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The next big poet.
June 3, 2012 10:10 PM   Subscribe

I'm retreading T. S. Eliot's "The Wasteland" and wondering who the most important poets of the last decade are--who is Eliot's heir apparent?

I just have no real methodology for appraising contemporary poets. Thank you.
posted by mecran01 to Media & Arts (24 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
I vote Seamus Heaney.
posted by smirkette at 11:08 PM on June 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


The Waste Land. Two words.

Eliot died almost 50 years ago; now is not the time to be looking for his "heir apparent". Eliot was a great Modernist voice in English-language poetry. If you had to pick a successor, an heir-apparent to Modernism, probably Beckett? Who did write poetry in addition to his novels and plays.

As for "important contemporary poets"... Well, this is hard to judge without perspective. Wisława Szymborska died earlier this year. She was a good poet.

I believe that no one currently writing in English will achieve Eliot's stature.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:22 PM on June 3, 2012


I was thinking Anne Carson, for the way she merges Classical influences and her modern perspective
posted by balmore at 11:29 PM on June 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Seconding Anne Carson. Also, Joy Harjo is pretty amazing, and her epic poems are heart wrenching.
posted by spunweb at 11:41 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


In terms of modernism - probably Geoffrey Hill. Maybe JH Prynne.
posted by Ted Maul at 1:24 AM on June 4, 2012


Anthony Hecht, in terms of neo-formalism. While he's also dead, Philip Larkin inherited Eliot's high stature among British poetry lovers, despite the fact that he's pretty far away from Eliot's New Criticism ideals.
posted by nigeline at 1:55 AM on June 4, 2012


Poetry in America simply will never produce another "star" because it's basically become an academic industry/club. To get in, you need to study with the "right" professors who will use their contacts to get your first book published and then award it properly.

Basically, this book shows what a racket poetry in America has become.
posted by bardic at 2:04 AM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rae Armantrout, among contemporary poets, is the one who most frequently gives me that "something is happening here but I don't know what it is" feeling that I got from Eliot when I was a kid.
posted by escabeche at 4:54 AM on June 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


A case could be made for John Beer...
posted by Beardman at 5:27 AM on June 4, 2012


I would argue for Robert Pinsky, primarily for his disciplined works, the broad, long view he takes of poetry and culture and his sense of the poet's civic responsibilities, and his expectation that both poets and readers should be well-versed in Western civilization.
posted by tully_monster at 5:51 AM on June 4, 2012


Ooops, you said "last decade." As Mr_Roboto says, Eliot's "heir apparent" probably has literary descendants of his/her own by now. Rather than trying to make such a grand, impossible claim, perhaps the question you should be asking is who among contemporary poets has Modernist tendencies?
posted by tully_monster at 5:57 AM on June 4, 2012


Yes, I realize that this is ultimately a silly, unanswerable question, but I appreciate the useful and interesting answers so far. I suppose I could have asked, "Which poets of the past decade seem destined for greatness?" But also, I think I want to find another "The Wasteland" that reflects the first decade of this century. A tall order, I realize.
posted by mecran01 at 6:32 AM on June 4, 2012


I came in to say Anne Carson as well. Christ, she's good.
posted by meerkatty at 7:02 AM on June 4, 2012


The Glass Essay by Anne Carson.
posted by craniac at 7:52 AM on June 4, 2012


Derek Walcott's Omeros is a sweeping epic with allusions to The Waste Land; it might interest you, although this isn't an answer to your question as Walcott's fame has been long cemented (Nobel Prize and everything). Geoffrey Hill's Mercian Hymns has been showered with honors, though he is also not an "emerging poet."

Lavinia Greenlaw's work is fascinating, though Eliot would have hated it because it's multi-disciplinary (she often works with audio installation artists).

Ferreira Gullar is a very Eliot-esque figure in Brazil. He's a poet, playwright, and art critic. He's in his 80s now, so can hardly be said to be "emerging", except that his work is only slowly being translated from Portuguese.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:39 AM on June 4, 2012


As for methodology, something to try as a starting point might be looking at different poetry awards and checking out the work of the winners and finalists.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:40 AM on June 4, 2012


Please, please get this right: it's "The Waste Land," not "The Wasteland," as others have pointed out. Sorry to sound so pedantic, but many well-read people, however unfairly or even unconsciously,will see this error as evidence that you are not well-read. I don't know if you are a student or not, but that includes professors.
posted by tully_monster at 9:16 AM on June 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sidhedevil, why do you think Eliot would have hated multidisciplinary (or multimedia) work? I'm not familiar with Greenlaw, but it seems to me that Eliot set great store by audial effects, incorporating them into his work in text form. His poetry is intended to be read aloud, and rhythm is often very important. And he wrote plays and loved vaudeville (see the essay "Marie Lloyd").
posted by tully_monster at 9:26 AM on June 4, 2012


I just feel the need to register discomfort at the use of 'heir apparent of Elliot' as an equivalent of 'next big poet'. The line of poets who 'descend' from Elliot is just one poetic lineage among many. There was no shortage of great poets contemporaneous to Elliot (e.g., Wallace Stevens, Hart Crane) that took entirely different approaches (and followed in the footsteps of poetic predecessors different from those Elliot followed). The history of poetry flows in multiple streams.
posted by Paquda at 10:32 AM on June 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


...or Pound, or Lowell, or Frost, or Moore..and one could make an argument, even, that there has not been a "great" poet of that kind of stature since Whitman, who memorialized the most devastating war Americans have ever experienced and the subsequent assassination of a beloved President by turning them into universal human experiences with cosmic overtones.
posted by tully_monster at 10:57 AM on June 4, 2012


I think Eliot might have seen Lavinia Greenlaw as an exemplar of something he was arguing against in The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism--decontextualizing poetry from its literary traditions and treating it as pure sound. But you make a good point, tully_monster, about Eliot's attitudes being complex.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:14 AM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Poetry in America simply will never produce another "star" because it's basically become an academic industry/club. To get in, you need to study with the "right" professors who will use their contacts to get your first book published and then award it properly.

That situation is far more friendly to aspiring poets than the former system of, "Be a star or you're f-d." All poets have to teach. But that seems like a not-so-bad option, especially because it comes with health insurance.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 3:20 PM on June 4, 2012


Please, please get this right: it's "The Waste Land," not "The Wasteland," as others have pointed out. Sorry to sound so pedantic, but many well-read people, however unfairly or even unconsciously,will see this error as evidence that you are not well-read. I don't know if you are a student or not, but that includes professors.
posted by tully_monster at 10:16 AM


I hope I can spend more time with these "well-read people" and learn to behave in a way that doesn't indicate I'm not "well-read" lest they disapprove of me. Then again, I'm tenured, so screw 'em.

Thanks to all for the recommendations!
posted by mecran01 at 9:27 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry, mecran01. I really, honestly wasn't trying to be offensive or patronizing, but I'm afraid my comment probably came off that way anyways. For the record, I don't conflate "well-read" with "intelligent" or "thoughtful," and you probably don't either. I should have checked your profile and seen that you clearly were not a student--for some reason I stupidly assumed that you were and went into full-mode pedantic lit-instructor mode (one of my former lives).

Yeah, screw 'em. I'm only ABD, myself.
posted by tully_monster at 2:26 PM on June 5, 2012


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