Thinking Makes It So: The poetry 500 and the poet hunter

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By Kelly LeVan

On Poemhunter.com, a resource I frequently use to find specific poems, Pablo Neruda ranks above William Shakespeare. On a list of the site’s “Top 500 Poets,” Neruda comes in higher than John Keats, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Odgen Nash, ee cummings, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Allen Ginsberg, Billy Collins – the great poets from every time period, with voices that never wane and names anyone who’s ever had to take a required English course in college has probably heard of.As if this isn’t bad enough, above Neruda – there’s only one poet better than Neruda, according to Poemhunter – is someone named Joe Fazio.I have at least read Neruda, even if I would rather have been cleaning the sticky area under the sink.But Fazio I haven’t even heard of.His high standing reveals one of two possibilities: I can’t trust every Top 500 list on the Internet, or my M.F.A. in poetry is actually an anagram for “I fart mop yen,” which isn’t very good, either as an anagram or a degree costing tens of thousands of dollars.The Internet does tend to create realities previously limited to the smooth stubs of brain tissue left over immediately after work.Sometimes driving home from the office, I find myself believing the person driving in front of me wants me to miss green lights while he or she just makes it through.By the time I’m home and feeding myself some kind of rejuvenating burger, I understand that very few people want me to suffer. Mostly, they just want to get home to their own burgers, and that is all they think about.I think a great deal of website content is uploaded between day jobs and dinner.I spent an hour or so researching this Fazio. He died in 2007 at the age of 78. Beyond a cryptic request for those who knew him to make donations to the United Way, the only other biographical information I could find stated, “Joe Fazio (a pseudonym) was a novelist whose work has been translated into numerous languages.”Amazon, when I searched for his name, recommended I buy a DVD called “Lethal Seduction” by Susan Alexander, Allen Arkus, Tammy Banno and Iris Bekker. The reviews were unflattering.Neither Mesa Public Library nor White Rock Branch Library carries any title by or about Fazio.Fazio’s only publication, according to the Internet, is an e-book containing 133 of his poems, available only on Poemhunter, so far as I can tell.I don’t mind the poems.I don’t hold with those who believe his talent exceeds that of Edgar Allen Poe, William Blake or Shel Silverstein, who also ranks above Shakespeare, according to Poemhunter, but I do agree with his placement above Neruda.He wrote lines like “You are my laughter, my joy, / my reason for being” and myriad other sweet but uninspired lines, he also wrote – obviously – what he really felt.He’s like Charles Bukowski but not shameless, bold or funny. Actually, he’s not very much like Bukowski, but he is earnest.The poems don’t reveal anything original, but they do offer the kind of truths everyone realizes at some point: that material possessions mean nothing, we are each responsible for teaching future generations and love is the best.They read like poems that haven’t yet been grinded up by grad-school students, and I don’t want to grind them up here. He’s not about to revise them, anyhow.Further, I don’t want to because they remind me why I started writing poetry. It’s so easy, reading Fazio, to see why he wrote. His reasons blister off every line: He ached to tell people who he was.Yet, I can find nothing in all of Google-dom that answers that question.I suspect if he were alive, he would say the poems encapsulate him better than any description of where he lived, studied or worked – a nice idea, but hogwash.Humans are both concrete and abstract. Los Alamos, for instance, and my reasons for living here are as much a part of me as any of my values.Joe Fazio, who are you?

•Anyone who knows, please e-mail Kelly at laeditor@lamonitor.com.