Hunt Hawkins

To the Poets Dropped from the Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry
May 20, 2021 Hawkins Hunt

To the Poets Dropped from the Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry


Au revoir, Walter de la Mare!
Auf wiedersehen, Conrad Aiken!
Arrivederci, Gregory Corso!
Did you think immortality would last forever?
The damn new poets keep getting born,
so in Edition Three, even at two volumes and 2,416 pages,
there just isn’t room enough for everyone.
To be sure the Norton isn’t Heaven,
but still you have to feel sorry for Robert Bridges,
John Masefield, Herbert Read, James Schuyler,
Paul Blackburn, and Jon Silkin, who disappeared
like soap bubbles touching a couch.
E.J. Pratt, I never heard of you anyway,
nor Ann Spencer, W. R. Rodgers, and Josephine Miles.
They dropped David Wright, but kept James and added
Judith and Charles, so I guess that’s right.
But poor Robert Conquest got defeated.
Of course those previously excluded
should now be admitted, but what happened to
Dudley Randall, Etheridge Knight (my favorite),
Nikki Giovanni, and fiery Don L. Lee?
At least we got
A.K. Ramanujan, Joy Harjo, Agha Shahid Ali,
Dionisio Martinez, and pensive Li-Young Lee
(thereby breaking even on Lees).
Our helpfully neat Norton corrals the poets
into schools: Fugitives, Black Mountain, Confessionals,
Neo-Confessionals. But unfortunately the herds
have to be culled.
The Beats shrink to Ginsberg and Ferlinghetti
(Do widzenia, Diane Wakoski!).
New York is just O’Hara, Ashbery, and Koch
(So long, Ted Berrigan!).
Only Dylan Thomas remains of the New Apocalypse
(Toodles, Vernon Watkins!).
Strangely, the poets who killed themselves—
Plath, Sexton, Berryman—live on despite their best efforts,
but time just keeps chugging.
In ten thousand years, the Renaissance will
be reduced to a single name,
and then even Shakespeare will be gone.

Hunt Hawkins is Professor Emeritus at the University of South Florida. In 2017-18 he was a Fulbright Professor at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. He has published a book of poems The Domestic Life with the University of Pittsburgh Press where it won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize and individual poems in many journals including Poetry, The Southern Review, The Georgia Review, Tri-Quarterly, and Poet Lore.