The Art Of Willfully Misreading
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 3/27/04
1 of the most silly things that a person can do when discussing
another’s writing is to willfully misread. Of course, misreadings occur all
the time- too often it’s in the vein where bad writers are praised, & this
is almost always willful misreading because the misreader is trying to be a
proponent of the writing- not a critic. The usual reason for this is because the
reader is also in the position of being a possible subject of the criticized’s
pen at a later date, & if the criticized wields influence in the publishing
field the urge to ‘kiss ass’ is palpable. Sometimes great writers are
willfully misread because the reader simply disagrees with the ethical,
political, or philosophic stance of the writer- Walt Whitman’s & James
Joyce’s receptions at 1st publications bear this burden. Often
though the misreading is simply accidental- the reader is simply incapable of
the nuances a good writer uses, or they are too accepting of the transparent
fiats laid out by a bad writer to cut off any meaningful criticism.
Then, there is the purely personal attack- the ad hominem rail, This is when a writer is willfully misread simply because the reader has taken a stance against the writer- usually because the writer has not kissed ass enough, or the reader sought the writer’s approval in the past & was spurned, or a friendship dissolved. In my case, the usual reasons for the willful misread stems from writers who sought my approval & were spurned. Often I will get emails to Cosmoetica from young writers who are ripe to challenge my stances & declare themselves ‘rebels’, ‘visionaries’ or ‘world-changers’. Then, there are those people who merely snipe because I ripped them- my exchanges with poetic hoaxer Kent Johnson, the asses from Web Del Sol, & my tiff with poet maudit & would-be critic Jack Foley are examples of this. I showed with their own words, how both the WDS asses & JF actually do not fundamentally get what is right in black & white in front of them. I showed over & over how they deliberately attempted to side step my criticisms by not answering them & (in a very politician-like way) asserting I wrote something I did not. Go ahead & reread what the above links take you to.
But, I’ve done enough on the WDS asses for now- in the rest of this piece I want to focus on JF’s willful misreadings even beyond the aforementioned exchanges. JF is/was the member of an odd poetic commune that solicited me for membership & money via email & regular mail. I refused to join but soon found myself on the email lists of JF, the commune, & dozens of its constituent members. As the years have gone the tolls of the commune have fallen, but still I learned of their various doings. When I would send emails around about various Cosmoetica doings & other emails I had forwarded to me I would sometimes get a comment from JF & the others that I would forward into the conversation. JF thanked me on more than 1 occasion for the emails & complimented me on my writing & website. Having learned that online folk can turn on a dime I have long forwarded others’ comments around to many people on my email lists just so others have records of who said what when. Then, I did the unthinkable to someone like JF- I betrayed him. I reviewed 2 of his books & was not kissing his ass. JF got his knickers in an uproar & went on an email tirade against me. He started lying & willfully misstating facts. I responded by making his mistruths (even now I am generous in not calling them out & out lies) public, & JF shriveled into himself. Of course, after a few years of praising my essays & poems via email JF started mindlessly attacking both- a great poem of mine he attacked he could not even copy & paste correctly! & his critique was transparently filled with bile & resentment even has he parodied himself unintendedly.
But, I let things drop after JF went too into himself. Then a few months ago I ripped the poetry of NEA head Dana Gioia- JF has long been Gioia’s ‘boy’, & recipient of kudos, & literary & monetary benefits. When I dared to rip JF’s ‘Sugar Daddy’ he angrily stated he wanted no more emails from me. I did not know that JF had been targeted by some people who were apparently fans of Cosmoetica who had also ripped Web Del Sol. Every so often I would check some website review sites to see reviews of Cosmoetica & other websites & saw that WDS had suffered badly in its war of words with me. Similarly, I got many emails from people giving me kudos for denuding JF’s puerile reaction & asskissing review style. Apparently JF was also inundated with emails criticizing him for his childishness. On a Q&A page for the Alsop Review- http://www.alsopreview.com/foley/jfquestions1.html- JF finally deigned to try to answer some of the emailers’ charges & again revealed his own deep seated biases & inability to grow. I will give the whole posted exchange, comment, & then summarize:
16. I've tried hard to read all reference materials as much as I can. I'm happy to have found a definition of you, “Beatnikized W.D. Snodgrass,” from an article, “The Roger Ebert of Poetry Criticism: Jack Foley” written by Dan Schneider. Schneider writes, “Before I hit the 2 books lemme give some more info on JF--a name more well-known for a character played by George Clooney in Steven Soderbergh’s film Out Of Sight. No, this JF is no heartthrob--he’s a 60ish fellow who far more resembles a Beatnikized W.D. Snodgrass.” Do you like the author Dan Schneider’s humorous comment? Could you tell me where and when did his essay appear?
Apparently this was 1 of the tamer emails, or JF bowdlerized it- much as he attempted to do in our previous posted email exchange. The emailer is not too hard on JF, yet look at the bile that follows:
This quotation is from an essay by a notorious Internet person. I have called him, “Dan Schneider, Terror of the Internet.” I responded to his essay in my column, “Foley’s Books” (6/16/03). Dan Schneider has never published a book and has, I believe, published only a few poems--mostly on his own web site: http://www.cosmoetica.com/
Unlike me, JF never directly gives the source of the essay- so that the emailer will apparently just take his word on things. In the last sentence JF tries to diminish me out of hand by implying that the fact I’ve yet to get a book published somehow means my writing is not good. Of course, this is nonsense- but JF’s books were published by Pantograph Press- a small press run by some pals & cohorts of his. In other words, JF’s only book publications come from a de facto vanity press. As for poems- I’ve had over 60 poems published in both small & large magazines on- & offline. But shortly after starting Cosmoetica I discovered that far more people would read my poems on the site than in any poetry mags I could be published in- even ‘name’ mags like The Atlantic Monthly or The New Yorker. Implicit in all this is that not only does JF reveal a bias against me, but a whole needless bias against all online writing- which is odd considering that, save for his books via palsmanship, this is how he is known outside a small clique of poets in the San Francisco Bay Area.
