Two Golden Ticket Dark Chocolate Sonnets:
illustration by Amy Suzanne
“He’s changed!” said Grandpa Joe, peering down through the glass wall of the elevator. “He used to be fat! Now he’s thin as straw.” Grandpa Joe on Augustus after the pipe, Roald Dahl Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
All they saw, “thin as straw” Augustus who
once was not. Boy almost boiled inside
a chocolate pot, consumed post fudge room
before the change. Chocolate liquefied
pipe pressure made his brain strange. Thinned the pre-
frontal cortex along with his skin, each
broad bone inside of him lengthens gangly,
inhibits speech. Towards children, limbs reach
without a mouth that would beseech consent
to follow in the woods. Evolution
is not always good. Slender isn’t
innocent. Bespoke costumed, starvation
mouthed, hearkens children to a black bark house.
An appetite for evil is aroused.
illustration by Amy Suzanne
Violet Beauregarde shares at Piano St. Bubblegum Anonymous meeting before founder and childhood frenemy Miss Cornelia Prinzmetel.
My bottom was this face turned blue — to be
not even the first world record holder
who spit gum in this secret society.
Cornelia Prinzmetel, year older
than me, beats me to it every time, though
her record would become mine. 23,
this TMJ, a sapphire face, I know
I’m not okay. I need this place. Popping
my jaw to elocute this much. So serene
she sits — and out of touch with addiction,
two years since she fingered slick plastic green
of Doublemint. Though my painful diction’s
indelicate, relevance is evident;
I should succeed her as your president.
The Fine Print on the Golden Ticket:
Greetings fortunate holder of a limited edition Golden Ticket. The ticket you hold in your fingers resembles paper, and yet look closer. You shall see it is crafted of the thinnest slice of goodwill glimmering gold all adults hold onto in times of troubles in the adult world — hope and the imagination. Its appearance may recall a certain set of five Golden Tickets once hidden inside of candy bars by one rather theatrical, secretive Chocolatier. These tickets all fell into the hands of children whose adventures inside of the chocolatier’s facilities were chronicled in a series of book and films garnering generations of entertainment corporations have turned into LITERAL GOLD. Despite this bounty, the complex story of the factory has never been completely told. Sold certainly, the version transcribed by the stories of child witnesses who were told what was considered appropriate given their deficiency of years and mental processes as evidenced in the text. Older and with a fully formed cerebral cortex, we the new generation of golden ticket holders are ready to process a deeper truth — to digest, if you will a darker confection than the one sheltered children tasted in carefully guided tours and redacted bedtime stories of grandparents.
You hold in your hand a ticket to the complex truth of a chocolate factory, the milk and the dark chocolate of life. This truth in gold binding will open for you when you are ready. Like children, we begin with the milk for our comfort. Some may stop there. The truly evolved and brave will tour further — farther than you ever dreamed to go, busting through the paper and leather bindings of stories familiar to our wide child eyes to the decadence of dark dangerous secrets of a life we are finally ready to taste.(The intro of Golden Ticket, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory sonnets by Kristin Garth)
You have now read two sonnets and the introduction to my next collection of poetry coming this summer from Roaring Junior Press. It’s called, as you might have, gathered, Golden Ticket and is, as you also now know, poetic homages to Charlie and The Chocolate Factory (with a little social critique mixed in for good measure.) I like to say it’s sonneteer to chocolatier, and I hope it will be as tasty a confection to digest as it was to concoct.
As a self-proclaimed womanchild, I read books for both halves of myself – the woman and the child. Some books I read actually do double duty like the book I recently read We Have Always Lived Inside The Castle by Shirley Jackson. This book’s narrator Merricat is eighteen, and technically, if only slightly, not a child but she, like me, has at least a part of her psyche that is very stunted psychologically. I even have my hypothesis as to why that is based on my own stunted nature due to child abuse, but that is for another and darker column.
Most times, though, I make do with trading off an adult book with some juvenile reading that comforts the little girl inside of me. During this pandemic, that book has been Charlie and The Chocolate Factory (also the Great Glass Elevator.) I love candy and horrors and Dahl’s use of language and the colorful world of his electric imagination. I enjoy the social satire he uses to decry parents spoiling children in the depictions of Veruca Salt and Mike Teavee. The poverty of the Buckets and their angelic, grateful temperaments sharply contrasts meaningfully with those of the Salts.
When I read juvenile literature as an adult though, I do so with both halves of my brain engaged, and there are elements of this tale the woman in me notices and critiques, too. The characterization of Augustus Gloop is incredibly flat and basically could be reduced to one overused and offputting word: fat. Certainly, I know Dahl is commenting again on spoiling children and gluttony, but truly I felt at times in the book that I read paragraphs in that book in which the word “fat” was used with such repetition as a negative character trait it felt not just mean and reductive but lazy. When Augustus enters the pipe after falling into the chocolate river and becomes stretched and thin, it’s almost as if this thinness in itself is celebrated as a redemption of his character.
Perhaps it is just my reading as a person who suffers from BDD and an anorexia survivor, but I think it’s more likely that as society has just progressed in our understanding of body shaming and psychology this book is stuck in another time. I think, like many books of our childhood that were written in other eras, there are just some old ways of thinking that are worthy of being challenged.
I decided to write some sonnets, including the first you see above, “Pipe Dream,” to play with some of the characters and themes in Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. The two you read above are from the Dark Chocolate section of the book. The Dark Chocolate section includes poems that look at these characters from a modern view.
In “Pipe Dream,” I sought to convey that skinniness is not goodness, and that a gluttonous thin character can be voraciously evil. Also, as pre-frontal cortex damage has been proved to destroy impulse control, the fact that Augustus’s brain was also thinned – including that crucial pre-frontal cortex means it could be damaged and August may have be lacking in impulse control in even violent or scary ways. I wanted to think of a modern skinny character that was villainous for Augustus to become, transformed in the pipe like a dark mirror superhero getting his evil power from some accident. My favorite horror villain came to mind, and so I decided to write this poem in which I postulated what if Augustus Gloop was the Slenderman. I love when I get to combine two pop culture loves in a fun way in a poem.
In the second poem, “Bubblegum Anonymous,” I look at the character of Violet Beaurgeard as the addicted girl she is not only to bubblegum but to competing with her friends. There’s a small mention of a best friend that Violet has, Cornelia Printzmetel. Violet brags in the book she is the current world record holder of chewing gum, and she even haughtily adds she took this world record from her own best friend. This dialogue echoed something I have written about before many times in books and sonnets – female competiveness.
In Bubblegum Anonymous, Violet still has her blue face and her competitive spirit with her friend even though she is trying to go into a recovery group for compulsive bubblegum chewers. She works her way inside this group not really for recovery but to actually try to usurp her friend once again by insisting she should be the leader of this group.
The book has a Milk Chocolate section that is for more delightful poems that embrace the delicious, fairytale aesthetic of Dahl’s book as well. A couple of poems that I’ve had published from this section you can read: Bed and Veruca Wants.
This book is forthcoming from Roaring Junior Press this summer in August. I’m so delighted to share its chocolate flavored ode to childhood sprinkled with a little social critique (hopefully candy coated with lots of scrumptious wordplay and delectable pictures by Amy Suzanne.) As always, you can keep up to date on all my projects and say hello at kristingarth.com or @lolaandjolie on Twitter.
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