All The Poems and Some of The Videos

Maybe I should have titled this, “Some of the Poems and Videos,” because what I’m putting up here is a small handful of published work, but that title sounds pretty bland. I got two poems published on the 15th by The Bicycle Review, a lit mag out of Oakland, CA, had a poem featured on my friend Mike Watt’s “Watt From Pedro Show” followed by the legendary blues man Son House on September 28th, and typed my name into YouTube* this morning to find two videos from a year or two ago of me reading at Terpoets. So, without further ado, here’s all of that stuff. Let me know what you think! I am available for reading gigs in the DC/MD/VA area and open to solicitations for submission to any magazine that might be interested.

http://www.thebicyclereview.net/current-issue.html

http://twfps.com/pages/show.php?sid=343

Not Secret

My sister Jamie called me over a week ago about a project she had in mind dealing with the NSA and the Snowden case. Naturally, I was just an eensy-weensy bit intrigued. Fast-forward a week and Jamie asks me over gchat if I’d write a poem for this project. Meanwhile, I’m neck deep in editing the Disorientation Guide and trying to find some time for self-care. She said that the person who she was going to collaborate with bailed and that she needed it in a day and a half. Nobody likes to have deadlines thrust on them, but this one really came together easily. We had a couple of lengthy discussions on Snowden, the NSA, and the value of the printed word, so I was in the right creative headspace.  Jamie is my favorite artist to collaborate with, so keep your eyes peeled for more Kutner sibling creativity. Without further ado, here’s our latest project, “Not Secret.”

 

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Feliz Cumpleaños, Garcia Lorca!

 

Why don’t we rename this week dead gay poets week? Or maybe just gay poets week, since we don’t call that silly holiday between George Washington and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays “Dead President’s Day.”* Walt Whitman, Federico Garcia Lorca, and Allen Ginsberg were all born in the same week at the beginning of June. Whitman influenced Lorca, Lorca and Whitman influenced Ginsberg, and all three of them influenced me. I was born at the end of April and I’m nowhere near as talented as those three, but I’m still happy to claim that lineage.

 

Lorca stands out among this lucky Pierre of poetic genius as the lone playwright and painter. Lorca’s plays are surreal, strange, and at least in my experiences, hard to track down in print.** His paintings and drawings are mostly of and influenced by his friend, Salvador Dali. Dali and Lorca had an incredibly intimate friendship and Lorca was very much in love with Dali. It’s not entirely clear whether they had sex or not, as the official narrative has the super-straight Dali rejecting every single one of Lorca’s advances. Reading between the lines of their letter to each other, understanding that people aren’t bound by the gay-straight binary, and an actively dirty imagination have all lead me to speculate that they probably did it a few times. The only two people who know for sure are dead and it’s possible that one of them was lying about it while he was alive, so who knows?

 

Lorca’s poems are a convergence of bullet-short lines and flowing mythological dreams.  Forests, fauns, fountains, and fires populate compact stanzas as tensions between abstract and concrete images bubble to the surface in parentheticals. Poems like “Dream” written in 1919 and “Mirror” from Suites are perfect examples. Enjambments and indents like the ones in “Disquiet and Night” and “Leave-taking” are ambitious in free verse even by today’s standards. Echoes of this style are easy to see in the works of Galway Kinnell, W.S. Merwin, and Gary Snyder as well as Allen Ginsberg. Lorca pushed the limits of form and content by incorporating sing-song refrains and day to day banter into stanzas that coil around the page.

 

Lorca was 38 when he died and I don’t think he’d even reached his peak. He was killed by a far-right Nationalist firing squad during the Spanish Civil War, most likely for being gay and anti-fascist. There’s some dispute to that, though, as Franco’s official dossier on Lorca has never been released. The Clash immortalized him in the song, “Spanish Bombs” with the line, “Federico Lorca’s dead and gone.” Without The Clash, I doubt I’d even know who Lorca was, much less understand the political implications of his death. His work is absolutely mystifying and I wish we got a longer time with him on the Earth. It’s important, especially now, that we as artists and writers remain vigilantly anti-fascist and remember Lorca as a brilliant man who made a tremendous sacrifice. I love you, Lorca. Happy birthday!

English: Lorca in white/Lorca en blancmyrtle l...

English: Lorca in white/Lorca en blancmyrtle looking (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

*Dead Prez totally deserves a national holiday.

**If anyone knows of a solid English translation of Lorca’s plays, please send a link.

P.S. My friend Sallie Eskins is in a play based on Lorca’s poems in NYC. Go see that if you can!

 

Putting My Queer Shoulder to the Wheel on Allen Ginsberg’s Birthday

I told myself I’d never put original poetry up on my blog because certain publications don’t take poems that have already been published on personal blogs, but rather than do the same kind of spiel that I did two days ago for Whitman’s birthday, I’m going to post this poem for Allen Ginsberg’s.  NSFW: It gets sexual, political, and trippy all at the same time, so don’t say I didn’t warn you. I also think the line spacing is a mess, but it is what it is I guess. Hope you all enjoy!

Ginsberg

What thoughts I have on you tonight, Allen Ginsberg.

As I sit lonely, trembling, and cracking under the stresses of my day to day.

I imagine you and me. We’d talk about the crazy visions of blue Buddhas we receive every night and why the American flag is stained with stripes of blood.

Through alleyways and past streetlights we’d walk.

I gasp for breath trying to catch up with you, but you run too fast. You wily old poet, you.

Cézanne’s masterpieces adorn the sidewalks where the homeless lay their heads.

you drift away on your mescaline magic carpet saluting Hell’s Angels and landing  on a cactus in the desert of Mexico.

Back on the streets of New York City, you’ll write a ballad for a junkie passed out  on the street corner. Eyes gleaming, mouth foaming and all.

