Wednesday, May 31, 2006
It's a matter of who submits. Ana's poems were solicited by me for the inaugural issue and Sharon submitted. But no other women have sent anything so far.
I wonder why? In an email to Sharon I proposed two explanations: one) the perception that the Beat/ post-Beat world is for boys, and two) my reputation, earned largely on these pages, as an obnoxious, unreasonable son******** who may possibly hate women.
Well, I am obnoxious and unreasonable, and I may have a take on poetry that you won't find anywhere else. But I don't hate women. Not as a rule--though there are some who piss me off pretty comprehensively. I did once put a post on SUFFOLK PUNCH called "Every Day Is Women's Day", but hell, I take potshots at everybody when I'm in a bad mood. As I recall I've also sniped at Blair, Bush, Beat poets, Americans, the English, animal rights activists and everybody in the world with a job! I hate those poetry sites where everybody goes because they know they're going to find something they agree with (there are as many in the post-Beat world as there are in the mainstream).
As to the Beat environment being male-oriented--well, possibly, though historical analysis/ revisionism is allowing us to see the previously-unappreciated contribution women made to the era (Elise Cowen, for example). But I don't want ANGEL HEAD to be defined exclusively by its Beat influences anyway. Beat is my literary hometown, so to speak; it's where I come from, but not necessarily all I am. And it's not necessarily all ANGEL HEAD is either. To me it's just a magazine for good poetry.
So if you have good poetry, try me with it. Doesn't have to mention Kerouac. Doesn't even have to be free verse, if rhyme is your thing and you can do it with freshness and surprise. Let's allow poets to express themselves with freedom, through the filter of my (possibly misplaced) sense of what is good technique.
One proviso: I will favour poets who don't appear in every other poetry magazine.
That's all. Nothing that bores me more than looking at a magazine and seeing the same names I see everywhere else.
doesn't seem to know! In this half-century anniversary year of the composition of the best-ever Underground poem, those fine folks at the Ginsberg website have answered a question from a reader about who (or what) Moloch actually is by saying it's the military-industrial complex , and that substituting "Moloch" for "Bush" when you read the poem aloud proves it.
My God, what a narrow, unimaginative definition to be handing down to new readers--and these are the people who want to sell you his books! Ginsberg says it in the poem itself: "Moloch, whose name is the Mind." He explained it the same way on tv in Britain in 1995 or '96, interviewed by Jeremy Isaacs: Moloch "The destroyer god" who's not "out there, he's in here" (Ginzy pointing to his own chest). The destroyer god in the individual chest and head who stomps out into the world driven by fear and confusion, "entangled in (his) own projections", suppressing his impulse to be tender, and CREATES monstrous manifestations of himself like heartless cities full of "blind windows", nuclear weapons, armies...If Moloch was just the military-industrial complex, section two of the poem wouldn't connect with sections one and three, which are personal in nature, describing the lives of free-minded "queer" hipsters and how they are driven to suffering and madness by the refusal of a repressive, conservative society to allow them the space to be themselves; and of course, showing in the poem's glorious climactic moments how the cruelty of society can be defeated by the assertion of love and tenderness between man and man, or man and anyone.
That's what "Howl" is about, and that's who Moloch is. It's YOU. It's ME. It's Bob Rosenthal and Gerry Nicosia and Norbert Blei and splake and Kate Moss and William Burroughs and the guy who created Fred Flinstone and your mother and Ruth Randall and any other name you want to insert.
I suggest if you have any more questions about Allen Ginsberg you come here instead of there. If I don't know the answer I can easily direct you to someone who does.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
~author statement, British Arts Council website
Oh b****. The Establishment in poetry--that is, people who drive opinion, not those with the biggest wallets--are the post-Beat free-versifiers...that is, US, and we are bloody everywhere. If you threw a stone at a poetry convention--and what fun that would be!--eight times out of ten you'd hit a middle-aged guy who liked Kerouac (but pretended to prefer Bob Kaufman), wrote occasional haiku, and had read nothing prior to the shorter poems of Ezra Pound. I can't count the number of decent editors and poetry friends who have told me they wouldn't publish my rhymers: stuff I'd written in a folk song mode, or simple quatrains. Why? No reason given except "No one wants to read rhyme." So I can't speak in a style that's basic to me, a style that's natural?
EXAMINE YOUR PREJUDICE, YOU POST-BEAT DRONES.
Relevance is in the eye of the beholder, I say. If rhyme ain't up-to-date and a way of addressing the concerns of the modern age (though I seriously doubt that's a poet's responsibility), how do we explain the rapping element of hip hop? Set some dynamic youth rapping about his experience of "the streets" against some middle-aged post-Beat who's still arguing in his head with the New Criticism of the 1940s and see which one the majority of 20-year-olds will listen to.
The only way poetry can connect with people is by telling the truth. But not some imagined objective truth (this submission manifesto quotes some line of Zukofsky's about objectivity, which doesn't exist), but the poet's own truth; and part of that truth lies in the choice of the mode of expression. Of course the truth is sharpened--or our appreciation of the truth is sharpened--by good technique; but that's true with free verse as well--and most published free verse is done pretty badly. You want to talk to the modern age, post-Beat heroes? Readers/ Editors? Get your Angel Heads out of Kerouac or Bukowski and tell everybody what you think, like Ronald Baatz with his delicious snow falling on Einstein's shoulders, or splake's clifftop death ruminations, or Matthew Hollis' sunken orchards or TONY HARRISON (great poet, GREAT GREAT poet) firing rhyming couplets at Bush and Blair.
