Special Scarriet Poetry-Baseball Report (poetrybaseball newswire)

After being swept—and shut out in all four games by the Philadelphia Poe, the Tennessee Ransom knew they needed hitting.  

The middle part of John Crowe Ranson’s lineup: John Gould Fletcher, Allen Tate, Robert Graves, Donald Davidson and Merrill Moore, wasn’t getting it done. 

Cleanup-hitter Robert Graves was rumored to be on mushrooms (he recommended them to students when he was Poetry Professor at Oxford in the 1960s) and there was a confrontation last week in the dugout between the Welsh poet and Ransom, his manager. 

Tempers flared as Graves, who was briefly part of Ransom’s Fugitive circle, recalled Ransom’s disaparagement of Laura Riding when she was also a Fugitive in Ransom’s Southern Agrarian days. 

Back then, Ransom, in a letter to Allen Tate, said Riding lacked breeding and didn’t bring enough to the Fugitive table.  She was ousted.  Graves complained of sexism in Tennessee.  “Where are the women on this ballclub?” Graves shouted at Ransom.

The Tennessee Ransom has replied to Graves in a huge way.  They have signed perhaps the most sexist philosopher of all time, and one of the most influential, and put him in the cleanup spot, benching Graves.

Aristotle is the founding father of ‘text-based’ aesthetics, which fits right in with Ransom’s New Criticism. 

Aristotle, who got the deal he wanted, also adds much-needed muscle to the middle of Ransom’s lineup.

Since adding Aristotle and benching Graves, Tennessee has scored 21 runs in 4 games and now they’ve won 3 straight, bringing their record up to 7-13 for the season, 3 games up on the cellar-dwelling Ashberys in the NL.

After being humiliated by Poe, Tennessee is back.


To young love, poetry is young,
The boy, Keats, young forever,
The poetry in shadow
Leaving leaves in poetry’s hair.
Aging and aging’s knowing
Are far away;  joy
Is on the tongue—
But never quite there;
His way of saying:
Joy comes fast.  Beware.

Joy comes quickly,
Because ripe for understanding poetry,
We are ripe for joy
When imagination strikes, at last, the girl
And grips the boy.

The poetry prolongs the fit
Of love, teasing it
Into a fondness of fine, fine, fine,
Even as the hour grows late,
Understanding leaking away.
Afterwards, calm again,
Keats in a moment falls, and all
Conspires against poetry’s early dream.
Friends fall into lethargy and death,
The very boy into shadow.

What kind of poetry is this?
Not a poetry of death,
But the ills of old age,
Arthritic muse feeling sorry for itself
Beside some youth’s grave?

But I know this grave.
I saw its tenant, once, in a dream
Dreamed inside the dream I dreamed.

I will finally praise satisfaction.
There will be no irony.  It will be an easy action.

I know the name I will say
When death comes by the fallen wall
To take me into the hole,
Breathing goodbye to life’s sweets,
Saying goodbye, at last, to the fear of death,
There on the verge, when the mall
Darkens and the world goes dead.  Keats.



That’s right, class!  It was March 2010.

Poetry and criticism were moribund in the modern era.

The New Critics, springing from T.S. Eliot’s Sacred Wood and the ravings of Eliot’s “master,” Ezra Pound, were nothing but a erudite smokescreen for a modernist clique who invaded the academy in the 1930s and 40s, led by Professors Tate, Crane, Ransom, and Engle.

The internet, however, made Virginia Woolf’s printing press, Ransom’s Kenyon Review, and little magazines like Poetry seem tame by comparison.

Now the whole world could experience new art and ideas overnight.

All it took was one website, Scarriet, to change everything.

Even into the 21st century, American culture was hopelessly stuck in the past of 1830s Paris.  The glamor and “danger” of Bohemia had been recycled one too many times.  21st century America was like first century Rome, remember?  When sculpture realistically depicted old, bald men?

The ideal had been replaced by the fetish.  The genius had been replaced by the crank.

Starting in the middle of the 20th century, the films of Walt Disney featured hip jazz cats overturning middle class values.  The ‘avant garde’ has long been a harmless cartoon.  Now the “Disney Channel” shapes the lives of ADD drugged adolescents.

Long before the end of the 20th century, once-threatening  rock music (by some accounts an LSD experiment by U.S. military intelligence) entertained the elderly as they shopped in brightly lit supermarkets.

The so-called avant garde has not advanced since New York in the 1890s.   All that was outrageous and avant has been assimilated, marketed, and been in repeat for decades.

Culture has been backed into a corner.

Retro late-capitalist kitsch posters screaming “Freedom” are yellowing inside the prison cells of High Culture.

The same “avant” ideas are recycled over and over.

The latest hurrah in po-biz (Flarf, Conceptualism, Language Poetry) in 2010 is the “Found Poem” from 50 years ago and Duchamp’s ‘ready-mades’ from even earlier.   Yet the avant garde keeps pretending it is “new” and “dangerous.”   They naively believe they are an alternative to the “Quietists” and they will save society from “Official Verse Culture,” which, by Charles Bernstein’s own admission is T.S. Eliot—which is what Charles Bernstein in fact is: T.S. Eliot.

The spectacular Woodstock Concert and the moon landing happend in 1969.

The only new thing in 2010:  now you can read about these remarkable events on a computer.

It was as if the larger life of mankind had ended in the mid-20th century, and the only major advance in all that time was the P.C.

In the humanities departments of universites, academia has long abandonded its enlightenment role and become a for-profit babysitter, selling  psycho-babble degrees for an increasingly psycho-babble society.

Outmoded heroes of modernism adorn the minds of the intellectual curators of the age like celebrity photos of TV stars in teen bedrooms.  Modernism has gone completely unexamined and uncritiqued.   But it’s everywhere in academe, as history is increasingly forgotten.

Mid 20th century until now: Modernism is vaguely ‘avant garde’ and ‘radical,’ appealing to a certain conflicted type: the Modernist clique consists of European dead white males, like Mallarme, who can perplex the middle class—thus the Modernists are considered radical and conservative at the same time, a kind of magical formula for academics like Tate and Engle who were then taking over the English Departments and turning them into corporate supermarkets.

The radical, for decades, has been merely artsy-farsty.

A sweeping critique, a new examination of recent history, is needed.  But when?

Poetry is practically invisible outside the po-biz ghetto.

Enter Scarriet.


Annie Finch writes on Blog Harriet:

 “It is my great honor and pleasure to announce here on Harriet the founding of a new national holiday. Tomorrow will be the first Dead Poets Remembrance day.  Unlike my recent “Kegels for Poets” post, this one is completely for real:

Press Release

At the beginning stop of a 22-State “Dead Poets Grand Tour,” thirteen current and former State poets laureate, in cooperation with the Dead Poets Society of America, have chosen Shakespeare’s birthday to announce a new national literary holiday.

The holiday will be called the Dead Poets Remembrance Day, and will be held in locations around the nation next October 7th.

Fittingly, October 7th is the day that Edgar Allan Poe died.

“We are launching this tour in order to encourage groups of people in every state to get together on October 7th to honor our dead poets by reading at their graves,” said Walter Skold, the founder of the Dead Poets Society of America.

Along the way the Poemobile is going to visit the graves of some of the most and least-well known poets in the US, including Robert Lowell, Donald Justice, James Whitcomb Riley, Lydia Sigourney, John Trumball, Henry Timrod, Abram Ryan, and Sarah Whitman.”

Thanks for sharing this Dead Poets Society news, Annie.

I met Donald Justice a few times but I don’t know him well enough that his death has impacted my life;  I would rather it not.  I like to think of Donald Justice as still living.  I don’t think I would want to stand at his grave, even if people were reading his poetry.

Poe, on the other hand: he’s really dead and has always been dead for all of us who are now alive.

But another thing about Poe.   He didn’t just die.  He was murdered, and his murder was covered up.  If we’re going to use the day of Poe’s death, October 7th, to honor poets who are dead, isn’t that going to cause a lot of unrest in the land of the unliving?

I’m not a morbid person, but I do feel we should try and get to the bottom of Poe’s death, not just for the sake of Poe, but for the sake of everyone, because we’re all responsible for the cover-up of Poe’s death to a certain extent.  OK, that’s a stretch.  Just a few directly are, but if we add the scholars who have deliberately chosen to keep Poe-slander alive, that’s even more of us; but no, we can’t blame everybody.   But I think I can say this to everyone reading this now:  Every day Poe’s death remains unsolved keeps alive a curse, and most of the nine muses are not happy, not to mention Poe’s fellow citizens and all who love poetry and justice—and love a good mystery story! This one’s real, people.

Scarriet has made the case in The Lion and the Little Dog.  (scroll down past whitman)

Poe was an inventor and breaker of codes, he went by other names, he attended West Point, he was an athlete as a young man, he was raised in a household where Supreme Court Justices would drop by for dinner; Poe, was nothing like those ignorant myths that have grown up around in him in the wake of Griswold’s libel,  spun when Poe was expiring—the opposite, in fact.  Think of Poe as you know him—now think of the opposite in every respect.  The opposite is much closer to the real Poe.  

