When you open your mouth to speak, are you smart? A funny question from a great song, but also, a good one, when it comes to poets, and poetry. We tend to have a very ambiguous view of intelligence in poetry, one that I'd say is dysfunctional. Basically, it goes like this: once you are safely dead, it no longer matters how smart you were. For instance, Auden was smarter than Yeats , but most would still say Yeats is the finer poet; Eliot is clearly highly intelligent, but how much of Larkin 's work required a high IQ? Meanwhile, poets while alive tend to be celebrated if they are deemed intelligent: Anne Carson, Geoffrey Hill , and Jorie Graham , are all, clearly, very intelligent people, aside from their work as poets. But who reads Marianne Moore now, or Robert Lowell , smart poets? Or, Pound ? How smart could Pound be with his madcap views? Less intelligent poets are often more popular. John Betjeman was not a very smart poet, per se. What do I mean by smart?
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