His rhymed jabs and slashes cut a hell of a lot deeper than some small press tough guy who thinks Bukowski is the last word in radical.
POST SCRIPT Oh, and in case there's any doubt It's useless to tell you I'm not anti-Buk, to paraphrase Bukowski's own marvellous words, because that's when the whole subject becomes sickening.
Monday, May 29, 2006
~ DEAD MAN a film by Jim Jarmusch
Most of what goes on in the world called Real by those who have shut their eye to any other in no wise deepens your understanding, satisfies the spirit, alleviates the suffering of a heavenly consciousness yolked to the decaying bag of meat and bone that the body is. In the Real world we serve only the bag of meat. Dreaming and imagination, though, are portions of Eternity.
Sunday, May 28, 2006
in the fading light--
birds lay on the music.
workers out of whitman
round a three-foot hole.
they spin the job out
with slow talk and laughter,
while three pies melt
in my cooling oven.
the neighbour in the street
gone out to complain
now giggling in relief
that her backbone failed her.
and they're not working
while her ardour cools
in facile small-talk
over set-down tools!
shut up! shut up!
we want our power back!
without the internet
i write much more
than i would normally.
i think about the movie
that i saw today--
"walk the line",
the life of johnny cash.
june's face glows
in my mind's lit eye--
her hurricane love
for poor damned john.
i want someone
to look at me with love
someday, before i die.
but if they did, would
i not soon despise them?
gone down so deep
into the culvert
of my own thoughts
all outside sound
it's getting dark.
writing in this
is giving me a headache.
go fetch the candles.
listen for a sign
those f****** will be finished
soon. it's nearly nine!
and when i wrote that the power came on like the poet had made some kind of witch's curse.
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Friday, May 26, 2006
AND THAT'S DIFFICULT ENOUGH.
THE URGE (AND LET'S HOPE IT'S THAT) IS SIMPLE: DO BETTER. DO MORE.
AND THE LESSONS TO BE LEARNED FROM:
a. A MORE INTERESTING LIFE (MAKE IF IT WHAT YOU WILL, AND THE MORE YOU MAKE OF IT, HOPEFULLY, THE BETTER AND MORE INTERESTING THE WRITING)
b. READING AND MORE READING
c. REWRITING (YOUR WORK AND YOUR LIFE) CONSTANTLY.
~Norbert Blei, from an email to the editor 25/5/06
Thursday, May 25, 2006
So don't I get any sleep? Have I no life beyond this computer?
I am a partial insomniac, if such a thing exists. Things get to me and start rolling around in my head and when that happens sleep comes late and finishes early; and there's never been a thing I could do about it. Plus I start work at 8 am and have no car to travel the 12 miles to my workplace, so I have to use public transport. Which means fitting in with someone else's timetable. Most of the time I have to be out of my front door by 6.45am to make it on time for 8.
And then there is the matter of the spirit. Work sucks it out. Work erodes the spirit until what's left is, as the old poets would have said, "exceeding small". I have to have some time with the Poem and related matters before I go out because I know that once I reach work it'll be 7 or 8 hours of soul-sapping balls and nonsense. And when I come home it'll be another 2 or 3 hours before I can get my rear-end off the sofa.
So there you have it. An explanation. I am not a vampire who only writes in hours of darkness. I am just another shafted citizen in an insane economic system that serves only itself and ruins the better part of all those who participate in it. And I'm trying hard not to get ruined.
At this time of the morning it's hard to see the likelihood of victory, I'll tell you.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
How did they find out about this egregiously anti-social act? A council official was driving in the car behind him, and when he saw the offending banana skin fly from the windscreen and come to rest in the road he phoned the council's litter line and reported the offence.
Forgive me for asking, but even if, as people with no wit or imagination will tell you, "rules are rules", what kind of man (I am using the term generously) when he's not in the office, even if he is still technically within working hours, would be so petty and small-minded and vengeful (like a Dostoyevsky character is vengeful, for the "small insults"), he would take the trouble to phone a special line and give a detailed description of a banana skin tosser so the forces of law and moral correction could swoop and punish him? People say now that the curse is unacceptable, but GET A LIFE.
This is the man your government wants you to be. Obedient, living cautiously within set perameters, feeling wrath towards those who don't, no extravagance, no colour, no vision, a Puritan in all but name.
Every time I hear a story like this I come a little closer to a log hermitage in the deep woods where no pasty-faced impotent Good Citizen can find me. If there are any woods left in England that aren't policed by somebody, which I doubt...
