INSINCERELY OFFENDED

Image result for the offended in renaissance painting

The biggest asshole is the one who insincerely takes offense.

To be offended, as wrongs go, is a relatively harmless thing in itself, and often earns the offended party points for virtue—and here lies the insidious nature of the insincere who are always offended: their bad spreads and increases, inspired, and under the cover of, the apparent good—which makes the insincerely offended impossible to stop simply and virtuously.

To take offense is to give offense—the offended shame the other by being offended by them, even though the “offense” is harmless—and sincere. And here the insincerely offended strike an even greater and more insidious blow against sincerity: when they insincerely take offense at something which is offered sincerely.

The asshole’s insincerity—because it hides behind virtue—is protected, increasing the truth of its insincerity. The asshole’s bad—which hides behind the good, is, for that very reason, is even worse, as all that is insincere (and called good) gradually chases out all that is sincere (and called bad).

This common, yet applauded, wrong, is able, like an infection without a cure, to spread harm and mischief vastly, and incalculably.

Justice longs, like any pressure, or force, to manifest itself in some way—for it would not be justice otherwise.  The more wrong and the more torture the faculty of virtue suffers, the greater likelihood of a dramatic reversal of the state of things—perpetuated over time by insidious wrong which hides itself inside the good.

Murder, and other truly criminal, brazen and anti-social acts, don’t happen out of the blue, but we are nonetheless often puzzled by the sudden and seemingly unexplained ferocity and evil of human behavior. These terrible offenses, replete with horror and irrationality, come about, very often, from the far less harmful, but constant, behavior of the assholes—who are able to seem good as they constantly shame and torture others.

The insincerely offended asshole is the root of all evil.

The good person is made to feel bad—even as they know themselves to be sincere.

The good person sees the bad person winning, as a seeming good person—and there is nothing the good person can do about it. Good is defeated by the bad, as all the good is sucked out of the room.

Good can, and will, suffer, in silence, knowing itself to be good.

Good, however, in a weak moment, may take offense itself, because of the insincere strategy of the bad who are offended, and good, now offended in turn, and rightly so, transitions to the idea that all offense taken is insincere, and bad is all—good succumbs to the atmosphere of bad, believing there is no more good, since being offended is the only reality, whether it is sincere, or not.

Since taking offense sincerely is actually a more helpless order of being than taking offense insincerely (the latter perceived to be more clever and ambitious and socially successful) good falls in line with the prevailing bad behavior—which ambitiously and insincerely takes offense.

The bad perpetuates bad as normal, and the bad flourish in their status quo status, insincerely offended by every means and manner one can think of—since the world is imperfect in every way, there is an infinite store of things which offend. “To be offended” becomes not only the de facto normal and safe position, but the strong and superior position.

This is how, in a normal and self-perpetuating manner, the bad grows and flourishes, always on the offended end of things, while the just and the good either convert to the bad-and-insincerely-offended normal, or, the good ineffectively fight back, either violently or pitifully, committing more harm, and looking truly bad, and becoming truly bad, in the process. The good is not only defeated by the bad; the good ends up becoming even worse, making the triumph of the bad even more certain and inevitable.

But take heart.

Build a house–or a poem—which doesn’t fall down.

You are good.

It is them, not you.

The world is more creepy, unfair and crazy than you ever dreamed.

But we’ll find a way out of this.

I promise.

 

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IF THE INTROVERT

If the introvert is really so,

Where can the introvert go

To escape public notice—their fear and doom?

They just slip into the bathroom.

Whether in a public place, or at home,

There’s a place where the introvert can truly be alone—

Better than the living room, or even hiding in bed,

Where someone else might lurk, the introvert’s dread—

Is a private room where the introvert really spends their life.

Look around. Where is your moody wife?

You might speak to them as they half-listen, half-hidden by their hair;

You might even make them angry. They aren’t really there.

You might feel fortunate to get them on the phone.

The truth is, the introvert is always alone.

The introverts, silent ghosts, climb inside their walls,

As Churchill’s voice looks for them, echoing in the stalls.

 

THE ENTRANCE

Image result for entrance with blue pillars

The entrance is all.

The entrance allows you to enter,

Unless it is locked, or too small.

This entrance seems meant for you,

And, as you go in,

You hear the sounds of love,

And feel the grip of sin.

The entrance had blue stone

Pillars on both sides

And marble for miles

Which no one derides.

The entrance is expensive

And when you entered it, you were

Different afterwards. But don’t ask her.

She is the queen of entrances.

She is official. She knows

Death is the entrance

Every palace shows.

This entrance, however, is so tall

You don’t see it. The sky

Seems to beckon.

But you are too small.

At the beginning of the entrance you die

To get out. She knows why.

You signed up with the others.

They waived the entrance fee.

And now you’re in a submarine

At the bottom of the sea.

 

 

GREAT

Image result for statue of shelley

His love was great—but I always hated that word.

Word associations are true, though they seem absurd.

The expression “great with child,” disgusted me;

I hated the word, “great;” men were obsessed with it especially;

“I’m great,” or “that’s great”—and I would roll my eyes.

I learned eventually everything great was everything that lies.

He did love me, and I found him difficult to resist;

He had such beautiful hands, and I never saw him make a fist;

He would have died for me, though melody and poetry

And beauty made him die.

I worked at loving, but he didn’t have to try.

His love was great. And that’s when I realized the lie.

He was gallant and romantic and tall.

