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Eyewear's Top Five Poets 2005-2010

To celebrate Eyewear's five years, I have been creating little lists with "fives" and multiples of five in them.  Here is the final list of the "top five" poets of the English-speaking world, 2005-2010; not necessarily the best, mind you, but those who have made the most impact, for literary and extra-literary reasons.  This list is not canonical, is problematic, no doubt biased, leaning to the UK/Ireland, but trying to be inclusive, and take into account Canada, America, the Caribbean, and Australia and New Zealand.

1. Geoffrey Hill - the UK's new Oxford Professor of Poetry is the greatest living master of English poetry not to have a Nobel prize.  This is a worthy appointment.

2. Fiona Sampson - the editor of the UK's most important poetry journal of note, Poetry Review, is also a prolific poet, reviewer, critic, and has published several key books about reading and writing.  She is the closest thing Britain now has to an modern Eliotic mind - one supple enough to be both creative and critical with conviction, integrity and an open mind.

3. Charles Bernstein - America's leading avant-garde voice since Ashbery has cemented his role over the last five years.  His recent Selected poems is a great work, but it is his post-9/11 Girly Man that may be the key American poetry collection of the decade just ended.

4. PK Page - Canada's "greatest living poet" died in early 2010, after an extraordinary career.  In many ways the equal or superior to Elizabeth Bishop, she remains relatively unread internationally.

5. Derek Walcott - surviving a media-led scandal, Walcott has redeemed his reputation with a collection of "late style" work, White Egrets, which is a masterpiece.


Ten Invaluable Runners-up:

Ruth Padel - an excellent poet, critic, and over-all advocate of poetry, her brilliant insight into natural science, Darwin, and verse, has made her a major figure.

Paul Muldoon - Ireland's leading poet post-Heaney is also the most dynamic new poetry editor in America.  He seems poised for a Nobel.  His Horse Latitudes marked a new career high.

Giles Goodland - for too long, the British avant-garde has turned to older figures to announce its value (Raworth, Prynne, etc).  Giles Goodland has emerged as a variously-styled innovator at home with the lyric and the fragment.  He brings a word-expert's knowledge to language, and a sense of 40s style, to his wonderful, prize-winning poems.

Anne Carson - Canada's leading living poet (post-Page) has gone from strength to strength, and her latest work, a haunting and original elegy for her lost brother, continues to expand her oeuvre.

David Lehman - poet, critic, editor - no one has done more for American poetry these past few decades, and his masterful Oxford anthology of American poetry established a new canon.

Carol Ann Duffy - the first-ever poet laureate to be Scottish and a woman - and openly experimental in personal life - has hit the ground running, launching new prizes, and being even more engaged than Andrew Motion, a superb laureate.

CK Stead - a new Collected Poems, a prize for best short story - the great New Zealand poet-critic has defined himself as a singular and vital man of letters for the new century.

John Tranter - 40 issues of jacket now see the greatest online journal move to America soon.  Tranter, as poet, editor and world-wide enthusiast for new poetries, is a great original.

Leonard Cohen - Canada's greatest songwriter, beloved poet, and ladies man to the world, has had a resurrection of late, and made his late career a blast.

Jen Hadfield - there are several talented exciting Young British Poets (Daljit Nagra, Kathryn Simmonds, Luke Kennard, Emily Berry, Sam Riviere, Jack Underwood, Annie Katchinska, etc) - but Hadfield is the youngest-ever winner of the leading UK prize, the TS Eliot Prize.  Her refreshing and surprising (to some) win, announced a new generation's abilities and possibilities.

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Wheeler Light for 'Life Jacket'.

The runner-up is: Daniel Duffy - 'President Returns To New York For Brief First Visit'

Wheeler Light currently lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Life Jacket

summer camp shirtsI couldn’t fit in then
are half my size nowI wanted to wear
smaller and smallerarticles of clothing
I shrunk to the sizethat disappeared

of an afterthoughtin a sinking ship body
too buoyant to sinktoo waterlogged for land
I becamea dot of sand