Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Interview with CAConrad

Tom Beckett: Where did/does poetry begin for you?

CAConrad: OH MY! The first satellite phone call was placed in 1962. Those of us born after 1962 have no option but to be included in that whirl of transmission. I LOVE the phone. I LOVE the Internet. It's starting with buttons being pushed and you wind up somewhere else. You TRAVEL, you go, you do it, you know, we all know. It's common travel these days. You can call the taffy store on the boardwalk in Atlantic City to find out what the special flavor of the day is! OH! And you can go online to the Graceland webcam that looks out Elvis's bedroom window. I LOVE that one! YEAH! I'm in Philadelphia, LOOKING at the LIVE VIEW Elvis once saw with His great Love for life and yummy, yummy, delicious pills and sex! YEAH! How can you POSSIBLY hate technology like that!? I mean, when you GO to Graceland, which I've done many times, you aren't even allowed in His bedroom! But I can STAY AT HOME IN Philadelphia and look out His window! I LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT! Looking out over the Graceland lawn with my stereo blaring "It's Now or Never!" When I look out my Philadelphia window I see Bonner's Pub on the corner, and the GIANT Philadelphia Electric Company digital clock and billboard. Oh, my good friend Frank Sherlock has been writing some of the BEST poems off that digital billboard, you should see them! Frank's a fucking genius!

Oh hey, I really am answering your question. If you start a poem you start from where you are, which is where everything wound up. Right? I mean, everything you FEEL and THINK filters on and off that poem. Masturbating to president Bush's State of the Union Address for instance. Smearing semen on the TV screen as his mouth opens, and opens, he opens his mouth a lot during those speeches. He really does need our Love, so he can start BELIEVING our bodies are real out here. He doesn't understand how real we are, that we burn and bleed. How to reach him? The secret service is in the way, and his wife. Laura Bush would never let me feed my semen to him in the White House whether or not he wears a bib with the presidential seal. In other words I have to do the best I can with what I have to work with. Spelling his name on my arm with honey and licking it clean, now THAT'S a beginning to be gotten. You get started, meaning, honey has a sugar which, if you listen, has the hum of the ancestors. Mr. president, hello, George, can you hear me yet? Concentrate, concentrate. Hello, George, yes, over here! Dear Mr. president, your fly's open dear one. That's right, pull it up, there you go. GOOD BOY!

Where do poems begin for me? A plate of rice. Beans, seaweed, miso. A great big fucking. Much laughter before, during, and after fucking, and rice.

The best poems I've written so far were written after food and sex that wasn't garbage. A plate of rice and a plate of hotdogs will present very different outcomes. Rice FEEDS the brain stem and really REALLY jolts the synapses into the party. Hotdogs poison the blood and WHAT are you really hearing in the hotdog? Is the hotdog the best way to hear? See? FEEL? The question about hotdogs is, can you feel through the carnage of those carcinogens?

Being perfunctory, clearly: before it was a hotdog it was an animal beaten to death, strung up, skinned, gutted, quartered, chopped, blood draining to the floor. The fear, the anger, the PAIN of that animal is locked in the tissue, and shaped into this ridiculous looking thing later called a hotdog. It's so hard to believe that Leonardo da Vinci 500 years ago hoped we would come to understand killing animals equated with killing humans. But then of course we continue to kill other humans, so, we're still fucked.

If there's any chance everyone can believe for one second TOGETHER that all living beings are connected? Then that is where poems would begin for any poet, that connection. Empathy, sorrow, worry, dread, violence, greed, murder, torture and murder, iced tea and murder, birth and murder, get to the murder, stop avoiding the murder of the moment it's too easy isn't it? The little sprig of grass that sprouts from the forgotten corpse is where the poem begins. Or did the poem begin sooner? Trace the way back to the corpse with a heart beat and a whole beautiful idea of what the world can be. The sprig of grass that sprouts from that tissue where those beautiful ideas once lived, isn't that where the poem begins? Aren't we poets alive today getting the beauty from corpses everywhere?

The Chinese character for CRISIS is a combination of DANGER and OPPORTUNITY. Is crisis what sometimes drives a poem? Or, is crisis the poem itself at times? It's so much easier for someone like me who is a faggot. It's much harder for those who have played by the rules, or been popular, been accepted and respectable. Look at how these idiotic football players whine and stomp off camera when someone SAYS something about them, hurts their feelings. GEESH! It makes me crack up laughing! These guys knock one another to the ground, but the moment someone calls them a name they whimper. Tough guys wouldn't last two minutes in my shoes, living what I've lived. A faggot who never had the luxury of living in a nice padded closet gets his head kicked in. You want your sons to be tough, don't teach them the rules of football, make them wear a dress! Make them suck cock! Then you'll see some tough fuckers willing to take on the world! Once the fear of language has been dealt with, everything is possible for the poet.

