An Insanely Democratic View





Twelve years before

Randall Jarrell walked into

An oncoming car on U.S. 15

In Chapel Hill, whether by

Accident or design,

He penned “Bad Poets,”

The successful poet/critic’s revenge

On the unpublished, the uninitiated,

The obscure, and, perhaps,

Untalented creators of “the

Worthless books” that

Jarrell was paid to survey,

Those hapless multitudes,

Deserted by muses or even,

As he wrote, “fairy godmothers.”

Those worthless plebeians

Dismayed the famous poet

Into penning condemnation of

The less gifted: “beyond good,

Beyond evil, and certainly beyond

Reviewing,” who have “never

Made anything.”


As I turned from Jarrell’s essay to

The stack of student papers

Lining my desk, I wondered

That not one of my students

Has had the good fortune to room

With Robert Lowell, has at

Their fingertips the richness

Of the language experience

Of the literature professor

Playing intellectual chess amongst

The finest minds, yet each child

Has produced a line, here and there,

Descended if not from the Muses or

Fairy Godmothers of poetry then

From that most insanely democratic

View of the poet in each of us,

The occasional lines that

Startle, cause jealous poet awe,

Strike fear then wonder, their words

Bent with the unseen weight

Of being as mortal as Jarrell’s

Ball Turret Runner.









                                                           Nancy Dafoe