Friday, December 15, 2017

Robbie Masso writes

at the airport

“I’m a poet.”
I tell the bartender,
         the traveler,
         the lady sitting next to me
at the airport.

They say,
“Impressive! Inspiring!
Are you doing readings?
Are you published?”



I’m a poet.”

I say my line,
look down at my drink,
take a sip,
and then my stomach begins to hurt,

because it always hurts when I lie.
 "The Pretender" an original by @faithfinds
 The Pretender -- @faithfinds


  1. Charles Bukowski (Heinrich Karl Bukowski) was born in Germany after World War I. His father was a sergeant in the US army. The family moved to Los Angeles when he was 10. The poet claimed that his father beat him with a razor strap 3 times a week from the ages of 6 to 11, with the result that he became a better writer since it helped him understand undeserved pain. When he was 23 his “Aftermath of a Lengthy Rejection Slip" was published in “Story” magazine, noted for showcasing new authors and for having 25 of its authors winning 27 O. Henry Awards between 1934 and 1946, and two years later Caresse Crosby, the “literary godmother to the Lost generation of expatriate writers in Paris, “ published another short story "20 Tanks from Kasseldown" in her influential cross-disciplinary “Portfolio: An Intercontinental Quarterly.” However, he then stopped writing for almost a decade. While recuperating from a near-fatal bleeding ulcer in 1955 he began writing poetry and publishing in small magazines. In 1967 he began writing "Notes of a Dirty Old Man," a column for Los Angeles' “Open City” underground newspaper. A literary supplement he edited included a short story by Jack Micheline about the sexual antics of an underage girl, leading to the publisher’s arrest for obscenity and the closure of the magazine in 1968. Meanwhile John Martin built a successful office supply business and became enamored of Bukowski’s work; he sold his collection of D. H. Lawrence first editions to the University of California Santa Barbara for $50,000 to found Black Sparrow Press in order to publish Bukowski, and offered him $100 a month for life to quit his job at the post office and write full time. In 1971 he published the 50-year-old poet’s 1st novel “Post Office.” In 1987 he wrote the screenplay for Barbet Schroeder’s film “Barfly.” He died at 73 in 1994, and his tombstone reads “Don’t Try,” from a 1963 letter to fellow writer John William Corrington: "Somebody … asked me: 'What do you do? How do you write, create?' You don't, I told them. You don't try. That's very important: not to try, either for Cadillacs, creation or immortality. You wait, and if nothing happens, you wait some more. It's like a bug high on the wall. You wait for it to come to you. When it gets close enough you reach out, slap out and kill it. Or if you like its looks you make a pet out of it."

  2. T. S. Eliot was the son of the president of the Hydraulic-Press Brick Company in St Louis and a poet/social worker. He began writing poetry at 14, and Smith Academy (established by his grandfather William Greenleaf Eliot, who had also founded Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri) published his early poems and short stories. In 1906 he began studying at Harvard College (which his cousin Charles William Eliot, the school’s longest-serving president, had transformed into the preeminent research university in the US), where he discovered “The Symbolist Movement in Literature” by the British poet Arthur Symons. (In a 1940 essay he confessed, “The kind of poetry that I needed to teach me the use of my own voice did not exist in English at all; it was only to be found in French.") At 25 he began studying at Merton College, Oxford, and was introduced to Ezra Pound, who arranged for “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” to be published in the leading American journal of verse, “Poetry,” in 1915; it was included in his 1st collection, “Prufrock and Other Observations” in 1917, and “The Waste Land” (heavily edited and shortened by Pound) appeared in 1922, regarded as one of the century’s most important poems. Then he began working on verse plays, beginning with “Sweeney Agonistes” in 1932. Pound’s nickname for Eliot was “Old Possum,” and in 1939 Eliot published a book of light verse, “Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats,” which was adapted as “Cats” by Andrew Lloyd Webber in 1981; it ran on Broadway from 1982 until 2000, its longest-running show until 2006 (when it was surpassed by Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera”). Meanwhile, in 1927 he converted from his family’s Unitarianism to Anglicanism, renounced his American citizenship, and became a British subject. He received a Nobel Prize in 1948. At 68 he married his 30-year-old secretary at Faber and Faber, where he had been a director since 1925. He died in 1965.

