Earl Gray

Earl Gray
"You can argue with me but, in the end, you'll have to face that fact that you're arguing with a squirrel." - Earl Gray

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Poetry Out Loud

The death of Dylan Thomas in 1953 wasn't just the conclusion of an illustrious career. It marked the end of a bardic tradition of "professional" poetry performers that stretched back to the dawn of language itself. Yes, we still have Shakespearean theatre but very few people living today have seen a professionally performed narrative or lyric poem. This becomes immediately obvious to anyone who has spent time on YouTube watching anesthetic readers and hysterical attention-seekers. Like basketball nets being lowered in Lilliput, many modernists have adjusted to this by producing poems without performance in mind.

Along comes "Poetry Out Loud", a project jointly sponsored by the Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. If you read this blog regularly you know that we here at Commercial Poetry are enthusiastic supporters of this initiative. It is a rare instance where these organizations are reaching out to the general public.

Some have criticized these two organizations for forming a "monopoly" in deciding which poems are selectable. This is ridiculous. For starters, it's their contest! Who else could or should be responsible for setting conditions? As for them being a "monopoly", it isn't like we're talking about OPEC controlling a commodity over which the world clamors. We're talking about something that all-too-often puts the general public to sleep. We're talking about monotony, not monopoly. Finally, no one would be happier than these two organizations, both of which support The Academy of American Poets, to see more sources pouring money into poetry, more groups running contests like this--more competition conducting more competitions. Does that sound like a "monopoly" to you?

All of that said, I do have a few reservations and suggestions.


The rules and Tips on Reciting reflect the reality of a generation that has never seen a professional performance of lyric or narrative poetry. Participants are warned against too much--but not too little--gesture, dramatization and emoting. They do mention the need to sound "natural" but, in light of the readings posted to their home sites, we have to wonder if their idea of "natural" coincides with ours. Nowhere in the "Tips on Reciting" do we see the goal of creating the illusion that the poem is being made up on the fly (see "owning" the words, Performance Arts 101, Lesson 1, Page 1).

I appreciate the requirement to present only published, critically acclaimed poems; otherwise, Poetry Out Loud would be duplicating the slam experience, more or less. One of the sponsors, the NEA, is not specific to poetry and the other, the Poetry Foundation, has pointedly ignored--some might say disdained-- presentation poetry in toto. This may be like having the Superbowl organized by the International Olympic Committee and the National Basketball Association, but let's not dwell on the incongruity that this is a recitation contest run by the [kind of] people who gave us the poetry reading.

To me, the issue isn't so much that a government authority, the NEA, and a vested interest, the Poetry Foundation, are choosing the menu. The Canadian version, "Poetry in Voice", is run by an individual, Scott Griffin, and his private foundation, yet the selections are almost identical. In my mind, it's a matter of qualifications specific to presentation poetry. One wonders how many of the organizers have much experience facing an audience while reciting a poem from memory.

Oh, and why do they use the verb "reciting" exclusively, as opposed to "performing"?


  1. In addition to the poems chosen by the competitors, there should be a compulsory: one poem that all participants must perform--sorry, recite--so that the judges can concentrate strictly on delivery, comparing apples with apples.
  2. Don't select the best poems. Select the best poems for performance. Otherwise, we're playing football with a watermelon. For example, "Anecdote of the Jar" by Wallace Stevens is a fine poem to read and study off the page. Lacking pace, buildup, climax and resolution, though, it has no place in a presentation competition. There is a reason why these works are read aloud but never performed, even by their authors.
  3. Consult with those who perform/recite poems, not to be confused with those who read them aloud. Obviously, performers are bound to have a better idea as to which contemporary poems do and do not have performance value.
  4. Track the choices made by the players, replacing pieces that were eschewed the previous year. Over time, the mixture can reflect the practical picks made by the entrants.
The contest began in 2006. We need to be patient as it irons out the bugs and is able to define itself.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Performers: The Rhymer

Behold an excellent job done in "Mark Grist on Girls who read". The voice is natural, so much so that it might be difficult for many of us to perceive where his introduction stops and the poem begins. He uses hand and facial gestures well. In short and aside from the objections mentioned below, he is utterly believable as a person being interviewed in an informal setting.

