Tuesday, December 17, 2013

KLOX AND KATZ KITCHEN FALL/WINTER 2013 (ISSUE 27)



EDITOR'S SCRATCHING POST
CATATONICALLY SPEAKING
POLEMIX AND SATYRE
Orwellian Industries:  The Department of Applied Phenomenology and Hermeneutics (Satyre) by Gloria Garfunkel
A Parable of Progress (Satire) by Jeff Carter
A Full Life (Polemic/Meditation) by Edwin Young, PhD
The S-Word (Satyre) by Gil A. Waters
Do the Government Shutdown Twerk! (Satire) by Alison Ross
The Unending Inequities of Civilization by Edwin Young, PhD
TFA = Travesty for America (Polemik) by Alison Ross
Three satirical pieces by Jon Wesick
The Hell of Agent Orange (Satyre) by Donal Mahoney
I Am Comfy, Well-Fed, and Secure: All's Right with the World
POESIE
Two poems by Jennifer Hollie Bowles
Two poems by Brycical
A Rabbit Named _____ (One, Two, Three) by Alana I. Capria
At This Very Moment... (Inspired by Elaine Equi) by Zandra Ruiz
Two poems by Willie Smith
From Espials by Felino Soriano
Two Poems by Charles Clifford Brooks III
Two poems by A.g. Synclair
Friendly heart by Courtney Leigh Jameson
With All Due Respect [for Kali] by D.S. West
Two poems by David McLean
Fortunate to be Less Fortunate by Amanda Reagan
Lost love by Bill West
Two poems by Andrew J. Stone
Three poems by Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal
Eco Terrorism? by Melissa Fry Beasley
Two poems by Kathryn Yuen
I am not the sun by Mario Duarte
Read This by John Grey
Paintings of Gnomes by Tim Kahl
Two poems by Shinjini Bhattacharjee
Molech by Jeff Carter
Introspective Clock Face by Marc Carver
REVIEWS AND INNER-VIEWS
Author interview: Felino Soriano
Author Interview (Part I): Charles Clifford Brooks III
Author interview (Part II): Charles Clifford Brooks III
Michael McAloran's Of Dead Silences (Book Review) by David McLean
Hip Hop Roots/Innovation (Video/Song Review of Ezra Letra's "Telethon of Regrets/A Nobody) by Jamez Chang
Jack Phillips Lowes' Cold Case Cowboys (Book Review) by J.S. Watts
Antique Beats from Clinically Washed Out Punx (CD Mini-reviews) by Alison Ross
Genius or Childish? (CD Review of Chidlish Gambino) by Nate Zachar
Woody's Blue Period (Film Review of "Blue Jasmine) by Alison Ross
Basking in Domestic Discord, Before Midnight (Film Review) by Alison Ross









Hip Hop Roots/Innovation (Video/Song Review of Ezra Letra's "Telethon of Regrets/A Nobody") by Jamez Chang


Ezra Letra‘s debut single, “Telethon of Regrets / A Nobody” launched Thanksgiving Weekend, 2013.

Watching the video, listening to Beatsmith Medore‘s production, I kept thinking of The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.” The recollections and linked sections, the experimental interlude—gravitas, ethereal and gritty, but with a dose of irony and optimism. It’s a sublime synthesis of film noir-style sound with Colombian music, hooking back into somber-toned raps. The voice of Ezra is reflective and alive. In fact, the emcee’s flow had me thinking a lit-hop hybrid of Big Pun and Cypress Hill. Mission next: Legalize the street scholar!

Beatsmith Medore’s work just feels grounded, his beats built and layered with root-keeping  in mind, classic Beatnuts vibe, with a DJ Shadow-type experimental touch; organic ambient/environmental samples (storms, traffic, locusts, deep breaths & door knocks) that complement  mood; and yes, yes, a dash-style of The Neptunes, laced up for fun!


The music video, directed by Ezra himself, celebrates place and roots (Queens gets its due) but it also reveals so much about preparation and process. I like this idea of how an emcee and beatsmith both get ready: Ezra brushing his teeth, Medore brushing the vinyl; Ez fitting the cap, the DJ his monitors.

The beatmaker is more of an “in-the-dark-behind-the-curtain musician,” whereas, the emcee is prepped for the visual bribe, making himself stand out not only through words but appearance.

A soulful homage. “Telethon/Nobody” looks and feels like a breakthrough track:

Telethon of Regrets/A Nobody

Editor's note: This review first appeared here: Jamez Chang

Author bio:

Jamez Chang is a hip hop artist, poet and editor living in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Underground Voices, FRiGG, Prime Number, Thrush Poetry Journal, and Menacing Hedge. He is working on an album, Lit Hop, in which he fuses hip hop with literary text and the voices of poets and writers. He currently is the editor of flash fiction at Counterexample Poetics. Visit: http://jamezchang.wordpress.com/

Two poems by Charles Clifford Brooks III



The Abandonment of another Alice

The morning runs over me
like a petulant child.

In the hum
between guitar strings,
I see your face
all Irish
and on fire.

Through my unhealthy
hankering for something new,
I am hung up
in how to skip out
on you.
As an anaconda to any
sweet, living thing,
it’s a predictable
torture.

Due to the vexing
vertebrae in my lower half,
today is a jerky dance.
I’ve stopped paying attention
to the absence
of a conscience.
There are a dozen
unheard messages
from you
I won’t open.
I’ve said hateful things.

This will remain unfinished business.
The man you’ve seen
is a jabberwocky
without willful ill.
Yet, admittedly sorry,
I shall still
abandon you,
Alice.

++++++++++++++++++++

Our Shower

This shower’s always warm,
so wash off who came before.
My water is yours.
In here you’ll never stand
behind me,
that cold tile at your back.

I think, like love,
wanting is eternal.
Seldom found in one,
both
are born in you.

I adore your happy sway,
all your bad habits,
the lace and playful lashes
we keep to ourselves.

Author bio:

Clifford Brooks is a poet, freelance writer, and teacher living in Georgia. His first book of poetry, The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics, was released in August 2012 by John Gosslee Press. Since then, the book has been nominated for the Pulitzer, Georgia Author of the Year, and three Pushcart awards. Currently, Clifford is haunting every corner of the American South to bring his next book of verse, Athena Departs, into full bloom.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Catatonically Speaking


Cliche is anathema to creativity, but I cannot help myself: I concede to the fact that I have a cliched craving to make one of those ubiquitous and annoying Definitive End of Year Top Movies/Books/CD lists. You are allowed to parody my self-indulgent efforts, but you are NOT allowed to disagree with my choices, as they are sacrosanct preferences that will one day be etched in stone as The Best Ever Top List. 

