Last night the National Book Award committee decided for the fourth time not to give the poetry prize to Carl Phillips, Wash. U. professor and one of St. Louis' most awesome poets. Four times, people! What is up with that?
Now we understand that the National Book Award committee is of the opinion that obscure is better -- sort of like that Classics major at the end of the seminar table who smokes a pipe during breaks and doesn't even bother to read literature anymore, only criticism so rarefied that it cannot be understood by mere mortals -- but it's not like being a poet in this country makes you a household name. (Except for Shel Silverstein. But he's dead.)
Daily RFT can only come up with two reasons why the National Book Award committee continues to nominate Phillips and then give the award to other people:
1. This year's winner, Nikky Finney, has such fabulous hair, it was impossible to resist.
2. It's part of a long-term plot, inspired by the Daytime Emmy Awards. Recalls that nobody gave a shit about the Daytime Emmys until somebody noticed that they kept nominating Susan Lucci for best actress for her work on All My Children every year for eighteen years and she never frickin' won. It became kind of a cause celebre and a subject of actual suspense and jokes on late-night talk shows. People actually kind of cared. Lucci became more famous for not winning than if she had won. And then she finally won, in 1999, and then people stopped giving a shit again. And then All My Children got canceled and Lucci ended up on Dancing With the Stars.
Maybe the National Book Award committee is hoping Phillips will have the same sort of effect.
But we sort of doubt that they would even admit to having heard of Susan Lucci.
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