Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Clean and the Saved

AMERICA has become an antiseptic bourgeois blow-dried Disneyland populated by mannequins and robots. Grit, seediness, earthiness are wiped clean. The prose, the pose, the look and stance of the literati, constricted and refined, lacking authenticity and edge, style replacing substance, embodies this.

Jack Kerouac spoke of his horror of the life in Times Square, yet he went back again and again to look at it. He plunged himself into the realities of life. (Now if he saw the place he'd be truly horrified.)

There's no place in today's plastic air-brushed world for the reality of a Janis Joplin, with her earthy tones and splotchy face. Today, real talent is not even counted-- only the slickness of the surface.

Today's endorsed writers aren't Outsiders, but consummate Insiders; the world's winners; the most successful class of the most successful civilization ever: witty, affluent, and hip.

Yet truth throughout history has come more from those on the margins able to look objectively at the fakery of the slick Carnival of the "Best."

A National Discussion: A Vital Debate

The Underground Literary Alliance has introduced as a topic a question involving not just Allen Ginsberg, but literature itself: Who owns it?

Does literature belong to the corporations and academies, the barricaded museums, the rigid institutions-- or not to the people?

While this is a question we'll address again and again in the heart of media empire, New York City, we'll ask the question also throughout the entire nation. (And in Canada.) Word is that the Associated Press podcast about us appears on the web sites of 300 newspapers. If true, this goes a long way to introducing ULA ideas everyplace.

First up to address this question will be the big three-day ULA show planned for early July in Cleveland, Ohio. But ULAers should be asking the question, making noise about it, everywhere.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Badly Missing the Point

Another article is up about the Howl Protest, by Rachel Aziz, at

I have to say, it's disappointing to see our Protest so badly misunderstood-- or at least misconstrued.

What was the theme of our actions? "FREE the Beats!" We WANT the poem circulated-- we're protesting the poem being locked under glass in academia away from the world, or held hostage for a price of fifteen dollars. We were shouting it outside, for free, to the world.

(Patrick King wrote on this at the outset of our noise-making. I have two poems on this blog which addressed the matter, one called "Free the Beats!" and another posted March 1st. Rachel, I wish you would've read and discussed THEM.)

I realize our entire campaign involves a sea-change in thinking. Someone like Lopate is incapable of this. (Does he really believe isolating art in a museum away from society is good for it-- that it's somehow populist!!! This guy is incredibly clueless.)

Someone like Rachel Aziz shouldn't be beyond hope.

Question: is your Poetry Foundation reaching the general public?? I say no-- not enough. You have the opportunity to do so if you broaden your world.

Street poets reading at open mics-- or on streetcorners, or on sidewalks, as the ULA did April 17th, ARE getting the word out. (The literary establishment doesn't even want to! They're too busy constructing barriers to being a writer, to joining their exclusive club.)

Your establishment sits at $10,000 tables at well-guarded events like the National Book Awards. This crowd wants literature and poetry to go the way of other dead arts-- to be of, by, and for the rich.

Before I sign off I'd like to address Ann Douglas's statement about poets wanting attention. Well, if you must know, Ms. Douglas, I agree with this. It's why the Underground Literary Alliance was founded-- to get good underground writers some attention. Too many good ones have died unknown.

But what are you doing, Ms. Douglas, to get them attention? Isn't your entire world geared only toward celebrating conformists-- those writers who pay the bill and jump through the hoops?

Let's put aside once and for all this myth-- this lie-- that the academy made Allen Ginsberg. The Beats made it on their own-- through their own actions-- all the while receiving the academy's scorn. Not until they were a cultural phenomenon did academics-- people like you, Ms. Douglas, and you, Phillip Lopate-- belatedly and opportunistically jump on the Beat bandwagon, to try to boost their own cred. As we could see by your April 17th affair, you're still doing it.

The literary establishment gave Allen Ginsberg NOTHING that he didn't give himself. Yes, he benefitted financially, by allowing the academy to embrace him after he was already world-famous! And they eagerly did.

Stop distorting history, please! Thank you.

Lies from the Establishment

Great Associated Press coverage is up around the country (and maybe the planet). So far I've read excerpts of the podcast. I have to address one point-- the notion put out by Mr. Tuxedo, the director of Miller Theater, that I was given an opportunity to speak. This is not at all true, and I think ULAers ought to call him on that. (The facts are given in my "Monday Report," Part I now up at

The truth I was thrown out! Security guards and all. Only AFTER someone must've suggested that this looked kind of, er, bad, for an event celebrating Ginsberg's fight against censorship was I brought back in and allowed to be a member of the audience. Maybe I would've been allowed at some point to ask a question or two-- wowie!: a right I had regardless-- but this was never made clear.

