RUS BOWDEN                      
 

POEMMANIA


The Best of the Best American Poetry 2001
vs.
The Best of the InterBoard Poetry Competition 2001

Dramatis Personae

LESTER B. SAVVY, host
DEWEY X. SPURTI, guest host
REED CLAUS, referee
MICHAEL BUFFER, special guest announcer
PAPA LUKE, World Poetry Revolution president
SWEET NIGHT ALIVE, poem personified
MAYBELLINE, poem manager
JERSEY RAIN, poem personified
RESURRECTION, poem personified
HERE, poem personified
SNOW DAY, poem personified
HOSPITAL TIME, poem personified
SULTRY MISS SULTRY, poem manager


Scene

October 11, 2002 A.D., the Poetry Loom, a stadium bowl set on hard ground downriver from the Pawtucket Falls in the sweet air of Lowell Massachusetts, a city at its height as a National Historical Park, where bricks of roads and mill buildings step in time to office space, condos and museums, the birthplace of The American Industrial Revolution, now weaving itself into the greatest arena on earth, The Worldwide Poetry Revolution.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

LESTER B. SAVVY

Welcome folks and esteemed poets! You can hear the crowd buzzing with anticipation as we've sold out here at The Loom, a remarkable feat of modern architectural design with its splashes of 20th-century sprawl, the large boxed-in and elled brick buildings of the 18th and 19th centuries, 3-D displays of continental and ancient poetics in a maze of corridors, and not a blocked view in the house, for a capacity crowd of poetry lovers, many sharing this event with friends and family! With me in the glassy booth overlooking this spectacle, our guest host for this evening, ladies and gentleman, the critic of on-line critics, Dewey X. Spurti!

DEWEY X. SPURTI

Thanks Savvy. This arena looks to me like a storage room for waving plastic dummies with DVD players in their chest cavities, and rehashed placards from old union strikes, assembled for a bunch of near-do-well poems without any original moves, beating each other up, which may be the best thing to happen here tonight. And why isn't this event taking place in San Francisco or London? Lowell's long been an suppressor of poetry. Lucy Larcom and Jack Kerouac, neither born here, both had to go on the road to write their best works.

SAVVY

I beg to differ with you Dewey! This very-much alive crowd we have on hand tonight is of the same mettle as the crowds poets have played to down through the centuries, and without their cheers and support, poety cannot thrive. Indeed, it was this very city with its Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant church bells, they say, that inspired Edgar Allen Poe's champion "The Bells"!

DEWEY

Poe Schmoe. Those bells don't chime much any more, and as to his poem, I still get a ringing in my ears . . .

(Reed Claus enters the ring, and following him, Michael Buffer)
(Ding! Ding! Ding!)

SAVVY

I hate to cut you off, Dewey, but that's our bell as Michael Buffer has entered the squared circle and this crowd erupts with a standing ovation! Let's go to the ring and hear what he has to say!

MICHAEL BUFFER

Ladieeeees and gentlemen! From the Poetry Loom in the historic city of Lowell Massachusetts, I'm Michael Buffer, with World Poetry Revolution president Papa Luke at his ringside table, distinguished referee Reed Claus, three formidable poems of Best American Poetry 2001, David Lehman editor and Robert Hass guest editing, and the upstart champion poems from The InterBoard Poetry Competition, Gina Bryson editor. Let's get rea-dy to rumm-blllle!!

(crowd goes wild)

Dancing down the yellow-brick aisle to the tune of "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," from the Warren C. Norwood poem ranch in that great state of Texas U S of A, representing The Academy of American Poets forum poets.org, accompanied by his beautiful, tight-sweatered, long-lashed manager, Maybelline, ladies and gentlemen, IBPC's second place poem for the month of January 2001, revved up with downtown to go, at 225 pounds, Sweet Night Alive!

SAVVY

This crowd is going ballistic! repeatedly shouting, "Sweet Night Alive!" In a stunning upset of IBPC's gorilla of a first-place poem for 2001, Opposable Thumbs are Important, and her manager, Sultry Miss Sultry, setting up for their finishing move, the Come On, a Head Vise locked on from behind, thumbs clamping the temple of her opponent, mesmerized by Sultry's strutting and cleavage display outside the ring--Night's manager Maybelline, eyes twinkling, shook that tight sweater of hers and gestured to Sweet Night Alive if he knows how to shift! Needless to say, Night slipped the clutch and applied his own finishing maneuver, a perfectly timed Good Night Drive! And it was Thumbs under the pillow, Maybelline batting those long lashes!

(Sweet Night Alive enters the ring at his corner, Maybelline just outside the ropes there)

DEWEY

True, but whatever happened to the Greco-Roman . . .

(Jersey Rain enters the stadium, the crowd's shouting over Dewey, repeating, "Who's you favorite poem")

BUFFER

Swaggering down the opposite aisle, the fourth-place finisher of the BAP 2001 major-print poem-offs--and here in place of Jorie Graham's third-place Gulls, who could not make it to the web tonight--signing autographs, to the tune of Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA," from the stables of the former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, having made his debut at The Atlantic Monthly, ladies and gentlemen, the handsome, big-boned and muscular, 285-pound, podium-solid, Jersey Rain!

(crowds oohs)

SAVVY

Wow, Dewey, what a specimen!

