Brother Thomas asked me to speak to the congregation today because it’s been one year since I joined the House of Scarriet….

 (“Amen”; “Thank you, Lord”)

 Now brothers and sisters, a year ago I did not even know who David Lehman was…

 (“Mmm-mm-mm”; “Lord have mercy”)

Brothers and sisters, I had not even HEARD the name of Brother Lehman…

 (“Oh Lord!”)

 But I have now seen the light….

 (“Yes he has”)

 Now I have read all the canonical books of the BAP-le — and I have come away a changed man.


 Recite with me, church, if you will, the books of the BAP by editor and date in chronological order…

 (“John Ashbery 1988”)

Very good…

 (“Donald Hall 1989”)

 Amen, keep going….

 (crowd recites up to “Richard Howard 1995”)

 Now be careful with the next one!

 (knowing laughter)

Someone want to shout it out?

 (a child’s voice: “James Tate 1997”!)

Amen.  From the mouths of babes.  That’s correct, “Adrienne Rich 1996”, along with “Harold Bloom Best of the Best”, are considered apocryphal and not accepted as canonical books. Let’s continue from there…

 (crowd recites up to “Amy Gerstler 2010”)

Amen. Brothers and sisters, in 1962, the Supreme Court banned poetry from our public schools.


 The Supreme COURT – banned the MUSE – from our SCHOOLS!

 (“Yes, it did…”)

 And the Muse said, “Alright, that’s fine – I’m going to go for a long walk where I’m appreciated” – and left us – to our own devices…

 (“Yes, She did….”)

And I don’t need to tell you, brothers and sisters – this country has gone DOWNHILL ever since!

(“Thash roit”)

 Now, don’t get me wrong, we’ve come a long way in that time….

 (“Yes, we have”)

 And yet I ask you — in your worldly glory, have you left the Muse behind?

(”Mm-mm-mm”; “Preach it”)

 In your materialist splendour — have you forgotten the Muse?  Have you said, “I will add houses to fields and then admire the work of my hands”! – and yet I tell you, you will die this very night….


This very night, then who will take your houses and your fields and your worldly glory?

(“Preach it”)

 Go to the books of the Best American Poetry, the BAP-le, brothers and sisters.  It will quench your thirst.  It will satisfy your soul. Brothers and sisters, I feel the spirit moving upon me….  I feel the gift of tongues descending upon me……  Joriegrahamfrankbidartambertamblynhallelujah….


  1. Aaron Asphar said,

    March 13, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    What a title – it sorely makes me want to slit my throat.

  2. noochinator said,

    June 19, 2014 at 11:07 am

    “The names on the mailboxes that claimed my attention when I was a small child were proof enough that the tenant farmers were of the same stock as the townspeople who looked down on them socially. Their forebears had perhaps come on a later wave of European migration and found that land was no longer plentiful at a dollar and a quarter an acre. Or they could have been hamstrung by some family misfortune. Or simply lacked the talent for rising in the world.

    “Roaming the courthouse square on a Saturday night, the tenant farmers and their families were unmistakable. You could see that they were not at ease in town and that they clung together for support. The women’s clothes were not meant to be becoming but to wear well, to last them out. The back of the men’s necks was a mahogany color, and deeply wrinkled. Their hands were large and looked swollen or misshapen and sometimes they were short a finger or two. The discontented hang of their shoulders is possibly something I imagined because I would not have liked not owning the land I farmed. Very likely they didn’t either, but farming was in their blood and they wouldn’t have cared to be selling real estate or adding up columns of figures in a bank.

    “On the seventh day they rested; that is to say, they put on their good clothes and hitched up the horse again and drove to some country church, where, sitting in straight-backed cushionless pews, they stared passively at the preacher, who paced up and down in front of them, thinking up new ways to convince them that they were steeped in sin.”

