Hello ladies and gentlemen.
I’m literally swelling with pride! (Not like that, get your mind out of the gutter and wash your mouth out with soap for good measure). And no, I haven’t eaten all of the pies but I’ll have a generous slice if you are buying.
I’ve written a lot of poetry collaborations with some very talented people but this is something different all together.
Today marks the debut of my first ever guest post on this blog. *Fanfare, trumpets and helicopters taking off and crashing into the sun*
I’ve been chatting with Helena Hann-Basquiat from Canadaland and she has kindly offered to furnish this humble blog with a delightful “Helena & Penny” Short Story piece specifically written around the theme of poetry (which makes sense, since this is what I mostly write over here when I’m not terrorising people with my own Short Stories and hashtag games).
First, a little bit about Helena and then you can read the piece. I’ll let her introduce herself – go for it Helena! The stage is all yours!
Some people attribute the invention of the Ampersand to her, but she has never made that claim herself.
She is currently working on a sequel to JESSICA entitled Singularity, featuring contributions from five other writers.
Helena writes strange, dark fiction under the name Jessica B. Bell. VISCERA, a collection of strange tales, will be published by Sirens Call.
Thank you Helena for that fabulous introduction to your work, I see countless gems here worth discovering.
And now on to the main event – thank you for sharing this piece with my readers Helena and the best of luck with all of your writing projects. I look forward to reading them all myself in between cookie breaks and taking my imaginary dog for walks (all the fun of the fair and less cleanup afterwards, even if you do look like a complete tit).
“Poetry Slam, Daddy-O!” by Helena Hann-Basquiat
“Please tell me you’re going to take this seriously,” I begged the capricious Countess, who had a reputation, not unlike her sainted Aunt, of composing clever campaigns of ironic ridicule.
You remember Penny, darlings. My unsinkable niece with a penchant for the peculiar, known to slip into various whimsical characters for her own amusement, if not always the amusement of others.
“Cool it, baby,” the Countess Penelope of Arcadia replied, adjusting her leopard-print poodle skirt and slipping on some saddle shoes. Apparently Arcadia was a place where the 1950s never ended. “It’s going to be a bash, unreal, totally Fat City. Like, crazy, man. All the hep cats are going to be there. Totally subterranean.”
“Oh dear god, they’re going to kill you,” I sighed. “You’re going to get lynched at a poetry reading.”
“Cool your jets, Daddy-O,” Penny said, affecting what I can only describe as a slightly-stoned hipster drawl. “I’m hip. They’re gonna dig it, it’s gonna be a kick, you’ll see. And if you don’t like it, you can drop dead twice.”
“What, and look like you?”
“Ah, now that’s just hurtful, baby,”
“Don’t call me baby,” I said, and as soon as the words were out of my mouth, I knew I’d regret them, and sure enough, I did, as the Countess Penelope of Arcadia, former lead singer of Penny and the Arcadianettes, launched into a rather overly dramatic rendition of Don’t Worry Baby by The Beach Boys. To tell the truth, I don’t think Penny’s ever heard The Beach Boys’ version, just the Bryan Ferry cover.
“You know that song’s from 1964, right, Poodle-Skirt?”
“Yeah, well, we were, like, visionaries, you dig? Don’t be square, baby, it’ll be all right.”
I sighed and looked at the hipster goddess, with her white ankle socks instead of her usual striped stockings, and her hair done up tight, Cat Eye glasses firmly in place, and had to admit she looked, well, cool.
“What do you think?” Penny asked. “Beret or no beret?”
“Ah,” I said. “That is the question.”
“Don’t start, Helena. This is my story.”
“No beret, then,” I suggested. “That’s one step beyond the pale.”
“Don’t you dare launch into One Step Beyond, Helena,” Penny warned.
“That’s madness, darling, I’d never dream of it. I don’t have the range, and it’s not really a song you can just launch into, is it? I’m not a horn section after all.”
“No, you’re not.”
