YES! ANOTHER SCARRIET POETRY HOT 100!!!

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1. Vanessa Place —The High Creator does not create.

2. Kenneth Goldsmith —Death to the “creative” once and for all.

3. Simon Armitage —Best known for 9/11 poem, wins Oxford Poetry Professorship

4. A.E. Stallings —Lost the Oxford. World is still waiting for a good New Formalist poet.

5. John Ashbery —Doesn’t need to be good. Unlike New Formalists, his content and form agree.

6. Marjorie Perloff —Must confront this question: is the “non-creative” nearly racist by default?

7. Ron Silliman —Keeps tabs on the dying. Burned by the Avant Racism scandal.

8. Stephen Burt —Stephanie goes to Harvard.

9. Rita Dove —We asked her about Perloff; she laughed. No intellectual pretense.

10. Claudia Rankine —Social confrontation as life and death.

11. Juan Felipe Herrera —New U.S. Poet Laureate. MFA from Iowa. Farm workers’ son.

12. William Logan —“Shakespeare, Pope, Milton by fifth grade.” In the Times. He’s trying.

13. Patricia Lockwood —“Rape Joke” went Awl viral.

14. Lawrence Ferlinghetti —At 96, last living Beat.

15. Richard Wilbur —At 94, last living Old Formalist.

16. Don Share —Fuddy-duddy or cutting edge? It’s impossible to tell with Poetry.

17. Valerie Macon —Good poet. Hounded from NC Laureate job for lacking creds.

18. Helen Vendler —New book of essays a New Critical tour de force. Besotted with Ashbery and Graham.

19. Cathy Park Hong —Fighting the racist Avant Garde.

20. David Lehman —As the splintering continues, his BAP seems less and less important.

21. Billy Collins —His gentle historical satire is rhetoric nicely fitted to free verse.

22. David Orr —Common sense critic at the Times.

23. Frank Bidart —Student of Lowell and Bishop, worked with James Franco. Drama. Confessionalism.

24. Kevin Coval —Co-editor of Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop.

25. Philip Nikolayev —Globe-trotting translator, editor, poet.

26. Ben Mazer —Neo-Romantic. Has advanced past Hart Crane.

27. Amy KingHates mansplaining. 

28. Sharon Olds —Best living female poet?

29. Louise Gluck —Her stock is quietly rising.

30. Jorie Graham —Her Collected has landed.

31. George Bilgere —If you like Billy Collins…and what’s wrong with that?

32. Garrison Keillor —Is he retiring?

33. Kent Johnson —Is his Prize List so quickly forgotten?

34. David Biespiel —One of the villagers trying to chase Conceptualism out of town.

35. Carol Ann Duffy —The “real” Poet Laureate—she’s Brih-ish.

36. Cate Marvin —Poet who leads the VIDA hordes.

37. Lyn Hejinian —The best Language Poet?

38. Dan ChiassonNew Yorker house critic.

39. Michael Robbins —As with Logan, we vastly prefer the criticism to the poetry.

40. Joe Green —His Selected, The Loneliest Ranger, has been recently published.

41. Harold Bloom —The canonizer.

42. Dana Gioia —The best of New Formalism.

43. Seth Abramson —Meta-Modernism. That dog won’t hunt.

44. Henry Gould —Better at responding than asserting; reflecting the present state of Criticism today.

45. W.S. Merwin —Knew Robert Graves—who recommended mushroom eating (yea, that kind of mushroom) as Oxford Poetry Professor in the 60s.

