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The Killjoy Critics Generate and Translate Modern Poems

Anyone who knows anything about good modern poetry knows that the point is utter confusion and depression. Though poets such as Bryn Homuth have tried to bring sense, hope, and wit back into modern poems, we Killjoy Critics firmly believe history is moving toward chaos and that our poetry should do the same. It has so happened that two modern Killjoy Critics have penned poems in past month, each doing so with different techniques.

Sam Snow practices the art of "generating" modern poems. Upon finding a webisite that generates random words, the esteemed Mr. Snow pens such mighty work like the following gems:

"$hocking Divorce"
$hocking divorce, ransom,

heartbroken frog
caressed neck
biblical la$$o
blasted parasite, alienated,
the audacity of perverts
beauty of OXEN IN CITIES
the bu$$ine$$ of iguanas
(me) it's about (me!)
I am
I am an amnesiac.

--Sam Snow, 10 October 2014  

"Savage Beekeeper"
Savage beekeeper, awful kidnapper

​​Destroy, disbeliever
Tongue droppings create
awful existence.

--Sam Snow, 16 October 2014 

The esteemed R. Eric Tippin has also written some interesting works of late. Now, his method differs in that he writes a poem in plain English, translates that poem to a different language (usualy Latin, I believe), and then translates it back to English. As you will see, this process improves his poetry in every way, conforming it to sound Killjoy principles.


The Orginal version of "I Wrote this poem like a lightening bolt"
I wrote this poem like a lightening bolt,
But it wasn’t good enough for general consumption—man or beast.
So I put it in a grinder, and out came a beast.
I thought “This is equivocation and possibly irony, though I didn’t listen in school.”
Now my poem has upward mobility in the sublime groves of acadaimia—
Ah! I have used a banality.

The translated, final, version, titled "Like a song, I wrote"
Like a song I wrote, bolts,
Again, it is common enough to the end of the - the disappearance of a man and a beast of burden.
Size and I speak, I went out, and is an animal.
I thought, "that is to say, at all, in an equivocal sense irony, in the school , and have not hearkened unto me."
She now is with this in the deep forests move both up acadaimia-
Ah! Banality, from which I have used.

--R. Eric Tippin, 10 October 2014

The Orginal version of "Tanya":
Tanya sat alone—like the oldest tortoise in a clan.
Tanya sat musing—not to be confused with amusing (That would be mean to Tanya).
Tanya grew older—like the earth in space and time.
Tanya met death—like a stranger at a mixer.
Tanya declined.

And the translated version:
Tanya sat alone—as in the most ancient tortoise, by the children .
Tanya was sitting—and perhaps he is talking, he shall not be jumbled together with the license (it would be to the middle of Tanya).
As an adult—in the land of Tanya centuries.
Tanya is being cut off—as in strange.
In a mixer Tanya declined.
--R. Eric Tippin, 16 October 2014

Sam Snow,
Written in The Catacombs,
Kansas State University,
October 10th and 16th, 2014

Painting: "A Philosopher-Poet"
Jusepe de Ribera
Oil on canvas, 17th c.


Ambler, No. 29 [On Trans-Scribes and Their Work]

It must needs be a barren Profession to confine unto that of drawing of teeth -- Sir Thomas Browne

Those brave souls who not only suffer through weeks of my muddled prose but also make their way to the end of each essay will notice that slight changes have taken place. Now, a change in a thing may seem slight to a man on the outside but be a much bigger deal to the man who has actively undergone the change. If, for example, a man is married, there is a very real sense in which his wife will request that he remove his mustache. Never mind that the wife may be unaware of the gravity of such a request; never mind the mustache sits atop the upper lip of the man with the same elegance and authority as a cat sitting atop a mantle, looking out upon those who are beneath him; never mind that the man who dawns a mustache is usually the funniest man in the room; never mind all these things, and mind for once the man who is chastised for dawning such an emblem of magisterial authority; mind the fact that when the man is asked, nay commanded, by his wife to discard his mustache, that it is like taking away the wizard’s staff or chopping the trunk off an elephant; mind that though we always do a double--if not triple--take at the man newly shaved of his mustache, that though those on the outside of the situation are certainly uncomfortable, they are not nearly as uncomfortable as the man without his mustache. For change, be it good or bad, is always felt the most from within.

