August 16, 2014
As a poet, I have two role models, not due to their writing, but mostly due to their lifestyle. French poet Jules Laforgue and Los Angeles poet Charles Bukowski. When I wrote my first book of poetry, that was published around 25 years ago, I pretty much just wanted to describe my interior as well as exterior life I had at that time and moment. The thing is, or the problem, if I can be frank, was that my exterior life was interfering with the peace and quiet of my interior life. At the time I had a strong love for Impressionist painting, and I somehow wanted to portray that element in my poetry. As my wife once pointed out to me, she always felt that Impressionist painting was due to poor eyesight from both the painter as well as the viewer. I don’t know if that is true or not, but in my case, I think my reading of impressionist poetry and painting was fuzzy at the very least. More likely due to the excessive drinking at the time. This is where the influence of Charles Bukowski kicks in.
At the time I was writing my poetry, I always sat in front of my Underwood typewriter with the blank paper staring back at me, in fact, I could say that it was actually mocking me. Nevertheless I only had two albums at the time, and it was consistent soundtrack to my series of poems. Bill Evans’ “Sunday at the Village Vanguard” and Kevin Ayers’ “The Confessions of Dr. Dream and Other Stories.” Again, I love the music by these two artists, but what impressed me is again, their lifestyles. The fact that Evans was a heroin addict and looked so incredible, especially in the late 50s to early 60s, and Ayers…. A man who ran away from success whenever he can and when he heard a wine bottle being opened on some sunny beach. So with the combination of Charles, Jules, Kevin and Bill, I was in excellent company. But still, the page remained blank in front of me. It was at this time that I realized that I have to listen to my interior world, and if I must use the images and sounds of the exterior world, then do so.
A poet is required to pull things out of their imagination and life to produce their work. It is not all that far off from Felix the Cat, who had a bag of tricks, where one can make the bag into an airplane, a car, or a flying carpet. In fact, among those above, Felix is a major influence on my writing - again, due to the image of that specific kitty cat. When I am stuck on an idea or frustrated with a line in my poetry, I have a tendency to get up and walk around my typewriter. Usually with my hands behind my back, head down, deep in thought - which is a movement that Felix made famous in his cartoons. I felt that if I imitate his movement, it will somehow inspire my work. The writer Aldous Huxley was quoted regarding Felix that “what the cinema can do better than literature or the spoken drama is to be fantastic. ”
Right now I’m attempting to write my first poem in 25 years. I basically write on a round white table in my living room in Silverlake, and I have a portrait of Jules on my left side and Charles on the right side of the MacBook Pro. Felix is gone, but I always have an image of him in my mind, and sadly I lost the vinyl copy of Kevin and Bill’s album many years ago. So that too, needs to be from the memory. Which by the way, is a perfect tool to use for jumping into the imagination and see what can be dragged from the murky waters. Wish me luck.