The Most Exquisite Corpse
Darling, dimpled, explosive posterior!
— unless Superman or Big Bird
lifts it into the white, fluffy new-fallen snow
It was a thumb I saw floating on the slick.
(inchoate my pancreas dreaming of your ultrasuede lips,
your red hot words: boiled lobster claws, rending my heart)
There are no metaphors in heaven.
(I've measured it from side to side,
'Tis three feet long and two feet wide.)
It mattered as much as a flea's fart in a hurricane.
There was a girl standing by a lake, her luminous form shadowed by a nimbus of moon.
Those purple bruises, your love bites on my neck,
love loves a pogo without its stick.
A good puke lessens the heart's burden.
Sent as a joke to poetry.com. 'Wilhelmina Hemmingway' is a pseudonym for a group of poets. Each one contributed lines without knowing what the other lines were. Such a poem is called an Exquisite Corpse.
Poetry.com was very excited to receive Wilhelmina's work. They wrote:
Imagine your poem featured on an entire page to itself . . .
Over the past several months, we have been reviewing the thousands of poems submitted to us, as well as examining the poetic accomplishments of people whose poetry has appeared on the Internet and in various editions released by other poetry publishers in America and Europe. After an exhaustive examination of this poetic artistry, The International Library of Poetry wishes to feature an entire page devoted exclusively to the poetry of Wilhelmina Hemmingway in a collection of new poems written by the Best Poets we have encountered.
The Best Poems and Poets of 2003
Library of Congress ISBN 0-7951-5175-6
Congratulations on your accomplishment, Wilhelmina. Your poetry will be featured along with a distinguished group of just 200 of the Best Poets that were selected to participate in this special project.
And that's not all. To honor the accomplishments of this elite group of talented individuals, we have established a separate contest with over $3,500.00 in prizes to be awarded among you. You will automatically be entered into the final competition, but you must submit a new unpublished poem on the enclosed entry form. Prizes will be announced by December 31, with an anticipated publication date of January 2004.
The Best Poems and Poets of 2003 will be among the finest quality books we have ever produced. Every aspect of publication and design will convey the quality craftsmanship and attention to detail that will go into the production of this special edition. This coffee-table quality book will be printed in two colors on fine-milled paper and will feature a highly detailed, full-colored cover, and quality typography throughout. And best of all . . .
. . . this special edition will feature an entire page devoted exclusively to a new, unpublished poem by
Before going any further, Wilhelmina, let me make one thing clear . . . you were selected for publication on the basis of your unique talent. The new poem which you will submit for this edition has been accepted for publication because your previously published poetry sparks the imagination and presents the reader with a fresh, unique perspective on life.
We believe you to be one of the most interesting poets we have encountered, so we wish to feature your artistry in this special edition and make this special prize money available to you and the others who have been chosen for publication. You should be aware that you are under no obligation whatsoever to submit any entry fee or subsidy payment, or to make any purchase of any kind. Of course, many people do wish to own a copy of the publication in which their artistry appears. If you would like to order a copy, please see the enclosed material for special discount information.
SO WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
As I mentioned above, your poetry will automatically be accepted into this special edition, and as soon as you submit your new, unpublished poem, it will be typeset for publication and entered into the final competition of the contest. You will also receive a typeset "Artist's Proof" of your poem for your review prior to publication. And let me assure you, your poem remains your property -- The Best Poems and Poets of 2003 is copyrighted as a compilation. This means that you retain all rights to your own work of art.
Wilhelmina, Please Enter Your Poem Right Away!
In order to make our scheduled publication date, you must submit your new poem as soon as possible. Your poem must be original, it must be 24 lines or less, and it must be written by you as one of our Best Poets of 2003. (Since you have been specially selected for the quality of your poetry, if you use a pen name you must certify that the poem you submit was written by Wilhelmina Hemmingway.) And, if you wish to order a copy of The Best Poems and Poets of 2003 at our special pre-publication price, please also complete the enclosed order form (you are under no obligation to order anything).
Wilhelmina, you also have the opportunity to include some personal information about yourself and your poetry in this elegant edition. In this way, readers can gain a greater awareness about your motivations, the meaning poetry has in your life, the story behind your poem, or your personal or philosophical point of view. Your biography will be printed on a page by itself, directly across from your poem--you will thus have two full pages in the book devoted exclusively to you and your artistry. 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 Artist's Profile for further information.
