Friday, March 31, 2006

ULA Invasion?

We're counting our forces, gathering our resources, awaiting official word about whether we'll invade Manhattan with voices and protest signs to fight co-optation and phoniness.

Patrick Simonelli will post our decision on the ULA site.

The ULA is on the march!

The Stakes: Defining American Literature

The stakes are nothing less than that. Is American literature the voices of the people, the land, the streets? Or is it that imposed from on high by bureaucrats in institutions and academies?

The mandarins of lit, as represented with the Miller Hall group, see literature as the society sees approved art-- of, by, and for the upper classes and maintained in exclusive museums which do nothing so much as point out the art's separation from the social world.

The stakes for underground writers are very high. We're fighting for our history-- to retain traces of our words and ideas. We're fighting against a society that would wipe us and our words out; that would extinguish every shred of memory of outsider writers. Only the approved kind will stand, according to the wishes of some. Ginsberg, a stray outsider who made noise is being embraced and absorbed by Insiders as a way to defang what he stood for; to smooth the disruption of the Beats against status quo culture and leave no ripples in the literary pond.

Mark Doty speaks in the current American Poetry Review about Ginsberg's dissent against "spirit-crushing monolithic Moloch." Re-read the Moloch passages of "Howl." Moloch today is a thousand times stronger than it was in Ginsberg's time. The corporations are a thousand times more intrusive and omnipresent. They own rebellion itself!-- which has become merely a commodity; they own the t-shirts and the hipster poses of the slave captives of consumerist culture.

The literary world today is a thousand times more conformist than it was in Ginsberg's day, when he put the words to "Howl" onto a page. There are a thousand more things now to Howl about.

Monday, March 27, 2006


NOTICE that the arguments of the flunkies of the Establishment Overdogs who'll be reading at Miller Hall April 17th don't attempt to put forth the rightness of their positions, the talent of their words and voices, or the justice of their cause. Like aristocrats of days past they argue from their own weakness. "Leave us alone!" they plead. "We're fragile personalities of delicate health!"

To which I respond: Abdicate.

I'm sure they have nice health plans, these tenured profs, while for myself as for so many Americans (for so many ULAers), if I get sick, I die. Shinder, Lopate, Doty, and Moody have it many times easier than most of us. If they can't survive their lives, how would they survive ours?

If they're really so weak, they should abdicate.

Because we've targeted the Poster Boy of Corruption in our arguments, we're said to have "personal" grudges, when our fight is about the System of Literature and those it puts in charge.


Poster Boy travels with a phalanx of security. Columbia, supposed icon of anti-censorship, is flooded with guards to protect the professors and children of affluence. They tell us their guards are even more broke and hungry than we are! Who pays them? Who runs this society? Aren't the leaders graduates of Ivy League temples of privilege like Columbia? Didn't they create this world? Isn't Poster Boy's money-center banker father one of the rulers of the globe? Let's add to our protest a protest at the impoverished conditions of the aristocrats' guards!


We're told Doty and Lopate don't even like Ginsberg's writing. They'll be on stage regardless. Their towers of privilege are scams, their poetry is a fraud. They don't deserve their lofty station and know it. Their only surprise at our outcry is that it took so long. Their art is decrepit, roadblock to renewal, unable to connect with the populace. Their poetry academy with $150 admission fee protects not the nation's best poetry but its worst. We're here to denounce their bastions and barriers of inequity and falsehood.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006


The U N D E R G R O U N D L I T E R A R Y A L L I A N C E Challenges

Jason Shinder

Philip Lopate

Mark Doty

Rick Moody

To read against us at Columbia University on April 17th,
inside or outside
on stage or a sidewalk or a lawn
(or at a time and place of their choosing)
to see WHO are the true inheritors of the Beat movement,
WHO can "Howl,"
WHO has the poetic and rhetorical chops,
WHO are the advocates of free expression
the word uncensored and open to all.
WE CHALLENGE them to meet us April 17th
with words not security guards
in an atmosphere of amity and equality
replacing hierarchy, bureaucracy, and snobbery.

The ghost of Ginsberg would have it no other way.

Democracy or Exclusiveness?

The chief problem with the fake poets at the fake "Howl" event is that they don't believe in free expression at all. Which is why their event celebrating Ginberg's fight against censorship is such a sham.

