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A Statement Long Overdue

I’ll just get this out of the way quickly. I sincerely apologize for the hurt and pain I have caused people in the literary community regarding some of my poetry (particularly the Misogyny poems), which I sincerely deceived myself into believing had a noble purpose behind it, but was really just me deluding myself of my own importance in a field I still struggle to find a place in. I was wrong, and I take responsibility for it, having done much reflecting and introspection since the time period of which I was embroiled in that controversy. Again, I was wrong, I accept it, and I don’t expect to be forgiven by those who want to hate me for writing obscene things, I just want to put all that idiocy behind me once and for all, and move on with my life. I hope that someday those who I hurt with words, as much as words are capable of causing hurt, can at least try to empathize with what prompted my provocations, as much as I have tried to empathize with the reactions to the work, and that we can agree to just put it in the past. That’s all I am asking here. I understand that forgiveness may not be earned in this case, but I am trying to do the right thing and admit my mistakes for what they were, just pure delusional stupidity, coming from a person who still struggles with self-image and clinical depression issues, and who allowed those issues to manifest in extreme outbursts of hurtful words disguised as awful poems.

This is all prompted from a recent reading of the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, from which I gleaned several valuable lessons about perception and the self, and how perception can blind us when stunted by personal belief. One of the lessons in that book that really struck a chord with me, was that in order to understand the world, you must first take a hard unbiased look at the self, and understand your own problems, work on fixing those problems, and only when you are healed can you begin to work earnestly at understanding and finding a place in the grander scheme of existence, and maybe help heal others or larger problems. And so, having this in my mind, and having already been thinking for several months about what went wrong with my poetry, I have had to make some difficult acknowledgements of my own deficiencies as a human being, and try to make some changes. The first of these changes is that I have to stop refusing to admit when I am wrong. The next is I have to sincerely apologize for being wrong. The next is I have to rekindle my inner humility in a world that doesn’t even have to pay attention to the fact I am alive within it. Some of this I have accomplished through distancing myself somewhat from social media and a voracious addiction to attention (or the perception of attention) given by that superficial lust. The rest I tried to accomplish through meditation on healing and empathy.

I have changed a lot over this time period. Aside from moving all the way across the USA, I have tried to reconnect with nature, reestablish authentic connections with friends and family, and just live a healthier life with as little conflict as possible. My stepfather died this past September, and that was particularly hard for me. The challenges of dealing with such a loss amid some petty family disputes really put the finite nature of a lifespan into perspective for me, really had me trying to measure the importance of things. I found that these literary feuds I had previously let consume my time and attention the past few years were in the long run going to be meaningless. These things are not important at all. They are a distraction, a distraction that removes you from the actual experience of being alive and contributing meaningfully to that experience. I am sorry for ever falling prey to such a narcissistic pitfall of an illusion. I don’t want this small blip of a failure in judgment to be what defines me as an individual, or the broader scope of work I leave behind.

Recently, I was shared a psychological profile of Borderline Personality Disorder, and I was disturbed by how many of those boxes I checked for myself. I don’t know if I have that disorder, but it was humbling to me to feel even remotely the possibility of it. I know that I have struggled with depression most of my life, with suicidal thoughts, with an uncontrollable desire to fit in and be liked that I have never been able to fulfill except in small doses, and these issues have only been exacerbated by my addiction to the internet and social media. I was bullied ruthlessly most of my young life and adolescent life, I was raised in a turbulent environment, I struggled with relationships and rejection which culminated in an intense fear of rejection, and now I still bear the burden of how these experiences have scarred my mind, to the point that I am often uncomfortable around others, including things as simple as family get-togethers or friendly social gatherings. In my mind, I still struggle to fit in, no matter where I am.

