BY MATTHEW LIPPMAN
Poetic discourse comes out of a desire to explain something about the work and how the work functions as an entity in the realm of the living. By “the living” I mean the writer and the reader. How do we write? How do we read?
This talk is a manifestation of something unique, in the service of holding onto, or building, a cliff’s edge, perhaps, a windowsill, maybe. The danger, or beauty, of course, is that at some point you have to let go.
Poetic discourse fills up the empty space between the poetry and the page. It allows individuals to speak their aesthetic. Or to say it plain, discourse allows you to state your tastes.
In the end, nothing else matters. You like what you like and you don’t like what you don’t like. All the explaining and the yapping and the dissection originate out of something primal, from what we simply are attracted to out of the natural spume of our desires. Poetic discourse is fun, even necessary. We create language to speak about the poems, about the making and breaking down of these things, about the reading. And it is important.
But how important? Only so far, until one has a choice: try and hold on to the discourse or just let it go.
In either case, the end result is the fall, that wide open space of ether in which there is no place to do anything but write. It is not the fall of Icarus or the fall of a child off the top bunk or even an individual’s fall from grace. Why? Because there is no bottom. There is no landing place. In writing, we can finally shut up. This, to me, is the best aspect of the creative moment, allowing us to be quiet in the act of making the verse.
Right now, as I write this, I am being a loudmouth, perhaps obtrusive, invasive, imposing my will on you, reader, and having a lot of fun in the process. But I am being a bit dogmatic, trying to be persuasive, a teacher, perhaps, someone who comes across as knowing something. This is the nature of the beginning of discourse. In the best case scenario you will respond and then I will respond and we will have opened the gates to up the decibel level three or four or tenfold. It can be pretty and didactic and beautiful and harsh all at the same time.
I can tell you this and that about something, but when you sit down in your room with your bowl of oranges and your black cat, you have to be quiet and write. And the more you write, the quieter you can get until, if you are lucky, you reach that moment where you, and everything around you disappears. There is no mind, no body; somehow the two have vanished into the purest quiet, the silence beyond the silence. You write something like you have never written before. It’s a pure moment. I’ve been writing for twenty-eight years. I’ve had it twice. Two times. I count myself lucky.
Matthew Lippman is the author of Monkey Bars (Typecast, 2010). His previous book, The New Year of Yellow, won the Kathryn A. Morton Poetry Prize in 2007. He is the recipient of a Michener Poetry Fellowship and a New York Fine Arts Grant. Lippman teaches English and Creative Writing to high school students at Beaver Country Day School in the greater Boston area, where he lives with his wife and two daughters.
In the fall of 2013, Typecast will be producing the latest title from Erin Keane, Demolition of the Promised Land. Keane is the author of two previous collections of poetry, Death-Defying Acts and The Gravity Soundtrack. Not only is Keane a maven of public radio as the producer of Unbound, she also writes for Salon and is known best for her ability to infuse the arts with pop culture and music. So it’s no big surprise when in her third and arguably best book, none other than The Boss, Bruce Springsteen himself, makes several appearances.
When it came time to consider the cover for Demolition, poetry editor Lindsey Alexander turned to designer Larry Buchanan for input. You may recognize the name best from his column at McSweeney’s, aptly titled Graphic Dispatches from A New Yorker. But you’d recognize his work from The New Yorker, The Onion, and even good ol’ Facebook. We asked him to create an image inspired from the poems themselves. And we’re proud to reveal the sneak peek here:
Look for more on this exciting title in the weeks and months ahead. The book will be produced in a limited edition, letterpress vault edition, as well as in a trade paperback. Pre-sales will light up this fall, so stay tuned and be sure to get your limited release edition before they are gone!
BY JAMIESON RIDENHOUR
I come to things late. My wife and I drift from one TV addiction to another, but it’s always shows that have already gone off the air. I’d like to say something insightful about it, like I don’t want to commit to something until I can see it in its entirety. Something that sounds intentional. But, really, I’ve just always been behind the times. I’m always playing catch-up, missing the new stuff because I’m finding the old stuff I missed when it was new. It’s not a bad deal—it allows me to glut seven years of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in three months, for instance, which is the best way to do it. And since art lasts (“So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, So long lives this,” said Shakespeare about his own sonnet 18), that stuff is all just waiting there.
Which is why I connect Joe Strummer and Charles Dickens in my head. I came to both of these guys late. I already had a master’s in English before I read Dickens. I had been forced through Great Expectations in ninth grade, not too early if you have a good teacher, but there you go. I internalized that Dickens was boring and depressing, and put him on a shelf. It wasn’t until I was in my early thirties that I took another plunge, and that was only because my wife and I needed an audiobook that would last on a drive from North Carolina to Colorado and back. Bleak House was the longest audiobook the Asheville Public Library had, so I decided to revisit old Charlie. And wow, y’all. Who knew this guy was so funny? So masterful in his control of narrative? So effortless in his dialogue? The answer, of course, is thousands upon thousands of people, just not me. By the time we drove back up to our cabin in the NC mountains, I was hooked. By the time I was writing my dissertation four years later, Dickens was the primary author I was working on.