What have we received from these characters in response to our recent noise (other than three whiny anonymous e-mails)? Silence! Be quiet, children!

No strong confident voices to be found among the Miller Hall bunch. Definitely not. They cringe at the very hint of disagreement or debate.

Myself, I cut my teeth in free expression while working in factories and working-class bars. Uninhibited expression; nothing held back. No holds barred debate on any topic, the Sensitivity Police nowhere around.

Since I've begun operating on the fringes of the literary world, I encounter everywhere the Politeness Police, hall monitors of literature, regulating their world, keeping everyone and especially themselves silent.

This is not democracy, folks. As literature it's a sham; a con job. It's why literature is dead.

Given the overall noise of this extremely monumentally noisy society, how is lit to survive if it makes no noises as well? How can it compete when it fears any kind of messy give-and-take?

Established lit doesn't want to compete. It's about it's own exclusiveness; little else.

But the Underground Literary Alliance wants to bring lit to the people, to connect with the general populace, and we're capable of doing so.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Worried E-Mails

"He pities the plumage but forgets the dying bird."
-Tom Paine

I've received a few anonymous e-mails from a person concerned about my criticisms of Bennington College and establishment poet Philip Lopate. The person informs me that Lopate is a nice guy and I shouldn't pick on him. The e-mailer also says that Bennington is a very nice place.

I'm sure it is!-- for the comfortable few who attend that private bastion of privilege. All is well in their bubble world-- except for begrimed outsiders daring to make noise!

The anonymous correspondent has the world turned on its head. (The world is crushing us down yet somehow we're able to pick on it.) Establishment lit, of which Lopate is fully part, has enclosed itself within a castle of exclusivity with raised drawbridge. They've cut off all roads into American literature except one-- the narrow path of subservience. There is no level playing field. (If there was they'd lose.)

Yet how distasteful they find those who raise their voices about this! Tea time in the plush faculty room-- several officially-endorsed "poets" secluded within become worried at stray sounds of contrary opinion outside their quiet world. "Are poets speaking aloud?" one thinks to ask, while parked in an enormous armchair. "Are they speaking about US?"

"Harumph!" another in the airless room responds, while turning yellow unreadable pages of the New York Review of Books. "How unfair. I truly must protest!"

He looks around bewildered-- he's unsure exactly who to protest TO. The kitchen staff at this exclusive club? No complaints there. Lunch was excellent. The doormen? Thoroughly accommodating as well. Voices outside the club grow louder. Who manages this facility, anyway? He doesn't even know.

The mandarin draws closer into his armchair and turns the blurry pages of his paper faster. The room feels suddenly cold. Only the sight of bustling waiters assures him of the security of this stony refuge.
"At the Pet Shop": A Poem

Four fake show-dog poet pets
Presented to you direct from the Establish-ment
Shinder, Lopate, Doty, and Moody

Watch as they pretend to be Beats
Shinder, Lopate, Doty, and Moody
though they know nothing 'bout the streets
Shinder, Lopate, Doty, and Moody

Phony howlers have answered the call
On stage April in Miller Hall
Careerist bureaucrats one and all
Shinder, Lopate, Doty, and Moody

Thursday, March 16, 2006

How the Columbia "Howl" Event Celebrates Censorship

It was by lucky accident that a group of outsider writers known as the Beats became known, through the notoriety of Allen Ginsberg's censorship trial, but most especially because a fill-in-for-the-day reviewer gave Kerouac's On the Road a rave review in the New York Times. There followed a couple years of fame and mockery. A few of the Beats, including Ginsberg, were partly co-opted by the literary establishment, as curiosity pieces more than anything. Others, like Bob Kaufman, died at an early age. The Outsiders publicly sounded their drums for a few short tumultuous years-- then the placid ship of American lit resumed its placid course, in placid waters, a luxury cruise ship for the complacent and the affluent.

Amid an expanding media universe, most folk writers, America's genuine talents, have remained beneath notice. The journey of Aaron Cometbus, for instance, the underground success of his zeen, has been an important literary phenomenon of the last fifteen years. This stray outbreak of authentic culture (that not imposed from on high by institutions) received brief attention-- then Cometbus returned to oblivion, where he exists now, still riding buses and hand-writing his zeens, I'd guess.