That we challenged the panel to read against us. That Challenge was posted on this blog. Print versions of it were sent to most of the panelists, to Columbia University, to Academy of American Poets, and to members of the media. The ONLY response we received to the Challenge came from Phillip Lopate-- and he declined the Challenge, stated right at the bottom of his letter, in its last sentence. (He also declined the opportunity to take the microphone at our own reading outside, before he entered the hall.) There was never any idea of us being given a chance to speak-- this not proposed by anybody connected with the Miller Hall event.

The notion possibly entered their heads AFTER the ULA made our own opportunity to speak, in the middle of their event, by doing it. WE grabbed that opportunity, expressing our voices on our own, no permission granted-- it was at that very moment I was thrown out.

This is the fact of the matter.

Anyone and everyone who knows me knows that I'm seldom at a loss for words, when given the opportunity to speak. Any member of the ULA, any writer I've met, any journalist who's spoken to me, knows that the difficulty is shutting me up-- on the topic of literature and the ULA I can go on and on and on. (The same applies for many other ULAers, most notably Frank Walsh.)

The Overdogs would NEVER accept a level playing field with us. They know they'd get blown out of the water. It'd be a mismatch-- the same result as when George Plimpton, Tom Beller, and their well-educated staffs tried to debate us. (We're still waiting to see video of that event! Plimpton had a camera crew there and all-- the Maysles Brothers themselves. George was a bit overconfident going in. Footage seems to have vanished.)

Bring it on anytime, Mr. Tuxedo. You have the venue. Cart out the lit establishment's best and brightest. Set them up and we'll knock them down.

(p.s. Video of our show outside Miller Theater is upcoming. Please watch for it.)

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Faculty Meetings Kept Them Away

We're still waiting for "radical" Columbia profs Todd Gitlin, Victor Navasky, and Eric Foner to join us on the sidewalk; to embrace this society's outsiders. Maybe they're just running late.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The ULA Is Back!

The ULA is back to being the ULA, doing the kind of in-your-face balls-to-the-wall literary PROTESTS we originated and do better than anybody.
Corrupt literary high priests and their lapdogs better start running.

(Watch for my take on the crazy Miller Hall doings in the next "ULA Monday Report"-- which should be up by next Monday at

Black Book

I'm told that Black Book magazine's new anthology takes a few shots at the Underground Literary Alliance in the foreword to it. Another example of how everyone feels challenged by the ULA. I look forward to seeing it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

ULA Protest a Huge Success

(Tired thoughts; fantastic ULA show; undergrounders entering the Overdog arena filled with a hostile Overdog crowd; Philly chapter leaving all its spending money in New York.)

There's no other way to depict it except as a success after we presented a wide variety of underground writers, with wild entertainment, to an enthusiastic crowd outside Columbia U's Miller Theater last night. We showed what genuine literature connecting to the general public is about. We made our point, easily distributed large stacks of informational flyers to members of our very curious audience, and brought underground writers together with New York journalists.

Kudos to Jack Saunders; to New York writers Richard Kostelanetz and Yarrow Regan; to ULAer Mark Sonnenfeld; to poets Natalie Felix and Sean Terreri; to all-purpose helper Mike King; to street performer poet Eric "Jelly Boy the Clown," who stole the show inside and out; to his brother Matt and photog friend Jeff; to my colleagues in staging the event, Patrick King and the perpetual motion stick of dynamite Frank Walsh; and to all those at our event to read, watch, or, like ex-ULAer Will Ratblood, to protest our protest. (Special thanks to ULA behind-the-scenes supporters who funded our excursion and sent us tickets.) Even the police and security people outside were friendly.

As for the tumultuous occurrences afterward (capped off by my being invited back inside Miller Theater after having been escorted out)-- there's too much to address right now.

I'll say only this: A huge gulf exists between their kind of writer and ours; we don't understand them and they don't understand us; our separate ideas of what the presentation of literature should do come from different universes. Striking to me is how they (and their affluent genteel audience) can't see themselves as we see them, rigidly trapped in their roles and routines, very un-beatlike!, their regulated constipated obsolete failed schedule (their event like all such events a failure as an event from start to finish) so fixed in concrete they could never vary from it even when there was no other choice BUT to vary from it by putting aside another 50 minutes of restricted boring phoniness and starting the questions, bringing on the discussion-- the debate-- after it'd already begun. Robots enclosed in plexiglass cells from which they can't break out. (Yet a couple of them did break out-- maybe we're starting to get our points across.)

