john bennett | sometimes you feel so all alone

10 12 2011

Charles Bukowski | Photo by Herb Ritts

POETRY DISPATCH No. 360 | December 10, 2011

John Bennett

Sometimes You Feel So All Alone

I’d like to address the court. I’d like to address the hung jury. I’d like to address the envelope in the best penmanship possible. I’d like to dress up like a Lilliput and go traipsing thru the streets of Chicago. I’d like to dabble in redress to ease my distress. I’d like to respond to the warrant. I’d like to warrant your love. I’d like to live in a warren and watch the world pass by.

I wish I could stop tap dancing and snapping my fingers. I wish I could take off this grease paint. I wish I could lay down and die. No, seriously, how bad could it be? Except I wonder how long my brain will continue to churn after my heart has stopped. I wonder if they’ll be unkind to my body.

I’m partial to a funeral pyre pushed out to sea. Or just lay me down in the leaves in some deep forest dressed in everyday clothes. I don’t need a service where people show up who’ve stopped thinking about me years ago. Let’s not make a lie of it on the cusp of my last breath.

Sometimes you feel so all alone it just feels right.

Goodbye, Charles Bukowski.





john bennett | the silent treatment

16 09 2011

POETRY DISPATCH No.352 | September 16, 2011

The Silent Treatment
John Bennett

Sitting around
Ferlinghetti’s
apartment
over his
print shop
on upper Green
almost
40 years ago
after Bukowski’s
first
City Lights
reading
with Ferlinghetti
Bukowski
Rip Torn &
a host of
minions
someone said
Bukowski
you’re the
only one
who’s
done it &
I said
no one’s
done it
or we
wouldn’t
still be
trying to
do it &
Ferlinghetti said
the Beats
did it.

The Beats?
I said.
Kerouac?
Ginsberg?
Ferlinghetti?
But then,
you’re Ferlinghetti
aren’t you.

The room
got very
still &
Bukowski
smiled
down into
his beer
cradled on
his great
protrusion
of gut
& said
Now you’ve
done it
Bennett.

Ferlinghetti
stared at
me with
ice blue
eyes
that said
we’re
going to
silence you.

Which they
never did.


John Bennett

Battle Scars

John Bennett

30 new poems.

All 125 books signed by the author. Twenty-five of the books come with a signed watercolor by Henry Denander.

Mini-chapbook format, in wraps.

Cover art by Henry Denander.

Please click here… if you are interested in buying this book.





john bennett | the black blood of dinosaurs

25 05 2010

PoetryDispatch No. 321 | May 25, 2010

JOHN BENNETT

Editor’s Note: There is so much anger in me over the oil spill in the Gulf I can’t stand to hear or read another word about it. I know I am not alone trying to deal with this rage.

In a few weeks I will be teaching my annual Writing Workshop at The Clearing, www.theclearing.org here in Ellison Bay, Wisconsin where I have not so much ‘taught’ as presented my sense of the writer’s life for over thirty years. The theme of this year’s workshop is “The Writer and the Bigger Picture.” Major study includes: Carolyn Forche’, Nadine Gordimer, Tim O’Brien. I suspect you know where I am headed with this theme.

I prefaced my description of the course this year with a quote from Pablo Neruda: “From the Inca to the Indian, from the Aztec to the contemporary Mexican peasant, our homeland America has magnificent mountains, rivers, deserts and mines rich in minerals. Yet the inhabitants of this generous land live in great poverty. What then should be the poet’s duty?” (Italics mine).

John Bennett has always known precisely what the poet’s duty is in both poetry and prose. His brilliant ‘shards’ (a new collection of these gems recently released, DRIVE BY ) are evidence enough. So too the poem below, (a likely candidate for class study) where, with a single image, John skillfully raises the mundane, preachy aspect of the “poetry of politics,” turning anger into art. –Norbert Blei

The Black Blood of Dinosaurs

John Bennett

Two memorial
services in
one day after
mowing half
the lawn, a
20-minute nap
that turned into
three hours,
sitting on
the hill
drinking coffee
with darkness
coming on
while 2,000
miles south the
Gulf of
Mexico
fills with
the black blood
of dinosaurs.