As I was saying, the brave souls who actually read these ravings have more than likely noticed a significant change over the course of the last month; they have noticed that since "Ambler, No. 20 [On Townism]" a certain Adam the Scribe has graced his presence in this series of essays as my majestic trans-scribe.


A trans-scribe is a very handy thing to have. My faithful followers will know that perhaps nothing gets under my skin more than staring at a computer screen; thus, each of these Amblers has been written by hand with the inevitable problem of both having an audience and not putting my work online. Consequently, the horrendous task of trans-scribing my work takes place each week. There may be no task under the sun so laborious and frustrating as the task of trans-scribing one’s own work. It inevitably happens when one trans-scribes his own writing that he inevitably chastises himself for writing such horrid thoughts in such a loquacious way and yet expects the reading public to accept it. In short, trans-scribing a man’s work makes you relatively intimate with that work, and a man should never be too attached to his own work.

That said, I was chewing the fat one day with a co-worker this past summer, and we lamented the terrible process of applying to American Ph.D. programs. That academics are arrogant may be best noted in the insane variety of application processes one finds at the institutions of indoctrination called universities. I for one am altogether too lazy to bother with the process to do it too many times over, and so to sum up, as I was mulling this over with my colleague, I decided on that fateful day that I desperately needed a secretary. There is too little praise given to secretaries in this country. They do work that many a woman can do but that no man will last ten minutes doing. I say, National Secretary Day should be a national holiday for secretaries, with a parade in their honor. If we took just one day of the year and had every secretary paraded through the towns like the queens they are, then we would know the true value of secretaries. Imagine bounding into the dentist’s office only to find to your horror that Dr. Molar is behind the desk attempting to answer the phone humanely and schedule an appointment on a schedule he cannot seem to place; imagine Dr. Crown scribling some furious note to the hygienist about how he has just received news that Johnny (poor Johnny is always picked on) is allergic to fluoride; imagine the hygienists, in this moment of peril, trying to make sense of the words and searching for Dr. Crown who has fled the scene and gone to the parade to beg that his secretary return before Dr. Molar gives Johnny Susie’s braces and puts Susie's crown on Johnny.

As I was saying, the need for a secretary was great but it came with two problems. First, a secretary is usually a woman, and more importantly I have no means to pay a secretary, and really what I needed was a trans-scribe who could save me the trouble of writing these essays twice.


Now a good trans-scribe has many qualities. He must be both punctual and careful in his work. A man with a trans-scribe is always liable to being unfairly maligned and depicted, for a trans-scribe may easily misquote the author. But I have said it somewhere else, and I think it is true that our society needs more pointless jobs. Why just the other day I was told that the cameras atop the traffic lights were not taking pictures of men who neglected to stop but were instead directing the flow of traffic through some awful algorithm. Now we moan and complain about the lack of jobs in this country, and then we don’t do the sensible thing. We don’t tear down the cameras and replace them with men. How much more excitement would intersections accrue if instead of a silly camera directing traffic a man attempted it? If all our intersections had men running them, it may cause so much consternation that we would finally do away with the dreadful automobile once and for all.

In any case, I decided that I would advertise for a trans-scribe, and believe it or not someone responded to my call, and since then I have had to get a new trans-scribe, though I bear no ill-will towards the last. Any man who undertakes such a job for me will forever be praised. For I am not sure I will ever be able to function again without a trans-scribe. And this reminds me that I was going to discuss the good qualities of a scribe.

Now, a good trans-scribe asks no questions about the content he is trans-scribing. A trans-scribe who quarrels with his boss about the nature of the content is over-stepping his boundaries. If he misquotes his boss, then I say the author has every right to compose scathing poems to the scribe as Chaucer did to his. No, a good trans-scribe will do the work like Bartleby, Mellville’s famous scrivener. He will come in and do the work without any qualms, only questioning whether a word is what it appears to be on the page. He can, of course, offer suggestions as to the choice of words or their arrangement, so that the author does not sound like a complete idiot in having chosen the wrong word. In my case, I hold there needs to be more men writing as the old days--by hand, and that old occupation of scribe work should reemerge from the ashes. There ought to be more Bartleby’s out there, though this comes with a catch. For if one has a scribe in the line of Bartleby, he should never request him to do something he prefers not to do and run the risk of that scribe preferring to not even scribe. He even runs the risk of that scribe making a home out of his desk, which in the case of my trans-scribe and his desk would make for an awfully small abode.

