Tag Archives: California School of Poets

Made In The Shade 3-3

9/4/94
went right by my birthday
didn’t bother to check the odometer

button holes gaped like tiers of silent mouths
the certain cynicism of my reflection

coming on that moon
          gully mist
and a cool drizzle
drenches orange petals
surf up from a storm
          way way out
blasts the granite to sand

9/10/90
I dwell on the page
year in and year out

Maxims of Modern Life:
1. These days when a man glimpses death over his shoulder, he stops to put on his running shoes.
2. You win, and you lose, all at the same time—the lot of a parent.
3. One day we all go our own separate ways—no explanation needed.

9/13/91
Virgo: You’ve overextended yourself. Time to decide which associations to keep and which ones to dump.

long awaited the visitors arrive
the tea cups have been set out

this is the way I’ve come to know how to live

9/14/91
auto satori
happens in Japanese cars
auto epiphany
in European models
auto jackpot 
from Detroit

               Casual my sleeves pushed up to
               my elbows that’s the way I want
               to be immortalized in marble
               fist to hip and staring off
               to a point where a hot little
               turn of the century sports 
               car is parked at the curb
               and the pigeons are pecking
               at the cracks in the sidewalk
               as I compose my very first poem 
               effortlessly 
                                   forever

               say again
               
               I was just thinking
                                   thanks

               (the sales girl of my subconscious
               goes back to filing her nails)

               I shop around
               a knick-knack here
                    a gaudy trinket there
               in the great flea market of ideas
               the forgotten at bargain prices
               recall for sale
               never finding what I really want
               caught in the contest
               between the magic and the terror
               
               huh
               
               like I said
               I posture therefore I am

—Suppose that there were a California School of Poets, who would they be?

A question like that can only lead to trouble, mainly because of who might be left off such a list. There is also the danger of saying “California” and meaning the West Coast, or vice versa. There is not the cohesion or concentration of literary talent in one close area as there is in that black hole of New York City. Many writers are on the West Coast because they want to get away from the light devouring gravity of the literary scene back there. Or they’re looking to make the big money in Hollywood. Be that as it may, there seems to be no central area where the literary talent congregates. It’s a lot more disparate. Writers are more into woodshedding, living away from the big urban centers. There are loose networks, of course, and much of it is based more on personal friendships than on any dogmatic line. San Francisco, historically, has been the so-called cultural mecca, and the Language School had a formidable presence there for years. Now Los Angeles and Seattle are holding their own, with LA outdistancing the Bay Area just by the sheer number of writers.

—Not to beg the point, but you haven’t mentioned any names.

I was trying to avoid having to, but if there were a California School the prime progenitors would include Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder, Lew Welch, Joanne Kyger, and Philip Whalen, just as the icons of the New York School are said to be Kenneth Koch, John Ashbery, James Schuyler, Barbara Guest, and Frank O’Hara. A gang for each coast.

—Isn’t the function of a literary movement primarily to secure publication of poets connected with that movement?  

That seems to be the way it works. The poets associated with L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E magazine, for example, and its off shoots, succeeded quite well with this strategy. Their publications were professional if not conservative. They presented the tenets of their philosophy in the accepted academic manner with much of the same professorial aplomb that you would find in any university house publication. They served up definitions and apparent conclusions. They appeared to have a goal. While the rest of American poetry reveled in the leftover anarchy of the Beat era or was held hostage behind the gates of academia, they presented a clear direction for the future of poetry. It was like they had it all mapped out. Their publishing record was amazing. Once you had the blessing of the inner circle, you were virtually assured a book of poems. They captured academic citadels and the apologists that come with them. They became literary darlings. They churned out tome after tome, spewing chapbooks from just about every small press in the country, and their monumentally indecipherable anthologies clogged the arteries of biblio-commerce, lining the shelves of specialty bookstores with their slick but ultimately insipid spines. Success, yes, but at what price? Where are they now? And is anyone reading that stuff? So, I guess the answer is yes, an organized effort is more effective in getting a group of writers’ works published. The Objectivists are a good example of this, so are the Surrealists. History has already passed judgement on them. The jury is still out on others.


9/17/89
Day’s mood chill with damp, blanket of gray clouds and the brow beating worries that accompany it. Those miserable raindrops, who told them summer was over? The oblique rays of late September had yet to bleach the golden landscape. The staggering heat of those late days like a door open onto a blast furnace reduced to a finger-numbing cool. And that semi-tropical ease evaporated like heat from a body whose circulation narrows its confines, and the grandeur of leisure is replaced by concerns over the mundane. Dust collects indoors to remind us of our transitory nature whereas outside of this tomb we are joined easily with the free flow of air. The ancients lived with these superstitions so long they’ve become second nature now and without them we wouldn’t know enough to come out of the rain.

9/19/92
the antiquity of denial is noteworthy
righteousness arrived with property
and the choice of ownership or divestiture
moral value is basic diluted by possessions
less is moral and more is less moral
to deny is to remember who we are and
to remain moral is to keep that in mind

9/20/91
The formula for poetry is PIE: personality (wit) intellect (form) experience (content). Without one, the other two don’t make it.

smugshitdisturbinginsufferablecondescendingbadmouthingblowhard

9/22/90
now I worry over every precious  
little inkling of my existence

in waning day clouds continents of fluff and light

it’s 1984 all over again

never trust a man who takes the laughter out of meaning

growing up we diminish the purity of our feelings by accepting responsibility and an overriding symbology that lets us hide how we really perceive things. . .once the human has reached the age of seven (the age of reason) he or she has had it as far as really experiencing. . . .

               Have I always been this forgetful
                  	       I can’t remember
               some Marcel Proust I am
         	      one moment to the next without a thought
                  	  worth hanging on to
               unmemorable to the extreme
                  	       I mean
               I’m the only one whose thoughts cause
         	                          instant amnesia
                  	  kids sound off
                    in their own hierarchy of things
         	                     desires mainly
               accumulating the need
         	                to have more than others
                  	       the original social disease
               if I deal with the present
         	      I can see its relationship to the past
                  	       a kind of artificial memory
                    made of assumption
         	                     and speculation
               I suppose I was that way at their age
         	      now my desires
                  	            compounded over time                              
                    return the original investment
         	           in the memory bank
                  	                      where was I
               I had forgotten to call the plumber
         	      dripping faucet reminded me
               and distracted toaster pops up
         	      while I’m out of the kitchen
                  	                 my muffins get cold
               I’m guessing but 
         	                I forget therefore I am

