The First Steps

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Poems for this week - by Max Wolf Valerio -

Note: I'm still working on these damn line breaks in this blog!!!! Will change as the spacing and indentation of line breaks as shown isn't accurate.

All the following poems were written in '97 -- in a cluster... Fast -- and then, later - application of thought and time brought them into a tightening clarity and sharp image... Sound dreams escape into breath. I made these shorter than my usual work, tight, clipped. I found myself fascinated with the process of cutting them down further and further... Getting to the bones and delicate skeleton of the impulse to write at all.

Enjoy -- or not... Max Wolf Valerio

inside of a hotel room

where licorice stars

white and bare


an eclipse

and no noise

Max Wolf Valerio - (c) 7-'97


Moon of Blood -- Max Valerio (c) 7 - '97


lives here

A bleeding hare

without eyes

in the forest



Saving Midnight (c) - '97 - Max Wolf Valerio

Green torches

up the side scenery

of shaven



cloven ribbons

and flavors

scents that spackle



without a blue


inimical icicle



Crazy Eights (c) Max Wolf Valerio

big fat fuck








crazy eights




Iron Lights Max Wolf Valerio (c) - 97

the moon as a portable function

without space eyes




Thursday, January 08, 2004

My dear friend, fellow writer and poet Byron Perrin died on Monday, Dec. 29th at 4:00 PM - CST, appx. I knew Byron for over 24 years, since I was a mere 22. I read poetry with him as a featured reader at The Intersection for the Arts. I was then, a hyperconfident poetkid (he said, "the most confident kid reader I'd ever seen"), yet guileless and fresh in the city. We did the poetry thing together -- the visionary roulette... He passed on at the age of 54, in his sleep.

Byron published poems in over forty publications ranging from Rolling Stone to Gallery Works. He published two chapbooks. In his thirties he ran the poetry reading series for The Intersection in San Francisco, and a series for the now-defunct Eye Gallery. We became very close when I was 26, and were roommates at Bartlett St. in the Mission. He was a friend, a confidant, a source of clarifying poetic energy with his critical eye and well-attuned ear, his provocative and deep intellect, and his endless enthusiasm for talk and adventure.

He loved the Maya, and would regale me with long and detailed images of their initiations and political pageants -- where the High Leaders would be inaugurated by having their tongue or penis pierced. The blood would be collected into a bowl, and they would have visions which they would recite to their gathered audience of subjects-- a kind of inaugural speech dreamscape lanced by an ordeal of blood and sharp objects. A genuine and heartwarming glimpse of the supernatural brought live and in-person to their subjects through a provoked and difficult interaction with divine forces. Yea - he loved that stuff -- ! And I loved hearing about it. He knew their glyphs and calendars. He kept a replica of a Mayan pyramid in his room.

He also loved X-Files, and the flattened surreality, caustic images and dark humor of William S. Burroughs. He adored Burroughs actually, and I sometimes wondered if his influence was as much a bane as a generative source. Possibly, he took Burroughs too literally, as a kind of lifestyle endorsement, instead of as a disciplined and intensely intelligent writer who had lived his demons out and only became fluent when he had become inoculated against them.

In any case, we shared many interests - including the Beats and Burroughs in particular -- Science Fiction, language writing (which he had a difficult relationship to), some surrealism, and he would always amaze me with a synthetic and broad understanding of history, science and language -- and great taste in music, movies and - sometimes ( although we didn't always agree here), women. We would stay up late nights translating Chinese characters, or talking about a phrase of Rimbaud, a "new sentence" from Ron Silliman, or the compression and explosive potency quiet in the language of Emily Dickinson, or the innovations of Leslie Scalapino-- and -- gossip (!) -- or -- analyzing the endless quirks and ellipses of our relationships with family, friends and lovers. He had a Frankenstein on his bookshelf.

