[Moved from my old Myspace blog. Original post date was January 21, 2008.]
I’ve read countless small press poets in my time, and the vast majority are talented people who have a way with words, but — sadly — their work is easily forgotten. It falls short somehow: not saying anything worth hearing, or saying it, but badly; the content is worthy but the execution fails. You come away with a feeling that you’ve seen all you need to see, that further investment of your time would not pay off. You want to like them, you want to enjoy their work, but time is short and it’s just not worth the effort. If they would only say what’s really on their mind. Say it as clearly as they can. Using memorable, striking imagery. As if they are in love with language. Almost never do you have all of that in one poet. You might have the intellect, the gift for language, but the work is cold and gives you no feel for the person behind it. Or you might have a live body but a less than solid craft.
Okay. And then there are the good ones. The really good ones. Those who have it all and are using it, burning it like fuel. A handful of small press poets come to mind. I’m not going to name them all because I would forget a few and feelings would be hurt, but I will name just two as primary examples of the gift unimpeded. A man and a woman. Both 30ish. John Dorsey and Debbie Kirk. If I had to name my favorite young small press poets, these two would be at the top of the list.
I’ve written about John Dorsey before. He’s a vagabond angel, a word lunatic, a visionary. I saw him read at The Beat Museum and it blew me away. If Gregory Corso and Allen Ginsberg have a spiritual heir, it’s John Dorsey. He is carrying the torch, lighting the landscape, singing alone in the wasteland. There is nobody that touches him. Nobody comes close. True genius. Every poem is a complete reward for the moments spent reading it. I feel honored to have met him. I hope to God I see him read again.
Debbie Kirk came out of nowhere, machine guns blazing, a fugitive, taking no prisoners, moving fast, a furious meteor, arc of fire across the sky, unprecedented, unpredictable. Unschooled. Professors should sit at her feet, taking notes. I don’t understand why Borders shelves aren’t lined with her collected works. Somebody in the orders dept has fucked up big. What she does on paper is pure magic. It’s alive, breathing, bleeding, weeping. Where does she get this stuff? How does she know exactly what to do with the words? Why can’t anyone else do it quite as well, with equal impact? Watching her is, I imagine, like it would have been to watch Sylvia Plath a half century ago. It just has to be seen to be believed.
There may be better young poets out there, but I doubt it. A gift that big is hard to keep secret.
I suggest you track down the books of these two and read them, and hang onto them.