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What One Can Learn About Poets from Their Acknowledgements: Some Rickety Conclusions

By Jason Guriel

They appear every few years, when poets put out new collections, which is to say: they appear infrequently. Indeed, they often resemble afterthoughts, slipped into the backs of books or shrunk down and very nearly dissolved in the tiny type of copyright pages. And the events they record and acknowledge – the securing of grants, the input of peers, the debuts of poems in magazines – are less meteorological than geological. Acknowledgements summarize the occasional moments of friction and achievement in the otherwise tectonically slow grind of poets’ lives.

But they also reveal to us, acknowledgements do, something about the personality behind those lives. As poet and editor John Barton suggests, “An acknowledgements page acts as an alternate to the contents page, a skeleton key to the literary world in which a poet aspires, even succeeds, to function. As I read any collection…I find myself checking where each poem first saw light; I muse about what more this might tell me about the poem, the magazine, and the poet. My reading pleasure is thus increased.”

Mine, too. So what rickety conclusions can we draw about poets, based on the evidence of their acknowledgements?

The example of the poet who lists the various magazines in which her poems first appeared but then singles out one magazine for special mention is an interesting phenomenon. Perhaps you’re familiar with it. This is a poet who seems to be proud of her successes, of what she perceives to be her ‘hits.’ And her acknowledgements often look something like this:

“Variations of these poems first appeared in Avant Gardening, New England Review, PN Review, Quietude Quarterly, and Shenandoah.

The poems ‘Bird Song’ and ‘Drowning’ first appeared in the New Yorker.”

There’s nothing wrong with singling out the New Yorker; like other NY institutions – e.g. The Yankees, Woody Allen, etc. – it puts out a pretty good product and is too easily hated (especially by those who secretly burn to be embraced by it). Still, it would be a nicely subversive gesture if, every now and then, our proud poet singled out, for special mention, one of the magazines we haven’t heard of.

This poet is also, as demonstrated by her use of the telling word “Variations,” a perfectionist. She is at pains, though she may not realize it, to alert future scholars and archaeologists (those who may one day browse through the brittle remains of her books) that earlier and slightly different versions of her poems do exist and might be worth digging for. Some poets, however, will insist that “Variations of these poems first appeared, often in very different form, in the following magazines” (italics mine; anxiety theirs). These poets are embarrassed, if not mortified, about past indiscretions. They are inadvertently telling us that the earlier versions of poems, launched in literary journals, were inferior prototypes, but the new versions, the 2.0s, are the correct ones, the definitive master takes. The bugs have been worked out, so just ignore the earlier versions (which you probably never read anyway).

Some poets, John Barton observes, like to indicate which poems appeared in which magazines. If these poets have an unconscious, sinister agenda it may be to remind us of just how many poems they published in the New Yorker or Poetry or wherever. But I think they’re just proud and meticulous, like the versifiers who take care to note, with a farmer’s pride, the snaggle-toothed poem that snagged the second prize ribbon in some regional contest.

Cool poets will bury their magazine credits in the tiny type of the copyright page; they don’t need to flaunt their success or make great shows of gratitude. Annoying poets, who are a little too cool, will obscure their acknowledgements with private allusions: “Thanks, D.L., for the industrial-strength corkscrew and those Paris nights!” Poets who haven’t had a lot of success and thus maybe feel that they have less to be cool about – these poets will draw attention to magazine credits, prizes, and fellowships by isolating the acknowledgements on its own page. Of course, these may also just be conscientious people who care about giving the deserving their due. Some will even go on for two or three pages, thanking their editors, publishers, professors, first readers, first sexual partners – anyone who ever shared, like, a ZIP code with the poems. Such poets are generous, thoughtful citizens. Good members of their community or support network. They will sometimes insist that their community or support network dramatically improved their poems, and that the lingering weaknesses are all theirs. They may be right. Still, I can’t help but wonder about the quality of poems that were raised by a village, poems that seem to have needed so much help from so many hands. Gratitude is good, but a poet who did her job in the first place probably wouldn’t – probably shouldn’t – need to be too grateful to anyone, let alone a vast, pandemic syndicate of friends, relatives, and editors.

Still, I enjoy them, acknowledgements. They expose pride, modesty, arrogance, graciousness – brief moments of good old humanity. Even the most gratuitous displays of gratitude – those long lists that mark the seismic influences of various spouses, sponsors, and deities, unspooled like tape – can be nice to observe when the person at the podium is the sort of dark horse who rarely makes it to anything as elevated as a podium. A surprise winner at the Oscars, say. A longshot. A poet.

Comments (84)

  • On April 19, 2009 at 12:23 pm Dale Smith wrote:

    Dude, is this all you can come up with today?

  • On April 19, 2009 at 2:13 pm Jersey Rain wrote:

    You’re an idiot.

  • On April 19, 2009 at 2:37 pm Colin Ward wrote:

    Jason,

    This is an interesting study in perspectives. I suppose a trusting soul could read a list of, say, credited mentors and see gratitude. A cynic might look at the same list and think of name-dropping or boasting. Given this disparity, I wonder if the views don’t say more about the viewer than the viewed.

  • On April 19, 2009 at 2:44 pm thomas brady wrote:

    I wonder how cynically readers greeted Baudelaire’s claim at the time: “The first time I opened one of his books I saw, to my amazement and delight, not simply certain subjects which I had dreamed of, but sentences which I had thought out, written by him [Poe] twenty years before.”

  • On April 19, 2009 at 2:55 pm michael robbins wrote:

    Just to chime in on something I learned the easy way: The New Yorker requires you (it’s in the contract) to acknowledge that a given poem initially appeared in its pages.

    I like Garrick Davis’s acknowledgments to his New Critics anthology: “No gratitude should be expressed to Harcourt Brace, which required fees for the reprinting of R. P. Blackmur that were so exorbitant I briefly considered excluding him altogether. … Oddly, Harcourt Brace does not seem interested in keeping Blackmur’s books in print.”

  • On April 19, 2009 at 6:27 pm Dr. Maxi wrote:

    99% of acknowledgment page info is house style–the publisher decides–if Guriel had spent 5 seconds doing actual research, instead of his usual shadow hit job–he’d know this. I’m so tired of Guriel and Annie Finch, in particular, who write these generalized, whiny smackdowns and refuse to name the names. Guriel, what poet singles out their NYer hits? Did he/she ask his/her publisher to do this? Plus, I’ve NEVER seen this done. Ever? Who did it, Guriel? No one, of course.

    PS: ALL magazines require (or politely ask you) that you to acknowledge that a given poem initially appeared in its pages. The NYer isn’t unique! But we get it, Robbins, you were in the NYer. Gee–maybe Guriel was right. Sorry.

