Nam si vos omnibus imperitare vultis, sequitur ut omnes servitutem accipiant?
(Tacitus, Annales XII, xxxvii)

21 Dec. 2009


21 DEC: XII Kal Ian NP: SATURNALIA Feriae; DIVALIA ANGERONAE: public sacrifice offered in Acculeian Curia

Religio Romana Roman Calendar

Angerona is a Roman Goddess with an iconography so odd that not even the ancients knew quite what She was about. She was represented holding Her finger to Her bound mouth in a gesture (apparently) requesting quiet. Some ancients believed that She was thus a Goddess of Silence, or that She represented the secret magical name of Rome which was not to be spoken aloud. Or that She was the Goddess of fear and anguish, and could prevent or drive away these feelings. One legend credits Angerona with driving away a disease called angina, which had plagued both men and animals until sacrifices were made to Her.

Her name may be akin to the Latin angustia and angor, two related words that express ideas of narrowness and difficulty. Angustia signifies a constricted place or time, or an entanglement (our word "anguish" comes from it) and was used to refer to the sun's situation at the winter solstice, when the light and warmth of the sun are at their weakest. Angor means choking, suffocation, or anguish (the above-mentioned disease "angina", which in modern times is the name of a heart disease featuring tightness in the chest, is derived from this, as well as "anger"). As Angerona had Her festival (called the Angeronalia or Divalia) on the 21st of December, some modern scholars believe She is the goddess of the winter solstice, who helps the sun get through this dark, difficult period. In this interpretation Her silence indicates concentration or meditation, and Her inner voice that conjures a powerful spell to help the sun regain its strength. Other authors, however, point out that before the calendar was reformed by Julius Caesar, the solstice did not occur on the 21st.

Alternatively, Her name may derive from an Etruscan root, ancaru, defined as "Goddess of Death".

Her statue was found in the Sacellum Volupiae, or the Shrine of Voluptas, the Goddess of Pleasure*, located near the Forum by the Porta Romana, one of the most ancient gates of Rome, which was probably located on the west side of the Palatine Hill. At the Angeronalia, the priests made sacrifices to Her either at the Sacellum Volupiae, or in the building called the Curia Acculeia. The Curia Acculeia was either another name for the Sacellum Volupiae, or else an adjacent meeting-house, as evidentally it was nearby.

Also called: Diva Angerona. Angeronia, the Goddess of the Will and Lucky Moments, is said to be a lesser variant of Her.

Obscure Goddess Directory


* Ay, in the very temple of delight
Veiled Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
Can burst Joy's grape against his palate fine;
His soul shall taste the sadness of her might,
And be among her cloudy trophies hung.

—Keats, ‘Ode on Melancholy’

Image by Pat Jones, ImagineII

18 Dec. 2009

The Non-Conformist

Breaking the rules in front of a group is the relationship of the thespian to his audience.

16 Dec. 2009

Happy Days

when you're a poet you've chosen to be alone

—Pablo Omar

Beyond the Pale

A poet who's acceptable is dead.

—Anthony Weir, Beyond the Pale

5 Dec. 2009

The Season of THE FLEA

You've got to pick up every stitch,
The rabbit’s running in the ditch,
Beatniks are out to make it rich,
Oh no! Must be the Season of the Witch...

Thomas Zimmerman, Marly Youmans, Gail White, Timothy Murphy, Rick Mullin, David W. Landrum, Rose Kelleher, Clive James, Jan Iwaszkiewicz, Midge Goldberg, Richard Epstein, Ann Drysdale, Kevin Cutrer, Norman Ball, Gene Auprey, Mark Allinson, Mary Alexandra Agner.

3 Dec. 2009

Flea Fanciers

Comments on The Flea

* "The Flea is a wondrous new 'zine, marked by the rare imagination and verve of Paul Stevens. What a sparkling, spanking-new idea for a literary magazine!"

—Marly Youmans, The Palace at 2:00 a.m.

* "Paul Stevens’ latest editorial achievement, The Flea, is now online–worth perusing as much for the idiosyncratic house style as for the excellent poetry contained within by such luminaries as Rhina Espaillat, Rose Kelleher, Tim Murphy, and, of course, yours truly."

