Igneus Press Announces its Re-New Release of Academia Nuts, by William Bland (55 pp., 2016)

It was ironic, being boiled alive by foreign academia, in Chinese grad school, and here was my Dad giving me this book to typeset for Igneus, poking fun at academia.  I secretly enjoyed the subversion, and Academia Nuts was published in 2016. The books opens with this poem, which I’ll engage with briefly to illustrate how helpful a steady diet of Academia Nuts can be for budding academics. Let’s bathe ourself in sound! Make meaning of it later…

 

I swim with dogs.

Buoyant at the same level over deep water,
I glance into their eyes with an intimacy only possible amid waves.

Their hair and mine, both lighter than earth’s blood,
could be a raft upon which we might heavenly-rest, protected.

The fate of forms paradoxically carries us to not here,
and, grasping whatever veins are nearby, I say;
“I love the moment,
at a standstill past the eye,
where the how of reaching is irrelevant
to the full-body pleasure(s) of perspective(s).”

 

Had I not holed myself in a cement tenement for an entire summer chasing down digital shreds of 3rd century Chinese Daoist manuscripts, looking for just these traces of philosophic fold? See ‘at a standstill’, but ‘past’, not seen but ‘eye’.  The poet/composer toggles between count/non-count, single/plural, dually struck notes.

 

Crooked boomerangs, askew,
are like limbs, but, unlike the shank of the thigh,
contain no self-impulsive desperations,
neither fluid nor osmotic.

Floating! – the conceptual globe –
reproduction – majestic!

 

My mind and hands were engaged in typographical minutae. A long book to typeset, every type space, period, ellepsis, hyphen, space before and/or after hyphen, line break, single and double line space, word length, consonant and vowel raciocination, all composed a love-laced musico-poetic algorithm. Syntax as musical system.

 

Dripping in pathos, Academia Nuts instills in its reader a sense of urgency, lays out a way to heal what has been ripped a part of Word.

 

Hands pause …. paws hand flaccid cones
to graceless sheens… and everywhere nothing is looking,
except as a flaw.

 

Yet:

 

Outside may be the Grand Vile…
served as supper’s main coarse course cours coeurs coerced…

but exactly here-now, by a lake or a sea-stream,
affection can never drown when served as a wet dessert.

 

These playful morphing sound corpuscles…flagrant worship of the human heart.

 

My only regret is that immediately upon publication of Academia Nuts, I headed into the final throes of my dissertation, which was like being ravaged by a disease, then moving back from China to California. A year later, I wake up to the reality that this magnificent book has yet to be formally released by Igneus Press. Until now. I hope that William Bland can forgive us this delay in getting his word out.

 

We hope that you enjoy this book, available here for purchase in Igneus Press’ online bookstore.

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Benefit for the Poetry Society of New Hampshire’s Walter Butt’s Laureate Fund

The roots of Igneus Press are struck through the Granite State of New Hampshire, having operated out of Bedford, New Hampshire for over two decades since its first publication, The Required Dance, by W. E. Butts in 1990. Igneus Press publisher, Peter Kidd and W.E. Butts were very close. We are honored to present information about the Benefit for the Poetry Society of New Hampshire’s Walter Butt’s Laureate Fund. S. Stephanie will be reading a poem by W.E. Butt’s, in honor of the man and his contribution to American poetry. Collectors editions of The Required Dance and A Season of Crows by W.E. Butts can be found on Igneuspress.com.

Laureates Three Quatre poster

We hope that this benefit raises awareness of both W.E. Butt’s role in New Hampshire, New England and American poetry. We also hope readers continue to support small independent presses working quietly and selflessly between the seams and cracks of American belles-lettres, bringing the work of poets such as W.E. Butt’s into the palm of our hands.

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Igneus Press Announces Our Latest Release: Seasons in the Ravine: a Suite of Poems, by P.J. Laska

IMG_4943

We’d like to announce our latest 2017 Igneus Press release. Seasons in the Ravine: a Suite of Poems, by P.J. Laska sees the poet return to the region of his heart-land, bringing American Appalachian poetry with his word-worn hands to our most honed attention. Made readily available to the proletariat as well as the 1% (it’s a free country after all) at $5.00, we hope that you enjoy this careful meditation on how places travel between our thought and mind’s tongue, bringing us in a nano-second from within swirling leaves of a China tea cup back to the glistening cold of snowed-in pinecone within an Appalachian ravine.

Dr. Edwina Pendarvis, poet and Emeritus Professor of Education at Marshall University Huntington writes: “Seasons in the Ravine adds to the assembly of classical Chinese and Japanese imagery adopted, adapted, and elaborated by contemporary American poets, like Gary Snyder and–some would argue by Appalachian poets especially compellingly. A master of the poetic conventions assoicated with this body of work, Laska uses and refuses the conventions with ease. His pastoral log cabin is set in the middle of town, and he writes from a ravine, rather than the romantic heights of a mountain. His landscape is up-close, filled with leaves, trees, wind, sun, and rain, along with the clutter of trash tossed over the hillside. Punctuating his own passages with ‘wall poems’ by Basho and others, Laska critiques and, in a sense, overcomes the dualism of ugliness and beauty, encouraging us to love them fully, enjoying and protesting, no matter how heavy the odds.”

 

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“The Poet As Comedian: Contextualizing Dick Martin’s boink!”

(This review by Richard Blevins of Richard Martin’s 2009 boink! (Lavender Ink Press, 260 pages) was originally published in House Organ, Number 90, Spring 2015)

 

“He created his own Kool Aid reality and was able to illuminate himself by it.”

