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Painting workshops at Reston Community Center

Vienna VA Farm

Artist Pam Blehert runs a workshop on painting in oil and acrylics at the newly opened Lake Anne branch of the Reston Community Center. Contact the Reston Community Center.


Review of Please, Lord . . . by the prestigious English Mag: Orbis

ORBIS no. 112/113, a review by the editor, Mike Shields:

Iíve often wondered why we use this word "just", meaning "merely" and imlying 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 à son goût. This book is in many ways a continuation of the magazine -- 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 -- 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.

From Issue 12 (Sept. 1999) of The Edge City Review

a review by Richard Moore:

I seriously considered ending my reading of this book at the beginning of the second paragraph:

Personally I canít stand the stuff. Thatís why I publish only my own poetry. If I published anyone elseís Iíd have to read it. My own I just write.

If he is only interested in HIMself (and for that matter, not even reading [and judging] HIMself), why shouldnít I only be interested in Myself (to imitate a bit of his typographical highjinks)? But he, I find, is ahead of me. He goes on in my vein himself: "I donít know why anyone should be mucking through these pen-droppings." And then he adds, "You probably think I am kidding. On a good day, I am."

In short, in all its 400-page vastness, and for all its wild verbal fun (Blehert can unleash more puns per eyeblink than any other writer, Shakespeare included, known in English), this is an anguished book. This is a man of enormous raw talent and wide learning who has to publish himself and go about peddling his own books in a society crammed to the scuppers with ignorant people (and with people like himself Ė- it hardly matters), where success, glory, notoriety are media phenomena: the unaccountable whims of the mechanical marketplace which insists on mediocrity in all its images. But I err in even mentioning that anguish because the book makes us Ė- as it probably made its author Ė- forget it at least for a little while.

In this it is like those other wonderfully readable/tediously unreadable collections, the works of Rabelais, Burtonís Anatomie of Melancholy, Sterneís Tristram Shandy. In Blehertís work, the tedious and second-rate nudges the brilliant and the deeply wise with such persistence and unembarrassed confusion Ė- God only knows what itís fate is going to be. As Blehert remark, in Ogden Nash there is "some corn Ė- whose work is never corny? Only those academics whose entire poetic is based on avoiding corn Ė- or anything else edible." In this same paragrah on page 148, we learn that Blehert values Ogden Nash "because in a century whose greatest poet is supposed to be William-the-sober-faced-Butler Yeats, someone should help us laugh." Is that a cheap shot, doing that with old Willieís middle name? I say, No Ė- because it is real wit; it expresses something actual beyond the "crude" wordplay. Yeats was desperately solemn in his pronouncements and even in his performances most of the time. The solemnity of butlers was indeed his, even unto his O-so-polite reverence for his aristocratic patron, Lady Gregory. And I can even accept those phrases, "supposed to be" our greatest poet," even though I still think when all is said and done, that Yeats was our greatest poet, and even though I do performances of his wonderfully profound and deliciously funny "All Soulís Night." One truth doesnít entirely exclude the other, and at this point, Blehertís truth swings easily in his own rhythms.

The results are not always so fortunate. Commens on poet after poet left me cold. Without even leaving Nash, the punning can get pointless:

If Your Nash is a Ramber, Park Her

 is rash,
 But Parker
 is darker.
             (p. 149)

And not much better:

Ogden Nashís Advice to Poe

When called by a raven,
seek haven.
(p. 129)

This is a poor takeoff on Nashís brilliant conclusion to "The Panther,"

Better yet, when called by a panther,
donít anther.

As Ezra Pound remarked, in excising a passage of Pope-pastiche from The Wasteland, donít parody what you canít improve. But then we get to another Blehert variation on Nashís "A Reflection on Ice Breaking,"

Is dandy,
But liquor
Is quicker.

