Unique Artistic Vision and Semi-Worthy Poetry

Caught up on TiVo, and it turns out that I hate the show I thought I’d like, and I like the show I thought I’d hate. How about that? The Anna Nicole Show was so disappointing. I couldn’t even find a reason to laugh. I just sat there staring, wondering why nobody bothered to make it funny. Obviously there was enough footage that it could have been funny, but it was cut in such a way it looked like the footage right before the Behind the Music guy goes, “But Anna Nicole’s lifestyle couldn’t take much more abuse.” And then every shot of her sliding into a tub with her stilettos scratching the finish would be in slow-motion over and over and over.

Then, I’m all giggling like an idiot at The Rerun Show, a show I wanted to see because I thought I’d hate it. The guy that does Mrs. Garrett cracks me up with every line. But, as Wing pointed out last night I just find Mrs. Garrett impressions funny, mostly because they remind me of my own Mrs. Garrett impression. (By the way, when you know you’ve got a good friend when she can totally call you on your shit and instead of blushing or getting defensive you crack up because she saw the truth where you were still trying to talk bullshit to yourself.) But I did find some of the parodies funny, when the actors find that one bad acting trait the original actor had and exaggerate it. Like having Tootie never stop flopping around and wiggling while she talked. Or how Kimberly was always having to wear some kind of dance outfit.

Ignoring the segue, I need to tell you the really exciting news I received just before I left for out of town: I may already have what it takes to be a writer. It’s true. I just received the documentation.

I should start with an explanation. There are times when one finds oneself alone in the house, and perhaps one makes poor choices for oneself when one is on one’s onesome…

I do really dumb things when I’m by myself like stay up all night long watching horrible movies, or spend eight hours trying to fix a broken computer, or enter poetry contests using poems I wrote recently for a writing exercise that I wasn’t going to tell anyone I was doing.

I get a lot of spam, okay? So much spam that sometimes it’s a letter from a real person that I accidentally delete because the subject line said, “Your not going to bEleive this!” or “Hey!” or “Pamie – I have a CELL PHONE 4 U!” Anyway, I had to start paying more attention after my Making the Band hatemail started pouring in, as they’re easy to mistake as spam. Actual sample:

Pamie,

I dont think I have ever read anything more pitiful than your recap of becoming O town. You are a very spiteful bitch who obviously has no life at all except bashing the dreams of people who get a chance to live like stars for a day. Just because you are a ugly dike gives you no right to bash a bunch of people you do not know at all. The only thing you know of these people is the 1/2 edited version of 63 hours of footage MTV allows you to see. Your views are way off. You have no future except for bashing people on a 3rd rate website. You by far must feel way cooler than some people who got to be treated like celeb’s for a day. Congrats on being worthless you dumb bitch.

Greg

So, you can see why I have to check to see which ones are spam and which ones are comedy gold like above.

This is me making a very long-winded rationalization, as you can see. And much like Wing did, you can go ahead and make me get to the truth:

I entered a contest at poetry.com. I have no real explanation or excuse other than it was free and they were offering ten grand as a prize. I have never claimed to be a poet, nor have I ever taken a lesson in poetry. I once forgot a poetry assignment and wrote eight lines on how I was no good at poems and I ended up getting an A+ on the poem (my boyfriend at the time only got a B, and he was pretty pissed off, as he saw me scribble the poem on my way to class). Aside from that one day of poetic honors, I’ve never shown my poems off.

Okay, shit. That’s not true. This is like I’m playing a game of Truth with you guys. I once read some poems at a poetry slam. But in my defense, people made me leave the bar, drive back to my dorm, pick out my poems and bring them back to the bar. Coffee house. The High Time Tea Bar and Brain Gym.

Jesus, why am I telling you all this? Anyway, a group of friends read my poems out to a crowd and had me read a couple and people applauded and then I felt like an idiot and I never did that again because I had no business up there.

But I still then, just the other night, posted a poem to poetry.com. Don’t bother going to search for it. I’ll just go ahead and post it here. But listen: it was late at night, and I had written this poem as an assignment in that Writing the Natural Way book where you cluster and I was trying the book out to see what would happen and what happened was I wrote bad poems like this:

hold me
in.
turn inside.
you are dark and safe.
where i hide.
a womb, a mother, a seatbelt. Airbag.
bruising me, saving me, hurting me. Helping.
Holding. too tight. Shielding. too swift.
too much too dark too warm the safety
scares me. i’m trapped. alone
in overwhelming adoration. so much work
to stay here. so many thoughts
to remind myself
i’m okay
i’m okay
i’m okay
It’s because you love me.
You only know this.
hold me
tight.

Oh, look at you. Just go ahead and laugh instead of making that face you’re making. It’s a horrible poem. Somebody already pointed out that the funniest thing is that I decided to make the entire poem lowercase except for four words and somehow I thought that would be arty.

