Wilde Boy L iterature Maga zine#2 Spring 2019
the copyright page Wilde Boy Literature Magazine ©Wilde Boy Literature Magazine, 2019 Cover photograph: bea t, Jasmine Knobloch and constance bougie ! The other photos: Jasmine Knobloch, all
Table of Contents
Introduction Jasmine Knobloch and constance bougie these clouds this grass Beau W. Beakhouse on the mountain of double meanings Beau W. Beakhouse threat Erin Emily Ann Vance The Cliffs C. M. Crockford CASE STUDY OF AN INCOMPATIBLE Colin James In-flight Entertainment E.M. Gale False Harris Coverley spontaneous invocation Juleigh Howard-Hobson Excerpt from L et’s Not Be Ourselves Today Jordan Brown
Eat From the Hand of Paradise Annabel Mahoney The Neurastheniac Selena Chambers Panic, and Yet Jasmine Knobloch DREAM INTERVIEW WITH MYSELF Josh Medsker “I have always been at the same time—” A conversation with Jessie Lynn McMains
Dear Readers, In 1943, Allen Ginsberg met Lucien Carr in Columbia College, who then introduced him to William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. Together, they determined that what art needed, what society needed, was a “New Vision,” one that broke away from convention and acknowledged what their spiritual influence, Yeats, himself had noticed: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.”1 The Beats responded in kind, creating a counter-cultural literary/artistic movement that captured and spread voices that hadn’t previously been heard. Although it is more than 70 years later, these activists and their works still resonate with nearly every generation to follow them. This issue of Wilde Boy collects voices that are still echoing beatitudes; writers working with beatific ideals and gritty realities, whose art is constantly seeking to go further. We hope that you—like the Beats, like these writers, like ourselves—will be taken somewhere by this issue. We’d especially like to thank everyone who submitted to it, in addition to those financial contributors who have allowed us to support both established and emerging voices with this project. Please feel free to continue to donate! It has been a privilege to make all these visions a reality. We hope you’re doing well. 1
W. B. Yeats, “The Second Coming.” In Y eats’s Poetry, Drama, and Prose, (New York:
W. W. Norton & Company, 2000), 76.
Best, Jasmine Knobloch, editor constance bougie, editor
these clouds this grass Beau W. Beakhouse
these clouds, this grass, this daisy, this storm coming from within the clouds, this sun, the burning sensation on a chin, my chin, this feeling of drifting away with the sea, this sky, so blue, so expansive, the white plane a jet dream disappearing, the sky is above us look up, lie down! feel the sky! bees, everything that goes unnoticed deep within the experience, lost, emerging, worlds within worlds. pink bushes, flowers, rolling leaves, let me come within you, rolling almost, back to existence if I choose, leaves in the sky, colder, down, up sideways, train. anxiety, bird, words, man with shadow, staring collate poems, work out rhythms of life, grass, cross, tread softly funny shapes of people, bikes, cars, anxiety existence, me, here, across the road 3
on the mountain of double meanings Beau W. Beakhouse
A purge in nature itself the one cast outside it but yet to still live in it The funny one the sheep see collapsed with their umbrellas & cushions on the mountainside chanting as they try to understand their own languages logos pure & simple I. Ginsberg’s the cold earth & the wind as cold as it makes you feel it is still you Hear the earth!
Quick get your notes in order! You are late & my ancient languages are no use to you here
Where the way the breeze picks up & the clouds darken is a sign of the coming gods the clouds have a voice which is old & solemn Now listen! listen to the ancient earth the sideways sun climbing Asleep fissures in the mountain carved paths Rivers silence at the top of the hill & trees.
threat Erin Emily Ann Vance
erasure of “the great lover” by Charles Bukowski I mean, he was a misogynist. he had hair, legs a shark dressed in high heels (imagine the bare viciousness of the sunrise) he pissed on her letters like she didn’t matter. he was demanding, a sweaty old couch. one day he found me alone called me an ugly, female voice.
The Cliffs C. M. Crockford I dive off the rock for the first time, the waters take me – I could never do this before – I'm Icarus welcoming his fall, I'm alive, new again, a man believing – the splash is a loud roar – now I am drowned, now I am the water, now consumed and consuming until I rise again with the Sun singing harsh praise. I make my sound.
In-flight Entertainment2 E.M. Gale
An edited excerpt from E.M. Gale’s forthcoming beat novel Blood hack. Then the plane, Even darker, Somehow. At least in the pub we had news, Old style, T.V., Visual-scrolling news, Here we have nothing, Shitty movies on constant repeat, Plus Highly-edited, Highly-late, Sentence-fragment news, Shitty T.V. programs after an audience, Hollywood movies full of lies, About a world where superheroes triumph, Where love conquers all, Where trans don't exist, Edited out, Where teenage rebellion is rock music, Where norms live, Exist, Rebel a bit, Bitter-sweet coming-of-age story, 2
An audio version of this work is available here.
Grow up, Get drunk in comedies, Then romantic comedies, a single overarching romance, Get married, Marriage comedy, Have children, And then they are bit-part characters in a Disney movie, Their kids grow up, and they are bit-part characters in teen dramas, Bitter-sweet coming-of-age stories, Romantic comedies, Marriage stories, And then they are old, Grandmas, grandpas, Wizards in fantasy, Bit part characters in Disney movies, In family comedies, And then they Die. It all misses the point. Reduces life to nothing but a whole list of milestones, Of moments, On the path between being born, Breeding, Dying, With acceptable themes like teaching, Learning, Sacrificing, Accepting and 12
The reward of a nice house in the suburbs, Two kids and a dog, DIY. Never thinking, Giving their life to the corporations, And never questioning, Never question. There's nothing there for us. We land. Raqqua, Syria; A battleground of our early lives, A battleground of a long ago war that never really ended, Quiet now, Empty. Some came back, Some tried to fix it, No in-flight entertainment about that struggle, No humour in attempting to fix the unfixable, Just human fragility, Human loss. The city doesn't look that bad. The airport bus drops us in the centre, Shiny, tall buildings rise from the ashes, Because the corporations have planted their flags, Because nothing is so bad as to keep Mammon out, Because so much blood was spilled here, It must have meant something, There must be something here, And if there's something here, There's profit here. 13
CASE STUDY OF AN INCOMPATIBLE Colin James
You did some good things! That little kitten you saved from drowning. Patches? Generic sort of name. You were available quite a bit for your mother at the scene of the crime. Sorry, at the point of her departure. There was a traditional theist! Wait, can't discuss other cases. Strike that. Struck. 14
We are a little concerned about your lack of communication. We like to keep the lines open, try to be sensitive to different cultures even unusual hippie karma. Forget about the incessant masturbation. Everyone does it, it's quite normal. Now you know. We will have your results very shortly. Maybe as soon as tomorrow. Don't like to keep you hanging. Which is a no no, by the way. Or a yes, yes. It depends on the circumstances.
