Posts Tagged ‘greatness’

The Great(ness) Game

February 24, 2009

Perhaps you have read David Orr’s recent essay in the New York Times Review of Books.  It is called “The Great(ness) Game“.  He asks the question:  “What will we do when Ashbery and his generation are gone? Because for the first time since the early 19th century, American poetry may be about to run out of greatness.”

I found the whole article silly. David Orr did prove that you could write a shallow, ill-informed article while sounding convincingly erudite.  As for the great poets he lists Emily Dickinson.  Well how many people read a single poem of hers before she died?  Then how would some elite arbiter of culture writing in 1880 have ever considered this recluse whose poems were never in style in her life, a great poet?  He quotes William Carlos Williams, but ignores that Williams would despise the type of poetry that Orr calls great. 

Another of Orr’s gems:  “It would be a mistake to call today’s poetry world a transparent democracy (that whirring you hear is the sound of logs still busily being rolled), but it’s more democratic than it used to be — and far more middle class. It’s more of a guild now than a country club. ”  We obviously, Orr has never ventured to a Spoken Word event in a major city or considered that Rap could be poetry. Surely, there are alot of middle-class folks who are active readers or writers of poetry, but he might have a very different perspective if he ever stepped out of his comfort zone.

Finally Orr seems to have left inspiration out of the equation.  His “Great Poets” seem a crew of composers swinging consciously for a home run. 

Well at least one thing I liked about this article, it inspired me to write.  So here is my contribution to The Great(ness) Game.

The Great(ness) Game


The flow of words



            For posterity poses not


Demos’ art

            Founded by illiterates

Saved by outcasts

            Staffed by misfits

Grab a discarded envelope

            Borrow, steal a pen

You are as well equipped

            As an MFA

As elite

            As an editor of Poetry Magazine


Look not

            In the Rearview

Only The Reaper

            Lies behind

Poetry, the eyes on fire

            The heavy pedal foot


            The wreck left behind.