The world can see you naked, Allen Ginsberg,

But through the radio wires, telephone poles, computer grids, and high-definition television sets, America has just put on more clothes.

Still, you make Whitman hard,

Make Lorca hard,

Make Rimbaud hard,

Make Kerouac hard, though he’ll deny it

Take me home and fuck me, Allen Ginsberg.

The girl I’ve been seeing wouldn’t mind at all,

We made out after reciting one of your poems.

I will be your catamite tonight.

I hope my skin is supple,

I hope my beard is fluffy,

I hope my tongue moves freely,

I hope my hole is tight,

I hope my cock is strong,

I hope my hands move quickly,

I hope my eyes glimmer with wonder,

I hope my smile glistens with pearl,

I hope my legs don’t bind me,

I hope my arms can hold you,

I hope my heart opens to you.

Now look at the broader cosmic circle of intangible bullshit,

Doesn’t it sing to you?

Or maybe it croaks like a dying bird.

My spine is the ladder these thoughts climb up and down.

You and Grandpa Jake climb side by side; maybe you knew each other as kids in Paterson.

He was a military man, so different from you.

But he was Jewish and a few years older than you.

I make up whatever stories I like, black and white home movies of you, Jake, and Uncle Harry running up and down a hill. You showing father Louis early poetry.

The conversations you and W.C. Williams must have,

Your souls circling Paterson like a binary star, while Hart Crane’s soul lingers on Brooklyn Bridge.

I come up from Baltimore, thick with an aura of supernatural ecstasy, reciting the gibberish mantra of everything I’ve taken for granted.

We’ll have a garden, Allen Ginsberg.

We’ll grow sunflowers and Cannabis plants ‘til they tickle the skyline,

We’ll sing sun salutations in the fields as we come down off our acid trips,

We’ll shout “Viva Che!” so they can hear us all the way in Cuba,

We’ll lean out on the balcony, reflecting on the winds that blow westward,

We’ll go up to the mountain and visit Gary Snyder; we won’t come down until our beards reach our knees,

We’ll grow old together, or you can watch me grow old while looking in a mirror,

We’ll declare our independence from a world of tyrants, bullies, and liars,

We’ll scream for the release of Bradley Manning,

We’ll suck and fuck our way to enlightenment.

Old Ginsberg Death, don’t hide your bones,

The grave’s heavy wall can easily be pushed aside

Like the mist of Niagara Falls will one day settle over China,

Everything seems to be melding together.

You should be here, Allen Ginsberg,

To see the black face under the Klansman’s hood.

We elected a black man President and there’s people wanna kill him!

Say he’s a Commie,

Say he hates America

Say he reads Marx in the Lincoln bedroom at night,

Say because he’ll let all them galdurn Mexicans into the country,

Say he was born in the country of Kenya to a white momma and a black poppa,

Say,“We don’t like that here in Amurca,”

Say, “We’ll make it like the nineteen- sixties never even happened.”

Enough of this politics, Allen Ginsberg,

Take a look at the blood-drenched streets of Istanbul. Democracy! Tents! Tanks! Blankets!

If you or I became President, we’d be shot the same day as Inauguration.

You could see that through your little sliver of a left eye, magnified through your spectacles.

May I borrow some of your crazy wisdom?

My friends say I already have it,

But If I ask nicely, I figure I can get more.

I would give my life to spend a day with you, Allen Ginsberg.

We’d spend all twenty four hours mocking the idea of time.

Then, when we’d go our separate ways, and pledge to meet up somewhere in Ancient Greece,

And we’ll find the America that Whitman dreamt when Charon pulled his ferry onto the banks of Lethe.

English: Allen Ginsberg, Miami Bookfair Intern...

English: Allen Ginsberg, Miami Bookfair International, 1985 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I Celebrate Walt Whitman

I’d like to wish a very happy birthday to father graybeard. He’s an innovator of American free verse, not to mention one of the most significant influences on my writing. Before Whitman, most famous American poets like Emerson, Thoreau, and Poe were emulating the English Romantics with contained, rhymed, metrical verses. Whitman came along and broke open the Romantic verse with long, sprawling, prosaic, unrhymed lines, and an intimately universal voice that’s echoed across America for the past century and a half.

Whitman wrote Leaves of Grass in 1855 to stop the coming Civil War and heal the wounds of a divided country. He republished Leaves of Grass with new poems and sections in 1856 and 1860, then took a hiatus from writing poetry.  He became a volunteer nurse for the North when the war started and moved from Brooklyn to DC.  His visits with injured soldiers inspired him to write 1865’s Drum Taps, which contains some of his better known poems like “Beat! Beat! Drums!” and “O Captain, My Captain.”

Whitman sacrificed a great deal for the freedom of the press and is one of the most strong-willed self-publishers the literary world has seen to date. He got fired from his desk job at the Department of the Interior in the early 1870s when Secretary James Harlan found out about Leaves of Grass. I don’t think Whitman would have stayed there very long on his own, though,  he was a bit too free-spirited for that. Lines like “twenty-eight young men all so friendly,” must have been too much innuendo for the old politicians to handle. It seems like the prudish people of every generation since Whitman’s like to come back to his work and pick out all the sexual references to show us what a dirty old man he was. The way that he wrote about sex integrated it naturally with the rest of human experience, which is the least pornographic way to do it. Sex, play, work, war, love, travel, laughter, and contemplation are all well-cataloged in Whitman’s work. Whitman’s body of work is electric and his pages are pulsing with a kind of courage that was as rare in his time as it is in ours. If you haven’t discovered his work yet, don’t worry. He’s stopped somewhere, waiting for you.

English: Walt Whitman. Library of Congress des...

English: Walt Whitman. Library of Congress description: “Walt Whitman”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)