THE OTHER NO. 5 SEEDS BATTLE

No. 5 Stanley Kunitz (“Hornworm: Autumn Lamentation”) falls to Gregory Corso (“30th Year Dream”) in the East, 73-70.   Corso was anxious and fell behind early, but woke up and went crazy. Kunitz killed his chances with a disgusting image and his last shot: “Who can understand the ways/of the Great Worm in the sky?” fell short.  Corso dreams he is handed an address and told “Christ wants to see you,” and ends: “‘Damn/impulsive goon-faced proletariat-Shelley greaseball dopey fuck!/And cried, ‘denied…denied…denied'” Yea!  Go Corso!

Sharon Olds has no trouble with her opponent, the 12th seed in the South bracket, Robin Becker, winning 91-72.  “A History of Sexual Preferance” by Becker is about a giddy first date in historical Philadlephia and coyly references the ‘pursuit of happiness/pleasure.’  “The Request” by Olds may be one of the greatest love poems of all time, and we quote it in full:

He lay like someone fallen from a high
place, only his eyes could swivel,
he cried out, we could hardly hear him,
we bent low, over him, his
wife and I, inches from his face,
trying to drink sip up breathe in
the sounds from his mouth. He lay with unseeing
open eyes, the fluid stood
in the back of his throat, and the voice was from there,
guttural, through unmoving lips, we could
not understand one word, he was down so
deep inside himself, we went closer, as if
leaning over the side of a well
and putting our heads down inside it.
Once—his wife was across the room, at the
sink—he started to garble some of those
physical unintelligible words,
Raas-ih-AA, rass-ih-AA, I
hovered even lower, over his open
mouth, Rassi baaa, I sank almost
into that body where my life half-began,
Frass-ih-BAA—“Frances back!”
I said, and he closed his eyes in his last
yes of exhausted acquiescence, I
said, She’s here. She came over to him,
touched him, spoke to him, and he closed his
eyes and he passed out and never
came up again, now he could move
steadily down.

In the final 5 seed v. 12 seed matchup, over in the West, Stephanie Brown looked to upset James Schuyler with her “Interview with an Alchemist in the New Age” which begins

Someone, if you pay the price, can hypnotize you
and you can speak, from memory, oh so long ago imbedded in your soul,
about the past, and history, and your place in it, how you struggled
in the heat and the dust near the Great Pyramid of Giza,
how you gazed into the mirror of your beloved,
how you took a bow with your fellow thespians, in Greece,
how a sycophant betrayed you in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles

And wouldn’t it be neat, she says.  The poem (one can see the chatty tone in the quotation above) doesn’t really say more than that, unless there’s some deep, ironic point I’m missing.  Go to the rim, Stephanie!  Make sharper passes!  (She fell behind early.)

Schuyler’s APR entry pulverizes a life into a candy roll and lays it out before us; a sample from “Red Brick and Brown Stone” :

He arises. Oriane
the lurcher wants
her walk. Out into
the freeze. Oriane
pees and shits…

…Off by cab to
Florentine palasso
racquet club: naked,
the pool, plunge, how
Many laps? Home. (Through
out the day, numerous
cigarettes. I forget
which brand. Tareytons.)
A pencil drawing of
a vase of parrot tulips.
Records: Richter:
Scriabin: Tosca:”Mario!
Mario! Mario!” “I
lived for art, I
lived for love.” Sup
per: a can of baked
beans, a cup of raspberry
yogurt. Perrier. Out?
A flick? An A.A.
meeting? Walk Oriane.
Nine p.m. Bed. A
book, V.Woolf’s let-
ters. Lights out, sleep
not quite right away.
No valium. The night
passes in black chiffon.

Shhhhh.  G’nite, James. Sleep well. You’ve advanced to the next round, beating the charming librarian from California, Stephanie Brown 71-64.  Well played!

“I GAVE UP EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING TO BE A POET” –FRANZ WRIGHT


James and Franz Wright, poets, and miserable sons-of-bitches.

“A Blessing” by James Wright is maudlin crap, perhaps the worst poem ever published.

The lust for horsies and the ‘break into blossom’ trope is embarrassing in the extreme.

“Northern Pike” is a close second: “we prayed for the muskrats”

“I am so happy.”    Good grief.

His football poem isn’t much better; “gallup terribly” is a trite way to describe the violence of football.  One can tell he’s just a nerdy observer.

“Their women cluck like starved pullets,/Dying for love.”  Lines like these are destined for the ash heap.

Don’t get me started on the treacly, self-pitying exploitation of George Doty, the executed killer.

What to do with James Wright, who is nothing more than smarmy Whitman-haiku?

[Note: No woman poet seeking entrance to the canon would be permitted to get away with Wright's metaphorical slop.]

“Depressed by a book of bad poetry…”

“I have wasted my life.”

Yea.

The times (1972) were right for Whitman-haiku poetry, so James Wright’s Pulitzer is no surprise.  Plus, Wright was associated with a lot of big names: Roethke, Kunitz, Tate, Berryman, Bly.

Franz faced a difficulty as a poet.  His father was a name.  Say what you will about Whitman-haiku, his father did it well.

Franz seems to have genuinely admired his father’s poetry and made no attempt, as a poet, to get out from under his father’s shadow.

Junior poet looks up to senior poet and uses the same straight-forward, plain-speaking, self-obsessed, sentimentality of approach: Look, reader, here is my transparent chest; take a look at what I am feeling.  You might think I’d be sad—and good Lord, I have reason to be—but something about the inscrutability of the universe and my inner faith makes me happy.

Recently on Harriet, Franz Wright wrote the following, which Franz never should have written and which Harriet never should have published, and which we publish here because…oh, we forget why.

[Warning: Wright's comment on Harriet does contain abusive language]

Henry–I have no opinion about your “work”, or the “work” of others like little Kent and the others you masturbate with. My suggestion to all of you is: give up everything for the art. Everything. Can you do that? I did it 35 years ago–do you think that might have something to do with what you little whiners call “being on the inside”? I am not on the inside of shit. I gave up everything, everything, to be a poet. I lived in financial terror and homelessness, sometimes, for nearly 40 years. Can you do that? You little whining babies. Franz Wright, 12/20/2009 Blog:Harriet

Now, that’s poetry.

Granted, it’s hyperbolic to say you gave up everything to be a poet.  What does that even mean? No one wants to suffer, and to say in hindsight that you suffered for your art is arrogant, because even if you thought it were true, it can never be proven by anyone, anywhere, that the more outrageously you suffer, the better your art will be.   There’s no substance to such a “brag.”

But we love the balls of it.

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