Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Well it's Friday the 29th of October and it'll soon be Saturday Nov 6th. That means if you do the math, you'll realize that you have only eight days left to reserve tickets for the ImageMaker's latest artistic production: SATURDAY NIGHT in the Jungle Room of the Mercury Cafe on November 6th. Unless, of course, you’ve already made reservations.
Marcia, James Frisbie, Gwylym Cano and myself have been hard at work on our theatrical re-enactment of one of the most important afternoons in my and Marcia's life: James Ryan Morris reading poetry for the last time in the Greek Amphitheater in Denver's Civic Center Park (as he died unexpectedly not long after) at Denver Poets Day in 1978 mano/mano with his pal Larry Lake (Larry published my first book in 1981 and performed my and Marcia's marriage ceremony in 1979). Believe me: my wise-ass Tacony intellect (Tacony being the hood where I grew up in Philadelphia) was certainly humbled that day. I'd been writing poetry since I was sixteen and thought I was pretty damn good performing my memorized narratives. But when I heard Jimmy read that afternoon I suddenly knew, for the first time, what it was to be a poet, to be an artist, and how far I had yet to go in the practice of my arts. And Larry hung right there with Jimmy. And as only befits a great Irish poet's last reading, the event/the scene/the day was chaotic: hell, there was a keg of free beer back stage where many of the park's regular drunks had gathered, all nosily oblivious to the poetry reading happening on-stage. There also were some very anxious irreverent would-be poets dis-ing on Jimmy and Larry as the novices were impatient for their turn to read. Well, first: Jimmy's poetry and his presence annihilated all the chaos: the drunks, the hecklers, the sirens and church bells, his wife Diana threatening to kick sideways down Colfax Avenue the asses of some faux hipster chicks who were being disruptive, and all the whirls of goings-on in Civic Center Park; and then: his poetry sang the song of what it is to human. I've carried Jimmy's poetry in my head for thirty-two years and MY BEST SHOT is your chance to experience what I did that day.
And as if MY BEST SHOT were not enough, it only gets better as Jason Eklund is the other half of SATURDAY NIGHT, and, believe me, Jason is the REAL DEAL when it comes to American song-writing. It's no joke when I tell people I call Jason Better Than Bob (as in Dylan). Other comparisons would include Woody Guthrie, Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, Fred Neal, John Lennon. He’s all of them and then some. Really: Jason’s is a talent that can simply be described as a gift from the gods. Jason's doing a little swing tour of some of his old haunts and places in between here and his current abode: Nashville - with Denver the reason, the hub of his tour. I met Jason at The Mercury twenty years ago and we’ve been friends since then.
There's limited seating in the Jungle Room so please do reserve your seat by return e-mail or by phone: 303 322 9324 (leave name and number of seats and a return phone number so we can confirm your reservation).
Oh, and did I mention that Marcia and I are doing a joint art show for the month of November in the Jungle Room as well.
Marcia and I will be incommunicado until Tuesday November 2 as we will be spending the weekend in Santa Monica for this Saturday's Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration of The Temple Man in which I have been ordained for close to thirty years. Marcia and I both have art in an exhibition of a sampling of the Temple of Man's art collection at Beyond Baroque in Venice where there will also be a reading/screening/concert as part of which I will be monologue-ing one of my favorite narratives, Not Just Another Hose Job. Hope all is well and hope you can make it to SATURDAY NIGHT.
Later . . . Ed
My Best Shot
James Ryan Morris Reads for the Last Time
Mano Mano with Larry Lake Denver Poets Day 1978
Transcribed & Adapted for the Stage
by Edwin Forrest Ward and Marcia Diane Ward
Passion Press/the Image Maker
© 2009 Passion Press / the Image Maker
the Poetry Subway & Bowery Press
For ourselves and our friends
Cover photo: Marcia Ward, the Image Maker
Passion Press /the Image Maker
5475 Peoria Street 4-112
Denver CO 80239
303 322 9324
The Stage of The Greek Amphitheater in Denver Civic Center Park
James Ryan Morris
T & T
Drunk in Crowd
Drunks Back Stage
Man in Crowd
(Jess Graf, T&T, Drunk in Crowd, Drunks Backstage, Man in Crowd, and Sam are played by one actor. Except for Jess in the beginning, all are only voices.)
(Jess is on Stage at the microphone. Diana & James Ryan Morris enter from stage left, and Larry Lake enters from stage right. All mill around and keep their distance from each other.)
JESS: All right everybody, welcome to Denver Poet’s Day.
We got a treat. We got a treat. We got a real treat, man.
We got two poets here. Man, I mean we got some poets here now.
These cats have kept Denver poetry going, man, over the last decade,
these two cats right here, through the Denver Mile High Underground and ah…
JRM: (prompts) Mano-Mano
JESS: yeah, and Mano-Mano/2, and all the people in it.
They are The Croupier Press and they are The Bowery Press.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
and James Ryan Morris.
(Jess goes backstage.)
JRM: Larry will read first.
LL: WHO IS A TEAR THE SUN LETS FALL?
WHO SETS THE COOL HEAD AFLAME W/SMOKE?
WHO PEEPS FROM THE UNHEWN DOLMEN ARCH?
I am the
last ol lady
of the west, my
needs are: bent
& a hat
puff footed poet
in Frankies center ring
seeks word work
the single sun
his eyes w/wonder
(JESS: (Clapping) Hey Great, man.)
(DRUNKS BACKSTAGE: Hey what’s that?
Free beer, man.
Hey, give me some of that.)
JRM: This is, ah, to dedicated to the poet Mayakovsky,
But I’d like to dedicate this reading personally to Larry.
We’ve been together about a dozen years now.
Who stood alone
in your time
(DRUNKS BACKSTAGE: Do you believe this? It’s all foam.
What are they doin’ out there?
Who cares? Beer here.)
displaying an anger
& a concern for people
that still defies me
(DRUNKS BACKSTAGE: Hey let me pour man.)
I call out to-
I invoke for yr energies
(DIANA: Would you shut your fucking mouth? Can’t you see what’s goin’ on? That’s my old man. Be quiet!)
For, my friend, they have reached me
And my strength is gone-
-If you wanna talk back there, why don’t you go on upfront. Huh?!
For, my friend, they have reached me
and my strength is gone-
O Poet, let me borrow yr ability to love
to insert smiles in mouths of hate
to call out against crucifixion…
On the table a revolver, a cup of cold coffee
We both know what to do with them –
O Poet! Reach out to me
for I need yr vision & strength.
Everywhere I go
there is nothing,
nothing to offer peace
to this body
to wash away the need
that drives me on.
Faces, faces, faces – Masks!
given at birth to the masses
so they can forge a smile
make love seem truthful, meaningful
& compromise their dead-cold hearts
O Poet! I call out! & echoes answer
Shut up and die!
Ah, how they wld like that, my voice silenced
forever done in
by their ignorance.
But, I am armed, & they give me room to move in
solitary streets of no-one to confront,
mountains where the snow falls Black-
O come my enemies! Let us meet face to face.
My bullet to yr head or heart,
no matter, for you cannot win.
I died long ago & many times
…& hold on to my only…
and hold on to only my love as precious
and you have nothing/ not even a country
a country such as where I am buried.
No! this is not a song of joy.
How I pity yr ignorant dead steps
as the snow falls upon them
leaving nothing in their wake,
nothing but more mushed down snow –
No! this is not a song of joy.
If you wish that
Where all the bullshit gathers
In the midst of nite
& claps itself on the back
behind the tombstones
of those who tried…
(JESS: (Clapping enthusiastically) Yeah…Cool Man.)
JRM: I’m gonna sneak one in here for Larry.
This is called SUCH PARTICULAR DOUBT
When we used to drink a lot
Larry used to say: You have to give up the booze, the broads, the dope, the juice, and everything, you know.
I said, “What am I gonna write about?”
and this came one day and I wrote it on his wall.
So here it is, the shot:
Where is the crazy
dark rider of dreams
That none of us
will ever know
in the arms
of women who’ll never
know us/ & least of all
LL: I don’t think I ever said ‘give it all up,” did you think.
the stilt legged lover poem
how do I tell him magic
when he asks form
how do I say the Lady
when he questions structure
how do I teach leap
when he seeks motive
let the words walk
their own tite wire
there is the circle
here to complete
seen from the platform:
it is sawdust
& a prayer
all will enter
thru the back
seen from below:
the tite rope walker
becomes a space
tension must fill
makes the act a balance
it is a meeting across
the fear & hope I speak.
Jack Armstrong 3 Good Deeds Today
Sneak Into A Matinee
Come To My Party How
Many Games Can You Play
I will write him a story of the
stilt legged lover, a monster
reincarnation, a button man
hurrying home for supper
dropping rubble poems
into the Charles Atlas eyes
the ripple face of neon mouthful cities
notes to build dislike when forgotten
& it was years of falling begging
her presence behind closed doors
bedroom solitaire & reach into my
empty duffle bag head
to fall & be cushioned
by her breast her thigh
cupping a round place
to fit into I will not leave again
JRM: I don’t know how many of you remember the day that Billie Holiday died,
and for your information: Diana Ross is not Billie Holiday, and never will be, she couldn’t even touch her. Square black chick, man; she ain’t even cool.
This is called “the Day, the Afternoon the Lady Died, 1959”
(DRUNK IN CROWD: “Fifty-nine?”)
JRM: When all is said and done . . .
- I don’t even know if you were born then yet kid, but you know -
When all is said and done
and only quiet remains,
we shall stand as one
between the thousand pains.
No more to rape and swear\
at the truth within.
No more to crush and tear
at a human skin.
There will be peace
for the living-
Death shall cease
and be forgiving.
There is this earth
and the voice that sings
knows of our birth
Knows many things-
you and I
black and white
sea and sky
wrong and right
Listen to the sound of Her voice:
face your heart, make the choice.
LL: Billie Holiday… Another eulogy: Wallace Berman, Los Angeles Artist.
(WORD RIB CAGE title not mentioned)
Wallace Berman died last week. Hit
by a drunk
(whistle happy tune we are
sick today, got flying
on our arm sticks
She told him I Love You in a very
simple moment. He told her of
standing naked bleeding grey
neutral & indeterminate ash.
dust to the touch. Soon she was
purring on the inhale &
JRM: Ah . . .
LL(Aside to JRM): Let’s read all of our death poems.
JRM: The guy that organized this I believe told me before I came up here to make a fool of myself, ah, said he read this poem, which is a poem for John Garfield, who was an actor that was brought up before The House On Un-American Activities Committee and whose films are still banned from tv and died at the age of thirty-five during the hearings and was a great ( City & County Building’s bell rings: Gong Gong) influence upon me when I was a youth. So anyway (Gong Gong) it’s called
Seven Sounds for John Garfield.
Oh how long have I lived
the image of John Garfield…
- hey, right on time with the bells -
John Garfield with Jennifer Jones
machine guns blazing as Cubans
climbed all over the house he held up in…
Tony Fenner said to me – Gilbert Roland
let’s strike a blow for Liberty!”
Long after the theatre lights went on
I sat in my seat feeling my image of self
change, walking New York streets with his walk
which changed always after watching him,
Cigarettes constantly lit, dangling from the corners
of my Garfield mouth.
And always, a fist-fight/street rumble with some-one
within a few hours after a Garfield movie…
John Garfield you were a strong influence upon me.
The day I heard you died while fucking
I got drunk and scored my 5th piece of ass
in my youthful hunger.
Now I am older and you are younger in yr Death
and I wonder just which one of us has made out the best-
&Cuba, you’d never recognize it, John, yet I’m sure
there are many who wish your cinematic machine gun
it would be great, John, to go there,
You and I and Fidel
smoking big cigars, drinking large glasses of rum
all of us practicing our aim
on a picture of John F. Kennedy.
John Garfield: know that my generation still
holds onto your image & that your
cigarette smolders in my mouth
day in / day out
DRUNK IN CROWD: Hey, John F Kennedy!
LL: Let’s here it for John Garfield, yeah.
logos is the gull
For Frank T. Rios
in the arms of one
who loves you/
how much blood
meets the eye
it is the near end
of the world roots thirst
under the microscopic lens
angelic death dances to
grandstand cheers empty
endlessly without sound
I think now of carriers
filled, some ash, others flesh
LL:(aside to himself) More foam than beer.
JRM: Yeah, well.
There was a guy, a friend of ours, who had a gallery in San Francisco
and it was called Gotham City and it used the Batman Symbol as its symbol,
and he called himself Billy Batman
and he was so obsessed with it that he had his ears pierced and had bats hung on them
and he also had bats tattooed on his arms and his tee shirts and everywhere.
I never even found out what his name was in death, so this is called
Elegy for Billy Batman
1. We only met once
in yr kitchen
yr wife nursing
the living room chaotic
with other young mothers
I thot when I entered
but you made me feel comfortable
like a brother
extending a joint
& after awhile
we talked business
Methadone,etc. as you were sick
& wanted to make it to Turkey
“closer to the main source.” You sd.
& being brothers I let you have what I had
for 200$ less than you’d expected…
and looking back, Billy, I wonder if I shd feel guilt
After dinner, we, Stuart Perkoff, Tony Scibella, you & I sat
on the back steps digging a circular box of beauty
and its contents which George Herms had layed on you.
I wonder where that box is now, Billy?
That you died so we wld continue isn’t the point,
we expect that from each other, being poets, and so its done.
But now with even beautiful Tracy Doyle gone-
for She too was there that day – the impact of our lives
& every time the dropper draws up the blood
I think of you, Billy, am I shooting you into
my arm, and if so, what messages are trying
to come thru
from wherever you are…
I don’t know abt this poem, Billy, perhaps it is
only guilt being inserted into my conscience, & being shaped
into a poem - & if so, let it be, for We both know better.
LL: Jack Armstrong Blues
he thot to look
at for one lady only
this city his
now look to see
Black, is the color
of his true
JRM: Ok, Man in Black
LL: Hello Sam
JRM: Hey Sam. How are you doin’?
I didn’t know you were in town.
SAM: Just touching base.
JRM: All right, like everybody else.
This is called November 10, 1958, November 10, 70.
It took twelve years to compose this piece.
Which is a long time.
I mean people get born in twelve years.
its black & the music is down
the street heavy
with fog, not a soul in sight
only Jimmy Giuffre
makes the motion
that’s no motion
my horn quiet
about love’s neck
& blues is the bag…
that was 12 years ago, a thought
layed down in the journal.
tonite’s the same. different state
different scene, different age, more
black, but the same.
do we ever make it? will we ever let go
and get away so as not to reflect, and
if we do, how about handling it?
For hung behind the life & the poem
is the figure
and behind the figure is
but quiet, I suppose
(T&T: Come on.)
LL: I got all day.
(JESS: Yeah, you got all day, Baby. Take your time.)
JRM: Cool I can run downtown for a beer.
LL: I know I got it. I know I got it.
JRM: Don’t be so picky.
They’re all dangerous.
LL: I can’t find the damn thing. I know I had it. I got it. Alright…
Poem And Again Poem
LL: these are rich days. Many
of my wishes are granted. My body
is an instrument a
turn see the hands turn
Her turn. now give
us a turn
I will blow a note to you
a kite upon the wind
here is the string
that these works
This is a poem titled “We Three Called Venice.”
Once upon a time in Venice California
ah, there used to be three of us who used to run together all the time: (microphone feedback and wind)
Stuart Perkoff, Tony Scibella, Frank Rios, and myself. That makes four.
But one was – what the hell is that –
(JESS: Well, the wind keeps blowing that son of a bitch – are you still picking it up. Try it now.)
(JESS: Yeah, now you got it.)
(MAN IN CROWD: Sounds Good)
JRM: O.k., cool. Cool. Anyway, one of the four was never free. Like either I was on the road. Frankie was in jail. Stuart was in Jail. Tony was somewhere, in some other city.
So we got, you know, never crossed tracks ‘till here one time back in, what was that 73?
JRM: OK, so this is called We Three Called Venice.
We thought we were the only three guys in Venice doing something.
1: It’s in three movements and different voice changes.
1. (all day the line
from other lines
specific touch by
the third man
i.e of us whom
one wild summer
of those nine
we prefer to love
& consider ours
he the quietest
got through to snatch the laurel,
to stand at the head of the street
& bare his chest
for the moon to stencil
“what eye you hiding in today?”
indeed. As if one could
attain that kind of position. . .
to sit behind someone’s
lens on the world, to
pick off the sights
the selves we don’t
know, to dare that
Yet to deny
the line is to deny
the fact of that for which
we three always stood:
that different eyes make poems
of difference, for brothers know
love of the same
of the same face.
2. that we are
(you, wood – me, stone)
gets something out
of the way, what of him
though? mud & bone
do we consider that
or go right past it and pray
it don’t move?
(on cold nites
you can hear him falling
thru the trees
on the way to Larry Lipton’s
- Larry Lipton died last year. I got drunk I hated him so much -.
3. She knew what it was about when she closed the door
(and so did he
New York City poet 1955
caught between the rush
for both coasts, catholic
in his ears
no heirs to concern
no visibles to feed
being, an act of insanity
so they said, give up that bitch
and come home –
put down the words
& the women, the juice
be a better man
He could do no more than die to show them
(but forged ahead into
that which is lonely,
the craft of opening
be it windows
HERE LIES SOMEONE!
DIED ONE DAY
OUT OF LUCK!
he beat the cross
though, and to think
that was all
he set out to do
& write a few poems
LL: Yeah, you know all the Bowery, all those broadsheets when we started publishing:
Jimmy, Frankie, Tony, Stuart, and after each one, people would come up and say,
‘Well, who’s the best poet of all four?’
No, Baby, that’s not where it’s at, they’re all different.
(Subway Poem title is not mentioned)
there is this time
a deeper going into/
the mind turns.
tunnels of cold winds
a footfall sun to star/
the mind stumbles
concrete knobs the
gun is jammed
in crowds one hand holds
thru the window:
rock. steel rails.
tom & beckys.
against closed doors there is
the haste to hurry home
(DRUNKS BACKSTAGE: Can you believe this beer?
Such good luck, fuckin’ a.)
Can you hear it out there?
This is called The Handshake…
You and I are tight I said
friends to the end.
-Can you keep it down. I mean you can go somewhere else and juice, you know-
“You and I are tight I said
friends to the end.
I picked up a stone
(T&T: Hurry up old man.
Come on, Hurry up. Little T, waitin’ to read.)
And hit him in the head
And left him for dead
And walked off
Still holding his hand.
