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.

 

 

 

 

 

SCARRIET’S HOT 100— AS WE RING OUT A WILD 2014!

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Olé, Olena!  No. 4 on the Scarriet Hot 100

1. Claudia Rankine –Seems everyone wanted her to win the National Book Award

2. Louise Gluck –Won the National Book Award. Coming into focus as morbid lyricist

3. Dan Chiasson –Coveted reviewing perch in the glossy pages of the New Yorker

4. Olena K. Davis –Praised by #3 for “Do you know how many men would paykilldie/for me to suck their cock? fuck

5. Terrance Hayes –2014 Best American Poetry Editor for David Lehman’s annual series (since 1988)

6. Patricia Lockwood –Her book, Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals made NY Times most notable 2014 book list

7. Rita Dove What was all that fuss about her anthology, again?

8. Henri Cole —Poetry editor part of mass resignation at New Republic

9. Valerie Macon –appointed laureate of North Carolina, resigned due to firestorm because she lacked credentials

10. Helen Vendler –Contributing editor in TNR’s mass exodus

11. Glyn Maxwell –British poet and editor of The Poetry Of Derek Walcott 1948-2013

12. James Booth –author of Philip Larkin: Life, Art, and Love

13. Afaa Michael Weaver  –this spring won the Kingsley Tufts Award: $100,000 dollars

14. Frederick Seidel –Stirred outrage with a strange poem about Ferguson.

15. Clive James –Got into some controversy about racism and sex reviewing Booth’s book on Philip Larkin in the Times

16. William Logan –The honest reviewer is the best critic.

17. Ron Silliman –Elegy & Video-Cut-and-Paste Blog

18. John Ashbery –Perennial BAP poet

19. Cathy Park Hong –Wrote “Fuck the Avant-garde” before Brown/Garner protests: Hong says poetry avant-garde is racist.

20. Philip Nikolayev –Poet, translator, Fulcrum editor, currently touring India as beloved U.S. poetry guest

21. Marilyn Chin –Poet, translator, new book from Norton, currently touring Asia as beloved U.S. poetry guest

22. Daniel Borzutzky –Guest blogger on Poetry Foundation’s Blog Harriet: “We live in an occupied racist police state”

23. Ben Mazer –Brings out Collected Poems of John Crowe Ransom—as po-biz churns with racial indignation

24. Nathaniel Mackey –Headlined poetry reading at Miami Book Fair International.

25. Marjorie Perloff  —Now we get it: the avant-garde is conservative

26. Amy Berkowitz –Wrote on VIDA Web page how everyone has been raped and how we can be safe.

27. Yelena Gluzman –Ugly Duckling editor publishes vol. 3 of annual document of performance practice, Emergency Index

28. Carol Ann Duffy –British poet laureate gave riveting reading in Mass Poetry festival (Salem, MA) this spring

29. P.J. Harvey –Rocker to publish book of poems in 2015—Good luck.  Rock is easier.

30. Christian Nagler –poet in Adjunct Action: “SF Art Institute: faculty are 80% adjunct and have no say in the functioning of the institution”

31. Major Jackson –Wins $25,000 NEA grant.

32. Divya Victor –Her book, Things To Do With Your Mouth, wins CA Conrad’s Sexiest Poetry Award.

33. Kenny Goldsmith  —wears a two-million-ton crown

34. Donald Hall –new book, Essays After Eighty

35. Mary Oliver –new book, Blue Horses: Poems

36. Charles Wright –2015’s U.S. Poet Laureate

37. Stephen Burt –Harvard critic looking for funny stuff other than Flarf and Conceptualism.

38. Vijay Seshadri –2014 Pulitzer in Poetry

39. Ron Smith –The new poet laureate of the great state of Virginia!  North Carolina still waits…

40. Sherman Alexie –the first poet in BAP 2014. It used to be Ammons.

41. Erin Belieu  –Hilarious poem spoofing Seamus Heaney in her new book, Slant Six

42. Robert Pinsky  –has influence, authority and a lisp

43. Billy Collins –Becoming critically irrelevant?

44. Adam Kirsch –Senior Editor and poetry critic, also saying goodbye to TNR

45. Cornelius Eady  –co-founded Cave Canem.

46. Anne Carson –One of those poets one is supposed to like because they’re a little deeper than you…

47. Lucie Brock-Broido  –Emily Dickinson refuses to be channeled

48. Tony Hoagland  –still smarting from that tennis poem

49. Bob Hicok –He’s the new Phil Levine, maybe?

50. Yusef Komunyakaa –Won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1993

51. Eileen Myles –Just published a novel about her younger days

52. Sharon Olds  –still glowing from her 2013 Pulitzer win, the book showcasing her exploded marriage

53. D.A. Powell –Studied with Vendler at Harvard

54. Cate Marvin –In BAP 2014 and on fire with p.c indignation.

55. Dean Young  –wants to be the best poet ever—in a late 70s Iowa Workshop sort of way

56. Chris HughesTNR owner: “Despite what has been suggested, the vast majority of our staff remain…excited to build a sustainable and strong New Republic that can endure.”

