THE DAILY POEM PROJECT, FINAL ROUND RESULTS
First of all, a big thank you to everyone who voted in the final round of the Daily Poem Project (as well as to everyone who voted in earlier rounds.)
I received 46 votes! 50 would have been nice, but it was already great when the total went past twenty. It was also enough votes that every poem ended up getting at least one vote, so no poet needs to feel shut out.
Here are the top five vote-getters:
1. Hadara Bar-Nadav, "Inside the Maze (II, III, and IV)", 10 votes
2. Adrian Blevins, "Hey You", 6 votes
3. Jessica Fisher, "The Promise of Nostos", 5 votes
3. Maurice Manning, "Where Sadness Comes From", 5 votes
4. Maurice Manning, "Bucolics III", 4 votes
In the class vote, with a somewhat different set of finalists (without Bar-Nadav's poem, for example, but with the other four of the top five above), the winner was Laure-Anne Bosselaar's "Friends", which won a run-off vote against Kevin McFadden's "The Ides of Amer-I-Can".
After much deliberation, my decision came down to a choice between Manning's "Where Sadness Comes From," C. Dale Young's "33rd & Kirkham", and Christian Wiman's "The River". If I had made decision based on the one of those three that left the most
vivid impressions in my mind, I would have voted for Wiman's poem. If I had made my decision based on the one that moved me most, and which was the most pleasurable to read, i would have voted for Young's. But I finally decided to go for the one that had made me think the most, "Where Sadness Comes From." Sadness, Manning's poem claims, is something one can hear in the inflection of words. It is something that is not from "way back when"—or not only. It is something present in the words we speak, there because of history and our experiences, but not something in the past alone: "we speak, / and wait for history to catch up // with us." A provocative poem by a poet I have been delighted to discover through this round of the project.
As I ran two separate projects this term, I have to count both Bar-Nadav's poem and Bosselaar's poem as winners. They join the two previous winners of Daily Poem Projects: Two summers ago, the winning poem in the end was "The Shout," by Simon Armitage. Last summer, the winning poem was "Fragment," by A. E. Stallings.
If fifteen people tell me that they would vote regularly in another round starting in mid-August, then I will do another!
The comments on the call for votes for the final round are extensive. Here are a few of the longer ones:
Donald Brown said...
This is easy. Since few of my picks won the blog vote, there's not much competition in my view (some of these choices... well, no matter). My vote goes to Manning for "Where Sadness Comes From." Runner-up is Grossman, "A Gust of Wind."
Thanks for making me read poems and causing me to exercise my critical faculties in a somewhat public way. As to the poetry in general, it's already been said: "I too dislike it."
There are many other worthy opponents, but for my vote, it's Reginald Shepherd, with a bullet. That poem is gorgeous.
Brian Campbell said...
All of these poems had interesting things to say & ways to say 'em, but none gets my total vote. All, or practically all, lapse into (or emerge out of) discursiveness. That is, they don't express or
evoke so much as talk about... or maybe, to put it more precisely, the evocation these poets manage to do is hampered by the *talking about* they fall too easily into. Discursiveness is the bane especially of academics, people who do too much essay-writing and -reading, as most of these writers are. Be that as it may... The poems that got onto my "short list" were:
Christian Wiman -- The River. Some great writing here, but I felt let down with the word "crocodiles." He was evoking the animals so well up to that point, he practically (& I'd say, poetically) didn't need to actually name them. I think the poem would have been better if he had continued evoking their qualities through vivid description, but telling us what they are somehow turns this into a high-falutin' version of National Geographic. OK, maybe better than that. And what's that father doin' there? OK, I'll accept that.
Tom Sleigh, Blueprint -- This one, I thought, was going to be (as Li Young Lee puts it in a quote a couple of posts back in my blog) all out of the mental centre to the exclusion of all else, and who needs that in this overly mentalized society? -- but as a critique of that "abstracting" process, an evocation of the reality he would like to express, this does become quite forceful & ineffable at the end. (Which means I can't say any effin' thing beyond that, without turning this into an effin' essay).
Laure Ann Bosselaar , Friends -- She doesn't like her heart much, does she? But somehow I feel her description more than a tad put on, adjective-heavy. Her friends she likes better-- so that makes her quite likable despite herself, doesn't it? I was struck by "the sun heaves daylight" -- that line leaps out as more profound & elemental than the rest of the poem put together. I like nevertheless "I thrum the lit syllables of your names on my sill... etc. An interesting way to evoke friendship. A funky ugly/striking artifact of a self-loathing (?) people-person.
