Evan Mantyk's poetic tic
Is Evan Mantyk the poet who will "save" Classical Poetry, as he has
claimed to be doing (very successfully!), or is he a pretender, an emperor sans clothes?
In my previous review, which you can read by clicking the hyperlinked name of
the group, I suggested that
The Society of Classical Poets should
consider a name change to The Keystone Scops. In this review I
am going to ask the question: "How can someone save Classical Poetry by writing
poetry and prose that wouldn't pass a sixth grade grammar test at a decent
school?" Is Mantyk a good poet, or does he just have a "poetic tic" that produces
spasms of disorganized activities? I am not convinced that Mantyk is a poet,
editor or publisher of any note, but I will give him this: he's a very diligent
censor, as I will explain in due course ...
by Michael R. Burch
The Society of Classical Poets,
A Review of the Society of Classical Poets' Literary Journal,
Joseph Charles MacKenzie: Poet or
Evan Mantyk's Poetic Tic,
James Sale's Blue Light Special,
"How to Write a Real Good Poem" by R. S. Gwano, Salemi's Dilemma,
Salemi Interview and Responses by other Poets
Evan Mantyk is the
founder of The Society of Classical Poets aka The Keystone Scops.
Here is what the Society, headed by Mantyk, have said about themselves on their very impressive,
if not always coherent, website:
"English poetry has been in existence for at least 1,400 years. This tradition
continues alive and well at The Society of Classical Poets like nowhere else!
Today, poetry is everywhere. It is in the songs on the radio, in our national
anthems, and in the fight songs of our favorite sports teams; it pervades our
literature, our history, and our culture. But, despite poetry's abundance,
poetry that is both new and good is hard to find now, more than ever. Good, new
poetry cherishes and builds on the perennial forms, like meter and rhyme, left
to us by 1,400 years of English poets, who have also built on thousands of years
of Greek and Chinese poetry. Such good, new poetry carries a message infused
with the profound insights and lofty character of the poet. It touches on
humanity's quintessential quest for virtue over vice, epic over ephemeral, and
beauty over baseness. With this in mind, the Society of Classical Poets is a
501(c)(3) non-profit organization formed in 2012 as a group of poets dedicated
to the revival and proliferation of good, new poetry."
In my original review, did I mention arrogance and incompetence having intercourse?
I believe I did. In any case, the
Society's non-profit organization actively solicits contributions on its
prominent Donations page, where one can obtain a "free" journal by contributing
$50 or more. Questionable advertising aside, it's for
the best of causes:
"The Society of Classical Poets is bringing beauty and hope to mankind through
the very best and most foundational genre of English literature: classical
poetry. We need your help to reach more people and ensure that this rich art
form, along with our civilization, continue to flourish."
Dear readers, please disburden yourselves of any reservations that "saving" poetry might require the ability to write grammatically correct sentences.
What's far more important is that we can
now make charitable contributions to the SAVIORS OF POETRY! Oh, happy day! Please grab your checkbooks or log into your PayPal accounts to support this Grande & Nobil Mishun! Who can doubt its
ultimate success? Your dollars can make all the difference, and for a short time
you can save both poetry and civilization for the price of one!
In return the Society will teach you how to become a classical poet in ten minutes!
Friends, have you ever been concerned that writing poetry may be a tad difficult? Have you ever worried that your poems
may not compare all that splendidly with Homer's, Sappho's, Dante's, Shakespeare's and Milton's? Never fear! According to the title of a how-to manual written by the Society's
head guru, president and master
planner "Writing Classical Poetry Is Easy (Technically)." Here is how Mantyk advises going about the suddenly simple-as-pie task of writing classical poetry:
"Some people have raised concerns about the technical
difficulty of writing classical poetry. Actually, there is very little
difficulty behind writing classical poetry from a technical perspective.
Classical poetry is simply poetry that is metrical (also called metered), thus
contrasting with unmetered poetry, known as free verse. There is no requirement
to rhyme or have a particular number of lines or anything else. The easiest
beginner-level approach to writing metrical poetry is to simply count the
syllables. If your first line has ten syllables then your next line should have
ten syllables. Seven, eight, ten, and twelve syllables are all common lengths.
Write in this way, and perhaps make your last two lines rhyme or use
alliteration (or neither) and call it classical poetry. It is that easy. If you
don't know the number of syllables, simply look it up in a dictionary."
In his wonderfully polished prose Mantyk has reduced poetry to elementary math!
All we need is a dictionary and the ability to add, and we will immediately be
classical poets! If you're not good at basic math, perhaps consider using a calculator
or smart phone! But even ticks on a piece of scrap paper will do. A few quick
ticks and you too can call yourself a classical poet!
Who can possibly doubt such wisdom? Now, moving quickly forward, in the first chapter of his how-to
manual about writing classical poetry for the ages, Mantyk includes, by way of
example, the following exemplary lines:
This pristine orbs,
That's how it's done! Mantyk then proceeds to teach us how to write a "high-level classical" sonnet.
His genius staggers as he oh-so-eloquently explains:
A fragile yet audacious batch
Seem hopeless until they reveal
A rainbow patch.
"The genius of poetry is
partially in the ability to convey a lot in a few words and make those few words
catchy and attractive to your audience."
Now under normal circumstances I might quibble with the terms "catchy" and "attractive," but these are
definitely not normal circumstances. We are, after all, dealing with the self-appointed SAVIORS OF POETRY!"