  • On April 19, 2009 at 7:09 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    I went to school with a poet who got so mad at all the magazines who were rejecting him that he started listing them in his submission cover letter as places where he’d published. Pretty soon, his poems were being taken by magazines left and right. He’s now a well-known poet, won a major prize two or three years back, and has a tenured position. As far as I know, he has never been caught for this. When his last book came out, the acknowledgments page listed and thanked all the journals who’d rejected him– thanked them for having first published his poems, that is.

    I wonder if this practice is actually more widespread than people realize.

    Kent

  • On April 19, 2009 at 7:12 pm michael robbins wrote:

    It’s so easy to be a moronic jackass when you’re too cowardly to sign yr name.

    For the record, Maxipad is quite wrong. All journals ask you to acknowledge them. Only the NYer requires you to actually cite which poems appeared there. This is why so many acknowledgments pages say things like “Some of these poems originally appeared in the following journals …”, simply listing the titles, then say “‘Dr. Maxi Ate a Sour Grape’ originally appeared in The New Yorker.”

    So eat it!

  • On April 19, 2009 at 7:19 pm michael robbins wrote:

    Also, what about the difference between “require” & “politely ask” don’t you get, Maxipad? That difference was the entire point of my post. And if you haven’t seen poets singling out their NYer hits, then you don’t read many poetry collections by people published in the NYer. ‘Cause it’s standard. If you’re going to come in her & insult a bunch of folks you don’t know just because you’re filled with ressentiment, you should sign yr name. It would at least give you a pathetic veneer of dignity.

  • On April 19, 2009 at 7:27 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    Slight correction: Not really accurate to say I “went to school with him.” He’d already gotten his MFA from a prestigious school and hung out with the poetry gang at the local watering hole…

    Kent

  • On April 19, 2009 at 8:05 pm Thom Hess wrote:

    Not to pick a fight with anyone–wow, people are hot–but in Tate’s GHOST SOLDIERS (it’s on my desk) his NYer acknowledgment is just with all the rest–Tin House, Hollins Critic, Hunger Mountain, Crazyhorse–no special notice, no poems cited. Maybe this is a new policy?

  • On April 19, 2009 at 9:42 pm Jason Guriel wrote:

    Believe it or not, Dale Smith, the cupboard wasn’t bare; I actually thought this might be an interesting post. I’ll try to do better.

    Dr. Maxi may be right when he claims that “99% of acknowledgment page info is house style” but since he’s so keen on bloggers “doing actual research” I wouldn’t mind seeing where he finds his statistic – though I also sort of don’t care. I wasn’t aiming to offer a rigorously researched piece; just some personal impressions and speculations (and relatively harmless ones, I thought). The two different publishers who have put out books by me – publishers that, for what it’s worth, have been around for decades – didn’t impose a house style on my acknowledgments pages.

    As for naming names, this wasn’t intended to be a “shadow hit job.” Many, many acknowledgements pages single out the New Yorker. If you’ve never seen this, what can I say? And relatively recent books by poets I admire, like Marilyn Hacker, make special mention of other magazines, too – Poetry and The Nation, in Hacker’s case. As far as I can tell, Poetry doesn’t require that it be singled out, from the other magazines, for special mention in the acknowledgements page, though one of the editors may wish to clarify. Michael, thanks for your clarification regarding the New Yorker’s requirements, though I’m sure I’ve seen some poets stray from their contractual obligation to make special mention of the magazine.

    Anyway, I don’t understand why it’s offensive to suggest that a poet might be proud to single out a prestigious magazine that has accepted his or her work, for special thanks, especially if the magazine doesn’t require it. And I did suggest, in my initial post, that my conclusions might be “rickety.” But if I’ve offended anyone, my apologies.

    I will add that if Maxi is “so tired” of me and Annie Finch – who I’ve always found respectful and who didn’t need to be dragged into this – why read us in the first place?

    Thanks to the rest for their comments.

  • On April 19, 2009 at 10:00 pm michael robbins wrote:

    Yeah, uh, I may have lost my temper a wee bit there. Apologies.

    I’ve been trying to find my NYer contract to make sure I’m remembering correctly — but I don’t know where it is just now. Looking through some books, I noticed that some poets don’t separately list their NYer poems, as you say, Jason. So I could be misremembering. But it does seem a prevalent practice.

    Anyway, I thought this post was innocuous enough, & don’t understand Maxi’s animosity toward Jason, Annie, & me. Completely disproportionate. Why go out of yr way to accuse people of whining (Jason & Annie) & bragging (me)? Why not grant folks the benefit of the doubt? I’m sure we’ve all whined & bragged a time or two, especially on the internets, but I don’t believe that such accusations were called for or substantiated in this case. But I promise not to bring up a certain publication in this forum again, so as not to offend delicate sensibilities.

  • On April 19, 2009 at 10:40 pm Tim Upperton wrote:

    I think Colin Ward is right (above), but… I wrote an acknowledgements page just a couple of days ago, and Jason Guriel’s piece is revealing, not to say chastening.

  • On April 19, 2009 at 10:43 pm Evan Jones wrote:

    Wow, the belligerence and bullying are out in full force this Orthodox Easter Sunday. I might be generalising, but don’t many readers turn to the acknowledgments pages to see where poems have appeared when flipping through a new book? Isn’t the knowledge of which magazine editors appreciate a poet’s work–or don’t–telling? And doesn’t an appearance in a certain journal raise or answer questions about what kind of poems a book contains? I think these are the nubs of Jason’s post, which is interesting if not earth-shattering, sure, but that’s the nature of the blog post, as opposed to the PhD thesis, Dr. Maxi.

    I am back to Celebrity Apprentice. Turns out knowing who Sandra Bullock is married to tells me a lot about her.

  • On April 19, 2009 at 11:39 pm Reasonable Reader wrote:

    This article is a waste of time.

  • On April 20, 2009 at 12:55 am Chuck Godwin wrote:

    Wow, lotsa comments about what was a fairly innocuous post. I mean, Jason did acknowledge the conclusions were “rickety”. And a couple of posters seemed to have missed taking their Sunday meds. Let’s read those pill bottles a little more closely folks.

  • On April 20, 2009 at 1:06 am Arthur Durkee wrote:

    Much heat, little light. . . .

    Acknowledgments are simply gratitudes. Since when was gratitude ever to be so questioned or so mocked? It’s simple courtesy, it’s polite form, even if some journals require them. Are you really saying that journals don’t need to be acknowledged, or thanked, for being a part of the publication process? Are you saying that poets are so above the masses that they don’t need to be polite, or be grateful? Very Ayn Rand of you, if so. Evan Jones’ questions above are also good questions.

    “Cool” poets? What are those? Do you mean disdainful, ironic, hipster poets who pretend that they don’t owe anybody anything?

    I agree: this says a lot more about the viewer than viewed. Rickety conclusions, indeed. Very rickety.

