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

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Honey Boo Boo?

     "Hard pressed on my right; my left is in retreat. My center is yielding. Impossible to maneuver. Situation excellent. I am attacking. Attaquez!"

         - General Ferdinand Foch (to General Joffre during Battle of the Marne)

    If you've been overwhelmed by the facts and depressed by the cheerleading in the "Why is modern poetry so bad?" thread, please take a break and watch one of these prime time television shows:

  • Duck Dynasties - The thrills surrounding a mom-and-pop business selling duck calls and decoys.

  • Storage Wars - People buy the contents of storage lockers. Like a garage sale, minus the excitement.

  • Toddlers and Tiaras - "As if little girls with hairspray, helmet hair, and clown makeup wasn't unsettling enough, one look at the crazy mothers behind these beauty pageants and it makes Kate Gosselin seem normal."

  • Extreme Couponing - You know, like, in a store.  No, really.

  • Bridalplasty - "Self-described as 'The only competition where the winner gets cut,' in this reality show brides-to-be compete in wedding related challenges to see who will win all the plastic surgery she desires for the big day."

  • My Super Sweet 16 - Girl cries because her father bought her the wrong Lexus.

  • Rosanne's Nuts - Watching macadamia nuts grow on a farm.

    If you aren't cursing then you didn't watch any of these shows.  Otherwise, you must be wondering:  "Is there a point to this?"

    Answer:  Certainly not.

    However, it does prove that television, at least, has finally sunk so low that even modern poetry may seem attractive by comparison.  Granted, contemporary poetry could never compete against a test pattern but I rather like its chances against "Here Comes Honey f*cking Boo Boo".  Consider a poetry show along the lines of  "Lower Slobovia (or whatever your country is) Has Talent".  Three judges score a bunch of wannabes.  We'll call the show "It Could Be Verse".

GoPro Black

    Of course, we must fulfill both of the stringent requirements for a pilot in the thousand-channel universe:

1.  It's gotta be cheap.

        No problem.  We just need 3 chairs, one GoPro and a corrupt janitor.

2.  It must have more viewers than staff.

       Alright, #2 might be close but if we're careful to choose contestants from large families and employees from The Lonely Hearts Club we should be okay.

    What say you?

"Why is modern poetry so bad?" - Part IV

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #51
     The cheerleading in opposition to "Why is modern poetry so bad?" and the underlying Harper's article, "Poetry Slam, or, The Decline of American Verse", has become more exuberant, as evidenced by copious blurbs like Katy Waldman's "Who Are You Calling Opaque?".  In fact, even the froth itself is spouting foam, as demonstrated so blatantly in Michael Theune's review, "Critical Alchemy: On Seth Abramson's 'The Golden Age of American Poetry Is Now'".  One wonders when this "Golden Age" will produce a single line of verse recognized by a sizeable subset (10%?) of poets, let alone the public.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #35
    At the heart of the "Why is modern poetry so bad?" "debate" is a fundamental flaw in logic.  Even if Mark Edmundson could prove that every poet he lists, along with all of those mentioned by his detractors, is the second coming of William McGonagall it still wouldn't touch on the quality of contemporary verse.  What does?  The fact that no one listens to it.  If a team hasn't won a game and the league hasn't sold out a section, let alone a stadium, in fifty years how productive is it to argue about who is the greatest failure?  When I say that no contemporary poet or publisher has done what Dylan Thomas and T. S. Eliot did in creating widely recognized verses I'm not talking about degrees;  today's poets haven't done it at all.  Not one poem.  Not one performance gone viral on YouTube.

    All of this luscious fruit is dying on the vine.

    Worse yet, many of the avenues have closed:  newspapers (online or print), television, and magazines no longer show much interest in poetry.  The circulation of the most successful poetry magazine adds up to about 1/400th of the English language poets in the world.  Prospects are remote for us ever being able to discuss an unincluded poem with our friends, as we can a news event, favorite song, movie or television show.

    "Hey, did you see the Red Wedding on 'Game of Thrones'?"

    "Sure did."

     Start of conversation.

    "Hey, did you read "Auditing the Heart" in Rattle or see it on Vimeo or YouTube?"


     End of conversation.

Auditing The Heart (by Frank Matagrano) from Earl Gray on Vimeo.

    Even stalwarts like humor and nursery rhymes are in decline.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #57
    At this point you are probably thinking that the situation couldn't get worse.  After all, nothing could be more devastating than a 0% success rate over half a century, right?

    Not so fast, Kowalski!

    I have news that is substantially more catastrophic than anything you've read so far.

    It isn't just the "Prufrocks", "Red Wheelbarrows" and "In a Station of the Metros" of today that are being ignored (assuming they're being produced).  Everyone is also overlooking today's "In Flanders Fields", "High Flight" and "Trees".  We have no Edgar Guests.  You see, it's all poetry that has died, literary and popular (or, if you must, good and bad).

    Put another way, if the Mary Olivers, Amiri Barakas and Carol Ann Duffys of this world can't give us a broadly recognized poem, good or bad, what chance is there for a Derek Alton Walcott, Seamus Heaney or Margaret Ann Griffiths?

    "It seems the canaries are dead, too."

Saturday, June 29, 2013

When to Enter a Contest

    I don't mean this in the sense of which contests you should enter.  If so, I'd be saying "Enter a contest only when the judges have shown an understanding of both free verse and verse."

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #18
    No.  I mean:  "At which point should we enter a poetry contest?  As soon as entries are being accepted or closer to the deadline?"

    Would you believe it depends on which kind of poem(s) you've written?

    Content Regents complain that their "deep" "poems" fare poorly in contests, the reason being that, with so many entries, judges don't have time for a "close read".  That is true.  Sort of.  The fact is that Content Regents, by definition, rely almost entirely on meaning and/or meaninglessness.  As such and as art, their verse is usually either crap or, worse, the dreaded cryptocrap.  Both tend to get winnowed out upon arrival, as they should.  Who has time for poetry that isn't poetry?

    A modicum of technique should be enough for any poem, deep or not, to survive the initial selection.  Now consider how most contests operate.  The acceptance period is usually months, after which there is a shutoff and a few more days, weeks or months until the final announcement.  Before the cutoff date the stack of nominees gets fatter as more arrive, thinner as more are eliminated.  Judges will return regularly to the stack, perhaps enough times to begin appreciating your woek.

