Underground Rivers

Underground RiversThis cycle of poems emerged in parallel to a series of dreams and visionary journeys into the underworld. The words were recovered, like aspects of soul which had gone missing, from the sewers beneath the streets of Cincinnati’s seven ancient hills. Once these missing parts had been restored to the body that had been torn apart, deeper sources of pure mineral water were sought in the hollow places deep in the earths interior, where Underground Rivers are known to flow.

Harry Smith emerged from an Andy Warhol screen test to give a transmission on Weird Old America. Navigating the sea is often better done when the captain works Blind At the Till. The Spider weaves Blazes In the Bone, setting down Taps into the Roots Canal near Oktoberfest, Ohio in Fort Loramie. Lafcadio Hearn appears as a Dreamer of the Dark crying at the biergarten after watching another episode of Mill Creek Blues. In the Courtship of Ma’at we all Learning to Swim, until we go Fly Fishing with Sun Ra, and make our way to an Underworld Garage Sale, where a used copy of the old mystery novel C is for Murder is found, with Cain Marks on its spine. Gasahol is drunk and After the After Party the reader dives into a Sketch of the Hellscape from which emerges a new method for How to Become a Conspiracy Theorist, because after all the City is a Dream. Bioluminescent Luciferins make for a Psychoacoustic Medicine. What Magic Is, is a chance to dance the Electric Snake Boogy at a Funeral for a Punk Rock Jacket, where the River Styx is Revisited. Time to clean out the Goose Shit Radiator and have a glass of Dionysian Wine before the Hand Returns to Its Work and goes on its course down Underground Rivers.

Copies of this book, along with Platonic One’s High Gravity will be available at the Esoteric Book Conference in Seattle on September 26th and 27th at the EBC table.

Available here on Amazon.

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Outside the Akademy

akademie-xPhaidon continue to publish beautiful books. Akademie X : Lessons in Art + Life is one of them. It is a practical guide to the creative process and offers the processes behind the creative practice of 36 working artists and writers. Each “tutor” is featured in turn with c/v page followed by instructional/theoretical essays on working as an artist. Each artist in turn offers an assigned reading, viewing and listening list of various lengths. The format of the book is quite enjoyable and I took it as an opportunity to mimic the format as below.

Tutor: Justin Patrick Moore
Born/Lives: 1979 Cincinnati, Ohio
Training: Antioch College drop-out.
Public Library: As a self-taught autodidact the library has not only been the provider of my financial survival, but is a work place where I continue to pursue an ongoing edumacation.
Active apprentice in a school of the Western Mystery Tradition with a few affiliations to other lodges & groups.
Founder: Sothis Medias & Oneiric Imprint
Selected Writings:
Underground Rivers, poems 2015
The Dyslexicon issues 1-8, editor and contributor. 
Water in the Dry Land 2012
The Library Angel & It’s Oracle, in issue 4 of Abraxas
Music from Sirius: The Dreams of Karlheinz Stockhausen
Many Chapbooks from Aurore Press.
Radio Work:  Founder, The Psychedelicatessin 1998-2000 on the pirate radio station Anti-Watt in Yellow Springs. Programmer on Art Damage on WAIF 88.3 FM from around 2001-2003/4. Programmer on On the Way to the Peak of Normal (also on WAIF) from 2005-2014… taking over responsibility for the show in 2012.
Bands: The Astral Surf Gypsies (1996-2005), WildCraft (1998-), Neato Torpedo (I joined up with these guys in 2002). The Hollow Crown (2013 -)

As a kid I took a bunch of crayons and heated them up with a blow dryer and worked with melting them onto a piece of paper. This is when I first knew I was an artist. I knew I was a writer when I started mimicking the trashy fantasy novels and Dungeons & Dragons tie-in material I read. Later, in high-school, when I realized I sucked at playing the guitar and dissolved the first punk band I was in, I fell in love with the tape deck and the ability to edit a collaged sequence of sounds and speech. This was before I’d ever run across Burrough’s cut-up experiments or Genesis’ splinter-test theory on sampling as a type of holographic magic. My primary motivation in making my first tapes was to create something which would trigger a sense of deja vu in the listener. And/or cause them to question the very nature of reality itself.

Later I became involved in “The Art”, the quintessence from which all of the other arts flow: Magic (at the time usually spelled with a K).  I embraced Thelema and Crowley’s system. Though I now view it as flawed, it triggered a number of solar flares that set me on a path of continued creativity, yet also forced me to meet up with the unraveller on several occasions.

I hadn’t yet learned to appreciate the beauty of discipline, of work habits as regular as bowel movements. I still struggle with maintaining the practice because my mind is as changeable and whimsical as the wind. The only work habit I really have maintained is my work at the library, and too much reading.

