Friday, June 23, 2017

Q: WHAT IS THIS RADICAL DONATION YOU SPEAK OF?

THE ICE MAN
NO LONGER
DELIVERS


The Frigidaire lies down
upon its crown of noise.
The mind exists. It snows
like a hum hum hurrah
awaiting compensation.

The day will end.
The week will end, the month.
The year will exit by its key.

No antiquities afoot.
No cha cha cha.
What remains is mystery:
the radical donation
to the Arctic nothingness
of the hum hum hurrah.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

OR FELL AND FELL AND FELL/THROUGH THE HEAVENS: A CONVERSATION WITH KLIPSCHUTZ ABOUT “A VISIT TO THE RANCH AND OTHER POEMS” (Last Word Press: Olympia, WA, 2015)






 

I had intended to speak with Klipschutz about A Visit to the Ranch some time ago, but things got in the way and I found myself able to perform only the smallest exertions in order to live. So, instead, I spent time undergoing treatment, falling into debt, and eventually managing to recover enough to engage in the following conversation. The book was published in late 2015 but still carries great currency. 



J:  My first impression is how deeply rooted these poems are in the people and places of the Pacific Northwest. What encouraged you to write in this special way?



KLIP:  The book started as a sheaf of 10 poems centering on Charles Potts, a mentor of mine who has lived in the Bora Bora of the Northwest, Walla Walla, WA, for many years. Charles wears a lot of hats—both literally and figuratively. After several other careers, he is now a horse rancher. As well, he is a king hell poet and a publisher. Wearing the latter hat, he published my 2002 book Twilight of the Male Ego, which gave me what self-respect I have as poet. It speaks for itself that Charles and Walla Walla inspired 10 poems, prompted by four visits to Walla Walla and spanning 12 years.

Then I started to notice other poems in my “uncollected” binder set in the Northwest, from those trips and others. A year and one more trip north (and to Walla Walla) later, the manuscript was starting to get there. A few poems set in San Francisco—where I am between trips—found their way in. The next year was devoted to revision, after which I tortured my publisher with last minute changes and additions.



J:  Looking at this collection within the context of what has happened to the country since it was published, it was hard not to read some of the poems as containing premonitions, an early articulation of how many people feel themselves no longer to have roles to play in the American Dream. 



KLIP:  You may be thinking of “Triolet for a New American Century,” and the air of disenfranchisement that seems to find its way into much of my work. Though I’m not sure I predicted anything. This train’s been coming at us through the tunnel for several whiles. Overall, my poems tend to be, at root, arguments with myself—at times refracted through characters and narrators. You know the guys who win arguments in the shower? I lose them! And build poems from the fallout. 



J:  Let me draw attention to “I Visit Doug Spangle in Portland.” Which is a direct, straightforwardly composed poem. The language is simple, the lines follow the patterns of speech. Near the end are these lines, with the sound of such heartbreaking truth: 



She has five children
by five husbands
five siblings &
a hundred-year-old mom
every one of whom
depends on her 



And which concludes: 



I wake to sleep upstairs
in Doug’s library
till morning when
we’ll walk Mt. Tabor again. 



So much is going on in this poem, so much is suggested rather than stated. That women are the ones who work to save broken families, either literally or metaphorically, is a truth that tends to be overlooked. Men disappoint women far too often. The poem is allusive, reminding me of James Wright’s “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island” and calling to mind Theodore Roethke’s “The Waking.” Finally, the poem concludes with a suggestion of transcendence, and the means to achieve it, the walk up the mountain. 



KLIP:  Is there a question there? There doesn’t need to be! To be mentioned in the same context as Wright and Roethke is a fantasy of mine. It’s not true but I’ll take it. The title of that one comes from my Frank O’Hara fixation. The woman in the stanza you quote is my friend Christine. She is married to Doug and deserves far more than one stanza in a poem by me for all she does. She gave me grief for getting some of the facts wrong. I think I threw in “five” one too many times. What she didn’t realize was my forward-thinking modus operandi: I was using alternative facts!



