Monday, April 23, 2012

The Fiery Power of Poetry: Guerrilla Blues.

No, it’s not because I love Alessandra Bava that I write a blog for her poetry chapbook, Guerrilla Blues.  That’s not how I work. It’s because she can write poetry with the best of them and you need to know about it.

Now, I’ve been trying to figure my way into this blog post and end up going on and on about so much other stuff, when I want to focus on her poetry.  So, I write stuff down, delete it, write something else, cut part out, this and that and at this point, I’m going to do what I normally do, one of the best pieces of advice I can give a writer: stop thinking! Yes, turn my brain off and Just Write! 


When Alessandra and I realized over two years ago our attraction was something more than friendship, we opened up as people normally do, and she mentioned something about writing poetry, something she used to do but didn’t do any more.  I asked to read some of those poems.

I was blown away.

They were different than much of what I thought of as poetry, but my poetry was probably more influenced by rock n’ roll lyrics.  Jim Morrison—always hit and miss for me, but when he got it right, yeah!—Ian Curtis, a few others.  What she was doing in those early poems had shape; the words formed into something more than just words, if that makes sense.  Visual as well as vital in their messages.  Or simply concise, something else she does so well.  Direct, to the point.

I was inspired.  I started writing poetry as a reaction to her poetry as she expanded my knowledge of poets and poetry.  More so, I suggested she write poetry again, because she had talent, a knack.  She had “something special.”

She has something special.

She’s told the stories in her blog, heck, there’s a bit of it in the introduction to the collection, written from the perspective of former SF poet laureate, Jack Hirschman, about how we all met in SF, when Alessandra and I had decided to see about US…and the old guy casually barged in as he does, a force of nature…no no, he didn’t really barge in, but he was there in the famous poet’s cafĂ©, Caffe Trieste, the first day we were there, somebody stopping him as he was leaving, Alessandra saying, I know that face…something to that effect.  I said I heard the person who stopped him call him “Jack,” and by that evening she had realized he was, well, as I mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph.  The next time in Caffe Trieste, he was there again, and she couldn’t resist introducing herself and expressing her admiration for his work, having bought some of his poetry and loving it. We found out about his Italian connections—no no, not the Mafia, but one of his main publishers—and away we went.  A friendship forged, a focus deep within her brought out by Hirschman’s ideals, and all those who write poetry for the people, poetry of the times, poetry with teeth and fire, with human concerns and not just about pretty flowers and love, but love, sure, she wrote those too.  For Love or simply with Passion! No pretty flowers poems, though, thank you very much.

She’s got so much more to SAY.  There’s so much more that MATTERS! 

Anyway, late last year she wanted to enter a contest in which the prize was to get a collection of poetry published.  She worked diligently in putting together one for the contest.  We went over stuff, she added and built one that was and is quite good.


She’d started gathering together Rome’s revolutionary poets and wanted to put together an anthology of these poets, myself included, me and my Honorary Italian Credentials, triggered by Hirschman and the Revolutionary Poets Brigade as this was to coincide with the second RPB anthology to be edited by him.  She’d heard of a local Italian publisher via one of the Roman poets and was set to meet him and discuss the project.


Never one to think small, she had an itch, a desire that ran deep within, and over the span of a day or two, out of nowhere, she sent me a different collection of poems, one out of the blue as the cliché goes, or in this case, out of the red: something of true power and focus and, yes, as is today's theme, fire.

Guerrilla Blues.

I was more than blown away.  This collection captures Fury and Passion and tosses it as a Molotov Cocktail at the world, something to get your attention.  Something to insist you Open Your Eyes!  My initial response, slightly tweaked:

“Stunning! Your collection is Stunning! Powerful, compelling.
Love the sequencing, perfect. I see the broader scope at first, of names, history, etc., working toward a more personal scope borne of the ideals of what came before. The transition is smooth, the poem on Che being the linking one, from history and fire, to the more personal aspects, and fire. Then we weave through some muses, who still carry that same Jack's finale, and back to the melding of history, fire, the present, and a collection that packs such potency, the reader is left invigorated! I must say, the beginning, those first handful of poems, so heavy, such depth...the Che poem is necessary then, perfect, really perfect sequencing.
I personally think it's fine as is. I do not think it needs any more, but if the publisher you speak with tonight wants more, you can work it, of course. But this, it has such resonance as is. I think it stands tall as is.
Really amazing work, love reading them again, the full foundation of ideas and ideals and a personal philosophy of such strength.”

