The Corner

Poetry Starter Text

Reader Fred Bartlett (DMIIUHN**) offers the following, all of which I agree

with, though I still think that the book I recommended by Main & Seng

is IT.

“Derb—I’m unfamiliar with Main & Seng, but know the field well enough (I

think) to say that the chief recommendation for beginners should be What

Not to Read.

“1. Do not pick up ‘Best American Poetry NNNN’. These volumes are capable of

convincing any sensible person that there is no point to poetry.

“2. Flip the pages of an anthology. If you see poems that look like ASCII

art, put it back. If you see blocks of prose in what purport to be poems,

put it back.

“3. Pick a half-dozen poems at random from throughout the anthology. If two

or more do not have noticeable rhymes, put it back.

“4. Inspect the index of authors. If more than 5 percent of the names are

female, put it back.

“I should say that I can appreciate open forms (or free verse, or

what-you-will), but it is unequivocally the wrong place to start. Likewise,

I like women, even women who write — but the plain fact is that in poetry

(as, a fortiori, in mathematics), the vast majority of the greats and a very

substantial majority of the near greats are male. If females show up in

numbers, then the anthology has been corrupted by PC-ness, which can only be

to the detriment of the volume.”

** Doesn’t Mind If I Use His Name


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