A Note from Fatty: Over at Random Reviewer, Dug, Bob, and I are taking a little walk down memory lane. That is, we’re publishing—serially, no less—one of the strangest, most wonderful e-mail threads I have ever been part of.
In October, 2002, Jeremy Smith, a bike rider of stunning skill and bike mechanic of wizard-like talents, sent an unsolicited email to the nascent Random Reviewers.
Jeremy had written a poem.
After the initial shock wore off, the Random Reviewers found themselves reviewing the poem, as well as each others’ reaction to this poem. I’m reprinting the poem, as well as Bob’s review of said poem, here. Through next week, Random Reviewer will publish the competing reviews that follow.
Warning to sensitive types: Some may find some of the language and images in this poem and review offensive. I’ve done a little bit of clean-up here on my site, but you’re on your own over at Random Reviewer, which plays by a different set of rules.
I’m changin da flats and lubin da chains
i’m so fast people say i’m insain
doin the 24 hours
keepin dem rollin without a hitch
yea thats right bitch
with out a hitch
I got mad skils on a bike
but don’t excersize that right
back in the day we’d party all night
livin the life
ridin the bikes
fixin um up, mixin it up,
they call me inde
cuz I’m so speedy
gettin it done before you’re ready
givin you time to rap with da bettys
doin it tight
makin it right
yea that’s right we’d party all night
Props to chuck
to bad I sold the duck
pace’in, race’in in yo face I am
goin all night
fixin them right
As a critic of poetry, I have become jaded after having read so many poems. I frequently find myself analyzing art without feeling. Until now. Reading Smith’s poem shook me out of my analytical posturing, impaling me with its masculine prowess. Although I appreciate my intense visceral reaction to “Changin da Flats,” I find myself shell-shocked by the poetic explosion. I am numb. I don’t want to analyze. I don’t want to write. I want to sing! I want to eviscerate myself, tie my intestines to the mailbox, and dance naked in the streets shouting “Hosanna! Hail to Jeremy!” But alas. I must write.
I want to make it clear that my “interpretation” of Jeremy’s poem is by no means definitive. “Changin da Flats” is indeed many-sided in nature, reminding us of the nature of beauty. When Samuel Taylor Coleridge defined beauty as "multeity in unity," he was foreshadowing Smith’s opus. As a critic, I am compelled to discuss individual parts of poetry as they relate to the harmonious whole, and yet I maintain that no interpretation can do this poem justice. I ought to merely say, "Read the poem, delight in it, and you have done well."
The poem consists of three stanzas. In the first eight-line stanza, the narrator asserts his weighty skills as a bicycle repairman. The rhyme scheme, a loose AABCCCDD structure that mixes near rhymes, sight rhymes, and actual rhymes with equanimity, conveys a sense of glorious torment. Consider the stanza finale: "I got mad skils on a bike / But don’t exercise that right." In sacrificing his riding career so that he can fix others’ bicycles, the narrator sets himself up as a hip-hop Christ figure.
In the second stanza, the narrator reconfirms the sacrificial nature of his calling while using sexual double-entendre as thematic counterpoint. Consider the lines, "They call me inde / Cuz I’m so speedy / Gettin it done before you’re ready." The disturbing image of a bicycle repairman exhibiting marginal self-control while laying pipe momentarily establishes a sexually fallible human being who seeks redemption. This image is only fleeting, as the lines "Givin you time to rap with da bettys / Doin it right / Making it tight" reestablishes the narrator as a potent God who sacrifices Himself through the medium of bicycle repair.
The lyrical final stanza moves from language into music. Divine music. Music that drags us to Heaven on the narrator’s coattails: "Pace’in, race’in in yo face I am / Goin all night / Fixin them right." I am tempted to compare Smith’s masterful ending to that of James Joyce’s "The Dead," but I shall resist. There is no comparison. I shall say no more.
In conclusion, if I may indulge in directing my comments directly to the author, I’d like to say—Yo, J-dog, mad props for busting loose with some sick rhymes. Y’all gots madd poetic skillz. Peace, I out.
Monday: Dug offers an alternate interpretative review. Be sure to keep reading Random Reviewer to see how the conversation unfolds.
PS: Have you entered the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah Bike Giveaway contest yet? Make sure you do!