FICTION: Too Big For The Small Press by Michael Marrotti


It’s funny how life works out. After four excruciating years in the small press scene, I was famous. A living, breathing overnight sensation. What’s even funnier is, I can’t attribute my writing to the fame. It was a complete denigration of the art form that awarded me the accolades.

You’re shaking your head in disbelief, huh? Well, please allow me to explain.

A poem I wrote a few years back entitled “The Great Fire Of Pittsburgh”, was the culprit behind my expulsion of the Brookline Open Mic.

“It’s a profound, angry piece of poetry that made the crowd feel uncomfortable.”

At least that’s what the asshole who hosted the Open Mic event told me. Instead of having an episode over this latest tragedy, I chose to peacefully walk out with my dignity intact.

I left the event with my little black book of offensive writing, in need of a strong drink, when another poet who attended the so-called talent-show followed me out.

He tapped me on the shoulder to say, “You’re doing it all wrong, man.”

I gave him the almighty fuck you look as I countered his statement by saying, “One man can only handle so much criticism. Do you have a name, asshole, or should I tell you to go fuck yourself right now and get it over with?”

His eyes widened as he replied, “I’d prefer to be called John. All this hostility isn’t necessary, either. I’m here to help.”

“Oh, a benevolent soul,” I said. “It’s a rarity when I meet one of those in this social cesspool. I’m Mario.” He extended his hand, as did I, for a handshake that would forever alter the lives of millions of citizens.

John sounded sincere enough for me to take him seriously, so I told him a drink was mandatory after the biggest compliment of my life, and that he’s more than welcome to accompany me to the local watering hole. My destiny had begun.

After a few shots of Jack he said to me, “Do you wanna be a somebody, or just another forgotten poet?”

I ordered two more shots from the bloated bartender and asked if that was a rhetorical question?

“After a week in my workshop,” he said, “with the right amount of devotion, you could be famous.”

I pounded out my next shot, and began to laugh, profusely.

He called me a fucking asshole as he slid his business card next to the empty shot glass. Immediately after that he made his way to the exit.

It was my own personal pity party. With the way I felt, I didn’t need any spectators. Someone could have gotten injured.

I picked up the card to take a gander. It said Pretentious Press. As benign as we wanna be. Giving a home to the mediocre since 2008. Honestly, I thought it was some type of cruel joke. Boy was I mistaken.

The following morning was horrendous. It took three painkillers, six pancakes, and two minutes of masturbation to quell the hangover from my personal pity party the night before.

Once my wobbly path found its equilibrium, I gave John a call. The workshop, my destiny, awaited me over in Beechview. A ten minute trolley ride would revamp my writing. Who would’ve thought?

The workshop was more like John’s living room. Actually, that’s exactly what it was. Formalities were skipped, coffee was already served. He told me to start writing the minute I walked through the door.

“What the fuck is this shit, Mario?”

“John, I didn’t come here to answer stupid questions. This right here is my strongest poem to date.”

John snatched the piece of paper, crushed it up into a worthless paper ball, and threw it at the picture of Sylvia Plath that was hanging behind the television.

“It’s fucking shit, Mario! I now have a headache, and lemme guess, you didn’t bring any Tylenol.”

I had the pen positioned in my hand like a dagger. My first instinct was to jam it in his throat. I didn’t travel to this hideous neighborhood to be insulted by an old self-righteous asshole. Instead of attacking the old bastard, though, I inquired first on what disqualified this clever piece of poetry, in his opinion.

“It’s profound to the point where my head hurts. Don’t you get it, Mario? People don’t wanna over think things anymore, man. The trick is to make a simple poem that says absolutely nothing. We’re talking about dull lines that’ll fall off the page in silence. Making an impact could make a point. You must refrain from that, by all means necessary! Think of large empty rooms or spaghetti without the sauce. You got me? That’s what sells, man!”

“This is ridiculous! Thanks for wasting my time, bro.”

“Fuck you, pay me, are the only words you’ll be saying in the future, if you follow my lead. Stop with the naiveté already. Take a look at this.”

John took a bank receipt out of his back pocket for me to inspect. It had a six figure balance he attributed to his poetry, and the many others he signed to his own publication, Pretentious Press.

I was impressed, fantasizing about fame and fortune. Pizza and blow-jobs.

