Monday, August 11, 2008

From a series of surreal nudes (destroyed), oil on canvas, circa 1990

The Underground

Shit Happens

It's been roughly three months since I updated this blog—and a rough three months it's been.  As the saying goes, "shit happens." In this case, my mother suffered a massive heart attack in California while I was visiting my son in Alaska. I spent the next few weeks monitoring her decline in the hospital until she passed away. Afterwards, I made another trip from Virginia to California to sort out the estate. At this point I'm numb. As Vonnegut wrote, "so it goes."

Monday, April 21, 2008

Hip shirt by Waffo


A couple years ago some cool people who have an alternative clothing business in San Diego emailed me about creating a t-shirt based on a linocut of mine they'd seen somewhere on the internet. The result was a really great shirt they've been selling ever since.

Check out their store and other hip designs at www.waffo.com.

There's even a fashion show at: http://waffoclothing.blogspot.com

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Film Project

Here's a sample of the short films I've been making. Some are more narrative than others. Most are black and white, though some use color. Some have sound and others, like this one, are silent... Eventually they will form a larger feature. video

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Father Goose: Nursery Rhymes for Dirty Old Men

Here are some nursery rhymes I've attributed to the fictional "Tidewriter" Karl Schitz. They are part of an (again fictional) anthology of Tidewriter writings. These samples are some of the "cleaner" ones...



ROSES

Roses are dead
Violets are too
And everything else
Is in the queue




MY DAMNED OLD LADY

My damned old lady moved us into a shoe
I told her it would stink, but what could I do?
She was the one who paid the rent
So I smelled like dirty feet wherever I went




BARTENDER, BARTENDER

Bartender, Bartender
Mix me a drink
Make it a double
So I can't think
Shake it and pour it
Then let it be
Slap it on the zinc
For thirsty me




THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN

There was a crooked man and he had a crooked mind
He robbed a crooked bank and he did some crooked time
He filtched some crooked cheese and he caught a crooked mouse
And they lived with all the crooks in the crooked Big House




A CAT CAME STUMBLING

A cat came stumbling out of a bar
Walked into the street, got hit by a car
He died right away and so it goes...
They washed off the blood with a fire hose

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Angel Tree


The many acres of ancient oak trees at Los Osos Oaks State Reserve in California provided the inspiration for my as yet unpublished and un-produced film treatment in the form of a novel entitled "The Angel Tree." The story of a young artist—a photographer—and his innocent folk-singer girlfriend, "The Angel Tree" is an allegory about the consequences of unbridled ambition. I took the photograph here as a sample of a mythological space—the kind of place my protagonist seeks in his attempts to "capture the world that exists behind the one we see." Below is a brief excerpt from the novel [forthcoming when I get time to type it out].

Friday, April 4, 2008

Passengers

The passengers on the Boeing 747 issued a collective groan when the big jet banked and made a sweeping turn over the desert on its way back to Los Angeles International Airport, where it had taken off less than an hour earlier. Crackling over the intercom, the pilot announced that an oil leak in one of the four giant Pratt and Whitney turbine engines required him to shut it down and return for repairs. Since there was no airport nearby with a runway long enough to accommodate a 747, we were headed back to Los Angeles. A few people talked in excited whispers and others cinched their seatbelts tighter as the jet lost altitude and slipped close over tips of the 10,000-foot San Gabriel Mountains. Though still fifteen minutes out of Los Angeles, the flight attendants had already taken their seats. Across the aisle a woman with dark red hair nodded her head in prayer. When the plane finally touched down, the cabin erupted in cheers and applause. Back in the terminal, representatives from the airline told us that the cause of the oil leak had been the failure of a fifty-cent 0-ring. When they instructed us to board the same plane an hour later, half the seats remained empty.

Ever since that time I’ve found excuses not to journey long distances. I’ve even convinced myself that I enjoy a good, long drive. Nevertheless, air travel is as much a part of life in the twenty-first century as horses were in the nineteenth, and there are times when even the most squeamish traveler must stow his fear in the overhead compartment and temporarily suspend his belief in gravity. Though for me flying comes at a psychological cost, there are hidden benefits as well. As a strange kind of compensation for overcoming my reluctance, whenever I fly I seem to draw seats next to interesting people.

