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



  1. Franz Wright said,

    April 17, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    I know it is pointless to say this, I know that I am speaking to the deaf. But the poem originates in solitude and silence and is addressed to those souls who value and have themselves cultivated this spiritual condition–or it is addressed to “powerful and intelligent uneducated people”, as Whitman put it. Thirty to thirty five years ago, when the colleges and universities realized that the previously absurd notion of offering advanced degrees for writing poetry–you may be too young to remember how ludicrous this once seemed–was actually among the most cunning capitalist scams ever dreamed up (all young people and many lunatics consider themselves poets, and if they can cough up the dough, they receive a piece of paper that states they are “masters” of the arts by the time they are in the mid-twenties! There is virtually no outlay on theuniversity’s part–plus they can hire well known writers to teach and thereby prove how concerned they are with the continuance and patronage of the arts, &c. Anyway, this language of yours, “the movers and shakers” of poetry, this applying of one of those crass terms from the absurdly degraded and degrading world of popular entertainment to the writing of lyric poetry, is one of the outcomes of this whole process. The literary world is now fed by a perpetual flood of mediocre minds and talents. Arguably the greatest poetry in the world was being written in American until the late seventies, which was, surprise, the point at which the MFA programs became ubiquitous. But no matter how profoundly the art continues to be desecrated by you all, you cannot destroy it, it is like the human soul itself, indestructible–though when it is enduring blow after blow, traumatic insult after insult, in this case what would almost appear a deliberate attempt to lower the bar to the point where thousands of people per year can trip over it and call themselves poets, it will go underground, become dormant, seem to die. But it won’t die. When all this horseshit comes to an end, and somehow it surely will, great poetry will become possible in America again. You are the destroyers of poetry. The very language you use condemns you, reveals you for who you are–movers and shakers, for God’s sake. You pitiful fuckers. But poetry will survive you. FW

  2. thomasbrady said,

    April 17, 2010 at 2:45 pm


    Well said, and I agree with you.

    The spirit you’ve just expressed informed’s exposure of the machinations you mention, and Scarriet derives from that, and Christopher Woodman and I have always kept our focus there.

    This list may possibly be full of toadies and quacks, but factually speaking, this list is what it purports to be.

    One can go into the wilderness or one can fight in a more humorous and urbane manner.

    My language: “movers and shakers” is satiric. Perhaps I want to have my cake and eat it, too. I’m using ‘media hype’ language to attract readers, (I also did so with March Madness) but underlying much of what I do on Scarriet is mirthful and friendly satire. It sounds like you’re missing this tone of mine, and I don’t think you would be quite so indignant if you had read the articles on Scarriet which address the same concerns you’ve raised here.

    Thanks for commenting.


  3. Al Cordle said,

    April 17, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    Hey Tom, My friend Lisa P. wants to know: Why aren’t there more women on that list? Or is it that there aren’t as many moving and shaking??

    • thomasbrady said,

      April 17, 2010 at 10:04 pm


      Please ask Lisa for her list. I welcome feedback These types of lists are subjective. When I made the list, I wasn’t thinking ‘how many men, how many women?’ I just wasn’t counting that way. I was just looking for influential names. I did a lot of research in the poetry section at the Harvard Coop bookstore. I certainly didn’t slant it in any direction intentionally.


      • Alan Cordle said,

        April 18, 2010 at 7:20 pm

        Lisa says:

        Ok, so … You have Christopher and I searching all top 100 lists. Everything from song writers to visual artists, and we are averageing about 15 to 1, male to female. Christopher said that in 1989 he was the first class at Penn to have more women to men at about 51%. Twenty years should have gotten us some form of parity, but perhaps we need to … See Morewait a few more years. Your list of 100, is what? My loose count was about 20. I hadn’t heard of everyone so there were a couple I need to confirm. Perhaps I should also claim all minorities?? You should know that I am playing devils advocate. I’m curious about what’s going on. Do we as a culture invest more in men, meaning we are more likely to claim men as “best” while still faithfully reading women? Are women marginalized because we write about being marginalized? Hmmmmn…..??

  4. S. said,

    April 17, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    “Thirty to thirty five years ago [between 1975 and 1980], when the colleges and universities realized that the previously absurd notion of offering advanced degrees for writing poetry –- you may be too young to remember how ludicrous this once seemed –- was actually among the most cunning capitalist scams ever dreamed up…”

    The Iowa Writers’ Workshop MFA program was founded in 1936 — Ezra Pound hadn’t even finished his “Cantos” yet. By 1975 there were already well over a dozen MFA programs at some of the nation’s top universities, several of which had been founded in the 1940s and 1950s — preceding, even, many of the Beat poets (Johns Hopkins had an MFA program before “Howl” was even a twinkle in Ginsburg’s eye). Today nearly 50 MFA programs fully fund three-quarters or more of their students — i.e., they receive $0 in tuition from these writers — and provide them with jobs mentoring younger poets for more than these poets would make working the jobs they’d otherwise have: e.g., Starbucks barista. (It really hampers a “capitalist scam” when you’re not charging tuition.) Mentoring poets is a valuable thing for a writer to do — and if I’m not mistaken is something Franz (to his credit) does quite a lot of.

