Su Byron Spilling Beer: Late at night Su Byron and I would walk back from whatever disaster, like in Fanelli’s where things happened or didn’t. On the way home – each our own hovel with beds where the sheets no longer needed to be changed every 2 weeks – she would spout invectives aimed at me, god, or any passerby. Parables and pearls, grenades and bouquets, one after another. It was all poetry and true and so you forgave her if that indeed was within your power to do.
She seemed to always be carrying a conundrum like she was hugging a neatly tied parcel just picked up at the cleaners and we may have both been equally lost and just as much into denying this on the Lower Eastside.
I still remember the wobbling façades along Broadway near Houston in 1980 [impossible to imagine it once looked like Dresden after WWII] with no building or life behind it. When we looked through the hole where the window used to be – the acid was just too good to be true – there was only sky but that seemed OK or even preferable.
Byron is a pseudonym, replacing something Jewish I seem to remember, but this never mattered to me especially when pen names were perfect – Richard Hell, Nick Zedd, Sparrow, Billy the Kid, Coco Chanel, Veronica Lake, Sophia Loren – and hers seemed perfect although it could have been Rimbaud but then she would have probably been mistaken for Tom Verlaine’s girlfriend.
I remember tracing out a template of what a poetess should be like and it looked and wrote very much like her in 1980. She with her sneaky beauty like a smooth blade with a serrated bit near the point with words that worked like a zen archer’s arrows. Bam, bullseye and in that bullseye was a hole and in that hole you would find something you could use.
We’d walk “home” [a ridiculous concept at that time] in a roundabout way not before we’d argued with garbage cans or stared up close to see what happens to certain flowers at night. We’d end up at a pizza joint on 2nd Ave. and St. Mark’s and order slices: Just enough for 3, cut the third in half and share that… At that time, this was the cheapest way to have a reasonably nutritious dinner without having to worry that you were going to have to eat it alone.
Back then when I was writing what I thought was good poetry or at least poetry described as solipsistic by a professor at school who, despite this fact, still awarded my poetry a prize – I peaked early here and have never won another since. Anyway, when I was writing quite ferociously, even while walking around at night, I admired her poetry but, later, when I began to betray poetry or it had already been treating me as its clueless cuckold, I started to become jealous of her gift for cutting meat away from the bone sparsely, effortlessly [“The biography of her would be like a ladder you had to fall from”] pretty much saying stuff the way lightning strikes – Boom, fizzle, awe or the aforementioned arrow.
I hadn’t reread Su Byron’s book Spilling Beer in 20 years. It fell fortuitously into my lap when I was pulling out another book from the bookshelf and it came along. The book is insidiously slender, deceptively modest and establishes a world where the boundaries between dream, reality, fantasy and frustration are smudged unconsciously and conscientiously. Her poems document a certain urban dissipation, which, if serendipity is on your side, leads to the distillation and eventual crystallization of one’s identity through dubious indulgences and nocturnal pursuits that may be considered crimes against logic or honor by some, practices whose value may escape you in retrospect but the resulting evidence here is that it worked.
We shared this dissipatory longing or pastime or rite of passage and spent a long period as members of a post-surrealist salon on Bleecker Street, cutting and pasting words together to see if they might not lead to a new place. They do – and did – but I forgot to write down the location at the time. Su, on the other hand, did bother to write it down in this book: it’s in cognac, on 47th Street, in Pigalle, and in a beer’s foam which “became a jungle’s river / where swimming I was able / to escape the light / the damn bright light / and rest in a fragrance of darkest night.”
I realize now that this confluence of beer and darkness, that delicious bower of night, the two feeding sycophantically off one another, is precisely the relationship of beer to darkness in BEER MYSTIC: In the pursuit of darkness using beer + brain to put out streetlights to recuperate the darkness that fosters dreams and reverie.