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December 12, 2011


Very nice questions here that really engage the poet (Rita Dove). Very impressed with comments on BAM. Also, her father's advice to her to not get bitter is real crafty and cool. This ties in with the current criticisms of the anthology and how she thinks those liberals have done themselves a disservice (I believe that as well because now we know what we suspected all along; liberals are capable of an arrogant bigotry). Considering that it was a BAM poet who gave me a shot as a poet (Haki), I found Dove's (Rita's) responses to the movement very honest and pure overall. How could she fake it really and to her credit, she didn't and she did the best thing of all - became an accomplished poet in her own right? I came up in the late 80's and South Africa and Nelson Mandela dominated the political and cultural landscape so it was a bit different for me what got me excited. Most of all, her comments about BAM and language are most impressive in that segment. Of all the contributions of the movement, this one might be the most forgotten. the small letters. the rudely written words. the violent dismembering of the English language. I see many black poets, across the spectrum engaging in language experimentations. I did hope to see more of a discussion of form overall in the interview. Form in the traditional sense and the importance of form but also form within black poetry. But overall, nice interview. I have always respected Rita Dove and read her work (not widely) and appreciated her chance taking within her sphere.

PITCH PERFECT way to start the week. Insightful questions and answers. Dove is a treasure and not enough people know it or admit it.

We should be paying attention -- very, very close attention -- to how exorbitant usage fees and otherwise unreasonable reprint demands impact access. Yes, we have the internet but imagine the uninformed and impressionable student who learns poetry from Dove's anthology. No Brown, Ginsberg or Plath???!!!

Ginsberg was used to being maligned and forgotten...I don't think he'd care about being left out of this anthology. But he'd be furious about why.

Thank you, Jericho -- and Rita -- for this lively and thoughtful post. You've given us much to chew on. One point of clarification: permissions for "The Best American Poetry" are not automatic or routine but must be negotiated by the series editor each year. While we usually encounter no major obstacles, as it is to everyone's advantage for the chosen poem to be included in the year's BAP, there are wrinkles; some of the selections have appeared not only in a magazine but in a poet's volume published the same year, in which case we do need to approach book publishers and not just magazine editors for permission. That is a more complicated matter. I can talk for hours about the trials and tribulations we endured in securing permissions for the poems under copyright in "The Oxford Book of American Poetry." Going through such a process makes you realize that an editor needs to add diplomatic skills to all the other things he or she brings to the table. -- DL

David: First of all, thank you for creating and maintaining this invaluable poetry blog and for giving Jericho Brown the chance to ask his astute questions all week long. Secondly, thank you for clarifying the permissions problems that even the Best American Poetry Series has to tackle (and which I was spared when I edited the 2000 collection, thanks to you). Because of the nature of my contract with Penguin, I naively believed that I would be shielded from rights negotiations. Legally, I could have washed my hands of the entire affair; when the going got so tough that the reprint fees alone outweighed projected revenue, I could have simply flushed several years of intensive editing work down the drain and quit the whole enterprise. But to allow intransigent rights holders to dictate the anthology’s 'to be or not to be' was a rather depressing perspective, so in the end I tossed my contractual shield aside and tried out my “diplomatic skills”, as you put it so aptly. That last minute approach proved pretty effective – with the deplorable exceptions mentioned in the interview.

Thanks so much for reading and reading so closely, Brian. I'm glad that Rita touch on form a bit when she discussed writing _Mother Love_, but I think you're absolutely right; I should have asked someone so good a making villanelles sing off the page more questions about form. Next time...

Thanks so much for your response here, Kevin! I do hope most of all that this leads to a larger and longer conversation in the poetry community about these fees. I'm sure you know a great deal about this since having published your recent anthology.

All love to you,

David! David! David! Thanks so much for chance to let us get as lively and thoughtful here as possible.

I would love to hear that "talk for hours" you could have about securing permissions for the Oxford Book. Hearing more about your trials and tribulations in the area could make for fewer of such trials for anthologists in the future.

Thanks again.


Thank you Rita and Jericho for this wonderful introduction to the Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry. I hope that this blog has the effect of getting hundreds of people to buy the book who would not have done so if they had not seen the blog. I know that it took great courage to do this important work, Rita; but it is necessary work. Your assessment of the canon of American poetry will stand because "strong voices keep coming on, gettin' stronger" (In memory of Sterling Brown).

"Power is knowing who you are -- your strengths as well as the flaws -- and being content with what you see while still striving to improve. Powerlessness means you’ve handed that judgment over to someone else and buckled under other people's ulterior expectations."

Well said. Topnotch interview.

Alfred! That's the same quote I was going to pull. I agree, it is a topnotch interview.

It is remarkable that good can grow out of evil (Vendler's insulting non-reply to Dove's civil, measured defense of editorial decisions in response to Vendler's neurotic review of the Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry in NYRB. Like Honoree Jeffers' classic defense of black poetry against the braying of an aesthetic elitist, Brown's excellent interview maps the territory and identifies where sanity resides. The canon of American poetry is a continuing process not a fixed product. Those who seek wisdom read poems.

"All in one boat, we take our strokes
As one, and make good time, reversed.
“Mur-” is our word, and so is “rum.”
Helen knows who used them first."

Poetry is lost to this world. Rejoice! The frontal lobe no longer processes the genre. If you see a bum, give him change. If you come upon a poet reciting a poem, advise him to take his life. "What? Oh, yes of course, Mr. Dickens, 'Decrease the surplus (poet) population.' Indeed!" Tea and crumpets at Four, chip, chip, cheerio!

Space aliens abducted T.S. Eliot and urinated celestial puss down his throat, hence, The Waste Land. Robert Frost's left big toe inspired him to write very badly. Anne Sexton smoked used Tampons driving her to confess. The entire collected poems of poets throughout history are absent one verity and mere to take up space. Poetry, you are now of the Charnel House.

It's very comprehensive analysis about poetry. Poetry must not be demolished in this world since it's very vital in Literature. We must preserve the masterpiece created and distributed by our ancient writers.

Frankfurt am Main, simply referred to as Frankfurt is the largest city of the Federal state of Hesse, Germany, and is the fifth-largest city in Germany. It is also the largest city in the Rhine Franconian dialect area. This serene city lies at the heart of the larger Rhine-main metropolitan region. Just like France and the region of Franconia, it is named after the Franks who were a collection of Germanic people.

Poetry, if we let it and embrace it, can offer us a way to empathize with one another. In its immediacy, poetry is a counselor helping us to understand one another. Leading us away from hate to love, from violence to mercy and pity. Memorising poetry was once common in classrooms. But it has, for the most part, gone out of style.

He that is down requirements dread no fall" is an expression from individuals without trust throughout everyday life.

I agree, it is a topnotch interview. thank you

So I said to him, "I wrote that book against burning books, you idiot."

Nice Poetry

Joshua fit de battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho, and the walls came tumbling down.

What's your sincere opinion of Robert Lowell?

Acording to Pauline Peril, the greatest French films of all time include

Grand Illusion
Children of Paradise
The Wages of Fear
The Mother and the Whore
La Chienne
Le Boucher
Le Bonheur
La Ronde
Le Milion
A Nous la libertie
Sous les toits de Paris


But what do you think of Goethe?

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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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