Monday, July 23, 2007

It's About the Writing

The ULA movement, vanguard of literary rebellion, will ultimately succeed not because of our unbeatable ideas, or our unmatched public performances. We'll prevail because of the excitement generated by our writing.

Considering that we're not part of a billion-dollar system which thinks it can create, with the most conformist individuals in this society, "great" writing (see the Atlantic Monthly's 2007 Fiction Issue), the extent to which our writers can already outdo the established brand is amazing.

Speaking only for myself, I know, because my underground ethos allows me to be creative, that I can outwrite any of the standard literati in this town of Philadelphia-- including the exclusionists at the local daily. (My latest post on should demonstrate this.) I also know that writers in my own group are better and more creative than I am.

Underground writers are analagous to this nation's roots musicians, who first gained notice in the 1950's. Back then, the appeal of the recordings of Hank Williams or Leadbelly or the Carter Family wasn't their artistry so much as the soul embodied in their work; mainly, in the artist's authenticity; the expression of the voice of this country.

This is the appeal of most underground writing today. Many self-taught undergrounders adopt a kind of primitive Bukowski style, because it's easy to imitate, if impossible to duplicate. This is true for many prosists but especially for many many underground poets. Their work resonates through its very simplicity and rawness. Basic, primal screams.

I was always drawn more to Kerouac than Bukowski as an influence on my creative work, who plays with language in a different way.

Underground writers each have their own combination of influences, from reading, and express these influences in varying ways. I brought icons Jacjk Saunders and Wild Bill Blackolive into the ULA because they embody classic literary roots writing.

It's interesting to see how young undergrounders develop their art.

Our first "Zeen Elvis," for instance, began writing heavily influenced by Bukowski. Quickly enough, even while still a zeenster, she left this influence behind and began creating work equaivalent to early psychedelia-- very early garage band psychedelia, her prose taking on surreal and colorful aspects that I as a reader had never before seen. Unfortunately, this artist got it into her head that she needed training-- ambitious to be a "studio musician" I guess, putting craft above originality and art. If she's still writing, if her work is to have appeal, it will be because of its craziness, not its attention to rules, which is commonplace and stifling. (See Carla Spataro and Company.)

The major influence on zeensters in the movement's heyday of the 1990's was Aaron Cometbus. He probably remains the chief influence on young zeensters today. His work is clear, simple, basic, while not as crude as the Bukowski-wannabes. It's great folk writing-- like folk rock of the 1960's, Grateful Dead-style, interesting of itself but which never changes, as Cometbus's immutability as a writer is part of his appeal.

Even in the 90's though his biggest fans (see Jennifer Gogglebox and Urban Hermitt) were going beyond Cometbus by instinctively jazzing up their writing.

The strength of the Underground Literary Alliance is that we have the most interesting, and most advanced, underground writers in the country in our ranks. They've left the literary "rockabilly" of the Bukowski-ites behind and are presenting underground writing in its prime. I refer not just to the ULA's Wred Fright and Crazy Carl Robinson, whose work goes beyond (way beyond) status quo work but also standard underground sounds, but more, I'm speaking about poet Frank Walsh and novelist James Nowlan, whose work is the expression of underground potential, encompassing reality, authenticity, soul, but also full understanding of language, the uses of language to grab the reader and embody meaning.

This is a sketchy overview of the advancement of the underground literary scene. To mandarin outsiders we and our work appear to be a blur-- but there's a lot happening; the only true artistic excitement in the literary scene today.

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