Both John’s new novel, Children of the Sun & Earth and Drive By are now available by credit card from the Hcolom Press web page by clicking here…





john bennett | one book

5 01 2010

PoetryDispatch No. 307 | January 5, 2010

ONE BOOK

by
John Bennett

Poetry Dispatch begins the year 2010 with a new series that will run periodically in the continued hope of advancing good writing, good writers, good books with as much www exposure I can attract from my corner of the world. Good but too often obscure, little known, little read, misunderstood, somewhat forgotten writers and their work. As opposed to the fashionable professionals heralded on national talk shows, USA TODAY bestsellers lists, their books bountifully displayed in discount bookstores, or boldly beckoning weary travelers to throw down their charge card and partake of some forgettable airport terminal-reading for a glossy-colored hardback at $25 a pop or more.

I have a number of seasoned writers in mind, writers with a significant history of publication, many of whom I have never met, know only through their work; writers I will be asking to introduce themselves through only one book of theirs.

Perhaps a book they feel best describes what their life-work is all about. Or a book they felt never received the attention it deserved. Or one that is a particular favorite of the author’s.

Still another possibility is one that many writers experience. An acquaintance…a complete stranger approaches: “So you’re a writer? Tell me a book of yours I should read.”norbert blei

ONE BOOK—-by John Bennett

“Which of your books do you think I should read?”

A question that when asked fills me with despair. Frustration. Cynicism, anger and sarcasm. A string of negative emotions. Why? It has to do with how much of my existence is tied up in my writing (by this point, nearly all of it) and how little of the person asking the question (a lifetime of experience tells me) is likely to be tied up in what the writing is tied up in.

It’s all been leading somewhere, I see now, at the age of 71, with a lifetime of writing behind me. I’m obviously not in it for the money. I’m not in it for the fame. I’m in it for the recognition, not of me but of the writing; of the direction the writing is going in, of the destination it leans toward. I didn’t plan it this way, but this is how it turned out. I seem to be at something’s disposal.

Important to know: When I went into the first grade, I could read and write; when I came out the other end, I couldn’t. By the time I was ten I was writing poetry in secret.

Over the years I’ve written many stories, novels and poems, most of it fitting within some already established framework. Some of it was highly praised. None of it sold well.

My writing made a quantum leap in the mid 1990s. I began writing Shards. Shards are defined not by the form they take (most “look like” prose poems) but by the energy that drives them. There was a psychic eruption in my mind and spirit that left acquired skills and native talent intact but shattered societally-imposed constraints and assumptions, subliminal or in-your-face. The outpouring of writing this phenomenon brought about was (and still is) almost more than I can keep up with.

There’ve been numerous collections of Shards published. I recommend any of them over anything I wrote earlier, if you’re curious about where my writing is at and where it’s heading. But if I had to recommend one book, I’d choose Tire Grabbers, a novel driven by Shard energy, an allegory for the times we live in and the times we’re moving into, a prophecy with children as its heroes, fueled by cynicism and anger, humor and hope–a little something for anyone with the desire to shatter chains. Tire Grabbers has been embraced by a passionate sub-culture of young people, mostly artists and musicians and high-school dropouts. It has not sold well.

Tire Grabbers is available from Hcolom Press (Hick-o-lum) at http://hcolompress.com/mcart/index.cgi?code=3&cat=4 either by direct mail or credit card.

PUBLISHING RECORD

(December 2009) Author: John Bennett, 605 E. 5th Ave. Ellensburg, WA 98926 | phone: (509) 962-8471 | e-mail: dasleben@fairpoint.net | web page: http://www.hcolompress.co/books

BOOKS DUE IN 2010

  • Drive By (shards) Lummox Press
  • Children of the Sun & Earth (novel) Hcolom Press

