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 13

2017 Royal Poetry Rumble: Introduction

This was done last year at this here digital compendium of gibberish, as a dual honor to both the Art of Professional Wrestling (as exemplified at the corporate level by the WWE Royal Rumble) as well as the Art of Poesy (all too often overlooked because A: people are averse to beautiful shit, and B: academia has stuck too many pretentious fingers into poetry). I will cut-and-paste this part from last year’s introduction though, because it still rings true:
The Royal Rumble is a stupid professional wrestling event where 30 people are thrown into a chaotic clusterfuck of bad wrestling, in a way that seems like it could never work, and yet somehow it’s perhaps the most entertaining of all stupid professional wrestling events (which tend to get stupider and stupider as you get older and older). I hardly watch wrestling at all any more, and if I ever do it’s usually something with nostalgic value buried inside the youtubes, but man when I was younger, I used to love that shit. But it remains one of those shameful things I’d never admit to anybody, though I don’t try to hide it necessarily either. It just sort of floats out there in the aether of personal experience, like a bad trip (drugs, not travel, though that Venn diagram has large crossover potential).
Similarly, I guess I’d be considered a “poet”. People have introduced me as such. People have consulted me as such. And yet every time that word is applied to me, it makes every molecule of my being cringe in embarrassment. Poetry can be as wretched as professional wrestling, and the deeper into the ESTABLISHED POETRY INDUSTRY (if you could call it an “industry”), the more wretched and horrible it gets (much like pro wrestling). And though at its true nature and in the filthy underground tendrils of it, poetry can be amazing (much like pro wrestling), it’s mostly known to the average person as this ridiculous spectacle that tends to live up to the horrible stereotypes about it (again, much like pro wrestling). 

The field of 30 was slightly altered from last year, to include some Canadians, but is mostly the same field of 30 award-winners as last year. They are, as follows:
#1: The current U.S. poet laureate, which since it doesn’t change every year, means the same dude as last year reps this slot this year. The position is sort of like being World Heavyweight champion of poetry (and it will be interesting to see what happens with the U.S. Poet Laureate in Trump’s time). (That’s one.)
#2: The poet laureate gets to appoint a Wytter Bynner fellow or two, in an under-laureate role (Intercontinental champ?), but the laureate official only appointed one for 2016. (That’s two total.)
#3: The National Book Award winner for the previous year in poetry, one of the highest poetry awards. (That’s three.) #4-7: Plus the other four poets who made the shortlist. (That’s seven.) #8-12: Plus the other five people who made the longlist. (That’s 12.)
#13: The Pulitzer Prize winner for poetry, which is another high dollar prominent award for broke ass academic poets to supplement their inherited wealth (or lack thereof). #14-15: Two other poets make the finalist class before the Pulitzer people pick their winner.
#16: The Kingsley Tufts award winner, which not only goes to a new book of poetry but to somebody with a body of work already deserving of props. It’s also a $100,000 award, so that’s pretty great. #17-20: There’s four other finalists for that joint.
#21: The Wallace Stevens award is another prominent one for poetry, and also with a $100,000 bonus.
#22: Last year, we awarded a spot to both the Ruth Lilley award winner (another $100,000 check) and the PEN Voelckner award, but the same person won both those awards this past calendar year, so it’s just one person this time around.
#23: Yale’s The Bollingen Prize is given out every other year, and MAY recognize a notable book or a notable body of work, and since this is the second year of that two-year cycle, the person in this slot repeats from last year.
#24: Last year we did the three most recent Lannan Award winners, but only included the most recent this time around, to make room for Canada.
#25-26: Canada offers up the Griffin Poetry Prize as their top award, so we’ve included the winner of the Canada class as well as the International (from Canada’s perspective) class.
#27-28: The Canadian poets union (something like that) gives out a number of awards, including the Gerald Lampert Award to first-time collection published poet, and the Pat Lowther Award for best book of poetry by a female. These two are included this  year.
#29: There’s a $20,000 award for a single poem, thought to be the biggest financial award for a single poem, given out called The Montreal International Poetry Prize. That winner is included in our field.
#30: Last year’s winner is also invited back to defend her crown. She was Joy Harjo.

Like last year, I’ve thrown the 30 poets onto a spreadsheet, and randomized their entry in batches of three match-ups. The poem to represent them if first taken from poemhunter.com so long as there’s still another one available by the poet. If not, I got to the Poetry Foundation website. If none there, we go rogue. I set up the match-ups and give my esteemed opinions on these matches, but ultimately, I am no judge. I am merely a dumbass man who writes a lot of dumbass shit. So I strip the poems of the author’s name, send them to my colleague and esteemed prof of the olden poesies, who I don’t really say his name because this is the internet and none of us have real names since that would essentially be snitching on ourselves. But he is @badtracking inside the twitterbots. I send him the poems, he – judging as wisely as a killer priest lounging between two pillars of ivory – picks a winner. And they advance. And we repeat this process until we are done, either sometime next week, or next month, or next lifetime.

So this is how this ridiculousness came to be and will go down. We begin tomorrow, WHEN THREE POETS WILL BE ELIMINATED, and will continue to whittle the field down until there are only two left, and one wins, and then we will be done. Ultimately I hope this inspires you to actively give half a fuck about poetry, but also we will crown the ROYAL POETRY RUMBLE WINNER OF 2017.

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