Trout Fishing in America

On his fiftieth birthday in the final year of the millennium, inspired by a belated reading of Richard Brautigan’s Trout Fishing In America, Dick Martin realized his plan of fifty days of writing which he would publish as boink!, splendidly unaware he had initiated his “antimemoir” on the mutual birthdate of Tex Avery and Jackie Gleason, while sharing his own birthday with Ducky Nash, the voice of Donald Duck.  If reading Brautigan’s novel for the first time in 1999 was unfashionably late in its afterlife, an overdue book truly and a fact most of us would omit from the conversation about books we’ve meant to read, it was no problem for the maladjusted memoirist.  I am myself writing a decade too late for a proper book review of boink!, my roundabout way of coming to terms with the problems and rewards it poses for a reader of poetry, and humor, and humorous poetry–unless, that is, like the late Thomas Bernhard, the reader is humorless and has abandoned poetry or, like Jackie and Tex, one has a genius for comedy and has passed on–, having been boink’d again by re-reading Dick Martin’s classic memoir. (1)

Texts that make us laugh, to wildly paraphrase the Freud of Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious (1905), are problematical to think about.  The master’s English-speaking lackey Ernest Jones tells us that Jokes and Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality were written on adjoining tables, Freud going from one manuscript to the other when a thought struck. (2)  If the father of psychoanalysis had known what we know—that he was not a scientist but, in fact, one of the seminal creative writers of the end of the nineteenth century and, with the lesser poet Benjamin Blood, a pioneer of drug lit—he might have written his two books as one grand collage of sex jokes.   Dick Martin, publishing boink! on the centennial of the publication of Freud’s doubleheader, was free, in the way that Brautigan before him was liberated by collage technique, to carve memoir and comedic poetry with a pen knife into his assigned school desk whenever he thought the teacher wasn’t looking.  Martin invites us to recall that essential part of ourselves we mostly thought we’d left behind to childhood play by virtue of what Freud calls “the rediscovery of something familiar” in jokes.

Although the influence of Trout Fishing never reaches the level of voice in boink!—Martin’s manic wise-cracker cannot be confused for the disengaged narrator from North Beach—Dick Martin’s gaggle of chapters does resemble the collage structure that worked so famously in Brautigan’s novel.  The forty-seven sections of Trout Fishing (which include, but are not limited to, the narrator’s memoir of childhood, a cookbook, information on John Dillinger, the narrator’s trout fishing trips, news from North Beach, an autopsy report, letters, book cover information, and so-called footnotes, all abandoned in an open-ended ending) are comparable to boink!’s chapters (which include, but are not limited by, remembrances of things childhood, query letters to publishers, newspaper articles, a diploma from a radio and television broadcasting school, the list of readers Dick hosted for the Big Horror Poetry Series in Binghamton from 1983 to 1996, ads for books of poems, reviews of books of poems, an interview with the poet, Dick’s accounts of various visits to medical doctors and surgeons, the Martin family tree, maps, Dick’s astrological chart, a Joel Daily discography, a bibliography of books published by Peter Kidd for Igneus Press, “chunks” of a novel, and often hilarious footnotes, the ending open-ended).  Part of the fun is culling all the good poems from the footnotes, such as:

 

Remember how perfect the ladder

lay against the moon

 

Beanstalk and all in our heads

we climbed

out of time

out of space

out of anything to say

 

We went up and up

into the yellow darkness[.]

 

And the prose footnotes are as funny as Jack Spicer’s.  The best poems are two long ones, “How I Became an Elementary School Teacher” and “White Man Appears on Southern California Beach,” reprinted here in appendices.  A play by “Duck Martian” will give the uninitiated some general idea of Dick Martin performing his poems. (3)  Martin sustains his book of pixels and bits like Hans, in the fairy tale, who makes the princess laugh (and gains half the kingdom in so doing) at the line of people sticking to him; we stay glued, wanting to know what he’ll say, or do, next.

But the problem with boink! is, it’s seriously funny.  “What looks like a surrealist writing his will and sounds like an irrepressible stand-up comedian is, actually,” observed the late Guy Davenport, “fresh, green, recognizably original poetry.”  We might expect one of the most prominent critics of our era to recognize Dick Martin’s poems, but–and herein’s the historic problem–, there is no tradition in our reading for funny poetry (a condition necessitating the “is, actually”).  If Dick Martin is “a surrealist writing his will,” then his is an American surrealism, the realm of Dock Ellis’ no-hit game on acid, a work of art and zaniness critiqued telepathically from Arizona by the cryogenic head of Ted Williams.  “Surrealism will be around for a long time,” Martin surmises in boink!.  “It’s part of the brain.”  He is the author of the pure surreal line “A beautiful and incomplete guy, he walked into a disaster of plates,” which by definition could lead to no additional sentences in his paragraph.  Boink!  Rightfully adverse to silly verse, Ogden Nash, Joyce Kilmer, Gelett Burgess, Robert Service, the e.e. cummings of “buffalo bill defunct” and “In Just-/spring,” and defender of the faith Hilaire Belloc, are no help to readers of Dick Martin.  Among those writers in Andre Breton’s eclectic Anthology of Black Humor (1936), Martin is surely closest in spirit to Christian Dietrich Grabbe (d. 1836).  Heine, who quarreled with the playwright, dubbed Grabbe “a drunken Shakespeare,” and the anti-literate Nazis were told they loved him; but who in America has read Grabbe’s plays or Breton’s book?  The repeat offender Louis Untermeyer’s A Treasury of Humor (1946) was the mainstream anthology to Breton’s underground stream.  However, the household-name cutups of the previous turn of the century are no help to those of us who read Dick Martin.  Perhaps, the Joyce of the Wake or John Lennon’s two little books of poems sounding like Joyce via Edward Lear nudge us toward making sense of the nonsense verse of the unforgettable Lear and Lewis Carroll, but Martin was not born with a runsible spoon in his mouth.  Our very own Crispin laments the linguistic dilemma in boink!:

 

Words are too heavy.