But instead of a Top Ten list, I offer forth a Top Five list of my fave 2013 books, CDs and movies. I am so defiant, no? Bow before my iconoclastic ways. 

TOP CINCO CDs of 2013:

Deerhunter - Monomania: Last issues' review should make it very clear how "vastly" I value this album by one of my favorite bands. It's raw, it's sexy, it's abrasive, it's tender, it's heavenly, it's hellish, it's a little bit country and a lotta punk and roll ...Monomania is Deerhunter's best after Cryptograms, and that one is a masterpiece of masterful magnificence wrapped in magnified marvelousness.
  
Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City: I don't give a fuck about an Oxford Comma and I especially don't give a fuck about the puerile backlash against Vampire Weekend. I love them dearly, especially their first album and this latest one. Contra, not so much, but Modern Vampires of the City is such a daring departure from their "Upper West Side Soweto" sound that you have to admire the prepsters for having the ganas to knowingly betray the bulk of their fanbase with more roots-and-rap-oriented stylings. Not that there is blatant rap, per se, but the standout song, "Step" takes its inspiration from a Souls of Mischief song, and elsewhere there are fragments of hip hop flavor. The rest of the album spans the spectrum of genres, rockabilly and folk being other notable influences. Viva Los Vampires! 

Chelsea Light MovingSonic Youth Part II. Kim Gordon is out (bummer) but Thurston's still in, and he's got some new pals to back him up. Welcome back, no-wave art-punksters brandishing an only very slightly dulled heavy metal blade. 



Beats Antique - A Thousand Faces: This trippy album should be the soundtrack playing in Hell's basement. See review in this issue for a more elaborate, less alarming description. 

Washed Out - Paracosm: Check out this issue's review of Washed Out's album for reasons as to why it's so mellifluously magnificent. 


TOP CINCO MOVIES OF 2013:

Before Midnight - As long as Linklater refuses to eschew the big budget he has accumulated over the years, he will never top his master stroke, "Slacker." "Slacker" was made on a slacker's budget and as such, is a perfect ragged reflection of the "loser" lifestyle (I use "loser" in quotations because they are only "losers" in the minds of mass society, who misguidedly merit comformist ambition over rebellious nonchalance). That said, Linklater has proved himself an auteur force to be reckoned with. And "Before Midnight" is his best effort since "Slacker" - rife with verisimilitude and dense with dialogue, it exposes the complications of coupledom in all its guts and glory.



Kill Your Darlings - I think you kinda have to be a Beats/Ginsberg/Burroughs/Kerouac fan in order to fully appreciate this movie, and truth be told, I don't care as much for the latter two as I do for Ginsberg as well as lesser-known Beat poets. And in fact, some of what Ginsberg writes annoys the fuck out of me - it seems like "contrived coolness." But I like "Howl" a whole fucking lot, and I appreciate the Beats' revolutionary spirit. Keroauc annoys me, frankly, but I can appreciate his immense talent, even if his topics were superficial (and that's using retro lenses anyway). Burroughs will always bemuse me, but in a mostly good way, even if I don't count myself a full fan. Anyway..."Kill Your Darlings" is essential viewing if you are interested in counterculture literature and the goings-on surrounding the Beat movement. And actually, the film delves into the incipient aspects of the movement, when Ginsberg was a shy nerdy-nerd and Burroughs was just embarking on his harrowingly drug-fueled lifestyle. And it reveals details of a juicy murder that has long been kept under wraps, and basks in a homoerotic aura that would have scandalized in its time but now seems fairly tame given the more tolerant climate of today.

Blue Jasmine - See this issue's review as to why this movie ranks as one of my faves this year.

Room 237 - "The Shining" is not my favorite Kubrick film, though it is well-executed. But I find the at-times histrionic acting almost a parody of horror films, and for that reason, I cannot watch it without giggling instead of shuddering. Nonetheless, the movie is intriguing enough to warrant an documentary about its sundry fan and critic interpretations. Some of the interpretations are sound, but others are so outlandish as to induce guffaws. For example, one critic/fan believes the movie's hidden symbolim is for the genocide of Native Americans. For another, the film is an allegory for the Holocaust. Hm, and here I thought it was a movie about Jack Nicholson's freaky eyebrows, Shelly Duvall's demented Olive Oil impression, a couple of creepy-ass twin girls, and bucket-loads of blood.

The Great Gatsby - I am kind of loathe to include this among my list, but I will do so anyway for three reasons: a) I like Baz Lurhman typically, b) I love and have taught The Great Gatsby, and c) I did not see too many movies last year and am at a loss as to what else to include (LAME excuse, I know). It's true this was not my favorite Baz Luhrman movie - he's kind of hit or miss anyway. I much preferred his incarnation of "Romeo and Juliet." But given that I appreciate his brazenly bizarre takes on classic literature, I think his "Great Gatsby" deserves at least a nod here. And actually, the movie was not brazenly bizarre ENOUGH, in my estimation. "Romeo and Juliet" did a far better job at showcasing Luhrman's eccentric talents and tweaking Shakespeare's vision into something more hyperbolically insane. So I am not sure if Luhrman just got lazy, or fearful, or what, but I think he could have hewed less loyally to the original "Gatsby" film and put a stronger Luhrman imprint on his own version. Plus, no one will trump Redford in the title role; DiCaprio's turn felt a bit fake and forced. That said, it's still worth watching for the silly and surrealistic flourishes that Luhrman does manage to sneak in.



Check back soon for the Cat's Top Five Books of 2013! 

(Hint, one of them is by this dude, here.)


In the meantime, enjoy sampling the astoundingly tasty culinary-literary creations emanating from this winter's Klox and Katz Kitchen! 




Sunday, December 15, 2013

Author Interview: Charles Clifford Brooks III (Part I)



Georgia poet Charles Clifford Brooks III may be the first modern Southern Beatnik. He would likely recoil at that description, and I am hesitant even to commit it to paper, and yet, those were my initial sentiments upon perusing his verse at the urging of my local booksellers, Jeff McCord and Jef Blocker at http://www.boundtobereadbooks.com/>Bound to Be Read BooksBound to be Read had recently featured a reading by Cliff, and I had missed it because I had been out of town.