    Let me give you an example with which you may be familiar (if you are a regular reader, at least):

    Once a poem of this ilk is entered the fight for second place begins.  It might not be a popular choice among the other entrants, though.

    "That shit won first?!?  Was it written by the judge's son or daughter?  How could that thing possibly win?"

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #32
     Here is how:  It arrives about three nanoseconds after the contest starts.  It has some nice sonics and seems rythmic so it avoids the dung heap.  For now.  Every few days or weeks the judges pick up the survivors and review them.  As they do, this one begins to stick in their minds, though they're not entirely sure why.  A month later, they begin to suspect it has something to do with linebreaks.  If nothing else, poetry readers today love linebreaks.  If and only if they have enough time with the poem will panelists begin to understand that it is a cada línea.  Once this secret is out the contest is over.

    Obviously, such poems need to be submitted as early as possible so that they will begin to work on the judges' minds.  It's like farmers planting their slower growing crops early.

    Now take the opposite extreme.  Suppose you are submitting verse that may have less mystery but considerably more performance value.  Something dazzling.  Passionate.  The English equivalient of Federico García Lorca's "Llanto por Ignacio Sánchez Mejías":

    Let me interject that your rant had better be damned good.  In general, these come off better on the stage than the page.  Also, anyone who thinks "deep" poems get short shrift in contests should see how dismissive judges can be with over-the-top dramatic efforts.  As we should have surmised by now, time is on the side of the more thoughtful entries;  by definition, excitement has a short half-life.  Performance types may need to benefit from a psychological phenomenon first described in Alexander Kotov's chess (yes, I said chess) masterpiece, "Think like a Grandmaster"):

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #25
    When people have two equally attractive, complex options--like two chess moves or two poems--they often tire of the comparative analysis.  Suddenly, a third option pops up and, presto!, they go with it.  That being the case, submit your dramatic pieces just under the deadline.  Your chances aren't great but you can hope to sweep the adjudicators up in a wave of excitement.

    If you know the reading period, similar approaches could be taken with publishers.

    Good luck!

Friday, June 28, 2013


Earl the Squirrel's Rule #20
     Consider a scene played out in every preliterate society:  someone creates speech that the tribe members wish to preserve intact.  Without writing, this will involve memorization.  Limitations may require that the addition of a new poem could, sooner or later, require dropping another, probably older, piece from the common culture.  This could be a weighty decision, leading us to the question:

    "How many times per year would a primitive community add a poem to its collective consciousness?"

     Once?  Twice?  Often zero?  Very rarely, three?  Sounds about right. 

     Flash forward to today.  Go to a library and grab some poetry anthologies written over the last few centuries.  Note how similar they tend to be in size.  More importantly, note how, other than during Shakespeare's career (that dude was a serious freak!), each year over the last few centuries has produced approximately the same number of memorable poems:  zero, one, two or, infrequently, three.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #54
     Our population may have increased a millionfold since those cave-dwelling days.  Our language and prosodies are infinitely more complex.  We have developed not just writing and mass printing but, later, easy and affordable Desktop Publishing.  Through mass media and, subsequently, the Internet we can engage billions more than the number of tribespeople gathered around those campfires to hear stories.

     Thus we come to the spooky part:  Annually, with all of our modern advantages in technology and sheer population numbers, we create exactly the same number of oft-memorized, widely recognized pieces--poems--as our primordial ancestors:

     Zero.  One.  Maybe two.  Occasionally three.

     In the last fifty years, a streak unmatched in human history:  zero.

The Language of Sales

    Joe (not his real name) is my favorite human being.  Indeed, he taught me most of what I know about his species.  You'll have to forgive this shaggy dog story about Joe.  I'm sure I have a point in here somewhere.

    Joe is a quiet guy unless you're talking about the things that interest him.  Politics didn't seem to be one of those.  I'd always assumed he was apathetic.  I could not have been more wrong.

    One day, while walking down the street, I saw some citizens waiting to petition the government on a bill concerning women in the workplace.  (Apparently, humans don't always treat males and females equally.)  The group was made up entirely of women.  Except Joe.  All had buttons showing which organization they represented.  Except Joe, who represented...Joe.  Needless to say, I stuck around.

    Three hours later the last of the women finished making her case for fairness, none of which seemed to have any impact on the inscrutible conservative all-male panel.  (Mental note:  conservative and liberal humans seem to have very different definitions of "fairness".)  Joe took to the microphone and told his story.

    "When I was twelve my Little League baseball team had lost all of its games the year before and had started off with two losses that year.  Nevertheless, I had found a pitcher, one with a slider that was unhittable, one who would take us to the World Championship in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.  I unveiled my discovery before our third game.  As it happened, this was also occasioned by a Pro Day, honoring a visiting Major Leaguer.  Perfect!  I arranged a demonstration, the Pro (who was a pitcher, but still an adult, professional athlete) batting against the 12-year-old.

    "The man struck out in four pitches.  He got a little annoyed, saying that this was embarrassing.  The kid agreed, before striking him out in three pitches."

     The politicos laughed.  Fairness may have been foreign to them but baseball?  That they understood.

    "I turned to my coach," Joe proceeded.  "I was feeling triumphant.  'Meet our new pitcher!' I announced.  (Oh, the hubris of youth!)

    "Imagine my surprise when our coach said that my wunderkind would never pitch for our or any other team.  I was flabbergasted.  The best I could do was sputter 'what?' and 'why not?'

    "The coach rolled his eyes before intoning:  'Because she's a girl.'

    "You see, I thought girls didn't play baseball because they didn't want to.  It never occurred to me that anyone would write a rule preventing them from doing so.  Why?  Seriously, why??

    "An argument ensued in which I focused on talent and the coach spoke elliptically about gender.  Pitching arms versus genitals;  which of these did not belong in our conversation?