They’ve grown fat

with centuries and mouths.

 

Any one of them

could flatten us

into a railroad penny

 

Go ahead

lie down on their tracks

and see what I mean[.]

 

Neither does Martin’s delivery seem to owe debts to the more recent “occasional” poems of joel oppenheimer, Jonathan Williams, Anselm Hollo, or Bill Shields, although I shelve my copy of boink! in an unalphabetized place of honor beside their books, Dorothy Parker’s traditioinal-verse quips stuck in sideways.  There is a striking physical resemblance between Dick Martin and the Jorg Kolbe black and white photograph of Bertholt Brecht (German Federal Archive, 1954).

Edward Dorn was tasked by his teacher Olson’s obsession with his teacher Pound’s Cantos to write a poem containing history, which he subverted by humor (“Entrapment is this society’s sole activity–& only laughter can blow it to rags.”).  Gunslinger, the historical poem containing humor Dorn invented, may be the closest predecessor to boink!  Dealing cards at Slinger’s table, Dick Martin proposes “Television is the olive in the martini of chain reaction,” a line Dorn would have traded on.  By comparison, the emergent distraction of funny cowboy poems is merely another noisy fight down the bar.  Martin’s brand of humor, like the late master’s, is determinedly social.   Only the clinically mad tell jokes to themselves, and even then Artaud kept on writing for the stage.  As neurotically self-absorbed as boink!’s speaker is, Dick Martin is paradoxically one of our unblinking social critics—and part of the power of his book derives from his relentless re-estimations of his fate as a plastic card-carrying member of the popular culture it has taken a century for late capitalism to manifest.  The title he chose for the book, and its cover, are a well-aimed shot to the noggin of the slapstick comic as well as an impudent shout (“Boink!”) from the Pop Art balloons of Roy Lichtenstein and cheap imitators.  When I read that sour-faced old Baudelaire, in his study of laughter, posits the comic as being “visibly double” (showing both its art and its moral) and, at the same time, “transparent” (written in accessible language), I immediately thought of Dick Martin.  A poetry written at the table of our impulse to make people laugh, and a poetry written at the table of the compulsion to write poems, startles when they become transparent in one volume, boink!.  Conversely, and to the detriment of a talent like Martin’s, a readership as vast as Amazon may be too lazy to go between two tables, content to know a memoir is a memoir, humor is humor, and I don’t buy books of poetry anyway.  I have witnessed Dick Martin, in response to the academic equivalent of this audience, climb the nearest table at a poetry conference in New Hampshire and shout—“But how about me?”  Everything in the auditorium clarified.  If comedic poetry has the power to strip the bride of literary culture, Dick Martin’s work is a reminder that we inmates are allowed to use only Swintec Clear Cabinet typewriters made of see-through plastic (the new transparency is self-censoring) for sending messages outside.

In boink!, Martin practices most of the types of jokes that Freud classifies and today’s humor theorists, such as Jerry Aline Flieger and John Morreall, start from.  He is capable of composing loving vignettes of his late father, and sweet poems about the kind of “Love that makes the divorce lawyers go away.”  George Meredith, the earlier expert on modern love, observed in his essay on comedy that “The reasonings at which we laugh are those we know to be false, but which we might accept as true were we to hear them in a dream.”  Here’s a virtuoso passage of the dreamy poet joke, another type:

 

In heat, we headed for San Francisco with enough coin to get a room at the YMCA. The Y was gay and I nearly tumbled out the window in our fourteen-story room finishing Hesse’s Narcissus and Goldmund. I was a period piece without even knowing it. Blissful ignorance. On the run in America and a Hesse fanatic. Horny, too. Digging Goldmund’s escapades into sensuality, after the anti-body, repressive days of Roman Catholicism. Yet the monk, Narcissus, was part of me too. I had done time in a seminary before breaking out into being a dropout in New York’s public university system.  The holy man motif is a basic archetype in young men. And for me, the dialectic of spirit/body was still unresolved and out of whack at the time. Star date: the “Summer of Love” and I remained a virgin.  (“Oh, behave, baby!”).

So as I crossed the room reading Hesse, I tripped on throw rug and split head first for the big wide-opened window on the far side of the room. Chance had me catch a knee on the window sill and my freefall to the concrete below was canceled, a potential freefall from 14 stories up. Still my body got far enough out of the window for the woman in the tenement across from us to yell: “DON’T JUMP!”

O those hazy lazy days of summer.

 

To dwell overlong on the poetic achievement of all this funny business risks spoiling the occasion of art, the viewer becoming conscious of Harold Lloyd’s prosthetic hand and neglecting to follow the movie, or thinking about Edward Lear’s big nose (and, wow, Freud’s lit cigar!) when you read “The Dong with a Luminous Nose” to the grandkiddies.  To spare me from trying to unscramble the sentence I’ve just written…When we read Keats extending his hand in the poem, we boink on Lloyd’s gloved hand, only to wake up shaking–Dick Martin’s hand, “Friends!”…, I’ll give the memoirist the flood light for the last laugh, and return to my seat in the dark to enjoy.