Byron was a kind of Democratic Socialist in the European tradition, who equally hated Stalinist communist authorities, and Reagan/Bush/Gingrich right-wing Republicans. He got it that this society has little mercy for the weak, and gives handouts to the rich and powerful too often - even so, he also despised Pol Pot and opened my mind to the excesses of leftist/communist totalitarianism. He read Scientific American, and was fascinated by medicine and pharmaceuticals -- he enjoyed reading and learning about law -- and wanted to work in a law library (he did for awhile, but it was all too short). He had a thing for very thin, small-breasted, left-handed blonde women who wore glasses. Audrey Hepburn was also a romantic archetype, and his last postcard to me from New Orleans is of her image -- her back is turned and she is looking over her shoulder -- two doves are in the background standing on one side of two side-by-side birdhouses. He loved to cook and felt upset that in his last years he was mostly confined to residential hotels in San Francisco, and didn't have a kitchen. He was a vegetarian and a gentle man, six foot with a large frame, lanky -- graceful and clumsy in turns. Byron never took an interest in team sports, and despised macho displays. Even so, he actually did possess real physical courage, he saved a friend's life once, dragging her out of danger when threatened by a group of men. Often, he hated people in general, the ever-present and omniscient crowd of yokels, yuppies, meatbrains, empty-headed consumers... Possibly, he was afraid that he would never fit in -- some old wound from growing up in the south, a genius boy in a place where no one around him appeared to read or care about books. Possibly, he just understood too well how stupid, crass and wrong -- people can be. Even so, he loved his friends -- few that there were at the end. He was a misanthrope with a heart of gold... An actual working class hero... A natural blonde and proud of it. He wore glasses and was left-handed, and was especially proud of that. Since we were both lefties, we often smirked and snorted at the regular right-handed color-by-number world together... In spite of a cynical streak, Byron was actually kind, and you could see that right away... He was protective, generous, and reasonable when he was reminded that reason was what was required. He had a good, if quirky sense of humor. I think he was a little hard of hearing - and was a Vietnam Vet in the Navy, who never saw combat. Still, he'd gone - since he was that working-class hero, aware intimately and in his core that those from the better part of town often get favors as a matter of course that he would have to work overtime for. His dad sold cigars, and his mom worked for Sears. He loved seventies punk rock and sweaters with stripes - black leather jackets, black jeans. He liked the Velvet Underground and like me, had a complete and total adoration for Bob Dylan -- particularly the Dylan of Blonde on Blonde or Highway 61 Revisited. He was also proud of a Castillian grandmother, and of his deep, if thwarted potential. Byron always wanted to write more prose, but was, in actuality -- a poet. He would often regale this unappreciated and seemingly useless preoccupation (poetry!)-- you can't make much money at it, and the better you get -- the less you'll often make, and worse -the better you get (beyond a certain threshold), the less people will read you! But, poetry was his calling, even if, in the end -- he deserted the jagged muses -- I don't know that he ever totally forgot how completely driving and intoxicating they can be -- when you're on and you're flying -- high. I'll quote some of his poems in these pages, as a tribute.

tribal glenn miller plays &

garbo moans
i want to die in africa
hear the roar of language in furs

Byron Perrin (C) 1984 - from the chapbook of the same name

BTW - in the poem below, I've had to completely justify the lines in order to make sure the blog picks it up without distortion. Don't know why, but in the original it's indented slightly on the second and third lines. This one's kinda Frank O'Hara - (actually the "Language in Furs" poem reminds me a little of O'Hara, it has that swoon, but with visceral gut level images... )

Actually, the conversational cadence of this Jack Webb poem below reminds me of Allen Ginsberg's poem to Carl Solomon in "Howl"... Some of the lines are echoes I think of that Carl Soloman portion of "Howl" (third part) or -- the poem "America" by Ginsberg. I leave it to you to figure out which. But, of course, this one is - well, funny. He did have that sardonic sense of humor.

Christmas Eve, 1982

Jack Webb died.

Jack Webb died yesterday or today according to confusing newspaper
accounts and as reported in the Journal of Appropriate Behavior.

I was in traction once for a month in a San Diego hospital -- you could
pick up all the L.A. stations and I watched Dragnet five times a days, voluntarily.

Jack Webb, you were a star and guide of my youth, even after my strug-
gle aginst fascistic oppression began.

You knew all the answers in the perfectly controlled environment of
Marine bootcamp in The D.I..

You were humanoid in your depiction of emotion on Dragnet.

A more involved side of you surfaced in the bit part you had as the guy
whose girlfriend William Holden ends up with in Sunset Boulevard.

Jack Webb, my life and the world are coming to ruin, and much as it is
for you now, it's late, late, late.

Jack Webb, you really put your soul into the display of a stern, yet
benign, normality.

I am crazed by this death of a standard.

It's like my Portuguese boss said, "I respect the police! Because I
grew up in a police state!"

