Dear Emily Post-Avant,

I assume you have seen the news on this Poet Laureate of New Hampshire spat. If not, check this out: Who Gets to Be the Next Poet Laureate of New Hampshire?

I was wondering what you thought about the whole shebang. Particularly this poem by the right-wing Governor’s candidate, Daniel Moran (the man’s a dentist and little-known poetic quantity). The ditty’s a species of erotic-tribute to former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. Opponents of Moran’s appointment, many of whom are Professional Creative Writers and espouse views somewhat on the left of the political spectrum, say it should automatically disqualify him:

Condoleeza are we
not the lucky ones,
Happier than a
barrel of nuns.
Like impetuous kids
we would have our fun
In the lavatory
on Air Force One.

What do you think, Ms. Emily? We dig most of your stuff and look forward to your comments on this latest poetry kerfuffle! This is a tough one, eh?

–Haiku Master in Manchester


Dear Haiku Master in Manchester,

Unless you are kidding, how did you become a “Haiku Master”? Curious. Write me back-channel to the Dispatches email, please. I used to publish in some of the big-time American haiku magazines, though way back in the way-back machine, like in the 80s and 90s, the Reagan-Clinton era (not too much difference betwixt, really). I love haiku, the most underrated literary art form in English. And I’m not talking, darling, about the Armantrout-school softy-species of post-avant “haiku.” I’m talking about the real and hard stuff, by great and almost unknown North American practitioners. Learn.

OK, so enlighten me, now. What’s so bad about this poem on Condie Rice (a longtime, close friend of Marjorie Perloff, in case you don’t know) by this apparently harmless New Hampshire poet-dentist? So he has a fetish-thang for the lady. If I had to list the weird fetish-thangs on display in current correct-land NAmPo, this plane-shag stuff would be bland as a packet of unsalted United pretzels.

Granted, yes, this guy’s not quite Horace, but he’s not that bad so far as pop-doggerel goes. The problem is that Condie Rice, though an actually-existing war-criminal avant-la-lettre Trumpist, is not white. If the dentist’s imaginary partner in the mile-high-club were white, like Hope, say, or Kellyanne, or Stephen Miller, none of the latte-crowd poetasters would get their poetic feathers in a ruffle. It would just be a silly let’s-fuck-in-the-plane-loo poem, no big deal. (Though I’m quite sure there is no one on earth who would wish to enter an airplane toilet with Stephen Miller or Kellyanne Conway, or any toilet, for that matter.) So I’m wondering what that all means. I mean, how the poetry field is so obsessed now with race that any traditional Left soul who questions the weird collective zeal and purity-testing of it all gets put in the docket like it’s Moscow 1936, or something. Where are Rosa Luxemburg or CLR James when you need them, I say?

Frankly, I’d love to have sex with Condoleeza Rice in a Boeing 737-Max lavatory on the way down. I bet I would come up with a hell of a sexy poem as the last minutes ticked by. So what? (Not so much with Hope Hicks, who freaks me out.) And I’m sure there are some Lefty-Lib-Po types–men, women, and trans, all–who would love to get it on with the nasty looking old gal, too. And, yes, even with Hope, as well, I’m sure. Even on the way to her last subpoena, she was walking the halls like she was on a runway in Milan.

If you can pry your filthy mind off the lurid stuff for a minute, and look at Mr. Moran’s poem, it’s kind of interesting. Prosodically, it harkens back to high modernism, eschewing that measureless Creative Writing pap bequeathed to the poetry world by tone deaf Amy Lowell, and hewing more to a WCW approach – or even Emily Dickinson or Melville, who both had a thing for tetrameter. You know, darling, now that I think about it, what about Zukofsky in his more playful moments

We may not always rate
An Idaho potato
A satisfying meal
Holds more than broken Plato.