 

“Customary Strangers”

 

I was reading poems about his mother

when the tractor-trailer burst into the yard

and crushed my hosta plants.

His mom could shoot a mean game of pool:

always wore a red party dress (décolleté)

when sinking the eight in the side

and thinking of the Sunday pot roast.

I knew the trucker had been drinking

in a small town with a single bar

run by a man with a bullet

lodged in his jaw

who kept a python in a shed

with a John Deere mowing tractor

and mementos from the days

his son played with toy explosives

before joining the army

to destroy bridges of bad ideology

springing up in the world

like fleurs du mal.

 

The trucker insisted there was a road

inside my house

and if I consented to hop in his truck

he’d let me shoot holes

in deer crossing signs

as he roared down my living room

blowing retreads and tripping

alarms in the canvases

of two twentieth century masters

I’d stolen while drunk on wine

from a rich girlfriend.

I felt no remorse about the theft

suspecting from my days in the factory

I had missed a turn or two

and with a hatred for customary strangers

maps or the desire to go back

probably had detoured onto a path

littered with failed campaigns

and remnants of escape.

Things beyond the ken of poems

doused with twilight

and pinned on the backs of human targets.

When the trucker yanked on his horn

it was my chance to find out.

 

Rich Blevins

September, 2014

 

 

Notes:

(1) A pdf version of boink! is available free from the publisher at <www.lavenderink.org>.

(2) As I worked on this essay, I became acutely aware of a surprising number of jokes about two tables.  Two examples will suffice here:

–A man walks up to two tables in a bar and asks them:  “May I join you?”

–Two tables walk into a bar.  The first one says, “I’ll get this round.”  His friend replies, “Okay, next drinks are on me.”

It is our good fortune that “Pieces of Furniture,” a play by the Athenian comic poet Plato Comicus (d. 416 BC), survives only as a title, or there would be even more jokes about tables dating back centuries before the bad joke of Greek Revival furniture you couldn’t sit on which my grandmother bought at a good price.

(3) Duck Martian is one of the pseudonyms this latter-day Pessoa publishes under; see also Ant McGoogle, Al Pants, and others.  No relation to Clarence “Ducky” Nash (see my essay’s opening paragraph).

 

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A note from the publisher

Concerning our store front. We are taking final steps to automate Igneus Press’ online storefront. We are weighing every book, counting every volume of back inventory, updating images, figuring out shipping, and all while sending our latest release, Academia Nuts by William Bland, to press.

Thank you for your patience. We are happy to announce that you will be able to buy books though our online store by May of this year. In the meantime, if there are any book orders which are pressing, please send a check or money order (plus $3.50 shipping) to:

Peter Kidd, Publisher

igbear@aol.com

1301 8th Ave

Canyon, TX  79015

Thanks again for your patience! We’re family operated so we’ve got lots of Kidds running around.

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Visiting White Noise Temple 《拜访白噪音寺》, by Sophia Kidd

It’s monday. Next week this time on that plane, I will see more than sky. Traveling through space, like analyzing a chessboard, one’s role diminishes the game. It’s really good to have this time with my father, Peter Kidd, to have flown from Sichuan province, in China’s southwest, to Texas via Seattle, to bang out a few weeks on Igneus Press. Main goals: print Bill Bland’s new book, open online bookstore and develop close contact list with authors by which to know their textual voice, i.e. poems.

My dad’s in the other room flipping between apps and online windows. French doors between us one leaf open. Coffeemaker gurgles all morning, a wind kicks up. My provisional desk faces south, in proper Chinese literati fengshui.[i] Pink lace curtains are tied before me with ribbon, their bulk uneven. Right one leans lazy left, right one twitters in wind of a cracked open window. Outside, a white and green macramé totem hangs high on the front porch, a gift from Bob Paquin, stone mason who built Dad’s walls for 20 years.

William Bland just signed off on final proofs for Academia Nuts. I sent final layout and now chase down the printer, a kind and slightly strung out man working at the UPS store, which seems to unfortunately have a stranglehold on printing services in and around Amarillo, TX.

Now we turn our attention towards Igneus’ online bookstore, paying special attention to inventory. 2016 is turning out for Igneus, as did 2015, with new releases including What the News Seemed to Say, poems by S. StephaniePounding the Door Into Gray, by James De Crescentis, and Beryllium Diary, poems by Nancy Jean Hill. In the first quarter of 2016, we are putting out two books: Morning in America: A Poetic Assemblage from the Long Decade, by P.J. Laska, and Academia Nuts, poems by composer and poet, William Bland.

We want to move books. Why? Because we want to spread the word, we want capital for the next book. My father and I are enflamed, totally jazzed to transition the press into its next 50 years. My watch. Today I filled twelve large and rugged brand new plastic bins with 25 years of Igneus Press’ inventory. I carefully took stock of every book and labelled the tops and sides of bins with the names of authors within. Butts and Kemmett rest together in one. Dorbin and Ferrini in another. Still others contain plumes of seven or eight small runs. Best of all, two bins contain ten of every book published by Igneus since W.E. Butts’ Required Dance came out in Aug 1990. These are the “quick inventory” boxes, to make it easy for Dad to go out back to the castle and fill orders. The plan is he’ll handle shipping. The castle is a dusty old barn. It has its charms, but no fresh air. Tonight it wasn’t so bad, slant under a Texan sunset blaze.

I’ve spent the past three afternoons in there, emptying old boxes of books, books fused in some instances to the gravel and dirt floor beneath. Cockroaches, mold, but NO BLACK WIDOWS, an important detail. After all the books were sorted, it took an hour to break down cardboard boxes, some decades old, others a month recent. All with a kitchen knife on the lawn, beneath a setting sun sky.