False Harris Coverley
Sometimes When the sun shines brightly It looks as though someone Has left the light on in the bathroom I notice it coming up the stairs Blazing through the cracks In the door frame And I cry out: Sanctity! Before opening the door And discovering that Old Sol has tricked me Again
spontaneous invocation3 Juleigh Howard-Hobson
tangle me like a garland of garden roses, full throated red bitten lip petals wine stained with world weary dreams. let me feel the sudden sink electric bite of thorns fanged from unstripped unflorist unsanitized stems sacred with nature. twist them tight, wrap them all around and around myself around only myself like fallen halos no competitive muse descended from old heights bright holy godlike. no aching crowns heavy headed with static inspiration. just unrolling unstill like a sunrise you somehow catch between industrial signage, looking out with eyes still full of alarm-clock interrupted dreams undissipated beyond the grit thick smeared bus windows to places the divine couldn’t be, but is. brilliant edged pulsing pushing gold against raw red sun blood hemorrhaging 3
An audio version of this poem is available h ere.
into the sky gone high with approaching morning like red roses tangling. ***
Excerpt from Let’s Not Be Ourselves Today Jordan Brown Henry knew that this time things would really change. Maybe it was too late, maybe it wasn’t a choice after all, but he found a way to feel like it was. He was knee deep in art school, split between studio courses and literature studies. Learning about impressionism and abstract expressionism, romanticism, and a lot of other fucking -isms. And he started reading mimetic fiction. Stoic, cigarette-smoking, bizarre and domestic, the drunken arguments and existential calm of Raymond Carver’s lonely men. The gunshot to end all suicides in Salinger’s “A Perfect Day for Bananafish.” Henry was also learning about which drugs to take for which project, learning how to hide in plain sight, how to time his bathroom breaks during lecture so as to keep a good drip of coke down the back of his throat. He’d smoke meth in the toilet stall, sneaking off every hour in a three-hour pit lecture, blowing the strange-smelling smoke down his shirt. Wide-eyed and sweaty he’d sit in the tiny desks, trying to draw straight lines in his notebook over and over. He’d never not been stoned, had started smoking cigarettes to mask the smell of marijuana, sneaking outside whenever it was acceptable to take a hit and have a smoke. He was still a little delusional about opiates, not quite realizing his last couple bouts with the flu were early-onset withdrawal symptoms. He’d been dabbling with painkillers, had access to heroin and was buying small one-time bumps of the stuff from his friends. He was only snorting it. He was only doing it once in a while. But then somebody borrowed him the book, the Burroughs book, Junky. Then it was all over. Then he had found a way to make it a choice. For “Junk is not a kick,” Burroughs says. “It is a way of life.” And in this way of life, Henry saw something he’d been missing. He saw a basket to put all his eggs in, a bluff to call, to move all in. He saw a life that could be interesting, worth living, worth talking about. He saw a way to be more than he was born into, a chance to get some distance and perspective. He saw a way to learn about 21
himself, and maybe he could make it back. Maybe he’d finally have something good to write about.
Eat From the Hand of Paradise Annabel Mahoney
I shoot my wife and drink a beer I breathe in Ben ‘cause I’m a genius The desert is yellow and purple. Man fell in love with a statue named Gal, pushed her over, she’s only stone I drink a beer, and shoot my wife.
The Neurastheniac Selena Chambers
The following excerpt is republished with permission from The Surhistory Dossier, catalogued by The Bas Bleu Sisterhood in 2014. Helen Heck (1937-1968) was a poet whose incomplete and fragmentary unpublished notebooks, collectively known as The Neurastheniac, garnered her a small underground following as a result of bootleg circulation, most notably during the Nineties’ golden age of the punk zine. Heck became most notorious during this time when Boilerplate frontman Donald Lee made her last lines famous by quoting them in his suicide note, leading novelist Kathy Acker to write a small appreciation for Vogue magazine called “Lavender Slashed Wrists.” While she was a contemporary of William S. Burroughs and Sylvia Plath, and wrote of similar transgressive themes, she is considered a canonical nightmare and has been largely eschewed from any kind of academic or critical discussion for several reasons. First, The Neurastheniac is her only known work, and even then, exists only as a working draft. She never saw a byline during her lifetime, and there is no indication whether she intended the work to ever see publication. As a draft, it is raw and unstructured, and is at times completely incohesive and incomprehensible. It is because of this state that many critics dismiss it as an “Artaud-groupie playing in the Sanitarium” and often repudiate her accounting of factual events as pure fiction. Even if it could be agreed that Heck was writing fiction, what kind of fiction is also debatable. Her work is highly confessional and lyrical, but her imagery titters over into high surrealism, and when her work falls out of its elevated strain for slang and simple language, it has the same spontaneous feel of a Beat novel. 25
While its literary significance remains in debate, her accounts of her Suicide Chambers trespassings are the only primary records known about the now demolished government building, making it a very important and rare historical document of a notoriously undocumented time, if in fact her account is true. Staring Into The Suicide Scrye Suicide is at the forefront of Heck’s investigation and in the background of her life. The mid-ground was a struggle against the mental condition known then as neurasthenia and better understood today as bi-polar disorder. An only child born on a farm in lower Alabama, she came to New York City on a partial scholarship to Barnard College in 1955, and attempted suicide half way into her second semester citing constant disappointment in her surroundings, whether it was in Manhattan or back home, as too daunting to believe in a future. Having failed at death, she decided that Barnard was the better bet, and took advantage of the new policy allowing women access to Columbia courses. It is believed this is how she met the Van Dorens, who would provide tea and sympathy, encourage her writing, expose her to confessional poets like Robert Lowell, and introduce her to the Bohemian writers who hung around Washington Square Park. With her southern accent, well-read wit, and sartorial eccentricities (she donned lavender sashes on both wrists to conceal her scars), Heck charmed the likes of Ginsberg and Burroughs, and while she felt a temporary affinity for their common interests in the occult, religion, mysticism, and mind expansion, a series of flings with other fellow intellectuals left her jaded and cold: All the women here make poetry, while I write it like the men. The women hate me and the men hate me and I hate myself. 26
The men who like me like me because they hate women and they can look at me and see themselves in a form they could fuck. And so we all fuck and get fucked up and write and read and kill ourselves slowly by destroying our youth. I can drink and shoot and snort and smoke all of them under the bed not because I want to die first but because I am the last to live. # It always begins with the ribbons— Yank and tug like they’re shedding Clara’s corset in the garden: ‘Why ya wearin’ those lavender Chanel cuffs, bowed around your bones?’ ‘Because suicide isn’t lady-like.’ To prove me wrong, for they must always be right, they kiss and lick the scars as though their moment of drunken Don Juan charm is better than vitamin E. The admiration only opens new wounds. When life is an orgy, no one hears your moans. (22) An Existential Alchemy What satisfaction Heck had came from her studies. At some point during this period, she found a copy of The King in Yellow in Columbia’s library special collection, and began working on a thesis that focused upon the play’s women Cassilda and Camilla. She theorized they were alchemical sisters and through several “danse macabres” knew how to traverse between the three worlds: the material, the after, and the imaginary: “It’s an entire ether of the imagination and the collective conscious. It is there where Fates are made. The author of King in Yellow termed it Carcosa—if I had my way I’d call it Melpomene—and it is this dream-land the pallid Ladies reign, and it is over the entrance and exit to this existential twilight that they control.” From this connection, Heck theorized that the Queens in the mysterious occult play were of a secret alchemical sisterhood reigning over a 27
realm that represented a mythical existence in-between the mind and the body. An existence she termed “the second act,” and what we have termed the surconcious. Her thesis was rejected as fiction and Heck ultimately flunked out of school and descended back into her depression: Call me Helen—Call me Fuck-up and Failure— Whose wasted vessel Cracks ashore those Nician barks of yore. (57) She burned the original manuscript, and the theories that lied within are extracted from The Neurastheniac and seems to have either provided the foundation or delusion for the visions she would have during her Lethal Chambers experimentation. The Winthrop Government Lethal Chambers If the gatherings in Washington Square didn’t provide Heck with intellectual stimulation, it did introduce her to the abandoned Lethal Chamber that was part of the controversial Winthrop program of the 1920s. Opened on the south side of Washington Square on April 13, 1920, the Death Chamber, as it would become called, opened its doors to any poor sod who wanted to off himself. It was also the prototype for future federal death chambers that were to be erected in every major city and eventually towns. However, the initiative never went beyond New York City and plans for the Chambers were kept confidential, especially when the Washington Square prototype was privatized in the 30s. Shortly thereafter, the program was considered ill-conceived and closed in 1949.