    I know Franz is good friends with Dara Wier, a lovely lady and extremely talented poet who also runs one of the top 5 poetry MFA programs in the United States. I know Franz does not think Dara is destroying poetry when she convenes her workshop every week; on the other hand, I don’t mean to be presumptuous. It’s possible that, across a dinner table somewhere in Amherst, Massachusetts, Franz has called Dara a “pitiful fucker” — but I very much doubt that (and certainly wouldn’t think any such appellation deserved). On the other hand, one could almost hope that it’s so — otherwise Franz is attacking twenty-something youngsters who are willing to commit years of their life to poetry while letting his well-published, MFA-teaching poet-friends entirely off the hook. That would suggest a penchant for defending the powerful and persecuting the weak that I would personally find extremely troubling.

    There’s no evidence — none — that mediocre poetry, which has been written since the time of the Ancients, crowds out or makes less possible the production of masterful poetry by others. Nor does the allegation make any coherent sense — Franz’s career has in no way been derailed by MFA programs, nor his voice silenced, to the tune of major publishers not only publishing every book he’s ever written but even releasing multiple (!) editions of his early works.

    There’s a danger the criticism here will seem not only nonsensical — I can’t write well over here in Florida because you, say, are not writing well over there in Kentucky — but also a sign of ungratefulness. Both to the thousands of young poets who get turned on to Franz’s work and pay $26.95 or whatever for his hardbound editions solely because they discovered his poetry while they were in an MFA program (where perhaps it was recommended to them by Dara or Peter Gizzi or any one of the many on this list Franz calls friend) and because the same country that produced the MFA-driven system of patronage (eclipsing the European one, in which poets survived by toadying up to the rich; shall we return to that?) has also produced Franz’s writing career. Franz is an incredibly talented writer — I’d say even a “generational” poet (only a handful of his ilk, I mean, are produced by each generation of Americans) — and there’s no doubt whatsoever that this has been recognized in large part because MFA programs produce readers of poetry as much as they do writers.

    Franz is 100% right that the phrase “movers and shakers” is odious. Every person on this list does no more or less than what they believe is important to American poetry. There’s no reason to think anyone here is tone-deaf when it comes to what fosters more masterful poetry being written in America; it’s just that they have different views on what’s most likely to make that happen. The 1950s were (apart from a few Beat poets) considered by most a “dead” period in American poetry — and there were maybe five or six MFAs operating then. The variety of poetry being written and published in America now — particularly online, and by independent publishers rather than the highly-conservative trade presses Franz publishes with — is staggering compared to the Richard Wilbur-ascendant poetics of the 1950s. The point being that Franz’s history is both factually inaccurate and runs contrary to even general opinion. No one today, including Franz I imagine, wants to live in a world where Robert Lowell’s most tepid work makes the cover of Time Magazine, and Robert Frost is the only poet most Americans have access to, and trade presses are the only presses with any readership, instead of one in which hundreds of independent publishers are vying to publish work that is innovative (as independent publishers who publish work that takes no risks invariably must fold, as there’s no reason for anyone to prefer their list to anyone else’s; in contrast, the massive marketing engines that drive Franz’s own publishers are able to push even hackery on the masses — and often, they do).

    How many people call themselves poets is immaterial. Poets die; poetry does not. Whether 50,000 or 100,000 Americans now consider themselves poets means nothing to how many masterful poems this generation will pass on to the next, nor will it even increase the number of “generational” poets recognized by succeeding generations of American poets.

    Franz says that great poetry is impossible in America right now. That makes great poetry a pretty pathetic curio, doesn’t it? Saying that the possibility of producing it in a small shack in, say, upstate New Hampshire (cf. Donald Hall) is absolutely and totally snuffed out by the fact that University of Hawaii at Manoa has a creative writing Ph.D. program simply makes no sense whatsoever. And it’s insulting to poetry. I think more of poetry than that. But oddly, so does Franz — his deeply patheticizing narrative of American poetry suddenly turns, at the end of his post, to a narrative of transcendence: “poetry will survive,” he writes. Indeed, it *will* survive! And it *does* survive — right now.