So why “White Noise Temple”? Well for one thing I need a temple right now in my life. I’m losing control. But temples aren’t always easy.  In particular, my Dad, the abbot, is also progenitor of a vision of television as hewer of “diamond mind”. His t.v. flickers and mumbles 24 hours a day, runs logs of elemental phrases. Kardashian and genre-inflicting machines rinse morning air with sound. White noise. Working undercover as a Confucian, but being daughter-of-a-Daoist, I paint atmospheres in neon parameters, needing things a certain way, as if there were ideal conditions for enlightenment.

Plus I’ve put down my work. Here with my dad these past three weeks in Canyon, we work on the press. My dissertation on medieval Chinese classics, freelance translation and writing;  on mid and back burner. I’ve stepped outside myself, broken routine, protocol, regime…Dad comes first. Maybe I’ll come first tomorrow. In the meantime, a universe of image, paint-begging-moments. Wirld curling churns.

Two-thirds of my life, Igneus Press. Growing up, poetry, gardens, my dad. Dead dogs and tragedies, loss of love and humid weather. Always writing alongside life, always letters there in the background, some sort of white noise or winsome narrative. Stone Soup poetry readings in Cambridge, visits to Bedford, New Hampshire from Wally Butts, Bill Kemmett, Bob Synyder, Pete Laska. Visits to Dick Martin’s in West Roxbury, Deac over, too. Other times in Portsmouth at Wally’s house, with Steph. Those were, actually, the days. I remember cognac and private readings with poets. Rolling rock and Newports were Wally’s thing. Bob Synder asking some poor woman at the kitchen table, “You aren’t a Christian, are you?”, she answers humbly, “I am, though”, and he shoots back, “What a drag!”. As a fifteen year old, that sort of interaction sensitized me.

Working with my father these past seven years to take on the press, after he’s gone from earth, which Praise the Dao, will be eternities from now, I am heartened. Dialoguing with Igneus writers, on the phone and online, touching base, I know I am never alone. We are never alone. Not with sadness or pain. Nor with sunshine and gain.

We hope to have the online store open within the week, with Bland’s book online for purchase within the month. We also hope you’ll read our Blog and leave comments. Let’s talk about poetry.

[i]Fengshui 风水, is the art of geomancy. Literati were, in China, a mostly aristocratic class of intellectuals and artists. Literati would be sensitive to fengshui norms which (1) believed a desk should never have its back to an entrance, and (2) should face south, emulating Chinese emperors on the throne,  who being incarnations of the sun, always faced south. I bring a Chinese mind this this experience here. Igneus has a certain Chinese influence, among others. Consider, Pete Laska’s mention of ancient Greek materialism in “History and Memory” assemblage of Morning in America (Igneus, 2016) reminds me of Zhang Heng (78-139 c.e.) and Wang Chong(27-97 ce). The former is an eastern Han northern literati, astronomer, geographer, mathematician, scientist and inventor; the latter an eastern Han southern literati and philosopher who wrote the bible of ancient Chinese materialism. Also see: PJLaska’s New Publication The Original Wisdom of the Dao De Jing by P. J. Laska (Eccsbooks, 2012), a daring vote for afterlife right here and now on earth, as ourselves. But I digress.

 

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A Few Words for Ken Warren, by Peter Kidd

American Poetry suffered a huge loss this past month when Ken Warren gave up the sheath. His publication House Organ, to my discerning eye, has become the most relevant venue always filled with an eclectic mix of well known poets, as well as unknown poets, and jesters. I first met Ken in Gloucester, Massachusetts, during the city’s holding of a “Charles Olson Festival” commemorating the poet who put Gloucester onto the map of American Poetry. There was to be a panel presentation and discussion in an amiably large hall near the library. On the panel were Robert Creeley, Vincent Ferrini, Hattie Jones, Ed Sanders and perhaps another person or two who I can’t recall. The audience was filled with a crowd of townspeople and a plethora of Northeast Corridor poets. In the course of the day I ran into at least 15 poets I had known or read with over the years. The main library near the discussion hall put on a presentation before the panel came together. It was a festival day in Gloucester, one of many I have enjoyed over the years. Those include Know Fish Ball, Ferrini’s 80th birthday party, and more recently a Ferrini day: meal and dance celebrating what would have been Ferrini’s 100th Birthday. He died in 2007.

I took along my neighbor, Harry Meizner, to the Olson Festival where I first met Ken. Meizner had been a student of Olson’s at SUNY Buffalo. Once on the grounds of the festival we took off in different directions after making plans to meet back at this spot. When we came back together, Harry was talking nonstop to this fellow, Ken Warren. Brief introductions, then we took off together to find a small restaurant. It turned out to be a one-of-a kind meal where friends were made. Ken already knew me by name via my being Publisher of Igneus Press. Igneus published most of Ferrini’s books beginning in 1990 and ending in 2001. Ken was an avid fan of most things Ferrini or Olson. He had yet to begin his magazine. Destiny dictated that he first edit and publish, along with Fred Whitehead, a selected book of Ferrini’s poems, The Whole Song. Consequently, Ken and I exchanged addresses and telephone numbers and kept in touch for the ensuing years.

The panel was wonderful, animated and informative. The members all knew one another over the years, so it was not uncommon for one of them to trigger the memories and synapses of one another as they went along. The audience was infected enough by the dialogue that they joined in, too. There were many close friends in this bunch. People like Peter Anastas, Elizabeth McKim and myself.