Journalists get it. The momentum in the lit world is all with us. The excitement is all with US. The show is where WE are. We're a new kind of writer and old-style lit people best get used to it.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Fuck the Canon!

Art Belongs to Everybody.

I haven't listened to the WNYC discussion yet, but I'm told that Jason Shinder said it's too late to rescue "Howl" from the Overdog cataloguers to give back to the populace; he said the poem is part of the "Canon." It's already been taken up the long stairway at the museum, carried into an airless room smelling of mothballs, then placed carefully inside a hermetically-sealed glass case. They've got it! It's theirs and they're not giving it back.

It's time for Bastille Day; time to smash all the glass cases to rescue their artistic prisoners-- to rescue the artistic prisoner these jailhouse gatekeepers have made of literature, which sits chained yet ready in its lonely cell like the Man in the Iron Mask.

Free the Beats!

(For more information about our Protest today see, or contact or

Friday, April 14, 2006

A Tale of Two Poets

I just spoke to Frank Walsh, who was very ebullient. It sounds like he did great. He called it a "fair interview," and was pleased that he was able to get in his points. Among the points he made: said that what the Overdogs are doing with the co-optation of "Howl" is an example of "eminent domain"; spoke of Moloch being stronger than ever today; and mentioned the wall which exists between established lit and the audience. Frank said, "Mr. Moody, tear down that wall!"

Frank was disappointed that he wasn't able to have a conversation with Shinder-- they did not talk together on the phone, as he'd been led to believe. (Frank had been anxious for them to both read their poetry.) Frank was given his say, then taken off when Mr. Shinder was about to speak.

It's fitting that the WNYC discussion came down to two poets who've followed very different career paths: Frank Walsh and Jason Shinder. Frank, in 1982, as you can see from his interview with Ginsberg on our site, was once a very idealistic young man. How has he been hardened, and made wiser, by the setbacks, toil, and grind of life, the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" in the 25 years since then?

Shinder, meanwhile, has made his way through comfortable academe, winning honors and accolades.

There's one way to see which man is the genuine article: Contrast their poetry!

I ask here for the ULA to put examples of both men's work on our site, side by side, for all to see. We'll thereby find the answer we seek. I know this: that Walsh's "Reagan's Brain" IS as great a poem as I've claimed. It does all that a poem can do-- has endless allusions and meaning, yet is greatly humorous at the same time. It's far, far beyond a Jason Shinder's capabilities.

Frank Walsh on Live Radio!

If he makes it past the screening, ULA's mad poetic-genius Frank Walsh (aka "The Masked professor") is scheduled to be on WNYC radio today; New York's public radio station: on AM, FM, and Sirius satellite radio-- on the web. Frank's supposed to be on the Brian Lehrer Show for ten minutes sometime between 11:30 and noon; 11:40 most likely. Don't miss it!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Quick TimeOut NY Reaction

There's great blurb up at about our April 17th Protest, at their "Out There" section. It does a good job of representing why we'll be, well, out there this coming Monday. Kudos to writer Billie Cohen for her fairness.

The piece includes a quote by Phillip Lopate, who sadly demonstrates his cluelessness. Lopate has no idea what the lit underground is, or who's part of it. Yes, we have a sizeable contingent of writers in their 20's, men and women like Patrick Simonelli, Patrick King, Marissa Ranello, Leopold McGinnis, Emerson Dameron, Brady Russell, and so on. BUT, characters in their 30's and 40's remain key players, including Steve Kostecke, Jeff Potter, Frank Walsh, and myself.

More than this, the two legendary underground writers who'll be reading/performing with us on the 17th, Jack Saunders and Richard Kostelanetz, are both in their 60's! In other words, our ages have nothing to do with it.

Lopate demonstrates how encased (like in a hardened missile silo) is his narrow point-of-view. Try to change the System of producing literature itself? Create an independent alternative? Unheard of! It can't even be contemplated by fossilized Insiders like himself.

The ULA vision is that writers themselves run the entire process of literature. We're in charge! With our kind of publishing "company," there is no top dog on the highest floor of the skyscraper, detached from the art, making the decisions from his isolated office, a la Morgan Entrekin. No Overdog pulling down a huge salary and raking in the profits while writers serve for peanuts at his beck and call. No gigantic overhead of layers of literary bureaucrats. We run our operation like gang of cooperative revolutionaries. The pressmen and pr people and artists sit around our "boardroom" making the calls as a group. Writers and artists are not at the bottom of our structure, but the top. (Or rather, there is no bottom or top.)

With us, writers and artists are involved in every step of the creative process.

By the way, we have two presses now working with us, and Both are run by key ULAers who also write, advocate, the whole nine yards.

