Review of The Anthology of Really Important Modern Poetry, by Kathryn and Ross Petras

The Anthology of Really Important Modern Poetry

Timeless Poems by Snooki, John Boehner, Kanye West and Other Well-Versed Celebrities

by Kathryn & Ross Petras

Workman Publishing, 2012. 256 pages.

Okay, this book is very cynical, very silly, and very, very funny. Small doses are advised, mind you. But as a book to dip into, the whole idea is hilarious.

Here’s the idea. Kathryn & Ross Petras are the editors of the 365 Stupidest Things calendar, so they are well-versed in the stupid things political figures and other celebrities say. They took some segments of speeches too long for the 365 Stupidest Things Calendar, formatted them as poetry, and gave commentary, treating the “poems” as serious works of art.

The result
is
hilarious.

In the Introduction, they start things off like a good scholarly introduction, giving trends:

To help introduce you, the reader, to these fresh new voices, we’ve arranged the anthology by poetic schools. You will be introduced to the poems of the strangely evocative Derrièristes and those of the declining but still impactful Dictator School, among many others. We discuss the more salient tenets of each school, allowing the reader a chance to truly understand the underpinnings of the poems and, perhaps more important, the ethos from which they spring. It is this shared aesthetic and philosophical outlook that draws together and indeed weds such seemingly disparate individuals as actor Tom Cruise, mobster Big Joey Massino, and pop star Miley Cyrus (all members of the Didactic School).

We also discern a fascinating kinship between these modern “versifiers” and their poetic ancestors. We see in Ann Coulter of the Compassionate School a faint whiff of her great predecessor, the shy and gentle recluse Emily Dickinson. We see in Rush Limbaugh, the writer of “Rushbo’s Howl,” another Allen Ginsberg. And, of course, in Rahm Emanuel we see another (Mametesque) Shakespeare.

The astute reader may note that some poets are acolytes of more than one school. Many critics have pondered the reason for this. Upon close analysis, we, the editors, feel this occurs because such large talent cannot be confined within the narrow strictures of one basic philosophy. So we happily find the poet Donald Trump represented not only (unsurprisingly) in the Inflated Ego School, but also (perhaps surprisingly, perhaps not) in the Religious School.

Now, I must warn the reader that a large proportion of the poems found in this volume are just plain crude. But that does make the notion of them as poetry funny, I must admit. It does make it unpalatable to sit down and read this book through in one sitting.

But many, many of these poems are simply silly. As an example, here’s one by Miguel Head (b. 1978) with the caption: “Many critics question the inclusion of Miguel Head in the ‘I’m Rich’ School, as Head is not truly of the wealthy but instead close to them as press secretary to Britain’s Princes William and Harry. So let us create a subset of the “I’m Rich” school specifically for Head — the ‘He’s Rich’ School.”

A Royal Pain

The Prince of Wales
does not employ
and never has employed
an aide to squeeze his toothpaste for him.

This is a myth
without any basis
in factual accuracy.

And here’s one by Jerry Coleman (b. 1924), in the Modern Metaphysical Poets, with the commentary, “Sportscaster Jerry Coleman tackles the core question of ‘beingness’ by provocatively veering into cutting-edge developments of quantum-mechanical entanglement.”

Lines on the Platonic Concept of Being

He just made another play
that I’ve never seen anyone else make before,
and I’ve seen him make it
more often
than anyone else ever has.

Truly silly.
Truly funny.
Reading this book will make you laugh.

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Source: This review is based on an Advance Reader Copy I got at an ALA conference.

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