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We have our first winner in the Write a Rhymed Poem About Your Disappointing Family Member Sweepstakes! Karen Bock contributed the following brilliant bit of doggerel: Dick, the Dick My pedophile brother, Rich made some little girls bitch when they grew older and wisdom made them bolder about clueless and blind mothers whose favoritism smothers little girls finding love or beauty in mirrors but that always engenders fears. Congratulations, Karen!! You'll receive a copy of my book, Everything Is Going To Be Great, in the mail. For those of you who are suddenly envious of Karen, it's not too late! Send in your rhyming verse about why you hate your family, and you'll receive the same! Continue reading
Posted Aug 13, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
I couldn't let this post at We Who Are About To Die go by without posting in response my own personal William F. Buckley clip, which might actually be close to my favorite moment in television history (or at least running a close second to Krystle and Alexis in the lily pond.) "Now listen you queer. Stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I'll sock you in the goddamn face and you'll stay plastered. Let the author of Myra Breckenridge go back to his pornography and stop making any illusions of Nazism." And we get Glenn Fucking Beck with his Blackboard of Psychosis and the flailing manner of a hyperactive, secretly alcoholic junior high school teacher trying desperately to teach his class that "Math is FUN!" Look, Buckley was in many ways a repellent human. But he makes the art fags among us understand aspirational conservatism in a way a thousand Sarah Palins in gifted Valentino shantung never can. And let us not forget Gore Vidal's last word on the matter, which he uttered shortly after W. F. Buckley's death in 2008, when asked by the New York Times: "How did you feel when you heard Buckley had died earlier this year?" Gore replied: "I thought hell is bound to be a livelier place, as he joins forever those he served in life, applauding their prejudices and fanning their hatred." By the way, in Gore Vidal's "A Christmas Carol," the holiday pageant I am currently writing with my dear friend, the estimable Peter James Cook, Buckley will be playing the role of Marley to Vidal's Scrooge. Continue reading
Posted Aug 12, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
I don't know how many of you are aware of my Tumblr, There Oughta Be A German Word For That! My guess is probably relatively few. For the vast majority of you who are unaware, it's a blog where I attempt to invent complicated German compound words to describe impossible-to-describe modern conundrums. I've been on a bit of a hiatus because of the summer, because of the book release hoopla, but over the past few months I've brought the world concepts such as: Wunschvaterundmenschen--the sensation of wishing simultaneously that someone was your husband and your father; Kentnissvonstolzundschande--the pride felt in arcane knowledge that one is also deeply ashamed of having; And Selbstliebedurchhassenselbst--the act of self-deprecation in the service of self-promotion. Anyway, I thought of a new one today and I thought I might share it with you here. Halbwahrerfreund: an acquaintance that is more than a Facebook friend, but less than a real friend. A Halbwahrerfreund is someone you have met, but have never hung out with one on one. You can email a Halbwahrerfreund directly, even frequently, but it would be very strange call one on the phone. You can ask a Halbwahrerfreund for professional favors disguised as friendly overtures (and expect them to be asked of you in return) but you can't ask them to help you move, to catsit, or to visit you in the hospital. It is appropriate to invist a Halbwahrerfreund to your book release party, but not to your birthday party, and DEFINITELY not to your wedding. A Halbwahrerfreund requires a great deal of encouraging thank you emails when they show you any notice, in order to lull them into thinking your are perhaps something more than Halbwahrerfreunden. You are never sure precisely how much Halbwahrerfreund actually likes you. If you live in New York City, fully 85% of the people you know are Halbwahrerfreunden. Have you air-kissed your Halbwahrerfreund today? Continue reading
Posted Aug 11, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
As I may or may not have made clear earlier, I was invited to guest blog for this estimable site in part to promote my newest book, Everything Is Going To Be Great, a memoir of the two mostly disastrous but nostalgically wonderful years I spent living in Europe after college. Most of this time was spent in Amsterdam, where I was also lucky enough to spend the winter holidays. Christmas in the Netherlands is very different than it is here. Christmas is a holiday to spend with your family, getting drunk and eating ham, a Thanksgiving-esque festival, whereas the feast of Sinterklaas, about a month earlier, is really top banana. Sinterklaas carries with it some interesting traditions--not the least those brilliantly chronicled by David Sedaris. But my favorite tradition involves the giving gifts, or more precisely, the giving of gifts accompanied by pithy rhyming poems detailing the ways in which one's family members have disappointed one. (This may have inspired the the traditional "airing of grievances" we have been told is a cherished part of Festivus.) As we are coming up on the part of summer where everyone hates one another and themselves and