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Odd Words September 4, 2013

Posted by Mark Folse in Toulouse Street.
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The Historic New Orleans Collection has opened a new exhibition exploring the work of 1960s counterculture artists Jon and Louise “Gypsy Lou” Webb. The display, “Alternative Imprints: Jon Webb, Gypsy Lou, and the Hand-Sewn World of the Loujon Press,” will be on view in the Williams Research Center, located at 410 Chartres St., through Saturday, Nov. 16. Gallery hours are Tuesday–Saturday, 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m., and admission is free. In celebration of the exhibition THNOC will present an afternoon program featuring Edwin J. Blair, who donated many of the materials in the exhibition to THNOC; JoAnn Clevenger, owner of Upperline Restaurant and avid art collector; and Neeli Cherkovski, a poet and Charles Bukowski scholar. Admission is free, and reservations are encouraged as seating is limited. Saturday, Sept. 7, 2–4 p.m. The Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres St. Admission is free; seating is limited. Reservations at wrc@hnoc.org or (504) 523-4662.

Also this week, now available at your local indie bookstores is The Booklover’s Guide to New Orleans, Susan Larson’s informative response to questions most frequently asked her as book editor of the Times-Picayune. Tourists and locals alike want to know what to read, where authors lived, which bookstores to browse, and when literary festivals are scheduled. Now all the answers can be found in this one convenient volume, the only complete directory of New Orleans’s “write life” available.. “Larson’s guide includes: a brief history of the fiction writers, poets, journalists, playwrights, historians, critics, essayists, and others who have flirted with the Crescent City’s muse across the years; a tour of both famous and lesser-known sites throughout the literary landscape, including authors’ homes and hangouts; an extensive reading list of favorite New Orleans titles in categories from mysteries to cooking; and a catalog of bookstores, libraries, literary events, and other resources.

If you thought August was slow, the coming week will more than make up for it with book launches, readings and signings galore all over town. I may need to publish cubes like Jazz Fest to help you keep all this straight.

& Thursday at 6 p.m. Maple Street Books will feature James Cobb signing Flood of Lies, the emotional story of the St. Rita’s Nursing Home disaster during Hurricane Katrina as told by the lawyer for owners Sal and Mabel Mangano who were slammed in the press as ‘Monsters of Hurricane Katrina.’ Flood of Lies tells the real story of the Manganos: a couple who sacrificed everything to save the lives of their beloved residents

& Thursday at 7 p.m. McKoewn’s Books & Difficult Music presents a reading by two authors published my local press Lavender Ink. New Orleans’ own and only Joel Dailey reads from his latest strike against banality in all its forms, “Industrial Loop.” Here’s what Andrei Codrescu said of him: “Dare I say it? Joel Dailey is the Robinson Jeffers of Post-Pop, an expansive nature poet whose nature is on TV. His work contains also the most thorough on-going critique of pretention in whatever form she may have been proclaimed. The shiv aims for the phoniness in the zeitgeist and comes off bloody more often than not.” Also joining us from the wilds of New York is poet and translator Mark Statman, author, most recently, of “A Map of the Winds”. Anselm Berrigan says of Mark’s new book: “A Map of the Winds is a lovely book, filled with moments of ordinary perception given uncommon attention. Sung through a register of gentle if unrelenting consciousness on the part of the poet that the present is always inexhaustibly on the move, Statman’s spare, concise, searching poems channel notations of experience through the visual and aural senses to frame and extend “voice that stands for voice / captures what I want and need / not resemblance”.” As always, this event is free and open to the public. Some refreshments provided.