We see three flaws that are common among slammers:

  1. he talks too fast, a bad habit probably picked up while trying to make time limits at slams and open mics;

  2. his cadence/meter is off and his sonics nonexistent, giving the piece a pop-up rhyming prose effect; and,

  3. his rhymes, while subtle in places, are too glaring for a piece that is at least semi-serious. That is, they tend to be perfect rhymes and too close throughout.

Note that the latter two refer to the writing rather than to the performance per se. Nevertheless, he is the author, writing with an eye toward that performance, and should understand that poor rhythm and proximate moon-june rhymes are going to protrude on the stage.

All of that said, this is the best presentation by far and thus far in this series.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Writing Postmodern Poetry

While counterintuitive to some naive souls, this is a procedure that, if strictly followed, should get you through the modern poetry module of any English, MFA or Creative Writing course. The key is to write your poems two at a time. To wit:

1. Take two unrelated autobiographies or philosophy texts.

2. Turn to page 43 of each book.

3. Highlight any sentences or phrases that baffle or annoy you.

4. Copy these until you have a found poem [that should have stayed lost].

5. Repeat #3 and #4 using page 77 from each tome to create a second poem.

6. Using the Computer Assisted Translation ("CAT") program of your choice, translate the two poems into a second language of your choice.

7. Again using a CAT, translate them back into English.

8. Repeat #6 and #7, using a different language, until the syntax is sufficiently distorted.

9. If any foreign words linger, leave them in place for that je ne sais quoi effect.

10. Insert linebreaks at random.

11. Remove 75% of the periods, replacing them with conjunctions, semicolons or em dashes.

12. If the poem is boring, replace the remaining 25% of the periods with exclamation marks.

13. Switch the last sentences of your two poems.

14. Scan to ensure that no string of 8 or more syllables forms a pattern.

15. Try to employ all 44 sounds in the English language before repeating any.

16. Spell check.

17. Resist any temptation to grammar check.

18. Eschew adjectives, adverbs, footnotes, preambles, plotlines, deconstruction or deodorant.

19. Submit the less coherent of your two poems.

20. Report your results here. You owe that much to science.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


When people say that poetry is dead they aren't referring to its production, which is at an all time high, nor do they mean poetry in toto. They mean that no one reads serious poetry. Humorous verse is still with us, as evident in glossies ranging from "Playboy" to "The Readers Digest". In fact, other than Dr. Seuss nursery rhymes, the only iconic poem of the last fifty years is that limerick about a man from Nantucket.

To be clear, humorous verse is metrical poetry, a subset of "light verse". As Billy Collins reminds us so many times, free verse humor sounds like clumsy, stuttering schtick.

Samuel Johnson once said that the pun is "the lowest form of humor". That sounds like a perfect demarcation line:

  • If you want anyone to read your poetry it must be at least as funny as a pun.

  • If you want your work to be ignored by everyone except friends whose work is being ignored by everyone else, your poem has to be no funnier than a play on words. Most poets today stay well below that line, preferring wit, allusion and the occasional double entendre. Clever, not funny, is their byword.

Before WWI, authors, including poets, toured the country as "entertainers". Part of their role was that of a standup comedian. Most poets today are the direct antithesis: shy, text-oriented, serious, sedentary. Few can tell an amusing anecdote at a party; writing and performing a knee-slapper at a gathering would be unthinkable.

Some examples:

  1. Talking with Woods on a Frosty Evening:

    This parody of "Stopping by Woods On A Snowy Evening" may be successful with poetry's existing audience, less so with others. You might be surprised and chagrined to discover how few young people know who Robert Frost was. Robert Frost, no less!

