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 24

2017 Royal Poetry Rumble: Number Seven Direct


I was about to recap with that long dumb list about all the eliminations up to this point but fuck it man. Just fuck it.

#12: Diane Seuss (represented by Toad) vs. Sharon Olds (repped by Toth Farry)

Seuss has already eliminated to male poets (including Kyle Dargan yesterday), and Sharon Olds is just now stepping into this year’s rumble for the first time. She was last year’s Wallace Stevens Award winner, which means she gets to carry around one of Wallace Stevens’ femur bones around with her should she choose. Poetry is a fucking dark racket.
Seuss’s poem is “Toad” and it’s hard not to have stereotypical children’s rhymes pollute my thoughts with her last name and that poem title. I wondered briefly if she was related to the famous Dr. Seuss, so I utilized the internet, which told me nothing specific, but I did find out Dr. Seuss used “Theophrastus Seuss” as a pen name, and that’s pretty fuckin’ sick imo. (I am now writing as if this is twitter; this is one step further towards language oblivion. 1000100011101, 01000111011, 100101111100111111101!!!)
I am half-heartedly all in on this “Toad” poem though with this ending to the first stanza:
like the yarrow-edged side roads  
we walked barefoot in the summer. 
I support barefoot life pretty hard, and also letting the yarrow grow wherever it chooses, because yarrow is beneficial as fuck. And quickly Seuss shifts from these toad recollections to her father and grandfather and very Earthly remembrances of them, and their death, and it ties into the squashed toad on the road, and fuck man this is a very good poem, one which I thoroughly endorse you clicking the link to read.
I have to admit, on the other end of the spectrum, I am afraid of something called “Toth Farry” pretty badly. It however is a pretty great poem in its own right about a hidden collection of your children’s teeth left for the tooth fairy, and the juxtaposition of these two poems is very odd indeed (and by chance through our royal poetry rumble protocol) because one is looking back at the previous generations, while the other is fondly thinking of how the one behind has already come so far. Both are good, though not necessarily my wheelhouse, but I dare not have an opinion strong enough one way or the other to disparage either of these offerings.
THE KVLT SCHOLAR’S HANTEI: I was all ready to be an asshole and say things like "WHY DO I LET THE TOAD 'POEMS THAT ARE WORSE THAN PHILIP LARKIN'S POEM "TOAD"' SQUAT ON MY LIFE?" and just to prove to me that I am awful this poem turned out to be an unrepentant killer of idiots like me. "It isn't easy to catch a living thing and hold it until it pees on you in fear" is weirdly heavy, and the less said about "a cold-bloodedness, like Keats at the end" the better lest I disgrace myself further (not actually possible). I am not saying this is this year's "Mushrooms" by Laura Kasischke because that is not really a fair thing to say about or expect of anything but holy shit this one. "Toth Farry" would have done well enough against probably the better part of this year's Rumblists but this is like Shawn Michaels mouthing "I love you; I'm sorry" before super-kicking Ric Flair into retirement. I don't know if it's like that at all actually, I am still trying to collect myself over here. 
WINNER: "Toad"
Thus gone at #12 is Sharon Olds.

#11: Lorna Crozier (repped by Compendium on Crows) vs. Jane Mead (repped by The Outstretched Earth)

