Jewish World Review April 18, 2002 / 7 Iyar, 5762

Andrei Codrescu

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Consumer Reports

Advertisers and poets exchange places | Do you know where the following objects, techniques, and sentiments can be found? 1) the moon, 2) the jump-cut, 3) an atmosphere of bottomless regret, 4) bathos of the wounded heart with humorous asides to family embarassments, 5) longing for G-d combined with Italian food, 5) passion for subversive cussing, 6) transgressive sexual attitudes?

If you answered, "in television ads," you are right. But what you may or may not know is that television ads stole all those things from poets -- without paying them a penny.

Poets and advertisers have had this one-way ripoff going for a long time, interrupted only now and then by a pang of mild conscience on the part of some fat cat possessed of a linguistic emergency. One of the more famous of these pangs is when the Ford Motor company asked the poet Marianne Moore to come up with a name for a new car and actually paid her for it, though they never used the name. I think it was "Placenta," or something. No, "Galaxy." Or "Madrigal." I don't know. Look it up.

Well, that was the case for a long time but now things are changing. The first signal that the connection between poets and admen is no longer a one-way street was heard in the early Sixties when Allen Ginsberg wrote in a poem, "You're in the Pepsi Generation." That was straight off an ad in the subway. Three years later, I employed "You must not fool with Mother Nature" in a poem against the military-industrial-entertainment-information complex. Since then, hundreds of poets have been using the highly-paid ditties of admen to express anti-materialistic feelings and make fun of society and its sacred companies.

But the floodgates really opened for poets with the advent of the Internet. Poets started taking back language word for word. Some of the most astonishing acts of poetic reclamation can be found now at

RTMark is an international collective of poets who are using the language of business and advertising to completely baffle business and advertising. The employers of corporate-speak are not taking kindly to RTMark. For instance, a website entitled georgebushjr irritated the very marrow of that holographic campaign. The very candidate was overheard cursing the freedom of the Internet. Nor did RTMark's similarly playful game with meet with much official warmth. RTMark's extremely profitable mutual funds tied in to acts of poetic sabotage have been bringing returns rivaling the hottest tech stocks.

Finally, the poets are getting even. The advertisers can have the moon, the sentiments, and the transgressions. The poets are taking management techniques, proven business efficiency, market analysis, and strategic penetration. All of it done with mimetic precision and metaphoric savvy.

And now that the tables are (over)turned, isn't it time the poets got paid?

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JWR contributor Andrei Codrescu is the author, most recently, of Casanova in Bohemia. Comment by clicking here.


04/12/02: DRACULA-LAND
03/21/02: Sacred ritual
02/22/02: Invasion of the Nanny-seekers
02/08/02: The body of liberty

© 2002, Andrei Codrescu. This column first appeared on NPR's "All Things Considered"