Poe was more inventive and influential in a dozen of his hobbies than the very talented and well-connected are in their chosen career; Poe was famous and famous for a reason, for the simple reason that he was enormously talented; (sometimes this happens,) and this famous writer was picked up by his enemies, not his friends, as always gets reported (remember: think opposite) in Baltimore, in a state of distress, and then imprisoned for 3 days with no word of his dark and dingy whereabouts leaked to any newspaper or friend, and when he mysteriously expired, a hurried burial, without an autopsy, was conducted by the same “friends” who miraculously “found him,” and 24 hours later his worst enemy was telling the world nothing about the actual death or any of its circumstances, and everything about the poet’s flawed character in Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune.

The Poe Scholar John Evangelist Walsh has done a great service in showing Poe scholarship how it should be done: look at the persons involved, the persons who fabricated stories of Poe’s death (the cooping theory, for instance), the persons who were known to dislike Poe, the persons who had reasons to want Poe dead, the persons who had plotted against Poe while he was alive—hellooo, Horace Greeley!

Misunderstood geniuses grow on trees.  Poe is that invaluable rarity: the understood genius.   His output in various genres was not large; but he created templates; he did not write at length on the same thing, he did not write endlessley in the same way, but applied his genius far and wide; one is not supposed to do what he did—succeed in so many interconnected ways; anyone can write code; Poe explained code.

This investigation of Poe will open up whole new worlds: the true nature of Horace Greeley…Greeley’s secret dealings with Boss Tweed, Greeley’s negotiations with Napolean III during the Civil War…

Also, universities will attract the best history and literature students in the world by starting a new department called “Death of Poe Studies.”   Do I kid? Perhaps.

It is very fitting, Annie, that the first “Dead Poets Remembrance Day” is on Shakespeare’s birthday, for Poe is truly our Shakespeare.

It is important to honor the dead and remember their poetry.  But if the day of Poe’s death is going to be the hook for this—as well it should, why not?—I suggest we nudge ourselves out of our long national slumber and begin to investigate the greatest mystery and tragedy of American Letters, the life and death of Edgar Allan Poe.

Thanks again, Annie!



I want to give a shout out to my ‘bro, Nootch, who helped to make Scarriet’s March Madness a success.  He contacted the actual poets themselves who were selected for the tourney and got tons of positive feedback.

The final order of the invitational tournament was as follows:

  1. Billy Collins….Billy won it all…this guy simply has the best ‘good poem’ percentage of any poet around.  “Composed Over Three Thousand Miles From Tintern Abbey” No surprise he’s on the Scarriet Power List, the Hot 100 at NUMBER NINE!
  2. Reb Livingston took her “That’s Not Butter” and wooed the crowds all the way to No. 2 in the Tournament!
  3. Janet Bowdan and “The Year” which was like the only good poem Rita Dove picked for the 2000 volume…WHAT A FREAKIN’ HAUNTING POEM THIS IS.
  4. William Kulik…Look out for this guy…He’s not on the Hot 100…YET, but this List will change….!  NARCISSUS AND APHRODITE, BABY!
  6. Bernard Welt!!!!  His “why I stopped writing poetry…” sums up our age….ONE OF THE BEST SOUL-SEARCHING MID-TO-LONG POEMS EVER
  7. Lewis Buzbee!  Rumors are swirling that Tarzan was nursing an injury, otherwise “Buzz” Buzbee would have won it all…  GIVE IT TO TARZAN
  8. Margaret Atwood!!!  A poem, “Bored,” of poignant regret…BORED… BUT SO MUCH MORE!!!!   #65 on the Hot 100.
  9. Harry Mathews “Histoire”   PERHAPS THE BEST QUIRKY POEM OF THE 20th CEN
  10. Robert Pinksy  “Pleasure Bay”     PINSKY DESERVES HIS REP WITH THIS POEM ALONE!!  He’s on our HOT 100 List # 11
  11. Brad Leithauser  “A Good List”    WE LOVE LISTS!!!
  12. Dean Young….’The Business of Love is Cruelty…’  now, Dean ‘Forever’ Young knows it’s also the Business of SPORTS which is Cruelty…BEAT AT THE BUZZER BY BUZZ BUZBEE!!!!   But Young is #35 on the Hot 100.
  13. Louis Simpson…”The People Next Door.”   THIS POEM IS A MASTERPIECE
  14. Kenneth Koch…One of the longest poems published by BAP…self-indulgent…maybe…but IT ROCKS….”Time Zone”   !!!!
  15. Franz Wright…the SULTAN OF SINCERITY…”A Happy Thought” gonna make you cry!!!!!  Made the Hot 100 List at #91…
  16. Alan Shapiro singing his Cowboy song….sweet sixteen you can’t go wrong!!!
  17. Donald Justice, “Invitation to A Ghost”  INVITATION TO A GREAT TOURNAMENT!!
  18. Dorianne Laux  “The Shipfitter’s Wife”   Robert Bly picked this gem…it is a gem.
  19. Rebecca Byrkit “The Only Dance There Is”    The Only Dance is March Madness!!!
  20. Susan Wood “Gratification”    Did alright…No. 20 out of 1,500 has to be gratifying…
  21. Jorie Graham  “On Difficulty”   All that controversy about 16th seed faded away when play began and the poets began to sweat…  Jorie is # 18 on the Hot 100
  22. T. Allan Broughton  “The Ballad of the Comely Woman”    Almost an Albrecht Durer poem…just amazing…
  23. Louise Gluck “Time”  Might be her best poem…could have gone further…farther?…oh hell…  This current Yale Younger Judge is #5 on the Hot 100!!!
  24. Carl Dennis  “History”  Like Billy Collins, a fully fleshed-out idea before the poet begins his poem….
  25. Donald Hall  “Letter With No Address”   What can you say about Donald Hall?  Beautiful.
  26. Yusef Komunyakaa  “Facing It”   One of our greatest war poems.
  27. Nathan Whiting  “In Charge”    Knocked off Ashbery!!!  Has John forgiven him yet?
  28. Ron Koertge  “Found”   I’m glad I found this poem…Alligator Shoes…I’ll never forget it.
  29. David Yezzi  “The Call”    Just a wonderful poem…
  30. Vijay Sheshardi  “Lifeline”   This guy writes highly contemplative, intense poetry…
  31. Ted Kooser  “The Hall of Bones”   is going to the HALL OF FAME, BABY!!!!!
  32. A.F Moritz  “April Fool’s Day, Mt. Pleasant Cemetery”  An Updated Gray’s Elegy…
  33. Galway Kinnell  “When One Has Lived A Long Time Alone” was upset in the first round, but this poem will be around a long time.
  34. Sharon Olds  “The Wellspring”   Shooting to the stars…  Did we put her on our Hot 100 list?  We should have…
  35. David Kirby  “Ode to the Personals”  A tour de force, predicted to go far, but tripped up in round no. 1…
  36. James Tate  “Distance From Loved Ones”   Also On Our Hot 100 List!  # 31
  37. May Swenson  “Dummy, 51, To Go To Museum, Ventriloquist Dead, 75”  One of Harold Bloom’s favorite poets…
  38. Denise Levertov  “In California During the Gulf War”  BAP found a lot of good war poems…
  39. Steven Dobyns  “Favorite Iraqi Soldier”
  40. Mary Oliver  “Flare”    On the Hot 100 # 41!   Who came up with these rankings, anyway?
  41. Amit Majmudar “By Accident”
  42. Marc Jafee  “King Of Repetition”  A rare formalist poem…
  43. Seamus Heaney  “Shooting Script”  Hot 100 # 2…Wow…Not much of a BAP force, though…
  44. Jack Turner  “The Plan”
  45. James Richardson “Vectors: Forty Five Aphorisms & Ten Second Essays”
  46. John Brehm  “Sea of Faith”
  47. Julie Larios  “What Bee Did”  The cutest poem in the competition.
  48. Christopher Edgar  “Birthday”
  49. J.D. McClatchy  “Jihad”   Hot 100 #  63
  50. Eve Wood  “Recognition”
  51. Catherine Bowman   “No Sorry”
  52. George Bilgere “Healing”
  53. John Ashbery  “Problem of Anxiety”   Hot 100 #  6  woo hoo!
  54. Mark Bibbins  “Concerning the Land to the South of our Neighbors to the North”
  55. Mark Halliday “The Opaque”
  56. Lucille Clifton “mississippi river empties into the gulf”
  57. Kevin Prufer “What the Paymaster Said”
  58. Lynn Xu  “[Language Exists Because]”
  59. Paul Violi “Counterman”
  60. Brian Turner “What Every Soldier Should Know”
  61. Alan Sullivan  “Divide and Conquer”
  62. Jayne Cortez “Heavy Handed Dance”
  63. Susan Stewart  “Apple”
  64. James Cummings  “Poets March On Washington”   Thanks to the Kennedy Center for hosting Scarriet’s March Madness, and for everyone who made it possible!!


