Thursday, June 30, 2005

A New Body Bag for the Exquisite Corpse

I was too nice in my recent comment. To be honest, I was holding back because of their link to us, but here's the truth: the Exquisite Corpse is a journal run by a bunch of has-been insider dipshits. The old Exquiste Corpse had at least one cool feature: the "body bag" section where they listed and sometimes snarked their rejected poets. They would also collage lines from rejected poems into exquisite corpses of a sort, which was a pretty original thing to do with rejected work. The poems they actually published have sucked for as long as I've seen the journal. A lot of crap by people trying to sustain their pet movements--neo-beat poetry, neo-Black Mountain School. Partisan hackery. Drivel (now with cutesy introductions beneath the inks). And t' boot--they cut their one cool feature--the "body bag" is no more.

Then there's this: remember how I said that we were listed as the top site in their "hot links" section? And I teased them--and ourselves--a little in the process? I guess they couldn't take it, tame as it was. Now, if you go to their ever-so-cleverly-named "hot links" section, you see this at the top of the list:

"Sincere apologies to those of our unsuspecting readers who followed the recent Poetry Snark link from our website and were treated to a pile of talentless and offensive dribble. We'll screen link requests far more thoroughly from now on!"

Rock! Exquisite Corpse hates us! Does this come straight from the mouth of Andrei Codrescu, or is it from some lesser crony? I wonder what they found offensive. I wish they would have told us so we would know where we're succeeding. Regardless, I'm thrilled to be snarked by the Corpse, pathetic and uncreative as their snark may be. Let me call your attention to something else: Trochee sent out a few requests to random journals to link to our site, and Exquisite Corpse took him up on it apparently without even looking at our blog! You tell me, gentle readers--has the content of this site changed that significantly in the last two weeks, when they first listed us as a "hot site?" Yeah, better "screen more closely," EQ.
No wonder you suck so bad--do you even read your submissions? Apparently, you just publish (or link to) ones with titles that catch your eye.

The same day the Corpse took down the link, the far more traffic'd Contemporary Poetry Review ( listed us as their recommended site of the month. Whatever. We also had the most visitors ever by far that same day. I wonder how long we'll last on the Contemporary Poetry Review. And also, did they check out the blog before linking to us? Do you really love us CPR? Well, whether tis true love or not, just to satisfy my curiousity, will you post a comment to this thread and just say that yes, you checked out this site before posting the link?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Search For The Drunkest Poet In The World!

"I have written much less than most people who write, but I have drunk much more than most people who drink." -Guy Debord

We all know that poets are for the most part notorious drunks, but who is the greatest drunkard in the history of poetry? Berryman with his besotted sonnets? How about Baudelaire? Hart Crane? You know, one anagram for "Dylan Thomas" is "Thy Soma Land." Of course there's always Poe. And I'm sure Catullus liked to tie one on now and then. So, folks, who in your mind is the worst drunk in the history of poetry, and why? Anybody from Sappho up to now is fair game. "When poets drink they surely fall, / but who's the fellest of them all?" Come on folks, this poll is easy as pineapple rum.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Gary Sange's Dissatisfied Urn

What's up with these 70s poets and their deadly-flat lines? Did someone tell these people to avoid sounding musical at all cost? Is the goal for the poem to be so lifeless and boring that it countered the extravagance of the decade? The only effort at anything resembling lyricism here is "I stare / into the steaming dark I sip / and still cannot exhaust your urn." No wonder Sange and his wife broke up--If the dude couldn't exhaust my urn, I would have dumped him too. Oh wait, he's talking about his coffee cup, and he's the one who dumped her.... my bad. But for truly awful writing, try this "The cacti / on the windowsill / will need water / in three more days." May the Gods of poetry smite Sange down for such lameness. May Adam Hardin be your best reader! My Todd Swift design your website! And may your sideburns eat your chin! Use this thread to either a) curse Gary Sange and the poem he rode in on or b) attempt to write an even flatter stanza than the one I just quoted.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Poetry's Biggest Tool

And the winner is (sound of a snare drum rolling).... Who the hell knows. Only about 15 of you peeps actually voted--despite my repeated pleas and the increasing traffic this blog is getting as a result of being listed as the top "hot site" at Exquisite Corpse (ooh, I feel so hot!) (Didn't that used to be a respected journal? They must have really sunk if they're linking to a site like this.) We had some nominations outside those I mentioned: Karen Volkman got a vote and Sarah Manguso got two. Joshua Clover and Todd Swift tied for the most mentions. Clover also received a comment from "Jorie" who informs us that his tool really isn't all that big (she should know, I suppose). Across the pond, it seems Mark Ford is known for toolish ways. So who knows--the competition is thick, and our readers (that's you) seem to be a pack of lazy bums.

