001. Rupert Wondolowski

by | May 3, 2024 | Podcast

Param Anand Singh interviewed Rupert Wondolowski last October, and it’s taken until now to figure out how to put it out.

Listen to it here!

Here’s the transcript:

📍   Hey everybody, this is Param Anand Singh for the Publishing Genius Podcast. In this episode, I’m talking to Rupert Wondolowski. This is Rupert.

 The vision of night is like five cold sandwiches.

 And so is this.

I wake up screaming.

I scream, scratching the dog’s belly in bed.

Scream, seeing the third pillow has fallen to the dusty floor.

I scream during breakfast, wet bananas on lips.

Shaving, I scream. I scream cleaning up the bloody mess.

Scream when the neighbors pound when the police come knocking.

I scream on the walk to work, yard ladies gyrate gardening shorts.

Arabers hurl eggplant torpedoes at me. Their horses stomp, dogs bark.    

He’s a poet and musician and, along with a consortium of shadowy figures, the founder of Normals, a legendary used books and records store in Baltimore.

He’s the mind behind the Shattered Wig series of performances and publications. He writes glorious captions on Instagram, and when you’re speaking with him, his voice occasionally goes high and hoarse without warning. He’s the author of The Origin of Paranoia as a Heated Molesuit, The Whispering of Ice Cubes, and Humans Go Outside to Hurt You, among others.

He’s a member of Molesuit Choir with Liz Downing, and his latest book of poetry is Dreams Are My Social Life, out recently from Publishing Genius. He calls his aesthetic absurdomiserablism, and that seems about right. Like all of Rupert’s poetry, Dreams Are My Social Life is funny and weird and deceptively heartbreaking, but it’s perhaps more reflective, meditative, and autobiographical than his previous work.

The poems here come from a period in Rupert’s life when he had just lost three very important friends and collaborators, the poet Chris Toll and the musician Pope Croak in 2012, and the mail artist and writer Blaster Al Ackerman in 2013. I speak with Rupert about his experiences in the Baltimore literary scene and about his writing method, and he reads some poems from the new book.

So Rupert, you’ve got your new book “Dreams Are My Social Life”. Where are these poems from? What, what era do they represent? Like when, you know, what are the oldest poems in there up to the newest?

Okay. Yes.

Some of these are Maybe as old as four or five years old versions of them appeared in. My chapbook, “mattress in an alley raft upon the sea” that Fell Swoop put out. And then a few of them are, are as current as like they were written, maybe like a month before the book came out.

Cool. And you were saying that a lot of these sort of represent a period of time after you lost a lot of people close to you.

Yeah. Yes.

Would you tell us about that?

 Yeah, I guess My first book on publishing genius origin of paranoia is a heated mole suit was was kind of like, you know, like in hindsight I feel like it was like the My last burst of like, you know, completely youthful innocent energy and that was when I Met Everly and we got married and all that stuff then came economic hard times to, to the country and then, yeah, then came the year where, yeah, I just lost three major friends, like just top level friends, one after the other, literally a month or so after each other.

And was that all in the calendar year 2012?

No, that was God, how long was that? God, it was that long ago, wasn’t it? My God. Yeah. Yeah. Chris, Chris Toll Pope Croak and Blaster Al Ackerman. And yeah, they, especially Pope, I wasn’t seeing so much those before he died, but Blaster and Chris Toll were just such a part of my daily life as well.

You know, just as far as like social life of going out to readings, going out to shows. And we had like a writer’s group that Chris and Blaster attended. Yeah.

Now who did you meet first?

Actually Chris Toll was the first of those three. In fact, he was the first person to ever publish me, publish my poetry for real. Back before I lived in Baltimore I was, I was living in the horrible little berg of Rockville on Rockville Pike, which the only good thing about that was there was like a Sam goodies record store literally right outside my apartment and I would just go over there and snag all this great stuff out of their dollar bin like that.