DEWEY

Although Jersey Rain is weak-kneed compared to the great poems of the past, looking over the tale of the tape, I'm calling this event a shut-out by the BAP's. This is going to be PoemMassacre . . .

(Ding! Ding! Ding!)

SAVVY

There's the bell and this one's under way.

JERSEY RAIN

Now near the end of the middle stretch of road

SWEET NIGHT ALIVE

It's the tone of the phone.

SAVVY

They're circling the ring, spitting on their hands! It's a psychological game as much as a battle of fluidity and word strength!

NIGHT

It's the tune of the moon.

JERSEY

What have I learned? Some earthly wiles. An art.

SAVVY

Night bounces his shoulder off the ropes, ricochets off the far ropes, moves in to mix it up with Jersey, and Jersey slips out of the way, and now towers over Night looking him square in the eyes!

JERSEY

That often I cannot tell good fortune from bad,
That once had seemed so easy to tell apart.

SAVVY

And now he's got Night in a headlock in the center of the ring! Look at those massive biceps!

NIGHT

It's the fate of date. It's the heat of the beat.

SAVVY

Night pushes out! Jersey didn't have the headlock on tight enough!

DEWEY

The art of the headlock is to grind the knuckles into the opponent's skull, not just stand there flexing at middle-aged women.

NIGHT

It's the drive of the sweet night alive.

JERSEY

The source of art and woe aslant in wind
Dissolves or nourishes everything it touches.

SAVVY

Night bounces off the ropes and comes off feet first with a flying drop kick to the back of Jerseys head! Jersey's still standing, but looks stunned, trying to collect himself! Those are the same words Jersey's used to apply the sleeper hold on other opponents, but Night is tanked up for this event!

DEWEY

Tell it like it is, Savvy, Jersey's babbling and wobbling on weak knees. I told you so.

NIGHT

It's the mode of the road. It's the feel of the wheel.
It's the scope of the hope. It's the bliss of the kiss.

SAVVY

Night's clapping his hands, dancing around the ring, looking at the crowd, stomping his right foot, and this crowd is thundering to the beat! They love this poem!

NIGHT

It's the drive of the sweet night alive.

SAVVY

He blows them a kiss, backs up, bounces his shoulder against the ropes, and . . .

JERSEY

What roadbank gullies and ruts it doesn't mend
It carves the deeper, boiling tawny in ditches.

NIGHT

It's the wail of the gale. It's the snap of the rap.

SAVVY

. . . Jersey sees it coming, comes back to life, steps out of the way, and Night flies--crotch-first into the far second rope! He's down. That's got to hurt!

MAYBELLINE

Get up, Night! Night!

JERSEY

It spends itself regardless into the ocean.
It stains and scours and makes things dark or bright:

SAVVY

Maybelline is trying to inspire her poem! Suavé Jersey winks at Maybelline, who blushes, and he drags Night into the center of the ring by the ankles!

JERSEY

Sweat of the moon, a shroud of benediction,
The chilly liquefaction of day to night,

SAVVY

Jersey hooks the leg for a cover!

REED CLAUS

One! Two! Th . . .

NIGHT

It's the cant of the chant. It's the flash of the Nash.
It's the drive of the sweet night alive.

SAVVY

And almost gets an early pinfall! At the word "night," Night kicks out! Where that energy comes from, I do not know. But Night is still on his back reeling. Jersey is definitely in control of this match!

DEWEY

I told you this was going to be a massacre.

JERSEY

The Jersey rain, my rain, soaks all as one:

SAVVY

Jersey's leans over Night, presses those large hands onto his chest, and bats his eyes at Maybelline outside the ring.

(Maybelline's eyes twinkle. She bats her long lashes back at Jersey Rain)

JERSEY

It smites Metuchen, Rahway, Saddle River,
Fair Haven, Newark, Little Silver, Bayonne.

SAVVY

And Jersey chops Night across the neck with a series of his patented Rain Slaps!

DEWEY

That's not a finishing maneuver, but meant to wear an opponent down. I've seen it done better. Notice too that Jersey keeps his left hand on Night's chest with the word "It," that Night overuses. Night's got to mix it up, but he's incapable, a second-rate poem.

JERSEY

I feel it churning even in fair weather

REED

One!

SAVVY

Jersey's going for the cover!

MAYBELLINE

I wish I were a Jersey girl.

Two . . .

(Maybelline flips her hem up at Jersey)

NIGHT

It's the flirt of the skirt. It's the tease of the squeeze.

SAVVY

Night kicks out, rolls under the bottom rope, and falls outside the ring at Maybelline's pumps!

REED

One!

SAVVY

Night better get back into the ring before the count of ten!

REED

Two!

DEWEY

He doesn't belong in the ring. He belongs

REED

Three!

DEWEY

in the Academy gym doing reps

REED

Four!

DEWEY

of anapests and rhymes for the jazzercize girls.

REED

Five!

NIGHT

It's the view of the blue.

SAVVY

Night's getting up!

REED

Six!

NIGHT

It's the swell of the bell.

(crowd comes alive)

REED

Seven!

DEWEY

And tonight he's just a crowd-pleaser

(Maybelline kisses Sweet Night Alive on the cheek)

REED

Eight!

DEWEY

but not a bona fide

REED

Nine!

DEWEY

poem.

NIGHT

It's the drive of the sweet night alive.

(crowd goes wild)

SAVVY

And with the crowd on its feet, clapping to the beat, Night catapults the top rope back into the ring, just in time!

JERSEY

To craze distinction, dry the same as wet.

NIGHT

It's the glide of the ride.

SAVVY

They each miss with telegraphed round-house rights!

JERSEY

In ripples of heat the August drought still feeds
Vapors in the sky that swell to smite the state --

SAVVY

Jersey catches nothing but air with that Vapor Hug!

NIGHT

It's the slick of the stick.
It's the start of the heart. It's the sound of the pound.

SAVVY

Night slides between Jersey's legs, Heimlichs him, arches, and pounds the Rain back in a magnificently executed Twilight Flip!

NIGHT

It's the drive of the sweet night alive.

SAVVY

Shoulders to the mat! Jersey is pinned!

REED

One!

JERSEY

The Jersey rain, my rain, in streams and beads

SAVVY

Jersey grabs the ropes!

(Reed gestures "no" with an index finger and taps Night on the left shoulder)

SAVVY

And Reed Claus breaks the hold!

JERSEY

Of indissoluble grudge and aspiration:

NIGHT

It's the thrill of the spill. It's the rush of the blush.

SAVVY

And our two poems are back on their feet! We're almost at the time limit!

DEWEY

Well, if this one goes to a decision, you'd have to give it to Jersey Rain for the superior moves, dominating the middle of the fight, and controlling the pace.

SAVVY

He also has not allowed Maybelline to play into the match to Night's advantage!

JERSEY

Original milk, replenisher of grief,

NIGHT

It's the sigh of the high.

SAVVY

They spit on their hands and spring off opposite ropes!

NIGHT

It's the drug of the hug.

JERSEY

Descending destroyer,

SAVVY

We're going to have a center-ring, front-end collision, of flying body presses!

NIGHT

It's the drive of the sweet night alive.

It's the drive of the sweet night alive.
It's the drive of the sweet night . . .

JERSEY

arrowed source of passion,
Silver and black, executioner,

SAVVY

Jersey has flattened Night like a washed-out love note, with his devastating high-flying Jersey Downpour!

(Reed lifts the wrist of Night and it flops back to the mat)

REED

One!

DEWEY

I told you so.

(Reed lifts the wrist of Night and it flops back to the mat)
(crowd is silent)

REED

Two!

MAYBELLINE

Say, "alive," Night Doll!

(Reed lifts the wrist of Night and it flops back to the mat)

REED

Three!

(Ding! Ding! Ding!)
(Maybelline enters the ring, kisses and revives Sweet Night Alive)

NIGHT

alive

(crowd gasps and applauds)

SAVVY

Night is getting up slowly!

DEWEY

There he goes, hobbling off, leaning on Maybelline.

(exit Sweet Night Alive and Maybelline)
(Papa Luke enters the ring with a white stationery box in his hand)
(crowd stops applause)

SAVVY

And it looks like we have an announcement from Papa Luke!

(Papa Luke takes the mike)

SAVVY

Let's go to the ring and hear what he has to say!

PAPA LUKE

Ladies and gentlemen.

(echo: "gentlemen, gentlemen")

The World Poetry Revolution's third place winner

(echo: "winner, winner")

for 2001,

(echo: "one, one")

how about a big hand

(echo: "big hand, big hand")

for Jersey Rain.

(crowd applauds enthusiastically, some whistle)

DEWEY

Savvy, I'm going out back for a smoke.

(exit Dewey)

PAPA

Jersey Rain, would you come over here to ring center to accept your award?

(echo: "award?, award?")

JERSEY

font of life.

(Jersey walks from his corner)
(Papa opens the box lid)

PAPA

Mama Luke made this while fiddling with some software we got with our computer system.

(echo: "system, system")

It's a wonderful, flower-bordered certificate on ivory, linen-finish paper, which says,

(echo: "which says, which says")

"World Poetry Revolution Third Place Finisher 2001," with a blank line under it, which

(echo: "which, which")

I am now writing your name onto and am about to sign.

(echo: "to sign, to sign")
(Papa writes squeakily on the paper with a black marker)

It is my hope you cherish it, lavishly frame it,

(echo: "frame it, frame it")
(Papa hands it to Jersey Rain)

for display in the front foyer of the main building

(echo: "building, building")

at Boston University.

(crowd stands and applauds)

SAVVY

Well there you have it, folks! The mighty Jersey Rain is 2001's third-place poem!

(exit Jersey Rain up the aisle, signing autographs, and Papa Luke to his ringside table)
(enter Dewey to the booth)

SAVVY

Welcome back, Dewey, and just in time for our next bout!

(ring!)
(Papa Luke picks up his ringside phone)

DEWEY

I'm here for poetry, not . . .

(Michael Buffer enters the ring)
(crowds buzzes)
(Papa Luke nods his head and hangs up the phone)

SAVVY

I hate to interrupt you, Dewey, but here's a mint! And I believe we're about to begin our next match!

BUFFER

Ladieeees and Gentlemen!

