Poetry as Living Theater, by Richard Martin

Becoming a member of the Igneus family of poets and writers was an unexpected piece of good fortune, which led to unpredictable experiences (more on those later, such as being awarded the 13th PHD bestowed by Vincent Ferrini). First, however, there was my encounter with Peter Kidd – founder and publisher of Igneus Press, poet, writer, landscape architect, father, and good-guy polymath.

I met Peter at the beginning of the 1990’s at the end of the bar at Charlie’s Tap in Cambridge, MA. Fellow poet and friend, Wally Butts, introduced me to him. It was one of those moments in which the poems I have written behaved like a seeing-eye dog, leading me to the right place, right time, and right person – poems that have kept me in the cellar or in a turret when not at work or raising a family – poems that have shielded me from schools and the politics of poetry – poems generated in the playground of the mind and in the streets of my hometown – poems bent on the destiny of connection.

Peter was a big guy (still is), with a big laugh and heart, and, man, could he bend the ear.
In between the poets on stage at Charlie’s Tap, Peter, as I recall, shared his thoughts on the living theater of poetry –poetry that could live inside books and leap right out of them – take up residence in one’s life and change it for the better. Poetry fed by the willingness and the drive to let, as Whitman noted, creeds and schools to fall into abeyance – poetry of blood, marrow, and place, bursting with authentic roles for its creators and audience that challenged the humdrum numbing world of conformity and mentor-driven verse. MFA programs were spreading like crab grass over the leaves of grass. Peter had an antidote in mind – the antidote of fire. I didn’t fail to notice the spiritual and physical resemblance Mr. Kidd shared with Whitman during my first encounter with him as the following poem attests:

At the Intersection of a Barroom Conversation

for Peter Kidd

I’m not crazy
People talk
The television is on
And everyone knows
Where you are

It’s about location
You’ve seen the maps –
Conversation among stars
This is the spot where you wave
To the Celebration Parade

Why just the other day
I met the love child of Walt Whitman
He bopped me on the head
And went to the store
For Dr. Pepper

This had to be a diversion
A way of taking a topic
And making it the main topic
What we call in the trade
A cosmic usurpation

There are moments of growth
In language
When the god of meaning
Comes home to narrative
And smiles like Santa Claus

During those first moments at Charlie’s Tap, I took it all in – the scene and series Jack Powers had created and the scene and books Peter would create by launching the press with the publication of Wally’s book, The Required Dance and Bill Kemment’s book, Flesh of a New Moon (a good-looking man who thought I, a handsome man, had the eyes of bigamist), and much later a couple of chapbooks of mine: Negation of Beautiful Words (1996) and Strip Meditation (2009). It wasn’t hard for me to relate to the motley crew of new poets. In 1982, I founded the Big Horror Poetry Series in Binghamton and with the support of the Binghamton Community Poets kept it going through 1996 (more on the series later). It wasn’t long before the “Horror,” Igneus, and Stone Soup poets got together not only in Boston but also in Binghamton to share what they had.

It was all about natural and spontaneous hook-ups in the eighties, nineties, and now, right into the 21st century. In addition to Igneus Press, the “Big Horror,” and Stone Soup, the great magazine, Fell Swoop: The All Bohemian Review, started by the legendary and reclusive poet, XJ Dailey (New Orleans), and Bottom Fish Press, established by the incredible artist and de facto mayor of Binghamton, Tom Haines, were on the stage of here and now, each with their own cast of characters and roles to play (more on them later).

For now: Igneus Press is hot. Igneus Press is connected. Why not buy a book.

Richard Martin
April, 2014

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