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

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Ten Most Influential People in Poetry Today

     The current fad is lists of the most influential people in poetry.  My particular spin presumes a successful future for our art form.  The question becomes:

    "Who will be most responsible if poetry regains an audience before 2030?"

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #69
     Most such lists will be dominated by authors, publishers or editors of poetry books.  This begs the question about people reading poetry.  They don't.  That is the problem.

     The role of teachers will figure prominently on other lists but, for our purpose, this would have to be confined to famous instructors who teach techniques, technologies, performance and forms that will appeal to non-poets.  As far as I know, that list is empty.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #52
    Far more important are the administrators and critiquers who mold that verse, the organizers and performers who bring it to the public's attention in open mics and slams, the videographers who post it on venues like YouTube, the bloggers and reviewers who filter out the shite and, finally, the editors of successful [web and maga] 'zines--especially non-literary ones (where and once they exist)--that bring poetry to the public.

     At the risk of stating the obvious, in this Internet Age the most influential people¹ will be those with a long and strong online presence.  That some of these individuals may be unknown to you says more about the transitional state of the endeavor than its participants. 

Peter John Ross

     Almost everything you have learned online about poetry fundamentals or the workshop ethos in the last twenty years can be attributed directly or indirectly to PJR.  He is the grandfather of successful 21st century poetry.

John Boddie

    "Whether or not critique is constructive depends on how the author uses it, not on the manner in which it’s phrased."

     If you don't know who John Boddie is then you have never encountered serious poetry critique.

Margaret Ann Griffiths

     That Maz was the Critic's Choice as best poet of our time and that the first two editions of her posthumous collection were oversubscribed will not be what puts her on this list.  As a mentor, commenter and, most importantly, as a role model she simply had no equal.

Marc Smith

     Any list of influential contributors to poetry's future that does not include the inventor of the slam cannot be taken seriously.

Nic Sebastian

     Nic's attention to presentation puts her decades ahead of anyone else in imagining the successful poetry [performances] of the future.

Christine Klocek-Lim

     Chrissie twice rescued one of the world's largest poetry forums.  In its day, her "Autumn Sky Poetry" was among the top three webzines;  despite being on hiatus for more than a year people still deep link to its particulars.  Recently, she has started a poem-a-day version, "Autumn Sky Poetry Daily".  Ms. Klocek-Lim's gentle style doesn't create waves but, if influence can be measured by the loyalty an organizer inspires, Christine's name must be recognized.  If the poetry world had a dozen more people as effective and level-headed as Chrissie we would not be having this discussion.

Seth Abramson

     Famous blogger Seth Abramson's frequent and exhaustive analyses of PoBiz and academic practices make him the Noam Chomsky of the poetry world.

Michael Burch

     Say what you will about his mixing poetry with politics or religion but Mr. Burch's "The HyperTexts" remains the single greatest source of contemporary poetry.  If nothing else, this is a tremendous convenience for those wanting to cite a great contemporary poem.

Tim Green

     If the Print world survives it will be because of the innovative approaches pioneered or perfected by Rattle magazine's editor, Tim Green.

Don Share

     Whether we are talking about dinosaurs, armies or organizations, the larger an entity is the slower it moves.  While "academic" efforts will continue to play a decreasing role in discussions of contemporary verse, Poetry magazine's resources ensure that it will continue to be the elephant in the room.

Honorable Mentions:

Gary Gamble

    "Try to have your writing make sense²."

     More than anyone else, Usenetter and Poetry Free-For-All moderator "GG" can be credited with putting an end to cryptocrap, to say nothing of unearned respect.

Kei Miller, Mary E. Hope, Stephen Bunch, Bob Schechter and Richard Epstein

     These prolific online critiquers, along with many others, have contributed more to the revival of poetic competence than anyone else.

Steve Sabol

Stephen Douglas Sabol (1942-2012)
     I knew I would forget someone!  This oversight was so egregious that it required immediate correction with this post-edit.  As of this writing, the single most successful contributor to poetry's repopularization (a subject that existing producers avoid) is the late, great NFL Films director, Steve Sabol, ably assisted by his predecessor and father, Ed.  He did whole segments on poets and recitations from poems (e.g. "Hurt but not slain, lay down and bleed awhile, then we’ll rise and fight again.").

     In 1974 Steve wrote the closest thing to an iconic poem in the last half century, "The Autumn Wind".  Sports announcer John "The Voice of God" Facenda recited it, reminding us of the value of fine performance and production.

     My apologies to the many whom I have omitted.


¹ - We needn't broaden the discussion to include squirrels and the like.

² - Mr. Gamble's original phrasing was "Try to make your writing make sense."  He arrived at the final wording with the help of a fellow Usenetter.

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  1. I'm very surprised that this list doesn't include Ted Hash-Berryman. He is easily among the most influential poets of our day.

  2. If your title was a "Jeopardy" question, the only one I'd get right is Tim Green. That's only because had a subscription once.

    Squirrels are not poets, but great critics. These cute, furry rodents undoubtedly recognize all ten of your "Most Influential People in Poetry Today."

    1. @Mary Jo C.: You make an excellent point about how publicity-shy and modest these people are. I agree that if it weren't for the fact that "[m]y particular spin presumes a successful future for our art form", the names here might be far more recognizable to those who don't engage in serious (i.e. online) critique.

      Thanks for commenting!

  3. I'm simultaneously flattered and puzzled to be included in such esteemed company. Thank you. (Stephen Bunch)

    1. It is well deserved. Your contributions as a moderator and critic are unmatched.

  4. I wish everyone who visits your blog would check out this site:
    and pass it on to your friends.

  5. Spoz. Most influential poet in the world.
    Ps: I met Marc Smith.

  6. I like your blog, Gray. Have you seen Scarriet? Our "Hot 100" in the poetry world started the trend. Tom

  7. Yes, I'm familiar with Scarriet. Glad you like our little blog here.

    Good hearing from you, Mr. Brady. Don't be a stranger!

  8. Who writes this crap, Helen Keller. Grow up. Laughable, Seth Abramson. Nobody ever heard of the asshat.

    1. It is true that Mr. Abramson appeals to a more literate crowd.

  9. Why the habit of poetry critiquers being poets themselves while those judging novels and movies among other art forms represent consumers not producers?


  10. it's so good to see that, this year i'll also using ­ nflhdgame . com to watching that.



Your comments and questions are welcome.