Monday, August 27, 2012

Blog-view: Writer-rocker Dave Morrison

In order to avoid it all being about me, I will be running a new "feature" on this blog--"Blog-view: Blog-sized interviews with writers, artists, and other interesting people." It'll be an opportunity to show off interesting folks that I know, and will be a some-time addition (depending on the reliability of my sources). I'll ask each the same three questions, which they can answer any way they like -- words not required -- or choose to ignore.

First up is Dave Morrison. Rock and roll does more than “inform” Dave Morrison’s poetry; it shakes, rattles, and rolls its rhythms and language. Morrison is a writer of novels, short stories, poetry, and many notes on scraps of paper.  After years of playing guitar in rock and roll bars in Boston (the Trademarks and True Blue) and NYC (the Juke Savages), he currently resides in coastal Maine.  

Dave's poetry and short stories have been published in FRiGG, Thieves Jargon, Rattle, Void, Rumble, Mad Hatters Review, Juked, Laura Hird, Psychopoetica and other fine magazines, and three collections of poetry and two novels have been published by JukeBooks.  Clubland (2011 Fighting Cock Press), a collection of poems about rock bars written in verse, is his seventh book. A new collection, fail is due out in the fall of 2012.

Linda: What is an artifact you have in your studio or writing space, and what does it mean for your work?
Dave: I'm attaching a picture of a small wrench that used to belong to my father.  It's small and surprisingly heavy - it has a walnut handle and small inscriptions that show the mark of the maker, and the maker's union.  It is simple and useful, and oddly lovely, as I'd like my poems to be.

Linda: We're interested in knowing what you've read recently, but we'd love to know what you wish you had read at some point, or sometimes pretend you have read.
Dave: I just finished re-reading Plainsong by Kent Haruf.  I needed a mental palette-cleanser. I had just read a series of 'young man' books--clever and sarcastic and hip and cynical and unsatisfying.  I needed something strong and plain and moving, and I got it.

Linda: What is something you would like to tell the world?
World?  Relax.  We are too tense and fearful and greedy and grabby.  Share some love.

I am Dave Morrison and I approve of this message.  My seventh book of poetry is Clubland, poems about rock bars in verse (  My new book is fail, and will be released at a reading on October 5 at the Owl and Turtle Bookstore in Camden, Maine.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Were You at Woodstock?

Just about a month after Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in 1969, another big cultural event happened in August----Woodstock. As you recall from previous posts, I was working as a waitress on Fishers Island in the Long Island Sound that summer. Here is what I've written about that trip (in every sense of the word) off-island:

"I left Fishers Island only once that summer of ’69 to go with Mitch and Rob,  their sister Carol and her boyfriend Hans. We piled into Hans’s car at the ferry dock on the other side and drove to a music festival he knew about in upstate New York. Hans was the kind of guy who, though not very hip himself, always knew the latest, hippest things—where to get the best weed, or who the up-and coming bands were that no one else had heard of yet. He already knew this festival was going to be so big you wouldn’t even need a ticket to get in.
“There are gonna be so many fuckin’ people there,” Hans said. “They’ll never be able to take all the tickets. It’ll be free for the people.”
Woodstock wasn’t a place yet in our minds, just the road was, pulling us along with thousands of others to something, someplace, some experience. The 17th century Japanese poet Basho had said, “The journey itself is home,” and it was the journey itself, not the performances of rock’s luminaries, that is most memorable for me. The trip became its own home with a traffic jam of epic proportions, surrounded by tens of thousands of people just like us, our new family, our new tribe.
We happily walked the mile or so from where we left the car to carry all our gear (Hans’s gear) alongside our new tribe, which was going to save the world through music, peace, love, and drugs. Hans had found an old Army tent from his Boy Scout days in his parents’ garage, and had filled a cooler with over twenty sandwiches—whole wheat peanut butter and jelly, whole wheat humus and cheese, whole wheat cheese, and three with juicy slabs of ham. A big pot of brown rice still in the pot took up the rest of the room in the cooler.
Self-sufficient in our tent, we were escaping the confines of the old society. At our neatly laid out site, we even had a couple of folding lawn chairs Hans had grabbed from his parents’ porch. Cool people from all over the country stopped by to share joints and food. This was what the new world was going to look like, we told ourselves.
Somehow I got close enough to the stage that first night to see Joan Baez perform. How many nights in high school had I played her record over and over on my little orange plastic record player in my room, and now here she was, tiny on the big stage, singing "I Shall Be Released" in that pure voice that could echo through a teenage life. And the next night, Janis played and wailed. Janis Joplin, who sang it for us middle-class white girls who knew there was another life out there.
By the third night, though, the tent was leaking, the sandwiches were gone, and the family togetherness was wearing off.  Mitch was tripping and morose. Rob was tripping and even more of a loudmouth than he usually was. Hans and Carol just made out constantly for two days; rumor had it she was still a virgin. I got tired of wandering around dirty crowds in the mud, having the same boring conversation with different people: “Yeah, it’s really cool, man.” “Yeah, they were fuckin’ awesome.”  “Yeah, the outhouses suck.”
All those thousands turned out to not necessarily be just like me. But even if they smelled bad and raged on about absurdities and were right in your face, you had to love them as in: “C’mon people now, smile on your brother. Everybody get together, gonna love one another right now.”
It was all about sharing, not just sex, but your food and stash and what we would call in the ‘80s, your personal space. And the only way to turn down their offerings, no matter how undesirable, was to say nonchalantly, “I’m cool, man.”
In other words, we had to be nice, at least we women did, or we would earn that most terrible of epithets—an uptight chick.   Turn down another hit of acid, or tell someone rummaging in your tent to get lost, or push away from the embrace of a stranger and the tongue forced into your mouth, and you could later hear someone say about you, “She’s uptight, man.”
I didn’t get it. Here we were supposed to be creating a new society, and we chicks were getting the same message we had gotten when we wore little white gloves in the 1950s—be nice. I didn’t want to be nice. I wanted to do my own trip, not somebody else’s version of it. I wanted to be on the road that was mine." 

(Italicized text excerpted from "On Our Own Road" from Hullabaloo on the Space Coast: A Memoir of Place by Linda S. Buckmaster, copyright 2012.)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Island Meadow

Ah, summer in Maine--there's nothing like it. Below is my friend and writing buddy Elizabeth Garber's poem that captures the intoxication of hanging out on a summer day. She wrote it on Great Spruce Head Island in Penobscot Bay, which was the summer home of the painter Fairfield Porter. The family offers an annual Art Week Residency for a dozen visual artists and one poet, which is how Elizabeth and I got to be there for different summers.

To best appreciate the poem, you need to hear Elizabeth read it in her soft, warm voice, but here is the next best thing. The form  is an old French one called a villanelle. I'll let you google it.

Island Meadow

For days I lay there, drugged amidst the blooming milkweed,
where butterflies rode perfumed thermals for the joy of flight.
I nestled like a deer in the shining grass and could not leave.

While bees foraged in their urgent work, barging with greed
into indolent globes of milky blooms, Victorian pink and white,
for days I lay there, drugged amidst the blooming milkweed.

I stepped through summer’s shimmer, orange jolts of hawkweed,
crisp currents of blueberries under foot, sweet fern, knee height.
I nestled like a deer in the shining grass and could not leave.

Mornings in my darkened cabin, I woke to days eclipsed of need,
pillow glancing towards dawn’s fingers, streaking golden delight.
For days I lay there, drugged amidst the blooming milkweed.

Butterflies dipped, drank, stroked avalanche of blooms to feed;
a chase, a flutter, a cascade of gauze wings leaping out of sight.
I nestled like a deer in the shining grass and could not leave.

Waking from a dream, happiness flooded, my Beloved held me,
our bodies merged like butterflies, only meadow filled my sight.
For days I lay there, drugged amidst the blooming milkweed.
I nestled like a deer in the shining grass and could not leave. 

("Island Meadow," copyright Elizabeth Garber, 2012,

This photo is from Bear Island, which is in the same archipelago as Great Spruce Head, just across the gut from it, in fact. This island was the summer home of Buckminster Fuller when he was growing up, and his family, who has owned the island for over a hundred years, rent the four cottages on it for part of the summer. This is the view out one of the windows of the cottage three other writer/artists and I rented for a retreat last month. No electricity, water hand drawn from the well, and quiet.


Thursday, August 2, 2012


Well, I was so busy with summer in Maine that I forgot all about Neil Armstrong's walk as the first man on the moon on July 20, 1969. I'll bet you forgot, too. Where were on you that date and did you care that we had made it to the moon?

I can tell you that I was working as a waitress on Fishers Island in Long Island Sound, and I couldn't have cared less, to use a favorite expression of my father's. Despite growing up in the shadow of Cape Canaveral rocket gantries, I was almost 19 and in the process of rejecting my roots in the space industry, as it were. The space race, I could have told anyone who would have listened, was just more wasted money in the military-industrial complex, money that could have been spent on eliminating poverty, racism, and war. Rockets were a sort of immature interest to be ignored by anyone who was as cool as I was as a hippie chick in '69.

But when the usual day-late arrival of The New York Times landed on the Fisher Island ferry dock with the mail, and I saw the giant headline "MEN WALK ON MOON" and the smaller headline "A Powdery Surface is Closely Explored,"  I read all the front page articles and the inside "jumps" before I carefully re-folded the paper and delivered it to the country club where I worked. After all, during my entire growing-up, this was what everyone on the Space Coast most cared about. And I felt just the tiniest bit of snobbish pride that I knew all about what a launch entailed. I realized that I had an identity with a time and place I didn't know I wanted.

Now, over forty years later, I can see that it is rather remarkable we had met President Kennedy's goal of landing a man on the moon before the end of the sixties. When he announced in 1961 the pursuit of the Next Frontier, the point was to beat the Soviets, of course. But how often these days do our leaders make a goal and we actually make it -- on time (although I won't say on budget)? And what do we have in this current national climate that everyone, even a disaffected youth, can all celebrate together?