The HyperTexts

The Society of Classical Poets: Emperors Sans Clothes, the Evidence

Why do I call The Society of Classical Poets the "Keystone Scops"? Or should I have called them "Emperors Sans Clothes"? After all, the SCP claims to be publishing poetry that is "rhyming, rhythmic, and rapturous." But, alas, the good stuff is apparently invisible!

This page provides evidence, in the form of alleged poems and prose published by the SCP, of massive incompetence on part of the editors and some of the most-published poets. Please keep in mind that I'm not damning all the poets published by the SCP. But some of the SCP's mainstays write terrible poetry, if it can be called that, and the SCP's editors continue to publish error-riddled "poems" that would fail a fifth grade English class. On this page I quote the top scop, editor Evan Mantyk, and certain other Key Stoners, happily assisting them as they hoist their self-immolating petards. — Michael R. Burch, editor, The HyperTexts

Poets quoted here include SCP editor-in-chief Evan Mantyk, Joseph S. Salemi, Joseph Charles MacKenzie, James Sale, C. B. Anderson, Bruce Dale Wise and Susan Jarvis Bryant.

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

Do truth-in-advertising regulations apply to poetry websites? The SCP home page is prominently captioned, "Rhyming, rhythmic, and rapturous." A more truthful caption would be, "Force-rhymed, metronomic, ungrammatical and tedious." Ample evidence follows...

"Almost killed was I in torment, trapped in deepest hell."

A scop warns us that "here there be draggin's" so enter with fear and trembling, ye who dare!

These are quick examples of “the best poetry being written today in the English-speaking world,” in the form of excerpts of four poems published by the Society on its website:

"Beauty is eternal truly,"
I heard that beautiful rose say
But who can for me find such a beauty
Who won't one day just fade away?

And while this life we passage,
Your bloom will help me bear,
My feelings for you, waiting,
Until your [sic] standing here.

In that part of the day that briefly follows night,
before the turning finds the steady lying line
from where the biggest star will mount and will get bright,
I turn me inside out and start to lift my spine.

Then smash the ocean hits the land
And pounds upon the coast;
I see a battle vast expands
And shakes my earthly post.

MANTYK'S ANTIC LOVE POETRY! If there's one thing we can all agree about, it's that Evan Mantyk is no poet. But now Antic Mantyk has tuned his lyre to love poetry, giving us immortal lines like:

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...

Any editor with an iota of discernment would immediately toss such "poems" in the reject pile, but of course Antic Mantyk has published his effluvia, proving once again that the Keystone Scops are clueless when it comes to poetry. It is amusing, however, to observe how Joe Salemi declines to say what he really thinks of such "poems" as he damns them with the faintest of praise. I'm sure Salemi will never praise one of Mantyk's poems as good poetry, since he knows how miserable they are.

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 gone "beyond vanity." Because previous journals have been riddled with errors and lackluster poems, this strikes us as a vastly unfair policy. First, one must pay to become a member of the Keystone Scops. Then one must buy shoddy merchandise in order to remain a member. Whatever happened to putting out books that people actually want?

The SCP specializes in publishing the most dreadful poetry ever concocted by wildly misfiring human brain cells. For example, I quote:

... each man must not only eateth for his health,
But for the probiotics of his microbiome's wealth.

Evan Mantyk, founder, president and editor-in-chief of the SCP, apparently continues to believe that he can "save" poetry without bothering (or, more likely, being able) to write intelligible sentences. For instance, in his opening remarks about a recent 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. But we can quote you, and write you off as categorically incapable of passing a fifth grade grammar quiz.

Professor Joseph S. Salemi, an alleged "legend" in the formalist community, quickly pointed out the painfully obvious shortcomings of Mantyk and his ilk: "Here are persons presuming to write and publish literature, but who have an imperfect grasp of their own language."

Hear! Hear!

Has there ever been a more masterful employment of understatement than Salemi's deliciously subtle "imperfect grasp of their own language"?

Tweedie-die-die and Tweedie-Dumb

In his poem on climate change, James A. Tweedie confirmed for the zillionth time that the Society of Classical Poets, better known as the Keystone Scops, are clueless about apostrophes, as well as climate change, science, and thinking in general:

Don’t succumb to the deception climate change leads to a grave,
Lest we kill the very thing our good intentions tried to save.
None of this means that we ought to keep polluting, heaven's [sic] no!
Clean the air and atmosphere! But let the ice caps ebb and flow.

In his alleged poem, Tweedie argues that climate change is natural and thus nothing to worry about, much less attempt to regulate. Human beings should accept climate change gracefully, adapt, and (presumably) grow gills.

The dinosaurs who were wiped out by climate change might argue otherwise, and point out that they did not contribute to their demise, as man is so obviously doing today.

Most species that ever existed were wiped out by climate change, a word to the spectacularly unwise.

