The poet Joseph Massey’s disturbing history of abuse

Multiple women claim he used his influence in the poetry community to harass and manipulate them.

The poet Joseph Massey’s disturbing history of abuse

Multiple women claim he used his influence in the poetry community to harass and manipulate them.

Sarah thought she was the only one. Not just the only one who was involved with Joseph Massey — the acclaimed author of four poetry books whose name is well-known among small presses, literary journals, and established contemporary poets — and talking to him regularly, but also the only one who had been subjected to his controlling behavior and bouts of rage.

But she wasn’t. This was another man abusing his power in a creative community in which relatively few people have it.

Near the end of their relationship, Sarah drove a couple hours north from her home to his Western Massachusetts apartment to celebrate his birthday. She brought him gifts and wanted to make his day special, she told me, because he typically spent a lot of time alone. When she walked into his apartment, however, she saw a decorative box and several other new items on his kitchen table. He told her they were from other women.

“Seeing the gifts made me wonder,” she said, “if I wasn’t the only one he was involved with or manipulating.”

After her long-distance relationship with Massey ended last year, Sarah* started trying to make sense of what happened (names denoted with an asterisk have been changed).

She first became acquainted with Massey in 2014, when she asked him to read at a poetry reading series that she ran. They exchanged books and started talking more regularly, sharing new work and editing each other’s poems. She was married, but after she and Massey eventually met in person, they began an affair. “It just sort of ramped up to a really high level of intensity really quickly,” she said.

Sarah found herself driving to see Massey every month or two. But she said he quickly became jealous of other men with whom she interacted. Over time he let her in on people with whom he’d fought or held grudges against.

“And this list developed of his enemies,” she told me over the phone. “I, one time, liked a tweet from one of his people and he flew off the handle, berated me ... and so I stopped being able to engage with people he didn’t like on the internet.”

He also became jealous if he found out that she was communicating with poets that he did like. She felt the need to either stop talking to certain people or hide communications with them from him entirely. Often, when he got angry with her, he would threaten to tell her husband everything about their affair, apparently insinuating that this would ruin her career and hurt her family.

Massey is well-connected in the writing world, and she worried that he could damage her career, she said. “I had no idea how I would be able to extricate myself because I knew he would burn me down.”

Sarah eventually got out of the relationship, although not without incident. In February 2017, her husband received a Facebook message from a man named “George Hamper,” who informed him that his wife was having an affair with another poet. Sarah suspected George Hamper was Massey, but when she asked him, he denied it and “unleashed a stream of verbal abuse … he called me an ‘ugly, wrinkled cunt’ and a bad poet and screamed insults at me for about 20 minutes,” she said.

In a phone interview, Massey denied sending Sarah’s husband a message from a pseudonymous Facebook account, though he did admit to messaging her husband from his actual account. Two of Sarah’s friends, to whom she disclosed these experiences, corroborated the stories via email to The Outline.

That April, Sarah emailed Massey in an attempt to make peace. Around the same time, she began to reach out to other women who had been involved with him, and learned about how he hurt them as well. When she heard about these women’s experiences, she blocked Massey on social media and stopped communicating with him.

“And it was just sort of like one after one, they were all, like, same story, same story,” Sarah said. “And most of them are quite a bit younger than I am and less established… I felt embarrassed that I had believed it was just me.”

On January 8, an anonymous blog post, titled “The Poet Joseph Massey Is An Abuser,” started making the rounds on social media. The post, which was published on the WordPress blog with the url www.josephmasseyinfo.wordpress.com, describes Massey’s “verbal and psychological abuse,” including “severe name-calling, bullying, and unrelenting verbal abuse; blaming victims for symptoms of what he considers his mental illness(es) and using depression/anxiety as an excuse for predation; alienating and gaslighting victims; and threatening to harm victims’ public and personal reputations.”

Massey contested some of these allegations, though he has addressed some of his past behavior. In an interview with The Outline, he denied using his mental illness as an excuse for how he has acted; he also said that the way the letter characterizes his actions as ongoing is inaccurate. “The part in the letter that says that I groom young women and wield my publishing record over people is not true,” he told me.

“I felt embarrassed that I had believed it was just me.”

The post identifies a pattern of behavior from Massey that is congruent with many stories of the women whom The Outline interviewed. It describes how, going back at least a dozen years, Massey groomed victims, subjected them to “long-term episodes of inflicting psychological abuse on them,” and used his “mental illness … as an excuse for predation.”

