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As Beautiful as the Chance Encounter of a Coffee Mug and a Coaster on a Coffee Table

Headlines cycling. War, officially-forgotten diseases, hot-shot bailouts, shameless status updating, neglected continents, orchestral indie pop grandeur, absurd year-end best-of lists. It was not a good 12-month stretch for most ideals, people, or animals, it seems. I’ve spent some time thinking of possible names for this past year, and the one that rings truest is “Deepwater Horizon.” What a beautiful, grandiose construction of such simple terms. How snugly it fits our dreams gone awry, our hope misremembered! It would make a fine vintage for a Château Mouton Rothschild, perhaps best enjoyed while eating hors d’oeuvres on the set of the next James Bond film. But enough about the past and its attendant regrets. Instead of a backward glance, I’d like to speculate on the coming year, and I’ll do this with the aid of an online version of the I Ching (which I predict will enjoy a resurgence in 2011, among younger American poets at least). Below are some questions I’m curious about, followed by enticing excerpts from the I Ching replies (Richard Wilhelm translation into German translated by Cary F. Baynes into English, 1950) and my (ridiculous) extrapolations. If you’re interested in asking more questions and sharing the answers in the comments section, an easy-to-navigate version of the translation is here:, and there’s an online program here:

Q) How will American poetry change in 2011?
A) 17. Sui / Following
The joyous above the arousing. Joy in movement induces following.
“It is implicit in the idea of following and adaptation that if one wants to lead others, one must remain accessible and responsive to the views of those under him.”

I guess this could mean that more established poets are going to shift toward the aesthetics of the generation that’s coming up, or maybe it’s a comment on aesthetics itself, meaning that American poetry, perhaps believing it stands above its (potential) readers, will try to become more accessible (whatever that means).

Q) What will the next James Bond movie be like?
A) 63. Chi Chi / After Completion
Water above fire.
“Everything proceeds as if of its own accord, and this can all too easily tempt us to relax and let things take their course without troubling over details. Such indifference is the root of all evil. Symptoms of decay are bound to be the result.”

Things are not looking good for the James Bond franchise. Of course, the warning may also be construed as what the theme of the movie will be. Perhaps this installment will be self-referential and jokey, with a dark and bitter substance beneath its candied exterior.

Q) What happen to Flarf in 2011?
A) 32. Heng / Duration
The arousing above the gentle.
“Duration is rather the self-contained and therefore self-renewing movement of an organized, firmly integrated whole, taking place in accordance with immutable laws and beginning anew at every ending.”

This one seems pretty unambiguous.

Q) What can you tell me about the book that will win the next Pulitzer Prize (in poetry)?
A) 54. Kuei Mei / The Marrying Maiden
The eldest son above the youngest daughter.
“Affection as the essential principle of relatedness is of the greatest importance in all relationships in the world.”

I’m inclined to think this means we won’t be very surprised, and the winner will be one of the usual suspects whose back is itching to be scratched. Then again, this could be referring to the aesthetics of the book, in which case I’d say Mark McMorris, Kay Ryan, or Timothy Donnelly will win; as different as they are, I feel all three poets have published distinguished books in 2010 that effectively, critically, and affectionately portray the relatedness of worldly things.

I’m looking forward to 2011, a year I hope will find our world peacefully full of affection and relations.  To this, and to you my friends, I raise my glass!

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