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May 31, 2001
To Tim Scannell:

I've chanced upon your review -- via The Drunken Boat* -- of Robert Mezey,** and I must say some of the sections you've excerpted for discussion certainly do not show him at his best. Other poems, however, you have mightily misread. I hardly know what to say except...well, perhaps this might be helpful: Bob Mezey is not a liberal! And whatever his flaws, he is not, trust me on this, "knee-jerk," not in any respect. Indeed, he scorns trendy ideas as a rule, and evidentially the PC*** -- to use your term -- do not find him PC. I've heard that some students at Clarement protested against him (I can't remember which group he [is] said to have offended), and he was altogether unrepentant. I don't know if it's true, but it sounds perfectly in character with the Bob Mezey I know.

If you will then, as we say in the acting world, "take this adjustment" and return to his Eurocentric Male poem you might see it in a different light. I suspect you have mistaken the target of his scorn.

Above and beyond politics, correct or incorrect, I find the poetry to be a troubling, fascinating, blend of beauty and vitriol, vulnerability and pugnacity. But the beauty, where it appears, is staggering. And as for the vitriol, oh why must poets always take great pains to present themselves as likable!? I suppose the answer is that if they don't they cannot reasonably expect to get many sympathetic reviews.

Best regards,
Suzanne Lummis
Los Angles Poetry Festival

[*www.thedrunkenboat.com. Editor: Rebecca Seiferle. A profile of Big City Lit™ appears in the Spring issue of that online magazine. Ed.
** The review Ms. Lummis refers to is "Why Poetry Fails: Robert Mezey's Collected Poems (1952-1999)" which appears in the May issue of Big City Lit™. Ed.
*** "PC": Abbreviation for "political correctness" or "politically correct." Ed.]

 

Tim Scannell responds:

June 5, 2001

Dear Ms. Lummis,

Though I may or may not have "mightly misread," I will stay with the thrust of my review of Bob Mezey's politicized verse which masquerades as poetry. I actually read all 304 pages of his 'rhetoric' (as opposed to 'poetry'), and am satisfied that his versifying is, indeed, a thin gruel and I will not say, "More, please!"

My essays on "Politics and Poetry" and "On Good Reviewing" (Big City Lit, 6/2001) are, respectively, plainspoken assertions of my beliefs re poetry qua poetry, and my standards as a reviewer of same. The first essay places the fount and value of poetry hundreds of generations before the establishment of the State. (I mean by that the 400-plus Greek states and constitutions.) My standards for explicating poetry are quite simple: persona/tone/voice and the 'shimmering' 400-plus tropes which electrify the English language.

That students at Claremont protested against Mezey, and that he was "unrepentant," is immaterial to me (and boring): 1) I couldn't care less about his 'aura' as a teacher; and 2) that he was "unrepentant" in that societal landscape academe in no way raises his rhetorical writings to poetry.

You suggest I read his "Eurocentric Male" poem again, this time through an "adjustment" derived from your point of view: "as we say in the acting world." Sorry to say that I neither live in an "acting world," nor do I believe that this life is in any way a "rehearsal." Mezey may hope to hoodwink some benighted readers by adopting a persona he may choose to dub 'comic/satiric,' but I reject the camouflage. Generally and throughout his book, his screeds reek of Political Correctness, Affirmative Action-itis, and a laughable conflation of the most rudimentary Aristotelian categories, ergo, the typical social engineering of Liberalism: its tedious rhetorical nodes of acedia, pseudo-angst, anomie and oh so boo-hoo-hoo-hoo ersatz ennui.

I do, however, thank you for your letter re my review. Happy to report though, I am neither into the world of acting or adjustment.

Tim Scannell