Posts Tagged ‘Little Willie’

The poetic cup runneth full this Saturday with proofs received from not one, but two upcoming publications.  The first in order of fulfillment, that is to say reading the proof sheet and sending it back with minor corrections, was from our fast-moving recent friend ALTERNATE THEOLOGY (ALTERNATIVE THEOLOGIES?), cf. July 1 and 2.  Either title seems to exist depending on the page you go to, but to the chase, my part is the poem called “Tit for Tat,” a “little Willie” in which our naughty lad finds the afterlife not as had been advertised.  The poem itself has been published before, originally in an anthology called GHOSTS:  REVENGE (James Ward Kirk Publications, 2015), but the subject seems one worth repeating and, with one or two minor editorial changes, has been returned.

Then a PDF for the Summer issue of STAR*LINE was perused, with my entry in this one a new poem, “What She Learned,” one of five accepted last February and four of which have already appeared in the current Spring issue (see May 16, April 11, et al.).  Things thus moving fast all around, within the hour that proof was returned as well to editor Vince Gotera with other information requested and a note that no changes were needed.


So went the call:  This anthology will focus on a re-mastering of core biblical themes that will help justify, or perhaps even expose, modern evangelical theology.  This is an unabashedly critical look at the often hypocritical deviation of the religious right from their biblical and moral base.  This will be a disturbing read for some.  But for which was added, [h]umor and good will are key. A sharp wit and a sharper pen is the objective. We’re taking fiction, poems, and essays.  The book in question, B Cubed Press’s proposed ALTERNATIVE THEOLOGIES:  PARABLES FOR A MODERN AGE.

Ah now, thought I, this sounds like a job for “Little Willie,” the late Victorian-styled urchin whose causing or succumbing to disaster oft leads to either narrator indifference or some kind of highly inappropriate moral.  A case in point a poem, “Tit for Tat,” originally published in GHOSTS:  REVENGE by James Ward Kirk Publications in 2015 (cf. February 16 of that year; also on “Little Willies” as a sub-genre, February 6 2012), in which a preacher’s predictions of hellfire fall somewhat short, and which seemed to me a possible fit — but only, that is, if Editors Bob Brown and Irene Radford could be tempted to take a reprint.

Well, you probably know where this is going.  Unabashed (ah, now), I sent it on in with a note explaining its reprint status.  Then last night the report arrived from Bob Brown:  “Tit for Tat” was in!  With it was some info about forms of payment, for which I emailed back my acceptance as well as saying I’d look forward to further information, which to be sure will be shared here as well.

Then one other note.  While it is possible ALTERNATIVE THEOLOGIES is filled by now, technically submissions are still open until July 15, for information on which one may press here.  But be warned as well, as stated in the original guidelines as I received them:  This is not for the Faint of Heart.

There are some things one cannot resist.  One example, an anthology titled THE BOOK OF BLASPHEMOUS WORDS, a weird fiction, horror, and speculative fiction anthology about humanity’s relationship with its gods.  When we answer the call for salvation from the bondage of the material — when we believe in gods — we reach a hand into the unknown and risk losing it to something peckish.  When we forget the power of the hearth, we risk a conflagration that can return civilization to the dirt from whence it came.  Brave words those, and so I answered, the guidelines calling for stories, not 13245380_1039385802818613_30970547213403742_npoems, with a 32-line “story in verse” called “Tit for Tat.”

Originally published in James Ward Kirk’s GHOSTS:  REVENGE anthology (see March 29, March 17, February 16 2015), “Tit for Tat” is a poem “of a type sometimes known as ‘Little Willies,’ about a naughty boy who either causes or comes to grief, resulting in the poet reacting with either glee, gross indifference, or sometimes drawing from it a tragically inappropriate moral” (Feb 16).  And today the response came from Adrean Messmer for publisher A Murder of Storytellers:  Thank you for sending us “Tit for Tat”.  We all sat around a table and gushed about this story for a while.  We would love to include it in BOOK OF BLASPHEMOUS WORDS.

Details followed, including a contract (to go back to them this afternoon), with a bio, etc., the usual things, between now and Friday, with a tentative publication date to be on or before January 31.

Two short items to greet the new week.  The first is that, after a month missed, I was back in the local poetry circuit at March’s Bloomington Writers Guild sponsored, with the Monroe County Convention Center, Last Sunday Poetry Reading and Open Mic (cf. January 25, et al.).  Featured poets this time were Cara Prill who read several meditation-based works and the more frenetic seasoned performance poet Gabriel Peoples.  In style, these may have seemed at different poles — though not that much so, really — but as one of the first of the “Open Mic” poets pointed out, there were similarities in subject matter with an emphasis on feelings surrounding the human body.

When my turn came, though, I offered just one piece more concerned with souls than bodies, “Tit for Tat,” my recently published dark humored poem in GHOSTS:  REVENGE (see March 17, et al.), and the moral of which I dedicated for the occasion to Governor Pence and the Indiana General Assembly.

Then the second item, speaking of GHOSTS:  REVENGE, is that the vengeful spirits anthology is now available in paper as well as Kindle, and can be found here.

STAR*LINE, which already accepted a poem by me last week (see Feb. 2), has accepted another, one that the editor had liked but thought the ending weak and so had asked if I could change it.  I rather agreed and, now with the change, it should appear probably in the latter part of the year along with “Proper Perspective.”  This new poem, “Burning Down Woods on a Snowy Evening,” was inspired by a class of poems popular around the early 1900s called “Ruthless Rhymes,” usually quatrains but sometimes longer, and often starring a hapless young boy named Little Willie.  Harry Graham, among others, wrote these with many simply being published anonymously.  Often they also implied a moral as in this example:  “Willie found some dynamite,/ He didn’t understand it quite./ Curiosity never pays,/ It rained Willie seven days.”   The pattern, basically, is (1) a gruesome act of violence usually perpetrated by Willie (though, as in the example, sometimes he can be the victim – or both), followed by (2) a humorously inappropriate, indifferent, or even approving response.  In a way what we have is the verbal equivalent of a Gahan Wilson or Charles Addams cartoon.

In the case of “Burning Down Woods on a Snowy Evening,” the action/consequence is drawn out into six four-line stanzas, allowing the moral a whole stanza of its own.  While its stanzas retain traditional rhyme and meter, I have sometimes written these in a freer style, as in the example, “Firelight,” below where much of the young man’s family becomes involved in the action.  “Firelight” was originally published in the late Algis Budrys’s pioneer e-magazine TOMORROW SF in February 1998.


Little Willie burned his sister
just to see how bright she’d glow,
he torched her good
just like he oughta,
using matches he had pinched
from Cousin Ed, who smoked, last summer
when Aunt May had disappeared —
they found her later
in the ocean,
swimsuit top wound ’round her throat
and cut-marks on her breasts, pearl-glowing,
it was messy on the beach there
but, this winter, with the fireplace
damper open for the smoke,
and ash-grate clear —
no muss, no bother —
taught us all that it is better,
offing family,
to use fire instead of water.

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