Thursday, January 31, 2008

Brautigan Drives on Deep
into Psyche

I was all set to put up a post about Gerald Stern (it would begin “I’m in love with Gerald Stern”) when, thanks to The Writer’s Almanac, I realized yesterday was the anniversary of Richard Brautigan’s birth.

I can’t think of anything more momentous for the small press than Richard Brautigan’s birth. In fact, I can’t think of anything more lyrically momentous than Richard Brautigan’s birth when it comes to the legacy of that flower generation. You know who you are out there: bankers, lawyers, cheats, lovers, cowards, colleagues, lechers, thieves, poets, screamers, corpses, parents, betrayers. There was a moment in your lives, all your lives, when, briefly, in your field of vision, in the middle distance, everything coalesced; it all made perfect sense, there, there it is: and like a wisp of scent, it wafted off.


Richard Brautigan, gone. What he left behind has been praised, ridiculed, despised, laughed at, admired, wept over, and, most tragically, forgotten. Among others, he was the reason that an entire generation of men let down their guard. What a thought! How many took up the pen when they realized they could say, with varying degrees of proficiency, what they felt rather than what they knew. Imagine that!


So, I scurried off to my bookshelf to leaf through my collection of Brautigan poesy for something momentous to post and, lo and behold, it’s almost nowhere to be found. Just two copies of Rommel Drives on Deep into Egypt and a copy of Loading Mercury with a Pitchfork. This is what happens when you decide to patch some plaster and the next thing you know, you are painting two rooms and moving everything around, including the floor to ceiling books that were stuffed into said rooms. In a panic, I head off on the net only to discover, at, that his poetry collections, annotated at that, are all up and online. The presentation isn’t very appealing but it is what it is: the work. I highly recommend you knock yourself out. For some it will be nostalgia, for others, truth.

I believe, for me, the word is love.

Well, I can hardly continue without at least one Brautigan gem, to entice you toward the others. From Rommel …

Feasting and Drinking Went on Far into the Night

Feasting and drinking went on far into the night

but in the end we went home alone to console ourselves

which seems to be what so many things are all about

like the branches of a tree just after the wind

stops blowing.

This week’s featured back issue of Lilliput Review is #142, published in January 2005:

Artwork by Wayne Hogan









Ed Baker


Another good day.

No one wanted my life

and I returned the favor.

Carl Mayfield

Pencil Sharpener: Hand-Held

Dunce cap with a razor crease

Thin plastic on the outside,

but the cone recedes

to infinity. Perhaps there is

a tree of knowledge. You

get wood shavings, lead dust.

Mark Cunnigham

fronds, their dog, balm of gilead

stories unfold in the ferns

if you know how to find them

and pick with respect

you can live on what you hear

and never go hungry

and never get full

Patricia Ranzoni

I’d like to think that Richard would have liked these poems. Very much.

Till next week,


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Robert Service, Jean Shepherd, &
Gary Hotham

Artwork by Guy Beining

As inevitably happens from week to week, I think of something to share and, in the press of getting other things done, forget some detail or other. One thing I really wanted to post last week relates to the recent anniversary of the birth of Robert Service (January 16th). Though I’m not much for narrative poetry, the uniqueness and power of the work of Service is something it would be foolish to ignore. As with all great poets, Service had an insight and overwhelming empathy with the human condition; yes, empathy, because, I believe he wasn’t particularly happy about it but he knew it to the core, not unlike Bukowski, the subject of last weeks musings.

