Original poem reprinted online here: "That's Incredible" by Michael Robbins
Originally read: July 25, 2013
More information about the Poet: Michael Robbins
Past me wrote this at the top, "quatrains. The tone of 'TV Special' stunts to grab attention. Wow." I think this is the fun of the poem -- how the speaker interlaces the humor, then to something serious, then to something absurd through the language of television (note: not one aspect of television).
The actions are centralized with the speaker in the first stanza, "I will pull an airplane with my teeth / and I will pull an airplane with my hair.' Past me wrote, "claims you have to see to believe, after this commercial break." I think it's more of setting up the speaker as two things: a bit pompous and a bit ridiculous. And with this mindset the next lines, "I write about cats. Cats, when you read this, / write about me. Be the change you want to see" have a sense of insincerity. The internal rhyme and the mention of cats teeters that line of play and cynicism though.
"I legally changed my name to Whites Only. / Changed it back, I should say." Past me wrote, "A bit serious but outlandish. Tone takes the seriousness out of the lines." Also of note, since the lines end there it's the afterthought that lingers. "DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME, made me / the man I am today" there is that single thread of the definition of a person here. But the definition is cursory (not superficial) that the focus is "what" defines him rather than "how."
"That and the University of Phoenix. / Old man, take a look at my life." Here the focus is on an academic background. Yes, I think the University of Phoenix reference should be taken negatively. But not so much the school, rather, once again the cursory definition of self through place rather than action. The mention of the "Old Man," becomes further explored with these lines, "Charles Simic, in the gloaming, with a roach, / take a look at my life. I'm a lot like you." The mention of Charles Simic, with his style of play, and the speaker claiming to be a sort of successor feels a bit more serious -- a bit more logical since the styles are a bit similar.
But then, change the channel, "A man stand up and says I will catch / a bullet in my teeth! That's incredible!" The focus is away from the speaker and more to the scene. This man also, "He eats a sword, hilt first, and spits / up a million people persons." Past me asked, "audience?" More so the shift into the surreal. Now that the tone is set, and the turn towards a more "Charles Simic" style who has play...but his work also deals with war.
"A dolphin pulls an airplane with its blowhole / and keeps the black box for itself." The mix of the absurd and something serious -- the black box indicates something coming up, but "Bottleneck dolphins don't even have bones, / yet here we are, giving them medals..." The ellipses here, theoretically, indicates omission. The question what is omitted, other than bones.
This is my ass. And that is a hole
in ground zero. I know which is which
It's the one with the smoke pouring out.
This is my handle; this is my spout.
So the last stanza is the most "serious" but also the most "absurd." The construction of the poem like television lines, and the mention of Charles Simic leads to the discussion of "ground zero" but qualify the mention with the humorous take on the speaker's "ass."
The comparison is ambiguous until the end. In which the last line, "This is my handle; this is my spout" would indicate that the speaker's ass has the smoke pouring out (current action) and the difference is that ground zero, there's no smoke pouring out. Past me thinks the reverse though. So, now, I'm not too sure about which reading is more thought out.
In any case, serious mention with a different approach at seeing what is serious and what is absurd.