J:  Above, you mention poet, editor, publisher Charles Potts, whose presence is evident throughout, including in the final, title poem. His independent political streak is celebrated in “The View From Mt. Forgotten” and the inspired homage “Pieces of the Poet, Horseman at Seventy.” What effect has he had on your writing life?



KLIP:  When I met Charles I was over 40, and he was in his early 50’s, which I note because my course, such as it is, was already set by then, bad habits and all. And as I say in a brief introduction to Visit, our literary tastes both overlap and diverge. His effect on my outlook, though, is major. He is an example of how to build a family and working life that allows you to both write and promote other writers. None of it has been wasted on me, even if I’ll have to wait till my next life to put any of that wisdom into action.



J:  I’ve been reading a great deal of Wallace Stevens lately. There’s much to admire in Stevens, particularly in an age when many poems that are published could be (perhaps, in the best examples) just as well presented in prose paragraphs. That is, poetry has lost much of its music because poets no longer read widely from the tradition of English poetry. They read peers, but no one else. I go on because it seems to me Stevens would be a fine addition to the education of a young poet. For Stevens, more than any other Modernist, had a wonderful ear for the metered line. A Visit to the Ranch has some poems that call him to mind, in particular his practice of composing often longer poems out of discrete sections, which are then numbered and placed in
sequence. (A detail I enjoy in these assembled poems is his use of Roman numerals.) “The Chocolate Exhibition” is one such poem, which begins: 



Wall plaques, photographs, back-bending implements, 
pods with seeds and captions under glass,
 a replica cacao tree (please touch).  



Another example is “Charon Takes a Busman’s Holiday” where these lines occur: 



Leaves dance. A steady mist
coating salted townships in a plastic pocket map.
Name and number on the backrest of a bench, for revenue.
 
[Editor's note:  The lineation above is not correct. For some reason I am unable to present the lines from both stanzas as they appear in the book: both stanzas should be three lines.]





KLIP:  I am constantly going back to Stevens, and would be thrilled if any of his secret sauce has rubbed off on me. I agree with you wholeheartedly about him. He’s a corrective for self-obsessed and political poetry that doesn’t have room for any time and place other than here and now. And I count myself as one such offender. All I can do is to try not to disappear down that rabbit hole, and to instead go outside, walk in the woods, and look around me at the world and other people, places, and things.



J:  One of my favorite poems here is “Free Translation of Du Fu From Memory.” Tell us what went into writing it. How are we to interpret the title? How free is free, some might want to know, in this case?



KLIP:  The poem itself seized me, and in fact seems to be channeling Stevens, in the main. Mortality and romance and wonder and weather came together in a way that doesn’t happen nearly enough to me, in poems or life. Afterwards, I thought it sounded Asian in sensibility, and needed a title, which sprung to mind. Two things about the title: In my youth, Du Fu was referred to as Tu Fu. Then several people, Charles Potts among them, impressed upon me that there was a new linguistic sheriff in town and that I’d better get with the spelling program. Beyond that, I got a kick out of the sweats a few fellow poets went into when they thought I knew Chinese. All of which to say that motivation and result can be two different things when it comes to a poem.



J:  You seem to enjoy working with the prose poem. There are several in this collection, among them “And Here We Are”; “Dear Campaign Diary”; “The Ballad of the Marcus Whitman Hotel Conference Center”; and “Saturday Night on Paradise Ridge.” What is it about the prose poem form that appeals to you? How do you determine when a poem is to be given this shape rather than another? Are there aspects of subject or theme that you feel are more naturally suited to the prose poem?



KLIP:  Truthfully, I go by nerve. Some of the ones you mentioned started out as verse poems. When the line breaks start to feel arbitrary and the language of an individual piece starts to feel more essayistic than lyrical (word choices, et cetera), out of desperation I might remove the line breaks and see if the piece feels less labored. I do, however, like to use multiple paragraphs. They function like stanzas. Have I put you to sleep yet?



J:  Any final comments?



KLIP:  Thanks for taking the time, and for your thoughtful comments and questions. Also, the first five people who write me at klipschutz@earthlink.net and include a mailing address will receive three Four by Two trading cards, including one featuring a couple of short, potent poems by . . . Jon Cone. 






