As a rule, today’s poets are judged by such criteria as early recognition, inclusion in anthologies, conformity to prevailing practice and opinion, the proliferation of critical studies of their work, and the awarding of grants and prizes and professorships at universities—in short, by their connectedness to the insider network that now dominates American letters. Poets are also judged by their poetry, but this procedure is often little more than a reflexive exercise—a genuflection to old friends or politico-academic allies. And even when critical discussion is intelligent, it tends to promote a literary culture in which poetry suited to arcane criticism takes precedence over poetry that is clear and accessible. Under such circumstances, the private voice prevails over the public, poets rarely reach audiences beyond the academy, and opportunism may be rewarded over talent and integrity.

Measured by the...

 
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