But he loved me too much. So I chose not to love him at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BEN MAZER: THE LAST MODERN

Image result for ben mazer selected poems

Selected Poems by Ben Mazer
Paperback, 248 pages
Madhat Press
Preface by Philip Nikolayev

T.S. Eliot was born in 1888. As Ben Mazer’s Selected Poems, with its T.S. Eliot heft, lands on America’s doorstep (as writing workshop and slam poet hives hum in every college town) this is the question a few may be asking: is Mazer a genius, or a copyist?

When we write in the ascendant style of an age, we position ourselves for greatness (think Beethoven atop Mozart), or neglect—a copyist the world doesn’t need.

W.H. Auden—younger, English-born, sassier than the somber American, T.S. Eliot—whom Eliot published, and who, after traveling to Berlin and China with Isherwood, subsequently moved to America and awarded John Ashbery his Yale Younger—is Auden Mazer’s fountainhead?

Are the following quotes from Auden or Mazer?

1.Shut up in a lonely mansion, with police night and day/Patrolling the gardens to keep the assassins away,/He got down to work

2. The flier, at the Wicklow manor,/Stayed throughout the spring and summer,/Mending autos in the drive

3. In a strange country, there is only one/Who knows his true name and could turn him in./But she, whose father too was charged with murder

4. Look, stranger, on this island now/The leaping light for your delight discovers

5. And move in memory as now these clouds do,/That pass the harbor mirror/And all the summer through the water saunter.

The insouciance of rhymes flung against the language of hard-boiled detective fiction. It’s Modernism longing to be Romantic, but finding it quite impossible.

1, 4, and 5 are Auden; 2 and 3, Mazer.

Shelley in army uniform, cynically resigned to domesticated Empire life—which pays better than it ought.

Ben Mazer is for, by, and about poetry which sings out the following historical paradox:

Shelley, the Romantic, is quick—look at him riding winds and swift ocean currents.

The Modern, with her machines and her anxiety, hasn’t got time for Romanticism singing Shelley, and, yet, the modern boredom and leisure which the modern affects, allows for poetry which goes deeper into the Shelley of Shelley than Shelley ever did.

If you give Mazer a few minutes (since a long poem doesn’t exist) he will pour more Shelley on you than you’ve ever known before.

The Mazer quoted above, in the comparison with Auden, is early Mazer.  The later Mazer is less like Auden and more like Eliot.  But these comparisons are not entirely fair. Mazer is Mazer.

Here’s an excerpt from Mazer’s “The Double:”

I remember chiefly the warp of the curb, and time going by.
As time goes by. I remember red gray green blue brown brick
before rain or during rain. One doesn’t see who is going by.
One doesn’t think to see who is going by.
One sees who is going by all right, but one doesn’t see who is going by.
The bright lights attract customers to the bookstore.
Seeing, chalk it up to that. The bitter looks of the booksellers,
as you leave the shop without paying. Rickety steps that will soon
be history. A ripped up paperback book with some intelligent inscriptions
in very dried out blue gray ink. Lots of dumpsters. And seagulls.
Or are they pigeons. They seem related, as the air is to the sea.
When it gets darker, or foggier, it is a really big soup
of souls, works of art, time tables, the hour before dinner,
theatrical enterprise, memories of things never happened, warnings
spoken in a voice familiar, a keen and quickened sense
of possibility glimpsed through windows.
Handbills, whatever to mark the passing time. And sleep.
I know it is good when the good of it is not noticed.
It is something you try and tell someone privately in a room
where the light is broken in October. Your sense of time
is the source of your charm with strangers,
who would accept you anyways.

Mazer’s accumulation of details—this is the first 22 lines of “The Double” (Poems (2010) in Selected pg. 9)—unlike the poetry of Ashbery, which explodes in non sequitur—narrows down to philosophy. With each additional observation, Mazer’s centripetal process pins down meaning; notice how the passage we have quoted is not just creating categories, but reflects on category itself: “They seem related, as the air is to the sea.” See (“seeing, chalk it up to that”) the subtle manner in which observations are linked throughout the passage: the ambiguity of the poet’s seeing-but-not-seeing-who-is-going-by is repeated in the “booksellers,” who by their very nature see-but-don’t-see visitors to the bookstore, since they want visitors (our poet) to buy books from their store—a store which has “rickety” steps, indicating not many people are buying books, and the store itself will become “history”—the bookstore itself will become a book. The poet embraces the trope of attracting customers (readers) himself—the poet comments on what makes poetry good (“I know it is good when the good of it is not noticed”) defines imagination (“memories of things never happened”) and the actual surroundings of the poet’s rambles (“lights, fog, handbills, dumpsters, gulls, bookstores, the hour before dinner) cunningly mingle with the walking-and-seeing poet’s thoughts on poetry: “try and tell someone privately…” “your sense of time” (poetry, a temporal art) “is the source of your charm with strangers”—and with “strangers” we are back to the booksellers—and the customers who don’t buy (“strangers” to each other) and readers of poems—the more successful, the more “charm” the poet has, the more readers (“strangers”) the poet will have.

The hidden meaning of “The Double” is the lonely enterprise of the seeing-but-not-seeing poet who strives to be successful—the background of urban poverty and charm denoting the modern is just one of its layers. There is a density of significance impossible to define, but Mazer’s poetry has it.  “The Double,” “Death and Minstrelsy,” and “The Long Wharf,” three longish poems which greet us in the beginning of Mazer’s Selected, should be taught in every writing class—these three poems alone ensure Mazer’s immortality.