JRM: You can go somewhere else, like you know, to read.
Really man, you know. This poem is called
I thought once
Surrounded by assassins
Was the common reference.
(Drunk in Crowd: J. F. K. !)
& so leaving
all of it behind
I went away to here, this
isolation and study
but the nite falls
across the empty glass
& one wishes for speech
no matter how stupid or hackneyed
just that warmth
which human exchange provides
(from the mountains
the lites prominent
its understood why
man built cities, came in from the cold
settled next to another tongue
JRM: Whose in the bullpen? Whose in the bullpen?
LL: (on the arfy-darfy)
It was the light
last thing of the night
done with it
I turned it off
Over my shoulder &
down to my knees
a learned discussion
if you please
Shut up! Roll
done we have
fun last thing
of the night
we do not fight
JRM: Hey John, Hey Jeff, You got anybody warming up in the bullpen?
You got anybody warming up in the bullpen?
DIANA (returns to stage and mills around)
LL: I got one more I want to do, and then I’m ready to quit. All right.
(T&T: Hurry up!)
JRM: Hey, oh great, Baby, I’ll be off in a minute. Woo, woo!
(T&T: Come on!)
JRM: Hey if you don’t like it, man, you can go dig Clint Eastwood, man.
He’s in town.
This is called Nothing Moves But Dies.
This is one of the old Bowery Broadsheets from twelve years ago.
Really. This fucking relic. It’s in tabloid form. It was great.
It sold for twenty-five cents in this city,
and nobody bought any copies.
Can you dig that? Larry Lake published it.
That’s how hip this state is to poetry.
Anyway, I’ll give you my best shot.
NOTHING MOVES, BUT DIES
(T&T: Oh Great! Another one.
You ain’t done yet?)
the rules are
get born, learn
to see, walk thru it
this many years
I have lived it
yet can’t believe.
why should I, or anyone?
(T&T: Hey old man. Come on.
There’s other poets here.)
cut on stone, trees, the nite
anything will serve
for texts, this is the all
DIANA: You lis ten here. I’ll pull your hair out if you don’t shut your fucking mouth, bitch.
& the will to continue.
…but among it all…
among it there is her grace,
DIANA moving into crowd, her voice threatening: You ain’t got nothin’ to say! I’m comin’ over there and I’ll kick your ass sideways down Colfax.
that slight hand
thru the dark a gift
-Hey she’s throwing me off, over there-
a gift to these eyes, not enough tho.
in my acts the lines
are drawn, the face is evidence.
hands broken, decay on the teeth.
love is not preventive
against time. the high place
- that will not do, the poet Meltzer said –
both fail in front
of the real fact, the condition.
(Diana returns to stage.)
write some cold words & hold
off the real cold thing
that is death. a sort of lie
the poet Meltzer said to me. True though, but
death. even the word has weight,
outside of rules,
of texts, religions, colors, anything known.
and outside of that
there is nothing.
JRM: I’m through…..
(JRM & DIANA exit through crowd.)
LL: I got one last poem I’d like to read.
I want to dedicate it to my typesetter and
I can’t find it.
(JESS: Yeah, she went to Las Vegas with me.)
LL: She’s typed this poem about twelve times and it’s still not done.
Widow-Widow & The Angel From The Temple Of Man
given the ride home the key
in fits any door any body
it was love of the
queen of hearts &
we the twin fires
of the rage of scorpio
it was heavy desert dust
ten year rainbow riding
the colorado river straight thru
filling dixie cups of rainwater
it was to demonstrate the
the value of a moment the
register of a red flower
in the barrel of a gun
it was the tit, dry
how to wean one from another
the fantasy of self
it was stockings rolled to
the knee length of leg the
foot & ankle the mystery
of an economy of line
it was hair pinned to a bun
the shaking out toss of
the head draping shoulder
in a mantle of shimmer
it was the image the
sound & the noun the
ledge, the rock
the applause heightens
& a warm welcome home
Jack Armstrong left
“I have gone over
to the enemy
at the bottom a
I will be right
LL: Thank You.
(LL exits to backstage.)
Edwin Forrest Ward’s
The First Bohemian in My Life –Take One, December 14th and 15th in the year 2010.
Copyright December 15, 2010: Edwin Forrest Ward & the ImageMaker
Written for STORIES STORIES BRING YOUR STORIES
Stories Live on Stage at 7 PM
In The Jungle Room of The Mercury Café
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
THE FIRST BOHEMIAN IN MY LIFE
It’s a given: omission tarnishes, that’s why I prefer the device of practiced exaggeration - (after all I’m Irish with a mother and Grandmother from County Mayo) - as simply putting more light - (as would a-lead-to-gold-alchemist-of-old) - onto the murky matters of human-hood, (hell, lies suffice if circumstances demand it), the particular matter currently under consideration being a question and its answer.
So this is for old friends, Glenn and Brenda, whose names have been changed, even though almost fifty years has passed since last we believed in the dance we did.
There’ve been many Fast Eddies in the histories of my contemporaries, so when one fine winter’s morning my beautiful Granddaughter, Dannica Kaleigh, called me Ehday after awakening from her one year old’s long night’s sleep, I knew another new fictional narrator within had been baptized. So here’s Ehday’s - that would be me on some creative non fictional level - Ehday’s first yarn. And for those old friends here tonight, oh yes, it’s another one of them fist fight, Friday night, insights that I hope to reveal.
While writing an historical essay for a brochure to accompany the Colorado Historical Society’s exhibition Mile High and underground, an exhibition of Bohemian Denver artifacts at the Byers-Evans House, Ehday could not help but ponder who was the first Bohemian in his life? A question without an easy answer; nonetheless, after much consideration came Ehday’s good-as-any guess: not the poets of his artistic emergence in Denver, not the overtly friendly faculty advisors of his university days, nor the G-something-teen pay scale mentor of a lab mate at the A.E.C. (as in Atomic Energy Commission where Ehday worked a while in the Sixties – a different kind of guru: science, hey?) but rather it was an accidental geographical friend, a kid among thousands Ehday’s age who lived within a ten blocks radius of the Philadelphia row home where he grew up: one Blaine Splender (no kidding!), a street-corner-hang-out acquaintance of Ehday’s, who personally preferred the handle Splendo. Because Blaine and Ehday attended different schools – Splendo: the public Edwin Forrest; Ehday: the Catholic Saint Bernards, an irony too complicated to reveal without veering too far off track, especially given Ehday’s ability to ramble - Ehday and Splendo only saw each other when hanging out at their chosen street corner hangout. Friends they were: by choice not chance.
Ehday always liked Blaine’s utter disrespect for rules – he broke commandments that are yet to be written, but Ehday’s lips are sealed - and Blaine Splender found Ehday’s lyrical embellished retellings of the stories of their lives inspirational. Ehday must have signed his first contract with the muse of storytelling early on, in grammar school. Because, you know, if Ehday’s telling it: we always win the fights, the games of night: in the Park with the kids from Frankford or Kensington or with the cops who’d busted our liquor store connection. We’d win in Ehday’s version of events, no matter the black eyes, the arrests, the groundings, the broken knuckles and arms, the alcoholic parents absent and/or abusive, we won and we always had each other’s backs, according to Ehday. Ehday is good at Hey, remember the day, we three swam across the Delaware so recklessly we almost drowned or other bigger than life iambic scripting of the adventures of our young lives. I guess, at the time, Ehday really believed he lived in a World of Can-do, in an America the Wonderful. After all: all A’s on a report card proves and guarantees something doesn’t it? Our educated brains and our belief in God and America will provide us with a great life. Just read the papers: America is wonderful, even if quietly at war.
Blaine and Ehday and any number of a dozen others hang out together when we have nothing better to do. There might be two of us; there could be ten of us. Just there. We’d hang out on a small stone wall that defined two sides of the lot of a large house at Hartel Street and Walker Avenue in Holmesburg, a block west of where my girlfriend – to misquote Bob Dylan – Hell’s her hometown, where Lucia lived. All of us there were young men and women aged fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen, and we declared that wall ours, our hangout spot; and we not so jokingly referred to our collective selves as The Wall. The Mayor’s Task Force on Gangs labeled us The Wall Gang, as any and all groups of kids in the Sixties were tagged as gangs.
It is with Blaine, Ehday first ventures out of his most parochial hood to the hipster coffeehouses of in-town Philly. I think art was in both of our genetics, although at the time I’d have called myself Ein and Stein after my e-equals-m-c-square hero of an intellect Einstein; hell, Albert had the brains to inspire the biggest of bombs, yet, along with my other hero Bob Dylan, A.E. had the balls to be anti-war. And Blaine would be nicknamed Handsome and Hadsome, as, shall we say the looser girls just adored Blaine Splender. Spendo sang and played guitar and Ehday wrote poetry, but if truth be told, they were ignorant of the meaning of the word, artist, as both were mostly looking to love, to get laid, we hoped, forever.
And so, it is with Blaine Ehday first experiences the world of literature over espresso and chess at candle lit tables in the audience of leotard-ed singers. Hence: the answer to the question: Blaine is the first Bohemian in Ehday’s life.
If you grow up in Colorado, chances are you ski: for honor, for reputation, for fun.
If you grow up in Philadelphia neighborhood of Tacony, chances are, for fun, reputation and honor, you fistfight. No matter the odds, regardless of the inanity of the reason, how accidental or illogical the provocation. And try as one might Northeast Philly departees have a hard time forgetting the acculturation we endured fist and gang fighting as kids and teens, in preparation for what men, before and since, call war.