HOME MOVIE II

Ragtime piano roll music over pan up of a huge cement phallic fountain which then erupts against a background of tall yellow California grass and the mottled variegation of multiple evergreens in the distance. A blurring pan across the landscape. A fire burns in the firepit. The back of a woman at a piano. Die are cast and pennies move about to form shifting designs in a stop action sequence. A large sensuous wave breaks over itself.
Close up: Hunce Voelcker stares slightly above the lens and holds that gaze with an air of not quite agony and not quite ecstasy for the duration of his recital. The ocean breeze whips his wispy hair. In the distant background, the cliff-lined Pacific and the white glare of sea froth. His voice over speaks the introductory passage from his Hart Crane’s Voyages.
“. . .and Cutty Sark was drunk. . .the myth was sucked.. . .”  
Medium shot of Hunce donning his hat at shore’s edge. Another breaker spills over itself. Piano roll music over.
Close up: Dick Gallup’s long black hair surrounds his head like a dark halo obliterating everything but the mask of his face. He remains passive and a little self-conscious as if sitting for a portrait, eyes framed by glasses. His voice over speaks his poem.
“. . .urban blues may make me gray. . .victory or defeat.”
Close up of oil painting of Rich Taggart by Jose Lafitte. Medium shot of Jose watering the garden.
Close up: Rich Taggert, young handsome face’s trusting gaze at the lens, delicate cheek boned, seductive in a passive way. His poem is about Phaedrus.
“. . .the fire in turbulence. . .the scrotum’s blossom. . .”
Piano roll music resumes laconic. Medium shot of water rolling over a dam. Segue to wine stream from bottle neck into glass. Medium shot of Gil Helmick putting the bottle down, raising his glass to the camera.
Close up: Gil stares insolently into the lens, challenging it to be more than it is. His droop moustache and the wiry unruly tufts guarding his hairline give him the presence of an absolutely sane and ruthless Edgar Allen Poe. His voice over speaks his poem.
“a tiny explosive up for grabs. . .irreverently armed assassins”
Close up of Susan in profile with Gil glaring in the background. Medium shot of a woman at piano (presumably Susan).
Close up: Phil Newton, angry young poet with angry young beard stares relentlessly at the lens with angry dark eyes. His poem’s about eyes.
“. . .the sly eyes of kindness. . .two black eyes. . .”
Medium shot of Phil walking off into lush green underbrush. Resume piano. Medium shot of phallic cement fountain spouting jet of water. Medium shot of Ellen Appel’s husband, Doug, and their son, Adam. In the background, the sloping wooded landscape of Hunce’s property.
Close up: Ellen, the golden hue of waning day attached to the wisps of her hair in the slight breeze, mugs a pouty insolence, assured that it won’t affect her stark intellectual beauty. Her voice over insinuates her poems.
“. . .the yellow jackets are unrelenting. . .not adrift. . .”
Medium shot of Ellen, nude, bathing in one of the ponds in Hunce’s moat while husband and son look on.
Close up: Pat Nolan in straw hat with green plastic visor bringing cigarette to lips. Top half of face obscured by shadow of hat. Thoroughly animated, whistling, drinking from white coffee cup, mouthing words of insult. His poem about hitchhiking is a tribute to Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
“. . .the coffee trade is brisk. . .a car pulls up and I get out.”
Close up of baby Irene, cherub cheeked, golden curled. Music resumes, harpsichord and piano duet. Medium pan across the construction site in Pat Nolan’s back yard. Close up of Irene again, removing or placing something in her mouth.
Close up: Gail King, framed by a blank sky, coyly expressive indicating a giddy uneasiness with the camera hence the protruding tongue and the wrinkling of the nose. Her breathy voice over in the upper octaves speaks her prose poem.
“Mom was spaced out. . .a touch of science fiction. . .”
Medium shot of Jeffrey Miller and Michelle leaning on the fender of his old Ford, looking under the hood. Close up of Jeffrey’s hand placing a wad of bubble gum to seal the hole in the radiator hose. Raucous ragtime piano over.
Close up: Jeffrey’s head cocked to one side, dirty blond hair not so much slept in as lived in, generous amounts of mascara (raccoon-like) around half-lidded eyes that seem the perfect companion for the smirk and the delta of lip beard straight out of Dumas. The winning smile lets go with a puff of smoke. His poems sparkle, irreverent.
“. . .it felt like a kiss. . .I’m not Ted Berrigan. . .”
Stop action sequence. Medium shot of Hunce in a red dress, Jeff  in a suit twirl around the old VW station wagon. In the background, the red hued wooden A-frame of Hunce’s house. Medium shot of Alice’s yellow Vega zigzagging across the parking lot under the Monte Rio bridge. Montage of shots showing Andrei and Alice Codrescu mugging for the camera in their home. Close up of Alice’s portrait of Andrei on the wall. Up-tempo piano rag.
Close up: Andrei framed by luxuriant black curls of his long hair (shades of Louis XIV), dark compelling eyes give it the Svengali routine, lips under the dark moustache rouged. His Romanian accents curl around his English words.
“. . .a man of hair. . .my fingernails look good in jello. . .”
Medium shot family portrait of Alice standing to one side behind Andrei sitting with young Lucian on his knee. Resume piano. Montage of stop action shots as all the players appear one by one in front of the piano in a jovial gathering of artists and poets, Ellen reprising her nude scene stretched out atop the piano. Long shot of phallic fountain in the shadows moves in for close up of water jet gushing from tip. Linger on water stream. Slow moody piano. Long shot of sun in the trees at sunset as the signatures of the poets crawl across the landscape. Spare laconic piano. 15


9/28/91
Souls migrate like continents. Souls migrate with the sureness of continents. We all have our faults towards which we lean. Time erodes the standpoint from which we view ourselves, the curse of immortality.

I’m never done with anything

too many directions
not enough places to go

The theory of reflexive utterance is simply struck by phenomena (any), the mechanism of our souls (insides) starts the whelming and depending on the time or mood we are either speechless or like a mug with a good head we can translate our wonder into the creaks and groans of crying out loud

the baroque of being organized

no matter the technology
photos don’t show everything

language doesn’t change
it shifts like light

               Strife grief constant
               smooth cosmetic numb
         	      shatter response fail

               not exactly Mark Twain
         	                but what can I expect
                  	  screws clamped tight
                    I grind out my disappointment

         	           “I believe in love” 
                  	                      radio mocks

               feeling for a friend
         	                     (one of the few)
                  	       served injustice
                    with a side of heartache

         	           and I had to find out
               the hard way
         	                the dreaded phone call
                  	  of the ‘80’s
               where the tense
         	                     on the other end
                  	  is past singular

               another mistake admitted to
         	      and its residual sadness
                  	  like the odor that comes
                    with the opening of
         	                a can of worms

