Tell Them Willie Boy is Here
If there’s one thing I’m learning in life, what’s brought home to me in whatever I look at human, is that we’re all the same in essence as different as we are in particulars, and this we we are is a social animal species different in degree but not so much in kind from other animal peoples. What is different about us is more the degree we have one foot lifting up off the ground so to place it in what is more than the animal; you might say that’s our job really, to plant that foot individually, or get as close as our personal obstacles and society will allow us to get, which at this stage of the game is not in the terra firma of the next step but what one might call no-ground, to be perfectly honest about it. I’ve said all this so to say that we are really and truly part of a herd, one, despite our intelligence, as obstinately ignorant as any pack of animals when it comes to seeing anything in any colors other than black or white, good or bad, male or female, or any it’s either this or that. So when we write our bios we write with this in mind, don’t cross any lines that would make us a target of ridicule, or worse. I can tell you that I grew up both in the suburbs of Houston and on a small farm in East Texas, and that I went in the army and rode the Texas rodeo circuit a member of the First Cavalry Division Horse Platoon, was on hand in Washington an honor guard at Regan’s presidential inaugural ball, indicative of that administration’s warhorse was on a runaway wagon through the monuments in D.C. just an hour before his parade. I was the Soldier of the Year of III Corps and Ft. Hood and later fulfilled a boyhood dream (being a cavalry trooper was also one) and became a Green Beret, which is called SF because that name is considered hollywood by SF’ers. On a fluke I was put for a single mission on a tactical nuclear weapons team (a Green Light team to be exact) and parachuted with my team into what was then West Germany and pretended to blow up some locks on a river with a real nuke, seeing a whole lot about the world and the U.S. in it too lengthy to go into. I capped off my military service by teaching summer camp at West point, a duty of SF. Then I got out and went to collage for the next seven years, studying first Science then switching to English and History and in my post-baccalaureate becoming pretty good at translating Classical Greek, although in the 25 years since I can’t read any, and I’ll only mention that I did start a thesis in the History of Science about the origin of atomic theory in Greek science, but I conjured a demon in an attempt to answer the question were there unembodied beings the Greeks may have used to aid them in their science, and the thing was loose in my apartment scaring my friends and me, and the whole thing really blew my mind, and I dropped the thesis and just buried my head in Greek on the suggestion of my professor, an agnostic but one that had to admit the possibility of the existence of such creatures based on my convincing report. Continuing on, because I’ve always had a lot of lucid dreams, I began to explore dreams and found the doorways in dreams and actually really found my soul, although I didn’t know that until later. The out of body thing had really been happening too, but the demon thing kind of put a damper on things if you know what I mean. Out of the blue one night driving my truck I went up out the top of my head a few meters and was for a moment the person I really am presiding over all these many lives I have, the one that can see from multiple fields of view at the same time, and a year later trying to go back up there I went into the absolute silence for a few moments, and boy that was a shock. It’s that no-ground I was talking about. Not too long after I left off taking classes and spent a year or so studying on my own, because I’d leaned how to learn, and then I went to California with the cycle of poems I’d written and read them on a public radio station in Marijuanaville, and that kicked off a year and half of what could be called being on a cultural edge, one so slippery I ended up in Jerusalem with another cycle of poems doing a penance you might say by posting them on holy sites in the old city (with the help of Lars, a Danish friend I must add because this thing was dangerous, and he risked his neck with me). I went on alone to post them on the top of Mt. Sinai, or what we think is anyway, and inside and around the Great Pyramid in Egypt. After going to India for six months I returned to the States for a year and then left again only to visit once in ’99 or so. For a lot of the time I traveled with Douglas, my best friend (I actually have two), and sometimes I was able to work, like in Guanajauto and in Cuzco, in the former teaching English and in the latter teaching yoga on television there, live TV in Spanish with Douglas, and not really knowing a whole lot about twisting the body this way and that because our yoga is about realization and transformation, we ended up doing comical skits and was a hit in Cusco at restaurant openings and the like until some Tibetan monks came to town and we were no longer the new kids in town, and they got the spotlight. Cuzco’s like that. A lot of the time I wasn’t able to work and Douglas paid for our expenses, and I was just a mooch you might say, but I hope to pay him back one day. We parted ways in La Paz after going to the Amazon to find an ayajuasca shaman. Although we found one, that didn’t work out and we fell out. For the next year I traveled around South America trying to find a job so I could leave, living by my wits and by my hands willing to do any kind of work to eat, but a lot of the time people just liked me and took me home. That wasn’t always wise of them back then. After an English teaching job in Venezuela I went to Paris to write poetry and lasted a summer, getting kicked out of my squat by an Israeli no less, trying to explain to him I had to finish the poem A Suicide Bomber’s Broken Arrow is Broken, but he didn’t listen. That poem ended up being more than ten years in the writing. Then I went to Rome and got kicked out of another squat by paranoid pot growers who thought I was a nark because I didn’t smoke grass. (I was really on a puritan kick then but now will take a hit if it’s offered, which it seldom is.) Athens was next, and someone gave me money to go to Crete, telling me it was possible to live there like I live, with no funds. I lived first in the caves of Matala, and then got an apartment as a handyman for a former East German scientist spy, and we didn’t get along: I was too straight and she drank too much. Someone gave me a cabin sitting job, and for three months I got to just write poetry. Then friends told me about a place in Sicily where I might could live awhile, and I sailed there and spent a couple of months, but had to work and couldn’t write. I heard about the Camino of Santiago, and so someone gave me the money to sail to Spain, and I walked the length of it and met someone who took me home to France where I was a handyman and meditation teacher until I got the money together to get back to India, the place I’d been trying to go all along, but not long after I arrived I hit another one of those slippery cultural edges, and it took years to get back up to social snuff you might say, but I have a place and can write finally. Now, herd animals that we are, if I told you the bad parts of my story all the good interesting things I just told you would be completely forgotten and become completely irrelevant, so I’ll let you hear about it.