TB: Do you think a poet has unique social responsibilities?

CAC: My initials sound like cock. Or do they sound like cack? I like cock, can we agree it's cock? Yeah well I thought I was in training to be Odin's personal cocktail waitress, but Loki -- lo & behold -- turned out to be my favorite highball drinker. SERVE IT UP! It's been a long time since I've been pained over questions of reincarnation. Now the next, bigger layer of questions can begin, LIKE, being born in America is a blessing or a curse? The sign reads HIT IT BIG, and even if you're deep inside the upholstered walls of your favorite casino, that sign can still beckon a hammer instead of some luck.

It's just like Mina Loy said in her manifesto -- IS ALL YOU WOMEN WANT IS TO HAVE WHAT MEN HAVE!? How ugly does the wanting have to feel? I'm a man and I don't even want what I have. You could cut my dick off and I'd make it work. But then I have the luxury of coming from white trash. When you come from white trash there's not a lot of pressure to be a lawyer or dentist, or whatever, and let me tell you, you don't know freedom until no one expects anything from you.

It's a beautiful thing to care about this world BECAUSE YOU WANT TO! An endless web of caring to connect. In fact care enough to let yourself be depressed and mournful once in a while for the selfish, vacuous, fucked-up bullshit ricocheting from every American angle. Is my credit okay oh my fucking God what does my credit report say and who sees my credit report I want a good credit report I'm JUST FUCKED if my credit report is bad please tell me it's okay is it okay do I have good credit God please give me good credit what will happen what will I do my credit my worth my credit I'm good or at least I WANT to be good please please PLEASE help me be good it's all I ask.

But HOW TO USE the greed of America in reverse to get at the heart of Love? This world not only CAN change, it's got no choice! Every poet's duty is to understand that every other human being they ever met or ever will meet has as much right and as much desire to create as much as You, We, Us. Total acceptance that we are moving forward, no matter how hard we fight it. We really FUCKING CAN make a future where we're THERE FOR ONE ANOTHER! How many people said airplanes would never fly? How many KNEW without a doubt that one day they would? Some, and some. But it seems silly to us now to DISBELIEVE because we know we can fly. We get to be smug about it now, shake our heads at the words of those who did not believe. Yet each of us must put ourselves back in time and HONESTLY consider whether we would be of the ones to disbelieve or believe. Don't lie to yourself. Lying will FUCK IT UP! The important thing to know is, either way you get to FEEL FLIGHT! I LOVE airplanes! Do you LOVE airplanes? To want to carve eyes, REAL EYES into every inch of your body and hang off the wing.

Airplanes are one step closer to traveling like the Soul. What's next? I hope I'm around for what's next. Which reminds me how PISSED OFF I am that we have to die! I'm starting a petition to end DEATH, and I'm counting on your signature. Sign it twice if you want. I'm signing every morning!

TB: What do you think poetry does? What do you want a poem to do?

CAC: A poem should help you rob a bank. What kind of fucking poem wouldn't help you rob a bank? A bad poem wouldn't be able to drive the getaway car. You better be certain you've got the right poem behind the fucking wheel, things are tight these days on the streets, they'll kick your ass unless the poem behind the wheel is the right poem.

But I really do LOVE when a poem strips down, gets on its back and holds me in the air with its delicious feet, and lets me feel naked flight. A child should come out, a new one, a wonder, the poem makes everything that new to the sudden brand of alternate realness it makes. There are poets whose poems do this to me (with me) (for me) nearly every time.

It goes way back, this Great Love. Photograph of a camera in the front room. Then four or five more photographs of cameras in the hall. There's a large cabinet and our wild guess of eight, maybe nine hundred snapshots of cameras in the drawers. Sometimes it's different angles of the same camera. And you might stand in the room with me wondering about the camera that took the pictures of the cameras. Or, was it more than one camera? Or, are some of the cameras in the photographs the cameras used to photograph the other cameras? We spend a good half hour looking everywhere but there are no cameras, just the photographs of cameras. In the end there's a box of cherry tea. Have you ever had cherry tea? Me neither, let's have a cup.

