Bracket Notes: Welcome to the first annual Huffy Henry’s Poetry Madness tournament. I have made a list of American poets whom I consider to be among the most influential of the 20th century. I have also, loosely, ranked them with a seed that will determine their location in the bracket. Each poet has a corresponding NCAA Men’s Basketball team playing for him or her, and in a few weeks a champion will rise and be crowned. Visually, this bracket should mirror the official basketball bracket, but I have listed below which teams represent the poets.
As a challenge to myself, and I invite you to participate, I am planning to restrict my reading to only the poets remaining in the tournament for its duration. So, for now, I can read any of the 64 listed here. As the tournament progresses and poets get eliminated, my reading list will become shorter and shorter until, finally, I will read nothing but work by the champion for the three days following the championship game.
This list is by no means exhaustive, and I’m sure I forgot many deserving poets and for that I apologize. I suck. But this is my best effort, and the rankings are loose, so feel free to disagree with the seeds as you see fit. I encourage the criticism, as long as we stay friendly. This is just for fun.
But really it’s for blood. I imagine this competition to be taking place in the nether regions of the galaxy where poets go to sharpen their pencils, chat with their therapists and refill their flasks. There is a thin bridge that extends over a sea of bloodthirsty, ignorant critics, and the poets wage battle above (think rap battle with paper cuts). When a poet is defeated, she is cast off the bridge until next year’s tournament, when perhaps she’ll have a better go.
There are only three governing principles over the “rankings”: 1) The poet has to be considered “American,” interpreted broadly. 2) The poet has to have published a good portion of her work during the 20th century. 3) Influence. Which, of course, is incredibly difficult to quantify without data (I have none). This is simply my subjective interpretation of influence, and there are poets on this list with whom I am not incredibly familiar. So, to reiterate what was spoken above: I suck. Sorry. This is NOT a ranking of “greatness” or “importance” or anything like that: simply which poets seem to have had the largest impact on the poets who came after them. And, of course, time plays a huge factor in this, favoring dead poets over living ones. I, personally, am pulling for some upsets.
So try to have fun with it. If you feel that my bracket is unforgivably bad, feel free to make your own.
1 T.S. Eliot (Kentucky) Ezra Pound (Michigan State) Wallace Stevens (Syracuse) William Carlos Williams (North Carolina)
2 Robert Frost (Duke) Allen Ginsberg (Missouri) W.H. Auden (Ohio State) Gertrude Stein (Kansas)
3 Robert Lowell (Baylor) Hart Crane (Marquette) Sylvia Plath (Florida State) John Berryman (Georgetown)
4 John Ashberry (Indiana) Frank O’Hara (Louisville) Marianne Moore (Wisconsin) Robert Penn Warren (Michigan)
5 Elizabeth Bishop (Wichita State) Charles Olson (New Mexico) Langston Hughes (Vanderbilt) Theodore Roethke (Temple)
6 Louis Zukofsky (UNLV) Robert Hayden (Murray State) Carl Sandburg (Cincinnati) W.S. Merwin (San Diego State)
7 Robert Bly (Notre Dame) Kenneth Rexroth (Florida) Richard Wilbur (Gonzaga) James Merrill (St. Mary’s)
8 H.D. (Iowa State) James Wright (Memphis) W.D. Snodgrass (Kansas State) E.E. Cummings (Creighton)