Rob Ford, preparing to be skinned.
& Other Poetic News-ish Events
Thank you to everyone who entered the Town Crier’s first Writing Moment Poetry Contest. We are pleased to announce our winners. To learn more about the contest, and to try out the prompts the poets responded to, click here. And stay tuned for news on contest number two.
The winner of The Best Poem Award, and a copy of The Writing Moment: A Practical Guide to Creating Poems, is Gary Barwin for “DEAR MAYOR (I’m thinking only of the babies.)” It appears after the break.
* * *
Dear Mayor (I’m thinking only of the babies)
By Gary Barwin
I imagine skinning you
and you romp around the city
we won’t save taxes
think of the costs
protecting your insides
dear Mayor we stretch your skin
a blanket around us
keeps us warm for winter
we come and go through orifices
I won’t make the orifice of the mayor joke
but I just did
I think about grief
then that pinging sound
when everyone uses your stretched skin
babies there are babies
I’m thinking only of the babies
and the little pink heads which break
* * *
We loved Barwin’s epistolary poem for its unique blend of (literally) mayor-dismantling humour and surreal violence. The economic, social, and cultural violence of political and religious figures has long served as the esprit of artists and authors alike. With “DEAR MAYOR,” Barwin engages a tradition that includes writers as diverse as Rabelais and de Sade, and artists as varying as eighteenth century caricaturists (Rowlandson, Gillray, Cruickshank) and contemporary meme-makers (TEH INTRANETS). In the eyes of his critics, Mayor Ford has taken a knife to Toronto, slicing away the city’s skin (and heart and guts and lungs, etc.). Here Barwin figuratively turns Ford’s knife back on Ford, revealing the meagre living conditions and dark future that awaits Toronto if it follows the Mayor’s model of “trimming the fat.”
Structure-wise, Barwin enters into another artistic tradition, the flight of imaginative fancy. In poetry, the most recognizable example of this tradition is Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18,” which begins by asking “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” and then undertakes this comparison to sublime ends. Barwin opens with his own bold, reader-grabbing flight of fancy—flaying the mayor—and then successfully builds on this flight by imagining everything from the spectacle of the mayor’s busted-gut romp through the city to the mayor’s skin as a trampoline.
We were struck by the originality and precision of Barwin’s vision, how he works so wonderfully at two levels at once: first, at the level of the imaginative variation (the romp, blanket, trampoline, etc.), and, second, at the level of the stanza, in his particular rendering of the imaginative variations (the romp, blanket, etc.), where he often constructs another surprising turn. This second-level work is especially evident in stanza four, where the speaker admits making the joke the speaker refused to make, and stanza five, which follows “I think about grief” with a very fertile “(pause).”
Barwin also does some really impressive work with the rhythm of attention. The first five stanzas pack in the original imagining (the skinning) and four variations (the romp, the blanket, the orifice as entryways/exits, and the grief). In sharp contrast, the final four stanzas focus on one variation (the skin as trampoline) and take an almost narrative approach to its presentation. This technique creates a dream-like sense of suspension, of “pause,” to use Barwin’s word, as we await the final outcome—the destroyed future symbolised by the falling babies—of the Mayor’s work. Barwin heightens this dream-like feel through repetition and his deferral of the inevitable violent descent of the bouncing babies. On this front, too, note how Barwin plays with us at the end, first with that ripe line break at “heads which break / the clouds” and then with his final rendering of the plunging babies as “dear Mayor / the rain.”
Since we had so many excellent submissions, we decided to spread the wealth by coming up with some other categories to acknowledge a variety of contributors. Along with immortal internet glory, each of these poets also receives a copy of The Writing Moment: A Practical Guide to Creating Poems.
The Miley Cyrus Wrecking Ball Wordpile Award goes to A.G. Pasquella for this passage from his poem “Temple of the Tongue”: “Equine humping hunting thrusting thrumping grunting stumping crumping / Floorboards glistening with twerk-sweat / ignite cascades of digital hand-wringing.”
Maggie Thistle wins the Fixed Form Award for her haiku “Cankered from salt dust.” Here is Thistle’s poem in its tongue-licious entirety:
Cankered from salt dust
Ground rough by your wrecking ball;
Still, I lick the world.
Munira Fatehi wins the Most Ambitious Poem Award for “Tempos of Velocity.” Fatehi composed a manic choral blend of non-newsmakers making the news (for example, a man who tried to follow his dreams), reporter updates from Channel Commotion News, and the listings for ORR (Out-Rageous & Remarkable) News programs such as 7 Ways to Insult a Helpless Person, which airs Thursdays at two. Here is an excerpt from a report by Ace Ing:
This is a story from Misery.
According to sources a 46-year-old mother
Was sabotaged by her 9-month-old infant.
Every morning from 2 a.m.
The baby cried continuously for 2 hours.
The mother’s beauty sleep was snatched
Forcing her into Depression.
The baby has been charged with inappropriate behaviour
And taken to Discipline Court.
The mother wanted to remain silent
But information leaked.
Thank you once again to all those poets who submitted and stay tuned for news on contest number two.