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, March 10

2017 Royal Poetry Rumble: THE FINALE


Recap of all previous entrants and eliminations:
#30: Daniel Borzutzky (eliminated by Jennifer Moxley)
#29: Rita Dove (eliminated by Monica Youn)
#28: Donald Hall (eliminated by Peter Gizzi)
#27: Kevin Young (eliminated by Peter Balakian)
#26: Fred Moten (eliminated by Jennifer Moxley)
#25: Eva HD (eliminated by Monica Youn)
#24: Elizabeth Willis (eliminated by Allison Hedge Coke)
#23: Ross Gay (eliminated by Joy Harjo)
#22: Jennifer Moxley (eliminated by Jane Mead)
#21: Donika Kelly (eliminated by Jane Mead)
#20: Ed Roberson (eliminated by Diane Seuss)
#19: Peter Gizzi (eliminated by Joy Harjo)
#18: Norman Dubie (eliminated by Jane Mead)
#17: Peter Balakian (eliminated by Jay Hopler)
#16: Monica Youn (eliminated by Tyehimba Jess)
#15: Solmaz Sharif (eliminated by Jay Hopler)
#14: Liz Howard (eliminated by Joy Harjo)
#13: Kyle Dargan (eliminated by Diane Seuss)
#12: Sharon Olds (eliminated by Diane Seuss)
#11: Jane Mead (eliminated by Lorna Crozier)
#10: Amy Gerstler (eliminated by Allison Hedge Coke)
#9: Tyehimba Jess (eliminated by Lorna Crozier)
#8: Ben Ladouceur (eliminated by Joy Harjo)
#7: Juan Felipe Herrera (eliminated by Allison Hedge Coke)
#6: Diane Seuss (eliminated by Allison Hedge Coke)
#5: Nathaniel Mackey (eliminated by Lorna Crozier)
#4: Allison Hedge Coke (eliminated by Joy Harjo)
#3: Jay Hopler (eliminated by Lorna Crozier)
Thus we are left with Lorna Crozier, who has tossed four poets out, and Joy Harjo, who has tossed five, and was last year’s winner to boot.

THE FINAL: Lorna Crozier (represented by Barren) vs. Joy Harjo (represented by Everybody Has a Heartache: A Blues)

I am trying really hard to be completely biased against Crozier, as at this point it is probably obvious I am a huge Harjo mark, but describing a deer with “his chest white with moon-spill” is pretty fuckin’ sick line. Right after that poetic jab she gives the power punch of “They touch the high things humans don’t sense are there.” I am woozy.
Harjo’s poem is as good as I’d expect, tying us all together with our heartache. One man’s stanza is specifically striking:
This man speaks to no one, but his body does. 
Half his liver is swollen with anger; the other half is trying 
To apologize —  
What a mess I’ve made of history, he thinks without thinking.
I love the Harjo poem immensely, but there is something to be said for how quick the Crozier one strikes. I have a well-known love for form poetries (accursed with a brain synchronized too tightly with math), but this makes me wonder if perhaps the ever-popular free verse is not comparable to mixed martial arts, and going the distance is not as striking (no pun intended) when appearing right beside a quick KO.
THE KVLT SCHOLAR’S PREAMBLE: Before I render my final hantei 判定 of this year's Royal Poetry Rumble I would like to first thank the poet and scholar Raven Mack for asking once again that I render my idiot decision(s) upon all of this art which was no doubt created expressly for the purpose of some goon (me) making pronouncements about it that range from the banal all the way up to the facile. Thanks too to all the poets! I am sorry for what I have done to your work and continue to do to it! But at the same time, I am reading it, which is more than most, so you get it where you can, I guess. This leads me to again thank Raven because it is possible and indeed definite that I spend too much time in the poesy of ġēaradagas (yore-days) and not enough in the present and so this now-annual opportunity to read from among the most celebrated contemporary poets has been, one more, illuminating. That said IT IS TIME TO RUMBLE IT IS TIME TO ROOOOOOYAL POETRY RUMBLE YYYYEEEAAAAHHHHH  
THE KVLT SCHOLAR’S HANTEI: Holy fvkkn shit "Barren" is maybe the best one yet what the hekkkkkkkk just happened to the place in my heart where deer are. "In the orchard a deer stands on his hind legs" is a an all-time great first line of poesy in my view and when whoever-this-is' collected works comes out at the end of her (if this is not a ladypoet I will eat my hat) long life it will hold I am sure a place of privilege amongst the other lines listed in the index of first lines (all volumes of poetry longer than a chapbook should have this). Please do not think I am in anyway trivializing any of this, I don't know, Elizabeth Bishop/Marianne Moore-level animal poem (I know no greater praise) when I tell you that the lines "his chest white with moon-spill, his antlers tall hard hands, fingers splayed" call to mind together in their totality two of my favourite instances of recent deer-art, one the "Lunar Stag" of Eric Sabee (kvlt fantasy art), the other the "Laurence Elk" of Welcome skateboards (kvlt sk8tbört art), the first of which extends the stag's antlers until they are themselves lunar in proportion and aspect; the second offering literal antler-hands (["If you fall, I will catch, I'll be waiting," the time{aftertime}less words of Cyndi Lauper rendered haunting and new below]; my wife bought me this skateboard for my birthday years ago). I saw a deer near a stream by the hill as I drove through Marshy Hope on my way to the best judo tournament I ever won; I saw a deer and her young walking with my daughter in Hemlock Ravine, they crossed the path just ahead of us. Deer are important both symbolically and actually and this poem offers us both without either collapsing into the other and this is an achievement. No ideas but in things, no deer-ideas but in deer-things, this has both, what more could we ask of it. As to its rival here: I have long felt weird about how a blues is a form a lot of poets just take as a given, as a form for them to have a go at, and when I say this I am in no way making a point about cultural appropriation (Maya Angelou was right that all poetry is a human heritage and to deny anyone any of it is to deny their humanity) but about the oddness that that popular form is the one that poets seem to want to just work into the mix, and I was about to make a (dumb) point about how it's not like poets do that with other genres like for example there is no poem here called Treesorrow: A Black Metal but it occurs to me there is literally no reason not to write that poem and I guess I will now? I don't like this poem very much (in the fullness of time it might well remain Superior to Treesorrow; who can say) but to the extent to which it is has compelled me to reevaluate or at least examine how I have always thought this was an odd kind of poem to write I salute it; also any poet who makes it this far in the Royal Poetry Rumble is entitled to no small measure of respect. Remember the Royal Rumble a few years ago that was kind of awful until almost the end but then Ryback of all people (who most would describe I think as himself *quite* awful) came out at like number twenty-six or something and then all of a sudden the match was inexplicably awesome? Now that I write that out it doesn't seem directly relevant.  
WINNER: "BARREN"
Yeah, I can’t disagree with any of that. The nature of this Royal Poetry Rumble is that one only need survive both the luck of the draw as well as the match-ups they are drawn into, and Crozier did so to make this final, against our established Poetry Superstar in Joy Harjo. And Crozier earned her victory in that last battle, which was the one that counted more than all.
And thus, eliminated most honourably at #2 is Joy Harjo, and your victor of the 2017 Royal Poetry Rumble is Lorna Crozier, in what has to be considered an upset, as Canadians weren’t even entered in last year’s contest. Perhaps we go international next year. Perhaps we never do this again. There are many perhaps in our lives and our cultures, but poesy is not one of them. So regardless, any fucker who is still reading this far along, I hope you love on some poetry and read it and cultivate it and MAKE THAT SHIT FUCKING HAPPEN.

Peace.

No comments: