I faked it. Completely and utterly faked it. I didn't mean to, it just sort of... happened.
This is the deal; I had a panel at 1am at a convention I will not name, but rhymes with BassleBon. Due to an error on my part, I read my program book wrong, and showed up an hour early and saw all these Goths in my room. Before I confronted these guys, I read the program book a second time, and realized I was there too early. But I as I was about to leave, someone said this:
"Brother. Have you come to expose your dark side?"
I was still in the comedy group Prune Bran at the time, and the tone this guy had was exactly the kind of thing one can easily spoof. I felt, "If I don't take advantage of this, Rick (the director) will hit me."
"You were in a Goth Den and didn't get material??? Punkie!"
So I said, "Okay." It was midnight. I was punchy. We had a character "Maria Blackwell" in our skits that was a chain smoking Goth feminist, who was my creation based on a former roommate, but everyone else had fleshed her out and I felt I could gather some interesting characters.
Then the poetry started.
Or, rather, continued, but it was very difficult to listen to the poetry. Most of the writers were still teenagers, and I knew some of the older people, and thought most of them were ... a little melodramatic, let's say. Nice people, but once they get sad, it's like the world was made for their suffering alone. The poetry was mediocre on average, with some good imagery, and some lines that were just outrageous and transparent tantrums like the kind made fun of in Saturday Night Live's "Goth Talk."
Now, I like Goths. I used to hang around them a lot at cons, and even hung out with a few in high school (shuttergal would know of whom I speak) when I crashed art galas and the like. I like their style and clothing, and they are smart people, reflective, philosophical, and apart from some of their personal problems, have a strong social culture. But sometimes a few of their members, or poseurs pretending to be members, are a little whiny and take themselves too seriously. And many of the ones who want attention end up being poets for some reason. This does not mean poets, even Goth poets, are all whiny and terrible writers. This group, however, didn't help that stereotype.
One girl, who couldn't have been more than 13 or 14, gave a sermon about cutting herself which, having been a cutter in the past, I immediately concluded not only had this girl not cut herself, but never actually knew what it looked like. For instance, blood cut from your veins is not blue. The second it hits the air, it turns red. And for someone who slit her wrists, she seemed awfully scar-free. And I think one was copying lyrics directly from a song by "The Cure" called "The Kyoto Song."
But the majority of the readers were just boring. They all used the same imagery, didn't vary in style to the point some copied the lines of others, and it was just so... ripe with opportunity for comedy. When I wrote a few bits for "Maria Blackwell," I would have imagined her crying and nodding at some of these people. "Sing it, my mascara-soaked sister!" with one fist in the air...
I was in the middle of my own farce.
And then, something even weirder happened: I was asked to read mine. I suspect that it was because I had a notebook in front of me for the panel I was going to do, which I think Kenny Lull was moderating, for those who remember him. I don't recall the panel, but it was important enough for me to have notes.
I paused. I was encouraged not to be afraid, and Loki was dangling this opportunity in my face, whispering in my ear, "He said not to be afraid... to read... something..."
I looked at my note page, which was blank. And my mouth began to speak.
"Dead Swans," I said, stealing some bit from Douglas Adams, "stinking in a stagnant pool. Who weeps for them? Their corpses circle lazily in the current, mixing with my tears that reflected a golden sunset behind a dead oak tree."
It wasn't poetry. It didn't even rhyme, and at least half the readers that night made THAT effort. Years later, I would look at this with a more modern term, "Goth Poetry Jam." Like the rappers who spin lyrics and pentameter on the fly, I spun visions of doom, despair, and stereotypes... mingling the imagery of various Ingrid Bergman films, bad college rants, dystopian science fiction, and collected bits of the brain vomiting I had been listening to for the last 30 minutes. It was a hand-spun masterpiece of foggy plagiarism, mixed with the low punch of a spoof, exposing self-importance and seriousness in such an exaggerated form that I could picture half of Prune Bran in a script meeting howling on the floor in laughter. It lasted for five, maybe ten minutes.
Had the eyes around me been filled with scorn and anger, it would have been a lot shorter, but half of the dozen or so people assembled there were gazing at me like I was Jesus on the Mountain. And I just kept going, wondering when someone, especially the moderator, would say, "Oh, come on! That's just terrible... get out of here, you jerk!"
But it never happened. I kept going on some inertial, spilling out more and more ludicrous imagery. I had to stop myself eventually because I feared repeating myself, even though I think I mentioned dead swans several times. I stopped abruptly in mid sentence, at some random point, and made it sound like I meant to do that.
Was it sarcastic? Was it so poignant, that they realized the farce and applauded me for showing them an objective view of their serious nature as compared to the universal view? I don't think so. Even the "cutter" was clapping with her remarkably smooth and scar-free arms, the same arms she claimed to pluck her tendons like "violin strings." How did I know they were serious?
Because I won. I won an award I didn't know existed. The award was nothing more than bragging rights, really, along with a certificate I suspected Cheryl Evry had made for them. I tried to shrug it off, but the poets had already started filing out, and some of the panels for the panel I was in were coming in. I was dumbfounded. I kept telling myself, "They are being ironic! The award is a patronizing slap back to the face for making fun of their endeavors, and thankfully, you understand subtlety enough to take this insult for how it was intended."
But no, a few asked for a copy of the poem. I flipped the page in my spiral notebook, and said it was personal. They nodded in understanding. Someone mentioned that a magazine called "Blue Blood" was looking for submissions, and I should send them.
When they left, a few Prunes were in the room, and I showed them the award, stunned, and laughing at my own situation.
Maria Blackwell had a LOT of material to draw from now.