Shattered Wig #28

Shattered Wig #28
Coming In November!

Friday, December 31, 2010

Favorite Ciinematic Moment of 2010

Although this Greek film Dogtooth, which reminded me of Bunuel, came out in 2009, I didn't see it until this year, so it qualifies for my favorite cinematic moment of this year. Amazing scene of feverish shaking off of a lifetime of repression. Yummy!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I Am Almost Weeping - The Most Comprehensive Write-up Of Shattered Wig Night & Review

Photo by James Hodges

Shattered Wig Review

15 December 2010

(What Weekly)

Rupert Wondolowski

Frequently, literary performances are confined to coffee shops, libraries or the odd gallery so it’s refreshing to see an event where the words were given a stage and an interesting venue in which to breath. Last Friday the 14 Karat Cabaret hosted the release party for one of Baltimore’s best literary magazines, The Shattered Wig Review. The event was hosted by the publication’s editor, Rupert Wondolowski.

Photo by James Hodges, story by Dylan Kinnett.

Photo by James Hodges

Ryan Walker featured in the current issue of Shattered Wig Review.

Shattered Wig has been around for a remarkably long time, judging from its issue number, 28, and the editorial, which alludes to a recent two year hiatus. As it turns out, the publication has been in print for 22 years. That’s an impressive run for an independent venture of any sort.
The first performer was R.M. O’Brien, an editor of the interactive literary magazine WORMS, which occurs monthly at the Bell Foundry. O’Brien’s stage presence is comfortable, casual and ideal for a first reading. His work is often an amusing and intelligent commentary on contemporary pop culture but he also reads the works of others. Tonight, he read a poem by Gregory Corso.

Photo by James Hodges, story by Dylan Kinnett.

Books, Live Music, Art Gallery and more!

Same block as Windup Space, across from Joe Squared. Plenty of room inside for your bike; FREE street parking for your car (well plug your meter before 6, after that its free anyway) come on over…

30 West North Ave.

Baltimore, MD, 21201

Photo by James Hodges

Becky Hunter - “I like the venue. I come to whatever I can, here.”

The evening continued with a reading by Ryan Walker, whose untitled poetry is published in the new issue. He commanded the audience’s rapt attention with his playful series of stream-of-consciousness observations.

Photo by James Hodges, story by Dylan Kinnett.

Photo by James Hodges

Chris Toll

In the latest issue of Shattered Wig Review author Chris Toll describes a magical encounter between Edgar Allen Poe and Emily Dickinson, involving a time machine. Exploring this notion, by itself, is worth the price of admission.

Photo by James Hodges, story by Dylan Kinnett.

Photo by James Hodges

Justin Miller

There’s something uniquely independent about this publication. In an age when computerized desktop publishing has yet to reach the legal drinking age, the Shattered Wig Review holds true to a print sensibility that is rapidly fading. Its pages look and feel like those of a good ol’ zine, the kind we loved before blogs, with staples on the spine and strange drawings in the margins.
Also reading this evening was Emily Peterson Crespo who had been a regular performer at the now-defunct “Speak Your Piece” series in Mount Vernon. Her performance this evening was an intricate blend of poetry and prose with all of the deliberate diction of the former coupled with the scenic detail of the latter.

Photo by James Hodges, story by Dylan Kinnett.

Photo by James Hodges

Ed Foster of The Baltimore String Felons.

It wasn’t all words at the 14 Karat Cabaret during this event. The music began with a performance by former members of the band, Madagascar. The new band, called Nests took their current project out for a test drive for this, their first ever performance. The lineup retains much of the minimalist qualities of the original band though the new sound has more in common with contemporary ambient electronic music.

The evening concluded with musical a set by The Baltimore String Felons. The Felon Family are a unique group of contemporary folk musicians who are making a strong case for music made with hand tools.

Photo by James Hodges, story by Dylan Kinnett.

Books, Live Music, Art Gallery and more!

Same block as Windup Space, across from Joe Squared. Plenty of room inside for your bike; FREE street parking for your car (well plug your meter before 6, after that its free anyway) come on over…

30 West North Ave.

Baltimore, MD, 21201

Photo by James Hodges

Geffery Sof’ Serve of The Baltimore String Felons.

Don’t let the DIY look of the publication mislead you. Here, you’ll find sophisticated literature, with allusions to the visual poets, surrealist, automatic writing and stunning poetic lines like Stephanie Barber’s “one conducts electricity or symphonies, big bands or / trains or themselves with restraint.” There is plenty of worthwhile reading material in here all for only six dollars.
The new issue, as well as a subscription, is available for purchase from Normal’s Books.. Full details are available on their website.

Photo by James Hodges, story by Dylan Kinnett.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Monumental Genius Holiday Bookshop and Reading

Circling around Mt. Vernon Place and the Washington Monument for twenty minutes in driving winter rain was not putting me in the mood for a reading. It was 2 o'clock on a Sunday afternoon. A cold, rainy afternoon. A good kind of day for nesting on the couch with the Sunday Times and the Louvin Brothers on the turntable telling you to watch your back with Satan.

Not to mention there had just been a Wig Night and I am a lumpy gray butterfly that needs to rest psychically for at least a good week after a Wig Night. But Publishing Genius Adam Robinson was gathering indie lit forces in Jamie Gaughan-Perez's romantic Mt. Vernon Place apartment as part of the Indie Lit Roadshow happening in cities nationwide simultaneously. He put together two different sets of readers and I was flattered to be part of the early set, even if I felt like Willy Loman carrying my box of literary goods in the rain. Go ahead and stare pal! Get your fill! You too will age and diminish unless you get stuck with the worse alternative.

But of course once I climbed the apartment house stairs, shook off the wet, saw the large table of shiny hopeful books stuffed with the dreams of young authors and saw Adam Robinson (above) wearing the world's greatest "holiday" sweater (sorry I didn't get a front shot), I was able to shake off the gray torpor of my bloodline. A big warm cup of Joe didn't hurt either.

Speaking of Joe, Mighty Joe Young was there and he did not bite on my pain pill inquiries about his mysterious broken wrist.

"Yeah, I got a bunch of pain pills. Percosets, Oxymylarheartshapedoozydoos, Kimjongiliums, a bunch of stuff. Could fill a fuggin' pinata with 'em. But I haven't taken any. I guess I'll save some for when I want to escape reality."

"Yeah, right. Why escape reality?" says I, white-knuckling my coffee cup.

The reading was starting fairly late, because everybody was in a kick back Sunday vibe, shaking out their Lionel Richies and whatnot, but Adam had to get slightly assertive because he was double-booked, needing to get to the Essential Sundays reading hosted by Julie Fisher at four, where he would change from host into reader. This town is getting to be like literary New York of the 1950s. On top of these two readings, there was also The Benevolent Armchair reading happening at the Bromo Seltzer Building that day, hosted by Chris Toll and Barbara DeCesare.

I won't torture you or myself with a blow by blow of what turned into a pleasant Sunday afternoon of hearing some great writing. I was too fried to take notes on all the readers and my camera hit "Memory Card Full". Didn't want to sit there during a reader beeping out old photos to make room for new.

