Commune Editions responds to Cole Swensen

Editorial note: We received a letter from Jasper Bernes, Joshua Clover, and Juliana Spahr in response to Cole Swensen’s letter of March 28, 2014. We reprint the letter in full, here. — Jessica Lowenthal, Jacket2 associate publisher


Cole Swensen’s letter begins with two accusations that we do not feel are just regarding our post. We do not conflate the Iowa MFA with the International Writing Program. And we do not conflate the contemporary moment with the 1950s. It is true that we do not distinguish between the fiction and the poetry program within the MFA but we do not understand how this is relevant. Where we might disagree with Swensen is regarding the assumption that one can be on the advisory board of the State Department-funded IWP, a program that both the IWP and the State Department itself mention as cultural soft diplomacy, and not be a willing participant in soft diplomacy. We understand that Swensen might not be doing much advising (and we are not saying that Swensen has done much more than be willing to be on the board); her willingness to support the program with her established name is to us an endorsement of it. We have no interest in singling anybody out; we have been trying to understand the breadth of such arrangements as itself a phenomenon, and so we are interested in all the instances. — Jasper Bernes, Joshua Clover, Juliana Spahr