Tag Archives: Ted Berrigan

Made In The Shade 2-2

FROM NEW YORK TO MONTE RIO

Dick Gallup spent some time on the Russian River. He was associated with the New York School of Poets as well as being one of the “Tulsa triumvirate” which included Ted Berrigan and Ron Padgett. Dick, family in tow, drove up from San Francisco, where he’d been staying, to visit Andrei one weekend. Fresh from the Big Apple, the idyllic spring weather and laid back California life style extended numerous possibilities for beginning life anew. Before long, Dick, Carol, and kids had moved up to the River, and the literary scene was notably enlivened. Andrei’s prediction that Monte Rio would soon become the next Bolinas was beginning to appear likely. A community of writers blossomed and a reading series was deemed necessary. A local café called Stone Soup obliged with the space. Jeff Miller was one of the first poets to read there, along with Dick. The series was quite successful until a grease fire burned the tiny wood frame diner to the ground. The community of writers rallied and soon another venue was found. Dick’s arrival also hastened the adoption of literary labels as designations for individual poets. It started off with the obvious tagging of Dick as “the New York poet.”  Once that was established, everyone, in a fit of morbid self-consciousness, imagined what their own labels might be. Andrei was the “Transylvanian poet” of course, and Hunce Voelcker was “the Bridge poet” because of his obsession. Jeff was “the punk poet” because of his spiky hairdo. I was “the haiku poet” because I had just devoted an entire issue of my magazine, The End (& Variations Thereof), to western Haiku. And Michael-Sean Lazarchuk was “the LA poet” although he was merely from Southern California. As well, there were also the River Poets, the Just Awful Poets, the Poets of the Vineyard, the Women Poets, the Gay Poets, the Academic Poets, and the Crazy Poets. All the ingredients for a self-devouring microbic literary soup were mixing and coming to a boil in the little bowl of a valley of mist and redwoods watered by a winding narrow green river. One of the first things to boil over was Dick leaving Carol and moving back to San Francisco. After all those years, two kids, they were through. It happened as I was helping them move into the house I had just vacated. One moment I was lifting furniture and the next thing I knew I had emotional baggage on my hands. Those things happen and they’re hardly ever pleasant. Michael-Sean, up for another of his visits, was upset that he’d just missed meeting Dick. Dick had been featured in Ted’s poems and had shared the intimate details of Ted’s life. As a consolation, Gail took Sean over to meet Carol. Carol had known Ted, quite well in fact. And since nature abhors a vacuum, they were drawn to each other right away. It was a match made in poetry heaven. Gail wrote a funny account of how all that came about, and how she, as the Haiku Poet’s wife gave the New York Poet’s wife driving lessons in an old ‘64 VW with a stick shift. But that’s another story, full of stops and starts, jerks and stalls.


5/1/90
“American genius (in lit) cannot be distinguished by a casual glance from charlatanry. Purity of intention lies at the heart of American achievement.” 
                                                         –Hugh Kenner

5/2/90
fantasy doesn’t have to be real

feed the disaster of apprehension
I have become mediocre destitute
imagination like fleeting thought
never to return or be regained

“I’ve forgotten more than I can remember”

religion—organized sex with the best part left out

feeble asides

animate pliers	

5/8/90
Mon Cher —     
Already, bootleg tapes of your appearance on Nightline are on the black-market. I got mine through Voelcker Video Ventures, a video pirate down the road in Duncan Mills. You were brilliant, professional, larger than life though smaller than actual size. The piece was touching and you were its perfect expositor. There was much cheering in our living room when we saw your image appear in that familiar square to the left of Ted Koppel’s ear. The fact that we were seeing it “post-event,” so to speak, made no difference. Wish I’d been at the Pink (now since closed) knocking back a few when Nightline aired—I could have said, “Hey, I know that guy, me and him used to play eight ball at that very same table over there!”  Anyway, amigo, congrats on being chosen to deliver a beautiful (poetic) piece (a near first on near prime time) on the liberation of your homeland.
I won’t bore you with the well-known details of my existence, but as you know, life continues, and as Seneca said, “destiny leads those who are willing and drags the rest.” 
A bientot.


Rays of light
			enter my head
	brighten up 
		some dark little corner
revealing little more
	than what’s left of shadows
everything that happens
			in the dark
		has scurried off
I pare my nails in the meantime
	I’m using myself as bait
		(if you couldn’t tell)
and wait
		for the gnaw
				on my nerves
the better mousetrap isn’t used on mice
	it has a captive audience

	tonight’s full moon
		creeps up
	above the tree line
   (is it too early to take a bow?)
	planets surround it
	Venus’ white marble
	Mars’ red comma
	and some other dots
	in the pale glow
	of a hot nickel
	flipped up into
	the dark of night

			mantle of mist
	cuts the stark pointy
		silhouettes in two
clear as day
 

What do I expect from poetry, anyway?

You have no idea. You really have no program or established plan. You never ask yourself if you should ever sell your writing or not. There’s no theoretical substratum. You live, you write, you’re a poetit doesn’t mean anything, fundamentally. You’re a poet because you want a vague so-called freedom, but really you just don’t want to go to an office every morning.

Do I credit any one writer, ancestor or contemporary, with a strong influence on my poetry?

You read. Everyone and everything. That’s the prime requisite, you read extensively, and pretty soon your head gets packed with all kinds of stuff and then some of it leaks out of the end of your pen into what you’re writing in that the trivia comes out between the lines or as quotesdepending on how you feel about plagiarismor whatever, as impossible paraphrases. So no one writer has a corner on influence and all are mixed nameless into the reflex of memory. There are writers you revere but they’re much the same ones that everyone else is in awe of, too. There are vast repositories of literature to draw from, ancient and contemporary, classical and popular. All writers offer you something even if it’s nothing more than the recognition that you would or could never write that way.

How long does the writing of a poem take me?

—Sometimes you just write something in your notebook and turn the page and write something else and forget about it. And you continue to write in your notebook and days later during a pause in the action you leaf back through the pages and find what you’d written on one particular day and wonder “where did this come from?”  Then you go back and reconstruct as best as you can remember to determine whether or not you wrote it or lifted it from someone else. Not that that would do anything to hamper its utility.

—Should I be troubled by this, that I rely so heavily on what I read to affect what I write?