We also think “Divine Rights,” Cirque D’ Etoiles,” “Deep Sleep Without Reservations,” “Monsieur Barbary Brecht,”  “The King,” (excerpted in Selected) and “After Dinner Sleep” fall into the “immortal” category, though there are shorter pieces (mostly sonnet-length) in the book of great charm, and even sublimity.

In Auden’s “The Partition,” quoted above, Auden was writing about the immensely real: the British Empire dividing up its conquests.

Mazer writes of the real, but almost religiously avoids current events.

Mazer writes of what is close—he is Romantic in nature.

The British Empire splitting apart requires the poets of that Empire to say something, to mourn, to capture.

The American Empire holding itself, remarkably, together, is impossible to speak, except in amateurish and splenetic bouts of boring and dubious prophecy. The best American poets are not historians. They enjoy being in the middle of a dream.

In the wider historical scope, it could just be this.

Mazer is properly, we think, poetry, not history.

Poetry, in a certain historic time and place, which tries to be history, fails.

Poetry of any sensuality, which doesn’t try to be history, tends to be Keatsian.  We don’t read the poetry of Keats to find out about English history.

Mazer, the neo-Romantic, might be called the Wordsworth of brick, but he is really closer to the sublime Keats than the more mundane and pedantic (though still good) Wordsworth. A Romantic urbanity thrills, and when a natural scene is glimpsed, it is all the more beautiful. To this extent, Mazer is Wordsworth.

Still more powerfully, Mazer carves out, half-self-consciously (there’s genius in that “half”) the leisure to travel wholly in Keatsian revery—into and around reality (we use “reality” in the plainest and most mundane way possible)—which makes Ashbery look like a mere manipulator of words, by comparison.

Ashbery’s prose-poetry might be said to resemble the Stars Wars trinity of prequel movies: Ashbery’s pyrotechnical ur-poetry attempts to modernize the nostalgic; Ashbery is a kind of hyper-contemporary of quotation and copying, done very well, but missing what makes the franchise (Poetry) great.

Every major contemporary critic, from Harold Bloom to Helen Vendler, acknowledges Ashbery—now the mourned, late Ashbery—as the contemporary master. But no one would say Ashbery is the future of poetry, or a reenactment of what makes the “old” poetry “great.” Ashbery took the franchise, Poetry, and inserted himself in front of it as a language machine which artificially generates poetry with a small “p.” The Ashbery “river” is like poetic consciousness, but without the Poem. Ashbery is (or attempted to be) the equipment of poetry without Poetry, without the poetry itself, without the ‘iconic poem.’

Ashbery also has a Jar Jar Binks quality, a silliness which condemns him before a certain more serious crowd.

William Logan, known for his critical rigor (and rancor?), isn’t fond of Ashbery. Logan, much younger, will outlive Bloom, Vendler, and Perloff, and so we’ll see.

Mazer may be the last Modern—his Modernism resembling Luke Skywalker’s lonely predicament in the currently much discussed, and much maligned, Last Jedi.

The High Modernism of T.S. Eliot is new, yet old, situated, in terms of politics and taste, somewhere between Dante and the new diversity.

Luke Skywalker is the last Jedi—and we might as well say it: Mazer is the last Modern.

Mazer gets his “Force” from the Tradition (in our crude analogy, the “Force” from the original Star Wars films)—Mazer’s work belongs to High Modernism, but if his poetry is “heroic,” (and we believe it is) the poetry is both nostalgic (timeless, longing) but also unique—when we read Mazer’s poetry, we care about the person in the poetry, and this is what gives the “great” poem an added, human, interest. The reader identifies with the poet on his quest, but also with the poem-significance of the quest, in terms of the bigger picture—Tradition, Poetry.  The great poem will use both elements in its appeal—1. this is a good poem 2. my heart is moved to pity and understanding by this poet who lives in this poem.

Mazer writes poems first, and secondly, poetry. Mazer’s poems will ensure his immortality—or not.

Ashbery wrote poetry first, and secondly, poems. Ashbery’s immortality depends on his poetry—as time rolls on and does its usual up-rooting and destroying.

A poem is probably a better shelter, but who knows how the future moves?

A review of a poet’s Selected Poems—retrospective by its very nature—would not be complete without some discussion of the arc of the poet’s career.

Critics love to talk of an artist’s phases, but most of this talk is speculation and half-truth; it is the fate of a poet to be a poet—never to be a poet in this or that phase.  Tennyson wrote about Crimea because Crimea happened—not because Tennyson was in a phase.

The quality which makes any artist significant is

1. recognized by the connoisseur immediately

2. transcends phases.

A long poem does not exist.  In the same way, a book of poems does not exist. Mazer’s Selected is hefty, but even if it were not, any poet’s Selected is for reading, at one’s leisure, a marvelous poem, or a series or marvelous poems. Eventually, the whole book may be digested and understood, and even memorized, but a Selected is not intended to be read straight through in one sitting.

The arc of any great poet’s career is: over a certain amount of time, they wrote poems.

And that’s it.

If a poem is successful, it escapes the circumstances of its writing.

We can say Dante was “exiled,” and this fact contributes to our understanding of the Divine Comedy.  Well, yes and no.

A biographical fact is good. The imagination of the poet rarely finds it useful, however.

But what happened to Mazer?  Don’t we care?  And shouldn’t his Selected Poems reflect this?