    "This was a turning point in my development.  For the first time in my albeit sheltered life, I saw that adults could do and, worse, defend some truly stupid things.  What bothered me most was not the injustice.  As self-centered as I was, what mattered was that this idiocy was cancelling my ticket to Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

    "I lost it.  I completely lost it.  I stood on the mound and screamed an obscenity-laced diatribe questioning the intelligence, species, pedigree, lineage, hygiene, sobriety and integrity of our coach and everyone silly enough to agree with him, starting with the cretins who wrote the offending regulation.  This was not my finest hour, and it lasted almost that long before someone brought my father down from the stands to deal with me.

    "When I saw my Dad I thought he'd kill me.  Obviously, he didn't.  In fact, he didn't even punish me.  Not so much as lecture.  Instead, he leaned forward and spoke one word into my ear.  One word."

    At this point, everyone tilted their heads, eager to hear that one word.  My fur still quivers as I think of Joe leaning forward to whisper it into that microphone:


     There was a delayed reaction from the attendees.  Some frowned.  Others exhaled.  Most looked blankly.  Eventually, though, all smiled.  After a suitable pause, Joe concluded:

     "Dad was right.  Three years later the courts ruled that, where leagues for girls could not be organized, they could not be prevented from playing in boys' leagues.  That was too late to help our team, though.  Our inability to play with both genders was like competing with one hand tied behind our backs.  I get no consolation from the fact that other teams couldn't include girls, either.  Imagine if they could and we chose not to!

     "In any case, I never got to go to Williamsport, Pennsylvania."

     With that, Joe walked out.  I don't remember if the initiative passed or not.  I like to think it did and that Joe had something to do with it.  He spoke the three languages his counterparts did:  humor, sports and, implicitly, business.

     We don't sell poetry or its instruction well.  It's like we're deaf.  A newcomer might ask for a recommendation.  "Who is the best poet?" fetches a list, causing the person's eyes to glaze over before they walk off.  Someone asks for one poem to recite at a wedding or funeral and we suggest twenty volume titles.  A simple request for a comedic, dramatic or romantic poem meets with a copy of "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare".  Apparently, we don't understand why there is a place in this world for convenience stores and bulk distributors.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #53
     We all know that poetry is a tough sale.  Poetry instruction?  Not so much.  There are tens of thousands signing up for MFA, English and Creative Writing courses every year, most with a poetry element, some with a poetry focus.  In addition, there are hundreds of thousands who reject this approach.  Many believe that learning how to write will affect what they'll write about.  I don't follow the logic but, apparently, some think that knowing the difference between trochees and iambs makes you grow a beard and speak in Victorian English about wildflowers and broken statues.  We hear the complaint:

    "I don't want to learn all of that academic bullshit."

     From this, we learn to use teaspoons, not shovels.

     Additionally, we learn to speak of their poetry, not ours.

     In the "Why Your Poetry Fails" series we talked about how tiny, granulated, spoonfed techniques can help the aspiring poet get over the hump so that their poetry earns publication and contest wins.  The idea is to appeal to those who don't want to get a degree in order to win a slam or appear in a 'zine.  For many, it's a delicate balance of vanity, laziness, impatience, and an attention span shorter than Copernicium 285's half-life.  Nevertheless, that is the reality we face.  As Joe did.

     Speaking of Joe, he recently described an initiative starting up in his area.  It's like a cross between the "Why Your Poetry Fails" approach and the "The 23 Skidoo Project".  It's an open mic with a twist.  Instead of the dreaded Guest Speaker Reading, an experienced poet takes 5-10 minutes to render a tip.  Not a lesson.  That word scares or pisses 'em off.  A tip.  After questions are addressed the open mic begins.  At the end of that the MC asks for a volunteer to perform their work again, this time with a performance coach going over the piece with them.

     "Louder.  Softer.  Modulate!  Enunciate.  Faster.  More emotion.  Now slower.  Calmer.  You exceeded the time limit;  cut something."  And so on.

     Sounds interesting.  I hope it's a success.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Voice of a Generation

Want to make popularity based on sales as the criterion of poetic worth? Think about the following:

Bestselling poet in England between 1560 and 1640 (the era of Sidney, Spenser, Shakespeare, Jonson, Donne, Herbert, and the early Milton, to name just a few) -- Thomas Tusser (he outsold most of those poets even when you take all their works sold during that period combined).

Bestselling English poet between 1890 and 1914 (era of Housman, late Tennyson and Browning, Hardy, and numerous others of note) -- Norman Rowland Gale.

     - Howard Miller (Gazebo, 2007-03-19)

      Fifty years ago, among poets, the "voice of a generation" would probably be the Beat poet of your choice, most likely Allen Ginsberg.  Today, it could be a slammer, probably Shane Koyczan, if only because, in a rare moment when the world experienced poetry (if we can call it that), he did slightly better at the 2010 Olympics than Elizabeth Alexander or Richard Blanco fared at Obama's inaugurations.  If nothing else, at least one person was animated by Koyczan's performance:  Koyczan himself.

      You think this is a frightening thought?  Consider this:  the alternative is that today's poets don't have a voice. In any event, comparing Ginsberg to Koyczan, it is clear that poetry's voice is nowhere near as prominent or clearly defined as it has been in the past.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #56
      Being the voice of a generation will help your pocketbook but, as Howard Miller indicates, it won't further your chances of leaving anything behind.  The very qualification, "of a generation", suggests that our children will find someone else to speak for them, leaving us to be forgotten.  Still, by targeting a younger audience the poet may enjoy twenty years of fame followed by forty years of nostalgia.  Not a bad gig, really.

      By emphasizing advocacy rather than artistic value, "voice of a generation" also implies that the work is lacking in technical merit.  Not surprisingly, onliners and geeks could produce a very different list of greatest contemporary poets than Page or Stage poets might.

      Imagine that era, 1560 and 1640, without the likes of those poets Mr. Miller mentions:  "Sidney, Spenser, Shakespeare, Jonson, Donne, Herbert, and the early Milton, to name just a few."  What if they'd never been born, never picked up a pen or never attracted notice?  Thomas Tusser would the best poet of that time!  Instead of Shakespeare's plays and sonnets we could be reading verse like:

A foole and his monie be soone at debate,
which after with sorrow repents him too late.

      Why, we might be quoting such epic epigrams as:

Who quick be to borrow and slow be to pay,
their credit is naught, go they ever so gay.