I got a bunch of Cecil Taylor. That was how I found out about Cecil Taylor’s , Oh, this looks cool for a dollar. But yes, I, I was sending out poetry. Living in the DC area, working at second story books in Bethesda, which was one of my all time favorite bookstores. It was in this huge former auto repair shop.

And it was one of those deals where the owner said, look, the subway system’s going to be coming through here. I don’t know when, so I’m not going to put any money into. Maintaining the building, but I’ll give you cheap rent. And it was just this huge dilapidated, funky place. But and Bethesda, you know, one of the richest, most educated portions of the East coast, at least.

And so it was just insane what would come through every day. Like literally I’ll never forget. There was this one really unusual, extravagantly. Dress couple that would come in and they actually kind of look like, you know, a lot of seventies movies where they’re portraying satanists. They kind of look like that, but they were, they were actually, but they were actually Sufis and they would come in with like boxes and boxes of incredible Sufi books.

Oh, awesome. And, and one of my first buys like the owner of second story, his thing, at least then was as soon as he hired you, no matter what you’re. Background or expertise was he would throw you on the floor as a buyer and I’ll never forget one of my, for one of my first buys, they were like two Charles Bukowski hardbacks that were not only signed by him, but he had hand painted on the front end papers.

So

you were supposed to come up with a price for that.

Yes. What year would this be? That would be, Ooh, Oh my God. Like 82.

82 and there’s, so you’re not looking up the price on the internet. What did, what did you do when the Charles Bukowski books came in,

what did you would actually look at like auction records the main, the main buyer of the store had this office upstairs. It was just like jam packed with auction records and yeah, no internet. You had there was a huge massive three volume set of books in print. That could tell you, you know, if a book was in print, it could tell you that, but it couldn’t really help you for like, you know, paint, hand painted Bukowski hardbacks.

But you made the buy.

I made the buy. And yeah, I think the people were happy. I, I think at that time my, my, my, my youthful. Goblin exterior helped me like they were, you know, like look at the little goblin with his new job. You know, we’ll, we’ll go easy on him, but well, let

me, let me tell you a story Rupert that that reminds me of.

So I was working for you at normals, okay. And I, And I don’t think I told you, I’ve ever told you this because it was so crazy. I, I, I didn’t want to tell anyone, but I’m working by myself. Just, you know, a lot of times I would work with DJ Mills or, you know, work with Devin or whatever. And then I happened to be in there by myself and this kid comes in and he has the an edition of William Burroughs naked lunch, the one where it’s called the naked lunch.

Oh, wow. Yeah. And it’s, so I think it might’ve been the British, it wasn’t the, it wasn’t the first American edition. Maybe it was like the French or the British edition. I can’t remember the public, it had

French flaps, it was called William Lee. Yeah. Was, did it say that instead of Burroughs? I

don’t know. It was purple.

And so it, this kid came in and he said, yeah, I’m just wondering how much you could get me for this. This is like my dad’s. Thing or whatever, and I looked at it and I think that the kid just saw that I was like, so stunned by it’s like, Oh yeah, let me just figure this out because it was obviously this incredibly like choice printing, but it.

It was also kind of like written on to, you know, all over the place. It was not in great condition. And I might’ve even have tried to call you and couldn’t get you on. And I was like, yeah, yeah, yeah. Let me, let me yeah, let me let me until the kid was just like, you know what, I’m actually going to take it back home.

And, and I, so I couldn’t make the buy. I literally didn’t know what to offer the kid that would make any sense in the world. And so and so I lost it and I didn’t want to tell him,

huh? Sometimes it plays out like that,

but, but how did, so how did you meet Chris toll?

Oh, okay. So yeah, sorry. I was like in a very roundabout way getting to that. So at the time when I was living in Rockville, I was sending out my poetry. I was actually working on what would eventually be my first chapbook, Nightmare Rubber. And I sent poems to Chris Toll’s wonderful magazine, Open 24 Hours, and, which was in Baltimore.

