of writing gathers in the air all around me and brings with it a peculiar kind of darkness, a cloud of black stars that sets in and thickens even when it’s noon. Even when I am drowning in sunlight. And, if the fever of writing finds me in a crowd, it has the overwhelming power of suddenly making me feel all alone. People might be shouting while I’m getting the lines to a poem and all I’ll really hear are the lines just the sound the lines make in the electric blue and little else. The fever of writing begins with an energy that won’t let me sit down if I am standing up and won’t let me stand up if I am sitting down. I’m almost flying, but flying in place. The fever of writing defies explanation and yet longs to be explained. The fever of writing is the blood in its dreaming and the lightning that throws quick flashes across the page I am working to fill up with the speed of my scattergun words. The fever of writing always becomes part of the way that I slash the lines down on paper. I want to T bone the american sentence. The fever of writing is the total lunge of the words flying out of me. They darken certain corners of the room where I work and wait until I can catch up to them. The fever of writing is my skin dreaming near the raw speed of light, the poems soar off me toward an electrical, a dark matter darkness.
of writing is a bet with the void. You know the game is rigged but you make the bet anyway. What else can you do? The fever of writing is a shout down the canyon. The fever of writing is the risk of meeting Death in the alley. My poem is a switchblade, I’m going to cut him, cut him to pieces. The fever of writing is an all or nothing race to the edge of my lengthening shadow. The fever of writing is the way that I scoop patches of darkness right out of Dillinger’s face and suture them into the skin of the poem.
I’ve ever written has bushwhacked me into fits and trances and quick brawls of words. Every poem I’ve ever written lays claim to the way my blood pounds through my veins. Every poem I’ve ever written knows the secret name of my sabotaged talking. Every poem I’ve ever written gives me a pour of red lava before it gives me the words. Every poem I’ve ever written wants to write me with all of its wounds and all of its frenzy. Every poem I’ve ever written sends me torn ransom notes from the unbearable void. Every poem I’ve ever written is a crime scene report on the american lingo. How it was murdered and kicked back into breath. Every poem I’ve ever written is a hard slap in the tricked out face of scabbed over Death.
I like to have a 22 caliber six shot revolver on the desk when the poem is coming. It’s a little game I play, five in the cylinder, the sixth chamber empty. I love to keep that sixgun there, murderously close, within quick Grand Inquisitor Mayakovsky reach so that I can grab it, cock it and hear the way that the cylinder indexes with all that precise midnight rotating inside. I always wanted to ask William S. Burroughs if he kept a cocked pistol at hand while he was writing NAKED LUNCH, maybe the one he used to kill his wife with. I’m betting he did. He had to, he was in love with the writerly night of all his firearms. And, every once in awhile he’d reach over and touch it, cop a feel cheap feel of Death, especially when he was improvising with Doctor Benway. Because when you are writing, you aren’t writing from the outside in, you are writing from the inside out. You go to the cave and you should have weapons with you. You journey to the blood painted walls of the cave, in the shadows of all the wild animals, the monsters submerged in all the shadows there. And, if he was writing that way, then he’d have to keep a pistol close so that he could always get out, even if he had to shoot his way out. In my imagination I can see Burroughs grabbing that piece and walking from room to room between cutup paragraphs, pretending to shoot through the windows, touching Death where he sleeps and rolls and knocks in the walls.
reason to keep a revolver on the desk is that writing poetry is a sophisticated form of Russian roulette. It requires a little something with a lot of Death in it. You don’t stick the barrel in your mouth and pull the trigger if you fuck a poem up, but you need to have it there as a reminder of what the odds are. The tremendous, the staggering, the bone shattering odds. Death knows what the odds are but you never ask him. That’s the rule. That’s his game and he plays it for keeps. He runs all the numbers and he loves to see you lose. He loves to see you fuck it all up. The odds for writing a good poem are beyond enormous. The odds for writing a great poem are almost beyond dreaming. And, there are times when the revolver knows this better than you do. The revolver is a free pass to all of your most intimate nightmares. And, if you write poetry you watch them the way you watch movies. Your nightmares are the best horror movies you will ever watch and you watch them with fear and you watch them with love.
of writing is the way I get lines. When a poem is coming, it comes very quickly. It has no time for workshop rules. It has no time for long meditation. It has no time for polite aesthetics so I let the lines ricochet inside me, fuck the line breaks, fuck the way it should look as it pours down the page. The poem is ravenous, it needs to kick its way out of the skin of my dreaming.
