Sunday, March 29, 2009

I have the hardbound ennui

While I totally understand the need for anthologies, I find that I have such a hard time reading them anymore (Best American Poetry aside, which is its own animal). It's like watching polar bears at the zoo. You keep thinking, “Aren't they really hot in there? Don't they want to sleep on something other than molded concrete?” Even poems that I really like in their home books seem a little bit like Jehovah's Witnesses once they’re anthologized, knocking at my door in ill-fitting suits, asking for just a moment of my time. (For the record, I haven’t read Legitimate Dangers yet, though I intend to.)

Back when I was starting out, I gobbled up anthologies: The Morrow Anthology of Younger American Poets , Poulin’s Contemporary American Poetry, and the piece de resistance, Naked Poetry (and its New Naked Poetry edition), a 70’s era anthology of poets writing in “open forms.” Logan, Bly, Patchen, Wright, Koch. All the black and white author photos of them outside in fleeces or in tool sheds. Each entry was followed by a manifesto of sorts, which in many cases were more entertaining and more moving than the poems.

Now I find it even hard to read Collected Poems, as the poems and the moods of each book seem to talk over one another like characters in a Woody Allen movie. I still experience some difficulty when I read Mary Ruefle’s wonderfully delirious Cold Pluto, as the typesetting is so tiny and miserly. Does this make me a bad person?

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