57. Alan Cordle –changed poetry forever with his Foetry.com

58. George Bilgere  –patiently enduring the Collins comparisons

59. William Kulik –the ‘let it all hang out’ prose poem

60. Amy King –Northern Lesbo Elitist

61. Leah Finnegan –Wrote in Gawker of TNR: “White Men Wrong White Man Placed in Charge of White-Man Magazine.”

62. Jorie Graham –Get ready!  Her Collected is coming!

63. David Kirby –“The Kirb” teaches in Florida; a less controversial Hoagland?

64. Don Share –edits the little magazine that prints lousy poetry and has a perfunctory, cut-and-paste blog

65. Paul Lewis –BC prof leading Poe Revisionism movement

66. Robert Montes –His I Don’t Know Do You made NPR’s 2014 book list

67. Cameron Conaway –“beautifully realized and scientifically sound lyrics” which “calls attention to a disease that kills over 627,000 people a year” is how NPR describes Malaria, Poems 

68. Charles Bernstein –He won. Official Verse Culture is dead. (Now only those as smart as Bernstein read poetry)

69. Richard Howard –Did you know his prose poems have been set to music?

70. Harold Bloom  –He has much to say.

71. Camille Paglia  –Still trying to fuse politics and art; almost did it with Sexual Personae

72. Vanessa Place –This conceptualist recently participated in a panel.

73. Michael Bazzett  —You Must Remember This: Poems “a promising first book” says the New Criterion

74. Matthea HarveyIf the Tabloids Are True What Are You? recommended by Poets.Org

75. Peter Gizzi –His Selected Poems published in 2014

76. Mark Bibbins –Poets.Org likes his latest book of poems

77. Les Murray –New Selected Poems is out from FSG

78. Michael Robbins –writes for the Chicago Tribune

79. Stephen Dunn –The Billy Collins school—Lines of Defense is his latest book

80. Robin BeckerTiger Heron—latest book from this poet of the Mary Oliver school

81. Cathy Linh CheSplit is her debut collection; trauma in Vietnam and America

82. John Gallaher –Saw a need to publish Michael Benedikt’s Selected Poems

83. Jennifer Moxley  –Panelist at the Miami Book Fair International

84. Bob Dylan –Is he really going to win the Nobel Prize?

85. Ann Lauterbach  –Discusses her favorite photographs in the winter Paris Review

86. Fanny Howe –Read with Rankine at Miami Book Fair

87. Hannah Gamble –In December Poetry

88. Marianne BoruchCadaver, Speak is called a Poets.Org Standout Book

89. Anthony Madrid  –His new book is called I Am Your Slave Now Do What I Say

90. Robyn SchiffRevolver is not only a Beatles album.

91. Ted GreenwaldA Mammal of Style with Kit Robinson

92. Rachel ZuckerThe Pedestrians is out

93. Dorothea LaskyRome is her fourth book

94. Allan PetersonPrecarious is the new book: “the weed field had been/readying its many damp handkerchiefs/all along.”

95. Adrienne Raphel –“lavender first and by far”

96. Gillian ConoleyPeace is chosen as a Poets.Org Standout Book

97. Barbara Hamby  –“The Kirb” needs to know. She’s not on the list because of him.

98. Katia Kopovich –She coedits Fulcrum with husband Nikolayev.

99. Doc Luben –“14 lines from love letters or suicide notes” a slam poem viewed a lot on YouTube

100. Tracy K. Smith  2012 Pulitzer in Poetry for Life On Mars

YUSEF KOMUNYAKAA VS. PATRICIA SMITH IN MIDWEST/SOUTH

 
Patricia Smith, Slam Champion, looks to advance to Scarriet’s Sweet 16
 
Yusef Komunyakaa is well-represented with four poems in Dove’s anthology.  This is one of them:
 
TU DO STREET
 
Music divides the evening.
I close my eyes & can see
men drawing lines in the dust.
America pushes through the membrane
of mist & smoke, & I’m a small boy
again in Bogalusa. White Only
signs & Hank Snow. But tonight
I walk into a place where bar girls
fade like tropical birds. When
I order a beer, the mama-san
behind the counter acts as if she
can’t understand, while her eyes
skirt each white face, as Hank Williams
calls from the psychedelic jukebox.
We have played Judas where
only machine-gun fire brings us
together. Down the street
black GIs hold to their turf also.
An off-limits sign pulls me
deeper into alleys, as I look
for a softness behind these voices
wounded by their beauty & war.
Back in the bush at Dak To
& Khe Sanh, we fought
the brothers of these women
we now run to hold in our arms.
There’s more than a nation
inside us, as black & white
soldiers touch the same lovers
minutes apart, tasting
each other’s breath,
without knowing these rooms
run into each other like tunnels
leading to the underworld.
 