Charles Bernstein: the ‘outsider’ has finally arrived, but he’s a bit old— about as old as the Found Poem.

The big news at the AWP Conference this year was the hot lovemaking of Flarf and Conceptualism and the sweet, almost sexual, beating up of Language Poetry.

As Charles Bernstein, the heroic “outsider,” offers his “greatest hits” from Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux ($26 –get ’em while they’re hot!) just in time for National Poetry Month, and Rae Armantrout, the Southern California Language Poet, wins the Pulitzer, and Flarfist Kenneth Goldsmith waxes theoretical on Harriet, I can only think of one thing.

The Found Poem.

It makes me feel all toasty-warm inside.

Everybody remembers that quaint, quirky, artsy-fartsy device, right?

Grade school teachers who need to fill up an hour in the classroom can always rely on the Found Poem.

The Found Poem was amusing for a little while back in the 1960s.

Now, 50 years later, it’s the au courant big thing.

For, after all, what is Flarf, Conceptualism, and Language Poetry?

What do they have in common?

Hellooo, Found Poem.

Isn’t that what they are?


Third grade.  Right after milk and cookies, and just before show-and-tell…the Found Poem.

This is not to diminish the importance of the found poem; the found poem is a heady idea.  What’s interesting, however, is that these theoretical juggernauts in contemporary po-biz, like Bernstein, never call what they do Found Poetry.

Why is that?

My guess is that ‘Found Poem’ is too quaint  a notion for Bernstein.  Professor Bernstein wants you to think he’s a little more philosophically profound than you are—you, hypocritical twin! who read those New Yorker poems and think they are ‘real,’ you ‘official verse culture’ idiot!

Professor Bernstein, the post-neo-avant-neo, will set you straight.

The publishing house of Farrar, Strauss & Giroux was so clever to release Bernstein’s book in April, National Poetry Month.  Bernstein might get more sales that way…and how about that every review of Bernstein’s book is positive!  How could it not be?  This guy’s good!  Dude!  For real! Bernstein, hater of “official verse culture” writes verse that is “hilarious” and “accessible!”

Take that, New Yorker magazine!

Look at what you “official verse culture” slaves have been missing!

How did John Dewey put it?  “In order to understand the meaning of artistic products, we have to forget them for a time, to turn aside from them and have recourse to the ordinary forces and conditions of experience we do not usually regard as aesthetic.  We must arrive at the theory of art by means of a detour.”

Bernstein’s long trek in the wilderness has been that “detour.”  At last we can stomach Charlie’s horrible punning…er…philosophy.

The forces of real culture have found Maurice Vlaminck’s African mask.  Now they are showing it to Picasso and Matisse.  Ambroise Vollard is having that African mask cast in bronze.

And here’s our Charlie, cast in bronze, next to it, on the wall.

The detour was rough…but he’s home.


Is poetry today—not the old poetry of Keats or Tennyson or Frost—but the poetry of the present moment, the MFA/Writing Program/Pulitzer/ Bollingen/Nobel Prize/Poetry Foundation/Academy of American Poets/MLA Conference/museum-curated/university-driven/MacArthur Genius Fellowship/National Endowment for the Arts/Naropa Institute/Poetry Society of America/Poets House/Chicago Poetry Project/Bowery Poetry Club/poetry, has this poetry become a church, a religion, one more vast and august and sacred and interconnected than anything dreamed of before?

Defending this vast religious network is natural to those it subsidizes and supports, but what happens to critical thought when all its energy is put into defending a nebulous subsidizing entity that defines itself against all sorts of normative constructs making up what we might call ‘real life?’  

Is a member of a church or religion capable of real critical thought, capable of laughing at his or her organization and their own identity created and nurtured by that organization?

Is poetry today a prisoner of ill-humored religious demagoguery, cut off from public life in a luxury motel of perpetuating self-interest, in which poets read and educate each other in a superficial, pyramid-scheme environment of self-bred banality?

What is poetry that exists only for itself?  What use is poetry for a select few who define themselves against those who are not subsidized by it?

The MFA poet would, of course, reply, in a defensive rage, that it is not his fault that the rest of the world cares not for poetry and that his MFA existence is not for itself alone.  The MFA poet would reply that he fully intends to reach out to the non-poetic world when his apprenticeship and professional training is at an end.  For after all, the whole MFA apparatus is part of the culture and receives its funding from the education sector of the nation’s economy, and the whole point of education is to educate and serve the non-educated, and not become an end in itself.  The MFA poet and the support system implicitly operate on this pedagogical assumption, but if the rest of society never finally benefits from poetry that it never reads, and if the poetry consumed by its own MFA producers never rises above a self-stroking function, then this whole pedagogical assumption should be questioned, at the very least, and steps should be taken to break down the wall that separates the initiated and the non-initiated, since both have a stake in the game.

The MFA poet naturally does not wish to entertain the possibility that his apprenticeship might become an end in itself, that his training may become a trip down a black hole of self-delusion, with a membership in a prickly, defensive cult.

Because here’s the thing: one can defend the mentorship of the young poet and all the benefits of MFA education, but the fact remains that two separate worlds exist: the MFA world and the real world.  Poetry has no public today.

The defensive, humorless posture of po-biz is perhaps a symptom of 1) the vast subsidized, insular nature of po-biz itself and 2) the great divide between po-biz and the real world. 

Is it too late to save poetry?  Is it too late to de-professionalize poetry and give it back to the people?  Will poetry remain a humorless, over-examined, mad-hatter, reactionary cult forever?

This is not a critique of the poetry itself, but of the delivery system.  Slam is stand-up comedy/political rant and has about as much to do with poetry as American Idol.  Outside of the academy, poetry has no real existence in the grown-up world.  Inside of the academy…well, that’s the problem: it remains inside the academy.  It never leaves.  The non-educated go in to get their MFA— and never come out.   Poetry never gets a chance to be tested in the real world, to learn from the real world, to be written in the real world.  An MFA-trained poet can go into the prisons and the schools, but this is not the same thing as poety written in the real world; this is merely a good-will gesture, a mere band-aid, self-congratulatory gesture.   It is the same gesture made by the avant poet who produces something incomprehensible in the name of ‘progress.’  It is insincere.  It is a trick.

This is not to say that well-meaning and good elements do not exist in po-biz today.  This is not to say that the faithful do not have good intentions.   Of course there is good already in place.  But for the good of society at large, sometimes systems must be able to question the very essence of their existence in a good-natured way, in new ways, in ways that playfully expand horizons and question assumptions.  Poetry should keep people out of prison in the first place.  We must face the idea that professionalizing poetry could be killing it.

This is not a new complaint.  It is basically the same complaint Dana Gioia made, and many before him, including Plato and Sidney and Shelley and Keats and Arnold and Edmund Wilson.  It is a plea that poetry be truly used for a good end, not a bad one.



Scarriet presents the hottest movers and shakers in poetry today:

1. Harold Bloom

2. Seamus Heaney

3. Paul Muldoon

4. David Lehman

5. Louise Gluck

6. John Ashbery

7. William Logan

8. Helen Vendler

9.  Billy Collins

10. Stephen Berg

11. Robert Pinsky

12. Garrison Keillor

13. Christian Wiman

14. Charles Simic

15. Maya Angelou

16. Kay Ryan

17. Marjorie Perloff

18. Jorie Graham

19. Donald Hall

20. David Orr

21. Stephen Burt

22. Adam Kirsch

23. Adrienne Rich

24. Mark Strand

25. Peter Gizzi

26. Leon Wieseltier

27. Camille Paglia

28. Rita Dove

29. Andrew Motion

30. Tree Swenson

31. James Tate

32. Glyn Maxwell

33. Ted Genoways

34. Dan Chiasson

35.  Dean Young

36.  Carol Ann Duffy

37.  Alan Cordle

38.  Derek Walcott

39.  Christopher Ricks

40.  Rae Armantrout

41.  Mary Oliver

42. Robert Hass
43. Richard Howard
44. W.S. Merwin
45. Dana Gioia
46. Robert Bly
47. James Fenton
48. Greil Marcus
49. Geoffrey Hill
50. Charles Bernstein
51. Jerome Rothenberg
52. Paul Hoover
53. Sherman Alexie
54. C.D. Wright
55. Ron Silliman
56. Amiri Baraka
57. John Kinsella
58. Ishmael Reed
59. Martin Espada
60. Anne Carson
61. Adam Zagajewski
62. Rosemarie Waldrop
63. J.D. McClatchy
64. John Tranter
65. Margaret Atwood
66. Mary Jo Salter
67. Forrest Gander
68. Marilyn Hacker
69. Donald Revel
70. Jon Stallworthy
71. Ron Padget
72. Simon Armitage
73. Eavan Boland
74. Rosanna Warren
75. D.A. Powell
76. Alice Notley
77. Cole Swenson
78. Clark Coolidge
79. Charles Wright
80. Keith Waldrop
81. Christian Bok
82. Edward Hirsch
83. Lynn Hejinian
84. Heather McHugh
85. Vikram Seth
86. Ilya Kaminsky
87. Kevin Young
88. Meghan O’Rourke
89. Galway Kinnell
90. Philip Levine
91. Franz Wright
92. Clark Coolidge
93. David St. John
94. Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge
95. Clayton Eshleman
96. Nathaniel Mackey
97. Maggie Dietz
98. Rachel Hadas
99. Bob Perelman
100. Seth Abramson


red w

It is impossible to tell whether the following phenomenon arose by accident or by design, but millions have fallen quietly under its spell since the Modernism-tinged Writing Program Era fell like a hood over serious poetic practice in the United States beginning in the 1940s.

