Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Lost Poets of the 70s: The Anthology

Yup, the time has arrived. I've drawn this out long enough, I'm sure you'll agree, and now it's time to reveal the name of the "Lost Poets of the 70s" anthology. In a way, this is the book that started Poetry Snark. The original idea came when I saw some of these photos and thought it would be amusing to post them to a blog with commentary. I came up with the name "Poetry Snark" and was shocked that no one had taken it. A phone call to a friend (Trochee) provided me with enough enthusiasm to try it, and the day after the site went up, Foetry linked to us -- how they found us so soon, I have no idea. I'm uneasy about the Foetry crowd, who have sometimes tried to turn this site into Foetry 2.0. But Barron and others have said some pretty hilarious shit, and the hits that link provided really started the site. Now dozens of sites link to us and even now, in semi-hiatus, we still get hundreds of hits a day, totaling around 17,000. In about three months we've had 8,157 unique visitors and 3,532 of you keep coming back for more. I get about an even amount of hate and fan mail. I would like to keep going, and I would like more snarkers on board, so please email me with your comments. Is it worth it? Is it funny? Should I keep snarking on? It's more work than I thought, continuing to come up with snark and keep up with the rest of my life. Let me know what you think in this thread.

But you wanted to know the name of the anthology, not the history of Poetry Snark. It's called New Voices in American Poetry, edited by David Allan Evans and published by Winthrop Press. You may recognize Evans' name from this post, where we snarked his magnum opus "Ford Pickup." Yes, mistuh Evans is one of those editors who feels fit to include himself in his own anthology, which might be forgivable if he was a good editor and poet. As the "Lost Poets" posts have amply demonstrated, he's not. At all. Not even a little bit. Perhaps I owe Todd Swift an apology. This anthology -- and not his Short Fuse: A Global Anthology of New Fusion Poetry -- is probably the worst poetry anthology ever.

Would you like to be the proud new owner of the "Lost Poets" anthology?

Send me your snark. You can post it to this thread, or email it to me directly at poetrysnark@gmail.com. Whoever comes up with the funniest snark, gets the anthology -- I'll even pay for the postage. Any snark received is subject to front page posting. C'mon, snarkers, there's got to be some deserving targets you'd like to nail. Bring out the hammer.

Sunday, July 24, 2005


update: MWB reminds me that I've promised to reveal the name of the anthology for the Lost Poets of the 70s. I will keep that promise in the next day or two, when I return to my apartment and my books.

I'm going on a temporary hiatus to catch up with work and take care of some personal business. I'm not sure what our other posters are up to (we live in different cities), but they're welcome to post and indeed I hope they keep things going. I may check back in from time to time, and if anything really snarkworthy comes my way, I'll be on it. Meanwhile, if anyone cares to, you can use this as an open thread to say whatever you want. Viva Poetry Snark!

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Where Are They Now? Lost Poets of the 70's: J.D. Whitney's Bad Ass Handlebars

Well, this may be it, folks. There are some unsnarked photos in the anthology still, but I don't know if any of them fit the bill for our "Lost Poets" series. I've been loathing posting the last of these, because it's by far our most popular feature here at the Snark, and I have no idea what I'll replace it with. Lost poets of the 80s? Anybody got an anthology with some good pictures? Anyway, on to today's bard: J.D. Whitney.

J.D. is short for Jack Daniels Whitney. He was kicked out of the Hell's Angels for tatooing a crown of sonnets onto a fellow Angel's back while he slept. They would have let it slide, but the sonnets employed too many metrical exceptions and didn't even rhyme (most bikers are "New Formalists"). Downtrodden, J.D. took a job with the cast of Lavern and Shirley as Lenny's stunt double. But the job didn't allow enough creative freedom, and Squiggy was a real dick. So Whitey quit and took to the road on his chopper with a knapsack full of verse and a bad attitude. Arrested in Boise for ripping off a liquor store while reciting Keats, J.D. wrote this poem from prision, where he languishes, reliving those halcyon days of hot poetry groupies and the long open road.

I'm counting on all our fearless snarkers to chip in on this one. Please explicate J.D.'s masterpiece for us, and while you're at it, what do you think was on his mind when this photo was taken? Or when he decided to use is as his author photo in the anthology?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Title Snark: Mark Levine Responds

You produce quality snark so that I don’t have to. From the comments section of our “title snark” post. Enjoy!

How about ENOLA GAY?

It has a sort of lyrical fingering underscoring its tragic occasion.

I wanted to get across the inherent minty pellet of the apocalypse and I think I really scored. You should read this book, I broke a lot of ground, and, not to be to, well, full of myself-- but fucking EVERYONE started ripping me and MY post-nuclear holocaust poem-flavorings off.

I mean ENOLA GAY was someone's mom And ALOT of my poems are mommy poems-- dear mommy-wommy tommy ate a tomato wire and tried and tried to sing with his mouth but his mouth wouldn't open and his shirt was sewn around his army-warmies and then for the seventh night I tried to fuck a mommy-smelling girl who luvy-wuvied me-we.

My next book will be great.

It's called: THE WILDS.

Because I go wild with my poems.

Just like the title says.

Mark Levine

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Title Snark: A Brief Taxonomy

I'm at a couple of friends' apartment right now, and boy do these two have a lot of poetry on their shelves. I wanted to try to sneak in some quick snark while I'm on the road, but since I don't have time to actually read some of these (almost certainly awful) books of poetry, I thought that I would engage in some of that ever-popular past-time--judging books by their cover (or at least their titles). So I've composed this list for your snarking pleasure. Check it out, and then add your own "title snark" to the list in the comments section.

