Friday, December 30, 2011

Charlotte San Juan: Three Poems

What Drives You Home At 2am

You admit that it is the way
An oncoming train becomes a slow moving
Upside down glowing socket.
A snake whose loud mouth is open wide
And full of light
You admit that it is every stray cat
Huddled beneath parked cars
Hugged together, a tight ball of yarn
Eyes caught by your headlights,
Two illuminated silver coins
Marking the way back home.

California Trash

At times my eyes are
Shooting blanks into the horizon,
Trying to puncture the clouds.
Trying to escape the smog and nicotine,
And the yellow sheets of paper that burgers are wrapped in
That float around in the gutter,
In parking lots and
Sway across the beach sand.


You never liked night driving.
And now, on the road
You find yourself a strange,
Lonely vehicle that careens
Up an empty street
Drenched in the pitch black nightgown
Of the devil herself.
It makes you remember the folksy darkness
Of Massachusetts,
How a single pair of headlights
Isolate every passing tree
Like tall nude broads
Exposed and awkwardly branching,
Momentarily bathed in silk light.
And then shrouded safe by
An ink curtain draping over them
As you, with feigned indifference
Leave them untouched, distant figures
To be groped by other lights.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Gerald Nicosia: Press Release on the Kerouac Estate

Gerald Nicosia, author of the best biography of Jack Kerouac Memory Babe, and editor of a moving account of the life of Kerouac's daughter Jan Kerouac: A Life in Memory, writes about the recent appellate court ruling that the will being used to direct the operations of the Kerouac Estate is a forgery.

In May 1994, Jan Kerouac filed a lawsuit in Pinellas County, Florida, against the Sampas family, alleging that they had forged her grandmother Gabrielle Kerouac’s will.  Jack Kerouac had left his entire literary estate to his mother Gabrielle, and when she died, a will was filed leaving all his property to Stella Kerouac, his widow.  Jan Kerouac died on June 5, 1996, before the case went to trial; but it was eventually carried on by Jack Kerouac’s nephew, Paul Blake, Jr., son and only child of Jack Kerouac’s late sister Caroline Kerouac Blake.  Kerouac, in fact, had written a letter to his nephew Paul the day before he died, telling him that, after his mother passed on, he wanted his entire literary estate to go to Paul.

On July 24, 2009, Judge George Greer in the Probate Court of Pinellas County, Florida, ruled that Jack Kerouac’s mother’s will, leaving his entire estate, including all of his literary properties, to his widow Stella Kerouac was a forgery.  In an unusually lengthy and strong decision, Judge Greer wrote that Kerouac’s mother, who was partially paralyzed and bedridden from a stroke, “would have lacked the coordination to affix her signature.  The [probate] court is required by law to use a clear and convincing standard in determining these matters.  However, even if the criminal standard of beyond all reasonable doubt was the requirement, the result would certainly be the same.  Clearly, Gabrielle Kerouac was physically unable to sign the document dated February 13, 1973, and, more importantly, that which appears on the Will dated that date is not her signature.”  He “ordered and adjudged that the document bearing date of February 13, 1973 and admitted into probate herein as the last will and testament of Gabrielle Kerouac is a forgery….” He also ordered the probate of Gabrielle’s will, which had given all of her property to Stella, to be revoked.

The Sampas family, the brothers and sisters of Stella who had inherited the Kerouac Estate from her when she died in 1990, immediately took an appeal of Judge Greer’s decision.  Co-heir and Literary Executor for the family, John Sampas, told British journalist Stephen Maughan “We do not believe the Will of Gabrielle Kerouac was forged and do believe the Judge based his ruling on fictitious accounts by a doctor who never met Gabrielle Kerouac.”  Sampas also lamented that a strong defense of the will had not been put on before Judge Greer.  Why he and his family did not mount such a strong defense, he did not explain.  “Our lawyers,” Sampas claimed to Maughan, “would have demolished Alan Wagner and his corrupt father Bill Wagner [Paul Blake, Jr.’s attorneys].”

While the appeals process continued, Paul Blake, Jr.’s lawyers were prevented from going after assets of the Kerouac Estate, and even from getting any sort of accounting of those assets.  All that is now changed.

