RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition. He does have an amazing PATREON, but also *normal* ARTIST WEBSITE too.

Monday, February 29

three-month layover in small
town flophouse; saved money to
leave marketing drugs

Sunday, February 28

even when naked during
cold winter months, the trees look
down upon humans
each blossom tendril hand full
of club, smashing indignant
winter back into the ground

Saturday, February 27

organic vegetable
matter shrivels in the sun,
orange skin wrinkling donald trump

Friday, February 26

no longer bring home bacon
since I self lord am master
of conquering devil teach
can't afford the premiums
so subsist off lesser than
‘til deader than the does-haves

Thursday, February 25

freestyle sonnet #028: THE LIFE OF HAVE-NOT

A "greatest living artist" no longer aware
that art lives in every heart, just most folks lack
space in life to indulge self exploration; fair
and unfair are external judgments applied - black

or white #facts don't exist in the wild; nature's grey
as fuck, and despite "his" *own* beliefs otherwise,
man's still part of nature, although haters say "nay",
stay hating, but give it a confidence disguise,

claiming free, claiming higher plane, claiming einstein
of current timeline - but whatever; real as fuck
artists remain surviving this corrupt-by-design
system through their art, lost behind digital muck,

unknown, unseen, unsupported nor reported -
but true artistic mission's never aborted.
easier to disappear
a body than anyone
realizes; I’ve done research

Wednesday, February 24

backwoods buddha lesson:
bitches who keep on smiling
do so with their heart not face
it was the night Kimona
Wannaleia danced atop
the ECW Arena

Tuesday, February 23

raw gothic futurism
assassin knowledge exists
in the etchings of wormwood

S14: Top 14 Copa Libertadores Group Stage Teams Not From Brazil or Argentina in Recent Years

Last week, in an effort to waste the precious time of my life (which gets shorter as I get older), I wrote about teams in European continental competitions that were not from the big five countries who had clocked the most group stage grip the previous 14 years. All of this is such a huge time waste, where I spend hours fucking around with spreadsheets like some idiot savant at night, and use the excuse of a website as a reason to do so. But honestly, I just enjoy numbers, and I enjoy shit like this. It feels weird that such an innate joy is somehow hijacked by self-awareness on multiple fronts – sharing online (as if that meant something), utilizing actual football competitions (as if that gave the time-wasting project some feigned importance). And yet here I am, following self-imposed deadlines to nothing, chasing the folly of self-expression in the digital age, buried amidst an ever-expanding relentless onslaught of data, much of it riding the high wave of algorithmic insider status. I am but a fucking junkstock conkshell in this shit though, but if you put your ear to me, you’ll hear the ocean.
Anyways, much like England, Spain, France, Italy, and Germany domineer the European competitions, in South America (ruled by a giant poetry robot named CONMEBOL), Brazil and Argentina run shit. They rule at the national team level, and despite all the quality talent at club level being sold off to Europe (in what is known as “the Colonialism of Capital”), those two nations’ domestic leagues still tend to dominate the continental competitions in South America. Thus, here is a parallel list to last week’s list, but this time it is all the best-performing teams in Copa Libertadores group stages the past 14 years, who are not from Brazil or Argentina. Perhaps you are a fringe fan, or not even a fan, and just some person who is here looking at this. Likely you are a robot that uses programming in Russian scanning this collection of data for weak spots to try and sneak through and get to credit card information that could be used quickly and then dumped. Even more likely, you don’t exist, not in any real sense, and staring at this screen right now is a feigned act of interaction. But anyway you cut it, Copa Libertadores is like the Champions League for South America, but in South America, the game has not been commodified quite like in Europe. This means it hasn’t been gentrified, which is a nice way of saying they haven’t figured out how to squeeze out regular people to make it safer and more appealing to rich people, namely corporate-affiliated types, thus catering more to money than actual human bodies. South America remains resistant to worshipping money over actual physical bodies, which is unlike most of what we’d consider “western culture” all of which is compromised by capital. I mean fuck man, physical bodies votes in election 2016 mean way less than money votes. That has been more obvious than ever.
And yet, I’m no genius but I’m pretty sure South America is part of the Western Hemisphere. Why isn’t it “western culture”? Can’t we just say “white culture”? But even that is misleading because some of our greatest western culturers nowadays are not white in the pure sense of it (Thanks Obama!).
I don’t know man, basically shit is all fucked up, but I hate western culture meaning white culture meaning anglo culture meaning devil culture, and had hoped to take a trip to South America to perhaps even see a Copa Libertadores game or two, but definitely to make pilgrimage to Estadio Centenario where the first World Cup final was held, but now zika virus has been manufactured by Monsanto to drive wedges between “cultures” again. (In that context, the etymology of the word “culture” and the scientific variants of it seem super creepy, and make me paranoid of all things nowadays.) But these are the top 14 teams as per group stage performance in Copa Libertadores the previous 14 years (as Copa Libertadores 2016 is just now getting to group stage).