In addition to the essay on me, Schneider posted on his web site the whole of the correspondence I subsequently had with him. I suspect he did it because our exchange represented more attention given to him than had ever before been the case--except when the author was Schneider himself. Frankly, I don’t think that this megalomaniac is someone who should be taken very seriously.
JF again accuses me of megalomania only to laughably assert that somehow my association with him benefited me from his afterglow. Any web search will show that I am a far more well known commodity, or ‘name’, online than JF is. Cosmoetica also has links from far larger poetry entities than JF- such as the Academy Of American Poets, Poets & Writers magazine, Plagiarist.com, & dozens of others. JF’s own delusions seem absolutely febrile at this point. His last sentence stands naked in its lack of reason & personal animus. Compared to the years of emails pro-me & pro-Cosmoetica it is also the height of hypocrisy.
Given his comments, the only poetry of mine he ever saw was what was featured on the Michael McClure-Ray Manzarek web site. Ray Manzarek was the keyboardist for the famous rock group, “The Doors.” He and Michael McClure are old friends who often perform together--Michael reading his poetry, Manzarek playing piano. The poems on the McClure-Manzarek web site are not particularly typical of my work--nor were they meant to be. Michael told me that the people who access the web site are intelligent but not necessarily very attuned to poetry--so I was careful to suggest poems that might appeal to people of that type.
The poems commented upon were culled from many sites- 1 of which was the M-M site. JF tries to deflect criticism by openly stating that he sought to put up ‘bad’ poems on that site for the benefits of ‘non-poets’. Of course, my original point is that regardless the reason these are bad poems he thought good enough to bear his name. &, yes, people, having scanned JF’s poetry- the M-M poems are very typical of JF’s work. They are free verse with little rhythm, no apparent regard for enjambment, & a love for clichés. JF tries to demur by suggesting that I am 1 of those ‘non-poetry’ types who just cannot get his ‘visionary’ work. Here comes the big misread, though:
No one would read these poems and think: Black Mountain. Some of them are formal poems and funny--light verse. That’s why Schneider mentioned W.D. Snodgrass. It would be amazing if someone who had read more of my work than what is on McClure’s web site would describe it as in any way resembling W.D. Snodgrass’s. The only book of mine Schneider had read was O Powerful Western Star. (That’s where he got the “Beatnik”--because the book contains references to Ferlinghetti, McClure, Ginsberg, etc.) There is also a poem of mine in O Powerful Western Star--and of course there is a poem on the CD. Neither of these poems by any stretch of the imagination resembles W.D. Snodgrass.
He implies that I foolishly compared his work to W.D. Snodgrass’s- thus he says That’s why Schneider mentioned W.D. Snodgrass. Well, actually not. Here is what the emailer quoted: ‘No, this JF is no heartthrob--he’s a 60ish fellow who far more resembles a Beatnikized W.D. Snodgrass’. The emailer actually was able to copy & paste correctly, for that is what I said. I was clearly, & the emailer noted this, commenting on JF’s physical appearance, not his writing. Nowhere in the original essay do I mention WDS except in this regard. JF therefore NEVER even read the original piece! Or he was so blinded with fury that he discombobulated it all. Regardless, he has so often misconstrued basic & easily accessible sentences that any claim to literary criticism abilities is laughable. But, JF hopes to digress the emailer so far away from the original point because he so NEEDS a reason to rail & vent the frustrations I foisted upon him with my criticisms. + he also likes being compared in some way to a superior poet, so egoistically assumes that the comparison was made of their work- not merely their miens. &, yes, JF- from his gaudy & huge (megalomaniacal?) photo in the Alsop Review DOES look alot like a scruffier, messier (Beatnikized) W.D. Snodgrass!
Schneider’s comment simply ignores these poems--but that’s typical. Schneider is not a very careful reader of anyone’s work. His essay is full of quotations taken out of context, wildly inaccurate statements, etc. He is primarily known for attacking prominent people--that, and an extraordinary amount of self-promotion. You can find an article about this man at http://www.citypages.com/databank/20/990/article8241.asp
Again, we see that JF’s whole argument against me IGNORES almost
everything I said, precisely because he has no reasonable retort to it. I nailed
him that markedly. Any scan of any of my poetry essays reveals 100s of points
made about the art & specific works that have not been made before, yet it
is JF that is not a careful reader- as I have just shown above. A look at my
original piece on JF, & his email replies, shows it is JF that takes things
out of context, is wildly inaccurate, & willfully misreads to deceive his
readers. & it is not just me he does this to, any reading of his online
archives shows many such similar patterns against those who are perceived as
being ‘against’ JF’s worldview, & for those who are, or who at least
make JF a bit more comfy in this world- Hello Sugar Daddy!
I am mainly known for having the best Internet poetry site around, my own great writings, & for attacking bad poetry & ideas- not people. That JF personalizes what is manifestly not a personal attack goes to show his own lack of maturity. & given that JF has such a smaller platform than I do it is actually he who is self-promoting himself by attacking me. But that’s ok- not that it will do anything in the long run, because ‘enfants terrible’ do not last unless they have quality to back them up. JF does not, this is why he MUST willfully misread!
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