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The Best Poetry of the Year

By Poetry Foundation

08.08.16

The best books of the last year of the decade, as picked by the staff of Poetry magazine and poetryfoundation.org:

109DiPierobook

Chinese Apples, New and Selected Poems
W. S. Di Piero
Knopf

City Dog: Essays
W. S. Di Piero
Northwestern University Press

Christian Wiman, Editor, Poetry Magazine:

Di Piero, both as a poet and a prose writer, is one of the most idiosyncratic, intelligent, original, and criminally neglected writers alive. Though he’s not a believer, his work has a kind of religious residue, and seems lit from within by an anxious, almost sacred attentiveness.
*

61MXaISNnTL._SL500_AA240_

Museum of Accidents
Rachel Zucker
Wave Books


Catherine Halley, Editor, poetryfoundation.org:

Dozens of terrific poetry books landed on my desk this year, but Rachel Zucker’s “Museum of Accidents” stood out because (and pardon the over-sharing) I’m not married and I’m not a mother, and this big square paperback, which concerns itself with the underbelly of both marriage and motherhood, made me feel okay about that even as it indulged my curiosity about such things. Don’t get me wrong—it isn’t simply a spinsters’ schadenfreude that draws me to this confessional book. I love how varied the poems are. Each one takes a different shape, ranging across the page in a way that would make Robert Duncan proud. The book is by turns funny: one poem’s called “Nice Arse Poetica”, and dead serious: “Long Lines to Stave Off Suicide” begins, “or/ I could keep having children which helps a little (hurts/ a lot) because everything for a long time is so/keep-the-baby-alive…” Here is a book about crisis and the ho-hum space between crises that we call ordinary life. The poems often begin mid-sentence, reflecting the moments when the poet remembers she is alive and not so well.

*

Cuban Poetry

The Whole Island: Six Decades of Cuban Poetry
Edited by Mark Weiss
University of California Press

Don Share, Senior Editor, Poetry Magazine:

A whole island of poetry, indeed: reading this book, you discover a new world of poetry. What could be more exciting than that?

*

TreeTime_cov

The Tree That Time Built
Mary Ann Hoberman, Linda Winston, and Barbara Fortin (Illustrator)
Sourcebooks, Naperville, Illinois

Penny Barr, Project Manager, Children’s Poetry:

An anthology of poems touching on nature, science and the imagination. A beautifully printed book, with CD of poets reading their own work. Very colorful and for the whole family. This is a joint-venture of between science and poetry for children.

*

55-1cover5

“Mental Ears”
JH Prynne
Chicago Review 55:1

Michael Marcinkowski, Web Project Manager, poetryfoundation.org:

So maybe issue 55:1 of the Chicago Review isn’t a book, but JH Prynne’s lecture “Mental Ears” is so good that you should buy the issue, tear out all 30 pages of the essay, staple them together, and make it into a little book of your very own. (Chucking the rest of the issue into the waste bin or not is your own prerogative.) What makes the essay (alright I know: lecture) so great is that it not only gives the reader a bit of insight into the fantastical workings of Prynne’s own distinctive versifications, but also provides a startlingly distinct formulation of the mechanics of poetry at large, one that digs deeper and in different directions than normal semantic or metrical considerations. The ideas are so well wrought that even the discussion of Wordsworth’s old-as-drawers “Tintern Abbey” seems alive and fresh as a daisy. Did I mention the startling nuanced application of Indo-European derivations? Yeah. It’s that good.

*

Clampdown

Clampdown
Jennifer Moxley
Flood Editions

Travis Nichols, Associate Editor, poetryfoundation.org:

Moxley’s fifth book of poems finds her lyic “I” speaking for the group: the complicit and the defiant, the lovely and the melancholy. A zeitgeist-y companion to Julianna Spahr’s This Connection of Everyone with Lungs. (For prose by poets, I choose the shot of textual courage that is Eileen Myles’ The Importance of Being Iceland).

*

Men and Women

The Book of Men and Women
David Biespiel
University of Washington Press

Gina Rosemellia, Editorial Assistant, Poetry Magazine:

In his book about regret, longing, and loss, Biespiel explores the intricacies of relationships between men and women in settings both real and imaginary.

*

Purgatory

Purgatory
Raúl Zurita (translated by Anna Deeny)
University of California Press

Michael Slosek, Permissions Coordinator, poetryfoundation.org:

Zurita is seen by many to be the most important poet in Chile and the inheritor of Neruda’s legacy. His work has been widely neglected in the US. Purgatory was Zurita’s first book of poetry, and the work tries to take account of the atrocities committed by the Pinochet regime against the Chilean people, culture, and Spanish language. Zurita speaks through a variety of subjectivities: a woman, a cow, a man tortured the regime (which Zurita actually was), in a fractured and wounded language. I think it’s an important book to be published in the US at this time, since we’re coming out of our own 8 years of atrocities that many would like to simply forget.

