Kerouac’s “On the Road” turns 50 and much ado is made about something at the Loud Mouth open mic held at The Mac in South St. Louis
I love open mics that celebrate literature more than the funny little egos who produce it. The Loud Mouth open mic at The Mac in South St. Louis last night sponsored by the St. Louis Writers Guild was of the first sort as we gathered to celebrate Kerouac's "On the Road" as it turns 50...living longer than its author.
At The Mac, folks read original work interpersed with readings from "On the Road." I read Clive Matson's title poem "Squish Boots."
Clive Matson (Trudy Fisher, 2004). Click here to go to Clive's website and learn more about his work.
In Northern California Clive was an important writing friend-teacher-mentor for me and I attended his "Crazy Child" workshops when I had the chance. Through connections made there I began publishing in national literary magazines and when "Sightlines: A Poet's Diary" came out, Clive wrote a testimonial for the book jacket, and I felt all grown up.
Since this was a Beat theme evening, I chose his work to read because Clive became a protege of the Beat Generation in New York in the 1960s. His mentor was Herbert Huncke and John Wieners was the poet Cive most admired. Clive's first book of poems, "Mainline to the Heart", was published in 1966 by Diane DiPrima's Poets Press. Half a dozen poetry chapbooks followed (and another in the offing) along with the classic for writers "Let the Crazy Child Write," one of the most sensible and inspiring writing books anywhere around.
I told the audience at The Mac, "I've just moved here from Northern California. There we think of St. Louis as 'Back East.' But, now that I'm here, I'd say you are more Wild West than we are. You carry guns--legally--and smoke...indoors...in public places." That got us off to a humorous start.
Clive's "Squish Boots" ended up in John Wieners coffin and went with him to the grave. He'd sent the book as soon as it was published to Johhn Wiener's so he could see it, but the book got there just too late. The man who'd cared for Wiener's then placed it in the coffin. That's how I remember the story, and I only wish you could hear Clive tell it.
One of my favorite stanza from "Squish Boots" is:
Are you my Daddy?
How can you walk
with those funny hairy balls
between your legs? Where hundreds
of millions of tiny people
jump around in fish suits?
Folks really liked Clive's poem, and also, how I read it, which pleased me. I enjoyed everything that was read and the convivial atmosphere. When we include work at open mics besides those in the room, it enlarges the context to say: "We are part of a living lineage of words. Come, partake," rather than "Love me. Love me, love my work, love me right now." There's plenty of talent in St. Louis...and, writers who are good at their craft and can make us all laugh, too, even while making a point. (Another time I'll be able to introduce you to my new writing pals.)
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