Revisited: Underground Poetry Takes The Wheel

In an effort to be more present on this blog as the new year approaches, in addition to new material, I will be revisiting older pieces of writing that were ‘lost’, under read, or are no longer available elsewhere. This particular piece was published way back in 2009 with Associated Content. I don’t think much has changed since I penned this one, and it seems just as pertinent as ever.

Underground Poetry Takes The Wheel

No matter what scene or subculture you find yourself in there is always the “Us versus Them” mentality. For instance, when I was a young man playing in bands it was always indie vs. mainstream… now years later as a poet it is the seemingly endless battle between the underground and the academics.

Now by all qualifications, I am an underground writer. Most of the writing I read would be considered the same as well but still, I have really tried to stay away from the underground vs. mainstream argument for several reasons.

 For one, good poetry is good poetry regardless if it’s released by a major press or the most underground publisher. It doesn’t matter if it’s penned by the most D.I.Y. street poet or the Poet Laureate.

 Secondly, it would be one thing if the academic poetry community was rolling in money and best-selling books, but they are not. No one is reading their poetry either.

 So I try to keep out of it.

However…

 The question begs to be answered. Why is poetry in the state it is in? When I contemplate the question, that’s when I tend to reluctantly take sides and the finger wagging begins.

 If poetry has a bad public image would it not be the fault of the ones in charge of what the general public sees?

 Most people have their first brush with poetry in high school where they have some of the biggest load of kings English shoved down their throats. Oh sure, they let you read the occasional safe Whitman poem, but other than that it’s the same old trite crap that it takes an English professor to decipher for you. Poetry so workshopped that it is devoid of any meaning or emotion.

 Is it any wonder why most people don’t read another verse after high school? This is the general public perception of poetry, which really is pretty silly. Can you imagine people being so closed minded about any other form of art? For instance, can you imagine someone who has never heard music before hearing one song of one genre and basing their entire opinion of music in general on this one song of one genre? Someone asks them what they think of new generic radio hit and they say, “Oh, I don’t listen to music. I listened to it once in high school and I just didn’t care for it.” It’s absurd, considering music is a limitless sea of genres where there is virtually something for everyone. Just like poetry.

 We can even go so far as to say a member of the general public decides to attempt poetry later in life and they go to their local bookstore. Unless they sift through the books in the poetry section and stumble upon some of the more adventurous books, they will probably just go to the magazine section and pick up Poetry Magazine or The Paris Review…. and have instant horrible flashbacks of high school.

 Of course, there are always the more subversive types in the know searching out underground poetry, music, etc. But for most the source of information comes directly from the ones in control of public image.

 The ones who represent the public face of poetry are the academics and they have failed at capturing the imagination of the average reader.

 They have failed to relate to the impoverished, the factory worker, the auto mechanic, etc.

 In short, these people are in the driver’s seat. You do not wrest control by tapping on their shoulder and politely asking them to please let you drive for a while. For one reason, they wouldn’t even let you in the car in the first place.

 Are they going to easily let go of the little bit of poetry success there is? Are they going to instantly let go of their college internships and minuscule amount of money that is being made? No, of course not.

 Quite simply, we have to take the driver’s seat. We have to take control of the P.R. machine.

Then the people can begin to see what poetry can be. Poetry can be exciting; it can be rock and roll. Enlightening poetry does not mean hours of study, it can be that instant moment of realization.

 So how do we carjack the poetry machine?

 I don’t know. I’m a factory worker and so called “underground” poet. If I had a clue I would probably not be writing this right now. All I can think is we keep doing what we are doing. We keep writing, we keep publishing, and we keep pushing the hell out of our little shows. We become full time non-stop promoters not just of our poetry, but of poetry its self. We don’t just preach to the choir, we preach to the mob. We write poems for the factory worker to the office worker. We tell the academics to pull over, this is now our car.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Thoughts On The New Language

Writing is not a dying art form, but it is rapidly changing. Writers typing words into computers like this is becoming a thing of the past. Of course, writers and luddites alike have been saying for a long time that technology is killing writing; the only difference now is that I am not sure it is entirely a bad thing.

William S Burroughs stated that words are a virus and cited the advantages of hieroglyphic language. He also stated that words were tools of the control machine and used cut-up as a means to subvert said machine and reality as well. The cut-up method lives on to this day and has been utilized by artists far and wide both underground and mainstream, myself included. We all came to cut-up for varied reasons, but largely because ordinary writing had reached an impasse. Cut-up was taking us places that traditional language could not go. We knew, at least subconsciously, the limits of language. Experimental literature is alive and well albeit still in the fringes of modern literature. Some authors are moving beyond language entirely and defining (or re-exploring) the boundaries of ascemic literature.