—Anna Evans, Dreaming in Iambic Pentameter

* "...I’d opened the link to The Flea and been magically transported to a poet’s castle where the emperor’s new clothes were actually made of fabric instead of wishful thinking....

"...I had come to the conclusion that there was nothing really worth reading being published and I was wrong. Go, go to The Flea. Read it and be grateful. I’ll be collecting all the useless print journals I’ve got sitting around and firing up the barbecue. Maybe the light of the flames will inspire me. At least I know that there is still poetry in the world that speaks to the mind and heart without navigating through the navel first and miring us all in the lint so often found therein."

—Christine Kloceck-Lim, November Sky Poetry

* "It's splendid, Paul. I'm proud to be part of it. Poetry and Hudson
pay better, but The Flea is better company."

Timothy Murphy

* "The Flea's elegance is surpassed only by its high quality of verse. Seeing all the Sphereans together makes me realize what a gaggle of fine poets visit these boards. Paul Stevens has done a fine job--as have all the contributors."

—Lance Levens

* "I've just finished another of several readings of this Flea, and it truly is a wondrous assemblage of quality poems. I wish it was a paper thing I could hold within my hands.

Congratulations to all Spherians involved - all powerful poets showing poems that represent the best of their work, I believe.

Thank you so much for the invigorating experience, Paul. Great work."

—Cally Conan-Davies

* "The Flea always leaves me itching for more"

—Patti McCarty

* "I just hope you know you ruined my well-planned day, Paul. Really, I have a long list of important things to do today, including mow the lawn before the neighbors get up a petition and get the books alphabetically back on the shelves so I can find them when I need them, yadda-yadda.

But now I will have to sit down and read this wonderful broadsheet. Really, there is no alternative.

It looks so inviting. Another fine contribution to the world of "literary labors of love"."

—Janice D. Soderling

"Beautiful fanciful concept."

—Janet Kenny

"Paul, you're tireless! This is impressive and (Peter be praised) gorgeous."

—Kate Benedict, Editor, Umbrella

26 Nov. 2009

Fleaing the Trolls

I have been left with no alternative consistent with honour other than to resign from Eratosphere, a forum where many of the poets I publish meet to discuss various topics, after a campaign there and on other boards by a handful of very vocal members who in loose coalition consistently trolled announcements concerning SCR, The Flea and The Chimaera because I had dared to publish four poems (one in SCR, picked by blind panel selection, two in one issue of The Chimaera, and one in one issue of The Flea — four poems out of nearly one thousand other poems published) by a poet of whom they disapprove. The publication was consistent with my editorial policy as stated here and elsewhere of publishing the poem irrespective of any factors outside the text of the poem.

This loose coalition claimed that their harassment was justified because of the poet's alleged expression of extreme politics elsewhere (though not in the poems), but since the Moral Arbiters did not behave in a remotely similar matter concerning poets such as Philip Larkin, who expressed abusive attitudes at least as offensive as those allegedly expressed by their target, or such as the many poets who publish at Quadrant magazine, whose chief editor actively and proudly denies that genocide occurred against Australian indigenous people, I can only surmise that their motives relate to personal animosity towards that poeta non grata rather than any political or humanitarian principle.

My honour is very important to me: for that reason, and because of the unpleasantness caused by the ongoing harassment of my journals, I have been forced to resign from that particular board. Followers of The Chimaera and The Flea can no longer expect to find announcements about themes, publication and other matters on the Eratosphere forum. I will make such announcements on other forums such as Gazebo, on the Chimaera and Flea blogs, on Facebook including the Chimaera and Flea Groups, and on Twitter. I apologise for the inconvenience.

I intend to stick to my editorial principles, for I could not otherwise go on with the job (despite the fabulous salary). One of the self-proclaimed Moral Arbiters opined that there are criteria more important than editorial principles which should be enforced. I suppose he means that there are some people whose characters absolutely disqualify them from having poems published anywhere. Who should be empowered to make that decision? Should editors meekly hand over their judgments to a self-appointed group of witch-finders? Maybe the witch-finders can publish a list of poetae non gratae so editors can simply exclude work based on the ratings therein.