A very expensive, very old vase was accidentally broken in the British museum recently. The BBC cameras got as close to the flower and branch design as they could so that our eyes could SEE the repair. See, look, do you see the epoxy? Yes, that's it. The reporter helped us see. See? Yes. And many hours and much money was spent in the reparation of this vase. Yet British and American troops are responsible for hundreds of thousands of Iraqi's being brutally killed or injured. Museums and libraries burned to the ground. Tax dollars and patronage to fix a vase. Tax dollars and private interests to wage war, and then to have the NERVE to "give" "aid" to "rebuild." Just like, just days ago, on the news the reporter said that America was expediting bombs to Israel, and a semicolon later said that America was THE FIRST to arrive in Lebanon with "aid." Bombs and bandages. It was SO SHOCKING! You send bombs to Israel, NOT JUST send bombs, but EXPEDITE them because they're not getting there quick enough. And almost at the same time send medical supplies to Lebanon to "help" with the injuries caused by the bombs, GEESH! Were the bombs and the bandages in different planes I hope? Good old American cost effectiveness could very well send everything in one load. We can all relax now though that the vase has been repaired in the British museum. The camera zoomed in to let us see WHAT AN AMAZING JOB was done. Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you for saving the vase!

Sometimes on the news the cameras show us a car crash. They zoom in, and flames, blood, spraying water, it's all there. Recently on the news the camera gave us details of a very still pile of hair poking up from behind a seat. It's just like a movie, the news. Wow, super duper, it's like it's not even real. Is this what we've been working toward? I have a notion to go to the car wrecks on Philadelphia's highways with my giant bags of potting soil and tomato plants and make a little garden on the charred hoods and roofs of the wrecked cars. And glue poems to the windows. This protest will be called HOW LOVE IS WHAT THE POEM IS GOING TO DO TO YOU! EAT A TOMATO FUCKER!

TB: I think I get your passion and compassion, not to mention your love of high jinks and highly serious outrageous fun, but I'm jonesing for a window into your process as a poet. Deviant Propulsion (Soft Skull Press, 2006) is a provocative, sexy, funny and touching book; but it is also a very smart one. Talk to me a little about how you make poems, and how you made this book. C'mon now…

CAC: Thanks so much for your enthusiasm for Deviant Propulsion. That makes me happy. Um, but I really did think I was giving up some of the process. Okay, let me try a different approach.

For me I guess I've always been more interested in the process a poet takes to get to the writing, as opposed to the actual process of writing. And this is why I answered your first question with the statement, "If you start a poem you start from where you are, which is where everything wound up." Let me be ALMOST TOO specific here. When I was 8 my selfish, addict mother and her asshole addict husband made me sell cut flowers along the highway in rural Pennsylvania at the mouth of the turnpike exit. There I was in the middle of nowhere, by myself with my rubber buckets of flowers with bouquets in green wax paper for $3 and white wax paper for $5. The closest gas station over a mile away. That was a rotten fucking thing to do to a kid, that kind of forced labor and forced isolation every Friday after school until dusk, every Saturday from dawn to dusk, every Sunday from dawn to 4 or 5. Put those hours together it qualifies as a full time job. And trust me, the money I made wasn't mine, it was going to some lazy-assed no-good selfish sons of bitches who were nothing but a nightmare to live with. My life went from TOTAL isolation along the highway every fucking weekend, to roaring madness at home, and I mean all kinds of incredible bullshit went on in that house that would sound like I'm making it up. WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT to the poems I write? Stay with me, I'm getting there.

By the time I was 13 the school forced my mother to send me to a state-appointed therapist because I was such a fucking basket case. The therapist didn't believe anything I told him anyway, which turned out to be a complete waste of time. But my mother smoked my first joint with me that year, her way of helping me calm down. Of course it DID calm me down, but what an idiotic thing to do with your 13 year old kid! And a couple or three weeks after this first experience with pot my mind was kicking around thoughts in a whole new way. Not that I was high when I was selling flowers on the highway, but I was feeling different, smelling, tasting, SEEING and HEARING the world in a new way. And then one day a tractor trailer hit a white tail buck out there one afternoon. The deer staggered into a deep ditch about 10 or so yards from me. The truck driver stopped, got out to see if I was okay, then got back in his truck and drove off. No one else knew that that deer was in the ditch, and the ditch was deep enough that no one would know. The animal didn't take long to die, and with a family of hunters I was used to seeing all kinds of animals shot, skinned, butchered, beheaded, all those gruesome things. It wasn't the death that changed me, but the weeks of transformation that followed. Now, I had already been interested in poetry, in fact LOVED it! But I wrote my first REAL poem one day, weeks after the deer was killed, and the rats were burrowing under the pelt. It hit me, THIS FORCE, and I HAD TO WRITE. I'm not saying it was a good poem, but it was a REAL poem, meaning it was a poem that came THROUGH ME! What a beautiful experience, MUCH BETTER than my first orgasm!

