Thursday, September 21, 2006

Lots of brouhaha over the BAP and its selection process. I’m not a fan all so much of the series--suspicious of the “Best” in the title like everyone else. I’ve always sort of suspected that Lehman had a heavy hand in what actually reached the GE, who unless they were a rabid reader of literary mags (which would be the ideal situation), probably don‘t have much of a clue of what‘s published as a whole in a given year. As is, of course it’s going to be a little skewed as to what makes it in. And yes, while alot of those that make it in are awesome poets (see list here), it seems a little unfair they get a leg up from Lehman, while a lot of other poets and poems, even in the same magazines, don't have any such advantage. That’s the “po-biz” part (who you know/who you blow) that makes a lot of us squeamish. Some people just accept it as the status quo and go on about their business unscathed. And admittedly, the flipside of "cronyism" is "community", which is fine when the stakes aren't so high (or SEEM to be so high).

By its nature, I think the poetry world is way too large for anyone anthology to claim to have a handle on it. And no one should probably even claim to--thus my difficulty with “Best.” Anyone can have an anthology, and all of them are going to be slanted in some way. Think of Legitimate Dangers (which we‘re using for a text in the Emerging Poetries class), a volume which has a lot of poets I really like, but it’s obvious the sort of crowd you needed as a poet to be in with--certain MfA programs, certain presses.. etc. Not even taking into account Lehman’s picks, think of how often a rather unspectacular Gluck or Oliver or *insert big name here* poem makes it in, simply because of that big name. It’s not democratic, and everyone in there probably has an edge of some sort--be it they know Lehman, the GE, were in the right publication at the right time, have made a big enough name for themselves that the editors know to go looking to include poems by them. However, I do agree it’s sort of skeezy to not be upfront about it though on Lehman’s part, to continually insist it’s all democratic and no one has an edge. Someone always has an edge. And in something like BAP, which is percieved as the big leaugues by so many fledgling poets, that seemes unfair. If Lehman were choosing his assistants for an issue of a magazine, there probably wouldn't be any complaints, but the anthology has a certain weight, an obligation that Lehman obviously neglects.

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