In any case, what rescues Service from morose oblivion is humor; an overriding, abundant, dark, deep sense of humor. So, for his birthday, here is a real treat: a dramatic reading by another student of the human condition, radio monologist and raconteur of many an obscure topic, Jean Shepherd. Admittedly someone who is little known outside the New York metropolitan area (aside from the adaptation of his work in the holiday perennial A Christmas Story), Shep was something of a rite of passage for the young in the late 50’s and early 60’s, one of the last threads to old school radio. He had a soft spot for poetry in general (he once did a whole show reading haiku translations of the masters, deadpan, with “Oriental” music wafting in the background, to somewhat limited success) and Service in particular and, on odd nights when in a certain mood, he would break out the Service and regale the WOR airwaves with tales of the Yukon. So, in celebration of Service’s birthday and in concert with the recent cold snap that has much of the country longing for a little heat not unlike ol' Sam McGee, here is The Cremation of Sam McGee. For more Shepherd, unexcerpted from his natural environment, see the archive of shows Mass Backwards, by Max Schmidt of WBAI, which has a permanent link at the bottom of the sidebar on this page.

I’ve received news that Gary Hotham’s Missed Appointment has been reviewed in the British magazine Presence. Here is a copy of that review by Matthew Paul:

Missed Appointment, Gary Hotham

22pp, $4 inc. postage ($3 within USA).

Cheques payable to Don Wentworth, from:

Lilliput Review, 282 Main Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15201, USA

Gary Hotham has been writing haiku for four decades and his economical style is one of the most distinctive within the homogeneity that comprises much of the English-language haiku published today.

In a brief introduction, Hotham approvingly quotes the belief of Billy Collins, the American 'mainstream' and haiku poet, that haiku contains "a very deep strain of existential gratitude" and that "[a]lmost every haiku says the same thing: 'It's amazing to be alive here.'" This 'Modest Proposal Chapbook' of just 15 haiku exemplifies Hotham's ability to be absolutely in tune with what it means, at any given time, to exist. Quite simply, and in plain language adorned only by mundane adjectives, Hotham writes about things that most haiku poets would overlook:

no where else

but the next flower---

afternoon butterflies

over the parade---

a window no one

looks out of

Whether other writers would ignore such subject matter deliberately or merely by not paying enough attention to the world around them is open to debate. Hotham certainly attunes himself and his readers to moments which, rather than being vitally significant, could be considered trivial, perhaps to the point of banality; but, for my money, the humble and persistently downbeat nature of these poems is admirable in a small dose such as Missed Appointment provides. In longer collections of Hotham's work, though, I'd need a dollop or two of verbosity to offset and lighten the minimalism.

Whatever the merits of his style, one fact about Hotham surely cannot be disputed: that he writes excellent, poignant senryu, two of which I'll end with:

farewell party---

the sweetness of the cake

hard to swallow

Dad's funeral---

the same knot

in my tie

Review by Matthew Paul

This week, the following poems are from LR #141, from January 2007. If anyone is following along, you might notice I’ve skipped #140. #140 is a broadside by Alan Catlin in honor of Cid Corman, entitled “For Cid.” It is a 7 poem collection of short, delicate work which would not be served well by excerpting, though many of the poems stand well alone.

Roethke wrote:

It will come again.

Be still. Wait

How to embrace the stillness.

How to wait with grace.

Pamela Miller Ness


a bee easily clears

the headstone

LeRoy Gorman

What is there

before or after


Everything waits in the dark

for you to say,

Come in.

David Lindley

My heart is torn

since I’ve seen you.

Like the watermark in Osaka Bay

I measure my life

waiting to meet you again.

Princess Motoyoshi

translated by Dennis Maloney & Hide Oshiro

Finally, let me recommend this morning’s poem on The Writer’s Almanac: “How to Kill” by Keith Douglas, who died in the Normandy invasion. It puts a human face and sensibility on the deaths that continue today as war rages on.



Thursday, January 17, 2008

Bukowski: Pain, Sorrow, Tenderness

Cover by the Irrepressible Wayne Hogan

Though it might be heretical in the small press, I’m no fanboy of Charles Bukowski. The misogyny is near impossible to get by. Two things recently caused me to reconsider: a Jim Harrison review in the New York Times Book Review of the new career spanning publication, The Pleasures of the Damned: Poems, 1951-1993, and the film on Bukowski Born Into This, directed by John Dullaghan, using footage shot by Taylor Hackford. The film is a revelation and, as with much of his own works, is a warts and all affair. At one point, revisiting his childhood, Bukowski recounts the regular horrid beatings he endured at the hands of his father and this about said it all for me. No excuses: Buk would tolerate none and neither should we.

