A Quick Note on Being Respectful

Here we are again. In the midst of another Poem-A-Day challenge. Stepping on each other’s toes again. Sigh.

I’m sorry I dropped the ball on this one, because everyone seemed to be playing nicely. But appearances aren’t always what they seem. There has apparently been some hateful speech directed at certain groups of people imbedded in the poems by certain poets this month.

In fact, the hate speech was dramatic enough that our current Poetic Asides poet laureate felt the need to abandon the site for a while. That’s beyond ridiculous.

Now listen: I’m a Cub Scout den leader, and I don’t tolerate hate speech from my 8-year-olds. Don’t think that I will tolerate it from grown-ups either.

If you write something that attacks a certain group of people, that’s fine, but don’t post it here. There are plenty of other message boards where hate speech is accepted and maybe even welcomed, but this is not one of them. The Poetic Asides community has ALWAYS been about the poeming first and foremost. As the founder of the Poetic Asides community, I have ALWAYS been about freedom of expression but also being nice.

For the offenders, I’m going to assume you offended unintentionally. However, this is your last warning. If you’re in doubt about whether your poem is hate speech, then it probably is.

For the offended, I want to make sure it’s as easy as possible for you to alert me to offenses. Instead of just responding directly in the comments (which is fine to do in addition), please send me a direct e-mail at robert.brewer@fwmedia.com with the subject line: Bad Stuff on Poetic Asides. Identify which post, day of post, who is making the offending comments, and why. This will make it easy for me to investigate and resolve.

I apologize for anyone negatively affected by the hate speech this month, and I hope that this new approach of e-mailing me directly will help eliminate the problem.


Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer

And check out my other blog: My Name Is Not Bob.

And if you want to learn how to be nicer, click here to read this post in particular.


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30 thoughts on “A Quick Note on Being Respectful

  1. PKP

    Dear JH

    Checked back in surprised at dearth of comments over at a FB site I administer a lively discussion. At sny rate agree with all you have written and second Sharon’s rationale for responding.

    Well said and I agree, needed to be said and discussed
    See you soon…..

  2. seingraham

    Joseph – I thought about letting you have the last word here but then I thought a) you might wonder if anyone read your last words and b) I’m not good at that (kidding!). Mostly I just wanted to say that I think you’ve addressed this whole issue very well, in general and in the way it has affected you personally. In my opinion you’re not being long-winded if you have much to cover and you did – Thank you for clarifying so many points that I myself was not certain about – I had vague notions but am happier to have things in black and white. You have reinforced my belief that Robert chose wisely when he picked you as Poet Laureate – not only are you a wonderful poet, you are a good person with clear intentions and an excellent way of expressing yourself. Thanks again.See you soon too, I hope. S.E.Ingraham

  3. Joseph Harker

    I took the rest of November to breathe a bit and settle my thoughts. Spent a bit of time reading the comments that were made; the debate got a bit out of hand, I think, for which I’m slightly sorry. (But only slightly, because clearly it was a debate that needed to be had.) A lot of people have been thoughtful and supportive, and I’m feeling a lot better about the site than I did last week. Still, I’d like to clarify a few things, in case there was confusion:

    – A lot of people have made assumptions as to who I was talking about in my rant before. While there may have been particular poems that piqued my anger, what I had to say was not directed to one person; they are general things that ought to apply to everyone. If you don’t do them, great; if you do, please don’t.
    – I did not advocate any of the following: banning people from the site, deleting poems, censoring particular poets, or changing the character of the site. Diversity works two (ten) (infinite) ways, and I respect that. But the Internet is a tricky beast, and the line between public and not-so-public is hard to see. This site has rules for the protection of its members, and no matter what your thoughts are on the extent of free speech, you abide by them or face the consequences; that holds for me, you, and everyone else. If you went to someone’s house as a guest, and deeply offended another guest (repeatedly), would you cry “censorship” when the house’s owner said to knock it off? Or would you apologize and mind what you say a bit? The latter is what I, at least, think is the decent, respectful, and adult thing to do.
    – You have absolute freedom to say what you want in your own space (blog) or public (an unregulated forum; good luck finding one), but if we didn’t have some kind of regulation in these semi-public spaces, it would be chaos. Believe me, I had the notion to write the most offensive poem I could in response, but I’d like to think I’m taking the high road here.
    – There is a difference between intentionally causing offense and expressing an idea that hurts others. I understand (and thought I was clear about this before) that the second one was (at least initially) the problem. If you continually say things that hurt me and I stay silent, you may never realize that you’re hurting me. What you do with that information is up to you.
    – Nothing I have said should suggest that I am opposed to Christianity, which seems to be an idea floating in the air. I am opposed to people suggesting that I am (or anyone else is) a) less than they are, for any reason; b) going to Hell, etc.; c) somehow offensive by existing, as opposed to offensive by, well, being offensive; and d) attacking them for defending my rights. And I will call you out if I see something in that regard that has to do with race, religion, gender, or any other life aspect; I just happened to notice the one directly dealing with me.

    Sorry for the long-windedness. That’s about all I need to say. Let’s put this matter to rest, and hopefully not have to drag it out again. Thanks to Robert for his words, and thanks to members of the community who were supportive and level-headed in their dialogue. (That’s what it should be, a dialogue, not a series of tantrums.) See you soon, I hope.

