Stacey Harwood is managing editor of this blog. Here are her answers to H. H. Hix's twenty questions:
1. What poet should be in Obama's cabinet, and in what role? I wouldn't want a poet in the cabinet. I would rather keep poets as "the unacknowledged legislators" that they are. Poets are better as outsiders.
2. If you could send Obama one poem or book of poems (not your own), what would it be and why? I would send him The Oxford Book of American Poetry.
3. What other poetry-related blog or website should I check out? I find myself visiting Harriet (The Poetry Foundation Blog) and the Foundation's website. The website has nice features, including beautiful broadsides that one can print and give as gifts or hang on office walls. I also visit the Academy of American Poets site (poets.org). I like Rachel Barenblat's Velveteen Rabbi and Reb Livingston's Home Schooled by a Cackling Jackal.
4. Who is the most exciting young/new poet I've never heard of, but whose work I ought to find and read? I love Jeni Olin's poems. They have real drive and authenticity (how I hate that word but . . .). I've heard her read live a few times and she always makes me sit up in my seat.
5. What's the funniest poem you've read lately? I know there have been more recent funny poems, especially by, say, James Tate,whose poetry is fantastic, but I laughed out loud when I read X. J. Kennedy's "More Foolish Things" in the July 2006 issue of Poetry magazine. And when I read Jill Alexander Essbaum's "On Reading Poorly Transcribed Erotica" aloud to my Mom, we both laughed till we cried so this poem answers both parts of the question. What was the last poem that made you cry? I regularly return to Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey" and cry when I get his direct address to his sister, especially if I'm reading it aloud. Emma Lazarus's "The New Colossus" makes me cry, as does Yeats' "She Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven." And Byron's "Don Juan" makes me laugh and cry. These are poems I reread. Nothing recently encountered for the first time has made me cry.
6. William or Dorothy? Robert or Elizabeth Barrett? Moore or Bishop? Dunbar or Cullen? "Poetry must resist the intelligence almost successfully" or "No ideas but in things"? Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas or Tender Buttons? Yes, yes, yes, yes, no, yes.
8. Even for poetry books, the contract has a provision for movie rights. What poetry book should they make into a movie? Who should direct it, and why? Who should star in it? I do think David Lehman's The Last Avant-Garde a book about poetry and poets, would make a fantastic movie. I would like Preston Sturges to direct because of those mad scenes where crowds pour into the streets and march. Any number of events in the lives of those poets could occasion such a scene. As for stars, Imogene Coca, Irene Dunne, Bette Davis, and Barbara Stanwyck.
9. What lines from a poem you first read years ago still haunt you now? "I and the public know / what all school children learn / those to whom evil is done / do evil in return." Is this really true? I mean it's true that we're taught to believe this as schoolchildren but in thinking about real life situations, how far back does one go? Which is the first "evil" to precipitate the "evil in return"?
13. This is the Best American Poetry blog. What's the best non-American poetry you've read lately? I adore the Polish poet Pyotr Sommer.
14. We read poems in journals and books, we hear them in readings and on audio files. Sometimes we get them in unusual ways: on buses or in subway cars. How would you like to encounter your next poem? I like hearing lines of poetry spoken in the midst of a good movie. It's something of an obsession of mine.
16. Do you have a (clean) joke involving poetry you'd like to share? No but Wesley McNair's The Characters of Dirty Jokes (in The Best American Poetry 1999) is a clean poem about dirty jokes.
18. Can you name every teacher you had in elementary school? Did any of them make you memorize a poem? What poem(s)? No. Yes. In the 8th grade (is that elementary school?), the first twenty lines of Canterbury Tales in old English. I forced my younger brother to help me and for many years all I had to do to crack him up was say, "The droghte of March hath perced to the roote."
My teacher said that some day we would be grateful to her because we would have a chance at a cocktail party to recite the lines and impress our friends. This came true in a way. When my husband and I were courting, I did blurt out the lines (under what circumstances, I have no idea but it seemed the right thing to do at the time ) and I must say he was startled if not impressed. I memorized Poe's Annabel Lee on my own in the second grade and recited it for show-and-tell. I do think young girls are attracted to the poem for complicated reasons having to do with developing sexuality.