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Reviews and reader comments about: Please, Lord . . .

Reviews


Orbis
The Book Reader
BookWatch
Washington City Paper
Miles David Moore
Words & Pictures Press
Rantsravesreviews.homestead.com

Reader Comments


Dan Cuddy
John Daniel
Wazir Agha
Tony Porco
Jere Matlock
Chris Scribner
Lloyd Freeberg
Shelley Davis
John McGinley
Larry Logan
Bob McKenty
Steve Graf
Alice Pero
Lionel Davis
David Ziff

Please, Lord, Make Me a Famous Poet or at Least Less Fat by Dean Blehert. Published by Words & Pictures East Coast LLC. 402 pages,paperback.
Reviewed by Dan Cuddy

Blehert's book is like a box of Whitman's Samplers (chocolates, not an anthology of Walt Whitman's Selected Poetry). The poems are deliciously humorous. Some are creams that melt in your mouth while others are a little more chewy. The book is worth having and putting on a desk or coffee table, and worth taking in hand and reading occasionally. The poems are entertainment. However, I don't think one can read the book through in a day or two without corrupting your mind, much like a lover of chocolates would decay one's teeth. The problem is Blehert's poems are addictive. Here are a couple of short examples of Blehert's cleverness:

Lord Tennyson

The innocent maidens in Tennyson---
What they eat, be it lotus or venison,
Never turns into sh-t---
They've no holes where they sit,
Nor the least nook for putting a p-nis in!

Robert Browning

That puffed up old poet, R.Browning,
Is it praise, wine or speed he is drowning?
For he's pert as a parrot---
Can Elizabeth Bear it?
The strutting, the crowing, the clowning?

(Or changing the style to haiku)

Frozen river---
little horse can be led to it,
but not made to drink.

(Or)

Awesome! And Yes!

I'm now an Awesome Poet---overheard:
"Who IS he?" "Aw---some poet." Spread the word!

The book is not just a book of poetry but a wacky commentary about poetry with hundreds of Blehert's poems used as illustrations of ridiculous points. A couple of chapter titles are worth illustrating the mania of the book: "Rhyme Does Not Pay" "How Can You Get'em Back on the Form?" "I'll Make You Talk Purty,Poet!" . If it all seems silly, it is, but an enjoyable silly.


"I received your wonderful book -- Please, Lord, Make Me a Famous Poet or at Least Less Fat -- a few months back. I am sorry I couldn't write to you earlier to thank you for a gift that is so precious to me. All these months I remained bed-ridden with a fractured leg, and your book remained my constant friend during all this painful period. But it was a very naughty friend and painful too, in the sense that it injected laughter in my veins and my whole body heaved and jerked, increasing appreciably the pain in my leg. But I continued reading and enjoying it. It was a rare physio-therapy: Laughter, in the end, healed my fracture, and now I am recommending it to all those who have fractured limbs.

"In this book you have displayed your great art of creating puns, parodies and satires, as also the art of ridiculing the dead words and the poets who live on such stuff. Your prayers on page 325: Father, deliver me from this peanut butter -- has been much appreciated by my friends.

"It was a treat to read your serious poems in the last chapter. I wish there had been more."-- Wazir Agha
Wazir Agha, editor of AURAQ (means "pages"), is one of the best-known Urdu poets, in his 70s, was on the short list for the Nobel a few years ago (was invited to Sweden to do a reading and be interviewed). He and Dean have been corresponding for a couple years.

"I just wanted to tell you that it is absolutely hysterical, and dead on target! I sometimes sit and read it for a while, and I am laughing so hard that my fiancee wonders what in the world is wrong with me! Then, I give it to her, and the same thing is happening in reverse a few minutes later! Thank you so much for taking on so many sacred cows... even if some of them are still a little sacred to me." -- Tony Porco, fellow poet


"I'm about halfway through the book -- what a hoot! This should be the material for a university course in parodies. There are depths upon depths of layers of puns and allusions -- I love it. I especially like how you make sure we get the puns and allusions, without being too professorial.

"I would have had no problem reading your book of satire as a college student in 1970, and I think the majority of the people in the Survey of English Lit class wouldn't have had any problem with it, either. Most of us had already read "The Rape of the Lock", which I thought was a hoot, too.