#1: CLUB NACIONAL DE FOOTBALL (of Uruguay) – 118 group stage points; advanced to knockout rounds 9 times. They are in Group 2 this year with cross-town rival River Plate (the Uruguayan one), Palmeiras (of Brazil), and Rosario Central (of Argentina). Nacional is one of the most popular teams in Uruguay, which generally means in the capital city of Montevideo, where most of the most popular teams as well as population exists. Uruguay as a nation has far outperformed its population size on the international stage, since the first World Cup (which they won). Similarly, Nacional is one of the most prominent continental clubs outside of Brazil or Argentina. They play many home games in the stadium built for that first World Cup (mentioned before – Estadio Centenario), but perhaps a sign of how football is still different in South America, they set the record for largest flag ever unfurled at a game a few years back, during a big Copa Libertadores game – huge fucking flag needing 400 people to hold. It covered one whole end of the stadium once they’d stretched it out. These are old school stadiums without tons of barriers for fans, and with domestic leagues being clusterfucks at times, teams making Copa Libertadores and taking on clusterfuck champions from other nations is still a big thing. Thus Nacional, strictly through fans supporting it themselves separate from official team, collected and spent $50,000 to make a five-ton flag for a single game. Also of note is the term “hincha” meaning football supporter in South America was coined by Nacional fans, at least according to Wikipedia, but how the fuck can you trust that shit? More western culture aka white culture aka devil culture hegemony most likely.

#2: CLUB LIBERTAD (of Paraguay) – 112 group stage points; advanced to knockout rounds 6 times. They made it to group stage last year, finishing third (thus outside of knockout realm) but did not even qualify this year. Sadly, all I can think of when I read “libertad” is the refugee tent riot scene where everybody is setting shit on fire, but then Manny yells out to Rebenga, and then Scarface stabs him. If they had to remake Scarface (which they probably are knowing them who are they), it’d be great if it was based on Syrian refugees and criminal types sneaking into America only to translate their previous experience with opium production into new criminal endeavors in America. But most likely if they are remaking it they are doing so horribly with some aging white superstar like DiCaprio or whatever pretending to be tough guy in new Scarface role more role playing fantasy for star than actual acting. White devil culture, again.

#3: CERRO PORTENO (of Paraguay) – 69 group stage points; advanced to knockout rounds 4 times. Last year they made Copa Libertadores but got knocked out in the pre-group stage round that only a handful of teams have to take part in. This year, they are in Group 8 with Cobresol of Chile, Santa Fe of Colombia, and the dreaded powerhouse Corinthians from dreaded Brazil. It should be noted the “n” in Cerro Porteno is actually one of those enya “n”s but I’m using a Yakubian keyboard at my Yakubian place of employment, so that the enya is absent. It’s weird how Spain Spanish are/were world conquerors just like the English, but somehow got all transmogrified in western hemisphere with indigenous bloodlines, thus creating what we know as “Latino”, which is considered a minority in America, even though Spanish/English in old world were both white, I guess. I mean, I wasn’t there or anything; I’m strictly speaking from the perspective of somebody who’s read some shit nowadays, although if Howard Zinn and the movie Straight Outta Compton taught me anything, it’s that history is told by the winners, often leaving out any negative information the winners deem not cool and shit.