What you read has more of an effect on how you write than what you think. You are an information junkie, a detail demon. Trivia is like candy. What you write is determined by a subtle chemical interaction triggered by one or more of the senses which transports the assessment of those sensations into a realm beyond the physical. It is a suspension of belief that allows the imagination to color certain aspects of existence that are often hidden or unnoticed or invisible unless enhanced. Writing is a physical act, pick and shovel work. The best thing to do when digging a trench is to sing, it enforces your rhythm. Thinking would only hamper you so you don’t think. That’s what you do when you take a break to wipe your brow and swig from the canteen. You’re thinking, “Why am I doing this?”

—Alright, but what about thought? Profound thinking? Am I totally devoid of intellectual depth?

You’re surprised that you have any thoughts at all no matter how banal and that’s why they get jotted down. Sometimes that’s all there is, and, after all, your pen is always ready no matter what. Then you go back and throw out the really leaden thoughts. Or some. Otherwise you keep them and make more banalities to go along with them. Something that seems no more than the sickening thud of hitting rock bottom can end up weeks later an airy lyric central to the mechanism of your latest creation. Though writing creatively is sometimes compared to fishing in the stream of consciousness, you don’t always throw back the little one. But to get back to the point, often what starts out as philosophy with you ends up as science fiction.

Then, what is intelligence?

The word “intelligence” is a rubber band of ambiguity. There’s the logical or Cartesian form of intelligence, but you mean something else, a freer form of the problem. For you intelligence is the penetration into what the average “normal” man finds incomprehensible or difficult to understand, the everyday mysteries that are the foundation of surrealism which in the latter part of the century have become nothing more than raw doses of reality TV shows. There is something like an explosion of meaning, something you aren’t likely to get from a dictionary. We are men of the same order, you and I share a community of vision which is why you understand this idea of intelligence, enlarged, drawn out, extended, inflated. . .

—In what sense have I enlarged, inflated, exploded the limits of creation, according to my own intelligence?

Try to shy away from the word “creation.”  In the ordinary, social meaning of the word, it’s very nice, but, fundamentally, you don’t believe in the creative function of the artist. You are a man just as any other. You have a job to do. The word “artist” was invented when the painter became an individual, first in monarchal society, and then in contemporary society where they’re supposed to be gentlemen, an archaic concept all its own. They don’t make things for people; people come to choose things from among their production. The artists’ revenge is that they are much less subject to concession as when they were craftsmen. Unfortunately like poets they deal almost exclusively in framed metaphor rather than in the thing. So angst can be expressed on the square canvas or the rectangle of the page. Let’s move on.


5/4/93
Affected by the negative
worry’s sad anticipation
frozen as a turd on the tundra

the horrible awakening 
from the dream of life

spend a lot of time looking
for things I don’t need to find

5/9/89
fleeting sunset caught
along the edge of a single cloud
in the rearview mirror

5/10/90
Sudden California as opposed to Gradual California

5/12/89
ah, the four seasons of my discontent. . . The Guggenheim, the National Book Award, the Pulitzer, Book Circle Critic’s Award, After Columbus, Before Columbus, Best Unknown Poet Award, The Posthumorous Award, all of them will never be mine. Feelings of alienation so familiar10 and yet so alienating, push me further back into myself, to that self-comfort of self-knowing which is the same as asking “why do I care?”  I care that I don’t care. Every day myriad new names are appended to the already long list of pretenders. Why am I any different? Should I ask that my name be removed from the list? It’s a thought. I am repulsed at the thought of being associated with such Sisyphean futility. Day in day out, though, I find myself caring to be in this mental place where what I do is what everyone else does.

5/15/89
what have you got to lose

brilliant burning in anger
but getting burnt out

the acrobatics of memory
what was once becomes now

                                Artifice
		of pen
	from which words
			dribble out
a closed universe
		only
		a message in a bottle
	no deposit
	no return

air struck wind feels good
as it dips into heat of day
and takes me out of my skin
I spin with the world around me
a cavalcade of clouds a carload
of teenagers a covey of quail
couple stray mutts kids crying
close call I almost stepped in
dog shit at the side of the road
I may have thrown my back out

I’m in for a big surprise

“what’s the matter”
refers to something
	entirely out of context
a question frequently asked
		around here

“no more electric trains”
sinks in

5/26/87
we have abandoned the reader for the writing.
“Know what? You’re not supposed to understand it!”

“In this poetry business, there are rings of intrigue.”
					—Amy Lowell

brains with stones already in them


5/27/89
	“night’s magic seems to
whisper and hush”
	I am the loud one exhaling

I know these moods11 
they will pass

gray noon
time molasses

when you displease the goddess
you become an insignificant worm


5/28/83
his face just flies apart when he cries

there is no spiritual enlightenment
only paychecks

VIRGO: Break new ground with your writing skills or musical talent. Something you launch will create a ripple effect. Logic only goes so far where romance is concerned.

I may have bitten off more than I can chew
which is why all this is so hard to swallow
it’s gulp time immobilized by fantastic disgust
conservative to the point of distraction
when I come face to face with the great stuff
I don’t even have an inkling of how to take
and the fruitless impersonations I endure rot
often surprised by how seriously I can be taken
my moments of truth few the rest make-believe
in one scenario I’m as brilliant as morning
later on it’s revealed that I have jaundice
end up spending some time on the funny farm
not true of course I’m as sane as the next guy
drawing the smoke of inspiration through a straw

the grand scale of landscape doesn’t diminish
at the horizon
distance reduces vision
where’s this stuff come from
						             anyway
grin and bear it
				quote unquote
no matter what
“there’s something fluent in the transparency”
the words of the review continue
“that stinks worse than a spoiled banana republic”

and isn’t it about time
a VW bus full of fans
			stops to pick me up
they’re surprised to find
		I travel by thumb
just like I said in my poems
of course
	my life imitates my art

5/30/84
A large crowd came to hear Alice Notley read at New College. Rows of chairs had been set up in what once had been a mortuary chapel. To name the names of the literary set in attendance would leave open the opportunity of omitting someone or mentioning who was not there. Suffice it to say, a queue formed to have a word with Alice. She would read her sad poems tonight. She had read her “jokey” ones yesterday at the San Francisco State Poetry Center. She might even cry. Yesterday, also, she had gone to Berkeley with Philip Whalen. They had gone to a sculptor’s bronze foundry, and then she had hunted the bookstores for first editions of Ted’s books . . . .  Tomorrow, she would go shopping for the boys, and Sunday return home to them in New York City. “I don’t even know what I’m doing here.”  Long fingers touching her cheek, she gave half a smile. At the podium, in her purple blouse, she was a regal priestess. Her incantations, her witty digressions, her mood pieces were delivered with a rushed breathiness. She presented her works with an accomplished air that made obvious her practice and invention. Their integrity was solid, beautiful as well as modern. She read from her published works. And she read more recent poems that reflected the grief inflicted by the loss of her companion of many years, Ted Berrigan. It became quite evident that these two great poets had made quite a team. Through him, she had verified her strength. His invention had been the source of her inspiration. Her natural power and talent had been his affirmation. There was one image that depicted their union as a whirlwind that circled them like the stroke of a brush, blue in color. It sounded more permanent than a band of gold. In other works, she alluded to her children, and things taken from Mad Magazine and Star Wars. Throughout, she was constantly in touch with her everyday life, realizing through language, like a true artist, the opportunity presented by everything for poetry. And so it was. Alice made it so.

5/31/86
The story goes: this guy goes to see a psychiatrist and says, “It’s my brother, he thinks he’s a poet.”  The doctor frowns (he’s a Frowndian). “This sounds serious,” he says. “Does he teach at a college or university?”  “No.” “Has he received any government grants or awards from private foundations?”  “No.”  “Does he teach poetry in grade schools?”  “No.”  “Does he teach creative writing in adult education programs?”  “No.”  “Does he hold poetry workshops for seniors?”  “No.”  “Does he edit or publish a literary magazine?”  “No.”  “Does he publish literary criticism in literary periodicals?”  “No.”  “Is he claiming lineage with an acknowledged poet of the past?”  “No.”  Anyway, this goes on with the good doctor exhausting any avenue that would justify the brother’s claim of being a poet. Finally, he says, “This is indeed serious but . . . (pausing like a good Freudian) it isn’t untreatable. I believe we can work out a program of treatments that will, for all intents and purposes, eliminate this delusion.”  “But that’s the problem, doc,” says the man, “we’d like to see him cured, but we can use the poetry.”  

Pin to distraction pulled
			objective senses nullified
         by sweep of the beat
		             what underlying flows out
	            simple sentences
	            the basic code to the strands
		               that connect me to the sky

		               “I’m your puppet”

           transmission clearly worded
	             suspends superstition

	            unhealthy interruption

         day warm enough to stray full tilt introspection
         spreading leaves scatter light on concrete
         shade of another year grown into place
         tons good weather seems to lifts off your back
         day’s pasture widens in a sudden green rush
         I find myself arms akimbo growing with it
         spinning through the eons stop to feel
         thick air of morning swift breeze of afternoon
         pale sprouts flash their tiny spears in the sun
         garden stronghold of regimented vegetation
         dart of salamander bug and bee among the leaves

admiration for my choice of words comes from far away
too far away to make any difference
								                and too late
         a pirate edition sails away with the royalties
         despite my regards the gloved hand’s goodbye

End Notes:
[10] “Who needs the suckass scene? I scratch my own back and don’t need nobody kissing up like it’s gonna do them some good. Let’s keep our distance. That way I don’t owe you and you don’t owe me. There’s too much of politics in the world as it is. Ain’t gonna get the poetry any better and it’s gonna alienate the true hearts who don’t want no truck with those machinations in the first place. Why do we have to sell ourselves? Ain’t it enough what we distill into this imperfect medium of language? Why do we have to promote it any further than the edge of the page?”

[11] But if progress is not to come to a standstill, concepts of being and objects must remain plastic, must be modified, enlarged, limited, transformed, must separate and unite continually in the light of experience. If they become too rigid and turn into a system which claims to be self-sufficient, the mind engaged in such a system will go on working inside it forever and ever, cut off from any contact with reality which these very concepts are supposed to represent. They become the object of a hollow and useless dialectic and the source of deathly infatuation.

Subtext: 
Undercover report:  subject talks to himself. Complains of not being understood, being taken for granted, too little sexual activity, over-active imagination. Vain, examines his own image in the polish of his fingernails. Admits to having forgotten more than he can remember. Observed getting messages from the car radio. Finally noticing the lack of significant mail in the last several months. Beginning to suspect a conspiracy. Moods subject to change without notice. Continues to write poems throughout. Conclusion:  obvious obsessive personality.

“ . . . Eurydice’s death by snake bite and Orpheus’s failure to bring her back into the day light figure only in later myth. This idea is mistakenly deduced from pictures on vases that depicted Orpheus’s welcome to Tartarus where his music charmed the chthonic snake-goddess Hecate into giving special privileges in the afterlife to those who had been initiated into the Orphic Mysteries—an affirmation of the poet’s efficacy on the serving vessels of the day. Eurydice’s victims die of snake bite, not her, whose name means “wide justice” or “all just” and as Hecate is the serpent-grasping ruler of the underworld to whom young men were sacrificed, their deaths caused by a vipers bite just above the heel. Orpheus chose not to submit. There’s more than one way to skin the cat . . .”

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Made In The Shade 1-3

A dance left over from previous excitement
I gave my first kiss in the back seat of a car
in the back of a bowling alley near school
same day some little kid dropped a ball on my toe
my memory spins like a spring flung backwards
accompanied by guitar strains on the radio 
I was young it was wet wild and wonderful
probably like nothing else ever since or before
intense concentration of sensation copping a feel
a confession I make in a light-hearted mood
I could have written a song about it and made
a million but instead totally forgot until now

barring accident admits the inevitable
		crying chimes of a complaining child
		concentration it scatters


	“that’s right
				the women are smarter”
	not that the men are not as smart or smarter
					but they are truly alone
easier to take with children around

	I want to make this clear

	suddenly (as usual) realize
	the great fading beauty of my life
	can still be caught and touched up

the grunts and burps of actors on the screen do not
		redeem
they simply take all we have to give
		the plenty of time we should keep to ourselves
 

I am a man of rain sliced by the knife of rain, joining the howl of rain, letting loose with the piss of rain. The nerve of rain always astounds me. I was invited to attend the marriage of rain. I endure the torture of rain. Nothing escapes the spatter of rain. The truth of rain dropped out of the air of rain. I stubbed the toe of rain. The proof of rain is in the pudding of rain. I played the skeleton key of rain on the harmonica of rain. I practice the art of rain (watercolor). The cry of rain underscored the pain of rain. A piece of rain dropped on my shoulder from the limb of rain. The deluge of rain seemed like it would never stop. Then I came face to face with the woman of rain.


