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.

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.


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.


Holiday in Preutopia, Day 3: Albuquerque, NM

Holiday in Preutopia, Day 2: OK Panhandle, TX, Albuquerque

Kids mostly slept through the night, Bebe found a sweet spot close to my thigh that kept her cozy and satisfied.
Up and on the road about 8AM. We have about 6.5 hours of driving time, but likely much more due to kid-necessitated stops.
So begins the drive west through OK. Not that interesting.
We pass into TX. The geological features are neat for about an hour. Then it’s flat like western KS. Then we get to Amarillo, aka Restaurant Row. Amarillo springs up out of the flatland and you find yourself on the highway, bombarded by raised signage for this eatery or that – maybe 5/7 miles of this – then it just stops. And the flatland returns. Not slow sprawl out back to ranchland. Just city then ranch. Amarillo didn’t seem too impressive. Anyone ever visited there? Anything going for it? We did see ads for visiting the U.S.’s second largest canyon and that looked cool…
More driving.
More screaming Bebe. She hates, hates, hates the car.
Then we hit NM and its beautiful landscape. We pull over for lunch and are greeted by signs warning of rattlesnakes. Awesome.
Lunch is yum and fast and then it’s back on the road.
A couple hours later: we drive up and over the Sandia Mountains and make our descent into Albuquerque. We exit the highway almost immediately and head to our hosts’ home, which sports a swell view of the mountains and the city proper below. Ahhh…relief.
The kids get to playing. We’re served some fantastic enchiladas and green-chili-chicken casserole. We’re tired and enjoying the scenery, the weather, the company. Vacation…

Holiday in Preutopia, Day 2: OK Panhandle, TX, Albuquerque

Holiday in Preutopia, Day 1: Oklahoma

I’m up at 5. We were up until midnight the night before, packing and loading. I finish loading, burn some music to CD, and run upstairs to wake Hot Pants and the kids. One last minute check to make sure we’ve got everything (and it seems like we’ve got EVERYthing) and we’re off. Sarah’s Pop got her a GPS for her birthday – tomorrow, for those who wish to harass her – and we plug in the coordinates for the Oklahoma City Zoo and roll. Goddamn, GPSeseses are awesome. Why did we not have one of these things before?
We stop 3 times on the way to OKC for bathroom breaks and general-get-the-kids-out-and-stretch breaks.
The Flint Hills are absolutely breathtaking this time of year.
The OK zoo is OK. Their tiger forest was real bitchin’. Their aquarium was pretty lackluster, and their elephants were M.I.A. And it was hot! Like 1 million degrees. We lasted about 3 hours and were out.
Back on the road.
Our overnight spot to rock is the Days Inn in Clinton, OK. It’s Sunday night in small-town, Oklahoma. Not much is open. Good thing we brought our own beer.
It takes over an hour to get the kids to sleep. Ro’s pretty good, just antsy being somewhere new. Bebe ain’t having the shit. I pat her bottom for 10 minutes, she’s quiet. I stop, she rolls over, laughs, and grabs my nose. 45 minutes later and I’m wondering who’s gonna win, she or I, and she’s out. Ro’s out. Hot Pants is typing for work and telling me about the church shooting today. Our hotel is overrun by college-aged kids and they’re living it up at the pool: right outside our window. I have a theory that they are all actually locals and this is their Sunday night ritual: to pitch in and get a room and a keg and have hotel pool parties. I think I heard some Russians in the lobby, talking on their cell phones and looking at Russian Facebook on a community PC.
I’m typing and my back hurts and it’s time for bed.
Tomorrow, Albuquerque.

Holiday in Preutopia, Day 1: Oklahoma

Vegas Vacation

Quite possibly the most enchanting yet repulsive city I’ve ever visited.

And by far the strangest.

The world’s first post-modern city whose main attractions are simulacrum of other cities arranged in a mall-like setting. Soon, you will need only travel to Vegas to visit every other city in the world.

Avoid NYC. Visit New York, New York.

Egypt is a foreign land. Instead come to Luxor.

Monte Carlo anyone?

Screw the French. America has its own Paris now.

Is the only Italian you know “pizza” and “Mario”? Visit The Venetian.

Hell, in Vegas, you can even travel back in time to the time of the Roman Empire.