      [We pause to shudder.]

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #24
      In fact, that could be a reasonable assessment of our current situation.  To the vast majority, including the [fiction] reading public, Alexander, Blanco and Koyczan might not just be the best active poets they know, they may well be the only active poets they know.

      There are no Shakespeares alive today, keeping theatres open with their verse and forcing us to forget the Thomas Tussers of our era.  No poet is changing our language or adding a single phrase to our idiom.  Yes, there are a few great poets around but the public can't name one and the cognicenti can't agree on many.  This may create a vacuum in our present environment and a dead spot in poetry's history. 

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #19
      Every failed poet chants the Emily Dickinson Myth as a mantra, telling themselves that their work, so cruelly ignored during their lives, will be discovered and loved by future fans.  Leave aside the fact that Emily was directly solicited twice by the Atlantic Monthly's Editor-In-Chief for submissions (which hardly sounds like a "nobody" to me).  There is a critical piece missing:  It is one thing to emerge from obscurity when poetry outsold prose;  it is quite another to emerge from obscurity in an era when all poetry is being ignored.  This is even more obvious if all subsequent generations continue to ignore poetry, as this one does.

     Put simply, why should future generations take an interest in us when we ourselves don't?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

"Why is modern poetry so bad?" - Part III

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #55
     Contrary to what you hear from too many "theorists" these days, good poetry instructors are primarily scientists, not gurus.  As prosodists, they examine what has worked in the past, preferably with some calculable consistency, and record those crowd-pleasing gadgets for posterity.  They do teach magic, but in the practical sense of passing on marvelous tricks to a new generation of illusionists.  A young man once approached me after a lecture, informing me that "poetry can't be taught."  My response was terse:

    "I agree.  Poetry can't be taught.  To you."

     What serious professors do not do is argue that poems about blue jelly beans are superior or inferior to poems about red jelly beans, or that an interpretation that proves a poem is about blue rather than red ones is a prosodic or critical exercise.  They do not maintain that didactic or philosophical poems are inherently superior or inferior to funny, emotive, romantic, dramatic, or narrative ones.  They may mention but do not dwell on inspiration, usually resorting to it in order to fill up empty classroom time.  Speaking metaphorically, they are far more concerned with pottery than potters or the wheel within the clay.

     When "poets"¹ complain about how lousy poetry is they mean that it is not in accordance with their taste or, more to the point, their style.  If only the world could see that only their aesthetic is transcendent!

      Needless to say, publishers and editors roll their eyes and move on.

Theodore Sturgeon at 67
      When technicians declare that poetry is lousy they aren't stating an opinion, let alone a self-serving one.  They are stating a fact, buttressing it with statistics, trendlines, and, not surprisingly, prosody.  What is more, they are factoring in Sturgeon's Revelation, thus stating that much more than 90% of contemporary poetry is crud.  In essence, the technique freak is saying, while pointing to a graph:  "This doesn't work now and never has in the past."

      The incontrovertible evidence has been listed here and elsewhere:  poetry sales going from parity to a 200-to-1 underdog compared to fiction sales;  no iconic lines, let alone poems;  concentration on poets, not poems;  blurbing rather than criticism;  no presence beyond literary magazines;  across-the-board technical deficiencies in poems and poets;  etc.

     By any objective measure, including prosodic ones and especially the [over]production/consumption ratio from which cheerleaders seem to derive such odd comfort, contemporary poetry is worse now than ever before.  This is not the same as saying that "poetry is dying", something that occurred more than half a century ago.  We're not talking about palliative care;  we're talking about a rotting corpse that should be reanimated sooner rather than later. 

     Perhaps we should hold a funeral to give the Glee Club some closure.


¹ - By "poets" in scare quotes we mean those who don't know poetry's basics and read only their own works and those like it.

Orphaned Poetry?

The reason "criticism" of poetry devolved from why-people-like-it to why-people-should is simple:  they don't.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #52
    It has been so long since poetry had an audience that some revisionists are beginning to say it never did.  For the purpose of our discussion, an audience involves people motivated not by a relationship to the poet (i.e. not a friend, relative, teacher, student, publisher, editor, etc.) but by pleasure (as opposed to critics on assignment, curious first timers¹, poets checking out the competition, students required to attend, venue staff, barflies too drunk to scatter when a poetry event commences, etc.).

     In past centuries poetry sold as well or better than novels.  Today, that ratio is about 200 to 1 in favor of fiction.  Most of that decline has taken place in the last half century, a period which hasn't produced a single line of broadly recognized verse.  We ask:   "Why has contemporary poetry failed to find an audience?"  Perhaps the answer is the simplest of all:  much of it isn't trying to.

     Consider the two types of publishers:

1. Indies:

     These labors of love almost always confine themselves to the owner's aesthetic.  Many are not students of the craft, meaning that they neither know nor care what general readers like.  Those who do often don't survive the realization that, like everything else, now as ever, good poetry is rare and outlets are many.

2. Academics:

     By definition, university-based presses and related literary magazines serve as labor exchanges for poetry teachers rather as sources of pleasure for the literate public.  To show how bizarre this will seem to anyone outside the PoBiz, imagine Poetry Foundation President John Barr saying that his organization refuses to help doggerel not on aesthetic grounds, as they should, but because it is successful.  In other words, they express a "Commitment to Failure", regarding poetry like an orphan drug.  Apparently, "the mission of the Foundation is to discover and address poetry’s greatest unmet needs", which obviously excludes retaining or regaining an audience, has replaced "exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience" in their mission statement.  Sure enough, these outlets have moved in lockstep, producing a remarkably limited collective poetic:  roughly, obscure [lineated?] prose.

     After months of thought I have finally found an analogy from real life.  It wasn't easy.  Consider the dog show.  To a casual observer, the judges look at all the dogs, assess them by some criteria, and announce a winner.  Best dog wins.  What's the problem?

     We should know that the organizers and participants are not particularly concerned with entertainment value.  Dogs need to win enough tournaments to become champions, after which they can bring forth a new generation of that breed.  Similarly, poets need publication credentials in order to obtain positions where they can bring forth a new generation of poets.