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
one lone bird trilling in a tree outside.
coffee after coffee clears the fog of sleep
but i feel like somebody
has buried an axe in my forehead.
oh where are all the worlds
i used to live in? i take my body
for a scalding bath. no one
can write an honest poem
that doesn't make him
look a bleating fool.
miles travelled: one
people seen: one
incoming calls: too many
lawns mown: none
clothes washed: none
dishes washed: none
chins shaven: none
coffee drank: gallons
doughnuts eaten: lost count
beer consumed: just enough
naps had: two per day
books read: plenty
poems written: loads
rain watched: torrents
And now back to the respectable lie.
he's on the sofa slouching
almost on the floor, in fact
reading a poetry magazine
while the tv chatters low
behind him and cars splash
through pools of rain outside.
he's an image of complete repose,
idly laughing when he reads
a funny line, eyes turning
skyward on occasion, fixing
some point on the ceiling
for interminable moments.
if he had company his guest
might think his brain were missing
watching how his eyes lose light,
then focus too before they
go back to the page for more.
if he had company he might
put a sign upon his forehead,
actually, to stop unwelcome
hectoring: "this poet is at work
don't interrupt"--except the only
guest he'd want would be
somebody who'd know that
anyway, or wouldn't care,
too busy were they padding
round the other rooms for
newspapers, his doobie stash,
Monday, May 22, 2006
The Historic Vertin Building
220 Sixth Street
PO Box 7
The Cliffs enters spring/ summer '06 with an eclectic mix of urban and wilderness poetry, and an edge of political dissent/ social critique that has been largely absent from previous issues: in America in 2006, even those who have moved beyond politics into a deeper, more philosophical critique of life seem to have an opinion. And on the day the Iraqi parliament announces it may well be another four years before British and American troops come home, you can well understand the political hang-up.
Poets include Ralph Murre, Gerald Nicosia, A.D.Winans, Antler and Alan Catlin. (Contributors I haven't mentioned aren't necessarily inferior poets, by the way; I am listing on the basis of probable familiarity.) The presentation is as superior as you would expect from splake and Jikiwe, with fine colour photographs by tks and a pastel by Alec Hall so rich in colour and detail it looks, at first glance, like a photo.
A single copy of the magazine can be obtained from the above address for $7.50 ($9.00 ppd). Which sounds a lot--it's only in the poetry world that we expect purveyors of the medium to starve--but for the labour and intelligence that goes into The Cliffs, I think it's worth it. One sample copy and you may well be taking out a subscription.
a sudden heavy downpour
from the clouds darkening the evening
pounds on the overgrown ivy,
the garden bench, the pavement.
i'm writing, listening to flash lad
an old folk tune for accordion
in the lookout, under old oak beams.
i glance up, wondering what's the noise,
and for one moment it's 1676
when flash lad and this house were new.
then i come back: wars, diseases
and god's death falling into place.
i'm somewhat disappointed. i'm
not sure which century was mine.
i still hear a coach and horses bumping
over the wheel ruts in the road.
imagine a space inside my jacket
where a pistol ought to be.
I'm just a "leathery old Beat" (to use Chris Torrance's excellent phrase), but I don't want to close myself off from new developments/ new directions in the art I love. Reading a poet you don't know for the first time is a miraculous thing, or it can be--as invigorating to the imagination as reading a ubiquitous old poet can be deadening.
(My thanks to Frank Walsh for letting me know the site is there.)
By the way, you can only be registered as an author with them once you have "proven awesomeness". Now that I have, I think it's a very good system.
Feeling sick and depressed about nothing in particular this afternoon, except perhaps the persistant rain and cold and the can of Stella I'd consumed over lunch (they don't call it "wifebeater" because it induces a sunny disposition) I went out and bought the new dvd release of "The Libertine", Johnny Depp's portrayal of John Wilmot, the 2nd Earl of Rochester (see my quick pencil sketch on the left). I can't really afford to spend the better part of fifteen quid on a movie I'll probably only watch twice, but sometimes letting go of money can give you a temporary lift; I believe people who are more humourous than me call that "retail therapy".
The movie is sold as a bawdy comedy, like "Tom Jones", but that misrepresents it completely. It's very funny in places, if you have a dirty sense of humour (and if you don't you won't be watching a film about Rochester), but its undertone, which in many places turns into an overtone, is extremely dark. The film, aided by a fabulous performance by Depp (a career best, actually), gets into the Earl's cynical, hopeless outlook on life, portraying him--probably with some accuracy-- as a man driven by despair. Why else would someone of such intelligence and literary talent squander his gifts writing brilliant doggerel and building a reputation that caused him to be ridiculed and shunned? Why else would he risk his neck abusing his apparent close friendship with Charles II?
I'd like to have seen some exploration of the theory that Rochester's deathbed conversion was an attempt to hedge his bets in the afterlife, or to manipulate his posthumous reputation on Earth, as opposed to a repenting of his wicked ways, but maybe that's just me. I don't like my bad boys to repent. Even though the sadness that "rips and tears" (Bukowski's words) at a man like Rochester (and Bukowski, and me), is unendurable and may, underneath all the morning horrors and the revulsion towards the human race, be no more than an overgrown child crying for the love of God (I say, it may be). But anyway.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
He ran through several of the songs from the album and a new version of the Blind Alfred Reed song "How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times", updated by Springsteen to address the drowning of New Orleans and the subsequent abandonment of its people by "President Bystander" George Bush, to whom the song was dedicated.
I wondered how Springsteen would put over the Seeger album live, given the traditional power and bombast of his band shows, but the answer shouldn't have surprised me. He did it with power and bombast!--growling each song into the microphone as if communicating the lyrical message were his lost shot at redemption. Which is perfect, because that's what folk music is all about: redemption for you, me and everybody.
The difference between this show and the others was (and I intend no disrespect to E Street), the musicianship. Bruce knows he has a f****** superior band here (superior to ANYONE), and as any working artist should be in the company of excellence, he was happy to stand back and let the boys (and girls), show you what they can do. There were long segments of songs where the brass section or the fiddles played and Springsteen stood by plucking his acoustic and moving as irresistibly as the crowd in simple appreciation.
