The HyperTexts

James sale: blue light special

Is James Sale a poet, essayist and/or book reviewer of note, or is he offering readers the literary version of a fire sale, a rummage sale, a garage sale, or a Blue Light Special?

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. I am also suggesting that James Sale should officially adopt one of the terms above as his middle name. I will now present evidence to support my helpful suggestion ...

by Michael R. Burch

Related Pages: The Society of Classical Poets, A Review of the Society's Literary Journal, Joseph Charles MacKenzie: Poet or Pretender?, 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

James Sale may not be the world's most popular poet. His website has links to four YouTube videos. At the time I started this review, the videos have a whopping eight to forty views, with not a single "like."

Sale did win the SCP's 2017 Poetry Competition, but I would insist on a recount because he won with lines like these: "But then … but then, having deigned to turn, / She turned once more to stare and doing, burn." If we could get paid $500 for writing lines that bad, we'd soon be set for life! But wait, because it gets worse ... much worse, if that is possible. Another "winning" Sale poem is (at least theoretically) an imitation of Shakespeare's Sonnet 107; it begins: "My love looks fresh, as every lovers' [sic] does, / For dateless ages, or at least until / The cosy comforts of settling down close / Atom-fired collisions of will to will ..."

One can only assume the judges immediately committed Hari-Kari and there was no one left to toss the "sonnet" in the reject bin.

This is the first sentence in James "Fire" Sale's website bio: "James has been writing poetry for 50 years now and has been extensively involved in many aspects of it, as well as writing it!" The bio excitedly informs us that Sale has "run workshops" for young poets, including one related to the "Shell Young Poet of Year" award. But shouldn't someone who runs workshops know that "of Year" is incorrect; where is the missing "the"? The next sentence exults: "He has been into dozens of schools and entertained, taught and encouraged children in the classroom and in their assemblies." Been into schools, really? A bit further down: "Also, he has been extensively published in writing poetry books for schools." Presumably Sale means that he has been published in books about writing poetry, for schools. And so it goes ... on ... and on ... and on ...

My advice to this Keystone Scop is that he should stop mentoring and hire a ghost writer, pronto!

James "Garage" Sale's bio informs us that he is now on the Advisory Board of the Society of Classical No-Wits, where he is presumably collaborating with other grammar-challenged writers like Evan Mantyk.

It's as if the tone-deaf shower singers who failed most miserably on American Idol decided to create a new "talent show" and appoint themselves the judges. Mantyk and Sale are poetry's William Hung and Keith Beukelaer, with the added complication that they're running the dumbed-down show.

Sale seems to fancy himself a literary critic, despite his herculean struggles with the English language. Recently, Sale reviewed Carol Smallwood's poetry collection In the Measuring with comical results. He also revealed his blond male chauvinist roots in the process. After citing two Smallwood poems as examples, Sale said: "Yes, there are several poems in it that I don't rate much at all, but there are many masterful (if she will forgive that gender-specific adjective) gems which really shine." Thus, mastery is a male thing according to Sale! Women need not apply, or it's a shock if they somehow rise to the alpha male level! Sale's verbal awkwardness is on full display in sentences like: "She really is like, to take an analogy, one of those sword smiths who hammer the metal again and again and again till it becomes unbreakably hard, and sharp, and so is fit for purpose." Does one "take" an analogy or "make" one? Fit for what purpose? Here's more wrenching awkwardness: "'Catching On' demonstrates in its very title a mindful ambiguity in the title." Sale has apparently read Mantyk's instruction manual for classical poets and copied his slipshod style. Once more Sale demonstrates his narrow-mindedness: "Do we ever really 'catch on' to – and genuinely feel philosophies like Copernicus', or Darwin's, or 'women's equality', or do they all simply remain fads that we pay lip service to whilst we remain the ego at the centre of our own universe?" According to Sale, women's equality is a fad, like rising and falling hemlines, or like vacillating between believing the earth circles the sun and vice versa! To make bad matters worse, Sale can't keep his grammar or his pronouns straight in the middle of his woman bashing: "Clearly, reading the whole collection, Carol Smallwood is a feminist, but not an ideologist who as a result of their ideology has sacrificed all their intelligence and so ends up in the Orwellian position of bleating 'four legs good, two legs bad' (for which read: women good, men bad, or any other binary opposition)." Sale then finishes writing off equality of the sexes with: "The fundamental flaw of feminism is that it is purely political; it never addresses the issue of human nature, and the flaws running through both genders. Put another way, it's utopian, and like all utopias, it will fail."

Oink! Oink!

Another SCP regular, James A. Tweedie, responded to this ungrammatical sexist mishmash with: "Heavens to Betsy, James! You are one of the finest communicators in the world!"

Yes, and the Keystone Kops were the finest law enforcers in the world!

Sale's mission in life is apparently to mangle the English language beyond recognition. For instance, in his fawning review of three books by Dr. Joseph S. Salemi, Sale takes pidgin English to unfathomable new lows:
So much of what Professor writes rings true, although caustically so.

Even the title itself, which picks up through alliteration completely dissimilar ideological domains and thereby semantically yokes them together. Superb.

