Foreword: The Biography of Devin “The Dupe” As Recollected By Those Who Saw Him for the Last Time at AWP
I don’t even know what I’m doing here anymore.
—Devin “The Dupe” on the final day of AWP.
“The Dupe” attended a panel on Jonathan Franzen’s work
but left after 10 minutes
because he felt no one had the right
to title their book Perchance to Dream—
especially in the post-modern age.
“The Dupe” said: “Dreams are so Wordsworth,
but now they’re no longer worth any words.
Dreams died on Black Tuesday.
Dreams died when they dropped The Bomb.
Dreams died after the 2016 election,
and dreams will die today,
when those who flew 2000 miles
find themselves without an agent or book contract.
‘Well, at least, they know my name, so when I write to them...’”
“The Dupe” lamented that “He poets too hard for this kind of treatment—
no panel, no agent, no contract.”
At least, he was the lucky owner
of the North-South-West-East-Southwestern
Easterly Experimental Poetry Journal, published
by a Low-Residency MFA Program in El Paso, Texas.
On the last day,
“The Dupe’s” tote bag was full of books—
he couldn’t take anymore.
At booth nine, he had to reject
an offer to join the MA program
in Trilingual Translation
with an emphasis in Kama Sutra Linguistics
because he was already an MFA student,
but he gladly took a shoot glass and t-shirt
that featured their university logo.
“The Dupe” also promised to send work
to their student-run literary journal, Electric Pineapples,
even though he’d never heard of the very famous
language poet, a.h. vickerstaff, or anyone else who appeared
in the latest issue of Electric Pineapples.
“The Dupe” took a copy of Electric Pineapples
and promised to read a.h. vickerstaff’s
very famous poem, “Electric Pineapples,” on page 37.
“The Dupe” left soon after and this was the last time
anyone saw him alive—at least as an author.
Prologue: Devin “The Dupe” Who Was Once a Man, But Died When He Became an Author
This is great text, but horrible work.
Pure genius; this is real shit.
Devin “The Dupe” was an author,
at least that’s who he wanted to be.
Scholars can now confirm this fact
because they’ve uncovered peer-reviewed
evidence that clearly establishes
the fact Devin “The Dupe” said the following:
“I’m dying to be an author; that’s all I hope for.”
To this day, critics debate whether “The Dupe’s”
wish actually came true,
because all authors are dead,
and no one can say—at least with some certainty—
whether “The Dupe” is really dead or not.
Suffice it to say:
Many authors who are now dead,
and teach at various MFA programs
had told “The Dupe” not to end
sentences with prepositions
because it is a bad omen
and has nothing to do with English grammar.
“The Dupe” responded by citing
the bestselling American novelist
of the 20th century, Winston Churchill:
“This is something up with which I will not put.”
“The Dupe” was both correct and incorrect
in his now infamous attack on the antiquated
Latin grammatical rule which doesn’t
actually apply to English,
because Winston Churchill did, in fact,
utter said phrase, and it is, in fact,
correct English grammar to end
sentences with prepositions;
it must be said, however, that “The Dupe”
was also wrong, because it was, in fact, the former
British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill,
who uttered those words and not
the bestselling American author, Winston Churchill,
who did, in fact, exist, but since he was an author,
we can safely consider him dead,
and the British Prime Minister even more so,
because he did, in fact, win a Nobel Prize in Literature,
and the American bestselling author, Winston Churchill,
in fact, had no such accomplishment.
In fact. In fact. In fact. In fucked.
And so, because Winston Churchill was a more famous
author than Winston Churchill,
Winston Churchill is more dead than Winston Churchill,
because all authors are now dead.
This concludes the prologue of Devin “The Dupe,”
a man who was once alive,
but died when he became an author.
Chapter I: Devin “The Dupe” Receives His First Prompt as an MFA Student Which is Formatted as a Poem and This Frustrates “The Dupe.”
“Write an epic poem that’s a love letter to your ex,
but is actually about severed friendships
and broken guitars.
Make the poem more difficult
than it has be, so it can be read
over and over without being grasped,
for Thomas Edward Stearns Eliot of Arabia,
also known as TSA Eliot,
once said ‘Genuine men can communicate
before they’re understood—
that’s the secret
of experimental relationships.’
Use these words randomly:
badger, cortex, miscreants,
mushrooms, and can.
About half way through,
introduce yourself into the poem,
but only refer to yourself in the third person;
at this point the poem should make absolutely
no sense and enter the phase academics
call “total experimental.”
