john bennett | one book

5 01 2010

PoetryDispatch No. 307 | January 5, 2010


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 either by direct mail or credit card.


(December 2009) Author: John Bennett, 605 E. 5th Ave. Ellensburg, WA 98926 | phone: (509) 962-8471 | e-mail: | web page:


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


  • 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.


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


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


  • 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.


  • 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