In Defense of Franz Wright (With Some Hyperbole and Mixed Metaphor)

The recent vitriolic responses to Franz Wright’s bombastic, albeit poignant Facebook post  (it’s hard to believe that we are even attempting serious discussion about a Facebook post) have been a point of trouble for me (here’s a link to the bathroom wall —http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/pageviews/2012/11/franz-wright-lets-fly-an-epic-facebook-rant-on-the-state-of-poetry). Many of the articles surmising his motives are only slight shades away from Franz’s initial lashing out, and it’s difficult to take any of the responses seriously. As far as I can rightly suss out, people are largely preoccupied with only a few things: that he’s bipolar or clinically depressed or whatever, that he’s a sour lion of a drunk, that he’s lurking outside people’s windows to steal their children and sell them to MFA programs under the table, or that he has daddy issues and takes them out on virtually everyone in the form of misogyny. Most of the blogs and articles as well as the heinous comments sections of those little beasties are laden with torchflame rhetoric to track down and dismember the monster responsible for making every little girl sob.

To be supa dupa clear, I absolutely do not agree with the platform that he staged his wobbling attack from, or the fact that an innocent bystander got clipped in the process, and I don’t agree with the assertion that he is a madman who shouts obscenities on the street corner during lunch hour; thing of it is, the culture of contemporary poetry needs the raving, straw in the hair loon to say the shit that no one else dare address. This is a man who fights with long claws as if he has nothing to lose, and this is the exactly the kind of writer we need to rouse our conversations and suspicions regarding the current state of contemporary poetry.

The egregious comparison David Biespiel makes between Wright and Rush Limbaugh (http://therumpus.net/2012/11/david-biespiels-poetry-wire-is-franz-wright-the-rush-limbaugh-of-american-poetry/) is outrageous and unmerited. The problem with this hackneyed comparison is that it disqualifies the urgency in the argument presented in his post (that the high literary art of contemporary poetry is threatened by market oversaturation and drooling juvenile goons spit out by swaths of MFA programs across the country) and attempts to qualify his messy younger years as reason enough to not take his argument seriously. The odious attack on his character (argumentum ad hominem, or in other words, “thrashing his character around like a bunch of wild dogs, rather than nodding to the actually fucking argument itself”) attempt to distract from his reasonable position that, simply, there are too many greed-head writers, not enough readers, and the greed-heads frankly do not have the talent nor ambition to actually master their craft and provide anything of value or substance.

This isn’t Wright being an asshole; this is Wright lighting a flare and shouting, “Here! Here is the fucking source of the problem! If you give a shit about this thing, then fix it. But first, acknowledge that there is actually a problem, children. And pour me a stiff drink. Deep brown, you dullard.” It is easy for the detractors to call out his character and put the cluttered thing on trial for its social misgivings, but it is only important to acknowledge that this is a man who cares deeply about the art and its legacy enough to risk being berated and ostracized and vilified. It’s simple to call him a browbeating meaniehead or a misogynist (there is absolutely zero evidence of misogyny in his post – only reference to a few coed writers who he feels have equally “sold their souls” to the great white devil of the academe) or a monster, especially when someone of his lineage and stature hiccoughs in the middle of a crowd with a gun in his hand.

Absolutely none of what has been said about this recent fracas actually addresses the argument that he has presented and it would seem that the concern for public redress is far more urgent for his critics than the address of a fattened system of well-funded poet babies who dilute the great art and its ever-failing legacy. Posterity may not be kind to Mr. Wright, but unless this issue is confronted headlong, posterity won’t be kind to 20th and 21st century poetics either. We’ll be reading Dr. Suessical musicals by our expensive lamplights and pine over the mistakes we have made in making monsters out of our poets. Give the man a platform (no more FB, Franz. Please) and a microphone and let him cuss the world from the highest building. What cowards are we to fold up and yelp at his snarl? Perhaps we should be climbing the fire escape to see the same view the great beast sees from upon high. Perhaps we will see ourselves mirrored as well as the world with some perspective. Perhaps it is we who are the monsters, and his gnarled-knuckle fist in our faces is exactly what we need. Give the man a platform. Give him his voice, for perhaps we need to hear our names called.

Arian Katsimbras is patiently and quietly bouncing back from culture shock after moving from Reno, Nevada.

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