Friday, July 13

Poetry Friday: The Wussy Boy Manifesto

I should state up front that this poem uses some colorful language, in case you're a fan of such things. Or not.

In a previous life I worked at a radio station as the Director of Public Affairs programming. Basically I oversaw the non-music programming that fulfilled our FCC requirements and allowed us to maintain our license. That sounds much more important than it really was; my duties primarily consisted of making sure there were public service announcements for DJ's to read and chasing down show producers to make sure they were actually filling their allotted time.

Did I mention some salty language forthcoming?

Anyway, one of the things I was able to do was help my friend Rachael put some slam poetry on the air. During National Poetry Month we were able to present the slam live from a local bar over the airwaves. And when I say we it was mostly Rachael's doing; my role was mostly administrative, making sure different departments talked with one another, that sort of thing. Radio is a great medium for poetry , especially something as dramatic as a poetry slam, with hooting crowds of drunken locals and Olympic-style judging. If satellite and the Internet hadn't gutted radio's appeal from younger audiences my interest in radio might not have waned. Another topic, another day.

Explicit content imminent!

We were extremely fortunate our first night to have Big Poppa E at the slam. Eirik Ott presented, out of competition if I remember correctly, a poem that was making his name in the scene. Among those in the know, his presentation of The Wussy Boy Manifesto practically constituted a command performance, a greatest hit with the promise of more to come. Despite the language issues (did I mention those?) I can't help but wonder how many teenage boys would benefit from more poetry out there that spoke to them on this level.

Without further ado...

THE WUSSY BOY MANIFESTO! (1999)

my name is big poppa e
and i am a wussy boy.

itʼs taken me a long time to admit it...

i remember shouting in high school,
“no, dad, iʼm not gay!
iʼm just... sensitive.
i tried to like hot rods and jet planes
and football and budweiser poster girls,
but i never got the hang of it!
i donʼt know whatʼs wrong with me...”

then, i saw him,
there on the silver screen,
bigger than life and unafraid
of earrings and hair dye
and rejoicing in the music
of the cure and morrissey and
siouxsie and the banshees,
talking loud and walking proud
my wussy boy icon:
duckie in pretty in pink.

and i realized i wasnʼt alone.

and i looked around
and saw other wussy boys
living large and proud of who they were:
ralph macchio, wussy boy;
matthew broderick, wussy boy;
and lord god king
of the wussy boy movement,
john cusack in say anything,
unafraid to prove to the world
that sensitive guys much kick ass.

now i am no longer ashamed
of my wussiness, hell no,
iʼm empowered by it.

when iʼm at a stoplight and
some testosterone redneck
methamphetamine
jock fratboy asshole dumb fuck
pulls up beside me
blasting his trans amʼs stereo
with power chord anthems to big tits
and date rape,
i no longer avoid his eyesight, hell no,
i just crank all 12 watts of my car stereo
and i rock out right into his face:
(devil sign and morrisseyʼs voice)
“i am human and i need to be loved
just like everybody else does!”

i am wussy boy, hear me roar
(meow).

bar fight? pshaw!
you think you can take me, huh?
just because i like poetry
better than sports illustrated?
well, allow me to caution you,
iʼm not the average every day
run-of-the-mill wussy boy you
beat up in high school, punk,
i am wuss core!
(flash “wc” gang sign)

donʼt make me get renaissance
on your ass because i will
write a poem about you,
a poem that tears your psyche
limb from limb,
that exposes your selfish insecurities,
that will wound you deeper
and more severely
than knives and chains and gats
and baseball bats
could ever hope to do...

you may see 65 inches of wussy boy
standing in front of you,
but my steel-toed soul is
ten foot tall and bullet proof!

bring the pain, punk,
beat the shit out of me,
show all the people in this bar
what a real man can do
to a shit-talking wussy boy like me

but youʼd better remember
my bruises will fade
my cuts will heal,
my scars will shrink and disappear,
but my poem
about the pitiful, small, helpless
cock-man oppressor you really are
will last
forever.

Now, perhaps you'll be wondering how we managed to get that on the air without the FCC getting Renaissance on our own butts. We knew up front that slam poets have a certain tendency to bring "challenging" language and subject matter with them, and we covered our asses as best we could by having them all sign agreements (reluctantly) underscoring they were not to use obscenities during the broadcast. There was a bit of grumbling about taking on the FCC but neither the poets nor our station could withstand the cost of a single fine, much less a legal fight. In the end, some poets censored themselves (or mouthed the words) while others ignored the agreement, leaving us praying some religious group wasn't planning (another) FCC drive to have our license removed for indecency so they could buy up our frequency and run religious programming wall-to-wall.

We ran the National Poetry Month Slam two years in a row without a single complaint that I am aware of.

Of course, a large part of slam poetry is performance. I'd have loved to drop the video in here for y'all to see but you're just going to have to hit Poppa E on his site and watch it there.
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