     These dogs are not pets, with lives dedicated to being loved by owners and their families.  The job of these canines is to conform to a very narrow, immutable¹ standard better than their competition.  Likewise, the aspiring academic.  In addition, a unique and technically brilliant poem creates a different kind of standards issue:  How can the publisher maintain the new standard set by this game-changer?  What will instructors do with a poem that demonstrates techniques they have neither taught nor learned?

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #45
     The parallels don't end there.  The criteria that the judges use may have nothing to do with that breed's traditional purpose.  The winner in the Herding Group has likely never guided anything into a pen.  Indeed, breed standards may evolve, albeit slowly¹, away from that purpose towards, say, durability or adaptability to other environments.  Similarly, poetry editors and judges may feel that the ability to please a poetry audience is no longer relevant, given that--"Duh!"--there is no poetry audience.²

     One final similarity:  Much of the fun in watching a dog show is in cheering on your favorite breed--probably one you have called your own.  How many poets check out periodicals solely to see how those who share their particular aesthetic are faring?  Even accounting for lenders, including libraries, poetry's readership may be less than its sales.

Bill Parcells
     We shouldn't expect change to come quickly.  Both types of publishers, Indie and Academic, seem happy in their current role, irrespective of poetry's overall stagnation.  As NFL coach Bill Parcells said in 2006:

      "Don't try to talk a cat down from a fish truck."


¹ - To change these standards, even slightly, would adversely affect every single existing breeder.  Not surprisingly, evolution is slow, careful not to obsolete present stock.

² - Of course, this creates a vicious cycle.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The 23 Skidoo Project

     Today we would use a ruder expression for "Get away!" or "Let's get away!"  In our grandparents' day we might shout "23 Skidoo" instead.  Next year will be the golden anniversary of the famous 8 minute, 12 second 1964 silent movie featuring empty, metropolitan avenues, "23 Skidoo" by Julian Biggs.  Fans of cinema regard this as one of only two flawless films (along with "Bambi Meets Godzilla", of course) ever made.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #24
      It being a silent film, we understand that the cameras didn't have microphones.  Unfortunately, we cannot determine how the director cleared the streets for the filming.  Yes, it was shot in the early hours but, even then, there are always police officers, delivery personnel and overdue revelers mulling about.  Our best guess is that they blared contemporary poetry to clear the streets, thus beating out Elizabeth Alexander by 48 years.  In any case, let me suggest a "23 Skidoo" undertaking that has almost nothing to do with the movie or the expression.  First, though, we need to take another short detour:

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #1
     My admiration for the Poetry Out Loud project innovators and organizers is no secret.  POL is, flat out, the most constructive thing in poetry today.

     Can we encourage roughly analogous contests for adults?  These would be local, as opposed to primarily national, in scope.  To comply with Rule #1 of Poetry, I suppose they should be held in bars.  Failing that, restaurants.  Anywhere, really. 

     Here are the regulations:  Competitors sign up and perform two poems, one "Classic" written before January 1st, 1923¹ and, in a second set after a break, one "Contemporary" piece written on or after that date.  Prizes and judges are determined by the organizers.  Competitors understand that their presentations will be videotaped, with winning performances posted on the Internet². 

     That's it.  That's the whole initiative.  Well, except for a whole lot of camaraderie, drinking, fun and poetry.

Bombardier's "skidoo" was the "skidog"
 before a typo at the patent office.

     In addition to the reference to 1923, the "23" also describes the first 23 pioneers to organize such a regular event in their area.  The word "skidoo" alludes to the recreational aspect and the fact that, like 911 numbers and Occupy Wall Street, this was originally a Canadian initiative. 

     These are not difficult to set up, as long as you know a few local poets and a tavern owner who needs more business on one of the weeknights.  Hey, a corrupt janitor might suffice!³    

     If you have questions or would like to register your group or contribute your time and skills to this effort please let us know (below).


¹ - The date, January 1st, 1923, is significant in U.S. copyright law in that a piece written before then has passed into the public domain.

² - Assuming there are no problems obtaining copyright permission for the "Contemporary" performances, at least.

³ - Paraphrasing Lenny Bruce.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Why has contemporary poetry failed to find an audience? - Part II

    At first blush, it doesn't seem to matter how we frame the question:

    ...or variations on "Poetry is Dead".

    It may help to bear in mind that we speak of poetry that is taught by people who think "Prufrock" is free verse, written by people who think AnaCrusis is a Mexican porn star, published by those who have never heard of Margaret Ann Griffiths, performed by no one or nobodies, marketed by those those who think overproducing unsellable merchandise is a solid business plan, organized by members of a party dedicated to defunding it, assessed by those who think "DPK" refers to a Digital Press Kit, and promoted by those who thought closing down the two most effective online discussion forums was a brilliant idea.

    How could that possibly fail?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Why has contemporary poetry failed to find an audience?

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #51
     The "Why is Modern Poetry So Bad?" "debate" rages on.  Realists who want to see poetry regain a following are citing facts, stipulations, and polling data.  Opposing them, those quite comfortable with the status quo ignore argument, consensus and the obvious, cheering the most demagogic denier and questioning the loyalties and motives of those who want to improve the situation.

     Sounds like Washington!

     It is time to stop the fight, as any compassionate referee would.  Reality triumphed.  It always does.  Hey, what would you expect when one side enters the fray with only one weapon, unaware that it is a hara kiri knife? 

    "There is more poetry being written and published today than ever before."

     Yes, we all understand that poetry is overproduced now more than ever.  Why did no one stop to point out that, in quantifications, over-anything (e.g. overreach, overstock, overkill, etc.) is, by definition, a bad thing?  What enterprise produces more of something in a tiny, flooded market?  Wouldn't it make more sense to concentrate on the demand side?

     It's time for everyone to hold hands and sing the opening stanza of Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows".

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

     We can now ask in the past tense:  "Why has contemporary poetry failed?" 

     Actually, we need to be more specific, lest some cheerleaders pretend to believe that an endeavor with zero successes over 50 years--even among its aficionados¹--isn't a complete failure.  Ergo, we must add a redundancy for the disingenuous:  "Why has contemporary poetry failed to find an audience?"