Reginald Sheppard, "Eve's Awakening" -- I like a number of things about this poem. Stanzas five-seven are particularly beautiful . But would Adam know what a flag is? (I don't think Adam knows what a fig is at this point.) Somehow I think RS named God too early. Could it have been better
He called me by a name I'd never heard,/ tried to enclose my hand in his: that garden/suddenly seemed small, enclosed on every side, something that said God,/
said call me that.
Something like that. Oh, and where the heck is Eve? She's hardly there. No, powerful as it is as a title, I don't think I'd call this poem that.
Hadara Bar Nadav, Inside the Maze:
A hell of an interesting poem, the only one I've read from the point of view of the Minotaur. Culturally it is de grande portée. The unique lay-out of words, once one figures out how to read it, makes one feel one is entering the brain of another species, a slow-thinking one at that. (At first I thought the words could be read up and down as well as right to left -- would have been a miracle if the poet had managed that.) This poem quite grabbed me and took me along on its journey, but when the Minotaur refers to his "fragrant catalog", suddenly he becomes an Assistant English Professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Again, "talking about" -- too bad, but this highly avoidable mis-step unfortunately second-rates the poem.
Adrian Blevins -- Hey You. This is one poem that, though highly mental, does not *talk about*, but *is* in its own highly eccentric terms -- and leaves you to figure out what those terms are. Kind of reminds me of EE Cummings in the use of an adjective as noun. I enjoyed "I threw my beautiful down at the waterway against the screwball rocks." & I love the final line. I almost gave this one my vote, but for semi-penetrable obscurities in lines 6-10 that don't satisfy me. So does the poem really say "Hey You" to me? Well... not very loud.
SO, AFTER ALL THIS "THINKING ABOUT"
THE WINNER IS:
Hadara Bar-Nadav, Inside the Maze!!!
Thanks, Andrew, for engaging me in this highly enjoyable exercise.
I'd like to vote for #7, Manning's "Where Sadness Comes From." Gorgeous poem. And this is a very neat project you've got going!
Thanks for reminding me to vote, Andrew. This was a hard one. I knew as soon as i saw your list that I would be inclined toward Bucolic, which i read on the Poetry Daily site and loved. It's an amazing conceit and well done, with great ease of language and inventiveness. Perhaps if you had included all three of the Bucolic pieces, I would have voted for them. But finally I felt as if I would be voting for one extended (albeit very well done) metaphor with Bucolic III.
Insteaad, I am going to vote for The River, which seemed a little more multi-dimensional to me. I love the process of seeing as it unfolds in the poem, (reminds me of Bishop) the gradual opening up of details, including the father in the boat. I like the lack of sentimentality and moralizing, (too many attempts to find greater meaning in too many of these poems, IMO--blahblah blah. Too many hearts and nights and sleep). the tightness and the strength of the description. Technically it seems very accomplished to me. Compelling and vivid.
So that's my two cents. I am curious what others will pick!
david dodd lee said...
To me three stand out from the others:
3. Jessica Fisher, "The Promise of Nostos"
7. Maurice Manning, "Where Sadness Comes From"
11. Adrian Blevins, "Hey You"
But really I'm torn between 3 and 7.
I guess I'll go with Fischer, #3.
sam of the ten thousand things said...
Thanks for the opportunity to vote, Andrew. This is a great project.
There are good choices here. I especially like the poems by Jessica Fisher, C. Dale Young, and Allen Grossman.
That being said, I'm voting for the poem by Adrian Blevins. "Hey You" is a marvelous piece, a powerful study in character, that makes me wish I had written it.
I vote for "Hey, You" again, if a bit reluctantly, as "Inside the Maze" was surprisingly good. At first glance, I thought I'd merely struggle through, but it is really a delightful and engaging poem. (But by line 2 of "Hey, You" I was bowled over.)
I also enjoyed the two Manning poems, so thanks for that since I haven't read him before.
"A Gust of Wind" was also a pleasure, and if you told me I'd like a poem about a baby hippo being eaten by crocodiles, i wouldn't have believed you, but I did like that.
My head-and-shoulders-above-the-rest choice is #5, Laure-Anne Bosselaar's "Friends" ...
My second choice is #12, Maurice Manning's "Bucolics III" ...
If I were basing my vote on all three of Manning's "Bucolics" as shown in the
Poetry Daily entry, that would have
made my choice a LOT tougher.