And I’d been, like, doing little trips to Baltimore, seeing some shows going to the Club Charles, things like that, but wasn’t yet living there, but I sent him some poems, and he printed, I think, two or three. And I was extremely excited, I loved the magazine, and shortly after that, my girlfriend at the time, I enrolled in Towson University, so we decided to move to Baltimore together and one of the first, God, I think it was within the first week I was there, there was a big poetry reading at St.

John’s Church, 27th and St. Paul. That place is like, it’s, you know, definitely as long as I’ve lived here. It’s always just been like a place for great shows and underground music, poetry, whatever. And yeah, so at that reading, you know, I met Chris Toll. I’m pretty sure I met Chris Mason Tom DeVenti, who was, who was definitely kind of Baltimore cult figure.

Were they all reading ?

They weren’t all, they weren’t all reading. And yeah, to be honest I remember meeting Chris Toll more than I remember the reading itself. I can’t remember, but I did Cewebo.

Oh man, Cultured Pearl, the Cultured Pearl, and Mencken’s Cultured Pearl, and there were some incredible readings there, Chris Toll was there always, he might have even been the organizer, but that was also when I first heard Daniel Higgs read and met him, was completely blown away by his presence, I think my friend Pappy Mark Hossfeld read at those, but man, those were really fantastic.

Yeah. And then, and so then you were like, did you become fast friends with Chris right away or?

Yeah. Yes. Indeed.

You had a penchant for cough syrup or whatever it is.

Right, right. I forget how long it took me to make it into his his crystal palace. I remember it was such an event. I remember it was such an event to, to make it to his, apartment and he would show you all his little dinosaurs that he had like mutated like there are all these plastic dinosaurs that he had added he’d added human heads to or different animals to the dinosaurs. He always proudly show those to you. And he always kept, he always had a bottle of Jägermeister in the freezer.

What did that mean? What was the social meaning of Jägermeister in the 80s? Because I feel like it took on such a, such a clear social meaning in the 2000s.

Yeah, it was not good. It was … He was pretty much the only person I knew who like had it, but like, that was a testament to his powerful personality where it was like, you know, It raised Jägermeister to this holy sacrament and everything, but yeah, it was already kind of a bro drink.

Although, although back at the fabled rendezvous, which was a really great kind of dive neighborhood bar, but where a lot of musicians and artists hung out. I think there was a fair amount of Jägermeister drinking there, but it already had a bad, bad reputation.

Yeah. And then, and so then, so you’re meeting at Chris Toll in something like 82 or so, or?

Well actually I moved to moved to Baltimore like 84, 85.

So that’s when I

He’d already published your poem, but you hadn’t really met him at the

Yes. In person.

84, 85. And so then, and then how do you meet Blaster because he was someone else you knew of before you met, right? Yeah.

Blaster, that was, that was quite a unusual happenstance because John Berndt and I, John, one of the co owners still of Normals Books and Records we were longtime fans of Blaster.

I would read him and John M. Bennett’s Lost and Found Times. Which was one of my favorite poetry journals for decades and also Blaster was always in Popular Reality, which was an 80s, kind of during the peak of zine time, the, you know, the first zine explosion. It was kind of anarchist art stuff, but it was funny because anarchism was very different. At least their form of anarchism was very different in the 80s. I guess A little libertarian, maybe

as opposed to like, how would that differ from what you think of now as anarchism? Like they wanted to shoot their guns in the woods or

there’d be that. And there was like the, the anarchism then, at least I know around popular reality, there was a guy well, one thing that was very, was it was controversial then, but it was kind of allowed a little more was like, you kicking around.

Some of these so called anarchists were kind of kicking around Holocaust denial, you know, it was like well, you know, this is a big tent and we’re you know We’re gonna let these bozos Do that, but I hate to say it but you know, I I think it might have been partially cynical you know, like he had a Publisher had that in there as sort of like, you know to make it more as a rabble rousers.

Yeah. Yeah Right, right. Blaster always had incredible stories in there and, but he was legendary for being like, he lived in Texas, he was famous for being a recluse, and Just never thought I would meet this guy. And then we started hearing stories that he and his wife had broken up and that he was going on these weird little bus trips around the country.

