Brooklynites are a demanding bunch — and they’re demanding a new poet laureate.
Last month’s death of the borough’s laureate, Ken Siegelman, has left the poetry world reeling, but after covering his death, and offering Borough President Markowitz a short list of candidates for Verse Maker in Chief, The Brooklyn Paper received a stunning number of e-mails — more, in fact, than we’ve ever received on a poetry-related story.
Park Slope poet Sharon Mesmer, a lively poet who’s not afraid to write poems with titles like “Annoying Diabetic Bitch” and “Holy Mother of Monkey Poo,” is leading with 44 percent of the ballots. In second place is fellow Sloper, Lynn Chandhok, with 36 percent.
“Wait — does this mean I have to write a sonnet to Marty Markowitz?” quipped Mesmer, author of three collections. “Oh well, a poet’s gotta do what a poet’s gotta do. Problem is, the only thing that rhymes with Markowitz is ‘have a schvitz.’” (Why is that a problem?)
Mesmer’s sense of humor was often cited by her supporters as evidence that she belongs at the zenith of the borough’s long-clawed poetry community.
Indeed, Maria Damon wrote us with her own poem about Mesmer:
Sharon Mesmer is the one
She’s the one who’s all the fun!
Sharon Mesmer, she’s your girl
She’ll make Brooklyn the center of the world!
Others took the opportunity to slam the other poets on our short list.
“Please let it be Sharon Mesmer,” wrote Gary Sullivan of Kensington. [Bob] Hershon is a fuddy duddy. [Matt] Rohrer is a lame mainstream poet. The other people are so forgettable and lame that I’ve already forgotten them.”
That’s not to say that Chandhok, whose work bridges the cultural gap between her family’s native India and her own native Brooklyn, hasn’t evoked similar passions in her fans.
“Her poems are enchanting and rich topographies of two places: Brooklyn and Kashmir,” wrote Nick Soodik. “Her work takes pleasure in the intimacies of these two places and the rich sounds of what they offer. She gets my vote.”
Hershon, the publisher of the small, but influential, Hanging Loose Press, a publishing house and twice-yearly literary magazine, was a distant third with eight percent of the ballots. Then again, he did get a very important vote — from Kamiko Hahn, whom many believe is already part of Borough President Markowitz’s rhyme scheme.
“It would be an honor to be poet laureate,” Hahn told The Brooklyn Paper. “Having said that, I would vote for Bob Hershon!”
Bushwick bard Frank Hoier, who does our bi-weekly “Rhythm and News” feature, was next with six percent, Park Slope writer Rohrer had four percent and They Might Be Giants had only two percent.
The only person on our short list who did not receive any votes was Leon Freilich, a prolific mirth-maker whose work has filled not only our pages, but Web sites all over town.
But Freilich is still making a pitch, sending us his latest classic, “Eight Million Couches,” which he wrote after reading that New Yorkers were considered only the third-most neurotic people in the nation:
Third? That’s all? And which are the other two?
Studies demeaning our city can’t be true.
Washington, D.C.? San Francisco?
Comparing a kiddie skating rink to a disco.
Boston? Los Angeles? Second city Chicago?
Everlastingly, impossibly no!
New York City’s six million neurotics
Thrive, along with another two million psychotics.
Point to any syndrome or loony complex,
New Yorkers have it, every dad-and-momplex.
Any way you look at the shrinker game,
Neurosis surely is our middle name.
Live here? The self-disrepecting are hot to;
He or she or they’d be crazy not to.
For his part, Markowitz has said he isn’t ready to make a decision.
“We’ll convene a borough-wide poetry group, a panel,” he said. “I’m ultimately the one who has to make the decision, but I’m not a poet and I don’t want to suggest that I am. We have to find someone who is respected in his or her field, and has the time and desire to go out there and promote poetry.
“Ken Siegelman was a great poet laureate who was both,” he added.
To add your voice to the choir, read about our short list at www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/32/25/32_25_gk_new_poet_laureate.html and send your vote to firstname.lastname@example.org.