Yeah, see, when I like something, I’m rather obvious and go on a bit much, but I stand by those hastily typed words.  More so, re-reading the poems again, the rewards are even stronger.  These are words we all need to embrace.  By a stylist who deserves your attention.  She’s got that something special.  It’s called talent. Vision.  To read a poem like “The Trench Diggers,” and rejoice in the wondrous banter and actions of Rimbaud,  Dostoevsky, Whitman and more; the words aflame and of depth and thought-provoking--“But, my dear boy, the seeds of Truth always lie in wait in the darkest abysses.”—then to follow that one with “October 9, 1967,” and the death of Che Guevara, and a voice of Now—her voice--an allegiance built on perspectives in sync, of, again, similar ideals forged in fire.

Astonishing!  Essential!  Inspiring! 

I enjoy a wide variety of poetry, even write my own.  I even write some poems lit with a similar fire.  But as with most all of the poems Alessandra Bava writes, I am made to step back and take a deep breath after reading them and being slugged in the stomach again; or the mind.  I have a lot of work to do to even approach what she’s got, that something special--yes, the other theme running through this blog--that resonates deep into the soul of humanity and what it means to Be Here Now!

This is nothing like what I pictured writing.  I've got so much more to say, to express, to revel in.  But I hope it inspires some of you to want to check out Guerrilla Blues, the first of what should be many books from a truly amazing poet, Alessandra Bava.

Copies can be purchased via a lot of European distributors.  Here’s the link for Amazon in Italy:
But for those of you in the states interested in purchasing a copy, a signed copy at that, you can order directly from her.  Her email is:  

Here’s the amazing cover art, a photograph of broken glass that actually looks like a profile of a face to me, by fellow Revolutionary Roman Poet, Marco Cinque.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Taste Of Blood: One On The Backburner.

I've mentioned before how I rarely touch on the average horror tropes.  Vampires, Zombies, Serial Killers, etc., in their traditional form, bore me by the time I read the first cliche passage.  When I do dabble there, it's with a completely different mindset.  A while back I posted about a story called, "The Anatomy of Addiction" (available here: ), which takes place in a zombie world, but the gist of what the story is really dealing with is addiction--one of my favorite subjects, actually. 

What does this have to do with anything?

Well, I have a few of what I call Backburner Stories--stories invested with much time yet incomplete, in need of something out of my grasp at the time they were originally taking form.  Yeah, allllllll writers have story pieces, ones they expect to get back to, usually after the muse has forgotten about them.  At some point we look at them with fresh eyes, our mindsets different, perhaps more in line with what the story needs now...and write a little more on them, or let them take over to completion.  Sometimes we succeed, even after years; other times they may be stripped, salvaged, and the best parts tossed into another story; sometimes they spend their life stuck in a weird literary limboland with that other novel by Harper Lee, or perhaps a bunch of short pieces by J.G.Ballard.  Whatever, hahaha...  One of the best examples of the middle possibility for me would be the title story for my short story collection, The Dark is Light Enough for Me (available via B&N, OmniLit, Kobo, and Amazon all over the world: ) (...and if you're reading this and haven't bought the book yet, shame on you! Come now, aren't you as bored with the average horror tropes as I am?  Don't you want something that can really crawl under your skin and cause the itch of dread to run rampant throughout your body?).  The sequence early in the story where our humble narrator, James, has his novel--his warped life story?--read aloud at a meeting of horror writers who could not know his words, well, what they read was in the original take on TDILEFM, which has other parts I may salvage and stick into other stories.  Hmmm...