However, upon returning, I made my weekly visit to the bookstore (one of my cherished East Atlanta Village haunts), and I was immediately intrigued by the titles and cover photograph of his dual collections, The Draw of Broken Eyes and Whirling Metaphysics. Jef and Jeff assured me that it would be right up my literary alley, so I bought the book and dug in.

Right away I started bending corners of the pages I wanted to re-read so that I could highlight my favorite lines. This is a reading ritual for me: read through the collection first, dog-ear pages, then do a return reading of the bookmarked pages, underlining arresting imagery, clever phrasings, and captivating insights. It’s something that brings me both inspiration and comfort. By the end of my second reading of Cliff's book, a good chunk of the pages were dog-eared, and dripping with ink. A third reading opened the door to new favorites.

Of course, Cliff Brooks' poetry cannot really be pigeonholed so readily, so my declaration of him as a Southern Beatnik was a bit impetuous. His verse betrays many layers and influences; on the surface, his lines are mostly plainspoken and unadorned, but a complex symbolism sizzles beneath this deceptive facade. Cliff Brooks' verse is a wrenching journey through love and loss, but also a celebration of pedestrian pleasures - those everyday details that a lesser mind might consider mundane but that the mind of an artist of Cliff Brooks' caliber registers as wholly relevant. He paints such details (juice-splattered paper...the buzz of insects...whirring refrigerators) with meticulous metaphysical attention.  

The poetry in this book is intensely, almost uncomfortably personal, and yet resonates with a startling pathos. Or, perhaps its empathetic echoes are because the book reads like a locked journal that's been pried open so that the reader can peer hungrily into the private poetic thoughts of a lovelorn soul. Cliff Brooks' sublime lines exhibit an unflnching honesty whose effect lingers long after they've been read...and re-read, and re-read. 

There really is something to be said for verse whose exterior decor is minimalistic (no elaborate embellishments, stripped to the bone), but whose interior is laden with imagery and conceits that speak candidly to the joyful and painful intimacies we all experience. There is something elegantly bohemian in the way Cliff Brooks expresses himself, and at times, even, his poetic voice is suffused with a kind of ragged jazz; these attributes are why he has drawn comparisons to the Beats. But there is of course an undeniable Southern sensibility in his scribblings, not to mention a clear appreciation for the mystical, succinct nature of Zen expression. 

Cliff Brooks has been recognized for his verse via some pretty hefty nominations - Pushcart Prize, Georgia Author of the Year, even the Pulitzer Prize. He does regular readings of his works, teaches passionately, and is notable for his blunt wit and "scruffy gentleman" persona. He is a generously kind sort, and yet you get the sense you don't want to tread too close to his moody side. And therein lies his poetic soul: the magnanimous, mercurial writer who feels corrupted by experience and cathartically cleanses his impurities with the blood of ink.

Clockwise Cat is proud to present an interview with the tremendously talented, deeply impassioned Charles Clifford Brooks III. This issue also contains two of his most recent poems, and our Spring/Summer Issue will present a review of the second half of his book, Whirling Metaphysics. 

CHARLES CLIFFORD BROOKS III: THE INTERVIEW

You told me: "The first book, The Draw of Broken Eyes, is about the only true love of my life and why I am still single. She was supposed to be home when the book was published. She still hasn’t reached me." Expand on this, if you could.

This is by far the hardest question for me to address out of all the curious points in The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics.  There’s a whole lifetime going on with Whirling Metaphysics, but The Draw of Broken Eyes has one specific purpose.  Since the book was released 13 months ago, I’ve slowly been able to let more of the story in Broken Eyes seep out to the public, not for sake of dramatic flair, but because it is still a raw nerve I have trouble touching.  Yet, to speak of it openly is to deal with it directly.  In my experience that is the only way to create and maintain literary integrity, as well as a personal exercise in letting go.

I fell in love with a girl in 2003-2004, a young lady, who was the first to fully sync with my speeding thoughts, rapid speech, manic highs, and hellish lows without flinching. She gave me hope after a painful divorce.  In my experience, those I devoted myself to burnt out ahead of schedule due to my mercurial nature.  That was not their fault, it was mine.

In her eyes I could see the home, the solid life, the stability I wanted to experience.  After two years of courting it was obvious I gave her a similar balance and normalcy.  Providing someone else with a sense of serenity was new for me.  Unfortunately, life had very different plans for our future than what we attempted to create.  Every attempt to begin our life failed. 

Then she vanished.

Spiritually fractured, lost, frantic I came to the conclusion that the only way I could be sure she’d know I still loved her, that I waited in Georgia for her to come home, that I never gave up hope was to write my devotion into a book good enough for legitimate publication, wide distribution, the subtext hidden in poetry my readers could also enjoy but not completely decipher.  Only she would be able to decode my real meaning.

My new dream was that she would discover the book after Googling my name, read it, then contact me.  The crowning desire was to have her in the front row of my first reading, smiling at me, kissing me when the unnerving ordeal was over.  I could tell our story, prove love overcomes all, and have her stand so everyone could see why I never gave up.

The book was accepted for publication.  John Gosslee Books decided to publish both Whirling Metaphysics (the first book) and The Draw of Broken Eyes (the love letter) in one volume.   I did indeed have my first reading, but she was not in the front row, squeezed somewhere in the middle, or even hiding in the back.  The girl wasn’t there.  She still isn’t here. 

For me, the most shocking part of The Draw of Broken Eyes is how many quickly figure
out (to some degree) that the book was something very sad speaking to a particular lover. 
Some of the poetry most often requested of me to read aloud come from Broken Eyes.  

Some of these poems are: “myth’s driven forward”, “Ascension, First Floor Up”, “Our
Couch”, “Conversations with Daisy”, “We Heave Up Like the Night”, “The Tragedy of
Waiting Helen”, “blackberries & blue morpho didius”, “There are Hours”, and
“saturday afternoon at hilton head”.  They’re about her.  They are powerful, mysterious,
and begged for an explanation.  It didn’t completely blindside me.  I did make the oath that
if asked I’d answer to the best of my ability.  If I didn’t have the nerve to address the issue 
in public, I didn’t deserve to sell that story in my book.

Eventually, due to her haunting absence, I did attempt to embrace other girls, laugh, 
keep dancing, but the music was missing – the flesh was wax paper. The attempts I made at 
a relationship violently crashed into the earth and left an unfair amount of collateral 
damage on their end.  I decided to keep a healthy distance from any more attempts at 
romance until I put all my questions about her, and our dreamy future, to rest. 

I’m still single.

You said: "I had an idyllic childhood, but my teen years lead into my disconnected feeling with society that shows hardcore in my writing today. I still write either alone in a poem or as an observer.  In what ways was your childhood idyllic? What happened in your teen years that caused you to feel alienation from society?

I grew up in Crawford, Georgia.  It’s a town in Oglethorpe County just below Athens.  I had all the excitement of the University of Georgia football games and cultural events a college town that size easily provided, but I was primarily nestled in the rural beauty of Crawford. 

My father, Chuck Brooks, a businessman who taught me the honor of Southern heritage and tradition also gave me his humor.  My love of music began with him as my formative years were bathed in Motown.  My brilliant mother, Jeanette Fleming, passed me her academic talents, and has been a strong, calming presence.  She is my biggest fan, and worries about me constantly.  Both of them were/are remarkable parents.  The two-year monastic existence I lived while finishing The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics, every scorching day at work as a landscaper, all the long miles of touring, continuous, tenacious promotion, to this interview with you – is for them. In my new book, Athena Departs, I make it a point to prove this statement by the poetry I write about them.

As I got older it was harder for me to connect with people.  My teenage years were tough on me, but I think that all teenagers go through that typical angst.  My bipolar disorder ramped up around 20 to 21, and the ability to open up, and understand, others also became more strained. 

At first being told by a professional I “suffered” from a mood disorder made me feel dysfunctional.  The diagnosis was not understood then as it is today, and the medications made me feel like I was walking through life fighting my way out of a wool sock.  I didn’t take the pills, and to throw off attention when shadows settled in, I used my gift as a comedian to trick folks into thinking I was on top of the world.  What I wanted was oblivion.

To escape the worst of the black dogs, I wrote myself into a safe world of short stories where I wasn’t such an alien presence, where I fit in my own skin, where I was in control.  Poetry came into play when women took center stage, but even then, prose remained my mainstay.  Five or six years after I graduated from college, poetry got behind the wheel of my professional writing career.  That was at the request of an agent who decided my introduction to the larger literary world should be with Whirling Metaphysics.  He never charged me a dime.  We worked on it for a year.  He decided the South needed a poet.  I didn’t see a reason to argue.  During the last leg of the process he closed up shop and took off, yet, I was too stubborn to stop.

In poetry, for reasons I still can’t explain, when I write about personal struggles, pieces digging into me, I am alone (walking, driving late at night, or doing manual labor to slow my manic energy).  I write about myself in dreamscapes like Raven in Memoriam, Blues Solo, Six Chapters of Swerve, and The Fifth Movement.  In poems where I write about others, it’s almost like an exercise in anthropology.  I’m always a few (safe) steps back, removed, confused, bemused, attempting to figure out why the world works the way it does. 

I don’t feel superior or inferior because of this quixotic glitch in perspective.  One therapist who read my book told me it was the side effect of a dissociative disorder.  Everything today has a diagnosis.  Maybe I just don’t give a shit often enough to visit the circus on a regular basis – maybe.

We both teach: I, as a public high school literature/ESOL teacher (I have also taught writing at a community college), and you as a teacher of adults at Chattahoochee Technical College. I believe you said the students are getting their GEDs? Discuss your experiences with students, and with the institution of education. Are there any conflicts between the two? For example, I adore the act of teaching and I love my kids, tiresome though they can be, but the institution of education and the oppressive bureaucracy can stifle the art of teaching. Have you experienced this at your level of instruction, or do you anticipate experiencing this? Or is there no real disconnect where you teach? How do you find your interactions with students? Discuss the positives and negatives.

Teaching at Chattahoochee Technical College in the Adult Learning Center has been one of the greatest blessings of my life.  I am teaching teens that left a regular high school setting (or forced out) that didn’t fit them and adults who have come back for a degree, get their GED.  All of them show that spark for nurturing their greater selves that I can only compare to the lofty ideals Aristotle wrote about so long ago. Other big perks include: I don't have the red tape endured through public education, wrangling with ineffective administrators, and I have an amazing amount of free reign over how I teach. 

Slowly I learn each student and help tailor a program that best suits their mode of thinking.  Each and every soul sitting in my classroom is there because they want to be, eager to learn, and have extensive life experiences to share that makes the whole three hour class period more like an intellectual family gathering than a factory of mediocrity.

The administration is helpful and supportive, always there to provide a helping hand or bit of advice.  My teaching guru, Mrs. Amy Denney, quickly took the deep-rooted fear out of my new career while always keeping me on my toes.  Ms. Holly Holt is a bright, highly talented poet who moonlights as an assistant to all the teachers in Chattahoochee Tech who has given me teaching tools, and helpful tips.  I honestly can’t think of any negatives to report.

You mentioned you freelance write for various publications. It sounds as though you write for varied audiences. Discuss the various types of writing you do, and the challenges of each. (I was once a freelance writer as well; I wrote for arts as well as technical publications.)

I freelance for Fast & Sexy Magazine which “exalts the classic design of automobiles and the divine feminine”.  My boss, Sam Bailey, is one of the most upright, honest, and encouraging men I’ve ever had the good fortune of working for.  My job is to interview the models and car owners, then write the articles included in each issue.  The only drawback at times is syncing up interview times with those in the magazine that have very different schedules.  A challenge is writing to the car world, which is very different from poetry or the SEO writing I do for my other side gig.  Yet, this does not mean “talking down” to anyone simply because of the material I cover.  I think that is cheap and offensive.

Interactive Search Marketing is the web design and SEO group I’ve worked with for close to eight years that has taught me everything I know about social media.  Not only is this a challenge to write in yet another way to rank businesses on Yahoo, Bing, and Google, but the applications I’ve garnered there have given me a leg up in promoting my own creative career online.  Here, too, I have found a best friend and brother, Greg Hosmer, who has seen me through some rough times and helped me keep working when I wanted to throw in the towel.