Ditto Joe Strummer. I grew up in the 80s, playing guitar in the types of bands that rehearsed constantly and played out almost never. I was aware of the Clash, because I was alive and in the world, and as a musician I was even aware that I ought to be listening to the Clash. But I never did. I was listening to bands from the seventies, already behind the times. All I had heard was “Rock the Casbah,” and that didn’t even have a guitar solo.
In 2001, the same year I met Charles Dickens again for the first time, I heard an interview with Strummer on NPR. He was about to release his second album with the Mescaleros (the thoroughly incandescent Global A Go-Go, which is swirling around me as I type this), and as part of the feature they played bits of some old Clash tunes. The one I remember is “Lost in the Supermarket,” which Joe talked about writing as a gift for bandmate Mick Jones, who sang lead on it. I bought London Calling and had the familiar feeling of wanting to kick myself. Why hadn’t I been listening to this?
I felt the same thing about Dickens. Why hadn’t I been reading this? Little Dorrit was a revelation, and so was “Police and Thieves.” Dombey and Son and “Straight to Hell.” “Bhindi Bhagee” and Nicholas Nickleby. I was thirty-one years old and I had finally discovered what you needed to be cool: a quill pen and a telecaster.
It’s not that odd that I feel Dickens and Strummer as compatriots. Both men loved London—loved it with their bones and their feet and their tongues and their pens. Both men championed the underdog, with broad political statements and overly sentimentalized drama. Both could speak or write impulsively, often resulting in contradictory messages. Both died young—Strummer at 50 and Dickens at 58—struck down while still creating, with much left to say. And both loved people, loved their work, loved their city. Loved with a blowtorch intensity that might have pushed them towards that final early cindering. London burning, indeed.
But that’s after the fact connecting, drawing lines between dots that I didn’t see initially. These two men inspire me equally, and in similar ways, first and foremost because I discovered them around the same time. Dickens had been dead for 130-some-odd years, and Joe Strummer would be dead in two. People had been reading and listening to them for my whole life, more or less (I was six or seven when The Clash came out). But for me Joe Strummer and Charles Dickens happened all at once, a nearly simultaneous big bang that rolled shock waves over me in a tumbling confusion of words and notes and crazy cool hair and political posturing and full-on badassery.
I was in London in 2006 for a conference, and I made a little pilgrimage to sites from Dickens’ novels. I had just gotten an MP3 player, long after everyone else, and I spent the day listening to Global A Go-Go while walking the Victorian cobbles of Southwark. Standing in front of the last remaining wall of the Marshalsea, on the pavement where both Dickens and Amy Dorrit came and went, I listened to Joe singing “the stars go in and the stars go out / and punk rock’s what it’s all about.” And me and Dickens listened. Charles said, “Indeed, Mr. Strummer. No bullshit, sir.”
Jamieson Ridenhour is the author of Barking Mad (Typecast, 2011) and its sequel Mad Dogs and Englishmen (Typecast, 2014), the writer and director of the award-winning short horror films Cornerboys and The House of the Yaga, and the author of the recent ghost play Grave Lullaby. He teaches writing and literature at the University of Mary in Bismarck, ND.
Well, it’s Derby time here in Kentucky, which can only mean that spring is upon us. We’re having a great time of it at Typecast with two new books out, This Is What They Say in its second edition, and the re-issue of Matt Hart’s boxed set of SERMONS AND LECTURES. Never mind a rip-roarin’ National Poetry Month party at Seidenfaden’s during our city’s annual fireworks spectacular to celebrate all of the above!
And that’s just a taste of what’s been going on locally and behind the scenes. Today, on this last day of April, our free mobile fiction site, Sawmill Magazine, just cleared the stage for a temporary hat tip to some of the poetry titles we’ll see here this year. Using photography as our publishing medium (and tech as our meta-medium) we have excerpted a few things we’re excited about. You can enjoy them over at Sawmill on any of your devices (or as we call ‘em: the new dog).
The next issue’s Lumberyard contributors are about to be announced. Editor Lindsey Alexander has given us a taste of what’s to come with number eleven. Yummy? Yes, but an orphan will probably eat a worm before it’s all said and done. But then, it’s Lumberyard after all; if not a playground for the imagination then what, pray tell?
We’ve got several Typecast authors on the road this summer, all over the United States, so check your local listings for Matt Hart, Chris Mattingly, Jamieson Ridenhour, and Amanda Smeltz to hit your town. And a big congrats and whew-wee! to M. Bartley Seigel, who just wrapped up a fantastic northcentral tour with his name in lights, no less, and a rousing second printing of his book, which you can pick up here.