Boob Tube

Advice and insight from a professional poet.

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I’m addicted to the idiot box (television). Help!
— Dan K.

 

I must say, I’m intrigued by your metaphor for television. It demonstrates both television’s power over you and your manipulability — the television has the power to make you an idiot and you are an idiot when you watch it. Now, I’m only good at coming up with drastic measures to cure addictions, so I’m probably not the best person to ask for help about a cure (I originally began my response with suggestions to pawn your TV set or gouge your eyes out) but what I can do is help you change your metaphor. What if you started calling your TV “history buff box”? Soon enough, you might find yourself only watching the History channel and writing a 10-page response that compares the historical era featured in a certain program to another era. Even better, what if you started calling it “poet box”? You might soon find yourself watching a program and using the 10 most exceptional words it used to write a poem! What about writing a dramatic monologue interpreting the road runner’s meep-meeps? This is so exciting — metaphors are really such powerful things.

My point is, don’t be so passive about this — don’t give your TV so much power. Find another metaphor for your TV and celebrate your addiction (it is pretty mild, after all). Then, of course, write a poem about it:

“No Self-Control Ode”

When I won’t listen to your advice
it’s not that I’m incapable of hearing
like a deaf ship the foghorn doesn’t,
it is control over what I feel I have no
which impedes and unimpedes me,
impulse un-turned-about by gloomy spreadsheet,
speeding towards rocks of now-more-too-muchness,
putting whim into action just as acid
must and yeast although a major portion
of my action resembles inaction,
lying sulking moaning on the couch,
curled into a ball the voyager whimpering
in the stationary station not knowing where
he’s going, not even the candy machine working
then pop and up flaring and stirring,
pushing, no more shirking, boxes packed,
forms filled, fiscalization of thirty years,
wiping even the corpuscular under-sink,
sleuthing out the garbage stink, poor
critter crumpled dead hiding from the cat.
Cat!  To the vet!  Dumb hat!  To the trash!
Surrogate fatherhood!  Uh, what?
Mother to assisted living box.
Full stop. Ichthyous is the night,
oh let it all slip, unbalanced the checkbook,
ungraded the dumb essays, unchained
the melody, I can’t go on then go I on
unheeding rumble strip and surgeon,
my own way through the thicket, own ticket
to a toy train punched I’ve only myself
to blame and avoid.

(Dean Young)

If I were Dean Young, I’d put myself in a pot and add celery root and cardamom and boil myself until I had a marshmallow-like consistency. I love him — and he’d probably be a good person to consult if you want to find a cure to anything. It’ll be tricky, though, to figure out what he’s saying exactly. Good luck! • 20 September 2010

 

Kristen Hoggatt lives, works, and writes in Boston, where she received her MFA from Emerson College. She volunteers at 826 Boston.

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