Where are you going with this, John Claude?

In my usual roundabout way, I'm getting to the point about some of those Backburner Stories and how, amusingly or not, there's a few that actually deal with the average horror tropes, which might be why I haven't finished them.  Mind you, again, I don't approach the stories, those tropes, with the intent of writing anything that fits into Vampire or Zombie fiction.  More so, I like to see where I can take them.  I like to see if I can approach it in a way that's perhaps more original.

So, a couple years back, I had an idea for a big piece, a novella, maybe a novel.  A strange one entitled, Tenement Funster, after the Queen song, because a large part of the story foundation would take place in a bizarre apartment complex.  The point is, there would be a vampire or vampires, but not quite; some thing, some creature, that relates to a vampire, yet takes even more from its victims, if that's possible.  (Yeah, yeah, like my story, "Soul Leech," blogged about a while back, but...not; different.)  I barely thought about it for a long time, just a file amidst the many, then this week as I was looking to align writing projects, get my focus geared up and ready to attack (or so I tell myself; yes, I MUST!), I decided to read the little bit I had for Tenement Funster and quite liked it.  Cutting to the chase, here's the prologue, a taste of blood, because it's still not time for this one to be written--there's the current novel in need of a second draft, a short story or three in need of completion, another novel in need of research, and whatever else decides to pop into my wee warped mind BUT it's a fun sample of something I hope to work on sooner than later, or at least later, some day. 

So, rough draft stuff, but enjoy this taste...


     “I know what you’ve done.”

     The voice crackled like sap in a pit fire, twigs and branches being eaten by the flame.

     The man turned to face his accuser, the words ringing ‘round his neck as a recently rung noose, a trace of heat causing him to twitch while he rubbed his calloused fingers together. 

     “Who’s there?” he said, his voice gruff, as if gargling rocks.  “Who the fuck is there?”

     He spotted movement at the back of the alley; shadows shimmied and took shape.  The figure wore a cloak that seemed blacker than the night that surrounded it.

     “I know what you’ve done, friend…” 

     There was no joviality in the stating, no relation to friendship in its truest form.  The words slipped out as a leer or perhaps a challenge.

     At the mouth of the alley, the man leaned in precariously, peering into the shadows, trying to make out more of the shape that had seemed to materialize out of thin, stale air.  He could make out nothing of substance and found it hard-pressed to even make out the shape any more. 

     He pulled the Bowie knife out of the leather sheath holster tucked close to his stone heart, on the inside of his denim jacket. 

     Laughter filled the grimy confines of the alley. 

     The man bristled, fists solid as hammers, the knife handle melding with the left one. 

     “Who the fuck are you to mess with me?  If you actually know what I’ve done, you know you’re stepping on the toes of the man who’s gonna slice and dice your ass.”

     The man stepped into the alley.  Normally, he did this with solid intent, knowing what he wanted to do, what his plans were.  Knowing who was going to die.  Right now, because of the unusual quality of the darkness, the nub of wariness blossomed in his belly.   He belched, blaming it on indigestion inspired by two double patty burgers, a super-sized order of fries and onion rings, and two large Cokes at Wayne’s Burger Shack.

     “Gonna slice and dice your fuckin’ ass--”

     With liquid swiftness and deft knowledge, the man in the cloak took perch behind the man with the knife.  The man with the knife tried to turn, to face his accuser, but he was somehow immobilized.  Worse yet, something caressed his neck with scalpel sharpness; a handful of something…dancing along his taut, whiskered throat.

     “I am not a victim, friend.  I am here to put you in your place.”

     The man struggled against the unseen, the darkness, the cloak that smelled musky like a wild animal, woodsy like the rarely trodden forest, to no avail.

     “It’s no use to struggle, friend.  But struggle if you must, it makes the blood flow more freely.”

     The sharpened fingernails of the hands that caressed his neck were replaced by teeth, more so, fangs that dug deep into the jugular vein.  The man screamed, struggled more; again, to no avail.