               “Hey, it sucks!”
         	                          I want to shout
               and it’s not even
         	                any of my business

9/29/97
Dear Jeffrey (in Heaven), 
     I know that’s where you are because all dogs go to Heaven (poets included). Poets only visit Hell in their mortal lives or for literary conventions. I’m writing this twenty years after your death16, and as we approach the millennium (something you would have had great fun with), the frenzy intensifies — all this fuss over a round number. Gail and I are the last of the old poet gang still in Monte Rio. I know you’re not surprised. Everyone else has moved away or died. I won’t bore you with news of the dead for obvious reasons. Andrei is in New Orleans. So is Gil. Dick, last I heard, was still driving cab in SF. Ellen is a teacher in Vermont. Rich is back in SF, and Phil is living off the land in Oregon. Lana landed in Oxnard. Michael-Sean dropped off the face of the earth (maybe you’ve seen him). Keith teaches in Boulder. Carol lives in SF, Karen is wildly successful, and Steve is back in Oakland. I’m still here because I didn’t have anything better to do or any better place to go.
      You probably know that Hunce and Andrei guided you across the Bardo plane with their readings from the Tibetan Book of the Dead shortly after your demise. A few weeks later your poems were read at an amazingly surreal memorial event in Cotati by a gaggle of friends and famous poets. You would have hated it. And within six months a selection of your works appeared, complied by Andrei and Jim Gustafson, and entitled The First One’s Free. You would have disagreed with the selection. As the title suggests, the books were free. Alive, it’s doubtful that your words would have seen print with such swiftness and ease. Ironic, isn’t it? As it was, once published and delivered to bookstores, your volume of poems was on its own. Unfortunately, the fact that they were free might have worked against them. Bookstores are not, for the most part, interested in “free” and the reading public regards anything free as disposable and probably not worth their time. Hence, a few of us took it upon ourselves to sell your books to used book stores, a copy at a time, so that they did eventually find their way onto shelves with a respectable price rather than in the bargain bin or the throwaway box. Your fame is also assured by another friend of Andrei’s from Denver, Ivan Suvanjieff, who became a great fan of your work and published some of your unpublished poems in his magazine, The New Censorship. Andrei also published your works in his magazine, Exquisite Corpse (no pun intended, I’m sure). You haven’t been forgotten. In fact, a filmmaker from Budapest looked me up a few years ago. He was comparing you to Kerouac and James Dean. You would have died, laughing. You were designated the first “punk poet,” after all. He wanted to produce a documentary of you for Hungarian National TV. I told him that you had worked on Christo’s running fence, something that would resonate with his countrymen. And I told him how your heart was ripped from its place when you were thrown from the car when it hit the tree. I took him out to Hunce’s and to where you used to live. He took some pictures out by the old whaling boat. Yes, it’s still there! Then his car got stuck in a ditch. I had to help him out using the old jack trick, you remember the one. Some things never change. In fact, they repeat themselves. I never heard if the documentary ever got made, but at this point, do you care? Whenever I dust off a copy of your book of poems to take down to the used bookstore, I always think, his was such a great beginning, it should never have been an end. Say “hi!” to everyone “up” there for me.


                       When there’s nothing else 		
                        to be done
               		     it’s hard to imagine
               		sitting still for this
               		a corona descends 
                    		and surrounds
                         		the body
                    	to announce
                           	   a pop quiz
               		tell
               		me who
                         			“who”
               		are
                    		you
                    	I examine my fingers
               		conclude the obvious
               		these agents of my desire
                    	have seen it all
                    		but they ain’t talking
               		I have to take an educated guess
               		so much for learning
                              anarchy at least entertains
                             I never get the whole picture
                  		           the blanks
                                 left up
                  	       the imagination
         		                     fills in
                               opportunity is having the time
                  	  to sit and say
                                “I don’t know”
         	          golden light pales
                                electric high hum
                                                   sputters
                                   near
                         the bottom of the page

Endnotes
[15] Hunce Voelcker first taped the poets reading on a reel to reel machine in his attic workshop. Then he filmed each of the poets in a setting of their choosing with a Super 8 mm camera. The premiere showing was at Hunce’s, attended by all plus some. The tape player and the projector were synchronized by hand, Hunce flipping the switch on both machines simultaneously after he’d yelled “lights out!”

[16] Death is a displaced name for a linguistic predicament.