(enter Resurrection)
(crowd gasps)

Coursing down the aisle to the tune of "Heat Wave," another poem representing the great online forum poets.org, published in sundry versions throughout the web, from the training center of Jerry H. Jenkins in the lover's state of Virginia, coming off three controversial matches--first this poem's loss to IBPC's second-place poem of 2001, Drizzle, by Mitchell Metz, avenged here two nights ago, then his disputed loss to PoemMania's 2001 web champion Hospital Time--now entering the ring in top form, the body-building phenomenon, flexing his chest muscles for the crowd, 270 pounds of steel on bones, an oiled-up and fired Resurrection!

(crowds stands, heads shaking, applaud)

SAVVY

Resurrection is glowing! His eyes seem to be pulsing flames from a furnace!

(Papa Luke picks up a phone and dials)

DEWEY

All decisions of Papa Luke are final. He never should have let Hospital Time get that close to him in points. His problem is he just doesn't move well enough at the championship level in a venue such as this. That may be why Anthony Hecht's Sarabande On Attaining The Age Of Seventy-Seven took second place to I stopped writing poetry . . . by Bernard Welt in the AAP forum voting. This is also why some say Yeats must take a back . . .

SAVVY

Something's going on! Resurrection's opponent, Here, is delayed coming out for our bout!

(Papa Luke nods, hangs up the phone)

DEWEY

This will give me a chance to address a pet poetry . . .

(Here enters the arena, stands at the top of the stairs)

SAVVY

I hate to interrupt, Dewey! But Here has entered the arena and is standing at the top of the stairs!

BUFFER

Now entering the arena, and standing up the red-bricked aisle at the top of the stairs to the tune of "I Am Woman," from the Grace Paley organization, with headquarters in both New York and Vermont, finding a home in both The Massachusetts Review and Poetry Daily, before moving up to represent them all in Best American Poetry 2001, and now, reaching the height of world-class poetry, here, ladies and gentlemen, weighing in at a super-toned, manslaying 160 pounds, a family favorite everywhere, oiled-up and ready, it's Here!

(crowd goes wild)

Here, would you come down to the ring?

(Papa Luke approaches the ring with a piece of paper, waves it at Buffer)

SAVVY

What's going on here?

(Buffer takes the piece of paper, opens it, reads silently)
(Here runs down to the ring, low-fiving the crowd on her way, crowd cheers)

BUFFER

At the request of Resurrection and the agreement of Here, Papa Luke has sanctioned this to be a very special match-up. Ladies and gentlemen, we will now witness the first ever male/female poem pose-down!

(crowd whoops and cheers loudly)

The rules are as follows. Each poem will have a chance to pose, then the crowd's applause will register on Papa Luke's applause-o-meter at ringside. Starting off, ladies and gentleman, Resurrection!

(crowd noise intensifies, more hoots and whoops)
(Buffer goes to a neutral corner, Resurrection center ring)

SAVVY

An amazing development in poetry here tonight, a highly unusual poem pose-down! Is Resurrection such a gentleman that he does not want to hit a lady? I just have to wonder at this!

DEWEY

Resurrection doesn't want to deal with the caesuras when Here seems to disappear on her opponents only to sweep their legs leaving them face down on the mat. He wants to showboat his form and I don't blame him. But I don't know why Here has agreed to this.

(Ding! Ding! Ding!)
(lights lower, and two spotlights merge onto Resurrection)

RESURRECTION

Heat waves rise from the fields in tropic sun.
Along the dusty road the battered cars
lie in a field. These rusty skeletons
have been collected here and abandoned, far
from the emptied cities, their headlights blind as stone.
They lie unclaimed, their ownership unknown.

SAVVY

Look at those interlaced rhymes coming to the skin surface, the omoioteleton work at the end of the first four lines! And the five accented syllables per line, cadenced with iambs, but with smooth variations, Spencerian, wouldn't you say? although I am not sure about line four there. But still, he follows through in a form-to-communication marvel!

DEWEY

Okay, Savvy, you do the expert commentary and I'll talk about his glow. He's not the first poem to use meter and rhyme.

RESURRECTION

Skulls are piled on a table. Jawless and round,
some rest at an angle. All have eggshell cracks.
They stare into themselves, reliving the sound
of the hatchet, the crushing bar, the iron pickaxe.
Out of the grove and grave, they lie revealed,
stolid as geodes broken in the field.

The storm has receded now. The violence ebbs,
leaving a shoal of bones thrown in a tangle,
smooth and hard with the heft and weight of clubs,
in hexagons and accidental angles.
Their knurled ends are porous with honeycombs,
small cells filled with detritus, blood and loam.

SAVVY

Look at his eyes, Dewey, they stare into you, and bring something alive within the movement, like a religion! And did you see that stanza-to-stanza transition? Resurrection is really in his element now, rising as if to teach some wisdom of the ages, one can sense it. Look at his word choice, the music building in those last two lines. This is magnificent!

RESURRECTION

Dark birds pick through the silent, polished tiers
of knob and shank and curve. Prismatic eyes
of waxy scorpions glitter and disappear
in this wilderness of jackstraw ribs and thighs.
A swell of pelvis rises as a wave
stilled in its cresting. Ribs curve up like staves.

SAVVY

This use of helper animals is remarkable as it is ancient! And he moves so elegantly to bring life to the bones from the earth, piecing the spirits of the past together, pieces urging to come back to life, to come out whole from some hidden memory or where?--some somewhere, somewhere right here in the Loom!