PUBLISHED BOOKS

  • Cobras & Butterflies (shards) Mystery Island Press, 2008
  • Firestorm (shards) Pudding House Press, 2008
  • One Round Robin (shards) Green Panda Press, 2008
  • Tire Grabbers (novel) Hcolom Press, 2006
  • The Theory of Creation (shards) Vagabond Press, 2005
  • War All the Time (shards) Vagabond Press, 2005
  • The Birth of Road Rage (shards) Vagabond Press, 2005
  • Cheyenne of the Mind (shards) dPress, 2004
  • The Stardust Machine (shards) Mt. Aukum Press, 2002
  • We Don’t Need Your Stinking Badges (shards) Butcher’s Block Press, 2001
  • Fire in the Hole (shards) Argonne House Press, 2001
  • Greatest Hits (poetry) Pudding House Press, 2001.
  • Betrayal’s Like That (prose/poetry) Vagabond Press, 2000
  • Domestic Violence (shards) FourSep Publications, 1998.
  • The Moth Eaters (stories) Angelflesh Press, 1998.
  • Rodeo Town (personality profiles) Vagabond Press, 1997.
  • Karmic Four-Star Buckaroo (stories/essays/shards), Pudding House, 1997.
  • Bodo (novel) Smith Publishers, NYC, 1995. Quartet Books, London, 1996 Mata Publishers, Prague, 1997 (Czech translation)
  • The Names We Go By (novella & stories), December Press, 1993.
  • Flying to Cambodia (novella) Smith Publishers, 1991.
  • The New World Order (stories) Smith Publishers, 1991.
  • Crime of the Century (social commentary) Second Coming Press, 1986.
  • Survival Song, (journal–three volumes) Vagabond Press, 1986.
  • Tripping in America (travel journal) Vagabond Press, 1984.
  • The White Papers (essays –four volumes) Vagabond Press–1982/83.
  • Crazy Girl on the Bus (poems) Vagabond Press, 1979.
  • Whiplash on the Couch (stories/poems) Duck Down Press, 1979.
  • The Adventures of Achilles Jones (novel) Thorp Springs Press, 1979.
  • La-La Poems Ghost Dance Press, 1977.
  • The Party to End All Parties (stories) Fault Press, 1976.
  • The Night of the Great Butcher (stories) December Press, 1976.
  • Anarchistic Murmurs from a High Mountain Valley (prose poems) Vagabond Press, 1975.

AUDIO

  • Rug Burn (CD) (shards) Vagabond Press, 1999

FILMS

  • Adam in the Year One (surreal Vietnam drama) Vagabond Productions, 1987

ANTHOLOGIES

  • The Living Underground, Whitston Pub. Co., NYC, 1973.
  • Wormwood Review #55, Special Section, Stockton, CA, 1974.
  • Poets West, Perivale Press, Van Nuys, CA, 1975.
  • The Pushcart Prize Anthology, Pushcart Press, Wainscott, NY, 1976.
  • The Vagabond Anthology – Best of the first decade of Vagabond magazine, Vagabond Press, 1978.
  • Editor’s Choice Anthology – Best of the Small Press, 1965-77, The Spirit That Moves Us Press, Iowa City, IA, 1980.
  • Fiction/82, Paycock Press, Washington, DC, 1982.
  • Green Isle in the Sea (small-press personality profiles), December Press, Chicago, 1986.
  • Stiffest of the Corpse – Best of the Exquisite Corpse, Baton Rouge, LA, 1989.
  • The Party Train (prose poem anthology), New Rivers Press, Minneapolis, MN, 1994.
  • The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry, Thunder’s Mouth Press, NYC, 1999.

AWARDS

  • Iron Country Anthology (Washington state writing competition — 1st prize in fiction), Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend, WA, 1978.
  • The William Wantling Award (for Crime of the Century ), Second Coming Press, San Francisco, 1987.
  • The Darrell Bob Houston Award Tom Robins, committee chair (for the essay “De-euphemizing the Sixties,” Clinton Street Quarterly, Portland/Seattle, 1988).
  • Drue Heinz Literary Prize (finalist), University of Pittsburgh Press, 1991





john bennett | two for a day

13 08 2008

Poetry Dispatch No. 249 | August 12, 2008

Two for a Day

from John Bennett

Note from the Editor:

Put a little John Bennett in your life.
You will be better for it. Live it.

Books at: Hcolompress


Norbert Blei

Hollyhocks
&
High-energy Young Ladies

John Bennett

Make sense of a sunbeam, calculate a wave, calibrate a wolf howl, draw lines in the dust, go grim with a rifle defending the motherland, fatherland, land on your feet and start running, the hounds bay and the fox hunt is on.

Back and forth between the particular and the germane like a praying mantis lost in a butcher shop, cowboys and cowgirls riding side-saddle into the arena, gladiators peering through slits in spiked helmets, who do you love?
Is it me, could it possibly be after all these years of false starts, heaps of gutted crab piled high in the corner?

I’ve got things gone amiss in life, a granddaughter gone astray, a lover with her arms crossed in a pout, a trick knee, heart, pony, imagination off in the ditch, tangled in carnage and confetti.