If you missed it, darlings — and I wouldn’t blame you what with Penny and her Beat Culture boogaloo — Penny was invited to a poetry reading. You know, one of those things held in some trendy café where people of a certain age go to take themselves way too seriously.
Having once been of a certain age and having taken myself way too seriously on more than one occasion, I can’t really give them too hard a time. But the fact of the matter is, a poetry reading generally consists of the following:
1. Actual talented poets, for whom this is really the only way they are ever going to be heard, and so, darlings, my kudos to you if you are one of these poets. Poetry is a vastly misrepresented and misunderstood and a bunch of other misses art, and is vastly underappreciated, undervalued, and a bunch of other unders, up to but excluding underwear. One should never read poetry in one’s underwear, unless, of course, you have the body for it, in which case, I have a very libertine and laissez-faire attitude toward partial nudity and poetry.
2. People reading their diaries and calling it poetry. This always makes me go a big rubbery one, because it’s so personal and intimate and — let me stress this with italics, darlings — none of my fucking business. Honestly, it’s embarrassing.
3. People who honestly try, but who honestly shouldn’t. I know, darlings, I’m a terrible snob, but the fact of the matter is, not all of us can paint La Guernica, not all of us can compose Janie Jones, not all of us can perform open heart surgery, and not everyone is a poet. Yes, yes, you’re going to give me the subjectivity of art speech, and you can just can it right now, darlings, because at some point there has to be some kind of quality control, or else the world would be full of Ke$shas and Justin Biebers, and there would never be Radiohead, Tori Amos, Mos Def or Jack White.
4. Poseur wannabe critics who, while they’ve written nothing at all, pour their derision upon everything, declaring everything bourgeois elitist tripe. Fuck those assholes.
5. The friends and family of people in groups 2 & 3. They are either bored or embarrassed and resentful of the fact that they have to endure this, or else, they are over-enthusiastic enablers who encourage these people unconditionally to keep doing what they should definitely fucking stop doing.
And then there’s Penny. Penny doesn’t write poetry. Or, she does, but she makes no claim to be a proficient or passingly profound poet. Instead, she is, in her own way, something of a performance artist. I mean, why else go around talking like a Dickensian street urchin from time to time, or, her new favourite, 1920s gangster. I swear, if I hear the phrase “You’ll never take me alive, copper!” one more time, those words are going to be her own self-fulfilling prophesy. I may make them her epitaph on her gravestone.
Tonight, she is going as ironic hipster poet, and while she has not given me notice as to what she is going to read, I can only assume it is something that is going to embarrass me, make me laugh until chocolate milk shoots out my nose (whether or not I am even in the vicinity of the chocolatey concoction) and likely certainly go over the heads of an entire generation that seems to have gotten their sense of irony shot off in some war, or else it atrophied for the lack of an appropriate font and/or emoticon. Which means that she’s either going to confuse, or else piss off, a crowd of people who, as I mentioned before, take themselves way too seriously.
Grab your helmets, darlings. There’s going to be fallout.
We arrived at the café bar, just as some mousy-looking girl with a ukulele was singing — I kid you not — a ukulele version of Head Like a Hole by Nine Inch Nails. I suspect if Trent Reznor had known that this would someday happen, he might have pursued a career in computer engineering and stayed in rural Pennsylvania.
There may or may not have been a house band playing beat jazz while a trumpeter with a mute riffed and a guy who looked remarkably like Tom Waits sang scat into the microphone, dressed in a pinstripe suit and a flashy yellow tie, his fedora pushed down into his eyes while he boogied on the stage like a pre-Thriller Michael Jackson on anti-seizure medication.
Wow, Helena, that’s a very specific reference.
Glad to see you’re still awake, darlings.
I say there may or may not have been — you see, I’ve been accused of being an unreliable narrator in the past, and I confess that for the sake of good storytelling, I have been known to indulge my more creative side and take a certain slippery license with the facts. So please allow me to regale you without being constrained to such pedestrian concepts as “the truth” or “things that are in the realm of possibility” and just sit back and relax and enjoy the show.