Writers: Take note of our alternative! Thanks.

(More info at

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Underground NOW

NO fossilized memories lapsed
no comfortable trust fund hangers-on
who jumped on the Beat bandwagon
when the key founders were corrupted, co-opted, or gone;

NO designated set-aside protest areas
regulated dissident zones
of tenured professors
defanged and neutered
leashes brought from home;

NO daring Beat revolutionaries fighting the System
in the hinterlands, where it doesn't matter,
Cape Canaveral
rocketship to Pluto, searching there for the Establishment;

NO inert fake po-biz foes barking
bravely on computers
in their bedrooms
bunny-rabbit slippers
by 2040 they'll be ready to move
(Make that 2047, if all goes well);

NO waiting for revolution
meanwhile being jelloed
into quivering dessert;

NO past, no tomorrow
Only April 17th at Columbia
Underground NOW!

Which Side Are They On?

The ULA has sent announcements of our Protest to three of Columbia University's most dangerous "radical" professors: Todd Gitlin; Victor Navasky; and Eric Foner.

At least, they're portrayed as dangerous radicals in a new book by neo-conservative establishment flunky David Horowitz, who was radical in the 60's before jumping suddenly and curiously to the opposite side. The question is whether Horowitz is trying to bolster the three's dissident credentials by attacking them, or if Gitlin, Navasky, and Foner are for real. (That the three work for one of the most prestigious institutions in America isn't a good sign.)

Do the three believe their ideals? Will they honor their stated beliefs on April 17th and join our democratic Protest, our voices from the street, against embedded privilege, hierarchy, and aristocracy?

We'll see!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Renegade ULA Video?

RUMOR has it there's a video making the rounds depicting ULA character "The Masked Professor" (normally played by ULA poet Frank Walsh) and designed as kind of a mock-literary tear-or-ist video explaining the purpose of the ULA campaign. It seems to have been produced by an outlaw arm of the Underground Literary Alliance.

Then again, the entire ULA is an outlaw arm of the Underground Literary Alliance.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Why the ULA Is Unique

WHILE the Beats, underground pioneers, are among the ULA's influences, we've made several advances on their strategy. It would make no sense to mimic them exactly. We've adopted from them not so much their pattern as their spirit of change.

First, the ULA is an actual organization; a tighter community.

Second, the ULA seeks to maintain control of our art. In DIY fashion, we make the decisions ourselves about the means of production, distribution, and presentation of our writers. (In the Established lit-world, even a notable like Jon Franzen is really just a paid whore who must comply with the orders of his publishing company.)

We are quickly putting the pieces in place to be able to offer to writers everything the conglomerates offer them (except the token advance!); publication, distribution, and more important, promotion and publicity, without which no writer can find readers.

We'll do this in non-hierarchical fashion, without compartmentalization and skyscrapers.

This will work only if writers THEMSELVES avoid compartmentalization, and become actively involved in every step of the process. Working together as a team, success will come easily.

We represent a new way of thinking about literature. What's sad about the mandarins on stage April 17th at Columbia University is their outmoded style of thought-- THEIR way or no way. To us, their ideas look ridiculously obsolete because they ARE obsolete. Their behavior as unquestioning cogs of the machine is rote learning showing no creativity. They're so enclosed in their box of conformity they can't see this.

Free the Beats!

Free the sound!
Free the be-boppin underground
heralds of the word
voices of the land
of the streets
of America
Free our ancestors, our apostles
our trailblazing forebears
underground cousins
from the money-grabbing security-guarded fifteen-dollar admission fee clutches
of the psychiatric institutional Columbia colleges
free the minds
from the suits
straitjackets of the system, of the Man,
the monolith
the monster
the hyper-wonk hypocritical co-opting posing and posturing PHONIES
b.s.'ing bureaucratically blathering CON-MEN
Free the stage
unshackle the poetry
Unleash the Beats!

Who Gave Them the Power?

What exactly is "The Academy of American Poets"?
Who voted them in charge?
By what right do they set themselves up as an "academy" and think they can dictate the direction of American poetry?
The $35 (and up) membership fee?
Yes, I know, it's really a glorified tax shelter; a safe place for rich people to deposit their money; a way to give employment to hapless university-trained purveyors of lifeless poetry. But some folks may actually take this gang of extortionists and their bad clown show seriously.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Patrick King in Philly

Patrick King, initial initiator of our "Howl" rally, has moved to Philadelphia to help spearhead the thing. I met with him and Frank Walsh yesterday. We laid the groundwork for an expansion of our Philadelphia ULA activities. I'll have more to say about this in coming days. Stay tuned! The Underground Literary Alliance is alive.

