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 3

2017 Royal Poetry Rumble: Number 9 Number 9 Number 9


Welcome back friends (and potential haters). Let us recap what has transpired thus far in brutally simplistic list form:
#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)

And thus there are only six poetic souls left to compete in this thing for which they don’t even know they are competing in…

#6: Allison Hedge Coke (represented by When the Animals Leave This Place) vs. Diane Seuss (repped by Hey Pauly)

Coke, the Witter Bynner Fellow (an under-position to the U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera) and Seuss, a Pulitzer Prize for poetry finalist, have both knocked out three other folks in this thing. And now they face each other. (Hadn’t noticed that Coke eliminated her appointer at end of last round of battles. But she did.)
I do not know Seuss in specific from this thing yet, though I remember she was strong, whereas I’ve looked up Allison Hedge Coke books to get from the library. (They had none, which is pretty shoddy imo, even if they are the 35th largest library in the United States, according to Wikipedia.)
This Allison Hedge Coke poem I have to admit I read while listening to Mannie Fresh instrumentals on headphones, and it was a great chocolate and peanut butter moment inside my brain, because the poem is about the most beautiful and natural way to describe an impending flood of a lifetime as you will ever read. I love this style, where the manmade which is doomed is not necessarily a bad thing because perhaps man was being fucking stupid in the first place. And yet, he is still a part of everything and he does not deserve to be smitten from the Earth, but just beaten by the larger lessons, and maybe man will learn. Maybe.
The Diane Seuss poem also is a pretty wonderful poem in that it alludes to the larger complexities of two working dudes’ lives, as well as a pair of women who happen to be attached to the poem as supporting characters, and fuck what a great poem. Normally I would say I’m partial to the natural world poems, which would be Coke’s, but this “Hey Pauly” is pretty great little Polaroid snapshot telling two hundred thousand words if you let it. Thus I’m glad I don’t have to be the official judge.
THE KVLT SCHOLAR’S HANTEI: I don't know how long my list of favourite poem-kinds would be but I can say with certainty that if I ever actually did some kind of a ranked list (that would be weird, and I won't, don't worry), animal poems and poems of apocalypse would both be right up there, but what I had not previously considered, certainly not properly if at all, is the apocalyptic animal poem, but here we are, and this is so intense, like an incantation. It is entirely possible I have done this before in these pages before (I know I have done it somewhere recently, but I think it was in the context of Japanese shoot-style grappling, and not here), but consider please the Old English "ġealdor" or "galdor," From Proto-Germanic *galdrą, *galdraz ‎(“magical song, incantation”), from Proto-Indo-European *gʰel- ‎(“to shout, sing, charm, enchant”). Cognate with Old Saxon *galdar, Old High German galdar, kalter ‎(“spell, enchantment”), Old Norse galdr ‎(Icelandic galdur, “enchantment, spell”). Related to Old English galan ‎(“to sing, shout”). More at yell. Noun. galdor n 1. song, incantation; enchantment, spell, divination 2. charm; magic; sorcery 3. sound.  That is kind of a mess the way I copied it from Wiktionary but all the crucial words about what this poem is are there.  "Hey Pauly" is like "hey did you hear the poignant thing about the barber and the undertaker?" and you are like no, tell me and it is like "ok, so . . ." and the results are totally fine but this is an overwhelming win, a win with the force of prophecy. 
WINNER: "When The Animals Leave This Place"
I could’ve lived with either choice, and am actually disappointed either of these women will be eliminated, but hey, without rules what sort of stupid internet projects would this world even have? Out at #6 is Diane Seuss.

#5: Lorna Crozier (repped by Man from the Stars) vs. Nathaniel Mackey (repped by As If It Were “This Is Our Music”)

Lorna Crozier has (oddly) won twice already, perhaps a budding Canadian conspiracy. Nathaniel Mackey has not even appeared in this year’s Royal Poetry Rumble yet, but he is a returning vet from last year (finished 17th). Mackey is the Bollingen Prize winner of 2015.
I have not liked Crozier’s poetry at all, and perhaps this is because I have seen pictures of her as well in finding them, and she looks like an old lady in small town writing poetry. (Suddenly I feel horrible for dismissing that, because what is wrong with that? Why wouldn’t I want even more of that? Why is there some “serious ass poetry” litmus test I am applying?) Plus, none of her poems are at the two mainstream poetry sites I dig for these from, and I have to google search separately, and anything is at her site alone. (Again, why is this bad? What the fuck do I think people find if they google “Raven Mack”? Only my stupid site, which to be honest, looks way fucking worse than Lorna Crozier’s.) But even beyond all this very judgmental personal prejudice, I specifically don’t like this poem. It feels trite.
Mackey jumps into the mix, and I want to like this poem because aesthetically, at first at least, I like how he lays it out. But fuck man, it goes on and is not hitting killer riffs. I imagine this band he has back together is some shitty jazzy noodling band because it’s definitely not thrash. He should’ve had a thrash band getting back together, and one of them still had a short-and-long haircut, and then maybe this would’ve been a good poem. Fuck man, these two are a letdown after the last two.
THE KVLT SCHOLAR’S HANTEI: The last thing I mean to be in any of these hantei (判定) is simply dismissive and if I have been so in any of these as we have gone along please forgive me, but I don't like either of these poems at all and I don't think it's because I am kind of reeling still from "When The Animals Leave This Place" but really it might be, who knows what's happening right now after that. But I think I will go with "Man From the Stars" because it doesn't have any lines about Heidegger and it's shorter and therefore more respectful of what little time we have here together. 
WINNER: "Man From the Stars"

Yeah. Out at #5 is Nathaniel Mackey (perhaps furthering the Canadian conspiracy that keeps Lorna Crozier in this thing). We are down to a Final Four which will occur (perhaps) next week. See you then! (Perhaps!)

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