Next Line, Please

Ode to Woody Allen

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By David Lehman

August 9, 2016


 

For this week, we were directed to write couplets that would extend and complete our ode to Woody Allen. Reading the submissions I felt that what we were writing was truly a collaboration.

This week I chose couplets from three poets and have added one of my own. There are three winners, and together they have completed our ode as a 16-line poem. Here are the couplets I selected:

Paul Michelsen

“You would’ve checked out, too, but you remembered this:
Strict Freudians charge you for the sessions you miss.”

Angela Ball

A cloud wears your mother’s face. She says, “Get a man”
“Or woman if you’d rather.” Something sweet and lowdown

Calls to you, suggests you borrow mighty Aphrodite’s
Magic, ask a stranger, “What’s new, Pussycat,” take a chance on life.

Charise Hoge

Ask Hannah and her sisters:
how hers is hers, she is his, and he is hers?

Magic of attraction has no trickery;
blame it on the moonlight, or heart’s thievery,

David Lehman

Or the marvelous piano soundtrack: Rodgers & Hart’s “Manhattan”
In Café Society, the men in tuxes, the ladies in red satin.

So here we are, a twenty-line poem:

Lucky You

Watching The Purple Rose of Cairo on the Independent Film Channel,
You’re freed from all that’s tawdry, dull, and real by using your control panel.

You nosh on a slab of good-for-you chocolate, a victory for Woody,
And pour a snifter full of cognac, wearing your ex’s old hoodie.

Five foot five and vegetarian, like Woody, movies your lingua franca,
You covet the ivory dinner jacket Bogey wore in Casablanca.

Ask the clarinetist at the Carlyle: What is irony?
Is it success at running but failure to take the money?

Ask Hannah and her sisters:
how hers is hers, she is his, and he is hers?

You would’ve checked out, too, but you remembered this:
Strict Freudians charge you for the sessions you miss.

A cloud wears your mother’s face. She says, “Get a man”
“Or woman if you’d rather.” Something sweet and lowdown

Calls to you, suggests you borrow mighty Aphrodite’s
Magic, ask a stranger, “What’s new, Pussycat,” take a chance on life.

Magic of attraction has no trickery;
blame it on the moonlight, or heart’s thievery,

Or the marvelous piano soundtrack: Rodgers & Hart’s “Manhattan”
In Café Society, the men in tuxes, the ladies in red satin.

 


For next week, let’s compete for the best assignment, the most stimulating exercise, the can’t-miss prompt. My own nominee: convert any two to six lines of Milton’s “Lycidas” into a modern American poem that sounds nothing like it but conveys the same or a similar message.

And if everyone tells a friend to take part, we’ll double the number of submissions.

Deadline: Sunday, August 14, midnight in any time zone.


David Lehman is a poet and the general editor of The Best American Poetry series. He teaches at The New School in New York City.

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