J:  My pleasure. Thank you for taking the time to chat. Be well and best of luck in all future endeavors.


***
A VISIT TO THE RANCH is available from Last Word Books 111 Cherry Street NE, Olympia, WA 98501. Here is the ordering link:
http://www.lastwordpress.com/


Support the small, independent presses!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

LIMINAL: SHADOW AGENT (a comic book script synopsis) by Jon Cone


In an alternative universe, the superhero Liminal, Shadow Agent,  receives a mysterious communication from Bobby Smith, Genius Child. Smith is so designated because he belongs to a rare group of humans known as the Genius Children. They aren't literally children. They can be any age, race, gender; they come from all classes of society. Thus a poor farmer is just as likely to be a Genius Child as a professor of philosophy. What they share is participation in an unexplained, unpredictable transformative event that seems, to the rest of the human population, to have given them complete understanding regarding the mysteries of existence. The terms 'Genius Child' and 'Genius Children' were coined by the popular news media, when the early accounts of the Genius Children were reported.

Liminal
 goes to Bobby Smith’s place of business. There he learns the nature of Smith’s predicament: a malevolent being, known as the Nihilist, is invading Smith’s astral body, threatening his existence and that of all other Genius Children with whom Smith shares a metaphysical hive-mind connection. Smith asks Liminal to enter the astral realm and do battle with this evil presence. 


Liminal agrees, but first he meets with Base 39, his colleague in the practice of metaphysical arts. Together, they enact a magick ritual that gives Liminal greater powers to use against the Nihilist. From a meditational launching pad on the top floor of Base 39 's apartment, Liminal leaves the material realm, while Base 39 stays by his side, watching over his inert, vulnerable physical body. Once in the astral realm, Liminaconfronts the Nihilist in a series of metaphysical battles. As they battle, Liminal and the Nihilist constantly change forms. 
The final confrontation finds them on a high-cliff, above a vast sea of flame into which the Nihilist  prepares to push the wounded, dying Liminal. (This scene relies heavily on Frazer’s The Golden Bough.) However, a sudden reversal causes the Nihilist to experience a storm of tumultuous despair. Liminal suggests the Nihilist end his astral-psychic pain by leaping into the sea of flame. Which the Nihilist does. After defeating the Nihilist, Liminal returns to his material body just in time to witness Base 39’s  own transformative event.  The story ends by moving beyond the world of the comic book. This script is an homage to the great metaphysical comic books from an earlier era – "Doctor Strange", "The Specter”, “Deadman”, as well as well as Jack Kirby’s “Fourth World” series – and is undeniably marked by the influence of Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis, and Alan Moore. 


Jon Cone
Iowa City, 2016

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

FOUR BY TWO AND OTHER MATTERS: A CONVERSATION WITH POET AND PUBLISHER KLIPSCHUTZ OF SAN FRANCISCO


 
In the digital age, it is rare to see a new print journal, especially one like Four by Two, launched in 2014 as a quarterly under the combined editorship of klipschutz and Jeremy Gaulke. Roughly five by five inches when closed between covers, Four by Two folds out to eleven by seventeen inches, divided into folded panels. Beyond that, it is hard to describe, especially since no two issues are folded and laid out alike, thanks to Gaulke’s ingenuity and design chops. Each issue’s 300 copies are hand-folded and -glued, hand-assembled, and -numbered. To date, five issues have appeared, featuring klipschutz as “house poet,” along with one (occasionally two) invited “guest poets.


[Note: In the interests of full disclosure, I was the first guest poet in issue number one.]
 
JC:  Let’s begin with “Arrhythmias, the fourth issue. I’m particularly interested in the background of two of your poems. Is “Incomplete Translation from the Archaic” meant to recall Modernism’s fascination with the fragment, the incomplete verse that suggests much but reveals little? Is Pound lurking behind your impulse? Rexroth? It’s a mysterious poem, both lyric and satiric, even philosophical (“Time is neither [or] nor either/or”).  
 
