The Ever More Tedious and Freaked-Out Mr. Lehr
Joseph S. Salemi
Poor Quincy. He apparently can’t distinguish “jealousy” from “envy.”
I used the latter word to describe his feeling towards TRINACRIA, and not the
former—jealousy refers to a desire to keep what you already have; envy refers to
a gnawing resentment against the fact that someone else has what you don’t.
Perhaps Lehr should audit my Greek and Latin Roots class at Hunter College.
Lehr envies TRINACRIA. He (and a number of his po-biz allies) are also
getting frightened by the fact that a number of prominent poets are now
publishing regularly in it: Jennifer Reeser, Lewis Turco, Frederick Turner,
Robert Beum, Carol A. Taylor, Claudia Gary, X.J. Kennedy, Laura J. Bobrow,
Frederick Feirstein, C.B. Anderson. For left-liberal ideologues, it is
unthinkable that anyone on the right should publish a first-rate literary
magazine, and if the magazine can’t be ignored, the next best thing is to attack
its editor viciously.
If Quincy denies that he has a profound and continuing animus against me, he’s
lying through his teeth. It’s not just a lie—it’s a preposterous lie, a
Lie Grand. He has taken and continues to take every single occasion he can
in public to make denigrating comments about me, my poetry, my aesthetic
positions, TRINACRIA, and of course my politics. That he still has the
cheek to pretend that his attacks are impersonal, and purely motivated by
literary disagreements, is breathtaking in its sheer impudence. He asks for
“examples.” Who made fun of my surname for months on end, until his own allies
like Paul Stevens and others urged him to stop? (When asked why he indulged
in this adolescent kind of absurdity, Quincy replied that he “enjoyed” insulting
me in public). Who referred to me on-line as “a loathsome douchebag”?
Who has twice in The Draindown Review made snide references to my age, and my
position as adjunct faculty? Who (in the same magazine) published a barely
disguised personal attack on me by W.F. Lantry, referring to me as a madman and
worse, and bemoaning the fact that poets were choosing to be published in my
I could go on and on about this trivia, but what’s the point? I ignored it
all when it happened, and I wouldn’t dignify it now with a mention if Quincy
hadn’t been so rash as to ask for “examples.” They are biopsy slides of
Quincy’s ingrained hatred. Anyone who maintains a grade-school vendetta of
this sort, for this long, has no business accusing me of saying “Nyah!
Nyah!” in a comic poem. The hypocrisy of such a position is more
than just laughable; it’s spooky in its bizarre, arrested-adolescent
It’s a plain and simple fact: Quincy Lehr is an envious leftist ideologue with a
driving need to denigrate me. His animus is not rooted in any hatred of my
aesthetic principles, but of my politics (unapologetically right-wing) and of my
religion (unapologetically Roman Catholic). These two things infuriate
him. By the way, I’m told that Lehr now teaches in a Roman Catholic
college. I wonder if the people there know about his strident leftism, and
his strong distaste for the Church of Rome.
In fact, I’m pretty sure that Quincy Lehr isn’t interested in the world of
letters at all, except as an auxiliary sideline to his leftist politics.
He really doesn’t care how or what you write (free verse, formal, langpo, flarf,
whatever), as long as it can be made to serve the ends of a socialist
revolution. As he himself said once in an interview—I’m paraphrasing
here—“I’d rather see one good dockworkers’ strike than a dozen new poetry
collections.” Those may not be his exact words, but that was the
Once again, what’s Lehr’s basic point about my “To an Aging Countercultural
Twit” poem? He doesn’t like it. Well, gee whiz—that really upsets me
no end. And again, he totally disregards my three quoted statements that I
do not associate my formal aesthetics (or someone else’s lack of the same) with
any particular political stance. Why does he studiously ignore them?
I’ll tell you why.
Here, of course, we come to the crux of the matter. Quincy has to insist
that my aesthetics and my politics are inseparable, because if he didn’t it
would be impossible for him to maintain his drumbeat of criticism against me
personally, against TRINACRIA, and against any “non-progressive” tendencies in
the poetry world that he fears and resents. He knows that the large
majority of persons in the poetry world are kneejerk leftists and “progressives”
of some stripe, so attacking an enemy for being “reactionary” is a convenient
shortcut to creating a reflex negative response among them. For someone who claims that
I’m the one who’s a “bully,” this is the purest hypocrisy. Calling someone a reactionary
in poetry circles today is about as courageous
as calling someone a kulak in the 1930s Soviet Union. It costs you nothing,
and it rings the chimes on conformist public orthodoxy.
And yes, Quincy is a member of the Mandarin Class that I described in those two
essays at EP&M. His comments in the penultimate paragraph of his last
reply show that he never really understood—or perhaps even bothered to
read—those two essays. Membership in the Mandarin Class of left-liberal
elitists, as I pointed out very specifically back then, has nothing to do with
jobs or salaries or rental rates or “connections to the White House” (was Lehr
drunk when he wrote that last bit?) It has to do with attitudes, beliefs, and
ideological commitments. And being in the Mandarin Class demands that one
be ferociously anti-rightist, reflexively anti-conservative, programmatically
anti-Republican, and solidly committed to all the pet causes of the
liberal-left. If someone like me comes along and shows contempt for that
mindset and those commitments, you have to go on the attack and try to discredit
him in whatever way you can. That’s what’s fueling the animus of Quincy
Lehr, and nothing else. Poetry? Deep down, Quincy doesn’t give a
damn about it.
He says he wants to see me “flushed down the toilet.” Need I say more
about the man’s peculiarly venomous disposition?