WORLD PREMIERE WILLIAM KULIK POEM!!

THE WONDER OF SCIENCE

 “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?”

                                                                                    -Satchel Paige

So far it’s been a pretty smooth day for an old guy tooling along a winding country road trying to ease the pain of watching another year die in the brown and orange wind-whipped leaves glittering in gold October sunlight and just as I’m in danger of continuing to wax poetic a la Hallmark I realize there’s a cream-faced kid riding my ass in a tomato-red Camaro slouched way down in the seat baseball cap turned sideways and though I’m a little pissed cause he’s screwed up my mood with his ridiculous gangsta thing there’s no way I can stay mad cause I remember being like most every guy I ever knew drenched in lust so powerful it bordered on myth and I figure he wants me to move over and let him roll, that hot car the emblem of a tom-cat need to spray. You’ve got to understand, though I’m trying to be big about this the truth is I’m jealous of his generation’s luck as by the time he’s fifty those hormone treatments I hear they’re working on now will be an everyday thing and ten times more powerful than any of our ED drugs. And I’m thinking it’s possible we might sneak in and get a piece of this action. It goes like this: they’ll have to have subjects to run their trials on, right? Now you tell me who’d be more sensitive to new-found pleasure than a bunch of old folks with their fun pretty much done. Better yet: can you imagine as I can that it’s not impossible with all this testing going on one of them will discover you can be shocked open and have all the wild passion of teenage hormones rush back in? Hell! if they could do that I’d let them strap me to a table open the roof and raise me up into the heart of the baddest storm in storm history to get the jolt I need and I’m just realizing this fantasy has me so juiced I’ve got the pedal to the floor coming out of a twisty patch of road with Junior in his hot-shit red Camaro sucking my fumes and I’m headed for that quarter-mile stretch of Forgedale Road with the two scary dips one right after the other where in the old days I’d push my battered truck up to seventy, scare the shit out of the kids their friends pale, asking Is your dad OK? feeling my testicles swoop and rise like they did when I was a boy riding an elevator to the top of the Empire State Building. And wouldn’t I buy me a lifetime supply of whatever they come up with and a brand-new 400 horsepower truck get that baby up to 90 show you how I’d use those dips to get airborne clear the highest branch of the big sycamore by the cow pond—eighty years old, I hear!—and not even scrape my new-born butt

HERE WE GO AGAIN: SCARRIET’S POETRY HOT 100!!

Dark Messy Tower

1. Mark Edmundson Current Lightning Rod of Outrage

2. David Lehman BAP Editor now TV star: PBS’ Jewish Broadway

3. Rita Dove She knows Dunbar is better than Oppen

4. Matthew Hollis Profoundly researched Edward Thomas bio

5. Paul Hoover Status quo post-modern anthologist, at Norton

6. Don Share Wins coveted Poetry magazine Editorship

7. Sharon Olds Gets her Pulitzer

8. Michael Robbins The smartest guy writing on contemporary poetry now–see Hoover review

9. Marjorie Perloff Still everyone’s favorite Take-No-Prisoners Dame Avant-Garde

10. Natasha Trethewey Another Round as Laureate

11. Ron Silliman The Avant-garde King

12. Tony Hoagland The Billy Collins of Controversy

13. Billy Collins The real Billy Collins

14. Kenneth Goldsmith Court Jester of Talked-About

15. Terrance Hayes The black man’s Black Man’s Poet?

16. William Logan Favorite Bitch Critic

17. Avis Shivani Second Favorite Bitch Critic

18. John Ashbery Distinguished and Sorrowful Loon

19. Stephen Burt P.C. Throne at Harvard

20. Robert Hass  West Coast Establishment Poet

21. Harold Bloom Reminds us ours is an Age of Criticism, not Poetry

22. Helen Vendler She, in the same stultifying manner, reminds us of this, too.

23. Dana Gioia  Sane and Optimistic Beacon?

24. Bill Knott An On-line Bulldog of Poignant Common Sense

25. Franz Wright Honest Common Sense with darker tones

26. Henry Gould Another Reasonable Poet’s Voice on the blogosphere

27. Anne Carson The female academic poet we are supposed to take seriously

28. Seth Abramson Will give you a thousand reasons why MFA Poetry is great

29. Ben Mazer Poet of the Poetry! poetry! More Poetry! School who is actually good

30. Larry Witham Author, Picasso and the Chess Player (2013), exposes Modern Art/Poetry cliques

31. Mary Oliver Sells, but under Critical assault

32. Annie Finch The new, smarter Mary Oliver?

33. Robert Pinsky Consensus seems to be he had the best run as Poet Laureate

34. Mark McGurl His book, The Program Era, has quietly had an impact

35. Seamus Heaney Yeats in a minor key

36. W.S. Merwin Against Oil Spills but Ink Spill his writing method

37. George Bilgere Do we need another Billy Collins?

38. Cate Marvin VIDA will change nothing

39. Philip Nikolayev Best living translator?

40. Garrison Keillor As mainstream poetry lover, he deserves credit

41. Frank Bidart Poetry as LIFE RUBBED RAW

42. Jorie Graham The more striving to be relevant, the more she seems to fade

43. Alan Cordle Strange, how this librarian changed poetry with Foetry.com

44. Janet Holmes Ahsahta editor and MFA prof works the po-biz system like no one else

45. Paul Muldoon How easy it is to become a parody of oneself!

46. Cole Swensen Some theories always seem to be missing something

47. Matthew Dickman Was reviewed by William Logan. And lived

48. James Tate For some reason it depressed us to learn he was not a laugh riot in person.

49. Geoffrey Hill His poetry is more important than you are

50. Derek Walcott A great poet, but great poets don’t exist anymore

51. Charles Bernstein A bad poet, but bad poets don’t exist anymore, either

52. Kay Ryan Emily Dickinson she’s not. Maybe Marianne Moore when she’s slightly boring?

53. Laura Kasischke She’s published 8 novels. One became a movie starring Uma Thurman. Who the hell does she think she is?