Even Splendo and Ehday fight once, over a goofball remark about Ehday’s girlfriend Lucia - Splendo referred to Lucia as a skank to spank – as everyone knew Lucia had a love thing going simultaneously with me and Jimmy Ryan from Bridesburg, and so Ehday has no choice but to call Blaine out -calling out, a Tacony invite to fistfight - Ehday’s calling out, retaliatory repartee beginning with B is for Bitch, Blaine, and that would be yours, Barbara and ending with the assertion to all who soon gathered in the alley where Ehday, Lucia, Barbara and Blaine had been making out just moments before that Barbara must be licking your zits. Look everybody. Splendo’s acne is improving, a challenge that Splendo has no choice but to answer. And without further ado the fists are flying with Ehday throwing the first couple rounds of punches to Splendo’s mid section, but with seemingly little effect. Kindly and with respect in his heart for Ehday, Blaine Splender, the crazy anarchistic guitarist and soon to be wounded Viet Nam veteran, is not assertive, honestly, he seems, reluctant to kick Ehday’s ass for, indeed, he could introduce Ehday to a universe of stars in eyes, if he so chose, given the lightning speed of his punches and the wiry weight-trained strength of his arms. Against Ehday, Splendo boxes only defensively, involved in the give and take of jabs and punches as if only practicing, affording Ehday the option of honorably conceding early in the fight – a god thanking moment - as all - especially Ehday - knew his Catholic Irish luck would not trump Splendo’s physical skills.
And, as is Tacony creed, we, the members of The Wall, for just cause, would fight anyone. No matter the odds. Christ, Blaine Splender even went toe to toe with another friend of mine Jerry Judge - who trained, turned professional as a heavy-weight, fought George Foreman, and inspired his friend and gym-mate Sylvester Stallone to write Rocky. Hell, our Tacony creed was such, that if need be, one would take on the police or a teacher or a school principal or the father of a friend, (but those are other stories!).
In fact, here’s proof. One October Friday night at the egress of a Jerry Blavat sponsored teenage dance – Jerry Blavat’s radio moniker was The Geeter With the Heater, the Boss with the Hot Sauce - at the Concord Roller Rink on Frankford Avenue, Ehday - like an inspired puppet master - pranksters the entire15th Precinct Philadelphia Police Riot Squad, an action spiritual and artful, inspired by something, some muse, some thought from another world, a push from an unseen friend, some mind bigger and wiser, more comic and bold, than Ehday’s, his human heart and soul. Anyone’s guess would be as good as his to the name of the source: God the Father, Son or Holy Ghost, Satan, Mary the Mother of God, Kokopelli, Don’s: Juan or Quixote, Polymnia, the Peyote Princess, Machiavelli’s ghost, Buddha, Yahweh, Allah, etc etc etc).
What happens is this. Rumor has had it, a neighborhood rumor that travels a grapevine that includes the police, as many of Philly’s Finest, some of Ehday’s friend’s policeman fathers, made their homes in Tacony and Mayfair and Holmesburg - the world of Ehday - the rumor being that Tacony and Green Street were going to rumble (as a reputed to be gay guy, Danny DeDenato from Green Street, had danced with Angie diAngelo, a chick from Tacony (- oh my god, the shame and horror of it -) and dozens of overtime cops, riot and otherwise, are now ready to Clint Eastwood their day, if you know what I mean, should a rumbling of gangs occur.
Now Ehday is outside The Concord before the Boss with the Hot Sauce’s dance lets out as he and Splendo had earlier in the evening bussed, subway-ed and trolley-ed their way downtown for a hip-er bohemian start to their Friday night at the Gilded Cage, Philly’s renowned folk-scene coffeehouse, abandoning The Wall’s routine of drinking pilfered alcohol before attending the Concord Roller Rink dance. Earlier in the day Ehday by phone had arranged a ten-thirty rendezvous with the two-timing Lucia, about whose two-timing he cared little, just as long as he got to caress on occasion the beauty that was Lucia.
Now as Ehday stands mid-sidewalk waiting for the now twenty-minutes-late Lucia, he notices three things: first, the presence of dozens of cops - all riot geared up - on the west side of Frankford Avenue. Then he spies Benny Rivers, with a plaster cast in a sling hiding in the shadows of the alley to the north of the Concord before he sees Dedenato, Danny the Fag, as he was known, from Green Street, exiting the dancehall. Ehday can hear Jason Wade’s lyrics to “You Belong to Me,” the customary last dance of the Friday night soirée clearly as Danny opens the door to exit. See the pyramids along the Nile/Watch a sunset from a tropic isle. And then, out of the darker corners of a troubled mind comes the plaster-cast-ed arm of Rivers with rebar attached that lands a blindsided sucker punch of a whack, and Danny’s eye about pops out of its socket along with what seems a bucket of blood. But, as Ehday observes, Danny the Fag is no easy mark, no easy take-down despite River’s element of punkster surprise. After an evasive move, something survivalist yet dance-like - I mean Danny did dance on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand as a more or less regular - he is that graceful and creative, Danny’s left Beatle boot finds its way up Rivers’ ass with Benny’s testicles and penis caught somewhere in the middle. And then it’s Danny on the attack, like a one-eyed Cyclops, knocking Rivers to the sidewalk with a left hook. Danny’s a big kid and his revenge on the injured Rivers seems righteous, proper, given what Ehday had observed. Hell yes, the victim here is Danny and he’s crushed his perpetrator from the shadows. There is justice in the world, Ehday observes.
But justice can be short lived, for as far as the police are concerned, a riot is occurring and here they come, charging in full gear across Frankford Avenue, a phalanx of blue uniforms and white faces. The first three to arrive on the scene ten feet from Ehday knock down, beat fiercely with batons, and handcuff Danny, the victim! A cop from Tacony helps - (father-son like?) - the instigator Benny to his feet and guides Rivers out of what will soon turn into a police riot as a sea of kids emerging from the dance crash against a buttress of police who are overtly mis-and-manhandling the teenagers now pouring out onto the sidewalk, as if all are guilty of what just went down between Rivers and Dedenato. A poorly conceived and even more poorly executed attempt is made to funnel - for purposes of crowd control - the now panic-ing teenagers towards the narrow alley aside the rink, pushing and shoving everyone, boys and girls, towards it, down a cement ramp, a slope slickered and slippery with blood from Danny’s injury. Some slip and slide and fall, trampled now by the confusion of everyone caught in the chaos of not understanding why all are being herded in the direction of the alley by baton swinging police.
Ehday can’t help but think that he is the only third party witness to see what actually just happened between Danny and Benny - how Rivers criminally and cowardly assaulted Danny with a crow-bar laden plaster cast; nonetheless, when Ehday attempts to speak with a policeman, a Sergeant of Some Sort, the officer of the law turns a deaf ear to Ehday’s assertion of Danny’s innocence and self-defense. Ehday’s pleading that Danny needs an ambulance, not a Paddy Wagon, given what had happened to his eye, is met with a bully’s smirk. And I suppose, maybe for the Fuck-you,-kid of it, Sergeant Pemberton then proceeds to attempt to arrest Ehday, an attempt that commences with the for-no-good-reason swing of Pemberton’s flashlight that Ehday is lucky and agile enough to avoid, catching a peripheral glimpse of the Ever-Ready encased aluminum baton, its shine reflecting the Roller Rink marquee lights above, ducking as if pushed by a ghost or a guardian angel. Only later does Ehday learn Splendo who’d been beside Ehday the whole time had pushed Ehday out of harm’s way. Somehow Ehday has forgotten all about Blaine Splender as Ehday’s focus has been on rendezvousing with Lucia - no matter her two-timing proclivities.
To his left after the light beam whizzes an arc-ed inch above his skull, just as Ehday rises back up to his full middling height of five feet eight inches of Irish might and myth, inspiration strikes. Baraka! And Ehday tips off, with almost other-worldly scripted Charlie Chaplin-esque impertinent impoliteness, Sergeant Pemberton’s fifty-dollar policeman’s hat. Pemberton forgets about Ehday and turns to look for his hat, one the Sarge would have to replace at his own expense if it were lost or ruined in the riot that is now going on. Ehday’s inspired comedic act of performance art is witnessed by Splendo and he adapts it as his own strategy for harassing the other rioting police, as you see, as I’ve said, the teens from Tacony, and Mayfair, and Holmesburg obey the commands of the cops as they would the commands of their parents: Not! So: it’s cops against kids now and hundreds of teenage girls are screaming. Ehday notes that he now understands the meaning and the shriek of the word banshee. And to Ehday it’s all so insane. Kids are getting whacked with nightsticks and flashlights, cops are facing off against crazy odds as five or six corner-mates would be pummeling a cornered cop. And so, as this story goes, through the rioting insanity Ehday and Splendo dance, not fleeing or fighting, but knocking off the hats of every encountered policeman - who always turn away from rioting to search for their precious hats, a Bohemian dance if ever there was one.
Just ask Ehday. He’ll tell you who won the riot!