If you want to know, read the poems.

Keats, the most iconic Romantic, once complained of Wordsworth writing about Dover.  “Dover?” Keats groused, who would write on Dover?  The Moderns, of course, would laugh at this—why shouldn’t the poet write on anything he wants?  But Keats—no matter how much his advice may fly in the face of “freedom” and “common sense,” is correct.

No poet should write on Dover.  The poet uses his imagination to describe his own imagination.  Otherwise, the poet should be a photographer, a political writer, or a travel writer.

Mazer did write on New York. “Entering the City of New York” Selected, pg 84

It begins:

Entering the city of New York
is something like approaching Ancient Rome,
to see the living people crawling forth,
each pipe and wire, window, brick, and home.

The times are sagging, and it is unreal
to know one’s slice of mortal transient time.
We angle forward, stunned by what we feel,
like insects, incognizant of every crime.

We are so duped, who make up civilization
in images of emotions that we feel,
to know the ague of the mortal steel,
each one perched balanced at his separate station.

The graves are many, and their fields decay,
where nothing can be meant to stand forever.
No doubt in due course God will have his way,
and slowly, slowly, all our bonds dissever.

Mazer is obeying Keats’ edict, and not writing on New York City; these opening lines are certainly redolent of some very large city which a humble, rural, meditative stranger enters, but more importantly, an almost 18th century sublimity is expressed—the subject is not New York City, but the soul.

Mazer should be read for poetry, which vibrates to the times, to the reality—which surrounds all of us; and as we read, Mazer’s poetry frees itself of that reality, and then returns to it.  It’s the new return in the poetry which matters, not exactly what is he writing about. 

Even as the exact, in the winding, mossy ways of the poetry, is paramount.

If this advice sounds like a truism, it is, but it is a truism which is fading away, as Keats is fading away.  Mazer is Modernism returning (impossible!) to Romanticism, and not in a bookish sense, or a scholarly sense, but in exactly the way we have described it—it is poetry returning to poetry.

A minor drawback: Mazer reads his poetry aloud in a manner which does not do justice to its greatness; admirably, he speaks plainly, letting the poetry speak; at times, however, monotone eclipses music. The verse of Mazer’s Selected Poems Tour comes out of his body, which can barely know his mind, the latter being so vast as to have no affinity with mere lisp and gesture. (In person, Mazer tends to be very intense, and very quiet, rather than ebullient, but this makes his occasional joking and excitable nature all the more charming.)

In person, Mazer is a wit, one who does not waste words.

At one of his readings, there was a long question for Mazer, involving the structure of his poetry.

Mazer paused, and then said, “It all rhymes.”

The drama of the poems is missing in Mazer’s recitation, perhaps, because the drama is delicately locked within, guarded by the brain of the poet, which, when it comes to speaking its treasure, fails to properly spill outward the swells and currents of its majesty—in the ephemeral instruments devoted to breath.

We saw an anecdote, once, of Rupert Brooke reading his poetry so softly that he could only be heard in the front row. Mazer can be heard—he is certainly competent when he reads. Mazer is a talented musician, and his devotion to poetry (to the delight of poets everywhere) overtook his earlier interest in music.

Who are the great living poets today?

The audacity to seriously ask this question precludes, perhaps, an answer.

Should we say it?

At the top, or near, of the greatest living poets, is, without a doubt, Mazer.

THE DAYS YOU HATE

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The days you hate come fast,

Taking the days you like, the days you love, the days you want, with them into the past.

This day, for instance, which is blurry and cold.

It is moving and sunny. The moon

Wants days to love, at least a few, before time grows old.

The day is for flirting, for making eye contact, and soon

Night welcomes your tide of regret and sorrow.

All these days!

Tonight these regrets dive down—

Before rising up to ruin what you love tomorrow.

 

HOT AS HELL—2018 SCARRIET POETRY HOT 100.

The world has not gone crazy.  The world is the same. The idea of progress is vanity. Human happiness is zero sum.

But the news, these days, is definitely crazy.  And maybe even hopeful, as cracks in the old arguments begin to appear. Certain prominent narratives are flipping.

And poetry, which belongs to change and tradition, is news

So here we go:

1. Garrison Keillor   Accused!  No more Writer’s Almanac poems!

2. Jill Bialosky  Plagiarist! Norton editor. 72 poets, many published by Norton, have defended her.

3. William Logan  Critic and poet, exposed Jill Bialosky’s widespread plagiarism—which he as a reviewer discovered in her memoir, Poetry Will Save Your Life.  Logan’s review, in Tourniquet Review, was picked up by AP and the NYT.

4. Robert Pinsky  Poet Laureate of the U.S. (1997 to 2000). Published by Norton, and one of 29 signatories in letter to Times defending Jill Bialosky.

5. Ben Mazer His Selected Poems just published  (Madhat press). Three poems early in the volume, “The Double,” “Death and Minstrelsy,” and “The Long Wharf,” ensure his immortality.

6. Kevin Young  New Yorker poetry editor! now that Paul Muldoon is retiring. Studied under Seamus Heaney at Harvard with Mazer.

7. Valerie Macon Briefly N. Carolina poet laureate, forced to resign because she lacked academic credentials, has new book.

8. John Ebersole  Questioned for writing an in-depth, honest, but less than flattering review of a poet’s book—see no. 9.

