A Note to My Home-Boys, in Tarheel

This here poetry racket sure is sumpin’ awful. I mean, there ain’t much money in it, and it shore don’t generate no widespread prestige, ceptin’ for a few like Dana Gioia—and even he ain’t well-known outside o’ select company. As for the fighting’ an’ snarlin’, it ain’t no better than a greased hog-wrasslin’ match. I been plumb tuckered out from the whole thing. I’m a-writing’ to you-all to get this here trouble off my chest.

First off, I ain’t talking now in the high-toned style that I been trained to use when addressin’ my betters. Them kind o’ folks needs New-York-Times speech, an’ I give it to ’em when I’se in a public situation. But here with you-all, my country boys, well… I kin slip back into my native Tarheel. And since I’se mighty sad and bothered, it feels more natural-like, and homey.

I wuz shore expectin’ to be Poet LAU-REE-ATE if the Clinton Lady had won. It jest goes to show yuh… ain’t nuthin’ to be trusted these days! Not even Donna Brazile fixin’ it up so that thar Bernie feller didn’t have the chance of a lame turkey at a county shoot. Now they’s all a-gangin’ up on poor Donna, fer tellin’ it straight.

But anyways, gol-darn-it, I shore-nuff got to be sumpin! They done made me the top chair of the Big West Castrate Conference for two years runnin’. Now I ain’t sayin’ how I got the job. No sirree. An’ I ain’t saying nuthin’ ’bout what was goin’ on with ol’ Mr. Pike, an’ all them charges ’bout missin’ cash and bad record-keepin’ and what-not. I ain’t sayin’ nuthin’ consarnin’ that, ‘cause you jest look at what happened to the nice little lady what done axed them kinda questions before. Lordy, they didn’t give that poor woman time to take a breath! She wuz jest tossed out like a coon from a Klan meetin’.

I planned on stayin’ at that thar Conference for a while. I was a-runnin’ it, an’ handin’ out cash to everybody. But yessir, I left. I ain’t sayin’ why. Nobody got no right to know my reasons, ceptin’ me. But lemme say this: If things ain’t bein’ run the way I see fittin’, I don’t see my way clear to hangin’ ’round. After all, I’m a big name. That’s gotta count for sumpin’ to somebody, even if it’s jest me. But lemme tell you-all why I ain’t happy. Nope, I jest ain’t happy.

Now there’s this Joe Salemi feller, hangin’ ’round the hinterlands o’ poetry. I jest kain’t tolerate him, no more’n I kin tolerate a varmint in my okra. Not that he ever done anythin’ agin me—leastways not until I tried my hand at parodyin’ one o’ his essays at my Facebook page. Well, he done returned the favor in a kindly manner, by gettin’ this here Pennsylvania Review to publish a short section from my “Narcissus” poem. That was right neighborly o’ him, an’ I shoulda been grateful.

But dang it, I was ornery. I started callin’ him “vile,” an’ I quoted phrases from a poem in his magazine to drum up some kind o’ anger agin him. I shore don’t cotton to the fact that a lot o’ poets I know is submittin’ material to that consarn magazine. It jest don’t sit right with me. I figgered I could stop ’em from submittin’ if I got ’em to read the phrases without readin’ the whole poem. Then I did a parody of the feller’s most recent essay here at the Penn Review, ‘cause I wuz still pretty riled at his re-baptizin’ me as “R.S. Gwano,” though that ain’t my real name by a long shot.

The thing of it is, I jest kain’t write no real argyment or answer or logical an-AL-ee-sis. I ain’t got the gear fer it. So all I kin do is put out these here parodies and hope that nobody’ll notice that I ain’t made a single real point. Hell, I spent plenty o’ years at Lame University without nobody catchin’ on that I kain’t think straight for more’n two minutes at a stretch.

So I’m a-writin’ this here note to you home-boys back in the Carolinas, axin’ you-all to not look too unkindly on me, seein’ as how I been bad-mouthin’ anything from down south, and how I pretend that I’m one o’ them high-toned Yankee liberals. I know I ain’t said nuthin’ ’bout the tearin’ down ’o your beloved statues o’ Bobby Lee and Stonewall and all the rest, but please—don’t hold it agin me! I still need to make a livin’, you know. Why, jest the other day I was a-stirrin’ up trouble with the women-folk, urgin’ ’em to name the names of all the fellers what acted in a less-than-upright fashion with ’em in the past, so as to make myself look good and proclaim my everlastin’ virtue. In my line o’ work, you always gotta proclaim yer virtue.

Tarnation, I wouldn’t even have got that big Directorship job at West Castrate if I hadn’t sucked up to all the various freaks and weirdos in this here poetry world! So I jest gotta keep my shootin’ iron aimed at this consarned Salemi feller—it makes me a passel o’ the right friends in the right places.

Well, so long boys. I’d be mighty obliged if you-all could see your way to sendin’ me a jug o’ that white lightnin’ from the still by that crick near my old shack.

R.S. Gwano teaches at Lame University somewhere below the Mason-Dixon line, where he tries very hard not to be taken for a southerner. He was recently appointed the director of a major poetry conference, after having artfully positioned himself for the job once the previous directrix had been dismissed.