a kiss moving
down your spine
one day you
--from "The Distance"
(CAConrad, DEVIANT PROPULSION, Soft Skull Press)
The night had just begun. Walking back to The Poetry Project from The Telephone Bar to catch the remainder of the New Years reading, I walked through the church doors and a volunteer with a fabulous scarf sitting next to Erika Kaufman checked the stamp on my hand. Jim Behrle was reading, and, infamously classic as he is, pronounced into the microphone, "Last night's fuzzy/ but I think I hit Frank O'Hara with a dune buggy" and every person left in the church gasped! What could possibly top the destruction of the sacred cow / Godfather of The Poetry Project (from a man who’d been on reality TV!)? At around one in the morning, the volunteer with the fabulous scarf approached the podium. "Dear Mr. President There Was Egg Shell under Your Desk Last Night in My Dream," he began. And I was a changed man.
CAConrad is the real deal folks, one of those authors that comes along every forty or so years to kick the somnambulant masses asses into awareness. He's a compassionate gentle soul full of love and tenderness, pathos and poignancy, insane insight, intimate whispers (licking your ear), and camp up the wazoo. But most importantly, CA has enough chutzpah to shove a boot into every last one of your asses. Out of LOVE. Yes, love. Because CA cares deeply about this planet. And he doesn't like what he sees. (But he loves what he sees!) There is no time for excuses, because as he quotes poet and Auschwitz survivor Charlotte Delbo in Deviant Propulsion (his Soft Skull Press debut, which should be mandatory reading for all students, but short of that, all of you should run to your nearest book-store and buy immediately), "it would be too stupid / finally / for so many to have died / and for you to live / without doing anything with your life."
"Can you resurrect queens as backbone of queer leadership?" CA asks in "POET-AGENT IN SEARCH OF TRANSVESTITE BOXER", but it's a rhetorical question, for in Deviant Propulsion, he has more than answered this. He has given us a gift, shown us there’s another way, but perhaps a story from Peme Chodron's "When Things Fall Apart" illuminates CA's achievement best:
"On the night on which he was to attain enlightenment, the Buddha sat under a tree. While he was sitting there, he was attacked by the forces of Mara. The story goes that they shot swords and arrows at him, and that their weapons turned into flowers."
What more could you ask of a poet?
-Ben Malkin, of So Lil'
What is your duty as a poet in America?
Well, FUCK, the police have JUST been given the okay to enter without knocking. Everybody's paying attention to these facts I hope. When I first saw that headline I thought, SHIT, I NEED TO CLEAN MY APARTMENT! And keep a pretty, flower print dress and wig on hand at all times, and Maria Muldaur's "Midnight At The Oasis" in the CD player! This way while they're standing there with their clubs and cuffs, enjoying my lip-synching, sexy show, I can stall for time to plan my escape. "Midnight At The Oasis" is three minutes and forty-six seconds long, and I hear you say to yourself, WELL THAT'S NOT MUCH TIME, yeah, true, but when three minutes and forty-six seconds is all you've got you MAKE IT WORK! Right? Right!
Of course the police enjoy Maria Muldaur's song very much. Police are people too, we forget (or I forget?). And all people EVERYWHERE Love "Midnight At The Oasis." If you don't get the Love from this song then I just don't know what to do for you. But even still, the police can't arrest someone lip-synching Maria Muldaur for them. Ask any police officer if they have ever arrested someone who was lip-synching "Midnight At The Oasis" at the time and I BET YOU they will say No. I'm 100% on this one! Have some FAITH in the Muldaur MAGIC! Debbie Boone's "You Light Up My Life" is another story. Be foolish enough to choose that song and prepare to be clubbed and kicked down the stairs. OUCH! Debbie No! No Debbie! Debbie No! No Debbie!
And don't EVER let anyone tell you drag can't save your life! FUCKERS!
Frank O'Hara: less filling or tastes great?
