JB Bryan and Mark Weber
I ask JB some questions about his ZONE:
JB, tell us about the construction of the poem that purports to be from the notes of the late Gus Blaisdell — I’m presuming some or maybe all of the words are yours (?) and/or you worked in the manner of late-period Ray Carver where he would take paragraphs of Chekhov and re-cast them into poem form, which I thought was brilliant idea. SO, in what ways did you re-purpose Gus’s writings? But, first, tell us who Gus Blaisdell was and his magnificent bookstore. I didn’t know Gus very well — I certainly hung out in his shop when this town was a bookstore town before Borders and Barnes & Noble came in and killed them — but, I did know Gus well enough to have him accost me on the street to rail against various pet peeves of his, like jazz music he thought was too conventional, or some local political ideology that was out of my realm. I remember he walked out on the Instant Composers Pool at the Outpost in disgust. Never did figure that out because ICP is one of the great bands on the planet at this time. BUT, I never knew Gus had designs on being a writer?
JB Bryan and Mark Weber
JB: this is a rather loaded question! when i pulled into albuquerque in the early 70s the Living Batch was in what is now the second room of the Frontier Restaurant. it had everything i liked in literati bookstore culture. i didn’t work there then, but i loved to shop there. used books and new. at the time i was going to UNM and was firing ab-ex raku pieces in the vein of Peter Voulkos and Paul Soldner. due to heartbreak i decided to move to southern California. i was in the Living Batch around this time and chatting, Gus told me to check out Acres of Books in Long Beach. it was one of the reasons i ended up going to Long Beach State. i won’t go into all the pyscho details of my surf dreams nor the other sordid aspects. you don’t need to know all of my secrets. i do have to admit i realized i wasn’t cut out for California. too crowded. i have a work history of old school paste up & layout. i had a school job of production work on the Long Beach State 49er, i then got a part-time job in Downey for a Thrifty Nickle thing. i quit in horror. i then applied at the Chelsea Bookstore which had opened. nobody has really written a history about bookstore business during this period. affordable paperbacks, astute editors, and an eager readership. Chelsea Bookstore was a fine store in an old bungalow, i believe on Cherry. i left around 75 back to New Mexico. i seemed to have missed the burgeoning Long Beach poetry scene. my degree was in journalism & public relations and my interest was in non-profit counterculture. a quaint oxymoron i still find myself. back in Albuquerque i worked in a paperback bookstore in Eastdale, then White Oak in downtown. when an opportunity arose at The Batch i took it. now it had expanded into the third room of what is now Frontier, but then Frontier wanted the whole block. we move to what used to be Bennie’s Billiards next door. i remember painting the walls white and doing a carpet shampoo. a huge community event took place where a bucket brigade handed books from one building to the next. shelves were emptied and the shelves brought next door to restock. everything went smoothly and then there was beer. The Living Batch was once Grasshopper Books started by Phil Mayne. Pancho & Mike Elliston bought whatever they bought and renamed it after the horse in Ed Dorn’s poem Gunslinger. “Por nada./ I is now an organ Ization / a pure containment / He has become a Five, Gallon, Can I is now a living Batch Me heard you the First time the Slinger nodded thats a Very interesting tautology.” the horse being the container for a massive supply of LSD. (page 37 of my original Book 2). Gus Blaisdell bought whatever he bought from the Ellistons. i ended up working at The Batch from 1979 until 1994.
Gus was a formidable intellect. originally from San Diego and the son of an admiral. Charles Augustus Blaisdell II, b. 1935 – in the 12th generation of Blaisdells in America. (“descendants of Ralf Bleasdale – who landed at Pemaquid, Maine, August 14, 1635, on the Angel Gabriel sailing ship.”) i don’t know his early years except that he went to Stanford and was part of the writing program at the time in 1958, Wallace Stegner Fellows, with Edward Abbey, Larry McMurtry, Robert Stone, Ernest Gaines, Tillie Olsen, and Ken Kesey. also connected with many in the San Francisco Renaissance, and especially book men like Peter Howard, and Jack Shoemaker. i believe he veered off into philosophy and mathematics instead of literature, still he knew a shitload of people “from the day.” i think he moved to New Mexico to take a job as editor at the Univeristy of New Mexico Press. one of his claims to fame is the publication of WAY TO RAINY MOUNTAIN by N. Scott Momaday. seems mr. Momaday was also at Stanford. after moving to New Mexico, Gus became friends with Robert Creeley who was then teaching at Albuquerque Academy. much of this outside my true knowledge, but one tidbit revolves around a heated argument at a local bar Oakie Joe’s where Gus broke Creeley’s nose. there is a whole history of wild days in Albuquerque in the 60s, which also includes Creeley in Placitas, and the hippie literati scene around the Thunderbird Bar there. i can’t tell it.
