Verse on Verse
In verse, Kirk Wood Bromley probes the diverse, perverse, inverse universe that appears to be so adverse to playing in verse.
That Diverse Perverse Inverse Universe
"Some verse on playwrights writing plays in verse,
From you, a verse playwright," my editor
Suggests online enthusiastically,
And typing, "Cool," I think, "The death of me!"
Let's face it, writing plays in verse these days
Is like wearing a codpiece and a sword,
Or shouting "Zounds!" when your jeep is stolen,
Or jaunting to some fey Renaissance fair
And dancing, bud-bedeckt, for Freya's snatch
To spit the season next. It's flat to be
An uncreative anachronist, stuck
In bleak nostalgic deepfreeze, or to hope
Your piece, thru literary spunk, will pop
Out Big Producer's pile, to fail to see
That Britney Spears transplants the metric muse
To vers courant et visuel, to bite
Your options off to spite your chance. It's dumb.
Verse is kickt, and the graphomanic Christ
That would revive it has some culture issues
Best workt out 'tween himself and his mother.
You got me? Good, now get me even less,
Cuz, shite on sharing, I am here today,
Not to recover, but to represent:
My name is Fool, and I'm a verse playwright.
I hope with this didactic to discern,
Thru a deficient listing of my peers
And exegesis on the genre's perks,
The reason I, and others, write this wack.
(And this I do with due, sarcastic shame
For ever having thought my mind could be
Remelded into active poetry
In this prosaic, big-screen, micro time.)
So, first, my past and present peers. Let's see.
Discounting all the bards of cave and plain,
The non-Indo-European babblers,
And everyone I don't or won't recall,
The Passion, the moral masque mediaeval,
The Euphuists, the mighty Marlowe line,
All tiny gasps for howling Willy Shake?
Then after his Huge Holiness of Hams,
Aren't there the many Jonsons, Websters, Fords,
The Spanish Calderons and de Vegas,
The French Molieres, Corneilles, Racines, Voltaires,
The German Lessings, Goethes, Schillers, Kleists,
Til almost every poet with pretension
Dabbled in dramatic versifusion,
Like Hugo, Dumas, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats,
Byron, Shelley, Tennyson, and Swinburne?
But still, discounting all these primal dolts,
Stuffy, strict, derivative, archaic,
Aren't there a few modern plotting poets,
Like Ibsen, Pushkin, Hofmannsthal, Claudel,
Brecht, Muller, Bernhard, Eliot,
Auden and Isherwood, B. Yeats and Fry,
Thomas, Kraus, Valery, Weiss and Menz,
Anderson, MacLeish, Barnes, and Stevens?
And in Spanish? No puedo les contar.
Yah fine, but all them dopes are gape and stiff,
(Though, be it known, Fry breathes at 93).
No living playwright lineates. O yah?
The Crucible was first in verse, Williams'
Purification, Mamet's Reunion,
Albee's Counting the Ways, each thinks "iamb,"
Shange, Wellman, Ashbery, and Wilbur,
Merrill, Koch, and Lowell (are they dead yet?),
Lori-Parks, Wiechmann, Raine, Clubb, and Kirchwey,
Carter, Jenkins, Alvarez, users all,
And from my email chatter, there's a clique
Deserves a blurb: Mike Hall the Classicist,
Justin Ames of Reno, Dan Trujillo, Phil Hopkins, and the Catholic Smirac, John,
Peter Oswald, resident of the Globe,
Beall's Brit at Show World wrote that Pervy farce,
And most recalled when verse is named, La Bete,
When Hirshon tried to climb the right mountain,
Plus two thousand applicants (so I'm told)
To the Paris Review Verse Play Contest,
And thousands more sick with Molieritis,
But then (I'll only hint at what is clear),
There is the best of them, who so excels
Above the dross, who so this current score
Of maybes to a heap of was converts,
His wit, philosophy, emotion, eye,
His breadth for character, make him a kind
Distinct, but I weave wide the web of hint.
So, this yak herd of stragglers nearly proves
That now and then the stage devours a poet,
But why? For me alone I can attest:
It's simply how I like my words to work.
It's - a present existential thing;
Simply - eschew nothing but eschewal;
How - not what or where or with who cares;
I - for is not art the self alluding?
Like - desire, desire, desire;
My - so shut your dramaturgic yap;
Words - not videos or semiotics;
To work - for even freedom craves a function.
My mind, that sparkly memic garble-blob,
Is mostest pleased with poesy's hyper pace,
Perspective, fractal access power, plus
For scope, musicality, and brilliance
You cannot beat good beats (yes, keyword, good).
In scope, the poet playwright ranges vast,
Enthused and activated by the force
Of language to phenomena engaged
By means of a pristine cogitation,
Not limited, but charged, by limitation,
A substance surging, hot because compresst,
Unlike the tepid, dribbling cricks of prose.
For musicality, the conferent cinch
Of rhythm, sonorance, viscosity
Provide the poet playwright a device
So far enabling past the tools of prose,
The former paints a hueful ecosphere,
The latter chintzy surfaces in blank.
And as for brilliance, most philosophers,
Scrounging sentence junk for content truth,
Squeak out a postulate so literal
And trite it limps to law on broken feet.
Yet the poet playwright, when he's thinking,
Expresses, thru the mix of metaphor
Grammatical, but convictions tested
And ampler by their universal fit
To form by urges figurative construed.
That's the fat scholar, now the skinny kid:
You got purse plays (Vagina Monologues),
And nurse plays (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest),
You got curse plays (Bedrooms and Bathroom Stalls),
And curst plays (Corpus Christi),
You got disperst plays (Gorilla Rep),
In reverse plays (htebcaM),
You got burst plays (Blue Man Group),
Even outburst plays (Women on the Verge).
You got perverse plays (Naked Boys Singing),
Immerst plays (Symphonie Fantastique),
Unrehearst plays (Burn Manhattan),
And hearse plays (God Willing)
You got first plays (Wit),
And thirst plays (The Weir)
And terse plays (Mamet),
And worst plays (The Tony nominees are...).
So why, may I ask, don't you get verse plays?
What, you think they're uncontemporary?
Third of all, even foresight is passé
In an age of intrepid reproduction.
Second, aligning art to era comes
Thru meaning, not thru message. Do we rate
Musicians out-of-date who write four-four,
A format older than pentameter?
And first, this is contemporary, chump.
Or is it that some ideology
Repugnant to postmodern multicults
Adheres to verse? Some autocratic stench?
Yet ain't it more republican to state
An ideal politic outlawing song?
Or is it that all new dramatic verse
Is almost never even bearable,
Glibly bouncing, over-rhyming, playing
When it should work, working when it should play,
Confectionary, mushy, haughty, droll,
Homogenous, inactive, out-of-touch,
Grounded in a flighty, lost tradition,
Either too silly or too serious,
Sacrificing story for oration,
Deep character for stereotypic sham,
And straining for the florid and arcane,
It trades emotional connectedness
To who we are for some lame exposition
On what we never were nor wish to be?
These are, I think, the style's fatal flaws,
(To it common, though times in none unknown,
And, to repeat, in creatures made of choice,
No twist is out of place if to purpose),
And why unpaid I don't defend the cause,
But do for free pursue the dream that soon
A play, or plays, by who knows who will pounce
Into the world in words so wild whirling
Yet so controlled, so avid yet so wise,
So rife with character and parable,
So story yet so not, so damn lovely
Yet so brutal sweet, a verse so unverst,
The answer that attracts all life to me.