a fundamental clarification
by Kurt Heintz, Chicago 6 June 2009
On the morning of Saturday, 6 June 2009, I was rather surprised to discover that C. J. Laity had acquired the domain name e-poets.org. The traffic to that domain name went directly to his site on chicagopoetry.com. A whois search through a trusted domain name brokerage corroborated this connection later the same day.
To all our loyal readers, and to all newcomers at this particular site, I will be clear: C. J. Laity has nothing to to do with the genuine e-poets network, nor with the content of the websites the e-poets network produces and promotes. He has never had that power, and he does not represent this site. The numerous contributing artists behind the authentic e-poets network will continue to present their content, and the site will continue to be edited and maintained with the keen eye for artistic and editorial integrity it has always had.
Squatting on the name of another organization or its product is not ethical, nor is it professional. It is certainly not something the e-poets network does. It diminishes anyone who engages in the act and it diminishes what they represent. Laity is a poetry hobbyist, albeit a zealous one. Laity's hobby reputation has enabled him to evade problems that might have begged a call from a lawyer were he running a true commercial or non-profit organization. People have been hurt by his criticisms and ad hominem jabs, but have also sloughed them off as the rancor of an irate bystander with a blog.
That given, enough people appear to take Laity seriously to suggest that he may regard himself as a poetry professional. To the artists whose representation is cornerstoned by chicagopoetry.com, I respectfully suggest that your reputations have been jeopardized by Laity's actions. It's your reputation at stake now, too. For as you know, real publishers duke it out in the market of ideas by elevating the discourse through their content and criticism, not by sniping each other's well-known names.
This is not the first time Laity has behaved this way. Years ago, Laity dot-com'd New American Writing, Tri-Quarterly, and other names in the literary sphere only to route them to his own website. Laity also appropriated the name of the calendar on e-poets.net and dot-com'd that for himself. Sensing polemics in Laity's actions, I chose not to negotiate with him, though others did.
The e-poets name has always been about the art, is all about the art, and will always be about the art of language, so long as I may live. "e-poets" also names a community of writers and poetry presenters known on several continents for many years, and known among each other in many cases since well before I ever dot-com'd "e-poets." I've substantiated the e-poets name as a major part of my own life's work, and have rarely viewed Laity as much better than an envious antagonist in that work.
When you see "e-poets," you should have the expectation of seeing something critically strong, insightful and informed, a site edited with concern for the broader community it serves, not just in Chicago but across the world as well. We play well with others, and we deal in content, not gossip. e-poets' Book of Voices began as an experiment in aural literacy a decade ago, and it continues to grow. Other features in this site, the real e-poets, find application in high school and college curricula. We've been part of comparative literature courses, cited on the radio and television. We have even lended audio to the Poetry Foundation's own podcast.
The real e-poets is what you see here. All of us, the many writers, performers, and contributors to the site will continue to serve you faithfully, durably, and with professional integrity for years to come. We do not look at our work as all about Chicago poetry. Instead, we see Chicago's poetry standing equally and respectfully with other publishing and writing, all across the world.