We Didn't Start The Fire

Michael Schiavo has posted a very long and scathing critique of Matthew Dickman’s prize-winning first book, All-American Poem. Although some of the actual deconstructions are a little thin, he quotes extensively from the poems, which reveal their own weaknesses pretty evidently. I’ve had some personal/political issues with the meteoric rise of the Dickmans, only because of the blatant and obvious cronyism at play. Both twins get published in the New Yorker multiple times in one year and no one cries foul on Paul Muldoon? Seems a bit odd. The New Yorker fiasco was the most noticeable to me, but as I looked deeper there were numerous suspect instances in the success and narrative of the two. We all know bullshit happens, but that doesn’t mean we can’t shine a prefigurative light on it when it does...



I think Schiavo goes overboard, but it’s understandable; when so much praise has been heaped on such a mediocre poet it’s hard not to boil over, and Schiavo does so with entertaining swagger. Here are some gems from Schiavo’s blog entry:


“The collection is so very bad and the method by which the Dickmans have foisted themselves upon the American poetry establishment—and, in turn, by which the poetry establishment has foisted them upon the American public—should be looked at closely.”


“Everything about All-American Poem is insulting and self-centered, from the content of the work to its (lack of) style or perspective to the very manner by which it was brought into the world.”


“His imitation patriotism is what allowed George W. Bush his eight years in the White House, is the shadow that lurks behind “Freedom Fries” and the “War on Terror,” is the thing that labels any attempt to help our neighbor as Socialism. Empty phrases meant to sound like something fierce but in fact are more ephemeral than steam from a sewer grate.”


“It’s Emo-lite: twee poems for broken-hearted navel-gazers that say, ‘You too can write ‘poetry’ (and get laid).’ No wonder people are excited about this book. If you saw that someone got paid $3,000 to defecate on a piece of paper, you’d be a sucker if you didn’t stock up on Benefiber.”


All that aside, I’m actually a fan of Matthew’s brother: Michael Dickman. His first book (which ALSO came out this year ALSO with Copper Canyon), The End of the West, is really solid. I highly recommend it.