9. Kaveh Akbar Calling A Wolf A Wolf released in 2017 by Alice James Books gets pummeled in Tourniquet Review.

10. Dan Beachy-Quick “I don’t know how to sing” closes his poem in December Poetry issue. Well, damn right. Most contemporary poetry cannot.

11. Forrest Gander “You who were given a life, what did you make of it?” After obscure parts, occasionally contemporary poetry tries to sound frank, and accessible and wise. As in Gander’s “What It Sounds Like” in December Poetry, it fails.

12. Angie Macri has a poem in December Poetry, “What pleasure a question,” which gives us some drama and psychology on Adam and Eve: “It was the first time she had/something to give, what/the man couldn’t take, the first time/the man said please: please let me have bite.”

13. Cornelius Eady has a poem in December Poetry titled, “All the American Poets Have Titled Their New Books ‘The End'”, leaving open the question whether this is foolish, or not. Contemporary poetry never shows its hand, for then it would fail.

14. Valzhyna Mort makes a rather obvious point in her “Scene from Medieval War,” published in Poetry for December, with her first line, “When God appears before me he is a burning woman tied to a bush.” Poetry still aims for the High Modernism of Eliot and Yeats, but fails.

15. Kristen Tracy strives to update Tradition in the December Poetry: “she died there. Stuck. Like a tragic Santa.”

16. Paul S. Rowe the young college professor, poet, translator, and editor of Charles River Journal, is serially publishing Thomas Graves’ book on Ben Mazer.

17. Billy Collins must do something controversial soon, or we’ll forget him. No. Who could forget “The Lanyard?”

18. Jorie Graham who married into the Washington Post Graham family, has won the 2017 Wallace Stevens award, with a stipend of $100,000. She commands a chair at Harvard, and about 10 years ago was caught cheating as poetry contest judge.

19. Ed Roberson is the recipient of the 2017 Academy of American Poets Fellowship, worth $25,000.

20. Patrick Rosal has received the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, worth $25,000, for his book Brooklyn Antediluvian (2016). Rosal teaches Creative Writing at Rutgers.

21. sam sax has won the James Laughlin Award, worth $5,000 and a one-week hotel stay in Miami.

22. Piotr Florczyk in 2017 received the Harold Morton Landon Tranlation Award, worth $1,000.

23. Thomas E. Peterson was awarded the Raiziss/De Palchi Fellowship for English translations of modern Italian poetry, worth $25,000.

24. Frances Revel an MFA student at Cornell, won the Aliki Perroti And Seth Frank Most Promising Young Poet Award, worth $1,000, for her poem, “Hymn for the End of Drought.”

25. Rayon Lennon is the 2017 $10,000 prize winner of the Rattle Poetry Prize for his poem, “Heard.”

26. James Henry Knippen has won the 2017 Discovery/Boston Review Contest with “Poem,” in full: “I wanted to rescue the moon/from our hopes. I wanted/to rescue our hopes from hell./I wanted to rescue hell/from existence. I wanted/to rescue existence/from itself.”

27. Stephen Cole puts one in mind that poetry is a sounding-leaf which needs a tree—the great and kindly interest in love and philosophy; the leaf is artificial, otherwise. Cole, who lives in Kansas, doesn’t artificially hoard for acclaim; his prolific output goes right on the Internet.

28. Sushmita Gupta is wise, but poetry declares itself in the homely passions; she is Cole’s poetry-as-natural-as-breathing, female equivalent: vulnerable simplicity of expression, sorrow never feeling sorry for itself, shining on the World Wide Web.

29. Sharon Olds won the Pulitzer a few years back—one of the best living poets, her skill lies in creating domestic, intimate scenes that flash upon the reader like an old master’s painting or drawing.

30. Philip Nikolayev is a poet, philosopher, and linguist, who belongs to Ben Mazer’s Harvard/Boston University brat-pack-genius circle of neo-Romanticism—which is genuine because it pursues so many things; he is currently translating Sanskrit into English and Ben Mazer into Russian; his Facebook discussion threads attract the best minds online.

31. Steph Burt is the critical heir to Helen Vendler at Harvard, a de-centered, eclectic, whirlwind, part of the 21st century movement of American poetry outward from Harvard, where Emerson/William James/Gertrude Stein/Santayana/Wallace Stevens/TS Eliot/Bly/O’Hara/ Ashbery/Bishop/Lowell/Heaney/Mazer sometimes eked out a living. Harvard is poetry’s center no more, as Slam, Creative Writing and the internet pull it apart.

32. Steven Cramer hides out at Lesley University, which is next to Harvard in Cambridge, and exemplifies the truth that poetry is not about geography, but where minds gather; American poets in the 19th century crossed the ocean just to visit Wordsworth—the poet god no longer exists; “The Hospitals” by Cramer is one of America’s best poems.

33. David Lehman is the Series editor of Best American Poetry (1988 to present) the volume poets hate  each year when they see they are not included; Lehman desperately, recklessly, felt compelled to include the late Ashbery in annual volume after volume—like a drowning man clinging to the rope of poetry’s decreasing importance; in his general introduction Lehman always protested too much, crying out, “poetry is well.” But the Series has served.

34. Derrick Michael Hudson Years from now, when BAP is no more, this will be, no doubt, the one incident in its history talked about the most—a white male poet achieved much better publication success when submitting poems to journals using the psuedonym of a Chinese woman. Sherman Alexie, BAP guest editor, chose the poem, discovered the trick, still published it, and was excoriated.

