Author: Luisa Perkins
•11:14 AM
I've been having a grand time with Radioactive Jam's Titanium Haiku Contest. It brings back sweet memories of adolescence; I'll sketch a couple of scenes for you.
In eighth grade I had a friend named Monica. We were in the G&T program together; in California in the late 70s, "Gifted & Talented" meant "tons of field trips." It was excellent. Our most frequent destination was the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, where we saw a boatload of Shakespeare and other great plays.

On the bus rides from and back to Rancho Cordova, Monica and I collaborated on a very specific subgenre of poetry. We had studied "The Raven" early in the year, finding Poe's meter of choice compelling to the point of addiction. Monica and I took turns writing stanzas about whatever occurred to us. Monica was obsessed with the TV show "Dallas." Many of her verses speculated on the marital strife between Pam and Bobby and what kind of evil conspiracy the Cartel really was.

I, not being allowed to watch "Dallas," had no such bounteous muse, but I found plenty of fodder in hot topics such as:

Whether Mr. Scimemi Hates Me Specifically or All Students Generally;
The Comparative Merits of a Hostess Cherry Pie or a Lemon Pie for Lunch;
Would I Have Made Frodo Female, Had I Written The Lord of the Rings; and
Will Ian R. Ever Return My Affections?

Here's a sample of Monica's work:

While J.R. employs his cunning, poor Sue Ellen sits out sunning,
Hoping for her tan to bring her new love through the open door--
But at South Fork, many worries: This affair will bring more flurries!
Cliff should really try to hurry, take his Sue away before
J.R. finds out their betrayal, calls his Beauty Queen a whore!
Quoth Miss Ellie, "Nevermore!"

And mine:

While I sit here, hoping, dreaming, Ian doesn't know my scheming,
How I try to catch his fancy, make him mine forevermore.
Two-faced Heather looks so trashy. How can Ian find her flashy?
Can't he see I'm so much smarter? How in common we have more?
Both of us like books like Tolkien's. He must know I'm not a bore.
My love cuts me to the core.

Chief among our challenges were finding new, workable rhymes for 'nevermore.' Our poems were a sort of group therapy; the bonus was that I stayed in the loop on the hippest TV gig of the decade, a key to social success in junior high.


Three years later, my Debate and Reader's Theater partner, Jim Orlando, was one of my best (read: only) friends. Traveling to and from Speech and Debate Tournaments, Jim and I kept stage fright at bay by composing outrageous blues verses. These were in A-B-B-A (not the supergroup), call and response form:

Jim: Really late last Saturday night-nah nah na-na-na naaaah-nah.

Luisa: Joanie and me, we had a fight-nah nah na-na-na naaaah-nah.
She told me my speech was bad-nah nah na-na-na naaaah-nah.

Jim: I gave her a slap like she'd never had-nah nah na-na-na naaaah-nah.

...ad infinitum.

The key to this game was coming up with a perfectly scanning and rhyming line to the one first set out without any kind of pause. The scat breaks gave us a little extra time to think. Beats could be subdivided, if necessary. We never got tired of this, and it had the added advantage of keeping us mentally in sync; that year the two of us went to State Championships in the Model Congress event.

My takeaway on these images of versifications past? A) I'm a doggerel junkie; and B) road trips seem to be conducive to inspiration. Next time I feel any writer's block, I'm heading for the parkway.
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7 comments:

On 18/5/07 , PEZmama said...

Is that a picture of you or of Monica?

When do we get to see a picture of you?

 
On 18/5/07 , Radioactive Jam said...

That kind of on-the-fly creativity is awesome. Any kind, really. Good practice developed skills!

 
On 18/5/07 , Luisa Perkins said...

Pez, that's Monica; she was gorgeous in that perfect junior high way, and all the boys (except Ian R.) were in love with her--but she was never stuck up about it.

The little profile pic is of me at age 4; I look mostly the same except that my hair is browner and I'm much bigger.

There is a photo of me and Carmen (I have the dark hair and sunglasses) on a post called "...the last three months, Part 3" from last year. Maybe I'll post another photo of myself soon.

RaJ--thanks for the praise of my mad skills.

 
On 18/5/07 , P said...

You were a wonderbread rapper before your time -

 
On 18/5/07 , Amanda1 said...

Your post makes me think of my friend, Becky, and I doing those kinds of things. Fun memories.

 
On 18/5/07 , rjlight said...

Cute post. You're funny.

 
On 18/5/07 , Catherine said...

How fun! I had a friend with whom we used to speak to each other in haiku. Crazy.