Friday, November 27, 2009

ELR Fan Mail #3

I hesitate to publish this letter, but I’m afraid it’s the only way to make sure the sender gets the message. Savvy readers will recognize the party in question, a certain Society for Haiku Preservation in the English Language.

Dear Esoteric Literary Reference,

We at the Society for Haiku Preservation in the English Language loved your letter of response! We were delighted that you took time to respond, but more delighted still that you did so entirely in haiku format. Just look at some of these gems:

“In fact, we mostly
like haikus because they’re short-
er than most other

things. Haiku Wednes-
days would be Screenplay Wednes-
days if screenplays were

only three lines long.
So thanks for the offer, but
Esoteric Lit-“

And it goes on from there! Every word of your letter was a haiku, and I’m sure there were layers of meaning we have thus far only begun to uncover. Brilliant! Incorrectly referring to haiku in the plural as “haikus” was likewise brilliant. Pure tongue-in-cheek hilarity.

We also agree with your assertion about the Keats/Yeats pronunciation.

Welcome to the Society,
The Society for Haiku Preservation in the English Language


Are you serious? First of all, I told you I did NOT want to join your weird club. So take me off of your mailing lists. As I’ve told you repeatedly via email, your newsletters are dry and lacking in 21st Century relevance. Plus, whoever draws those cartoons just isn’t funny. Deal with it.

It astounds me that I have to be the one to tell you this, but those “haiku” of mine that I posted were not haiku at all. They weren’t even poetry. You just took my letter and divided it into chunks of syllables. Poetry is more than just formatting. How could you not know that?

And that Keats/Yates thing was a joke. I was making fun of you.

Are you happy that I had to publicly shame you? I’m not proud of this post. Seriously, I don’t want to join your stupid club. Tell Nancy to stop calling and asking who my plus-one will be for your annual gala. I’m not going because I’m not a member.

Not joking,
Esoteric Literary Reference Letter Reply Dept.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


"Not the crude eagle!"
cried Franklin at the meeting.
"How 'bout the turkey?"

Monday, November 23, 2009

ELR Fan Mail #2

Today’s letter comes from the Society for Haiku Preservation in the English Language, a prestigious yet apparently misguided poetry group. Read on:

Dear Esoteric Literary Reference,

Congratulations! We at the Society for Haiku Preservation in the English Language (SHPEL) have discovered your wonderful haiku weblog and want to extend to you an offer for membership in our group.

The aim of the Society is to keep the oft-maligned art of haiku in the forefront of Anglophone Letters. In today’s world of instant messages and electronic or “e” mail, language in general and poetry specifically have been relegated to a largely utilitarian function. Gone are the glory days when words were words for words’ sake. Ask a child of today what a poem is and he’s less likely to know the answer than to tilt his head like a confused dog...provided he could tear his attention away from his Video-Game Box.

Your weblog exemplifies our goals. It seems to be devoted entirely to haiku. True, our committee has noted that on occasion you post a prose entry or two, but by and large you limit your posts to haiku. It’s practically all you post. It is because of your dedication to post only haiku that we would love to count the name Steve Theiss among our members’ ranks.

Awaiting your favorable response,
The Society for Haiku Preservation in the English Language


Look, it’s nice of you to offer me membership in your club or whatever, but I think you got the wrong idea. We at Esoteric Literary Reference (and by “we” I do mean “I”) don’t try to post only haikus. We try to post other stuff. Like this letter, for instance.

In fact, we mostly like haikus because they’re shorter than most other things. Haiku Wednesdays would be Screenplay Wednesdays if screenplays were only three lines long.

So thanks for the offer, but Esoteric Literary Reference has to politely decline. We’re sure you’re a nice club and maybe you even have fun parties. Yeah. A bunch of nerdy poets standing around drinking deliberately obscure drinks (“Actually, Alan, this sidecar would have been better if they'd mixed it with Grand Marnier instead of Cointreau...”) and talking about how it's "genius" that Keats isn’t pronounced like Yeats. I bet that’s a blast.

Happy nerding,
Esoteric Literary Reference Letter Reply Dept.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Perhaps pilfered poems
should send suspicious signals
about an author.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Does the ballpoint pen
detest the computer age?
Microchip envy.

Friday, November 6, 2009

You Know, As In Brigitte Bardot. But not.

I started going to a weekly improv contest with a couple of guys from my current class. Basically you show up with a three-person team and get to perform for five minutes. After each team has performed, the audience votes. The winner gets bragging rights.

And I’m happy to tell you, dear reader, that we currently retain those rights. At least until next week. We were pleased/surprised to hear the results, especially considering our last scene consisted of the three of us violently beating a hamburger for absolutely no reason.

Ah, improv. Even when it’s stupid it’s fun. Here’s hoping next week will be good. Maybe we can verbally assault a slice of pizza or something.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pen vs. Pencil

Pen versus pencil.
One has ink, one has graphite.
But each has a point.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Seriously, Tina Fey, I (Really, Truly, Without Caveat) Think You’re Funny

The other night I called our apartment to tell Lindsay I would be home later than expected. She didn’t pick up, so I left a message. When I got home, I played it back, intending to delete it. And that’s when I heard that frightening sound. Some dork blabbering on in what could generously be called a high tenor (and less generously called a warbling alto), saying in a hundred words what should have taken seven (“I will be home late. Love you.”)

If you're playing along at home, you'll realize that dork was me.

You’d think I’d be used to the sound of my own voice by now. It’s not like every waking moment of my life has been recorded (like the kids these days - how great would it be to have a million hours of video of yourself growing up? Don’t scoff; you, dear reader, are just as latently narcissistic as the rest of us), but the succession of audio/visual representation of me has been regular enough to become commonplace if not ubiquitous. Still every time I ask, “Do I really sound like that?”

This weekend I had to ask that question in another context; reading my own voice. And yes, I certainly said that stuff. Only it didn’t sound that way in my head. It sounded smart (one), poignant (two), and insightful (aaaand strike three).

When I read it now, it looks like I think Tina Fey is unworthy as an acting role model. This is not what I think. She's great. What my stupid warbling alto voice was trying to say was that I don't have acting role models because I'm a writer. Why would a writer have an acting role model? Do lawyers have doctors as role models? Do disc jockeys pattern their careers after airline pilots'? (Actually, that would explain why yesterday the host on NPR instructed me not to get out of my seat until the fasten seatbelt sign had been turned off. But I digress.)

Maybe you don’t ever get used to hearing your words quoted back to you, whether electronically or through the filter of another person’s mind. To quote the poet Robbie Burns:

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!

And that's probably not how it sounded in his head, either.