Autobiography Series, Volume 24|
the Encyclopedia CONTEMPORARY AUTHORS AUTOBIOGRAPHY SERIES 1996|
Gale Research, Detroit, Michigan
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Words forged by a secret knowing take the listener or the reader to embodiments undreamt of.
Poverty troubled my deepest feelings.
The Child I was and still am asks who am I and why.
I knew I was in the unseen Heart of the Mystery.
I grew up in the bowels of the Great Depression. I distrusted the school, the teachers could not answer the why.
Something is going on in the deeps of the Ocean in hiding.
My father was an unemployed shoe worker in those Mammoth Factories, glaringly empty.
The owners had moved South for cheaper labor.
Our family was on Welfare.
School was my Nemesis.
It was not relating to my background, nor to my senses of alienation. There were no pathways to myself nor my parents.
I found the Lynn Public Library. I became obsessed with Books. I will use Words and Images to guide me out of the Labyrinth of the Psyche.
In 1941 World War II gave me a job in the Defense Plant, General Electric (GE), where I worked as a bench hand polishing buckets for airplanes to knock out the Nazis, scientifically bent on controlling the planet.
That year No Smoke was published, a "classic" of the Great Depression. The Death of the once Greatest Shoe City in the world.
That same year I met and married Margaret Duffy (Peg), a high school teacher, and brought with her three children into our household: Sheila, Owen, and Deirdre, who will increase our tales.
I was employed in the GE nine years. Published No Smoke, Injunction, and Blood of the Tenement.
In 1948, we moved to Gloucester.
In 1950 I met Charles Olson, a brother poet, who had a profound effect on me. A severe critic of the Art.
He wrote a mammoth tome, The Maximus Poems , in various stages of development. The first was addressed to me while he was away, in the form of letters. In Letter Five, he castigated me for not having the precise care for the city as he had. I wrote him a thirty-page love poem In the Arriving that he called the "Anti-Maximus Poem," which it wasn't, which he said was the best of my books.
We had a long-running relationship, including his two wives, Connie and Betty, and the child from each, Kate, and Charles Peter.
He died in 1970.
In 1978 I began writing the first volume of and published it in 1979 through the University of Connecticut Library-four volumes in all.
These are the bare facts.
When I had completed the first volume, I had this desire for a drawing that would be the symbol of this epic.
A friend came to mind, a sculptor, not internationally famous yet, Louise Nevelson, to whom Mary Shore and I brought driftwood for her ideas. I wrote her. Not a word for months. One noontime at the Bucket of Blood in Newburyport with Truman Nelson, a historical novelist and dedicated Marxist, a painter John Di Marino, and several others, at lunch for fishchips and beer, I told them about my request. Fuck her, I said, grabbed a napkin and, with two strokes of my pen, drew a Fish ogling a Man. I had my cover. The aliveness of those two on that throwaway paper startled me beyond words. Once seen, never forgotten. In one picture the Crisis of 350 years if Fishing went out of Gloucester. Maybe Louise knew what she was about.
That was the beginning. Three other volumes followed. The first was called The Lady of Misbegotten Voyages , and Da Songs , then The Navigators, The Community of Self , and This Other Ocean. The last volume contained a two-act play, Shadows Talking.
I had written the innards of the fishing industry about the Demise of the Shoe Industry during the Great Depression with my first book, No Smoke.
In 1979, the Essex Institute in Salem, a living Museum, presented the Life and Times of the Shoe Workers in Lynn, 1850-1950. It brought together maps of the streets, the factories, photos of workers, shoe racks, tools, the replica of a tenement and a manufacturer's home. Nothing was missing. It was a monumental exhibition of the hardships of the largest shoe city in the world.
In the last room was an enlarged poem, three-by-four feet. "The City," the first poem in No Smoke . I was dead and alive at the same time. It shook me.
My father was a shoe worker all his life, so were my uncles and cousins, and so was I for a year.
