Found Poem (2) BY LYNN CROSBIE Be a perfect girlfriend for Paul. Remember you're stupid; Remember you're ugly; Remember you're fat; Save yourself. Kill them all. Excerpts from Karla Homolka's self-improvement list, Fall 1987 (From Paul's Case , Insomniac, 1997) Come on now -- admit it. You're shocked and apoplectic, aren't you? It's the gall of that literary strumpet, isn't it?
Imagine! Lynn "Queen Rat" Crosbie takes a horrifyingly lurid list, drops it dead centre in the middle of a so-called book -- wait a sec -- a book? You call Paul's Case a book? Pfft! It's a thinly disguised, brutally cold and viciously calculated cash grab trendily cram-jammed with catty bitchiness, ultra-pervertica and enough hyper-trashy titillation to kill a herd of horses. Isn't it? Oh, yes! You know all about Crosbie's exhibitionist need to strut her callous stuff in utter disregard for both the living and the dead, don't you? Yup! You know the score and what's more, you know that's no book nor, come to think of it, is that thing a poem, either. Look at it! It's a sick and twisted manifesto penned by some psycho-doll, for gawd's sake.
Right, right! You're absolutely right. There, there. Now, now. Doesn't everyone feel better?
But, guess what? That's exactly how poems work and that's exactly why this particular found poem works so brilliantly.
You're compelled to read it because it concerns a series of tragic victims snuffed out by the monsters known commonly as Ken & Barbie and officially as Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo. You're compelled to read it because it definitely concerns you, your family, your community and your deeply held sense of decency and self-respect. So you're compelled to devour the sickly little strophe and yes, you might even sneer a little as you begrudgingly acknowledge there may be more than meets the eye.
Some call it art; others call it murder; all agree Crosbie hits the bull's-eye.
The irregular cinquain pivots upon the repetitively rhythmic "remember" set among a telling sequence of verbs (be, save, kill). Its sole technical curio exists in rhyming "Paul" with "all" which, in Homolka's case, serves both to reinforce and undermine the gruesome truth squeezed between these pukifying lines of personal betterment.
By transferring the sicko's D-I-Y doctrine ( l'objet trouvé) from a non-literary context to a poetic one, the Torontonian's objet d'art disembrangles the proverbial red flag from the horns of a dilemma as ancient as creation, as ubiquitous as ozone and as familiar as dirt.
And, yes, it is quite true Aristotle extolled the spectatorial virtues of arousing terror, fear or pity through aesthetic experience to effect catharsis (positive purgation). It is equally true that high tragedy plays to the audience's collective emotional consciousness to achieve closure by encouraging vicarious and sympathetic identification with the protagonist, usually a noble character in possession of a tragic flaw. Still, what happens when the leading lady isn't a tragic figure at all, when she is, in fact, a monstrous misfit? Hubris? Hardly adequate (unless psychopathic narcissism is now considered just another flaw).
Well, what then?
Horror. That's what. Terror addresses the sublime and yields to catharsis; horror reveals the sub species slimicus and leads to hell in all its brittle visions and blinding manifestations, self-improvement division. Homolka's list encapsulates the way in which civilization comes to terms with a concentration camp of human emotions while admitting of incomprehensible atrocities in the name of love's festering evil.
In illuminating the unconscionable, "Queen Rat" scours the pits of human nature and packs her gruesome discoveries with repugnant punches that break teeth, smash jaws, blacken eyes and wreak helter-skelterdom upon notions of good versus evil, love versus hate and horror versus terror: "Be a perfect girlfriend for Paul . . . Save yourself. Kill them all."
That's some improvement, Doll. Judith Fitzgerald's latest poetry collection is Twenty-Six Ways Out of This World .