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I perfected myself when I was alone;

All that makes me worthy was secretly made.

Common things grow in the sun,

But winter hides genius in the deep, cold shade.

You didn’t see what I was—in my behavior,

My speech, or my designs.

All you saw was false.  Obviously,

You can’t ignore the obvious—

But you never saw what was going on in the mines.

You added things up, but couldn’t understand

How my pleasure was the largest sum.

You didn’t see how often I denied myself

Before I whispered to you, “of course, my darling, I will come.”









Image result for kesha

The problem is this: the smarter a person is, the more aggressive and creepy they are.

You can’t have smart without creepy.

The smart, the talented, the perceptive—these are highly prized and necessary for the ingenuity and force which builds a comfortable society. But unfortunately, the smart, the talented, and the perceptive, are not, as a rule, nice.

The tales and sentiments of woodsmen, who reject society, and monk-like, tread the wilderness, appeal because this is one solution to the dilemma—raw nature cancels out the unnatural.

But in the cities, in the electronic boulevards of society, the unnatural breeds and flourishes, for the aggressive qualities of the talented have no outlet and exist in exaggerated ways, separated from the virtuous qualities which serve that very society. Forceful energy, on one hand, and rapidly efficient intelligence, on the other, which combine to burn with a lively, successful, flame, also go, when the work is done, in two different directions: As virtuous intelligence helps, and earns praise, its jealous brother, the necessary energy of pitiful desire, pursues avenues garishly lit.

War and love share qualities—and this sharing overthrows human happiness.

Efficiency and intelligence are synonymous. The efficient is the same as the smart within temporal/spatial existence. The efficiency of time-saving is the soul of every invention.

Love, by its very nature, doesn’t fight—war must fight for love, condemning both to exist, always.

Love and war, as a twin necessity, finds, as this unfortunate twin necessity, an unfortunate life in the hearts and minds of the intelligent—the efficient—as the same activity: love and war at the same time.

Love and war are practiced simultaneously by the intelligent, because of its efficiency, which is all the smart really know, and this is the reason why creepy and rapey are common in refined and respectable society, in the otherwise successful institutions and practices of civilized life. Women who are assaulted by the creepy are being assaulted by war and love at once, in the name of efficiency. Men are trained to fight, and they fight women in the name of love, just as they love men in the name of war (deceive men, by “loving” them, since deception is the most efficient weapon in war).

This is the number one problem facing society—how can we have intelligence without the creepy?

The intelligent, we would think, would be “intelligent enough” or “smart enough” to know not to be creepy.

But this is to confuse intelligence with refinement—they are not the same at all, and we confuse them at our peril. As explained above, the smart is efficient only, not virtuous or decorous.

So the sad truth is, that the man who, without ceremony, hits on women, is displaying intelligence, and the successful man will tend to be creepy in the same ratio as his intelligence.

But can’t refinement and virtue live with intelligence?


They are opposite qualities.

The refined, by deferring pleasure through art and manners, is highly inefficient.

Virtue, by deferring pleasure through self-sacrifice, is also highly inefficient.

This is why the religious, who put their faith in repetitious iconography and ceremony, are viewed as stupid by highly efficient and crafty intelligence—crafty intelligence which does whatever it takes to win.

This is why women, who traditionally guard against the immediate gratification of pleasure by aggressive males, for the sake of pleasure-deferring childbirth, and serve a higher purpose divorced from the smart, the intelligent, the efficient, and the crafty, are mocked by society as stupid.

We mentioned at the beginning of this essay the man of nature, living ingeniously outside of society, as one solution to the problem.  The “off-the-grid” sensibility is inefficient—like those who are religious, or fashionable, or poetic—and in the religious, the fashionable, and the poetic, we find the ignorant, who are holy and sweet and kind and nice.

The woman, who is condemned to be virtuous—as a counter to aggressive male intelligence practicing the efficiency of love and war at once—is protected by clumsy and artificial societal constraints—clumsy, because society further punishes the woman when it keeps her from the dangerous territories where intelligence/efficiency aggressively dwells; society condemning her further to her ignorant female existence, and also clumsy because in a “free society” women are victims of love/war creepiness and aggression.

All that a woman is—protected as the virtuous receptacle of pleasure-deferring childbirth; or somewhat protected, by law and rules of decorum; or not protected at all as a complete person free to integrate herself into love/war intelligence and cunning—makes no difference to society. Society does not give a fig for nature or woman qua woman, and never will; society will always be a walled fortress against nature, the very efficiency which nature cannot, and does not, understand.