As much as I bitch about those years of forced isolation, that time helped me transform isolation into meditation. The gift of coming closer to the regenerative spirit all life possesses came out of that deer's rot and eventual disappearance. It was a shocking concept for a 13 year old that life will vanish as one form to reappear in the bodies of rats and wheat and the large amount of water in the flesh will rise up as vapor to come down as rain. It was THE MOST exciting realization, the one that helped me through so much stress, the one that helped me understand the trivial and temporary nature of suffering. Relief is at hand, HALLELUJAH, and what a delicious lesson the lesson of approaching relief!

The stupidity of the adults in my childhood helped bring me awareness in many ways. Not that I'd do it the same all over again mind you. The other things I said in my first answer were about food and sex. When I first moved to Philadelphia, or I should say ESCAPED to Philadelphia from that tyrannical rural existence, I had a tiny apartment in an old hotel that was cheap enough I only needed a part time job. And then I had myself a drug dealer boyfriend who was ten years older than me, and he had a motor cycle, and boy was THAT fun! All the drugs I wanted for free and all I had to do was have sex whenever he wanted it, and that was NEVER an issue. But I met a man who helped me get away from all that JUST IN TIME, a man named Jay Pinsky. Besides being the BEST haiku poet I have ever met, Jay was macrobiotic. Jay helped me get off drugs, and by drugs I don't just mean pills and powders, I also mean sugar and other addictive food additives. Macrobiotics not only saved my life, it changed me INSIDE AND OUT, forever. Macrobiotics took those early lessons about life and BLEW THEM HIGHER THAN I had imagined they would reach. Macro-Biotics means Big Life, and gets you to see this world NOT as a food chain, but as a food web, one that reaches every single thing and back again. (To be honest I feel I take macrobiotics well beyond MOST people who are macrobiotic. Meaning class, and every single thing related to class and food, and money, etc., etc.)

Total respect for Life brings an unexpected abundance of Love. Food and sex and Loving it and meaning it has been my way to poems. And when I say sex I mean that more than one of the poems in Deviant Propulsion was written with a boyfriend's semen. One of the poems was written on my boyfriend Marwan's chest and stomach with semen. I of course made him keep still while I transferred everything with ink to paper. Semen is not waste material like shit, semen is leaving the body to produce new life. People want to roll their eyes, which is fine, roll away, but semen is not waste. Semen is very much alive, and powerful, is filled with a natural heat and light, an energy which is set to split the world open with an amazing gasp of breath. Semen gets flushed, wiped, thrown out. It's probably got something to do with our various religious doctrines, this idea of semen being dirty, or whatever it is that makes us want to get rid of it. It's a drop of the most potent source of the ocean, semen, and if I could get a job at a sperm bank I'd surround myself with all the little frozen jars and meditate the poems out of me.

You want to know how I write poems? Okay. I touch living things. The more trees I touch the more I dream, the more I dream, the more I write. And walking walking walking walking walking. I'm not a fucking novelist, I'm a poet, the air, the people, the trees, birds, roaches, used condoms (there's the semen again), everything outside is for our lives to investigate, rub against mentally or otherwise. As I said in my first answer, "If you start a poem you start from where you are, which is where everything wound up." Every SINGLE thing that went into making you as you are at this moment is in some way responsible for what kind of poetry comes out of you.

Recently however I've been writing a new series of poems which are coming out of me in a way poems have never come out of me. I've been astral projecting. It's another magnificent life change / poetry change, the kind that can never let you go back to who you were before the experience. If you want to know more about this I can get into it.

TB: I do want to know more about this. Let's get into it.

CAC: Okay. First of all, for many years I've been steeped in the occult. On my 18th birthday I was given a deck of Penny Slinger's DAKINI ORACLE tarot. Tarot is a frustrating topic because a lot of people have this idea that it's just a form of divination to poke around notions of fortune and Love, that sort of thing. But really tarot is FULL of allegory and an unlimited number of combinations in fact of which to adjust and readjust perception. Tarot is a tool that taken seriously can open and never stop opening doors. Tarot led me to many important people who changed my life, and who I may not have met otherwise. And I started around the same time I started macrobiotics, this journey into the various paths of the occult. America is full of opportunity for exploring the magical arts, and I started going to witch camps and pagan gatherings. TO BE HONEST I was annoyed with many of the people I met at these places. I was there to study healing herbs and ancient alphabets, while some others were busy talking about things that made me roll my eyes a lot. In fact I referred to these people as The Lord of the Rings People. My skeptical nature made everything a big challenge. Astral projection came up eventually, and was one of those things I rolled my eyes at. It seemed so ridiculous, like UFOs, but I have now seen three UFOs three different times, so it's not so ridiculous anymore. For these and a few other reasons, to my chagrin I've in some ways BECOME The Lord of the Rings People.

