1. Of course I’m musical my mother taught me the piano & I was a tap dancer when young. I had a jazz combo in high-school in the early 50’s, and wrote a musical CLUB PROGRESSIONS.
2. I never thot of Kell D. Robertson as a cowboy but as a songwriter and boozer of course and poet, in the tradition of the two giants Hank Williams & Woody Guthrie. Kell & I made a good contrast those years ago in the Thunderbird Bar in Placitas the few times we shared the program. He would offend and I would amend, tho that’s a simplification. Actually it was a major dose of PERFORMANCE POETRY any time I “performed” and a double dose when he did too. That was many a moon ago. Lively large cheering audiences that had nothing to do with academia tho we did a couple gigs at the College of Albuquerque on the West Mesa for classes (what was that now-dead college’s name).
There are probably a bunch of performance poets kind of like me around the country just energizing the local patch and remaining unfortunately, out of the books. But I’m not aware really of anyone else in the 60’s and 70’s who was doing a full-fledged “performance” thing with masks, backdrops, home-made objects a-plenty, a dosed-up ceremonial adventure with satire and singing word constructs on scrolls and placards. I did know of the beats’ poetry with jazz, and Jackson Maclow, more in music, and Drum Hadley, who’s America’s real cowboy poet and who memorized and played the guitar and sang (I can’t memorize, darn it), and Helen Adam whose songs were by heart. But really, most poets shuffled papers on a lectern under florescent lights in the acanemic tradition of Robert Lowell.
So unless I’m proved to be wrong, I was something of an innovator, tho what I did was really just bringing back the old stuff, the real old stuff.
3. I usually title afterwards, something drawn from the poem, like a topic sentence, something to give the reader/recipient a focus, a guide to the core. This is a conscious choice and not a mad choice.
4. I don’t drive fast: Lenore says I drive like an old man.
5. A poem for me and all great poets (I wish I was one) begins with a line given, the germ, the seed thrown out you discover at no particular time. Don’t ask me who throws it out. Out of the blue?
6. I’m very aware of things that were owned by someone, that is, the charge of a person on everything that is his or hers, I feel if it is in my presence. All gifts from someone have that someone with them. Does this make me superstitious or just a believer in magic.
7. I don’t want to go to the Moon: I want Ginsberg or a young filmmaker or Judy Grahn to go and show & tell the world all about it.
8. New Mexico has now primarily Anglo poets, the largest group, then Hispanic, then way down by number American Indian, then way further down but like all the rest growing, Afro-American, then way down, by number, Asian-American and all other groups — with lots of women poets from all these groups, of course. That “tri-cultural” thing was always a lie and an insult.
9. I prefer dogs but I can enjoy a quiet cat.
10. My poetry makes me feel good and excites me while writing it: and most people react to it that way. I also think there is a kind of raga-esque, slow-sexual thing about the longer poems that inevitably reaches a climax that’s supposed to leave you feeling better than when you started. And they’re almost always a positive charge, uplifting, but more in the sense of getting your hands down into the earth, being uplifted by opposites of direction: opposites containing their opposites in them: thus puns and the building wit. I don’t revise so I think I’m doing a jazz solo in silence when I write, doing that solo I could never do well when I was playing piano jazz. But unlike a jazz person I can’t perform on cue: I can only read what I wrote when the cue came.
11. I love Phil Whalen, Gertrude Stein’s presence and words, tho not as a poet, Whitman of course, and Bob Creeley and Ed Sanders and Ken Irby and Olson remembered and early Levertov and Vachel Lindsay and Judy Grahn especially, and Joanne Kyger, and walloping Robert Duncan and Allen Ginsberg, who’s at the head of the whole American pack: no one can touch Ginsberg as our greatest living poet. I DO NOT THINK, I KNOW. And among songwriters, which is so different from writing poetry, I like Hoagy Carmichael, Rosalie Sorrels, Bob Dylan, and Spike Jones.
12. Of course I’d catch a ride with any of the greats, tho Monk is not one of my favorites: I prefer Lenny Tristano or Brubeck or Fats Waller or many many more. But I probably wouldn’t say a thing and just sit there terribly uncomfortable.