KLIP:  In retrospect, “Incomplete Translation...” feels like something Borges might have done, if he had approached poetry like he approached his fiction. Sappho’s poems, after all, have been mostly reconstructed from lacunae, like a dinosaur from a handful of bones, so why not build a creature—or a poemfrom imaginary bones? I cribbed the names Seguin and Valensa, Blancalflor and Floris, from old troubadour poems, located the bracket function on my keyboard, and about a hundred drafts later, declared a truce with the poem. 
 
JC:  Before I proceed on to “Free Translation of Du Fu from Memory,” can you give us your thoughts on his poetry? Is he your favorite Chinese poet? I think it’s fair to say he’s less well known in English speaking countries than either Basho or Issa.  
 
KLIP:  I’ve read my share of Chinese poetry, mostly by way of Pound and Rexroth, but also earlier on, Arthur Waley, and to tell you the truth, I still get confused about who’s who. On a good day, I know Basho from Issa, but Li Po and Du Fu could fool me in a line-up. Weren’t they contemporaries? I’m probably more familiar with Li Po (Pound’s Rihaku). It doesn’t get much better than “The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter.” If that’s all Pound ever did, translating that poem, it would have been plenty.  
 
JC:  Was “Free Translation of Du Fu from Memory” meant to accurately suggest the poems attributed to him as they exist in English translation.? Or was some subtler purpose operating here. Perhaps a poem conceived more as homage than imitation?  
 
KLIP:  Whenever I have a subtle purpose, the blunt instrument that passes for my aesthetic intervenes. Du Fu’s name was spelled Tu Fu when I was growing up, back before Peking became Beijing. (“I’ll have the Beijing Duck.”) Then he morphed to Du Fu, then Pluto got de-listed as a planet, and now I’ll never catch up. The title came after the poem, maybe in an attempt to harass a few poets I know, to scare them into thinking that I know Chinese. (Speaking of names, I just looked up Li Po, and see that his name in English has been changed to Li Bai. Now I’m really sunk.) 
 
JC:  “Night Piece” is brilliant, by the way. And one couplet struck me as coming directly from your songwriting self. These lines: “Damn they’re quiet/Christ we’re loud.” I know you’ve written many songs with Chuck Prophet. Do you find that song lyrics influence your more purposeful poetic mode? Or is it simply a case of influence influencing influence influencing influence?  
 
KLIP:  One of my great fears is that I’m too much of a poet as a songwriter, and too much of a songwriter as a poet. Influences are essential, and everywhere. I’ve been influenced by Alan Dugan, whose work you introduced me to. Thanks for that. The biggest difference between songwriting and poetry is that I get checks for songwriting, and write checks to others for my poems. That’s my advice to young poets, by the way: Rule in bribery. 
 
JC:  Some great poems by Sandra Beasley in “Arrhythmias.” Can you speak a little about her particular approach to poetry, why you selected her? (I especially like “The Hotel Devotion” and “Parable.”)  
 
KLIP:  Here’s my chance to thank Andy Fox of the Dust Congress blog, which for years functioned like a magazine, like the reprint section in Harper’s. Three or four days a week he pulled together excerpts from interviews, quotes, photographs, paintings, and poems, ignoring copyright. Invariably fascinating. That’s where I first encountered Sandra Beasley’s poems and fell hard for them. Her poems have a durability in form coupled with a sense of fragility in the content, if that makes sense.  I rarely try to explain why I like particular poems or poets—for good reason, as you can see. From my outsider perspective, Sandra is a po-biz success storypublished by Norton, in A-list magazines. It would be hard not to envy her if she didn’t have to teach, which I consider a dubious reward for success. When I contacted her, at first she was skeptical about our strange little zine. Then we sent her a copy, and she warmed up. She was an absolute pleasure to work withour editorial process is intensive and interactive, over a short period. Right after we selected her poems, she won an NEA grant. Every once in a while, the NEA gets it right. 
 