RESURRECTION

A child meanders among a stand of trees
and stoops to pick up an object in the dust,
examines it, then gives it to her mother
who drops it back to the earth. Pity? Disgust?
The ground grows human teeth, and no one bothers
to mourn these countless anonymities.

SAVVY

Is the past to be feared? I'm sorry, I'm being swept into the scene. Dewey, this is amazing!

DEWEY

Haven't you ever read a poem before?

RESURRECTION

Starlings twitter and squeak in the hot schoolyard.
Their chattering hints of what still lies inside.
Shuttered windows high in the gray walls hide
the cramped stone cells, the shackles and the barred
cell doors, the bloodstained tile. In silent air
there is a lingering presence of despair.

SAVVY

I'll just let him finish his routine!

DEWEY

Good idea.

RESURRECTION

And there is a wall with nameless photographs,
each with a number. A woman with haunted eyes,
who lies somewhere in the bleaching cenotaph,
pleads from her photo that we realize
she was that mother whose child plucks at her sleeve.
She was alive, and she was here. Believe

these scattered ones, exhumed from the skullcapped ground.
Insistent, blind and dumb as the seasons' turning,
they whisper of dust, and the earth's relentless round,
and they will be heard again, urgent and burning
with what they have seen.
Like chattering birds, they will come,
full of their secrets, out of the hecatomb.

(crowd cheers very loudly with a standing ovation)
(Papa Luke looks at the applause-o-meter, writes on a pad, his free hand cupping his writing)

SAVVY

I believe! And, silent throughout his routine, this crowd believes!

DEWEY

It was a good show, the format set to his favor, some awkward word choices seemed to be overlooked by the less-sensitive, like what do you make of "urgent and burning" and he seems overly impressed with the final word there. Nothing here that should etch into world anthology, but certainly the finest example of web poetry in the days of this competition. I pick Resurrection to win. Without a fight, Here cannot compete.

(Resurrection bows and goes to his corner, Here comes to center ring)

HERE

Here I am in the garden laughing
an old woman with heavy breasts
and a nicely mapped face

how did this happen
well that's who I wanted to be

SAVVY

This is a very beautiful pose for a woman, to be who she wanted to be.

DEWEY

Here is a prosy poem, and I hesitate to use the accepted misnomer prose poem. As we will see, Paley will defy critics who say that story writers don't write real poetry, but chopped fiction. And although she moves well with a flow of meaning and a modicum of metric development, this pose-down is not her poetic element.

HERE

at last       a woman
in the old style    sitting
stout thighs apart under
a big skirt    grandchild sliding
on    off my lap    a pleasant
summer perspiration

(crowd applauds, many heads nodding)

SAVVY

There, Dewey, there are the in-line caesuras that got her so far in her clashes with other contestants! And they look so good on Here here, wonderful form. And Here is glowing as she warms the crowd with her final line of the strophe!

HERE

that's my old man across the yard
he's talking to the meter reader
he's telling him the world's sad story
how electricity is oil or uranium
and so forth    I tell my grandson
run over to your grandpa    ask him
to sit beside me for a minute

(silence)

DEWEY

Why doesn't Here finish?

(crowd chatters)

SAVVY

I don't know what's going on either, Dewey! She might just have a chance in this competition!

DEWEY

If the audience is blind.

(Buffer takes the mike)

BUFFER

Here, why don't you finish your routine?

(Here looks at Resurrection, points to him, and looks at Buffer)

HERE

I

BUFFER

Yes, Here?

HERE

am suddenly exhausted by my desire
to kiss his sweet explaining lips

(crowd stands in unison, cheers very loudly)
(Papa Luke looks at the applause-o-meter, jots on a pad, his free hand cupping his writing)
(Resurrection gives Here an elbow)
(exit Resurrection and Here)

DEWEY

A crowd is entering into poetry again. This should be in the bag for Resurrection. But it's too close to call.

SAVVY

I don't know, Dewey, that's the same finishing move this hard-headed poem used to execute her patented Lights Out head butt on her other opponents! And it's a great gesture here as well!

(Ding! Ding! Ding!)
(Papa Luke comes into the ring, takes the mike)

And here's our decision!

PAPA

Ladies and gentlemen

(echo: tlemen, tlemen)

Resurrection scored "very loud" on the applause-o-meter.

(echo: eter, eter)

Here also scored "very loud" on the applause-o-meter, but closer to "out of control."

(echo: trol, trol)

Here is our winner, Here!

(crowd stands and cheers louder)

And since she's not here anymore,

(crowd quiets)

I will send her this wonderfully, flower-bordered

(echo: dered, dered)

certificate on ivory, linen-finish paper,

(echo: aper, aper)

which proclaims her to be 2001's

(echo: dwuns, dwuns)

World Poetry Revolution second-place finisher.

(crowd applauds)
(exit Papa from the ring to his table)

SAVVY

Well you just saw it, folks! After tonight, "BAP" may just begin to stand for Bad Ass Poems! The major publications have now taken two out of the three matches here tonight, but we're not finished!