I fondly recall smoking a joint at intermission with Ed Sanders and Steve Luttrell from Portland, Maine. Steve was and is one of the founders of Café Review, another fine small press magazine and reading venue. Igneus poets had read as guests of the Café Review two or three times, bringing Bill Kemmett, W.E. Butts, Ferrini, P.J. Laska, Rich Blevins, Bob Snyder and myself, just to mention a few.

Fast Forward to 2000, I had driven my pickup truck to Cleveland for a visit with poet P.J. Laska, a longtime friend and collaborator. His wife, Warene, was the Chief Dietician at the two VA Hospitals in Cleveland. During my time with Laska, we made contact with Ken Warren and met up at Bob Podgurski’s house for an afternoon of pulling the poetic taffy. I recall that House Organ was underway. This time with Ken was rewarding. By now I had read some of his essays on Olson. I learned early on during these readings that Ken was truly an emerging scholar. He worked as a librarian which gave him the disciplines of researching, cross referencing and trying to tie some of the knots off that make up American Poetry.

Gradually, his simple little zine (made by folding an 8.5” x 11” paper lengthwise then using stapling as the binding) came to be as unpretentious as Ken was so it took very little time for the magazine to gain a following. I know I shared it with every poet I took seriously, including Rich Blevins and Richard Martin. Diversity is the first thing that comes to mind when I attempt to describe Ken’s impacting magazine. Intelligence and a sharp, poetic ear both make up the backbone, so it attracted poets from both coasts as contributors to a small zine originated in a small Ohio town.

I liked House Organ immediately. It included work from poets I knew as a young man, in San Francisco, like Jack Hirschman, as well as Martha King in NYC doing her wonderful little zine Giants Play In the Drizzle. Ken began to write essays on Olson’s relationship with the Grail. My father in law, Trevor Ravenscroft had written a book, Spear of Destiny which Ken had read. One summer Ken had called me up on his almost annual trip to Gloucester, he was with Vincent and wanted to drive up to New Hampshire to talk about the Grail. As much as I wished I could, the timing was bad, I was in midst of a divorce and my house was a war zone. But I began to respond to his essays, once or twice with poems, another time in a letter, where I informed him that Olson would be involved in the Gawain stream, too sentient to actually witness the Grail. As to Ferrini I suggested to Ken that he read or reread Wolfram Von Eschenbach’s Parsival, and study the character of Guernamantz, the man who educates the youthful Parsival “not to ask too many question.”

I last saw Ken in Gloucester the day of the 100th Birthday Anniversary of Vincent Ferrini being held at Cape Ann Museum, which holds the personal papers of Ferrini. It was the Summer of 2013. There was also a dinner dance, but in the afternoon there was a panel comprised of Peter Anastas, Elizabeth McKim, Ken Warren, Fred Whitehead, myself and a couple youngish scholars. I sat between Elizabeth and Ken on stage. I had to chuckle at the idea of fields of scholarship existing around older friends. In this information age scholarship seems to have eaten all the meat off the bones of the past, having moved on to devouring my own generation and its overlaps. I was the first in the room, had the hall all to myself. There was a piano on the stage, I sat down and played my one small melody. In a short while people made their way into the hall, downstairs at the Museum. Ken walked into the room with Fred Whitehead. I gave Ken a hug and handshake. It was genuinely good to see him. We went upstairs and out into a nicely landscaped brick courtyard. I sat and lit a cigarette while Ken grilled me about some Grail information, as well as my father-in-law’s book. It was fun. We both exchanged life information. He was retired, had moved back to his native New York. He seemed to be very active in his new life. Recently divorced as was I at 60, we compared notes and then talked about the Old Man, Ferrini, who had generously made himself available to our generations, actually 5 half generations that I know of, including my daughter, Sophia, who had become pals with Vincent toward the end of his life.

It happened that I had recently sent Ken a review I wrote on a recent Laska book, Night & Day. One of my big squawks over the years as the publisher of Igneus Press, and also as a reviewer has been how long it takes a book of poems to attract a reviewer then get written and submitted to a mag or journal, honestly 18 months is speed setting, two years is more realistic. This lag essentially guarantees the review, once in print, serves little help in marketing a book. By the time most reviews see print the wave of the new book has broken onto the shore. I sent Ken my review on Laska’s wonderful collection of poems and in less than two weeks I received a copy of House Organ with the Laska review in print, even before the usual note of acceptance arrived , thanking me for the submission.

In ending I shall say that we are all the poorer for Ken Warren’s passing, both the loss of Ken as a scholar and a thinker, and the loss of his editorial intelligence as practiced in his capacity as the beneficial force behind House Organ. I know I shall miss him as a man and ally. I suspect there are many who’ll miss Ken and his devotion to American Poetry.

Peter Kidd

Igneus Press

Canyon, Texas

*For other recent tributes to Ken Warren, see also Peter Anastas’ thoughtful piece, as well as Poetry Foundation’s homage to Warren and his great small press periodical, House Organ.

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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
Boston
April, 2014

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With Vincent Ferrini in Boston: a Conversation, by P.J. Laska

by P.J. Laska

[ SCENE ONE: A mom and pop Chinese restaurant next to the Combat Zone. Mom and Pop are at the next table folding won-tons. Mom has a bad eye. She brings hot tea in a glass that scalds your fingers.]

