42. Nightmare Hall: The Experiment – Diane Hoh
I enjoyed Nightmare Hall in middle school. As I recall, The Scream Team was a particularly affecting work but I didn’t get around to this one during its initial run. It’s about a professor with an eye patch who teaches science-poetry class and the girl who crushes on him from afar, and then gets into his web, or someone’s web – of lies and deceit! Her work is excellent! Excellent! Caryl is an excellent science-poet with a realistic and admirable amount of concern for her personal safety (but not the letter “o”) in the face of amorous dudes named Ben and Dare. Yes, Dare. Wildcard if ever there was one. Also taking science-poetry from Professor Mysterious Accident, I mean DeLure.
Poetry and I do not have a very good relationship so it should go without saying that science-poetry seems like a slightly odd collegiate topic to me. And I am the person who took the Glam rock vampire class. It was the best! Anyway, despite many workshop classes featuring poets, I’m still not entirely comfortable giving detailed feedback on most poems. If I have no reaction, typically I don’t say anything to the author or I have thought of saying, “not my cup of tea, I don’t even want to consider your phrasing because even though that might be useful I just don’t think it will be.”
It’s not like I actively despise poetry or anything. My favorite poet is Richard Brautigan, and I also happen to be quite fond of Edward Gorey’s limericks. Both of these dudes also write very sassy and impudent fiction though, which might be why I enjoy their poems. I also like Sylvia Plath, as I am contractually obligated to by the dour part of my brain. I’m still holding out for the day that when you (the royal you) become depressed and you receive a copy of The Bell Jar in the mail with samples of Tide. Maybe multi-tasking in the fiction world makes for better poets. Maybe no serious poet would agree with me.
In real life situations I’ve encountered a very large amount of very, very bad, very, very personal poetry and one time a not-so-good poet also chose to do some shout outs after reading a particularly trite poem about an indecipherable topic. The shout-outs made the poet sound a little delusional. This other time in a pre-shout-out universe I watched some guy reading a poem about how he wanted to “fuck the fruit machine” and he was using that as a metaphor for his gambling problem. It was really subtle and he was very passionate about his work, which almost made it charming. Sometimes though, the specific does not become as universal as one would like it to and then I cringe a lot.
One workshop taught me that there are several words that should never appear in poems and two of them are “myriad” and “lozenge.” I’d probably throw “moist” in there too. All three of those words can definitely be cringeworthy and possibly applicable to science. Uh oh, Caryl.