*

store_Cha

Fred Sasaki, Associate Editor, Poetry Magazine:

Exilée and Temps Morts: Selected Works
Theresa Hak Kyung Cha
University of California Press

“Dear Collegue,

It’s amusing. But serious. You make decisions everyday; large and small. Decisions that could and often do affect your profession, your life-style, where you live and even with whom you live. They are important and necessary decisions that could have a far-reaching impact on your life not just today but in your future as well.

Far too often in today’s quick-changing, fast-paced world, new events and trends come along that can catch us off-guard and lead us into the dim world of ‘future shock,‘ the disorientation that occurs when the world changes faster than we can rearrange our thinking patterns, attitudes, and values.

It doesn’t have to be that way.”

Comments (81)

  • On December 11, 2009 at 2:05 pm Joseph Hutchison wrote:

    Thanks for the leads. But did you really have to include the hulking mass of discarded books? A writer’s nightmare!

  • On December 11, 2009 at 2:35 pm Don Share wrote:

    Those aren’t discarded books – that’s my desk!!

  • On December 11, 2009 at 2:55 pm chuck godwin wrote:

    Michael, I love lists! I would just say the Jeffrey Yang piece in Chicago Review means a ripper/stapler/chucker would have two small books if he/she followed your suggestion. And yes, the Prynne is “that good”.

  • On December 11, 2009 at 4:26 pm Teri G. wrote:

    There’s no one under 40 on this list, which may just be the landscape, but c’mon . . . feels pretty safe. No one wanted to risk anything on Zachary Schomburg, Tao Lin, Lara Glenum, Craig Santos Perez? Do y’all not get the SPD catalog?

  • On December 11, 2009 at 4:29 pm Matt wrote:

    What about Michael Robbins’s poem in the New Yorker?

  • On December 11, 2009 at 4:31 pm Joshua wrote:

    And what about Kennty Johnsmith’s Day?

  • On December 11, 2009 at 4:54 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    Let’s not forget Blithewold Dendron.

  • On December 11, 2009 at 8:17 pm Roddy Lumsden wrote:

    I’ll split my favourites into five US books and five from over here:

    Chronic by D A Powell (Graywolf Press)
    Fort Red Border by Kiki Petrosino (Sarabande Books)
    Sunny Wednesday by Noelle Kocot (Wave Books)
    Taste of Cherry by Kara Candito (University of Nebraska Press)
    Shore Ordered Ocean by Dora Malech (The Waywiser Press)

    Broken Sleep by Sally Read (Bloodaxe Books)
    Like This by Diana Pooley (Salt Modern Poets)
    Through the Square Window by Sinead Morrissey (Carcanet Press)
    We Needed Coffee but… by Matthew Welton (Carcanet Press)
    Undraining Sea by Vahni Capildeo (Egg Box Publishing)

  • On December 11, 2009 at 8:50 pm Josh G. wrote:

    Teri G., I must protest. Rachel Zucker is indeed under 40.

  • On December 11, 2009 at 10:11 pm Doodle wrote:

    Ageism, great.

  • On December 12, 2009 at 12:47 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    >(Chucking the rest of the issue into the waste bin or not is your own prerogative.)

    I hope Michael Marcinkowski didn’t mean the above as a snide aside on the other material in the Chicago Review issue. CR is hands down one of the centripetal literary journals of the U.S., and it is so because it’s consistently rich and provocative in its offerings.

    Marcinkowski’s absolutely right about the importance of the Prynne essay (though lots to argue with there, too, for sure), but there’s a large amount of other great stuff in the magazine worth reading. Google Chicago Review and check out the table of contents. And if you get the issue, don’t throw the rest away, even if you make your own little book out of the Prynne!

  • On December 12, 2009 at 2:35 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

    Raúl Zurita is truly a vate, a prophetic poet. I got the chance to get to know him at the Poetry Festival in Medellín, Colombia. He has the deepest voice, giving the impressio of huge depth, and long, bony fingers. He wraps an audience around his hand. He was arrested at the university on September 11, 1973, tortured and confined on a Navy ship, but ultimately released. He has skywritten poems over New York, written poems with bulldozers in the desert. Half the Chilean poets reject him. Well, almost all the Chilean poets reject Neruda.

  • On December 12, 2009 at 4:57 pm Michael wrote:

    Kent– not at all– the CR’s one of a few magazines I always check out. I think it usually bats around .375, which for my money is astonishingly high. The admittedly snide aside was really just to re-enforce how much I loved the Prynne. I was totally bummed to have been laid up with what I assumed to be the first wave of the swine flu when he gave the lecture at the U of C earlier this year, so to see it in the CR, and for it to be so engaging, set it in stark relief to the rest of the issue, however quality the rest of it is.