my relationship with Gus was more about myrmidon* and employer. i was devoted to the bookstore and put up with Gus. he ordered us around without doing much work himself. oftentimes he was nasty and mean, also he could be hilarious going off on Lord Buckley type rants which left me laughing so hard i’d purt near piss in my pants. many people would come into the store to engage him or go off for coffee to talk. many people would not go into the store out of fear of him or despising him. he could be quite ghastly to some, especially parents who let their little kids run around. The Living Batch had poetry readings and booksignings galore. wow, i met a lot of people who were my heroes. working there was sort of a vow of poetry, not much money but an atmosphere of good books and both writers and customers who appreciated it all. besides all the glory though was tedious gruntwork of making the store actually operate. in the early days, The Batch didn’t have a phone. i worked there before computers. our inventory system was like a library with cards for books and their history which needed to be relentlessly checked. for many years we were also had a used section and people where always coming in to sell books. i was the book buyer and rifled through countless ragged, moldy boxes picking out what might be worthwhile. there is a lot of interpersonal history and drama of the many people who worked there. some of it quite sad. i ended up an integral staff member, manager for awhile even. Gus and i had a good relationship because i have some repartee skills and would talk back to the boss. also i supplied the sound system with good music tapes from my record collection. as you know he was a jazz nut and a Thelonious Monk devotee. later he went to the very “out” side of things and liked Peter Brotzmann, David Ware, Charles Gayle, etc. which fit in with his desire to be on a very edgy edge. all this time he was also teaching film studies at UNM and writing critical essays.
after 15 years at The Batch i needed to move on. i won’t go into all the details. once i no longer worked there, Gus and i began getting together for lunch now and then. i had started La Alameda Press and was trying to be a graphic designer. he hired me to do the production on books for his Living Batch Press. several of those books are classics, ARK by Ronald Johnson, NOW IT’S JAZZ by Clark Coolidge. one of our shared passions was for Henri Matisse (he also loved japanese prints, Cezanne, S. Clay Wilson, especially the Checkered Demon). later he would gift me his two volume set of the book on Matisse by Louis Aragon. he liked my paintings, although the landscapes bored him. he could talk about painting, not just as an authority but as someone who really dug the goop. lots of people wanted his approval and i have to admit that i appreciated him giving me positive feedback. all of what i have said so far is sketchy and doesn’t do him justice nor does it adequately explain the negative energy he could dish out. whew. for awhile he and i would sit together in concerts at Outpost and he would be muttering vile things if he didn’t approve. when Hal Galper played there Gus sneered through the first set, then looked at me and said something to the effect: “Errol Garner By the Sea, do we need more of that shit?” and walked out. yet he adored Steve Lacy. i don’t remember any comments about ICP but i can imagine that they didn’t fit in with his sense of “out” or edge. ICP are brilliant but in a cohesive pastiche of many styles, manic but not maniacs. i think Gus championed the crazy iconoclast.
as i mentioned, he and i often had lunch. we talked books. his only published books are two thin poetry volumes. most of his published writings are introductions for others, or film criticism. many might say that he was too critical for his own good. still he thought of himself as a poet and he spoke of projects he was engaged in, doing research for, as if they were imminent. one was a book called LOQUAT and supposedly revolved around the tree, fruit, and history. but another was to be called RED STUDIO and would be homage to the Matisse painting, one of his most radical. he spoke of it at lunch when we got together to celebrate our birthdays one September. a few hours later he died of a massive heart attack walking to his car in the Frontier parking lot. i wondered about the manuscript for RED STUDIO, then Nicole, his daughter, found a folder marked “red studio” in a filing cabinet. she gave it to me but alas there were only a bunch of sheets with scribbled notes and numerous articles. it should be explained that Gus was notorious for a very scratchy, tight scrawl which most of us at The Batch couldn’t make out. what became apparent to me was that most of the book Gus talked about had been in his head. i also think he incorporated his interest in color theory into an essay for the painter Guy Williams. my poem “Red Studio” is perhaps an homage to Gus, as well as riffing off Matisse and the painting itself. i think more poets should riff off of paintings, especially those of their friends.
