Friday, March 9, 2012
Outsiders, Outlaws, and Then There's Me
I've decided to call myself an Outlaw Poet this week. Last week I was a zombie poet. Next week I'm considering being an Outsider poet. I'm not really any of those things or aligned with any of those movements in any significant way, but I just feel like I need some movement to help me define my work and who I am. The Outsider movement seems good because if I decide it's not for me I can leave and still be in the movement. The Outlaw movement is slightly more problematic, because as Bob Dylan wrote, "To live outside the law you have to be honest," and I ain't falling for that shit.
I guess I just need help defining myself. When I first started publishing poetry in the late 80's it was the height, but the unforseen beginning of the end, of the Small Press movement, defined by journals like The Wormwood Review and poets like Charles Bukowski and Lyn Lifshin. Thousands of small zines publishing a rogues' gallery of poets who wrote about bad behavior, freedom, and trying to survive as a poet outside of the Universities and without the grants the academic circle jerkers distributed among themselves. It really was a fun and golden time for the poetry scene, and one I was immersed in from a very young age, learning my first lessons from poets like Todd Moore, Ron Androla, Kurt Nimmo, Gerald Locklin, even the immortal Charles Bukowski seemed to break his own rules and return encouraging letters to me without calling me a talentless punk. That era ended with the internet. What needs to be understood is before the internet it often took months, even a year, to collect submissions for a literary review, make editorial decisions, print it, and send it out to everyone who was in it. Now this can be done instantaneously. Which takes a lot of the sacred nature of the process out of it. You used to wait, and wait, and wait, and when that zine finally arrived in the mail you looked to see who else was in it. You knew them, because you knew they went through the same process you did, and you savored the whole thing from cover to cover. The internet has made this process too accessible, too easy, and therefore disposable.
Many of those poets from the golden age of the small presses are gone. Like Todd Moore, the first Outlaw poet. Many simply gave up trying to reach an audience and went back to lives outside of the Universities and MFA programs. Many have dispersed into the Outsider and Outlaw movements, and some have learned how to use the internet to boost themselves into the public consciousness.
It's always sad to come in at the end of an era. To be the last generation of anything. There's nothing like the printed word. There's nothing like the smell of paper, and that unmistakable scent of a fresh Kinkos copy. There's nothing like waiting to improve one's discipline. And there's nothing like sharing a common love to create fellowship. That's what's gone for the most part... the fellowship.
In February the numbers tell me more people read my work on the internet than in the entirety of the words I have printed on pages. But just knowing someone is holding your book in their hands creates a bond the cyber world will never duplicate. I still haven't found the movement that's right for me. I've jokingly created movements that include just myself, like Reductionism, but even i got bored at the meetings. I just don't think I'm going to be welcomed into anyone else's camp anytime soon. I have resigned myself to going on alone. I have some cohorts. Local artists I respect and consider my friends, like Tim Stotz, Jesus Correa, David Pedersen, jason ssg, and a few others, but I feel I'm destined to live forever outside the confines of anyone else's movement.
By the way, thanks for coming. here's a poem. I'm going to post this one for the first time. I think I was reading Dorothy Parker at the time I wrote this and it represents a growing desire to incorporate some sort of form into my poetry. At least as an experiment.
It's Hell you say
As you assay
With a pro's cache
The chemicals we
Have procured to allay
The night's malaise
It's Hell you attest
But without the interesting
And the incest
It's Hell I agree
This eternal thrashing
In the scree
And watching you slither
Tailored more to you
While you're here, why not sample a Tiny Drawing Poem