13. I don’t handle rejection notices, especially grant rejections, well at all: I feel utterly shaken and feel that my work is worthless. Then later my self-confidence returns thanks to my wife and my very few good poet friends.
14. The essence of creativity is to be dogmatic as hell about everything other than the arts. You risk doing the unexpected pleasure of it. Writing poetry is the freedom to listen to other voices.
15. Pound was a great genius, and especially in the early poems a great satirist who read aloud better than just about anybody.
16. I’d catch a ride with anyone as long as they were just dreaming about drinking.
17. Explain this and remember it happens frequently: trying to remember how John Brandi and Judson Crews and I came up with the title THE NOOSE for Judson’s book, (seemed like a good title, as I recall), I thot there was a poem of that title in the book: I pulled a copy off the shelf and my thumb was stuck in the book right at that poem. The mind bends reality a little bit. Jack Spicer was right: things happen so poems can get written. (But how do they pay for insurance bills and food and car payments?) I never did Judson’s book justice by promoting it enough: duende press floundered. More poets should be printers and business people and fewer of them just plain poets.
18. Peyote and peyote meetings were among my real 60’s “teachers,” tho LSD left me puzzling over whether reality ever really has mythic content.
19. My poems are not composed, but discovered. I’m just a poet: if they go over well in front of a group of people, great, but I don’t intend them to be anything.
20. Line breaks are often breath pauses, or a practiced logical place where a conceivable breath and/or pause could be taken. The poem on the page is a score to help me get it across, especially when I’m reading something I haven’t seen in a long time in front of people. I may not be that familiar with it but I can trust how it’s there on the page to guide me how it should be read. Little underlines under emphasized words that help get the meaning across are really useful, as time goes by and some doctorate candidate jerk is doing a thesis on your poetry after you croak.
You don’t want too many important questions of interpretation left unanswered as you pass out of obscurity and into the question mark.
21. If the walls had ears they’d be ugly. I’m not too paranoid.
22. Everyone starts out having high hopes for just about everything they do. Poetry is no different. What I hadn’t realized was just how lonely a task writing poetry is (any writing for that matter) and how egotistical, petty, uncooperative, protective and competitive most poets are, scrambling for what few publishing-teaching-grant-goodies there are in the world: not having the need like actors and musicians and dancers, to WORK TOGETHER AS A GROUP FOR MUTUAL BENEFIT.
23. I spent over two years in the Army on the Mojave desert in a tank battalion. I never heard a word about Vietnam: it was right before that. I just got drunk and got up with my hangover to play the organ for Protestant chapel services every Sunday. And I worked incessantly on horrible Dylan Thomas imitation pieces of shit poetry. Robert Creeley was later to save me from total poetry death.
24. I spent years on and off the GI Bill trying to get a Masters. The Cuban Missile Crisis, the army and myself fucked me over. Much to my painful regret, I never got that degree.
25. I’m not a car, I’m a sparrowhawk: just ask my wife.
26. A couple thousand bucks I make indirectly from poetry, but that’s teaching. In America, I’m a failure.
27. I feed the turkeys: it’s great when they’re little and gobbling up grasshoppers, which is the reason we have them, but later when they get big and are living through the winter on expensive lay pellets and you’re procrastinating about doing them in, it’s a drag. Fortunately my son chops their heads off, I do most of the rest, and we eat’em all year long.
28. Sour cherry pie with a delicate whole-wheat & butter crust, our own sour cherries but with not too much sugar added: you want to taste the fruit more than the sweet. That’s the best tasting pie in the world. I humbly know.
Hope this helps your project, Mark. And I don’t have your questions at hand but you can pretty well figure out what they are from the answers, I hope.
Best wishes to you all and maybe we can dream up an excuse to get together some time. Hello & love to Janet too.
larry goodell / placitas, new mexico /13 jan 1995
(above, cover of Albuzerxque, Vol.3, music & poetry recorded & published by Mark Weber, Zerx Records, design by Ben L. Hiatt . . .)