    I read the Prynne in a copy that was floating around the offices here, and haven’t had a chance to really check out the rest of the issue yet. The portfolio of German poets in the same volume seems to merit some attention. I hope someone is able to chime in and talk a little bit about it.

    One general question though: didn’t Powell’s North used to carry CR? I popped by there the other day to get my own copy of the latest and I couldn’t find it in the store.

  • On December 13, 2009 at 11:18 am Kent Johnson wrote:

    John Oliver Simon wrote on Raul Zurita:

    >He has skywritten poems over New York, written poems with bulldozers in the desert.

    For an account of a meeting with Zurita, pic of him, and a photo of the giant bulldozed poemwork in the Atacama desert, see
    http://jacketmagazine.com/30/chile.html
    a collaborative essay by Forrest Gander and me from a few years back.

  • On December 13, 2009 at 1:14 pm Peter P wrote:

    Here is my top 5 books for 2009:

    And, Michael Blumenthal
    The Spoils, Ted Matheys
    Tryst, Angie Estes
    Chronic, DA Powell
    Warhorses, Yusef Komanyakaa
    Upgraded to Serious, Heather McHugh

    Ok, that’s 6. And they all might not have been published in 2009. But what the heck, that’s when I read them.

  • On December 13, 2009 at 2:50 pm Stephen Russell wrote:

    Purgatory: picked it up the other day. Zurita writes boldly in spite of the Neruda burden. Considering his subject matter, he almost has no choice. Good thing he has the courage to carry through.

  • On December 13, 2009 at 5:55 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    OK, thanks for the blurbs, gentlemen. But what is actually GOOD about the Prynne? Aside from the fact that it is “the Prynne”? Can we try to move away from unpaid PR campaigns, toward substance? Ie., what do you LIKE about The Prynne?

  • On December 13, 2009 at 7:15 pm Penelope wrote:

    Do you know if Bolano knew anything about Zurita? If he did, Distant Star must have been, at least in part, an attack/homage. And it certainly feels more roman-a-clefy.

  • On December 13, 2009 at 8:04 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    It’s a complicated piece. I’m thinking about writing something more extended about it.

    At its heart is an argument for the presence of deep, cross-historical phonological energies apprehensible in strong poetry. Or a suggestion that more attentiveness to phonological vectors may reveal such structure. It’s something you might find to your liking, Henry. Prynne proposes that this phonological stuff is more substantive and meaningful than surface matters of prosody or even syntax. He does a lot in the essay with etymology, to show how certain grammatical choices (mainly with verb and verbal forms) carry subliminal, even somatically laden charges that can be traced back through time, seen and felt as charged in exchange with prior cultures. A listening and calling back, with what he terms “mental ears,” so that the poem becomes a space where history is doing a sort of linguistic peek-a-boo performance, involving masks, and role-changing, and time bending, all of it up-welling from a material substratum we are surrounded by, but don’t exactly hear. Poetry is the stereophonic instrument that allows us to…

    There are interesting echoes in what he’s proposing, actually, with the work of a school of linguists active in Leningrad during the late Soviet years– the LISS group, which I wrote a bit about some years back (I met some of them in 1989, when I was over there). The issues that don’t seem quite worked out in the essay (and Prynne makes clear his proposals are preliminary– though you’d never know it, I guess, by the twenty pages of footnotes!) are those of agency and axiology: His cases are Wordsworth and Milton, and though he does say that the linguistic mappings he discloses in the close readings were not necessarily consciously made by the poets in composition, Prynne’s etymological claims and references are specific enough to make one wonder how such cross-historical “soundings” might purposively emerge without the OED close to hand! In the case of axiology, the questions posed are larger ones, I think, and have to do with what we read *for* and *why*, and in this sense I think it might be interesting to explore the essay as a kind of sublimated polemic for modes of formal difficulty and resistance, a la Adorno. That’s just a hunch, from a first reading.

    It’s a brilliant essay.

  • On December 13, 2009 at 10:22 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    Spasiba, Kent. Sounds like The Prynne has been reading a lot of historical linguistics.

  • On December 14, 2009 at 10:25 am Don Share wrote:

    I’ll see you, and double you: here’s an interview with Marie Ponsot, who has a new book out at the age of 88:

    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/entertainment/july-dec09/artbeat_11-30.html

  • On December 14, 2009 at 10:29 am Don Share wrote:

    That was my thought, too, Henry. I felt the essay was oddly old-hatty, esp. coming from Prynne (whose poems I love, I should add). A better, deeper read is a book just out by Daniel Tiffany, Infidel Poetics, which explores what he calls “lyric obscurity.” Just my opinion, needless to say!

