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Dry Crik Review
John Dofflemyer sent us two issues of his poetry magazine, the central voice of the Cowboy Poetry movement, "dedicated to the well-crafted and artful insights of a disappearing breed of men and women." All the poems have a single speaker with a well-defined moral sense who exhibits a desire to be terse and yet hold the reader's attention, to be innovative in diction while remaining modestly plainspoken. That's the ballpark where the poets play their different positions. Dofflemyer's poets write of life West of the Mississippi in a way that isn't mythmaking Zane Grey or revisionist Larry McMurtry, but just personal takes by performers coping with the contemporary world from a stance of tradition. The lyrics have no obvious resemblance to Country & Western lyrics of any kind, by the way, or even to the Austin songwriters like Townes Van Zandt. I don't know Western ballads, but maybe there's some connection there. I know a lot of the poets are musicians as well. They sing and tell jokes as well as recite at their Gatherings. I have in my hands Winter 1991 (Vol. 1 No. 1) and Winter 1992 (Vol. 2 No. 1). Both are 48 pp., saddle stitched, made by folding 8 1/2 by 11 inch paper once, with a stiff cover, both covers illustrated by Leslie Fry with a pen-and-ink landscape. The inside front cover of the '91 issue lists 8 cowboy poetry "Gatherings," and the inside back cover lists books (and tapes, I think) of about twenty poets, available from The Western Folklife Center, P.O. Box 888, Elko, NV 89801, (702) 738-7508, including Rod McQueary's Chicken Ranch. In this listing, each poet is identified with his town and Western state. On the last two pages of the Winter '92 issue there are contributors' notes, called "The Remuda," where many of the poets listed offer books for sale. Each issue presents about 20 poets, with the name of each poet handily printed as a header on the pages with his or her poetry. Women poets are strongly represented, with a rough gender parity in the Winter '92 issue. Each issue opens with a thoughtful, detailed essay from the editor about the poets featured. In the Winter '92 issue Dofflemyer says that Jo Ann Mapson of Orange Coast College is working on a collection of essays about cowboy poets. There are strong thematic ties between cowboy poetry and poetry by U.S. vets. There's the matter of trying to apply values from an idealized U.S. way of life to the contemporary world, and the matter of the sort of people who become infantry publishing poetry. As far as straight personnel involvement goes, Dofflemyer publishes vet poets Rod McQueary and Bill Jones in both of these issues. He plans to publish a collection of these two poets' work, and then perhaps to try to interest a larger house in publishing a collection of several vet poets associated with Cowboy Poetry. Jones said in phone conversation of March 2, 1991 that Dofflemyer plans to call the Jones/McQueary book BLOOD TRAIL, after the Jon Glade poem. McQueary tells me that there are about 90 Gatherings each year. The biggest, always the last week in January at Elko, Nevada, brings in more than 10,000 people. They will stand in line for two hours to pay $15 to hear four poets and a singer, Bill Jones says, and line up after the show to buy books. John claims a circulation of about 400 copies of each issue so far, and from the harried tone of his letter and the facts as I have heard them I bet that he is hitting a wave and will soon be serving a substantial audience. Join up: Dry Crik Press, P.O. Box 51, Lemon Cove, CA 93244, $20 for four issues, individual copies $6. Both submissions and requests for information should include SASE.
Blacky Hix on Bill Shields
A young friend of the poet writes:
Bill Shields is a Vietnam veteran. A man who witnessed and participated in more bloodshed than the most notorious serial killer. He died in the jungle of Viet Nam at the age of 19. The ghost of his soul haunts Blood Trails, a book of 127 poems. The pages of this work bleed, the severed fingers gouge your eyes, the endings stop your heart. When you open this book you pry open a coffin. The narrator is a corpse, blue-lipped and smiling, puffing a cigarette. Your cowardice is soon to be exposed. You will shrink before these lines that drop like young troopers with sucking chest wounds.
