Okay. Maybe it's not fair for me to call it a "debacle." But I've been following, from a comfortable distance, the debate going on over there at foetry.com. Today there is a Chronicle of Higher Ed story on Foetry.
This past week I've been posting and responding on the website, which was probably a big mistake. The posters there are angry and are not really interested in dialogue. They want to have angry exchanges with each other about "foets" whom they get to designate without really having an explicit criteria for who is and who is not a "foet." For sure Jorie Graham, in their opinions, is a "foet." There is a strange, paranoid conspiracy theory feel to their "conversation" which doesn't involve much listening or ideas about what to do about poetry contests, which they say are "rigged." I guess their next idea is to sue some University Presses using the Consumer Protection Act. The problem is, what constitutes "proof" of "unfairness" in a poetry contest? It's not like a contest at McDonald's, where everyone who gets a game card has an equal chance of winning. Unlike the lottery, there is some skill involved. It is a bit like the lottery, I guess, if choosing numbers is like writing poems. And if the person who shoots the number balls out of the big barrel (is that how it's done these days?) chooses the number of their friends or former students. But the idea of "rigging" or unfairness bypasses the aesthetic argument, which seems to me the most compelling.
I'm not saying Jorie Graham isn't unethical for choosing her former students or lover as the prize winner. I'm just saying that it's possible, theoretically, that she really did like the manuscript of that person best. (Maybe she was responsible for shaping the writing and THAT'S why she liked it). All I'm saying is that, in theory, it is possible to like one poet's work more than another's, and it may not even be because you shaped that aesthetic or because you love or even like the poet.
That's my five cents.