The intrepid New Critics, who defined poetry pedagogy in both seminar and classroom at the crosswords of the new era when poetry took a hard, professional turn, had no method.

We assume that New Criticism 1) focused on how a text works, 2) apart from real life concerns, and 3) this is why it faded.

But 1) New Criticism hasn’t faded, because the general practice of its rhetoric remains and 2) New Criticism focused on the text only so the ‘new writing’ could crash the party.

We forget these ‘conservative’ New Critics were also, for the most part, Modernist poets looking for readers. Ransom and Tate and their European Modernist friends, such as Eliot and Pound, were poets with only a tiny, small-magazine audience in the 1920s.

By the 1930s, poets like Millay, Dorothy Parker and Frost, who actually sold books, were threatening to overshadow the Modernists completely; the whole experiment was threatening to go under; Ransom and Tate were not on Millay’s side, they were on Pound’s.   This was partly due to politics, but it also involved something even more primitive: naked ambition.

The New Critics, like their mentor, T.S. Eliot, were anti-populist, anti-Romantic and thought poetry should be especially difficult.  As they wrote their argumentative essays in the 30s and set up their Writing Programs at places like Iowa and Princeton in the early 40s, the New Critics pushed out the conservatives in the English Departments who clung to history and tradition, who worshiped Keats and Milton and Shelley; Eliot and Pound’s anti-19th century animus informed the New Critics as well.

The New Critical focus on “the text” was a means to an end: make history less relevant so the new writing could prosper as new writing.

The defensive tone of Cleanth Brooks is palpable (from Ransom’s Kenyon Review in 1951): “The formalist critic knows as well as anyone that poems and plays and novels are written by men…”   Men, for instance, like Ransom and Tate, who were eager to become famous and get into print? This fact the New Critics were shrewd enough not to emphasize as they launched their attacks against English Departments of history and biography in the name of whatever text-reading tricks they were advertising—and backpedalling from at every occasion (the formalist critic knows as well as anyone…).

Where were the biographies of Ransom and Tate?  That was the issue.

The non-formalist critics knew “as well as anyone” that “men” wrote “texts.”

The New Critics’ hobby horse of focusing on the text was never really an issue.

The English Departments which the Modernists (then on the outside in ‘amateur’ status) were assailing in the 1930s and 40s  were not ignoring texts. How were the New Critics themselves going to be taught in the English Departments?  This is the point, made even now, which makes the professional uncomfortable, for ambition is only for the amateur at last.

I just re-read Scarriet’s post -Why Keats’ “Ode to Psyche” Also Doesn’t Work by Christopher Woodman and Mr. Woodman’s herculean effort in comments below: his reading of the Keats poem, his explaining the Psyche myth, providing anecdotes from his teaching experience in Thailand.  Mr. Woodman also got into his objections to Scarriet’s March Madness, which I find interesting, because Mr. Woodman objects to the Keats poem because Keats is excluding rough & tumble aspects of reality.  But Mr. Woodman is doing precisely the same thing he accuses Keats of doing when he (Woodman) abuses Scarriet’s March Madness.

Here’s where the insidiousness of New Criticism comes into play.  Mr. Woodman, like everyone born after 1920 in the U.S., has been quietly influenced by the New Criticism.  The textbook, “Understanding Poetry” (first edition, 1938) was the first big textbook for poetry in the United States when the GI Bill expanded university enrollment after World War II, the beginning of the Writing Program Era, when poetry left the public square and became a college subject.

“The Red Wheel Barrow” by William Carlos Williams—a member, by way of Pound, of Ransom’s group—gets unalloyed praise in “Understanding Poetry.”

In his post and comments, Mr. Woodman puts tremendous energy into arguing against the Keats poem—which remains absolutely beautiful in the face of all his objections.

This, finally, is what the New Critics did: they over-argued poetry; they laid down a rhetoric in which something as simply beautiful as “Ode to Psyche” couldn’t exist.

If one puts over-argument next to “Ode to Psyche,” it withers.

If one puts over-argument next to “The Red Wheel Barrow,” simply by dint of energetic over-arguing, the “Red Wheel Barrow” grows in stature.

Because the “Wheel Barrow” was nothing in the first place, it can only gain by being discussed.

In the New Critical universe, whatever gains from mad scientist argumentation is good and whatever diminishes from mad scientist argumentation is bad.  This is the powerfully simple formula which carries the day.  By New Critical logic, (which is how academics by the nature of their work operate) “Ode to Psyche” is bad and “The Red Wheel Barrow” is good.


Emerson as Whitman

What have I to do with the sacredness of traditions,
if I live wholly from within?
No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature.
Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this;
the only right is what is after my constitution,
the only wrong what is against it.
A man is to carry himself in the presence of all opposition,
as if every thing were titular and ephemeral but he.
I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names,
to large societies and dead institutions.
Every decent and well-spoken individual affects and sways me more than is right.
I ought to go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all ways.
If malice and vanity wear the coat of philanthropy, shall that pass?
I shun father and mother and wife and brother, when my genius calls me.
I would write on the lintels of the door-post, Whim.
I hope it is somewhat better than whim at last, but we cannot spend the day in explanation.

Emerson as Ginsberg 

Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members!

Society is a joint-stock company in which the members agree to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater!

The virtue in most request is conformity!

Self-reliance is its aversion!

It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs!

Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist!

Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind!

Emerson as Ezra Pound

If an angry bigot assumes this bountiful cause of Abolition, and comes to me with his last news from Barbadoes, why should I not say to him, ‘Go love thy infant; love thy wood-chopper: be good-natured and modest: have that grace; and never varnish your hard, uncharitable ambition with this incredible tenderness for black folk a thousand miles off. Thy love afar is spite at home.’ Rough and graceless would be such greeting, but truth is handsomer than the affectation of love. Your goodness must have some edge to it, — else it is none. The doctrine of hatred must be preached as the counteraction of the doctrine of love when that pules and whines. Expect me not to show cause why I seek or why I exclude company. Then, again, do not tell me, as a good man did to-day, of my obligation to put all poor men in good situations. Are they my poor? I tell thee, thou foolish philanthropist, that I grudge the dollar, the dime, the cent, I give to such men as do not belong to me and to whom I do not belong. There is a class of persons to whom by all spiritual affinity I am bought and sold; for them I will go to prison, if need be; but your miscellaneous popular charities; the education at college of fools; the building of meeting-houses to the vain end to which many now stand; alms to sots; and the thousandfold Relief Societies; — though I confess with shame I sometimes succumb and give the dollar, it is a wicked dollar which by and by I shall have the manhood to withhold.

These excerpts from “Whitman,” “Ginsberg,” and “Pound” are from the same page of the same essay: “Self-Reliance.”


MM: Marla Muse here with the Commissioner of Poetry Baseball himself, Harold Bloom. Thanks for meeting with me today, Commisioner.

HB: You’re quite welcome, Marla.

MM: Commissioner, a lot of eyebrows were raised when you took this job — what do you see as your role this season?

HB: Well Marla, as the media have repeatedly trumpeted, I am making less money in this job than I made at Yale.

MM: I’ve heard that, why’d you make the switch?

HB: Well Marla, each time I make the mistake of glancing at the Yale Weekly Bulletin, I shudder to see that the dean of Yale College has appointed yet another subdean to minister to the supposed cultural interests of another identity club: ethnic, racial, linguistic, with gender and erotic subsets.

MM: Absolutely, Commissioner, identity clubs. Now—

HB: Scolding the universities, or the media, is useless: enormous social pressures have been loosed upon institutions hopelessly vulnerable to cultural guilt. Every variety of “studies” at last will be housed: if sexual orientation is to be placed with race, ethnic group, and gender as sources of aesthetic and cognitive values, then why should we not have “Sado-Masochistic Studies,” in particular honor of the god of resentment, the late Michel Foucault?

MM: What team did he play for?