Subtext
“. . .the name Orpheus itself belongs to the oldest level of Greek  names. . .pre-Homeric. . .an initiator whose power transforms even the wildest creatures, animals and men who live in the wilderness. . . associated with the initiation of young men in the wilds of nature. . .there something significant was disclosed to them in music and song that delivered them from their blood spilling savagery and gave a deep sense to the ceremonies of transit from immaturity to adulthood. . .the announcer of this mystery played the lyre but was not a mere singer. . . .”

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Made In The Shade 3-2

8/1/92
the natural priority of my inclination
words well up and I dip in my pen

make space in table clutter 
hurry find something to write on

poets need more self-advertising t-shirts
than they do frames of mind
no that’s not it but it is
innumerable enlightened moments
		not all that different
expressed 
		succinctly
across someone’s chest
a revolution
where elegant vies with vulgar
and neither ever really wins
certainly not
		a whole class of people
dressed in promotional ware

some plunk down 
a day’s wages
			easy
for the privilege of wearing
	the label
others get theirs
with a carton of cigarettes

the dialogue will continue
after these messages

“I don’t dare tell 
the voices in my head to shut up
I might miss something”

now
you can shut those voices off
and still not miss a thing 
with remarkable
		(another revolution)
advances in neuro-electro recorders 			
play back those curious	
fades and surges through
		your language center 
in those moments when
nothing is coming across the wires
or
rent someone else’s
at your local brain wave exchange
plug into the electrochemical
flux of someone with mighty synapses! 

8/5/89
silent alarm

8/12/95
a private mythology repeated
at odd vulnerable times
the words an opening flower
petal by petal the legend grows
nothing but rubber bands
aimed at a preponderance of guilt
these are tangerine sunset days
 
each breath a mistake
no less a weight as well
a cat on piano keys
so random my own melody
a wound down mainspring
as a neglected clock shiny
faced ticks away all the same

8/14/91
I don’t want to join your reality
and have to believe in your bullshit 			
the sooner you stop trying
 
to convince me the sooner you’ll
believe in what you know to be true

VIRGO: The phone rings off the hook this week. You’re super popular. Everyone wants to get next to your classy touch.

        At odds with electricity
	first off this morning the light 
	bulb in the kitchen came on for 
	an instant before it made that 
	slight snapping sound that signals
	that its little tungsten backbone 
	broke and blinked out forever
        (I always hate to throw them out 
        so perfect and symmetrical there
        must be something that can be done 
        with them besides gasoline bombs) 
        then cleverly slicing tortillas 
        in quarters and slipping them into 
        the toaster I forget distracted by 
        the children playing in the yard 
        and the next thing I know I’m 
        unplugging the toaster stomping 
        out flaming wedges of tortilla 
        seconds later the smoke (by now 
        invisible) triggers the alarm 
        which I have to smash with my fist 
	once I get to it to get it to quit 
	later vacuuming the motes of dust 
        in the amber patches of light slanting 
        in onto the living room rug the 
        cord on its automatic recoil gets 
        yanked out of the outlet producing 
        an arc or spark and a tiny snake 
        (more like a worm) of black acrid 
        smoke the insides of  the plug fried 
        to a stub on closer examination 
        I think of shaving thankful I 
        don’t use an electric razor