Sarah estimated that she talked to 10 to 15 people who have experienced some form of Massey’s harassment or abuse. I interviewed 13 people who’d experienced or witnessed his behavior — online harassment, physical assault, verbal abuse, psychological abuse — over the last 12 years. Seven agreed to go on the record, some anonymously, for this article.

Joseph Massey was raised in Pennsylvania and Delaware, in a household that he described to me as “extremely abusive.” He says he did not finish high school, but avidly read and wrote poetry and eventually found success as a poet, largely publishing with small presses and connecting with other poets on the internet.

A stanza from his poem “South Station” illustrates how he uses scraps of spare but evocative allusions to the places and landscapes that he has witnessed or inhabited: “Retaining wall graffiti twists/ into a word: a kind of sound,/ closed vowel, filtered through/ a bus window. Massachusetts—/ this chewed-through surface/ of brick and leftover color.”

He has published more than 12 chapbooks, and his first three poetry collections comprise a trilogy set in Humboldt County, California, where he lived from 2001 to 2013. His fourth book, Illocality, was published by Wave Books in 2015 and garnered him more press and visibility. In a New York Times review of the book, critic Stephanie Burt (who at the time went by Stephen) located Massey’s influences in William Carlos Williams, Lorine Niedecker, and Emily Dickinson, “who seems to have coined the word in Massey’s title: at once an ‘ill locality,’ an ailing place and a failure to know where you are.”

Beginning last October, several women sent letters about their personal experiences with Massey to his publishers, including Wesleyan University Press (a Wesleyan representative said that the press first received an anonymous note about Massey's behavior in December). Wesleyan was set to publish his latest book, What Follows, this fall. The women hoped that sharing their testimonies might persuade the publishers not to work with Massey anymore.

That same month, Massey said, someone contacted the University of Georgia Press, for which Massey was a preliminary judge in that year’s Georgia Poetry Prize, to report that he had been “verbally abusive” to another poet. (According to the press’s director, Lisa Bayer, someone had alerted a person affiliated with another University of Georgia unit about the allegation; that person shared that information with the main judge of the poetry prize, who then told Bayer.)

Publishing with Wesleyan was a coup for a self-made poet like Massey, and would have pushed him further into prominence. The area in western Massachusetts where he lives is home to a robust writing scene informed by the major colleges nearby — and influential poets around there and elsewhere who know and engage with Massey’s work.

In a phone interview, Massey told me that he was going to withdraw his forthcoming book, a move that Wesleyan confirmed on March 16.

“There’s institutions that matter here and there’s people in them that matter, who have cultural capital in terms of poetry, who are not necessarily vulnerable to Joseph Massey,” said Carolyn Zaikowski, a poet who lives in the region. “And I can’t think of one who hasn’t been completely silent about this.”

When he was 27, Massey told me, his doctor diagnosed him with bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder and put him on medication. He said that he has worked over the years with a therapist to “untangle” his experiences and symptoms, and has found some solace in his spiritual community and meditation.

“I’m not blaming [my behavior] on mental illness,” he said. “It’s just a fact that I was severely mentally ill throughout my 20s and into my very early 30s. I was hypersexual, I was hypervigilant, I was extremely provocative, extremely inappropriate, emotionally abusive, verbally abusive,” he said.

Now 39, he describes the past six years of his life as a period of growth, during which he said he has worked to “correct” his bad behavior. But the stories of the women I talked to raise serious questions about his behavior.

One of the women who Sarah reached out to was Emily*, who began a long-distance relationship with Massey in 2006, when she was in her early 20s. “It was really damaging to me,” she said. “I lost good years to Joe.”

Over the course of their relationship, Emily said that Massey became “possessive and angry” if she spent time with other people, especially men; she remembered him telling her that she wasn’t paying him enough attention. Their relationship consisted of cycles of verbal abuse and manipulation, interpolated with apologies. “I got to a point where I was scared to leave,” she said, recalling that he told her if she broke off communication with him he would “do his best to destroy my writing life.”

In mid-January, Emily wrote about her experiences with Massey in a statement that she sent to Sarah, who sent it to some of the publishers with whom he has worked. She describes one visit during which he woke up from a nap and started to argue with her. She told him that she wanted to go home.

