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!

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23 Comments

  1. thomasbrady said,

    March 26, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    Here’s the Elite Eight match-ups:

    East
    Billy Collins “Composed More Than Three Thousand Miles From Tintern Abbey” (98) v. Stephen Dunn “Where He Found Himself” (07)

    North
    Margaret Atwood “Bored” (95) v. William Kulik “The Triumph of Narcissus and Aphrodite” (99)

    West
    Janet Bowdan “The Year” (00) v. Lewis Buzbee “Sunday, Tarzan in His Hammock” (95)

    South
    Bernard Welt “I stopped writing poetry…” (01) v. Reb Livingston “That’s Not Butter” (06)

  2. March 26, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    For a guy that likes Poe, Shelley and Keats, you appear to have taste up your ass.

    Sorry…snockered again. Don’t mean to sound so snarky but, Jeez, dude. I’m not sure you’d know a good poem if it bit you on the ass!

    GBF

    • thomasbrady said,

      March 27, 2010 at 12:08 am

      Gary,

      Do you have any BAP favorites?

      Tom

  3. Phoebed said,

    March 26, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    So is there some way you can put a link to these very wonderful poems? Or must we just be mystified?

  4. thomasbrady said,

    March 27, 2010 at 12:07 am

    Phoebed,

    I thought everyone had every BAP volume in their library…

    What do you have, like Shakespeare and Gary Fitzgerald and stuff…?

    But seriously…the previous posts, all on the first page, have the sweet 16 poems. And you can ‘watch the games.’

    Thanks for asking!

    Tom

  5. Desmond Swords said,

    March 27, 2010 at 3:46 am

    For a guy ‘that’ Ga?

    Don’t think so sailor – who likes Poe, Shelley and Keats – you appear to have taste up your ass.

    Tell the **** Gaz – the oaf you snogged when you wuz Biffo ikn Ofally haresting spuds and singing go erin oh sorry **** off: Don’t mean to sound so snarky but, Jeez, dude, I’m not sure you have the intelligence quote to know a good cheeseburger when you stuff it up yo ass in the gimproom baby, never mind a ******* poem if it blew the top of your ******* editors’ heads off as they experienced you re-composing verbally in the recital of your AmPo ditties Rod McKeun is sleepless in his grave with worry over toppling his own from the New York Times booklist O’Gaz.

    Get real, I luv you Gary and want to have yr babies, please **** me up your ass and we can be lovers together as ‘real’ ******* poetry Foxgerald, get on Fitz and fill in your colleague citizens about Tom Graves descent to the final oblivion and ignominous shredding, professional suicide, printed goodbye notes and organize the opposition bro. You could steal his crown Gary. You know that don’t you?.

    Big things await and Tom’s repuation – as a blogger banned from most poetry gaffes because of incessant spamming – is on the line here Gary, c’mon, do you ******* mind,. please you **** who knows it

    GBF

    gra agus siochain mo chara

  6. Desmond Swords said,

    March 27, 2010 at 3:57 am

    Hello Gary, please take no notice of the above rubbish. I’m on the up and blooming imbas flowers of eloquence are singing to one dear luvvie O’Sullivan, poetry your name, thy kingdom is a template, here – cheers for the ****s who sing in tune from a land of saints and scholars. I have some Plath ‘mash-ups’ of Collosus and Pursuit, that are to be shared with the readers of next weeks New Yorker. I made it Gaz, all the way to where it’s at and happening in AmPo today, up Tom’s ass Gary, you know we want to – be it Gary B.

    flyting tonight gaz, thanks very much for being a very pleasant colleague and ****.