It’s a metaphor for the womb! See? Brilliance!

I figured I’d entered this contest, wasn’t going to win thousands of dollars, nobody would know anything about me entering and it’d be over. I didn’t know that they’d archive my poem on the damn site with my name so that anybody in the world that gets poetry.com spam can go over there and see that embarrassing thing all big as day: “Pamela Ribon Sucks.”

But they aren’t finished with me over at poetry.com. Because entering that free contest also gave me something else: documentation that proves I may have what it takes to be a real writer. In the mail Saturday afternoon I received the good news:

Dear Pamela,

After carefully reading and discussing your poem, our Selection Committee has certified your poem as a semi-finalist in our International Open Poetry Contest. Your poem will automatically be entered into the final competition held in August, 2002.

You see that? I’m a semi-finalist! I’m not one of those losers that just enter poems through the internet and nothing happens. I get a letter sent to my house! I might win money!

As a semi-finalist, you now have an excellent chance of winning one of the 104 cash or gift prizes — including the $1,000.00 Grand Prize.

“Gift?” I don’t want a gift prize. What’s that, a poetry.com clock? No thank you. And when did the thousands drop down to just the one?

You may even win the $10,000.00 Annual Grand Prize!

Uh-huh.

We wish you the best of luck as you compete for these prizes in the coming weeks (a complete list of prizes is enclosed).

Okay, then. There are many prizes I can win. Some might be clocks, but there’s actual money involved, and I’m a semi-finalist when I never had one lesson! That’s not bad, right? Come to think of it, that poetry slam went crazy when I did that one poem about that boy that didn’t like me in my gifted class–

And that’s not all! Pamela… Imagine Your Poem Featured in a Beautiful Coffee-table Edition!

Oh, shit.

In celebration of the unique talent that you have displayed, we also wish to publish your poem in what promises to be one of the most highly sought after collections of poetry we have ever published…

Why, because everyone I know will want a copy so they can make fun of me? No thank you. And what’s with the adjective? “Unique?” Doesn’t that mean “special blend of shitty?” I don’t need your backhanded compliments.

Letters from the Soul

I cannot believe they underlined it, put it in bold and centered it on the letter. This thing went downhill so damn quickly.

Letters from the Soul, scheduled for publication in Fall 2002, will be a classic, coffee-table quality hardbound volume– printed on fine-milled paper specifically selected to last for generations. It will make a handsome addition to any library, a treasured family keepsake, or a highly valued personal gift.

Everyone I know will make fun of me for the rest of my life with this coffee-table jokefest. Why do they keep reminding me about the table? Why is that a level of quality? On my coffee table right now are three fliers from Thai food restaurants, a pharmacy receipt and a wadded up napkin that Cal was batting around for thirty minutes. All of these things represent the same kind of quality Letters from the Soul has to reach. Such ambition.

It takes like, five years for my novel from conception to publication, but one night of “What’s this button do?” gets a poem of mine printed in under two months.

NO OBLIGATION WHATSOEVER.

I’m sure.

Before going any further, Pamela, let me make one thing clear… your poem was selected for publication, and as a contest semi-finalist, on the basis of your unique talent and artistic vision. We believe it will add to the importance and appeal of this edition. In this regard, you are under no obligation whatsoever to submit any entry fee, any subsidy payment, or to make any purchase of any kind.

I’m so winning a clock.

Of course, many people do wish to own a copy of the anthology in which their artistry appears. If this is the case, we welcome your order — and guarantee your satisfaction. Please see the enclosed material for special discount information if you would like to acquire a copy of Letters from the Soul.

I knew a girl in high school who told me her poem was getting published in a book because she won a contest and we stopped believing her because the book never arrived. It’s all starting to make sense now.

SO WHAT HAPPENS NOW? As I mentioned, your poem has automatically been advanced to the final competition — so you do not need to take further action on the contest at this time. However, regarding the publication of your poetry, you must proofread your poem, which appears on the enclosed Artist’s Proof. Please carefully review your poem for typographical errors and make any necessary changes. The Artist’s Proof also verifies that ‘Nature Versus Nurture’ —

Oh. Did I forget to mention the title earlier? Yes, you get to laugh again. Yes, it can be as hard as last time. Yes, it can be longer if you need it. Yes, I really did this. Yes, I do feel stupid. Yes. Yes. Your mama.

— is your original work of art. And Pamela, let me assure you, your poem remains your property — Letters from the Soul

Stop saying it like that! And you can keep the property. It’s embarrassing enough. Does my agent get a cut of my clock if I win?

— is copyrighted as a compilation. The copyright notice is in your name. This means that you retain the copyright to your own work of art.

Is that a threat or a promise?

You must also decide if you would like to have some personal information about yourself and your poetry included in this elegant edition.