"As for the decline of education in America over the last 30 years-- I'd say that most 18-19 year old students today would be hard pressed to understand the original poems beneath your satire, unless each one was carefully word cleared before the satire was presented. Then they might get it, if the instructor took the time to word clear your poem and point out the allusions, puns, and so on. It would be a lot of work, certainly more work than your average prof would want to undertake." -- Jere Matlock


Dean Blehert's Please, Lord,Make Me a Famous Poet or at Least Less Fat is a treasure. An overwhelming treasure, I might add. It is so full of laughs I can only read it in short sessions. The parodies are dead-accurate, but they're also humorous in their own right, and wise as well. Also, the book is full of literary criticism and history, so that one (I) can't help learning about poetry and literature while one's (I'm) having a good time. In that regard, I'm grateful for all the footnotes; even if I usually don't like humorists to explain their jokes, in this case I'm glad because of all I learn from the explanations. And Blehert's unabashed love of puns is a delight to me. I love puns too, and I think they're the highest form of humor (for one thing, they're the only kind of humor that doesn't come from pain, even if they often provoke a groan). (It's worth nothing that Blehert gives high marks to Nabokov, another appreciater and dazzling implementer of puns.) I also appreciate that he likes good doggerel and appreciates Ogden Nash. Blehert's a damn good doggerelist himself, of course. Doggerel is a far more exact science than most poetry written these days, and one should only do it if one's ready to understand and master the rules -- which he does. Anyway, thanks so much for this marvelous book, which I read haphazardly every evening. Imagine someone writing a poem to parody both Kilmer and Ginsberg?

Ye gods.

John Daniel, author and publisher


"The pieces of yours I've seen in LIGHT QUARTERLY as well as SATIRE glimmer with a manic energy that's delicately and precisely channeled into precision puns" -- Chris Scribner


"How did I, doctorate and all, escape the spell of poetry? Until reading "Lord . . .", it was because I failed to understand the nuances, nay, even, its point. Thank you, then, for . . . the excellent primer for those of us who lack pentameter in our lives."  -- Lloyd Freeberg, Fullerton, CA

"Picked up 'Please, Lord . . . ' and am reading frevently!! I love it.  I think I'mm learning more about literature by laughing at it than I did in those vacuous, slumber-inducing lectures in college. So I am appreciative of the fresh look at this thing called poetry which ranks up there with ice cream in my list of favorite things in the world." -- Shelley Davis, Poet, Nashville TN

"Me, I love the way I can go to any page and start picking around and find not just humor but little insights and gems that actually make it easier to confront such monsters as The Dreaded Sestina. . . . It also has that GREAT charm of a big old Sears Catalogue where you can just sort of thumb through it at random and find something terrific on any page.  It's not a book to read from cover to cover, it's for pickin' and choosing' and one you can ramble around in and never really get lost." -- John McGinley, writer

"Dean Blehert sent me a copy of his new book that will become available early next year.  From what I have read, I can wholeheartedly recommend the book be used as the definitive text for any poetry course taught at any school in the nation. (The kids would actually read it ... and learn quite a bit about poetry.)" -- Larry Logan,Satire Magazine, Dec.9, 1998

"Impressive book! 402 pages yet. Enough neologisms and Nashisms to choke a spell checker. I've been nibbling away with pleasure and an occasional groan (rejoyce?! Waiter, waiter everywhere!! toiolet?! fine couth tomes?!!). I can't believe you could do an entire chapter on leading a horse to water! And I marvel at your facility with palindromes. I applaud your indexes and the inclusion of the originals you're parodying. May you find fame and lose pounds." -- Bob McKenty, Poet

"I must say it lives up to its advance fanfare.  I find it quite fun and funny.  It keeps me focused trying not to miss all the witty things you wrote." -- Steve Graf,Professor

"I started reading parts of Please, Lord last night and had to quit because of potential hernia splitting from laughter.  Guess I'll be at this one ofor a long time, since I can only take so much laughter at one time.  You are truly amazing" -- Alice Pero, Poet

"Great book, great cover! Great reading material for Doctors' offices: the more serious the case, the more important the antidote!" -- Lionel Davis