Friday, June 4, 2010
|Original Photo: Marcia Ward, the IMAGEMAKER|
|Croupier Press postcard|
A MILE HIGH AND UNDERGROUND
Edwin Forrest Ward
Paul Harbaugh, the prime mover behind this exhibition, made three requests when we met to discuss it. One, would I define, for clarity’s sake, the meaning of Bohemian. Two, could I tell him how I met Steve Wilson, the exhibition’s curator. And finally, could I comment on some of the artifacts to be exhibited.
To paraphrase Wikipedia, Bohemian, a term of French origin, describes the lifestyles of marginalized and impoverished artists, writers, musicians and actors. It seems some like-minded Eighteenth Century Parisian artists sought refuge from the established world of the status quo and lived among the Gypsy population who were believed to have migrated to Paris via Bohemia; hence, the term.
|August the fall Autumn|
Steve Wilson collage
Bohemians generally hold unorthodox, underground or anti-establishment viewpoints, caring little about what the rest of the world thinks of their unconventional approach to art and lifestyle. Deviancy from normal sexual mores and patronizing the black market are often associated with Bohemian behavior. Think free love. Think living together as opposed to married. Think gay. Think absinthe. Think bookstore. Consider the vernacular, as opposed to metered, in modern poetics. Think street smarts not school smarts. Think abstract expressionism in the beginning and the art of collage in the cigarette package assemblages of the incarcerated. Just how many naked lady parts can a man in prison paste onto a pack of Lucky’s? For pictures, imagine paint spattered beach pads in Venice with foliage-laden windows open to the Zen of sea and sky and hippie communes in the Sange de Christo Mountains with geodesic domes for homes. Think of a two story walk-up just off of Colfax. Think see-the-urban-dawn late night jazz skyline. Think that place in time when one is young with wonder at the magic of literature, music and art. Think of where and with whom you were, when you knew for the first time there was more to life than you had ever imagined. Chances are there was a Bohemian in the smoke-filled room. Idiosyncratic fashion has always ruled Bohemia. Think mini as a dress and minimalism as a choice. Sandals not shoes. Pot not Prozac. Organic not adulterated. Think of a polyester suit once worn to court to make a good impression as a canvas to be painted on. Think less is more. Bohemia sometimes lives in a backpack.
Often, the term Bohemian carries a connotation of arcane enlightenment – what one might call hip-ness – a result of an intuitive understanding of the relationship between inspiration and the divine. A Bohemian practices and understands the words of Wallace Berman that Stuart wrote across the walls of his Venice West coffeehouse: “Art is Love is God.”
Bohemians often congregate where housing is cheap. After awhile, however, the energy and art of Bohemia will catch the attentive eyes of pop purveyors, urban planners and developers, and Bohemian enclaves often get redeveloped, gentrified and eminent-domain-ed. Think Greenwich Village in New York; Provincetown in Massachusetts, South Street in Philly, Ann Arbor in Michigan, Venice Beach in Los Angeles; Haight-Ashbury and the Mission District in San Francisco; and in Denver: Capitol Hill, Lo-Do and the East Colfax corridor. Fortunately, given the chaotic, greed-driven topsy-turvy-ness of the American real estate world, Bohemia has always been more of a state of mind than a state of place.
Proof of Bohemian existence and vitality are found in its artistic output. That’s what this exhibition is all about.
|Paintings & Drawings: Steve Wilson|
|Steve Wilson photo: Marcia Ward|
How I Meet Steve Wilson
I meet the artist, Steve Wilson, the day of a funeral, to be exact: the funeral and burial of the croupier of hip beat literature, himself, the publisher of the The Mile High Underground newsprint literary journal, as well as the small press poetry concern, Croupier Books, and the proprietor of Croupier Books on Seventeenth Avenue in North Capitol Hill: the poet, James Ryan Morris. On a hill facing east, up in Gilpin County south of Rollinsville just off the Peak to Peak Highway in a cemetery belonging to the town of Blackhawk, Dory Hill, JRM’s grave is to be marked and honored - tombstone-ed - with a stainless steel sculpture by Angelo di Benedetto. Angelo, Jimmy and a third great artist, the avant-garde filmmaker, Stan Brakhage, were a trinity of friends, all three at the top of their game, each on top, more or less, of different mountains. The triumvirate would speak on the phone with each other for hours – sometimes as an antidote to cabin fever, most times out of passion - at the local rate of ten cents a call, rhapsodizing and raging, obsessing on the nature and practice and politics of their arts, Stan about film from his alpine compound in Rollinsville, Angelo about painting and sculpting from his studio atop The Mermaid Café in Central City’s largest building, and Jimmy about poetry from his cabin aside the train tracks in Wondervu. And now there are two …
Some holy and not-so-holy barbarians and bohemians, the beatified and notorious, the hip, the hippie, the poets and painters, the substance abusers and entrepreneurs of thrills, the actors and dancers, the poseurs and ex-prep-sters, the journeyman and apprentices, the instigators and provocateurs, all - some thirty or so - are rendezvousing at Steve & Linda Wilson’s house on South Sherman Street. From Washington Park West just east of Gates Rubber, a caravan of vans and sedans will drive to the mountains from Denver past Golden, up Clear Creek Canyon on US 6 to Highway 119, past gold-panning outfits and trail ride stables, through Blackhawk, past the mining ghost towns of American City and Perigo, to Golden Gate Canyon and Dory Hill Roads.
Joe Kinneavy of JRM
Marcia Ward of Dory Hill Cemetery
darkroom montage:Marcia Ward
When I walk into Steve’s living room, the first thing I notice is a sobering collection of hats, baseball style with an assortment of logos diverse and varied, mounted amongst collages and the expressionist paintings on the living room walls, the hats a bouquet of a working man’s blues, a signature (Steve’s) apparent in the arrangement of the sweat-stained caps more meaningful and evocative than all the arranged found object art in the museums of the world.
I don’t really know any of the gathered mourners, but one, Jess Graf. I’ve only been in Denver since the summer of Seventy-five, my time since then, devoted, for the most part, to making a living and looking for love. It had been Jess who suggested that I introduce myself to Jimmy Ryan Morris as he and I were scheduled to do a poetry reading together at Global Village as part of an ongoing reading series hosted by Denver’s Society for the Advancement of Poetics, made up of Jess, Jim Bernath and John Munson. According to the series promoter our reading would include a reading by the Best and the New-Kid-in-Town. When I agree to read, I’m not sure if I am entering a competition or collaboration. None of these times - when I agree to do the reading, when I summon the where-with-all to visit the existential living legend, gun toting drugstore cowboy in his bookstore, or when just this morning I decide to attend his funeral – have I any idea of the nature and depth, of the love and complexity, of the world of art I am entering. I’m just hoping to bum a ride with someone, to pay my respect to this poet I have come to know.
|Charlie Chaplin's Hat |
When all is said
then we shall stand
between the 1000 pains
with death as a horse
and love at the reins
Honestly, I am not blind to the reality that Jimmy has, in fact, o-d-ed at a rather early age. Being as how both Jimmy and I are as Irish as Paddy’s Pig, I prefer to see his death as proof of the old Irish triad: It is Death to mock a Poet/Death to be a Poet/Death to love a poet.
I get to know Steve better a year or so later when he partners up with Larry Lake to open up one of the last great Beat bookstores in Denver, Bowery Books on Old South Pearl Street. Steve and Larry are at the time brothers in more ways than the business of used books, alcohol being the principal other. During this time Steve is busy as Steve is always busy: collecting, bartering, collage-ing, and painting. He paints a black flower as a wedding gift for me and Marcia when we marry. When I connect with New Blood magazine in Boulder, Steve contributes. He continues to sell paintings to friends, dealers and collectors. He raises his children, and about this time in this history of the late Seventies, Steve gives up – for the first and last time, drinking alcohol, something a man does when there’s no middle to imbibing all-the-time or never. Steve once told me that when he and Larry and Jimmy used to drink together, Steve was in the habit of seeing triple. I’ve always suspected that no-longer-being-drinking-buddies had as much to do with the dissolution of the partnership that was Larry and Steve at Bowery Books as anything else, like let’s say Larry’s rumored troubles with the Denver police, troubles that stemmed from Larry’s inappropriate come-on’s to the women of the Old South Pearl Street neighborhood. Steve once told me that the last straw was when a cop came into the bookstore and warned Steve: if Larry continues to harass other shopkeepers, especially the women, Larry would turn up missing, a threat Steve took not lightly. With Larry, one either loved him or hated him. With Steve, one generally loved him, as long as repayment of debt did not matter. If truth be told, Steve often had only good intentions when it came to the repayment of a loan.
