Reactionary Conservativism and the Literary Arts

I wondered the other day is there’s even such a thing as “conservative poets” anymore.[1]

Well, it didn’t take me long to discover an anthology entitled The Conservative Poets: A Contemporary Anthology, edited by William Baer, who offers this estimation of the contemporary literary landscape:

Although it often seems that liberals and the radical Left have assumed complete hegemony over the arts, especially the literary arts, there exists a remnant of very talented American poets who create beautiful, serious, witty, moving, and diverse poetry from a conservative point of view. This unique anthology illustrates the wide range of these determined and sometimes defiant artists, who hope that their work will encourage more like-minded Americans to learn the poetic craft and pursue the literary endeavor.

By the way, Baer is a genuine scholar. Here’s his bio from Amazon:

WILLIAM BAER is the author of ten books, including ” ‘Borges’ and Other Sonnets”; “Fourteen on Form: Conversations with Poets”; “Luis de Camoes: Selected Sonnets”; and “Writing Metrical Poetry”. The Founding editor of “The Formalist: A Journal of Metrical Poetry” (1990-2004), he is currently the director of the Richard Wilbur Poetry Series, the poetry editor and film critic for “Crisis,” and a contributing editor to “Measure.”

Here’s a screenshot of the table of contents.

I tried to track down some of these poets, only to discover most had, to quote Richard Wilbur himself, “gone from this rotten/Taxable world to a standard of higher living.” The late Marion Montgomery’s “While Waiting: Lines for a Lady Suffragette, Standing on a Bus” certainly seems to adhere in some ways to an antifeminist’s view of what Montgomery might call the “fair sex.”

Ah, Lady. Ah. It is a stirring sight.

Franchisement by the gods is now complete.

You now have won the inalienable right

Of standing on your own two feet.

Alas, Montgomery checked out of this Motel 6 of Sorrow in the penultimate year of W’s second term, so it would not be accurate to name him as a conservative poet writing today.

Editor Baer in his preface admits that most of the anthologized poems’ conservatism lies in their traditional forms rather than politics, but adds, “Some, myself included, would even tend to see meter as a poetic representation of the provident order of God’s universe.”[2]

So I continued my search and found a website from 2016 called  Scholars & Writers for America. Beneath its banner this: “Given our choices in the presidential election, we believe that Donald J. Trump is the candidate most likely to restore the promise of America, and we urge you to support him as we do.”

Scrolling down my screen past names like Burton W Folsom, Jr., author of The Myth of the Robber Barons and Steve Mosher of the Population Research Institute looking for a poets or novelists, I discovered, to my delight, at the bottom of the screen, Thomas C McCollum, novelist.

Here’s the second paragraph of text from McCollum’s website, from an article by Louise Cook, the editor of Absolute Marbella Magazine:

If one were to view all aspects of Thomas McCollum’s professional and avocational life, one might be very tempted to call him a Renaissance man–albeit with a strong entrepreneurial bent. Wisely McCollum leaves all such pretentions to others, preferring the doing rather than the talking about.

What follows is a most-interesting-man-in-the-world litany: Can-Am racing, bull running in Pamplona [Spain she helpfully adds], man-eating crocodile hunting, a golf-addiction, insurance sales, original pen and ink drawings street-corner sales, med-school matriculation, med-school abandonment, medical laboratory founding, medical laboratory selling, retirement to Marbella, Spain, “to live out all the fantasies of his youth. He has camped, safaried, and traveled to every continent on earth.”[3]

McCollum has published four novels: Whipsocket, Tainted Blood, Palmer Lake, and Uncle Norm.

Here are the first and last sentences from Publisher Weekly’s review of Tainted Blood.

Readers willing to suspend disbelief beyond belief may find McCollum’s first novel an interesting medical thriller; others will be dismayed by characters manipulated by incredible plot contrivances.

McCollum makes the medical details microscopically authentic, but too many standard diatribes against government agencies, characters who speak polemic as often as they do dialogue and a conclusion that’s painfully anticlimactic render a hot topic tepid. (my italics)

Now compare that MSM review to this one for Uncle Norm from Christopher Feigum, Grammy Award winner and Metropolitan Opera Singer:

“Thomas McCollum has delivered a book of operatic proportions…a tale full of intrigue that tempts us to explore the what ifs of life and the possibility of encountering one profound love. Whether he is delighting pygmies with donuts or sharing his smuggled discoveries along the way, Uncle Norm is a warm, comical hero deeply connected to his fellow lost soul in the Congo, Ottobah Cuguano, and their shared faith in everlasting friendship. As they strive to break down racial barriers and transform the world, their adventures amaze the restless traveler in all of us. This timely piece is a declaration that we each have the choice to leave behind a better place than we found.”

Oh, yeah.  There is also this snippet from of all places, Publisher’s Weekly describing Tainted Blood:  “an interesting thriller…McCollum makes the adventure microscopically authentic.”   Hmmm.  “an interesting thriller . . . microscopically authentic.”  Where have I seen that before?

So anyway, if you happen to be a Trump supporter who feels somewhat culturally isolated, there are indeed “conservative” literary artists out there working today, maybe not on the analogous level of Jon Voight and Bruce Willis, but they are out there.


[1] I don’t mean conservative in the old-fashioned sense of embracing traditional values and being skeptical of innovation, like Alexander Pope, but in its contemporary sense of someone rejects the Enlightenment and institutions of liberal democracy.

[2] Yes!

Abraham to kill him —
Was distinctly told —
Isaac was an Urchin —
Abraham was old —

Not a hesitation —
Abraham complied —
Flattered by Obeisance
Tyranny demurred —

Isaac — to his children
Lived to tell the tale —
Moral — with a Mastiff
Manners may prevail.

[3] Maybe one day he’ll write a novel called Safariing in Anarctica.

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