Nature, out of necessity, forms woman as the central child-providing device.

Society, in a moment of ingenuity, will bring men together as lovers, who adopt, taking up into their care, in double fatherhood, unwanted babies—or any combination society efficiently desires.

Society is too clever and ingenious for the natural to withstand.

Society laughs at the cow-like stupidity of all that is natural, and this includes the “living-to-serve-mankind-as-a-mother” woman, who, in taking seriously this role, is inevitably religious—and the religious is always mocked by sophisticates and progressives as backwards and naive. Precisely. The virtuous, in society’s eyes, is always ignorant—which is the tragic state of things we are attempting to elucidate in this essay, as forcefully and as simply as we can, by pointing out that the smart is efficient and unkind, and this is always so. Intelligence and creepiness always co-exist.

The religious essentially imitates the time-honored precepts of nature—which is why it is mocked, victimized, and betrayed whenever society reaches a certain level of love-as-war and war-as-love sophistication.

In the same manner, aesthetes—whether in fashion or art—also imitate nature, as they reproduce natural qualities found in colors (flowers), order (perspective), romance (birdsong) and the sublime (mountains, oceans). As with the religious, in the artist we often find virtue and naïveté and all those sensitive qualities which at first may attract us, but which society finally mocks and condemns.

The virtuous poet and the virtuous woman fall in love: she is rich in maternal qualities, ablaze in physical and spiritual loveliness—he is docile and sensitive, with a sweetly unsophisticated freedom in his humble expression and shy desire—both belong to nature; he, in the worship of all that is orderly and beautiful; she, in the obedience to divine child-birth, and in her love for all that contributes to a happy family.

But this relationship cannot survive in society—an outburst of laughter, a single whispered word, destroys it forever.

Destroyed, it lives on in refined and outdated books, but not in the city—where knowledge reigns in a glance, and millions of men and women hurry anxiously to and fro.





You were resisted at every turn, learning

To understand not only you, but everyone is turning,

And the moon still is,

Serene in its mathematics,

And the chemistry of the sun, burning

Hasn’t changed either, but you

Are now losing the ability to renew,

And they didn’t teach you this,

Otherwise, you would have begat

Before you learned to kiss.

But fashion and technology exploded just like that

With everything contrary and different from what it seemed;

The big thing dreaming was just something a little dreamer dreamed.

Love is liking what you are not supposed to like.

Young in the shadows, youth crashed the bike.

Hate is not liking what you wish you could like.

Come on, let’s get out of here. Do you think we can?

I’m still working on this poem. Let’s see your plan.



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The justification of myself is complete.

I believe in myself, and this belief is sweet

Against my tongue, in my thoughts, tomorrow and today,

The whole world conspires to feed me and show me

I am the author, the actor, the audience, and the play.

If I don’t get it, the world—not me—is guilty of delay.

The forest exists, because I am the tree,

And the tree grew, and knew

To grow into a forest, flowering around you.

Can you point to some other tree

To prove that the whole forest is not me?

I am the whole forest; I am not a part

Of anything. Love, love me with every trick used by art,

Faking the real, exposing the fake—my whole heart

Is every single piece of the world, and more,

More faithful than the wife, more beautiful than the whore,

More open than the mind, which opens, closes, decorates, the door.

Here’s my taste, my sight, my judgment. Mozart, listen to me! I will soar

For the sake of you. The poem is the world.  This is what the world is for.



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Time is long. We can use some of this.

The physical founding of spirit is rare.

Not too shy to thrust—but too shy to kiss.

Hardware is more important than software,

Though software talks—and talks—and talks

And tries to convince us otherwise.

The Republicans are wise and stupid.

The Democrats are stupid and wise.

Before he writes a poem he walks—and walks—and walks.

Not your poetry, it was your eyes.

But the poetry, if you want to know the truth,

Bored me to tears. Sidney’s lies.

Philip Sidney defended poetry against Socrates:

When you admit you lie, you can’t lie, but this was just a tease.

The voice always tries to speak for its skin,

Never knowing what kind of trouble the love song will get it in.

I want love. I don’t what trouble.

Software turned my hardware into rubble.

Trouble was the raging sea. Love was a bubble.

