Dear Emily Post-Avant,

Could you tell me what happened to Flarf? It was all the rage just a few short years ago and then it just disappeared. I mean, totally. I have tried submitting my Flarf poems to magazines and they are all getting rejected, and with form slips. I have about five hundred poems on my computer and they seem destined for the virtual Trash Can of History. Help!

–Flarfist Come Lately

Dear Flarfist Come Lately,

Yours is a very good question. Usually, pop-fads do hang around for a while, in some form of drawn-out senescence. And archeological remains of them will typically be found for a spell, in flea markets and vintage shops (think of the lava lamp, for example, of which still many examples can be found). But you are right. Flarf seems to have vanished into total oblivion in a wink, to have just gone vamoosh and extinct, like the Dodo, with nary a whimper. *Yo, hello, Flarf? Anyone there?? Listen, still plenty of subaltern types out there to poach from and mock if you decide to come back for a second go!*

–Emily Post-Avant

*

Dear Emily Post-Avant,

I am the Chair of the Department of Modern American Literature, at Gudan University, in Shanghai, China. My book, published in 2012, is concerning the intimate relationship of the center-liberal poet Charles Bernstein and the far right-wing critic Marjorie Perloff, in its aesthetic, cultural, gender, and political implications. I have never heard of this dead Liu Xiaobo, who is a person you keep talking about at the website Dispatches from the Poetry Wars, nor of his wife (under house arrest, you say? Where, please?). What is all this talk and gossip by your website about Liu Xiaobo, who sounds like a traitor to the Communist Party of China, in any case. No one here in our Department knows anything about him.

–Chair of Department of Modern American Literature of Gudan University

Dear Chair of Department of Modern American Literature of Gudan University,

What a fascinating letter! Thank you for sending it. Please give our warm regards to Comrades Bernstein and Perloff, next time they are over there, which would be next year, like every year. We (and history) might still forgive them, but they’d better hurry up and self-criticize.

–Emily Post-Avant

*

Dear Emily Post-Avant,

I’m a high-school student in Gloucester, Mass. I’ve heard of the poet Charles Olson, who lived around here, but I don’t like to read, esp. fiction and poetry. I like to play computer games, especially World of Warcraft. The other day in the hallway at school I heard my teacher talking to the school principal about the new Olson library across the harbor near Zeke’s Place. He said he thought it was “Borgheezian.” What does that mean? Sounds like a cool name for an avatar.

Yours, Metrophobius of Glousta

Dear Metrophobius of Glousta,

If you like the World of Warcraft, you may also like the World of Poetry. For it, too, has not a little to do with war, even though the people in the Castle of Metropole who have the Army and the Navy pretend that peace and tranquility reign in the colonized zones, overseen from its ivory towers. Here’s how the World of Poetry game more or less sets up: The people with the Army and the Navy control the po-airwaves and the po-presses, and they mercilessly stamp out and blacklist any dissenters. Actually, the people with the Army and Navy have a coterie of bureaucrats in the po-presses and other institutions who carry out their wishes so efficiently that the bureaucrats, as with the invisible hand of the market, hardly ever need to be told what to do. The tiny number of scruffy malcontents in the colonies who do dissent end up getting exiled to the dark hills, far beyond the Metropole, sometimes disappearing entirely, and this terror cowers the general citizenry to such an extent that self-supervision operates willingly and on greased wheels, as if being a Good Citizen of Metropole were merely natural, some inescapable horizon of the possible, and beyond which, of course, there is only the void and oblivion. The people with the Army and the Navy, therefore, are able to pretend that all is hunky-dory and democratic in the World of Poetry, and that they control the Army and the Navy because the greater and inevitable forces of material history deemed it should be so. Still, the strange barbarians roam the dark hills beyond the Castle gates, which are adorned with sirens and fluorescent searchlights. The small tribe of these brigands is very quirky and proud of its pedigree. Among their forces, too (and you will appreciate this), are some weird avatars, who pop up and jump back and forth through the border walls of Metropole at will, and this makes the people with the Army and the Navy very upset, because these avatars don’t have Official Identity Cards, and can’t be easily managed. Yes, now and then the brigands come down from the hills, cloaked in animal skins and with golden masks in the mad visage of Blake, and they exact provisional justice against this target or that, and then retreat, back into the dark, without a sound. No one dies, because those are the rules of this relatively harmless game. Of course, these hit and run raids are never reported by the presses of the people with the Army and the Navy, because the people in the Castle and suburbs have become very adept at playing said game—their careers and professional identities depend on knowing how to expertly perform it. But one day, my dear young Metrophobius, things will change, as they always do. Empires rise and fall, as you well know from the World of Warcraft, in both the real worlds and in the imaginary ones. Who knows, perhaps you will live to see it happen. Perhaps you will see poetry freed from the Castle and released, as in the times of old, into the wilds of the hills… Oh, and I almost forgot: “Borgheezian” is, properly, “Borgesian.” It referrers to the Magus Jorge Luis Borges, who is a great hidden Warlock of Time-Space in the World of Poetry dimension. But take your time. There is no rush, and easy as she goes. Try starting with Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, or Gary Snyder, say, instead. A phenomenon called Language Poetry is on an introductory level, too. This is easier stuff that might whet your appetite. You may like them. They, too, once came down out of the hills and set fire to the Castle. Though the fire was cold and not hot, and thus quickly contained. Thus, the Castle didn’t burn down. And now there are statues to them inside it.

–Emily Post-Avant

*

Dear Emily Post-Avant,

I am a male poet, writing you in advance of the next AWP conference, which is soon approaching. I am a handsome twenty-six-year old, charismatic, six-packed, hung, holder of my MFA program’s non-teaching stipend. I have published in three magazines, and one of those poems was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize, by my thesis advisor, with whom, in full disclosure, I did have an affair, but the nomination had absolutely nothing to do with that. If anything, it was despite that! My question is an uncomfortable one. Usually, when I hang out with straight women poets at the AWP (I’ve been to six or seven of them), a good number of them seem to want (after a couple hours of talking and flirting have elapsed) to have sex with me. Or two or three of them, anyway, I don’t want to exaggerate. I know it sounds egocentric to say something like that, but it’s true, swear to God. And the sex is very good and perfectly gentlemanly, I assure you, inasmuch as I only ever do what I am asked to do (though sometimes what I am asked to do embarrasses even me!). My question, knowing that things have become a bit “fraught” of late in regards sex in the world of academia, especially if the consenting parties have each had even one single drink of alcohol together: Should sex be avoided at all costs at the AWP, where so many academic institutions are represented, or do you think it is OK to just go ahead and do it, so long as both (or more) partners are still coherent, sane, and really want to?

–Handsome and Six-Packed Poet

Dear Handsome and Six-Packed Poet,

Consensual sex is consensual sex. Non-consensual sex is rape. That’s pretty simple. It sounds to me like you are the consensual (and consenting!) kind. Not only that, it sounds to me like you are a gentleman. Given the circumstances, however, my recommendation to you is to just masturbate in your room before going down to the hotel lobby. Can you send me your phone number, though? Mine is 922-557-2121.

–Emily Post-Avant

*

Dear Emily Post-Avant,

I am a 55-year-old male POC poet. Through no fault of my own, and as a high percentage of American men my age do, I have man boobs. They are quite large and protrude in ways that cause me quite a bit of embarrassment. In particular, and as part of this condition, my nipples are usually puffy and erect, and they show prominently through my vestment. When I gave a reading two weeks ago in Buffalo, some of the grad students in the audience, male and female, began to giggle and whisper. I thought that in the poetry world, at least, people would be mature and tolerant enough to not laugh at someone for what is, in fact, a fairly common medical condition. But apparently not, as I have begun to realize more and more, especially in the classroom, much to my distress. Last week, in fact, I had to call off class and leave the room. I cried in my office for fifteen minutes. Do you have any advice for me? My career depends on teaching, giving readings, and making semi-regular appearances at conferences and summer writing retreats. But, increasingly, my “moobs” are getting in the way of doing this without a discomforting amount of self-consciousness.

–Poet Concerned About His Man Breasts

Dear Poet Concerned About His Man Breasts,

As you suggest, there is nothing wrong with having man boobs. I just looked at Google, and I see that most men after fifty will be affected by this condition, for some period of time, to some extent or another. Next time you are reading and you see that these young careerist MFA types are giggling at you from inside the high school adolescence they have not grown out of (and likely never will, especially after they become Assistant Professors), why not just dramatically take off your shirt, hold your handsome Moobs in your hands, and ask them to suck on your nipples, bitches? Seriously. I’ll bet that will shut the little shits up. Other than that, I sympathize with your predicament. I’d say I empathize with your predicament, but fact is that my problem, as a woman, is the opposite of yours. I’m flat as a cedar 2X4! And with much higher than normal testosterone levels, I actually have to shave my chin and upper lip three times a week. I’ve been laughed at, too, by poets of all colors. Most poets are people who were unpopular as teens, and these types tend to become competitive, backstabbing assholes, when they get older. To hell with them, I say, and just be proud of your Man tits, you know?

*

Dear Emily Post-Avant,

I’m writing a paper and I was wondering if you could help me. How can you really know when to scan a pyrrhic or a spondee? Do they even properly exist? That is, so long as traditional prosody freely allows for the substitution of a trochee for an iamb at the head of the line (in rarer cases vice-versa), or, for that matter, for elisions, in which case a foot can be scanned as headless (missing its first syllable, unstressed or stressed), how does one “read” a subsequently “appearing” pyrrhic or spondee with any level of certainty, given that substitution or elision at the head of the verse essentially turns all “objective” metrical pattern into arbitrary subjective interpretation?

–Metrically Challenged in Cincinnati

 Dear Metrically Challenged in Cincinnati,

Smart question, but so what, you know? I mean, don’t get your underwear into knots about it. No one really knows or knew, not even the Greeks or the Romans. Poetry is a bottomless pit, a suck hole, an ontological death-trap posing as an epistemological riddle. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If they do, they are enemies of it.

–Emily Post-Avant

*

Dear Emily Post-Avant,

Does poetry tell the truth or does poetry lie?

–Trans in Slippery Rock, NY

Dear Trans in Slippery Rock, NY,

Full fathom five, dear. For poetry’s indifferent to the difference, with her solemn, now laughing mask. It is like a boy turning into a girl, or a girl turning into a boy. Or it is like the two in their difference turning and then joining in joy. Or it is like two of the same, yet not joining. Or it is like two of one lying with one of the other, or vice versa. Or it is like two in their difference not joining. Or it is like two of the same joining in joy. Or it is like all of these together, joyful, in a second-best bed. Or it is like one standing alone, and weeping for the other who is dead. Or it is like the dead one haunting the other, the latter who then goes down and has breakfast, in a hotel in London. And then the dead one appears in front of him or her, and sits down, and says, “Why did you lie to me in what you said? Tell me why, whether you lie again, or not, because I won’t be able to rest in the truth of my death until so.” And that living person choking on his or her bacon and eggs is the poet.