  2. The Evolution of Buffalo Wings: This one deals with adult themes.

    Watch more standup comedy. If you can't think of a joke, steal one (as this author did).

  3. Why the Queen missed Obama's Inauguration: This one comes with a Language Warning.

    Have you ever wondered why the Queen of England doesn't come to the inauguration ceremonies of U.S. Presidents? It can't be the 1776 thing; no one carries a grudge for 332 years. No, it must be a security problem with so many in the entourage. Imagine the Secret Service agents drawing lots to see who protects whom.

    "Damn, I got the one with the ears," complains the first agent, "and there's a stiff breeze. I'll have to spend the day making sure he doesn't fly off."

    Another guard looks at his pick, groans, and then offers: "I'll trade mine for Dumbo!"

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Poetry without Originality or Technique?

"Whatever is too stupid to say can be sung."

- Joseph Addison (1672-1719)

All of us understand that poetry is not a matter of what we say but how we say it. Typically, this involves a mixture of original expression and poetic technique. Can we have poetry lacking one or both of these?


Let's start with an absence of novel expression. As Addison pointed out three centuries ago, most song lyrics would certainly qualify. We'll confine our discussion to the written or spoken word, though.

The Cliché Collage

Take a look at Elegy for Eva:

The story is certainly a poignant one. In terms of technique and form the elegy is reasonably competent iambic pentameter. If those expressions seem familiar to you it's because they are the titles of some of the songs that Eva Cassidy covered during her all-too-brief career. We call this collection of set phrases a "cliché collage". The hypertext, as published in "November Sky Poetry", allows the reader to click on those titles and, barring broken links, bring up videos of Eva playing those tunes:

It's true you've changed. You are at the dark end
of the street
now. If there is time after time
I'll meet with you not here in fields of gold
canola, not by the old barquero's boat,
not where the water is wide at river's bend,
not under those tall trees. In Georgia? I'm
resigned to joining you beyond the cold
and tears, in heaven (if fate will grace us both).

In the early morning, rain reminds songbirds
that summertime is over. The rainbow is swept
away with autumn leaves. Every color wades
into your blue eyes. Crying in the rain
dilutes the drops from cheek to cheek like words
forgotten yesterday, like vows unkept
or curses in a fever that soon fades.
A red, red rose is all that may remain.

How can I keep from singing "Kathy's Song"?
It has the drizzling rain, the street and you.
I read the letter, where you wrote that time
is a healer
, death a nightbird at your door,
but these two cures are taking far too long.
At least I can imagine drinks will do,
at last, what can't be done by notes and rhyme.
Perhaps it doesn't matter any more.

Now let's look at an absence of original language and poetic technique:

The Reverser:

We had poetry long before prosody. Preliterate societies developed the latter largely to preserve the former [in memory]. Consider "Lost Generation" by "metroamv" (Jonathan Reed):

IMHO, there isn't an iota of original language or poetic technique in any of the text. If you find this rant a somewhat pleasurable viewing experience, as I did, the issue moves to the nature of that enjoyment. Was it a matter of saying:

  1. "...that was fun. Moving along now." Or,

  2. "...that was fun. If a person had the time and energy he or she might like to memorize it...maybe even perform it."

#1 is the prose experience, #2 the poetic.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Great Poems of Our Time: "There are Sunflowers in Italy"

This series ends with a controversial choice. "There are Sunflowers in Italy" is what has been dubbed a "filler and killer" poem: one great sentence, line or phrase with an unremarkable supporting cast. Say what we might about the rest of the poem, this one contains what I believe to be the finest single sentence written this century:

You wrote your verses
with your veins,
cold against the wall.

The iambs, complete with a lame one where the comma serves as the unstressed syllable, are remarkable. The assonance of long "o" and "a" sounds, the line-ending alliteration of "verses" and "veins", the off-rhyme of "veins" and "against", and the repetition of "r" sounds form a technical tour de force, adding to the brilliance of the already stunning metaphor. Even Peter John Ross was struck by this excerpt.