It just is.

Bukowski’s virtues leap off the page: honesty, revelation, and an oft-concealed tenderness. He made the mold, broke it and everyone to follow in his footsteps pales in the brillant white California light. Still, there are as many troubling aspects in his work as there were many troubling issues in his life: really, how could one expect otherwise? Reading through this particular volume, edited by founding editor of Black Sparrow Press and friend, John Martin, can be at once rapid and a bit of a slog. What I mean by this is it can be read too quickly because of the natural cadence, read in almost novel-like or short story fashion. But, as with any great poet, that is a true injustice. The arrangement is not chronological so one is following the threads of association of editor Martin and that, in and of itself, is extremely interesting. It gives the reader more of a feel for the poet overall and is an excellent approach expertly handled.

Make no mistake: this is not everybody’s cup of meat. But poems like his “Carson McCullers” exactly capture what any of his legion fans knew all along; this man is a born poet, a reveler and directly in touch with what is.

Carson McCullers

she died of alcoholism
wrapped in a blanket
on a deck chair
on an ocean

all her books of
terrified loneliness

all her books about
the cruelty
of loveless love

were all that was left
of her

as the strolling vacationer
discovered her body

notified the captain

and she was quickly dispatched
to somewhere else
on the ship

as everything
continued just
she had written it.

There are many poems in this collection that it is hard for one to imagine would make a career retrospective but for every 10 of those there is one “Carson McCullers” and in a 500 plus page volume that makes for quite a few revelations. More than the average selected poems, I’d warrant. These revelations more often come in a bar, at the track, on the street, or sitting on the crapper but they are none the less powerful for it. For me, he will never replace Whitman or Ginsberg or Oliver or Sexton or Wordworth or Wright (James and Franz) but he doesn’t need to. He’s Bukowski and that’s enough.

“Of loveless love …”

This week’s selection from Lilliput Review comes from #139, originally published in October 2004. Here are some tinier revelations:

New fallen chestnuts
Always to bear the failure
of such beginnings.

David Lindley

handing back an old photo---
the clouds over us
never drift off

Gary Hotham

one maple leads to another,
my father’s house,
two autumns from here

Rob Cook


you are just beginning
to learn the lessons
that finally
I have unlearned.

David Lindley

That’s it for this week. I'll end with one final quote from one small press poet to all the poor poet through all of time:

“all the poets wanted to get disability insurance
it was better than immortality.” - Charles Bukowski



Thursday, January 10, 2008

That Smirking Face, Cassadaga, and f/k/a

With That Smirking Face, Jeffrey Winke and Matt Ciprov have put together a fascinating collaboration of word and image. An 8 page broadside (one piece of heavy grey stock 11 x 17” paper, folded twice and uncut), That Smirking Face is comprised of 13 haiku, 2 haibuns and four razor-sharp illustrations, the one reproduced above gracing the cover. In addition, Matt Cipov has also provided woodcut-like portraits of Jeffrey Winke and himself on the back cover. This is a high quality production, limited to 250 copies, issued by Distant Thunder Press of Milwaukee. Winke’s work is every bit as sharp and clean as Cipov’s lines, no mean feat in 3 lines or less. Here are a handful of examples:

storage shelf
a couple of suitcases
filled with darkness

a kicked can
into its echo

layer themselves
tight doorway

Since there are a limited number of these available and I felt this is the kind of work, both poetic and artistic, that would appeal to the Lilliput Review audience, I’ve acquired a few copies for distribution. They are available for $5. If you’d like one, send payment made out to “Don Wentworth.” If you’d prefer, copies are also available directly from Distant Thunder Press, 234 North Broadway, Unit 513, Milwaukee, WI 53202, <>. Also, it may be purchased directly from the author, with details at his website. You won't be disappointed; it is worth the effort.

