Monday, May 21, 2007


The following post consists of my comments on the poems on Poetry Daily last week (posted as commentary on Andrew Shields' blog where readers are asked to vote for best poem of the week -- you can still vote up till Thursday):

If I were to title my comments it would be something like: Why I Do Not Read Poetry Mags. This is the worst week yet. Dismal, disheartening, even. For some reason I have the idea that a poem, whatever it may be about, is also "about" command of language. Doing something interesting with it. Also, that, whatever the subject matter, one avoids clichés, the predictable, the banal, and -- one tries to at least -- the bathetic and sentimental. Somewhere between my standards and those of Hallmark Cards resides the world of poetry magazines . . . and Poetry Daily.

This harangue is mainly against #50, Hickok, and #52, Grøndahl (the latter is a translation and that may be the problem, language-wise, but in terms of content it's clichéd treatment of a cliché -- gee, does that make it postmodern?; the former takes issue with all those awful "Dad" poems and then proceeds to write one as bad as one would expect, or worse). Those are the worst offenders, but they manage to contaminate the rest. For instance, Dybek (#51, "Pan") -- clearly he knows how to write and work a line, but I'm underwhelmed by the paucity of imagination here, by something "school-teacherish" about it (yes, I know, most people who publish poems probably teach in some capacity, therein may lie the problem, but I won't go there).

The last four lines of Gallaher's dubya-bash say all that needs to be said, the rest, I guess, sets us up for it, but, "Now watch me make this shot" -- fish in a barrel, y'know? "Obit," Lehman's (#54) coulda been ok without that "hard-hitting" ending. Spare me a pundit's obit on the 20th century. Talk about belated! Are we done yet? No, #55, a Creation myth for the "new Eve"? Talk about 20th century! Zzzzz.

So, finally, my vote: #56, "Corpus Hermeticum" -- Eric Pankey. "A year, but only a day or two recalled, / And then only piecemeal: / a fallow field / Winter-dulled, a lean horse / Subsumed in fog". If it looks like a poem and sounds like a poem, it must be a poem! One for the week. Not great, but, hell, the thrice-great Hermes might not be utterly offended. And "a contingent cosmology" -- nice. I mean, what other kind of cosmology could there be, these days....

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