HIGH WHITE NOTES—The Rise and Fall of Gonzo Journalism—Review

Marc Olmsted

HIGH WHITE NOTES The Rise and Fall of Gonzo Journalism By David S. Wills Beatdom Books $17.99 High White Notes takes a phrase from F. Scott Fitzgerald that was of prime importance to Hunter S. Thompson (or any serious writer) - being in the zone while creating. It is of course important to all artists to be in that zone, and thus David Wills uses Thompson’s writing exclusively (rather than a more conventional biography) to get to the man and his self-created myth, one far more invented than I previously realized. Most of us enthusiastic about Thompson agree that Hell’s Angels, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, and Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 are his “high white notes” - and anyone attempting to follow and understand him can see that there is a deterioration in his work from that point - relatively slow enough to entice us back momentarily (I used to regularly pick up the San Francisco Examiner ju...
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Jacket Weather by Mike DeCapite – Review

Greg Masters

JACKET WEATHER Mike DeCapite Soft Skull Press, New York City, 2021, 258 pages, $16.95 Senses attuned walking through the city: the crispness of the sounds, the grittiness of the incongruous assembly of buildings and storefronts, the light effects, the pedestrians mired in their moment, even the smells; plugged into the cacophony for the solo passage through the grid, each element contributing to a choral totality that in Mike DeCapite's hand streams forth like clear whitewater, without decoration, without a superfluous syllable. In fact, a strong, residual effect of this novel comes from what is not present. Not to give away too much, but the narrative is on its own track, so far away from mainstream formula. The delight of not being absorbed into what most art douses us with every day results in a therapeutic wash. How can a book be so full of love without irony or conflict? He does it. While there is story-telling going...
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TAXI NIGHT — Poetry by Cliff Fyman — Review

Marc Olmsted

TAXI NIGHT Poetry by Cliff Fyman Long News Books $15.00 I connected with Cliff Fyman some years after his association with Naropa University (then Institute) and its 1977 Summer Writing Program - a heyday-hosting of teachers like William Burroughs, Anne Waldman, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso and Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. I met him through then-fellow student writers Peter Marti and Vincent Zangrillo. Although late in the book, there is this poetic statement from Fyman, and it sums up his view: I see every object alive and luminous and at the same time I see the decay and death inherent in it’s very shining. Cliff Fyman is essentially influenced by William Carlos Williams and his school of Objectvism, something Allen Ginsberg returned full circle to in his teaching at Naropa. Cliff learned to sit in the Buddhist style of “calm abiding,” shamatha. Add to that - he is also Zionist, pacifist ...
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The Brothers Silver: A Poet’s Novel – Review

Sparrow

The Brothers Silver: A Poet’s Novel by Marc Jampole Poets write novels invertedly; the language comes first, then the plot ‒ if there even is a plot. In his Acknowledgments, Marc Jampole mentions a number of poems that have been transformed into prose in The Brothers Silver. My favorite poet-novels are by Beat luminary-turned-Zen Buddhist monk Philip Whalen: Imaginary Speeches for a Brazen Head and You Didn’t Even Try. Both are gentle, sad, inconclusive portraits of San Francisco in the mid-1960s. The writing is deceptively simple, but there is a poet’s languor; a sense of the narrator watching patiently, from a great distance. Jampole writes tempestuously, with rising and flipping wordplay: Desire to play Oberon in the school play claws at me. This hunger doesn’t rest, to say out loud in front of everyone, “At a fair vestal thronèd by the west….” To a mirror twin, I exclaim my lines for hours. Audition day I ...
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(a strange awakening of light that takes the place of dawn) – Poems by Jim Feast — REVIEW

Thaddeus Rutkowski

(a strange awakening of light that takes the place of dawn) poems by Jim Feast Autonomedia $16.29 The subtitle for Jim Feast’s latest poetry collection, “Poems for Lady Bunny: Chicago, 1972–1975,” clues us in to the time and place for these basically metrical, mostly long poems. As Feast explains in his introduction, Lady Bunny was a painter who served as his “muse, mentor and she-devil’s advocate.” This book, then, works as a tribute to and elegy for this artist, who died in 1977. Many of the poems are dated in the early to mid-1970s, when Feast was a young man. The book has an attractive cover painting by R. Brown Lethem. In the book’s first poem, “For the Painter, Lady Bunny,” Feast describes one of Bunny’s “compositions” and by doing so sets out his aesthetic purpose: The room draws near to the red beads of rain on the window. The sun settles like a rose covered over in snow. Now ...
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Everything Is Radiant Between the Hates – Poems by Rich Ferguson – Review

Kathleen Reichelt

Everything Is Radiant Between the Hates Poems by Rich Ferguson Moon Tide Press In his newest book of poetry Rich Ferguson promises a puzzle. Or according to the poet, collaborations “with clouds creating poems continuously changing shape & meaning, depending how you look at them”. Rich doesn’t disappoint. Everything Is Radiant Between the Hates, published by Moon Tide Press and released in January 2021, delivers this and more. Everything Is Radiant Between the Hates, poems by Rich Ferguson In the eight section book, Rich Ferguson begins his lunar journey with relationships that end. When Rich addresses the tear from his mother who handed me over to the brass-knuckled moon in “A Worry Bead, a Blessing” and the amnesiac moon, a lunatic laundromat robbing me of my quarters in “When Her Blood-Red Kiss Stains My Breath”, he isn’t mixing his metaphors. The theme of moon repeats throughout this book, carefully...
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IN THE REBEL CAFE: Interviews with Ed Sanders – Review

Marc Olmsted

IN THE REBEL CAFE Interviews with Ed Sanders edited by Jennie Skerl Clemson University Press $120.00 Jennie Skerl has put together a magnificent intro/crash course to Ed Sanders, "second generation" Beat. Sanders, to many of us, needs no introduction, but he is not the household name that many of the "first generation" are. Further complexity involving appreciation of Sanders is how many angles one can know him from. Many are more aware of his band The Fugs. Perhaps one read The Family in one of its revisions, Sanders' journalistic exploration of Charles Manson, (and among the absolute best of the true crime genre). Finally, one may know him poetically, and in particular, through his "investigative poetics" - journalistic, historical, data-collecting poetics, a refinement and extension of the political "list" poetry of Allen Ginsberg such as "CIA Dope Calypso," which arguably has its own musical influence from Th...
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Broadway for Paul by Vincent Katz – Review

Greg Masters

Broadway for Paul by Vincent Katz Knopf $27 Often matter-of-fact in tone, stripped of rococo embellishment or flowery pretense, these poem-objects by poet, art writer and translator Vincent Katz stand as testimony to keen observance and thoughtful assessment. The voice is conversational, as if the poet and reader were seated at an outdoor café sharing a pot of good coffee sheltered for the moment from the rush of activity and liberated from destination. I felt charged tuning into the, at times, seemingly spontaneous improvisation, the poet boldly applying pen to paper as his thought stream issues forth, one observance noted down which then spawns a reflection, the thought allowed to move where it may as quick as a sax solo; for instance, catching the delight in a woman smiling at a baby on the subway. The observations are coralled into form, the passion of the personal journalism contained in the poems' elegant structure. T...
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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...
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