  7. Desmond Swords said,

    March 27, 2010 at 9:11 am

  8. Bob Tonucci said,

    March 27, 2010 at 11:50 am

    Another great resource for poetry on the internet is:

    http://chapbooks.webdelsol.com/#

  9. Bob Tonucci said,

    March 27, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Values, or The Christ Of The White Shag Carpet

    Rosemary Daniell

    “The man in the violent situation reveals those qualities
    least dispensable in his personality, those qualities which
    are all he will have to take into eternity with him.”
    — Flannery O’Connor

    The boy in Kansas — or was it Nebraska?
    whose two arms were pulled off by the farm machine
    jerked from their very sockets walked some distance through the fields
    just how far was it? into the empty house
    dialled the phone how? with his nose?
    then stood in the bathtub until the ambulance came
    so not to get blood on his mother’s wall-to-wall shag
    Later his arms were reattached which goes to show
    how if every American boy had values
    no old ladies would be disembowelled with a poker
    by a youth who only smirked when questioned handcuffed
    no three-year-old would have her liver ruptured
    by the man her mother takes into her bed. . . .
    No none of this would happen if we all lived
    in Nebraska & did the right thing if we all
    had more of those all-American values.

    And the moral of this story is: don’t bleed
    onto the carpet that perfect cream acrylic
    that virtuous & unmarked that wall-to-wall
    white shag that our mothers lived & suffered
    & died for. And above all don’t cry out
    & then & only then will your original
    wound be healed your arm if not your heart replaced
    into its gaping hole. But one last word please:
    don’t believe this: don’t believe any of this.

  10. thomasbrady said,

    March 27, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    Gary,

    I don’t know how a person who likes Poe, Shelley and Keats could possibly express that taste in compiling the best poems of the BAP, do you? I think the poets in the tournament are about as Poe/Shelley/Keats as we can possibly get, since Poe/Shelley/Keats were discarded as ‘old-fashioned’ by the curators of taste, the New Critics, who inserted their taste into the academy sometime during the last century and there it has remained, since a relatively few persons usually determine taste, the way a few people determine the price of gasoline.

    I don’t mean to imply by what I have just said, however, that Poe, Shelley and Keats are wholly different from us, in the way they used language and what their interests were–guess what? They were just like us…and very, very good at what they did…

    No matter how much we prate about being democratic, the majority of mankind looks up—to see what the godhead thinks. Harvard tells the local community college what to think, not the other way around, and this is just the way humankind operates. If the community college professor thinks a certain way, ask him why he thinks that way, and you’ll find he’s read a book and look, who wrote the book? a Harvard professor, or someone who was taught by a Harvard professor… Golly, what a surprise! Very, very few of us think independently, really, we are like Plato’s Ion, attracted to the great magnetized rock, which is nothing more than a chain of command, a self-perpetuating orgainzing principle, that is nothing in itself, only an organizing principle that defends itself. We look up, to see what the next rung on the ladder above is thinking, and those on the very bottom are the most beholden to the top, no matter how much their earthy, bottom-dwelling reality is brought to the fore, because the top has already anticipated it as the command-chain is drawn upward into its godhead existence for no other reason than because it is the top, and the influential that were at the near-top gravitated toward it and settled into it.

    Our inmost, private pleasures are guided by this mechanism, and all that is good or bad in our lives plays out against this mechanism. Sometimes the mechanism does good, sometimes it does bad, but there it is, and we’d be fools not to see it.

    So when you call me ‘for a guy that likes Poe, Shelley and Keats’ this only points up your own indoctrination…you betray this odd sensibility…as if there were something unusual about…’a guy that likes Poe, Shelley, Keats…’ as if Poe and Shelley and Keats had not defined poetry itself for anyone who reads poetry…as if Poe, Shelley, and Keats can be discarded, leaving only a few eccentrics, like me, the ‘guy that likes…’

    You focus on me and my eccentric affection for ‘Poe, Shelley, and Keats…’

    For a guy that likes Leonardo…

    For a guy that likes Einstein…

    For a guy that likes Bach…

    For a guy that likes Green Giant frozen peas…

    you sure are a mystery!

    Thomas

  11. March 27, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    Tom:

    We have been communicating for a couple years now on several sites so I’m sure you realize that I was addressing only poetry preference and meant my comment in a playful way. Mr. Swords, on the other hand, got a little ugly and personal.

    I apologize for my grammatical error, Desmond. I once even accidentally capitalized the seasons and have been sore ashamed ever since. When you find your other testicle, I look forward to seeing you in Dublin where I will happily break your fucking nose. But then, you actually live in England, don’t you. I’m sure that whatever institution they have you locked up in wouldn’t allow you out unescorted for that long.

    GBF

  12. March 27, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    My God…call off the dogs! I forgot a question mark.

