Y kan't Tori write?

By Peter Catalanotte
Arizona Daily Wildcat
April 29, 1996

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Pop singer Tori Amos


These days, it doesn't pay to merely sit around and hate everyone more rich and famous than you are. To despise a celebrity in the 1990s, one needs proof of his or her unsavory ways. We must find a communal hostility on which to measure their ineffectiveness by. This gives the post-modern complainer quite a task- how can one justify the need to dishonor Norm McDonald simply because he laughs at his own jokes? How does one argue in a court of law that A.M. Homes' "The End of Alice" is this year's "The Secret History?"

Given this quandary, we turn to the works of Tori Amos, the mousey, quasi-spiritual Kate Bush carbon copy of the '90s. How can we certify that Ms. Amos is an untalented as she sounds? Sure, it's obvious in the strained Minnie-Mouse-by-way-of-Bilbo-Baggins vocals. Yes, it's evident in the CD photo showing Amos suckling a piglet to her bare breast. But what about the lyrics? Is there a method we can rely on that would discredit what her legions of fans worldwide see as a poetic proficiency?

To accomplish this, we contacted 10 renowned figures in the field of poetry from around the United States. Each person was sent the same anonymous "poem" (see box) composed of the worst lyrics pulled from Amos' latest CD Boys For Pele. The poem was given a fake title to authenticate its credibility. The participants were told only that the author was rich, famous, and would probably never see their responses to the poem. Each poetry expert was then asked to send his or her comments back.

This may have been too daunting a task for some of the participants, as only five of the 10 bothered to reply. In retrospect, it is somewhat presumptuous to expect a reaction to a line such as "Do drop in/At the Dew Drop Inn ..." from a Ph.D. in Literature.

"fluffy fluff flu (for 1996)"

so I chased down your posies
your pansies in my hosies
off with Superfly
sniffing a Sharpie pen
slag pit
stag shit
starfucker just like my Daddy.

hello Mr. Zebra
can I have your sweater?
cause it's cold cold cold
in my hole hole hole
ran into some confusion
with a Mrs. Crocodile
the Weasel squeaks faster
than a seven day week
I said Timmy and that purple Monkey
are all down at Bobby's house
making themselves
pesters and lesters and jesters

and what about the deal
on the flying trapeze?
got a peanut butter in hand
but honey do drop in
at the Dew Drop Inn
and if I lose my Cracker Jacks
at the tidal wave
I got a place in the Pope's rubber robe
thought I knew myself so well
all the dolls I had
took my leather off the shelf
your apocalypse was fab.

wrapped in your papoose
your little Fig Newton
I got Big Bird on the fishing line
don't make me scratch on your door
I never left you for a Banjo
I only just turned around for a poodle
and a Corvette
and my impression
of my best Angie Dickinson.

lives in San Francisco and has been published in Exquisite Corpse and TriQuarterly, among many others: "This is a joke, right? Nobody would pen anything so sophomoric and let anyone else read it, would they?"

has written for The Dakota Review and currently resides in Washington, D.C., where she is writing her first novel: "My mind is blank after reading something unique (this is not a compliment). Please tell me this isn't a colleague making money in literary circles off such bunk."

had a poem published in Interview magazine, currently lives in New York City where he teaches creative writing and voices a similar opinion to the one above: "It is a scandal to know that someone is receiving undue fame and adulation from scribbling hackneyed nonsense such as this. Please, please, tell me this isn't real so that I may sleep well tonight."

is from Tucson, and chose to attack line by line. Among her many comments: "What is the imagery of 'sniffing a Sharpie pen' for? ... What's with the Mr. Zebra and Mrs. Crocodile? Why are characters/situations that have nothing to do with each other brought in and then promptly dropped? ... Cracker Jacks? Pope's rubber robe? Huh??? ... Why is Angie Dickinson mentioned at the end?..."

teaches Comparative Literature and Contemporary American Poetry at a well respected university located deep in the Northwest, and has been published in the Indiana Review and Off Our Backs among many others (the gender of the poem's author was never revealed by the way): "This isn't poetry. This is the nonsensical notebook scribblings of a 13-year-old wishing to expose her fragile feelings and having no direct means to articulate them so she's chosen garbled and muddied imagery as a way to express what's going on inside her heart. I hope she makes it to graduation!"