I don’t have time for poetry. I don’t have time for anything but poetry.
Upon compiling this collection of work written between 2009 & 2013, I had to draw heavily from my roots in the DIY zine & chapbook scene that were nurtured & cultivated in downtown Detroit & rural DeKalb County in the 1980s & 90s. Self-publishing has both benefits & drawbacks, but as I completed this project during late July 2013, I honestly faced the fact that I don’t have enough time to adequately & thoroughly edit a collection of my own work. But do I have time for poetry?
This work drinks from many streams but its primary springs bubble-up from the poetic scriptures & wisdom rhetoric of the Bible as well as the work of the Beat movement writers, most specifically Jack Kerouac & Allen Ginsberg, as well as less noted William Everson (or Brother Antoninus, the ‘Beat friar’). Second-generation Beat writer Anne Waldman not only influenced me but tutored me, & it is her efforts in the ‘chant genre’ that will show the most obvious impact on my style. It’s amazing how a handful of writing workshop exercises may morph themselves into a steady literary & spiritual-poetic ritual that I’ve now practiced for more than 20 years.
It’s with some worry of offending my readers or my colleagues in the Beat studies community (if any of them decide to read this collection) that I declare this book a work of Beat literature. The scholar in me realizes that Beat as a literary movement is historically & socially situated. But insofar as I feel I have had the spirituality of that movement transferred & taught to me directly from the likes of Anne Waldman & Allen Ginsberg, the poet in me wants to claim that direct lineage, much like Allen taught us how he claimed his connections to William Blake & Walt Whitman.
Of course this is also a religious book, & its preaching section has been influenced & nurtured by the ‘emergent,’ ‘emerging,’ & ‘convergent’ conversations, by contemporary writers too many to name here, by my work in the Come ToGather (C2G) collective, by my studies at Vanderbilt Divinity School, & by my mentors at First Presbyterian Church, the righteous reverends Patrick Handlson & Richard Neil. Dick Neil in particular is to be thanked not only for his vast knowledge, deep wisdom, & steady encouragement but for noticing the major influence that Kenneth Patchen has had on my poetic work.
Transcribing the poems for this book from scribbled journal entries reminds me of its autobiographical component, even though the verse & sermon styles are not inherently confessional, these rely for me on frank disclosures quite intentionally, which reminds me of the disclaimer I borrow from the Rev. Otis Moss III: “Don’t edit your testimony.” So much of this book centers its topical weight in my recovery from alcoholism & other addictions alongside my reconversion to Christianity. Although some self-censorship obviously occurs in the writing process, I’ve tried not to cut too many of the explicitly honest or deeply expressive parts in the editing process. But my previous immersion in hippy, punk, pagan, anarchist, commune, & poetry subcultures should be obvious, & it’s the overlap of radical Jesus-following Christ consciousness with these other moods & movements that distinguishes this book from others. If the progressive politics or theological perspectives purveyed here offend or bother you, I welcome your feedback & want your forgiveness.
From the Anarchist & Situationist movements as well as from Buddhist & Christian monastic types, I’ve learned about the enchantment of everyday life. That is, for me, poetry is not so much these chants & rants but my life lived in gratitude & with attitude, with guts & gusto, with love & longing. In that sense, I always have time for poetry, & if I don’t, I’m really in trouble.