After a year and a half of college I realized I would be better off dropping out. I had wanted a degree in religious studies and psychology, but realized the study of occultism, and the ideas of Wilhelm Reich and Carl Jung wouldn’t get me a day job. Perhaps I was just too immature and pessimisitic to see how I could marry my true vocation with a means for making a living in the world. All those Crass albums I’d listened to as a teenager had really sunk deep into me. It seemed safer to leave behind the trustafarians of the campus -though I will always have a love for Antioch and Yellow Springs- to focus on having a day job, and later a girlfriend who became my wife and a family. Along the way I have still managed to write and get published & self-publish, do readings, make music, play shows and have albums put out out and put albums out, and make the occasional visual piece. I continue to work in my training as an apprentice Western Mystery Tradition magician.

In this respect it is worth contemplating what it means to be a local artist/writer. Someone who is dedicated to not just the arts and cultural life of a given town or city, but someone who embraces the deeper dynamics of the bioregion. As resources around the world dwindle, “being an artist” on the world stage may end up being more about setting up a stage in your back yard for community theater, a noise show, or a poetry reading. It may be more about turning the spare room in your house, and using your spare time, to set up the business of running a small and independent multimedia firm. It may mean creating a home where using Less Energy Stuff and Stimulation becomes a way of life.

The book Akademie X is thus a helpful guide for aspiring artists who would rather bypass the clotted arteries of the educational system, skip out on the exorbitant debt, and do it themselves.

Workshop 1: Get yourself a cheap spiral notebook. If it was trash picked, all the better. Begin the practice of keeping a dream journal. This is a place where you can let your mind and soul ferment. Every dream is a potential poem, story, painting, or at least a lesson telling you how you need to drink less alcohol and quit smoking cigarettes. To sleep better take cat naps and draw or write the hypnagogic imagery. These journals will become treasure troves to dumpster dive when the dreaded block has overtaken you. This practice is a basic way of opening yourself up to influences from beyond, and beginning to let them percolate in your work.

Warm Up Exercises:
-20 minute meditation
-tarot readings on the work in progress, using the cards to help decide direction of a chosen project
-freestyle chanting to loosen up

Elders: It’s always good to continue to have mentors to to for advice concerning the Great Work. Mine have tended to be more informal, so in keeping with born again pagan tradition, I consider them more as elders. Hang out with the older artists in your area and do some chores for them. You will learn so much.

Assigned Reading. As a library worker this list is extremely incomplete. 
-Delany, Samuel R. The Neveryona novels: Tales from Neveryon, Neveryona, Flight from Neveryon, & The Bridge of Lost Desire. These works are semiotic masterpieces. If you have time read all of his novels to learn how to properly construct a sentence. Dhalgren, Triton, Nova, Babel-17 and Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand are my other top Delany picks.

-Ballard, J.G. Highrise This book is an in depth look at the psychology of the XVIth tarot trump, the Tower.

-Robinson, Kim Stanley: Three Californias trilogy sets out three possible futures for Orange County. His novels Shaman, set in the earth previous ice age and 2312 set approx 300 years from now, are a great resource for anyone interested in landscape art.

-Lopez, Barry: Crow and Weasel. To learn about storytelling.

-Moss, Robert: Conscious Dreaming & Dreamgates. The basic texts from Moss to help you get started exploring the dreamworld.

– Ayers, Nigel: The Bodmin Moor Zodiac. An account of Mr. Ayers ritual walks and psychogeographical workings in Cornwall.

-Legard, Phil: Psychogeographia Ruralis. An essay on music composition, magic and psychogeography.

-Silverman, Kenneth: Begin Again, A Biography of John Cage
This fascinating biography gives many techniques to plunder from.

-Ende, Michael: The Neverending Story. Many keys to the mysteries are contained in this work.

-Dick, Phillip K.: The VALIS trilogy for basic gnostic reality rewiring.

