ALL-TIME AMERICAN WRITERS TOURNAMENT
(Left: Ashbery. Right: Scott-Heron.)
Twin strands of American poetry. Two poles. Divergent extremes.
One up from the street, taking poetry to the people.
The other representing a withdrawal behind fortress bastions of the academy.
John Ashbery, RIP. Harvard, Columbia, Fulbright. Partisan Review. The New Yorker magazine.
Was Ashbery’s success an intentional reaction, by the literary establishment, against the threat of Rexroth and Ginsberg– against the populist energy, the accessible strong language of the Beats?
Accolades for Ashbery flow in– but which poet truly, TRULY, was more important, more influential these past decades?
Ashbery or Scott-Heron?
Which poet spawned an entire popular musical genre? Which continued the Beat tradition of dynamic open mics? Which made poets and poetry exciting and relevant– breaking the mold of obscurely tame poetry sessions isolated within universities during which every audience member has fallen asleep?
The Question really comes down to: What place should poetry hold in American society?
We give here and now no answer. We’re simply asking: John Ashbery or Gil Scott-Heron? Gil Scott-Heron or John Ashbery?