I haven’t put much work into promoting the reprint series: they are limited to 18 copies each, they are gradual but steady sellers among our regular readers, and from the e-mails I get it seems as though people are glad to have the opportunity to read and own chaps that appeared briefly in 2006 and are much different than the works being issued by KSE today…yet also quite similar in important ways.
ENVY and DREAM SCENE are, respectively, volumes 9 and 10 in the Sound Library Series (to give you an idea of how extensive this series has become, the latest one issued was Volume 29—-and poets such as Brad Kohler, Stuart Crutchfield, and David Keenan have also contributed to the series) .This series began with two volumes that grew out of repeated listening to English and French “sound library” recordings. When I sent the first two volumes to Volcanic Tongue, our main distributor at that time, David Keenan understood exactly what I was up to, even though I made a point of saying nothing about the technique or philosophy of the series. He wrote that Volume Two (PROTOTYPE) was “based around hallucinated phantom narratives scored to accompany relatively blank-slate library music recordings…with all of the illuminating personal details that define Shute’s work put to the service of ghosted female biography.” As the series evolved, I varied from this “pure” original conception and cast the net a bit wider, using various forms of instrumental music (such as Willie Mitchell R&B 45’s), and eventually vocal music as my prompt, and I “used” the music in many different ways, not just as soundtracks to scenes in my mind.
Each poem in ENVY, for instance, uses as its title a song title from the great rockabilly-country singer BOB LUMAN. This is a varied collection, with subjects ranging from domestic violence, unabridged dictionaries, my brother-in-law’s wasting away from cancer and coming to terms with his death, and Stacy Keach’s performance as Mike Hammer (in the second series, the syndicated, shot-on-video one). This chapbook was never distributed by Volcanic Tongue or by anyone outside of the San Antonio area—-the 40 or 50 copies we printed were mostly distributed at local readings and bookfairs, and the few remaining were traded away with other poets. This reprint is probably the only way to get a copy…unless you want to pay $11.00 to a rare book dealer who traded for a few copies way back when. Why not get the new B&W reprint for $4.00 postpaid direct from KSE?
DREAM SCENE, inspired by my mono copy of George Harrison’s WONDERWALL MUSIC, is in the manner of the great minimalist spiritual poet Frank Samperi (1933-1991). Very much a literary loner who disliked cliques and “movements” (much as I do!), Samperi developed his own aesthetic and technique, attracting the attention of Louis Zukofsky and Cid Corman and Bob Arnold, publishing sparse works that often isolate individual words, but are high in poetic specific gravity. Imagine taking, say, the poetry of Michael McClure, having it re-written by the mid-late 1960’s Robert Creeley at his most minimal, subjecting it to an edit by a man of quiet wisdom such as Charles Reznikoff who always stressed particulars in his writing, and then distilling THAT to a concentrate, an essence. That’s not an exact comparison, but at least it may help you imagine Samperi’s work if you’ve never read it. DREAM SCENE along with my chapbook SPIRIT were tributes to Samperi as well as an attempt to extend the innovations he introduced and use them to my own ends. I sent these two chaps to Mr. Samperi’s daughter, who sent me a kind letter back telling me that her father would have been touched that poets were not only finding inspiration in his work, but using that work as a theoretical foundation for their own work and extending his vision. When I used to hang out at the Denver Public Library on lazy summer days as a teenager, I would read Samperi’s QUADRIFARIAM (Mushinsha/Grossman, 1973) out on the lawn, creating my own sacred space between the sea of RTD busses and the steady flow of pedestrians rushing to and fro on their too-short lunch hours, realizing the value of using as few words as possible, and of punctuating sound with silence. DREAM SCENE uses a number of San Antonio settings—-a trailer park, a pest-ridden garden, an old out-of-tune piano used as furniture, a cup of tea, an afternoon sun—-as seeds for spiritual meditations. About DREAM SCENE, Volcanic Tongue wrote, “A very beautiful slow-moving survey of local topography that scans from the spiders in the desert and rundown shacks all the way up to quietly blinding visions of solar magic. Excellent.” This sold well at VT, and perhaps because of its attractive cover featuring George H., it also moved quickly when I sold it in-person at readings in support of TWELVE GATES TO THE CITY and at bookfairs. This B&W reprint is an edition of 18 copies…and it even corrects a typo from the original!
The reprint series will continue as long as readers are interested. Next month (April) we’ll be reissuing Stuart Crutchfield’s beautiful Scottish re-imagining of the poetics of Lew Welch, SHACK SIMPLE.