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National

Action Alert: Sign the Petition Supporting Poetry Magazine

[theguardian.com – 2/3/21]

The prestigious Poetry Magazine, publishing since 1912, has been under attack for publishing a poem written by a man currently in prison for a sex offense.

Please show your support for Poetry Magazine by adding your name to this petition.

Here’s the story:

The magazine published the poem in an issue focusing on work by “currently and formerly incarcerated people”, their families and prison workers. The disputed poem is by a former professor of English literature who was released from prison last year after serving time for possessing, receiving and distributing child sexual abuse images in 2014.

The magazine has held firm to its decision despite protests that include a petition asking it to withdraw the poem by Nesset. The magazine said “We recognise the life-shattering impact of violence and denounce harm.” But it added that “People in prison have been sentenced and are serving/have served those sentences; it is not our role to further judge or punish them as a result of their criminal convictions. As editors, our role is to read poems and facilitate conversations around contemporary poetry.”

The new petition applauding the magazine for selecting poetry for publication “without regard to conviction history” was prepared by two ACSOL board members working with a communications expert who has spoken at the annual ACSOL conference. Their petition gathered 1500 signatures in less than three days.

You can read more about this story in articles from The Guardian and Slate.

Read the Slate article

Read the Guardian article

Sign the petition

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I really wish there was a means linked to this petition to oppose it.

Out of all the comments on that petition, not a single one mentioned the poem the guy wrote. I wonder how this crowd would react if whoever finds a cure for AIDS gets popped for CP.

According to different resources, less than 10% of those that view images deemed as illegal are actually apprehended. That also holds true across the spectrum of felony and misdemeanor crimes. Millions of people from all walks of life commit offenses every day, they just don’t get caught. So don’t you feel special now. I know I do.

I was only surmising that if whoever finds the cure for AIDS ends up on the registry, the line of thinking would be that no AIDS patient should take it because it came from a sex offender. It’s completely absurd. I have no earthly idea what your response had to do with my comment.

I would take issue with “According to different resources, less than 10% of those that view images deemed as illegal are actually apprehended.” If that’s true, then it’s primarily because federal and state ICAC forces haven’t been able to anchor it onto as many systems as they used to. I comfortably assert that at least 98% of CP convictions are from those stupid stings and you could probably count on one hand the number of CP convictions in the past 20 years that were the result of LE detective work following hard leads.

Carlton Gajdusek first identified the bizarre, non-living structures known as “prions” that are responsibile for invariably fatal diseases of humans and Mad Cows, sheep, etc. but ended up as a sex offender in prison. He won a Nobel Prize for his medical research.

So, there’s that…

Just noting that this comment has now become outdated since it was posted February 4. The updated version of the article now posted here contains a link to the ACSOL supported petition posted the evening of February 7 that SUPPORTS the magazine’s decision to publish poems without regard to the poet’s conviction history. As of this morning, the ACSOL supported petition now has more signatures (1880) than does the original one criticizing the magazine. To those who’ve already signed on, thanks for your support.

Thank you Ira. You are a Godsend and a hero to many whom you’ve never met. Keep up the great work. Truth is always the defense to false light. Just signed.

It is great and all we’re getting sigs for a petition and we’re winning the signature war. But where do we go from here?

Where’s the media on this now that we have all these signatures? Why is it here in 2021 we’re still largely seen as a novelty item rather than a voice of reason in the eyes of the media?

And how many folks have gone beyond the petition and sent thanks to Poetry Magazine? If you haven’t, do so now.

A couple years back, the University of Southern Maine received some criticism over having art made by a person convicted of a sex offense, but while Poetry Magazine sttod their ground, USM took down the art. I took art from Registered Persons and held an “art protest” at the USM campus. Sadly, I had to go OUTSIDE the cause since people in these big groups made promises to help but failed to deliver on said promises.

The point is it is so easy to get people so sign a petition but hard to get them to do anything more than that. It is like those who say they want to feed the homeless so they drop some money into the Salvation Army bells but won’t deliver a sandwich to a homeless person.