DEWEY

Yes we are, Savvy. "IBPC" stands for Itty-Bitty Poetry Chumps, and Snow Day has already crippled far better folk poems than Hospital Time in the BAP poem-offs. I'm having a nicotine fit just thinking about it.

SAVVY

Our main event is about to take place!

(Snow Day enters the arena)
(crowd becomes ecstatic)

BUFFER

Ladieeeees and gentlemen! Our main event for this evening, the World! Poetry! Revolution! championship! match! Now entering the Loom, storming down the stairs to the soundtrack of "The Spellbound Concerto," at 500 enormous white pounds,

DEWEY

Everyone's pounds tonight are white.

BUFFER

hailing from that great state of New York,

DEWEY

Almost every poem here is from Eastern U.S.

BUFFER

wearing white trunks, carrying the New York Yellow Pages in his massive man-hands,

DEWEY

Almost every poem is male.

BUFFER

wearing the United States championship laurel in his white hair,

DEWEY

He scrapes faces with that thing.

BUFFER

from that great poetry white house of Billy Collins,

DEWEY

Spoiled, illegitimate child of Mr. Rogers and Mrs. Cleaver.

BUFFER

now entering the ring, another poem who debuted in The Atlantic Monthly, ladies and gentlemen, Snoooow Daaaay!

(crowd goes wild)

SAVVY

Snow Day! Snow Day!

DEWEY

Say something intelligent, Savvy.

SAVVY

This poem was even conceived in a blizzard! Even his eyes are pure white!

DEWEY

In person, this poem is down-to-earth, and like so many giants, not so imposing up close.

(Hospital Time enters, the crowd stands, tears up, and cheers)

BUFFER

Now entering the stadium, dancing down the yellow brick steps of the IBPC, to the tune of "Bad Case of Loving You," pushing a wheelchair carrying his "To David" plaque, hailing from the web's Cafe Utne and the Appalachian music and poetry center of Phil "Mr. Lucky" Stinson,

DEWEY

He'll need to get lucky tonight.

BUFFER

weighing in at 290 pounds, the expert of psychological warfare, ladies and gentleman: It's time! Entering the ring waving the plaque high, it's Hos-pital Tiiiime!

HOSPITAL TIME

To David

SNOW DAY

Today we woke up to a revolution of snow

(Ding! Ding! Ding!)

SAVVY

Hospital Time has jumped the bell and slammed Snow Day on the back of the head with the plaque! Snow Day is rounding the ring holding his head, and this bout is under way!

DEWEY

That's what Hospital has to do, and give Snow Day no chance to recover.

SNOW DAY

its white flag waving over everything,
the landscape vanished,

SAVVY

Heavens No! Snow Day has taken a thick twelve-inch icicle out of his trunks and cracked Reed Claus over the head! And our referee is out cold! white as a ghost!

DEWEY

He must have thought Reed was Hospital.

SNOW DAY

not a single mouse to punctuate the blankness,

(crowd boos)

SAVVY

And with another crack Hospital's out cold! and white as a ghost!

SNOW DAY

and beyond these windows

SAVVY

Snow Day climbs outside the ropes!

SNOW DAY

the government buildings smothered,
schools and libraries buried, the post office lost

(crowd boos, rips tickets)

SAVVY

He stands high up on the top turnbuckle! and soars down with an Upstate Avalanche onto the already unconscious Hospital! This is disgusting! This crowd is disgusted!

SNOW DAY

under the noiseless drift,

SAVVY

He whips stone-cold Hospital at the BAP corner!

DEWEY

He doesn't have to do this.

SNOW DAY

the paths of trains softly blocked,
the world fallen under this falling.

SAVVY

He's choking Hospital against the corner post with those massive hands!

SNOW DAY

In a while I will put on some boots
and step out like someone walking in water,

SAVVY

He's menacing the crowd, punching at them, as if to say you're next! Who does he think he is!?

SNOW DAY

and the dog will porpoise through the drifts,
and I will shake a laden branch,
sending a cold shower down on us both.

SAVVY

He's pacing the ring! waving that huge icicle of his! and howling like a wolf!

DEWEY

He's giving Hospital a lot of time to come to, but that may be impossible. Usually I would say that he needs to focus on the poem in front of him now, but that's a moot point.

SNOW DAY

But for now I am a willing prisoner in this house,
a sympathizer with the anarchic cause of snow.

SAVVY

Snow Day's back to his corner, white eyes glaring down on Hospital!

(crowd jeers)
(Here enters and stands at the top of the stairs)

SNOW DAY

I will make a pot of tea
and listen to the plastic radio on the counter,
as glad as anyone to hear the news

(crowd boos and jeers)
(exit Here)

SAVVY

He's picked up the New York Yellow pages with his right hand, his left cupping his ear, as he jeers at the crowd!

SNOW DAY

that the Kiddie Corner School is closed,
the Ding-Dong School, closed,
the All Aboard Children's School, closed,
the Hi-Ho Nursery School, closed,
along with--some will be delighted to hear--

SAVVY

This is maniacal! He's slamming the yellow pages down on what may already be a dead poem! This is maniacal! Somebody stop this!

SNOW DAY

the Toadstool School, the Little School,
Little Sparrows Nursery School,
Little Stars Pre-School, Peas-and-Carrots Day School,
the Tom Thumb Child Center, all closed,
and--clap your hands--the Peanuts Play School.

