Monday, April 03, 2006

Comment to Comment by Diana Marie Delgado Posted In the Previous Post

Hey there Diana! I'm missing you. I just got in from Dallas Writers Garret Conference, the "Writes of Spring" Book Festival a few hours ago. I teach tomorrow then off to Portland on friday for a reading at Reed College on Saturday night. Then I'm off to UC Berkeley the 26th.

I feel good because I feel good this trip. YEA, Po Chai Pills! And maybe because it was a book festival -- I love books. And low stress -- and, I stopped and stocked up at Wild Oats before heading off to the airport. Smart move.

I just spent too much time dealing with el chavalo T.R. writing this post:
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Please read my latest post on this. Please note it says, "I don't like it. But I face it."

Tony, you were in an MFA program (studying at one of the "best" with one of the "best" I might add) and now dissertating and teaching in one of the better schools because you are ranked. Your letters of recommendation all included a rank, a very specific numerical rank down to the decimal scale and an X on a horizontal scale. You will be ranked by several committees down to the Regents down to the hundreth decimal when you go to apply for a job. The only reason you haven't won a major award or book publication is because you are being ranked. NEA, Fulbright, state grants, any grant proposal, any foundation, any editorial board (as opposed to individual editors or foundations; hence, my essay, whenever I get the time on how the best editors or publishers are the best poets) is going to rank you, and most now go for the corporate model (the antithesis of "humanites") of numerical convenience. Yes. Absolutely. Atrocious. My hubby was a middle manager in a fortune 500 corp (and he's an artist) and that's how he describes it: "They sit in these meetings and move peoples lives around like they were chips on a board and some they sweep off the table and then act as if they didn't exist." I just do it publicly. But I do it honestly. This list is based upon EVERYTHING in the archives from the beginning in the order the posts were written (Eduardo! AD! Tony! Y'all poof things, that is, y'all are mad deleters) which is how I read blogs after something catches my eye, and I confess I was relieved to somehow bracket Ron as who can read everything in Ron's archives through the years starting last March? And, Steve, this accounts for why you haven't made this year's list as I just clicked on you recently & I haven't had time to read all the way through.

Tony, what's your trip? Who said anything about your genes? You have some killer poems. And you have some killer depressions, or at least as expressed on your blog. I was just trying to help. You seemed discouraged about your writing and, THE POINT: You aren't writing, and not hitting them out of the ballpark consistently every time the Muse pitches them like Ali or Rebecca (who are like speed ice skaters in the Olympics: Ali "wins" by one one-hundreth of one one-hundreth of a second). And it's a shame. You're good. You need to play again. Or get mad and challenged. I tried to go for that. You wrote your best poem, that I've seen, during that time - and I said so on my blog. The one in No Tell Motel is "The Best." When I first heard about the anthology I knew it would be and requested the anthology for review so I could write about it; I knew it had to be in there. I'm supposed to be writing the review for it now, or soon, I missed the inaugural issue deadline.

And, frankly, rank and order is irrelevant for as all of us know there is only one "Best." Heck, what the heck is the Best Seller list? The best for this gal this year and just newly discovered po-bloggers this past year. But The Best is the Best for just one man, most often, and the orderlies supply a ranked list in case the original "Best" is unavailable or declines. Hey, isn't that The President and the Supreme Court who last elected him? Isn't that the Electoral College?

Anyway. Just read all the poems that are available (ideally in the order they were posted) from all thirty poets on this list and ask yourself, don't you think this is a fair ranking -- not based upon their books or other publications which would be unfair as I've only read books by 4 of these authors. Come on. Just read "Torn" and ask yourself, don't you think C. Dale Young is just a wee bit better of a poet than you? Consistently. And Ali & Rebecca Louden, they set my poetry bones to sing every time they chime. Y'all are good.

I will tell you a secret, yes, this one time because you're Chicano. Also because it's a bloody shame you don't write more and think better of your own writing. (btw the only reason I clicked on your blog in the first place is because you were one of the first to click on mine the day or week I put it up, and the title: Geneva Convention; I'm a peace activist) I am routinely asked to identify "The Best" based upon no other criteria but "literary excellence." There are years I have missed the deadline. This whole process is antithetical to everything I live -- but in some cases it involves real money for someone worthy, for example. I agree with everything you and others have said, especially Rebecca when I read her post -- I got it. I was going to write about but for numerous travels & teaching. Orale carnal, it's our Xicanismo that make us this way. But I feel guilty for missing deadlines to nominate, especially when all it involves is typing a single name, or a phone call. I'm blowing it for someone who deserves it. So to atone, this year, I decided, okay, here's my ranked list of this particular criteria, if the grant read this way, then this is who would get the money. See? Sucks. But, face it. This is the way it is. Po-Biz, I call it. But, don't worry, you're a personable guy, tall, good-looking, witty, undoubtly gifted, at least, that I know of, as a poet and by the evidence of your rank, that is, your present position. And, let's face it. You're a white guy. You're on your way. Your onda will arrive. I was just offering to "wax your board" -- your surfboard implying you had a ready made good one and the only reason you keep falling off the board at the big ones (like first book) is that you need an editor, that is, you needed a little wax applied the right way before the next big wave hits. How you got the crazy idea I was telling you write like a Chicano or put tortillas in your poem I don't know. (Although I would mind some of your amás' recipes in a poem a la Hass.) But what you wrote about the "Tortilla School" in your post on the New Sincerity I found personally and professionally insulting. And defamatory and professionally damging to me. Now all these poets think I'm about that -- and show me the text! If I were so inclined I'd win a law suit for defamation. My sitemeter plummeted and people were writing comments who never read anything else on my blog much less my response to that and other posts. Definitely defamatory. Now I'm the lady who's trying to "ghetto-pimp" your poems.

