These next three — Joker, Catwoman, Batman — are all part of a visual art and poetry show I did called “The Gotham Monologues.” Along with other artists I made a set of Batman cards (based on the 1966 set based in their turn on the Batman TV show), each featuring a central Batman character. This project started as a response to Christian Bok’s Eunoia which had its own 10th anniversary issue in 2011; our Now magazine, FFWD had a Eunoia contest in which poets were asked to write something either using Christian’s strict one vowel/poem rule for the pieces in his book, or using all the vowels except one. I took at shot at both — poems that were written without specific vowels (the missing vowel in some way connected to the subject) or restricted to one. The idea of having these poems be monologues spoken by Batman’s villains (and in the end ultimately Batman himself) arose to answer the question, “What do I know well enough and deeply enough to have enough words to choose from given these confinements? In many ways I learned how much like the villanelle and the sonnet and so on the Oulipian self-imposed restrictions were. They also took me out of what I would have expected I’d have each character say. So here’s the Joker (who has no i — because he has no I either), and Catwoman who speaks without an “a” because she is the female opposite to Batman, who only speaks in words with the only vowel in his own name in them in his poem. I had a lot of fun with these. “Joker (no I)” won the Eunoia prize, and was published in FFWD that year. I gave the whole set of readings at the Spoken Word Festival that year as well. What was really interesting was that this was the event that broke the ice for Christian and me, and he liked the poems; in conversation he also knew that I’d done the whole thing from the words I already knew. When he was making Eunoia, he had to read the whole Oxford three times to find words that would get him out of the jams that I now know this sort of project can lead to. I’m still working on a “Robin” poem for this series. Of course, it can’t be “Robin” since he’s a hero, and he’s got to tread, poetically as well as verbally, the single path. Fortunately, he grows up to be Nightwing. That’s just a bit shy of as far as I’ve got.

© Richard Harrison