Cupid and And Speaking of Strategic Planning
CUPID by Jean Wilson
A greeting to all you lovers, and those who like romance,
We put our trust in Cupid's arrow, nothing is left to chance.
Our fat, little cherub friend shoots our perfect mate,
Instantly we fall in love and leave the rest to fate.
Problem is, poor Cupid is feeling very sad,
Divorce rate is escalating, and things are looking bad.
Cupid's hit an all time low, his aim has gone to seed,
He's drinking rum by the barrel, and smoking loads of weed.
When it's time to do his duty, he aims his arrows high,
Off they wobble in the air, sailing through the sky.
Where they land is anyone's guess, it's certainly not the target,
There's going to be a few mistakes, some people will be hard hit.
Now there's utter chaos, since Cupid's seeing double,
This could be disastrous, us humans are in trouble.
He's joining people together for an inevitable life of doom,
The bells will dolefully ring "here comes the Bride and Gloom".
He's made some very strange couplings, Jordan and the Pope?
A vicar with a stripper, oh Lord give us hope!
Prince Harry and Lady Gaga, the monarchy's in strife!
It was bad enough when Charles took Camilla as his wife!
Kermit and Pippa Middleton? Oh Cupid can't you see?
Poor Jennifer Aniston, you've matched her with a tree!
I really think enough is enough, I'm calling in your boss,
Venus will be horrified and very very cross!
Our Goddess was sympathetic, she let Cupid keep his job,
On condition he join a "self-help group", which he agreed upon a sob.
The next day he flutters in, to a meeting of the AA.
He sits down, takes a breath, and then begins to say...
"Hi, my name is Cupid and I'm an alcoholic,
I've never had to seek help, I'm normally very stoic.
But times are really changing, it seems love is replaced by hate,
My job just seems so stressful now, there's too much on my plate."
"No one seems to take the time to listen to their heart,
Those lazy humans sit and wait for the piercing of my dart!
I would create the perfect union then it would end upon a whimper,
Instead of trying to work at it a solicitor would be simpler."
"I can't be responsible for the failing human race,
Marriages in crisis, the establishment in disgrace.
A complete lack of morals that the media promote,
Lengthy anniversaries becoming more remote."
"I no longer feel any job satisfaction,
It drove me to drink, hence this drastic action.
It really must be time for me to hang up my bow,
I will tender my resignation and in a month I shall go."
"For years I've joined these couples and all of it for free,
I've always been single, so when is it time for me?
I need that special someone who believes in exchanging rings,
Who will be happy to settle down and clip my errant wings."
"Who will tickle my fat belly and call me names like 'cuddles',
Who will fly with me in the rain and dance amongst the puddles.
Who will moan to me constantly about the toilet seat,
In whose warm bed can I depend in which to warm my feet."
So Cupid raised a final glass of aphrodisiac mead,
Off he flew to find his mate and the new life he would lead.
So what will happen to us all without his intervention?
The effects are astronomical and too numerous to mention!!
Copyright 2012 by Jean Wilson
AND SPEAKING OF STRATEGIC PLANNING by Lisa Badner
Yesterday's meeting was not to be believed.
So invigorating, it sent some over the edge.
The roll-out agenda ambitious,
the deadlines aggressive. Implementing
critical initiatives at this critical juncture
is critical, said Troy from Operations.
Steady as she goes. Thirty seven
glossy 11 by 17 pie charts. Beverly
from Licensing wore a long blouse
over her tattoos. Vickie from Finance
wore pink. Key is to strike a balance,
said George, chief associate deputy
to the deputy associate chief
of Analysis and Audits, between
the objectives of goals
and the goals of objectives.
Fran from Communications presented
a soft launch of the new mission.
In song. Then, Wanda from Data
dimmed the lights. Powerpoint blue
engulfed the northwest wall.
The anticipation unbearable,
Margaret from Research ran out.
Oh the pressure. The pressure.
The new logo was red.
And black. And purple.
Shadows of teal. A touch
of magenta, when you stare
for three seconds, then look away
and blink, each eye separately,
four times. It spoke to everyone,
Collections staff cried. Enforcement
saluted. The fonts: Bakersfield
Old Face and Brittanic Bold.
Subtext in Century Gothic
Copyright 2012 by Lisa Badner; first published in TriQuarterly #137
Critique by Jendi Reiter
What's a joke without a punchline? Whether a poem is serious or funny, it should build to a conclusion that enhances the meaning and exceeds the power of the preceding lines. This month we present for your consideration two poems that made it to the semifinals of our 2012 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest, a select group of about 60 out of 2,500 entries.