    ~ JH

  4. Arielle Lancaster-LaBrea

    I have held back on several occasions where I’ve felt certain people have overstepped boundaries and got on their soapboxes with agendas that weren’t even cleverly disguised as poems. My reaction, being that I am mostly rational, was to disappear from the board, which I’ve done several times, including this month. Part of why I didn’t stick around this month is a lack of quality material being released from my hands and part are personal family issues that I’m not getting into. I’m a bit disappointed that the poet laureate was basically driven away by hate speech, but I digress. Anyway, it’s hard to police this board and Robert shouldn’t have to. There are people here much older than I am who should have the common sense to be respectful to everyone here, not just who they want to align with. This board exists to give people a chance to be inspired to write. If those who can’t follow the simple rules, they need to find somewhere else to be. That’s my two cents, for what it’s worth.

  5. Gregory

    I do not know if this site migjht be in jepord, I just want to say that the community of people here have helped me drastically in inspiring me to write. Though I participated in about 80% of the challenges, it has really opened my eyes to incredible work. For people out there writing hate poems, just know that the words are written are shaping people like myself aspiring to be poets. Don’t let your words taint a person’s dream.

  6. PSC in CT

    Wow! Thank you, Robert, for addressing this issue in a calm, capable & mature manner. PAD months are always so busy and full of writing — and such a large volume of poets — that it’s hard to keep up with everything input on the site. As a result, I, too, am unaware of the specifics — and sincerely hope that nothing I wrote kicked off any of the offensive content!

    You — and most of the PA participants — do an excellent job of keeping this site upbeat, positive & productive, and it’s a shame that there are always a few folks who never managed to master the “Golden Rule”.

    Thank you, again for all you do, and for trying to maintain a sharing, caring, respectful atmosphere here at Poetic Asides.

  7. lionmother

    Robert, once again you have proved why this group continues to be a place for safety and creativity. Thank you for stepping up and creating a new policy. I wasn’t here for the poem and the discussion, but we are discussing it on PA Poeming Friends and have been in agreement that hate speech cannot be tolerated. I haven’t been here due to other commitments for prose, but I yearn to be back and will soon return when I can. Meanwhile, I am so happy to be a part of this group and will always be thinking of the group here.

  8. Marie Elena

    Thank you, Robert. I agree with Sharon … I don’t envy you this part of the job.

    Honestly, I think that for as many people as participate in this site, from all walks of life, belief systems, etc., the squabbles are few.

  9. seingraham

    Ah Robert – I don’t envy you this part of the job – but you do it admirably. Thank you for handling this matter with such tact and diplomacy, and for putting steel where it’s needed. Interesting, or maybe not, that it seems to come to a boil when you are not on-site, as it were – glad to have you back on many levels. Thanks for all you do, in addition to reminding us to play nice (sheesh, it sounds ludicrous when I write it down and that tells me something …) Hope you’re Thanksgiving had some highlights – I’ll go read about it now. Sharon I.

  10. Bruce Niedt

    Thanks for the firm and steady hand, Robert. As I said in the midst of it, it’s fine to get on one’s soapbox now and then (we all do it), but it gets tiresome if you’re here only to push your personal agenda. There’s a fine line between strong opinions and hurtful, even hateful, speech. We all need to be respectful of one another here, we who represent a wide range of political, social, and religious beliefs. Let’s have more REAL poetry and less polemics.

  11. PKP

    Firstly Robert this new mechanism seems quite reasonable….. To add my two cents to those who seem still unable to differentiate between boundaries… So called hate speech is speech targeted against a group where there has been or is a likelihood not simply of bruised feelings but loss of freedom of employment, threat to personal safety imcludimg peace of mind, choice of place to live, right to love another consenting adult of your choice : perhaps most succinctly said long ago although we’re still trying to get there : life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all…. you know that “Americsn stuff”

    Once again it is a delight to be in a place where reasonable people can reason things out.
    Thank you Robert for this forum

  12. Earl Parsons


    I just wrote a poem
    And depending on how it is read
    Or depending on who reads it
    It could be a work of art
    Or just another mangling of words
    Or it just might be to some…..

    But, isn’t that true of
    Just about anything
    It’s often not how it’s written
    Rather how it’s read

    Some read with an open mind
    Others with an open heart
    Some look for intent
    Or a hidden meaning
    That often is not there
    Not written by the writer
    But injected by the reader

    The naked truth is
    That offenses are
    Most often unintentional
    But sometimes not

    I’ve been offended
    Did the offender target me
    I think not
    At least not personally
    Did the offender intend to hurt me
    Probably not
    But he did offend me
    Most likely unintentionally

    Was it his opinion
    Was it his belief
    Was he hateful
    I don’t think so

    Moving on

  13. Marian O'Brien Paul

    So happy to read that Golden Rule. It reminded me of the teaching times I told it to my own children when they were young. And so glad that Reese was so open to learning and applying the rule! What a better place the world would be if everyone remembered it.

  14. Brian Slusher

    It’s hard to ride sheriff on such a wide range of writing. I hope the laureate will remember to love the blog and hate the poster and return soon. You do a good job, RLB–sorry you have to deal with idiots sometimes.

  15. ina

    Robert, thank you for saying something about this and for giving everyone a way to deal constructively with these situations. Losing Joseph has made me really unhappy – he’s a terrific poet and presence and his absence is glaring.


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