  • On April 20, 2009 at 8:23 am thomas brady wrote:

    Kent,

    Rickety indeed, the poet who listed journals where he’d been rejected, as publishing creds!

    I’m almost inclined to praise such behavior, given the fact that it led to success, and probably says less about the individual and more about the whole rickety po-biz industry which scans creds more assiduously than it does poems.

    Thomas

  • On April 20, 2009 at 8:34 am thomas brady wrote:

    Ladies & gentlemen,

    It’s no longer Orthodox Easter Sunday.

    It’s Boston Marathon Monday.

    We can be as petty and competitive as we want to be today.

    I think people study acknowledgements pretty intensely when the BAP comes out. I recall the first guess editor, Mr. Ashbery, choosing his poems from like three or four eclectic little magazines. It was a statement of sorts.

    Thomas

  • On April 20, 2009 at 9:40 am Kent Johnson wrote:

    Just realized I said the “acknowledgments” listed by that old acquaintance had come out in his “last book.” I meant “first book”– back in the 90s, a chapbook, which is no doubt why no one noticed, or cared.

    Kent

  • On April 20, 2009 at 9:58 am Jason Guriel wrote:

    Arthur, I’m not saying any of those things.

  • On April 20, 2009 at 10:11 am Dale Smith wrote:

    “Believe it or not,” writes Jason, “…the cupboard wasn’t bare; I actually thought this might be an interesting post. I’ll try to do better.”

    What I don’t understand, Jason, is that there are hundreds of books out there that could use a little TLC (or negative critique, if you prefer) from a fine writer like you. Why engage in this business-end, status-conscious game-playing pursuit of the habitus? Some PhD down the road will write a little paper on it to present at MLA and notch it on her resume. But whatever…

  • On April 20, 2009 at 10:58 am Wow wrote:

    Dear michael robbins,

    Wait, are you saying you got published in the New Yorker? Well, congrats!

  • On April 20, 2009 at 11:26 am Jason Guriel wrote:

    Dale, I really do appreciate that you think I’m a “fine writer.” I have written some posts that bring attention to individual poems I like, usually poems from relatively recent books. I tend to subtitle these posts “A Reading of a Poem I Like”. I’ve done four of them. Have you seen these? They tend not to get a lot of comments, which is fine. I write these posts in the hopes that people will read the poems and look up the poets. You can take ‘em or leave ‘em, but they’re there.

    In my other 14 or so posts (I should probably count them) I’ve brought attention to a current Web site I sincerely like. I’ve also asked what I thought were serious questions about criticism of visual poetry and also pedagogical practice related to poetry. In two other posts, I’ve used the relatively recent translation of Roberto Bolano’s novel The Savage Detectives to explore the way poems are used in fiction. I’ve written two posts with the goal of doing little more than praise what I thought were lovely passages of critical prose, both past (Randall Jarrell) and present (A.E. Stallings). I’ve written three lighthearted posts about poetry readings, in which I’ve poked fun at myself (jabs I deserve; I am a sweaty reader). As a baseball fan, I’ve written a sincere post about the relationship between poetry and baseball, which draws attention to some recent poems about baseball. (In fact, as that post suggests, I was really just looking for an excuse to print some passages of poems I liked.) I’ve done another sincere post about occasional verse which mentions the poetry of George Johnston, which was just reprinted in a nice new volume. In that same post, I take aim at myself, again, for being a bit of a snob when a friend asked me to write her a poem.

    And my very first post was all about bloggers taking it slow and easy. I’ve tried, though haven’t always succeeded in, following this advice. In other words, I have tried to be courteous to bloggers who write things like, “You’re an idiot” or “Dude, is this all you can come up with today?” Believe it or not – there’s that phrase again, which implicitly asks that we give each other the benefit of the doubt — my response to you wasn’t meant to be sarcastic. Most of my responses, on these threads and others, aim to be grateful and I think my record bears that out. I tend to be glad that anyone reads me. I have no mandate to give books TLC, but I’ve encouraged bloggers to share the poems they like. If I do have a mandate, it’s to try and be somewhat respectful to other bloggers.

    “Why engage in this business-end, status-conscious game-playing pursuit of the habitus?” I really didn’t think I was engaging in this. Nor did I think the post would upset people, and I’m sorry that it seems to have. It was meant to be a bit of creative fun and not taken so seriously. (“Avant Gardening, etc.”)

  • On April 20, 2009 at 12:59 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    Acknowledgements seem to serve a dual purpose. Obviously, with books of poetry, they, at the very least, reaffirm that somebody else actually liked your work enough to publish it. It goes without saying, I presume (I perhaps presume too much.) that regardless of one’s feelings about the overall process, there is a hierarchy to listing acknowledgements, the same as there is listing publications in an author’s bio. The New Yorker, Poetry and a handful of others go to the head of the class. Followed by anthologies, which at the very least indicates not only did one publication find the poet’s work worth publishing, but that an editor of an anthology deemed it worthy of reprinting. Does it mean anything to everyone? Not hardly, But it means something to the poet and to most, not all readers of poetry. I seldom list my publication in “Bardic Echoes,” (right next to the Fannie Goodales’s favorite recipe for Butter Batter Cookies) since the readership for “Bardic Echoes,” (sorry Fannie) is not as vast or widely accepted as Poetry. (Yes, God forgive me list it!) This acknowledgement pecking order does exist and rightfully so.

    Acknowledgements also seem to play a role in helping the poet through the door of the next publication they submit to. Whether it is right or wrong is neither here nor there, but a list of acknowledgements including widely read and accepted publications appears to go a long way toward getting new work read.
    Someone has to say it, so it might as well be me: listing Billy Bob’s Poetry Extravaganza just doesn’t carry the weight of a New Yorker or Poetry credit. That’s life.

    I’ve been fortunate enough to have eight books published. Good for me! I only list the books published by a major publisher (William Morrow and Globe Pequot) since the more obscure publishers don’t seem to have an impact on my current or future publishers. Once again, at the every least acknowledging major publishers indicates that the author knows the ropes of a major publishing operation and his work has been vetted in some way within the parameters established by the major houses.

  • On April 20, 2009 at 1:01 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    Thomas,

    It is not the credits themselves that are examined. It is what they represent. They represent the fact that the author has been accepted within the realm of certain established publishing parameters.

  • On April 20, 2009 at 1:25 pm michael robbins wrote:

    Well, I couldn’t disagree more strongly with that. Seems to me listing Billy Bob’s Poetry Extravaganza is an obvious courtesy, to be eschewed only out of churlishness or narcissism. Why submit to the journal in the first place if you’re going to sniff at it? Whether it’s Shampoo or American Poetry Review, an editor took the time to evaluate yr work & present it to a public.

