from A Gallery of Ethopaths

The bookshops that we used to see
Were citadels of literacy.
Classics of grace and wit and style
Greeted your glance in every aisle.
Today, those humane texts are fewer—
A bookstore is a backed-up sewer
Clogged with the bilge the public guzzles:
Health-food cookbooks, crossword puzzles,
Tracts on UFOs, confessions,
Ghosted memoirs and impressions
Of some fatuous politician,
Starlet, drug-czar, or musician;
Best-sellers pumped by frantic hype,
Celeb-bios, mindless tripe.
But the old bookshop’s sad decline
Has its worst symptom in this sign—
Go to the store, make this discovery:
Books on “self-help” or on “recovery”
Stretched in long rows from shelf to shelf
Proclaiming that one’s poor battered self
Can be redeemed, restored, uplifted,
And have its mental bearings shifted.
Composed by a slew of worthless quacks,
Therapists, gurus, or plain hacks
Spouting a daft, dime-store psychology
As valid as ouija, or phrenology,
These books all say they’ll change your life
Delivering you from mental strife
Through mantras, exercise, or diet
Meant to restore your peace and quiet.
If you’re a meek and timid nerd
Who’s never had his passions stirred,
They’ll train you to be a roaring lion
Like Joshua and the kings of Zion.
If you’re a plain and frumpish lady
They’ll make you a hot, seductive, shady
Femme fatale whose curving hip
Will turn men’s heads and make them flip.
If you’re crippled by angst or doubt
They’ll show you the way to climb right out
And up from that slough’s foul dereliction
And face the world with new conviction.
If you’re upset, or tense, or fretful,
If you’re slow-witted, or forgetful,
If you’re a child who was maltreated,
If you’re too dull, or too conceited,
If your willpower’s non-existent,
If your decisions are inconsistent,
If you’re a spouse who has been battered,
If your esteem’s been badly shattered,
If you were sexually molested,
If you’re bulimic or flat-chested,
If you’re a long-term drug abuser,
If you’re a simple, brain-dead loser,
These books claim they can save your bacon—
They’ll show you how you’ve been mistaken.
The things you thought were real defects
Are pure illusion. Check the text
And find out how to shed your troubles
As easily as champagne bubbles.
Such volumes promise brand-new vision—
All that you need is firm decision
Plus twenty dollars for the book.
If you believe this, you’re one dumb schnook,
For, like cosmetics from a jar,
These books say: Don’t be what you are.
A notion far more asinine
Than changing piss to vintage wine.



Joseph S. Salemi has published five books of poetry, and his poems, translations and scholarly articles have appeared in over one hundred publications world-wide.  He is the editor of the literary magazine Trinacria and writes for Expansive Poetry On-line. He teaches in the Department of Humanities at New York University and in the Department of Classical Languages at Hunter College.

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80 Responses

  1. T. M. Moore

    Like Milton’s twin poems, “L’Allegro” and “Il Penseroso,” I’d love to see a good twin to this spot-on dressing down of contemporary “book stores.” I laughed and “Amened” my way through this whole, dancing (like Ali, I mean) tirade. Thanks for putting into beautiful word what we’ve all felt but lacked the ability to express.

  2. Frank De Canio

    Wow! Great stuff and it all scans perfectly with sense and cogency. It reminded me of some of the lyrics from My Fair Lady. And that’s a compliment! I do have one quibble. The tendency to capitalize the first word of each line, whether it begins a sentence or not. It undermines – in my opinion – the cleverness of the language and slows things up, as well as giving an old-fashioned demeanor to a fresh face. New wine in old bottles, as it were. Anyway, that’s my humble opinion.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Thanks to both of you for your kind comments. I’m grateful, and happy that the passage pleases.

      As for initial capitals, I always use them because they have been the standard practice in Western poetry since the invention of printing. But more importantly, because NOT having them makes the left-hand side of a poem look irredeemably ugly. Without initial caps, the left-hand side is a hodge-podge of small and capital letters, mixed randomly as a result of proper names or the start of a new sentence. And in formalist poetry it is usually a sign that the poet is trying to suck up to the Free Verse Establishment, by showing off that he too is “modern.”

      • T. M. Moore

        Oh, ouch! “Suck up” to free verse? Not me. Not ever. I always let the logic and flow of a sentence continue through the enjambment as if it were prose rather than verse. If I’m violating some unforgiveable norm of formal verse, I guess I’ll just have to violate it. It just makes more sense to me, and makes poetry more readable (IMHO).

  3. Sally Cook

    Dear Joe –

    I have seen other sections of your long work on Ethopaths, and loved every one of them. How you manage to go on at such length and make everything caustic, pointed and relevant I don’t know – but you do.

    If you do put them all together in a book, be sure to let us know where we can get it. Such a book would be a bible of contemporary faults, of which we have altogether too many.

    I truly believe, as I know you do, that this is a dark age. We are at a tipping point where we are in danger of losing our civilization. And to think we are doing this all to ourselves beggars belief. Well, perhaps with some help from the dark forces.

    Listen up, people, Joseph Salemi is warning us with sardonic wit and piercing descriptions what may well happen to us, and at our peril. Not pleasant to think about, but it’s well past time someone did.

    Thanks, Joseph.

  4. James Sale

    A searing indictment of modernism and where its core values have led us; this poem is another powerful reminder that we can push back against the marauders of our mental sanity, as Joseph Salemi so eloquently does. For, as GK Chesterton observed long ago, ‘The truth is, the modern world has had a mental breakdown’.

  5. Joe Bloggs

    The voice of the metropolitan elite sneering and condescending; denying humanity its frailty. A pronouncement on the stupidity of ordinary people who are struggling through tumultuous economic and political times. Where is the compassion Christianity demands for the weak and lost. A polemic of our unequal times from the lofty spires of academia.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Joe, you sound like Michael Burch. Your mewling and positioning mark you as a weak-kneed and slack-jawed ne’er-do-well. If this is the best virtue-signaling you can come up with, then you will be happiest if you just crawl back down into your hole. You have no place among those who strive for excellence.

      • Joe Bloggs

        Confusing C.B. have you a split personality.

