By Catherine Wagley
By Catherine Wagley
By Wendy Gilmartin
By Jennifer Swann
By Claire de Dobay Rifelj
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Catherine Wagley
By Zachary Pincus-Roth
“This guy’s good for a twenty.”
On the way down M. told me how they “owed” it to us. We’d paid our dues, he said. Yeah, Henry Miller used to tap these rich guys when he started. All artists had a right.
I thought it would be nice if all artists had a right to survival, but my thoughts were that everybody had, and if the artist didn’t make it monetarily, he was in the same shape as anybody else who didn’t. But I didn’t argue with M. He was no longer young, but he was still a powerful poet. But somehow in the poetic circles he had become locked out. There were politics in art as well as anywhere else. It was sad. But M. had gone to too many literary parties, he had fallen for too many suck plays, he had crept around too many Names simply because they were Names; he’d made too many demands at the wrong time and in the wrong way. As we drove along, he pulled out a little red notebook of “taps.” All those names were good for a tap.
We made Venice and I got out with M. and we went up to a two-story house. M. knocked. A kid came out.
“Jimmy, I need a 20.”
Jimmy left, came back with the 20, closed the door. We got back in the car, drove back, drank all afternoon and night as M. talked the poetic scene. He had forgotten he was on the wagon. The next morning it was beer for breakfast and out to the Hollywood Hills. Another two-story house. M. had to beat on the windows. A house full of cats and kittens, the smell of cat shit dominated. M. got another 20 and we drove back. And drank a bit more.
I saw M. off and on. Now and then he gave a poetry reading in town here. But they were ill-attended. He read well and the poetry was good, but the hex was on. M. was marked. The taps were running out. Then he found a girl who took him in. I was happy for M. But M. was like any other poet: He fell in love with his women, perhaps too much so. He was soon on the street again, sometimes sleeping on my couch, bitching against the fates. Since nobody would publish his books anymore, he began to mimeo his own copies. I have one here now: All American Poets Are In Prison. He inscribed it for me:
By the Grace of the Gods
Sometimes we can still raise it.
Show it to me he yelled. Show it
to me. Man I’m trying to find it.
Take it easy. Here man here it
is. On the palm of his hand was
a speck of white seed. I don’t
come as often as youse do he
said. Here man you want to see
my cock, Here it is standing like
a tree naked in the asparagus
Then M. began writing songs. I have a book of his songs somewhere.
“I’m going up to see Janis Joplin and show her my songs,” he said.
I felt it wouldn’t work, but I couldn’t tell M. He was such a romantic, he had such hopes. He came back.
“She wouldn’t see me,” he said.
Now Janis is dead and M., last I heard, was swinging a mop in Brooklyn, working at last — for his brother. I hope M. comes back, all the way back. For all his Name hang-ups and panhandling, there are worse poets on top right now. Maybe all American poets are in prison. Most of them, anyhow ...
Then there was N.H. of the Paris Beat scene, the Tangiers scene, Greece and Switzerland, the Burroughs gang . .. N. appeared along with myself and another poet in a recent Penguin Modern Poets series. Suddenly he was down at Venice Beach, rotting on the shore, no longer writing; complaining of a decaying liver and been looked over by an aged mother he kept well-hidden. Often when I went to see N., young men would come knocking at his door. Although his liver was decaying, it was evident that his pecker was well in order. N. was supposed to go both ways, but I never saw any women about.
“Bukowski, I can’t write anymore. Burroughs wouldn’t talk to me anymore, nobody wants to see me. I’ve been put down. I’m on the shit list. I’m finished. I’ve got six books ready, and nobody wants to touch them.”
N. later claimed that I had axed him with Black Sparrow Press, a publisher of most modern American poetry. It was untrue, but this was N’s mind state. Every visit to him consisted of listening to his bitching about how he had been blackmailed out of the scene. Actually I had asked Black Sparrow to publish him, feeling that he deserved it.
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