The inappropriateness of continuing the hoax* motivates the plan. A prank, a falsehood, a vowel shift living in sin, associates and fellow nationals glimpse it as it flies. I note its pale eyestripe of looking and reading. Down-curved and black-edged, its camouflage of being read. Frankly, it's not that much into me. When Vassilenko was asked, he hesitated and then explained, "That's the one where a goat, a dead goat" -- a headless dead goat -- "is held as a sort of prize."

* fill in your favorite


She Kept Birds
Geraldine Monk
Slack Buddha Press 2004

Geraldine Monk culls nomenclature and description from a British bird guide to score a suite of 21 one-pagers, short featureful pleas for avian taxonomy. Slender poems of mostly one-to-three-word lines are centered down the page, reminiscent in their natural reference and brevity of form to emblematic 17th century verse: "With Thee / O let me rise, / As larks, harmoniously..." (George Herbert, "Easter Wings"). Monk gives titles to each piece using specific terms, like "Cortunix cortunix," and then taps out varieties of descriptors. Here is the complete poem "Certhia familiaris": "bark runner / creepy clipper / crawler / speiler / daddy-ike / eeckle / creepet / cuddy / tree mouse." The title refers to what in Britain is called a common treecreeper that in my bird guide is likened to "a feathered mouse which discretely climbs in spirals up the trunk of one tree before flying down to start on the next." Glib to say, but this is very much what Monk's pieces do all together, bouncing from species to species, that is, they spiral in word plays, sound effects, etc., and without pondering fly on. I read She Kept Birds as a single poem whose sounds modulate between Germanic descriptors (crawler / speiler) and timeless latinate but also oddly forward-pointing specific names (Cortunix cortunix). Or perhaps it's the argumentative inflections between "speiler" and "Cortunix" (somewhat like "let" / "harmoniously") that are forward-pointing, revealing as they do the silvery-white underpants of English language origins and bindings.


Stephen Vincent provides deeper intelligence regarding Professor Mohammad as a directional collector and campus mastiff,

Lovely piece on the book trade! Kasey S. Mohammad is actually collecting troves of William Stafford whose line, "We live in an occupied country, Becky..." has again taken over the country's ear for on tartget 'reality sentiment'. K says Stafford sales are a great way to augment his country academic salary -- between classes he sits under the awning on his front porch with his legendary electronic bullhorn repeating the line to walkers and the traffic that slows down to get the news, and, often to buy Stafford, as well as on occasion a copy of his own Deer Head Nation -- including his own occasional dash of holograph marginalia for the serious collector, including cryptic E Costello riffic ones like, "This deer is true."


A New High-Risk Direction

My stylish friend David Bromige is politic about the more questionable things I collect. I bought a 1959 Life Studies last year, puffy and colorful. It looks like something that fell off a South Beach diet workbench, in the real South Beach.

"It's directional," David said, after a few beats of silence, looking at it with a cold eye, then approval. Not good, not bad, but directional.

In today's quick world, that might be enough. Even my Life Studies is so five minutes ago, as the market for collectible postmodern poetry races forward into the future of the past, rediscovering with a shortening half-life the last gasps of the 20th century -- the 1970s, 80s and 90s -- and pioneering the edges of acceptable taste.

What was once at an expensive height of voguishness, like the French Francis Ponge and Louis-Ferdinand Celine of the 1950s and 1960s, is so 10 minutes ago, say the directionalists. (Their English counterparts, late W. H. Auden and midcareer Philip Larkin are clocking in at 15.) Consider instead Carolyn Kizer, David Antin, Li Young Li, Maxine Kumin, Alberto Rios, Diane DiPrima, Clayton Eshelman, Bernadette Mayer, George Brecht, Mary Oliver, Luigi Russolo, Adrienne Rich, James Merrill, Kit Robinson, Ken Kasey, Howard Nemerov, Ronald Johnson, Cornelius Cardew, Derek Walcott and Gregory Corso.

Directional is the new good and bad. You don't have to choose anymore. Though unproven by time or track record in important sales, what excites the moment owns the moment. And poets, book dealers, publishers and collectors right now seem to be daring one another to blink, as the less and less likely is reappraised and begins to appreciate.