     The slavering maw pulled from the serrated wound that gifted it with its feast and said, “Hell awaits whatever’s left of you, but I’ll take the blood and soul and piss off Satan and his cohorts, as I’m wont to always do.”

     The draining consciousness and blood was amplified by the pulling sensation, as if the cloaked man had unzipped his flesh and was prying out what was underneath.  The man thought soul, yes, soul…and screamed, a muffled, gurgling release that only caused the blood to spout more urgently, seeking its own escape.  The blood understood that death was near, this body’s death, and that hanging around would do it no good, especially with no soul to ride into the afterlife or whatever was next.  The cloaked man brought his lips back to the neck, feeding on the tangy fluid while also, somehow, mysteriously, feeding on that which distinguishes each of us from the other.

     The now dying man was correct: it was his soul swiftly vacating the liquefying flesh.

     The defeated man dropped the knife, knowing that he was deserving of whatever lay beyond, and anxious to get there, to finish with this miserable existence, this horrid death.

     Moments later, any indication of who he was melted into the concrete tongue of the alley, suckled and gone.  It was as if the man had never existed.

     The man in the cloak--refreshed, invigorated--spat at the ever-shrinking stain.

     “Toodles, friend,” he said, and laughed, walking briskly into the shadows where he always found the most comfort, and disappeared.   

Dear Lord, that needs work, he said, grimacing at some of it, while knowing it's a springboard for something, so...

And there's also a lot of fantastical elements mixed with the horror, including a talking frog


No, I'm not kidding.  See, as noted above, just have to get my brain wrapped around what the story, these characters, really want to do before I sit there and channel it all. 


The next blog will be up by or on the weekend (because this one may not be posted until Wednesday evening, if blogger still isn't letting me see the preview to make sure everything is as it needs to be) as I look to be more consistent again.  Poetry and Teasers and more on the way.
As for now, here's a photo of a 'vampire' frog.  Not that the frog in the story is a vampire, no, it's

Skip it!


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Dark Cinema Stuff Including A Nod To Cronenberg.

Scatterbrained and wanted to be focused on a blog today, so simply going to go with it, whatever comes up, riffing here and there and who knows where.  Take my hand, could get weird.  What?  Well, okay, yes, weird is expected, but I meant in the disorganized manner of what is to follow.

How about some Dark Cinema?


Just watched a movie called, Absentia.  It was recommended via Lovecraft eZine and I must say it's an incredibly creepy, atmospheric movie that really crawled under my skin in good ways. At first I wasn't sure about the acting but slap me and tell me I'm wrong because as I got into it, the acting all made sense within the characters and the characters all made sense in a real way, not some Hollywood bastardization of what real people are like.  The movie had layers we learned more about as we went along, something I really appreciated.  There's a nice kick in the middle and the last third, man, let me tell you, I was on edge because of the revelations, the vagueness of things...or not.  It's an incredibly well done Indie horror film that works on all levels.  The director, Mike Flanagan, is somebody I will have to keep an eye on as all facets, from story to look, sound and performances, worked quite well and, again, that creepiness I mentioned above,'s still crawling underneath my skin.


the funny thing for me is I have a story on the back-burner called, "The Land Lord," that has some similar elements. Perhaps just one, and perhaps that's just my perception, really, but since I've had a hard time working the story out, seeing the movie might force me to shift a few things and get it done because there are some excellent scenes in the story, just a matter of tying it all together.

Anyway, highly recommended!  Here's the trailer which doesn't get close to hinting at the level of creepiness watching the movie inspires, but at least it teases a bit.


Just skimming, still skimming, thoughts flowing:

David Cronenberg.

