More Poets Getting Published With Suicide Bluff

SOMERVILLE, Mass.  This former blue-collar suburb has become “The Brooklyn of Greater Boston,” with more poets per square mile than any other zip code in New England.  “You can’t throw a brick without hitting a poet around here,” says Marty Schloss, owner of The Tired Owl, a used book store.  “I know, we tried last week, nearly killed a guy.”

Given the art form’s particularly unremunerative nature, a fair amount of angst is felt every morning when Sylvia Plath wannabes turn on their computers and find email rejection letters that mean their day of fame is further delayed.  No one has been more vocal in her disappointment than Chloe Nath, who is so far unpublished while her roommate Siobhan Clough is building a resume that may soon land her a low-paying teaching job, in addition to her current low-paying job waiting tables.

“Chloe’s a loser/this she knows/we don’t need to tell her so.”


The two women woke up one January morning to identical notices from bRoken sPoke, the student literary magazine of the University of Massachusetts-Seekonk, but their reactions were as different as their hair color, blonde in Nath’s case, black for Clough.  “They send the nicest rejections,” Clough says as she reads the lit mag’s encouragement that she try them again.  In Nath’s eyes, however, it was one more symbol of her failure and, after she allowed herself a remorseless little laugh, she turned her mordant wit on the publication that had just turned down her seven stanza tercet as “not quite what we are looking for right now.”

“Thanks for your prompt reply,” she wrote back.  “I guess I’ll go take a warm bath and slit my wrists,” she added, then went to the kitchen to pour herself another cup of coffee.

Chloe:  “Really?  You don’t think it’s terrible after all?”


By the time she was back at her desk, however, Nath had received a follow-up email from bRoken sPoke.  “Dear Chloe,” the faceless editor said, “upon further review–like a football referee if we may be allowed a vulgar simile–we are accepting your ‘Gulls at the Town Dump,’ which will run in our Summer Fun and Despair issue.  Congratulations!”

The budding poetess’s inadvertent success spread by word-of-mouth through coffee houses and craft beer brew pubs, and when imitated dramatically increased the acceptance rate of those who used it.  As a result, a firestorm of controversy has broken out in the small but highly-competitive world of literary verse, with two camps taking opposite sides of the question “Should poets fake suicide in order to scare the crap out of lit mags and get published?”

“She’s using sleeping pills, right–no bloodshed?”


Robert Ricciardelli, interim editor-in-chief of plangent voices, says no, pointing to the high cost of liability insurance he must carry in case a poet’s family or lover comes after them for staring down a suicide threat.  “We have no way of knowing if someone is serious,” he says as inspects a poorly-written sonnet for symbols of desperation.  “If I wrote stuff this bad I’d kill myself too, but you never know what reserves a person can draw on in a time of crisis–religion, philosophy, money.”

But Nath says the highbrow quarterlies are fair game for the pain they inflict on literary artistes such as herself.  “plangent voices took two years to turn down Burnt Potholders,” a six-poem cycle on disasters that occurred in her kitchen as she worked her way through The Moosewood Cookbook.  “I went through fifteen boyfriends in that time.”


Kanye Explodes as Harvard Taps Insider for Next Prez

HIDDEN HILLS, California.  Miles Normandy, a seismologist at the University of California-Northridge, could be forgiven if he assumed that a sizable earth tremor felt here yesterday–4.9 on the Richter scale–was the beginning of the so-called “Big One” that Californians have feared for many years.  “Several of my numerous academic awards fell over in my trophy case,” he notes.  “I could only conclude that it was either the end of life on the Pacific coast as we know it, or else Kanye West had failed to win some cheesy music industry award.”

“Tufts?  Tufts is a goddamn safety school!”


Normandy was off, but not by much.  What triggered the mini-quake was the announcement by Harvard University that Lawrence Bacow, currently president of Tufts University, had been nominated for the position of 29th President of Harvard University, sending West, who lives in a $20 million mansion nearby, into a fury of seismic proportions.  “This is bullshit, man,” West tweeted to his 28,763,429 followers.  “Whoever heard of a search committee picking somebody on the search committee!”

Bacow was a member of the search committee for the position, and his resume is relatively thin compared to West’s, according to several recruiting firms that serve the higher education community.  “Yes, he is currently President of Tufts University and holds degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard Law School and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government,” notes Natalie Fishbein of Milson/Lampu Academic Search Consultants, “but he’s never won a Grammy award and is virtually unknown in the world of fashion design, so Harvard is taking a real risk here.”

Bacow:  “Who says I have no sense of fashion?”


