“I want to write a poem that will make the top of your head roll into your soup.”
Todd Moore Interview (Sept. 1997) (Editor’s note: Recently discovered Todd Moore while reading the Chiron Review - 2 issues back - he was interviewed by Oberc. The photo didn’t seem to jibe with the story: Moore looked like a goddamned English teacher, not the hard-core m.f. poet whose poems left me feeling itchy and gritty. I next read/heard him courtesy of a Mark Weber - LUMMOX April interview - chapbook and CD and I was hooked. I had to find out who this guy was... turns out he WAS an English teacher and a whole lot more... )
RD: By way of background, how did you get started? Was there a single point/event that inspired you to take up your craft, or was it a slow process?
TM: It was both slow and fast. I knew from the time that I was twelve that I was going to be a writer. Or, lets nail this thing a little closer. I knew at twelve I was a writer. I just didn’t quite know what order to put the words in then. The thing was my father was a failed novelist and an alcoholic. He’d failed because he was a great storyteller but when it came to getting the words down on the page he froze up, got all formal and careful and proper. But when he was drinking and telling stories it was pure poetry. And, I wanted that gift. I wanted to be that articulate, drunk or sober.
Anyway, that was the fast part. The slow part had to do with finding out just the hell I was. I probably had a better idea when I was living with my folks in that skid row hotel. That’s when I knew I was a street thief and good at it and a hustler and good at that and a scam artist and any number of other things. Then, I got a chance to go to college and I suddenly realized I was strictly low class white trash and some people helped to polish up the rough edges and I got a degree in English. That was late fifties early sixties. And, I acquired a little culture which is dangerous and after that I stumbled around as a public school teacher for maybe eight or nine years still trying to figure out just who in the hell I was.
I thought I was going to be a novelist. I thought I was going to grab the world by the balls and squeeze. But that never happened. The Hemingway position was filled. So was Faulkner and Borges and Kafka and Steinbeck. And at the end of ten years some invisible arm had pushed me to the wall and I heard this voice growling into me ear, “You miserable son of a bitch, you have to be something.” The last thing left to try, seriously, was poetry. I thought to myself, okay, what I’m left with is to see if I can write one good poem. One good poem was all I wanted. And I didn’t want any fancy words in it. I didn’t want words like love, or hate, or hope, or god or any of those words having to do with ideas. I was maxed out on ideas. I was maxed out on literature with a capital L. I wanted something tangible, something as real as sweat and beer. I wanted to put sweat and beer in a poem and kick the aesthetics out. Of course, Bukowski had already put a shitload of beer in his poems but I knew my stuff wasn’t going to be anything like his. It occurred to me then that the more I stripped a poem down, the more I could rev it up. Power, absolute power in language was what I was after. Writing like that is like walking around with a hardon. By this time I was around thirty three. Late for getting into poetry by most standards. And, I was teaching high school and writing at night and sending poems out to little magazines. Finally, I knew who the hell I was and the words somehow started to do what I wanted them to and I was filled with a peculiar kind of energy that almost seemed to jump off my fingertips. I was writing poems directly off an old black steel Royal. Bukowski called it his typer, his machine gun. And I knew the feeling then and still do. I wasn’t happy unless I could hear those keys clacking off that roller. It was my baby, my red hot mama, my numero uno ass kicker. That was fifteen years before I got a computer and even then I thought I was fast. Fast on the draw. I could get a poem quick as an eye blink, scratch it down on the back of an envelope, get home, and maybe do a couple more revisions and bang, it was done. Or, I’d just sit down at the Royal, wham, get a poem and it would fly right out of me. I’ve never liked the idea of taking a week or month or a year to write a poem. That’s for pussies. That’s for people who can’t think. Gimme high octane stuff, I want the velocity in language cranked to warp drive or nothing at all. Okay, so it’s gonna maybe be a twenty or thirty line poem, then let ‘er rip. It’s got to feel like the normal flow of conversation with the stakes ante’d to the tenth power. Otherwise, it’s just a piece of shit, a limp dick.
RD: Your poems seem to be rooted in a strong, gritty, western style. Is this the result of living in New Mexico or is there more to it than that?
TM: A lot more. The style goes back to the mid 70’s when I was back in Illinois and stripping every excess word out of a poem I could find. I was tired of reading poems that hovered around and described something. I was tired of reading poems about Chekov and Heidegger and Li Po’s hemorrhoids, and silence in the snowy whatever. I wanted to write a poem that moved like a movie with no pansy-assesd explanations. Robert DeNiro in TAXI DRIVER staring into the chasm of that mirror. I wanted to be able to create a moment in a poem that teetered on rage and panic. I wanted to put myself into the middle of the action and become the action. I don’t think anybody had ever done that. At least in this country. Not even Bukowski. He was a great poem talker and he could talk a reader in and out and around all of his problems and adventures. And he could deliver some damn fine surprises. But he couldn’t rein himself in. He couldn’t pare it all down to the image of a bullet hole in a forehead and a fly trying to crawl into it. That’s what I was after. Something immediate. And, I still am.
RD: Since your “day job” may be unrelated to your craft, do you find that it’s easier or harder to “seize the moment” when creativity strikes? Do you have a special time set aside? Do you make note of your ideas or do they just spring full blown onto the typer (like Bukowski used to do it)?
TM: In ‘93 I got out of teaching at the age of 55. I actually escaped, mostly intact. So, now my day job, the real work is writing. When I was teaching, I’d get up a little earlier in the morning because it seemed the poems came easier then. And, there were times when I grabbed odd moments at work and scrawled poems on pieces of scratch paper. I’ve always been lucky, because I write fast. It just seems as though most of my poems come almost of a piece.
RD: In your capacity as an artist, you have probably had the opportunity to meet a lot of other artists; do you encourage the ‘good’ ones and, if so, how do you encourage them?
TM: I’ve always tried to be as open as I can to younger writers. If I see a book of poetry that hits me just right, I may offer to review it. I also try to get the word out that “so and so” has a chapbook or a book of poetry worth looking at. I’m also as accessible as anyone, probably more so. I almost always answer people who write me.
RD: Has the “poetry scene” changed since you started, and, if so, how?
TM: In 1970, when I was just starting out, Bukowski was writing POST OFFICE, Lyn Lifshin had maybe published two or three chapbooks, Kerouac had been dead a year, Ezra Pound was still alive and the small press was a jungle of ditto’d mags. It was still the era of war protesting, dropping out, Kent State, finding yourself. Since then, computers and cheap copiers alone have altered the small press scene. In 1970 you went to a poetry reading and scored something and got high or drunk or whatever. Today you go to a reading and get high off the caffeine in your espresso. That doesn’t mean you can’t score something or still get drunk. It just means that the scene seems a whole lot tamer. And publishing has changed radically. The big publishers and the big bookstores have pretty much got it all sewn up. It’s almost like show biz. It’s the book biz. If you’re a small press publisher -- unless you have some real clout you’re probably not going to get your books on the shelves of Barnes & Noble or Borders. The key is distribution. It always has been, but now it’s even more critical.