as both a painter and a poet i like to riff on my own work. i think i tend toward artist statements, manfestoes, or trying to explain my process. there is a process, there is always gruntwork, there is willpower to make it happen. notebooks, sketchbooks, scraps of paper with doodles or jottings are all part of the process. i have my own collection of indecipherable notes. i don’t teach, but if did i might want to teach Studio 101 which is: get a studio, set it up, go into it often and make something. keep going. results will happen. i don’t teach but i took my advice and did what i had to do to acquire a house in Placitas, New Mexico, just up the road from where Robert Creeley lived in the 60s. the village is funky real and my studio has a peculiar handmade charm. built originally for the dancer Lee Connor, it is essentially one big room with high ceiling and wooden floors on big joists. springy. Lee died there as an early AIDS victim, i now believe it is haunted with his spirit. i feel i am supposed to be its the artistic director and caretaker. my own path as an artist coincided with making the house into my studio. i will die happy.
i just realized that i mispelled it “undecipherable” in the epigram and so now must feel bad about another typo. i will die unhappy.
MW: “Myrmidons” ?
JB: Gus would sometimes come into the store and exclaim “Good morning, my darling myrmidons!” to us who were doing the actual work. i just looked it up and like what Wikipedia says “The Myrmidons of Greek myth were known for their skill in battle and loyalty to their leaders, so that in pre-industrial Europe the word “myrmidon” carried many of the same connotations that “robot” does today. Myrmidon later came to mean “hired ruffian” (according to the Oxford English Dictionary) or “a loyal follower, especially one who executes orders without question, protest, or pity – unquestioning followers.” it also shows the etymology from Classical Greek: murmedon, ant’s nest. but also realize that some wag on the staff might have replied: “Greetings, Lord Pumpkin!” this might then have caused Lord Pumpkin into some mimicry as Captain PissGums vs. the nefarious pirate Ruby the Dyke from S. Clay Wilson. Gus liked repartee and instigation of his wit.
JB Bryan and Mark Weber
MW: SO, speaking in terms of actual construction of your poem “The Red Studio” how were the words come upon? Where did you find the words — were you doing like Todd Moore and putting yourself inside of Gus’s head, in the same way Todd went inside John Dillinger’s head?
JB: i keep a lot of little notebooks filled with my own scratchy scrawls. some things entered are found texts, quotes, paraphrases, but also all those musings which bubble up. i keep one in the car because oddities occur and i need to jot them down or else they are lost. i’ve lost a lot of real genius thoughts because they zoomed right through my head. i’m probably a notebook collagist in the tradition of kerouac, whalen, and others. notebooks are a lot like ouija boards or seance devices. i like Jack Spicer’s term “martian radio”. i also collect things online and put them into files on my computer. i do research too. i have a lot of folders with collected material. these are magazine articles, pictures, debris that accumulates around an idea for a painting, sometimes it works for poems. i am interested in artist’s statements and journals. there is a long history of painters trying to explain the craft and the mystery. the book MATISSE ON ART edited by Jack Flam has incredible responses by The Maestro. as for the inside of Gus’s head, i don’t think i want to go there except to present something he might be amused by. i believe lots of people yearned for his approval, or else to cause a demented twinkle in his eye. you certainly didn’t want him to tell you that you’re full of shit. i can attest to that from much personal experience.
but how do we come upon the words or the final line? something strange happens in the poetic process. another kind of zone where language acts like a magnet. i chop things up, rearrange, look for a better word, find a narrative, link that with something else. perhaps i don’t have a coherent plan at the outset, but i get pleasure from surprises. Bobby Louise Hawkins has an anecdote about peeking in at Robert Creeley hunched over his manual typewriter giggling to himself. one can only imagine what was coursing through his imagination.
MW: Tell us about the title “Zweeeet! Bwiff, bonnnk ! “ that you gave your cover graphic.