What will the system-writers and mandarins of established lit be celebrating at Columbia April 17th?

They'll be celebrating their triumph over the underground, by raising up ONE token outsider and ignoring everyone else. ONE independent poet in a fifty-year period gains their recognition. They celebrate the fact they co-opted him. They show us, on an institutional stage, that their System is safe, the walls of privilege and hierarchy still stand around them-- still covered in ivy-- the undomesticated beast (as represented by a cardboard cut-out of Allen Ginsberg) has been tamed.

Do they care for an instant about the folk writers and outsider voices of our own day-- the Bill Blackolives Jack Saunders Urban Hermitts and Aaron Cometbuses? Will they spend one minute to find them? NO! Of course not. Present such genuine literary figures at their feet and they'd feign not to see them. It's not what they're about-- not what the Columbia circus show is about, which is to honor titles bureaucracy conformity and machine; to honor THEMSELVES, the survivors of American literature's homogenization process.

The gentrified audience politely applauds. Aristocracy triumphant.

The Underground Literary Alliance exists as the opposite of this. Our task is to record and celebrate the folk writers of our time; to create and announce this civilization's authentic literature.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

American Literature Today: Aristocrats or the Street?

WHAT WE HAVE with the April 17th fake "Howl" reading at Columbia University is a small clique of Insider poets and writers exhibiting their privilege. If "poetry" is that which exists inside the academy, then as an art form it's dead.

Fortunately, it's alive and healthy outside the walls. The posers and professors know this, which is why they embrace long-ago outsider poet Allen Ginsberg (and his outsider period) as a way to bolster their scant credibility.

How does their sham continue? Because of literary enablers. Because of a large flock of sheep whose brains are so stunted by academy "training" they're incapable of considering action, much less taking it. They slavishly regurgitate their schooling in snobby imitation of the aristocrats and bureaucrats. They're not poets-- not flesh and blood human beings-- are bloodless anonymous mechanical robots, continuing eternally on-line the same irrelevant discussions from their days pursuing graduate degrees.

Discuss, discuss, discuss-- the same tired points-of-view, no new perspectives seen; never an impetus or urgency for change. Cultural revolution isn't made by such people.

The struggle of writers in this country is not something to which they can relate. Either they've never struggled themselves-- never suffered or starved for their art-- or they're not really writers. Literature for them isn't an obsession which possesses their souls and minds (as art has been for the greats); is instead a career or a hobby; something to do with their time. Do they care if the state of the art is terrible? Does it matter to them if they raise literature's role in this country? Not really. Change to them is an academic question to be discussed academically, detached from the populace and the larger society.

Give me passionate writers! That's what we want in the ULA. It's what we've brought into our ranks time after time. A few years ago we conducted a ULA Survey. The first question asked writers to rate the importance of literature in their lives on a scale of 1 to 10. ULAers invariably answered with at least an 8. Many said 10. Establishment writers and their demi-puppet followers who responded by contrast seldom gave as answer more than a 5.

There are two questions now to answer.
1.) Is literature worth changing?
2.) How far are you prepared to go to change it?

The ULA exists as an activist organization. It's why we were created. We're here to inject energy into a moribund lit scene. We bring with us voices and change. Watch out! We're coming your way.

Monday, March 13, 2006

More n+1: Readings

One of the first things to catch my eye in the two back issues of n+1 was a short piece about literary readings titled, "Cancel Them."

Cancel them? Yes, establishment readings are completely lame. This fact, with n+1's reaction, illustrates the complete decline of contemporary literature.

"Cancel Them"? I can appreciate where n+1's editors are coming from, but let's recognize that writers once knew how to put on great readings-- Charles Dickens the outstanding example. Let's remember that literature was spoken FIRST; that The Iliad, greatest of epic poems, was performed and passed down orally for generations before it was ever written. Let's recall that Shakespeare himself, greatest of all writers, lived in the netherworld between oral and written culture, the power of his language attained because he thought in terms of spoken language first. Marlowe and Shakespeare were poets who turned their poetry into performance. Literature without performance is partly dead; I fear our intellectual class which n+1 lauds has reached an evolutionary stage of brain without body; words without voice. A science fiction movie of murmuring disconnected brains in jars of fluid.

