JIM MCCRARY Reviews
Captain Poetry’s Sucker Punch: A Guide to the Homeric Punkhole, 1980-2012 by Kenneth Warren
(BlazeVOX[books], Buffalo, NY. 2012)
Did you read that ... 467 freakin pages! That’s a lot of text, friend. This is, indeed,what some would call ‘a doorstop’ of a book. Well, indeed it is. Why not, if you need it, use it. It is also a milestone (pardon that pun, jeez), an amazing collection of Warren’s writings, amazing. Who knew. Well now there is no excuse. This book should be on lots of lists….of course it won’t for all the obvious reasons readers of Galatea know all too well. So maybe it shouldn’t be on any list…would just bring us all down for sure. Now to me, a rather simple guy out here, the writing for, the editing, printing, publishing, mailing and whatnot involved with Warren’s delightful publication House Organ would seem to take up all his time. Not so. 467 pages is a lot of text. And here it is. Escaping the Punkhole of the Homeric Captain’s Rabbit Den….so to speak.
Well what do you want to know about the past 20 years of “small press/little mag/small time” poetics in the USA? This is certainly more than just a collection of Kenneth’s publications in the above mentioned HO magazine….you can see from pubs acknowledged i.e. Rolling Stock, Exquisite Corpse, Sulfur et al….where Warren is known or seen (in print). Warren has certainly been a big part of what, for better words, I will call the ‘invisible poetry nation’ which exists within and alongside and under and next too and beneath and between what might be called the ‘big deal’ or ‘academic’ or ‘MFA driven’ or ‘hipster east coast’ poetry scene(s) in the USA today. The point being made here is that, to me, a whole lot of those involved in public poetics these days seem to skip from the days of Ted Kerrigan to the day of C a Conrad without noticing what went in between. (This is based on such data as is available on the Poetry Foundation Harriet Blog.) Here we go.
The book is for the most part broken into two areas ….first -- everthing Charles Olson centric and second -- remarks and reviews of dozens of poet you might not recognize unliess you followed small press writings. No question that Kenneth Warren is writing the most articulate and educated texts concerning Charles Olson of anyone on the planet. I must confess upfront that most of what he does write about Olson is way over my head. However it is must read if you want to read someone able to dive deep into the meta of Olson…the physic, the mystic, the clinical physical, the mental and the magical. Warren is on to it all and can write to keep one interested even if (and here my hand is up waving) one does not or cannot follow all the reference Warren gathers in his explications of Olson’s poetics or magic or whatnot. I would not hesitate to say that Warren on Olson is gonna match the likes of Duncan on HD and Lisa Jarnot on Duncan. This is, then, one of the great critical collection on one of the leading 20th century writers…Charles Olson. Which would make Captain Poetry’s book worth investing in for sure.
The other best reason to spend that cash is to read Warren’s take on a long list of writers who stand out in the last half of 20th and beginning of 21st century here in the USA. And if you will notice that the majority of those included in Warren’s musing are not exactly household names in Williamsburg, NY or Chicago, Ill. Let me list a few names: Stephen Ellis, Tod Thillemam, John Clarke, Ray Bremser, Rochelle Ratner, Sharon Doubiago, Lyn Lifshin, Diane Ward, Mei Mei Berssenbrugge, Gil Sorrentino are a few of the “outsiders” covered. Others like Eigner, Waldman, Wieners, Eshleman, Dorn, Codrescu, Warsh, Myles, Howe, Wakoski. Antin….are some rather well known poets of mid-century.
I guess what I am saying is that not many collections of writings in either published anthology’s or other media are going to include such a diverse and un-discussed group of writers. Perloff aint doin it. “Harriet” aint doin it. Bernstein aint doin it. Warren is…did. Here it is.
Like me, you might not always agree with what Warren has to say or how he says it or who he says it about…but, but I would suggest that you sure as hell will be entertain, amused, educated and enhanced as you read through this book. And just one more thing…it is 467 pages sure and you would think I could find something to quote in this engagement….well I didn’t. Didn’t look for anything. That is just the way it is. Here is what I say. Find the book, read the book. Here we go.
McCrary's latest chapbook NOT NOT now available from Hanks Original Loose Gravel Chapbooks. You can find video of him reading from Kathy Ackers Pussy King of the Pirates if you look for the Taproom Poetry Series blog. You can find him at the book table in basement of the 8th St Taproom during regular poetry reading series. Other recent publications include Es Verdad, Po Doom and ReVeiled. He lives on fixed income so dont fuk with his social security!!!!!
Editor's Note: Also, here he somewhat is with his kitty kat Abby!