3/3/89
buzz me

a whole new understanding
from some old beliefs


3/4/89
some local Venus


3/6/92
Michelangelo's birthday has been canceled 
there’s some kind of virus going around


3/7/83
delicate blossoms
capture the daylight
no film in camera

life is cruel when our fondest dreams are those of revenge


3/15/89
tearing pieces of tissue
and daubing cuts after shaving
an art I’ve yet to perfect
“et tu, Gillette!”

Dissatisfaction like the pout of a young girl
grants the economy of excuses
		a breath mint
or the overwhelming lethargy of the uncommitted

“I want to love and treat you right”

practice ambassador ferrous material
a good day for plumbing
				     the recesses afterwards
as in the pipes are no longer
		circumstances

“children under five can eat for nothing”

no joke no comedy no shit
and a prohibition on disguise
flakes of matter fly like dandruff
on the shoulders of a dark side
no one ever gets to see
		even less acknowledged
like the following

out of talk comfort’s strength of conviction

a piece of cake begins as flour
and the apparent technique of centuries
action speaks the language of body
speech words the language of mind
there are no priorities of assumption
in this case
		only what needs be done

in the mirror advantage has its hand out

I recite the alphabet of rain. I don’t understand the language of rain so I have to read the subtitles of rain. I gather the pearls of rain. The sizzle of rain fried on the asphalt. I run the gauntlet of rain. Still get burned by the acid of rain. I awake to the glimmer of rain. A shroud of rain covers the river of rain. I hear the yowling of rain. It is the cat of rain. I stand in awe of the phenomenon of rain and ponder the meaning of rain. The grammar of rain eludes me.6


3/19/91
Dear Keith—This news is certainly hard to take. It’s a reminder that we are all approaching critical mass, the tightening in our chests at the thought of our unthinkable destiny:  that our mindless pursuit of another minute is but a vain illusion—backwoods Buddhism at its lamest (layman-est). My own personal isolation is certainly a hedge against that day, not that there’s any hiding . . .  And just when I was beginning to understand what “good health” meant! The eyes, the joints, the abused organs, the neglected muscles—I’m nothing if not battered, bruised meat. There’s a grim ironic humor about it all. I can still look in the mirror and see the seventeen year old kid I once was (though not as often as I used to), but when I run into an “old” friend then the passage of time is real obvious and their faces a much more revealing mirror. I feel for what you must be going through (though I can only imagine and maybe that’s why all the rambling sophistry.)  I hope and wish the best for you.


3/17/90
I followed the rainbow. It fell into a field carpeted with mustard flowers. It was set against a sky as dark as asphalt. Off at an angle the sun shone brightly. I steered the curve to the right and the rainbow followed me! I caught it out of the corner of my eye. Then bank left toward the straight-away, and there it was in all its glory, a full color prism of tiny droplets against the flank of a bronze hillock. The highway cut through the center of the bluff and I sped toward it. The broad bands of color advanced accordingly. Up the embankment from the vineyard though its intensity was beginning to fade. It was directly in front of me when I passed into the cleave of the hill. The spray of colorless wet spread over the already damp windshield. And that was it. No, as I explained to the kids, didn’t go bump over no pot of gold, either.

The rain which is taken as medicine
	in its expected season
		won’t stop
and now wide eyed the weather report
	becomes important
		satellite picture scanned
			for new fronts
	and the Pacific high
		cause of all the dryness
					in recent years
		nowhere to be found
waters returning to their original
				stream and lake beds
find them crowded with mobile homes
			tracts become lagoons
	or return to the bay
			they once were
high ground slides onto highways
	and leave out-of-the-way homes
		perched on the edge of tranquility
dreary cold and wet boards up houses
	pitches those within
					into throes of anxiety
so much to be done
			winter’s accumulated dust
			jostled confined nerves
	I mean how many books can you read
			how many rugs can you hook
		before mere mortality impresses
				with its tragedy
late sun as sky goes partially cloudy
		illuminates the edges of a window
		adds to deep gray
					    a faint yellow glow

—Sometimes I suffer from Roussel’s Syndrome: I work in my mountain fastness and expect that my creations have the pulse of life and that everyone is also in tune with them as if they were a permeating psychic literature. When I come down from the mountain, so to speak, maybe I expect, as Roussel did, the adulation of the citizenry. Roussel, as you know, broke out in a rash and was bedridden for weeks. For me, it’s mostly just a relief.

You should know that choosing poetry is an act of desperation.

I spent years trying to find an acceptable voice in the eyes of literate society and now that that seems unlikely, I feel that I might as well write in whatever way I want or can. Have I given up?

The uselessness of genuine literature is what makes it morally useful so you’re way ahead of the game there — its form is empty but present, its meaning absent but full. The real writer, a watcher at the crossroad of all other discourse, does not write about something, but rather just writes; the practice of writing is of itself excessive, playful, intricate, painful, subtle, self-indulgent, sensuous, a language which can never be that of power. Words describe the psychology of objects and writing is the progenitor of the technology of self-consciousness. Your problem is that vanity keeps looking over your shoulder. Don’t look back.

Do I have a persona and if so, who is it?

—The Deejay, MC Orpheus.