"Poetic satire isn't usually my cup of tea, but Dean's work is a tour de force, incredibly original and massive. It's the Jupiter in the skies of modern poetic satire."  -- David Ziff, Poet


Reviews

From: Orbis (a British Poetry Journal), No 112/3 Spring/Summer 1999

Iíve often wondered why we use this word "just", meaning "merely" and implying a sense of excusing inferiority, about humour, and especially about humorous poetry. In fact, humorous poetry is very difficult to bring off well, yet can be enormously effective when it is. I acted as first filter for our now-deceased Rhyme International competition for most of its existence, and I speak from experience: I only recall one truly humorous poem winning a prize.

Itís even considered bad taste to be humorous about poetry, which is why I commend Dean Blehertís book to you. In its own way, ORBIS has always been a bad taste in the mouths of the Establishment, as I suspect this book will be, so we have things in common. And things not in common. For many years, Dean Blehert has published a magazine called Deanotations, which is entirely devoted to his own poetry and writing and in that respect has a policy exactly the opposite to that of ORBIS, but chacun ŗ son goŻt. This book is in many ways a continuation of the magazine Ė a huge outpouring of poems, parodies, and opinions varying from the banal to the hilarious, missing the mark as often as hitting it, but well worth a read nonetheless.

It is not a cop-out, therefore, to say it is quite impossible to summarise this book in any meaningful manner. It is a rambling collection of essays, thoughts, aphorisms, parodies (in a section entitled Parodies Regained!), parodies of parodies, differently parodied versions of the same poem, puns piled on puns...Indeed, I would warn those allergic to puns that it could be dangerous to their health, even potentially fatal, and if you really donít like self-indulgence, avoid this book Ė it is self-indulgence cubed! But if you do avoid it, youíd be missing a lot. Not "just" a good laugh (for good laughs are certainly there), but some excellent poems, too, both by Blehert and by others. Despite his protestations ("Personally I canít stand the stuff. Thatís why I publish only my own poetry"), he really loves poetry, which is why his humour is so successful. -- Mike Shields

From: The Book Reader, Spring 1999

"Skillful, irreverent and long-overdue recasting of the poetic product. Blehert is for wordsmiths who like having fun. Like Willard Espy, this former Cornell professor of English likes to dust off the stodgy stuff now and then and play. Play, hell. He parties! His satire and parody ex-plode like popcorn, and the wit involved makes the cerebrum smile." --  by Jay Bail

From: The Bookwatch, April, 1999

"Students will find this an excellent introduction to poetry: witty yet including practical observations on poetic form and intention which may aid in a later appreciation of the medium."

From: Washington City Paper Profile, 4/2/99

The crowd who have come out to see him one recent afternoon seem smitten with his smart-mouthed poems and ardent reading style.  Between poems, he interposes reflections on life and poetry.  He also takes time to explain context unassumingly.  Not exeryone, after all, has read Plath or Blake or Whitman.  He renders the poetry consumable -- and the modern-day salon crowd loves it. "Poets are not used to fame and don't know what to do with it," he tells the audience, "But I'm willing to give it a try." -- by Guy Raz


Please, Lord, Make Dean Blehert a Famous Poet
by Miles David Moore

Are you ready for the poet, scholar, wit, philosopher and Borscht Belt comedian who goes by the name (at least in this lifetime) of Dean Blehert? A few aphorisms, out of the many hundreds he includes in his sixth book — Please, Lord, Make Me a Famous Poet or at Least Less Fat — will clue you in on what to expect:

  This is just poetry; it won’t save you, but may locate you, so that a rescue party can be  sent out.

 "Important writer": one good enough to become the model for the next generation’s bad  writers.

 I respond readily to poetry. Usually the response is, "So what?"

 A poetry editor is someone who helps a poet mail his poetry to himself.

 Speak up, poet--the ears have walls.

 A poet must create an imaginary universe with real readers in it.

 I leave these poems for those who come after me. The poems may distract them so I can  escape.


