"I am an idealistic, naive, passionate, truth-seeking, spiritually motivated artist, unschooled in the science of law and finance." --Wesley Snipes

Monday, December 26, 2005

'Tis the Season to Bash Franz Wright

And many would (with good reason) agree with this post's titular sentiment. But then again, bygones and all that.

As you know, Silliman received some Christmas Greetings from the Pulitzer Pugilist recently, and the blogland is whispering about it here and there. Without any supporting context, I cannot really comment on Wright's letter to Silliman, other than to maybe needlessly note that it bears a strong resemblance to letters that quite a few bloggers have received after a long night (presumably) of self-Googling on the part of Mr. Wright.

My feelings about what response is warranted to such missives, however, are mixed. A few months back, motivated mostly by childish whimsy, I renamed this blog (usually "Geneva Convention") "Franz Wright's Fist." At the time, I thought this was a little bit clever. Approximately one business day later, I received my first-ever Franz Wright letter, threating legal action. I replied tersely, and not-quite politely (but civilly), that suing me would be frivolous, given my lack of assets and my use of FW's name in an obvious parodic fashion. He responded not with more venom, but with an offer of brotherhood, a truce, if you will--he put forth the notion that poets, yes, "us" in some sense, should, despite our differences, our fucked-upednesses (psychiatric, emotional, whatever scars we bear individually and collectively), realize that we are connected through our art and that we should support one another. I was touched.

Franz and I exchanged a few more emails, but have not been in touch for a few months. I know he's behaved badly and embarrassingly in public many times over, and I'm not writing this to defend him, just to suggest that maybe, at least during the afternoon of July 1, 2005, he advanced a hearfelt, sincere, (if not feasible) idea--that it might be worthwhile to get along.

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Gabriel Gudding, whose poetry I adore, and who I know from many email exchanges to be a good, compassionate person, rubs me the wrong way, however, with his most recent post, the offending portion of which I reproduce below:


I have seen this and I known this stuff before. I suspect that is alcohol. Either alcohol or substance abuse. We should name this publicly in our community when it's seen -- as a way of giving, in part, such folks in our community the benefit of the doubt -- and for abrogating any sense that it can be taken as real. No negativity is reality based. I feel there are some misconceptions about the normal protocols surrounding publicly mentioning substance abuse: it can and should be named when it's seen in public. Not to do so is dysfunctional. Whether Franz does abuse substances is his business; regardless, the note to Ron is, like, way poisoned with a negativity that he presumably feels is justified. No negativity is justified. But knowing what I know about what it does to one's temperament first hand, I think I see something recognizable in it.


On one hand, I'm very opposed to the public "outing" of someone else's demons, especially when they seem to be causing no immediate direct harm. On the other hand, FW's various demons are well-known. Gabe didn't really "out" him, as such, but the implied moral high ground of Gudding's post doesn't do much to help matters. Or perhaps I'm reading him incorrectly. Many of us are fucked-up individuals. Answering a perceived attack with what amounts to fingerpointing (albeit cloaked as public service) seems to me to send a confusing message.

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I offer these thoughts only as part of an open dialogue. Please respond as you see fit.

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Oh yeah, Happy Hannukah and Boxing Day and Kwanzaa.

20 comments:

Reb said...

As someone who's been on the receiving end of FW's venom several times -- As someone who did nothing to deserve such venom -- As someone who at first responded to such venom civily only to receive additional venom (so yeah, maybe I'm miffed I didn't get the "brotherhood" truce offering) -- I don't like the man, not one bit. I still like his work, but I don't read it anymore and my unread copy of _Walking to Martha's Vineyard_ was moved from my to-read pile on my nightstand to the bookshelf in my basement after the first round of bile. Maybe he has some impressive reasons that make him feel it's OK to shit on strangers. I don't care -- and why should I? This wasn't a one-time instance nor something that happened over a short period of time. He's a serial offender. He thought nothing of attacking me, an unknown poet in my 9th month of pregnancy and then a couple months later when I was nursing a little baby. He could not have cared less about the grief he put me through during two stressful times in my life -- you know, he's not the only person who's had bad shit happen to him, had a tough time with something. I have a difficult time feeling sympathy to those of the "it's all about me" ilk. I don't wish him any ill will -- and I'm all about poets supporting each other and contributing to the community in whatever ways we can -- but FW has done nothing to deserve my support or sympathy and I'll direct my concern and efforts to those capable of behaving with a minimum of decency.

Jordan said...

The anti-Wieners.

Tony, how do you understand Gabe's point? (Nevermind his decision to publish a diagnosis, without credential, subject unseen, a choice I wouldn't have made either.)

Reb - it's terrible and shameful that he attacked you.

Who among us would expect to be an exception.

CLAY BANES said...

What I so like and respect about Silliman's blog—I admire the hell out of him for it—is the ways in which he allows and encourages open dialogue. Whatever his agenda (call it his "aesthetics," if you want), he links just about anybody, even losers like me; he enables comments and accepts criticism, better than I can say about blogland's other big playas.

The Wright email is certainly harsh; it does have a kind of hateful tone. Blog readers shouldn't forget, however, that while Silliman's rhetoric is never like the Wright email, Silliman's Silliman is, if sometimes subtley or with maybe with hushed implication, controversial, provocative, and yes, in its own ofter damningly dismissive way, chockful o' bits o' hatred.

So I don't see the point going too far being appalled and delicate about open dialogue and its blunter points.

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

Laura Carter said...

Maybe he's kind of like me & has a hard time believing there are people on the other end of the Internet. Has anyone met him in person? Or maybe he's the little wizard in all of our computers....

Aaron Tieger said...

I met him once. A couple years' prior to his attacking me. It was a party after his reading w/Bill Knott. All I remember is that he very unashamedly mentioned how he had no interest in reading young poets anymore. And that he had copies of his manuscript with friends on both coasts and places in between, in case of terrorist attacks or natural disasters or other misfortunes.

john marc said...
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john marc said...

http://www.utsystem.edu/ogc/intellectualproperty/copypol2.htm

http://www.utsystem.edu/orc/
intellectualpropetry/
copyo12.htm

some notes on fair use..

john marc said...
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john marc said...

http://www.rivier.edu/faculty/dburgess/web/logic/fallicies.htm

http://www.rivier.edu/
faculty/dburgess/web/
logic/fallicies.htm

here's a link up to the logical fallicies with defintions..

john marc said...

http://www.louisville.edu/library/law/brandeis/privacy.html

http://www.lousiville.edu/
libary/law/
brandeis/privacy.html

here's a link up to writings on the right to privacy...

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