Friday, December 27, 2002

What Wes Won't Do by Anitra L. Freeman

I have once more volunteered to do Dr. Wes's column for him, because he's tired.

Wes wants to take this opportunity to have me write about all those things that people want him to write about that he doesn't want to write about, because he's tired.

For instance, a reader would like Wes to write about the permanent adolescence of George W. Bush. This makes Wes very tired indeed.

Now other than thinking that this sounds like a very poetic title, "The Permanent Adolescence of George W. Bush," I wasn't sure that I agreed with the premise. Even when I was an adolescent female, I never despised adolescent males that much.

Would an adolescent male deal with his unpopularity by picking a fight with the first person who gave him an excuse? Well... But would an adolescent male be so determined to have a fight that no matter what the other person did to keep the peace he'd make up a new reason why it wasn't good enough? Well...

Okay, but do you really think he's going to grow out of it in a few more years?

Michele "For God's sake, Anitra, you've known me long enough, you'd better be able to remember that it has only one L" Marchand would like me, or Wes, or me being Wes, or Wes being me, or somebody anyway, to write about Ruth Lilly leaving a hundred million dollars of her pharmaceutical daddy Eli Lilly's fortune to Poetry magazine.

There are several possible reactions here:

  • "Why did she leave that much money to POETRY!?"
  • "Why didn't she leave the money to Real Change? WE publish poetry."
  • "Why is everyone so shocked at big money being given to poetry?"
  • "So, is the magazine going to pass any of that on to the poets?"

Let us cut to the chase here. As the purported purpose of this column is advice to poets, I would like to advise that in my opinion the time for the unionization of poets has at last come. Somebody who publishes poetry finally has some money. Since, under the administration of a permanently adolescent male, people who read poetry are soon not going to have any money at all, selling self-published chapbooks is no longer the lucrative gig that it was supposed to be. Getting paid by a rich publisher is much more dependable.

Stan "A Published Author" Burriss would like Wes to write about the quotations etched in the stone of the triangle at the Second Avenue Extension. He believes that Wes could say something about these quotations that would touch you, the readers, warmly.

Wes is against touching people warmly without their prior permission. And he doesn't know where you've been.

My objection is that if writing can't speak for itself, it needs to be rewritten. So next time you are at the Second Avenue Extension, look. I didn't realize the writing was there myself until Wes told me.

Don't ask Stan about this. He won't remember. Ask him about Rumi.

Then there are the standard things that Wes is asked to write about regularly.

The inside scoop on everything wrong at "fill in the blank" shelter:
Folks, homeless people have been murdered on the streets of Seattle at the rate of one every three months this year. Nobody has been murdered in a homeless shelter. Like sex, as long as shelter is by consent, the worst there ever was wasn't really bad at all. Compared to the alternative.

Every rally in Seattle that ever was:
Like poems, these speak for themselves. Like poetry, they could always use more attention. But for us to tell you how great they were is preaching to the choir. I have another suggestion: how about for the next rally (you can find it in the calendar section) you take along one or two friends who aren't convinced of the cause yet?

I don't want to write about any of those things. What I want to write about is Congrescent Singulitarians. I have just discovered that there is a website for Congrescent Singulitarians. I would like to announce that, in retaliation, I am beginning a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Words.

Write On!
© Anitra Freeman 2002

Friday, December 13, 2002

I Can Picture Butts Anytime

As you might expect, we here at Adventures in Poetry care a lot about freedom of speech. When I say "we", of course, I mean mostly me, since I am the one spouting off.

However an event has occurred that has made me concerned for the safety of Real Change from the enemies of free speech, everywhere. And do I ever mean everywhere. I am talking naturally about a recent High Court decision in Australia to let Joe Gutnick of Melbourne, Australia, sue the publishers of some website for libel in Australia instead of in the US where the website originated. Needless to say, in Australia libel is easier to prove.

Can you see my concern? Prior to hearing about this decision, nothing could have induced me to say anything that could possibly be considered libelous about Joe Gutnick of Melbourne, Australia or any of his compatriots. But now I have been tempted. I find myself uncontrollably entertaining entirely speculative thoughts about Joe Gutnick, about his personal and physical attributes, thoughts that if given expression might provoke litigation. I am even having these thoughts about Australians in general.

For example, there is Senior Sergeant Michael Purcell, police prosecutor somewhere in Queensland, the Australian state I have previously known mainly for its surplus of cane toads. Mr. Purcell has said, and I quote, "If we allowed everyone who wanted to drop their pants and moon police officers, we are undermining the authority of the police." Mr. Purcell was reacting to the claim by a citizen, a Mr. James Togo, to the effect that mooning a police officer ought to be protected free speech in Queensland at least.

Here's what I'm thinking. I'm thinking an Australian court has said Australia has a right to tell me what I can say on the internet, even though I'm thousands of miles from Australia. OK, then I should be able to weigh in on the police-mooning debate in Queensland. I say, Queenslanders, go for it. Moon them all. It should be totally legal. If they can say you can't speak with your butt, what'll they say next, that you can't speak with your fingers? That would be tyranny. Are you going to allow tyranny in Australia? What, are you all wusses?

But it doesn't end there. Mr. Purcell had to go on to say that he could not imagine naked buttocks replacing the kangaroo and emu on Australia's Coat of Arms. I read that and immediately Mr. Purcell fell into the Joe Gutnick category in my mind. It was all I could do to resist saying bad things about Mr. Purcell, things that in all likelihood could be proven to be libelous in Australia, if only Mr. Purcell were willing to say, "Liar, liar, pants on fire," under oath.

In order to resist the temptation to libel Sergeant Purcell, I am right now imagining naked buttocks replacing the kangaroo and emu on Australia's Coat of Arms. Hey, it's easy! I bet you can do it too. Imagine a kangaroo. Imagine an emu, next to it. If you don't know what an emu looks like, think of Big Bird without all the yellow. Now instead of the kangaroo and the emu, imagine a naked butt. There you go, it's not that hard when you take it step by step. I believe that proves that Sergeant Purcell has the imagination of a bottle of ketchup.

Speaking of butting in (ha!) on other people's free speech issues, I've got to talk about the cross-burning case that just landed at the feet of the US Supreme Court, because it is very important, even though there do not seem to be any Australians involved, only Virginians.

I'm not going to say how the Supreme Court should decide this one because I'm no lawyer and I don't know, maybe there's a flaw in the Virginian law that I don't know about that needs addressing. But I am going to spout off about the free speech issue of cross-burning in the abstract.

I think if cross-burning is to be protected speech, then gun-pointing should be protected speech. They both mean the same thing.

In my opinion all would-be cross burners should go to Australia and moon policemen. Then this would be a beautiful world.