    No art-form which is in any way damaged by a six-person MFA program in Oxford, Mississippi could possibly survive ever or anywhere; in saying that poetry is powerful we can only conclude, too, that like a hyper-resistant species of plant it can survive anywhere and at any time. But also that it can be *found* anywhere and at any time — including, I’m sure, on occasion, at an MFA program. If I’m not mistaken, Franz’s good friend Dara received her MFA from Bowling Green State University in 1974. Or so says her Wikipedia page.


  5. April 17, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    Number 44:

    Did you mean W. S. Merwin?

    • thomasbrady said,

      April 18, 2010 at 3:35 pm


      Actually, # 44 should have been ‘Gary B. Fitzgerald.’

      Seriously, #95 has just informed Scarriet he doesn’t want to be on the list. Here’s his rank response:

      “please take my name off of your list.

      I find such lists to be pointless, even stupid.

      Poetry is not rank, there is no poetry month, there are only poets, some of them, working to transform self-hood into imagination.

      Clayton Eshleman”

      Any suggestions for a replacement?

      Here’s your chance to make literary history…


      • April 18, 2010 at 7:13 pm

        Glad to see you fixed ol’ ‘W.S.’.

        After all, what else does a poet really have but a name?

  6. Chuck Godwin said,

    April 17, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    What makes one a mover and a shaker? Can one be a mover and not a shaker, or a … well, nevermind.
    And if Gloria Gaynor did it, so will poetry.

  7. thomasbrady said,

    April 18, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    Gloria Gaynor?

    I was thinking more of… ‘now shake it up baby! twist and shout…’

    • Chuck Godwin said,

      April 19, 2010 at 7:25 pm

      I was referencing Wright’s comments about the survival of poetry.
      “First I was afraid
      I was petrified
      Kept thinking I could never live
      without you by my side
      But I spent so many nights
      thinking how you did me wrong” etc etc etc

      • thomasbrady said,

        April 19, 2010 at 8:57 pm

        I see…Wright is singing “I will survive” and the abusive boyfriend is represented by the pitiful mover and shaker fuckers…OK, fair enough…

      • chuckgodwin said,

        April 19, 2010 at 11:58 pm

        Actually it was meant as a joke, but I see it missed the mark.

  8. thomasbrady said,

    April 18, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    I am heartened that S. believes poetry not only will survive, as Franz believes, but “does survive, right now!”

    You haters of MFA programs! You will never kill poetry!

    You “movers and shakers!” Just try and kill poetry! Just try!

    Curse you, 1950s, who tried to kill poetry!

    Bless you, Dara Weir, with your MFA earned in 1974, come to save poetry!

    Bless Dara Weir and her MFA trained students come to save poetry! Bless them!

    Simon and Garfunkel are so square, don’t you know

    I had a thought in solitude but it drifted away

    Dara Weir will replace Clayton Eshleman, then, unless I hear objection…

  9. April 18, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    I vote for Bill Knott!

  10. April 18, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    By the way…it’s Dara WIER.

  11. thomasbrady said,

    April 19, 2010 at 12:20 am

    So sorry to Dara…I’ve only just been back from the misty mid region of Weir…

    OK, one vote for Bill Knott…

  12. Alan Cordle said,

    April 19, 2010 at 12:34 am

    I like Bill, but you do need more women. How about Erin Belieu?

  13. thomasbrady said,

    April 19, 2010 at 12:35 am

    Hello Lisa,

    The Scarriet list is actually 29 women to 71men, or almost 30% or, roughly 2 men to every woman…actually not too bad for a ‘power’ list of this kind.

    Dorothy Sayers was the first woman to graduate from Oxford and she was about T.S Eliot’s age.

    The whole man/woman question is horribly simple, I’m afraid. Men are more war-like and bullying, and most men would rather do anything to get out of the house than spend time changing diapers, and so men have a tendency to get the ‘power’ positions, and despite some changes in office environments and so forth, it’s still a war-like, bullying world. There it is.


  14. thomasbrady said,

    April 19, 2010 at 1:02 am


    I’ve heard Robert Pinsky #11 made things happen for Belieu. I know one of those WILLA faces from earlier in my life…Harvard Square! Small world. We remember Cate Marvin from that “Legitimate Dangers” anthology, right?

    Another woman would be great. I suppose I could kick off 20 men and make it equal. One woman for every man.

    But if sexism does exist and my 29/71 list reflects that, is the list wrong? Or is it more accuarate to say sexism only exists because I am sexist because of my list?

    I’ve been giving this a lot of thought…and I’m actually thinking of telling Eshleman that my list has more integrity if the list contains those who are against the list in principle. And therefore he will have to stay.