    Walt Whitman, the “father of free verse,” was raised on Long Island and in Brooklyn, New York. His formal schooling ended when he was 11 and became a printer’s devil before founding his own unsuccessful newspaper. Meanwhile, he began writing editorials and anonymous poems, and in 1852 he serialized a novel. In 1850 he began writing poems that eventually became “Leaves of Grass,” which he self-published in 1855. The book was anonymous and the 12 poems were untitled; however, in the midst of the long poem which later became “Song of Myself” he introduced himself as “Walt Whitman, an American, one of the roughs, a kosmos, disorderly, fleshly, and sensual, no sentimentalist, no stander above men or women or apart from them, no more modest than immodest." The title was an inside joke: "Grass" was a publishers’ term for works of minor value, and "leaves" were the pages on which they were printed. Though the book was privately promoted by Ralph Waldo Emerson, it was attacked as obscene and he was fired from his job as a clerk at the Department of the Interior in 1865 after the interior minister found it to be morally offensive. He expanded the book in 1856 and continued to publish extensively revised editions (1860, 1867, 1872, 1876, 1881, 1889, 1892, with about 400 poems). The last edition came out 2 months before his death; he described it as “at last complete -- after 33 y'rs of hackling at it, all times & moods of my life, fair weather & foul, all parts of the land, and peace & war, young & old."

  3. Leonard Cohen was a member of an important Jewish family in Montreal, Canada. Irving Layton, one of the pioneering voices of modern Canadian poetry, was one of his high school teachers, but his interest in poetry began when he discovered the work of Federico Garcia Lorca in a used bookstore. In 1951 he entered McGill University, where Layton was teaching political science and edited the school’s literary magazine; Cohen and Layton became life-long friends and Cohen’s poetry began to be published. Another of Layton’s colleagues, Louis Dudek, began the McGill Poetry Series of chapbooks in 1956: its first book was Cohen’s “Let Us Compare Mythologies,” which contained verses he had been working on since he was 15. His next collection “The Spice-Box of Earth” was his 1st book to reach a national audience. In 1963 he published a semiautobiographical novel, “The favourite Game” and the sexually graphic “Beautiful Losers” in 1966. In 1968 he refused to accept The Governor General’s Literary Award, Canada’s most significant literary honor, claiming that “the world is a callous place and [he] would take no gift from it.” Though he had a modest trust income from his father, he determined to make a career in the music business in order to make money. The legendary record producer signed him to Columbia Records in 1967, and his album “Songs of Leonard Cohen” introduced him to a global audience, and he concentrated on writing music instead of poetry. His next volume of poems, “Death of a Lady’s Man,” did not appear until 1978. In 1984 he co-wrote a musical screenplay, “Night Magic,” with Lewis Furey; most of its lyrics are in Spenserian stanzas (a fixed verse form invented in the 16th century by Edmund Spenser for his epic poem The Faerie Queene ; each stanza contains 8 lines in iambic pentameter followed by a single 'alexandrine' line in iambic hexameter). He died in 2016, 19 days after the release of his final album, “You Want It Darker.”

    Robert Allen Zimmerman was raised in Duluth and Hibbing, Minnesota. At the beginning of 1961 he moved to New York to perform as “Bob Dylan” and almost immediately came to the attention of the local folk music scene in Greenwich Village. John Hammond signed him to Columbia Records in 1962. His first, eponymous, album contained 2 original songs as well as covers of familiar material; it only sold 5,000 copies in its 1st year, just enough to break even, and was belittled as “Hammond’s folly.” But his 2nd album, “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” (1963) established him as a ground-breaking songwriter as he began combining traditional folk music with Beat-style imagery. Novelist Joyce Carol Oates recalled, “When we first heard this raw, very young, and seemingly untrained voice, frankly nasal, as if sandpaper could sing, the effect was dramatic and electrifying,” but most of his early success was due to covers by established performers. He also became a “protest singer,” especially with his 3rd album “The Times They Are a-Changin’” (1964.) Then he turned to poetry with “Tarantula,” which was 1st published on A4 paper by the Albion underground press in San Francisco in 1965; it was officially published in 1971. Beginning with 1978’s “Renaldo and Clara,’ he also experimented with cinematography , mostly using concert footage combined with documentary interviews and fictional dramatic vignettes. A memoir, “Chronicles, Volume One” appeared in 2004. In addition to hundreds of covers of his songs by other performers, he has sold more than 100 million records and has won 11 Grammies, a Golden Globe Award, an Academy Award, a special Pulitzer Prize in 2008, a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, and the Nobel Prize in 2016.