Blehert’s latest book is a 400-page compendium of trenchant literary criticism and scholarship, disguised as parody, light verse, puns and one-liners. Laid out in the form of an introductory textbook, Please, Lord consists of thirteen themed chapters with a page of aphorisms at the beginning of each. The chapters don’t conform to Roberts’ Rules of Literary Order or the Geneva Convention on Poetic Justice, but take the reader on a quirky, panoramic tour of the author’s wild, highly original imagination. (The first chapter consists solely of parodies of how different poets — from John Donne to Issa to an amalgam of several current slam poets — would phrase the old maxim, "You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.")
Please, Lord is a hard book to summarize, if only because there is so much in it. That refers not only to the book’s length, but the density of wit and observation on each page. Almost every line contains a little twist, laugh line, or pun, and the poems — in every conceivable form and length — come thick and fast. You can open the book at random, close your eyes, and point; more likely than not you’ll hit a gem, such as Blehert’s aphorism on Carl Sandburg: "He’s a sweeter, less original Whitman — you might say a Whitman Sampler." Or you might encounter one of his literary limericks, each of which is more insightful and pertinent than most critics’ book-length studies:

That poor heavy-weight poet, old Pound,
Should have always remained underground.
For when he talked plain,
He was judged quite insane,
While his gobbledygook--"Ah! Profound!"
***
Once a young son & lover named Lawrence
Stood and stared at his girl with abhorrence:
He cried, "You’re not my mother!
You’re so UTTERLY OTHER!"
Then he penned purple prose in great torrents.
***
One might say (yes! do say it!) of James
That his sentences curved from their aims
Toward the fraught, but unseen,
If you know what I mean,
Like a gossip ashamed to name names.

There is no style or school Blehert will not tackle, no sacred cow he hesitates to grind into hamburger. His parodies of Shakespearian sonnets ("Shall I compare thee to a guy named Fred?") and George Herbert’s shaped poems dazzle as much with their almost arrogant ease of accomplishment as with their laugh-out-loud humor; his chapter titled "Bone and Blood I Love You," with its brilliant lead poem, "How Poetry is Done," will make certain well-regarded academic poets swallow very hard. "Ever since my falling out with this academic muse, she pretends she doesn’t know me," Blehert remarks at one point. "'This is really funny stuff,’ said a reader. `Are you sure it’s poetry?’"
Some readers, in fact, won’t be sure, and this is the problem Blehert has had in a poetic career of nearly three decades. Please, Lord should leave absolutely no one in doubt as to the formidable breadth and depth of Blehert’s poetic talent and literary scholarship; yet many will doubt, simply because Blehert feels laughter is a valid emotional response to poetry. This idea is as anathematic to many poets as the idea to fundamentalists that the Lord might not have created the world in seven calendar days.
Like a rich Christmas pudding stuffed with figs and plums, Please, Lord will have different effects on the digestions of different readers. Some will romp through it, gobbling it up and marveling at its sweet deliciousness; some will find it too rich to consume at one sitting, but a tasty nibble one piece at a time; some will reject it entirely as bad for the entire poetic system, and return to the artery-cleansing rectitude of Wallace Stevens or John Ashbery. In a way, it is easy to see why these last readers will react as they do: sometimes Blehert is too insistent, too little-boy antsy to show what he’s thought of now. It doesn’t help that he doesn’t always edit out his weaker lines. For example, at one point Blehert writes, "’Sein oder nicht sein? from Hamburger Hamlet," then feels compelled to include a footnote explaining that "Sein oder nicht sein?" is German for "To be or not to be," and Hamburger Hamlet is a chain of restaurants. Oscar Wilde or Groucho Marx ("Oscar the Groucho?" Blehert might interject at this point) could have told him: If you have to explain the line, the line doesn’t work.
Yet Blehert’s best work is so good, and in such profusion, that the only reasonable response is to sit back and let Blehert be Blehert. His virtues far outweigh his faults, and both emanate from the same sources: the author’s fecund imagination, lightning-quick wit and insatiable love of wordplay. You might not always want to open a book of poetry in which fireworks and Roman candles are exploding on almost every page; but if you do, then Blehert’s the poet for you.
Even if you’re not looking for fireworks, Please, Lord has much to offer — particularly in the last chapter, "A Few Words from the Bully Pulpit," in which Blehert completely abandons parody in favor of serious (though often witty) poems which address the nature of poetry and the role of poets directly. As the aphorisms, parodies and light verse in the previous chapters should have indicated to alert readers, Blehert is not just a comedian, but a scholar and a moralist. He believes with all his heart that poetry has a purpose: To communicate pieces of truth, whether ragged or polished, that the reader knows in his bones but might never have been able to articulate for himself. Poetry, to Blehert, should illuminate, not obfuscate; it is for all readers who seek the electricity of succinctly imparted truth, not for the few high priests jealously guard the sacred mysteries. "Sharpen theSword," one of the best poems from the last section, comes as close as any to explaining Blehert’s position:

A sword kills so well because it is almost
humane. A blunt instrument is an outrage:
Instantly flesh rebels. Sharpen it to a point,
and it gains easy entry. Hone it to a fine edge,
and flesh welcomes it: in and out before one knows
death has been done. Sharpen the sword
further until nothing is left
but the deadly swift essence of penetration
that comes and goes and one never knows
why everything has changed, and you have
not a sword, but a poem.

Dean Blehert, then, is not a poet for those who seek reconfirmation of the drab verities of contemporary poetry. He wants to tell you what he’s learned about poetry and life, wake you from your preconceived notions of what poetry is and what it should do, and charm and please you in the process. In Please, Lord, he succeeds in these goals to a remarkable degree. He is sui generis, a myriad bundle of influences combined to make a poetic voice that is new and wonderful. (Blehert’s voice can be heard from the wings: "Why don’t you throw in `fresh’ and `authoritative’ while you’re at it?" OK, I will.)

Please, Lord, Make Me a Famous Poet or at Least Less Fat
or Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Poetry, but Were Afraid if You Asked, Someone Would Start Talking About Whatchamajigger Pentameter


416 pages, perfect bound, from Words & Pictures East Coast -- Publisher


Please, Lord... is a generous smorgasbord of parody and satire of poets and poetry, like an anthology, except all of the poets happen to be named Dean Blehert. It spares no targets, taking on the classics and current fads, the exquisite pangs of feigned interest at polite poetry readings, the young poet's alienation from a world that hasn't noticed his greatness, and the proliferation in literary reviews of "fresh new voices" that all sound the same. It's funny, informative and challenging. What's more, it manages to achieve the breadth of humor needed to make it accessible to readers who do not know much about English poetry, while showing a loving attention to tone and detail (especially in the parodies) that should make it required reading for poetry lovers.

One indication of its breadth of appeal are the fact that it sports rave blurbs from both Dana Gioia and Lyn Lifshin, from opposite ends of the poetry spectrum. The humor ranges from raucous (a Shakespearean sonnet beginning "Shall I compare thee to a guy named Fred?") to refined ("Leapeth frogge/And splasheth bog --/Softe sing haiku..."), from the ridiculous (punning "Little Richard" and "literature") to the sublime ("In the good old days, most poets were consigned to oblivion. These days even oblivion won't take poets on consignment.")

The book takes the form of a mock textbook. Some of the funniest stuff is in the hundreds of footnotes. Here, for example, is the first footnote in chapter one, explaining a reference to "numbers" or poetic meter:

In the 18th Century, what we now call "metrics" (pertaining to the meter or beat of a poem) was called "numbers." Today it is the poets themselves we call numbers, because they numb us. In fact, promising experiments with recordings of major poets reading their own work shows that these tapes work as well as anaesthetics when used during major surgery -- BUT the patients must wear earphones, lest a nurse or surgeon fall asleep face down in an abdominal incision.

Pure slapstick, worthy of Dave Barry, a pleasant way to learn about poetry, like learning about opera from Victor Borge.

Please, Lord begins with parody and progresses through satire to some "straight" essays and poems on poetry and poets, but most of it is a hoot. The long first chapter, a book in itself, is a survey of English Poetry, showing us how the great poets would have said "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." The parodies, all deft and insightful and mostly hilarious, range from Beowulf to a typical slam poet (preferably female, ethnic and with only one name). He provides in its entirety or in excerpt and paraphrase the original of the poem he parodies, so that no one will be left behind. Some of these poets require pages to tell us about the "nonaqueophagus equine paradigm" (Blehert's words). It takes T. S. Eliot four pages and threatens to take as many in the take-offs on Longfellow, Wordsworth, Shakespeare and Whitman. His renditions of Poe, Housman, Marvell, Blake, Plath and Kipling are as good as parody gets.

