The Society of Classical Poets successfully holds its first symposium in New York City (Press Release)


NEW YORK—A growing movement is calling for the return of meter and rhyme in poetry in a bid to bring the once widely popular art form back to the mainstream. The non-profit Society of Classical Poets (SCP) held a symposium at the Princeton Club of New York in Manhattan on June 17.

“We say that rhyme and meter are the key to bringing poetry out of the narrow halls of academia and making it a widely loved art form once again,” said Evan Mantyk, president of the society, in opening remarks at the symposium.

He says that poets using rhyme and meter have been ridiculed by their free verse peers who often pigeon hole rhyming poetry as poorly written.

“You cannot categorically label our poetry ‘doggerel’ and write us off,” Mantyk stated.


The ‘Deadly Enemy of Real Poetry’

Leading British poet James Sale questioned the recent appointment of Simon Armitage as the UK Poet Laureate earlier this month.

“Simon Armitage, said that poets should be writing about climate change. What does that tell you? About the poet, about the nature of the appointment?” said Sale.

Sale performs his poetry in London and the South of England, and has a long history in the poetry field. Stretching back to the 1980s, he has run poetry and writing workshops for young students and adults. He has organized major poetry events, including Poetry Carnival UK, which attracted an audience of 4,000 people, in 1985.

“Who or what is the deadly enemy of real poetry? Like a hydra it has many heads, many names, post-modernism, for example, communism for another, but the key one is ‘Progress’. Progress of course does not mean progress; it means regress; it’s the ‘newspeak’ of George Orwell,” Sale said.

He continued, “We at the SCP want to counter these tendencies, these beliefs in progress, and all their formless ugliness. We want to re-establish the importance of form, the centrality of the imagination and its ability to bring real beauty into our world. To develop the Muse means an openness to reality, an ability to live with ambiguity, and what Keats called negative capability.”

The Problems with Mainstream Poetry Today

Professor Joseph S. Salemi, a legend in the formalist community, talked about the problems with the mainstream poetry today.

“Here are persons presuming to write and publish literature, but who have an imperfect grasp of their own language. It’s bad enough that much contemporary poetry since Allen Ginsberg has been ‘nihilistic free verse oral diarrhea,’ as the poet William Childress describes it. But that its creators can’t even put it into coherent English? That’s really disgraceful,” Salemi stated.

Salemi edits the journal Trinacria, wrote for The Pennsylvania Review, and now writes at the website Expansive Poetry On-Line. He is a professor at New York University and Hunter College, and is a native New Yorker raised in Queens.

He pointed out the strong liberal bias that has taken over mainstream poetry.

“Anyone with strongly expressed conservative views will be hounded out of a poetry workshop, or asked to leave an on-line discussion group, and his work will be reflexively rejected if he submits it to a mainstream magazine. This is real, this is actual, this is happening right now, today. The world of modernist poetry has turned as politically rigid and uncompromising as the old Soviet Central Committee. As the poet Joseph Charles MacKenzie once very aptly said, ‘poetry has become the eunuch of the left,’” Salemi stated.


The Beauty and Power of Classical Poetry

Since its founding in 2012, the Society of Classical Poets has quickly grown, today having millions of online readers every year, Members around the world, an annual print Journal, multiple yearly contests, a new workshop, and educational materials and resources. Readers and poets themselves find something instantly recognizable and valuable in well written and thoughtful classical poetry.

“Classical Poems raise our sights—deepen our thinking, elevate our thoughts, clarify our purpose, give meaning to events and relationships,” said symposium speaker Michael Charles Maibach, Managing Director of the James Wilson Institute, a law and education non-profit based in Washington, DC.

“A poem in your hand, brief and understandable can make more sense of this world and our lives than a library of books,” Maibach stated.


The symposium also demonstrated how classical poetry gives poets a way to speak clearly and powerfully on pressing events of the day that are meaningful to readers in their communities and throughout the world.

Young Indiana-based attorney Adam Sedia read his award-winning poetry exposing the negative effects of communism around the world. Poignantly, he called attention to atrocities taking place today under communism, including the forced harvesting of organs from innocent prisoners of conscience. His poem directed at Chinese Communist Party Chairman Xi Jinping included:

Do you not hear them, Chairman Xi?
Victims tied for the surgeon’s blade,
Their final shrieks of agony,
Their hearts carved out and iced for trade?
Hear them, hear them, Chairman Xi!

Davey Talbot of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation wrote to the symposium, stating: “Congratulations, Mr. Sedia, on your fine poems… Their words carry the weight that ten-times their number would in prose. How staunchly in contrast these poems are to Neruda’s disgusting homages to Stalin… Bookshop owners in Hong Kong who sold books with content along the lines of Mr. Sedia’s have been, for the past decade or so, ‘disappeared’ to the mainland. It is a horrible fate to be ‘disappeared’ by the Chinese Communist Party… I applaud Mr. Sedia and The Society of Classical Poets. Well done and keep on.”