Komunyakaa’s Vietnam experiences figure largely in his poems.  “We fought the brothers of these women we now run to hold in our arms” is the meat of this poem and this is pretty meaty, but there’s also this relationship, too: “soldiers touch the same lovers minutes apart,” as well as the “black & white” theme.  That’s a lot of powerful material for one lyric poem, and the rather dry, matter-of-fact, prose telling of it perhaps makes it easier to get all the necessary information in, but then this makes the poem finally feel like something that either needs to be expanded into an essay, or condensed into a song, to have a real impact. 
 
Patricia Smith is not in Dove’s anthology.
 
Perhaps because Patricia Smith is a championship Slam poet, her poems always have a strong dramatic voice.  A dramatic voice is always an advantage; we cannot think of when it would not be.  It would sure help Komunyakaa’s poem, which sounds hum-drum—even though its subject matter is not. 
 
Some academic readers, however, resent too much drama in the voice of the poet, even though as Scarriet has been saying recently, Slam and modern academic poetry are much closer than anyone might suppose. 
 
Edgar Poe wrote that Taste, occupying a middle ground between Truth and Passion, was poetry’s turf.  The modern temper tends to find Taste trivial, or even oppressive—but the modern temper is perhaps wrong. 
 
Slam’s chief fault is to run roughshod over Taste, and we’re afraid Smith’s gossipy rendition of the Medusa myth, with its references to screaming, seems inconsequential, even with its dramatics.
 
MEDUSA
 
Poseidon was easier than most.

He calls himself a god,

but he fell beneath my fingers
with more shaking than any mortal.
He wept when my robe fell from my shoulders.
I made him bend his back for me,
listened to his screams break like waves.
We defiled that temple the way it should be defiled,
screaming and bucking our way from corner to corner.
The bitch goddess probably got a real kick out of that.
I’m sure I’ll be hearing from her.
 
She’ll give me nightmares for a week or so;
that I can handle.
Or she’ll turn the water in my well into blood;
I’ll scream when I see it,
and that will be that.
Maybe my first child
will be born with the head of a fish.
I’m not even sure it was worth it,
Poseidon pounding away at me, a madman,
losing his immortal mind
because of the way my copper skin swells in moonlight.
 
Now my arms smoke and itch.
Hard scales cover my wrists like armour.
C’mon Athena, he was only another lay,
and not a particularly good one at that,
even though he can spit steam from his fingers.
Won’t touch him again. Promise.
And we didn’t mean to drop to our knees
in your temple,
but our bodies were so hot and misaligned.
It’s not every day a gal gets to sample a god,
you know that. Why are you being so rough on me?

I feel my eyes twisting,
the lids crusting over and boiling,
the pupils glowing red with heat.
Athena, woman to woman,
could you have resisted him?
Would you have been able to wait
for the proper place, the right moment,
to jump those immortal bones?
Now my feet are tangled with hair,
my ears are gone.
My back is curvingand my lips have grown numb.
My garden boy just shattered at my feet.
Dammit, Athena,
take away my father’s gold.
Send me away to live with lepers.
Give me a pimple or two.
But my face. To have men never again
be able to gaze at my face,
growing stupid in anticipation
of that first touch,
how can any woman live like that?
How will I be able
to watch their warm bodies turn to rock
when their only sin was desiring me?

All they want is to see me sweat.
They only want to touch my face
and run their fingers through my . . .

my hair

is it moving?

This poem seems little more than Medusa making an obligatory apology to Athena.  The “my hair, is it moving?” at the end comes as neither a surprise nor an insight; the poem feels like an school-exercise in a mythology class: a good one, but not one to write home about.  There is certainly a flair to things like “jump those immortal bones,” and one can’t help but laugh at the feverish pitch of the rhetoric, and enjoy the poem’s sprit, in spite of its cartoonish designs upon us.  Medusa is all over the map: I couldn’t resist him, but he wasn’t that great, he “wept” when he first saw me naked, I won’t sleep with again, promise, sorry to defile your temple but our love-making was so hot.  It’s hard to believe Medusa as a realized character.  The poet just seems to be putting anything and everything into her mouth.

Marla Muse:  Again, I think we have a very close game.

Yes, Marla, it’s Academic smoothness v. in-your-face Slam. 

Smith 81 Komunyakaa 79

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE 32 POETS MOVING ON!