“They found that given the choice,” Heck mused in 1958. “More and more people chose to die before they even could live. It was the only choice that did not lead to more hydra-like decision making.” (70). Because the ornate marble building was also part of President Winthrop’s Haussmann-like redesign of the city, and was intended to rival the iconic Washington Square Park in its flora, fauna, and fountains, it was condemned to decay and rot, and the name was changed to conceal its original function to the Werther-Fieber Hotel, and the Beats who congregated in the Park referred to it as the Hades Hotel. It was from them that Heck learned the facilities’ legends and became fascinated by a place where “you checked in to never check out. How did they fend off the regrets that weakens one’s resolve? People warned me that perhaps the place was booby-trapped. One big ole mine or marble maiden.... To enter into a building as beautiful as that, certainly the promise was to have a death of an exact pulchritude.” (Ibid). Heck began trespassing into the Chamber in spring of 1958, after failing from Barnard. Consequently, she began experimenting with opiates and other psychedelics, and would take an alchemical interest in mixing “cocktails” designed to “keep the mind elevated enough to find Melpomene. It’s all fucking chemicals. It’s all fucking alchemy. The mind has always been the philosopher’s stone—the soul the e-o-l.” (350). With each trespassing, interest in perfecting her cocktails increased. She became so enamored and convinced of her visions experienced in the Chamber, that she sought a “chemical change” that would allow her to sustain her residency in the dream-land. “It was a challenge to the Fates,” she wrote before her final vision, and it was one that she would lose. Having spent a quarter of a century dabbling with self-destruction, Heck finally succeeded at taking her own life at 31 via one of her infamous opiate/psychedelic cocktails and a bullet to her temple. Her last rites, it seems, was to scrawl the now famous yagé-sipping bruja epitaph on every 29
mirror in lipstick, and shoot them one by one until the only reflection left in the room was her own. Helen Heck is important to the Bas Bleu, even in fragments, for what may be her genuine exploration of the “surconcious.” Whether or not the visions she experienced were in Carcosa or Melpomene is irrelevant—what is relevant is the mental map she explores, because it may guide us to the mental map within us all, and bring us that much closer to locating where the soul exists. The following excerpts focus on Heck’s exploration of the Chamber and the early visions that follow from her discovery of the execution machine. She never titled any of her fragments, and so all titles are editorial liberties made to convey a sense of time and development. # The First Trespassing ...was like a grand hotel, and explains the successful cover-up. The Splitz-Carlton? The Four Reasons? The Callitoff-Hysteria? Once you went up the bureaucratic stairs and passed Yvain’s Fates, faces powdered white with bird shit, you entered Mrs. Havisham’s lobby with: • long mahogany tables full of molded and spoiled food rotting on tarnished silver platters. • Empty chairs askew with broken legs and yellowed couches leered with broken springs. • Floor to ceiling marble. Great corinthian columns as wide and tall as red oaks. The aortal lines running through the flesh-colored stone gives the walls a sense of circulation. • One large bay window—my light source in this land of cut electricity. 30
• Frescos on the ceiling depicting some kind of afterbirth afterworld with three wet nurses delivering infants from cradle-graves and tossing them into the air like cherubs just learning to fly—narrative ruined by water damage. Overlooking the lobby were the rooms. Doors ajar or unhinged. There had been a fire at the concierge desk: • a cash register empty and charred—its gilding shining through the soot. • Hooks in the wall for keys or hats. • a leather-bound guest ledger half burned. A few pronoms still legible: Hank Mc——, Elizabeth Har——, Arthur C——, Meredith Jon——. Josephine Ch——. Lendell Beaureg——. Behind the desk the drawers had been pulled out and also suffered torching. Scattered on the floor are torched pamphlets advertising the special amenities of the establishment like: “DIGNITY IN DEATH: Our PALLID MASK keeps one’s countenance in place for a smooth, calm, and collected rendevouz with the Void.” On the front, a young woman with a Louise Brooks bob and a lavender tea gown wears a Louise Brooks mask—cool, collected, and glamorous. Her eyes are closed, and the mask’s cupid’s bow lips are painted in a boudoir smile. “LET THERE BE NO GRIEF: Full-cremation package spares your loved ones from material disassociation and financial burden. Includes cremation, ash disposal at a location of your choosing, or thousands of urn options for familial delivery.” And it showed a Valentino looking ghost hugging what seemed to be his living family... # 31
Up the grand staircase. Extravagant for just one floor. Counted the rooms—grew bored at 50. Each room basically the same. It was bigger than any apartment in the city I had known, and definitely better furnished: • Elegantly furnished and draped in what was once reassuring colors of cream, gold, and mauve with rosewood furniture. • There was a sleigh bed and a fainting couch upholstered in mauve velvet, now matted and worn. It lounged next to a Victrola. • Victrola ornate. The horn made of copper, now patinaed, and its cabinet carved in Art Deco geometries. Other flourishes of normality: • a vanity • an armoire • a personal lavatory with shower and bathtub. • a secretaire with unmarked stationary for any last thoughts. • a picked over book shelf—only had a copy left of Dickinson and Whitman. I pocketed the Dickinson book and am taking notes on the stationary. No windows, and in the waning light from the lobby, I tried to find the execution machine. No trap doors in the ceiling. Marble floor solid. I looked under the bed—nothing but monstrous dust bunnies. Did the shower head produce gas? Or acid? Did someone come in the middle of the night and smother you with your extra down pillow? Room to room and more of the same—complete normality and not one sign of self-destruction. Gave-up and started flipping through Dickinson. Music would be nice. Checked out the Victrola. Blew dust off the vinyl—Bessie Smith—and wiped it with my shirt to clear the grooves. Placed it on the neck and struggled with the crank on the side. Eventually wound the fucker up and I flipped the arm onto the vinyl. Surprised and relieved the needle wasn’t dull. 32
The Victrola’s cabinet was also a lamp and radiated a warm white light into the room. This was alright. I mocked fainting onto the mildew and dusty couch to read. “Because I could not stop for death/He kindly stopped for me—.” I couldn’t focus. A series of designs began to dance on the wall. I looked at the Victrola and saw that its lattice work body was a zoetrope and the art deco octagons, rectangles, and triangles foxtrot around me as Bessie Smith crooned: “Noooobody knows you/when you’re down and out/In my pocket not a one penny/and my friends, I haven’t any.” Digging the vibe, I flipped through Dickinson and crooned along: “I’m noooooooobody, who are you?/Oh, well, honey, I’m noooobody too.” Turned my tickle box over on that one, and had to sit up and put my head between my knees to stop and catch my breath. The song concluded and the room was full of white noise from the continued fornication of needle and vinyl that masked a mechanical whizzing sound coming from inside the horn. I stood up and took off the needle and heard the noise more. I looked inside the horn and saw something gleaming down its throat, and stepped back and tripped back onto the fainting couch as a mechanical arm began to extend out and in its tiny hand was a syringe containing a golden fluid. I watched as it reached its full extension towards the head of the couch, and the hand depressed the plunger and the gold liquid streamed and splattered. Had I been reclining, as I had been before I lost it, it would have pierced my carotid artery. The arm retracted back inside the horn, and the dancing designs slowed down and faded as the zoetrope extinguished. In the next room, the Victrola had an extra dusty Rude Bloom record. Same ritual as before and watched as the zoetrope shined through the cabinet to illuminate the room. I closed my eyes and let the lights dance upon my eyelids. It was soporific, but once I heard the mechanical arm, I snapped to and watched it repeat the motions of its brother machine: extend, inject, withdraw. However, after years of no lubrication, the arm did not 33