JB: i’m 60 years old. my formative years were influenced by a number of factors. when i was old enough to take off on my bicycle, i’d pedal down to Kiburz Drugstore in Des Moines where they had a soda fountain and comic book rack. at first my interest was in the usual Batman, Superman stuff, but then i noticed MAD Magazine. i would say this is what blew my mind and i’ve been demented ever since. MAD probably had a lot of satire which went right by me, yet every artist included in its pages inspired me to draw. one could study a variety of styles from narrative brilliance of Jack Davis to incredibly twisted monsters by Basil Wolverton, but the most influential for me was Don Martin. he’d have me laughing out loud. partly from the vignette itself as well as the looks on the character’s face, yet there were always some kind of action which had written sound effects. onomatopoeia of the highest order. of course i didn’t know that word then, still i GOT it! bulging eyes, bulbous noses, and long hinged feet were also signature aspects of his style. i believe Don Martin saved my life or at least enable me to survive junior high school. i began drawing DM characters and acquired a reputation for my doodled up class notebooks. when the Kool Kidz ran for student body elections i was often invited to parties to help make posters. even tho i was rather oddball, my imagination & wit set me apart from being a target of torment.
you also have to take into effect that in the late 50s and early 60s how much american culture was filled with beatnik clichés. of course i didn’t know that word yet then either. television was filled with some kind of artsy hipster from the noir hangouts of Peter Gunn to parking lot attendant Kookie Byrnes to the iconic Maynard G. Krebs. “You rang?” or when anyone at Dobie Gillis’ father’s grocery store would mention work, Maynard would recoil in horror “WoRK!!?” also he was always pounding his school desk like bongos. even tho the Beat Generation wasn’t even on my radar then i now can see how the fictional characters of beatnikism influenced me.
in my poem “Dragon Painting” of our little book are the lines:
i feel my hand making a picture
black swipes of loaded skunk hair
flying white turns into rat fink chortle
leaping dragon startled by clairvoyance
charmp gluk chomf chonk yatz PWANG!
the last line references Don Martin but the phrase “rat fink chortle” points to my other great inspiration then: Big Daddy Roth. at the same time i was reading MAD, i was also building model cars and going to Kustom Kar shows when they came to town. at one there was a big guy doing airbrushed sweatshirts. he had a goatee and he was drawing/painting these shirts right and left with wild intensity and skill. i somehow had some money to buy one. he did “Mother’s Worry” on the back and then asked me my name. i said Jeff Bryan and he wrote on the front “JB the Great.” ooowee, i wore that shirt all the time and that’s how i came about my nickname which has stuck to this day. but Big Daddy Roth was also Kustom Kar genius, truly a sculptor of the highest order. he would make a car from the ground up with chrome chassis, big hot rod engine, and then mold fiberglass into all sorts of modernistic, futuristic body shapes. one car was called “Beatnik Bandit” with a bubble top and big whitewall tires and another “Outlaw” which was the model T hot rod taken to a stylish apogee. and so many others were just incredible designs. these were recognized then as brilliant and Revell hired him to make model car versions of them. Revell also noticed the t-shirt designs and had Big Daddy Roth come up with some model kits of these monsters. they became very popular. one of the designs became his trademark and it was this giant fat thing called Rat Fink. it had a twisted long snout, eyes which stuck out its sockets, and wirey tail wrapped around its flappy feet, plus it was surrounded by big buzzing flies. it looked like it was laughing at some really weird joke or watching some Chevy monster swinging an axe at an enemy Ford. Rat Fink is a mythological beast similar to dragon lore or Mesoamerican bird snakes. Big Daddy Roth has left the planet, but Rat Fink is still around in the hearts and minds of many. or at least mine.
MW: Maybe this is sort of off-topic but I’ve been thinking of Allen Ginsberg lately. I remember the first time I read such an unusual word order was when I bought the LP on Fantasy of Allen’s HOWL — I can exactly remember where I was when I read his liner notes on the back — I was 17 and in my room at my parent’s house in Upland, California — and, in fact, I didn’t completely understand the words or the language he was using, it hit me like a tornado it was so impacted, dense with stacked verbs, stacked nouns and adjectives, but very alive, on fire, and open-hearted. That whole beatnik scattershot run-on sentences, cast fate to the wind wild hoot & travel fast enjambments be tossed and turned. Were you able to understand that literature quickly? Allen’s in particular.