one hit to the body
I've watched the faces grind away my life
those looks that never forgot My Lai
never forgot the Buddhist monk burning in the
streets of Saigon
the napalm that burned the parents of their
they should've been on the other side of the tv
where the pain turned a man's skin inside out
& no one
There is also a dark and biting humor. A hoarse laughter resigned to its fate. The eyes witnessing the unending horror do not blink. There is no flinching or partial survival on this burning journey through Hell. The napalm charred bodies that fall into your arms are your friends, your wife and children. To the insightful reader Viet Nam quickly becomes a harrowing metaphor for life.
me & the boys got the highest rate
of alcoholism & drug abuse & divorce
& mental illness & suicide
than any other group in America
It's good to see us win
for a change
Bill Shields is perhaps the greatest living writer I have ever read. His life's experience was not sought--it was imposed on him. For sheer reality and beauty there is no comparison. Subject matter is not what grants this work immortality. For many the Viet Nam experience is tired or does not concern them in the least. Tours of Viet Nam do not grant one literary or poetic gifts. Bill Shields has made a pilgrimage to the darkest corners of the universe. He has marched far beyond the realm of Viet Nam. Out there where the casualties of 20 years ago still speak in his nightmares. He shares cigarettes and beers with them as elegantly as he shared his blood and grief. Ultimately transcending the void between life and death.
there are the months the war grinds
quietly & forgotten in my mind
the nights sleep quickly without blood--
screaming nightmares chilling the bed
as the sounds of death rattle like white noise
there are quiet times
yet I'll be standing in line at the super market
staring at the back of the stranger in front
of me & see a round
splatter his head like a melon
hit by a sledgehammer
& I understand that
This book is not for everyone. No more than a loaded gun is. This honesty cannot be digested or forgotten. Contact: 2.13.61 Publications, P.O. Box 1910, Los Angeles, CA 90068; 1991, 68 pp., $7 paper. From Blacky Hix, January 16, 1992, P.O. Box 8347, Ann Arbor, MI 48107.
Subtitled, New Writing From Around the World. Patra McShary, the commissioning editor of this outstanding quarterly for young people, had the good taste to solicit the poet Huynh Sanh Thong for work. Huynh is busy finishing his book on the origins of thought, language and culture in the symbol of the mother/snake, so he passed her letter on to me. After working in really awful politics from 1948 to 1966, Huynh is convinced that the only hope for the world lies in educating the young, so he thinks well of this publication. Icarus "features fiction and photo essays by established and emerging contemporary writers and photographers from around the world" to inspire young Americans to take a more active interest in world events. There are about twelve articles and 176 pages each issue. The issues are aimed at young adults, as in Young Adult Fiction, but I'm 32 and I enjoy their contents very much.
Icarus looks like Granta, and the contents are similar in that they address intimate concerns in settings strongly affected by politics, except that Icarus carries less of a burden to be clever. All articles are first publications in English. A bio and photo of each contributor precedes each article. Icarus is 5 3/4 by 8 1/4, accepts no advertising, weighs 10 oz., and comes out quarterly at $8.95/issue. They claim the bookstores and some newsstands carry it, but you should subscribe if you want it. Call (800) 237-9932 or (212) 777-3017 from New York. The editorial offices are at 29 E. 21 St., New York, NY 10010, (212) 777-3017, FAX (212) 777-0277. The information officer is Laurie Stahs at (201) 670-9172. Gina Strazzabosco is the editorial assistant. The publisher is Roger Rosen, president of the Rosen Publishing Group for 10 years. The group has been publishing for adolescents since 1950. Rosen is a "polyglot and committed internationalist." He says, "Our magazine gives young adults an opportunity to read quality writing on topics of relevance not only to their lives and futures but to those of their peers in other countries." I recommend that school librarians get a copy for inspection.