The symposium was sponsored by the James Wilson Institute and the National Civic Art Society.


Reading in Bryant Park

Earlier on the day of the symposium, poets Theresa Rodriguez, James Sale, Mark Stone, and James B. Nicola (pictured in the same order, left to right) held a reading of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” other great American works, as well as their own poetry to a crowd of listeners and passersby in front of the William Cullen Bryant Memorial in the storied Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan. Nicola read Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” Rodriguez read Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, and Where, and Why,” Stone “The Arctic Lover” by William Cullen Bryant, and Sale read “Triad” by Adelaide Crapsey.

Sale, the moderator, commented on the Bryant Park event with a quote from Frost’s poem, “In doing the reading, ‘…that has made all the difference’!”


Young Poets Rising

Young and upcoming poets David E. Müller (left) and Reid McGrath (center) as well as Daniel Devine are pictured above at the symposium.

“A positively splendid evening,” said Müller.

In prepared remarks, Müller shared some of his views on classical poetry, “One cannot speak of poetry and neglect to speak of beauty. It is beauty that elates the soul upon witnessing it, to be found, in part, in poetry with the harmonious marriage between the full majesty of a verse’s respective language and the fluidity of its execution. In this respect we find the perhaps the cardinal reason that formalist, or better, classical poetry remains as what can still strike astounding awe into even passive reader. It is awe inspiring precisely because it is beautiful, and the skill or care to cultivate so exceptional that one can only experience an unparalleled joy in consuming it. All the same however, it is certainly possible to have a string of numbers and rhymes and have still no poetry. One could exhibit a poem deprived of any message or meaning, and still be praised as a pure exercise of language, or likewise a verse in broken, clashing, and disordered stanzas, but overflowing still with great intention and great pathos. Yet in both demonstrations we shall say—we shall confess—there is something lacking. To say that either of the values of meter and rhyme—the foundations of poetry by all reason—are sufficient in and of themselves, is as much a folly as to dismiss them altogether.”

All photos by Ivan Pentchoukov, except for Bryant Park photo




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The Society of Classical Poets does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or commentary.

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21 Responses

  1. James Sale

    It was a joy to be at this symposium and to meet such wonderful and committed people and poets, especially those like Michael Maibach and Joseph Salemi with whom I had corresponded over a long period of time (not forgetting of course the great Evan himself!). Also, let’s not forget that there was also a live poetry event at Bryant Park in Manhattan that very morning in which I was involved, and so must pay thanks to 3 great poets that supported me there: James B Nicola, Theresa Rodriguez and Mark Stone. We all had a ball and kicked off the day with Poe’s The Raven which we delivered as a group effort, and managed to include the audience as chorus too in the refrain at the end of each stanza. Thank you all – I had 10 wonderful days in New York and New Jersey – loved every minute of it.

    • Sally Cook

      To all —
      How I wish I could have attended the Symposium, but several unfortunate circumstances intervened.

      All who spoke addressed the most important things. Rhyme and meter follow the natural rhymes of the planet and the human body, rhyme being the glue holding the meter together. Anyone writing metrical, rhyming poetry addresses these precepts each time an idea begins to germinate, and, in writing the best possible poem, honors the Creator.

      Unforgettable to me is the way my mother read Shakespeare and all other fine poets of the past to us as children. She had been taught to believe in poetry as part of the civilizing process. I will always keep in my memory the way in which, on meeting one of her schoolmates on the street, something in the conversation would remind them both of a poem they had learned by heart as children at school, and they would laughingly finish the poem together.

      The words of great poets were a part of their daily discourse; Knowing great poems and enjoying them were second nature to them. As for me, I was, in a more “modern” school, the only child in the third grade who could quote him verbatim.

      Mr. Sale, hope to meet you and others next time; thanks for coming over !

    • Mark Stone

      My thanks to Mr. James Sale for moderating the poetry reading and open mic. He is a dynamic, eloquent and erudite speaker, and he did a masterful job as master of ceremonies. And I thank him for choosing Bryant Park as the venue, because next to it is the New York Public Library, which had a Walt Whitman exposition that I was able to take in. I hope that Mr. Sale will come back to the States very soon!