PJL–This looks like a place I dreamed once. I went for a walk, the sidewalks heaved up. I looked inside. The sign said Narragansett Lager Beer.
VF—Dreams are where it starts. Yeats said that’s where you find the folk ghost.
PJL–I can’t read Yeats. Why are all the great Modernist poets reactionaries?
VF—It’s the language that gets them. They FORGET poetry comes before the poem. The poem is an ARTIFACT, for crissake.
PJL–Listen to this: “What remains with me is the individualist and careerist atmosphere of the old literary world.” Mayakovsky wrote that sixty years ago.
VF—Yeah, bloodless, the literary mode. But there’s no separation. EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED! The isolatos don’t see it, the commissars don’t see it. This conference they want me to go to, I don’t know–the ego demands smoke up the atmosphere.
PJL–Theory, you mean?
VF—Yeah, theory. You have to let go of it at some point and do it. The more you get into your own art, in your own place–that’s where it’s at! You walk where you live, accurately, and it makes things happen. Listen, the strength is in the particular. The general perspective is useless.
PJL–Except for what isn’t there–the unrealities. Anyway, the poem has to more from the particular, doesn’t it, to some common element.
VF—I think we’re missing each other.
PJL–Maybe we’re on different trains, going in the same direction. Localism isn’t the only workable poetics.
VF—Look, we’re split selves, the head from the heart, and the community flounders, the worst are in control. Where are the poets? Isolated, in most cases, disconnected. And the Church–it’s the same with them. Worse. Their insensitivity to the spontaneous just amazes me. The Daily Worker rejected me back them because I was “too local.” Ferlinghetti rejected Know Fish because it was “too local.” But where does revolution take place? First in daily struggle. Now this conference, I don’t look forward to it because I’ll have to confront the same deadly mentality I did in the Thirties and Forties. Power…Divide and Conquer…. But, I’ll go…there will be a few people.

[SCENE TWO: A Walking Tour. I don’t know Boston. Ferrini is giving me a tour]

PJL–I spent part of a summer in here when I was in grad school. The women wore bell bottom jeans with LOVE patches sewn on them. I still remember the inscription in stone at the museum: Es Ist der Geist / Der Sich den Korper Baut.
VF—The poem united with the act.
PJL–What?
VF—The poet heals with an image of the whole man.
PJL–Sounds shamanistic.
VF–Olson said that. His concern was World Medicine, not literature.
PJL–So, what does it mean, that there’s more to being a poet than writing poems?
VF—Now you’re catchin’ on. A poet’s nothing apart from people, apart from place.
PJL–You were close to Olson?
VF—The head and the heart. Shem and Shaun of the same mother. Olson was half Irish. All my wives have been Irish. He was a powerful person, on the scale of Yeats.
PJL–He wanted the whole whale–so why didn’t he write novels?
VF–The whole is in the part, in the local.
PJL–But Olson’s poetics is quirky. He thought you could make the leap by adding more content. Let the camera roll and get something essential. It might work, but if you end up with coherent form, it’s a happy accident.
VF—He succeeded sometimes. Like in “As the Dead Prey Upon Us,” where his dead mother’s mixed in with his falling under his car and a fight with his neighbor.
PJL–The past comes back–that’s real. But so much is idiopathic detail, not difference that makes a difference.
VF–”Moonset Glouchester.” There’s another.
PJL–What holds it together?
VF—Place–and his mother.
PJL--Can place hold it together? I don’t see it. He goes to the other extreme– random selection. The only thing holding it together is the ego that pushes it.
VF—The fuckin’ ego got in his way.
PJL–You mean he makes it an absolute?
VF—That was his pit! Any absolute has to have at least two people. That’s why it works when his mother is there.
PJL–Love, hate, friendship?
VF–He had a great capacity for love and hate.

[On a street near the Library we pass some old row houses dating back to 1830. There are vegetable gardens in vacant lots]

VF—The fact is the Earth. Don’t write with an eye on the Library. There’re concerned with getting in the libraries, and there’re won’t be any fuckin’ libraries.
[We continue on to the concrete plaza in front of the Library]
VF—Here, see this fuckin’ plaque. Kalil Gibran! His nephew the architect put it here. Do you believe that! He made some fuckin’ donation to the City. John Wheelwright was killed by a car just a few blocks from here. Where’s his plaque?

PJ LASKA

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Peter Kidd’s Review of NIGHT & DAY by P.J.Laska

NIGHT & DAY

P. J. Laska

Xlibris, Poetry

146 pages, $18.50

Amazon.com

Vincent Ferrini introduced me to P. J. Laska in the late 1970’s. I was living in Athens County, Ohio and he was a native West Virginian who had recently reviewed Ferrini’s opus Know Fish.. We corresponded for several years with the occasional talk on the telephone until his work as a social worker in the rundown coal towns brought him to Boston for a conference. By then, I had moved to Bedford, New Hampshire, so I picked him up and housed him for a few days before depositing him in Gloucester, Massachusetts for a visit with Ferrini.  We have been friends ever since, working on many projects over the years. My own Igneus Press published his The Day The Eighties Began in 1991.  Several of those poems are included in this collection, which spans some 35 years of his writings. NIGHT & DAY is a glimpse of his evolution over that time period, as well as an anthropological study of the times, the politics, the struggles, and the ever-evolving nature of man and consciousness. A few chosen lines from the entry poem titled THE DAY THE EIGHTIES BEGAN exemplifies.

It was the day clouds hung over the downtown

like florescent lights in hospital waiting rooms

 

It was the day the President winked and joked as he used two

hundred gold-tipped pens to sign de-regulating Savings

& Loans Banks

 

It was the day a crazy woman painted herself green and stood

naked at the intersection

 

It was the day when things could be seen very clearly in the distance.

