The Winter’s Tale – A Mosaic Play

William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale is neither history, comedy, or tragedy. So no one knew what to call it, because apparently, back then, those were the only choices. As a result, the scholars (both of them) argued (what scholars do best) and finally decided to flip a coin. The play has been called a romance ever since, which doesn’t tell us much about the play but does tell us about how scholars are shockingly lazy thinkers.

We would categorize The Winter’s Tale as one of Shakespeare’s mosaic plays (similar to The Tempest), because it has a lot going on. There is crude humor, intense psychological drama, dancing, singing, storms, shipwrecks, and a bear (not the kind you see in Provincetown – though that would be awesome). The play’s first half is tragic. The second half is largely comedic. One entire act is pastoral. In short, it is a pageant – like Block Island on a Saturday evening in August.

The Winter’s Tale is believed to be one of Shakespeare’s later plays. As such, it incorporates many themes and elements from his earlier works: the perpetual fear of being cuckolded, all-consuming jealousy, a punitive patriarchy, forbidden love, and superior women inexplicably in love with inferior men. The play opens with a charming scene of two childhood friends (Leontes, the king of Sicilia, and Polixenes, the king of Bohemia) near the end of a happy reunion. Suddenly and irrationally, Leontes fears his wife, Hermione, has been “sluiced” and “his pond fished by his neighbor (Polixenes).” This concern is delusional, but Leontes convinces himself that he has been cuckolded. The resulting crazed jealousy causes Leontes to lose everyone in his family. And we are only half way through the play. The second half is devoted to a chastened and sorrowful Leontes getting what is left of his family back.

Autolycus saves the play from tragedy. He is a charismatic scoundrel that lies and steals his way across Bohemia. “I see this is the time that the unjust man doth thrive.” And, shamelessly, he thrives. “Ha, ha, what a fool Honesty is! and Trust, his sworn brother, a very simple gentleman!” Autolycus is not trustworthy, and he certainly is no gentleman. But he is a delight, in part, because he immediately follows the gut-wrenching first half, and he brings song and mischief – both of which are desperately needed at this point. Autolycus is humorous, but he is not a clown. He is too intelligent and self-aware for that. “Though I am not naturally honest, I am so sometimes by chance.” In this sense, he is a cousin of the peerless Falstaff. And the play benefits mightily from his presence.

The Winter’s Tale is frequently remembered because it contains one of Shakespeare’s few stage directions – the glorious “Exit, pursued by a bear.” Over the centuries, it has gone in and out of style. This is something we do not understand, because the play is so much more than a “romance” or a man-eating bear (so maybe it is a Provincetown bear). It is a pageant that belongs just below the top tier of Shakespeare’s plays.

Alison Wonderland, Chief Editor and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans.

Pickleball

We recently joined the Block Island League of Players Playing Pickleball, and it’s terrific. We love pickleball so much we wrote a poem about it.

My Grandfather's Defense of Pickleball:
The Pudding of Sports

   Hey, wise ass!
   What's wrong with pickleball?
   It's the fastest growing sport
   played by the slowest moving people.
   It's beloved by thousands
   with thick wrinkles and thin bones.

   Someday you'll have heavy titanium knees.
   And sadistic doctors will screw you
   in more places than you can count.
   Then, you'll enjoy the light slap
   of lazy plastic balls.

   I suppose you young guys like it
   when big inflated balls
   rapidly smack you in the face.

   And pudding is soft and delicious.
   So suck it!

   Luvgood Carp, Editor-in-Chief and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans

Pungent Sound Announces Its First Annual Poetry Contest

Having done our fair share of surfing the net, we have encountered numerous poetry contests. For a fee, journals will pretend to consider your poem for a prize no one has ever heard of. Then, they will award the prize to some friend or acquaintance; give that friend or acquaintance a pittance; and keep most of the money for themselves. We thought – that’s brilliant. We should do that, too.

So because we need money, we are accepting submissions for our first ever annual poetry prize. Please submit your poem, along with the $99.99 entry fee. The prize winner will receive a used tote bag from Block Island Trading Company. (http://blockislandtradingcompany.com). Our lawyer, Treacherous Gulp, insists we post this disclaimer. Block Island Trading Company is not a sponsor of this contest. In fact, they know nothing about it. We just have an old sand-crusted tote bag that we purchased years ago.

We are looking for poems on freedom – the kind that only money can buy. Your verse should soar with the buoyancy of a pink pebble that has landed on the back of a musical wasp without changing the wasp’s flight trajectory or a single note of its song. Importantly, the poem should not rhyme (not even by accident). Nor should the poem be humorous (because poets aren’t funny). Rhyming and/or humorous poems make us vomit. Poets writing such tripe are not creating art. They are simply covering themselves with zoo filth. So please stop.

By submitting a poem you agree that we possess perpetual ownership rights over the poem. We will be able to do whatever we want with it, which includes ignoring it and never sending you a response or feedback. You, of course, will surrender all rights and agree to never think about it again. You also agree not to sue us if we remove your name from the poem and pretend that we wrote it.

