(above: T. S. Eliot, 1962 portrait by Sir Gerald Kelly, reversed)
Monday marked, by my calculations, the last day of Poetry magazine’s 100th year of publication, as their October 2013 issue marks their 101st birthday. For the last year, in celebration of their centennial, in a testament to my (perhaps delusional) confidence in my gifts as an artist, and in the service of the mighty power of laughter, I have each week submitted poetry-themed comics panels to the journal in hopes of becoming their first gag cartoonist. Though in terms of failures I have, by the standard of rejection notices, been a great success, in terms of success I have been far from a failure. For this week I celebrate the personal triumph of submitting my 100th (and final) cartoon!
Fittingly, my first and last submissions were both T. S. Eliot-centered gags, with my final one referencing the ultimate Poetry poem: “The Love Song of J. Edward Prufrock” (first published in the June 1915 issue). In it Eliot (or Prufrock, perhaps) is performing in front of a massive crowd, a crowd consisting of all the poets and characters from my previous 99 comics, with his “backing band” consisting of Frank X. Walker, Washington Irving, and Francis Quarles (see last week’s entry). While there are some whimsical anomalies contained (both Ezra Pound and his cute, anthropomorphized critter doppelganger, Ezra Pound Puppy, appear) I think for the most part the crowd scene is a chaotic menagerie that makes perfect funny pages sense. The oversized comic is my biggest, most ambitious one yet (I took a photo of it for my submission, as the original is larger than a scanner bed). In the foreground, delivering the punchline, are Poetry’s top dog editor Don Share and lesser dog editor Fred Sasaki.
In addition to the foreground characters I also included in the vast crowd poet/publisher Jacob Knabb, who helped me write one of my better comics in the series, and who has been interested in the work for some time. In addition I drew for the first time a number of poets whose work was referenced but whose image had previously not appeared in any comics. So a magnifying glass might reveal Emily Bronte, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Lewis Carroll, Strickland Gillilan, John Hollander, Homer, Robinson Jeffers, D. H. Lawrence, Ruth Lilly, William McGonagall, John Milton, Ernest Thayer and Paul Verlaine enthralled with the performance.
Although this is my last submission for this project, it will not be the last entry in this blog. I will update as my remaining comics are either chosen for publication, or, by some cruel fate, rejected. If the latter proves to be the case I will also use this space to announce any alternate plans for publication, though it is premature to declare that any exist or to give up on Poetry coming to its sense and filling its pages with these smile inducers. And though this grand project is over, I may continue to submit comics to Poetry when inspiration hits me. Thus is the burden of being a gag poet.
Comics: 100/100 (I submitted 100 comics)
Puns: 40/49 (the maximum number of overt pun punchlines was 49)
Poets: 83/50 (the comics were to feature visual representations of at least 50 real or well-known fictional poets)
Poetry Poems: 16/15 (a minimum of 15 comics were to reference a work of poetry originally published in Poetry)
Poverty Jokes: 7/20 (a maximum of 20 comics were to have a punchline about poets struggling financially)
Maxed Out Poets: Gwendolyn Brooks [3/3], Samuel Taylor Coleridge [3/3], Emily Dickinson [3/3], T.S Eliot [3/3], Robert Frost [3/3], Langston Hughes [3/3], John Keats [3/3], Henry Wadsworth Longfellow [3/3], Sylvia Plath [3/3], Edgar Allan Poe [3/3], Ezra Pound [3/3], Arthur Rimbaud [3/3], William Shakespeare [3/3], Poet Smurf [3/3], Dylan Thomas [3/3], William Carlos Williams [3/3] (I based gags upon/prominently featured a specific poet in a maximum of 3 comics)