The Mad Hatter’s Guide to BAP (II) by Lauren MacArthur
A.R. Ammons is a surgeon's cap.
He is wearing scrubs and dedicated to medical inquiry with his volume of poems. Anatomical and disease references abound, as do death and the final hours of life. Despite the morbid implications of a hospital setting, Ammons is quite clever and chipper in his observations and choices. He is an affable scientist.
Richard Howard is a pith helmet.
His mind is in the battlefield (and in the strip clubs). Violence, dead babies and sundry corpses abound in this volume. Disturbingly fascinated with combat, illness and death, he is also the only guest editor to choose two poems about vibrators.
Adrienne Rich is a snood.
This hairnet barely supports the weight of her heavy hair. Not only is her hair heavy, but so is her head. Death pervades her volume, drowning and butchering are common themes, and even the family dogs are dead! Minimal punctuation (punctuation is dead, too) and the word "ugly" is scattered throughout this disturbing volume. Rich also includes many Latin-American writers and titles. She marches to her own drum and only includes one other guest editor within her collection. Surprisingly, it is not Graham, Howard or Strand – her literary compatriots with similarly twisted psyches.
James Tate is a campaign hat.
Worn by other drill instructors, Tate is combat-minded and his head is on the front lines. Rhetorical titles, military references (including a healthy dose of suffering and death), even the hats in his volume are dead and worn (see The Heavy Headed Dance – 8 dead animals total). Like bullets, many of his titles are one-word shots.
John Hollander is a homburg.
Hollander is the godfather of exceptionally long poems and monochromatic preferences. He insists that poems have organizational qualities and prefers that they be constructed into sections. He represents the least diversity among literary journals and the most references to dogs and coats. Sit and stay a while – he'll talk your ear off!
Robert Bly is a fishing cap, bobbing with the boat he sits in.
Sentimental, sweet, and often silly, Bly chooses to cast his line into the familiar, the sweet, and the endearing. Although he includes many references to specific people, prose poetry and memoirs are remotely housed in obscure literary journals.
Rita Dove is a toque, handed down from her mother (who knitted it herself).
Warm, soft, comfortable, Dove is no-frills and sensible. She selects short, economic titles, includes many lesser-known poets (particularly women) and is a soothing balance between short and long poems. Read her volume with a cup of green tea.
– Lauren MacArthur