LISTEN MAN! If you're not willing to get into the time machine with me and go back and take it up the ass from Frank O'Hara than I just don't know HOW to talk to you! But actually Ben, I do believe you would be willing to get on board. How fantastic would it be to go back and create the Frank O'Hara BIG SHOT Martini: 2 shots vodka, 1 shot butterscotch schnapps, 1 BIG SHOT of Frank O'Hara's cum. Or maybe we should say 1 BIG SHOT of Frank O'Hara's semen. Semen sounds so much nicer than cum for a cocktail recipe, don't you think? "Tastes great?" you ask. "Tastes great!" I say. It's a fucking MAGIC poetry potion! DRINK UP POET! SWALLOW IT ALL! Are you as sick and tired as I am of time machines being fiction? Makes me want to run onto the streets screaming!
The flamboyant glitter vs subdued: the whole drag phenom: recently So L'il was played on a radio show on the Village Voice website called Gay Shame Week, gay artists not fitting comfortably in with the concept of peacock feathers and pride, and artists that don't fit comfortably into the "supposed to be" concept of queerdom: at your reading you said you'd shit glitter, but still, your work rails against stereotypes, ~I was wondering what your take on flamboyancy in the gay community was...
Effeminate gay men are an endangered species these days, everyone going going GOING to the gym, deepening the voice. Quack quack! I say, Quack quack! Where are you Nairy Fairy boys hiding!? I SEE you IN THERE
It's okay to relax. It's okay to NOT BE SO FUCKING SERIOUS ALL FUCKING DAY LONG! I Love glitter, as you mentioned. Glitter is so dear to me. And I have a pair of giant glitter glasses that I like to wear once in a while. And I was talking to an old friend just before the reading you're referring to, and she said, "Oh no. Please don't wear those glitter glasses to your poetry reading. No one will take you seriously." Not take me seriously? Can someone please, SPECIFICALLY point out why glitter is not taken seriously? TELL ME DAMMIT, I WANT TO KNOW WHY GLITTER IS NOT TAKEN SERIOUSLY!? Is it because children like glitter? And because children aren't taken seriously? And girls? Girls are NEVER taken seriously. Well I TAKE GLITTER SERIOUSLY BECAUSE I SAY WE NEED TO TAKE CHILDREN AND ESPECIALLY LITTLE GIRLS SERIOUSLY! C'mon MAN! It's GLITTER! Glitter is so gorgeous on you, put some on, you'll see! YOU'LL SEE! Glitter is the LIVING metaphor of the enchanted dimensions we overlook, overstep, over bite bite bite BITE on our way to our stupid jobs. You should spank yourself for not taking glitter seriously, SPANK YOURSELF SPANK! SPANK! SPANK YOURSELF! Should I spank you? Do you want me to spank you? Okay, c'mere, I'll SPANK YOU! Only if I may fill your beautiful ass crack with glitter. Lovely ass filled with GLITTER! HAHA! Look at that SWEET glittered ass! It's about time! HEHE! EAT GLITTER! SHIT BEAUTIFUL GLITTER TURDS! Ah, my beautiful glitter turd. What a GORGEOUS glitter turd you are! SMOOCH! SMOOCH!
Not fitting in, HOORAY FUCKING HOO-FUCKING-RAY! There's an anthology of queer working class writers that came out not long ago I'm proud to be in. Talk about NOT FITTING IN! GEESH! If you're working class and queer you better keep it to yourself! The queer Movement as it is right now has DECIDED from the pressures of being inside this fucked-up empire of consumerism that in order to BE included we must prove our ability to SHOP! And if you ain't got the bucks to shop than you just don't have a say in nearly anything going on.
So we create our own space. And in that space say FUCK YOU! And speaking out as queer and poor is speaking out for poor folks everywhere. It's a space to have yet another beautiful truth take hold. Rodrigo Toscano said to me when that anthology first came out that THAT was an avant-garde. And I thank him for saying so, because I was busy beating people over the head with the fact that THIS BOOK was here and not going anywhere, and missed all the best parts of what it really was, and is. And will be. (That anthology is titled EVERYTHING I HAVE IS BLUE).
Do you think poetry can magically alter reality? (i.e. spells, "Regrets for Pussy; A Revenge Spell", etc.)
Sex is good good GOOD for poems! No-no, I don't mean sex has to be in the poems. Sex is magic. You've heard that sex is magic of course, nothing new, but HOW CAN IT BE magic for poems? The magic of sex is often neglected, meaning magic is taken for granted when fucking.
There are many cultures and disciplines which take sex to the larger blueprint for bending (dare I say it?) energy. TRY IT AT HOME, TONIGHT! Rub your lover's semen on the spine of your notebook, wrap your pens in red and keep them by your bed, or wherever it is you do most of your fucking. These are simple methods of gathering a tower you tap into later when writing. The red around the pens is sort of the same as an ancient glamouring technique where a woman would charge an earring with her intents to draw the man she most desired. That sort of thing. But it also has a nod to the ancient art of Feng Shui where red draws energy toward, and charges specific locations or things.
I'm not really answering the question though.
I like to draw pictures, just little sketches, which no one else ever sees, and keep them near my bed. When I wake in the middle of the night, most nights, I study these. This has nothing to do with being selfish or secretive, it's about being totally aware that there's a great temple of the imagination each of us gets to have in our own way. Every human being is creative and brilliant, but not everyone realizes that yet. Alan Watts said once, "Obviously, all art is in transition, as is life itself. But the ear cleaning and eye washing that is now going on in the concert halls, galleries, and museums is in preparation for a return to the inseparability of art and everyday life." That was in 1968 he said that. Feel it now? You do, you must, it's brushing against our arms, a lover getting us in the mood. Right? Right!
Your poetry is filled with many surrealistic flights of fancy, ~what are your feelings towards illogical logic?
Ah, this is another question about magic, thank you. And thanks too for agreeing to interview me on this swing set at the top of this bright grassy hill overlooking the grave of Benjamin Franklin here in Philadelphia. My black shoes have pink daisy tips, which are the best shoes for kicking the sky while swinging UP, and KICK!
Surrealism is serious business: Super Real. And the only thing holding us back from making the super real Real, is our BLASTED disbelief!
When I was a kid I was OBSESSED with the Guiness Book of World Records. To know that somewhere there was the world's largest ear lobe, or someone with the most number of teeth, the tallest mountain, the smallest egg. It was my first lesson in surrealism. It was magic in the true sense of the word magic, in that it tested my sense of the real by proving that things can PUSH themselves into forms others have not been able to manage. I mean, if you have the longest pubic hair in history, your body has gone beyond the known limits of the body, right? It's an exciting thing, and the pulse sets pace to the rush from that understanding. The fact that others thought I was a weird kid with my passion for the Guiness Book was just another piece to starting to understand how things CAN be different from how we have them. Science fiction is a matter of understanding for each of us. Have you ever seen a UFO? I've seen several in my life, and most recently with my friends Frank Sherlock and Valerie Massimi. Once you've seen a UFO, especially when you've seen it with others, the question of their existence stops, and the new, and more powerful questions start to take shape. And when people tell me they don't believe in UFOs I simply say, "Well you don't have to believe in something for it to be real." Once you know it's real you can move onto seeing how all daily functions may change. Also, I believe the more of us who know UFOs exist talk about it, the sooner we can all help each other move onto the bigger questions. Knowledge is a responsibility you may have whether you want it or not. Hiding it could be the worst thing you ever do.
Franz Kafka was my first true Love. Kafka cracked the Soul wide open. He had the brilliant ability to disregard limits, to NOT just make Gregor Samsa a physically disabled man, NO, but have him wake up as a bug. If he had been a disabled man instead of a bug, the story could still have played out the same. But in that new space he shows us our brutality, almost inherent cruelty through the largest possible reality as that family in varying degrees finds its way to abuse. Kafka saved the world. Seriously. Jesus came a second time and died of tuberculosis at age 41, in 1924. CHANGE THE CALENDARS! The new time must be set to that day, A.F.: After Kafka. In fact this is not July, 2006, it's July, 81 A.F. Wouldn't you like to go back in time and cuddle with Kafka? Oh my god, I always imagined that he smells fantastic, like a slightly frightened musk of a wild animal trapped in a fucking fenced in suburban neighborhood, and at any moment everyone's going to get off their sofas, see him and call the police and have him shot. I just want to soothe him, give Kafka Love for a night, but not enough that he stops being a complete freak the next morning when it's time to write. Kafka deserves our very best Loving! Hey, Chopin got George Sand's Love. And that's a fucking strange miracle. And see how it changed the course of art, that Love? It breaks my heart to think of our planet's very own genius Kafka being so unLoved. How wonderful to take him out into the woods to smell the mosses, and kiss the mouth that wrote "A Hunger Artist." It's kind of strange that the Czech government won't allow us to put his bones on display. Why not? Why are Kafka's bones any less valuable than the saints? Who's to say Kafka can't heal? Whose to say he hasn't already? To make the pilgrimage to kiss his Lovely bones in Prague, wow, let me lick the calcium knuckle NOW PLEASE!