Finally, we believe that poets should not be subject to any artificial barriers, such as talent or skill. So anyone may submit, but that does not mean we will actually read your poem.

Good luck! We look forward to receiving your money!

Luvgood Carp, Editor-in-Chief and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans.

Americanah the Beautiful

When discussing race or immigration in the United States, the maxim “fools rush in where angels fear to tread” applies. In Americanah Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrestles both issues without lace gloves and without apologies. And while we cannot say for certain that she is an angel, Ms. Adichie is clearly no fool.

The title refers to a Nigerian who travels to the U.S. and returns with the affectations of an American. That sounds like high praise to us, but surprisingly the term is not considered a compliment in Nigeria. Yes, we are confounded, too. The main character, Ifemelu, is a young Nigerian woman who comes to the U.S. to attend college. Upon arriving, she is confronted for the first time with the concept that she is black, and she describes this experience humorously and forthrightly in her blog. “Dear Non-American Black, when you make the choice to come to America, you become black. Stop arguing. Stop saying I’m Jamaican or I’m Ghanaian. America doesn’t care. So what if you weren’t ‘black’ in your country? You’re in America now.” And as the book details, being black in America (whether you are American black or Non-American black) means the backpack you carry as you climb the steep mountain that is the American dream is heavier than anyone else’s.

Now we know what you are thinking. Forget this awkward race stuff. Ifemelu has a blog? Oh, that’s so original (said with dripping sarcasm like maple syrup running down a stack of pancakes). Everyone has a blog. They are as ubiquitous as sunblock on a Block Island beach in August. True. But Ifemelu’s blog is intelligent and successful (that’s how you know the book is fiction), and it allows Ms. Adichie to shrewdly and effectively comment on all sorts of racial issues in the U.S., such as (a) Why Dark-Skinned Black Women – Both American and Non-American Love Barack Obama; (b) Understanding America for the Non-American Black: What do WASPs Aspire To?; (c) Job Vacancy in America – National Arbiter in Chief of ‘Who is Racist’ ; and (d) A Michelle Obama Shout-Out Plus Hair as Race Metaphor. Major Metaphor Alert: the novel opens in a hair salon for a reason, and Ms. Adichie’s use of hair to illustrate her points about race is compelling and engaging.

Race is a major theme but so is immigration. Ifemelu’s high school sweetheart, Obinze, leaves Nigeria for London soon after Ifemelu arrives in the U.S. Neither leave Nigeria to flee poverty or war. Their reasons are far more complicated and intriguing. They leave to escape the “oppressive lethargy of choicelessness.” As Ms. Adichie writes, they were “raised well fed and watered but mired in dissatisfaction, conditioned from birth to look towards somewhere else, eternally convinced that real lives happened in the somewhere else.” They (and other similarly situated immigrants) were “now resolved to do dangerous things, illegal things, so as to leave, none of them starving, or raped, or from burned villages, but merely hungry for choice and certainty.” Ifemelu’s and Obinze’s divergent paths allow Ms. Adichie to comment on the different immigrant experiences in England and the U.S. “[I]n America blacks and whites work together but don’t play together, and here (London) blacks and whites play together but don’t work together.” Glib, perhaps, but not devoid of truth. Ironically, Ifemelu’s and Obinze’s individual quests bring them back to a vibrant Nigeria.

More than anything, Americanah is a love story between Ifemelu and Obinze. It follows them from the early romantic stages (where just the heart is engaged) to a more complicated stage (where both the heart and brain are engaged). It develops into an “aware” love, which also could describe Ifemelu’s feelings for America and Nigeria.

Alison Wonderland, Chief Editor and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans

John Donne – Brilliant Poet / Foolish Man

Hello! History is full of artists who were brilliant in the impractical world of art, yet they were idiots in the practical world of living. Take the haughty John Donne. He wrote Death, Be Not Proud – one of the most famous poems (a sonnet no less) in the English language. In doing that, he needlessly pissed off Death (who has changed her name to Raven Breathless). Guess what. He died. Spoiler Alert.

So the clear lesson is DON’T TAUNT DEATH, OR YOU WILL DIE. Ms. Breathless snuck up behind Professor Prig (Donne’s nickname), clutched his heart in her fabulously manicured hand, whispered “Who’s dead now, bitch?” and twisted her bejeweled wrist.

You should not mock Ms. Breathless even if she is proud. She won’t change just because you want her to. And, candidly, if you look at her success rate, she has every reason to be proud. Instead, we advise you to sit on The National’s porch (which is not the worst place to have a cocktail). Admire the harbor view on a Block Island day full of indulgence and gentle blues. Try not to think of anything that Ms. Breathless may construe as an insult, maybe she will ignore you for a while.

Incredibly, Raven Breathless has decided to respond to Reverend Fussbudget (that’s what Donne’s wife called him), and she has chosen Pungent Sound to publish her response. We are both honored to do so and petrified not to do so. That will be our next post, so look for it because it’s what Raven Breathless wants. Your life may depend upon it.

Luvgood Carp, Editor-in-Chief and Professor for Student Loans