Sunday, July 31, 2011

uh this first poem

the horror


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 (or perhaps vendetta is the more appropriate word) 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 (actually at this date it's more like 4),

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 agreeing 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 objectively 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.

I imagine the hierarchs at Poetry Magazine were disappointed that their attempt to assassinate me in 1972 failed,

which is why thirtythree years later they hired the lit-rump Meghan O'Rourke to give it another try—

And this time they succeeded.

Their second murder plot did me in: 

after this latter "review" appeared in 2005,  

I was forced to retire from teaching, 

I lost what little professional standing and esteem I had in the poetry world, 

and since then I have been forced to self-publish my books thanks to the poisoning of my reputation with everyone in the legitimate poetry-publishing field—

No doubt the despots at Poetry Magazine have rejoiced these past 6 years over my decline; 

how they must relish my downfall and the final ruination of my career:

to know that their vendetta against me has triumphed in the end, 

to know that their vicious attacks have finished me off.


just a tremendous poet

in the TLS (p.16, April 17/09), Hugo Williams relates how Ian Hamilton, in one of his USA pobiz-crawls, encountered, quote:

a certain professor who had gone on about the work of Clayton Eshleman. "Just a tremendous poet", he said. Surprised by this, Ian asked for the title of a good poem by Eshleman. "Oh, I don't know", said the professor. "Taken as a whole, you see. Just a tremendous poet." Ian insisted on knowing the name of a single decent poem so he'd be able to understand what the professor was talking about. "Oh for God's sake", the man said. "What is this anthologist's approach to literature?"

see the advocates of poetry—call them "the professors"


the advocates of the poem—call them "the anthologists"

as one of the latter, i am as amused and bewildered as Hamilton was

by the poetry-profs . . .

for "Eshleman" you could substitute almost any name from the Avantipoo list (spicer kelly howe et al) and the joke would still apply . . .


Friday, July 29, 2011


a couple quotes:

from the TLS, 07/98/11, page 9, Tim Blanning reviewing an anthology of European Romanticism notes that many Romantics sought

'an alliance that was populist . . . . for cultural value in any society was not to be found among the classically educated elites, with their sophisticated but artificial culture, but with the common people. . . . The Hungarian poet Sandor Petofi proclaimed: "folk poetry is indeed the true poetry. Let us set about making it supreme!" He was writing in 1847, the year before a wave of revolution swept across Continental Europe and gave retrospective piquancy to his further observation that "if the people rules in poetry, the day cannot be far off when it will rule in politics too." '


from Laurie Smith's essay, "Subduing the reader," in Magma magazine—


:— the last sentence from its penultimate paragraph:

"We need always to be alert to writers who claim that good poetry must be difficult, accessible only to the educated few, and see this claim for what it is - fascist."


Monday, July 18, 2011

I AM NEW YORK CITY by Jayne Cortez:

I'm posting this great poem by Jayne Cortez as a jpeg

because I can't figure how to type it into this blogger page and keep

her indentations—

please click on the image to see it larger and then click the magnifying-glass tab to see it in closeup,

to read it—

This poem appeared in the "International Women's Issue" in the magazine Mundus Artium, Vol. VII, 1974,

and was reprinted in the same magazine's omnibus anthology (Vol XII and XIII, 1980/81),

from which I've scanned it.

Jahan Ramazani didn't consult me about which poems to include in his Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry,

nor did Helen Vendler ask me to offer suggestions for her Harvard Book of Contemporary American Poetry,

and Michael Waters hasn't sought my advice about his anthology Contemporary American Poetry,

not to mention every other editor of anthologies that cover this period of USAPO—

but if any of them had,

I would have recommended this poem by Jayne Cortez.

(Or maybe not. The thought is moot, a fantasy of the moment.)


reprint from May 20, 2009:

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The elitist avanthack clique on the UCal Poetry list

must be feeling sad today, following

announcements that the U of C press is suspending its stupifyingly mediocre

program of poetry publishing—

due to financial pressures.

Despite its books being shoved for wildly-inflated prices into higher-ed libraries across the country,

I can just imagine how poorly this series of unreadable obscurantics

has sold over the years—

the only "market" for the boring twaddle UCal publishes is a marginal subgroup of

avantgardistes, and librarians too dumb or indifferent to know what a waste

of money these volumes are—

UCal could have tried to find and promote poets the public might actually

want to read, poets in the tradition of Billy Collins and Jane Hirshfield and

Mary Oliver and Sharon Olds, poets whose books might have sold enough copies to break

even, to justify its budget—

Or, why not seek out those California poets now writing in the style and manner

of the great parlando populists Ferlinghetti and Bukowski?—

Are there NO Californian poets striving to carry on the native legacy of those two luminaries,

whose works have been appreciated by a widespread audience, by a public that will indeed buy and enjoy poetry which is directed to and meant for a larger readership,

not for a privatized snob coterie of gradschoolist initiates—

If UCal had found and promoted even one current poet in the popular mode of Ferlinghetti and Bukowski,

even that one poet—him or her—might have saved its ass.

