Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The King is Dead, Long Live the King!

Errata for the title of this post:

For "King" read "Poet Laureate of the United States of America" -- or, rather, "The Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress," to use the whole, flat-footed, committee-designed designation.

For "is dead" read "has seen his term expire, without the kind of renewal that is rarely granted in these cases."

For "long live" read "good luck in this thankless job to..."

The corrected version of this post's title lacks panache, but the point is, at least, clear: we've got a new poet laureate. I'm not sure why I'm surprised that it's Donald Hall. He's deeply committed to his art, and, as a friend pointed out this morning, will be good on television. And, you know, chicks dig him, or so I hear. But there seems to be some deeper force at work. No, not some conspiracy run by Helen Vendler from her secret fortress beneath the Widener Library (though it's tough to rule out). I think what's happening is this: the ghost of Yvor Winters is guiding the deminmonde of American poetry from beyond the grave.

Sure, you're skeptical, and who wouldn't be skeptical of me, ever since my purported photos of bigfoot turned out to be discarded glossies of Charles Olson, taken for the cover of Poetry and Truth?

But the evidence piles up in favor of my thesis. Consider this: even if Hall serves for only a single year, it would mean that for five of the last twelve years the poet laureate will have been a former student of Yvor Winters (Robert Hass and Robert Pinsky, each for multiple terms, now Hall). What else could it be but the spirit of the old poet moving among us, working for unknown ends? It's not like the man didn't have an animus toward the eastern establishment, either: he once told Hall that the people at Harvard thought he was "lower than the carpet." Maybe that's the key -- maybe Winters has worked his posthumous mojo and lined up a series of his former students as laureates just to get back at Harvard by blocking Jorie Graham from assuming the august office.

Of course the success of Winters' mission is by no means assured. Even now I hear ominous clankings and groanings, the firing of unknown engines, the shrieks of demon-wolves and the muttering of underpaid graduate student assistants from Vendler's secret caverns. What sorcery awaits us? What wizardry shall rule the land? Ask not! We be but pawns in this war of mighty forces, our fates yet to be revealed! Bwaaahaaaaa --haaaahaaaahaaaa! Ahaaaaaahaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!! What? Oh! Right. Deep breaths, and my medications. Serenity. Yes, much better now, so much better...