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|The Lord God Addresses the Convocation of Poets|
(Dogs and spirituality)
(Art and language)
Poetry used to be the most important thing in my life. For more than a decade I wrote every day, sometimes all day long. These were the manic years of trying to leave my thumbprint on the world -- and also trying to meet women.
Then, for two decades, poetry became an unhappy argument in my head. I loved its power, but I feared its delusionary power. I did not want to be the things writing poetry made me -- grandiose, standoffish, solipsistic.
Here's what a respected editor wrote about my work, thirty years ago:
"In no one else's poems, except Vallejo's, do I feel such overwhelming desire straining at the limits of words," wrote Michael Cuddihy, editor of Ironwood, one of the best magazines of the 1970s.
Pretty auspicious, right? Only recently did I get the full message Michael intended: that desire, while thrilling, obstructs inner peace. I was too hot to be cool.
Michael Cuddihy, from the grave you stab at me.
It's true, he sobbed piteously.
a form of sollipcism. A place where the Mighty
Finley is always in charge and he can't be abandoned by his dad again
and everyone who disagrees can go suck duck eggs.
I tried to get around it by "reporting," by taking the Finley out of the work. I tried to "serve" the material. But, in truth, I was less interesting, and less funny, without me along for the ride. I had to try again, this time to find a balance between me and not-me.
Today I find I am writing again. But not so much, and I hope not so confusedly. I figure I have as much right to my point of view as anybody. If you don't like it, how sad, and how not-sad ...
Here are some free chapbooks that I wrote over the years. Over the past 15 years some 140,000 have been downloaded. Which is amazing to me, but mysterious, because for all I know they were all downloaded by spiders and robots (search engines).
Download all you
like. And don't be a spider, tell
me what you
PRINT BOOKS AND CHAPBOOKS
The Movie under the Blindfold (Vanilla Press, 1978)
I tried to stretch with poems like "Triangles Prisms Cones" -- surrealism with a broken heart. I submitted it to VP at a time when they were a conventional press. It was accepted by its panel of editors, but its publisher was going through the first big blaze of feminist reorientation, and she bridled at the idea of publishing yet another chapbook of patriarchal verse. Aw come on, I said, just one more? It was never quite distributed. She was so chagrined by me that she had the books boxed up in her garage. It rained, the books were ruined, and that was the end of that.
Home Trees (Minnesota Writers Publishing House, 1978)
A breakthrough in terms of discipline and focus. I was starting to mean something. Check out "This Gun Shoots Black Holes." Of all black hole poems, I am told, this is the one most uninformed about astrophysics.
Lucky You (Litmus, Inc., 1976)
Look at me hugging myself on the hell-red back cover -- and dig the hair. My friend Charles Potts published this first book and it remains, astonishingly, in print to this day. "Letter from Como" is especially wack.
Water Hills (Salthouse Press, 1985)My buddy De Clinton published this when I lived in Milwaukee. It was my last book published by someone besides me.* Includes the Pushcart Prize-winning "Gise Pedersen Sets Me Straight on a Matter of Natural History," and "A Drive in the Country," which appeared in Paris Review. VIDEO
* Until a short but gorgeous artbook, The Orchard, to be published when Richard Stephens of Richard Stephens Press gets around to it.
The Beagles of Arkansas (Mudborn Press, 1976)
Everything there wants to leave. A little booklet from a car trip Red and I made through Missouri and Arkansas. I always have had a warm spot in my heart for "At the Ball Park," mentioning Rod Carew and Lyman Bostock.
KRAKEN PRESS ORIGINALS
The following chaplets I published myself, on my Kraken Press imprint, mostly since 1985.
... short things, 1973-2009
DESALINIZATION ... items written since Daniele's death, not so much about her
THE ORCHARD (2009) ... A book-length memoir of growing up in the Firelands, created by Minneapolis book artist Richard Stephens
THINGS (2009) poems and notes about Daniele
PIECES (2009) essays about Daniele
SEVENTY YEARS BEHIND THE PLOUGH (2008) Greatest Hits
CRAZY GRACES (2009) essays
Hit the pause button and page through slowly. Or change the timing from 3 to, like, 7
HORSES WORK HARD (2006) poems
YOU (2007) poems
MIDNIGHT at the MOUNDS (2005)
Curtis Hotel Farewell ... I had the strangest feeling when I first visited the Curtis Hotel, on Halloween, 1969. It turns out I was conceived there, and against heavy odds.
Looking for China ... Selected Poems. This book contains my two "greatest hits," The Clarinet Is a Difficult Instrument and Browsers.
The Tooth Fairy Naked at Last ... Less a poem than a wacky essay. I wrote this for my daughter, who was afraid of dentists. It is very popular -- over 100,000 people have downloaded it.
The Good King ... Six children's stories, including the much-loved "A Frankenstein Christmas."
University Avenue ... Contains the harrowing tale of how I was hit in the head -- right where my brain tumor was diagnosed 25 years later -- by a falling 12-ft tailpipe combo. VIDEO
Whole While ...
I went through a very hazy phase around
Midnight at the Mounds ... A very short selection of things I wrote mostly while hiking in British Columbia with Rachel.
Bing Cherries ... A collection of essays.
The New Yorker ... Holiday poems from a Minnesotan in Manhattan. Written in a hotel room overlooking Lincoln Center, one grand wintry evening. There's a good one about a woman in a brown coat begging on the Avenue of the Americas. VIDEO
Borrowing from Minneapolis (To Pay St. Paul) ... This was my Smile, the great never-published opus. It's a dialogue about city/country living, written when I worked as news editor of the Worthington Daily Globe, 1978-80. It takes the "reportorial" poetic style of Home Trees and pushes it farther. Dig The Iliad." It applies the classic style of Homer to a four-hour cornfield fight between a raccoon and a German shepherd.New Friend ... Sometimes, when we say no, we mean yes. A tribute to the woman I love.
Into Heaven ...
The story of a man and the dog who
feared him. Oral history first told me by Joe Paddock, which I ran
The Brood ... I wrote this as a Xmas present to my family members. Something special for each of them. Includes the title poem, which sets a new benchmark for paternal self-pity. VIDEO
When You Are Pope ... It ain't all it's cracked up to be at Castelgandolfo ...The Lord God Has Words with the Choir ... Death to poets! A poem for those who love poetry, and also hate it. Charlie Potts included this in his great anthology SPIRITUAL POETRY OF THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST anthology. PDF
That Old Saw ... A tree collapses in its best friend's arms.
Rather than downloading the 43 books listed below the fold, I have created three mini-collections (in PDF format) that contain poems I still like.
driving by a
flaming wreck ..."
Young, Gifted, and Obnoxious, Poems 1965-1978
It struck me that there aren't enough poems that are about what we do most of the time -- work.
These two collections were published the same day, for a reading at the Black Dog Cafe in Saint Paul. The first book is a brief compendium of my flaming young period; the second are the high points of my inevitable decline.
Poems for my old school friend Peter Meister, to let him know how I'd spent my life.
And for the truly adventurous ... my unpublished memoir Fixing the Christians
Published by Kraken Press unless otherwise noted