Academic search committees are not bound by external codes of ethics, answering only to the institution they serve, but it is highly unusual for an institution to select a candidate from the members of such an ad hoc body due to the appearance of a conflict of interest.  “This is just like that time Taylor Swift won the Best Female Video award in 2009,” said West, who disrupted the MTV Music Video Awards that year.  “If I gotta go crazy at the 367th Harvard Commencement Exercises in May, I’m gonna do it.”

“Who do you think you are, Neil Rudenstine?”


West has compared himself to Jesus Christ and Moses, which are generally considered less prestigious offices than the Presidency of Harvard.  The search committee’s recommendation will now be sent to the university’s Academic Affairs Committee, which will forward it to the Governance Committee if it concurs in the search committee’s recommendation.  The Governance Committee would then lateral the matter to the Board of Overseers, who will catch the defense by surprise and hit the President and Fellows of Harvard College in the end zone for a game-winning touchdown.

Godzilla–or Kanye?

West has few awards left to conquer in a dazzling career that has seen him named twice as one of the most influential people in the world by Time, a non-influential weekly magazine.  “I’m gonna have to reconsider my career path,” West said in response to an inquiry to his publicist.  “When is the next election for Pope?”

For Confirmed Onanists, Table for One is Much More Fun

BRIGHTON, Mass.  It’s Saturday night, prime time for singles bars in this neighborhood of Boston whose population includes a disproportionate number of young people, either students or “twenty-somethings” with entry-level jobs who can’t afford a place closer to downtown.  “It’s a helluva lot cheaper than the Back Bay,” said local real estate agent Matty Green as he surveyed the passing parade of single women outside his office window earlier in the day.  “And at least here you have room for both you and your hamster or whatever other illegal pet you got.”

“Can I buy me a drink?  Well, okay.”


The young singles demographic is nowhere more evident than at The Loving Eye, a night spot that strikes the observer as typical at first glance, but which on closer inspection is unique in one major respect; all of the tables are set for, and occupied by, a single diner.  “You’d think that would cut into our gross,” says owner Steve Filiponi.  “But our patrons like it that way.”

The Loving Eye is the first restaurant in Boston, perhaps in the entire United States, that actively caters to onanists, individuals who have decided that they are their own dream lovers.  “One thing I really like about this place,” says Chloe Hewlett, a 26-year-old graphic designer, “is you never have to listen to an annoying couple sitting next to you.”

While other restaurants have tried the single-seating model before, none has so closely aligned itself with the self-love movement as The Loving Eye, whose pursuit of the one-person-lover market extends to the live entertainment it offers.  Tonight’s featured act is Mindy Wingersheek, whose repertoire of classic jazz songs includes a remix of “Me, Myself and I” by Billie Holiday.

Wingersheek walks onstage after she is introduced by Filiponi acting as m.c., then launches into the song with a new twist on the lyrics.

Me, myself and I–we all think I’m wonderful,
We all agree with each other, I’m wonderful, it’s true.

“I’ll have a half order of the Chateaubriand for two.”


After the applause dies down this reporter has the opportunity to ask Robert Frosberg, a 25-year-old business school student, if he’s attracted to any of the single women in the room.  “Well, sure, who wouldn’t be,” he says as he motions to a waiter to bring him another light beer.  “On the other hand, studies show that the return on the money a young man in his twenties invests in women who end up not marrying him is always negative.”

Chloe Hewlett turns to shush us as Wingersheek begins her second number, another song from Holiday’s repertoire, “If I Were You.”

If I were you, here’s what I’d do,
I’d stick to me, my whole life through
if I were you.

When the song is done this reporter asks Hewlett whether the “singles only” theme of the restaurant is a reflection of the reported downturn in sexual activity among young people of the “millennial” generation, the subject of a 2016 Washington Post article that attracted millions of page views from older readers eager to learn that younger people weren’t getting laid as often as they did in their twenties.

“I suppose,” she says.  “Or it could be that the women just don’t like having to wash their sheets the next day.”  She excuses herself to log onto the web site of Croft & Walcott jewelers, then scrolls through their offerings of diamond earrings.  “Valentine’s Day is next Wednesday,” she says with furrowed brows, “and I haven’t even started shopping for myself.”

Bowing to Inevitable, Hartford Embraces “America’s File Cabinet” Image

HARTFORD, Conn.  This city of 123,000 is known derisively as “America’s File Cabinet” for the many record-heavy insurance companies that make their home here, a tag that has long been a sore point among civic fathers and more recently mothers.  “If you want excitement, go to Worcester,” says Al Crenolin, a past president of the local Chamber of Commerce of the third largest city in Connecticut, referring to the second largest city in Massachusetts.  “There you’ll find all the crime and poverty we so sorely need to be considered world-class,” he adds, his tongue planted deeply in his cheek.