As I’d previously feared, some poor, socially awkward young man took the stage to read a letter he’d written to the girl that had recently dumped him, and it was not at all in the vein of Mike Myers’ character from So I Married an Axe Murderer, which would have at least been amusing.
(“He wants you back,” he screamed into the night air like a fireman going to a window that has no fire… except the passion of his heart. I am lonely. It’s really hard. This poem… sucks.)
He was applauded for his bravery and I did my very best to keep my mouth shut, because you never know — he could be the next Charles Manson, who, by the way, recorded an album with Brian Wilson and the other Beach Boys — no, I’m not joking, darlings.
Wow, is that two Beach Boys references in this story?
Why yes, I believe it is, darlings, thanks for keeping track. That’s very useful.
Penny had signed up, despite my protests, and refused to tell me what she was going to do, which only made my anticipation (read: anxiety) all the greater.
There were a couple of good poets who were shy, a couple of really good poets who had the spoken word thing down, and I felt bad that they weren’t as appreciated as they should have been, though Penny, never breaking character, declared them like, crazy; like, wow, and snapped her fingers enthusiastically.
Then it was Penny’s turn to take the stage, and she sauntered like Marlene Dietrich, and I half expected her to break into some sort of cabaret number, but instead, she kind of purred and launched into her bit, still affecting that stoned hipster drawl.
“This is a little poem my good friends Neal and Jack showed me,” she said, and I had to bite my lip to stop from smirking.
“Blah blah blah,” she said in an eloquent tone, betraying nothing. “Blah blah blah blah blah.”
She paused, taking in her audience, who clearly didn’t know what to do with her.
“Coming out of your mouth with your blah blah blah. Zip your lips like a padlock and meet me at the back with the jack and the jukebox.
“I don’t really care where you live at!”
Penny was hamming it up. Her voice had become that of Vivien Leigh from Streetcar, or maybe Sir Laurence Olivier in one of his character roles. (Which I thought was terribly strange, darlings, seeing as those two had been married to one another — what statement Penny may or may not have been making with this, I know not.)
“Just turn around boy,” Penny continued sotto voce, “and let me hit that.”
“Don’t be a little bitch with your chit chat, just show me…”
Here the Countess of Cool paused for dramatic effect.
“…where your dick’s at. Thank you.”
A stunned audience applauded, and I stood to rush the stage before she did any further damage, but was silenced as Penny launched right into her next piece. After delivering Ke$sha lyrics as if they were poetry, I could only guess where she was going next. The dreaded Biebs.
“Yo, B-I-G,” Penny yelled into the microphone in her whitest of white girl voices. “I don’t know if this makes sense, but you’re my hallelujah.”
She pointed to me and I just knew that I’d soon be surrounded by lesbians. The first time that someone mistook Penny and I for partners instead of Aunt and Niece, she just thought it was too funny to let drop, and so takes every opportunity to try to recreate the incident, even if I’m with Spenser. I could be slow dancing with Spenser, his hands in my back pockets and me nibbling at his neck, and that wouldn’t stop Penny from making a scene, which actually happened — pardon me while I digress.
Spenser and I were dancing to some old ‘80s song — I think it was Never Tear Us Apart by INXS, which, autoerotic asphyxiation aside, still holds up — and Penny came and tore us apart and launched immediately into accusing me of cheating on her. And with a man no less.
Penny can be quite possessive of me, but she also likes to bust my ovaries just for giggles.
But I have digressed, and needs must that I rewind.
“I don’t know if this makes sense, but you’re my hallelujah. Give me a time and place, and I’ll rendezvous it, I’ll fly you to it, I’ll beat you there.”
Penny knew just how to get on my nerves. When I first heard this song while scrolling through the radio, I nearly drove off the road laughing. I couldn’t believe that those were actual lyrics. After clearing the chocolate milk from the windshield (because, you see… well, you get the picture, darlings) I righted myself and Penny informed me that the song was, in fact, by Justin Bieber, and suddenly I understood why he was the object of ridicule for anyone over the age of 10.
“Girl, you know I got you,” Penny said dramatically. “Us, trust…”
If there had been a jazz drummer, he would have done a hi-hat and snare rim shot, and then stopped for dramatic pause.
Penny looked at her audience and then made her eyes well up with tears to deliver the final, terrible line in a hushed whisper: “A couple of things I can’t spell without ‘U’”
“Yes, yes,” I said under my breath as the applause — less this time, because I think the audience was catching on that she was kind of making fun of them a little bit — died down. “You’ve made your point, Penelope. Pop lyrics are ridonkulous when put in a different context. Don’t overstay your welcome. Don’t go too far.”
But as my good friend Ferris once said, you can never go too far, and this is an adage that I have used with Penny a number of times, and one she had made something of a personal philosophy.
“I’d like to read a poem that means so much to a very special someone here tonight. I love you, Helena.”
As soon as she started reading, I knew that this was payback for some long forgotten slight or embarrassment — perhaps my inability to stop telling the story of how she played with her own poo like it was marbles as a child, or that one time I convinced her that My Chemical Romance had reformed under the name Watery Mayhem and gave her tickets to their secret gig at Lee’s Palace, only for her to discover that Watery Mayhem was a Bay City Rollers cover band. She had Saturday Night stuck in her head for weeks, and she swore one day she’d get her revenge.
Karma, as they say, truly is a bitch.
“Karma,” Penny began, staring me down and vamping it up, as if she were singing me a love song. “Karma karma karma.”
I glared right back at her and gave her the slice of my finger across my throat. All eyes were on me and I had to force a smile.
“Karma chameleon,” she finished. “You come and go. You come…”
A hush fell over the small audience.
“…and go. Thank you very much, you hep cats and kitties. I’ll be here all night. Try the veal.”
At that point, I did rush the stage, and Penny planted a big wet one right on my lips right before I dragged her out, howling like a crazed hyena on laughing gas.
For more entertaining blog posts that have been inspired by poetry and crafted lovingly in the form of verse, prose or even both(!) check out the links below:-