Once, on a nonstop from Paris to San Francisco, I sat next to a dreadlocked twenty-one year old Portuguese girl named Anna. She was reading a novel by a Brazilian writer, so I asked her advice about contemporary authors writing in Portuguese. She borrowed my notebook and filled a page with a list of names and titles. “These are just some of the better known ones,” she said. Pulling a silver ipod out of her striped wool bag, she asked, “Do you like music?” She handed me the headphones so I could sample a band with a strong techno beat while she wrote the names of her favorite musicians on another page of the notebook. As we talked, she took a tiny bottle of clear liquid from her purse and applied it to the metal ring that protruded from her lower lip. It’s important to keep piercings in that area wet, she told me, and saliva’s not the best lubricant. Then she delivered a dissertation on the art, psychology, history, and sexuality of body piercing.

In addition to the metal on her lip, she showed me the rings, studs, and i-bars on her tongue, ears, and brow, but left to my imagination the ones in less publicly accessed spaces. She loved piercings, she told me. She’d been doing them professionally for two years, working at a body mod shop on the outskirts of Brighton and then doing them on demand in Paris. Piercings are addictive. “There’s something about the process, you know, the pain, that’s hard to describe. It’s very intense,” she said. “I like to do them for other people, and I like to have them done for me. But it’s really important to get it right. You must make people comfortable, talk to them the whole time. It’s so personal. And you better really explain how to care for it afterwards so it heals okay. You know, so many people don’t know what they’re doing or even why they’re doing it.”

She was going to California with plans to spend a year working at a tattoo parlor in Isla Vista, near the campus of the University of California at Santa Barbara. A friend of a friend she met in Paris knew the owner. “I spoke to him on the phone,” she said. “He seemed very nice and told me I could sleep on the couch.” She hoped that custom agents at the San Francisco airport wouldn’t find or object to the large quantity of surgical needles in her luggage. “I don’t know where I’d get needles,” she said. “Besides, we like to use our own kind.” The more she thought about those needles in her luggage, the more apprehensive she became. “What are they going to think? I hope they don’t tell me to leave immediately.”

Though young enough to be my daughter, she was curious about the details of my marriage. “You know something about women, about life,” she said when I told her I’ve been married for close to twenty-five years. She had lived with different men in England and in Paris, but she wasn’t sure she’d ever really been in love. “How is the sex now after all this time?” she wanted to know. I told her it was just fine. At some point the flight attendants brought food and drinks and the lights had dimmed for a movie. It was a short ten hours, and before deplaning we exchanged email addresses. Months later I heard from her. Denied an extension on her tourist visa, she had gone to India and completed a Transcendental Meditation program at an ashram. Now she was traveling alone on a bus into the mountains. “The people here are amazing,” she wrote. I have no idea what happened next.

On another flight, this one from Sacramento to Washington, I sat next to a thin, energetic woman who told me that aliens had repeatedly abducted her as a child. We’d been making small talk about our travel plans—she and her mother, who was sitting in the row ahead of us because they’d been late boarding the overbooked flight, were on their way home from a funeral—when she suddenly put her hand over her mouth. “Oh my goodness. I’m sorry for asking so many questions,” she said. “I don’t mean to be rude. Maybe you’d rather read your book or take a nap? It’s just that I’ve got a habit of talking people up to pass the time.”

I smiled and admitted I had the same habit.

Chuckling to herself, she said we’d ended up in the right seats after all then. “I listen to people all day long and never yet got tired of it.” The key to good conversation is to be a good listener. If you’re patient and let people have their say, they’ll tell you some pretty interesting things, that’s for sure.

I agreed with her. “Everybody has a story.” That’s when she told me hers.

“Most people don’t believe me,” she said, after she’d asked me if I was interested in hearing about her experience with aliens, “but that doesn’t bother me much now. I’m used to it.” She fidgeted with her necklace and studied my face for a moment before she continued. Then she took a breath and began.

“Up until the age of sixteen they’d come for me,” she said. “I’d be asleep in my bed and a warm green light would fill the room. Then off I’d go, up to their ship. It happened fast, almost before I could catch my breath. They came for me about every six months.” I listened intently to what she told me. She spoke deliberately and when she paused, I waited for her to continue. “I’d have liked to think it was just a dream, but after a while I knew better because of the experiments they did on me. Didn’t they, mama?”

An elderly woman with oversized glasses peeked her head above the back of the seat in front of me. “They surely did.”