#4: CLUB BOLIVAR (of Bolivia) – 69 group stage points; advanced to knockout rounds 2 times. They are in Group 3 of this year’s Copa Libertadores, with two teams from Argentina (Racing and the infamous Boca Juniors) as well as Deportivo Cali from Colombia. The past half a decade has seen Bolivar qualify for Copa Libertadores every other year, and there’s a different sense towards intercontinental competitions in the non-European continents (Africa and South America, as well as Asia to some extent, and I guess North America though “international football” on this continent is largely irrelevant), where a team has to dedicate a lot of finance to the effort, which may or may not be there in terms of how much money they make. A packed stadium in South America does not mean the financial windfall it might mean for the TV games from Europe. So a team in non-capital world may blow money on a couple players, plus spend the money on actually traveling around the continent, to take a shot at winning a major trophy. So it goes through cycles. I personally have no problem with that, as it shouldn’t be as easy as signing checks with unlimited bank. I’m kinda like “fuck European soccer” when I think about that. But then all the best players end up going there, from South America and Africa and wherever else, because that’s where “the glory” is, which means the money. Thus the colonialism of capital continues old world colonialism. Club Bolivar, no matter how much they spend on a good-year cycle chasing a continental cup, ain’t ever gonna have Messi, Neymar, Suarez.

#5: CLUB UNIVERSIDAD DE CHILE (de Chile) – 66 group stage points; advanced to knockout rounds 4 times, but were knocked out in group stage last year, and this year couldn’t get through the cryptically named First Stage (a qualifying round before group stage) being defeated by River Plate of Uruguay (not River Plate of Argentina). Oddly though, recent history of this club is convoluted as fuck, as the team went into bankruptcy and administration and was then purchased by a private group, who pays a licensing fee to the Universidad de Chile to continue using the name and logo and shit. Naturally, fans are none to stoked, but for whatever reason, Chile is not as ruled by supporters as Argentina or Brazil is it seems, which gives this a slightly European feel. I guess they (meaning the devils) are working towards gentrifying South America as well. THEY AIN’T BEEN PUTTING ALL THOSE PUTAMAYOS IN STARBUCKS FOR NOTHING.

#6: COLO-COLO (of Chile) – 63 group stage points; advanced to knockout rounds once, and it should be noted their full name is Club Social y Deportivo Colo Colo, which sounds like it could be a go-go band. Their logo is indigenous as fuck, and they are perhaps the most popular team in Chile (although the previous entrant – before their private ownership fiasco – may have been the most popular). Last year, Colo Colo finished 3rd in their group in Copa Libertadores (thus not advancing to the knockout stages), finishing behind Santa Fe of Colombia and continental heavyweights Atletico Mineiro of Brazil. They were drawn into the same group as Mineiro again this season of Copa Libertadores, but also with some off-brand teams from Ecuador and Peru. Then again, without an on-brand, can there be an off-brand? Plus fuck brands. That’s etymological slavery of self. I refuse to endorse slavery of self, at least not without a pre-agreed upon safe word.

#7: LIGA DEPORTIVO UNIVERSITARIA DE QUITO (of Ecuador) – 62 group stage points; advanced to knockout rounds 5 times, not even qualifying last year but in a group this year with Gremio from Brazil plus noted Toluca of Mexico and also San Lorenzo from Argentina, so essentially a solid little group that covers all the bases of CONMEBOL (Brazil, Argentina, good team from somewhere else, why is Mexico here? oh yeah because North America is fucking stupid and irrelevant). Like a lot of the non-big two countries (and even Argentina to be honest), most of the top football clubs in Ecuador are based in the largest city of Quito. It’s neat how some of these teams are clubs but revolve around a university, so have straight up Wal-Mart iron-on “collegiate” letters style logos, which is straight up what LDU Quito’s logo looks like – clip art for a space college. Their logo has four gold stars for each of their major continental championships – Copa Libertadores in 2008, the second-tier Copa Sudamericana in 2009, and then both of the super clashes matches resulting from those two titles, two Recopa Sudamericanas in 2009 and 2010. They also have 14 Ecuadorian national championships, five since the turn of the century.

#8: CLUB AMERICA (of Mexico) – 60 group stage points; advanced to knockout rounds 5 times, but hasn’t even been there the past five years. However, the very fact there is a football (soccer) team called Club America, in Mexico, sort of goes against everything all the Republican candidates claim to be true about the world. However, the fact that Club America prefers to play in South America might make some of the things Trump says partially true. (Haha, fuck all those guys. We should just hire an illegal immigrant to be the next President. But also hire illegal immigrants to be all of Congress, just make sure you hire illegal immigrants in the district they are representing, then send them all to Washington, to actually make America great again.)