Of special interest here: the first issue, Winter 1991, Teenage Soldiers, Adult Wars. From the Barracks to the Battlefield: New Writing From Around the World on the Personal Experience of Service. The Viet Nam War story, "In the Clearing" is from the U.S., I'm afraid. But the author, old Army linguist Robert Olen Butler, does speak some Vietnamese at least. The narrator of "In the Clearing" is a Viet in New Orleans, addressing his unknown son in Viet Nam, telling him a traditional story about a dragon, which the father's commanding officers in ARVN had mocked him for believing. Also of interest, from p. 139 from "Tienanmen Square: A Soldier's Story," by Xiao Ye, a pseudonym: "All these traditions were intended to foster in us a sense of honor at being revolutionary soldiers; to fan our hatred of class enemies; and to teach us restraint, self-sacrifice, and obedience to the Party and the needs of the revolution. It had a powerful effect. For instance, in the 1970s China and the Soviet Union sent high-range artillery and guided missile units to Vietnam to support the Vietcong. During an American bombing raid, it was discovered that the Chinese artillery had too short a range and could not reach the bombers. Destruction over the target area was intense. Despite the ineffectiveness of their weapons, the Chinese soldiers continued to fire upward at the American planes, shouting quotations from Mao: "Be firm in resolve, don't fear sacrifice, push aside all difficulties, fight for victory!"
Most of the rest of the articles also let foreign nationals speak for themselves, and, as I said, I heard of ICARUS in the first place because they were looking for Viet authors. I also have in hand Apartheid: Calibrations of Color and Planet Earth: Egotists and Ecosystems. Interesting future issues include: Live Long Day: Working in the World, Border Crossings: Emigration and Exile, and East West: Being and Doing.
From the Indochina Arts Project
Received too late to be timely, I'm afraid. (Newton, MA 2/24/92)--Visiting art officials from Viet Nam will provide the unique opportunity for people in the Boston/Portland areas to meet with the artists and officials from Viet Nam who were responsible for the organization of the internationally acclaimed art exhibition "As Seen by Both Sides," which opened nationally at the Boston University Art Gallery in January 1991. The delegation of four will be in Boston: March 11-18 and Portland, Maine: March 19-22.
In Boston, this delegation will be honored at the opening of "Exchanged Impressions." This exhibit shows the Viet half of a 100 print exhibition that includes 50 pieces by North American printmakers and 50 pieces by Viet printmakers. Showcasing Viet artists from throughout Viet Nam, the exhibit opens on Sunday, March 22, from 2:00 until 4:00 p.m. at the Lillian Immig Gallery at Emmanuel College in Boston. It was jointly organized by The Boston Printmakers, the Indochina Arts Project and the Fine Arts Association in Ha Noi. At the close of the exhibit in August 1994, the North American portion containing over fifty prints by U.S. and Canadian artists, will be donated to the National Museum of Fine Arts in Ha Noi as a gesture of friendship. This North American portion of the joint exhibit opened in Ha Noi in August 1991. Both halves of the exhibition are being scheduled to travel for the next three years.
In Portland Maine a public reception for the exhibition and delegation is scheduled at the Baxter Gallery on Saturday, March 21, from 5:00 until 7:00 p.m. The reception will be preceded by a panel discussion with members of the delegation and exhibition curator C. David Thomas, interviewer, Lois Tarlow and exhibition artist Arnold Trachtman. The panel discussion will begin at 2:30 p.m. and will be free and open to the public. The discussion will be lead by writer Lady Borton. Numerous other special events are being planned in Portland in conjunction with the exhibition. For further information about these events, please contact Susan Waller at the Baxter Gallery, Portland School of Art. The exhibition will close in Ho Chi Minh City in 1995.
The following is a brief description of the members of the delegation:
Tran Viet Son, President of the Fine Arts Department, Ministry of Culture, Ha Noi--Tran Viet Son is one of the most respected artists in Viet Nam. His work ranges from woodcuts and paintings of everyday life in Viet Nam to sensitive drawings of American soldiers. During the war Son spent considerable time drawing American soldiers. Three of these drawings are in the exhibition. Son has been president of the Fine Arts Department since 1989. In his position he oversees all the arts throughout Viet Nam, including the visual and performing arts.
Vu Giang Huong, Secretary General of the Fine Arts Association, Ha Noi--Huong has also taught at the Fine Arts School in Ha Noi. During the war she often took her classes on field trips to areas in the Ha Noi/Hai Phong area which had been bombed. In addition to sketching the damage, they would often assist the soldiers in repairing the damage done by the bombing, and hold exhibitions of their art work to raise the morale of the soldiers. Huong has two woodcuts from these trips in the exhibition.
Quach Van Phong, Secretary General of the Fine Arts Association, Ho Chi Minh City--Phong's lacquer and gouache paintings are among the finest being done in Viet Nam today. As Director of the Fine Arts Association he is also in charge of a factory to make artists' supplies as well as ceramics and lacquerware factories. He has the lacquer painting in the exhibition.
Dao Tam Chau is the official interpreter for the Fine Arts Department of the Ministry of Culture in Ha Noi. His English and knowledge of artistic terms is excellent. He travelled to the U.S. in 1988, with the Vice Minister of Culture.
Itty-Bitty Presses That Could Derail Trains
You gotta respect them.
Anyone that puts out a literary magazine with their rent & food money is damn sure serious with their vision; while I may not agree with them 100% of every issue, the editors of the small press world are dedicated & driven folk.
Their print run is usually under five hundred copies, though some go into the thousands, most are in the two to five hundred copy range. Distribution is mainly by mail & word-of-mouth. Occasionally one will pop up at a local bookstore. But not often.
& in the main, they support the writing of the Viet Nam veteran enthusiastically.
Here's a few worth checking out:
P.O. Box 1698
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
2782 Dixie SW
Grandville, MI 49418
Great Bend, KS 67530
3365 Holland Dr.
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
Haight Ashbury Literary Journal
P.O. Box 15133
San Francisco, CA 94115
P.O. Box 621
Suffern, NY 10901
3314 S.E. Brooklyn
Portland, OR 97202
303 E. 2 St.
Long Beach, CA 90803
4 Marshall Dr., #15K
Camp Hill, PA 17011
Samples usually run less than five bucks, & if you're looking for state-of-the-art poetry and prose, you'll find it in their pages. Plus a sense of immediacy, which is refreshing.
Itty-bitty presses with maximum impact.
God love 'em.
--By Bill Shields, Contributing Editor.
Jean-Jacques Malo Writes:
"Here is the information about my translations of Viet Nam poetry that you requested. A selection of translations in French of Viet Nam poems from Yusef Komunyakaa's DIEN CAI DAU will appear next summer in issue number 5 (July 1991) of Les hommes sans epaules (men without shoulders), a new French quarterly literary journal published in Paris. Later in 1992, a selection of translations in French of Viet Nam poems W.D. Ehrhart, Yusef Komunyakaa, Marilyn McMahon, Bill Shields and David A. Willson will appear in special issue of poems by U.S. Viet Nam War veterans in the monthly poetry magazine La Vague a l'ame, published in Grenoble (French Alps). And it's all by J.-J. Malo! I cannot wait for the first translations to appear as there is definitely some of me in those!...I am eagerly awaiting your letter in French. Amities--Jean Jacques Malo, 4411 Corliss Ave. N. #7, Seattle, WA 98103, (206) 548-1419."
Jon Forrest Glade Writes:
4 January '92--My contributor's copies arrived today and I was quite impressed...I'm proud to have been in Vol. 3 No. 3, but I have got to admit that I was happier to see Bill Jones' work than I was to see my own. I've only met the man once, but he impressed me...He had sent me "Heathen Killer" for consideration, but it's simply too long for the Owen Wister Review's digest format. I was delighted to see you had published it. Your circulation is undoubtedly far higher than ours, and, better, yet, goes directly to the audience Bill has been trying to find...You've given exposure to a poet who needs and deserves it.