Tweedie is a retired pastor, so how would he explain Noah building an ark, rather than gracefully accepting climate change in the form of excessive water? Then, as now. Are Tweedie and the scops wiser than God Almighty? Didn't God command human beings to save earth's creatures rather than twiddling thumbs and letting them perish?

Roy E. Peterson, another non-Einstein on climate change, proved yet again that the scops are clueless about apostrophes and have no ear for meter:

Blame volcanoes for ash and dust,
It makes no diff'rence, you can trust.
Bees and wasps and hornets' [sic] sting—
You can’t control everything.

One must pronounce "volcanoes" as "VOL-ca-NOES" to keep the metronomic meter. The apostrophe in the third line should go, or it would be "Bees' and wasps' and hornets' stings [plural]." These are grade school mistakes. Why is the SCP publishing "poetry" that would fail a fifth-grade grammar quiz?

"You cannot categorically label our poetry 'doggerel' and write us off," top scop Evan Mantyk once declared, defiantly. Well, perhaps not, since there is such a thing as good doggerel. But we can quote you, and write you off as categorically incapable of passing a fifth grade grammar quiz.

Not seeing the truth they were consequently
Destroying themselves quite unchivalrously.
— Evan Mantyk

According to Mantyk, there's a way to destroy oneself "chivalrously." Presumably that is what the scops are doing, with their denial of climate change.

Peter Venable believes the Devil is real and he, like so many scops, fails to understand the purpose of apostrophes:

He loves attention. Like All Hallow's [sic] Eve:
Witch's [sic] and goblin's [sic] fly
As all his demons snicker and high-five.

STOP THE SCOP PRESSES, PLEASE! Rodney Dangerfield used to plead for someone, anyone, to take his wife, please. Evan Mantyk & Co. can make those of us with functional ears resort to similar pleading: Can someone, anyone, take these terrible noises, please, to some distant soundproof trash receptacle where we don't have to hear them? Must we be continually subjected to the poetic equivalent of fingernails screeching on a blackboard? Take, for example, these dreadful lines (far away, please) from Mantyk's composition, "An Angel Speaks to the Imprisoned Derek Chauvin" ...

Unbridled force may well kill those
    Who don’t love their own lives
And if that’s how the story goes,
    That’s fine since justice thrives.

Out of compassion I won't torture you with the rest of the poem. Meanwhile in "A Prayer for Sanity," Susan Jarvis Bryant attributes transgender "plans" to the Devil:

Pray let us find the fortitude to fight
The gospel of the preachy lunatic
Pronouncing chromosomes are there to spite
The grand transgender plans of good Old Nick.
Please spare us!

Please spare us, indeed, from such terrible "poetry" and from the medieval mindset that drives "preachy lunatics" to write it. People who make the very difficult decision to change their gender have enough problems without invoking a fictitious monster. When will the real "preachy lunatics" admit that the earth is not flat, that tomatoes are not poisonous, and that the Bible is wrong about the order of creation, the "perfect" Garden of Eden, the "Devil," the "fall," the great flood, animal sacrifices, slavery, witch hunts, the submission of women to chauvinistic men, homosexuality, etc.? We now know, thanks to brain science, that some babies are born with female brains in male bodies, and vice versa. Such children may know something is deeply wrong at very young ages. They face enormous challenges if they receive help and understanding, and even greater challenges when they're condemned for wanting to correct nature's error. Who are we to judge them? How can we possibly know what they're going through? Why not lend sympathetic ears and let them decide what's best for them? Spare us poems written by "preachy lunatics" indeed!

STOP THE SCOP PRESSES, PLEASE! (PART TWO). One must give the Devil his due. Thus I'm compelled to tip my cap to the remarkable consistency of the Keystone Scops. Just when we think it's impossible for the SCP to publish anything remotely as bad as their previous attempts at "poetry" ... they produce even more terrible clunkers. This alleged "poem" by SCP editor-in-chief Evan Mantyk may be the one worst yet, and that is really saying something!

The Emerald Queen
by Evan Mantyk

A Legend from the Future.

Part I.

Have you heard the old tale of the Emerald Queen?
‘Twas a long time ago when folks would demean
We humans as animals—nothing else more!—
Evolved from bacteria found on the floor.
They forgot the Creator had made us like him,
That we’re here for a purpose and not on a whim.
Not seeing the truth they were consequently
Destroying themselves quite unchivalrously.

In this brief excerpt from a poem no one can possibly finish reading, we see how remarkably consistent the top scop is, when it comes to writing bad verse. In eight lines Mantyk manages to demonstrate all the tricks of the bad poet's trade. He employs an archaic "'Twas" while using the wrong punctuation mark, a left single quote. Rather than saying "nothing more" he inserts a clumsy "else" to maintain the poem's lackluster meter. Mantyk gets the time logic backwards, since in the long-ago past most people accepted creationism. The amateurish Mantyk cobbles in "floor" for end rhyme. What floor? And why a floor, when evolutionists believe life began in water? Mantyk rebukes others for not believing human beings were created in God's image, but who would want to be created in the image of the amoral murderer of Adam, Eve, every human child and all the innocent animals? What is the "purpose" Mantyk alludes to, but to praise and worship a serial murderer, if the Bible is correct, or an imaginary friend if it isn't? The closing couplet is laughably bad. To read L7 in meter we have to wrench "consequently" into conSEEquentLY. And Mantyk's logic in the last line is fruitcake stuff. Is he chiding nonbelievers for not destroying themselves "chivalrously"? Also, he's clearly criticizing the wrong group. Atheists and agnostics never tortured and burned each other at the stake for not believing badly told fairytales. Christians did.