HB: Marla, Walt Whitman was not only the strongest of our poets (together with the highly antithetical Emily Dickinson), but he is also now the most betrayed of all our poets, with so much of the ongoing balderdash being preached in his name. Whitman’s poetry generally does the opposite of what he proclaims its work to be: it is reclusive, evasive, hermeutic, nuanced, and more onanistic even then homoerotic, which critics cannot accept, particularly these days when attempts are made to assimilate the Self-Reliant Whitman into what calls itself the Homosexual Poetic. If we are to have gay and lesbian studies, who will speak for Onan, whose bards include Whitman and the Goethe of “Faust, Part Two”?

MM: Onan, yes, absolutely. Now, Commissioner, you mentioned Whitman, what do you think the chances are for the Brooklyn Whitmans

HB: The most figurative of our poets, Whitman will elude every effort to entrap him in an ideology. As elitist a democrat as his master Emerson, Whitman continues with his ideas of representation to outwit his historicizing and eroticizing critics. The crucial figure in Whitman is neither his self—Walt Whitman, one of the roughs, an American—nor his soul, but “the real me” or “me myself,” a conceptual image that prophesies Wallace Stevens, T.S. Eliot, and particularly John Ashbery:

MM: Um, Commissioner—

HB: “Apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I am,/Stands amused, complacent, compassionating, idle, unitary,/Looks down, is erect, bends an arm on an impalpable certain rest,/Looks with its sidecurved head curious what will come next,/Both in and out of the game, and watching and wondering at it.” That Whitmanian “what I am,” his “real me” or “me myself,” is both an inspiration to strong American poetry after him and a reproach to the cultural and erotic dogmas now circulated in his great name. It is no accident that the best American poets who have emerged from Whitman—sometimes insisting that they owed him nothing—are formalists, major artists of verse: Stevens, Eliot, Hart Crane, and even Ashbery when at his most gravely traditional. Cast out the aesthetic, and you cast away Whitman, who was a major poet and a poor prophet, and who was, above all else, a very difficult poet, whose synecdoches do not unravel without very frequent rereadings.

MM: Synecdoches, absolutely.  Now Commissioner, let’s talk about some of the major trades going on this season, do you think that—

HB: Marla, authentic American poetry is necessarily difficult; it is our elitist art, though that elite has nothing to do with social class, gender, erotic preference, ethnic strain, race, or sect. “We live in the mind,” Stevens said, and our poetry always is either Emersonian or anti-Emersonian, but either way is informed by Emerson’s dialectics of power.

MM: OK, good, now this year the Concord Emersons have—

HB: “Life will be imaged, but cannot be divided nor doubled. Any invasion of its unity would be chaos. The soul is not twin-born, but the only begotten, and though revealing itself as a child in time, child in appearance, is of a fatal and universal power, admitting no co-life. Every day, every act betrays the ill-concealed deity. We believe in ourselves, as we do not believe in others. We permit all things to ourselves, and that which we call sin in others, is experiment for us. It is an instance of our faith in ourselves, that men never speak of crime as lightly as they think: or, every man thinks a latitude safe for himself, which is nowise to be indulged to another. The act looks very differently on the inside, and on the outside; in its quality, and its consequences. Murder in the murderer is no such ruinous thought as poets and romancers will have it; it does not unsettle him, or fright him from his ordinary notice of trifles: it is an act quite easy to be contemplated, but in its sequel, it turns out to be a horrible jangle and confounding all relations. Especially the crimes that spring from love, seem right and fair from the actor’s point of view, but, when acted, are found destructive of society. No man at last believes that he can be lost, nor that the crime in him is as black as in the felon. Because the intellect qualifies in our own case the moral judgments. For there is no crime to the intellect. That is antinomian or hypernomian, and judges law as well as fact.”

MM: Yes, hypernomian… Um—

HB: That, Marla, does not allow any room for the false generosity of any Affirmative Action in the judging of poetry. Printing, praising, and teaching bad poems for the sake of even the best causes is simply destructive for those causes. “We believe in ourselves, as we do not believe in others” is a truth that makes us wince, but no one can ever write a good poem without it. Tony Kushner, who could be a good playwright but for his obsession with the ideologies of political correctness, ought to ponder Emerson’s “Experience,” from which I have just quoted. Every attempt to socialize writing and reading fails; poetry is a solitary art, more now than ever, and its proper audience is the deeply educated, solitary reader, or that reader sitting within herself in a theater.

MM: Or in a baseball stadium? How about that Commissioner, can a baseball fa—

HB: The madness that contaminates our once high culture cannot be cured unless and until we surrender our more than Kafkan sense that social guilt is not to be doubted. Nothing can be more malignant than a disease of the spirit that sincerely regards itself as virtue.

MM: Yes, I remember George Kennan saying that—

HB: Shakespeare, performed and read in every country (with the sporadic exception of France, most xenophobic of cultures), is judged by audiences of every race and language to have put them on the stage. Shakespeare’s power has nothing to do with Eurocentrism, maleness, Christianity, or Elizabethan-Jacobean social energies. No one else so combined cognitive strength, originality, dramatic guile, and linguistic florabundance as virtually to reinvent the human, and Shakespeare is therefore the best battlefield upon which to fight the rabblement of Resenters.

MM: Resenters, absolutely.  Commissioner, now let me ask you—

HB: Shakespeare, pragmatically the true multiculturalist, is  the least reductive of all writers; his men and women never invite us to believe that when we know the worst about them, then we know exactly who they are. Emerson, in “Representative Men”, caught this best—

MM: No, Commissioner, please, no more Emerson quotes, we have to cut to a commercial now—

HB: “Shakespeare is as much out of the category of eminent authors, as he is out of the crowd. He is inconceivably wise; the others, conceivably. A good reader can, in a sort, nestle into Plato’s brain, and think from thence; but not into Shakespeare’s. We are still out of doors. For executive faculty, for creation, Shakespeare is unique.  No man can imagine it better. He was the farthest reach of subtlety compatible with an individual self, — the subtlest of authors, and only just…”


…………….For a larger view of this detail click here. For the whole painting click here.

The Adoration of anything you think you own is idolatrous.

The Adoration of anything you think you own, even Poetry, even Baseball, is idolatrous because, like the Critic on his knees in this painting, the fire’s in your own head. You worship at the shrine but you’re looking not into it but out at us. You’re looking back at your audience to be sure they’ll know how astute and well-informed you are, and, of course, how properly dressed. In turn, your ‘readers’ have a choice — to play ball or cry FIRE!

With regard to baseball, the strange beauty and fascination of it have never been explored more deeply than in the following poem. So what is it? And why has the discussion of poetry on Scarriet becoming so ugly and savage?

Christopher Woodman


………………………..The Crowd at the Ball Game

………………………..The crowd at the ball game
………………………..is moved uniformly

………………………..by a spirit of uselessness
………………………..which delights them —

………………………..all the exciting detail
………………………..of the chase

………………………..and the escape, the error
………………………..the flash of genius —

………………………..all to no end save beauty
………………………..the eternal –

………………………..So in detail they, the crowd,
………………………..are beautiful

………………………..for this
………………………..to be warned against

………………………..saluted and defied —
………………………..It is alive, venomous

………………………..it smiles grimly
………………………..its words cut —

………………………..The flashy female with her
………………………..mother, gets it —

………………………..The Jew gets it straight – it
………………………..is deadly, terrifying —

………………………..It is the Inquisition, the

………………………..It is beauty itself
………………………..that lives

………………………..day by day in them
………………………..idly —

………………………..This is
………………………..the power of their faces

………………………..It is summer, it is the solstice
………………………..the crowd is

………………………..cheering, the crowd is laughing
………………………..in detail

………………………..permanently, seriously
………………………..without thought
………………………………………………………William Carlos Williams (Dial, 1923)

[This poem has been posted twice  on this site, here and here. The response has been desultory, though the themes have been crying out for discussion.]