& Also on Thursday at 7 p.m. New Orleans Literary & Performance Series presents its kick-off production of the 2013 Season: “AVANT GARDENING IN THE 21ST CENTURY” at the GOLD MINE SALOON, 705 Dauphine Street (corner of Dauphine & St. Peter, French Quarter) featuring:
JAMIL SHARIF, trumpet
ROCKIN DOPSIE, washboard
LOREN PICKFORD, saxophone
EARLE BROWN, saxophone
KATARINA BOUDREAUX, vocals
NEELI CHERKOVSKI, poet
JULIE KANE, poet
SUNNYLYN THIBODEAUX, poet
DAVE BRINKS, poet

CHERKOVSKI (biographer of poet Charles Bukowski) will give a reading in New Orleans along with a special Jazz Poetry performance featuring Rockin Dopsie on washboard, Jamil Sharif on trumpet, saxophonists Loren Pickford and Earle Brown, vocalist Katarina Boudreaux. former Louisiana Poet Laureate Julie Kane, poet Sunnylyn Ballard Thibodeaux, and poet and cultural historian Dave Brinks. This performance will celebrate The Historic New Orleans Collection’s current exhibition “Alternative Imprints” featuring LOUJON PRESS, publishers Gypsy Lou Webb and Jon Webb, The Outsider literary magazine, and the 50th Anniversary of Charles Bukowski’s first major collection of poetry, IT CATCHES MY HEART IN ITS HANDS, published in New Orleans by Loujon in 1963.

& Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. the Juju Bag Cafe, 5363 Franklin Ave., presents a Spoken Word Showcase, with happy hour from 5-7 and open mic starting at 7:30 p.m. Check whodatpoets.com for featured performers..

& Friday at 7 p.m. McKoewn’s Books hosts its 1+1+1 Reading featuring Descriptionfeaturing Delia Tomino Nakayama, Jamie Bernstein and Megan Burns. The 1+1+1 series features a selected poet, who selects a second to join then, and the second selects a third.

& Saturday at 10:30 a.m. meet talented children’s book writer and illustrator Brian Floca when he comes to Octavia Books to present and sign his new picture book, LOCOMOTIVE. Floca spent years researching LOCOMOTIVE – which includes traveling along the entire path of the first transcontinental railroad. His presentation will be filled with history. And, the book has already been critically heralded now with four starred reviews.

& Saturdays Maple Street Bookshop hosts Story Time with Miss Maureen at 11:30 a.m.

& At 1:30 on Saturday Octavia hosts a middle-school reader book event, a reading and signing with Newbery Medalist Susan Cooper featuring her new book, GHOST HAWK.

& In celebration of the exhibition “Alternative Imprints,” THNOC will present an afternoon program featuring Edwin J. Blair, who donated many of the materials in the exhibition to THNOC; JoAnn Clevenger, owner of Upperline Restaurant and avid art collector; and Neeli Cherkovski, a poet and Charles Bukowski scholar. Admission is free, and reservations are encouraged as seating is limited. Saturday, Sept. 7, 2–4 p.m. The Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres St. Admission is free; seating is limited. Reservations at wrc@hnoc.org or (504) 523-4662.

& Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. the monthly Poetry Buffet series hosted by Gina Ferrara continues its monthly reading at its temporary home at the Keller Library. Poets Clare L. Martin, Caroline Rash, and Mark Statman read from their work.

& Saturday evening at 6 p.m. Octavia Books hosts a talk and signing with Michaela Haas featuring her new book, DAKINI POWER: Twelve Extraordinary Women Shaping the Transmission of Tibetan Buddhism in the West. The women featured in Dakini Power-contemporary teachers of Tibetan Buddhism, both Asians and Westerners, who teach in the West-have been universally recognized as accomplished practitioners and brilliant teachers whose life stories demonstrate their immense determination and bravery. Meeting them in this book, readers will be inspired to let go of old fears, explore new paths, and lead the lives they envision

& Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Maple Leaf Bar is the Maple Leaf Reading Series, the oldest continuous reading series in the south, founded by Everette Maddox. In the back patio, weather permitting. Periodic features and an open mic every Sunday.

Sunday is Slam and Spoken Word Day in New Orleans:

& Sunday at The Shadowbox Theater Team Slam New Orleans invites you to come celebrate with your 2013 National Poetry Slam champions.In addition to our regularly scheduled slam and open mic, the September show will feature a special 1 and 2 minute slam for poets tuning up for the Individual World Poetry Slam and the Texas Grand Slam Poetry Festival. 7 p.m. We will cap the open mic to make time for all of the awesome, so if you’d like to perform, please arrive early.

& WhoDatPoets.com lists four Spoken Word shows on Sunday nights:

  • The new Sunday show from Spoken Word New Orleans is Poetry and Paint Brushes. Spoken Word artists perform as a resident artist sketches the performers. Doors at 7 pm. and show at 8 pm. at Special Tea, 4337 Banks Street.
  • The Black Star Cafe, 800 Belleville St. in Algiers at 7 p.m.;
  • The Shadowbox Theater at 2400 St.Claude Ave. at 7 p.m.;
  • Espe’s Kitchen, 1743 N Broad St. at 7 p.m.; and,
  • the T—–y Wine Lounge, 3001 Tulane Ave., doors at 7 p.m., Admission $5.

For phone numbers with more details on all these readings visit WHODATPOETS.COM. (If I don’t block out the name of the location at 3001 Tulane, Facebook will reject my ad for promoting alcohol. Go figure.)

& Susan Larson, the former book editor of the former Times-Picayune newspaper and member of the National Book Critics Circle hosts The Reading Life on WWNO (89.9 FM) on Tuesdays at 1:30 p.m. She features interviews with authors of local and national interest.

& Tuesday at 4 p.m. Poet-Teacher Delia Tomino Nakayama meets with interested teens and their Parents at poetry workshops initiated especially for teenagers at the Children’s Resource Center of the New Orleans Public Library.

& On Tuesday at 7 p.m.Stella Lithe and Laura Mattingly return to The Abbey on Decatur Street with their collaborative music and poetry show.

& Tuesday at 6 p.m. Garden District Book Shop Pat Kogos discusses and signs her book, Priory, Louisiana.In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina enters the Gulf of Mexico, and coastal residents flee the chaos. In the plantation town of Priory, Louisiana, guest rooms of a local inn, The Retreat, become shelter from the storm. Evacuees bond at The Retreat over shared heartache. They watch in disbelief as homes get swept to sea. Loved ones go missing. Passions ignite. No one will escape untouched. Priory, Louisiana is a story about the relentless nature of regret, the puzzling role of God in human suffering, and the opportunity to reinvent yourself after the life you know has washed away.

& Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. the Hubbell Library author’s series features Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans by Ben Sandmel.

& This Tuesday at 7 p.m. the Maple Street Book Shop features Everything Flows, the first collection of short fiction by novelist and screenwriter James Greer. Greer mixes anachronistic pseudo-history and unserious/serious digressions into pop culture, pop physics, pop philosophy and pop music to arrive at something both universal in scope and intensely personal, twisting language(s) into sometimes-strange shapes to devise new ways of looking at familiar things.

& On Tuesdays the Jefferson Parish Library Writers Group meets at the Westwego library from 7-9 pm.

& Every Tuesday night get on the list to spit at the longest running spoken word venue in New Orleans at Sweet Lorraine’s Jazz Club hosted by African-American Shakespear. Doors open at 7pm and the Mic pops at 8pm. It is $5 to get in.

& On Wednesday the inaugural reading for Blood Jet Poetry Series is at BJs in the Bywater (4301 Burgundy) at 8PM. We will be celebrating the SECOND printing of Laura Mattingly’s Book Of Incorporation from Language Foundry just out this summer. This handmade, typeset book will be available for purchase. Laura will be reading from her book along with a musical guest. We will also have a second poet sharing their works and wares with us to be announced shortly. Open mic to follow our features, limited sign up. Please share your words with us.

