This morning I decided to launch a major new poetry award, called The Super Important Totally Awesome Major Major International Poetry Award, with its easy-to-memorize acronym SITAMMIPA. It will carry as much prestige as the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, or National Book Critics Circle Award. Each year a staff of experts will choose five finalists from all the nominees, then I will mail out ballots to 50 prominent poets to vote for the winners (two categories: Full and Chapbook-length). Each winner will receive $20 from me, plus, most importantly, all the incredible prestige that will come with the award. I’m totally serious. Well, I mean I fully intend to give out the awards, at least.
Please email nominations for the 2011 SITAMMIPAs to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Winners will be announced sometime around the end of January, and I’ll send out checks just after. I’m certain we’ll get major, important coverage in all the major, important news venues.
The idea for this major, important new award came from a conversation I had today with another poet about the ways in which awards and anthologies can fragment community by creating an artificial sense of privilege or exclusivity. I don’t think this state of poetry is anyone’s fault—it’s just that we all (well, many of us) have slipped into a mode of discourse in which we (readers and editors alike) equate a selection for an award or an anthology as some sign of objective superiority, rather than the opening gesture of a conversation. When Rae Armantrout (deservedly!) won two of the three major poetry awards, wasn’t it also an acknowledgment of the work of Rae’s poetry community? In addition to buying Versed, which is a terrific book, shouldn’t everyone also go out and purchase titles by Leslie Scalapino, Lyn Hejinian, and Carla Harryman? And/or other poets with whom Rae’s work has been in conversation? And bookstores everywhere carry these titles on their shelves?
We can, in other words, become introduced to or begin to engage a particular poetry community through an award or anthology as entry point.
Her waking state can be termed the true yellow cling peach of romance
In a word, anatomy
She will return as a harmless subject envied by none
Neighborhood: abandoned former battlefield
Social structure: artsy/inefficacious
Favorite leisure pastime: whining/watching rented movies
And the May month flaps its glad green leaves like wings
They have been put in alphabetical order
Like a piece of ice on a hot stove
If it is a wild tune
I threw away punctuation
Never reject anything. Nothing has been proved
Back into the city to find that lost serenity
I woke from it. Nothing anywhere lacked definition
--Lyn Hejinian, “11th Dream of July,” from Coconut Five
Across sculpted surfaces glowworms manage excess with initials some call instincts and others choose to relish for their own sake. How many times has a gift become a crisis?
Beatles do not ask this question. They ask another question. Will the debris linger on the anchor? Much has been made of baleful themes waiting to be realized. But upright legs rub together regardless of gender.
Phrasing is everything clamoring for connection organized by jealousy. Emoluments for hands scale up the spine of another's mate. Dust lit on chunk. There were consequences and results never acknowledged by either.
Crashing through the waves with their jaws interlocked, the fighters kill each other then duck under a wreck where the coolest of nights collect their orgasms.
A grandstand above is not the place to sit when the psyche below wants revenge. Such arrangements can't control a wing tickling inside the breast or the barb that curls down the smooth of a butt or the knee that picnics on the outside of a strange creature's toe. It is not safety one seeks in a shadow.
Across sculpted surfaces theories speak to me as poems. Literacy in fields of discourse crumbles amongst freaky sounds. Here are the sirens of not knowing everything. The map of whatever is stilted. More than one bird has pinched an ear, which burns in tenderness and loses a hard-on.
Alternatively, a bird pinches an ear. Alternately, a bird pinched an ear.
Alphabets like insects may triumph over the arrangements made from their parts more than is normally thought. Even as languages disappear the headspace made in the damage converts to tongue.
Between an ecstasy and its other is a factory. Bees nest inside its abandoned parts. In a photo the factory seems old and still. It is never still. The photo is a distraction used to orient brains toward the shell of their prey.
-- Carla Harryman, “not ensnared, they wait: Noise for Adorno,” from Coconut Eleven
Best American Poetry, each year, generates wonderful conversations. The easiest possible critical response to an anthology (and, sadly, the most common) is to list the poets who were omitted, but “shouldn’t” have been, or to dismiss particular inclusions. We all do it—it’s this type of conversation’s default posture. Fortunately, however, we’re at a point in poetry in which an anthology can be constructed along many, many aesthetic lines, and within each of those lines, with many, many possible and various points. For me this is one of the greatest parts of poetry—that at the end of each year we can take time to reengage the many incredible poems we read throughout the year and discuss why and how each is “best.”
In addition to the new award above, Coconut will publish an anthology sometime around the beginning of 2013. The anthology will be edited only by me and will include my choices of approximately 100 amazing and original poets who help to comprise what, in my opinion, is new and interesting in poetry today. Upon the anthology’s publication, I’m going to create a blog to allow readers to post their choices for which poets should have been included. Then, sometime the next year, Coconut will publish a companion anthology filled with only those poets nominated by readers. The first volume wholly, individually subjective; the second, democratic.
What do you think? Don’t forget to email me your choices for the best book and chapbook of poetry published in 2011!
See you tomorrow, Bruce