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #24
     All of the usual suspects will be rounded up, starting with music replacing poetry in the 1920s and dominating every radio station, Ipod and public sound system since.  There is the decline in technical skills.  The rise of other options (e.g. television, the Internet, video games, et cetera) factors in.  The quality and scarcity of performance.  The disappearance of venues and media.  The choice of subject matter and form, perhaps?

     I would like to add another aspect, one that may be both cause and symptom:  the lack of engagement, something so rare in poetry that I'll need to define it.

     At their conventions most dentists enjoy the lectures and presentations.  When they break for sustenance they talk about their families, practices, golf games, retirement plans and the prospects of the Dallas Cowboys--anything other than the seminar they just attended.  Who but a complete nerd wants to talk shop over lunch?

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #28
     Go to a poetry reading.  Open mics often have them.  They're like those time share spiels you must endure in order to participate in the fun later.  Typically, once there is an intermission and everyone mulls about to socialize, not one word will be spoken about the Guest Poet's performance or words. 

     Like dentistry, then, contemporary poetry creates a very low level of engagement.  No "buzz", if you like.  Attendees might be excited about the poet--I would give my right forepaw to see DPK!--but will usually not discuss the individual poems or lines they just heard and are already forgetting.  How absorbing is a pursuit that people never discuss, even immediately after it is shared?  Is an unexamined experience worth reliving?

How to play 5D on a Spade Jack lead?
     For a point of reference you need to attend a Bridge tournament.  If you live in North America, you can find an event on the American Contract Bridge League's tournament calendar.  Elsewhere, check out the World Bridge Federation's International Events Calendar.  You don't need to know a Heart from a Spade for this;  you won't be kibitzing, let alone playing in, the event.  Show up three hours after starting time, find out where everyone is likely to eat, and plant yourself there.  Get used to players beginning every sentence with the words "You hold..." before they proffer a particularly interesting hand for appreciation and analysis.  Don't expect chitchat, niceties, reminiscences or gossip.  You will get nothing but an exhaustive analysis of the session these people just played, conducted in terms, names, and acronyms completely foreign to you:  Stayman, Blackwood, Jacoby, Michaels, Masterpoints, SAYC, 2/1-GF, IMPs, finessing, LHOs, stepping stones, and beavers.  At first, it is the detail and intensity of the conversation that will strike you.  Later, you will be overwhelmed by the fact that participants, most of them of retirement age, remember the position of all 1248 or more cards they just played.²  An hour later another session begins.

     If people expressed 1% of the interest in poems--not poets, aesthetics or career opportunities, but poems--as bridgeplayers do in hands we wouldn't be having this conversation.


¹ - In the first half of the 20th century almost everyone--poet or not--could recognize, if not recite, Robert Service's second most successful poem, "The Cremation of Sam McGee".  Not counting occasional poems [that we are all trying to forget], can anyone cite a poem written in the last 50 years that even 5% of the world's 6,000,000 English language poets or 1% of the public can quote?  Neither can I.

² - Compare that to Guest Poets who have to read a few of their own poems from a book. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

"Why is modern poetry so bad?" - Part II

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #11
    From Part I:  "Speaking of challenges, can anyone present a coherent, logical case in favor of modern poetry?"

    I have seen a few such attempts.  None of the treatises incorporated any of the crucial issues I mentioned in Part I.  They didn't address the demand side or even its non-existence.  In essence, readers and audiences were treated like Schrödinger's cat.  None could expand their definition of "bad" to include an endeavor with a zero percent track record in the last half century, even among its own practitioners.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #15
     Reading these arguments, one might guess that the problem is an undersupply of poetry!  (In a perverse way, this is, indeed, the case.  There is a dearth of poetry:  that thing where words matter more than messages or messengers, that thing we memorize and quote, that thing that only "poets" can forget¹, that thing that cannot exist without an audience.)  They listed no examples, confining their focus to poets rather than poems.  Gee, who could have predicted that?  Speaking of listing, I'll adorn this post with the fundamentals that these contributors might wish to review.

     Before we proceed, let me interject for the record that extolling the therapeutic effects of writing poems, which I acknowledge, does absolutely nothing to convince me of their aesthetic value.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #9
    Imagine going into an empty restaurant and being served dog food.  While a canine might find it delectable, you're one of those strange people who doesn't eat dog food.  You foolishly voice your distaste, only to be informed that you are an ignorant plebian for not knowing that all restaurants are serving dog food these days.  What is more, you are informed that the chef is from a fine culinary arts school (which was subsequently closed by the Health Department) and that the Restaurateurs Association has certified this meal as both nutritious and delicious. 

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #12
    That is the status quo for Page poets.  Don't take my word for this, though.  Poll the authorities of your choice, asking who the greatest living poet is.  I predict each respondent will give an answer that, to borrow the Ron Charles phrase, "leaves no poet standing" and leaves you wondering:  "What part of 'greatest living poet' in the singular did you not understand?"  Maybe they worry that suggesting, even by omission, that any competitor is less than great would be catty.  Or perhaps the lack of serious criticism, variety or fitness for human consumption stems from a fear that if they admit that one poet is awful we'll clue in that, as the empty chairs suggest, almost all of them are².

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #13
    One of the responders got off to a shaky start.  Perhaps wanting to one-up the original author's slight against Canadians, this debater decided to snub all anglophone nations other than his own by narrowing the topic from modern poetry in general to American poetry.  Perhaps he wanted to make the point that he only follows or values U.S. poets, thus adding nationalistic solipsism to the list of reasons why poetry is as bad as it is.  If so, I applaud his subtlety and sense of irony.  Or perhaps he forgot that, aside from Maya Angelou, the two most famous living poets are Canadian, that the experts' choice as greatest poet of our time was British, that the American president's favorite living poet is not Elizabeth Alexander but her Saint Lucian mentor, and that the most knowledgeable 21st century editor was the recently deceased Australian, Paul Stevens.  I could go on.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #18
    Our man soon settled into the thrust of his defence:  that there are so many people writing poetry today that some of them must be great!  Hey, who can argue with the Law of Averages?  Who can argue with that cliché about 100 monkeys taking 100 years to produce Shakespeare?

    I could quibble about the numbers.  Yes, there are more poets than ever before but that is a reflection of the growing population.  There are also more geophagics, alchemists and cross-dressing janitors than ever before.  That doesn't suggest that the pursuit is more popular.  I estimate that the percentage of the worlds anglophones writing poetry today is about 1%, much less than it would have been centuries ago when poetry was "the only game in town", published in almost every magazine, newspaper and newsletter.  Still, that 1% amounts to more than six million English language poets worldwide, almost two thirds of which will hail from North America.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #20
    The issue becomes:  does having more poets necessarily mean great poetry?  The backgammon player in me wants to say "yes".  The more you roll a die the more 1s, 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s and 6s you will get.  What is more, flukes do happen;  two of the top five poems in this century were amazing coincidences:  "There are Sunflowers in Italy³" and "How Aimée remembers Jaguar". (Do note that neither of these was penned by an English, Creative Writing or Fine Arts graduate.)  Even if more poets writing did guarantee better poems, would our filters be able to detect them in such a decentralized milieu or would we simply exacerbate the dreaded Watermelon Problem, reducing them to trees falling in the forest?

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #25
     In any event, unlike monkeys at keyboards or tumbling dice, this isn't random.  We have one generation of poets, teachers and editors who couldn't produce a single iconic line, let alone poem, passing on its experience to a second and, eventually, a third generation.   The lowering of standards has snowballed, creating a legacy of failure and concomitant fan departure.  Forget the students for a moment.  Forgive my bluntness, but few of the current crop of teachers can scan, perform, innovate or distinguish anaphora from poetry.  Not surprisingly, almost every poem we see published today is a lineated prose homily wannabe.

  These dice won't roll.


¹ - Thus requiring authors to keep re-reading it from a book.

² - It was always thus.  In every endeavor and at any point in history there are thousands of William McGonagalls for every William Shakespeare.  Can we guess why an industry tied to providing degrees to poets might not be quick to acknowledge this fact?

³ -To be fair, as a "killer and filler" effort, "There are Sunflowers in Italy" might be better described as a great sentence rather than a great poem, but there you have it.

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

"Why is modern poetry so bad?"

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #47
    "Why is modern poetry so bad?" by Ron Charles of the Washington Post is the latest in a spate of articles criticizing modern poetry in toto.  These are not idle criticisms;  newpapers and magazines are backing up their position with action, publishing fewer poems and poetry reviews or articles.  Blog and Facebook responses from the vested interests--PoBiz poets and publishers whose ox is being gored--do not defend the state of their art with cogent counterarguments.  Rather, they whine about the generalization itself.  Some generous contributors take time from their busy schedules to wax at length about how little they care about the discussion they are entering.  Less charitable ones just sneer.  None of them seem aware that they are conceding the point by not addressing it.

     Actually, if someone wanted to play devil's advocate and argue against the obvious, it wouldn't be hard to attack the article.  On the one hand Edmundson complains about obscurity (e.g. he has "barely a clue as to what Muldoon is going on about", Carson is "so obscure", while others are "oblique" or "too hermetic", etc.).  On the other hand he says modern poems "...don’t slake a reader’s thirst for meanings."  What happened to the notion that poetry isn't about what you say but how you say it?

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #44
     We understand that this is said in jest:  "'One can’t generalize about it all,' Edmundson warns, before generalizing about it all in a nuclear assault that leaves no poet standing."

     The contradiction about generalizing is not the [only] problem there.  Apparently, Sharon Olds, Mary Oliver, Charles Simic, Frank Bidart, Robert Hass, Robert Pinsky are the only poets writing today.  Any of us could name at least three poets on par with or better than some of those six.  There is also this clumsiness, which should raise eyebrows north of the 49th, at least:  "Anne Carson may be Canadian, but that’s no defense."  WTF?  Who would suggest that it should be?

     I challenge anyone to read this article without asking "What f#*^$@g poets is this guy reading?!?"

     Speaking of challenges, can anyone present a coherent, logical case in favor of modern poetry¹?

     Of course, all of this is mere sophistry.  If you want to make the case that modern poetry is lousy stop reiterating your premise, stop trying to buttress your general opinion with your specific opinions, and start talking about the consensus.  Here are your talking points:

  • "If modern poetry is good why, aside from the author, don't many read it and why don't any perform or quote it?"

  • "Why do discussions about poetry invariably devolve into conversations about poets?"

  • "Why are so few able to recite a single line of poetry written in the last fifty years?"

  • "Why do so few poets show much knowledge of or interest in its elements²?"

  • "Why has poetry all but disappeared from newspapers and other mainstream publications?"

  • "Why concentrate on poetry written in order to 'get the fellowship, the first book, the teaching job' rather than poetry written to please audiences, including those outside academia?"

  • "What has poetry done to regain some of its market share from what replaced it in the 1920s (i.e. music on the radio)?"

    Of course, for those not in denial about poetry's current circumstances the only question is:

    "What do you plan to do about it?"


¹ - Not to be confused with High Modern poetry.

² - ...something that is evident in every sentence and line they write.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

An Experiment

     We all know that people will read anything--jokes, advice, platitudes, aphorisms, anecdotes, anything--if it's printed on a picture and posted to Facebook.  They won't necessarily believe it but they will read it.

     Would this work for poetry?

     How about putting this to the test?  Let's post two poems by the same author to our Facebook pages, one simple text and the other on a photograph.  Any two poems will do.  If you'd like to use those below please feel free to do so (the author has given consent for this experiment).  To participate, post the text...

Looking for Lorca

When Andalusian dogs don't bark
Granada nights are calm, like this.
No Cante Jondo violins
call gypsy spirits. Caught in flight,
no butterfly denies its mark.
There are no New York trains to miss.
Havana lingers. Franco wins
no prize beyond
this candle light.

Let five years pass before we speak
of nightingales among these birds.
You sang as if to mourn the sun
that sank at five this afternoon.
No lovers stray, no blood can leak
from sutured scars or silphion words,
but here, between the things undone,
I like to think
I found your moon.

     ...and then, in another Facebook post, post the image file or a URL to it.



     Please let us know how it goes.

