Today’s Poets Breathe Through America Like Born-Again Punkers: An Examination of One Instance of One Literary Road Trip Out of Thousands of Literary Road Trips Occuring On Any Given Day in the U, S, & A

I’m on the floor, a floor, the floor. A floor in an apartment in Pittsburgh, PA and it is glorious. The night before I was on a couch in a house in Parma, OH, just outside of Cleveland. The night before I was in the back seat of a white Chevy Impala traveling from a Belle, MO still-flooded all around from torrential rains earlier in the week, muddy Gasconade River hungering for more life, fuckers, yet, somehow, the literary gods smiled down upon this trip, and opened an eastbound route out of Belle around 8PM, which we used to hightail it to the Red Carpet Inn in Monroe, IL, and where I fall asleep at 2AMish in a bed mercifully free from bed bugs.

The scene is this: John Dorsey, Poet Laureate of Belle, MO, and all around indie poet tour de force (his 50th book just released last month) sits in the Impala’s passenger seat. He doesn’t drive. Victor Clevenger, a rising tide of poetic madness making a mark on this-this, whatever this is, wherever he shows up to read, drives that heavenly-white, smooth-sailing Impala without fail, without error, without objection. And, like I told ya, I am in the back, grateful for it all. We travel light, long, and relentless. This poetry is a this with a tankful of books.

The scene is this: At White Whale Bookstore in Pittsburgh, PA. ~50 people are inside, escaping what I’m told is a typical, cold, rainy, spring night in Pittsburgh. 50 people to hear/watch poetry read aloud. Does this seem typical to you? Would you expect 5 people? 500? The readers never know and I suspect those organizing the readings really don’t know either. But, just like a band playing for 1 or 10,000, the reader is expected to deliver. I feel good saying that the people I’m with tonight deliver like fucking Fed-Ex. Afterwards, folks mill about. We get questions about why we’d come from Kansas City to do this. The answer is simple but not wholly satisfying: This poetry is a this with a desire to move.

The scene is this: An upstairs bedroom of an otherwise unassuming house in Parma, OH. I don’t get to see it in person, but my mind’s eye tells me that that bedroom is chock-full of manuscripts and letter-pressed covers that will soon bind chapbooks and there are envelopes and pens and loose papers and notebooks and binders and paper cutters and inkjet printers and boxes filled with more impressively-printed documentation and markers and papers and papers and papers and books books books everywhere: books of friends’ work, books for friends, books for sale, books for trade, books to submit to contests, books to read, books to donate, books to carry along, and books to leave behind. This poetry is a this with an indie press like a record label.

This poetry is a this that is nothing new. Cities have birthed tiny presses since the dinosaurs first founded New Raptor City – but the dinos didn’t have the internets to organize in greater numbers across such great divides. This new poetry is a new rock ‘n roll, one that welcomes all ages, goes out of its way to respect its elders. This poetry rallies in jest against poetry less lived in and poetry written by the obviously unread and poetry that holds itself beholden to a performance without metaphor and is happy to embrace the imperfect. John Dorsey and Victor Clevenger and Juliet Cook and Jason Baldinger and Marlana Eck and R.A. Washington and Jeannette Powers and Paul Koniecki and Charlie Zero and probably you – reading this right now – are each little Johnny Poetryseeds – dropping verses here and there, sometimes near, sometimes far – in an effort to…to what? That’s the joy. Motivations are legion and community matters in order to cast and wrangle such a wide net and you see, there are others like you out there, others who want to read good poems, engage with a recitation, contribute to a thing that is a thing like any other thing yet this thing is a thing for misfit wordsmiths whom have not yet (for the most part) been given proper due but whom have already wowed audiences in ways that they beg for more. This poetry is a this for those making love in bookstores.

The scene is this: A 3-day small-press, poetry festival in Kansas City, MO that features a blend of out-of-towners and locals reading poems back-to-back-to-back for 5 hour stretches. It is exhausting and it is pure magic. Pure magic that the whole thing works. Pure magic that the quality of work is so incredibly high. Pure magic suffusing the air so evidently that all involved leave imbued with the tension arising from new connections formed between cities and poets, anxious for new projects to take shape, and the welcome flow of words and words and words flow from hands and mouths and minds. This poetry is a this spreading one chapbook at a time.

In Pittsburgh, Becky Corrigan reads delicate stanzas about life in a steel-hearted town.
In Pittsburgh, Karla Lamb whispers surreal stanzas.
In Pittsburgh, Victor Clevenger teases back door lovin’.
In Pittsburgh, Nikki Allen talks of Egypt and heartache.
In Pittsburgh, John Dorsey bellows, “Sam Ryan is in noodle heaven!”
In Pittsburgh, there is wine (of course) and beer (of course) and talking with writers about writers and what’s being written next and where to we’ll go after this. All of this.
This poetry is a this we can do as only we can do.