THE PHANTOM OF MONTE RIO

Andrei knew Hunce Voelcker from New York City. I had met Hunce there once myself. His book, Hart Crane’s Voyages, was prominently featured in many of the bookstore windows in the Lower East Side then. Now he lived a few miles outside of Duncan Mills, which, like Monte Rio, was just another wide spot on the road to the coast. He drove an early ‘60’s VW bug, yellow with a black Batman logo on the driver’s door. He was a character even here. Never without the sweat-stained Stetson, feathers, dried flowers, weeds, anti-war buttons in the hatband. A Boy Scout scarf around his neck (he’d been an Eagle Scout) offset a pallid drawn visage that many said reminded them of Lon Chaney’s Phantom of the Opera. Bad teeth and a compulsive smoker, his altruism and intransigent innocence were sometimes hard to take. He lived in a gingerbread A-frame surrounded by a moat filled with goldfish. Crossing the moat was a foot bridge somewhat replicating the Brooklyn Bridge. At the foot of the bridge, where the moat widened out into a small pond, was a cement statue of Apollo, and planted around the outside of the moat were hyacinths, the god’s flower. The A-frame consisted of three stories. Between the first and second floor, cables were strung to simulate the supports of a suspension bridge. Narrow, sharp-cornered catwalk stairs lead to the loft bedroom and library. At one end was a deck that looked out at the downhill expanse of a meadow bordered by redwoods. A weighted trapdoor accessed the third floor where in the low ceiling, pointy peaked attic the poet would weave his craft. The window next to the typewriter looked out onto another deck and a bird feeder, invariably busy. At the other end of the room, beyond the dark shape of the wood-burning stove, another deck overlooked that same downhill rolling expanse. In the sitting room of the first floor, the windows on the north wall formed an H, and on the opposite wall, a V that stood for Hunce Voelcker. What was not said by these simple initials is “Hart Crane scholar extraordinaire, magical poet, craftsman, shaman.”  In his own way, Hunce preserved the sacredness of ritual and believed in its power, unflinchingly, in the face of derision, even by close friends who could sometimes be condescending. But his beliefs were set in concrete. In fact, everyone joked that Hunce owned stock in Portland Cement. He must have. How many hundred pound sacks of it did he mix by hand gluing brick to brick, shaping it around plastic pipe to create a fountain-decked perimeter constrained only by the limits of the imagination? Or shaping the moat, terraced to meet the angle of the hill on which the house stood, itself not terribly perpendicular to the horizon, the statue of Apollo, the Mount Shasta replica, the crusty phallic cement fountains, some whose outlines were emphasized by tiny squares of colored mirror imbedded in the mortar, as well as mosaics made of broken bottle glass and bits and pieces of tile inlaid in the cement constraints of the moat, and at each corner of the moat, a diorama depicting a point of Hunce’s magnificent obsession, the life and work of Hart Crane.


3/18/85
“These are my fantasies by which I may try to give an idea not of things but of myself.” -- Montaigne

nothing to report


3/19/89
prepared for poetry reading gave reading drank four beers danced twice


3/20/89
where are you when your best qualities are skepticism

a matter of adjudging the commentary and murmur of the previous evening, filing them in sequence, and in order of importance, and reviewing them periodically as your own best but subjective critique, sorting out the meaning of their intent


3/21/91
I have no energy
just like a particle

infinity:  one past now
Year of the Ram, 4689

VIRGO: As the week begins, count any news to be good news. A trip is well favored. Past progress provides a launching pad to new and exciting goals. Change is in the air. You’re off and running.

Hey I was up with the dew this morning
the pointy trees behind the house across 
the street looked black and rubber stamped
the mist turned a creamy orange at its hem
while above the cottony white dropped from
the bright blue shoulder of the early sky
but I was changing a diaper and my knee
had fallen asleep and I couldn’t get up 
to go to the window to get a better look
and then Flipper lost his hearing and I 
had to find out why it was just as I thought
we all want to have friends like the dolphin
instead we have each other and Cream of Wheat
I’ve had too much coffee and it’s only
seven-thirty I’m ahead of myself again and
it’s already time for another cup or two
the breakfast I should have had hours ago
because now sun comes in full and bright
through the windows of the back porch and
makes a shimmering design baby boy calls to 
recognizing its intrinsic intelligence and
possibility as I munch a possible apple
the dishes I didn’t do I feel guilty over 
when I hear the rush of water from the tap
in the kitchen I know someone else is doing
all I can think of is regenerating myself
getting stoked up so I can ski through
the day on the slopes of creative splendor
every move I make another click in the
right combination to amazing coincidence
the bright arc of fusion illuminates
when everything becomes quite clear in
the momentary flashes that electrify my world

THE POETRY READING

The cabin down below the main house where I worked had been transformed into an overheated, smoky, packed-to-the-rafters literary event. Someone from the University was videotaping it. Another enterprising soul had taken up a collection and returned with an ounce of marijuana that was promptly rolled into cigarettes and passed around to the participants after which time a very congenial atmosphere prevailed. The readers of poetry that night were myself, Michael-Sean Lazarchuck, and James Nolan (no relation). Fortunately no one read overly long and in no time, it was Michael-Sean’s turn. Now it was Sean’s practice to be pretty much oblivious by the time his turn came around, and tonight was no exception. He talked loudly to his neighbors while the other poets read, and tonight especially, as he was in pursuit of the fair-haired muse in the guise of Karen Gordon, the readers, and the audience for that matter, could have been in Kokomo. Another thing about Sean was his attitude towards his work. It ran hot and cold and there was no predicting as to which way the wind would blow. Hopefully he would be psyched up before a reading but that wasn’t always the case. The slightest whim could send him into a self-destructive tailspin and then his work was shit and he wasn’t going to read that crap to anyone. Tonight however, he simply could not be bothered as he was more interested in making time with Karen, but after much coaxing and physical coercion (which Sean thought laughable) from myself, he reluctantly shambled up to the podium through the sprawled maze of debauchees. He wasn’t going to make it easy, that was obvious from the mischievous grin. He sorted through his manuscript folder, shuffling one page behind the other. One poem would look promising and he would read it over silently to himself, shake his head and place it at the bottom of the stack. All the while those assembled waited in anticipation, though there were some at the back of the room who hooted their impatience. This continued for some time and finally Sean looked at the audience and stated flatly, “These poems stink.”  There were protests of “just shut up and read!” and “come on, don’t cop out on us now!”  Sean set the manuscript aside and looked out over the crowd purposefully. Then he began talking, easily, improvising obviously, about how he had been out walking on the beach at the coast and how coming across the dunes he saw a figure approaching, and as the person came closer, he recognized him as Frank! Well, he and Frank had a long talk about poetry that rambled on and on with Sean inserting quotes from Frank’s poems and even Ted’s poems and connecting everything in a spontaneous montage depicting the poetry experience with such vivacity that everyone in the room was stunned speechless. The creative process had been demonstrated to be the opening of one’s self to reveal the bright glowing core of being right then and there.