Did get a picture of the first reader, Eric Amling above, author of Nine Live Two-Headed Animals (which I am now reading and enjoying), who went on after the ever delightful Aparna Jonnal and David Nesmith (yes, he is related to the guy from the Monkees and he was also in Men's Recovery Project and Hawkwind II: Lemmy Atom) started the afternoon off with "The Atheist Holiday Poem" that they had written. Aparna reading with David playing a slender traveler's guitar. The poem is quoted in full at the bottom of this post.

The other readers were Laura van den Berg who read from one of her short stories, John Woods, a former Baltimorean now living in Brooklyn, New York, who read from his book in process Baltimore Catastrophes, Jamie Gaughan-Perez, who read from his notebooks that he is filling while commuting to work in DC, Michael Kimball reading from his first novel The Way the Family Got Away and myself.

I will not go into detail of how my last second decision to read my tawdry homage to Julie Fisher's quest for the erotic got me into hot water, let's just say I actually saw a look of fear on Stephanie Barber's face. I had never seen fear cross her face before and it caused rivulets of sweat to cascade through my Borgnine backwig. Now, let's all sit back with some Egg Nog and enjoy Aparna and David's .................

The Atheist Holiday Poem

'Twas the night before the Big Bang, when all through the dark
Not an atom was stirring, not even a quark;

No stars were yet hung in the sky with no care,
To be wondered about much later: how are they there?

The strings of theories were still nestled in beds,
While visions of how things work were waiting for heads;

No mothers and fathers yet to buy their children crap
Made from the same stuff as when we were one point on a map.

When out in the void there arose such a clatter,
As energy exploded and turned into matter.

Anti-Matter and Matter competed to be
With matter winning by just a hair, you see.

The baryons forming were all aglow
Protons & Neutrons arranging just so,

Electrons charging and Quarks did appear,
Expanding faster and further than many light years,

In the life of the universe this all happened so quick,
Then the matter began to organize and stick.

Shapes and forms it rapidly became,
Eventually molding into things we could name:

"Now, atom! Now, molecule! Now, protein and enzyme!
On, mitochondria! On nucleus! On cell membrane and lysozyme!”

Yielding tissues and organs contained by cell walls,
And creatures that eventually could shop in a mall!

Oh the things that were formed for us to buy,
Mounting into heaps that pierced the sky,

And all over the earth and into space debris flew,
While the debts and inequities grew and grew.

It was astounding the greed which knew no roof,
That had been the result of one cosmic poof.

The Earth on its axis kept turning around,
While the trash piles grew by ounces and pounds.

Strip malls, cheese cake factories and smokestacks,
Taking over what used to be solid black.

As if it were permanent we strutted about
We ate and bought and built without doubt,

We claimed to have permission from a fellow called God,
Who when we killed for him would benevolently nod.

Only some of us could hear him and relate what he said
To the rest of us to abide, or live in hell when dead.

One of God’s cronies was called Santa Claus,
A legend quite supportive of the cause

Of compelling us to buy more things at Walmart
Using guilt and fear to coerce our hearts.

Looking back on it all it seems rather strange
That this is how the particles were arranged.

The feeling of our permanence was just a mirage
And our so-called advancements just a hodge podge

Of random arrangements of the baryons of yore
That eventually would be no more.

And just as it grew it would shrink back to a dot;
Our universe that was more meaningless than not.

But since we are all still here, let’s toast our wine
Merry holidays to all and to all… good luck.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Shattered Wig 28 Revealed Among Nests and Felons, Bearing Great Love

It had been two years since I last cobbled together a Shattered Wig and I was feeling it. A bunch of all nighters to meet the "deadline" of the publication party while the new comforts of home and marriage called out to me: "Silly old man, look at you cut and paste like a 12 year old. Who will read your Wig? Put it all down, walk away from the scrap covered floor and get under the winter blankets with that new printing of that crazy Charles Williams pulp novel you got. Or think about how long it's been since you've seen "Clockwork Orange". Pop in a little horrorshow. Look how warm and inviting Everly is there despite how she loves to keep the window open in 30 degree weather with an industrial strength metal fan two inches from her head. You are a near broke, near old man - you might as well be well rested."

I went to bed around 3 a.m. the night before the show without having written any introduction, which I like to have for future reference, each issue being a little buoy floating on the ever rougher surface waves of my consciousness. I jumped up the next morning with just enough sleep not to feel completely like shit, but not enough to let my body realize how much more it desired. Got right down to the coffee and introduction and by 12:30 it was done. I quickly called reliable Rob at wonderful Work Printing (762 Washington Blvd off Martin Luther. They are suspiciously friendly and helpful!) If they didn't exist, neither would the tiny Wig.

"Hey Rob, I finally finished, can I bring it over now?"

"Sure, no problem. Just be careful."

"Careful? What do you mean?"

"It's snowing outside."

Panic! My old pal and bedrock Shattered Wig contributor Blaster Al's arch nemesis - the dread white substance that lines the street and renders shoes useless: snow. Then I had to chuckle. Here it was the melancholic first Wig Night with Blaster now living back in Texas and it was snowing. Last year he said he felt as bad as he did back in Vietnam being penned in by all the snow and ice.

And of course a big enough snow can be a "promoter's" nightmare. Hard enough competing these days for a crowd in overbooked Baltimore without competing with Nature itself.

Luckily, it was just a little scare and a cosmic joke to get me laughing with Blaster. As Rob, Debbie and I devoured some fine pizza and the Wigs rolled off the machines like a backwards slaughter house shooting out unslaughtered pigs, the snow became a brief dusty memory left by the slate gray sky.

It felt good to be back at the 14 Karat Cabaret, a brand new issue piled high on the rickety old card table that erstwhile soundman Ronnie had already set up for me. The crowd started up early and there were a lot of new faces.

Originally, Neoist plotter, anti-science buff (but highly erotically charged lover of Der Kindle) John "Pego" Berndt was going to bring a little Blaster Al to the proceedings by reading some of Blaster's new poetry that he's written since taking the Southern plunge, but John went down with one of the many flus that seemed to hit hard and early this year. In his stead, which was supposed to be in Blaster's stead, I opened the show (to a nice crowd of 70 people or so) by reading Blaster's letter in the new Wig about his epic Greyhound trip from Baltimore to Austin.

R.M. O'Brien ("Bob" to his arresting officers) took the stage next and whupped up and loved on it. He is not only the curator of the diverse and well attended WORMS reading series, but a great poet and performer. He mixed a nice Gregory Corso poem into his mix as well as one by an old friend of his. Inspiring stuff and well received.

Following Robert was Emily Peterson Crespo, world traveler, linguist and co-founder of the Follow the Buffalo Workshop and reading series. She read poems about and/or inspired by her trip to Egypt and I definitely think there is a novel or travel book in there. She made many references to the fine bottle of wine that she and her hubby Joe had had to wolf down at the restaurant before the show, not wanting to be wasteful. She told me Saturday that not only did she have a good time, but that she was hungover. That is all I ask of these shows - that at least one of our performers wakes up the next day with a big old rubber sack on their back. In the old days when my hair climbed toward the skies making even Gene Wilder scared, I wouldn't crawl out of bed after a Wig Night until about 3 the next day. Shame!