I’d start making my snide comments here, if it wasn’t for this next sentence, right a’chere:

In this way, the media and public can gain a greater awareness about your motivations, the meaning poetry has in your life, the story behind your poem, or your personal philosophical point of view.

I, Pamela Ribon, being of slightly inebriated body and mind when posting my poetry contest entry, would like the world to know that my poem does not necessarily reflect the views of Pamela Ribon, of pamie.com, the word Squishy, anyone who may have linked to Squishy, anyone who may have employed said Pamela Ribon or her friends and family, or the friends and family of Pamela Ribon. Her motivation behind the poem was strictly monetary greed, and the story behind the poem speaks for itself. Although it is a heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, emotional story of a baby or a woman trapped in a womb or a relationship or perhaps a celebrity trapped in a contract or a miner trapped in a mine, and even though each word was lovingly hand-picked from a “cluster” that originated with the word “t-shirt” and ended in a touching display of love, tenderness and the confines of emotion, this poem was not necessarily intended for the viewing public, or any public eyes that may happen upon this poem in this collection of art, or the “Internet” or any other public viewing/reading/parody/satire/libel of this poem. Pamela’s personal philosophy remains: “Wow, I really can be a dork sometimes. Amazing that I always somehow choose to do it in front of everybody.”

We have set aside a special biographical section in the anthology–

Me and the Beatles. Both have published works we never wanted anyone to actually see or hear.

And although we must charge a nominal fee for this service, you are under no obligation to include this information. Your poem can be published without it if you wish. Please see the enclosed Artist’s Profile for further information.

In the meantime, our design department has already begun working on a distinctive layout for the poetry selected for this anthology.

Oh, dear God. This gets more and more terrifying with each sentence. What have I done? How has this all spun so horribly out of control?

But remember, you must complete the enclosed Artist’s Proof and return it to us as soon as possible. And, if you wish to acquire a copy of Letters from the Soul at a contributor’s special pre-publication discount, please complete the appropriate information, also on the Artist’s Proof.

Again, congratulations, Pamela. We feel you have a special talent and look forward to the publication of your poem in Letters from the Soul.

Sincerely,
Howard Ely
Managing Editor

This is just some sweepstakes crap where I’m going to have to buy a poetry magazine if I want to remain eligible for the prize money. Oh, wait! There’s more!

P.S. Pamela, you should be genuinely proud of your accomplishment.

Thanks.

Of the thousands of poems we read each year, only a fraction can be published. We are pleased that “Nature Versus Nurture”–

Shut up. Seriously.

— will appropriately achieve the recognition that a national publication can give it. And, if you order Letters from the Soul, we are so confident that you will love both the quality of the edition and the way your poem is presented, we can proudly offer an unconditional money-back guarantee. If for any reason you are dissatisfied, your money will be promptly refunded.

You know, there’s nothing more assuring in your semi-finalist notification letter than a money-back guarantee. That’s when you know you’re dealing with professional, quality people. A real, honest contest that’ll grace any resume.

I should never be left alone.

P.P.S. As a poet chosen for publication, you will also be eligible to attend The International Society of Poet’s Convention and Symposium held each year in Washington, DC.

Aw, take that shit, Journalcon!

This year’s convention will be held August 23-25th, 2002. Keep the date, a formal invitation will be mailed to you soon.

Check it: totally holding my breath.

Let’s see what this prize list includes:

We sponsor the International Open Amateur Poetry Contest to encourage new artists and undiscovered talent to submit their work for consideration. We receive thouands of entries, each of which is evaluated by our selection committee. Those entries that exhibit a unique perspective or artistic vision are advanced to semi-finalists in the contest. Each month, as the semi-finalist judging progresses, the following prizes are guaranteed to be awarded: a First Prize of $1,000.00, 24 Second Prizes of Limited Edition solid sliver medals (retail value $50.00), and 79 Third Prizes of Limited Edition bronze medals (retail value $25.00). An annual Grand Prize of $10,000.00 in cash is also awarded each year (not really).

Yes, when my bronze medal arrives in the mail, you are allowed to laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh until I can hear the echoes all the way over here.

I may have the talent it takes to be a real poet! Me and anybody else who can type twenty lines at poetry.com can be published in a real book with a spooky title that nobody will ever see! And for a mere…holy crap! It costs $60.00! And that’s with my contributor discount! Plus eight buck shipping! And another $25.00 if I want to include my artistic vision and personal philosophy!

And then there’s the fine print:

* Letters from the Soul is a working title only. The actual title of your book my differ.

Really? Then why did you give me an ISBN? (0-7951-5160-8). [ Edited to add: I wasn’t going to do this, but really, I can’t keep you from such fun. You can thank Alan for emailing me the tip. ]

So, there you have it. I’m a semi-poet. I have a unique talent. But y’all already knew that, didn’t you? I’m totally wearing my bronze medal for at least a month if I win.

It’s a metaphor. For the womb. You see.

Oh, like yours is better.

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