Voyd of Course

"It's like the Onion, only skinnier!" --Milton Swift "Still worth the price of the paper it's not printed on." --Felicia DuBois "The unspeakable, spoken." --Malin Wuptke "More interesting than computer solitaire, though perhaps not so effective a distraction from the void." --Harlan J. Rippington "Satire today, history tomorrow." --Steven Wallace

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Location: Santa Fe, NM, United States

In 1966, I wrote a fake newspaper article under the headline "JACK CASS SETS WORLD SHOWERING RECORD." Mr. Yohans, my 9th grade English teacher, liked it so well that he read it aloud--to much not-quite-suppressed giggling, at the sound of which, Mr Yohans said, "What? What? Did I miss something here?" I spent the rest of the afternoon in Principal Leon Duff's outer office. When Mr. Duff, who was a busy man, decided he didn't have time to see me, his secretary sent me back to the classroom, where I was greeted like McMurphy returning from solitary. Emboldened by my de facto exoneration, my friends began work on their own fake news stories. I remember a spate of Russian names in the stories, including "Ivan Kutchikokoff" and "Ivan Jerkinov." Needless to say, our newly suspicious teacher sent both of my friends to Mr. Duff's office, where they were not as bureaucratically blessed as I had been. They sat detention for a week. This I took as a lesson in subtlety--and in how to start a commotion and slip from the room before the law comes down.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

U.S. Headlines


U.S. News

MacArthur "Over Achiever" Award winning poet Greg
Mott (right) demonstrates firearm safety to young customer.


New York—Greg Mott, a 42 year old poet with an IQ of 115, well below “genius” level, was shocked to receive the early morning call in his Waukeegan, Wisconsin, split-level home. “I thought it was one of my buddies down at Marty’s Blast & Spin,” Mott said, referring to the local outdoor sports store where he works. “Though it was a pretty sophisticated joke, I guess.”

In fact, it was Stuart Davis from the MacArthur Foundation informing Mott that he’d been awarded a $12,500 MacArthur “Over-Achiever” Award. Not quite the six-figure stipend the Genius Awards carry, but enough to keep Mott in paper and contest fees for quite a while.

“We don’t want to risk anyone getting excited and quitting his or her day job,” Davis said. “We want to honor their achievements, which are all out of proportion to their talents, but we don’t want to send the wrong message. Publishing a sonnet in the Waukeegan Register’s ‘Bard’s Corner’ is not the stuff on which immortality--or financial security--is founded.”

Mott is best known for placing second in the Wisconsin State Poetry Society’s annual “Celebration of the Panfish” contest for his “Walleye Sutra.”

Another MacArthur Over-Achiever Award winner is Charles Martin of Provincetown, Massachusetts, a 65 year old watercolorist known for his crisply-limned sand dunes, driftwood, sea gulls, and snow fences. “Mr. Martin may have been the first beach artist to include lobster traps,” Davis said. “And his relentless pursuit of the perfect float-and- rope combination sets him apart from the legions of souvenir-shop artisans.” In the official citation from the judges, Martin was lauded for his “more-than-sophomoric, but considerably less-than-senioric efforts.”

Provincetown Times art critic, Leslie Shaw-Mumford was quick to second the MacArthur Foundation’s choice. “He’s done pretty well, considering,” she effused.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Guest Column

Joe "Fancydance" Frasier recites "How to Write a SmokeShop Poem"
at the Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, New Mexico

SmokeShop Poetry: Economic Development & the Second Native American Literary Renaissance

Jeremy Whitehorse-Lowinsky, PhD

Much has been made of the first Native American Literary Renaissance of the 1960s and 70s during which N. Scott Momaday, Leslie Marmon Silko, Simon Ortiz, James Welch, and others invigorated Native literature while making significant contributions to the mainstream. Justly celebrated for their literary accomplishments, the so-called renaissance writers’ success lacked one important ingredient. While the renaissance benefited individual authors, the waters that lifted them failed to lift the canoes of the tribal members living on the reservations. Now, some forty-odd years later, a new group of poets has arrived to stalk the mainstream’s shores. But this time, these politically and economically savvy poets, who grew up among casinos and smoke shops, tourist dances, craft fairs, and the obligatory photo permit, who are plugged into web culture with its pop-ups and “click heres,” are determined to avoid the previous generation’s error. This new generation of writers, who have dubbed themselves “The SmokeShop Poets,” are linking their web logs to smoke shop and casino ads, performing at flea markets, casinos, and all-you-can-eat restaurants, and packing their poems with images of smokers and smoking. Unlike their predecessors, these brash young poets have found a way to link poetry and tribal economic development.