Above is the mischievous enigma known as Ryan Walker. As I said that night when introducing him, I always suspect there's something he knows that he's not telling us. Always that small quirky shadow of a smile. He has a great reading style of something like Steven Wright reading the nightly news as written by Zippy the Pinhead. Often he will stop and laugh at what he has just read, as if he has seen it for the first time.

One of the bonuses for me of Shattered Wig Nights, are surprise guests like Mary of an old group I was in called Groovy Like a Pig and Andy of the group Red Dogma from the early '80s. Red Dogma actually could have gone places, except two of the members went to a place indeed - Australia, when they married. Andy has since had the pleasure of playing and recording with Roland Howard. Mary is a bounty hounter.

This Wig Night had many facets of joy. One was the reunion of sorts of the group above. That's Michael and Tony Lambright, formerly of the much loved Madagascar group. This night was the first time they played on stage with Justin, also of Madagascar, as "Nests Revealed". More of an electro ambient sound this time. Great to hear these guys again.

Ah, then there's the unwashed wild straight outta Westport antics of The Baltimore String Felons. I've had the pleasure of hearing these hobos many a time and not just because the stringy wild-eyed fiddler is my genius nephew Geff. They have brought old country and Americana music into the seething weirdness of the modern world with their very own sound. 98% of their songs are their own, but they have a quality of a really detailed strange hand carved thing that you always saw on your grandmother's cupboard next to her dandelion wine. They have an album already recorded and in the can, so I hope someone with a few dollars and some distribution contacts hook them up. I know we'd be able to move quite a few hot units of it at Normal's Bargain Cobbley World.

And so ended another Wig Night. The lovely bundled up Madame Drogoule retreating out the door with her strict taskmaster Buff Joe Medusa, who still dangled some hope before me that one day I may get to play the Richard Burton part in a stage version of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" directed by him. And the cherry on the cake of the fantastic evening was that the new issue flew off the table, as well as quite a few books. Nothing makes me happier than the thought of people sitting down at night to a Wig. I truly love the writers there-in and wish them all the luck and readers in the world.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

WORMS November 23

I would have to reach far back into my life, into my childhood really, when my friend's Uncle Johnny would have us over at his shore house that was literally feet away from a pier and the bay and had a fridge always stocked with Coke and Yoo-hoos, to think of a host as generous and kind as Sir Robert M. O'Brien. In just a year and a half or so he has truly built up a great reading series that draws an attentive crowd and mixes up some good diverse intellects.

And just in case you are new to the series and not sure you have found your way to the right spot in the catacombs of the Bell Foundry building (Isn't this the basement parking garage where Marvin Mandell would eat the still beating dismembered hearts of Baltimore orphans?), Robert wears a pleasingly bright lime hoodie to draw your eye and help the pickpockets in the crowd get some work done.

Also, at each WORMS reading, Bob starts off with a nice twist on the ordinary. This time he read the synopsis of a Bugs Bunny cartoon, which took on a new life in this format. The first WORMS of the season Bob talked about the recent phenomenon of "celebrity poetry" and he read verbatim from an inane website advising you on how to get rich quick on Britney quatrains. In honor of that moment I read my poem at this November WORMs that I wrote in homage to the actor who never sleeps and whose doctorates could wallpaper a mansion - James Franco. I dedicated my last poem to publisher genius Adam Robinson not even realizing that he was sitting front row to my left with brainy and wild Stephanie Barber who was shape shifting and burning off so many calories just sitting and squirming in her chair that there were more rainbow colors being given off her aura than a sea of glow sticks at a Phish concert.

After the crowd was done with me, next up was Jeremy Hoevenaar, who moved here fairly recently from Brooklyn.

Third was the Sphinx-like Joseph Young who calmly read micro-stories from Easter Rabbit. His soothing reading voice and gentle flipping of pages reminded me of my favorite newscaster from the 9/11 mess. I never knew his name and he always seemed to come on after midnight. He catalogued updates and events in a low deep tone that wasn't meant to sedate or trick but merely to give each word equal weight and chance and the sound of his words was a promise that life would go on, that this too would be lived through and we would come through the other end of it, only to be bent over a park bench and jackknifed by Karl Rove and his boys over and over while car horns blatted out some football team's fight song.

I have to say that some of my attention was diverted from Joe's reading by the fact that he was only wearing a t-shirt in a warehouse basement on a late November night. I was having sympathetic chilblain freeze, but that might have been also from the miniature Coke I was sipping.

This gent is Matthew Smith, a Johns Hopkins graduate and he also is endowed with one of those voices from beyond. Many of his poems were classically themed and he told great tales of ancient mythology setting a few pieces up, so he made a nice lead-in to the fuzzily shimmering star of the night, Chris Mason.

Chris is one of the rare poets who I can't get enough of in a reading. This one in particular seemed cruelly short. He has a new book coming out on Narrowhouse Press called Hum Who Hiccup and he read a few pieces from there, plus one of his old "click" poems. When I hear Chris read I always feel a renewed belief in humanity, that kindness and thought can still exist and grow. And I also feel slightly ashamed of myself, that I'm not doing enough, not pushing my boundaries enough. But then I go home, slip into some oversized Austin Powers teeth, put on an episode of "The Honeymooners" and wash some Cheetohs down with Robotussin.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Shattered Wig 28 Sneak Preview #13 - A Poem by Shattered Wig Night Poet Ryan Walker

Ryan Walker, an inventive, laconic and slippery poet living in D.C. will be one of the featured poets at the December 10th Publication Party at the 14 Karat Cabaret. Here is a look at one of his poems that will be in the issue to get a taste of his writng.


less than the subtraction of its parts
a place went missing.
I’ve climbed a tree with your plans
I surrounded the animal spirits with my wispy money
and with that I stuff my farm on you
I’m trying to climb on your face
walk down the carpet
then the swart mouse brigade militant with unnamed mouse wishes
manipulated as examples and independent
these hoops of ice behave
and the whistles
my antenna is a bow
I make grapes
I only steal originals and seals.
only for the last ticket
I admit I spray a token person with windex
I slept on a cake it was faddish
I had cake shoes and my little dog was made of cake
otherwise I used a light cucumber green to destroy the lander
then a blank caper. I used it for a pointed western.
it wasn’t as meaningful as it sounded
it just took a long time and while I’m not beat up it’s nice to meet you
and of course lease a helicopter
but there is the small matter of the marriage of our crowns
we are willing to adopt protestantism
and the list of changes we submitted earlier
has been not so much rescinded as re-directed
to an oft-thwarted nation of overrated types
we plan to wear tee-shirts
we have huge record collections
we’re born on a pretty stream.
and things are observed a lot
it’s an opposite customer
grapes are bees in potholes


Ryan is wondering how Friday got here so fast. Semi-recently he self-published the hell out of his book, You Will Own It Permanently. Additionally he writes web apps and rehabs an old house in Washington, DC.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Baltimore String Felons and R.M. O'Brien to Foist Joy Upon The Shattered Wig 28 Publication Party

The lineup for what I hope will be the Shattered Wig Review #28 publication party (I would have gotten a hell of a lot done two Fridays ago if not for the damn BGE outage!) is almost nailed down. It looks to be a fine night of rapture.

