Triple Canopy: Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems

The Fall/Winter 2013-14 issue of FENCE just dropped in our laps — and through our newsfeeds — and tucked in neatly amongst the poems and stories by Broc Rossell, Kathleen Ossip, Mark Levine and Shelley Jackson — in a section marked, discreetly/innocently, “Other” — is the latest manifestation of “all the serious proles ride James Merrill on horseback” — and just in time for Christmas! This time, it’s about Triple Canopy’s fundraising practices — and the people who speculate about them. If it is said that all the bloody wars start between philosophers — let’s hope that these two camps don’t cross paths at the Energy Fuel in the Queens neighborhood they apparently both share.

But, alas, suspecting violence would be short-sighted — not with the optimism ultimately required to enter into either of these erudite pieces. Most likely, a tentative hug would be shared at the end of any chance meeting — and buffalo wraps and green juices would be had by all. After all, at the end of the day, the slick-backed packs of financial district workers leaving their downtown offices, as well as The Poetry Foundation, still have gazillions more dollars than most of the rest of poetry ever will.

The initial article, published in May in the Claudius App, written by Kevin Cassem, was featured in a pack of negative reviews that included:

Charleski Barrinsky (trans. Kentinski Johansky) on Soviet Conceptualism,
Kevin Cassem on Triple Canopy,
Emily Dorman on VanessaPlace Inc.,
Jaleh Mansoor on the Man-Child,
Georges Perec (trans. Rob Halpern) on the nouveau roman,
Giulio Pertile on John Ashbery,
Sarah Nicole Prickett on Rap Genius,
Erik Satie (trans. Jacqueline Rigaut) on critics,
and Oki Sogumi on boys


Cassem’s well-written takedown of Triple Canopy’s fundraising aspirations, delivered in praise-sandwich style, speculates that real estate, branding and limited-access community is what’s really behind the somewhat flowery officially stated goal of creating more leisure and art for people. Cassem charges that TC’s Triple Canopy 3.0 might be a little too hoity-toity at the expense of art for the masses. Some of it gets snarky:

And some of it gets speculate-y:










The article received, on the Internet, exactly one identifiable shoutout — but who reads THE INTERNET anymore, right? Twitter didn’t say much — but it apparently rankled the downy undercoat of at least one listening ear — Lucy Ives, who is a deputy editor at Triple Canopy.

Ives’ piece, titled, “The New Disappointment,” lays out a witty response that does admit that it’s not all quite as idyllic as spare time for the masses — and not quite as sexy as a Williamsburg condo — but that it’s about coding, and metadata and health insurance. As a response to a specific critique of Triple Canopy’s weekday MoMA PS1 seminars (Cassem suggests that people who have a job could never actually come), Ives writes:

“We were in fact ourselves working 100% of this time, on both weekdays and weekends, since it is work to coordinate and moderate such talks—and were unable, as it so happens, during this time, to ourselves attend talks held elsewhere in the city. We, as well as those who came to speak, were compensated for this work by the museum. We worked at the museum (viewing this as a “job”) and took the money we were paid for this work and used it to pay our rent and bills, purchase food and alcohol, pay for healthcare, buy books, buy clothing, buy I have no idea what else, probably drugs and vibrators. I hope we did the right thing here. Will you please write back and let me know if this was OK? In return I promise, in my uncompensated spare time, to make a detailed audit of your employer and will let you know if I find your (troublesome, as you maintain) day job to be acceptable or not.”

The rest of the essay is mostly Ives’ clear, utilitarian explanation of what the money will actually go to, which is fairly interesting and delves into future literary archaeology. Ives assures Cassem — and everyone else reading, that the idea is to build a better web site for TC:

“I don’t mean to say that there are no problems to be solved when it comes to print publication, but that the problems are different and this is part of what makes Triple Canopy interesting to me, alongside the possibility of discussing these impasses with others, particularly since my “unique” skill set does not include much coding or facility with media other than text. Such discussions are, to bring things full circle, the place from which our decision to create a new version of Triple Canopy, Triple Canopy 3.0, emerged. We wanted a site that would allow us far greater fluency and facility with the materials at hand.”

Both essays are interesting — and worth reading. More nuanced and interesting than playing petition-the-Poetry-Foundation and less shocking, certainly, than “Kill List,” this exchange ends with Ives asking Cassem — and the rest of us, to share in all the disappointment that surrounds us. Which doesn’t seem that optimistic at all, come to think of it.


–Crystal Curry