  • On December 14, 2009 at 10:55 am Kent Johnson wrote:

    Oh yes, Penelope, Bolano knew about Zurita and Zurita knew about Bolano. I’ve got something coming out on the matter, in Fulcrum journal– whenever the next issue of the journal comes out.

  • On December 14, 2009 at 11:10 am Henry Gould wrote:

    I didn’t mean to sound dismissive, though. I’m really interested in historical linguistics right now. Reading “The horse, the wheel & language”, a fascinating book about Proto-Indo-European (P-I-E in yr ear), by archaeologist D. Anthony. & “Infidel Poetics” too, thanks to you.

  • On December 14, 2009 at 4:24 pm Teri G. wrote:

    Okay, 38. And Ponsot is 88. The point–not properly expressed, perhaps–is that I think this list is overly safe. I would have liked to see someone take a risk on something not already so clearly acceptable.

  • On December 14, 2009 at 5:41 pm Don Share wrote:

    I’m not being dismissive, either – it’s a good read. I’m no expert, but I was reminded of work like Roman Jakobson’s (“The important thing about a word is not the sound in itself, but those phonic differences which allow this word to be distinguished from other words, for it is these which are the bearers of meaning,” etc. etc.) which has been around a long time. As for more recent stuff, this being an ’09 book thread, it’s worth mentioning The Sound of Poetry/The Poetry of Sound, ed. Marjorie Perloff and Craig Dworkin, from the University of Chicago Press.

  • On December 14, 2009 at 5:47 pm Don Share wrote:

    And Theresa Hak Kyung Cha only lived to be 31.

  • On December 14, 2009 at 7:03 pm Sarah Allen wrote:

    Thanks for the great list! It motivates me to get going on my poetry reading.

    (my creative writing blog)

  • On December 14, 2009 at 8:06 pm Josh G. wrote:

    Rachel Zucker is 37. (Although you can send her birthday wishes on 12/27 — her 38th). Acceptable? Acceptable? I’m not sure I agree with that.

  • On December 15, 2009 at 5:05 am Penelope wrote:

    That’s great. I’ll be happy with either warm friendship or virulent enmity, but until fulcrum comes out I’ll sit suspended in the irresistible smugness that comes over me when I contemplate the feuds of foreigners. An attitude I’d like to think Bolano would approve of.

  • On December 15, 2009 at 11:10 am John Oliver Simon wrote:

    Chilean writers have traditionally hated each other. Pablo de Rohka called Neruda a plagiarist and a sexual amphibian, and called Vicente Huidobro a señorito with fat pink fingers playing with Daddy’s money. Not to be outdone, Neruda called de Rokha a titanic goon.

  • On December 15, 2009 at 5:40 pm Penelope wrote:

    Neruda makes a fatuous appearance in By Night in Chile. Not having Spanish leaves a big gap in my, and fellow non-hispanophone readers, knowledge of Bolano, particularly his relationship with poets from both Chile and Mexico. There is much to said about it, I would think. Hopefully, apres Kent, it will be.

  • On December 16, 2009 at 7:01 pm Fred Sasaki wrote:

    I’m so ageist that ALIVE is too young for me!

  • On December 16, 2009 at 10:45 pm Steven Fama wrote:

    Sorry, I find ugly and insulting to poetry Michael Marcinkowski’s suggestion that it “is [our] perogative” whether to literally throw in the trash everything but the 30 page Prynne essay in the current Chicago Review.

    Even if it’s somewhat tongue in cheek, why oh why suggest that, given the other great stuff in that issue, including the Berlin poets (75 pages), and David Grubbs’ account of collaborating with Susan Howe.

    If I ever did want to get rid of any pages of this issue, you know what I’d do with them? Stuff ‘em down Marcinkowski’s throat, that’s what. Shame on him.

  • On December 17, 2009 at 10:53 am Fred Sasaki wrote:

    An ill-humored man is a prisoner at the mercy of an enemy from whom he can never escape —Muslih-uddin Sadi

  • On December 17, 2009 at 2:05 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    “I have never known anyone worth a damn who wasn’t irascible.”

    Ezra Pound

  • On December 17, 2009 at 2:14 pm Bill Deng wrote:

    That doesn’t mean that everyone who’s irascible is worth a damn.

  • On December 17, 2009 at 2:15 pm Mark Mitchell wrote:

    Yes! A quote-off! I am nodding and saying “hmmm”!

  • On December 17, 2009 at 2:28 pm BBBBB wrote:

    Boy, that attitude really worked out well for old Ezra “I was a crazy anti-Semite who spent my last days as bonkers as a guy who’s really bonkers” Pound, didn’t it. I mean, his poems are pretty great, but I wouldn’t exactly take any advice on how to live from that guy.

  • On December 17, 2009 at 3:41 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    “Anger is one of the sinews of the soul.”

    Thomas Fuller

    “Never go to bed angry. Stay up and fight!”

