Thursday, June 13, 2013

Slate shuts down Poems section

Fitting that the last poet we consider on Slate's poetry page is William Carlos Williams, the maverick who convincingly turned the impatient cadences of American speech, a verbal style that seemed to accelerate in pace as new technologies encroached on our attention span, into a means to express experience in ways both plain and abstract. Slate Poetry Editor and former U.S.Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky's selections of poets over the years has been eclectic, daring, unexpected, nearly always provocative; not all his selections have been to my personal liking and I have, in fact, said unnecessarily harsh things questioning his taste. All that storming prose amounts to pounding the end of the bar, frustrated, irate, and smugly content to be that way. In addition to inspiring some of my better writing over the last ten years, those bits of prose that actually convey a series of ideas both fever pitched and lucid, the Slate Poems page and the attendant Fray page allowed me to pretend to be the Big Mean Critic, a self-made windbag opining among his books and empty coffee cups for a readership of persons a few dozen associates and friends on the forum. Overall, though, I respected Pinsky's dedication to not taking the easy way out in terms of his selections--rather than log roll and fill the page, week to week, with a string of poets who all write about similar topics in similar ways with similar failing, trembling voices--there are dozens of them in this country! Where do these people come from??--Pinsky challenged our conceptions with poets who often times took the form apart and rebuilt it in ways not always to our liking. These are writers who hadn't abandoned the idea, by of Pound, to "make it new" and Robert Pinsky, to his credit and our great benefit didn't abandon the search for the voice that stood out, the voice that was unique,the voice that was legitimate. There was much I didn't personally like among the poets he chose, but the discussions that ensued on Poems Fray, now defunct, were a perfect way to think through the issues I had with particular poets. Robert Pinsky, as well, demonstrated that he is a genuine and classy guy, willing to participate in the discussion, refusing to take a hard line in favor of adding an additional insight to a counter idea to something you've written. I am deeply sorry that Slate is discontinuing the Poems page. It has been a wonderful experience throughout the years.


  1. Anonymous1:22 PM PDT

    Sigh... another paying outlet for verse gone down. I guess you can't give this stuff away.

  2. Hello Ted!

    the convergence of two things brings me out to look for you today.

    1: a post-Christmas virus struck long enough to afford me time to look in on Robert Pinsky's Poetry Forum, where I read "The Man of Double Deed" and its (and your) accompanying comments.

    2. that same virus also afforded me enough time to clean my inbox (to remarkable success-- 3478 to 8, with 14 new folders, 7 deleted folders and 4 combined folders) wherein i found you again-- in a fairly recent email (6/ 15/ 13) titled "It Could Be Great." In that email, you described a "notion" to make a poetry thingee like we used to do on Slate. (I'm paraphrasing here.)

    well, Ted, is it still true? Could it still be great?

    is it possible that you will create the forum wherein, i might, every now and then (to the detriment of the stuff they're paying me for) show up and play the Mid-Sized Moderately-Annoyed Complainer to your Big Mean Critic?

    I like Robert Pinsky's Poetry Forum. I do. It's just that the comment section is a little hermetic-- a little waterproof. people post, Robert replies, others may reference your post. that's it. everything's all sealed up neatly.

    dont get me wrong, in the 8 years since i first posted on PoemsFray, I've gotten sixteen years older and tired-er. so i'm not up for the blood-letting that used to occasionally (weekly? hourly?) occur there, but the com boxes on the new Poetry Forum are missing a few "what the hell does THAT mean?"s.

    anyway, if the "Could Be Great" project has died in its sleep, so be it. if it breathes still, please keep me posted. either way, tonight i was happy to communicate with you through a comment section. just like old times.


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