Thursday, December 11, 2014

Best Poems of 1998

David Alpaugh ….. As We Watch MacNeil-Lehrer
Justin Chin ….. Bar Poem
Justin Chin ….. These Nervous Days
Barbara Drake ….. When the Airplane Stopped
Buson ….. one haiku
Elliot Fried ….. Campground
Donald Hall ….. Letter After a Year
Harry Humes ….. The Butterfly Effect
David Ignatow ….. 52: “I sink back upon the ground”
Issa ….. two haiku
Jesus ….. “A host sent his servant to invite friends to an impromptu dinner party”
Jesus ….. “Ask and receive”
Jesus ….. “If someone strikes your right cheek”
Jesus ….. “What you hear / in darkness”
Czeslaw Milosz ….. Pictures
Czeslaw Milosz ….. A Poetic State
Wislawa Szymborska ….. Elegiac Calculation
Wislawa Szymborska ….. A Moment in Troy
Wislawa Szymborska ….. No Title Required
Taigi ….. one haiku
Shinkichi Takahashi ….. Fish
John Waldman ….. The Water Month
Yang Wan-li ….. Banana Leaves
Yang Wan-li ….. In the Gorge: We Encounter Wind
Yang Wan-li ….. Napping in a Boat
Yang Wan-li ….. On the Way to T’ung-Lu
Yang Wan-li ….. Passing An-Jen by Boat
Yang Wan-li ….. Passing by Waterwheel Bay
Yang Wan-li ….. Passing South Stream Bridge on the Way Home
Yang Wan-li ….. The Pavilion Behind the Temple
Yang Wan-li ….. Walking Along the Seashore
Yuan Chung-tao ….. A Wild Crane
Yuan Chung-tao ….. from Snow at the River Pavilion on Wang Lung-hsu
Yuan Chung-tao ….. The Studio of Ten Thousand Gibbons

In yesterday’s post, Best Poems of 1997, I speculated on why I read so few poems that year. I neglected to note that there have been times I read a lot of poems, but they were poems less likely to show up in a Best collection. I’ve done stints as an editor for a magazine. You’ve gotta read a lot of poems when you’re deciding what goes in a magazine, but most of what you read you’re not going to publish — or think well of. I will say that my criteria for my personal anthology (see list above) are different from my criteria for what’s publishable. For my personal anthology I need a real personal resonance, as well as good writing. When choosing for a magazine I want something striking, something that is made well and that rewards attention. I can be impressed enough to publish without requiring a deep personal connection. In fact, over the years, that’s one of the things I’ve said to myself when rereading a poem I’ve marked for possible hand copying. “It’s really good. I would publish that. But I don’t need to hang onto it.”

There was also a time, when the internet was relatively new, and I was working intermittently, that I devoted several hours a week to poetry bulletin boards — reading and critiquing poets with a variety of skill levels and experience with poetry criticism. That business was both good and bad, but I tried to learn from it, tried to teach myself how to critique usefully — that is, without creating such bad feeling that the poet was blinded to any suggestions or advice. I tried to teach myself to teach in order to see if it would be something I could do, say, for money. Can’t say as I liked it. Not that I think I could never teach, more that I think the better model for me is one of encouraging creation, rather than working to change things that have already been made.

I had experience with the feelings around critiquing (and the effectiveness of critiques) in workshop classes in college. Despite the open nature of the bulletin boards (college workshops are more closed and sometimes not all prospective participants are allowed in), the reactions to critiques — and the quality of critiques — was pretty similar in both bulletin boards and college workshops. I’m not really a fan of the format. On the other hand, it is a way to get eyes (plus college credit?) on what you’d be doing anyway. However readers react to what you’ve written, there will always be somebody who reacts differently from how you’d thought they could. Just seeing that can be useful. Provides perspective.

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