Discuss the collective of artists that you mentioned. You said the number was "sheered down due to ego." How did ego play a part in the disruption of the coherence of the group? Discuss your feelings about ego in general, and how it can obstruct.

The Southern Collective Experience is a concept formed in January 2013.  I toured, bounced in-and-out-of reading groups, and met a ton of other Southern artists these last thirteen months, and I discovered that many luminous, unknown souls considered themselves “creative loners” because the mainstream art scene was rife with selfish desire.  Those I spoke to didn’t want to deal with the drama that comes along with a gathering of artists that includes over two or three members.  After a few days of consideration, I decided to see what I could shake loose.



Instead of hoarding the attention and wrapping myself in a bullshit mantle of literary achievement, it made more sense to me to share the stage.  I started calling those “creative loners”.  Bottom line, I wish to do the business of art with folks from all genres and work against clichés (most well-earned).  I have grown ill from constant whining about the death of poetry, and the creative sloth blamed on a society that’s tossed art aside.  That’s not true.  The truth is poets (artists) became thin-skinned cry babies that hid in MFA programs, wasting hundreds of dollars on how-to seminars, or reading groups Bukowski immortalized in Poetry Readings.  If all else fails, simply write cryptic nonsense and claim superior intellect when a poetry reader calls you out on it.  A few slipped in under the guise of being edgy and cool for their ability to shock folks by using “fuck” a thousand times over ten pages.

So, meticulously I gathered artists from all over Dixie who worked in every genre where we met on two occasions.  They were both weekend retreats to get better acquainted.  I dislike the idea of going off to somewhere gorgeous just to schedule the whole thing like weekend detention in high school, but we did share literature and later play music that amazed everyone in attendance.  I believed then, as I do evermore now, that art only survives when artists get over themselves, put aside pomp and circumstance, and get down to the bare bones of creation.  The first step was not to announce a grand plan that the world of sound, color, and words would be salvaged from the hum-drum abyss by this collective, but to rather sit, talk, and share our inspiration.  The first meeting went well.  I began to think this gathering of Southern imagination was sailing ahead like the promise of free money.

After the second outing I found that ego creeps in everywhere, no matter how carefully you attempt to weed it out.  This was not a shock to me.  I shaved down our number and took a few steps back to reorganize. 

I am also a member of The Last Ancients, a small group of individuals who reside beyond the Southern states, who are poets, writers, editors, visual artists, musicians-music producers, friends that includes Clifford Brooks, Isaac Kirkman, Beatsmith Medore, Jamez Chang, and Ezra Letra.  This organization is just as specific in purpose and includes people who are true to themselves and their chosen art form.  Both of these groups have given me more peace of mind than I’ve ever experienced anywhere else.


Neither group is standing on a mountaintop crying out for followers.  None of us plan to teach the world how to return to a creative utopia that never existed to begin with.  As I see it, we’re out to prove that an intelligent, cultured group who are friends chill enough to throw a little hell at each other, can also write poetry & prose, collaborate to build fresh expressions, all while sharing combined knowledge and connections to move forward.

What is vanity publishing, and why do you denounce it?

Put simply – it’s cheating.  If you’re publishing something for friends/family - fine; if you’re a motivational speaker and want literature to hand out during/after the presentation - groovy; in the case you’re a businessman getting his new product/service out there – that’s different. 

If you want to be taken seriously in the literary community, you must go through the trial by fire of sending out manuscripts, rejections, editing, re-editing, editing some more, contract negotiations, and then having an editor throw a second, or third, pair of eyes on your work to pick up on things perhaps you missed after a thousand readings.  It’s a learning process. 

I get some disgruntled faces when I talk about this during readings, but sometimes the truth hurts.

Discuss your experiences at Shorter College. What did you study? Did you write while at Shorter? If not, then what was the genesis of your writing career?

Shorter College in Rome, GA (Not Shorter University as it’s seen today) was an oasis of classical learning for me as I found my niche in the academic world.  It was a Baptist institution, but that, back then, was never shoved down anyone’s throat.  The professors were brilliant and motivating, showing me how gorgeous the world could be the more you understood about it.  I ended up with a Bachelors of Science in History/Political Science with a minor in English Literature.

I did write poetry back then, but it was mostly for a love interest.  Again, my creative bread and butter was prose.  However, after I fell into an abyss of alcoholism, took a year off, and then came back to graduate, a poem I wrote, which is in my book, “The Judas Noose Tavern” became one of the first “real” poems I was proud to pen.  That poem was also submitted to the National Creative Society which inducted me as a Lifetime Member in 1999.  Another poem from those years is the innocent, but personally revealing poem “Sunlight Carves My Chaos”.

You worked as a juvenile probation officer as well as for DFCS. How did you get into those lines of work?  What are your most memorable moments from those jobs? How does that line of work figure into your poetry? Do you think that the "poetic" can be found even in such practical lines of work? How so?

A personal friend who worked for the Pickens County Police Department called me where I worked at Barnes & Noble in Athens at the time.  I have always had a drive to inspire kids, help them develop their hidden talents, tutor them where they struggle, broaden the scope of their worlds.  My buddy told me that these talents he saw in me as we grew up would fit perfectly in juvenile probation.  He was right.  I worked for the Department of Juvenile Justice for six years until it became more about paperwork and less about improving the life of children/teens.  99% of the cases I worked were ultimately a success, where lessons were learned and everyone involved walked away a better person.

However, there was a dark side.  Since I worked in Pickens County, a rural, quiet part of North Georgia, the cases were very Mayberry in their severity.  I had kids shooting deer from the road, petty theft, fights over girlfriends/boyfriends, truancy issues, and other things, that not so long ago, would never require juvenile probation of any kind – just a swift paddling in the principal’s office with one waiting at home.  (How times have changed.)  The nightmares came with the cases of child molestation, child abuse, and chemical dependency. 

This tragedy was increased when I moved into the Department of Family and Children’s Service where, again, many more family issues were peacefully resolved, but those that weren’t drug out for years and began to eat away at my soul.  As I sat in court watching monsters put on trial for robbing innocence it became obvious that in order for me to maintain some semblance of control I would either drown myself in the nearest bottle of brown liquor, or purge the rage through creative writing. 