3/22/91
Zen in the 90’s --
the young monk places his backpack 
on the front seat of his Volkswagen bus
(his begging bowl a corporate mailing list)

3/25/85
slam not the cake

the light
inside my head
makes me squint

ambiguity and indirection are methods of consciousness


3/29/81
Ah, the modern poem! in which meaning is glimpsed but hardly possessed. It’s like scientists inventing the electron microscope and concentrating on the instrument rather than the thing to be magnified. When you use language in this way, you magnify aspects of your reality. You can’t picture anything because that would take at least a thousand words so that writing poetry is more like dance, it’s a series of gestures and movements, it has its own music, and in this flow the mimetic arises, and the sequence of these actions signify, but never as an object, always as a verb; it is, like myth, the thing said.7 


3/30/89
lightning naps and other engaging forms of sleep
day marches through its artificial compartments 
each hour an additional weight to listless life forms
who like dust alight wherever the breeze blows
among open magazines and piles of library books
overworn socks night wear school notes hair brushes
the facsimiles of an existence scattered or strewn
as the archaeological refuse of a dig in progress
who’d dare disturb this sanctum with wakeful thought
radio drones on persistent static or a steady rain
a backdrop for the weaving of dreams into memory

Light is a kind of joy
it penetrates
		and gives delight
to the least
	magic of things
it leaves dark behind
and returns
	in its seasonal guise
the make-up of the skies
depends on the humor
		of the atmosphere
sun invisible
	but precise
			adept
at the shape and shadow size
wheel of fire turns
with its original awe
and potential as the source
as undoubtedly
		it always must
blue in its approach
red in its leaving

End Notes
[6] I have a certain ambivalence to all this. I’m not really concerned with what has been or what will be or even what is though the latter is unfortunately undeniable fact. If an adequate number of years have passed then those things are ancient history as far as I’m concerned. For me there is only what is about to happen, the happy or sad anticipation that the next moment I might come up with something really great or something really awful will happen. These are things I can’t control, don’t want to control, that are indications that life moves forward in a steady progress with moments of joy or grief lengthening or shortening the pace of events, how one day can seem like a week and one week can seem like a day. I spend hours examining the minute to see if it can blossom out into some generalization.

[7] Originality is a hand that’s been overplayed. The drive is to find how what you do fits what you are. Autobiography proclaims the individuality of destiny. The observer is observed as the center of his truly unique existence as complex as any systematic relationship.

Subtext
“. . . Orpheus reminded the gods of their place in the scheme of things. That’s how he elicits sympathy from Persephone; by reminding her of her earthly existence, the compassion of the dead for the living. But to teach Orpheus the impertinence of his logic, the gods show him the fickleness of human nature, the tragic curiosity, the crisis of faith! Once you look back, you’re lost—time passes, shit happens, and looking back is peering at shadows. Poets sing of yesterday to assure themselves of a tomorrow. By the time you read this, it is way past now . . .”

Made In The Shade 1-1

All the lost pens
			suddenly
all show up
		and I can’t think
	besides I’m using the computer

this rainy weather makes me lose my mind
a line not original with me
		nor the rain
DJ managed to find yet another
song about rain
I had lost interest in the idea
	quite a few cuts ago

it’s just me
		the rain
				and the radio

(night wears on)

the script of ego to be drafted
naked id exposed
		(shown off at least)

better yet

			lost in thought
			I have to unthink myself
			to get to the point

wind up dizzy instead
					where am I
	(at the end of my rope?)

I awoke to the drone of rain. I’d been having a dream of rain that was a real nightmare. I was attending the theater of rain and had joined in the ovation of rain as the curtain of rain came down on the final act of rain. That was enough of rain for me. I noticed the sharp decline as I stood on the precipice of rain. A hiss of rain preceded the rush of rain. I was feeling hemmed in by the stitch of rain. All of a sudden, there was a flood of rain and the thunder of rain hit the roof. The wash of rain swept the horizon away. In the mist of rain, the pines disappeared.


1/6/92
then everything stopped

pellets of light fall from the pale sky

weather transforms vision (illusion)

I know
what
I know
all
else
I guess

1/7/89
a pair of shoes 
exploded by the bomb squad

plume of ash shoots into
the upper atmosphere

“go ahead
	slap him”

flying apart like a mannequin
with rubber bands for joints

I picked up the radio
as the cymbal hissed
 
1/8/82
today’s a birthday for someone I know
and love
		a day to remember
				and then forget
heart-shaped sunrise at the breast of the ridge
radiates my sentiment
life is just one clever saying after another

1/9/95
time to stack everything up above the water line

1/13/90
The classicist believes he is passing on the flame of knowledge and learning while using a little to light his own candle. The romantic sees himself as the original and only bearer of the torch.1  


1/16/84
days unravel as spiral strands of DNA
more than enough information rides the airwaves
the chances to throw away money are legion
especially in Washington D.C. where skies are clear
a face made up like it’s trying to think

the sylphs are visiting again

1/18/90
the ice line creeps toward sea level

“the world will always welcome lovers”
talk about a phrase turning on its assumption
we’ll go down in history as
			The Irony Age


there’s no zone
like home


Who am I? *
–You are a famous unknown poet, or as Tom Clark once said, “an absolutely unknown unheard-of jack-off.”  You should have been a painter, a house painter. Your history is a joke, one pratfall after another. That you have achieved any success at all is a fluke and a vindication of your belief in the purely arbitrary, beyond what is laughingly called logic. If there is a reason, you are not privy to it. The mythology of self puts you at the pinnacle of poetry. On the other hand, you don’t see yourself as someone who will gain fame by writing poetry. Again, you aren’t deterred by this fact. You hold, after all, to the principle that as long as you make claim to this oh too human form of existence, you must preserve the poetic in your life, and all your convoluted thinking and plotting must never disturb for you its magic, but rather enhance and beautify it.

What’s my middle name?
–Ulysses.

Why do I write?
–You write to reveal someone you wouldn’t suspect just from looking in the mirror. You certainly don’t have the air that anyone assumes when they think of who might be a poet. You’re from the Johnny Cash generation! You walk the line.


*After waiting almost a lifetime for the representative from The Paris Review to show up for the interview, he decided that he might as well interview himself. Even if he didn’t know all the questions, he certainly had all the answers.