So me and John Berndt, sent him some bus money and said, Hey, you know, come visit us in Baltimore. And it was literally It was just this match made in heaven, where landed.

So it worked. So the thing that, that should never work, it worked. you, you to the person you’re, that you’re a fan of and you’re like, here, here’s some bus money. Come hang out in Baltimore. And then it happened. Right. And then he moved there.

Sure thing Buddy. So he pretty much almost immediately moved here and it was kind of funny ’cause at first he was kind of living on John Berndt’s couch in his apartment. And then at that time I was living in what was called the Wig House. Which was me and Courtney McCullough, who I made music with, and Alfred Murchlinsky, who I made music with, and who was one of the first When Shattered Wig Review started, there were actually about four editors, and he was one of them for the first. The three four issues but at any rate we had a big group house and you know it’s peak Baltimore time where peak cheap rent time in baltimore where we had this three story house for like three hundred dollars and so blaster found you know he made himself a nice little home there and just in the front room and then he didn’t pay any rent but his form of rent was he would cook for us every now and then and he was the most amazing cook. He made some kind of Thai noodle dish that I, I, I couldn’t get enough of. I literally, however much he made, if I was allowed, I would keep eating it. It was just so good. And my stomach would just completely open up for it.

And then how, how did you meet Pope?

Pope. I met through my old friend on an old field. We were Eventually we all got in a group together, me, Anna, Pope, and a few other people called Kneeling on Beans, but I think my very first meeting with him was He wanted to sell some records, and so I went over to his place, and It was quite a memorable meeting.

He was, like, literally dancing on his bed, playing a flute, as I went through his records and all, and Very very curious human who To put you in the buying mood? Yes, yes. And which he did definitely for sure. But yeah, and Pope was amazing. Just like incredibly well read. And what always impressed me most about him was like, he made zero small talk.

I mean, it was like, he was incapable of it. Like. He didn’t care about awkward pauses or anything like that. Like he, he would sit on something for five minutes if necessary, just, you know, to come up with something to say that he felt truly addressed the question or the moment, which I’m the complete opposite, you know, I get extremely uncomfortable with.

So don’t, don’t leave any dead

air! So you were instantly attracted to this guy. Because he… Yes! He would, he would be in unlimited opportunities to be extremely uncomfortable.

Yeah, you’re right. That’s true, I did not think of that. And yeah, and I’ve got to say, some of my favorite Some of my favorite, most magical music moments of that period were, he and I also end up doing a duet together, an act called She Bites, that was kind of like a drunken cabaret torch song act, where he would play keyboards, I would wear dresses, and sing these heartbreak songs, and of course at that period, I was going through breakups like every month or two, because I was not in a great place.

But it was, it was, but he was like such an amazing keyboardist and I was never heard through anyone else where, like, you could hear the humor in his playing, like you could hear, you could hear his thoughts so much through his playing. And so our rehearsals would go on for hours and I would just like laugh myself till I was exhausted because, you know, I could, from what I could hear in his playing and everything, and it was a huge hit among the 14 carat cabaret crowd.

We had some really great shows there and Laura chose us to play the first time she took over the theater project and did a big 14 karat cabaret there and we got to perform. At that, I think we drove some people out. It was one of our more ambitious. We, we did like a cover of heroin and happiness is a warm God.

It might’ve been a little, a little too ambitious for went too far. Well,

all great art goes too far at some point, right? Right. Right. So where did you start calling hair wigs? Where did the wig thing come from? You said you lived at Wig House, Shattered Wig Press.

Yeah, I think, I think it started then with with the Shattered Wig Review.

It started back then in the mid eighties. Cause yeah, I just, I just felt like Shattered Wig. I just felt like I thought it was a strong image for when, when things blow apart and something new may enter, or at least things blow apart.