I wake with a whistle, slap my head and hop to it, I’ve still got a trick up my sleeve. Secrets intact I skip out the door into my rat-trap conveyance and with lights blinking red all around me roar off. “Java, java, java,” I think, my life reduced to a coffee bean. “Plunk your magic twanger,” I think, my vocabulary shrouded in code, ancient kid shows on the radio displacing Nietzsche and Kant.

Hi-ho, hi-ho, off we go with the first cigarette of the day burning bright like a blowtorch between my once kissable lips.

The first rig at the drive-thru, the glass slides back and there they are, three blond, dark and tall beauties, a wild crazy perfection that drops death to its knees.

“Ho!” I sing out and trigger delight in them. They all three dance and glide to the window like goldfish in a pond, as if we’d just met in a dream.

“What’ll it be?” says the tall one, and “Yes indeed!” I say. “What will it be!” Then we’re lost for words as the universe sings all around us.

I drive off with a 20-oz. drip and pass a row of pink, red and white hollyhocks along an old wooden fence just as the sun rises up over the ridge. I burst out in song and for a moment have the world by the tail.

A Day in the Life

John Bennett

Here’s a message from god. A glimpse behind the curtain. A tour guide through the seven dancing veils. An eye opener, a spine tingler, a twist of lemon. This can’t go on forever. The ink runs out, the paper turns brittle and bursts into flame, the alarm malfunctions.

This morning three laughing girls at a coffee-house drive-up set my heart dancing and launched me into the day. Twenty minutes ago and thirteen hours later there was only one girl left at the window, and she’d been there all day. I’d just woken up from a nap full of bad dreams and she was pulling a triple shift. The dance was gone from our eyes. We exchanged courtesies at the end of the transaction and I drove off.

Now I’m sitting in my car on the overlook at the top of this hill, last light in the sky, an entire lifetime lived in a day.





john bennett | murmurs and shards

1 12 2007

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NOTES from the UNDERGROUND… No.126 | November 28, 2007

John Bennett: Murmurs and Shards by Norbert Blei

It’s almost a square-shaped chapbook, unusual in size, about 7 by 8 inches (plus or minus) stuffed in my small library of stacked wooden crates (floor to ceiling) here in this old chicken coop where I work. The chaps are packed tightly in rows, folded stapled bindings sans titles. Some I almost know by color, by sight…covers faded, tattered. This is a working writer’s library-at-hand of good friends (mostly never met), good words, good work. A personal collection of special, small press books I have a history with and keep near. Touchstones of a sort. Probably no one within miles and miles of this place ever heard of any of these books and writers. A reminder that the literary world, the literary life belongs to these writers too. The un-Oprahed, unlisted, un-academically acclaimed. “Authentic” is a word that comes to mind.

I pull the chaps out of the crates for almost any reason and at almost any time of year. Spring, summer, fall especially, when I can sit on the bench outside the coop, take a break, sip a cup of coffee (once upon a time, smoke a pipe) and just dwell in the quiet of the woods, the knowledge of lake water within walking distance, and the words, images, ideas, memories of a writer and his work—often an old, small press friend I may have lost track of through the years.

The faded gray cover of John Bennett’s chapbook, ANARCHISTIC MURMURS from a High Mountain Valley, alas has seen better days. I handle it like an old sea scroll. The flimsy cover has finally separated from the staple binding. The corners are bent, There’s a slight tear on both front and back. The fuchsia-colored mountain range (wrap-around cover image) however, still speaks as loud and in unison with the title. On the bottom of the back cover one finds: VAGABOND CHAPBOOK #1 $1.00 Inside the front cover I discover the chap was published in 1975. It goes back to then. Anarchy, mountains, valleys, murmurs and more. The pages are pure pulp, turning brown, fading fast. The words, though, still highly readable. The miracle of mimeograph printing (the high-tech of those, our times). Everyman his own printer. Small press printing at its affordable best—which Bennett practiced with a passion. A book pleasurable enough to sift through at any time. Murmuring still:

THE WAY LIFE GOES

Take this for the truth: the ground is wet and the leaves are green and the man next door drives a big truck. The cup on the desk you used to drink beer out of once in a land called Germany (when you were young and foolish) now holds dust, spiders and the stubs of your pencils. But don’t panic. Just take a deep breath and try to realize that this is the way life goes.