I am a passionate fan of Dante’s Divine Comedy.  One day at work I thought, “Hell is too good for some people”.  That’s the moment “The Gateman’s Hymn of Ignoracium” was born.  I invented a fourth afterlife, previously unknown to mankind, that included three “sinners” that the Inferno considered too vile for a place of pain.  These individuals were 1) Those who exploit people through religion, 2) Those who exploit the people through dirty business practices, 3) Those who molest children and beat women.  I never considered it for publication because in our sound bite society, an epic didn’t seem like a commercially sound investment.  However, my publisher, John Gosslee Books insisted it be added at the book’s end and has since garnered a generous amount of praise.

Discuss your landscaping stint and how it influenced your way of being, and your writing.

At the ten year mark working in government positions, I realized that in order to write my book honestly, with all the scars included, I had to find other employment.  To the dismay of my family, I announced out of the blue that I was giving up health insurance, retirement, and a 401K to cut grass and write poetry.  For two years I worked manual labor seven days a week and wrote late into the night. 

Being out in nature was the blissful side effect of dropping DFCS and picking up a weed eater.  I was left alone all day to obsess over edits, new poems, and jot notes where a “straight job” wouldn’t allow it.  There were many 4am moments where I looked at my sunken, hungry face, desperate, too-wide eyes, and thought, “What in the name of God have I done”.  Hard, physical labor helped me stay focused and took me away from my computer which I wouldn’t have otherwise.  That serenity did weave itself into my poetry in places where flowers, wildlife, and more pastoral feeling crept in.  Looking back now, I know my decision to write full time was what saved me from a life of an unhappy marriage, miserable job, and mediocre existence.  I can say that my family rests easier these days as well.

How does region - specifically Georgia, but also the south as a whole as a distinct cultural area of the country  - play a part in your writing?

I never set out to be known as a “Southern poet”, for the same reason I refuse the laurels of a “bipolar poet” or “alcoholic poet”.  Too many people think it wise to divide themselves because of location or personal issues instead of the quality of their work.  All of these things are simply facts of life.  I write what I know, and Georgia is what I know.  I do not glamorize it or apologize for the fact I was born below the Mason-Dixon.  There is a disturbing trend that’s gained speed in this nation that it’s shameful to be proud of roots in Dixie.  It is not a paradox or peculiar to be born and raised in this lush, fragrant state and lack social graces and/or a formal education.  It is not rare to be Southern and not be racist.

The coastline, lowlands, and mountains that Georgia calls its own still have veins of the Old South that aren’t synonymous with hatred, intolerance, or ignorance.  I was blessed to experience a very rare upbringing with one side of the family wisely investing in business over generations with a plantation house where even today I use as a hiding place the real world can’t invade.  My momma’s family tree is packed with country genius who also farm, work hard labor, and love like love is all there is around to keep each other warm.  I speak often of my nanny, Virginia Smith “Gin Gin”, the financially sound family life, and the grace of wanting for nothing.  The other side of this coin is that my whole life I’ve dealt with the unfounded resentment of my family’s hard-earned wealth, or the idea that I owed someone who grew up without it a paycheck.

I grew up hearing the nearly forgotten myths of this region, and they play a big role in my next book of poetry, Athena Departs.  I received an excellent private school education in college, and then traveled the state to glean all I could from the gorgeous tapestry that’s weaved deeply in my roots that, no matter how far I wander, I’ll always find my way back home.  I find the word “redneck” as offensive as any other racist epithet.  Yet, that word is not only tolerated, it’s celebrated.  It is an injustice I do intend to attack with a vengeance.

What music, movies and visual art inspires you, and plays a part in your poetry? Which poets, living and dead, known and obscure, do you admire, and why?

Music is the reason I write poetry.  There is always a melody moving behind me while I’m creating poetry or prose.  Right now I listen to a great deal of Gary Clark Jr., The Black Keys, Ben Harper, Alex Clare, Motown, Beethoven, and Led Zeppelin.  The poets that ignite my creative riots include Bukowski, Rilke, Stevens, Williams, Millay, cummings, and Yeats.  I consider all of these musicians and poets guardian angels, mischievous family, and close friends.  All of them stayed away from the pitfalls of cryptic imagery and/or dripping sentimentality.  They are men among sniveling children who do not cram their opinions down your throat, or make excuses for being bards.  For this reason they are all also my personal heroes.

Can anyone be a poet? Is poetry a craft to be honed and labored over, or should it be a spontaneous endeavor, more stream-of-conscious/subconscious outpouring, or something in between, or none of the above? Who has the better idea about poetry - the surrealists, or the academics with their MFAs? Or someone else entirely? Elaborate on your thoughts.

No, not everyone can be a poet.  Unfortunately it can’t be purchased through seminars, conferences, or how-to books.  These can help hone the natural born skill innate in every creative soul, but at the end of the day, if it ain’t there, it ain’t gonna be.  Conferences help, as do seminars, to create connections with other artists also in attendance, but be aware that some of these are money-making machines that care nothing about an author’s future.  Desperation blinds many who want to be “called” a poet, live that stereotypical lifestyle, but down deep know the immortal fire will never spark.  I see this creative façade on Facebook when someone names themselves “Poet John Doe”, or “Author Jane Doe”.  If you are a poet, if you are a powerhouse in prose, it will show through you without the pathetic announcement.  I don’t believe anyone’s Christian name begins with “poet”, “poetess”, or “author”.  You never see “Gardener Jim Smith” or “Teacher Bill Watson” on Facebook. 
The urge to create is steady with me, but I don’t sit down at a predetermined time in an attempt to force it.  I carry moleskins around at all times to jot notes that give me a rush at random times.  I am amazed that in my scribbling I haven’t walked into traffic or bumped into more innocent bystanders.  Art picks you.  You can choose to appreciate all the arts, have a true, soulful appreciation for their existence, but I don’t think that it’s source can be willed into one’s talent set.  This is where too many get suckered into vanity presses, or submit to subpar ezines to say they’ve been “published”.  No, they’ve been desperate, and it isn’t a subtle hint, it’s a freight train to the face.  All of this may sound like a mixture of cruelty and mystical guesswork, but after twenty years in the business, and it is a business, I’ve learned these to be absolutes.  What is cruel is to be “nice” and not make this information available.

You mentioned you are working on a second book of verse, Athena Departs. Discuss how you feel about it.

I am more excited about my second book of poetry with every day that passes.  This is the first one that sees me as the man, the owner/creator, the Southern Son sure of his abilities.  I am very blessed with the support and critiques of The Last Ancients and The Southern Collective Experience.  I crave honest feedback even if it’s as harsh as, “This poem honestly brought me to the verge of puking”. 

Athena Departs picks up where my first books left off with my new life as an independent wordsmith on the verge of a new phase in life.  Never before have I felt so confident, focused, and unfettered by doubt.  I am humbled by the attention I get due to my craft.  Every interview is a journey for me as I learn to be more honest with the public, and most importantly, myself.  The second book speaks in direct, affectionate, earnest words to family, friends, and the fates I dodged last time.  I have already had some of it picked up in different magazines for publication.  New publishers are approaching me to get a first look at the finished product.  Yet, I rush nothing.  I am diligent, but I cannot force life to happen.  For me, letting life sporadically unfold makes the best poetry.


                                                            
Editor's note: This interview is continued here: Part II


Photo credit:  Aisha Cleapor

Southern Collective Experience/Last Ancients Banners credit:  Ezra Letra

Author Interview: Charles Clifford Brooks III (Part II)





     Let's start with the titles. "The Draw of Broken Eyes" is one that evokes all sorts of unusual imagery. I am aware that the title is a variation on lines in "Ascension, First Floor Up," that says: "A giant toddler with tattoos/and broken eyes/It's the draw./Broken: She dances for your/broken eyes."  Talk about this poem, and how the title relates. Is the title/those lines referring to the "allure" of people who've seen so much pain that their eyes appear to reflect the anguish they've witnessed? Or are there as-yet-unfathomed dimensions to these lines/the title? The poem seems to be about a fantasy trip of some sort...literal and figurative trip, that is, given the surrealistic imagery in parts. Discuss this and please unabashedly correct any misunderstandings!

The creation of the title, “The Draw of Broken Eyes”, occurred during the same time as the second stanza in “Three Nights at the Plantation”.  “Three Nights at the Plantation” is a poem where each stanza represents an evening I spent in my family’s plantation house from the age of 8 to 32.  In the second stanza, I guess I was about 27, where two buddies and I were up late at the big house, boozing, getting into things that make a man think too hard, and we agreed on the truth that none of us understood women.  I made some dramatic statement like, “I don’t know why women bother with me when my soul must smell like a 
monster”.

Less than a breath later, one of my buddies, slumped to the side of his leather chair like a tiny gunslinger with a bottle of Maker’s Mark, grumbled, “It’s because of your eyes.  
Women are drawn to your broken eyes”.

At the time I had no idea what he meant, but he was sure of it, and I knew he was right.  My friend who said it didn’t offer any other explanation, but instead drank more from the bottle and looked for his cigarettes.  The third of our group nodded in agreement and never looked up from his acoustic guitar.
 
About 10 years later, I was iced in at my dad’s house in Watkinsville, GA (near Athens) where I decided to write a woman a love letter in the form of a book of poetry.  I churned it out in three days, but lacked a title.  “The Draw of Broken Eyes” careened out of that furious creation, for at that time I felt emotionally/mentally broken, incomplete, and jagged around the edges.
 
“Ascension, First Floor Up” is one of my “dream-state poems” I created, as desperately mad as it sounds now, where I invented a place in my solitude where she was home with me.  Poems like this one are always opened in some sleepy state with a journey I’d like to take with her.  Somewhere within the piece also, I openly wonder what I did wrong to keep it in dreams – in this case it was due to the fact I wasn’t man enough to take care of two people - a toddler with tattoos and broken eyes - too broken, apparently, to see what I was supposed to do to fix all this mess.  I imagined in a safe place, far away, she danced to mend my broken eyes.  It was the draw.  For a cosmic reason beyond my comprehension we could share this binding love, but what I believed at the time, we couldn’t have it, and a home, at the same time.  That’s when the curious conversation from “Three Nights at the Plantation” flashed back to me and immediately became the title.

No part of “Ascension, First Floor Up” actually happened.  It was one of the love letters to her.

     "Whirling Metaphysics" - this title immediately drew me in because whirling is so evocative of dizzying states and metaphysics is subject that interests me ever since I studied Buddhism. The two words together is a startling yet oddly logical juxtaposition. Discuss the title and how it relates to the second collection of poems in your book. 

The “whirling” I found in my study of the Sufi faith regarding whirling dervishes.  I felt, and still feel, so much of that constant movement in my need to stay busy, engaged – anything but find myself bored.  “Metaphysics” is my favorite branch of philosophy, and the reason I write poetry.  My undying objective in life is to define the central thread of mankind’s Being.  Music inspired me to make words sing through verse, but the point was/is to try and reach beyond the ethereal film between us and “the Real” which I knew took a marriage of reason and faith.  (Here I give a nod to Boethius.)  This was/is the same combination I knew/know would be essential to getting a firm hold on my mood swings. 
“Whirling Metaphysics” is a book that seems divided into various poetic forms, rhyme schemes, and time periods – all the way to the epic “The Gateman’s Hymn of Ignoracium”.  The epic is my morbid Ode to Joy.  This book spans my life from childhood to the period in which “The Draw of Broken Eyes” picks up.  “Whirling Metaphysics” has no central theme.  It is as close to a photo album as I have in my possession.   Being bipolar, the constant movement of “whirling” with the deeply contemplative stillness of “metaphysics” is also to show the dual side of my nature. 

      The Beats - namely Ferlinghetti, but also Ginsberg and more obscure ones like Gregory Courso and Diane DiPrimia - seem to be an influence on your poetry. You do sort of bash the Beats a little in "Couch," but the influences still resonate. I am also aware of your Bukowski fetish, and can hear the ringing of his words/style throughout your book, the way you kind of alternate between clear, straightforward, plainspoken language and dense, opaque imagery. Bukowski is one that I have grappled with due to his misogyny, but he does have some truly lyrical lines and I see those in your poetry too. Talk about those influences, and the others you have mentioned.

I did not read a great deal of poetry before my agent decided that verse was the way I should be introduced to the literary world.  Once that was my vehicle into letters, I didn’t read any poets at all.  I was afraid that trying to “learn poetry” at that point would lead to me inadvertently using language too similar to an artist before my time.
 