46. Marilyn Chin —Passionate lyricist of “How I Got That Name.”

47. Anne Carson —“The Glass Essay” is a confessional heartbreak.

48. Terrence Hayes —Already a BAP editor.

49. Timothy Steele —Another New Formalist excellent in theorizing—but too fastidious as a poet.

50. Natasha Trethewey —Was recently U.S. Poet Laureate for two terms.

51. Tony Hoagland —Hasn’t been heard from too much since his tennis poem controversy.

52. Camille Paglia —Aesthetically, she’s too close to Harold Bloom and the New Critics.

53. William Kulik —Kind of the Baudelaire plus Hemingway of American poetry. Interesting, huh?

54. Mary Oliver —Always makes this list, and we always mumble something about “Nature.”

55. Robert Pinsky —He mentored VIDA’s Erin Belieu.

56. Alan Cordle —We will never forget how Foetry.com changed the game.

57. Cole Swensen –A difficult poet’s difficult poet.

58. Charles Bernstein —One day Language Poetry will be seen for what it is: just another clique joking around.

59. Charles Wright —Pulitzer in ’98, Poet Laureate in ’14.

60. Paul Muldoon New Yorker Nights

61. Geoffrey Hill —The very, very difficult school.

62. Derek Walcott —Our time’s Homer?

63. Janet Holmes —Program Era exemplar.

64. Matthew Dickman —The youth get old. Turning 40.

65. Kay Ryan —Are her titles—“A Ball Rolls On A Point”—better than her poems?

66. Laura Kasischke —The aesthetic equivalent of Robert Penn Warren?

67. Nikki Finney —NAACP Image Award

68. Louis Jenkins —His book of poems, Nice Fish, is a play at the American Repertory Theater this winter.

69. Kevin Young —A Stenger Fellow who studied with Brock-Broido and Heaney at Harvard

70. Timothy Donnelly —His Cloud Corporation made a big splash.

71. Heather McHugh —Her 2007 BAP guest editor volume is one of the best.

72. D.A. Powell —Stephen Burt claims he is original and accessible to an extraordinary degree.

73. Eileen Myles —We met her on the now-defunct Blog Harriet Public Form.

74. Richard Howard —Pulitzer-winning essayist, critic, translator and poet

75. Robert Hass —U.S. Poet Laureate in the 90s, a translator of haiku and Milosz.

76. Rae Armantrout —Emily Dickinson of the Avant Garde?

77. Peter Gizzi —His Selected, In Defense of Nothing, came out last year.

78. Fanny Howe —Is it wrong to think everything is sacred? An avant-garde Catholic.

79. Robert Archambeau —His blog is Samizdat. Rhymes with Scarriet.

80. X.J. Kennedy —Keeping the spirit of Frost alive.

81. Robert PolitoPoetry man.

82. David Ferry —Classical poetry translator.

83. Mark Doty —A Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

84. Al Filreis  —Co-founder of PennSound

85. Frederick Seidel —Has been known to rhyme malevolence with benevolence.

86. Sherman Alexie —Is taught in high school. We wonder how many on this list are?

87. Marie Howe —Margaret Atwood selected her first book for a prize.

88. Carol Muske-Dukes —In recent Paris Review interview decried cutting and pasting of “Unoriginal Genius.”

89. Martha Ronk —In the American Hybrid anthology from Norton.

90. Juliana Spahr —Has a PhD from SUNY Buffalo. Hates “capitalism.”

91. Patricia Smith —Four-time winner of the National Poetry Slam.

92. Dean Young —His New & Selected, Bender, was published in 2012.

93. Jennifer Knox —Colloquial and brash.

94. Alicia Ostriker —“When I write a poem, I am crawling into the dark.”

95. Yusef Komunyakaa —Known for his Vietnam poems.

96. Stephen Dunn —His latest work is Lines of Defense: Poems.

97. Thomas Sayer Ellis —Poet and photographer.

98. Carolyn Forche —Lannan Chair in Poetry at Georgetown University.

99. Margaret Atwood —Poet, novelist, and environmental activist.

100. Forrest Gander —The Trace is his latest.

 

 

 

 

 

POETIC IN ALL ITS PARTS

Do we care if a lapwing is killed in a poem?

We made the assertion in a previous Scarriet post that poetry, unlike prose, has, or should have, an immediate pay-off for the reader.

Poetry should show itself as poetry right away.

The moderns, who have turned poetry into prose for those many advantages prose possesses, have, most noticeably in the last 50 years, lost poetry’s public—not because the public is stupid, or has a short attention span—for otherwise the public would not ‘stick it out’ and read so many lengthy and miserable novels even as they have stopped reading poems—but for obvious reasons not apparent to the moderns.