-Holmgren, David: Permaculture, Principles and Practices Beyond Sustainability

Snyder, Gary: The Real Work

Assigned Album Listening:
-The Incredible String Band: Wee Tam/The Big Huge
-Shirley Collins: False True Lovers, Power of the True Love Knot, Love Death & The Lady.
– Current 93: Thunder Perfect Mind, Of Ruine or Some Blazing Star, All the Pretty Horses
-Karlheinz Stockhausen: Hymnen, Tierkreis, Licht opera cycle, Trans, & Sternklang to get started
-John Cage: Complete Sonatas & Interludes for prepared piano, Anarchic Harmonies, Thirteen Harmonies, any and all.
– Nurse With Wound: Second Pirate Session, Soliloquy for Lilith, Funeral Music for Perez Prado, An Awkward Pause, etc.
– Coil: Musick to Play in the Dark vol. 1 & 2, Love’s Secret Domain, Remote Viewer, The New Backwards, Ape of Naples, ElPh vs. Coil and the rest of their discography.
-Joe Meek: I Hear a New World, It’s Hard to Believe It compilation
– Sun Ra: Other Planes of There, Atlantis, The Solar Myth Approach
-Crass: Feeding of the 5,000, Christ-the album
-Chumbawumba: Jesus H. Christ
-Negativland: Escape from Noise, Helter Stupid, Dyspepsia
-Legendary Pink Dots: Nemesis Online, Asylum, A Perfect Mystery, The Maria Dimension, Ancient Daze…
-Nocturnal Emission: Blasphemous Rumors, Invocation of the Beast Gods, Nightscapes, Stoneface Spiritflesh, Mouth of Babes
-Terry Riley: In C, Atlantis Nath, Shri Camel, Aleph, Chanting the Light of Foresight, Harp of New Albion, Assassin Reverie, Book of Abbeyzoud

Assigned Film Viewing:
-Mullholland Drive (2001)
– Last Year at Marienbad (1961)
– Gummo (1997)
– El Topo (1970)
-Innauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954)
-Suburbia (1983)
-Blood Sucking Freaks (1976)


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The Merry Month of May

THINKING: I was an outsider in a recent conversation regarding smart phones. A question was raised at the table I was sitting at about smart phones and shopping. I was the only one without a smart phone. Whereas everyone else at the table thought the smart phone enhanced their shopping experience, I was the only one who thought it detracted from experience in general. My life is enhanced, through the power of  Via Negativawithout this device. So many people are attached to their phones, as if with an umbilical cord. If they are without this little bit of tech, they freak out, wondering how the fuck they will survive. I think in the near future it will be a safe bet to see a bumper crop of Twelve Step groups whose purpose is to help those who are powerless over constant cell phone use.

I’m not the only one who has been thinking about these things. Jenna Woginrich of Cold Antler Farm has recently given up her smart phone, while Chris Martenson and John Michael Greer rapped about the God of Technological Progress in a conversation back in April. Chris pointed out that any time he brings up the fact that the U.S. is unraveling, that we are running out of fossil fuels, people stop and wave their smart phones at him, as if waving it is proof that we are still on an ever upward and onward march to the stars.

While it can sometimes feel like I am alone in not having a portable device that distracts from interacting with the people I am actually with and the places I am actually at, it is nice to know some folks are opting out.

FEELING: The silence and stillness necessary for the discipline of magic are difficult for me. Sometimes I feel like anything I create will just be adding to the noise of the world, and wonder if I should refrain from posting a blog such as this, refrain from writing or making music, and if that would help me cultivate stillness and silence. An extended living performance of 4’33”. Monastics do the world a service through the cultivation of silence, holding a place of stillness that spreads outwards into the community. In America at least those types of spiritual communities are few and far between. It is unglorified work, as is so much of work that is done in a true spirit of unconditional service. I struggle with surrendering my wants and desires to what is needed of me. I find there can be a balance, but maintaining that balance is difficult, and requires constant calibration.

Josephine has written that it is important to know when not to do magic. I think the same could be said for making art as well.

DOING: I mixed up my third batch of kraut this past Monday night. It’s something I really enjoy -eating and making. It’s so much easier than I originally thought it would be. This third crock is made in the style of kimchi -though it ain’t kimchi. It’s got three heads of cabbage -two green, one red- a bunch of radishes, carrots, ginger, garlic, shallot, and serano peppers. This batch smells really fresh, as far as fermented vegetables go. The last batch which was just cabbage with dill, caraway and mustard seeds had a more earthy scent as the lactobacili did their thing.

