I’m actually not sure whether this essay is beating the “too many poets” horse or the “academic stranglehold” horse, but I am not sure it matters. No one is destroying poetry by loving it and writing it, “best” is all relative to who you are talking to, and the distribution of publishing power to a wider number of venues—how can that be a bad thing? But really, I think the thing I most disagree with here is this:
“Still, when it comes to the major awards and premier publication essential for wide readership, there seems to be little room at the top for independents.”
I think it’s the “wide readership” here that throws me. Is there such a thing as “wide readership” or again does it depend on who you ask? Mary Oliver, yes, definitely wide readership, but beyond that..? I’ve looked at a lot of lists, both those kept by SPD and Amazon of best selling poetry titles and seen a whole lot of independents on there (perhaps not as many as I’d like to see , but at least a good showing). I don’t think “major” awards and “premier” publications are reaching anymore readers than, say, your more popular independent (Graywolf, for example, or Coffeehouse.) . Granted there are bigger and littler fish (like dgp), but the pool of possible readers and the technology possible to reach those readers, is just as large as a university press (many of which are struggling now financially anyways and trying to adapt to the things all of us independent publishers were touting all along—blogs, social networking, POD.)
Also, where is the “top”? Billy Collin’s definition of top is going to be highly different from Ron Silliman’s . Various groups of poets all have different poetic gods. Even my ideas about the “top” has changed over the years. (Actually it just sort of collapsed in on itself). I don't think the world will be overrun by mediocre poets anytime soon any more than it will be overrun by mediocre golfers (I, for one, suck at golf and won't be going pro anytime soon.).