“When I tried to leave his house, he managed to grab me by my ankles, pin me down, and hold me there. I was terrified and didn't know what to do. He was much bigger than me, and I thought that if I tried to fight back he'd end me,” the statement reads. “I stayed through the night, thinking that if I didn't move and he went back to sleep I would manage to make it to morning. In the morning, he behaved almost as though nothing had happened.”

Massey described this incident to me unprompted, and noted that he had been drunk at that time. Emily said that he was sober during that incident. Emily began telling her current partner about these incidents in 2011; her partner confirmed them to The Outline via email. Emily began to tell her sister about Massey’s actions around 2007, which her sister confirmed via email.

“I stayed through the night, thinking that if I didn't move and he went back to sleep I would manage to make it to morning.”

Until Sarah reached out to her, Emily had never personally connected with other women Massey mistreated. “On one hand, it was horrifying to hear this was still going on,” she said. But it was also “a huge relief to tell someone what had happened to me.”

“It's still difficult to write without thinking of things [Massey] said, and it's an understatement to say that I've long felt invisible,” she wrote in her statement to his publishers. “How many women have been made to feel invisible by him?”

The poet Bridget Eileen started talking to Massey on Gchat in 2008 when she was a graduate student in creative writing. He quickly became both a friend and an important contact in the poetry world as he was a few years older and had published more than she had then.

In 2009, Eileen attended one of Massey’s poetry readings in western Massachusetts. Eileen had just been introduced to an influential male poet, who was standing with her when Massey walked by and lunged at her, grabbing her breasts. “I went into self-defense-class mode,” she told me over the phone. She excused herself to go to the bathroom.

The next day someone told Massey what he had done at the reading. He said he had been drunk and didn’t remember lunging at Eileen. “He told that same friend who informed him of his behavior to say that he excused himself to me,” Eileen told me. (Massey confirmed this incident to me. “I was completely mortified, I didn’t remember doing it, and I apologized to Bridget right away,” he said. “And we maintained a friendship for several years after that.”)

Eileen said his claim is untrue, and that after the assault, she didn’t speak to him again until he reached out in February of 2010 and their communication tapered off by August 2010. “I’m looking back and wondering why the heck did I resume talking to him?” she said. “He was a well-known poet, I was not, and it was easier to get along and go along.”

Massey told me that he first became aware that people were discussing his behavior last October, after the University of Georgia Press contacted him about a complaint they received. In response, he posted a mea culpa on Facebook acknowledging that he “said some vicious things,” but that he “never assaulted anyone.” (The post has since been deleted, but a screenshot of it is embedded in the January blog post on WordPress.)

“He was a well-known poet, I was not, and it was easier to get along and go along.”

“Upon reading the open letter that included his claim that he’s never assaulted anyone I was like, ‘that is it.’ I was livid,” Eileen said. She decided to post about her experience on Facebook. In another now-deleted post, after the anonymous post had circulated and after Eileen’s post, Massey acknowledged the incident at the reading in Wendell, Massachusetts, where he “put [his] hands on a fellow poet’s breasts.”

Eileen said she was taken aback by how many people shared similar experiences they had with Massey. “That’s what’s motivating me to make sure that the word is definitely out,” she said, “that you need to be wary of this person.”

Taylor* met Massey in 2013. She was an undergraduate student in her mid 20s; he was in his mid 30s. Their relationship was platonic in the beginning, Taylor said, a situation with which she felt comfortable. “I thought he was very funny, I loved his writing, and I really admired him. And he knew that, he really fed off of that energy,” she said.

About a month and a half into their friendship, Taylor said, Massey became more “aggressive” about wanting to sleep with her. She made it clear that she was not interested, but that she valued their friendship.

Like other women with whom The Outline spoke, Taylor viewed Massey as a mentor. He introduced her to other writers and connected her with students, faculty, and visiting writers at the MFA program of a nearby university that she was thinking about attending. She said that he warned her about teachers he knew of in the MFA programs who were hitting on their students. “Meanwhile, he was always sort of courting younger girls, younger poets and writers, and I was aware of that,” she said.

Massey and Taylor bonded over writers they liked and often went to poetry readings together.

Throughout the course of their friendship, Taylor had been open with Massey that she was “figuring out” her sexuality. “And he was using that against me, saying ‘you’re leading guys on, and you actually hate men, and you take pleasure from not having sex with me but leading me on,’” she told me.

They did sleep together once, Taylor said. “I will begrudgingly say [it] was consensual,” she said. “There was a lot of persuasion involved. I told him it was a one time thing, I had a girlfriend and was getting to a better place emotionally.”