Poets who submit work to The Chimaera or The Flea can be sure of at least this: that their work will be judged solely on its merits as poetry, not on any personal bias or assumptions of the editors concerning that poet's character or opinions outside the work submitted; and that once it has been selected for publication in The Chimaera or The Flea, I will utterly and entirely defend the poem's right to be published, even if the whole world tries to force me to do otherwise on grounds extrinsic to the poem itself.


Post script: I have received two very personal and abusive comments about this post, which I have deleted. I wish to make it quite clear that I will not be allowing comments that include personal insult and defamation. I think these people need to pause and take a long, hard look at themselves.

18 Nov. 2009

Duppy Conqueror

At the round earth's imagin'd corners, blow
Your trumpets, angels, and arise, arise
From death, you numberless infinities
Of souls, and to your scatter'd bodies go!

Yes, me friend, me good friend,
Dem say we free again.
Yes, me friend,
We deh a street again.

The bars could not hold me;
Force could not control me now.
They try to keep me down,
But Jah put I around. Yeah!

Yes, I've been accused many a times
And wrongly abused, now.
Oh, but through the powers of the Most-High,
They've got to turn me loose.
Don't try to hold me up on this
bridge, now.
I've got to reach Mount Zion -
The highest region.
So if you a bull-bucka,
Let me tell you this -
I'm a duppy conqueror - conqueror.

Yes, me friend, me good friend,
Dem say we free again.
Yes, me friend, me good friend,
We deh a street again.

So don't try to cold me up
on this bridge, now.
I've got to reach Mount Zion -
The highest region.
So if you a bull-bucka,
Let me tell you this:
I'm a duppy conqueror - conqueror.

Yes, me friend,
Dem say we free again.
Yes, me friend,
Dem set we free again.
Yes, me friend, me good

Art by Pat Jones

17 Nov. 2009

Traitors, communists, bashings, and other weird stuff

I've regularly protested against funding of Private schools with taxpayers money. I protested against the Vietnam War, with tens of thousands of other Australians, and we were told we were traitors to Australia. For wearing a Vietnam Moratorium badge I was, walking alone on separate occasions, twice beaten up by Ross "The Skull" May and members of the Australian Nazi Party (REAL nazis, not yer armchair keyboard-tappers), and once by a group of RAN sailors. I protested against the Apartheid South African Springboks Rugby tour in 1971 and was told I wasn't a proper Aussie because I was against Sport (our local God), then spent a night in the cells for my trouble. I protested against the dismissal of the Whitlam government and was told I was a communist, socialist, gay (? -- I've no idea why this was supposed to make me gay) traitor (yet again). I marched against the Pinochet regime in Chile, the Junta in Greece, the illegal and murderous invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq which have destroyed millions of lives. For caring enough to do that, I was told I was supporting terrorism.

In January 2009 I marched against the massacre of civilian Palestinians, especially women and children, in Gaza, and I'm now told I'm anti-Israel and indeed an anti-semite for doing that.

An anti-semite for protesting against the murderous treatment of the most oppressed and abused people on earth. When I marched against war-crimes in Gaza, I was not marching against the state of Israel, but against horrible, large-scale war-crimes. War crimes, past and present, condemned by Richard Goldstone, the world's premier War-Crimes prosecutor (himself Jewish and a Zionist), by the United Nations, Amnesty International, Gush Shalom, Bat Shalom, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Noam Chomsky, Harold Pinter, the huge numbers of Australian aborigines who marched in the Gaza protest (because they have some idea what it's like as indigenous people to be oppressed like this), countless courageous Israeli academics, educators and peace activists like Ann Baltzer and many others. Presumably all these people are anti-semites too.

Those who spray the charge of 'anti-semite' around indiscriminately bring their own cause into disrepute. Call everyone who criticises Israel an anti-semite and how are we to know the REAL anti-semites? The case is well put by Michael Neumann in 'Criticism of Israel'.

The most opressed people in the world

Yet the Western liberal-left, to their eternal shame, just let it happen without protest.

Palestinians Consider Going to the UNO for a State; Israeli Right threatens to Recognize its own Colonies in Retaliation

...A Palestinian state is important because the Palestinian people are stateless. Being without citizenship in a state leaves people vulnerable and without rights, since there is no state that will defend their rights. If someone just moved into your house while you were out watching a movie, you could ask the police of your town to remove them, with reference to the property deed that you filed with your municipal authorities. But if Israelis take over Palestinian land, the Palestinians have no one to complain to. The Israeli courts favor the colonizers and don't recognize Palestinian rights. Palestinians, being stateless, do not have the right to have rights. The children of stateless people often lack access to education and other services.