Of course this being modern day Baltimore there will be tons of other cool things going on, including a Sea Couch and Forks of Ivy show (traitors), but we will have a shiny new issue sporting the menacing front cover you see smack dab in the middle of the top of this "page".

And although I truly have grown to hate the ubiquitous "Boh" man, I can stand him with a top hat and a banjo.........

Here is the lineup for the December 10th Shattered Wig party at the glorious, glamorous, forbidden, luxurious, decadent, legendary 14 Karat Cabaret:

R.M. O'Brien - poet, emcee/curator of the fantastic WORMS reading series
Emily Crespo - - poet, traveler, alchemist.
Ryan Walker - D.C. poet extraordinaire, friend to all.

The Baltimore String Felons. Fantastic timelessly weird old American folk music with a punk edge. It will Mikey the lead singer's birthday so don't be a weenie - buy him a beer!
Tests. Music featuring two members of the dearly missed group Madagascar.

Here is what the City Paper had to show about a String Felons show they did a while back with Balti Mare.

Earlier in the night, the Baltimore String Felons offered their own unique twist on folk traditions, theirs being more distinctly American. And what’s so refreshing about the weirdo folk acts in Maryland, as opposed to say New York or California, is that we’re not so far from Appalachia that the musicians seem more connected to those influences, and more likely to have actual family roots. The String Felons, with their fiddle and banjo twang, have a definite mountain sound in their so-called “inner city doomgrass,” even with its oddball twists, including songs that detail the assassination of JFK or choruses that howl “please don’t kill me.” And like Balti Mare, the combination of tradition and playful irreverence is what makes the String Felons work.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mud Luscious "Stamp Stories" Anthology Available For Pre-order

Mud Luscious Press just announced that their anthology of "Stamp Stories", which I have a piece in, is now available for pre-order. Get up off your swollen wallets and show some love!

"Stamp Stories are texts of 50 words or less, printed on 1x1 cardstock, & shipped free from participating presses. We wanted to tie together the indie press community in a vibrant yet viable way, & so this venture was born. Through 2010, we have solicited stamp-sized texts from 100 authors & distributed the physical Stamp Stories through more than 40 participating presses. [ C. ] collects all of these texts into one perfect-bound edition, releasing fall 2011. Until then, see the current listing of participating authors & presses here, or read a few Stamp Stories samples below."

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Shattered Wig 28 Sneak Preview #12 - "Suburban Legends" by Shelley Puhak

Suburban Legends

The Girl Detective
would not wear these pants: missing button, gaping waistband and cuffs
creased wrong. She can see if you are wearing a slip, if you have shaved
your legs. She can figure out why your parents keep bursting into tears.

The International Spy
puts your paranoia to work. Teaches you the art of the extra pocket, the way to roll your “r”s. Teaches you to never trust your memory.

The Wicked Stepmother
is stuck in this hut, in this forest, with this kid clinging to her skirts. Pinches, pricks, presses, frowns. Plots to swallow you whole.

She is enamel, jagged and acid-etched, hanging on by a thread. You edge up behind her, thin and stiff with longing.

The Tall, Dark Handsome Stranger
has fists like kitchen strainers: the soapy kitchen mess, the tears, run right through. Has the intuition of a terrier, best at arms-length.

He won’t whisk you off. And if he leaned in for a kiss, you’d see he’s overbitten his bottom lip, trying to balance his checkbook.

The Football Captain
knows a bridge. An old bridge. A steel truss bridge on a road with a sharp crook. An old reform school. A wailing ghost. One moonless night, he drives you down that road, to his old make-out spot. Past the evidence of other campfires, new beer cans crushed. Listen. Wait— for his crow’s feet, emerging scalp, first creaking joint.

Listen. You’ll make out crying, pitched high and light.


Shelley Puhak lives in Catonsville, Maryland. Shelley's work first appeared in SWR ten years ago, while she was still in college. Now Shelley is Writer-in-Residence at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland. Her first collection, Stalin in Aruba (Black Lawrence Press, 2009) won the 2010 Towson University Prize for Literature.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Shattered Wig 28 Sneak Preview #14, The Last, I Swear - "Ted In White" by David Beaudouin

This, I swear to you valued reader, will be the last sneak peak of the new Shattered Wig issue coming out in paper form on December 10th. From here on out you will have to obtain a solid copy to sample all the treasures that will unlock your deepest imagination and free you from earthly pain. Copies will be available for a mere $5 at the door at Shattered Wig Night, Friday December 10th.

After that they'll be available for $6 through this site, Normal's Books & Records and Atomic Books. Plus they will be available for free perusal at four forward thinking University Libraries who have had longstanding subscriptions with us. Are any of the cool, smart libraries that order Shattered Wig in Maryland you ask? No, of course not, but perhaps if you a student at one you could picket the administrative offices Old School style until they cough up the big green.


David Beaudouin is a man of eternal mystery. He moves like Isadora Duncan shagging flies on a field of clouds and jello, he alone knows where Ed Dorn lives in secret seclusion and he now insists on being addressed only as "Ukom Memory Song". Long has he labored with love among lines.


For my sins I live in the city of Baltimore
Immutable as it staggers into the sea its crooked shore
Uncertain of any harbor, impure and beautiful
Like a cigarette butt in last night's drink.
So must I also think like Poe with an aching head
Of dark and transcendent things that slip out those alleys
Follow us back to our little blue home. Let these poems
Be our fiery word in these haunted streets, turning all shades
But our own to things as real as stone where we can read
Our death has not been written yet. Even with monsters
At the edges, it is a map where we can live, this city they
Keep building as it falls, the water's current carries everything
Away but what we feel, who we loved, where we went that
Night for crabs and beer. It will never be more real than here.

9/13/08 - David Beaudouin

Thursday, October 28, 2010

"My Old Suburban Home" - A Late Halloween Miniature

Just as regular as a clock can tick you reach up for the old pigskin high on a dusty shelf as the sun is setting and the light is becoming gray and pointillist and your hand brushes an old Halloween mask. You pick up the mask, but it's slippery and brittle at the same time and you realize it's an actual face. As you drop it and collapse to your knees little songbirds jet up from the wrinkly folds and warble to you with outdated pre-recorded answering machine voices. Your mother calls to you downstairs that dinner's ready, but she's been dead for five years now.

Your brother used to be able to imitate your grandmother's voice perfectly, breaking your heart when you came home from school to what you thought was an empty house, but then there was what you thought was the treasured voice of granny. Your brother could never imitate your mother, though, and the last anyone heard he's currently hiding in a polar grotto below the visible pattern of the natural world going by the name Red Reflectors On a Tree Stump. The manifesto he issued to the press, which now consists of a bunch of slightly above average intelligence junior high students sending out a bunch of emails grading events or personages either "stinky", "not stinky" or "chill", states simply "Ouch".

