A SERMON ON THE BOOKS OF THE BEST AMERICAN POETRY (BAP-le)

Brother Thomas asked me to speak to the congregation today because it’s been one year since I joined the House of Scarriet….

 (“Amen”; “Thank you, Lord”)

 Now brothers and sisters, a year ago I did not even know who David Lehman was…

 (“Mmm-mm-mm”; “Lord have mercy”)

Brothers and sisters, I had not even HEARD the name of Brother Lehman…

 (“Oh Lord!”)

 But I have now seen the light….

 (“Yes he has”)

 Now I have read all the canonical books of the BAP-le — and I have come away a changed man.

 (“Hallelujah”)

 Recite with me, church, if you will, the books of the BAP by editor and date in chronological order…

 (“John Ashbery 1988”)

Very good…

 (“Donald Hall 1989”)

 Amen, keep going….

 (crowd recites up to “Richard Howard 1995”)

 Now be careful with the next one!

 (knowing laughter)

Someone want to shout it out?

 (a child’s voice: “James Tate 1997”!)

Amen.  From the mouths of babes.  That’s correct, “Adrienne Rich 1996″, along with “Harold Bloom Best of the Best”, are considered apocryphal and not accepted as canonical books. Let’s continue from there…

 (crowd recites up to “Amy Gerstler 2010”)

Amen. Brothers and sisters, in 1962, the Supreme Court banned poetry from our public schools.

 (murmuring)

 The Supreme COURT – banned the MUSE – from our SCHOOLS!

 (“Yes, it did…”)

 And the Muse said, “Alright, that’s fine – I’m going to go for a long walk where I’m appreciated” – and left us – to our own devices…

 (“Yes, she did….”)

And I don’t need to tell you, brothers and sisters – this country has gone DOWNHILL ever since!

(“Thash roit”)

 Now, don’t get me wrong, we’ve come a long way in that time….

 (“Yes, we have”)

 And yet I ask you — in your worldly glory, have you left the Muse behind?

(”Mm-mm-mm”; “Preach it”)

 In your materialist splendour — have you forgotten the Muse?  Have you said, “I will add houses to fields and then admire the work of my hands”! – and yet I tell you, you will die this very night….

 (“Mercy!”)

This very night, then who will take your houses and your fields and your worldly glory?

(“Preach it”)

 Go to the books of the Best American Poetry, the BAP-le, brothers and sisters.  It will quench your thirst.  It will satisfy your soul. Brothers and sisters, I feel the spirit moving upon me….  I feel the gift of tongues descending upon me……  Joriegrahamfrankbidartambertamblynhallelujah….

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2 Comments

  1. Aaron Asphar said,

    March 13, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    What a title – it sorely makes me want to slit my throat.

  2. noochinator said,

    June 19, 2014 at 11:07 am

    “The names on the mailboxes that claimed my attention when I was a small child were proof enough that the tenant farmers were of the same stock as the townspeople who looked down on them socially. Their forebears had perhaps come on a later wave of European migration and found that land was no longer plentiful at a dollar and a quarter an acre. Or they could have been hamstrung by some family misfortune. Or simply lacked the talent for rising in the world.

    “Roaming the courthouse square on a Saturday night, the tenant farmers and their families were unmistakable. You could see that they were not at ease in town and that they clung together for support. The women’s clothes were not meant to be becoming but to wear well, to last them out. The back of the men’s necks was a mahogany color, and deeply wrinkled. Their hands were large and looked swollen or misshapen and sometimes they were short a finger or two. The discontented hang of their shoulders is possibly something I imagined because I would not have liked not owning the land I farmed. Very likely they didn’t either, but farming was in their blood and they wouldn’t have cared to be selling real estate or adding up columns of figures in a bank.

    “On the seventh day they rested; that is to say, they put on their good clothes and hitched up the horse again and drove to some country church, where, sitting in straight-backed cushionless pews, they stared passively at the preacher, who paced up and down in front of them, thinking up new ways to convince them that they were steeped in sin.”

    —William Maxwell, from his short novel So Long, See You Tomorrow


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