  4. Edward Estlin Cummings (e e cummings) was the son of a Harvard professor, and the poet graduated from there during World War I. Beginning at age 8 he began writing daily poems. In 1917 he served in the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps with his college friend John Dos Passos but was detained for 3½ months in a military detention camp in Normandie on suspicion of espionage and undesirable activities; his father managed to get president Woodrow Wilson to intervene on his behalf. In 1922 he published the novel “The Enormous Room” based on that experience. Although he had been featured in “Eight Harvard Poets” his 1st volume of verse was “Tulips and Chimneys” in 1923. The original manuscript, which cummings wanted to call “Tulips & Chimneys,” contained 152 poems, but the publisher only included 86 of them; another 41 appeared in “XLI Poems,” also in 1925, and cummings privately printed the remaining ones along with 34 new poems in “&” in 1925. At the end of 1925 “Dial” magazine awarded him $2,000, a year’s income for him. “Dial” was owned and edited by Scofield Thayer (whose uncle Ernest Thayer had written “Casey at the Bat”); Thayer and cummings had been friends at Harvard, and the poet had written “Epithalamion” as a wedding present for him and Elaine Orr in 1916, but by 1919 Elaine and e e were lovers and had a daughter; after the Thayers divorced Elaine married cummings in 1924, but they separated 2 months later and were divorced less than 9 months later. (Their daughter married Theodore Roosevelt’s grandson in 1945.) In 1926 appeared a new collection, “Is 5,” 88 poems in 5 sections, with an introduction in which he claimed, “If a poet is anybody, he is somebody to whom things made matter very little--somebody who is obsessed by Making. Like all obsessions, the Making obsession has disadvantages; for instance, my only interest in making money would be to make it. Fortunately, however, I should prefer to make almost anything else, including locomotives and roses. It is with roses and locomotives (not to mention acrobats Spring electricity Coney Island the 4th of July the eyes of mice and Niagara Falls) that my "poems" are competing.They are also competing with each other, with elephants, and with El Greco. Ineluctable preoccupation with The Verb gives a poet one priceless advantage: whereas nonmakers must content themselves with the merely undeniable fact that two times two is four, he rejoices in a purely irresistible truth.” In these books of the 1920s he established his experimental but playful style; a typical cummings poem was spare and precise, employing a few key words, parts of words, or punctuation symbols eccentrically placed on the page. Some of these words were invented by him, often by combining two common words into a new synthesis (such as “manunkind”). He also revised grammatical and linguistic rules to suit his own purposes, using such words as “if,” “am,” and “because” as nouns, for example, or assigning his own private meanings to words. He also published 4 plays, beginning with “HIM” in 1928.


  5. Allen Ginsberg’s father Louis was a high school teacher who was also a poet, his mother Naomi was a Communist who spent many years in mental institutions. At Columbia University in New York he became friends with Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs and, later, with Gregory Corso. They became the core of the Beat writers. In Kerouac’s “On the Road” (1957) Ginsberg was portrayed as Carlo Marx, a “sorrowful poetic con-man;” as for his poetry, Kerouac said “he called the Rockies ‘papier- mâché,’ and ‘the whole universe was crazy and cock-eyed and extremely strange.” In 1948 he had an auditory hallucination in which the 19th-century poet William Blake recited 3 of his poems over 3 days; he credited this experience as the beginning of his poetic career. In 1954 he moved to San Francisco, California, and read “Howl” for the 1st time at the Six Gallery in 1955. (The event was immortalized by Kerouac in 1958 in “The Dharma Bums,” in which Ginsberg was called Alvah Goldbook.) The poem was published by Lawrence Ferlingetti’s City Lights Bookshop in 1956; the resulting obscenity trial was one of the landmarks in the development of American constitutional interpretations of free speech. In the 1960s Ginsberg became closely associated with the Hippie youth movement, anti-establishment political activities such as the anti-war protests at the 1968 Democratic Party convention in Chicago.


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