But while I was busy NOT opening up to the possibility of astral projection Timothy Leary came to a gathering I attended called Starwood, and he came with the Church of the Subgenius, and he spoke about astral projection, and I finally wanted to know more about it. Something about the way he discussed it. He had a way of saying, "Well of course we know we can astral project." So I attended some classes, read a book, spoke to people about it. And this was about ten years ago, and no matter what I did or how hard I tried it never happened, and I gave up. In fact I started to think again that these people were hallucinating on their mushrooms. A very good friend who was a high priestess of a Norse tradition coven told me what she would do. She said that my biggest problem was that I didn't believe. She said that she would visit me three times the following month, and at the end of the month she would tell me those three days so that I could finally put to rest any doubt.

Almost half the month went by and NOTHING. Then on the night of the 14th, there she was, standing beside my bed. And she asked me if I wanted her to wake me up to write it down, and I said that I was awake, and she said "No you're not, I'm awake, but you're not." That was one of those moments in my life where my thick walls of resistance began to give way. And twice more that month she came to visit me, and, as you can imagine I'm going to tell you, those were in fact the three days that she came to visit me after verifying the dates with her. It was a wonderful experience, having a good friend who lives a thousand miles away astral project to your bedside to help you understand. But in the end I still couldn't astral project myself, and I grew to accept that I might not ever.

For the past three years I've been deeply invested in dream therapy. Sleep annoys me, seems like such a waste of time to a busy Capricorn like myself, so I wanted to put that sleep to work! The original therapy formula is simple, and one that I've modified a bit. The original formula is that you take a glass of spring water to bed, meditate on the water (or project into the water) that you want to remember your dreams, then drink half the glass, then put the remaining half-glass of water beside your bed and sleep. When you awaken you meditate again that you want to remember your dreams and drink the remaining water. Doing this would often MAKE the dreams, or missing parts of the dreams SUDDENLY APPEAR. It's an incredible exercise, and I welcome everyone to do this for themselves!

Although the original formula does work, with my modifications it works nearly EVERY time, and works in full color and at lightning speed. I find it's best to be using water infused with silica, meaning natural spring water which has come through channels of quartz crystal before hitting the surface. Evian was my first choice, but then I discovered Trinity. Trinity is THE BEST source in the world for crystal laden water. It's from Paradise, Idaho, and is NOT PUMPED, which means that not only is the bottling of the water not harming the environment, but the water is taking its time coming up through the crystal channels, in fact some three miles of quartz crystal channels. And carbon date tests show that the water in those springs is 16,000 years old. It's all documented, check it out for yourself! It's a beautiful mind blower!

But quartz crystal is a battery in more than one way. For instance, with dream therapy, using Trinity with its high concentration of crystal makes for the highest results in retaining the dreams. The crystal is TOLD through the meditation what you want it to do -- meditation as instruction -- which is just as much telling your body what you want to use the crystal for. The half glass of crystal water inside you is now holding the dreams and sharing them with the water outside yourself in the glass by your bed. When you wake and meditate on the remaining water that you want to remember your dreams and drink the water, the missing pieces to the dreams will download. The crystal in the remaining glass of water is a powerful backup file so to speak. This is why it's important to have as pure a source of crystal infused water. Trinity is the VERY BEST. In fact when I read tarot for clients we drink a little of the Trinity water together to help both of us communicate on a deeper level. And clients are ALWAYS blown away by the water, and amazed by how much of the reading they retain as a result of sharing the Trinity.

I've also used regular spring water that has had a piece of quartz crystal soaking in it. I've also used liquid quartz crystal, something that is used frequently as a cell proliferator, to heal damaged tissue. But Trinity is still the best source.

(Another modification I've made is to be certain the glass with the remaining water is on the side of the bed your body favors with right or left flow. For instance if you're right handed then the right side is where you project energy out of yourself, so you would want to put the glass to your right, sending your dreams to the remaining half glass of water in order to store the images better.)

(I'm not going to get into this, but if anyone wants to know, they can contact me, but, another, important modification to the dream therapy that I've made is to coincide the dream therapy with a very old Rosicrucian meditation, one which cleans and shifts seven layers of your body. THIS I FIRMLY BELIEVE is what helped lead me astral project.)