Massey agreed that it could be a one-time thing, Taylor said, but then he got drunk, “blew up,” and apologized afterward.

Another time, he called her in a rage, saying that she was a “manipulative cunt” and that she had led him on. “He’s a scary person when he’s angry, and he was saying ‘you’re a cunt,’ all of these horrible things,” she said. “It really stung. And he was talking about my writing and how I wasn’t going to amount to anything, like I was never going to go to an MFA program. He was really trying to wound me in sort of any way that he could.”

A person Taylor was dating at the time confirmed hearing about Massey’s rages, his increasingly coercive attempts to get Taylor to sleep with him, and his hurtful remarks about her writing career. Massey denied multiple times that he yelled at Taylor.

Taylor said that Massey apologized again later and told her that he’d been drinking prior to that phone call. Their friendship continued over the next four months or so, but it seemed caught in a cycle of his rages and apologies. Their fights often involved Massey accusing her of manipulating him by refusing to have a sexual relationship with him. After one of these fights, she realized that she was exhausted by dealing with him and couldn’t continue to do so.

“He was a vicious gossip and made it clear that he was talking to other people and letting them know who I really was, which in his mind was this manipulative cunt,” she said. A journal entry from that time, which Taylor shared with The Outline, notes Massey’s “cruelty” toward her.

Massey’s behavior interfered with her writing career, she believes. She felt like she couldn’t have professional relationships with any of the writers to whom he had introduced her. After their final fight, he explicitly told her not to come to certain poetry events, stressing that it was his community, she said. (Taylor’s ex-partner also corroborated this.)

All of these experiences altered Taylor’s perspective on MFA programs — they all seemed like boys’ clubs — so she decided not to pursue an MFA. “I couldn’t imagine putting myself in another situation where a male teacher was able to prey on younger, more vulnerable students seeking a mentor.”

In 2014, after he followed Alice* on each of her social media accounts, Massey messaged her on Facebook. He asked her to share her writing with him, which made her feel special — she had only published a few poems at the time, and his third poetry collection had recently come out.

She described their initial conversations as intimate and friendly; he asked her questions about her family and dating life. Sometimes he’d talk about women he found attractive, she said, but she tried to steer the conversation away from such topics.

Over email, they shared their writing with each other. He commented on her work “with great attention,” she said. But when she offered more critical advice on his, he would usually not respond. If she tried to talk to him about her critiques of his work on the phone, she said he would get angry and change the subject.

As the months went on, the way Massey talked about people in the poetry world began to make Alice nervous. “Through the course of our correspondences and our phone calls, I had shared a lot of personal information with him,” she said. “And given how much he talked shit about other people and how prone he was to slandering other people, I just felt … if something goes weird here, he’s going to try to slander me.”

Alice recalled a phone conversation in which he got angry at her because she pointed out his “privileges” as a white, male poet who held a certain amount of power. “He was yelling at me so adamantly that I just wanted to make it stop,” she said. “And I started saying ‘I���m sorry, I’m sorry, don’t get off the phone’ … which is just so not how I would ever normally behave if someone was treating me like that.”

“If something goes weird here, he’s going to try to slander me.”

They continued talking for the better part of 2015, but she began to feel more guarded. She pulled back on how often and how quickly she responded to his messages, and then he abruptly blocked her on social media.

After some frustrating back-and-forth, she stopped talking to Massey. She started to hear from other people in the scene that she was not alone in her experiences with him, which alarmed her.

“This is a thing so many people know about,” she said. “How come I didn’t get to know that information? It would have saved me so much energy and time and stress.”

Massey was one of the accomplished poet Anne Boyer’s first “poetry friends” on the internet in the mid-2000s; he had a LiveJournal, she had a blog. They shared a passion for poetry and both had a similar “outsider” status.

Though the poetry world is diffuse and there is no singular way into it, there are still a large contingent of writers who pursue MFAs and try to sustain their careers through jobs in academia, or with presses or other literary organizations.

Massey exists outside of that coterie for the most part, though he is still a player in those realms — he has guest  edited literary magazines’ poetry sections; he was employed as a teaching assistant/mentor in the University of Pennsylvania’s Modern & Contemporary Poetry massive online open course; his work has been published in well-known publications.

“I was happy to have his friendship because he’d had a long commitment to poetry, but his behavior was always, always verging towards degrading or sexualizing with me,” Boyer opined.