THE KENT STATE MONUMENTS is a reminder of the history in which his and my  generation were immersed throughout the Viet Nam war and gives the sense of ultimate militarily-enforced, corporate oligarchy that was forming as Ike had warned. Kent State seemed such an unlikely third part to our academic Holy Trinity of Insight, joining Berkeley and Columbia. This pastoral state university in the Heartland built in a cornfield and hosting sons and daughters of farmers and trades people became totally politicized by the gunshots of the National Guard that killed and injured those exercising their right to free speech. Later that night the students burnt down the ROTC building and the ante was raised.  Neil Young kept the drama alive in his song “Four Dead in Ohio.”

2

Laska’s first section, I. ANTI-LYRIC, pokes great fun at our human condition. We spend a wild night with Geronimo, pay a visit to a café, then, hear crowing about academia.

AT THE NARCISSIST CAFÉ

Bold and unsharing

the urban sparrow

under the table

covets the too big

crust of bread

 

CROW CULTURE

The collegial crows

keep their distance

each to his own tree

The second section, II. DIVINING THE PAST, is permeated with the landscape of Appalachia, the smell of coal smoke, the wild flowers, the broken down downtowns, the women who formed his desires, and the smoked-filled life of restaurants serving mediocre cuisine back before the days of “fine dining.”

APPALACHIAN FOG MUSIC

Bassoons in the hardwoods

Oboes in the pines

Cellos in the hollows

Kettledrums in the mines

Laska’s widow poems, often “step tales” told by the widows of dead miners, are poems plucked from his stint as a social worker in Appalachia. These works strike a delicate balance between an intelligent wisdom and an ear tuned to hear the actual music of the Appalachian words and dialect. Laska has the self-discipline to use his intellect only as tool, which allows the widows to do the speaking.

Two stanzas from his ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT succinctly describe the Archpoet, Bob Snyder

       stopping at the herm of the Mason-Dixon Line

to confess his last vision and verse

 

I cannot abide the grubby capitalist for thanks

      to him the price is up on every bottle of cheap wine

                                                                                                                                             3                                  

In the 90’s Laska joined up with Joe Barrett and Bob Snyder to form the Mason Dixon Trio, a poetic Bluegrass jug band. They put together a collection distributed by Soupbean Press Old Martins, New Strings, a wonderful mix of the pensive, philosophic Laska, the poet’s poet Barrett , and the romantic, comedic poet Snyder. After the deaths of Barrett and Snyder, Laska formed another book by the Trio put out by Igneus titled Mason Dixon Sutra. Several poems from those books are sprinkled into NIGHT & DAY .

Make no mistake, Laska is no regionalist. His work reaches back to the Tao and into the pop art of road signs. The only possible streams one can put Laska’s work into is the Whitmanic, which would include Hart Crane, sometimes Dr. Williams, and certainly Henry Miller, and the leftist dissident stream which would include the origins of Ferrini’s roots in the 1930’s in Lynn, Massachusetts, working at the GE factory. His overview and intelligence make him so much more than a generational poet. One thing both Laska and I learned from our mutual friend of many years, Ferrini, is that we are not just writing to our generation, but to our children’s generation and their children also. Ferrini outlived and outlasted most of his detractors in his own generation and was met with open arms by following generations. This is a lesson many contemporary poets have yet to learn.

The last section, III. THE ABBOTT AND SATIVA, are magnificent sequences of experimental writing. At times it takes on the appearance of a polemic, at other times the feel of pure Greek Dialogue. It is a word play, showing how language can be used as a runway to consciousness versus artifact. Its microcosms are portholes to the universe. In BREAKFAST WITH UNCLE LAO, we, along with the Abbott and Sativa, get to discuss the word “virtue” and whether it is “dead” or whether “words have an immortal soul?”

I love how the theme of food, be it snack or an entire meal, seems to be a central theme. In the TALKING CAT, the Abbott argues with the cat over its food fussiness by saying,  “See what a little bit of civilization has done to you.” There is also an intimacy in these dialogues approaching the sensuality of true open-mindedness and succinctly described in THE ABBOTT TO SATIVA.

Talking to you is like taking

truth serum

 

So you say now, she replied, but

how will it look in the morning?

After having breakfast with Uncle Lao, it makes perfect sense that the Abbott takes part in

SMOKING WITH LI PO.

Two tokes

and we commune with the Dao

                                                                                                                                          4

         Two more

And we roll on the floor laughing.

A DIALOGUE ON THE SOUL is a conversational vignette, again set around a meal. In his most compassionate way Laska takes on the old question handed down from Socrates as his final dialogue. He hints at the marvelous world of non-design and the open nature of consciousness. He implores Dr. Paradisio to plunge deeper into the questions and nature of being, past the inherited paradigms.

I think this collection NIGHT & DAY is an essential book. Laska has never pandered to the American poetry scene or the times. He is a genuine thinker with an ear to the railroad tie about the joys and heartbreaks of living these past 70 years. His poems and ideas are formed organically, not constructs, like so much of contemporary poetry seems to prefer. Instead they pay attention to the human ear, eye and pace. That such an intelligent and empathetic man can write such clear, concise words in the measure of the true breath is what keeps Laska and his work very interesting, important and visionary. My only squawk would be no table of contents, to balance this review.

William Kemmett, another of a handful of poets I take seriously, wrote the following poem about this work of Laska’s.

“this philosopher Knows

the dust of the coal mines

like a black & white

movie tells it like it is

Some things cannot be told

in color, NIGHT & DAY

will have you choking back

the tears of old Appalachia

through the eyes of Someone

who was & still is there.”

 

Peter Kidd

Publisher, Igneus Press

 

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