My favorite director, no matter the paths he takes with his movies.  They are complete, 100 minute extrapolations of his current obsessions, utterly Cronenbergian affairs, even the ones that veer furthest from what one might think of as Cronenbergian, what with the changes he's gone through over the years.  From the early visceral body horror--everything up to Naked Lunch, excluding Fast Company, though Dead Ringers is more clinical and with a stronger psychological foundation, the body horror is more realistic, even if it's dealing with some perceived gynecological abnormalities.  Less visceral, but not less fleshy... Sure, I can roll with that--to the psychological body revelations of Naked Lunch, though the gist there is more surreal as laced with drugs, addiction, etc.; Madame Butterfly, like Dead Ringers, more realistically aligned; and the peak psychological body revelry attained by Crash, dear lord, a strange, psychological excursion that really messed with my head in fascinating ways upon first watching it, because to most people it might just seem like a movie about car crashes and sex, but it's So Much More Than That!  But to me, the extreme psychological thread that weaved through the core hooked me: the measured pace and measured reactions: a car crash means as much as a conversation means as much as sex, sex, sex means as much's almost a movie lacking in passion, yet more passionate in some oblique, deep, engorged brain way that...oh, not making sense (deep engorged brain? Hehe... What the heck, is this where the expression Mind Fuck comes from? No, wait, excuse my crudity...), but let's just say, my reaction after seeing that movie, in how it affected me psychologically (yes, quite the Mind Fuck) and physically, was profound. 

Naked Lunch and Crash are my fave Cronenberg films, but I cannot forget the savage, surreal, mind and, of course, body mangling wonder that is Videodrome--it's right there tagging along with them.

Where was I? 

I could write a whole blog on Videodrome, on each Cronenberg film, perhaps really think them out instead of this oh-I-feel-I-need-to-get-a-blog-out-today-because-I-cannot-go-this-long-between-posts kind of thinking.  And what's with that, John Claude?  Why? What makes it matter to anybody but your weeeeee addled head how often a blog gets posted? 

Whatever, I have real writing to do, damnit!


The 2000's brought Spider, perhaps his most overtly psychological film until A Dangerous MethodSpider, so meticulous in its portrayal of a mental condition and life gone sideways, questions of reality and how we perceive things wrought in the flesh of Ralph Fiennes' performance, almost too perfect to watch.  The balance of storylines that makes A History of Violence and Eastern Promises shimmering bookends, each the mirrored thematic reflection of the other, highlighted by Viggo Mortensen's full immersion into the characters, his best acting performances so far. 

Then, his tempered step into history with Jung and Freud in A Dangerous Method, though Knightley's Sabina Spielrein is much the Over-The-Top opposite of Fiennes' Spider...before she actually attains her balance, and here we are, with a teaser for the new Cronenberg film, Cosmopolis, based on Don DeLillo's novel, starring that shining fella from Twilight, Robert Pattinson, but oh, this will shake up his teenybopper fans...or assist in their coming of age or...let's just say, this teaser, 34 seconds long, looks like pure Cronenberg, like the film that could have followed Crash, though he often does this, loops around to places he's explored, yet often from a very different angle...and, really, it's just the look, for all I know, that makes me even think Crash, but who cares?  I don't.  This teaser is hot.  I've seen the trailer for Prometheus, that looks like great fun, but this one, YES, as with most Cronenberg films, slips under the skin, haha, there's my loop, my nod to the movie mentioned above, which might simply mean


I enjoy movies, books, music, any- and every- thing that digs deep inside psychologically, physically, many more ways one cannot explain but are distinct to each of us.  My own writing is indicative of this.  I want to be touched, to be thrilled, to sense dread, to know passion in everything.

David Cronenberg. An auteur, sure; an existentialist, yeah; a creative individual always driven by his personal Passions and we are the better for it. Well, at least those of us who 'get' his work, his mindset.     

I have No Idea how we ended up here, but gonna slip on out by leaving you with the teaser for Cosmopolis.

And here's a cool shot of Cronenberg himself, with something in his eye.

What? Wow, you're correct, that's two blogs in a row with a photo reference to his film, Naked Lunch.  So, what?  You got a problem with that?  hehe...

BTW, that script might be my fave script ever. 

Okay, enough.