Tuesday, January 17, 2006

And the winner ...

... of the Eliot prize is Carol Ann Duffy. Note the lead, which say that Duffy's "new collection Rapture is one of the top-selling poetry collections in the UK." What are the top-selling poetry collections in the U.S., I wonder?

Update: Not everyone is pleased with the choice: Where have all the poets gone? (Hat tip, Tus Bowden at Poetry & Poets in Rags.)


  1. Not only as thoughts to share in this thread, but this is written in response to AnnMarie Eldon, who expresses her thoughts on the subject here: The Block (click and scroll just a bit).

    This is like a flip side of the discussion about post-Language poetry. There we take a poet, who by poetic nature, must be fringy enough to have uncommon even shamanistic ideas and impulses, who must have pen at hand for the moments poetic inspiration shatters foundations, who also must not care while writing whether $25,000 awards will come through from foundations for poetry, and we demand that his or her poems be accessible such that any interested reader will not be turned off in any way, that each published poem be an open door to each reader, into the wonderful world of the other poems that all do the same. The idea is to get rid of all the fringe-Modern, postmodern, post-postModern, and pastpost-neofringy-postModern poets, so that the frighteningly close near-fringy ones do not find widespread publication, never mind snagging the behavioral reinforcement of big prize money.

    And we get back to discussing whether the best of the wonderfully accessible poems, the finest poems, the good poems, the Kooser poems (a la Poetry), the Duffy poems (a la Poetry Book Society), should rhyme, along with such things as whether the best poets only write about what they've experienced first hand, or whether loving something is good enough, and why the best poems work into the rules of what a good first, second and last line of a poem constitute, what the end words of each line should do, and so forth--generating scholarly essays and quotable quotes for the ages as we go.

    This soundly grounded experiment for accessible poetry seems to have yielded results in Great Britain. We all know what is "best" now. These poets are doing precisely what they are supposed to be doing, and, by corollary, know how to judge who is doing it best, this year Carol Ann Duffy.

    It's true. It's all rooted in trying to do the best and yield the best. These British poets seem like fine folk who have done the best they can. It's also true that they are far better poets than I am or most are. They are excellent poets, possibly great shamans in another time, all. And that's all good.

    I wonder, though, if we are trying to domesticate something that must be wild. Maybe, though, that's just the effect. Maybe, we are trying to bring the great eagle of poetry indoors, to admire its wild majesty.


  2. I certainly hope that any attempts "to get rid of all the fringe-Modern, postmodern, post-postModern, and pastpost-neofringy-postModern poets" fail. Even if the poems such poets write never appeal to a iwde audience, things they discover may well be of use to poets whose mode of expression is more conventional.