Knowing that, I can now look back at what went down with my work in the poetry community and see it all as attempts to please others and fit in, and then attempts to self-destruct when those attempts failed. I convinced myself I was in the right, that I was the one under attack, that I was the one being shunned and bullied, and my reactions to those things were to lash out and provoke my perceived attackers. Much like violence only begets more violence, resentment only begets more resentment, and negativity only breeds more negativity. I felt caught in a riptide of a downward spiral of my own making, and I became so far entrenched in it with my own self-righteousness that I was helpless to stop myself. This was in effect, part of a repeated cycle of behavior I had nurtured online through addiction to attention and getting off on stirring the pot of provocation. I had allowed myself to become addicted to the whirlwind of internet outrage. Not only because I felt that outrage was blatantly in the wrong, but because I enjoyed the attention of pissing off as many people as possible. I had seen what others had done in this vein, and I vowed to do it better. In other words, I was an absolute asshole.

I understand that nothing I say or do now can take it back, and honestly, I don’t want to take it back, you can’t take back what you said or what you did, because it already happened. Perhaps if I had a time machine, I could try to talk some sense into myself, but I think the person I am today is better for having gone through it and having to learn from these mistakes. Those poems can stand as a testament of what not to do as far as I am concerned, the most grievous of errors between perceived intent and audience reception, and how art no longer belongs to its artist once it has been delivered for consumption to the world. The artist can’t ultimately decide what their work means. Time and context cease to matter as time continues to move and original context is forever lost to the ether, and so what only remains is how that work is perceived and critiqued, and how those perceptions evolve and maybe over time the critiques will as well. I think artistic intent shouldn’t be completely ignored, but it doesn’t have any ultimate effect on audience perception at all, and has to be considered separately. I can look at those poems for instance and say that they are my own version of Horror Film Poems, that I tried to load them with allusions to popular horror movies and literature, from Don’t Breathe, to Human Centipede and Hostel, to Grimm Fairy Tales, to H.P. Lovecraft, that I was trying to make a statement about the perception of satire and how it can be skewed by the simplicity of titles and dedications, to the difference between real world trauma and the written word, but at the end of the day, none of those things matter. What matters is perception, just like the lesson gleaned from Motorcycle Maintenance. I allowed my own belief to blind my perception of what I was doing. I am not saying I am the only one this happened to, as I am sure people have preconceptions of my work that may have impacted their perceptions of it as well. But I am admitting my own failures here and just finally wanting to put this whole charade to bed once and for all. I am sincerely sorry and will live with the regret of it for the whole remainder of my life. And I continue to pay the price for it, for writing poetry that offended and hurt people in ways I will never understand, and for believing I was totally entitled to write such poetry without consequences. I also hurt those who had defended me in the past, making myself into a character so despicable I alienated myself from peers and friendships I had worked so hard to build by becoming a monstrous villain of truly indefensible stature. I tried to make myself an artistic martyr for freedom of expression, and failed so gloriously that I became a joke. I am a joke.

So, in closing, I continue to find solace in the fact that I am nobody. I am not a great poet or writer, I am not a great person. I am just a person. In the end that is all anyone ever gets to be, and I will continue to try and find a place in this world that allows me to be the best version of that person I can be, as long as I am trying to find out who that person truly is. Thank you for reading this, and if you are one of the people who was hurt by my poems, or one of the people who tried to ostracize me from the poetry community, or even just someone with a vague interest in all this, I hope you can find the truth here, and see it comes from an earnest place of remorse and blatant honesty. I hold no animosity or anger toward anyone who tried to ruin me or my work. I deserved it. I let it go. I let it go and admit to my own part in creating the whole ridiculous circus of that mess. I hurt people with carelessly provocative work, and I am eternally sorry for doing so, for believing that art is more sacred than emotion, and for somehow believing I was the person capable of making such a statement. And I hope to never make the same mistake twice. I believe in second chances and even third chances. Maybe someday we all get them.

Thank you.