54. Louise Gluck X-Acto!

55. Rae Armantrout “Quick, before you die, describe the exact shade of this hotel carpet.”

56. Heather McHugh “A coward and a coda share a word.”

57. D.A. Powell “Of course a child. What else might you have lost.”

58. Peter Gizzi Take your lyric and heave

59. Marilyn Chin Shy Iowa student went on to write an iconic 20th century poem: How I Got That Name

60. Eileen Myles Interprets Perloff’s avant-gardism as mourning

61. Lyn Hejinian As I sd to my friend, because I am always blah blah blah

62. Nikki Finney Civil Rights is always hot

63. K. Silem Mohammad This Flarfist Poet composes purely Anagram versions of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Fie on it.

64. Meg Kearney Lectured in public by Franz Wright. Still standing.

65. Noah Eli Gordon Teaches at Boulder, published by Ahsahta

66. Peter Campion A poet, a critic and a scholar!

67. Simon Ortiz Second wave of the Native American Renaissance

68. Maya Angelou She continues to travel the world

69. Lyn Lifshin “Barbie watches TV alone, naked” For real?

70. Ange Mlinko Born in ’69 in Philly, writes for The Nation

71. Jim Behrle They also serve who only write bad poetry

72. Elizabeth Alexander She read in front of all those people

73. Dorothea Lasky The Witchy Romantic School

74. Virgina Bell The poet. Do not confuse with burlesque dancer

75. Fanny Howe Wreaks havoc out of Boston

76. Erin Belieu Available for VIDA interviews

77. Ariana Reines Another member of the witchy romantic school

78. Jed Rasula Old Left poetry critic

79. John Hennessy “Too bad I felt confined by public space/despite her kinky talk, black net and lace”

80. Timothy Donnelly “Driver, please. Let’s slow things down. I can’t endure/the speed you favor, here where the air’s electric”

81. Clive James His translation, in quatrains, of Dante’s Divine Comedy, published this year

82. Danielle Pafunda “We didn’t go anywhere, we went wrong/in our own backyard. We didn’t have a yard,/but we went wrong in the bedroom”

83. Michael Dickman Matthew is better, right?

84. Kit Robinson “Get it first/but first get it right/in the same way it was”

85. Dan Beachy Quick “My wife found the key I hid beneath the fern./My pens she did not touch. She did not touch/The hundred pages I left blank to fill other days”

86. Ilya Kaminsky Teaches at San Diego State, won Yinchuan International Poetry Prize

87. Robert Archambeau Son of a potter, this blog-present poet and critic protested Billy Collins’ appointment to the Poet Laureateship

88. Kent Johnson Best known as a translator

89. Frederick Seidel An extroverted Philip Larkin?

90. David Orr Poetry columnist for New York Times wrote on Foetry.com

91. Richard Wilbur Oldest Rhymer and Moliere translator

92. Kevin Young Finalist in Criticism for National Book Critics Circle

93. Carolyn Forche Human rights activist born in 1950

94. Carol Muske Dukes Former California Laureate writes about poetry for LA Times

95. William Kulik Writes paragraph poems for the masses

96. Daniel Nester The sad awakening of the MFA student to the bullshit

97. Alexandra Petri Began 2013 by calling poetry “obsolete” in Wash Post

98. John Deming Poet, told Petri, “We teach your kids.”

99. C. Dale Young “Medical students then, we had yet to learn/when we could or could not cure”

100. Clayton Eshleman Sometimes the avant-garde is just boring

WILLIAM KULIK AND TESS GALLAGHER GRAPPLE FOR SWEET SIXTEEN

Poet Bill Kulik, who went to the Final Four in last year’s Scarriet Best American Poetry March Madness Tourney, is the Rated R version of Billy Collins: more visceral, more garish, more Theatre Absurd, and he’s looking to roll to the Sweet Sixteen over Tess Gallagher, who stands in the way of Kulik’s “Fictions” with “The Hug.” 

How similar these poems are!  Gallagher addresses a “you” in the scene of her poem, and Kulik, a “you” reading a novel “bought at the chain;” in Gallagher’s poem the “you” is a lover who fades into the background (almost the way “love” loses out to “hug”) as a stranger gets a deep, friendly hug. Kulik’s “you” (who is never quite identified—is it the narrator himself?) has a childhood flashback ushered in by a Killa Quadzilla v. Dr. Death Pro Wrestling grip of fury:

you and your brother huddled in a corner of the room crying Mommy daddy please stop we love you we’re sorry

Gallagher’s hug intimates a home lost forever:

when you hug someone you want it
to be a masterpiece of connection,
the way the button on his coat
will leave the imprint of a planet in my cheek
when I walk away. When I try to find some place
to go back to.

 This is how these two gripping poems end.  They both rough up your heart.

The prominent use of “you” in lyric poetry seems a modern thing. 

Who first brought “you” into lyric poetry in that modern way? 

It’s not the ‘dear reader’ you, but perhaps it was a twist on that idea?  Does it have something to do with modern alienation, the divided self?  Was “Prufrock’s” “Let us go then, you and I” one of the first?  As the century went on, lyric poets really started to cash in on second person.

MARLA MUSE: Scarriet should do a top 100 greatest ‘YOU’ poems. Oh, and another great ‘hug’ themed poem is Olds’ “The Clasp,” also published in the The Body Electric, America’s Best Poetry from The American Poetry Review.

Marla, remind me later of that Greatest “You” poem idea. Right now we’ve got a gripping close basketball game to watch. Look at them slamming each other under the boards.

MARLA MUSE: One of these days we need the publish a guide to watching poetry basketball for the lay person.

Strong rebounding: the poem keeps interest.

Good defense: the poem has a clear, focused theme.

Good passing: The poem has good structure, good flow, good rhythm; can indicate strong meter and rhyme elements.

Good shooting: the poem is more than just beautiful; it makes points. 

The team who bombs from outside, and relies entirely on outside shooting, and has no muscle, is the didactic poem.

The clever ‘experimental’ poem is the team with the ‘ball hog’ who shoots every time they have the ball.

The pure poem passes and rebounds and defends in such a way that ‘shooting’ is almost not necessary; the perfection of form, large bodies crashing the boards, almost wills the ball into the basket through proximity alone. 

