Who Would You Put in the Canon?
It’s a question poetry readers like to ask each other. If you were the king of Parnassus, who would you invite to the anthology table? Or, to be a little less bombastic about it, if you were putting together the next big contemporary anthology, what poets would you include? Who are the best poets writing today?
And, more precisely, who are the poets who haven’t already been recognized by large anthology inclusion and awards, who you feel should?
Rae Armantrout has, for years, been my first answer to such questions, and while she still hasn’t been included in most of the major contemporary poetry anthologies (so she still technically counts as an answer), she has now gotten enough attention and awards, that I feel that argument’s been made.
So, who’s next at bat? What poets and books and single poems are the reading list for the last ten years? (In the way that I've argued [as have others] that Michael Palmer's "Notes for Echo Lake 4" is one of the key poems of the end of the 20th Century.) Matthew Zapruder's "American Linden"? Kay Ryan's "The Niagara River"?
And I’m not looking for the cynical answer, the kind of insider-trading answer people often fall into. I’m really interested in what poets you feel should be our common currency. Who would you think everyone who reads poetry should read and appreciate? And if not appreciate, as that would be too much to ask, how about deal with. In the way that no matter what people think of John Ashbery, one has to deal with the fact that he's there, in the way that no matter what one thinks of T.S. Eliot, he looms.
When mentioning a poet, if you have a few titles of poems to offer, that would also be nice. Thank you very much.
People have been making cases for Dean Young and Cole Swensen over the past few years. Mary Jo Bang is often talked about as well. And Mary Ruefle. Matthew Zapruder has been mentioned to me a lot recently. And of course, there’s been a big push for Kay Ryan for several years, so much so, that although she hasn’t yet won the biggest awards (I’m sure she’ll win the Pulitzer soon), I have seen her included in a couple of the big anthologies. That seems a done deal. Again, who would you vote for?
Here’s a vote from me: Ron Padgett.
Remember, you can respond anonymously. I promise it will be a civil comment stream. You’re just a click away:
I was thinking about United States poetry when I posted this, as the anthologies I've been looking at all bill themselves as some version of Introduction to American Poetry or Contemporary American Poetry and are used primarily in college courses on American literature, but, as you'll see from the comment stream, Kent Johnson is all over my case about that assumption. So, when thinking about this question, you can think of U.S. poets as well as any version of "UK, NZ, Australia, Canada, Carribean nations, African nations" poets writing in any version of World English you choose.
It didn't even come close to covering it.