Wrote this to the Poetry Foundation:

~~~~~~~~~~~~

I recently read an article about a controversial issue of your Poetry magazine.

As an advocate for those who have been involved with the criminal justice system, I want to express my support for your decision to run the issue and to not discriminate content based on crime of conviction.

There are many voices out there that wish to dehumanize certain groups of people. It was done by the Nazis to the Jews, by Americans to blacks, and now more broadly by people toward a class of persons with sexual offense histories. With the problem of sexual offending so pervasive, it is just ignorant to think of these people as monsters rather than persons whose complex life stories led them to where they ended up. Thank you for not caving into the ignorance but standing firm in the belief of the innate human dignity that should be afforded to all people, especially those who have been transformed by the humbling experience of a major life failure.

It’s not the failure, but the individual’s response to that failure that should be the focus of our efforts in ensuring a better outcome for our world. Thank you for recognizing that, once just sanctions have been levied against individuals for their wrongs, that it is not our place to further judge or punish those individuals.

I hope these stories only further to widen the scope and popularity of your publications.

Best regards,
James

James,
What a beautifully written letter to “Poetry”. Well done and thank you for sending it.

Steve D (not a poet)

The criminal justice reform movement has been such a joke in this country. These woke white ladies believe there are two kinds of people in prison: brave black men who are there for possessing a small bag of marijuana (probably needed to deal with the day to day trauma of being black in an evil racist country) and white men in prison for raping and molesting and killing innocent women. There’s an old Simpsons joke where the family visits a “prison rodeo” and one prisoner is described as a “man so bad Bob Dylan wrote a song to keep him in prison.” Funny at the time, but now that could describe 90% of the left—interested only in increased incarceration because so few people meet their standards for mercy. I wonder what other crimes are represented in this issue? These signatories are tacitly endorsing those crimes by not calling them out explicitly.

“ Hey read this poem it is really great.” Oh oh, the poem was written by a sex offender and we can’t allow this. How many of these petitioners have pictures of their kids naked while under age?

When will people in America who are labeled sex offenders learn they will never be normal they’ll never be accepted in Society it’s funny watching people still try to fit in with them.
People need to wake up it’s over if your on IML your banished form participating in any public activities why lie to yourselfs.
The only public activities A sex offender should be doing is reaching out to outher sex offenders and organizing peacefull protest for a better life for their freedom to be able to live a normal life one day

Good luck

@AERO1, society does not have to accept me due to my criminal past, but when our government CREATES a public LIST of only those with convictions that have to do with sex and no other criminal, that is unconstitutional and corrupt and perpetuates the lie & the punishment. I understand if an individual denies me housing, but when our government excludes only and all of those with convictions that have to do with sex, and no other criminal from obtaining housing assistance, that is unconstitutional and corrupt and perpetuates the lie & the punishment and so on…

“POETRY” magazine was founded in 1912 by Harriet Monroe, an author who was then working as an art critic for the Chicago Tribune. She wrote at that time:

“The Open Door will be the policy of this magazine—may the great poet we are looking for never find it shut, or half-shut, against his ample genius! To this end the editors hope to keep free from entangling alliances with any single class or school. They desire to print the best English verse which is being written today, regardless of where, by whom, or under what theory of art it is written. Nor will the magazine promise to limit its editorial comments to one set of opinions.”

At least in the case of Kirk Nesset, Monroe’s declaration is holding true.

Unfortunately, there remains the sweeping generalizations asserted in this response to Nesset’s poem being published:

https://www.publicintellectuals.org/forum/topic/kirk-nesset-is-not-a-victim-of-the-prison-industrial-complex-hes-a-predator/?part=1#postid-232

The Poetry Magazine controversy as, at its heart, the intersection of three nasty issues. First, white authors who are seemingly “unworthy” of being published are piled on relentlessly on social media by aggrieved writers who aren’t published as much as they’d like (some of these are non-white, but some are white and just leveraging trends in grievances to their schadenfreude cause). Many of these non-working wanna-be writers are exceedingly nasty and coordinated (see the controversy over American Dirt or any one of thousands of young adult novels). Second, grifters–especially political grifters–of all stripes have tried to use sundry accusations of perversion as a way to attack people whom they see as obstacles (see the French Revolution, although I assume it predates that). The left (against “privileged” white men like Brock Turner, for example) and the right (against Joe Biden or The Lincoln Project) both do their fair share of it. Third, we’ve developed a prison reform movement based on the largely untrue idea that most people in prison didn’t do anything wrong. That’s absolute nonsense and when advocates are faced with actual criminal wrongdoing they literally break down all rational thought, which suggests this isn’t a movement that should be informing actual policy–they either completely ignore the criminal wrongdoing (as in the disturbing convictions of and allegations against Jacob Blake) or they exaggerate the harm of wrongdoing (as in the elements of the left celebrating the death of capitol rioter Ashli Babbitt). Like many things in American politics, criminal justice reform is really just a mess of fantasy television tropes, silly rhetoric and completely unrealistic goals (“abolish all prisons!”). I’m not sure American politics were ever more “rational” but that certainly is the goal we should be striving for.