(Here, Maybelline and Sultry Miss Sultry, enter from the IBPC side, and stand at the top of the stairs)

SAVVY

Pulverizing a poem like this is against all decency and decorum! And against every rule in the Collins house. We've got no referee! and we've got pandemonium!

SNOW DAY

So this is where the children hide all day,
These are the nests where they letter and draw,
where they put on their bright miniature jackets,
all darting and climbing and sliding,

SAVVY

Snow Day is pointing to various children in the crowd, nodding with a mock smile, then cupping his ear at them!

SNOW DAY

all but the few girls whispering by the fence

(Sultry Miss Sultry whispers to Here, who whispers something to Maybelline)
(Maybelline gestures out the entrance)
(enter Sweet Night Alive to the top of the stairs, crouching behind Here, Sultry and Maybelline)

SNOW DAY

And now I am listening hard
in the grandiose silence of the snow,

SAVVY

And now he's cupping his ear up to the top of the stairs, at Here, Maybelline and Sultry Miss Sultry, taunting them too!

SWEET NIGHT ALIVE

It's the tone of the phone. It's the tune of the moon.
It's the fate of date. It's the heat of the beat.
It's the drive of the sweet night alive.

(crowd goes wild)

SAVVY

Night has entered the arena! Night has entered the arena!

DEWEY

It's too late. And he's a third-place loser.

SNOW DAY

trying to hear what those three girls are plotting,
what riot is afoot,
which small queen is about to be brought down.

NIGHT

It's the mode of the road. It's the feel of the wheel.
It's the scope of the hope. It's the bliss of the kiss.
It's the drive of the sweet night alive.

It's the wail of the gale. It's the snap of the rap.
It's the cant of the chant. It's the flash of the Nash.

SAVVY

Night is storming to the ring! He's in overdrive!

DEWEY

This isn't going to be pretty.

NIGHT

It's the drive of the sweet night alive.

SNOW DAY

Today we woke up to a revolution of snow,

SAVVY

Night leaps the top rope and drives his head into Snow Day's gut! Snow Day is circling the ring shaking his head!

NIGHT

It's the flirt of the skirt. It's the tease of the squeeze.
It's the view of the blue. It's the swell of the bell.

(Night looks up at Maybelline eyes twinkling, Here and Sultry blowing kisses, doing splits in the air)

SAVVY

Night's looking up at three sexy ladies, cheering him on! Maybelline has caught Night with her twinkling eyes, and Night's bell, so to speak, is swelling!

DEWEY

He can't lose his concentration, or he'll end up like Reed and Hospital, both still out cold.

NIGHT

It's the drive of the sweet night alive.

SAVVY

Night bounces against the ropes! He's going for the Good Night Drive!

(Reed comes to and stands up wobbling)

NIGHT

It's the glide of the ride. It's the slick of the stick.
It's the start of the heart. It's the sound of the pound.
It's the drive of the sweet night alive.

SAVVY

Center ring flying body press by Night!

NIGHT

It's the thrill of the spill. It's the rush of the blush.

SAVVY

They're down on the mat, Night on top trying to neck with Snow Day! What's this? A Good Night Kiss?!

SNOW DAY

its white flag waving over everything,

SAVVY

Snow Day has submitted!

(crowd cheers)
(Here and Sultry exit the Poetry Loom)

NIGHT

It's the sigh of the high. It's the drug of the hug.

SAVVY

Night has submitted! It's twilight time!

(Ding! Ding! Ding!)
(crowd goes from cheering to gabbing)

DEWEY

This is disgusting.

SAVVY

Haven't you ever seen two poems kiss before?

DEWEY

You called it "necking." No one calls it "necking" anymore.

(Papa, with the stationery box, and Buffer enter the ring, huddle with Reed)

I don't know how they're going to sort this out for a decision, but I'm afraid they're going to have to give it to Snow Day, who clearly dominated Hospital in the legal match, like it or not.

SAVVY

I'm going to leave the booth and go down to ringside to get a word or two from our winner! It could be Here!

(exit Savvy)

DEWEY

While the decision is being made, I just want to mention that I predicted a massacre, and called this event with a level head throughout, something sorely lacking in poetry today. I don't mean to toot my own horn, but if anything good can have come from this evening's debacle, many will agree that it was my expert commentary, and so it has been overridingly and poetically worthwhile. Furthermore, I have to say

(Ding! Ding! Ding!)

DEWEY

I told you so.

BUFFER

Ladieeees and Gentlemen!

(crowds stops its gabbing)

We have a decision, and we have a winner, and I have a plane to catch. It has been a great pleasure, for me to be here tonight, for me to be involved with the World Poetry Revolution's PoemMania. And here, its president with his announcement, Papa Luke.

(crowd gabs again)
(Buffer hands the mike to Papa, and exits the Poetry Loom)
(Savvy enters ringside from a side door)

PAPA

First, can we have a medic come down to the ring for Hospital Time?

(crowd gabbing)

Let me thank all you great fans for coming tonight.
It has been a great show.
All the poems have been wonderful,
all winners in their own right.
But we can have only one champion.