  6. C.B. Anderson

    Sock it to ’em, Joe. Unfortunately, the people who most need to read your work will never see it, and if they ever did, they would consign you to the right lunatic fringe because they are, and have always been, incapable of original and cogent thought. You trump Trump when it comes to expressing your honest opinions in a straightforward manner.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      “Joe Bloggs” is a fake name used commonly in the UK as a way to remain anonymous. It functions like “John Q. Public” or “Joe Blow” here in the United States.

      This particular “Joe Bloggs” is a coward who won’t reveal his real name. Whoever he is, his brain is filled with emoticons, not thoughts.

  7. Jan Darling

    Quiet! Joe Bloggs – back to the Blogosphere with you.
    With reference to the ‘lofty spires of academia’: you name Christianity whose lofty spires stood high above the villages and towns – as a symbol of where hope and teaching may be found. They were not there to ‘inspire’ humanity to copy each other’s frailties in an attempt to be ‘equal’.
    Joseph – your elegant verse is crystal clear and dire in its warning. Indeed, the political and social world fermenting around us might be viewed as a reflection of the same falling of standards and rejection of all things conservative as you enumerate in this work. I salute you, Joseph. And Sally – you write my thoughts exactly. Thank you.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Little voices — or great voices — crying out in the wilderness. It’s the same here as it is down under, and I am always pleased to hear from persons of note from the antipodes. Freedom and truth are universal values, except in places — i.e. mindsets — where dissimulation & perverse distortions of normative values are considered de rigueur.

      • David Watt

        Exactly right C.B.! The decay of self-discipline, and the normalization of lower standards are evident worldwide. At least Dr. Salemi is an academic who is prepared to speaks as he sees it, rather than follow the prevailing view.

  8. Gregory Spicer

    He beats his bosom loud and long
    In his medieval comfort zone
    Where hidebound folks think we belong
    Back in an age of bronze and stone
    Where only he may call the shots
    And wise policies are banned
    For fear they may be commie plots
    To undermine his fatherland
    Where no one ever gets a tat
    For fear of vexing dainty eyes
    Forever scanning this or that
    For still more people to despise
    And surely justified by faith
    Which will not always introspect
    To chase off paranoia’s wraith
    Before his peace of mind gets wrecked
    As if he was some angry elf
    Struggling…not to mess himself.

    • Evan Mantyk

      Dear Mr. Spicer,

      You may have issues with Mr. Salemi (it is within his power, as the poet of the post, to have your comment removed, so it remains here only at his mercy), but “commie plots,” malicious attempts to undermine the foundational values of our civilization through a socialist agenda, are an actual issue in this country, out in the open, with Antifa and the Democratic Socialists now on the scene and the insidious nature of the Chinese Communist Party’s vile trade practices and human rights atrocities now fully exposed. We should indeed be worried about communist influences!

      Read more here:

      A commie plot to truly fear
      And that’s insidiously near
      Is pushed by those who seem sincere
      But have a logic clearly queer.

  9. Joseph S. Salemi

    No, Mr. Mantyk, please leave Spicer’s wretched verse up there. Its poor quality is a good indication of his lack of poetic talent. In any case, I’ve been working on a scholarly essay on Skeltonics, so here’s my Skelton-inspired answer to Spicer’s effusion:

    A Flyting for Gregory Spicer

    Note that Spicer (poor old Greg)
    Has laid another rotten egg.
    His arguments amount to this:
    “I hate Salemi, and I’ll diss
    Whatever he may write or say!
    I can’t keep silent one more day!
    He puts poor losers through the screws,
    And he doesn’t like tattoos!”
    Well, that’s fine. I couldn’t care
    What Spicer feels — not one damned hair.
    The lousy bit of verse he’s written
    Just indicates that he’s been smitten
    By the spite of envy’s malice,
    And he’s quaffed mad anger’s chalice.
    Spicer, are you truly pissed?
    Well, too bad — you won’t be missed
    If you choose to disappear
    Or beat a quick retreat in fear.
    You’ll just go down the sewer drain
    Like dogshit in a heavy rain.
    Meanwhile, take a brush-up course
    In writing quatrains with more force.
    The ones you’ve penned are lame and clunky,
    And worthy of a spaced-out junkie.

    But let me take it up a notch —
    Is your problem weed, or scotch,
    Or crystal meth, or heroin,
    Some other pharmaceutic sin?
    Or do you have a dose of clap,
    And has this caused your mind to snap?
    In any case, don’t pick a fight
    When you’re drunk, or daft, or tight.
    Got that, mate? And now you oughta
    Soak your head in ice-cold water.

  10. Gregory Spicer

    He festers now, cankered with hate,
    Certain that it’s the only way
    For nations to secure a fate
    Where only Tories have a say
    Involving feathers they have tarred
    And loads of mud they love to sling
    All over freedoms blooming yard
    Lately plucked by their debauched king,
    Yet somehow his old fashioned verse
    Will salvage civilization
    From some fairy socialist curse
    Most folks call cooperation
    Oh, and how will I quell a yawn
    When next he shouts “get off my lawn!”

  11. Joseph S. Salemi

    Putting Spicer Through The Ricer

    Greg, you want to have a flyting?
    I’m not sure your skill in writing
    Is up to the requirements.
    First off, pal, you lack all sense
    Of what makes for proper scanning —
    What’s your meter? Where’s your planning?
    The stresses in your weak effusion
    Are models of bizarre confusion.
    Line 8, 10, and 11 are
    Botched disasters, but by far
    Your worst fault is you can’t compose
    A verse that won’t make readers doze.
    “Tetra-” means a four-beat meter.
    Your text runs like an old egg beater
    Whose worn-out gears and ill-set rotor
    Grate just like a half-dead motor.
    As for content, how you snivel
    And spout the same old liberal drivel!
    “Freedom’s blooming yard”? What’s that?
    The cesspool where Obama sat?
    “Cooperation”? Oh yeah… laws
    That pave the path for leftist claws.
    You’re just another liberal drone
    In the Northwest Twilight Zone.
    You’re welcome on my lawn, you twit —
    That’s where stray cats come to shit.