Chapter two is parody revisited (or "Parodies Regained"), where, not limited by a theme (leading horses to water), Blehert reaches new heights, particularly in the John Donne and Dylan Thomas parodies. Thus Donne's "Batter my heart, three personed God..." becomes "Butter your bread, impatient child, for you/As yet but jab, scrape, clot -- then slop on jelly,/Little of which shall ever reach your belly...", while "Death be not proud" becomes "Beth be not cowed, though swept from bargain table..." and "At the round earth's imagined corners, blow..." (about Judgment Day) becomes "At the round girth's imagined flatness, TUG!..." (about struggling into a corset). Emily Dickinson's "I heard a fly buzz when I died" is revisited from the viewpoint of the fly, with tragically ludicrous results. And Alan Ginsberg and Joyce Kilmer collaborate to produce Ogden Nash.

Chapter three is a collection of witty critical essays that take the form of limericks and quatrains. Chapter four is parodies of poetic forms: A sonnet that self-destructs, a sestina that swallows itself, poems that are also palindromes, etc. Chapter five lovingly (yet hysterically) dissects the haiku. Chapter 6, the heart and critical soul of the book, tells us how to write a critically acceptable poem by the numbers (not metrical numbers). The opening poem of the chapter, "How Poetry is Done," is, perhaps, the sharpest and funniest anatomization of current fads ever published. The chapters that follow are mainly satirical poems and text on poetry readings, critics, role models for poets and obsession with fame and greatness. Here we find the drive-by poetry reading, the poet as samurai, the poet as tough private eye, the poet who won't sit down and shut up when his five minutes are up at an open reading...and much much more.

This is dense, rich reading, not obscure, but it does require an attentive reader with considerable tolerance for puns. And its satire is sharp enough to draw blood on occasion. Few readers won't find something to love in this book, and as few won't find something to hate. Blehert does not spare us his opinions (though he does spare us boredom). Not all of them will be popular, particularly his frontal assaults on sacred cows (e.g., Yeats and Lorca) -- not that he dislikes them, only their "sacred cowdom." But overall, this is a brash, good-hearted book. Blehert has fun with poets and poetry, and so will the reader.

As for the title, the odds favor famous and fat.


Review of Please Lord on http://rantsravesreviews.homestead.com/PleaseLord.html "BerniE-zine, book reviews and more"

If you've been out of school for a while you might be a little rusty on all the literary references that populate this book. Chock full o' parodies, Dean Blehert has more than a way with words -- he has a way with other people's words. An entire chapter of Please Lord is devoted to how famous poets -- living and dead -- would write "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink." These writers include Sylvia Plath, Lyn Lifshin, Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats and Blake.

Tongue-in-cheek, the book intersperses Blehert's own poetry with instructive "how-to" advice-poems on such topics as "how poetry is done" and "How To Be A Prestigious Mainstream Twentieth-Century Academic Poet." For example, in the chapter on the first subject, Blehert writes:

You can make any sentence poetical
by mentioning blood or bone.
For example, instead of "Yesterday
I went to the store," say "Yesterday
I went to the blood and bone store."
Instead of "The moon rose," say
"The blood moon rose" or "A bone
of moon rose" or, best, "A bone
of blood moon rose."

There is so much in this book, it will take many many readings to catch just half of its humor. Brush up on your "dead white male" poets if you want to get the rest of it. Although Blehert is a delight on his own.

If you're ever in the Washington, DC, area on the second Sunday of the month, you can usually catch Dean Blehert (and his wife, Pam) reading at the open mic poetry night at IOTA in North Arlington, 6-8pm. Or, check out his web site at www.BLEHERT.com.

Also by Blehert: Dear Reader or Love Letters From Here to There; The Naked Clowns; Poems for Adults and Other Children; I Swear He Was Laughing; and No Cats Have Been Maimed or Mutilated During the Making of This Book but Some of Them are Disappointed -- DEEPLY Disappointed -- in Me.

  Big Cats in Snow
Thursday, September 12, 2002