Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sin Tax on Syntax Nears Ra(d)ification?


With the rampant proliferation of “talking heads” on television news shows and networks, the allure of unsubstantiated rumors and uncontexted quotes in ubiquitous political blogs, and the constant back-and-forth namecalling that passes for debate on social networking outlets, every season these days seems like a political season. So, it’s no wonder that poets too are entering the political fray more often, sometimes seriously, as in the 100 Thousand Poets for Change initiative, and sometimes a bit more tongue-in-cheek, as in Celisa Steele’s prose poem “Sin Tax on Syntax Passes House by Narrow Margin” from her 2011 book How Language Is Lost. Either way, if you enjoy politics, you’ll enjoy this poem, and if you want to hear it in person, you should attend Poetry Hickory at 5:30 on August 14 at Taste Full Beans Coffeehouse in downtown Hickory.

Sin Tax on Syntax Passes House by Narrow Margin
by Celisa Steele

The American Clean Usage Act seeks to improve spoken and written English by putting a price on misusage and if the bill is signed into law then the cost of run-ons will rise from mere breathlessness to over $13 a carton and you’ll be left with the alternatives of paying up or quitting.

If the data shows, then you’ve got to pay--though there is a provision under consideration that moves to treat data like sheep, singular and plural, making untaxable under the act “the happy couple were,” “the staff stand stunned,” and such.

Splicing of commas carries a hefty premium, the improper use of the subjunctive alone is estimated to raise millions for the government. But others call them pie-in-the-sky projections, arguing it’ll cost more money to employ and train a national grammar corps qualified to enforce the law than can be raised through the tax.

Will the Senate pass the current bill? Proponents, pray so. Detractors say no, asserting self-interest will prevail. As one staffer put it, “If I was to bet, speeches’ll get a lot shorter if this thing passes. These senators don’t make enough to pay for their bad habits.”

There are rumors a clutch of senators are cooking up a counter-bill that aims to focus on poetry specifically rather than language at large--the primary argument being we already have meter maids.

1 comment:

  1. I'd be sorely tempted to lay (sic.) money on the line that we'll never see the day. But I'd so love it if we could. Brava, Celisa!