SunshineCrustBakingFactory-140x200READING: Book designer Stacy Wakefield‘s debut novel, The Sunshine Crust Baking Factory, published by Akashic Books had me mesmerized. The story is told in first person from the point of view of Sid, a girl around the age of nineteen or twenty, who arrives in New York City with a mind to join up with some anarcho-punk squatters. Only problem is most of the punk squats are already full and getting into one requires intrepid navigation of the politics of those scenes. She thinks she is lucky to be hanging out with a Mexican hardcore kid named Lorenzo who played bass in the band Disguerro, and who toured with some of her favorite bands.  She is smitten with him. When they leave Manhattan behind to find a squat of their own in Brooklyn, they end up joining up with a groupd of folks living in an old bakery that had been abandoned after a fire. While Sid does the heavy lifting in getting the first floor ready for her and Lorenzo, he disappears to play in bands, hang out with skinny chicks, and basically avoid doing any of the work that would make the place into a home. After a fight she starts hanging out with the founder of the squat, a rugged outdoor survivalist type by the name of Mitch who looked more like an athletic jock than a cool punker. The story goes on to relate an adventure Mitch  and Sid have together rescuing the belongings of another squat before the Mayor has it demoed. It highlights the tensions around being a tough female in an otherwise all male house, the shouldering of responsibilities, and how things aren’t always how they seem at first. The reader of this lively tale gets to have their eyes opened along with Sid’s. This tale of lovelorn youth, squatting, survival on the streets, punk music and personal space made for a compelling read. Sometimes it’s not enough to go and be a part of a scene somewhere, instead you have to find and make your own home and be comfortable where you live (while also still sticking it to the man).  Stacy Wakefield shows that she is not only a great designer of books, but a superb storyteller. I’ll definitely be looking out for her next novel.      

LISTENING: I’m in a state of high anticipation for Elizabeth Hand’s forthcoming novel Wylding Hall which is about “the mysterious death of their lead singer, the young members of a now-legendary British acid folk band hole up at Wylding Hall, an ancient English country house with its own dark secrets. There they record Wylding Hall, the album that makes their reputation– but at a terrifying cost, when Julian Blake, their new lead singer, disappears within the mansion and is never seen again. Now, years later, each of the surviving musicians, their friends and lovers, meets with a young documentary filmmaker to tell their own version of what happened during that summer. But whose story is the true one? And what really happened to Julian Blake? ” As a lead in to getting a copy of the book in my hands this July (its already out on Audible) I decided to read Jeanette Leech’s book Seasons They Change: The Story of Acid and Psychedelic FolkI’ve had the book since it came out in 2011, but for whatever reason, never read it straight through. I’m glad I’m doing so now, because it has me listening to a lot of different albums. Yet the one that is on repeat the most for me has been Vashti Bunyan’s Another Diamond Day. I’d listened to the album a couple of times about five years ago or so, but I guess it didn’t move me the same way it is moving me now. The standout song to me is Rainbow River.

Besides Vashti the groups and people who’ve been on my playlist have been: John Renbourn (loved the Nine Maidens album), Pentangle, Davy Graham, Shirley Collins, The Holy Modal Rounders, Pearls Before Swine, Nurse With Wound (digging The Surveillance Lounge and Requital for Lady Day). Also Steeleye Span, Comus, and John Coltrane’s version of My Favorite Things.

DREAMING: I dreamed I got off the bus on Winton Road. I walked across the street next to the wall of Spring Grove Cemetery. I knew a way to sneak into the cemetery through a hedge. Once I got inside I marveled at how beautiful the cemetery was, and started whistling the tune My Favorite Things. 


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High Gravity book release at Catland in Brooklyn







There will be a book release event for PLATONIC ONE’s new illustrated novel/grimoire HIGH GRAVITY: Werewolves, Ghosts, and Magick Most Black  published by Oneiric Imprint at Catland Books in Brooklyn (987 Flushing Ave. Brooklyn, New York) on Friday, March 6th at 10pm. The event will feature a reading from the book by Ken Henson, and poetry readings by Russell Dillon, Katie Byrum, Sarah Francis, Amelia Ferguson, Elyse Johnson, Blake Evans, and Joe Trame.

Click Here for a Free PDF book sample.

Ken Henson is a Curtis G. Lloyd Fellow of the Lloyd Library and Museum and the author and illustrator of the treatise Alchemy and Astral Projection: Ecstatic Trance in the Hermetic Tradition (2014). He has been published in Abraxas Journal and Clavis Journal, and he recently collaborated with the Philosophical Research Society to restore and reissue Manly P. Hall and John Augustus Knapp’s Revised New Art Tarot (2014). Blue Jay Slayer, the art/poetry book Ken created with Matt Hart, is due this spring by Aurore Press. He is an Associate Professor and the Head of Illustration at the Art Academy of Cincinnati in Ohio.

Russell Dillon is the author of the collection of poems Eternal Patrol (Forklift Books, 2013), and the chapbook Secret Damage. He began life in New York, continued it in San Francisco, and now continues it further in New York where he is co-editor for Big Bell.

Katie Byrum is a native Kentuckian who currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. For sixteen years, she has worked in the food and beverage industry, studying whiskey and its effects on the human psyche. She co-curates two poetry events in Brooklyn, the witchy series COVEN and the Tri-Lengua Reading Series.