I'm thinking of starting a couple of new business ventures here in Philadelphia. I already read tarot cards, and have been reading them for more than twenty years now, but lately I've been thinking about reading exclusively for animals. My goldfish LAKSHMI used to Love getting her tarot read. I'd sit by her tank and pull a card for each of the zodiac signs for her, then prop the cards in front of her tank with little stones, and she would swim from card to card, hovering by each one a bit. She Loved it! We'd play music by Brian Eno with the speakers up against her tank. LAKSHMI lived a long beautiful life, and probably would have lived longer if my old boyfriend Christopher didn't insist on getting high and taking her out of her tank to kiss her every time I turned my back. And he didn't kiss her because he Loved her like I did; he started doing this after we were in Chinatown one night and someone told us how lucky goldfish are. His kisses for LAKSHMI were selfish. His kisses in general were pretty nice though. But I want to start reading tarot for dogs and snakes and birds and cats. Maybe even go to the park and read for squirrels and pigeons. An old friend is a chiropractor for animals, but he doesn't see the value in doing these readings, but that's okay, I'm undeterred for the sake of the animals.
"Fast Food Epiphany" is quite a fierce fiery vision against the slaughterhouse establishment: But, what do you think a world in which everyone was vegetarian would look like?
Oh fuck Ben, it's so depressing to think about how wonderful the world could be. All we can do is continue to show each and every person we meet how ESSENTIAL it is everyone make the change to a vegetarian diet, for the sake of the animals, for the sake of our energy crisis, for the sake of the growing human population, for the sake of everyone and everything, MY GOD it's amazing how intertwined animal consumption is with so many of our problems. What's even more amazing though is how many intelligent people don't see it. Or don't want to see it maybe?
As a protest against meat consumption I'm thinking about reading tarot to packages of hamburger and chicken legs in grocery stores, to glimpse where the animals might be headed in their next lives. And to tell customers that the meats (murdered, chopped animals) they are consuming have gone to a better place, a place where stupid, selfish humans with their savage appetites have no domain over the lives of the beasts.
Speaking of going to a better place, another business venture on my mind is to become a Vegetarian Sin Eater. Philadelphia residents (or elsewhere if travel expenses are paid) can hire me to come to Grandmom's wake, where vegan food has been prepared and laid out on her corpse. After her sins have soaked into the food I would play sad music while eating and MOANING Grandmom's sins into my body. Research will be needed to see which foods are the best for absorbing and transferring sins. Recently I was rereading some of Michio Kushi's and George Osawa's studies on food. Osawa in particular was a macrobiotic genius, using his body as a study lab. He would eat a hot dog for instance, and study its entire course, his reactions, emotional, tissue, blood, he studied it all. The answers for sin absorption and transference can definitely be figured out by reading such studies. Daikon radish for instance is a deep cleansing root, and burdock grows through rocks. Cabbage would be a bad choice as cabbage is good at blocking poisons and other toxins for moving beyond the stem. Mushrooms are very absorbent, as is the curd of cooked soy, meaning tofu. And then of course there's the issue of eating enough brown rice later to clean Grandmom's wickedness from my bowels.
You say in one of your lovely sex poems, "i'd put sex in every single poeM if it were not for My absolute fear of Monotany": where do you think this fear comes from?
Monotany is suicide. I fear Monotany because suicide is not an option for staying alive. I Love this world, and when I'm sad about it I want to find the Love again. It's all very delicate sometimes, like a boyfriend asking you to eat a canoli with his cock shoved inside it, right? And of course you DO EAT IT, what's the point of being alive if not for such moments, right? RIGHT! And you study every inch of that custard coated cock with eyes closed, eyes open, eyes closed, open, close, open, it's a lovely study with no stupid quiz at the end. But just the same it's important to be paying attention at all times at exactly where and how the man behind the cock jolts in his electrical current as you're eating the custard. Otherwise it's like walking in the woods saying there aren't any Dogwood trees. The Dogwood can only be known by its leaves and bark once the flowers have dropped. Walking around saying there are no Dogwoods means you weren't making a deeper study in early spring when you had the chance. YOU'RE SURROUNDED BY DOGWOODS OH MY GOD! See them? You see them, and aren't they wonderful!?