Philadelphia Poe 1. Gilmore Simms rf, 2. Charles Brockden Brown ss, 3. Baudelaire 2b, 4. Byron 1b, 5. Thomas Moore c, 6. Dostoevsky 3b, 7. Virginia Poe cf, 8. Fanny Osgood lf, 9. Alexander Pope p

New York Bryants 1. William Cowper 2b, 2. Oliver Goldsmith cf, 3. Homer c, 4. Thomas Cole lf, 5. James Fenimore Cooper ss, 6. Fitz-Greene Halleck 3b, 7. Asher Brown Durand rf, 8. Charles Sprague 1b, 9. Lincoln p

Hartford Whittiers 1. Paul Laurence Dunbar ss, 2. Langston Hughes cf, 3. Charles Dickens 3b, 4. Harriet Beecher Stowe rf, 5. Daniel Webster 2b, 6. George Ripley c, 7. Henry Ward Beecher lf, 8. Frederick Douglas 1b, 9. William Lloyd Garrison p

Cambridge Longfellows  1. Washington Irving cf, 2. Richard Henry Dana lf, 3. Dante rf, 4. Michelangelo ss, 5. Goethe 1b, 6. Alessandro Manzoni 3b, 7. Queen Victoria c, 8. Fanny Appleton 2b, 9. Horace p

Boston Lowells 1. Elizabeth Barrett 2b, 2. Robert Browning ss, 3. Mark Twain lf, 4. Nathaniel Hawthorne c, 5. Henry James rf, 6.  Chaucer 1b, 7. John Pierpont cf, 8. Maria White 3b, 9. Leigh Hunt p

Concord Emersons 1. Thomas Carlyle 2b, 2. Seneca 3b, 3. Swedenborg c, 4. Thoreau lf, 5. Jones Very cf, 6. Margaret Fuller ss, 7. William Ellery Channing rf, 8. William Dean Howells 1b, 9. William James, p

Brooklyn Ashberys 1. Frank O’ Hara ss, 2. Kenneth Koch 2b, 3, W.H. Auden 1b, 4. William De Kooning rf, 5. Gertrude Stein c, 6. James Tate 3b, 7. James Schuyler lf, 8. Larry Rivers cf, 9. Andy Warhol p

New Jersey Ginsbergs  1. Gregory Corso rf, 2. Jack Kerouac cf, 3. Charles Bukowski 1b, 4. William Blake 3b, 5. Bob Dylan lf, 6. Amiri Baraka ss, 7. Sharon Olds c, 8. Gerald Stern 2b, 9. William Burroughs, p

Tennessee Ransoms  1. Robert Lowell cf, 2. John Gould Fletcher ss,  3. Allen Tate c, 4. Robert Graves lf, 5. Donald Davidson rf, 6. Merrill Moore 2b, 7. Andrew Nelson Lytle 3b, 8. William Ridley Wills 1b, 9. Cleanth Brooks p

Maine Millays 1. George Dillon 2b, 2. Floyd Dell ss, 3. Sappho rf, 4. Shakespeare cf, 5. Euclid 1b, 6. John Reed 3b, 7. John Peale Bishop c, 8. Dorothy Parker lf, 9. Edmund Wilson p


Brooklyn Whitmans 1. D.H. Lawrence ss, 2. Bronson Alcott cf, 3. Rimbaud rf, 4. Robinson Jeffers 1b, 5. William Rossetti c, 6. Edgar Lee Masters 2b, 7. Lawrence Ferlinghetti 3b, 8. Bram Stoker lf, 9. Oscar Wilde p

New England Frost  1. Edward Thomas 2b, 2. Mary Oliver lf, 3. Seamus Heaney 1b, 4. William Wordsworth 3b, 5. Donald Hall c, 6. Philip Larkin ss, 7. Galway Kinnell cf, 8. Robert Hass rf, 9.  Louis Untermeyer p

London Eliots  1. Lady Ottoline Morrell cf, 2. Arthur Symons c, 3. Thomas Kyd rf, 4. John Donne 3b, 5. Jules LaForgue 1b, 6. John Quinn lf, 7. Rudyard Kipling ss, 8. Vivienne Haigh-Wood 2b, 9. Betrand Russell p

Rapallo Pound 1. Wyndham Lewis cf, 2. Hilda Doolittle 2b, 3. William Butler Yeats ss, 4. Ford Madox Ford 1b, 5. James Joyce lf, 6. James Laughlin 3b, 7. Ernest Fenollosa c, 8. Benito Mussollini rf, 9. Hugh Kenner p

New Jersey Williams 1. Duchamp cf, 2. Robert Creeley ss, 3. Kenneth Rexroth 1b, 4. Robert Duncan lf, 5. Gary Snyder 2b, 6. Mina Loy rf, 7. Yone Noguchi c, 8. Jack Spicer 3b, 9. Man Ray p

Hartford Stevens  1. Edward Lear ss, 2. Lewis Carroll 2b, 3. Paul Valery 3b, 4. Stephane Mallarme cf,  5. John Hollander rf, 6. James Merrill lf, 7. Dana Gioia 1b, 8. Richard Wilbur c, 9. George Santayana p

New York Moores 1. Elizabeth Bishop 2b, 2. Peggy James ss, 3. Ted Hughes 1b, 4. Alfred Stieglitz c, 5. Lincoln Kirstein 3b, 6. Kay Ryan lf, 7. Hart Crane cf, 8. Monroe Wheeler rf, 9. Walter Pater p

Cambridge Cummings 1. Archibald MacLeish cf, 2. Apollinaire 1b, 3. Picasso rf, 4. John Dos Passos lf, 5. William Slater Brown 3b, 6. Marion Morehouse c, 7. Louis Aragon lf, 8. Amy Lowell ss, 9. T.E. Hulme p

Amherst Emily 1. Mabel Loomis Todd 2b, 2. Sylvia Plath rf, 3. Alfred Tennyson cf, 4. John Keats ss, 5. Charles Wadsworth 1b, 6. Austin Dickinson 3b, 7. Helen Hunt Jackson c, 8. Lucie Brock-Broido, 9. Thomas Wentworth Higginson p

Iowa City Grahams 1.  Joanna Klink ss, 2. Mark Levine 2b, 3. James Galvin 3b, 4. Robert Pinsky lf, 5. Marvin Bell c, 6. Donald Justice 1b, 7. Joshua Clover cf, 8. Leslie Scalapino rf, 9. Bin Ramke p

Aristotle (p) is holding out for more money.  Socrates (p) is rumored to be going to Philadlephia.


Hell, let’s play a whole season. 

Here are the teams.  They play in little bucolic ballparks.  No DH.

National League

Philadelphia Poe
New York Bryants
Hartford Greenleaf Whittiers
Cambridge Longfellows
Boston Lowells
Concord Emersons
Brooklyn Ashberys
New Jersey Ginsbergs
Tennessee Ransoms
Maine Millays

American League

Brooklyn Whitmans
New England Frost
London Eliots
Rapallo Pound
New Jersey Williams
Hartford Stevens
New York Moores
Cambridge Cummings
Amherst Emily
Iowa City Grahams

Baseball Poetry Commissioner: the honorable Harold Bloom
Player Union Rep:  Camille Paglia

There are still some hold-outs, most notably W.H. Auden from the Ashberys. 

Scouting Report Highlights:


The brawling Philadelphia Poe features Lord Byron in the clean-up spot and Alexander Pope does mound duties as the ace of a pitching staff not afraid to throw inside.

The elegant New York  Bryants have Abraham Lincoln as their chief twirler and the slugging Thomas Cole hitting no. 4 in a highly distinguished lineup.

The Hartford Greenleaf Whittiers bring William Lloyd Garrison as their ace and Charles Dickens just signed up to play centerfield.

The Cambridge Longfellows have Washington Irving roaming center and Dante and Horace as mound aces.

The Boston Lowells field Mark Twain at short, Robert Browning in left, and Charles Eliot Norton and Leigh Hunt as their dominant hurlers.

Beware the Concord EmersonsWilliam James is their ace, Swedenborg bashes from the cleanup spot, and Thoreau tends centerfield.

The Brooklyn Ashberys have Frank O’Hara leading off and Andy Warhol is their ace.   Kenneth Koch and James Tate anchor the infield, while Charles Bernstein is in the bullpen.

The Ginsbergs of New Jersey have William Blake slugging from the No. 4 hole, Charles Bukowski and Bob Dylan as their double play combination and Mark Van Doren and William Burroughs on the mound.

The Tennessee Ransoms have Allen Tate at catcher and Cleanth Brooks, Robert Penn Warren, I.A. Richards, and Paul Engle on the hill.

Rounding out the National League, we have the Maine Millays with Edmund Wilson and Philip Sidney pitching, with Sappho out in center.


The Brooklyn Whitmans have Oscar Wilde and F.O. Matthiessen as no. 1 and no. 2 starters, with Lawrence Fernlinghetti, C.K. Williams and William Michael Rossetti providing up-the-middle defense at second, short, and center.

The New England Frost have William Wordsworth in the clean-up spot with Louis Untermeyer as their no. 1 hurler.

The London Eliots have Bertrand Russell and Lady Ottoline Morrell on the mound with Tristan Corbiere at first, Jules LaForgue at third, and Arthur Symons behind the plate.

The Rapallo Pound are stocked, with Benito Mussollini in right, Hugh Kenner on the mound and Ernest Fenollosa at shortstop.  Negotiations are continuing with Joyce, Yeats, and Duchamp.

The New Jersey Williams have Man Ray as their ace and Robert Creeley in the lead-off spot.  They also want Duchamp.

The Hartford Stevens have pitching depth with George Santayana, Helen Vendler, and  John Hollander.  James Merrill is in the clean-up spot.

The New York Moores have Elizabeth Bishop at the top of the lineup and Pater in the bullpen.  Ted Hughes is their big slugger.

The Cambridge Cummings have Picasso batting no. 3 and Scofield Thayer and T.E. Hulme anchoring the pitching staff.