Like you mentioned in “Our Couch”, I have to eat some crow because of that lack of poetic knowledge.  I have learned to enjoy a few of The Beats.  I can stomach about half of Kerouac, and less than that of Ginsberg, yet, when I found Ferlinghetti after I wrote the book, I did indeed stumble upon a kindred spirit.  Other poets with whom I find solace with include Rumi, Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, Rilke, Sandburg, Stevens, cummings, Bukowski (truly in his poem “Poetry Readings”), Simic, Aagard, and Bottoms. 

      I am also reminded of Zen/Japanese poetry in some of your works - the clarity, brevity, and mysticism. Poems like "Nightless Dreams," "Brevity," and even a poem like "Coffee House Layouts" with its direct language and stark imagery, some of it bound up in nature. Discuss this as a possible influence. Also discuss the themes of nature in your poems, as nature imagery/symbolism is prominent throughout. Discuss how growing up so close to nature has influenced you in your poetry. 

Growing up close to nature I found an inherent feeling of Zen.  Still today, out among trees, wind, and sun I am most myself.  I think that children today would be much more at ease in their own skin if they spent more time outside.  I don’t think there’s any truth to ADD and ADHD being “rampant” today than any other period.  When you remove youth from the natural elements, there’s bound to be some internal rebellion.

From the love of nature came the rise of the mysticism you see that was further fortified by the Southern Gothic-style stories I heard from my nanny, Virginia (the central character in “I Saw the Klan Today) that were akin to the Uncle Remus tales we know today.  The South has its own superstitions, myths, and magic not found anywhere else on earth.  I am proud of that heritage and, of course, it would make it into my writing.  I never sat down and decided to do that as some sort of propaganda, I simply write what I know. 

Natural themes in my poetry always go back to the state of stillness I am trying to find in the world.  The Transcendentalists are close family to me in literature.  Chinese poets like Li Po and Wang Wei took my soul by storm in college.  By and large, other than Dante, Shakespeare, and Milton, Li Po and Wang Wei were the only poets I clung to for years.  From their influence I began to write much shorter poetry to force myself into the practice of making every word count.  I worked with the editor Larry Fagin for a while who really pushed this point home.  I credit much of my succinct use of language to Fagin’s careful tutelage.  (Here again is a link to Ginsberg that I find weird but not weird even today.  There are no accidents in the universe – enter a bit of Einstein.) 
  
Discuss the poems you mentioned.

From "The Draw of Broken Eyes":

1    August in a Bad Place

This poem is about the Girl of Broken Eyes.  It is actually a true story of us not being together, hard decisions we made in the early years before being together was even possible.  In this piece, for the first time in my life, I made the adult decision in romance to know we were too fresh to occupy the same space.  She left to do mission work in Africa where I had no idea if she would return, also aware that contact would be sporadic at best.  
Yet, deep down, I knew the decision was right.

2   Judas Noose Tavern

This poem is about being an alcoholic.  I developed this addiction around the age of 22 when my depression deepened due to a perfect storm of external and internal factors.  I reached to liquor as a form of medication and it, as it often does in these cases, ate me alive from the inside out.  It humbled me.  I grew a great deal from it.  I took a year off of college to sober up, returned to Shorter College, and then submitted this poem for publication in the school’s literary magazine “The Chimes”.  It was the poem that, among some other works of short fiction and non-fiction, got me into the National Creative Society as a Lifetime Member my senior year.

3    Prayer

This is a poem about my personal view of religious/spiritual faith.  We are all connected.  We are all swaying in the wind, in need of a firm foundation, while still able to find joy (without suffocating guilt) in life/other individuals.  Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” is my favorite song of all time and fit this poem’s theme perfectly.  It is one of the rare times I mention a song specifically so that the reader hears that tune when they read my words.  Again, from the American South’s feel that God and Old Man Scratch walk around with us more than we know, I make a mention that angels mill around the back roads and city streets as well, wondering why we don’t notice them, willing to throw dice with us to better understand our condition.

      Hallow Ground

This poem is about my father’s father, Charles Clifford Brooks Sr.  He in many ways, like my father, are, and always will be, larger than life to me.  My cousins, little brother, and I all call him “Big Dad”, not just as a nickname, but for a very good reason.  Big Dad embodies hard work, real social values, faith in God, and love of family.  His marriage to our grandmother, now passed on, who we called Ga Ga, is still the archetype of all that’s good in love.  I use the big house as a backdrop, the home where Big Dad grew up, in this case the house a living entity that looked upon me from its winding staircase, Charles Clifford Brooks III, and only able to smell the greatness of Big Dad on my clothes.  I do not think that I could ever stand tall enough to walk in his shoes or even stand in his shadow – only smell of his clothes.  Not by any doing of his, Big Dad is immensely supportive, but simply my admiration of him. 

5    Our Couch

This is a poem that illustrates another "dream state" where I invented that second reality where the Girl of Broken Eyes came home.  It’s an imagined perfect weekend we’d share.  She liked The Beats a great deal.  I was being playful with her in the opening stanza.  In my mind there was always a running dialogue when I felt so disconnected from everyone else.

From “Whirling Metaphysics”:

1    Six Chapters of Swerve

This is a three-and-a-half day play-by-play recording of rapid mood cycling in the life of a bi-polar.  I admire the musician Kid Cudi for his ability to talk about deeper subject matter that you immediately pick up on if you know the “special language” concerning mania/depression, but if you don’t, you don’t feel lost.  That’s what I wanted to do with “Six Chapters of Swerve”.  I add concrete imagery, but again the dream state I adore so much.  As a melody, I put a bit of Patsy Cline at the start to lighten the load.  This is not because she had any issues with depression; I just like to drive after sunset to “Walkin’ after Midnight”.

2    The Fifth Movement

This poem is an ode to all artists and a true telling of the sacrifice and reward of choosing a path that devours many who attempt it, persuade others to a more tame existence before oblivion, and rewards a few who can stick it out (without self-destruction) at the finish line.  I obviously hope to be one counted in the last-mentioned crew.  I worked hard to avoid melodrama or a sense that I was/am attempting to make the life of an artist sound any more rewarding or fulfilling than that of a doctor, landscaper, nurse, bread maker, or car salesman.



Photo credits: Aisha Cleapor and Ezra Letra