RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition who publishes zines & physical books & electronic books & music & photography & digital art & just generally whatever feels necessary to survive this deluded earth thru Rojonekku Word Fighting Arts survival systems (Version 69, establish 14 Feb 1973). Comments encouraged.

Friday, February 12

2016 Royal Poetry Rumble: Number 9 Number 9 Number 9


Probably we should get down to business again, although this is not really business but nonsense. I guess that’s poesy and Big Poetry though, one is business and the other is nonsense and the nonsense one is way more important than the business one but the business one holds down the reputation. Nonetheless we are into our final six in this Royal Poetry Rumble, and today we will whittle that down even further to four.

#6: Robin Coste Lewis (represented by “Mother Church No. 3”) vs. Bobby C. Rogers (repped by “Spring Recital, Beethoven Club, Memphis, Tenn.”)

Robin Coste Lewis is back up in this bama, having previously eliminated two other poets, and she faces a man named Bobby C. Rogers, who has not even entered our competition until now due to luck of the randomizing function of the Excel spreadsheet on dirtgod computer draw. Ol’ Bobby Rogers was a Witter Bynner Fellowship award winner last year, meaning the then poet laureate of these United States of AmeriKKKa thought, “Hey, Bobby C. Rogers is great, let’s give him an honorific award.”
Lewis’s poem title conjures in my brain thoughts of the Mother Mosque of America, which – contrary to what one would expect – is located in Iowa. At one point I was looking up all the oldest mosques in America, ya know, just for digital wireless fog wasted moments hahahas OMG three decades later you’re dead with nothing to show for it. Unfortunately for Robin Coste Lewis’s poem, I found the Metaphysics of Ibn al-Arabi book lying towards the bottom of the pile of various readables beside my bed, and had been reading on that last night. The esoteric nature of al-Arabi’s spiritual beliefs do not complement an ability to appreciate this particular Robin Coste Lewis poem. There is:

We sing nine-hundred-year-old hymns 
That instruct us in how to sit still 
 
For forty-nine years 
Through a fifty-year drought.

But then I think of even earlier times, older than these hymns, traditions that didn’t survive the passage into Western Cultural Traditions, or Big Poetry, and I don’t know, Robin Coste Lewis is a woman of color and coming from outside that, but also assimilated into it, and I guess I’m kinda bored with how fractured yet so obviously homogenized in a terribly flawed way that Western Cultural Traditions are. So I’m hating on her poem.
Ol’ Bobby C. Rogers’s poem also seems to be related to church, and is also not quite insanely outlaw in nature, rebelling against Big Poetry, but I enjoy the poetic flourishes more. However though, this causes feelings of conflict in me, as I know that one of these poets is a woman of color and the other is a white dude. As someone who would be identified from beyond as “white dude” I am uncomfortable feeling like that somehow makes me biased. But then again, we can’t know our biases really, or else we’d probably not be so biased (one would hope). There is no doubt I enjoy the Rogers poem more, but is that due to my own innate conditioning? I don’t know. But this is also why in the process of setting this thing up, I kept the names of the poets off the poems, so that our esteemed the kvlt scholar would not be biased by pre-knowledge of somebody. (However, I guess one can’t really identity their own cultural biases when deeper than that, to the drill-down level of what is being said. Whatever though… if we think about anything hard enough, we will paralyze all our actions.)

THE KVLT SCHOLAR’S HANTEI: I like both "Mother Church No. 3" and "Spring Recital, Beethoven Club, Memphis, Tenn" and there is not a lot to choose between them imo: the first speaks to me as a guy who only has The Revelation of Saint John the Divine left and then he has read the whole King James and is so an expert in all matters regarding Faith and its Complications, some of which are outlined here; the second, as a guy who is familiar with the wildness of seeing Art Things emerge out of children in ways that are not I guess not completely unexpected but still somewhat surprising and also moving. The whole end part is exactly right, probably: "From our place in the crooked rows of folding chairs, we just hope the pictures turn out. And then there it is, the architecture of a Bach the counterpoint of the piece emerging uncorrupted by technique or facility, suddenly readable against struggle’s bright foil." Yeah that's really good.WINNER: "Spring Recital, Beethoven Club, Memphis, Tenn."

