Great Moments in Literary Theft: David Duchovny’s Red Speedo Poem


The year was 1995.  Hope was high and life was worth living.  “Google” meant a large number.  Some phones still had cords and it was really hard to sext if you were using a rotary dial.

1995 was the heyday of American culture and you couldn’t log into AOL via dialup without reading about The X-Files.  Mulder and Scully were the hottest protagonists on TV and David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson together were singlehandedly spurring interest in the newfangled Internet.  Not only were both of them physically attractive, but both projected a distinct intelligence and depth.  So strong was their chemistry and the stories they told that The X-Files is returning for a six-episode miniseries event in January 2016.

Yes, in 1995, it seemed that David Duchovny could do anything.  (Now he can only do 99.5% of the things.)  He could even introduce teenage me to William Carlos Williams.

In those days, I consumed as much information as I could about the show and dreamed of one day writing for such a program.  I remember the September 1995 issue of Entertainment Weekly because Benjamin Svetkey’s article pointed out that David Duchovny, this big TV star, wrote poetry.

“Hey!”  I thought.  “I write poetry!  I could be like him, just without the money or women!”

I wasn’t particularly moved by the episode in which Mr. Duchovny wore a red Speedo, but I knew many others were.  I did, however, appreciate Mr. Duchovny’s off-the-cuff  twist on some guy named William Carlos Williams:

My Speedo

So much depends upon a red Speedo

Covered with rain

The next time I was in the school library, I looked up this William Carlos Williams fellow and found my horizons expanded.  I thought about the connection between Mr. Williams’s wheelbarrow and Mr. Duchovny’s Speedo and, well, I tried not to read too much into it.

The point is that my enjoyment of the interview and my respect for Mr. Duchovny increased once I understood the allusion he was making.  (It’s important for a writer to have a wide frame of reference.)  Now that I’m slightly more mature than I was in 1995, I can also appreciate that Mr. Duchovny was blending high and low culture.  (I sometimes feel the balance is…off.)  Mr. Duchovny and Mr. Williams also offer poetry that is abstract, but is relatively easy to understand and enjoy if you give it a chance.  (As I keep saying, we need to #MakeMoreReaders.)

Why not follow Mr. Duchovny’s lead and rewrite a classic poem of your own?  While you are at it, check out Mr. Duchovny’s novel as you wait for the X-Files premiere on January 24.  We can’t go back to 1995, when the sun shone and the lilacs were in bloom.  We can, however, be like Mulder and Scully-and Duchovny and Anderson-by showing the world that age may take its toll, but we can still produce better work than ever before.  Even though we may want an occasional nap or a pair of comfortable shoes.



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