Because in Vegas time doesn’t exist. The Strip casts a spell over you so that you lose days without realizing or caring about it.

Let me detail for you a bit about our trip:
So you know Sa Rah won the Buzz’s Trippin’ Thursdays prize.
The Buzz crew went with us to Vegas.
As soon as we arrive at the airport, while waiting for our collective limo, we see a little munchkin walk out the doors and right past us.
Some of the girls in the group whisper frantically to get Scoops’ (one of the morning hosts’) attention.

Scoops thrilled to have met his American Idol, we cram into a limo bus and head to the Monte Carlo. It’s Monday afternoon.

Sa Rah and I have never been to Vegas nor gambled before. We opted to check out a bit of the Strip first. So we head down to NY, NY, Excalibur, and the Luxor.

(Awaiting the famed Golden Rains of King Tut)

At 7PM Monday night, we were to met up at the Irish Pub at NY, NY, where we got free food and drink.

We get to the pub and shoot the shite for a couple of hours with the Buzz crew and the other winners. Then we went to bed.

Vegas Strip Fact 1: Hotel/Casino ATMs only spit out $100 bills. And they charge you $3.50.

Tuesday morning I woke up early and went downstairs to get a bite to eat. Whoever said Vegas had cheap food is full of doo-doo. We saw nowhere cheap to eat. But the things we ate were generally very tasty.

Tuesday morning – 10AM we meet up with some people from our group to take a tour of the city. This was pretty fun. Took us downtown, to the old Strip, and out to the Vegas suburbs, which looked a helluva lot like Johnson County, only more brown (if you can believe that). Then we went to a chocolate factory. Then we went to a cactus garden and it was visually entertaining so let me throw a few photos of desert foliage your way:

Then…oh yes…we went to the Elvis-A-Rama museum. Lord have mercy.

The one of many – The Simulation Elvis!

Elvis was a treat for me, a trial for Sa Rah. She was kinda wigged out by the thing.

At this point we left the tour and headed across the street to the Fashion Show mall where we had $115 in gift certificates to spend. We ate some delightful tapas and I bought a swank brown, Brazilian blazer and Sarah scored a sweet, Mad-Max-inspired jacket. This was about 4:00. We had a couple of hours to get back to the hotel and get ready for Tuesday’s entertainment, The Blue Man Group. We decided to walk back to the hotel.

Along the way we found this very subtle sculpture:

We get to the show and get the dirt on all the crew’s goings-on in Vegas*. The show’s attendants passed out paper with which we were to decorate ourselves.

Here’s Suzi McDumbitch in bondage mode:

Some other winners, Lonnie and Jen:

And my little Pocahotass:

(Although she said she was a karate master and the guy behind us kept calling her “Rambo”.)

The Blue Man Group was insane and I wish I could present you with a video of the entire show. But I can’t so let’s move on.

We took a tram back to the hotel like N2Deep and Sa Rah cold passed out. I went down to the casino and lost some money.

Vegas Strip Fact 2: There is a walk you are forced to do in Vegas called the Geriatric Shuffle. You will be outnumbered by senior citizens in Vegas 80-million-to-1 so get used to this slow, ambling pace.

The next morning, Wednesday, we wanted to check out some more hotels.

So we went to The Bellagio

The Venetian

(Where we got a gondola ride from and seranaded to by this dapper chap:)

And where Sa Rah faced off against a living statue:

And the Gambler himself, Kenny Rogers:

After several hours we wanted to return to the Monte Carlo and catch up with the Buzz crew to sit in on one of their taping sessions. Lazlo was interviewing the ladies of La Femme.

That evening we had free passes to get into Studio 54…but after gambling away too much money, my ass was too broke and tired so we crashed.

Vegas Strip Fact 3: Don’t look for a clock in Vegas. Time is the enemy here.

Thursday morning we met up outside for our limo trip back to the airport. Everyone looked thrashed. Lonnie and Jen missed the limo. Scoops made it to the airport, through security (they had an electronic bomb sniffer), but then couldn’t get on the plane because he lost one half of his voucher.

Awesome trip. Strange city. Great radio station.

*one of the morning hosts slept with one of the contest winners, a married woman with 4! kids.

Vegas Vacation