Effits Undy

glimpses at poets and pubs dubbed underground

Saturday, February 27, 2016

six degrees of Walla Walla

i was thinkin how in the underground poetry press, there are 6 DEGREES OF CHARLES POTTS. like Kevin Bacon, one can trace any workin-hard for no money poet back, within 6, and surely, many less degrees than that. 
i came across him in a used bookstore when i was 18 yrs old. his memoir was in the fiction section for $5. VALGA KRUSA THE YELLOW CHRIST had an author's photo on the back of a deranged hippy, and i thot the photo alone was worth the price.
VALGA KRUSA tells the story of Charles working away as a poet and publisher, leading up to a COSMEP in late 1960s Berkeley, CA which he had a lot to do with putting on, as his mind cleverly cracked itself in a hilarious, if heart-breakingly, and at times scary manner...complete with poems and a strong message: beware those who toil on book covers, peddle to bookstores, care about things like truth and beauty. mainly, beware if you so choose to live your little poets life.
some years after reading the book, i worked at the same bookstore i found it in, and who should come to Cleveland for a reading, but Potts himself. i was shocked the man was still alive, and tickled to find he was still writing. 
jump 14 yrs and here we are. --Bree
Effits: What wld you tell a would-be reader of your latest manuscript, PILGRIM & MARTEL (Least Bittern Books 2015)?
Potts: PILGRIM & MARTEL is a set of Siamese twins I found on my hard drive, conjoined at the hip by their shared rational exuberance for satirizing theology. Pilgrim is a set of standup routines using the American trope of the same name. Martel is in the form of a play, historical transmogrification of the Frankish king, Charlemagne’s grandfather, as he defeated the Moslem armies of Abdul Al Ramon, the governor of Cordoba, in 732. Much fun both texts, smooth reading with a vengeance. Make that revengeance, as there will be no human progress until the race sheds its pathetic propensity for theological fantasies, ie transmigration of souls, virgin births, reincarnations, etc. My belief is stronger than yours.
Effits:What is up your sleeve currently?
Potts: both arms.
Effits: What wld u say about the poetry festivals and events that go on today, versus what was happening in the late 1960s?
Potts: Well, as my old friend and great poet John Oliver Simon said in cement on Adison Avenue in Berkeley, the Poet’s Commune of 1968 is as good as it gets. I’ve been to a lot of great readings subsequently, in Washington state with Burning Word and Bumbershoot, in Texas with the Charles Potts Magic Windmill Band, in Colorado with Lithic Press recently, and all over, Cleveland, Northampton, MA. I think we may have been too idealistic in the 60s, ie the whole thing collapsed, the wars go on, etc. People are either more realistic or more cynical, and why not be both?
Effits: Aside from it being futile, what wld you tell a young publisher of indy poetry?
Potts: Carry on. Publish literature, that is writing so well written it cries out to be read over and over again. Get it as widely distributed as your methods and money will permit. Art enobles chimpanzees with a gene for speech, that would be us.
Effits: Of all of your work, which would you choose to give to a NON-POET? To Undy, these are the ones to really reach--i am not sure if you agree?
Potts: My non-poet friends here in Walla Walla like anything well done, as observed by their respect for and purchases of poets as diverse as klipschutz and Karen Waring Sykes. The question itself is a tuff one. I am always most interested in the most recent, ie The Source (Green Panda Press 2014), the aforementioned Pilgrim andMartel (Least Bittern Books 2015), and the forthcoming Coyote Highway. The most ambitious work I ever produced is the two part series, once called The Chill at Appomattox or as published How the South Finally Won the Civil War: and Controls the Political Future of the United States. It is political and economic geography as collage. Looks like prose is in fact an anti-columbiad poem. Its companion piece, an original work in Linguistic Geography, Across the North Pacific, will be news for a long time. For a quick breezy read, I still hanker after Nature Lovers, composed in a flash in 1989. And of course anybody who bothers to read it loves Valga Krusa.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Homage Agent

"Self Centered"

Once and again Clevelander Steven B. Smith's AGENT OF CHAOS website features poetry and art-much of it from Cleveland's own underground, as well as his own work. it serves as an archive of the holy unholy.

the site he says he:

"started it September 2001 with 20-30 pages my friend had put up for me, then added another 3,000 pages myself."

it was quite a while before i knew he had been putting up my Green Panda Press titles. he kept track--while i never did--of what i was doing. fuck i still dont. i need an Agent....

get it?