I thought I could love. But love was trouble.


Where God hides, there is a certain delight—

Light mingles with water and water mingles with light.

God is the day hiding in the day,

A glory ashamed, and trying to get away.

Fairy tales of fairies hiding gold in a stream

And every story told, which is only a dream

Is God, the hidden, hiding,

Secretly behind the secrets, secretly abiding.

What you thought was magical and completely untrue

Is the God who knows there is nothing magical in you.

God knows you are mortal, and fragile, and you will die,

And that is why He is glorious, but hidden, that is why.

He cannot face your death, so He hides in the leaves,

In the water, in your face, and the dark, which hardly grieves.




I wish I could repair

Your beautiful arms, your beautiful hair.

I wish I could make better

Your old, favorite sweater.

I wish this argument would end.

It seems real, but it’s only pretend.

I’m not going to impress you with candy.

The grownup only needs a sip of brandy.

I wish I could go into my favorite store,

And purchase, until there wasn’t anymore,

And take it all home and be

A store, myself, in sad satiety.

I wish I could win with words.

I can’t. I don’t like words. I do like words. I don’t like words.

This wants you to have sex immediately.

Immediately it wasn’t me.

The whole collection of event-chains

Never falls apart, even when someone is sick, or it rains.

I wish I could be nice and tell you what is wrong

With being nice for so long.



This conductor is an actor,

Enjoying the sound of his “ladies and gentlemen” voice

Booming to the end of the car.

But this conductor is as quiet as a mouse;

And we barely glimpse the engineer—this train is his house.

We can throw ourselves into our seat and forget everything

And it really doesn’t matter if the train conductor wants to sing

Or the stop is announced, or the sun

Is pouring through your window as the train curves around the swamp.

It doesn’t matter who is sitting next to you,

Or if you lose your gloves. The performance

Will soon be over. Tired of him and his lovemaking,

You’ll need to tell him what you begin to rehearse in your mind

Without thinking, a thoughtless performance—

Or, with thought reviewing thought, so you won’t seem too unkind.


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How do we protect women? Shame the dick-mind. Shame it good.

The Evil Empire of the Rapey Male is pushing back against the Me Too movement.

First, let’s admit that every mass movement, such as Me Too, is going to have excesses.  And yes, it is absolutely true that accusations can be slanderous—and this will always be true, and we all need to watch out for this, vigilantly, and always take this into account. Absolutely.

Rape is wrong. Slander is wrong. And between these two is a sea of accusations, traditions, manners, desires, loves, hates, power plays, court cases, and confusions.

The good of the Me Too movement, however, is making things uncomfortable for a certain type of person, one who secretly applauds the world of Harvey Weinstein—but now the energized Weinstein creeps are fighting back on all fronts.

If the Me Too movement is saying anything, it’s saying: “Don’t be a creep.”

But creeps will be creeps.

The case of Aziz Ansari has the creeps cheering.

Why? Because here is a case, not of rape, but of a famous man, and his female admirer, on a date gone bad, written up on a feminist site, with “feminists” protesting.

The Ansari case is “proof,” to the creeps, that the Me Too feminists have gone “too far.”

For the creeps, the Ansari case is the Waterloo of Me Too.

The Ansari story is important for the creeps because this is how the creeps think:

It wasn’t rape, so shut up.

You women want to be equals, but then you cry when a man is boorish.

And worse, you feminists are trying to make everything look like rape, and creating a climate of crackdown and fear.

In the Atlantic, and now more recently in the New York Times, the Ansari story is being used to ridicule and shame Me Too feminists—and the whole Me Too movement.

It is often said that the victim of stupidity is the victim of—yes, their own stupidity—and this is true, and it’s always neat and easy to blame stupidity on one stupid person; in this instance, the young trusting female.

Yet we, who blame, are always stupid when we victim-blame—while failing to see stupid overriding systems of behavior and thought, as we fail to recognize our own victim-blaming stupidity.

There’s two people involved here. Just as with Harvey Weinstein, and his victims. Grace (not her real name—she is not a public figure like he is) and Ansari.

To blame Grace, and only Grace, is stupid.

Don’t blame Ansari.

But then don’t blame her, either.

And, even more stupid: why blame the Me Too movement?

Have any opinion about Ansari’s lousy date you want.

But don’t use it to attack Me Too.

Do you think Ansari should blame his failed date on Me Too?