  15. Anonymous said,

    April 27, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    Could the MFA-defending rather-verbose S. possibly be #100?

    I move and shake to know.

  16. April 27, 2010 at 11:20 pm


  17. thomasbrady said,

    April 27, 2010 at 11:32 pm


    The Hot 100 changes constantly.

    You might be on it right now, who knows?


  18. thomasbrady said,

    April 28, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    100 Great Poems of the 20th Century, Mark Strand, editor

    14% are women.

    Scarriet’s Hot 100

    29% are women.

  19. Bob Tonucci said,

    May 9, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    A poem by Clayton Eshleman, who asked that his name be removed from the Po-Biz Hot 100.

    The Lich Gate

    by Clayton Eshleman

    Waiting, I rest in the waiting gate.
    Does it want to pass my death on,
    or to let my dying pass into the poem?
    Here I watch the windshield redden
    the red of my mother’s red Penney coat,
    the eve of Wallace Berman’s 50th birthday drunk
    truck driver smashed Toyota,
    a roaring red hole, a rose in whirlpool
    placed on the ledge of a bell-less shrine.
    My cement sits propped against the post. To live
    is to block the way and
    to move over at the same time, to hang
    from the bell-less hook, a tapeworm in the packed
    organ air, the air resonant with fifes, with mourners
    filing by the bier
    resting in my hands, my memory coffer
    in which an acquaintance is found.
    Memory is acquaintance. Memory is not a friend.
    The closer I come to what happened,
    the less I know it, the more I love
    what I see beyond the portable
    frame in which I stand–I, clapper, never free,
    will bang, if the bell rope is pulled.
    Pull me, Gladys and Wallace say to my bell, and you
    will pass through, the you of I, your
    pendulum motion, what weights
    you, the hornet-nest shaped
    gourd of your death, your scrotal
    lavender, your red glass crackling
    with fire-embedded mirror. In vermillion and black
    the clergyman arrives. At last
    something can be done about this
    weighted box. It is the dead who come forth to
    pull it on. I do nothing here.
    When I think I do, it is the you-hordes
    leaning over my sleep with needle-shaped
    fingers without pause they pat
    my still sillhouette which shyly moves.
    The lich gate looks like it might collapse.
    Without a frame in which to wait,
    my ghoul would spread. Bier in lich,
    Hades’ shape, his sonnet prism reflecting
    the nearby churchyard, the outer hominid limit,
    a field of rippling meat. I have come here
    to bleed this gate, to make my language fray
    into the invisibility teeming against
    The Mayan Ballcourt of the Dead, where
    I see myself struggling intently,
    flux of impact, the hard
    rubber ball bouncing against the stone hoop.

  20. thomasbrady said,

    May 9, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    I finally decided not to remove Eshleman from that list because it was not a voluntary, by-invitation list; when you have a name in the poetry world, that name belongs to you—but it also belongs to others, for purposes of edification in a free society.

    This poem seems in the Whitman/DH Lawrence line…it’s good but some of the allusions seem a little too personal…

  21. #43 support said,

    June 3, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    #43. Richard Howard

    Elementary Principles at Seventy-two

    When we consider the stars (what else can we do with them?) and even recognize among them sidereal father-figures (it was our consideration that arranged them so), they will always outshine us, for we change. When we behold the water (which cannot be held, for it keeps turning into itself), that is how we would move—but water overruns us. And when we aspire to be clad in fire (for who would not put on such apparel?) the flames only pass us by—it is a way they have of passing through. But earth is another matter. Ask earth to take us, the last mother—one womb we may reassume. Yes indeed, we can have the earth. Earth will have us.



    Her dealer, who handled successful artists, was a successful dealer, and his Christmas party, too, was a success: we all knew it was, for weren’t we all there? And the successful artist being handled in her eighth decade knew it too, although she was so old, and had been so unsuccessful for so long that she seemed to pay no mind to anyone. She sat quite still, her rosy scalp glistening through her rather thin white hair, and gave no sign of hearing, or ignoring, any of our successful conversations. Above the chair she sat in (like a furnished bone) loomed the decorative focus of the long room which had been handled by a successful designer of skeletal interiors: a Roman male, oversize, and barely under overweight, every muscle equally successful—classically nude but not in the least naked as any man would be. And as the talk continued, Alice Neel leaned back and looked up into the forking limbs above her head, a pure pelvic arch indeed denuded of the usual embellishment, so that all that met the eye was a shadowed empty socket, the mere embouchure where once unstinting paraphernalia must have lodged. “Very fragile things, penises,” she mused, and for a moment no one there succeeded in saying a word.

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