Wanted: Someone To Write An Ode to a Urinal

Is there no one in Minnesota who can handle the job?

Tonsils are optional, as are wisdom teeth, motorcycle helmets, and flan. The state bird, the state tree, the state mushroom, the state photograph, and the state muffin are all options the State of Minnesota, in its exuberance, has picked up. Yes, Minnesota has a state muffin (blueberry), and conveniently a state drink (milk) to accompany said muffin. But given our collective civic spirit and near-pathological state pride, one might wonder why we've stopped there. Why not a state worm or a state cloud or a state flammable material? Why not add a state poet laureate to the list?

The Library of Congress, which reigns over the national poet laureate, maintains that he or she serves as the "official lightning rod for the poetic impulse of Americans." Since 1986 when Robert Penn Warren was appointed the nation's first versifier-in-chief, poets laureate, as they're sometimes called, have emerged in droves. Two-thirds of the states, innumerable towns and cities, and at least two boroughs of New York have sworn in bards. In a recent interview with Canada's Globe and Mail, Billy Collins, the former U.S. poet laureate, said, "We're going kind of poet-laureate crazy at this point. It's watered down to cities having poets laureate, and counties. A young boy came up and introduced himself and said he was the poet laureate of his middle school."

Thus far the Gopher State has avoided this ever-widening swath of craziness.

Raoul Benavides

Minnesota's first poet laureate, Margarette Ball Dickson, crowned herself queen bee of poesy in 1934. She promptly informed Gov. Floyd Olson and he sensibly went along. Forty years later, Laurene Tibbetts became Minnesota's second lady of the line break, designated Minnesota Commissioner of Poetry by the governor. However, legislation introduced to make the position official was never passed. As a result, Tibbetts was recognized as the unofficial poet laureate by the Library of Congress, which is sort of like not being recognized at all.

Since Tibbetts's shady reign ended with her death in 2000, the laureateship has floundered in a sea of inertia. But one legislator has kept the idea alive, Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Minneapolis). According to Mark Gleason, director of the Minnesota Center for the Book, Kahn, in 2001, "asked mhc [Minnesota Humanities Commission] to conduct a survey and develop a proposal for a poet laureate." Unfortunately, Gleason adds, "By the time the survey and proposal were complete in 2002, foundation funding dried up and the Poet Laureate plan went on the shelf."

Undeterred, this past April, Kahn and a handful of fellow legislators introduced a bill that called for the governor to appoint a poet laureate. Among the co-authors was the poesy-prone Rep. John Lesch (dfl-St. Paul) who introduced the bill with a poem of his own titled "Appointment of Poet Laureate." (The highlight of Lesch's poem was his "muffin-toughen" rhyme.) The bill itself was written in rhymed verse:

The poet will be free to write rhyming lines,
With removal only for cause,
But we trust that the bard will promptly resign,
If the verse reads as badly as laws.
With no insult intended to Lesch or the other House bards: Resignation seems unlikely.

 

Politics and poetry make downright freaky bedfellows, and one need not wonder who's on top. Legislators awash in red ink and wary of political backlash are reluctant to appropriate funds for programs that might be perceived as superfluous.

But appropriating nothing to the office isn't too risky and it's not uncommon. Neither Marvin Bell, poet laureate of Iowa, nor Larry Woiwode, who holds the title in North Dakota, receives a salary. Woiwode proclaims, with the righteous fire of someone not getting paid, "The poet laureate is not a hired hack."

Bell, one of the most respected poets serving as poet laureate--many of these honorees, we might say, are obscure--explains, "I was told the legislature approved the position on one condition: that it not cost any money."

A poet laureate is part state bird, part vice president (providing the vice president doesn't live in a bunker). Like the loon and the veep, most laureates have few, if any, official duties, besides being that metaphorical lightning rod. Bell and Woiwode have none. Marilyn Taylor, the poet laureate of Milwaukee, has "no specific assignments other than to present two major readings." All poet laureates at least occasionally read and speak at schools, colleges, retirement homes, and bookstores.

While politicians kiss babies, poet laureates entertain requests for commemorative poems. Sometimes the requests are downright bizarre. Bell may have accepted one of the least glamorous commissions in modern poetic history. He recounts the details: "A gentleman donating urinals to the University of Pennsylvania asked all the poet laureates to write poems for the occasion. He enclosed a check for $100 with his request." Depending on one's sense of humor, political orientation, and bank balance, one either rises to the occasion or flushes. "I liked his moxie and did it," Bell says, though he reports that "most of the poems written for the occasion were so-so."

Some versifiers haul a trailerful of new initiatives into the office. Others have more modest goals. To some extent, America hasn't figured out what it wants from its poets in general and its poets laureate specifically. Whether the laureate speaks for poets, poetry, or the public isn't entirely clear. North Dakota's Wiowode believes that he writes for "all three--but perhaps mostly for the citizenry." Iowa's Bell thinks the poet laureate "represents poetry and poets." Milwaukee's Taylor adds, "I speak for poetry." The varying opinions suggest that the laureateship is both a malleable thing and a work in progress.

Poetry's strange and failed relationship with commerce complicates things all the more and may explain why there are poet laureates and not painter laureates. Bell wonders, "Perhaps it's because most artists have a chance to live on the income from their art. Poets do not."

 

If funding is a minor obstacle, then the Amiri Baraka brouhaha might be an alligator-infested moat. Baraka was the poet laureate of New Jersey before his now-infamous poem "Somebody Blew Up America" set off a shit storm in Trenton. The poem is considered by many to be anti-Semitic, idiotic, or both because it suggests that Israel had prior knowledge of the World Trade Center attack.

Such occasional flashes aside, one might wonder why the poet laureate phenomenon stays in the news at all and why poetic fiefdoms keep popping up. Billy Collins has offered a theory: "Laureateship is part of our fascination with things British, like the Burberry trench coat. It's our pathetic, sad, postrevolutionary missing of all things British."

That may seem kind of cranky for a former poet laureate. Collins concedes that the laureateship draws the public's attention to poetry more successfully than the best verse does. If nothing else, the office will accomplish one thing: As Bell says, "The position itself recognizes that there are poets among us and that the arts matter."

Of course, we need a state bard like we need a state bird or a flag or another slice of blackberry-rhubarb crumble. Which is to say that although we probably could survive without loons or poets or even loony poets, why should we?

 

Ode to a Doughboy

Why Do So Many Writers Live with Their Mothers? Is There Verse to Be Found in Municipal Trash Collection? What Rhymes with Rick Kupchella? In Our Poet Laureate Grand Prize Showdown, City Pages Makes Sport out of Art.

Let us welcome Paul Westerberg, Tiny Tim, and the Pillsbury Doughboy into Minnesota's literary pantheon! As of this moment, their epic achievements and profound mythologies have been entered into the book of our great state.

This act is the handiwork of a specially convened panel of all-star poets. Having meditated on the fact that Minnesota wants for a poet laureate proper, City Pages decided to do our bit to remedy that lack. Minnesota, of course, already has the public utility known as Robert Bly, tirelessly pumping fresh air into our back yard. But there's only so much gas one man can emit. And so we chose five game and venerable writers--a cross section of Minnesota's best--to battle for the esteemed title of poet laureate in a no-holds-barred extreme poetry event.

Against common sense and perhaps common decency, the following competitors accepted our challenge: Miss Terri Ford, Dobby Gibson, Leslie Adrienne Miller, Ray Gonzales, and Bao Phi.

After the obligatory obstacle course--a grueling, you're-killing-me-man questionnaire--we asked the poets to write two short poems: one on a Minnesota personage and one on a Minnesota body of water. The topics were intended to be broad enough to invite a visitation by the muses, yet narrow enough to allow comparison by the People--that's you, reader. (These being poets, one writer characteristically declined to follow directions, choosing to pen a single, longer poem, instead. To see the complete and unabridged questionnaires and poet bios, please see www.citypages.com)

The poets did not disappoint. In addition to the aforementioned celebrities, our bards and "bardots" mused on Miss Saigon, ice rinks, and marsh hawks. Along the way, they coined such juicy phrases as "figment of a masturbation," "orgasm of a martyr," and "go in toto to Lake Dodo."

So will our elected representatives go in toto to Lake Dodo--which is to say, will they take these verses as a goad to select an official speaker for the state? Who knows, and--to be honest--who cares? As our experiment-cum-bloodsport shows clearly enough, when it comes to the business of picking poet laureates, there's no reason or rhyme. --William Waltz

 

Miss Terri Ford

Who would you rather read: Rod McKuen, Leonard Nimoy, or Jewel?

Hmmm. Would I rather die by fire, in an avalanche, or be banished to a hell where unicorns are dancing with rainbows?

 

Would you mind being called "Bard?"

It is wrong to call a girl Bard. You may call me Bardot.

 

Please include here the worst couplet or short stanza you've ever written:

Love is love, wherever you roam,
No one can explain it or put it in a poam.

(Hey, I was about six. My rhyming faculties have gone downhill since.)

 

Would you be willing to pose in a Poet Laureate Swimsuit Calendar?

I'd rather appear naked than appear in a swimsuit. At this age and at this stage, partially clothed is not advisable. All clothes, or none.

 

Which of these colors sounds the best: ochre, magenta, red?

Ochre. It sounds like lucre.

 

What rhymes with orange?

Syringe. Or lozenge. Well, sorta. Try finding a rhyme for linoleum, buddy, and then we'll talk!

 

Please pen a very short limerick in favor of municipal trash pickup.

There once was a princess in Bryn Mawr
Who constantly cleaned her boudoir
She threw out her powder
Her lipstick got louder
Would somebody call the Trash Czar?

 

What are your three favorite words?

Jangle. Allonge. Budgie. Alternatively: Cha. Cha. Cha.

 

Your three least favorite words?

Horny. Menstruation. And stupid usages of normal words, as in "He offices near me." And "outsource"--oh, that really chaps my butt.

 

If you were invited to celebrity roasts for Robert Bly and Garrison Keillor and could only attend one, which would you attend? What might be your toast?

First, knowing me, I would likely RSVP to both and show at neither, fully intending to stop at both, but then getting home at the end of a long day and deciding it would be a capital idea to lie on the couch. Instead of being there and making a toast, I'd send them gifts later: a nice autoharp and a sweater vest for Robert. For Garrison, a disguise so he can remain shy in public--maybe a drag queen disguise would be nice, though an awful lot of trouble. It's not easy being a girl, you know.

 

Which local news personality has the most poetic name: Robyne Robinson, Rusty Gatenby, or Rick Kupchella? Please write a couplet using that name.

Look, Robyne Robinson, that's just overkill. Kupchella is good, but Rick? Que vanilla. I'd have to choose Rusty Gatenby:

 

When I in my car stupid drivers revile
When the Metro bus strike cramps my style
When I can't see traffic for the clouds
Rusty, Channel 5, clear and loud.

 

Is Minnesota a good place for poets?

Hell yes.

 

"Not at the Grave of Herbert Khoury"

BY MISS TERRI FORD

Not that he wasn't eccentric enough: big guy with a ukulele, falsetto stylings, compulsive rituals
towards young skin. I go to the grave

of Tiny Tim, or say I will, or really intend to but I won't go
to the swank lawn of death
as groomed and calm as a racehorse
sleeping, despite my fondness

for his Revlon locks, astounding nose, face only
an Extreme Makeover scout
could love. No, this spring

is too much death: the week of watching
my grandmother stop, the long hands, low
tones, the sudden wide stare: she was

in there. Enough of standing on the cold sod
with an open book. I cannot fib. May the birds cruise low
on the bruise of lawn you're under.
She was 94. You were too much younger. Tulips
I brung you--yo, play along, sorrows.

