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 15

2017 Royal Poetry Rumble: The Second Part


A recap of yesterday’s eliminations for accounting and reconciliation purposes:
#30: Daniel Borzutzky (eliminated by Jennifer Moxley)
#29: Rita Dove (eliminated by Monica Youn)
#28: Donald Hall (eliminated by Peter Gizzi)
Please consult the tag below about Royal Poetry Rumble if you need to understand what the fuck is going on, or maybe to revisit what happened last year. With all that out the way, let us begin our journey through today’s poetic showdowns…

#27: Peter Balakian (represented by “My Mother is a Fish”) vs. Kevin Young (repped by Hurricane Song)

Balakian won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry last year, and Kevin Young is another National Book Award long-lister. I guess Balakian’s poem’s title is a quote from Faulkner, and honestly it’s lost on me and the beginning leaves me expecting corniness galore. As reading it though, it’s not entirely corny, and perhaps I am projecting my own primordial traditionalist beliefs into his words. Then again, fuck it man, that’s all art is ultimately, is us the artz consumptor, projecting our experiences into the thing we are regarding. Balakian’s poem’s narrator’s father though is not metaphor for coming from the muck, but straight up fisherman it seems, and I think one could get a lot more of fishing in a poem. Maybe Peter Balakian doesn’t like codeine, which would make sense because he doesn’t seem to particularly like fishing, and the two acts go hand-in-hand in my opinion.
The Kevin Young poem I think is sexual but in that high-brow way where it refuses to even entertain Bukowski-ness and is not sexual at all. Thus it’s like I read a Penthouse Forum letter with all the good parts (most of it) blackened out, but instead of black highlighter, Young just deleted the parts. I refuse to entertain any notion that this Kevin Young poem is worth a shit, yet I am bound by the rules of kvlt scholarship…
THE KVLT SCHOLAR’S HANTEI: As I Lay Dying, right? In the days before I could totally decide what I taught I had to teach that once, I guess it was fourteen years ago or something, and like all the Faulkner I have read (I have not read much at all) it seemed totally good but I am pretty deeply unlettered in its intricacies; I know there are plenty of full-on Faulkner people and I respect their choice to be that way despite not having any inclination in that direction myself (this is how I feel about people to whom Elvis Costello is super important also). I am staunchly in favour of shore poems and this reads to me like a pretty good one. R.I.P. the kingfisher here mentioned (Old English: īs-earn ["eez-ay-arn"], m.n: literally "ice-eagle"). I can also very much enjoy poesy of the "take it easy, mama" genre, from "The Passionate Shepherd" all the way through to the oft-revisited classic rock hits of FM radio, and "Hurricane Song" is part of that noble tradition, but the shore carries the day. 
WINNER: MY MOTHER IS A FISH
So outta this bitch at #27 is Kevin Young.

#26: Fred Moten (repped by there is religious tattooing) vs. Jennifer Moxley (repped by Dividend of the Social Opt Out)

Fred Moten was a Kingsley Tufts finalist, and Moxley already did battle once yesterday, vanquishing the far weaker poesy of Daniel Borzutzky.
I think Moten is trying pretty hard to be clever, and I actually enjoy (a little) how he does his line breaks to repeat short phrases at the beginning of a fresh line. It is like he is peppering us with poetic punches; however, to follow this metaphor, the content of the rest of his poetical moveset is not quite so striking, even if he is very clearly attempting to be (and probably think he is) clever.
As such, this match-up is akin to drag racing where one racer very obviously red lights and has blown any opportunity at victory, so ultimately all the other person has to do is not fuck it up entirely. And Jennifer Moxley very clearly does not fuck it up entirely, and in fact speaks to my lazy anti-social yet highly conflicted ass with her poem.
THE KVLT SCHOLAR’S HANTEI: I don't actually like "There is Religious Tattooing" at all but "somebody pour some beautiful jute / on me" is an utterly killer line (or line and a quarter I guess). "Dividend of the Social Opt Out" addresses a very real phenomenon, the incredible pleasure of having a totally valid reason not to do something that, while not at all horrible, is not as good as staying home, and this speaks to me deeply, as I think I value staying home at least as much as anyone else ever and in many many instances more. I have reservations about the arch tone, no single line is as good as the jute one, and I reject the notion at the end of being sad that you won't be missed, but on the whole I am swayed. 
WINNER: DIVIDEND OF THE SOCIAL OPT OUT
Gone at #26 is that chump Fred Moten, and already, two days in, Jennifer Moxley has knocked two sucka ass bitches out this thing.

#25: Eva HD (repped by 38 Michigans) vs. Monica Youn (repped by Ersatz Ignatz)

Eva HD clocked a fat check for winning the Montreal International Poetry Prize for a single poem, which in fact was this single poem we read here. Monica Youn already eliminated one person yesterday and is already drawn (randomly) back into the fray by the cold, inhuman nature of spreadsheet functions.
This 38 Michigans poem is obviously a play on distance, and a fun one at that, for me at least (which apparently is not consensus, as you will soon see), and I can imagine this Eva HD what with her abnormal surname sitting there contemplating all this in a brief moment before calling someone who she wishes were nearer, but then the blast of thought turned into poetic free-write, and honestly she probably never called the fucker and spent far more time on this poem, and then also got a $20,000 check for having completed it (as well as all the proper paperwork in order to be recognized in such manners).
And yet the Universe conspires against Eva HD, because I literally looked up the word “planaria” this very morning, having encountered it elsewhere while looking for sonnet rhymes for “contrarian”, and low and behold Monica Youn drops that fuckin’ word in the first line of this Ersatz Ignatz. The entire poem is short and thick, not necessarily amazing but solid blend of natural knowledge and poetics, and brings to mind the thickness of such blends encountered in Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree, which I not-so-distantly listened to on book on tape (actually, cd, but even then imported into itunes and through my blip bloop device). There are far worse things for a poet to be called than “reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy” and I in fact wonder if ol’ Cormac himself has scribbled out some poems. Cormac literally means “son of raven” which had I ever had a son, he likely would’ve gotten that name because then his name would literally be double-truth.
THE KVLT SCHOLAR’S HANTEI: "38 Michigans" is in my view (and please remember I am an idiot) largely nonsense and it has made the fatal error of mentioning the Trans-Siberian which immediately calls to mind my old friend and colleague John who rode the Trans-Siberian once but didn't get off at any stops because his papers weren't like *super duper* in order and he was worried about getting in some sense or another gulag'd (so he just rode it man he just rode it) and later he would wed a Finn, settle in Thailand, and continue to publish poems that are way better than "38 Michigans," so congratulations, 38 Michigans Poet, you just played yourself. I am not all-in on "Ersatz Ignatz" but the fact of sparrow-presence is all it takes some times.  
WINNER: ERSATZ IGNATZ

And thus, Eva HD is out quickly at #25. Even more interesting though is the fact both Jennifer Moxley and Monica Youn have already been drawn twice, and survived two battles. SHALL WE SEE ONE OF THEM AGAIN TOMORROW? Lolol, like I’m gonna spoiler your ass like that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think the Jennifer Moxley one was written specifically about me...lol.
The Monica Youn poem was good too.
~ANAW