Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Strictly for entertainment purposes (no wagering, please) I decided to compare the table of contents of the Best American Poetry 2006 with my imaginary anthology. There's some overlap. The BAP's editors and I shared an interest in the following poems:
  • Amy Gerstler, "For My Niece Sidney, Age Six"
  • Laura Kasischke, "At Gettysburg"
  • Mary Jo Salter, "A Phone Call to the Future"
As it happens, I'm less excited by the World's Fair tone of the Salter poem now than when I first saw it in The Georgia Review, but all the same I was pleased to see it again. The Gerstler and the Kasischke are just terrific -- Gerstler offers a word of support and warning to a bookish child, and promises to bequeath her the several encyclopedias she's collected over the years, and Kasischke does that Spielbergesque kids-against-backdrop-of-extreme-danger thing, you know, the quintessential American drama. If the book were just these two poems would it be worth at least $16? Maybe, maybe not.

So, of the 12,000 poems I looked at, I came up with two or three of the same ones the present editors chose. Good for me. Now to widen the scope of comparison a little, here's the list of poets I included in my imaginary anthology who also made the BAP:
  • John Ashbery (They took "A Worldly Country" from The New Yorker, I took "Interesting People of Newfoundland" from Poetry Daily)
  • Mark Halliday (BAP: "Refusal to Notice Beautiful Women" from Michigan Quarterly Review; My Imaginary Anthology: "Cleaning the Apartment" from Hunger Mountain)
  • Bob Hicok (BAP: "My career as a director" from The Gettysburg Review; MIA: "My new neighbor" from APR)
  • John Koethe (BAP: "Sally's Hair" from The Kenyon Review; MIA: "Hamlet" from Boston Review)
  • Paul Muldoon (BAP: "Blenheim" from Five Points; MIA: "Alba" from Gulf Coast)
  • J. Allyn Rosser (BAP: "Discounting Lynn" from Failbetter; MIA: "Q&A Step Out" from The Georgia Review)
  • Charles Harper Webb (BAP: "Prayer to Tear the Sperm-Dam Down" from Atlanta Review; MIA: "I Can't Stop Thinking of Harold von Braunhut" from Witness)
  • and Franz Wright (BAP: "A Happy Thought" from Field; MIA: "Woods Hole Ferry" from Five Points)
Reading through the journals last year none of these poet's BAP selections made my longer list of poems I'd wish to reread. This time through I saw more in the Ashbery, Halliday, Hicok, and Muldoon poems than I did the first time. My longer list included about ten of the poems in the BAP; throughout the year I noticed poems by 39 of the book's 75 poets.

As for the experience of reading the Best American Poetry 2006 itself, I saw something in 27 of 74 poems, a respectable ratio for any journal; 74 because what am I going to say about the Jennifer L. Knox poem Chris and I printed in The Hat?

While I'm on that subject, five of the 81 writers in The Hat also appeared in this BAP: Knox, Halliday, Joy Katz, Tony Towle, and Terence Winch; series editor David Lehman also appeared in Hat 6.

I'm going to leave the stats to someone who knows how to run them. And I'm not going to worry too much either way about the overlap between the real book and my imaginary one. (Oh, by the way, of the Lehman-student poems included, the only real stinker was the art-history/mystery by my old bartending acquaintance George Green. I mean, no offense, George, but this is totally ridiculous claptrap:
We have our own Apollo Belvedere,
which Winckelmann inspired, at the Met.
A grand Canova on the balcony,
of Perseus rampant with the baleful head.
The victor with his magic shoes and helmet
is otherwise stark naked in the court
of Polydectes, where he hoists his trophy,
high and dripping, up before the hall,
to petrify the whole licentious rout
and end the tyrant's terrible misrule.
High and dripping indeed. Though, of course, such a scene is devoutly to be wished...)

Anyway, I've got other things to worry about, what with Willie doing his damnedest to test my mantra: Trust Omar Trust Willie. Playoffs start next week. Bring them on.


UPDATE: It's been pointed out to me that my imaginary anthology includes 142 poems, 20 of which I've flagged with a question mark, including the ones by Salter and the Muldoon. If I were to trim my list even with the BAP, though, I'm pretty sure the Gerstler and Kasischke pieces would make the cut.

And now that I'm looking at my lists, I'm wondering where Drew Gardner's "Chicks Dig War" is. How did that get left off? Or Rodney Koeneke's "Pizza Kitty."

SECOND UPDATE: Oh, there's Drew's "Chicks."

Jordan - #




I'm Jordan Davis.
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