On August 10, 2011, the District Court of Appeal of Florida, Second District, ruled against the Sampas family and affirmed Judge Greer’s ruling that Kerouac’s mother’s will was a forgery.  The way the decision was written, it is a final decision and cannot be appealed further.  That means it is now in the history books that the Kerouac Estate, arguably the most valuable literary estate in recent history, was stolen.

Bill Wagner, Blake’s attorney, stated, “In effect, the war is over.  Gabrielle’s will has been determined to be a forgery and now our chore is to see what assets we can trace and still recover or recover rights to.”  When Jack Kerouac died, Stella was entitled to only one-third of the estate by a Florida dower’s rights law.  The rest should have gone to Jan Kerouac and Paul Blake, Jr.  States Wagner: “The Estate of Gabrielle Kerouac is being administered at this time and the Personal Representative [appointed by the Florida court] is collecting information to allow the Estate to benefit as Jack Kerouac intended, subject only to the Widow’s Share awarded at his death to Stella [by Florida state law] ….”
Continues Wagner: “By reason of the above events, the 1/3rd of the assets of Jack Kerouac which passed by law to Stella became the property of Stella’s siblings.  The remaining 2/3rd of the assets of Jack Kerouac that passed under Jack’s will to Gabrielle belong to her recently re-opened Estate.  The beneficiaries of that Estate are Paul Blake, Jr., and the heirs of Jan Kerouac, sharing equally once the Estate is fully administered.  The discovery of tangible personal property and the accounting for intangible personal property, including intellectual property and money assets, both past and future, will be the focus of the Personal Representative under the supervision of the Probate Court.”

Wednesday, December 21, 2011



a raven

the mighty susquehanna
curling inward

caw caw caw.

a breach

the road was never there
was never mine. it was conceived as a ghost.

the earth is turning colder. invisible.
there is a bluster of blinding snow.

she'll insist that I smell like the west
like sun washed trees. like apples.

like a million little aftershocks.

later, she'll brush her teeth in the shower.

A.g. Synclair is the editor and publisher of The Montucky Review. He doesn't have an MFA in anything but still manages to publish regularly. He lives, writes, and collaborates in southwestern Montana with his significant other, the artist and poet Heather Brager.

Monday, December 19, 2011

In the Country of Nice Things


The Accidental Navigator: New and Selected Poems and a Story
by Henry Denander (Lummox Press)

A new book by Henry Denander is always good news. This one isn’t completely new, since I received my review copy in October, but who knows, maybe a few of you won’t have come across it yet. And if I want to keep getting books as good as this mailed to me for free I have to keep up my part of the bargain.

I like Henry Denander. You should know that. My memory isn’t good, but I believe our paths first crossed nearly a decade ago, in a brilliant print magazine run by Bryn Fortey. Outlaw. I could see then that he knew about jazz and he knew about Charles Bukowski, two things that sell a man or woman to me pretty quickly even to this day. When I got to know him better I realised that he had adapted Bukowski’s apparently plain (though technically adept) narrative style to create his own distinctive voice, which is the four-leaved clover in the poetry game; so few of us achieve it you could write all of the names down while the kettle was boiling and still have time to check your Facebook. I also discovered as my familiarity with Henry grew that he was a good painter and a really nice guy.

You would not think that the latter detail mattered very much, but it’s important when it comes to a consideration of his poetry. That voice, the person speaking to us out of the poems in The Accidental Navigator and Henry’s other books, is, to use Gerald Locklin’s word, a ‘congenial’ one. Mature, witty, reasonable, not at all given to the posturing often evident in those who have taken Bukowski as their leader instead of a significant signpost on the road to liberation of style and content. Henry Denander pretends to be nobody and his poems are filled with the matter of his own life.

But then, Henry’s life is not an ordinary one. He described himself somewhere as a ‘bean counter’ in the entertainment industry, and in the course of counting those beans he has met a fair few legends of jazz and other musical forms -  one poem in the collection, “Royalty Advances”, concerns his separate dealings with a “fantastic guitar and harmonica player” (we can only wonder who that is) and Chet Baker, who had much more of the Beat spirit about him when receiving his money. Henry also keeps a home on a Greek island, being financially comfortable and unashamed of it – it is usually the done thing for poets to claim they work in a drive-thru’ and have holes in their shoes (I really have, by the way) – so the collection features Mediterranean poems too, suffused with the warmth and simplicity and companionship of his life there. I like these a lot, for whatever the opinion of someone who has never been to Greece might be worth.