  12. Gregory Spicer

    The zealot speaks with half a wit
    So tragically incomplete
    Having been congenitally split
    With the other half in his seat
    Where constipation forms a bond
    His bitter heart cannot undo
    And then in time he gets quite fond
    Of skipping to his angry loo
    To strain until his face turns red
    In fearsome contemplation
    Of what someone may say instead
    Of his prideful indignation
    Which sounds a lot just like, of course,
    The beating of his long dead horse.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Hey, Bloggs — you’re a Brit, aren’t you? I hope you’re as overjoyed as we here in the States are about the coming of Boris Johnson to the position of Prime Minister!

        Finally the anti-Brexit lefties will get their arses kicked. Hooray! I hope you’ll have a pint at your local pub to celebrate! Cheerio, mate!

      • Gregory Spicer

        Sorry, Mr. Bloggs, but Evan plucks the thorns that sting too much.

  13. Joseph S. Salemi

    Alas, Poor Greg, I Knew Him Well…

    Ah, poor Greg, you’re sinking fast;
    This one’s worse than what came last.
    Fourteen lines of mindless pap,
    Unpunctuated obscure crap?
    Is that the best that you can do?
    A run-on sentence, all askew,
    With no clear subject or a verb?
    Perhaps you ought to stop and curb
    Your anger, till you learn to write.
    Don’t try to keep this up all night.
    I’ll clean your clock, I’ll leave you flat,
    I’ll pound you till your brains go splat.
    Today I’m filled with joyous heat,
    Since Boris J’s in Downing Street!
    I can lick the whole damned world!
    Dopes like you will soon be hurled
    Down into Gehenna’s deeps
    With all the other left-wing creeps..

  14. Evan Mantyk

    Is Socialism Cooperation?

    Is socialism cooperation
    When you’re hit with high taxation
    With no sight of its cessation,
    Just gradual morale degradation?
    These two words resist conflation,
    But have produced conflagration
    In histories of many a nation
    To the devil’s great elation.
    Let’s right that wrong on this occasion
    And fix this truly false equation:
    Good will makes true cooperation
    And Truth reverses our damnation.

    On the same topic, this is a great piece debunking the socialist hysteria by a very intelligent New Zealander:
    No Bernie, the Police and Fire Departments Are Not Socialism

    • Joe Bloggs

      Taxes pay for the infrastructure that capitalists all need. Paid for by generations of working people’s tax returns. It allows the capitalist to move his goods on roads, and deals with his sewage. It facilitates the internet built on the public telephone network, and water from the framework of a public utility.
      The New Deal saved capitalism from sinking by creating public works like the Hoover Dam, and Blue Ridge Mountain highway that still serves the people and capitalist today. What’s wrong with taxes Evan? State action is the bedrock of the American dream. (Nightmare under Trump)

      • Evan Mantyk

        The issue is “high taxation,” as clearly indicated in the poem. The article I posted clearly explains that taxes are needed and government has a role to play in any ordinary civilization, but taxes have skyrocketed since 1900 and what those taxes are used for is key. Giving the government larger and larger amounts of our money and asking it to think for us and decide who gets the free stuff is not a good model.

        Also “Joe Bloggs,” do not post on the Society’s website under Joe Bloggs anymore. We specifically indicated that pseudonyms are discouraged. Use your real whole name.

  15. Joe Tessitore

    A singing bird is rapturous.
    A stinking turd is crapturous.
    What evil spell besets the heart
    that cannot tell the two apart?

    I don’t think that there is victory to be had in flyting; only the flushing of two eminently considerable talents irretrievably down the toilet.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      I didn’t start this catfight, Gregory Spicer did. And now you want to step in and play an oleaginous Jorge Bergoglio?

      • Joe Tessitore

        Of course you started it – “Ethopathology” is nothing more than a relentless and gratuitous provocation, designed for you to publicly humiliate whoever responds to it.

        It isn’t poetry by your own standards – there is nothing beautiful about “Ethopathology”.

        Those who support you in this are doing you no favors. It’s an incredibly ugly road that they’re encouraging you to stay on and no good can come from it.

        Give it a rest Joe, for everyone’ sake; for your own most importantly.

  16. Gregory Spicer

    I’m not the only one to see
    Professor Salami’s gaping traits
    Such as absent humility
    And all the hate that he conflates.
    And so few will point it out,
    It seems that only I will dare,
    To question his Swiss clockwork shout
    So like a heartless robot’s blare.
    He knows that it will hypnotize,
    As polished rhetoric will do,
    Which is his way to aggrandize
    The latest conservative spew…
    To be expected from a fop
    Who crowns himself the Poetry cop.

  17. Jan Darling

    Good Lord!
    Methinks he doth protest too much
    As verbal straws he tries to clutch.
    It seems a grasp of rhyme and meter
    Has ne’er concerned the little bleater.

    Professor Salemi – Job should envy your patience.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Thanks, Jan Darling. I’m glad someone besides myself is willing to state publicly that Gregory Spicer is completely incompetent as a poet.

      But then again, he’s never bothered to hide the fact that the only reason he comes here is to express his anger at conservative viewpoints. His interest in poetry is nil.

      • Gregory Spicer

        Nothing hones like a sonnet,
        Heaven’s paragraph of perfection,
        With it’s golden stamp upon it
        Invincible to abjection!
        But there are those who would deride
        This magnificent gift of old.
        Their fluid wit seems to have dried
        And been replaced by Tory mold.
        That mold is the strongest poison
        To inculcate the common mind,
        Against the universal foison
        Universally perceived as kind,
        And the citizens will know it
        When they’ve been lied to by a poet!

    • Sally Cook

      To those who are so offended —

      Doesn’t anyone care about poetry anymore? Is politics all there is?
      A poem can be a vehicle for a plethora of praise or complaint. When writing anything, one might laud or attack issues, attitudes, situations, personality types. Cherry on top is the point of view l

      Certainly all of us have points of view, as diverse as we are. Assuming the technical stuff is up to snuff, put that with your honest opinion and you will, most times, make a competent poem.