"You push it each time a little bit further," said Jo Ann Wasserman, who picks over used books out in the field for resale to modernist book collectors in New York like Mr. and Mrs. Tony Torn. "I'm doing a lot of buying on Long Island, and I'm starting to find good quality 80s poetry, which sort of scares me -- vintage 80s 'prelanguage taste,' and not just in the Hamptons! This stuff has a sound and a look on the page that haven't yet taken hold, but I'll fill a warehouse and put these finds away for five years."

Ms. Wasserman might not have to wait.

"It's a Long Island aesthetic," said Ammiel Alcalay, a Brooklyn dealer, essayist and poetry arbiter, describing his work for two semi-famous clients, Charles Simic and Mark Strand. Mr. Alcalay assembled a sizable collection of early videos including ones of Clark Coolidge, a directional favorite, who specialized in big poems with exotic meanderings. These videos of the period had a good run and were well reviwed in Poetry in the 1970s and 80s. In fact much of what is directional looks like an homage to that publication's extravagant, stilted style, with a 20-year retard.

"Trust me. When I first started showing Ed Dorn and Gary Lenhart tapes, it was like I was rerunning LaVerne and Shirley, people were holding their nose," said Robert Hass, of Poets House, a private New York library. "Poets today can make the leap."

Michael Brownstein, also a New York poet and book auctioneer, has sold two early Bruce Andrews and five Ed Dorn items since June, including a pair of Gunslingers to Jackson MacLow, a prominent poet and musician, but, he said, "Clients and collectors look at an early collection like Edge or even later work like I Don't Have Any Paper So Shut Up (Or, Social Romanticism) and don't really understand."

Mr. Hass of Poets House explained: "Modern is changing -- modernism like Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and even Cid Corman has become a literary taste of the past. You look at it and say, 'Is that good poetry or not good poetry?' But the work from the 70s and 80s and even some of the 90s is kind of fresh, and it goes together beautifully with contemporary poets like James Tate and Maeera Shreiber -- they're the Cormans of the 2000's."

The next wave of collecting, especially from the 1970s and 80s, now involves serious money, too, at prices accelerating as fast as the tight cycle reviving the reputations of poets -- now a scant eight years, according to one auction house expert.

The standard defense is that the art books, collected works, and special project pieces are well made (Coolidge) or singular (Dorn) or the output of artists (Andrews and Antin) or that they were outlyers when new (all of the above). The traditional midcentury modern market is now flooded with reproductions of John Ashbery and ordinary examples of postlanguage work. Genuine rarities, like typed manuscripts of Hannah Weiner's or handwritten notes by Lewis Warsh, are extremely rare and unaffordable to most buyers. And though directional collecting can be a little raw -- "I never say 'ugly,' but 'not to everyone's taste,'" said Kasey Silem Mohammad, an educator and poet based in Oregon -- modern classics can begin to look repetitive and, as important as they are, boring.

"We have a lot of 40s and 50s French," said Professor Mohammad from his country house in picture-postcard Ashland. "You can only have so much Jacques Roubaud and Ives Bonnefoy before it reads the same. We've sort of segued into the next fabulous thing. Seventies poets are clean, and you can mix them every way. I said to my partner the other day, 'Maybe we should start selling the other stuff.'" The Mohammads were awaiting a shipment of Julien Blaine and Bernard Heidsieck. Smudged first drafts and other 'poetic' artifacts by 70s collagists and sound designers is a direction being explored generally.

"Absolutely," Professor Mohammad replied, when asked if friends and neighbors thought he and his partner had lost their minds.

Yusef Komunyakaa, the founder of ubuweb.com, a Web site that displays sound files and text and graphic pieces by more than 350 poets internationally, 70 percent of whom specialize in modernist rewriting, said that the 70s and 80s, especially prelanguage writings, was receiving the most attention on the site.

