Two years ago I took third runner-up in the Alfred Joyce Kilmer Memorial Bad Poetry Contest. At last night's go-round, the 22nd annual, I won. (Bwog, the Columbia Spectator, and CTV News have coverage of the contest.) Here's the text of my entry and the audio of my performance.
My Husband Was In There, Like A Kumquat!
or, Explosion At The Poem Factory
or, 364 Days Without A Lost Rhyme Accident
or, St. Elmo's Fife
or, It's Definitely One Of These Titles, We Haven't Conclusively Determined Which Quite Yet, But Don't Worry, Forensic Poets Are Already On The Scene And We'll Be Sure To Keep You Posted
or, This Just In, It's Not The Fife One
by Amitai Schlair, GS '09
Poetry is like sausage.
Venison villanelles, saucisson sestinas, braunschweiger ballades, kielbasa couplets,
Pure pork pastourelles.
We simply go to the book-tcher shop and point to what we want:
“The summer sausage and the sunshine patriot ale…”
Some say it is best, for fullest enjoyment, not to know how our poems are prepared.
We hear the glorious end result and imagine the ink, the sweat, the blood, the eyeballs, the gizzards, the salvaged anuses
That went into it.
But only metaphorically.
Today we are reminded that it is all too real.
For today, in a quiet neighborhood unaccustomed to strife,
Tragedy has hungrily struck.
It is true that the great poems of canon are wrought by artists of the highest order,
Artists willing to sacrifice for every gleaming word their ink, their sweat, their blood
And occasionally their other stuff.
Yet those exalted poems are but a small sliver of the poetic ecosystem.
We could not have our teeming multitudes of lesser poems, were they wrought artis-anally.
Today, we must come full facial with the very real, very human, and very dead
Real humans who have given us so much.
In a bygone era we would have lost our local poemsmith and his trusty apprentice,
And would have relied on monthly shipments of scrawled parchment by horse from the Bronx.
A great loss, to be sure, but we would have overcome.
Changing economic conditions forced the poem manufacturing industry to consolidate
And outsource to former British colonies with proportionally fewer white people.
So it was a real point of pride when Amalgamated Verse and Strophe
Decided to build a poem factory right here in Morningside Heights
Despite knowing full well that a handful of conscientious objectors would vocally oppose the move.
In its first year, the factory brought jobs and economic stability to the area
And increased the quantity of mediocre multipurpose poem output by 47% without any statistically significant increase in quality.
Times were good for the poem industry and its industrious workers.
But this morning, for reasons as yet unknown, things took a turn for the bratwurst.
Right now, all we know is that the metaphor mixer malfunctioned,
Yielding metaphors well above acceptable purity levels.
The poem-production system was not designed to withstand this kind of artistic improvement
And the machinery failures cascaded catastrophically
Starting with the top-of-the-line Mephistropheles 9000.
The spring fell out of the sprung rhythm onto the shop floor;
The amphibrach broke;
The enjambment jammed;
The anacrusis, encrusted;
And the kenning ceased to ken.
The employee nearest the delivery dock, who operated the meter meter, observed the assembly line moving slow as molossus
And immediately knew something was a foot.
“Wait a minute,” he says he said. “Iamb quite certain even our sweetest poems contain no molossus!”
And he drove off in one of the delivery trochees, a converted Nissan Stanza, moments before the factory's structural concrete verses shattered and splattered acrostic the shop floor.
If only his coworkers had had the good sestina to do limerikewise, perhaps more of them would be alitterive todouble-dactyl.
In this time of grief, we are left with many questions.
Could the tragedy have been averted?
What caused poem quality to rise so dangerously high?
What's molossus mean, anyway?
We may never have satisfactory answers to these questions.
Even so, we must honor the memory of those who died so that ordinary poetry might live.
I ask each of you now to recall a particularly empty cliché,
A tenuous metaphor,
A tenuous rhyme,
A repeated adjective,
A breath taken between lines
Where there was no intervening punctuation —
Or to conjure a new and inelegant turn.
Just something to recall the eminently imitable style of those who are now gone from us.
We will now observe a moment of silence for the deceased poem-laborers.