The pretentious one-word title. Everybody's favorite poetry-Diva, J.G., is the great abuser of this type of title. Examples: Materialism, Swarm, Never, etc... But it's a very popular mode of poetry titling: think of a vague, one-word abstraction and let it ride! Worst example on the bookshelf here? John Ciardi's Echoes.

The unintentionally honest title. Plenty of example for this one, like Distracted by Jalal Toufic. But the best by far is the title of this anthology, edited by Libbie Rifkin: Career Moves.

The title of the ungrammatical adjective. Nothing seems to delight poets more than titling a poem with a freshly-construed pseudo-adjective. Why this is so, I haven't the slightest clue. But there are several here: The To Sound by Eric Baus, Regarding Wave by Gary Snyder, Monkey Time by Philip Nikolayev. But the worst one has got to be The Heat Bird by Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge.

The title as instruction to the reader. Relatively rare, this species of title nevertheless offers some particularly egregious examples of badness. Worst example on the bookshelf? Hugh Prather's Wipe Your Face, You Just Swallowed My Soul.

Finally, I offer the "title that makes use of unusual punctuation marks." Although not as bad about this as po-mo academics, there have been some poets who've succumbed. This one is also the worst title overall, the grand prize winner, the lamest, most laughable title I can find right now: (W)holes by Cynthia MacDonald.

Can you top it?

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Coming soon...

Sorry about the lack of posts. I've been traveling--will be back with some fresh snark soon.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

I Never Really Liked Ezra Pound

A lot of people I know like Ezra Pound. I never really liked Ezra Pound.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Albert Goldbarth's Bad Hair Decade

"Maybe if I sit here long enough, someone will mistake me for 'The Thinker.'"

You know what to do, fearless snarkophiles--what was Albert Goldbarth pondering when this photo was taken?

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Open Letter to the Editors of Poetry (Chicago)

Dear Editors:

The wonderful thing about poetry is that there are all kinds. Different strokes for different folks. Jorie Graham in conversation with Mark Wunderlich says:

[T]here have always been different kinds of poetry written at any
given moment — what I refer to, sometimes, as an AM track and
an FM track — and a culture needs variety. Some poets are writing
an easy-listening kind of poem — it doesn’t interest me particularly,
but it does interest a large readership. It moves them. They have a
right to be so moved. And those poetries shouldn’t be constantly
compared to poetries that have other aims, other ambitions. No one
accuses rock music of not being jazz, or opera.

Even so, we still aim to raise some poetry above the rest, poetry we feel is stronger, more resonant…better. Taste is a strange beast one must wrestle often in the halls of poetry in getting from one end to the other but many of us have by now learned some tricks, some moves, some methods by which to wrestle taste. Taste, in the collective sense, is like any body of people rich with a range of perspectives; poetry’s singular audience idealistically is anyone who can hear or read but ultimately is broken down according to any number of rubrics dealing with camps, content, tone and whatnot. The worst of the bunch fall by the wayside, maybe are voiced in coffeeshops or written on high school toilet stalls, maybe published in obscure magazines or contentious blogs. We know these unfortunate poetic experiments are no good, even failures, because they lack the vigor, the excitement, the electricity that we hope to get from poetry. Even when a poem does not stun, we hope that it will surprise, interest, tickle, flirt, explain, something/anything. We, the audience, are often drawn to poetry not for its difficulty or its simplicity but because it is a heightened language, because it does more than what we do with everyday speech. We often desire poetry that cannot be written by just anyone but by that poet.

Billy Collins, a knight of the School of Quietude, has become a posterboy for much disparagement. Collins is not my cup of tea but he has written plenty of poems that I consider good, witty and energetic. I don’t know that his work will last into the ages but for now his sardonic humor and his plainspoken ruminations do a few tricks we can all appreciate in the moment. There are plenty of things to disagree with when it comes to Collins the poet, Collins the laureate, Collins the anthologist, but this will happen with any writer. Collins is a busy man and I have noticed that even for a wordsmith willing to risk dull metaphor & trite imagery, he seems to be slipping off the edge of what is good even for grouptaste and into the bin of group therapy wankery. Even Frank O’Hara worked on multiple drafts of his best work; his drawers were filled with one-offs, many of which should never have seen print but his spontaneity in the midst of a busy existence yielded a few gems; the rough edges were polished on many of them and put in volumes that many of us still praise & love even on these hot summer days. Collins seems to be too busy to polish what could be good poems, falling prey to the pressure to produce that being a populist poet laureate apparently produces. I am all for plain speech in poetry; I am all too happy to accept work that is commonplace in its approach but to serve up poetry that lacks any zip, poetry that could have been written by a ten year old (check out Ron Silliman’s blog entry on June 29 for more on this), well, that is just poor taste and bad editing. Your publication of Collins’s “Silence” in the April 2005 issue of Poetry is a fine example of lazy poetry, poetry that should not grace the pages of a journal that has been home to excellent poems like David Wojahn’s “Stalin’s Library Card” (excerpt), Frank Bidart’s “”In the Third Hour of the Night” (excerpt), even Collins’s own “Writing in the Afterlife”. In the interest of serving the readers’ interests and maintaining the quality of Poetry, I offer my own “Silence”, one that might be better or worse according to your taste; whatever the case, you will find that it is pretty much the same.


There is the rush of silence tamping
the child as he hits the pavement,
and the silence of the sniper.

The silence of the girl
after her father leaves the bedroom,
the silence of the house when it is not a home.

The stillness of the car and the driver beside it,
the silence of the bar after closing
and the mute sun passing over the dim day’s din.

The silence of the telephone
and the surrounding hours,
the silence on the other end

when you finally call;
one silence broken
with news of another —

on the news they say it was a robbery
but I know you were shot for not keeping your mouth shut,
silence a gift you did not have but were given.

Austin TX
July 1, 2005