“I don’t want to say all they done, but most of it wasn’t nice. It made me so I’m not afraid of nothing now.”

“Are you worried they’ll come back for you again some time?” I asked.

“No, I’m not. Because I know for sure they won’t. I know a lot of things I probably shouldn’t.” Then she told me a story about how she’d tried to warn the son of a family friend that if he didn’t stop using drugs and committing petty crimes something bad would happen. “He laughed at me and walked away. I told him I would pray for him. Later on that same day he died an unnatural death.”

Just before the plane landed, the woman pulled her purse out from under the seat and gave me her business card. She owned a barbershop in Saint Louis where she cut men’s hair. “I won’t touch women’s hair,” she explained. When I told her she should write down her stories, she looked at me and said, “I’m telling them to you for a reason.”

For years I carried the card she’d given me in my wallet. When I looked for it just now, it was gone.



[This is a draft from a collection of essays, feature stories, and memoirs about some of the strange experiences I've had. Others in the proposed collection concern occult parlor games, doubles, cults and culture in martial arts, finding a lost or abandoned toddler, the southern California beach culture of the 70s, avant-garde writing as a profession, and "Alice in Azorath", an insider's look at the computer game, World of Warcraft.]

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Vive le pointillisme



I've done drawings using dots to create halftone types of shading effects before, but I'd never tried pointillist techniques in painting, so I thought I'd play around with the idea. It seems very odd to "publish" a work in an early stage of completion, but I already mentioned I'd try to show some examples of projects on which I'm currently working. So here's a detail from the painting. While I'm not sure where this concept is leading me, I think pointillism might be something to try in purely abstract paintings. 

Friday, March 28, 2008

What Have You Been Working On?

I used to love when people asked me that question. It would give me an opportunity to outline the plot of my latest novel or tell them about the film script I just finished. I might have tried to explain the concept of my interactive paintings or describe some strange sculpture I was planning to make out of bent saplings. 

As one gets older one becomes less self-absorbed. I still get up in the morning happy to have another day to experience and share with others, but I'm less inclined to think that my artistic creations have much if any importance. My work will not change the world, nor is it likely to last as long as the solid houses others once built out of logs or stone. 

For the past year I've been working on a handful of diverse projects all at once. I'm in no particular hurry to finish any of them. When I get a chance, I'll post a few bits and pieces.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Prose Poem

What exactly is a prose poem? 

I've been writing prose poems and thinking critically about the form for close to three decades now. In 1982 I published my first collection of poems, which included half a dozen odd looking miniature stories with justified margins. Over the next decade I published three collections of prose poems: The Masked Ball, Puppet Theatre, and Carnival Aptitude. Early on, I'd been reading Baudelaire, Rimbaud, and the French Surrealists and I found the open form exciting and full of potential. I also liked the idea of laying a trap for readers wary of poetry. If it looked like prose, maybe I could get them laughing before they realized they'd been had. 

In 1985 I wrote a M.A. thesis on the prose poem that included a long essay entitled "The Contemporary American Prose Poem: An Application of Paradox," which was later published in a collection of my critical writings.  In that essay I surveyed the origins of the form and tried to arrive at some kind of definition. Others have tried both before and since, some in essays and others in book length monographs. I'm not sure anyone has completely succeeded.

A couple years ago I co-edited a little anthology of prose poems called The Smile at the Foot of the Ladder. The short introduction I wrote for that volume invites the reader to enter into the spirit of the prose poem rather than attempt a rigid definition of the form. 

Here's part of what I wrote:


Though I've never been able to locate a can of striped paint or a stick with one end, over the past twenty years I have been asked to write about the prose poem on several occasions. Despite my best efforts to identify an underlying set of universal characteristics, or even to arrive at some more general kind of understanding of this shape-shifting literary form, I suspect my musings on the subject have never yielded a comprehensive definition nor much insight into the mysteries of the genre. Perhaps my dissatisfaction with my own efforts stems from the simple fact that prose poems follow few rules while at the same time insisting on many exceptions. And so with each successive attempt I've made to organize my thoughts on the subject, my efforts have relied less on the techniques and approaches common to scholarship and literary criticism, and more on strategies and practices associated with creative writing. In the end, it seems the prose poem is its own best, and perhaps only, definition.

