WHAT MARY SAID: Creative Loafing has published Mary Grabar's latest letter. You can read it here or surf over to the letters page at this link. HEY! They stole my headline. lol

Something about Mary

I want to set the record straight regarding inaccuracies expressed by Collin Kelley (Going Postal, May 12). I have never spoken to Collin.

One person from Poetry Atlanta in a post-midnight telephone call did "invite" me (among other things) to be a featured reader. I thanked him and told him that I would be glad to read once I felt my poetry was ready (i.e., publishable). So Mr. Kelley's statement that I "declined to read or share [my] own poetry at the invitation of two poetry groups" is false. I don't know of the other poetry group that invited me.

Certainly, Mr. Kelley's posts on his Web page, such as the one dated April 28, 2005, after my column ran - "Java Monkey was fun on Sunday, most of it spent having a laugh at Mary Grabar's expense. I bet her ears were about to burn off the sides of her narrow-minded head. Hehe" - were not inviting in tone, and this is one of the tamer of his posts.

Only three days before this post, Collin Kelley was listed as a member of the executive board of Poetry Atlanta, according to the Web page I captured and printed on April 25, 2005. On that date, the Web page, of which Collin Kelley is webmaster, featured the words "executive board" and not "community board," of which he now rightfully claims to be a member.

- Mary Grabar, Stone Mountain

Editor's note: Kelley agrees that his invitation to Grabar came in the form of a blog entry. Although Kelley said in his earlier letter that he wasn't a member of Poetry Atlanta's executive board, he acknowledged to CL that - as Grabar's research shows - the name of the board was only recently changed to "community board."

For my response, scroll to the next post. I had a heads-up this was coming, so I wrote a post yesterday owning up to the mistake on the Poetry Atlanta website. I have always been a member of the Community Board, but the website did not reflect that. The change was made inbetween all of this nonsense with Mary Grabar, so there's no conspiracy or smoking gun. Had Mary bothered to contact me, much of this could have been cleared up.

What concerns me about Mary's letter is her use of punctuation and word choice. What does she mean when she puts "invite" in quotes and (among other things) in parenthesis? She's talking about Kodac Harrison here, and there's just something about that sentence that makes me wonder what she's implying here. It's hard to tell.

Since Mary is now on the record as a reader of my blog (Hi again, Mary), she will recall that I did ask her as a member of the Georgia Poetry Society and as an organizer for the poetry events at Art In the Park to attend these readings and share her work. As I have said, I have never spoken to Mary, don't have a phone number for her nor do I have her email address. I'd never even heard of Mary Grabar until she wrote her unprovoked attack on the Java Monkey Slam which CL, in a fit of poor judgment on their part, decided to publish anyway, especially after she admitted to not attending the slam and only came to Java Monkey once last year during a very heated political season. When I found out Mary was reading the blog, I thought it was the perfect way to invite her...at least she wouldn't miss it. It's obvious she saw these invitations, although she tries to worm her way out of it by saying she felt unwelcome because of my rebuttals to her column. Oh, well...it was a missed opportunity on her part.

Yes, we certainly did have a laugh at Mary's expense at Java Monkey the Sunday after her column originally appeared. We found it highly amusing that she could sit in judgment on a group of poets she had never seen or heard, and then warp her one visit to Java Monkey into a crusade against leftist politics. I respect Mary's claim that she is not ready to read her poetry in front of an audience because she does not feel it is publishable. I had been writing poetry for nearly five years before I thought I had anything ready to submit...that was back in 1992. About six months after my first round of submissions, my first piece was published in the journal, Welter. Unlike Mary, I didn't go around attacking other poets and their craft while awaiting publication. As I said before, Mary needs to prove her own ability before dismissing other poets' work as not good enough.

I look forward to reading Mary's poetry in the future. I hope she can overcome her bitterness and right-wing leanings to join the Atlanta poetry community instead of alienating herself from it. If she ever decides to read at Java Monkey or come to my open mic at Barnes & Noble at Georgia Tech (the next one is Friday, June 3, 7 :30 p.m. with the great Lady Hardin featuring), she will be welcomed. The invitation still stands.

While my friend Robin, a great poet and teacher, thinks this back and forth between Mary and I has done nothing to further poetry, I have to respectfully disagree. We are discussing poetry -- its merits, personal tastes, politics, etc. If nothing else, it has proven there are passionate feelings on both sides of the equation, and hopefully that will lead to even more poetry.


Anonymous said…
Well said...especially the last part. Now you two kids put away your knives and write some poetry. If Mary ever does decide to read her work somewhere, I'd definitely come to hear it if I'm back in town. You can be a total bitch, CMK, but i'm sure you would welcome Madame Grabar graciously. She might even be a good poet. One day maybe we will see.

Steven Shields said…
Collin, on behalf of the Georgia Poetry Society (of which I'm president), let me add an invitation to Mary Grabar to see our website at www.georgiapoetrysociety.com and to appear at the open-mic reading we have at our next quarterly meeting, July 16 at the Decatur Public Library. The open-mic at these meetings usually are for GPS members only, but we'll make an exception if she'd like to appear. Many works shared during this time are "works in progress." It might be a valuable thing for her to connect with a different group of local poets than those who favor spoken word. The GPS tends to be an older, more conservative group of poets, most of whom try to be helpful to one another. I can't help but think Mary would benefit from meeting up with us as she struggles toward publication. A lot of us, like you, have "been there."
Collin Kelley said…
Thanks for that, Steven. I think GPS would be a great place for Mary to come try out some of her poetry. It's welcoming group of both beginners and advanced poets. It's perfect for trying new work and see how the audience responds. I've found that reading the work aloud to an audience gives me a new perspective on a poem in progress and usually leads to a new draft.
Cindy Lou Whoo said…
do you think this is the end of it? there should be something some ending thing not a poetry rumble but something.
Collin Kelley said…
The ball is now squarely in Mary's court. She's been publicly chastised in CL (notice not one single letter of support), so she should go and write some poetry and prove herself. She got her last little dig in at me, Kodac, et al, and I hope she feels better about herself now. I wash my hands of her for the time being. The next time I write about Mary Grabar, I would hope that it would be to say I had heard (or read) her poetry and enjoyed it.
nolapoet said…
Respectfully agreeing to disagree, Collin (XOXO), this whole thing is generating way more heat than light. Far better, indeed, as anonymous suggested, for all to write more poems. This arts/politics tempest in Atlanta's poetical teapot is nothing revolutionary, whether one is lefty or righty. Cf. NEA 1987.

Then-NEA head John Frohnmayer wrote Leaving Town Alive: Confessions of an Arts Warrior, a good book about the controversy; I heard him lecture and spoke with him when he was in Atlanta. Somewhere in the archives of the GSU Signal in the early 90s, you'll find a piece I wrote about the book and the stink.

If you want to learn more about arts funding and freedom of expression, go to The National Arts Policy Database at americansforthearts.org .

I would suggest that Atlanta poets turn their energies towards more positive projects that have wider long-term impact.


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