Introduction by Richard Harrison

These 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.

Finished Joker WP

Joker (No I)

All a poor clown ever asked for, truth to tell, was to be seen. Lucky for me, that was easy on account of my blanched up features, green mop of fun, ruby mouth, loaded gun, n’all. Now my face appears on TV every day. Yay! And yet, you weren’t happy. You wanted more. But what could a man become who has no past (at least not one he remembers day to day), what could such a man become but a leaky vessel of gargoyle selves he offers up for your amusement, only to have them make a mess when they pour out between the cracks? Why do you people want more than what appears? Why can’t you be content to have all that anyone can show? What’s your problem? Oh … memory needs an anchor, you say? One slender letter to hold together what falls apart even as you get your eye real close and try to see? Sorry – we’re out of stock. You should only speak of yourself when you know who you are anyway. The dead do so; no more guesswork for them. But they can’t talk! That’s the gag! Why don’t you laugh? Why so somber?

Penguin Card Without Bat Decal

N. Guin (No E; I’m fond of my old alias from 1966)

It’s not about cash? Don’t kid this old bird. It’s always moolah in motion in this world. Crazy or not, a man who burns a mountain of loot just to highlight his position has a quantity in mind. That’s my point. I got tons. It’s not my worry. What I want to wall away is sky, that cobalt arch mocking my flight-lost kind. The turncoat sky that is his turf – always plunging foot-first down from midnight’s vault, changing basalt insubstantial dark into his black boot – POW! I know a parasol won’t do, but I know my book and a criminal always acts in accord with his own fowl faith, or turns into a lowly, flailing crook, signifying nothing.


Ms Kyle (C*twom*n)

To him, everything feminine sweet greed inducing is me. To the boys, too, who followed my episodic lives. Consider only two of these: first, sensuous, white, the Venus to his lonely sculptor. Not to him in solitude, either. I could not guess the number of you out there who longed to stroke my preening thighs. I like to keep my lives in order (unlike some). Then, ghetto hetto queen to his bourgeois muscle, I met him toe to toe purr – don’t tell me I don’t know the concept of screwed over. I know. He knows, too, chewed up like he is. But this is the secret of how his story continues month to month: his worst wounds were inflicted on someone else. Not quite like Nietzsche put it. The thing which killed them left him stronger. I know him. He knows me. Our hurts connect like one of those twisted prints where everyone strides to the top, only to wind up below where they once stood. If he confessed, it would be to this: loving the lowest murmurs within my neck, the sound like dying mixed with joy.


Riddler (Know me? no U)

I am essential for the plot yet nowhere in the story, the one loved most by those that live for words at play. Riddle me this: What is the mirror’s image? Maybe I’m the reflection within the glass instead, thin as light, waiting for this existence I enjoy so very well, the face twisted to contemplate itself (What stares back?)Where does all the pretty go when the beholder closes their eye? Riddle me this, Boy Wonder: She loves coffee; she hates tea. What a giveaway! Then again, I delight in being an E. Nigma to myself, the box inside the box and always black. I am the something no one wants to have and no one wants to lose: the answer to that one is still waiting to be called before the bench. Catch me. Riddle me this, wannabe hero: I am cat in the morning, bird in the afternoon, grinning demon balanced on its tail in the pale moonlight (who among all villains can lay claim to that?) Every mythology needs its Echo, voice and no body, mockery in its clearest form, agreed? Call me Raven, Jack Daw, Tanatalizer. For all the right reasons, everyone remembers my manic giggle best.

twoface - beaulieu & rossmo

Mr. H. Dent, Public Prosecutor (No A – the Bat’s true opposite)
for derek beaulieu
I used to run this city. This morning, I mugged someone in the street for 20 cents. I defilemyself. See the profile on this coin? It’s the pretty one. On the reverse, he bleeds where I knifed him under the midnight in my thumb. You see one side or the other with the coin. With me, see both. Now you comprehend the grotesque: every side of the self tunnels through the body to the light. The bold led them there. Trouble is, by decision-time, they’re either good or evil – to me, the difference is the shift key for the letter it springs from the prison-house of type, but people get upset. You know how it must be: either either, or or, no in-between. Flip the coin. This is logic purified of prejudice. I see your judgment, but give me this: you need guts to see it through. Your hero’s petty foes live petrified of the good they might do if they just let go, yet see how deep in their cupidinous bones they long for even two ounces of good’s return. I could give them the dimes to turn on, but they could not.. Him? My true opposite number in this town? He never lets himself love his flip-side devil – though every night he covers himself in its ink.


Mr. Freeze (Minus O)

We gather, and we talk, and they’re at it again. It’s always him. I understand. I’ve read behind the scenes. Michel is right, when all that can be said is written, insanity is just a mistake in etiquette. The straight man makes the laughter. The warm-up act defines the main event. The supplemental figure, the crew’s expendable man, the girlfriend, the victim, the villain (especially the villain), all the same: in twenty pages we keep existence within his grip, take a punch, and head to jail. He thinks he has it all, and everything I’ve been denied – warm bread, a bath, the sex he never indulges in. But I am suited perfectly. In every meeting the advantage falls my way. I never change. I understand why I am here.

Batman symbol V2

Batman (All A)
Say what any has, all at war fall by war at last – that’s a fact a man can grasp. My flat mandala traps sky at dark. My sharp hand, a batarang, fancy car, a castaway lad, all act my avatar. And a Barbary grammar blasts back: Bam! And Zap! Kablam! and Crash! And … and what? All drang and raw drama; a black palm hangs an arm span away – Smash – a bad man sags, all rags and mass. Glad, all afar clap as at a play (any hand can smack away all that damns). Apart, an ark sans an Ararat, a man stands at an abyss and an abyss asks, Why? All fall anyway as ash – all happy and all sad; all angst, all calm as a man that prays all day. All tasks. All plans. All Adam’s clay. And Batman? A man may pass as man and mask: a half that falls, a half that stays.

<The Gotham Monologues 

Artistic Credits:
The Batman and other character artwork quoted by the collages in this series is by various artists, most prominently Bob Powell (pencils) and Norm Saunders (painting) for the Topps Black, Blue and Red Bat series of bubblegum cards first issued in 1966, Batman and all associated characters property of DC Comics.
The Gotham Monologues: Cover card: Art by Emma Rouleau
Joker (No I): Collage by Emma Rouleau; original Joker face puzzle from the reverse of the Blue Bat series.
P.N. Guin (No E): Art by Richard Harrison.
Ms Kyle: Art by Kevin Kurytnik, Carol Beecher, and William Dyer of 15-Pound Pink Animation Studios.
Riddle Me This! Photo/painting collage by Emma Rouleau.
Mr. Dent for the Prosecution: Art by Riley Rossmo (Two-Face’s Left in pen and ink) and derek beaulieu (Two-Face’s Right in letters)
Mr. Freeze: Art by Jeremy Tankard.
Batman: Logo by Emma Rouleau >

all poems © Richard Harrison, 2015