#9: CARACAS FC (of Venezuela) – 58 group stage points; advanced to knockout rounds twice, and they qualified this year but did not survive the dreaded First Stage. Remember when Hugo Chavez went to the UN and pretended like the diplomat from the other place that spoke before him stank? That was great.

#10: UNIVERSIDAD CATOLICA (of Chile) – 57 group stage points; advanced to knockout rounds twice, but being they are from a catholic university, their logo is a creepy looking cross. Also their Wikipedia page, like right out the bat, says they are a favorite of the higher classes, so that means they are for rich fuckers who believe in not only god but catholic god. Thus, I’m kinda like “fuck Club Deportivo Universidad Catolica” although to be fair the brown mixed blood Catholics of South America are nothing like “western culture” Catholics. I think the current pope has shown that. He still ain’t no pope of mine. (I, in fact, don’t have a human pope. My “pope” is a specific crow that looks to have been clipped by duckshot at some point, and I call him nothing because he is a crow, a pope crow, and my human words are not worthy of giving him a title. He, however, calls me Cawcawcaw Cawww, Cawcawcaw Cawww.)

#11: CLUB ATLETICO PENAROL (of Uruguay) – 54 group stage points; advanced to knockout rounds twice, and had been missing from the group stages for a few years, but is in Group 4 this year, along with Colombian powerhouse Atletico Nacional. When I did a bunch of dork research like two years ago about South American football, Penarol ended up being one of my favorites, because they have these ill ass black and yellow (black and yellow black and yellow) kits, plus logo, although every logo and crest and shit from South America has that gaudy but perfect 1970s IGA grocery store generic butter box design quality to it. Penarol is also the most successful non-Brazil/Argentina club on the continent, having won 5 Copa Libertadores, and almost fifty domestic championships in Uruguay (likely the number three nation in terms of football on the continent). ALMOST FIFTY! That shit’s crazy. Had I gone to Montevideo, like I was contemplating, I was gonna try to see Penarol. I also was gonna try to smoke opium in the mountains, and disappear from “western culture”.

#12: CLUB SPORT EMELEC (of Ecuador) – 53 group stage points; advanced to knockout rounds 3 times, making it to the quarterfinals last season, before losing the Tigres of Nuevo Leon of Mexico, who almost became the first Mexican team to win the Copa Libertadores. Emelec is again in group stage (called THE SECOND STAGE) this year. Emelec sounds weird, as it should, since they were a team started by an Ecuadorian electric company for its workers. The American owner did not like football, so he didn’t support it, and it was an amateur pursuit, but successful enough that eventually their bullshit American owner started putting money into the workers’ football team as well. The sports club also played other shit like basketball and boxing and swimming. Could you imagine working somewhere that had like a boxing and soccer team as part of the job? Like you’d hang out after work on Tuesdays to practice soccer, and everybody would come back to the work compound on Saturday afternoon for a soccer game? Man, fuck that. Although perhaps if such a world still existed, I wouldn’t be all like “fuck my job, I hate my job, god why won’t I die already and save me from this slow painful hell denying me all my true passions” all the time.

#13: CLUB THE STRONGEST (of Bolivia) – 53 group stage points; advanced to knockout rounds once, and could not get out of group stage last year, finishing third. This year they won their opening game, but are in a tough group with Argentina’s infamous River Plate (they of “getting maced by the other team’s fans” fame from last year) and Sao Paulo from Brazil. But most importantly, their name is The Strongest. As if that weren’t enough, they also wear black and yellow kits, which is always a more glorious color combo than bullshit red white and dark blue. Sky blue is iffy, but certainly a step up from dark blue. Fuck red and dark blue kits. They will never be the strongest. (It should be noted at first they were just The Strong Football Club, before upgrading to The Strongest.)

#14: ATLETICO NACIONAL (of Colombia) – 50 group stage points; advanced to knockout rounds 5 times, who has been a dominant force the past couple of years. They won their group last year, but were upset by Emelec in the Round of 16 during knockout stage. They qualified again for this season’s Copa Libertadores, and are most infamous for being the team that Pablo Escobar supported. In my personal life, they are well known for being the favorite team of the chill ass Colombian lady I talk shit with every day at work at the coffee stand. She wears Atletico Nacional jerseys on big game days, and told me that when she was back home visiting last Christmas in Medellin, she told them about me, one of her favorite gringos. It made my heart flutter. Atletico Nacional survived the post-Escobar era, but are only just in the past half-decade becoming a continental power again. And I can tell you from the lady at work’s babble, there are high hopes for this year’s Copa Libertadores. 

