Meryl Streep played enforcer Tuesday night at the Academy of American Poets benefit at Avery Fisher Hall, where a passel of celebs (Streep, Katie Couric, Graydon Carter, Jonathan Demme, Candace Bushnell, and John Guare among them) read works by — and we stress this — DEAD AMERICAN POETS only! Unfortunately, we learned this the hard way when we hit up Streep pre-show to ask who her favorite contemporary poet was. "We don't do contemporary poets at the Academy of American Poets," said Streep. "Because if you say one name, then somebody else has their nose out of joint. We only talk about dead poets here."
It was a good thing, too, because of all the literary types there, only John Guare could name-check a favorite contemporary poet. (He recommended Mark Strand, C.K. Williams, Craig Arnold, and Sarah Manguso.) Said Graydon Carter: "My [favorite] poetry tends to be more than 50 to 100 years old." That night, he read a vintage piece that was a clever dig at his own image: a Dorothy Parker verse about working at Vanity Fair circa 1920, before defecting to The New Yorker. "Our Office: A Hate Song," it was called, and began: "I hate the office — it cuts in on my social life." And continued:
"There is the Boss;
The Great White Chief.
He made us what we are to-day,—
I hope he's satisfied."