Sunday, May 31, 2009

New Book from Ungovernable Press / New Work from BlazeVox , Fact-Simile, & Counterexample Poetry & Poetics

Dear All,

Just a brief update on my (which is to say "our") output. Occasionally I generate poems under the name "David Wolach" (sometimes others - it's a fun game, try it!) as extension of the usual - editing & teaching. Please support the small presses and check out my new book, book alter (ed) from Ungovernable Press (with reviews on the e-version up at Good Reads), as well as the new fabulous work by a diverse cadre of poets thanks to the editors of the fine the journals/presses below. Also, look out for forthcoming work that I hear is just round the corner - from Dusie, Eklesographia: An Imprint of Ahadada Books, Venereal Kittens, and 5_Trope. And my first full-length collection, occultations, from the new poetry press/artist book collective, Black Radish, which includes Dusie authors, Bruce Covey of Coconut, and artists in residence at DADA HOUSE (more on this in a separate post).Thanks much to the editors! And more expectoration from me soon - been saving it for a rainy day.

New chapbook from Lars Palm's Ungovernable Press, book alter (ed) - through Good Reads.

Cycle of work from Prefab Eulogies and Living Rooms, BlazeVOX - a ton of good poets/poems

Fact-Simile 2.1 - Spring/Summer 2009

Interview with
Kristin Prevallet

New work by:

J. Townsend
Michael Leong
Anselm Parlatore
Kevin Kilroy
Andrew K. Peterson
Rosmarie Waldrop
Jefferson Navicky
Marie Larson
David Wolach
Serena Rose Chopra
Robert Roley
Donald Illich
Andrew Lundwall
Ashe Middleton
Joseph Harrington
Sara Nolan
Susan Lewis
Reed Bye
Nick Demske
Craig Rebele

Featured Poet Page/E-Chap, B Sides, sampling of work from projects in progress / works that are not included in the final versions of these book projects (a lovely idea poet and editor Felino Soriano approached me with). Cover image by Michael Wolach. Enjoy: Couterexample Poetry & Poetics

Wheelhouse Updates

Rodrigo Toscano & Tom Orange in Rodrigo Toscano's Collapsible Poetics Theater, PRESS 2008, The Evergreen State College


One year ago Wheelhouse Magazine & Press, in concert with The Evergreen State College (and other donors - see website list), hosted what has now turned into an annual event: PRESS, a set of workshops, discussions, readings, and performances committed to working through the myriad intersections between text arts and left political movements. What, for instance, are we as writers doing? What are our organizational politics and/or our poetics? Rob Halpern & NONSITE COLLECTIVE kicked off this year's PRESS, and a day-long set of workshops and performative events are closing us out.

We at Wheelhouse are hard at work at finalizing the collection of submissions. We're in the home stretch of designing and producing this new special issue of Wheelhouse, the PRESS Anthology, PRESS:ESC (cover design by Andrew Topel). In this issue, new work from:

Rodrigo Toscano
Kristin Prevallet
Jules Boykoff
Kaia Sand
Roger Farr
Laura Elrick
Leonard Schwartz
Meghan McNealy
Tung-Hui Hu
K. Lorraine Grahm
Tom Orange
Sarah Mangold
David Wolach
Jessica Baron
Steven Hendricks
Daniel Brohzutsky
Mark Wallace

... and several other writers involved in last year's discussions. We're excited to re-up this conversation, to broaden and torque it via recontextualization and imminent critique, to extend our dialogic processes. Thanks to all the contributors, donors, and organizers of PRESS for making this issue come to life. Keep an eye out - slated release date, June 15.


The open chapbook submissions reading period has now closed. Check here and the Wheelhouse website (or the Wheelhouse Facebook Group Page) for future reading periods. If you have not heard back from us with regard to your submission, please be patient - we'll be in touch soon. Look out for new chapbooks fothcoming (more to come for this year) by:

Juliet Cook
Thom Donovan
Matina Stamatakis and John Moore Williams
Dorothy Lang and Jeff Crouch
Felino Soriano
Elizabeth Kate Switaj
Lars Palm
Laura Carter
Ed Baker

... plus...


Congratulations to Tom Sheehan. His prose work "Knickers" was selected by Dzanc Books' as one of the "Best of the Web 2008." "Knickers" will be published in Dzanc Books' Best of 2008 anthology. Congratulations also to CL Bledsoe. CL's "Leaving the Garden" was chosen by Story South's Million Writer's Award as one of the Notable Stories of 2008. A huge thank you to Tom, CL, and Dzanc Books and Story South - and the judges for these awards. Go to Dzanc Books to pre-order the Best of 2008 Anthology, and while you're at it, order the Best of 2007 Anthology, with two works from Wheelhouse contributors. Dzanc Books is a not-profit press; proceeds of book sales go to help their urban schools writing initiatives, as well as several other good works.


message 1: by Amy (new)
04/13/2009 09:49AM

135295 A couple of months ago, Amazon quietly unleashed some sort of campaign to strip certain books of their sales rankings. Unfortunately (& not so coincidentally), most of the books targeted fell under the “Gay/Lesbian” category. Once removed from the sales rankings and placed within the “Adult” category, these books no longer show up in search engines or in Amazon searches. In other words, sales death. How to kill gay books in one easy step? Watch while Amazon quietly removes gay and lesbian titles and renders them invisible. Censorship at its deadliest. Many good people have already been posting and protesting, and though you may not rely on big name middlemen for your goods, much of America does. Make it your business to send a word of protest Amazon’s way!


UPDATE – I just checked. I’M THE MAN WHO LOVES YOU, my book of poems that has less sexual content than the abstinence-promoting, Twilight, has been relegated to the “Adult” category because I happened to have labeled it, myself, Gay and Lesbian. Go figure. It ain’t even erotic poetry,peeps!

Lots of links to folks reactions on my blog:

The Huffington Post --

A Petition --

And of course, more seed for the campaign to use places like SPD (Small Press Distribution), indie bookstores, etc.

I'd check your own book if there's any GLBT interest in it -- anyone can label your book as such, which Amazon will have used to remove your book from their search engines.




Amy's Alias

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


My Review of Disaster Suites here:

Disaster Suites Disaster Suites by Rob Halpern

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
If, as in Halpern's (and Brady's) Snow Sensitive Skin, to hear is, in deliberate and painstaking (and painful) ways, to listen to what one's ear hears and does not hear, Disaster Suites is the broken music box of worlds of distances that feel our suppositions of the most intimate proximity to catastrophes that are, in fact, unFELT miles away. The distance between "I" and its supposed referents; the distance between disaster felt and disaster thought, then said; the distance between a lyric of simplistic lament or needy wonderment and the radio-dialer's war-ruptured provisioning of what, limply, the singer has just heard (or witnessed) from afar. Disaster Suites ruptures and eviscerates, then acknowledges its comparative inertness as typography on a page in a book in your hands. It does so unrelentingly, and this is the ugly and beautiful ways air shapes time. Hence, this is a music unearthed, then dismantled.

View all my reviews.

Rob Halpern at Evergreen May 27th (spread ---> word)
An Evening of Reading & Urgent Discussion With


Poet & Founder of Nonsite Collective

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

8pm @ The Evergreen State College Library (Underground)

Dear Friends,

Please join students & faculty of Experiments in Text, Prolegomena to a Future Poetics, and Book Arts: The Organism that Literature Demands in welcoming poets Rob Halpern and Sarah Mangold. To kick off this year's PRESS Literary Arts & Politics series, Halpern will read from his poetry, including his newly released Disaster Suites, and Mangold, editor of Bird Dog Magazine, will introduce Rob and the evening's events by reading from her work. The reading and discussion will continue the PRESS series focus on the intersections between contemporary art and the larger socipolitical frames. The event is free and open to the public, but donations are welcome. Proceeds from book sales will go to the UFE Student Solidarity Fund, a fund set up by the faculty union to help defray student tuition costs.

WHEN? Wednesday, May 27 @ 8pm

WHERE? The Evergreen State College Library Underground (refreshments provided)

We're very pleased that Rob Halpern has come to Evergreen from San Francisco – a kind of “coming back” as Halpern is an alumnus of Evergreen. And we're happy to have Sarah return to Evergreen for a second reading. If you missed her during the first PRESS Literary conference, don't miss her work this year!

This reading is dedicated to Ernestine Kimbro. Without her, like many things important in this life, the reading would not have happened. Thank you, Ernestine, for helping us to "follow our fears."

In Solidarity
David Wolach & Elizabeth Williamson


Poet Tyrone Williams writes of Rob Halpern's Snow Sensitive Skin: “Snow Sensitive Skin is a remarkable collaboration between Taylor Brady and Rob Halpern. Beautifully designed by Michael Cross for Atticus Finch, this black-on-black chapbook, as dense intellectually, as culturally 'thick' as many, much longer, books of poetry, is really a collaboration between Brady, Halpern, Cross and the inspiration for this meditation on the 2006 Israeli bombing of Lebanon, the music of Lebanese musician and artist Mazen Kerbaj. Brady’s and Halpern’s alternately terse and lapidary lyrics acknowledge the distance between them and Kerbaj, their sense of culpability and impotence, even as it rages against these 'individual' reactions and conditions in order to situate the war within and as a function of global economies. And always, always, they return (as did the bombs, the commands, etc.) to the body .”

