attempted humor

3 posts

Reading Ulysses: Now I Know How Odysseus Felt

Wait. What page am I on in Ulysses? Only 186 with over 500 to go?

You can never be too old for an Irish door-stopper, I realize, but what about the eyes? Here I have this Oxford paperback of the 1922 version, and my eyes are killing me.

What is the font, anyway? Four? I’ll be blind as Joyce himself by the time this is over!

And really. In the head of first one Bloomin’ protagonist and then another (the inventive young Dedalus)? Stream of consciousness can’t help itself. It’s bound to be penny-ante trivial now and again as it babbles through this thought and that. Almost like Twitter.


But, no. Repeat after me (and my English professors): This is clever stuff.

I know because I am co-reading The New Bloomsday Book, a guide to Bloom’s odyssey, if you will (or even if you won’t). It tells me what I should know before Joyce tells me what I don’t know.

Worst of all for bibliophiles who don’t dedicate 18 hours a day to reading (raises hand)? All the other books mocking me.

I see this 200-pager and that 250-pager, each flashing its wiles, each saying, “Hey there, Big Reader. You could be reading me, and you know it. Why don’t you just put down that there little big book and come over to my place?”

Like the Sirens, they are.

My kingdom for two gobs of bee’s wax! Plugs for the ears! Here, here! (vs. Hear, Hear!). Now, now!

But I can’t let myself get distracted. If I do I”ll never make it to the final page (or, as I call it, “Penelope”).

And I admit it.  I’ve peeked — Joyce signed off on that page, writing “Trieste-Zurich-Paris, 1914-1921.”

Seven years, he took to write this thing! And probably somewhere in the many inches of pages that remain to be read, I’ll learn that “7” appears 735 times in the Bible, 54 in the Book of Revelation alone (duck!).

I guess this means I soldier on. In honor of Jimmy’s seven years. In honor of God’s seven days. In honor of the seven months it might take out of my reading life!

(As the Jesuits would say: Pray for me.)

My Rejection Note, Their Marketing Tool


Writers attract rejection via the inbox like electricity draws dust via static cling. It’s just part of the game. Sometimes, though, Emperor Nero publications add thumbs-down insult to injury, salt to wound, in- to dignity, when they use rejections as marketing opportunities. You know. Something like this:

Dear Writer:

Thanks for submitting your work to Poems R Us, where the acceptance rate is 1.487 %. After careful (of a sort..) consideration, we have decided that your poems are not the right fit for us — a size 13 extra-wide trying to wedge into a size 8 narrow, to be exact — but wish you the best of luck in finding this a home elsewhere (read: a publication nowhere near as prestigious and cutting-edge as ours).

If you haven’t already, you might consider giving Poems R Us‘s current issue a look HERE. Our archives of great poetry written by great poets can be found HERE. Please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter HERE and HERE. Share the link to our website with your friends, virtual, real,  and make-believe. Remember, we are home to the very best poetry appearing both in print and on the Internet.


Peter L’Editor
Poems R Us (But Not U)

Later, you begin to receive e-mails at the rate of two a week from this same periodical trumpeting this issue, that contest, these “insider” writers. Eventually, due to excessive swelling of the inbox, you’re forced to click UNSUBSCRIBE and wonder if invitations to submit are more likely invitations to add to mailing lists, to reading-fee coffers, and to overall data fodder.

That said, you must remain an optimist of the first order. Looking at the bright side — it’s nice to feel wanted, even if it’s you and not your work. And it kind of makes you feel like part of the greater poetry community, no? Kind of.

Ah, well. In the words of the prophet: Keep believing, keep writing, and keep trusting that more doors will open if you do.

Stupid Questions


In the education world, the saying goes, there are no stupid questions. But in the big-boy world, the expression has deep roots. One place where it is most prevalent is sports, where breathless victors, still caught up in the power and the glory of their heart-stopping wins, often find a mic thrust into their faces with the question (from a supposedly college-educated sports journalist), “How do you feel right now?”

Stupid question. And I long to hear the athlete who replies, “Horrible. This is the worst feeling I’ve ever endured. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to the locker room for a good cry.”

But no.

In the writing world we have stupid questions, too.  How often are established writers drilled with stock questions begging stock answers? Too often. Here are a few of them, along with answers we might appreciate, if only the interviewed grew weary enough to wax playful:

Q: Where do your ideas come from?

A: Aisle 7, bottom shelf, Wal-Mart automotive department. They’re made in China, my ideas.

Q: What inspires you?

A: Ben & Jerry’s ice cream as hors d’oeuvres, salad, main course, and, if need be dessert. On a Friday night when all weekend’s breaking loose.

Q: Where do you write?

A: Where I’m sitting at any given moment. Often a chair. Cliché, I realize. Do you need the brand and model, in case you want to add inspiration to cart?

Q: Who do you read?

A: Poets. To steal ideas.

Q: But who are the great poets?

A: Your list is as good as mine. Pay no attention to those poets behind the curtain. Words to live by.

Q: What do you recommend to someone just getting into the poetry-writing business?

A: Turn back, oh man. No. Really. I recommend that you do not read any poets, classical or contemporary, and, whatever you do, don’t write every day. Or what you know. Or to show vs. tell. Poison to writers, all of it.

Q: Do you make a living as a published poet?

A: My God. Like Scott and Zelda before the crash. Have you never seen drunk poets dancing in public fountains? They’re in damn near every city in Europe. Also Des Moines.

Q: Do you believe in MFAs?

A: Would they disappear if I didn’t? Me, I am letterless, as was the case in high school, where the quarterback got all the girls.

Q: Is poetry dead?

A: Why do you think zombies are so popular now? Read Poetry and Rattle, why don’t you.

Q: If I had to subscribe to one poetry magazine, which one would it be?

A: The American Conservative. For erasure poetry.

Q: Is there any question I didn’t ask that I should have?

A: Don’t mock me. And thank you.