    Not to mention that some of the best poets now working do not, as a rule, publish in the major journals, out of a sense of solidarity with small publishers & a belief that the most exciting stuff is taking place on the margins. I know plenty of wonderful poets who have never & wouldn’t submit to The New Yorker. Jennifer Moxley’s last book’s acknowledgments page lists The Canary, Wherever We Put Our Hats, The Modern Review, & Octopus, among other places, none more prestigious than Denver Quarterly. She cares about poetry, as the editors of these journals do, not prestige.

    OK, she also cares about prestige — I don’t mean to romanticize a position I do not myself care to occupy — but it’s a different kind of cultural capital that accrues to someone like Moxley, & more power to her.

  • On April 20, 2009 at 1:47 pm Dale Smith wrote:

    I remember once being at a bookstore where I spied several Michener Center MFA students comparing acknowledgments in poetry books, and looking for the tags displaying the names of prizes authors earned. Which one had a Pulitzer? Who had been a Stegner Fellow? Who studied with Longfellow? Where is the McDowell Colony anyway? Acknowledgments do say a lot. Apologies if I sounded a uncivil Jason. It’s interesting how important the legitimizing institutions of American poetry are for writers working in and out of their domain. It would be interesting also to have a specific book in mind to compare the legitimizing contextual elements with the actual work. It might tell us something. Otherwise, I agree with Michael Robbins: “I thought this post was innocuous enough….”

  • On April 20, 2009 at 3:55 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    “Not to mention that some of the best poets now working do not, as a rule, publish in the major journals, out of a sense of solidarity with small publishers & a belief that the most exciting stuff is taking place on the margins. I know plenty of wonderful poets who have never & wouldn’t submit to The New Yorker.

    “…it’s a different kind of cultural capital that accrues…”

    – Michael Robbins.

    Thank you, Mr. Robbins! One free beer for you.

  • On April 20, 2009 at 4:57 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    One can discover all sorts of social implications about the “weather page” in your local newspaper (if you still have one). Where, eactly, is it located in the paper? WHO writes it? WHAT, exactly, regions of weather activity are repotted? WHAT kind of language is used to describe them? Is a spring shower described as a torrential downpour? Is a buffeting breeze termed a mild tornado? Is an approaching “weather front” described in more detail, or is the scary and ambiguous word “front” just left dangling there, full of foreboding, like a Nazi invasion?

    These are just a small sample of the complex questions involved with this area. But remember, the main motivation for offering a “weather report” is just this : the paper feels an OBLIGATION to report that information. This might usefully be described as THE 1ST LAW OF WEATHER REPORTING THERMODYNAMICS. Something similar could be said about acknowledgements notes in books of poetry, and I am sure glad this topic has been raised. Just look at the gathering STORM of analysis and commentary which it has generated! This says something, doesn’t it?

  • On April 20, 2009 at 5:40 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    “Why submit to the journal in the first place if you’re going to sniff at it?”

    Take it easy Mike. I’m sure Billy Bob was happy to have you in it.

    You submit where you want. I’ll submit where I want. And toward that end I will, have and will continue to list my acknowledgements according to the way I see fit and that benefits me and my writing career and not as Mike Robbins sees fit.

    Your opinion of MY process is not relevant.

    You know Mike, you’re a bit of a bully. Why don’t you clam up for a time and stop with all this constant beligerent rhetoric. It’s boring and childish.

  • On April 20, 2009 at 5:53 pm mearl wrote:

    By comment number 7, this thread descends into the usual meta-threat (that’s a nice parapraxis: I meant “thread”)…it descends into the usual meta-thread shenanigans (all of them off the cuff and delivered up in real time). Of course these are interspersed with isolated voices trying to get back on line, but those are hard pressed and in the minority. I would say Jason’s post was not written in real time. In other words he took the time to show us in a pithy and delicately ironic look at the phenomenon of “the acknowledgment page” something about how the poetry world functions and (using the techniques of typology – which is not intended to name names) how individual poets grow, prosper and accrue indebtedness in a tiny domain of the book industry that has, for the last half century at least, only grudgingly catered to its poets. Jason’s post bears rereading, and his threaders should dispense with their pet peeves and pay more attention.

    Besides the wonderful sleights of hand sprinkled throughout (“Avant Gardening” turns up all the right worms), there is a generous and true thesis to the post right at the beginning – and it is only because of Jason’s modesty and sense of decorum that none of the comments took in the fact that this was both a plea and a prayer for all of us. “Acknowledgements summarize the occasional moments of friction and achievement in the otherwise tectonically slow grind of poets’ lives.”

    If you think about the acknowledgement page you will soon realize that beneath every mention of a single magazine, prominent or obscure, a bundle of rejections lies submerged. This is what is meant by the “tectonically slow grind of poet’s lives” – a phrase that we should, all of us, appreciate and thank Jason for. He is indicating true arduousness, and without any trace of whining.

    His post goes on to query this maladjustment in the literary world and praise the “long shot” voice of the poet.

    Since I have become know as the humorless one, I think I have earned the right, in all seriousness, to ask some of our more agitated commentators to grow up.

    Martin

  • On April 20, 2009 at 6:08 pm Annie Finch wrote:

    I have never seen a meditation on acknowledgments pages, and I appreciate Jason opening up this topic. It can be taken in many intriguing directions, from literary-historical, psychological, and sociological perspectives, if anyone cares to give it a bit of thought (warning: this will take more intellectual energy than criticizing takes).

    For example, as some of these comments already reveal, the acknowledgments pages of books of different sensibilities are likely to have very different projects. Some aim to emphasize big mainstream publications; others to emphasize more obscure/boutique journals; etc.

    Poets tend to be revisers and tinkerers and to like to play within genre expectations (even weather pages), and our acknowledgements pages no doubt often reflect a lot of time and thought. I know mine do. So why shouldn’t they get some attention?

    I remember taking a film course where the instructor stopped the projector just after the credits and asked what we already knew about the film. You could do the same with acknowledgments.

    My guess is that journals that provide contributors with specific wording to be used for permissions (ie Poetry and The New Yorker) will appear to be singled out.

    While on the topic of specificity, Dr Max, I invite you to be specific (preferably backchannel, but it’s up to you) about any thoughts you have on how I can improve my blogging. Right now, your critique seems to suffer from the same thing you accuse Jason and me of doing, ie generalizing. I’d welcome your thoughts and would try to improve my blogging based on them. My email is under “contact” at my website, anniefinch.com.