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I remember when I first read that. l always liked it. Begin with a line “Take this for the truth” and who knows where it will take you—writer or reader. I have memorable mugs all over my own desk and windowsills, filled with dust, spiders, moths, marbles, mouse turds, colored pencils, paint brushes, broken pipes, pencil stubs, dead flowers, dry ballpoint pens… this is the way life goes

Read on…

FORGET ABOUT THE HARVEST

The trick is not to let anything begin to take shape. The moment it takes shape or even gives an indication of taking shape, rip it apart. Rip it out by the roots in your head and run the plow through one more time. Even if you’re out there on the plow day and night, under the sun and under the moon, keep at it. Forget about the harvest. There will be no harvest. Just keep your plow going. Back and forth, back and forth for the rest of your days. There is no sense in figuring any of it out, because there is nothing to be figured out. What you figure out you make up, and that’s where all the trouble starts.

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A good murmur for a writer to lend heart to, repeatedly.

There’s a temptation to print everything by Bennett within reach of me. Acquainting the reader with yet another mostly unknown, unheralded underground writer of note. Back to the 60’s…back to the time he edited his own movin’ little mag, VAGABOND. Back to the 70’s, when he printed a number of his stories (“Zabrinski’s Finest Hour,” “The Night of the Great Butcher,” among them) in Curt Johnson’s ‘big’ little/literary mag, december. The late 80’s into the 90’s I lose track…Both a lot going on and nothing going on. For many of us still working the sidelines, a sort of fog seemed to seep in, everybody disappeared or disappearing to some degree, some pulling back; some settling into the onslaught of age and health; some maybe a little lost, fed up, wandering through unfinished works and thoughts of what might-have-been but wasn’t, never will be. None of us know the other’s whole story, true or false. But most everyone continued the journey, struggled with the world one way or another. Bennett, at last count, has some 38 books to his name, yet damn few know his name—outside the small press world.

It started for Bennett with murmurs (ANARCHISTIC MURMURS)…and now, in these our contemporary times, I can say with authority and (the sound of my own two hands clapping): he’s still around. Never really left. A little older, angrier, wiser. A little more worse for wear, physically—if I read the dark health reports clearly between his lines. He’s still at his outpost—Ellensburg, WA. And it’s just harder an harder to find writers like him these days of everybody reading-the-same-book-some celebrity-tells-you-to read while the real writers out there, men and women of integrity, are continually ignored, dismissed, made invisible.

As I see it, taking the long view, Bennett’s now turned his old heart “Murmurs” into these brilliant “Shards” which he calls them. Shards that keep surfacing from somewhere deep within a lifetime of work, reading, writing, observation. These philosophical, poetic sharp shards, which he keeps picking and polishing and publishing…laying them down one at a time on the internet—for those who can find them, those willing to take the time to read the real stuff.

THE ONE TRUE REALITY

The artist strives to recreate his reality minute by minute, that’s the consensus of a school of thinkers who make it their business to stay on top of things. This is news to the artists who are too busy doing it to think about it.

The thinkers are disturbed by what they perceive as this nonchalance on the part of artists and their anarchistic tendency to jack reality around on a whim. They spend a lot of time establishing schools for the artists to be trained in, in order to enhance their understanding of their proper place in the order of things. The thinkers see themselves as guardians of The One True Reality, and the artists who fall in line are awarded with titles and recognition and generous creation grants; their art is then exhibited, their music played, and their books published. Artists who rebel against the thinkers are labeled irrelevant, and measures are taken to prevent their deviant creations from coming off the blocks.

I probably shouldn’t be saying this out in the open, because once the guardians of The One True Reality get wind of it, they’ll put their enormous Uniformity Machine in gear and set up a whole new network of screening schools, but I’ll say it anyway: I think the driving force in true artists goes deeper than an urge to create new realities for themselves; I don’t think they’re realities at all, I think they’re maneuvers and ploys, attempts to suck up and transform the misnomered One True Reality and its Uniformity Machine into a booming world of trumpets and drum rolls, undulations of undiminishing ecstasy and rapture, bright blended color, ceaseless motion that flows so harmoniously it appears to stand still.

I think true artists are the angels at the core of things, and they’re out to get us.

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ANCESTORS & PROGENY

Limited derangement. Hobnobbed estrangement. Ancestral echoes rumbling through my blood like thunder. Who are these people? What have they left me to deal with what I have no choice but to deal with?