And, can't we all be friends? It would help to read the words on the page. And not go off interpreting or re-traumatizing on me, in regards to whatever happened to you in school.

If you knew me you would have heard, often and good-humouredly, "Competition's for horses and schools are for fish!"

But if rich people want to give their money away. . .

You, like all the others on this list can use me or this list as a reference, ask for a letter, send me a review copy of your books, refer to my published list whatever. Man, I like you! Poetically speaking.

P. S. The only reason Jenn is on the bottom of the list is that she's a stay at home mom with five kids without the luxury of a nanny or stipend to fund her writing. You get the raw stuff on her blog, and I recognize the feat. I added her to the list replacing Bruce Covey who was on my original list but I had to delete to be fair as he doesn't have a blog just a group blog member. He was ranked much higher. And I had already typed out my list title and wanted an even 30. The list I wrote rapidly in my notebook at the sunday breakfast table in a fit of pique over missing another deadline.
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I'll be back soon with more than anyone would want to read!
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April 6th is Luis and Susan Cervantes Day in San Francisco! Check out Precita Eyes Mural Center. Stop by the Mural Arts store, shop and ask for Susan. Plan a mural walk in my father's memory.

7 Comments:

Blogger Lorna Dee Cervantes said...

Oops, that was "I wouldn't mind reading" some recipes in Anthony Robinson's poems.

It's late. I'm still up (I'm always up after coming home from a reading, especially a conference (good panel with Jack Myers on Richard Hugo & Christensen on Clayton Eschelman on Neglected Writers). It's always stimulating.

4/4/06 01:10  
Blogger Tony said...

Hello Lorna,

I may respond to this post at length or I may not. At this point, I'm not sure it's worth it. I'd be happy to have a fruitful discussion about these issues, but you have so far been unwilling engage me in a thoughtful, respectful way.

The name-calling, the gross mischaracterizations--it just brings down the level of discourse. I can't have a dialogue with someone who won't listen to what I have to say.

A couple of things, then I'll return to my cave for a bit.

1) My post on the "New Sincerity," the one that was first to reference the "Tortilla School," had NOTHING to do with you. You may find this hard to believe, Prof. Cervantes, but when I wrote that post (last July, I believe) I had never even heard of you. You took it personally, said that I was targeting you, when in fact I only became aware of your existence when you started calling me names on your blog. That's it. True story. If you don't believe me, read the archives. Everything's there.

2) The MFA program with which I was briefly affiliated wasn't (and as far as I know still isn't--though current students tell me the climate has gotten much better in recent years) by any stretch of the imagination, one of the "best."

There were a couple of good poets and teachers there, but the program itself was horribly disorganized. Many of the decisions made by those in charge were capricious and arbitrary, or motivated by a) personal grudges, b) unaccountable malice, or c) personal gain at the expense of others. There are other things I could mention, but I think you get the point. Furthermore, the statement that I was studying with "one of the best" is horribly misinformed, at best. The man to whom you refer showed me (and other students) nothing but utter contempt. He also employed threats (sometimes of a physical nature) as a means of "motivation," and treated nearly all students as if they were military recruits. He tried to destroy the careers of certain teachers, and I saw him drive away three MFA candidates in the same year.

Clearly, "best" is subjective, but in this particular case, you are WAY off base.

4/4/06 13:45  
Blogger Lorna Dee Cervantes said...

Huh??? Name-calling? Gross mischaracterizations? Show me the text. Show us the words on the page. Here's some: "tall, good-looking, witty, undoubtly gifted"; "You're good." "you have some killer poems" and that I thought yours was the best poem in the No Motel Motel anthology? I don't get it. Or is it calling you Chicano? I meant that as a statement of fact, it's a consciousness not a gene, and an experience -- whether personal or shared. And a white guy. You are that, too. Hey, we Xicanerati are used to dwelling with irony. Or as Xicana poet, Bernice Zamora wrote it: "You insult me when you call me schizophrenic./ My divisions are infinite."

