Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My Final Words about "The Firm"

The thing that might piss me off more than anything else is that after all this controversy, all these hateful and loving emails, my Amazon.com sales rank has not gone up. With the more than 2,000 people who visited my blog and complimented me and/or wanted me dead, I haven’t sold a single additional goddamned motherfucking book!

My only consolation is that Suburban Ecstasies’ sales doesn’t seem to have shot up through the roof either.

So there.


I do feel that “the firm” is corrupt and evil.

I do feel that Seth’s blog has always increased the anxiety for MFA applicants. It provided often superfluous data which increases the anxiety for potential MFA applicants. What does this blog do now? It links you to his firm’s website. Where you can pay substantial sums of money to get help for each part of the application.

$80 for a purpose statement? As a friend of mine said, anyone who pays $80 to get guidance for a purpose statement shouldn’t be getting a writing degree anyway.

At the same time, the person who pays isn’t stupid. They’re desperate. They want to get in. Some years ago I was desperate; I wanted to get in. I would have paid if I wasn’t so cheap.

The blog and its linked firm know people want to get in. The firm aggravated the problem and now has the ultimate solution. The firm is a con man’s game. Plain and simple.

On Collin Kelley’s blog “Modern Confessionals” he writes about me in relation to Seth Abramson: “In the opposite corner is poet Steve Fellner, who critiques other poets on his blog and has enough axes to grind to keep whetstones turning night and day in every barn across the nation.”

Collin, you sure bet that I have axes to grind.


Ethics matter to me. On this blog, I have held queer poems and their queer makers responsible for what their art does. Sometimes I talk about other things. Such as "the firm."

Words have consequences. They can kill people.

Here’s one example: Proposition 8. I started this blog partly in response to things such as Proposition 8. Proposition 8 says gay men can’t marry. They say gay men do not exist. They say gay men are dead. When someone is told they are dead, how are you they not supposed to believe them?

I’m middle-aged and sometimes I believe the words. That’s why young gay men kill themselves. They’re doing what the words tell them.


Poetry can bring people back to life. If you try to write a poem, you won’t have time to think about those bad words and death. Poems want you to live.

Which brings us back to institutions and firms.

Institutions can kill poetry. I know. I've gotten degrees from them. But even in universities, even in those things we call workshops, you can find poetry in unexpected places at unexpected times. I’ve lucked out and sometimes have been in the right places at the right times.


The firm asks ask you to pay for their love, their care in order to pay an institution for their love and care. It may seem money isn’t that bad of a thing to trade in for love and care. There’s only one problem: institutions and firms don’t love and care for you back.

They already have more than enough people in line waiting for love and care.

MFA applicants have already been standing in line for the institution.

Now they have the “choice” to stand in yet another line created by a firm for love and care.

Lines are long and scary.

Especially when you’re being encouraged to stand in yet another one.

No one writes poetry when they’re waiting in line.


  1. Holy fuck. Steve, you're doing things.

    Kudos for the disappeared post I was able to read, and kudos for this.

    Your blog keeps getting more interesting as the weeks go by.

    -Paul S.

  2. Keep making the words matter, mon pôte.

  3. I just want you to know that I adore you.

  4. Gee, I thought that great line about you on my blog would at least move your Amazon ranking up to 1,150,990. All the cool kids have, obviously,moved to Facebook.

  5. Thanks for this. This writing matters. Thank you.

  6. Just remember...that if someone says that "gay men are dead" and "gay men do not exist" that they obviously have no idea what they are talking about and you are clearly above them in intellegence level.

    In order for something to die it must have existed in the first place. Keep on existing Steve...You have already done so much, and you have so much mroe to offer the world.

  7. Is there any way you could clear up why you took the post down for "legal" reasons? I find this most fascinating. you can email me at
    if you don't want to write publicly about this.


  8. I'm going to go buy your book right now, too.

  9. i don't know you but i support you. Seth Abramson's internet presence is sleazy.

  10. Steve, again. The word "brave" comes to mind. You have courage and conviction--traits sorely lacking in so many--and I'm proud to know you.


  11. This waiting in line analogy is exactly how I feel the poetry business works. Line after line after line. Thanks for that insight. Now, my feet hurt.

  12. Hi Steve,

    I emailed you earlier, but I also just wrote a blog entry about all of this (http://www.phoebeeating.com/2009/08/mfas-to-come-chill-out.html), as well. You said in the original entry something about how important it was that you said what you'd said; I'm inclined to agree. Thank you.

  13. And after all that, it turns out everything was about selling a "single additional goddamned motherfucking book."

  14. And after all that, it turns out everything was about selling a "single additional goddamned motherfucking book."

    In his last post about this, Seth Abramson includes several irrelevant links where people are praising his poems. Which is pretty much to be expected. When it comes to writers, it's always about selling books--or reaching a wider audience, or whatever.

  15. There's something deeply cynical about paying, with no effort put forth, for the information needed to know what it is people want to hear/read. What can I say so that they love me (and my work)?! Well, now with very little effort, whoever is robo-student enough to pay exorbitant sums of money required to attend Kaplan Kickass Poetics Summer Session is going to be he/she who prevails.

    What seems more disconcerting isn't the means, but the need to have such institutional legitimizing forces intervene in lieu of community and interpersonal human contact, the hellbent me-first attitude that makes the consulting/college-prep industry into such a viable investment (and such an obvious racket).

  16. I'm a recent IWW graduate with my own misgivings about MFA programs, and I side completely with you on this issue. This is shameful nonsense inspired by greed and quite posisbly (when one reads some of Abramson's screeds) by meglomania.