Try not to, even when you're listening to the album at home.
This is not a big star trip the Boss is on. The whole Seeger project has been created and executed for the love of the music--and, as the Rolling Stone critic suggested, to find a moral compass for a lost and unhappy nation. Springsteen knows what's wrong in America and it's making him so sick he doesn't want to hear his own voice talking about it. Let the Grandfather of Protest put us all right, he seems to say, I'll be a child again and learn and dance!
But, of course, regardless of the relative modesty of Springsteen's intent, there's always one man in any room that you're going to look at first, and on the Seeger Sessions stage it's still him. Somehow he even managed to make the screw-ups in last night's show look appealing. "We didn't bring the frigging organ," he said at one point, after apparently turning to look for it on stage. And the crowd laughed along with him and loosened up even more.
By the end of the show they were singing every song along with him like they'd known them for years, and the band were lined up along the front of the stage like a fantastically-multiplied E Street, sharing the grateful applause and rowdy shouting. The genie of hope and shared belief had been released and it floated above the heads of crowd and band like helium. Hold on, hold on/ Keep your eyes on the prize/ Hold on. Yes! Sometimes in the worst of times the best thing you can do is shout for joy.
One or two people I've told about Jack have said, "It's a fine theory, but how's it going to work in practice?"--that is, emancipation from wage slavery. Classic symptom of resistance to an idea: raising an objection to try, subconsciously or otherwise, to cripple the idea so that you don't have to deal with it. We can't go to your mother's this weekend; there's a terrorist bomb threat in Brighton and Hove--(meaning, God, I hate your mother and I'm getting to hate you.) Emancipation from wage slavery is a mind f***. But as William Blake said when I checked it out with him--always go to Blake, people--"Everything possible to be believed is an image of the truth."
Saturday, May 20, 2006
No intermission in our Work we know;
The noisy Threshal must for ever go.
Their Master absent, others safely play;
The sleeping Threshal does itself betray.
Nor yet, the tedious Labour to beguile,
And make the passing Minutes sweetly smile,
Can we, like Shepherds, tell a merry Tale;
The Voice is lost, drown'd by the louder Flail.
But we may think--Alas! what pleasant Thing,
Here, to the Mind, can the dull Fancy bring?
Our Eye beholds no pleasing Object here,
No chearful Sound diverts our list'ning Ear.
The Shepherd well may tune his Voice to sing,
Inspir'd with all the Beauties of the Spring.
No fountains murmur here, no Lambkins play,
No Linnets warble, and no Fields look gay;
'Tis all a gloomy, melancholy Scene,
Fit only to provoke the Muse's Spleen.
From The Thresher's Labour, 1736
Friday, May 19, 2006
Now the executors of the estates of the three central Angels meet to discuss future publication projects. In the public consciousness these Angels are forever connected, so it makes sense.
There's a problem. The America that they created, the Angels that is, has gone; now it's the America they were born into--more or less. Puritanical narrow-minded paranoid America that mistrusts its neighbour and condemns all cultural variations. A job, a mortagage, a good wife, two kids and a car--it's the only way. Any assertion of alternative lifestyles or psychologies is viciously condemned.
There's a problem with the Angels too. Ray Monette, the first to die, was a drunk, an anti-Semite, burned crosses on his front lawn, had Oedipal problems, denied parenting a daughter who was his precise double. Axel Silver, the last of the Angels, had been a teacher and he'd made public pronouncements that sleeping with his under-age students helped them to learn. Monte Merriman, the third Angel, had murdered his own wife and spent years of his life hooked on heroin and having homosexual affairs.
The executors agree that if some of these facts aren't swept under the carpet , the present vigorous sales of books related to the Angels will be drastically affected.The current socio-political climate just won't tolerate such deviance. Besides, those traits in their character were unpleasant, distasteful: why celebrate them? So (with possible atmospheric rain pouring against the windows, but no cigarette smoke curling around in the air above their heads), they draw up a list of unsavoury habits and opinions and actions demonstrated by the three Angels and begin to calculate strategies for denying them/ suppressing evidence of them. Certain letters will not be included in collected correspondence. The early part of Monette's life and Silver's life will be emphasised in publications, because they weren't quite so nasty then. The latter part of Merriman's life when he was off the junk and not killing anybody and only interested in cats will be emphasised. Writers and commentators on the scene who acknowledge the aspects of the Angels that the executors have agreed to suppress will be blacklisted and, wherever necessary, sued until they are begging for change on streetcorners.
The movie will show that the executors believe in what they are doing, in their Munich pact for the literary underground. The actors must not indulge in any villainous stereotyping as in James Bond or Die Hard films because the fact that the executors are nice Ivy League boys who think all this is perfectly reasonable will add to the eerie sinister impact on the viewer. If these sonsofbitches don't even know that what they're doing is rancidly corrupt, how far gone are their souls?
