Pungent Sound Open Mic Night

We are thrilled to announce our first ever open mic poetry reading gala. 9:00 p.m., this Wednesday at Drinkie McFalldown’s Wee Irish Pub (where your drinks and your dignity come cheap) – Block Island’s favorite place to get blindingly drunk.

Do you approach poetry with humility? Are you concerned you don’t comprehend (even partially) life’s deepest mysteries? Well, fuck off.

We’re looking for self-confident poets who are prepared to give simple answers to complex problems. Do you have a loud voice and a tireless tongue? Are you unafraid of hecklers? Willing to throw a sucker punch? Then this is the stage for you.

And don’t forget our sponsor: Ted’s Definitely Used Cars – Home of the Definitely Used Smell.

Treacherous Gulp, Esquire – Master of Ceremonies

Mission Accomplished

Nowadays, we ignore good poetry
and bad poetry is all we read.

Which is great news!
Because based on the time and energy 
we Facebook friends have devoted 
to pummeling this wretched rhyming piece,
insipid drivel must be the last
evil thing to walk the world.

Congratulations to us!
We have saved humanity
(as I knew we would)
with our sarcasm and snide tweets.

Such a preening and sanctimonious fixation
on bursting this quivering bubble of buffoonery tells me
snowcaps have reappeared on mountaintops
and polar bears sit on new icebergs merrily munching seals,
liars have recanted and corrected the record,
dictators have restored freedoms and retired,
torturers have questioned career choices and quit,
pedophile priests have been put in prison
and the Vatican has sold its gold for Bitcoin
to compensate the unfortunate children 
it allowed to be raped.

So having saved the world 
from every evil but one,
we can now dedicate
our capricious communal scorn
to crushing this thin, gasping thing.

Luvgood Carp, Editor-in-Chief

Christopher Marlowe in a Bodice

So, Gladiola, I’m looking for a historical fiction-spy-romance novel. And it needs to be a bodice ripper. But the bodices must be worn by men. They should also be ripped off by men. Can you recommend something?

Wow! That’s really specific. But fortunately I just finished reading Allison Epstein’s A Tip for the Hangman, and it has everything you want in the historical fiction-spy-romance-male/male bodice ripper genre. However, the narrative does drag at times, especially at the end.

The story opens in October 1585, and Kit (Christopher Marlowe) is at Cambridge University. He believes the other students think he doesn’t belong there. They do. He comes from a poor family in Canterbury where his father is a first-rate alcoholic and third-rate cobbler.

Though he’s a brilliant student, he’s an outsider – all the more so because he’s homosexual. Fortunately his classmate and best friend, Tom, is too. Their love is the only stable thing in Kit’s life. From the beginning Tom knows Kit is a brilliant poet. Eventually Tom realizes this means Kit is also a brilliant liar.

Kit’s moral flexibility comes to the attention of Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster. He desperately needs spies, because Papists across England and Europe are conspiring to depose the queen and replace her with a Catholic monarch. Their leading candidate is Elizabeth’s cousin, Mary (Queen of Scots). That must be awkward around the holidays.

Soon Kit is inside Mary’s household sending vital information to Walsingham, but Kit’s success comes with a cost. “Perhaps he understood, now, what it was for actions to have consequences. None of Walsingham’s agents understood that from the beginning – if they did, they would never sign on. But they all realized, sooner or later, what victory felt like. Hazy and sour, like a half-remembered dream.”

Walsingham gives Kit more assignments, but meanwhile Kit has become the most successful playwright in London. His plays scandalize the censors and the church. He is clearly an atheist, and his relationship with Tom is concerning. Could he be susceptible to blackmail? Could he be a traitor? As long as Walsingham is alive, Kit is protected. Walsingham dies. Kit better watch his back.

The novel is mostly true to the scant historical record on Marlowe. However, the large holes in the record allow Ms. Epstein to conjure an intriguing tale that works best when focused on Papist conspiracies and Kit’s efforts to expose them. And while the love between Kit and Tom is convincingly depicted, it also drifts into melodrama. Overall, however, A Tip for the Hangman is an entertaining read.

