Roald Dahl calls the Poetry Crisis Line

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?

CALLER: As I was going to St Ives

COUNSELOR: This sounds familiar.

CALLER: I met a man with seven wives

COUNSELOR: And you want to know how many cats they had in their forty-nine sacks?

CALLER: Said he, ‘I think it’s much more fun / Than getting stuck with only one.’

COUNSELOR: But more work too, I’d imagine.

CALLER: . . .

COUNSELOR: I mean, emotional labor. With eight people, the housework must go swimmingly.

CALLER: . . .

COUNSELOR: Uh. . . except for cleaning up after three hundred and forty-three cats.


Click here to read “St. Ives” and other poems by Roald Dahl.

Queen of Cheese Classics: “Ode on the Mammoth Cheese Weighing over 7,000 Pounds,” by James McIntyre

We have seen the Queen of cheese,
Laying quietly at your ease,
Gently fanned by evening breeze —
Thy fair form no flies dare seize.

All gaily dressed soon you’ll go
To the great Provincial Show,
To be admired by many a beau
In the city of Toronto.

Cows numerous as a swarm of bees —
Or as the leaves upon the trees —
It did require to make thee please,
And stand unrivalled Queen of Cheese.

May you not receive a scar as
We have heard that Mr. Harris
Intends to send you off as far as
The great World’s show at Paris.

Of the youth — beware of these —
For some of them might rudely squeeze
And bite your cheek; then songs or glees
We could not sing o’ Queen of Cheese.

We’rt thou suspended from baloon,
You’d cast a shade, even at noon;
Folks would think it was the moon
About to fall and crush them soon.

Poetry Crisis Line training: Hamlet

Occasionally, the Poetry Crisis Line counselors need retraining. Below is the transcript of a meeting with counselors from the Main Desk, the Deus ex Machina department, and the Unrequited Love Desk.

(If you’ve missed the run-up, you can follow these links to read part 1, part 2, and part 3)

SUPERVISOR: Do you know why I called this meeting?

UNREQUITED LOVE: Screening errors?

MAIN: Mixed metaphors?

SUPERVISOR: Do you remember this caller?

[plays back recording of HAMLET call]

HAMLET [recorded]: To be or not to be…

MAIN: Oh yeah. I transferred him to the Deus Ex Machina Desk.

DEUS EX MACHINA: And I sent him to Unrequited Love.

UNREQUITED: And he wadered off in the middle of the call. How is he?

SUP: Dead.

MAIN: Oh no.

UNREQUITED: Did he kill himself?

SUP [nods]: And his girlfriend.

UNREQ: Oh no.

SUP: And her brother.

MAIN: That’s terrible.

SUP: And their father.

UNREQ: Damn.

SUP:  And his mother.

DEUS: Crap.

MAIN: Are you sure? All of these people?

SUP: And his uncle and stepfather.

MAIN: His uncle and his stepfather. On top of all the rest?

SUP: No, his uncle and stepfather. One person.

UNREQ: That’s kind of creepy.

SUP: Apparently he was the target. The rest were collateral damage.

MAIN: Really?

DEUS: Dude must have lousy aim.

SUP: So when you had this caller on the phone, did he seem depressed.

MAIN: Oh yeah.

DEUS: Clearly.

UNREQ: Totally.

SUP: Did he talk about death?

UNREQ: Oh yeah

MAIN: Constantly.

DEUS: Whatever he said, it always came back to death.

SUP: And you didnn’t think to call me?


UNREQ? Not really.

MAIN: Why would we?

SUP: Because he was depressed, and talking about death.

DEUS: And?

MAIN: This is the Poetry Crisis Line, you know.

UNREQ: Everyone’s depressed.

DEUS: And death obsessed.

UNREQ: And lonely.

SUP: [long sigh] OK, we’re going to do some training to recognize when a caller is in danger. But if something like this happens again, please get a supervisor on right away. Or…at least somewhere along the line.

Seamus Heaney calls the Poetry Crisis Line

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?

CALLER: Cloudburst and steady downpour now

COUNSELOR: So you’re calling to talk about the weather?

CALLER: for days.