& Also on Wednesday is the launch party for Jonathan Kline’s new short novel The Wisdom of Ashes published by Lavender Ink, at Cafe Istanbul at 7 p.m. ” Inimitable story-teller Jonathan Kline’s web of stories connecting two poets, a nun, a black and white dog, and a huge red balloon to a heroin addict, the devil, the dead, and a mousy little man in a woman’s wool overcoat, in New Orleans in the early 1980s. In 44 moments, this novel weaves light and dark, memory and forgetting, madness and war, with smell of jasmine and the sound of cicadas in a walk along the levee.”

everything and nothing August 16, 2013

Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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Happy Birthday Charles Bukowski.

something for the touts, the nuns, the grocery clerks and you…

we have everything and we have nothing
and some men do it in churches
and some men do it by tearing butterflies
in half
and some men do it in Palm Springs
laying it into butterblondes
with Cadillac souls
Cadillacs and butterflies
nothing and everything,
the face melting down to the last puff
in a cellar in Corpus Christi.
there’s something for the touts, the nuns,
the grocery clerks and you . . .
something at 8 a.m., something in the library
something in the river,
everything and nothing.
in the slaughterhouse it comes running along
the ceiling on a hook, and you swing it –
one
two
three
and then you’ve got it, $200 worth of dead
meat, its bones against your bones
something and nothing.
it’s always early enough to die and
it’s always too late,
and the drill of blood in the basin white
it tells you nothing at all
and the gravediggers playing poker over
5 a.m. coffee, waiting for the grass
to dismiss the frost . . .
they tell you nothing at all.

we have everything and we have nothing –
days with glass edges and the impossible stink
of river moss — worse than shit;
checkerboard days of moves and countermoves,
fagged interest, with as much sense in defeat as
in victory; slow days like mules
humping it slagged and sullen and sun-glazed
up a road where a madman sits waiting among
bluejays and wrens netted in and sucked a flakey
grey.
good days too of wine and shouting, fights
in alleys, fat legs of women striving around
your bowels buried in moans,
the signs in bullrings like diamonds hollering
Mother Capri, violets coming out of the ground
telling you to forget the dead armies and the loves
that robbed you.
days when children say funny and brilliant things
like savages trying to send you a message through
their bodies while their bodies are still
alive enough to transmit and feel and run up
and down without locks and paychecks and
ideals and possessions and beetle-like
opinions.
days when you can cry all day long in
a green room with the door locked, days
when you can laugh at the breadman
because his legs are too long, days
of looking at hedges . . .

and nothing, and nothing, the days of
the bosses, yellow men
with bad breath and big feet, men
who look like frogs, hyenas, men who walk
as if melody had never been invented, men
who think it is intelligent to hire and fire and
profit, men with expensive wives they possess
like 60 acres of ground to be drilled
or shown-off or to be walled away from
the incompetent, men who’d kill you
because they’re crazy and justify it because
it’s the law, men who stand in front of
windows 30 feet wide and see nothing,
men with luxury yachts who can sail around
the world and yet never get out of their vest
pockets, men like snails, men like eels, men
like slugs, and not as good . . .
and nothing, getting your last paycheck
at a harbor, at a factory, at a hospital, at an
aircraft plant, at a penny arcade, at a
barbershop, at a job you didn’t want
anyway.
income tax, sickness, servility, broken
arms, broken heads — all the stuffing
come out like an old pillow.

we have everything and we have nothing.
some do it well enough for a while and
then give way. fame gets them or disgust
or age or lack of proper diet or ink
across the eyes or children in college
or new cars or broken backs while skiing
in Switzerland or new politics or new wives
or just natural change and decay –
the man you knew yesterday hooking
for ten rounds or drinking for three days and
three nights by the Sawtooth mountains now
just something under a sheet or a cross
or a stone or under an easy delusion,
or packing a bible or a golf bag or a
briefcase: how they go, how they go! — all
the ones you thought would never go.

