My ongoing feud with Vermont’s Poet Laureate

Chard Deniord’s latest submission to the Valley News.

And my opinion as submitted to the Valley News:

After his last essay in which Chard Deniord blamed readers for poetry’s neglect, his most recent essay “Swimming in the drowned river” opts to specifically address the dazed and confused—whom he calls the “lost and intimidated” (because, you know, poetry’s 6.7% favorability rating says more about the reader.)

But okay.

He forthwith veers into a defense of academia. He tells us that “the so-called ‘professional poetry bubble’ resonates more as a ‘facile shibboleth” and then, without the faintest hint of irony, demolishes his own assertion with a list of largely academic publications (that have “cornered the market”) and a number of poets who, I suspect, made it on the list because Mr. Deniord networked with them in an academic setting—[cough] Dartmouth?

But not content to defend academia (which is all well and fine) he once more lays into that ugly little step-child: the self-published (and that wretched hive of scum and villainy—the Internet). He writes: “Desktop publishing and the Internet have now made it possible for anyone who wishes to publish their poems to do just that.” And in the very next sentence equates the whole unseemly business with weeds in a garden (presumably a superbly coiffed Harvard Yard).

Deniord can’t think of a single Vermont poet besides those in academia or those published by “professional” editors (as opposed to, his words, “amateur editors”). Nope. Not one. No, Sir. Not a single, solitary Vermont poet. All Mr. Deniord can do is to hope that the work of “those geniuses who are writing beautifully but secretly, like Emily Dickinson… comes to light in time” (presumably published by a “professional” editor in a glossy first edition). Then maybe Deniord will notice. (Never mind that it was a professional editor who was oblivious to Dickinson’s genius.)

But here’s a thought: My favorite discovery, when renovating a house, is an old newspaper. If I’m very, very lucky, I’ll find a poem. If our Vermont Poet Laureate really wants more readers, why not use his position to get poetry back in the Valley News? Why not? Don’t send readers off looking for semi-demi-annual poetry anthologies. Give them something with the news.

upinVermont | August 15 2016
Limited to 360 words by request of the Valley News.

10 responses

  1. “…most ‘academic’ readers and editors (many of whom are also established poets) have spent their careers developing brilliant, open-minded aesthetics for strong poetry and should not be dismissed so easily as effete arbiters of a ‘self-serving scoring system.’ The so-called ‘professional poetry bubble’ resonates more as a facile shibboleth than an accurate term for the diverse range of superb literary journals in that corner of the poetry market where both editorial expertise and poetic talent meet.”

    “The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which low-ability individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability as much higher than it really is. Dunning and Kruger attributed this bias to a metacognitive inability of those of low ability to recognize their ineptitude and evaluate their ability accurately.”

    • Yeah, and to be totally honest? I always wonder if I’m exhibit A for the Dunning-Kruger effect. The scary thing is: How would I ever know? And why, suffering from my own delusions of grandeur, would I ever believe anyone who told me otherwise?

      Besides myself, possibly, I would say that Dan Schneider of Cosmopoética has to be the poster child for the Dunning-Kruger effect. He’s like this guy — except this guy is either a genius or so abysmally bad that he’s still a genius.

  2. I spent a week or so several years ago reading through Dan Schneider’s stuff, some of it quite original but flawed by megalomania. He’s not the kind of guy you would trust with your friendship because once offended every confidence is fair game for the public chopping block. His intelligence allows him to wing a lot of “attitude” which you begin to suspect, but for the extra standard deviation of IQ, would probably manifest in a low-life habit of barroom assault and wife beating.

    But Schneider has his uses—he is the ultimate nightmare of an academy basking in smug complacency about its “brilliant, open-minded aesthetics” and its monopoly control of premiere readings, publications, honors, financial support, and academic sinecure. So there is always the temptation among us “carpenter poets” to level the playing field by throwing a monkey wrench like Schneider’s into the machinery of Dr. deNiord’s false consciousness, just as the Germans exported Lenin in a sealed train car into Russia to take it out of WWI by stirring things up a bit.

    And who knows, we might be doing Dr. deNiord a favor. After 10 years of hanging drywall his poetry and sermonettes to us might actually improve, certainly at least in respect to their demotic register.

    A few problems remain, however. Statues of Dan Schneider have begun to appear in front of every English department in America and banners in every classroom proclaim His Excellency. He is truly the “Pope of Poetry, and only the “best coeds” are permitted an audience with him. We carpenter poets have had our revenge but for all practical purposes we might as well be writing poetry in North Korea. Indeed, both Patrick Gillespie and William Logan live and work side by side as equals now if as cell mates sentenced to 10 years of hard labor for less than flattering reviews of His Excellency’s latest sonnet.