Now all these people that I mention, that populate the stories swirling on the periphery of Steve’s existence, they color the attitude of what Steve paints. His palette is full of influence: what he’s seen in the numberless books and periodicals he’s pored over and in the art of friends and contemporaries, both dead and alive: Tony Scibella, Jimmy Morris, Michelle and Saul White, Marcia Ward, Larry Lake, Angelo di Benedetto, Frank Rios, Gayle Davis, Bill Dailey and Stan Brakhage. And still there are a few. Which is good, considering there never were that many.
|Highway 1 |
History and art history adds more verbiage to the poem that is Steve. Steve’s expressionist iconography includes wickiups, Charlie Chaplin hats, crosses, and tunnels, all born of whimsy and/or symbolism, as well as the darkness of adolescent flesh aside the stocking-ed leg of a Life magazine model. Steve’s imagery and vocabulary speak the vernacular of life’s existential language to articulate an answer to the question: what’s to love about life, anyway? Steve’s answer: most everything, and everybody. With Steve, all stories are love stories.
|Stan Brakhage with |
Marking Jimmy Morris' grave
photo: Marcia Ward
Comments on a Dozen Artifacts of A Mile High Underground
An Intro in the Vernacular
In 1979 I was tricked/drafted into lifetime-membership in the Mile High Underground. I’ve always considered myself to be a solo artist, as in, to quote Stuart Perkoff, “one man saying one man’s things;” but on a crazy day in Central City, in The Mermaid Café, a roomful of artists – with Larry Lake as MC – honored four fellow artists, each with an art award, a TOMBSTONE. The Tombstone reference has to do both with Jimmy Ryan Morris’ – in whose name the art awards were being given – with JRM’s fascination with all things Doc Holliday (who lived to tell of the shootout at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona) and with the Angelo di Benedetto sculpture that tombstones Jimmy’s grave. Steve Wilson, one of Morris’ longtime artist pals from the days and nights of the Lido Lounge, had penciled, penned, and collaged the actual award certificates; and longtime friends of Morris were in attendance. Stan Brakhage received a Tombstone for Film, Angelo di Benedetto received one for Art, the jazz guitarist Bob Grey received one for Music, and Frank Rios, according to my understanding, was slated to receive the Tombstone for Poetry. Frankie had flown in for this Jimmy Ryan Morris Memorial with other friends of Jimmy’s from the LA/Denver contingent: Bill Dailey, Marsha Getzler, Michelle and Saul White, Tony Scibella and Gayle Davis, and Frankie was staying with me and my wife, Marcia, at our house on South Pearl Street. Rios and Morris had run with the Venice West poetry crowd in the late Fifties and both Morris and Larry Lake of the Bowery Press had published Frank’s poetry. So I was totally Bowery-ed, to coin a phrase, when Frankie – who, of course, was in on the ruse – got up, without introduction, to present the The Tombstone for Poetry and gave it to me. Acceptance of the Tombstone acknowledges and makes forever compulsory a lifetime of dedication to one’s art. To paraphrase Tony Scibella, there’s no getting out of a contract with the Muse.
Every so often, a serious new young bohemian will question me about poetry and art. I tell them one good answer to their query begins at a grave, and if I can swing it, I’ll take them on a sojourn to visit Jimmy’s. Standing in the presence of Angelo’s sculpture evokes a feeling of comradeship with those who - to simplify Morris – “stood alone in their time . . . and left something behind.” My initiate and I, we will watch the shadows pass and play across the steel moons of Morris’ tombstone on the side of Dory Hill. The progress of the shadows, their dance, leads a mile high underground.
Alfred Dietrich Kleyhauer III
* BLACK, Alfred Dietrich Kleyhauer III, Swallow Press, Denver, Colorado, 1966
Alfred Dietrich Kleyhauer III says about himself on the inside cover: “i was born on a little green hill 1 mile up in the sky. i didn’t talk until I was 3. i said: ‘there’s a damned fly in my window.’ My father has always thought me a bit mad, my mother has always thought me a bit queer. Amazing how revealing genealogy is. I am now 20.”
Alfred spent most of his adult life living in downtown Denver above his father’s optometry shop on Tremont just north of 14th. The last time I looked, the unoccupied building still sports the name Kleyhauer across the door, and it remains one of the few two story buildings in downtown Denver. In keeping with the title of his first book, Alfred painted the walls of his apartment black where he eventually spent much of his final years in mourning as his companion, Michael Trego, had died of AIDS. Ironically, a decade before his death, Alfred and Michael had created poster size comic book-like collaged drawings that tell the tale of Trumble and Ding, alter egos of Alfred and Michael. My favorite of the group has a prophetic, Tiresias-esque feel: Trumble and Ding are conventioneers riding a trolley towards a convention center that radiates welcoming and wonderful times. Trumble and Ding are blissful with anticipation. Across the destination light box of the trolley, one word: ETERNITY. Sadly, Alfred died in 1994 while crossing California at 15th, a block from Denver’s, at the time, new Convention Center, the first accident fatality of Denver’s recently launched electric trolley, Light Rail. Ironically, perhaps fittingly, on the west side of the street from where Alfred died, there is a Colorado Historical Plaque inscribed with words from Jack Kerouac’s 1955 classic On The Road: “I walked around the sad honkytonks of Curtis Street: young kids in jeans and red shirts; peanut shells, movie marquees, shooting parlors. Beyond the glittering was darkness, and beyond the darkness was the West. I had to go.”
During his life Alfred embarked on many artistic adventures. He held Sunday pot-luck art salons. An early evening there was theater in progress. One of Alfred’s assets was his ability to have an answer for any query. He possessed a wide wisdom and a alchemist’s passion, absorbing the truth of everyone he knew. The day I met Alfred, he was playing piano in a small alley-side gallery just west of Washington Street on First Avenue. The actor and director Richard Collier, who had founded The Trident Theater on South Gaylord Street, Denver’s first avant-garde playhouse, was pushing his artistic envelope and exhibiting paintings. Alfred’s compositions and playing seemed that day to channel, all at the same time, Beethoven, Coltrane and Dylan (to whom Alfred had dedicated Black). He eventually wrote hundreds and recorded dozens of pop and not so pop tunes that he and guitarist Bob Peek brought to sundry Denver stages via their band The What Nots. His song, “Dancing on the Grave of War” - whose melody ADK composed on a miniature electric piano that he bought at Woolworths for twenty-nine dollars - is a haunting masterpiece of nuance and timelessness: “Ships follow trade winds, when there’s no war.” Mid-life, Alfred started a typing service for term papers as he could type a hundred words a minute without error, both blind-folded and intoxicated. When students - freshmen and doctorate candidates alike - brought him papers to type he would tell them, “I hope you don’t mind, but it would be easier and quicker for me to just write your paper from scratch than deal with the thematic and grammatical errors contained therein. And, of course, I guarantee an “A.” One of the youngest Denverites ever to be admitted to MENSA, Alfred earned a dozen PHD’s anonymously via his underground “typing.” He told me that he once got seven “A’s” all in the same graduate class, ghost writing for seven of the eight students enrolled. He also wrote out a check to me for one million dollars.
|Bob Peek &|
Alfred Dietrich Kleyhauer III
performing live at
BLACK is the quintessential Alfred, possessing as only an eager and tireless speed-reader can, the librarian mind of a lizard whose jewel eyes have knowledge of centuries, civilizations, and art movements unfolding. He writes the dialogue of warriors and composers and sheathes the sword of love. Maybe one day, the Bonnie Bray Library will change its name or name a nook to include a reference to Alfred, as no one used the books there as did Alfred.
Alan Swallow whose Swallow Press published BLACK was a poet/publisher of the highest rank. The oral history of small press in Denver begins with Alan Swallow. He began publishing Swallow Press in 1940 in Denver. He reigned supreme in that regard until his death in 1966. Prior to his death, he had the idea of establishing a literary journal here in Denver to be called The Mile High Underground, an idea that came to fruition under the leadership of Swallow’s new friend, James Ryan Morris, whose Croupier Press would follow, taking Denver’s small press world both literally and figuratively a mile high underground.
|Cover Art: Tony Scibella|
* The MILE HIGH UNDERGROUND issue #6, Denver, Fall 1967
|James Ryan Morris|
Book Jacket photo
The cover art of MHU #6 is a black and white drawing of Tony Scibella’s that ridicules the machines of war - Tony, like Morris, had served in Korea, and knew of what he so artfully depicts – with this particular machine sporting a swastika, crucifix and USA star. A war machine is a war machine, no matter the decade or nation’s affiliation. Inside, the cast of contributors is national as well as local: Anais Nin, Timothy Leary, Larry Lake, James Ryan Morris, Frank O Hara, Tony Scibella, as well as other East Coast (Joel Oppenheimer) and West Coast (William J. Margolis) poets. Frank Rios, serving time for narcotics violations, contributes his classic “The Ball Poem” from jail. Of special note is JoAn Segal’s review of Richard Collier’s production of Marat/Sade that was running at Denver’s Trident Theater – and yes, there was theater before the government got into the business of tax-dollar-ing it. The production was so over the top that the great actor Jim Straley - Jim was one of the original leads in television’s Route 66, although he brawled with the director while filming one of the pilot episodes on location in Central City and was replaced – Jim actually broke a leg careening and jumping madly about Michael Klein’s asylum set. Collier used to sign Alfred Dietrich Kleyhauer III out of the psychiatric institution he was rehabbing in so Alfred could play his role. The review ends with seventeen stars! Also a photo essay by Dan Mc Crimmon of a child pondering his place in the world seems to anticipate, metaphorically, the Summer of Love that was to follow.
|James Ryan Morris|
Conte Crayon: Angelo di Benedetto
The linch-pin of Denver’s late-Sixties early-Seventies poetry publishing art scene, James Ryan Morris, sparked others to pick up where The Mile High Underground left off, like-minded men like Kevin Tannenbaum who had a hand in two early Seventies’ underground journals, Chinook and The Denver Free Press. JRM was published locally and nationally, both as a poet and reviewer. Morris, along with sometimes Denver resident Frank Rios, were featured in The Smith/17 out of New York City. JRM’s opinion, about what’s cool and what’s not, mattered, and he riled many. Diz Darwin’s 16 milli-meter film The Croupier Gallery - it was screened at David Feretta’s Global Village on Pennsylvania Street in West Washington Park - documents the opening of Jimmy’s Croupier Gallery and offers a frenetic slice of Jimmy’s visions. Sadly, the film is lost, although not its influence. After one art opening at The Croupier Gallery, Morris was arrested for exhibiting an assemblage that contained a syringe, a case that pushed the envelope of free speech in Denver. Driven by his passion for the arts one might say Jimmy put Denver on The Map of Where It’s At. Morris’ own Croupier Press specialized in publishing poetry chapbooks and postcards. Croupier’s KOWBOY POMES by Stuart Z. Perkoff is a perfect example of what a small press publisher can do with five sheets of paper, a friend in the printing business, a photograph, twenty-six Letraset transfer letters, a black and white drawing, two staples, a sheet of cover stock, and great poetry. Morris was such an inciter, instigator and inspiration that he was selected for inclusion in Barbara Jo Revelle’s two block long tile mural that adorns the east side of Denver’s Colorado Convention Center, depicting one hundred men and women considered to have been principals in shaping Colorado culture. His black and white tile image, bearded and beret-ed, is near others of his era: his friend and confidante, the master of avant-garde cinema, Stan Brakhage, and the bus-driving Merry Prankster of Ken Kesey’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and the hero of Jack Kerouac’s pivotal novel, On the Road, Neal Cassady.
