Don’t Forget to Vote

It’s not that I like bragging, but I’m having a spectacular couple of weeks. I mentioned yesterday that I’m a semi-finalist for Austin Film. Just a week ago I was mistaken for Naomi Watts at a fancy Manhattan hotel (It’s true! Even though my friend laughed her ass off at the concept, I was mistaken for Miss Watts).

What? It’s not entirely impossible that I could get mistaken for her. I did have really sweaty messy hair in Manhattan because of the rain and the walking. I even smelled a little like booze and sweat and exhaustion, like any girl who just jetted from LA to NYC on the red-eye should smell.

Anyway, to continue with the bragging, yesterday afternoon in the mail, I found out what might be the most important news of the month:

It’s probably best if I just reprint it here.

September 2002

INTENDED FOR ADDRESSEE ONLY VIP P4728187

A hush suddenly falls over the audience… imagine yourself at an international gathering of over a thousand poets… publishers, editors … your friends and family… all waiting expectantly for the announcement. Finally it comes…”Ladies and gentlemen, and fellow poets… it’s now time to declare the winner of the largest cash prize ever awarded to an amateur poet… Our Poet of the Year for 2002… and Grand Prize winner of $20,000.00 is…

Pamela Ribon!”

You make your way to the stage amidst the sound of thunderous applause and a standing ovation from your new friends.

We’re familiar with your work, Pamela, and you know… it could happen just that way!”

For some reason they felt the need to not only bold this top section of the letter, but to center it and pepper it with as many ellipses as possible. My favorite part is the standing ovation from my “new friends.” Now, if they’re only my friends because I’ve won mad cash and was named Poet of the Year 2002, how good of friends could they possibly be? They just love my poetic prowess.

I shall continue the letter so you can keep laughing at me.

Dear Pamela,

I would like to inform you of your nomination as Poet of the Year for 2002 and to personally invite you to read your poetry at the single largest gathering of poets in history, where you will be formally inducted as an International Poet of Merit and Honored Member of our Society for 2002.

I just have to cut in here to note that this is really my year, isn’t it? I mean, who’d have thought I’d blow up into this poetry superstar from one drunken night of mistakes? But then again, don’t lots of wonderful things come out of drunken mistaken nights? Look at babies.

Your induction will take place Friday evening, November 15th, in the Arts and Entertainment Capital of the World, Hollywood, California, during the 2002 International Society of Poets Fall Convention and Symposium.

I’d better reserve my plane ticket right now. I’ve always wanted to attend a symposium. Also, I love that they call what we do here in Hollywood “Arts”.

You will also be honored with two separate and very special awards for your poetic achievement at special ceremonies throughout the weekend.

Two! Man, I’m on fire! I have made an achievement, and twice I will be recognized for it! It’ll take longer for me to accept my awards than it did for me to write that poem.

First, to honor and commemorate your poetic accomplishments, after you present your poetry in front of fellow poets from around the world–

A room full of people who don’t understand a word the other one is saying. An empty hotel convention room with a bowl of melted ice and a bunch of mumbling ponytail-wearing men and young kids, all ripped off by the International Society of Poets. This is starting to make me sad.

— amidst the applause from the audience, you will be presented with your “International Poet of Merit” Silver Award Bowl. The Award is a magnificent work of art in itself ($175.00 value), uniquely engraved and mounted on a walnut-finish base.

It probably would have been better if they hadn’t bothered to explain the award and tell me it’s worth one-sixth of the cost of the symposium. “Amidst applause from the audience.” Are they gonna have a laugh track, too?

This incomparable award is so large and heavy, you may need an extra suitcase just to carry it home!

Stop. Just… stop.

And Pamela… there’s much more…

I figured. And what’s with the ellipses?

In recognition of your poetry presentation at this prestigious International Symposium, we will also create and present to you a beautiful and colorful Commemorative Award Medallion to honor your poetic dedication and achievements.

They really like handing out medals, these people, don’t they? I wish they’d stop calling it an International Symposium like that. It’s making me feel uncomfortable. See, this is the medal to honor my body of work as a whole, my “achievements.” Plural. Not just the one magnificent poem. That’s what the bowl’s for.

POETRY… POETRY… AND MORE POETRY

Were scarier words ever written in a letter?

And it doesn’t stop there, either. You’ll also find yourself reading your contest poem in front of fellow poets gathered to share this special moment with you…

You mean all the other bowl-winners?

…new friends and their families from all over the world, who are supportive of your artistry and who are also eager to hear and critique your work.

Excuse me while I lay down and laugh for an hour. The only people supportive of my poetic artistry are the friends of mine who are eager to laugh and critique my work. Sayeth one friend last night: “The only question remains… What are you going to put in your bowl?”

I turned to him and answered, “Hope. Dreams. Q-Tips.”

Bring your best poems with you, because you’ll have plenty of opportunities to read and discuss other examples of your poetry in many seminars and workshops…

I bet. Hold on while I go collect more samples. Okay, I’m back.

… in the ISP rap rooms…

No.

… and in our famous open microphone rooms and Coffee House, where you can share your poetry with fellow poets. And you’ll also hear lots of poetry written by some of the world’s most renowned professional poets, who will be leading the educational seminars and workshops.

This is more like punishment for my foolish night of Internet surfing, really.

35 POETS WILL SHARE $66,500.00 TOTAL IN PRIZES — INCLUDING THE SINGLE LARGEST POETRY CASH PRIZE EVER AWARDED — $20,000.00!

Could that be true? Could that be the largest cash poetry prize ever? That makes me sad for poets. All of this makes me sad for poets. They said right there that all of the poets internationally can fit in just the one coffee house with the microphone. WWWD? What Would Wammo Do?

And don’t forget the most lucrative amateur poetry contest ever! Your contest entry poem can be written in any style, on any subject… and can be up to 40 lines long.

Do I have to do more work now? Is that what they’re asking? This symposium is a lot of work.

Just think… for this poem alone, you will have the opportunity to win one of 35 cash and gift prizes to be awarded at the Symposium… including a Grand Prize of $20,000.00 — the largest cash prize ever awarded in an amateur poetry competition.

You keep telling me.

There’s also a Second Prize of $5,000.00, a Third Prize of $2,500.00, a Fourth Prize of $1,000.00, and six other cash prizes of $500.00 each. World renowned Pulitzer Prize winning poets Stephen Dunn and W. D. Snodgrass along with legendary movie star Bo Derek will be with us to congratulate poets and present the Grand Prize.

Holy shit. What has the world come to? W. D. Snodgrass? Isn’t that the drunk from Oliver!‘s “Oom Pah Pah”? Let’s see. This Stephen Dunn guy seems pretty legit. I’m still a bit sketchy about Snodgrass: the first two Google links on him take you to poetry.org, the place that started all this nonsense.

It doesn’t matter, anyway, because they said Bo Derek and now they have no legitimacy anymore.

Your society is also encouraging today’s youth to develop and utilize their poetic talents in a positive manner.

My society? What the hell does that mean? Are they blaming me for kids’ problems? I don’t give them the guns, man. Poetry gives them the guns.

This year we will award five $1,000.00 cash scholarships to talented young poets attending the symposium.

That is the saddest thing ever. And this group needs to decide if they want their Symposium with a capital letter or not.

Our editors and professors will also be searching for new poetic talent. Twenty poets will be “discovered” in the contest reading sessions. These winners will be awarded publishing or recording contracts that will generate international exposure of their poetic artistry.

This just keeps getting better and better. Now I might get a record contract out of this? Take that, American Idol!

In all, $66,500.00 in cash and prizes will be awarded at this single event!

LIGHTS… CAMERA… ACTION!!

I wish they’d stop doing that.

And that’s still just the beginning

That too.

we’ve got three very special days planned for you… one’s you’ll never forget!

I bet. This thing is insane.

**You will be officially inducted as an “International Poet of Merit” for 2002.

Oh, man. And then the teasing will never end for the rest of my life. “Did you hear? International Poet of Merit for 2002 and Poet of the Year 2002 Nominee Pamela Ribon has just entered the Bennigans!”

** You and you poetic achievements will be honored at two Gala Gourmet Banquets and Award Ceremonies catered by the most famous chef in the world — Wolfgang Puck!

You mean you’re unfreezing a couple of Puck TV Dinners? Thanks for that. Screw you and your poetic achievements, okay?

** You will enjoy dazzling entertainment shows created especially for you featuring —

Wait for it… wait for it… you know it’ll be funnier if you wait for it… who would be at a dazzling show created especially for me? Would it be Radiohead? R.E.M.? Death Cab for Cutie? Who will it be? Wait…. Just wait…….

… the famous Doo-Wop legends and members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Platters, —

Exactly.

and the peerless 50’s singing group The Shangri-Las, —

Ooh! I love “Leader of the Pack”! That must be the group they picked for me.

–plus special surprise guest entertainers each night.

I bet. Can’t wait to see that roster.

These special command performances will thrill and delight you. There will also be lots of other entertainment, including Midnight Dance Parties on both Friday and Saturday Nights!

Wow. What an incredibly bad time. I shudder for the comic hired to emcee this fiasco.

** Hollywood icon and legendary star of the silver screen, Bo Derek will entertain and inspire us throughout the weekend.

Put that shit on a shirt, y’all, because a finer sentence has never been written.

** You will learn more about your craft in seminars, readings, rap sessions and workshops, were you can read and discuss your poetry in informal settings with other poets from all over the world. Back by popular demand are the ISP rap rooms–

Stop it!