    Phyllis Diller

  • On December 17, 2009 at 6:46 pm Steven Fama wrote:

    While I regret and apologize for the “down the throat” part of my comment, in that it was intemperate to say the lease, I still find it wrong to suggest dumping printed matter.

    And I also appreciate the “quote off” that seems to have resulted.

    Here’s one perhaps somewhat appropriate:

    “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

    — Ray Bradbury (natch)

  • On December 17, 2009 at 10:23 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    OPEN LETTER TO FRANZ WRIGHT

    Hey Franz, it’s me, Henry Gould. You don’t really know me. I’m not famous, or successful. I haven’t won any poetry awards (since college, anyway), or published any books with major publishers, or gotten any grants or genius
    awards or anything like that. I did just watch a movie on DVD, “Taking of Pelham 1-2-3″, with Denzel Washington & John Travolta. It’s a movie about communication in a situation of conflict. & it reminded me of the email & blog post you wrote, where you attacked & insulted me, out of the blue. Well, I’d like to talk. I wish I were as mellow & suave as Denzel Washington (a famous actor) in that film… I could use that right now. It’s a tense situation, where we don’t really know each other, but we have to communicate… I’d like to be a peacemaker, like Denzel. But I kind of identify also with Travolta, since he had all that frustration & rage… he wasn’t right in
    the head, he had a chip on his shoulder, he was angry with the world… well, I’m not really angry with the world, but with respect to the recognized poetry world, you
    are definitely on the inside, & I am on the outside, that’s how it is. & you took it upon yourself to zero in on me & put me down. Why?

    Do you feel threatened by internet chit-chat about poetry? Does it seems to shift the dynamics of your readership, sort of the way Travolta kept checking the Dow Jones, down there in the subway train?

    The thing is, I have read quite a few of your poems. I have read articles written about you. I actually like what I read a great deal. I ENJOY your poetry, I like your father’s poetry too (I grew up in Minnesota, near that
    farm where your father wasted his life, reading Rilke). My question is, what do you know about me? I have the feeling that, for you, I am just one of those chattering nonentities out there, making trivial & facetious comments about literature. A spoiled brat, an academic, a privileged ivory tower type. & that poetry is something very different from that world. Am I right? Well, let me tell you, if that is indeed how you feel, well, I agree with you! That’s how I feel too! Let’s talk about it! No, don’t let that subway car crash into Coney Island, OK? Let’s keep talking!

    Hey, Franz, I’ve been in a mental hospital. I’ve been given the Minnesota Multiphasic (the doctor was upset – he said I came out “perfectly normal” – which messed up their machine). I’ve dealt with illness, & with mental & physical suffering, on many, many levels – possibly more than you have, even. I started writing poetry in 1956 (I am possibly 12 years or so older than you are). & I’ve kept at it. Why? I feel I’m good at it, actually. Despite the fact that the world in general doesn’t seem to think so, & your insulting email & comment have reinforced that perception. But hey, I’ve been writing for a long time, it’s a habit you don’t lose easily. Right? I know you understand that. I’ve seen your remarks about how you have devoted yourself to your art, come hell & high water. Well, I understand that. I’ve been doing it approximately twice as long as you have, my friend.

    You don’t really know much about me. My paternal great grandmother was named Jessie Ophelia Lawrence. Her father was a riverboat captain on the Mississippi. Jessie’s sisters’ names were Cleopatra & Desdemona (her father liked Shakespeare, I guess). My mother was a childhood friend of Longfellow’s granddaughter (they grew up in nearby houses on the Mississippi riverbank, in Minneapolis) – she had her first drink (sherry) in the
    Longfellow house in Portland, Maine, when she was 13 (my mother’s parents were Iowa teetotallers, so you can imagine how dramatic that was). My father quit drinking & chain smoking on New Yrs Eve, back in the 60s. He had will power! He wrote down my first poem (1956) on an apartment room key card (a little piece of cardboard) as
    he was leaving for work – this was the poem I had just composed (for him, mainly) :

    Play, p[ay,
    it’s time to play!
    Play all day,
    that’s what I say!
    Your work is done,
    come out in the sun!
    Play, play play!

    50 years later, my mother happened to find that key card, & sent it to me, from Minneapolis. I think it’s a pretty good poem, don’t you?

    But listen, Franz – here’s the clincher. I know perfectly well that what you has to say about me was nothing personal, nothing personal at all. Rather, you were expressing a professional opinion about the value of my work, such as you have seen it. & that’s fine. I’m not afraid of your opinion, it won’t hurt me to hear what you think of my writing. But if you don’t defend your argument – if you simply leave it at the realm of insult, without evidence or argument – well, then that’s all it is, a personal insult. & that’s why I’m writing you this open letter : because I don’t I gave you any cause to insult me. Am I wrong? Have I missed something? If so, please let me know.

    Sincerely,
    Henry Gould

    p.s. hey Franz, I forgot to mention my dramatic adolescent spiritual experiences, & my return to religious faith, & my love & gratitude to God, & the relation of all that to my writing, which I know you have also been through, seriously… but let’s leave that for another time. When we get off the Pelham subway.

  • On December 18, 2009 at 10:13 am Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    Since this is an open letter, I guess anyone has the right to respond. This letter is completely unfair. I notice that you addressed Mr. Wright’s response to the comments on digital emunction, but you did not mention how your friends Kent Johnson and Michael Robbins have been goading him, insulting him, mocking him and publicly bringing his name up over and over. How would you respond, Mr. Gould? Obviously, this is a case of resentment due to exactly what Wright claimed: jealous nobodies simply trying to provoke a successful somebody. In my opinion it was a shameful display of disgraceful behavior.

    And here you are, badgering and bothering the man again.

  • On December 18, 2009 at 10:58 am Michael Marcinkowski wrote:

    Hi Steven,

    Thank you, I accept your apology.

    Michael

  • On December 18, 2009 at 11:56 am Joshua wrote:

    What does this have to do with the poetry of the year blog?

  • On December 18, 2009 at 3:01 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    And, no, I’m not a fan of Franz Wright’s poetry…just one who believes in fair play. I objected when this first started on DE but my comments weren’t posted. It must be great to criticize anyone you want and simply ignore any objections. Even Dick Cheney would be proud of you.

  • On December 18, 2009 at 3:20 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    My open letter is not meant as an attack on Mr. Wright, as should be clear from its content. It is a response to “ad hominem” remarks by Mr. Wright both to me and about me, in a blog comment thread and a private email. But my letter is not meant as an antagonistic or angry response to those remarks. I think you misunderstand and mis-characterize both my letter’s occasion and its content, Mr. Fitzgerald.

  • On December 18, 2009 at 3:51 pm Matt wrote:

    how is favoring old people any less “ageist” than favoring young people?

  • On December 18, 2009 at 4:11 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    Fair enough and, if so, I apologize. Maybe you should ‘open’ the comments you received that initiated your response so it will be clear to all of us.

  • On December 18, 2009 at 4:16 pm Bill Deng wrote:

    Not ruling out old people because of their age isn’t the same as favoring them.

  • On December 18, 2009 at 6:46 pm Wendy Babiak wrote:

    There is, of course, the fact that, ideally, poets get better as they go along. Those who are under 40 now will, if they keep at it, be writing even better poetry later, and maybe the stuff being written by older poets could simply be better than most of what’s being written by younger poets. No -ism about it.

  • On December 20, 2009 at 6:53 pm Franz Wright wrote:

    Henry–I have no opinion about your “work”, or the “work” of others like little Kent and the others you masturbate with. My suggestion to all of you is: give up everything for the art. Everything. Can you do that? I did it 35 years ago–do you think that might have something to do with what you little whiners call “being on the inside”? I am not on the inside of shit. I gave up everything, everything, to be a poet. I lived in financial terror and homelessness, sometimes, for nearly 40 years. Can you do that? You little whining babies.

  • On December 20, 2009 at 8:00 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    OK, Franz. So it’s not about my poetry, which you clearly haven’t read. You decided to insult me personally because I engage in a lot of internet chit-chat. Here’s a question for you : if it’s so worthless & a such waste of time, what are you doing here?

    I guess once you’ve published some books with Knopf or whoever, & proved you are a real bonafide poet, it’s OK to go online now & then & badmouth people, vent. That’s what I would call one of the perks of literary success. Hey, you’te welcome to it, buddy.

  • On December 20, 2009 at 9:51 pm Wendy Babiak wrote:

    All rather ugly, the preceding. One would hope that poets (human beings?) might perceive and/or practice a larger esprit de corps than what’s evidenced here. Because if poets can’t manage to behave humanely with each other, how in the world can we maintain hope that humanity might learn to?

  • On December 21, 2009 at 10:34 am Henry Gould wrote:

    I understand the impulse to say “a plague on both your houses”. But I haven’t responded to Mr. Wright’s disparaging remarks with more insults. In fact, in the open letter above, I praised his poetry, & sought common ground.

  • On December 21, 2009 at 11:11 am Jill wrote:

    This is obviously some private affair that has nothing to do with anything in this thread, so Henry, why don’t you take your pique and put it in an email to Franz and sort it out that way? Or give him a call? You just sound petty and silly importing this stuff from somewhere else and dropping it in here.

  • On December 21, 2009 at 11:29 am Henry Gould wrote:

    It’s an Open Letter. It’s not required reading, for you or anyone else. I chose this method & this venue because Mr. Wright is in the habit of transmitting his disdain for persons in both public & private fashion, & then refusing to discuss it further. I am just one recipient of such contemptuous messages. I decided to try to change the pattern. I’m willing to take the consequences.