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Listen with pain. Hear with pain. Ears are wounds.” -Einsturzende Neubauten. [1]

Noise is a musical poison. Administered in the right dose and decibel it can be quite pleasurable, inducing a state of ecstasy, just as certain poisons, when taken in minute amounts or with proper adjuncts, are known to create feelings of rapture. Sustained noise can have the effect of sending the listener out of the body in a manner akin to the phytochemical compounds used by shamans for traveling the astral plane. And just as plant poisons can cause death at the right dose, so can noise cause the careless listener to go deaf, destroying the ears natural range of hearing.

Yet over the course of the 20th century and into the 21st composers and musicians have been fascinated with noise. In part this can be seen as a response to noise pollution, which has accelerated with the proliferation of industry and fossil fuel technology. Both art music and popular music have either embraced, or merely coped with the advent of dissonance as the nineteenth century ended and the twentieth began.  Indeed, the genre of “Industrial” music arose at the apex of the planets immersion in factory industrialism during the 1970’s.  One of the primary concerns of this style of music is the use and transformation of noise. Even on the downward slope of industrial civilization, noise pollution continues to be a factor affecting the health of wildlife, plant and human communities, in both rural and urban geographies.

The human sense of hearing has now become accustomed to manipulated and distorted sound. In American culture (the only one I can speak of from experience) the general taste for music runs towards that which has been adulterated in the recording studio. Pure acoustic music (of whatever genre) is ranked low on the scale of popularity. A survey of U.S. teenage internet users revealed that jazz and classical were among the least favorite in 2012.[2]  Folk fared not much better, while pop, rock and “other” remained dominant. While much noisy experimentation has occurred in both classical and jazz, these are also the genres that rely the least upon overdubs and added effects. It would probably be more painful to stick a teenager in Cincinnati’s Music Hall to hear the Symphony Orchestra than to take them to hear Merzbow.

American culture has become so addicted to the poison of noise that the antidote of silence, or even relative silence causes more pangs of desperation than further subjugations to audio pollution. The stillness to be found alone in a quiet room with no music at all -and no smart phone to fiddle with-  is more of a threat than the damage caused overloading the biological and spiritual circuits of humanity through total media saturation.

For some music fans and musicians the transformation of noise and subsequent immersion within it may be the path of least resistance. Through immersion comes tolerance, and the immune system is strengthened, able to shrug off the daily assault of noise in all its varied forms, allowing it to become part of the casual background radiation of life. Others may have to renounce music all together in order to be cured. They ascend the mountain to find a hermits cave where they will dwell alone for a time, secluded in a cloister where no new releases are delivered, and the entire catalog of humanities past musical recordings are not available to them. Here they will learn to listen inwardly, and perhaps come to the realizations as John Cage had, reflecting on the omnipresence of sound and subtle vibrations.

Yet most modern humans don’t have the option to turn off the noise or drop out of society all together. When we tune out, we must do selectively and electively, walking the path of the hermit inwardly rather than outwardly. Even in the city one can learn to tune the lamp of illumination to the silence of the void through the practice of meditation.

What is clear is that the modern listener must formulated a plan for transmuting the poison of noise. Making large allowances for silence, while also allowing for moments of diving head first into digital chaos seems to be healthy responses in a world where our own power and control over noise is minimalist. To that end it is helpful to trace the mythos of rock and roll, one of the most pervasive genres around.

Continue reading

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Mill Creek Blues






Here is a poem from my upcoming chapbook UNDERGROUND RIVERS to be published via Oneiric Imprint, sometime in March.



Maketewa you were once called,
Maetewa once held in awe, you were
once a marshland
below the hillside forest
banks of cattails, otter families, dragonflies

sacred ground for those who made a home in this valley!

Alas Maketewa, what you once were
& what you have become
is no fault of the water itself.

As if you asked to staunch the flow
of the little piglets blood
back in the day when
Spring Grove was a street of swine and mud
you stayed the course
even as the trickle of trichinosis
was sprayed downstream.

Now white ghost pigs fly
over the graves of the grove
as the trains squeal on by
past slaughterhouse remains
your shores still slick from the last flood.

Even your bloated carp
got sick off the hot dogs.

& it was all a Kahn anyway

Even the raccoons
wanted nothing to do
with the dumpsters
but washed their marbled hands
in your

malodorous brown soup of

lye & lime, black ink of
concentrated tanning liquors
hide trimmings, offal
glue, fertilizer, grease

where herons now wade in the shallow
workers wallowed, dumping the tallow

thinking you were just some serpentine ditch

who like the arms of a forgiving lover
continued to receive & remained open
even as the abuse compounded
your banks now home to impound lots
junk yards of reclaimed metal, car parts

the springs that dotted the valley capped with sewer lids

crows & vultures
circle diesel tracks

Mill Creek you were once called Maketewa!
Mill Creek you are now held at bay, arms length
even by those who just live a few blocks away.