What does dream therapy have to do with astral projection? About 8 or 9 months ago, after about three solid years of dream therapy, and filling my body over and over with this crystal water, I found myself on my ceiling one night, looking down at my sleeping self. It was my first astral projection, long after I had given up on it. There I was, looking down, and it was TERRIFYING at first. Eventually I would go outside the apartment. And I would LOOK for things that were out there to prove to myself that I wasn't crazy. For instance there's an all night deli around the corner from my apartment, and one night while I was in the astral, I saw a man throw three tomato slices off his hoagie to the sidewalk. I woke and ran outside, and there they were those slices of tomato. Another night I found a pipe coming out of a building on Rittenhouse Square that literally said MOON on the lid. Now, that was weird as shit, but there it was the next day, I mean, it's there, this MOON PIPE. Then one night while I was wandering around in the astral I saw a homeless man asleep against the brick wall of a school near my apartment. I bent down to him and kissed his forehead, and when I backed up he was staring at me. Next morning he was not there, but an empty 40-ouncer he had in a paper bag was.

As far as the poems from these astral travels, when I awaken, which I still can't seem to control as far as WHEN they will happen, I sit down at the computer and type out a solid block of text. I seem to have almost no control over this text whatsoever. But the blocks are pretty much the same size. And I am a proficient typist, so I close my eyes, and let the fingers have complete connection to this dance to shake it out of me. Then I print the blocks out and carry them around with me and chip away at them for days and weeks until they're spare, tight poems.

(I'm a notebook keeper, a constant word-world-stalker where the poems are waiting to be found. BUT THIS, this astral-block text is something completely new to me.)

Just before my first astral projection took place Joshua Schuster had invited me on behalf of himself and Jessica Lowenthal to take part in a commissioned poetry project for the Kelly Writers House. We six poets who were invited to participate were to write about the blocks near where we live. Well, I had no idea that the poems I was going to present to the Writers House were going to be astral projection poems at the time, but that's what they were. And I call the series "going to 108." The number 108 is a magic number, it's a PLACE, if we can agree that other dimensions are PLACE. It's also meaning "going to" as though I'm going to DO something. Because 108 is a magic circumstance, or eventual objective to fulfill. Buddhists, and others have used 108 in their practice. Mytili Jagannathan recently pointed out to me that Krishna had 108 brides.

But 108 has worked itself out for me with my own personal combination of traditions of Numerology. For instance, the number 1 is much like the Norse rune Isa, or ice, or a solid "1", meaning each of us. That one is one fragment of a giant cosmic pie that we each belong to. The 1 enters the 0, or void, or Buddhist chant OM, the great zero. And that's where so much turmoil and confusion works itself out. And together 1 and 0 make 1. Meaning that the 1 goes through ALL THIS struggle and suffering, only to discover coming through it that it's not been destroyed at all, even in death. But, the 1 after coming through the 0 hits 8. 8 is something in Penny Slinger's interpretations of tarot to be the Egyptian idea (which correlates with Hindu beliefs) of "As Above So Below." 8 is a balanced cycle, or, a cycle trying to obtain and then maintain balance. The Egyptians then placed 8 on its side to make the sign for infinity. BUT, 1 and 8 together make 9, and 9 is the holiest AND MOST SUDDEN sensation. While 8 has the energy constantly circulating up and down, keeping the higher and lower in check, 9 has the energy moving from the tail up to the crown chakras and circulating on the highest possible frequency. 9 is for all accounts THE EPIPHANY all goals shoot toward. But "going to 108" is meaning that this is ALL part of this journey to higher understanding, which is always moving toward 9. Also to say I'm going to 108 means that I'm planning on SHOOTING off into the 9. It's a fancy goal, but why the fuck not?

Charles Bernstein, in participating with the online NEGLECTORINO Project, wrote about Samuel Greenberg. In this poet's work I found the most perfect epigram for the "going to 108" project: "Mine eye lids shut, I fell into unfelt realms" a line taken from his amazing poem "Enigmas," from his "Sonnets of Apology." The longer you live and the more poems that touch you and the more experience you have, the more the web increases, as you get to knit a bit of it your own way. And this is something we all do, all of us.

TB: Who do you think of as your poetic forebears?