Gladiola Overdrive, Chief Editor

Maybe We Should Defund the Police

People’s stupidity delights me. It reaffirms my superiority. Just today I was walking down Church Avenue, and there was a pile of clothes blocking the covered entrance to an abandoned building. The clothes evidently belonged to a homeless person. During the day the homeless leave their clothes in front of the vacant buildings where they sleep at night. It’s the equivalent of licking something and saying it’s yours.

It also evinces a cavalier spirit that shakes hands with irresponsibility. Don’t they know anyone could steal their shabby clothes? And this person left a winter coat right on top of the pile. He’s going to need that soon.

Now I believe everyone deserves to be treated with love. Tough love, primarily. So I was thinking – this person would learn a valuable lesson about responsibility if I took that coat. Not for myself. I was going to give it to Goodwill so it could help the needy.

Just as I was reaching for that coat, a police officer came around the corner. She asked me what I was doing. Fortunately, I am a very quick thinker. It’s one of my superpowers. Another is empathy. I told her I was just checking to see if the coat had a pocket, because I was going to leave some money in it. Unfortunately, she waited for me to actually do that. Worse – she stayed there until I walked away. So now this homeless guy probably thinks it’s smart to leave clothes lying around. How will he ever learn anything about responsibility?

Knowgood Carp, Owner of all the Hotels on Block Island and Some in Connecticut

This is the End – Again

Something perverted in me
loves these dire times
when hyperbole is impossible.

Where I can be delirious -
as if my darkest desires
are about to come true;
pretend all is black or white
and be rewarded 
for ignoring the gray.
Hyperventilate with rage;
spit darts in eyes and ears
and face no consequences.
Cry out for the holocaust;
crave the apocalypse;
pursue eschatology
with the crazed fervor
of an indignant desert prophet.
Be breathless -
full of passionate intensity,
because this is the new abnormal
that has been happening 
for thousands of years.

And tomorrow,
I will wake
and do it all again,
because some day
I'll be right.

Luvgood Carp, Editor-in- Chief

First published in Door is a Jar Literary Magazine

What Are You Worried About, Darling?

O.K. You’ve produced a movie and it sucks. At an epic level. It’s the next Garfield. Rotten Tomatoes refuses to review it because there are not enough rotten tomatoes in the world to throw at it. What do you do?

Saffron:  Are the two male leads super hot and androgynous?

Producer:  Of course.

Saffron:  Can you get them to spit on each other at a film festival? 

Producer:  No.

Saffron:  Can you get them to pretend to spit on each other?

Producer:  No, only one of them will agree to that?

Saffron:  Can you just say they spit on each other?

Producer:  I can do that.

Saffron:  O.K.  This is manageable.  What about the female leads?  Can they stop talking to each other and act really pissed off when they see each other?

Producer:  That started nine months ago.

Saffron:  Perfect!  Things are looking up.  Can you leak that to the press?

Producer:  Of course.

Saffron:  Did the director get romantically involved with one or more of the stars?

Producer:  Of course.

Saffron:  Excellent.  Did they have so much sex it disrupted filming?

Producer:  Actually, there were several complaints about that.  The director is several years older than her male lead.  It made me uncomfortable.

Saffron:  Wait a minute!  This is an older woman with a younger man?

Producer:  I'm afraid so.

Saffron:  Fantastic!  You're golden.  That is all anyone will talk about.  Your movie is guaranteed to make a lot of money.

Saffron Crow, Foreign Affairs Editor and Movie Consultant. 

The Maidens – Do You Dare Defy a Goddess?

If you like Dan Brown and Paula Hawkins (and many people do, myself included), you will enjoy the first 87% of Alex Michaelides’ The Maidens. It’s a fast-paced suspenseful mystery in the Gothic setting of present-day Cambridge University where the sexy ancient Greek literature professor, Edward Fosca, leads a cult dedicated to the goddess Persephone.