RD: Do you think that funding (Govt. vs. private) for the arts is good or bad? What do you see as the future of your medium? (This small press revolution is allowing everyone with access to a computer to put out the chapbooks and call it poetry or fiction or whatever. Some are good, some are bad, most are very mediocre. I think it diminishes the art of the poem, but I’m not sure that it’s bad or not. The American taste for poetry has sure changed as a result, though, and sometimes I wonder if it’s not harder for the non-academic poet/non-mainstream writer to be heard through the commercial din. I suppose that’s partly why I do this...)
TM: It’s partly why we all do this. First of all, when arts funding in this country is dictated to by people who are a step away from wearing KKK robes and pointy hats -- then it sucks and sucks bad. What we need is some kind of built in automatic funding that can’t be touched by fascists -- the money should be simply always there. Because the arts are as necessary as national defense. Without the arts we would have no national psyche whatsoever. Artists, no matter who they are, should be left alone to create whatever it is that they create. But it isn’t like that. What does happen is that people who can no longer put up with the witch hunting bullshit simply fund what they do out of their pockets. I did that for years with a press called road/house. I think a lot of writers in the small press do it. And as far as I’m concerned the small press is the last best place to find good writing. Yes, I agree, there is tons and tons of crap getting cranked out. But, there are enough good writers in the small press to make all that wading through the shit worthwhile. The American taste for poetry -- is there one? I’d like to believe there is but for years it was barely noticeable. Slam poetry and Rap may have done something to change this. But most slam poetry is a twenty or thirty something howling his rage and believing it’s poetry. And Rap sells and sells big but I wouldn’t bother to read it. No slam poet I know of could out write or out perform Bukowski. He just simply was a natural. No Rap singer I know of could write with the power of Quincy Troupe. The good thing to come out of these trends is that spoken word or whatever you want to call it is getting some real attention.
RD: What advice can you give to artists today to help them improve their craft?
TM: The first thing you have to do is learn to concentrate and focus focus focus. And you have to listen. And you have to nail the seat of your pants or panties to the chair and you have to be willing to fight with all of your demons to lay the word down. And it has to be the word that makes the line, the line that makes the poem. And once you’re able to do that, then you have to learn to be a witness. If you want to be a writer, you can’t look away.
RD: Aside from the academic-sponsored or “corporate” artist, do you think that it’s possible to actually make a living as an artist? Or is it, by necessity, an avocation?
TM: Some painters and some novelists make money from their work. Bukowski and Ginsberg made money. They were exceptions. In the twenty seven years that I’ve been writing I haven’t made enough to cover my postage. And, I’ve given away more books than I sold simply to get them out there and into the hands of people who I hoped would read them. So, does that make it an avocation? Hell no. Avocations don’t drive you to write or drive you crazy. And poetry has away of doing that to me. But make a living as an artist? What it comes down to for me is I want my work to stand for something. I want to write a poem that will make the top of your head roll into your soup.
RD: Who do you draw inspiration from these days? Got any high adventure planned?
TM: The kinds of writers and poets who inspire me are the ones who make the big statements and who practically sacrifice their lives to do it. For the first half of the twentieth century, I’d have to say Hemingway is someone I respect. I learned more from him about technique than I got from most poets. More recently, Bukowski would have to be another. He really wasn’t a stylistic influence, but his example was something else. He was a lone wolf, a maverick. And, last of all, Paul Metcalf, who at the age of 80 is finally getting some well deserved recognition. Not many of us can hang in there that long. Among my own contemporaries, I have many good friends, and I know many good poets and writers, but there are virtually none who inspire me. When Bukowski was alive and well and writing, it always felt like he was the competition. He probably didn’t think that at the time, but it was okay because it gave me something to shoot for. Now that he’s gone, the kind of poem that I do, the style that I do it in, I practically have the field all to myself. As for high adventure, I haven’t got anything planned, but I’m always open. Hell, I’m even open to low adventure as opposed to none at all.
Those days she wasn’t
working in the hotel
cafe paula wd go
down to the railroad
bridge behind harris
tool & sing old
songs to the river
& i’d stand on a
grassy bluff & yell
out requests like
I saw the light
or crazy or walking
the floor over you
she’d sing the song
if she knew it
she liked to close
w/ streets of laredo
because a guy she
knew worked the
rodeo circuit it
was the kind of
song where she’d
let everything go
& the dark places
in her voice let
her sing to the
heart of the river
by TODD MOORE (A Hotel Education c. 1997)
AN INTERVIEW WITH CAROL QUEEN (Editor’s note: several months ago I joined an erotic writers workshop on the internet. This proved to be a mistake, although I did make a few connections with certain members of this newsgroup. Most notably among these writers was my introduction to Mary Anne Mohanraj, a writer and commentator on issues of a sexual nature. Thru her I was introduced to Carol Queen, a Bay area sex worker and performance artist, who has been pioneering exploration in the realms sex-positive education and awareness. She has been working at Good Vibrations in SanFran since 1990 and has authored several books and videos on positive sex imagery. The following interview was conducted via email.)
RD: By way of background, how did you get started?
CQ: I was a sex educator (I like to say "without portfolio") before I was a writer or performer; but before any of that I was a sexuality activist, specifically in the lesbian/gay/bi communities. I started a gay youth group in Eugene, Oregon in 1975 (back when I was a youth), did Anita Bryant-era queer politics, and fled to San Francisco partly because my bisexuality was never accepted or supported in my small-city queer community. In SF I began studying for a doctorate in sexology, writing, exploring other facts of sexual experience, including the sex industry.
RD: How long have you been actively involved in the 'sex industry'?
CQ: Since 1989. I've worked as a "call girl," a peep show worker (I'm currently workshopping a performance piece about that), and have modeled for explicit pictures and a few videos. In addition I've done a few educational/explicit videos, most notably my solo vid "Carol Queen's Great Vibrations: An Explicit Consumer Tour of Vibrators."
RD: In the article that I read (by Mary Anne), you indicate that you are more than merely a sex worker, that you are motivated by issues and that these issues take on an important role in your work. Isn't this true of all artists? No one lives in a vacuum. How do you differ?
CQ: I haven't seen the article in question so I don't know how this distinction is put, but I think most, if not all, sex workers are more than "merely" sex workers; one thing that differentiates me from many sex workers, though, is that I also am trained as (and to a degree identify as) a sexologist, so I have an academic/theoretical overlay about what I don that many sex workers don't. I wouldn't actually say that I differ substantially from other artists, either. What I want to say about this is that I think often the public assumes sex workers occupy such a shadow world that they never emerge to do their laundry or fill out student loan papers or go to their parents for Thanksgiving. Partly, that lets non-sex workers exoticize us; it also lets people outside the sex biz assume their lives and issues are very different from ours, and I wouldn't entirely agree with that - though we certainly do experience and understand sex on more levels than I think the average "civilian" does.