 

"Dodo, 1974"
BY MISS TERRI FORD

Let us go in toto to Lake Dodo
Where my sister crashed her pink Suzuki
and the raspberry vines grew dense and handsome.
My brother and I played Brain Transplant:
heads beneath the blinking lampshades of the goddess-armed
gooseneck, stuttered by light, until we said
like robots in turn, "I want
a dirtbike." "I want a poodle."
The lake's bottom was shift and silt.
My parents' marriage was almost over.
Raspberry pie, raspberry jam, the red
juice in our hair and fingers--

We weren't there long. Long enough
to drink contraband beer bought from the French Club,
long enough to mix sloe gin with Galliano
and learn the long kiss of my second cousin
on the long lawn down in the dark
to the dock. Watching Nixon's face
clenched on the screen of our far TV when he
resigned, the shock on the faces of
adulthood. The world was starting
to crack, an old mirror ghosted
in slivers. My father's red boat was pulled up
out of the lake and the dock dismantled. It was fall, the return
of acne, and I wore my hair in a shag.

 

Dobby Gibson

 

What living poet's work would you most like to pass off as your own?

Hey, those kinds of smoky, backroom shenanigans are precisely what can bring down the regime of an otherwise respectable, hard-working poet laureate.

 

Most overrated dead poet?

Most, if not all, of the Beats.

 

Would you mind being called "Bard?"

...as long as it comes with a reserved parking place.

 

What other title would you choose for yourself, e.g., High Commissioner of Poetry?

Sensei.

 

Please include here the worst couplet or short stanza you've ever written:

What would you rather do, stick your face into a campfire or drink a gallon of kerosene? Sorry, what was your question again?

 

Would you be willing to pose in a Poet Laureate Swimsuit Calendar?

Only if I can be Mr. December.

 

What rhymes with orange?

Rutabaga.

 

Please pen a very short limerick in favor of municipal trash pickup.

You're assuming I'm in favor of municipal trash pickup. We need to start by commissioning an extremely expensive study.

 

Who is more likely to appear in your poems, Prince or Goldie Gopher? Why?

Goldie. There's a sea of mortal woe beneath all that cute fur--though the same might be said of Prince.

 

What are your three favorite words?

Anemone. Kerfuffle. Ossify.

 

Three least favorite words?

Zesty. Antidisestablishmentarianism. Phlegm.

 

What would be your first proclamation as poet laureate?

Snow day!

 

If appointed poet laureate, what three poets might you nominate, excluding your fellow nominees, to succeed you?

I'd want to subject them to this questionnaire first. Nobody gets off that easy.

 

What percentage of your poems turn out well? What are the determining factors?

A question not for me, but for my readers. (See answer to next question.)

 

Why do so many poets live with their mothers?

That's where our readers live.

 

What is our most poetic neighboring state?

For comedy, head east to Wisconsin. For tragedy, head west to the Dakotas.

 

Is Minnesota a good place for poets?

Anyplace that's cold, dark, and makes us feel misunderstood is perfect.

 

What's the one civic issue that you would flatly refuse to write about?

Meat raffles.

 

Is all poetry good poetry?

Most poetry--most art of any kind--is garbage, though every artist carries a license to fail. Poetry does seem to be infamous for being more routinely awful than other art forms. This may be because poetry has such a low barrier to market entry, as the economists say. If you can read this and you own a pencil, you can call yourself "poet."

You can't sit at a piano and compose a symphony without years of training, yet at this very moment, thousands of would-be poets are clearing their throats in front of open mics, or assembling the first 50 poems they've ever written into a book. The glory of democracy and cheap paper in a market economy? A serious quality control issue? Or is it both?

 

"Of Any Rink"
BY DOBBY GIBSON

So silent the distraction there sits movingly, an idea

dreamed as if to exclude us, a difference discovered

in a first step taken into an altered state only, a rightness,

a plot on the brink, like something that should be snatched

back from a child. We built it, and then, because it is never enough,

rebuilt it, a blueprint frozen for some less finished design,

abstract scribblings, a spot for every anthem

or odd man rush, which like all madness, is atomic.

There is no seeing through this to some more diaphanous past.

You will find no "country" here--or so we scream,

the only way we know to tell you that we're right.

And so the truth will grow hard, yet more travelable,

like anything made and then most threatened by the sun,

and in so doing, be made more beautiful,

before we emerge defeated--or is it elated?--

into the air of slightly newer evenings.

 

"Upon the Pillsbury Poppin' Fresh Doughboy's First Visit to Mill Ruins Park"
BY DOBBY GIBSON

Always this body, though never the consequence, the light,

which appears open and, therefore, impossible.

