Janaka Stucky wins "Boston's Best Poet"

The Boston Phoenix recently held their annual Best of Boston Reader Poll, and included a category for Best Poet this year--for the first time as far as I can recall. The nominees in that category were:

Sam Cornish
Robert Pinsky
Louise Gluck
Rosanna Warren
Margo Lockwood
Frank Bidart

Then there was a blank spot for write-ins. While I admire the writing of Gluck and Bidart; the community work of Pinsky; and Cornish was even an instructor of mine as an undergraduate at Emerson (and is also Boston's first Poet Laureate), I thought the options were a little tame and predictable. So, I suggested people write me in as an alternative, just to shake things up a little. And guess what--I won.

This is not to say that I think I'm a better poet than all of these candidates; my point was that there are many great poets in Boston that weren't represented on this list--probably because they don't have high profile university affiliations. In a largely transient city many artists come and go, and it's not surprising that more poets don't stay without security in a job that pays decently. I love Boston, and have lived here my entire life--but I can't blame people for giving up on it; it's a tough nut to crack and its peculiar, complex charm takes acquiring.

All that said, this is why winning this category means a lot to me. As someone who grew up literally reading poems in the woods on the shores of Massachusetts; who has walked or driven every major street in this city, at times elated or sad or drunk or stoned and even occasionally lost--and who has spent my adult years reading the Boston Phoenix as a barometer for what's cool, interesting and fun around town--winning their Reader Poll for Boston's Best Poet is a personal landmark, even if I don't think it actually carries much bearing on my poetic talent.

Thanks to those of you who voted. You made my year.


from the Phoenix:

Best Poet
Janaka Stucky

In stature and talent, imposing. JANAKA STUCKY, who triumphed this category in write-in votes, has lived with junkies, been killed onstage as his Black Cat Burlesque alter-ego J. Cannibal, is a zombie fanatic, founder and managing editor of Black Ocean press, the head of the magazine Handsome, a part-time undertaker, and a poet. Brave Men Press (a very cool, local publishing house) recently put out his chapbook, Your Name Is the Only Freedom. He likes “his whiskey neat and his music dirty,” and his poems are lovely — pre-mortem glances at mortality and connection.