Grace Paley, a Vermont poet and socialite, described the appeal of the era, heavy on sardonic nonreference, as "antihegemony taken to the max, where it works as interior hedonism, too." In part the strengthening influence of directional collecting is a product of younger readers' plying the wares. Ms. Paley is 32. Tim Peterson, her colleague, who now sells rare collections on his own from his Kips Bay loft is 30. They don't shiver with flashbacks when confronted with mirrory texts by John Giorno or gold-leafed notebooks by Ken Kasey.

Mr. Peterson, who helped provide one-of-a-kind pop-up books to replace the Gideon Bibles at the Maritime Hotel, is concentrating on arty poetry volumes from the 1970s by lesser-known writers like Ronald Johnson, a cartoonist and diarist whose work is also very immediately 70s in period look.

"We're just touching the surface of the 70s -- there's a lot still out there that's good," Mr. Peterson said. "To create the market for something new like early Ray DiPalma or Galway Kinnell or Johnson, you have to create the energy for it. But because no one's buying it yet in great quantity, you can amass enough, as a dealer, to show people what that energy is."

Johnson, an "acquired taste" as several dealers described his work, was slow to gather force as a collectible, and the tide is just now turning. Johnson is the subject of an exhibition in Paris, where he is something of a fad, at Galerie Alice Notley, open now. To be accepted by the French will only confirm for skeptics here that Johnson is the Jerry Lewis of modern poetry.

Nick Piombino, the chairman of Mega Communications, and a recent Johnson collector, who now owns 20 pieces housed in his weekend home north of the Bay Area, not only doesn't care, but also seems to love the adversity that the poets bring on -- the embodiment of a directional collector.

"Ronald Johnson is very wacky, very out of fashion, an aesthetic that's fallen over a cliff," Mr. Piombino said. "Everything's still so Ann Lauterbach or Ashbery -- super-duper hot, tasteful and beautiful. Johnson hasn't won a lot of money, and I'm a contrarian."

Mr. Piombino's appraisal coalesced suddenly.

"The really ugly work looks like poetry on the Klingon spaceship," he said, then qualified his comment.

"The original 'The Flying Nun.' "

Point taken.


Blog vampire!
I got that feeling One of 100 of those super-solids unhitched from the lattice site Something's whack Before I count to three it's super-'sliding' through solid walls I'm feeling good inside [Hook] Cuz you know I got the feeling (All right) Good god got the feeling (All right) Touch the ceiling when I'm feeling (All right now) All right.


Bellweathers. Poembloggers writing about less work, jobs not coming through, unemployment.


God Save My Queen
Daniel Nester
Soft Skull 2003

Dudley Moore, could he square-dance or carry a tune? He's in the background playing dead or soon-to-be, along with Sarah Vaughn, New Jersey Mensa, Bill Murray, EMI, and Max Von Sydow as Ming, the Merciless. A love bateau sinks into "depths, as blank screen escapes." Gayish footnotes. Fluky superglue. Nester sings along with "unsounds" ("The redhead next to the Farrah look-alike"). Jerks off in the same phrase with Bartles and Jaymes (superglue). Dolly shots, fan clubs, actual harmony: "This is the last time I will sing this." The -- vroom -- irony comes heavily swizzled like "bubblegum that popped my cherry." There -- montage -- I've done it.

To Leveling Swerve
Rodrigo Toscano
Krupskaya 2004

Sub-jazz -- "tawny smoke over the city / hills" where thought flips out like ghosts made visible only to fey bloodhounds. "Just run the 'Zukofsky' PPT file, if you will, and / We're on our way ... 'blazing hipocratostacy'." Thus, loosened social constructs, very few alarming hyphens, many pulleys: "a jab // a jab / and a jibe // a jig / and a jag..." and so on. Frequently occurring words, raucous, pod, there's, the. Selective name drops: Lyn, Benjamin, McCaffery, Notley, Bruce, Heriberto, Sythians. Important terms: "de-particulate"; "REVERSE CORBUSIERIANISM"; "globonian forces." Double couplet to remember: "To have heart / in the face of confusion. // Grit / unto the matter present." (Alternatively, "Blip / unto the Blap Blap. // Blap / unto the Blip Blip.") Never have truer words been, etc.: "To wing it."

Alien Tatters
Clark Coolidge
Atelos 2000

As luck has it, sections of this pre-nine-eleven work are prescient or more recognizably urgent now:

Then the top comes off of terror. You age. All the same pictures in everyone's possible. They stir up the common in search, not to find but to wait. Images are waiting. Sentences are narrowing.

Clark Coolidge tapers and tightens sentences to embrace "self-hung trouble" -- "I know it looks like I'm not sure of anything," not sure of monkeyman and his music / poetry that "kept turning me, the one with the three reasons sealed in a pod." As luck has three reasons or meanings, when Coolidge observes, "...don't want to see Abe lit..." does he know he's also spurning the modernist Japanese novel? Yes, "House is brain, remember." How do like your dimensions? "What are your answers, pendulums?" Paragraphs of sentences. Sentences of captions to the late skyward paintings of Phillip Guston's:

[...] I've doffed my alarming with plugs and caps. And this'll water your eyes. I don't see saucers, I see servants.


By that time the tower was broadcasting nothing but shrapnel. How could you bow down? But how does
meat dream? Notice how they tend to keep the cows toward the center? [...]

Five long pieces, the longest, the title poem in 50 parts, and a brief afterword in which Coolidge owns up to a "fascination" with UFOs. "...I was calling out to them [...] You guys listening?"


Ron Silliman
Salt 2002

Ron Silliman holds that Flow Chart is among John Ashbery's greatest achievements. An odd position, in my view, from the author of so unstrained an epic as Tjanting. My resistance to FC as oeuvre is a formal one, centering on the subordinated prolixity of voices, brocaded in their meantimes, howevers and overalls, a signature of forced cohesion. Transitional devices in shorter works are part of the lithe, supple fabric of Ashbery's couture, but the affect of hundreds of such devices in FC's mix of lyrics and paragraphs draws attention more to the stitchery. Meanwhile, Silliman heads in a direction that's different, sustaining his plain chant within a few paragraphs of more conventional length, and 'culminating' with a single paragraph that goes from page 38 to 204.The language is American iambic shorthand. The last paragraph starts, "In clear plastic holds beers together. Inn width. Two friends of mine, very different." These are words that relate to common places but they are more seductive than that. We're skimming a private zone of abbreviated speech. "The squeak of faucets. I was on the road discovered. Ash 'tray.' Yellow caterpillar tractor. Ashtray fills up. Waking is in each instant I am. Across, then down & across. Her tone to him thru long years of rough intimacy was at once tender & gruff" (p. 29). Just a snippet evinces a life of enormous consequence, travel, smoking, puzzlement (Across, then down), endurance, word- (Ash "tray"), sound- (squeak, tone) crazed, love-crazed. "Each letter tweezed," Silliman writes on language, of course, "That essence of syntax wch is nostalgia" (p. 41). Yet he strikes me as the most visually alert of the language poets, summoning a concrete-scape and polisci tableau in two short sentences: "The vacantness of any commuter campus on a weekend. Is kleenix a name trade?" (p. 41). And Silliman's multi-narratives keep stretching, sentence by sentence. "I turn the light on & the afternoon vanishes. Tamara O'Brien calls to ask what I'm doing & one year later, two days ago, I meet her at her desk at Far West Labs" (p. 144-5). Two sentences later: "Poetry's a process carried out together by groups of men & women. A profound guitar makes the lyrics banal. Each cup of coffee needs to be thought out. A head thru the pelvis, line, spine. Your voice remixed in the light blue phone." I'm a sucker for the poem about the poem, but this is more. With sentences like these, I think we can make a strong case for Silliman's one or possibly two degrees of separation from Jack Spicer, making voices physical, making thought physical. This is early work, first published in 1981, now sine qua non for the young poet. A huge sourcebook of ideas, Tjanting maintains a healthy attitude toward writing the world and staying in it.

With a valuable, new introduction by Barrett Watten.


"It isn’t easy to write with the persistent sensation that something, somewhere, has been stolen from you." More.


