Monday, August 24, 2009

Thoughts on poetry--Reagan Butcher

Rereading and putting together thoughts on Reagan Butcher:

Butcher's poetry is so honest its painful to review. Like cutting into a nice steaming hot slice of soul, served up a la mode. If you've never tried it, you should grab yourself a fork and get ready to dig in.

Stone Hotel and Rusty String Quartet, both published by Crimethinc. Letters, fits into the tradition of Buckowski and Celine, a tradition of crotchety outsiders that allow us to see ourselves through different eyes. And Butcher's succinct, crystalized literary kicks to the groin make it apparent that this is a tradition that goes back to "Cold Mountain."

Stone Hotel.

Stone Hotel, Butcher's first Crimethinc book, is like a novel disguised as a prison journal told in short, compelling bursts that get under your skin. The energy, the integration of image with action and the skewed point of view are apparent from the very first line:

showing the

to the korean

behind the counter

my voice smooth as syrup

the money

his blank
screwed into puzzlement

his voice a question

the money?

i got pissed

yeah, the money, motherfucker
or i’ll kill you

but that was a lie

there was
only one person

in that room i wanted
to kill

and he
is sitting right here

telling you

But there's something more here than meets the eye. Something in the whole of Stone Hotel that allows it to transcend its parts. And so Butcher transcends being just another guy imitating Buckowski, the most imitated poet of all time.

In Stone Hotel, we find tools adapted more from the Hempel/Carver/Palahniuk "Minimalism" than from any precious poetic minimalism. Imagistic punches, "burnt tongue" and repeated "choruses" flow throughout the piece, bringing it all together into a complete statement.

Choruses like:

...strip, look up the ass, lift the
balls, stick out the tongue...
And the constant counting of time become the dehumanizing theme music of prison life and give the reader something to hold onto, something to get comfortable with.

And that comfort creates a cohesive whole that gives the work its emergent quality. We get a full novel-like character arch painted in quick rough strokes and kicks to the groin. And we come to feel like we know Butcher better, like he's given us more of himself than any protagonist painted in thick description. Stone Hotel is so punchy it even leaves out the worst cliche of the prison-lit genre, the tough guy act. All the barriers and excuses that other writers call "characterization" have been left off. The result is a great read.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Brief thoughts on modern threads in Literature...

Philistine Corporate Publishers, The Eastern front Avant Garde, are there Absurdists?.... Is this the same as 2? What is its relation to?

Wait, will it help if I read Blake Butler? Wait, should I read William Trevor? (Then click on the picture...)

Thursday, August 6, 2009


I'm reviewing notes for my recently completed novel "Get Filthy Rich Doing What You LOVE!"
More than 80,000 w0rds on the cuttingroom floor. Amongst them, these:

It is the place of those who take the hypocratic oath to DO NO HARM.
Tis the place of priests of fame to care and support those who lift them up in worship.

There has never been a society so strictly and rigidly controlled and centrally planned as that which now exists in the US. Virtually every aspect of our lives from our food to our housing to our sex is engineered on the basis of profit maximization first and function later if at all.

IT is the place of those who would be artists to ask: What does a biological human really want? Apart from the MANUFACTURED DEMAND for a new line of spring DUTCH BOY colors, what should HOME feel like? Apart from a fast food medley of easily grown and cheaply distributed nutritional chochkies, what is FOOD?

We have never been further from self-reliance, which is the hidden secret of (FREEDOM.) I don't care crap or carp about your NUTRITIONALLY SUPPLEMENTED pretzels. Get that crap out of your mouth now! What is this, the JEtSONs? You're feeding me the APPEARANCE of "food" with supplements added?

What is your TV feeding me? I don't want your G's anatomy with its appearance of ART with BIG QUESTIONS added! Unless that chick's getting naked!

WHAT DOES A BIOLOGICAL HUMAN REALLY WANT?! Art art art the phone is ringing! Who will answer the call?