My friend's no-punches-pulled account of discovering this diamond is the funniest Skype call I've ever gotten. I was laughing so hard when he got to the part where he was explaining the metaphor to its author that I had to stop him to catch my breath. In the interest of decorum and diplomacy, I'm going to relate a sanitized version of his account.

My buddy prefaces his tale with the point that this poet will not grace the pages of "The Atlantic Monthly" any time soon. When my friend saw other works by the same poet he shook his head and muttered something about 100 chimpanzees with typewriters. He reported that he had stumbled across "There are Sunflowers in Italy" on Francis Ford Coppola's quirky novice online poetry workshop, "Zoetrope" in December of 2003. (To be fair, Zoetrope's fiction and screenwriting fora cater to some fine, professional quality writers.)

Actually, "There are Sunflowers in Italy" isn't just any fluke. It was originally posted in Spanish. This was an example of poetry being found in the translation. Only when rendered in English did the brilliance emerge. Ignoring all advice to the contrary, the author never submitted this work anywhere. As far as I know, aside from a version posted on her blog years ago, the piece remains unpublished.

Personally, I don't care what other poems the author has written. If we are to draw any inference from these verses beyond their individual merits let it be that, to me, poetry is about poems, not poets. That is the same answer I would give to those who notice, as I did only after making my selections, that all five poems honored here happen to have been written by women.

Thus ends this series of masterful poems that I believe might appeal to an audience--not a reader but an audience--comprised of people beyond the poetry worlds. I stopped at five so as not to overwhelm a newcomer. If you have encountered poems of this ilk please don't hesitate to let us know about them.

  1. "Studying Savonarola" by Margaret A. Griffiths
  2. "Beans" by D. P. Kristalo
  3. "Antiblurb" by A. E. Stallings
  4. "How Aimée remembers Jaguar" by Eric Hopson
  5. "There Are Sunflowers in Italy" by Didi Menendez
  6. "Auditing the Heart" by Frank Matagrano

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Great Poems of Our Time: "How Aimée remembers Jaguar"

How Aimee remembers Jaguar (Erin Hopson) on Vimeo.

To sustain a loss without sinking under it: How Aimée remembers Jaguar

For Felice Schragenheim and Lilly Wust

I. Sepia
photographs of women whose lips rejected
the stretched curve of smiles, instead waited,
plump and teasing. It was better if water clung
to pinned curls, trickled and pooled in gullies.
Cattails should fringe the water's edge.

II. Afternoon
teas that smell of fruit and spice, when brewing
produce more steam than common kinds. See
how stunning an iris in a chipped vase looks.
Add lemon scones and clink of cups held by hands
whose touch caused fires just that morning.

III. Sheets
sink into the spaces between knees, brush bottoms
of feet. The softest parts pursue something equal
to spoon, fingers trace patterns over smooth
and slick terrain. How pliable, the chasm between lovers
where welcome linen soothes the burn.

IV. Dancing
with head rested on satin covered shoulder
the smell of war and sweat is more palatable.
Dizzying twirl and liquor makes the laughter
of fleeing friends less harsh. This was the only place
where women could whisper their true names.

V. On Outings
there would have been sadness. One used to carry
the blanket and one the wicker basket. With only this set,
comparing the size of footprints is less important.
Beyond the cattails, ash and soot cling to the pond,
but comfort is in the scent of spice and fruits and smoke.

This is the first of two poems brought to our attention in an article posted on Poets.org. Both are happy accidents, written by newcomers to the art form.

As good as it is, this ekphrastic piece gets better after we view the underlying movie, Max Färberböck's "Aimée & Jaguar", about four friends/lovers in 1930s Berlin, hiding away from Nazis and husbands;  decades later, the three survivors gather to remember Jaguar, who became a holocaust victim.