A new(ish) development, if I’m not mistaken, is the poetry of ageing. Henry talks about kidney stones in “A Perfect Client” and “Nursing” (they insert something into your Johnson – ouch). In “Modern Times” we read of headache treatments and other parts of the body that might need a cure. But it is jazz and Bukowski to whom he continually returns, musing even on the Wormwood Review and in one poem, on the first name he and Buk share. If he had known about Bukowski as a young man, he says, he would have been proud to be another Henry.

An artist, a thinker, even a human being with no other attachable label, is defined by his or her passions, and it’s an act of generosity for Henry to share his with us. In the prose story that finishes the book, however, he decants into less familiar territory with “The Poetry of Mr. Blue”, a narrative that namechecks an author some might not be familiar with, Paul Auster. Crammed with Auster references and Auster-ish unresolved mysteries and coincidences, it’s an unexpected, skilful and slightly spooky piece. What’s even more spooky is that I’d just started rereading Paul Auster as I was finishing Henry’s book. I know he will appreciate that fact even if nobody else does. Paul Auster, of course, is too safe in the hands of the Academics now to care.

You can buy a copy of The Accidental Navigator from Lummox Press at .

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ramona Itule-Patigian: Three Poems


          A Short Dissertation

Sacred pathetic fallacy, here we are
bell and board, bound to brain.
The ghost trains and I searching lights
for more than lanterns. The library romantics
and microscope erotics came for columns and
they’ll leave with nothing less. So
let’s pretend we’re spies and apply band-aids
to flat tires. Let’s go wine tasting at the university
and fish shooting at the mall. Take

me shopping or bar hopping. Tell
the bartender you love Stein and
and we’ll toast Sartre, recite symphonies and
play Dr. Frankenstein and his monster.  
Read me gibberish, it’s sexy.
We’ll buy Che T-shirts and berets
as long as there’s an ATM
drink ink till we’re dizzy and bask in composition

I’ve tried baking cakes with tacks and hangers
and I like the sound of my own voice


Beginning to imagine my life with the apparition was not hard
starting over tea in a silent parlor
The two of us seated without the bolts of our waking lives
A memory rolls over again, takes a swift gusty inhale
and the cobwebbed body smiles a poker-face smile
Appears over the wire in a startling break, a lost bell tower
that once knew my heart like the map of a hand

Starting to embrace life with the apparition was easy too
beginning with a song on a crackling recorder
The two of us listening without the rolling static of traffic
The memory rises up with a dusty stifled murmur
and my call is finally answered in the death of the dead

At first just a speechless spell that stood and stuttered in silence
I lost my breath and swallowed my twisted stomach with a gulp
trying to find a greeting fit for a talking statue
Preparing to shatter glass, drain the embalmed and remember everything
Then a tumbling spindle, rattling and re-living in constant spilling threads
chattering on to the sound I had buried, to relic lighthouses and dinosaur bones
Now the ghost of a ghost
the apparition and I begin to make plans


All our finely tuned legacies sprawl out from underneath
Like the swift, seared desert that first choked me into fantasy and form
All these scowling teenage girls I was and swift fits I hailed sacred
And yet I can hardly summon a line for you
Let alone any blazed battle fields or mourned loses
Those are mine to keep
Those that move like stillness and settle unnoticed
Those that bleed through paper like spirits and smoke
Those that have grown within my earth and calcify to bone
Any cliché that I could give you would seem blasphemy
Sold out, grown up, resigned individuality?
You waver like the fight in me
You pace there in the roots
Sifting sand and awakening dust
Reminiscent of angst, but more like rebel lust
Sometimes I forget I loved life first

Ramona Itule-Patigian is from the desert, but now lives in Berkeley, California with her boyfriend and cat. She recently received her MFA from Mills College and loves music and fruit. Her work has appeared in Boston Literary Magazine, Quantum Poetry Magazine, and is forthcoming in Triggerfish Critical Review. 

Monday, December 05, 2011

Kevin Cummings: Two Poems


I never paid much attention in physics
But after a couple of beers
And remembering that man was capable of the atomic bomb
And landing on the moon
I stumble out the door into the night
Trying my damndest to piss on the stars
Failing Miserably.  