“Everything’s black and white in downtown Hart-ford.”


But a new generation of civic leaders, more attuned to “Steampunk” and other current cultural trends that revere the unfashionable past rather than rejecting it, say they want to capitalize on the capital city’s legacy as a grey and boring burg by turning the “file cabinet” insult into a marketing campaign.  “File cabinets are underrated,” says Chloe Benson, a public relations professional hired to spruce up the image of “The Insurance Capital of the World.”  “If you have files,” she notes, “there is no better place to put them.”

Late afternoon, before sidewalks are rolled up.


The campaign to elevate Hartford’s profile will include an infrastructure upgrade as spider plants will be added atop the major office buildings in town, lending them an air of resemblance to actual filing cabinets.  “Other towns like Boston put in so-called ‘greenways’,” says Crinolin in disgust.  “You have to mow them all the time, but with a spider plant you just ask your roommate to take care of it when you’re out of town.”

One Spider Plant Financial Center (artist’s conception)


The city’s water supply will be shifted from outlying reservoirs to a giant water cooler, which will have a revolving restaurant on top with unlimited free refills of water.  “We might set up a wi-fi tower in the shape of a wire ‘in/out basket’,” muses Benson.  “Do you think that’s gilding the lily?”

Wallace Stevens (not shown actual size)


Despite its stodgy image Hartford has been home to leading American literary figures including Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe and poet Wallace Stevens, who worked at an insurance company here.  “Stevens was a crank, and his poetry is pretty much incomprehensible,” says Crinolin with a note of chagrin in his voice.  “Wouldn’t you rather hear about Tebucky Jones?”

Why is That Librarian Hopping on One Foot?

“When you are a small-town librarian, you say ‘yes’ to everything.”

Librarian of Weare, New Hampshire, population 8,915, quoted in The Atlantic

It’s a quiet life, being a librarian in a small town in New Hampshire.  I think that’s because there are so few people around, but it could also be because of the many “Quiet, please!” signs we sprinkle so liberally around the reading room here at the Grovers Corner Free Public Library.

People ask me–“Why does it say ‘Free’ library if you’re going to charge me a two cents a day fine for a late return?”  I have to chuckle at the folk wisdom packed so densely into that plain-as-mud, gosh, aw-shucks type of thinking, but I explain it to ’em as well–I’m here to educate!  “Well,” I say, propping my elbow on the dang-fangled computer checkout scanner that never works, “back in the day, you had what were called ‘lending’ libraries.  You could go in there and pick up the latest bodice-ripper by a lady novelist, but you could also get loans.  Good old-fashioned loans, not your fancy-pants multi-tranche, multi-currency revolving credit with a sublimit for letters of credit like they have nowadays.”

Souter, Keebler elf:  Never seen in same room together.


Then came the “circulating” libraries.  Lots of people liked them, said it was like being in a revolving restaurant on top of that big hotel they got down there in Boston.  Other people, well, they’d get dizzy and throw up, which made for a mess, let me tell you.  Otto the custodian would come up from the basement with his mop bucket and a box of that nauseating red sawdust they put on vomit in the David Hackett Souter Elementary School.  Lots of people said he occupied the “Keebler Elf Seat” on the Supreme Court, but we’re proud of him just the same.

Eventually, they shut down the circulating libraries–too much of a health risk.  That’s where we come in, the free public libraries, making knowledge and information and books and CDs by Fifty Cent and soft-porn movies available to the masses–for free!  Of course, as the old saying goes, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.  Somebody’s got to pay to keep the lights on–cain’t read in the dark–and the snow shoveled off the front steps, and to buy the new copies of the books you folks never return.  And that’s where town meeting comes in.

“We don’t need a new fire truck–the one we have is only fifty years old!”


New England town meeting is the purest form of democracy in America–one crank, one vote.  Everybody’s entitled to speak their mind.  It’s a little like that story, “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson.  Majority rules, and if you don’t like it, well, fresh, native New England rocks are our biggest cash crop up here.

So you’ll understand why, when taxpayers come into the library, you do anything they say.  You say ‘yes’ to everything because you don’t want people fighting your budget request when it comes up to vote.  Excuse me, I have to take care of Millicent Stanhope, heiress to the Stanhope Staple Remover fortune.  Good morning, Miss Stanhope!

Shirley Jackson


“Good morning to you!” she says cheerfully.  She comes in to use our computers because she’s convinced Bill Gates implanted lasers in her body using Windows 7.  I keep telling her, that’s a feature, not a bug, but she says, better safe than sorry.

