Cole Swensen responds to 'Cultural Riches?'

Editorial note: We have received a letter from Cole Swensen in response to “Cultural Riches?” — a piece in the Commune Editions commentary series by Jasper Bernes, Joshua Clover, and Juliana Spahr. We reprint the letter in full, here. — Jessica Lowenthal, Jacket2 associate publisher


I’d like to respond to the allegations made in Jasper Bernes’, Joshua Clover’s, and Juliana Spahr’s commentary post “Cultural Riches?” The commentary overall conflates the Iowa Writers’ Workshop with the International Writing Program at Iowa, conflates the fiction program and the poetry program within the Workshop itself, and conflates the contemporary moment with the 1950s — and so, not surprisingly, it comes out with some erroneous equations. I’d like to counter just one — the implication that I, because I’m on the advisory board of the International Writing Program, “have been willing to work with the state in the name of soft diplomacy in recent years.” That’s completely absurd and simply a lie. And accusing people falsely gets you no closer to the root of a problem.