Well, it’s a great surrealist image too. Like, a wig can’t shatter as far as we know, so like, it instantly kind of puts you on to the aesthetic of, of the press and the nights and everything else. So then when, when, when you lose Blaster and Pope and Chris, I mean, obviously it’s, it’s devastating, but where does it put you in terms of making art, making poetry or making music?

Ah, well, I wrote Almost immediately wrote a long piece for Chris, that kind of wrote itself, cause yeah, that one, out of the three deaths, I think that one shook me the most and remained with me the most in some ways I guess maybe cause Pope, I kind of knew, Pope’s health had been really bad for years and it was kind of a miracle he lasted as long as he had.

And with Blaster you know, he was an older guy who had just fit in so much incredible living, and he was just such a It’s going to say advanced mystic, but then again, Chris was also, but you know, blaster, I could almost see saying, you know, yeah, you know what, you know, I’m ready. I’ll go. Sure. What the hell?

Well, did you

feel like you identified yourself more with Chris?

It’s funny. Cause we were, we were very different people, but I did feel really strong bond with him. And yeah, I guess he, he was definitely a mentor and I, you know, I wanted him to love my work and to love me. And yeah, in his presence, I just, and it was funny because. When he was alive, you know, we could go long periods without seeing each other.

But you know, we, we had so many strong bonding things together and I’m, I’m so grateful because the last time I saw him, we were actually we had dinner and then our last moments together, we were out in a parking lot behind a Dunkin Donuts and he excitedly pulled out his iPhone. He’s like, Oh, you got to hear this track.

It’s. The first track they’re releasing from Bob Dylan’s new album. And we stood there in the dark in this parking lot and listened to this Bob Dylan. And. You know, Dylan meant so much to both of us. I’d always thought I was a pretty big Dylan fan, but woo, Chris put me to shame. And we actually saw an incredible concert by Dylan at the Patriot Center together when Dylan was having his rejuvenation and was like really having a good time playing out and being excited by music again.

And it was just such a transformative, inspiring show, but I’m sorry, I drifted a bit.

Oh, no, that’s okay. But yeah, with, with the art and these,

So the deaths definitely yeah, they, they, they started to get me a little more focused on mortality and thinking a little bit more about like, wow, you know. How much time do I have left? Not, not that anyone could ever know that, but what are the possibilities and what do I really care about? And what do I want to write about? And whatever times left me, and so, yeah, I felt like it definitely produced a little more thoughtful well, not necessarily thoughtful, but somber mortality ponderance.

I wouldn’t want to go so far

as to say thoughtful.

Oh, God, no.

Shallow as the day, shallow as the day is long. And it was weird, and it was weird too, because I think I was telling Adam, Adam, this at another time I guess this is common where you hit a certain age where things from long ago suddenly start feeling like yesterday, like just started having these memories from childhood that were just like crystal clear.

And so some of those childhood pieces were almost like completely dictated to, to me from my past. Yeah, things that I hadn’t really thought about in so long and, you know, and yeah, and so that’s somewhere in there too. Yeah. Cause I also, you know, and not to, not to say their passing was minor compared to crystal and blaster and probe, but also, you know, I lost my parents in that mix too.

And yeah, so I just, just started to feel like my metabolism was Shaking up and, you know, like the Star Trek, what does that converter machine like, Oh, everything’s up in the air. Where is it going to land when it comes back together?

Yeah, when They get beamed,

yes, when they get beamed up and down or whatnot, but, and then with music, with music the death of Chris had an extremely direct effect on my music because Liz Downing talked to me at a Shakemore Festival right after that, and it was like, you know, Hey I’ve been looking at your poetry and kind of putting some of it to music and would you want to get together? And we started getting together like literally a month or two, maybe after Chris had died. And so at first, especially that first album, I mean, one of the songs on the first albums was written directly in response to Chris’s death. “We Shall, We Shall Live Again.” And so yeah, I definitely felt like the beginning of Molesuit especially was a way to to deal, to process those deaths and to celebrate Chris and other Baltimore poets. It was definitely it was very very spiritual and, you know, very very satisfying, very inspiring.

