. . . but all in all weren’t bad. This list is completely subjective and in no ranked order. It is made up of writers about whom yr boy routinely says awful things but whom he still reads with hunger in certain moods. Most of them have fucking gargantuan Collected/Complete Volumes; most of them infuriate me in large doses and excite me in small, targeted ones. Without further ado:
1.) Ted Hughes. Dude, your total works could stop a shotgun shell. You needed someone to tell you when something was shit, even if it sounded like other poems of yours that weren’t. Still, I love you, you manly beast.
2.) Walt Whitman. Should have laid off the post-1870 edits of Leaves of Grass. It was dope the first few times around.
3.) James Wright. A couple weeks ago I was in a foul mood and called this guy “talentless.” I still think a lot of his stuff is piss, but “The Old WPA Swimming Pool in Martins Ferry, Ohio” remains one of my favorite post-WWII poems. Get me one day, and I’ll scream about how awful he was. Get me on another, and I might rank some of his work up there with Richard Hugo’s. Whatever, gotta give it up for a near-Appalachian boy. Get the Selected. No, I am not writing this because his son blasted me for hating on him.
4.) Percy Shelley. Jesus fuggin’ Christ, have you ever read The Cenci?
5.) James Merrill. The massive Collected has an incredibly creepy cover design (Merrill’s grinning face). It is still staring at me from my bookshelf. I stick to the anthology pieces, of which there are deservedly many.
6.) Emily Dickinson. “I felt a Cleaving in my Mind” gives me shivers. I throw up in my mouth when I hear “Because I could not stop for Death.” She needed an audience while she was alive: honest members would have helped reign her in. Wrote hundreds of incomparable lyrics and hundreds of fragmented, crappy, self-parodic ones.
7. Ezra Pound. Why didn’t he stop after “Hugh Selwyn Mauberley”? Why? Why did he write The Cantos?
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Anne Sexton. Robert Lowell (gah, the late stuff). Craig Raine. Charles Wright after 1990. Pablo Neruda. Mark Strand. OK, OK, so pretty much everyone writes too much.
Coming soon: The Incredible True List of Novelists Who Produced Both Masterful and Putrid Narratives!