Coming soon! I dug up another lost poet of the 70s, leaving us with two remaining. Also, a little bird has been enouraging me to snark Mr. Aaron "thanks Brenda!" McCollough. Ask and you shall receive!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

New Feature at the Snark

Oh we love you so much. So much that I bothered to update this blog's template to include a new feature: our handy list of "poets snarked." Want to see who we've gone after? Now it's all in one convenient list of links in the sidebar to the left.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Stunning Wankery from Canada: Todd the Swift

I'm not ready to crown a winner yet for our "Biggest Tool in Poetry" jubilee (see below), but I want to pause to note some truly stunning toolishness from one Todd the Swift. I wrote about this guy earlier when I described the Worst Anthology Ever -- which Swift helped edit -- a shit-heap declaring a new generation of "fusion poets" who unite the ever-chummy worlds of Anglophone poetry. In other words, Swifty Todd and his two-bit Canadian cronies were feeling a little penis envy toward their big brothers to the south, and, in an effort to imply that their mere presence in an anthology with American poets meant they were not really big-frog-in-a-small-pond wannabes, published Short Fuse, an anthology celebrating slam "poets" side-by-side with what the editors insist on calling "flat poets"--a phrase which I initially took to refer to lady poets with tiny boobs, but which turns out to mean all poets who are not slam poets. Only problem is: the sole American poet in this turd-tome who anyone has heard of is Ron Silliman, and Ron's not exact reserved about pimping his LangPoop.

I'm not kidding about this shit: go look at the book yourself. Well, now it turns out that Todd the Swift has a second anthology of Fusion poetry called Poetry Nation: The North American Anthology of Fusion Poets. Oh great, just what the poetry world needs: more "fusion" with Canadians. But there's one thing that publishing anthologies full of crap will do for you, which is earn you friends in low places. Like, for example, where Swift has a piece of spoken word voiced-over music, which harkens back to those halcyon days when beret-clad, proto-goth rebels would chant their verses over equally loathsome bongos and sitars. If you want to hear something that defines new depths of pretension and melodrama, go check it out.

But what's really stunning is Todd's website. This came up in our "Biggest Tool" thread, but I want to promote this on the front page so none of you miss this truly vomit-wrenching display of self-aggrandisement. It's called the "Official Web Site of Todd Swift" (where are the unofficial ones?) First of all, you know those little banners that news sites use to promote headlines? These are the things made to resemble ticker tape, where top stories or stock quotes will scroll by for your perusal. Well Swift has one to greet us at his site, and it reads: "'Philip Larkin, Dylan Thomas and Paul Muldoon rolled into one' -- Kevin Higgins." Yup, it's nice to know Todd has such a modest regard for himself. And who the fuck is Kevin Higgins? Somewhat below that, he has a moody-looking picture of himself clutching his hair with the caption "Portrait of the artist as a young man." At the top of the page, is another picture, this one apparently intended to remind us of the kind of genius Swift resembles: it's that famous picture of Orson Wells chewing on his pipe as he stares us down. On the left side of the page, we find links to pages of totally unknown people saying incredible things about his books. He manages to find flunkies to compare him to Wallace Stevens, Elizabeth Bishop, William Carlos Williams, and Allen Ginsberg, and he has the gall to publish the quotes from total unknowns in long catalogues
on his site. But Todd's a poet, so at least it's all for art, right? Lest we think Swift has anthing in mind but poetry, I'll leave you with this quote, also found on Todd's site: "Swift is at once both [sic] charming, witty and brilliantly razor-tongued, and would make the ideal radio guest or print media interview subject. Book him while you can!"

Don't forget to vote in our poll below.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Best One-line Snark Ever...

For sheer panache, Oscar Wilde has to hold the crown for the greatest single line of snark ever. Sure, he's only snarking interior design, but he gets major, major points since these were the last words he ever spoke. Oscar Wilde's final utterance:

"Either this wallpaper goes, or I do..."

Don't forget to vote in the poll below.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Who is Poetry's Biggest Tool?

Everyody likes a good poll, so here's one from Poetry Snark, to you, with love. Who is poetry's biggest suck-up? I'm not talking about the Power Brokers but the power-broker wannabes, the aspiring next generation of fingers-on-the-pulse academic cronies, puffing the pipe of worshipful conformism in the name of an inflated career. So who is the most snivelingly pathetic, butt-smooching, over-ranked young playa in poe-biz? I'm going to suggest a few contenders below. Vote for one of these, or suggest your own in the thread for this post. We'll crown the lucky winner in a week or so. My suggestions for the throne, in no particular order:

a) Brian Henry
b) Todd Swift
c) Aaron McCollough
d) Joshua Clover

Your choice? Your alternate nominee? Your tale of horror?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Babylon Ron

If you haven't done so already, you really need to check out Bill Blood's "comment" in the thread for this post. Seriously, you won't want to miss this one...

Ron Ikan
is sad sad sad... and so are we! Ron is our second-to-last Where Are They Now? Lost Poets of the 70s feature here at the Snark. I've been saving a good one for last, and then we will announce the anthology from which I stole these and propose a contest to see who will win it! Meanwhile, here's poor Ron Ikan, who has endured those sideburns since the age of 4, when his big sister, Lon Ikan, glued them there as a joke. The torture that ensued from the hazing he received from his preschool playmates turned Ron into a poet -- in time, a working man's poet -- full of mind-numbingly unmusical declarative sentences and ire toward the film industry. Well, you know what to do... I expect some good snark on this one, as there is only one left to go: what's the big R thinking in this photo? Posted by Hello

Monday, June 13, 2005

Guess Can't Gallop

The devolution of the example of Gertrude Stein is a sad thing to behold. Where Stein's work manifested a constant meditative attention to language and the nuances of its polysemy, today's Steinophiles present us with mechanical parades of puns. Where Stein's sense of humor was always more sexy and snarky and subtle than anyone around her -- recall her famous description of Ezra Pound as being "a village explainer, excellent if you are a village, but if you are not, not" -- today's Steinians come off as minor court wits, unwilling to offer anything vaguely threatening or pointed for fear that it might offend the ruling powers behind hiring committees and grant applications. And where Stein's poems ranged from the compressed gems of Tender Buttons to sprawling testaments to her endlessly generative imagination like The Geographical History of America and Stanzas in Meditation, today's Frankensteiner's are one-trick ponies riding their little rocking horses o'er the plains. Now along comes Brenda "squeaky" Hillman's pick for the New Issues Poetry Prize, Heidi Lynn Staples, and her book, Guess Can Gallop -- another Language Schoolish wet kiss to Stein's sense of wordplay and linguistic phenomenology -- but this horse don't run; the "guess" here plods instead of gallops. We get poems of substitution not concentration, of jokiness not real wit (that is to say, intelligence accompanying language), and the imagination at work is a tepid wallflower of safety and routine.

Heidi Lynn's staple device in Can't Gallop is a simple one: take a normal, dick-and-jane sentence and substitute homonyms or sound-alike portmanteau words for the original ones, then line up said substitutions in arbitrary sequences. So we get groaner after groaner like: "
Somethings he forgets what is a Fish; / The others joke that he is hard of Herring." We get faux metaphysics: "The zero was where anyone is. None by none, / worlds grew off, and that should have told me / somebody." And we get a monotonous stream of colloquialisms put through the wringer of cookie-cutter sound associations like: "coming up for err," "it was her whirred against mine," and "our father who arts in thieving." I'm not kidding -- her linguistic "play" is that obvious and simple-minded. Yet Joyelle McSweeney at The Constant Ass-kissing calls Staples' technique in these poems "Shakespearean," Deanne Lundin claims she "skirts the unspeakable," and LangPo's least amusing hack, Charles Bernstein, heralds her "relentless pursuit of swerving meaning." This is what poetry criticism has come to in this country: somebody manages to publish her extended poetic knock-knock jokes in a book, and we're told to compare it to Shakespeare... Yeah, right. "Skirts the unspeakable," "Shakespearean." Gotcha.

Heidi's lint staples can't even hold down the dust. Too right in this tile is a Pisa cake. You jest-steak sum words an you no watt two due: change them too wons that sound like the wands you had be fore, butt which mine different things.

