An ongoing project for Dispatches from the Poetry Wars, ten reviews per installment, twenty installments until completion
1] The OBU Manifestos, by OBU, are nothing less than the invention of a wholly new and generative “political poetry,” not just for this conjuncture, but for struggles to come (not that any sectarian U.S. Left avant poets in the Bay Area will ever say anything about it).
2] Alien Vs. Predator and Second Sex are quite popular books of verse, indisputably demonstrating that Frederick Seidel, even before death, has spawned a new school of poetry, which henceforward may be called, in the singular, “The Son of Fred.”
3] Tender Buttons, a singular book published in 1914, had a profound impact on the development of late 20th and early 21st century experimental American poetry, before it was discovered that its author was a closeted fascist who wrote speeches for Marshal Pétain during the Vichy and opined that Hitler should win the Nobel Peace Prize.
4] Lydia Davis’s book Can’t and Won’t is full of direct poaches from Flaubert, all of which she openly acknowledges; the book also contains an indirect but transparent poach from a poem by a contemporary U.S. poet, obviously less famous than Flaubert, which she doesn’t.
5] Charles Simic’s latest book is more or less indistinguishable in its beating-a-dead-horse formulaic contents from all of his other books, which is why it would be unnecessary to mention the title, even if this reviewer could remember it.
6] Poetry Will Save Your Life: A Memoir, by W.W. Norton’s Executive Poetry Editor Jill Bialosky, a book that openly and liberally plagiarizes from Wikipedia in ways that would make most Freshman composition students blush, shows how just when you thought poetry could save your life, it comes back at you like a curse and ruins it, irremediably.
7] Girls on the Run, the one book by the late and great John Ashbery that has an actual unifying theme and referent, is the one work in the poet’s oeuvre that the critics can least agree on.
8] I Am Flying into Myself: Selected Poems by Bill Knott is a sometimes funny and sometimes sad and sometimes bewildering book, affects which in combination are perfectly fitting for a man who self-loathingly celebrated his self-plotted failures in the vicious and back-stabbing world of poetry.
9] T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land is a book length poem with many footnotes to explain it, which anticipates Language poetry, though the latter employed long essays to explicate the waste instead of mere footnotes.
10] The Alphabet, by Ron Silliman, a massive volume collecting the poet’s writing over nearly three decades, succeeds in revealing how graphomania, no matter who the afflicted writer may be, is a condition that will almost always produce a few winning, funny, and even sometimes luminous details.