The director and screenwriter, of course, will have to find a way to bridge the credibility gap, because obviously this is a fantasy, an urban intellectual fantasy subsuming elements of classical horror and re-presenting them in a deliberately under-charged way. Nothing like this could ever happen in real life. The job of those involved in the production will be to convince people that it could.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
whenever i get a sniff of my home.
the used car lot with the long fields behind
and their bottomless space in the dark,
the white sign flashing Wilby in the headlights
rolling into the village,
i never miss them. i always drift out of my sleep
a few minutes before they appear. and even
the tightness that has been in my back
and my leg muscles vanishes knowing i'm here.
ed abbey road lit up in the night by the dazzling
streetlamp on the side of my cottage--
rounding that corner my separation dissolves.
i flow out into everything: the owl shriek,
the black cat, the cool air, the mysterious
church spire hidden in cloud.
not a stranger here: home. i enter my house
with new spring in my steel-toe-capped boots
however tired i've been,
put my bag and my keys down, make tea, then
sit up for hours letting the night fade around me
Spaces are filling up rapidly in ANGEL HEAD #5 so if anyone is considering submitting, do it soon, eh? Three poems, nothing of spectacular length but any style or subject considered, sent in the body of an email to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org . There's no payment for poetry published, unfortunately, because the magazine doesn't generate any income!
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
But I'm speaking for him. Go over and see for yourself, if the idea interests you. Personally I've been trying to find a way out of the working world ever since I finally succumbed and got a job, aged about 28. Jack Saturday may help me achieve my goal at last.
Further investigation reveals that Jack Saturday has another site (http://www.theworldowesyoualiving.org ) which explores the ideas on the blog in a very different way, using montages of classic paintings, religious imagery and cartoon pictures mixed with quotes. It's effective as propaganda (but hang on, propaganda is the promotion of ideas you don't agree with, right?), and it's extremely beautiful visually and intellectually, in places. I scanned the site with a rare feeling of optimism that the world might not be completely insane after all. Somebody, at last, has seen through the lie that work is inevitable and an appropriate use of minds that have developed the capacity to span universes in an instant.
Sunday, May 14, 2006
in happy solitude, along a country road
among overgrown verges, fields high with
oilseed rape, air damp with an impending
early summer storm. i've forgotten it is
waendel weekend, when everybody walks
for charity. suddenly there's a group behind
me power-walking, their footfalls all in
unison sound like one ragged, clopping
horse--which is what i think it is
until they pass and an old man says hello.
i look behind and here come more, singles,
couples, two guys in army uniform, then
eight soldiers singing "blow and suck, suck
and blow, taught her everything she know"
and scoutmasters, and Chinese, and young
women with sinless clean faces strolling
alongside their grandfathers and greeting
everybody as if we still do that nowadays.
and entering the next village i see a tent
approaching with a van of scouts parked
near and ladies in the austere black get-up
of the St John's Ambulance Brigade waiting
with eager faces to discuss your blisters
with you, or agree that it's a lovely day
though we might get thunder later. it's a
carnival. i've never seen so many people
out on sunday on the back roads intruding
on my perfect peace. i cross before i hit
the tent and go in the opposite direction
to the others, towards a narrow turn under
a dark canopy of trees.a lady serving juice
calls out "my love! not that way! you have
to follow them"--pointing to a group of walkers
receding round the stone side of a cottage
chatting volubly. i wave as if i don't speak
english, and carry on along my route.
i'm heading for deeper country, where the only
people i will see are sheep and lambs,
and the occasional unitelligible farmer
waving a twelve bore in my face
Well. Mmm. Extremism is a funny thing. A relative thing. But we'll leave aside a discussion about the subjective nature of Truth for the moment. What bothers me, in his statements and the media reporting of them, is that no distinction seems to be made between the (to me) reasonable view that human beings don't have the right to kill other animals for their own sustenance or protection, and the bogeyman of "extremism"--that is, the rabid pursuit of a cause admitting of no appeal to caution or compromise, the end justifying any means at all.
There is a conservative bias in the adoption of this view. And a stupidity characteristic of all mainstream discussion in our modern society. If You Ain't With Us You're Agin Us is as deep as the newspapers and television, and politicians too, in the post-Michael Foot political world, seem capable of going.
But those involved in animal rights activism haven't helped their own cause. Or, these folks digging up graves and sending scarey letters to scientists haven't helped. They may be entirely sincere in their beliefs, but their actions have handed the media and those predisposed to hate them an archetype of terror that can be deliberately raised to frighten the average, ordinary, mild-tempered citizen--who might otherwise have been persuaded that animals shouldn't have to die so we can spin our own lives out a year or two longer.
If any activists are reading this they will probably be hitting the back browser button by now. Or they will be accusing me of too much diffidence. Of compromise. Which may be so. But I would ask them to give this consideration: how much has been achieved on behalf of the animals using the direct action method? What have the bombs achieved other than a wholesale turning of the tide back in favour of those who torture and kill in the name of science? (which is really a mask for business).
Read the Dalai Lama, I say. Read Gandhi. Read Henry David Thoreau. Learn how to oppose without violence and with due recognition of the humanity and good conscience of those whose views and actions you detest. Then you might find you're getting somewhere with the ordinary people you need to convince before anything is changed.
And if that's not what you're really about--if the adoption of the animal rights cause is really a rationalisation of anger and your desire for private, but violent, conflict with the world--be honest. Stand up for your own maladjusted temperament; be proud of your vicious streak and come out into the open where the enemy (that is, everybody else), can get a good look at you. The imprisoned, tortured animals don't need you wasting everybody's time and hijacking the cause of their freedom because you need to legitimise your unpleasantness.