Born 2
Allison Cobb
Chax Press 2004

To be split in two prompts reappraisal of reality distortions contributing to unusual thought patterns and behaviors. Allison Cobb's term "b b," for example, abbreviates 'the little box book,' which in turn serves as the title of the initial poetry sequence in her first book, Born 2, as well as a running metaphor for some "she" who "breaks funny / on shaky ankles" and a biomorphic, reflective "it," that is, a "box with the little / box inside -- what it / grasps in its fists / believes it." Anyway, the two lines with "b b" in them confirm the schizophrenic high drama: "b b copulates without feeding..."; "b b snuffed her..." Growing up in a robust, absurdist household, I recognize Cobb's take-it-or-leave-it stagecraft as therapeutic domineering -- "People: Here is the fire. // People: This is the fire." Potentially lame repetitions -- "box book," "bear," the letter "J," and a cartoonish character named "one-foot" -- re-appear so often their collective anonymity might frighten one if they did not in sum childishly rehabilitate the stagy motifs and feral object lessons, "laughing feeling afraid as we are." Cobb calls, "Dear blue rooster"; notwithstanding the dramaturgical punch split personalities deliver, I'm relieved when Cobb's persona pours herself into a singular breath of recognition: "Day risen food! get it."


Introduction to "The Feminist"

Gary Sullivan and Brandon Downing. They say they're on message. "The Feminist" is, I mean clearly, that was dangerous. The theme, I guess, but not their sendup. They are not merely attacking a subgroup of theory-laden humanity and making fun of them, because all this does is help maintain a sex-merged-with-murder male consciousness.

Fly it into buildings. Gary and Brandon's humor works because it's so uncool. Besides, their stereotypes are performance-enhanced to dodge those horrid, mean-spirited bullets of lies resolve and swagger keep firing. So it's fascinating. We're intrigued. Make a wish.

Who are Brandon Downing and Gary Sullivan?

It's a good question, and I'm sure they would like some answers.

We're tired of swatting biodata. Look, Gary is recently married, but get this, Brandon is unhitched. Stare into his blow-hole eyes, lads and ladies, he has that are-you-looking-at-moi-look that says, "I feel that 'man-hating' is an honorable and viable political act." Yikes.

Brandon and Gary didn't start out as stand-up comedians. Let me be clear. They just wanted to be poets and doodlers or, you know, slack, straight-looking graphics types. Do not take Lavitra. It's fabulous.

These two are accumulating everything a feminist would want. They just can't suppress each other's thought bubbles. "Romance is a choke hold embellished with meaningful looks." That's Gary. It's a dangerous way to live. A nation that's dangerous. Close the curtains, Brandon thinks, it's time to put the family to rest.

The situation is Gary and Brandon are read by lots of feminists, Naomi Wolf, Andrea Dworkin, Alice Walker, Joe Torra. Well, there's a couple of lies.

Brandon and Gary come hoarse and dog-eared like the FBI to Cambridge, a.k.a. Wiccan Valley, to show us how to do it. Meticulous women's studies rapture. Quivering hypertense speech-coded full release. Poignant inner sordidness, like the FBI.

Anticipating what Brandon and Gary do, I want to say, if past is prelude to now, watch out for their neurotic coherence, their cranked-open symbolism, their 12-oz. spit balls. In his first bodice-ripper, "The Weapon," Brandon Downing writes, "When a woman reaches orgasm with a man she is collaborating with the patriarchal system..." And Gary agrees -- when the blue streak hits the fan some things fall apart hidden in a turkey farm -- as Gary illustrates in his manual on oral technique, titled "How to Proceed in the Art."