I was born disassociated and there’s nothing left to hang on to. Bring on your elections, your church-going multitudes, your wise investments and your slaughter-house wars. I walk through it all as if it were mist.

It’s no better with progeny. I’m a glitch in an eternal continuum. I’ll make do with small moments of kindness and soft fingers that now-and-then brush my cheek.

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SOMETIMES IT ALL COMES TOGETHER AT ONCE AND HOLDING HANDS LIKE A GANGLY BUNCH OF SKELETONS, DANCES AROUND THE MAY POLE…

Driving along yesterday between window jobs I got a cell call from a good friend who years ago I used to drink with. I almost wrote party with, but we didn’t party, we drank, and then we went crazy. People keep waiting for me to do the romantic thing and die young in a car crash or from a drug overdose or from a bullet through the crown of my skull as I shimmied down a drain pipe from the second story window of another man’s wife, but I kept on keeping on and got older and people lost interest.

My friend had concern in his voice. “You doing okay?” he asked

“Fine,” I said. “How about you?”

“I’m fine,” he said. “I was just wondering about you.”

I figured it was the Shards. I get that concern from a number of close friends, some I’ve had to take off the list they get so upset.

I think most of what’s wrong with the world comes from people spending too much time with each other. Spend enough time alone (and I may be talking more time than you can possibly imagine) and a you that has nothing to do with the you that hangs out with people (in churches, at dances, in sports arenas, the Cub Scouts, the army, marching bands, the bars, your living room) begins to surface. I’ve been spending large amounts of time alone since I was a small child, and that’s the me who writes Shards,

This is probably as close as I’ll ever get to having both of me in the same place at the same time, not that that’s a good thing.

If you meet a writer who is exactly like what he writes, he’s an imposter.

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I asked John for a little bio to include in this piece. I asked him to talk about the Shards. Like many a writer who had reached a certain stage in life—he was through with bio. No thanks. There’s enough truth and bullshit out there. Go figure. Let the work speak for itself. And, like many a writer who’s always a work in progress, it’s impossible to talk about the work without revealing the writer behind it.

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“I think they [the Shards] came to me. With the wisdom of hindsight, I see now that the seed for Shards was there from early on, and this seed got planted and broke ground back in the mid-60s when I broke free of the desire to be published in big-name magazines, the day I sat down with a bottle of Jack Daniels, a pen and a legal pad and in one afternoon smashed out the story “The Night of the Great Butcher”. When I’d finished that first draft, I knew with a deep certainty that I had written something true and for the first time in my own voice. Butcher was my first published story, in Curt Johnson’s, December; Curt’s acceptance letter (I didn’t know him from Adam at the time) consisted of: Goddam! The story that makes the issue always comes in at the last minute!

“There was an outpouring of stories after that, lots of poems and a novel or two, but over time I began to experience a sense of being “hemmed in”. The next significant breakthrough came when I took a road trip around America in 1982 and kept a journal that turned into Tripping in America. As with the story “The Night of the Great Butcher”, Tripping unleashed a torrential outpouring, and in two years I wrote non-stop in the same vein as Tripping (writing anchored in actual experience with wild spins into fantasy and conjecture). Included in this outpouring were the books Flying to Cambodia and Crime of the Century, the trilogy Survival Song, and numerous shorter works of 10, 20 and 30 pages, including The White Paper Series. What it all had in common was a “theme” that motivated the writing.

“And then the bottom fell out for me big time, and I wrote nothing for two years. When I finally brought the typewriter (remember typewriters?) down off the shelf, I found myself writing journalism, much of it for the local paper and one piece, Dead Dylan in the Summer of Love that got published in The Clinton Street Quarterly and won me the Darrell Bob Houston Award, sponsored by the Seattle Weekly. The journalism was like a fighter who’s been out of the ring for a long time working out in the gym to get back in shape.

“Then, in the mid-90s, I took a trip to Belize, and something happened, I don’t know what, but after I got back I woke up one morning with the words The Ghost of Tokyo Rose going around in my head, I sat down at the typewriter and began to write. I thought I was writing a book, and I wrote several hundred furious pages in a week before I realized that what I was doing was taking dictation. There were voices in my head and they were completely unfettered and said whatever they damn well pleased.

