Friday, July 1, 2016

Latif William Harris

Latif with (not Jack Spicer) but Jack Hirschman
Latif William Harris writes us from San Francisco.

I just gave a reading with David Meltzer at Bird & Beckett Books, backed up by tenor sax player Zan Stewart.  It was on Father’s Day and we had a huge turn out.  Sending a long poem for Jack Spicer written some time ago but never published in its completed form.  If too much ask for something else.

Latif no! now's the opportunity to present your 5 pages concerning  Jack Spicer!  Gratefully.


(Dictated in whispers from Jack Spicer  May, 10 to August 20, 1993)

when I came longing here
from Los Angeles
where no poets lived
I said to you:
             Poetry is a cold blooded ax (that falls far)
And you smiled that subtle smile and said:
“then I make you my master of dead flies
and will come
                     (from time to time)
like a woodsman dictating
crossing Columbus and Kearny (with my ax)
to whisper in your ear”

(On May 10th 1993 such a dictation began)

“The native place like my salmon’s face
is (Lorca) shooting pool in back of Gino & Carlo’s
(where there is a there) a clock in the birdbath
standing in (Osborne’s) meadow
(surrounded by) an all igneous ellipse
and dance band
lyncean (the eyes of bucks and does)
laying in that caldera called hell
scanning (for) ghosts of cougars
yet (troubled by) rabbits
slashing through the grasses
night (falls faster)
than a frog’s tongue
on a lazy dragonfly
(as the striped and solid balls fall…)

“The resurrection of the dead through technology
tabby cat Giants (in 1st place)
Dostoevsky’s work was imperfect (remember)
he had little time (for perfection)

(and resented Tolstoy and Turgenev
(for their) intimations of perfection
(when an artist) starts trying to save the world
he starts losing himself
ideas form like blisters on his brain

(Thank you again for your application
(as of) the present we have no positions available
(in the English) department

(Do not use a fly swatter
do not swat the mosquito
do not…”

Here he breaks off for breath

“Dear Lorca,
                    We will use up your rhetoric
       so that it will not show up in our poems.

(In the pantheon of voices
(choices) need to be made
(take) your fly powder
(like an aspirin)
tell everyone to have the guts
even Roberts one, two and three
(gee) are they dead
(say cheese if you please)
lead our darling ones astray
into a (meadow of) back slapping waltzes
(they) the leaders resent
the magical fly powder
(of a man) like yourself
your dead sons educate you
(it is sad) this

(but take apart) your lovely heart
and put it together again
one last run a (a pennant)
those Giants
                    holy moly

“They have no brandy here
and no milk
they don’t care if a man’s fly is down
they don’t care about fly paper either
(or powder) to darken the cheeks
the least among us can fly

“The ocean (is) humiliating in its disguises
                    NO ONE LISTENS
to poetry. (Period)
(as the last fly ball is caught)
the last pool ball clunks down
retrieved only
                     by quarters
ressurecto this leather hide
oh plunk your quarters down (Mr. Whilikers)
those revolving poets
(have) taken refuge (in)
                                      OH GOD

do they hear Mr. Eliotic declaim
prancing at the parades in Prague
the May Queen (on) the Naropes
theocracy of obdurate voices
messaging each other (again)
and again and again despite
my tales of caution
(will you tell them) William
what’ that
               oh yes
                           I forgot
and you were so beautiful…”

At this point the dictation breaks off
I can hear Jack weeping quietly
Lamenting the loss of his body

“No one ever really loved me
(you see) not exactly
the way I wanted them to
(my) body (for love)
was not final
the ocean does not mean (to be final)
                                                           The poet is
a counterpunching radio.
and those messages (God would not damn them) do not even
  know they are champions
only parking lots
                           (are) final
gee whiz (what’s a disembodied dictator to do
(I ask you)
                          Sweet William
dearest sweet bodied William
never mind all the weeping sisters
your fly powder
                        I’m I’nt

(add water) and poof
blown away
(it is) impossible to escape the context of one’s life
August and the Giants
                                    still I’nt”

here Jack begins to reminisce
about some very private matters
(I cannot distinguish) nor would I try
to pry further

Some months have passed
Only whispers
A word or two now and then
So I read:

“The fast take is a good sign
that you’re hooked up
with some source
of power, some source
of energy”

remembering (that)
Surrealism is the business of poets
who cannot (or will not) benefit from Surrealism
He clears his throat through a mist

“when a message comes that you hate
     the eyes should fall out
(instead of)
the eyes shoulder a lot
then you are hooked up
with a power
                    like your fly powder
and an energy
which starts the big record spinning again

are here with me
they are wonderful young men
(you know?)
we’re on our way to the ball park
we can hear the thwack of the bat
                                                    from here”

Latif William Harris

It is my rewarding aplomb to announce: Barter Within the Bark of Trees is available from the resurrected Duende Press. "It's a book of poetry on memory, aging and Buddhism which includes 2 sections: First: Older work which presages Section Two which were written in 2014 as an ongoing flow of imagery and illusions which speak to the authors state of mind at 75 years of age."

Duende Press published his first book of poems Poems 1965 and 50 years later this new book - thus we celebrate!

Latif is the man who drove Jack Spicer to his last poetry reading at the Berkeley Conference (1965), by the way.

Mr. Harris & Neeli Cherkovski's Beatitude Golden Anniversary (about 600 pages) is an essential for any contemporary poet's library with a good chunk of the original Beatitude from City Lights included.  lg

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