  • On April 20, 2009 at 6:10 pm michael robbins wrote:

    Nonsense, Jack. Insofar as I can make out what you’re saying through the froth around yr mouth (& the mangling of my name: who is “Mike”?), you hold that my reasonably-toned response to yr utterly self-interested practice of believing that only “major” publishers “count” constitutes “bullying.” May I direct you to any of the threads you have barged into with a tone of superiority & a completely unwarranted opinion of yrself? You’re the worst kind of pest on the internet: a know-nothing who’s convinced that because he can’t fathom anything more important than himself, not much of greater importance can exist. Blinders, Jack — or is it Johnny? or Jackie Boy? I can make up nicknames for you, too, if you like — you’re wearing blinders, particularly where the creepy menacing quality of yr own posts are concerned.

    And you can read up-thread to see just where I’ve been published, pal. That don’t mean I’m going to neglect the small journals that gave me a shot when no one else had heard of me. If all that matters to you is yr “writing career,” I can promise you it’ll be a short one.

  • On April 20, 2009 at 6:13 pm Annie Finch wrote:

    It’s funny, Jason, but I use that “often in substantially different form” phrase in my own ackowledgements, and it never occurred to me that it could be interpreted that way.

    I hoped people would take it to mean, not that the other versions were bad, but that they were good in a different way –and I still kind of miss them and want to acknowledge their existence!

    Without your post that would never have occurred to me.

  • On April 20, 2009 at 6:21 pm michael robbins wrote:

    Jack Conway, ladies & germs:

    “You know Mike [sic], you’re a bit of a bully. Why don’t you clam up for a time and stop with all this constant beligerent rhetoric. It’s boring and childish.”

    & here are some of his choicest posts from the Plath thread. I invite anyone to render his or opinion on which of us is a bully:

    “Enough already. You are beginning to sound like a spoiled child who has just been told it’s time for bed. You keep wailing that it isn’t but it is.”

    “I am certainly losing my patience in regard to this constant ill-advised harping.”

    “You should learn when to back away from an argument that is based of faulty logic, conjecture and has no merit. I’m sorry but once again you are wrong about this and no matter how much you continue to post irrelevant things it won’t change. Do you really think if you say it often enough it will become true?”

    “What rankles me is your inability to comprehend the obvious and admit you are so far off base. It’s completely childlike.”

    “Have you gone to college? No offense meant. I’m just trying to understand your militant inability to comprehend how college and university controls poetry.”

    “Enough with the poor victim routine. I hear that enough with my students. You’re not my student so I really don’t give a hoot what you want to believe or how victimized you pretend to be. Poor you.”

    I could go on & on, but here is one that actually crosses the line:

    “Lookit, I’ve been teaching for 21 years. Trust me. If I attacked or insulted you I promise you, you’d know it.
    Saying someone is being childish is not an attack. In this case, it’s a FACT.

    Even when told by just about everyone that his notion is wrong-headed he persists in harping on it. Even when told he can believe whatever wrong-headed idea he wants, he continues to harp on it. And when warned that such a wrong-headed notion will be laughed at by anyone remotely educated, he continues to harp on it.

    Personally, I see no reason to consider engaging in any discussion about poetry with John, given his militant stance against the obvious. It would be like arguing with someone about the weather who militantly refuses to believe the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. How do you discuss anything with someone who will not accept the most basic premise? You can’t.”

    So … you were saying about bullying, Jackie?

  • On April 20, 2009 at 6:23 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    Gabriel Gudding, in his acknowledgements page to RHODE ISLAND NOTEBOOK, turned it into a kind of introduction to the poem.

  • On April 20, 2009 at 6:25 pm Annie Finch wrote:

    Martin, your comment glows with weight and elegance, and illuminates the same in Jason’s post. Here’s one of my favorite of the points you make, among many subtle and worthwhile observations:

    If you think about the acknowledgement page you will soon realize that beneath every mention of a single magazine, prominent or obscure, a bundle of rejections lies submerged. This is what is meant by the “tectonically slow grind of poet’s lives” – a phrase that we should, all of us, appreciate and thank Jason for. He is indicating true arduousness, and without any trace of whining.

    Martin, your post reminds me that almost each time I’ve reread the acknowledgements page on my own first book EVE, it has almost made me cry, to think of the 20 years of struggle and real pain underlying that handful of journal titles and those few proper names. And I’m sure this is not uncommon, especially with first books.

    Dale, I’d love to see you do this yourself here–sounds like you have some specific books in mind! “It would be interesting also to have a specific book in mind to compare the legitimizing contextual elements with the actual work. It might tell us something.”

  • On April 20, 2009 at 6:36 pm Annie Finch wrote:

    My imagination has just been riffing on a book that would consist of a kind of dialogue between hypothetical acknowledgements pages and hypothetical blurbs pages. . .

    Maybe we can get Jack to write the blurbs for Michael’s acknowledgements page and vica versa. How about it fellas?

    Michael, when you say that Moxley is interested in a different kind of cultural capital, i agree that that also means she is interested in a different kind of prestige–not that she is not interested in any prestige. I mean, in certain poetry circles, Octopus is probably more prestigious than the Paris Review. That’s part of what I meant in my post.

    Jack, I swear I had something in Bardic Echoes once too!

  • On April 20, 2009 at 6:41 pm michael robbins wrote:

    Annie, I agree: that’s what I meant by “cultural capital.” In some quarters, to have published in the NYer is to lose prestige. It is all a matter of positionings.

    I might just have my acknowledgments pages consist entirely of this thread.

  • On April 20, 2009 at 8:30 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    Annie,

    I would be glad to write a **blurp** for Mikey’s new book, but I don’t blurp coloring books.

    I still have the saddlestitched, construction paper covered copy of “Bardic Echoes.” And indeed my poem was next door to a recipe for butter cookies. It was hard to tell the difference between my poem and the recipe I suppose.

    Of course acknowledgments carry a varying degree of weight depending upon the audience. It is simply bene my experience that certain credits go further than others — especially in my book publishing career. Having “American Literacy” published by William Morrow has gone a long way toward opening publishing opportunities for me than other less known publishing houses.Maybe this isn’t the case withwith other folks — but it is with me. It’s all very subjective.

    I found that certain credits always still seem to catch people’s attention, like being in the Norton Book of Light Verse, for me. It always seems to catch people’s attention both in publishing and in academic circles.

    Oh, and what I was saying, Mikey, is that you are way over due for at attitude adjustment, pal. When you stop drooling and dragging your knuckles on the ground Mikey, try and get over yourself. God knows almost everyone else has.

  • On April 20, 2009 at 8:32 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    Mikey, My writing cvareer is longer than yours so please once again will you please clam up.

  • On April 20, 2009 at 8:34 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    Not my spelling, however “career”

  • On April 20, 2009 at 9:19 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    >“Acknowledgements summarize the occasional moments of friction and achievement in the otherwise tectonically slow grind of poets’ lives.”

    Martin and Jason,

    I love issues of paratext, myself. Too often things like acknowledgments, blurbs, prefaces, dedications, footnotes, stamps of provenance, etc., are shunted aside (by mainstream and avant alike) as so much “non-poetic” stuff, mere appendages to the “real work.” I think these things, rather, are akin to hidden dimensions, from which faint voices are crying out to be enfolded into poetry.