CALLING ALL POETS

            Aram “my arms are warm” Saroyan had to back out as the radio show co-host with Andrei because he would have trouble getting from Bolinas to KPFA, the radio station in Berkeley. No more trouble than Andrei who didn’t drive. Or me, who didn’t drive either, and whom Andrei, at the last minute, had asked to fill in. We traveled either by bus or by thumb. And since someone had torched the Greyhound bus in the parking lot in Monte Rio one night, the bus didn’t come up that far any more. Alice or Gail could be counted on to run us around locally, but when it came to long distances, we were generally on our own.
            Once getting down to Berkeley was solved, we made plans as to what we were going to do with the half hour slot once a week that KPFA had so generously offered Andrei. I suggested a poetry call­-in show. Andrei wanted live on-the-air interviews with guests. We agreed to do both. For the first program we contacted a few friends and told them to call in with their poems. That worked fairly well, and when there was a lull in the program, one or the other of us would read from the works of Ted Berrigan or John Ashbery, and make snide comments about news items we found in the Poetry Project Newsletter or Poetry Flash. Before we knew it, the half-hour was over. We were exhilarated, flush with success.
            The next week we hitched back down, having primed our friends again beforehand, anticipating a repeat performance of our first success. We had to work a little harder this time and there was a lot more dead air. The poets we had expected to be dialing up obviously had got cold fingers. Some people did call up. One read a poem in Spanish, and another, a rather long and stupid paranoid rant. Then one guy called and recited a suspiciously disjointed poem that repeated a woman’s name over and over amid gasps and wheezes. Andrei’s raised eyebrows told me that he was thinking the same thing. Our first obscene phone call! But there was still time to burn. Andrei dialed up Tom Clark’s number in Bolinas, but Tom must not have been listening. We let the phone ring over and over the wide-open air waves before Andrei hung up. I read from a calendar of events and by then, thankfully, time was up. That was hard work, we decided, and we would have to be better prepared next time.
              The next time was in the middle of a fund raising marathon and so the show was relegated to fifteen-minute segments, which made things a little easier. Calling All Poets was allotted four such segments. While we were down on the street during one of the pledge breaks, who should come strolling by but Darrell Gray. We shanghaied him to be our guest on the next segment. He was surprised, pleased, and accepted it as his due, managing to pontificate and giggle on literary matters in that fifteen minutes of air wave fame. Then Andrei left for a book promotion tour and I was left to do the show by myself.
            I introduced something called the “in-house critic” which was essentially a laugh bag, a joke shop item that produced an annoying, obnoxious laugh. I’d play it after someone called up with a particularly bad poem. But listeners weren’t calling in much anymore. So I arranged with the radio engineer to cue up a couple of spoken word records ahead of time, and when there was a lull, I would sign to him and he’d play the record. I’d say,  “go ahead on line one, you’re on the air” and on would come the voice of Ezra Pound booming out the Cantos, or Dylan Thomas, or Williams, or Eliot. And once in a while, a real person would call up to read a poem or to say that what I was doing was stupid.
            The frequency of the show was down to once a month by the time I got Michael-Sean to be my guest one sunny Saturday afternoon, and believe it or not, it was in the middle of another pledge week. The format was a little different this time. Before getting to the meat of our show, we had to chat on the air with the program director and a woman writer he’d brought as his guest. We were supposed to extol the virtues of listener-supported radio. Everyone said their piece as to why the listeners should call up and pledge their support of the station. All except for Sean, who was uncharacteristically quiet during the on-air conversation. Finally, the program director, hoping to draw him out, asked him how he felt about listener-supported radio. Sean had an opinion and since he’d been asked, he stated it. “Public radio sucks! The stations never plays any good music (i.e., metal) and there’s always some stupid people in boring conversations about things no one cares about!”  The director’s guest wanted to add something of her own to defend the programming but Sean touched her on the arm to tell her that he wasn’t done yet. At this point, the program director said, “Don’t touch the guest.”  Michael-Sean stood up to emphasize his six-foot plus frame, scrapping the chair loudly across the floor, and indicating to himself with his thumb, replied, “I am the guest.”  Needless to say, when Andrei got back from his tour, the show was no more.


8/16/87
to Jack bursts of great writing were more important than maintaining a perfectly balanced prose and pose

have you ever lifted that cup
to your lips with more heft
than was actually needed
in some moment of absenteeism
and basically missed your mouth
dribbles on a clean shirt attest

8/17/87
revelations from behind the goat cheese curtain
 
quaint and hideous
 

8/18/89
They reburied Frederick the Great today next to his sixteen greyhounds

free floating anxiety

a man chasing a dog
southbound highway seventeen

e-pi-pha-ny
it lasts about as long
as it takes to say it

“blow out the candles”
and don’t beat the crap
out of your friends for 
touching the presents
they brought you

8/20/93 
vouz avez trouvez une autre amour
I know you less now than I knew you before

were there any songs that
didn’t remind him of her

8/24/85
T-shirt ideas
*Art is the alternative to money, it doesn’t dirty your hands*
*Entertainment is not reality, poetry is not technique*
*Ambition is like a gun pointed at your heart, it will rob you of integrity*

rule #1: get an editor
rule #2: get a second opinion

Wait
the sun’ll
	break through
			the fog yet
the whole world 
	relies on memory
for its existence
what I remember
	becomes later 
light glancing off
the tops of trees 
as cool morning recedes 			
experience
and live through it sometimes 
		some things     
have to be relearned 
like tying the laces
	of my shoes 
enhancing the moment 
		almost forgot
or cued by a song
	I begin the intricate fantasy
	surrounding music
I can see myself
	as if it were 
		yesterday
I find I write
	not to recall 
	the events of my life
	    but renew
each time I come
		upon the page

