Shattered Wig #28

Shattered Wig #28
Coming In November!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Andrei Codrescu & Anselm Hollo: Near Brush with Greatness

I'm working on a very subjective, distorted, half-hallucinated history of the Baltimore Poetry or Poetic Underground from 1984 to 2014, the years that have found my corporeal form lodged here. I started a nobody and I remain a nobody, but I started writing homages to beloved friends when they started transmigrating and Chris Mason kept telling me I should put together a book of them. So if this project ever does come to fruition (a wonderful local press has expressed interest in it, but I don't know if it was the formaldehyde I'd slipped in their Boh speaking or not), don't be a hater and say "what right does that low rent pseudo-writer think he's doing writing about other writers?!" Say instead "That Chris Mason is getting a beat down for this."

I'm reading at the Carriage House December 3rd with said Chris Mason and here is a peek at my sordid little book, which I might be reading from. This is kind of an introductory piece that kind of places me within the phantasmagoric world of Baltimore.

Andrei Codrescu & Anselm Hollo: Near Brush with Greatness

When I first moved to Baltimore
the rats scampered in the alley
beside our basement apartment
windows sounding like the world’s
biggest never-ending bar fight in a
bar where everyone had their
vocal cords cut.

My girlfriend I lived with had night
terrors and whenever I returned
late from being out alone her
screams could wake Richard Nixon
in his icy grave. The city crew worked
for over a year on the sewer lines
that went through our backyard and
I’d come home to my porch paintings
spattered with mud and have to
Spiderman my way to the back door.
Often we’d turn the tub on and
nether muck would roil from the spigot.

But we were in love, at least I knew
I was - and I was excited by the
people I was meeting in Baltimore,
mostly through the bookstore I worked at.
“Yes, but what if you break your leg?”
my mother asked.

A precocious young turk who had mocked
my crate of records for store listening when
we first met – John Berndt, initiated a
collaboration with me. I was surprised and
honored. He wore dark clothing and
had been to Europe many times, was
once kicked out of his parents’ home
when they discovered photographs
of glass eyes in anuses.
He ran with the Neoist prankster upstarts,
Art revolutionaries who splashed their
blood on museum walls and
created chairs made of razors and glass.
He was experimenting with electronic sound
and synthesizers and took great photographs.

For our project I read my pieces from
Nightmare Rubber and he had me wear a condom
on my tongue for my story about the deadening
effect of working retail and he added great sounds
like loons and bicycle horns on others.
For the cover of the cassette, which we called
Readings From Nether Lips, I wore a plastic
leopard spotted raincoat, including a pointy
leopard spotted rainhat out in the street
in front of the group house in the neighborhood
where we were not liked.

It was an exciting birth when the tapes were
all done. I proudly placed a few for display
in the bookstore’s rack by the front door
where employees put their own work or
work by admired friends.

A few weeks later, two distinctive gents
ambled through the door as I nursed
a hangover with a can of Jolt.
To paraphrase Gertrude Stein who I was
ingesting heavily at the time:
“To see a poet is to know a poet. To feel
the poetry from within the poet
exude to the world outside the poet.”
But I also probably knew these salty men
from their bookjackets of books I had
shelved, a few I’d even read.
It was Andrei Codrescu and Anselm Hollo,
I had heard tales of their readings and
bar exploits while I was still living near
DC and sending my first poems into the void.
It must have been winter because I
remember them in leather and furs
and esoteric hats. They made guttural
sounds and laughed quietly among themselves.
At one point they stood before the front
display rack and there was silence.
“Nether lips”, I heard Anselm Hollo say,
“Nether Lips”.

At that moment I felt like a poet.


  1. Thank you China. I've got quite a few pages already and many luminaries I want to get to. I just occasionally get bogged down with the idea of "who am I to be writing of them". I'm lucky if I can catch a cold in the poetry world as they say in the carnies. But I will follow the thoughts of Toll and write what the spirits command. And edit edit edit, of course.

  2. if you don't write about this, then who? what if no one does. and even if did someone else did - your way with words is so beautiful, its going to be really special. don't worry about it, let it take shape. I also think you are exhibiting a really humble working class attitude, which really makes it all the more important, your the one who does this <3 if people don't like it, they can blame chris mason and me too. but honestly. its going to be great! just keep going and get it down, from the air