Monday, February 23, 2009

Poe-tic Reaction

I apparently ruffled a few inky feathers, not because of my hilarious send up of Poe's "Philosophy of Composition" in my previous post, "Composition of Parody," but because in the subsequent comments I implied--basically said--"The Raven" isn't very good. To paraphrase a Monty Python skit, it's a good thing I didn't mention "The Bells."

Although none of those who objected felt strongly enough to air their views on my blog--& by the way, I encourage all readers to comment, even if just to say how great my posts are--they've confronted me face-to-face with their views, though not always in so many words. Sometimes it's simply a cocked eyebrow & the once-over with a pale filmy vulture eye, questioning, badgering, insisting I explain how I dare suggest that I am superior to Poe as a poet. It's very creepy.

Maybe I'm paranoid, but the clerk at Starbucks has acted a little petulant the last few days too, so I suspect he's a "venti" Poe-ster. Nuts to him, I'm keeping my change. Also, those Dockered oafs who intentionally bumped into me with their laptops as I left, spilling my Frappuccino, let me remind those Poe-loving goons once again about the physical properties of rubber & glue.

For the record, Poe used to be my favorite poet--when I was twelve. It's easy to see why I was drawn to him as a prepubescent preteen: he's kind of a macabre Dr. Seuss, what, with his predictable rhymes, singsongy rhythms & ham-handed alliteration. If Poe were alive today, he'd be very old, but I'll bet he would have written spooky children's classics like Green Eggs & Death ("I am Son of Sam, Son of Sam I am. My dog doesn't like you, so you die. Blam! Blam!"), Manson Hears a Who, The Severed Parts of Bartholomew Cubbins & "The Cask of Amontillado."

In fact, Poe's significance as a writer is his prose, not his poetry. His eccentric, brilliant detective Auguste Dupin begat not only Sherlock Holmes, but myriad novels, movies & TV series; also, his gothic horror stories have inspired many of today's popular writers, but it's completely unfair to blame Poe for all that.

I'm not saying that he never wrote a good poem. For instance, "Sonnet: To Science," with its erratic meter, exemplifies the irrational fear of science during the Romantic age. To make it relevant to today's audience, it speaks to Republicans & the religious right, seemingly stuck in the 19th century, unable to budge from the flypaper of their antebellum views.

I'm fairly confident Poe wrote other good poems too--I mean, he probably did, right? Odds are in his favor.

(Fun fact: you can sing "Annabel Lee" to the tune of the Benny Hill theme. It's true! Try it yourself! )

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Composition of Parody

I thought it might be interesting or at least time-consuming to make an entry detailing the processes by which I wrote one of my poetic parodies. I'm sure some poets would prefer having it understood that they compose by ecstatic intuition--A Fine Madness (1966), if you will, starring Sean Connery & Joanne Woodward--& would shudder if the public took a peep behind the scenes at the unspoken crudities of thoughts, or worse yet, witnessed the totally groddy reality of throwing back chalices of Cold Duck, burning clove cigarettes down to their nubby butts, vociferously disowning hackneyed ideas like skanky promiscuous cousins while selecting & rejecting pretentious, possibly plagiarized lines from poets long dead, gratefully, their work now public domain.

For my part, I have neither sympathy for the alluded repugnances (hint: set out a bowl of chips & wear more than a bathrobe when the public plans to drop by) nor the least difficulty in recounting the progressive or retrogressive steps, the chutes & ladders, the candy apple red & metallic blue spray painted graffiti, the fancy faded feathers of my great great great grandmother's mothballed boa, the ridiculously numbered & numerous saved files & folders that comprise my literary histrio, so I hope it will not be looked upon as breach of decorum or, worse, interminably dull if slowly I turn-- for the sake of analysis & self-promotion--& step by step, en by en detail the M.O. of one of my works, i.e., "Aspects of Dagwood."

I've selected this poem because it is conveniently located on my publisher's website, where my book, Nearing Narcoma, can be procured at a reasonable price.

If we dismiss as irrelevant to the circumstance--or say, the drunken debauchery, requisite, if we are to understand determinism, of my graduate studies--which, in the first place, gave rise to the intention of composing a poem, this post would proceed considerably faster, so let us, then, skip giddy as schoolgirls ahead.

Obviously, there's a limit in relation to length for all works of literary art—that limit being the patience of today's reader--think fruit fly--& although in certain genres this limit may be exceeded--I'm looking at you, Stephen King--in a poem, eh, not so much. Indeed, the poem seems to have, at least on some level, an intimate relationship with its merit—in other words, to the excitement or degree of elevation (if you know what I mean, wink, nudge) it is capable of inducing; for clearly length is in direct ratio to the intensity of the intended effect, with one proviso—that some duration is absolutely necessary for producing any effect at all. Am I right, ladies?

Again, in other words, it's not the length, but how you use it. Holding in view these considerations, as well as that degree of excitement which I hoped to achieve, I reached at once, having meditated long & hard, a right length for my intended poem: 30 lines, the exact number of lines Weldon Kees should have used in "Aspects of Robinson," which, coincidentally, I'd chosen to parody.

My next thought concerned dinner. The choice of an impression or effect to be conveyed I kept in view throughout the rendering of the meal, a recipe universally recognizable as stew. I should be carried too far out of my immediate topic were I to elucidate upon the ingredients--corn, peppers, chicken, onions, potatoes, green beans, etc. However, my point is, as I repeatedly insisted between nibbling saltines & slurping spoonfuls of victuals, whereas Beauty is the sole legitimate province of the poem, Humor, if not a self-governing commonwealth like Puerto Rico, is (at the very least) an unincorporated territory like Guam.