Both of these poems rely on incongruity, a staple feature of humor, though in quite different ways. "Cupid", by Jean Wilson of Shropshire, England, gets laughs from the peculiar celebrity pairings that result when the God of Love goes on a bender. The image of a drunken, morose cherub also comically reverses our expectations. "And Speaking of Strategic Planning", by Lisa Badner of Brooklyn, NY, displays incongruity both in the events and in the tone of her poem: the melodramatic behavior at a corporate meeting, and the rapturous voice in which the speaker describes something as trivial as a new logo. Good satire reveals the exaggerated importance we place on unworthy objects, by exaggerating it even further.
Tone of voice is another crucial tool in the humorist's kit. In fact, it can make or break a poem, turning a would-be joke into a belabored mess, or a sentimental ode into an unintentionally ridiculous display. Choice of form interacts with choice of tone, because form can tell us how serious the poet is about her subject matter, while tone often determines whether she convinces us of that assessment.
For example, "Cupid" uses a loose iambic heptameter, arranged into four-line stanzas of two couplets with predictable sing-song rhymes. This was a common structure for epic and tragic verse during the Romantic era, but its very success in that mode has since made it a cliché and a hallmark of bad amateur poetry today. Therefore, it is a perfect form for a poem that pokes fun at romantic conventions. The bumpety-bump rhythm hints that "Cupid" will be a farce, while the tone of the first two stanzas goes from almost-straightforward to clear silliness by line 8 ("drinking rum by the barrel").
The farce amps up, as it should, till we reach the point that for me was the heart of the poem: the ludicrous yet oddly apt love matches between celebrities. Prince Harry and Lady Gaga? Why not? Imagine the hats at that royal wedding! And poor Jennifer Aniston, indeed—the tabloids have matched her with so many beaux, a tree may be the only new possibility left.
Unfortunately, "Cupid" did not advance further in the judging because nothing so memorable occurred in the rest of the poem. Cupid's six-stanza speech contains some smile-worthy rhymes (alcoholic/stoic, puddles/cuddles) but the new information comes at a much slower pace compared to the rapid-fire jokes in stanzas 5-6.
The last lines in particular felt like a throwaway ending; the poem had to stop somewhere, but nothing was added or resolved. For me, it would have been more satisfying to end with Cupid finding an incongruous mate of his own. (Margaret Thatcher's single, isn't she?) A good ending references what has gone before, with a twist.
The humor in Badner's "And Speaking of Strategic Planning" is deep rather than broad. It's free verse that still pays careful attention to form. Paradox? Not really. Just as "light" verse shouldn't mean careless writing, neither does "free" mean "anything goes". Line breaks, cadences, and sound patterns must be used thoughtfully to create drama and highlight key concepts. Badner does this so well that even though I understood the joke, the mood of hushed reverence affected me, too.
Whereas Wilson's simplistic rhymes and predictable meter set the stage for farce, Badner's ironic humor derives from pairing stylistic sophistication with banal events. She carefully places line breaks to create tension that resolves with an absurd anticlimax, again and again: "Implementing /critical initiatives at this critical juncture /is critical"; "Vickie from Finance /wore pink."
This is why I was expecting a more resonant ending than a mere list of fonts. After the delicious melodrama of "It spoke to everyone, /Collections staff cried. Enforcement /saluted.", this was one spot where an anticlimax simply made the poem feel unfinished.
However, the prestigious journal TriQuarterly found it satisfactory, possibly because their criterion was not "what makes Jendi laugh so hard that her iced tea comes out her nose". Or maybe it was the typeface.
Where could poems like "Cupid" and "And Speaking of Strategic Planning" be submitted? The following contests may be of interest:
Reuben Rose Poetry Competition
Entries must be received by September 30
Long-running contest from Voices Israel gives prizes up to $500 and anthology publication; enter online
Firstwriter.com International Poetry Competition
Entries must be received by October 1
British writers' resource site gives prizes up to 500 pounds for poems 30 lines maximum; enter online
Writers' Forum Poetry Competition
Entries must be received by the 15th of each month
Monthly awards up to 100 pounds for unpublished short poems, from British magazine for emerging writers; enter by mail or online
These poems and critique appeared in the September 2012 issue of Winning Writers Newsletter (subscribe free).
Categories: Poetry Critiques