Sam Snow,
Written in The Catacombs,
Kansas State University,
October 12, 2014

Transcribed by Adam the Scribe II
In The Catacombs of KSU,
October 14, 2014

Painting: "The Scribe"
By George Cattermole,
Oil on Millboard, n.d.


Fantasy Football


The name might call to mind a contest
between two teams of some fictional race,
as though dwarves or elves aligned
toe-to-toe on a snow-speckled field
in a land not our own. 

And wouldn’t a wizard be under center,
with his command of the material world,
an incantation or wave of wand
to send pigskin into outstretched hands? 

How alike it is to the lure of a book, the practice
allowing one to inhabit a far-off gridiron
as a player would,
to crouch and dig knuckles into grass or turf,
to growl fog through a facemask,
to crunch pad against pad—a battle
where the only arms
hang from the collar. 

But this, after all, is fantasy, and detachment
means only the click of a mouse, until
another rung appears on technology’s ladder,
a simulator, a vicarious leap
beyond that of mere observation,
where the magic of the score becomes palpable—
their touchdowns your triumph,
their bruises fresh,
your own.

Bryn Homuth
The lone ticketholder in the stands of some virtual field, Minnesota
October 13, 2014 

Oil on Canvas - 1879
William Barns Wollen 


Ambler, No. 28 [On My Old Bones]

The Egyptian mummies that I have seen, have had their mouths open, and somewhat gaping, which affordeth a good opportunity to view and observe their teeth. -- Sir Thomas Browne

Dear Sir,*

At this very moment I have on my desk an old dictionary, cracked open to the O’s. It seems the issue you have brought to my attention concerning my old bones is a matter of definition. But before I define a thing I must bring to my readers’ attention the fundamental creed I live by: I wish in all things to be as unlike my generation as possible. For my generation, as I see it, does little but chase after the current material fad until they are bored with it or until some other salesman stops by with a “new” gadget that promises to fulfill their vain lives for the next two weeks. It is, of course, foolish to say that old people are not equally as bored as our youth, but at the very least, they are not roaming around and telling everyone how bored they are. And the problem really persists because my generation has been told that there actually is something “new under the sun.” They actually believe that modern scientists are saying something new when they preach the primordial soup theory as our origin. They do not seem to take into account the serious difficulty of this being both a new and true philosophy. It seems to me the old amphibian who emerged from the soup would be more knowledgeable about the soup than the scientist. The real beauty of those old ages is that scientists could actually say things that were new; they were not so hung up on the past. If evolution is true, it is anything but new. If it is new, I seriously doubt it could be true.

Nevertheless, we are told that every modern theory is a new theory, as if the Sophists and the Gnostics did not exist, as if every twenty-year-old atheist is striking out on his own as some unfettered free-thinker. But the twenty-year-old atheist is as old as Sennacherib or Protagoras; fighting the Christian God is as old as the dawn of man--we’ve been doing it since we ate the apple. And so when these newfangled atheists strut around as if they are doing something new, I cannot help but think they are proving the exact opposite. To say a thing is “new” is to say it is either lately made or lately discovered: atheism is neither of those things. It has been made ever since Lucifer made himself God; it can no more be discovered than can a void in space. But what I really hear the young atheists saying today is that they are “new” in the same way that modern cars are new--that is, they are somehow different than what came before them: in their case, their ancestors. Never mind the fact that they really are no different from their religious ancestors; never mind that they proselytize and preach just as much, if not more, than their religious associates; let us play their game; let us say they are different, that each individual atheist is both distinct from his brethren and unlike his ancestors.

Though I should point out the incredible arrogance that comes from believing your philosophy trumps six-thousand years of thought, I will refrain. I will give the new atheist the benefit of the doubt and then ask him why. Why, on earth, would the new atheist cringe at being called arrogant (or racist or sexist or narrow-minded)? I have never understood why an atheist cares about any single moral precept except the ones that told us to eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die. But then I do suppose the new atheist is trying to distinguish himself from the Epicureans and Hedonists; I suppose too he is probably closer to Christianity than he thinks when he finds more pleasure in monarchy than anarchy, more pleasure in meaning than nihilism, more pleasure in virtue than vice. But given all this he still has not actually answered my question other than he wants to be a different type of atheist--one who can have his cake and eat it too. But then we’ve only really arrived at where we’ve started. If nothing is essentially good about being new and different then why all this rigmarole about the evils of conformity, and, perhaps more importantly, why are all atheists exactly the same?

