I remember one time giving a beginner a copy of a literary magazine, wanting her to savor a particular sequence of poems that was included in it. She made the mistake of surveying the magazine more generally. When we next sat down together, she said, with her face curdled in disgust, “I, ah, looked at some of the other poems in there?”—she didn’t have to say anything more. I could see she wanted to hear my defense of all that joyless crud. She could not imagine what I would say.

I told her: “Uh, yeah, listen. You can’t go hunting around in these things expecting to find good stuff all over the place. If there’s one or two good things in a mag, that’s all you’re likely to get.”

She then wanted to know what the hell was the point of printing all this useless stuff alongside the one or two good things, and I said the obvious: “You’re being like a person who walks into a bookstore and wants to know why they’re wasting all this shelf space on books you don’t personally want.” She goes: “Maybe. But looks to me a lot more like I walked into a bookstore and I’m wondering why they’re wasting all this shelf space on pee-stained underwear and glops of potato salad.”

* * *

Now, is not the above a very choice example of the weaker argument being made to defeat the stronger?

Originally Published: April 11th, 2013

Poet Anthony Madrid is the author of the chapbook The 580 Strophes (2009) and the full-length collection I Am Your Slave Now Do What I Say (2012). He has written in forms such as the ghazal and rhyming quatrain, bringing a contemporary, associative, and surreal sensibility to received forms. A PhD...