Shafer Hall at Bar-BQ once told me what he loved about your work is that no one tries so many things so consistently & is so consistently good (as CA): Where does the need to try all these styles come from?
WELL, I'm nothing but honored you and Shafer were discussing my work! But my answer is pretty much the same as it was with the last question: Monotany is suicide. But, also, poetry is not something I can imagine ever wanting to sleep inside. You know? Getting stuck and no longer wanting to learn, got to keep on learning, or, what's the point? My favorite poets have always been those with the clearest eyes, wide open, all the time, hunting down the newest, liveliest path to our holiest, earthly salvations.
Please recommend some buttocks exercises for our readers...
Have you noticed that today, some nine years after INXS's lead singer Michael Hutchence killed himself, that Bally Fitness Club is using his song "New Sensation" in commercials? GEESH! What kind of world is this anyway!? The man was MORTALLY WOUNDED FROM HIS DEPRESSION and there's happy people selling selling SELLING the Look that is NOT (by the way) the Look of being alone for days in a hotel room in Sydney just before deciding to hang yourself, NO NO NO, the Look is one of fantastic THIGHS the sighs unite over, OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH, ohhhhhhhhhhhhh. What THE FUCK is GOING ON I ASK PLEASE TELL ME THE ANSWER! RIGHT NOW! Fuck. The exhaustion of absorbing the lies, can we get another protein? PLEASE!? When sprinting to the gym does anyone consider hanging themselves? I need to ask because I'm not in the habit of asking questions I already know the answers to. But the horror of being that ready to answer the question about life being over, that's the horror I want us to FEEL when the song and the happy happy happy HAPPY people sell SELL what they sell. Are we idiots? NO WE ARE NOT! Trying to sell us SUCH CRAP! HOW DARE THEY INSULT THE WORLD LIKE THEY DO!
In the poem "Celebrities I've Seen Offstage" you go into all these fantastic anecdotes that are fairly, briefly revealing about these people in your tiny interactions with them: Why do you think our society is so infatuated with celebrities & what role do you think they encompass in American society?
Oh, THEM! Well, it's all very complicated of course, nothing's black and white. There are celebrities who do brilliant things with their fame and money to help others. Audrey Hepburn for instance, and Angelina Jolie who is in some ways the new Audrey Hepburn. Elvis is one of the ULTIMATE examples. The man had given away THREE TIMES his worth by the time he died. He built a village in Memphis for all Tennessee citizens to move to if they become unemployed, live room and board free, with their families, for a year. In that year they will be given schooling in new technologies, etc., to help them get back on their feet.
In a way, when you think about it, buying Elvis's CDs helped many lives, a web of Love and generosity! Elvis stepped in where our elected government continues to fail us. Our presidents continue to pretend to care, while the King's legacy continues to share His abundance!
While Elvis was and continues to be an invaluable asset, there are others who are selfish and annoying. The most flack I've received from that poem is the stanza on Buffy Sainte-Marie. Some of her devoted cult I guess. But too fucking bad, her saying what she said about artists being special and different from "other people" pissed me off! This is not an attack against her visual art and music, this is an attack on her philosophy, which I STRONGLY BELIEVE is the worst kind of philosophy an artist can have! If we're not empowering everyone to be creative, if we're not looking for the POWER we all have to become activated, for each human being to have their very own personal self-actualization, then WHAT THE FUCK IS THE FUCKING POINT OF YOUR FUCKING ART!? I'm so fucking tired of "art" and "artists" having the "market" on the Love that's possible in this life! Fucking BULLSHIT!
I love how you fight like a motherfucker through poetry. One fab poem you do this in is, "For Straight Guys Who've Considered Suicide When the K-Y is Enough": the pen is mightier than the sword, historically, but beatings are serious in lieu of the recent high profile Kevin Aviance case, and lower profile cases still prevalent: how do you view the gay bashing epidemic?