  • On December 21, 2009 at 12:19 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    “The fastest way to get famous is to throw a brick at someone famous.”

    – Walter Winchell

  • On December 21, 2009 at 1:05 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    Said consequences include the peanut gallery, inevitably.

  • On December 21, 2009 at 2:44 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

    Inevitable peanut gallery, we get to Bronx cheer both sides as hissy fits play out in public, making each principal look tawdry. Shall we lay odds on the passive-aggressive righteous wounded victim, or the huffing dismissive hollow dominant? Blood-pressures soar, obsessive ripostes await, but luckily, our all-too-reptile display behavior does not tarnish the poetry. I refer you to the nasty things said about each other in Chile in the thirties by Pablo Neruda, Vicente Huidobro and the Bukowski-like Pablo De Rokha.

  • On December 21, 2009 at 2:51 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    It’s actually a winter solstice celebration. Get with the program. Play, play, play.

  • On December 21, 2009 at 6:39 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    Whiners? Little whining babies?

    You’re very quick with the put-downs, Franz. & you brag about your sacrifices for your poetry. But you just don’t know me. You don’t know anything about me! That’s what amazes me.

    Like I say, I’m older than you are, Franz, by quite a bit. I’ve made my own choices on behalf of poetry, but I’m not going to brag about it. & I defy you to show me where, since the time I started writing poetry many decades ago, I have “whined” about it. I think I’ve been pretty clear where I stand on the whole “inside/outside” business. I’m not one of the literary conspiracy hawkers, or theorists of factions. I’ve said that poetry is one grest art & tradition, & it has its own demands & standards. I’ve never blamed anyone for being left out; I’m not bitter; in fact I’m very hopeful & confident about poetry – whether I myself am “successful” at it or not. That is not how it is, anyway. Poetry has its own ways, which we can’t control – I’ve said & written that again & again. I’ve also put MOST of my time & effort into making poetry over the last 25 years – & I’m happy enough with it. I can look at poems I wrote 25 yrs ago & still find them worth reading.

    The thing is, you know nothing about me, & you don’t really care : the insults come too easily for you. But it doesn’t really bother me! Why should it! I’m just kind of taken aback by the gratuitousness of it all.

    Anyway, I wish you & all the Harriet readers some peace & joy for the holidays.

  • On December 22, 2009 at 4:13 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    Hmmm…mysterious disappearing comments and poetry.

  • On December 22, 2009 at 4:24 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    I always said that Harriet was a magical place.

  • On December 22, 2009 at 6:14 pm Michael Robbins wrote:

    Wow, if you don’t think Tao Lin is “acceptable,” you must be living in Kansas. What Teri thinks of as radical is trite & staid, but who’s counting. Me, actually. Counting sheep as I try to dream away the proposition that Tao Lin, of all people, isn’t “safe.”

  • On December 22, 2009 at 6:18 pm Michael Robbins wrote:

    What the hell is that supposed to mean? Poets, of all people, are more enlightened, a shining example to humanity? Jesus, do you want me to give you some names to Google in conjunction with “fascism” or “Stalin” or “anti-Semitism”? No? Then stop believing in fairies.

  • On December 22, 2009 at 6:21 pm Michael Robbins wrote:

    Gary, if you’re going to lie about me, at least have the nerve to drop me a line or something. For the record, none of us at DE said word one to or about FW before he dropped by to insult a number of people in the vilest, most idiotic terms. Why don’t you mention that everything anyone said about or to him followed his unprovoked fit of spittle-flecked nutjob megalomania?

  • On December 22, 2009 at 10:34 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

    Not to sound too out of it, but DE would be where, exactly?

  • On December 22, 2009 at 10:49 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

    Ahhhh, is the digital emunction. Yessss.

  • On December 22, 2009 at 11:40 pm Wendy Babiak wrote:

    I don’t believe in fairies OR in some inherent nobility of poets, just that we really ought to TRY to be decent (not enlightened, not perfect) human beings or why the heck would anyone want to read what we’ve got to say? At least when we fail in such an epic fashion we ought to have some shame and try not to broadcast our pettiness.

    Donald Rumsfeld writes poetry, too, but you’re not going to see me shelling out a dime to read it, even if it were any good (there’s plenty of good poetry out there, I don’t need to read stuff written by people with minds not worth communing with). At this point I’m not inclined to buy one of Mr. Wright’s books, either, I’m afraid (not that he’s in Rumsfeld’s class of jackass, of course), though I’ve enjoyed well enough what I’ve read of his online and in the recent Poetry mag. He ought to try to keep that in mind when he decides to rant in public. He says he gave up everything for poetry. I hope that didn’t include his decency, or there’s an increased chance his poetry won’t endure.