“For the past fifteen years I’ve been a stenographer. The Shards come out without premeditation or warning. I don’t think about them before I write them, and I don’t think about them afterward. I’m not trying to create a “body of work”. I don’t have an eye on the future, on making it, on being accepted. I just write them down as they come with a ballpoint on legal pads and transfer them onto my computer afterwards. It’s a wonderful feeling. I think it is the feeling that should always accompany an act of creation.

“The Shards have found their way into a number of chapbook collections and every now and then someone like yourself expresses an interest in gathering some of them together and presenting them to a nebulous audience. I’m all for it. But how they get “out there” to begin with is through my e-mail address list, a hundred or so intrepid souls upon whom Shards rain down out of cyber space almost daily. Shards are right at home in this cyber-space, lightning-fast world. Who woulda thunk it. Me, the King of the Mimeo Revolution (according to Booklist), zinging around through cyberspace like a gooney bird.”

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To join John’s mailing list of intrepid ‘shard’ souls, contact him at daslebenatfairpointdotnet and to read more about him, purchase his work, etc. check this website here…

For an encore, here’s a recent Shard to sum-up the John Bennett story— so far.

Mental Health

I served my country. Fought the good fight. Valor and “Can do, sir! Yes sir! No excuse, sir!”
Lock and load and open fire. No child left behind, draft the lot of them.

So now I qualify for V.A. medical. Last time in my doctor apologized for not catching my aneurysms a year earlier. I told him not to sweat it, he has enough on his mind, and anyhow, how is he supposed to detect an aneurysm from a man’s blood pressure and pulse rate in an annual check up? Hell, nine times out of ten they miss them with CAT scans.

I like my V.A. doctor. He’s a P.A., actually, a Physician’s Assistant. He was special forces, dropped out, went to med school. He’s a young wired black belt who reads books. When I went in for my initiation into the system five years ago he was passing by as the in-take nurse weighed me in, and he picked up on my plucky, flirtatious banter. “I’ll take him,” he said, and snatched my file out of the nurse’s hand. The place was crawling with WWII and Korean vets who were overweight, disillusioned and sporting serious alcohol problems. I was a breath of fresh air. We spent most of the first session talking books.

Today I filled out a ten-page “how are we doing” questionnaire from the V.A. I gave everything to do with cleanliness, courtesy and quality care an excellent, but then the questions began shifting, and suddenly it was all about me. They began digging around to see if I had a drug problem. And if I was mentally disturbed. I sat back, lit a cigarette, and pondered whether to go on or toss the whole thing in the round file. Out of curiosity, I went on.

I haven’t had a drink in 22 years, and my drug problem amounts to cigarettes and coffee. Where it got interesting is when I got to the questions around depression and anxiety. It made me think of ten years earlier when things were so bad I sat the entire day for days on end staring out the window over a cup of cold coffee. Sleep was impossible except in snatches, and I dropped forty pounds in two weeks. It finally got so bad I went to a counselor.

She was a foxy little thing, the counselor, and right off the bat she put me on Zoloft. She told me I was at the patriarchal stage of life and should assume that role, then I’d feel better. She referred to the books I’ve written as articles. I lasted four weekly meetings with her, and then one morning I found myself on a ridge at sunrise, dancing like a dervish and finally crying out, “They’re stealing my fire!”

After that I began exercising like a demon, forced myself to write and to play music, and got downright Spartan in all aspects of my life. Eventually, the blackness lifted.

If I’d answered truthfully every question on that questionnaire that probed for depression and anxiety, I’d have been batting 1000 and they probably would have hauled me in for observation. So I toned down my answers to make me look like a run-of-the-mill vet mired in melancholy.

When I told the counselor I’d flushed the Zoloft down the toilet, she told me I was in danger of spontaneous suicide.

“Is there any other kind?” I said.

She said it wasn’t a laughing matter.

I said, “Well maybe you’ll find this funny—I’m flushing you down the toilet, too.”

She sat up straight and her eyes went cold. In slow, measured tones she said: “I can have you committed, you know.”

“You don’t want to open that can of worms,” I said, and walked out.

Depression?

Anxiety?

By-the-book counselors?

Electro-shock?

Zoloft?

I’d rather be a gored matador lying face down in the hot sand than turn myself over to these soul crushers.

strichstrich.jpg

A murmur is invisible, sounding some continual question.

A shard has some history, an ancient piece of a greater whole waiting to be discovered beneath the surface of things.

Transformation. Propagation through time, destruction.

Artifact.

A smoothening of the edges.

A sharpening of our story.








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