter obliviousness–naive or intentional–as to their mutually shared and mutually beloved habitus: which is the giant Institutional cage (with ergonomic seating) that the most sophisticated North American poetry (post-mainstream and official-avant alike) finds itself displayed within.

Fundamentally, Yu is Hicok and Hicok is Yu. Hicok boohoos for his marginal Paleface losses in the above general poetic economy; Yu gloats that POCPO business is booming in the bubble-bloom of said general poetic market. You can’t have one without the other. They share a deeper, dialectical color, you could say. And give obeisance to a common master.

Because they are both delegates of a dominant, historically specific poetic breed: An opportunist, careerist, petit-bourgeois sub-class, with medical, travel, and pension plans to boot (the boot, with lots of lubricant, being up their collective ass). A sub-class which, in its embrace of institutional domestication (not just Academic, but State and Corporate, in building measure), has betrayed the most noble, autonomous and insurgent traditions of poetic vocation.

Amiri Baraka, Jack Spicer, Muriel Rukeyser, and Audre Lorde, just for example, are spinning like chain-saw blades in their graves.

And you, my little Texas Micheners, are but the late-scrawny leaves of a twisted and rotting tree, rooted in Kenyon and Iowa City, watered by the CIA.

Long live the Resistance, indeed.

–Emily Post-Avant