Monday, February 22

stormtrooper fairy boots step
through toxic blood osmosis
for reversal of fortunes
reappropriated gods
seen as classic, but borrowed
mythologies from vagrants

Sunday, February 21

skywriting chemtrail gridlock
can't yet encapsulate moon,
insulating lunacy

Saturday, February 20

Friday, February 19

well-known astrophysicist
doesn't seem to comprehend
peak wave form of sad ego

2016 Royal Poetry Rumble: THE FINALE

Well here we are in our grand finale, of this thing. We’ve (meaning me and the kvlt scholar) read a lot of poems, been exposed to people we hadn’t heard of before, been unimpressed by a lot of it, but also knocked the fuck away by some of it, specifically Laura Kasischke. She eliminated five people before being eliminated herself a couple days back. But both our finalists here today have knocked out four other people themselves, so whoever wins will equal that high watermark. The question is, will they equal the high moment of that mushroom poem by Kasischke?
Doesn’t really matter, because the format is today’s winner is the Royal Poetry Rumble winner.

GRAND FINALE: Joy Harjo (represented by “Perhaps the World Ends Here”) vs. Arthur Sze (represented by “The Shapes of Leaves”)

Harjo didn’t come in until the second week, but knocked out almost one person per installment the past six. Looking back on her previous entries (“She Had Some Horses”, “Equinox”, “Deer Dancer”, and “Eagle Poem”), I remember really disliking the horse poem, but a couple of the others fell into that not-hate-but-don’t-love area (which to be honest is about the best space to be in, in this competition it seems… sort of like hiding out next to the turnbuckle while all the major action happens elsewhere). This kitchen table poem is not really different. It feels like journal notes that might end up being a new Lucinda Williams song given a little time. But it also feels unfinished, and not so much in the sense the poem itself needs to be worked on. I guess for me, I expect a certain knock-out moment from a poem, either in the work as a whole, or at least little phrases fucking tap you in the pineal gland hard as fuck. Nothing here did this. And when I’m wavering on a thing, and a line like “Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children,” I have a hard time swallowing that.
And you see, that’s the thing (in my humble but perhaps self-important opinion) about good poesy – it can overcome mis-steps and corny ass phrasings because you can fuck the reader up two lines down with something just straight sikk. Harjo doesn’t fire back with that. So despite this being our finale, I am left feeling underwhelmed with her entry.
Arthur Sze also has knocked four folks out even though he didn’t enter the ring until near the halfway mark. His poem suffers from pretty much the exact same problems as the Harjo poem, although he does not quite reach as high anywhere, he also does not come off as corny as that coffee hugging our children line either. Ultimately, I am underwhelmed by this as well. Neither of these poems feel urgent to me, and I think that ends up being my problem with Big Poetry – lack of urgency. Perhaps this is the result of the wealth needed to explore a life as a poetry writer, or to obtain an MFA in the first place (which seems to be required to be a Big Poetry poet), and with that level of comfort comes lack of urgency. I’m sure poets in that realm would tell you how hard they struggle, how little money they make, but a term I’ve used a lot in my own personal life in recent years (as the unacknowledged continuing recession continues) is Nouveau Poor – the newly “poor” who still have access to a good safety net, but because they don’t have those high-paying gigs to keep from skimming their own interest or dividends, they think they are poor. There is a big difference between having no money with lot of safety net and even a little money with no safety net. A big difference, one so big it doesn’t make sense to demean it by capitalizing it as we do Big Poetry, because those types of Bigs are organized and manufactured. You do not manufacture shit when you are in the big difference of actual poverty. You are struggling.
The beautiful thing is though, if you are struggling, and feel the urge to create shit, many times those creations are fucking beautiful as fuck, because your moment to do such creative work is probably pretty fleeting. There is an urgency, so you fucking do it.
Neither of these poems feel like they Fucking Had To Be Done, and yet they were done, and they are on major poetry websites (lolol) as exemplary of these poets’ work.
I don’t know. Let’s go to the judge’s table:

THE KVLT SCHOLAR’S HANTEI: I know pretty much everything has seemed like at least a *little* bit of a letdown after the mushroom poem -- and I don't just mean the rest of the poems in this Rumble but in fact many other unrelated things as well (although what, one might ask, does not in some way relate to the mushroom poem) -- but man we are really limping towards the finish here, aren't we? It is not my wish to be unkind here, and these are far from the worst instances of poesy we have sen thus far certainly but at the same time there were poems eliminated in the early going that would have made short work of either "Perhaps the World Ends Here" with its largely understandable but arguably slightly overwrought approach to kitchen tables or "The Shapes of Leaves" which for some reason cannot content itself to be about the shapes of leaves but instead some guy. Maybe the most fitting result would be a simultaneous elimination like in 1994 with Lex Luger (who fought on behalf of both Amerikkka and Flexing) and Bret Hart (representing Her Majesty the Queen and also Holds) or maybe more appropriately like when John Cena and Big Dave Batista completely blew the finish in 2005 and both went over the top in a big dumb indistinct (aside from their abs etc) heap and Vince McMahon stormed down the aisle and entered the ring with such fury that he blew out a quad and couldn't stand so he just sat in the corner with his legs out in front of him like history's worst infant and was like WELL IT ISN'T A SHOOT ROYAL RUMBLE JUST FVKKN DO IT AGAIN but the 2016 Poetry Royal Rumble *is* a shoot Royal Rumble and we are not just going to fvkkn do it again but instead declare the winner to be (lol I read these twice this time; this is how seriously I take my duties here Raven/Dear Reader) "Perhaps the World Ends Here" because even if it is kind of a mess it is about how the poet is thinking seriously about kitchen tables in a way that I am not at all sure the poet of "The Shapes of Leaves" is thinking about the shapes as leaves *qua* the shapes of leaves as the philosophers might say (I don't know any philosophy). WINNER: "Perhaps the World Ends Here"

So Joy Harjo has won it. Here is a picture of her:
The crazy hand tattoo on her writing hand (which I knew not about until I googled a picture of her for the very first time just now) makes me feel better about her winning. It is a sign of beautiful madness I think.

So in the off chance you want to relive the memories, here is all that happened, but you can obviously click the Royal Poetry Rumble tag below this post because this is the internet and everything is connected (to a snitch)…
#30: Lucie Brock-Broido (eliminated by Angie Estes)
#29: Terrance Hayes (eliminated by Laura Kasischke)
#28: Marilyn Hacker (eliminated by Alan Shapiro)
#27: Alan Shapiro (eliminated by Nathaniel Mackey)
#26: Ross Gay (eliminated by Marie Ponsot)
#25: Lawrence Raab (eliminated by Juan Felipe Herrera)
#24: Angie Estes (eliminated by Amy Gerstler)
#23: Ada Limon (eliminated by Dennis O’Driscoll)
#22: Rowan Ricardo Phillips (eliminated by Laura Kasischke)
#21: A. Van Jordan (eliminated by Emily Fragos)
#20: Kevin Young (eliminated by Laura Kasischke)
#19: Dennis O’Driscoll (eliminated by Joy Harjo)
#18: Marie Ponsot (eliminated by Juan Felipe Herrera)
#17: Nathaniel Mackey (eliminated by Alice Notley)
#16: Claudia Rankine (eliminated by Arthur Sze)
#15: Juan Felipe Herrera (eliminated by Joy Harjo)
#14: Jane Hirshfield (eliminated by Robin Coste Lewis)
#13: Amy Gerstler (eliminated by Laura Kasischke)
#12: W.S. DiPiero (eliminated by Laura Kasischke)
#11: Mark Wunderlich (eliminated by Robin Coste Lewis)
#10: Alice Notley (eliminated by Arthur Sze)
#9: Laura Kasischke (eliminated by Arthur Sze)
#8: Emily Fragos (eliminated by Patrick Phillips)
#7: Gregory Pardlo (eliminated by Joy Harjo)
#6: Robin Coste Lewis (eliminated by Bobby C. Rogers)
#5: Frank Bidart (eliminated by Patrick Phillips)
#4: Bobby C. Rogers (eliminated by Arthur Sze)
#3: Patrick Phillips (eliminated by Joy Harjo)
#2: Arthur Sze (eliminated by Joy Harjo)
leaving Joy Harjo our 2016 Royal Poetry Rumble champion. Congratulations poetry lady (who will probably never see this). You should be proud.

And please, SUPPORT POETRY. It's the only way we keep the assholes from owning it completely.