A Dumpster Fire Speaks

Trash fire
for VIDA

“You can have it all,
my empire of dirt.
I will let you down,
I will make you hurt.” ~ Trent Reznor

I used to be fierce, but now I am afraid.
I’m afraid I’ve lost my ability
to tell the truth, to know
what it is I stand for.

Everything I sought I saw stripped away
when it was just out of my grasp,
like some award I felt entitled to
or the keys to a new car
car of my dreams
with its paint so shiny
and reflective
it almost seemed liquid,
or the girl at the basketball game
with the supermodel body
and the pornstar fuck-me eyes
who dared me to approach her
with her lips wet and slow
sucking a Blow-Pop and staring me down
like she wished it was my cock,
who when I finally worked up the nerve
to walk over and say hello,
just curled like a leaf
into the shoulder of her guy friend
laughing, her and her friends laughing
at how stupid I was
for thinking someone like her
would ever be interested in someone like me,

and I felt myself slip
just a bit closer to the edge
of a cliff I’d stared off of many nights alone,
down into a darkness that seemed to have no bottom,
I felt another filament of light spark out
inside myself and this time I wasn’t sure
if I’d find another bulb to replace it,
but of course I did,
and somehow I added another layer
to my person suit, zipped it up
over my previous self like a fresh baby skin,
and I managed to move on,
to find small measures of happiness
over the years, people who loved me
and then stopped loving me
only to be replaced by someone else,
and that’s how it goes
if you don’t manage to fuck everything up
beyond your scope
of seeing a way to rebuild it.

This poem isn’t even my own voice.
I should know better than to write
after reading someone else’s books,
but sometimes that’s when I’m most inspired,
I see the genius of others
and my mind starts trying to duplicate it,
to find in myself
what I found so captivating
while living in another writer’s mind.

And by now, you’re thinking I’ve lost the thread.
Wasn’t this supposed to be a poem about Truth,
you’re probably thinking to yourself.
Truth, that comically noble notion—
hold your horses, lady or gent, I’m coming back to it.
You see, when I first started writing,
I had a rabid desire to protect
the sacrosanct freedom
that I saw coming under attack:
nobody poets telling other nobody poets
what they should or should not be writing,
what was offensive and infringing on the safe spaces
of literature, what was appropriating other cultures
through the oppression of colonialist patriarchy,
what was objectifying women
treating them as totems or victims
of a fetishized male gaze,
misogyny, sexism, violence, homophobia,
transphobia, racism, ablism, Islamophobia,
agism, all these things signaled a problematic author,
someone entrenched in an outdated worldview,
someone who was probably a trash fire
and didn’t deserve to be read or even to be alive,
even if they didn’t believe what they wrote,
even if they just considered these elements
to be part of a complex reality
that needed to be seen in order to be critiqued,
they were to be shamed and shunned,
driven from literature like lepers
forced to live in caves
on the outskirts of civilization.

Fuck Bukowski. Fuck Hemingway.
Fuck Browning, fuck Carver, fuck Lowell,
fuck Ginsberg, fuck Stafford, fuck Collins.
Fuck David Foster Wallace and Brian Easton Ellis.
Fuck Chuck Palahniuk and John Updike.
Fuck Junot Diaz, Sherman Alexie, Joseph Massey.
Fuck Kenneth Goldsmith and fuck you if you like him.
Fuck William Shakespeare.
Fuck Whitman, Thoreau, and Emerson.
Men are cancelled.
Fuck the Canon. Fuck the Patriarchy.
BURN IT ALL DOWN.

I started writing poems specifically aimed
at pissing these people off.
They demand Trigger Warnings?
I’ll write the most triggering poem I can imagine,
and I’ll mock trigger warnings in the process.
Fuck your trigger warnings.
They say you can’t write about rape?
Challenge accepted.
Fuck your coddled victimhood mentality.
Don’t use racial slurs in poems.
Watch me.
Fuck your book-banning stereotypes.
Don’t mock the Prophet Muhammad.
We’ll see about that.
Fuck your precious religion.
Accuse me of appropriating someone’s abuse?
I’ll put my accusers names as titles
of the most offensive poems of all time.
Fuck you.