    —William Maxwell, from his short novel So Long, See You Tomorrow

  3. noochinator said,

    June 6, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    A reading from the book of Manners from Heaven by St. Quentin (Crisp)(PBUH):

    “Give generously what you do not need; withhold quietly what you cannot bear to part with. Praise lavishly anyone who can never constitute a serious rival; disparage subtly those who might outstrip you. What Mr. Machiavelli considered to be politically expedient for a prince is socially expedient even for those not of noble blood. He recommended that a prince should do all the harm he felt to be absolutely necessary on one day but should spread good deeds throughout the year.

    “Never argue with your wife or husband, nor hit your children, in public; deal with your loathed ones at home. Present a clean appearance both physically and spiritually to neighbors and even to strangers; reserve your nastiness for your family. If the difference between your public and private behavior is remarked upon, never deny it; make a great show of bearing the rebuke with good grace. Learn to be more accepting of life’s vicissitudes: accept opportunities for self-gratification cheerfully; accept compliments without self-deprecation; accept gifts without saying the giver shouldn’t have given them; accept money at once … accept advice and get rid of it immediately, and as the astute Mr. Shaw once said, ‘Do not do unto others what you would have them do unto you: they may not have the same tastes.’” (Manners from Heaven, p. 49)

  4. thomasbrady said,

    September 9, 2015 at 11:12 pm

    I like the poem. It conveys a helpless ineptitude in a charming manner. Impossible nature swallowing impossible history as the poem helplessly looks on.

    • noochinator said,

      September 10, 2015 at 11:17 am

      Yeah, it’s not bad. I’m so glad Mr. Alexie decided to keep it in the BAP. There’s a long tradition of writers and other artists changing their names. Heck, even POLITICIANS change their names now: Gary Hart was Gary Hartpence, Bill de Blasio was born Warren Wilhelm, Jr.

      I hereby declare Scarriet’s summer of 2015 officially over!

      • thomasbrady said,

        September 10, 2015 at 9:04 pm

        Our heat wave just ended here in Boston…

  5. noochinator said,

    September 22, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    John Derbyshire weighed in on the Yi-fen Chou BAP flap:

    There is among us a poet, a middle-aged white guy named Michael Derrick Hudson. Mr. Hudson wrote a poem, title: “The Bees, the Flowers, Jesus, Ancient Tigers, Poseidon, Adam and Eve.”

    That’s the title. I shall refer to it as “The Bees, etc.” The poem itself isn’t much longer than its title: 178 words, organized in 13 stanzas of one or two lines each, for a total 20 lines.

    “Organized” is actually too strong a word. Like most of what is published as poetry nowadays, “The Bees, etc.” is free verse. It has neither rhyme nor meter. “Playing tennis with the net down,” was Robert Frost’s judgment on free verse. “‘Free verse’?” sniffed G.K. Chesterton. “You might as well call sleeping in a ditch ‘free architecture.’” Free verse even at its best is really just rhythmic prose. Nothing wrong with that, and I’m not actually as stern about the matter as Frost and Chesterton were. Rhythmic prose can be very effective.

    “The Bees, etc.” is, however, not free verse at its best. It has no rhythms that I can detect. Not only is “The Bees, etc.” unrhymed, non-metrical, and non-rhythmic, it has no structure. It’s not built from couplets, tercets, quatrains, or quintets. It’s not a sonnet, a sestina, a ballade, pantoum, villanelle, or Pindaric ode. In fact it’s just ten prose sentences arbitrarily broken at nineteen points, the twenty resulting fragments printed each on its own line. The stanza breaks are as arbitrary as the line breaks. The fourth sentence, for instance, begins with the words, “But they look so perfect together …” There is a stanza break between the words “so” and “perfect.” “But they look so,” new stanza, “perfect together.”

    Why? Beats me. Five’ll get ya eight if you asked Mr. Hudson why, he’d reply: “Why not?”

    What’s the poem about? Well, in the first five of his ten sentences, the poet is watching through a magnifying glass a bee pollinating flowers. In sentences five and six he wonders why he’s doing this. In sentence seven he expresses general discontent with his life, comparing it to a vacation in which he is the incompetent tour guide. Sentences eight, nine, and ten are send-ups of the kinds of things tour guides say.