JB: i am not sure when i got a copy of HOWL. in retrospect i see a zigzag hopscotch of finding those things i was hoping for to lift me out of a conventionalism which i felt oppressive. i increasingly began to feel like i wanted something else. i see now how much California itself had a cultural allure or perhaps, lure. i made a skateboard out of a 2×4 and metal rollerskates. i began to buy Surfer magazine which had Murph the Surf comix by Rick Griffin, who’s style i began to emulate. i built a “good” skateboard from hardwood board and fitted out with composition rollers. i was heavily into the Beach Boys, Jan & Dean, Ventures, hot rod music etc. but beginning to hear another kind of rock & roll on the radio. i really didn’t know jazz at all, except big band stuff which seemed quite square. “bop” was a word which was more about Eddie Cochran or Gene Vincent. we had some good rock & roll stations in Des Moines, and the Val-Aire Ballroom was bringing the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis. alas, i was too young to go.
in 1964 i went to the Boy Scout jamboree at Valley Forge and we had field trip to New York City. we went to the World’s Fair, Radio City Music Hall, Chinatown, and walked the streets. WOW. this was during the British Invasion too. somehow during this trip i heard the Rolling Stones. that first album is still good! one hates to admit getting turned onto the blues by them, but “I’m a King Bee” did it for me. i think i first got drunk in 1965 at a friend’s house where we were sleeping over and playing poker and raided his parent’s liquor cabinet. i’m pretty sure i got quite sick.
Nowadays nobody wants to talk about Vietnam. i started paying attention in my teens and i didn’t like what i saw on Walter Cronkite. i certainly didn’t have much understanding but the draft seemed like a load of crap. 1964 to 69 were years of increasing strangeness for me. i was a teenager in a provincial town yet knowing that a political shitstorm was going on. Des Moines has Drake University there and in its dogtown was a headshop which sold posters, paraphenalia, and books. i lived nearby and started visiting it’s den of iniquity. it was probably there that i got HOWL, as well as Kerouac and Gary Snyder. of course ON THE ROAD made a huge impression but DHARMA BUMS really got me. & dare i say that the photo of Gary Snyder on the cover of RIPRAP might have been some kind of catalyst.
when i think of Allen Ginsberg i think of him with a beard and a cardboard Uncle Sam hat. nobody was as important to me tho as Bob Dylan. man, Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” was critical. i probably had the 45 first, with “Gates of Eden” on the B side. that’s the poetry which i first responded to. when i started buying albums his were my favorites. they still are. his liner notes on BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME and HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED are terrific. i just went and looked at them again and of course they are probably influenced by HOWL. but Ginsberg was also hanging around Dylan then because he recognized what was going on. am i the only person who thinks TARANTULA is a great book? discovering the power of poetry– how could we not have become psychedelic?
i mean what’s a person to do with: “On the slow train time does not interfere and at the Arabian crossing waits White Heap, the man from the newspaper and behind him the hundred Inevitables made of solid rock and stone—the Cream Judge and the Clown—the doll house where Savage Rose and Fixable live simply in their wild animal luxury…. Autumn, with two zeros above her nose arguing over the sun being dark or Bach is as famous as its commotion and that she herself—not Orpheus—is the logical poet “I am the logical poet!” she screams “Spring? Spring is only the beginning!’ she attempts to make Cream Judge jealous by telling him of down-to-earth people and while the universe is erupting, she points to the slow train and prays for rain and for time to interfere—she is not extremely fat but rather progressively unhappy…. The hundred Inevitables hide their predictions and go to bars and drink and get drunk in their very special conscious way and when tom dooley, the kind of person you think you’ve seen before, comes strolling in with White Heap, the hundred Inevitables all say “who’s that man who looks so white?” and the bartender, a good boy and one who keeps a buffalo in his mind, says “I don’t know, but I’m sure I’ve seen the other fellow someplace” and when Paul Sargent, a plain-clothes man from 4th street, comes in at three in the morning and busts everybody for being incredible, nobody really gets angry—just a little illiterate most people