We are not privy to your long suffering moods
as we no longer stand knee deep in your mud
in your water, we do not swim & play.
Maketewa you hold us in dismay
we who pissed in your pot
& left our chemical trails of dirty vapors
to mark where we settled, the way we came.


The plastic bags tuck on sticks
choke hyperventilating frogs covered in black ick
now glow in Fernald fumes of marsh light
from everyday humdrum spills
as Proctor and Gamble empty their sink
as the MSD puts shit in our drink.

The creeks have been diverted to storm drains
the storm drains aimed at the Mill Creek
the bedrock converted to long channels of concrete
& fish don’t swim but sink
from the bathwater bleach, from the poison
keep out of reach,
children, keep out
poured down the sink

with all the crap from the hole that stinks

all creep into this divided basin
the east side from the west side
pigskin tiger pelts are our pride
in this pork chop metropolis.

False industry hides behind its tail.

Even the good ol’ boys
in the Mill Creek Yacht Club
have a hard time setting sail.
Those boys gotta make sure
they got all their doctors shots
keep their immunity up.

Cause you ain’t recovered
from your days as an open sewer
& you sure did stank it up.


Underneath the bridge
sad old bums set up camp to sleep
next to sad twenty-something bums
who stay up all night, to keep warm
on burned shipping pallets
tomorrow, maybe, brings better luck
sign flying, hitching out his thumb
for someone to pluck a few singles from their wallet
& place into a worn out Starbucks cup.

The forks in the road of fate seem as dry
as Dry Fork Creek in high July
& these fellas are just as thirsty
enough to make a grown man cry.
Living broke off the Mill Creek is hard work
fishing for carp with nylon lines
all those bones to pick, like with Fred
who they had to kick out of camp
as he was fixin’ to bring the popo down on their heads
what with his needles & all, & no thread
anyhoo, it ain’t like americas got a shortage of tramps.

It’s been a long time since the stream was full of trout.

But the down & out? We got that.
The wretched & tired, deep fried & true
we got them too. The poor from the harbor
the tempest-tost masses new to these shores
just up from West Virginia’s door, last of the mountains
removed, yearning to breathe
free from the coal dust, but ain’t no jobs
up here, no more, no more, no, no.

Floaters is what the coroners get
when persons unknown hit the road
& they get dragged up onto the ridge.
It’s a pretty short bridge so did they jump
into your thick cut loins? lined with concrete slabs.

Prefab answers just won’t do
when pulling jagged glass out of soles.
Children, remember to wear your shoes

& don’t drink the water.

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The Andrew Pendergast Gambit

The character Andrew Pendergast lurked in the background during the first two World Made By Hand novels penned by James Howard Kunstler. Even so, I was intrigued by Andrew after reading World Made by Hand and The Witch of Hebron. This was a man who had kept the town of Union Grove’s library open during the difficult years of America’s midnight hour.  In the third novel of the tetralogy Andrew is fleshed out to become a pivot on which the novel and the fictional New York state town is made to stand. In A History of the Future, James has given a full breath of life to Andrew Pendergast. I’m very glad he did so, because this is a character those bracing themselves for the seismic shifts in store for industrial in store for industrial society can  emulate now. Instead of just bearing witness to the ongoing drift of American culture further along the twilight path into darkness we can take a cue from these pages of literature and do the work towards making ourselves lamps who will be able to see and act in the darkness ahead.

Andrew is such a man. Adaptable. Foresighted. Possessed of a set of “diverse skills and interests” that are necessary to live in difficult times and save those aspects of American culture worth saving. In the post-collapse village where the character makes his home he finds a number of different roles to play. These roles are not appointed to him. He takes them on because they need doing.

1. He took charge of the town library. He dusted off the card catalog. Running a library on a card system is a skill that can be relearned. When I first began in library work the Olive-Kettering library at Antioch College was just being “updated” to a computer system. Working with the card filing system was a rather fun part of the work. Now with self-checkout machines, just like at the grocery store (instead of at the grocers) human interaction has been minimized and mediated by machines. Andrew’s library ran on limited hours, and with the help of some other volunteers, but it became a treasured for re-skilling and for the non-electric entertainment and edification of reading.