Dogs stumbling into us in their tenderness.

Like all the people we walked past today

and said nothing to, and the way all of it was ignored

by the tiny cameras--millionaires sipping spritzers in their condos,

medieval limestone, the ghosts of flour dust,

laughter exhaled like air from a slashed tire.

Memory is the only word we have for this,

memory of a sudden sweetness and a dream that was the world

as we thought we knew it, disappearing in a fire that was never given a name.

Who would have thought the new order we created to destroy

the old order would now lie among us as yet another birthright?

Everything about the end had been rehearsed in advance,

even the ribbons they let us cut merely for reaching it.

One river bank staring at another, barges slipping downstream

at some mysterious speed slower than the river's own,

a strangeness still soft in the middle, forever desperate to be touched.

 

Leslie Adrienne Miller

 

Most overrated dead poet?

I could never abide Spencer.

 

Please include here the worst couplet or short stanza you've ever written:

Oh no, I've written far too many to choose just one!

 

Would you be willing to pose in a Poet Laureate Swimsuit Calendar?

Depends on how you define "swimsuit."

 

Which of these colors sounds the best: ochre, magenta, red?

Red. Red. Red. Reeeeed.

 

Which president would you most like to write a poem about: Abraham Lincoln, Gerald Ford, Millard Fillmore, Teddy Roosevelt, or George W. Bush? What would be the theme of that poem?

I once wrote a terrible poem about Ronald Reagan and hot dogs, so I've done my duty in that department. I think we live in a moment when either celebration or scourge of American presidents is a tired subject.

 

What rhymes with orange?

Phalange. (Okay, it's an off-rhyme, and not only do I prefer off-rhymes, but "phalange" is such a wonderfully ugly word that it has a certain beauty.)

 

What are your three favorite words?

Rhododendron, chinchilla, ammonia, misanthrope. Did you say three? Well, you get one free.

 

Three least favorite words?

Conifer and nougat and wimple and ejaculate (another free one).

 

Which local news personality has the most poetic name: Robyne Robinson, Rusty Gatenby, or Rick Kupchella? Please write a couplet using that name.

 

There was once a newswoman chatty and winsome,
and Robyne Robinson was her name, oh, and then some.

 

What percentage of your poems turn out well? What are the determining factors?

A serious question? Very few of them really--maybe 20 percent, and less the older I get, probably because I've been teaching so many years and feel I ought to be at least as hard on myself as I am on my students. But also, the older I get the more I think the world doesn't need to hear everything I have to say. The ego, like the pate, thins with age.

 

Why do so many poets live with their mothers?

Because most of our best poets are actually under five years of age.

 

What is our most poetic neighboring state?

Hell.

 

What is the most poetic bridge, building, or street in the Twin Cities?

There is a Keats Avenue in Woodbury, and I always wonder when I pass it just how his name fell on it and whether anyone who lives on it knows who John Keats is. Not that there aren't other Keatses in the world--rocket scientists, apothecaries and shipping magnates, I suppose--after whom that road might be named. Or maybe someone with a fine sense of humor thought it a good name for a melancholy place. Lots of yew berries, moths, and owls, that sort of thing.

 

What's the one civic issue that you would flatly refuse to write about?

The motorboat instead of the canoe on the state quarter.

 

Is all poetry good poetry?

Yes, absolutely, though the world wouldn't be the worse for a few less exclamation points.

 

"The Harriers"
Memorial Day, 2004
BY LESLIE ADRIENNE MILLER

Low over the swamp birch and sweet gale,

the broad torment of their shadows fall

on the marsh's invisible busy and small.

Snakes and shrews ride the roots, mice lurch

from one tussock to the next. The many

always fodder for the few, their tiny

pointed teeth useless in the sky.

 

Toothlessness lightens the harriers' skulls,

so they lift like foam, and belief wants to go

with them criss-crossing the marsh.

But the harriers, laying their hollow

bones on the wind, are only beautiful.

