Editors' Notes

Maria Damon and Michelle Greenblatt
Jim Leftwich and Michelle Greenblatt
Sheila E. Murphy and Michelle Greenblatt

A Visual Conversation on Michelle Greenblatt's ASHES AND SEEDS with Stephen Harrison, Monika Mori | MOO, Jonathan Penton and Michelle Greenblatt

Letters for Michelle: with work by Jukka-Pekka Kervinen, Jeffrey Side, Larry Goodell, mark hartenbach, Charles J. Butler, Alexandria Bryan and Brian Kovich

Visual Poetry by Reed Altemus
Poetry by Glen Armstrong
Poetry by Lana Bella
A Eulogic Poem by John M. Bennett
Elegic Poetry by John M. Bennett
Poetry by Wendy Taylor Carlisle
A Eulogy by Vincent A. Cellucci
Poetry by Vincent A. Cellucci
Poetry by Joel Chace
A Spoken Word Poem and Visual Art by K.R. Copeland
A Eulogy by Alan Fyfe
Poetry by Win Harms
Poetry by Carolyn Hembree
Poetry by Cindy Hochman
A Eulogy by Steffen Horstmann
A Eulogic Poem by Dylan Krieger
An Elegic Poem by Dylan Krieger
Visual Art by Donna Kuhn
Poetry by Louise Landes Levi
Poetry by Jim Lineberger
Poetry by Dennis Mahagin
Poetry by Peter Marra
A Eulogy by Frankie Metro
A Song by Alexis Moon and Jonathan Penton
Poetry by Jay Passer
A Eulogy by Jonathan Penton
Visual Poetry by Anne Elezabeth Pluto and Bryson Dean-Gauthier
Visual Art by Marthe Reed
A Eulogy by Gabriel Ricard
Poetry by Alison Ross
A Short Movie by Bernd Sauermann
Poetry by Christopher Shipman
A Spoken Word Poem by Larissa Shmailo
A Eulogic Poem by Jay Sizemore
Elegic Poetry by Jay Sizemore
Poetry by Felino A. Soriano
Visual Art by Jamie Stoneman
Poetry by Ray Succre
Poetry by Yuriy Tarnawsky
A Song by Marc Vincenz

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Journalism's Demise and the Devaluation of Literary Art
Part 2

In 1981, for my 30th birthday, two old college friends invited me to a celebratory dinner party. The dinner was lovely, the conversation affable, the company good. At the appropriate moment, a birthday cake appeared, and my host invited me to make a wish and blow out the candles—which I did. Perhaps it was the wine I had drunk but, after a bit, I noticed the candles still burning—and blew them out a second time. By the third time I confronted the candles' insatiable combustion, my friends' mirth was impossible for even a confirmed A.D.D. poet like myself to ignore. My host confessed: they were trick, re-lighting candles. Ah, gullible me: fooled again!

A few minutes later, while reading a poem I had written for the occasion, a tremendous burst of green light flashed through the house. A bolt of lightning had hurled a tree into the power line in the back yard, knocking out their electricity.

The message was plain (at least to me): Don't mess with a poet on his birthday! The Goddess was not amused...

Driving south on Wornall Road in Kansas City, Missouri around two a.m. several years ago, I came to a four-way stoplight. Approaching the yellow light, I noticed a large German shepherd sitting on the corner to my left. When the light turned green, the dog got up and crossed Wornall with the green light, passing in front of me. I watched until the dog was out of sight. My light turned green and I continued home.

An ordinary enough event, you say, only: I had never seen a dog do that—obey a traffic light—before. Come to think of it: I have never seen one do it since.

You see: the important problems and questions of our time have nothing to do with knowledge (or our presumed lack of it). Only an age steeped in scientism and wearing blinders could believe otherwise. Therefore, knowledge cannot be the solution to our problems. There is no knowledge or expertise, whether of natural science or the combined empirical experience and wisdom of journalists and scholars, which will achieve a technical end to war, forestall the apocalypse and salvage life on this blue marble we call home. Contrary to all of the commercial copy and televised ads of ADM, Pfizer, GE, ExxonMobil and GM, there is no scientific breakthrough that will improve the condition of human beings by rendering individuals, families, and collective society more civilized and humane, more compassionate and tolerant. The solidarity envisioned by geneticist Spencer Wells in his humane and edifying documentary, Journey of Man, will not replace longstanding habits of xenophobia, race hatred and genocide. Would it were otherwise.