Their friendship dissolved when he erupted in anger after she didn’t send him a letter of reference for which he’d asked, hoping to sway a judge to reduce a criminal charge that had been brought against him. In February 2008, when Massey was still living in California, he ingested a pot brownie that caused him to have an anxiety attack. Thinking he was having a heart attack, he went to the emergency room. He said that he “fell over and accidentally struck someone.” He was charged with a felony of “battery with serious bodily injury” according to the Times-Standard, but Massey said the charge was reduced and later expunged from his record.

Massey sent me a PDF containing letters that friends, acquaintances, and mentors wrote on his behalf — including Emily, who felt this was an attempt to “gaslight” her. “When you're in an abusive relationship with someone there are, at times, still, good moments,” she told me over email. “There are sometimes even good feelings about that person that surface after it’s over. It’s such a mindfuck.”

“I had had the letter written and I just had so many things going on in my life to send it at his command,” Boyer said.

Boyer’s instinct at that point was to just get away from him. “I think many of us who have been friends with him back in those times have this real guilt that we couldn’t figure out some way to stop it all; that we were able to get away or protect ourselves from it but we weren’t able to kind of stop the machine as it moved forward and protect other people,” she said.

“When you're in an abusive relationship with someone there are, at times, still, good moments.”

Years later, during a sober period, Massey apologized to Boyer for his outburst. “And I accepted his apology because I’m always hopeful that people will change and realize what they’ve done wrong,” she said. “We have to find ways — obviously to protect ourselves and to protect each other — but to understand the capacity for people to become something better than they were.”

Boyer was one of several women who wrote to Wesleyan University Press, as reviewed by The Outline, detailing her personal experiences with Massey. The press responded to the women in late January; editor-in-chief and director Suzanna Tamminen thanked them for the “courage it must have taken to share these painful experiences,” and ensured them that Wesleyan was taking the allegations seriously.

On March 6, Wesleyan University’s Manager of Media and Public Relations Lauren Rubenstein told me that publication of Massey’s book had been “delayed indefinitely.”

But then Massey withdrew his book on March 16, and Tamminen wrote to the women again to tell them. She also said that the press was “reviewing and strengthening our ethics policy and contract language.” As the Wesleyan Argus  reported, as of April 26, the press has updated its ethics policy and contract language to say that its employees, peer reviewers, authors, and so on “are expected to conduct themselves with the highest standards of honesty, fairness, and personal integrity, with adherence to all applicable laws and avoidance of impropriety or conflict of interest.”

But many of the women I interviewed felt Wesleyan’s responses to them were impersonal and insubstantial and said they want the institution to take a clear — and public — stance against harassment and abuse.

“I don’t want revenge, I don’t want shaming, I don’t want anything bad to happen to [Massey],” one woman said. “It’s just that when he gets these publications and teaching positions … he has more access to women now. He has access to students. He has access to the young poet who finds his book at the library and thinks oh cool, I’m going to contact this guy.”

Wave Books, which published Massey’s fourth book, Illocality, in 2015, decided to stop working with the poet more than a year ago, according to senior editor Heidi Broadhead. Until women wrote to Wave last December, Broadhead says, the press was not aware of his alleged behavior. (She declined to explain further Wave’s decision not to work with him.)

Jessica Lowenthal, director of the Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania, where Massey has read his poetry and was previously employed as an online teaching assistant/mentor, said that he has no future scheduled appearances.

Meanwhile, the literary magazine Barrelhouse announced two days after the anonymous blog post was published that an online workshop Massey was scheduled to teach was canceled. Massey had been published in the magazine previously, and guest-edited the poetry section of an issue; this would’ve been his first time teaching for them. “We are committed to fighting all forms of abuse in the literary community and stand with the victims,” Barrelhouse  wrote on Facebook.

When I first called Massey in March, I expected to lead the interview by asking him for a comment about the specific allegations the women had shared with me. Instead, he did most of the talking over the hour and 18 minutes that we spent on the phone, ambling through and openly describing much of his behavior, some of which he said was “repulsive.”

Many of his admissions were offered with qualifiers — he told me that he has taken responsibility for his actions, but he stressed that these actions were all long ago, in the past; while he acknowledged that he has caused many people pain, such as by pinning a woman down by her ankles, or berating women on the phone, he emphasized that he always eventually apologized for those acts and that they “never happened again.” Massey declined to respond to several follow-up questions regarding other, specific allegations.