* mano-mano / 2, edited by Larry Lake, Bowery Press #10, Denver, Colorado 1971
Larry Lake was to Jimmy Morris, what Jimmy Morris was to Alan Swallow. Larry went from helping Jimmy Morris publish The Mile High Underground to establishing his own small press, The Bowery. mano-mano / 2, speaking alphabetically, begins with LA’s Charles Bukowski and ends with Denver’s Steve Wilson, whose yellow and black painting graces the front cover. A real treat in this literary journal is the publication of Neal Cassady’s letter from the Colorado State Reformatory in Buena Vista to his friend and probation officer in Denver, Justin Brierly, asking that Justin take care of Neal’s small overdue tab at a bar at the corner of 15th and Platte. To this day a printed facsimile of Neal’s letter, page 12, torn from the pages of mano-mano / 2 hangs in what is now Brothers Bar, a bar from which Larry Lake, himself, had been eighty-six-ed. No surprise there. Larry had a way of riling people up. He even got himself shot in an argument about art and money, by a film maker whose only claim to fame was that he’s made The Bowery Gallery, a film about the opening of Larry’s art crib, The Bowery Gallery, which was catty-corner from Brothers Bar. The centerfold of man-mano / 2 is an anonymous six panel color fold out, an extraordinary piece of art, both in its late-Sixties verve and the fact that four-color printing was generally outside the economic reach and practice of small presses. In addition to Denver/Venice West poets Tony Scibella, Frank Rios, James Ryan Morris and Stuart Z Perkoff, a number of West Coast artists are represented in mano-mano / 2: Diane di Prima, Ben Talbert, John Thomas, William Margolis, and Joan Clifford. And in mano-mano / 2 the Denver underground is accompanied by the renowned: there is a letter of Jack Kerouac’s written to Denver architect Ed White, an interview by Vaughn Marlowe with Ken Kesey, and a poem of Kenneth Patchen, printed boldly in purple and gold, “A Mercy-Filled & Defiant Xmas To All Still Worthy To Be Called Men.” mano-mano / 2 was but #10 of some fifty literary efforts of Larry Lake’s Bowery Press.
* CHINOOK, Valentine’s Day edition, edited by C.G. Scott & Kevin Tannenbaum, Denver, 1972
This swan song ends a turbulent two and a half year run of Tannenbaum’s shot at mile high underground publishing. The 17 x 11 format allowed for some big graphics, including two full sheet broadsides: page one gets away with penises masquerading as dripping candles, a contribution of Layne Catherine Anderson, and page ten sports John Fish’s Birdwoman Drawings. Between the pages are many of the usual suspects: Homer Bone, aka John Loquidis, writes a jazz column whose language of review is jazz itself (read Bone aloud, you’ll hear what I mean), Ed Baerlein of The Germinal Stage, writes Dying Thoughts on Denver Theater, Steve Wilson offers up a collage, Tony Scibella waxes poetic about newspapers and newspaper guys, and Krusty K himself, Tannenbaum, recaps the struggles that were Chinook’s. A local notice mentions that Scibella, Tannenbaum and others were hosting a Writer’s Workshop at the Ogden Bookstore, 919 East Colfax, the Capitol, of the time, of Denver Bohemia. All and all, a great go at mining the gold that then lay a mile high underground.
|Cover Art: Drawing:John Fish|
* KOWBOY POMES, Stuart Z. Perkoff, Croupier Press, Golden Colorado, 1973
|Photo of Stuart Perkoff|
Stuart Z. Perkoff holds a seminal place in the story of mile high underground art. His Café West coffeehouse in Venice California is where one branch of Denver’s Bohemian family tree begins. There are numerous books and films and histories of Stuart including his collected works, Visions of the Lady, published by the University of Maine and The National Poetry Foundation. Stories of Stuart abound. He married a witch. Stuart learned the ins and outs of prison life from Frankie Rios. Hearsay has it that one of the first tape recordings of a marihuana transaction - where a listening device with wires running to a hefty reel-to-reel in the lap of a vice squad detective was actually suction-cupped to the glass window of a beatnik crash pad - records Stuart’s voice. Perkoff was interviewed by the likes of Walter Cronkite and chased by reporters from Life magazine from whom he hid. He and Tony Scibella would watch from Venice rooftops as the beatnik craze brought tourists and thrill-seekers and journalists to their Venice Beach domain. Stuart also appeared on Groucho Marx’s television show, You Bet Your Life, as himself, “a beatnik poet.” When Groucho noted that Stuart’s bio info mentioned that Stuart wrote a lot, Stuart responded, “O yes, I write home for money every week,” a one-liner that forever endeared him to the comedian. Stuart, at Jimmy Morris’ invitation, lived in Denver for a time, working at The Ogden Bookstore along with proprietor/artist pals, Tony Scibella and Steve Wilson. Stuart Perkoff’s voice and vision, both on paper and on tape, are profoundly poetic. When one reads or, better yet, hears Stuart, even the reluctant are enlightened as to the power of poetry. KOWBOY POMES, with cover art by Denver artist John Fish, is composed of seven of Stuart’s riffs on the state of America as reflected in his take on the American West. Fortunately for all, through the efforts of Larry Lake of Bowery Press, Stuart read on Denver radio station KFML in 1971, an over-the-air underground event, that resulted in a professionally recorded reading that includes, among others from it, the final poem of KOWBOY POMES, “seven: the buffalo,” a magnificent one hundred and thirty-one liner, that ends with this savvy summary of the buffalo, the once grand symbol of the American West
Even the coin he rides
Don’t buy much anymore.
* THE KID IN AMERICA, Tony Scibella, Passion Press/Black Ace/Temple of Man, Denver, Colorado, 2000
Tony Scibella began writing THE KID IN AMERICA on July 4, 1976 sitting around a kitchen table with the artist Bill Dailey. Something about a flotilla of sailing ships in New York Harbor sparked Tony to write about being a kid, such as himself, in two hundred year old America. In 1979 Tony had completed the first forty-five minutes of his oral history, and Scibella – one of the original holy barbarians of Larry Lipton’s creative non-fiction beatnik novel, The Holy Barbarians - read THE KID IN AMERICA for the first time in Denver at Café Nepenthes, a coffeehouse around the corner from Larimer Square on Market Street where Marcia and I hosted poetry readings. It was the first time I was to hear Tony read, but since his reputation had preceded him, I was armed with a cassette tape recorder and had duct-taped a second microphone to the house microphone. What Tony read at Nepenthes that night – the first third of what would become THE KID IN AMERICA - was published as a Bowery number. Ten years later while Tony was living in LA with his second wife, (the artist, actress, dancer, clothing designer, and former girlfriend of Elvis Presley, Gayle Davis), a second major chunk of THE KID IN AMERICA would be serialized in five issues of POINT magazine (1991-1992), the literary arm of Denver’s Alternative Arts Alliance, an umbrella organization for the co-operative art galleries that were then happening. In 1999 Tony who lived as much in LA as he did in Denver returned to Denver from Los Angeles to take care of his life-long friend, the artist Bill Dailey, who was dying of cancer. At my invitation Tony started attending the Friday night poetry readings at The Mercury Café. I remember asking about the status of THE KID IN AMERICA and Tony said he’d not worked on it since I’d serialized the second chunk of it in POINT. Tony’s first night in attendance, he asked, “Are there any good poets here tonight?” - a tricky question for a host, one I answered diplomatically with a narrow affirmative. “Oh yeah. You have to hear Kate Makkai,” a young writer whose first book, Pink, I was in the early stages of publishing. To make a long story short, Tony was so inspired by Kate’s talents - Kate soon moved in with Tony after Bill Dailey died - that he finished in very short order the third major chunk of what he’d been working on for over twenty some years. Published simultaneously with Pink in Denver by Passion Press / the Image Maker, THE KID IN AMERICA was subtitled, BLACK ACE BOOK 6, Black Ace being the signature of Tony’s many publishing endeavors. In addition to his personal role as the back-and-forth link between Venice West and Denver, Tony’s THE KID IN AMERICA serves as testament to the benefits of living a mile high underground - Tony used to advertise his Black Ace poetry readings and art shows with the admonishment: Don’t Tell No One - and THE KID IN AMERICA is Denver’s greatest contribution to American letters.
