What’s In YOUR Toilet?

In his incisive biography of Spencer Tracy, author Bill Davidson tells of a problem which arose during planning stages of a Tracy film based on a short story titled BAD DAY AT HONDO. He quotes Millard Kaufman, who was writing the screenplay, as follows:

Our picture still was called Bad Day at Hondo, when, to everyone’s surprise, there came the release of a John Wayne movie called HONDO. So our title went out the window.

Davidson continues, “Such coincidental flaps can cause weeks of delays at a studio, while everyone tries to think of a new title. In this case, Kaufman was out in Arizona looking for locations for another picture, when [he] stopped for gas at one of the bleakest places [that] was not even a ‘wide place in the road’, just a gas station and a post office. Kaufman looked at the sign on the post office. The name was Black Rock, Arizona. Kaufman rushed to the phone and called the studio. ‘I’ve got the title for the Tracy picture,’ he said. “We’ll call it “Bad Day at Black Rock.”

You may be wondering what the foregoing has to do with the title of this post….and the answer is diddly-squat (or just squat, for short). So what’s the deal? Simply to serve as a pun-gent example of a title’s potential to entice you in to a creative work, whether it be film, story, poem or poop. Did the serendipitous (and delay-saving) spotting of the Black Rock post office sign lead to a perfect fit for the title of the movie? Perhaps this scene will tell you all you need to know to answer that question (Tracy plays a one-armed WW II officer, just returned from the service, who goes to a middle-of-nowhere desert town to present a posthumous medal to the father of one of his soldiers):

But suppose, after chewing it over endlessly, you still can’t come up with a killer title for your opus delicti? Friends, just swallow the bitter pill that there are times indiscretion is the better part of valor, and settle for a title such as this post’s. And what if even doo-doo doesn’t do the trick? There’s still the when-all-else-fails last resort I used when I titled this poem….

UNTITLED

This poem’s title is Untitled —
Not because it is untitled,
But because I am entitled
To entitle it Untitled.

If I’d not titled it Untitled,
It would truly be untitled….
Which would make me unentitled
To entitle it Untitled.

So it is vital, if untitled,
Not to title it Untitled,
And to leave that title idled,
As a title is entitled.

NOTE: This is the Random poem leftover from my previous post

 

RHYMES AT RANDOM

In a comment to my last post (CERF’S UP), I raised the possibility of re-publishing several of my poetic baubles from THE RANDOM HOUSE TREASURY OF LIGHT VERSE. Generous soul that I am, suppose I add a bonus of bangles and beads to the baubles….for man does not live by words alone, but with the inspiration of Blyth spirit beautifully begetting beguiling music, without which our Kismet (fate) would be drab indeed:

Yes, my friends, I have rhymes — or, conversely, should I say….

And now, having strung my lead-in out this far / I wish upon a wishing star / to make appear my Random rhymes / from the pages of bygone times. / These rhymes abode in poems four / nothing less and nothing more / but not having used up all my string / I’ll save one of the poems for my next post-ing:

LOVER BOY

Narcissus was too perfect for sex or pelf —
He longed only to gaze in love at himself….
The moral of which is that, even in myths,
Too much reflection may be your nemesis.

THE BOOK OF WISDOM

Thou shalt not commit adultery;
Nor shalt thou covet thy neighbor’s spouse.
Shouldst thou succumbeth to temptation,
Thou shalt not do it in thy neighbor’s house.

CONCEIVABLY, THE COMPLEAT HISTORY OF HUMAN SEX

Adam and Eve,
I believe,
Were the start of it.

Everyone since,
I’m convinced,
Played a part in it.

NOTE: Ann Blyth, who played Marsinah (daughter of The Poet, played by Howard Keel) in the film version of Kismet, is one of the last surviving stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

 

 

CERF’S UP

In his comment to 20/20 BEHINDSIGHT (my May 20 post which contained a look back at TWENTY QUESTIONS), long-time blog buddy Don Frankel mentioned WHAT’S MY LINE? (another old TV game show). It so happens that one of the regulars on that show, humor writer and publisher (co-founder of RANDOM HOUSE) Bennett Cerf had chosen the 25th of May (1898) to be born; thus, today I honor his birthday by posting a selection of favorite Cerf puns and quotes (and high time I returned the favor, considering that lo, some twenty-plus years ago, RANDOM HOUSE published several of my poems in THE RANDOM HOUSE TREASURY OF LIGHT VERSE).

But first, let’s take a look back at one of the WHAT’S MY LINE? programs from the same year as the TWENTY QUESTIONS clip shown in my previous post:

There is little question, I think you’ll agree, that WHAT’S MY LINE? was a step up in class compared to TWENTY QUESTIONS…..so it’s time to hit the Cerf (as beach bums refer to the swells) and ride the wave….to wit:

Gross ignorance is 144 times worse than ordinary ignorance.

The confused young man couldn’t decide whether to marry Kathryn or Edith. Try as he might, he just could not make up his mind. Unwilling to give up either, he strung them along far too long. This indecision continued until both women tired of the situation and left him for good. Moral of the story: You can’t have your Kate and Edith too.

Then there was the young female comic who was promised good roles in a hit TV show. All she had to do was divide her favors between the star and the producer. But it was just a sham; she never got any air time at all. You might even say she was….shared skit less.

