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Welcome to Night Vale Recap: Episode 20 “Poetry Week”

A look at Night Vale’s artistic side.

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Catch up on the other Night Vale recaps if you’re behind!

Cecil jumps right into things at the start of the episode, saying that Poetry Week is one of his favorite traditions. He implies that it’s an annual event, which actually seems like a really cool idea for a town and I’d like to know more about it. One of the things that bothers me about Night Vale is that they often mention annual events like Poetry Week, Valentine’s Day, or the Parade of Hooded Figures, but they tend to only come up once. I’d like it if Poetry Week came up every year in some fashion. I’d understand it not always being the focus of a whole episode, but it could at least be mentioned.

Anyway, in a real town Poetry Week would probably get a pretty low level of participation. In Night Vale it’s popular enough to generate 800,000 poems. The first we hear is from Trilety Wade who read her poem for the week’s opening ceremonies. It starts by saying she fell in love with a hooded figure and was in no way compelled to do so, then concludes with some disturbing metaphors about cheese which may be some sort of code. In any case, Trilety didn’t like what she was reading and soon started screaming that it was all lies before getting disintegrated in front of the watching crowd. No one seemed alarmed by this.

The next poem comes from Mayor Pamela Winchell, which is quick and delightfully dark.

No one will
have to be
ever again.
In fact,
it will not

This poem is apparently also legislation, so be sure to stop being someone as soon as possible.

Even the sheriff of the Secret Police has a poem, which seems to be one part dystopian nightmare and one part commentary of poverty. I’ll be honest, a lot of these poems are hard to interpret. Maybe it’s because everyone has to hide their intentions so much in Night Vale or maybe I’m just bad with poetry. Luckily the next one is very clear-cut in its meaning. It’s by local third grade teacher Erana Panchik and is called “Street Cleaning Day”. In it she describes her panic during a street cleaning day and her eventual decision to leave her students behind to save herself. Cecil commends her for making the right choice.

Then we get a quick break from poems to look at some other news. Billboards have been appearing all over town, advertising that they’re going to take 20% off of everything. The trouble is, that’s all the signs say. They don’t advertise a business or product. People are getting concerned that whoever put up the billboards intends to literally remove 20% from everything in town. It sounds like a legitimate concern to me.

The traffic report is also a poem, this one by Katherine Ciel. (It’s worth noting the authors’ names as all the poems by non-established characters are actually by those people in real life.) This poem is another tricky one. It seems to be about a woman and her mother who are experiencing the end of the world, one where there is suddenly no air. They’re surviving because they’ve learned not to breathe, but they aren’t sure if they want to keep living at this point. In any case, it seems to indicate that traffic is heavy that day.

And then, intriguingly, we learn that poetry week has inspired a daring act of rebellion. Someone has written a poem…and posted it on the entrance to the dog park. The poem’s narrator describes being injured and sick. Like a disease, they feel they can seep into people, perhaps even become those people. They feel they are starting to do this with a voice that lies dying in the dog park. The poem is signed only with the letter E.

Okay. This one feels like a heavy one. The dog park is one of the longest-running mysteries of the series. I’ve always assumed that it was more or less the home of the hooded figures, but what if the hooded figures are actually guarding something there? Something so dangerous that it must be constantly watched by menacing, supernatural creatures?

After reading the poem Cecil immediately says that, while poetry is lovely, nothing warrants getting anywhere near the dog park. As a result of E’s actions, everyone in Night Vale is now in grave danger.

So naturally we cut away for a commercial. This one is for the Greater Night Vale Realty Association. They point out that Night Vale is a great place to live, as it has good schools and lots of spiders. You should contact a realtor today to find your dream home. As a side note, all realtors live inside of deer. The ad ends with a poem about a place no one has lived in for years and a woman on fire.

When we return things have taken a turn for the dire. In response to E’s poem, the doors to the dog park…have opened. Inside people can see a monolith as well as several tennis balls and Frisbees, implying that the park was at one point actually intended for dogs. The monolith hums and calms those who hear it. Although the park is now open Cecil and the City Council urge everyone to stay away from it. At least, that’s what Cecil thinks the Council is saying. Their warning was written entirely in unknown glyphs. Cecil sends Intern Dana to warn people away from the dog park and we go to the weather.

This episode’s weather is “Get Me Home” by Robin Aigner.

After the weather we get some shocking news. Old Woman Josie called in to explain that the “E” who wrote the poem on the dog park wall was actually Erika, one of the angels that live with Josie. Though, actually, apparently all angels are named Erika and that fact is common knowledge.

Upon learning that an angel was behind the message the City Council immediately became a lot more friendly. And by friendly, I mean that they encouraged all the angels and anyone else to come into the dog park and take a nice long look at the monolith. The doors then closed on those foolish enough to trespass in a forbidden area. I don’t think this actually captured any angels, but it got several citizens including Intern Dana. They are presumably lost forever.

However, before the gates closed Dana took a picture of the monolith, specifically a picture of a poem at the monument’s base. This poem was written by former Night Vale mayor Danielle DuBois in 1954, “In honor of nothing, that should never not be unknown.”

I…have absolutely no idea what to make of the poem that follows. So, here it is for your consideration!

The gentle man in glow light
is a candle in his maybes.
His face is a loamy bog.
Do you ever stop to look at all the blood you gather?
Metal halos spring from your attention.
She said, “watch with all your eyes
lest chance again escape you.”
Said, “chalk’s wasted on blind children,”
wrote today’s specials on the board.
What’s blessed entry in this weather?
I heard it tapping, but it doesn’t leave a trail.
When you catch a beating heart in the wild,
you hold it squirming and say, “that is that.”
But the damn thing keeps on moving
‘til you squeeze it in your hands.

I want to believe that it indicates some sort of creature locked away in the dog park, maybe one that is soothed by the monolith’s humming, because that would make my theories make sense. Unfortunately, I just don’t see it. Cecil also seems uncertain about what all these events might mean and if they will have consequences in the future. For now he simply says farewell to Intern Dana and wishes us good night.

So, readers, what do you think of this episode? How do you interpret the poems? What purpose do you think the monolith has? What does it all mean? Let me know below!

And now, the Conspiracy Tracker!

1. Angels are living with Old Woman Josie and the City Council wants to capture them.
2. There’s a house that doesn’t exist.
3. The Apache Tracker has changed into a real Native American and only speaks Russian
4. Time is weird in Night Vale and Carlos wants to figure it out.
5. Cecil wants to be swallowed by a giant snake.
6. There’s a city underneath the Desert Flower Bowling Alley and Arcade Fun Complex.
7. Literal five-headed dragon Hiram McDaniels wants to be the next mayor.
8. Pets become perfect when you accept them…
9. What the heck is the dog park?
10. Russian=Weirdness
11. Cecil hates Steve Carlsberg for unknown reasons.
12. Night Vale has a surprising fixation on actor Lee Marvin.
13. Two boy scouts are close to becoming Eternal Scouts.
14. The Apache Tracker and angels are watching the Desert Flower.
15. Night Vale is prone to duplication and Desert Bluffs is one of the duplicates.
16. A dark planet is calling to people.
17. People are shipping crates with tiny houses inside.
18. There’s a man with a tan jacket who’s affiliated with the underground city.
19. There’s an old oak door on John Peters’ farm.
20. Desert Bluffs is controlled by the evil company StrexCorp.
21. A blinking red light is coming from somewhere unknown.

Alex Townsend is freelance writer, a cool person, and really into gender studies and superheroes. It’s a magical day when all these things come together. You can follow her on her tumblr and see her comments on silver age comics. Happy reading!

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