Beat Scrapbook by Gerald Nicosia – Review

Jim Feast

Gerald Nicosia, Beat Scrapbook (Brooklyn: Coolgrove Press, 2020) 113 pages, $19.95 Gerald Nicosia has dedicated all his nonfiction books to describing those who, through whatever means, fought for the underdogs. His biography of Kerouac, the finest we have, Memory Babe, describes how the Beat author, himself from the lower class, in all his writings showed his sympathy for the downtrodden, whether it be city hustlers, Mexican street walkers or those who rode the boxcars with him as he traveled the country. In fact, one of the most developed points in Memory Babe is Nicosia’s bringing out that Kerouac’s greatness as a writer is closely tied to his far-reaching humanity. Then Nicosia turned to the Vietnam vets. In his Home to War, he left indelible portraits of activists, such as Ron Kovic, who denounced the war and the shabby treatment of vets, particularly, in later years, by battling the VA and the government who long denied t...
More...

TRICKS OF LIGHT – Selected Poems by Thaddeus Rutkowski – Review

Amy Ouzoonian

TRICKS OF LIGHT Selected Poems by Thaddeus Rutkowski 100 pages, Great Weather For Media I am one of those people who can find connections and associations between concepts and coincidences in just about any situation. I’ll be thinking about someone and then they call me or send me a message. I love connecting the dots of current events with astrological shifts and I have blamed mercury retrograde for unfortunate events as many times as I have thanked my lucky stars for good fortune. I started reading Thaddeus Rutkowski’s book of poetry, Tricks of Light, in the first week of April. At that time the Governor of Arizona, (where I live) had announced that we were to observe “shelter in place” to help “flatten the curve” and reduce cases of COVID-19. The speaker in Tricks of Light makes simple philosophical observations and engages with people on a limited basis, but for the most part, one could imagine him being ...
More...

SOUTH AMERICAN JOURNALS January – July 1960 by Allen Ginsberg – review

Marc Olmsted

SOUTH AMERICAN JOURNALS January - July 1960 by Allen Ginsberg edited by Michael Schumacher University of Minnesota Press $29.95 First, I was immediately struck by how much unpublished poetry or early drafts (such as "Aether" and "Magic Psalm") are contained in this volume - far beyond any previous journal publications of Allen Ginsberg. In fact, he mostly wrote his journal as poetry during this period. Granted much is not A-list material, as Allen correctly understood in not publishing a lot of it. But for earnest scholars and fans, it is a gold mine. There are also amazing little notations of events, such as seeing Montgomery Clift's "Raintree County" ("he too looks sad" - in fact, Monty's face-rearranging car crash occurred in the middle of filming that picture). Likewise a long dream about Marlon Brando, who imitates Jack Kerouac's voice at one point(!) and includes a dream discussion of how great Orson Welles' Magn...
More...

Among the Boat People – A Memoir of Vietnam – Review

Martha King

Among the Boat People - A Memoir of Vietnam Nhi Mahn Chung Autonomedia, 2019 Nhi Chung has been working on this book off and on for over twenty years. A few portions have been published, mostly "earlier versions" since rewritten -- but none of them in terms of readability, literary conventions, story-telling principals -- none of them WORK. Just the same, a comprehensive new edition from Autonomedia was launched at BlueStockings Bookshop on Friday, January 17. Why? The lack of consistent timeline, the disjointed pacing, the flattened emotions, actually make Ms. Chung's book an amazing document and finally a deeply moving one. Her book through its many changes, quotations from the work of others and evidence of rewriting "help", remains utterly artless. I know that word has a sweet definition. It can be taken to mean charm. Without guile or artifice. But at bottom "artless" means exactly what it says: Without art. ...
More...

Uncle Skallywag by Shiv Mirabito – Review

Andy Clausen & Pamela Twining

The poet carries the Universe on his shoulders (p 20). Thus, Shiv Mirabito, in his beautiful and provocative new book, Uncle Skallywag, published by Shivastan Press in Kathmandu, Nepal, on handmade paper, leaps bravely into the fray - outsider art, renegade artists, poems and poets gone before, Ginsberg, Ira Cohen, Janine Pommy Vega, Corso, and many others. This book is a nifty sweep of poetry influenced by Whitman, the Beats, Buddhism, Anthropological travel, thousands of movies, and rock n roll. Let’s peruse some of them. AMERICAN VALUES, sharply satirical, is all about freedom becoming synonymous with amassing money and adoration of Self. “I know I am the crown of creation I have dominion over all that I see I am totally sure because I saw it on TV” (p13) The eponymous UNCLE SKALLYWAG defines, outlines, and reinforces the fiercely compassionate persona of Skallywag, the friendly Outsider, the goodhear...
More...

Max Sees Red by Martha King – Review

Jim Feast

Martha King, Max Sees Red (New York: Spuyten Duvvil, 2019) One of the greatest mysteries of Martha King’s brilliant new novel Max Sees Red does not appear in the narrative itself but in the author’s bio at the end. It reads, “Martha King has never lived in the Hudson Valley or in Soho where this story takes place.” The mystery is that this story, set in those two locales in 1978, paints such a vivid and detailed portrait, one with the ring of authenticity, so that until hitting this end note the reader thinks the author is using materials drawn from her own life. For instance, look at this this sharply etched description of the changing face of Hudson Valley: As Max turned the car from the parkway … he noticed the contrast between the first two houses [he saw]. The nearest … was roofed with rusted tin. Its wooden sides were faced with odd sections of black tar paper, and shiny greenish vinyl. .. The next ho...
More...

COLLECTED POEMS OF BOB KAUFMAN – review

Marc Olmsted

COLLECTED POEMS OF BOB KAUFMAN edited by Neeli Cherkovski, Raymond Foye and Tate Swindell City Lights Books $19.95 The surrealism of Bob Kaufman is a true American surrealism, because Kaufman brings the blues, jazz and being a black man in the United States to his subconscious visions. He still remains, in my estimation, America's unequaled surrealist. Just as Beat's other most famous black poet, Amiri Baraka, spawned the Last Poets and the eventual rise of rap, Kaufman's influence is not only present today in Will Alexander and transmale Blackfoot poet Max Wolf Valerio, but in Bob Dylan. It was Amiri Baraka himself who coined the term Afrosurreal Expressionism in 1974 to discussing the work of Henry Dumas, and was later expanded in the Afrosurreal Manifesto by D. Scott Miller. Afrosurrealism is now considered a very active movement, with a wide pantheon that now considers Ted Joans and Samuel R. Delany among its members. ...
More...

Kerouac: The Last Quarter Century by Gerald Nicosia – Review

Jim Feast

Kerouac: The Last Quarter Century Gerald Nicosia Corte Madera, CA: Noodlebrain Press, 2019 Gerald Nicosia's Kerouac: The Last Quarter Century is an absorbing and crucial book, laying out repeatedly how commerce triumphed over art and any real literary values in Kerouac's story. That story culminates with the scandal of auctioning off the roll manuscript of On the Road to a sports franchise owner, who obviously could not care less about the literary qualities of the text and knows it only as the work of a cult author, which may appreciate in value. It is also the story of the inheritance battle scandal which arises around will-tampering and high-priced lawyers. Putting aside that Kerouac died nearly penniless and now others are making millions off his legacy, the real crime is the fact that the values he espoused in On the Road and other texts, the importance of spirituality, comradeship, adventuring and giving zero atten...
More...