Scarriet: You know the rules, don’t you?

Marla Muse: Rules?

Scarriet: The March Madness rules.

Marla: Of course!  A sudden death playoff within four brackets. The winner of each bracket makes it to the Final Four, and then a champ is crowned!

Scarriet: We have 64 living poets, represented by their best lines of poetry—and these lines will compete for the top prize.

Marla: Exciting! To be sad, to be happy, or intrigued, or fall into a reverie—from a single line!  Only the best poets can do that to you!  Are all of these exceptional poets?

Scarriet: Of course they are.  The New Wave of Calcutta poetry is represented; poets who have won prizes recently; poets published in the latest BAP; some fugitive poets; and we’ve included a few older lines from well-known poets to populate the top seeds, for a little historical perspective.

Marla: A famous line of poetry!  It seems impossible to do these days.

Scarriet: There are more poets today. And no one is really famous. Some say there are too many poets.

Marla: Marjorie Perloff!

Scarriet: Maybe she’s right.

Marla: Enough of this. Let’s see the brackets!  The poets!  The lines!

Scarriet: Here they are:



Donald Hall–To grow old is to lose everything.

Jorie Graham–A rooster crows all day from mist outside the walls.

Mary Oliver–You do not have to be good.

Anne Carsondon’t keep saying you don’t hear it too.

Robert Haas–So the first dignity, it turns out, is to get the spelling right.

Maura Stanton–Who made me feel by feeling nothing.

Sean O’Brien–‘People’ tell us nowadays these views are terribly unfair, but these forgiving ‘people’ aren’t the ‘people’ who were there.

Warsan Shire–I have my mother’s mouth and my father’s eyes—on my face they are still together.

Ben Mazer–All is urgent, just because it gives, and in the mirror, life to life life gives.

Melissa Green–They’ve mown the summer meadow.

Peter Gizzi–No it isn’t amazing, no none of that.

Traci Brimhall–I broke a shell to keep it from crying out for the sea.

Molly Brodak–boundlessness secretly exists, I hear.

Charles Hayes–Her sweaty driver knows his load is fair.

Jeet Thayil–There are no accidents. There is only God.

Jennifer Moxley–How lovely it is not to go. To suddenly take ill.



Louise Gluck–The night so eager to accommodate strange perceptions.

A.E. Stallings–The woes were words, and the only thing left was quiet.

Patricia Lockwood–How will Over Niagara Falls In A Barrel marry Across Niagara Falls On A Tightrope?

Kevin Young–I want to be doused in cheese and fried.

Ross Gay–One never knows does one how one comes to be.

Andrew Kozma–What lies we tell. I love the living, and you, the dead.

Denise Duhamel–it’s easy to feel unbeautiful when you have unmet desires

Sarah Howe–the razory arms of a juniper rattling crazily at the edge of that endless reddening haze.

Emily Kendal Frey–How can you love people without them feeling accused?

Cristina Sánchez López–Have you heard strings? They seem like hearts that don’t want to forget themselves.

Natalie Scenters-Zapico–apartments that feel like they are by the sea, but out the window there is only freeway

Donna Masini–Even sex is no exit. Ah, you exist.

Meredith Haseman–The female cuckoo bird does not settle down with a mate. Now we make her come out of a clock.

Candace G. Wiley–My dear black Barbie, maybe you needed a grandma to tell you things are better than they used to be.

Ada Limón–just clouds—disorderly, and marvelous and ours.

Mary Angela Douglas–The larks cry out and not with music.



Marilyn Hacker–You happened to me.

Charles Simic–I could have run into the streets naked, confident anyone I met would understand.

Laura Kasischke–but this time I was beside you…I was there.

Michael Tyrell–how much beauty comes from never saying no?

Susan Terris–Cut corners   fit in   marry someone.

Chana Bloch–the potter may have broken the cup just so he could mend it.

Raphael Rubinstein–Every poet thinks about every line being read by someone else.

Willie Perdomo–I go up in smoke and come down in a nod.

Tim Seibles–That instant when eyes meet and slide away—even love blinks, looks off like a stranger.

Lori Desrosiers–I wish you were just you in my dreams.

Philip Nikolayev–I wept like a whale. You had changed my chemical composition forever.

Stephen Sturgeon–City buses are crashing and I can’t hear Murray Perahia.

Joie Bose–Isn’t that love even if it answers not to the heart or heat but to the moment, to make it complete?

Kushal Poddar–Your fingers are alight. Their blazing forest burns towards me.

Marilyn Chin–It’s not that you are rare, nor are you extraordinary, O lone wren sobbing on the bodhi tree.

Stephen Cole–Where every thing hangs on the possibility of understanding and time, thin as shadows, arrives before your coming.