Massey repeatedly brought up his drinking, past trauma, and mental illness while talking about his behavior, but then said that he wasn’t mentioning them to deflect. He insisted that he is currently going to therapy, attempting sobriety, and taking “a year or more away from social media and publishing to continue to work on myself.”

He has apparently deleted his Facebook and Twitter, but as of press time, was still active on Instagram. In a public Facebook post prior to deleting his account on March 16, he wrote that he was sorry for the pain he has caused, and that he takes “full responsibility for my abusive behavior.”

“This has nothing to do with my career,” he wrote. “I don’t want to be a source of pain and upset for people.” According to his posts on Instagram, however, he has a new chapbook forthcoming with Tungsten Press, and he is offering an online poetry workshop this June.

Massey denied to me that he abused his power. In fact, he denied that he even has power to abuse — partly because of his poverty and his upbringing, but also because he says his access to institutions and presses is somewhat marginal, compared to the rare poets who gain huge followings and deals with major presses.

This, of course, ignores the fact that getting one’s work published and noticed at all requires clout and connections, which are a definite kind of power. And, he pointed out, several of the organizations with whom he has worked have now dropped him.

In an email that Massey sent to The Outline’s managing editor on March 26, he attempted to dismiss the women’s experiences detailed here as mere “allegations,” noting that he hasn’t been given any “due process.” He claimed not to know what he was being accused of despite, in the previous phone interview with me, recounting “pretty much the worst stuff I’ve ever done.” He said this article was part of a “smear campaign” against him, orchestrated by an ex-girlfriend.

Massey attempted to discredit my reporting to the editor, saying that he got the “impression her agenda was clear before she ever spoke to me about the situation.” He made further presumptions about my reporting, and then lodged a serious allegation about his aforementioned ex-girlfriend: “No one who knows me well was interviewed for this article, only people who are making allegations, and who were offered financial assistance by my ex.”

I emailed every woman who is quoted in this story to ask whether anyone had offered them financial assistance to speak with me, and whether they were participating in a “smear campaign.” Each woman emphatically denied Massey’s allegations — one even offered to show her bank statements.

“I would like to believe, especially in our current cultural moment, most people will understand that 20+ women do not come forward with painful and humiliating accounts of assault and emotional abuse, because we have been ‘paid off,’” Taylor wrote me in an email.

To address his complaint that I didn’t interview anyone who knows him well, I wrote him on March 29 that I would be glad to talk to people who could vouch for him if he gave me their contact information. He did not provide any such information.

He did, however, provide a statement in an earlier email that he said his spiritual community leader, Jitendra Guindon, the co-director of Online with Ananda, a website that teaches the yoga and meditation philosophies of Paramhansa Yogananda, wrote for him. “With over 200 members, Joseph has been offering his friendship, support and kindness to everyone,” the statement reads, in part.

After Massey deleted his social media accounts, Sarah received a cease and desist letter from his lawyer, demanding that she take down both the January WordPress blog post as well as another post from March that linked to it. She said couldn’t oblige; she was not responsible for those posts.

Massey said he does not want to seem defensive, that he wants to change and make amends. He has lost personal and professional relationships, and says that he no longer has a life in poetry.

“I’m not trying to recover my career as it were, I don’t even know what a career means in my case ‘cause I wasn’t trying to be a professor,” Massey said. “I just write poems, and publish books, and I’m not trying to recover that. This isn’t a positive PR campaign — I probably shouldn’t be talking to you if I were really concerned about my public image, but I just want people to know I’m sorry.”

But the way Massey has ostensibly centered his defense on his own pain and losses, amid so many women explaining their own, has only made it more difficult for them to talk about their experiences with him. “There's no room for the overwhelming experiences of the people he has hurt in this story of his,” Taylor said.

Emily said she had long felt like she was not in a place to talk about her experiences with Massey. “I do want to talk about it now,” she said. “I don’t want him to hurt more women.”

Upon reading the published version of this story, one source who previously requested anonymity has decided to step forward. Carolyn Zaikowski's name has been added where she is quoted describing the politics of the Western Massachusetts poetry scene.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect when Wesleyan University was first made aware of allegations against Joseph Massey. The school received an anonymous allegation in December 2017, not October. They were able to respond to allegations in January 2018 after a named source contacted them.

Rebekah Kirkman is a writer and artist in Baltimore. Illustrations by Thomas Cian. Illustrations do not represent the women, anonymous or otherwise, in this article.