Lorna Crozier won some Canadian poetry award that I don’t even feel like looking up because I am lethargic of spirit perhaps bordering on depression, and Jane Mead has already thrown three other poets out of this thing this year.
Crozier’s poem is about crows – a subject for which I often write abundantly upon myself, though she claims “They have no gods of punishment or absolution” and I’m not sure I agree with this from my own personal crow studies. And for some reason this (along with the rest) bothers me, because fucking crows is so easy a subject to fucking rip an amazing poem from, I feel thoroughly disappointed by what I just read as having failed to live up to the subject matter, and that wonderful title.
Jane Mead’s poem also feels to me to fail to deliver on a promising title, but I am less mad about this one that the crows. Still though, these fuckers gotta step up their game and not just think of a hot title without delivering the goods. (Also, in all likelihood I am a horribly shitty poet myself, so how can I even say such things?)
THE KVLT SCHOLAR’S HANTEI: Your special connection to corvidae is well known and I feel that I should probably go so far as to break with our conventions (such as they are) and cede the hantei in this instance to you, or maybe that wouldn't be appropriate because you would be too soft on crow poems? Or maybe actually too hard? "Compendium on Crows" gets around any of those kinds of considerations by being so unyieldingly sikk that anyone who reads it, even if they had neither loved nor so much as known a crow, would be won to its cause. "Two crows or one: sorrow and joy have nothing to do with them. Meat does" is unreal, as is "Brains so sharp they know everything at once and don’t sort it into parts, their caw, caw, caw parsed only by the dead in the stench of the gut" and maybe even more so there's "They have no gods of punishment or absolution. They have no stations. Yet, without exception, they dote on their young, give them what they lack, pluck the songbird’s newly hatched like living plums" which is maybe best of all, and it's not like there are other parts of the poem that aren't as good as those parts, because that's pretty much the whole poem, it's in, it's out, and you are left murdered (oh shit). I will mention only briefly a policy I adopted several years ago of always at least *trying* to see where a crow was when I heard it and this approach to crows has rewarded me nearly every time I have been outside since I adopted it. Let's see about this other poem, but I already feel bad for it. Ah ok, "The Outstretched Earth" is fine but nothing to write home about, let's go back to thinking about crows. 
WINNER: "Compendium on Crows"
Perhaps I am too soft on crow poems, or too hard more likely. I wonder if this is how I parent as well? Fuck. Anyways, eliminated at #11 is Jane Mead, who did strong style three other poets out before being eliminated. Tough draw for her, constantly forced into poesy combat.

#10: Amy Gerstler (repped by From ‘A Severe Lack of Holiday Spirit’) vs. Allison Hedge Coke (repped by Redwing Blackbird)

Amy Gerstler was a Kingsley Tuft finalist and makes her RPR debut, whereas Allison Hedge Coke knocked another poet out of this thing a few sessions back. This Gerstler poem, ostensibly about getting drunk during the holidays, is severely fucking lacking though.
The Allison Hedge Coke is not lacking at all though, pure bird poetry, and also rocks the highlight line of the day with “Silver Maple samaras” so there is no doubt she will win, unless the kvlt scholar is some sort of idiot.
THE KVLT SCHOLAR’S HANTEI: To be honest I don't give the least shit about "A Severe Lack of Holiday Spirit," if you can't get through winter, which is beautiful, without descending into dumb misery you don't even deserve winter (I have no idea what that means). Seventy-five centimetres of snow in seventy-hours here last week, it was unreal. The part about a duck blasted out of the sky calls to mind, does it not, the NYer cartoon about one duck flying next to another and saying something like "Well, it's that time of the year where sometimes the guy next to you just explodes," which is an all-time great NYer cartoon imo. Everybody likes redwing blackbirds, and I expected a nice little poem about them, but then this one ups things considerably by being from the perspective of one, and a *lady* one at that; it is minorly exquisite. 
WINNER: "Redwing Blackbird" 

Amy Gerstler is gone, rightfully so for this wack ass poem, at #10. WE ONLY HAVE NINE POETS LEFT! More nonsense the next time we post more of this nonsense. Remember though, support local poetry, support independent poetry, write poetry, love poetry. It might be all we fucking have one day.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Diane Seuss "Toad" poem was really, really good.
Ohhh, last year's "Mushrooms" poem was also so freaking good.

Lorna Crozier on crows...didn't like that one. I expected more from a poem with an awesome name.

(p.s. your tag "projects I should really not bother with" is hilarious)


Raven Mack said...

honestly could tag entire website with "projects I really should not bother with"

Anonymous said...

Bullchips.