  

— I seem to shun literary society. Why?
You often claim to be misanthropic and this is admittedly a self-protective ploy to keep certain people or a certain type of person at a distance. Too much attention and conversely not enough in a social situation have the same disruptive effect on your sensitive yet gigantic ego. Literary events often take on the air of a trade show and it is disturbing to see so many of your fellow authors prostitute themselves to public opinion, sink to the lowest common denominator, merely to ensure acceptance in the eyes of a fictive and elusive public. As well, you are extremely jealous of any attention lavished on anyone but yourself. For all your lip service to the uniqueness of each artist in their own right, your incredible competitiveness seems to undercut this particular altruism. That you are aware of this, even peripherally, is probably the motivation behind your reclusiveness and your professed misanthropy.
—I’m being rather flip about all this. Obviously there’s more to my withdrawal than that.
Of course there is. You’ve met some of the great names of your day, those who were in, even those who were out, and for the most part, they were a big disappointment. Also you saw yourself in their self-indulgent attitudes and it made you sick. You thought that if this is what poets are like then you didn’t want anything to do with them.
—I’m not only a poet but a near famous unknown one. Am I experiencing any disadvantage in being almost famous?
There are those annoying moments when someone will come up to you and ask, “aren’t you someone famous?”  Perhaps it’s the way you hold yourself, your posture, your particular aloofness at that moment which causes them to assume this. You are, of course, obliged to admit that you are, after all, no one in particular. On the other hand, there are times when it seems that someone is going out of their way to ignore you, withholding what little due you feel you are entitled to. This can be just as maddening. Were you totally famous, then you could be gracious in accepting your recognition and righteously contemptuous of those whose jealousy of your achievement is obvious by their awkward pettiness.
—So there are some real drawbacks to being recognized in the poetry world.
Once you have the power in the poetry scene you immediately become the “enemy.” The principle of the poetry scene being that starved dog principle where you throw out
a little scrap of food and all the dogs leap at it with fangs bared and ready to kill for it. Poetry scenes are like that. There are so few bones and so many dogs that the competition for survival immediately turns poets into back stabbing creeps just to get their names in print. That’s what it’s like in academic circles, that’s how it is on the literary grant circuit, and that’s the way it is with any of the hundreds of self-serving poetry crowds everywhere. And it has absolutely nothing to do with poetry.
—That’s a pretty scathing indictment. Are there no worthwhile poets writing today?—There are a half dozen American poets who are for real and not playing at it.
—Would you care to name them?
That wouldn’t be polite.
—What do they have in common?
A source in the primitive. In the pre-logical.
—Describe something of the Monte Rio, or as Codrescu called it, the California School of Poets, and say something of those days.
Those days were very exciting and fruitful. Andrei was a comrade d’esprit. And he lived right around the corner and over the hill. It was a tremendous affirmation to my own creativity and direction. And of course there was the shared interest in French poetry as well as in recreational activities. Eventually we formed a friendship that transcended the fact that we were both poets. As for the “California School of Poets,” I’d be inclined to attribute that to our penchant for making things up, the amusing pastime of placing ourselves in the flow of history. It has a lot in common with defacing public monuments, drawing whiskers on the Mona Lisa. The people who take that kind of label seriously are probably lacking in their own lives. They’re like the guy who laughs because everyone else is laughing but has no idea what’s so funny.
—So what you’re saying then is that there is no California School of Poets?
No, there could very well be such a school of poets, but I’m not aware of it. The California School of Poets Andrei alludes to in the notes to UP LATE is a mock campus, one that references the New York School, and in many instances includes writers associated with the East Coast scene. There was a smug satisfaction on our part in knowing that affixing that label to ourselves irritated the more sanctimonious and self-righteous on either coast
.


