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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Number 325: Jim Hall "Maybe Dats Your Pwoblem Too"

 Maybe Dats Your Pwoblem Too

All my pwoblems
who knows, maybe evwybody's pwoblems
is due to da fact, due to da awful twuth
I know. I know. All da dumb jokes:
No flies on you, ha ha.
and da ones about what do I do wit all
doze extwa legs in bed.  Well, dat's funny yeah.
But you twy being
SPIDERMAN for a month or two, Go ahead.

You get doze cwazy calls fwom da
Gubbener askin you to twap some booglar who's
only twying to wip off color T.V. sets.
Now, what do I cawre about T.V. sets?
But I pull on da suit, da stinkin suit
wit da sucker cups on da fingers,
and get my wopes and wittle bundle of
equipment and den I go flying like cwazy
acwoss da town fwom woof top to woof top.

Till der he is. Some poor dumb color T.V. slob
and I fall on him and we westle a widdle
until I get him all woped. So big deal.

You tink when you SPIDERMAN
der's something big going to
happen to you.
Well, I tell you what. It
don't happen dat way.
Nuttin happens.
Gubbener calls, I go.

Bwing him to powice,
Gubbener calls again,
like dat over and over.

I tink I twy sometin diffunt
I tink I twy
sometin excitin like
wacing cawrs. Sometin to
make my heart beat at a difwent
But den you just can't
quit being sometin like
You SPIDERMAN for life.
Forever. I can't even
buin my suit. It won't
buin.  It's fwame resistant.
So maybe dats yowr
pwoblem, too. Who knows.
Maybe dats da whole
Pwoblem wit evwytin.
Nobody can buin der
suits, dey all fwame
Who knows?

- Jim Hall

Hap Notes:
First off, if you didn't try it, go back and read this poem aloud in your best Elmer Fudd voice. The speech impediment isn't only there for humor– there is something very touching in the tone and its human flaws. As "SPIDERMAN" speaks, we become aware that he is talking about our quondam condition: stuck in life with all our gifts and impediments.

Strictly speaking, if you are a Spiderman comic fan, you will have to ignore the flaws in this poem. Hall isn't one of those Steve Ditko vs Todd McFarlane vs John Byrne people who can argue about the comic artist or the arc of the original Stan Lee stories and its consequent development. Only comic geeks can tell you that stuff.  Comic geeks like me who can bore you with droning on about how Spiderman was the first superhero who had money troubles and had clumsy embarrassing moments that endeared him to readers. Although, this point is well served in the poem. And I'll stop the droning. And Hall is aware of the flaws– the governor rarely (if ever?) calls on Spiderman. And even Batman was usually called by the police commissioner, not the governor. Hall doesn't get the costuming right and... Oops, sorry. Superfluous geeking out.

Back to the poem. Even when you are not SPIDERMAN, you think, when you are young, that things are going to happen to you. Big things. Cool things. Different things. But one finds that while life does have its magic, there is a great deal of repetition to it. It's very hard to change lives.

Hall (born 1947) is a writer of crime novels and has taught creative writing at Florida International University for most of his career. He has published four books of poetry, a collection of short stories, a book of essays, and seventeen novels. He was a Fulbright professor in Spain and is the winner of both the Edgar Award and the Shamus. He has a website here. The website also features some of his poems. 

Here's a few things that Hall says about this poem:

"The speech impediment (which might be considered politically incorrect these days) simply started out as a technique to try to be funny, but it turned into more than that. As I wrote in that Elmer Fudd kind of voice, I found places in the poem where the words actually meant something different in the new speech (my heart beat at a different wate (weight) I was also thinking that even superheroesmust be flawed in some way. They LOOK like they have wonderful lives—just as writers do---but that's all from the outside. But when you get close and really inspect them, and hear how they talk, wow, they're just like the rest of us, pimples, warts and all."
"I can't remember why exactly I chose Spiderman. I guess I was thinking that as a kid I'd always dreamed of being a writer--and that I'd thought that being one would be like being a superhero of some kind. So I started to wonder if maybe even superheroes got bored with their routines, and their personalities just like normal people did. Voila, the poem began to take shape."
"Of course "buining" one's suit is the punchline of the poem. It's a hard thing to do--recreate yourself, reinvent yourself. Become someone different, someone new. Throw away one identity (and mask) and put on another. We all struggle with that in some way or another. We want to change, to grow, to abandon one set of personality features for better ones. That's why people go to school, to church, to the shrink, and it's one of the reasons why we write. To reinvent ourselves.

But it's a very hard thing to do. Old habits die hard."

[By the by, I hope you get the joke with the Halloween costumes on the masthead. There's the obvious costume connection, and the Halloween thing (Happy Halloween!) but I was hoping you'd get that they are usually flame retardant. ]

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