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, February 19, 2015

10 Greatest 21st Century Poets - The Geeks

      We'd like to thank those who responded to our previous post, "10 Greatest 21st Century Poets - The List".  As our regular readers know, it was a break from our tradition of talking about poetry and poems rather than poets but, as one commenter with a brilliant sense of irony said, it worked as "clickbait".  (We have never opted for advertisements here and won't guess what people must think of other publications, most of which concentrate exclusively on poets and author-centric writing.)

      If you want to make a point about people treating poetry as a professional or social enterprise rather than as a craft, though, check out this spike in our readership when we discussed poets instead: 

      Reaction was largely positive, with strangers thanking us for presenting an objective view of the great poets of the century.  Most understood, at least instinctively, the authority's role in bird-dogging¹ great contemporary verse.  There were a few who, not comprehending anything about geekdom, confused it with its antipodal opposite, the PoBiz, in suggesting that friendship played a role in the decisions.  (Seriously?  Geeks?  Having friends?)  

      To accommodate those who showed such interest in the judges, we thought we would take a moment to define those who participate here regularly or as "Gray for a Day" or judges.  With a hat tip to Jeff Foxworthy...

     ...let us examine the unbearable lightness of being a geek.

1.  If your friends and relatives know that only you will give them an informed and honest evaluation of their writing, you may be a geek.  Or obsessive.  Or both.

2.  If you think "PoBiz" is slang for [enabling] "the Dunning-Kruger² effect" you may be a geek.

3.  If you know whether "Prufrock" and "The Red Wheel Barrow" are free verse or metrical you may be a geek.

4.  Hell, if you care whether "Prufrock" and "The Red Wheel Barrow" are free verse or metrical you may be a geek.

Paul Stevens "discovered" both top poets.
5.  If you can evaluate work without giving a shart about the author's age, size, shape, nationality, bank account, history, sex, politics or religion you may be a geek.

6.  If you view Earl's Laws of Poetry as a Ferenghi regards the Rules of Acquisition you may be a geek.

7.  If you know that the difference between free verse and prose poetry has nothing to do with linebreaks you may be a geek.

8.  If you have referred anyone to rulez 4 aspiring ~poets~ or turned from a pouting workshopper, saying "Dennis, the rules, please", you may be a geek.

9.  If you have ever quoted Debi Zathan's famous anti-whinger rant in whole or in part you may be a geek.

   "But what really pisses me off when you get right down to it, is the unmitigated gall of so many who post here...who have the patronizing, self-absorbed opinion that the person who critiques their poetry has not a clue, has never loved, has never grieved, has never existed in all of the frames they write so badly about. THAT (at the moment) is what really pisses me off."

10.  If you have ever quoted Gustave Flaubert's famous anti-corazoner rant in whole or in part you may be a geek.

    "I should rather be skinned alive than exploit my feelings in writing. I refuse to consider Art a drain-pipe for passion, a kind of chamberpot, a slightly more elegant substitute for gossip. No, no! Genuine poetry is not the scum of the heart."

11.  If you have had to restrain yourself, lest you quote Rob Evans in whole or in part,  you may be a geek.

    "Of all the branches of the arts, poetry continues to be treated with the most indifference by the general public.  Why?  Because practitioners like you continue to demand so little of yourself and others."

Usenetter Aidan Tynan
12.  If you have had to restrain yourself, lest you quote Aidan Tynan in whole or in part, you may be a geek.

    "Please give me one reason why the aforesaid could be classified as anything other than badly written, unimaginative and cliché-festooned. This poem, for lack of a more appropriate term, seems to represent, to me, everything poetry is not about, that is: vague references to vaguely traumatic personal events renumerated listlessly as a piece of abstract journalistic schlock (with random line breaks to disguise it as poetry) superimposed on a bland moral-aesthetic grid. Superficial in every way, and lacking any sort [of] effect."

    "Sadly, bad poems are not invisible."

    "Yes, how selfish of someone to spend time giving an informed critique of another's work."

13.  If you understand the difference between annotation and criticism you may be a geek.

Peter John Ross, father of modern critique.
14. If you can say crap like "Poetry is lateral thinking stacked sonically" without people knowing that you're joking you may be a geek.

15. If that line from "There are Sunflowers in Italy" stopped you in your tracks you may be a geek.

16. If you know or care who wrote "...the waiting moment, buckling into circumstance..." you may be a geek.

17. If you cannot read Ferlinghetti without quoting Manny Delsanto (i.e. "Please tell me there were no dice involved in choosing your words") you may be a geek.

18. If you cannot read Billy Collins without quoting Gerard Ian Lewis (i.e. "You use words like a magpie uses wedding rings") you may be a geek.

19. If you cannot read "The Paris Review" without thinking of Richard Epstein (i.e. "Many poems would benefit by having no text") you may be a geek.

20.  If you cannot read Rumi without muttering "Shouldn't platitudes this trite rhyme or something?" you may be a geek.

21. If you know that Spondee Denial, Content Regency, and Convenient Poetics are bullshit you may be a geek.

San Francisco 49er coach Bill Walsh (1931-2007)
22. If you accept that the final word on individuality and creativity came from a football coach you may be a geek.

23. If you understand that those telling you poetry is alive are trying to sell you something (i.e. bad poetry) you may be a geek.

24. If George Bernard Shaw wrote your life motto, "The power of accurate observation is often called cynicism by those who don't have it", you may be a geek.

25. If you can keep your head when all about you are quoting Timothy Steele you may be a geek.


¹ - A typical scenario is a depressed editor needing a jewel to caketop an otherwise mediocre publication.  The conversation goes:

Editor:  "Say, I'm in a bind.  Do you have anything for me?"

Geek:  "Utter contempt?"

Editor:  "Very funny.  Seriously, though, can you help me out?"

Geek pulls a frayed piece of paper from his or her back pocket (hence the expression "pulling [stuff] out of my ass"), shows it to the editor and another brilliant edition goes to print.

² - Indeed, antipathy toward the list and its progenitors rose and fell in lockstep with the level of the respondent's overconfidence.  Who could have predicted that?


1. 10 Greatest 21st Century Poets - Preamble

2. 10 Greatest 21st Century Poets - Versers

3. 10 Greatest 21st Century Poets - The List

4. 10 Greatest 21st Century Poets - The Geeks

    Your feedback is appreciated!

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Earl Gray, Esquirrel

1 comment:

  1. "Greatest" poets of these times are decided on the basis of whether their poetry conforms to the preferences of those whose poetry does conform and those who never have access to current poems that don't conform. Access is determined by the gross lack of any poetry in popular magazines and newspapers which won't run available poetry because the supply of appealing poems is non-existent.
    I asked six academic grownups to tell me their reactions to six poems I pulled from prestigious on line journals. Reactions? All responded with a variety of noises adding up to, "Huh?"
    Would they have done so reading a current Frost, Kipling or Owen?


Your comments and questions are welcome.