When you think the reader is utterly lost,
return to the starting topic
and write sentences in iambic pentameter—
you’re an epic poet now, so own it.
And just because you can—
and we know you can
because your MFA advisor made you do it,
define ‘poetry’ somewhere in the poem.
Chapter II: Devin “The Dupe” Writes His First Workshop Poem and Ceases to be a Man Because He Has Become an Author and Died
August 25th, 2014
Workshop Poem #1
The strings weren’t vibrating properly
because there wasn’t enough distance
between the frets and the strings.
Jerry tried fixing the guitar himself,
but ended up purchasing another one instead.
Jerry’s roadies thought of themselves
as hardworking people;
they never believed anyone
who called them lazy,
but since they were too slow
no one would ever admit this.
Another reason for their idleness
was that they wouldn’t fix
any of Jerry’s instruments.
The day his guitar broke,
Jerry became bored and wrote a short poem:
America, your transparent clothes
are the reason why no one can
see through your poems.
After writing this,
Jerry went to the can and slipped—
immediately the badger appeared,
staring like an overweight sumo wrestler.
The badger sang:
My name is Mao,
but I’m not afraid of capitalism.
When Jerry finally opened his eyes,
he was dragged out
by Devin “The Dupe,”
who was his roadie
and also a hippy Renaissance man
from the mean streets
of Humboldt Country that planted
magic mushrooms in the backyard
of his uncle’s home
in order to intoxicate people
with the drugs that Mother Earth
had so generously provided
for savants like Devin “The Dupe”
and his entire gang of truant miscreants—the Vigilante Treehuggers.
Jerry was happy to see “The Dupe.”
“The Dupe” and Jerry left the studio
and went to Mo’s Guns and Guitars
to buy weapons
and replace other instruments
his roadies had broken:
a .44 Smith and Wesson revolver;
three American Fender Stratocasters;
two M1 sniper rifles with extra bullets;
and a packet of picks.
Jerry walked behind “The Dupe”
as they exited the shop,
and Jerry knew that “The Dupe’s” asshole
was bigger than the crater
of Mount Kilimanjaro,
but Jerry quickly forgot about this
and started thinking of mountains that weren’t volcanoes;
Jerry called this phenomenon “intertextuality.”
“Do you like to hear what I have written so far?” Jerry asked.
I couldn’t wait until the intervention was over so I could go straight up to my room, roll another fat number, and down a can of Old English.
“The Dupe” didn’t respond.
Jerry, who was a raging alcoholic,
always became a devout Christian when he swallowed
seven blotters of White Lightning LSD
and saw the superhuman baby Jesus.
Jerry always became a sober-again atheist
right after the drugs wore off.
Around this time, Jerry’s girlfriend, Amy,
called him and said,
“I don’t need your alimony checks
because I’m marrying an old CEO
who’ll support me and my cats.”
Amy, who’s been a militant vegan since 19,
never suffered a vitamin deficiency.
Jerry, who met her around that time,
always coordinated secret barbeques
and managed to sneak tiny pieces of meat
into Amy’s food, mainly to raise her Vitamin B12 levels,
but also to see if he could get away with it—
naturally, Amy never noticed
because her body was craving Vitamin B12.
Amy, despite being vegan,
loved to wear Soviet trench coats
in the sweltering heat of Death Valley—
the ones officers donned proudly in Siberia,
along with alligator skin underwear
and baggy pants made out of Chihuahua fur—
all to keep Jerry from impregnating her.
“Kids are like laxatives—they irritate the crap out of you,” Amy said.
Back in the studio,
Jerry was still trying
to fix his broken guitars,
while “The Dupe” was busy working
on experimental poetry and also his new book:
The Breasts of Aphrodite with Greek and Italian History and Poetics.
“The Dupe” showed Jerry some excerpts from the book:
The Breasts of Aphrodite are actually two hills which are located in Mykonos, Greece and, in fact, really do look like female breasts.
The biggest misconception about Italy is that everybody writes in italics; this is an unfortunate misconception, and quite racist, according to the Pope.
Poetry: Noun: The branch of literature where authors profess their undying love to a beautiful woman with excessively heightened language written on 30lb premium Hallmark cardstock because they have no balls to go up and actually talk to this beautiful vixen.
One who deceives will always find those who allow themselves to be deceived.
Jerry put the manuscript down
and accused “The Dupe” of stealing
the last line from Machiavelli.
