Baloney Hoagie wrote a letter to me!
Baloney Hoagie responded to my commentations last night! You should read the letter he sent to Claudia Rankine first. This will be my last post on the whole affair (will cleanse our palettes with a great interview on Thursday). You can read many other responses to the questions of race and poetry at Rankine's website. Thanks to everyone who engaged with me via email & facebook--I appreciate all your comments.
Thank you for giving me 12 hours to respond to your Jacket2 commentaries on the subject of “racial narcissism” in my poem “The Change.”
To start off, let me say, that I think, since we’ve never met, and I will probably think this later too, that, to me, you are wise, to believe that racial narcissism permeates the pathological individualist consciousness and unconsciousness of some White Americans in ways that are mostly Republican.
The elements of our narcissism are, as we all know, ignorance, fear, racism, and privilege. Its sources are confederate and capitalist and colonial. We drank narcissism from our own teats, and we practice it every day, as we blindly publish our way through the publishing world’s endless inequality.
That is one reason why it seems reverse-foolish to think that the topic of racial narcissism belongs only to white skinned Americans and not brown skinned Americans. Many brown poets, like yourself, seem to think you’re all that.
This is especially true in contemporary American poetry where a poem is often presumed to be in the voice of the author. I can’t jump over it—of course I am racist and sexist, a homophobe, a classist, an idiot, a middle class American, a college girl at UCLA who hates Asians, a fool, a dentist, a fourth generation settler, a citizen of Nacirema, a lover of mixing metaphors, a terrible poet, and a Holy Mouth Man. Quality poetry is not my claim, my game, nor a thing remotely within my grasp. I’m one kind of White American; this outsourced software will not be taxed by good intentions, or even dignified behavior.
This White Poet plays with himself; that is, mostly he traffics in his own repressed racism. This White Poet’s job is arrogance, omniscience, racial-prodding, and truth-obscuring. Nothing kills the settler-frontiersman-spirit of narcissism more quickly—have you noticed?—than humanizing poems, with its agendas of compassion, empathy, sympathy, humanity, and moral certitude.
Just as you find my posture of “narcissistic white poet” offensive, I find the posture of “inoffensive white poet” not just boring, but unimaginable.
I don’t believe in defending my simplistic poems to you; you are not white, but I suspect there are still some white people will still continue to buy my books.
I want some of my poems to hurt people’s feelings, especially non-white people. I think that poems should be hurtful. A poem is a loaded gun.
When it comes to the subject of American racial narcissism, it is a pathology some White Poets suffer, whether in our Personae or actions. You can’t change us, even if you tried for fifty, or a hundred years.
I would rather write dirty poems than make nice. Do I even have a conscience?
Finally let me say that I think my poem “The Change” is not “racist” but represents the “Racisttery Poem of Our Moment.”
[please note: this letter was written by BALONEY HOAGIE and not TONY HOAGLAND]