“What can I do for you today?”

“Do you have ‘Love’s Tender Dress Shields’–it’s the new romance novel by Rosamunde Binchy.”

I check the catalog on the computer.  “Nope, looks like Evelyn Wallop checked it out . . .  and has just renewed it on-line for another two weeks.”

“Hmph.  Slow reader.  I recall she still moved her lips when she was a sophomore, guess she hasn’t gotten any smarter with age.  Well, put it on hold for me, would you?”

“Sure thing,” I say, as I move the cursor and click the mouse to check the box to hold the book that sits on the shelves that lives in the house that Andrew Carnegie built.  “Anything else for you today?”

She pulls a slip of paper from her purse.  “Do you have the Low-Cal Iams cat food in the turquoise bag?” she asks.

I’m taken aback, but not very far.  We get a lot of strange requests here at the library, and we have to say “yes” to just about everything, but on this one I can’t help her.

“I’m going to have to demur,” I say, using a good, solid, old-fashioned word that’s passed out of favor.

Just to put things in perspective.


“You don’t look very demure.”

“No–‘demur,’ not ‘demure.’  Meaning I can’t help you on that one.”

“Then why didn’t you just say that?”

“We’re a library, we’ve got all these vocab words, we might as well use them.  Happy to help you with those things that are within my power, though.”

“All right,” she says.  “What’s your favorite animal?”

No problem there.  “Penguins–I just love the little guys.”

“Why is that?”

“Cold, bumbling, serial monogamists.  I identify with them.”

“Okay,” she says, then clears her throat, as if to signal that what she’s going to ask isn’t easy for her.  “I want you to stand on one foot, hop up and down, and make a noise like a penguin.”

Like I say, you get a lot of cockamamie requests when you’re a small town librarian, but this one–well, I have to say it takes the cake, and not just a Little Debbie Cake, more like the wedding cake for the daughter of a small-town Chevy-GMC dealer.

“Is this . . . really important to you?” I ask, hoping she’s kidding.

While she’s thinking, Dave Francois, Town Meeting Moderator, ambles up behind her.  He’s got his usual weekend supply of manly-men lit: Master and Commander novels, Jane’s Fighting Ships, How to Improve Your Miniature Golf Score.

“What’s the hold-up?” he asks in a joshing tone.  Dave’s the umpire of the fiercest quarrels we have in town, and as a result has developed a personality as bland as instant mashed potatoes.

“Millicent here has asked me to hop up and down on one foot and make a noise like a penguin.”

He gives his head a shake of befuddlement, like Robert Frost’s little horse in Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.  He looks at her, then at me–and speaks.  “Well–what are you waiting for?”

NFL Adds Two Appeals Courts to Lengthen Super Bowl at CBS Request

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.  Tomorrow’s Super Bowl LII, or “52” as it is known outside the Roman Empire, will be the longest football game of the current season, but for officials of the CBS Television Network, that’s a different sort of problem than you might expect.  “A Super Bowl is usually an hour longer than a regular season game,” says CBS Under-Assistant Director of Programming Chuck Sanders.  “That’s not enough.”

David Tyree “Helmet Catch”:  “This one’s going to the Supreme Court.”


NFL officials, upon further review, agreed.  “I think we’ve lost sight of what the game’s all about,” says Ernie Doak, who works in the league’s Finance Department.  “It’s not just about concussions and end-zone pantomimes of ‘Duck-Duck-Goose,’ we’re here to make money off commercials.”

And so the NFL will add two higher levels of review from official calls on the field; an interlocutory court in the VIP Lounge at U.S. Bank Stadium here, and a final Supreme Court of Appeals located in the Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in downtown Minneapolis.  “Supreme” when used in reference to an adjudicatory body means “ultimate” or “final,” and “interlocutory” is a fancy word that shows this reporter went to law school.

“This is going to be a tough one–we’d better send out for pizza.”

Last year advertisers spent $419 million, at $5 million per thirty seconds, on a barrage of entertaining spots hawking their products, a figure that annoying charities say would be better spent making the world a better place.  “Five million dollars could buy kale soup for every homeless person in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region,” says Lizbeth Ort-Glincher, a fund-raising consultant.  “They’d just throw it out, but that’s not the point.”

Both the NFL and CBS recognize the disparity between the riches the Super Bowl will generate and the poverty found in the poorest nations on earth, but insist they are only responding to marketplace considerations.  “I know you could literally buy some countries for that amount of money,” says Doak.  “On the other hand, where would you put them?”