I own a t-shirt from Barrelhouse Literary Review that says that with no asterisks. I'm not sure why I bought it, as its sentiment seems to express frustration with poets, and I've never felt that. I guess I just thought it was funny, that perhaps I'd wear it to a poetry slam at the Uptown Theatre or somewhere. A long odds possibility, since I only leave the compound to get groceries or welding supplies.
I do have an issue with some of the sycophantry that surrounds Maya Angelou, mainly by those who've read maybe one of her lovely poems. And the reason is this. Years ago my brother-in-law attended a reading by Angelou at Unity Auditorium in The Plaza, as a volunteer helper. The main guy who'd set it all up was steering Angelou to the easiest access to the auditorium, and said something like,"Maya, this door over here is..." at which point she drew herself up imperiously and snapped at him, "Do NOT call me Maya. I don't know you. Call me MISS Angelou." Jeezo capeezo. Give me a break. Dissing the help is just bad manners.
I asked my brother-in-law if he encountered any of that huff and he said no, she was quite nice to him, but there was a little group of admirers standing around which sort of dispersed at that point, looking startled. Maybe she'd had a bad flight or something. (Free, but maybe not First Class) Let me be clear on this: I wholeheartedly admire Ms. Angelou for many things: talent, creativity, the survival and triumph over the godawful crap that blacks have had to withstand over many years, making it to the top. She can certainly be forgiven for flashes of attitude. She fought the good fight, as did thousands before her, thousands after her. She doesn't need my whitey approval. Greatness was hers and the legacy endures.
I'll leave it at that, dead poets and all, but I think there is a limit to how much one believes in one's own press and well-wishers. Her real name is Marguerite Johnson, by the way. And William Least Heat Moon's is William Trogdon. He takes his name from his father's experience in the tribe of Mic-O-Say, a Boy Scout Council. I briefly bumped against Mic-O-Say at Boy Scout camp in Locust Grove, OK as a kid. Look for my name change soon. I hope it sells books like crazy.
I had the honor of attending a reading by Robert Frost years ago at Rockhurst College. He didn't take umbrage at anyone, just read a goodly amount of his wonderful poetry. At the end, Monsignor somebody said "Please stay seated, then Mr. Frost will pass out, and I shall pass out after him." To which Frost said, "It must be all that communion wine, as I'm usually the last one to pass out." What a grand old dude he was. I passed out after them and felt quite good about it. I later checked out a record album of his from the library. I still have it. The late fees would probably pay for a new Corolla. It was about worn through anyway, very scratchy.
I'm happy to say that I've submitted some poetry of my own and, so far, two have been accepted by widely diverse journals: Shotgun Honey and Straight Forward Poetry Review. Both pieces are prose poetry, in which I was careful to link words and phrases in a way that appealed to me and which, I believe, took it out of the purely prose realm. I don't call myself a poet, and still go by any name anyone wishes to holler. Usually, "hey." That may change when the next president appoints me poet laureate.
One piece, "John Settle," is about a Kansas migrant who goes to California in Dustbowl days, later starts a string of motels, goes belly up. The other, "The Wildcatter," about an oil field entrepreneur who asks a young lady for a dance and wins her heart. They're both from "The Dancing Men" series, some of which are awaiting acceptance--or the "R" word. (Help me out here, Maya, I mean Miss Angelou, you ever get any of those rejections?)
Just got one! Bennington Review. They appreciate the time I took to send it to them. Hey what about the time it took to write it? Oh well. Anyway, I regard Shotgun Honey as the Paris Review of noir and badassery, and for them to accept a prose-poetic, not firmly in-genre, piece is unusual. Straight Forward is the first pure poetry journal to accept my stuff, and I've perused their fare. I am humbled indeed. Real poets are to be found there. And, now, me too.
My favorite poets? Frost. Dylan Thomas. Anyone who writes at all should read Dylan Thomas. James McMurtry (lyrics to Choctaw Bingo are stellar) Langston Hughes. Rimbaud. Ginsberg. Bob Dylan (Allan Zimmerman) is a huge favorite. And Thomas McGuane. McGuane writes only fiction, you say? Well, it's how he writes it. He turns a phrase that moves like the workings of a very fine watch. His pages flow. His words fall into place. I will review his "Crow's Fair" in an upcoming blog. And that, as they say, is that. Until then, don't diss the help if you can help it.