I (Ed Ward, who along with my wife Marcia are Passion Press / the Image Maker) am to Larry Lake what Larry Lake was to Jimmy Morris. Larry published my first book, citysight, with drawings by Michel Bergt, as BOWERY 30 with the imperative that I must publish others as well as write. And so I do, publishing journals and chapbooks under a different logo, Passion Press / the Image Maker, my contribution to the furtherance of Alan Swallow’s dream of a mile high underground journal of literature.
James Ryan Morris
* 13 SOUNDS, James Ryan Morris, THE POETRY SUBWAY (Croupier Press), Pinecliff, Colorado, 1977
13 SOUNDS are the last thirteen poems of James Ryan Morris to be published during his lifetime. It is pure Morris, self-selected from a lifetime’s work. From his 1958 drawing on the cover of a saxophone player to the final 1977 poem that begins
better off without
I thought once . . . .
surrounded by assassins
was the common reference
Morris, to quote his mini introduction, offers “A toast to the hipsters who remain.”
Morris arrived in Denver in 1965 and died within a year of the publication of 13 SOUNDS. His journey from Manhattan to Denver included stints in Korea, Venice, and Seattle. He left behind a poetic distillate that when taken in leaves one heady with the art and intellect of his era.
William S. Burroughs
Jr & Sr
*NEW BLOOD, editor: Niko Murray-Publisher: Michael Wojczuk, Artz Press, Boulder 1980
When Naropa Institute instituted the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, it was only natural that there would arise a connection between the scenes of Boulder and Denver. Issue #1 of New Blood documents that relationship. The cover sports the father - son dynamic of William S. Burroughs, Jr, who authored Speed and Kentucky Ham and his renowned father, William S. Burroughs of Junky and Naked Lunch fame; and five of the seven artists headlined are sometime Denverites: Steve Wilson (collage), Ed Ward (poetry centerfold), William S. Burroughs, Jr.(creative non-fiction), K-M Montier (letter), and Andy Clausen (poetry). Inside can be found even more: a 1977 drawing by Larry Lake and centerfold photography by Marcia Ward. Although its focus was national, over the course of its run, NEW BLOOD often published the work of Denver artists, including Tony Scibella, Jack Livingston, Michael Bergt, and Thalia Cady.
Michael Wojczuk and Niko Murray came to Colorado from Brooklyn and Montana (respectively) after time in San Francisco and Austin. Not too proud to step outside of their own flat irons backyard, they sought the help of Denver bohemians to launch their branch of the small press poetry-publishing tree.
* 5000’ & CLOSING, Larry Lake & Michael Bergt, BOWERY PRESS #31, Denver, 1981
The last four words spoken over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, by the pilot of the Enola Gay, Colonel Paul Tibbets, before the dropping of Little Boy, the first atomic bomb used in warfare, were “Five thousand feet and closing.” In many ways this book, written by Larry Lake and illustrated by Michael Bergt, is an atomic bomb of art, a new weapon in the war on artlessness. Larry and Michael deliver an art born of collaborative thinking and mutual inspiration, with Michael illustrating Larry’s fictions and poems. From Larry’s riveting Viet Nam narrative tale of “Dumb Slumbo” to his image perfect haikus - Branch blossom drops in / water. Deep; deeper still. Meet / the trees reflection – Michael had a lot to work with, and his black and white lines belie the actual two-dimensionality of his pen and inks drawings. Similarly Larry’s writings escape the confines of mere words on a page. Reading this book gives an understanding of poetry’s lineage, a lineage that pre-dates Denver’s Mile High Underground by some two thousand years. Druid and Gnostic thinking invigorates this treatise on the state of Post Viet Nam America. Larry firmly believed that only art – not politicians - can save the world from war, and the poetry of 5000’ & CLOSING is Larry firing at point blank range the bullets of his beliefs.
|Sword of Light|
Photo montage: Marcia Ward
Original Sculpture:Michael Bergt
* Passion Press #4, edited by Ed Ward, Passion Press, Denver, 1983
With photo montages on both covers – the front a Marcia Ward dark room manipulation of Michael Bergt’s Lady of the Lake sculpture, a dark room alchemy that transforms negative space on the printed page into a literal sword of light, and the back a rattlesnake of threatening closeness by Camera Obscura’s Loretta Gautier, Passion Press 4 documents the Early-eighties. In the footsteps of mano-mano / 2, another Jack Kerouac letter appears, this time without the redactions that Ed White had earlier insisted upon while those mentioned in Jack’s letters were still alive. And in this letter, dated December 29, 1959, Jack puts the laurel on Denver’s own Neal Cassady, crediting Neal with being the greatest writer working in Europe and America. At the time of Passion Press 4, there loomed in American culture the ever on-going threat of censorship – think Larry Flint’s trials over Penthouse - and I had hoped Ben Talbert’s drawing that accompanies his humorous porno-noir, An Excerpt from “The Disconcerting Games of Vadim the Mechanic” would test the waters. The geography of Denver Bohemia included at this time an enclave on Delaware Street in the Baker neighborhood where some of the contributors lived. The painter Joey Patton whose black and white paintings appear, lived next door to me and Marcia, and Larry Lake and Frank Rios lived two doors north of us. The photographer, TW Gaddy, whose portrait of Marcia is the cover of my first Passion Press book, ladywho, also lived on Delaware Street. Not far from Steve Wilson, John Macker was living in Larry’s old crib on South Logan with his wife, Kathy, and the actor Jim Straley who had finally returned to Denver after a decade long hiatus on the East Coast. Coincidentally, Kathy’s sister was married to Bob Peak, who along with Alfred Dietrich Kleyhauer III, comprised The Whatnots. In addition to Ben Talbert, highlighting the Venice West/Denver connection, the West Coast is represented by the poetry of Tony Scibella who had returned to LA and a sketch of Marcia Ward by San Pedro abstract expressionist Saul White; the Denver writers in this issue include John Macker, John Loquidis – doing poetry not music reviews this time, - Andy Clausen, Larry Lake, Ed Ward, Freddy Bosco and K-M Montier. Ten artist’s portraits are showcased in Marcia Ward’s contribution excerpted from her on-going silver archival series, Artists in Portrait: Ed Ward, Joey Patton, Don Martin, Saul White, Ann Kouri, Michael Bergt, April Cipriano, Frank Rios and Larry Lake.
* the cutting distance, John Macker, Long Road Press/Black Ace/Bowery 38, Denver 1984
This chapbook is cut from the same cloth as others that came before it. Outside of the poetry, the cutting distance is a group effort: a full color wrapper of a watercolor by Kathy Macker, five collage/drawings and cover art by Tony Scibella, an introduction by Frank Rios, a kick-off quote of Stuart Perkoff’s, and a photo of John by Sherra Boris.
John Macker is the bookstore poet, in the tradition of Morris, Lake, Scibella, and Wilson. He currently operates an art book store in the Gerald Peters Gallery in Santa Fe. Between Denver and Santa Fe, in the tradition of Doc Holliday, John did a stint in Glenwood Springs. I met John in The Capitol, a bar just west of John Loquidis’ Jerry’s Record Exchange on East Colfax and a block east of the State Capitol Building. Jerry’s is to music what the Ogden was to literature. Macker had submitted poems for Passion Press #4 and we made arrangements to meet. I remember Larry Lake was with me. Maybe, Joey Patton. Within a year John was following Lake’s dictum to publish others as well as write. His Moravagine literary journal, as well as Harp out of Glenwood Springs and Desert Shovel Review out of New Mexico would be populated by many of the same artists showcased in the pages of the Denver efforts that had preceded it: the Mile High Underground, mano-mano / 2 , The Denver Free Press, Chinook, and Passion Press, including Stuart Perkoff, James Ryan Morris, Tony Scibella, Frank Rios, Steve Wilson, Marcia Ward, Ed Ward, Alfred Dietrich Kleyhauer III, Michael Trego, John Loquidis, Jess Graf, Larry Lake, Saul White, John Thomas, Andy Clausen, and Bill Dailey.
It would seem that even death can not cancel the contracts with the Muse.
*Revolutionary Stew, Marilyn Megenity, Passion Press / the Image Maker, Denver 2001
Marilyn Megenity’s Revolutionary Stew is an adventure in anti-establishment, unorthodox thinking. With these twenty dramatic monologues Marilyn roams through history and the contemporary world with admiring eyes for the heroines of mankind and offers up an assortment of answers to the question: What can one woman, or one man, do to make the world more artful, lovely and beatified? Here are nineteen scripts for an actress to wrap her act around and one for an actor with the magic to enact Ben Franklin. Marilyn, a Denver native, has been a revolutionary thinker and principal in Denver’s mile high underground since the age of eight-teen when she took up an initiative to boycott the combustion engine. (Imagine how independent we would be, had we all followed suit!) In its thirty-fifth year, the success of her Mercury Café’s - the venues and names have changed from time to time but not the Lady of the House - is proof that what was planted a mile high underground remains. In the early years of this century, out of the efforts of poets attending the ongoing Friday Night Poetry Reading Series at The Mercury Café came The Mercury Reader, and guess what: many of the contributors are the same as those first featured in The Mile High Underground.