    Why am I telling you about this poem? Well, Mr. Hudson — the poet — is, as I began by telling you, a white guy. He wanted to get his poem published, so he submitted it to poetry magazines and literary journals.

    After forty rejections, Mr. Hudson changed strategy. Instead of submitting the poem under his actual name, he made up a Chinese-sounding pen-name, Yi-fen Chou, and submitted it under that name.

    There were nine rejections. Then an old and respectable literary magazine named Prairie Schooner, published quarterly by the English department of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, accepted the poem for publication. They printed it with the pen-name Yi-fen Chou in their fall 2014 issue.

    The comparison of the forty rejections with the nine suggests, though it does not prove, that the Chinese pseudonym helped the poem get accepted. Nonwhite privilege, see?

    So far, so good. Things got better for Mr. Hudson, though. Every September the publisher Scribner’s issues an anthology of the best American poems published the past year. I used to buy it. The latest one I have on my shelf is for 1998, which was about the time I stopped reading contemporary poetry.

    Well, “The Bees, etc.” was selected for this year’s volume; and there it is in The Best American Poetry 2015, $10.44 paperback from Amazon.

    “The Bees, etc.” was selected for the anthology by editor Sherman Alexie, himself a poet, prose writer, and filmmaker. Mr. Alexie is an American Indian. His poems,prose, and films are all about being an American Indian. Yes, we are in the precious little world of identity narcissism here. Where else would we be, when talking about contemporary poetry?

    So Mr. Alexie, the American Indian editor, chose this poem by a white guy named Hudson writing under a Chinese pen-name, for this prestigious anthology he was editing. After he’d chosen it and notified the poet, Michael Hudson wrote back revealing his true identity.

    This presented Mr. Alexie with heap big dilemma. Quote from him:

    “I had to keep that pseudonymous poem in the anthology because it would have been dishonest to do otherwise. If I’d pulled the poem then I would have been denying that I gave the poem special attention because of the poet’s Chinese pseudonym.

    “If I’d pulled the poem then I would have been denying that I was consciously and deliberately seeking to address past racial, cultural, social, and aesthetic injustices in the poetry world.”

    Did you get that? Mr. Alexie admits that he selected poems for this anthology not, or not just, for their poetic merits, but to, quote, “address past racial, cultural, social, and aesthetic injustices in the poetry world.” This fortifies one’s suspicion that Prairie Schooner also selected the poem for publication on social-justice principles; or, to put it another way, on the basis of nonwhite privilege.

    Having admitted it, Mr. Alexie ties himself in knots trying to de-admit it. His apologia runs to 2,800 words; read it for yourself at the blog for The Best American Poetry 2015 (“Sherman Alexie Speaks Out on ‘The Best American Poetry 2015′”, September 7, 2015).

    This little incident caused a huge stir in Social-Justice circles. A black poet named Danez Smith, who writes poems about being black, told the Independent that:

    “Michael’s theatre has already taken up space a writer of color could have filled, his antics trivialize the experience of people of color, of growing up with a name that many white Americans refuse to fit in their mouths.”

    Asian-American activists, of course, were choking on their noodles. Several accused Mr. Hudson of performing in yellowface. Korean-American poetess Franny Choi, who writes poems about being Korean-American — and also, to be fair, about her vagina — vented thus:

    “For Asian-Americans, changing our names is a strategy to survive a racist and nativist America. Michael Derrick Hudson’s pseudonym is cultural appropriation at its purest — it’s stealing from the struggle of people of color for a white man’s personal gain.”

    Now, we know to a good probability that Mr. Hudson’s poem only got published at all because of nonwhite privilege; and we know from Mr. Alexie’s own pen that nonwhite privilege boosted it into the Scribner anthology. As a commenter at Mediaite.com put it very succinctly:

    “Racist people accuse person who exposed them as racists of being racist.”

    That about sums it up.