Has anyone ever been more self-destructive than Christians warring with each other over loopy interpretations of Bible verses? The English Civil War that resulted in the beheading of King Charles I began with a Bishop's War over a book of common prayer. The American Civil War began with Christians violently disagreeing with Christians over Bible verses that commanded and/or condoned slavery. Nazi Germany was a Christian nation and the Holocaust began with the oh-so-Christian idea that the Jews murdered Jesus two millennia prior, so it was okay to rob and murder them in the present. And so on.

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

STOP THE SCOP PRESSES, PLEASE! (PART THREE). The Keystone Scops remain in perfect agreement about the perfections of their primitive "god." The Key Stoners are homophobic and thus the "god" they worship must be homophobic as well. Like homophobic sons and daughters, like homophobic Heavenly Father...

On Hate
by Roy E. Peterson

God hates the evildoer and I can do no less.
He gave us ten commandments for evil to assess.
He helped identify them—the evil and the bad—
And then he brought destruction with every power he had.

I won't plague you with the rest of this abysmally terrible "poem." The premise is that homosexuals are "evil" and also "bad" ... which is like saying the sun is intensely hot and also "warm." How do the Key Stoners know homosexuality is "evil" and "bad"? They "know" this from a book, the Bible, that says sex slavery is groovy with "god," that fathers can sell their daughters as sex slaves with an option to buy them back if they don't "please" their new masters, that children should be stoned to death for misdemeanors, and all sorts of other of grotesquely evil nonsense. Roy Peterson "knows" that he should hate "evil" and "bad" homosexuals because the "god" who commanded children to be stoned to death said homosexuality was an "abomination." Who can question the source of such ancient wiz-dumb? Have the Key Stoners been lax about stoning their children to death the first time they're stubborn or talk back? That is, after all, the infinite wisdom of the biblical "god." The biblical "god" also called eating shrimp, bacon and pork an abomination, but what are the odds that the majority of the Key Stoners eat shrimp, bacon and pork? Their "god" is, according to the Key Stoners, perfect and unchanging, so if he said eating shrimp, bacon and pork was an abomination back then, it must still be an abomination today. Why do the Key Stoners commit abominations their perfect, unchanging "god" loathes with a passion? Or do they only "believe" the parts of the Bible that suit their hot little homophobic hearts?

STOP THE SCOP PRESSES, PLEASE! (PART FOUR). The Keystone Scops will leave no inversion unturned in their attempts to write the world's most wrenchingly awful "poems." Take, for example, the fourth line of the metrically clunky "Ghost in the House" by C. B. Anderson:

A cherished lover doesn’t ever leave,
But lingers as a living part of you
That brings no consolation when you grieve
And lets more sorrow in your heart accrue.

THE ENGLISH CANTOS: JAMES SALE CREATES HELL FOR HIS READERS: The ninth circle of Dante's Inferno cannot hope to rival Keystone Scopland for excruciating torments. These are the first four lines from James Sale's English Cantos, Volume 2. We shudder along with you at the dispiriting thought that there might be a Volume 1, and others to follow. Even Dante did not imagine tortures so interminable and terrible!

Some force, unknown before, but light as words
Are light, when sung beside alpine moraines
One sunny morning, clear, as those small birds

Their tweets ring for miles, echoing again ...

By the fourth line Sale has lost his meter and abandoned English grammar and comprehensibility. But this is the apex of his art, as it were, and things slide rapidly downhill thereafter. Is it possible this hell can continue for volume after volume? Dear Merciful God in Heaven, save us! Where is Virgil when we so desperately need him?

ALL SHOOK UP: Don Shook recently shook up the literary world—although not enough for it to bother swatting the annoying gadfly away—by crying out to God Almighty for free verse to 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 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 providing aid, comfort and ammunition to their enemies, by rhyming so badly in public? Shouldn't they at least have the competence to recognize their incompetence and keep their sour notes private?

IT'S HAMMER TIME! The 'Stoners are back at it again: hammering away at free verse with wrenchingly awkward formal verse. After expressing angst about an "Orwellian overtone" due, apparently, to utterly abysmal formal verse not being embraced with open arms, the scops have proceeded to persuade us that the height of the art is ... ta-da! ...

To thrill at trills impressive,
And lift our spirits high.