The accessible poem will tend to be a shooting team; the arc of the outside shot dominates, but the accessible poem with beautiful form varies outside shots with quick passes underneath for scores.  

The fashionable poem of obscurity is the whole team fouling out, plus weak free throw shooting.

A really bad poem is just someone playing H.O.R.S.E.

Can the teams run, or do they rely on a half-court game? That’s something else to consider.  Half-court teams are poems with lyric structure; running teams are your prose poems.

MARLA MUSE: Kulik and Gallagher both can rebound and shoot; there’s not a lot of defense, or passing, and both teams run.  High scoring contest, definitely.

In this contest, Kulik is shooting better, but Gallagher is hitting the boards better, getting chances at second shots.

Tess Gallagher is grabbing rebounds like a fiend!  We go into overtime… Gallagher wins on a tip-in, 92-90.

TESS GALLAGHER IS GOING TO SWEET SIXTEEN

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE FIRST ROUND MARCH MADNESS WINNERS!

Let’s get this winners and losers business out of the way…

Here are the winners:

EAST BRACKET

LISA LEWIS (d. John Ashbery) Responsibility
WILLIAM MATTHEWS (d. James Wright) Good Company
GILLIAN CONOLEY (d. Robert Creeley) Beckon
CAROLYN CREEDON (d. James Tate)  litany
GREGORY CORSO (d. Stanley Kunitz)  30th Year Dream
DORIANNE LAUX (d. A.R. Ammons)  The Lovers
LESLIE SCALAPINO (d. Jack Spicer)  that they were at the beach
BARBARA GUEST (d. Larry Levis) Motion Pictures: 4

NORTH BRACKET

KAREN KIPP (d. Robert Lowell)  The Rat
JACK HIRSCHMANN (d. Robert Penn Warren*) The Painting
EILEEN MYLES (d. Frank O’Hara)  Eileen’s Vision
WILLIAM KULIK (d. Czeslaw Milosz)  Fictions
SHARON OLDS (d. Robin Becker)  The Request
TESS GALLAGHER (d. Richard Hugo)  The Hug
STEPHEN DOBYNS (d. Jim Harrison)  Allegorical Matters
AMY GERSTLER (d. Norman Dubie)  Sinking Feeling

NORTH BRACKET

JACK MYERS (d. Seamus Heaney)  The Experts
PHILIP LARKIN (d. Joseph Duemer)  Aubade
BILL KNOTT (d. Robert Bly)  Monodrome
EDWARD FIELD (d. Donald Justice)  Whatever Became of Freud
MAURA STANTON (d. Anne Carson)  The Veiled Lady
ALAN DUGAN (d. Hayden Carruth)  Drunken Memories of Anne Sexton
HOWARD NEMEROV (d. David Ignatow)  IFF
MICHAEL PALMER (d. Yusef Komunyakaa)  I Do Not

WEST BRACKET

ALLEN GINSBERG (d. Howard Moss) The Charnel Ground
DONALD HALL (d. Douglas Crase)  To A Waterfowl
RICHARD CECIL (d. Robert Hass)  Apology
JOY HARJO (d. Sylvia Plath)  A Post-Colonial Tale
JAMES SCHUYLER (d. Stephanie Brown)  Red Brick and Brown Stone
REED WHITTEMORE (d. Heather McHugh)  Smiling Through
STEPHEN DUNN (d. Sam Hamill)  What They Wanted
CAROL MUSKE (d. Charles Bukowski)  A Former Lover, A Lover of Form

* Robert Penn Warren resigned from the tourney

MARLA MUSE: Some of the losers I really don’t want to say goodbye to; the Milosz, the Justice, the Dubie, the McHugh…

The Bukowski…there’s something holy about his work, a wry honesty that few poets evince…I was thinking about the qualities that go into writing good poetry, both the New Critical qualities of the poem itself and those qualities the poet as a human being must have…

MARLA MUSE: The poet must say the right thing at the right time.

Or seem to.  Because in real situations in life, that’s a good quality to have: to be able to say the right thing at the right time, but for the poet, “time” can be years as they work on the poem, which distorts the meaning of that ability, the ability to say the right thing at the right time: if someone really has that ability in life, to really say the right thing at the right time, they wouldn’t need to fake it in a poem…

MARLA MUSE: Oh, you’re getting all Plato on me…life is real, poetry is fake

But isn’t it true, Marla, that ‘saying the right thing at the right time’ is not the same thing in life, as it is in poetry…poets can wait for the right time to pass, but in life, you can’t…the room is silent, and life calls for something to be said then, but to be a poet you can slink away and say something later…it doesn’t have to be at the right time

MARLA MUSE: The right time in the poem?

Yes, when you failed to say the right thing at the right time in life…

MARLA MUSE: But if we’re talking about qualities, the person who can say the right thing in a poem is probably the person who can say the right thing in life…

No, because if you can say the right thing at the right time in life, there’s no motivation to do so in a poem, for the poem is a shadow…life doesn’t let us wait years…

MARLA MUSE: But it does.  You are trying to connect life and poetry, you are trying to connect two things, and you can’t, and therefore you are saying nothing…

Am I?  So I shouldn’t have asked my original question: what qualities in life match those qualities in the poet…

MARLA MUSE: What about not fearing to go into an underground mine?  Does that help a poet?  To risk your life for somone else, does that have anything to do with being a poet?  I think we can only look at the poem.  I think the New Critics were right…

But Marla, you are beautiful!  How can you say something like that?

MARLA MUSE: Are we talking about poetry?

Thomas Brady is never talking about poetry, is he?

MARLA MUSE: Well, Tom, sometimes you do…

I’m thinking about that Bukowski poem, the car headlights, the remark by the mother, and the son’s joking, half-shameful, half-boastful response, and all the various parts in that Bukowski poem—isn’t the good poem when all those parts cohere?

MARLA MUSE: Bukowski lost! Why are you talking about him? Ah, you are recalling that debate you had…when you used the word “incoherent”…clever boy…you’re a New Critic, after all…

Yea, but the New Critics themselves were such narrow-minded, creepy—

MARLA MUSE: They hated the Romantics, that’s all, but that’s why you’re here, Tommy boy…

But right now this is not about me…congratulations, poets!