Letter to the editor:
(Written and sent to Poetry Magazine. They didn’t publish it, but this blog grew out of it.)
“May the great poet we are looking for never find it shut, or half-shut, against his ample genius! To this end the editors hope to keep free of entangling alliances with any single class or school. They desire to print the best English verse which is being written today, regardless of where, by whom, or under what theory of art it is written.”
I cannot say whether when your magazine began in 1912 it lived up to the above statement of intent. There’s seems to be something rather fishy in human nature which can be viewed in a sideways glance by the phrase “we teach what we most need to learn.” It’s the same with me and probably was with Harriet, the same with every one of us, if we can admit that to ourselves that is. One day perhaps, when we can get over the fact that we wear clothes, cook our food after we kill it, say thank you and please, and write laws, poems, and the like we’ll be able to see that we are yet wild animals compared to what it really means to be civilized and cultured, but I have to be careful and not step over any line or you won’t publish this letter. But it’s my intention here to point out that we are not the open-minded animals we think we are, and that narrow-mindedness especially affects those of us who think we are not, more specifically, that you are not the magazine you claim you are: one open to the best English poetry and any theory of art. I want to point out in this letter that you adhere to what I might call the literary paradigm of poetry which Martin Earl in a negative critique of the instrumental German poem “What Must Be Said” called ‘pure poetry’ (a critique published by the Poetry Foundation in Harriet online), which can also be called scholastic poetry since, heavily influenced by poets such as Ezra Pound and other poets of the ‘pure’ school, this notion of poetry (genre?) developed in university literature and creative writing departments over the course of the last century, or, to put another way a bit more instrumental, resulted from the usurpation of poetry by academia. Whatever the poetic merits of the poem in question, it’s opened a door in poetry, and it’s becoming much clearer what is missing in contemporary literary poetry: the full spectrum of poetry.
“If you are interested in writing well, in working at being a better poet, then the most important piece of advice that anyone can give you is that you have to read recent poetry.”
You include this quote in emails to submitters and have so for some time. I include it here because it says so much about what kind of poetry you are looking for, what you are open to, setting aside the relevant issues of the importance of a poet first being true to his own inspiration and a willingness to let poetry change into the future. What that quote tells me is that you want poetry that adheres to the current “pure poetry” (scholastic) literary paradigm, and that you are not open to poetry that is not in that genre. The telling thing is this is “the most important piece of advice” you give to poets sending you poetry. I should explain now what I’m driving at. In the contemporary poetry scene form is not really an issue; content is, ideas and how they are spoken in a poem. That openness to poetic form (which sometimes means poetry can even be prose or dots on a page) tends to present a picture of your magazine, and literary magazines in general, as being open to any and all poetry. But as I have found, and I’m sure many other poets have also, neither you nor most other literary magazines are open to instrumental or engaged poetry, that is, verse that addresses social, political issues (spiritual I’d have to whisper) to a degree it speaks out of the scholastic genre, voices such issues as loudly as it does language play and the form of a poem itself. No thing in Nature, however, is cut and dry, this and not also to some degree that, and so your magazine and other literary magazines do include some instrumental poetry in your pages, which you’ll certainly cite to prove me wrong, (and since the winds of change are upon you you’ll probably do so more as time wears on), but from what I’ve read such poetry doesn’t stray far from the paradigm, would not be considered radical or extreme, and is usually about issues currently acceptable to include by the literary mindset such as gay rights, racial and gender discrimination, opposition to war and poverty, censorship, to name the more prominent ones. Be that as it may, your criteria for accepting poems, which you basically state in that quote whether you are aware of it or not, has more to do with maintaining the contemporary poetry paradigm than it does with poetic merit, something by its very nature so subjective no one can prove by argument that you are not basing your decisions on, but inevitably there’ll be poets and poems you decline that are so unequivocally good your narrowness will become evident, and you’ll cease to be the poetry magazine of importance you now are.