One might say that trying to characterize and contain the prose poem is a bit like being sent on a "sleeveless errand," an April-Fools goose-chase to acquire sweet vinegar, a bacon stretcher or a box of straight hooks. After enduring the knowing grins of all the literary shopkeepers, one invariably comes to the realization that the prose poem doesn't really exist, except, of course, in the imagination. It seems to me there's no finer place to exist—especially for a hybrid literary form sired by the desire to loosen restrictions imposed by genre. Other writers have noted many times before that prose poems frequently employ the logic of dreams. Perhaps that's another reason why we love them—because they're so free to give voice to the unconscious...


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Tightrope Walker


One of my first woodcuts, this print was carved on a piece of plywood. 

Martial Arts


Most people have no idea that I trained in martial arts and was a full time professional martial arts teacher for a couple of years. I began my training at the rather advanced age of 38. My son had wanted to study Taekwondo and I thought it would be a good way for me to get back into shape as well. 

I remember watching my first black belt testing like it was a movie. In my mind there was simply no way an older, out of shape guy like me could ever jump over people and break boards with a flying sidekick. Five years later I was doing exactly what I'd said was impossible. 

The martial arts culture is a strange mixture of ritual and hype, philosophy and bullshit. Sometimes it takes years to sort it out. While Masters and schools are often cult-like, money-grubbing, and negative, the training itself can be incredibly empowering. 

Monday, March 3, 2008

Asylum Arts
















In 1990 I founded an independent literary publishing venture called Asylum Arts Publishing. For fifteen years I acquired, edited, designed, published, and marketed books to the trade, with a special emphasis on translations of French Romantics, surrealism, and four difficult to market and thus extremely underrepresented categories of books: serious collections of poetry, prose poems, plays, and short stories by living American authors.  

According to the non-profit organization Poets House, which keeps statistics on American publishers of poetry books, Asylum Arts was among the top ten publishers of poetry in the country for three straight years. That a one-man operation produced a greater number of poetry titles than almost all of the commercial, university, and subsidized non-profit literary publishers in the nation speaks volumes about the sorry state of poetry in this country. So does the fact that there are more academic programs granting degrees in creative writing with an emphasis on poetry than there are readers who purchase the Pulizer Prize winning volume of poetry most years... 

I originally conceived Asylum Arts as a niche publishing operation. Ironically, the venture failed as a result of its unexpected success. Spurred on by consistent and enthusiastic reviews of the books in national media, Asylum Arts quickly grew to be a trade publisher with the same requirements as large operations: seasonal lists, national distribution, deep discounts, heavy returns, and a team of sales representatives taking a cut of the profits. Then my exclusive distributor stopped making monthly payments and six months later declared bankruptcy, stranding 80% of Asylum Arts' stock in Connecticut and swallowing whole the money from six months worth of sales. The press never recovered. Over the next six or seven years the press sputtered along, publishing small print runs an abbreviated list. In 2005 I sold Asylum Arts, which lives on as an imprint of another small literary publisher. 


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Gallery poster


Here's another poster I designed, this one for a one man show at a small gallery in San Luis Obispo, CA.

Return of the Chapmen


In 1987 I completed a descriptive bibliography of all the Unicorn Press broadsides, folios, postcards and other ephemeral publications, 1966-1987. The checklist can be found in the Special Collections department of the Hays Library at Brown University, which owns the complete Unicorn Press archives. Below is a passage from my introduction to the checklist.
"One of the ironies of contemporary literary publishing in America is that forms of publication that were originally introduced in Europe to promote and disseminate the most popular kinds of literature—ballads, satiric or bawdy verses, and simple narratives which were too banal or ephemeral to attract readers of high-priced books—have been reintroduced as an inexpensive and even artistically superior medium with which to promote and sometimes introduce serious literature to contemporary audiences now accustomed to paying high prices for poorly made, mass-produced hardcover and trade paperback editions of books of the most topical, popular, and transitory nature. The "street literature" of sixteenth through nineteenth century Europe and America was published mainly on inexpensive broadsides, handbills printed on a single sheet of paper and often sold by traveling hawkers called chapmen, or by the singers and poets who had authored the works for sale. The broadsides were usually produced with little care and by printers licensed only for the printing of single sheets. Yet a single sheet printed on both sides and folded one or more times easily became a pamphlet or chapbook (literally, "cheap book"), which made collections of bawdy ballads and popular stories, poems, and anecdotes available to large numbers of poor and poorly educated people. Unlike the books of the time, the ballad broadsides and chapbooks were ephemeral, most often read and discarded. Today the situation has been reversed: much of the best American poetry appears in chapbooks produced by small presses working within their limited means, while the commercial houses turn out thousands of expensive books with little intrinsic or enduring value. . ."