On another, equally creative front, I believe I’ve recently run into the album of the year for 2007: Cassadaga by Bright Eyes. Admittedly a lean year in new music, especially for a “harmless old coot” (last week’s most memorable quote, from a younger work colleague in reference to yours truly) like myself, Cassadaga brings the literate while not sacrificing the excitement, danger, fun and angst that has defined rock since the first musical curled lip and knowing sneer. Here’s a taste, from the song "Four Winds":

“Your class, your caste, your country, sect, your name or your tribe
There’s people always dying trying to keep them alive
There’s bodies decomposing in containers tonight
In an abandoned building where
The squatters made a mural of a Mexican girl
With fifteen cans of spray paint and a chemical swirl
She’s standing in the ashes at the end of the world
Four winds blowing through her hair …

The Bible’s blind, the Torah’s deaf, the Koran’s mute
If you burn them all together you get close to the truth
Still they are pouring over Sanskrit on the Ivy League moons
While shadows lengthen the sun
Cast off the schools of meditation built to soften the times
And holds us at the center while the spiral unwinds
Its knocking over fences, crossing property lines
Four winds cry until it comes …

It will be no surprise for those familiar with modern lit that an even more direct allusion to W. B. Yeats follows in the next verse. And if you think there's no way these lyrics can be sung, especially melodically, think Dylan and think again. For those unfamiliar with the catalogue of Conor Oberst’s work, Cassadaga is an excellent point of entry. Give it a spin.

This past week saw another reprint of a haiku from Gary Hotham’s “Modest Proposal Chapbook” Missed Appointment in the blog f/k/a, self-described as the home of “breathless punditry and one breath poetry.” Check it out; the haiku are always high quality.

This week’s tour of back issues of Lilliput Review arrives at #138, from May 2004. The issue was dedicated to the memory of Cid Corman, who had recently passed away and was a friend of and generous contributor to Lillie. The pages of this issue were enhanced by the wonderful artistic work of the Swedish artist/poet Henry Denander. Here is an example from that issue:

The cover of #138 was a poem by Cid, published in his memory, and the following samples from that issue will begin there. Once again in the middle of winter (January 2008) there is a longing for spring and David Lindley, of Heathcote, Warwick UK, does that so well in two poems here. Finally, Donny Smith’s homage to Lorca, with thoughts of something spring-like tucked in there somewhere.

All you have
and all you
have to give
Cid Corman

It is spring only
because something unceasing
calls me by its name
David Lindley

The hedgerows burst with
green shoots as though deciding
against saintliness.
David Lindley

Lorca dream
The wind on the down of a young man’s
face, the sun on his torso, drops of sweat
sliding down into his waistband,
rain on a newly planted field, or a flock
of starlings circling to roost before a storm.
I woke and remembered only el rumor de los sexos.
Donny Smith


The final note today is sad one, a personal one. Yesterday at work, we lost one of our long time colleagues to a year long battle with illness. She died much too young. Cathy Duhig was one of the most intelligent people I've ever met, no small feat in my profession. She was quick witted, lightning fast on the uptake, an excellent writer, acerbic, high strung and, at times, funny as hell. She had a near encyclopedic knowledge of women's issues and gave the IMDB a run for its money when it came to being a repository of little known facts about Hollywood films. Her passing is a great sadness. This posting is dedicated to her memory.

too soon, too soon,

too soon - new daffodils sway

in a chilly eastern breeze.


Thursday, January 3, 2008

Your John Thomas, My Lady Jane

Cover by Guy Beining

This week's posting begins with a recommendation: the new movie entitled Lady Chatterley. Lent to me by a friend, I came to it with some trepidation. Many have taken a crack at DHL's novelistic masterwork (he wrote much better short fiction), with very limited success, including a 1992 Ken Russell BBC TV production. Newly released on DVD, this is an excellent representation of Lawrence's work, only it's not the work you may have thought. This Italian production, directed by Pascale Ferran, is an adaptation of the second version of what was to become Lady Chatterley's Lover, entitled John Thomas and Lady Jane, the title deriving from what Monty Python would have called the names Constance and Clifford have for their naughty bits (or as the tagging at IMDB only slightly less obliquely opines, "Genitalia").

I knew something was off as soon as Mellors came on the screen. He was all wrong and I thought did they read a bad translation? But when Mellors was addressed as Parkin, I finally figured something was up. And what was up turns out to be a very good film, indeed, minus Lawrence's more polemical views that seeped into the final version we've all come to know and ban. I did some background work and was reminded (I'd taken a course in Joyce and Lawrence as an undergrad back in the days before VHS) that an early draft of the novel was called Tenderness, and this name is a clue to this film adaptation. The focus is, as in LCL, the relationship between Parkin and Constance, minus the Lina Wertmuller-like politicization of the personal that DHL prefigured by nearly half a century. The Italians have managed to bring love and lust back into the matter, center stage, where it belongs. Of course, the final test of any version of this work is, plain and simple, sex: will we get the full frontal male nudity that, as a culture, we have been so ludicrously avoiding for what seems like forever? The answer here is, unfortunately, yes and no. We get the usual, if you'll pardon the expression, dollop of frontal views, with but one measly scene shot straight on in what may be kindly termed a semi-excited state of things.

So what, you may ask? Doesn't this bring the politics back in, in a way? My thought is no. The sexual portrayal of women on the screen since cinema began trumps politics here. If you show the woman, show the man. That's it.

And that's my only gripe. This is a fine film to see. The lighting of the Italian countryside passing for a British summer at it's very, very best may be a bit of a stretch, but it is lovely and it is fitting. The acting is superb and the de-demonization of Clifford, for the most part, is actually welcome. If you are inclined to Lawrence, do see this; you won't be disappointed.

Back in a posting (beware of pop-ups) at the old blog last July, I talked about d.a.levy and a new book entitled d.a.levy and the mimeograph revolution, which chronciles the life of levy and a seminal period in small press history in America. A review I wrote for The Small Press Review has just come out and I've posted a pdf file for those interested here.

On the Lilliput front, a couple of new issues have been posted to the Back Issue Archive, making a total of 16 issues with an average of 6 sample poems per issue. In addition, two new indexes of Lilliput materials by M. Kei are now on the homepage sidebar: one is an index of all the poems in the Modest Proposal Chapbook series and the second is a Lilliput Special Item Index. The "Special Item" index covers all the Broadside Issues, Special Issues (themes and size) and the Modest Proposal Chapbooks by author and title. These, along with the index of the first 158 issues, covers everything published at Lilliput since its inception in 1989. Thanks again to M. Kei for his careful work.

Sample work this week is from issue #137, published in May 2004. It begins with a poem about spring by the British poet David Lindley; somehow, this seems just the right ticket for the dead of winter with wind chills in the single digits and my two mile walk to work today looming large in the next hour or so. It's no Italian representation of the English countryside, but it will do for now. Enjoy.



The earth bears
even your sadness.

David Lindley

The butterfly
alights on the bomb
summer Haifa afternoon

George Longenecker


Ed Baker


When our enemy had a face
its jaw was wide, the eyes
were narrow, and the lips

rarely curved into a smile.
It was the soldier’s
face stamped a thousand times
from a single mould, combing his hair

in a rest room mirror
a face we wouldn’t recognize
even if it were our own.

David Chorlton

lone blackbird
in the far away sky
all of it

Giovanni Malito1957-2003


This issue was dedicated to the memory of Giovanni Malito and, so, we still remember him now, all these years later. A fine Irish poet. 'Nuff said.

Till next week,