hope the kids go back to school before one is forced to lay waste to everything in sight, I thought it might be amusing, not to say cathartic, to attempt such an endeavor here. Send your rhyming poems about your family's most abominable traits to me at At the end of the week I will post them, and send everyone who contributes a signed copy of my new book. Sound fair? (If you don't want the book, because you hate me or you can't read, I'll send you something else. Like a candy cane and a used tissue. I'm not going to tell you what I used it for.) We're under strict instructions not to post our own poetry here, but I thought it couldn't hurt to offer up a couple of my very humble examples as the genre, which in turn might inspire your far superior efforts. If I may: To a Beloved Mother Who Never Loved Me From the time I was a baby Til I'm ninety-three of four I always will be conscious That you loved my sister more. You trusted her with secrets In her you did not doubt You left her all your jewelry And I was left without. So when you open up this gift I hope that you will see A big fat lot of nothing 'Cause that's all you gave to me. Get the idea? I'll just show you one more. For a Very Special Alcoholic Do you remember how you puked on stage At high school graduation? Or how you used to pee yourself At each act of copulation? I don't think I'll forget the night You smashed up Rhonda's car Or the time you gave that convict head In a filthy roadside bar. So here my friend, my gift to you For your ever... Continue reading
Posted Aug 10, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
First of all, I would like you all to know that I keep putting my name in the heading titles not because I am an unrepentant narcissist (or at least, not just because) but as per Stacey's instructions. Stacey, if I'm allowed to stop doing this, or somehow misunderstood--which is possible, even probable--please let me know. Bon. On y va. I'm egregiously late in posting today. I wish I had a good excuse, but there's only one I can muster: it's that today is a Monday. Some of you may know what that means. It means that apart from my other commitments--eating, washing, therapy, Googling my own name, crushing the dreams of young actors trying out for my new play--I spent the entire day online, reading recaps of Mad Men. And reading the accompanying comment threads about Mad Men--sometimes several hundred comments long. And then watching the behind the scenes video about Mad Men. And communicating with other people about Mad Men And the rewatching last night's episode of Mad Men. And then reading yet more recaps of Mad Men. In short, I spent my Monday, as I do many Mondays (ah, the aimless life of the freelancer!) engaging with Mad Men the way I once did with works of literature. On its face, this isn't particularly surprising. I have written at length about my overidentification with Betty Draper, in styles both humorous and grave. I even wrote this, which I felt pretty damn smug about. So I'm definitely a little more invested than the average bear, or even the average New York City Media Professional who consumes the show the way she consumes vodka sodas at a Lower East Side one-hour open bar. And Mad Men, it has often been noted by cultural critics far more astute than I, seems to think it is a novel. The parallels and narrative threads, the long pauses before anybody speaks pregnant with unspoken prosaic description; the way everything is a symbol and nobody quite says what they mean. It cries out for analysis. It fairly begs for it. If there's not a college course teaching it alongside Cheever and O'Hara, there will be soon. Yet, I finish my day feeling empty. I'm not going to say cheaply snide things about how it's just a TV show, that these characters aren't real and it's stupid to care about them, because if that was true, then we would all be out of a job. Sometimes, the only things worth caring too much about aren't real. But it did leave me hungry for simpler days, before television got so ambitious and self-important and wonderful. When you didn't have to engage with things. When you could just watch Perfect Strangers after you finished your homework and not talk about it all fucking week. When the world looked perfect, with nothing to rearrange. Continue reading
Posted Aug 9, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
Dear Best American Poets and the People who Love Them, Hello, friends! I'm Rachel Shukert, Taurus, animal lover, and author of Everything Is Going To Be Great. I'll be guest blogging for you all week, and I have to say, I'm very excited. The last time I was here we interviewed some of my favorite poets, wrote proto-Morrissey songs together, and made poems out of those random words that Facebook used to have you type out before they would let you send a message to anyone. Similarly fun things are in store for you during my next brief tenure. Unfortunately, it took me a very embarrassing amount of time to figure out how to get in here and post (although I think I'm on it now) and I have to be somewhere. It is, after all, a weekend, and despite my advancing age I am trying to maintain at least a modicum of a social life. It's also so hot in my apartment I think I might die, and after the electric bill I got hit with yesterday, it seems prudent to not die on someone else's dime. In short, I need to get out of the house. My apologies. Please forgive me, and enjoy the following title sequence from one of my favorite 1980's television shows. Continue reading
Posted Aug 8, 2010 at The Best American Poetry