Unicorn Press


Unicorn Press, which existed from 1966 to the mid 1990s had a long and fascinating history. Founded by Teo Savory and Alan Brilliant in Santa Barbara, CA, with initial financial backing from Ken Maytag (grandson of the man who founded the company that makes Maytag appliances), the press began in conjunction with Maytag's Unicorn Book Shop. Its first publications were a poetry postcard and a poster advertising a reading at the shop by Gary Snyder. Soon thereafter, Savory and Brilliant took sole control of the press and began publishing via handset type printed on a letterpress, broadsides of poems by contemporary American poets and short volumes of translations of French and German poets. By the late 1980s, Unicorn had produced nearly 100 books, along with hundreds of ephemeral publications by poets such as M.S. Merwin, Langston Hughs, Robert Bly, Thomas Merton, Jerome Rothenberg, James Tate, Charles Simic, Ted Hughs, Margarat Atwood, Kenneth Rexroth, and Diane Wakowski, to name only a few. 
In the early 80s the press relocated to Greensboro, NC. In 1986 Unicorn published a collection of my prose poems and original block print illustrations. This book, entitled The Masked Ball, was handset and printed by Sarah Lindsey. In 1988 I spent six months in residence handsetting and printing a companion volume entitled Puppet Theatre. At the same time I completed a descriptive bibliography that covered all Unicorn posters, broadsides, post cards, folios and other ephemeral publications from 1966-1987. 

The photo above shows my own two Unicorn Press titles, along with the last poetry broadside published in the Unicorn Broadside Series. The poem is by Thomas Wiloch and the artwork is mine. I designed this broadside, handset the type and printed it, along with the three linoleum blocks, on a Vandercook SP 15 in Greensboro, the summer of 1987.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Asylum Annual


Here are the covers of the three editions of Asylum Annual.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Asylum Magazine


From 1985 to 1995 I edited and published a literary and arts magazine called Asylum. Initially a quarterly, the first two issues of the magazine were typeset using a proportional spaced IBM selectric typewriter. I pasted up the copy on my kitchen table, photocopied the double sided spreads at Kinkos, and bound them together with a hand-powered saddle stapler. These earliest issues had a circulation of about 200. 
Over the years I continued to improve the design and production values of the magazine as it grew in circulation. Asylum eventually changed to a biannual format. In 1993 I renamed the magaine Asylum Annual and switched to a 160 page large format with Smyth-sewn bindings. By 1993 the magazine had become one of the biggest and best-distributed independant literary magazines in the country, with a circulation of about 2,500. 

Asylum was a one-man operation. Although the magazine managed to be "in the black" financially, it was always a labor of love that required a decade of long hours without any pay. At its peak, it was not unusual to receive more than 150 unsolicited submissions each week. That's a lot of mail to answer.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

On Literary Translation


Literary translators are without a doubt among the most under-appreciated workers in the field of arts and letters. A faithful translation requires supreme effort, humility, and patience. Back in 1980, when I stumbled upon a reference to the novella La Fanfarlo in Enid Starkie's biography of French poet Charles Baudelaire, I thought it might be worth a look.  My library search took me to Baudelaire's Ouvres Complètes, where I began struggling through the French text. I found the prose difficult and began translating passages I didn't understand in a notebook as I read. By the time I'd finished reading La Fanfarlo, I'd become hooked on the process of rendering French into English. I started again at the beginning and began weaving my passages together into a complete translation. A couple weeks later, when I'd completed my rough translation, I decided to compare it to other English language versions. I wanted to see how well I'd done. Another, more careful library search revealed that no English version of the work existed in print. 

