anxiety of by Rebecca Wolff

Been reading piles and piles of poetry manuscripts, and noticing an interesting trend in what I assume are books by younger poets–very young poets, like under 25. The piles are anonymous, but after a certain age one can kind of smell youth. The trend is toward a quite direct mode of speech, plainspeech, and within that a lot of expression of anxiety . . .

Original at the heavily moderated Harriet. Return here for open comments.


  1. thomasbrady said,

    September 6, 2009 at 1:45 am

    Every Dorset Tells A Story

    “The story outside the text
    Is always better than the one what’s in it”
    –Huck Clemens

    I’ve got a new machine,
    It will make your poems clean
    For only 300 dollars,
    Send your checks to Jeff Levine

    I couldn’t quote you no Dickens, Shelley or Keats
    Cause it’s all been said before
    But every Dorset tells a story, don’t it?
    Every Dorset tells a story, don’t it?

    We cannot leave your poems to you
    Or your soul, who do you
    Think you are, Walt Whitman?
    You must think differently today
    During the reign of the MFA.

    You must reach into your purse
    If you want to win the Verse,
    Or make promises
    To the one you love. You can be terse.

    Oh dare to think differently today
    During the reign of the MFA.

    There’s a new machine.
    It will make your poems clean.
    It’s only 300 dollars, dear.
    Send your check to Jeff Levine.

    Every Dorset tells a story, don’t it?
    Every Dorset tells a story, don’t it?

    There’s one thing he wants to do before he dies.
    He wants to publish someone who won the pulitzer prize.

    Every Dorset tells a story, don’t it?
    Every Dorset tells a story, don’t it?
    Oh, MFA, I wish I’d never seen your face.

    Jay Gould’s daughter said, “Before I die,
    There’s one more book I’d like to try.”
    Jay Gould said, “Daughter, what could it be?”
    “A book of anonymous poetry.”

    Every Dorset tells a story, don’t it?
    Every Dorset tells a story, don’t it?

    I’m going to Vermont
    To get an MFA.
    I’m going to Vermont
    To get an MFA.
    Don’t wait for me, darling,
    I have to go away.

    Every Dorset tells a story, don’t it?
    Every poem tells a story of an MFA.
    Don’t wait for me, darling,
    I’ll be gone by noon today.

  2. thomasbrady said,

    September 6, 2009 at 1:48 am

    No Poem With A Name Is The Same

    No poem with a name is the same
    For every vanity is a sign
    Of the good you, your history, your mind,
    Which seeks comfort in recognition of the best of you
    In others’ eyes, and though I am buried
    And lost in my anonymity, I applaud your recognition too;
    I respect your work and your luck and your prize
    Which made your father proud the last time you looked in his eyes,
    And your publisher, and your mother,
    And foetry–which loves you like no other.

  3. thomasbrady said,

    September 6, 2009 at 1:52 am

    Come All Ye Fair And Tender Judges

    Come all ye fair and tender judges
    Beware of how you choose the prize
    Now justice has the cliques’ dissolving
    And poets see with open eyes.

    If I had known before I entered,
    I would have entered contest none.
    I would have loved obscurity only
    And let the cliques play in the sun.

    I wish I were Joshua Clover
    And I had wings and I could fly,
    I’d fly away to my former teacher
    And see what else that I could buy.

    But I am not Joshua Clover,
    I have no degree and cannot fly,
    I will enter one more contest
    And when I win, they’ll wonder why.

    If I had known before I entered,
    That my poems could not win,
    I’d have put my poems in a box of golden
    And fastened them up with a silver pin.

  4. thomasbrady said,

    September 6, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    Slavery Won’t Go Away Nicely

    Joan Jorie Dunn!
    I see your moon rise in the best journals.
    Your cunning moonlight earns you prizes;
    You own a style as recognizable as the moon’s
    And your latest phase forced my neck against the sky.

    A.R. Ammons dies in embers, the sparks
    Light up lines from old eras;
    Too bad for Ammons, too swiftly
    Style-changes stun sentences and modes–
    Look at these scientific footnotes (and these electrodes)
    I hardly know the rain lingering on the garbage
    Covering Ammons’ dim heights, his career, his grunge that saved us.
    And your friend James Ashbery’s race is almost run.
    The taxes tripped him up,
    Joan Jorie Dunn.

    The onslaught of peculiar style pelted those peculiar folks
    Who leaned out of gigantic windows those giant literary afternoons,
    But your style is the moon’s style,
    And outside of every poet’s poet’s poet’s view
    (Where a rose is still a rose)
    One got the idea you were always having fun,
    Or observing some fact a boyfriend earns when he rises to go,
    The head detaching from the body, looking for drugs in Rome,
    That moment when love decides you can’t go home,
    Joan Jorie Dunn.

    Keep on going until you think it’s poetry.
    I see your moonlight in this, my journal, and, failing this,
    By email or blog misprinted, it may lift itself out of its own
    Obscurity, dear god. (dear god)

    The fog bank covers the whole horizon;
    In that fog bank lies the sun;
    The moon is by every planet made to go
    If not retrograde, then slow,
    As it looks down the cloudy miles
    Upon your vertigo,
    Joan Jorie Dunn.

    Sweet Christ has no taste,
    The Buddha is too large to eat,
    And every passing prophet
    Is colorless and poor–
    Why must every religion be one-third enlightenment
    And two-thirds war?
    Slavery won’t go away nicely,
    There’s bombs in the sun;
    The world has attached itself to flowers again,
    Joan Jorie Dunn.

    She played with me an evening,
    The tennis was grand,
    White uniforms on green grass,
    And she won.
    Don’t forget the gin,
    The door was lighted, and we went quietly in,
    Joan Jorie Dunn!

    I will spare you Anne Sexton’s description
    Of the inside of a hospital,
    Robert Lowell’s bathrobe-and-slippers detail,
    James Tate’s “For the Nintendo Dead,”
    Sylvia Plath is trying suicide but it’s not like
    She talks about it all the time.
    Etheridge Knight’s gone soft
    Since they let him out of jail.

    Something goes wrong and there’s a song,
    The verse of God’s disappointing and odd,
    Not like what you find in the Bible.

    The living speak better when they’re dead,
    No one cared about Sylvia until she died–
    She went from crazy to saint overnight.
    Your moans and lies are everything to me,
    Joan Jorie Dunn.

    Will my poet lover be remembered
    With Homer, Smith, Jones, Milton,
    Their bones’ dust stored with hers,
    Memory who disturbs the infinite,
    Brooding in the dark tomb,
    Memory doomed to stalk forever
    Reviews in error and faded bloom,
    Calling to the guard outside where dark meets light,
    Who half-intended to leave all meaning behind in the gloom,
    “Give The End of Beauty room, give it room!”
    Or if Emily’s ghost, in actual presence, yet dreaming,
    Her job to save from the infinite wave one pearl,
    Should float beside my lover’s poetry
    And there in the tomb find a gleam
    Which leads to gleaming Parnassus,
    Joan Jorie Dunn, you must, before you earn the trust
    Of the bland keepers of excellence in poetry,
    Prove to one
    Foetry is blank, and blundered in the sun.

  5. bluehole said,

    September 7, 2009 at 2:34 am

    I am so glad you’re writing again, Mr. Brady!

  6. thomasbrady said,

    September 7, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    Thanks, bluehole!

    Scarriet’s a wonderful place!

    Rebecca Wolff is so inspiring!

    Everyone please support “Fence” magazine!

  7. thomasbrady said,

    September 7, 2009 at 2:18 pm


    A poem’s a little flame
    That dies unless we fan it,
    Not so much with a reader’s love,
    But that the government ban it.

    The poem as publicity stunt
    Has been tried a few times before,
    Lord Byron’s foot inside her cunt,
    Oh dear! That little whore!

    The poem as publicity stunt
    Must be planned for hours;
    Or you can be like Wordsworth,
    And just write poems on flowers.

    Emerson smote the amateur
    Obsessed with rule and rhyme;
    That bullshit about the soul
    Gets them every time.

    Emerson’s godson William
    Did his nitrous oxide test
    In a trance, at a seance,
    And Gertrude did the rest.

    Free verse! What a scream!
    At Lady Ottoline’s dance
    The professor fell for the banker
    At a glance.

    The parish of rich women
    By which Joyce & abstract art was fed,
    Gave their souls to ‘Poetry,’
    By their silken dresses led.

    Ransom said that writing
    Should not be amateurish,
    “My friends’ poetry is something
    Colleges can nourish.”

    Robert Lowell got God,
    Then ran to his master’s wife
    To tell her the names of the women
    In Tate’s writing life.

    Mark Van Doren at Columbia
    Gave Allen Ginsberg a book.
    “William Blake fucked me!” sd Ginsberg,
    When interviewed by ‘Look.’

    Ted Hughes was not prepared
    For what a woman could do.
    Judging by that anthology,
    Neither were you.

    The poem as publicity stunt
    Has been tried a few times before;
    The last time was on a blog, I think,
    In two thousand and four.*


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