Enrique Simonet’s “Judgement of Paris”

They fought, they battled, they elbowed, they rebounded, they shot, they sweated, they passed, they jumped, they fell into seats trying to save a ball going out-of-bounds.  You know what they did.   Here’s the winners and their margins of victory:

East:

Ben Mazer (d. Ashbery 102-101, 3 OT)
Seamus Heaney (d. Carolyn Forche 65-61)
Franz Wright (d. Geoffrey Hill 58-42)
Billy Collins (d. Carol Ann Duffy 90-77)
Marie Howe (d. Jorie Graham 63-60)
Robert Pinsky (d. Charles Bernstein 80-47)
Mary Oliver (d. Charles Simic 67-53)
James Tate (d. Paul Muldoon 71-51)

Summary:  The beasts are in the East: Collins, Heaney, Pinsky, Oliver, Tate, Franz Wright, plus the upstart Ben Mazer, who has an aura of invincibility after knocking off Ashbery in triple overtime—but only one can survive to enter the Final Four!

South/Midwest:

Yusef Komunyakaa (d. A.E. Stallings 81-75)
Derek Walcott (d. C.D. Wright 91-47)
Patricia Smith (d. Mark Doty 80-69)
Rita Dove (d. Sandra Cisneros 64-60)
W.S. Merwin (d. Kevin Young 78-72)
Elizabeth Alexander (d. Carl Phillips 79-76)
Natasha Trethewey (d. Andrew Hudgins 69-68)
Terrance Hayes (d. Charles Wright 67-54)

Summary: the veteran Merwin is the only white poet to move on in this brackett.  Walcott is the Nobel Prize Winner, Patricia Smith, the Slam wild card, and Rita Dove, the Anthology editor.

North:

Philip Levine (d. Joanna Klink 88-67)
Richard Wilbur (d. Anne Waldman 101-70)
Dana Gioia (d. Brenda Shaughnessy 78-66)
Margaret Atwood (d. Bin Ramke 70-68)
Stephen Dunn (d. Glyn Maxwell 89-83)
Louise Gluck (d. Peter Gizzi 67-62)
Alice Oswald (d. Frank Bidart 55-54)
Cornelius Eady (d. Mark Strand 65-59)

Summary: Old school Richard Wilbur has to be the one to watch, after his dismantling of Waldman; also favored, the highly accessible Atwood, plus the imposing Dunn and Levine.

West:

Robert Hass (d. Cathy Song 67-63)
Sharon Olds (d. Li-Young Lee 79-77)
Gary Snyder (d. Sherman Alexie 80-72)
Heather McHugh (d. Rae Armantrout 66-54)
Kay Ryan (d. Cole Swensen 90-59)
Gary Soto (d. Ron Silliman 81-60)
Marilyn Chin (d. Michael Dickman 90-78)
Matthew Dickman (d. Joy Harjo 88-67)

Summary: Kay Ryan and Sharon Olds are strong women in this brackett; Gary Snyder has the savvy and experience to go all the way, and don’t count out young Dickman.

The raw numbers: 44% of the 32 poets still in the hunt are white males, and  41% are women.

The third annual Scarriet March Madness Tournament is using a different rule this year: winning poets bring a new poem with them into the next round.

Previously, Lehman’s  Best American Poetry, and Stephen Berg’s American Poetry Review were Scarriet sources; this year it is Dove’s 20th Century Poetry anthology (Penguin), with some exceptions (mostly British), and all living poets.

MIDWEST/SOUTH ACTION UNDERWAY

Komunyakka wins the first round

Yusef Komunyakaa, the 1st Seed in the Midwest/South Bracket this year has defeated A.E. Stallings (16th Seed) in first round play.  Here’s Marla Muse with the analysis:

Marla Muse:  As a woman, I was rooting for a Stallings upset, but it wasn’t to be, Tom.  The chief problem with Stallings’ “The Tantrum” (her sole poem in the Dove anthology) was the “they” in the poem is not defined, and “they” are so crucial, because the poem ends “And they were wrong;” but we don’t know who they are!  “They” speak for the mother, who is weeping upstairs, but who are “they?”  And they “bribe” the child with “cake” and “playthings,” but how do you bribe someone with “curses?”  Finally, we are not sure why, in the last line, when it is “you know she never did,” it has to be “And they were wrong.”  The poet seems to be saying that not only does the child suffer because the mother “never did” grow her hair back, but also she suffers because “they were wrong.”  The fact, as well as the salve, broke the child’s heart.  “And they were wrong” seems a little forced.  The poem ends, not with a turn, or an insight, but merely the painful conclusion to a tragic event in which too much is finally withheld.

The neo-formalists, of whom Stallings is one, tend to err in this: almost ashamed of their formalism, they counter with nuance in content to such an extent that the two (form and content) are strangely at odds.  Music (rhyme and meter) provides emphasis and emphasis requires clarity to work.  But if the sophisticate fears clarity, their formalism will not succeed; every echo will ring hollow.

