The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.2152  Monday, 10 November 2003

From:           Robin Hamilton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Sunday, 9 Nov 2003 20:59:59 -0000
Subject:        Re: Poets Riot

What do you expect from freaking American Neoformalists?

Anyone who'd rip-off a title from Robertson Davies ...

And Billy Collins *wasn't* one of the 25 Rebel Angels.

I can do the poetry bit but the football imagery passes me quite bye.

Help anyone?

Dana G.

{I thought of passing this on to Milton-L but then remembered my
street-cred ... <sour>  :-) R2.}

Mind you, I thought I had copyright on the Night of the Lost Stanza.

What's happened to intellectual property these days?  Gone the way of GM



[Subtext is Damon Runyon -- don't they teach ANY American frosh how to
use the continuous present?  Or is it Dash?  Or is that too raw given
the provisions of the Patriot Act?  Jack London anyone?

Vlad the Impaler.]

----- Original Message -----
From: "Rebecca Seiferle" <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>


Thursday, November 6, 2003

By Mike Harden

At a reading by former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins last week at
Ohio Dominican University, I wasn't surprised to see a Columbus police
officer on hand to thwart potential violence.

Tensions have been high lately between neo-formalists and free versers,
and well-placed sources in the poetry community feared that a reading
might provide a flash point for simmering hostilities.

I was glad I had taken my notebook. I needed it to chronicle the savage
mayhem that has come to be called ''The Night of the Long Stanzas'':

Columbus police and the Ohio National Guard patrolled the university
Friday after a night of rioting between rival poetry gangs resulted in
three minor injuries and a dozen arrests.

Eleven of those in custody were being held for disorderly conduct. The
12th was apprehended for using eight syllables in the second line of a

Of those injured, the most seriously hurt was an Obetz woman who
suffered a concussion after being struck in the head with a copy of John
Milton's Samson Agonistes.

''She was just an innocent bystander who happened to be in the wrong
place at the wrong time,'' Columbus Police Sgt. Holger Upvall said.

''We think she might be a T.S. Eliot enthusiast who simply got caught in
the crossfire. We tried to talk to her in the ER, and she wasn't making
much sense -- which would seem to indicate a strong connection with
Eliot's work.''

The trouble started, Upvall said, when tailgating revelers got out of

''You know how it is,'' he said. ''You get a few neoclassicists doing
that beer-bong thing with dry sherry. They haven't had any watercress.
They can get pretty rowdy.

''A couple of the blank versers started talking trash about Coleridge.
One thing led to another. We got matters calmed down until some
hotheaded formalist accused a blank verser of an unnatural act with
Edgar Guest. Well, that did it.

''Then someone ran over the mailbox of the school's professor of
Renaissance poetry. Witnesses told us the culprit was driving a
dark-green Volvo with a 'Save the Earth' bumper sticker. We stopped 137
vehicles fitting that description but didn't make any arrests.''

Police tried to form a perimeter around the Birkenstock store and the
health-food co-op but were too late to save either from looters, Upvall

Firefighters stood by helplessly as rioters -- their faces lighted by
the flames of arson fires -- carried case after case of tofu from the
health co-op, leaving a trail of anguish and alfalfa sprouts in their

Neo-formalists kidnapped a Rod McKuen fan, then holed up in the
Birkenstock store, where they hurled sandals at confused police officers
attempting to free the hostage.

A police negotiator persuaded the neo-formalists to release the hostage
by promising to read a list of demands.

Essentially, they are asking for a return to more oblique and obscure

''How can we be expected to teach poetry,'' an unidentified
neo-formalist noted, ''if there is nothing confusing about it? We need
hidden meanings, confounding allusions, cryptic inner dialogues -- all
those things that drive students crazy.''

Billy Collins, whom the neo-formalists consider far too ''accessible,"
was whisked out a back door of Erskine Hall and hastily driven to the

Collins' lawyer, quoting the poet, said his client had no intention of
returning to Columbus ''in this or any other lifetime.''

Mike Harden is a Dispatch columnist.
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