Rob Halpern is the author of several books of poetry, including Rumored Place (Krupskaya Books, 2004), Snow Sensitive Skin (a collaboration with Taylor Brady, Atticus/Finch Chapbooks, 2007), and most recently Disaster Suites (Palm Press, 2009). He’s currently co-editing the poems of the late Frances Jaffer together with Kathleen Fraser, and translating the early essays of Georges Perec, the first which, “For a Realist Literature,” appeared in Chicago Review. An active participant in the Nonsite Collective, he lives in San Francisco.


Sarah Mangold is founder and editor of Bird Dog, a journal of innovative writing and art. Currently working as a Program Coordinator at the University of Washington Extension Program—after seven years in a private library. BA University of Oklahoma; MFA San Francisco State, 1999. Recipient of an Individual Artist Award form the Seattle Arts Commission and residencies at MacDowell and Djerassi. Her books include Household Mechanics, Parlor, Picture of the Basket, and Boxer Rebellion.

Chax Press Nees Your Help

Chax, one of the most innovative poetry presses, and one of the few that does large and small scale letterpress work, is doing well, and can do even better by getting some donations from you. As Charles Alexander, editor of Chax, puts it:

"The first steps we must take this year are to secure the full-time attention and salary of the Executive Director and hire an assistant. As we begin our work toward our new goals, we are being assisted by an experienced, successful organizational development consultant. One of our important commitments to an enduring future is to fund such a consultant to help us grow in a sustainable manner. As our activities become more regular and the Executive Director’s time is devoted to artistic direction, fine art book production, and long-range vision, we will also add a marketing/book sales and fundraising coordinator. In addition, we plan to expand our current Youth Education Programs (school projects in our studio, residencies in schools) and hire a Youth Programs Coordinator."

If you have at least $25, help them out. It's worth every penny, with incredible authors published in beautiful additions (Elizabeth Treadwell, Linh Dinh, etc). Info below.

David, Editor of Wheelhouse Magazine & Press

Chax Press is a 501(c)(3) charitable arts organization, and your donation is fully tax deductible.

Ways to donate:
1. Send us a check in the mail, to Chax Press, 411 N 7th Ave Ste 103, Tucson, AZ 85705-8388
2. Go to the “donate” page on our web site:
3. Go to your own Paypal account, and have a payment sent to us; you may even be able to arrange for regular monthly payments, to make this easy for you. Just $8 per month adds up to a $96 annual gift that helps immensely.
4. If you practice online banking, arrange through your online payment service for a gift to be sent to us. You can also arrange in this way to make a regular monthly or quarterly contribution.

charles alexander
chax press
411 N 7th ave, suite 103
tucson arizona 85705
520 620 1626

Conference on Venzuela @ Evergreen

For those of you in the Olympia area, you know from say Olympia to, dunnno, NYC, please come to (at least) part of this important, and interesting conference. You can hop from there to the Rob Halpern reading (about a 4 min. walk across Evergreen's campus). A day of important discussions on the sociopolitical dimensions of contemporary Venezuela, then a poetry reading and discussion by a poet whose work is incredibly interested in hearing the logic of war, globalization, desire, need, and want. See you there if I see you that afternoon.

Conference on Venezuela,
El Salvador, May 29th-June 1st, 2009
No Charge! You are all invited to this exciting and educational
May 29th: What's
up with Venezuela? Evergreen

Movie: "Venezuela
Rising," 2006, documentary covering the rise of Chavez!
2 A1105

"Venezuela and US
Intervention Keynote Address,"
Seminar II, E1107 at
special guests:
Cónsul General of
Venezuela, creator of
author, "The Chavez
code: cracking U.S. intervention in

May 30th:
Solidarity with the New Latin American Left: Evergreen,
Seminar 2,
US Intervention and
Media Control panel with Eva
Golinger, Larry
Mosqueda and students from Venezuela
Lunch, Latin American
themed, Red Square

21st Century
Socialism in Venezuela panel with Peter
Bohmer and students

Latin American
Solidarity Panel with Martín
CISPES and Portland
America Solidarity Committee

Gallery opening
party! Ottos, Downtown Olympia, 116 Washington

May 31st: Art,
Participation and Popular Education: Art
All Day! Ottos (On
Washington, between 4th and State)
Stenciling workshop and
crafts sale
"Experiences of Latin
America," story telling, poetry, skits and more!

June 1st: El Salvador's Historic Inauguration:
Report back of
elections observers in El Salvador, live feed of inauguration,
Lecture Hall 1,
P.M.-late: Celebration Bash of FMLN Inauguration Victory! Ottos,

groups, Latin American Solidarity Group, CISPES, Venezuela: Building
and Social Justice Program at Evergreen

more info, contact Peter Bohmer,,
360 867-6431

Friday, May 22, 2009

Rob Halpern at Evergreen May 27th (spread ---> word)

Responses to My Open Letter Re: Criminal Investigations of Student Political Performance Artists (prior post)

Well, it seems that my Open Letter (cf earlier post) concerning The Evergreen State College's attempted roundup of political art practitioners initiated quite a flurry of responses. Most of the faculty, it seems, like faculties (and staffs, and students, and insert person's name or job description) everywhere, don't want College administrations to send out their police to investigate crimes d'arte such as the very interesting and arresting (pun intended) student detournement I described in some detail last night.

Having organized faculty unions in another life, and having been politically active on several college campuses, I'm uniquely struck by how egregiously ignorant the general populace is to the extraordinary conservatism that permeates academia. Historians and writers such as Rick Perlstein have written a great deal about the peculiar phenomenon of the general populace--many who rely on our services as members of educational institutions--thinking, quite wrongly, that universities and colleges are bastions of liberalism. If that were so, I would not be fearing for my job at the moment simply because I initiated (in my estimation) a much needed dialog around free speech on college campuses, especially when it comes to demonstrations that have the facets I described in the letter--aesthetic and political valences, performative works a la Situationist and post-Situationist political theater, etc. How many times have artist come to campus to perform works constructed in the very spirit of the impugned and "investigated"? Rodrigo Toscano, Kaia Sand, Jules Bokyoff, Linh Dinh, Mark Wallace, Tung Hui-Hi, Susan Schulz and future (I hope?) writers - all these artists are welcomed with open arms by the public face of the College due to the fact that, in part, as I see it, they are recognized (and rightly so) figures in their field (I'm speaking here only of poetry and poetics, though the visual and performing arts, not to mention sociology, philosophy, etc., can be exemplified here, too, at length). When experimental political art is taken outside the sterilized frame of the "invited guest inside a classroom speaking about artistic political interventions/actions performed elsewhere (cue slideshow) about injustices in the world" and put into the less definitionally stable frame of "college student outside a classroom performing an artistic political intervention/action in our own backyard on issues related to our own collective and contiguous politics" - this makes us uncomfortable, makes some feel "unsafe," forces some to question our own "values" and thus sets into motion various attempted and realized sanctions such as "investigations" of "crimes" committed by "violent" and "out of control" "criminals." Am I one of so few faculty (comparative to the size of the faculty body at my particular place of work) to sense that there is scary, though not atypical (as Lawrence Masqueda emphasizes below) double standard? I mentioned the word "police state," not to stoke the fire, nor to suggest that The Evergreen State College is a police state, but that actions recently taken by Police Services are citations of what one encounters in a police state as a matter of definition, and that the slippery slope argument is one I cannot believe we are in need of bringing up.

In any case, this particular post on my blog will remain as a log of various events concerning this particular set of incidents, as well as a clearinghouse for those interested in commenting. For further discussion on these particular issues, feel free to go to the archives and come back to this post from time to time for updated thoughts, alerts, and items of interest for the teachers, students, and other humans who happen to work in or for academic institutions. For now, I've included below some of the responses to my initial open letter. Most are very heartening. Some, however, such as those by officers Sorger and Meyers are, to me, perfect examples of why I not only felt compelled to write, but did send, the open letter in the first place. Good thing to know that the College administration is hard at work right now figuring out a "policy" for what counts as "acceptable" political art practices such that future "incidents" do not occur. We'll certainly have to be vigilant in keeping on eye on the institution's progress in this regard.


both my kids (14 and 8) have been raised here, have both been part of the Children's Center, and both they (and I) feel safe in Red Square.

bring your kids, anytime! they'll be fine.