This is a point at which ULAers are revivalists.

I agree with n+1 that most literary readings suck. It's a point I made in my New Philistine zeen throughout the 90's. This was the first point on which the nascent ULA asserted itself-- for instance at a drone-a-thon reading by Tom Beller in June 2000 at which I sat conspicuously reading a book. My frustration at witnessing an endless parade of fakirs explains my outraged behavior at KGB the next year (for which I'm still castigated); my attitude akin to that of an impresario in an old movie who explodes at the prospect of an art, which to him is a religion, performed by the untalented.

The criticism n+1 makes of literary readings is true-- except they place the fault in the wrong spot, with literary readings themselves, when the fault lies with the the writers. If those who publicly read are no good (as much because of their limpid words as their voices), then let them give up the stage to those who know what they're doing!

These days I make my living with my voice, employed afternoons and evenings in the lowly role of telemarketer. I have much time to ponder and practice the effectiveness of words, as I create stories and magical images to people over the phone.

A recent night I sat next to an elderly caller named Sandy who like all of us works the demanding low-pay job because she has to. She's one of a calling room of voices.

Sandy is a difficult person to sit next to. She requires a cane to help her fragile crippled body to walk; she's half-blind, and eternally disorganized, fumbling with her list of prices or in her disarrayed purse for a calculator while a potential sale waits changing his-or-her mind on the open line.

I'll sit listening in my chair in frantic suspense wondering if she's about to blow another sale; she clearly needs the commission bucks. "Sandy, Sandy, Sandy," I think to myself. "Get yourself organized."

She's merely a memory of what once was. All that sustains her on the job is a still warm and supple voice. Everything else is going on her-- she's in a state of total collapse (not unlike establishment lit). However, when it's needed for the phone, she still has the sound of her perfect voice.

One evening Sandy was more disorganized and cranky than normal, so much that it affected my own calling. A bad night for me; I hadn't made a single sale. In desperation in the closing minutes of the shift I called on all my own voice's resonance; I prodded and cajoled, but was still unable to persuade people. The shift ended.

Sandy, forever confused about everything, blinking at me behind her distorted eyeglasses, asked when was the last day of a particular offer, even though our boss had mentioned the deadline a dozen times.

"Tomorrow," I said as I put away my leads, with difficulty maintaining my patience.

"Tomorrow?" Sandy asked again.

"Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow!" I said with exasperation.

The fragile old woman sat straight with rare strength in response to my bullying. "Creeps in this petty pace from day to day," she shot back proudly with perfect enunciation.

I rose and spoke as if on a stage. "Til the last syllable of recorded time. And all our yesterdays have lighted FOOLS the way to dusty death!"

"Out out brief candle!" Sandy returned magnificently, drawing the words from the dust-bin recordings of a long-ago high school education. "Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player who STRUTS and frets his hour upon the stage, then is heard no more."

I smiled, because I had the last line of the wonderful solilquoy. "It's a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and FURY," I thundered, "signifying nothing."

The other callers stared at us open-mouthed. I've done open mics and know when I'm on-- I was never more "on" than this evening. At least as impressive was Sandy. She clattered out of the calling room with her noisy cane, head back, exiting on a dramatic high to silent applause.

Literature is powerful and invigorating when spoken properly.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Beat Down

Many people don't realize the original use of the word "beat" by the Beats was in the sense of feeling beat; i.e., tired; knocked down by life. Bedraggled, used, and abused. Gray sky broke unemployed tired-feet pavement pounding; disrespected, disoriented, no food no cigarettes can I bum a ride? They were society's misfits and knew this and felt it their every living moment. Those who will not or cannot conform to the demands of the System (oppressive then in the Fifties; many times moreso now).

I wonder how possibly "beat" could be the successful establishment Overdogs celebrating Howl's fifty-year anniversary April 17th? One can speculate.

Jason Shinder's toy poodle has sniffles and needs to be taken to the veterinarian.

Ann Douglas is miffed because of the lateness of the carpet cleaners.

Professors Lopate and Doty are having frustrating times
keeping students awake during the seven hours total of classes they teach a week. Reaction to their stale poetry has been less than dazzling. ("You blow!" comes a remark from the back after one session of professorial preening.)