So here's to you High-D Ho! As a poet, you are a tedious pun-pusher, but I'll say this much for you: I'll bet you would make a formidable player of corny word games. May I never cross your path in a Mad Lib tournament. You would kick my ass.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Live Snark: A Brief Look at Heckling

Whenever people discuss poetry slams, they most often talk about the mediocrity &/or freshness of the poets, the scoring system and how slams have opened up the medium to a wider audience. No one really gets on about the hecklers, some of which are better than the poets they heckle at one liners, inventive metaphor and performance. So, here is a little something for the hecklers, those snarling dogs in the audience.

One reason there may not be much talk about the hecklers is because often the audience cannot hear them nearly as well as the poet on the stage can and very few poets are going to recount what sort of punishment they have been given. Also, despite slam's supposed encouragement of heckling, most audience members still have the dated notion that all poetry readings should be quiet and respectful. It is as if people in general have forgotten that poetry can be exhilirating like the chanting of "more, more, more" at Ginsberg's reading of "Howl".

The best hecklers riff off the words of the poet/performer on stage, turning their words against them in witty retorts or caustic challenges. There is an art to heckling that the white-caps and the dullards do not understand, a quality that goes beyond booing, barking, guffawing and insult. Much like the art of the come-back, heckling requires a quick trigger and a boldness.

It is difficult to capture the essence of live snark. Imagine reciting a poem on a stage with a couple of beers in your gut before an audience of about 60 people and someone throws out a line that is funny and better than one of your important lines. Can be a pretty soul-crushing experience. A good slam poet will either improvise or keep going though some people turn tail and run, which is part of the reason for allowing heckling. It gives the audience the opportunity to rid themselves of something that is not worth their time. A great moment is when a slammer will abandon their poem to direct their poetic chops at a heckler much like a comedian dueling with an audience member. In this sense, slams and comedy shows are not much different.

Please use this thread to tell us about any live snark action you have witnessed or engaged in. In the future we will have more reports on this phenomenon.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Peter Cooley is an Intense Little Dude

This guy is just "famous" enough to not qualify for our "Where Are They Now?" series, which is to say, I have at least heard of him. I have no idea what his poems are like, except for the ones in this anthology, which seem to be about mummies and grizzly bears. Whatever. We at Poetry Snark think Peter Cooley is an intense little dude. What's behind that stare? Use this thread to tell us what you imagine is going on inside the mind of Peter Cooley. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Giving Samuel Menashe the Fork

The Library of America is well-known for putting out travesties of collections such as their selected poems of Ezra Pound as well as work by poets that may seem to be of some interest to some folks who read poetry but mostly for the wrong reasons. Coming October is another waste of paper, the selected poems, edited by Christopher Ricks, of Samuel Menashe, as if a living poet unheard of, excepting but a handful of poets, needs a collected and at least a couple of selecteds. If he lives long enough, he will become the only one of two writers to be published by the LOA when alive (the other was the infinitely more talented Saul Bellow).

Sam is an old poet and has lived in New York City for most of his life. It is refreshing to note that the man does not use a typewriter or a computer but writes by hand with his trusty pen. Indeed, an NY Times article from October 2003 expresses the temptation to "regard Mr. Menashe as an heirloom from a more colorful era." But what good is an heirloom if the whole family is dead? One of the last of the poets who fought in WWII, Menashe is most definitely a fossil but hardly one worth saving. Even when the lightness of his verse delves to address headier subjects like Judeo-Christian mythos or the nuances of simple living, his poetry is as inspired as the classroom assignments of stoned middle schooler. Here is an example taken from the current issue of Poetry, that fortress of mixed emotions and questionable taste:


My father drummed darkness
Through the underbrush
Until lightning struck

I take after him

Clouds crowd the sky
Around me as I run
Downhill on a high---
I am my mother's son
Born long ago
In the storm's eye

Let us take a look at this poem. It would seem this is an Oedipal poem about birth and sex. The father has sex with the mother until conception. Either the speaker takes after the father by pursuing the mother or that he at least gets it on, and as he gets down, he gets high as in he's in the clouds. The poem ends with a reminder that we are born by "descending" (coming down the ancestral tree through our parents or as a fertilized egg from momma's ovaries) from the clouds of the storm where daddy's hammer struck.

