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  #11  
Unread 09-21-2019, 07:44 PM
Max Goodman Max Goodman is offline
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I really don't understand it. I would get no satisfaction from being published or recognized because of the people I know, or am associated with. I truly don't get it.
Of course, many Sphereans edit journals, and when other Sphereans with whom they've developed relationships get published in those journals, no one feels that this is inappropriate, or that personal relationships have trumped quality of work.

I'm not suggesting that Jackson's selections aren't problematic. Based on the first post in this thread, they do sound problematic. But the people we know are often a factor in recognition and can't help but be.
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  #12  
Unread 09-21-2019, 08:22 PM
John (J.D.) Smith's Avatar
John (J.D.) Smith John (J.D.) Smith is offline
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While humor may not solve the problem, you may want to look at Jim Behrle's Facebook feed, which includes pictures of his trenchant sticky notes affixed to selected pages of BAP of recent years. The current set of annotations will not disappoint you.
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  #13  
Unread 09-21-2019, 09:01 PM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
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The problem really is that they call themselves the "best" of American poetry, which is a ridiculous assertion that will nonetheless be pretty much blindly accepted by many people who don't read a lot of poetry and may only buy one or two poetry books a year, so they naturally want to read the "best" and they don't really think about whether it's really the best. They just assume the editor must know.

Even if the editor didn't publish himself and his friends, it would still be ridiculous because there's literally no way any editor could possibly claim to have read all of the poems in hundreds upon hundreds of print and online journals, so right off the bat it comes down to the "best" of maybe a couple of dozen of journals that the editor has predetermined to be the best journals out there, which means not even beginning to consider several thousand other poems among which there almost certainly are worthy contenders.

It's very different when the editor of a single journal publishes poems by people he knows. There's no claim that the journal is publishing the best poems in the English language, only that the publication contains poems that were pleasing to the editor.
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  #14  
Unread 09-21-2019, 11:15 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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[My] Best [Friends in] American Poetry

Mutual back-scratching aside, it's generally considered poor form to honor your own work, isn't it? Or was that only in the pre-Trump era?

Of course, I strongly suspect that somewhere on Instagram, another group of poets is probably bitterly complaining that their genre was overlooked, too. And a fox is saying that the grapes he can't reach are sour, anyway.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 09-21-2019 at 11:24 PM.
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  #15  
Unread 09-22-2019, 02:05 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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I like your alternate title, Julie.
It seems to me appropriate for the series to cycle through a genre a year. Evidently this year’s genre is “myself, my wife, and the folks at NYU.” Now if he’d added his ten-year-old fifth grader, we’d really be onto something.

Cheers,
John
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  #16  
Unread 09-22-2019, 07:56 AM
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Maryann Corbett Maryann Corbett is offline
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I have to say that to tar the whole book with these accusations is massively unfair to the seventy or so poets in the book who have nothing at all to do with NYU or Major Jackson. The book includes one [editing back: two!] of our own, so let's be a little more charitable.

Last edited by Maryann Corbett; 09-22-2019 at 11:53 AM.
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  #17  
Unread 09-22-2019, 08:13 AM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
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Maryann, no one said there aren't some fine poems in the book. It's even possible that every single poem in the book is wonderful (though I haven't read the book yet, so I can't say). It's a question of process and false advertising.
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  #18  
Unread 09-22-2019, 09:30 AM
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R. Nemo Hill R. Nemo Hill is offline
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Last year (disclaimer: I was in there) when the book was edited by Dana Gioia, and there were plenty of formalist poems, no one took that amiss. To gripe about the title of the book, the dubious word "best", seems silly, since it is merely an admittedly bogus convention in many areas at this point—check out the Arts & Leisure section of the NY Times as the year turns! Some of the specific editorial issues this year (for example including a poem of his own) seem a bit gauche. But sour grapes about such volumes is as much a hot air convention as is the concept of "best of". Hey, it's just a single volume, it's a bit of lark to be included, and it hasn't done anything for my so-called career. I think "the problems of American Poetry" is a an overreaching concept anyway, given that there are problems everywhere in everything and always will be from one perspective or another.

And, of course, there are as many supposed cures.

And congrats Nausheen, that's two years in row!

Nemo
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  #19  
Unread 09-22-2019, 09:58 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Putting himself, his wife and the other editor in does seem a bit much. But apart from that, which presumably amounts to three poems, I think the problem of nepotism is just the way of the world isn't it, rather than something particular to 'American (or indeed British, or any) Poetry'. The amount of poetry produced and published annually is astronomical. Nobody could possibly read it all, so the fact that Jackson includes colleagues of his probably just reflects the poetry that comes into his sphere of reference. And yeah, a bit of old fashioned nepotism. Oh well, next year it'll be someone else's turn.

And those people Roger refers to, the general readers who only buy one poetry book a year, aren't stupid. Everyone knows that the concept of the 'Best of', when applied to anything, is subjective and to be taken with a pinch of salt. I'm sure the poems in the anthology are all good enough to be in there. Even if Jackson had scrupulously avoided anyone he had ever had any contact with, any combination of 70-odd poems/poets would still never constitute an actual 'best of' because there's literally no such thing.

In short, I can't bring myself to feel overly concerned about this.


Edit: Cross-posted with Nemo. Congrats Nausheen, I didn't know you were in there!
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  #20  
Unread 09-22-2019, 10:10 AM
Max Goodman Max Goodman is offline
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it's generally considered poor form to honor your own work, isn't it?
Here, too, we should avoid being dogmatic. Often poets are editing anthologies because their own poems qualify them as experts. When Philip Larkin was hired to edit The Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse, should he have omitted his own poems?

Sometimes anthologies are used to promote their editors' writing. I'm embarrassed to be included in an "anthology" (the submissions call for which I think I learned about here) in which the self-financing editor included a large sampling of his own weak work.

And strong writers are often commendably modest when making selections. Larkin included fewer of his own poems than I or many others would have. And, in maybe the best analogy to Jackson's situation, John Updike, when compiling an annual Best American Short Stories from the 120 stories the series editor had selected for him, eliminated from consideration not only his own story (or stories) but one by his mother, a far less renowned writer. (I've always considered that to be, at the very least, rotten luck for his mother--unless it was Updike's kind rationale for leaving out a story he wouldn't have selected on its merits.)

(Of course, the more well-known the strong-writing editor already is, the easier it is to be modest.)
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