“The Dupe” said that he couldn’t have stolen
from Machiavelli because Machiavelli was dead.
Jerry reminded “The Dupe” about God’s
commandment, “Thou shalt not steal.”
“The Dupe” said God can’t be the author
of this commandment because Nietzsche stated that “God is dead.”
Jerry was furious and told “The Dupe”
that Machiavelli had written The Prince
and he had plagiarized from it.
“The Dupe” said it didn’t matter
who wrote The Prince because Roland Barthes
stated that “the author is dead,”
and it didn’t matter that he plagiarized
from Machiavelli because every author dies.
Jerry cursed “The Dupe”
and told him that he still wasn’t dead.
“The Dupe” accused him of being
hostile to post-structuralism.
Chapter III: “The Dupe” Torpedoes the MFA Prompt and Goes Renegade, Thus Entering Uncharted Experimental Poetic Territory as His Epic Poem, “The Experiment,” Rolls On
The book’s dust jacket of his debut book—
as “The Dupe” imagined it—
would say many things,
but most importantly,
it would describe his love for sleeping and eating;
this was important, because the only way
he could write a poem
based on the professor’s prompt
was by utilizing the epic form, along with metapoetry;
that way, he could comment
on the injustices of such labors,
but, to accomplish this feat,
he needed to stay alive,
and, in order to stay alive,
he needed food and sleep.
“The Dupe” was a master of the epic form,
and he also dabbled in metapoetry as an undergrad;
however, “The Dupe” knew very well that lyric poetry
was in style because it usually fit
nicely on a single page
and took less time to write;
it was also easier to critique
in MFA workshops, but “The Dupe”
wasn’t fond of doing things “the easy way.”
“The Dupe” also knew that finance
played a big role in why MFA candidates
wrote lots of lyric poetry:
“Since it’s only a page or two,
candidates spend less money on printing
the poem for every student,
thereby leaving a smaller carbon footprint.”
“The Dupe” famously called this practice “ecopoetics.”
Amy (if you still remember her—
she’s Jerry’s ex and the Helen of this epic)
never could stand the fact
that “The Dupe” had to make copies
of his poem for every MFA student,
so she left Jerry’s band,
and joined up with a group of eco-terrorists
in the warm summer of 2014 to protest
“The Dupe’s” reckless printing habits.
“The Dupe” threatened Amy by telling her
that he would enroll in the fiction program,
where printing was an even bigger issue,
but Amy still wouldn’t stay; she ran off
to Northern California and enrolled
in the Eco-Terrorist Basic Training Course,
against Jerry’s will.
Around this time, Jerry found “The Dupe’s” journal
and began reading it without permission.
“The Dupe” would rather be doing
many other things—
like his Sport Chalet license plate cover says:
“I would rather be smoking, snorkeling, sleeping, sexting,
scuba diving, savoring succulent sauces,
sailing, and swimming in honey mustard.”
Everyone knows that “The Dupe” has always referred
to himself in the third person.
For years, “The Dupe” has asked Sport Chalet
to create a more inclusive license plate cover
that accommodates the third person.
For example, “‘The Dupe’ would rather be...”
but all of his attempts were in vain,
and he has, therefore, decided to start using
the more normative “I,” and acquiesce
to the hegemonic social structures.
[This section of the manuscript was badly damaged by a fire in “The Dupe’s” apartment. A large portion of his work survived because “The Dupe” was storing it in a vintage military footlocker—nobody knows why, especially the scholars. Classicists lamented the fact that the varnish on the footlocker was highly flammable and likely led to more damage, but they couldn’t draw any conclusive link between the varnish and the damage because there simply wasn’t enough research in APA format on this topic. Regardless, the best scholars in the field have attempted to restore the damaged pages but, unfortunately, their attempts were all unsuccessful. Scholars also bemoaned the fact that “The Dupe” simply played the fiddle while watching his apartment burn down, without trying to save his material, or even Amy, for that matter, but this is all off-topic and quite useless, because the fire was actually started by Amy to protest “The Dupe’s” fondness for excessive printing and the damage this was causing the environment. “The Dupe” never did make good on his threat to join the fiction program, but he was still writing epic poetry, much to the dismay of his fellow students who protested that their own poetry never had the chance to be workshopped. Two students ultimately dropped out in protest and enrolled in less “experimental” programs. The last time “The Dupe” heard from them, they were happily writing their lyric poems à la Rainer Maria Rilke, even though these programs gave them no funding whatsoever. The other students who stayed lamented the fact that their poems would probably never be workshopped again because “The Dupe” kept on writing his epics, but at least they wouldn’t have to go into debt for an MFA and, to this day, they mercilessly make fun of the two students who dropped out in protest and spent $30,000 on their MFAs, but actually got some helpful feedback once or twice.]