As such, the Palestinians are the most oppressed people in the world. There are other peoples who feel that they have the wrong citizenship and would like to secede, but at least they have a government and rights within that government's framework. They have someone to give them a passport, which Palestinians do not. There are other peoples that are in conflict and being killed in fair numbers. A not insignificant number of Palestinians has been killed by the Israelis, whether through often indiscriminate and disproportionate violence or through food and services blockades (a lot of Gazan children are stunted owing to the bad nutrition caused by the Israeli blockade of Gaza, which is an illegal collective punishment of noncombatants,including children.) But of course there are other groups that are killed in larger numbers. But I would argue that the psychological toll taken by the imposition of statelessness on a people is more debilitating than the knowledge that some of the group has been killed by oppressors.

European Jews themselves were made stateless by Nazi decree, as were millions of other Europeans (leftists were denaturalized by Franco in Spain, e.g.). In the post-WW II world, citizenship has become recognized as key to basic human dignity and civil rights. There are only about 12 million stateless now, and the Palestinians are the single largest group of them....

— Professor Juan Cole, Informed Comment

US against unilateral Palestinian Statehood bid

30 Oct. 2009

Partisan politics, personal animosity and poetry

A (Re-)Statement of Editorial Principle and Intent

Allowing political orientations to determine whose poetry one reads is the infallible sign of a poetastical mind, for the poetaster always treats art as secondary to other more important considerations.

Putting politics first and art second is exactly what these folks do, so, QED - they are poetasters: political animals who dabble in poetry as a secondary interest. Since poets are strongly individual, those who run and hunt in packs cannot be poets, by definition.

— Mark Allinson, Poet

The constant obsession of a particular group of partisans with certain poets whom they accuse of racism and genocide-denial often, in my experience, results in attacks on me as an editor for publishing the poetry of such alleged think-crime evil-doers. The hectoring bullying and threats frequently resorted to by these trollish partisans are a real blight on poetry. The world is full of people who others think are not nice, who are problematic, who we don't like, who behave badly, who say things we think are vile, and so on. We can't stop the show every time someone takes exception to someone else. That attitude is unreasonable and unworkable.

And — gasp! — the truth is that LOTS of poets (with many honourable exceptions) are themselves not very nice people. Some are self-obsessed, narcissistic, opinionated, loud-mouthed, monstrously selfish; some are lustful, intemperate, devious; some are tired and emotional, abusive, envious, petty-minded, untruthful; some are greedy, needy, stupid at times, controversial at others; some are perjured, murderous, bloody full of blame, savage, rude, cruel, not to trust; had, having, and in quest to have, extreme; some are dead-set barking mad. Ban them all? Shall the only poets we are allowed to read be those on a safe, sanitised, politically-correct list dictated by a particular claque of tricoteuses? I don't think so.

We each have different and often opposing ideas about what is acceptable, nice, poor taste, unspeakably evil, and so forth. Many of these partisan agenda-trolls I've referred to hold views that just as offensive and destructive, in my opinion, as those they allege to be held by the objects of their denigration. I too have political and moral views: for example, I find people who justify or support CURRENT acts of genocide and genocidal war crime to be even worse than those who deny past genocides (whom I also condemn). And I have genocide-deniers very close to home here in Australia, including the recent Prime Minister John Howard, much of his electoral base, and his favourite historians Geoffrey Blainey and Keith Windschuttle.

In Australia, it is alleged that Professor Keith Windschuttle, editor of Quadrant (where Les Murray is the poetry editor) has acted as a genocide-denier in books such as his Fabrication of Aboriginal History in relation to the genocidal destruction of Australia's indigenous population. His argument is based on evidential grounds philosophically very similar to those deployed by holocaust-deniers such as David Irving. This alleged denial of the attempted genocide of indigenous Australians is an issue which is very close to my heart, as is the similar horrendous treatment of the indigenous people of Palestine by those who illegally occupy their land. Yet here is a pillar of Australia's intellectual establishment who claims that what most of the intellectual community recognise as an ongoing act of genocide never actually occurred.

