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.

Wednesday, February 17

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.

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