Struck with grief you were, though only four,
The day your mother cut her mermaid hair
And stood, a stranger, smiling at the door.

They frowned, tsk-tsked your willful, cruel despair,
When you slunk beneath the long piano strings
And sobbed until your lungs hiccupped for air,

Unbribable with curses, cake, playthings.
You mourned a mother now herself no more,
But brave and fashionable. The golden rings

That fringed her naked neck, whom were they for?
Not you, but for the world, now in your place,
A full eclipse. You wept down on the floor;

She wept up in her room. They told you this:
That she could grow it back, and just as long,
They told you, lying always about loss,

For you know she never did. And they were wrong.

Well done, Marla; I’m sure your fans appreciate your insights.   Komunyakaa’s “Thanks” seems to have higher stakes than the Stallings—a man surviving war; but what is crucial is Komunyakaa’s scenes and images are more scattered, but they cohere better in the poem. Perhaps the only lapse is “as we played some deadly game for blind gods.”  some deadly game for blind gods pulled me right out of the poem.  The final “moved only when I moved” sums up the poem nicely.

Thanks for the tree
between me & a sniper’s bullet.
I don’t know what made the grass
sway seconds before the Viet Cong
raised his soundless rifle.
Some voice always followed,
telling me which foot
to put down first.
Thanks for deflecting the ricochet
against that anarchy of dusk.
I was back in San Francisco
wrapped up in a woman’s wild colors,
causing some dark bird’s love call
to be shattered by daylight
when my hands reached up
& pulled a branch away
from my face. Thanks
for the vague white flower
that pointed to the gleaming metal
reflecting how it is to be broken
like mist over the grass,
as we played some deadly
game for blind gods.
What made me spot the monarch
writhing on a single thread
tied to a farmer’s gate,
holding the day together
like an unfingered guitar string,
is beyond me. Maybe the hills
grew weary & leaned a little in the heat.
Again, thanks for the dud
hand grenade tossed at my feet
outside Chu Lai. I’m still
falling through its silence.
I don’t know why the intrepid
sun touched the bayonet,
but I know that something
stood among those lost trees
& moved only when I moved.

Komunyakaa 81, Stallings 75

WE MOVE TO THE NEXT MARCH MADNESS BRACKET! THE MIDWEST/SOUTH!

Before we move on to the next Bracket, let’s summarize the results in the East, First Round:

Mazer (16th seed) d. Ashbery (1st seed)  —Divine Rights 102, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror 101 (3 OT)

Heaney (2) d. Forche (15) —Death of a Naturalist 65, Taking Off My Clothes 61

Franz Wright (14) d. Geoffrey Hill (3) —-Alcohol 58, An Apology for the Revival of Christian Architecture in England 42

Billy Collins (4) d. Duffy (13) —Introduction to Poetry 90, Valentine 77

Marie Howe (12) d. Jorie Graham (5) —What the Living Do 63, San Sepolcro 60

Pinsky (6) d. Bernstein (11) —Samurai Song 80, All The Whiskey in Heaven 47

Oliver (7) d. Simic (10) —The Summer Day 67, The Fork 53

James Tate (8) d. Muldoon (9) —The Lost Pilot 71, Meeting the British 51

No crying for the illustrious losers.  Let’s move on, fans.

Here’s the second of the four brackets that will see action:

Midwest/South Bracket

1. Yusef Komunyakaa
2. Derek Walcott
3. Mark Doty
4. Rita Dove
5. M.S. Merwin
6. Carl  Phillips 
7. Andrew Hudgins
8. Terrance Hayes
9. Charles Wright
10. Natasha Trethewey
11. Elizabeth Alexander
12. Kevin Young
13. Sandra Cisneros
14. Patricia Smith
15. C.D. Wright
16. A.E. Stallings

Here’s the first two poets who will tangle and their poems, No. 1 seed Komunyakaa’s “Thanks” and 16th seed A.E. Stallings’ “Tantrum:”

THANKS
 
Thanks for the tree
between me & a sniper’s bullet.
I don’t know what made the grass
sway seconds before the Viet Cong
raised his soundless rifle.
Some voice always followed,
telling me which foot
to put down first.
Thanks for deflecting the ricochet
against that anarchy of dusk.
I was back in San Francisco
wrapped up in a woman’s wild colors,
causing some dark bird’s love call
to be shattered by daylight
when my hands reached up
& pulled a branch away
from my face. Thanks
for the vague white flower
that pointed to the gleaming metal
reflecting how it is to be broken
like mist over the grass,
as we played some deadly
game for blind gods.
What made me spot the monarch
writhing on a single thread
tied to a farmer’s gate,
holding the day together
like an unfingered guitar string,
is beyond me. Maybe the hills
grew weary & leaned a little in the heat.
Again, thanks for the dud
hand grenade tossed at my feet
outside Chu Lai. I’m still
falling through its silence.
I don’t know why the intrepid
sun touched the bayonet,
but I know that something
stood among those lost trees
& moved only when I moved.
 
versus
 

THE TANTRUM

Struck with grief you were, though only four,
The day your mother cut her mermaid hair
And stood, a stranger, smiling at the door.