McLain, John wrote:
> I know only one thing for certain emerging from all of this: Red Square
> does not feel like a safe place to bring my children. And I worry about
> the kids at the Children's Center (the children of our students,
> faculty, and staff) who regularly visit the upper campus.
> Whatever one's feelings about speech and rights, have we lost all sense
> of common respect and decency toward one another?
> Do we not have a social contract in place that should protect vulnerable
> people from exposure to these kinds of obscenities-whether it's gay
> baiters, anti-abortion pornographers, or college students playing war?
> Is it not permissible to even ask that the demonstrators involved
> consider the unintentional impacts of their actions? Before you line up
> to thank and praise these students, please ask yourself: Is there no
> teachable moment here? Was any consideration given, for instance, to
> the psychological impact such a demonstration might have on kids, or on
> victims of war, former combatants, and others who've been exposed to gun
> violence?
> As so many of you rattle on (cue the music, we could all sing along)
> with all your clever arguments about rights and political theater and
> witch hunts and talking horses and police states, I'm having a very hard
> time finding any moral center to the conversation.
> John McLain | Academic Grants Manager | The Evergreen State College |
> 360.867.6045
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Mosqueda, Lawrence Sent: Friday, May 22, 2009 2:04 PM
> To: Wolach, David; All Faculty; All Staff; TESC Talk Discussion List;
> Subject: RE: Mideast Solidarity Project Complaints
> I want to thank David Wolach for his excellent comments to Ed Sorger and
> the community regarding the art performance on campus last Wednesday.
> (Tesktalk, 5/21/09, 11PM.) I hope that he has the opportunity to stay
> here, as we need more people who can think clearly. Below are some of
> my comments.
> I always knew that that Evergreen was a bit like Animal Farm, where we
> are all equal, but some are more equal than others, but we have now
> descended into the insanity of Alice In Wonderland. The director of
> Police Services was soliciting complaints (and giving the words on how
> to phrase it) from "victims," who may disagree with the message of a
> protest in an attempt to subvert the ability of students and others to
> exercise their free speech about abuses that are being funded by the US
> government in Israel, Afghanistan and Iraq. No doubt this is all being
> done in the name of freedom and safety (or "feeling safe.") Dick Cheney
> is currently out of work. Maybe he can become an administrator and
> interpreter of law at TESC.
> If you disagree with the message of the performance last week-speak
> back. Some have. That is good. As has been often said, the cure for
> "offensive speech" (a subjective judgment) is more speech.
> Unfortunately that discussion cannot be held in the CPJ since they have
> banned discussion of Israeli-Palestinian issues (in the name of free
> speech and sensitivity, of course). The new Counter Point Journal is
> now the best place to find out what is happening on campus around these
> issues. If you check out issue #2 at: and
> especially read the page 1 article and page 7 article on the protest,
> you will have a fairly good summary of events. You will also notice
> that Officer April Meyers, who Ed Sorger direct us to file complaints,
> had already laid out, verbatim, how the law was broken, even though "She
> acknowledged that she was not present during the performance."
> Extraordinary police skills. We cannot (and I certainly will not) give
> the local men (and women) with guns the authority to be the local art
> critic or arbiter of free speech. The Bill of Rights are not rights
> benevolently given to us by the governmental authorities, they are to
> protect us FROM abuses of these "authorities."
> Ed Sorger has now announced that "At this time I am not going to be
> forwarding criminal charges or violations of the student conduct code
> for a variety of reasons, one of which is that the project was allowed
> to continue after police and administration weighed into the content of
> the project. However, I want to make it very clear that in the future
> if we (police) observe violations like the ones I noted in my prior
> email (below) we will first give a warning prohibiting such conduct and
> give the participants an opportunity to stop or make adjustments and if
> that doesn't work we will cite individuals and/or make arrests."
> (Tesctalk, 5/22/09, 9:30AM)
> Our right to free speech does not rely on the benevolence of the local
> police or the administration. His actions are examples on why many
> students and others have less than total respect for police. A campus
> is not a local shopping mall where "private property" gives mall cops
> the right to run people off, at the will of a local merchant (and even
> that is debatable.) The police and the administration had better think
> very carefully about what type of relationship they want with the
> overall community.


It was a performance—on a college campus where we teach experimental modes of performance as an important and useful tradition of activist art. Your statement, that individuals “crossed over the line and violated the rights of other members in our community” lacks substantiation. What rights were violated? I understand that people were upset and may well have been made nervous and uncomfortable by the performance. I was uncomfortable also. Yet I question whether carrying a plastic gun counts as “unlawful carrying or handling”—this is quite a stretch.

We must defend free speech on this campus, and we must defend the rights of any member of our campus community to “speak” in the broadest sense of the word around issues important to them, whether we like it or not. Let the debates be about the value and merit of the performance, not the right of the performer to speak and act.

You state in your message that “we need to seize this opportunity to recommend some changes for future demonstrations or projects.” I hope that the operative word here is “recommend”. All of us who teach, learn and work in a college setting must take special care to protect and guarantee the speech acts that come from exactly the engagement in intellectual and political life that we demand of each other.


On 5/22/09 9:27 AM, "Sorger, Ed" wrote:

Freedom of expression along with free speech and individual rights guaranteed by the constitution is something we all value. My officers are extremely sensitive to these issues on our campus. We show a great deal of care and patience in this area to make sure we don’t violate these rights. The problem that came up with this project and actions of individuals involved in it is that it went too far. It went beyond the rights of these individuals to have freedom of expression during this project and crossed over the line and violated the rights of other members in our community to feel safe to come and go without fear of harassment, intimidation or threats. I have to take into consideration complaints from our community about how they felt when they were approached by these individuals as it is important to understand that it’s really all about the reasonable perception they had when confronted.

Some valuable lessons were learned during this demonstration and we need to seize this opportunity to recommend some changes for future demonstrations or projects. This way we can take into account considerations and rights of all members of our community and hopefully minimize negative reactions like those that came up during this project on May 13th.

At this time I am not going to be forwarding criminal charges or violations of the student conduct code for a variety of reasons, one of which is that the project was allowed to continue after police and administration weighed into the content of the project. However, I want to make it very clear that in the future if we (police) observe violations like the ones I noted in my prior email (below) we will first give a warning prohibiting such conduct and give the participants an opportunity to stop or make adjustments and if that doesn’t work we will cite individuals and/or make arrests. Citing and making arrests is the very last resort, my officers and I will do everything possible to come to a peaceful resolution through education and communication.

Ed Sorger

Chief of Police Services

The Evergreen State College

Seminar 1 Bldg., Room 2168

2700 Evergreen Pkwy NW

Olympia, WA 98505

Dear John,

I am puzzled by the kind of language you decided to use to express your
views. Based on my interactions with you, my belief is that you are a
thoughtful person and that you wrote these words either in anger or
hurry, or both: "As so many of you rattle on (cue the music, we could
all sing along) with all your clever arguments about rights and
political theater and witch hunts and talking horses and police states,
I'm having a very hard time finding any moral center to the

Upon re-reading several comments, particularly those of Anne Fischel,
David Walach, and Marry Mosqueda, I hope you will revise your opinion,
particularly about your inability to find any moral center.

Historically, there is hardly any doubt, is there, that the powerful
forces have often used their fear to dominate (by conquest, silencing,
killing, and rape) the vulnerable? It was in the name of fear that the
native populations were killed and/or displaced on several continents
(North and South America, and Australia and New Zealand) and their land
permanently occupied. And where settler colonies could not be
established, temporary ones were, and they lasted in duration as long
sometimes as 250 years. Even in non-colonial situations reaching out
for fear as a tactic is not unusual. Recently, Soren Krarup, a member
of the Danish Peoples Party, had this to say about a very small,
impoverished, and discriminated against Muslim immigrant group in
Denmark: "Muslim immigration is a way for Muslims to conquer us, just as
they have done for the past 1,400 years." When ignorance and power are
mixed, they make a dangerous brew.

I am also left puzzled by your question about the "demonstrators
involved consider the unintentional impacts of their actions". What
kind of accommodations do you suggest they/we might consider? My name
used to appear in the telephone book and that had the unintended
consequence of provoking some to make obscene anti-Muslim calls. Should
I have taken that into account and either not have listed my name or
changed it? Is that what a "sense of common respect and decency toward
one another" requires?

Come to think of it, should I worry that the way I dress may evoke in
someone's mind an image that is uncomfortable? Should I shave my beard?
How do I know the impact of any of these (and other) actions/behavior
that might have on others, not having the capacity to know the
experiences of each individual I might across.

And, John, in the midst of this passionate appeal to respect and
decency, whatever happened to your understanding of Evergreen's
commitment to diversity?

Is it really too far fetched, for our sense of common respect and
decency toward one another, to require that we bring to our awareness
not just the unintended consequences of the demonstrators but the
predictable consequences of our public policies, funded by our tax
dollars that are manifested in ways that bring misery to millions,
defames our country, and hardens the positions of the parties to a
conflict who will live in the same general area.

I share these thoughts with you in the spirit of sober reflection
tempered with justice, not to score points.


Greetings, everyone.

I have questions, not answers, regarding the debate about free speech. The questions pertain not only to the activities of May 13th, but also to recent questions about the Student Conduct Code regarding civil disobedience. One at a time, then:

1. The street theater of May 13 clearly disturbed some people enough to call the campus police. There were enough calls that the campus police were compelled to write to the campus about it. Calling the campus police, I assume, was not done frivolously or lightly. The burden on those who call the police is to show that there is a compelling reason—a harm done that compromises some other protected right—to limit that speech. People who engage in public activities that have the potential to harm, or that have a strong potential to be interpreted as harmful, often wisely assume that their speech may cause controversies. Here are my questions about this situation: Should the activists raise the principle of free speech to protect what they did, or rather should they focus the attention that they’ve captured on the harm or alleged harm done by their speech? In this case, isn’t the harm done by the speech—fear, intimidation, and so on—precisely the harm to which they wished to direct attention? Wasn’t the point of pushing the envelope precisely to call attention to a harm that the activists think carries more weight than the harm of the speech itself? Shouldn’t envelope-pushers bear the full weight of the reactions they cause—reactions to something controversial and threatening because of the substance and content of the speech? If so, shouldn’t the activists now direct our attention to the experiences of people whose lives they were causing campus community members unwittingly to simulate—people who must deal with checkpoints and intimidation? Why are they directing our attention to their own experiences as citizens exercising their right to free speech? If they see their free speech rights intertwined with the rights of those on whose behalf they acted, can they show how, and thereby teach the rest of the campus what they claim to know?