    By some chance, have we been hoist by our own petard?

  3. Dear Mr. Gillespie,

    I just discovered this web site and your comments about my articles in The Valley News. I’m sorry if I’ve given you the impression that I don’t read or celebrate Vermont poets. As the poet laureate of Vermont who has lived in Vermont for nearly 30 years (not as long, I know, as most native Vermonters), I’m aware of the rich legacy of poetry throughout Vt. and wish only to celebrate the poetry of Vermont and it poets–from the lesser known to the more “famous”. I have spent years interviewing and reviewing Vt. poets, as well as other eminent poets from around the country (Lucille Clifton, Robert Bly, Maxine Kumin, Donald Hall, Philip Levine, Jack Gilbert). Please refer to my book Sad Friends, Drowned Lovers, Stapled Songs if you’re interested in reading any of these interviews, essays, and reviews. But I am just as interested in reading poets like yourself who may not be as celebrated as those I mention above. As a teacher and professor of poetry for the last 40 years, I have discovered poetic gold in both my students and outliers alike and worked hard to promote their work. When I wrote in my article titled “Americans Have a Love Hate Relationship with Poetry” that appeared in The Valley News, I meant only to point out how relatively few American readers read poetry, not start an row with you.
    I’m not sure why you have reacted so vehemently to my articles in general. Please know I wish only to support poets and readers of poetry, whether traditional or contemporary, throughout Vermont. I have very catholic taste and appreciate good poetry in all its various forms. Forgive me if I’ve offended you in any way. I never meant to and certainly do not wish to pick an argument with you in and private or public way about a poetic “issue” that doesn’t exist in either my head or my practice as a poet. My love for poetry, Vermont, and Vermont poets serves as my guiding principal in my honorary job as poet laureate. I’m happy you love traditional poetry and only wish you the best with your own work and your individual endeavor to spread poetry in your community and beyond.

    My best, Chard deNiord

    • Hi Mr. deNiord,

      Thanks for stopping by and thanks for commenting.

      You profess confusion as to the source of disagreements with your columns. My first disagreement was in the way you answered your own question: “So what to make of the marginal status of poetry in America, where so many crave poetry for its essential, memorable expression…”

      You straightaway proceed to a discussion of the reader’s role in poetry’s neglect without acknowledging (if we’re going to frame the argument this way) the poet’s neglect of the reader. For starters, modern poets could acknowledge that poetry underwent a sea-change after the moderns, and became almost a completely different genre, and that some readers are not unreasonable for disliking it (just as there are other readers who prefer it).

      That was followed up by Sydney Lea’s utterly gratuitous letter that (as I wrote,) couldn’t even make it to first verb before “fully disclosing” that I was self-published. So what? What does that have to do with anything?

      And that was followed by your next column in which, for reasons that utterly escape me, you felt the need to point out that you only considered poets published by “reputable publishers”. Why even write that? Who cares? After Lea’s comment, how is it unreasonable to interpret that as another dig at poets and authors who pursue unorthodox(?) means of publication?

      So, I would love your next column to be about avenues available to contemporary poets that don’t involve submitting poetry to a journal (academic or otherwise). There are blogs, like mine, small presses, self-published chapbooks, poetry slams and performances. I used to know about half a dozen Vermont poets who kept blogs. I think they’ve come and gone. As your columns have unhelpfully insinuated, recognition only comes through “reputable” publishers.

      Wouldn’t it be great to create an online resource for Vermont poets and readers where their chapbooks stand a chance of being reviewed and they’re poems read? I don’t have the skill set, connections or time to create such a site, but then I’m not a poet laureate.

      Beyond that, I love poetry too. Let’s get on the same page. I’ll also pick up your book.

  4. Dear Mr. Gillespi, Please refer to the last paragraph in my article “Swimming in the Drowned River of American Poetry” where I conclude by mentioning several Vt. poets (Karin Gotschall, Galway Kinnell, Major Jackson, Ellen Bryant Voigt, Hayden Carruth, David Budbill, Leland Kinsey) as valuable sources for those who are not that familiar with poetry and Vermont poets in particular. Thank you. Chard deNiord

    • My point was that besides ‘academia and those published by “professional” editors’ you didn’t name any other Vermont poets. For clarity, I turned the sentence around.

      From:

      “Besides academia and those published by “professional” editors (as opposed to, his words, “amateur editors”) Deniord can’t think of a single Vermont poet.”

      To:

      “Deniord can’t think of a single Vermont poet besides those in academia or those published by “professional” editors (as opposed to, his words, “amateur editors”).

      And forgive me for my (perhaps overly) dry sense of humor, but the single Vermont poet I was referring to was me.

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