The Farrar, Straus and Giroux Poetry Blog

April 03, 2009

A Poetry Final Four: Second Bracket

Graywolf Press senior editor Jeff Shotts continues speculation on Fantasy Poetry Month Playoffs. And you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears? Take the rag away from your face, now ain't the time for your tears.

David Orr vs. Dan Chiasson

On the right side of the bracket, slugging it out no doubt in the pages of Christian Wiman’s arena in the Comments section of Poetry magazine (where many scouts go to find their fearless, talented trash-talkers), comes Orr and Chiasson, the two contenders most likely to be sporting neckties. Orr’s is black or gray, and Chiasson’s is undoubtedly green and striped. Orr is the dour, levelheaded lawyer-turned-critic, who is most comfortable as power forward: aggressive, a rebounder, unafraid to take a poet all the way down the court and dunk them hard. Chiasson, also unafraid to write a strong, negative review, is better from the perimeter, someone who can surprise you with a shift in sensibility, just when you think you’ve figured out his aesthetic.

Chiasson seems to be the more emotional player of the two, and isn’t afraid to come out and say he likes a particular poet’s work (or that he doesn’t), and when he’s spot on, it’s the equivalent of raining down a series of threes. Orr, however, with sheer exertion, will out-rebound, out-sass, out-hustle his opponent. His bluntness is a powerful tool, and many poets don’t want to be on the other end of it: event when he’s praising, he quickly spins and offers up some intense, critical comments, when you least expect it. Both critics are often in Poetry magazine, have written for The New York Times Book Review, and Orr is the regular columnist for “On Poetry” for NYTBR. This is a very evenly matched duel, but in the end, Orr’s position as pure critic (rather than poet-critic, as the other three here are) makes him a juggernaut of focus and determination. He outwears Chiasson, who misses what would have been the game-winning three-pointer.

David Orr advances.

Related: the first bracket and the winner of the poetry final four.

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