Andrew and the artist formerly known as G-Dawg bring up an ever-fascinating debate: what makes certain art objectively better than other similar pieces of art. It seems silly to go through this whole contest of “which one’s better” when each author we have read as shown in beautiful, subtle, ambiguous, detailed, clear, yet unique ways of discussing many broad topics like race, age, memory, and death. At this point, each book of poetry is well-done. “Small light in the sky appearing/ suddenly between/ two pine boughs, their fine needles/ now etched onto the radiant surface/ and above this/ high, feathery heaven–” (7). It’s so difficult for me not to quote that whole poem or many others in this book and use how I value and connect to it to justify how that should be honored. The task of picking the best is even more difficult when Citizen, Last Psalm at Sea Level, Second Childhood, and Ultimatum from Paradise are all thrown into the equation (along with the others we have not read yet).
This kind of contest reminds a lot of the Oscars (go figure), especially the Best Actor category (it’s just always so stacked). How does a group of people choose a performance (or poetry) that has clear technical skill but also connect to so many different people, each viewer taking away something different from rich performances. When the artists at that tier are that good, you could spin a Twister wheel (with actors/books instead of colors; I want to make that now with Leonardo DiCaprio’s face off to the side, out of the circle) and pick one who deserves to be honored. Some people would agree; some would argue for whomever they connected to more. Some people point to those actors who got snubbed and should have been included in that discussion. That makes me wonder what poets got snubbed from a nomination for the NBA (Christine, you would probably know this the best).
Like Andrew said, these things are decided by a group of people, who come up with or share values to appraise and dissect each book. It’s not like these people are unqualified to judge the NBA, but remembering that these people are not the final objective authority on “good” poetry is essential. Each reader can valid reasons as to why a certain book she or he connected to is the best. Maybe the NBA officials know more, maybe they don’t. Just like how we build our communal values around analyzing what’s good or what works in these books(like Andrew also pointed out), we should apply those same thoughts to the process itself, just like people are starting to (have started, I guess) questioning the Academy for preferring white and/or male directors over others who deserve to be in there more (Ava DuVernay not getting nominated for Best Director is BS in my and many others’ opinion).
The important thing is to appreciate how we share all this good art, acting, and poetry that have affected so many people profoundly through vibrant discussion.