35. Joie Bose is a poet from India; a wife and a mother; she traveled to Japan alone, just for the delicious poetic hell of it; she personifies the poet as restless spirit, and belongs to that great, international, Romantic trend in poetry which one can see on the internet, but which few have bothered to document or record.

36. Bob Dylan made as little as possible, it seems, of his Nobel Prize in Literature. Is this because “rock star” means so much more than “writer?” Sell records and get the girl. “Prize?” “Writing?” Fuck that.

37. Amber Tamblyn is an actress who has published poetry—no American good at anything else has ever been revered as a poet; Michelangelo—yes, that one—wrote great poetry, but no American knows it. Poe dared to write great short stories, too—and to this degree, professional American poetry critics, such as Vendler and Bloom, cannot admit Poe is a good poet—it’s an iron law. What of Wallace Stevens? This proves the point—he had a job—but had it been excelling in another area of the arts, his poetry would be forgotten.

38. W.S. Merwin is America’s most time-honored, living, iconic male poet with the passing of Ashbery and Wilbur—not that these guys were household words—but Merwin, who knew Robert Graves, has little star power, somehow. The famous American poet is not a dying breed. It’s a dead one.

39. Ron Padgett has some hoary prominence—he wrote a few poems for the recent movie, Paterson, starring Adam Driver. England had Lord Byron and Lord Tennyson. The U.S. doesn’t like lords—or their kind of poetry much anymore—though it’s still good.

40. Claudia Rankine was the poet who clashed with Tony Hoagland and his ‘watching tennis’ poem over race before she became big with her race book, Citizen. The Victorians (beneficiary heirs of the slave trade, created by the British Empire) had children as their poetic subject. 21st Century Americans (victim heirs) have racism.

41. Mary Angela Douglas should be discovered. She writes lines of real beauty. She is unknown, like a basketball player sinking a number of thirty-foot shots in a row, in some empty stadium.

42. Mary Oliver is a national treasure. We’re glad she’s still around. She proves to us nature poetry doesn’t really exist. All poetry is of nature, and never gets beyond it, if we are honest, and if we turn off the blurbing trumpets.

43. Donald Hall is about the same age as Merwin. He has written harrowing poetry and should not be forgotten.

44. Terrance Hayes has a lot going for him: major prizes, sensitive poetry, alive to the times, and he’s young. He’s 46. Which in American poetry today, is young. A hundred years ago, 26 was young; fifty years ago, 36 was young; today, 46 is about right. One needs time to get that MFA, or two.

45. Eminem is not considered a poet, and no hip hop artist will ever be considered a poet. There’s a hierarchy, and it goes something like this: Prose poetry difficult to understand is first, prose poetry which is politically correct, a close second. Rhyme, quietism, slam, and hip hop are kept in cages.

46. Rachel McKibbens is a feminist poet and mother who writes of sexual assault and abortion with a fervor which challenges poetry which repels subject, and cares only for poetry.

47. Joanna Valente is a poet who belongs to the post-post-post-Feminist Wave which is not so much pro-woman, as we-are-going-take-the-whole-concept-of-woman-away-from-men-entirely. This is the right of every non-binary creature. There’s an epidemic sweeping across our land of daughters wholly estranged from mothers which poets like Valente, striking out into the unknown, represent.

48. Ron Silliman belongs to an old SUNY Buffalo/L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E/Charles Bernstein/anti-Quietist  School which has nothing more to say. Like so many similar movements, it arose out of a fetish sensibility—which inevitably condemns itself to irrelevance, since it enacts newly what was never really new, but merely odd, and with the passage of time and any success at all, there is the attempt to be more than what was odd at first (normalcy is greedy in all of us at last) causing the radical impulse to die.

49. Dan Sociu is a Romanian whiz kid poet who now must be taken seriously on the English speaking stage thanks to the publication of English translations of his urbane and sensitive work by Ana-Maria Tone.

50. Richard Howard is the living tradition (he’s of the generation of Donald Hall and W.S. Merwin) of James Merrill, the highly learned, lavish, baroque—which enhances, but sometimes gets in the way—of American poetry.

51. Patricia Lockwood wrote a date rape poem a few years ago which went somewhat viral on Twitter. She was “me too” before that became famous. Prophet is probably too big a word. Perhaps poets may serve as the canary in the mine?

52. Collin Yost is an Instagram “dude” poet who was critically savaged in an offhand remark (and then re-tweeted) by a feminist woman for his naively bad “dude” poetry.

53. A.E. Stallings is the last gasp of New Formalism—which attempted to make rhyme critically respectable and failed, because formalism has nothing to do with formalism and everything to do with the rare great poet who inhabits it and validates it.

54. Rupi Kaur is selling, but there’s always a catch, when it comes to poetry—and this is certainly poetry’s fault, and we shouldn’t blame Rupi Kaur.  Her successful book, Milk and Honey, is full of trite advice, the “inspirational” mode of truly fake poetry, passing itself off as wisdom—but which makes people feel good, so the critics and poets (are they wise?) remain wrapped in silence.

55. Frank Bidart is the poet (his Collected won National Book Award in 2017) who exemplifies sociology and psychology in dramatic guise; he’s known for highly personal, ALL CAPS pronouncements in his poems. Once a poet gets inside not just language, but font, and is able to make it a bit strange, together with ‘everyman’ observations, a certain amount of success is assured.