I totally disagree with Windschuttle and find his views repugnant and his methodology deeply flawed. Imagine though how indigenous Australians feel about this issue. They have been massacred, poisoned, raped, driven from their lands, deculturated, had their children taken from them, have been dispossessed, and are now told that it all just never happened. Should I then refuse to publish non-political work by Windschuttle (if he offered it, which is fairly unlikely), or by Les Murray (gulp! — I have!), or any poet who has published in Quadrant? That would include practically every Australian formalist poet of any standing, and many from overseas (gulp!— again, I have published poets who've appeared in Quadrant, such as Stephen Edgar, John Whitworth, Geoff Page, Alan Gould, and others). Should I wage a campaign of harassment against Les Murray and all who admire him or publish him, or publish next to him, or who are published by him, since Murray is associated with an alleged genocide-denier??

Outside of the Australian context: by the logic of the agitpropsters, then, shouldn't I refuse to publish the poetry of Philip Larkin, if he miraculously sends me a submission? We good citizens should close Larkin down. We should all relentlessly attack and defame anyone who admires or even mentions Larkin's poetry. We should pressure, libel and harass people who had work in The Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse which he edited, demanding that they remove it. I'm talking about that same Philip Larkin who wrote
Prison for the strikers,
Bring back the cat,
Kick out the niggers —
How about that?

Who referred to West Indians as 'black scum' and wished the apartheid South African police could come over to UK to sort them out.

Whose father was enthusiastically pro-Nazi and had a little model of Hitler on the home mantelpiece which gave a Nazi salute when a button was pressed. Philip Larkin openly supported some aspects of Nazism right through WWII.

Who advocated that Britons vote for Enoch Powell, much admired by BNP types, the "Rivers of Blood" politician who opposed immigration and anti-discrimination laws, and wanted to keep Britain white.

Philip Larkin, who was anti-semitic and homophobic — although he DID avidly devour (and write) pornography salaciously depicting schoolgirl lesbianism, as well as photographs and texts privileging buggery and oral sex with schoolgirls by a "headmaster": pornography which he used to share around with other poets such as Robert Conquest.

Who was sexist and misogynistic and who frequently opined that women are stupid and inferior.

Who wrote "No subsidies for Gay Sweatshirt... or wogs like Salmagundi" (ie. Salman Rushdie).

And there's plenty more shockers on Larkin, and on other iconic, past and present, much-admired poets as well. Do we really want to get into all that? Does it really have anything to do with poetry? If so, by someone's lights or other, every poet in the world must be debarred.

Larkin's letters revealed not only a collector of dirty pictures but a man whose right-wing opinions sometimes accompanied flagrantly racist language. Larkin's epithets joined Eliot's arguable anti-Semitism and Pound's undoubted fascism as fuel for the over-familiar debate: Can a bad man be a good poet?"

— Stephen Burt, 'History takes a second look at Philip Larkin'

Larkin was clearly a racist homophobe with Nazi tendencies and pedophiliac inclinations. His Ĺ“uvre and all approving references to him must be eradicated. The poet who wrote 'Aubade' and 'The Whitsun Weddings' should be outlawed and his poems, essays and novels suppressed, and all those who have read his works and, worse, praised them, should be counseled, re-educated, or outlawed.

I doubt anyone would seriously argue along those lines. But if I can be allowed to publish or admire the non-political works of associates of alleged genocide-denier Windschuttle, or the poems of racist, anti-semitic, homophobic, sexist, nazi-sympathising, misogynistic, pedophiliacly-inclined, rather nasty Philip Larkin, or fascist Ezra Pound, or anti-semitic T.S. Eliot, then why are these extremely non-PC poets exempt from the agitprop fatwa but certain other poets not? Is selective outrage at work here? Does it perhaps all boil down to sheer personal animosity?

I will not be intimidated by the Bovver Boys and Girls who routinely use troll-tactics to harass and vilify me for publishing non-political poetry by particular poets in a context that has NO political connotations whatsoever. I could not go on as an editor if I excluded a poet's work just because of whatever opinions she is alleged to have expressed elsewhere than the work itself, or because someone else is waging a personal vendetta against her, or because a particular claque of hard-line activists tries to intimidate me from doing so. And nearly always in my opinion the people who do the shouting and denigrating are far inferior in their ability to write poetry than the poets they target for harassment.