completely return inside the horn. Before I could look it over, the Victrola lost its steam and I was cast in darkness. Had to use up my matchbook to see how to get out of there. It seemed elegant but monstrous. The noises it made were un- settling and I couldn’t understand how anyone would complacently allow the thing to penetrate their neck like some kind of robotic vampire. Were they sedated already before hand? # The Third Trespassing Sauntering through the lethal gardens— Once you hop the tarnished gates— The grounds are so vast and brown Shades of their former monstrous elegance. Solemn stroll. Sobering stroll. With each Step you become intoxicated by your Next to last oxygen gasp. # A glance at The shimmering fountain—a gaze at the Rusted fountain—around its base hovers The Muses. I have met the Fates—. I have met the Muses—. Don’t be fooled by what you can take, It’s all a ploy in their ruses—. Find yourself with their golden nooses. # You can see in my eyes the stars 34
are gone. You can see in my complexion the blood has stalled within its constricted highways. You can see in my mouth the lost words caught in my teeth. My d asein is perpetually weeping lactic acid from the exertion to live. And yet, by some involuntary propulsion, I move forward through the days and the weeks and into the months—
For how long? Alone, alone, alone. Alone with all the wrong answers. # what is death but the failure to live the secret in living is failing to die what is death but failing to live what is life but failing to die the secret to living is failing to die # “I have a world inside of me I cannot see,” Said the oyster to the sea. “I have resolved to shuck that little world outside of me.” # The Fifth Trespassing 35
I found a Pallid Mask and it is not as advertised. Neither the face of Louise Brooks nor any other human ideal. Made out of mercury with a silver arabesque around the brow and down the nose. An alchemical sign? I reached into the Victrola and gently extracted the arm. I rigged a fresh vial of morphine into the hand, and returned it to its cave, hearing its hinges and springs lock into place. Cranked, needle flipped, and Billie Holiday’s “Gloomy Sunday” filled the room. I laid down on the couch and placed the mask over my face and closed my eyes as the lux ballet began. The cold mask was making all thought in my temples frigid and frozen. An arctic serenity in the igloo-skull. The flickering lights’ somnolent effect seemed stronger. With each inhalation I felt my body relax. “Gloomy Sunday” faded out as the beating of my heart grew louder and louder in my ears. A white heat pierced behind my ear—shot through with smack-warmth, numbed body—I became nothing but ellipses.... …Hugging the trunk of a giant weeping willow tree, the sun sparkling through its matron-leaf curtain dazzles me awake like a junky Snow White. A garter snake coils around my outstretched arm and constricts it, above the elbow, to show the veins in alabaster. A hummingbird alights on my fingers and darts to hover above my inner elbow. It stabs its beak into my vein, hovering and sucking. The snake hisses in rhythm to the bird’s fluttering and my gasping. Eden ecstasy. When the hummingbird is through extracting, it flits to the willow curtain and falls dead as if it hit glass. The snake uncoiled itself and disappeared in a hole at the foot of the tree. Liquid gold pours out of my veins, and I crawl over to the dead bird—stiff and straight like a syringe. I pick it up and crawl back to the trunk—nestle back in to its exposed roots and stab the bird’s beak back into the vein. 36
Perdition Pain. Gold spilling around the bird’s body as I squeeze it, crunching the bones until all it had taken was returned. Tapped, I throw the feathered pulp down and the snake emerges to swallow it whole—then disappears again. I feel fortified and can stand and walk. I part the matron-leaf curtain and look out over: Nordic latitudes pause the rising sun— Dusk is frozen on the horizon— Casting the sky in jewel tones of magenta, violet, and aquamarine. The clouds reflect these tones, mix them with brooding, ponderous, slate precipitation. It is nothing but landscape— which changes with the journey— It is impossible to survey and map— because it only exists at the end of our threads. # The Fifteenth Trespassing Who are all these people with faces and names? They were my friends, but they are not the same. They are not the same. They wear their last suits and gowns— tweed, silk, chiffon, satin— worth more than all the money spent on their minds worth more than all the money spent 37
into their veins and arteries worth more than all their lives combined, if life were ever capital to trade. They were my friends— they were my lovers— they were my family—. These people with faces and names. I recognized and unrecognized them Their familiar faces wore unfamiliar expressions Of last gasps— cardiac cancers, automobile crashes, undiscovered overdoses— And faded beauties— Entropy, gluttony, jaundiced, flaccid Liver beauty spots. These people with faces and names were erased behind the masquerade of their own threads, and looked out through porcelain hallows. Each mask individualized by their individual demise But made common by the same golden arabesque that swept across the eyebrows and down the nose. The secret code—the alchemical sign—that Invites living specters to foxtrot at their own funeral. They spin and twirl and jive In their grandparents spats and stays Around a grand table That serves as throne and entertainment to 38
The two Sister-Queens—. Whose corseted musculature And golden-laced ligaments And silk-skein tendons gorey gleam—. Their visages veiled in gold masks Socketed with third-eye diadems of lazuli and tiger eye. Cassilda wears a halo-collar that crowns her Head in the warm embrace of Helio’s arms— Golden rays inlaid with rubies and precious and imperial topaz. Camilla mirrors her with Selene’s serene beams— Silver, sapphire and pearl. They do not regard their subjects They regard the marionettes on the table— A makeshift stage for The Moira—The Fates— marble life-sized puppets trapped in a pantomime by the Sister-Queens’ gaze—. # It’s an interesting tableau. Clotho: With bloodshot and puffy eyes, Looks out a window with her hand On the hip of her hourglass shape. From her bosom and through her waist, Falls infinite sand collecting at the foot of 39
Her petticoat. Her head tilts to consider The long tapestry that is woven by Laisches And stretches toward Atropos to cut. Clotho guides them to the hemming and stitching. Laiches: With fair hair that rolls Around her head into A chignon of yarn; Pinned By countless knitting needles Of myriad gauges. A lock behind her ear curls to her cheek And she takes from it strands to knit Into the tapestry. Around her lithe marble body, A spider spins and spins and spins Confining her body to her chair Only her arms are free from the Cobweb garb, and she can reach And grab from a basket containing All of the scrolls—each a timeline of Our lives—moving from one life to another Under her sister’s direction, Without missing a click. Atropos: At the end of the tapestry, she sits cross-legged on the floor. 40
The murderer of men, her face is an open wound From lacerations—the shark teeth tied To the end of her matted hair—she shakes her head like a gnashing rabid dog. Blood patina oozes from damaged stone. A string of black pearls chains her neck to the wall. She wears a shawl made out of a fisherman’s net— Seashells, starfish, and rotting shrimp hang in the lapels— Decayed brooches. Ever ready in her hands are golden straight razors— Once Clotho decides a life has ended, She chops the thread with the velocity Of a guillotine. # Atropos’s arms flail at me. She juts her knife at me— then at the projection on the wall. The Sister-Queens’ gazes go unwavered; They take no notice of me. I am just another reveler with a face and name. I walk to the projection; grasp at the dust in the light. The surface wavers and pools around my hand like I had plunged it into a phosphorescent bay. I felt minute pixilated threads stick to my phalanges Like spider silk—. 41
In the projection, I saw myself— A Helen who was not the fuck-up failure— the windblown petals swirl around her face, catch in her hair; their vibrancy against her raven hues appear as though her locks Are wicks to blazing stars. I look back to the Sister-Queens And the incarcerated Moirai— Clotho gestures to Laiches, who switches a thread between her fingers. The vision in the window changes. Atropos juts her knife at me, then guillotines the tapestry. She juts her knife at her sisters, and Laisches searches for another scroll. The puppets regard me regarding them. Atropos juts her knife at the Sister-Queens, and then runs her razor across her throat. Cassilda gestures to Camilla, Who explodes from her chair To rush and push me out of the way, To make wiping gestures over the image. The threads shudder and settle into a scrye.