That was the beginning of a five year process of revision, as I struggled to render faithfully the rich language and complex irony of a French master into English. The process took me back to graduate school, where I worked on the project with one of my French professors. Later I had the good fortune to send the manuscript to a publisher whose expert reader happened to be a skillful translator of Baudelaire's poetry. On that reader's recommendation, the publisher rejected my translation. A week later, the same reader, Kendall Lappin, wrote to offer his help. A retired professor at the U.S. Navel Academy, Ken agreed to work with me on the translation "for the fun of it", expecting nothing in return for the countless hours he spent on the project over the next three years.  In the end we took the manuscript through another six drafts, arguing through the mail over the merits of nearly every word in the text. It was a wonderful and formative experience. 

Though I've translated other 19th century French literature, including short stories and poems by Petrus Borel, Gérard de Nerval, Théophile Gautier, and Victor Hugo, as well as a few poems by French surrealists, after La Fanfarlo, I never returned to literary translation as more than a hobby. I realized that to do it well requires more time and effort than I could spare. Compared to translating Baudelaire, writing my own stories and novels seems easy.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

On Getting Reviewed in The New York Times

In 1986, one of my books, the first complete English language translation La Fanfarlo, an early and relatively obscure novella by French poet Charles Baudelaire, had the good fortune to turn up in the "Noted with Pleasure" section of The New York Times Book Review. At the time I was teaching writing and literature at California State University, Northridge, and publishing poems, short stories, reviews, and literary journalism at a frantic pace. Rather naively, I thought such recognition would impress my peers and raise my professional and academic stock. To my surprise, about the only real result of my success was that two or three other translations of the Baudelaire novella appeared within the next two years, published by major academic presses such as Oxford University Press. Nevertheless, I continued to believe that a parade of my latest books glowingly reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Choice, Library Journal, The Los Angeles Times, NY Newsday, The Washington Times, and dozens of other big city newspapers would somehow positively impact my career. 

By 2004, when my own novella was reviewed favorably in The New York Times Book Review, I'd learned not to expect anything as a result. In the end, good reviews, even in the most highly regarded and most widely read journals and newspapers, don't sell books by unknown authors unsupported by the financial clout of major publishers. Nor do they attract editors who work for those publishers to consider a writer's new work. As I've sometimes whined on my worst days, my success with the critics and the stack of reviews touting my genius has never amounted to much, aside from bragging rights. On the other hand, I've been reminded often enough that I'm one of a small number of authors of non-mainstream literary work whose books have been consistently reviewed and well received. I suppose that makes me "a writer's writer," which seems like a backhanded compliment, a polite way of saying an author who is read, but only by critics bored with mainstream writing, other writers, and people with an overwhelming compulsion to seek out what's new and original. A friend of mine, who now teaches wealthy customers how to fly their new private jets, struggled financially for years as the conductor of a small city symphony orchestra. He and I used to joke about what we called our "wonderful careers."  No doubt about it: the arts is just the place for those with a taste for irony.

Small Press and Obscure Publications


Most new literary magazines last only an issue or two. Would-be editors and publishers can learn a great deal from the failures and successes of others. Before I started Asylum magazine, I looked carefully at other independent literary magazines that been around a long time. An excellent article by Marvin Malone of The Wormwood Review laid out a few simple rules for longevity. From Malone and others I gathered that it was important to single-handedly control all aspects of the operation—from the editing to the finances—to keep expectations for growth realistic, and to plan for both the content and the funding of issues a year or more in advance of publication. With these basic concepts in mind I launched Asylum, which had a ten year run and grew from a distributed base of under 200 to roughly 2500. I'll post more about Asylum magazine and Asylum Arts Publishing in the future.

I learned a lot about what not to do when running a small press from my experience at Unicorn Press (more on this in another post). Though I avoided making the same mistakes, I managed to make others. A few years ago Paul Rosheim launched a wonderful small press that publishes an on-going series of terrific books. Obscure Publications produces very small editions in an inexpensive format. Rosheim gives the entire press run to writers rather than attempting to sell the books. Ironically, his decision to stay out of the mainstream of book publishing and distribution has insured the success of his operation. Though never reviewed in major media, OP books have collectively achieved an impressive reputation among the ever expanding group of avant-garde writers who participate in the project...

