How the Potato Chip was Invented


Igor & Marina, Hold Tight and Carry OnIgor & Marina

There’s a theatre game called Gibberish, invented by Viola Spolin, who said, “Gibberish forces the player to show and not tell.” Ah, that’s what we poets are supposed to do! In the game, one player speaks in gibberish, and the other “translates.” It’s fun, freeing, and leads to a direct experience of pure communication between players. That’s what you’ll find here as a couple of our favorite collaborators play the game in poetry as we celebrate April Fool’s Day and the start of National Poetry Month at EIL.

How? Jessy Randall “translates” Daniel M. Shapiro’s poems from English…to English!

Why? Well, for fun, yes, but also some people are intimidated by poetry, finding it difficult to read, or a sort of “gibberish” in itself. And some literature teachers recommend paraphrase as a way to better understand a poem. So here’s one poet paraphrasing, interpreting, explicating, and “translating” another to aid in our joy and understanding! The result is also extended silliness!

Shapiro’s poems come from his book How the Potato Chip was Invented, forthcoming in 2013 from sunnyoutside press.

Igor & Marina, Napoleon

Daniel M. Shapiro

Re-recording Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours on its 10th Anniversary, Hollywood, 1987

Ike Turner showed up, as did Sonny and Cher, but Tina never returned the calls. An exec had invited them to redo the classic, replete with new set of broken-up couples. Phil Spector would offer up Wall of Sound splendor the original had lacked. At first, the session crept. Following “creative differences” accompanied by brandished weapon, the studio became sad cavern for only Sonny, Cher, and Phil. Dozens of top-notch vets and The Van Nuys Community Orchestra had to be brought in to offset the lost charisma of Ike. The mood allegedly improved after the producer found a perfectly tuned triangle. This will be my best ever, thought Spector, as backup singers in red leather skirts rehearsed “The Chain.”

Translation by Jessy Randall

I shall now describe for you a scene of impossible silliness, not true but I wish it were and soon you will too. Instead of a teacher, I probably should have been a cigar-smoking television producer, pinching women’s bottoms and snarling “Get me so-and-so on the phone, stat!” only with a lot more swearing. My wife, who was Jessy Randall’s best friend in college, which is how I met her, when I visited Jessy, likes Fleetwood Mac and I always play their music now in my car when I pick my wife up from the airport. Depending upon my mood, I can’t help thinking up ways to improve upon or ruin the album Rumours, and this poem is an attempt to do both.

Igor & Marina, Regina

Daniel M. Shapiro

Archibald Determines the Solution: Rosanna Arquette

Archibald now found himself with two goals in life: 1) Find a beautiful woman; 2) Write a pop hit. Only one woman could help do both, what with the betterment she provided Gabriel and 1/6 of Toto. I will stand outside her window and blast my muse-less song via boombox, Archibald resolved, expecting Rosanna to add muse and repeat as necessary. So Archibald invented the gizmo to end all gizmos—the Conscience-Free-Stalker-Hit-Songwriting-Gizmo, with Cloak-of-Handsomeness Accessory. Archibald happened to forget the batteries so seemed destined to languish in prison with nary the one-hit wonder. Yet in the scrum associated with Archibald’s not-go-quietly, the Cloak-of-Handsomeness Accessory went airborne, striking Ms. Arquette in her gorgeous 51-year-old head, rendering her the clueless Susan susceptible to Archibald’s flawed accessories. Until a songwriter who smacks of pop hits emerges to right the lass’s wrongheadedness, Archibald shall meet her all the way, if one catches Archibald’s drift.

Translation by Jessy Randall

Some things in these poems are true and some are not. I like to keep you guessing. It might surprise you to know that some of the seemingly most crazy things are the true things. Rosanna Arquette, for example, really did date both Peter Gabriel and Steve Porcaro (of Toto, the band who play the song “Rosanna”). She also dated Paul McCartney. But I don’t really care if you look up the facts or not – that’s your business. So, yes, some of these things happened in real life, but the fun of the whole thing is I get to lie with impunity, trick you with my reporter-speak, sound like a serious journalist when I’m totally messing with you the whole time. And now you’re going to have the song “Rosanna” in your head for the rest of the day. Who’s Archibald? He’s like me, but smarter. I can’t even imagine what’s in that guy’s brain.

Igor & Marina, Walkers (Jazzmen)

Daniel M. Shapiro

“New Photos of the Fab Four Surface,” MSNBC Video, 7/10/11

Another who-cares headline, we figured, introducing images of the overexposed mid head-bob, black and white yellowed by the long-passed excitement of teenage girls. You spotted it first: A stray photo we were sure no one else saw, trapped between the syllables of Lester Holt’s banter. It showed John Lennon clad in black jumpsuit and facemask, holding a shovel over an open grave. Yoko Ono stood at his side, remnants of a slight smile on her lips. Atop the body, Lennon had placed forty pounds of dirt, staff paper, jar of cranberry sauce, left-handed bass. It might take a while to find another, Lennon said, but the real trick will be getting them not to believe.

Translation by Jessy Randall

I made this one for the masses. You’re not so amazing if you figure this one out, in other words. It’s about the supposed death of Paul McCartney, who played guitar for a British band called The Beatles. An urban legend states that he died in 1966 and was replaced by someone who looked just like him. The Beatles were kind of like Green Day or OK Go a long time ago in the past before you were born. So in this poem, see, John Lennon murdered Paul McCartney, probably as an act of avant-garde artistry. Which actually could have happened once that weirdo Yoko Ono got involved.

Art by Igor & Marina

Daniel M. Shapiro at EIL

Jessy Randall at EIL

Jessy Talks About Dan at EIL

Poetry Collaboration: Jessy Randall and Daniel M. Shapiro at EIL

Collaboruptions: Mini-Review of Interruptions, by Jessy Randall and Daniel M. Shapiro