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spacer.gif   CJ Laity Resigns as Chicago Poetry Critic: Concentrates on Publishing
Posted by : cj on Monday, February 11, 2013 - 02:10 PM
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Chicago Poetry Letters Section .
Dear Chicago Poetry Scene,

Three years ago, in my annual tongue-in-cheek "State of the Poetry Scene Address," I announced that on December 21, 2012 I would retire as critic for the Chicago Poetry Scene; and without any fanfare, that is exactly what I did. Let this letter now serve as the official announcement that I have indeed resigned from the role of poetry critic.

For 30 years now: through my years in the 80s at Columbia College when I took on their Fiction Department with a series of published letters that helped inspire the formation of their English Department; through my years in the 90s when the print publication Letter eX contained my scathing reviews that were distributed for free to hundreds of venues every month; through my years in the 2000s, online here at ChicagoPoetry.com—I wore two hats: one as promoter of poetry for the Chicago Poetry Scene, and yet another as an outspoken, sometimes harsh critic of that very same poetry scene.

It has been a difficult but rewarding adventure, walking that tightrope of mine. Over the years my work inspired some to love me and others to hate me; but whether I was loved or hated for it, I stood my ground, fought for what I believed in and firmly held the belief that criticism was the deciding factor that answered the question of whether or not the poetry scene was legitimate and respectable. You see, we couldn't all just wash each other's backs as we commonly do; someone had to stand on the outside once in a while and look in with a critical eye. I won't rehash the many controversies that raged or the battles that I fought, because to do so would surely defeat the purpose of my resignation; but suffice it to say, whatever you may have thought about the battles I chose, I am proud of every one of them, and in my heart, that is all that counts.

I still believe criticism is necessary for a poetry scene to thrive, but as I grow older and the poetry scene continues to evolve, I have come to terms that it is no longer my job to fulfill the role of critic. To be honest, I don't have the piss and vinegar of my younger years, and as my work promoting poetry becomes more popular, the threat of conflict of interest has become too great for me to juggle. So I must now choose to wear one hat or the other: and the hat that I choose to wear is the role of promoter of poetry. Let someone else, from now on, look at that poetry with a critical eye.

This year, I announced ChicagoPoetry.com Press' transformation into "Chicago Poetry Press" with the launching of Journal of Modern Poetry (formerly known as Poetry Cram). This direction reflects the path I intend to follow from this moment forth. I do intend to continue writing the occasional reviews of poetry performances and books, but from now on I will be deliberately focusing on material that find to be of high value so that I can share with you what I feel to be the best of Chicago poetry. This new role in itself will serve as a challenge to me, because all too often I hear about something that I know is just not right, and I get the urge to speak out, to shout and scream, to defy all that is politically correct and to just tell it like it is for once: but then I remind myself that I've been there, and done that, for three decades no less. Now is the time to try something new. Now is the time for a touch of silence.

If I don't bleed to death from biting my tongue by then, I am looking forward to seeing all of you at this year's Poetry Fest at Harold Washington Library on Saturday, April 27, where I intend to showcase some of the results of this new path that I'm taking. So stop by my table in the lobby and say hello.

Yours in Poetry,

CJ Laity


Note: Click Here to continue reading CJ Laity's resignation letter.

 
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