In the Buffalo Lounge at The Smokeywoods Casino, in upstate New York, performance poet Joe “Fancydance” Frasier (Cherokee®), dressed in his pow wow regalia, is reciting his already famous “Scream.” “I have seen the best skins of my generation,” he shouts, stalking the makeshift stage, “dancing, hysterically smoking!” He follows this long poem with “How to Write a SmokeShop Poem.” Frasier, a bongo-slapping performance poet who sometimes calls himself a “Smokenik,” lays out the SmokeShop rules:

To write a SmokeShop poem,
one must possess a cigarette
one must light up must
inhale deeply
To write a SmokeShop poem
one must tilt one’s head
& exhale slowly or
puff rings into the cold air
To write a SmokeShop poem
one must smile and watch the smoke
hear the songs of the ancestors
hear drumming, dancing, singing
To write a SmokeShop poem
one must mention the highway
the milepost, the tax free status
must mention
the tax free status

D. Blackhorse (Dine®), the next poet to take the stage, speaks slowly, reciting “smoke,” a concrete poem, accompanied by hand gestures that suggest the look of the poem on the page:










Critic Marjorie Falls Off (Cree®), a supporter of Blackhorse’s work, notes that Blackhorse “reinscribes the word smoke onto air, that most fallible of materials, thereby mimicking both the materiality and the immateriality of his chosen ‘marker,’ smoke. His disinclination to ‘fix’ either the meaning or the very presence of ‘smoke’ as concept reifies the ideation while simultaneously disenfranchising, placing under erasure, sous rature, the English language in which he accomplishes his deconstruction.” Critical scaffolding aside, the audience is held rapt by Blackhorse’s chiseled good looks and the grace with which he flings the broken words into the sky.

Given all this stylistic diversity, how does one know when one is in the presence of a true SmokeShop poem? Poet/critic Professor Charles Boudinot (Ojibwa®), himself a formal SmokeShop poet best known for his “Smoke Shop Sonnets,” provides a list of qualities in his recent manifesto, “Smokistics & the New Native Poetry”:

1. The poem must have been “audience tested” to assure the content is favorable to smokers, cigarettes, and the business climate in general.
2. The poem must mention smoking, smokers, cigarettes, or smoke, and any depicted smoking event must be associated with upbeat and life-affirming imagery.
3. The poem must be politically neutral, unless, of course, the political message concerns the promotion of smoking.
4. Should the smoking-related images be sparse, the poem must compensate with favorable references to gambling, crafts, and/or recent and upcoming activities at the local visitors center.
5. If the poem is to be performed, the performance will involve one or more of the following: regalia, drums, flutes, fancydancing, or chanting.
6. The poem may be licensed to appear on a casino van, T-shirt, or poster.
7. The poem may be performed at casinos, smoke shops, or visitor centers, or posted on web sites associated with such enterprises.
8. The poem must not be longer than a smoke break.

These “rules” for SmokeShop Poetry are clear and forthright, but the application of them has already stirred controversy. A young gay poet from Oklahoma, Smokey Guthrie (Choctaw/Chickasaw®), whose stage presence is riveting and whose poetry is carefully crafted, has raised questions about both poetry and marketing. A dedicated smoker himself, he contends that gays, lesbians, and even trans-gendered smokers will be drawn to tribal smoke shops by his poems. Tribal officials are not so sure. “Dem gays and lesbians is okay smokers,” says Iroquois tribal official Gus Jones. “But dey might scare off dem reg’lars wid der fancy ways.” Guthrie responds by reading a recent poem, “Return to Marlboro Mountain (Love and Smokes),” that demonstrates, he claims, “an unexplored link between homoeroticism and smoking that has enormous market potential”:

Standing over a piled-up fire, puffing
a full flavor 100, he stirs beans in a black
pot—he and his partner both hungry from a long
day of wrestling with sheep and each other.
Under that George Strait curved hat, he stares
into the distance, at the other ranch hand who
is bathing on the river bank, naked, but for his hat.
As he takes a pull on the smoke and the beans boil,
he realizes how a man’s back hair and sheep’s
wool feel like velvet between his fingers,
then he crushes the Marlboro under his boot
and ladles the beans from the pot.

It remains to be seen how the controversy over Smokey Guthrie’s poetry will be resolved. While critics argue the poetic merits, tribal officials have commissioned a market study. Ultimately, Guthrie’s fate will be decided not by critics like Marjorie Falls Off, but by the ring and beep of “good swipes” and cash registers. And whatever happens, the SmokeShop Renaissance will continue to gather momentum.

While the SmokeShop generation is respectful of the first Native American Renaissance and those elders who made their own work possible, they’re quick to note that it’s a new world. Protected by two security guards who keep screaming groupies at bay, Fancydance Frasier takes a smoke break backstage at the Buffalo Lounge. “Those old folks back in the 60s,” he shouts. “They may have paved the way, but we’re up on the highway now, and we’ve got the pedal to the metal. And we’re not gonna stop—unless, of course, there’s a smoke shop ahead!”