The scene on the small street outside does nothing to calm the beating of your heart or settle your emotions. Everyone is sitting outside their homes, it is a beautiful early fall evening after all, but they are so still and their eyes are all covered over with lid flesh and sloppy hand-stitching. No one seems bothered by this state, in fact no one is moving or saying anything all.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Shattered Wig Press Blog Nominated For a Mobbie And Normal's In the Web News

Not sure how this happened (well maybe I am) or how it works (definitely not), but Shattered Wig Press got nominated for a DIY blog Mobbie Award by the Sun Paper. Voting runs from November 2nd through the 12th, so please perhaps cast a vote or two or three for us so that we don't look really pathetic in the standings. Not even sure who runs the tissue paper thin Sun anymore now that they've sent their writers packing. But at any rate, here is the link:

In other cultural and financial news, Normal's Books and Records got written up as part of a piece about a trio of Waverly businesses fighting the Grim Reaper in these dire economic times. I got asked to pose in the awkward "casual lean against the doorway with arms crossed" pose, but at least my head does not appear too ginormous. Kind of comforting to be in agreement and the same wave tossed vessel as our landlord though.

Here is the link to the article in Bmore Media:

Monday, October 25, 2010

Shattered Wig 28 Sneak Preview #11 - Artwork by Roy Green





The art of Roy Green is like finding an old Halloween mask on a high up dusty shelf in your room when you have the lights out and the sun is almost down. You pick up the mask, but it's slippery and brittle at the same time and you realize it's an actual face. As you drop it and collapse to your knees little songbirds jet up from the wrinkly folds and warble to you with outdated pre-recorded answering machine robotic voices. Your mother calls to you downstairs that dinner's ready, but she's been dead for five years now.

These black and white pieces, which are pen and brown paint on what seem to be elementary school project papers, will be in Shattered Wig Review #28, but you can go to his website to see some of his stuff in full color glory:


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Shattered Wig 28 Sneak Preview #10 - An untitled piece by Megan McShea

Spends the whole future drying the dampness made from years of humid suitors. An old way of talking or of being. Sneaks around the shadowy halls while we blank the blank blank house at the what what road, but we had to admit, over our dead bodies might take too long. Inching towards catharsis, brainy moods overtook our lazy hearts ambling up a narrow path towards our goals: a tree, from the past, still there, no matter what. Then: a dirigible. However unlikely. Stomach contents revealed a nurtured life. And then, look here, say it's blue, say it's worn out, beautiful, say it's new today and noisy, say mighty things. Make fly, leave waste. Sound it out: di-ri-gi-ble. Stony glares from the media gallery. But our spirits were buttressed by the hair and makeup treatment and our new fruit. No native poise too great that it cannot be improved by a mango. Another day, a beach date: walk walk walk walk splash splash flop down quiet then hot and lean in, smooth around the ankle area. Then: hot dogs.


Megan McShea lives in Baltimore. She has two chapbooks, Recipes for Greatness and Yarn! (Thingy Press). Her writing has appeared in the i.e. reader (Narrow House Press), the forthcoming Topograph (Novello Press), the Shattered Wig Review (Shattered Wig Press), and online at Everyday Genius blog, Baltimore Is Reads (Publishing Genius), and Rock Heals blog.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Shattered Wig 28 Sneak Preview #9 - "Ghost" by Amelia Gray

          "I'm of two minds," the man said, neatly bisecting a strawberry with a knife. "I'd be happy if you left, and happy if you stayed here, but you can't leave and stay at the same time."

           The ghost of his wife seemed unhappy. She glossed over a steaming cup of coffee, disrupting the bubbles.

          "I can't tell you which would make me more happy," he said. "For one, I haven't truly experienced either state. You keep shimmering and not saying anything." He glanced at her for confirmation. One edge of her gave off an extra shine. "Coy," he said. "Furthermore, you haven't tried truly leaving yet. We both always know you'll be back."

          He finished cutting the strawberries and placed them in a bowl, sprinkling sugar over top. The ghost shivered and dropped into his coffee cup, navigating the escaping steam to bolt into the scalding liquid. The cup jostled and was still. He put a piece of bread in the toaster. Outside, the birds were flapping so loud it sounded like a man slapping his thigh.

          "In the end it's about what makes you more happy," he said to the cup. "You don't seem particularly happy in this moment." A ripple in the coffee caressed the ceramic. He thought about how his wife would hold a mug with both hands.

          He tapped the mug with his fingernail. "Get out of there. Quit messing around." The coffee swirled and she emerged again, settling around his shoulders like a scarf. She smelled like nothing.


Amelia Gray is the author of AM/PM (Featherproof Books) and Museum of the Weird (FC2).


Monday, October 11, 2010

Shattered Wig 28 Preview #8 - Some "Slancys" by Derrick Buisch




Buisch was born in Washington D.C. in the mid-late 1960’s, grew up in the suburbs (saw Minor Threat, Trouble Funk, 9353, Fugazi, etc). Attended art school (MICA)in Baltimore (saw Reptile House, Grey March, Lungfish, etc). Upon receiving a BFA helped form (and played bass) for the Baltimore ensemble Candy Machine from 1989-92. MFA from the University of Minnesota with a concentration in painting 1996. Since 1997 he is a Professor of Art at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Shattered Wig 28 Preview #6 - "A Poem of Rupert Wondolowski as Dreamed by Chris Mason"


Chris Mason is a member of The Tinklers and Old Songs Archaic Greek Poetry translation project. A book of poems,HUM WHO HICCUP, will be published in late 2010.


This piece is not only a preview of Shattered Wig Review #28,but also of Chris's new book Hum Who Hiccup, which is coming out in November on Baltimore's Narrow House Press.

This Sunday, October 3rd, is a fundraiser for the book at the Windup Space on North Ave. It runs from 6 to 10 and if you go your ticket entitles you to a free copy of the book when it drops. Music will be provided Old Songs, Lurch & Holler and Sweatpants. Chris Mason will read and Lauren Bender will perform.

Shattered Wig 28 Sneak Preview #7 - "Conductivity" by Stephanie Barber


one conducts electricity or symphonies, big bands or
trains or themselves with restraint.
some imagine the molecules of their body dissolving,
feet first and half greek,
into beams of light and being sucked up into
the myriad wires that criss cross cities.

they find solace in the sensation of their electro
magnetic ray feet lifting them
up off the earth and scattering flugel horn like through the city.

some find solace in the winning of bingo--
i heard that a woman named mary won at bingo last night.
i heard larry took her out for breakfast this
morning and sheila bought her a piece
of cake for her birthday which isn't until wednesday
but from what i gather sheila won't see her on wednesday.

that goddamned mary has all the luck in the world.
what do you bet me she'll wake up on wednesday
morning and at the foot of her glorious four post bed
with the delicate floral duvet
will be lying a white, baby tiger
who is house broken and will never grow up.

he will always be a 30 pound white baby tiger!

and probably he can talk too.
and listen--oh what a great and empathic listener that
eternally adorable talking baby tiger is.

women like mary have no time for imagined dissolvings.
that sort of nonsense is simply banal to a woman like mary.


Stephanie Barber has had screenings of her film and video work at MoMA, NY, Anthology Film Archives, San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center, Chicago Filmmakers and The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Her performances have been featured at the Baltimore Museum of Art, The Milwaukee Museum of Art, The Haggerty Museum of Art and galleries and artspaces around the world.

