When Publishing Genius mastermind Adam Robinson knocked, scratched and rubbed feverishly against my door at 3am two nights ågo, I thought the exterminator had failed in his job of eradicating the herd of raccoons that had invaded our neighborhood after "Lay Your Trash Out Resplendently In The Grass Week".
I hurriedly ran downstairs with my pellet gun after Everly refused to go first.
With beer foam still caught on his late 1800's baseball player neo-handlebar moutstache, writers of more purplish prose might have described Adam's state as "mad as a hatter", or "rabidly inflamed" or "downright batshit", but I will go for a more subdued description of him as beside himself. "Please calm down, Adam. Tell me what's going on. And why do you have that microphone with a ripped cord in your hand?"
"Justin, Steph and I were out karoaking and you'll never believe what we found out behind the building! This being from another planet that drinks beer and looks like Lenin! After we warmed him up some at my apartment and showed him cashmere sweater porn that he requested, he actually began to speak. And his language came out in almost poetic form - a weird cross between Emily Dickinson and some kind of cosmic spiritual sci-fi."
It was at this point that my spider senses began to tingle. Either Max my faithful collie was rubbing against my bare leg or I had a strong suspicion of "what" or more precisely "Whom" Adam had stumbled upon.
An hour later, after Adam and Justin had for no particular reason put a black bag over my head and made me empty out my bank account at two ATMs (my bank's ATMs only dispense $10 at a time), we arrived at the condominium that sits on the Inner Harbor where Adam resides with the city's ingenue mayor, Stephanie Rawlings Blake.
Sure enough, once we passed through the guards and the heavy penthouse door swung open, there facing us, sipping a Yuengling and looking like the cat who ate the canary or the Burt Reynolds who gave the Dom DeLuise a wedgy, was none other than my old friend and literary mentor Chris Toll.
When I first moved to Baltimore in the early '80s, the last glow was fading from the Orioles and there was a fantastic poetry magazine here run by Chris called Open 24 Hours. Over the next few decades many writers have succumbed to burnout or drugs or booze or death itself, but Senor Toll continues to evolve and shed skins. He even started a new reading series a few years ago with the Italian Futurist, Barbara DeCesare. Now here he was, youthful again, with a new book coming out on a powerful Baltimore press. The book in question is The Disinformation Phase and it sports an original Toll collage on its cover.
Chris Toll's precision with an Exacto knife, the main tool of his collage making, is so legendary at this point that when Dick Cheney was brought to Johns Hopkins for a tumor on his moral conscience, they had to bring in Chris to locate and excise the miniscule portion of Cheney's brain. Chris, despite whatever he felt about the former Vice President, felt obligated to carry out the task - such is the weight of his powers.
As always, Chris is irresistibly quotable: "Chaos is my preacher/A Big Voice pours through me" (Irregular Galaxy); "I call my sickness the Guest./The Guest will speak now." (No Blues Blues #43); "Satellite dishes drink stars,/a church falls asleep in front of the TV,/and you're a prayer just the way you are." (Love Your Enemies). As I pull these, more lines jump out waving their arms in stay pressed unitards of quirky timelessness.
As Magus Magnus, the frighteningly brainy poet with the eery saucer eyes says on the back cover of the fancy "Advance Review Copy" I am lucky enough to hold (but which may soon belong to Henry Rollins since his $50 bid on it on ebay is so far the highest):
"His is poetry of propulsion : for/towards a sonic age, every sentence goes off like a rocket, objects act, sonnets are psionic, civilization collapses while shafts of light break through the earth's crust. What's more, The Disinformation Phase, as a phase, suggests the next phase: if suns go out, manufacture new suns (through chaos magic, as in 'paradox is my toolshed'), manufacture new solar systems. Cosmic!"
The official release date for this book is June 28th and summer seems like an appropiate season for it. You can feel the ache of brutal winters past in these prayers to the skies, but there is a feeling of fresh urgency and rebirth to them; each one explodes with possible stories, possible new lives. Chris writes that "the job of the poets is not to explain the Mystery./The job of the poets is to make the mystery greater." and indeed with his dynamic new book he has given us many more cloaks to wrap ourselves in and feel like Cyclops strutting on the crumbling catwalk arching over the Milky Way.
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