In 1991 at the same Museum, a showing of my nephew Henry's video film of my life was screened, Poem in Action . I read for an hour about fishes and the loves of the fisher people, and an hour for the movie. The room was packed. We got a standing ovation from over three hundred persons.
These events are the Moonstone and Ruby in the Laurel of a Poet.
Each book was the document of emotional history lived intensely at the centers of perception.
A tale of Psyche, was the delineation of a personal life impersonalized. A book that sprung up over the waves like two dolphins.
Injunction, was in the grip of General Electric (GE), making weapons against the Nazis, and working as a bench hand or salvaging scrap copper wire, sitting beside a small man with a tonlike voice, and cutting rolls of tape, studying the intestines of a Behemoth.
Being married, raising a family of three children, came out in Blood of the Tenement , and the "Quarrel," drunk on Peg, the Wine-woman. Sheila, Owen, and Deirdre, the three children poems, changing every minute, the growings distinct as the petals of each flower they were moving with.
And quitting GE when the harassing of the Communists by the neanderthals of the flag, the ones with all the answers, became unbearable.
That was the ending of making shoes, and the Hercules Factories with no arms and no legs, unable to move, empty as the VOID sitting on the seaside city and the amputated neighborhoods. Evenings, the Diamond District, the citadels of the She Manufacturers, losing that precious color of their superior strongholds, the opposite world to the Brickyards where the poor and the working-class lived in closeknit tenements, like loose boats in economic storms.
The shock of Gloucester at night visiting an artist. I will inherit his house and his frame. Am now alone in this house, living in an island of egomaniacs, of the lumpen proletariat, the fishermen, the craftspeople, the artists, and today the poets, stars in a Lightland that demanded attention from the promontorial views, each in possession of the Ocean.
That's when The Infinite, grabbed me bay the hair and the crotch and said PEOPLE, for which Charles Olson stuck his needles in my eyes--yeah, one person at a time.
We were writing poems to each other across the harbor vessels, Walking back and forth on the waters!
He was spying on me. I was finding out for myself when I owned my eyes after I was given notice it was time to leave my mothers's Taj Mahal.
This Olson had a knack of pinning a listener down. He had a mercurial pickaxe, he was in hid diamond view, you could see it in glints of his eyelight.
Like George Butterick said, Olson is right and so are you.
And if Olson heard me say this, he'd probably have another Letter Five to hack me to pieces with, that the characters I knew in Lynn and gave eternal life to in No Smoke had each in a peculiar way the contents in Helen Stein's eyes, and I knew them as close as you can get without stealing each one's soul.
The Garden , as clear a poem of love as each one feels intimately with, sank in Olson's meat machine, as anyone else's.
A friend Jim Bever bought me a small handpress I printed the nineteen-page poem on, my children helped me to cut the sheets and staple the small pamphlet so it could fit in a suit pocket or a handbag and feel at home, going places on a vacation.
The Law includes take others with you, or go wit them, changing the conditioning process that Olson had a gift for and so did this skylark.
The Japanese entered my life with their haiku and Zen, when Mindscapes came forth, a book of hand poems, and to get to the cause, The Square Root of In.
What fun that was picking poems off the street, anywhere my eyes stopped for a second, penetrated, sunk and drew up from their deeps, until Olson latched onto In and drove hard into the body of his Elephant Book, the Maximus--Archeologist of Evolutions's shifting faces.
The Square Root of the thing in itself, once known, brings a power that is invincible, but as yet unpolitical.
O the kinds of power!
And the Almightiest Power-Politics-the poets shun away from as the plague it is, but there the rites of Language determine the primal sensitivities of the people, the the people, and for the people-words that ring broken-down songs.
Imagine, artists have yet to use the divine Spring, LOVE POWER.
It dumbfounds me that that free agency is utterly ignored steered away from, knowing instinctively that their life would change irretrievable, if on drop of the Divine Elixir was swallowed.