  13. March 27, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    P.S. Mr Swords…it would be most helpful to all of us if you could write in English…or, at least, some form thereof. Actually, if you wrote in Swahili it would probably make more sense.

  14. March 27, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    P.P.S. The proper term is “Fuck you”, not “**** you”.

    What the fuck is ****, anyway? You insult a complete stranger and you don’t have the fucking balls to type the word ‘fuck’?

    Fuck off!

  15. thomasbrady said,

    March 27, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    Gentlemen, please!

    This is the Kennedy Center!

  16. March 27, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    “gra agus siochain mo chara” is Irish Gaelic for:

    ‘Love and peace, my friend.’

    Go figure!

  17. March 27, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    Okay, Tom. Was that contentious and controversial enough? Hope it works.

    (Don’t forget to send the money.)

  18. thomasbrady said,

    March 27, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    Gary,

    Here are acceptable controversial targets:

    1. Writing Programs
    2. Architects of the Program Era: Paul Engle, Ransom, Tate, and their Fugitive, New Critic, Modernist associates, Penn Warren, Brooks, Winters, et al, the “Understanding Poetry” textbook crowd which controlled every Pulitzer, Bollingen, etc etc prize for 50 years…
    3. Modernists of the Dial set: Eliot, Pound, Williams, Cummings, Moore and their toadies…
    4. The whole Pound enclave, which includes #2 and #3 but not mentioned there: Ford Madox Ford, H.D, Joyce, the St. Elizabeth toadies, Poetry, The Little Review, Black Mountain, every brand of pretentious twit in that circle…
    5. The Auden set, Ashbery and all of Auden’s Yale Younger picks, hell, all the Yale Younger selections, going back to Engle, chosen by a Fugitive judge…
    6. Everyone associated with Iowa, Brown and Stanford…the whole Foetry thing…
    7. The Harvard Group: William James, Santayana, and their students Stevens, t.s. Eliot, Gertrude Stein, and the whole swindler crowd of modern art millionaires, sponsored by John Dewey and all sorts of wealthy operators…
    8. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s crackpot-ism which fed into his godson William James’ nitrous-oxide crackpot philosophy, leading to Psychology as a study at university where every young college student, bankrupting their parents, now learns, not latin and greek, not how to write, or anything useful, but Abnormal Pscych, where they see themselves in the prophetic mirror of their declining, wasteland society…
    9. Thomas Brady, by all means…this is very important…
    10. Yourself

    That leaves Woodman and Swords. Off-limits. Leave them alone. OK, don’t pick on yourself. That would just be weird. Oh yea, leave Edna Millay alone, I like her. Oh, and be nice to the Elite 8…those ARE good poems, I don’t care what you say, Gary…

    Tom

  19. March 27, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    Tom:

    You said: “Oh, and be nice to the Elite 8…those ARE good poems, I don’t care what you say, Gary…”

    Allow me to refer you to your post just above. Now…are we all just confused or are you some kind of a schizophrenic?

    You can’t have your cake and eat it too, son.

  20. thomasbrady said,

    March 27, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    Negative Capability says I can.

    Anyway, see # 9 above

    I believe I’m covered…

  21. March 28, 2010 at 12:22 am

    You know we love ya, Tom.

  22. Bob Tonucci said,

    March 28, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Shine, Perishing Republic

    Robinson Jeffers

    While this America settles in the mould of its vulgarity, heavily thickening
    to empire
    And protest, only a bubble in the molten mass, pops and sighs out, and the
    mass hardens,
    I sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make fruit, the fruit rots
    to make earth.
    Out of the mother; and through the spring exultances, ripeness and decadence; and home to the mother.

    You making haste haste on decay: not blameworthy; life is good, be it stubbornly long or suddenly
    A mortal splendor: meteors are not needed less than mountains:
    shine, perishing republic.
    But for my children, I would have them keep their distance from the thickening center; corruption
    Never has been compulsory, when the cities lie at the monster’s feet there
    are left the mountains.
    And boys, be in nothing so moderate as in love of man, a clever servant,
    insufferable master.
    There is the trap that catches noblest spirits, that caught – they say –
    God, when he walked on earth.


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