It seems to me that Norton has put out three anthologies featuring various types of poetry that aim at difficulty, following up on the work of Wallace Stevens, Hart Crane, and other modernists who championed difficulty in poetry. In previous posts I basically positioned the two-volume _Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry_ as their right wing book, their _Postmodern American Poetry_ as their left wing book, and their new _American Hybrid_ as their decidedly left-leaning bipartisan effort. What I’d like to propose is a comprehensive anthology of the third party poetries that are left out. The poets I have in mind flow from what Richard Gray refers to as “Whitman and American Populism: Sandburg, Lindsay, Masters.” I would add Don Marquis as another forbearer of the kind of poetry I have in mind, also proletariat poets such as Kenneth Patchen, Kenneth Fearing, and Charles Bukowski. Looking to French masters, I would say that the poets I want to champion take their cues more from Jacques Prevert than from Stephen Mallarme. I thought about calling this proposed book The Norton Anthology of Populist Poetry or The Norton Anthology of People’s Poetry, but those terms have political implications that I’m not interested in pursuing here. I also thought about The Norton Anthology of Accessible Poetry, but the cover would have to have a wheelchair ramp on it, and that would look stupid.
Remember when there were only three TV networks and all the shows with mass appeal came on at 7pm, 8pm, 9pm? That was called prime time. Does TV Guide still refer to that time slot as prime time? I don’t know. I think there are several strands of contemporary poetry that could fall under the umbrella term of prime time poetry, poems that are “written in the language actually used by men” (Wordsworth), poems that attempt to clearly address the day-to-day concerns of ordinary people, rather than disdaining poetry’s potential audience and being happy to write for a pocket audience, poems that are written for the whole family (David Kirby, for one, says he writes with an intelligent sixth-grader in mind).
What follows is a very rough table of contents. Michael Theune has pointed out that Stephen Burt and Ron Silliman don’t always like the poets that they champion. This has made me feel like I have permission to propose an anthology that includes some poets that I don’t necessarily enjoy. (I’m not saying which.) Why would I do that? The best explanation I know of is a statement of Forest Gander’s that actually appears in _American Hybrid_: “Like species, poems are not invented, but develop out of a kind of discourse, each poet tensed against another’s poetics, in conversations, like casts of wormtrails in sandstone.” The following are some types of poetic discourse communities that I would like to link together and champion as prime time poetries.
Stand Up: Charles Harper Webb, Ron Koertge, Lisa Glatt, Gerald Locklin, Denise Duhamel (who shows in Michael Theune’s _Structure and Surprise_ how she has written poems using the structure of a standup comedy routine, Edward Field (the term “Standup” comes from his book _Stand Up Friend With Me_, prose by Webb, who has edited two fine anthologies devoted to this type of poetry
Ultratalk: David Kirby, Barbara Hamby, Mark Halliday, Jason Bredle, Nin Andrews, Thomas Lux, Stephen Dunn, Robert Wrigley, Kim Addonizio, Tony Hoagland, Dean Young, Bob Hicok, Lawrence Raab, David Clewell, Martha Silano, essays by Kirby/Hamby, Halliday, and David Graham
Expansive Poets: Molly Peacock, Marilyn Nelson, Greg Williamson, A.E. Stallings, Kelly Cherry, Catherine Trufariello, Chelsea Rathburn, Timothy Steele, excerpts from Kevin Walzer’s prose book _The Ghost of Tradition_, Dana Gioia’s essay “Notes on the New Formalism,” and Mark Jarman’s essay “Robinson, Frost, and Jeffers and the New Narrative Poetry”
Slam Poetry: Taylor Mali, Saul Williams, Patricia Smith, Jeffrey McDaniel, Karyna McGlynn, Robert Bonair-Agard, Grace Bruenderman, Marc Smith, Buddy Wakefield, Jack McCarthy’s essay “Note From The Poetry Underground,” and Susan B.A. Somers-Willet’s essay “Can Slam Poetry Matter?”
Performance Poetry (poets who regularly read their work aloud at places like Seattle’s Red Sky Poetry Theatre, Portland’s Cafe Lena’s, San Francisco’s Cafe Babar, and New York’s Bowery Poetry Club): Hal Sirowitz, Bob Holman, Leanne Grable, Marion Kimes, Alan Kaufman, A.D. Winans, Antler, Chocolate Waters, June King
Laureates (just the ones who have taken seriously their roles as representatives of the poetry community): US Laureates Billy Collins and Robert Pinsky, a few state laureates (Jack Myers, David Bottoms, Kevin Stein, Greg Pape, Fleda Brown); San Francisco Poet Laureate Lawrence Ferlinghetti (his “Populist Manifesto”), former Seattle Populist Poet Bart Baxter
Singer/Songwriters: Leonard Cohen (he's already in one Norton Anthology), Bob Dylan, Nick Cave, Regina Spektor, Eminem, Coner Oberost
Cowboy Poetry: J.V. Brummels, Red Shuttleworth, Lisa Lewis, Jennifer Malesich, Paul Zarzyski, and Rod Miller’s essay “A Brief Introduction to Cowboy Poetry, Or Who’s the Guy in the Big Hat and What is He Talking About?”