It didn't have to publish nothing but a numbbunch of generic avantclucks.

And if money is the problem, if UCal doesn't have the cash to carry a series which is in the red, a financial drain/disaster,

if it can't rig up some tax scam to write-off its losses,

why doesn't it just move to a POD model, which would cost practically nothing?

It could still publish and promote those avanthick tomes (and offer free pdf downloads of them)—

there's no law says it has to stick to ye old archaic deadtree traditional "trade publishing" practices—



Thinking of Ferlinghetti, a poet I have read with admiration
since my teens,

it occurs to me that some of the foreign poets he published early
on in the Pocket Poets series from his press City Lights—

particularly Prevert (whom he translated so brilliantly and with such affinity),

and Parra, and Enzensberger,

populist parlando poets like these 3—antipoets, to use Parra's phrase—

how his poetry, Ferlinghetti's, has much more in common with their work

than it does with most of the USA poets he published and promoted—

Duncan, Ginsberg, Levertov et al—

I don't doubt Ferlinghetti admired them, but

his own verse is closer in its predilections

to Prevert's and Parra's

than to theirs,

isn't it?


Monday, July 11, 2011

good poets are worthless or Elizabeth Bishop is worth a Hiroshima so to speak

I'm collating/editing/revising for book publication a selection of my prose—here's another piece from it:


Interesting article in the May 14 2007 issue of The New Yorker: "Crash Course," by Elizabeth Kolbert, concerning CERN and its efforts to build a supercollider . . .

two paragraphs from page 74:

Particle physicists come in two distinct varieties, which, rather like matter and antimatter, are very much intertwined and, at the same time, agonistic. Experimentalists build machines. Theorists sit around and think. "I am happy to eat Chinese dinners with theorists," the Nobel Prize-winning experimentalist Samuel C. C. Tang once reportedly said. "But to spend your life doing what they tell you is a waste of time."

"If I occasionally neglect to cite a theorist, it's not because I've forgotten," Leon Lederman, another Nobel-winning experimentalist, writes in his chronicle of the search for the Higgs [particle]. "It's probably because I hate him."

Is there an analagous split in poetry, "two distinct varieties"?

I think the Langpo or Post-Avant would say, if I understand them correctly, and I'm not sure I do,

that no poetic activity can occur in a theory-free state,

and that those poets who try to proceed as if it were otherwise are deluding themselves,

no matter how loudly they assert the process is essentially an empirical experience . . .

But are there poets who have tried to follow the intricate measures of Harold Bloom's six-step recipe for the Great Modern Poem, the Great Post-Wordsworthian Poem ("the High Romantic crisis-poem model of six revisionary ratios"):—

especially since Ashbery's masterpiece Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror seems to have been (coincidentally?) baked to those specifications . . .

or is Nobelist Tang right: "to spend your life doing what [the theorists] tell you is a waste of time" . . .

If Nobelist-by-rights Ashbery neglects to cite Bloom, is it probably because he hates him?

To quote from page 76 of Kolbert's article (I've slightly altered some of the preliminary text):

Asked to explain how their work, supported by public funds, contributes to the public good, particle physicists often cite [the words of Robert Wilson, in his testimony before a Congressional Committee in 1969] . . . a Senator wanted to know the rationale behind a $250 Million government expenditure for a new collider:
Did it have anything to do with promoting "the security of the country"?
Wilson: No sir, I don't believe so.
Senator: Nothing at all?
Wilson: Nothing at all.
Senator: It has no value in that respect?
Wilson: It only has to do with the respect with which we regard one another, the dignity of men, our love of culture. . . . It has to do with are we good painters, good sculptors, great poets? I mean all the things we really venerate in our country and are patriotic about. . . . It has nothing to do directly with defending our country except to make it worth defending.

Three things strike me about his last answer there, which I've quoted verbatim as the New Yorker prints it:

First, the way Wilson takes the Senator's use of the word "respect" and shifts its meaning . . .

Second, [given this nation's] celebrations and glorifications of War, the irony of his saying that painters sculptors poets are among "all the things we really venerate in our country and are patriotic about."

Third, his use of modifiers here: "good painters, good sculptors, great poets."

Why GOOD painters, GOOD sculptors, but not GOOD poets?

I don't think the distinction Robert Wilson offers here is wrong.

Intentionally or not, whether he knows it or not, he is being rather scientifically or at least historically correct in his assessment of relative value:

good painters and good sculptors are respected and venerated, but not good poets . . .

only great poets (like Ashbery) make our country "worth defending."

Elizabeth Bishop is worth a Hiroshima, so to speak.

The works of good painters and sculptors can increase in value posthumously: if you've ever seen the Antiques Roadshow, you know that even artists who were "regional" or ignored during their lifetimes can generate higher market prices eventually.

The work of art, the object produced by a deceased artist can still function as merchandise . . . and therefore can survive.

But the work of a good poet?

Prior to the current two-volume Norton Modern/Contemporary,

the one-volume edition (termed simply Modern) contained poems by James Stephens: he's no longer in this Now Norton,

which does "rescue" theoretically, for the moment, a few obscurantes, specialcases

whose refurbished verse has displaced Stephens and others . . . :

or for a dollar from usedbook venues you can obtain Oscar Williams' anthologies of "Modern Poetry":

they're filled with good poets whom no-one reads anymore,

whose efforts may perhaps never be resurrected by the Antique Po-Show . . .

But surely the harsh truth is that Wilson and Harold Bloom are right: only GREAT poets count. The good ones are worthless.


Saturday, July 9, 2011

from my forthcoming book of prose:

I'm putting together for publication a collection of my prose writings, tentatively titled "Where Modern Poetry Began and Other Conjectures." Here's a piece from it:


We poets of the USA should be grateful for all the support we receive from our state institutions.

Take just the CIA: not only do they found and fund magazines like the Paris Review for us,

but they also take on the dangerous task of going into foreign countries and eliminating our potential competitors . . .

For example: How many young Chilean poets were murdered or suicided or impoverished or exiled by the CIA-installed Pinochet regime?

Who remembers today the chagrin and embarrassment

that North American USA poets suffered in the past when we compared our poetry

to that of the great Chilean poets like Neruda and Parra,

how solipsistically small and provincial and futile our poems seemed when set next to theirs . . .

but now, in the succeeding decades, hasn't that situation improved thanks to the CIA's intervention?

It's not just in Chile, of course.

Imagine how many other South American poets have been killed or otherwise quashed and quelled by CIA-funded activities.

Not to mention Africa, Asia et al.

Yes: All those poets who might have produced better poems than us, whose poems might have put ours to shame, we don't have to worry about them now, do we,

because they've all been offed for us by the CIA.

We should bow our heads every day in the direction of the CIA headquarters at Langley, Virginia, and say a silent thanks for their benefactions.

We have been blessed. We are the Langley Poets.

Yes, every USA poet owes part of our endowment to the CIA. Whether the Paris Review has published us or not,

we've all benefited from the CIA's worldwide pogroms. Indeed—

Just as USA business cartels pay the CIA's mercenaries to assassinate and undermine and destroy their foreign competitors,

so the Academy of American Poets has commissioned similar sorties from Langley:—

"There's this poet in Sierra Leone, and . . . she writes sort of Tony Hoagland, only political, and ten times better . . . can't you do something, you know, the usual, make it look like an accident . . . prison maybe . . . okay, that's great . . . Tony can breathe easier thanks to you . . . ah if the Tonys only knew all the things you do for them, and for all our poets . . . thanks so much . . . yes, the Charles Wright first edition is in the mail to you, I had him inscribe it as always . . . no, no, thank YOU, Director Bush-Plimpton!" . . .

(My understanding of the CIA is amateurish, based on novels and movies.

For example "The Good Shepherd" (2006) presents a film historical version of one Company hierarch,

who first appears as a poetry student at Yale before his recruitment into espionage.

Some of the poetry students at Yale became CIA, and some of them became poets: the question remains whether some of them became both.

Maybe that should be present-tense: become. What kind of Skull-and-Bones blood-oath do they make you swear to get your Yale Younger Poet badge—

There's a secret society someone should investigate.

I pledge allegiance to Louise Gluck and the [CLASSIFIED] for which she stands.)

So I have this paranoic-critical vision of the CIA as being upperclass Ivyleague on its higher levels at least (not all that different from Po-Biz, when you come to think of it),

arrogant rich snobs with anglo-names . . . it's not much like that in reality, I suppose, but this is my fantasy,

my fictional version—

So, above, when I have the CIA's "asset" at the Academy of American Poets phone Langley to request a termination-with-extreme-prejudice on an alien po-threat to Tony the Hoag,

I imagine them coalescing with Director Bush-Plimpton, head of the CIA's Cultural Affairs Division,

And the latter being "repaid" with an addition to his collection of Charles Wright books.

Why Wright? Is that fair?—

After all, Bush-Plimpton's Virginia estate is probably larger than Charles Wright's manse . . . I don't doubt his income is higher than Wright's . . . plutocrat/poetcrat—

but despite their payscale diffs and divides,

I picture B-P as honoring the capitalist merit-system of Success that spiritually unites the two of them,

and I can see him acquiesce with nods and doffs of admiration at the bravura displays of Wright's tradecraft,

the skillful delays and declensions of that author's elegantly tepid variations:

how a diaristic prose is made to seem almost poetic by the strategic use of inflated introversions and drop-lines;

and how Wright has distinguished himself by singlehandedly elevating the Allusion to an entelechy:

how he has raised Namedropping to a modality.

And especially since Bush-Plimpton himself, in his day to day occupation

of masterminding coups and kickbacks and assassinations in the cultural camps of the world,

he too must shoulder the task of creating Phantom Identities:

no wonder he appreciates the poet's flair for it.

And all of Wright's bucolic backyard musings on the Big Questions of Nature and Fate and Art,

they echo his, B-P's,

as he too, like the poet, lounges in the garden behind his mansion

and gazes out over the vales and values of his desmesne and lets the second vodka turn his thoughts into blink-eyed chin-scratching damps and ramp-ups

not dissimilar to Wright's ponderistic longueurs . . .

Remember that B-P's scion at the Agency, James Jesus Angleton, was a reverent disciple of Ezra Pound (I assume Angleton ran the Op that saved Pound from a treason trial) . . .

Bush-Plimpton following JJA's lead favors the non-Leftist poets (or the non-political poets, the apolitical poets).


Saturday, July 2, 2011


I have a choice: when I look at the walls and walls full of anthologies which present selections of contemporary USA poetry (USAPO for short),

when I think of the hundreds of USAPO anthologies published over the past 30 or so years,

and when I reflect that my verse appears in almost none of them,

I have a choice:

A, I can say all those editors excluded my work because I have been (and continue to be) blacklisted by the USAPO-Biz power centers—


B, I can say that all those editors excluded my work because it is unworthy of being anthologized—

so which do I choose to say to myself:

A or B?

If it's A, I'm a paranoid;

if it's B, I'm a failure:

B means my poetry is worthless, my lifetime of effort has been in vain, and indeed I should stop trying to write, stop publishing my junkverse, I should go away somewhere and shoot myself or at least cease and desist from ever showing my wretchwords in any venue,

including my blogs . . .

So either I'm crazy, or I'm a failure.


Friday, July 1, 2011

right choices

I wonder how many of the Whiting Award winners

have turned out to be worthwhile? Percentage wise.

You probably couldn't include Sylvia Moss in that count, right?

Sylvia Moss, one of the earlier Whiting recipients,

she got the Whiting after having her first book published

via Dan Halpern's National Poetry Series.

She was a double winner that miracle year, first gaining book-publication

in the National Poetry Series—

the judge who selected her for that prize was Derek Walcott—

and then, soon after that, she got the Whiting. 40 grand, right?

I think (if I'm not mistaken) that the judges for the Whiting (and
perhaps the nominators also) are anonymous, unknown,


Since achieving those magnificent awards—


since acing those prestigious honors two or more decades ago, Moss has been


I mean she's never put out (at least to my knowledge) another book, a second book

(or if she did, it must have been issued by a press small enough to escape my notice)—

I've never seen her verse in any magazine since that time. (Has she ever been BAP'd?)

She has (if I'm mistaken, shoot me) quite vanished from the menu

of contemporary USAPO.

(Where is Sylvia, where is she, whom superbards at once commended?
Ask Derek and Dan. Her day, it seems, has long since ended.)

Derek Walcott, Daniel Halpern, and all

those mysterious hidden
secret (skulking in their pelf-lined chambers) muckamuck judges

at the Whiting Foundation,

they're all intelligent professionals, right? They know what they're doing.
There they are: fair, equitable, open-minded, even-handed.

So aboveboard, so scrupulous (especially Walcott, right?)—

so circumspect
, so unbiased in their deliberations.


So astute—so percipient—so prescient!

How authoritative their verdicts. How sagacious—

In short, they know which horse to put their money on. Most of the time, anyway—

One thing's for sure:

they didn't put it on me.

The National Poetry Series and the Whiting Foundation rejected all my efforts—

Which proves they made at least one right choice, doesn't it?