JC:  The most recent Four by Two is the “Autodidact Issue.” Death seems present in almost all of the poems there, in fact. From your line “Button, button, autumn’s almost gone” to Hannon’s concise lyric poems where death is either explicit (“Fear of death, a kind of desire/and fear of desire, a kind of death”) or implicit in those poems where nature is given a kind of voice through such emissaries as the mole and the raccoon.  
 
KLIP:  Michael Hannon is in his mid-70s, so he has an excuse to dwell on such matters. But I get the sense he’s always had a fixation on the twin poles of Eros and mortality. Hannon’s poems are short and directby no means are all of them as brief as the ones we used, but he gets the job done, gets in and gets out. He wears his wisdom lightly, but it shines through. Humor lurking underneath. 
 
JC:  Can you tell us more about Michael Hannon? When did you first meet him, or how did you first discover his poetry? What is it about his poetry you find compelling?  
 
KLIP:  I’ve been reading Michael Hannon’s poems for over thirty years, and finally met someone who knows him. Four by Two gives me an excuse to bother people whose work I admire, and to offer them the modest gift of publication to a select audience. I got to know him on the phone during the editorial process. He doesn’t do emailwhich makes him my hero. I call myself a Luddite, and here I am looking at a screen. Compelling? The smooth surface of his lines and the depths they plumb, seemingly effortlessly so. I hope to meet Michael for the first time this summer, when he comes north to read at the San Francisco Public Library.  
 
JC:  The “Los Angeles Issue” of Four by Two features poems by John Tottenham, Paul Fericano, and a prose poem of yours. Tell us a little about what went into organizing this issue.  
 
KLIP:  Each issue is different. I find poems I fall in love with then try to match them with some of my own dismal efforts. Paul Fericano did a Hollywood series based on Catholic prayers, and I couldn’t resist the satire carried by those somber, magnificent rhythms, which then led us to break one of our only rules at Four by Twotwo poets per issue—and enlist John Tottenham, a British émigré to these shores, known for his short, dark, and biting complaints about suffering through every aspect involved with being alive. He has a sort of Evelyn Waugh-like outsider’s view of Los Angeles, coupled with his own dashed ambitions. My contribution was an emotional (for me) prose poem about my dad that takes place in the Palm Springs Greyhound station, which no longer exists. Palm Springs simmers creepily in the long shadow of L.A. and its allure. 
 
JC:  There are two poems in that issue I’m very jealous I didn’t write myself: Tottenham’s “Happiness and Beauty” and Fericano’s “The Actor’s Creed.” Tottenham’s poem articulates a feeling that I’ve often had in the presence of truly happy people, and Fericano’s use of the 23rd Psalm is highly unusual yet strangely satisfying.  
 
KLIP:  Agreed. After you steal those two poems, I’ll steal them from you. Tottenham lets no one off the hook, starting with himself, and Paul’s lifelong obsession with show business collides with his Franciscan schooling by way of slapstick that bites back, a Tinkers to Evers to Chance combination very tough to pull off. 
 
JC:  Any other comments you’d care to add 
 
KLIP:  I’d like to make double-sure readers know of Jeremy Gaulke’s immense contribution to the magazine. We both work hard at it, but he has mad skills and talents. Maybe some other younger poets can lay off the vinyl and delve into print. You can’t get much more old school than print. Also, and how to say this delicately, Four by Two is a shoestring operation, and the shoestring has seen thicker days. With an infusion of funds, we could buy another shoestring. Just because we don’t mount” a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign (as if we’d know how) doesn’t mean we are BitCoin moguls. Money is a distraction, but our printer and the post office seem to take it seriously. 
 
Oh, and we have a few copies left of “Sixty-Eight Statements About Poetry,” a limited edition broadside by Jon Cone. If anyone wants to experience a classic, exquisitely presented, before it gets discovered, drop us a line.  We never close. And finally, our next issue, currently in production, is “Elsewheres, which will feature poems from the German by Scott Thompson. I never knew I had a soft spot for Germans, but Scott Thompson’s translations convinced me.  
 
JC:  Salut!  


***
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Four By Two at:
http://www.fourbytwo.org/?page_id=10


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