I don’t think you understand just how far reaching are these winds of change. As we reach critical mass on all fronts we’re moving online, and not only do we begin to see ourselves as a world but also see ourselves in all our glory and ugliness (more sight there on the latter here in the beginning stages), and the vision is just too much to take in all at once. Everything’s up in the air, even such fundamental things are who and what we are and where we’re supposed to go and what we’re supposed to do. Poetry is becoming more pin-pointed, written more and more to address these changes and help to define us and give us direction and purpose, something that can be said of art in general. You won’t be able to keep that out of your pages for long if you don’t want to go out of significance. It’ll be interesting to see if you keep this letter out of your pages. I think that will say something about where you’re at in relation to the coming change in poetry. If you’re standing in opposition to it I can’t fault you since adherence to any paradigm is more a matter of conditioning than anything else, and trying to change my own conditioning has shown me it’s almost impossible to overcome, especially in matters of preference we think are conscious choices, but as I’ve also found, change I must, and it’s that necessity that ultimately makes it possible. I doubt you feel as yet any necessity sitting as you are still on the top of the heap so to speak, and it’ll probably boil down to poets having to bypass you and the literary establishment completely in order to publish, and with the web that is now a viable option, and in time there’ll be non-literary poetry magazines publishing and posting the new poetry. I doubt you’ll run this letter either. Our sense of fair play and voicing the opposite opinion usually goes out the window when we’re confronted with what is squarely opposite of our own. Wild animals that we are, we usually view it as a threat and keep it as far away as possible, since, being a true opposite, it has our own heart at its heart and hence shows our vulnerability all too clearly for us to let it do that willingly.
Under the Graffiti
(Not posted or sent anywhere)
I’m the story you’re not to read, the one that can’t get out because it’s guarded what you read if you didn’t know it, despite the fact that we now have the net where almost anything can be put to the public. Yeah we; I identify, but I’m on the other side of that almost unfortunately. Understandably so you’d say when you hear what’s on that other side if you’re part of that moral majority (which actually includes probably about 99% of you atheists included – the narrow mind knows no bounds ), and I’m not just talking about the other side of what you call immoral and all that jazz (jizzum a real earthy story would say), but about the other side of the story, life as we know it and think it to be, including in that picture death of course, interweavin’ it into the story like it’s supposed to be seeing how normal it is, and I’m talking to you, so goddamn it why can’t I say so, like come out of the writing and address you personally? A literary work’s not allowed to do that. It dislocates the spell of hearin’ a story and tells it for the sake of more than art. I kinda want you dislocated. We’re all under too much of a spell as it is. And who the hell is art anyway? Can you say? Now this censorship runs deeper than the human editor or the objections of such online organizations as The Victims of Incest, Alien Abductions, and Just Generally Getting Screwed in Life. Neither good nor evil want this story either in print or even whispered into your ear, the story the Gods wouldn’t want you to hear so you wouldn’t get the wrong idea about how you become good if you’re bad, and conscious Darkness doesn’t want you to hear so you won’t know that’s even possible, or that it exists or God and Gods either for that matter, not to mention that there’s actually this state called enlightenment that you and me are supposed to be figurin’ out, and that beyond that you got it in Nature’s plan to become God, and what I mean by that the story’s about, not so much the one you’re readin’, though it shows a God thing or two, things devilish as well, but the story of us itself.
I guess I should start with an example to get your interest aroused. We got more writers today than readers, and unless I grab you quickly and shake the hell out of you you’re not gonna wanna read on. I’ve thought a lot about how to tell you my personal story (what, you expect me to tell a made up story for Christ’s sake?). I actually don’t remember what happened exactly, nor in what order. Can you remember not only what you had for lunch yesterday but also word for word what was said (or thought by thought of what you thought if you ate alone) and bite by bite what order you ate? I didn’t think so. Maybe if I start piecin’ together mementos I can eventually give you the big picture. That’s in vogue anyway for the after the post-modern narrator if I got my story straight. You gotta be in style if you wanna get read (or published I should say — holy shit, I can just post). New styles have to sneak in there under the radar, dressed enough in the old style’s clothes so as not to alarm the status quo. In this one big instance of my own story discoverin’ things bigger than me and you and our general worldview, I remember I was sittin’ in Professor Posi’s Greek class. I don’t remember what we were translatin’, but this was the University of Houston, and so it wasn’t any of Plato’s more questioning dialogues. We did do the Apology, a relatively benign work on the surface, though it’s smarter than the radar to keep such stuff out, and Dora (my prof) gave me a special copy, somethin’ that’d made the national merit scholar, the two Classics majors, the English major, and the couple of Christians in the class jealous (I may have to actual demographics wrong, sorry). It was well into the second year, and we’d lost everybody else. Greek is downright difficult. I had the knack of translatin’ it, although I was the most unlikely of candidates and wasn’t popular with the other students, not only because I wasn’t takin’ any other classes or goin’ for any degree (post-baccalaureate they call it), but because I’d come to class reekin’ of reefer and stoned out of my head and didn’t care what anybody thought about it, even take exams that way and never make below an A, which was for that class of serious students too much of a contradiction to translate into their law abiding view of life. Anybody that’s studied Greek will tell you it’s not easy to translate. You can know what every word means and what it’s doin’ in a sentence and still not know what it’s tryin’ to say. You gotta make this creative leap sort of like Oedipus and Orestes jumpin’ on their mothers not to make love to them or kill them but to interpret motherhood if I can get philosophical for a moment.