CAC: Tom, THANKS for this question! Oh my, hehehe! I'm CRACKING UP just thinking about all the older poets who wanted to take me under their wing when I was a kid. Some of them meant well, but most of them, to quote Jonathan Williams, "want you to write like them, only not as well." HEHEHE! Jonathan Williams was a FANTASTIC influence because he NEVER tried to make me and other youngsters into something we didn't want to be. He was always ready to show you some poems that would BLOW YOUR MIND, and excite you and spur you into action, but he never said what you SHOULD do! If I asked his opinion about something it was straight talk, NO BULL, but he never wanted to mould me, and I trusted him for that reason. He's a wonderful elder, the kind of elder everyone should learn how to become by example. Plus, Jonathan just has too much real life experience with poetry for you to NOT want to be around him. If I was a filmmaker I'd be DOWN IN NORTH CAROLINA RIGHT NOW MAKING A DOCUMENTARY ABOUT HIM! I feel RICH from having known him, and feel sad for those who never took the time, especially all those poets in North Carolina I've met. What on EARTH is wrong with them!? Anyway, that's their incalculable, tragic loss.

Something I would say to younger poets is PLEASE trust your nerve, trust your intuition, and pleasepleasePLEASE don't let others TELL YOU HOW TO WRITE! Trust too that you'll know the line and know when they cross it, if they cross it. Not everyone crosses it of course. Gil Ott was a poet I met when I was 18. He was a little worried about me hanging out with the drug addicts that were on the poetry scene at the time, but he also liked that I asked his advice. Later on he also liked how suspicious I was of poets who told me NOT TO READ Ron Silliman's AMERICAN TREE. You just wouldn't BELIEVE the kinds of shit that was said about that anthology in Philadelphia back in the early 90s. But when I ran into him after the one and only poetry workshop I have ever attended (what a fucking nightmare that was by the way), he liked that I said that that was my last workshop! When I was a kid I think I amused Gil Ott, and that makes me happy, especially since I was just being myself.

But, onto other things for this question you ask Tom...

Kafka. Papa Kafka. His short story The Burrow was the first thing of his I read, and that's all it took. It's so difficult being in Love with someone who died before you were born. And YOU think YOU have Love problems! HUH, let me tell you something! I've had more sex dreams about Kafka than any other human being, dead or alive. (Although my FIRST sex dream was of Cornelius from Planet of the Apes. Roddy McDowell was SO HOT! But only in his ape suit! Nothing turns me on more than a nerdy chimpanzee scientist who experiments on human brains!)

But Kafka's writing woke me up! One time I dreamt that NOT ONLY was he not circumcised, but that he had four layers of foreskin! Talk about one fantastic forebear! And as his penis became erect the foreskins each peeled back, beautiful pink petals! OH MY! Anyway, I woke remembering that Kafka was Jewish so he was most likely circumcised, right? BUT THEN AGAIN, his father was such a crazy cracker, and hiding the family heritage, making poor little Franz into a self-loathing, confused mess, that it's possible Franz was NOT circumcised. Is there some way of finding out if he was? Is there some BOOK somewhere in Prague that kept track of such things?

Circumcised or not, I Love Kafka! More than ANYTHING I look forward to someone FINALLY inventing a fucking time machine ALREADY! I can't WAIT! You know it's coming! Don't laugh! Seriously, isn't it about fucking time we conquer time? All this wasted energy on war and feeding the stupid rich by maintaining the idiotic status quo with paying taxes and keeping jobs and blah blah blah, and getting greased and fucked in the process. Time machines are on the way, you can count on it! Will they smell like new cars I wonder? Do you think? OH! I hope so! I LOVE the smell of new plastic and vinyl interiors! Have you ever pretended to buy a car just to get inside one at a dealership to SMELL that!? It's worth it, trust me.

But, if I go back in time to be with Kafka, will I then have created a past life? I mean, MAYBE that's what past lives really ARE! They're future people on vacation with their time machines! Oh, I can't WAIT! I'm so sick of vertical time and the fucking clickity-clickity-click of fucking clocks! Kafka needs me! Oh, and yes, I need him. I've got several personal bedroom names picked out for him, but I can't tell you. Don't ASK!

Forebears though. I'm going to assume you mean in this lifetime. Kafka is without a doubt the ONLY non-poet who fits this. Allen Ginsberg and Walt Whitman, Anne Sexton. These are a few of the poets whose work was available to me when I was a kid. I grew up in the middle of fucking nowhere and the library hadn't heard of anyplace else either. And this was JUST BEFORE the Internet. HOW LUCKY kids of today are to have the Internet! The Internet SMASHES isolation to bits! FUCK THE QUIET! TURN UP THE VOLUME AND TURN IT UP NOW! Before I get off the topic, even though I didn't have a wide range of poets to choose from out there in rural Pennsylvania Amish Nazi Land, there were still some pretty fantastic poets to read! Allen Ginsberg for instance!