W.S. Merwin–you know there was never a name for that color

Richard Wilbur–not vague, not lonely, not governed by me only

Terrance Hayes–Let us imagine the servant ordered down on all fours.

Claudia Rankine–How difficult is it for one body to see injustice wheeled at another?

Richard Blanco–One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes tired from work.

Brenda Hillman–Talking flames get rid of hell.

Les Murray–Everything except language knows the meaning of existence.

Susan Wood–The simple fact is very plain. They want the bitterness to remain.

Lawrence Raab–nothing truly seen until later.

Joe Green–I’m tired. Don’t even ask me about the gods.

Lynn Hejinian–You spill the sugar when you lift the spoon.

Connie Voisine–The oleanders are blooming and heavy with hummingbirds

Rowan Ricardo Phillips–It does not not get you quite wrong.

Chumki Sharma–After every rain I leave the place for something called home.

Nalini Priyadarshni–Denial won’t redeem you or make you less vulnerable. My unwavering love just may.

Julie Carr–Either I loved myself or I loved you.







  1. noochinator said,

    March 12, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    This is a great idea, since there are many poems that aren’t, um, so hot, yet have one fascinating line that stays with you — as if a wonderful phrase came to the poet, yet s/he wasn’t so successful in building a structure around it…. During the competition I’ll be doing my best to provide courtside poetry support (which is not to say “athletic support”) in order to provide the context that necessarily gets slighted in the heat of testostrogen-fueled competition. Let the games begin!

  2. thomasbrady said,

    March 12, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    These are great lines. Maybe “poetry” is in trouble, but philosophical wit and arresting imagery and poetic feeling are as strong as ever. “One line” viewing is a kind of a back door peek into the current sorry world of poetry—and there’s hope.

    Thank you, Nooch.

  3. maryangeladouglas said,

    March 12, 2016 at 7:10 pm

    Very happy to see this remarkable Scarriet feature again. I don’t read it as a competition though. I read it because it allows me to think about many poets at the same time a kind of thing I have wanted in concept to do since childhood when you wanted to play with all the toys at once and not leave anything out. When I wrote the email about hoping to see the poetic March Madness again I did not expect to actually be on the list. Oops. I only wanted to be in the stands munching my toffee fluff, cracker jacks, and what have you and cheering everybody ELSE on. I’m going to have to pretend that it is a different M.A. Douglas on your list than me in order to preserve my happiness. GO EVERYBODY ELSE, I’ve already got the cracker jack prize (poetry itself). Let the funness begin as my sister and I expressed it when younger than young.

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      March 12, 2016 at 7:14 pm

      I realize also that you Thomas Graves Brady or vice versa must somehow preserve your morose, slightly pessimistic, drowned in mist but still floating from glory to glory personae but I still feel each poem is a whole and I see it that way although some lines even in what I consider immortal poetry do leap out like lightning, it is still the whole poem I want to revere by virtue of its very existence, as Tennyson said about the flower in the cranied wall, root and all in my hands. If you choose to see only certain glints coming off the water and not the whole lake effect of light, that is in freedom, still your choice. For myself, I can’t do it. And I do believe every poem has something and is never a waste of space (unless it is cruel).

      • maryangeladouglas said,

        March 12, 2016 at 7:30 pm

        The idea of their being a back door to the poem (through the striking line) is very satisfactory.

  4. maryangeladouglas said,

    March 12, 2016 at 7:54 pm


    lightning falls apart and then to earth provides
    a moment’s spotlight and are you there
    in its charmed circle, bright-

    here on imagination’s strand?

    can we stand anymore
    the keepers at the door of the pearled?
    said a modern world

    you won’t know what you’ve said
    said a little girl?
    till you’ve said it something interposed

    the lightning flash on the rose
    word fragrant with its long agos
    neither here nor there

    in a box, hidden everywhere
    with a folkloric lid, and your own key
    that you perhaps use sparingly

    not knowing you don’t have to.

    the first you read on the blank sky
    of a page not yet turned
    and there ever after you longed to go

    where snows of silence can disclose
    uncloyed and spiced like Araby
    the feeling beyond all this

    that makes you break down
    in joy

    mary angela douglas 12 march 2016

  5. thomasbrady said,

    March 13, 2016 at 2:59 am

    Lightning falls apart and then to earth provides.

    Great poem.

    More to the point, great line! 🙂

    Thanks, Mary, for being in the tournament.

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      March 14, 2016 at 12:35 am

      Thanks for putting me in coach. Haha. You don’t know how fun it was to say that. I’ve always been horrible, horrible at P.E. or even just games at recess. Always the last one picked for Red Rover. Thank you TG.

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