— our famous sunrise poetry readings–

Famous for the murders following the sunrise?

— the ISP Coffee House, the ISP Open Microphone Rooms, and workshops on how to fine-tune your poetic talents.

The saddest place on Earth.

** You will have the rare opportunity to get up-close and personal with the Pulitzer Prize-winning poets Stephen Dunn and W.D. Snodgrass, who will also be presenting their own work.

“Snodgrass! Snodgrass! Do ‘Freebird!’ Snoooodgraaaaaaaaaasss! I love you!”

** You will participate in a fantastic international poetry competition featuring 35 prizes totaling $66,500.00. A Grand Prize of $20,000.00, 9 other cash prizes totaling $11,5000.00, 10 poetry recording contracts, 10 book publishing contracts, and 5 young poets scholarship prizes will all be awarded at this single event.

Actual cash prizes may vary. Offer not available to anyone. Some assembly required.

** You and your guests will also be eligible to win one of many door prizes valued at over $6,000.00.

Door prizes? Well, sign me up!

** You will make friendships that will last a lifetime and will return home with wonderful memories, your “International Poet of Merit” Silver Award Bowl, your Commemorative Award Medallion, and lots of other special gifts.

Oh, man. I didn’t realize how many lifetime-lasting friendships I’m just blowing off by not registering. Nkeoboti Motoboyo from Kenya is waiting to be my bestest Be Fri. I can’t let him down!

BY POPULAR DEMAND ISP MEETS IN HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA — THE ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT CAPITAL OF THE WORLD!

The demand of documentary filmmakers looking for the next Hands on a Hard Body.

You’ll discover the glamour and excitement of Hollywood —

Finally.

… when you stroll down the Hollywood Walk of Fame… take a tour of movie stars’ houses… visit Paramount Pictures Movie Studio, the Hollywood Entertainment Museum, the Universal Studios Theme Park… Mann’s Chinese Theatre [sic]… the Guinness World Records Museum… picture perfect views of the world famous Hollywood sign and the mild sunny weather that is the essence of a California vacation.

Okay, now listen. Most of those things they’re offering are within a one-block radius of each other. I guarantee you’ll only see Paramount Studios while driving down Melrose towards the corner of CarJack and CrackWhore. The picture-perfect views of the sign are from just about any location in Hollywood, and when they’ve got to start reaching for the weather as a bonus of the trip, you know they ain’t got nothin’. I also don’t understand when they want to use a comma and when they opt for an ellipse.

Come early… stay late… you are, of course, welcome to stay anywhere you wish —

But not my place, y’all.

— but the brand new and ultrastylish [sic] Renaissance Hollywood Hotel – home of the Academy Awards and part of the Hollywood and Highland Entertainment Complex that features over 75 world class shops and restaurants —

and is a total rip-off piece of crap except for the Sephora.

— has agreed to provide special room rates for all ISP poets and their guests for dates before, during and after the convention itself — only $129 single or double per night.

In other words, their normal room rate on any day at any time ever.

A VERY SPECIAL… AND VERY SELECT SOCIETYThe International Society of Poets, established in 1990, is composed of dedicated poets from around the world… all well-established poetic artists who have already been published or have been chosen for publication. These are poets who, through their poetry, are contributing to the worldwide renaissance of peace… and changing the world for the better… poets like you.

I am officially all choked up now. I didn’t realize my poem, a metaphor for the womb, was contributing to world peace. And any organization that’s been around almost twelve years has to be legit, right?

THE WORLD’S LARGEST POEM FOR PEACEOver the past 12 years, your Society has received international acclaim — including front-page coverage in USA Today

As a scam.

— for our extraordinary World’s Largest Poem for Peace, which continues at the Convention. You will have the opportunity to include your poetry alongside verse by such notables as former President Bill Clinton, the 14th Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and tens of thousands of other poets from over 70 nations around the world who have contributed to this remarkable effort.

Just when I get sucked back in, they throw something like this in my face.

And for your poetic contribution, your Society —

I wish they’d quit blaming me for all of this.

–will make a donation to our charitable cause for the year 2002. In recent years, that’s added up to over $80,000.00 donated to UNICEF to help the children of the world and to international MS research, to help find a cure for multiple sclerosis.

They’re missing a word in that sentence, somewhere.

DON’T BE LEFT OUTDon’t miss this opportunity. Space is limited, and our conventions routinely sell out. Register now, and plan to join your fellow poets in Hollywood, California, November 15th-17th, 2002, for the poetic event of the year! I am also looking forward to meeting you and celebrating the power and beauty of poets and poetry!