56. Eileen Myles has a nice combination of things going: well-reviewed novel and poems, a museum presence, a cool, older lesbian presence, a Boston, Catholic background; shrewd, nice, but with a loner vibe, as well.  Such things probably happen by accident—but poetry, which is never an accident, does well with it.

57. Paige Lewis is a very young poet who has already written two great poems: “You Can Take Off Your Sweater, I’ve Made Today Warm” and “The River Reflects Nothing.” But American poetry has no apparatus to make good poetry known. So what is a poet to do? Ginsberg’s fame arose from obscenity charges. The last legitimately known poets, Frost, Cummings, Eliot, were born in the 19th century.

58. Tyehimba Jess of sensitive Jim Crow era passions and historiography, beat out Adrienne Rich’s Collected for the 2017 Pulitzer: Living Black Male Slam 1, Dead White Lesbian Book 0.

59. Marjorie Perloff is like those other experienced, learned poetry critics, Harold Bloom and Helen Vendler: hoary American Criticism generally likes Pound, without looking at his writings very specifically, and generally dislikes Poe, without looking at his writings very specifically—this respectable but odd opinion towards the hyena and the lion is a terrible drag on American Letters.

60. Frederick Seidel belongs to the Scorched Earth School of American poetry. The older poets today are far more eccentric than the young—for about a millions reasons.

61. Wendy Cope is brainy, English, and funny. She uses rhyme to “win” arguments. Which is sort of what rhyme is supposed to do. Of course, she’s poison to those who practice “serious” poetry in the United States. The British poets used to matter in the United States. They no longer do.

62. Daipayan Nair belongs to the English speaking avalanche of Indian poetry on the Internet. He is a master of the very short form—his mind is so complex that compositions of any length tend to misfire; he can say more in a few words (I am a poet/I kill eyes) than most can say in a book.

63. Marilyn Chin was born in Hong Kong, named after Marilyn Monroe; she landed as a child on the west coast, found her way to the University of Iowa, is now a well known Chinese American poet; her best known poem: “How I Got That Name.”

64. Dana Gioia was chair of the NEA under George W. Bush, a New Formalist who champions Longfellow. New Formalism arose during Reagan, and has managed to assure that rhyme is used even less by critically acclaimed poets today. One cannot just impose rhyme on trivia. What the New Formalists did not understand (and the free verse advocates do not understand, either) is that good rhyme does not elevate expression; it humbles it. Humbling the trivial is boring.

65. Diane Seuss was Pulitzer Poetry runner-up in 2016, an extroverted feminist with a new book coming out this spring.

66. Charles Simic is another respected, older American poet who may not wish to go gently from America’s poetry landscape, but probably will. Simic belongs to the late Mark Strand school of European surrealism.

67. Kay Ryan writes clever, dryly humorous, brief poems, was U.S. Poet Laureate for awhile, and perhaps should be better known than she is.

68. Kenneth Goldsmith lived and died by the ‘found poem’; “poetry that stays news” was taken a step further (or backwards) by Goldsmith to “poetry that is, literally, the news.” Michael Brown’s autopsy was his downfall.

69. Cathy Park Hong destroyed Ron Silliman’s white Modernist avant-garde with one short, racially outraged, f-bomb essay.

70. George Bilgere is perhaps the best current example of the Carl Dennis/Stephen Dunn/Dean Young/Billy Collins/James Tate school of wise-acre, poignant, middle-aged, dude poetry.

71. Rita Dove did very well to stay above the fray when Vendler and Perloff blasted her anthology for being too black.

72. William Kulik toils away as America’s prose poem Dante.

73. Louise Glück does not have Sharon Olds’ powerful Adele vibe, but as an influential and respected female poet of American Letters, she’ll do.

74. Vievee Francis won the greatest poetry prize in 2017—the Kingsley Tufts Award. It’s worth $100,000. Her poetry appears in BAP, 2010 and 2014, and the Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry.

75. Sonnet L’Abbé edited Best Canadian Poetry 2014 and is highly engaged in decolonial projects and erasure poetry. Her name comes from her father, Ja-son and her mother, Ja-net.

76. Lisa Robertson has won the new C.D. Wright Award for Poetry, worth $40,000.

77. Jennifer Reeser is a poet’s poet: a high quality formalist, praised by X.J. Kennedy, translated into Persian and Hindi, she has four books; and can be found in anthologies such as Phoenix Rising: The Next Generation of American Formal Poets. She also engages with Native American literature.

78. Terence Davies directed a sensitive movie on Emily Dickinson, A Quiet Passion, starring Cynthia Nixon, released in the spring of 2017.

79. Saheli Mitra is a highly interesting poet one can read on the Internet. There’s a certain tension these days between poets one can read (and see) freely on the web, and the more “respectable” poets—who provide links for purchase of their books, but it is difficult to read a single one of their poems. The poem, and the way it is presented, will always be divided—and very much related. The critic must discern. Readers will gush—or not.

80. Don Mee Choi recently published an autobiographical book of poems about the American wars in Vietnam and Korea called Hardly War, which gets a thoughtful review in The Margins by Sukjong Hong.

81. Matthew Zapruder currently enjoys a critical perch in the NY Times. In his July 10, 2017 column he opines what Scarriet has been saying for years: a poem is not a riddle which deliberately hides its meaning, or is “difficult” on purpose to impress. Zapruder faults Harold Bloom for keeping this fallacy alive. Good. But then Zapruder concludes poetry is meant to bring “language back to life again” in the “machine” of the poem. This is wrong, too. Language is far bigger than anyone’s poem-as-machine. Zapruder has traded one mumbo-jumbo for another.

