Day of Show, Runway Stage:
Heidi: In Poetry, one day you're in, the next day you're out.
Flashback: Tim in the writing studio with the poets. Pads of paper, laptops, printers, coffee.
Tim (to Vincent): I'm worried about this. It's not even a villanelle. I just don't get it.
Vincent: I know, I know. But it turns me on. What am I doing here? I think it's sexy. It's like Elizabeth Bishop is in the room with me.
Tim (to Jeffrey): Wow. It looks like a buzz-saw ran through this. But I love it. Carry on.
Laura (to Kayne): I'm worried about your taste. Elizabeth Bishop is gonna be rolling over in her grave when she hears this.
Kayne (to Laura): Well I'm worried about your character, honey; and that's worse. Besides, who asked you, anyway?
Flash forward to Runway Stage:
Heidi: We asked you to write a villanelle based on Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art," but updated to the 21st century. You had two days for this challenge. (Smiling evilly) I'd like to bring your poems back to the runway, now, and ask you a little bit about them.
M. Kors: Michael, tell us about your poem.
Michael: Well, I took Bishop's villanelle, and I brought it forward to Hip-hop. I asked myself what Macy Gray or Jay Z would say here. Threw in a little bling, a little down low, and a shot of my crib.
M. Kors: I love it. It's very now. Sophisticated, but street.
Nina: Yes. I would read this. I could see it in a glossy. Or on line. It works.
Heidi: Uli, tell us about your poem.
Uli: Well I imagined Elizabeth was still alive and living in Florida with a really great tan . . . having a highball on the beach . . . smoking a cigar . . . and having a foot massage . . .
Nina: But this is exactly like all your other poems! I was hoping to see something fresher. Something a little younger from you. Something less "confessional."
Heidi: Kayne. Tell us about your poem.
Kayne: Well I took "One Art" and changed the rhythm to "The Yellow Rose of Texas." Sort of a nod to Country and Western, but in a happy gay way. And also in honor of Emily Dickinson, who frankly I think was a better poet. (Bites his lip and looks hopeful).
M. Kors: This isn't even a villanelle. And Country and Western is so last century.
Nina: But I like the idea bringing in Dickinson. Who knows, in another world, maybe they would have been lovers?
M. Kors: But the poem is ugly. I can't get that twang out of my head. It's like she has a banjo and braids, and a buck tooth.
Heidi: Jeffery. Tell us about your poem.
Jeffery: Well I took the text of "One Art" and I cut it into pieces with a razor blade and spray painted it black and enlarged it on a photo enlarger, then plastered it over a billboard downtown as my band played electric guitar, and videotaped the whole process for My Tube. It's had 300,000 hits already. It rocks! (Very proud of self).
M. Kors: I love this.
Nina: It's not great. But Jeffery you always take such risks. And that is what is keeping you on the show so far.
Heidi: Laura. Tell us about your poem.
Laura: I followed the villanelle form exactly. I think it's elegant and timeless, and I didn't want to mess with it.
Nina: It's perfect. The rhymes, the meter, the final couplet. But it feels a little safe. Sort of like something Elizabeth Bishop's maid would write.
M. Kors: I was expecting a little more daring from you. It's well-made. But a snoozer.
Laura: (Icy smile).
Heidi: Vincent. Tell us about your poem.
Vincent: Well I took Bishop's poem and ran the text through a translation program into Portuguese, and then French. And then I took the result and ran it through a Markov text generator. Then I did N+7. Then I wrote it all backwards, removing every other word, you know, to get the feeling of irretrievable loss into the poem . . .
Heidi: Hmmmm. (looks puzzled and cross-eyed) I just don't get it. It's nonsense.
Nina (rolling her eyes): This made no sense to me.
M. Kors: Vincent, did you forget to take your medication? Don't get me wrong, I love the "idea," but this is crazy. Not even Jubilat or Volt would publish this.
Vincent: Well it turned me on. I think it's a great poem. I wanna write a whole book of these.
Heidi: OK we've heard what you have to say. We're going to talk for a bit. We'll call you back to the runway when we've made a decision. (Evil smile).
Poets exit, looking morose.
Heidi: Remember. In Poetry, one day you're in, the next day you're out.
(to be continued)