I'm taking you up on the Publisher's Statement to say what I did and didn't like. I enjoyed all of the poetry (I'm not commenting on my own). The reviews, for the most part, were excellent. Some of the pieces I especially enjoyed: Gardner's "Hollywood Confidential," "Lanquist's "(Not Much of a) War Story," Flynn's "Still the Street W/out Joy" and David Connolly's piece, "Another Tale of There and Back Again." Ohmart's "The All-Chinese Mercenary Basketball Tournament" demonstrated several things: how ethnically diverse Nam is/was, how commonplace graft and corruption was (and probably remains), and that the variety of assignments was so god-damn much more diverse than was commonly believed. (I, myself, am still very jealous of the individuals who served as lifeguards at Eagle Beach aka Cocoa Beach to those who were in the One-Oh-Worst.) North's piece on Hanoi Hannah was very much appreciated and answered some questions I have had for over twenty years. (Radio Hanoi also had a jazz program, the DJ of which had a vast and accurate knowledge of American jazz. It was excellent radio programming, although the DJ's mandatory propaganda statements tended to come off as very half-hearted. I would love to know more about those broadcasts (which we were forbidden to listen to but did anyway).
I did not care for Gretchen Kay Lutz's memoir, "Veteran's Eve." I have seen more than enough of what I will term "civilian angst" and I've grown weary of it. Something about the Wall memorial brings out intense guilt in civilians, and, damnit, it should. (The designer of the memorial knew exactly what she was doing.) However, Lutz's piece was well written: it just moved against one of my personal grains.
Some of the material in Announcements, Notices, and Reports didn't interest me, but I'm sure they were all of some interest to some of the readers.
Almost forgot, it was good to see Andrew Gettler credited as the guiding light behind the Spring 1991 Chiron Review. Andrew invested much time and effort in that project, not to mention postage, mileage, and phone bills, and he received very little in return.
Overall, there is very little about the issue I didn't like, and I think you should just continue doing what you are doing because you are doing it very well. Take Care, Jon F. Glade, 314 S. Cedar, Laramie, WY 82070.
Joyce Brabner called on January 20. The leading comic book author had read the review of Real War Stories in issue 3:3, and wanted to know exactly what we had in mind for a possible collaboration. Several hours of discussion over the next few days led to a tentative agreement that Viet Nam Generation would agree to commit to the purchase of a certain number of issues of a comic book Brabner has projected, about the life of Cambodian teenagers in East L.A. We would distribute our copies as a special issue of the journal, and they would be so marked. Brabner wants to do the book to help the Cambodians imagine their own lives, and to enable other Americans to understand them. I made it clear to Brabner that Viet Nam Generation would expedite access to any academic support she asks for, but that this book is to be her vision. Viet Nam Generation's commitment would enable Brabner to raise the remainder of the funds necessary for production of the book. Brabner became friendly with the Cambodians through her involvement with a touring show of teenagers from war-torn countries. She has another comic book focusing on young people nearly finished, called Activist: The Secret History of the Young and Powerful, about little-known and very influential rabble rousers. The Fellowship of Reconciliation, a group whose first congress was interrupted by the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, funded the book on teenagers after Brabner showed them an Al Capp comic about the Montgomery bus boycott. The kicker is that when one of the young men who sat down at the lunch counter in Greensboro was asked where he had got the idea for his revolutionary act, he cited the work. Brabner is a fountain of energy and competence. She told us about how she equipped teenagers from the touring show with modems, CPUs, keyboards and PCs scavenged from video games, so they could keep in touch after returning to their home countries.
Judge Kaufman Dead
Irving Kaufman, who sentenced the Rosenbergs to death for no particular reason except I suppose someone told him to, who spent the rest of his time on the bench being a good guy--in fact writing the dissent in the U.S. vs. The New York Times (1971) over the Pentagon Papers and making the first decision against segregation in the north in Taylor vs. the Board of Education (1961), died on February 1, 1992 in Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York of pancreatic cancer at age 81. Irving Kaufman is not to be confused with Julius Hoffman, of Chicago and a similarly anticommunist role and liberal career. Kaufman remains the only judge ever to execute American civilians in the U.S. for espionage. At the time, Kaufman said he went to a synagogue for guidance in sentencing. This inspired Felix Frankfurter to write to Learned Hand that he would remain on the Supreme Court as long as necessary to keep that particular Jew off. In the 1970s, FBI documents obtained under FOIA showed that Kaufman also sought sentencing guidance from the prosecution, and ignored J. Edgar Hoover's desire that Ethel Rosenberg be spared, repeatedly to ask the Bureau for help in hastening the executions of the two Communists who had worked, peripherally, to bring a balance of power to the post-war world. Ever wonder who in the Party gave them up, and why the FBI accepted such small fry? I bet no one even told Kaufman to kill them, I bet he just knew. Ah, the establishment. He was appointed to the Federal bench by Truman in 1949 and to Second Circuit Appeals by JFK in 1961. Kaufman spent his life convinced that no matter what else he did, he would be remembered for killing the Rosenbergs. Roger that, Irving. I wonder if anyone ever sent him a nice print of the Fassanella triptych? Big long half page obit by Marilyn Berger, 1985 Times headshot, New York Times, page D10, Monday, February 3, 1992.