Allen Ginsberg MAKES you WANT poetry in your life! To be honest I just don't understand people who don't get that, or don't HAVE that. Ginsberg lays waste all shame, line after line after line, his courage was what GOT ME first and foremost. He was a good faggot role model, you know? As weird as this might sound, Ginsberg warms me because his poems came into my life when I was living in the middle of one of the most hostile, homophobic, illiterate environments you can imagine. He set my jaw, and I was a crazy fucking weird kid, and people were more afraid of me than anything, which was good, and Allen Ginsberg galvanized that for me, kept me fit and armed just long enough to get the fuck out of there. And when I ACTUALLY SAW HIM read his poems in Philadelphia at the Painted Bride Arts Center my boyfriend Barry and I had sex in the back row while he read "Sunflower Sutra." Some of THE most auspicious sex I've ever had, oh YES! But seeing Ginsberg was better than seeing any rock star. Well, if I had ever seen Elvis, but I never saw Elvis, so, Allen Ginsberg IS MY BIGGEST ROCK STAR!

The REAL story to tell you though about forebears is Molly Russakoff. When I was seventeen someone in my high school had invited her to read. HOW WEIRD when I look back on that. I mean, WHO OUT THERE would have invited her? But there she was, reading poems like I had never heard poems! She was older, and had studied at Naropa with Ted Berrigan, and had dated Peter Orlovsky, or I should say SHARED Peter Orlovsky with Allen Ginsberg! But I asked her at that LIFE CHANGING poetry reading WHO I should be reading. And she told me Alice Notley, Ron Padgett, and Joseph Ceravolo, names no one where I grew up had ever heard of. But the library ordered books by these poets, and it altered me on a cellular level, RIGHT THEN, just like that! It was an explosion setting off chain reactions in every layer of who I was and what I Loved, and what MORE I wanted and was CERTAIN was out there. What a gift. The best part was coming to Philadelphia soon after and looking Molly up. She lives in Philadelphia to this day, in fact she has a GREAT used bookstore in the Italian Market. If you are ever in Philly YOU MUST GO THERE! Her parents also have another used bookstore, and her one brother has yet another. She's pretty fucking fantastic! I will always feel blessed for meeting her at the time that I did out there, freezing my tits off in the winter of poetry.

My friends are the poets I Love to read now though! How lucky I feel to know such brilliant poets! Frank Sherlock, Carol Mirakove, Hassen, Will Esposito, so many others! Shanna Compton wrote a poem a day this past April and EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THOSE POEMS IS FANTASTIC! I don't know about you, but I've NEVER written THAT MANY POEMS IN A ROW THAT ARE THAT GOOD! Hassen doesn't write nearly enough as far as I'm concerned. She doesn't admit it, but I think I get on her nerves sometimes because I ask what she's writing. I WANT TO KNOW, I WANT TO READ, SHE'S BRILLIANT! Her chapbook Salem is something EVERYONE who is serious about poetry should own! Erica Kaufman published that chapbook with Rachel Levitsky for their Belladonna Series. Erica Kaufman is ANOTHER poet I always look forward to reading. One of the most exciting pieces of news is that SO MANY poets are writing and publishing, and doing it all so well, that we may in fact be looking at the end of famous poets. THANK FUCKING GOD! There's just too many now. Which I tried to compound in my own little way by editing the NEGLECTORINO Project, where we make all kinds of noise for ignored and out of print poets. THIS IS THE POINT IN HUMAN VERTICAL TIME where our creative focus will make changes in poetry that will help create more need to spread the word that we're all creative beings, every human, and that it's TIME for that to be realized, and IN THAT realization we'll find our way to changing the world. You NEED TO BE creative to make real change happen. And people everywhere are waking to this, I can feel it. Do you feel it? If I ever come into some big bucks one day I want to throw a party and call it THE END OF FAMOUS OR EVERYONE'S FAMOUS LET'S GET COOKING MAN!

TB: Thank you, Craig.


Blogger Linda M said...

Dear C.A. Conrad you are one bizarre cat. Were you high when you were being interviewed?

3:29 PM  
Blogger richard lopez said...

if conrad is high then let me have a hit of that shit. thanks, tom. fucking gorgeous interview. makes me want to read everything the dude has ever written.

10:37 PM  
Blogger C.M. Mayo said...

Great read. Beautiful energy. Thanks.

12:24 AM  
Blogger JoM said...

CA is inescapable. Who would want to escape? If YOU do, If you KNOW you do want to escape, THAT is a chance. Take it. If you don't, If you want to jump up an SEE what your looking at - THAT is a chance. Conrad gives everyone chances.
One long-lived-loved CA friend.

3:55 AM  

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