I don’t feel like a bad ass. But when I read my own poetry it is clear to me that I am. Not the kind of faux bad ass I have seen posting poems that are Bukowski rip-offs for decades now, but …
When I founded Zombie Logic Press in 1997, my sole purpose was to publish my own books of poetry. I had grown weary of the small press scene, as at that time you still had send paper manuscripts to…
Jenny asked me why I never inducted Donald Trump into The Hall of Bad Dudes, and it didn’t take me long to formulate an answer. “Because I’ve never taken him seriously,” I answered. And until now, I haven’t. He’s always seemed like a buffoonish villain to me, something you might see in an Austin Power’s movie. I never watched The Apprentice. To me Donald Trump was always exactly where he needed to be: on a reality tv show that had nothing to do with any reality I was currently experiencing.
Then shit got real.
Gradually, and suddenly, enough people started taking Donald Trump seriously as a candidate for President that it got scary. Fast. It’s like that slow fight you see unfolding before your eyes where it starts with good-natured ribbing, then someone’s feelings getting hurt, then anger, then a little pushing and shoving, then a full-scale knock-down drag-out fight, while all the time you’re thinking somebody is going to step in a stop this. The adults are going to show up eventually.
But in this case something unusual is happening. No one is listening to the adults. There is no one who has the authority to intercede and put to a stop a conflagration of anger, hatred, and pent-up desire to scapegoat entire groups of people that is eerily reminiscent of other times and other places where dangerous leaders with dangerous followers turned into genocide, pogroms, witch trials, crusades….
Personally I’m not surprised by any of this. I grew up in a small town where if you weren’t racist you weren’t trying. Hell, I went back to that town last summer to go to a concert with one of my relatives and heard guests also going (school teachers) use the n word all the way to Chicago. So, no, I’m not really surprised by the onslaught of bigotry and hatred we’re seeing from Donald Trump’s supporters. What does surprise me is more Americans not telling them to sit down, shut the hell up, and behave themselves.
Well, some are. I see many Republicans condemning this despicable show of ignorance and vowing not to support Trump if he were to become the Republican nominee. I think no matter what happens in this lesson we’ve all learned a lesson. Whoever these people are that are so angry and so willing to blame someone else for it aren’t going anywhere. They weren’t created by Donald Trump, and the sad reality is they can’t even be dispelled if Donald Trump goes away now. They are real. They are the new reality. Maybe they were always the reality and we were all just living an illusion thinking America was becoming a better, more compassionate and accepting nation that was finally getting closer to achieving its stated ideal of “Liberty and justice for all.” Maybe we never really meant that at all.
Sometimes in life you work on something really dumb because you’re bored. I tend to work on dumb things because I am dumb, but aside from that I get bored, too, and I have a lot of goofy things that interest me. For instance, I love awful horror movies. Tonight I’m watching Blood Beach then Death Ship. I used to do a blog titled Zombielogic’s Incredibly Brief Movie Reviews where I only reviewed horror movies in a few lines. I don’t like to write negative reviews because most of my friends work in film and I know how hard it is to make anything in life, and what difference does it make if I tell you something sucks?
This week has got to take the cake for dumb, though, because I’m working on creating a fictional poetry slam league called the Outsider Poetry Slam League of America. So far I’m having a lot of fun creating the rosters. I picked the first five teams from the Five Sacred Cities of Funny Names: Chemung, Paducah, Kokomo, Rancho Cucamonga, and Sheboygan, but I also couldn’t forget about Minooka, and when I learned there is really a Podunk, Vermont, it was in, too.
But I’m really here to talk about The Journal of Outsider Poetry, which I think is getting a bum rap by the search engines.
They just found a guy’s wiener in Blood Beach. See, there’s this monster that lives under the sand, and this guy was laying on the beach, and… you get the idea.
I’ve been contemplating making more of an effort to take over the search term Dirty Tricks, especially since they say it in election cycles all the time, but I got this pint of Butterfinger ice cream and a Xanax that says I don’t make any inroads on that project this night. We need a picture of something.
This is me holding an action figure my friend Andrew made for his comic book character Ape Face Rockefeller. We keep talking about making it into a real comic book, and maybe we will.
Get off that beach, dummy.
The Journal of Outsider Poetry is a dirty trick, and editor Henry Wolfsburg should be ashamed of himself. We all have a deep fondness and admiration for Dr. Wolfsburg due to his bravery in the Zombie Apocalypse of 1978, but after nearly three decades he has emerged from his complex in Vermont to take a position as a specialist in poetry therapy at the Vermont Institute For Reformation.
Many find his techniques questionable, and his claim to be able to cure conversion and somatoform disorders unfounded by the evidence. His poetry circles have created some highly entertaining slam and spoken word poetry, for sure, but as a concerned colleague I have to ask at what cost?