The question I referred to earlier, and the real problem today, as it has been all along, is one of value. That term is much abused these days, treated like everybody's trollop really, often no more than a placeholder for whatever ideological prejudice, hobbyhorse and spew any idiot wants to push. Notice: I pointedly do not say values. Where no species exists, there is no need for distinctions of singular and plural. By carelessly pluralizing the word, we have commodified and trivialized the idea (I have my values, you have yours). In the first place: nobody can directly perceive—that is: see, taste, touch, hear or smell—value. Value has no sensory properties; it is like a mental state, intention or desire. One can only identify another person's intention by a process of inference and reasoning, in connection with other sets of facts. If George W. Bush saw anything when he looked into Putin's soul, it was his own projected gullibility.

By value, I mean only those wellsprings of action that motivate us to step outside of our private space and insert ourselves by speech into the larger community, in the process disclosing our identity in public. Hannah Arendt once noted that this very insertion—the willingness to leave our private zone—essentially constitutes courage, a crucial political virtue.

I have little to add, except to reiterate that there are no values in the sense in which that term is bandied about today by philistines, fanatics and others to whom C. S. Peirce attributed the mindset of "tenacity"—by which he meant: anyone whose thinking process is enslaved by rigid, dogmatic intolerance or irrational prejudice. Such folk wield their misguided "values" like a club with which to bludgeon the unwary or anyone they may perceive as their enemy. In a corollary to Henry Adams's definition of politics as "the systematic organization of hatreds," historian Perry Miller once noted a peculiar American tendency to see allies as opponents and to mistake as enemies those who are actually "friends in disguise"—though perhaps what is most peculiar about this trait is thinking it peculiar to Americans.

Let me flesh out this notion of value by clarifying a small point about the nature of fiction. The fiction writer is a liar. Plato was right to want to throw poets and fiction writers out of his ideal Republic: for the fiction writer is of necessity committed to the art of lying. Let us be clear though: in asserting this, I do not mean to suggest that creative writers of poetry and stories make less trustworthy employees or inherently worse next-door neighbors than your average actor, circus acrobat, televangelist, or associate professor of neurobiology. What I mean is simply that the storyteller is deeply committed to fabricating things—places, people, moods, names, events, characters, facts, circumstances, lives, dialogue, geography, histories, cultures, atmospheres, and worlds, all the warp and woof, Sturn und Drang, fire and ice, matter and anti-matter of what we call reality and like to believe is very familiar to us all (news flash: it isn't!). The writer of serious literature is devoted to fabricating things that never existed and are very unreal, to making things up out of whole cloth. For the poet, reality is a work-in-progress.

The very mental feature that empowers us to deceive others and ourselves also endows us with a capacity for imagining what is not as if it were real, existing full-blown and substantial, an external and public thing. This is a linguistic ability, a gift of sorts, though it is certainly a peculiar one. For it also permits us, by talking about something that does not exist as if it were real, to capture and disclose that species of truth allied with meaning, which transcends mere factual correctness; that is to say, literary and aesthetic truth, dependent upon literacy, articulateness, and experience—yes, experience! For, without the requisite experience of life and of human nature, all the articulate eloquence in the universe is arrogance and empty cleverness.

This is the sort of Lying that our benighted world, like Plato's Republic, stands in desperate need of, the kind of Lying that might empower us with an ability to make essential and crucial distinctions between, say, winning or stealing an election; between changing one's position on an issue based on evidence and honest reasoning or cynically exploiting demographic trends while claiming a phony consistency based on some lofty-sounding but specious "moral principle"; between providing a truthful account and reckoning for one's actions or facilely equivocating about one's motives for invading a nation, opposing stem cell research, betraying a Director of Central Intelligence or looting the treasury.

Robustly imaginative fiction—works like Gatsby, Huckleberry Finn, Billy Budd, Benito Cereno, Slaughterhouse Five, Mason & Dixon—can discipline us as citizens to recognize the difference between a real war and a manufactured "war on terror." Authentic literature forces us to choose coherent political goals aimed at genuine security instead of substituting a corporate marketing strategy for legitimate governance, a swindle for short-term windfalls, a smug posture of success for the sake of appearances. Anything less than the authentic Lying that Literature uniquely bestows—the best journalism and insider fiction, regardless of how technically "accurate," "factual" and "informative" they might be—and we drown in a maelstrom of mirror images, monotonous and contemptibly familiar.

But a world in which this sort of Lying is widely understood, accepted and embraced would be a world that would see through the facile prevarications, corrupt motives and fallacy-ridden rhetoric of such corporate pirates, brigands, frauds and thugs as Ken Lay, Jack Abramoff, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and, most notably and catastrophically, George W. Bush.

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