A brilliant example of a Jonson and Browning-influenced poem combined is Mr Salemi’s “Volpone in the Stocks” where he directly cites Jonson (Volpone, incidentally, one of the greatest plays in the English language, and produced in the same year, 1606, as Shakespeare’s King Lear: indeed, Volpone could be construed as the comedic equivalent of the tragic Lear) but enters, a la Browning, into the mind of Volpone. 
Sales concludes, as the Keystone Scops invariably do, that a poet of their number is a "major poet" or the greatest this, that or the other. Thus Salemi is automatically a "major poet." But when considering such claims one must consider the source. I will, however, agree with Sale on two points: the ones where he describes Salemi's vitriolic rants about women, Native Americans and other targets of his intolerance as "vicious" and "pungent." 

James Sale's Bill of Goods

James "Rummage" Sale has said extravagant things about Joseph Charles MacKenzie, a poet I call
Muck the Magnificent because he makes magnificent claims about his poetry, but then seems to seems to mostly wallow in the mire. Would the greatest lyric poet of all time produce clunkers like the following lines, which I combed directly from poems published by The Keystone Scops? 
Edward, the Cross no more on England’s shores
Thy people blesses ...

Alas, my song cannot unburthen care ...

And just as wax doth melt before the flame ...

Maria! Be thy name at life's eclipse
The final sound that leaves my dying lips.

Though I be still, my thoughts like roses bloom ...
Those are just a few bad examples the tip of an enormous iceberg that threatens to leave Muck's reputation in the same condition as the Titanic's. And yet on his impressive (or impressed-with-himself) website, MacKenzie informs us that he offers poetry that is "100% Beautiful 100% Meaningful 100% True." His website further informs us that "The appearance of Joseph Charles MacKenzie's Sonnets for Christ the King, marks a significant paradigm shift in the history of Anglo-American poetry." The wayward comma aside, is it not obvious that we are in the presence of a staggering genius? Muck's breathless press release tells us that his book contains "major poetry by a major poet" and that he is "one of the foremost sonneteers in the world." (Like Shakespeare!) Who has made such extravagant claims for Muck? None other than James Sale, a "Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts." (What, no peerage?)

Oddly, Sale has an unnamed reviewer of his review who breathlessly informs us that when one is reviewing a budding Shakespeare, one must really think and plan ahead:
"Sale is also the first reviewer to have recognized that the Sonnets for Christ the King are a veritable sequence, as opposed to a mere collection, of poems. The distinction is significant because it establishes for future scholars a just evaluation of the work as a whole, sparing generations to come the kind of debates that continue to hover above Shakespeare's Sonnets published in 1610."
Now we can all die and rest easy, knowing that Muck's masterpieces will not be judged on their individual merits, nor as a collection, but as a "veritable sequence"! Are you as relieved as I am? Someone really must transport Sale back in time so that we can properly identify Shakespeare's sonnets as a friggin' sequence! Time travel has no higher purpose!

The mysterious reviewer of Sale's review of Muck's sonnets also informs us that:
"More than a review, the penetrating piece offers many oblique lessons in the art of poetics via the meticulous analysis of MacKenzie's sonnets. Sale possesses a clear, infallible understanding of the unique features of the English sonnet for which his own country is renowned. [The sonnet is in his effin' genes!] ... Indeed, as Sale demonstrates with unimpeachable acumen, it is precisely that fidelity to the sonnet's unchanging form that produces the enigmatic power of the Sonnets for Christ the King. And yet, as Sale suggests, that power has an even deeper source in what he calls 'Mackenzie's attitude to the Christian story,' an attitude he considers 'the nearest approximation we can get to "truth"'."
Wouldn't a "penetrating piece" with "meticulous analysis" offer non-oblique lessons? Are we to believe that Sale has "infallible understanding" and "unimpeachable acumen"? I, for one, remain unconvinced. And what about Sale's poetry? The ever-informative Evan Mantyk asks and answers Art's ultimate question: "Where is beauty today? At a time when it seems merely an elusive myth, James Sale brings us beautiful poetry." But still I remain unconvinced, citing the concluding stanzas of Sale's poem "The Funeral" by way of example:
It is with wonder now I think
How Adam strove manfully to hold
His Eve – mother! – breaking down
As touching Abel all his cold.

It is with wonder shall I think
Of earth and that first funeral?
One day ahead, no longer myth,
And God raises One, quite literal.
Now, the argument may be made that it's unfair to judge a poet by a few lines. Here is my counter-argument: Have you ever read anything as remotely bad that was published by any great poet, in the entire history of literature? Shouldn't major poets have the taste and discrimination not to allow the public to read such mediocrities and horrors with their names and reputations attached?

The only thing noteworthy about the writing of James "Going Out of Business" Sale, in my opinion, is how wrenchingly awkward it is. Since he can't possibly sing any worse than he writes, perhaps he should give up poetry and audition for a talent show. If he doesn't win, he and Mantyk can always create their own contest and serve as the judges. And they will probably have at least eight to forty viewers, albeit without any "likes."

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