days like this. like your day today.
maybe the rain on the window trying to
get through to you. what do you see today?
what is it? where are you? the best
days are sometimes the first, sometimes
the middle and even sometimes the last.
the vacant lots are not bad, churches in
Europe on postcards are not bad. people in
wax museums frozen into their best sterility
are not bad, horrible but not bad. the
cannon, think of the cannon, and toast for
breakfast the coffee hot enough you
know your tongue is still there, three
geraniums outside a window, trying to be
red and trying to be pink and trying to be
geraniums, no wonder sometimes the women
cry, no wonder the mules don’t want
to go up the hill. are you in a hotel room
in Detroit looking for a cigarette? one more
good day. a little bit of it. and as
the nurses come out of the building after
their shift, having had enough, eight nurses
with different names and different places
to go — walking across the lawn, some of them
want cocoa and a paper, some of them want a
hot bath, some of them want a man, some
of them are hardly thinking at all. enough
and not enough. arcs and pilgrims, oranges
gutters, ferns, antibodies, boxes of
tissue paper.

in the most decent sometimes sun
there is the softsmoke feeling from urns
and the canned sound of old battleplanes
and if you go inside and run your finger
along the window ledge you’ll find
dirt, maybe even earth.
and if you look out the window
there will be the day, and as you
get older you’ll keep looking
keep looking
sucking your tongue in a little
ah ah no no maybe

some do it naturally
some obscenely
everywhere.

Consummation of Grief August 9, 2013

Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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Omitting the obvious (for me) GD graphic out of respect for the dead.

I even hear the mountains
the way they laugh
up and down their blue sides
and down in the water
the fish cry
and the water
is their tears.
I listen to the water
on nights I drink away
and the sadness becomes so great
I hear it in my clock
it becomes knobs upon my dresser
it becomes paper on the floor
it becomes a shoehorn
a laundry ticket
it becomes
cigarette smoke
climbing a chapel of dark vines. . .
it matters little
very little love is not so bad
or very little life
what counts
is waiting on walls
I was born for this
I was born to hustle roses down the avenues of the dead.

– Charles Bukowski

Death Will Tremble to Take Us December 5, 2012

Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, Odd Words, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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Death Will Tremble to Take Us

Isolation Is The Gift November 16, 2011

Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, The Narrative, The Odd, Toulouse Street, Writing.
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First posted here 3/27/10. Some things bear repeating, like an incantation, until new things you perhaps never intended but you were meant for, were sent here for, materialize at your command; things monstrous and wonderful, the favor of the gods paid for in horrible scars.

“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery–isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.”

— Charles Bukowski (Factotum)

Happy Birthday Bukowski August 17, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, books, cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, NOLA, Poetry.
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Today is Charles Bukowski’s birthday. Born Aug. 16, 1920 he was one of the most prolific poets of his generation. Some will quible with his work, and I offer this quote from an unpublished forward to William Wantling’s 7 on Style as the best answer I can manage in the middle of a busy day at work (Hat tip to TheRumpus.net for this).

Bukowski said of Wantling’s work, as anyone might of his own: “His writing didn’t contain the trickery and the sheen that the larger American poetry audience demands—and things never became easy for him, that’s why he continued to write very well…

At the end Bill was concentrating on Style. He knew about style, he was style, he had style. He once asked me in a letter, “What is style?” I didn’t answer the question. I had written a poem called “Style” but I guess he felt that the poem didn’t answer it entirely, but I still ignored the question. I know what style is now that I met Bill.

Style means no shield at all.
Style means no front at all.
Style means ultimate naturalness.
Style means one men alone with billions of men about.

I’ll say goodbye now, Bill.”

Happy Birthday, Buk.

Bluebird

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I’m not going
to let anybody see
you.
there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
he’s
in there.

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
works?
you want to blow my book sales in
Europe?
there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody’s asleep.
I say, I know that you’re there,
so don’t be
sad.
then I put him back,
but he’s singing a little
in there, I haven’t quite let him
die
and we sleep together like
that
with our
secret pact
and it’s nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don’t
weep, do
you?