Thursday, February 18

"borrowed" trailers abandoned
on wrong side of the tracks, where
they blend with natural blight
military recruitment
often involves hopelessness
plus “fuck it” escape desire

Wednesday, February 17

front porch door is never used,
so when bitches be knocking
there, I know they’s enemies

2016 Royal Poetry Rumble: The Tenth Installment

So here we are at the final four of this convoluted thing which may or may not have been a success. I don’t know that this isn’t like the actual Royal Rumble in that we’ll have to repeat this process a couple times and allow success to accumulate through memories of certain moments or people rather than rest simply on the thing itself. But let’s be honest, this is the internet and I am a fallible human with fleeting interests that might not be able to focus on well-regarded poetry annually. Nonetheless, here we are in our final four.

SEMIFINAL #1: Bobby C. Rogers (represented by “Paper Anniversary”) vs. Arthur Sze (repped by “The Owl”)

It should be noted that out of all these poets throughout this entire thing, the method of lifting poems from either poemhunter (first) or the Poetry Foundation website (second) has only failed with two poets. One lady poet who I can’t even remember ran out of poetry on those sites, but casual searching found a poem by her on the Slate, which is hardly an underground realm. But Bobby C. Rogers had nothing on either, and it was actually hard as fuck to find even a second poem by him. He is obviously on the more extreme independent end of this field, perhaps a Daniel Bryan type, who is to say? This “Paper Anniversary” poem hardly reads like poesy but more like prose, in fact so much so I distrust this is actually a poem but perhaps poorly formatted website, but I am going to trust the process and consider this a poem perhaps tromping across that line between poesy and prose (prosetry?) a little heavy-footed.
I can relate to Bobby C. Rogers moving into this new house because the weather-friendly old ass farmhouse we have lived in for over 15 years also welcomed us with some sudden ass azalea blooms. Most of them have been overgrown by newer things, or obliterated by dirtgod chaos spirals, but the white one outside the bathroom window still is kinda kicking, and that window is hardly a window at all (I could see my breath in our bathroom yesterday) so when it is spring and the local world is shaking off winter, and I am sitting there taking a shit and see the azalea there, I will push the raggedy ass window open and breath the air from outside, and though it all haphazard and not new at all (including me), those moments make a lot more fucking sense to me than most moments.
And I have to say this is one of my favorite poems through this whole thing. It’s a very beautiful piece, subtly so, and I see a lot of love in it, not just the couple moving into a new house this is about but love for the earth, and a new *home* but yet also still that age old human inclination to shape the earth and new homes. Full reveal here – my wife is an herbalist, and I know all too well the healing nature of mimosa tincture and how it opens even the most jaded cynic (like, for example, me) to open-hearted love for this world’s mundane bullshit, so when our poet’s narrator “clears away a decade’s worth of mimosa volunteers and wild cherry trees,” I’m kinda sad about it. Birds have ate our cherries from our trees and then shit everywhere, leaving the seeds in bird excrement, which means we have wild cherry trees everywhere, including a bunch wrapping around my chicken pen, so the cherries just fall off down to the chickens, and it makes sense to me (again) in ways a lot of shit doesn’t. As does this poem. There’s a lot of shitty shitty SHITTY writing in this 2016 world which calls itself bare-knuckled and hardscrabble, and generally it’s the worst stereotypes of what someone who is not a poor white thinks poor whites do as a people all the time, but I’d dare say this poem here, with a wide mouth jar found in the crawl space and a dude feeling good about some regular ass shit which I guess is not all that regular, this poem is hardscrabble as fuck, in the realest sense of what that means in 2016.
Sze’s “The Owl” almost is not fair to do battle with such a thick dense piece of wordage as what we just read. It’s like Bobby C. Rogers gave a 15-minute clinic on hardcore word grappling, but Sze counters with like a dropkick. There’s nothing wrong with Arthur Sze’s dropkick, per se, but it’s just like whatever. And honestly, owls are fucking awesome, so there’s a lot more potential to something you’re gonna call “The Owl”.