Or, to be perfectly clear, we are in the presence of the HEAD MESSIAH HIMSELF!
Furthermore, Mantyk is
an incredibly astute judge of
politics and politicians:
In Donald Trump we've found a man
It sounds like Trump is gazing at a certain tiny toadstool-like appendage and
fantasizing bigly. In addition to writing highly original poetry in impeccable English, Mantyk also translates Chinese poetry
sublimely. His translation of the "Ballad of Mulan" concludes:
Who can the tides of time withstand,
A seasoned duke, of vision strong,
Who sees the picture hard and long.
The male hares' feet go hop and skip
A very good question! Befuddling diction and grammar aside, Mantyk is not shy about
tooting his own and the Society's horns:
And female hares look muddled,
But when their running at good clip,
How can't one get befuddled?
"The Society of Classical Poets is reviving poetry with rhyme and meter and the
response has been widespread and tremendous. Since the Society was founded in
2012, we have grown from a daily blog with weekly posts to a major non-profit
organization publishing the highest quality poetry on a daily basis, as well as insightful essays, reviews, and the most exquisite art.
People have been waiting for the return of real poetry, poetry that has clear
thinking, discipline in form, and virtue in spirit, and now it has arrived."
Now, all jests aside, I do worry that the Keystone Scops may be
overdoing this "highest quality poetry"
thingy! Do federal truth-in-advertising regulations apply to literary journals?
Could the head marketer end up in pinstripes? A friend who
perused my first draft of this review suggested that the Society ought to
change its name to Solecisms 'R US. A dash of honestly may be in order, if only
to avoid the hoosegow! But in any case, I will close the book on Mantyk, at least for now, with this observation from a
"The world is truly awaiting the return of great poetry and we are giving it to them."
Readers can decide for themselves if Mantyk has fulfilled any of his extravagant claims. Call
me a skeptic, but I have my doubts. Have the proper authorities been notified?
Since I questioned the Keystone Scops in public, I have been
called a "hillbilly," a "failed editor" who publishes
"greeting card verse," etc.
The "hillbilly" charge was leveled by Dr. Joseph S. Salemi, who explained that I am a
hillbilly, not because I live in Tennessee, which would make him a bigot, but
because I lack "cultured self-restraint." I found that amusing, because
where Salemi is
known in literary circles, it is primarily for his lack of civility, manners and
self-restraint. From this point forward I will always think of him, perhaps not
affectionately, as Hillbilly Salemi.
Another Salemi charge is that I am not as
advanced a theologian as he is. I will plead guilty on that count, since I do find
it difficult to develop advanced theories about the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny
and other Imaginary Friends.
If I'm a "failed editor" who publishes "greeting card verse" why did Salemi not
only submit poems and articles to me for publication, but at times urge me
to publish them more quickly? Was he in a hurry to get his greeting card
verse published, or did he consider The HyperTexts to be a good and
reputable publisher of his more serious work?
And why did the Keystone Scops recruit me?
After I won one of the Society's first poetry contests
(couplets) and finished second in another (quatrains), I was offered a position
on the masthead or board—I forget which—the board, I think. But when I studied
the SCP website while considering the offer, I quickly became convinced that it was a
hopeless cause. There were far too many error-riddled poems being published. The
editors either didn't bother to edit, or lacked the ability. (Having read
Mantyk's poems, marketing materials and how-to manual, I strongly suspect the
Furthermore, some of the poems and critiques I discovered on the SCP
website were quite clearly racist and/or homophobic. Really ugly stuff.
More recently, I questioned a post by Salemi in which he seemed to be rallying
to do something about "faggots" in the church and society in general.
During the ensuing debate, Mantyk informed me that anything said in defense of
homosexuality would be deleted by him, because homosexuality is a "sin." When I
asked Mantyk how he knows that
homosexuality is a "sin," he refused to answer
and even deleted my purposely mild questions. But the posts attacking homosexuals were allowed
to stand. Is Mantyk afraid to answer questions about the source and validity of his
beliefs? If so, why? Is it because his beliefs are based on the Bible, a book
that endorses slavery, sex slavery, infanticide, matricide, ethnic cleansing,
genocide, the murder of rape victims, and the gruesome stoning of children to
death for misdemeanors? If the
Bible is wrong about such horrors, as it so clearly is, how can anyone rely on it
for guidance when the topic is human sexuality? As I once observed, having
read the Bible from cover to cover as a child:
half the Bible
I still prefer my childhood take on the Bible to the "advanced theology" of
Baptist pastors and Catholic popes. But be that as it may, I hope most
Christians and non-Christians will agree that impossible-to-verify religious
beliefs should not be used to condemn, damn or discriminate against people who
are doing no one else any harm. When playing pickup basketball, we used to say
"No harm, no foul." Someone having darker skin does me no harm. Someone being a
law-abiding Muslim does me no harm. Sex between consenting adults, however
unorthodox, does me no harm. Yes, we need laws against rape and pedophilia, but
why not agree to live and let live whenever there is no harm and thus no foul?
Unfortunately this does not
seem to be the case with the Society of Classical Poets, based on the evidence
of their website and the censorship I experienced there. (BTW, I'm not the only
poet to have been censored by Mantyk, since a poet named William Krusch opined
that "any intellectual, reason-based argument seems to be banned here at the
SCP." And I have seen other poets' posts get deleted for being "too liberal" on
certain unmentionable topics.)