I called you no name. "Carnal" means good friend, "blood (flesh) brother" -- sorry for the term of endearment.

"Best", yes, in "scare quotes." According to the powers that be, Tony, you look great on paper. "Dissertate", as you say -- cute term, I like it. Defend. Publish. But most important: write. You have a great life ahead of you -- just stay on the board. Ironic, ennit? That's my point. Believe me, according to reputation these schools are the best there are and stocked with the brightest and "best" but the Truth is that it's like a neutron bomb went off, it spares the pages but kills the poet. Not all. There are lots of good teachers/ editors, friends, fellow and fella poets -- no one does this in a vacuum. What you experienced is going on across the country as humanities is forced into a corporate model. And the Cinderella of them all, poetry within cretive writing is being squished into someone else's idea of a glass slipper. The power-mongers take over. That and the cult of personality. Believe me, I'm with you. Bummer. But, I've heard the same stories now for thirty years. It's why I never expected to be a professor. Much less one teaching poetry. Here, it's a long process shaking students out of the expectation of that military model. Two hours ago I was trying to explain to students that the weekly writing exercises were designed for those more "selective" in nature, and the ones who need the whip. Others, I say, "Write what you want. Learn to please yourself." And stick to the words on the page. "What I'm interested in is that you're writing and you're writing well.

Read it again. This isn't my opinion. It's fact. And based upon several decades of experience in all levels of this business across many social and economic classes since you were pulling up trainers.

As for your original post. I saved it and copied and it's still in the archives, I think. Read that again. A Joe Blow like me blowing in from the Kokomo of my techno-mensa mind reads it and there is no sentence there stating that you were speaking of students or acquaintances. You lump together all of working class poetry with the "Tortilla School", and other crosscultural writers -- and dismiss the whole lot as not worthy of poetry. Then go on to speak of the poetry of all white males, and Reb when speaking of the New Sincerity. Huh? Dismiss Richard Hugo? Levine? Soto? Eduardo Corral? Rigoberto? Blas and all these other "others" flying just under the spotlight like moths. See? Once again, a writer of the dominant class sweeps the dated lot off the board and goes on to the "real poetry," the "best" because it reads like this, the way they want, the way they write it. (pobrecito! Que barbaro! Sincerely. I believe you. I lived it. And have seen those broken lives of shattered careers based upon nothing that can be read on the page, nothing of the quality of those words -- that responsibility.) Read your words on the page. I can't read your mind.

And, yes, the juala, a kennel because you bite. And while all this was going on last year I had just found out my father was dying so had no time to defend myself when you started accusing me of I don't know what. And everyone went off on how bad it was that I was telling you you weren't a good poet (huh?) and that I was telling you to write Chicano poetry. (HUH?) Read what I wrote. All I wanted to do was suggest rearranging some stanzas (beginnings and endings are crucial in poetry) and maybe carving off some lines to seed another poem with it like sourdough bread batter that gets passed down through the generations of poems. I was offering to help edit your manuscript which has nothing to do with content but everything to do with how you "embody" one from the shards. I'll post the original exchange -- but yeah, it's not worth it but for the fact it fits in with this book I'm writing now -- might as well spew out this response while I have the chance. I'm supposed to be typing the essay I read at the AWP, the one that mentions you by name as one of the Xicanerati to watch. Sheesh, can you take a compliment or what?

I bet this exchange would never have happened had this been Ron's list.

4/4/06 17:59  
Blogger Tony said...

No,

On Ron's list, things would have gotten more brutal.

I know what "carnal" means. I don't question your good intentions. However, on "paper" you come off as, frankly, a little "out there."

I don't know what point you're trying to make so I misconstrue. I apologize, and I'll try harder.

If you want, I can make one last attempt at explaining the "Tortilla School" comment, but I feel that that's a lost battle. I mean, I think I could say just about anything and you would still take it personally. I'm sorry that there's nothing I can do about that. I'd really like you to understand where I'm coming from. I really would.

I don't mind being the jaula. But one puts animals and criminals in the cage, yo. Dig? And when you called me something that likened me to a baboon or something (I'm not in the mood to look it up right now), I took it personally. As for gross mischaracterizations, I suppose I meant all the times you've come across, again "on paper," or "onscreen" as someone who knows me, when in fact, all you know about me is what you see on the blog. There's a lot more to who I am than that and every time you say "Tony R" is this, or that, I feel like I'm being reduced.

And I know that academia, particularly MFA programs, can be rough, but you have NO IDEA what went on in that place. It was pretty insane. Just an FYI.

I appreciate the nice things you say about me--I do. I suppose I'd appreciate them more if our earliest interactions weren't so caustic, so passive-aggressive and bitter. I posted another comment on my blog (to your last comment) but I'll reiterate the spirit of part of it here: let's bury the hatchet. We can agree to disagree but I think we should both try harder to understand where the other is coming from.

Deal?

Tony

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