of writing is the equivalent of the duende, but is writing performance? If I read a line back to myself is that a real reading or just something I give back to Death, a scrap of my breathing. What does it matter? Death eats poetry the way I eat meat. He chews it up and swallows the garbage. And, black is the color a line brings to the page. Black is the color that the page is dreaming. Black is the color that the poet is tasting. And, the raw fever’s darkness doesn’t appear whenever you want it. It doesn’t even come when you are desperate for something, require it into the nightmare, sleeptalking, and roaring part of your cankered existence. It teases you with little flashes of something that turn out to be nothing, fake words that fuck up your rhythms, fleeting ghosts of sounds you swear might have been words. Or, large flashes and mountains of nothing that threaten to set you on catastrophic fire. And, when you do catch fire with the fever of writing, there is nothing that can slow the dance of its burning, the avalanche of its sweet toxic explosions. Besides, you really don’t want the fire to go out no matter what, you need to have it fly behind the deathrow corridors of your eyes. You have to burn yourself up and into the ache of the poem. It’s like that line from Geeshie Wiley’s song Last Kind Words Blues. “Just leave me out and let the buzzards eat me whole.” That’s the way I feel when I have gone so far into a poem I can’t get out. I am open to whatever the poem is going to become, the anarchy of it, the wreckage of it, and I am also open to where this oblivion will take me. I want to be devoured by the buzzard of words. I want to be eaten alive and transformed into the blood of the poem.
wonder just what Hart Crane felt when he wrote Proem, the introductory section of THE BRIDGE. Could he feel himself ignite into it? Were his clothes just beginning to catch fire? Was his face being scorched? And, did he really care? I imagine him sitting in a sparsely decorated room, the burnt boards of the air floating up into his vision like kindling, just begging him to set them on fire with his words. And, I can see him almost levitated while he is writing. He is beginning to lift up off his chair but he doesn’t feel it yet because the words have fallen in love with his hands and just as soon as he gets them down on paper they fly up like the black ghosts of cinders.
that way while writing THE CORPSE IS DREAMING. But, instead of the fire burning out of my body and into the air, the fire went inside. The flames shot into the core of my being, searing everything along its circuitous path. I could feel it go through me like the hottest of winds, like some fire engorged santa ana in a Raymond Chandler story. I could feel it travel up my arms and down my legs, I could feel its sparks swimming hard behind my eyes. And, I had the strangest sensation of watching Dillinger burn all the way into his spectacular dying. My fire was going into him and his fire was going into me. And, even though he had been shot and was already half eaten by a canyon of darkness, I could see all the damaged words that were still inside him lunging against his black skeleton frame, trying to escape and I had to write that poem to make them stop howling.
of writing is the french kiss of language. The way that all the words roll around in your mouth and you never want them to stop ever, even when you are dead. The fever of writing is the shotgun barrel jammed into Hemingway’s mouth. He’s trying to cram it in and in and in and maybe he doesn’t want any of his beard hair in there, just the words and the juice in there the spit and the phlegm that shit taste of longing to taste Death some of his ashes he wants to blast all of the words out of his mouth because they are no good for writing anymore and he has condemned them to gunfire.
RELENTLESS had the skin on my arms crawling. I was stuck inside Baby Face Nelson and I couldn’t get out no matter what and the only escape left was to write myself free and the space inside him was so dark and cramped I could barely move and I think I was in there with Death though I couldn’t see anything but I could hear something like black negative breathing. Which is the breath going in, in, in and not ever coming out. And, something was talking to me in there. The words were all cracked open infected and damaged when they came to me and I had to do what I could in that wounded velocity to reshape them, make them less damaged, and help them come out. And, the flies that Baby Face was slapping away from his eyes were real. I could hear their demon trajectories slit the wind across and across and across.
am watching the police car chase in THE BOURNE IDENTITY. Matt Damon is Jason Bourne and Franka Potente is Marie. They sit tensed behind the wheel of a car careening down a European city street, ramming and sideswiping other cars, constantly skidding, swerving, spinning, colliding and while I am watching I am thinking goddam this is the way that I write. All out, high speed, everything wagered, nothing held back. This is the fever of the words when they come. The eye is a handheld camera but it can’t get it all so it sees images the mind invents. This is the fever of writing as it explodes from oblivion then returns to oblivion. It slams me up against a wall and I love it. It almost seems as though I am broken, all splinters, blown down to smithereens and those pieces of me are daring everything to go even faster. Almost out of control, but there is a kind of sideways, out of control control that I love in writing that brings out all of the fevers and all of the heat. Without fevers and heat there is no good poetry, there is no great poetry whatsoever.
DILLINGER is THE BOURNE IDENTITY of poetry. DILLINGER is THE FRENCH CONNECTION of poetry. DILLINGER is the BULLITT of poetry. DILLINGER is the HEAT of poetry. DILLINGER is the chicken run in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE. Vroom, vroom, vroom, floor it, baby, drive he sd. DILLINGER is the fever and the velocity and the electricity of the american poem because it is the ultimate throwdown, the first and last challenge of what a long poem has to be, now, right here, Muther, in action central, the real the authentic the blow you away america. DILLINGER is the biggest and best risk of them all. DILLINGER is the fuck you, the machine gun fever slammed into the dare. And while this poem is long beyond long, it travels at tremendous speeds. Nothing about it is slow, even those sections where the fire is the talk and the talk burns the walls down all the way down. DILLINGER is maybe the first moviemovie poem to appear anywhere the world. DILLINGER is my fever of writing. And, after working on a section of D
I have to stand still and shake so I can slow myself down.