A Reflection on a Reflection On Ice-Breaking

Gets randy
If you lick her.
(p. 102)

Now it is Blehert who has been brilliant. And very meaningful to boot: Nash could ever have written that second version. His NewYorker and Saturday Evening Post editors would never have permitted it. But now, when peeking into Presidential chambers is the sport of the day, the age (and Blehertís own obsessions) seems positively to require it.

Blehert is beautifully in form in his attacks on academia and its blighting effect on poetry. On page 241 he gives us a fine comic comparison: "To understand the relationship between restauranteurs and poets, imagine a world in which no one ever comes to a restaurant except restaurant critics, based on whose published opinions, restaurants are or are not funded by grants, or the owners are or are not given jobs teaching cooking at colleges to help pay their bills." "The working out of this and similar ideas is hilarious. And O Lord, let this be a great movement in American letters!

But letís leave the last words of this review to Blehert on page 240, where he sums up the absurdity of our situation as a millennium comes to its end: "Why do we busy ourselves with this clever chitchat while yet we have a planet to blow up?"

From the Summer, 1999 issue of Light, A Quarterly of Light Verse

a review by Richard Wakefield:

Dean Blehert, already a familiar and welcome presence to readers of LIGHT, offers nearly four hundred pages of cohesive craziness, a heavy volume of light verse. Please, Lord, Make Me a Famous Poet is almost too massive for easy bedtime reading, but is far to funny and stimulating to induce drowsiness anyway (and itís probably not safe to read before Ė or while Ė operating heavy machinery, either, especially if your laughter tends toward the convulsive.

In the form of a textbook, the volume promises a lot, as textbooks do, and delivers, as textbooks usually donít. the "Rather Forward Introduction" lists the "burning questions that will be answered: How would the big name poets of all time have expressed the saying "You can lead a horse to water, but you canít make him drink"? "Can the limerick supplant the critical essay?" "What resulted when Joyce Kilmer and Alan Ginsberg collaborated?" And fifteen more. The answers are always amusing and often laugh-out-loud funny, and for all their cracked irreverence they have the therapeutic effect of injecting a little levitas into the oppressive gravitas of poetry study.

You may well find, for example, that your reading of Pound is forever changed by Blehertís story of a black poodle that emerged from a patch of wet weeds "with varied vegetation adhering to his ears, perhaps petals on a wet black bowwow." Well, most peopleís reading of Pound could use some changing, and wasnít it Eliot who told us, in "Tradition and the Individual Talent," that every use of the language changes all previous uses? After youíve savored the punchline, however, glance back at the buildup, note the lovely, antic sound of "varied vegetation adhering to his ears." There are many delights here beside the guffaws.

The promised collaboration of Kilmer and Ginsberg begins "I think that I shall never see / The best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical nakedÖ" Kilmerís infamous lines then get reworked through a dozen or so equally unlikely changes, as in a four-liner titled "Milton on His Blindness":

I think
that I shall

Funny, yes, but that elided period makes the joke rather poignant. Dr. Johnson said of Paradise Lost that "none ever wished it longer," which is true enough, and for me it is moving as well as amusing to hear Milton suddenly fall speechless as if he himself had not anticipated his own silence.

We learn that Shelleyís middle name, Bysshe ("rhymes with Ďfish,í" we are helpfully told) comes from his motherís maiden name and thus makes him "a son of a Bysshe." Blehert points out how appropriate it is that a man whose middle name rhymed with "fish" should have drowned and become food for shellfish: "Hence the naming of those famous dishes, / Crab and lobster bysshes." Byron and Keats, Wordsworth and Coleridge, even the dyspeptic Dr. Johnson get theirs as well, and when Edgar Allan Poe meets the Three Stooges we learn that only two gain his approval: "But for Moe there was no raving Ė never Moe!"