The Amherst Emily has Thomas Wentworth Higginson as their pitching ace with Alfred Tennyson, Charlotte Bronte and Elizabeth Barrett in the outfield.

Finally, the Iowa City Grahams have Bin Ramke and Peter Sacks as key pitchers and James Galvin powering the middle of the lineup.

Stay tuned for complete team rosters.

We’ll give you updates during the season…every trade, every management dispute… individual stats, stat leaders, and team standings as the season progresses.


 According to the New York Times, science is coming to the humanities:

To illustrate what a growing number of literary scholars consider the most exciting area of new research, Lisa Zunshine, a professor of English at the University of Kentucky, refers to an episode from the TV series “Friends.”

 (Follow closely now; this is about the science of English.) Phoebe and Rachel plot to play a joke on Monica and Chandler after they learn the two are secretly dating. The couple discover the prank and try to turn the tables, but Phoebe realizes this turnabout and once again tries to outwit them.

 As Phoebe tells Rachel, “They don’t know that we know they know we know.”

 This layered process of figuring out what someone else is thinking — of mind reading — is both a common literary device and an essential survival skill. Why human beings are equipped with this capacity and what particular brain functions enable them to do it are questions that have occupied primarily cognitive psychologists.

 Now English professors and graduate students are asking them too.   —Patricia Cohen, The New York Times

This is good news. 

It’s about time “figuring out what someone else is thinking” became a concern of Letters.    For too long “figuring out” and “thinking” have been absent.   

Perhaps the divine eros of Dante and the ratiocination of Poe will return and the silly acadademic fads will be banned forever.  

The New Critics fancied they were doing science, but they forgot to ask why paradox and ambiguity and symbol existed; blinded by their rejection of origins (“Intentional fallacy”) and aims (“Affective fallacy”) for the sake of the pure text, the New Critics were, in reality, hopelessly unscientific.   So much for structuralism.  Psychoanalysis concerns itself too much with  drives and not enough with thoughts.  Marxism burdens its advocates with the impossible job of inventing ideal governance, of forming an economic Plato’s Republic that always finds itself rejecting a great deal more than poetry.

Ironically, poetry was perhaps the only thing Plato got right.

Brain science, as anyone in the field will tell you, is still very primitive.   But if the new trend gets us to see the poetry (and art in general) as one planet among many, and to see poetry as natural and selfish and not merely benign, to study human nature in a truly global context of secret motive, where matching wits and competing is just as real as the material of  which the universe is supposedly made, then this is a good thing.

Science does not have to invalidate art or make it subordinate; quite the contrary.  

It is precisely because fiction carries knowledge, and is not knowledge itself, that humanity in general takes any interest in it. 

Fiction is not some indirect means to a greater reality or the truth, fiction is not a window to the truth.  Fiction exists as a socialized address; it speaks to us in the act of its speaking, and thus is reality which speaks.  Art does not depict reality, or point to reality—it is reality.  It is reality speaking.  The opinion another holds regarding us is as real for them as it is for us, and how that opinion is expressed resembles a fiction because this is fiction’s realm, but this resemblance is not a casual one, but actual.  If we water fake plants, we still water them.  Accident can determine how another feels about us, but a feeling expressed is never accidental.  Reality is accident, but art never is.  Since carrying knowledge is a real function, the idea that we never access the knowledge itself matters not; in fact, it peaks our interest because the inaccessibility of knowledge replicates our experience of reality.  What is our experience of reality?   Reality is an experience we are constantly experiencing but never finally knowing.   It is by experiencing fiction, by experiencing what merely carries knowledge  that we finally know anything at all, and this is why fiction is our only means of knowing—because reality is a fiction which carries itself (its reality, our reality) ever further, without ever resting in knowledge.

Here is the Times again:

They say they’re convinced science not only offers unexpected insights into individual texts, but that it may help to answer fundamental questions about literature’s very existence: Why do we read fiction? Why do we care so passionately about nonexistent characters? What underlying mental processes are activated when we read?

Plato was the last great scientist of fiction.  It was fiction’s reality that Plato feared, in banning it from his Republic.  Plato’s attack on art remains the greatest homage to art in literature.  It is by supposing that reality is fiction and that fiction is reality that we better understand both.  Aristotle’s approach was to treat art as if it were a worthy component of reality; thus when Plato warned that art watered the passions, Aristotle claimed that art served the state by purging the passions, but Aristotle’s catharsis counter was nothing more than sleight of hand—for nothing is purged when it springs into existence; Aristotle made art a toy, a tool, of reality, but Plato knew it was more.

Before a poet reading this gets a swelled head—a poet friend in college enjoyed quoting Plato that poetry was something “divine”—we should remember that most poets are helplessly Aristotelian in their approach: their poetry is ‘about’ this or that; their conception of poetry is that of an illustration or an example of reality, but not reality itself.

Partial descriptions of reality are the soul of science; religion is impatient to disclose the secrets of the whole; devotion wants the answer, and only fictitously can such a thing be given.  Evolution is scientific by its very definition: scientifc knowledge evolves; it is acquired slowly; but knowledge cannot be partial, nor can the factual be partial; by a rude paradox, then, we find religion is more factual than science, since no fact can be true if facts keep evolving; religious truth, by attaching itself to what is unchanging, eclipses scientific knowledge in all but a few studious and lonely minds. 

I do not mean to say that religious truths are true in any objective sense, but to the individual mind—which is how knowledge, as far as we know, is known—religion is true as reflected in social reality (to most of us, the highest reality and truth),  guided and comprised of symbols of behavior, a fictional morality, if you will, which significantly influences all human thought and action.

Again, the Times:

 Ms. Zunshine, whose specialty is 18th-century British literature, became familiar with the work of evolutionary psychologists while she was a graduate student at the University of California, Santa Barbara in the 1990s. “I thought this could be the most exciting thing I could ever learn,” she said.

 At a time when university literature departments are confronting painful budget cuts, a moribund job market and pointed scrutiny about the purpose and value of an education in the humanities, the cross-pollination of English and psychology is a providing a revitalizing lift.

 Jonathan Gottschall, who has written extensively about using evolutionary theory to explain fiction, said “it’s a new moment of hope” in an era when everyone is talking about “the death of the humanities.” To Mr. Gottschall a scientific approach can rescue literature departments from the malaise that has embraced them over the last decade and a half. Zealous enthusiasm for the politically charged and frequently arcane theories that energized departments in the 1970s, ’80s and early ’90s — Marxism, structuralism, psychoanalysis — has faded. Since then a new generation of scholars have been casting about for The Next Big Thing.

 The brain may be it.

Again, it’s way too early to tell, and really quite doubtful, if “the brain may be it,” but the “evolutionary psychologists” mentioned in the article think broadly enough in terms of human motivation that thinking about literature might acquire wings after so many decades of trends which feature narrow, earthbound pursuits of the  pure text, lumbering politics, and self-centered psychology.

Art has been tamed by all these fads, over-shadowed by them, and perhaps the ‘next big thing’ will end up doing the same. 

So let’s take this opportunity to speak rationally and scientifically once more about art’s importance.

Art’s divine function is to mirror life sufficiently and then distort it so that a new reality is created in the cognitive and emotional life of the audience, and this distorting can be horrific or beautiful or comic, depending on the character and aim of the sculptor.  The cognitive or emotional life created in the audience does not merely reflect life; it is something new.  To be familiar, it must reflect life up to a point.  The necessity of this familiarity should serve the art, not the other way around.  When the art merely serves the reflective necessity, it will impress (in the way all similitude does) but not elevate the audience.  Art which makes no effort to reflect life fails on this very account.  This failure can manifest itself in a variety of ways: lack of personality, of action, of form, of duration, of emotion, of subtlety, but these demerits are qualities, not particular elements of life.  The artist uses clay, not life, to build up his art; the clay can be anything so long as it holds an impression, but the manner of artistry belongs to the will of the artist.  The merit of the work will be found in its unity—its faults will exist in parts, or in those spaces, pauses, and gaps where mere life (sans art, sans science) shows through.

As far as what Phoebe tells Rachel, “They don’t know that we know they know we know.”   This reminded me of how I always admired the Beatles’ first big American hit: She Loves You.

This is a perfect example of how art is, more than anything else, cunning expression.

The lyrics of this song somehow manage to celebrate love while excluding the lover from the song.  The typical love song is “I love you,” in which the man addresses the woman, or another common variation is “you don’t love me,” the Petrarchan trope, types of addresses which Shakespeare had so much fun twisting about  in his sonnets. 

With “she loves you,” we have something which is many, many levels more complex than “I love you.”  Yet, on the surface, it’s simple enough to work as a happy love song.  Yea, yea, yea.

