Thursday, December 18, 2008

 

When I linked to H.L. Hix “20 Questions” project on the Best American Poetry blog the other day, Harvey sent me his questionnaire &, rather impulsively, I responded straight away, answering 18 of the 20 questions. My answers may sound flip, but they’re not. That last question, for example, is completely serious. I’ve been in BAP & had volumes co-edited by people I completely respect, but year after year it’s almost as depressing a reading experience as the Pushcart Prize.  

1. What poet should be in Obama's cabinet, and in what role? 

Simon Ortiz, chair of Truth & Reconciliation Commission on the Subject of the Genocide of Native Peoples (a new position)

2. If you could send Obama one poem or book of poems (not your own), what would it be and why? 

William Carlos Williams' Spring & All, in the 1970 Frontier Press edition.

3. What other poetry-related blog or website should I check out? 

There are so many. But let's point to The Annandale Dream Gazette, the only site I know of devoted to the unconscious of poets

4. Who is the most exciting young/new poet I've never heard of, but whose work I ought to find and read? 

This will vary greatly by person now, won't it? How about Tsering Wangmo Dhompa?

5. What's the funniest poem you've read lately?  What was the last poem that made you cry? 

I tend to resist poems that go for only one emotion or the other - what feeling do you get from Louis Zukofsky's "A"?

6. William or Dorothy?  Robert or Elizabeth Barrett?  Moore or Bishop? Dunbar or Cullen?  "Poetry must resist the intelligence almost successfully" or "No ideas but in things"?  Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas or Tender Buttons? 

Both / and, both / and, both / and, both / and, "No ideas but in things," Tender Buttons.

7. Robert Lowell wrote a poem called "Falling Asleep Over the Aeneid." What supposedly immortal poem puts you to sleep? 

The Four Quartets does it best, since it makes dreaming impossible. But most anything by Lowell will do just fine unless I've had tea after 9 PM.

8. Even for poetry books, the contract has a provision for movie rights.  What poetry book should they make into a movie?  Who should direct it, and why?  Who should star in it? 

I've only seen that clause in Yale Younger Poets contracts &, as I recall, Jack Gilbert told me he got an advance from a studio for Views of Jeopardy way back when.

But let's go with The Cantos, starring Brad Pitt. Woody Allen, because it would interesting to watch him negotiate the Pisan Cantos.

9. What lines from a poem you first read years ago still haunt you now?   

Helot for what time there is
in the baptist hegemony of death.

Jack Gilbert, from "Singing in My Difficult Mountains," in Genesis West, no. 1, 1962.

10. What poem do you love, love, love, but don't understand? 

Hart Crane, The Bridge. Or (which I love less, but also understand less) John Berryman's Dream Songs.

11. If the official organ of the AWP were not the Chronicle but were the Enquirer, what would some of the headlines be? 

I will leave those for Kent Johnson & Kenny Goldsmith to invent.

12. If you were making a scandal rag for poetry in the grocery store checkout stands, what fictitious poetry love triangle would you make up to outsell that tired Hollywood story of Angelina and Brad and Jen? 

I wouldn't.

13. This is the Best American Poetry blog.  What's the best non-American poetry you've read lately? 

Aleksandr Skidan's Red Shifting, translated from the Russian by Genya Turovskaya & others, published by Ugly Duckling Presse.

14. We read poems in journals and books, we hear them in readings and on audio files.  Sometimes we get them in unusual ways: on buses or in subway cars.  How would you like to encounter your next poem?

In my dreams tonight, so that I can write it down when I wake.

15. What poem would you like to hear the main character bust out singing in a Bollywood film?  What would be the name of the movie?  What would be the scene in which it was sung? 

16. Do you have a (clean) joke involving poetry you'd like to share? 

17. Tell the truth: is it a poetry book you keep in the john, or some other genre (john-re)? 

In one bathroom, the one I spend the most time in, I have several books of poetry including Shakespeare's Sonnets. In the other, I have magazines, including The Nation, The Poetry Project Newsletter, Poets & Writers, ComputerWeek, Information Week, ComputerWorld and CFO.

18. Can you name every teacher you had in elementary school?  Did any of them make you memorize a poem?  What poem(s)? 

No, thank heavens. I can't memorize haiku. But Vance Teague in fifth grade made us write for an hour every Wednesday and never told us what genre. He made me a writer as much as anyone.

19. If you got to choose the next U.S. Poet Laureate, who (excluding of course the obvious candidates, you and me) would it be?  Of former U.S. Poet Laureates, who did such a great job that he/she should get a second term?  Next election cycle, what poet should run for President?  Why her or him? 

PLOTUS (as Donald Hall called it): Linh Dinh, because he hears the "American" voice better than anyone I know.

President? Barrett Watten or Rae Armantrout – the ideal president would be a combination of the two.

20. Insert your own question here.

Why is The Best American Poetry so mediocre year after year, editor after editor?

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