Again, congratulations. The Best Poems and Poets of 2003 promises to be the most exclusive collection of poetry we have ever published. We feel you have a special talent and we believe your poem will add to the importance and appeal of this edition. Your contribution to this project is greatly appreciated.
P.S. Wilhelmina, you should be genuinely proud of your accomplishment. You have been selected to participate in The Best Poems and Poets of 2003 because of your unique vision. It is our pleasure to publish fine poetry such as yours in this historic volume. And, if you decide to order a copy, we are so certain that you will love the quality of the edition and the way your poetry is presented, we can proudly offer an unconditional iron-clad guarantee. If for any reason you are dissatisfied, your money will be promptly refunded.
Just a few months later, Wilhelmina's fame appeared to spread across the Atlantic, as Noble House joined the fun. A peek at the Noble House online security certificate reveals that it is a property of Watermark Press, the company that happens to own poetry.com. This corporate affiliation, however, is nowhere to be found in the sales pitch below, which would like you to believe it originates from somewhere more famous than Owings Mills, Maryland.
N o b l e H o u s e
London ~ Paris ~ New YorkNoble House London
2 Harrington Road
London E11 4QW
Noble House Paris
2 Bis Avenue Durante
Noble House New York
Empire State Building
New York, NY 10118
Office of the Publisher
6 December, 2003
As you may know, Noble House is one of the foremost publishers of fiction and nonfiction works by new and established authors today. Our poetry division in the U.K. has had the honour of publishing the poetry of more than 1,600 poets over the past twelve years.
Recently I had the pleasure of reading the poetry that you have had published in the United States. I congratulate you on this grand endeavour, and propose to you that your singular talent and vision deserves appropriate recognition in Europe as well.
For this reason, I have posted this letter to request your permission to include one of your favourite poems in Colours of the Heart - a new poetry edition that is being published in the U.K. by Noble House and slated for worldwide distribution . . . a collection of poetry that is perhaps unlike any you have ever seen . . . one where each poem is featured on its own page, and one whose quality is reminiscent of the finest 19th century antique poetry books.
Hearken back, if you will, to the days of Emily Dickinson, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and William Wordsworth . . the age of grand bookmaking. Poetry editions were some of the most highly prized volumes because of their intimate attention to detail ñ quality typography, fine ivory laid paper, and colourful ornate covers. Wilhelmina, for this Edition, we've returned to the traditional size, style, and quality of these classic 19th century antique poetry books.
Scheduled for release in February 2004, Colours of the Heart will surely become one of your most treasured keepsakes. Your publication in this edition will establish you as an international author and afford you the respect and admiration attendant to such an honour. International Copyright notice for your poetic artistry will, of course, be in your name, assuring that you will retain worldwide rights to your work of art.
Best of all, should you decide to obtain a copy of the edition for your personal library, or as a wonderful personalised gift (you are, naturally, under no obligation to purchase a copy, notwithstanding the publication of your work in this edition), as you proudly turn its pages youíll find it one of the best values on the book market today. At only £28.95 (U.S. $45.55) for a hardbound, 200-page edition printed in two colours on ivory laid vellum, with a highly detailed, finely crafted, ornate cover, and a single poem to a page, this Edition promises to exceed your expectations, and will enjoy pride of place in your home. In fact, its quality is guaranteed. If for any reason you are dissatisfied, your money will be completely refunded in U.S. dollars with proper dispatch.
Wilhelmina, you may also wish to consider giving the public some insight about you and your artistry for this poetic showcase . . . perhaps the meaning behind your poem, or your own philosophical perspective. Because an entire page in the book is devoted to honouring your poetry, we can feature this additional material about you and your poetry on the recto leaf opposite your poem (you will thus have two full pages devoted to you and your artistry).
Wilhelmina, may we have permission to publish your work in the United Kingdom? Regardless of whether you purchase a copy or not, the international public deserves to see more of your artistic talent. You may submit your poem and biographical information, and give us permission all within the confines of the next page. And if you are inclined to order a copy of Colours of the Heart, you may also do so at the same time.
Noble House U.K.
P.S. For poets who may wish to obtain supplementary copies for gift-giving, to display, or for merchandising, special case pack discounts are available. Please consult the submission and order form for further details...