We will agree the moderns are not stupid people who are bad poets if others will agree the public is not stupid for not being able to read modern poetry.

The public instinctively understands that prose does have advantages, but the glories of prose can take time (or many pages) to please us.

Poetry, the public instinctively understands, is different; we do not expect to be patient with poetry, for poetry is, by its very nature, both linguistically denser than prose, and less given to lengthy explanations of itself.

When a poet acts like a fiction writer, the reader naturally asks, “Why are you trying my patience as a poet when you know I have none to give you?”

The vast majority of readers, by some trick of intuition, understand that enjoying prose requires a certain amount of patience, and then there is this other more lyrical thing—we’ll call it poetry—that, by its very nature, should require no patience at all.

We think we have hit it.  This is why the public no longer reads poetry.  This is why every poetry reading in America is a poet reading to poets, or a teacher reading to students, and not a poet reading to a public.

But is it possible, you may ask, for poetry to be recognized in just one line?

Are there single lines of poetry which announce themselves as such?

Yes, but not in contemporary poetry, where the prose-poets are after something different.

To prove our point, let’s look at 14 first lines from 14 random poems by 14 poets in the latest issue of Poetry:

Your first thought when the light snaps on and the black wings

There are many opportunities here for unrequited friendship

Two spiky-haired Russian cats hit kick flips

Shouldn’t it ache, this slit

It is not that you want

Mama said

praise the Hennessy, the brown

A lapwing somersaults spring

Most people would rather not

In the morning that comes up behind the roof, in the shelter of the bridge, in the corner

Where is your father whose eye you were the apple of?

hearing all bells at

My throat is full of sparklers

A husband puts an afghan over the dead goat’s

There is nothing wrong with these lines.

But are they poetic?

A pedant will quickly point out that “Your first thought when the light snaps on and the black wings” has poetic rhythm, and they would be correct, but this still sounds like a good opening for a hard boiled detective novel, not a poem.

“A lapwing somersaults spring” has an internal rhyme, but we are looking for what strikes us immediately as poetic, not merely from a technical standpoint, but in its entirety.  

This line perhaps comes the closest, but only superficially; the problem we have with it is that 1) we don’t know what it means and 2) we cannot picture it: spring is being somersaulted by a lapwing.  Bad poets—assuming fogginess is automatically a hard-won, well-earned honor—fatally assume that to confuse the reader is a plus.  It is not.

On the ‘poetry immediately’ scale, Poetry is 0 for 14.

Again, these are not bad lines or fragments, per se, but nearly all would agree: it is not surprising that contemporary poems fail the ‘poetry-in-a-single-line’ test, just as most novels would.

But are we looking for the impossible?

We are looking for the truly poetic—in a single line!

But such a thing is possible.

Let us demonstrate with some actual examples.

They are old, but not famous.

There are 14 of them, and compare them, as you read, to the 14 you just saw:

Green dells that into silence stretch away

Owning no care between his wings

When all the air in moonlight swims

Follow far on the directing of her floating dove-like hand

In its bright stillness present though afar

Where the tides moan for sleep that never comes.

On valleys of lilies and mountains of roses

Made rich by harmonies of hidden strings

Pondering on incommunicable themes

As jewel sparkling up through dark sea

Now by the crags—then by each pendant bough

A voice fell like a falling star

Ruins and wrecks and nameless sepulchers

Over sleepless seas of grass whose waves are flowers

There.  We believe we have proven our case, and we have done so without using Milton or Shakespeare or Dickinson or Keats.  Our point has been made, and we did not have to drag out, “Music, when soft voices die…”

Nor did we rely on couplets, such as,

The violets lifting up their azure eyes
Like timid virgins when Love’s steps surprise

And all is hushed—so still—so silent there
That one might hear an angel wing the air

Here to her chosen all her works she shows
Prose swelled to verse, verse loitering into prose

Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams

Or such examples as this from the neglected Elizabeth Barrett:

Like a fountain falling round me
Which with silver waters thin,
Holds a little marble Naiad sitting smilingly within.

We have demonstrated, with single lines, a simple, palpable, ignored truth:

Poetry should be poetic in all its parts.

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