U.S. Korean War Poem
From an ad on the verso of the first non-numbered page of The Partisan Review (published by the Center for Cultural Projects, Inc., 30 W 12 St., New York, 11, NY; printed by Liberal Press, Inc., 80 4 Ave., New York, 3, NY; Literary Marketplace 1988 puts them at Boston University, 141 Bay State Rd., Boston, MA 02215, (617) 353-4260 March-April, 1952, #2.
"If you like poetry like this --
Rally the hawks, assemble
let the harridan earth
with the marshalling of
She lays for any coin;
trade her in tears and blood;
out the wail of the casualty
(We're at it again)...
be sure to get I, Too, Jehovah, by Edmund Pennant, $2.50."
Those mawkish broken lines may just be run-ons, but you can never assume that, because not every poet knows that such is the typographic convention. The ad appears to be from Scribner's, connected with two others by an open right-angled snake, in the full left column of the page. Other ads of note: on the verso of the Contents page, a box of offerings from Henry Regnery Co., 20 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago 4, headlined by an ad for Rotting Hill, a novel by Wyndham Lewis, the High Modern who has a certain charm because he carried a card in his wallet that said he was a Nazi, where the rest of them just let it be known that they weren't anti- fascists, a list of nine critical works on U.S. literature, and this: "Pantomime: A Journal of Rehearsals, by Wallace Fowlie. The author drawing upon his New England boyhood and later experiences in France and America, shares with us his insight into the drama of man. Sensitive and deeply felt. $3.50." Wallace Fowlie is an essential 1960s writer, because his translations of Rimbaud brought him into correspondence with Jim Morrison, whom the scholarly man of letters has been teaching as a poet for decades now. If you turn the page, two more items of interest: an ad from Harper & Brothers for Literary Opinion in America, Revised edition, edited by Morton Dauwen Zabel, and, in an ad for six New Directions books offered by Brentano's, Who Walk in Darkness
by Chandler Brossard, "a novel about the 'hipsters' in New York's Greenwich Village. $2.75." I haven't read Brossard, but he is popular with readers of William Gaddis and Gilbert Sorrentino, top Cold War novelists. I haven't read Zabel either, but I have thought about him and Henry Seidel Canby for years because they were terribly famous and influential while alive and completely unknown the moment they died, which wasn't so long ago. I picked up this copy of PR when I bought a stack of twenty-five key SE Asian Studies standards and sundries (war and Civil War and journalism and a fancy hardboiled) from John Gearty of Arethusa Books, 87 Audubon St., New Haven, CT 06511, (203) 624-1848. John scours Connecticut's boondock booksellers for quality, which he sells for $10 to $30 a pop in attractive glassine jackets. He has an eye for illustrators and cartoonists and people who were once celebrated for good reason. He is a nice man and threw in the journal. I picked this issue because it had a Frank O'Hara poem (pp. 183-184. Page #s start at 142), and Randall Jarrell's "The Age of Criticism," (pp. 185-201) which everyone should read and no one should write about. The Partisan Review is full of things I am allergic to: New York Stalinism, New York anti-Stalinism, solemn critics writing about dull books. But taking a copy by itself, full of the dust I really am allergic to, and carrying it home with Joseph Buttinger and Douglas Pike and Eugene Genovese and Time on the Cross and The Boys on the Bus and The New Journalism, I was able to enjoy the O'Hara and the Jarrell and read the great old ads from another world.