Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What Are Outlaw and Outsider Poetry

Whatever is considered Outlaw or Outsider poetry I have managed to operate even outside the parameters of that. I've never been much of a joiner. There may have been meetings I missed. I'm not sure either term had attained much usage when I began publishing poetry in 1990, but the nucleus of those who would be retroactively included in either movement were publishing in the same places I was. To my mind the best source of Outlaw poetry is The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry. I read my copy many times, then it mildewed when I used to hold up the window in my basement apartment without air conditioning one summer, which only seemed to add to the book's credibility in my library. As far as anthologies of Outsider poetry are concerned, I haven't seen one that has earned my admiration or seems to do the movement justice, whatever movement means when applied to the concept of a group of poets who operate outside any other parameters.

Although I published alongside many of what are considered the Outlaw poets in my early days I never considered myself part of that movement. I worked in bars for twelves years and pretty much lived the life they all seem fascinated with writing about, and like a chef who cooks for others all day I had little interest writing about it when I got home. However, my book of poems Flesh Wounds has enough sex, drugs, and rock and roll in it to make me cringe when I think about those days now sitting in a room with two children I must teach not to follow my example. I was a bartender, a bouncer, and eventually owned two bars with my brother Dan where I booked both rock and country acts. It's safe to say I saw and did everything these Outlaw poets were merely writing about. As an adult I no longer find it glamorous. It was simply a chapter in my life I wrote about while it was happening, but I moved on. 

I wouldn't know how to define a term like Outsider poetry, let alone make any assertion I am part of that movement. If I am no one has ever told me about it. 

These days I just write poetry.      

And Jenny illustrates. Neither one of is claimed by any movement.

March 18, 2013 update: Just published co-founder of The Outlaw Poetry movement, Tonny Moffeit, at Zombie Logic Review. receiving a lot of great submissions there from Outsider and Outlaw poets right now. I hope to see a lot more in the future. 

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