It’s a small cult. Only six of his “special” female students are in it. They are the maidens, and they’re special because they’re super hot. They have strange rituals, and we’re pretty sure R-rated sex is involved.

Tara is a maiden, and she is friends with Zoe. Mariana is Zoe’s aunt. Zoe calls Mariana and tells her she’s scared, but she won’t say why. The following day Tara turns up murdered in such a grisly fashion Hollywood must have directed it.

Mariana jumps on the next train to Cambridge. Meets a clumsy, creepy guy. Then meets Professor Fosca on campus and immediately decides he’s the killer – instead of Clumsy Creepy, who keeps showing up at strange times and odd places. Professor Fosca has an airtight alibi, but Mariana isn’t concerned about that.

So Mariana must be a brilliant detective if she’s going to solve this mystery. Nope. She’s a group therapist. But to be fair, the Cambridge police appear to be on holiday, so Mariana might be the best option. Except she is still mourning her beloved husband. He died a year ago. And she has big-time daddy issues. Does her grief and the trauma of her childhood blind her to the possibility that Professor Fosca is not the killer? While she’s trying to sort that out, two more maidens die ritualistically, and Hollywood officially has a joy boner.

This novel has literary pretensions. There are brief discussions of Euripides’ plays. Every once in a while Tennyson is mentioned. Mr. Michaelides has read a lot of literature, but he’s not interested in writing it. He has a MA in screenwriting, and he is clearly trying to write a Hollywood blockbuster. To his credit, he may have done just enough to have succeeded. Time will tell.

Unfortunately the last 13% of the book is a rushed mess. It will leave you feeling confused and cheated. It seems like Mr. Michaelides was having a good old time writing this book and then realized his deadline was the next day so he hurriedly pasted together an ending. One so implausible Dan Brown would blush. An ending so unsatisfying it just might be a misdemeanor in Virginia.

It’s as if a Greek goddess, perhaps Persephone herself, appeared in his bedroom just before he wrote the final chapters and said here’s your ending. And Mr. Michaelides said this makes no sense. To which Persephone demanded do you dare defy a goddess? He did not.

Gladiola Overdrive, Chief Editor

Free Speech Week

Freedom of speech is a sacred right.
That's my favorite cliche.

But then I hear the stupid things people say
and wonder if they need it every day.

Perhaps each year they could have it for just a week
then they'd have time to think before they speak.

Luvgood Carp, Editor-in-Chief

Nothing Objectionable Here

Being the CEO of a for-profit college, the first thing I think about every morning (after I review the profit/loss statements) is our students’ education. And because there has been so much controversy lately over school textbooks, and the disgusting lies found in them, I decided to review our textbooks. I am thrilled to report I found nothing problematic, objectionable, or interesting in them.

Take our U.S. History textbook, for example. It’s perfect. Here’s the chapter on the Civil Disagreement Between the States in 1861.

For a handful of years, people in Africa were given free trips to the United States so they could work in the lovely country homes found in some those states. Due to the careful planning and generous spirit of the owners of these country homes, there were soon many people of African descent happily working. They sang songs.

But some states without country homes didn’t want people of African descent to work at these homes. They wanted people of African descent to swim back to Africa.

The people who owned the country homes said “No way. You can’t discriminate against people of African descent. They should be allowed to work at our country homes if we say they can.”

In 1861 the states got tired of shouting encouragement to each other inside buildings. So they went outside on large, open fields and shouted. It was so much fun people died.

Finally in 1865 the states got tired of all the fun. They decided it was wrong to allow people of African descent to work only at country homes. They passed laws enabling people of African descent to work for less than minimum wage anywhere an employer said they could. And American mythology continued to thrive.

That’s the entire chapter, and it’s beautiful. I love stories with a happy ending. And, really, isn’t that what education is all about?

Titmouse Beak, CEO of Pungent Sound Technical College of Technology