It's tragic what happened to Kevin. If you're not safe being a drag queen in lower Manhattan, then where? Seven men jumped and beat him, put him in the hospital. Seven weak men. Seven fucking coward scum! Three in police custody, while four remain loose.
How do I view the epidemic of violence? Our president sanctions this violence every time he gets in front of a microphone talking about homosexuals as not worthy of the same rights as heterosexuals. Every time he opens his big mouth saying that GOD doesn't even approve. It's like we're not real. When you shoot or stab someTHING that's not real, well, what's the harm, right? Just having a little fun! So many weak men it's FRIGHTENING! Don't you think Hitler's utter and OPEN disgust of Jews was mighty big encouragement to the weak? The weak are always listening, breathless, for that opportunity to prove their loyalty. The meek shall inherit the Earth, so the bible says, and EXACTLY WHAT DOES THAT FUCKING MEAN!? It's pretty clear weak men control the world right now. It takes a man with courage and strength to Love, grasp empathy, hold a hand out. It's the weak who obey all commands. I fear the weak first and foremost. Never turn your back on the weak, especially when there's more than one.
What effect do you think the lack of love you bring up in "Dear Mr. President There Was Egg Shall under Your Desk Last Night in My Dream!" has had on history?
In the poem I say that a man who has little time for Love is a man who has never experienced Love, Real Love. It's impossible to have allowed Love in and not want it for everyone else. And without it, the worst things are possible. With Bush, obviously the worst things have come into existence. So, we all need to ask ourselves, IF WE found out tomorrow that GIVING president Bush a little sweet nectar, that a little Real Love could change the world, could end violence, could change the outlook on the poor and others in need...if we FOUND THIS OUT, would we, could we, go to the White House and give him a little sugar? Give him some Love? Maybe we need to work this all out on the grassroots level, Love at home, Love at the corner market, Love and MEAN IT EVERYDAY EVERYWHERE! Which does not mean not being allowed to be angry by the way. I do not advocate some touchy, feely New Age crap.
You said when you met Marsha P. Johnson (the first to throw the stone at Stonewall) at Pride in Tompkins Square in the '90s that she was homeless and that the movement had left her behind; do you think it's the movement's responsibility though to house its participants? Penny Arcade says calling a community based on your bedroom habits troubling to begin with...do you think there really is a gay community at this point? (when so many of the concepts that symbolized the original movement [you had to have wit, culture, & intellect to even enter the club at one point, whereas now Chelsea has turned into tons of muscle-bound non-thinkers] have been lost...)
(side-note: by the way, I sent her your president poem after hanging out at her apartment the other night and her bringing up a similar concept [re: lack-love] in "Bitch Fag Dyke Whore" [i'm getting that title wrong but it's late and i have no time to check it, ~this is just a side-note anyway...)
Thank you so much for all your enthusiasm and support Ben, it's much appreciated! And of course it makes me nothing but happy that Penny Arcade read my president poem. I'm fucking HUMBLED!
But when I first found out Marsha P. Johnson was dead it was several years after the fact. Her murder. Keep in mind she was murdered when she was homeless. The picture of her I found didn't recharge me like I had hoped it would. She's one of the three DEVIANTS I dedicate my book Deviant Propulsion to. She had that genuine, original FIRE! The kind of molten force that comes to change our world.
You ask me, "do you think it's the movement's responsibility though to house its participants?" and it sounds like someone informing us that we need to ask permission to breathe. Ah, take a disobedient, deep breath!
Ben, let's get something clear, Marsha was not a participant. You and I are the participants. Marsha was THE REVOLUTION! Marsha P. Johnson is a Mother of ANOTHER American Revolution! Because Stonewall was ANOTHER American Revolution! YEAH! Let's see murals of Marsha leading the troops, pushing the pigs onto the street! And MOTHERFUCKER when I say murals I mean with the fucking stars and stripes STREAMING out of her head, SCREAMING, not asking, SCREAMING FOR JUSTICE!
She was not a participant, SHE WAS IT! And we follow into that, we "participants" you and I, all of us. You're queer and living in America? Guess what? Marsha P. Johnson saved your fucking soul! She WAS Deviant Propulsion! Pushing the culture forward, ready or NOT! Like it or NOT! FUCK YOU ALL EITHER WAY HERE IT COMES!