1. marsowords – Five Seasons
2. Brick Wahl – Hustler
3. Brick Wahl – Pile of bones
4. MULIEBRAL STUDIES – LIFE’S HARSH LESSONS
5. Book Musings – Armchair BEA: My Introduction
6. Ali Abbas – To Bury Shakespeare
7. mikupa – Time Departing
8. Husband Haiku – Parchment Cadenza
9. Handwriting of God – Parchment Cadenza
10. vic briggs – Vow of Silence
11. Sunshine and Rain – someday.
12. The Pretty Platform – National Poetry Writing Month – Tautogram – Challenge
13. A Word Adventure – Weekly challenge ~ RÃªves brisÃ©s
14. Wordsong – Parchment Cadenza
15. Creative Escape – Time for Poetry: I Am Not a Poet
16. The Nonsense Filter: an E-novel – A sharp intake of the world
17. The Wayward Warrior – Eternity – NaPoWriMo Day 22
18. jemtunes – Constant
19. Raj Suraj’s Blog – TWO LANDS
20. Amalamating Morphemes – a crying time
21. Jenine Silos – Listen to Me
22. Jenn Lost in Chaos – Hidden From Your Eyes
23. THE URBAN INTELLIGENTSIA – headrush
24. Book Musings – Poetry, Music and my Brain
25. field of thorns – Paper People
26. Phoenix Rising – Haiku – Echoes
27. Starting Write Now – Now I See
28. Namesake – I am mine || poetry #1
29. Slices from Life: Inspirations everywhere – I Feel Trapped..
30. y – sunday brunch is a
31. the intrinsickness – Toxic Shock
32. Glorious Results Of A Misspent Youth – The Non Conformist Conformist
33. SuyashChopra – Death, The New Life
34. psychologistmimi – Howl on a bloodstone: belt out your pain
35. SahyHey – Envy
36. Views Splash! – You Have No Right
37. Focal Breeze – Across the Tracks
38. e g o i n f l u x – “The Rain Comes” (original poem)
39. Glorious Results Of A Misspent Youth – The XY Factor
40. Grab Your Mind – Poetry: Is it not violence?
41. World – Spring – Life Back in Action
42. HavenTales – Weekly Writing Challenge : Time for Poetry â€“ â€œThe Bench”
43. Moriau – Chapters
44. Moriau – An ode to two I love, eternally
45. y – the same heart carries
46. The Quirky Life of P – Mr P Odes to a Cat
47. y – on the mornings when
48. Escapades to Happiness – Yes, that’s how I title my writings
49. The Hatke Insight – CHRONICLES OF SATAN FOR THE WISE
50. Dance With Madness – Time Bomb
51. Basically Beyond Basic – Weekly Writing Challenge: Time for Poetry
52. Poems and Drawings – Last Sunset
53. y – your waist
54. Knowledge Addiction
55. y – we found out
56. erikleo – Cat
57. Paint the world with words
58. A Lifetime of Lashing – Weekly Writing Challenge: Time for Poetry
59. Poems and Drawings – The End of the World
60. A Wilderness of Words – Seasonal lake view
61. Lightning Bug – Real Love Hurts
62. Bumblepuppies – Junk Food Insults My Intelligence
63. So Not Simple – Broken stands a part of ME ..
64. meraki geek – a to z: o is for ono junk food
65. The Approximate Yogi – Poetry in Motion: Celebrating National Poetry Month with Yoga
66. heathervoid – Sonnet X, in blank verse
67. Acid Free Pulp – No Rest for the Writer
68. Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss – Weekly Challenge: Time for Poetry: Where Have all the Pingbacks Gone?
69. Triumphant Wings – Theives
70. Dreams Will Catch You – In the presence of fear
71. Chasing the Stars – Full Circle
72. Mermaid’s tresses – Six sweet persimmons
73. Poems and Drawings – Yesterday and Tomorrow and Forever
74. Glorious Results Of A Misspent Youth – Why Hannah Can’t Spel
75. cloudeating – The Daily Post Challenge
76. avatarofmrbean – Oh, to be a Poet………..
77. A Boisterous Life – Rational?
78. O Mighty Camelot |
79. Resident Alien — Being Dutch in America – Disorder: With A Wink To William Blake
80. Corned Beef Hashtag – Visits From Nowhere
81. thebonegarden – The Daily Post Weekly Writing Challenge: Time for Poetry – Mantis and Spider