      • James Sale

        It was great working with you, Mark – you were really professional and your work was very funny. I have to not take credit for selecting the Bryant Park venue, since this was my first visit to New York and I had no idea of the relative merits of various sites there; Evan Mantyk was the originator of the inspired idea! I visited the Walt Whitman exhibition too, the following day, and found it fascinating – well curated – though as I have observed elsewhere, the experience was rather like one I had last year visiting Wordworth’s Dove Cottage in the Lakes: both poets seem to be supreme narcissists whom I cannot but dislike on a personal level. However, enjoying poetry does not depend on liking the poet, except with the very small-minded! Milton was certainly not that likeable a person, but his poetry is sublime; the important lesson is to prevent oneself becoming personally unpleasant because one sees that as an attribute of a real poet. In like manner, one mustn’t become a drunk because Dylan Thomas was. Thank you for your kind and generous remarks.

  2. James Sale

    Great comments Sally, which I like very much, as I do your poetry. Yes, I hope to come over again and meet all the ‘old’ favourites as well as some new people/poets too. It really was a remarkable event, two in fact, and it will benefit even more from your presence: so here’s to when we finally meet up at SCP!

  3. David Paul Behrens

    Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the Symposium this year. I wrote the following poem in 1970, while sitting in Bryant Park, in a form of my own invention:

    Bryant Park 1970

    Oh the child newborn,
    Welcome to this place,
    Of these paths well worn
    By a perpetual pace;
    One grain of sand on
    A beach of endless space.

    Remember one measure
    And keep it quite plain:
    All joy is a pleasure
    And sorrow is pain.

    See the street traffic.
    Hear the motor sound.
    See the faces tragic,
    Walking all around.
    Try to do what pleases you,
    Despite the concrete ground.

    Sleep and eat, then repeat,
    And learn well as you grow;
    Searching for a mind’s retreat,
    In search of something to know.

    (So now, almost fifty years later, I still don’t know anything.)

    • James Sale

      Good to recall memories David, though for myself I am not sure I would be brave enough to publish a poem I wrote 50 years ago, though a couple were published in my school magazine at the time! Suffice to say, three cheers for Bryant Park!

      • David Paul Behrens

        Okay James, now you will see just how brave I am. Here is another from nearly fifty years ago, when my goal was to become a successful hobo. That plan abruptly ended when I met my one and only wife, who inspired me to return to college, get a job, and the rest is history.

        Fire in the Cold

        I don’t need any politics
        Of kings or high class lunatics,
        Misdirecting my mind.
        Just need a little food
        And warmth when I’m nude.
        Kick back and see it feels fine.

        Don’t need any schools
        With administered rules,
        Teaching me why to bleed.
        Just need a loved one
        To make love and have fun,
        Each giving what we need.

        Don’t need any industries,
        Assembly lines or factories,
        Burning up my wick of time.
        Just need to grow,
        And watch it burn slow,
        Sipping some good grape wine.

        Don’t need responsibilities,
        Of commitments for activities,
        Scheduling my life away.
        Just need a soft bed
        And rest for my head,
        Wake up and start the next day.

        Don’t need any inductions
        With ordered instructions
        To be next in line for the mold.
        Just need to be free,
        To live and let be,
        And find a hot fire in the cold.

        (Thank you for the encouragement, Mr. Sale. I hope you won’t regret it.)

  4. Theresa Rodriguez

    Many thanks to James Sale for hosting a most delightful poetry reading in Bryant Park and to Evan Mantyk for making the first SCP Symposium a reality. It was an honor and joy to read with James Sale, James B. Nicola and Mark Stone, and to hear James Sale again at the Symposium along with Michael Maibach, Joseph S. Salemi and Adam Sedia. I am very glad to have met you all!

  5. James Sale

    The defining characteristic of your poetry readings, Theresa, is passion: it was wonderful to hear it and see you in action. A remarkable day for us all. Thank you.

  6. Angela Porter

    Wonderful to hear about this event and how it went, thank you.

  7. Ron Hodges

    This press release for the conference makes me lament not being able to attend even more. Yet it does inspire me to continue to promote traditional poetry, and the core values of civilization (particularly Western). I attended a workshop on teaching writing at the start of my summer break, and, true to form, the poetry promoted by the presenters was exclusively free verse and especially slam poetry (which, to me, tends to be long-winded grievance rants with little to no craft). Though these workshops make me feel like a complete outsider–an alien life form even–it is good to know that there are like-minded teachers and poets (regardless of specific political affiliation) out there!

    Keep up the good fight!

    • James Sale

      Thanks Ron for your support – it is great to think there are many out there rooting for and desirous of ‘real’ poetry and not the phoney stuff that slams and bangs on about itself and the inconsequentiality of its own toenails. I totally agree with David Mueller’s remarks in the opening passage about the connection between beauty and poetry. As St Thomas Aquinas justly commented: ‘beauty arrests motion’ and thereby puts the mind – the soul – in a blissful state of non-animation; a precursor to the absolute perfection of heaven that the soul longs for. Of course, beauty in concentrated form we call the sublime, and when we encounter that in poetry the soul is ravished – passages in Homer, Dante, Shakespeare and Milton pre-eminently in which one’s whole being is transported! As an aside, I met Dave, Reid and Dan at the event – what fabulous, enthusiastic and young poets they all were. I felt mightily inspired that such as these personalities were there to continue the work well into the future.