    That’s one funny way of looking at the matter, anyway, but who said funny can’t be serious?

    Anyway, and metaphysical notions aside… When you think about it, if acknowledgments are to make for this “summarizing” function, are to help us better understand the “arduousness” behind the poems’ histories, reveal the frictions and negations that subtend a book’s making, and so on, well, then why shouldn’t the “acknowledgments” include, too, always, the naming of all those *rejections* that have also informed (maybe more than the acceptances!) the arduous journey? Matters of honesty and honor aside, such practice, at the very least, would proffer a small, but never ending gift to literary historians and bibliographers; constitute a perhaps salutary exercise in humility for the acknowledging poet; even help provide, over time, for a kind of leveling of the field, a little unsettling of author function and position.

    Why not? Why couldn’t this become the practice, one enforced by book publishers and demanded by magazines whose editors have (after all) taken precious time to read, consider, and reject the poem? One might protest: “Well, this couldn’t become the practice because poets would lie.” But then, the question begged, one must ask in reply: What keeps poets from lying (at least usually) about the magazines where they have published? The answer immediately comes forth: *The fear that they would be found out as liars.* So, if a poet were to fail mention that a poem in a book had been rejected by so and so magazine(s), then the magazine(s) would simply point out, in comment box at Harriet, say, or in a letter to Avant Gardening journal, for example, that its computer data bases show a record of the poet having submitted it there, and on such and such a date. No difference, really, in principle from the hard record of acceptance. Potential embarrassment would keep poets honest… For in this day of “brand” and professional decorum, what poet wants to be called a liar?

    Yes, as Pliny asks, rhapsodically, in a weird aside within the section on “Birds,” in his incomparable Natural History:

    “O! Where are the Poets who will begin? Who will be the Poets who refuse to sweep their failings under the faux Persian rug of accomplishment? Where are the Poets untainted by false propriety who shall decline to submerge [as Martin himself has it, KJ] sorrow and defeat under the mirage of protocol’s obsidian waters?

    Actually, though that comes in the midst of a strange bestiary, there may be a reasonable question or two in there that is relevant to our topic…

    Rejections without delay into the Acknowledgments, I say! After all, and please excuse, if we’re trying to graph the deep tectonics of suffering, and stuff, why be half-assed about it?

    Kent

  • On April 20, 2009 at 9:53 pm Artful Dodger wrote:

    Just FYI, Mr. Conway is well known on various internet poetry sites for his antics. His capacity for typos is unsurpassed and his aggressive and belligerent approach is legendary. He is, however, endlessly entertaining (for various reasons). In fact, he can be quite erudite and intelligent when he’s in his right mind.

  • On April 20, 2009 at 10:29 pm thomas brady wrote:

    I want to see rejection info in the acknowledgements.

    Absolutely!

    How else can we get the big picture? How else can we feel the pain of the poet? Feel his sorrow? Know his struggles?

    My poem, “Acknowledge Me, Please” was rejected by 43 magazines before it was published in ____. I met the editor of ____ on a shuttle to Cedar Rapids, during a driving rainstorm in which the shuttle nearly crashed, killing us all. My subsequent love affair with the editor was a disaster, especially our trip to Paris, but I want to thank my Muse, anyway. “Acknowledge Me, Please” was hammered by critic Stu Stiminson (then an undergraduate) in the _____ Review; Stu called it “the worst poem I have ever read.”

  • On April 20, 2009 at 10:43 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    Speaking of acknowledgements, it might be of interest to note that E.E. Cummings dedicated his poetry collection ‘No Thanks’ to the fourteen publishers who had rejected his manuscript, to wit:

    Farrar & Rinehart
    Simon & Schuster
    Coward-McCann
    Limited Editions
    Harcourt, Brace
    Random House
    Equinox Press
    Smith & Haas
    Viking Press
    Knopf
    Dutton
    Harper’s
    Scribner’s
    Covici, Friede

    Acknowledgements can serve many purposes.

  • On April 20, 2009 at 11:11 pm Boyd Nielson wrote:

    No doubt Jack Conway is right that Mikey is due for at attitude adjustment. After all, the other kiddies were being pushed around just a bit too much until Jack, whose writing cvareer is longer by far, said not on my watch, boy. Coloring books! What pwnage.

    That is a fact, not an attack, Michael. Don’t make me raise my voice. I said don’t make me raise my voice.

  • On April 20, 2009 at 11:22 pm michael robbins wrote:

    Listen here, Boyd. Have you gone to college? No offense meant. My writing cvareer is longer by far than yours, but not my spelling. My spelling is shorter than yours, I admit that. What rankles me, though, is your complete inability to comprehend the obvious when it is staring you right in the face. Like the sun rises in the East. That is a fact. You can go look in the west like a little child and wait for it to rise. It won’t. That is because you are based of faulty logic. Like my students, who are like children. They are childish, like a spoiled child, who is childlike. Like you, who are a child, and who are childish and spoiled, and who, like children everywhere, have not gone to college.

  • On April 21, 2009 at 12:49 am Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    Mr. Brady:

    Pursuant to your question on an earlier thread (and a little off-topic, as if there even was a topic here anymore)…no, I didn’t win the Pulitzer today. I, along with a couple of hundred other poets, am feeling a little dejected tonight.

    Of course, a couple of million other people buried their children today. I guess we should all keep things in perspective, shouldn’t we?

    GBF

  • On April 21, 2009 at 4:04 am Annie Finch wrote:

    FYI EVERYBODY
    I suggest that, virtually at least, we adopt one of these systems asap.
    On the Taming of Comment Trolls
    http://www.wired.com/techbiz/people/magazine/17-04/st_thompson
    Just think before you post. Are other people really going to want to read your insult directed to someone else they have never met, and which has nothing to do with the topic?

  • On April 21, 2009 at 4:24 am Annie Finch wrote:

    As I was trying to say, Kent, what a great idea. Was trying to say earlier that I loved (and totally believed) the anecdote of the rejected acknowledgements, but never got around to it–and meanwhile it has morphed into something even better.

    And of course the great e e cummings beat us all to it–and that’s very cool too!

  • On April 21, 2009 at 6:07 am Jack Conway wrote:

    What I don’t like about acknowledgements wiht poetry books is you can’t (at least I haven’t seen it) have a SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE acknowledgement splashed across the cover.

  • On April 21, 2009 at 9:16 am Dale Smith wrote:

    After thinking a bit more about this topic, I posted a piece of my own on Acknowledgments at http://possumego.blogspot.com.