    I’m a poetry lover. I can recite yards of the stuff, some of it in languages I can’t speak conversationally. Three whole shelves of my study are populated by poetry books. I’m going to take a break now for some quiet weeping.

    On a more cheerful note, this story about a guy pretending to be Chinese to get his poem published reminded me of an actual Chinese poem.

    This poem is by a talented but sadly neglected Chinese poet of the T’ing Dynasty, name of Tai Yüeh-han. I read my own translation aloud on “Radio Derb” accompanied by background Chinese music:

    Was your poem returned with apology?
    Just practice a little psychology.
    Pretend you’re nonwhite;
    Things will soon be all right,
    And you’ll be in the Scribner anthology!

  6. thomasbrady said,

    September 22, 2015 at 9:56 pm

    In the Best Poetry anthology Hudson’s poem sits next to this one:

    Careful, I Just Won a Prize at the Fair

    Don’t remind me
    how insufficient
    love is. You

    threw quarters
    into a bowl. We are bones
    and need, all hair

    and want: this fish won’t swim
    in a plastic bag
    forever. My makeshift

    gown in a candle, my breasts
    full of milk for our young—
    whose flames

    are these anyway?

    This is the kind of poem considered the “best,” which Hudson was up against.

    • noochinator said,

      September 22, 2015 at 10:01 pm

      Obviously the prize won at the fair wasn’t for poetry.

  7. Hands of an Angry God said,

    September 23, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    [RE: breasts
    full of milk for our young — ]

    Who cares what’s fair for poetry
    when the pair is spurting foetry.

    (Scarriet does it better brother & sisters – can I get a WITNESS?)

    • noochinator said,

      September 23, 2015 at 4:21 pm

      I feel the spirit of tongues descending….

      • Andrew said,

        September 24, 2015 at 2:17 am

        Yes – yes brother.
        What is the interpretation of your prophetic utterance?

        • thomasbrady said,

          September 24, 2015 at 3:01 am

          Words, words, words…no. Names, names, names…

          • Andrew said,

            September 24, 2015 at 3:13 am

            The only Word is the Name !
            Pure glossolalia ! I GET it …

        • noochinator said,

          September 25, 2015 at 12:01 pm

          The interpretation of my prophetic utterance is:

          “The poet is everything; the poem is nothing — nothing but a press release to boost the poet’s career prospects.”


          • Andrew said,

            September 25, 2015 at 12:10 pm

            Yours appears to be a nihilist/narcissist prophetic dichotomy. But you noochinate very well indeed.

  8. noochinator said,

    September 29, 2015 at 10:21 am

    Myron Magnet at City Journal just penned this one:

    I am the very model of a modern PC activist,
    I’ve grievances that flare at actions racist, classist, genderist,
    I’m sensitive as maidens from the age of Queen Victoria,
    I take offence at things that ought to bother many more a ya.

    When New York’s operetta group for Gilbert and for Sullivan
    Announced that The Mikado would be part of this year’s Christmas fun,
    I natur-ally called to see, if all was as it ought to be,
    Especially within the realm of ethnic authenticity.
    Imagine my surprise and fright, to learn the cast was lily-white
    And merely acting Japanese, as if pretending was alright.

    I’m very good at blogging so I sat at my computer screen
    And let loose some invective that was aimed to cause an awful scene.
    I charged the group with outraging my racial sensitivity,
    And found that thousands more as sensitive were scandalized like me.
    I’m horrified that Shakespeare used young boys to act his female parts,
    Or whites to play Othello, even Christians to ply Shylock’s arts.
    Forget about Kabuki played in greasepaint most unnatural,
    In modern times the arts must stick to what is actually actual.

    Of course I don’t burn books or anything that seems facistical,
    And censorship is something reprehensibly fanatical.
    But yay for me, the head of this New York artistic company
    Has crumpled like a house of cards and given me the victory.
    The Pirates of Penzance will play instead of The Mikado then,
    And Sullivan and Gilbert can join Huck Finn in oblivion.

    So still at grievances at actions racist, classist, genderist,
    I am the very model of a modern PC activist.


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