Her book these here separated to see how they standing alone or the soundtracks of six films by stephanie barber was first printed in 2008 by Publishing Genius Press and a second, revised edition of it was just issued.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fundraiser Party For New Chris Mason Book!

This event is so momentous I had to post four pictures of the flyer! Okay, it's mainly because I couldn't figure out how to break up the pdf Master Justin Sirois sent me.....

This saintly wise old gent Chris Mason is blowing up, as well he should. In a figurative way. This new book on Narrow House collects a huge amount of Chris's work over the last few years. Of late he's become known more as a rock star, but his primary work has always been in language. In fact, he was even in the LANGUAGE anthology. If you come to this event you not only get great entertainment from Old Songs, Sweatpants, Lurch and Holler and Lauren Bender and a reading from the man himself, but your ticket assures you a free copy of the book when it comes out.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Shattered Wig 28 Sneak Preview #5 - "TWWDATOETOAA" by Justin Sirois

Narrow House week continues here at Shattered Wig World Empire.


this was written during a time of extreme turbulence

on an airplane. If these synapses are firing poorly

blame the air pressure inside the composition

not my craftsmanship. There will be a time

when we won’t need devices & there will

be a time when I will grab your ankle

as firm as milk


a hotel can only be remodeled so many times

until it creates a vacuum inside the atrium

& the happy hours crack the aquariums

& you can hear the groans of devaluation.

Somehow, you sleep better in rented

rooms. When the air conditioner is turned up

is it colder or hotter?

do you remember?


let’s reconsider Georgia O’Keeffe


ok, now that that’s over with

let’s replay that movie where we’re in bed & I

grab your ankle – every time I

turn it just a little, the equity of the house

increases & decreases. We feel richer

then poorer

then richer

then poorer

then sandwiches


I hold our ankle over your head for


& lean in the direction of need


Justin Sirois is a writer living in Baltimore, Maryland. His books include MLKNG SCKLS (Publishing Genius) and Falcons on the Floor (forthcoming, Pub G.) written with Iraqi refugee Haneen Alshujairy. He also runs the Understanding Campaign with Haneen and co-directs Narrow House. Justin received individual Maryland State Art Council grants in 2003, 2007, and 2010.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Shattered Wig 28 Sneak Preview #4 - "Deca" by Jamie Gaughan-Perez


Would a salve for the weight on your shoulders just leave you a wetter weight?

This is against that and that, too.

Some treatments call for repeated application. Some problems ask for continuous pressure.

Some states are contiguous.

Some continents are lazier (than others), like rivers and dogs familiar with foxes.

And some foxes fly, and they are bats, too.

Spiders are good for houses.

Landscape paintings are good for houses, less so for landscapes.

And landscape printing is your best bet for spreadsheets and sitemaps.

Are you following? I'm the one in the pool. Look at me.


Jamie Gaughran-Perez is a co-director of Narrow House, a Baltimore-based small press and literary arts organization. He's also a creative strategist for Threespot in D.C., and plays bass in Sweatpants (the band, not the clothing).

Editor's Note: But don't let Jamie fool you, he can rock a set of velour sweatpants like James Franco can rock a mohair sweater.

For those following along on their Dr. Strange decoder rings, it is now looking like Shattered Wig Review #28 will arrive shortly before the pilgrims in November. This here Gaughan-Perez poem will be in it along with some dynamite new Austin, Texas work by Al Ackerman, Michael Kimball, Justin Sirois, Amanda Pollock, ethnomusicologist Ian Nagoski, artist Roy Green and much much more.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Delicious First Worms of Season & Making Wicked Cash off Celebrity Poems

I am so very glad I fought my inner nature and nasty allergies or chest cold or Nazgul bite to leave my nest shortly after a hard lone day of laboring in the bittersweet fields of cultural retail to catch the first WORMS reading of the new fall season.

How I love that phrase "new fall season". As a kid it meant the sharp crisp terror of a new year of school, but that terror also brought exciting adrenaline, new faces, transformations of old faces and maybe a couple of cool shirts (except for that unfortunate year when my dad was assigned to taking me shopping and he outfitted me like a '20s Chicago pimp - including a white belt!!! And two-toned shoes). And yes, the new television season, bringing new "Green Hornet", new "Batman", my tiny brain sizzling up like an egg pan in a Sunday morning Waffle House.

Now it means a thick Sunday edition of the New York Times with a peak at all the upcoming films, music, theater and art. Of course that doesn't cover the tasty crepuscular items creeping from the underground and trying to seep into public consciousness, but it's such a refreshing moment to hold that massive amount of print telling you of things to come after a summer of bad action movies.

The lineup for the WORMS premiere was a siren call that I could not resist - Stephanie Barber, Justin Sirois, Adam Robinson, Chuck Green and Donna Sellinger. Last year WORMS rotated its facilities after a few were held at the Zodiac. This year it has moved to a new space in the Bell Foundry where pioneer humans have just set up sterno stoves and laid their bindlestiffs in a few days before. The actual reading space was in a heavily spraypainted basement with a parking garage vibe and to get there you had to go through a Beirut corridor. This addled old man was aided by elvin folk cooking at the end of the hall who told me to grab a chair, take a right and go down the stairs. "He will never make it and the stink of his corpse will sadly be for many who visit here a bookmark of their sense memory," one of them said while sprinkling cumin on a seiten fish stick.

When I got downstairs there were already five great old friends sitting scattered among the vast concrete. Our hellos echoed grandly and messed with my allergy clogged hearing. The space quickly filled, Stephanie Barber came bounding in with her dad who seemed a day or two older than her and WORMS host Bob O'Brien genially took the "stage". Abandoning the format of last year of opening with fake letters written to WORMS, Bob read from an actual internet site devoted to making a fortune off writing celebrity poetry. It included such inane advice as "write about celebrities that you actually like." "You can post every day or once a week."

Inspired by this I think I will write James Franco celebrity poetry.

"No Flatness No More"

There was a moment

late in the one cherished season

of "Freaks and Geeks" where Muttonchops

got angry at you, thinking you'd spread

the word about his hermaphrodite

girlfriend. There was only a response

of tender pain in your eyes that

was deep and moving. You also were

impassive as crazy Kim beat Hell

out of you for something you

didn't do. I also almost wept

when you played Dungeons & Dragons

with the geeks. Your lonesomeness

and fear of an empty future

were palpable as a cafeteria

hairnet lying in cold gravy.

Then you

were in Spiderman and Hollywood

had pithed you. You were placed around

the sets like a cardboard cut-out

and cameramen placed their coffee cups

on top of you. But going back to

Muttonchops. Do you ever run into

that foul hobgoblin that is like an

evil munchkin young brother of him

who sprang from his 'fro & id?

He is poison come to life without

a neck and no court would convict

you if you put a bullet in him.

And how did Judd Apatow go from

making a television series with

classic film values to making

films with hollow sitcom tv values

plus the freedom to flame out in

foul new teen boy misogyny.