I left the car on empty
Walking the half mile to the tracks
To watch the boxcars,
Cutting the horizon in two,

I dreamt of places,
Of stories told in miles.

You told me to run from this place

I swear I’m trying,

But I haven’t left;
Afraid there’d be no home
To come back to.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

McDougal Street Blues - Jack Kerouac

Kerouac and the Clones

A correspondent suggests that Jack Kerouac has no place in the slice-and-dice Penguin anthology even though Ginsberg has, and would have made the cut but for those evil money-grubbers at HarperCollins. I've heard this kind of stupid prejudice against Kerouac many times, but I still can't help wondering what planet people live on. Everybody who isn't looking for the employee of the month badge at McDonald's or next year's £50 000 Anaemic Poetry Prize and the big seat at the English Department table in the University of Clones knows Kerouac is a great poet. Here's Ginsberg's own view on the matter from an old issue of Gargoyle Magazine.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Dove: Digging Deeper


I've been reading further on Rita Dove's decision to exclude Ginsberg and Kerouac from the new Penguin Anthology of Twentieth Century American Verse and I've unearthed a couple of interesting details. First this old quote from Dove, which demonstrates she has no particular prejudice towards Ginsberg (I'd never heard of her before I read about the anthology, so what did I know?):

Allen Ginsberg's importance was in its twilight for so many years that it took his death to bring it to the front page. He electrified an entire world! And he continues to do so! There are generations who stumble across HOWL and find it speaks to them. Yet it takes a tragedy to make people notice.

Dove says in her introduction, apparently, that she couldn't afford to blow her whole budget on hefty permission fees from copyright owners. I don't know if she refers specifically to HarperCollins and Rupert Murdoch (I am so out of the political loop in literary matters I didn't know they were owned by the liberal's own antichrist Rupert Murdoch), but I suppose the inference is there even if the declaration isn't. So, then, she simply couldn't afford Ginsberg.

That's a credible argument. Perhaps, then, Dove's mistake was tactical rather than political, in that she has included in her anthology a whole lot of people who could have been excluded so that the most significant American poet of the 1950s - in cultural as well as literary terms - didn't have to be. And if it was a question of late negotiation with HarperCollins when most of the money had already been spent, the same applies. It's bad housekeeping. Blaming the capitalist monster Murdoch and the devils of the Ginsberg estate might be fun but it's too easy.

And I still wonder what really motivated Dove's selections for the book. While including four of her own poems, Dove excludes Sylvia Plath too, and Plath's poetry is taught in every university from here to the other side of Mars. I don't like it personally but even a pig-headed bastard like me has to admit it's technically brilliant. Is Plath owned by the horned Australian one also? Most of the stuff I've read seems to indicate that Dove just hates her poetry, which is fair enough, but not a good basis for the editing of a poetry anthology.

As for Kerouac...well, some of the reviews of the anthology have been kind about his writing while discussing its absence from the book, but prejudice against him is so deep-rooted in 'respectable' circles an editor who could afford to buy Manhattan probably wouldn't include him. The professor of American Literature at Northampton University described Jack's Essentials of Spontaneous Prose as 'hippie shit' in a lecture only last year. I forced him to admit he was wrong in a private discussion in his office a few days later, but I'm sure his submission was only made to prevent me from breaking the furniture.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Ginsberg: The Ugly Spectre of Revisionism

also published at Suffolk Punch (

The rather wonderful Allen Ginsberg blog ( reminds us that Allen's poetry has been left out of Rita Dove's Penguin Anthology of Twentieth Century American Poetry.

WHAT??? Who the hell is going to represent American poetry at mid-century and into the Sixties then? Robert Lowell?? Kenneth Patchen??

This doesn't warrant a polite "Boo!", Ginsberg people, it warrants a howl, if you'll pardon the pun, of objection. It's philistinism. Absolute philistinism. And an absurd attempt to rewrite history, excluding the only serious challenge to the strangulating dullness of respectable literary life in those times.

I recommend we all write emails and letters of strenuous complaint and refuse to buy any more Penguin books until they correct their ridiculous error

Well, I say the ONLY serious attempt, but I find that Kerouac's not in there either. Gary Snyder and Lawrence Ferlinghetti are, which is fine, but by no stretch of the imagination could it be said that they've written work of the same profound, original, epoch-making significance as Ginsberg and Kerouac. And I think they'd probably both tell you that too.