2. He formed a volunteer burial committee during a flu epidemic. In Kunstler’s sequence of novels a successive wave of diseases cull the human herd. In a strained economy, in a country with a brittle health care system, responses will be limited. As bodies pile up something will need to be done with them for the families who grieve, and for the continued health of those who remain. The death process used to be overseen by families and communities. Fraternal lodges and voluntary societies used to provide their members with plots of land and headstones. Now it is all outsourced. From the time a family member gets sick to the shovel of dirt on the coffin. If your town or city faced a plague and strict limitations on resources how would you cope with large tides of death? It’s a question worth thinking about. Doing something to get people in the ground would be an important step.

3. Andrew established a model garden on his half-acre property. Other towns folk learned to copy him because they had forgotten -or never learned in the first place- how to grow plants, how to tend food crops, how to bring in a harvest. Though Kunstler doesn’t spell it out, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the towns people also got some extra seeds off Andrew. Surely he’d be saving those from season to season.

4. Pendergast repaired old mechanical clocks. Some anarchist leaning types might not be so disappointed about a world without clocks. Especially time cards. Kunstler however imagines a world in which a solution for telling time is still in demand. Andrew makes himself useful by learning to fix the type of clocks which would still work without an electrical grid. My take-away from this is that it will also be useful to be able to fix those lower tech and appropriate that can be used to trade with others in the community. Another take-away is Andrew’s ability in managing his time and energy. If you are doing one thing, you are not doing another. To deliver on Andrew’s level requires both time and energy  management. (One of the ways Andrew manages his energy is through celibacy -not popular in our sex obsessed culture, but effective. This part of the book reminds me of the discussion of the body and sexual energy in Wendell Berry’s classic The Unsettling of America.)

5. He painted portraits. In these books cell phones and digital cameras are no longer in use. The grid is down. The narcissism of the selfie is not a given in this history of the future. Non-digital photography may stand a chance of surviving for a time, but portraiture again becomes the most stable method for recording an individuals visage. Andrew had a store of paints he stocked up, but they were running out.  From the books in the library he began the process of learn to mix paint from scratch using minerals and substances he wildcrafted in his own bioregion.

6. He organized and directed stage shows. No netflix. No movie theater. Meaningful entertainment can bring people together instead of isolating them in front of a box. Kunstler is here forseeing a person who works to preserve one of the great  arts of humanity and who sees its value in adding to the quality of life during a time in which everyone has to make do with a lower standard than the Americans of the late 20th and early 21st believed was a birthright.

7. He directed the music circle of the congregational church. Andrew played piano and organized the rehearsals of a group of the towns musicians. Again this is another way of bringing people together and giving the other citizens something to look forward to on festive occasions -performances on the Fourth of July, Halloween, Christmas, and other celebrations.

This list doesn’t even exhaust other things Kunstler touches on his text (and perhaps it should be noted that Andrew’s story is only one of multiple threads in the novel).

This is a man of tremendous energy and ambition. He likes to work. It brings him satisfaction. Rather than feeling deadened and sad by the passing of modernity Andrew feels alive with an ecstasy he did not know in his former life working in the NYC publishing business. Perhaps his ability to work so hard and so much is aided by the lack of a day-job, perhaps by the absence of distracting gadgetry and digital media. Either way time must be filled and Andrew hears the tick of the clocks he wound and fixed himself. The best antidote to the malaise of depression and meaninglessness so common now, and one of the outcomes people in a collapsed/collapsing culture contend with, is to get to work on saving things that matter, doing which add texture to life. Without shipments of food, and big box stores to supply needs and wants, busyness is also more a matter of survival. In the present, depending on its form, busyness can be seen as a way of distraction from the anxieties of life. It is my view that many of these anxieties westerners face will be seen as superfluous on the far side of Americas imperial meltdown. Rather than being tired and worn out Andrew is vividly alive. I suspect Andrew might agree with the phrase, “idle hands make light work for the devil”.

He is so alive and full of energy a man who feels he is broken seeks out Andrew out. First this man has the intention of harming Andrew. Then he opens up to the possibility that he could learn something from him. This man, Jack, ends up staying on in Andrew’s home as a kind of servant, but one who is there of his own accord. He works on the chores and projects Andrew gives him in exchange for room and board and for Pendergast’s attentiveness towards rehabilitating the mans feeling of brokenness.

On the far side of America’s ongoing collapse there will be many broken institutions and people who also feel they are broken. One of the best things that can be done as a preventive measure is to shore up any existing cracks in ones self. Don’t add to the strain society is already under, but seek to be self reliant, and from that base, work outwards into the family and  community. Be a rock and shield. This book creates a great example of what that kind of person might look like.

