After reading Berstein's poem and essay "Against National
Poetry Month As Such" I decided to google different
variations of "top poetry books of 2009." Well, the
results were fairly sparse. I found through blog posts
that the Poetry Foundation has weekly best seller lists,
which I have included below. (The most recent list
I could find was from 9/27/09.)
You will notice that Elizabeth Alexander, the "Obama"
poet is still on the list(c'mon, the poem was accessible,
and that's about it) as well as Billy Collins(who appears
twice, shocker, he is perhaps America's most accessible
poet), Mary Oliver (another public favorite) who is 7
times on the list, Charles Simic, Li-Young Lee, Charles
Bukowski, John Updike (probably hit the best sellers list
because of his recent death), Merwin, Margret Atwood
(much like Oliver), Fredrick Siedel (OK, maybe he isn't
the most popular on the poetry scene, but he is still
more famous then say...Michelle Robinson), etc. I do
appreciate the small press listings, but they are far
and few between Norton, Penguin, Harper and Random House.
Berstein brings up some very true points regrading
National Poetry Month: the importance of sponsorship
over actual poetry and poetics, featuring "accessible" poetry
rather than "difficult" poetry,and the focus on book
sales from major publishing companies rather than
supporting small presses.Bernstein makes National
Poetry Month look like a money making machine.
I agree with Bernstein, and think that his points
extend to other venues such as book signings,
conferences and poetry readings that feature
"famous" poets and cost a pretty penny to attend.
I'd like to conclude this post with
a quote from Bernstein:
"Poetry is very much alive when it finds ways
of doing things in a media-saturated environment
that only poetry can do, but very much dead when
it just retreads the same old same."