It seems to me that the more modern man goes on about individuality and not conforming to the dominant culture the more these silly subcultures--in wanting to be unique--conform to each other. Take, for instance, the modern insistence that students have unique voices, and we should not stifle their voices by teaching them the proper way to write and speak because that was handed down by white male suppressors. We stress this until we are blue in the face and then come to find that no student ever really says anything unique. Is it no wonder that, due to their decreased vocabulary, a certain word beginning with the letter F is used as an adjective, noun, verb, and gerund and all in the same sentence? As a culture we think of the fifties as a time of horrible conformity because our natural tendency is to look at the surface and not the soul of a man. The Renaissance--that horrible period dominated by classical learning and white, male supremacy--created far more varied and unique literatures than our day ever will. And this notion of conformity is the very reason why I depict myself as a man with old bones.

For I long to conform as little as possible with my generation, and I only use the characterization as a depiction of my physical capabilities in a secondary sense, so to fit in with the nature of narrative. I, of course, do not have old bones in the sense that they are aged, nor would I want that. Why, a few months ago I was visiting my grandmother and thought to myself how sad it was she could not throw rocks or amble in the woods. But in the sense that my old bones represent my desire to simply not be new, I thus characterize myself. There is a very real sense (I have noted it elsewhere) that the world is actually very old and those men and philosophies that came before us are actually the products of a young and spritely world. The new world was a world where men sacrificed unblemished lambs to an unseen deity, not a world where unborn children were sacrificed by unwed mothers. We live in a world grown old, a world that longs for the freshness and vitality, the wonder and joy, of a world newly created. But the vain technologies of our age give us the sense of wonder and creativity, the sense of uniqueness and novelty, when really it’s nothing new under the sun; it’s warped or dried up under the sun, like a man’s skin left out too long. Today we get giddy that we can face-chat China; we forget that the medieval man could chat with the dead. We tell ourselves that because a thing has never been done physically that that proves improvement. As if building the tallest gallows was an improvement on creating fewer criminals. And in this sense I am perfectly fine with my old bones. I suppose that, to answer your objection in a much more succinct way, I wish I was born in a different time period. It is certainly over dramatic for me to say, but a part of me would certainly much rather take on the Black Death and the corrupt Popes than to ever stand in a circle of modern, moralizing atheists telling me that I’m a sexist pig or a narrow-minded bigot. They of course never tell this to your face but instead post it on Facebook--the old world that has become our new reality.

Samuel Snow

Sam Snow,
Written in Super Black India Ink,
Manhattan, KS
October 5, 2014

Transcribed by Adam the Scribe II
At Kansas State University,
October 7, 2014

Painting: "An Old Man in an Armchair"
By Rembrandt van Rijn
Oil on Canvas, 1650s

*This post is written in response to a critic whom I greatly respect. The objection to my constant references to my old bones can be found here.


Zambian Men and Zambian Tea

I am writing my Master's Project on the work of Rudyard Kipling, and, as a part of my preparation, I was asked to write an imitation of his prose. Now, Kipling is one of the tightest, most exact, concrete prose stylists I know, so any imitation of mine is, by default, going to be full of fault. Still, I tried. As my setting, I chose an experience I had in Zambia, Africa when I was sixteen.

Just so you know what to look for, Kipling tends to write using odd, unfamiliar, specific words. He doesn't use many similes ("as a wet blanket", "like the wolf on the fold" . . . etc). Also, he tends to use "syndeton" in which the writer connects his phrases using quite a few ands and thens. For a sampling of Kipling's prose click here or here, but certainly not here.

So, without further ado, I present my imitation of Kipling's prose and dialogue . . .

The others lay curled with African food-pain in Kalmo. I sat in a concrete window seat, a bowl thrust at me steaming with heaped shema and rancid kapenta fish. Bare black feet padded toward me and ashy hands offered something in a carton to wash down the corn meal mush—a citrus milk-drink, lumpy on bottom and sour on top. I heard warbly Zambian larks, monkey’s scream, and the buzz of the fat bush fly.

Most of the boys spoke Tonga, but when they approached me they formed round, open English words smiling white.

“Do you like Fidy Cent? You like your food? It isn’t rice; we don’t bring rice here. Tomorrow we’ll swim.”