(crowd intensifies gabbing)

Because the match between Snow Day and Hospital Time
was not engaged with referee
Reed Claus consciously present
--and thank goodness he's all right--
and because

(some rebel yells added to crowd noise)

Snow Day submitted first in his match with Sweet Night Alive,
I sanction that match

(crowd to its feet cheering very loudly)

and the 21st-Century's first World Poetry Revolution Champion

(crowd cheering out of control)

Sweet Night Alive!

(crowd is frenzied and out of control)

PAPA

Night, would you come over here to accept your award?

NIGHT

It's the drive of the sweet night alive.

(Night gets off Snow Day and comes to Papa)

SNOW DAY

the landscape vanished,

(exit Snow Day from the Poetry Loom)
(Papa opens the box lid)

PAPA

I'm giving you this wonderful, flower-bordered certificate

(crowd gabbing, nodding)

on ivory, linen-finish paper, which says,
"World Poetry Revolution First Place Champion 2001,"
with a blank line under it, on which
I am now writing your name, and am about to sign.

(Papa writes squeakily on the paper with his black marker)

It is my hope you cherish it, scan it,
give it a URL, and link to it

(Papa hands it to Night)

at all your favorite on-line poetry forums.

(crowd stands and applauds)
(Papa Luke exits the Poety Loom, with Reed Claus)
(Night leaves the ring)
(Savvy approaches Night at ringside)
(Maybelline walks from the top of the stairs to the ring)

SAVVY

Congratulations, Night! You can hear this capacity crowd! Would you say something to the people at home, about PoemMania, poetry, anything at all?

NIGHT

It's the drive of the sweet night alive.
It's the drive of the sweet night . . .

(Maybelline passes by Night and Savvy, enters the ring)

NIGHT

alive.

(Night motions to Maybelline to come along)

MAYBELLINE

You go on ahead.

(exit Sweet Night Alive from the Poetry Loom)

DEWEY

That's it from the Poetry Loom tonight. We hope to see you next year, and for better poetry if I have anything to say about it.

(exit Dewey from the Poetry Loom, whacking a fresh cigarette pack against the back of his hand)
(Maybelline, eyes twinkling, kisses Hospital Time)

MAYBELLINE

Wake up, baby.

SAVVY

Folks at home, everyone's left but these die-hard poetry fans and us, as Maybelline has revived Hospital Time who is getting to his feet, understandably out of it! Let me get into the ring to see if I can get a word with him!

(Savvy enters the ring, where Maybelline's holding Hospital's arm, and mikes up to him)

Hospital Time, do you have anything to say to the people at home?

(all lights go out but one spotlight, on Hospital Time)

HOSPITAL TIME

To David

In this house we talk and cry
hammer out what we need to discover
stumble in from green hospital walls
try to sleep at odd hours
learn about the Shadow.
A cliché -- “the Shadow of Death.” Here's the rub...
It is here.

I need something to tide me over
drugs, sex, prayers, alcohol
today moves slow as the doctors deliberate.
You waver on your pillows.
Your eyes are looking off at some ocean.
If you leave, there will be serious problems.

I stand beside you, a Job's comforter

where there are no helpful answers
where any action is unsatisfactory
where no body, however young, is immune.

Beside you in the night terrors and grinding weariness
of even bothering to get through a day.
In the chill promise of mortality
numbing promise of sooner than later

Casting, grasping at straws;
chiropractic, shamanism, holism,
tinctures, astrological influences, Eastern breathing
scorned by doctors with nothing better to offer,
contradictory with veiled, noncommittal eyes

Watching dismayed as the pounds, needed muscle and fat
shrink to recent memory.
I clean your hair from the shower drain every day.

Beside you in silent solitary illuminations;
truths unanswerably implacable,
blinding, indifferent, terrifying,
beautiful, supernatural, hopeless.

Let's make fists of divine unfairness,
raised shaking at nothing in particular,
invoking unknown spirits
falling impotent and trembling

I'm beside you in confusion, weariness, and fear
as only a father can descend with a son.

Let me unflinching burn
these memories within.
I will still try and teach you to dance.

(exit Hospital Time, Maybelline and Savvy from the ring)
(crowd presses down to greet, and hoists Hospital Time onto shoulders)
(exit Savvy, the crowd, and Hospital Time with Maybelline from the Poetry Loom)
(lights dim)

 
 

RUS BOWDEN

I am a 47-year-old proud and single father of four (two grown and two teens), a carsalesman in my hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts, a summa cum laude graduate of Rivier College, and have been writing poetry for four years now, most recently published in The Writer's Hood, and Louisiana State University in Shreveport's Quarterly Journal of Ideology.

On the genesis of PoemMania, C.E. Chaffin had asked if I would write and submit an essay, maybe taking a look at distinguishing the finer on-line poetry reviews from the not-so-fine, or maybe even something to do with major print poetry. Looking for ideas, I read through some of the on-line reviews with comparison in mind, thought about recent essays in print periodicals, and then thought of the discussions on Best American Poetry 2001 that I was involved with earlier this year at poets.org, where I ranked, for the purpose of voting, my five favorite poems in that anthology. I turned my attention to the top three poems of each month for 2001's InterBoard Poetry Competition, determined my favorite three for the year, and realized I had a showdown on my hands, BAPís. IBPC, established print poetry vs. up-and-coming on-line poetry, an event, with only one fair way to decide who's the dog now: PoemMania.