Thank you for participating,


Why Your Poetry Fails - Part V

     What marks us as Pixel, Page or Stage poets is not that we excel at  poetry production, promotion or performance, respectively, but that we suck at the other two.  Otherwise, we could think of ourselves as "poets", sans qualification.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #46
     Even if we had the best forehand in tennis, would we expect to win Wimbleton without a backhand?

     That overspecialization, in a nutshell, is why your poetry fails.  And trust me, I know nutshells!

     Put another way, during their travels, ancient Greek sophists¹ would be exposed to various philosophies and approaches.  If we want an edge on our competition we need to become more sophisticated.

     Some will tell you to "be teachable".  Good advice, but you need to be far more proactive than that.  One can be a great poet without a degree, without a passionate personality and, believe it or not, without a lot of imagination².  There is one trait that all worthwhile writers share, though.  My exhortation amounts to this: 

     Be curious.

     It is downright tautological to say that, regardless of what poetry world you hail from, you will never become a well-rounded poet without absorbing lessons from the other two.  Indeed, perhaps I should say:

     Be bi-curious.

      While I'm stating the patently obvious:  our impressions of those other poetry worlds are probably negative but we need to put our preconceptions aside and learn what we can from them.  As an example, let me start with the hardest sell:

     You must perform your poems.  In public.

      Someday I'll list the top 10 reasons why this is so but, for now, I'll cooncentrate on those that pertain to impressing an author or writing contest judge.  In truth, there are dozens of good reasons to perform and only one reason not to:  you're shy.  So am I.  Nevertheless, shyness isn't a reason.  It's an excuse.

     "Why do I need to perform my work for a writing contest?" you ask.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #13
     Because the adjudicators will.  If they are even remotely competent, judges and editors will read the poems aloud to themselves, to each other, or, ideally, have someone read the entries to them.  They need to hear the sounds.  The only way you might discern how this will go is to read/perform them for a test audience and guage the reaction.  Since you will need to be looking the bastards in the eye to see their physical response, we eliminate the "read" option;  you must memorize and perform your work onstage.  With practice you will see which parts of your poems aren't working, just as you will be able to distinguish obligatory/polite from enthusiastic applause.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #67
     Poetry is, essentially, memorable writing.  If your pieces are difficult to memorize you might need to revise them or submit different material.  Judges and editors usually take weeks to make their decisions.  If they can't remember lines, images and metaphors of your work as they revisit it you will not prevail.

     Bottom line:  If it comes down to a choice between your poems and those of someone who can please a live audience you will lose every time.  On the other hand, capturing an audience just once will change your view of every line of poetry you read or write for the rest of your life.


Earl the Squirrel's Rule #19
    If you spend every moment in fear of cats, birds of prey and nasty kids with slingshots or air rifles you'll understand why there are no extroverted squirrels.  Not for long, at least. 

    Are there things we can do to alleviate the effects of shyness and help us succeed onstage?  Aren't there a lot of successful introverted actors and television personalities?  Indeed, there are.  All introverts share a single trait:  they don't like expressing their personal off-the-cuff opinions in front of people.  Actors have a script and a persona, such that it really isn't them or their views we are seeing.  This explains why some actors can do Shakespeare but not a simple interview.  Thus, we have our first dictum for bashful performers:

1.  Know your script.

    Carry your poem around with you.  You might even wear one of the wrist pads that NFL QBs use.  Every moment alone is a chance to practice.  Turn your damned television off--at least until Game of Thrones is on.  It's not enough to be familiar with your work;  you need to be comfortable with it.  You need to know your work so well that you could recite it in a coma.  Practice, practice, practice.  Ditto your performance.  Use mirrors, video cameras and any family member who doesn't escape fast enough when you need a test audience.

2.  Just the facts, ma'am.

Rachel Maddow
    Compare the gregarious Ed Shultz to his fellow MSNBC commentator, the incomparable Rachel Maddow.  Ed operates on a few basic factoids and builds his TV talk show conversation around them.  The painfully shy self-professed nerd, Rachel Maddow, provides fact after fact--more than the rest of her network, with Fox thrown in for good measure.  Then she looks at us.  If the storyline is too convoluted, she'll begin her next sentence with "In other words..."  For the most part, though, she leaves the watchers to draw their own conclusions, albeit with considerable help from Ms. Maddow's data selection.

     Avoid rants and diary entries.  Find an interesting narrative and stick with it.

3.  Choose a cozy open mic.     

     Save slams for later.

4.  Go alone or with someone who has seen you at your worst.

     This may seem odd, but friends can raise your anxiety level.

5a.  Sign up for a spot just before the break (if any).

     This gives you time to study everyone's body language before you go on and before people leave at half-time (rude, but it happens).  Find audience members whose mannerisms, movements and facial expressions are easy to read.  (Roughly:  leaning forward and smiling, good;  leaning back and snoring, bad.)  Focus on these people during your preformance.

5b.  Check out the talent.

     As per Sturgeon's Revelation, 90% of the performers there will be awful.  Draw some comfort from the fact that, no matter how badly things go, you won't be much worse than the average participant.  No, really.

6.  Poetry means never having to say you're sorry.

     Skip the introductions, explications or annotations.

7.  Adjust your poem's length to fit.

     There is a set amount of time (3 minutes?) allotted to you.  Plan to use about 80% of it.  You don't want to feel hurried.

8.  Don't eat beforehand.  Bring antacids.

      Nervous stomachs can be an unwanted complication.

     How do you know you've done well when everyone is going to clap and thank you for coming?  Aside from interpreting their body language, you hope that people will refer to your performance when they express their desire to see you again.  The ultimate compliment--which is extremely rare--would involve having an attendee ask to see the text of your poem.

     At a future date I hope to discuss what Pixel and Stage poets can learn about promotion from the PoBiz.


¹ - For what it's worth, Americans are not the first to believe that teachers shouldn't be paid well.

² - Hold that thought.  This will be the subject of a subsequent post.

Series Links:

  1. Why Your Poetry Fails - Part I - Diaeresis

  2. Why Your Poetry Fails - Part II - Brackets

  3. Why Your Poetry Fails - Part III - Judges and Editors

  4. Why Your Poetry Fails - Part IV - Comparisons and Repetition

  5. Why Your Poetry Fails - Part V - Performing