“Do you listen to Fifty Cent?”

“Yes! We do.”

“Do you understand what he’s saying?” I scraped a bite from the bowl. It was crawling with the silver kapenta, their tiny sides carved out by flies in the market that day. The boys didn’t answer this question, and I tried another. “What other American singers do you like?”

“Bob Marley.”

I forced the food down under their eager eyes, and drank the milk, curdles and all. Then the setting sun filtered through a tree and caught the dust suspended around us, and my hosts took away the scraped bowl and hollow carton to sluice my dish with leafy, luke-warm water from the creek. I lay my head on the concrete, and hoped my food-luck would hold. Though I wanted to try the bright green or blue Energade in the eight ounce, scratched-plastic, pliant, bottles, the accompanying symptoms did not warrant the risk. Next came the tea—English breakfast (far better in Zambia than in England) with one or two “good good”s from a bottle of warm milk. The kettle was community, but the visiting mukuwa (to that mukuwa’s embarrassment) had the first pour from it. I drank it piping with one spoonful of brown cane sugar; as I drank, the older boys around talked in rolling Tonga, while the smaller wrestled in the dust by the fire.

And then came the night and the wail of peacocks, and the bump of the boys’ cassette boombox in the next tent, the hum of insects, and the distant “hhh” of the breeze through the elephant trees, all at intervals between sleep. And the waking to a far off roar. And sleeping again. And the waking to boys’ muted laughs. And the sleeping again. Then the morning broke, hot and dusty in and out of my tent. There were stories of a boy—an orphan with a record—sneaking out that night smoking tumphy by the river. At this the missionary looked sad. “It is difficult for them to escape their old lives,” he said. 

The boy looked shame-faced and repentant in the morning light, so it wasn’t mentioned again.

When the sun rose hotter and hotter the boys swam—bare as their first day—in the sludge and water of the sometimes eddying, mostly sitting still, green-brown, vaporous creek. It smelled of lichen and rotting fish, and I imagined its other uses in the village farther up stream. They called the mukuwa down to swim with them, but being sixteen and white as cotton, he felt ashamed. So I asked, “Can I wear mukuwa swim trunks and then join you?” They only laughed and climbed a leaning, spare-lumber, rickety tower built by the river for a zip line platform and anchor. They yelled at their mukuwa to climb the tower with his soft white hands and “Drink no more tea!” Resolved, I worked my cup in the dirt so it would stay, donned trunks, and climbed the tower, which trembled coltishly.

The tumphy boy from the night before held the zip handle and laughed at the gangly mukuwa scaling the leaning tower. I splashed up pea-green moss like the rest, and after a try or two more, returned to my tea—I never needed to make my own—wedged in the dust. 

That night, when the other mukuwas arrived, we spoke of becoming men:

“Why, I took my son onto a dirt road and left him. I told him to walk and to trust me, I said, ‘you just meet me at the end of this road,’ I said. I did too.” This was the seasoned traveler among us, leaning back, sipping clean Energade and nibbling a saltine. The darkness sat very near the fire. “Well, when he walked long enough he found me by a fire, like this one. I told him he was a now a man, and would someday protect his wife like I protect his mother.”

“The men here see it as dishonor to be seen with their wives in public,” said the missionary, “though the church is making strides toward a better way. In Lusaka things are different.”



Then I remembered. I needed to ask where they bought their tea and if it sat on shelves at home. He told me, but the only word that has stayed in my mind is “rose,” and the red package, and yellowed bags—tea of the commonwealth to make Cecil Rhodes proud.

Then the time in the bush ended with a hot, joyful ride over potholes (and a few sections of road), a western meal in Livingston, a dry-season waterfall, a syrupy Coke with a slice of lemon, a canvas hotel, a woman screaming at a monkey for theft, a monkey screaming at a woman for pleasure, more tea, more raw cane, more “good good”s from milk jugs, more shema and over-ripe milk, thatch over our heads, wall spiders we weren’t allowed to squash with our shoes, icy showers from the downspout of a rain barrel, and, finally, Energade in the Johannesburg airport—tanzanite blue in its bottle. It was better than Gatorade but was not up to the rose tea, which I have not found the like of since, whether at home or abroad.


R. Eric Tippin
"The Wee Nook," Kansas State University
September 20, 2014 

"African Villiage"
Oil on Canvas - Date Unknown
Thomas J. Wani 

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