RD: Somebody once said of creativity, something like "It's 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration" - tho I think in today's climate, it's probably 60% perspiration and 30% exasperation. Tell me about your feelings on your own creative process. Does it ever surprise you?
CQ: When I get into the swim of it often surprises and thrills me; it feels like I've been taken over by a deeper part of myself, and in writing or performing (even giving speeches or lectures) I often find I put ideas together in new ways and access a vein of creativity I can't just call upon any old mundane minute. But I often put myself up against deadlines and barriers to force this out, intense, scary, stressful. I don't have a writing schedule. I can't afford one, for one thing, at least not full-time.
RD: Since your "day job" may be unrelated to your craft, do you find that it’s easier or harder to "seize the moment" when creativity strikes? How do you capture and retain these inspirations?
CQ: That's really challenging. Sometimes things slip through the cracks, and I just hope they'll come back later when I'm at the computer. I try to jot notes down when I can. But one thing that seems to work well for me is knowing for weeks or months that I'm going to write a piece on a particular topic; then I finally sit down to do it and it comes out pretty fully-formed, having simmered in my subconscious for a long time. Sometimes I can do this with just a title - then a story to match will come out, though I'll have had no idea in advance what I was going to write. Giving up control seems to be an important part - not straining, staying open to the flow.
RD: Do you believe that the creative process - the drive to create - exists in everyone? If so, what makes an "artist" unique? How does the vitality of creativity differ?
CQ: Yes, but lots of us have it driven out of us by the time we get out of school. I think artists maintain their uniqueness (granted that some are more unique than others) because they make art through the lens of themselves: their individual experience, ways of seeing and understanding the world, and their own talents/specific skill sets. In any given culture there's much that we share, but also deep differences between us. Also, I think some of us are much more driven than others by our message, our need to communicate and create..
RD: You obviously believe in what you are doing, otherwise you would have either chosen a more lucrative career or a more straight ahead format to gain respect and recognition. Is there a camaraderie in your particular slice of the fringe, that you can rely on for inspiration, or is it by necessity, a lonely path?
CQ: Actually I feel very much a part of vital community. There are other writers who explore some of the same issues I do, other women who are creating art on the basis of sexual difference and exploration, other sex educators who I feel some commonality with. I'm not talking Dr. Ruth here; more like Pat Califia, Gayle Rubin, Annie Sprinkle, Scarlot Harlot... other sex-radical or sex-positive feminists, many of whom are my predecessors and who have been very loving and supportive of me. There has been a real outpouring of work by this group in the last decade, little of which has seen the mainstream, but it's certainly no less important for that. I am also nurtured (though not yet fully embraced) by the queer writer's community; I hear from readers often; I consider myself an activist as much as an artist.
RD: How do you keep your "eyes on the prize"?
CQ: Mostly I am powered by feedback from readers/audiences and colleagues, things I have yet to say/write about (wanting my perspective to get out there), and the fact that I do see my work as education/activism as well as art, and I am committed to working for change in a sex-positive direction.
RD: In your capacity as an entertainer, you probably have the opportunity to meet others in your chosen field; do you encourage each other, as well?
CQ: Oh, yes. Except when people are in it to make money - because they probably won't!
RD: Who do you draw inspiration from these days?
CQ: I just finished a book tour for “Real Live Nude Girl” that had me in supposedly conservative parts of the US, and there are people everywhere making lives based on sex-positive notions of who we can be, alone and together. People doing this in Columbus inspire me! And the usual suspects - Pat Califia, Betty Dodson, Carole Vance, Gayle Rubin, Margo St. James, and so many other brainy, bold, sexual women and men.
RD: Who or what are you reading?
CQ: At the moment I'm reviewing Pat Califia's three latest books for Libido and Transsexual Menace Riki Anne Wilchins's amazing manifesto “Read My Lips” for the Lamda Book Report. I just picked up Naomi Wolf's “Promiscuities” last night. Most recent mind-blower: Geoff Ryman's “Was”.
CQ: I've been listening to Patti Smith's “Dream of Life” and old burlesque.
RD: Any new projects under way or planned?
CQ: My dissertation, which is on erotic authors who write in a different gender or orientation voice than their own. My novel is coming in for a landing - “The Leather Daddy and the Femme”, due spring '98 from Cleis. I'm almost done with it. Next month a co-edited volume called “PoMoSexuals: Against Essentialist Ideas about Gender and Sexual Orientation” is due out. also from Cleis. And I'm proud to be included in a fierce new anthology from Routledge called “Whores and Other Feminists”. That book's out to kick some ass. And I would like to write a big book interviewing lots of sex-positive women.
RD: Any last thoughts?
CQ: I'm starting to read references about "sex-positivity" suggesting that it is passe. I want to say, we're not even close to there yet! Most people in society don't even know what that means. It's ridiculous the way, in this culture, we are encouraged not to have a long view on anything meaningful, such that if we've heard a philosophy espoused a few times, we can decide it's tired. We're living in a culture that does not support our sexual individualities except inasmuch as it can figure out how to use them as a marketing tool. We deserve more, and I think that most of us can barely even imagine a truly sexually tolerant and supportive culture. I'd like to challenge everyone to try to imagine what that would be.
excerpt from Exhibitionism for the Shy Chapter 5: Too Shy to Talk?
In Search of Words
Perhaps you simply don't know which words you find erotic in the first place. You may feel you haven't really discovered your own sexual interests, much less the words and phrases you associate with arousal. At least some of what you will find erotic on a fantasy level will also sound sexy when you talk about it, so as a next step, explore the realm of erotic fantasy, searching for your hot spots. This means, among other things, trying not to censor yourself when sexual thoughts flit into your head. Instead, note which erotic ideas or images grab your attention. If you're sexual with other people, what sorts of play do you like best? Dwell on this and see where your mind takes you. If you find yourself responding to anything with physical signs of arousal, that will also be a clue.
Porn videos are one place to start. Images of explicit sex are extremely arousing for some people, not so inspiring for others. Try watching a few to see whether one or several engage your erotic imagination. Some porn videos feature talkative characters; if you can find these, you have the advantage of hearing sexy words spoken. With others you'll need to come up with more of the language yourself. You'd think porn actors would talk a blue streak, but often they don't...one picture being worth a thousand words, and all that. Once you get a bit more comfortable with speaking up, porn videos make a great prop for talking, because you can describe what's happening on-screen.
Especially if erotic talk is your aim, you might find more inspiration in hot talk tapes--and on the printed page. After all, you can watch sexual scenarios for hours and be as incapable of stringing a sexy sentence together at the end as you were when you began, but erotic stories are composed of the building blocks you want to play with--words. Besides, you'll be providing the mental images you find hot, and you may find your creative fantasies flow especially easily because of this.
You can get fantasy as well as vocabulary ideas from lurid romance novels and trashy porn books alike--the latter are a particularly rich trove of those words your mother would consider really filthy, hence a delightfully nasty source of inspiration if you want to go for hard-hitting dirty talk. However, your erotic talk need not be peppered with four-letter words to weave a very powerful spell around you and your partner. Some talkers never utter an explicit word; sexuality and subtlety can certainly go hand in hand.
Sexy scenarios from Nancy Friday's fantasy compilations, erotic anthologies, Victorian bawdy novels, cutting-edge 'zines, and the good parts from mainstream novels all might get you going. If you have a kinky bent you might like what I used to read in college--old psychiatric case study collections (heavy on moralistic judgment, but oh, those perversions! Until you've masturbated to Patterns of Psychosexual Infantilism you haven't lived.). A classic source for scenarios and lingo is the Letters genre; Penthouse publishes a magazine with mostly heterosexual vignettes, and there are similar publications that cater to other erotic interests. If you prefer your erotica on the literary side, you might appreciate Yellow Silk, any of the several recently-published collections of upscale erotic writing, or the seduction scene from a well-crafted novel.
For some people, hot writing is by definition trashy and poorly written, with lots of four-letter words and characters screaming Nnnngh...AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! at the moment of climax. Other readers find this a turn-off. Some readers and porn viewers want their one-handed reading or fantasy-inspiring material to be as kinky or sleazy as possible, while others are fans of romantic or sensual work. If you think you don't like a particular genre, try masturbating while you read and see if your opinion changes!
The bottom line? Everybody's different; if you haven't sampled other peoples' favorite genres of sex writing, how can you know for sure it won't get you hot? Arousal is unpredictable. Check out a variety of written porn and see what floats your boat. The more you explore, the wider your potential for arousal may become.
© 1995 by Carol Queen $12.50, 248 pages, 6" x 9" ISBN 0-940208-16-4, Down There Press
Laurel Ann Bogen Interview (Jan. 1997)
(Ed. note: It hardly seems possible, but there are actually some poets in L.A. who have been writing for thirty years who aren’t Beats or Bukowski-esque and yet, who still can make with the beautiful lyrical metaphors and the subtle flowing words that leap across the page, capturing your heart and holding you spellbound. L. A. Bogen is such a poet. She is also writer, teacher, advisor and friend to many of this city’s aspiring poets and writers; myself included. Her latest collection of verse is called The Last Girl in The Land of The Butterflies and is published by Red Wind Books - PO Box 27924, Los Angeles, CA 90027, $10 + $2 S & H - or at an independant bookseller near you.)
RD: By way of background, how did you get started? How long have you been actively pursuing your craft? Were you inspired/encouraged by any one person to pursue your craft? Was there a single point/event that inspired you to take up your craft, or was it a slow process?
LAB: I began writing poetry in 1967, when I was a 17-year-old freshman at USC, I wrote because I was incredibly depressed and feeling a lot of teenage angst and fancied myself a female T.S. Eliot, who was my favorite poet at the time because I could think of no one else other than him who could wallow in self-pity more than myself. I probably would have stopped writing except in 1968, at the end of my freshman year, I won the first prize in the Academy of American Poets college award at USC, the first freshman in the history of the school to do so. I have been a practicing poet ever since that time, because or despite of this. I had this thought that I could have a life in the arts, that I could be somebody, that I could be a poet and that gave my life meaning and a sense of direction.
RD: Since your “day job” may be unrelated to your craft, do you find that it’s easier or harder to “seize the moment” when creativity strikes? Do you have a special time set aside?
LAB: I have always worked and written. That's the way it is for poets in the U.S. I don't beef about it, I just do it. And I've done all kinds of things while I needed to pay the bills -- I've been a receptionist in a non-profit corp., a proofreader-typesetter at the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner (which I parlayed into a writing/reviewing poetry gig), a reader at the William Morris Agency, sold greeting cards door to door, worked in many bookstores, taught. I've always been able to write on my jobs, in fact I have written some of my best poetry while working.
RD: When did you begin to think of yourself as an writer as opposed to whatever it is you do to pay the bills (assuming that the two are separate)?
LAB: I am currently working 3 1/2 jobs, all part-time (unfortunately or fortunately), I am a consultant (i.e. -- chief, cook and bottle-washer) at a literary agency 4 days a week, I teach both at the Writers' Program at UCLA Extension and privately a master class and individual students, and I am the new literary curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Right now, because I have worked in the field for close to 30 years, I am somehow lucky enough to find that all my jobs are related to writing, which hasn't always been the case.
RD: So, you’ve always known you were a writer?
RD: In your capacity as a writer, you have probably had the opportunity to meet a lot of other writers; do you encourage the ‘good’ ones and, if so, how do you encourage them?
LAB: People have been incredibly kind and supportive of me and my work and I feel it is an honor to help repay the debt I owe to the Poetry Goddess, who has given me an identity and a place in my own private cosmology. I feel that if someone is serious about their work, and their desire to be a poet and want to DO IT NO MATTER WHAT, then I feel like I would like to offer my support. Primarily, I have done this with the poets who come to me to study -- I have recommended magazines to them, let them use my name in their cover letters to the editors who have published me, turned them on to readings, etc.
RD: Has the “scene” changed since you started, and, if so, how has it?
LAB: You know, everybody says the scene has changed, that there's so many more poets now than before, but I just don't think so. I actually, have been pretty entrenched in the poetry demimonde since about 1974, and there has ALWAYS been an active poetry scene here. Every few years (8 or 9), some major news source (LA TIMES, WALL STREET JOURNAL, TIME MAGAZINE, LOS ANGELES MAGAZINE, LA WEEKLY, etc.) will write an big article "discovering" poetry in L.A. But the poets I've known for 20 or more years, have been doing it and writing it and living the life whether or not they ever get "discovered". The only real difference is in the press it has been getting. And in the proliferation of 'BAD POETRY' that is being promoted as art, not that it wasn't always there, but with zines and easy publishing access, more of the bad stuff is getting published and unfortunately, more people are reading it and thinking that this is what it is all about.
RD: Can we do anything to stem the tide of bad poetry?
LAB: I do not believe anyone responds well when they encounter ruthless criticism or judgmentalism. I try to teach by example. I don't publish work that I don't believe is any good just for the sake of publishing -- and I've written my share of godawful poetry in my day. I try to turn my students on to the great poets I love -- Galway Kinnell, Phillip Levine, Sharon Olds, Billy Collins, Lawrence Raab, Yusef Komunyakaa, local poets I admire like Ralph Angel, Suzanne Lummis, Eloise Klein Healy, Ron Koertge, David St. John -- there are so many. The problem with poets who write "Bad Poetry" is that they don't read other poets -- ones that are in the top of their form -- and operate out of a vacuum where "self expression" is more important than art. They publish each other and think that that's it when it comes to the world of poetry -- their vision is too small. There's nothing wrong with being "on the path" as it were -- we are all on it somewhere, but one has to be responsible about one's impact in the world, and the place of publishing and publications and promoting oneself. I used to write for the L.A. HERALD-EXAMINER as a poetry reviewer, and I came to the realization, as I did with other reviews and articles I wrote, that when something is in print that people BELIEVE you, they think you are some kind of expert or that what you say is the truth. This may be in part because of the lack of sophistication in many readers, but all writers have a responsibility to act/write in good faith,and to see that what one writes is the best one can write and the truth as they see it. ALSO, one must take responsibility for one's past publications, which sometimes come back to haunt one. When I was what I call a "Baby Poet" I was more than a little full of myself, rather arrogant, ambitious and insecure -- in other words, I had an attitude, much to my later chagrin. I sent poems out to magazines weekly -- in fact, at one point, I sent out submissions for seven years without getting a single poem accepted, but continued anyway because I believed that SOMEONE would like my work and I DESERVED to be published, but that is another story -- I finally got some accepted in some rather mediocre publications....my poems weren't very good and neither was most of the work in the magazines, but I promoted myself shamelessly and with much gusto. And people read these poems, and they judged me. They thought that this was the best I could do, that THIS was typical of my work, and it took a long time to change people's opinions about me and my work. I had to fight an uphill battle for about fifteen years to get a little respect, as Rodney Dangerfield would say. I was written off as a lightweight, a person who was noted for giving lively readings but not a very good poet -- in other words whose performances were better than the work itself. This really upset me, I wanted to be taken seriously and wasn't, so I guess you might say when I talk about responsibility I speak from experience. And then there is the fact that if one is serious about writing poetry -- or making any art -- one has to be in it for The Long Haul. One doesn't write good poetry after 2 or 3 years, or even after 5 years, and you need to work the craft & etc. as well as realize that this is not a passing thing, that you need to be a poet for the DURATION-- for as long as it takes -- and not to expect to write like Robert Frost or T.S. Eliot after 6 months.
RD: What do you see as the future of your medium? Do you think that funding (Govt. vs. private) for the arts is good or bad?
LAB: I WISH there were more funding for the arts -- every year for about 24 or so years, I have applied for an NEA grant-- never got one, but I apply nonetheless. I suppose I never will now. But whether or not there is arts funding, the most important thing is TO DO THE WORK and the rest be damned.
RD: What advice can you give to poets today to help them improve their craft?
LAB: READ READ READ!! Read everybody, the good poets, the bad poets, the poets that speak to you. Develop your analytical mind, your critical eye. And write until your arm falls off.
RD: Aside from the academic-sponsored poet, do you think that it’s possible to actually make a living as an poet? Or is it, by necessity, an avocation?
LAB: Somehow, I'm not exactly sure how, I've managed to live a life in poetry. I'm not really an academic -- I mean I only have a BA and my UCLA job is through Extension and only part time. And I'm also lucky that I have no family or children to support -- I don't think it would be possible for me to live the life I have if I had children -- but somehow, I've managed to stay solvent and my head above water. I guess you just have to have faith and KNOW if you’re good, it's going to work out OK. But in the U.S. all poets have to have a day job, the trick is to find one that won't kill your spirit, and still write and live for poetry.
RD: Who do you draw inspiration from these days? Got any high adventure planned?
LAB: Right now I am inspired by thinking about my father, who died last summer, and how he lived his life. He was Coach at Hamilton High School in Los Angeles for many years and was a remarkable man -- I feel I was very lucky to have had him for a father, even though we had problems between us for many years. I feel very positive about things right now (a miracle for me) -- I've worked hard for a lot of years and I've given up many things (family, marriage, financial security) to follow my somewhat precarious path. I feel like everything I've done has prepared me for where I am now and I'm very excited about the LACMA job. I really want to build the series and make it one of the best in Los Angeles -- if not in all California. And for the first time, I feel like I am being treated with respect for my work (by the people at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art) and myself. It's been like a dream for me -- to be able to do something for poets and poetry and the literary life in L.A. I hope I can live up to the challenge.
from THE BURNING (Red Wind Books 1991)...
IN PRAISE OF SPINSTERS
I am no cast-off
I am as bountiful as corn
my face turned towards the sun
I sing the praise of spinsters
who weave their hair
to make strong rope
who cast their dreams
to make fine pots
we are your mystery
the ones who slipped away
I celebrate what we are
clay sifting through fingers
hrvesting the earth
"I'd rather my taxes go to artists than to nuclear missiles...”
PAUL KRASSNER Interview (Oct. 1997)
(Editor’s note: I first became aquatinted with The Realist in 1968-69 when I picked up a copy at a non-violence seminar conducted by David Harris and Joan Baez at Barney’s Beanery or some such place in Los Angeles. It was filled to capacity with counter-culturites, from knocked out hippies to serene yogists to cadres of the SDS -- the Buttheads of the day -- to Joni Mitchell wanna-bees. I ended up hunkered down in a corner with a copy of The Realist, trying to look cool and not let on just how terrified I was about being drafted and going to Nam, or how pissed off I was that my girlfriend had ditched me to go off with some old geezer -- about my age now -- named Ira something. I was very “un-cool” not to understand. But, the fact that I was reading The Realist, restored my “coolness”...)
RD: By way of background, how did you get started? Was there a single point/event that inspired you to take up your craft, was it accidental or was it a slow process?
PK: As a kid, I saw the world thru a filter of absurdity, but my outlet was internal. In high school, I wrote the senior play, and enjoyed that use of time & energy so much that I knew I wanted to be a writer. I also acted in it, and I loved making an audience laugh. That's when I knew I wanted to perform standup comedy. While I was in college, I started working for and later became managing editor at The Independent, a forerunner to the alternative press, edited by Lyle Stuart, now a book publisher. He was also general manager at Mad magazine. Our offices were on the same floor. I did a few free-lance pieces for Mad, but they had a huge teenage audience and rejected anything too adult. There were no publications with humor for grown-ups. I wanted to put out something that would combine the 1st amendment and satire, and so The Realist was born in 1958. I published it thru 1974, then went on hiatus until 1985, when I re-launched it.
RD: Do you find that it’s easier or harder to “seize the moment” when creativity strikes? Do you have a special time set aside or is it “catch-as-catch-can”?
PK: I respond to contradictions and hypocrisy and then in effect I give assignments to my subconscious, but I never know when an idea or the solution to a literary problem will pop to the surface--in the shower, while watching a movie, sometimes even when I'm writing--the process of creativity is ultimately a total mystery.
RD: It seems like The Realist has been around forever. Describe what it’s like to keep your “balance” in the (I can only assume that it’s crazy) world of political satire/humor. How do you keep from losing your perspective/objectivity? Is there a line that you won’t cross, or is everything up for grabs?
PK: I have to avoid the trap of thinking of the news only as grist for my satirical mill or I will become insensitive. I won't make victims the target of my humor. I avoid taking criticism personally. Above all, I try not to take myself as seriously as I take my causes. If I can remember to breathe, everything else seems to fall in place. I vacillate between comic and cosmic perspective.
RD: In your capacity as a satirist, you have probably had the opportunity to meet a lot of “artists”; do you distinguish the good from the bad and do you encourage the ‘good’ ones? If so, how?
PK: Although I never question any artist's vision, I always go by my instincts and then rationalize why I like or dislike something. I encourage writers and cartoonists whose work is in sync with my subjective sensibilities, but I believe that true artists do what they do because they have to, support or not.
RD: Has the “scene” changed since you started, and, if so, how has it?
PK: When I started, I was a lone voice. Now irreverence has become an industry. Then satire was tragedy plus time. Now it's simultaneous, what with faxes, computers, radio shock jocks. I mean, for example, that fire-jokes about David Koresh's headquarters in Waco were already in the air even while it was burning.
RD: I know that you are planning to shut down The Realist in eleven more issues, what do you see as the future of political satire (are we gonna be stuck with Mark Russell)?
PK: There are political satirists in zines and on the world wide web, on the radio (Harry Shearer) and in theaters (Jimmy Tingle). You just have to separate them from the ones who do material on airplane food, their first date, how cats and dogs are different, how New York and Los Angeles are different, and whose stuff on Clinton is limited to his reputation for extramarital sex and junk food.
RD: What do you think about funding (Govt. vs. private) for the arts?
PK: I think that artists should lead politicians, not follow them. I've never sought a government grant, but I don't judge those who do. I would rather my taxes go to artists than to nuclear missiles, but I don't like artists being treated as if they were superior to non-artists who can't apply for grants.
RD: Aside from the academic/corporate-sponsored media-artist, do you think that it’s possible to actually make a living doing this? Or is it, by necessity, an avocation?
PK: My daughter once said to me, "Dad, don't be offended, but I don't want to be a writer when I grow up, because it seems like such an insecure profession." In which case, the art of survival becomes important. I certainly haven't become wealthy--though it's possible I still could--but I don't feel I've sacrificed anything. The satisfaction of having no one to answer to is immeasurable.
RD: Who do you draw inspiration from these days? Any words to the wise?
PK: I get inspired by the evolution of counterculture. My only advice is: Watch yourself. Know your motivations so intimately that you can trust spontaneity. Remember that the police state is a positive thing to police. Develop your sense of empathy. And always remember to endorse your checks before depositing.
The Parts Left Out of the Larry Flynt Movie
(This is an excerpt from The Realist #135, which in turn, is an excerpt from his autobiography)
...Later, a corporate executive grabbed me by the collar and said, threateningly, “You’re exploiting a very sick man.” I didn’t know how long I would last as publisher of Hustler so when editor Bruce David showed me around next morning, I began exercising my power immediately. The cover of the April 1978 issue -- the one that would not feature a woman -- was scheduled to have a teddy bear wearing a negligee. I changed it to an Easter Bunny nailed to a crucifix, with a basket of painted eggs toppled over in the foreground, and assigned a staffer to write a piece on “The Commercialization of Easter.” I also went through Larry Flynt’s publisher’s statement and removed every masculine reference to God. That afternoon, Larry brought me into his office. I didn’t know what to expect, but he said that he really liked my cover idea, and he agreed that God is genderless. “You know,” he said, “I’ve always been of a philosophical bent.” Then he gestured toward the wall. “You see these walls? (The movie depicted him saying this to Althea.) I could make them tumble down by sheer will power.”
I decided -- perhaps foolishly -- not to ask him for a contract. If indeed I was exploiting a very sick man, at least I wanted him to be able to fire me as frivolously as he had hired me. In fact, President Jimmy Carter’s evangelist sister, Ruth Stapleton Carter, suggested to Larry that he “get rid of” me, but he refused.
In 1967, at an anti-war demonstration in Los Angeles, police had forced thousands of protesters back into a grassy area where now stood Century City, an architectural phoenix rising out of the ashes of the peace movement. From my 38th floor office in one of the twin towers, I could stare out a large plastic window, which couldn’t be opened, at the view of a restricted country club below. I found a tiny apartment in Beverly Hills for only $235 a month, and walked to work every day. I was the Lone Pedestrian
Even though I was now making $90,000 a year, I would eat leftover food right off hotel-room service trays that guests placed outside their doors. Those old habits die hard. When I was a kid, my mother used to stand by the garbage can, warning me -- “I’m gonna throw it away” -- before she scraped the food off the plates. I took it on as my lifetime personal responsibility not to waste food. Also, I was too cheap to actually buy a box of facial tissues, so instead I always carried a few squares of toilet paper neatly folded in my pocket. It was only after the Kleenex people, who had a plant in El Salvador, dropped their sponsorship of ‘Lou Grant’ -- because the star of the series, Ed Asner, had demonstrated against the U.S.-- financed death squads in El Salvador -- that my frugality became a political protest.
Yet I was learning by osmosis to accept certain arbitrary rules as the net in this pornographic tennis game. An erect penis must not be shown. Working hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Semen must not be shown. Spring water must not be used to make coffee. Penetration must not be shown. If a call is interrupted by Larry Flynt’s secretary, you must hang up immediately. Oral-genital contact must not be shown. This world of pornography was another separate reality that Carlos Castenada never dreamed of.
Frank Moore interview (FEBRUARY)
(Ed. note: Frank Moore is a performance & visual artist from the Bay area. His pioneering works in the field of EROART, as well as his commentaries on art on the edge, have earned him the respect of many in, as well as, outside the art world. Frank is a prolific thinker, an articulate writer, artist, poet, publisher and producer of art happenings...)
RD: By way of background, how did you get started? Was there a single point/event that inspired you to take up your craft, or was it a slow process?
FM: Because I have cerebral palsy and can't talk, until I was 17, I did not have any way to communicate except through my family members. Then invented my head pointer with which I could talk to people via a letterboard and also could type. Actually before the pointer, they tried a paintbrush on my head…so I started painting nudes from PLAYBOY.
Anyway, when I got the pointer, I immediately started writing essays, poems, political columns, stories with myself as the hero, erotic ritual performances/plays/films [all with roles for myself!]…years before I actually started performing. This was in 65-66 in Redlands, California, outside San Bernardino. I read novels like The Magus and Steppenwolf. I started wanting to create other alternative/altered realities just like the magicians in those novels. I read the Beat writers and the French Surrealists, Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl and Abbie Hofmann, listened to Dylan, watched the hippie movement grow…read about The Living Theater, The Happenings, The Love-Ins. I wished I could be a hip artist living in San Francisco instead of being stuck outside San Bernardino reading, listening, watching, waiting. All of this brewed inside of me.
In college, I started doing political pranks, like rolling into the Marines' recruiting office to join, wanting to push "the button". During the time of the Kent State killings, I saw my life was heading back into isolation if I did not make some radical changes. I dropped out of college and hitched to hippieland in Santa Fe. There I started re-examining things from an occult view. During these years, there was a period for me of intensive reading of books of all kinds.
I hitchhiked in 1970 from Santa Fe to the Brotherhood of the Spirit in northwest Massachusetts. There I danced with the communal rock band, Spirit in Flesh, risking being called a freak, having fun, touring the East Coast.
After a year, I returned to Santa Fe, searching for a method to work with people in an intense, direct way. Ever since college days, I had been writing nonsense scripts dealing with nudity and nonsexual eroticism. Also during my college days, I read such books as Toward a Poor Theatre and The Theatre and its Double. But it was not until I and my communal family took a very intense film-making course in 1972 that I was able to put my weird ideas into performance.
We made films of rolling nude down a hill, smearing bodies with baby food, nursing by a sexy woman. But when the film course was over, I did not have money to make films. I could not see putting my energy into getting money to make films, could not see putting up with the compromises and outside control involved in an artistic context requiring big bucks. For me, the act of breaking a taboo is what is magical, what effects change...not someone seeing it in a film.
This not having money, this not wanting to be controlled and limited by money, was what sealed me into a performance life.
So I started looking for a way to work with people. I wanted to see people nude, and touch them, and to create an intensity between us. One day, a rich woman asked me to paint a nude of her. My wife set me and my paints up in the fancy living room as the woman undressed. On that day I realized how art can give people permission to do what normally is forbidden. It gives a frame that switches realities from the narrow normal reality to the freeing altered reality of controlled folly. On that day, I slipped into art as a life. Then I somehow stumbled upon a book, Environmental Theater by Richard Schechner, a book about a theater of active involvement and participation, of nudity and intimate physicality, of risk-taking and change. It was right up my alley. Richard's insights and experiments were inspiring to me.
But it seemed to me the Performance Group of Richard's was not well-versed in, or committed to, a living communal intimacy, so they retreated from the edge when they were expected to live the personal intimacy they were acting out. My years of communal living and spiritual study gave me needed keys to take what Richard had done forward. The book fit so well with my own experiments, philosophy and vision, it became the base of the work I would do for the next 25+ years!
RD: Do you find that it's easier or harder to "seize the moment" when creativity strikes?
FM: I am lucky [or smart] in that way. For starters…my life isn't broken up in pieces like DAY JOB and ART etc. For me, it's all the same. Everything feeds everything else. But I think this is a good way of looking at it even if you are an artist with a day job. Instead of seeing the day job as something that keeps you from the CREATIVE ACT called ART [very over-glamorized concepts], see it as a part of the art process…the thing that allows you to do art. If you see the day job as an excuse to not do art now, quit…either quit the job or quit dreaming of being an artist…and start doing art. Our dishwasher repairman is a songwriter-musician [played with Elvis, Sly Stone, Ike Turner…and Hank Williams Jr. is doing his songs. For this guy, repairing dishwashers and writing songs are equal. Michael LaBash, who I live with, has a graphic design company. All the technology, skills, what-have-you that he acquires for his clients also go into our underground "art" projects.
I'm also lucky in that I don't "create" art. I do art. I channel art. It happens in two ways. I just "do" art. Or the art festers inside me for weeks. Then it wakes me up early in the morning formatting. Then when there is time, I binge-puke it out. But I can "pause" this binge-puke state mid-sentence when "real life" calls and then resume. I see myself, not as the creator/owner of the art, but the guardian/ steward of the art…protecting it from galleries, audiences, funders, my own ego…making sure it is full-strength.
Frank Moore, the performance artist, is in reality a fictitious front man for personalities and forces that really create performances. What I am as an artist is a channel through which a whole host of factors actively can mix together, creating a performance, creating a community, creating change. I do not see the performance as my own. Many artists get overwhelmed by taking on the whole responsibility of the performance, by thinking the performance is themselves. They get pumped up when a piece succeeds; and they get crushed when a piece bombs. They get boxed in by fear of failing, blocked from experimenting. It is similar to a spiritual healer who forgets that he is not the one who is actually doing the healing. The magic usually leaves him.
RD: In your capacity as an artist, you have probably had the opportunity to meet a lot of other artists; do you encourage the 'good' ones and, if so, how do you encourage them?
FM: One of the sign posts that tells you that your work is successful is when other, younger artists use your work as a jumping-off point for their work. It feels just as good as your heroes telling you that you are carrying on the fight they fought before you. I'm a very lucky and successful guy! Both are happening to me more these days, largely because of my writings on art. I don't criticize art without being asked by the artist…unless ethically it offends me…then I blast it because it has moved into a bigger frame of social evolutionary influence/responsibility.
I always let the person know when I like something to add to it, to support it. But when the artist asks for my opinion, I talk in terms of what she [or the art] is trying to do…did it do it…why/why not…what might work more. It's always in the frame of her art, not imposing an outside value system.
If you just encourage "good" artists, you don't really encourage art. Bad art is the manure from which good and great art springs. All artists have done some bad art. A large percentage of art could be called bad art. In other words, you can not have any art without having bad art anymore than you can have any science without having most experimentation be "failures". (continued)
So we have to protect the right and the freedom to do bad art.
RD: What’s your take on the art "scene"?
FM: There are all kinds of art. There is art that calms, art that pacifies, art that sells, art that decorates, art that entertains. But what I am committed to is art as a battle, an underground war against fragmentation. The battle is on all realities. The controllers have always tried to fragment us. Fragment us from each other. Imprison us in islands of sex, color, religion, politics, classes, labels, etc. -- they fragment our inner worlds, they blow our individual realities apart, and play the pieces against one another. They are us, or a part of us. They are the controllers, the politicians, the sexists, the women's libbers, the pornographers, the censors, the moralists, the church, the media, the businessmen, educators, the victims and the powerful.
Artists of this breed that I just described need to be warriors who are willing to go into the areas of taboo, willing to push beyond where it is comfortable and safe to explore and build a larger zone of safeness. They need to be idealists, willing to live ideals.
But in the seventies and the early eighties, the calling of this kind of art became the career of art. The passion and idealism became the studying of the trends of what will be "in" next. The passionate vulnerability that creates magic was replaced by a cool and clever intellectualism. We artists got seduced by high tech. We got seduced by the modern media, by the quest for large audiences. I think performance is being ruined by trying to package it as entertainment, as off-beat cabaret. Some performance is entertaining. Some performance is cabaret. That is great. But when you try to package performance into a neat cabaret format, as I think is the trend, to make performance acceptable and profitable, it becomes a hip form of nightclub watching or groovy T.V. watching. If you limit performance in time and space for acceptability, it stops being performance.
Performance, like any avant-garde art, is the way society dreams; it is the way society expands its freedom, explores the forbidden in safety, loosens up. Society needs its dream art, just as an individual needs to dream or go insane. Our moral majority society, bent on going backwards into the violent blank rigidity of a censored mind, needs taboo-breaking dreams to get back to freedom. Performance is perfectly suited for this dream role. At the present time, our society is at a fork in its growth. It can go deeper into high tech impersonal isolation, or it can rediscover the magic that happens when physical and emotional humans actively and directly link up with one another. Art can either just follow society, just recording the trends, or it can take a pathbreaker role. I am writing this for the artists who are not as lucky as I am to have a physical reminder that they are misfits of society whose job it is to push back the limits of society. This is a reminder that we misfits are still needed.
RD: What do you see as the future of your medium? Do you think that funding (Govt. vs. private) for the arts is good or bad?
FM: I don't see any difference between public and private funding of the arts. Society should fund/support art/artists. But artists should never expect, become dependent on, or get seduced by, such funding. Funders should never be allowed any control over the content of the art. [Funders aren't the same as someone commissioning an art work for his personal life.] Artists have to be willing to be poor/ unknown, to pay for their art addiction themselves, to walk away from money and/or fame at any hint of compromise [here we are talking about art, not work]. The "goal" of art is doing the art…then getting the pure art to people…which is the exact opposite of the goal of reaching as many people as possible.
RD: What advice can you give to artists today to help them improve their craft?
FM: I am assuming that we are not talking about commercial or mainstream art now….but art for some magical change and/or subversion. I want to encourage artists, who have not been so blessed with bodies that mark them as misfits, to aspire to be misfits anyway, to do misfit art anyway -- even if you are handicapped by your normal body. Your road is definitely harder than my road. But that's life. See you art as a calling, not a career. This calling to be the agent of evolution is what this misfit art is all about. Evolutionary change on every level always comes from this journey of a single person or a small group, into the web of all possibilities, bringing back into the frame a new possibility, trying it out in the frame. Sometimes the result is insanity for the person(s). Sometimes the new possibility works for the person(s), but the frame is not ready to incorporate it yet, because it would mean giving up opposite possibilities long cherished. But introducing a new possibility into the framework for a certain amount of time, in itself creates a new openness in the frame. True evolution happens when the frame accepts as its own the new possibility brought to it by the misfit heroes. These misfit heroes are doing the kind of art we are talking about.
RD.· Aside from the academic-sponsored artist, do you think that it's possible to actually make a living as an artist? Or is it, by necessity, an avocation?
FM: Again assuming that we are talking about misfit art, it is a calling and a holy addiction, not a linear money-making career. If the artist surrenders to the magic of doing the art, the magic will nonlinearally take care of him. This is not the goal of art, just an aspect of the process. How we have been told things work is a lie. But if you trust in the underground nonlinear magic, and are willing to do art without rewards or perks [to be "hungry"], then things happen in amazing ways.
For example, we [me, Linda, Michael] bought a house without committing murder or other crimes...or reshaping the art in "sellable" forms. The magic always provides!
RD:· Who do you draw inspiration from these days? Got any high adventure planned?
FM: People around me, our life together, and the art we do together. When people ask, "Where is your work heading? What do you want to do next?" …how should I know?! It is not my work. It is not my choice. For me, it is not a question of a next thing. It is a growing, evolving vision. I am carried along in this vision. A performance does not have a beginning or an end. It is just a tiny bit of the vision. The vision braids around itself, flowing on. I do not know where the vision is taking me. I have not been down this vision before. One thing's for sure. We humans are not the end of evolution.
But people should keep checking our WEB OF ALL POSSIBILITIES at: http:// www.eroplay.com / There, they can see [and soon, hear] where the vision has taken us…and where the next port of call will be.
EROART, NOT PORN by FRANK MOORE (World-Wide Rights Reserved)
In June 1988, Annie Sprinkle put out a call and some of the leading artists who use sex in their work came together in Veronica Vera’s N.Y.C. apartment to sign a manifesto which talked about an art movement which "celebrates sex as the nourishing, life-giving force" which these artists use, in the self-empowering "attitude of sex-positivism" to communicate our ideas and emotions...to have fun, heal the world and endure." This was a declaration of war against the censoring forces of anti-art, anti-human, anti-sex, anti-fun, anti-love, and truly anti-life…forces of darkness in power in the world today. We called ourselves Post Porn Modernists. This was very limiting because it linked us not only to dying deadening porn, but to the glum post modern art movement, setting ourselves up to be just a reaction, just the limb of a dead tree. We needed a name like Living Pleasure Artists…or Eroartists!
By using the word "porn," it wrongly suggested that eroart somehow came out of what is very sloppily called "porn". Historically, there has always been eroart…and if truth be told, most artists have done at least some eroart. Eroart celebrates sex, love, the body, and the human passions. But porn was born in the Victorian Era with its repressive anti-sexual/anti-pleasure morality. What we eroartists were trying to do was to get back to the healing liberation of eroart.
What we are interested in is art that creates in people the desire to go out and play with other people, and to enjoy life. This is eroart. Historically, one of the tools of this art has been the sex act. But sex has only been a tool, not the goal. And it is just one of many tools.
Isadora Duncan is a person whom I would call an artist in the eroart tradition. She used nudity (especially at private parties where she could dance without feeling moral judgments) and movement to turn people on physically to their own bodies and to passion for life. This is the true goal of eroart. Most books on eroart have missed the true purpose of such art. There has always been sexual erotic art. This kind of art is universal and can be traced back to the caves and beyond.
We artists who signed the manifesto wanted to offer alternatives. We wanted to do art that would satisfy people’s natural desire to see other people nude getting turned-on…to satisfy their child-like curiosity to see other people's bodies, to see what they are really like under those clothes. These are healthy human desires.
The time was, and is, right for an art form that addresses these healthy desires. The women's movement has changed people's standards with regard to sex and the quality of relationships. This is true of both men and women. They have scrapped, or are scrapping, the old sexist ways and attitudes. People want to see new ways of relating between humans both in and out of bed. Eroart in all media can show this way of relating.
Unfortunately, in recent years many eroartists have embraced the label of PORN… which is like embracing the label BAD COMMERCIAL ART. It is unfortunate because labels effect both the art and the artists. I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word "porn," my mental pictures are…big-dicked jerks and big-titted bimbos fucking bored, unreal, dumb…tubes going in and out of holes…as many tubes going in and out of holes as possible…as close-up as possible…without any real human passion. This picture sets up undermining blocks for eroart. Eroart aims to liberate people. This picture makes the artist forget the idealism and importance of the eroart…"oh it’s just porn."
This effect of the label of PORN can be seen on many of the female sex artists who have come on the scene since we signed the manifesto. The sex world has become in-grown. There is even a level of not liking/enjoying sex in this circle. Sex has become again the means to power, fame, money... and the means to avoid relationships, intimacy, needing other people. At a recent party of famous sex artists, one woman actually said, "I don't like sex, I like faking it!" Most of the people just nodded their agreement. Just shows the gender of the pornographer doesn’t effect the porn!
We need to get back to the idealism of eroart…get back to changing/liberating society through eroart. Breaking taboos has always been a part of art, at least the area of art that seeks to change consciousness, change morality, change reality. This is one of the functions of art.