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Culture Bully

When Fantasy Football Meets Poetry

While accepting a challenge is not out of character for me, accepting a Fantasy Football challenge is. Assuming I can research my way out of any problem, I started asking questions. A seasoned fantasy footballer told me he mainly uses his gut vs. statistics during the drafting process. “I got no gut in this,” I said. Now, if it were a Fantasy Poetry Football League, I’d be golden and go gut all the way. With that the following team of word slingers was conceived. I’d hit the verbal gridiron with this group any day.

Most assuredly, Ezra Pound is the quarterback. He was the main editor behind “The Waste Land,” best poem of the 20th century. His editing was crucial to that poem being that poem, and not the clunky, lesser version of Eliot’s. Also, Pound connected people. He worked to get others published and was a poet’s poet. Yes, he got a little crazy, was anti-semitic and turned against the U.S. in WW2 and was convicted as a traitor… but he knew poetry.

So, running back, TS Eliot for sure. See all the above. Once Eliot was confident, he ran with it on his own and severed his relationship with Pound. Sure Pound was crazy and an embarrassing house guest, so to speak, but Eliot has often been quoted, true or not, that good poets borrow and great poets steal. And the way he discounted Pound’s contribution to his early work; I think he did say that shit. Fucker. But I love his stuff. “The Waste Land” should be read yearly. I always read it in April (see: the famous first line) and “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is in every poetry anthology for a reason.

Wide receiver (and I think I get two of these): To continue to over stretch this metaphor, it seems like the wide receiver has got to be willing to go out on a limb, be all alone and just do their thing, but do it fucking good. Okay, for symmetry’s sake, let’s have Anne Sexton and one side and Sylvia Plath on the other. Emotional, tortured (don’t make me use the word hysterical here, though I’m tempted), creative and selfish. They championed confessional poetry and put it all out there. Plath’s “Daddy” is rally cry for every girl ever mistreated by a guy or a guy’s system. It is hella good to read out loud when no one is around. Therapeutic, really. Sexton was less skilled but more sexy. Her book Love Poems is so over wrought and so awesome. “The Ballad of the Lonely Masturbator” just sings to the end. And “Us” captivates that riddle we live in love, being trapped in our bodies while at the same time we’re trying so hard to merge (separate while together is a fascination of mine, boundaries are so tempting and hard to understand —when to need them, when to shed them ) and at the end it just straight up celebrates sex and the orgasm. Albeit, she very much celebrates a male orgasm in that poem, but that’s a whole other conversation. So these two can run and run hard and while discounted as female confessional poets, they paved the way for so many and their work has aged well.

Now, there’s gotta be a bunch of people protecting these players, guards, offensive linemen, etc. I say, these guys are there to let key players make their moves, so I give those postions to the old school poets like William Blake, crazy early British Romantic poet. He was a craftsman, fantastical, rebel who lived a covertly poly lifestyle. Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience are two sides of the same coin. And there’s a lot more going on than originally appears in his work.

Also, in that category has got be Walt Whitman, or maybe he’s the cheerleader. Or better, yell leader. I mean, he was gay. Anyway, his pure celebration of life and of one’s self and one’s sexuality and individuality is so authentic that it jumps out at you. He celebrates all aspects of being, meaning all the sad tragic moments with the same fervor. Okay, he’s a drama queen but with an easy voice and a melodic punch that brings you along. Most famous of course, for Leaves of Grass and “Song of Myself.” I love “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” where he takes a simple beautiful thing and turns it into a symbol of great pain, which is what we often do as humans. It’s that melancholy that sets in at the exact same moment that something beautiful presents itself. For example, the way the light hit the trees this morning was golden against a steely mean raincloud and it was so amazing that after that initial “wow” comes some kind of sadness, because you can’t capture it forever. Somewhere I learned that shit like this happens as humans and you can feel it and give into it, but then you have to move on, as dwelling on it doesn’t make it more authentic. Just imbalanced. Whitman is like that for me.

Elizabeth Bishop is my kicker, for one poem: “One Art.” Why? (Weak metaphor alert…) It totally gets the ball to the other the end of the field. It’s quick, it’s obvious, and it gets you in the heart. It’s a hard life lesson in a short moment of music.

Who plays defense? For this purpose, defense keeps the ball from moving and prevent offensive scoring. So, let’s briefly lump together all the old school, no breath of life poets. I dunno, cause I avoid them. I should like W.B. Yeats and Percy Bysshe Shelley (I can live with Shelley) and John Keats is pretty good — I just never have “I gotta bust out some Keats” moments. Robert Frost fits in there too: annoying poetry but he for sure stopped the ball from moving.

And you gotta have William Shakespeare on your team. Do I really need to expand on that? Call him a utility player, of sorts. William Carlos William is worth mentioning and the Beat poets were fun, but not Team Worthy. Guys like the Beat poets; girls like confessional poetry. (How did I become so stereotypical as of late?)

Regardless, this team of poets could win any league championship. But more importantly, I guarantee they can grab your heart through your mouth in just one poem. Now, go forth and read some poetry.

(Special thanks to the FF veteran with the gut advice.)

[This article was written by guest contributor Judy Mills.]


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