But I am keeping you up,

you must rest for all your classes

and art shows. You wore

sweaters well in "Milk",

once again kind of inert, but

comfy smiley inert, exuding a

a Golden Lab smell. I would like

to take a nap with you.

I don't think

you can summon the spirit of

Ginsberg, but I will enjoy

watching you try.

Hmmmnnn, not so good. I will have to work on that.

At most readings, even one like this where the quality across the board was stellar, there is one reader that penetrates my psychic fog the most to glisten with pure word joy and this night it was lead-off writer Stephanie Barber. I've heard her a few times and enjoyed it, but this batch and her performance of it was entertaining as hell and also gave the listener a real good insight into the writer's process.

Chuck Green gave me a feeling of a Mod kid approach with his t-shirt that had his name printed on it and a tale of yachting with Oprah Winfrey, but the story was well-crafted and the simple performance device of a mini-megaphone was effective and refreshing.

Donna Sellinger had some killer lines and descriptions, but cough syrup memory prevents me from sharing them here.

I think it was after Donna's story that a short break was taken for folks to grab free "throwback" Pepsis and Mountain Dews and to peruse the various small press literary offerings on view.

After the tumultuous echo-laden break the leading small press giants of Baltimore right now, Justin Sirois of Narrowhouse and Adam Robinson of Publishing Genius performed to a large attentive audience who were eating them up. Justin read some of the pieces I had heard him read a few nights before at Normal's and he read with a very different spirit that gave a few of the pieces an almost entirely different feel. Last Saturday they felt ebullient almost to the point of cocky, where this night the words held a lot of wistfulness and melancholy. At one point Justn held the bust of Thor that had been placed on a small bookshelf behind the readers for atomosphere for comfort and solace as he read his last pieces.

Adam went last and seemed to be having a good time. His usual fairly long comic pauses were slowed even more to almost a Beckett length, as if - and perhaps he was -he was still considering the thoughts he was sharing as he shared them. At the rate of change in publishing these days, most likely in a year or so you will be able to converse with Adam and his thoughts through a DNA chip in his book.

In the meantime, Adam has two new old school printed paperbacks just out on his press, by Mike Young and Rachel Glasser, that I need to check out. Plus Narrow House is publishing a collection of longtime experimental and populist poet Chris Mason of The Tinklers and Coo Coo Rockin' Time and Old Songs in November. How will I find time to drive my new bride insane when there is so much good reading to do???

Monday, September 13, 2010

I'm Thinking of My Mother

the struggle of the flesh

how she asked if there was something she
had to do about the trees outside

the hospital

the twin towers hadn't fallen yet
Bush hadn't destroyed the world
but there was a huge brownish-red
pool of blood just sitting unattended
in the middle of a hallway that
ran through
what was supposed to be a reputable place

our questiions to the doctors were
met with the disdain of video store clerks

of all the things she'd forgotten
my name our names, the names of all
the flowers she'd tended for all her
life, she looked up at the tv news
and spoke the name of the scumbag
who killed his wife, dumped her
in the ocean
and led everyone on a merry suburban chase.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Reading Saturday September 18th At The Corner of Poetry and Main

I have the happy honor and privilege to be reading with professor Shelley Puhak Saturday, September 18th in Westminster. The last time I was in Westminster it was for the Shakemore Festival and that day turned out pretty good. This is one of the many poetry series that Cliff Lynn curates. He must talk in his sleep at night waving his arms like a traffic cop trying to keep them all straight.

Shelley was a frequent reader at Shattered Wig Nights all the way back in the early '90s when she was about fifteen and had to have a guardian present. She would read barefoot sitting cross-legged on the dusty floor of the 14 Karat Cabaret. She is also the person who turned crusty hardened former Navy man Cliff Lynn onto poetry. She also seems to own a dog who looks very much like my beloved dog Max.

Shelley's most recent book is Stalin in Aruba. Here is a review of it from Neon:

Review: Stalin In Aruba by Shelley Puhak

For someone for whom the word "historical" has always had connotations of "stuffy" and "boring", historical fiction has held little interest. Therefore I was expecting Shelley Puhak's recent chapbook Stalin In Aruba (published by Black Lawrence Press) to be a dull read. In actuality the collection is impressively strong, and conveys a surprising variety of depth and feeling.

Despite his titular presence, the erstwhile dictator is not the main focus of the collection. Although his presence is to be felt in several of the poems (such as "Stalin, Alone" and "The Dictator's Daughter from a Nursing Home in Wisconsin", both of which paint him in a very human light), he seems to be more of a recurring theme than a focal point around which the whole collection moves.

In fact, many other historical figures do feature prominently in Stalin In Aruba. In "My Life With Perseus" we see the Greek legend of Perseus and Medusa relocated to a modern American high school, and in "Torch" we are told of the people behind three suicides by self-immolation that occured in the 1960s.

Although to some degree fictionalised, these poems are rarely frivolous. Puhak has done her research. A glance through the notes section reveals several annotations that are almost poems in themselves. A fine example can be seen in the note that accompanies "Meeting the Secret Police Chief, 1930":

"The poet Osip Mandelstam and the future secret police chief Yezhov both vacationed at the same resort on the Black Sea in 1930. The men met and even dined together. Eight years later Mandalstam would die in a forced labour camp."

It is the authenticity of these poems that is their strength. Even those that do not deal with a certain historical figure are richly woven and dense with a feel of personal history. In fact, it is some of the more obscure pieces that showcase Puhak's best work. Take these lines from "The Alumni Magazine" for example:

"You look back and you either feel better
or you feel worse about the days
you spent silent, curled up in your chair.
You wore your uniform skirt
short, like all of the girls,
but you had a slouch, sloping
into hips, that made you look bored
and back then, that was
all there was to looking smart."

The sense of intimate personal knowledge that permeates this poem is typical of the others in the collection. For its unique texture Stalin In Aruba is a consistently engrossing read. This first collection is a confident debut by a quietly talented writer.

Stalin In Aruba is avaliable from Black Lawrence Press.

The Corner of Poetry and Main with Shelley Puhak and Rupert Wondolowski

Location birdie's cafe and coffee house
233 East Main St.
Westminster, MD


Created By Cliff Lynn


More Info with special musical guest Julia Rose!!

join R.J Ridgely and Cliff Lynn as they continue to bring the best poets that will read for nothing other than bragging rights to westminster. open reading included in the evening's events.

Rupert Wondolowski recently returned to the tiny silverish screen in Michael Kimball and Luca DePierro's film "60 Writers/60 Places". His most recent book The Origin of Paranoia as a Heated Mole Suit has... sold out two printings on Publishing Genius Press and is teetering on the brink of extinction. Rupert's work has also recently been included in CityLit's anthology City Sages: Baltimore along such memorable authors as Gerty Stein, Mugs Mencken, Edgar Alan Poe, Michael Foxtrot Kimball and Adam Robinson. Having just found out that it costs $400 to rent a damn party tent all his fears that his love and labor in the used book field has been for naught have been confirmed.

