Thursday, November 30, 2006
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Lit folk refuse to link with us because we, the most powerless of writers, have somehow become "bullies" capable of pushing around truly powerful millionaires and their armies of lackeys. Lit characters friendly to me in the past are suddenly aghast at things I've said. Pure phoniness. Another accuses me of not being open-minded, yet declines to exchange links to share each other's ideas.
The truth is that these people are terrified of upsetting the powers-that-be in the literary world-- patrician barons like Eggers and Moody-- by acknowledging our existence in anyway publicly. Word has come down from on high. Like the jellyfish they are, these icons of integrity have complied.
Someone who rejects us solely because we don't have enough women, or this or that, in our ranks, is someone who sees the world in categories and stereotypes. If people don't join us because we don't fit some pre-ordained percentage of prescribed diversity, that's THEIR problem, not ours.
They need to examine their own attitudes first before attacking ours.
This morning I had the displeasure of listening to bourgeois poets Anne Waldman and Jason Shinder misinterpreting the meaning of "Howl." About the famous "Moloch" rant-- "blood of money"-- they spoke in circles, refusing to acknowledge that Ginsberg's words had anything to do with his own time-- when the connection is obvious. At no time, of course, did they mention a major influence on the poem, Kenneth Rexroth's "Thou Shalt Not Kill," a poem which is just as strong yet is celebrated no place.
And what's up with Shinder, anyway? Before the ULA's spring "Howl" protest at Columbia University, eight months ago, establishment attack dog Phillip Lopate, in a letter to me, had Shinder dying, very ill, using this as a reason for us to halt our plans. Jason Shinder sounded fine on the radio, as he looked fine (except for his evil facial expressions) when we saw him earlier this year on stage.
What one can say about "Howl" is that the poem has been neutered. The cultural establishment, embodiment of this nation's upper classes, has the work well in hand. It sits politely on the coffee table in a large room in one of their airy houses, next to a tray of bon-bons. They look at it gratefully, knowing the work is now completely harmless.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Prepster Meghan O'Rourke of Slate, an Insider icon who wouldn't know anything underground if she fell down a manhole, asks the question, "Whatever Happened to the Avant-Garde?" The scope of her essay extends all the way up to 1992! Mentioned by her as purveyors of "a do-it-yourslf ethos" and "a distaste for commercialism" are such conglomerate house pets as Mary Gaitskill, Tama Janowitz, and Dennis Cooper. Say what? The goal of all three was always and forever will remain to be commercial. Scarcely one of them had a "do-it-yourself" moment in their lives regarding their art, though I'm sure all of them give good blow jobs. (Nice to see a recent photo of Tama in Vanity Fair sporting some recent plastic surgery work.)
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
-A look at a great new Yul Tolbert illustrated daily comic strip.
-Wred Fright's new book.
-"Lessons in Lit": My four-part course on how to be a better writer or poet (from a reader's point-of-view). The four parts, in tentative order:
1.) "Fixing Franzen."
2.) "Marginalized Poetry."
3.) "Two Good Poets."
4.) "Walsh the Poet."
I'll be posting an excerpt from my Detroit novel. . . .
Saturday, November 18, 2006
The subtitle harks back not just to The Autobiography of Malcolm X, but to the autobiography of Frederick Douglass-- the shocking importance of which, in its day, was that ex-slave Douglass was speaking for HIMSELF. Remember the theme of the work-- that what Douglass most embraced was the ability and need to read and write. This revolutionary act gave him equality with anyone. Douglass proved by his writings, his speeches, and his life that he was the equal of any white person.
Empowerment was the message of these two powerful autobiographies. The much-hyped 2006 version gives the opposite message: that the paternalistic rich white man in the person of B'wana Dave Eggers is back in control. "I'm here to help." (The White Man's Burden.) B'wana Dave carts the embodiment of "Victim" from interview to interview as if they were ventriloquist and puppet, while the liberal print media applauds.
Dave Eggers is the darling of boozhie (street slang) lit critics because this ultimate boozhie is an example to them that it's hip to be rich and corporate. Everything he does has an air of unreality about it. He's crafted to be a savior of generosity and benevolence; his image washed in a special glow. The insanity of the man is that he rigorously protects this image from everything resembling a real human being; from hints of anger and flaws; criticism against him consistently steamrolled. Insanity-- or shrewd marketing.
Friday, November 17, 2006
Thursday, November 16, 2006
I have a couple large posts upcoming, but will also be focused in the next couple weeks on helping to build infratsructure for the ULA, to help the launch of books like the one depicted. A lot happening. (Check out the ULA Book Review at www.ulabookreview.blogspot.com -- editor Victor Schwartzman is doing a bang-up job.)
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Monday, November 13, 2006
Sitting in Dempsey's Bar
New York City Irish pub
I'm honoring Dylan
the real one
who died of drinking
four days and fifty-three years
Does time fly?
It zooms. . . .
100 miles an hour
rocks glass rolling across the bar
whiskey gone too fast
"Bartender, get me another!"
I had a dream of
many of them
at a prostitute druggie hotel
I once used to live in
"Treat them kindly!"
the madam barks.
"Treat them rough and we'll rough YOU up
Ten times over.
