I've whined and complained earlier on [a previous] blog about the demeaning coverage my last theoretically-real book received from Poetry (Chicago) Magazine.
Until that hackpiece appeared in early 2005, they had not critiqued any of my books for 33 years, in fact since the May 1972 issue where my book “Nights of Naomi” was savaged as part of an omnibus review by Charles Molesworth.
Anyway, between 1972 and 2005, between the time of these two bookend reviews by Molesworth and Meghan O’Rourke,
I published what, 6 or 7 books, none of which Poetry Magazine deigned to take notice of.
Different editors, yes: Daryl Hine in 1972, and Christian Wiman in 2005: but it’s interesting to note that the magazine’s editorial policy toward me did not change in that time.
Just as they used the 2005 “review” to spread vicious gossip about me, so they did the same in 1972. The 1972 review set the tone for the 2005 one.
Here’s an excerpt from the Molesworth:
“Rumor has it that Knott’s habit of giving his birth and terminal dates together originated when he realized he could no longer face the horror of a poetry reading he was scheduled to give.”
So, here’s the sequence:
in 1972 Poetry Magazine prints a rumor that says in effect that I’m afraid to give (I can’t face the horror of) poetry readings—
And guess what happens then, after that "review":
My reading invitations dry up.
No one asks me to read. From that point on, for the next 3 decades,
I barely manage to get an average of about one reading a year.
I receive almost no requests to give readings because everybody knows,
everybody has heard that I can’t “face the horror of a poetry reading.”
Hey: it said so right there in Poetry Magazine.
After they printed that nonsense
—oh yes, they labeled it a “rumor,” but everybody knows how such floaters spread and take on the facsimile of fact—,
after Poetry Magazine used the venue of what was ostensibly a book review to, to,
what’s the term I’m looking for . . . well, what would you call it?
One thing's for sure: after that May 1972 issue appeared, my reading career was destroyed.
There is an alternative truth to this tale:
perhaps my "reading career" was aborted/ thwarted not by this review in Poetry Magazine,
but by the fact that no one liked my crummy lousy poetry enough to invite me to read:
or by the fact that I was no good at giving poetry readings—
I can remember hearing, as I eavesdropped from bathroom stall or around a corner, audience members commenting about how boring and bad my reading was:
I can never remember being praised by anybody in those minuscule groups who attended my infrequent readings,
those scowling scattered-seat-fillers who scuttled so quickly once I had grimaced out my final words—
. . . in fact, the more I think about it, I realize that the reason I didn't get invited to give any (or hardly any) readings
was simply that people hated (hate) my poetry, ergo why should they invite me to read . . .
In fact, I probably got as many invitations as any other fourth-rate poet like me.
Just one question: Poetry Magazine has in its long history published hundreds maybe thousands of reviews of poetry books:
have they ever, in the text of any of those reviews,
printed rumors and gossip about any (living) poet other than me?
Is there a single instance, can you remember a similar case
where the reviewer paused in the course of his or her consideration of the book under review,
parethetically paused to share some precious oddment of rumor gossip about the poet whose work they were supposedly appraising—
can you recall another such incident in the pages of Poetry Magazine?
I haven’t read all those reviews, so I can’t say for sure, but I think not.
I think I am the only one to have been so honored.