Thinking Makes It So: And here's to you, Joe Fazio

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By Kelly LeVan

Thank you for your comments! Last week’s “Thinking Makes It So” discussed the sparkling miasma of mystery surrounding one Joe Fazio, who remains at the top of Poemhunter.com’s “Top 500 Poets,” well above Dylan Thomas, John Keats, William Carlos Williams and Robert Frost, and a full 46 poets ahead of Edna St. Vincent Millay, the elegant sonneteer.One nonplussed reader, whom I’ll refer to as Anthony, said he found it peculiar that Fazio’s name only tops the “complete list” of the Top 500. The abbreviated list on the site’s homepage begins with none other than Pablo Neruda.He also agreed with my one-word interpretation of Fazio’s writing as “earnest.”“Not an iota of metaphor or allusion to speak of,” Anthony wrote in an e-mail. “Just pure, straight and true remarks. It’s as if some unlearned but heartfelt speech coming from Joe Q. Everyman was filtered through genericpoetry.com (made it up).”Another reader, Allen, took on my challenge to discover who Joe Fazio exactly is.Part of my own consternation with Fazio’s high perch on the list was the irritating lack of biographical information searchable online about one of the best poets in the world, according to Poemhunter.com, whose credibility I have started to doubt.Allen uncovered a musician – a young guy with long, ‘80s hair and most likely not the Joe Fazio in question, whom I know from his incredibly nondescript bio was born in 1929 and died in 2007.Regardless, Allen found the poet Fazio’s namesake frustrating as well:“There is a Joe Fazio who claimed that he went to the Berklee School of Music and also is an actor on stage and television,” Allen wrote. “In his online bio, he misspells both ‘Berklee’ and ‘television.’”He added, “I sent the requisite nasty note advising him of his perceived mental deficiencies. Breathlessly awaiting a response.”I also find myself breathless.A third reader, Anne, ignored Fazio completely – like most of the world, unfortunately for him and his hushed Internet fan base – and instead improved upon my anagram for “M.F.A. in poetry.”I agree with her: “I fart mop yen” needed some touching up.She unscrambled a whole list, which I provide below with my comments:

• In my fat ropeIs this a suicide rope, requiring a thicker than usual girth to suspend my free- verse-fattened head? The anagram begs another question: What would be in such a rope? If the rope is braided with slant rhymes, I worry I might hang crooked. I would prefer a construction of perfect line breaks.

• Ryme of paintI assume Anne here refers to the bustling English village of Ryme Intrinseca, population 130. However, amongst Google’s 249,000 hits for the word exist many possibilities – several for a musical artist named Ryme Tyme, Fazio’s archrival, I hope, if only because the coincidence would be stunning.

• My pet of rainI wish my poems sounded as sweet as this drippy, little creature. While the phrase could easily allude to the entirety of the sky, ironically using the word “pet” to understate a deluge of care-taking – grad school does wonders for one’s ability to make something out of nothing, especially something ridiculous – I like to think of pet literally, and rain as something fragile and wounded by its very nature: a naked mole rat.

• Try pain of meToo many poems make this request of a reader, “Try pain of me,” and often with equally pungent grammar.

• In part my foeSeriously, I like this one. Every poem I write is in part my foe, exposing some conflict within me that, most of the time, I’d rather keep quiet. Additionally, every other poet, especially those really great ones, especially those really great living ones who compete with me for published pages, are in part my foes. Brilliant, Anne!

• May fine portI wish “poetry” contained a “d” instead of an “e,” not because I find the word “podtry” particularly charming, but because then this anagram would read, “May find port” – which I pray each poem I send out may do, in one of dozens of poetry zines located on the shelves at Borders and in dozens of homes across the country. Of course, first I need to stop hoarding my incredible line breaks in my laptop and prepare my SASEs.

• Rye point, MaM.F.A. students eat nothing but wry bread for three years straight.

• Fry poem ain’tI don’t have much to say about this one, either, except that it’s still better than “I fart mop yen,” even allowing a few extra points for “fart.” I will add that as soon as I graduated, I switched from wry bread to fry bread, forthwith.

• I farm no type.I saved this one for last because I love it most. It inspired a poem, even – well, part of a poem. I sent my completed poem, which required some delving into the etymology of the word “type,” to one of my esteemed competitors – not a foe, but an old friend with a gorgeous, grizzled beard – and he suggested maybe the poem was not done yet. Actually, it was as if he reminded me, since I sort of knew but got so wound up in the excitement of etymology that I forgot.Getting excited about a poem I wrote myself is one of the best feelings I know. And whatever cynicism I harbor about M.F.A. degrees, I admit it: All those egghead classes deserve a good chunk of the credit.

Anyone who knew Joe Fazio, please e-mail Kelly at laeditor@lamonitor.com.