There should be more published works from Registrants to put out into the world that advocates the humanity behind the criminal pasts of Registrants. The fact that the national narrative is filled by people never convicted of a sex crime is like white writers from yesteryear that write about black people – no insight, always stereotypical, and lacking humanity.

The only way to change the narrative is to speak up for ourselves in the public arena by self publishing through all mediums like social media, videos, podcasts, and the like. We don’t even need to put our real names behind our work when we publish our stories. We just need to put it out there.

Because when we don’t speak up other people will – like politicians, police, news media, abuse activists…and they will fill the national perception of us. And they have for decades…unable to see beyond our past convictions. The world needs to see us for the humanity that we are or this misperception will continue.

Of course these published works from Registrants will be met with hostility. There will be backlash and social outcry from all sorts of people. But what movement for change hasn’t been met that way? America’s history is rife with animosity and resistance for social change. But advocates continue to persist their life mission because it is the right thing to do and is worth the struggle.

I have been slowly acquiring resources to start something like this. In time I will put something out there in written form, in a video, in a podcast that will speak up for us – to put a voice and to put our humanity out there for anybody who will listen. Sure, it will be met with trolls and hate – and any progress will be tiny and slow – but any great movement for social change is done that way. May not see immediate results or maybe not even in my lifetime but this thing is bigger than me…it may not benefit me now but it will benefit others in the future.

And in order to do that I have to start now.

I knew Kirk in prison. He was a decent enough guy and doesn’t need this crap.

Convict. That’s all.

@q

“Convict. That’s all.”

Please elaborate. What do you mean?

Meaning rso’s shouldn’t be “categorically excluded”. A convict is a convict, let them do their time and move on.

I’m liking this statement –
“it is not our role to further judge or punish them as a result of their criminal convictions”

Guess they never heard of the late Beat Poet, Allen Ginsberg, probably the most famous poet of the last hundred years.

This guy was sued (for around $150k) after his arrest by lawyers representing some of the women who may have appeared in the photos he had when they were minors–and he reached an undisclosed settlement. The pile-on, I feel relatively confident about, is largely orchestrated by law firms and their staff to poison the pot of public opinion against this sort of sex offender to ensure higher settlements / awards for future lawsuit (against individuals, corporations, BSA, churches, universities etc.). I’d love to see someone smarter about finance than me compute just the extent of transfer of wealth in the US as a result of lawsuits based on sexual misconduct over the past 30 years. With so many billions at stake, I question how much hatred we get is necessarily “organic” versus astroturfing from stakeholders in the legal organizations that can make king’s ransoms. Even Slate.com (which rarely misses an opportunity to discredit a badly behaving man) had a relatively reasonable piece on this that is not consistent with the attitudes expressed by the anonymous Twitter accounts: https://slate.com/culture/2021/02/poetry-magazine-prison-incarcerated-writers-kirk-nesset-child-pornography.html

This shouldn’t even be news. Why even mention that the poet has a sex offense? What about the other poets? What did they do?

I’m so tired of how society separates sex offenders from “ex-felons”.

I’m proud of Poetry. And saddened by the reactions of very-online poets. I didn’t think an RSO’s inclusion in an all-criminal issue of a poetry journal world start a row

Wellllll,,,, I have had similar problems on LinkedIn. I am an artist and a poet as well and at first I got Tons of feedback Mostly positive. Then things went dark I was unfallowed by most of My fallowing…and it pretty much went silent. Then someone in my contacts told me that another contact looked me up on the SITE we all hate and told all my connections, I still have 700 or so but few if any will respond to me now. HEY Maybe janice should petition ol Joe Biden for a PUBLIC BAN on the meg site so WE as Individuals can get on board with ” LET’s Be Inclusive to ALL and HEAL TOGETHER” Statement He Made about Divisiveness and HATE of Certain Individuals regardless of race or sex. I Think NOW IS THE TIME TO HIT HIM UP, Or WE NEED OUR OWN REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS to address OUR GRIEVANCES of “HATE ISSUES WE DEAL WITH”. Since MEGAN SITE went PUBLIC in What 2002-03?

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