About Tournament Seedings

THE ALL-TIME AMERICAN WRITERS TOURNAMENT

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(Pictured: Donna Tartt.)

With only 64 slots to fill, the question isn’t so much who to include, but who gets shortchanged. Genre writers? Playwrights? Poets? Populists? Postmodernists? Writers of color? White males? Early American writers of whom few Americans today have ever heard?

Some writers or category of writers inevitably will get screwed.

Going in, we’re open to all. We’re not academics. We feel no loyalty to a mysterious “canon.” What interests us most are American writers AS writers: individuals; personalities. Talents and personas. We seek to choose those writers who, based on their works and their biographies, can best engage general readers and the greater American public. (If such thing be possible.)

Which writers “on the bubble” should make the cut?

O. Henry? Pearl Buck? Thornton Wilder? Philip K. Dick? John Updike? John Dos Passos? Harper Lee? Langston Hughes?

Which accomplished writers guaranteed entry should be seeded highest?

Walt Whitman? Toni Morrison? Herman Melville? Saul Bellow?

What do we do with Bob Dylan?!

WE WANT ARGUMENTS!

We seek justifications and arguments. We’ll accept no griping after-the-fact, but we will post all arguments and complaints while the seedings are made, and during the tournament itself.

We’ll be allowing ourselves a one-week grace period, after each particular seed is announced, to change our mind.

If you have a favorite– or most hated– American writer, make a case for or against that person, one word to 250, and we’ll post it here.

American culture, who’s recognized by it, is determined in part by lobbying. Noise making. We hope to hear some!

 

 

The Last Underground Poet

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WHEN in Philadelphia recently, we touched base with old friend and colleague Frank D. Walsh. His work is hard to come by online, so when I say he’s the best poet Philly has produced in the last 40 years, you might not believe me. As quick evidence I can give only a link to a few poems at an Irish literary site, including this one:

http://www.deaddrunkdublin.com/poems/frank_walsh/complaynt.html

What makes a master at the poetic art?

It’s the poet with every tool in his poetry toolkit. The person who can throw in offbeat rhymes, multiple allusions in a phrase or word, rhythms of every kind, and give the listener or reader enough wordplay to make the experience fascinating, even wonderful. John Berryman would do this on occasion, as would Ezra Pound. Shakespeare was the master of masters at the art. At his best, Walsh attains that company.

Why Frank Walsh hasn’t received the attention he deserves may have something to do with his integrity. To quote Frank Norris: “I never truckled; I never took off the hat to Fashion and held it out for pennies.” Anyone who’s met Walsh knows his outspokenness– not an advantageous asset in a literary world of cronyism and connections, maintained via backslapping and glad-handing. A poetry world filled with posturing frauds, which Frank Walsh is not.

He’s paid a price for it– lives underground for real– but maintains his optimism. “It’s all material” for his writing, he said about his hardships. A mindset for all writers.

(Photo of Frank Walsh snapped at famed Philadelphia watering hole McGlinchey’s.)

Who Would YOU Choose?

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Much talk right now on the Internet and the airwaves about next week’s NFL (National Football League) draft. Which will happen roughly the same time we’ll announce the #1 seeds for the upcoming All-Time American Writers Tournament.

This brings us to the question: If you were creating a team of writers, and could select from any writer in American history, who would be your first choice?

The one person, let’s say, to represent American literature to the world. A world which has created a host of great writers.

Walt Whitman? William Faulkner? Toni Morrison? Someone else?

(The All-Time American Writers Tournament IS Coming.)

Fun Pop Poetry #29

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“You Call Yourself a Cat?” by Blixa BelGrande

As I lie stretched on the mat,
daydreaming of mice and wet food,
I hear,”You call yourself a cat?”
It’s Darrell, come to wreck my mood.

Where did she find this Bozo boyfriend?
That Cheyenne calls her fiancee
I keep my eyes closed and pretend
That he’s gone far, far away

“That is one pampered animal,”
He continues, unperturbed,
“And living the life of Riley as well,”
I keep my mouth shut, not a word.

For I’m thinking of the ripped screen
In the upstairs bedroom window
It’s there that I ‘ll be redeemed
It’s there I will catch the sparrow

That will shut him up for good
That will wipe the smirk off his face
And of course it’s understood,
Just how good that bird will taste.

I casually head up the stairs,
Without a glance in his direction
And he drones on, unaware,
Of a little bird that needs protection.

Like a panther, I leap on the bed.
Like a tiger, I claw at the screen.
Quiet! as I spot the feathered head.
And I wait—as she leans—

YES! I’ve got her! In my mouth!
YIPE! YIPE! YIPE! she cries in horror!
” Hey! What the hell’s that noise about!?”
Darrell shouts, walking through the door.

But I race past him, a blur of speed,
to the living room, to Cheyenne
He must not know of my deed–
Not until Cheyenne has seen!

I lay the bird down on the floor
Cheyenne looks down, “Do you have a new toy?”
I prod the sparrow with my paw,
C’mon, you damn thing, make some noise!