Now it's a tough lampoon, and we're still looking to Gary and Brandon, like athletes in the thrall of their game, which now announces itself, Brandon, Gary.


forked lake
Geof Huth
Anchorite Press 2004

When poetry goes under a gag order, what's left is surfed diglossia. And the appearance of sane amalgamation. Geof Huth is among an influx of artists who labor with the potential in graphics and lavish plays of speech for illustrating as they describe the wordbind. A sample of Huth's high-stakes illustration is at his weblog, an archived 'collaboration' between "Domination of Black," a poem by Wallace Stevens published in 1923, and Huth's brazen "consciousness" from 1984 taking form and formulating scribbled notations over Stevens's hemlock-enshrouded, twilit text. What does young Huth have to say, facing a master of Stevens's stature? Huth's black- and red-inked notes surf on Stevens's poem, emerging, according to Huth, as a "newly visual poem," a gnarly contest between a giant's imagination and an acolyte's analytical consciousness energetic enough to declare it "takes the place of imagination." More recent evidence of Huth's visual talent is available in the one-page, 20-word graphic / pamphlet / broadside, titled forked lake. Four rows, each comprising five portmanteaux (mostly of two syllables, with only two exceptions), concisely demonstrate the linguistic binds that confront poets like Huth in early 21st-century English. The imaginative confines are the world outdoors: "mossbark"; "tadfrogs"; "hawkspeck"; "pondsun"; and so forth. The lyrical context, then, is remarkably parallel to Stevens's poem, and the conscious battle waged complements as well the younger Huth's analytical concerns over "pace," "predicates," and "switching place." Here now the basic shapes of the portmanteaux do the heavy lifting for the imagination -- "dewweb" switching place, moving left and then right of the particle / wave debate; "echowoods" predicating a place and a sound; "shadowl" (my favorite) pacing and compressing what might be some gagged, sorrowful tone, but in fine what is only natural.


Itinerant Men
Deborah Meadows
Krupskaya 2004

Deborah Meadows limns 19th century discourse to pronounce current, hapless events. Samplings of the original in accompaniment with converse skepticism ratchet back into truncations and hugely speculative renderings of Moby Dick and of the processes vested in such reflection. "My own tiny weavings, / unuttered threads seem done- / side of freely made." The patterning is one side of remarkable, of course, and nearly sorrowful, again, "the cutting side / of mishap." The parts that seem most like quotation are plainly observable, "one hand reaching while / the other pulls close"; many of Meadows's interpretations in contrast remain old-timey abstract: "knowable aspects"; "incidents bear upon significance"; "Crying out for moderation, / our manufactured man / has appetites and futile conditions." The 'tale' gets retold from Chapter 22 through 114, tersely, the view cleared of "ousted facts," and as in the original, the whale fuctioning as a metonymy (mishap?) for the poet and the poet's story, "wholly / irrelevant to our unobstructed / picture of air..."


"I too dislike poetry," who wrote that? Anyway, I've been reading more and more poetry lately that promises to get rid of other poetry.

It's poetry, but it's also anti-poetry, and in many ways that seems like a new thing in the world: poetry so filled with self-loathing that it promises to save me from ever having to deal with any future examples of itself, almost as though it were -- and here's where the creepy organ music should start -- self-aware.

Certainly, I'm not suggesting that a poem generated as a brainless piece of electronic trash has attained consciousness and is actually thinking about anything, including me. (Besides, as a practical matter, if anti-poetry poetry really did achieve awareness through self-hatred -- or as Marianne Moore, a poetry and baseball expert, put it, "Loatho, ergo sum" -- it would probably self-delete and save me the trouble.)

But poets like the late Ms. Moore have also said it's not really safe to predict where the vast forces of the poetry underground will lead, in either society at large or in the shrunken, above-ground world of letters. Yes, they say, poetry is a humble, junk-ridden wasteland, but it is also a hugely powerful domain of innovation, with an open-ended destiny that might ultimately raise some pretty profound philosophical questions, perhaps even to the point of touching the boundaries of what we think of as truth and beauty.

Already, though, my in-box feels like a lab project run amok: I have poetry in it. Or potential poetry. I have a filter that purports to block this poetry. And now I have the double agent of anti-poetry poetry from poem-providers that must run the gantlet of my existing tolerance for innovative poetry to try to sell me more anti-poetry -- and here's the key -- by proving that it can get through the filter I already have.

These skirmishes are not driven by traditional poetic competition. What's happening here is not competition in which the winner gets a bigger share of the audience and thereby a bigger slice of grants money or something. It's more like a race in which each side motivates the other to achieve faster innovation and smarter strategy. The closest analogy is probably not from the arts world at all, but in military stealth technology, where systems designed to detect submarines or airplanes battle other systems designed to evade detection.