P.S.–If there is a god of firewalls, let me know what libation I need to pour out tonight for letting me get this posted from work.

P.P.S.–The books should arrive today. I couldn’t be more pleased with the timing. Sam was more worried about Mecury Retrograde and I probably should be too but I’m too busy enjoying this syncronicity.

I’m Not Bukowski November 6, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, The Narrative, Toulouse Street, Writing.
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“I’m not Bukowski,” Ray said the other day and, no, he’s not. He’s sober, for one thing, and certainly a better writer for it. We are both about as unlike Bukowski as possible: worrying about raising the kids, shuffling the litter of bills on the counter, lumbering into work when we’d rather be reading or writing. Bukowski is an idol but not for his life. Perhaps he had to live the way he did–the booze, the whores in cheap rooms–to get to those poems and stories but what is important is not if he was fond of slutty redheads or the brand of cheap drug store cigar he smoked but the words.

We envy those words and I think we envy his freedom if not his choices, the freedom to do what he damn well pleased and to chose above all to write. The rest of his life is just background and material, no more important than the polite coughing and murmurs on an old recording just before the conductor strikes his baton. I know I envy that freedom, a willingness to ignore the landlord pounding at the door demanding his greenbacks and focus on what matters, the sheet of paper in front of you. Perhaps more importantly I envy his decision at age 49 to walk away from his job and just write: “I have one of two choices — stay in the post office and go crazy … or stay out here and play at writer and starve. I have decided to starve.”

I’ve been reading a wonderful book of stories by a woman I found on the Internet who happens to live just a dozen blocks away. She’s a graduate of the local university’s writing program and I wonder how to structure my life so I could mostly write, how I could get into a writing program with only most of a degree in Eng. Lit. but there’s kids on the cusp of college, a newly refinanced mortgage, a job that pays for it all but demands monkish devotion. Reading and seeing Stephen Elliot got me thinking about Stegner Fellowships and then I picked up a book of stories the other day by a former lawyer from Baton Rouge, himself a midlife Stegner Fellow. But I don’t see how to do that. Ray and Sam and I were having a merry time in a string of emails the other day, discussing applying together for the local school’s summer fellowship: one of us each in fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry, and escaping to Italy for the summer to write but it won’t happen. Ray and I at least have obligations to our families and to the mortgage bank that keep us planted.

We’re not in the M.F.A. program but in our own class. In our forties and fifties, with a few things published, struggling to get to the next level of writing and recognition. We are at the point a lot of writers are in their twenties in terms of trajectory but we’re not twenty-two anymore. We’re on our own with day jobs and busy lives trying to swim upstream against the flood of writing program graduates. If you try to mine your own life there are things that would come out easily as thinly veiled roman à clef at twenty that we have to hide inside carefully constructed fictions, or simply scribble on manuscripts that never see the light of day. I think we’re more critical of ourselves because we’re older, and because we know we don’t have the M.F.A. staff and colleagues hovering over us to help us along. And somewhere in the background is a noisy dime store windup clock furiously ticking, shiny pot metal bells poised to ring. Ask not and all that rot; keep typing.

Rereading Ray’s recently revived blog, and the old post’s he is pulling out of storage, I consider that someday, some kid writer will look at the book jacket photo of this guy astride a motorcycle covered with tats and say, “Damn, I’m not Shea.” It’s not impossible; merely difficult, but we’re driven to do it and so it’s possible. I spent last night trying to pick some things off the blog to supplement my book reading Saturday and there’s some decent stuff here, better I think than some of what’s in the book. People occasionally tell me this, and so even though I haven’t earned enough off of Google referrals from these sites to buy a used paperback copy of Post Office and the book over there on your right should break even about the time I die, I keep going.

