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Unread 05-18-2019, 02:52 AM
Jayne Osborn's Avatar
Jayne Osborn Jayne Osborn is offline
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Middle England
Posts: 6,134

Your further explanation is much more measured than some of your earlier responses (like the one preceding it), so thank you for that. I hope we can get things on a better footing now. Perhaps we've both calmed down a bit!

After an absence of more than four years I suppose I can understand why you felt the need to ease your way back gradually, but you're a long-standing member here, and pretending to be someone else - especially having to involve Alex in creating a new profile - was not the best way to go about things, which I think you now recognise.
I closed the "Sean Shinawill'' thread because it was getting people's backs up, no such person exists... and you had ''come clean'' by that time anyway. I have no intention of closing this one.

After the initial bad start, bumping a two-year old thread and then posting another poem the day after your first one were further annoyances; you clearly forgot some of the rules during your absence!

You did ''ask for it'' a bit after all that, and to be honest I half-expected your poem to get slaughtered but, as you say, you got some helpful comments. (It's "Gordonstoun'', by the way, Jim, not Gordanston.)

Now, regarding If I post [at The Deep End] now, or indeed anyone else I suppose, it will be seen as provocative attention seeking or affectation even, I don’t agree with you. If anything, now that you’ve opened up this big debate and you feel as you do about it, continuing to post there would seem quite natural.

I used to post at TDE, but only what I considered to be my much better stuff, for robust criticism. We all churn out a variety of quality in our poems and, for me, when I thought (or hoped!) I’d got a good ’un, usually a serious poem, The Deep End was the place to put it. Metrical or Drills and Amusements are better suited for light-hearted poems IMO, ...but I'm not saying it's wrong to post an amusing one on TDE.

That’s why, and I’ve said it before, I don’t want to see the end of The Deep End, as so many members do – and I don’t believe Alex does either, or he’d have surely zapped it by now! You’ve opened it up again, like Aaron P did not so long ago...maybe others will follow suit, maybe they won't, but for now, at least, the choice remains.

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Unread 05-18-2019, 02:55 AM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: San Diego, CA, USA
Posts: 6,476

Jim, I think you overestimate Alan's tutelage of women poets here. I say that without acrimony. I really do.

For example, I would never dream of characterizing either Rhina P. Espaillat or A.E. Stallings as someone who "flourished under his aegis," and I'm very surprised that you have characterized them as such. Rhina and Alicia were fully-fledged mentors on a par with Alan when they were active here. They were not novices who needed Alan's guidance in order to come into their talent. Alicia published her first book in 1999 (the Richard Wilbur Award-winning Archaic Smile, which I think all will agree is a masterpiece), without Alan's assistance, and Rhina had already published several collections by the time Eratosphere came to be.

I am quite certain that I never saw Alicia workshop a poem in public, ever. And I think Rhina would very, very rarely post a poem to the boards. Like Alan, they generously shared their expert opinions, and gave much more than they took from the boards.

I don't think I'm in any way badmouthing Alan when I say that your memory of his influence on Rhina's and Alicia's poetic development is inaccurate. I don't think you realize that you're unfairly diminishing Rhina and Alicia, in your desire to honor Alan. But that's not necessary. They were all masters of their craft, and peers, and friends, who thought highly of each other's work. All stood on their own merits. None of the three was "flourishing" under anyone else's "aegis." That's just silly.

Again, Alan was a great talent, and he directly helped a lot of poets I admire. But the simple fact of the matter is that he felt far more comfortable tutoring men than tutoring women. There's no crime in that, and he didn't go out of his way to sabotage women. He had plenty of praise for formalist women who found success. But in my view, he didn't often contribute to women's success, in the way that he did for men.

I am grateful for what I picked up from Alan's tutelage of others, and those lessons have had a lasting and beneficial impact on my work. But I'm not going to pretend that Alan offered me direct advice and encouragement that he didn't. And I don't think it's speaking ill of the dead to say honestly that my experience of Alan was far different from yours.

Like a bighorn sheep, Alan delighted in a certain rough-and-tumble form of establishing and re-establishing dominance, and he often butted heads with poets who he thought challenged his authority and needed to be put in their place. I often couldn't see what all that king-of-the-hill stuff had to do with helping people become better poets. He chased a lot of subpar poets with oversized egos off the site whom I was not sorry to see go, but he also chased a lot of really good poets away, too, who simply had enough self-respect not to put up with his abuse. And that was our--and perhaps poetry's--loss.

The beginning of this essay presents the perspective of another woman, whose work attracted Alan's eye more successfully than mine did, on his distinctive approach to critique. Men seem to recall that approach more fondly than women do. (But there were plenty of men, too, who thought Alan's withering critiques crossed the line into gratuitous ego-stomping at times.) Anyway, it's a gorgeous essay, and more impactful for the fact that it is honest, not hagiographic.

Honesty itself honors Alan, doesn't it?

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 05-18-2019 at 03:11 AM.
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Unread 05-18-2019, 04:55 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 2,547

My reading/following of conversations here is spotty at best; and my memory becomes foggy quickly; but thank you for turning me on to the poetry of Alan Sullivan. My morning, my now, is better because of it.
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Unread 05-18-2019, 05:23 AM
Catherine Chandler's Avatar
Catherine Chandler Catherine Chandler is offline
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Canada and Uruguay
Posts: 5,781
Blog Entries: 33

My two cents.

My first post on Eratosphere was on the regular Met board. It was pretty awful, although I thought it was the cat's meow. However, I was grateful for the crits. Not long after, I posted a sonnet. Alicia Stallings saw it and, although she found that it needed improvement, nonetheless encouraged me to post thereafter on TDE. And so I did, with some trepidation.

That was many, many years ago, when I had already made contact via snail mail with Rhina, Tim Steele and Richard Wilbur. It was Rhina who brought Eratosphere to my attention. Alan Sullivan and later Tim Muphy were supportive of my work, and I was grateful for their incisive critiques.

I enjoyed my time as Moderator of TDE and host of the sonnet bake-offs. I hope TDE continues to exist and that, one day, the bake-off is held again. Thanks to Alex for this wonderful site. It will be his call, of course.
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Unread 05-18-2019, 05:54 AM
Jim Hayes Jim Hayes is offline
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Kilkenny, Kilkenny, Ireland
Posts: 4,919

Jayne , lets do that. Let us calm down and find the generosity in each other.
My apologies for my abrasiveness to you and inconvenience to Alex. There was no great degree of thought or malintent in either just some careless inconsideration which I regret.

Re Gordonstoun, I had a sneaky suspicion this was the correct rendition, and should have confirmed, but it’s Scottish is it not? With a brogue “Gorrdenstoon”
Perhaps I can get away with, if not I’ll just have to contrive an alternative.

Julie, breathtaking in its candour indeed! Absolutely beautiful and very moving to read. Thank you.
We become selective in our memories, picking out what we are most comfortable to dwell on. I guess that’s what I was doing.

Behind the facade both Tim and Alan were vulnerable, Alan was by far the more brittle and probably with cause.

Tim was wealthy once, but dissipated all through bad investments and drinking.
Alan was the kept man and kept in style indeed in the earlier stages. He would never have to work, that was his understanding in the partnership, but when I knew them they were both living in a small boat, their only possession, tied up in cheap moorage in Florida and no income save from Tim’s only success, a small share in a computer company which he had deeded to Alan

Tim’s father never came to terms with Tim’s sexual orientation and Alan’s mother, a devout, if embittered, catholic was still praying he’d be ‘cured’ of his homosexuality before he died.

I wrote of my experiences with the two of them in Florida and it’s in an archive here somewhere, but I can’t find it.

They made each other’s lives miserable towards the end, but in their fashion they still loved one another and I do think, Indeed believe, that they still had solace together in their finer moments.

