People, especially Bored College Professors and Golf Pros, say Literature is dead, that Americans are too illiterate and hypnotized by mass media to create great poetry and prose. Here is YOUR chance to prove them wrong, and win big $$$, by entering the PEN GREAT AMERICAN WRITING CONTEST. Note: This contest is not sponsored by Counter Punch or any other publication. All prize $$$ comes straight from the abysmal coffers of Patriots, Entrepreneurs and Nationalists (PEN).
So, got your pencils sharpened? Your Microsoft WORD updated, licensed and ready to roll?
Let’s go Grapho-MANIAC!
Part One: The Beginning of History
Choose ONE of the three starter-paragraphs below and complete. Maximum 3000 words.
A) ALL ABOUT SHERMAN
Sherman’s march of flame and slaughter. Sherman’s slash and burn. Sherman’s big cigar. Sherman ruthless. “War is Hell.” Sherman, Grant’s right arm. Grant and Sherman and their big glowing cigars. March through cities leave a trail of ashes. Sherman’s receding hairline. Scraggly beard. Lean, tough man. Sherman inventing modern warfare. Scorched earth. Prometheus gave man fire and Sherman smeared it all over Atlanta. Lincoln in Washington waited. Stanton waited. They waited for Grant and Sherman. They waited for it all to finish. Lincoln gangly and obscenely tall. Warm hearted storyteller. Stanton squat and cold. Abrupt. Means business. These men had work to do. Grant and Sherman in their muddy uniforms. Lincoln and Stanton in their musty suits. Orchestrating slaughter to preserve the Union. Now we are living in the union they preserved. No such men as Lincoln and Stanton. No such men as Grant and Sherman. Or so we think, as we tell ourselves “We don’t need ’em. We don’t want ’em.” Once, the Yankees beat the Braves in four straight games. The burning of Atlanta. Who must we burn now?
B) FIRST COMPLEX
We dropped nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and damned if we’ll apologize because they started it by bombing our war ships at Pearl Harbor sneaky bastards and anyway something about saving a million lives if we had to invade Japan even though we’d already firebombed Tokyo and fifty other major cities to ash and cinder and only five years after the greatest generation fought the war to end all wars We went into Korea to save the South from the North or both from China or something I mean look at us we were coming apart at the seams communists everywhere thank god for Patriots like Ronald Reagan and Elia Kazan for standing up to HUAC and ratting out their friends, spilling their guts like Jabba the Hut on ipecac for the good of democracy, for us, for WE the people We loved Elvis but were somewhat concerned about his influences and rock n’ roll in general because it was bringing elements of black culture into our teenagers’ lives and we hadn’t told them black people exist yet (except for the maids, bus drivers, dishwashers etc. who made life more convenient). We liked Ike, despite his rather unfortunate relationship with the Dulles brothers and the CIA. Then again, we didn’t know exactly what the CIA was doing then, so why would we expect Ike and the CIA from protecting OUR interests against communism by offering a square deal to any piss ant country who should have welcomed U.S. Corporate military complex with open arms. After all, better to be exploited by genial US than dour THEM. But the old guy went batty on the way out and mumbled something industrial and coporate and so complex only the military could comprehend…
C) THE BIG FEAR
The big fear. Discussed since we were kids. Peering through the shutter slats. Waiting for the bombs to fall. But it won’t be bombs we don’t think, now, discussing the big fear for the nth time before the television. What then? Collapse. The Big Collapse. Of the system, the network, the order of things. Retro-Mind. Anti-psychotic Paranoid Narcosis. Death squads. The man at the end of the hallway has a gun. Sudden collapse, or gradually. Words cannot describe what words cannot. The drug just might work. Side effects? Acquiescence. So what? Cows seem relatively happy. Content. Not overly concerned. Until they herd them to the slaughterhouse. Bad scene. Moo moo mooing for their lives. Is that the core of the Big Fear? Not long sleep of Oblivion, but anguished moment of awareness that precedes the blow? Old hat. But really too big to be cliche. There will be a point when time runs out. No mercy then. The pain might be minor, or it might be bigger than all the life you’ve ever lived, that is, a concentrate of feeling, mostly negative. The fear, the node of all emotions past. Insatiable Future. Irrevocable Now. Crouched before the television, confronting the Big Fear. Death Alive. Pay Per View. After a while even Death becomes redundant. But always manages to horrify. Link to the real and final Home Page. Remember the Old Days? Remember mother? No, we do not. Puff our smokes like graybeard fictions. Patient as Tolstoy for the Word.
