I’m happy to say my poem, Velveeta! has been published by Razor Lit. On their “About” page they cite Anton Chekhov’s advice about revising: “Throw out the first three pages. Slice them off with a razor.” Razor Lit publishes poems and stories and asks for a backstory about what occurred before the razor was applied. I had relied on memory for the backstory.
Funny thing though, there are numerous files entitled “Velveeta” scattered in my hard drive (variations on the poem) and one of them contains notes I had forgotten writing. After reading it I recalled that the notes had birthed the poem. So there’s another layer to my backstory. Having failed to write a more formal essay on Faith No More, I had attempted a personal essay, an appreciation of the band. But some of the words and phrases convinced me a poem was better use of the material. Here are a few slices from those notes:
The name of the band says a lot. Faith No More. No more faith—in what? Try: in the lies of religion, corporate culture, the discourses of governments and commercialism. Faith No More because there was faith at one time. It is faith lost. Disillusionment. It’s, I used to believe your lies and now I throw them in your face. Sarcasm. Bitterness. Very black and biting humor. There’s room in artistry for such emotions as long as they don’t become an all-consuming cancer, and with FNM something like the opposite happens. Art functions as a form of healing—or at least as a salve to the wound.
Joni Mitchell has described American culture as “Velveeta” even though you can, of course, go shopping for Velveeta and hear her in the background. I wonder if she bears any responsibility for the world she lives in—even if I can’t imagine her writing or having written a song entitled “Velveeta”. It is, however, a title I can imagine coming from Faith No More.
I have been wounded, like perhaps Joni Mitchell has, like so very many people have. I have seen wealth and poverty, have seen sickness self-inflicted and delivered by the hand of Mother Nature. I have been hurt most by people who said they loved me most. I was a believer who blasphemed, then lost the ability to believe. I have seen, like anyone who has not been verbally abused as a child cannot see, the extraordinary pliability and effectiveness of language as a weapon. I decided to study language in order to detect, reject and rebuff the liars and abusers of the world, who most often present themselves in the guise of friend or teacher. I know what con artists do, and I know what happens when people lie to themselves. My favorite writers are those who can’t help but speak and my primary definition of an artist is one who transforms pain into joy.
We make the world that makes us. This is a terrible truth, almost impossible to bear. Each has his part to play, stuck between a rock and dark place, sometimes crushed, sometimes torn to bits, sometimes compressed so small and silent all light gets lost. We who are damaged are necessarily schizoid, one half laughing in freedom, the other half chained endlessly to torment. And there will be no end to the fight until the day we die. So, yes, sarcasm has a place, deep, vicious sarcasm. Don’t retreat because America is Velveeta. Say it in a song, knowing you’ve been spread on that cracker and you’ve eaten it too. No one is innocent here.