"Moon Meat"

at some point..... the sculptor, photographer, poeter, publisher Steve met Kathy, aka Lady K, who i originally published as Kathy Ireland Smith and is now Kathy Smith.....anyway they got rid of ALL of Steves art, decades of hoarding--i mean, his studio home was wall to wall, floor to ceiling covered in art and ephemera, with enough books to keep a good boy from his sticks and stones for longer than i would care to live....

and toured the world. im not sure he knew that he would.....but he began a new blog WALKING ON THIN ICE in June of 2006, which was his and Kathy's art and words, often entangled, as they were in Morocco, Poland, Italy, Mexico...and the two love birds keep at it to this day, Kathy were her tidily kept quarterly online journal of some of the best indy poetry, littered with unique, intriguing artwork, which she calls  The City mag

in Steve's own words, this is how it all went down:

"Lady stayed over 9.9.2005 and basically never left.
She moved in 2 weeks later. Week after that we decided
to sell the place and go overseas. Married March 2006.
Left the country August 1, 2006. Came back March 2009.
10 countries, 3 continents, maybe 20 cities."


on AGENT OF CHAOS he put up 13 different artists but
and the work of 513 contributing poets and artists, from 21 issues of ArtCrimes -the print mag he designed and made for no reason other than a mad compulsion (my own words) between 1986-2006

it is the only way to explain it---or i'll just say Steven B. Smith is Effin Undy.

ill leave you with a poem Steve posted 1/13/08  =he and Kathy collaborated on it....
and check in often as he and Kathy keep pressing on, at WALKING ON THIN ICE


water is sneaky. also, patient, and insidious.
it’ll beat against you for thousands of years
in big waves
until it smoothes you down
or breaks you apart.

or it’ll lie still in quiet pools,
and insidiously work
on the weakest




and moving.

And then when water does slowly sneak
inside, and lie in wait,

then it can FREEZE and EXPAND with


(so water is sneaky,

while SOUND is slippery
(and sneaky)

SOUND slip slides off every flat surface

SOUND double or triple slip slides..

skips from here
to there

(so you think what came from there
came from here.)

SOUND plays tag with yr ears
and lies
a lot.

Plus, in destructive force, SOUND


wears away

--Steven B. Smith

Steven B. Smith's longtime business card

work in progress by poet/bee keeper now as well Kathy Smith

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

John Swain- The Next Big Thing- Q & A

                                   Photo by Lynn Alexander. (c) 2012

Bree invited me to participate in "THE NEXT BIG THING," a chain-letter blog project where an author asks five other authors to answer the following questions about one of the author's books, and each is meant to post their answers on their blog, with links to the other authors' blogs. (Bree generously provided this space for me.) 

What is the title of the book?

JS: White Vases

Where did the idea come from for the book?

JS: The idea behind the book was to build a welcoming home for some stray pieces I had that I really liked, but had had a hard time placing. These odd pieces complemented and reinforced some previously published work that I was planning to use for a different collection. Without a prior realization, the poems all seemed to examine the nature and movement of vessels and water- things coming together and moving apart and the resultant changing. The sequencing of the poems began to flow intuitively.  Just little pictures of wherever my center may have been at a particular time.    

What genre does your book fall under?

JS: Poetry. Much clatter and palaver is made over sub-genres in poetry, but I don’t find these distinctions instructive or useful as a reader. Words are vehicles to approximate what is essentially unsayable.  If a poem has heart, then it has heart. The limited perspective and circumstances of the poet are simply an interesting window dressing to the actual communication.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

JS: Hmmm. I would probably have my friend Brian’s daughter, Hannah, play the rain. Lon Chaney could play a white vase. Bill Pullman would be God and all my friends and I would be the trees.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

JS: The extended sound of an imperiled goat-cry.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

JS: Most of the poems in White Vases were written over a period of two to three years. I started the poem, “Promise of Rivers,” a little farther back.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

JS: Poetry is not created, but uncovered. Poetry exists outside of the writer’s mind and senses in the people and things around us. I once tried to look within and didn’t find anything very interesting or worthwhile. So, I took my dull chisel and just fashioned and reshaped little flakes of things from a magic and vitality that is always and already out there.    

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

JS: The cover art was kindly provided by the wonderful Cleveland artist, Steven Smith.

Is your book self-published or represented by an agency?

JS: White Vases was published by the independent Crisis Chronicles Press out of Northeastern Ohio. Crisis Chronicles has a diverse and extensive catalogue. All of the titles are produced by editor, John Burroughs, a talented and widely published poet in his own right.

Find White Vases here:


I have tagged the great Kevin Ridgeway and his answers will be posted to the link below on 2/20/13.

Kevin Ridgeway:


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Jim Lang aka Lang


i bartended a place called Barking Spider May 2000-April 2008. id been there a few months when a favorite customer of mine, Duane, an older, bone-thin Republican alumn of Cleveland Institute of Art, said to me (pointing to a crotchety old man who stood outside) you need to meet Jim Lang.

i looked at the guy outside and turned to Duane, "ive known enough old guys."

which got a smirk because they were all old guys at the Spider. Duane was not dissuaded, however, and soon enough the old man Jim Lang stood before me, trying to order a Rolling Rock. except he couldnt get a word in.

"Bree, meet Lang," Duane insisted, "shes a poet."

"so?" said Lang.

"shes a good one," Duane assured him.

"are you good?" Lang asked me.

"very," i boasted, without giving eye contact to Lang, and made my way to the cooler to grab another 12 of Rock.

when i returned Lang still stood next to Duane. he said, "if youre serious about poetry, i have a monthly bagozine reading on West 25th."

"whats a bagozine reading?" i asked. i really could not have guessed.

"we stand or sit and read or sing or rant."

he added, "i publish a magazine and give them out for free, but you have to go to the readings to collect."

"how do i submit?" i asked.

"youre serious," he said.

"i am," i told him. then i said, "here."

i put a piece of bar scrap on the bar between us, and began scribbling a poem from memory. Lang watched, and seemed amazed. i copied it out neat:

my mother prays for me.
she's slung a cheap plastic rosary
about a bad high school picture
when i spoked my hair and
turned my head down.

there is emotion in prayer.
i do not feel what she feels.
God and i laugh atop one
another like stairs.

we sip brandy from mugs and
throw yellow nuts at the night.

only God understands my mother.
she is like a tree in God's army sprouting,
sprouting against what might.

one time i stole a poem from God's
back pocket, tucked it behind a shelving.
He and i have never mentioned this.

"how did you do that?" he said, incredulous.

turns out Lang doesnt memorize poems. or he says he doesnt. i am willing to bet he could pull some old rehearsed lines from his pantleg, if pressed. he told me to put my email down on the bar scrap so he could e me about the readings. a couple days later he eed so i eed back. i included a couple other memorized poems. they all ended up in his bagozine. but i didnt come to his reading. in fact, in the ten years since weve been friends i managed only to make it to one W. 25th St. open reading hosted by Jim Lang. this is a fact he loves to bring up, for its irony, seeing how the day i eed Lang the first time was the day he and i became best friends.

ten years later, probably to the week, if not the day, i still call him my best friend. we make a pair, the two ovus. he is seventy to my 32. we both of us have swagger, mostly, and spite, times. we swill beer better than most drunks take whiskey. we have on our person somehow always some book or broadside, gatefold, bookmark, flyer containing great poetry by working-class poets or poets who have no more than one-and-a-half feet in the academy. he reads APR while i dig through the online mags of the underground. we discover emerging voices and get great mail, on account of manning presses that, tho small have big impact on like and like poets. about the same time he retired his bagozine i stopped considering material, hell i considered by then that poetry had made me sick, maybe. i came down with something good that hasnt left me and gave up paper and ink for the time being.

ive got two rooms of paper donated me by grand old small presses of the past and intend to pass it along someday to an eager poet who wants what i wanted with the reams--to turn like people on with art and poetry. Lang predicts ill be publishing online someday. stubborn and determined to see that he is never right about anything, i resist, so far.

today he had some work in an art show at Cleveland State University, regarding works on paper. i missed the show, not wanting to take a bus in the rain. okay, i missed the show because i am a bad friend. but i want to make it up to Lang, so im posting this story on how we met and ill include some of his work so you get a better portrait.

