a) pre-ordering a copy
b) buying a copy upon release date--3/3/14
c) buying a copy soon.
Let's get to the title story that opens the collection.
"Autumn in the Abyss." Where did this bit of poetry-driven, poetic madness come from? I was in Rome, summer of 2012. I was in and out of a longer piece dealing with cicadas and rock 'n' roll that still needs some dirtying up, even though it ends up a complete fantasy. Yet because my brain was not locked in, I needed something else to focus on for a while. All along, Alessandra was updating me about her research into a biography she was and still is writing about a famous American Poet, giving me stories that, in some cases, made my brow furrow. Some things left up in the air made me think how deep does one really want to dig when researching for a bio? What if you found out something that changed everything about the person you were writing about? My brain ran with this line of questioning.
The seed was planted.
But there was no fertilizer yet. Nothing to make it grow. Until she started in about Lew Welch, a Beat Poet who ended up parking his truck and walking away, never to be seen again.
"After the breakup of another relationship in 1971 Welch returned to the mountains. On May 23, 1971, Gary Snyder went up to Welch's campsite and found a suicide note in Welch's truck. Despite an extensive search, Welch's body was never recovered."
That was perhaps the key to unlock the storytelling machine in my head. I took these ideas, read up on some Beat Generation specs, and "Autumn..." not only started in heavy and hard, but took over my writing for two weeks. The first draft, at 14,000 words, was whipped together in a white-hot fury. Dense, relentless, experimental in a way--sections are split up by a mix of faux and real quotes--actually, only one real--as well as appearances were made by many in the Beat and Poetry world back then, including Jack Kerouac, who plays a pivotal role...in a way. Saying too much may lead to confusion. I know, though, that this was when Poet Henry Coronado, The Poetry Beast, was born.
The bookjacket blurb:
"When enigmatic poet Henry Coronado disappears six months after the New Year's Eve, 1959, Welcoming Chaos event, he takes with him a profound secret wrapped within the words of his poem, Autumn In The Abyss. Fifty years later, an ill man's research into Coronado's work and life reveals that poetry can indeed change the world, or leave it in ruins.
The Word is a living thing...and often with lethal intentions.
Reality is the strangest mirror..."
The Word is a Living Thing. Remember that when you read the story.
Here's a snippet from the beginning. You can see how I've taken the ideas noted here and built it up.
“The Word is a living thing.”—Marco Cinque, poet.
From Rene Zimmerman, author of Listening to the Voices:A Compendium of Explorative Literature’s ForgottenMasters (Unsafe Harbor Press, 2009):
Visionary poet Henry Coronado’s 1956 beigeFord Fairlane was found abandoned, aslant
off the always scorching strip of asphalt
designated as California State Route 127,
shadowing the southeastern edge of Death
Valley, early July, 1960. Nobody knows how
long it had been there. Nobody knows what
happened to him. His final statement to the
world was more concrete than poetic: the
driver side door was left open.
He was gone, never to be heard from again.
Though there seemed a surfeit of suicides and mysterious deaths and disappearances within the literary community during the ’60s and ’70s, in particular the concentrated realm of poetry and experimental fiction, I cannot attest as to why Henry Coronado’s story so fascinates me. Of all those who passed, his fame seemed flimsy at best, with nothing to substantiate it beyond recollections by those who knew him and his sparse poetry. No complete works remain, only piecemeal stanzas and sentences which vary in construction and confirmation among those who claim to have known his work. He’s as much rumor as fact, a phantom shuffling between question mark and ellipses.
Poets didn’t get famous unless they were blunt forces of nature like Charles Bukowski, or so truly gifted their work endured the test of time like Pablo Neruda, Dylan Thomas, and Walt Whitman. Coronado was Bukowski without the alcohol and rage, without the unflinching glare on the reality of squalor and grit. His words portended a reality just to the left of ours, more fantastical but conveyed in a way no less blunt, no less honest, than Bukowski’s. Or so those in the know alleged. Coronado saw the world with different eyes, as Beat writer, Jack Kerouac, had noted in one of his last interviews, a drunken ramble that never made it to publication. In my research, I was able to obtain a copy of the disjointed transcript, almost an abstract prose poem in and of itself. Kerouac seemed more disillusioned than usual, more drunk as well, yet a sober knot tightened as he expressed his admiration for Coronado’s work, saying, “it had …more truth, more guts in his taut lines than anything any of us would even admit to having seen, witnessed, experienced. What Coronado wrote dug deep into the psychological landscape of America. He saw the ’50s split in half, a battle forged between nuclear threat and the eroding American dream. A piss-stained white picket fence. He saw the ideals inspired by these ideas as the monsters they truly were. Monsters of the mind, the id, ego and neurosis made real. This was compounded and magnified by his general distaste for the human race, something that rubbed many in the Beat community wrong. Though, ofcourse, he had nothing to do with Beat poetry. It was just bad timing on his part to have lived and made his smudged mark during the genesis of the Beats.”
What I didn’t understand until listening to a CD burned from the original reel-to-reel recording of the Kerouac interview, and hearing it in his voice, was the monsters of the mind were in no way metaphorical. There was stress in his voice, tension, the pace of his conversation shifting down, conspiratorial. I would say that leant more credence to his interpretation of Coronado’s standing in the poetry world. He believed Coronado was a keen observer of the real world, of reality and didn’t have inhibitions about stating exactly what he saw. My take on what Kerouac seemed afraid to divulge— perhaps having as keen an eye as Coronado, but being less inclined to embrace what he truly saw, despite his own works that embraced a freedom, a lifestyle, outside of the norm— seemed eerily prescient when he muttered toward the end of the tape, something not included on the transcript of the interview, “But he was right, you know? Coronado not only confronted these monsters, his demons, he brought them into play with his words. I thought they weren’t real. Coronado proved I was wrong. I don’t know how much more I can take, how much knowledge any human can take.”
Kerouac was dead three months after the interview, perhaps as much from his alcoholism as the years of knowing whatever it was he really knew. Perhaps his alcoholism was a direct result of knowing too much.
Knowing too much, eh? I want to know more, don't you? Just a taste, it goes through many levels of perception, revelation, mental breakdown, and more. Here's the Amazon link to pre-order the book.
Since this one works the mind (though it does get visceral), the follow-up story works the body. Stay tuned.