2. Some of the recent discussions of proposed revisions to the Student Conduct Code have been about the assumption they embody that acts of civil disobedience can result in sanctions. This, too, has been framed at times, such as in the recent faculty meeting, as a "free speech" issue. I was under the impression that acts of civil disobedience are done precisely to call attention to unjust laws, and purposely to incite reactions that call attention to and highlight injustice. Those reactions can include sanctions. The great civil disobedient political actors of our age did not cry "free speech!" when they were arrested or beaten or hosed. In the case of the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr. composed a "Commitment Card," written in the structure of the 10 Commandments, for Birmingham Campaign protesters to sign. They vowed not to compromise their non-violent principles no matter what was done to them. They knew their acts would incite strong reactions, and even violent ones. (Incidentally, the first "commandment" was a pledge to study and meditate daily on the teachings of Jesus.) Calling upon "free speech" as a right would have distracted hard-won attention from their real aims, which were to challenge directly their on-the-ground experiences of oppression. Is there a meaningful analogy here with Evergreen activists’ acts of free speech or civil disobedience?

Free speech isn’t an absolute right. Speaking responsibility as a citizen activist is a judgment call, and especially when free speakers aim to incite reactions from people by challenging them and performing dramatic public acts. They should not be surprised that they incited dramatic reactions, and that those reactions, in some cases, claim that a line was crossed—a line where rights collide. The sad thing, in my view, is that the "free speech" discussion seems completely to obscure the content and the aims of the street theater. The way this particular form of speech challenged everyday comfort has not been the central content of this discussion.

What would that look like—that is, what would it look like for the discussion to be about the nature of the "comfort zone" that the speech acts threatened? To take up John McLain’s recent critique as an example: John writes that he does not feel comfortable bringing his kids to campus because of what they might see. And yet, little kids all over the world see all kinds of things on a daily basis that Americans on college campuses characteristically do not want their little kids to see—war, death, destruction, starvation, violence, and so on. If the street theater performers wish to make a case for their speech, they might, for example, take John’s objections seriously. That would mean asking themselves if they would want their own kids to see such things, or if they think they should have seen such things when they were kids. I would hope that those questions would not inspire knee-jerk answers. They require some patient thought. If the answer turns out to be "Yes," there’s a serious and probing discussion to be had that genuinely takes on the political ramifications of protecting sensibilities that can be offended by the form of speech that the street theater took.

I’m hoping that interested parties can make their way to such a discussion, and I hope, too, that my remarks might contribute to it.


Dear colleagues,

I would like to return us to Anne Fischel's posting; my impression, and that of many other observers, was that this speech act was also very clearly a performance--the students were even handing out leaflets advertising a follow-up lecture event, at which many of the issues discussed on these lists could have been raised.

I agree that our students--like all responsible artists--should be thinking ahead of time about the impact of their actions in the public sphere. I suspect that those participants who are former members of the armed services were very well aware of the stakes of such a performance. To threaten them with criminal prosecution is to permanently discourage them from explaining the ideas behind the work or engaging with observers who found the work offensive.

I am concerned about an apparent pattern in which the administration is quick to silence what they view as inappropriate forms of protest but unwilling to act when students find themselves the victims of actual violence, on or off campus. I am thinking here of the targeting of student activists in the aftermath of the port protests, but also of the Muslim student who was the victim of hate speech on campus in 2006, and of queer students who find their complaints about bias incidents that threaten their safety routinely disregarded. A significant number of our students do not feel supported by this administration, or even by the faculty, when they take intellectual, artistic, and political risks; this is something we need to account for as an institution and as individuals.

Despite Ed Sorger's reassurances, both his messages continue to move us in the direction of isolating our students rather than supporting their learning. There is a difference between alerting our students to the fact that civil disobedience can result in legal retribution, and automatically sanctioning--or participating in--such retribution.

In solidarity and with respect,

I deeply appreciate Nancy’s contribution to this discussion. There is a great irony here: the point of the Red Square theater/action was to provoke discomfort, to create a moment of personal connection on the part of those drawn up in it to the much greater discomfort—even violent intimidation—experienced by Palestinians at Israeli checkpoints. I am reminded of the old saying, “You point to a problem, and they argue about your finger.”

There are many things one could say about discomfort.

I have always felt that education is fundamentally about discomfort, to the extent that if it doesn’t generate it, education isn’t happening. This takes many forms, of course. There is the discomfort we all feel about our weaknesses and limitations, the fear that we will try our best and fail anyway. Education challenges us this way. I am haunted by the reference made at the memorial event for Ernestine Kimbro—her admonition to “follow your fear”.

Perhaps the discomfort that comes closest to this current controversy is the sensation of cognitive dissonance, to be forced to confront ideas (or worse, facts) that contradict our beliefs about who we are and what claims we can make on others for recognition and approval. This tension can be just too great sometimes: we deny, shut down, evade and make large mental detours to keep the offending thoughts as far away as possible. If education plays with real stakes and doesn’t just confine itself to embellishments, its response is a sort of cognitive aggression, pushing itself on us and demanding to be heard. This is also a task of “art in public places”, particularly when it addresses political themes.

In this context, I was dismayed to see the blunt language proposed in the new Student Conduct Code, with its categorical criminalization of “disruption”. Surely a certain amount of disruption in the classroom and in the college as a whole is not only to be tolerated, but welcomed. We need a bit of disorder to expose the convenient accommodations we tend to make with each other because they get us through the day, but which may come at the cost of honesty and creative discomfort. Of course, disruption can also violate the rights of others, but this suggests the need for judgment and balancing, not the robotic adherence to all rules.

I am aware that this is only half the story. The other half is about empathy and consideration, recognizing the valid interest each of us has in our own well-being. I am old enough to be a veteran of guerrilla theater as it existed in the 1960s. My first serious political shock occurred when I was a freshman at college, and a draft resistance group did an unannounced theater/action in the dining hall. They performed a simulated arrest of a student for being AWOL from the military. Watching this student being chased, then tackled, then (apparently) beaten by the (apparent) MP’s was horrifying. But just as suddenly as it began, the performance ended, and the players (including the arrestee) explained that this was theater and asked us to voice our reactions. They wanted us to decompress, to breathe again, after the moment of crisis. It was a sign of respect for us, and I learned from this that all aggressive political actions, whether guerrilla theater, road blockades or sit-ins should have an element that reaches out to those likely to be disturbed by them, that says, “Our goal is not to hurt you, but to express what we think is a political truth that would otherwise be buried or ignored. We regret the discomfort we may be causing and want to do what we can to rebuild our bond with you.” I have always thought that this is not “only” a moral necessity; it is a wise political move that increases long-term support.

I was not personally present on Red Square for the May 13 action. I do not know if the activists crossed the line between theater and harassment. Actually, there are two lines. One is physical: no one has the right to initiate unwanted physical contact or otherwise physically intimidate. This “otherwise” includes the theatrical use of weapons in a venue like Red Square unless they are clearly unrealistic. The other line is respecting the minimum guarantee we must all have in a community, that we are not verbally insulted or attacked for who we are—for our race, gender, religion, nationality, sexual preference, appearance, etc. We all have a right to be here.

Because I don’t know what actually happened, I don’t want to make assumptions. If a line was crossed, we need to have a full airing of the issue, so that we can better understand this line and why it should be respected. If students or others brought complaints to the campus police solely on the grounds that they felt a mental discomfort from seeing the depiction of Israeli checkpoints, and if the police appeared to endorse this criminalization of creative discomfort, we need to air and learn from that as well.

I have two requests. The first is that, if we are going to have so much debate over free speech, its limits, and the limits to the limits, can we also have a bit of empiricism? In particular, can those who argue that bystanders’ rights were violated refer to the specific acts they witnessed that go beyond protected speech? Second, I would not like to see the right-to-comfort invoked as a self-evident value. I can’t imagine any coherent value system that privileges a “right” to be comfortable. It is not even consistent with unreflective hedonism, since happiness does not result from an absence of tension. (There is quite a bit of research on happiness these days.) It is certainly not consistent with Evergreen’s principles, since “education across significant differences” is all about discomfort.


I have some concerns about the way the campus police have responded to the checkpoint demonstration which I've explained below. On a side note, the last couple messages on this topic seemed suuuuper hostile, and that sucks. I'm hoping we can get back to a more civil discussion. Anyway, here's my two cents:

Ed Sorger said the following with regards to the Checkpoint demonstration :
"At this time I am not going to be forwarding criminal charges or violations of the student conduct code for a variety of reasons, one of which is that the project was allowed to continue after police and administration weighed into the content of the project. However, I want to make it very clear that in the future if we (police) observe violations like the ones I noted in my prior email (below) we will first give a warning prohibiting such conduct and give the participants an opportunity to stop or make adjustments and if that doesn’t work we will cite individuals and/or make arrests. Citing and making arrests is the very last resort, my officers and I will do everything possible to come to a peaceful resolution through education and communication."

Although I am overwhelmed by Ed's benevolence in allowing—just this once, people, so don't get any ideas—free speech to go unpunished, I thought it would be worth mentioning a few concerns this raised for me. In particular, I want to talk briefly about the "criminal charges" that Ed has so generously decided not to pursue and the reasoning he gives for this decision. Notably absent among the reasons given is the glaringly obvious fact that none of the cited sections of the RCW were violated in any way. The only reason these are even being discussed is that Officer Meyers, preeminent legal scholar that she is, felt that it was "apparent" that they were being violated. (In this sense, "apparent" should be taken to mean "obviously visible to Officer Meyers despite her complete absence from the vicinity for the entirety of the demonstration.") Let's take a quick look at each of the relevant sections:

RCW 9.41.270
Weapons apparently capable of producing bodily harm — Unlawful carrying or handling.

(1) It shall be unlawful for any person to carry, exhibit, display, or draw any firearm, dagger, sword, knife or other cutting or stabbing instrument, club, or any other weapon apparently capable of producing bodily harm, in a manner, under circumstances, and at a time and place that either manifests an intent to intimidate another or that warrants alarm for the safety of other persons.

