Came across this ad in the NYRB for a book called Greatest Living Poet by Mark Kobo. What amused me about the ad was the celebrities they chose to endorse Kobo - as evidence of his being 'the Greatest Living Poet' we were told that Madonna had recited his poems in public and that Bill Clinton was a fan. I mean Bill Clinton! Madonna! Understand, I'm not saying that these people don't have their own expertise - I would gladly take Clinton's advice on picking cigars, and if I ever felt the need to find a good plastic surgeon, Madonna is practically the first person I would turn to. I just have no reason to trust their judgement in poetry more than I trust the judgement of say, my neighbour's cat, or (even worse) Hallmark card editors. I'm reminded of a young lady who once, in an attempt to convince me that she was indeed a talented writer, informed me that her writing had been lauded by A B Vajpayee. Aside from being a political gaffe (anyone who knows me at all knows that I'm way too left-wing to have respect for the BJP leadership), this struck me as a total non sequitur. What, I wanted to know, had being a successful politician got to do with having literary judgement, and why therefore, was I expected to ascribe any significance to the opinion of someone who, as a politician, will agree on general principle with anything that doesn't lose him votes.
Let's get one thing straight. The greatest living poet today is Derek Walcott. If you want to dispute that, I'm willing to hear arguments in favour of Heaney, Ashbery and Szymborska, but not for Kobo. Not that Kobo (based on the samples of his poetry posted on his website) is a particularly bad poet. He's just unremarkable. There are some nice phrases in some of his poems, but there is also much that is trite and contrived, and they certainly aren't alive or spectacular enough to deserve more than a passing read. I got through about four of them before I lost interest.
More interesting, however, was Kobo's website - which struck me as being a case study of what I like to call imagined victimisation. These are the people who are convinced that those who don't agree with them are biased or prejudiced in some way, and will not make room for the possibility that those who criticise them may simply be voicing their honest, impartial judgements. Of the response to his book, Kobo writes: "Those who took the time to read the book - and also had no prior agenda - responded with a positive sense of excitement." In other words, if you didn't respond with a sense of excitement you must have had a prior agenda. This is a clever enough argument - even if, as with Kobo's website, it comes to sound suspiciously like a persecution complex. Leaving aside for a moment the question of what constitutes objectivity in the appreciation of an art form, and how we seperate the 'prior agenda' of the nay-sayers from the 'true selves' of those impressed by Kobo's work, I see no reason to assume that the critics of Kobo's work aren't voicing their 'objective' opinions. Sometimes it isn't about biases and stereotypes and assumptions, sometimes you just disagree. 
The trouble is, of course, that this kind of pretend martyrdom makes for good marketing. If Kobo had just put his book out, without pretending to be a victim of some academic conspiracy, no one would have read / bought it. By artificially manufacturing a controversy around himself, Kobo may have dramatically increased book sales and gained a legitimacy he could never have gained as a poet. By claiming to reinvent poetry as a genre, Kobo not only insulates himself from all considered criticism, he also creates a bond of empathy between himself and those who don't get poetry, thus targeting the very readers who won't know enough to recognise the quality (or lack thereof) of his poems, and making it possible for them to share in the fantasy that his work represents some sort of seminal advance over our existing poetics. It's a superb marketing gimmick.
Kobo claims to show that the problem with modern poetry is that it is poorly written. Even if the claims he makes for the widespread popularity of his work are true (which I'm dubious about), the only thing he's proving is that modern poetry is not properly marketed - you can get people to buy poetry, even average poetry, if you just spin it right. 
 Notice that Kobo effectively invites criticism by setting himself up to be a poetic revolutionary. If he were to write a book called, say, Marginally above average living poet, far fewer critics, I suspect, would have an issue with it.
In a sense, of course, this is the basis of all pop culture - the idea that sales are the most appropriate measure of artistic quality, and that people who disapprove of what is popular don't have a real opinion - they're just prejudiced snobs.