It was church. It was church, as me and Liz would often say.

Well, yeah, absolutely, man. Molesuit Choir is amazing. It’s, it’s interesting. I mean, the whole context for this book being after all this loss and, and it’s, and it’s very reflective. I mean, I think your poetry has always had a lot of, it’s always been so interesting because it’s got a lot of like a kind of outrageous. Images in it and, and surrealism, but then there’s also a lot of real life kind of cooked in a lot of that, like sort of specificity where you’re getting people’s names, like you know, in this book, we’ve got uncle div shack and, and a famous friend, Jason and you know, obviously mega Megan Linda Franklin And references to children, people you knew in childhood, but something that’s so interesting, I think, about reflecting is that it’s, it’s something we, we associate with being older, but what you’re reflecting on is when you were younger.

And so when we get in this book are, are these poems about childhood. Even as much as you’re sort of reflecting in this later moment. Right. Like, and there’s one that I, I love when I think about like kind of the evolution of a poet and, and the way a poet hears things and interprets the world. And then also the way that a child does, because when you’re a child, you can have these experiences that stick with you.

And those experiences, when you look back might actually be pure misunderstanding. You have this great moment in. The poem from the new book. “I’m not listening to the Beatles. You’re listening to the Beatles” and the passage is this

it’s dark in the morning. Took me far too long to realize he meant the DJ that his name was Johnny Dark. Either way, it was early poetry for me,

but I just love that moment and that’s so much. Nice. And yeah, like when you look, I love at

when, when you look back on that, like, because you’re, you’re, you’re sort of mining a lot of sort of childhood things, bits of pop culture in this book. Like, like what do you think in terms of. What the meaning is for you versus like what they might’ve actually meant to the people making these pieces of culture or, or what, like, right,

right.

Yeah. And that, that piece is probably the most autobiographical poem I ever have written. And ever possibly ever, I think ever, you know, at least in my adult, adult life and yeah. And it’s And my relationship with my brothers, I’m kind of like, I haven’t shared this book with them. And I kind of like, in a way, don’t want them to see it.

So. Well,

what do you think, why don’t you want them to see

the book? My family’s kind of litiginous about it. About any parts of them showing up in my book, like my sister, I’ve now used two lines from and in this most recent one of course, maybe I shouldn’t say it’s real in case there is a lawsuit, but you know, she, she’d come back from France and she had said that she was standing in the Louvre and someone came up to her thinking she was French.

And I was like, that blew me away. I’m like, I love that. And so I used that in the poem, Even This Crap Heap, and I think she heard me perform that with Molesuit on a Zoom or something like that. At first she was kind of like, like literally almost like, it was a copyright infringement or something, you know, I’m like, I’m a writer and, you know, if you speak around a writer, you know, aren’t you complimented at all that I’m, you know,

but but yeah, it was a huge having two older brothers who were both musicians. I mean, can’t overestimate how much of an influence that had on my life. Yeah.

Absolutely. There’s also something I think I want, I want you to think about in, in your poetry and, and see what, what you think of this is that something I think is interesting about your poems and, and it’s absolutely true of dreams are my social life is on a surface level.

There’s a pessimism or maybe even it’s a foundational level. There’s a kind of pessimism about it, but, and there isn’t necessarily, I don’t always find like a, cutesy redemption, if you know what I mean. I mean, that’s, that’s a loaded term, but there’s always humor. Like, like if you look for, if you were to say, okay, like this, this book of poetry is a manifesto.

What, what’s the position, what’s the argument here. And I would feel like if there were an argument, it, it would be something like, it’s all, you know, this crazy mess, but it’s pretty funny as it goes. You know, like there’s, there’s this great in, in the prose poem, consumer pivot, there are three sentences in a row, a high school friend almost wrecked her car because she was looking at my ass.