GOD (CZESLAW) V. KING (KULIK)

What a monster contest we have here, Marla, at the John Crowe Ransom arena—the Nobel Pole, Czeslaw Milosz, going face to face with Bill Kulik, who made it to last year’s Final Four, and what a poem for Milosz, a short lyric that makes the hair on the back of the neck stiffen—what a poem! It’s in the same class as “Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening” and “I Knew A Man” and everybody knows what poem I’m talking about, “Encounter,” a half-lit masterpiece, against “Fictions” by Bill Kulik, who brings such a combination of humor, terror, poignancy and style, whose poems take shape where it counts—in the heart; Kulik is the best poet, some say, APR has had the good fortune to consistently publish… oh and here’s the tip-off:

“We were riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn.
A red wing rose in the darkness.”

Milosz buries a three!  Rebound…Milosz brings it across…and another!  Czeslaw up 6-0 just like that!

In that novel you bought at the chain, a young woman looks back on her life.
She’s 30, a teacher married to a Harley-riding oil exec, mother of two sons.”

Kulik fires from downtown…good!  Milosz takes it up…Kulik steals the ball, the lay-up is good!  And he’s fouled!  Free throw makes it 6-6!

Hold on to your seats, ladies and gentlemen, we’re in for a wild ride!

Tied at the half, 30-30!

Tied at regulation, 55-55!

Over-time!  And no one’s going home!

64-63, Kulik wins!  Kulik Upsets Czeslaw Milosz!

POETRY MARCH MADNESS IS COMING! POETRY MARCH MADNESS IS COMING!

Danse Macabre is our theme for Scarriet’s Second Annual March Madness Poetry Tournament.

Death and poetry used to be closer; then with Modernism, Things in poetry became the rage, but Death as a symbol (and reality) cannot be denied.

So, here’s our thinking: The Second Annual March Madness Tournament, is, first of all, an elimination tournament. 

Secondly, every poet lives with the anxiety that their poems will be neglected; even those with fame today may be forgotten tomorrow; all their sweat, worth and reputation may be utterly buried by Time. 

Thirdly, many of the poems in the tournament have Death as their subject. 

Fourthly, the poets themsevles are old, or dying, or dead.

But dancing implies vigor and joy, and there is that, too.  What if we never really die?  And why shouldn’t we dance, anyway?

Scarriet’s Poetry March Madness Tournament source this year is the APR anthology, The Body Electric, with an introduction by Harold Bloom.

Last year Scarriet drew from David Lehman’s Best American Poetry series for its Poetry March Madness contest.

Scarriet came into its own with its Poetry March Madness, attracting widespread attention from published poets thrilled to finally throw an elbow at their rivals, or freeze them with a soft jumper, or drive right over them to the hoop to win with seconds remaining.  Booya.

Who knows?  One day we may refer not to the work of a poet, but the play of a poet.

This year, taking center stage is the best of the American Poetry Review, poems from Body Electric: America’s Best Poetry from the American Poetry Review, compiled by editors Stephen Berg, Arthur Vogelsang and David Bonanno.

APR began in 1972, and the poems in Scarriet March Madness Two have that hippie/post-hippie, ‘free-spirited intellectuals having nervous breakdowns’ energy, the glorious free-verse confessionalism where poets finally ‘get to say what they want to say’ in a fireworks of expressionism.  The embarrassment, however, is sometimes palpable in these poems, as death winds its way even into the most comfortable of poet-professors’ dens, and the happy, rounded, sexually-tinged, rhetoric, seeking escape from death-sonnets and other old, quaint devices, wrestles with the horror of old death, anyway.  Post-modernism, Modernism and the Ancients leveled, one might say.

And great poets are here, 180 of them, but only 64 get to enter the tournament itself.

Who will be in, and who will be out, during this first stage?

Can poets like Bill Knott, Eileen Myles, and William Kulik beat out poets like Robert Lowell, Seamus Heaney and Sylvia Plath?

Let the elbowing commence.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SCARRIET

From Infant to All-Too-Human: Scarriet’s First Year

Could any living creature survive the dynamic changes wrought by and upon Scarriet in its first year of existence?  We doubt it. And yet Scarriet IS a living creature, its blood and viscera made up of its manifold contributors and admirers, a roster that runs the gamut from the illustrious to the notorious, from Billy Collins down (or is it up? Let the Muse judgeth!) to horatiox. Its spark of life, however, its animating spirit, is its poetry, ranging from ABBA to Zukofsky. There is room for all, for as the children of the ‘50s were all Mouseketeers, so all those who are childlike in spirit in the noughties and tennies are all Scarrieteers. The blog is named Scarriet for a reason — no prim Harriet reciting in a stuffy drawing room, but rather a rushing birth of blood, placental fluid, and, within the mass of sodden tissue, life itself. The wail issues out of said mass: Scarriet liveth. Liveth in the offices, supermarkets, alleys, factories, in blue jeans or ties, democratic without being demotic, and aristocratic only in matters of the spirit. Heroines most welcome, even nigh deified; heroin disdained as a soul-killing crutch. A manifesto? Let it be so, and let it be burnt.

Cut to the present: the same infant now grown to full immaturity, eager to sift and build upon the ruins of worlds past. And how much built after one short year!  A year of tumult, that witnessed the phenomenal success of March Madness, an expansive merriment that served as nothing less than a lightning rod for the poetry world. Sparks flew, sweat poured, backboards were shattered, and, in keeping with Scarriet’s primal origins, blood flowed – and out of the agony and ecstasy came a greater realization of the role poetry continues to “play” in our contemporary world(s). Scarriet’s world(s). Not all were happy, as not all can ever be, save in that Paradise in which the mass of men once put great hope. A founder of Scarriet, Christopher Woodman, departed from the masthead, never to return. The pain was felt keenly amongst those who treasure the art of poetry and discriminating criticism of same, especially with regard to the lyric bards. His voice is still heard on occasion, and his posts still extant – but as the balladeer Carly Simon has sang, “I know nothing stays the same/but if you’re willing to play the game/it’s coming around again.” And so it is. And so it always shall. Selah.