get and Rome, one of the hundred Inevitables whispers “I told you so” to Madame John…. Savage Rose and Fixable are bravely blowing kisses to Jade Hexagram-Carnaby Street and to all the mysterious juveniles and the Cream Judge is writing a book on the true meaning of a pear—last year, he wrote one of famous dogs of the civil war and now he has false teeth and no children…. when the Cream met Savage Rose and Fixable, he was introduced to them by none other than Lifelessness—Lifelessness is the Great Enemy and always wears a hip guard—he is very hipguard…. Lifelessness said when introducing everybody “go save the world” and “involvement! that’s the issue” and things like that and Savage Rose winked at Fixable and the Cream went off with his arm in a sling singing “summertime and the Livin is easy”…. the Clown appears—puts a gag over Autumn’s mouth and says “there are two kinds of people—simple people and normal people” this usually gets a big laugh from the sandpit and White Heap sneezes—passes out and rips open Autumn’s gag and says “What do you mean you’re Autumn and without you there’d be no spring! you fool! without spring, there’d be no you! what do you think of that???.” then Savage Rose and Fixable come by and kick him in the brains and color him pink for being a phony philosopher—the then Clown comes by and screams “You phony philosopher!” and jumps on his head—Paul Sargent comes by again in an umpire’s suit and some college kid who’s read all about Nietzsche comes by and says “Nietzsche never wore and umpire’s suit” and Paul says “You wanna buy some clothes, kid?” and then Rome and John come out of the bar and they’re going up to Harlem…. we are singing today of the WIPE-OUT GANG—the WIPE-OUT GANG buys, owns and operates the Insanity Factory—if you do not know where the Insanity Factory is located, you should hereby take two steps to the right, paint your teeth and go to sleep…. the songs on this specific record are not so much songs but rather exercises in tonal breath control…. the subject matter—tho meaningless as it is—has something to do with the beautiful strangers…. the beautiful strangers, Vivaldi’s green jacket and the holy slow train you are right john cohen—quazimodo was right—Mozart was right…. I cannot say the word eye anymore…. when I speak this word eye, it is as if I am speaking of somebody’s eye that I faintly remember….there is no eye—there is only a series of mouths—long live the mouths—your rooftop—if you don’t already know—has been demolished….eye is plasma and you are right about that too—you are lucky—you don’t have to think about such things as eyes and rooftops and quazimodo.”
I’ve been trying to get JB to collaborate on a Zerx chap with me for ten years. As involved as he is in so many various artistic endeavors I think of him primarily as a writer of poems. So, when he finally said Yes, and then immediately came through on deadline I had to hurry and cobble together a bunch of odds & ends for my side of the book and get it to the printer before he changed his mind. Not that he changes his mind, often.
JB is from Iowa or Nebraska I keep forgetting which. Though he’s been in New Mexico over 40 years, it’s easy to forget those other places. He keeps a home in town, that he and his wife Cirrelda built themselves in the Alameda, and his painting studio is in a little mountain village north of Albuquerque where he spends two or three days of the week painting and meditating and tending to his fruit trees. He has an adobe tea house on the property and a couple old trucks and a perfect view of El Cabezon, the ancient basaltic lava neck of a volcano. He is a musician, printer, publisher, “graphicologist” for the Outpost Performance Space, a champion of Philip Whalen, Lew Welch, and all the West Coast beatnik era poets, and mostly a painter, and even more so, to my way of thinking: A poet in the old way.
. . . . . back when New Mexico was inhabited by eccentrics, hermits, oddballs, and outlaws, charlatans and pilgrims and donkeys and mustangs, Volkswagens and El Caminos, dodgy pot heads, Turkish pipe smugglers, typewriterless poets, iconoclasts of every stripe, apple worshippers . . .
so many apples in the mountain villages
so many dreams in the chimneys
crystal smoking, the Rio’s lazy waters
the adobe knees of plenitude
vegetable gardens of eternity
you come to New Mexico to recreate yourself
to leave behind who you once were . . . . .
JB had suggested we both explore painting in this double-chap but for various reasons I never got around to doing that, at least, not directly. I kinda wanted to riff of of various famous paintings but I think Gerald Locklin has staked out that territory, so I just decided to write about walking, sort of.