  8. Joseph S. Salemi

    As I mentioned in my talk at the conference, the professional teaching of poetry in both America and Britain is completely in the hands of our cultural and civilizational enemies. The passing on of classical traditions of meter and rhetoric is now accomplished solely through the labor of small groups of like-minded individuals, without any institutional support or encouragement.

  9. Arthur Gatti

    When Mr Sedia is able to put together five words as well as Neruda, then he Might have a right to condemn him–but it had better be on firmer ground!

    • Evan Mantyk

      Dear Mr. Gatti, the above text clearly indicates that the criticism of Neruda was not said by Mr. Sedia:

      “Davey Talbot of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation wrote to the symposium, stating: ‘Congratulations, Mr. Sedia, on your fine poems… Their words carry the weight that ten-times their number would in prose. How staunchly in contrast these poems are to Neruda’s disgusting homages to Stalin… ”

      Stalin was a disgusting, tyrannical, genocidal mass murderer of his own people. Neruda, according to the quote, praised Stalin in some fashion. Did he or did he not? That seems to be the issue at hand, not the sterling poetry of Mr. Sedia.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Pablo Neruda wrote two odes to Stalin, and long after the truth about the GULAG death camps, the judicial murders of the Moscow show trials, and the Ukrainian planned-mass-starvation Holocaust were all common knowledge.

        Neruda — like Sartre — was completely unrepentant about the atrocities of Communism. This doesn’t mean that they were bad writers, but it does indicate that they were politically stupid.

      • Arthur G. Gatti

        During that time the “Iron Curtain” that was later to be coined was just as much a Western nations construct as a Russian defense, so that not only did the West try to starve the Bolshevikn Menace, but Nothing said about them by our press could be trusted, and therefore Sartre and Neruda are Not Guilty of these foolish charges. Stick to the present issue of political poetry, if you will, and then you might find it impossible to not write about you-know-who.

  10. Joseph S. Salemi

    Mr. Gatti, your above reply is incomprehensible, both as an attempt to produce coherent English prose and as any kind of clear statement at all.

    Have you passed Freshman Composition yet ? When you do, come back here and try again.

  11. Evan Mantyk

    An insightful look at Neruda’s work, which I found online:

    As the title signals, this verse is a piece of pathetic propagandistic drivel.
    First Movement: Screw Up Your Intensity and Follow a Dictator

    To be men! That is the Stalinist law! . . .
    We must learn from Stalin
    his sincere intensity
    his concrete clarity. . . .

    In the first movement, the speaker declares, “To be men! That is the stalinist law!” The speaker is exhorting his listeners to follow the great leader Stalin. The speaker then continues by telling them that they all must “learn from Stalin.” The great leader is full of “sincere intensity” and “concrete clarity.”

    The conclusion

    Pablo Neruda’s writings should be assigned to the dustbin of history. And his poetastric scribblings would have faded into oblivion had they not been hoisted to their present elevation by the left-wing noise machine that virtually controls the art scene in the United States and Europe.
    Neruda deserves the Nobel Laureateship as much as does the feckless, prevaricator Barack Obama. That prize has become irrelevant, having lost its prestige by nominating time and again individuals without accomplishment.
    According to Octavio Paz, Marxists poets of the early 20th century became “entangled in a mesh of lies, falsehoods, deceits and perjuries, until they lost their souls.” This description accurately applies to Pablo Neruda…

    Keep reading here:

  12. Joseph S. Salemi

    It should also be noted that Neruda won the Soviet “International Peace Prize” in 1950, and the “Stalin Peace Prize” in 1953. These awards were both given for his servile bootlicking of the Soviet Union’s Murderer-in-Chief.

    And since we’re speaking the truth here, let’s point out something else. Neruda was personally responsible for the deaths of several hundreds of Spanish political refugees who were fleeing Spain in 1939. As a Chilean diplomat in Spain, he used his position to deny passports and visas for refugees who were Trotskyites or non-Communists. Only orthodox Stalinist toadies were given a chance to escape Spain and survive in Chile. Because of Neruda’s adulation of Stalin, the rest of the political refugees were condemned to exile in France, where a year later they were rounded up by the victorious Nazis and sent to their deaths in concentration camps.

    Neruda had blood on his hands — the blood of his fellow leftists. And he was never sorry about it.


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