Attempts to coerce opinion are ALWAYS counterproductive. They turn people against the would-be coercers, as they have myself, and many others to my certain knowledge. And the supreme irony is that whenever these extremists wage one of their sordid coercion campaigns, visits to the magazine concerned immediately and markedly increase, and submissions increase dramatically too, with many who submit work or send letters commenting on how turned off they are by the attempts to sabotage peaceful, non-political poetry publication. The lynch mob is actually giving even more exposure to the very poets it is attempting to banish into oblivion! I suppose I shouldn't complain about that since it boosts both readership and range of contributors: but God! — these trolls are not very bright, then, are they?

Since I began editing and publishing the works of others, I have consistently and forthrightly stated my position on these matters. For me it is the most basic principle of poetic and editorial integrity to publish the work, not the person. One example of my statements on this issue is in my answer to Question 8 here, in Nic Sebastian's interviews with editors on Very Like a Whale. Yes, I would publish a good poem by the Spring-Heeled Terror of Stepney Green!

When I am being a poetry editor, I am not at all being Your Special Friend. I don't care what vile, hurtful things the mean man or nasty lady said to you, or said about you; or what wickedness they wrought seven years ago; or how you've suffered and suffered at the hands of persecutors; or how sternly you disapprove of their opinions or lifestyle. I do not share your Manichean view of the struggle of Good and Evil (in which you, of course, are of the Good party), which struggle is being waged apparently on the front of poetry publication; and I am not going to take sides in that struggle. I care only about one thing: the poem in front of me.

You might ask: why don't I just solve the problem by not publishing the alleged Evil-Doers' poetry? — Well then I have just capitulated to a group holding a gun to my head. And what is to stop some other faction from using the same tactics to demand that some other poet be banned? I just cannot run a poetry magazine under that kind of threat.

And if the next response is: why do I not just dislike the Evil-Doers' poetry? Well, that's not the truth. In my editorial judgment the Evil Doers concerned write good poetry often enough to make their poetry better than other poems submitted for the same issues.

I would have thought all of this is just basic editing ethics. At least people can send me poems and know that I will select them strictly on the value of the poetry as I see it. I truly believe that kind of morality and integrity is crucial to the role of editing. You don't just say, 'Oh that's a good poem but because it's by so-and-so I'm not publishing it.' That (to me) is unethical, corrupt.

I think it's rather like exam marking. We mark the students' exam essays blind, both at school and for the state-wide HSC. If I gave a student 18/20 for an answer, and then when I convert the student numbers to names I learn that the student is Biffo Brannigan, who's a real bloody shite, I do not believe that assessment of his personal life entitles me to change his mark, which he has won fair and square. Indeed I would be in deep shit with the Board of Studies if they discovered I'd done that. And quite rightly too.

Listen up, agitpropsters: will I continue to publish poems by people whose thoughts you or I agree or disagree with? Or whose characters seem problematic or not? Or whom you or I like or do not like, whoever they are?

Too bloody right I will! As long as those poems are the best poems available. I will continue to publish, without fear or favour, the very BEST poetry submitted to the magazines which I edit, applying no other criterion than the poetic quality of the poem concerned. Get over it.

17 Apr. 2009

THE FLEA Hoppeth Ever Nigh

Mr. Paul Stevens, ever stedfaste in the conviction that he hath indeed in Former Times befported and comported himfelf during a long & difreputable Paft Life as a Fellowe and Boone-Companion of Jack Donne Esq.,Ben Jonfon, Sir John Suckling, Richard Lovelace and his partickular Frende and Crony Mr. Andrew Marvell of Hull & Nun Appleton Houfe, wishes to presage the imminent Publickation of an Exhibition or Congeries of Poemes, Sonets,Squibs & Epigrammes,endited & compofed of variovs Illvftrious Avthors & diuers Handes, whych he hath whimfically deuysed under the Favoure of the Souereygne Muse in a Broadfheet to be called THE FLEA, after the excellent Conceite of his Frende Mr. Donne; and will aduyfe furthermore any new Newes as seems appofyte and timely.