The Obscure Publications books are part of the rare books and special collections unit at the Indiana State University library. The photo above shows OP books on display in the rare book unit windows (the book on the bottom shelf of the center window is one of mine). For more information, visit their web site: http://library.indstate.edu/about/units/rbsc/obscure.html

Mazes and Labyrinths


I've always loved mazes and one of these days I'd like to lay out a meditation labyrinth on some property. Here is a wooden maze I created several years ago to hang on the wall. The dimensions were three feet by three feet. Paul Rosheim of Obscure Publications published a photo of this maze as the cover artwork for a posthumous book of poems by Lawrence Fixel.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Interpretations


According to which source you consult, the people in this famous Atget photo are either viewing an eclipse, watching the famous magician Aristide Nambuli fly over Paris, or posing for a surrealist experiment still a few decades in the future. Though Atget called the photograph "L'Eclipse", such an metaphorical title is bound to be ambiguous and open to interpretation.

Posters and Broadsides


Over the years I've designed and printed several dozen poetry broadsides and posters for book fairs and readings. Many were handset and printed on the Asylum Arts Studio Vandercook proofing press. More recent designs have been computer generated, including this one.

Susie Bright

Susie Bright published one of my short stories in the first ever Best American Erotica anthology back in 1993 and reprinted it this year in the "Best of the Best" final edition of the series. In between she's been a huge fan and supporter of my work, publishing reviews of my books on her web site, offering up delicious blurbs, and in general being the kind of loyal and intelligent literary friend and editor every writer hopes to encounter in the profession but almost never does. In 2003 she asked me to write an erotic novella for a series she was editing for Simon & Schuster, which came out in 2004 under the title Three the Hard Way. Here's Susie commenting on her web site about Amy Sohn 's very favorable review of Three the Hard Way in The New York Times Book Review:
  
"The author she singled out, Greg Boyd, who wrote the second novella in Three the Hard Way, called 'The Widow,' is a freakin' genius. He can write better than me and Amy Sohn hogtied together to a desk." 


Did I mention how much I love Susie?

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Namesakes

Since the publication of his controversial book The Myth of a Christian Nation and the resulting New York Times profile and the Charlie Rose interview on television, another Greg Boyd—theologian, author, and evangelical pastor of a St. Paul, MN mega-church—has obscured my already dubious "fame". There's even a "Greg Boyd Rocks" t-shirt, which, alas, has nothing to do with me. Still, if you get one of those shirts, no one will ever know you're not celebrating me instead of him!


The music of New Orleans steel drum and funk performer Greg Boyd is also well worth investigating. For sample tracts of some of his compositions, click on the link below.

The 365 Project


In 2003, along with my publisher Jordan Jones, film director Tony Liano, and poet Richard Martin, I co-founded and co-edited an experimental on-line journalism/arts project called The 365 Project. The web site still exists, feisty and incomplete, a testament to both the vision of its creators and the lack of support for such a monumental undertaking. Check it out for yourself at:

Profiles, Reviews, Retrospectives

Here are links to a couple of profiles and in-depth reviews and restrospectives of my work. 




Tidewriting: Temporary Sculptures


During 2003, as part of my creative output for The 365 Project, I attempted to create a new outdoor sculpture each day. These sculptures were made on site, usually of found natural materials such as fallen leaves, fallen fruit, dirt, flowers, grass, as well as by  juxtaposition of made-made items with the natural setting. Some of these sculptures were linked to the 365 Project website, which you can view by clicking here:  http://www.the365project.org/commissions/boyd_greg/index.htm. Others later figured into my multi-media novel The Nambuli Papers.

Bibliography

Chakannah (poetry chapbook with CD). Black Falls, WI: Obscure Publications, 2006.

"The Widow" (novella) in Three the Hard Way, ed. Susie Bright. New York: Touchstone, 2004.

The Nambuli Papers (multi-media novel). San Francisco: Leaping Dog Press/BlueRain Films, 2004.

The Double (Doppelangelganger: a novel). Chantilly, VA: Leaping Dog Press. 2002.

The Tide Writers (chapbook). Black River Falls, WI: Obscure Publications, 2002

The Nambuli Papers (chapbook with original pen and ink illustrations). Black River Falls, WI: Obscure Publications, 2001.

Modern Love and Other Tall Tales (stories). Los Angeles: Red Hen Press, 2000.

Sacred Hearts (novel). Davis, CA: Hi Jinx Press, 1996.

Carnival Aptitude (prose poems). Santa Maria, CA: Asylum Arts, 1993.

Water & Power (stories). Santa Maria, CA: Asylum Arts, 1991.

Puppet Theatre (prose poems and prints). Greensboro, NC: Unicorn Press, 1989.