The male floats backward on the air

of his own arrival, passing his catch

to his mate in the sedge and gives me

one long look as he sits in the dead tree

at the edge of the marsh, curved, owlish head

cocked, funneling the small teedle-dee

of a distant rodent to its ear. Harrier

is from harrow, to torment, harass, assault,

also a cultivating implement set with spikes,

for pulverizing soil. Significance falls apart

in my hands like a mist, though the harriersA

have warm blood and four-chambered hearts.

 

The world they are offers no architecture

for an ethic: one dead language simply

rises through another, raptor, rapture,

and rape for example, all sharing one

Latin root rapere, to seize. The harriers

are only beautiful and will not be pressed

 

into resurrections. Even the highly significant

snake, hanging like a thread in the sky's white

neverending, knows the beetle in its belly isn't

his own, and rides the talon of its captor,

who, when terror stands up and walks,

might be some sort of savior after all.

 

Ray Gonzalez

 

What living poet's work would you most like to pass off as your own?

Bob Dylan.

 

Most overrated dead poet?

T.S. Eliot.

 

Most underrated?

Kenneth Rexroth.

 

Who would you rather read: Rod McKuen, Leonard Nimoy, or Jewel?

Rod McKuen, a forgotten poet who did a great deal with the forms he chose to work with. His work is not light verse. There is a certain populist, personal maturity in it.

 

Please include here the worst couplet or short stanza you've ever written:

I was hungry and alive,
But all I tasted was the bee hive.

How many poems (by other writers) do you know by memory?

None.

 

What rhymes with orange?

Gorgeous George gorges on gargantuan groves.

 

Please pen a very short limerick in favor of municipal trash pickup.

 

Trash Day

Nash, the trash man, picks up banana peels,

condom foil, the latest CD plastic wrapper.

Don't you know he needs more money because there

is more garbage than what you dropped in the crapper.

What are your three favorite words?

That's a secret.

 

Three least favorite words?

Chain of command.

 

What would be your first act as the poet laureate of Minnesota?

Outlaw poets from academic circles and universities.

 

Which local news personality has the most poetic name: Robyne Robinson, Rusty Gatenby, or Rick Kupchella? Please write a couplet using that name.

 

Rusty Gatenby in the red hair opens his mouth,

Tells us the only open highway points south.

 

Why do so many poets live with their mothers?

Because they are dysfunctional, antisocial misfits who never broke away from home. Because the written word tied them down and set them back a few decades. Plus, mothers know more about poetry than their children do.

 

Is Minnesota a good place for poets?

Yes, and it has a long, rich tradition of poetic achievement.

 

Is all poetry good poetry?

No, most poetry is bad because it keeps you at home with your mother, but you have to work at it and most people who want to write don't want to work at writing. They just want to "be." I guess that is okay, because if I wasn't, I would be here writing poems.

 

"Paul Westerberg Tunes His Guitar"
BY RAY GONZALEZ

The First Avenue crowd sweating under the lights,

Westerberg in cut-offs and sneakers trampling

the roads of fame, tripping over plugged wires.

Westerberg singing into the mike, "Someone

take the wheel! I don't care where we're going!"

 

The First Avenue crowd swaying in the electricity,

Westerberg announcing it's over, it's done,

his guitar is ready and the street is near.

Westerberg grinning on the exploding stage,

someone throwing a t-shirt he catches in mid-air.

 

The First Avenue crowd following the beams,

Westerberg strumming as hard as he can, replacing

the love of God with the need to scream.

Westerberg lowering his voice because the crowd is near,

the back door thrown open without hesitation or fear.

 

"Crossing the Minnesota River over the Cedar 77 Highway Bridge"
BY RAY GONZALEZ

We want to keep going, but the sun is there.

We want to fly, but the valleys are deep.

The river under the highway slick as the sky,

traffic disappearing beyond the bridge

to keep us in line without looking back.

 

We want to insert the right CD.

We want to cross lanes before the river dries.

The trails are gone and the highway bends,

Forests and fields announcing the truth--

at the river you must make a turn.

 

We want to keep moving, but the city is there.

We want to count birds, but the bridge ends.

The river under our wheels flows in return,

sending us home to measure the currents, car

engines clicking quietly in driveways full of dreams.

 

Bao Phi

 

What living poet's work would you most like to pass off as your own?

