Little Emerson

09 August 2005

Best American Pestilence?

Anton Refregier - For I say at the core of democracy
...for I say at the core of Democracy...

Despite our clean track record—not one poem accepted for publication here, to which, what should I say?, that we’re proud of it?!—Emily Lloyd has commissioned the editorial staff of Little Emerson to edit BAP 2006. (Hear that Mr. Lehman?!) Well, almost. Emily’s suggestion is in response to Seth Abramson’s concerns about the “false advertising” nature of BAP. Seth thinks poets ought to protect the general reading public (????) from such schemes. Has anyone told Seth that all’s fair in war and love? I’m afraid it is.

And so I wonder: what makes BAP04 anything more than a pestilent form of ‘propaganda’ for the American poetry community, and even (dare I say) for America's reading public as a whole?

BAP sells, Seth. Though I’m not good with numbers[1] (else why would I choose to be the laughing stock by attempting Little Emerson) I gather—someone please give me figures—that BAP is by far the largest selling book of poetry in America year in and year out. It must be worth something, no? David Lehman, for one, thinks so.

Damaging to poetry? To “America’s reading public as a whole”? Ebola, who I imagine to be one of President Bush’s speech writers, is damaging to the general public, but BAP, c’mon, that’s what I call mere influenza. And you know what? It might be worth catching this sort of virus or two by some of those folks that comprise our esteemed reading public.

And I’ll conclude with this: if BAP is so bad, so false, so pestilent, why is it that our most renowned and admired poets—regardless of school or movement—rush, trip and fall to edit it? You see? BAP can’t be all that bad for you. Surely not bad for some.

[1] Lisa Gluskin, ex-math club v.p., has encouragingly noted about Little Emerson: “So what we're looking at, if each of the 9 editors picks 50% of submissions, is a likelihood of approximately one over 2 to the ninth, which is one in 512. Or, with a much more probable chance of each editor picking 10% of submissions (one over 10 to the ninth) - an approximate likelihood of one in a billion. Of course, this doesn't dismiss some very interesting questions about the possible qualities (positive or negative) of a poem that 10 different people might like enough to publish. Whether we'll even see that poem, however....”


  • where's my rejection? It seems like I submitted AGES ago....

    By Blogger Tony, at Tue Aug 09, 07:36:00 pm  

  • Hi LE,

    You know what else sells? Hand grenades.

    There's just no accounting for taste.

    Actually, there is an accounting for taste--and along with hand grenades, the heart-attack-on-a-bun McDonald's serves sells pretty damn well, too.

    On the other hand, what doesn't sell you makes you stronger, right?

    BAP as self-actualizing boon to Art: I'm not sold.



    By Blogger Seth Abramson, at Wed Aug 10, 01:24:00 am  

  • You’re right, Tony. That’s ages ago. You submitted on 24 June and that is ages ago by our standards. The fact that your work is still outstanding may be a good sign. However, summer and vacation time have also affected us as I must try to get replies from 9 editors with very different schedules, to say the least. But we will clean the slate soon. My further reply to you by e-mail. By the way, thanks for playing and submitting. That was very kind of you. And brave.


    By Blogger A.R.B., at Wed Aug 10, 11:05:00 am  

  • Seth,
    I like your “accounting for taste” analogy. Unfortunately (or fortunately), charity in poetry still reigns. And that’s a good thing. Much of what we all do is for the love of the thing. (Look at us here. I managed to gather nine people to read poetry for absolutely nothing except joy or interest or masochism.) So how do we account for that? BAP is a gimmick, a marketing tool, as are all contests and prizes. All of them. But we are human and unfortunately need directives. (“The road there, if you'll let a guide direct you / Who only has at heart your getting lost, / May seem as if it should have been a quarry –”). The real poetry reading public, should there be one, will not be mislead by gimmicks, not permanently anyway. But hey, I’m naïve and I’m beginning to like it. As for McDonald’s, poetry on a bun would be great to accompany all the heartache. (Do you think it’d do away with fortune cookies?)

    By Blogger A.R.B., at Wed Aug 10, 11:06:00 am  

  • Thanks Alberto. I'll be waiting. Tapping my feet...

    By Blogger Tony, at Wed Aug 10, 09:24:00 pm  

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