The Masked Ball (prose poems and prints). Greensboro, NC: Unicorn Press, 1987.

Balzac's Dolls and Other Essays, Studies and Literary Sketches. Daphne, AL: Légereté Press, 1987.

Circus Deluxe (poems). Madison, WI: Jump River Press, 1982.



TRANSLATION

La Fanfarlo by Charles Baudelaire. Berkeley, CA: Creative Arts, 1986.



ILLUSTRATED BY GREG BOYD

A Newcomer's Guide to the Afterlife by Daniel Quinn and Tom Whalen. New York: Bantam, 1997.



EDITED BY GREG BOYD

The Smile at the Foot of the Ladder: a prose poem anthology (with Paul Rosheim). Black River Falls, WI: Obscure Publications, 2004.

Unscheduled Departures: The Asylum Anthology of Short Fiction. Santa Maria, CA: Asylum Arts, 1991.






Friday, February 8, 2008

Studio


When we lived in California, I had a great studio in a separate building behind the house. Most years I participated in the Chico Art Center's "Open Studios Tour," which brought a lot of people up from the San Francisco Bay area to meet local artists and tour their studios. Sometimes I let visitors ink and pull prints on my Vandercook press. One year I cleared almost everything out and brought in a carpet of leaves... 

Reading

My friend Dale, who has read all my books, tells me she would really like to hear my voice. So here is a little video clip of me reading "Games" at The Book Collector in Sacramento, CA, a couple of years ago. video

Print-Making


I've been making relief prints since 1980 and have made well over 200. Over the years I have exhibited my prints in galleries, bookstores, coffee houses, book fairs, and restaurants. My initial lino-block prints were the illustrations for my first book of poems, Circus Deluxe. I also used wood and linoleum block prints to illustrate The Masked Ball and Puppet Theatre, two hand-printed letterpress editions of my prose poems published by Unicorn Press. Along with photo montages, prints are also a part of my novel The Double. My prints have been featured on the cover of numerous books and magazines, as well as on t-shirt designs. 

Film


In 2000, film director A. D. Liano discovered a copy of my book Carnival Aptitude on the shelf of a San Francisco used book store. His brilliant film adaptation of my story "Three Cornered Hat" was the first of our collaborative film efforts. To view a trailer for Seven Fallen Objects, the feature film I co-authored with the director, click this link:  http://www.tidewriter.com/productions_sfo-media.htm.
To view a clip from the mock documentary Tide Writers: The Lost Reel, click this link: http://www.tidewriter.com/productions_tidewriters-media.htm.

Photo Montage


The surrealists believed that anyone with a pot of glue and a pair of scissors could be a visual artist. In collage the emphasis is on vision and arrangement rather than technique. Over the years I've cut up and recombined black and white photographs I found in old magazines to form strange and sometimes strikingly dream-like images. My photo collages have appeared on the cover of books, magazines, and recordings, and as illustrations for A Newcomer's Guide to the Afterlife, by Daniel Quinn and Tom Whalen, as well as my own novel The Double and collection of prose poems Carnival Aptitude. Some of my collages are available on T-shirt designs from cafepress: http://www.cafepress.com/ldp

Interactive Paintings


The concept of a traditional (non-electronic) image that can be manipulated by the viewer to create many potential paintings from a single work stemmed from a desire to actualize the implied motion of Cubist and Abstract Expressionist paintings. Using slide puzzles as my initial inspiration for a moveable, interactive picture plane, I began fashioning painted square tiles of hardboard into core images which contain the seed of millions, even billions of potential paintings. I mounted those painted tiles with magnets on sheet metal frames so that they may be freely manipulated. In even the simplest configuration, the nine positions of the tiles multiplied by each of the four possible orientations of the squares results in a huge number of potential abstract arrangements.

The Nambuli Papers

My latest book, a multi-media novel, is difficult to describe simply because there's never been anything quite like it before. A mythological adventure of art, magic, and the circus, centered on the life of turn-of-the-century escape artist Aristide Nambuli, The Nambuli Papers redefines the literary canvas through the use of original film, sculpture, photography, and a board game—all included as part of the first edition boxed set. For reviews and more information about The Nambuli Papers, check out the publisher's website at http://www.leapingdogpress.com/isbn.php?isbn=1587750139#advance.

For photos of the inside contents, try this link: