Important to Whom?
Important to Whom? Indeed. These are the questions we like to toss at ourselves about artists (poets / musicians, etc). So, in that vein, Anis Shivani asked 22 poets who they consider the most important poet of our time.
I admit that such a question would have twisted me into a pretzel. My favorite poet, maybe? The poet I think is the most popular? The poet I think has had the most influence on other poets? What sort of influence (as a writer or editor or administrator)?
Certainly in the political sphere, Dana Gioia has had a large impact (as have the poet-editors of Poetry Magazine and The Best American Poetry series as well as the poet-administrators of Breadloaf). Billy Collins and Mary Oliver sell more books than pretty much any other poets. And John Ashbery’s poetry has certainly had the most influence on younger poets (I’d nominate him for King of the Cats), while at the same time, his poetry is reviled by large numbers of people who comment on such things as The Huffington Post . . . and what about the Poet Laureates? The Pulitzer Prize winners? They could all be said to be our most “important” poets (at least in the American segment of the question).
Important. Important to whom? Maybe the answer is that we (as a collective) do not have a most important poet. At the very least, there’s not really an answer to “importance.” It’s interesting, though, to see what people say.