“Oh good God! It’s a sparrow! Darrell, come and see!”
“What’s that cat gone and done?”
“She’s caught a bird! And brought it to me!”

She opened the door, and off it flew.
“It was still alive!” Cheyenne said, relieved.
At that point I let out a big meow.
“That’s one crafty cat,” Darrell said, admiringly.

****

(Cat photo c/o Jamie Lockhart.)

We’re Better

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(A RANT)

WHO are we better than?

We’re BETTER than the New York literary establishment, which seems trapped in word-clotted hyper-intellectualized writers absolutely out-of-touch with the authentic American voice.

As example of what we’re NOT we give you current Poster Boy for the stagnating status quo, brainiac postmodern writer George Saunders.

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The man is an acolyte of David Foster Wallace, who before moving on from this world almost single-handedly destroyed American literature as we know it, with his overdone style of lengthy sentences and even longer paragraphs. A mish-mash of nonsense.

George Saunders is out to top him. If David Foster Wallace had an IQ of 185, Saunders will prove his is 195! Lost in the competition for postmodern philosophical glory (with accompanying grants and awards) is the READER– that trusting person who reads the glowing reviews and unwittingly buys the Saunders book.

NOT TO WORRY! At New Pop Lit we’re presenting writers not screened by insular academies. Not approved by obedient apparatchiks at conglomerates.
We put the reader FIRST.

 

Fun Pop Poetry #28

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“Guns and Roses” by David Lohrey 

Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf? Cried the playwright.
Who shot the sheriff? Asked the singer.
The next question to pose is this: who signed up for this?
― classrooms without teachers, cars without drivers,
politicians at each other’s throats.
Are we all in the same boat or are some of us in the water?
They are bashing us with their paddles. It’s sink or swim.
We’ve got girls digging trenches, gays aiming
bazookas. The drones killing our enemies. Bombs at the ready.
The people don’t want freedom? We’ll blow them to smithereens.

We accept cookies. The end is inevitable.
In Texas, people say howdy; in Maine, it’s strictly hi there.
It’s gotten so, some call this diversity of opinion.
As long as we all agree on what’s important,
as long as we say fuck you but not n****r, it will all be fine.
As long as we vote for the same person and with passion,
dance to the same music, run with the pack; as long as we don’t smoke,
we can proceed to checkout.

After all, we’re all the same, isn’t that true?
We’re all humans, all equal beings.
The only difference is that we’re better than them.
We are because we know more, we do more,
and we’re a whole lot cleaner. Humans are equal;
it’s that we do the right thing, but they won’t.
The people we hate are the uncouth and the tacky.
Otherwise, people are fine. I especially
Love blacks. Soon there will be one human race.
Hurray!

What I am getting at is this:
Gertrude Stein was right all along.
Roses are roses are roses, that’s true.
But does a rose grown without soil have
fragrance? I’m told not. We’ll get our bouquet,
As promised, petals at our feet, our welcome home, our
victory parade after the defeat of our enemies. But
Without their sweet aroma, what good are roses?
When everything else is the color and odor of blood,
what use are flowers?

(Un)Fun Pop Poetry #27

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Three Strong Poems for the Oscars from Bruce Dale Wise

“We Won’t Attend the Oscars”
by Darius Ecwabeus

Actress Taraneh Alidoosti said she won’t attend
the Oscars since Don Trump will temporarily suspend
the immigration to America from fine Iran,
as well as lovely Libya, and beautiful Sudan.
“Humiliating fine Iran for some security
is not a new phenomenon in modern history,”
said Oscar nominee Asghar Farhadi to the press.
He’s probably not thinking…1979’s mess.
“I do condemn unjust conditions forced on citizens.”
Is he discussing fine Iran’s fresh murderous events?

**

(As, for example, in the following poem of seven years ago no one would publish):

“In 2009 the Blood Ran in Tehran”
by Delir Ecwabeus
for Abdul Serecewi

Upon her shoulder was a dove
that drank blood from her mouth—Nedā.
It was a murdering of love—
a Basij soldier! so I ran.

Her voice in Farsi, her last words
were, “I’m burning. I’m burning.” Sup
with the martyrs for freedom, bird
of golden song, fold your wings up.

**
(Or this tribute to Iranian poet Hashem Shabani, originally published at http://www.radiuslit.org on 3/18/2014. Shabani was executed in Iran in 2014):

“Hashem Shabani”
By Abdul Serecewi

He had to die for waging war on Allah, yes;
and after all he was an Arab in Iran as well,
who came from Ahvaz. It is so. Confess, confess.
And then, of course, he was a member of this hell
called Earth. He mocked the sacred revolution too.
How could he ever do that willingly? Tell, tell.
And then he tried to raise his voice for others, who
were beaten, eaten by the state. Relate, relate.
Why even President Hassan Rouhani knew
he needed to be hung, and fast. How could one wait
to clear corruption’s body from this bloody mess?
Come clean, come clean, and bring this bard upon a plate.

hanging-iran

(Photo from http://www.executedtoday.com.)

****
(Send your topical poems to funpoppoetry@gmail.com. Rhyming preferred.)