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Letter From The Editor: The Meta Ethics Of Poetry

To begin this letter, two truths must be noted: (1) projections are not reality and (2) one’s personal experiences with individual people are not always experiences had by certain groups of people one shares a dimension of identity with.

These truths provide sufficient reasoning for us to implement a new editorial policy of not publishing poetry that either projects gendered or sexual limitations on another or poetry that in any way attempts to shape or deliver a personal gendered or sexual experience as an objective truth (that is, a truth beyond personal feeling).

Just as there is no such thing as scientific communism, there is no science of love. There may be practices of love that are better than a stick in the eye so to speak but there is no best practice. As Dita Von Teese once wrote, “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there's still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” Desire can’t be negotiated, and therefore, love as a feeling or an experience is often not enough to change the tide of desire.

However, there is a science of dignity. Many people think of dignity as a zero-sum competition between the individual and the communal. It is true that individual dignity is ultimately rooted in one’s existence. But it is only truly possible for an individual to experience and express it via a just community that encourages its flourishing through the humane treatment of others. So, it isn’t true that the communal or collective is all an illusion because if the communal or collective didn’t exist there would be no such thing as individual dignity and instead, there would only be shapes, forms, identifiers and representations, mere descriptions of dignity. Essentially, a person could behave with dignity and be firm in inner composure and not succumb to darkness or weakness or intrigues and plots but if there is no communal or collective how then can light and strength emerge victorious?

It can't.

Is it not the case that cruel slave owner hugh auld’s wife sophia defied a ban on teaching slaves to read and write by teaching Frederick Douglass to read? But does that mean that Douglass was not the captain of his own ship? Was he led by the nose by sophia when he beat up a slave breaker after six months of beatings? Was he led by the nose by her when he operated as an abolitionist or wrote his narrative? NO! She simply expressed the essence of her being to the humanity of another, a collectivity that is interdependent. She was still complicit in slavery and Douglass did not experience her humanity in a just community that encourages the flourishing of dignity.

Our friend Cranberry Sin has given us permission to note that his poem has been unpublished. His poem is quality but we don’t accept the line, “Men belong to the women we’ve taken to bed”. It may be true for him but perhaps there are men who believe that they don’t even belong to the women they’ve taken to bed! Certainly, there are women who believe that they don’t belong to men they have slept with. And this is of course a matter for all genders and identities, and we want to take care and prevent the truth of personal feeling from achieving narcissistic delusions of grandeur. So we invite Rupi Kaur and other poets to share in this process of taking care and preventing the truth of personal feeling from achieving delusions of grandeur.

It is not the case that any one poet could possibly speak for the whole of one gender. And we encourage Kaur to be modest. She responded to a Times of India interview question about her social impact with a mention of a HuffPost article that noted her as, “The Poet Every Woman Needs to Read,” and then followed that up with the question, “Why not all men?”; meaning, of course, all men need to read her work. But just as there are men and women and those who identify as neither men nor women who would negatively react to reading, “Men belong to the women we’ve taken to bed,” certainly, there are those who would negatively react to reading Kaur's “you break women in like shoes”. Both the noted lines assume too much about the communities of sameness and the communities of difference. After all, the only material one needs is that which helps spread a flourishing of dignity.

The point of the matter is this: we want a just community. And to encourage its flourishing, we enact the editorial policy above.


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