As an adjunct to my Kneejerk Poetry list (and just in time for back to school shopping) I'm now assembling a list of names and phrases that are sure to generate controversy instantly. This list has been empirically tested, and is 100% guaranteed to work as advertised; no batteries required!
It's all open source, so please add your own! Comment... criticize.. distribute freely!


In no particular order:
Billy Collins
Garrison Keillor
William Logan
Ron Silliman
Ed Dorn
James Wright
Frank O'Hara
Karl Marx
Kenneth Goldsmith
AWP
MLA
post-anything
"School of Quietude"
"Third Way"
flarf
slow poetry
fast poetry
conceptual poetry
New American poetry
avant-garde poetry
Poetry
class
money (too much, or too little for poetry)
poetry contests, aka Faux-etry
academia
theory
criticism
canon
Poet Laureate of the United States
The following do not generate controversy:
Walter Benjamin
Theodor Adorno

Originally Published: September 2nd, 2008

Don Share became the editor of Poetry in 2013. His books of poetry are Wishbone (2012), Squandermania (2007), and Union (2013, 2002). He is the co-editor of The Open Door: 100 Poems, 100 Years of Poetry Magazine (2012), and editor of Bunting's Persia (2012) and a critical edition of Basil Bunting's poems (2016). He...

  1. September 2, 2008
     dwayne

    I guess my only question is: If I'm moved to build a soap box before I comment on at least forty-two percent of the list, am I truly a poet's poet?

  2. September 2, 2008
     vijay

    Don,
    funny stuff. I'm not sure the record bears you out on Adorno, though; their seems, from a cursory survey, to have been quite a bit of haggling about him (c.f. http://poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2008/02/who_you_callin_postavant.html#more as only one example) and "cherry-picking," using him to justify positions he would have abhorred, whether the autonomy of art is the same as the intentional fallacy, and all that good stuff. So I guess it's just Benjamin everyone agrees on. And pudding!

  3. September 2, 2008
     Don Share

    Thank you, Vijay!
    So: scratch Adorno, add Intentional Fallacy to the big list, and add pudding to the small one!

  4. September 2, 2008
     michael robbins

    I hate pudding.
    Don, this is the funniest post in Harriet history. But what is that gif?
    Controversial:
    Language poetry
    racism
    Norton Anthologies
    Harold Bloom
    formalism
    economic determination
    popular lyrics as poetry
    Noncontroversial:
    big red dogs

  5. September 2, 2008
     Don Share

    Hm. I just read about a correlation between big red dogs and cancer, so I'm not sure about that one! And if you don't like pudding... well, it just might be the case that Benjamin is the only non-controversial entry we'll ever have!
    Good new entries there. I almost had Bloom in from the get-go, but thought maybe he'd morphed into a Facebook friendly force of some kind. (Yes, I know it's not really him on FB.) Could be we'll have to add the anxiety of influence, though.
    Oh, and that should be: L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E as you well know.
    The gif is a knee, of course... as seen by your doctor!

  6. September 2, 2008
     Kent Johnson

    I'm completing a manuscript of numerous "fait divers" based on U.S. poets (each poet identified by last name, led off with M., Mme. or Mlle, as the case may be). It's entitled "Fait Divers du Poésie Américain," and each piece is in spirit of Felix Feneon's "novellas in three lines," his marvelous and strange miniature crime reports for 19th century Parisian newspapers. Some of these are soon coming out in a magazine or two, but thought I'd offer one here, since Don mentions William Logan:
    >“Do you somehow think I am sorry?” screamed the crazed critic M. Logan to the magistrate. Manacled and led away, sentenced to hang, for the murder and cannibalism of seventy-four innocent poets... This in Boussens.
    Kent

  7. September 2, 2008
     john

    Controversial:
    identity politics
    political poetry
    identity poetry
    identity property of mathematics poetry
    property poetry
    property
    scansion
    condescension
    condensation
    dew
    neo-post-ism
    nepotism
    who-you-know-ism
    flow
    traditional prosody
    transitional rosary
    bohemian rhapsody
    queen

  8. September 2, 2008
     Kent Johnson

    You know, I'm getting talked about (though with incredible confusion) under Stanley Fish's NY Times column today. So why does someone like Kenneth Goldsmith get to be on the list and I don't? Huh? C'mon, Don, toss me a freakin' cracker here...
    damn.
    Kent

  9. September 2, 2008
     Don Share

    OK, please consider the following emendations:
    Kent Johnson added to big list.
    Crackers added to small one.

  10. September 2, 2008
     Michael Robbins

    A-ha, the knee! I thought it was Art.
    And I actually do like pudding. And crackers.
    Also Checkers. Wikipedia dixit: "Nixon's dog Checkers died in 1964 and is buried in Wantagh, New York, on Long Island's Bide-A-Wee Pet Cemetery (3300 Beltagh Avenue, Wantagh, NY). Since Nixon never lived on Long Island, and only buried Checkers there because it was convenient, some locals look upon the dog as an unwelcome outsider. Suffolk County Historical Society President Wallace Broege has been quoted as saying, 'I think it does Long Island a disservice.' That doesn't stop the visitors from coming. And while patriots still plant small American flags next to the dog's granite tombstone (Plot #5), no one from the former first family has ever visited."

  11. September 3, 2008
     john

    Isn't "cracker" considered a slur?

  12. September 3, 2008
     john

    (just in case: my last comment was a jest.)
    (people can be touchy -- me included!)

  13. September 3, 2008
     Daisy

    Sexist list! What, NO controversial females?
    Daisy

  14. September 3, 2008
     Don Share

    Added to the long list:
    WOM-PO
    Daisy Fried
    Alicia Stallings
    Ange Mlinko
    Marilyn Chin
    Joan Houlihan
    Jorie Graham
    Alice Quinn
    Now, having done that, I feel that I've been rather patronizing and paternalistic.

  15. September 3, 2008
     Kent Johnson

    Since the topic is poetic controversies, thought I'd share the letter I just sent to NY Times, in the comments stream under Stanley Fish's latest column:
    A brief comment in reply to Alison S's letter of September 1 (#20) concerning the Araki Yasusada controversy. There are some things she seems confused about.
    No one, that I'm aware of, "insists" the writings contained in Doubled Flowering: From the Notebooks of Araki Yasusada are by a poet of that name. It's been well-known for twelve or thirteen years that the work is a fiction and Yasusada a poetic heteronym--something openly acknowledged on the cover and in the appendix of Doubled Flowering, which appeared over ten years ago.
    The attributional case, rather, is this: The author or authors (presented under the pseudonym "Tosa Motokiyu," one of the fictional translators of the work) imagined the found poems, letters, drafts, English assignments, and other writings of a Hiroshima survivor and published this work with a decision to not take conventional credit for it. The choice to preserve an ongoing space of anonymity was seen as coextensive, at least from the authorial perspective, with the aesthetic and ethical nature of the creation.
    A number of years ago, The Nation magazine called Doubled Flowering "the most controversial work of poetry since Allen Ginsberg's "Howl." In the years since, various dozens of articles, essays, presentations, and graduate theses have appeared on the issue, here and abroad. Some, like Alison S. and Charles Bernstein, have seen the Yasusada work as a manipulative transgression of literary and cultural principles with motive of personal gain; others, like Eliot Weinberger and Forrest Gander, have seen the work as a radical, moving expression of tribute and empathy. There have been emotional polemics, and there have been thoughtful studies--pro and con.
    Given that the background subject of the writing is one of the most contended and troubling events of the 20th century, the continuing debate seems entirely apt.
    Kent Johnson

  16. September 3, 2008
     Kent Johnson

    Ron Silliman is mentioned above, in Don's list. Here is his fait divers:
    “Yes, it is true, Your Honor, that I am obsessed with Project Runway, but it was only part of a performance project,” said M. Silliman, with earnest sincerity. Three months in jail and suspended blogging license for shoplifting at Victoria’s Secret.

  17. September 3, 2008
     Kent Johnson

    And since Flarf is mentioned:
    The little urchins Gordon and Mohammad, of Nangis, hid behind a curtain, making loud farting sounds with the pits of their arms. Just as Mme. Lauterbach was beginning to read! The Vice-Chancellor of the Sorbonne led them out by the ears.

  18. September 3, 2008
     Kent Johnson

    And since Language Poetry is mentioned:
    Coming from an all-night soiree in celebration of some group-written memoir, Mme. Hejinian was most fortunate to escape with but a broken pelvis and a hefty fine: Trainspotting on the BART.

  19. September 3, 2008
     Doodle

    controversial:
    Zizek & Lacan (sounds like Siskel & Ebert!)
    non-con:
    Lana Turner (get up, we love you!)
    mimeographed journals
    ekphrasis

  20. September 3, 2008
     Travis Nichols

    Gordon? Mohammad? Little?

  21. September 4, 2008
     Daisy

    Amiri Baraka

  22. September 4, 2008
     Vijay Chaudhoury

    Wait, is Lacan controversial around here? Have their been Lacan debates that I've missed? Gyp! (No offense to my Magyar friends).

  23. September 4, 2008
     Don Share

    I think the idea is that just mentioning Lacan automatically makes him controversial - which just happened.
    On the list he goes!

  24. September 4, 2008
     Henry Gould

    If Lacan is controversially non-controversial, well, this sounds very much like a Lacanian impasse, comme on dit. Alors, je pense que c'est necessaire d'ecrire une liste seulement pour Lacan, une liste des bouleversements Lacaniens tout-seule, comme on dit. Le noude integrale d'un "petit a", comme on dit, ou "petit oeuil", ou possiblement un "petit oeuf" - voici certainement la faiblesse des problemes psycho-litteraire, comme on dit, ou tous les hommes et un nombre innumerable des femmes trouvent leurs "identities pseudo-ecrives", comme on dit.
    Eh?

  25. September 6, 2008
     Lucia

    Personally, I find big red dogs a sentimental gimmick to get someone's pet on a poetry blog. I would add them to the list.