More on March Madness, for this was a threshold for Scarriet, a crossing of the Rubicon, and like all momentous undertakings, was not without peril or controversy. Was the event, which ran coeval with the NCAA basketball finals, closer in spirit to Napoleon’s invasion of Russia or F. Roosevelt’s invasion of Europe?  The debate continues to rage in precincts where strong drink and stronger poetry are freely indulged. Did Scarriet lose its soul during March Madness, or did it gain it, and the world as well? Was it a “faustin bargin” or just “fargin baustin”? Numbers don’t tell a whole story, certainly, but they can instruct when viewed in a spirit of equanimity and in the proper light. And Scarriet’s numbers soared during the March festivities. But was quality sacrificed to attain popular success (a phenomenon certainly no stranger to those of us who have ever owned a crystal radio set or subscribed to a national newsweekly) ? We doubt it, for March Madness was met with approval ranging from guarded to raucous from world-class poets such as Alan Shapiro, Lewis Buzbee, Stephen Dunn, Janet Bowden, Reb Livingston, William Kulik, Billy Collins, Bernard Welt, Robert Pinsky and Brad Leithauser. No visit from Sharon Olds, but then she didn’t make the Sweet Sixteen.

So the numbers were there, along with approval by world class, nay, heaven class poets — where was to be found the always present snake in the garden?  Why, where he always lurks, in our hearts, in the hearts of all who draw breath. And yet the snake was tamped down for those precious moments in which great poetry was shared and exalted and glorified – not placed into a glass case for bored schoolchildren to parade past, but ricocheted off a glass backboard and hurled recklessly down a parquet floor as poets strutted their most glorious moves in all their testostrogen-fueled glory. A celebration of fertility over futility. Of passion over pedantry.

Of poetry over prose.

Happy Birthday, Scarriet.

It’s been one hell of a year.

BACKSTORY

 

The cook was in the kitchen searching for a recipe for grilled octopus. Done with Batali, Beard and Bobby Flay, she was about to reference the elusive Julia Child when her nephew appeared. “I want my money to grow,” he grumbled. “No dear,” she gently chided, “You must say ‘I want to grow my money.’” He frowned while she looked out the window as a young woman in a Duesenberg replica hit a button and the tent-peaks on several miniature castles she was towing on a flatbed rose up and tipped their green hats revealing golden busts of famed prophets, chief among them Mohammed, his face veiled, Jesus looking soulfully at a light from above and Gautama Buddha extending his hand which held a ball, symbolic of earth and the four billion of us who crowd its surface. The cook’s brother Steve, recently empowered and in no need of salvation, had eyes only for the young woman and, once inside her blouse, embarked on a vigorous search-and-grab mission. She seemed to relent long enough for him to shut the door behind them, the same one she kicked open minutes later revealing a sordid tableau: he on top mashing her pretty round breasts while she struggled against his weight, legs flailing, her face twisted into a grimace equal parts contempt and disgust. At last with a huge upward thrust she got him off her and turning sharply, aimed a kick that caught him in his Adam’s apple and down he went, gagging and immobilized while she flung her dress on, burst out the door and sped off in the Doozie with the prophets still exposed. The nephew watched his father panting on the floor and shook his head in contempt and disgust. “Maybe now you’ll stop referencing the Marquis de Sade and help me grow my money.” “Good boy,” chirped auntie-the-cook watching chopped tentacles curl in melted butter over medium heat as she pondered the strange magic of an age of transition when yet another noun became a verb while active and passive quietly changed places

A William Kulik Premiere

UNITED STATES OF POETRY (PART ONE): KULIK AND KEATON: THE ART OF IMPERTURBABILITY

http://www.doctormacro.com/Images/Keaton,%20Buster/Annex/Annex%20-%20Keaton,%20Buster%20(Goat,%20The)_01.jpg

We have, now, in American poetry, a new self-consciousness manifesting itself not in schools of thought or types of poetry, but in social prickliness—the birth pains, we can only hope, of a new era where the shackles of old Modernism and incestuous Workshop-ism can at last be thrown off.

For we live in an age in which the ‘I’, central to western civilization (and Anglo-American civilization in particular — for what other language capitalizes the first person singular pronoun?), has collapsed into a mere ‘i’, a mere letter, the Self nothing more than one of the billions of ‘yous’ who cohabit the earth.  Yet it is a false proclamation, no doubt owing more to the understandable but ultimately lamentable disinclination to correctly operate the ‘shift’ key than to an epochal change of consciousness.

We have decided at last that we do want the “I,” and are even thinking of capitalizing “You”; for the experiments which have banned the human — the found poem, the deconstructed text, the well-wrought urn of pedantic New Criticism, the sordid materialism and cryptic theoretical aspects of the avants, the cunning and predatory alliances formed in academic conferences and chairs — all of these are giving way to a healthy and humorous atmosphere inhabited by actual persons. To which, hearkening back to the sanctuaries we often attended as young persons, we can only offer an exuberant and heartfelt “Selah!”

We find that emblematic of this ‘new spirit’ are the poems of William Kulik, translator of Max Jacob, master of the prose poem, and professor of a “happy band” of students at Temple University in historic Philadelphia. Kulik’s poems remind us of nothing less than the movies of silent film star Buster Keaton, for in both, the protagonist faces a malevolent world — a world deteriorating in ways that defy reason, a dreamscape of dangerous happenings – yet both Keaton and Kulik’s protagonist (each poem usually has a central character, seemingly modeled on the poet himself) never get rattled, never get flustered, but maintain a cool, good humored imperturbability in the face of events which would drive most personages clear round the bend. Keaton maintains a stone face as houses collapse on him (Steamboat Bill, Jr., 1928), as he is vamped by Fatty Arbuckle dressed as a nurse (Good Night Nurse, 1918, shockingly neglected), and as he plays cards with aged and grotesque Hollywood legends of yore (Sunset Boulevard, 1950). In the same way, the protagonist of Kulik’s poems keeps his sense of good humor even in dire situations—whether prostrate on the ground tormented by a sadistic policeman (“Flexible”), ridiculed on stage by yahoos in a theater that reminded us of the 1973 film Theatre of Blood (“This Old House”), or observing as a swinging 1970s party inexorably disintegrates into a hellish landscape (“The Triumph of Narcissus and Aphrodite”). This determination to maintain one’s good humor, to appreciate and enjoy this short life we’ve been granted, is a spirit we find most congenial, whether in our own dire age or the dire ages past and future. For is not every age dire? No walking down the street muttering in despair with shoulders slumped for Keaton or Kulik — both have learned to stop worrying and love the bomb, the bomb a comely XX-chromosomed being rather than a thermonuclear device.