There once was a student named Bessor
Whose knowledge grew lesser and lesser.
It at last grew so small
He knew nothing at all
And today he’s a college professor.

The Detroit String Quartet played Brahms last night. Brahms lost.

I shouldn’t be surprised  — it was four against one.

And on that note, I bid thee a fond fare well.

 

 

 

ALL’S FARE IN LOVE AND FOUR

With my mind drawing blanks and little time to spare
….as this post comes due, I hope you will bear
with four poems previously published, not saying where….
but near in spirit to my last post’s bill of fare:

LOVER BOY

Narcissus was too perfect for sex or pelf;
He longed only to gaze in love at himself….
The moral of which is that, even in myths,
Too much reflection may be your nemesis.

THE BOOK OF WISDOM

Thou shalt not commit adultery,
Nor shalt thou covet thy neighbor’s spouse.
Shouldst thou succumbeth to temptation,
Thou shalt not covet in thy neighbor’s house.

FAIR WARNING

And so, when wise men say to you
Love’s a game for dreamers and fools….
Buddy, beware
That a lady fair
Doesn’t play by the wise men’s rules.

TREASURE CHEST

\/    Madame’s cleavage so fair; yet
xx    he must pretend not to see;
~~   he knows well the song:
/\    Let it beLet it be.

She may say, if he peeks,
he’s just looking for thrills….
but innocence is a broad, and she
gets There’s ogle in them thar hills.

A TOWERING FIGURE IN POETRY

April is NATIONAL POETRY MONTH (as decreed by the Academy of American Poets in 1996). Can there be any doubt that a poet of my stature* would be expected to contribute a poem to the celebration?

*about 5′ 7″

As it happens, I had a poem in my April 20 post, but that doesn’t count….unless I say it does, which I don’t, because I’ve composed a new poem for the occasion (or any occasion, for that matter). The point is that this occasion happens to be at hand and is sufficiently worthy of a work of such distingué distinktion:

ONCE A POET

Once I wrote poems;
Writing poems was fun.
Once I wrote poems;
Now I write none.

Once I wrote poems;
Poems were my life.
Once I wrote poems;
Then I met my wife.

I’m just joking, of course;
I still write, as you see —
For my wife loves my poems,
And I still loves she*.

*That end word was going to be me, but that might be the end of me, so I reconsidered.

Thank you very much, ladies and sentimentalmen. I’m glad you appreciate the heartfelt passion and savoir fairy that went into said poem. Your defecating applause on this historic day warms my cockles to the core. This calls for a curtain call. But I don’t have another new poem handy, so how about two oldies that survived previous publication:

RHYME GONE TO HELL

I don’t comprehend
why poems that rhyme
must, most of the time,
just rhyme at line’s end.
Who so decreed it to, as though it needed
to? And would it spell

nonsense if most rhymes
commence where lines start?
Dare we call it art?
Where I’m at, at times,
is: does it matter where rhyme is, if indeed
it’s where mine is? Hell!!!

TRYING TIMES

Forgive me, please, my verse you’ve read —
Much better works are in my head….
–  But they’ll remain there
–  Until the brain there
Learns how to extract gold from lead.

But enough about me. Let us close on a serious quote from ex-Chancellor of the aforementioned Academy of American Poets, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet/novelist, Robert Penn Warren, who was fittingly born (April, 1905) in what would become National Poetry Month:
Historical sense and poetic sense should not, in the end, be contradictory, for if poetry is the little myth we make, history is the big myth we live, and in our living, constantly remake.

 

 

MARRYING MADE MAID MARY MERRY

Mary Christmas is her name.
Merry Christmas is her game.
So, Merry Christmas, Mary Christmas!
Merry, the way you made your list less
The merry day you lined off your wish list
The last name that you became
When you married Mister Christmas.

And now you’ve heard the gospel of how Christmas, Mister,
Made Maid Mary’s Merry Little Christmas….a tongue twister.

 

NOVEMBER 20 POEMS ARE CHILD’S PLAY

Because I have long taken a fancy to light verse, I wrote a number of nursery rhyme-like poems in my early poetry writing days because such poems are in the light verse vein, though seemingly just for children….but look at Mother Goose: if a bit of wit (in the telling) warrants a closer gander, the simplicity may not lay an egg in the eyes of grown-ups.

November 20 being UNIVERSAL CHILDREN’S DAY and WORLD CHILDREN’S DAY, I thought I would bring back a selection of those poems — say 20% of 20 — for a second childhood look. Two have been published in children’s magazines, two have not. You might even say that two of the four are for the birds. Well, as Humpty Dumpty may have shrugged after his fall, “Wall,  you can’t win ’em all.”

A GOOD QUESTION

Free as a bird —
That’s what I’d like to be.
But, if I were a bird —
Who would be me?

THE ONE WHO WON

The tortoise and the hare
Ran a race from here to there.
The winner, of the pair,
Was the tortoise, by a hair.

OF ALL PLACES!

Birds build nests
Where they will —
Gutter, building ledge,
Window sill.

One I saw
Amazed me —
It was nestled
In a tree!

(N)ICE TRY!

There was once a brave lad from Nebraska
Who went off on a trip to Alaska.
To climb up steep slopes, he bid —
But they were so slick, he slid
Almost all the way back to Nebraska!

Is word play child’s play or hard work, you ask? As both a light verse and jazz lover, I can tell you it helped to have….