FYI, I intend to recommend BOTH of these
poets to my local library, for purchase of
their respective recent volumes.
Just for the record, I'd also like to bestow
"honorable mentions" on these others:
#7, Manning's "Where Sadness Comes From"
#9, Young's "33rd & Kirkham"
#2, Tom Sleigh's "Blueprint" (in tandem
with its companion piece in the PD entry).
And here are two comments I received by email:
being a bit of a brute what sentiments etc. are concerned, I first thought that my vote should go to Hadara Bar-Nadav, "Inside the Maze II, III and IV". But I am not too pleased with this choice, I like the form of these poems but find them rather bad contentwise. Less would have been more, obviously there must also be a "I", and, I fear, there might also be a "V" and "VI". As role poems they follow the story too closely, the narrative element is too prominent and too simple, too close to the myth we all know, leaving no room for mystery or interpretation. They cannot be read as a story about somebody who sees himself (or herself) as a stranger among others, about a human being who feels lonely, about a man who thinks or fears that he is some kind of a monster because he is insatiable what young girls, women, masturbation, chocolate, football or his stamp collection are concerned; "Inside the Maze" is not even a story about a real monster, a rapist, a pederast or cannibal; it is just a role poem (or "role epic") in which the "real" minotaur of a children's version of the myth tells us his story from his point of view with a lot of implausible auctorial knowledge (particularly bad in that respect is the passage with Dedalus and Ikarus at the end of "III", where Bar-Nadav tries to keep the perspective by making us believe the minotaur can recognize the scent of the architect of his labyrinth; but even worse is the creature's knowledge about his parents).
Maurice Manning's "Where Sadness Used To Happen" was my second candidate. But this is not a good poem either; it makes us aware of the sound of simple words ("did", "feel"), but it is too long and gets too disparate.
I like the first 8 lines (but what is the "middle" of the word "did"? Does the vowel sound make a curtsey? Not at all - its sound stands as straight as shown in its symbol, the letter "I"). "I come from a place where hanging used to happen ... in the trees, by God, it happens even now in air, the air the mouth lets loose": Just because I say "did" or "feel" does not make me a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
Linguistics are not a good topic for poetry, it seems. Ekiss' "Vanitas Mundi" has the same deficiencies as Manning's "Sadness", and it is even worse as a poem because it is so bathetic: "The consolation of physics is (f)art"! The [probably unintentional] rhyme in "linguistic insurgency / driven by a sense of urgency" is so ugly that it destroys the serious tone of the poem; other, intentional rhymes, are no better: "error" and "terror"; "hell" and "hello" (which rhymes with Adam's and Rayman/Ingres' "cello") ...
Manning's "Bucolics" are extremely beautiful and romantic in sound and rhythm (expecially XL reminds me somehow of William Blake's diction). But what I don't like in them is the "Boss"-figure (I'd prefer, like Caliban, a "Setebos" - or no boss or god at all).
This leaves only C. Dale Young's "33rd & Kirkham" as an option for me. (The other poems, I find, are below average anyway). After looking at Young's biography I have to assume that this is a kind of occasional poem, a homosexual "Morgenlied" - but who cares.
It is a very nice love poem about the resurrection or/and creation of the world and the I from nothingness as a process that starts every morning between two lovers, whatever their sexes or sexual preferences are.
I'll go with Bucolics III.
The voting slowed at the end this time, because we started with more,
and a lot of the chaff had been dropped, making the sort more
I came down to five finalists:
33rd and Kirkham
The Promise of Nostos
Inside the Maze
Most weeks there were only a couple I had to really pick between;
everything else dropped out fast. That made voting easy most weeks.
This time I had to take several strong contenders and decide which
ones were strongest.
Not exactly a process of finding fault or flaws. Flaws are wherever
you want to find them. I dropped a few poems in the early running
because I didn't like them, and I dropped a few I liked because they
felt a little too thin, but each of these remaining poems was one I
could live with.
For me it's more a matter of finding strength and greater strength.
We call them all poems, but it's a little like choosing among peanut
butter, chocolate, bananas, sandpaper, and a sunset. They go in
different directions. Each is good on its own terms. Which is best on
those terms? Which on its terms outscores the others on their terms?
Which terms do I care about? Do I care if a sunset is rough, or do I
just care that each contestant includes a memorable texture?
Not that I don't bring terms, but most of these more than satisfy my
terms already. Which do I like best?
I'll go with Bucolics III.