They frowned, tsk-tsked your willful, cruel despair,
When you slunk beneath the long piano strings
And sobbed until your lungs hiccupped for air,

Unbribable with curses, cake, playthings.
You mourned a mother now herself no more,
But brave and fashionable. The golden rings

That fringed her naked neck, whom were they for?
Not you, but for the world, now in your place,
A full eclipse. You wept down on the floor;

She wept up in her room. They told you this:
That she could grow it back, and just as long,
They told you, lying always about loss,

For you know she never did. And they were wrong.

Stay tune for the results of the Midwest/South First Round!

SCARRIET’S POETRY HOT 100!!

All ye need to know?

1. Rita Dove—Penguin editor reviewed by Helen Vendler in the NYRB
2. Terrance Hayes—In Dove’s best-selling anthology, and young
3. Kevin Young—In Dove’s anthology, and young
4. Amiri Baraka—In Dove’s anthology
5. Billy Collins—in the anthology
6. John Ashbery—a long poem in the anthology
7. Dean Young—not in the anthology
8. Helen Vendler—hated the anthology
9. Alan CordleTime’s masked Person-of-the-Year = Foetry.com’s once-anonymous Occupy Poetry protestor?
10. Harold Bloom—you can bet he hates the anthology
11. Mary Oliver—in the anthology
12. William Logan—meanest and the funniest critic (a lesson here?)
13. Kay Ryan—our day’s e.e. cummings
14. John Barr—the Poetry Man and “the Man.”
15. Kent Johnson—O’Hara and Koch will never be the same?
16. Cole Swensen—welcome to Brown!
17. Tony Hoagland—tennis fan
18. David Lehman—fun lovin’ BAP gate-keeper
19. David Orr—the deft New York Times critic
20. Rae Armantrout—not in the anthology
21. Seamus Heaney—When Harvard eyes are smilin’
22. Dan Chiasson—new reviewer on the block
23. James Tate—guaranteed to amuse
24. Matthew Dickman—one of those bratty twins
25. Stephen Burt—the Crimson Lantern
26. Matthew Zapruder—aww, everybody loves Matthew!
27. Paul MuldoonNew Yorker Brit of goofy complexity
28. Sharon Olds—Our Lady of Slightly Uncomfortable Poetry
29. Derek Walcott—in the anthology, latest T.S. Eliot prize winner
30. Kenneth Goldsmith—recited traffic reports in the White House
31. Jorie Graham—more teaching, less judging?
32. Alice Oswald—I don’t need no stinkin’ T.S. Eliot Prize
33. Joy Harjo—classmate of Dove’s at Iowa Workshop (in the anthology)
34. Sandra Cisneros—classmate of Dove’s at Iowa Workshop (in the anthology)
35. Nikki Giovanni—for colored girls when po-biz is enuf
36. William Kulik—not in the anthology
37. Ron Silliman—no more comments on his blog, but in the anthology
38. Daisy Fried—setting the Poetry Foundation on fire
39. Eliot Weinberger—poetry, foetry, and politics
40. Carol Ann Duffy—has Tennyson’s job
41. Camille Dungy—runs in the Poetry Foundation forest…
42. Peter Gizzi—sensitive lyric poet of the hour…
43. Abigail Deutsch—stole from a Scarriet post and we’ll always love her for it…
44. Robert Archambeau—his Samizdat is one of the more visible blogs…
45. Michael Robbins—the next William Logan?
46. Carl Phillips—in the anthology
47. Charles NorthWhat It Is Like, New & Selected chosen as best of 2011 by David Orr
48. Marilyn Chin—went to Iowa, in the anthology
49. Marie Howe—a tougher version of Brock-Broido…
50. Dan Beachy-Quick—gotta love that name…
51. Marcus Bales—he’s got the Penguin blues.
52. Dana Gioia—he wants you to read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, so what r u waiting 4?
53. Garrison Keillor—the boil on the neck of August Kleinzahler
54. Alice Notley—Penguin’s Culture of One by this Paris-based author made a lot of 2011 lists
55. Mark McGurl—won Truman Capote Award for 2011’s The Program Era: Rise of Creative Writing
56. Daniel Nester—wrap your blog around my skin, yea-uh.
57. Yusef Komunyakaa—in the anthology
58. Adrienne Rich—in the anthology
59. Jeremy Bass— reviewed the anthology in the Nation
60. Anselm Berrigan—somebody’s kid
61. Travis Nichols—kicked us off Blog Harriet
62. Seth Abramson—poet and lawyer
63. Stephen Dunn—one of the best poets in the Iowa style
64. Philip Levine—Current laureate, poem recently in the New Yorker  Movin’ up!
65. Ben Mazer—Does anyone remember Landis Everson?
66. Reb Livingston—Her No Tells blog rocks the contemporary scene
67. Marjorie Perloff—strutting avant academic
68. John Gallaher—Kent Johnson can’t get enough punishment on Gallaher’s blog
69. Fred Viebahn—poet married to the Penguin anthologist
70. James Fenton—said after Penguin review hit, Dove should have “shut up”
71. Rodney Jones—BAP poem selected by Dove riffs on William Carlos Williams’ peccadilloes
72. Mark Doty—no. 28’s brother
73. Cate Marvin—VIDA and so much more
74. Richard Wilbur—still hasn’t run out of rhyme
75. W.S. Merwin—no punctuation, but no punk
76. Jim Behrle—the Adam Sandler of po-biz
77. Bin Ramke—still stinging from the Foetry hit
78. Thomas Sayer Ellis—not in the anthology
79. Henri Cole—poetry editor of the New Republic
80. Meghan O’Rourke—Behrle admires her work
81. Anne Waldman—the female Ginsberg?
82. Anis Shivani—get serious, poets! it’s time to change the world!
83. Robert Hass—Occupy story in Times op-ed
84. Lyn Hejinian—stuck inside a baby grand piano
85. Les Murray—greatest Australian poet ever?
86. Sherman Alexie—is this one of the 175 poets to remember?
87. Geoffrey Hill—great respect doesn’t always mean good
88. Elizabeth Alexander—Frost got Kennedy, she got Obama
89. A.E. Stallings—A rhymer wins MacArthur!
90. Frank Bidart—in the anthology
91. Robert Pinsky—in the anthology
92. Carolyn Forche—in the anthology
93. Louise Gluck—not in the anthology
94. Keith Waldrop—his Hopwood Award paid her fare from Germany
95. Rosmarie Waldrop—her Hopwood helpled launch Burning Deck
96. C.D. Wright—born in the Ozark mountains
97. Forrest Gander—married to no. 96
98. Mark Strand—translator, surrealist
99. Margaret Atwood—the best Canadian poet of all time?
100. Gary B. Fitzgerald—the poet most likely to be remembered a million years from now

MICHAEL PALMER SAYS NO TO YUSEF KOMUNYAKAA

Schwartz: easy target?

In the North Bracket, Scarriet March Madness continues as Michael Palmer and Yusef Komunyakaa clash.

I Do Not

I do not know English, and therefore I can have nothing to
say about this latest war, flowering through a night-
scope in the evening sky.

I do not know English, and therefore, when hungry, can do no
more than repeatedly point to my mouth.

Yet such a gesture may be taken to mean a number of
things.

I do not know English, and therefore cannot seek the requisite
permissions, as outlined in the recent protocol.

Such as: May I utter a term of endearment; may I now proceed
to put my arm or arms around you and apply gentle
pressure; may I now kiss you directly on the lips; now
on the left tendon of the neck; now on the nipple of
each breast? And so on.

Would not in any case be able to decipher her response.

I do not know English. Therefore I have no way of
communicating that I prefer this painting of nothing to
that one of something.

No way to speak of my past or my hopes for the future, of my
glasses mysteriously shattered in Rotterdam, the statue
of Eros and Psyche in the Summer Garden, the sudden,
shrill cries in the streets of Sao Paulo, a watch
abruptly stopping in Paris.

No way to tell the joke about the rabbi and the parrot, the
bartender and the duck, the Pope and the porte-cochere.

You will understand why you have received no letters from me
and why yours have gone unread.

Those, that is, where you write so precisely of the
confluence of the visible universe with the invisible,
and the lens of dark matter.

No way to differentiate the hall of mirrors from the meadow
of mullein, the beetlebung from the pinkeltink, the
kettlehole from the ventifact.

Nor can I utter the words science, seance, silence, language
and languish.

Nor can I tell of the arboreal shadows elongated and shifting
along the wall as the sun’s angle approaches maximum
hibernal declination.

Cannot tell of the almond-eyed face that peered from the
well, the ship of stone whose sail was a tongue.

And I cannot report that this rose has twenty-four petals,
one slightly cankered.

Cannot tell how I dismantled it myself at this desk.

Cannot ask the name of this rose.

I cannot repeat the words of the Recording Angel or those of
the Angel of Erasure.

Can speak neither of things abounding nor of things
disappearing.

