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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Just to prove what a lout I am, I'd like to thank Daze Reader for the link to this selection of pornographic verse by John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester.


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Besides valiantly trying to keep me in line, Chris Lott's back at Cosmopoetica, continuing a discussion with Josh Corey about seriousness in poetry and beginning a poem-by-poem reaction to the 2004 Best American Poetry There are many posts, so I'll link to archives, Josh here and Chris here.

You may remember that Jonathan Mayhew, a few months ago, also scored the BAP (here, here, and here). It's a small sample yet on Chris's side, but after Kim Addonizio's opening poem, which gets a nod from both (7.5/10 and 4/5), there's not much agreement. I'm not surprised at the consensus about Kim — she's just damned good. Nor am I surprised at the disagreement later; nor will you, dear reader, be surprised that so far I'm with Chris.

And I'm all for taking seriously poetry and the writing of poetry, which, as both Chris and Josh have said, does not mean you can't laugh about it or use it to make other people laugh. And once again, when there's disagreement, I find myself with Chris. How can anyone believe that Billy Collins doesn't take his poetry seriously? Whether you like his poetry or not (I do, much more than Ron Silliman's or Lyn Hejinian's or Jorie Graham's but not nearly as much Sam Gwynn's or Kim Addonizio's or Tim Murphy's), the man works harder at making poems and bringing poems to others than any ten of the rest of us except perhaps Dana Gioia. It seems to me that, too often, when the post-avant (or School of Phlogiston) says "taking poetry seriously" it really means taking post-modern literary theory seriously. And that means refusing to take human nature seriously.

But you know, it's seriously weird to use the seriousness of an artist as a gauge for the worth of that artist's work. William McGonagall was as serious as a heart attack about his godawful poetry, and William Shakespeare was trying to make a living, in the theater of all places, where even minimal experience teaches you that you'd better listen to your actors when they say a line doesn't play.


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