I see myself in my last frock And last face. Flowing from the right temple, Ribbons of Pink and Crimson silk Layered with Grey and Aubergine lace Enshroud a shattered and cracked Porcelain mask— All part of a cocktail hat Composed of Cockscomb. My eyes stare out of carved lids Kohl-rimmed and mascara-streamed. My sculpted lips are swollen And smeared— Nose and cheeks rouged by blood specks. I touch the ribbons and lace And poke at the Cockscomb. My reflection merely scratches her cheek With a shiny little gun— I reach out to my reflection She reaches out to me and aims. I caress my mask. The Sister-Queens bicker. Camilla grabs my arm: “You, madam, should unmask.” I refuse. “Indeed it’s time.” 43
I regard my nodding reflection— Her porcelain lips now carved around the revolver’s barrel. “You can’t help but look out of the mask you were given,” I tell the Sister-Queens. Cassilda orders Camilla to unmask me,— I slap away her privileged stretching arms And rip the mask off myself— The revolver goes off—. …. The small scenes open up broader landscapes until various worlds orbit around your eyes— Its induced vertigo— And you hesitate where your next step leads— But you traverse— You move on into Melpomene’s weeping willow arms and wait. For any minute now, some soothsaying yagé-sipping bruja will pass through this road-fork and clear the cursèd humors. Or maybe she’ll just walk by with a dismissive wave, laughing at the deer and snails in the sky.
Panic, and Yet Jasmine Knobloch
I am reading The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. I am trying to be like Wolfe--put my life together the way he does Kesey’s. I am trying to look at the roads I’ve driven and see trips. The only trip I get is my eye latching onto the same sentence again and again. “Panic--and yet there is no panic.” Panic, and yet there is no panic. Panic. Each time I start this line I forget that I am supposed to be on the one that comes after. I am supposed to be after the panic by now. This is Kesey’s fantasy, that there is something after the panic. This is my fantasy, too. 46
It is always helpful to begin with honest statements. I thought I graduated from college. I got accepted to a Master’s program in English at Old Dominion University exactly 1,059.7 miles from my home in Oshkosh. I drove to Norfolk, Virginia behind my movers and my belongings. I moved into the upper bedroom of a French national’s home. Besides the unbearable heat, humidity, and the wasp nest in my bedroom window, I was fine. Then, I got an email telling me that I hadn’t graduated after all and still had an entire semester of blank credits left to complete. I was forced to drop out of my graduate program and make my way back to Wisconsin before the new semester began. I threw away every belonging that wouldn’t fit in my 2014 Ford Focus the morning of August 22nd and drove alone for two days on the interstates between Virginia and Wisconsin. I was homeless for half a week, became a squatter in my ex-partner’s bedroom, and re-entered my undergraduate program to get my degree back. I also have generalized anxiety disorder, which didn’t help any of that. I am reminded that these things do not happen: by my English faculty, who are surprised to see me again after sending me off; by my French landlady, who has kept my security deposit in the wake of my sudden departure; by the parents of a good friend, who have gossiped “how could you not graduate and not know it?” I am also reminded that these things do happen, but not by the people most comforting to hear from. It’s Ginsberg, Kerouac, Kesey and Cassidy that share my story in its most extreme telling. After all, it was their group, the beats, that dropped out of college and drove and hitchhiked around America on their roadtrips. And though I envy their poetics, I’m not sure if they are the forefathers that I want. Their slurrings sound like sweet consonance as I read them aloud. There is such an allure to being what Kerouac calls “fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders,” containing their intrepid madness and letting it out in compulsive manifestos. They were still drunks and druggies, beatniks wandering between the coasts leaving cops and women behind them; not only am I afraid of spiders, but I haven’t figured out how to release 47
that building pressure yet, least of all in the written word. I spoke with a counselor at the University not long after I re-enrolled. For one of her exercises, she asked me to write to a younger me and explain everything that happened to a more understanding ear. I came to the next session with an empty notebook. The Beats were somewhere out of it, beyond it all, in a way that I very dearly am not. Anxiety is like that, like Kesey laying out on a hospital bed being administered his first doses of mind altering drugs, except for him it is the not-panic, and he “enter[s] into all of it,” and “is one with it.” For me, it is August 14th and I am scared shitless, driving south on I-94. I am following my parents, my movers, in their rusty blue Ford Explorer, and we are crossing state lines that I think I will never recross. I am saying to myself, “look, you are in Ohio,” “look, you are crossing the Mississippi River,” “look at the dome on the Charleston Capitol building, it’s so gold even from here.” It is 9PM, August 15th in Norfolk, and I am sleeping in a kitschy old lady’s home. The terrace is guarded by pink swathes of flowering Dogwoods and the steps by an overgrown green canopy. Inside, everything is dark mahogany. Every wall is lined with shelves of immaculate houseplants, and small trinkets: dust layering cracked clay pots, hand towels with cartoonish old ladies gardening, art exclaiming “A Grandmother’s Love is Forever!” In spite of my own evenly dispersed books and furniture, the spare room at the top of the stairs still smells antique and unyielding--like my own grandmother’s house smelled when I stayed overnight as a child. I am afraid that I do not really inhabit this place, but am just a visitor. The room is not like Kesey’s shack on Perry Lane, or the Day-Glo bus Cassady drove to the West Coast, or The Warehouse in the Haight-Ashbury district; he somehow imbued those transitive places with a permanence so that others could call it home. I never got completely settled in Madame Noel’s home in Norfolk before I had to leave it again. There were still unopened U-Haul boxes of baking tools and a hand-me-down suitcase of dresses and hangers that I 48
hadn’t put in the closet, among other things. I did manage to make one grocery trip to an organic food store ten minutes down the road. The store was called The Fresh Market and they sold eleven dollar organic jellies that I had to buy if I wanted to eat and also stay cool. I hadn’t cracked into the carton of eggs I bought from that trip before the mounting emails from Old Dominion and UW Oshkosh. I put off making the actual decision for as long as I could get away with, long enough that some course-altering miracle might occur and confirm my presence at ODU, or at least make it possible to stay until I could earn that right back. On the morning of the 22nd, it was clear I had nothing left to stay in Virginia for. UWO maintained that the credits had to be completed to process my graduation. Old Dominion refused to accept an academic deferral if I finished the credits at UWO in any capacity. I couldn’t imagine living in a place that didn’t want me. I sent two emails that morning: the first to the graduate admissions office at Old Dominion thanking them for their consideration but retracting my acceptance to their program, the second to Madame Noel, still in Paris, explaining that an unidentified “emergency” had occurred and I needed to leave. I left the last email vague enough that the overwhelming shame and failure I felt might be mistaken as a terminal illness in myself or a relative back home. Home is such a hard thing to think about, especially when it doesn’t exist. I called my ex-partner the night before I left, sobbing and out of control, telling him that there was no way for me to stay in Virginia: I had to come back to Wisconsin. I didn’t know where I would go when I got there, but anxiety and procrastination taught me that when it’s difficult to make a decision, the best thing to do is put oneself in a situation where there are no other options available. So, I left both the original and the spare key on the hall table in Madame Noel’s house and locked myself out. I exited Norfolk and crossed the West Virginia toll-booths later that day without paying. I had just enough free credit on my card to pay for the gas home, but no cash to pay for any of the tolls. Although it is months later, I still receive 49
backlogged tickets in the mail from West Virginia and Illinois for toll evasion where I couldn’t shunpike. I think we joked tearfully about how beat that was, driving across the country alone, breaking the law, crashing in an ex-lover’s bedroom in a Queer house with other English majors, squatting with no money and no job. Every few hours he would interrupt my ride with a call to help me stay awake in the middle of the night. I would listen to his soft voice through my caffeine jitters as he read me ramshackle poems and reminded me what a good memoir this all would make when I was done. There was a large portion of the trip home where I doubted If I ever would be done. I hoped, at times when I began nodding off during the long night, that my Ford might slip over into oncoming traffic and a large cross-country tanker might blot me away. Other times, my breathing would verge on hyperventilation as I thought of moving into my ex-partner’s house, or being confronted by professors who had written recommendation letters on my behalf. I rehearsed and repeated these conversations in my head, and sometimes out loud, choreographing how I would respond to their question, “what are you doing back in town? I thought you went to grad school.” My skin burned and my vision blurred at the thought of my own failures, and it was impossible to imagine a future where everything worked out while I was behind the wheel. I died hundreds of times, and planned the details of my funeral on my phone’s recorder before I crossed back into Wisconsin midday on the 23rd. The welcome sign didn’t seem real as I passed it. Please be courteous, mourning in progress. If I believe Kerouac, which I don’t, not for a second, then he wrote On The Road in one drug fueled writing binge. I think it’s far more likely that he spent a while on it, drafting in his head as he drove, scribbling on gas-station napkins. It was a drug-fueled venture, I’m sure, but in many bouts. I can’t imagine why he would pass it off the way he did, other than for the spontaneity and romance of it. And, regardless, it’s an unrealistic example to follow. I tried smoking and edibles in hopes that they would help my writing as a less severe alternative to Kesey’s LSD and Peyote. Those nights were only 50
hungry and sore-throated. It’s half a year later and I am still in the corner of my partner’s room, pouring over beat literature like I’m reading the bible. As much as I read Kerouac, Ginsberg, Kesey and Wolfe and try to follow their dogma, I can’t seem to shake the anxiety of the experience. I still wake up sometimes thinking that I am at the half-lit rest stop in Indiana, pretending to sleep and hoping that the white van parking next to me isn’t the wayward business address of an interstate serial-killer. I can’t help but feel that Kesey and Kerouac didn’t worry about things like that. Or maybe they didn’t have to because they were steely eyed and cigarette stained men. And yet, I am a woman. And yet, I am gearing up to do this all again. It’s been six months. I am nearing the completion of my surprise final semester of college, again. I am reapplying to graduate schools. I promised myself, and all my disbelieving audiences, that I was going to apply somewhere north of the Mason-Dixon line this time. Even without the false hopes of graduation, Norfolk’s humidity would have gotten to me. I remember Madame Noel encouraging me not to stay outside too long or risk walks longer than five minutes. I still applied just as far away this time, and farther, all the way to the West Coast like the beats. I am just as scared now as I was last time. And I definitely haven’t figured out how to be beat and feel beat yet. Kerouac asks us,“What is that feeling when you're driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? - it's the too-huge world vaulting us, and it's good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.” He had it figured out. Just lean into it. Don’t panic, not yet. And if you can’t help yourself, and the world is so vast and open, just lean. This is the line I’m going to repeat to myself in between hasty sips of rest-stop coffee and generic-brand Xanax. 51
DREAM INTERVIEW WITH MYSELF Josh Medsker
The other night I had a wild dream where I was interviewing myself about various writing projects… and before I got into really deep sleep, I had the foresight to turn on the voice recorder on my phone and set it next to my pillow. You see, I talk in my sleep. When I woke up the next morning, I had conducted this interview with myself. A lot of the beginning part was me muttering unintelligbly, so I had to slice off a few minutes. Let’s take a read at this interview already in progress, shall we? … and Medskerpedia is a verse trial and often of coming works. I’m reading on too short but… and… too, it’s feeling, well, their many voices for alienation… and if my favorite finding didn’t lean writing, again, then error was my own. I appropriated years of creation, worked, also had a liking of free. Much of self-texts like, got time on the teachers of them. About my lives spent. Long and poetic topics as similar again—identity for creative use… thoroughly personal. Me, professor, recognized this as read and of friends. So noble I thought. Craft as day. I craved history, all poetry, and really knowledge from bolts, nuts. Would see around encyclopedic knowledge of poetry. Began in 2015. Offhand convinced by a friend Eryk. Days were poems. Mine was this rad little of awesome. Intense. So I said, be I not the gaucho? Ok, so if I understand this correctly, I began it in 2015 and I write a poem a day from the poetry encyclopedia… Princeton Encyclopedia of 52
Poetry and Poetics. What is the overriding philosophy behind the project? Days in the 90s… beatings of friends in the scene. Mix you on the ass. My other verse gimmicky, meaty things was wanted. A running take. To weave pleases. Only in the head with myself. The great book shut from policing. It’s free to consider up some hope. As I say, read, comment, literature. I, me, the real poem. There I researched the breaks, others poems. That stuck. It's a nice topic. America is defined by ends involved. We have the illusion. Steal. Tricky, but I publicly cuff folks. Example: Creating in me an answer related to the publication of the If and to myself. I stand people, but that’s about it. Write a specifically researched encyclopedia to these examples… Time poetics. Now poem been there for fathering, if they work the poems open. Intense wonderful Encyclopedia society. I’m not reading 90s very. Now poets friends, hurling smarts… valuable faces and projects, individuals. We for poetics of our own post-beat eyes. The ancients felt… an Argentinian sea day representing Beowulf… experiment me… pet to the back and see work---poems. Philly lines and secrets unique. I taught the sun years ago. I can cutups and the narrator feel. Haha! So I’m doing this Medskerpedia alone, or are other people involved? Umm… lose a favorite few in this. Been through it write to popped, definitely Encyclopedia confidence plans… writing that my group made Facebook a doorstop. Facebook, yes. Difficult takers… I think other people find error. But we enter like a god… listening, moving… explaining of future and Pittsburgh and Carlos’s whistle. Bored weekends add to pieces. 53
Now, the social front of forms is poetry critiques. NYC… Connecticut friends and West… the African long version … wonderful college poem venues. Step out to ready a process of personal ongoing trials. But the guy’s poem unable to forget literary time. The chapbook is useful, lonely. Example: the hell dog let out recently. The news excellent of just bothering? Variety based on non-stepping. Now our community is risking culling funny nuggets… proud days of Facebook sea… a little empire. We each know formulating poetics and screw the poem. It’s a raw read. Prosody on Wikipedia, Beowulf. Sounds pretty interesting! So, you guys post the entries on the Facebook group... What is my creative process like? How do I get started writing a poem? And what do I do when I get writer’s block? Take me through the process. It’s my writing time… what happens first? Poem cooking poetry… Oulipian Emily Dickinson be the hoped style. Paterson poem… This has been alt mission. I'm the Mind. Burroughs process, Williams process… I’m editing death, pop, people abstractly random. These off art was a realizing that entries want me. The monkey series has plans, and I’ve done death, true… encouraging without poems could just post musical. I’ll get summer read. Every prosody, beautiful project just carves the fear. First writing fully garbage—a professor interested myself in college. Thanks to Medskerpedia, one poetry. The Babylonian finish secret… we appropriated this in sheer anti-anti-Poetry. Mmm work our hell. That topic 54
so deafening. Manuscript supportive discussions took groups back… the underdogs group poets I care group. Second difference—modeled popular example. Actually just read, read. July will been decades, so is started. Fueled on. Peeled me about so I actually smile. The protesters and meditation… Oh name! Bomb for deadline then tour be poetry. So, how many poems will I have when I’m finished with Medskerpedia? Haha! 1600, out soon. Until confessional myself answer, one. Oh the rock stops a lot if it’s ninety tight kicks. Directly, those they say work important don't own wrote. Poems unknown before my first floor opened. This is very interesting, but let’s take a step backward for a second. I understand I’m from Alaska? Hahaha! Alright, um Alaska literature. Was work. BIRTH. And I wrote local music zines up there, right? Moved the nation… check rawness and punk. Things of 20, 21. Two and more too that’s my BIRTH. Literary roots. Warning the people. Listen! Zines. Powerfully named, I become oriented in zines. We activists initiated. Questioned Generation… we steady experimenters… pseudonym time… riding the bus… performance in general… Poetry meaning you.
Magazines, which we called debt. Because 80s and 90s, and in my zines we topics is slew: fiction, punk rock, literary. Honestly interesting and strictures named. Everything memoir… summer favorites Cometbus, Flipside, MRR… When did I begin writing? Bus problems. Freshman… honestly, I was sleeping lights UAA philosophy class. I hoped to explore happy love. Then traveling hostels, sending… eventually published. Great. No national value because Alaska… I cautious but that and slow, bizarre… Love-ish literature with OTHER which speak people of nothing. Goodies and were foundational home lover. Radical submit chapbooks of candy new straitjacket. Bookstores. Benches. From oddball. Alaska to X. I have a zine now, called Twenty-Four Hours. Or I did have it. I read on my website that it started in Japan, and now it’s a small press? What’s the backstory on that? Eric and I at loose neighborhood, we really so ANTI. The East stay idea was heavyweight. Anonymous, juvenile, free. Be great. We worked the project just killer and 60s. Not garde. Presenting was a crime, but … between, I want one moved. Making. Revealed. The Jersey pseudonym even… therein (I hope) anonymity, lest crafting the state itself. The place we have really found. The States difficult. Poetry of native Japan loved. But work difficult 2001. But identity HERO and the little space… publishing up an egalitarian little something. Sleeping in writer every ANONYMITY. Fed principles am I. Reality travelers. Alaska, well… that's a well of me. Not an idea or theory but toes in this West. A difficult whole of ridiculous. TFH as freedom. 56
2000 had and more culture told. Teaching vibes grammar in Japan have. First chroniclers together. Going to freak. Hey, even the identity store inspired and had me. I type Beckett. You can cop a song… piece print another wonderful… could be! The clique forms elsewhere so hahaha! That's through fanzines… I don’t know if I can answer this right now, but what are my writing plans for the future? To sentence TIME. Austin inspired creativity. Hmm I wrote built chapbooks. Not Pulitzer or Barnes but becoming. City Burroughs great. Brooklyn actually. Coupland Californians. No don't New York binary value. TFH Chapbooks because I poetry prison. No big ego. Out with my time the anonymity chapbook experiment. Poetry is mostly adventure. No bookstore. Even an author writing a remix is trick paint. Coast wanted to look back. People have Anchorage, city I love. I know constraints. Included a few in Japan in the second literary people. The chapbooks were years, forced. TFH creates incredible time. Writing experimentation, true every more to all anonymous. Personal country soak, then Brooklyn word Christmas. Oulipo Anthology. Whew! Bookstore sprang fun. My identity as writer people. 57
“I have always been at the same time—” A conversation with Jessie Lynn McMains
A punk poet, beat zinester, small press publisher, and spoken word performer, Jessie Lynn McMains has been publishing their own and others’ writing in zines and chapbooks since 1994. They were the 2015-2017 Poet Laureate of Racine, WI, and currently write a recurring music column for Pussy Magic. As a fellow Wisconsinite (and much less experienced zinester), I was immensely excited to be able to interview them for this issue of Wilde Boy! Jessie Lynn didn’t disappoint—here, we discuss a few of the works 59
they’ve published and are currently working on, the Beat women, and the problems with loving writers like Kerouac, among other topics. constance bougie: Is there anything you’d like to mention right off the bat? You describe yourself as a poet, writer, zinester, and small press owner—what’s been on your mind regarding all of these things as of late? Jessie Lynn McMains: What’s on my mind is that there aren’t enough hours in a day! Not only am I all those things, I’m also mama/primary caregiver to two kiddos, I do freelance editing stuff and teach workshops, and I try to have some semblance of a life outside of those things. So far today I have: gotten my oldest kid off to school, formatted pieces for the lit mag I am Editor-in-Chief of, played with and fed my youngest, worked on the final layout for the next chapbook my press is publishing, made notes about several pieces I want to write, and done my daily French and Irish Gaelic lessons on Duolingo. And it’s only noon, and I’m recovering from a pretty serious illness. cb: To start getting into the Beats—you’ve written a wonderful chapbook in response to (and after the style of) Ginsberg’s “Howl.” (Thank you so much for sending me the link to read it!) Did any specific moment or thought prompt you to write “Lament”? JLM: I began jotting down notes for it in 2007, during a trip which was my own personal Kerouacian odyssey. I was thinking about being a womxn, traveling alone, having “kicks“ and visions. I asked myself: why couldn’t I be the “secret hero” of a Ginsberg poem like Neal Cassady, or the writer of my own road stories like Jack Kerouac? I completed it in 2011. At that time, I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I often felt haunted by Ginsberg and his poems. Taking BART to my job in Berkeley, I’d think of “A Strange New Cottage in Berkeley.” At the grocery store, I thought: What price 60
bananas? Are you my Angel? Every time I saw a sunflower, I thought: Unholy battered old thing you were, my sunflower O my soul, I loved you then! It was the perfect time and place to write a poem in the style of Ginsberg. cb: I’m curious—you write in “Lament” of Beat women “who were sometimes boys” and “who were told they were boys.” Were those lines a reference to people we might now call genderqueer? Were you thinking of any specific figures from history there? JLM: The people I describe in “Lament” aren’t specific historical figures. Most of them are made up of bits and pieces of people I’ve known. When I write about those “who were sometimes boys,” genderqueer folks definitely fall into that category. It also includes gender non-conforming women, and people like myself: nonbinary womxn and genderfluid people who are sometimes women, and those who may not identify as women but identify with womanhood. As for the women “who were told they were boys,” that’s for trans women and any other AMAB trans-feminine folks. cb: You’ve told me that you’re working on an essay on Elise Cowen and Sylvia Plath—I hadn’t heard of Cowen before this! Can you talk about her a little, or share a bit about your essay? JLM: The essay is a mix of literary criticism and personal essay. It looks at both poets’ work and lives as well as the times in my life when their words meant the most to me. Though Sylvia Plath was not a Beat poet and is much better known than Elise Cowen, they were, roughly, contemporaries—Sylvia was born a year earlier than Elise and died a year after. They both committed suicide, and their tragic deaths have often overshadowed their work. Elise’s story makes me so sad. She and Allen Ginsberg were lovers for a while, and for a long time she was mostly known for being “Allen’s attempt at 61
heterosexuality.” But she was a serious poet in her own right, as well as bisexual (she had relationships with both men and women). After she died, her family burned most of her notebooks, because of her frank depictions of things like sexuality and drug use. One of her notebooks survived, because a friend had it. For fifty years after her death, only a few of her poems ever saw the light of day. Then, in 2014, Elise Cowen: Poems & Fragments was published. It collects all the full poems and fragments from that surviving notebook. The poems are stunning—influenced by Emily Dickinson and Sappho and full of astonishing imagery. It makes me wonder what was in her other notebooks; makes me wonder what else she would have written had she lived longer. cb: I definitely need to get Poems and Fragments! Who are some of your other favorite Beat women? Any reading suggestions for those who aren’t familiar with them? JLM: My absolute favorite Beat woman is Diane Di Prima. She also happens to have the largest body of work of any of them, because she’s still writing and publishing! I love all her stuff, but in particular I’d recommend Loba and Revolutionary Letters. I also adore Lenore Kandel and Hettie Jones. For Lenore, read the Collected Poems of Lenore Kandel. I’ve never read an entire collection of Hettie’s work, but my favorite poem of hers is “Hard Drive.” The final stanza sums up my gender identity better than anything else I’ve ever read: I have always been at the same time / woman enough to be moved to tears / and man enough / to drive my car in any direction. cb: Taking a turn in a different direction—you’ve mentioned to me your interest in, or even love for Jack Kerouac. Can you talk a bit about that? Submissions we received for this issue, for instance, looked at William Burroughs from a variety of perspectives, viewing him alternately as queer, as the man who killed his wife, as an innovator of cut-and-paste 62
creations—what about Kerouac? What are some of the ways with which we might view him, and in what ways do you appreciate him? Is this a love you found yourself needing to justify to yourself? JLM: Oh, Jack. There are so many ways to view him. A misogynist deadbeat dad, who abandoned his daughter and several wives. A soft-hearted man who loved his cat and had a deep vein of tenderness in him. A depressed alcoholic with mommy issues; a Catholic Buddhist seeking the holy. White-boy writer who exoticized/fetishized Black and Indigenous peoples because he thought they were closer to some kind of “primal” life experience (ugh); “spontaneous bop prosodist” whose writing captured the rhythms and sounds of jazz better than any white poet had before. Writer who was close friends with many queer men and in fact may have been queer himself, but who also used the word f*ggot in his writing. Writer who inspired a thousand countercultural rebels who came after; who became increasingly conservative and reactionary as he aged. I’ve often had to justify my love for Kerouac. I’ve gotten flack for it since I was a teenager, and it has gotten worse as the years have passed. Last week, when I noted his birthday on Twitter, someone replied: “Ugh, such homophobia and misogyny, though.” I told them they were right, and that I don’t make any excuses for his moments of homophobia, misogyny, or racism. When I was younger, I would have said: “Who the fuck cares? I’m reading his books, not hanging out with the guy!” But as I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten more sensitive to things like that. And I’ve realized: we all have a line dividing what we will and won’t tolerate in the people whose art we consume. For me, Kerouac falls on the tolerable side, in part because he’s long dead and so my buying/reading his work isn’t a tacit endorsement of his views. But I understand that other people’s lines are different. And I don’t even mind people bringing up his unwokeness, because that’s a valid criticism. What I don’t like is having to defend myself against people who 63
think anyone who still appreciates Kerouac in adulthood has failed to progress past adolescence. They assume we’re all either annoying lit bros who are like “Kerouac!!! Whooo!!!” and try to emulate him by being irresponsible drunken vagabonds, and/or they think we’re not very well read or intellectual. I am not a lit bro, I am no longer a drunken vagabond, and I have read thousands of books, but I still love Kerouac. I’m not saying I refuse to discuss his literary missteps; there are books and pieces of his that fall flat, even for me. But I think that both the Kerouac-wannabe lit bros and the people who denigrate his writing as juvenile are doing the same thing: they’re reducing him to the shallowest aspects of his stories. They think all his road-going was aimless wandering for kicks and chicks. They miss that it was really a search for home and a search for the sacred. That is one of the things I appreciate most about his writing, that endless seeking, that sense of pilgrimage. I also appreciate the rhythm and sound of his words, the musicality: the rhythm of the road, the sounds of the universe, jazz-rhythms, the beat. And I appreciate that he took the raw stuff of his life and mythologized it in such a way that we’re still having discussions like this. Love or hate him, he won’t be forgotten. As Patti Smith said in One Fast Move or I’m Gone: “he wasn’t a perfect man, but he had moments of perfect clarity.” May that be said of all of us.
Beau W. Beakhouse is a writer/artist in Cardiff. He works with text and video, as well as undertaking installation and residency-based work. He is particularly interested in the spiritual, the metaphysical, the poetic, the radical, the experimental, the avant-garde, in decolonisation & post-coloniality & in deconstruction. Find him online @BeauWBeakhouse. constance bougie, editor, is an undergraduate English major with focuses in asexuality studies, poetry, and Irish literature. They have previously published poems and short stories in (A)gender: An Anthology, Polemical Zine, and A Velvet Giant, and have work upcoming in The Bastard’s Review and The Asexual. Follow them on Twitter @5tephendeadalu5. Jordan Brown is currently defending his MA thesis at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, which is in his hometown. The work is a thinly veiled memoir about addiction, dysphoria, and seeking relief through writing. His poetry can be found in Bramble Lit Mag and his auto-biographical fiction in The Bastard’s Review, which he co-edits, and I nkwell Journal. Selena Chambers’ work has been nominated for a Pushcart, Best of the Net, the Hugo Award, and two World Fantasy awards. She is the author of Calls for Submission (Pelekinesis), Wandering Spirits: Traveling Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (Tallhat Press) and co-editor (with Jason Heller) of the Colorado Book Award Finalist Mechanical Animals: Tales at the Crux of Creature and Tech (Hex Publishing). Find out more at www.selenachambers.com or on Twitter & IG: @BasBleuZombie. Harris Coverley has poetry published or forthcoming in Gathering Storm, Quatrain.Fish, Scifaikuest, and 50 Haikus. He has also had short fiction 65
published in Disclaimer Magazine and Lovecraftiana. He lives in Manchester, England, where he pretends to be busy. C.M. Crockford is a writer and poet on the autistic spectrum. His work has been published in Neologism Poetry Journal, The Rye Whiskey Review, Ethos Literary Journal, Horror Sleaze Trash, The Junction, and more. The first chapbook of his poetry, Adore, is available now from Iron Lung Press. He lives in Philadelphia, PA. E. M. Gale is a computer scientist working on artificial intelligence from within the psychology department at the University of Bristol, UK. Her forthcoming debut novel is Blood Hack, a sci-fi, flow-of-consciousness beat novel about memory, possession, artificial intelligence, the singularity, trans-humanism and what makes us human. She is attracted to the beat format as a method which attempts to transcribe how we actually think. She has one beat short story, “Infrared Dark,” on Amazon and has published a gritty crime novel, Up and Up, under the pen name Erik Sturm, as well as numerous academic articles. A post-modern drop out, Juleigh Howard-Hobson lives on an organic farm, nestled besides a dark forest, where secrets are whispered in the woods and words fall from the clouds. It rains ghosts. She holds an Anzac Award and an Alfred Award, and has been nominated for The Best of the Net, The Pushcart and a Rhysling. Her work can be found in The Lyric, Able Muse, The Non Binary Review, Consequence Journal, Sugar Mule, Ghost City Review, The Ginger Collect, The Valparaiso Review, Weaving the Terrain (Dos Gatos), Missing Persons (Beatlick Press) and many, many other venues—both in print and in pixel. She tweets at https://twitter.com/Farmerpoet2. 66
Colin James has a book of poems, Resisting Probability, from Sagging Meniscus Press. He lives in Massachusetts. Jasmine Knobloch, editor, is a graduate student with her Bachelor's in English literature from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. Her major focuses are in literary theory and games as literature. Jasmine has presented at conferences on using video games as primary texts in classrooms and #GamerGate and women's representation in the video game community. She is currently working on an essay on consent-walls and emotional triggers in Red Dead Redemption 2 and a review of Bonnie Ruberg's Video Games Have Always Been Queer. Follow her on twitter @jd_knobloch. Annabel Mahoney is a writer and essayist based in the UK. Her debut collection Wyf-King is scheduled for release in Spring 2019 by Lapwing Publications. She has been published most recently in RECLAIM/RESIST Anthology, SOFTCARTEL, the Honest Ulsterman, VampCat, Riggwelter Press and Occulum Journal. She has won numerous prizes from bodies such as the Human Rights Watch, The Literary Association and Forward Poetry. Annabel is the Editor in Chief and the Wellington Street Review and the Creative Director of Royal Rose Magazine. You can find her tweeting into the abyss at @Annabel_Mahoney. Jessie Lynn McMains is a punk poet, beat zinester, small press publisher, and spoken word performer. They are the author of multiple chapbooks, most recently The Girl With The Most Cake and forget the fuck away from me. They have been publishing their own and others’ writing in zines and chapbooks since 1994, and have been performing their work across the US and Canada since 1998. They were the 2015-2017 Poet Laureate of Racine, WI, and currently write a recurring music column for Pussy Magic. You can find their personal website at recklesschants.net, or follow them on Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram @rustbeltjessie. 67
Josh Medsker is a New Jersey writer originally from Alaska. His writing has appeared in many publications, including: Contemporary American Voices, The Brooklyn Rail, The Review Review, Haiku Journal, and Red Savina Review. He is also the author of five chapbooks of poetry. For more information about Medsker, please visit his website. (www.joshmedsker.com) Erin Emily Ann Vance, MA, is a Canadian fiction writer and poet. Her novel Advice for Taxidermists and Amateur Beekeepers is will be published by Stonehouse Publishing in Fall 2019 and her third poetry chapbook, The Sorceress Who Left Too Soon, will be released by Coven Editions in Spring 2019. Learn more at w ww.erinvance.ca.