Sunday, May 24, 2009

Rippered from the pages of LETTERHEAD2 : CHRISTOPHER ROBINS' Western poetry wire-wash section preface/ manifesto!



Poetry Scene

The West-Coast writers I chose for this issue all have different backgrounds and writing

styles, but I believe they often share a common theme—keeping poetry socially relevant

while never finding it necessary to be overtly political. Though it is certainly hard to

generalize, since among this California group of writers are teachers, social workers,

performance artists, community activists, linguists, film makers, playwrights, musicians,

actors, crafts makers (and the list goes on), as a community, we are determined to make

our voices heard (in a society that has relegated poetry to the lowest form of art), and we

possess the open-mindedness to share criticism as well as ink: editing, writing reviews,

publishing each others books, etc.

In 2003, Nicole Henares, a San Francisco high school English teacher and writer of short

stories and poetry, introduced me to many of these writers, though as synchronicity

would have it, a few of us had known each other through the mail for many years prior to

this. In the summer of 2004, she chose a group of us to read at the North Beach Festival

in San Francisco, on the poetry stage that had been in existence there for nearly fifty

years. Though there were many established and well-known poets performing that day,

many of us, myself included, had never performed on stage before. On the second day of

performances, the microphone was unexpectedly cut off by the police due to complaints

from nearby vendors over “obscenity” (probably in part due to some very graphic and

comedic poems about the human experience by Oakland poet Joe Pachinko and some

incendiary anti-war poems by local poet Jack Hirschman). Needless to say, even without

the public address system, our group of Santa Cruz and Bay Area poets continued to read

to a fired-up crowd. It was then I realized that poetry in the twenty-first century can still

be a relevant, threatening, and enlightening tool for speaking the truth about our

neighborhoods, the ongoing war, and our economic struggles.

Later that year, along with Brian Morrisey (a Santa Cruz transplant from the East Coast,

and the publisher of Poesy), I started a weekly reading called the Wired Wash Open Mic

in a local coffeehouse/laundromat. He and I invited poets from Santa Cruz, as well as

from the Bay Area, to feature once a month. Eventually, poets came from as far away as

the East Coast and the Midwest for the paltry sum of twenty dollars for gas money, an

opportunity to sell their books, and all the wine they could drink at either my house or

Brian’s following the reading.

Over the years, the Wired Wash venue became a haven for street people, musicians,

academics, storytellers, college students, punk rockers, and local characters; and our

patrons ranged in age from seven to eighty-nine. Through technical difficulties, the

cacophony of espresso making and spinning washing machines, unexpected closings,

police patrols, blackouts, fist fights, high staff turnover, chaos, and magic, the Wired

Wash persevered for four years until it closed in June 2008 (when someone allegedly ran

off with the rent money).

Over the last five years, many of us have lectured on zines and small magazines in

schools, attended small press festivals, hosted and performed in readings in San

Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, Los Angeles, New Mexico, and even Las Vegas, been

featured on cable access TV and pirate radio, and produced spoken word CDs and poetry

DVDs, all the while sharing resources from Northern to Southern California and keeping

the news of our efforts alive through email, snail mail, telephone, and chance meetings in

downtown Santa Cruz.

I hope you enjoy the following selection of poetry and visual work from the underground

poets of California’s west coast…

–Christopher Robin/Zen Baby

Daydreaming Past the Exits

Those days cold and bitter in the city

when they cut off my dental

and she couldn’t get a job

those days of nicotine relief and huge belly laughs….

knowin’ our kid was probably retarded----

when my sis was in & out depressed---maybe on meth

when our favorite potheads nearly killed our cats-

when Pam died and I woke up at the Kern River

that was magic

I cried in the tent all night

not because of the ants----

I obsessed about the country/any country but mine/anything but this apartment

full of shimmering toys/ electrical excess /skull lights/clowns that went off

with no prompting/fart machines/the illusions/distractions/consume/consume….

I worried about scabies, staph infections, the swine flu, mental retardation…..

solar showers….composting toilets, did I have enough flashlights?

I played endless internet games, I played the anarchist fake

I stayed in bed----A LOT

I helped mother, played Scrabble on Saturday nights with my girlfriend

and ailing father

those were the days when we couldn’t tell the ruse or the fascism or the legit

is this it, the big one, martial law? what are we still doing in the city? why are you planning

a degree? do we have a future? are they closing the borders? why are we still here?

her: head buried in calculus book

me: head buried in internet games, lawsuits, lottery tickets

him: couldn’t shower couldn’t focus couldn’t learn

on the porch with cigarettes on a rare warm evening: “what’re we gonna do?! the kid’s a total liability!!!!”

oh precious laughter & vhs movies & country drives/abandoned houses/ghost towns/our trips south/our trips north/oh precious kisses/I didn’t know when I’d met her/she’d be my steady/my thinker/my rock/

unlovable criminal country/beautiful/beautiful girl

flooded with ideas but no concrete plans

endless stream of daily drama, letters and phone calls-

no real salvation

I want to make soap! I want you to whittle! how can invisible numbers carry us through a swine flu epidemic?

I want a dog/I want real weather/I want to be too cold/too hot/anything to feel

I knew I needed wheels & a lot of propane

I knew my camping skills would someday surpass my skills

at paying credit cards on time….

and that Starbucks was laying off workers

and it could only mean the end of civilization…..

the gunshots in my neighborhood real and the southern borders tight

I didn’t want to raise an astronaut

but a gang member either

I wanted to do more than sleep/ happy to get by/in a comfortable ruse…..

I surrounded myself in foolishness

all my business was suspect

but so were the headlines…..

as they raced to prophecy….

the animals evolving from benign creatures

into genetically engineered super-germ-monsters

I daydreamed past the last exit…. my coffee and bath running cold…

No comments: