rantings of a delusional mind
i can’t think of what to write.
for years i have wanted to write a column on the various odds and ends of life that i experience, little melodies of life that i find interesting and worth note, and now, like my sex life, i am flaccid.
it seems easy.
write what you want on any topic, less than 2,000 words, in a fairly comprehensible way. that’s easy, right?
when it’s off the cuff i can throw together enough words to make a topic interesting, or, at least, in my own vainglorious way, entertaining.
one suggestion was to discuss the state of the small press, as i run a small press. at the same time it was suggested i write something uplifting, hopeful, happy, encouraging, so discussing the small press is obviously a non-starting. anyone that has anything to do with a small press knows that it is a noble undertaking that many try and many fail. it’s not easy. you put out a decent product, strong writing, pleasant covers, and put your heart into it, but no one buys it. no one, other than mom and dad and a few assorted and obviously insane friends. and with the cost of everything on the rise, who can blame them.
on a less serious note, someone suggested i write about my phobia of the vagina. to me that felt a little personal, but then my writing is an open book. if you aren’t honest, what’s the point?
the vagina can be a terrifying thing. american culture is beholden to it. everyone wants to see one, especially if someone famous owns it. britney spears, paris hilton, lindsay lohan. i’ve seen all three and they are equally terrifying. perhaps the entire person is terrifying, i am not sure. celebutants are scary people.
when i saw my first vagina up close and personal, i vomited. not on it, mind you, but near it. it didn’t go over well with the owner of said vagina, so a few years passed before i had the opportunity to view one again in person.
i have often thought that a small press dedicated to the vagina would make a good go in an american market. on-line porn does well, playboy and penthouse do well, popcorn novels do well, especially the ones that pretend not to focus on the vagina and the various activities it can participate in, but really do.
over the years i have read a great deal of poetry and only a few focus on the vagina, it’s not really a sub-category, so it would be unsustainable in the small press world.
* * *
a few weeks ago i went to the connecticut beat poetry festival held in Middletown, connecticut, as well as other locations. the organizers invited me, confusing me as a poet, and, actually as a writer, but undeterred, i went.
in a fit of baffling genius i flew into Washington dc, which is about 330 miles from my final destination in connecticut. i thought i would travel through the northeast, see the sites, ponder the small press, and seek out the opportunity to further alleviate my vaginaphobia.
driving through south new jersey i came across a young woman about 28 years of age, of average height and build, pretty in a nominal way, but clever and funny. i like funny, funny always works for me. she needed a lift to atlantic city and since i would be running that way, i thought, why not. i should have thought, what the fuck, but no i gave her a ride.
somewhere near ocean city, after a couple hours of driving, we decided food would be required and we stopped at a shit hole diner. the inevitable “what do you do” came up and we discussed poetry, small presses and the cost of living on the road.
after a small meal and 12 large drinks i realized i could not drive. she couldn’t either due to an equal inebriation. i offered to buy her a room but she insisted we just get one with two beds.
i’d like to say i did the right thing but cannot.
we sat up watching television, sharing hits from a cheap bottle of whiskey. i asked her what she thought i could do to excite the public about small poetry presses. she thought about it for several minutes while we watched HBO on a grainy television.
“it should be exciting,” she said.
“filled with passion and fire, and brilliant writing.”
“find poets that know language and wordplay, that can make the world melt with a turn of a phrase.”
“i did that,” i said.
“it’s all about marketing.” she said
near two am she crawled in my bed and asked me if i wanted to have adult relations. i mentioned my fear. she leapt from the bed, turned on the light, and disrobed, claiming she had the perfect vagina.
and she did.
we decided together that i should spend some time exploring it. it took awhile. while i explored she continued to ponder the question of the small press.
it is about marketing, and distribution. so many mom and pop bookstores have disappeared, and american is more interested in the size, shape and hairiness of britney’s vagina than they are poetry. no matter how good the poetry might be, and i am not asking america to look away from britney, just pause, briefly.
i believe small presses will always have a place in american culture. they will continue to struggle, continue fail, disappear then reemerge. presses will become entirely electronic, sell books through print on demand services, utilize copier editions and fight the good fight.
it is not easy, not in the slightest.
at breakfast my friend and i discussed my poetry, the reading in connecticut and the cost of gasoline. she demurred from continuing on with me, choosing to step off in atlantic city. turns out she is a poet as well, and, recently, i discovered her blog on-line and poem about our encounter. it was less than i hoped. why the poetry read quite well, yours truly apparently needs to further quell my fear a little more. perhaps, a lot more.
* * *
i made it to the connecticut beat poetry festival and shared a stage with rob plath, frank reardon, juice, zach moll and a number of others. it was an amazing time filled with rich voices, passion and salient hearts. everyone had a chapbook for sale and i was impressed with the level of skill each held.
there is an intense poetic underground and it is rising. voices are sounding in print and on the internet. each day, more and more blog zines and web zines appear. writers get greater exposure, get published, get a name.
hopefully, some of the poets will break the glass ceiling and sell some fucking books. break out of the 10 to 100 mold and really crank it out by selling 101 or more. that would be great. and i know there are some that do it already, not on my press, but i am hopeful.
in is encouraging that zines such as gloom cupboard exist, showing us great writers, wonderful poetry and allowing idiots to write columns. richard’s patience and sense of humor is quite good.
on my return trip from connecticut to DC i drove back through south jersey, even spent the night in atlantic city, ever hopeful that my mystery girl with the perfect vagina would reappear.
i never got her name.
with spirits unbroken, i traveled through new jersey, pennsylvania, delaware, maryland, even virginia, by mistake, talking to any and everyone about poetry, small presses and the price of gasoline. people think poetry is cool, buying it a little more daunting. if the economy didn’t suck ass, maybe they would buy more, or if the bills did not eat all of the stimulus checks the US government sent out, maybe then.
i sat on the plane pondering my trip. the guy next to me asked what i did, so i told him. i also mentioned i would be writing a column for gloom cupboard. after explaining what gloom cupboard was, he asked what i thought i might write about. small press, poetry, poetry festival, vaginaphobia. he cringed when i fell silent and feigned reading a newspaper the rest of the three hour flight.
later that week i had the opportunity to revisit my fear. first, i read poetry, words about death and dying, grizzled streets of los angeles, bums and drinking, and related miseries. remarkably, she took off her clothes and said, why not. i found myself less fearful, less timid, unafraid, almost.
after a favorable review i read more poetry, about a coral tree and a koi pond, about monkeys that scream, about birds that get hit by cars, puppies that drown. she asked what i was going to write my column about.
“i dunno,” i said.
she suggested that i combine all my suggestions together, and i thought, nah, that’s silly. who’s going to read a column about the small press, underground poetry, and vaginaphobia.