What a nice surprise to find that we are discussed in the new “2009 Rewind” issue of the much-respected UK free-jazz/experimental-music magazine THE WIRE (#311, January 2010). Included in the same two-page spread as Jad Fair and Drumbo (that’s an honor in itself!), there is a piece called “Chapbook Renaissance,” written by longtime friend of KSE David Keenan that puts KSE and my own work into perspective and truly “gets” where we are coming from. Thank you very much, Mr. Keenan! This piece is not available online, so I’m transcribing it below. However, please order a copy of the magazine itself (available from Dusty Groove and from bookstores in major cities) as they meet their expenses by magazine sales.
UNOFFICIAL CHANNELS: CHAPBOOK RENAISSANCE
Underground poetry and radical rock criticism have long had a reciprocal relationship, but no one has connected the two as powerfully as Bill Shute with his Kendra Steiner Editions. Published in hand-numbered runs of less than 100 copies, each chapbook is designed and printed by Shute himself, inspired by the explosion in samizdat publishing that came up in the wake of the poetry renaissance of the 1960s and the defiantly individual aesthetic of fellow Texan Jandek‘s Corwood Industries imprint. Shute has been writing about music since the late 70s, publishing his own Inner Mystique zine while running a record label of the same name and contributing a series of highly influential columns to “America’s last high-energy fanzine,” BLACK TO COMM.
With Kendra Steiner Editions, his interest in pushing language closer to the actual experience of music itself has resulted in more than 150 titles, many of them experimental poetic ruminations on specific recordings or artists, from work inspired by free jazz drummer Sven-Ake Johansson’s Barcelona Series and British electronic composer Dennis Smalley’s The Pulses of Time through soul jazz organist Bill Doggett and Jandek himself. Along the way he has attracted a cabal of under-the-radar writers and musicians to his cause, publishing experimental poetry by Scottish musician and poet Stuart Crutchfield (including a collaborative book based around US drone artist Axolotl’s Telesma album) as well as rock journalists Brad Kohler, Michael Layne Heath and Byron Coley.
Coley and frequent collaborator Thurston Moore have been involved in a similar project, pushing rock prose all the way into free-associative verse by publishing chapbooks and editions of the Ecstatic Peace Poetry Journal featuring musicians and critics like Mike Watt, Christina Carter, Dylan Nyoukis, Loren Connors, Richard Hell and Richard Meltzer. Indeed, Meltzer was the first rock critic to explode the form in favour of mirroring the arc of the sonics, with reviews that were more stream of consciousness riffs on junk culture ephemera or subversive goof-offs as opposed to cultural reportage or simple lyrical analysis. Meltzer eventually metamorphosed into a poet and novelist with a spectacular reach, an evolution that, seen through the prism of Shute’s Kendra Steiner Editions, seems inevitable. Meanwhile, Shute continues to push the envelope. This month sees the publication of a poetic meditation on Richard C. Serafian’s 1971 film Vanishing Point entitled Nobody Knows, Nobody Sees, as well as a new long-form work by Michael Layne Heath inspired by Kim Fowley’s 1978 Sunset Boulevard LP. Truly, you never read such sounds.
David Keenan (THE WIRE #311, January 2010, page 11)