What kind of stupid, pathetic man would he be if he did that?

There’s a whole spectrum of women as victims. There’s brutal, physical rape by a stranger.

What Grace suffered was far more nuanced. But she’s still a victim.

It’s not that we need to destroy Ansari.  But neither should we use Grace to dilute Me Too.

Me Too is valid, and it will always be valid, and it doesn’t need to apologize for less offensive things on the spectrum to the point where they seem: silly immature women behaving unwisely. Silly immature women behaving unwisely is still part of the wider problem. We should still care, and not scornfully assume this is not on the spectrum and part of the whole problem. Perhaps we are being too hyper-sensitive and hyper-chivalrous, but we doubt it.

Ansari was trying very hard to “close the deal,” whether she wanted to or not. That’s a rape-mind, if not actual rape. You are not allowed to violate someone just because it’s in your apartment. The whole thing is too close to Harvey territory. He should have waited for a second date. Not poured her another class of wine, after she verbally objected to him moving too fast, and said, ” this is the second date.”

She does sound naive. But respect that, then. Don’t take advantage of it. That’s the point of civilized society, isn’t it?

The Weinstein creeps are rushing in, and their opening is that unlit gap between rape and boorish behavior.

The Weinstein backlash against Me Too reasons from the lowest possible place: 1. listen creeps, don’t get in trouble with the law and 2. listen, creeps, don’t get falsely accused.

But being a creep is fine.

And if you object to the creepy, you are a creep. Because, you know, men are always horny, and they will be disgusting, but that’s just too bad, and it can be funny and charming—look at movies! Look at TV! Look at comedians! Ha ha ha!  In fact, respectable films (the kind of Harvey Weinstein might produce) portray all sorts of creepy behavior—but who are we, stupid old-fashioned, butt-ugly, feminist, nitwits, to judge? Right?

Well, we can judge. And we are going to judge.

We owe it to ourselves, as a society, when we have a discussion like this, which affects everyone in society, no matter what age or gender, to focus on more than just rape and sex. The “enjoying sex without breaking the law” part and the “being safe” part are important—and we expect these two things to always be in the forefront, but every aspect of human happiness should be considered.

The synopsis of the story is: Ansari and the anonymous woman known as “Grace” agreed to go on a date; they started at his apartment with a glass of wine, went to a fancy restaurant, he hurried through the meal to take her back to his apartment, they got naked and kissed, he wanted to take it further, but backed off when she said no, they put their clothes back on and watched some TV, and she ended up being upset, and told him, in tears, “You men are all the same,” and left.

The date was detailed on a feminist website called Babe—provoking sympathy for Ansari and anti-Me Too outrage in the larger media.

The latest anti-Me Too cry is from the animal rights activist and famous French actress from the 1950s, Brigitte Bardot, saying Me Too actresses are just “looking for attention.”  And…the creepy backlash continues.  The great backlash of 2018 seems to be coming mostly from boomers and older folks.  Who should know better.

Let’s be truthful for a moment: it’s heartbreaking to find out a man only wants to have sex with you. Women want men. As complete partners. 

It’s heartbreaking—and what is commonly called a “broken heart” is a psychological trauma, and we are not talking about a “bad breakup” here or there, but the reality that the majority of women in society, from a young age, live with broken hearts their whole lives, because the creepy man is accepted as normal.  And, men, too, will suffer, because if women are deeply unhappy, men will be unhappy, too.

Here’s the thing. A long conversation over dinner, with wine, in a nice restaurant is the most wonderful experience in the world.

To want to rush into sex right away is Weinstein-like.

It is entirely correct for women to protest this.

When all things are said and done, the heart is finally more important than fun.

The attitude “it wasn’t rape, so shut up,” is part of the general problem. If we don’t care about the heart, we create the climate of the creepy in the first place.

This does not mean we get out the torches and pitchforks and run Ansari out of town.

So far, Ansari has only apologized to her, and that’s good.

We agree it’s not rape, or the worst thing ever, by any means.

But here’s the thing: to scorn the woman in this scenario puts you on a Weinstein slope.

Poor Ansari!

He just wanted to have a little fun!

This, in our view, is the most significant aspect of this story:

Creeps are using the Aziz Ansari story to creep back to acceptable creepiness.





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.



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.



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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.




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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.









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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.


Image result for impressionist painting bright day

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.



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 a 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 million 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 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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