Anyway I was sittin’ there and havin’ a déjà vu. I can’t remember if this was before or after what I can’t tell you yet because you just wouldn’t believe me unless I led you to it real slow showing the moon and stars first, but I’d imagine it was probably after, since I was pretty much wide open. I was havin’ about ten or so déjà vus a day, give or take two or three, and I was learning not to get excited when I found myself in one, to have the same indifferent calm it takes to stay in a lucid dream and not wake up in your bed saying, “Damn, I lost it again.” Doing that I was able to make it last longer and longer, and I’d reached the point at which I figured the future would show itself if I could make it last any longer, and that was somethin’ I knew like you know Christmas is comin’ or sunrise tomorrow or whatever’s on the timeline on its way. To get any idea what I mean you have to recall yourself in one if you’ve had them enough to remember what it’s like; what you’re tripping over in that state is the time thing, like you’ve seen whatever you’re experiencing before, thousands and thousands of times. As the state hit Dora was talkin’ and leadin’ up to givin’ us the correct translation of some sentence about pirates I believe, somethin’ she’d do after all of us had had a crack at a sentence but couldn’t get it right. We weren’t in a classroom but in a conference room sittin’ around a long rectangular table lookin’ at one another or tryin’ not to as the case may be. I was lookin’ at Dora at the head of the table and easin’ into the déjà vu so this time it would last long enough. As the seconds ticked off like Godzillas so big they were I crossed some line not so much in my mind as in Mind itself, and suddenly I knew exactly what she was gonna to say word for word, and as I was struggling over whether to blurt it out before she said it, thereby changing the future, she said it (which wasn’t the sentence translated but one explaining the context of the sentence, so it wasn’t my mind doing an ‘unconscious’ the translation of the sentence and mistaking it for seeing the future). And it wasn’t only the sentence I knew was comin’ but everything about to happen in the room, the whole sequence of that future few seconds: the cough of so and so, the rustle of paper, the entire scene. When you experience something like you don’t need anybody else to tell you you did, and it’s precisely here where the scientific method fails and fails miserably to clue us into what’s goin’ on, but I’d imagine if a scientist can make a déjà vu last long enough they’d see the future too, but somehow I doubt a scientist would put any stock at all in such personal subjective experiences, theirs or anybody else’s. And you think religious fundamentalists are herd sour.
Aww fuck, err, aww f**ck I mean, there’s just so much I can’t say, and that’s really the problem with knowledge and passin’ it on: so many times it crosses wrong’s lines. Take here for instance. What got my goat about the whole thing was her using the word booty in that sentence, though with her it was in the context of pirates’ booty, but with me it was a code word I was using with someone for fooling around (the front end, not the back I need to say), and to really bring the irony right onto my home plate, its use here by my professor, I was being a pirate to that someone. That the word was used in such an amplified larger than my reality experience really got my attention on the fact that there was another element in the experience other than just me and a glimpse of the future, something conscious of all time and even of the little details like me’s, playfully intelligent but at the same time dead serous about pointing out I needed to get out of that booty.
It’s happened so many times not only in my own personal experiences of anything to do with clairvoyance and the senses seeing past their physical range, but also with many others I’ve talked to who’ve related to me their experiences, ones that they really couldn’t tell someone else about (I got these ‘I know I’ve been bad’ ears, so you don’t have to worry none), or at least not the whole story, because it revealed their shadow side, so much so and in so many instances I’ve come across that it seems to be part and parcel of the process, that the ESP’s not only to give you that sight but more to try and wake you up out of your animal cravings, get you to get up, evolve, and that’s the number one reason I’d bet we don’t hear about these things as much as they occur among us: they show our bad that we don’t want others to see. Has anyone ever told you a dream they had about you doing such and such, something nasty, something they’d have no other way of knowing save from the dream, something you wouldn’t want to admit, and you simply didn’t? Like I said, there’s so much I can’t say, and you neither. Know what I mean Vern?