This is not a poetry screaming, “Fuck you!” to the world. It’s more sincere, though no less angry. This poetry is a DIY how you do how you do. This poetry is a this selling books for beer and gas. This poetry is a this that often calls “readings” “gigs”. This poetry is a this with pens and paper as 3 bare chords. This poetry is a This, by God. This is a this for those not trapped by words but trapped in words. This poetry is a this for the Attention Economy. This poetry offers breathing room to the Instant I. This poetry encapsulates engaged emotional response, effective in a few lines, a few seconds, hovers right on the edge of a swipe or a click or a yawn or a character limit.

What is this poetry-this? Those making the books know this-this without having to discuss it much. Those reading and writing the books are staking claims to this-this. Those who come to find themselves bearing witness to this-this come back and when they come back they may have a few loose leafs in their hand and a pen behind one ear. This-this is cats running around a house in the middle of the night looking for a way to get outside, outside where the squeaky mice live, where a bright moon shines, where the other cats wait to bite big ears then lick clean their wounds with sandpaper tongues.

This-this is every this before it. It is a punk rock and it is a hip-hop and it is a dada and it is an art brut and it is a rave and it is a beat and it is a lost and it is a hippie and a romantic, too. But this-this is, in its own mad way, its own twisty, line-broken this, whatever its tangential tentacled refraction of all other modalities of creative expression. And this-this, this-this, this-this…warrants your eyes and your minds and your engagements. I have seen. I have heard. And you should, too. This poetry is a this that you may well remember. This poetry is a this that is damned hard to forget.

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Today’s Poets Breathe Through America Like Born-Again Punkers: An Examination of One Instance of One Literary Road Trip Out of Thousands of Literary Road Trips Occuring On Any Given Day in the U, S, & A

What We Are Doing Here is What We Are Doing Here: St. Louis Poetry Explosion Recap

Where to start? And how?

Let’s suppose (for today) that this all started when the parents of John Dorsey met and a little baby John Dorsey was born. Then let’s say we flash-forward some years (hoping I get this story straight) to when the aforementioned Mr. Dorsey was completing a residency at the Osage Arts Center in Belle, MO. Perhaps then came a cold and dark night in the winter of 2016 as a poetry reading was held at the aforementioned Osage Arts Center and brought together from Kansas City and St. Louis (and other locales) a group of writers known to the aforementioned Mr. Dorsey. Some of these writers may have had names like: Brett Underwood, Shawn Pavey, Stefene Russell, Jeanette Powers, Brandon Whitehead, Jim McGowin, Jason Ryberg, & Jameson Bayles. Literary kinships were kindled and the writers went their wanton way, back to their cloistered cities to plot and scheme.

And what foul and flowing plots did froth over from their fiery minds.

The aforementioned Mr. Bayles (with the help of the aforementioned Mr. Ryberg) dreamed and delivered The Kansas City Poetry Throwdown in April 2016.

Not to be outdone, the St. Louis schemers upped the literary ante by programming and producing 3 high-caliber events of poetic repute from which we are all attempting to recover. I have no idea how I got invited along but I didn’t want to waste the opportunity so, for the weekend, I composed a lengthy protest poem entitled America Hates You, America which I split into 3 parts to be read across the 3 events. I hope to put up a link to AHYA in the near future.

Day One:

Event Space: Joe’s Cafe Gallery

This space is like Pee-wee’s Playhouse. I want to move my family here. Inside we met old friends. We made new friends. The aforementioned Jeanette Powers read some poems. I read some poems. The aforementioned Shawn Pavey then the aforementioned Brandon Whitehead read some poems. Don’t believe me? Here is live footage of the aforementioned Brandon Whitehead reading:

Then came Leyla King (8th grade!!!) and finally the aforementioned John Dorsey brought the house down.

Interspersed between the poems, the collective musicians from Poetry Scores played and Holy Whitman, mother of Ginsberg! were they awesome. They translate poetry into other media, essentially turning poems into songs and sometimes scoring longer poems. I had a smile on my face from start to finish. Definitely check them out.

Day Two:

Event Space: Paul ArtSpace

This space lies on the northern outskirts of St. Louis and is a lovely house with land that provides residencies to artists and hosts various events. The Executive Director, Mike, is a true champion for creatives. The aforementioned John Dorsey is this week finishing up a residency there. Another resident at Paul ArtSpace is the crazy talented Lizzy Martinez. The poetry part of the night kicked off with a jaw-dropping performance by Treasure Shields Redmond which was followed by a gut-wrenching and heart-breaking performance by Cheeraz Gormon. After those two talented gals finished melting our faces, poems arrived from the aforementioned Shawn Pavey and the aforementioned Brandon Whitehead and Matthew Freeman and Nathaniel Farrell and Victor Clevenger and me and the aforementioned John Dorsey and the aforementioned Brett Underwood and Anna Lum and WOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWO goddamn goddamn! By the end of the night, we were reading by flashlight around a bonfire.This event was how you wished every party you ever went to popped off: tons of people with creative energy swirling together, laughing, having beers, and making plans to bring wild things into this world.