When Jerry’s dog went,
it usually went near his neighbor’s apple tree,
which began smelling very bad,
but it was okay because good apples
needed good fertilization.
Jerry’s neighbor was so sick of him
that he never said “hello” or “good morning,”
especially in the morning;
instead, his neighbor would look away
or ask, “Are you insane, Jerry?
Jerry cursed his neighbor, then took his dog inside
and opened “The Dupe’s” journal.
When Jerry was five years old,
he picked up a chewed piece of gum
off the floor and put it in his mouth.
(Write a stanza using the words “five,” and “gum.” Turn to page 5 of Mastering the Art of Experimental Poetry by dick vermeil for potent examples.)
Jerry put down the journal
and started wondering how “The Dupe,”
a miserable roadie, could ever know this.
He picked up the journal again.
Jerry’s father said nothing
because he wasn’t his real father.
Jerry’s real father left when he was born
and now he has a step-father
that pretends to be his real father
and Jerry doesn’t know this.
(Write a stanza in which you repeat the same word at least three times. See page 23 for step-by-step instructions by dick vermeil.)
“What an ungrateful prick.” Jerry thought.
“There’s no way my father was a stepfather.
After everything I’ve done for “The Dupe,” this is what
he thinks of me? I’ll show him.”
Jerry simply didn’t understand that “The Dupe” was only
following the instructions of the experimental poet, dick vermeil.
Jerry picked up the journal again.
Jerry’s father, who is actually his stepfather,
once told Jerry that researchers
at the University of Amsterdam
have concluded that smoking marijuana
while riding a bicycle stimulates cell division
in the brain (mainly in the cortex area)
and helps students with their math homework;
Jerry believed him.
(Write something while standing on one leg and then pull someone’s leg—do the former literally, and do the latter figuratively. See page 25 for dick vermeil’s tips on how to do this successfully.)
The smoking swimmer savored succulent sauces on the sailboat.
(Write a line with a lot of alliteration and assonance.)
I know that I know nothing at all
and I don’t even know who Socrates is, but if I know
that I don’t know who Socrates is,
how can I claim not to know anything at all?
(Write lines with circular logic.)
The truck was full of melons that were very flat.
(Write a line in which you incorporate a fruit. A fruit can be an image but it can also be a fruit. See dick vermeil’s note on page 156 for more on this dilemma.)
Everyone in “The Dupe’s” town
believed that flying saucers were real
because they never watched
a single episode of the Twilight Zone.
(Write exactly six lines after eating an organic pineapple with a fork—make sure not to use a spoon.)
[More damage occurred to the work when Amy received a tip from one of “The Dupe’s” disgruntled MFA classmates about the possible location of his literary stash. “The Dupe” had often bragged in workshops about setting the experimental poetry world on fire with his verses and began calling himself the “Homer of Humboldt County,” but Amy had other ideas about that. Jerry and “The Dupe” were just coming into the apartment after walking Jerry’s dog and found Amy, once again, with a torch in her hand—this time not trying to burn down the whole residence, but only “The Dupe’s” work. Jerry at once realized that Amy had become an environmentally conscious eco-terrorist and suddenly rediscovered his love for her, but it was too late. Jerry had to save his friend’s literary legacy because “The Dupe’s” computer was fried during the last fire that Amy had started; that’s why Jerry tackled Amy and wrestled the papers away from her before she could set the whole thing on fire. To smuggle the controversial works out of “The Dupe’s” apartment, Jerry was miraculously able to put them on microfilm and, against all odds, managed to get the stuff past Amy during the harsh winter of 2015. “The Dupe” would not live to see any of his epics published but, again, this is totally irrelevant because “The Dupe” knew that his professors were post-structuralists who believed that the author is dead anyways. This turned out to be problematic, of course, because Jerry remembered that “The Dupe” was a post-structuralist, so he erased “The Dupe’s” name and put his own name on everything. Now, Jerry is the author, even though the real author is dead. Jerry sleeps well at night because he convinces himself every morning that the name on the manuscript means nothing—only the text that gives rise to the author-function actually matters, and he took heroic steps to preserve this very thing from Amy’s fire. Jerry keeps convincing himself that he did exactly what Max Brod would’ve done, if Max Brod was a post-structuralist.