Part Two: Body of Work
Here is a Beginning and End. Fill in the missing Body with Your Own Life Story. Maximum: 3000 words.
Enter. Open. Look inside. Where will the young people go, now that all Homelands have been conquered? They disappear within. Inner space. The final frontier. Let us go then you and I… The freedom of an egg. An orb of possibilities. Be a nice Muse. Tell me a story. About the man in his house. Middle-aged, middle-class man. He has a daughter. Sixteen. Real wild child. His wife left two years ago to see where Life is. He goes to work, returns to his suburban home. He tries to be a good father. But he’s confused. His daughter goes to the Night Mall to take pictures. To have her picture taken. Or maybe not. Maybe she just goes out at night and…. He tries to control her. But he is involved with his work. And his thoughts. Can he protect his child, or is she already corrupt? His son is eighteen. Next year he’ll go away to college. Jonathan, the awkward lad. Awkward, but studious. Smart. Nose in the books. This is the beginning of his possibly.
[your body of experience goes right here, in the middle, between beginning and end; you’re middle America, aren’t you? send your body (heh, heh) Maximum: 3000 words.]
Of course the daughter wound up dead in a dark schoolyard. Raped and strangled. Went off to see what she could see, as usual, beyond the safety of the neighborhood. Thing is, she was on her way home and deep into the safety of the neighborhood, not far from home when the creature, the nice boy next door, of course, struck. How many times has that one been done? Sensationalism. Shock value. Where is that good, clean country the Muse promised?
Part Three: Poetry Laura Might Dig
Read Decadent Poem below and answer questions in terse, witty, erudite Heroic Couplets. Maximum: 100 lines/50 couplets.
At the Motel
before Now became Then
we were all so
Paula alone in the motel room
years like shooting stars
Paul out shopping for booze
“We’re twice the age we were then.
The time that’s passed between
now and then
is equal to the total
of our lives – then.”
Paula by the pool
its not the season yet
just algae scum and leaves
She practiced yoga
and foreclosure law.
He’d kept his figure
and his hair.
Reunion of virgins.
“It wasn’t a disastrous marriage
merely a failed one.”
Her son is eight years old
and with his grandmother
Mussels, sauce, snacks; wine.
Anti-depressants and Cigars.
See what develops.
“I can try to explain things,
but I’d rather not.”
Questions: Why are Paul and Paula so sad now that neither is married? Will they get together and be happy? Can’t anybody just chill out and be happy? What is Paula trying to explain? Form follows function. Might Paul and Paula be bummed because they are blowing light as feathers in a decadent wind of “free” verse? Rewrite the events of this poem. Bind this bleak scenario in strong, Heroic Couplets befitting this, the age of heroes.
Part Four: New Age Metaphysical Essay
Here, you see?
Know what you know inside, but not outside. What others know, even if knowing is forgetting what was known before and is no longer known to be true depends on outlook but can be changed since it is not knowing to be known. Eternal focus on in-look not out-look. What is outside will be there always and always change, but in-look is finite and must focus on shaping. Rearranging outlook according to need. Your need to be sure, despite change, of what is true and eternal within your self. Not outside looking in, which will shape you through contortions and con-torture you, but inside looking out. Projecting eternal true you upon the ever-changing there out there. Here, you see?
Essay: You understand any of this? Me neither. I am often asked, “Are you willing to die to defend your beliefs?” Well, sure. Give me something to believe and I’ll die defending it. Write an essay expressing genuine belief in…I dunno, in SOMETHING. Max, 2000 words
ADAM ENGEL (“Peaking: Voyeurism and the CIA,” and “Get a Job (for Life): An Unauthorized Biography of Clarence Thomas”), Founder and President of PEN, is hardly qualified to judge his own writing, much less yours. But he’s bored and needs something to read, so he figured, “Hell, why not hitchhike on that famous information turnpike and see what’s out there, eh?” Sure, he could have done that “On the Road/Blue Highways/In-Search-Of-America” thing, but really it all looks the same: fast-food chains; motel chains; supermarket chains; retail chains; pharmacy chains. America in chains. Yuck. Anyway, he knows what he thinks – sort of; he wants to know what YOU think. No guarantee he’ll actually read your stuff, and if he does and likes it, there’s no guarantee he won’t steal it and claim it for his own. So enter this contest at your own risk. Good luck. What do you win? Whaddya think you win? Why, fame and immortality, of course. Celebrity. Every writer’s dream. Okay, maybe some big $$$ too.
Send submissions to the PEN Pad at firstname.lastname@example.org