This is the fuel that runs me, where the public and the private is one:
A spinning coin
like all outside
(from Hermit of the Clouds )
the simplicity of this seed has value only if it is ingested and left to fructify!
As a word from a parent or a teacher sticks in memory as a living territorial imperative.
Taking a whole life to vomit, purified!
The touched ones come to me, the others fear my intensities, and they revise their opinions when they join in my visceral laughter or even then that contagion is threatening.
One night we took over the Armory, now a home for the elderly, and had two rock bands, three belly dancers, booze, food, and divine enthusiasm for raising the money to launch the first volume of Know Fish . We raised four thousand bucks, the ladies and the guys were before and behind the fishes, we are, I at departures and arrivals, coming back loaded to the topmost mast! The city itself was high as a balloon ship! The fishes were loud with arias, the fisherwomen carrying the boats and the kids in their arms!
For a few years no more, the fishes are yelling at us, give us time to breed and sing as you do in bed when you do!
Have reverence for us as you do for St. Peter, and the Mary of us all, if the church is not in the Ocean, it is divorced from the Real, the Ideal is form and content, Beware of the Split, Western Civilization is rotting between!
So the fishes have gone on a vacation, to multiply, the law is INCLUDE. Don't rape the earth, or suffer the consequences.
Economics affects people's existence, and Politics, and poetry does not really slide off: something is diabolically wrong here.
This is the Uses of Language, and poetry is supposed to be the King and Queen here, the split is the disease is a Vortex--
In ignoring the small, so is the great diminished.
This humpty-dumpty Value edifice has the people, the masses of humanity as Expendable-
If a leaf of the Garden is unimportant, so is the whole Garden that leaf.
This is the nerve root of individual and communal illness.
This is the thought that never leaves me. It is the Mystery Oil--
As a car is so is the body, hanged up, needing body work or the engine or both-a cliche, an accepted habit--
Art's subliminal to make connections immediately, lacking the carry-through in a society gone amuck--
Every community thrives on a theatre and making Art of it.
It is its Joie de Vivre, and the styles of dancing for jumping in.
One such theatre was missing for years.
The theatre starved, went to work, and organized the Cape Ann Theatre.
Knocked one up we did, Michael McNamara brought the interested together, we established a going enterprise, and produced old-timers and recent plays. McNamara was the director.
It brought alive two Ferrini plays to full houses at the Puritan Building cornering Main and Washington streets.
Cape Ann Theatre had a Board of Directors, McNamara, Artistic Director, Ed Price, Jud Wilson Jr., Pat Perry, Tim Perkins, Joseph Profetto, Rick Looney, Kevin Ellis, Joanne Cooper, and Christina Thibodeau.
"MOONPRINTS' was a one-act play about my mother, my father, and three brothers, acted by Constance Condon, Anthony Sutera, Anthony Gentile, Tracy Tinkham, and Thomas Cole.
On the bill was another of my one-act plays from Know Fish, Volume III , "The Navigators," about developers, "Base-Ball." performed by Edward Price, Ann Koumou, John Hart, Genny Linsky, Susan Bulba, Christina Thibodeau, and Tim Perkins, both plays directed by McNamara, who played in "Base-Ball."
After the performance, Israel Horowitz said he "did not like them." The Gloucester Daily Times headlined them "Surprisingly Good!"
The Cape Ann Theatre brought on our stage a number of old-timers, lived for five years and then folded due to the usual causes such local dreams are addicted to.
Horowitz, a local playwright with an international reputation, created The Gloucester Stage Company for the production of his new works before they tried on the world.
I tried him once to no success.
Celeste Miller, who heard me read at The Bookstore, sent me two complimentary tickets for her Dance Performance. I hadn't been there since its inception and hesitated going. Some friends said why not? I went with McNamara, who acted in Scrooge and Marley .
I went in and was thoroughly bewitched by the Space and its maneuverabilities. I was high on the Logistic of Theatre. And Miller was excellent.