So it is decided, Bobby C. Rogers – only having been drawn once – makes it to the final four. And Robin Coste Lewis is eliminated at #6.

#5: Patrick Phillips (repped by “The Guitar”) vs. Frank Bidart (repped by “In Memory of Joe Brainard”)

Patrick Phillips is back after his first competition our last day of this thing, and I failed to mention he was part of our field because of being on the shortlist for the National Book Award for the poetry last year. His opponent is only now entering the competition, and I think of all the wonderful poets we’ve already seen knocked out, and it does not seem fair that Frank Bidart is just now starting out, with only five people left, but that is how this shit works. Bidart won the PEN/Voelcker award in 2014, so shouts out to him.
Now I will be clear – my house with my wife and I can be a creatively intense one at times. We do not self-identify as Creatives (because lolol who the fuck does that that is not fake as fuck?) but we always have some shit going on. So at times, one or the other of us has to check out, so to speak, and turn the constantly spinning heart math off ever so briefly to recharge the physical existence. For me, I will be honest, this usually involves either watching old crappy wrestling (hence, the Royal Poetry Rumble) or playing Football Manager like a crack binge. For my wife, it involves vegging out into some stupid TV show. Her current veg out is Nashville, which sounds nice from the next room as I’m pecking away at whatever madnesses I’m indulging, but whenever I go in to actually watch, it’s godawful. But I understand the need to retract thought ever so briefly for recharge.
So here is the deal (and the reason for the tangent) – there are some really hokey and horrible “country” songs on that show. They all sound almost just like something famous, maybe, I think, but are not quite, and ultimately all sound like bland and wretched garbage that has been spit shined by robot spit into something godawful (because if there were a god, she would not allow for such atrocities by her creations – and she probably wouldn’t self-identify as a Creative despite being The Creator). So this poem “The Guitar” is worse poetry than a lot of the songs on Nashville, thus smdh forever at it. I mean, I’m sure Patrick Phillips meant well, but fuck man, this is a poem that never should’ve made it to the internet as example of a known and published poet’s work.
“In Memory of Joe Brainard” however is not much better, and I’m suddenly very disillusioned and not sure I like poetry at all. Like this whole project is feeling like a big mistake.

THE KVLT SCHOLAR’S HANTEI: I have played guitar(z) for way more of my life than I have not played guitar(z) and I make songs and put them up on soundcloud (to meet the exacting demands of my fanbase) and I *really* like to do those things but I am fairly unromantic about guitar(z) as physical objects, which is probably weird, because I am ludicrously Romantic about all kinds of things, but just not guitar(z) exactly? I think this is probably just contrarianism contra what I think is probably an over-romanticized thing in the culture broadly I guess? Like there is something maudlinly boomerish about romanticizing guitar(z) or something that I find unbecoming, maybe? The only Romantic idea about guitar(z) *qua* guitar(z) I like is something Neil Young said about every guitar having a certain number of songs in them and you just have to kind of figure out which ones are in there. I like that my guitar looks and sounds metal as fvkk and I like that I bought my bass with paper route money and selected that particular bass solely on the grounds of how much it looked like Cliff Burton's (may peace be upon him) but beyond that what is there; what is there. lol ok though I don't like "In Memory of Joe Brainard" at all though so while I am sorry for the poet's loss we are going with the guitar one and can I just say at this time that it is *killing me* that Laura Kasischke is on the outside of this Rumble looking in at this point whilst poems of this calibre are tipping other even lesser poems out over the top; this is an *outrage* (much like the Rumble so often is itself I suppose so this is all exactly right but DAMN IT).WINNER: "The Guitar"


Yeah, I guess it’s like a real Royal Rumble in that all the shit I care about is probably long gone but I’ve paid attention this far, goddammit I’m gonna force myself to the horrible end. But we probably should’ve just quit after Kasischke’s mushroom poem. But Frank Bidart is knocked out at #5, and now we only have four poets left for this thing. Here is a recap of up to this point (with nothing written after it, so it’s sort of like poet-metrics, but also not at all):
#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)

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