What a GORGEOUS human being she was! How LUCKY the world was to have had her!
You're queer in America? You're sixteen and NOT wanting to kill yourself? You can probably find some educated, sensitive folks at school these days to help out. And you know why? Because Marsha P. Johnson took to the fucking streets in 1969, that's why! But was forgotten, homeless, strangled to death and thrown in the river at a time when the rest of New York City was busy buying buying BUYING expensive real estate! What a DISGRACE!
You ask, do I "think it's the movement's responsibility to house its participants?" Let me say that the reason you ask this question is because the movement decided to stop with its main issue. They stopped wanting to change the world when they got some of what they wanted, JUST LIKE many in the civil rights movement asked Dr. Martin Luther King to stop on the issues of race when he started talking out against the war in Vietnam, and when he wanted to join the labor unions in their struggles. And LET US NOT FORGET how he wanted to support Bayard Rustin, but others in the movement were too homophobic to deal with Rustin, and wanted to remove him AND DID REMOVE HIM from that great march forward.
Martin Luther King was shot down at the point in time when he was working to bring all these VERY IMPORTANT forces together as one. And let's not forget Harvey Milk who worked on the side of labor, winning over the tough and squeamish union bosses. And Harvey Milk was VERY MUCH interested in ending homelessness.
To ask me, do I "think it's the movement's responsibility to house its participants?" is really being asked because we no longer see how these revolutions had so much more to offer, had great leaders who were willing to put their lives in danger to ask us all to PLEASE understand the importance of SEEING EVERYONE'S SUFFERING AS OUR VERY OWN SUFFERING!
How do we fail one another, even with the best intentions? I know I've failed many, and many have failed me. Our transitions into newer explorations of sensation derail simple kindness all along the way. And it doesn't have to be. We can Love this world together. But we're in so much pain, all the time, because we allow the worst possible things to happen around us, and there's countless anesthetic to keep us from noticing, to keep the ruptures quiet. How on earth could someone like Marsha P. Johnson have died and I not hear about it for three years? How on earth could it be Marsha P. Johnson CHANGED THE WORLD, and almost no one even knows who the fuck she was?
AND WHY THE FUCK is it that so few know who she was? Is it because she wasn't respectable? As Marsha herself pointed out, all the RESPECTABLE types went RUNNING out the back door of Stonewall in 1969 in order to protect their respectability. We owe Marsha and the other drag queens and butch dykes from that night so much, yet we would continue to question offering them help, as though it's something to think about while eating a cheeseburger. As though eating a cheeseburger is helping a cow.
Is it "the movement's responsibility to house its participants?" Was it Marsha P. Johnson's responsibility to give us what you and I have today and take for granted? Just because you can't imagine the world without the things you have doesn't mean it couldn't be different.
Ben, I WISH we could sit down with Marsha. And ask her, if she KNEW back in 1969 what was going to become of the revolution she started, and that she would be homeless, and murdered, would she have hesitated? There's NO RECORD OF HER HESITATION LET ME TELL YOU! It was all about striking out, making the step toward ending tyranny and domination over her life and the lives of her friends she called her family. We have to honor that place in history where an angry drag queen led other angry drag queens and butch lesbians onto the streets of New York and said GET THE FUCK OUT OF OUR FUCKING HAIR YOU FUCKING PIG SCUM! If you think it would take courage to do that today, JUST IMAGINE doing it in 1969! Courage courage COURAGE COURAGE, it's all about COURAGE! And there's precious little real courage to go around some days it seems.
What's Philly got that's so freakin great?
Some of the best poets alive! If you don't know who they are you're not paying attention. But I am not that interested in making Philadelphia look attractive these days. In other words DON'T TELL PEOPLE TO MOVE HERE! Terrible things are happening. The carpet baggers have arrived. Condominiums everywhere! They are tearing down beautiful buildings to make these. And worse, our community gardens. The garden plot I share with poet Cathleen Miller will be a condominium this time next year. Just last week another, beautiful garden was destroyed by bulldozers. It's like a giant fucking murder scene most days around here. The filth of greed has no conscience whatsoever. The rich want their way as usual, and as usual they will have their way.