However in the everyday world, language and how we perceive it may be changing more rapidly than it is in the art world, we just don’t think about it. Whereas outdated notions of tradition or formula inhibit many artists, technology adheres to no such boundaries.

The internet has changed the way we receive information and it would seem language is going through a slow metamorphosis. People are putting down magazines and newspapers to gather information online. Books and chapbooks are giving way to e-books. Blogs have given way to Facebook which has given way to 140 character tweets. Language is getting lean, like haiku. It is mutating and merging with image. The new language is a strange synthesis of words, images, sounds, hyperlinks, hashtags, and emoji. Literature is changing, as well as how we disseminate information. The way we “read” is changing accordingly.

It’s an exciting time to be a writer, provided you are not bound by the printed page. Of course the theories I am expounding are nothing new. There are innumerable artists far more talented than I that have experimented with form, communication and the new language for much longer than me and with much more precision. They too have realized the limits of language and how to overcome these limits. Still yet, I feel the need to reiterate and express the ideas to myself at the very least. You see, for all of my experimentation and grand ideas sometimes I still get hung up on words. I still get stuck on the label of “writer” which often leads to frustration as an artist. After all, how can the concept of “writer” remain the same if the concept of “reader” has evolved? Basically, how do I sell something no one is buying? We too must evolve and drop all notions of what a writer is. We must purge ourselves of noir imagery of the alcoholic writer with a cigarette dangling from his mouth slamming keys on an old Corona typewriter. Exterminate all rational thought. That is another lesson Burroughs taught us, but like the Buddha in the road we must also slay Uncle Bill and all of his wisdom. Nothing must stand between the artist and total freedom. Not you, not me, not words.

Rebooting Me

Recently my old laptop died. I hadn’t even begun to start moving things to this Mac yet, and unfortunately, I had not backed up any files in quite sometime. I lost tons of writing, hours of sound work, and thousands of photographs. I felt gutted… like a part of me had died, and of course, it had. So much of my heart and soul gone forever. It’s hard to see the positive in all of this. However, maybe it had to be. Perhaps that is the only way one can start over fresh.

You see, I’ve been intrigued with the idea of “rebooting” myself.

So I have started this reboot in earnest, trying to get myself out of this creative rut that has plagued me of late, and back to a good place both physically and mentally. I’ve been exercising a lot, getting back into zazen and learning Tai Chi. I’ve even quit drinking beer! Maybe it’s partly because I’m getting older, or partly because of this creative stasis , but regardless of the reason, the results have been fruitful. Mind, body, and soul I have been feeling much better than I have in years.

I received validation for my efforts at my yearly physical today, I cut weight, and my blood work was excellent… and for everyone wondering where in the world vegetarians/vegans get their protein, my proteins were high and healthy. I’m not usually one to post stuff like this, but I thought maybe I would for the benefit of anyone else out there in a rut. I figure if I can “reboot”, anyone can.

Happy New Year (From The Factory Floor)

I feel compelled to write a few words as we head into the final hours of 2016, and I type them here in the factory where I will ring in the new year. Fitting and hauntingly poetic that I will end the year and begin a new one from this factory laboratory where I spend the majority of my time.

2016 was a year like any other with several vicissitudes. We lost Bowie, we lost Prince, and we lost Lemmy. A tumultuous political year divided the country and unfortunately dropping a new year’s ball will not fix the dark days that lie ahead for this country. However, politics will always be politricks and as much as the election has dominated television and social media, it has not defined my year.

The year has treated me well, I made it through it alive and unscathed while my family is all with me, healthy and happy. The job that I complain about so much has afforded me to be the most comfortable I have ever been. Life is good, and when it’s not, it is usually because of my own perspective. I’m often my own worst enemy.

Creatively, it was a slower year than I care to admit. However, I am very proud of the handful of things I have done this year. I have had some of my best work published in some of my favorite experimental journals, Otoliths, Ex-Ex Lit, and the Zoomoozophone Review. I had the honor to play a show with Mark Hosler (of the legendary Negativland) this year as one-half of Blk/Mas. We also made our annual stop at this year’s St Pete Noise Fest. New net albums by both me, and Blk/Mas hit the web this year.

In 2017, I am looking to shake off my apathy, polish up and start shopping around two chapbook manuscripts I am sitting on. I also hope to do more shows, and release a lot more noise as well. I’m not much of a resolutions guy, but if anything, I just hope to be a little less apathetic in the coming year and nurture the creative fire that still burns inside of me.

If anyone is reading this I’d just like to say, Happy New Year! Stick around; it’s going to be a fun year.

 

New Print

Today I received my contributor copy of And/Or volume 3, and it is a thing of beauty. Within the cover you’ll find over 150 pages of experimental poetry and prose. I’m very proud to be included. From their site:

“and/or is an international print journal devoted to publishing experimental creative writing and graphic art by writers and artists from around the world.”

You can find more info here.