Footnote: if it isn't obvious in the preceding paragraphs, I am an advocate of animal rights--always have been, always will be. And I want to thank Tony Blair, in the light of his becoming a signatory to the petition in favour of animal experimentation, for justifying conclusively, at last, the campaign I've been running--on SP and in correspondence--for his removal from Office. We've come a long way since the liberal enlightenment of the Sixties, haven't we Prime Minister?
Who's got one? Ginsberg. Burroughs. Brautigan.
Who hasn't (or not any that I know of)? Corso (a woeful omission). Bukowski (a surprise).KEROUAC, for God's sake (the official site is dreadful). Gary Snyder. And now Edward Abbey.
Kesey's site, run by his son Zane, is psychedelic in design with high resolution photos, and it's a lively read, but it doesn't tell you anything about Kesey biographically, and ducks his writing altogether, other than in the sense that his books are for sale there, alongside those by Beat cousins and fellow travellers.
Send any links you have for the above writers and I'll include them in the Reading Room, if there's something at the site that SP's enormous audience can get their teeth into when they're at the computer.
Well, there may not be a decent site for Gregory Corso, but it turns out I was wrong in declaring that Bukowski doesn't have one. How about http://www.bukowski.net where there are poems, prose extracts, magazine interviews, photographs, and even a forum for Buk fans who want to connect with others of the same persuasion. It's not overly commercialised and it's not self-consciously hip either; it draws a very nice line, actually, between the writer and the public figure, between the man and the myth. What a good thing it's there for newcomers to Buk's writing, or people who want to go somewhere on the web to celebrate their hero.
Oh, and while we're at it the Edward Abbey site is back. So the cause of grizzly, independent writing is doubly served!
Saturday, May 13, 2006
Exhibit one: the author of this blog was asked to write a biography of a poet for a literary encyclopedia; the poet had asked me, as that was the hook in this particular project--the encyclopedia approach the poet, then the poet engages a publisher/ editor/ critic to do the work. At the request of the Dr. of Lit. in charge of the project--and against my better judgement ( what possible reason could they have for requesting it other than snobby editorial selection?)-- I sent him a copy of my literary cv. And since then, NOTHING.
So what's going on? I don't know. But I can guess. My literary cv has nothing but underground credentials on it. Magazines like OUTLAW, GLOBAL TAPESTRY JOURNAL, ZYGOTE IN MY COFFEE, WAH!,THE CLIFFS, NOTES FROM THE UNDERGROUND.The names really speak for themselves, creating in list form a kind of poem of dissent. I have written poetry and I have written essays and criticism, but not in any of the right places, whatever the quality of the work.
If I'd had a few credits in the TLS or the London Review of Books, or whatever the right places actually are (how the hell would I know?), the Dr. of Lit. would have been eating out of my hand by now.You can almost guarantee it. If you think this is sour grapes, look at the About the Author sections inside the covers of the next Poet book that appears out of nowhere on the shelf at Waterstone's.
these two quotes discovered at the excellent blog "One Pissed-Off Veteran" (http://opovet.blogspot.com ):
"Those who give up liberty for security deserve neither and will lose both."
-- Benjamin Franklin
"The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist."
-- Winston Churchill
So now we know better than Ben Franklin and Winston Churchill?
It's not a bad thing. You're getting paid and you're not actually at work. You see people from other parts of the company, catch up, hang out, drink coffee. But then there is the training itself.
Corporate training represents, in microcosm, the way society is, how it sees itself, how the people working the levers think we ought to function; it is, like science fiction, where we'll end up if we don't take a stand. Individuals, in theory, you sit and hear about a succession of parliamentary acts telling you what to do. Like the code of conduct care workers are governed by which says you represent your company whether you are at work or not. B****CKS, I say: didn't Henry Ford practice something similar when he started car production? I protested against this in a training course once, saying my only responsibility to my employer was to give what I had while I was at work and not intentionally break any of the million-and-one rules dictating care practice, but my manager--a massive Rolling Stones fan and former earring-wearer ironically--shouted me down. And none of my colleagues backed me up or seemed even to care two hoots. There is not much passion in modern England for intellectual discussion, much less ideation as radical as my proposal that a free individual owes nothing to any one.
Training courses (and workplaces in general, and the bodies that inspect them), are obsessed with Health & Safety too. The phrase itself is thrown around like a threat, a curse, an invocation of Jesus, a moral reminder. Don't transgress this mysterious guiding principle of Health & Safety or somehow you will be revealing yourself as defective, drowned in turpitude, worse than a drunk. And what absurdities it fosters: paperwork to direct staff in the safe usage of the workplace toaster, reviewable every three weeks. Trust me. I am the guy who has to review it. Or the recorded voice in Greyfriars Bus Station in Northampton that plays on a continuous loop all day and into the night from speakers at the top and bottom of the escalator: "This is a safety announcement: would you please hold the handrail."
As a worker, I am not allowed to change lightbulbs because the company can't insure its care team against injuries sustained from lightbulb-changing accidents.Personal Protective Equipment--that's gloves and aprons-- must be worn when cooking, providing intimate care (hands to be washed before and after the gloves are put on); and heaven forfend that anybody should handle laundry without them. One person even suggested, at training, that the staff should wash their hands before using the kettle in case they deposit any germs on it that somebody else might pick up, and the trainer didn't advise her to get therapy.