For is there anything better to get one through a dark night of the soul (assuming one has already settled to one’s satisfaction the most pressing metaphysical questions) than thoughts of sexual bliss? “Yes,” we hear a wag retort, “sexual bliss itself!”  Yet we beg to differ. For the realm of sexual fantasy will always satisfy more qua fantasia than any and all attempts to realize that fantasy in the harsh light of physical reality.  For the reality can never match the fantasy— unless of course one has a nigh unlimited supply of funds and leisure time to stage manage one’s most breathless imaginings. And yet — and yet — even then we suspect that the reality would not match the dream (although we must sheepishly admit that we would certainly like to try, in the manner of, say, Terry Southern, to put this idea to the test).

William Kulik made a splash in Scarriet’s March Madness, an expansive merriment which simultaneously mocked and revered a popular paradigm; we at Scarriet ‘discovered’ Kulik through March Madness, through a list-like winnowing, and lately Kulik has made ‘an appearance’ on Scarriet’s Hot 100 (part 2) a very popular essay the popularity of which proves people care about people, they love lists because let’s face it, what is all temporal art but a list?

There is no depth in temporal art, per se, and if there is depth it is only from the list (the shallow construct of popular culture and mass media, top 40, etc)— the list is the fantasy, and the so-called ‘depth’ the reality which chases after the list itself, and which is only ‘reality’ finally, to scholars who proclaim seeming truths in retrospect.

The fantasy is finally what drives all of us, what gets us up in the morning (or the afternoon), that which is the true food of poets.  The shallow list has its significance in its very shallowness, in its construct as a ladder or reaching upwards into, and within, a realm of delirious fantasy, the realm where actor and poet are one.

ASK TIRESIAS! William Kulik in the APR

 

… to learn that a man has said or done a foolish thing is nothing; a man
must learn that he is nothing but a fool, a much more ample and important
instruction.–Montaigne
 

“Woman in the red hat, second row…Those what?…Trojan war
heroes? What were they really like?…Glad you asked. I’ve always wanted to pull the plug on some of those guys—take Achilles: a brat and a whiner right down the line, like an NBA star who sulks if he can’t get everything he wants. And some patriot! Hiding out as a woman. Hero my ass. HE was the first draft-dodger,  like his buddy Odysseus, trying to prove he was an idiot to keep from going to war. What about who? Penelope? Was she faithful? That broad? Don’t get me started. The tapestry act: what a scam. Lady, you believe that you got to have been born yesterday…Next question; man in the front row…You want to what? Hear it from the horse’s mouth, how I got to be blind? OK, it was like this. Word. No myth bullshit: I’m out for a stroll after a three retsina lunch when I come upon a pair of sacred snakes fucking—Delphic reptiles, if memory serves—and got me a nice set of titties for the next seven years…you heard right. So pissed I’d seen them they changed me into a woman. (Ovid nailed this one, though take it from me most of the time he’s full of shit.) And I’ll tell you, just as I did the boss’s old lady, Big Hera herself—may she strike me deaf if I’m lying as she did blind when I told her what she didn’t want to hear. That Zeus was right: women get more out of sex than men do. Much more! Or haven’t you noticed? Look: a man comes once, maybe twice an hour, maybe a couple different times a day, let’s even say three, maximum. Correct? Let me tell you when I was a woman I’d come fifteen, maybe twenty times a half hour, several times every day. And, let me add, without the fears I had when I was a man: could I get it up; would it be hard enough, et cetera…Next question. You sir: can I what? Tell you if you’re going to land that new job? Sorry, no prophecies today. Come back Tuesday…You, madam: do I have any advice about selling your home? Do I ever! Glad you asked.

 —William Kulik

THE ROAD ENDS HERE: BILLY COLLINS V. WILLIAM KULIK, REB LIVINGSTON V. JANET BOWDAN

Live from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts:

The distinguished Scarriet Best American Poetry March Madness Committee  delivers its Laurel Leaf Prize to the Best American Poetry poets who successfully traveled the road to the Final Four.

Janet Bowdan, Billy Collins, William Kulik, Reb Livingston, this high honor has no other attachments but recognition of your service to poetry, to glory, and to song.  You four began with your obscure births a journey to this moment.

In the presence of our judges, your families, your friends, Garrison Keillor, and these poets who love you, on this day, April 3, 2010, I present to each of you the Scarriet Laurel Leaf Prize.

(Applause)

All four poems feature lucid movement through a dramatic landscape, a sleek impressionism, an original beauty, a fluid design, a combined emotive and cognitive power, and clues to life, as well.

The final Order of the Poems:

4.  The Triumph of Narcissus and Aphrodite –William Kulik

3. The Year –Janet Bowdan

2. That’s Not Butter  –Reb Livingston

1. Composed Over Three Thousand Miles From Tintern Abbey  –Billy Collins

Thanks to all participants in this year’s Scarriet Best American Poetry March Madness.

A final farewell to the No. 1 seeds in the tournament: Galway Kinnell (East), Louis Simpson (North), Sharon Olds (West), and Donald Justice (South).

We hope you all enjoyed the excitement during the road to the Final Four, and learned more about all these poets.

64 excellent poems, chosen from 1,500 Best American Poetry selections 1988—2009, were selected to the tournament itself and Kulik, Bowdan, Livingston and Collins were the top four.

Congratulations!

FINAL FOUR: BOWDAN, COLLINS, KULIK, LIVINGSTON!

The philosopher Benjamin Paul Blood (1832-1918) wrote the following to William James:

“Philosophy is past.  It was the long endeavor to logicize what we can only realize practically or in immediate experience.”

The experiment of March Madness has been interesting.  We have examined whether or not poetry, like the philosophy portrayed in Blood’s essay, “Pluriverse: An Essay in the Philosophy of Pluralism,” can be known best if we become profoundly self-conscious as poets and readers in a group dynamics medium in which immediate experience and practicality are pushed to their limits within that context.

20,000 fans, spilling soda and popcorn, screaming at the top of their lungs in response to a contest between, let’s say, “The Year” by Janet Bowdan, a 16th seed! and “Sunday, Tarzan In His Hammock” by Lewis Buzbee, upset winner over Mary Oliver’s fifth seeded “Flare” in first round play in the West Bracket, experienced the poem in such an intense manner—however the partisanship might have expressed itself—that the delight based on the pure excitement itself propeled the imaginative response—which has always relied on a certain suspension of disbelief—to new heights, in which the suspension of disbelief was simultaneously extended and dismantled by the crowd.

The vision of this collective consciousness, at once critical, reflective and wholly reactive, is not meant to be defined here as a definitive vision, nor should the results of these contests fill anyone with either joy or dismay.  Combatants, were these none.  The riotous fans have been, and were, you and I; once a mob, now a critic, once weeping and hollering, now holding steadily the iron pen.  Let the tattooing begin.

How shall we describe Janet Bowdan’s “The Year?”  How shall we describe her victory?  How shall we describe the young fan, who, in a fit of ecstacy, nearly fell from the top of the stadium upon the heads of the throng below, this young worshiper of this terrible and haunting poem?  How to describe the look of Buzbee in defeat, Tarzan and Jane beside him, the barely comprehending Cheetah on Tarzan’s shoulder, looking wildly around?

We sought out Bowdan for an interview, but she was gone.  The crowd had carried her away.

Earlier, at the crack of dawn, with a youngish Wordsworth showered and shaved, Billy Collins advanced to the center of our beloved March Madness court, the polished wood of the court gleaming, the clever concession stands spread around, and dominated Stephen Dunn, making sure he couldn’t breathe for a second.  “John Donne, eh?  Are you done?’  The voice of the haughty no. 2 seed in the East resounded for eons after Dunn’s poem was read.  We have to go back years before we find a game that was like this, or, find any game.  The gods were, of course, anxious.  Rules, there were none.  The fans were not silent for a moment.  The rooting was astonishing.

Bernard Welt’s “I stopped writing poetry…” plied poetry long into the evening, almost as if to send Reb Livingston away, but she stood her guard, unblinking.  Some fans in the second half had a revelation and got the brilliance of Welt’s trope: the reasons he gave for not writing poetry were actually powerful incentives to write poetry, and this was the fuel of the poem itself, but the commotion in the second balcony as Livingston was shooting her free-throws was lost on the broadcasters—they  ignored it, thinking it was just the crowd being a crowd, a 190 line poem being a 190 line poem, and fans on the floor only saw it in separate parts.  Some Welt fans ran outside, but it was too late.  Livingston was stoic as Welt’s voltage melted.

William Kulik dazzled with a ferocity not seen yet in the tournament and Margaret Atwood froze with a searching look.  Kulik started to tick tick tick as soon as the contest started, the moss covered walls closed in, and no matter how hard Atwood looked, the drama of Kulik continued to drown.

“Bored” is sure of itself, as Atwood is; she was tranformed by Kulik into what went sadly down into the shadows.

The crowd implored those shadows.

Don’t trust crowds, they say.

We trusted this one.

Tom, this is Marla Muse, down at courtside…the crowd has seen four thrillers and they want more…this is how poetry should be…I’m being lifted by this crowd and that’s how I like it…I’m looking for my little notebook….have you seen it?

No, Marla, I haven’t.

ROAD TO THE FINAL FOUR: ANALYSIS

So I’m here with Marla Muse, once again, as we are about to begin play that will bring us closer to crowning a Best American Poetry Champion in 2010. 

Marla, could it be a Canadian?

It could.  Magaret Atwood’s poem from Richard Howard’s 1995 volume, “Bored.”  Atwood broke Franz Wright’s heart in triple-overtime in Sweet Sixteen.  We won’t soon forget that one!

No, we won’t.   Atwood goes against William Kulik in the North final.

What does Billy Collins have to do to advance against Stephen Dunn?  Dunn, if you remember won his game in the last second against Robert Pinsky.  Meanwhile, Collins rolled over Harry Mathews with a swarming defense as “Composed Over Three Miles From Tintern Abbey” proved too much for “Histoire” to handle.

Tom, I think Billy has to get it to Wordsworth.  That’s the guy who has taken him this far. And the lambs have to bound, Tom, the lambs really have to bound.

They’ve been bounding and bounding well.  How about the two American women left in the tournament…not well known…but they’re very tough…

They are…Reb Livingston in the South final will be facing Bernard Welt…who is nervous, we’ve already seen that…and Janet Bowdan will be defending her chance to go to the Final Four in the West against Lewis “Buzz” Buzbee, who, in contrast to Welt, seems very relaxed.

Tarzan has brought his hammock to the West bracket final…

And Jane and Cheetah, of course…

Bowdan’s poem is lovely, isn’t it?

Yes, Tom, Bowdan’s poem is from Rita Dove’s 2000 volume.   Bowdan could go all the way.

We can feel the tension in the air here as the poets and publishers pour into the arena for these four contests.  I’ve never felt such excitement, really, since Athens, and those playwrighting contests, when I was just a young girl…

Marla Muse, you don’t look a day over 2,000!

Thanks, Tom!

AND WE’RE DOWN TO EIGHT…THE BEST AMERICAN POETRY’S ELITE EIGHT

 

Ladies and gentlemen!  Welcome to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.  Welcome poets, judges, and all you fans!

(Wild cheers)

The Scarriet Best American Poetry March Madness Road To The Final Four Tournament has been a whopping success.

(Applause)

Just as a play-within-a-play charms us within the context of the play precisely by a ratio of two to one, so the best of ‘the best’ cannot help but double the enjoyment of any who would enter into the spirit of climbing to the top—of what isn’t there.  Of course there’s no best.  Of course there’s no God.  But that is why our belief is so fanatical.

(Scattered clapping, hoots and hollers.)

Margaret Atwood, Janet Bowdan, Lewis Buzbee, Billy Collins, Stephen Dunn, William Kulik, Reb Livingston, and Bernard Welt…

(Terrific applause…standing ovation…)

…have climbed to the top of a mountain, a mountain as real…

(continued applause)

…as anything contained in the 1,500 poems published in the Best American Poetry’s 21 year existence. 

(Mad cheering)

This is not to slight the reality of those poems…including the poems themselves which made it to the Elite Eight…

(clapping, foot stomping…)

but we all know that to write poetry is to translate doubtful thoughts on doubtful objects into a doubtful product for those who doubt, so that…

(Hoots and hollers)

…we might deliciously doubt our own doubts on what is so deliciously doubtful.

(Applause)

What could be more real than that?

(Laughter)

And now may I present to you the expert on Good Poems…

Here’s Garrison Keillor!

 (Applause)

 

Ahem. Thank you.  You know, with all the excitement around Best American Poetry March Madness, I’m tempted to say sports is more poetical than poetry…

 (Laughter, cheers)

Who thought the Muse looked like… Howard Cosell?

(Laughter)

Well, John Ashbery is out of the tournament.  He’s become the audience.  He’s becomes his admirers.  There you are…Hi, John!  You dominated BAP.  How can you be out of this tournament? Knocked out in the first round, right?   What happened?  (Pause for comic effect…)

 (Laughter)

 [Audience member:  “Nathan Whiting!”]

 Oh, yes…14th seed.   The dog poem.  Nathan Whiting turned John Ashbery into a stag.

 (Laughter)

 And think of the poets who didn’t make the tournament.  August Kleinzahler?  Where is he?

 (Nervous Laughter)

 Ron Silliman?  Is he here?   Where is the School of…Noise?  

 (Groans, Laughter)

Charles Bernstein?  The School of Language.  Try to give us something more than objectivity and cleverness, fellas…

 (Nervous laughter)

All kidding aside, I have a B.A. in English, so what do I know?   And not from Harvard, either.  The University of Minnesota.

(isolated cheer or two)

There’s a Golden Gopher.   That has a poetic ring to it, doesn’t it?  Golden Gopher.  Could anyone write a poem on that?   Ode to a Golden Gopher?  It would sound too strange…words are funny, aren’t they?  That’s the challenge of poetry, isn’t it?   To make words behave.   Golden Gopher ought to sound poetic, but once we hold it aloft…once we think on it…the whole thing sounds…

(Laughter)

Let’s have a great round of applause for the Scarriet Best American Poetry Elite Eight!

(Applause, Cheers)

Congratulations, Scarriet!  You’re getting more hits than ever.  You are now the 46,793rd most popular poetry website!

(Laughter)

Scarriet will never be the heroin of poetry appreciation.  Poems are not  appreciated on Scarriet so much as thrown off a building to see if they will fly. 

To those who are still alive in the tournament, you’ve earned it.

Congratulatons!

BILLY EDGES JORIE IN SWEET SIXTEEN

The Best American Poetry March Madness Tournament is down to 16 poets.

“Poets don’t know a lot of math, but I can count to sixteen,” a grinning Billy Collins said after his close win over Harvard professor Jorie Graham

“Don’t you count syllables in your poems?” a reporter yelled from the back of the Kennedy Center lobby.  

“I count wins,” Collins quipped, obviously on cloud nine after making the Sweet Sixteen with a hard fought victory.

Billy’s poem, “Lines Composed Over Three Thousand Miles From Tintern Abbey,” looks back at Wordsworth looking back; it resonated a little more than Jorie Graham’s “On Difficulty,” which looks down at Adam and Eve looking up.

They can look up and wonder no longer.   Adam and Eve are going home.

John Hollander chose the Collins poem for the 1998 volume.  Ashbery chose the Graham poem for the first BAP 1988 book.

Collins is the only one who has made the Sweet 16 as BAP poet and BAP editor (2). 

Heather McHugh (3) has the most editor selections in the Sweet 16.  Richard Howard (2) and Donald Hall (2) are making strong showings as editors in the Sweet 16 as well.

Sweet Sixteen Results:

Let’s start with the EastBilly Collins, Stephen Dunn, Robert Pinsky, and Harry Mathews have survived.

In the North, jubilation for Louis Simpson, William Kulik, Margaret Atwood, and Franz Wright.

In the West, the winners were Brad Leithauser, Janet Bowdan, Dean Young, and Lewis Buzbee.

And finally, in the South, rounding out the Sweet 16, are Kenneth Koch, Alan Shapiro, Bernard Welt,  and Reb Livingston.

Able to stop Jorie Graham, Billy Collins now has to be the favorite to go all the way.  

Can anyone stop the Tintern Abbey train?

ASHBERY AND HEANEY FALL IN FIRST ROUND

In North Division play this afternoon, Louis Simpson, Donald Hall, Denise Levertov, David Yezzi, and Franz Wright coasted to victory, while Margaret Atwood, 8th seed, won a nail-biter over 10th seeded Amit Majmudar.

The big news were the two upsets.  

Runner/dancer Nathan Whiting knocked off John Ashbery’s quirky but poignant “The Problem of Anxiety.”  

Ashbery has been a BAP fixture since it began, and was seeded no. 3 in the North.

Whiting’s 14th seed “In Charge,” a short lyric about owning 16 dogs, managed to be as quirky as the Ashbery, more grounded, and, according to many at the Kennedy Center today, strangely uplifting.

After his stunning victory, a smiling Whiting thanked his dogs.

13th seeded William Kulik’s “Triumph of Naarcissus & Aphrodite,” a harrowing classical tale in miniature, eked out a victory over Seamus Heaney’s haunting poem, “A Shooting Script,” (4th seeded) chosen for the 1988 BAP by John Ashbery (when the Irish poet was living in America as a Harvard professor).

Heaney and Ashbery stood during a lengthy ovation at the Kennedy Center; the crowd hated to see them go.

West and South division action gets underway tomorrow.

Until then, we’ll close with aphorism #4 from James Richardson’s “Vectors” (2001) which lost (East) in the first round:

Say nothing as if it were news.

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