Were the demonstrators carrying "weapon[s] apparently capable of producing bodily harm"? Federal law mandates that toy guns be marked with bright orange tips precisely in order to prevent them being mistaken for real weapons, and the toy guns used in the demonstration had obvious orange tips. It cannot be reasonably said that they appeared to be actual firearms. Unless a case can be made that a plastic toy gun in and of itself is a dangerous weapon (wielded as a club perhaps?), this leaves no rational basis to interpret a violation of the section.

RCW 9A.46

Sorger either felt the first section of this chapter was somehow not relevant or he just failed to read it. I'm including it below, as it turns out to be rather important:

RCW 9A.46.010
Legislative finding.

The legislature finds that the prevention of serious, personal harassment is an important government objective. Toward that end, this chapter is aimed at making unlawful the repeated invasions of a person's privacy by acts and threats which show a pattern of harassment designed to coerce, intimidate, or humiliate the victim.
The legislature further finds that the protection of such persons from harassment can be accomplished without infringing on constitutionally protected speech or activity.

That Sorger cited RCW 9A.46.020 yet omitted RCW 9A.46.010—explicitly taking RCW 9A.46.020 out of context to make it seem applicable—is completely inappropriate. This entire chapter does not belong in the discussion, and I'd appreciate an explanation as to why either Meyers or Sorger felt that it did.

RCW 9A.84.030
Disorderly conduct
(1) A person is guilty of disorderly conduct if the person:
(a) Uses abusive language and thereby intentionally creates a risk of assault;
Intentionally disrupts any lawful assembly or meeting of persons without lawful authority;
Intentionally obstructs vehicular or pedestrian traffic without lawful authority; or ...

Disorderly conduct charges are a favorite of those who wish to silence controversial and dissenting voices on university and college campuses, as they purport to allow punishment of certain kinds of speech. This relies on the all-but-overruled holding of Chaplinsky v. State of New Hampshire (1949), which created a category of speech known as "fighting words" that did not enjoy constitutional protection under the First Amendment. Since that ruling, the courts have steadily narrowed the parameters for what constitutes such speech to the point that it's questionable whether the "fighting words" exception still has any validity. But even neglecting subsequent case law, the original holding required that only words "which by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace" qualified as unprotected speech. No such speech is alleged to have taken place.

Basically, what this all boils down to is the following:
- These students staged a demonstration that was controversial, emotionally jarring (as it was meant to be, and needed to be), and constitutionally protected.
- The event evoked strong feelings for many.
- A necessary dialogue began to emerge in response to the event.
- This dialogue was obliterated when campus police made baseless threats against the students involved.
- Ed Sorger sent out a request to students for more information about the alleged violations of state law.
- It began to dawn on Ed that said violations did not occur.
- Ed backed down from his untenable position without admitting any error in judgement.
- Ed simultaneously made thinly veiled threats against any students who felt they too had a right to similarly voice their own opinions.

Campus police owe an apology not only to the students who staged the checkpoint, but to all students. It was the police whose conduct made students feel threatened. They made it clear that Evergreen is not a safe place for those who won’t back down from speaking their mind. This is against everything our college is supposed to stand for.

Carl Davis

Hi to all of you, and thanks for the thought each of you is putting into your posts.

Maybe we all want to have coffee sometime? And invite others? This is evolving into what could be a pretty useful and searching discussion--it's difficult to have it over e-mail. If so, then I suggest that perhaps the performance has begun to do the useful work that hopefully it intended.

John, a few things I would like you to think about. First, it would be much better, as you and others have said, to be taking about the performance than about the issues it was designed to reference. Ed Sorger's e-mail created another context--even in the second e-mail which said he would not press charges, he continued to assert the performers had crossed a line and that new guidelines for campus demonstrations needed to be written. That is exactly why some of us directed our comments at the issue of free speech, even while imploring people to talk about the performance.

Secondly, you have said several times that free speech is not endangered. The problem with that statement is that some of us have experienced exactly the opposite. I think that is part of what Zahid is trying to say to you. Certainly for those of us who have spoken out about Middle East issues and found ourselves targeted on "pro-Israel" and far-right websites, the issue of free speech is hardly uncontested. The surveillance initiated by the Bush administration--which the Obama administration has not discarded--also threatens free speech. On our campus the discussion of "free speech" and "civility" has a history, in which some of us have been told that our clothing, our curriculum and our research makes others feel unsafe and should be limited. How does free speech figure in all of this? It is clearly more than simply a law; it is about practices and a lack of consensus about what practices should be protected.

I would like to talk with you further about the performance, nonviolent civil action and what you mean by "consequences". If you experience me as being self-righteous, let me assure you that the often-repeated pronouncement that demonstrators should expect consequences, and that we don't seem to understand that, seems self-righteous to me, as someone who engaged in such protests earlier in my life (when my bones could handle it). Of course, there are consequences. That doesn't eliminate the responsibility of the institutions we are a part of to protect our rights.

Anyway, I said I thought we should talk, and then weighed in anyway. What do you think about having a conversation-any takers?


-----Original Message-----
From: Elizabeth Williamson []
Sent: Sun 5/24/2009 9:52 AM
To: McLain, John
Cc: Fischel,Anne; Shariff, Zahid
Subject: Re: Mideast Solidarity Project Complaints

Hi John,

I hope to take some more time over this at a later date, but
please know that I wasn't really attempting to respond to you or
Nancy directly, though I appreciate your difficult position as the
lone (non-police) staff member in this public debate. I'm more
interested, as I said, in what seems to be a pattern of behavior on
the part of the people who make the decisions in this and other cases.

If it was clear which members of the administration were involved
in the decisions behind Ed's e-mails, I would address them
individually. As it stands, I'm referring only to the power structure
that operates on our students, and on all of us as employees. And I
completely agree with you that, within those power structures,
faculty operate with a comparatively high level of privilege -- which
is precisely why I believe it is our responsibility to be vocal in
any conversation that involves the policing of student conduct.


On May 24, 2009, at 9:01 AM, McLain, John wrote:

> Hi Elizabeth,
> A couple of clarifications, since I was the only member of the
> administration in your "To:" line, I wanted to respond to you
> personally. I'm including Anne since this is a direct response to
> her message, and to Zahid because of his message yesterday. And I
> can say that I have appreciated the respect I have received from
> you and them. I've said my bits to the college as a whole,
> however, and I don't want to visit my ideas onto the community
> further when I've already had my time. I also think it's important
> to say to you directly that I responded as an individual member of
> this community with concerns, not as a member of the
> administration. I hope you didn't consider my remarks to be some
> kind of "party line." I assure you, if I were to ask any member of
> the "administration" with any real authority, they'd advise me to
> keep my mouth shut.
> I don't want to silence anybody; I have never said that, and I'm
> not sure if you thought I had. I do think people should remember,
> and in some cases learn, that not all speech is protected. Nor is
> there a free ride for all speech. We seem to create this little
> bubble at Evergreen and it sends a very mixed message to our
> students. It happened with the port protests, the riot, the sit-
> in, and now this. On the one hand, there is a desire to applaud
> our students courage in action as they seek to bring important
> issues to consciousness. On the other hand, there is a mad rush to
> defend students from any consequence resulting from their speech or
> actions. On one hand, we make heroes of them. On the other, if
> they're criticized, we turn them into children in order to protect
> them from harm. There can't be any courage or heroism without the
> threat of consequence.
> I have not defended Ed's approach, and I've come to believe that
> even his involvement at this point in the controversy is completely
> counterproductive. I have told him personally that I am glad
> someone is at least willing to listen to the concerns of community
> members who were troubled (or in the case of one vet with PTSD,
> traumatized; Art mentioned this at the Board of Trustees meeting)
> by the performance. No one else, at least publicly, has seemed the
> least concerned about that -- except for Art's email during the
> performance that referred people to the counseling center.
> But I also don't think there was anything quick about this. This
> message came some two weeks after the incident and after what Ed
> said were a number of complaints. I don't know what the police
> chief should do when he receives complaints. I don't think he can
> simply ignore them. There are at least two views from which to
> look at Ed's email: 1) that it threatened prosecution and dampened
> free speech at the college; and 2) that it responded to the
> complaints of community members who didn't feel they were
> witnessing (involuntarily) a performance, but that they were being
> treated abusively. (These performers were very ugly toward me and,
> I saw, others.) It's possible that it did both, and I don't know
> what Ed intended. That's another irony in this. With the
> performance, we are focused most on what the students intended, not
> the performance's impact. With almost any speech by members of the
> administration, we look solely at impact. Why is it so easy for
> some people to defend the performers' right to speech and also
> dismiss responses of hurt from other members of the community? Do
> community members who experienced this performance that way have no
> recourse at all in a community forum? Instead I feel some emails
> add insult to what they perceive as injury by telling them that
> either they don't really feel that way; or that if they feel that
> way they really shouldn't; or if they feel that way, then good,
> they deserve it because they are so complacent and complicit.
> Let me turn the tables, if you'll allow me. What kind of responses
> would someone receive if they said the following? "In spite of
> Ed's email, I really doubt there will be any impact on free
> speech. I'm sure people will continue to speak up, because they
> always have." I bet that statement, which I don't believe, would
> cause an understandable, recoiling reaction in a number of people.
> But a number of the emails talking about rights have completely
> dismissed the complaints and concerns of community members who did
> not like and didn't think it was right that they were verbally
> assaulted or felt physically threatened (however fleetingly) by
> other members of the college community on the way to their classes
> or jobs.
> I've already commented about the lack of civility of the initial
> performance and a number of the emails in outcry about Ed's
> messages. Here's what I can't figure out: Community members are
> now lecturing me for a lack of civility (no one else, however) for
> my email message, about how I and my children need to be sensitized
> to the plight of Palestinians and their children half-way around
> the globe, and even advise about how to have this conversation with
> them (please). The argument seems to be that because some
> vulnerable people are damaged by this kind of behavior in real life
> in other parts of the world, it's O.K. to risk doing that to other
> vulnerable people here in our part of the world as long as it is
> "just" performance (though how a toddler from the childcare center
> might make that distinction is beyond me). After all, most of us
> -- except for a few -- are just complacent and complicit. I am
> offended and insulted by such an argument, even as I will defend
> someone's right to make that argument. And I'm willing to take my
> lumps for saying so.
> Again, I don't begrudge the students' right to speech. I don't
> appreciate the arrogance and disrespect they displayed in their
> efforts to pound me and others over the head with their message; I
> resent that even more from some faculty members defending them.
> Faculty members are privileged members of our community (witness
> how few staff really feel safe speaking up on controversial
> issues. I assure you, it's not because they are indifferent). And
> the faculty has, I believe, and has often asserted a special role
> in defending the rights, freedoms and responsibilities that accrue
> to life in the academy.
> I don't believe there's any place for any kind of bullying in an
> academic context. But as near as I can figure out, there are folks
> around here who believe in and defend bullying as an inalienable
> right. And because so many seem to care only about the rights of
> students, and apparently nothing for other community members, I do
> still believe many people in this conversation are missing the
> broader ethical and moral implications of the issue.
> I am trying very hard, and consider it part of my operating
> principles, to engage and treat every person on this campus as an
> individual--not as members of the "adminstration," the "faculty,"
> or "students." I fail often, I know. But I hope, whatever our
> opinions, we can all find a way to keep each other's humanity front
> and center in this (yet another) difficult campus conversation.
> Respectfully and with regard,


