Dear Emily Post-Avant,

Did you see this? A Deal With Airbnb Turned Retrograde for These Astrologers

My communist astrologer friends on twitter are canceling Dorothea Lasky and Alex Dimitrov for their partnership with Airbnb. Personally, I don’t understand what all the fuss is about. Aren’t these “Astro Poets” doing the good work of promoting poetry in the wider culture? And should I really be mad about a couple poets shilling their services for a company that contributes to gentrification when most poets who live in NYC are doing this already?

–Confused About Complicity Between Language and Oppressive Power in Buffalo


Dear Confused About Complicity Between Language and Oppressive Power in Buffalo,

Don’t be too confused about the complicity stuff. It’s not confusing at all, really. For instance, the old-guard Language codgers and their legions of low-hanging, career-craving family-treed fruit have been giving soft-culture “avant” cover to the organ-harvesting one-Party state of China for the past dozen-plus opportunist years. (Sorry, I know I use too many hyphens and parentheses. I’m like Frank Lentricchia, in 1980.)

How do they do this? Why, with their near-annual CAAP poetry tours on the CCP-Confucius Institute tendered yuan/dollar, darling. Fine rice wine and meaty braised squab in fancy hotels, for the adieu. There are photographs, with toasts, to prove it.

All of a piece with Tracy K. Smith’s Laureate visit over there a couple or so years back, actually, where she gushed in print about how China was “just all so beautiful,” right after the Nobel Prize winner Liu Xiaobo had died in prison and hundreds of other intellectuals were suffering persecution in real time, with house-arrest, jail, or torture (not a word from the Language poets about it!).

Despite appeals by Pen America, Amnesty International, Chinese intellectuals in exile, or a bunch of other human rights groups, off they keep going, year after year to neo-Stalinist China… Good god. And good luck looking back at your life when you’re in your mid-80s, I guess, preparing to make peace with yourself.

Anyway, sorry for that long digression. You’d asked about the poet-astrologers. OK.

All I can say about the Astro Poets is good riddance to you, ye runt versions of the rapacious Rasputin and the cunning Quigley! I mean, really: These superstition-peddling shills for first-world medieval distraction in an age of utter global emergency deserve not just a Cancel, but a month cleaning the toilets of one hundred Airbnb spots in Hangzhou. For cynically preying on the most intellectually backward petit-bourgeois elements of gentrified US and Canadian bohemia. The Kurds are getting ethnically cleansed, hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs in Xinjiang are held in re-education camps, and the fucking permafrost is about to melt, just for example, and these pathetic Late-New Ageist bards are peddling the cheapest obscurantism, and then spreading their legs to a giant online multinational to cash in?

Alongside the corrupting, pacifying reach of the Poetry Foundation (the biggest promoters of the Astro Poets when they were still cool), what a perfectly revolting index for how acquiescent North American poetry has become since its last quixotic gasp of protest in 2003, with Poets Against the War (which the Language poets, by the way, in their obscene elitism derided for its “language of complicity,” to use your phrase).

Here’s a question: If these Astro Poet were really seers who could read the stars, how is it they didn’t see their own crash and burn coming? How could two Po-peeps who claim to be able to see where Joe and Marge should shack up for $300 in Seattle or NYC or San Francisco not be able to read their own charts and see they were about to become the laughing stock of the lit world, right when their NYC press book is about to appear and eternal stardom (as opposed to actual eternal derision) awaited?

William Blake is one thing. Jack Clarke is another. Robert Duncan is one thing. Robin Blaser is another. Helen Adam, too. They were deep and learned and sincere adepts.

But these Astro Poets were mere Horoscope columnists, of retail kind. No different, in sum, from the most debased, third-tier televangelists. They should be tarred and feathered by a good-humored, internationalist contingent of revolutionary steel workers from Youngstown and Yangzhou. Not that there are many left in the former.

How are things in Buffalo these days, where I hear the Poetics program is about to go bingo-kaput? Maybe you should transfer to the vanguard Poetics Program at Penn, before that collapses, too, and the aged Charles Bernstein is sent to the slammer by a democratic-soviet tribunal of Chinese poets and journalists, sometime in early 2030. Again, my apologies for all the hyphens.

–Emily Post-Avant