The question of citizenry settled, my next question referred to tone. All experience has shown the tone of poetry to be one of sadness. "What's profoundly sad/is often beautiful," I myself have written in a poem which appeared a few years ago in Main Street Rag. Unfortunately, unless you purchase a back issue of the magazine, you won't be able to read this potentially classic poem in its entirety until I find a publisher for my second full-length manuscript. Adding to this tone--or, if you will, tome--of melancholy, is the difficulty I have encountered in finding a home for this aforesaid manuscript, although well respected editors at more than one university publishing house have deemed it "smart & funny."

Thus, melancholy must surely be the most "legitimate" of all the poetical tones. Having stayed out all hours on the weekend--despite having sworn "nevermore" to such escapades--& waking up next to a wild eyed apparition with a screeching raven tattoo on her left breast, I asked myself—“Of all melancholy topics, what, according to the universal understanding of mankind, is the most melancholy?” Sunday morning—was the obvious reply. “And what,” I said, “of this most melancholy of topics is most ironic?” For anyone who knows me, the answer, here also, is obvious—Sunday funnies because, unquestionably, they're just not funny.

Here then the poem may be said to have its beginning—at the beginning, where all works of art should begin--for it was here, at this point of my preconsiderations, that I began:

Dagwood dealing poker in Ed Feeley's garage; an unshaded
Bulb blares over his pin-cushion head. At the table,
Simple men puffing black stogies, quaffing frothy mugs.
The one with red hair, buck teeth takes the pot with three aces,
A king & a queen, all the same suit. A fearful voice.
—Here comes Blondie mad as a goose, Dagwood.

I may as well say a few words about versification since I have a few minutes before tee time. My first object (as usual) was originality, to the extent to which this is possible in parody. Where I have been negligent, I offer in my defense: 1). for centuries, no one has, in reality, done anything original; 2). the attainment of originality is less the product of invention than negation, the baliwick of parody; & 3). I have a terrible slice that I can't seem to straighten out, if you'll pardon the pun, no matter how many buckets of balls I hit at the driving range.

However skillfully handled, there's always a certain hardness which repels the artistic eye. For my part, I've included nonesuch imagery in my poem, having declined to impart into a work of art details of the more grotesque nature I have personally encountered, in especial, the turd frozen in the inoperative public toilet at a local Texaco. Rendering instead the colorful, dream-like quality of the comics, the stomping grounds of today's transcendentalists, I thus instilled my poem with lasting literary quality, as is apparent in the concluding stanzas—

Insomniac Dagwood with a fat sandwich of cold cuts.
Dagwood squawking in the tub when the ladies' club
Drops by. Dagwood dangling from the bathroom window,
Drippy wet towel draped around his bottom,
Red Z’s masking his face like a bland whodunit. Bells.
—Mr. Dithers wants you, Dagwood.

Dagwood whooshing out the door. Dagwood late for the bus.
Dagwood sporting the familiar bow tie & slouch hat.
Dagwood in polka-dot boxers, hiking his trousers,
Pecking Blondie on the cheek, slurping down coffee
As he runs out, slamming pow! into the postman. Letters
Flutter around them like fragments of Dagwood's recycled pulp.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Free Sample

Since my web page remains under construction, I've decided you, gentle reader, should be rewarded for your patience. Therefore, I'm providing you absolutely free of charge a poem freshly selected from my chapbook, Here's How--which, if you care about me & by extension all humanity, you'll freely purchase a copy of tout de suite.

Leda & the Sun

A lemon wedge pushing through some ice cubes
which are actually clouds, the sun beads down
on the woman. As if feeding a flame,
she re-lubes the backs of her thighs, her ass
round as a turtle shell. Knowing the sun
isn't really a fruit, she shakes the sand
from her peroxidic mop. Fingers climb
her back to find the vague string that loosens

with a quick tug her small swimsuit & she
wriggles free. Now the sun's on her however
she turns, her skin tingling with each ray's
penetration. Being so undone, does
she shudder in light of the changing tide
when the indifferent sun goes down on her?

This poem first appeared in the long defunct Great Midwestern Journal during the last millennium--so there's the test of time, the test of all great poetry, put to rest one way or another--under the title "The Sunbather." I changed the title prior to the publication of Here's How--which by law you've implicitly agreed to purchase by continuing to read my post--to "Leda & the Sun" in an attempt to ride Yeats' considerable coattails.

My dear reader, of course, you don't actually have to purchase Here's How. You could buy Nearing Narcoma, my prize winning first book, which is now out of print, so be smart & pick up a few extra copies today before it's a collector's item.

Also, be sure to ask me how you can receive an autographed copy of either book. Or better yet, both! Operators are on duty. Inquire within!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Call for Dap

Yeah, I pretty much nailed the Super Bowl with my prediction. True, I was a smidge off on the final score, but I was in the general neighborhood--now decimated by the bad economy--calling the 4 point margin of victory on the nose.

Still not convinced? Wait--there's more!

Not only did I have the exact point differential, but I also foresaw the Steelers' 4th quarter comeback as well as the Cardinals' failed rally as time wound down. I'm a poet & a prophet as in a Frank Sinatra tune.

Okay, he says "pauper," not "prophet," but both apply to me--& if Frank's crooning about you, baby, you gotsta be doing something right.