8/23/84
Dear Steve    
My literary advisor and guru has suggested that I bail out, claim a three year abscessed tooth as being responsible for Life Of Crime. That’s stretching it a little, though it would be easy enough to disavow much of what we printed. A lot of it was incredibly lame. But there’s something about Life Of Crime that’s too dangerously ruthless a thrill to pass up. From the outset, I realized that we had to work with the givens, spruce them up with all the wit we could muster in a kind of kamikaze editorial desperation. Dealing with such sheer stupidity made us reckless, a thrill in itself. We began by blasting and lambasting people we were fond of, playing it safe because we knew most of them could take a joke. By the second issue, strangers and bystanders had joined the fray and the mudslinging took on pandemonium proportions. I remember being surprised, pleased. We began attracting subscribers. The Artaud piece14 kicking off the third issue was an excellent slap in the face aimed at everyone who read (or wrote for) Life Of Crime. Then some who became mired remembered that they didn’t particularly enjoy being sullied and took their mudballs and went home (or retired to the sidelines to watch from there). They were the smart ones. Because that’s when things got serious. Axes were brought to grind. Some of these idiots were after blood, and Life Of Crime became the vehicle through which they could vent their spleen. It took the fun out of the original idea. Even so, I never wanted to disassociate myself from Life Of Crime even if the faux pas of others became my own. I tried to be accommodating to all views, no matter how hysterical, and was thus perceived as pathological, or at least rabid, paranoid, and vindictive. Life Of Crime will continue in whatever format you or I decide, individually or collectively. We will continue to print the drivel we receive, exchange gossip, spread rumors, and just generally be disagreeable. Our respective esthetic will grow apart not because of any meaningful difference, but simply for the sake of dissension and the heat it creates. As you well remember, Life Of Crime was originally an idea for a screenplay about poets. Not so much a “lives of the poets” as a docudrama detailing the day to day existence (or non-existence) of poets as well as delineating certain character types common to the milieu, a soap opera of sorts, but an honest appraisal just the same. Everyone I talked to about it thought that it was the most boring idea they’d ever hear — everyone knows poets are ultimately self-centered and consequently boring. Why is that? Anyway, a newsletter makes much more sense (though I’m not all that convinced). The means are at hand: typewriter, mimeo machine, paper, ink, a modicum of wit, and no typing skills required. Basically, the same problems, poets and poetry, are dealt with in these pages. Poets are the inspired and the foolish. Usually only one or the other, and the latter at that. The follies and successes can be examined against a backdrop of pettiness, pretension, charlatanism, ruthless ambition; all the factors of drama in the futile quest for the unattainable. A tid-bit of gossip here, an innuendo therepretty soon you begin to get the picture. The lives of poets, lives of crime, unfold before our very eyes.


 Since none of this matters
				here goes
	the intricacies of saying something
		lost on listeners
		who hear only 
			what they want to hear
behind the words 
		that make all this up

a major philosophic discovery was
	“I think therefore I am” 
	now
		the question is
		“who the hell are you?”
		petty
			bourgeois
		or both
			silence broken
				internal combustion’s
			rush of air 
	caused by unusual speed
	(this used to be a quiet neighborhood)
		
                  mammal blink

		“feel like making love”

think about dinosaurs whose 
direct descendant I begin to feel like 
(too good for my own good) 									
a cloud of volcanic ash passes over 						
the upper end of the food chain 
snuffing anything with its head
stuck above tall grass and brush


End Notes
[14] “All writing is garbage. . .people who come out of nowhere to try to put into words any part of what goes on in their minds are pigs. . .the whole literary scene is a pigpen, especially today. . .all those who are masters of other languages, all those for whom words have meaning, those who represent the spirit of their times, and who have named those currents of thought. . .I am thinking of their meticulous industry and of the mechanical creaking which their minds give off in all directions. . .are pigs. . .those who still believe in an orientation of the mind, those who follow paths, who drop names, who recommend books. . .these are the worst pigs of all.”

subtext:
Surrounded by the technology of our wildest dreams, still we dream. That should tell us something about ourselves. We should be happy. Not that we’re unhappy but more correctly in a state of seriousness, a terminal state. Why don’t we see the humor in the fact that we’re still the same Paleolithic monkeys who’ve learned to manipulate symbolic characters in an attempt to determine our fate? All the tangled webs of allusion we weave, all the hypothetical talk will not change the limits of the physical facts. And our assumed progress, that linear illusion, will remain unlimited only in our dreams.

“. . .’Police?. . .The Poet’s Café. . .there’s a riot!’. . .A SINGLE GLASS OF WATER LIGHTS THE WORLD. . .MIRRORS WOULD DO TO REFLECT FURTHER. . .the police show up with a black Mariah, a quartet of plainclothes flics (trench coats and fedoras) and a squad of gendarmes, and wade into the knot of brawling poets. . .can you imagine that many poets under one roof without some words being exchanged. . .the tribunal questions Orpheus. . .’Your occupation?’. . .’I’m a poet.’. . .’Your file says you’re a writer.’. . .’It’s almost the same thing.’. . .traveling the backside of a mirror when the mail man arrives. . when you get back from the dead, the mail’s most important. . .”