The scops seem oblivious to the fact that, before one can dismiss Eliot, Pound, Whitman, et al, one must write better than they did. Not ten thousand times worse.

But David Watt was apparently just getting warmed up with the effusion above. This is how it's really done!

I have seen the sun rise early,
In its haste to pack a punch,
So the city’s hurly-burly
Settled down in time for lunch.

Yes, let's junk the masterpieces of modern free verse for actual junk. That's how it's done, in Scoputopia.

PREVIOUS UPDATE: The Keystone Scops are now offering classes on British Romantic Period poetry. Prepare to get edjicated! According to the scops' sales pitch, "The good values that are inherently fostered will improve classroom behavior!" Now, that might come as a surprise to rebellious British romantics like William Blake (who railed against church and state, advocated free love, claimed to be his own Christ, and called the biblical god "Nobodaddy"), Lord Byron (accused of incest), Thomas Chatterton (accused of forgery), Samuel Taylor Coleridge (a self-confessed opium addict) and Percy Bysshe Shelley (kicked out of Oxford for writing a tract on the necessity of atheism).

The scops' courseware breathlessly informs teachers and students that William Wordsworth was "Poet Laurette [sic]." And it offers very helpful instructions for teaching Wordsworth's famous poem about daffodils: "Teacher recites the poem from memory (or uses a copy in hand) to students adding ample hand gestures and facial expressions. Immediately after saying 'gay' you may add 'meaning happy.' For the last stanza, it is suggested that you sit in a desk or chair and put your feet up and your hands behind your head to express 'For oft, when on my couch I lie.'"

The teachers frequently struggle to make sense: "The British Romantic Period poets voiced the inspiration for this general movement away [sic] cities and science. Thus, there are two dichotomies that character [sic] British Romantic Period poetry."

Evan Mantyk, who claims to be an English teacher, 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.

When Joseph Salemi called Mantyk’s abysmal "poem" a "perfect answer" to Robert Frost's "Mending Wall," I could only conclude that Sam Gwynn was correct when he observed that Salemi is more politico than poet. Because Salemi surely knows Mantyk's poem is a "putrid, pie like load" and would never publish it himself, the only explanation I can come up with is that Salemi must be putting something else above poetry. This is not poetry in my book. And surely not anyone else's who has an ear for good poetry.

Mantyk went on to inform the scops that it's okay to think of illegal immigrants as "cows" as long as one is "careful not to call illegal immigrants cows outright." One wonders what Mantyk's Lord and Savior must think about him calling refugee children and their mothers "cows," since Jesus and Mary were once refugees for whom there was "no room." According to the Bible, Jesus told his disciples: "Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Surely "the least of these" would include refugee children and their families!

Mantyk later announced that the SCP website has been going up and down due to malware and other server "dysfunction." Mantyk seemed to see this as a directed external attack, noting ominously: "It is likely that some of these are related to attacks against the Society as it rises in influence and reach." But malware typically attacks EVERYONE mindlessly and robotically, by looking for chinks in a computer system's security. Malware is as likely to attack a free verse website as a classical poetry website, or any other computer system. And there is no need for other poets to hack the SCP website when all they have to do is quote the terrible writing being published, as I just did above. Nor can anyone establish "influence and reach" in the literary world by consistently publishing pitiful writing. I hate to see anyone suffer with malware, but the scops are vastly overestimating their "influence and reach" because they continue to publish glaring errors on a regular basis. When the editor-in-chief can't edit his own poetry, what hope is there for the "society" he heads? ... Well, perhaps if they converted to a sewing circle!

Joe Tessitore wrote a poem imploring Carla Hayden to select a classical poet as the next Poet Laureate. But every item on Tessitore's poetic checklist works against the Keystone Scops, as I explain in my updated Laureates 'R' US. Amy Foreman complained about "snowflake" censorship at liberal colleges, but the SCP has a full-time censor in Mantyk, and who is whiter or flakier than the scops? Meanwhile, the scops' unanimous choice for Poet Lariat, Joseph Charles MacKenzie, snared him an "oliphant":

Today the wind through winter's unclad bones
Drowns in its woeful howl my soul's discant;
Beyond, a distant hunter's oliphant
Salutes the dead beneath their frost-bound stones.

SALEMI SPEAKS! Joseph Salemi has written a poem in my honor with not-so-immortal lines like:

Here’s my answer to the prick
(I hope it cuts him to the quick).
Mike, you’re envious and sick
And stupid as a common brick.

Doesn't exactly reach the heights of Martial or Pope, does it? But Salemi made an interesting confession in his metronomic clunker when he said, "Your poems suck," thereby admitting his terrible taste in poetry and incompetence as an editor. After all, Salemi published 21 of my poems in his literary journal Trinacria, nominating my poem "Discrimination" for the Pushcart Prize, and calling other poems of mine "lovely," "absolutely beautiful" and "truly magnificent." Sour grapes, perhaps?

• "Love Has a Southern Flavor" was called "truly magnificent" by Salemi.
• "Best Tonic" was called "worthy of Mark Twain or Benjamin Franklin" by Salemi.
• "Free Fall" was called a "very beautiful poem" by Salemi.
• "The Last Enchantment" was called "a lovely poem" by Salemi.
• "Gallant Knight" was called "absolutely beautiful" by Salemi.

On an amusing note, my translation of "Wulf and Eadwacer" has been included in an essay and taught by Professor Elizabeth Mazzola at C.U.N.Y. in an upper-division English class. The last I heard, Salemi was employed by the same university. In her email requesting permission to use my translation, which I was happy to grant, Dr. Mazzola said, "Your work has been incredibly valuable to my own, and over the years my students have learned much from you as well."

Has Salemi been shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods?


Joe Salemi has written another poem in my honor, this one with the not-so-immortal refrain:

Yet God spares Michael Burch, the creep.

I would be honored by the attention, but it's a slipshod affair with clunky inversions and Ye-Olde-Englische archaisms like "God’s vengeance on the beast was poured" and "A backward glance through time, methinks, / Reveals such monsters in death’s sleep." Apparently in his advancing age and second childhood Salemi is unable to write poetry without resorting to amateurish techniques.

In the footnote to his poem, Salemi suggested that I "got lucky" 21 times, since that's the number of times he published my poems in his journal. I somehow got lucky enough to write poems Salemi called "lovely," "absolutely beautiful" and "truly magnificent." Hell, he published two poems that I wrote in my teens: "The Last Enchantment" and "The Harvest of Roses." Apparently, I've been getting lucky for over half a century!

Salemi's dilemma is that he knows poets don't get lucky 21 times, since top scop Evan Mantyk has never been that lucky even once. How many of the scops has Salemi published 21 times? Any of them? How did I manage to be so much "luckier" than the scops? It seems God has seen fit not only to spare me, but has lavished blessings on me from my adolescence!

But a larger dilemma for Salemi is that he despises Protestants and must be gnashing his teeth to be surrounded by them in scopland.

Salemi called Protestants who consider the Bible infallible "yahoo dorks" and a "witless herd" in his poem "Creationist Freaks":

"According to this witless herd
The Bible's the inerrant word
Of God Himself. ..."
—Joseph S. Salemi

In Salemi's poem "The Reformation" the Protestant religion began with Martin Luther and John Calvin taking shits and other Protestants whiffing their feces to decide which denomination to join!

Salemi's vitriolic epithets for Protestants include "creationist freaks," "fundie dopes," "ethopaths," "yahoo dorks," "jerks," "crackpots" and a "witless herd."

Salemi also calls Protestants "delusional," their beliefs "mulishly absurd" and says they have "brain rot" for believing the Bible and its "pious lies."

To Salemi the Bible is a fictional "potpourri of Torah-tales" that contains many "pious lies" and in his poem "The Missionary's Position" he admonished missionaries for preaching the gospel to children!

And yet Salemi is a true believer himself. So what does Salemi believe that is so vastly superior to what Protestants believe? He once told me, in a moment of confession, that he believes Catholic popes are capable of speaking infallibly!

Rather than believing in the infallible word of God in the Bible, the Protestant-despising Salemi believes things Catholic popes make up, such as Protestants going to hell. And not only Protestants, but completely innocent unbaptized babies. Or, depending on which infallible pope one believes, since they have never been able to make up their minds despite their alleged superpower, the unsplashed babies instead go to Limbo where an infinitely cruel God keeps them forever separated from their mothers. Yes, that's a much better religion, no doubt!

And this belief makes Salemi superior to Bible-believing Protestants!

Salemi and his patron, the alleged Polish "count" Leo Yankevich, apparently mistook me for a Protestant and once informed me, with what I took to be real happiness, if not glee, that I would burn in hell because I'm not Catholic. How many of Salemi's allies among the SCP's Protestant poets are aware that he considers them all dumbed-down yahoo dorks for believing the Bible and its "pious lies" and that he's apparently fine with the "creationist freaks" all burning in hell for all eternity?

During our conversation about my eternal fate, I had the impression Salemi would have been delighted to set the ingots ablaze.

Caveat emptor, non-Catholic scops! Mephistopheles and Salemi have the same intentions for your immortal souls! 

You're on the alert:
Protestants convert!
Or the Devil'll supply the tinder,
Salemi, the spurt.

THE SOCIETY OF CLASSICAL POETS — A CIRCLE JERK by Conor Kelly exposes how the Society operates, and how Evan Mantyk censors poets who decline to participate in the masturbatory circle.

THE SOCIETY OF CLASSICAL POETS — A MISOLOGIST'S REPORT ON A CULT by Conor Kelly exposes the SCP's cult-like behavior.