Sincerely,

Total Jackass
Liar-In-Chief

And you know there had to be a:

P.S. Your 2002 “International Poet of Merit” Silver Award Bowl… your Commemorative Award Medallion… $66,500.00 in total prizes… Pulitzer Prize-winning poets Stephen Dunn and W.D. Snodgrass… legendary movie star Bo Derek… special performances by The Shangri-Las and The Platters created expressly for us… lavish gourmet banquets catered by the world famous chef Wolfgang Puck… an entire symposium of educational seminars and workshops… lasting friendships… the list just goes on and on. Don’t miss out! A small deposit will ensure your place in the proceedings. We’ll acknowledge your reservation promptly.

So, how much does all this fun cost? Well, there are only about seven inserts and tiny pieces of paper in this envelope. Let’s see what else they sent me.

One is a tiny blue piece of paper that reads in fancy writing: “A Personal Invitation to a Distinguished Few…” so I know this means I’m totally important. Inside:

Because of your poetic achievements, you are invited to become a Distinguished Member of our Society. And even if you can’t join us at the Convention, by becoming a Distinguished Member, you will receive the following benefits:

* A gold membership pin crafted in 10 karat gold and baked cloisonne enamel in a custom velvet pouch ($48.50 value)

I love how they keep telling me what everything is worth. It’s like talking to my little sister– she always tells me how much money she has, what she’s making, what shit costs. She loves to talk about money.

* A Distinguished Membership Certificate with gold seal, embossed “Distinguished Member” designation, and calligraphy and shadowing of your name mounted under lucite on a 10 1/2″ X 13″ walnut-finish plaque ($40.00 value)

Fahn-cey.

* A two-year subscription to our quarterly magazine, The Poet’s Corner ($40.00 value)

Woah. That shit’s five bucks each. I kinda want it anyway.

* Eligibility for free entry into 16 different cash prize contests each year

* A Distinguished Membership card

O-kaaaaay? That’s what I’m talkin’ about. Membership has its privileges.

* A $25 discount for you and for each of your guests to our yearly Symposium and Convention ($25.00+ values each year)

I’m glad they totaled that value up for us idiots.

* The opportunity to participate in our worldwide efforts to promote peace, charity, and friendship through poetry and the actions of poets.

That line is going in a script of mine someday and I don’t care who knows I’ve stolen it from here.

Join with hundreds of other ISP Distinguished Members including Senatore Eugene McCarthy, Florence Henderson, the Smothers Brothers, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and the Oak Ridge Boys. Won’t you join us today?

Did you just hear that? That was the sound of Allison screaming herself to sleep.

Okay, then there’s this two-sheet glossy newsletter that’s actually called “The Poet’s Corner,” which I’m guessing is their $5.00 quarterly. Man, they are ripping people off left and right. This one just says the same stuff they’ve already made my type out here five times, but there’s a picture of Bo Derek from 10 and a picture of W. D. Snodgrass, who looks like his name, and a picture of the Shangri-Las that’s so sad that I wish I had a scanner. They look like Winger standing around a motorcycle. I’ll just pick out some choice sentences from the newsletter:

Hollywood, California– The world’s most interesting and dynamic poets will assemble in the Arts and Entertainment Capital of the World, Hollywood California, for the International Society of Poets Fall Convention and Symposium this November 15-17, 2002.

I think “Interesting and dynamic” is the nicest way to say “Wacked-out and scary” I’ve ever heard.

A Star-Studded Event! These are just a few of the superstars who have appeared at past ISP Conventions and Symposia:

John Denver, Montel Williams, Johnny Cash, Florence Henderson, The Drifters, Smothers Brothers, Oak Ridge Boys, The Coasters, Willard Scott, W.D. Snodgrass, Willie Nelson, Joan Rivers

Damn, I had no idea what kind of illustrious company I was seeking to keep when I wrote my opus “Nature vs. Nurture.”

There’s also a picture of my silver bowl here. I’m getting all misty just looking at it.

This last sheet of paper is the registration information. I can register by mail, phone or fax.

Non-Members: $595.00 Full Convention Registration for Poets, $475.00 Full Convention Registration for Each Guest.

Distinguished Members: $570.00 Full Convention Registration for Poets, $450.00 Full Convention Registration for Each Guest.

Holy crap. I’ve said it once before, and I’ll say it again. Take that, Journalcon. If I was only up to the caliber of W.D. Snodgrass, maybe you could hike up your registration fees. I’m trying, Jen Wade, but I’m just one person, you know?

So, it looks like I just won’t be able to afford the Symposium this year. Maybe next year, when my body of poetry is stronger, when my message of peace is more refined, then maybe I’ll put up a PayPal donation button and together I can add our message of harmony next to Bill Clinton’s. Until then, I’ll just have to make my own bowl, sew my own medal. And hey, it’s an honor just be nominated for Poet of the Year 2002, isn’t it?

Wait. Look. Naomi and I are total twins. Check it out.

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