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Unread 05-18-2019, 09:01 AM
Clive Watkins Clive Watkins is offline
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Yorkshire, UK
Posts: 2,410

I have followed this thread for a while. As someone who joined almost at the start of Eratosphere and was a moderator at Metrical and later at The Deep End, and also on one occasion a “Distinguished Guest” at Non-Met, I just wanted to throw in my three ha’pence.

What attracted me to the Sphere at the start was the presence of people like Bob Mezey, Alicia Stallings and Deborah Warren, and, indirectly through the good offices of Tim Murphy, of Anthony Hecht and Richard Wilbur. All of these I got to meet in person in later years, either in this country or in the U.S.. and to correspond with some of them. What these writers had in common was that I already knew of their work away from the internet: I either had copies of their books on my shelves or had come across their poems in reputable magazines. This seemed a sign that the Sphere was something more serious than some of the other poetry boards I had found on the web. Having joined, I then came across other poets who fell into that broad class, such as Michael Juster, Rhina Espaillat, Anthony Lombardy and Susan McLean. In the margins at times was Dana Gioia.

As for myself, I submitted very few poems in the several years that I was an active commentator, perhaps only ten or a dozen. I got much more out of commenting myself, formulating my thoughts in what I hope was a clear way, and from reading the comments of others on other people’s poems.

Eventually, as was natural and inevitable, many of these writers slipped away – Deborah Warren and Alicia Stallings, for instance. Hecht and Wilbur died, and when Tim moved off, after Alan Sullivan’s death, contact was lost with another part of the poetry network. Since then, of course, Tim has himself sadly passed way. For myself, I reached a point where I felt I had done as much as I wanted. My own writing was moving in other directions, with the publication of first one and then two other books.

Towards Alan Sullivan, I think some members had mixed feelings. I did myself. I did not like the way Tim (I think it was Tim) bestowed on him the title “Editor from Hell”. This seemed unpleasantly aggressive. Nor did I care much for Alan’s style of editing. I recall an exchange when he was very hostile, in a personal way, to a comment of mine on one thread. I bit back, something I rarely do, and he backed off and was more level with me after that. Nor did I agree with many of his judgements: he seemed to me to have very narrow and dogmatic tastes in poetry, something I did not think always very helpful. I recognize, however, that many members feel genuinely grateful to him for his advice.

The argument about the status of The Deep End goes back a long way. For what it is worth, I see no need for it and thought this long ago. The idea that there should be a closed forum, to keep the eyes of editors away from what is posted, seems, however, a good idea.

Finally, I think it amazing that Alex has managed to keep Eratosphere going for so long. What a generous and far-sighted project!

Clive Watkins
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Unread 05-18-2019, 02:25 PM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: *
Posts: 1,999

I never experienced Alan, though, as I mentioned, the editor from hell is lame on at least a couple of levels. The atmosphere sounds like some bad tendencies here dramatically magnified. In the way of vision and critique, "narrow" seems to cover it. That said, the only poem I read of Alan's was his BAP poem on cancer, which was fantastic. Don't remember the title, and was it a villanelle? That seems right.
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Unread 05-21-2019, 02:35 PM
Quincy Lehr's Avatar
Quincy Lehr Quincy Lehr is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Los Angeles, CA, USA
Posts: 5,422

Ah, the "golden years." [blows a raspberry]

As it happens, when I showed up, most of the "golden age" folks were still around. Was the standard high? Sure, from a certain point of view. Was it also a specific, even narrow aesthetic, which allowed something like the Deep End to work, due to a fairly broad-gauged group consensus? That, too.

Get rid of it or don't. Makes no difference to me, and it made very little when I actively workshopped here, despite the periodic sturm-und-drang.
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Unread 05-21-2019, 08:20 PM
Quincy Lehr's Avatar
Quincy Lehr Quincy Lehr is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Los Angeles, CA, USA
Posts: 5,422

And per Marxism/socialism being responsible for the "decline of the board" or whatever, LOLZ with a big ol' side of f#%k you.
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