I write for performance and the printed page, just a little raconteur of the human species’ greedy and violent debacle and over-population glut. I sing in speech given, when allowed, from my local point of view as a relatively non-traveling native New Mexican. My roots are in the South of the state but my daily living is up here in the more densely populated North. My notebooks are handwritten scores, I like to call them, rather than “drafts,” then I type to computer a lot of purely urgent launched-off out-of-the-blue risky writings. I get an on-edgy joy while guiding a poem making itself up. And there is satire of government secrecy in my poetry and of insidious local development under the name of “progress,” as our wonderful New Mexico gets rapidly Californicated and Tejanoed. The time of writing develops the subject of each poem and determines if there is any need for prop or mask to help perform it. A “performance” poem occasionally arises out of this mix.
In the early 60’s I was seemingly trying to resurrect poetry as performance, an approach totally ignored except for a few poets like Jackson Maclow, Helen Adam & David Antin who did something other than read from the page. It never seemed to me that I was doing anything “new” by using handmade masks, costumes, backdrops, satiric or ceremonial items, dance movement, voice changes, music of my own, all aspects of poetry as well as straight reading from the page, but damned if I could find anyone anywhere else who was doing this, and audiences enjoyed it. It’s just old stuff in New Mexico. Subsequently I collaborated with theater people, dancers, musicians, and KUNM-FM in efforts to cross-fertilize poetry with other media and artists and reach more diverse audiences. Most recently I’m running poetry workshops for students at UNM and at Senior Citizen’s Centers.
Funny poems help ameliorate the bitterness of Western isolation (kind of a Gringo thing), but that’s nothing unusual: I’ve noticed in the hundreds of poetry readings I’ve been to or helped set up, today’s poems are often funny. Poets are the original stand-up comics and this is an irreparable indictment against Leno, Letterman, Carson and O’brien, that they, like the rest of the “informed” media-ites, ignore the word-rap song-evolution of today’s revolutionary grassroots poetry. They’ve never even interviewed Allen Ginsberg! as far as I know. Every conceivable word-song expression is going on right now as readings and slams surface even in small towns of America. People are dying to express themselves and poetry, whether sung or said, has always been the best way, at least the most personal way.
Lenore and I have been gardeners throughout our 25 year marriage and again I come back to our three-quarter acre here 25 miles out of Albuquerque higher up where springs allow a good vegetable and flower garden and a lot to freeze late summer and every fall. It gets into the poems, these images, just as important to me as dreams were for Yeats, who was one of my big heroes before I ran into Robert Creeley, Ginsberg, Olson, Levertov, Duncan, Whalen, Quin, Irby, Sky, and the bottom of my academic training fell out.
I counterpoint fragmented media bombardment with the natural juices of the seasonal flow, and let flow. I can’t revise originals any more than jazz musicians can go back and “redo” the solo they’ve just played. But that’s my personal way.
Being a life-long resident native has its problems. Grandma (Dessie McCarty Goodell) with Dad & Aunt Virginia and Grandpa came from Kansas to New Mexico in a covered wagon, to Grenville back in the 1910’s. So being native with a love of a plural culture is old hat for me: Roswell my hometown but Placitas my landing place. Newcomers wax romantic about the state while I tend to see the poverty and ongoing problems. The sky and the space are renewed to us, especially when we go on a trip and return and everything seems large. But the problem is in New Mexico you’re left “out of it,” that is, the constant churning mainstream of New York and LA, unless you’re discovered and billboarded into that money-making Paradise (teeny chance).