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.

Monday, February 20

2017 Royal Poetry Rumble: The Fourth Part of This Thing


Hi, welcome back. I am not going to recap what has transpired thus far because if you are not a robot you could click the tag below this post and see what happened yesterday and the day before. But perhaps you are a robot. We live in horrible cyborgian times where seemingly organic human beings take pride in their robotic nature. For example, read the following in stereotypical ‘80s movie robot voice: “I DON’T READ POETRY BECAUSE POETRY IS NOT FOR ME I AM NOT A PROFESSOR AT HARVARD JUST A REGULAR PERSON THUS POETRY HAS NO MEANING. ALSO IT IS JUST BUSINESS, NOTHING PERSONAL. I HAVE NO HEART, I ONLY ACT IN THE BEST FINANCIAL INTERESTS OF MYSELF, THIS DOES NOT MEAN I AM HEARTLESS JUST THAT I AM EXTREMELY RATIONAL BECAUSE RATION MEANS SELF-PRESERVATION AT THE EXPENSE OF ALL OTHERS. I WOULD RATHER PUT TINY FLAG STICKERS ON MY CAR WHICH I NEEDLESSLY DRIVE EVERYWHERE WITHOUT EVEN CONTEMPLATING A WALK THAN READ A POEM. POETRY IS FOR FAGGOTS. NO, I WON’T APOLOGIZE FOR USING THAT WORD WE HAVE FREEDOM OF SPEECH IN THIS GREAT NATION IN FACT GREATEST NATION EVER NOT ONLY ON EARTH BUT PROBABLY THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE, AND I REFUSE TO BE POLITICALLY CORRECT, I AM DEPLORABLE AND/OR NASTY AND REFUSE TO READ POETRY. IT IS NOTHING PERSONAL JUST BUSINESS, AND I HAVE NO BUSINESS READING POETRY” and this could go on forever with syndicated episodes of Family Feud hosted by Steve Harvey on in the background the entire time.
Anyways, a new day of Royal Poetry Rumble combat begins…

#21: Jane Mead (represented by Passing a Truck Full of Chickens at Night on Highway Eighty) vs. Donika Kelly (repped by How to be Alone)

Jane Mead literally (and perhaps “literarily”) just eliminated the last person yesterday, but is immediately drawn back into the fracas today. She opposes Donika Kelly, she of the National Book Award long-listing.
Mead’s poem about a chicken truck is one I can relate to, as I live in farming country and have often remarked at the hopelessness of these giant tractor trailers full of meat birds. The thing Jane doesn’t realize though is beyond their farm slavery, these birds are also genetic slaves, having been purposely bred in horrible Yakubian ways to do nothing except get thick with meat. So even if they were to become freed, they would simply eat like little poultry Frankensteins until their legs broke under the weight of their own scientifically programmed gluttony. There is no saving these chickens; they are doomed simply by being born the way they are born. Sometimes I wonder if we are not as well.
Donika Kelly’s poem feels more like a tweetstorm than a poem, and because of this I feel ripped off. It is the opposite of being bred to be thick of meat – it is bare bones with only a suggestion of potential meat, and yet I am still hungry for a fucking poem after reading it.
THE KVLT SCHOLAR’S HANTEI: I am in truth not wild about the turn towards the end of "Passing A Truck Full of Chickens" where the poet seeks identification with the chicken that seems to him/her bravest and best or something, but the grim realities faced by the other chickens is so well drawn here that as a piece I would not dare fault it. "How to Be Alone" is agreeable to the extent to which it makes a fine point about dogs (they are, or can be, good) but there is a grandiosity to "Who make bearable all that you must bear" that I find off-putting. Also I will note here that How to Be Alone is the title of the first collection of essays by Jonathan Franzen, and I read it in one sitting riding the train from Halifax to Montreal I don't know fourteen of fifteen years ago and when I say one sitting I really mean one sitting in that I didn't even get up to use the train bathroom; it was at times a very good collection of essays I think but I have never read any of his fiction. I do enjoy when he says oblivious things and then people who mind those things are like HABLOOBLOOFLOO for a day or two on twitter. 
WINNER: "Passing A Truck Full of Chicks at Night on Highway Eighty"
Eliminated at position #21 is Donika Kelly (and one-third of our field is now gone).