What a load of shit. This story was better when it was called Greek mythology in all of its glory. Unfortunately, Menashe's poetry often harks back to a simple clarity of word & sound in the hope that it might be forgiven for its hackneyed subject matter, its poor unimaginative attempts at metaphors (metaphors beautiful captured by the world's many mythologies). Samuel Menashe is a hack. It is little surprise that the two champions of dumbed-down poetics, Dana Gioia and Billy Collins, sing his praises. Without a hint of irony, Menashe is self-described as "an accidental bohemian", which Gioia eats up, claiming that Menashe is "a throwback, preferring not to teach or to work at a literary publication," as if that makes one a bohemian. It just means Menashe prefers other kinds of work (though he did teach briefly) which is true of most poets despite what so-called current conventional wisdom would have you believe. If being relatively ascetic (poor?) in a small apartment doing odd jobs is bohemian, then students, indie rock kids, not to mention entire enclaves of select minorities and a good percentage of the urban middle class are bohemian.

Menashe is another example of a forgettable poet that won't be forgotten, not just yet. But here's to sticking a fork in this guy, hoping that the dreaded bad poetry hydra is fresh out of sprouts.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Agent Trochee Presents: Tribute to the Snark of Lord Byron

George Gordon, better known to us as Lord Byron, self-published his first book, Hours of Idleness, in 1807, when he was 19 years old. This early collection was given a dismissive (some would say, savage) review in The Edinburgh Review (click here for an excerpt). The masterful snark penned anonymously by one Henry Brougham (who, in 1816, was the equivalent of Lady Byron's divorce lawyer) begins:

The poesy of this young lord belongs to a class which neither gods nor men
are said to permit. Indeed, we do not recollect to have seen a quantity of
verse with so few deviations in either direction from that exact standard.
His effusions are spread over a dead flat, and can no more get above or
below the level, than if they were so much stagnant water.

That is some good hearty snark.

Byron at the time was working on a satire entitled British Bards but the review got him hot and bothered - he renamed and reworked what was to become his first major poem, English Bards and Scotch Reviewers. This spectacular example of [counter-]snark, with great force of wit and vituperation, takes shots at a large number of contemporary and past poets and critics including William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Alexander Pope (who was his poetic hero and model) and Robert Southey (whom he despised). Let me leave you with an excerpt from the poem:

Next comes the dull disciple of thy school,
That mild apostate from poetic rule,
The simple Wordsworth, framer of a lay
As soft as evening in his favourite May;
Who warns his friend "to shake off toil and trouble,
And quit his books, for fear of growing double";
Who, both by precept and example, shows
That prose is verse, and verse is merely prose,
Convincing all by demonstration plain,
Poetic souls delight in prose insane;
And Christmas stories tortured into rhyme,
Contain the essence of the true sublime:
Thus when he tells the tale of Betty Foy,
The idiot mother of "an Idiot Boy";
A moon-struck silly lad who lost his way,
And, like his Bard, confounded night with day,
So close on each pathetic part he dwells,
And each adventure so sublimely tells,
That all who view the "idiot in his glory,"
Conceive the Bard the hero of the story.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

More Lame Snark: The Chronicle's Hit Piece on Foetry

OK, it's not really snark--it's trying to be serious criticism--but it is lame. Two people who I've never heard of have taken it upon themselves to make this pronouncement about Foetry in the Chronicle of Higher Education: "we need to carefully consider how we arrived, as a culture of creative people, at a moment in which a Web site as reprehensible as Foetry would find an audience at all."

Give me a fucking break. Oh, we're such a "culture of creative people," let's feel really superior now as we contemplate how reprehensible Foetry is. Oh that foul beast! I sniff upon Foetry and their recommendation that poetry contests do the same thing we are recommending they do! The careers they've ruined! The sterling reputations they've cast into utter disarray! How will these contest judges survive such ignominy? A pox upon Foetry! The Chronicle of Higher Education hath uttered its decree.

And I thought Foetry took itself too seriously. Foetry is guilty of some things: occasional self-pity and whinyness are two that come to mind. But at least Foetry doesn't ponder a question as stupid as why a site exposing fraudulent contests has gained an audience. Let me give "Casteen the Fourth" (that's his real name!) and Genoways a clue about why Foetry became popular: because cheating people out of their money sucks ass! Asking why Foetry found an audience is either staggeringly naive or snivelingly pompous, depending on whether these two really believe in what they're saying. A far better question than why Foetry is widely read is why officially-sanctioned academic outlets like the Chronicle are only now acknowledging the stench that's been under their noses. Maybe if organizations like A.W.P. and the Chronicle of Higher Education had been doing their jobs in the first place, Foetry wouldn't have gained the audience that so astonishes these two writers.