Saturday, May 17, 2008

"On Margate Sands..."

Misc. in May from Margate, NJ

603 N. 17th Street is where the Howard Sounes biography says Bukowski lived in Philadelphia during his ten year drunk, hanging out in a local bar. Actually, it was upmarket a bit from the skid row dives down by Dock Street where "the sullen Delaware" runs and where David Goodis's characters often lived. (For more on Goodis, see - post for 2006/09/09.) Goodis's protagonists were much more down-and-out than the regulars at the Spring Garden area bar in which Bukowski drank. "Down there" (to use the title of Goodis's most well-known book, the one which Truffaut filmed as "Shoot The Piano Player") Goodis's skid row residents would be lucky to be able to afford the price of a drink at a bar, howsoever rough. Both areas have been gentrified in the intervening fifty years, and both are now quite fashionable if there is such a thing as "fashionable" in Philadelphia. The first step to erasing the Eraserhead ambiences of my home town would be for writers like the editor of CITY PAPER to stop trashing other people's neighborhoods in his fiction. Like Feltonville, a decent working-class/lower middle-class place. He should deposit his garbage in his own neighborhood.

Poe also lived in Philadelphia, with his 15 year old wife, and her mother, about a mile east of where Bukowski drank, and another mile further east, the river, Goodisland. In any anthology of American short stories from Poe to Bukowski, Goodis's "Professional Man" should be included as surely as anything from Hawthorne and Melville or "The Outcasts of Poker Flats" or "The Blue Hotel" or "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" or "Eli The Fanatic" or "You're Too Hip, Baby" or "At The Anarchists' Convention" - and I suppose it would be a cop-out not to include Bukowski's "The Fiend".

I'm surprised that some enterprising publisher like Virago hasn't done an anthology of Great Short Stories Written By Women. Or perhaps some publisher already has, and if they have, I doubt they would have included (though I would have hoped they would) Isabelle Eberhardt's "The Convert", Jean Rhys's "Let Them Call It Jazz", Angela Carter's "The Courtship of Mr. Lyon", and Tove Jansson's "The Cat".

It is Anita Stewart Gilmore I have to thank for putting me on to Tove Jansson's "The Summer Book" and "The Winter Book" and thinking some about it, I wonder if her other writings, her Moomin stories for children, the first two books of which came out in English translation a few years before the Shmoos made their appearance in Al Capp's Li'l Abner, didn't have a conscious influence.

At least there is still freedom here to publish. At one extreme, the mimeographed and stapled pages of a poet named Statts Wyon, selling his stuff on the hard streets of San Francisco in 1974, for 25 cents. Or at the bottom rung of the commercial enterprise, Paul Blackburn's translation of EL CID. Robert Vas Dias is the only person I know who has a copy. One hopes that whoever holds the rights will do it. It should have been out long before yesterday. And Ron Silliman is correct when he blogposts that there is an affinity between EL CID and GUNSLINGER. (N.B. As Silliman also points out (on his blog for today, May 19th) I did not know that the U. of Oklahoma Press had re-issued EL CID in an edition edited by George Economou.)

At the other end of the spectrum, Trigram Press's beautiful edition of Tom Raworth's LION LION (1970). (It should be noted here, since it goes unacknowledged anywhere else, that the Trigram edition of Zukofsky's A22/23 is the definitive one. The U. of Cal. version is based on the Grossman edition, in which there are errors. Interestingly, I was told by Mark Scroggins that the Zukofskys were not pleased with the Trigram edition, even though Asa Benveniste worked closely with them, even to finding and using the same dictionary Louis had used at the time of composition. I suppose the reasons for this are buried somewhere in the correspondence.) As another example of poetry properly published is the Auerhahn edition of MAXIMUS, FROM DOGTOWN -I.

In addition to the short story by Olson, "The Post Office" and the poem-sequence by Lee Harwood, "Notes Of A Post Office Clerk" and the play by Rabindranath Tagore (who probably didn't work in the post office), both Richard Wright and Bukowski (and there must be others I am missing from those who did stints there) wrote post office novels. I seem to remember that LAWD TODAY was Wright's first, as was Bukowski's POST OFFICE. Ferlinghetti said that the only difference between Bukowski's poetry and his prose was that he wrote poetry when he was too drunk to push back the carriage very far. I suppose this remark, out of pique, is akin to what Capote said of Kerouac's ON THE ROAD. Not true of course. "the light" for example in THE NIGHT TORN MAD WITH FOOTSTEPS, one of the posthumous books of his previously uncollected late poetry, a book containing poems of tribute to John Fante, is worthy of inclusion in any anthology of 20th century poetry. As is "my nudie dancer" from the same book, a longer poem in a more typical Bukowski-esque manner.

Then there is Larry Brown. A reviewer on Amazon going by the moniker of Johnny Roulette, specifically recommended Brown, and another reviewer recommended his FAY. Not being of and knowing next-to-nothing of Mississippi, I cannot vouch for the authenticity of his delineations, but it's a rural Goodisworld of the deep south, and perhaps Brown really is the second best writer to come from Oxford, Mississippi.

I lost no one personally in recent tsunami, earthquake, or cyclone, and it is not possible for me to imagine the suffering of so many, the immensity of it. Eighteen years ago, my then ladyfriend, who was working as a geologist, told me in apparently scientific language that the earth replenishes itself thus losing nothing from the continued extraction of the black gold. I didn't believe it then, and I don't now.

Well, one is not waving but blogging, and anyone out there who would like to read some of my work on the web outside of these posts, can go to and hit FIRE poetry magazine, and scroll through on-line issues 26, 17, 12 11, 9, and 8 (Guest Editorial), where the editor, English poet Jeremy Hilton, published some of my poetry and prose.

"Something further may follow of this Masquerade."