What I Learned: 40 Years as an Underground Writer
[Daily Typewriting, The Paranoia-Critical Method, Enema Vérité]
THE BEAT POET LINE AT
CAREER DAY. 112,000 words. I begin THE BEAT POET LINE AT CAREER DAY with
a review of a new book by a local author.
It has a cover painting by a local painter. I think I am going to cover the arts scene,
and write book reviews, for a local weekender, or entertainment weekly. Wrong.
Well, I’ll write a guidebook, and sell it in art galleries, bookstores,
and gift shops, locally. My son’s band,
Dread Clampitt, can sell it at gigs, between sets. I interview Balder, a co-founder of Dread
Clampitt. One of their songs is “Redneck
Coozie.” That’s a paper sack with a
quart of beer in it. I call what I am
writing Hick Lit. I am hung in a mail
art show at the library. I write a bunch
of pamphlets for the show. I came out of
the small press movement, mail art, zines, ezines. A blog is an ezine. So is an online journal (OLJ). The library celebrates Banned Books
Week. I read a biography of Joseph
Heller. Catch-22 is featured at Banned Books Week. So is Cat’s
Cradle. I write pamphlets for Banned Books Week. The last book I had in the library was Bukowski Never Did This: A Year in the Life of an Underground Writer
and His Family. They classified it
818.5203. American literature in
English, miscellaneous. Same number as A Moveable Feast. The American schoolyard had beat me
again. The Beat Poet Line at Career Day is like A Moveable Feast if Hemingway hadn’t been published by New
York or Hollywood
in 40 years. Would he have kept
writing? Would he have written The Beat Poet Line at Career Day? I celebrated my 40th anniversary
as a writer early in the book. Without
selling a word to New York or Hollywood. But I published 280 pamphlets, chapbooks,
fliers, and four-page sheets. I posted
257 books on the worldwide web. I
published ten books, by myself or through small, independent presses. Most of them are out of print. There’s a lot of old sourdough beatniks who
still read books. Look at Occupy Wall
Street. I write about that. Think of Morris Berman’s Why America Failed. I’m
writing a book like that. Only it’s a
novel, and contains poems. I was trained
as an archeologist. I studied
thousand-year cycles. The Collapse of
the Classic Maya. Revitalization
movements. Cargo cults. Occupy Wall Street is a cargo cult. They’re waiting for a C-47 full of Timex
watches and cans of Franco-American spaghetti to land. An orchestra will play “More,” the theme from
Mondo Cane. Everything will be copacetic. Actually, it’s more like La Dolce Vita. Anita Ekberg
shooting a bow and arrow at the paparazzi.
I call my hero Irascible “Razz” Heap.
He is his own paparazzo. From
Shell Heap Archaic, an early archeological period. I was a dirt
archeologist, a dirt
archeologist. Dirt means scat and scat means shit. The salvage
archeologist of the Mall Builder culture.
Making art out of shit.
A TWO-FISTED NOVELIST IN A FACEBOOK AND TWITTER WORLD. 45,000 words.
I start trying to sell THE BEAT POET LINE AT CAREER DAY. I write a synopsis and send it out with the pamphlet
Swamp Trollop as a writing sample. I want to go on a side trip, like Jim
Harrison did in The English Major. The, ha ha, anthropology major. I’m like Robert Redford in Three Days of the Condor. I came back to work from getting donuts and
all my co-workers were brain-dead. Faye
Dunaway is from halfway between Two Egg and Bascom. The pamphlets grow into a book of ten
pamphlets called “The Anthropology Major:
A Treatment for a Screenplay.” I
write agents about THE ANTHROPOLOGY MAJOR, sending them a sample pamphlet. Then I convert the treatment to a shooting
script, and call it “The Anthropology Major:
SAUNDERS’ MACHINE. 24,000 words.
I finish the screenplay to THE ANTHROPOLOGY MAJOR and start writing
SAUNDERS’ MACHINE. By analogy with Hemingway’s Boat. What is Saunders’ machine? Machine
related to mechanic. I’m a word mechanic. I use a mill.
A typewriter is a mill. A
computer is a typewriter. A word
mill. A food mill is a hurdy-gurdy. Run it through the hurdy-gurdy and call it
Bounty-of-the-Sea. Conch fritters. Made from left-handed whelk, Busycon perversum. Or the giant Atlantic cockle. We’ll get by on grits and grunts. A green crab net and red Vidalia onion sack. It’s all grist for my mill. My Martha Stewart cotton K Mart sheets. Hemingway needed a boat to fish for
marlin. I find cockles walking on the
beach. Dread Clampitt cut a live album
at The Red Bar. All their fans are
there. They are poised on the cusp of a
new plateau. The next stage. So am I.
This isn’t the end it’s the beginning.
He paid to write and then he died.
I ain’t dead yet. 40 years in
mail art. I thought I’d cross over to
the mainstream. I didn’t. I got a rubber stamp out of it. Carved by Frannie Mae Rutkovsky. Pete Horobin, Dundee,
Scotland, drew a portrait
of me out of my handwriting. He made a
postcard out of it. I send it to John
Held, Jr., for an exhibit. Stewart
Home mentions Pete Horobin in 69 Things to Do with a Dead Princess. He was visiting the ancient stone circles
around Aberdeen. Horobin lived in Dundee. He ate oat cakes and Scotch marmalade. He pushed a pram around Scotland
with his art kit in it. Mail art was
international. Peter Küstermann and Angela
Pähler visited us in Delray Beach. They visited Carol Stetser in Bisbee,
She was the postmistress, or the librarian. Blaster Al worked in Normals Books in Baltimore. You know, there were experimentals and
normals. If Blaster Al was a normal I
hate to think what an experimental was.
On the other hand, normals are crazy.
Look at television. I see that I
am going to write GOING POSTAL: A LIFE
IN ART next and end SAUNDERS’ MACHINE.
Which ends What I Learned. I learned to have a book you’re going to
write next when you finish writing a book.
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