THE KVLT SCHOLAR’S HANTEI: I don't think there is anything wrong with "Paper Anniversary" and in fact there are I think a lot of things right with it such as for starters its fine attention to things that I think are good things to attend to; I am not on the whole wild about poems that formally are essentially prose (I guess I mean essentially in the real sense of essential here), unless they are by Anne Carson, but then actually those ones, when they look like prose, *essentially* aren't prose even a little because they are fire-breathing poesy from the worldeating brainheart of Anne Carson, our hero were we deserving of such a hero (we are not). If the *worst* thing you can say about a poem is that you think it might be better if it had been written by Anne Carson, you are probably dealing with pretty much a top-tier poem, and this again I think is very good, but despite its (I think) obvious and considerable merits I am going with "The Owl" here because it gets one small thing *exactly* right, which makes the small thing a huge thing, and maybe the hugest, which is I think what poetry does at its best (it does all kinds of things, what do I know), probably because I have never really escaped the influence of Ezra Pound which is evidenced by whenever I encounter the word usury I bellow UUUUSSSSSUUUUURRRRRAAAAAAA like in the recordings of Pound in the Cantos (try it it's super fun). These are both really good but kind of enormously different. WINNER: "The Owl"

Thought I can’t deny the reasoning, still though GODDAMMIT. Oh well, I have faith in the pre-established judging process, thus out at #4 is “The American Dragon” Bobby C. Rogers.

SEMIFINAL #2: Joy Harjo (repped by “Eagle Poem”) vs. Patrick Phillips (repped by “Piano”)

Joy Harjo is our last not-a-man left in this thing, and I have enjoyed her work, and have high hopes being this thing is called “Eagle Poem”. And there’s nothing wrong with it, but I have this high distrust of in real life people who put on this faux sacred attitude, where you think of them saying “I am so fucking sacred” sharing Rumi memes on FB and entertaining the notion that proper alkaline water can mute cancer genes in the body. Now I’m not averse to any of that, but you have to be real about shit like that, look at it with open but discerning mind, not just throw that shit all over the place and pretend you’re a fuckin’ shaman. There’s a lot of faux shaman on this earth nowadays. A lot. And though nothing in this “Eagle Poem” is an outright faux shaman moment, it treads too dangerously close to that for me to feel entirely comfortable about getting behind it.
Sadly, Patrick Phillips’ poem speaks to me just barely, and perhaps that is my bias as broken and beaten man who feels born to lesser destiny on American stage but let’s be real my life is amazing compared to worldwide standards, and though I would not read this poem to a youth poetry group, it is a nice little piece of poem. Plus, I have a piano in my yard that we are watching deteriorate back into the earth. It was nice the first few months before the weather got to it because my wife or the kids could play it outside, and the birds would be up in the trees, mockingbirds talking shit like always, and that was kinda funny. But now the piano is fucked, and bound for the burnpile before long, though my mom’s burned a few pianos over the years and warned me to snip the strings before burning because if you don’t, they pop with the wood burning and shoot pieces out like .25 bullets.

THE KVLT SCHOLAR’S HANTEI: "Eagle Poem" is really pretty good but the opposite of "The Owl" in that in "The Owl" it is like ok let me get the moment when I saw the owl exactly right and all things will follow from that *so hard* that I don't even need to say any of them but they will be there; "Eagle Poem" is like ok there was a time I saw an eagle and this is sort of what it looked like but here is *exactly* what it felt like and weirdly though by saying exactly what it felt like it creates a distance that keeps you from the eagle and I don't want that, I want to be right there with the eagle like I was with the owl. This makes it sound like I don't want poems to tell me how they feel (obviously not true) or that I think this poem is ungood (also not true) but I just read "The Owl" which while not an everything-changer like the mushroom poem (nothing is) is reallllly good and offers an obvious point of contrast and way of thinking about what you like poems to do. Let's see about "Piano" though: ahhhhh fvkk man this is the whole thing all over again, in that this should really tell me way more about the smashed piano with leaves in it and less about the poet's identification with a smashed piano with leaves in it *unless* it is like a Wordsworth or Keats-lvl feelings-teller who is going to tell me about those feelings (so yeah my sensibility is pretty much canonical Romanticism scourged by canonical Modernism especially the part that was by fascists or their palz; I have really good politics too just ask about them they're great). WINNER: "Eagle Poem"

So Patrick Phillips is out at #3. And that leaves us with the final two – Arthur Sze and Joy Harjo. WHO WILL BE THE ROYAL POETRY RUMBLE CHAMPION? Find out in our next and last installment, assorted handful of followers of this thing as well as Russian robots.