As the story goes, newcomer Erin Hopson posted this on Gazebo in 2007. Critics raved about it, calling it "award-winning writing". Four years later Erin had completed a college degree but had never submitted the poem anywhere. Last year, someone who had seen the poem on Gazebo showed TheHyperTexts editor Mike Burch a copy of it. The author was tracked down and the rest, as they say, is history.

I would be hard pressed to think of a poem that combines sensuality and sadness as well as this. The sonics are wonderful, underpinned by a sexy sibillance throughout. Here are some examples of effective sound repetitions:

  • "rejected...stretched"
  • "fruit...brewing...produce"
  • "common kinds"
  • "Sheets...between knees...feet."
  • "between...where welcome"
  • "more steam than common"
  • "covered shoulder"
  • "was...where women could whisper"
  • "blanket...basket"
  • "important. Beyond...pond"

     While not as strong as "Studying Savonarola", the rhythms are very good, including an iambic pentameter coda: "...is in the scent of spice and fruits and smoke." Its performance potential is unlimited.

Next: "There are Sunflowers in Italy"
  1. "Studying Savonarola" by Margaret A. Griffiths
  2. "Beans" by D. P. Kristalo
  3. "Antiblurb" by A. E. Stallings
  4. "How Aimée remembers Jaguar" by Eric Hopson
  5. "There Are Sunflowers in Italy" by Didi Menendez
  6. "Auditing the Heart" by Frank Matagrano 

Great Poems of Our Time: "Antiblurb"

No one who knows my views on the current state of criticism should be surprised that I'd include a poem called "Antiblurb" in this series of great 21st century poetry. Neverthless, this poem deserves to be on any list of fine contemporary verse. It is, to use a template phrase, a clinic on poetry. Please take a moment to read it and the author's biography here.

"Antiblurb" exhibits deft technique, beginning with a lot of alliteration used to good effect, including:

  • not necessary...neither
  • hymn to harmonize
  • bold bellwether
  • flock, no iridescent feather dropped from

Aside from the rhymes, the poem uses assonance sparingly but with considerable efficacy:

  • generation's...bellwether...iridescent feather
There are some subtle word associations, as with juxtaposing "crucial", which invokes the cross/crux, and "salvation". The slow consonantal "sh" sounds of "crucial" and "salvation" underscores the link between the words. Similarly, in Ms. Stallings' native Georgia, the "har-" in "harmonize" and the "choir-" ("kwar"?) in "choirs" (S1-L3) would sound very much alike.

We see a cute metrical trick in S1-L4, resolved by enunciating "bellweather" as a spondee rather than a dactyl, allowing the "-er" to soften the initial trochee in the subsequent line:

Nor |any gen|erat|ion's bold | bellweth'r
leading | the flock, | no ir|ides|cent feath'r

The volta is sharply turned, going from the negated to the asserted. The focus on abstraction rather than imagery may not make for a great video (see below) but, in the hands of a skilled actor or actress, "Antiblurb" can be good performance material.

Of the authors whose work will be mentioned in this series, A.E. Stallings may be the only one that Print Worlders recognize. She is a crossover, actively contributing to Eratosphere. Her "Fairy-Tale Logic" was used in the Poetry Out Loud project. While Alicia's career has attracted considerable attention, garnering numerous awards, "Antiblurb" has been strangely overlooked by critics. Go figure.

Next: "How Aimee remembers Jaguar" by Erin Hopson

  1. "Studying Savonarola" by Margaret A. Griffiths
  2. "Beans" by D. P. Kristalo
  3. "Antiblurb" by A. E. Stallings
  4. "How Aimée remembers Jaguar" by Eric Hopson
  5. "There Are Sunflowers in Italy" by Didi Menendez
  6. "Auditing the Heart" by Frank Matagrano

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Great Poems of Our Time: "Beans"

September came like winter's
ailing child but
left us
viewing Valparaiso's pride. Your face was
always saddest when you smiled. You smiled as every
doctored moment lied. You lie with
orphans' parents, long

As close as coppers, yellow beans still
line Mapocho's banks. It
leads them to the sea;
entwined on rocks and saplings, each
new vine recalls that
dawn in 1973 when
every choking, bastard weed grew wild.

I could write a book about this poem and the newslist lore surrounding it. I make no promises but I'll try to stick to the facts.

DPK was a member of the Poets.org and Gazebo workshops. Nothing else is known about the author. In referring to the poet people use feminine pronouns because--get this--the writing comes up as more likely that of a female than a male on Gender Genie. We do know that she has designated all of her work, past, present and future, as licensed under Creative Commons, such that anyone can use it for any purpose.

"Beans" first appeared on Poets.org, where critics were impressed by its acrostic curginic form. Later, on Gazebo, "Shit Creek Review" editor Paul Stevens was struck by the core ambiguity of the poem. This remark turned out to be prescient;  people on both sides of the political divide have claimed it as sympathetic to their cause. Indeed, the poem can serve as a litmus test, the theory being that the more difficulty a viewer has appreciating this duality the more radical that viewer's politics. Unfortunately, all of this ambiguity is lost in the video below.

As with Maz's "Studying Savonarola", this source has covered the poem's technical merits well enough. Again, we have in "Beans" a piece that sparkles in performance.

As far as we know, DPK doesn't pursue publication. From conversations with them I know that two prestigious editors, one of a magazine, one an e-ziner, expressed a keen interest in publishing "Beans" until they were told that everyone was free to do so. One said he'd not seen contemporary verse of this ilk. The other managed no more than a "Wow!" I won't dwell on the possibility that neither of the two greatest poems of this century will have been published in print while their authors were alive.

Beans (D.P. Kristalo) on Vimeo.

We judge poems as great not because we can remember them but because we cannot forget them. If I check with you in twenty years I suspect that you will still be able to complete this sentence:

"Your face was always saddest..."

Next: "Antiblurb" by A.E. Stallings

  1. "Studying Savonarola" by Margaret A. Griffiths
  2. "Beans" by D. P. Kristalo
  3. "Antiblurb" by A. E. Stallings
  4. "How Aimée remembers Jaguar" by Eric Hopson
  5. "There Are Sunflowers in Italy" by Didi Menendez
  6. "Auditing the Heart" by Frank Matagrano

Friday, March 2, 2012

Great Poems of Our Time: Studying Savonarola

With one prominent dissenter (i.e. Peter John Ross), "Studying Savonarola, he considers his lover as kindling" would likely be the consensus choice as best poem of this century. Not bad for a first draft! That's right. As with so many of the poems in her collection, "Studying Savonarola" was posted to the Gazebo workshop on Thursday, October 27, 2005 and, to our knowledge, not revised.

I agree that it is the best free verse poem of these last twelve years, and don't argue with those who regard it as the greatest non-metrical effort since T.S. Eliot's "The Hollow Men" (1925). No, this isn't hyperbole and, if you know anything about me, you know I don't engage in blurbing.

I can't add much to the technical analysis found here except that the poem has considerable performance value. Indeed, I'd love to see a performance worthy of the material. This breathtaking love story between two men separated by five centuries, an ocean and most of a continent can be presented as anything from demure to downright raunchy. It is the signature piece of Margaret A. Griffiths, who had been voted the poet 133 tough critics would most want to read seven months before she wrote this masterpiece. If T.S. Eliot had been cited as the best poet of his time before "Prufrock" would we debate who was the greatest poet of the 20th century?

The story of how her posthumous collection came into being is, itself, worth the price of "Grasshopper: The Poetry of M.A. Griffiths". At this point in time, it is the only contemporary poetry compendium that I recommend without reservation.

Poets seeking a role model need look no further. "Maz", as she was known, set a standard as a critic, poet, wit and spokeswoman that few others will attain. As one pundit put it: "Those not envious of Maz have the most reason to be."

