The HyperTexts

The Ever More Tedious and Freaked-Out Mr. Lehr

by Joseph S. Salemi

Poor Quincy. He apparently can’t distinguish “jealousy” from “envy.” I used the latter word to describe his feeling towards TRINACRIA, and not the former—jealousy refers to a desire to keep what you already have; envy refers to a gnawing resentment against the fact that someone else has what you don’t. Perhaps Lehr should audit my Greek and Latin Roots class at Hunter College.

Lehr envies TRINACRIA. He (and a number of his po-biz allies) are also getting frightened by the fact that a number of prominent poets are now publishing regularly in it: Jennifer Reeser, Lewis Turco, Frederick Turner, Robert Beum, Carol A. Taylor, Claudia Gary, X.J. Kennedy, Laura J. Bobrow, Frederick Feirstein, C.B. Anderson. For left-liberal ideologues, it is unthinkable that anyone on the right should publish a first-rate literary magazine, and if the magazine can’t be ignored, the next best thing is to attack its editor viciously.

If Quincy denies that he has a profound and continuing animus against me, he’s lying through his teeth. It’s not just a lie—it’s a preposterous lie, a Lie Grand. He has taken and continues to take every single occasion he can in public to make denigrating comments about me, my poetry, my aesthetic positions, TRINACRIA, and of course my politics. That he still has the cheek to pretend that his attacks are impersonal, and purely motivated by literary disagreements, is breathtaking in its sheer impudence. He asks for “examples.” Who made fun of my surname for months on end, until his own allies like Paul Stevens and others urged him to stop? (When asked why he indulged in this adolescent kind of absurdity, Quincy replied that he “enjoyed” insulting me in public). Who referred to me on-line as “a loathsome douchebag”? Who has twice in The Draindown Review made snide references to my age, and my position as adjunct faculty? Who (in the same magazine) published a barely disguised personal attack on me by W.F. Lantry, referring to me as a madman and worse, and bemoaning the fact that poets were choosing to be published in my magazine?

I could go on and on about this trivia, but what’s the point? I ignored it all when it happened, and I wouldn’t dignify it now with a mention if Quincy hadn’t been so rash as to ask for “examples.” They are biopsy slides of Quincy’s ingrained hatred. Anyone who maintains a grade-school vendetta of this sort, for this long, has no business accusing me of saying “Nyah! Nyah!” in a comic poem. The hypocrisy of such a position is more than just laughable; it’s spooky in its bizarre, arrested-adolescent unconsciousness.

It’s a plain and simple fact: Quincy Lehr is an envious leftist ideologue with a driving need to denigrate me. His animus is not rooted in any hatred of my aesthetic principles, but of my politics (unapologetically right-wing) and of my religion (unapologetically Roman Catholic). These two things infuriate him. By the way, I’m told that Lehr now teaches in a Roman Catholic college. I wonder if the people there know about his strident leftism, and his strong distaste for the Church of Rome.

In fact, I’m pretty sure that Quincy Lehr isn’t interested in the world of letters at all, except as an auxiliary sideline to his leftist politics. He really doesn’t care how or what you write (free verse, formal, langpo, flarf, whatever), as long as it can be made to serve the ends of a socialist revolution. As he himself said once in an interview—I’m paraphrasing here—“I’d rather see one good dockworkers’ strike than a dozen new poetry collections.” Those may not be his exact words, but that was the sentiment.

Once again, what’s Lehr’s basic point about my “To an Aging Countercultural Twit” poem? He doesn’t like it. Well, gee whiz—that really upsets me no end. And again, he totally disregards my three quoted statements that I do not associate my formal aesthetics (or someone else’s lack of the same) with any particular political stance. Why does he studiously ignore them? I’ll tell you why.

Here, of course, we come to the crux of the matter. Quincy has to insist that my aesthetics and my politics are inseparable, because if he didn’t it would be impossible for him to maintain his drumbeat of criticism against me personally, against TRINACRIA, and against any “non-progressive” tendencies in the poetry world that he fears and resents. He knows that the large majority of persons in the poetry world are kneejerk leftists and “progressives” of some stripe, so attacking an enemy for being “reactionary” is a convenient shortcut to creating a reflex negative response among them. For someone who claims that I’m the one who’s a “bully,” this is the purest hypocrisy. Calling someone a reactionary in poetry circles today is about as courageous as calling someone a kulak in the 1930s Soviet Union. It costs you nothing, and it rings the chimes on conformist public orthodoxy.

And yes, Quincy is a member of the Mandarin Class that I described in those two essays at EP&M. His comments in the penultimate paragraph of his last reply show that he never really understood—or perhaps even bothered to read—those two essays. Membership in the Mandarin Class of left-liberal elitists, as I pointed out very specifically back then, has nothing to do with jobs or salaries or rental rates or “connections to the White House” (was Lehr drunk when he wrote that last bit?) It has to do with attitudes, beliefs, and ideological commitments. And being in the Mandarin Class demands that one be ferociously anti-rightist, reflexively anti-conservative, programmatically anti-Republican, and solidly committed to all the pet causes of the liberal-left. If someone like me comes along and shows contempt for that mindset and those commitments, you have to go on the attack and try to discredit him in whatever way you can. That’s what’s fueling the animus of Quincy Lehr, and nothing else. Poetry? Deep down, Quincy doesn’t give a damn about it.

He says he wants to see me “flushed down the toilet.” Need I say more about the man’s peculiarly venomous disposition?

The HyperTexts