The bitter fool

Bitter_Foolby David Yezzi

Poetry has become sterile, but we can still find realism, humor, and intensity in the satiric impulse.
Robert Armin on the cover of The History of the Two Maids of More-Clacke:

Dost thou know the difference, my boy, between a bitter fool and a sweet fool?
—Fool, King Lear

It takes all sorts of in- and outdoor schooling
To get adapted to my kind of fooling.
—Robert Frost

Poetry has become so docile, so domesticated, it’s like a spayed housecat lolling in a warm patch of sun. Most poets choose to play it safe, combining a few approved modes in a variety of unexceptional ways: lyrical, pastoral, whimsical, surrealist, lyrical-pastoral, pastoral-surrealist, interior-lyrical, whimsical-lyrical-interior-surrealist, and so on. These poems feel at home in coffee shops and on college campuses; they circulate breezily among crowds of like-minded poems and all of them work hard to be liked. (They are also beloved of prize committees and radio hosts.) Not since the Edwardians has a period style felt so pinched, though, ironically, today’s poetry is offered as “new”—either ground-breakingly populist or transgressively avant-garde. As Joshua Mehigan puts it in a recent issue of Poetry:

Download the complete article (PDF): The_Bitter_Fool

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