I know, I know, Zuk is so much more, well, complex and intellectual–but he’s just having some fun. Mr. Moran is too, though his sense of humor (and lexical range) may be closer to Ogden Nash, one of the great underrated poets of his generation, if you ask humble moi (and Jack Spicer, bless his cranky heart). I mean, rhyming “fun” with “a barrel of nuns”? Come on, kiddies, get off your high horses once in a while. You know your asses are getting sore from it.

Seriously, Mr. Haiku Master, what would you rather read, this by the Lefty-Lib/Pro-Po Laureate candidate, Jennifer Militello:

I die alone. Rivers of my memory
parch. In each eye, a noose of shadows.
Out my window, linen folds the moon.

My heart is a labyrinth of tendrils.
What takes me sounds wounded, what
takes me is soothed by the trees

Or this, by Mr. Moran, the dentist:

You can have those girls on snowboards,
Lovely ladies leap-spinning on the ice.
The girlie skaters who can skate so fast,
Can fill my head with thoughts of vice.

Those female lugers luge-ing down the track,
Can make my heartbeats nearly seize.
But if you want to light my Olympic torch,
Give me chicks with guns on skis.

I might tighten up Mr. Moran’s scansion a bit here and there, but, I mean, what’s more fun to read? Some self-absorbed navel gazer with Zero Musical Sense —“I die alone”? “Rivers of my memory”? — Really? Honey, even if that was marinated 24 hours in irony, along with the beef shanks I’ve got going in the kitchen, it would still reek of precious self-obsession, even without the old tendril labyrinth that follows it. No, New Hampshire Poetry Society, you’ve got your collective head planted firmly up your melodic backside. Give this gal a horny dentist fooling around with old-time iambic tetrameter any day of the week.

Now, if you had a commie Kurd or Salvadoran or Somali or Palestinian immigrant poet in the running, somebody really pissed off at imperialism and saying it, that would be one thing. Then I might get a bit more “PC,” as it were, a bit more Emma Goldman or Trotsky. But I’m not going for this silly liberal-elitist crap, at all. Better a naughty though mildly interesting tooth-puller than an even more mediocre and boring Lefty-Lib-Po career-tracker.

And for that matter, now that I am hot under the collar, what’s with all the goddamn noise about him being a dentist? Why is that even an issue? Why does every mention of him by the NH Poetry Society begin with “dentist” as if being a dentist somehow disqualifies someone from being a good poet? I suppose all his well-bred, soft-handed critics feel equally hostile to William Carlos Williams. After all, he was a lowly doctor making house calls on Polish farm wives and writing poems about hot sex with his nurse:

— windows, chairs
obscenely drunk, spinning —
white, blue, orange
— hot with our passion

wild tears, desperate rejoinders
my legs, turning slowly
end over end in the air!

Or Wallace Stevens because he was a money grubbing insurance executive writing hot poems about cold sex:

In the high west there burns a furious star.
It is for fiery boys that star was set
And for sweet-smelling virgins close to them.
The measure of the intensity of love
Is measure, also, of the verve of earth.
For me, the firefly’s quick, electric stroke
Ticks tediously the time of one more year.

Or worst of all, Lorine Niedecker who was, like – yuck – a janitor and wrote sexy stuff about her friend (Louis Zukofsky, don’t you know):

You are my friend–
you bring me peaches
and the high bush cranberry

you carry

my fishpole

you water my worms
you patch my boot
with your mending kit

nothing in it

but my hand

Do you want to know the real problem, dear? Not one of them had a basket full of University degrees in poetry proving that they were Professional Poets. Not like Jennifer Militello who has apparently never been out of school a day in her life. But, really, what does she need experience for when she has the best PBG hair in the world. Gaze, then, gentle readers, upon her poetically arranged, flowing blonde locks and see the curated face of contemporary writing in North America.

–Emily Post-Avant

** [After mass protests against the naughty dentist, Governor Chris Sununu has withdrawn (on 7/22/19) his support of Daniel Moran for the position of Poet Laureate of New Hampshire. The Poet Laureate of New Hampshire will be Jennifer Militello.]