The Society of Classical Poets is an odd outfit, to say the least. What happens when near-infinite pretension has intercourse with massive incompetence? Are poets likely to pop out, or pretenders? Emperors with clothes, or without? And why did Poets & Writers de-list the SCP poetry contest? Was it the glaring grammar errors or, more likely, the hate talk about feminist "bitches," "faggots" and Native American "savages" (while the virtues of the latter's ethnic cleansers were being lavishly praised)? Was it the overall tenor of a site where one of the SCP's mainstays, Joseph Salemi, recently wrote: "Only a very thin line of American army troops is preventing this horde of illegal immigrant scum from crossing our borders." According to Salemi, thousands of impoverished children and their struggling mothers and fathers are collectively "scum."

The Keystone Scops have claimed that Joseph Salemi is a "major poet" and "America's greatest man of letters" so let's examine the evidence: How The Mighty Have Fallen.

After I published my initial review, the Keystone Scops started nominating each other for Poet Laureate, so I have added a new page: Laureates 'R' US. But should I have titled it "Poets Lariat 'R' US" perhaps?

A fifth Keystone Scop invited criticism—the invitation was delivered in wrenchingly bad verse—so I have obliged him: Bruce Dale Wise or Un-?

The Keystone Scops have apparently never encountered a major grammatical error that they didn't immediately fall in love with and proceed to proclaim the height of all art. Surely, you think, he jests! No, I'm quite serious, if sometimes speaking ironically. But I don't want to damn everyone published by The Keystone Scops collectively. Nor do I wish to suggest guilt by association. Therefore, I will focus on those poets making the most extravagant claims for themselves, their accomplices and/or their organization, while providing evidence that they have, quite possibly, failed to live up to their overheated hype. I will begin with Evan Mantyk, the founder of 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."
Did I mention arrogance and incompetence having intercourse? 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 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!" 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
Who can the tides of time withstand,
A seasoned duke, of vision strong,
Who sees the picture hard and long.
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:
The male hares' feet go hop and skip
    And female hares look muddled,
But when their [sic] running at good clip,
    How can't one get befuddled?
A very good question! Befuddling diction and grammar aside, Mantyk is not shy about tooting his own and the Society's horns:
"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 Society fundraiser:
"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?

A second Keystone Scop who raises my suspicions (and hackles) is Joseph Charles MacKenzie. On his also-very-impressive website, Mac 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 completely obvious that we are in the presence of another staggering genius? Mac'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." Who has made such extravagant claims for Mac? Another Society mainstay, James Sale, a "Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts." (What, no peerage?) As we shall soon see, extravagant claims are also being made for Mr. Sale. While there was only one Shakespeare in his day, we are blessed to have at least four upstart crows in ours. Surprisingly, they are in contact with each other, praising each other's work to the skies, and seemingly best buds to boot! What are the odds?

When one reviews a budding Shakespeare, one really must 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 Mac'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!

Curiously, in another review Sale reveals that Mac is an imposter when he says in his usual awkward way: "To take then an overview of how I see Professor Salemi's work, I'd say that all real poets know, but do not talk about, where they are in the pantheon of poets. They know because the Muse informs them; but to talk about oneself in such a way would be to betray the Muse." Since Mac repeatedly talks about where he ranks in the pantheon of poets, he is thus not a real poet, but an imposter and traitor, according to Sale.

But what about Mac's poems? Has your anticipation been building to a fever pitch? How could it not, in the presence of such self-alleged genius? Now, finally, we have come to the first masterful sonnet on Mac'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.") And so here, tada!, without further ado, 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? A non-fan of MacKenzie's work took to calling him "Mck" in our correspondence, adding "the Magnificent" because that seems to be how he views himself and his poetry. I added a "u" and came up with Muck the Magnificent, because MacKenzie seems intent on dragging his readers back into the primordial slime and ooze. Take, for instance, this "poem" he 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.
There are some amusing reader observations about Muck's "poetry" at the bottom of this page. Another Keystone Scop who has my radar pinging is the aforementioned James Sale. Is his middle name Fire, Blue Light, Rummage or Garage? In a strange article about Fire Sale's review of Muck's sonnets, a nameless third party breathlessly reviews the reviewer, informing 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 Rummage Sale has "infallible understanding" and "unimpeachable acumen"? I, for one, remain unconvinced. And what about Blue Light 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 I remain unconvinced, citing the concluding stanzas of Garage 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 poets by a few lines each. 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?

James Sale may not be the world's most popular poet. His website has links to four YouTube videos. The videos have a whopping eight to forty views, with not a single "like." Now mind you, Sale did win the SCP's 2017 Poetry Competition, but I 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 (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 judge 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 bio 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!

Sale's bio informs us that he is now on the Advisory Board of the Society of Classical No-Wits, where he must be in good (or very bad) company 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.

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 mishmash with: "Heavens to Betsy, James! You are one of the finest communicators in the world!"