Byron Perrin (C) 1984 -- "Language in Furs" chapbook

And this next one, particularly reminds me of our time together - talking up a storm in 1984, getting high, being right on the edge, exploring, creating and trying to keep food in our mouths and a roof over our heads. The poem flows dropping lightly, in increments -- step by step into an expanse that is neither empty nor full. It feels to me like recollection and expectation at the same time. That time together -- being friends, confidants, roommates, partners in crime - soul buddies -- was a really intense time, warped now looking back through memory walls, but still shining through with that brilliant shining crazed quality of exploration, bright or dark feeling and endless talk - we imagined ourselves a bit like our childhood or adolescent heroes - Kerouac and Cassady, and Allen Ginsberg, I guess - although we couldn't quite be that corny about it. We were too enveloped in our own dark, we were too cool-hipped - tight-lipped Blonde on Blonde Punk Rock to be that celebratory -- in such a self-conscious way. Too science fiction Burroughs heroin skinny. But, we had fun. Until we couldn't anymore.

I wrote some of my best poems then, I was 27 -- I really expanded my reach, my ability to see the voices and feel the images clip by clip... Byron was certainly partly responsible for that - or you could say, he helped to drive it. He was there to witness it and to cheer it on. He was there to wonder at it, critique and guide it, and tell me to keep going -- keep writing - keep doing more more more! For this inspiration and real writing companionship - I shall forever be grateful -- and I will miss it, since there is no one else -- who has taken over that place. Then, he was also doing his own stuff - crafting poems and the prose fragments he wanted to become novels. We would both type in our separate rooms -- as the sun was coming up after a long night up or in the afternoons - while the quiet light made a pattern on the floors...

Here's his poem from that time - and possibly inspired by same -

...all that intensity and no place to go... not even an alley wide
exercise yard to circle in pretend expansion... so use three
flights of stairs as an echo chamber...drop down them one step at
a time, through softly lighted space... passing throughts and passing
people focusing and diffusing, boundaries evanescent...overlapping
versions and overlaps without a thing in common boundlessly melt-
ing...assimilation a fact long passed that there is nothing under
except new connections... a tiny patch of conduct leaning to bright-
ness...stretching myself before i rise from sleep on the concrete
floor...stretching body as long as the room, as big as all the
space... i have roots i haven't put out yet...

Byron Perrin (c) 1984 - "Language in Furs" chapbook

And another from that time - playful now: (again, I've had to left-justify all margins, I'm just not real competent with the blog editor yet)

even natives go on BROADWAY in this town.
a tropical night w/o the lizards.
soot-dyed hair
flops over her eyes.

hang your hair!
pretty boy floyd had problems too,
nights on his morphine & crime,
spraypainting his initials on the moon... we go again:
side to side penguins rock;
other penguins wobble
on equatorial beach --
black leather & dull needle again.
... teenage...

Byron Perrin (c) - 1984 - "Language in Furs" chapbook

More to come -- goodbye dear Friend -

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Welcome to my new blog! It's January 4th, 2003 - and after midnight. This will take a bit of time to build momentum. I'm Max Wolf Valerio...

I'm a poet, and have also written essays and a memoir; I'm starting to write short stories. I enjoy the performative aspect of writing, and have worked in the past with bands -- primarily punk type bands. However, its all got to be able to go down with the eye alone...

My poetry is primarily anti-narrative written in the "counter-valent tradition" of the avant-garde - influenced by the Beats, the Objectivists, Surrealism, New York School, Language poetry, tribal poetries, random and spontaneous oral traditions, science-fiction imagism, punk rock and cyberkinetic oral film instances. It is raw and to be performed, as well as read. However, again - the performance is not necessary, as the page must do. My "stuff" is not really "spoken word", possibly -- it's slurred word and split-second -- image on image. I want to create a shimmering and living surface of language, a kind of "alive" and biologically potent poetry... Where the most ordinary of associations, objects, perceptions or experiences is related to the next and the next, in a networking that is multi-dimensional as well as entirely specific. Deep... Horizontal and vertical. OK - I've said enough about it...

I think you know what I mean, if you don't, we can figure it out together. I'm figuring it out.

That's what this will be about -- at least partially -- that figuring out and exploration of possibilities.

Humor offsets the tendency to codify the imaginative process. I like the slanted and absurd -- explosive combinations of hearing, sight and smell -- in a poem - a condensation that is visceral.

Above all I'm interested in visionary and imaginative traditions or counter-traditions in writing. I also have done a little acting and wouldn't mind doing a little more! ; )

Hopefully, this blog can help me to get going in the "right" directions, a creative one -- and possibly inspire. (!)

Hope so.