COUNSELOR: Right. If you want to talk to days, I may need to transfer you to another counselor when my shift ends.

CALLER: Still mammal,

COUNSELOR: That’s correct. I don’t think we have any birds or reptiles working today.

CALLER: straw-footed on the mud,

COUNSELOR: I don’t know what shoes the other counselor will be wearing.

CALLER: he begins to sense the weather / by his skin.

COUNSELOR: Um, yes. If you go out in the rain, your skin will feel it.

CALLER: A nimble snout of flood

COUNSELOR: So there’s rain up your nose?

CALLER: licks over stepping-stones

COUNSELOR: So you’ve got a dog out in the rain? They love that.

CALLER: and goes uprooting.

COUNSELOR: So you need to get him out of your garden. Do you have any dog treats?

CALLER: He fords

COUNSELOR: No—you want him out of the garden, but don’t encourage him to chase cars.

CALLER: his life by

COUNSELOR: Yeah, it could risk his life. Can you call him? What’s his name?

CALLER: sounding.

COUNSELOR: You mean Sounder? Like in the book?

CALLER: Soundings.

COUNSELOR: That’s a strange name for a dog, but OK.


From “Gifts of Rain” by Seamus Heaney

From the all-female adaptation of The Hobbit

BILBELLE: What have I got in my pockets?

GOLLUMME: It has pocketses?

BILBELLE: Yes, but what is inside?

GOLLUMME: We wants the pocketses! GIVE US THE POCKETSES!

BILBELLE: Uh, they’re attached.


BILBELLE: I mean they’re attached to my pants. I can give you my waistcoat.

GOLLUMME: It has pocketses?

BILBELLE: Yes, it has pocketses. Um, I mean pockets.

GOLLUMME: My precious.

Mark Antony calls the Poetry Crisis Line

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?

CALLER: I am dying,

COUNSELOR: Can I send an ambulance? Where are you calling from?

CALLER: Egypt,

COUNSELOR: Egypt? What are you doing there?

CALLER: dying;

COUNSELOR: Right. Is there something I can do for you?

CALLER: Give me some wine,

COUNSELOR: I thought you were in Egypt?


COUNSELOR: You’re somewhere else as well?

CALLER: let me speak a little.

COUNSELOR: Right, you’re the dying guy. I’ll shut up now.

Charles Bukowski re-calls the Poetry Crisis Line

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?

CALLER: there’s a bluebird in my heart that / wants to get out

COUNSELOR: Literally? Or is that a metaphor? Or, like, a simile?

CALLER: but I’m too tough for him,

COUNSELOR: It’s OK. You can admit if your heart is fluttering.

CALLER: I say, stay in there,

COUNSELOR: So you recognize that you want him there?

CALLER: I’m not going / to let anybody see / you.

COUNSELOR: So you’ve made a birdhouse in your soul, but it’s on the down-low?


Read the rest of “bluebird” by Charles Bukowski here.

Excerpt From Monty Python and the Club of Fights

TYLER: The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club.

ENGLISH PEASANT: Oi, you just did it there.

TYLER: Did what?

ENGLISH PEASANT: Talked about Fight Club.

TYLER: No I didn’t.

ENGLISH PEASANT: Yes you did. You said “The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club.” That sounds like talking about it to me.

TYLER: You can talk about it when you’re there.

ENGLISH PEASANT: You didn’t say that.

TYLER: What?

ENGLISH PEASANT: You said, “The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club.” You can’t carve out an exception after the fact. Unless you want to make that the second rule.

TYLER: The second rule?

ENGLISH PEASANT: Well, yes, you could throw in a second rule, beginning with some hoity-toity language like, “Exceptions to the first rule shall include…” or some such.

TYLER: But there already is a second rule.

ENGLISH PEASANT: Are you sure?


ENGLISH PEASANT: You’re not just making it up to sound clever, are you?


ENGLISH PEASANT: Well, let’s have it then.

TYLER: What?

ENGLISH PEASANT: The second rule. What is it?

TYLER: The second rule of Fight club is you do not talk about Fight Club.

ENGLISH PEASANT: Oi, now ’e’s just repeating ’imself. I knew you were making it up.