People who write, even cockroach bloggers like me lurking under the kick boards of literature, mostly don’t do it for the money. My wife asks when I’m going to write her a best seller we can retire on and I have to remind her the kids shooting hoops at the school up the street have a better chance at the NBA than I have at that, and that’s not what I want to do anyway. I just have a story I have to tell, something banging on my skull demanding to come out, something that arrives most easily in small autobiographical bits and not at novel length. And so I write it down here on the blog or on manuscripts with no clear path forward, at least none that takes me past this paragraph, but it beats the hell out of sitting alone in bars telling it to people who are only as attentive as they are drunk.

So you want to be a writer? March 7, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, New Orleans, NOLA, poem, Poetry.
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As part of our continuing effort here on Toulouse Street to keep something up on the blog while I lay on the couch conducting an extended study of Brownian Motion in dust motes, here’s another lazy cut-and-post: this one featuring Charles Bukowski on writing and inspiration (or the lack thereof).

so you want to be a writer?
by Charles Bukowski

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
fame,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.

if you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

This Is The Way The World Bends November 18, 2008

Posted by Mark Folse in The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
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“I was born to hustle roses down the avenues of the dead.”
–“Consummation of Grief”
Charles Bukowski

One of those bleak days when someone in an email thread starts quoting T.S. Eliot, and you look out of your office window to make sure the person spouting Old Possum is not standing out on a ledge staring off into space. Outside it is a beautiful Fall day in New Orleans: cool, sunny, no hint of humidity, the kind of day when you wished the fireplaces worked. Somewhere out there in the apple-crisp golden afternoon they are tearing down someone’s perfectly sound house. You can almost see the dust rising in the distance without knowing which way to look, because you know with some certainly that somewhere, out there it is happening.

It would be enough to drive one to drink, living in our wildly dysfunctional city, if drinking were an exceptional occasion down here. But we drink because it’s five o’clock somewhere and who says a Sazerac wouldn’t go with an Oyster Salad at the Palace Cafe at lunch? I think it would be just fucking lovely, much preferable to standing out on a windy precipice spouting Oxonian doom. In fact it’s probably the perfect way to cap a morning spent driving around admiring the homes and community buildings that will soon be a patina of stucco dust on an empty lot. Another sazerac? Absolutely.

The kind of day when you wished the fireplaces worked–that’s what I said, wasn’t it? That is what started this slow slide from a pumpkin-perfect November afternoon that became two drinks at lunch and the next thing you know you’re standing someplace you ought not be reciting The Hollow Men to the fire department. And all because someone suggested today that it was OK that New Orleans didn’t work, that this was part of the charm.

I have lived places where things work. And I have lived in places that are charming. While I can’t say I’ve lived in any place that was both at the same time, I know such places exist. New York is not charming, exactly, but it is a place that Orleanians are drawn to, and one of the few places from which they never return. Cajun Boys, too. And in comparison to New Orleans, it works. Hell, they just decided to let their mayor run for a third term, while we would be hard pressed to give ours a five minute running start before we loosed the dogs.

San Francisco is charming and the last time I checked it mostly worked. They weren’t randomly demolishing houses on Telegraph Hill or painting over the murals in the Castro with gray paint. The average Xcel customer pays $75 a month for electricity. Even if they have our ruinous fuel adjustment charges, that would still be a fraction of what we pay here. With the possible exception of Lombard Street the roads will not destroy a car in three years of use. Oh, and they have street cars. Not just two kinds, but three or four different models, plus cable cars.

Here the city demolishes houses in a way not quite random but almost like a puzzle in a mystery novel, a seemingly stochastic pattern like the rain of rockets on Pynchon’s London. You come away convinced their is some method to the madness, but you struggle to find one that will not drive you insane in the knowing of it.

The strange campaign to demolish wide swaths of the city is just one well-documented example of our spiraling dysfunction. Our mayor lashes out at a council member for racial slurs she never uttered, taking the word of a fabulously incompetent department head who spends her days visiting Whitney Houston web sites looking for fashion tips when she is not presiding over both the random home demolitions and a set of garbage contracts awarded to campaign contributors that would make Dick Cheney blush). Embarrassing? I guess you could say that, but it’s more maddening. If I start to tell you about the Sewerage & Water Board hiring a rabbit with a pocket watch to inspect the lines, stop me. It may not be true, but I would believe it in a second.

