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 Salon.com, 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!"
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