    You know who’s poetry I enjoyed this morning? Philip Whalen. Now that guy’s good company.

  • On December 23, 2009 at 11:02 am Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    Michael: first off, I do not lie…ever. You can count on that.

    Secondly, I believe this all started when Kent Johnson announced to the world on DE that he had just written the worst sentence since Franz Wright. When Wright, indignant, naturally, objected, the pack was on the trail. The digital bully-boys went on the attack.

    A comment can be deleted, but surely you don’t think that I’m the only one out here who can read…or remember.

    I do, however, want to compliment all parties to this little melee in that nobody said anything critical about anybody else’ poetry. At least there’s a little honor left among poets.

    GBF

  • On December 23, 2009 at 11:44 am Henry Gould wrote:

    Mr. Wright’s comments about me were unjustified and uncalled-for. I don’t bully people & I don’t take part in such. You & Mr. Wright may want to lump me with others, in order to play your own blame games. But that’s your business.

  • On December 23, 2009 at 5:37 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    The Best Poetry of the Year is actually proving very difficult to locate. This is not due to the usual reasons (small presses, pecking orders, editorial inebriation, slackers on the job, Corruption, Shiva or Kali or Destiny or Luxury, Sanitation Departments, Departments, Other Departments, Some More Departments, Pigeonholes of Departments, Intelligence on Vacation, National Decay, International Decay, Original Sin, Originality, etc. etc.). No, the difficulty (as reported by SNN – Somebody Nosey-Nosey) emerged out of the depths of nomenclature. Yes, that’s right, out of WORDS. As reported by Jacqueline Triathlon of the Athens Duly Noted (AP/Reuters) in late November 2009, poetry – I mean Poetry in General – has changed its name.

    Poetry is now called Elbakia (or Elbaquia, depending on region).

    Search engines take note. What used to be referred to as “poetry” no longer exists. Be calm, stay tuned, everyone. Look for Elbakia. Good night, & good decade.

  • On December 23, 2009 at 6:25 pm Michael Robbins wrote:

    Sorry, Gary, you can “believe” that if you want to, but I was there. As I suspected, you do not actually know the history of FW’s temper tantrums on DE, which long precede Kent’s intervention & even KJ’s tenure at DE, & to which Kent was alluding in the post you mention. I notice that even after I pointed out that you were wrong you didn’t bother to do the basic research required. You “believe” that all this started with Kent’s post, & that’s enough for you, I guess. But for the record, which is easily checked, it started before then, when one of our writers posted a straightforward account of FW’s stupid bullying of William Logan. Long before the post of Kent’s you “believe” started the whole thing. FW came into the comment stream, throwing chairs, cursing everyone, ironically proclaiming his superiority, & generally behaving like the complete fool & jackass everyone knows him to be. That’s why we occasionally rib him on the site. So now you know better.

  • On December 23, 2009 at 7:19 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    Henry, Michael…you’re both full of beans! I engaged with Mr. Wright on DE long before you guys were ever even there, back in January:

    http://www.digitalemunction.com/2009/01/28/the-grump-and-the-sensitive-plant/

    If you boys want to run with the big dogs, you should expect to get nipped now and then.

    And you should cough up a little poetry …

    just to justify the runnin’, that is.

    (Yes, Michael, I’m a little loaded again but, hell, it’s almost Christmas and, like I told you, I’m always honest!)

  • On December 23, 2009 at 7:43 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    Okay, I found Robbins on that thread. He was there.

    But what ITF do you guys have against Wright? Is it because he’s the only one who is human enough to even speak to us?

    Where’s Ashbery?

    Armantrout,

    Merwin,

    Snyder,

    Muldoon,

    Bob Dylan, for Chrissakes?

    et al,

    et al?

  • On December 23, 2009 at 7:59 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    Gosh, good question, Mr. Investigator! What do I have against Mr. Wright? I don’t know – you tell me! I’ve said only good things about him, & his poetry. Why don’t you ask him what he has against me?

  • On December 23, 2009 at 11:39 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    Every poet, and their poetry, will benefit
    from a little humility.

  • On December 24, 2009 at 2:22 pm Michael Robbins wrote:

    Again, don’t know what you’re talking about, Gary. But I do have poems coming out in The New Yorker & Fence, if you’re truly interested in what I cough up.

  • On December 24, 2009 at 8:04 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    Good for you, Michael!

    And, Henry…you’re the funniest guy in Po-blogia.

    Unfortunately, being a poet, I have never known what I was talking about. I just write down what the voices say.

    :-)

  • On December 26, 2009 at 3:04 am Ernie Wise wrote:

    Great stuff, the ebb and flow of this poetic exchange.

    Keep it up!


Posted in Uncategorized on Friday, December 11th, 2009 by Poetry Foundation.