"The history of American poetry, like the history of America itself, is a story of ingenuity, sacrifice, hard work and sticking it to people when they least expect it," says Times poetry specialist David Orr, before going on to do just that. The stick-ee is New Yorker contributor Dana Goodyear, who recently pontificated at some length about Poetry magazine's unseemly efforts to make poems more mainstream and palatable, perhaps in order to please the rich philistines who recently gave the foundation that owns that magazine a buttload of money.
Orr underscores irony of Goodyear's privileged position in the most deliciously bitchy of ways: by pointing out that the New Yorker does the same thing, except worse, and that Goodyear herself is a beneficiary.
There are two ways in which The New Yorker's poem selection indicates the tension between reinforcing the "literariness" of the magazine's brand and actually saying something interesting about poetry. First, The New Yorker tends to run bad poems by excellent poets ... many well-known poets don't write what's known in the poetry world as "the New Yorker poem" — basically an epiphany-centered lyric heavy on words like "water" and "light." [The second] is what you might call "the home job": the magazine's widely noted fondness for the work of its own staffers and social associates. The most notorious examples were the three poems The New Yorker published by the Manhattan doyenne Brooke Astor in 1996-7 (one more than Robert Creeley managed in his whole life). Some representative lines: "I learned to take the good and bad / And smile whenever I felt sad." Even more questionable, however, is the magazine's preference for its own junior employees. In 2002, for instance, the poet who appeared most frequently in the magazine was the assistant to David Remnick, the editor — that assistant's name, coincidentally, was Dana Goodyear. In fact, since 2000, Goodyear (who is 30) has appeared in the New Yorker more than Czeslaw Milosz, Jorie Graham, Derek Walcott, Wislawa Szymborska, Kay Ryan and every living American poet laureate except for W. S. Merwin. She's already equaled Sylvia Plath's total.That's some subtle, civil, but still intensely satisfying score-settling. Radar and Corynne could learn a thing or two!
Annals of Poetry [NYT]