JB Bryan in his studio in Placitas, New Mexico October 11, 2oo9 | Photo by Mark Weber
So many of my poems over the last ten years are “uncollected,” having appeared in periodicals and the littles and none of my friends see those magazines and with one thing and another this quick little collaboration offered an opportunity to grab some of those uncollected poems and put them in this collection I decided to call STAYING HOME AND LISTENING TO RECORDS, for obvious reasons.
While pondering the title, I fondly recall one of my all-time favorite titles, Henry Miller’s SUNDAY AFTER THE WAR. What a great title. He followed that with THE SMILE AT THE FOOT OF THE LADDER which is okay, and I suspect he’d been looking at Marcel Duchamp readymades, or Jean Arp. But this title didn’t have the gravitas of SUNDAY. With a poetry book you’ve got to watch that the gravitas doesn’t over-pour into the maudlin. S. Clay Wilson did a great send-up on the subject in one of his larger graphics, with poets boiling in the waters of their own anxieties, he called “Poets in Hell.” Another guy who had the knack for titling his books was Richard Brautigan. What a great writer he was.
The more I write the more I see through grammar — not that I detect any fallacies with the tenses and cases and conventions of punctuation, or that the spelling of words is not a good thing, it’s just that there is no proper spelling as far as I’m concerned (have you read Chaucer lately?). And tenses can be spun around like a Calder mobile — in other words: you see through grammar like looking through a window.
It becomes more elastic – the words can be bent in all kinds of directions.
I love grammar.
Admittedly, my free hand with grammar probably only works when balanced against the conventions. Quite similar to how Lester Young’s saxophone lines relied on his band mates to stay home, to stay put, to hold the fort, while he slipped in and out of key and time. As a writer I don’t exactly have the luxury of incorrect spellings simply because when I do use an unconventional spelling or word arrangement I want the reader to know I did it on porpoise.
It used to be that new evolutions in syntax was the domain of poets, that poems were where all those developments took place. I’m not so sure that’s the case anymore. Seems that emails and “texting” are making innovations in grammar these days. Where the written word is being streamlined and supercharged.
BUT, I’m old-fashioned, I still like a book, a tree, a bottle of grape, and a river: me leaning against a tree with a book taking a swig of devine juice every other page and watching the river, the clouds, toss a stick in . . . .
Belladonna & Spearmint Tea | Painting by JB Bryan
‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’
And Verna Flake in the novel THE CHINCHLLA FARM by Judith Freeman (page 18):
After a while I said, “I’m getting a divorce”
“A new horse?” Fannie said slowly. “That’ll be nice. You’ve always loved horses
I couldn’t see any point in correcting her. Really, the thing was just said to test It, to say it aloud, and it was perhaps better that Aunt Fannie didn’t know.
AND like the Buddha says: to look behind the words to understand what is actually being said.
—Mark Weber | October 8, 2o11
Staying home and listening to records | first printing * September 2oll | 300 copies. *Long poem about walking composed between September 6-18. Some of the internal poems within it are from earlier in 2oll. *A11 poems from 2oll. Page 14 — February 8 & 9. bottom of page 12 — February 13. page 17 — March 21 & 22. page 16 — April 28. page 15 — May 2. page 13 — May 9. page 18 — June 1. *photo of Zia Motor Lodge, north-east corner of Central & Madison by MW June 14 w/former White’s Dept Store. *art & squiggles by MW. *frontispiece photo of author 7augll by Kazzrie Jaxen after swim in Delaware River at Callicoon, New York. *some of these poems have appeared in singular versions in KE5TRA, PEARL, BIG HAMMER, MALPAIS REVIEW, MAS TEQUILA REVIEW, and possibly NERVE COWBOY, and dear old MINOTAUR and at METROPOLIS website and at Lisa Polisar’s blog site. (c)2011 Mark Weber. Zerxpress@aol.com | Zerx Press, 725 Van Buren Place SE, Albuquerque NM 87108
& Nothing But The Zone | First printing. 300 copies. September 2011. Zerx chap # 68. Cover illustration: “Zweeeet! bwiff, bonnnk!”— JB Bryan ink on paper. Frontispiece: JB Bryan studio. firstname.lastname@example.org | Copyright © 2011 by JB Bryan. All Rites Reversed. Zerx Press 725 Van Buren Place SE Albuquerque NM 87108