TOP SEEDS UPSET IN WEST

Upset City in the Western Division!

Sharon Olds couldn’t hold off a late charge by Janet Bowdan.

Ron Koertge found a way to beat May Swenson.

Dean Young beat James Tate at the buzzer.

A. F. Moritz slipped past big favorite David Kirby.

Lewis Buzbee upended Mary Oliver.

What in Lord Byron’s name is going on here?

The top 5 seeds in the West all failed to advance!

In the 8 contests out West this afternoon, only 2 favorites prevailed: 6th seeded Ted Kooser and 7th seeded Brad Leithauser.

Also advancing in the West is 9th seed, Carl Dennis

The top seeded poems in the West were all heavy favorites.  

Here’s a look at the “The Year” by Janet Bowdan, the 16th seed, which knocked off no. 1 in the West, Sharon Olds.

Right now, this poem has got to feel like the best poem in the world: 

The Year

When you did not come for dinner, I ate leftovers for days.  When you
missed desert, I finished all the strawberries.  When you did not notice
me, I walked four miles uphill past you and into Florence and five miles
the other way. When you did not like my dress, I wore it with gray silk
shoes instead of gold ones. When you did not see my car had sunk into
a snowdrift at the turn of your driveway, I took the shovel off your porch
and dug myself out. When you stopped writing, I wrote. When you sent
back my poems, I made them into earrings and wore them to work.
When you refused to appear at the reunion, I went to the dentist who
showed me X-rays of my teeth. When you did not tell me you would be
in town, I met you on Main Street on the way to the library. While you
had dinner with me, I walked past the window and looked in.  You were
not there.

–Janet Bowdan, first round winner

Say goodbye to Sharon Olds, seeded best in this wild west!

The Wellspring  by Sharon Olds

It is the deep spring of my life, this love for men,
I don’t know if it is a sickness or a gift.
To reach around both sides of a man,
one palm to one buttock,
the other palm to the other, the way we are split,
to grasp that band of muscle like a handle on the
male haunch, and drive the stiff
giant nerve down my throat till it
stoppers the whole of the stomach that is always hungry,
then I feel complete. And the little
hard-hats of their nipples, the male breast
so hard, there are no chambers in it, it is
lifting-muscle.  Ah, to be lifted
onto a man, set tight as a lock-slot down
onto a bolt, you are looking into each
other’s eyes as if the matter of the iris were the
membranes deep in the body dissolving now—
it is all I want, to meet men
fully, as a twin, unborn, half-gelled,
frontal in the dark, nothing between us but our
bodies, naked, and when those melt
nothing between us—as if I want to die with them.
To be the glass of oily gold my
My father lifted to his mouth. Ah, I am in him,
I slide all the way down to the beginning, the
curved chamber of the balls.  I see my
brothers and sisters swimming by the silver
millions, I say to them Stay here— for the
children of this father it is the better life;
but they cannot hear me. Blind, deaf,
armless, brainless, they plunge forward,
driven, desperate to enter the other, to
die in her wake, sometimes we are without desire—
five, ten, twenty seconds of
pure calm, as if each one of us is whole.

17 Comments

  1. thomasbrady said,

    March 11, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    I knew this would happen.

    Now some are protesting in front of the Kennedy Center that the BAP March Madness is an event run by an elite School of Quietism group.

    WTF?????

    Oh.. there’s counter-protests…

    Wow…

    Some tall guy holding a sign saying ‘The End is Near.’

    On the other side of his sign…Nam Illis Nor…

    No one is sure which side he’s on…

    Or if he’s just by himself….

    Protests are peaceful so far…

    We’ll keep you posted…

  2. thomasbrady said,

    March 11, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    For David Kirby fans who are in mourning that Kirby was ousted from the tournament, we reprint his poem:

    ODE TO THE PERSONALS (2007, chosen by Heather McHugh)

    Reading the English-language classifieds, Florence, Fall 2004

    She says she is 170 centimeters, which sounds like
    a lot of centimeters, though it probably isn’t.
    But what’s the meaning of “with just 33 years already
    for several years executing and influencing worldwide
    very important missions”? If she’s saying she’s 33, okay
    but if she’s been traveling the world for 33 years,
    unless she started when she was a toddler,

    she must have a lot of centimeters on her odometer, so to speak.
    And her “missions” involve “executing,” which
    you’ll agree, is a hell of a way of “influencing” somebody.
    One ad down, a competitor describes herself simply
    as “Lone lady, 53.” Yeah, like “lone wolf.”
    Scientists say all women lie about age and weight,
    all men about height and marital status.