“Okay, John. Talk to me. I’m convinced.”

“Write another poem. Try your hardest not to think. Just shit it out, man.”

“Here goes nothing,” I said. Two minutes later, I finished the poem.

John jumped up and down, ripping the poem into pieces. “This is more bullshit, Mario! What don’t you understand about dumbing it down? This poem should’ve been as sharp as a butter knife! Are you trying to fucking cut me?”

I was now the one with a headache, but my lust for the finer things in life finally prevailed after the third attempt. It was by far the most meaningless poem I’ve ever conceived. John was blown away by it.

“I’m gonna make you into a star, Mario. Write me fifty more poems like this, and I’ll have your first book of poetry out by the end of the week. This is phenomenal writing!”

All in all, it only took me eight hours to write the best-selling poetry book of all-time. Simply titled: Poetry.

I rushed back to John’s house upon completion. Believe it or not, he fainted after reading two pages of my manuscript. To revive him, I emptied an entire can of Iron City Beer on his face. After that he rose to his feet, and began to dance. It was a joyous occasion!

He had the book contract prepared within minutes, eagerly awaiting my signature. I signed on the dotted lines, next thing I know, my book was on the market selling like discounted OxyContin.

John insisted on sending out submissions to the publications that have notoriously declined my poetry in the past. Redemption was ultimately mine. You couldn’t click on one of the many e-zines without seeing one of my cliché pieces of poetry. I was becoming the Napoleon Bonaparte of contemporary poetry, dominating the small press scene. The apathy of the past quickly evolved into fanaticism.

Declinations that inevitably awaited in my Gmail account were eradicated like polio in Pittsburgh. Now every publisher from Australia to Philadelphia wanted to have a taste of my poetic penis. Fan mail also flooded my Gmail account equipped with full on nudes and words of endearment. Celebrity status was now available. It was an Ideal time to start up a Twitter account.

A few days later John was talking about how the Brookline Open Mic had reached out to him, over his latest protégé (me) and how deeply sorry they are about the misunderstanding of my latest performance.

“They want you back, Mario! How about those apples, huh?”

My only reply was, “Fuck you, pay me!” Then I wrote a new little mundane poem on a piece of paper, and handed it to John. He read the first stanza, and fainted.

This was already getting old now, but it could’ve been worse. I could be just another average nobody.

The following week I returned to the Brookline Open Mic. My poetry book had only been on Amazon for a few weeks, but was already a bestseller. I was offered two-thousand dollars for ten minutes of my time, at a place that once told me I was banned.

People fainted left and right after a single cliché poem. The ones who did not were mostly hot women who threw their panties on stage. After the show I was dragged into the bathroom by five sexy women who had to have the bragging rights of fucking the most legendary contemporary poet of their generation.

The Pittsburgh City Paper had me on the front page for three consecutive months! All they wanted from me was shallow, pretentious interviews about the state of contemporary poetry. No sweat off my balls, especially when I’m making thousands of dollars per issue.

My answers were always dimwitted and boring. A middle school student could’ve done better. It’s a good thing I beat ‘um to the punch, though. I was critically acclaimed, labeled a genius!

John and I embarked on a worldwide tour after the purchase of my mansion in Virginia Manor. Muhammad Ali was turned down for ownership back in the seventies, when Mt. Lebanon was upfront with their republican status. Not me, though. They couldn’t be happier, to have the most illustrious poet of all-time as a resident.

The tour was a hit! Panties were dropped at each, and every show. Within the course of five hundred miles, I came to understand the true meaning of sore-dick-syndrome. By the time we made it to France, my book had sold over five-million copies!

When plebeians see me on the street, they can’t help but ask me how it’s going after I autograph their girlfriends tits. My answer is always the same:

“I’m living a fantasy that’s surpassed the mundane, cliché quality of my writing. If it wasn’t for denigration, I’d be just another average nobody. Never underestimate the banality of poetry.”


Michael Marrotti is an author from Pittsburgh, using words instead of violence to mitigate the suffering of life in a callous world of redundancy. His primary goal is to help other people. He considers poetry to be a form of philanthropy. When he’s not writing, he’s volunteering at the Light Of Life homeless shelter on a weekly basis. If you appreciate the man’s work, please check out his book, F.D.A. Approved Poetry, available at Amazon.

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