The week went by so quickly, and I'd hoped to pontificate, stimulate debate, bring smiles to the faces of my readers, and in general shine a spotlight on the culture of American poetry. Etc. OK, so that didn't quite happen. So for my last post here, I've decided to subcontract that work out to someone who would wrap things up with a bang. Or at least a whimper. Let me introduce you to my guest-guest blogger, then, by way of a poem called, what else? .... "The Best American Poetry."
The Best American Poetry
- by Kent Johnson
Am I the only idiot here, on this hill, surrounded, as I am, by rutting rams and heated ewes?
Our quaint and severe village is in the valley, there: the steeple and its blue bell, the round mud huts, washed white, their conical thatches, o. And the air? Why, the air is blue and clear as a bell.
A yodel comes up the hill, followed by another, in a slightly different pitch, though just as fair, for the practice there has worn them really about the same.
Why, it's my old pals from grad school, James Tate and Dean Young! They lie fornenst, on either side of me, face-up, hands locked behind their heads, under the puffy, cotton-ball clouds. I plunge my tongue to their bare-stript breasts.
Baa-a! says James.
B-aaa! says Dean.
Ba-aa! says I.
And then we laugh, and James rolls a bone the size of a cigar. We lean and loafe at our ease, playing the dozens with non-syllogistic sentences, so the paragraph becomes a unit of quantitye, not logick or argumente. Nay, we do not think whom we souse with spray.
By and by, a third yodel rolls up the hill, this one deeper and more complex than any yodel we have heard heretofore, its fractal ironies unmistakable to our finer ears.
Why, it's our teacher from grad school, John Ashbery! He ambles towards us, with his slightly quizzical, diffident gaze, holding the tiny hand of his boyfriend, the Nut-Brown Maid.
Hey, did you guys see the fire? he asks, matter-of-factly.
No, sire, we say, What fire?
Look, he says, pointing, like Lenin, down to our tiny town.
From the mud huts, washed, as I'd said, in their white, puffs of smoke rise from the little flues. But there from a dwelling that is pretty much like the others, yet a little more towards the edge of town, flames shoot from the roof, thousands of feet into the sky.
O, it's the house of the Hejinians! we cry.
Aye, the East catches the light, and the history of poetry repeats its basic dialectic, endlessly, says John, cryptically.
We squint and espy the ant-like people, running around or passing water buckets in a line. And there goes the little red fire truck, speeding towards its fire, pulled by Gertrude, the ancient Clydesdale.
The Nut-Brown Maid yawns, pulls out his birding binoculars and hands them to me:
Aha! Russell Edson sits there, hunched like a gnome, gripping the reins, screaming something like Go horse Go!
In his pocket is his heart. It is The Best American Poetry .