Both police and protesters share the assumption that the portrayal or the reprisal of violence will help stop the problem addressed.

The protesters assume that the accurate depiction of violence will cause people to stop those actions.

The police assume that the reprisal of violence (punishment) will cause students to stop those actions.

And those who are "victimized" (be they audience or students) respond, correctly, with fear and the desire to expunge the cause.

Violence, depicted or threated, fails because it does not invite reflection and thought. The "correct" response to violence is fear and the speed of its attendant emotions.

That our students and community leaders accept violence (depicted or threatened) as a potential solution for problems is a failure of our community as an institution of higher education: the solutions posed require _no_ education.

Both share the blame, but our community leaders (faculty and administrators) bear the greater responsibility. We need to find ways of creating a community whose reactions to events is not a reproduction of existing problems. Then, we might begin to approach the idea of a "higher" education.

The speed at which our administrators responded to the depiction of past violence with the threat of future violence demonstrates how deeply dependent we collectively are on the maintenance of violence as a solution to social problems.

Arun Chandra

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Read and Review My New Expectoration?

Given how much time we all have these days, it stands to reason that you'd go check out my new book, a chapbook (book alter (ed), ungovernable press, 2009) derived from my forthcoming full-length book (occultations, forth. 2010). Hey, one of the links gets you to good reads, where most of book alter (ed) is available for free download (thanks, Lars Palm). I'd love a review - not because I love Good Reads - but it'd be cool to have some friends and colleagues' thoughts on the work that I could use later for the back of the book and the press's website. Plus, for me writing is a dialogic process. I included links to other work recently expectorated. Feel free to check those out - good chunk of another book through BlazeVOX, and a small collection through Counterexample Poetry & Poetics. On the Good Reads: you need not join to download & write a blurb. Hell, you can even send me a blub. But C'mon, I know where you live: Earth. Some of you. Many thanks ahead of time!:

book alter(ed)
ungovernable press

Prefab Eulogies 1: Nothings Houses, & other work

(Forthcoming this week)Featured work from forthcoming books, other projects
Counterexample Poetry & Poetics

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Dear Ed and Members of the Olympia Community,

RE: An Open Letter to Ed Sorger on the Campus Email, May 23rd 2009 (Mideast Peace Demonstration / Detournement)

This email (below), and the implicit and explicit threats it carries - the threat to quell the right of freedom of expression on our campus, the threat of treating as unlawful those with whom we may disagree, and the threat, in fact, of monitoring and information gathering that is definitional of the phrase "police state" - this is simply unacceptable. Neither I, nor any member of the faculty, staff, and student body, should desire to live in, or work at, a campus where sending such a letter is deemed appropriate. The email itself is indicative of at best poor decision making on your part, Ed. It isn't enough to reply that it is the duty of your office to investigate all complaints that come in. It is also part of Police Service's job to use judgment in determining a) whether the complaint is reasonable, and b) how the complaint, if deemed reasonable by Police Services in consultation with other offices of the College, should be handled. It is clear from the sweeping and general nature of the email (ostensibly a request for any and all information pertinent to the Mideast Peace Demonstration / Detournement of May 13) that Police Services is in fact still trying to determine whether complaints brought to your office are reasonable. This is a backwards, highly subjective, and frightening way, to determine whether a complaint is credible. Certainly anyone with political ideologies contrary to those of the demonstrators / artists are now given legitimacy, ahead of the fact, to voice their complaints. Is your office just too lazy to actually, i.e., tactically on the ground and face to face, investigate threats deemed credible? Why otherwise this fishing expedition?

I do not want to work at an institution where it is perfectly reasonable to go on witch hunts. I do not want to work at an institution that cites criminal statutes during an information gathering communique in order to determine whether those statutes have been broken. That is far worse than simply being presumptuous - the presumption being that the parties are guilty until proven innocent. Why give more credence to those (who?) that have brought complaints than to those who performed in or simply witnessed as audience, without running to your office, the demonstration / detournement? That this email exists suggests a backwards presumption of guilt. However, the wording and citation, lest we were to doubt the insidiousness of it, show a blatant disregard for the rights of the demonstrators / artists. Where's the email to the Evergreen community, if we are treating the event from a foundation of freedom of expression and presumption of innocence, that celebrates these values and mentions the many non-complaints, say, even non-complaints not received by your office? What about the many comments, both written and in conversation, that cite the effectiveness of the demonstration / detournement or the artistry of the work performed, on the part of the demonstrators / artists? Where is that email? Two would be nice, say, fair and balanced. One that is fair and contains this nuance would be better--saves time. None at all from your office at this juncture would be appropriate. As it stands, I wonder how many complaints you received, what the nature of the complaint(s) are, and who made them? I would encourage someone within the Evergreen Community to file a freedom of information request--it'd be one of the few filed that wasn't itself a witch hunt.

I don't recall emails of this nature being sent about the abortion protectors, save for Art Constentino's constant refrain that Evergreen should judge, yes, but cherish our freedoms of speech and expression, that these freedoms, lest they be shattered for all, need be extended out to those with whom many disagree.

But of course, what is perhaps most shocking--demonstrated by this email as well as that complaints have been made at all--is that so many here at Evergreen ignore the important fact that this event was a performance, a detournement, or, if you will, an apparently very effective work of political performance art. A piece, wherein none of the statutes listed in your email, were broken. "Weapons" were clearly toys. Nobody, during the time I was standing by and watching (I was there for most, if not all, of the performance) was obstructed in passage; nobody was threatened either verbally or physically; and there was at no time any sense that would cause an individual or individuals to be placed in "reasonable fear" for their safety. That was part of what made the performance so effective. It managed to disturb us psychically and emotionally and express the sense of blockage of egress, the sense of imminent danger, and of pervasive violence that one, indeed, encounters at military checkpoints. That no laws even came close to being broken should not be surprising; two of the actors in the performance were former U.S. military who operated checkpoints in Afghanistan (now turned peace activists) - they were very wise to plan out the work such that it was clearly a performance, yet gave one the feel of what it might be like to live in an occupied or war-torn region. That we do not face these horrific realities every day (most of us), in my estimation, is what causes us to so easily confuse reality and art. It isn't that we are more sensitive to brutality; it is that we are sensitized Americans used to learning from our televisions. The work was so obviously staged that it pointed to places where all those RCW 9's are not only broken, but non-existent. That we do not critique our own discomfort I find revolting, and yet rather typical.

I urge you, Ed, and all members of the campus community to read Kaia Sand's “Poem/NonPoem” (link below), an article which speaks to the efficacies of political art – its particular urgency in this economy, in “these” times. Sand, a well-known poet who has read here, both for the PRESS Literary Conference and for Evergreen programs, is part of the extended Evergreen “community.” She is also a member of NONSITE COLLECTIVE, a peaceful organization of artists, activists, writers, and alternative learners who seek new ways to do precisely what this group of students managed, in their own way, to do. - Kaia Sand, "Poem/NonPoem"


David Wolach
Member of the Faculty
Visiting Professor, Bard College
Editor, Wheelhouse Magazine & Press


Good Afternoon,

At Police Services, we have received many complaints from community members about the demonstration that occurred on campus Wednesday, May 13th. It appears that many people were victimized and I wanted to forward applicable violations of state law regarding this demonstration.

If you believe that you were a victim or have information to share concerning this event and have not done so, please contact Officer April R. Meyers by calling x5151 or emailing her at She will follow up with you as soon as she can.

Thank you,

Ed Sorger

Director of Police Services

RCW 9.41.270 – Weapons apparently capable of producing bodily harm – Unlawful carrying or handling.

It shall be unlawful for any person to carry, exhibit, display, or draw any […] weapon apparently capable of producing bodily harm, in a manner, under circumstances, and at a time and place that either manifests an intent to intimidate another or that warrants alarm for the safety of other persons.

RCW 9A.46.020 – Harassment

(1) A person is guilty of harassment if:
(a) Without lawful authority, the person knowingly threatens:
(i) To cause bodily injury immediately or in the future to the person threatened or to any other person; or
(iv) Maliciously to do any other act which is intended to substantially harm the person threatened or another with respect to his or her physical or mental health or safety; and
(b) The person by words or conduct places the person threatened in reasonable fear that the threat will be carried out. "Words or conduct" includes, in addition to any other form of communication or conduct, the sending of an electronic communication.

RCW 9A.84.030 – Disorderly conduct

(1) A person is guilty of disorderly conduct if the person:
(a) Uses abusive language and thereby intentionally creates a risk of assault;
(c) Intentionally obstructs vehicular or pedestrian traffic without lawful authority


The future of tens of thousands of America's workers and General Motors is being decided in Washington, D.C., right now. As a result, the future of our jobs, your jobs, and working conditions of those in other countries are stake.

GM has proposed closing 16 manufacturing facilities in the United States, while dramatically increasing the number of vehicles it will be importing from Mexico, Korea, Japan and China for sale in this country. This is not acceptable.

If GM is going to receive government assistance to facilitate its restructuring, President Obama must insist that GM change its restructuring plan to minimize the loss of these American jobs. We must insist on workplace fairness by holding steady and not continuing to cut. We must demand that in the next months, the Obama Administration revisit global trade agreements and we must insist that, at least, fair labor standards be added to them. Under current plans, not only will American jobs be lost, but wages of non-American (often non-union) workers, given the unfair labor standards built into global trade agreements such as NAFTA, will continue to fall. Poverty will rise and the global wage gap will increase.

President Obama's auto task force is currently negotiating GM's restructuring plan with the UAW, GM management, bondholders, dealers, part suppliers and other stakeholders. The result of these negotiations will have a major impact on wages, benefits and jobs for active and retired UAW members and millions of America's workers connected directly and indirectly with the auto industry.

Workers around the world need to join forces. Auto workers need your help. Can you contact President Obama today and ask him to help save American jobs and help set the international wage and job security standard in ways that can be dramatically helpful to all workers and retirees?

Call the White House at (202) 456-1414 or send a message to them online today.

Click here to tell us about your call or e-mail.

Thank you for your time,

Marc Laitin
AFL-CIO Online Mobilization Coordinator

David Wolach
UAW & AFT/NEA Member, Professor, The Evergreen State College

Monday, May 18, 2009

Open Letter to J.M. Spalding

Dear Mr. Spalding,

Thank you for the invitation to appear as one of Inertia Magazine's featured poets. Having enjoyed some of the excellent poetry featured in Inertia--and The Cortland Review--it was, indeed, an honor to be solicited.

I will, however, have to withdraw the poems that I gave you. In light of hearing that you ceremoniously fired much of your staff and "notified" them by changing their passwords for all office computers rather than speaking directly to them, I cannot in good conscience appear in your journal. Not that you would necessarily consider my work any great loss. But I would encourage future invitees to think twice about appearing in Inertia, unless and until you show some level of respect to your editors, who, leaving aside the unfair labor practices for a second, produced almost in entirety the latest issue (or so it seems from perusing the website editorial credits), which happens to be my favorite issue.

I should note, lastly, that this is information that I've gleaned from those with whom you collaborate, not via some shit talking on the part of your former editors. Only upon asking Mr. McClellan what happened did he admit that he was let go. He did, in fact, try to temper my indignation by telling me that you are a fine person, a good friend of his still, and that these "editorial differences" occur.

To Mr. McClellan, yes these differences occur. But I assure you that we at Wheelhouse do not let them unravel our journal in ways that are hurtful professionally and emotionally to those who give a flying fuck enough about contemporary poetry (i.e.: WORK) to deal with that kind of shotgun micromanaging for little to no pay.

So, do please withdraw all poems from consideration. I'll send them to someone who does not suffer from, even temporary, bouts of assholeness.

Thank you.

David Wolach
Editor, Wheelhouse Magazine & Press

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Unemployment Benefits: Action Alert for New York State Residents

The Case for Unemployment Indexation

The need to increase the maximum unemployment benefit of $405 per week, which amounts to just over $10.00 per hour, is self evident. This benefit has not been increased in a decade and has deteriorated in value well below 50% of the average weekly wage (AWW), the historical level that benefits have been set at.

For working families, allowing the value of the unemployment benefit to deteriorate has meant the difference between making the mortgage payment, sending a child to school or keeping health care. In too many cases it has meant choosing between basic necessities like clothing, food or health care. Raising and indexing the unemployment benefit will help address these problems. But it also means more business and revenue for grocery stores, mom and pop stores and business in the community.

There will be pushback from the business community about the cost of indexation. The fact is the business community has never met a labor protection that they like, and the fact is New York’s rate is well below many states, including 3 of the 5 that surround us. Under the NYS AFL-CIO proposal, our competitive advantage will not change and the cost will still be below those same 3 out of 5 states.

The fact that we have underfunded the unemployment trust fund and kept an artificially low rate of cost for employers has resulted in the need to borrow an average $90 million per week to pay for our current, low and inadequate benefit. This borrowing costs both business and taxpayers more in the long run.

The economic and social value of unemployment is what helps both working families and business survive a recession, particularly one as acute and widespread as the current crisis. That is why we need an indexed benefit. So we never again allow this vital economic stimulus and protection for working families to become so underfunded again.

Past administrations have shown the lack of political will to shore up the benefit and the funding of unemployment. Yet indexation has been proven to work, is cost effective and its time has come.

* 35 other states & Washington DC index their maximum benefit

* 23 other states index their maximum benefit at higher than 50% of AWW

* Each surrounding state indexes the benefit and 4 our of 5 higher than 50% of AWW

* Each surrounding state has higher U/I benefit than NY’s

* 15 other states & Virgin Islands index the taxable wage base that the U/I premium is levied on.

Denis M. Hughes


Monday, May 18, 2009
1:00 p.m.
State Fed Headquarters, Albany

Friday, May 15, 2009

shameLESS self-proMOTION, as PROmised

IMAGE: riverfire1, from occultations

So, it turns out that when I thought I was sending many of you the link to the pdf version of my new book, I was actually sending you an invitation to join Good Reads. Posthuman, perhaps. Getting used to that, yes. Turns out there was ANOTHER BUTTON I should have pressed. So, first, apologies - if and only if you don't want to compare bookshelves. If you do, which it turns out that I kinda do, well, I'm not sorry. As you will note, I have read, and given many a star, to Erica Kaufman's new Censory Impulse. And as you will note, I am reading now Leonard Schwartz's new title, which will undoubtedly get many a star. In the process, too, a lovely poet gave my book many a star, and in addition--yes, there is more!--I am finding that several friends with whom I have not spoken in quite some time are on Good Reads, and thus have used this strange etherworld as a way to say hello. So, hello to you most likely forthcoming.

Now, as for the shameLESS self-promotion, please do check out the new work below. If not for me, then certainly to support the small press editors who have worked with me to get these titles into your hands or eyeballs. A very big thanks needs go out to Lars Palm of ungovernable press, Felino Soriano of Counterexample Poetry & Poetics, and Geoffrey Gatza of BlazeVOX. Lars, for publishing my book alter (ed), part of the full-length occultations, and Geoffrey for publishing a selection of work, including the mini-e-chap, a good chunk of the chapbook, one of three, Prefab Eulogies 1: Nothings Houses. And, Felino, for publishing in the next few days a heavy dose of poems, from different projects, as part of Counterexample's "Featured Poets" section--I get a feature page!!! Again, thanks much for the hard work these three hardworking editors put in - all of them formatting work that is hard to handle, both in print and online. I am, it seems, difficult. And these editors handled me with kindness and seeming ease. Enjoy (warning, more to come - I seem to be a vomit machine at the moment, after years of sitting on my excesses and not submitting my work anyplace).

book alter(ed)
ungovernable press

Prefab Eulogies 1: Nothings Houses, & other work


(Forthcoming this week)Featured work from forthcoming books, other projects
Counterexample Poetry & Poetics

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Self-Identified as Posthuman: It's Now Time

I have just joined "Good Reads." I am not quite sure what Good Reads is. But Lars Palm, who has been so far, along with Susana Gardner of Dusie and Geoffrey G of BlazeVOX, been one of the kindest, and fastest, editors with whom I've worked, just put my new book, book alter (ed), a section of the longer forthcoming occultations, on Good Reads. Thanks much, Lars. At some point I will write a post about how difficult it is--even for poets much more interesting than me--to find poetry presses that are a) interested in design (the artist book) or b) interested but too poor to do design work. Suffice it to say here that (b) is where I locate much of the problem. But for those who give editors (like me) fits with their fucked up formatting, combination of text and image, etc &, it's simply difficult to place work. Linh Dinh almost killed me as he tried, and miraculously succeeded, in taking part of a manuscript that involves multiple layered scanned images, translating it into the very stripped down code for his journal, The Lower Half. Never mind working with text & video--though, maybe that's easier in some sense? All that's a post for another time, though related to the posthuman in the obvious fact that the web is where some of the most startling poetry happens - at least with regard to journals (hell, AGNI is inching its way off the paper page). DIGRESSION: isn't it fun to watch the old fashioned university journals, like The Iowa Review or some such, try to figure out how to crawl into the web? One almost feels sorry for... no, no one doesn't. Unlike AGNI, which to me is one of the most consistently fine publications around and is used to pushing boundaries, and so has created a web supplement seamlessly, one that is really quite exhilarating, as many a new writer whom they would have had to pass up a few years ago -- they're now in my inbox every week. Anyway, a related set of questions, but another post. interesting problem/set of negotiations for editors and poets alike (many of us are both) to consider.