Be nice and they'll be nice."
Yes, they're nice
Women are heaven
Even the madam with the bulldog face
soft creature after all
A real softie; easy touch
Beneath the iron.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
I'm glad to see recognized somewhere the enormous importance and influence Rexroth had-- and has-- to American literature. Kenneth Rexroth is one of America's best essayists and greatest poets.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Say what you will about the 1950s, but they were a time of great poetry; an era when poetry mattered to people.
The great Kenneth Rexroth wrote a memorial poem for Dylan Thomas. He called it "Thou Shalt Not Kill." It remains relevant today. A couple excerpts:
"They are murdering all the young men.
For half a century now, every day,
They have hunted them down and killed them.
They are killing them now."
The hyena with polished face and bow tie,
In the office of a billion dollar
Corporation devoted to service;
The vulture dripping with carrion,"
It's one of the most powerful poems I've ever read.
Ever read the poem, Miss Snark? Have you other Miss Snarks of the literary world read it?
You should read the poem. Read it. It was written to you.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
1.) In mainstream publishing, the most powerless, least respected person is the writer or artist himself. The writer is at the bottom of the totem pole, grateful to be published at all. He or she is in the position of supplicant, with no real power or voice over the artwork. (Not even Jon Franzen had it, as he found.)
With the ULA, the artist is valued-- and calls the shots. We're all writers in one form or another, even our publishers like Jeff Potter and Pat Simonelli. We understand what Do-It-Yourself is about.
2.) The mainstream is looking for "normal" writers; those sober individuals willing and able to play by the rules. The entire process is set-up to weed out the different voice; the wacked-out, outcast, or outraged person. The Underground Literary Alliance embraces such persons-- we know that's where artistic genius is to be found.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Friday, November 03, 2006
As he makes his daily journeys downtown, displaying the cart at strategic locations, accompanying his message by speeches to nobody, not a person goes near him, as he's obviously crazy. Obviously!
Yet in his screaming maladjusted intensity, is the man really so different from a Sean Hannitty or Ted Kennedy, though with less glamorous trappings? I ask myself if he's really much different from me.
I can't say I've ever fit into bourgeois society. My family couldn't. . . .
I became interested in literature on one of my down cycles; began producing a mad couple-page newsletter on a manual typewriter bought in a resale shop in Detroit's Cass Corridor, at a time in the early 90's when I was knocking down a bottle a day. "New Philistine." Angry bedraggled literary crank-- I was that, which didn't mean I had nothing to say.
Much has been written about the outsider in art and society. ULAers are literary outsiders-- true outsiders carrying a profound alienation toward society, and toward today's corrupt literary system which is a reflection of society. Our mad noise, like the noise of the homeless man with the shopping basket, comes from the streets, is the sound of anger, pain, outrage, alienation, and reality.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Because blueblood Kerry had his path into Yale paved for him, he naively believed that all his fellow rich kids were there because they were society's smartest-- or studied the hardest! If this man doesn't understand the structure and workings of his own society, then why in the world should he be expected to lead this country?
This is a nation scarred by class. Even the status-quo's most right-wing apologists like Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly beneath their angry distorted want-to-believe-in the-dream arguments are in fact through the history of their lives badly scarred by class. The divide between rich and poor has never been greater in my lifetime. For twenty-five years we've seen a transfer of mpney from the poor to the rich; the lower classes falling behind while the top levels accummulate more wealth. Those who benefit from this live in an aristocratic bubble. This includes our officially-sanctioned writers.
Our culture shows a society on the verge of deluge. Movies by well-connected daughters celebrate the world of Marie Antoinette while the literary world is increasingly populated with daughters of privilege like Marisha Pessl or by fop-wannabes like John Hodgman or Lord Whimsy. Realities of the society aren't being covered.
What writers are there to cover them when the lit-world's approved writers, agents, and editors come from the select bastions of privilege like Columbia, Princeton, Brown, Harvard, and Yale? They graduate wearing blinders, seeing the world through stereotypes. Their only recognition of class reduces it to caste. Like Ex-Brown student Rachel Aviv, who interviewed Patrick King and myself for Poetry Foundation, they see all poor people as black and all black people as poor; unable to believe that there are desperately struggling whites also in this nation. (An increasing number of them.) These students and ex-students should be used guides for nothing-- least of all literature, which at its best serves to speak unflinching knowledgeable experienced truth.
This country would be better off if we tore down this society's elitist institutions, the most undemocratic entities in America which serve to maintain an aristocratic mentality-- represented by John Kerry-- including a sadly decayed and dying aristocratic literature.
Within the last week I've seen two very talented Philly bands:
-the multi-dimensional Hydrogen Jukebox, fronted by crazy magician-dissident Eric "Jelly Boy the Clown" Broomfield;
-on Halloween night, at Afro Pick at the Rotunda, the Mighty Paradocs: two beautiful young women of color (one black; one beige) doing a punk/hip-hop hybrid, screaming out words of rebellion while jumping around the stage in front of an out-of-control audience. "Pissy Politicians" was one of the highlights.
There are other great bands and musicians in just this city (or frequent visitors like Don McCloskey) who are pushing the envelope of music, words, and radicalism.