Chapter IV: Jerry Becomes an Author and Dies, Thus Contemplating His Own Mortality as a Dead Author of Music
Writing a song
was a very boring and difficult task,
mainly because all songs
consisted of words that had very subjective meanings,
which never seemed to make sense to Jerry.
What’s the différance between good songs
and bad songs?” Jerry suddenly asked himself,
but he never arrived at a good answer
because he was on a train to Las Vegas
and, at this point, he wasn’t at all sure
whether the train could realistically
negotiate the space
the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign;
Jerry started to wonder how many
authors had died because of train accidents.
Around this time, Jerry developed PTSD
and he couldn’t write a song to save his life,
but to prove that he didn’t have songwriter’s block,
he planned on killing himself
the next time he was in the studio.
His last hope was that his estate
would release a posthumous album,
“What is a Songwriter?”
because it no longer mattered to him
who wrote his songs,
just as long as there still was a “songwriter-function,”
and that his posthumous album sold very well—
like Jimi Hendrix’s albums.
Jerry never did believe that Hendrix
was the songwriter for any of his music.
Many songwriters wrote Hendrix’s music
and we should, therefore, not ask question like,
“Who really sings on ‘Purple Haze?’”
or, “Is it really Hendrix and not someone else?”
Instead, there would be other questions, like these:
“Did Hendrix have a breakfast burrito
just before he played
‘The Star Spangled Banner’ at Woodstock?”
“If so, what function might the burrito serve
in the subsequent failure
at the Isle of Wight?”
Yes, these were the questions
that Jerry started thinking about all the time.
And so, on and on it went between
the roadies in the band
and Jerry’s ego, where coyotes
and grizzly bears roamed
in the shadows of the night,
waiting to eat Jerry alive
when his roadies broke another guitar.
The now bearded Jerry said that life
was just a big dream
because we don’t know
how to discern between genuine Fenders
and generic guitar brands.
And since there’s also
Jerry said it’s equally pointless
to ask whether his guitars were made
by Leo Fender himself, or not.
Jerry said he should be content
with a piece of shit knock off
that doesn’t ever stay in tune,
because the only thing
that matters is the guitar-maker-function—
not the person who actually made the guitar.
“What difference does it make who made this guitar?”
Jerry screamed at the top of his lungs.
Time ran out for Jerry,
and his roadies didn’t want
to wait until the end.
Suddenly, it began to rain.
Jerry was expecting this,
so he grabbed his new journal—
mainly to nurse his anxiety,
but also use the alligator skin cover as an umbrella.
When it stopped raining,
Jerry opened his journal.
He was upset because none of the work
could match what “The Dupe” had written:
November 19, 1638
I saw a white dove in the bathroom of an MGM suite.
November 21, 1638
I heard mermaids singing to me in my neighbor’s dirty pool while on magic mushrooms.
November 22, 1638
I touched an elephant when it was tranquilized in the downtown district of the Serengeti.
November 23, 1638
When I went to Russia, everything smelled like vodka and the vodka smelled
November 24, 1638
The sign said “fine for parking here,” and since it was fine, I parked there but
still got a ticket.
November 25, 1638
I thought about why Congress renamed the Boulder Dam after a bad president, Herbert Hoover.
Epilogue: “The Dupe” Must Be an Author Because He’s Dead and it’s Impossible for Authors to be Alive.
It would, indeed, be erroneous to promulgate that “The Dupe” was an author—he was not. “The Dupe” was an author-function, meaning that he simultaneously wrote his work, and, at the same time, did not write it. When I met “The Dupe” in ’82, he was still a baby, and, therefore, alive, but as soon as he wrote this here epic poem, he became an author and died.
After the AWP, all the dead authors
who knew “The Dupe” filed a missing person’s report
with the police, hoping, at least to find
“The Dupe” as a person,
because they all knew that the author was dead.
Needless to say, the policeman who wrote the report
became an author of “The Dupe’s” missing person’s report
and, consequently, died after finishing the work.
The report was, hence, rendered useless
because what the author said regarding his own work
was of no significance and they had to rely
solely on the report because its author was dead,
even though the policemen who wrote it
was still very much alive and willing to comment
on his own work, but his testimony was rejected
by the French Post-Structural Police
on the grounds that none of what the author
said actually mattered to the text,
and this is why “The Dupe” was never found
again as a person or author.