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Chrissy Williams' review of Andrew Shields' collection from Eyewear

THE ROMANCE OF THE NEW?
I enjoyed Chrissy Williams' review of Andrew Shields' collection from Eyewear. I was surprised though to see quatrains viewed as a traditional form. Well they are but it is also 50 years or more since Olson gave us his projective verse. Poetry cannot be judged by how it looks on the page. I call that the fallacy of form: that somehow some poetic options are more or less quaint. We are post-experiment now.

Conceptual poetics has opened the door to every kind of option. For a poet to return to a stately older form to work in is no less bold or noble than for a person to wear gloves in winter. Sometimes it is cold and the gloves serve well in their chosen task. Poetry reviewers do not understand it seems to me the paradox their instrumental task boxes them into: to describe something heretofore unfamiliar and new.

The critic enters into a rhetorical maze that is a trap: however they wander they aim either to the exit that says original or old hat. But the maze itself is fixed. I try instead not to evaluate in terms of originality which is a bogus pursuit devised by Chevrolet salesmen.

I ask does it sing? Does it serve? Does it bring pleasure? Is it good within its chosen bounds? My kitten will never bark. My dog will not purr. I feed them both.

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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

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JOHN ASHBERY HAS DIED

With the death of the poetic genius John Ashbery, whose poems, translations, and criticism made him, to my mind, the most influential American poet since TS Eliot, 21st century poetry is moving into less certain territory.

Over the past few years, we have lost most of the truly great of our era: Edwin Morgan, Gunn, Hill, Heaney and Walcott, to name just five.  There are many more, of course. This is news too sad and deep to fathom this week.  I will write more perhaps later. 

I had a letter from Ashbery on my wall, and it inspired me daily.  He gave me advice for my PhD. He said kind things about a poetry book of mine.

He was a force for good serious play in poetry, and his appeal great. So many people I know and admire are at a loss this week because of his death. It is no consolation at present to think of the many thousands of living poets, just right now. But impressively, and even oddly, poetry itself seems to keep flowing.