But I'm on Good Reads now. Which seems cool, but am unsure exactly what it is. And facebook. And blogger. And You Tube. A year ago I was riding my bicycle. Unsure what has happened - becoming seriously ill is part of it - but I guess I'll have to admit, which I would not in earlier conversations, Erica Kafuman: you're right. We are, now unavoidably posthuman. Tho, I'm not sure I dislike that. Former union organizer, so value the face to face more than anything, but the interface to interface definitely has conventions and problematics that are extremely fun to discern, exploit, reboot, upload, scan, and pornolize.

Any case, and I'll get this to the morning in my next post, another "shameless self promotion" post. Wait, why do we say these things - "shameless self promotion"? As if a) one aught to have shame, and b) what's with the "self-" here? If posthuman, then add-on, plug-in multiple we are, especially viz. promotion of one's books. Since those reading would, I suppose, all agree that we need very much to continue to support the independent presses, I will: SHAMELESSLY PROMOTE Lars Palm's ungovernable press via plugging book alter (ed), and BlazeVOX for publishing my shit, and plug away I will whenever some weirdo publishes work I've culled from the ooze that is language. For now and for tonight: the scales have been tipped. I am now so thoroughly wired that I am a walking wireless billboard that plugs into your nearest Starbucks. How many arms do I have? A good question. Out of x number, how many function properly? A better question.

Posts forthcoming:

that promotion thing I was talking about

a mini-review of Erica Kaufman's wonderful new Censory Impulse (Factory School / Heretical Texts Series)

a mini-review of Rob Halpern's Disaster Suites, and ULTRA-RED, The Sound of Militancy

an update on where we are on The Employee Free Choice Act

another Wheelhouse Magazine & Press Update (with more pictures!!!)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

On Craig Arnold

It is one thing, I think, to remember the long life. Robin Blaser's death, notwithstanding the grief and mourning his close friends are feeling now (his partner of many years immediately came to mind upon hearing of the news) is also a celebration. Nearly immediately we reflect in order to bring to the present the presence of Robin Blaser's work. What is poetry if not the active extension of our multiple I's, fractured witnesses of one large language-entagled captive audience meeting? The complex negotiation of histories and forces filtered through the lens of our conventions? We must think of each line, said Celan, as a final breath. Where "finality" for the page, is impossible. Where "exhaustion" of the page, unlike for the human(s) who left them to the constant present, is impossible. Where the notion of the last breath is a perpetual "as if," a citation of our actions simpliciter, and a transfiguration, the unwriting of the universal, the universal particular captured, as it were, then let go by this seemingly insignificant unit of measure. Where, not unlike Blanchot, whose personal proximity to death was, by the same logic of fascism, so similar, Celan's "final breath," like the "zero point," is not an end, not a period, not a quiet or a quietism. Where what is meant is that all things are urgent. That urgency needs replace nostalgia in any form, lest we fall into the easiest ways of thinking--valorizing, authorializing, making demands for History.

When I read Charles Bernstein's very quick note "Robin Blaser died this morning," followed by links to Blaser's work, essays written about it, poems responding to Blaser's poems, I thought to myself that this was right. This, coming from Charles, who, who, with Susan Bee, has gone through such dark times with the untimely death of Emma Bee Bernstein, the couple's daughter. The quick note was so pregnant with knowledge born of horror. At the the public memorial for Emma Bee Bernstein, herself a polymath of an artist, a young feminist whose writings I am now just coming to know and let become a part of me, there was an incredible sense of celebration - which is what Charles Bernstein and Susan Bee wanted. I could not help but also sense, however, the deep sense of shock, even months after Emma's death, that moved throughout the room, that permeated things, effecting especially those, unlike myself, who knew Emma. It was that feeling, the feeling that hid just beneath the celebration, that made me feel extremely out of place. That I had come upon a private moment, one whose duration was sustained by the shock of the sudden, whose duration was therefore as unpredictable as its origin.

It is quite another thing, therefore, viscerally, to be forced within minutes, to consider what a remembrance of a person in mid-stride should consist of. There are no rules for celebration in the quick leave. The unexpected disappearance is the horror of the law of the conservation of motion. One is stopped with such suddenness, such violence, that one's momentum takes up the space one should be occupying. The momentum is so great that it can be mistaken, from a distance, for the person who has stopped. One's shadow becomes a shadowlife, instantly. Though I do not know Craig Arnold personally, I know many people who do. And I know his poetry--enough to know other things, things that Craig Arnold wants us to know and know poetically.

The final lines of his latest blog post before signing off:

Crushed in the hands, the fresh leaves are sweet, slightly musky – not quite mint, not quite juniper. It is a clean, windswept smell, the smell of meadow, of England, of green, the smell of a road after rain. It is the smell of a world in which there is nothing rotten or putrid or sulfurous, a world in which all of those things have been rinsed away.

Before signing off and, so his family and close friends believe, exploring the mountains of a small island off Japan. The title of the post, a self-identified digression into the sense, indeed the music of Angelica, I read with fascination. Arnold, drawn routinely back to active volcanoes, identifies "sulfurous" with "the putrid." Nowhere can I imagine there being so much sulfur than at the mouths of certain volcanoes (not all), as gaseous bi-product of forces that are still, even empirically, misunderstood. I can't help but see this juxtaposition as Arnold seeing the urgency of noticing all things, acknowledging that in the putrid, the sulfurous, there too is something sublime, that the sublime is not always, cannot be ever, beautiful. Then, after exploring his blog (Volcano Pilgrim) a bit more, digging a little deeper, I find strands that, like his poetry, both explicates and complicates previous or later threads of thought. From his first entry:

“This is part of the sublime / From which we shrink,” says Wallace Stevens. He is thinking of Pompeii and Vesuvius, of cities and civilizations laid low by disaster, of the utter indifference of geology to humanity. The Volcano Pilgrim has dedicated the last three years to the belief that one need not shrink from the sublime. Nay, rather, one may seek it out, with a pack on your back and a stick in your hand, liberal applications of sunblock and when necessary a gas mask over your face.

The last line: "...liberal applications of sunblock and when necessary a gas mask over your face" might as well be applied to acts of resistance, to protest. I used to run civil disobedience training for organizers in New York City. "Liberal applications" of sunblock and gas mask reminders were par for the course. I think, though it is extremely rare, I did utter precisely that half a line in one of those trainings. Here again, the sublime as transcendent of beauty, its treatment via humor, brings all things, for an infinitesimal flash, into a particular orbit, only to just as quickly fly apart again. Throughout this writing, travelogue gives way to an ecopoetics, and History gives way to urgency without certainty, lyric without unitary being.

I write this now without knowing whether Craig Arnold is alive. He disappeared one day while exploring a volcano. This was in late April when his friends and family sent out a desperate call, forwarded widely by Bruce Covey, to telephone our congress persons and demand that they pressure the Japanese government to continue to search for Arnold. At this time in late April, the Japanese government had declared Arnold "presumed dead," and called of their official search. Since then The Poetry Foundation and other organizations, led by family and friends, have collected funds to continue a volunteer search of the island, in order to recover Craig Arnold.

I write this, in part, because I did not call. I did nothing but write this. I have yet to call. I received a plea for help from a stranger and posted it to my blog. Was this a gesture to make me feel as though I had done something? I think it was.

"There is a psychology of fatalism that sets in," my partner said when we sat down for dinner the other night. Discussing why I have done nothing, whether writing on this when I could be calling right now was disgusting. She thought that it was not, not anyhow entirely disgusting, and though I take her point, I also think that there is something more to why we do not do things, in Kant's sense of the term, out of duty. Why we rather do what we desire to do - which is often called "good work" by churches and synagogues and other places built to house excuses. "Nothing more can be accomplished" or "I won't make a difference" are the same sort of refrains as "He's going to win anyway, so why campaign?" and "They're doing just fine, they don't need me." I suppose that when we say these things, or at least when I do, I am failing to meet the challenge of urgency that Celan writes of, or Blanchot - in fact a challenge that is much older than either of them, one that is Talmudic, at least. If all things are urgent, then one must act accordingly. That which must be factored in shifts from one's physical or emotional proximity to the action, to whether one is able. I think I have shrunken again from the sublime, turned from that to panic flight. Which is to remind me that to shrink from the sublime is not the default supposition of poets, i.e., that Stevens here is capturing the magnitude of a universe, the shift in perspective, sense of self-stability one plums at meeting the sublime. No, there is in the word itself the Kantian connection to the moral. Had Stevens not recognized this, he would have instead wrote "This is part of the sublime/at which we shrink." Not "from." That small word "from," the enfeebling retreat, were it to be replaced with "at," which is to metaphysical-ize the sublime, to strip it of its moral hinge, I sense that in this case Arnold wouldn't have thought once about carrying it with him from volcano to volcano--it would have smacked of so much world-worship rather than action (not to mention it ruining sound of the line).

I can only wonder right now, late at night, who has called on behalf of Arnold and his friends and family? Certainly, in this instance, celebration must wait, regardless of the probability that action will change outcome.