I've begun reading the DON'T BLAME THE UGLY MUG anthology--and am busy in absorbing each poem on its own merits (Rick Lupert and Eric Lawson's contributions stand out in a good way at this unfinished point in the journey).
But, unfortunately, I'm a bit troubled by the Victor Infante introduction.
Despite saying some kind (and accurate) words about Steve and Ben's stewardship, it's Victor's tendency to let his occasionally gushing, perhaps occasionally inadvertently condescending Arbiter of Taste flag fly:
"...where some of the brightest stars in poetry today have popped their heads in to read"
"....why so many heavyweights of various poetic stripes are willing to travel to the outskirts of a mid-sized SoCal town to read"
"a little homey community reading" (note for all who read this: "community reading" is poetry code for "tolerant of amateurs")
and here's the passage (highlighted by me) that tells you all you want to know about Victor Infante and his ethos that poetry belongs to Navy Seals of letters, and that baby blue Marines deserve the washout they get:
"And that's the secret to running a reading, and indeed to poetry in general. It's hard, exhausting work--frustrating often and grueling always--but then you get those moments when someone who's never read a poem in public before brings a jaded poetry audience [!] to tears. or when a kid who's been reading for a couple months pops up with something that matches anything the heavyweights have to offer, and suddenly, it's magic."
Safe to say it's the kind of passage written by a human being now used to routine acceptance from publishers/literary journals.
Actually, the combat-unit of literary elites trope isn't something I made up myself. Richard Beban, in the midst of a scolding seven-page letter [!] to me, used that same metaphor--listing poets by their last names: Lupert, Constantine, Arroyo etc. etc.
The reason I'm writing this post has nothing to do with envy: a lot of poets who have survived over the thirteen years I've been involved with SoCal poetry deserve accolades for their work on page/stage.
Instead, it's to make a comment on the post-2003 SoCal poetry environment where people such as (I'll list them by last names) Beban, Thomas, Infante, Brown, Alvarado determine who makes it into the lifeboats in an apparent expression of concern that if poetry culture isn't given the proper shaping for quality (and to discourage and weed out "amateurs"), the potential listening public could choose "wrong."
Therefore, you have a lot of people wielding brooms who are secretly frightened of being swept into obscurity by the brooms of others.