Commentaries - April 2011

In which the reader is introduced to a man of humanity

Dear Readers,

Iʻll say it again: blogging is dead. Thus, my 2011 resolution to Facebook everyday. As my 2,000 closest Facebook friends can attest, Iʻve been keeping that resolution with aplomb.

This is not blogging, letʻs get that straight. This is what we call "Commentaring." As the mutiracial doctor says: "It is difficult to get the news from the Poetry Foundation Harriet Blog, yet Facebookers update their statuses miserably everyday for the lack of what is Commentaried upon there." 

Iʻm told this first post should gently hook, dear reader. So as all good writers "of color" know, the best way to get attention in this here "Po-Biz" is to "drive by" (as one white-american critic recently phrased it) in a traditionally white institutional space and take down a well-endowed white poet, preferably a straight white male poet, and preferably a straight white male poet who writes "racially complex" poems.

I can see it now:

the public will swoon, will friend me on Facebook, will call me Brave. I may even get a featured spot at next year's AWP! And of course, we shall discourse like we never discoursed before.

[If you have no idea what i'm talking about, go here first]


No Change (2011 edition)

by Craig Santos Perez


for Claudia & Tony


AWP came and went like the pages of Poetry Magazine.

In the hotel the poets paid up

and in the hotel bar, the new poets hoped to get laid.


Sometimes I think that nothing really changes—


The critics award the latest crop of mummies,

and the president of the Poetry Foundation proves he’s a dummy.


But remember the poetry reading we watched this year?

Right before our eyes


straddling that dark wood podium,

some lean mean White Man from North Carolina,

male-patterned baldness and glasses on his face,

some outrageous name like Baloney Hoagie—


We were just walking past the book fair

and got sucked in by his ‘racial honesty,’

and pretty soon

we started to really listen,


putting ourselves into each hacked phrase

as the metaphors mixed and matched

like some contest between

the New Critics and the Old Quietude,


and you loved his receding hair

and his to-hell-with-people-of-color stare,

and I,

I couldn’t help wanting

someone to shut the White Man up


because he wasn’t one of my kind, my tribe,

with his pale eyes and Mark Twain award


and because the White Man was so mean

and so White

so incorporated


singing his similes like he was driving the White Man’s Burden

down The Melting Pot’s throat,

like he wasn’t aware of his privileged position.


There are moments when America

harasses you so close

you can smell its shit,

you can reach your hand out

and touch its dirty White ass,


and I didn’t watch all that much All in the Family

but I could feel the end of an era there


in front of all those minority poets

in their last-day-of-AWP clothes


as that White Man wore down his listeners

reading his line breaks so good

repeating the epiphany for good measure


then he stood in front of the podium

holding his book over his head like a rifle


And the poor moderator

had to climb on both volumes of Poems for the Millennium

to put the crown of thorns on his head

still managing to smile amidst Tweets and Facebook updates

even though nothing has changed


and in fact, nothing may ever change—

PennSound anthology of 18th-century poetry

John Richetti

Benjamin Gottlieb has written a brief review of John Richetti's PennSound Anthology of Restoration & 18th-Century Poetry:

John Richetti is a much-respected scholar of 18th-century English literature, but here he makes a strong case for moonlighting as a voice-over man, registering as something in that much-neglected space between Rod Serling and a used-Jaguar salesman.  On PennSound, an entire page is devoted to his readings of various works by Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, and John Dryden; fittingly, it's listed in the PennSound Classics section, which is a terrific place to begin one's trek through the site's often intimidating topography.  Everything here is wonderful: Richetti reads each work in a charmingly insouciant tone, one that belies the considerate thought he has given each recitation, which are never less than great fun, and are often quite relevatory.

I recommend listening to everything on this page, but, in the interest of highlighting a place to begin, I don't think one could go wrong with Dryden's Mac Flecknoe or Swift's Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift, perhaps with Pope's On a Lady who P?st at the Tragedy of Cato as a chaser.