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

Tweedie-dum seems to get excited very easily. After posting a ghastly "sapphic" poem along with detailed instructions explaining how to mangle the form, he exulted: "It takes a brave and bold man or woman to bare their sapphic soul on this site! I am glad to be in the company of poets who, like Icarus, seek to rise to new heights on wings of inspiration. Like eagles, they soar, even as the critics' heat melts the wax that lifted them into worlds beyond our ken. And if, in the end, their wings should fail and they be cast into the sea, yet they shall be remembered as those who dared to "slip the surly the bonds of earth;" and the tips of their wings touched the sun."

But it doesn't take "critics' heat" to melt their waxy buildup; their awkwardly expelled hot air is more than sufficient.

I have now arrived at the last of the four upstart crows: Dr. Joseph S. Salemi. I freely admit that I am not a fan of Salemi's intolerant religion, his intemperate politics or his penchant for calling other people "faggots," "feminist bitches," "liberal scum," "immigrant scum," and the like. Salemi also has a bad habit of calling his fellow formalists "cowards," "careerists," "suck-ups," "poseurs" and other derogatory terms for failing to use initial line caps in their poems and other similar trivialities. Salemi reminds me of a Puritan schoolmarm measuring schoolgirls' hems to make sure they're all the preSCRIBEd length. And he frets about homosexuality the way Puritans fret about exposed ankles. Hell, he even compared nonconformist formalists to women who allowed themselves (according to Salemi) to be "molested on Harvey Weinstein's casting couch." However, I do believe that in literature we must sometimes give the Devil his due, and Salemi is a competent writer. I have published him myself, through The HyperTexts, and have long admired his poem "The Missionary's Position" and a few others. To be a competent writer of poetry would seem to require a degree of taste in poetry, so it will be interesting to learn what Salemi makes of Mantyk, MacKenzie and Sale. How could America's "greatest man of letters" fail to review the work of three major poets who happen to be close acquaintances of his? Alas, to date I have seen nothing complimentary written by Salemi about Mantyk's poetry, but that makes perfect sense to me because Mantyk's poetry is self-evidently hopeless. I also haven't seen anything complimentary written by Salemi about Sale's poetry, which also doesn't surprise me for the same reason. I did find a review written by Salemi about MacKenzie, in which Salemi complimented Mac's learnedness while artfully dodging the question of whether he is a good or great poet. My suspicion—and I freely admit that it is only a suspicion—is that Salemi knows he's scraping the bottom of the barrel with the Keystone Scops and will not stoop to calling terrible, mediocre or possibly passable poetry "good" or "great." I could be wrong, but that is my educated guess. If Salemi publishes something to the contrary, I will be glad to admit my error, although I will then doubt his abilities as a literary critic, or his honesty.
NOTE: After I wrote the paragraph above, I did discover some flattering remarks that Salemi made about a MacKenzie poem, "The Swallows of La Cienega." It's a very odd "love" poem that almost immediately produced premature ejaculations of praise for ethnic cleansers. Could this thread and others like it be the reason, according to an official SCP email to its members, that "Poets & Writers magazine now seems to have banned The Society of Classical Poets. Our Journal was listed by the magazine for years on its website, but has now been removed."

In his copious notes on the poem, Mac 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 Mac'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 Mac'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 and savagely attacking and barbarically murdering them. Apparently, Mac would have us believe that de Anza deserves to be honored because he was the good guy. Has Mac 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 James Tweedie questioned Mac's use of "savages" and "barbarians" to describe Native Americans, Mac 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!) Mac 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, Mac rejected Rousseau's image of the "noble savage" while at the same time trying to make a "Christian" savage seem noble.

Unsurprisingly, 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.

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

Mac 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.
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 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 latter.)

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 right-wing poets 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:

If God
is good
half the Bible
is libel.

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 in the eyes of Puritans like Mantyk and Salemi, 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.)

After I wrote my original review of the Keystone Scops, a fifth scop invited comment by writing verse in broken English, so I have obliged him:  Bruce Dale Wise or Un-?

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

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

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

MacKenzie Mucks Up Literary Criticism

While it seems impossible, Joseph Charles MacKenzie may be a worse literary critic than he is a poet. Here are various claims made about him on his website and 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!)
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 poetry ever produced in our language." (Muck has promoted Muck to the top of the class, ahead of Shakespeare as a lyric poet!)
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 tremendous range as a poet, according to Muck the literary critic. He is both a very minor poet and the greatest lyric poet in the history of the English language! But perhaps he gave us a clue with "not seen." After all, not seeing is not believing!

But once again Muck the literary critic fails to be convincing about Muck the poet. After informing us about the poets he has surpassed (all of them!), he tells us that he has surpassed none of them: "We [Nuevomexicano lyric poets] draw inspiration from our predecessors, never pretending to surpass them, or even wishing to." Muck didn't wish to do all the bragging; the Devil made him do it! Hopefully the Vatican will provide an exorcist.

But once in a blue moon Muck the critic does strike gold in the form of an undeniable truth: "All of this po-biz is really antithetical to me which is why I can only be awkward doing it." I can think of nothing more awkward than reading the muck Muck writes about himself, unless it's the muddled muck he calls his "poetry." And so let me close with something we can all agree on: Muck is antithetical to poetry and incredibly awkward.