I just had a birthday. I’m thinking of death and it never feels mopey to me reading it. It’s not like, you know, there, there are some types of poetry and or types of any kind of art where, where they’re about sad things. And they’re almost, they’re almost too sad of themselves. They’re, they’re actually hard to get through and they don’t have that kind of uplift that you get from or that kind of catharsis from it but I feel like yours there’s always a there’s always this silver lining in the in what you might call the miserable ism, but But it but it but it’s not it but it but I actually kind of don’t even know where it is because it’s almost just in the delivery of these, of these lines.

Like, what, what do you think about that? Like in terms of when you write poetry and you’re, because you write about some things that, that have to do with your own life and, and, and bits and pieces here and there, like, what is the poetry doing for you? What do you see it doing?

Well, I guess the phrase that I’ve most often used for my belief system or, you know, what, what the, how the writing ends up is sort of absurdo miserablism. Cause I feel like you, you can’t really have true tragedy without humor and vice versa. Can’t have true, true humor without tragedy mixed in there. But but I guess it’s also I mean I guess at rock bottom, perhaps I’m a secret optimist somewhat. I mean cause no matter how dark I feel or how dark things may get, I can never give up on life. And I just always feel like there’s so much joy in, you know, the smallest things even, you know. So, yeah, I feel like I would be… Maybe it’s partially my religious upbringing, but I just feel like that would be, yeah, sinful to turn my back on what life is and what life has to offer.

But that it also can be such a grotesque nightmare.   Which, which, which Blaster, Blaster was quite the teacher of that. I mean oh my god well, one of his sayings was always, you know, like, Ride it out like a bad acid trip, baby. But His perspective was like, always so grounding.

I mean, He’s probably seen the most of life from every extremity of anyone I’d ever spent that much time with. And so, he just always was able to, like, put this amazing perspective on things into ground two. Like, no matter what I was going through, he would just say something that would just, like, bring it to me.

Right back to earth. Like, Oh my God. Yeah, you’re right. And he just had the most amazing willpower which some came about through his, I mean, he took an oath of poverty for art. He was so disgusted by like the Vietnam war and and his wealthy family. He actually was from an extremely wealthy family and he had a boatload of money in his youth.

And he was turned off by it and he spent it as fast as he could. And after that, he kind of like took an oath of poverty and just he, he’d lived As simply as he could and yeah, and like, he was one of these amazing people where he was kind of legendary in circles, like, especially like in the European male art world.

And of course, in the 80s zine world, but he would never do anything like a careerist and he was so funny because he would always talk about like people sending things out that they weren’t sure about that they had done or whatever. And he’s just like, well, yeah. If you don’t love it, like why, what would, what would be the point of doing anything with it, putting it out in the world, unless you like really love it.

And it was all fun to him too. You know, like he would often go on about like how male art was just like. The funnest thing in the world and he would get so angry on days when there wasn’t postal delivery and I mean, like not, not like a superficial anger. I mean, he was truly pissed. It was probably some of the most angriest moments I’ve seen of him.

You know, it’s like, Oh my God, it’s a holiday today. And he would always say like, he would say, yeah, I feel sorry for people growing up with the internet because it just, you know, It, it just doesn’t have the pleasure and all the variety and depth of, you know, male. And he, he would just send you, once you were hooked up with him, he would just, you’d get something from him almost every day.

And when I was at the New York gallery that had some of his art the gallery curator was talking to me and he said, yeah, it was fascinating going through all these letters that he wrote to all these different people. Because it was obvious, like, he wasn’t sending the same thing to all these different people.

It’s like, he had a separate, deep relationship with each of these people. And, you know, and some, you know, like, I know he had this friend, Eerie Billy Haddock, and the stuff they exchanged with each other was like, way too dark for me. I’m a dark guy, but, you know, they, they were really on a different level.

You know, and So it was tailored for each recipient’s personality. And Eerie, if you’re listening, Eerie Billy, 

I remember this one time I was going around Baltimore and I was asking everybody. What’s your system? Like, like when you sit down and write a poem, how do you actually do it?