Letter from Lopate

Phillip Lopate has been considerate enough to respond to the ULA's challenge with a full-page single-spaced snail letter addressed, "Dear Underground Literary Alliance."

Noteworthy is that Lopate argues not from a position of strength-- that he and his colleagues are good poets who deserve to be on the Miller Hall stage-- but from their own weakness. Further, the scheduled presentation is apparently an unfortunate mistake!

Jason Shinder accidentally happened to get a book contract to put together a "Howl" anthology, and happened to accidentally ask fellow academy writer Lopate to contribute. That neither is in any way a Beat poet wasn't a consideration. "--I have never ever presented myself as a Beat, or an inheritor of the Beat mantle-- quite the contrary," Lopate writes. The refined delicate characters who'll be on the Miller Hall stage celebrating "Howl" turn out to be innocent bystanders! ("Beats? No, we're not Beats, never said we were in any way related to Beats!" they proclaim.)

The culprit must then be book corp Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, for designating a line-up of literary usual suspects to take charge of the anthology-- the Miller Hall event part of the publicity. Which in no way detracts from the purpose of the ULA's counter-reading. It intensifies our purpose, I'd say.

The puppets dancing to the publisher's strings scream to us that they're only helpless puppets!, not responsible for anything-- and so we should let them be.

The latter part of Lopate's letter argues that Allen Ginsberg "willingly ended up in the academy. . . ." What does this have to do with "Howl," first read by the poet back in 1955! Given a choice between a young, rebellious Elvis or the later drugged and bloated version, Lopate makes the wrong selection-- and misses the entire point. His argument to me is a celebration of the Company Man lifestyle which the young Ginsberg rebelled against. (Lopate also takes a shot at Kerouac drinking himself to death, and Neal Cassady dying on railroad tracks: icing on his conformist cake.) Lopate posits only two choices for writers: embrace the System, if you can, or die. He insists that writers like Ginsberg are readily co-opted by the Establishment, "because there isn't enough writing of genius to go around . . . and the Establishment, who are no dumbies, know that."

In fact, members of the Establishment, who are indeed "dumbies," have no idea how many writers of genius are outside their walls, because they're actively hostile to them. Have they read James Nowlan's Security, Frank Walsh's "Reagan's Brain" (its squelching by U of Penn a story in itself), or any number of significant underground works of today? Ginsberg's "Howl" itself is a classic example of Establishment cluelessness. One of the author's own former professors, Lionel Trilling, scorned the work when Ginsberg sent it to him to read. Only AFTER the Beats became a national phenomenon, thanks to sympathetic anarchist critic Kenneth Rexroth and to their own self-promotional abilities-- the excitement THEY THEMSELVES generated-- did the establishment eventually tardily embrace them.

Phillip Lopate, re-read your history! What kind of inaccurate tales do you teach?

Two sentences in the letter stand out above the rest to me. FIRST, when Lopate writes, "Neither is my work 'tame'. . . ."
It's not? I've not encountered an academic writer yet whose work WASN'T tame-- or at least its presentation. But I come from not so narrow a perspective as Phillip Lopate, the mouthpiece of the academy where everything is neat, ordered, polite, predictable, and safe. One can see from the posts on this blog that the underground is a contentious place. Poets battle at open mics and some take who wins or shows best very seriously. Some congenial souls are known to heckle futilely, or, in temper tantrums, publicly destroy another's writing! Contentious but also entertaining-- the kind of contention and entertainment the ULA brings, which the literary world badly needs.

Phillip Lopate, you and your work are very tame. Only by reading against us could you demonstrate otherwise.

SECOND, when Lopate writes, "--writers write in large part to reach out to readers unlike themselves; and it was the genius of Ginsberg to have been able to touch the lives of the 'safe' as well as the alienated, the academics and professionals as well as those hospitalized with shock treatment."

This sentence is a contradiction on two scores. Academy writers like Lopate write ONLY for readers like themselves. It's the essence of the MFA education: creating a built-in audience for whom refined "literary" stories and poems are easily digested. What readers does the Academy of American Poets, sponsor of the event, reach out to? The man on the street? No way! They've taken lifeless academic poetry into their fortress of bureaucracy, in so doing withdrawing it away from the people.

The other contradiction: the Miller Hall event is geared exactly toward the "safe," "the academics and professionals" Lopate mentions-- not toward any other body of people. It's the way of all such presentations. That evening "the alienated" will be reading outside.

"I will not try to compete with you in howling April 17th," Lopate concludes in his letter to the ULA.

No shit! What a terrible surprise.