82. Timothy Donnelly has one of those poems, “Unlimited Soup and Salad” in the November 27, 2017 New Yorker—the trending kind of poem made of breathless facts and extremely long sentences.

83. Don Share is Poetry editor and chair of the Kingsley Tufts Award finalist judges—the Kingsley Tufts Award ($100,000 prize) has nothing to do with Tufts University; Kingsley Tufts was a wealthy LA shipyards executive who published poems in The New Yorker, Esquire, and Harpers.

84. Gary B. Fitzgerald will remind you his poetry is Taoist, not Zen.

85. Ellen Bass writes poetry accessible, poignantly honest, and self-effacing. Her poem, “Indigo,” in the October 16, 2017 New Yorker, about seeing a tattooed man she wishes had been the father of her child is an example. It begins, “As I’m walking on West Cliff Drive…”

86. Ada Limón was a 2017 Kingsley Tufts Award runner-up for her book Bright Dead Things (milkweed). We would be depressed for a long time if we just missed winning $100,000. Perhaps this prize thing is out of control? Aren’t poets anxious enough? Can one imagine Shelley or Dante writing for a gigantic pile of cash?

87. Leila Chatti appears in the anthology, 2017 Best New Poets (series editor Jeb Livingood) with her poem “Motherland,” chosen by guest editor Natalie Diaz.

88. Taylor Swift is, according to Carrie Battan this past year in the New Yorker, “the most consistent singer and songwriter of her generation.” More from the magazine: “The album [“Reputation”] tries to nail down the center of pop at a time when such a thing hardly exists.”

89. Osama Alomar has two books published by New Directions in the United States. A Syrian exile, he is a poet of simplicity and power.

90. Kim Addonizio is receiving a lot of praise for her latest book, Mortal Trash.  It’s published by Norton. We like this line from it: “We believe in the one-ton rose”

91. Shohreh (Sherry) Laici is a young performance artist, poet, and translator from Tehran, who is beginning to get published in the U.S. and belongs to the Iranian Miracle which began on November 8, 2016. She confirmed for us Jimmy Carter’s State Department did in fact help put the current, corrupt regime of 1979 into power.

92. Dylan Krieger has a book of poems which is one of three to make the NY Times 100 Best Books of Fiction/Poetry of 2017. It is ” obscene and religious” and titled Giving Godhead. The others are by Jorie Graham, who writes of “ecological crisis,” and Layli Long Soldier, who is of Sioux heritage. The new faces should be easy to remember: think of the two best American music acts of the 20th Century, Dylan, the folk/rock/”Blowing in the Wind” Nobel, and Krieger, guitarist for the Doors who wrote Light My Fire. Long Soldier should be easy to remember. But, really. What the hell does the New York Times know about poetry?

93. Alan Cordle is a name you need to know. He changed poetry forever with Foetry.com by exposing crooked prizes and contests—the under-the-radar academic money flow which modern-poetry-which-nobody-buys needs—to have any “official” contemporary visibility at all.  Of course dishonest puffery still rolls on—and the general reading public has little confidence that quality in poetry matters at all. True critics wanted—it’s the only real solution.

94. Kushal Poddar belongs to the English speaking India poetry Renaissance taking place around the world, which has yet to gain the attention it deserves—it is too spontaneous for the MFA/New York publishing route; Poddar is especially deft and subtle, more than enough for editors at Norton, or professors at Iowa.

95. Tracy K. Smith was selected as the 22nd Library of Congress Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry in June. She is the winner of a Cave Canem and a Pulitzer poetry prize. She was born in 1972. She has an MFA from Columbia.

96. Rae Armantrout continues her smart assault with this from her poem, “Project,” published in the New Yorker in August: “Your clock’s been turned to zero,/though there is no zero on a clock.”

97. Daniel Swift is the author of  2017’s The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics, and Madness of Ezra Pound (FSG) a look at the poet who made more than 200 radio broadcasts from Rome during the Holocaust and World War Two, supporting Hitler and the Nazi liquidation of Jews. In 1949, his “insanity” having allowed him to escape hanging for treason, T.S. Eliot and Robert Lowell thought it would be a good idea to issue Pound a major poetry prize—which they did. 1949 was also the year T.S. Eliot won his Nobel Prize for Literature, and published an attack against the American poet Edgar Poe. Remind us who won World War Two, again?

98. Simon Armitage is currently the Oxford Professor of Poetry, following in the footsteps of Matthew Arnold (“Dover Beach”), W.H. Auden, Geoffrey Hill, Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon, James Fenton, and Robert Graves—who, from that venerable position, in the 1960s, recommended eating psychedelic mushrooms. William Logan, the American critic, reviews Armitage’s latest book, The Unaccompanied, in The New Criterion, and Logan calls Armitage’s “whimsy…a touch labored” and, in this spirit, the Yank punishes the Brit in the Logan way, accusing him of “premature ejaculation of style…his bullish charm is everywhere undercut by the constant smirking and cutesy quirkiness,” as the reader can’t help but laugh and shout, “Hurray, Criticism.”

99. Nathan Woods may not be a big prize winner right away, having recently discovered, as a young poet, Scarriet, but we trust he will enjoy himself all the same.

100. Robert Tonucci is an invaluable Scarriet editor, as it enters its 10th year—Happy New Year, Nooch!!

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