We are turning into a nation--and possibly a world--of scared, personality-less puritans who live small lives, the perameters of which are dictated by unexamined fears, idiot suspicions and external authorities whose right to control us we no longer have the brains to question. And every time I go to a training course I confront the reality of this in a little greater detail. Sitting there--as near to the back as one can get in a convivial discussion circle--I feel a kind of nausea about the dreadful failure of the human race to live up to its colossal potential: we have minds capable of spanning universes in a micro-second, and yet we are racing blindly into a future defined by cowardly obedience and puritanism. Every time I learn again about not sharing my workplace problems with my lover because of Data Protection or The Correct 20-Second Hand-Washing Method, I think of my other life as a poet and (in Ginsberg's words) "an unofficial bastard of nature" and wonder what in god's name I'm doing there.
And then I remember. Money.
The notion of the divine human takes another kick in the balls.
Friday, May 12, 2006
But how many more lives has the old rascal got, I wonder? Why do I have this gloomy feeling that soon he will be off for his reunion with Gram?
Thursday, May 11, 2006
But what's the scene in the UK? A lot of the new works coming out of the major publishing houses--in poetry that is--are certainly dreary. You get these promotional pushes of The Next Generation of poets sometimes and where do they come from, all of a sudden? Young poets seeming to have sprung out of nowhere, but when you look at the author information you see--a few publications in places like the Times Literary Supplement and that's it. While the best living UK poet Chris Torrance seems no longer to be available in the bookshops (not that he necessarily cares, or requires anybody to rail on his behalf). The big publishers don't look at the small presses, it seems, to find out who's doing what or whether they're missing anybody. If they did they'd probably find legions of talented underground men and women who'd turn poetry on its a***, and actually make it worth going into Waterstone's.
As for the competitions and the workshops, they are legion. And as far as I know not one poet of any merit has ever come to light after participating in either in the UK, though one of my favourite writers, Norbert Blei, teaches writing in America and I'd happily sit in one of his classes and try to learn what I could from his mind. In England the thrust of most of these events seems to be to encourage the view that poetry is a pastime, something to be approached with modest expectations by writers and readers alike. The judges and the teachers promote tradition, conformity, consensus, and eschew the freedom of the crazy individualist talking from the top or bottom of his head: no Appollinaire would ever win any poetry competition, he'd be tossed in the scrap bucket as a lunatic; no d.a.levy would ever come out of a workshop, they'd make him stop repeating himself and use proper punctuation, start writing his name in upper case letters or something...
Do we need a ULA in Britain? Probably. Some kind of focal point for new (or old) unknown radical/ underground poets and writers might instill a sense of confidence and identity in these missing heroes. "Hand in hand it's got to be," as Ginsberg would say. Any takers?
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Hmm. I am studying Pound's works closely and I am not convinced that he was either a Fascist OR a lunatic. He certainly had Fascist sympathies because they seemed to accommodate opinions he had already held about international finance, the organisation of labour and the importance of high culture--though he was probably embarrassingly naive about all these things for a man of such obvious intelligence: Pound considered himself to be a patriotic American individual, as far as I have been able to establish, and believed the people in the White House were running down his country--an opinion he had in common, at the outset of WWII, with Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, by the way, both of whom are celebrated nowadays as quintessential Americans.
The lunacy accusation has never been proven, to my satisfaction, and not only have I studied the records of Pound's trial, I've also worked with the mentally ill for more than a decade. Does anybody reading this have any conclusive proof of the contrary? I'd be interested to read it if they have.
As for the anti-Semitism--many of Pound's statements in this regard are crude in the extreme and reveal a definite habit of racially stereotyping Jews. Pound knew that, when, later on in life, he withdrew into silence and recanted on many of the opinions he'd expressed in his own writings. The one possible defence with particular regard to anti-Semitism is that Pound hated everyone. Which he did--though the flesh of six million Britons or Americans didn't burn in the ovens of Nazi concentration camps in WWII.
I'm not trying to excuse Pound for any of his transgressions. He was a genius but he was also an idiot: the twentieth century turned most of its great artists and poets into fools, and among them he was the Chief Fool--to some extent because he dared the most, but also because of his surprising capacity for bottomless intellectual vulgarity. But as Basil Bunting said, he is "the Alps of poetry"--that is, he can be climbed (by the brave) and circumnavigated by the cautious, but he cannot be ignored. If you try you're going to miss out on a whole chunk of your poetical education, and your reading and your understanding will be significantly the poorer for it. It's time we looked at old Ezra properly and stopped trying to write him out of literary history on the basis of misinformed gossip.
For the only reliable statistical information about the disaster unfolding under the gunsights of British and American troops in Iraq, go to http://dailywarnews.blogspot.com .
I was looking after President
Jimmy Carter's dog
at a superpower summit
with him and Gorbachev
from the old Russia; and
I was trying to pick up
this gorgeous, mature
woman who was there.
In historical correctness
and chronology of world
leaders the dream was all
screwed up. But Jimmy
had a fabulous moustache,
neat and trimmed carefully
to the line of that famous
fish lip of his. He looked
like Clark Gable's dry cleaning
guy in the 1930s,
stepping out of limos
and calling for me
to watch his damn dog
that just jumped into the
wild river near the camp.
Sunday, May 07, 2006
Marymark Press, 2006
Well, I haven't got a clue what's going on here, but it's fun! Actually I'd guess the Gysin-Burroughs cut-up method was being employed to combine separate works by the two authors. It certainly reads like that, in places, though what do I know? The story is indescribable, at least by me, but it includes such diverse elements as Tech 3, where "tests were being conducted," a "flat broke" Professor, a director called Hans Severe, a man who "goes bersek with a nail gun," and Norman, who "went home angry." The page design experiments with different fonts and font sizes and there's associated imagery too, including a map of Los Angeles and a picture of the Beatles at Shea Stadium. Visually it reminds me of those old mimeographed experiments by people like d.a.levy, only cleaner.