And this is how I lost the truth,
by fighting a battle that wasn’t mine,
in which I ended up defending myself
more than I defended the cause,
by becoming the villain
of a story that has too many villains,
attacking my attackers,
becoming a scapegoat
for what’s wrong
with white male writers,
someone no one would defend
for risk of their own credibility,
someone even a good friend
couldn’t or wouldn’t stand beside
any more
without putting their own neck
in the path of the guillotine.

Welcome to the world of internet poetry,
where years of work
building a name
can vanish over the course of three days,
where it has become commonplace
for gangs to demand
publications to remove the poems
that dared to cross imaginary lines,
and then for that poet’s work
to be scrubbed from the archives
as if they never existed
or ever wrote poems at all.

I often wonder how many of these poets
whose books I have purchased over the years,
and who I reached out to in email
or through social media chats
to express what their work meant to me,
ever bothered to buy one of my books,
or to even read the books I mailed to them
just to show my appreciation,
how many of my books
have never even been cracked open,
were just moved from padded envelopes
directly to dusty bookshelves
to begin collecting their own sheens
of shed skin, the sloughed off cells
of the poets coating the covers
of the work of a friend or a peer
they never respected enough to begin with
to give their work even the fleeting chance
of a few precious minutes
of their own attention.

In the end, it doesn’t matter,
everyone thinks they’re burning down the world,
but they’re just dancing
in their own fires,
and once the flames have all burnt out
there’ll be no one left
who cares enough
to sweep up the ashes.

The apology you’ve wanted

The white apology

I’m sorry that you need to hear it,
sorry that history favored
the first to wield the sword
the first to encase black powder
in shiny brass and steel,
but this was not my doing.
I wasn’t there on the ships,
in the moorings, on the fields
of swaying grass and gut,
or surely I would have died
shitting my pants with fear.

I’m sorry that history allowed it,
allowed the oil tycoons and soft-palmed
narcissists to trade metal and paper
for all the world and all persons within it,
to layer scar tissue on the backs and the wrists
and the inner thighs of objects
they saw as objects instead of lives.

I’m sorry Jesus was invented
Mohammed was enshrined
Joseph Smith was batshit insane,
and I’m sorry so many believed.
I’m sorry for the laws
written on the faces of such belief.
I’m sorry superstitions still carry
so much currency
like buckets drawn up from wells
filled with blood instead of water,
and I’m sorry those wells
seem to have no bottom.

In low-lit bedrooms since the beginning of time
when a bedroom was nothing but smoke
caked into bedrock,
I’m sorry men of all colors and creeds
could get what they wanted without a fight,
before aluminum canned beer
was poured into Solo cups,
before fathers and Fathers
waited for the mothers to be out of town,
before grades and jobs and debts
became levers and scissors
on clothing and legs
pried so easily apart.

I wasn’t there, but yes it was me,
me too, me too, me too,
for not being there to stop it,
to raise my voice and do my part
to end the cycle of complicity
in the carousel of consent and discontent.
I’m guilty and I shoulder the blame
of an entire history I had no place in
other than sharing this similar skin,
this generic face, this entitled life
of accepting my body for what it is.

I’ve said the word nigger with no remorse.
I’ve called you cunt and fantasized
about fucking you like a receptacle
for lust instead of love
like so many starlets on display online.
I’ve said the word faggot and dike
as if it were a punchline
in a joke everyone already knew.
I’ve been a child in a world
made in my image
and I grew to hate myself anyway
as I grew to see past these shells.
Forgive me, I know not what I do,
and though I never hurt you
as a straight white man,
I hope it gives you some comfort
to hear someone admit their fault
for all the pain they know you’ve felt.
Forgive me. Please, forgive me,
then let me burn in hell.