Ed Bok Lee.

 

Most overrated dead poet?

Longfellow.

 

Most underrated?

Nguyen Du.

 

Would you mind being called "Bard?"

Only if I could have a Bag of Holding and a Vorpal Sword.

 

What other title would you choose for yourself, e.g. High Commissioner of Poetry?

The Joy Luck Thug.

 

Please include here the worst couplet or short stanza you've ever written:

No, no, no, not for free. You'll have to buy my chapbook. Then, just flip the book open and put your finger down anywhere. That'll be your answer. The noise you will hear is me running away with your $5.

 

How many poems (by other writers) do you know by memory?

Maybe five. Which is four more than poems by myself that I have committed to memory.

 

Would you be willing to pose in a Poet Laureate Swimsuit Calendar?

Hell yeah, though I doubt anyone would want to see it if I was in that shit.

 

Which of these colors sounds the best: ochre, magenta, red?

Ochre is an earth tone yellow, right? And they say Asian people are "yellow." So, I'ma have to go with ochre.

 

Which president would you most like to write a poem about: Abraham Lincoln, Gerald Ford, Millard Fillmore, Teddy Roosevelt or George W. Bush? What would be the theme of that poem?

George W. Bush, where my votes at?!

 

What rhymes with orange?

Loring. Uh, yeah.

 

Please pen a very short limerick in favor of municipal trash pickup.

 

Nam once threw away his I-Ching

Its ideas were not to his liking

When they picked up his trash

He dashed outside fast

Said "Goddamn, they forgot my recycling."

 

What are your three favorite words?

I'm with you.

 

Three least favorite words?

I don't care.

Which local news personality has the most poetic name: Robyne Robinson, Rusty Gatenby, or Rick Kupchella? Please write a couplet using that name.

 

When I accidentally bumped into Rick Kupchella,

He said, "you got your chocolate in my Nutella."

Why do so many poets live with their mothers?

Since I'm not making too much money and may have to move back into Mama's house, I'll ask her and get back to you....

 

What is our most poetic neighboring state?

You're killing me, man! Hmmm...North Dakota. It kinda rhymes with "endorse Winona." Kinda.

What is the state muffin?

Me, when I am wearing tight jeans.

 

Is Minnesota a good place for poets?

Uh, yes. Please vote for me.

 

What is the most poetic bridge, building, or street in the Twin Cities?

26th Street. It's a one-way street that goes through almost every socioeconomic "situation" in Minneapolis. Tied for second are Lake Street and University Avenue in St. Paul.

 

What's the one civic issue that you would flatly refuse to write about?

Airport noise.

 

Is all poetry good poetry?

Nope. But all true effort to write poetry is good effort. Even if it's so bad that you aren't going to show it to anyone, at least you tried. Writing poetry is tough.

 

"Miss Saigon: Always a Visitor"
BY BAO PHI

You come into town often enough. Why not stay?

There are plenty who will ask where are you REALLY from

In a Broad/way.

There are plenty of white dudes here to kill yourself over,

Plenty of white women waiting with Kleenex open like safety nets

Waiting to catch you as you fall, yellow star in a white sky,

As the yolk of the sun breaks across the horizon.

You, figment of a masturbation, orgasm of a martyr,

Forever girl-next-door foreigner, drown yourself at Chino Latino

Where men will try to pick you up by asking:

Do you speak take-me-to-America?

Bombshell of a war baby, foxhole of a sister,

We have been modified from our original versions

To fit their screens. Join us, and disappear

Into this bleached cinema.

 

"So 1999"
BY BAO PHI

I was the one who dug my hands deep into Powderhorn Park,

Waited for a million rainy days to fill your pond,

That wavering manmade moon sitting silver

Amongst soccer balls kicked

by beautiful people in varying shades

of our own dusky color.

The water silent as young lovers, secrets unspoken,

keep their balance walking along its lip,

bouquets of fireworks highlighting their way.

But then I woke up, taking the bus home

From work, my shoes soaked with soap suds

my hands wrinkled from a thousand first dates

Washed away from dinner plates,

I step off the bus, not knowing where to go,

Standing still as a man made pond.

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