82. Seven – Simplicity
83. Bonum in Libero – A Haiku Day
84. Pocket-Sized Musings – On Poetry
85. Glorious Results Of A Misspent Youth – Passover For Dummies
86. A Maniac’s Menagerie of Motley Thoughts – DP Challenge: Time for Poetry
87. Her Heart Shaped Box – Reign Rich
88. Paper Plane Pilots – Panic Attack
89. derekalanwilkinson – Suicide no. 47: Mapping Manhattan
90. Traveling Seeds – On Learning How To Breathe
91. A Journey Called Life … – Retrouvailles
92. litadoolan – Viral Spiral
93. To Breathe is to Write – NaPoWriMo Day 16 Poem ~~ Lies?
94. Grit & Satin – I
95. Abysmal Heights – What Hurts The Most
96. Abysmal Heights – Silence
97. Abysmal Heights – Destiny
98. Abysmal Heights – Eternal: NaPoWriMo Day 16
99. Eclectic Alli – Adventures in Poetry
100. A Life with Limits – NaPoWriMo: When Minjung Slayed the Dragon
101. Poems and Drawings – To Exist
102. Poems and Drawings – Longing for Tomorrow
103. Forgotten Correspondence – The 17th of June 1962 â€“ New York, New York
104. a contract – I’m an alien – by Mildy Inspireus
105. a contract – Legal Alien
106. A Constant State of Hunger – Haiku (plural)
107. A Cup of Strawberries – If you love something, let it go…
108. A Cup of Strawberries – Beauty and the Beast
109. A Cup of Strawberries – Mother
110. Jenine Silos – A Morning Cup
111. spirit grind – barefoot traveler
112. Lyrallya – Job interview!
113. The Seeker’s Dungeon – Into the Sacrificial Fire
114. Tempest – The Three Green Twigs
115. loveletterstoaghost – Phantoms
116. Morpethroad – You Have Touched My Soul
117. Resident Alien — Being Dutch in America – How Do You Write?
118. Toss the Typewriter – Weekly Brief – Poetry’s Sonnet
119. Properly Ridiculous – No Comeback
120. Her Heart Shaped Box – (pt.3) Loves Modern Mire or a Commentary on the Rules
121. Who Am I? – Little Growing Pains
122. julieadl310 – Dry Ground
123. So Not Simple – Am I a hesitant Poet??
124. The Log Blog – Poopetry
125. The Shotgun Girls – One In A Million- The Life Cycle of the Monarch
126. Just Be V – The Daily Post Weekly Writing Challenge: Time for Poetry – Life’s Eternal Song
127. Thin spiral notebook – Frog prince
128. A Sign Of Life – Scatter Poem
129. chey – This Is Only A Test – A Sestina
130. Plan-It Janet – In between
131. A Queen In The Shadows – Be Still
132. nirupamaprv – Writing Challenge- Embraced Change
133. Squares & Rectangles – Sonnet #6
134. Snow’s Fissures and Fractures – Wanishing
135. The Expressible CafÃ© – Ink Slingers Inspire
136. I’m a Writer, Yes I Am – The Pity of Ages Yet Unborn
137. Boundaries and Edges – These Things Are Red
138. Bumblepuppies – Legalese Insults My Intelligence
139. Tempest – One Fine Day
140. Letters to an Unknown – Glances
141. Raj Suraj’s Blog – I PONDER…
142. Raj Suraj’s Blog – LONG STORY
143. Raj Suraj’s Blog – VIRGIN’S MONOLOGUE
144. A Simple Note – A Moment of Beauty (Poetry)
145. Thinking Languages! – Time for Poetry
146. dandelionsinwind – Shadows
147. dandelionsinwind – Shadows
148. PS Cottier – Tuesday poem: Alice looks back
149. Nonlinear Compilations – Changing Of The Seasons
150. Tinfinity and Beyond – Sunshine| A Reverse Acrostic
151. SERENDIPITY – ONE BIRD SINGING
152. rarasaur – (L)asting Everlasting
153. Sammi Talk – My Favorite Self-Written Poem Because The Post Said To
154. zaphnathpaaneah – On the brink of yesterday
155. Stories from aside – Being
156. Vagrant Contradictions – Joshua Tree National Park, February 2014
157. Never Stationary – Driven Mad By Time
158. Minimalism and India – A World Inwards.
159. The Shady Tree – How Do You Do
160. siyasethi – My second rainbow
161. The year I fu*cked off Facebook – DP Challenge…A little Monday poetry for you
162. Smile at the Sky – Tautogram : Peace
163. Scent of Rina – Love Book
164. Scent of Rina – Twisted Love
165. Vagrant Contradictions – Our Inevitable Return
166. Butterfly Mind – Everything I need to know about creative spaces I learned from the art on Mad Men
167. Delicious Ambiguity – Time for Poetry
168. Delicious Ambiguity – Feelings
169. Lead us from the Unreal to the Real – Shower Us With Starlight
170. The Bohemian Rock Star’s “Untitled Project” – #NaPoWriMo Day 14 – A “On writing” sonnet
171. Bumblepuppies – Field Trips Insult My Intelligence
172. the little black abaya – Candle for Two