This past week, Donald Hall was named the Library of Congress' Poet Laureate Consultant, to give him his full title, and he arrives at a time when poetry in the States is at some sort of crossroads: there are more distribution channels for poetry than ever before, but not one of them is wide enough to reach anything like a mass audience. Today, the poem, like so many other art forms, is marginalized, a handful of True Believers carrying the torch while the rest of the world shrugs and goes on. And where True Believers are involved, there are inevitably turf wars: "jackals snarling over a dried-up well," Cyril Connolly once said.

But is the well truly dry? A thousand books of verse appear each year, and even if most of them wind up remaindered, clearly somebody is buying this stuff, and it can't be just the True Believers: there aren't enough of them. (As a test for myself, I ran down the list of Laureates, starting with Joseph Auslander in 1937, and I was disturbed to find that I recognized, at best, two-thirds of the names — and further, that I could connect actual poems I've read and/or heard with only half the names I recognized. I think it's a safe bet that I don't qualify for True Believer status.)

It doesn't help, perhaps, that some things identified as poetry don't actually look like poetry: the trend toward blanker and blanker verse has made all the stuff you learned about scansion and rhyme schemes more or less irrelevant. Of course, not all music is 4/4, not all paintings are realistic, and not all sculptures look like things you recognize, but for some reason, poetry that doesn't at least have some sort of meter seems like prose without word wrap.

Or does it?

Snow fell in the night.
At five-fifteen I woke to a bluish
  mounded softness where
the Honda was. Cat fed and coffee made,
  I broomed snow off the car
and drove to the Kearsarge Mini-Mart
  before Amy opened
to yank my Globe out of the bundle.
  Back, I set my cup of coffee
beside Jane, still half-asleep,
  murmuring stuporous
thanks in the aquamarine morning.
  Then I sat in my blue chair
with blueberry bagels and strong
  black coffee reading news,
the obits, the comics, and the sports.
  Carrying my cup twenty feet,
I sat myself at the desk
  for this day's lifelong
engagement with the one task and desire.

This is quite obviously a poem, if only because if you said "stuporous thanks in the aquamarine morning" in a prose passage people would accuse you of trying to be excessively poetic. But this particular poem (