What Can We Steal From Heather Dubrow’s “Interview by the Board, or, Barking up the Wrong Hydrant”?

Title of Work and its Form: “Interview by the Board, or, Barking up the Wrong Hydrant,” poem
Author: Heather Dubrow
Date of Work: 2013
Where the Work Can Be Found:  The poem appears in the Spring 2013 issue of Asinine Poetry.  You can find the poem here.

Bonuses:  Here are the books that Ms. Dubrow has published, some of them scholarship and some of them creative writing.  Here is an intelligent review of Ms. Dubrow’s book Forms and Hollows. If you have access to JSTOR through your library–aren’t libraries great?–you can read an essay about the Sonnets that Ms. Dubrow wrote for Shakespeare Quarterly.

Element of Craft We’re Stealing: Inspiration

Discussion:

This brief poem begins with a snippet from the New York Times.  Apparently, co-op boards have now taken to interviewing pets before allowing their owners into the building.  Ms. Dubrow then offers an example of what that interview might sound like.

Ms. Dubrow is a fascinating woman.  I thought I recognized her name from somewhere when I read the poem and I must have stumbled upon her scholarship along the way.  I adore people like Ms. Dubrow, who are full citizens of two important words; Ms. Dubrow helps us understand what literature means and creates it herself.  I also foster not-so-secret desires to be an Elizabethan/Shakespeare/Early Modern scholar myself, in part because all of the people I know who are in the field are incredibly FUN and DEDICATED.  Ms. Dubrow displays some of this playfulness in this poem.  In a way, Ms. Dubrow is honoring writers such as Shakespeare and Jonson and Marlowe because she finds inspiration in the mundane things around her.   Shakespeare didn’t have the Internet or newspapers as we know them, but he was always tossing in references to current events or celebrities or other writers.  Ms. Dubrow found humor in an article from the Times and shared her flash of amusement with us.  Were Shakespeare writing today, would he be sharing his wit on Twitter?  (I’m curious as to what real scholars think.)

The questions and answers in Ms. Dubrow’s poem are offered in a sing-songy musical theater style.  Compare these lines:

Q: In elevators are you subdued?
A: Those growling kids are much more rude.

To the lines from the Monorail song from that classic episode of The Simpsons:

Miss Hoover: I hear those things are awfully loud.
Lyle Lanley: It glides as softly as a cloud.
Apu: Is there a chance the track could bend?
Lyle Lanley: Not on your life, my Hindu friend.
Barney: What about us brain-dead slobs?
Lyle Lanley: You’ll all be given cushy jobs.

The lines of both examples are imbued with easy-to-detect meter and rhyme.  This light-hearted approach is appropriate for both works.  Conan O’Brien and the other Simpsons writers were trying to recreate the fun of musicals such as The Music Man.  Ms. Dubrow offers us the fanciful image of a dog climbing into a chair and speaking to a co-op board.  The poem is very short, so Ms. Dubrow didn’t bog the piece down with a complicated structure or form.  (Not to mention the fact that it appears in a magazine called Asinine Poetry.)  Ms. Dubrow’s approach to this piece is perfectly fitting–she invited us into the Times‘ world of “talking dogs” and left us quickly and with happy hearts.

What Should We Steal?

  • Find inspiration in everything around you, not just the most explicitly poetic.  There is humor and joy and sadness in the everyday, even if the object of your inspiration doesn’t really deserve a 2,000-word essay.
  • Match the mete, rhyme and diction of your piece to its subject matter.   A “silly” piece deserves to be examined in that same “silly” spirit.

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