Danse Macabre is our theme for Scarriet’s Second Annual March Madness Poetry Tournament.
Death and poetry used to be closer; then with Modernism, Things in poetry became the rage, but Death as a symbol (and reality) cannot be denied.
So, here’s our thinking: The Second Annual March Madness Tournament, is, first of all, an elimination tournament.
Secondly, every poet lives with the anxiety that their poems will be neglected; even those with fame today may be forgotten tomorrow; all their sweat, worth and reputation may be utterly buried by Time.
Thirdly, many of the poems in the tournament have Death as their subject.
Fourthly, the poets themsevles are old, or dying, or dead.
But dancing implies vigor and joy, and there is that, too. What if we never really die? And why shouldn’t we dance, anyway?
Scarriet’s Poetry March Madness Tournament source this year is the APR anthology, The Body Electric, with an introduction by Harold Bloom.
Last year Scarriet drew from David Lehman’s Best American Poetry series for its Poetry March Madness contest.
Scarriet came into its own with its Poetry March Madness, attracting widespread attention from published poets thrilled to finally throw an elbow at their rivals, or freeze them with a soft jumper, or drive right over them to the hoop to win with seconds remaining. Booya.
Who knows? One day we may refer not to the work of a poet, but the play of a poet.
This year, taking center stage is the best of the American Poetry Review, poems from Body Electric: America’s Best Poetry from the American Poetry Review, compiled by editors Stephen Berg, Arthur Vogelsang and David Bonanno.
APR began in 1972, and the poems in Scarriet March Madness Two have that hippie/post-hippie, ‘free-spirited intellectuals having nervous breakdowns’ energy, the glorious free-verse confessionalism where poets finally ‘get to say what they want to say’ in a fireworks of expressionism. The embarrassment, however, is sometimes palpable in these poems, as death winds its way even into the most comfortable of poet-professors’ dens, and the happy, rounded, sexually-tinged, rhetoric, seeking escape from death-sonnets and other old, quaint devices, wrestles with the horror of old death, anyway. Post-modernism, Modernism and the Ancients leveled, one might say.
And great poets are here, 180 of them, but only 64 get to enter the tournament itself.
Who will be in, and who will be out, during this first stage?
Can poets like Bill Knott, Eileen Myles, and William Kulik beat out poets like Robert Lowell, Seamus Heaney and Sylvia Plath?
Let the elbowing commence.