Next: "Beans" by D.P. Kristalo

  1. "Studying Savonarola" by Margaret A. Griffiths
  2. "Beans" by D. P. Kristalo
  3. "Antiblurb" by A. E. Stallings
  4. "How Aimée remembers Jaguar" by Eric Hopson
  5. "There Are Sunflowers in Italy" by Didi Menendez
  6. "Auditing the Heart" by Frank Matagrano

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Great Poems of Our Time: Preface

Respondent "neighbor" asked if I'd be "willing to do a straight-forward post on contemporary poetry that meets your criterion for greatness (and why)."

I need to preface my response by anticipating a legitimate criticism of it: Why am I championing the same few poems over and over again? Am I not exposed to a wide variety of contemporary poetry? Actually, I probably read more poetry than anyone else alive. Why, then, do I highlight so few of them?

First, there is the historical perspective. Pick any year between 1612 and 1912. Count up the total number of poems from that year being anthologized or discussed today. Chances are that number will rarely exceed three, averaging slightly less than two. This means that in 2112 zero, one, two or maybe three poems from this year, 2012, will survive. Which ones will those be and why do we feel this way? Sorting through all of the offerings when there is more poetry being written than ever before is no easy task and certainly won't end controversy on the subject. I encourage other bloggers and critics to follow suit with their own choices.

Second, there is the technological perspective. All of the canonical poems thus far have come from the print world. That time is passing, if not past. Even the most conservative publishers are displaying their poetry online, albeit textually for the most part. Future generations will experience poetry on the Internet, yes, but they won't be reading it, initially, any more than people today read movie, television or theatre scripts before watching the show. They will watch it being performed and, if intrigued, read it later. Horse before the cart, if you please.

Third, we have the logical perspective. Had you lost your keys last night where would you have sought them? In the light of the lampost or in the dark? Obviously, you'd choose the former rather than stumble around blind. The compartmentalized world of magazines and books is very unlikely to produce a consensus on any subject, let alone find a key poem within its contentious, self-interested ranks. Those pixels of light on your screen might. Think of a book reviewer being restricted by fair use; if the poem is online critics need only provide a link to it. When someone like me tells you about a great poem do you want to be told to go buy a book or would you prefer a convenient URL?

Finally, we come to the mathematical perspective. A poem on a webzine often attracts more readers in a week than a book or magazine will garner in total; a video on YouTube or Vimeo might receive that many hits in a day, an hour or, if it goes viral, a minute. What is more, such a stable environment never goes out of print. Consider another issue of numbers and filters: when a newcomer like "neighbor" asks us about the great poems or poets of our time we tend to shotgun them with titles and names, overwhelming their interest. Yes, this best-toe-forward approach involves leaving a lot of outstanding poems and brilliant poets out of the mix for now but these can be incorporated in subsequent discussions, if and when the neophyte becomes hooked.

Stitched together, the aesthetic of the future will provide a role for all three poetry communities: the onliner provides the text, the stage poet performs it, and academia (i.e. the remnants of the current print world) plays its natural role of scorekeeper, reviewing and teaching successful efforts. Of the 20-some-odd poems that viewers in 2112 might enjoy I'll cast a number of votes commensurate with the proportion of likely sources that I encounter...and a few surprising ones I've stumbled across. This blind squirrel will show you what acorns he has found.

My handful of candidates is not merely a list of personal favorites; most have been vetted by some of the toughest critiquers alive. All have considerable performance and/or video appeal. Some are timely. In my opinion, all are timeless.

Next: "Studying Savonarola" by Margaret Ann Griffiths
  1. "Studying Savonarola" by Margaret A. Griffiths
  2. "Beans" by D. P. Kristalo
  3. "Antiblurb" by A. E. Stallings
  4. "How Aimée remembers Jaguar" by Eric Hopson
  5. "There Are Sunflowers in Italy" by Didi Menendez
  6. "Auditing the Heart" by Frank Matagrano