  • On April 21, 2009 at 9:58 am Roberto Planos wrote:

    Jack reminds me of E. Hamish Plumbrick. His death waddle is clearly pledged to the cause of poetry. Reading all that Thomas Hardy, E. A. Robinson, and Acrhibald MacLiesh has got count for something. Right? Right?

    (please note, no dead white guys were harmed in the making of this post)

  • On April 21, 2009 at 10:13 am Jack Conway wrote:

    Maybe this will help you with your obsession Roberto.
    Then again, it hasn’t so far.

    http://www.wired.com/techbiz/people/magazine/17-04/st_thompson

  • On April 21, 2009 at 10:17 am Jack Conway wrote:

    Should students cite their publications in university publications or otherwise? And is it beneficial?

    And what about blogs? Should poets cite their poems posted on blogs?

    And what about poetry forums? Are they legitimate sources to acknowledge?

    And what about if I start my own magazine and publish myself? Should I acknowledge that?

  • On April 21, 2009 at 10:18 am Don Share wrote:

    I highly recommend that folks check out Dale’s blog post, which is quite interesting.

  • On April 21, 2009 at 10:36 am Roberto Planos wrote:

    Hmm…I thought that a little humor added to a decidedly unserious topic would be welcome. Though I suppose 21 years of teaching does tend to make one quite humorless.

    Really, all of this over acknowledgements!?! Just goes to show, poets better serve the world/work when they limit their bloviations. Odd that what I’m sure Gurial intended as a diversion turned so serious. I blame unchecked pretention, myself.

  • On April 21, 2009 at 11:35 am Catherine Halley wrote:

    Thanks, Annie and Martin and others for trying to keep the comments thread on track.

  • On April 21, 2009 at 12:40 pm Dale Smith wrote:

    Kent Johnson’s comments above about including rejections in acknowledgment pages is a provocative idea, too. Thanks for bringing this up. From a somewhat different direction, I recall how Exquisite Corpse used to have a Body Bag section in their print magazine that included the names of rejected poets whose work had been read for a particular issue. There were also longer rejection comments to certain writers whose work showed promise but failed to achieve the standards of the Corpse. I used to read through the long list of rejected names when the print issue would come out in the early 90s, scanning the print block in that elongated, vertical format until, lo and behold, I found my name among the dead. Anyway, the power of the negative, as Kent observes, might make a valuable contribution to this way of looking at the social apparatus–the poem’s cocoon.

  • On April 21, 2009 at 12:45 pm michael robbins wrote:

    How has no one mentioned Bill Knott, whose acknowledgments to The Quicken Tree read in their entirety: “Earlier versions of a few of these poems appeared in 2 or 3 ephemera, but Truth-in-Packaging laws require the author to admit that almost all the poems in this book were rejected by every magazine they were sent to.”

  • On April 21, 2009 at 12:54 pm Don Share wrote:

    Michael, I guess we were hoping that Bill would mention himself! He also used rejection slips as cover art for some of his terrific hand-made books, pre-Lulu.

    I, too, remember the Body Bag & have often thought it had a salutary effect on would-be contributors. And it sure made you look forward to a new issue. EC thrives online these days, but I loved their beguiling old print format.

    My own fave ack. is from, natch, Basil Bunting, ca. 1935:

    “Acknowledgements.
    are due to T. Lucretius Carus, Muhammad Shamsuddin Shirazi Hafiz, Maslhuddin Shirazi Sadi, Q. Horatius Flaccus, Charles Baudelaire, François Villon, Niccolo Machiavelli, Kamo-no-Chomei, Jenghis Khan, G. Valerius Catullus, Clement Marot, Jesus Christ, Dante Alighieri and anonymous peasants for loans;

    as well as to Jonathan Swift, François de Malherbe, Ernest Fenellosa, Louis Zukofsky and Ezra Pound for advice and guidance;
    besides all the poets who ever were before me, particularly those I have read:
    but the editors who bought some of these poems at inadequate prices or printed others without paying anything I need not thank. On the contrary, they should thank me.”

    & later:

    “Many were first printed in Poetry, of Chicago, whose editors so many poets have had cause to thank.”

  • On April 21, 2009 at 1:04 pm Roberto Planos wrote:

    Thanks for those examples Don! All great except for that last one, lol.

    As someone who has never had to be burdened with such a hardship as a publication all of this matters very little to me. But this has been one of the most entertaining threads in a while. Though perhaps all those fancy rejection slips I tape on my wall are a form of acknowledgement, which I think has already been proposed in slightly different forms.

  • On April 21, 2009 at 1:23 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    >I highly recommend that folks check out Dale’s blog post, which is quite interesting.

    Second.

    Kent

  • On April 21, 2009 at 1:44 pm Roberto Planos wrote:

    Do we view liner notes in albums the same way? I know the analogy of credits on a film was made, but it feels forced. Do we as readers need to contextualize to enjoy. Were Wimsatt and Beardsley entirely wrong–do we need to legitimize a work through the biographical contextualization an acknowledgement page offers (esp. a cheeky one)? Or is this all simply an issue for the “afficionado?” Shouldn’t the poems themselves be thanks enough for anyone who deserves thanks?

  • On April 21, 2009 at 2:43 pm Jennifer Hawes wrote:

    Jack,

    Yes, it would be something to see, “soon to be a major motion picture,” on a book of poems. What a hoot! Very funny. As usual…

  • On April 21, 2009 at 3:41 pm Annie Finch wrote:

    In the cryptic acknowledgments category, I just today opened a copy of Sixty Sonnets by Ernest Hilbert, with this among the usual kinds of thanks: “Special thanks to my dry cleaner, who got the blood out of my white cotton shirt.”

  • On April 21, 2009 at 5:44 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    Jenn,

    At long last, a kindred spirit. Ah, the seriousness of poetry. Thanks.

  • On April 21, 2009 at 6:35 pm Jennifer Hawes wrote:

    Jack,
    So nice to find you here. I read “Syllabus 101″ in TEMPER.
    Very clever and on point. I’m going to use it in one of my units on light poetry. Thanks again.

  • On April 22, 2009 at 10:23 am Chuck Godwin wrote:

    Enuff already. Go write a poem!

  • On April 22, 2009 at 11:22 am thomas brady wrote:

    Poe on acknowledgements:

    You are aware of the great barrier in the path of an American writer. He is read, if at all, in preference to the combined and established wit of the world. I say established; for it is with literature as with law or empire — an established name is an estate in tenure, or a throne in possession. Besides, one might suppose that books, like their authors, improve by travel — their having crossed the sea is, with us, so great a distinction. Our antiquaries abandon time for distance; our very fops glance from the binding to the bottom of the title-page, where the mystic characters which spell London, Paris, or Genoa, are precisely so many letters of recommendation.

  • On April 22, 2009 at 11:35 am thomas brady wrote:

    Dale,

    I enjoyed your blog piece on Wordsworth’s ‘Lyrical Ballads’ and his next edition with preface.