Reader Observations about Dr. Joseph S. Salemi

An anonymous poet pointed out that Muck the literary critic insulted two other Keystone Scops: "It's amusing that MacKenzie called Salemi and Yankevich 'greeting card sentimentalists' since they were both published by The HyperTexts! And I thought Krusch crushed Salemi with 'the most elusive Trinacria.' So who is the 'failed editor,' really? Could it be the one who hasn't put out an issue in two years?"

Trinketzia—has it come up with a new issue in the past couple years?

Whatever happened to Tin-Ear-Crier?


The Keystone Scops are obviously very concerned about the White Man's role in the modern world and his Hurculean task of improving darker-skinned people despite their inexplicable resistance to his altruistic efforts. The Key Stoners have inspired this new poem of mine ...

Sonnet to White Supremacism #666
by Michael R. Burch

Written in semi-heroic couplets with deep sympathies for the Keystone Scops aka The Society of Classical Poets.

The lily-white Scops are hurtin’,
crushed by the White Man’s burthen;
they’ve even toned down their flirtin’
with the Muse to engage in invertin'
the cost calculus when a knave
becomes a kind White Man's slave!

Lords bear the real cost when they better
smelly darkies deprived of sweaters,
spats, bowlers, silk boxers and trumpets.
And so, after tea, scones and crumpets
(all flushed down immaculate drains)
the Masters expound on their pains.

Lairds and Ladies can say without shirkin':
"To rule is the White Man's burden!"

THE WHITE MAN'S BURDEN! Prepare onst agin tuh get edjicated, thanks to Evan "Antic" Mantyk. Or perhaps not. Once again the delinquent high school English teacher demonstrates that he doesn't know when to use commas and when to abstain. This is the first sentence from his latest lil' bit o' edjicashun: "The poet, Rudyard Kipling, was born in British India in 1865 and spent much of his life there." Not so good on the superfluous commas. But Mantyk can be extraordinarily helpful. For instance, he explains that "ye" means "you." (Apparently there is someone somewhere on the planet who doesn't know this.) Mantyk in his best schoolmarm manner very helpfully explains that "sullen" means "gloomy." That "check" means "stop." That "toil" means "hard work." And so on, ad infinitum.

Mantyk detects no irony when Kipling claims imperialistic white British masters "serve" their "captives' need." He doesn't raise an eyebrow at Kipling's depiction of the natives as "new-caught, sullen peoples, / Half-devil and half-child." How devilish were the white masters, one wonders? Mustn't go there! Mantyk prefers to praise British imperialism as a "force for good." He very helpfully informs us that in 1899 "imperialism was still a perfectly normal and healthy way of ensuring the survival and prosperity of one’s nation or empire." We see: as long as the master race survives and prospers, who cares what horrors the natives experience? Mantyk very helpfully informs us that British imperialism was good and benevolent and endlessly self-sacrificing, while German imperialism was driven by "social Darwinism" and thus had the same underpinnings as communism. Good to know, sir! Of course the Trail of Tears was a similar self-sacrificing, benevolent force for good, since Germans and godless communism were not involved! How could we have ever thought otherwise?

We are left in awe of Mantyk's profound grasp of Kipling's poem: "The phrase that forms the poem’s title and refrain, 'White Man’s burden,' is a metaphor for the tremendous hardship and responsibility of carrying out effective and positive imperialism." Jolly right! Rule Britannia! Now please pass the tea and crumpets!

WHITE MIGHT ALWAYS RIGHT!: There has been quite a debate in Scoplandia about the head schoolmarm's energetic defense of British imperialism. The operating theory seems to be a Tarzanish: "White might always right!" The subject is then quickly changed to communism because "Communism very, very bad!" Apparently white supremacists can do no wrong as long as the victims have darker skin and communism can be used as an unartful dodge. The unartful dodgers have no answer for the inconvenient fact that the white American founding fathers had the same problems with British imperialism as darker-skinned Indians. Do only people with lighter skin have the right to demand equality, justice and fair play? Apparently so, according to the majority of the scops. If you like to mix terrible "poetry" with terrible "thinking" the SCP is THE place to be.

Related Pages: A Review of the Society's Literary Journal, Laureates 'R' US, Susan Jarvis Bryant, Joseph Charles MacKenzie: Poet or Pretender?, Evan Mantyk's Poetic Tic, James Sale's Blue Light Special, Bruce Dale Wise or Un-?, "How to Write a Real Good Poem" by R. S. Gwano, Joseph S. Salemi: How the Mighty Have Fallen (I), Joseph S. Salemi: How the Mighty Have Fallen (II), Salemi's Dilemma, Salemi Interview and Responses by other Poets, THE SOCIETY OF CLASSICAL POETS — A CIRCLE JERK by Conor Kelly

The HyperTexts