#20: Ed Roberson (repped by Here) vs. Diane Seuss (repped by There’s Always One on the Driveway, Featherless)

Ed Roberson actually won two awards this past calendar year – both the Ruth Lilley award as well as the PEN Voelckner award. (In keeping with our wrestling metaphor, let us pretend Ruth Lilley and Pen Voelckner were a woman/man pairing in early ‘80s WWF, Voelckner being a dastardly east German, and Lilley being the simple Midwestern girl who had fallen victim to his predatory charm. Together, they will make life miserable for Bruno Sammartino.) Diane Seuss was a Pulitzer award for the poetries finalist.
Roberson’s poem is fragmented clusterfuck, like pieces stitched together that don’t necessarily match, and honestly I love it. It works for me enough I want to see more of Roberson’s stuff. I have not thought that about many of these poets.
And yet Diane Seuss’s poem is really beautiful. Similar to the Donika Kelly poem, there is more teased from reader’s assumptions of other facts than what is actually shown; and yet Seuss shows so much more in her poem than Kelly did (or Roberson). This Seuss poem is a strong one, and it is a memoir’s five thousand word chapter put into the giant stockpot of poetry, slowly simmered down to gelatinous truth, and so fucking healthy for you when you are sick.
THE KVLT SCHOLAR’S HANTEI: I worry that "Here" is just pretty little horseshit, maybe? Is that just unkind to think?  "There's Always One on the Driveway, Featherless," on the other hand, is not anywhere near as poesyesque as I am generally after in poesy but one cannot, in my view, encounter this poem and deny that the touch that has been touched upon it is the touch of the real. I am thinking about how it is hard to know how to handle dead bird situations when there are small kids around, and I am thinking particularly of one time there were two dead robins on the neighbour's front yard and at that point I didn't even really know these neighbours that well, certainly not to the extent where I would wander around their yard unasked, but I hated the idea that their little girl would come out and see two dead robins so I shoveled them up and into the compost bin, an inglorious end for a fine creature but who among us. Or maybe she was at the exact right age to see about dead robins and I fucked the whole thing up. 
WINNER: "There's Always One on the Driveway, Featherless"
Peace out Ed Roberson, you finished at #20.

#19: Joy Harjo (repped by Insomnia and the Seven Steps to Grace) vs. Peter Gizzi (repped by Bardo)

Joy Harjo is back again, last year’s winner of this convoluted project, and also the clear highlight for me personally thus far this year with that poem from yesterday. Gizzi also has already appeared this year and eliminated somebody, so these are two wily veterans of the rumble.
Harjo – again – does not fuck around. There are so many lines that piledrive me. “All over the world there are those/who can’t sleep, those who never awaken.” “Her mother has business in the house of chaos.” It is constant barrage of strong style poesy. Also this description of early dawn human movement through town:
Some have been drinking and intimate with strangers. Others are   escapees from the night shift, sip lukewarm coffee, shift gears to the   other side of darkness.   
The whole thing is just impossibly beautiful, and at this point I would really like to just sit at Joy Harjo’s feet and listen to her read her poetry and perhaps ask a couple questions but mostly just listen.
Gizzi’s poem is not necessarily a bad one but it pales in comparison to what Harjo just dropped. He didn’t stand a chance in my opinion.
THE KVLT SCHOLAR’S HANTEI: This is tough sledding man I don't know, neither of these speaks to me in the least. In all instances of ties due to either shared excellence or shared not-for-me-ness or shared mediocrity or whatever the win shall always go to the poem with the best individual line (what else is the unit of composition, truly) and here that is clearly "She is a prophet disguised as a young mother who is looking for a job," a line that is so good it deserves a way better poem wrapped around it, and by way better obviously I mean one that is way better to me and my particular idiot tastes which is what I demand all art conform to our else what is the point of anything up to and including it all. 
WINNER: "Insomnia and the Seven Steps to Grace"

Done at #19 is Peter Gizzi. Also it is interesting to note that the kvlt scholar, having author’s names stripped from what he reads, is unaware of who the poet is, whereas I – with that knowledge – perhaps prematurely mark out for Joy Harjo. Perhaps his method is more scientific than mine, as my bias poisons me. Then again, science itself is somewhat poisonous many times. So who is to say? (And if they were to say, why should we trust them?)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ed Roberson - robbed.