At the intermission, Izzy approached me and I said, "This theatre has tremendous possibilities. It is the first time I have been here sixteen years!" and left.
That's his theatre, door, stage, and choices.
Such a Boss enjoys his power but he's insecure.
Julian Beck of New York's Living Theatre is the closest to my idea of a vital theatre, embracing the actors and the people at large.
Antonin Artaud and his Theatre of the Double knocked contemporary drama out of the enemy of social constraints and remains a lonely dramaturge. He's influenced some. In another on hundred or two years he'll be in.
Convinced that staged drama is the art form of the centuries, and since it has become very expensive, the Movies have taken its place as a mass media, with its ups and downs, committed to blockbusters in order to regain and surpass its outlays and reap bonanzas.
That's why my nephew's videotape is successful when it travels with me reading. They hear and they also see and participate in the two arts.
When I saw the movie Uncle Vanya, at 42nd Street, I was in the honeymoon bed of the Stage and the Film. It threw me deep into myself. The actor usually far-off was up front in my face, pouring his feelings with me. O would Shakespeare be moved beyond himself? The bodies are missing but, what the Hell, look what is happening. He was one of the newly married and the other. The Theatre--where poetry leapfrogs itself over all the deities claiming to be The Chosen.
When Life and the Theatre are that coin, O the festivals we will have, spending that gold coin!
What prescriptions for the ills of the plant--
Humans will know it participating and so will the Earth!
John Corina was searching for a one-act play for an opera, and mine was one of the six he decided to choose from, and mine has the honor. He made Telling of the North Star that appeared in The Best Short Plays of 1952-53, into a one-act chamber opera that was performed at the University of Georgia in Athens. O Athens, a play about a Gloucester family and a lost ship come back to port.
not yet produced in my home city, and we have a Symphony.
If I cannot get my plays produced, I will see them published. I can wait.
One is on the rim of falling into the whirlpool. A full-length play, The Double Point, about a Veteran of Vietnam, a Point-man socked with twenty-one years for growing grass in Vermont, cut down to eleven.
Another one-act play, The Wellwater, about a Bishop and his son, a Marxist, and his daughter, and a sexton.
My two wives are Irish and women lovers. I met Yeats in his grave, five years ago, when McNamara took me to Europe: six days in Ireland, and three days in Amsterdam. And soon Bill Spencer, a Taoist, a friend of early Lynn, and a herbalist, my Second Opinion healer, will recite a poem for Yeats' ears alone, going into the ground and dropping the words into the basket of his skull for his journey back and forth.
When I saw Judy Chicago's Dinner Party, I flew around like a crazed cormorant, spying to eat from any plate, even when there was nothing there. Yet the emptiness fired my hunger, the stunning variety lifted me off my mind, and I was poking around, checking out each individual woman saying this is me, we are not all alike, and tough we are, we are as special as the God the multitudes worship on their knees. I stooped to read their histories, each had her story to tell, and the sight of the plates stirred my libido, as I sat down one plate at a time, Emily Dickinson's Saint Mary Magdalene, and to the next plate. I was totally absorbed by the immaculate beauty of Joan of Arc, Heloise's passion trembled on my lips. I was at the table of the Holiest of Holies, there was a halo surrounding each plate, never before was such a dinner exhibited for public eyes. I was at the Resurrection of each woman! Each has been vindicated! For the first time in all the Ages of Humanity, before my eyes, I could barely hold it, my brain was on fire at the audacity of these women to show their innermost naked, the utter wonder that this is real!
The Revolution no revolution comes anywhere near in its depth of perception!
I knew someday in darkest ling that this would take place, on such a scale that dwarfs the imagination of men!
The hidden personal and public so intimately displayed--
Eat with your eyes! Boy, did I! Still doing, with my other eyes!
The silent music, in details. If Congress could go to this Dinner Party and eat, they would each have a metanoia!
We would be able to put the shit that comes from there in its proper bin.
The veils would fall from their ignorance and fear, being reborn!
The lesson digested, or constipated from too much reality!
What great bowel movements could follow, seeing things just as they are!
This is the poetry that turned me inside out!
When Art does this, I am literally transformed into my Original Face!
The innermost secret, put on plates for the individual public to join The Party.
Reverence for the Mystery up front, raw and so beautiful I stopped breathing. I was shown where I came from, head out or feet first, that I was the beloved intimate of that holiest rite!
Each template divine!
Each arrived and recognized, for us immediately, getting it, for each living it to the uttermost degree, enlightened, and now reviving others to feed on understanding without fear, liberated from past restrictions.
Barbara G. Walker!
I had already seen Edmund Sullivan's show of sculptures, drawings, paintings, when he asked me what I liked best and I said that self-portrait. And John says, will you look at my paintings, and I, you want me to look at your work, are you sure, yes, are you sure, yes yes. So we walk into his studio upstairs, to this small room stuffed with echoes of Gauguin, Van Gogh, Pissarro, Matisse, you name it. You're a blotting picker-upper. Get rid of this stuff, blindfold yourself, and paint with your arm. I will. He wraps a white rag over his eyes, picks up a brush and a can of white paint, lifts an old vertical painting, puts it on the easel upright with one thrust at the canvas, then grabs a brush and a can of deep blue paint, whacks it on the canvas, back to the first can, slams a stroke as fast as Van Gogh, white hair, blue nose and lip, white chin and beard, fast furious, he rips off the provident blinding rag, in a hot glory. It's your portrait, and I, that's your finest work, it's yours--
He's launched full blast out of Zen.
From then on his drawings are rushing out of that faucet--
I hang the unexpected signature on my kitchen wall, he's made his niche in my restless Museum.
Next to Peter Petronzio's memory of a lobster fisher beside his hut and wheelbarrow at the Gulf of a mountain wave.
Opposite Di Marino are the two portraits in one frame by Helen Bishop of the poet as prophet, speaking, laughing, gesticulating, and a young man, head bowed, reading from a book out loud.
Bumper to bumper, stuck in the traffic of the trying to make it--
Lives in heat and arrested--
To catch the art and the life immediately, as the lady who saw me and asked for a session. Meet me under the oak tree. She came with a cardboard box, told me her tale of family on the rapids. What's in the box? Five womb-warm poems as she plucked out five baby rabbits and a sculptor, of the listener, the size of a fingernail-gone, not a word from her, the wordless working--
Janice let me peek into her cameo movie--
How old are you?
What's bugging you?
I hate my mother, I hate my father, I hate myself.
What do you mean good?
It is all up front, you can see the running film, the characters are deeply engaged in each happening-
I can see them--
Your mother is licked in her head's prison, so is your father in his deadly roots, and you, there, visiting each one at a time and then together wrangling over ghosts which they are in your head.
What do I do?
Watch them, study their actions, their voice tones, the silences--
They aren't listening--
Conflicting view driving them hither and yonder--
They seem alone--
I can see them as not my father and my mother--
As another person not myself--
Give them plenty of space--
I am doing that, and I feel released--
And Janice, what about her?--
I am feeling for her and can see her as a person in her own orbit--
Can you make love to her?
I think I can--
Then go ahead, be a lesbian--
Try it, just for something new.
Why not, that person is yourself--
It is, the shock shifted me, I am dislocated--
Caress her with your hands--
She's still a stranger--
Tell her who you are, think it--
I did, she smiled-
Too much space--
O she feels alien and good!
I will leave you, go all the way, take your time, stay with it-as long as you enjoy the mounting sensations, and you will, later you will let mother and father go as persons not inside you, with bodyminds of their own.
She took the cameo with her, walked into it, and left, directing it as one of the three players finding old friends.
To Be Continued !
Please contact Vincent via snail mail @
126 E. Main Street
Gloucester, Ma. 01930
Comments, Epiphanies and Insights most welcome!
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