The HyperTexts

The Society of Classical Poets: Arrogance and Incompetence

The Society of Classical Poets, better known as The Keystone Scops, have begun nominating each other for Poet Laureate of the United States! How amusing, when their website is littered with grammatical errors and some of the most-published poets, including top scop Evan Mantyk, struggle mightily with the English language. For instance...

• Evan Mantyk, founder, president and editor-in-chief of the SCP, apparently believes he can "save" poetry without bothering to (or, more likely, being able to) write intelligible sentences. For instance, in his opening remarks about an SCP "symposium," speaking in pidgin English, Antic Mantyk said of himself: "He says that poets using rhyme and meter that these keys the revival of poetry are what have gotten many poets ridiculed by their free verse peers who often pigeon hole rhyming poetry as poorly written."

Ridiculed? Surely not!

• "You cannot categorically label our poetry 'doggerel' and write us off," Mantyk stated. Well, perhaps not, since we have no idea what you're trying to say. Does it rise to the level of doggerel? But we can quote you, and write you off as categorically incapable of passing a fifth grade grammar quiz.

• This is what happens when Evan Mantyk tunes his lyre to love poetry:

But you and I, we’ve grown together up;
Our shadows constant trouble for each other
That’s made us stronger since they did disrupt
The lazy impulse that can slowly smother...

Mantyk proved once again that he's clueless about English punctuation and grammar, with the not-so-immortal lines:

There is something there that loves a wall:
The easy car trip when your loved ones' call—
No need to worry cows might block the road
And pepper it with putrid, pie-like load.

• Antic Mantyk threw classical poetry under the bus by calling it "clothing with a shred of dignity" compared to the nakedness of free verse. Talk about damning with faint praise!

• Incomprehensibly, according to his bio Mantyk teaches history and English. And we wonder why our educational system is in such a shambles.

• The Society claims that it 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, Evan Mantyk, "Writing Classical Poetry Is Easy (Technically)." This 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 count, 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,
A fragile yet audacious batch
Seem hopeless until they reveal
A rainbow patch.
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:
"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!"

There are a few scops who can eke out grammatically correct sentences but fall far short of the art of poetry. For instance, a certain Susan Jarvis Bryant, who specializes in over-alterative unintentional doggerel.

Ms. Bryant has written a peeve.
Ignore it, she’s out of her league.
—Michael R. Burch

In my original 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 also posited the questions: What happens when near-infinite pretension has intercourse with massive incompetence? Are poets likely to pop out, or pretenders? Emperors with clothes, or without?

The Keystoners quickly answered my questions by claiming members of their glee club, which operates at a junior varsity level, if that, are now candidates for Poet Laureate! Thus they have earned a new nickname: Laureates 'R' US. Although in their case it would be more like Semi-Literate Poet Lariats 'R' US.

"Gnashional Anthem of the Keystone Scops" by Michael R. Burch

CAVEAT EMPTOR: The Society of Classical Poets has apparently become a vanity publication. Members must now purchase the SCP's journal and provide proof of purchase in order to remain members. This appears to be the case even for members who weren't included in the journal in question, so the SCP has seemingly gone "beyond vanity." Because previous journals have been riddled with errors and lackluster poems, this seems like a vastly unfair policy. First, one must pay to become a member. Then one must buy shoddy merchandise in order to remain a member. Whatever happened to putting out books that people want to buy?

When they published the names of the winning poems in their 2022 International Poetry Competition, the Keystone Scops got the title of the first-place poem wrong! The first winning poem was "A Holy Picnic" but they published the title incorrectly in their newsletter and on their website. The grammar-challenged scops left out the article.

Don Shook recently shook up the literary worldalthough not enough to bother anyone to swat the annoying gadfly awayby crying out to God Almighty for free verse be replaced by claptrap like his:

There is a scourge that permeates our midst
Which we cannot so easily dismiss.
Elitists strive to elevate this curse;
A type of art most poets call free verse.

Once again the Keystone Scops have demonstrated that they don't know the difference between colons and semicolons. Once again, by writing and publishing wrenchingly bad formal verse, the Keystoners have strengthened the argument for free verse. The best argument for free verse is that good formal verse lies far beyond the capabilities of incompetent contemporary poets and should thus be avoided, the way tone-deaf shower singers should avoid singing opera in public. Why do the scops keep giving aid, comfort and ammunition to their enemies?

by Michael R. Burch

Related Pages: The Society of Classical Poets, A Review of the Society's Literary Journal, Evan Mantyk's Poetic Tic, Joseph Charles MacKenzie: Poet or Pretender?, 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, "Gnashional Anthem of the Keystone Scops" by Michael R. Burch

Laureates 'R' US

The initial cry for the next American Poet Laureate to come from their midst was made by the Keystone Scops in the form of a poem by the very appropriately named Dusty Grein. This awkward "Help us elect one of our own" poem was delivered in very dusty language indeed. It begins ...

Choose Wisely

Calling for the next U.S. Poet Laureate to be a traditional rhyming poet

A double refrained chant royal in iambic pentameter

O harken to my plea, as I implore,
from need, true classic poetry to save.
Sweet words in rhyming rhythms we adore,
and metered lines, like those the masters gave; ...

Dusty dustily laments the fact (according to him) that traditional poetry is bleeding and dying while other classical forms of art, such as opera, are still going strong. If he's correct, he may have given us a YUGE clue as to the real source of the problem:

In music we still find the softened roar
of classic opera songs still oft are craved;

There is more—a LOT more—but believe me, you don't want to read it. Dusty Grein is best taken in very small doses, if at all. This excruciatingly terrible "classical" poem may serve as an advertisement for the advantages of Modernism, but it is not going to persuade anyone with an ear for good poetry to "choose wisely." The poem was published on the SCP website with the heading "An Open Letter to Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, by Dusty Grein." Apparently the SCP will be contacting Carla Hayden with the poem and other similar poems and letters, in an attempt to address past wrongs. But what about the crime of publishing this trainwreck? I only wish I could be there to hear Ms. Hayden's guffaws and chortles when she reads Grein's poem. If she's drinking anything at the time, I suspect it will be expelled violently through her nostrils.  

The first comment posted about Grein's poem mentioned the creation of an SCP "mission statement." Mission Impossible, perhaps? Will Tom Cruise star as an aging classical poet who struggles to write decent English but nonetheless wants to be the Savior of Poetry?

Joseph Charles MacKenzie aka "Muck the Magnificent" immediately dismissed the Librarian of Congress with the extremely tolerant observation that "Carla Hayden was appointed by her long-time personal friend Barack Obama, according to journalist Amanda Prestigiacomo because 'she has a uturus [sic] and is black.'" Muck then offered his own opinion (no quotation marks) that Tracie [sic] K. Smith was appointed to a second term as Poet Laureate of the United States "because she's black and radicalized."

(NOTE: Tracy K. Smith is an accomplished poet who has, in my opinion, written better poems than anything by MacKenzie that I've read to date. I offer as evidence her poems "Wade in the Water," "Duende" and "Don't You Wonder, Sometimes?" I believe it's wrong to say that a poet has been appointed Poet Laureate "because she's black and radicalized" when in reality she is deserving of the honor, based on her work.)

Joe Tessitore introduced a note of sanity when he observed: "I did not get past his fifth line [of Grein's poem]. I wonder if the general public or the Librarian of Congress will do any better?"

Not unless she really needs to have her nostrils irrigated!

Evan Mantyk then issued a call for more poems on the subject: "You have a good point. Please do write a shorter poem on the same topic and submit it. We are looking for many letters on this topic to Ms. Hayden and/or President Trump."

Therefore it seems this upcoming episode of Mission Impossible will star Cruise trying to get Trump to read a poem! The SCP's theme song should be "(To Dream) The Impossible Dream" played in an extremely plaintive minor key.

Grein then defended his indefensible poem at great length by blaming modern attention spans! Readers are to blame: for instance, Joe Tessitore! James Tweedie quickly "thanked" Grein for throwing Tessitore under the bus, while calling him "Rusty" in an interesting irony. Did he do it on purpose? Mantyk then threw classical poetry under the bus by calling it "clothing with a shred of dignity" compared to the nakedness of free verse. Talk about damning with faint praise!

Amy Foreman then asked if SCP poets should "flood" Ms. Hayden's desk with "similar poetic pleas" either in emails or "letters under the banner of the SCP."

Grein replied with a smiley face emoticon that he thought such flooding was Mantyk's "intent."

Someone named Monty then threw Tessitore under the bus for having the good sense to stop reading Grein's terrible poem at the fifth line.

On an amusing note, Tessitore later wrote his own poem imploring Carla Hayden to select a classical poet as the next Poet Laureate: "Ms. Hayden, On Your Selection of Our Next Poet Laureate." But Tessitore disqualified the scops by asking Ms. Hayden to find someone who has "applied his pen" to "verse which is sublime and grand." There is obviously nothing "sublime" or "grand" about the ungrammatical "poetry" being published by the SCP. Tessitore asked Ms. Hayden to find someone "who writes for all to read." Since the SCP website crawls with racist, sexist, homophobic and other intolerant comments, it's obvious that a large percentage of the American reading public will not want to peruse anything the scops write. Tessitore asked Ms. Hayden to choose someone "who is from all pretension freed." But the scops are all about pretension (and inversions). Tessitore continued his checklist with a poet who can be "subtle." But there is nothing subtle about the scops. The scops are a subtle as a burning cross on a synagogue lawn. The next checklist item was a poet "whose message speaks to young and old." But most young Americas do not approve of racism, sexism, homophobia or religious intolerance, so once again Tessitore eliminated his fellow scops from consideration.

The first SCP poet mentioned as a candidate for Poet Laureate was Leo Yankevich, who calls himself a Polish count and claims to live in a castle in Poland. Such things apparently mean no more to the Keystone Scops than the stopping power of real bullets would matter to the Keystone Kops.

Even Tom Cruise couldn't get a Polish count appointed Poet Laureate of the United States, so let's consider the other nominees ...

Fortunately, Mantyk named his top three picks for the next Poet Laureate:

Joseph Charles MacKenzie
Joseph S. Salemi
C. B. Anderson

SCP Lurker, a poet who "listens in" on the SCP website but no longer posts there due to the Inquisition-like censorship, observed: "Well, we know that M the M, should he be selected for the honor, will be campaigning to bring back hanging. Salemi will probably campaign for making sodomy illegal again (and possibly a capital crime), keeping women in aprons and the nursery, and of course for Frank's [Pope Francis's] impeachment or excommunication. CB will call for the capture and burning alive of the 'foul beast.'"

Lurker suggested that the new movement needed a catchy name: "It would be less misleading if they called their New Millennial Movement the 17th Century Revivalist Movement. But something simpler, like The Bowel Movement, would also suffice."

Lurker concluded: "Their delusions of grandeur are something to behold. Not to mention their delusions in general."

Now, since Evan Mantyk is the SCP's top dog (although perhaps not the height of coherence), let's take a closer look at his nominations ...

I will begin with the least likely of the three, C. B. Anderson. Unlike most of the SCP's motley crew, Anderson is not a terrible poet. He can and does write grammatically correct sentences for the most part, and that immediately raises him to an exalted level among the generally semiliterate scops. But in order to be considered for Poet Laureate, a poet would have to have written some exceptional poems, or at least a few that were very good. I have read a number of Anderson's poems over the years, and I can honestly say that none of them ever struck me as very good, much less exceptional. Anderson seems like a journeyman to me; thus I cannot take his nomination seriously. 

The second scop nominated, Dr. Joseph S. Salemi, is a better poet than Anderson, although in my opinion he is not Poet Laureate material either. Even if the field were narrowed down strictly to formalists, there are several contemporary formalists living in the United States whose best poems eclipse Salemi's, in my opinion, including Jack Butler, Jared Carter, Rhina P. Espaillat, X. J. Kennedy and Robert Mezey. And that's just five names off the top of my head. If we include poets of other genres, as we should, there are others more deserving, again in my opinion. But in any case Salemi rejected Mantyk's nomination, observing: "I'm not the gregarious type." That is radical understatement, since Salemi is well known for ranting about "faggots," "feminist bitches," "liberal scum," etc. If Salemi were appointed Poet Laureate, I would expect his occasional poems to have titles like "Ode to Homophobia" and "Feminist, Desist!" So let's cross Salemi off the list.

That leaves us with Joseph Charles MacKenzie, or Muck the Magnificent.

Here are things Joseph Charles MacKenzie the literary critic has said about Joseph Charles MacKenzie the poet, or that he has quoted. These claims have been made about MacKenzie on his personal website and/or the SCP website:

Muck is northern New Mexico's third traditional lyric poet, after two poets unknown to 99.9% of the reading public. (Thus he would be a minor poet, at best.)
Muck is New Mexico's "first traditional lyric poet." (Muck is quickly moving up the poetic ladder, according to Muck, but this is not Shakespeare territory ... yet.)
Muck's sonnets mark "a significant paradigm shift in the history of Anglo-American poetry." (A shift toward self-aggrandizement, perhaps?)
Muck's latest book contains "major poetry by a major poet." (Did Muck join the army and get promoted from captain?)
Muck is "one of the foremost sonneteers in the world." (How quickly "major" advancement comes, when one engages in self-promotion!)
Muck's sonnets have "surpassed many of Shakespeare's." (Not just one or two! A whole bunch!)
Muck has produced "the finest, most beautiful lyric verse the world has not seen in over 100 years." (Well, the "not seen" part seems accurate, at least.)
Muck has produced "the finest, most beautiful lyric poetry ever produced in our language." (Muck has now promoted Muck to the top of the class, ahead of Shakespeare as a lyric poet!)

With that final grandiloquent statement we must conclude that Muck is the greatest lyric poet in the history of the English language, or that the "big fish" has been getting bigger and bigger, exponentially. I am going to lean toward the second theory, as you have probably guessed by now. Here are a few reasons why ...

Evidence That Muck May, Possibly, Not Be Greater Than Shakespeare

Muck has certainly made magnificent claims for himself, but can he live up to them? Would the greatest lyric poet of all time, or even of the last hundred years, 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 good (or very bad) examples. Many more can be found by anyone valiant, longsuffering and patient enough to wade through Muck's opus. One SCP critic remarked that MacKenzie writes as if in an "Elizabethan time warp." Another observed that he dresses up his poems in "period costumes." In addition to frequently employing wrenching archaisms and inversions, Muck resorts to trite phrases like "oceans blue" in order to achieve end rhyme.

Muck also says things that make little sense to achieve end rhyme, such as "... to fight / Against the German Marxist and his spite." Does one go to war to fight and possibly die over "spite"? Or is "spite" just there to rhyme with "fight"? The poem in question seems to be about World War II because it mentions British soldiers fighting in France, fire raining down from the skies over London, and the "many" owing so much to the "few" (an obvious reference to Winston Churchill's famous ringing declaration). So apparently the "German Marxist" is Hitler, although in reality Hitler was one of the world's fiercest and deadliest anti-Marxists. He sent German communists and socialists to Nazi concentration camps and ordered mass slaughters of Russian communists. So Muck seems to either have a very poor grasp of history or little use for the truth. Does he get his version of "history" from conspiracy theorists and Faux News, perhaps? But all that aside, who would ever say that British soldiers were fighting against Hitler's "spite"? I am forced to conclude that Muck falls far short of Shakespeare and other great lyric poets who didn't settle for easy-but-nonsensical rhymes.

Still, this is just the tip of an enormous iceberg that threatens to leave Muck's reputation in the same condition as the Titanic's ...

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." (Again like Shakespeare!) Who has made such extravagant claims for Muck? Another Society mainstay, James Sale, a "Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts." (What, no peerage?) As I pointed out in my review of The Keystone Scops, extravagant claims have also been made for Mr. Sale.

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!

Here is the first sonnet that I found on Muck's impressively verbose website! (Please keep in mind that, as Muhammad Ali once pointed out, "It ain't braggin' if you can back it up.") This is the promised 100% Beauty 100% Meaningfulness and 100% Truth:
The Bridge
On the Westminster Bridge Massacre, 22 March 2017
By Joseph Charles MacKenzie

When Wordsworth stood upon that bridge most fair,
And wondered if some gloomy passer-by
Could be so dim that London's majesty
Would never touch his dullness, unaware, ...
And things go rapidly downhill after that very rocky start. Wordsworth may be rolling over in his grave, but probably not with pleasure. And where-oh-where are the consumer protection watchdogs when we really need them? Or take this "poem" Muck tweeted to his Twitter followers (all 19 of them, he's so incredibly popular):
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
The bells of change are clanging.
My lines for Trump came out today,
now bring back death by hanging.
But bad writing and calls for "death by hanging" are not the worst of Muck. Let's take a look at "The Swallows of La Cienega," a very odd "love" poem that almost immediately produced premature ejaculations of praise for ethnic cleansers in the SCP's comments section ...

In his copious notes on the poem, Muck explained that its setting was El Rancho de las Golondrinas ("The Ranch of the Swallows") and that the ranch had been used as "rest stop" by Don Juan Bautista de Anza and his expeditionary force in 1780. De Anza was a far-ranging Conquistador and military adventurer who established the location for the Presidio de San Francisco. According to Muck's gushings, de Anza "saved the northern New Mexico pueblo of Taos by winning a decisive victory against the savages of southern Colorado. So efficient were his military tactics, that, by 1784, he had the barbarians suing for peace." Then, long after his death, de Anza was disinterred and reburied in a "magnificent marble memorial mausoleum." In his word choices, one can feel Muck's reverence for the "civilized" conqueror and his disdain for the backwards victims. De Anza's victims were "savages" and "barbarians" even though he was the one invading their native land to savagely attack and barbarically murder them. Apparently, Muck would have us believe that de Anza deserves to be honored because he was the good guy! Has Muck watched too many John Wayne movies, not realizing they were heavily fictionalized? Has he forgotten or never learned that Conquistador means "conqueror" and that the conquerors of the New World were the ones who ignited the native resistance with their bloody conquests?

De Anza kept a diary, so we know in his own words what really happened. In a diary entry about one military excursion he led against Comanches, de Anza wrote: "With this loss, those which have been referred to, which the Comanches suffered on the 31st, 2nd and 3rd, with that which is stated at the pueblo Taos amount to fifty-eight men and sixty-three women and children, making a total of one hundred and thirty-one persons." (Juan Bautista de Anza, September 10, 1779). That was just a few days' work for de Anza and his lethal charges. How many other women and children did men under de Anza's command kill, in his years of campaigning?

When another poet, James Tweedie, questioned Muck's use of "savages" and "barbarians" to describe Native Americans, Muck was quick to set him straight: "To address your question about the savages, I can assure you that only my Puebloan ancestors, by embracing the Catholic faith, were able to progress along the path of true civilization." (So only Native Americans who converted to Catholicism, probably at the point of a gun to avoid being murdered, were able to "progress" to "true civilization." Praise the Lord and pass the popcorn!) Muck then proclaimed: "It is not by virtue of a people's race that they are savages, but by dint of their behavior." But what about the behavior of "Christians" who murdered men, women and children in their lust for land and gold?

In his usual pompous way, Muck rejected Rousseau's image of the "noble savage" while at the same time trying to make a "Christian" savage seem noble.

Unsurprisingly, Dr. Joseph S. Salemi chimed in with: "God bless the great Columbus and his far-reaching discoveries. And God bless Don Juan Bautista De Anza, the conquistador who founded our Presidio, and who saved Taos from the savage incursions." Of course there was no mention of the fact that the first savage incursions were made by de Anza and his vastly superior military force.

Muck responded to Salemi's grandiose blessings of ethnic cleansers with one of his specialties, incoherent fawning: "So the world is also grateful that it possesses one such as yourself who has been trained in the traditional disciplines of history and philology whith [sic] their irrevocable insistance [sic] on time and place."

According to Muck, Native Americans were very lucky to have been ethnically cleansed, and were even luckier to have been given a portrait of the ethnic-cleanser-in-chief: "My Indian ancestors were, as Fray Alonso de Benevides reports, the most enthusiastic beneficiaries of Spain's wonderful "entrada" into New Mexico, so much so that our Most Christian King of Spain regaled the Acoma people with a significant token of His Majesty's esteem in the form of a portrait of himself which, when I was young, did hang on the Gospel side of the Santuario de San Esteban at Acoma. This has since been removed by the new barbarians of the Indian left, robotically pre-programmed by Berkely's [sic] fascist identity-makers via our local university system, in what has become a desperate attempt to erase the very history which made the Puebloans of New Mexico a good and devout people."

So according to Muck the "only good Injun" is one who bows down to the god and religion of his immensely superior white masters. Muck is sure to become the Poet Laureate of the KKK, unless Salemi beats him to it.

Muck concluded his white supremacist revision of history by calling "Cristobal Colon" the "liberator" of the Americas from the "darkness of pagan oppression and internicean [sic] genocide." Yes, how absolutely wonderful and liberating it was to replace pagan genocide with much more effective "Christian" genocide! The good Lord must be immensely pleased! Praise Christ and pass the communion wafers!

Whether "The Swallows of La Cienega" is a beautiful love poem is a matter of opinion. I would not give it high marks myself, so I tend to doubt Salemi's abilities as a literary critic. But to watch the discussion of a "love" poem disintegrate into expressions of complete disdain for the victims of ethnic cleansing and genocide, while their "Christian" abusers and murderers were being showered with glory, was to see poetry become an instrument of racism and intolerance. And that seems to be par for the course with the Keystone Scops.

Reader Observations about Joseph Charles MacKenzie aka Muck the Magnificent

For those uninitiated into the wonders blunders of Muck the Magnificent, he has claimed to be New Mexico's "first lyric poet." New Mexico has been a state since 1912, but only Muck has managed to write a lyric poem! Or does he want us to believe that he is the best lyric poet New Mexico has to offer, just because he says so? Muck's website contains the modest claim that his sonnets are better than "many" of Shakespeare's. Muck promises to "elevate the human mind and heart to God through the finest, most beautiful lyric poetry ever produced in our language." His ego apparently knows no bounds (although his poetry certainly does.) Muck also wrote an "inaugural" poem for Trump that was neither solicited nor acknowledged by Trump or his campaign, to anyone's knowledge. Here are some reader observations about Muck's "inaugural" poem and his various claims to greatness ...

Trump inaugural poet Joseph Charles MacKenzie brags a former prof claimed his sonnets surpassed Shakespeare's. I'm at the threshold of hell. Brock @bdgwrn

They [the SCP] do seem to be legends in their own minds. I still find M the M [MacKenzie the Magnificent] the funniest of the lot. His grandiosity is of rather spectacular proportions. A more self-important-sounding person would be hard to imagine. It's good that he sounds so ridiculously haughty. It makes it hard not to notice how superior he sees himself as being. Many are bound to be rubbed the wrong way by that. — SCP Lurker

One poet suggested that the SCP might not seem as bad when Muck isn't posting: "His absence lately disappoints. His pompous pseudo-erudition can only make [the SCP] look even worse. I miss his inevitable grandiosity."

The same poet noted that Muck is not a model of consistency in his prose: "His abnormal psychology produces radically opposed effects reminiscent of multiple personality disorder. He is alternately possessed by devils and saints. He is always coming across as different people. His mind is radically unbalanced."

Roses are red,
Violets are blue—
Mac pushed his big head
Right up his wazoo
And each night in bed
Sniffed his rich Irish stew.
  SCP Lurker

The claim of an "inaugural" poem was dismissed by Snopes, which noted: "This poem was not commissioned by Donald Trump nor intended to be the official poem of his 2017 inauguration." The "instructions" that accompanied the poem were bogus, because there was no chance that it would be read at the inauguration. For instance, the instruction: "The refrains at the end of each stanza are to be recited by the Inaugural crowd" makes no sense when the crowd never heard the poem or even knew it existed. (As they still don't.)

When I read the poem, I was aghast, along with many other writers. The content itself was shocking if unsurprising: the reference to President Barack Obama as a "tyrant," the glowing description of "Melania the fair," the strained comparison of "Domhnall" (a Scottish form of Donald) to the Highland warriors of old. But it was the poetry itself—rigid, overwrought, and over a century out of date—that sent writers and poets into a tizzy. The poem read like a ninth grader's understanding of poetry. Morbid curiosity led me to MacKenzie's website. His bio is one of the most inflated and grandiose things I've ever read. Claiming to be "New Mexico's first traditional lyric poet" (an unprovable claim at best), Mackenzie states that his professor at St. John's College, Charles Bell, noted that his sonnets "surpassed many of Shakespeare's," a laughable claim even if the doggerel that is "Pibroch of the Domhnall" were any good. Among his listed accomplishments is "[rejecting] the crippling dogmas of modernism and [remaining] faithful to traditional principles of lyric verse." And what is so wrong with the early 20th-century literary movement called modernism? According to Mackenzie, "Backward old elites have censored traditional lyric poetry because it clashes with their Marxist-totalitarian world view. The result has been complete censorship of traditional lyric verse and the loss of the ability to produce it." This claim, at minimum, is blusterous and overblown. MacKenzie's entire bio reads like parody. Whittier Strong

Awesomely bad poem by Joseph Charles MacKenzie for Trump inauguration. Try not to sgeith! — David Meyer @dajmeyer

(sgeith: vomit, Irish sceithim, Early Irish scéimsceithim; also thin excrement as in diarrhea)

Sweet Jesus, read this poem and weep! — @fcummins

Elmer Fudd declined the invite. So there's that. — coachseinberg

Someone has raised William McGonagall from the grave, given him a lobotomy, & renamed him Joseph Charles MacKenzie. — @PaulVermeersch

William McGonagall would be embarrassed by this doggerel. — Peter Curran @moridura

The Trump [inaugural] poem is so bad that the part where he insults Trump's 'tyrant' predecessor is the least offensive part of it. — 

Donald Trump is having a tough time securing performers for his inauguration. Earlier this week, the Bruce Springsteen cover band slated to play an inauguration gala nixed its plans; before that, Broadway singer Jennifer Holliday withdrew her initial commitment to perform the night before, issuing an apology to frustrated fans. If celebrities are boycotting the event, will the president-elect risk the same rejection by trying to secure an inaugural poet? Professional authors have been among the most vocal decriers of Trump, beginning with a strongly worded open letter to voters last spring. But today, The Independent reported ― in a post initially headlined, "Donald Trump inauguration poem calls Barack Obama a ‘tyrant'" ― that a poem has been decided on, written specifically for the event by Joseph Charles MacKenzie, an American poet whose website looks confusingly like a fundraising page, requesting donations on several separate tabs. "Like receiving discounts on MacKenziePoet products?," the site's contact page reads. "Enjoy seeing how your support helps grow my lyric verses? Maybe you just want to stay in touch with a fellow traveler in the kingdom of truth and beauty." Twitter caught on, percolating the news, which, it turns out, was untrue. MacKenzie's poem — written to celebrate Trump's Scottish roots, and including the line, "With purpose and strength he came down from his tower/ To snatch from a tyrant his ill-gotten power" ― is not a confirmed inaugural reading. — Huffington Post

independent article calls him a 'celebrated american poet' but a google search of his name leads to 5 articles of 'fuck this guy' & thats it — @sashageffen

Untalented and overrated Joseph Charles MacKenzie should stick to "delivering products." Is not a poet. Very sad. — @shannonbgoode

dt's inauguration poem was written by a rando who is apparently most famous for trolling fellow catholics online — @sashageffen

I'm going to pull an Anne Sexton if I ever have to read another word this man conjured. — thereisalightontheedgeoftown

"Whilst hapless old harridans flapping their traps / Teach women to look and behave like us chaps." — crtrystate

I was reaching for my smelling salts, but I think this is a fake. — crtrystate (apparently not believing poetry so terrible can be real)

New Mexico's first lyric poet! That's rich! — fannullona

On his website it says "In civilized times, aristocratic patrons showered poets with support." Now that's a golden shower for ya. — amyandomar

Congratulations to Joseph Charles MacKenzie for being the least talented person in the entire world. It's no small accomplishment. — Josh Epstein @drjosh81

One thing is clearer than the bonnie young lassies that fly to the crowd: this poem is terrible. — Ben Yakas

I just read The Poem™ and it sounds like a toast someone wrote about 3 hours into an Irish wedding reception — Pixie Casey @pixie_casey

The evidence doesn't stack up in the poet's favor...whatever his name is... —

Just a reminder that Obama had Maya Angelou writing poems for his inaugural. Trump gets...Joseph Charles MacKenzie, whoever TF that is. — Casey Lewis @cynical_tutu

Joseph Charles MacKenzie writes poems out of pee. — witchweasel @alendrel

I don't read much poetry, but I know this is bad. Ugh. — maryjve

Ugh gawd! — mx_fizzgold

Wtf — the_kids

That poem ["The Swallows of La Cienega"] and recitation truly are an abomination. When I heard that recitation, it sounded exactly how I imagined somebody so deluded and obsessed with himself would sound. It exposes what he thinks about himself and his poetry. — an anonymous poet familiar with the Society of Classical Poets who says he will no longer publish there

In MacKenzie's "unjustified attacks" on other poets "he behaves like a ventriloquist's puppet with Salemi providing all the words and sentiments." — SCP Lurker

His website is very comprehensive and includes this humble mission statement: "My mission is simple: to comfort human souls through the finest, most beautiful lyric verse the world has not seen in over 100 years." No wonder he loves Trump, this is truly the biglyest poetry in history! — Ben Yakas

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