Please, Lord, Make Me a Famous Poet is a wonderful book for browsing in, for rereading, and for reading aloud. For those who wish to map their own way through the richness, Blehert provides an index of subjects and authors lampooned as well as an index of titles and first lines. For those, like me, who wonder what sheer verbal cleverness could do in the service of more somber moods, he concludes with some poems that drop the antic inventiveness that can often be a form of defense. We find that the wayward synapses of Blehertís brain can lead to another country under another sun, and his talent for unlikely associations, seen in that slightly different light, is a gift for illuminating metaphor. "Poets Go Both Ways," he writes,

from rosy cheeks to skulls,
from skulls to new buds, just like
"Where have all the flowers gone,"
not the direction, but the playís
the point, not that we say sweet things,
but that thereís sweetness in the saying,
in the willingness to play at bones
(one die, two dice) or words.

He has indeed gone both ways, or countless ways, each leading to revitalized words. No doubt Dean Blehert would plead guilty to the charge of being an oral compulsive. The wonderful gift of Please, Lord, Make Me a Famous Poet is that it makes the reader an aural compulsive.

Review of Please, Lord . . . by Ken M Ellison

c/o Robert Sampson, 23 Avon Drive, Guisborough, TS14 8AX, UK
ISBN 1 892261 03 0 £12.50

PLEASE, LORD, MAKE ME A FAMOUS POET OR AT LEAST LESS FAT -- Yes, that really is the main title of this amazing book. Rather more informative perhaps, is the sub-title, OR EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT POETRY, BUT WERE AFRAID IF YOU ASKED, SOMEONE WOULD START TALKING ABOUT WHATCHAMAJIGGER PENTAMETER. Wow! And thatís only for starters. It is worth every penny of the £12.50 UK price, for once having purchased, digested and enjoyed its mind absorbing context, youíre never going to buy another How To Write book, ever again.. Author Dean Blehert, using parody and satirical wit to expose the dictum of bureaucratic cant, reveals all here with brilliant perception. Holy Cows are debunked without fear or favour from Chapter One: ON LEADING HORSES TO WATER AND DRIVING POETS TO DRINK through to Chapter Thirteen: A FEW WORDS FROM THE BULLY PULPIT His chapter on haiku alone had me in seventeen three line stitches and, from his chapter on a working poetís diary,

Midnight -- Wow! Just finished a GREAT poem!

but will I still respect it in the morning?

An observation many will empathise with. Stunningly funny with over 400 pages of original humour and wit, this is one book that anyone who enjoys a laugh with their verse simply canít do without. After reading it your life and your poetry will never be the same again.

Reviews by KRAX, No. 36:

DEANOTATIONS 82 - 84: According to the TV series, "Friends" seems to be the point where fantasies end, and at 25 going on 45, the "real world" takes over. However, Dean always proves that this is not so with this regular bi-monthly broadsheet. The puns are as bad/good as ever, and he always gets in plenty of fresh ones, the palindromes are by now a tad contrived and probably need a rest for a few issues, yet, like Alice, he still has his own private looking glass to slip through and find the real world about as real as a cheap computer game. Issue 83 has the brilliant long poem "Why We’re Here" -- one for the young child’s endless "Why?". No. 84 has more complex world-play puns and witticisms -- and while we all suspected it would happen as a side-effect, it’s here that they discovered Viagravation! Compulsory reading -- start right away. -- Review by Andy Robson, editor of KRAX.

Hungry Mind Bookstore blurb

Dean Blehert did a Reading and Booksigning at The Hungry Mind Bookstore in St. Paul Minnesota on August 8, 1999. The author was interviewed for cable TV prior to the reading. Read what Hungry Mind Bookstore has to say about the book.

Dense with wit and stark observations, Blehert’s Please, Lord, Make Me a Famous Poet or at Least Less Fat {Words & Pictures East Coast, $19.95} takes the reader on a quirky whirlwind tour of literary criticism shrouded in parody, puns, light verse, and jabbing one-liners.

More juicy reviews, reader comments, and press about Pam or Dean Blehert or Words & Pictures East Coast

  Big Cats in Snow
Thursday, June 14, 2001