    Have you ever seen the following?

    You might enjoy this:

    As to Wordsworth, I have no faith in him. That he had, in youth, the feelings of a poet I believe — for there are glimpses of extreme delicacy in his writings — (and delicacy is the poet’s own kingdom — his El Dorado) — but they have the appearance of a better day recollected; and glimpses, at best, are little evidence of present poetic fire — we know that a few straggling flowers spring up daily in the crevices of the glacier.

    He was to blame in wearing away his youth in contemplation with the end of poetizing in his manhood. With the increase of his judgment the light which should make it apparent has faded away. His judgment consequently is too correct. This may not be understood, — but the old Goths of Germany would have understood it, who used to debate matters of importance to their State twice, once when drunk, and once when sober — sober that they might not be deficient in formality — drunk lest they should be destitute of vigor.

    The long wordy discussions by which he tries to reason us into admiration of his poetry, speak very little in his favor: they are full of such assertions as this — (I have opened one of his volumes at random) “Of genius the only proof is the act of doing well what is worthy to be done, and what was never done before” — indeed! then it follows that in doing what is unworthy to be done, or what has been done before, no genius can be evinced: yet the picking of pockets is an unworthy act, pockets have been picked time immemorial, and Barrington, the pick-pocket, in point of genius, would have thought hard of a comparison with William Wordsworth, the poet.

    Again — in estimating the merit of certain poems, whether they be Ossian’s or M’Pherson’s, can surely be of little consequence, yet, in order to prove their worthlessness, Mr. W. has expended many pages in the controversy. Tantæne animis? Can great minds descend to such absurdity? But worse still: that he may bear down every argument in favor of these poems, he triumphantly drags forward a passage, in his abomination of which he expects the reader to sympathize. It is the beginning of the epic poem “Temora.” “The blue waves of Ullin roll in light; the green hills are covered with day; trees shake their dusky heads in the breeze.” And this — this gorgeous, yet simple imagery — where all is alive and panting with immortality — this — William Wordsworth, the author of Peter Bell, has selected for his contempt. We shall see what better he, in his own person, has to offer. Imprimis:

    “And now she’s at the pony’s head,
    And now she’s at the pony’s tail,
    On that side now, and now on this,
    And almost stifled her with bliss —
    A few sad tears does Betty shed,
    She pats the pony where or when
    She knows not: happy Betty Foy!
    O Johnny! never mind the Doctor!”

    Secondly:

    “The dew was falling fast, the — stars began to blink,
    I heard a voice, it said —— drink, pretty creature, drink;
    And looking o’er the hedge, be — fore me I espied
    A snow-white mountain lamb with a — maiden at its side,
    No other sheep were near, the lamb was all alone,
    And by a slender cord was — tether ‘d to a stone.”

    Now we have no doubt this is all true; we will believe it, indeed we will, Mr. W. Is it sympathy for the sheep you wish to excite? I love a sheep from the bottom of my heart.

    But there are occasions when even Wordsworth is reasonable. Even Stamboul, it is said, shall have an end, and the most unlucky blunders must come to a conclusion. Here is an extract from his preface —

    “Those who have been accustomed to the phraseology of modern writers, if they persist in reading this book to a conclusion (impossible!) will, no doubt, have to struggle with feelings of awkwardness; (ha! ha! ha!) they will look round for poetry (ha! ha! ha! ha!) and will be induced to inquire by what species of courtesy these attempts have been permitted to assume that title.” Ha! ha! ha! ha! ha!

    Yet let not Mr. W. despair; he has given immortality to a wagon, and the bee Sophocles has transmitted to eternity a sore toe, and dignified a tragedy with a chorus of turkeys.

  • On April 22, 2009 at 11:56 am Dale Smith wrote:

    Thomas, thanks for sharing the Poe “Letter.” It’s a marvelous bit of candor. He goes on to say good things about Coleridge, with some resistance of course:

    “He has imprisoned his own conceptions by the barrier he has erected against those of others. It is lamentable to think that such a mind should be buried in metaphysics, and, like the Nyctanthes, waste its perfume upon the night alone. In reading his poetry I tremble like one who stands upon a volcano, conscious, from the very darkness bursting from the crater, of the fire and the light that are weltering below.”

    For anyone interested, Poe’s “Letter to B-” can be found here: http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/POE/letter2b.html. It’s a fun read….

  • On April 22, 2009 at 12:35 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    (Apologies to Erich Segal)

    Being gay,
    in America,
    means
    never having to say,
    I do.

    Acknoledgement: I’d like to thank Erich Segal

  • On April 22, 2009 at 4:19 pm Jennifer Hawes wrote:

    JC, I’m sending this to the California alliance!

  • On April 22, 2009 at 10:38 pm Vivek Narayanan wrote:

    Despite some notable exceptions and the doggedly persistent but historically inaccurate myth of poetic genius/solitude, I really do believe that a poem is raised by a village / community. That’s why, I think, Irish poetry is, on the whole, so good.

  • On April 23, 2009 at 1:49 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    Are you referring only to geographic communities or others?
    One does have to worry however if it is the village idiot writing the poems or the town bully. That makesa big difference.

  • On April 23, 2009 at 3:06 pm Don Share wrote:

    Re the it-takes-a-village theorem, see Gertrude Stein’s quip about Ezra Pound, in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (NY, 1933. p. 246): “He was a village explainer, excellent if you were a village, but if you were not, not.”

  • On April 23, 2009 at 3:34 pm thomas brady wrote:

    Dale,

    Thanks.

    “He has imprisoned his own conceptions by the barrier he has erected against those of others. It is lamentable to think that such a mind should be buried in metaphysics, and, like the Nyctanthes, waste its perfume upon the night alone. In reading his poetry I tremble like one who stands upon a volcano, conscious, from the very darkness bursting from the crater, of the fire and the light that are weltering below.”

    Is this a magical description of Coleridge, or a veiled insult?

    Probably the latter. Some of the mystery of Poe is solved when we realize he was pro-U.S. at a time when Great Britain was not exactly a friend. Poe championed American Letters not with jingoism, (he may have been ‘a jingle man,’ but he was no jingo man) directly (by being a very good writer) and indirectly by teasing the Brits whenever he got a chance.

    Thomas

  • On April 23, 2009 at 3:40 pm thomas brady wrote:

    I would like to thank mad Ireland for hurting me into poetry.

  • On April 23, 2009 at 10:10 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    I seldom read sources unless they are cited MLA or Chicago style.

  • On May 4, 2009 at 12:33 pm Catherine Halley wrote:

    Apparently British economist Peter Leeson proposed marriage in his acknowledgments page.


Posted in Uncategorized on Sunday, April 19th, 2009 by Jason Guriel.