    One romantic seeks someone who “possesses integrity,
    is affluent, well-educated, and marriage-minded,”
    though if they’re really affluent, I wouldn’t count on them
    being overendowed in the integrity department.
    And most want to “share their life and start a family,” which to me
    means all these cousins showing up later,
    ignorant, impecunious narcissists whose sole subject

    of conversation is themselves. One woman wants
    a “Caucasian athletic man of depth, humor and intellect
    between the ages of 43 and 50, who is open to new ideas
    and adventures and available for travel to U.S.,”
    though it sounds as though his first stop will be the ATM:
    Okay, Whitey, empty the account, because Emma Lazarus
    is waiting for us, knife in one hand,

    gun in the other. If you can’t tell how tall a woman is,
    how can you know the contents of her heart? A woman
    might vow one thing to you and mean
    quite another, might promise total sexual fidelity
    and then reveal that she meant she’d only be faithful to you on the feasts
    of San Valentino and the nativity of the Madonna
    as well as alternate weekends, for love

    is a hotchpotch, as screwy a deal as Guglielmo
    Marconi’s original telephone, on display at the Palazzo Strozzi
    in this very city even as I write this poem
    and no beautiful Bakelite affair with gold-trimmed dial
    and handset, either, but a decidedly after-market cigar box
    bristling with wires and knobs yet into which enters
    and from which spews every note in love’s long aria,

    all the divers billings and cooings, the crab-assings,
    the lies outright and subtle, the protestations
    of love pyrotechnic, perfunctory, and Vulcan—
    I say pick that phone up, reader, and call the woman
    who is “thoroughly impressed by humanitarian values
    and loves animals, antiques, ballet” and invite her
    for coffee and a custard tart at Patrizio Cosi in Florence

    or a coffee and strudel mit Schlag at Bazar in Salzburg
    or tea and a big chocolate meringue cookie at Laduree in Paris,
    and she accepts! She accepts! Then it’s risotto with white truffles
    at Dal Pescatore outside Mantova and Wiener Schnitzel
    at Steirereck in Vienna and warm goat cheese on frisee
    at Le Pre aux Clercs in Dijon followed by backpacking
    in the Cinque Terre and hang-gliding at Interlochen

    and windsurfing at Les Sables d’Olonne
    and ballroom dancing in Bern and Baltimore and Bangkok—
    any kind of dancing, really, as long as it’s to an upbeat
    tempo so the adept can do the meringue,
    the less adept the twist, and the totally spazzed-out the hokey pokey!
    Not to mention notation and equitation and prestidigitation
    and slipping down back canals in gondolas and junks

    and feluccas and caravels and catamarans and canoes,
    and the next thing you know, you’re married, and she’s throwing
    her legs all over the place as the ocelots
    and greyhounds mewl and bark and topple
    the armoire and chifforobe. And if she turns out
    to be 170 meters or 170 millimeters, so much the better:
    that way she can carry you around or you her.

  3. Bob Tonucci said,

    March 12, 2010 at 10:30 am

    Wow, Sharon Olds sounds like a fun date! You go, girl!

  4. thomasbrady said,

    March 12, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    The end of that poem is pretty cool, isn’t it?

    “I see my
    brothers and sisters swimming by the silver
    millions, I say to them Stay here— for the
    children of this father it is the better life;
    but they cannot hear me. Blind, deaf,
    armless, brainless, they plunge forward,
    driven, desperate to enter the other, to
    die in her wake, sometimes we are without desire—
    five, ten, twenty seconds of
    pure calm, as if each one of us is whole.”

    “Blind, deaf, armless” desire. The whole trope is almost embarrassing, isn’t it? The poem that knocked it out of the tourney was about desire, too, but a different approach.

    • Excerpt support said,

      April 13, 2011 at 10:58 pm

      “What did they think, the wriggling bugs of the scum, jetting into the world to meet acids, whirling douches, rubber scum bags, upholstery of cars, silk drawers, clotted handkerchief… two hundred million at a shot…”

      — from Nightmare Alley by William Lindsay Gresham

    • Poem support said,

      June 12, 2011 at 11:55 pm

      Fifth Philosopher’s Song

      A million million spermatozoa,
      All of them alive:
      Out of their cataclysm but one poor Noah
      Dare hope to survive.

      And among that billion minus one
      Might have chanced to be
      Shakespeare, another Newton, a new Donne —
      But the One was Me.

      Shame to have ousted your betters thus,
      Taking ark while the others remained outside!
      Better for all of us, froward Homunculus,
      If you’d quietly died!

      Aldous Huxley (1920)

      • thomasbrady said,

        June 13, 2011 at 1:16 pm

        In case anyone thinks Huxley is jesting:
        Brits bred nazis, this ugliness is never-resting.

      • Nooch said,

        June 13, 2011 at 1:20 pm

        When you named this post
        “Top Seeds in the West,”
        The meaning “seeds” would take
        You never could have guessed.

  5. Bob Tonucci said,

    March 13, 2010 at 1:05 am

    The “silver millions” are the spermatazoa, no? She says to them “Stay here- for the children of this father it is the better life” — meaning it’s better if they don’t fertilize an egg and become born, but they don’t listen, they plunge forward, half a league onward, armless and brainless, desperate to enter the other — and then afterwards: seconds of pure calm, a sense of wholeness…. Wow, I need a cigarette….

  6. Christopher Woodman said,

    March 13, 2010 at 5:13 am

    Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, Bob. Do you really want to say this? Is this really all there is for you in this poem, just cum in your face?

    You must be so bored in real life. You must spend a lot of time on the internet.

    And oh yes, our Smoking Room’s here.

  7. Bob Tonucci said,

    March 13, 2010 at 10:34 am

    OK, Mr. Woodman, I’ll stay out of your yard, bye.

  8. thomasbrady said,

    March 13, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    We got a big game today…Billy Collins v. Jorie Graham…

    Bob,

    Poetry is sacred to Christopher. He feels you’re reading the ‘dirty parts’ of the poem and thus denigrating it. I’m sure he didn’t mean to chase you away.

    Bob, I think your take on the poem is valid.

    I think Christopher’s response is valid.

    It’s an interesting critical question, whether a poem is sacred, whether the overall intent of a poem should be the most important thing, or whether how the ‘parts’ of the poem work individually on a specific reader should matter more.

    The tone of internet chat is often hard to read. I don’t think Christopher’s tone was as harsh as you may have read it, Bob.

    I hope you’ll stay.

    Tom

  9. Christopher Woodman said,

    March 13, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    You’re so limited in your reading, Tom — I never said any such thing.

    I talk far dirtier than you ever do, and yes, poetry is sacred but so is God’s dick (as I had occasion to say very recently). And there’s nothing dirty about sperm — it’s just that any literalist reading is a reductio ad absurdum if you’ve got the balls to read Sharon Olds poetry as she writes it, and not as your schoolteacher told you she shouldn’t.

    I say Te Deum, Sharon Olds, not sex education or reasonable smut.

    Don’t listen to Tom, Bob, it was just as hard as you read it — but I invited you into our smoking room, not told you to get out of our yard. You might even have met Tom there, though he’d be embarrassed to admit it. Read the article and you’ll see how he covers up his own habit.

    C.

  10. Christopher Woodman said,

    March 20, 2010 at 6:38 am

    I keep worrying about that little exchange between the poster, Bob Tonucci, and me just above. I’m so pleased he’s back with us now on Scarriet, and feel I want to say a little bit more about what I meant.

    Here’s the original exchange — it was about Sharon Old’s poem, “Wellspring,” as it was quoted earlier on the site:

    5. Bob Tonucci said,
    March 13, 2010 at 1:05 am · Edit

    The “silver millions” are the spermatazoa, no? She says to them “Stay here- for the children of this father it is the better life” — meaning it’s better if they don’t fertilize an egg and become born, but they don’t listen, they plunge forward, half a league onward, armless and brainless, desperate to enter the other — and then afterwards: seconds of pure calm, a sense of wholeness…. Wow, I need a cigarette….

    6. Christopher Woodman said,
    March 13, 2010 at 5:13 am · Edit

    Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, Bob. Do you really want to say this? Is this really all there is for you in this poem, just cum in your face?

    You must be so bored in real life. You must spend a lot of time on the internet.

    And oh yes, our Smoking Room’s here.

    7. Bob Tonucci said,
    March 13, 2010 at 10:34 am · Edit

    OK, Mr. Woodman, I’ll stay out of your yard, bye.

    It’s not that your reading was wrong, Bob, or dirty, or inappropriate for poetry, it’s that it was yet another reductio ad absurdum — as my “cum in your face” image was also, but quite deliberately. Mine was meant as a parody of yours, and I apologize if it hurt your feelings.

    I feel I owe you an explanation, so I’ll try.

    ~

    Images in poetry mean many things all at once, and the problem is that if you seize on the lowest common denominator right at the start you often end up with the lowest common denominator, period. You end up all on one note.

    Sharon Olds’ poem is much more fun as well as much, much deeper if you resist the tendency to say it’s just anatomical. A woman’s body is the universe as well, after all, as that terrible apparition in Dorothea Lasky’s poem, “Tornado,” is equally God’s face — a face which is, after all, pretty abusive!

    And can you get that, Bob, or Tom? Why God’s face is abusive?

    Life touches us in inappropriate places and we’re wounded — and when we’re wounded we’re on our way to grace. [You might want to click here for some images we discussed earlier in this context.]

    A bit like that, though poetry is a much better way of saying it, the risks of such a statement being taken literally are so grave.

    And, of course, even metaphorically it’s a tough one, but the riddle lies behind most of the ancient myths about rape and incest. I don’t really like saying that so baldly, because it’s a topic for poetry, not prose!

    ~

    I remember teaching Jane Austen to a class of 17 year olds in Brooklyn many years ago, and one smart-alec in the class started reading every scene as sexual — which is easy, because it is sexual as well, of course, as most things are, sex being one of the most accurate and profound human images of God, and vise-versa. The problem was that after the smart-alec had planted that seed the whole class tapped into it, and we read Jane Austen as a sex text for the rest of the semester.

    We had a good time but, needless to say, we missed a lot!

    ~

    Here’s the problem. We can be so pleased with the idea that all literature is just about one thing, sex or politics or gender or the text itself, that we go on with that one thing as if it were the whole kaboodle — like those high-school kids in Brooklyn. That makes it difficult to go much further, and the whole enterprise stalls in one position.

    The hard part is to hold more than one reality in mind at once. Read Sharon Olds’ poem, “Wellspring,” once again and see if you can do it — it’s a whole lot richer!

    Christopher

    Thank you, Sharon Olds — wish you would come in on this…

  11. Bob Tonucci said,

    March 20, 2010 at 8:55 am

    Thank you, it’s great to be back.

    I think this relates to the discussion you and Tom were having about paraphrasability in poetry. When a poem is opaque to me, I like to break it down and take it apart in order to pin down its meaning. Of course the downside to that is one has a poem broken in pieces on the floor. Perhaps it would be more effective, and kinder to the poem, to memorize it, carry it around throughout my day, and let its meaning gradually unfold to me.

    It reminds me of a story the great Robertson Davies wrote about after he’d become the Grand Old Man of Canadian letters. High school students would call him at home to interview him for school assignments and such, and he’d try to be obliging, but once he blew his top when a student said, “So what you’re trying to say is…” Davies exploded, “I didn’t TRY to say it, I said it!”

  12. Christopher Woodman said,

    March 20, 2010 at 9:04 am

    Brilliant, Bob. I’m totally sold on Robertson Davies anyway, and this quote makes him a saint.

    Take poems apart if you wish — no problem. But like a good surgeon do be careful to return them to active life after you’ve finished, if possible in better health than they were before.

    I’ve never formed a relationship with a poem I’m fond of that didn’t grow over time, just as I’ve never written a poem that didn’t grow either over time. Poems change you if you let them, sometimes even more than you change them, but it always takes time.

    Thanks again, Christopher

  13. Bob Tonucci said,

    March 22, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    Speaking of R. Davies and poetry, Davies gave high praise in his writings to Browning’s “The Ring and the Book”. Outside of poetry, one of his favorite works was “The Anatomy of Melancholy”.


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