Day Three:

Event Space: Bellefontaine Cemetery, at the grave-site of William S. Burroughs

What a beautiful place to read. Bill is buried right next to his grandfather and father. Reading at this event were the aforementioned Victor Clevenger, the aforementioned Anna Lum, the aforementioned Jim McGowin, me reading a piece by Charlie Zero, the aforementioned John Dorsey reading some wholly apropos poems by Everette Maddox, and the aforementioned Brett Underwood closing with a perfect piece by Burroughs himself.

Today:

Event Space: Our Heads

An odd place to find oneself after such a sequence of happenings. A very odd place indeed.

Thank you to all the folks in St. Louis for putting everything together. I’m humbled to have been involved and inspired to make better words because of it. Can’t wait to have you all (and more) back to Kansas City.

 

 

 

What We Are Doing Here is What We Are Doing Here: St. Louis Poetry Explosion Recap

Holiday in Preutopia, Day 6: Pagosa Springs, CO to KC,KS

Up and on the road at 5AM.
Kids fuss, then fall asleep.
We crawl up and over the Rockies through the Wolf Creek Pass. Damn, CO is amazing.
We see a semi-truck that almost jack-knifed over a concrete barrier and down the mountain-side. Not very encouraging whilst traveling through the Rockies.
Yet we make it over and back down without a problem.
The temperature is 39 degrees.
And before long the mountains are behind us and we’re driving along two-lane CO highways and through small towns up to Hwy 40 and the more familiar western KS (which, by the way, is much easier on the eyes than the OK panhandle and northern tip of TX).
We pass again through the beautiful Flint Hills, this time outside of Manhattan, and we chug on through to Topeka and roll into the welcome neighborhoods of WyCo and up to Preutopia Manor about 7PM.
A great success for our first family road trip vacation.
Trip Stats:
Distance=1796 mi
Max Speed=88.9 mph
Avg Speed=66 mph
Time Traveled=27:14
Fuel Costs=$143.79
Average mpg=31.0
Carbon Footprint=.6 ton

Holiday in Preutopia, Day 6: Pagosa Springs, CO to KC,KS

Holiday in Preutopia, Day 5: Pagosa Springs, CO

Ahhhhh…..this is vacation: spending the day with your family and friends soaking in mineral-loaded, 90+-degree spring-fed pools. Surprisingly, the kids liked it (overall). They weren’t too keen on the hotter pools but that’s expected. I couldn’t hang in the hottest pool (111 – The Lobster Pot), but I did manage to take a dip in the San Juan River (60) before jumping back into a toasty 105-degree pool.
As we were leaving to get some lunch for the kiddos, and they were fussing about getting back into the car, their screams and agitations couldn’t wind up the core of warm relaxation that I found myself in…this is vacation.
I think everyone took naps that afternoon.
Then we played outside where I saw numerous fairy rings on the manicured lawn.
That evening we packed everything up as we planned to drive straight through to KC in the morning. We put the kids to bed and talked with our hosts until 11 or so, then crawled into bed.

Holiday in Preutopia, Day 5: Pagosa Springs, CO

Holiday in Preutopia, Day 4: Pagosa Springs, CO

We wake up and pack up and make the drive through northern NM into southern CO. Beautiful, beautiful drive. The kids are restless and Ro has finally begun with the “I want to go home.” We’d been expecting this – so plan to stay the night in CO then get up in the AM to head back.
Then we get to our destination (not where we stayed but why we came to visit) and we say, forget it. Pagosa Springs is gorgeous. The condo our hosts generously share with us is fully-furnished with washer/dryer/kitchen. Pimpin’.
We hit some rain on the way in so we pass on the hot springs that night and instead Sarah makes a loaded baked potato soup which we devour, then put the kids to bed.
To cap off the evening, it’s some Dogfish Head 90-Minute IPA and a soak in the condo’s hot tub, which was quite comforting at the time, but a pale shadow of the hot springs joy awaiting us.

Holiday in Preutopia, Day 4: Pagosa Springs, CO

Holiday in Preutopia, Day 3: Albuquerque, NM

Up early in the AM (always), the kids are still on CST. We throw together some cereal and sit on the back porch watching the early morning sun hit the Sandias.

Vacating (though still being hit up on the work Blackberry and trying to ignore it).

We visit Explora, the Albuquerque Kids Science Museum, and its highly entertaining for the youngsters. Bebe’s fascinated by the gravity exhibit.

Then we have some of the best Mexican food I’ve ever had in my life, holy carnitas and avocado tortas.

I like ABQ a lot. I think the mixture of Native American, Spanish, Mexican, and Old West/New West culture is interesting and the surrounds seem rip for adventure. I could easily live here. 300 sunny days a year? Yes, thanks. Bike lanes everywhere? Oh, yes. The downside is that I believe the population is growing insanely and the city is doing everything it can to keep up and still maintain a sense of itself. I wish them luck.

That night, our hosts take us for a tour up to the foothills for a view of the city at night: stellar. Then we drink a bottle of fine, New Mexican Syrah.

Vacating.

Holiday in Preutopia, Day 3: Albuquerque, NM