And what they're racing for is us, or me, at least. The very basis of the poetry wars is a search for better analysis of the way human beings think. Those on the defensive side seek to understand what we want to hate in poetry by analyzing our choices, while the offense tries to find the ever more perfect mirror of what we will actually pause to look at. Each in its own way is trying find a model of human perception: poets countered by filters countered by poets, with no goal or destination in sight, only the ever-accelerating process itself.

"It brings home the idea of poetry living an independent existence -- a parallel universe of poetry programs living in a world of their own, having their own quarrels," said Mike Snider, the director of the Center on Meter, Meme and Self at the Classical Institute of Airs. "Poetry is a great example of autonomous creativity raising philosophical questions, and it's playing out in everybody's in-box day after day."

Science fiction writers have theorized for years, of course, about the moment when the gloriously ambivalent domains of human creation develop consciousness. Usually, as in movies like "The Terminator" or "2001: A Space Odyssey," it comes to no good.

But in science fiction, the engines of artificial intelligence are almost invariably the products of Big Science, developed in fancy labs by idealistic dreamers with good intentions. There's usually a moral about best-laid plans.

An anti-poetry consciousness that evolves from poetry would be quite different, because the poetry wars -- and here's where it starts to get scary again -- are shaped, to a great extent, by the tiny number of people who actually reply to poetry solicitations.

What that means is that if a deep-think computer consciousness like Hal from "2001" somehow evolved from the ashes of the poetry wars, it might very well be obsessed by the coarse and grubby issues from which it arose: penis size, cheap dates, debt consolidation and career gambling.

"Poetry is narrow-minded and goes straight for the weak," said Alan Davies, a comedian and poetry critic in Winnipeg who often talks about creativity in his stand-up monologues. "I think it's too bad we don't have more philosophical poetry -- poetry that promises to make people cook better and genuinely be aware of the world of fast dames and fast cars."

Of course, as Ronald Firbank has pointed out again and again in his novels, every poet is deeply conflicted. Imagine, for instance, that you are the owner of a poetry-filter company sending out anti-poetry solicitations. Do you want your filter products to block those messages or not? If they do block the anti-poetry message, a current reader might say, "Hmm, I didnt get that poem, so it doesn't work." And if your filter doesn't block your anti-poetry theme, then you're branded as an anti-poet poet: even your own poem says so!

"It's a slippery slope," Marianne Shaneen, a poet and founder of froth.blogspot.com, a site for the discussion of poetry and trigonometry.

Some theorists, like James Behrle of Harvard University and Wordsworth Books, say the first real flash points of poetry developing a human identity might come when our ever more sophisticated anti-poetry programs start to understand us a little too well.

We might tell our filters, for example, that we don't like certain kinds of poems, but the filters could eventually start to challenge us by observing that what we say is inconsistent with what we do -- that sometimes we actually look at the poems or come-ons that we profess so strongly to condemn. In such a future world, the supple intelligence of the super poetry filter could become a kind of alter ego, knowing us better, perhaps, than we know ourselves.

"As poetry becomes more and more sophisticated, most people think your filter will be developed by a smart agent observing you carefully, so the question becomes, what kinds of information do people want their poetry software agent to know?" Behrle said.

And perhaps at the same time, by scooping up the tiny crumbs of our privacy that we leave on the Net every day, poetry will eventually become a niche medium. The poem that arrives will be unique, directed to each individual, personalized and custom-fit. Poetry programmers have found, for example, that professors at C.I.A. tend not to block lewd poetry from their in-boxes, so some poetry is now getting through in perverse verse.

In my case, I'm still deeply enjoying the irony of anti-poetry poetry. As I thump away on my delete button each morning, I find myself pausing at the poem that says it will rid me of poetry, and I often feel I'm being offered a glimpse into a kind of M. C. Escher print in which the iterations continue on forever into some golden braid of mist and meaning. And maybe that means the anti-poetry poets have got me figured out. They've learned how to make me read them, and that's their goal.


What if O'Hara had won? Of course, he has.