Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Top 10 List of Top Ten Lists On Poetry

These lists that have been coming out recently of “poets who make me care about poetry” or “advocates for poetry”, I’m sure you’ve seen them (or some of them – I’ve seen four so far [links below]).  I’m not adverse to lists.  And lists, by and large, don’t hurt anything (unless someone takes them seriously, of course).  They are made to impress, to be consumed, to give some props. 

I remember, when I was young, how much I enjoyed The Book of Lists.  And there’s SPIN magazine that’s always having a list of something or other.  And there’s Buzzfeed, and their cotton candy lists of pop ephemera.  I make some lists myself, mostly lists of albums (I’ll make another at the end of the year).  I tried for several years to make lists of books of poetry, but I found I very quickly couldn’t keep up. 

And that’s what each of these lists (below) reveals, as well.  No one can keep up.  The secret number ONE of all of these lists is the narrowness of the vision of the person or persons making the list, and how little anyone can know of “what’s going on,” so Seth Abramson’s list of Top Advocates of for American Poetry (2013) swells to 200, and still feels incomplete.  Bill Knott makes the list but D.A. Powell doesn’t, that sort of thing.  And then there’s the now and then Scarriet lists.  And what is an advocate, anyway?  Is Anne Carson one?  Is President Obama?  And the word TOP makes the rest of us feel like failures, you know?  We'd better get moving.  Start advocating.  So, here goes:
Three Books Of Poetry I've Read This Week That You Should Read (Or You're Missing Out On What Makes Me Believe In Poetry This Week) In Alphabetical Order By Title:
The Fabulous Bilocation of B. Lee (chapbook) - Jen Tynes
How We Light - Nick Sturm
IMAGO (for the fallen world) - Matthew Cooperman / Marius Lehene
These lists, in the end, are possibly helpful (if they get someone to go check something out and find something new and good, as I hope you go check out the three new and good books I listed above) and fairly useless when they attempt anything larger, but even so, useless isn’t the worst thing that could happen.  At the very least, as these lists proliferate (containing names of people I've never heard of), I’m reminded of how little I know of a lot of what’s going on . . . and that’s interesting, because it means a WHOLE LOT of things are going on.  And that IS a good thing.  (Including a list I'm compiling of all the people who are annoyed by poetry lists.)

The Top 200 Advocates for American Poetry (2013)

The Ten Most Influential People in Poetry Today

A List of Things to Ask Yourself When You’re Making a List of Poets

23 People Who Will Make You Care About Poetry in 2013

The only way out is through.


At 8/14/2013 9:43 AM, Blogger Archambeau said...

I am waiting for a list of the top complaints about lists by people not included on the list in question. Extra points go to those who tell us not to take the lists seriously, but who have clearly taken it seriously enough to feel hurt.

At 8/14/2013 11:38 AM, Blogger Marcus said...

Penguin Blues

I’ve read the new collection
There’s lots of folks I’ve missed
But I think my chief objection
Is I’m not on the list!

I hope you’ll find that you’ll forgive me
If I don’t enthuse
Because I’ve got the Penguin blues.

The gamers out there gaming
I give them all a pass
But the flamers out there flaming
Can kiss my po-biz ass.

I send my check and manuscript to
Contests that I lose –
I guess I’ve got the Penguin blues.

Then when Penguin phones you,
That Harper/Collins owns you,
And Penguin will not pay their jacked-up fees
The most profuse apology
You're not in their anthology
Will sound as if it’s dirty low-down sleaze.

May editors select you,
Your reprint fees stay low
And may your peers elect you
For prizes that give dough

Oh Penguin may anthologize
The product of your muse
But me, I’ve got the Penguin blues.
Those forty-dollar brightly-covered hard-bound
Penguin blues;
Yes, Penguin may anthologize
The poems you peruse
But Penguin’s only brought me the blues –
These brightly-covered forty-dollar hard-bound
Penguin blues.

At 8/14/2013 12:00 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Robert, well, as I'm not on any of the lists in question (not even the "haircuts that will make you love poetry" list), I expect to make it onto yours, or I'll have to complain about your methods.

At 8/14/2013 12:02 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

The Penguin: But when it comes down to it, who's holding the umbrella?

At 8/15/2013 6:03 AM, Blogger MASchiavo said...

What I "love" about Abramson's list is the lead-in paragraphs in which is filled with so many caveats, I have to ask (rhetorically 'cause I really don't care): "Why make the list in the first place?"

I also love that his bio is about as long as the list.

At 8/15/2013 8:33 AM, Blogger Seth Abramson said...

Michael, that's a fair observation. I'll shorten it going forward. I know it's hard to believe, but I just didn't think about the length, I simply used the "long bio" I use when editors or interviewers ask for one. But you're right, it's far too long for regular use. --S.

At 8/16/2013 9:47 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

It's an interesting question though, what a poetry advocate might be. How this advocacy might manifest. What it would could look like.

At 8/27/2013 7:24 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 9/01/2013 2:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


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