Rick Moody meanwhile is depressed over a smudge of mud on one of his limousines. He's considering therapy.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Games of the Literary Establishment

Or, Institutions Are the Death of Culture.

(My take on an upcoming series of reports at

We're witnessing a full-scale attempt by System writers and bureaucrats to destroy the literary underground; to banish the very idea of an underground. They're doing this by merging underground heroes with the System in people's heads.

It's not going to work.

The planned co-optation goes ahead regardless. The apparatchiks have little credibility of their own and can gain some only by grasping hungrily onto non-threatening (because dead) literary rebels of the past such as Allen Ginsberg.

It's a tired ploy tried in art form after art form.

The outstanding example of co-optation in the music business was Elvis Presley, bought from tiny Sun Records by a conglomerate and quickly enough cleaned-up and tamed. It's to Elvis's credit, though, that the only Grammy he ever won was for his religious music. When alive, he never found true acceptance by the cultural snobs of the time.

As neither did Ray Charles, least not when he was earthy and new enough to represent a shock of difference. Fitting, for how the music establishment works, that Ray Charles won eight Grammy awards after he was dead!

(The Year: 2040. Underground lit legend Jack Saunders is posthumously honored at a Manhattan awards ceremony, main speech given by Hiram F. "Dick" Moody IV, son of "Rick" Moody the novelist, who beams approvingly from a front table.)

Now the Sex Pistols have been voted into the white elephant rip-off in Cleveland known as the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame, there to join non-rocking industry icons like James Taylor (??) and piano bar singer Billy Joel, who was only intermittently a rocker. (Where's Midwest garage band pioneer Tommy James? Or Chubby? Between Elvis and the Beatles, Chubby Checker single-handedly kept alive the rock n' roll flame with a string of monster hits like "The Twist.")

It's to Johnny "Rotten" Lyndon of the Sex Pistols's credit that he's spoken out against attempts to co-opt himself. He says he's not going to his Rock Hall of Fame induction/embalming ceremony/cremation at the super-pricey Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City, a setting the opposite of the grubby background Johnny Rotten comes from. In his own words: "--that hall of fame is a piss stain. Your museum. Urine in wine. We're not coming. If you voted for us, hope you noted your reasons. Your anonymous as judges, but your still music industry people. We're not coming. Your not paying attention. Outside the shit-stem is a real Sex Pistol."

Not Politics-- Reality

To reference Tony Christini's recent "Monday Report" at the ULA's site: Speaking for myself, I've not wanted to inject politics into literature, only naturalistic reality-- truths about this country.

I have not a political agenda, but a literary one.

For instance, many of the nation's most affluent writers insist on referring to themselves as middle-class, while believing this is a classless society (it's anything but; the differences between how people live are gaping). Anything that then conflicts with this mythic belief has to be wiped out by them; removed from their sight.

It's of a piece with the attacks on homeless people recently (another beaten and set fire to yesterday). Those raised in privilege willfully refuse to see the stark inequities of our civilization. For writers-- those whose view should be unflinching-- to have this mindset is one reason why literature has become irrelevant to our time.

To answer Christini's final query of whether or not anyone will publish polemical fiction: To ask the question is to buy into the monopolistic status quo. The solution is to publish, market, and promote ourselves. This is what DIY thinking means; the foundation of ULA philosophy.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

"Know-Nothings": A Poem

YOU EMBRACE Ginsberg's howls
of fiery anger and pain
but you know nothing about them.

YOU SPEAK of Blake's struggle,
Poe's insanity,
Van Gogh's ear,
but you know nothing about them.

YOU TEACH about Gertrude Stein,
Joyce and Pound,
decades of oblivion
when they generously propped one another against
the rocks of ignorance
of literature's mandarin

EVERY TIME you've been wrong
timid trend-following scholars,
forever wrong
continually and again wrong
once more a hundred thousand times wrong
about the true lasting poets
and prosists, purveyors of the word
relevant for their time and all time.

Clowns in classrooms
clutching syllabi reading lists
dribbling coffee with tired pontifications
while listeners doze
cultural hand-me-downs;
cannibalizers of writers you seek to emulate
attaching to their tardy fame your careerist wagons,
Proclaiming your connection to their independence and madness!
their unmatched sounds
Yet you know nothing about them.