Wednesday, December 15, 1999

The Wonk Contest

Jimmy holds the pipe wrench high,
swinging 'round his head.
Nearby a weighty candelabra,
a knife beneath the bed.

"I seen you once, I know you're there.
I'm counting from one to ten.
I knew you once, I know you're here."
He threatens once again.

"I'm aware of what you said
'bout how I couldn't wonk.
Next you'll speak of drowning fish
or geese that couldn't honk.

"Come out now, we'll have a showdown
right here in my room.
First you wonk and then I will
My wonk will be your doom.

Jimmy grabbed and turned the doorknob
ready for a duel,
but then he saw the room was empty.
So Jimmy played pocket pool.


The Artist's Comments on 'The Wonk Contest'

This was the first in a series of Zahnpasta poems I did in 1999.

The use of lowercase in the word "zahnpasta" and my name effectively reflected my lack of pretension and the lack of pretension inherent in Zahnpasta art at that time.

The concept of 'wonk' was intricate to the movement, and the word can be found throughout the diverse works of the Zahnpasta members. Being a word that would adapt to any situation, "wonk" was the obvious choice in this case. The fact that 'wonk' at the time was a verb of uncertain definition to most readers (until the short-lived Wonk Music fad of 2002), one is left with a slight feeling of uneasiness, in spite of the jovial tone of the piece. As "wonk" was a verb used by the Zahnpastists to adapt to any situation, "Jimmy" was the proper-noun equivelant.

So, should we be expected to find appeal in a short, childrens-book style poem about someone the reader doesn't know, getting angry over someone else's supposed opinion that he isn't good at doing something that the reader doesn't understand? And then, should we continue to be enthralled when it turns out that the second person isn't even there? The answer of course, is yes. Because this piece represents everything that Zahnpasta, circa 1998, was about. There was a decided lack of original Zahnpasta poetry (original as opposed to apporopriated) at that point, so I was faced with the challenge of packing the essence of Zahnpasta into a small enough area to be read in a casual sitting. Yet I had complete freedom; this being the first work of Zahnpasta poetry, I wasn't locked into following any guidelines of what Zahnpasta poetry was or was not. A full-length manifesto being out of the question for the average attention span, I chose poetry to convey the message, because I consider example, in most cases, to be much more effective than page after page of explaination.

But besides this piece's relevance to the movement, it has something for everyone to enjoy. Tension and mystery are found right in the first stanza. Who is this Jimmy? Why the references to all these objects that could be used as weapons? Without saying it outright, we assume that Jimmy is violent. One also finds humor throughout, from my stretch to use the only word that rhymes with 'wonk', to the bathroom humor of the surprise ending. Laughs abound for the perceptive reader, and yet no prior Zahnpasta education is necessary.

Given a time machine and the opportunity to use it, there is nothing in The Wonk Contest I would want to go back and change.

Bonefish Sam isn't really a "writer".

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