but I couldn’t keep it to myself”, says the refrain of a gospel song, close to my heart—especially when sung by Mother Eloise Knight of Jerusalem Baptist Church, in Trenton, New Jersey. And I suppose the truth must have out: it bothers me that I have never had a poem published in The New Yorker. It bothers most American poets, even the ones who claim they couldn’t care less about the magazine. It bothers younger poets to an even greater extent. The magazine has a reputation for making journalists and literary artists feel as if they “have made it”, or at least for creating the illusion of success. After reading the August 30th issue, my personal upset has reached a level of fury! What in the hell was the editorial staff thinking when it let David Musgrave’s “On the Inevitable Decline Into Mediocrity of the Popular Musician Who Attains a Comfortable Middle Age” slide through? Surely, of the thousands of poems that arrive in the mail at 4 Times Square, there was a haiku more deserving of the space. David Musgrave is a fine poet, worthy of all the awards he has received, and all published poets have at least one poem out there cast away as the awkward stepchild. But, come on, Mr. Musgrave, put me out of my misery and say this one got into your submissions pile by mistake. Richard D. Allen’s critique was on the money!
pretend I’m David Remnick. One of two things is being said to my poetry editor
right now. 1) I’m so pleased that readers are paying attention to the drivel I
approved that I couldn’t wait for Condé Nast's livery service, so I hopped a train from Penn Station to Princeton
Junction and am taking you out for wings at Chuck’s; or 2) Perhaps you’ve just
gotten of track. A trip back to your roots might help,
I can only imagine poor Jenna Krajeski rolling her eyes with a sigh, mouthing It’s-not-my-fault to her fellow staffers. If you were not certain of it before, you can be certain now that when it comes to poetry, quality is not high on The New Yorkers’ list of priorities. Thank God, for Hilton Als and the excellent cartoons; I will be renewing my subscription promptly!Postscript: Knowing how smart Paul Muldoon is and what a trickster he can be, his editorial pitch was probably along the lines of, “Let’s put this in just to piss people off.” Well, it worked.