Quincy Lehr Answers Joseph Salemi
And naturally, here’s the expected response from Joe. Yes, yes, the essay is
a “reprint” (as The Chimaera first ran it over half a decade ago). I
submitted the essay to The HyperTexts after Mike Burch asked poets for
submissions pertinent to the interview. During our subsequent discussions, he
asked if I had written anything specifically about Salemi and his positions, so
I submitted the essay in question. I haven’t, it is true, written much about Joe
Salemi in the meantime because, well, there’s not much new to report. Indeed, in
this latest missive, Joe’s up to his usual tricks. Rather than striking any new
notes, he hits the old ones more insistently, showing himself to be less a
maestro than a kid throwing a temper tantrum in the vicinity of a piano.
Let’s start with the charge of “jealousy.” To quote the man himself:
He isn’t [interested in a debate about matters strictly poetickal]. That’s just
a cover for his political rage against me, and his sheer envy of the growing
success of TRINACRIA. It must be infuriating for him to see TRINACRIA get more
and more submissions (even from some of his left-liberal buddies), while his own
Draindown Review has all the appeal of a dead flashlight battery.
On what basis does he assert this “jealousy”? Name-calling aside, Salemi
produces his usual level of evidence, which is to say none. A thorough troll of
the internet (pun intended) would reveal periodic snide remarks about
TRINACRIA’s no-unsolicited-submissions policy, as well as a general disdain for
Salemi's editorial skills. Whatever that is, it isn’t “jealousy.” What’s more,
The Raintown Review is doing perfectly well on its own, as it happens,
and if it looks rather different than it did when Salemi edited an issue, so be
it. I’d be disappointed if it didn’t.
Regarding Joe’s poem, “To an Aging Countercultural Twit,” let’s clear up a few
things. First off, I was born in 1975, and have never been particularly hippyish
as currently understood (I remain allergic to drum circles and hackysack, eat
meat, and drink regular rather than soy milk). Do I agree with the sentiments of
the poem? Well, no, because the poem is crude, stereotypical, and a bit
simpleminded. The meter’s fine, I guess, but really, who honestly gives a fuck
if a laundry list of hippie, New Left, and New Age stereotypes happens to scan?
Competent craftsmanship may be the scaffolding of a good poem, but the walls and
floors of this one seem to be made out of spitballs. “Nyah nyah nyah” does not
equal satire. Sorry, dude.
Here’s the double standard, though—Joe can drape as many fig leafs as he wants
over the paranoid, reactionary chassis of his general shtick, but it remains a
rather rusty Pershing tank. His aesthetics and politics are clearly linked.
Again, again, and yet afuckinggain he tells the reader how this, that, or some
other poetical sin (generally with no specific examples attached) is related to
some left-liberal-Marxist-feminist-hillbilly tendency in American intellectual
life (again, with a notable paucity of examples).
As for the “Mandarin class” bit, it’s laughable. My job and education are not
radically different from Joe Salemi’s own; my connections to the White House are
non-existent; and I’m in the process of being priced out of New York City like
everybody else. Salemi’s farcical attempt at class analysis might fly with the
likes of Glenn Beck, but it doesn’t hold up so well when one pokes, probes, or
even looks at it closely.
At bottom, dealing with Joe Salemi is less a matter of intellectual sparring
than facing down a bully. Joe has his constituency, to be sure, and I’m sure
he’ll continue to fill the pages of TRINACRIA for some time. That doesn’t make
him any less of a blowhard, nor for that matter, any less whiny when challenged.
No one’s trying to “censor” him (I’m certainly not!), and claims otherwise are
obviously, transparently spurious. He's full of shit, and it's good housekeeping
to flush periodically.