      But we are not talking about mere competence. The real topic of this discussion goes way beyond that. I believe we are discussing scope; something very few would-be poets consider. I notice most poems today have a very flat affect — flat and as interesting as a tv screen. Literalness has taken the place of depth of sensitivity, and of scope. What is scope? One way of describing it would be the larger view you get from standing on a mountain top That’s scope — bigger than mere feeling, more precise and predictive.

      Salemi writes with scope in his pen. His mind is far-reaching and sharp as a razor. No wonder silly or obsessed people don’t like what he has to say ! Theirs is a small and narrow view.

      I am not saying Joe Salemi is perfect, and never makes mistakes. He just happens to be a better poet than most, worldwide. You can get mad at him, but you better be prepared to present a good argument, or admit you are wrong. While you are stewing, he is busy not only striving for, but achieving still more scope !

      Grey, Poe, Clough and more – all those he has written about so compellingly at Expansive Poetry Online had it. The late Leo Yankevich had it. Where it comes from, I don’t know. Scope may be a form of God- given prescience, augmented by careful observation, intense study, and good sense.

      In any case, it is not something to be trashed and denigrated. It should be greatly respected. Get real, people ! It is not seemly to sneer at what you do not understand.

      • Gregory Spicer

        Oh my dear Sally Cook,
        I am not here to be offended, but to offend.

        Thusly…more then a mouthwash!

        No god escapes the well wrought scope of man
        Such as micro, stetho, and peri.
        We claim their domain with an increased span
        When sensation and equipment marry.
        Olympic lightning is tamed with a rod,
        Like herds of sheep with the tap of a stick,
        And now even the tide comes in a pod!
        Poseidon himself never knew such a trick!
        Ever and anon men are ascending
        Past thunderclap mountains scraping the sky
        And though mortality could use some mending
        We love to aid our unaided eye.
        In like fashion the poor will soon be rich
        Since scope scratches curiosities itch!

        Additionally, if you desire to be offended, just snatch a ticket and get in line.

        Perhaps you are the one that needs to get real.

  18. Gregory Spicer

    “Oh boo hoo!” cried the metrist
    When his algorithm ran
    Every time that he got pissed
    At the brotherhood of man
    Who love to play with words all day,
    When fashioning their nation state,
    Yet nowhere does it strictly say
    That syllables must count to eight.
    If that were true we’d still have kings
    And all of their despotic tricks
    But we declared much better things
    In seventeen seventy six!
    And on that note I bid adieu
    To fetch an ice cold…liberal brew!

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      A Lesson for Greg Spicer on the American Revolution

      Way back then, in ’76,
      We dumped the bureaucratic pricks
      For whom Greg Spicer beats the drum:
      The stuck-up Parliamentary scum,
      The tax-men and oppressive laws,
      The flapping ministerial jaws,
      Our “betters” who decided then
      That colonists were lesser men,
      And that we had to watch our manners
      And bow our necks to British banners.
      We kicked their fat elitist asses
      And gave Americans free passes
      To live and act just as we like.
      So Spicer, take a lengthy hike —
      Back then you’d have argued how
      Taxation was a sacred cow,
      And that loyalty requires
      Deference to our occupiers.
      You’d have been a gutless Tory
      With no share in our nation’s glory.
      We seized our cherished, holy rights,
      And whipped the Brits in savage fights.
      And right now, that’s what Trump is doing:
      He’s giving leftist creeps a screwing.
      All your bleats just mask your failure,
      So drag you ass to Venezuela.
      Go on, have your “liberal brew” —
      And may it make you choke and spew.

      Give it up, Greg — you’re totally outclassed in this flyting.

    • Sally Cook

      Dear Mr. Bloggs of Bloggosphere,
      Fly off to anywhere but here,
      In company with rantng Spicer,
      Who’reasons not, and could be nicer.

  19. Joseph S. Salemi

    To Joe Tessitore —

    The name isn’t “ethopathology” — it’s “ethopathy.”

    There’s nothing beautiful about my poem? Well, chacun a son gout. But the fact that over thirty-five lengthy sections of it have been published in multiple journals so far, prior to the publication of the entire text, indicates that much of literary world disagrees with you.

    If you don’t like my work you don’t have to read it, and you don’t have to comment on it. I make it a point never to comment on yours. But frankly, you simply couldn’t resist sticking your two cents into this debate. That indicates you’re a lot more obsessed with me and my work than I could ever be with yours.

    By the way, continue your tiresome habit of shouting “Great! Fabulous! Wonderful! Amazing!” whenever a mediocre amateur poem is posted. That’s sure to make you feel more like Bergoglio.

    • Joe Tessitore

      Thanks for comparing me to the Pope.

      Mein Kampf’s been published even more than you have.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        And everybody else has been published more than Joe Tessitore has.

      • Joe Tessitore

        You’re right – I never made a dime from a rhyme.
        Last word’s yours, Mighty Joe, but one quick question before I go; what happened to you and the Steve Hagerman thing?
        I never thought I’d live to see the day when you ran away from a spirited discussion with your tail between your legs.
        What kind of Homeric warrior does that?
        That Bruce Dale really has it going on, doesn’t he?
        I still laugh out loud when I think of his first paragraph; “ … the rantings of the more youthful, if less rational, Mr. MacKenzie … “ indeed!!!
        Hasta la vista, Homey!

      • Sally Cook

        Joe T.,
        I am embarrassed for you, using the “Progressive” name-calling trick. Thought you were better than that.

  20. Joseph S. Salemi

    Who the hell do you think you’re kidding, Tessitore?

    I cleaned Hagerman’s clock in that metrical debate. The guy is an electrician, and what he knows about metrics is minimal. Why don’t you go back and read the exchanges for yourself? He never adequately answered a single point that I raised. He just shut up.

    As for BDW, I mentioned in my last post at that thread that he was suffering from some sort of mental syndrome. He never came back to discuss the matter. Since I promised James Tweedie that I would cease arguing, I see no need to revisit the issue.

    Leo Yankevich taught me NEVER to run from a fight. And you know what Leo would have said about you? You’re just a CHEAP PUNK, who’s now pretending to have religion. Why don’t you tell us about your real history — or are you too ashamed of it?

    By the way, I didn’t compare you to the Pope. Bergoglio and the papacy are two Venn diagrams that don’t overlap.

    • Joe Tessitore

      You cleaned Steve Hagerman ‘s clock? That’s right up there with “There’s a conspiracy of West Coast poets out to get me!”

      Flyting? Really, Giuseppe?
      Try coming in for a landing.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Yes, I cleaned Steve Hagerman’s clock. The guy is so stupid he still thinks that Shakespeare wrote all of his poems in syllabics. When I proved otherwise (and Bruce Dale Wise agreed), Hagerman couldn’t make a peep about it.

    • Joe Tessitore

      Dear Sally,

      What name have I called Salemi that gets even remotely close to the vile things he says about me – “CHEAP PUNK” being but the latest example, in spite of the fact that he finds it necessary to hide behind a dead person to say it?
      And yet you have nothing to say to or about him.

      You needn’t be embarrassed for me – look to yourself; you’ll find that there’s more than enough work for you there to do.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        You think I’m hiding behind a dead man? OK, here’s my reply, in my own personal voice:

        Joe Tessitore is a CHEAP PUNK.

        Let me add also that your poems suck, your critiques are childish, and you are so envious of my talents that you are ready to wither up and die from grief.

        Happy now? Good. Go talk to your spiritual advisor.

  21. Gregory Spicer

    I call out bullies when I can
    And the obnoxious verse they do
    And give no damn if poems scan
    When all they give is right wing skew,
    Biting like some hyena pack
    At war with edification,
    Offering, no counter attack
    Against the abomination!
    It’s time for people to be brave
    And sing out against invective
    No matter who may be the knave
    Offering the rude directive,
    For even bards will give abuse
    When their meter…steps like a goose!

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      For Greg Spicer, Incompetent Leftist Pseudo-Poet

      Spicer shows his flag at last:
      A little left-wing chloroplast
      Absorbing sunlight to create
      The weeds of mindless New-Age hate.’
      A semi-educated slug
      Whose half-baked verse deserves a shrug
      And nothing more. Just scan his lines;
      They read like infantilish whines
      Penned by someone in a crib
      Still drooling on his mama’s bib.
      At this point, Greg is out of luck —
      He’s proved himself a total schmuck.
      Verses like the ones he’s posted
      Are not just cooked — they’re fried and roasted
      Like dead horsemeat on a grill.
      Greg, you’re just a stupid shill
      For Antifa and other thugs.
      Change your job — try selling drugs!
      Go to Portland or Seattle
      And push dope to the brainless cattle
      Who now infest your shit-hole state.
      Over here, you just don’t rate.
      You see, you cannot write a verse
      Without it being bad, or worse.
      So I’ll just keep on writing pages
      While you slip into helpless rages.
      By the way, learn how to spell —
      Your reputation’s shot to hell
      When you make goofy flubs like these,
      And try to learn some grammar, please!

      Spicer’s illiterate errors:

      “more then” (he means “more than”)
      “curiosities” (he means “curiosity’s”)
      “it’s” (he means “its”)

  22. B. S. Eliud Acrewe

    Mr. Salemi’s loose iambic tetrameters above from “A Gallery of Ethopaths” are better than Mr. Spicer’s and Mr. Salemi’s iambic tetrameters on this strand, partially because, although also filled with invective, they hit harder because of their colourful, “abstract” nature. In action, the iambs of Mr. Spicer and Mr. Salemi are reminiscent of the lively iambs of Dryden, Pope, Johnson, and Byron. Wouldn’t it be nice if they could in time approach the power of any of those remarkable British poets? Although it is highly unlikely, there is no reason why outside of Britain, we could not have a comp’rable Dryden, Pope, Samuel Johnson, or George Gordon in India, in Canada, in South Africa, in Australia, etc. After all, both Mr. Spicer’s and Mr. Salemi’s iambics are passionate. They have the energy and the material; it is the refinement that is missing. But as for approaching the power of Juvenal; because we are not syllable counters, I highly doubt that will happen in the English-speaking world anytime soon, despite the many exciting things happening in English poetry around the Globe.

    But that is not the main reason I have come to this strand. I have come here to attend to a remark of Mr. Salemi’s. As such, I wonder, indeed, if it is Mr. Salemi who is “suffering from some sort of mental syndrome”. I certainly am not. And to hear such rubbish from a literary critic is laughable. If Mr. Salemi is interested in the matters of which he speaks about in reference to BDW, which I doubt, he can read a response on the “Pablo Neruda/Joseph Stalin” strand, which is why he would have missed it. It was written there not to detract from Mr. Hagerman’s post any further.

    • Joe Tessitore

      Dear Mr. Acrewe,

      I have been wondering the same thing.
      The fact that he believes that there is a conspiracy of West Coast poets out to get him is my most recent cause for concern.
      The fact that he believes that the Pope is not the Pope, and that anyone who believes that the Pope IS the Pope is crazy, is yet another cause for concern.
      His seeming inability to control his anger – on a poetry page, of all places – is also disturbing.
      And finally, I think he might believe that he’s fighting a Crusade, though I’m not really sure about this one – that might be MacKenzie.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        You think that I can’t control my anger? Is the pot calling the kettle black? Every word you have posted in this catfight indicates your rage and you malice towards me.

        Is there some conspiracy of Pacific Northwest left-liberals out there? I don’t know. I simply pointed out the unusual cluster of persons from that area involved in this dispute. Draw your own conclusions.

        As for Bergoglio being an antipope, there are PLENTY of devout Roman Catholics besides myself who think that the man is a fraud and a heretic. You were so clueless that you didn’t even know that there was an argument over this issue — not until I told you in a past posting here. That indicates your basic Novus Ordo stupidity.

        I’m not fighting any crusade. I’m just a poet who is trying to restore sanity to the world of formal poetry, in circumstances that are deeply inimical to it. Part of the problem is people like you and Spicer, who are utterly incompetent in writing verse, and who don’t want to learn how to improve.

  23. Gregory Spicer

    Thinking it humanity’s box
    Where all of our thinking is done
    Salami’s brain contains the pox
    That has outside box thought on the run
    Proving that all his college years
    Have given him no better verse
    Then that of self trained sonneteers
    He tries to put down with his curse
    Which is a block of graceless rap
    Full of teenage caveman thought
    Exactly like the ghetto crap
    Routinely getting rappers shot
    So I’ll forego his high tuition
    For Mr. Acrewe’s recognition.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Sigh. Once again, despite previous correction by me, Greg Spicer writes “then” when he means “than” (see line 7 of the above).

      There’s also no punctuation at all. This guy can be called literate only with the widest latitude of charity. If he wants to forego my teaching (not “tuition”) that’s fine, but he needs re-education from somebody.

      • Gregory Spicer

        That’s like asking for quotation marks when I’m showing you my middle finger. Go check yourself into the psyche ward, Poindexter.

  24. Joseph S. Salemi

    It looks like I’m getting under Spicer’s skin. Since his substandard doggerel won’t work in this fight, he sinks into pure abuse.

    • Gregory Spicer

      I think I’ve done enough to show everyone what you really are. But thanks anyway for the free tetrameter lessons…chump!

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Too bad you didn’t learn anything about writing poetry.

  25. Joe Tessitore

    I’m sorry for the way things are between us.
    I’m sorry that I brought it to this point.
    Please forgive me.

  26. James Sale

    I have written extensively about the poetry of Joseph Salemi, and amongst the moderns he is one of our greats. The attacks against seem to me to be inspired by his value system rather than his poetic ability; I haven’t read Gregory Spicer’s other poetry (in which he may shine), but certainly in terms of this contest, the laurel for powerful, epigrammatic satire belongs to Salemi. But talking of the wider values, I am British myself and deliriously happy that Boris Johnson is now Prime Minister of the UK. We have in the West been overtaken by ‘progressive’ values which are undermining society itself, and which are also duplicitous – whilst claiming ‘liberal’ and progressive values, they really represent a deep form of communism; a hydra that simply will not go away. So it is regrettable to have vitrolic attacks but it is important to stand up for clear principles.

    • Gregory Spicer

      Juvenal, or Juvenile?

      Since they have been aimed at beginners, Salami’s lines are those of a bully, métier or no métier, and classical liberalism has rarely overlapped with communism.

  27. Stephen Hagerman

    “The bookshops that we used to see (we-USED-to-SEE)
    Were citadels of literacy. (LIT-er-ah-see) (This is not a rhyme)
    Classics of grace and wit and style (Is that “of”, or with?)
    Greeted your glance in every aisle.
    Today, those humane texts are fewer— Do you intend a spondie here? hu-MANE /TEXTS are / FEW-er
    A bookstore is a backed-up sewer (really Mr. Salami? an unsupported accusation?
    Clogged with the bilge the public guzzles:
    Health-food cookbooks, crossword puzzles, (again this is trochaic with a spondee)
    Tracts on UFOs, confessions, (You us abbreviation in formal literature?)
    Ghosted memoirs and impressions (Ghost-ed/ MEM-oirs/and imPRESsions) is not iambic
    Of some fatuous politician, (I have no idea what this is “of some FAT/-u-ous pol-i-TISH-uh n”? This is not syllabic verse. It’s not even accentual verse.
    Starlet, drug-czar, or musician; (Again this is trochee and an anapest) To claim a line of verse is loose iambic you need at least one iambic foot in the line)
    Best-sellers pumped by frantic hype,
    Celeb-bios, mindless tripe.
    (Stanza break?) Oh! wait! you completely ignore the fact that this is a new thought
    But the old bookshop’s sad decline (another spondee)
    Has its worst symptom in this sign— (again a spondee)
    Go to the store, make this discovery:
    Books on “self-help” or on “recovery”
    Stretched in long rows from shelf to shelf, (A poor description. Do you mean these rows circle arond at the end in some sort of serpintine arrangement?)
    Proclaiming that one’s poor battered self (Finally a lityle lose iambic meter)
    Can be redeemed, restored, uplifted, (Oh dear, oh dear! strict iambic meter? clip-clop clip-clop.)
    And have its mental bearings shifted. (clip-clop, clip-clop)
    Composed by a slew of worthless quacks,
    Therapists, gurus, or plain hacks (I don’t even have to scan this line to see that it’s off)
    Spouting a daft, dime-store psychology (“psychology” is stressed sahy-KOL-uh-jee ending this line in a dactyl and NOT feminine rhyme)
    As valid as ouija, or phrenology, (Again a dactyl ending)
    These books all say they’ll change your life (clip-clop, clip-clop)
    Delivering you from mental strife
    Through mantras, exercise, or diet (EK/-ser-sahyz, or diet?) (Three unstressed syllables in a row) this is not any meter I’ve ever read)
    Meant to restore your peace and quiet.
    If you’re a meek and timid nerd (suggesting of course that all who are meek and timid are nerds)
    Who’s never had his passions stirred, (clip-clop, clip-clop)
    They’ll train you to be a roaring lion
    Like Joshua and the kings of Zion. (now four unstressed syllables in a row… Really?)
    If you’re a plain and frumpish lady (clip-clop, clip-clop)
    They’ll make you a hot, seductive, shady (meaning “of dubious character; rather disreputable?) isn’t this bad grammar? shouldn’t it be: and/or “shady”
    Femme fatale whose curving hip (Another trochee)
    Will turn men’s heads and make them flip. (clip-clop, clip-clop)
    If you’re crippled by angst or doubt
    They’ll show you the way to climb right out
    And up from that slough’s foul dereliction
    And face the world with new conviction. (Really Mr. Salami? This is a run-on sentence)
    (Stanza break) Oh! Wait! you don’t use stanza breaks…
    If you’re upset, or tense, or fretful, (clip-clop, clip-clop)
    If you’re slow-witted, or forgetful, (clip-clop, clip-clop)
    If you’re a child who was maltreated, (clip-clop, clip-clop)
    If you’re too dull, or too conceited, (clip-clop, clip-clop)
    If your willpower’s non-existent, (WIL-poh-er, is where the correct stress belongs making this another spondee)
    If your decisions are inconsistent,
    If you’re a spouse who has been battered,
    If your esteem’s been badly shattered,
    If you were sexually molested,
    If you’re bulimic or flat-chested,
    If you’re a long-term drug abuser,
    If you’re a simple, brain-dead loser, ( An expert speaks)
    (Stanza break) This last stanza is anaphoric and absolutely should be its own stanza)
    These books claim they can save your bacon—
    They’ll show you how you’ve been mistaken.
    The things you thought were real defects (clip-clop, clip-clop)
    Are pure illusion. Check the text (clip-clop, clip-clop)
    And find out how to shed your troubles
    As easily as champagne bubbles. (sham-PEYN / BUB-bles, another spondee)
    Such volumes promise brand-new vision—
    All that you need is firm decision (bad diction)
    Plus twenty dollars for the book. (clip-clop, clip-clop)
    If you believe this, you’re one dumb schnook, (calling the kettle black)
    For, like cosmetics from a jar, (clip-clop, clip-clop)
    These books say: Don’t be what you are.
    A notion far more asinine
    Than changing piss to vintage wine.”

    Mr. Swami Salami, I think you’re full of bologna. I didn’t even get into the rhythm or mention the inconsistent stressed syllables in these lines. What is this? It is not metered verse. It is not free verse. It does not conform to any form, or type of poetry. I’ve seen elementary school kids write better than this. The truly sad thing here is for someone with your education and position to use your status to malign and belittle. people who look for guidance and direction from people like you. Instead, what they get is this crap. You and Mr. U. N. Wise are perfect examples of hatters that can only find satisfaction in putting down everyone, and everything you see. You are not contributing to this artform. You are the problem with this artform. It is no wonder to me that in the past twenty years the appreciation of poetry has fallen off a cliff. No! neither I or any others that truly love this artform will be able to save it. Not as long as there are people like you who are intent on destroying it.

    • Jan Darling

      neither I or any others that truly love
      Neither I NOR any others WHO truly love
      People in glasshouses……

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Dear Mr. Hagerman —

      What do you plan to do? Electrocute me?

      Buzz off.

  28. Gregory Spicer

    Mr. Hagerman is spot on regarding The Nutty Professor’s bullying behavior. Anybody with any practical, real time, street level sociological experience can plainly see it. Hagerman’s testimony is important because there are plenty of online poetry resources where burgeoning bards will receive supportive criticism without the counterproductive smash mouth attitude that has crept into everything lately as hinted at in Big Jimbo Sale’s remarks posted above, and which only serve to help prove that this website’s primary purpose is political and not at all focused purely on poetics.

    The only thing classical about this website is it’s trivium placement of poetry as a subset of rhetoric.

    There does seem to be a minority of talent here that genuinely places poetry first and I respect them. The trick is to distinguish who is who.

    Making that matter a simple one is the bulk of Salemi and Sale’s verbosity which is shamelessly naked political rage hiding behind the thin veneer of alleged classicism. I don’t mind that so much since I’ve done my fair share of the same but please allow for a dissenter’s voice. I cheerfully admit that I am still a rookie with poetry and so I was initially drawn to this forum hoping to find some neutral territory for learning, but there is no neutrality here and the proof is built into the very first theme mentioned on the list of themes for submitted poetry. It may as well be Fox News.

    That being said, I will probably most likely purchase the hardback version of the journal. Why? Because I hear that Mr. Tessitore’s work lay upon it’s pages and because I think, like the old Chinese, that a good binding is “classical”… just not on a lady’s foot.

    • Jan Darling

      Mr. Tessitore’s work lay upon it’s?? pages

      Not a good look for an argument, in major part, based on detail.

  29. James Sale

    It is important to be supportive of people and their efforts, for we all start as beginners and are on a learning curve throughout our lives if we are serious about achieving all that can be achieved. Equally, it is important not to get personal about other people’s work, since that undermines the validity of the judgement, certainly in the view of neutral onlookers. Everyone is carrying a heavy load, so we need to be kind, as Philo of Alexandria commented in the 4th century. I take on board some of what Gregory Spicer is saying, but whereas I think that Joseph Salemi’s poetry is genuine satire, I have to say that Gregory Spicer’s is really just abuse in rhyme. The difference is the wit: how the meter, rhyme and connotations combine in their unexpected juxtapositions. I could demonstrate this in a lot more detail but I wouldn’t want to be ‘verbose’. Abusing people doesn’t help. The last time I heard the expression ‘Big Jimbo Sale’ – which incidentally brought memories that made me smile – was when I was 14 (that is to say, over 50 years ago) in the school playground! Let’s keep it cool; let’s avoid the infantile – it’s simply silly.

  30. Eric Awesud Ble

    George Orwell begins his excellent personal essay “Shooting an Elephant” of 1936 with:

    “In Moulmein, in Lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people—the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me.”

  31. James Sale

    Yes, Eric, the desire to be important has misled many. It’s natural, perhaps, to want it, but let’s refrain from trying to grab it by being obnoxious – that is, by being hateful. Let’s be fair to people and give them what they are due – indeed, I take the view that most people have some quality, most poets have some skill, that is worthy of commendation. As I have said many times before, I don’t always agree with your conclusions but I like your contributions since you always have an interesting angle on things. And btw, I really like Orwell as a writer, although I disagree with his political stance. And PS – nice one: Orwell’s real name was Eric Blair, so your heteronym is quite apposite here.

  32. Joseph S. Salemi

    One of the common techniques of the political left is “gaslighting” — the tactic of charging one’s opponents with the crimes that the left itself commits regularly. This technique is perfectly illustrated in Spicer’s pathetic attempt to defend his position in this dispute as that of a poor little beleaguered soul, a young novice seeking only to find help with his poetry, and wanting nothing more that to be “a dissenter’s voice.” He longs for “neutral territory.” The arrogance of his lying attitude staggers belief.

    No one has ever tried to silence Gregory Spicer. No one has attempted to censor his posts. His material has been published, and discussion and critique have followed it. There have been sharp exchanges, to be sure, but he has not been banished or forced into silence. To use leftist terminology, this has been a “safe space” for him.

    Can Spicer say the same about the vast majority of other poetry websites and venues, where the slightest hint of conservative or right-wing opinion will get a poet kicked off immediately? Where the merest variation from orthodox left-liberal views will generate a flood of furious complaints to the webmaster, resulting in the offender being blackballed forever?

    And yet Spicer has the cheek to complain that this website isn’t neutral. We are explicitly anti-Communist and anti-totalitarian, and many poets here are both religious and politically conservative. He doesn’t like that, so he has taken it upon himself to make trouble. Almost all of his posted comments on various threads have been designed to express contempt for non-liberal views, or to start a fight.

    Consider the plain facts of how this particular thread began. I posted a section from my “Gallery of Ethopaths” dealing with bookstores. It had no political content at all, but was merely a satirical complaint about the general mindlessness of “victim-culture” in American society, and how it had generated a flood of stupid self-help books. The follow-up discussion thread was perfectly civil until some anonymous poster (on July 17) ranted about how my poem was “condescending” and “elitist” and lacking in compassion for the “weak and lost.” This went by with some minor comments, until on July 23 (six days later) Gregory Spicer posted his insulting and semiliterate pseudo-sonnet attacking me personally. I then replied with my first flyting — which had NO POLITICAL COMMENTS AT ALL.

    The fat was in the fire then, and Spicer now had the opening he had wanted all along — namely, to connect the dispute to the currently raging political and cultural wars. When that occurred, I naturally responded in kind. Gregory Spicer got exactly what he hoped for –a political fight that he could use to wreck or discredit the SCP and its website.

    The truth slipped out inadvertently, when one commenter sympathetic to Spicer claimed that I had started the fight, SIMPLY BY POSTING MY POEM, which he called “a relentless and gratuitous provocation.” In other words, merely giving voice to a non-orthodox viewpoint on a cultural matter is a culpable act, and something that is rightly subject to vituperative response. Somebody expresses a politically incorrect opinion, and a chorus of accusers is then orchestrated to attack and vilify him. This happening all over the United States today, and is being done deliberately by people like Gregory Spicer and his allies.

    And now, when the dispute is winding down, Gregory Spicer piously whines about how the SCP is not neutral, and shares the unspeakable views of FOX News, and how horrible it is that the website publishes Salemi’s evil poetry and critical views, which are designed to irreparably damage young people, etc, etc, etc.

    This is pure, gaslighting hypocrisy. Spicer has a political mission, which is either to shut the SCP down, or to terrorize its poetic contributors into following a left-liberal line in all submissions and commentary. He wants the website to become acceptable to his Antifa buddies in the People’s Republic of Washington-Oregon.

    Of course he will now deny this, and spout more bull about how he is just a poor little novice poet looking for a neutral safe space, and how he wishes the SCP would be more “diverse” and “non-judgmental” and “open to differences.” Yeah, sure.

  33. Eric Awesud Ble

    I do enjoy the histrionic elements of this thread. At times I am reminded of Oscar Wilde’s plays.

    If I combine Mr. Salemi’s and Mr. Hagerman’s epithets, along with Mr. Burch’s, I could go by Mr. U. N. Wise—the Mad Hatter! I like it.

    And now to be assailed by Mr. Sale—ah, the winds are blowing. Perhaps, like Odysseus, we can set sail for grand new adventures. Still, disagreement is not hate, nor is criticism obnoxious. Without either, good New Millennial literature cannot flourish. Yes, Mr. Sale was the first to note…Eric Arthur Blair. And though I have no idea about Mr. Orwell’s mundane political stances, I can think of no one as penetrating as he was in reference to the politics of the 20th century—no one. [But politics, after all, is only one of the many enterprises of the human spirit.]

    While it is true nearly all writers have some skill that is worthy of note. It is also even more true that nearly all the poems @ SCP are not of much note in the great scheme of things—mine included. World literature is so old, so vast, and so huge that it is very nearly impossible to add to its great store anything new that is at the same time the equal of earlier weightier works. The challenge for all poets who are serious about their craft, in addition to being innovative and traditional, is to face both the future and the past while living to their utmost in the present. And though we all fail—I am reminded by Oscar Wilde’s quote: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”.

  34. Gregory Spicer

    The old silver back alpha male repeats himself by whining about the whiners. Next he’ll be telling us that the Beatitudes are a leftist conspiracy. All his poetry, his comments that rail against his oh so horrible students, and even his admiration of other poems that convey the same sentiment are solid proof of his misanthropy. Look up the word in the dictionary and you’ll probably see a photo of his face. He simply does not like anybody that he perceives as weak or imperfect. I bet the meek inheriting the earth is a euphemism he uses for the early burial that he desires for all of them. I called the bully out and now he whines about it and will continue to do so by calling it his poetic voice, his alpha voice stalking the beta voice every time. Just check out his comments on some of the other threads if you don’t believe me. It’s anthropology 101.

    Please crack no grin on my behalf
    I prefer no shattered faces
    And muster not an anxious laugh
    For plugging graceless parley spaces.
    Indeed it’s tough to access couth
    When budgets will not pay for tea,
    But if you laid off cheap vermouth
    Your sober manners would be free.
    It’s possible, oh yes it is,
    For conversation to be nice
    Without cocktails made to fizz
    When poured all over fancy ice,
    And do not think that you lack charm
    Because you fetish monster trucks
    Or that you had to sell your farm
    To harder working Latin schmucks,
    But there’s no excuse for lashing out
    Because you made poor decisions
    By way of witless twitter shout
    At snotty liberal derisions,
    So, why be so deplorable,
    When decorum is explorable?

    Now I think I will find a gutter…and look at stars.

  35. Joseph S. Salemi

    Instead of finding a gutter, why not just recite your impenetrable verse at the Howl At The Moon Festival in Vancouver? That seems to be more your speed.

    • Ken P. Paunch

      There are still waters running very deep in Mr. BDW, and his sense of humor!
      Dr. Salemi’s “electrocute me/buzz off” response – a touch of brilliant wit.


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