Are you afraid of ghosts, Mr. X?
Your piece on Mr. Y's Rules of the River was not a review of the poetry contained therein but an attempted character assassination of both Y and one of the editors, who I believe created an excellent publication. Reflecting on this I can only assume that you were trying to smother these two voices, to stop Y at least from coming in from the cold, or to return from the heart of darkness. I wonder what causes this unease, this fear you obviously have for the two. To dedicate so many words to hurting them and to stopping them from being read – which is patently, by the way, counterproductive – in such a personal and vicious manner will only make your readers question your own security, and also what really happened all those years ago. It is certainly not anyone else but you who seem to be stuck there. Is there something in there you are not proud of?
I laughed when I read that, in your paranoia, you sensed Mao lurking in the two poems. I laughed when you stated that in one of them Y ‘implies that he’s been conducting espionage for some Maoist NGO in Egypt or Somalia, or wherever.’ As you state yourself, you know little of Y's actions since he was a young man, and obviously have not seen much of the world or seem to care much about it. Incidentally, in Egypt he worked for an organization called Terre Des Hommes, which works to protect the rights of children – I doubt that he was conducting Maoist espionage on them. In all other contexts he was doing similar work, and if you had been googling responsibly you would have come to the same conclusion (although you’d have probably still proceeded with the attack regardless). You may need to expand your horizons, Mr. X, and move on. For the past thirty-five years, unlike yourself, Y has had a career in the real world. He was not in ‘the heart of darkness,’ at least not metaphorically, not in the ‘murk,’ not in the ‘wilderness (where is that exactly, Mr. X? Anywhere outside of your own experience?),’ and he was certainly not ‘institutionalized’ as you imply (one of the most unimaginative and savage attacks your clumsy article contains). There were no Maoists, Mr. X – in your irrational unease at seeing Y's and the editod's names haunt you again you must have gotten you overexcited and maybe a little paranoid.
Your rather concise critique, added like a postscript to disguise the slander as a book review, of the poetry itself is just as misplaced, clumsy, and anxious, and typed with just as much bad faith, as your ad hominems which form the bulk of the piece. You criticize the poetry for being ‘obscure and insinuative rather than articulative,’ and for coming ‘with no accompanying contextualizations.’ As your readers will know, this comes with the territory of poetry. Even if you disagree, it is certainly not a valid, God-like criticism of anyone’s work. The poems are not even obscure by anyone’s stretch of the imagination (well, perhaps by yours).
As for the contextualizations, you seem to ignore your friend's excellent artwork which would resonate clearly with an objective reader, rather than one who’s pulled out the dagger before opening the book. And for the record, he was shown the layout prior to printing and was very happy with it, and happy with the outcome, and therefore your objection to the workmanship and descriptions of his work are misplaced. It may seem odd to your readers that the artist, who you obviously admire, colluded with Y on this work, which, if I can hazard a guess, you will not be nominating for any awards. Could it be that the artist liked the poetry? Could it be that your readers will to, if shown it? Is that why you are afraid of this haunting? Also, hilariously, you take the title of ‘Rules of the River’ literally, and offer as a critique the fact that the name of the river itself is not stated. The river isn’t the Nile, and Mao isn’t paddling along it, Mr. X. There are more things in heaven and earth.
I am glad, though, that you admitted not being able to penetrate the poem’s eleven rules, because ‘they are evocative rather than disclosive statements unlocated in a delineated landscape.’ I think Y would have no trouble agreeing with this, although I’m not sure he would apologize for not delineating a landscape you would recognize (downtown Toronto?). I might also say that one rule at least should have seemed quite disclosive to you, quite easy to penetrate, even in your state of nervous excitement – ‘the law of lek: everything fights back.’
In any case, I urge you to type out the first poem on your website and let your readers judge for themselves.
I also can’t help but balk at another curious falsity that you have asserted: that Y had attempted to court an ex-wife of yours. I wonder why this troubles you so. I also wonder why you must resort to this sort of attack in what is supposed to be a book review. Did she mention that Y had read Rules of the River to acclaim at a major conference of poets? Did you? Did you ever think that it might be true that there is a street named after him in Uganda, or a tree in India? Or is it beyond your capacity to say a good thing about people who try to produce a book? Maybe you have had no trees named after yourself, Mr. X. It also seems to me that all your criticisms apply to you rather than him. From your piece I can guess why not. ‘Egomaniacal monologuing’? Check. ‘Composition without intellectual responsibility, discipline or research’? Yep – was your piece responsible? Was it disciplined or researched? ‘Cognitive contraptions’? Check – again, your piece on Rules of the River was an interesting study. ‘A man who doesn’t appear to have altered his intellectual procedures or his attitudes towards others in three and a half decades.’ Check – how many enemies have you made with this sort of slander, Mr. X? Perhaps it is time to confess. ‘What a waste’? Well, we shall leave that for the river to decide. Certainly not you.
I am sending you another of Y's works for you to review – Re: The Dead Arts. I think he’s done well with the title, don’t you? Boo!