But what do you, how do you know when a poem is like, what are, is there a thing when you sit down and write a poem, is there a goal in mind? I, I, or say like, yo, another way to think about it is when I, I’ll know that this poem is done when, right, whatever, you know, when it’s doing this, I’m an extremely, how do you, how do you judge that?

How do you write her an artist? And her an artist? And so literally I feel like the stuff that I remain the happiest with and that excites me the most actually like comes from my gut. Like, you know, not a metaphysical thing, but like literally from my gut. And I’ll know, and literally I’ll know something is done when I can read it and reread it and reread it without nausea and, and that it continues, that it continues to bring me joy.

You know, like because a lot of these I think I might have mentioned to Adam previously hit a, hit a period when I thought I had this manuscript together where I just really was like, I don’t know, God, maybe I’m a big imposter and maybe these aren’t any good and, you know, maybe it’s all over and and so I started taking the manuscript to bed with me.

Thank you. And would just reread it over and over late at night, and it just it made me happy, and I was comfortable with it. So, and then, and then also this might be the first time I did this I’d been in contact with Marion Winik, who’s this wonderful Baltimore bon vivant, and book critic and memoirist, and I believe she’s written some poetry also in the past, but I really respect her book reviews.

She does a lot of book reviewing and I’ve actually, since I’ve got to know her, sometimes if a book makes me angry, you know, if it’s a book that likes getting these, you know, non stop accolades and I’m like, God, I don’t see it. Am I alone here? It’s funny. I’ll email her and We’ll often agree on different things like that, but at any rate I felt like I felt like I want to get Marion’s opinion on this because she’s very, very frank and I don’t think she even necessarily my type of poetry I don’t think would be her usual type of poetry that she personally would seek out. But I wanted to see she felt about the actual craft of it and whether it held up. And and she just, she read it and she got back to me and just. Had really positive things to say about, you know, she felt like there was no word wasted, the words, you know, were each picked perfectly, and, you know, as a writer you don’t want to hear anything, there’s nothing better to hear than that, you know, and I really needed to hear it at that time, and I think that’s when I began to bug Adam, to see if he would publish it.

Excellent. And you know, you were saying earlier that like when it kind of, you know, a poem’s really good or really working when It maintains its appeal to you on, on rereading. And what, what do you think is that quality? I mean, is it some, is it the idea that the poem has a little, a little mystery left in it for you?

It’s not something you’ve mastered or is it, or yeah, I

feel like there has to be at least what do you think is that if you put a name to it that came from somewhere that I wasn’t aware of. Or that told me something that I wasn’t aware of. You know, to quote Chris Toll again, Poetry isn’t there to solve the mystery but to deepen the mystery.

And actually it’s funny because Daniel Higgs, who I also love and admire, was just in town and read At Normals the other night. And he actually used that same phrase. I don’t know if he was paraphrasing Chris or whether he’s just come upon that himself. But yeah, I feel like Obviously, I’m present in the writing, but at the same time, I want to feel that it came from somewhere outside of myself also.

And, to briefly drag my wife into this, who’s in the kitchen right now. When we first met, I gave her The Whispering of Ice Cubes, a copy of The Whispering of Ice Cubes. You know, cause… Surely that would make her fall head over heels for me. And later that night I was like, you know, I said, well, what’d you think of my book?

And she was like, well, actually it made my stomach hurt in a way that was like the higher in the way it was like, that was the highest praise. It makes me feel really good because it’s reached you on this, you know, biological level because I feel like that’s the stomach deep in the stomach is where some of my favorite writing came from, like back in my drinking days which I’m, I’m not sorry are gone, but there are many earlier pieces that just like completely wrote themselves on a bad hangover that they were just like, you know, like the piece “Wigged” that was completely from like riding out this like panic attack. And it was a horrible moment to live through, but the piece, you know, I’m still really excited about that piece

 That’s it for this episode of the Publishing Genius podcast. Adam Robinson edited. Drew Swinburne wrote the theme. For show notes and more, visit publishinggenius. com.