Still the games continue. A muscular man waves a stick at a
ball. A woman in white, arms outstretched, carves a true
circle in space. A village turns to dust in the chalk
hills.

Because I do not know English I have variously been called
Mr. Twisted, The One Undone, The Nonrespondent, The
Truly Lost Boy, and Laughed-At-By-Horses.

The war is declared ended, almost before it has begun.

They have named it The Ultimate Combat Between Nearness and
Distance.

I do not know English.

–Michael Palmer

MARLA MUSE: Nice. This works on more than one level.

Indeed it does, Marla.  Now let’s take a look at the Komunyakaa entry:

Forgive and Live

Ralph Ellison didn’t
have his right hand
on her left breast

& they weren’t kissing
in the doorway of Blackmur’s
kitchen. But Delmore

Schwartz tried to slap
his wife, Elizabeth,
at the Christmas party

anyway. When he pulled
her into a side bedroom
the house swelled into a big

white amp for Caliban’s
blues. Maybe their fight
began one evening about sex

years earlier, not enough
money for food & gasoline.
But she’d only been leaning

against Ellison’s shoulder
to let him light her cigarette,
just a lull in the conversation

about Duke Ellington’s
“Creole Love Call”
& the New Critics.

That night, the falling
snow through the windows
was a white spotlight

on his dark face
a perfect backdrop
for Delmore’s rehearsal

for the women
who would pass
through his life

like stunned llamas,
for the drunken stars
exploding in his head,

like the taxicabs
taken from Cambridge
to Greenwich Village, the fear

of death, the Dexedrine
clouds & poison-pen letters
floating back to earth,

for the notes in margins
of Rilke’s Duino
Elegies & his love-hate

of T.S. Eliot,
for Chunley’s Bar,
those days of grey

boxcars flickering past
as he paced Washington
Square Park, impulsive

bouquets stolen from gardens
& given to lovers with dirt
clinging to the roots,

for his fascination
with Marilyn Monroe,
the Dreyfus case, Kafka

quoting Flaubert, the day
after JFK’s assassination
spent wandering the streets

in unbuckled galoshes,
for Cavanaugh’s Irish Bar
in Chelsea & the Egyptian

Gardens on West Twenty-ninth,
Dixie’s Plantation Lounge,
for his last night on earth,

stumbling from a forest
of crumpled girlie magazines,
as he takes the garbage

down to the lobby,
singing about lovers
in the Duchess’s red shoes.

–Yusef Komunyakaa

MARLA MUSE: I don’t know.  Delmore Schwartz seems too easy a target; I’m not sure I see the point.

Not many points for Komunyakaa in this one, Marla. 

Palmer wins, 62-48.

TOP SEEDS IN SOUTH ADVANCE

In Bracket South, the poems that were supposed to advance, did. 

Amid anti-School of Quietude protests, the sleepy ol’ South top seeds put a whoopin’ on their opponents.

First seed Donald Justice’s tribute to a fellow scribe, “Invitation To A Ghost,” turned Susan Stewart’s slightly pedantic “Apple” every way but loose.

No. 2 seed and Cincinnati native Kenneth Koch’s extensive tribute to his New York School friends, “Time Zone,” tanned the hide of the brief and witty “The Poets March On Washington” by James Cummins.

Yusef Komunyakaa’s “Facing It” (3rd seed) put the fear of God into Lynn Xu’s “[Language Exists Because].”

“Country Western Singer” by Alan Shapiro stomped all over “The Only Dance There Is” by Rebecca Byrkit.

Catherine Bowman’s “No Sorry” wrung the neck of “Lifeline” by Vijay Seshardi.

“I Stopped Writing Poetry” by Bernard Welt made mincemeat out of “Gratification” by Susan Wood.

Dorianne Laux’s “The Shipfitter’s Wife” advanced from the no. 9 spot and rounding out the winners: “That’s Not Butter” by Reb Livingston.

So, we’re down to 32 contestants.

Here’s the next round of matchups:

East:  Collins v. Graham, Dunn v. Broughton, Pinsky v. Gluck, and McClatchy v. Matthews.

 North: Simpson v. Whiting, Hall v. Kulik, Levertov v. Wright, Yezzi v. Atwood.

West (which featured many upsets):  Kooser v. Bowdan, Leithauser v. Koertge, Dennis v. Young, Buzbee v. Moritz.

South: Justice v. Livingston, Koch v. Laux, Komunyakaa v. Welt, Shapiro v. Bowman.

Toughest calls:  Dunn v. Broughton in the East, Hall v. Kulik in the North, Leithauser v. Koertge in the West, and Koch v. Laux in the South.

These eight poems are all perfect in their way.

The avant protestors want all these poems to lose, however. 

“Too quiet!” 

“Boo!  Hiss!”

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