I always had a thing for small presses and tiny mags. I read Bukowski for the first time on typewriter paper, photocopied and saddle-stitched. Seymour Krim, Paul Bowles, Mohammed Mrabet, even Tom Waits: the list is longer than memory. I found the things remarkable. Like they were made next door. Like I could smell the wine and cigarettes still on the pages.
I read HOWL in high school, and it sent me careening, dizzy and delirious, through the streets of my town, hauling folks up by the collar, pressing their backs to walls while I wheezed breathless lines into shocked mugs. CITY LIGHTS, Ferlinghetti’s press, was the publisher. HOWL was part of the POCKET POET SERIES—the same series that introduced me to Corso’s GASOLINE, Ferlinghetti’s own PICTURES OF A GONE WORLD, and opened me like a can of party snakes. But when I found a Ginsburg poem in a homemade journal held together by a couple of staples, it was something else. Even closer somehow. More personal. More private and direct. I forget the name of the zine, but I remember the moment.
Then I met Irv Stettner, editor and publisher of STROKER MAGAZINE. He had accepted some of my work and invited me to visit him. I did, bottle in hand, and we became pals. Together, mailbags swinging from our shoulders, we pinballed tables in East Village bars and cafes, fists full of Strokers waving as we went. Irv taught to me to hawk them like the boxes of Cracker Jacks they were, each with a surprise on the inside.
That’s when I got the itch to make things like that or to help other folks make them—excellent words stuffed into bottles or homemade baskets strung to balloons and let loose on the blue. It’s not all that hard. Sure, as I recently mentioned to my friend, Tim Gilmore, the less money you have, the more muscle you need. But think what you do for the next guy or gal. The artist you boost. The reader with a chest full of snakes yet unsprung. And we have the internet. So, you know, fuck a duck.
I’m launching EAT POEMS, a series of digital EP albums, each focusing on a single poet reading his or her own work.
The first album will be THE RAPE POEMS by Frances Driscoll, a sampling of the work in her extraordinary collection published under the same name by Pleasure Boat Studios. Look for the announcement in the immediate future.
“with the absolute heart of the poem of life butchered out of their own bodies good to eat a thousand years.” from HOWL by Allen Ginsberg