Previously published in the March 2018 issue of Blank Spaces. Copyright is held by the author.
“AND NOW,” said the moderator, smiling as she scanned the audience in the library meeting room, “I’m pleased to announce the winner of this year’s Experimental Poem Award, Tom McDonald. You all know Tom. He’s had many traditional works published over the years, but now, he tried something new. I’m sure you will be as surprised as I was with his piece. Tom . . .”
“Thank you, Gladys. I’m thrilled that the committee selected my poem. I sure didn’t expect it. This is the first time I’ve tried an experimental piece. I’ll read the poem first, and then explain what led me to it. The title is Something to Think About.
“absolutely dawn individual
although vault jail piglet
exercise shiver exactly
florist grandness scent
interested milk apple
engagement lampshade heavy
associate cup rag shame
“I’m curious what you think of it, and would appreciate a show of hands if you feel it’s very meaningful and insightful.” Almost everyone in the audience raised their hands.
“Now, please be frank, and show if you would have liked this same poem if you thought someone else had written it and I were simply reading it.” About one third liked it.
“Heh, heh. That’s interesting. Thank you for being honest. The inspiration for it came from several poems in a literary magazine I subscribed to a few months ago. My reaction was: ‘Wow, these pieces are really something. I wonder if I can write like that.’
“How to go about it? I poured a large glass of wine and thought, and thought, and thought. After another glass, it came to me. I took my small Spanish-English dictionary and looked at the last word of every fourth page, and wrote down the English translation. The result is what I read, with line breaks in places that felt appropriate.
“It seems to me that the result is no less sensical than some published poems. What do you think?”
For a moment, the audience was silent, with mouths agape. Then, a few people clapped, several booed, others chuckled.
Gladys shouted, “Tom. I’m so shocked that you would mock modern poetry. And to think we awarded first prize to this . . . this gibberish.”
Tom faced the audience and said, “But is it mockery, or experimental writing? Something to think about.” He pushed his tongue into his cheek.