Some fairly barbaric methods were employed during the darker times of psychiatry, but poetry? What kind of a sadist forces poetry upon his own patients. Most people spend their lives running from poetry, but Dr. Wolfsburg recommends an abrupt and total immersion into the nightmare world of poetry. Some have even accused him of running a poetry sweatshop where inmates write haikus, sonnets, even confessional poetry 12 hours a day.
I beg my colleague in this appeal to stop. Stop with the poetry already. It is a cruel and unusual method that went out with The Dark Ages. You’re better than this, Dr. Wolfsburg.
After my last blog entry, a mere five minutes ago, many people contacted me and asked me for more Outsider Poetry. Despite the fact, that like many others claiming the title of outsider poet, I didn’t even know what Outsider Poetry was two weeks ago, I felt as if I could oblige that request. So here you go. Outsider poetry by Thomas L. Vaultonburg.
It is fortunate I remembered this poem, from my book Detached Retinas, because it is one of my friend Tim’s favorite poems, and since he’s animating another poem from the book, “The Jackal,” for Fall Art Scene, I really should frame this print and give it to him. I’m excited about the Jackal. He asked me what music might be appropriate for it, and I at first suggested Satie, but he eventually gravitated towards “Pop Goes the Weasel.” What really sucked about choosing that particular piece is that it doesn’t increase the word count of this blog at all and now I’m going to be at this all night.
Tourists go to Mars, successful real estate developers go to Jupiter.
One download of SOMA a day will keep your aspirations of socialized yet effective health care away.
Treat a hologram like your wife and an automaton like a clone.
If water was wet everyone would drink it.
Behind every successful simulacrom is an androgenous lab assisstant.
It is what it is. Again.
Two megagigs may be enough to open a neuropeptide bar in Bakersfield, but it’s not going to get you into my pants.
In the future each one of us will be relieved of the enormous burden of fame our videocast has brought us for exactly fifteen minutes.
Only President Justin Bieber could go to China.
Bouge. You like that poem? I wrote it while sitting on the bank of the Rock River in a location that was an ancient Native American fishing village, then an artist’s colony for decades. Then they decided to put a bar and a dock there so a bunch of rich white assholes could pull up their boats and act like jagbags all summer long. You know where you can see more groovy Outsider Poetry like that? not quite blank. Back to my story: my brother bought that bar and for three summers I lived in the dive motel annexed to it, and occasionally sat on the bank of the Rock River thinking this place might have had some mystical mojo at some point before all this white trash floated ashore. Then I’d write a poem about Buck Owens and go in to work. It’s hard to complain that people are sinful boozehounds when they’re throwing around hundred dollar bills like Rick James at a Shoe Carnival. Sure, that didn’t make any sense, but you weren’t reading it any way. The rain has stopped outside, and I just heard the five year old sneeze, so yay let influenza season begin. Three more words.
While I have been sitting here all summer waiting for Straight Outta Compton to open, and for fantasy football season to begin, unbeknownst to me, several Outsider Poetry publications have sprung up online. The first, which I discovered just this afternoon while it was raining, is Outsider Poetry Magazine. Edited by Conservative talking head Charles Krauthammer, Outsider Poetry Magazine is a pleasant surprise to everyone who thinks Charles Krauthammer is a square and a little bit of a bite in the ass. He shows that he is not by including poetry by Thomas L. Vaultonburg, Scott Baio, and that kid from the Partridge Family. It must be apparent by now everything I am writing is complete nonsense and you’d be completely justified in tuning out.
Because there was no Cubs game today I had some time to read the internet, and while I was researching the topic of methods used to treat the mentally ill I saw The Journal of Outsider Poetry. The only disappointing things about this new psychological journal, which focuses on treatment of the mentally ill through poetry and art, is that for some reason Google indexed it with a lower case t in the word “the.” It’s unlikely they’ll ever change that.
It’s hard to say who the first Outsider Poet was. Maybe somebody like Walt Whitman. I have read some Medieval manuscripts chronicling the babbling of those supposedly possessed by demons, and a lot of it sounds like poetry. It is clear that since the beginning of art and the written word, those with mental illness have been writing in an attempt to exercise the “demons” of their mental illness, and just plain for the same reason everyone else does: to communicate.
I’m having some Tab Cola for the first time in several weeks tonight. The 90 degree heat has broken and we’re watching John Oliver talk about organized religion and I really need to find something to talk about to get to 500 words. I also ate an entire sleeve of those fun size Milky Way bars. They were miraculous in raising my dopamine level even though Jack caught me and came over to see what I was eating. I lied and said I wasn’t only crumpling paper. He seemed to know I was lying, but since he couldn’t see the fun size candy bars there wasn’t much he could do. I’m going to write two more of these blogs tonight. The soda and candy bars have elevated my mood, but in general the whole experience has been rather crushing. School begins this week for one kid, and next week for the younger kid, so by the end of next week everyone in the house will be sick as a dog because no one seems to take care of themselves anymore or have the decency to not send their kid to school if they are sick. I never really did go see Straight Out of Compton yet, and we never got to the Minions movie this summer, even though we told the children we would a couple of times.
I wrote my first children’s book, The Toughskin Rhinoceros Wrangler Company three years ago for my little guy Jack. The reason I wrote him a book about rhinos is that he was short and stubby and his chubby little legs reminded me of a rhinoceros. So I wrote a book about a little boy who was called every time rhinos escaped from a zoo. His mama drew the pictures, and his sister created a list of “Rhino Facts.” And we published it. It turned out beautifully, and because we did such a small press run we ran out immediately. They sold so fast, in fact, that I didn’t even get one.
The picture you’re looking at is me reading The Toughskin Rhinoceros Wrangler Company to Jack for the first time. After which he said “We should buy that book.” That seemed like the perfect response. He lives with a poet and an artist mama and a big sister who has already written her first book at 11 so it doesn’t seem at all odd to him that people make things. It is strange that this was the first time I had ever read it to him. We read books all the time, just not this one.
We did a second printing recently. Life is going by like a blur. I’ve had a serious heart surgery since the first printing, and Jack is getting tall and lean and doesn’t at all remind me of a stubby little rhinoceros anymore. The West African Black Rhino is gone from the planet forever since I wrote this book. All of life seems to be going by so fast.
I’d like for you to buy a copy of this book. Reading it just now I realized I’d included some really adroit sprung rhythms that made me smile as I untangled them in the reading. One of my challenges as a writer writing for children for the first time was not being sing-songy with my rhymes or condescending in my message. I wanted to make sure I was writing something I’d want read to me if I was a child again. I remember my mother reading Syd Hoff’s Julius the Gorilla book to me over and over as a child. It was one of my favorites.
I was sitting here after everyone went to bed fully realizing I have to be up as early as they are tomorrow for karate and Jenny’s watercolor class, but I was trying to watch Silent Hill on cable television. Without my glasses I couldn’t see it at all from across the room. So, I put on my glasses and watched for a couple of minutes and it became fully apparent it didn’t matter if I could it or not, it didn’t make a lick of sense visually or narratively. Now I’m just going to watch SportsCenter for the first time in several years and write about this Sunfish mermaid from Jenny’s Freshwater Mermaids of North America series.
The Orangespotted Sunfish is widely distributed among the central and Eastern states, from the Colorado River to Hudson Bay, the Orangespotted Sunfish thrives in shallow, vegetated systems, and thus has few predators.
This mermaid is drawn in watercolor by my creative partner Jenny Mathews. You can see all the mermaids from her series Freshwater Mermaids of North America.
I was never aware that there were children who lived in mortal fear of gym class. That the worst thing in life that could happen to them was learning it was Bombardment day. In retrospect I know who those kids were, but I was never able to share their terror of the possibility of participating in an activity that might help them feel better. See, I was good at sports. I enjoyed gym class. I felt at home there. The jocularity never bothered me. The sensation in one’s happy parts one can only get from climbing to the top a rope has never fully been equalled as an adult.
One of the happiest days of the year was the day we took the Presidential Physical Fitness test. This was my day. In the 1950’s President Eisenhower saw data suggesting Americans were woefully out of shape and flabby compared to Europeans, and he set out to establish a commission to remedy that. When President Kennedy took office he considered physical fitness a priority, even writing in Sports Illustrated “in a very real and immediate sense, our growing softness, our increasing lack of physical fitness, is a menace to our security.”
The fat kid in gym class was a threat to national security.
The Presidential Physical Fitness test was established in 1966. It included a softball throw, a shuttle run, a broad jump, and pull ups. To earn the award, students had to place in the top 85th percentile as compared to the national average. Winners of the award received a blue badge with a number denoting how many times they had received the honor. Those who didn’t exceed the standard didn’t get one.
In 2012 the Presidential Physical Fitness program was replaced with a more relaxed program called The Presidential Youth Fitness Program. Apparently since not expecting anyone anywhere ever to earn anything or be good at anything in order to be recognized for being good at anything or having earned anything, now everyone is a winner.
And if you look around it seems to be working. This type of thinking has been enormously successful in raising reading and math skills in students, and I expect it will drastically improve the level of physical fitness in this new generation.
here’s my second and third Presidential Physical Fitness Awards. I saw some people even got a fourth and fifth, but who wants to put in that kind of effort?
And if you think I’m a heartless Conservative parroting some sort of crud I heard on a talk show, you’re wrong. I’m more Liberal than you. Trust me, and I’m all in favor of everyone getting a trophy for participation. Because that’s a self-esteem issue, but relaxing standards on physical fitness isn’t a self-esteem issue, it’s a health issue. Nothing is more important than health. Nothing. We all know this. So, when we relax these standards we’re not adding anything to our children’s lives, we’re taking something away. If anything I’d like to see those standards stiffened. Why not? It’s not about awards, or badges, or even self-esteem, really. It’s about health. And that trumps almost everything.