Dear Emily Post-Avant,

So, Kent Johnson is now whining about never getting a poem into the New American Poetry, or worse, getting a poem of his in NAP via someone plagiarizing his work, by publishing his own work on his own website in an eight, I repeat, EIGHT PAGE POEM that, granted, had some great lines in it like “dills my pickle” and “more bothered than a mule with a mouthful of bees” and “don’t let your bulldog mouth overload your hummingbird ass” and “I could have chewed nails and spit out a barbed wire fence” and “makes my butt want to grind cord” (isn’t THAT the image Barrett Watten will be masturbating to tonight, Kent Johnson grinding corn rectally) and “hotter than the rattlesnake that married the garden hose” — after this grand act of literary auto-erotic stimulation, what does David Lehman, the editor of the New American Poetry do, but publish a gushing link to Kent’s 8-page whine on the “Always Excellent” New American Poetry Blog!

My question to you, Emily, is, will the enfant terrible of USAmerican letters now relax, pour himself a cold one and go walk the dog, or is he going to see this act as another betrayal, another backhanded compliment, another rubbing of salty lemon curry into the wound they’ve been jabbing at since the 90s, from one of these sell-out poetry booty gatekeepers?

Non-Mongrelized in Seattle




Dear Non-Mongrelized in Seattle,

I love me a salty lemon curry rub on a venison filet (shot by yours truly, various cuts in the freezer).

I don’t know what Mr. Johnson is doing right now, nor do I know what he will do. I wrote him yesterday, immediately after I saw the BAP link; I said, “Hey, sugar-britches, did you see the BAP blog yet? You must be smiling like a dead pig in sunshine!”

He has not written back. Could be he thought the “dead pig” part was in sly reference to Peter Bürger’s Theory of the Avant-Garde, and took it badly, I dunno. I should invite him over for a candlelight venison dinner, and rub some salty lemon curry all over hisself, if you know what I mean. True, the man looks a bit like Who shot Lizzie (I’d much rather spend an evening with Mr. Clark Gable Boughn), but beggars can’t be choosy.

By the way, love, don’t know if it’s a Freudian slip of your naughty tongue, or if you’re in need of some tutoring, but the “New American Poetry” (or NAP, as you also put it) is generally used to describe the last autonomous, non-recuperated poetic current before everything got sucked real fast into the mouth of Moloch, around the end of the Vietnam war. The name of the annual anthology Johnson writes about is the Best American Poetry (or BAP). That’s a big différance, as we used to say.

Anyway, I think you exaggerate just a bit. We shouldn’t be so hard on Mr. Johnson, who as you aver, has suffered enough at the hands of various meanie poets and Po-lice over the years. And now he apparently has MS on top of it all (according to the poem, anyway), probably in part because of the decades of stress. Yes, he can be piece of work, but it’s hardly his fault that David Lehman liked the poem and linked to it! What did Rimbaud say, “Too bad for the wood if it becomes a violin!” Or something like that.

I hereby copyright the term “Po-lice.” I can’t believe no one had yet thought of it. [Note to Fric and Frac: How about this for your next signoff? “Dispatches from the Poetry Wars: The Shampoo You Need to Get the Po-lice Out of Your Hair!”]

And I doubt we need to worry Mr. Johnson is going to go Institution-rogue on us, or whatever, and blackmail Mr. Boughn into accepting the recent offer of $30,000 from the Poetry Coalition (though damn if I couldn’t use some dough for this column I do for freaking free). No, this little link at BAP will soon be forgotten, even by poor Ron Silliman, legendary thumb drive of all poetic data.

And Johnson’s obnoxiously long poem of southern endearments will soon be forgotten, too.

Oh, and what do you mean by “Mongrelized”? You mean the Mongrel Coalition? Do they still exist? I thought Lucas de Lima went back to Brazil after Johnson revealed him as a white guy from an upper class family in Rio.



–Emily Post-Avant