When I first moved here it was still possible for a poor country kid like I was to pay close to nothing in rent, in order to read and write, and explore, and really LIVE, be bold, be intimate with the world and find that world inside yourself. It was a beautiful time, back then. There were so many artists! It seemed like the city was a city of artists! Sculptors, painters, musicians, poets, novelists, philosophers, SO MANY OF US! Everyone I knew from back then has left or is leaving so fast there's not chance enough to get a change of address. Instead of artists, Philadelphia is becoming a city of art collectors. How many times does greed interfere with creativity? The vacant, empty rich, moving where artists made a beautiful, nurturing community, forcing those very artists out onto the streets. I work in the most affluent neighborhood in Philadelphia, and I see AND SMELL the rich every sickening day. They actually believe being creative means coordinating their expensive jewelry with their expensive dress, or bag, or stupid hat. As though SHOPPING is creative! They make me want to THROW UP! They're horrible, the rich, and their children ARE SO MUCH WORSE THAT THE FUTURE LOOKS NOTHING BUT GRIM!
Extrapolate on the concept of poets as raising the collective consciousness (that you touch upon in 'POETS REFINE MONEY'); Ted Berrigan has this concept of poet as most important job in the universe (Shelly's legislature of the universe), and most meaningless job in the universe (~i wanted to quote Ted but, electronic poetry center took down that speech): anyway, why do you think poetry is so worthless economically if it's so important? Or rather, why do you think society puts such a low monetary value on it?
That piece of mine you refer to is an actual classified ad for newspapers. It literally means that the work the poet would do for rich scum is to refine, or clean some of that scum out of their money. The very fact that a wealthy person would give a poet money to live on, and write with, is all that that rich bastard should expect in return. They deserve nothing more than that. Actually, the rich would be surprised what they really deserve! The stock market financing wars and murder needs MANY poets writing full time to put a dent in its dark, giant machine at this point.
You ask, "why do you think poetry is so worthless economically if it's so important?" which is the key to the whole mess, such a question. Because it is a question with so many obvious answers as to its worth. You quote Ted, and I'll quote Alice, who wrote, "poetry's so common hardly anyone can find it." What's something worth? We continue to live in this stupid idea of a world where jobs get money to buy things and to buy better shinier things if you can get them, and worth is worth everything, worth your life. We cannot possibly expect this kind of suffering to go unchecked forever. Poetry isn't medicine, it's not chemotherapy, it's a bit of an equalizer. Daring to do any kind of creative act, including activism, which has no economic worth, is a shock to that ugly, driven system.
In "Exit as Real Journey to All Friends" the classic line "fuck / the heart / i Love you / with all / my liver": what does this line mean to you?
Too many people are afraid of being angry. The liver is all about anger. To Love with Anger, to be Angry because you Love. And also, why NOT the liver? How tedious to continue letting the cliche of the organ which pumps nutrient rich blood through the body get the experience of expressing Love. Why NOT the liver, which filters toxins? The eyes are connected to the liver. You get drunk you get blood shot eyes. Your liver gets too fucking clogged you go blind. You see what is your Love with your eyes which are connected to the liver. But then again why not another organ? It's all about macro/micro compare/contrast.
Your poetry often contains a voice like a friend talking to you, subtly leading to trust & revelation through everyday conversation in the language we actually speak (& the philosophy of CA tucked into this): Who are some of your favorite intimate voiced poets?
Favorite intimate voiced poets? There are many! What a great time to be alive and Loving poetry! Let me limit myself to nine names Ben, nine at the top of my head who DO THIS: Carol Mirakove, Frank Sherlock, hassen, Kevin Varrone, John Coletti, Magdalena Zurawski, Joe Massey, kari edwards, Divya Victor, gotta stop! Said I'd stop! Nine, and I could go on with more more MORE, and read and read and READ them out loud with you. SO MANY AMAZING POETS RIGHT NOW! For someone like me who reads nothing but poetry it's a miracle! If I were interested in distraction I'd read novels, but I loathe distraction, and prefer the total immersion of the Spirit that is poems, no matter how difficult the intake valve complains.
CAConrad & Ben Malkin
at Eileen Myles's apartment, November 2008