LITERARY MANNERS

Michael-Sean Lazarchuk was passed out on the couch and Gail and I were going to the movies so we pinned a note to his shirt telling him that we had. Next to Sean on the couch, his only companion, a jug of red wine, which was fine with him because, aside from writing poetry, his favorite pastime was sipping from the jug and then falling into a stupor and finally into a deep unshakable sleep. He never got violent, though maybe a little boisterous. “Chesty” he liked to say, especially when talking about poets he didn’t like or about unfair treatment meted out to people with long hair or those who looked plain weird especially out in the boonies like the Russian River. No argument there. And when Sean visited, things just fell into a methodical routine. First there was the ritual purchase of a gallon of burgundy, then there was what was called “drinking what’s in the neck” or more succinctly “drinking the neck” and since gallon jugs are not particularly known for their long necks, it was no time at all before we had progressed to “the old boy’s belly.”  No music other than Bob Dylan was allowed to be played and to whose songs Sean would howl appropriate lines. One of his favorites was “it sits on your head like a mattress sits on a bottle of wine.”  He also liked to croon “doo yoou Miss-terr Jo-nzzz.”  By this time we were taking turns on the typewriter writing collaborations, a pile of the latest poetry magazines and books at hand from which to steal lines or riff off of.2  And then later in the evening, half a jug by his side, he would recline on the couch like a visiting dignitary and recite lines from his favorite poets and we had to guess whose line it was. Once you got to know Sean and his preferences, if you guessed Ted Berrigan (known as “Ted”) or Frank O’Hara (known as “Frank”) you would usually be right. That is unless he slipped one in by John Ashbery to throw you off.


1/19/90
“le lit est fait par la main de demain”

time is entirely man made

I lived a multitude of lives
in the last few seconds


The pulse of rain was strong. It affirmed the life of rain on this morning of rain. According to the theory of rain, there should be about a week of rain. I watched for the leak of rain. Outside, a wave of rain charged through the shrubs. I had my nose pressed to the window of rain. I was beginning to bore of rain but there was more of rain. The refrain of rain overflowed into the afternoon of rain. I felt the slap of rain on my hand and saw the splash of rain on my glasses. Immersed in the sorrow of rain, I heaved a sigh of rain. The shadow of rain filled the sky of rain. I searched the references of rain for the origin of rain late into the evening of rain.


1/20/80
seriousness of purpose, humorous intent
little miracles of insight
“well, if I’m not the original hypocrite, at least a direct descendant.”

it came off in my hand

VIRGO:  During an enlightening discussion, you express yourself very well. Do not be disturbed if someone disagrees with your conclusions. Time will prove you right. Donate to charity.


Energy flags
at the mere mention of the legion
					of others
how can there be so many 
			and yet still original
	amazing
			isn’t it

long meditation shuts out
these annoyances
		a short cigarette
	and who could care less

I won’t break my teeth on shadows

pearls of rain
		strung on
bare branches
effective white mist
			hides all but
the familiar

days played away in a back room
	little by little
like a paper tape
		unrolled slowly 
				out a window

radio provides sidewalk sounds
I could be with friends in Paris
 

THE WRITERS CONFERENCE

One weekend when Michael-Sean was visiting, Keith and Lani Abbott, and Opal and Ellen Nations paid a visit, too. This had been planned ahead of time. Steve Kahn who was a park ranger, a writer, and friend of Keith’s from college had a big house in Monte Rio so the plan was to hold a “writers conference” and have a good time. Sean wasn’t too sure he wanted to participate but when the prospect of more wine was held out, he agreed. Soon the hours of talking, gesticulating, drinking, and carrying on began to wear on all of us and we were suddenly ravenously hungry; all except for Sean of course who had been drinking his sustenance all afternoon. Steve and I broke our brains trying to think of a local restaurant that would suit all of our tastes. Steve mentioned that someone had given him a couple of pounds of wild boar sausage but what could we make with them? “Bangers and mash,” as Opal suggested, just didn’t seem right so Gail said, “how about enchilada?”  Everyone liked that idea though Opal was a little apprehensive that it might be too spicy for his palate. “Oh don’t worry we won’t make it hot.”  Steve and I winked at each other. Gail said she had all the fixings at home so she drove off to fetch them. While the sausage was being browned, Steve suggested a game of cards to take our minds off our stomachs. “How about we play a couple hands of poker.”  Steve opened a bottle of a private stock scotch that someone had given him (being a park ranger had some advantages) and the game began. Soon Opal and Steve had most of the chips in front of them and it looked like dinner would never come. But it wasn’t long before Gail returned with the brown paper bag of ingredients and more beer and wine. “Guess who I found!” she shouted cryptically as she rushed into the kitchen. Behind her at the door were Andrei and Alice Codrescu. Gail reemerged to explain. “When I got home I saw this yellow car parked out front and when I went in the house there they were! Andrei was reading your mail.”  It was Andrei’s turn to explain. “We were just out for a ride in the country because we had to get out of the city quick and somebody told us about nude beaches on the Russian River and we wanted to check it out, you know, but we couldn’t find them and when we came to Guerneville I remembered you lived up here so we dropped by to visit but this is the amazing part because I didn’t have my address book with me so I didn’t know where you lived but we were in a gas station asking if anybody knew where the nude beach was when out of the blue like a flash of memory I remembered your address but you weren’t home and the radio was on so we thought you’d be coming back soon nice letter from Lewis Warsh by the way.”  Andrei was introduced around and invited to try a sip of scotch and join in a hand or two. Everyone knew Andrei had just been awarded an NEA grant so here was a pigeon ripe for the plucking. “Ah yes poker” he said as he straddled a chair, “Ah used to play this game back in the bunkhouse on the ranch in south Transylvania.”  “What kind of ranch was that, Andrei?” Keith asked as innocently as he could manage. “A cabbage ranch.”  After the guffaws had subsided, Andrei explained that cabbage ranching is practically the oldest form of agriculture there is, and it’s the world’s oldest profession next to prostitution and the priesthood, and that cabbage ranching was a well-respected occupation in Romania where the men who worked in the cabbage fields wore an outfit similar to the gauchos in Argentina though in actual point of fact the gauchos got their style of dress from an immigrant Romanian who had at one time worked on a cabbage ranch but finding no such opportunities in South America was forced to take up herding cattle, a lowlier form of work, so to remind himself of his dignified heritage he wore his cabbage ranch outfit which soon was adopted by the other herders and even the American word “cowboy” had its etymological roots in the name for the men who worked on the cabbage ranch which was “cabboy” short for cabbage boy and even today you will find in parts of the Southwest people who still pronounce it that way!  Andrei certainly brought the level of entertainment up a notch but he wasn’t a very good poker player and soon all the chips were in front of me. Enchiladas were served and true to the aroma, they were delicious though we weren’t able to keep our promise to Opal. Sean even nibbled some. Later on that night with a few exceptions drunk and barely sensible we stumbled over large boulders to a beach on the Pacific to watch the carpets of phosphorescence roll out at our feet.


1/21/79
smoked a dead bug
(by accident)

my habits are getting old

1/22/88
no one really knows the questions to these answers3

1/24/90
there are things deeply felt
deeply cared about that find 
no voice but through artifice

Comes another day of rain with its accumulation of rain. The measure of rain has nothing to do with the beauty of rain. From the sky comes a spurt of rain. It’s not the fault of rain. I just have no use for the rite of rain. There is no remedy for the carelessness of rain. The umbrella in the corner awaits the return of rain.


1/29/90
Dear Joyce–
Thanks for taking the review, glad you liked it. Interestingly enough I wanted to add a note with the review that said, “No Artificially Quoted Material Was Used In This Review.”  And I almost got away with it. For one, I’m lazy, and I hate running down those passages that elicited a particular superlative because invariably (if I like the poet) I’ll get sidetracked. Other times I don’t like to read the book until after I’ve written the review. . . .  And I dislike quoting parts of poems because even if they do “support some of (my) conclusions” (something I hope I will never be accused of doing), they undermine the integrity of the work for the sake of some frivolous impression, and I particularly dislike it when line breaks are denoted with a slash and made to serve the paragraph to save space—when you review an artist’s work you don’t only show a corner of the painting. Even so, I have gone through and noted the poems and where I would place them in the review were I to use them. And I’ve quoted passages from poems that would seem to serve the point . . . whatever that might be. Also fixed that sentence, and thanks for catching that because, believe it or not, it was haunting me—I happened to look through that review after I sent it off and thought “that has to be changed.”  At any rate, use what you can of what I’ve indicated where quoted in full. Maybe you could add a note at the end:  “Contains Artificially Inserted Quoted Material From The Work Under Review.”


1/29/91
blinded --
	peppering rage of desert storm
where are we going

radio tuned all
the time to the news


I’m about as prepared
as mustard
		to start the day

trying to sort through
the mud slide of dreams

sedentary
		ancient unconscious mass
	undermined by
			the ceaseless sleet of sleep

light winds forecast

the weight of hair
pulls on the skin of my face
the jowls of perception’s dog
	whose bark is fatal

I have to endure the growls of reality

everybody out
			of the gene pool
I guess that means me too

enough infinite variety
I’m hungry
 

I felt the hunger of rain. I was brought down by the gravity of rain. It seemed as though I lived in a world of rain. I made my way through the jungle of rain. The history of rain begins with the vision of rain. I fear the revenge of rain and the destruction of rain. I curse the invention of rain as the machine of rain sputters to life. I watch the play of rain on the windshield. The work of rain digs furrows in the ground. I read the book of rain in the solitude of rain. I pick through the anthology of rain for a poem of rain. I see through the transparence of rain. A sprinkle of rain waters the new flowers. The shower of rain bathes the bare branches. The edge of rain falls from the eaves. I find a picture of rain that gives a good idea of rain. I leaf through the dictionary of rain for the definition of rain. The dog of rain barks at the god of rain. At this time last year we had received only a fraction of rain. In the arithmetic of rain, every little drop counts.


1/30/83
absorbed by the page
	night and day detour around
a weary man at work

failing to get the point
	confused by headache fever
the flu takes over

temperature above normal
	sore throat headache eye pain
I can’t even see what I see

old and faithful tom
	his own tanning salon
a square patch of sunlight

overfed the robins
	bend the bare limbs
dropping before flight

pink neon --
	pale knot of light behind
the barred store window


End notes
[1]The poem is not created in isolation even though the poet much of the time accomplishes the task under these circumstances. Surrounding its shape on the page is a mass of inference, reference, deference, etc., which creates the atmosphere of its understanding. The poem today is the bride stripped bare of her bachelors, a cunning statement by Duchamp, and, as he himself discovered, a node on the organic nervous system of creativity. A creation has to be touched by the artist to live, it cannot be made or expressed by remote control. Art’s built-in imperfections are its signature. Consequently, does the poem stand alone out of necessity or literary convention? Also, why must it stand alone, out of context, i.e., prose, without environment (subsequently “environmentalism” becomes a new literary label)? Poets have been reconciling poetry and prose forever. The poems, the songs, are usually what the story is woven around. Every poet has a story, even if short, that surrounds the creation of his song. Sometimes up, sometimes down, the lives of poets accomplish a cycle.

[2]”Salting the mine”:  There are a few respected poets you steal from respectfully, everyone else is grist for the mill.

[3]Poetry has no context except for the page — a sad state of affairs. Removed and isolated by its wide blank margins, it acts as a relic of what once was a living tradition, a word of mouth.


Subtext
“. . . in woman is the female principle, the muses represent aspects of that principle, one of which is creativity and identified as Calliope, the mother of Orpheus. From her, Orpheus derives his creative power. Eurydice, his wife/mother/female principle is bitten by a snake and taken to the underground — writer’s block, winter of the intellect? i.e., Orpheus loses it/her and is audacious enough to go down to the dead after her. He regains the promise of Eurydice on condition of self-control. Pride of course foils him. Is it out of revenge then or simply sorrow that he personifies nature in his song or is he, male-like, tampering with the source? Then along comes a goon squad of wood nymphs (alarmed at his power over their realm) (driven to passion by his song) (following their wild instincts) (none of the above) and rip him to shreds and eat his flesh. Of course in this instance everyone knows that Orpheus is the sacred mushroom indulged in by a prehistoric goddess cult. His decapitated head, thrown into the river, floats downstream (through time?) where ape-like inhabitants fish it out. Orpheus’s head still speaks and the natives use it as an oracle that for the most part just pops, hisses, sputters in languages yet unknown, but once in a while there’s a clear and distinct message like ‘render to reality that which is real, and to fantasy, that which is fantastic.’  Fortunately no one was listening when the head spoke those words. The oracular brazen head of the Knights Templars is derived from this tradition . . . Dead, he becomes the hollow skull and then the bronze head, the bell, and the oracle, the entrance to the unconscious in the guise of an instrument, and eventually in the twentieth century, he is a saxophone . . . on the other hand, the Orpheus syndrome is when you allow yourself to be taken down by the feminine side and are consequently torn asunder (apart) by a cross current of opinion and indecision (i.e.:  the prerogatives of survival gone awry). . .”