In my senior year of High School, way back in 1981, a friend and I wrote a poem by the bizarre title Hevvy Chevvy. I'm not sure if I was familar with the idea of dada at the time (probably), but I was always up for a prank.
Sometimes, pranks can lead to unintended beauty.
I was taking Advanced Poetry–the teacher, Mrs. Tietz had a well-deserved reputation for being as smart as she was tough. We studied and read a lot of poetry that term, tons of it. We read free verse, sonnets, villanelle and more, even limericks, haiku and blank verse ... we read a lot. I discovered a love for the strange musings of Stephen Crane and re-kindled my friendship with the work of mr. cummings. Mostly, though, we wrote poetry–we wrote a lot of poetry.
Lunchtime: at a high school of 200 or so kids, the boundaries of cliques were not so firm as they might have been elsewhere–I sat at a table with a group of smart kids, some jocks and a sprinkling of others. That day, we were expounding about those old Revell model kits for the benefit of the kids who had not gotten to enjoy these complex toys. Specifically, the conversation turned to models of the old 70s funny cars, with miles of chrome sticking out of every corner and ridiculous wheels and decals.
My friend Eric was a sharp fellow with a very sarcastic and quick wit. Eric was musing on whether those improbable-looking vehicles ever really existed, or if some oddball artist just cooked them up for 10-year old boys to build as plastic models. "And they always had these really absurd names ..." he began, "...like Far-Out Ford or Heavy Chevy."
"Yeah, but spelled h-e-v-v-y!" I added.
Eric grabbed up a pencil and a piece of paper and sketched a jacked-up car with giant exhaust pipes. Above it, he wrote, in big, balloon letters:
That weekend, I was going to drive down to see a friend at Texas A&M University. She gave me directions over the phone from our school, LHS, down Lyndon B. Johnson Freeway all the way to Bryan/College Station, which is where the college is. I scrawled the directions in my nearly illegible script, on a handy piece of paper (you've doubtless guessed this bit). In the margins and interstices between actual information, I noted things like "go...go..go.." and "about a million miles" and other such nonsensical musings.
Later, when Eric saw the paper where my hasty scrawlings had been added to his hasty sketchings, he was delighted! He suggested we turn it into a sort of abstract free verse–half-prank and half-experiment. On some level, we wanted to see if this crummy list could be turned into something good, on another level, I think we were trying to pull a fast one on our teacher, just to see if she'd catch the joke. We decided that Eric should be the one to try to decipher my scribbled text, though. For example, my badly-written abbreviation 'hwy' for highway was interpreted as 'hug.'
The piece was written and submitted. I did some extra work, just in case this poem was rejected by Mrs. Tietz. Our illustrious teacher caught the dadaist humor of the piece immediately. Apart from some questions about the weird spelling of the title, she said "...I'll bet this turned out a lot better than you'd expected," and gave it an A. She put a copy of Hevvy Chevvy on her wall and suggested that we submit it to the yearbook.
We did. It wound up in our yearbook for all to see and some of the kids, especially the really pretentious ones, the ones who fancied themselves really 'deep,' seemed to love it, mostly without seeing it for the oddball "found art" it is. One particular fellow, who fancied himself quite the profound artist type despite being a sort of Neanderthal, said that it really "spoke to him." Maybe it did, my huge friend. Maybe it did.
So here it is, in all its weird glory...
Through Corsicana. Exit to Richland.
Drive the speed limit!
A million highways come together.
There was an island back on 14.
Fourteen stops. Go...
South on six–take Bryan.