Poetryland isn't a ghetto, although you might get that impression reading the kneejerk swipes at verse by the poètes manqués who edit Gawker and crowd the comment boxes.
And while it's rife yes rife with nepotism, logrolling, and circles of mutually-assured relevance, it's impossible to take seriously the vision of poetry's would-be avenging investigators -- that Poetryland is a city of corrupt politicians and police. The stakes are so low. The contests are rigged? Prove it. Stop entering. And write something beautiful, already.
Oh, and while you're at it, you might give up dreaming that love and approval -- the confirmation of your merit as a human being -- could ever be conferred by a small or university press. Not in the universal number-one-or-nothing form poets crave, anyway.
Overlord knows, Poetryland isn't the idealized village raising a child takes. Judging from the rising attendance figures at industry conferences, Poetryland is a smallish town with four or five neighborhoods, three elementary schools and a volunteer fire department.
A bunch of people know everybody in town. Most people know of everybody in their neighborhood, and have heard of most of the civic leaders and socialites who keep turning up in the town's newspapers. And everybody's got hard-won beliefs about what life and people are like in each of the neighborhoods.
A guy from another neighborhood said a little bit about my poetry in one of the newspapers. Not effusive praise, in fact, mostly about how I was from another neighborhood, but attentive and charitable. Of all the people from that part of town, I hadn't thought much about this guy. Seemed all right, if a little preoccupied with whimsy and guilt. (You called it -- I stereotyped him.)
Now that he's made a public gesture acknowledging me, my guard is down and I read his work uncritically. It sounds to me more like the way they talk in my neighborhood, even though I would be hard put to tell the difference between this new work and what I'd read warily before.
This is really just to say there are eleven poems by Tony Hoagland in the new American Poetry Review, nine of which I liked (and two of those a lot).
Jordan - #