I've had people tell me, in the past, that it was pretentious to like something you didn't understand, but hell...you could write to Sonnenfeld or Ciufo (their addresses are included!) and ask for an explanation of the theory behind it all, and they might even answer you with a long involved treatise on their creative method (though I doubt it). But sometimes it's fun just to sit back and enjoy the ride, head scratching and mental obfuscation included. Reading only what you know already is like looking in a mirror, as that amusing nut Artaud hinted many moons ago.
Well, I said all along that the idea of civic celebrations of the author of "Howl" were ridiculous. As are sedate literary events. You can't sit on a panel somewhere and discuss a poem about people "burning for that ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night" or whatever it is; the best way to celebrate "Howl" is to get mad raging drunk, walk home through the cold night under brilliant stars and write whatever bold, brave lines come from the top and bottom of your mind without fear or premeditation.
Which is really, essentially, what the ULA have been saying. "Free the Beats" (their slogan) from the starched shirts who are claiming ownership of them (though they still don't like Jack so much), and understand them for what they are: a vital link in the revolutionary chain that started God knows when--probably, in America, with Rexroth, though I'm sure there are others I don't know about--and continues today in the person/s of a thousand underground poets and writers, including the good folk at the ULA.
Why fear or revile them? Everything they have done and said seems thoroughly reasonable to me; and yet the denunciations of the ULA from the quaint and the comfortable on lecture hall stages and in magazines/ on websites created all over America border on the rabid. They're reminiscent, incidentally, of the denunciations of the Beats that were widespread in the 50s and 60s (continuing today only really in right wing media).
It's especially ironic to see people who associate themselves with the Beats putting down the ULA. Ask yourself this: if Ginsberg were alive today, where do you think he would be in the event of a ULA protest? Inside the hall, or outside? Up on the podium or down in the melee with the guy dressed up as a clown?
I don't know about your Allen Ginsberg but I'm pretty damn sure about mine.
Read King Wenclas' report about the ULA Howl protests here http://www.literaryrevolution.com
Saturday, May 06, 2006
Be warned, though: Todd's no gentle flowers and furry bears poet; he's not a Jack-struck Angel Head like yours truly either. The nearest publically-celebrated poet to Todd in style is Bukowski, but my old moan about legions of Buk-struck poets doesn't apply here because Todd writes with more discipline, more sharp focus and I think his mind is more daring than Buk's, he's gone further into those wild areas that most poets won't even talk about. So don't troop out to the readings expecting something cosey and reassuring. Okay? Because if the poems are anything to go by he's not going to give you back your travel money.
Though I spend so much of my time depressed or strung out, the things I love are many: the steady beat of a reggae track throbbing out of a radio or car window; the slinky walk of a cat slipping along against a wall, especially when it's trying not to look worried about the human footsteps behind it; finding a new old book of fantastic poetry on the shelf of a charity shop or in a box on the market; the design of old jazz lps from the 1950s with close-ups of the serious bespectacled or sweating faces of the trumpet players; the Eden-like acoustics of dawn birdsong especially when it wakes you from a long and restful sleep and you lay in bed warm and listening to it; a handwritten letter from a famous old poet lying half-open on top of my computer modem with all its perfume of fantastic longhair eras of bicycles and books; the third time you see the same man or woman and the talk between you is comfortable and easy, so you know they like you and you like them even though you don't want to do anything with it; blossom on trees overhanging pavements and walking looking up through the blossom at clear blue sky; feeling a fresh breeze blow against your cheek when you've been too hot; seeing a rabbit in a field which faint traces of early morning mist still hang over especially far out in the country before the traffic starts whizzing by; the cool quiet sanctuary of the deep woods when the canopy of summer trees catches sound like the distant call of kids on bicycles and makes it bounce around amongst the trunks and hillocks; sitting with my back to such a trunk with the warm soil underneath me reading a book of poetry or meditating with intense silent concentration as a squirrel scurries around nearby and I name him something like Kerouac or Abbey and have sudden, passing dim recall of my past lives as an animal.
AH! These things I store up against Death's inevitable victory over sullen, weakening flesh and throw into the Void like a basket full of roses
Friday, May 05, 2006
Visit splake's website at http://www.vertinpress.com for details about how to purchase this and other dvds and books.
Wonder how long it will take for the robots to shut me down again.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Dear Mr. Hackett,
...The other day I went to see Dr. Suzuki, who is now, as you know, 93 years old. I asked him a question, holding a cat in my arms, "Which is more important, to be fond of cats (that is, to write haiku) or to understand Zen?" He answered, "They are one and the same thing", and I said to him, "You have passed your examination." But I did not really think so. To be fond of cats and to understand Zen are equally important because they are the same thing. Yes, this is so, but at the same time, what is more important is to be fond of cats. Now, you see, I have contradicted what I wrote on the previous page, but
I thought I knew a great deal about haiku until I began reading about R.H.Blyth in Norbert Blei's "Poetry Dispatch". Somehow Blyth managed to slip under my radar completely.
Six months of work destroyed by one finger. I feel like a king!