SHELLEY PUHAK lives in Baltimore and is Writer-in-Residence at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland. She earned her MFA from the University of New Orleans and her MA in Literature from the University of Delaware. Her poems have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, New Delta Review, New South, Third Coast, and other journals. Her essays have appeared in Fourth Genre, The Baltimore Sun and Road & Travel. Shelley has experience leading workshops for writers of all ages and abilities. To set up a reading or class visit, send an email to:

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

You Never Know When Or Where An Elvis Impersonator Will Show Up

Back in my callow youth, when I believed myself immortal and a quart of Colt 45 put wings beneath my soul - or at least fooled me into thinking those rusted hooks were wings - my friends and I used to laugh, partially with empathetic horror, at a strange little documentary called something like "Rock N Roll Legends". Like a lot of footage you watch in your youth I have no idea where it came from, other than some cable show, and it was fairly blurry, but it left long lasting impressions.

It followed a handful of devout Elvis fans after The King's fairly pathetic early exit, clutching peanut buttery bananas on the john with multi-colored pills dancing like Vegas sequins in his blurry bloodshot eyes. One woman had uprooted her young children from school to move closer to Graceland. She spoke with complete conviction and without a trace of doubt, even as she related how family members disowned her after the apparently whimsical act.

Another affected family was a father and son where the father was a semi-professional Elvis impersonator and he was training his son in the same field. I'll never forget the shot of the 12 year mop-headed boy standing in late era Elvis gaudiness with wet glistening eyes of fear and shame. It would take a resurrected Kafka to truly tell the son's tale.

But then this last Saturday I went to an old friend's wedding. A wild and wacky poet girl, Barbara DeCesare, who survived the '90s Baltimore poetry scene to continue writing, raise children and still look 30. Sadly, she didn't tell me ahead of time, "Hey chucklehead, you might want to bring your camera". I've been carrying that small digital thing around with me so much of late that it is like a shiny tumor that has replaced part of my vision. So many nights up late downloading (or is it uploading?) photos onto my tiny notebook laptop, hearing Everly say "Honey, when are you coming to bed?" only to find out hours later that Everly is no longer even in the bed. She has stuffed a few old pillows with straw and sewn them together with a corn stalk wig and taken off for the El Dorado lounge where she dances lasciviously with our plumber while Cornell Woolrich drinks Manhattan after Manhattan at the U-shaped bar, dreaming up the Hells that await whoever is the husband of that feisty Alabama gal who looks like one of the girls in the B-52s dancing with all the sailors on shore leave and making them laugh with stories about her feeb hubby at home toying with his photos of flowers and gerbils re-enacting Orson Welles movies in little shoebox theater sets.

At any rate, I'd been using my camera so much lately that I purposely didn't take it to Babs' wedding. "This will prevent some OCD activity," I told my left hand, which passed it along to my upper thigh. Then Everly, Chris Toll (good Lord, another Chris Toll car trip!) and I drove to Red Lion, PA, where 57 people live among 26 churches, all of them grand. We walk into the wedding reception at the Great American Saloon and the place is filled with stuffed mountain goats, a thirty foot by thirty foot aquarium filled with piranha and flags from all over the world. The walls are some kind of ancient Elk Lodge wood and the tables are filled with cool little robot toys and bowling doo-dads. We barely get done jamming as many little cheese cubes and fruit squares into our mouth as fast as you can say "Britney Spears' Beaver Shot!" when canned music explodes from the pa system and an Elvis impersonator comes running out! A skinny Elvis impersonator who looks suspiciously like Jim Belushi.

There is enough pancake makeup on him to cook some tandoori chicken. His hair is sculpted and looks like it could cut through tandoori chicken. He is wearing the requisite white jumpsuit with sequins and colored studs, but he actually kicks some vocal ass. He does a tasteful minimum of the Vegas years moves, does more of like a vogueing of them or perhaps alludes to them. And the ladies, ladies from many different rungs of the economic strata and of many different cultural types, went wild. Including my Everly, who did some beautiful kind of bunny hop frug that made me fall in love all over again once more, even though she was doing it for this echo of a fallen icon who was an echo of black soul.

What all is enacted in the frenzied worship of the Elvis figure? The permission among civil society for even aged matrons to gyrate and wiggle and hump-de-humpty? Is the symbol of Elvis, especially late Elvis, like a reverse of that old childrens' game "Statues" where you have to remain frozen in your one selected pose until the spell is broken - in this case you get to be as wild-assed tacky and dorky until the Elvis wig is no longer visible?

All I can say is that during his half hour or so of performing I didn't once think "Okay you fake chintzy cheeseball, get your ass off the stage and go back to cleaning toilets at the Ramada Inn." The bubble wasn't burst until much later when we were outside getting air and bogarting the free photo booth (especially Kim Jong EV who normally won't even let you take her damn picture! You couldn't keep her out of the photo booth. Little children were crying because they hadn't even gotten their first crack at it and Everly had strips of her likeness gathered around her ivory ankles like the needles that fell from Charlie Brown's Christmas tree), listening to entertaining stories from David Fair (another David Fair event! What a summer!) about his homeless, jobless wanderings in California in the '70s, when lo and behold, the Elvis signifier came out of the bar part of the place with his slim assistant/girlfrend who looked harder than Aunt Eugene's washboard and he was wearing black loafers! I'm not sure if there were tassles or not, I couldn't look that closely. But somehow he still was able to carry off that sculpted shellacqued lacquered black ax wig with some dignity in broad daylight in a strip mall parking lot in PA, where just about only The Great American Saloon and a Karate class remained standing in the ashes of the American dream.

And perhaps it's for the best that I didn't have my "real" camera. That I had to resort to feverishly pressing the tiny button on my B grade cellphone to capture the elusive shadows you see here. It has always been said that he or she who looks directly at the face of God will die instantly.

Friday, August 27, 2010

City Sages Reading at Normal's, Wed. August 25th

On Wednesday, August 25th, Normal's took its turn celebrating CityLit's first publication - City Sages: Baltimore. The book came out a few months ago, but we wanted to wait until the new improved Red Room was done being spiffied up.

On hand to read were Michael Kimball, Susan McCallum-Smith, Joseph Young and myself. Plus Goodloe Byron to sing a few graveyard tunes and to ruminate on Poe's "The Black Cat" which appears in the anthology of legendary dead Baltimore writers, living ascending stars and those of us thrashing in literary limbo.

Jen Michalski who edited the book emceed the reading.

Goodloe Byron, author of The Abstract and Revisions Of bookended the readings with two songs of darkness.

Susan McCallum-Smith whose collecton of short stories Slipping The Moorings was published by Entasis Press in 2009 read from her piece "High Rise".

Professor Joseph Young, author of the wildly popular Easter Bunny assures the crowd that there is no improvisation involved in his reading, displaying to the audience his text.

Goodloe Byron started out doing a straight reading of Poe's story, but ended up having a conversaton with it.

Michael Kimball, whose novel Dear Everybody was excerpted in City Sages, said he'd been reading from that novel for three years and that this evening would be his last time doing so. He then read portions of an unnamed novel in progress he's currently working on, correcting typos with his pen as he did so. The strange blue around his right eye was not administered for theatrical effect for his engagement at The Red Room, but was caused somehow when I used the "Red Eye" feature in my photo library.