However the ‘next big thing’ plays itself out, let’s hope we see more of the following quotes in english classes:

 The orange ray of the spectrum and the buzz of the gnat (which never rises above the second A), affect me with nearly similar sensations.  In hearing the gnat, I perceive the color.  In perceiving the color, I seem to hear the gnat.   –Edgar Poe

 Colors and grief, memories, the expected and the unexpected, this tree and the fluttering of its foliage, its annual variation, its shadow, as well as its substance, the accidents of its shape and position, the remote thoughts which it brings to the edge of my wandering attention—they are equivalents.  Any one can be substituted for any other.  Is not this perhaps the definition of things?  —Leonardo Da Vinci


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.


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.



March Madness has been a study as much as it has been an intoxication; the New Critics erred in thinking the emotive and the cognitive could not be combined; of course they can, by any astute critic (Poe is a shining example, who the New Critics, from Pound to Eliot to Warren to Winters to Brooks to Wimsatt carefully ignored or played down.). The New Critics made no satisfactory criticism; they merely introduced mumbo-jumbo, mere terms, such as paradox, ambiguity, irony and symbol and nothing about it was original or coherent, it was finally nothing but mumbo-jumbo for the self-elected priesthood.

The professional priest will lord it over the mere amateur, but such religious hierarchies do not belong in poetry, not artificially, anyway; Letters is not science, but finally morality for the many, and this is the ugly, primitive secret which the sophisticated modernist Oxford erudite fop dare not face.

……………………………………………………………..………….Thomas Brady


………..The Lord in His wisdom made the fly
………..And then forgot to tell us why.

……………                        ………                      …………Ogden Nash


The paradox here lies not in the fly or in the Lord’s wisdom but in what a poem can say that ordinary language can’t. You don’t need Pound, Eliot, Warren or Winters, or anyone from Oxford for that matter, to help you out with that, or even a High School diploma. Indeed, “The Night Before Christmas” is loaded with paradox, as is Pooh’s poetry, the Beatles, nursery rhymes, limericks and gospel. You can laugh or cry as much as you like, but still you can’t say what it  is without saying what it isn’t.

The ambiguity in this poem lies in the absurdity that gets to the very heart of what bothers human beings about life, the complexities of it – how a creature so indispensable to the health of the planet should be so small, for example, yet so insistent, fickle, and in your face, so disgusting yet impossible to swat.

The irony lies in the fact that the Lord in His wisdom forgot to tell us just about everything, and even when the scientist has done his or her very best to remedy that, and even shown us photos of the fly’s eyes and cultivated its filth in a petri dish so we could actually see the link between flies and disease, and then gone on to save lives by cleansing wounds with maggots, we still can’t decide who we are. And then along comes poetry, of all crazy stuff, and tells us!

Love hurts. Grief heals. The meek inherit the earth.

As to symbols, there are none in this poem in the usual sense. Indeed, symbols are rare in poetry worth reading because the whole idea of poetry is to rewrite the comfortable shorthands, cultural icons and codes we depend on. Indeed, when poetry is most effective even the symbols come off the rails, so to speak, and wreck our understanding of everything. For a moment we just have to stop — my God, my God, what is it?

Take the Rose in William Blake’s poem, “O Rose Thou Art Sick,” for example, or the Tiger in “Tyger, Tyger, Burning Bright.” Only beginners talk about either as “symbols,” because the moment you think you know what they mean you’re lost. You lose the thread, you lose the argument, you lose your soul to the facts already stuck in your head. And you can’t move on.

Symbols are for simpletons, not for Ogden Nashes!

Had Ogden Nash written a whole series of poems about flies, as Yeats did about towers, for example, then we might want to consider “why” in a broader sense, and “the fly” might even be considered a symbol in the little poem above. And hey, why not? Life’s too complex not to accept what little help we can get from the way we human beings use language!

But we don’t need a Professional Priesthood for that, though sometimes we get one, boo hoo. Then abuses do follow, and yes, we do get Reformers, Counter-reformers, New Critics, Anti-new-critics, Pound-profs or Poe-profs or Flat-earthers, you name it.

Fortunately,  most of us move on with the baby still in our arms and not lying there blue on the floor with the bathwater.

Most of us also examine our lives in privacy too, I might add, even if we also love frisbee and beer. And the best poetry, of course, remains private in public.

Christopher Woodman



Letter from J.D.Salinger to Ernest Hemingway (1946). JFK Library, Boston.

Read the instructions carefully before applying the message to the person.


Dispose of package carefully.


Side-effects — be careful.


Quote carefully.

So How’s Harriet Doing?

Yea, that’s what I thought.

Carry on.


“I woke up with a lovely tune in my head. I thought, ‘That’s great. I wonder what that is?'” He got up that morning in May 1965, went to the piano, and began playing the melody that would become “Yesterday.” At first, lacking lyrics, he improvised with ” Scrambled eggs, oh my baby, how I love your legs.”

I’m a sucker for the golden mean.

I love the idea of music that appeals to all.  When I have ideas about music, my thinking tends to go in the direction of popular song.  Is this why I’m a poet? 

I enjoy pure music without any ideas.  Popular music, on the other hand, fills me with ideas.

I wonder, for instance, if John Ashbery could write ‘Yesterday?’  I know Ashbery could write ‘Scrambled Eggs,’ but could he write the lyrics to a song classic, like “What A Difference A Day Makes?” 

Who would win a popular ballad writing contest—Silliman or CollinsArmantrout or LeithauserWC Williams or Edna Millay?

To get the attention of Mr. Grumpy businessman gulping his morning coffee and reading his newspaper with a song (let us write off poem as hopeless) would be quite a task, something akin to moving a very large boulder.  It would require great force, and in order to find such a force, invention and ideas would need to follow.

If, on the other hand, I wanted to interest Mr. Wry, an MFA Poetry professor, in a poem (something so mundane as a song not being a possibility) I would merely have to produce a little speech on how nothing resembling an idea should ever be trusted, that ideas are for businessmen and for people who want to do violence to large rocks, and finish it off with a description of some random thing, and voila!, Mr. Wry would be mine, my task done, no boulder would need be moved at all.

The first task, involving Mr. Grumpy, though not intellectual in itself, requires ideas to effect.

The second task, involving Mr. Wry, bristles with intellectuality, but requires nothing resembling an idea—in fact, rejects the very idea of an idea as something hopelessly violent and oppressive and obvious.

As much as a scientist is a genius, the more universal are his concepts, the more universal is the practical application.

In the old days, the author wrote for everyone and was more the genius the more he appealed to everyone.

The formulas and gadgets of the scientist may be obscure and difficult to comprehend, but the end of these complex formulas is always universal application.

The poet is not a scientist just because the poet produces formulas and gadgets that are not easily understood; to be understood in his ‘gadgets and his formulas’ is precisely why he writes fiction, and not science.  To be understood is the writer’s calling.   The scientist impacts the material world, the writer impacts people through words, and as much as those words are understood the writer is a writer; otherwise he would be a scientist.  

An obscure writer may be a scientist, but while he is being obscure, he is a scientist only, and perhaps a very great one, but not a writer.  The obscurity may eventually blossom into real-life material impact, and that material impact would be proof of the science involved; but obscurity is never the writer’s domain—unless he be a scientist and not a writer, and then we expect some material and practical impact from his obscurity.   The scientist, too, may be understood by the many, but only if formulas and gadgets lead to practical results is there ever a reason to celebrate obscurity in what the scientist does.

The composer is writing songs, then, while the scientist is developing new instruments.  A songwriter may use an instrument, a songwriter may even write a song so interesting that it demands a new instrument, and in that sense art can inspire science, but a song is a song, a poem is a poem, always comprehended as such on the surface as far as they are so, and those who would call them science do a grave injustice to songwriter Sam and scientist Sally.  The two may end up in bed.  But they are not the same.

I am really not sure why song-writing is not a part of every poet’s arsenal.  Bob Dylan is known as a poet because he wrote songs; music did not come looking for Dylan’s words, as Schubert’s music came looking for the poems of Goethe, and thus poems were converted into songs.  The talents used to be more separate, the gifted lyric-writer and song-writer often lived in separate worlds, and the singer in still another one.  Then Robert Zimmerman turned into Bob Dylan and millons have followed in Zimmerman’s footsteps.  Now poets are like half-persons with no music.  Have the poets spurned the singer, or have the singers rejected the poets?   The poetry certainly makes songs better.  “Yesterday” would have died unknown had it remained “Scrambled eggs.”  And did Shakespeare write opera without music?  Was Shakespeare not a half-person at all, but more whole than we realize, completed by a high-speech music?  Is this all elevated speech is?  Speech as a kind of music?

Does poetry not really exist?

Is there only prose?

And music?

Is poetry only the ingredient common to both, but invisible, causing them to rise, like yeast, but never tasted in the bread, never perceived in the product itself?

Is poetry written as poetry a great mistake, the isolation of what cannot live in isolation?  And, when we succeed in writing it, are we not really writing it at all—but only a prose or a music that devoured it when we were not looking?

Maria Grever, the prolific Mexican songwriter, composer of “Cuando Vuelva a Tu Lado” (What A Difference A Day Makes).

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