New Orleans is one of the great places in the world to live. It is also one of the most difficult, largely because of the sort of nonsense that passes for governance. When we talk about “what’s to eat” we mean which restaurant and not a strategy for survival. Then you read a story about a man three years after the Federal Flood speaking wistfully of what it would be like to have a refrigerator. And he’s not even Karen Gadbois, who has dedicated much of her life over the last three plus years to documenting and combating the slow destruction of the city not by wind or water but by a malicious incompetence. You would start quoting Eliot too, if you had taken up the burden she has carried all this time.

My own advice to her: don’t stop. We would trade the mayor, his extended family and everyone else on his floor of city hall just to keep you at it. The he charm of New Orleans isn’t just our food or our music or just our eccentric ways (bog bless ‘em), and it certainly is not the inmates who have taken over the asylum the way they have at City Hall. The charm is in the neighborhoods, not in a single abandoned property that could not be saved but in the whole swath of houses around it where everyone remembers St. Timothy who taught first grade, which tree came down in Betsy and took out everyone’s power, and what the Tuesday lunch special is up at the corner. It’s not just about savings houses or a corner church or store. It’s about saving a way of life

And if you want despair stay away from the hyper-intellectual overkill of Eliot. Nothing better fits a distracted and melancholic have-another-drink funk than Bukowski: pure despair for the savor of it, like a cheap cigar. But I would recommend instead that next time you drive the ‘hoods don’t just see the house with No Gas spray painted on it. Look at the ones all around, at the people on the stoop and the corner store that just re-opened. As crazy as it all seems at some level we’re winning because as whacked as daily life here can be we keep coming home.

Bukowski’s Bluebird July 3, 2008

Posted by Mark Folse in Toulouse Street.
Tags: , , , ,
3 comments

This is my answer to the poetry challenge posted by Be Not Inhospitable to Strangers to write something in response to Charles Bukowski’s Bluebird. (Cross posted from Poems Before Breakfast)

The poem removed pending publication in The Deal Mule School of Southern Literature.

Young in New Orleans March 3, 2008

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, poem, Poetry, quotes.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

By Charles Bukowski

starving there, sitting around the bars,
and at night walking the streets for
hours,
the moonlight always seemed fake
to me, maybe it was,
and in the French Quarter I watched
the horses and buggies going by,
everybody sitting high in the open
carriages, the black driver, and in
back the man and the woman,
usually young and always white.
and I was always white.
and hardly charmed by the
world.
New Orleans was a place to
hide.
I could piss away my life,
unmolested.
except for the rats.
the rats in my dark small room
very much resented sharing it
with me.
they were large and fearless
and stared at me with eyes
that spoke
an unblinking
death.

women were beyond me.
they saw something
depraved.
there was one waitress
a little older than
I, she rather smiled,
lingered when she
brought my
coffee.

that was plenty for
me, that was
enough.

there was something about
that city, though
it didn’t let me feel guilty
that I had no feeling for the
things so many others
needed.
it let me alone.

sitting up in my bed
the llights out,
hearing the outside
sounds,
lifting my cheap
bottle of wine,
letting the warmth of
the grape
enter
me
as I heard the rats
moving about the
room,
I preferred them
to
humans.

being lost,
being crazy maybe
is not so bad
if you can be
that way
undisturbed.

New Orleans gave me
that.
nobody ever called
my name.

no telephone,
no car,
no job,
no
anything.

me and the
rats
and my youth,
one time,
that time
I knew
even through the
nothingness,
it was a
celebration
of something not to
do
but only
know.

from: Last Night on Earth Poems, 1992
Copyright by Charles Bukowski.
It’s pretty widely distributed on the inter-tubes
but remains the properly of C Bukowski. I’m
just borrowing it.

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