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2014 Book Redux

Now that 2015 is well over a week old, I thought I would take the time to look back over some of the book releases of the previous year. I didn’t pick up a ton of new releases, but I crossed paths with a few. Generally I read where curiosity and synchronicity lead me to, and the books I end up spending time with are from various time periods. A lot of what really moved me came out of the stacks of the library, but there were a number of titles I feel compelled to give note to. Here goes.


In February last year I had the honor of meeting Paul Pines through the auspices of the Walnut Street Poetry Society of which I am a member. When we met, his collection “Fishing on the Pole Star” wasn’t out yet. It plumbed the depths and reached deep to catch some whoppers, while also finding interesting bits of flotsam and jetsam as a matter of beach combing. The book is also accompanied by the wondrous visual collage’s of Wayne Atherton. These poems help the reader to remember that consciousness does swim weightless through the world. Published by Dos Madres Press.

Also from Dos Madres was a book from the Skaldric Cauldron of Cincinnati Scop, Ralph La Charity. “FARWELLIA a la Aralee” is Ralph’s tribute through nine poems to poet Aralee Strange who passed away in 2013. Aralee had strong ties to Cincinnati and I had the privilege of hearing her read on a few occasions before she moved to Athens, Georgia. I think she touched everyone who came in contact with her in some way. At the tribute readings for Aralee I was also privileged to hear Ralph execute this sequence from memory with an accompaniment on amplified kalimba at the Northside Tavern (my favorite neighborhood watering hole). My favorite of the poems is Victor Weave, where he writes: “Call the hearth at home friendly fire / Call the cold hours’ starlight friendly fire / & while friendly fires everywhere & forever  / this fire reaps & preys / this fire lights both ways”. This book also inclueds a facsimile reproduction of CINAMANUENSING (a writ of habeas corpus poetique) that Ra’s Elf wrote while Aralee worked on filming her screenplay The Train, a project she never completed, her personal great white whale.


Josephine McCarthy‘s books on magic have yet to disappoint me in any way. She writes directly from her own seasoned experience. While there is a place for the kinds of  magicial and spiritual nonfiction that use textual research alongside magical research, it is also very refreshing to read books where the author puts as much of their accumulated inner wisdom into the text. As ethereal as that sounds, “Magical Healing: A Health Survival Guide for Magicians and Healers” is an eminently practical book that will be of use to anyone who makes the magical arts not an accessory to their personality, but a way of life. Magical practitioners inevitably take hits from the inner worlds that have impacts on the outer body, the vessel of the soul. While some of this material was touched on in “Magic of the North Gate“, it is expanded upon in depth to a tenfold order in this text.  It will also be of interest and use to anyone involved in alternative healing modalities. The book contains methods of visionary healing, using tarot as a tool in diagnosis, chapters on homeopathy, herbs, and much more. It doesn’t matter what tradition you may belong to in magic, this book offers tools that are applicable across systems. Published by Mandrake of Oxford.

Time, Fate & Spider Magic by Oryelle Defenestrate-Bascule also came out in 2014. I must admit, my poem “The Spider” is quoted in full in his textual weave, but that’s not why it is is on this list. The book brings together a lot of the magical, theatrical and ritual work Oryelle has done over more than a decade. At close to 360 pages, with many illustrations, this work gives an in-depth account of all the work Oryelle has done exploring times web through magic and myth. Published by Avalonia Books.


The Summer Sacrifice” by Holly Hinton is an exemplar Young Adult novel whose themes revolve around the Underworld, human sacrifice, and the dark Goddess. The heroine Jamie Tuff suffers from the peculiar ailment of soul wandering. Perhaps as teenagers and young adults some of us have had spontaneous out of body experiences ourselves. Or even hopped into other peoples bodies as the character does, getting us into trouble. So we can relate. Something else to relate to: being both Gifted and Dangerous. In the isolated society on the Island in the book, being both Gifted and Dangerous is not a brand you want to carry around with you. Leading to more trouble. And when you want to find out what is really going on with throwing teenagers off the cliff to feed the Goddess, it really doesn’t help you look good in front of the authorities, all set against a backdrop of climate change and collapse. The tone of the language is very British and also steeped in the countries dry flavor of humor, which I quite enjoyed. Each chapter heading is graced with illustrations by Hinton which adds a nice touch and ties it in with traditional elements of publishing for younger readers.  As this is just book one of an ongoing story, I’m looking forward to where she takes The Master Games series next.


Other than the above I didn’t really read too many new releases in 2014. There are a number that are still on my wish list. These include:

Reasonances by Carl Abrahamason
David Tibet Sings Omega (by David Tibet)
The Peripheral by William Gibson
Wisht Waters by Gemma Gary

…and many more. But I’ll definitely be checking the above out.

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