Jim Lang aka Lang

sends me emails saying this:
Monk he do---controlled blood flow to one leg & lips

“poems are to be read to those who understand them
While sake is to be taken with one who knows you”--sengai

and takes photos of important places in the city like this shot of Daniel Thompson's poem hanging across the street from the West Side Market:

and general junk like this::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

and this shot of Mark Stueve outside the Bookstore on West 25th
plus this poem/storee::::::::::::::::::

 now, go on and open a cold one for Jim (echoes without saying) Lang.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Illustrious Andrew Bar

Andy Bar is an artist musician who is based in Cleveland, Ohio. Andy started his illustrious art career way back in grade school where his specialty was drawing pictures of Garfield, the cat, for his classmates. He sold these pictures for a dollar a piece to his fellow students. One time a kid offered Andy five dollars to draw a picture of Garfield holding a gun. Andy should have respectably declined this offer on moral grounds, but he didn’t. Five dollars goes along way for a kid. Thankfully, this was in Pre-Columbine days. Andy knew drawing bootleg pictures of Garfield could only take him so far in his art career so Andy eventually branched out to creating his own characters comics.

Upon graduation from high school Andy decided to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He learned everything from painting, printmaking, animation, puppetry, illustration, to video editing. He also wrote and performed music on his own time. While living in Chicago he met a fellow musician by the name of Josephine Foster. They decided to collabarate and formed the band kown as The Children's Hour. They released the nationally distributed album S.O.S. J.F.K. They performed at an open mic hosted by none other then Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins fame. The Children's Hour tickled his fancy and he asked them if they would like to open up for him on his Zwan North American tour. They said yes (well duh!). For awhile Andy was sidetracked from his fine art endeavors so he could concentrate on living the musicians life.

After this chapter in his life settled down a bit he returned to his passion for writing and illustrating stories in the comic book form.

A comic he did was once featured on the popular celebrity gossip site Perezhilton.com. Andy continues to do art and music to this day and is patiently awaiting his next big break.

Check out his work and inquire about his new CD (indie childrens music) at Facebook!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Michael Gill Giveth the Scoop on Michael Gill

Michael Gill is Arts Editor at Cleveland SCENE Magazine, makes books by hand and knows a bit about the fringe element.  He is one guy who always throws the poets a bone in print, in a town where seldom is there room for such dreck, and now he dishes with the Panda.

Bree: name five songs that just kill you.

Michael Gill: There are a lot of songs that really kill me, and a huge range. Latin (salsa/meringue) as well as folk, classical, afropop, celtic, funk, jazz. I’m not a huge rock fan, though I grew up in MMS’ glory days. I dig Franklin’s show “On the One” on WRUW, and Tony Vasquez’ Latin Perspectives. I tend to binge on one album or even song at a given time, listening over and over, blasting in my car.  But here are five artists and six songs that consistently knock me flat:

Sylvio Rodriguez, La Masa
Fela Kuti, Sorrow Tears and Blood, or Coffin for Head of State
Shostakovich violin concerto
Leonard Cohen, Halleluja
Beethoven string quartet no. 131

Bree: are u making art books?

MG: YES! I started making one-of a kind books to package single messages to my lovely wife Lisa, or to collect the formative speech of our kids when they were just learning. “It’s a tiny little big one,” said my daughter. “poonis” said my son. I would type these things up, organized in little books, and hard bind them.

Then I decided to write a story based on characters my kids invented—Clam Boy and Big Sister Kitty. To print them I carved words and pictures into linoleum block and cranked the pages through an etching press one at a time. I made 100 copies each, of two Clam Boy & Big Sister Kitty stories. They are about two superheroes cleaning up the landscape—especially removing those blue plastic grocery bags that get caught in trees, but also broken bottles and other litter.

Then I got onto a letterpress machine and made a little single sheet book, with a rhyme called “Velo-City,” which is about riding bikes in the city. That project also put me onto wood block illustration.

I’m currently working on a collection of children’s rhymes which will be illustrated with wood cuts.

“After your bedtime,
 the fire still burns,
the grownups keep talking,
the starry sky turns.

After your bedtime,
 the owls come out,
the grownups keep talking,
who knows what about.

After your bedtime,
the moon gets up high,
the grownups keep talking,
nobody knows why.”

Bree: what's your neighborhood?

MG: I live in Lakewood, third house north of Detroit Road on my street.

Bree: do u like living there? (planning to stay?)

MG: Yeah, love it. I can walk to a decent wine shop, a good convenience store, restaurants, bars, dairy queen, and much more in less than five minutes. We’re actually looking for another house, but we want to stay in the same neighborhood to keep the kids in the same school, and also to keep the same level of convenience. Lakewood is generally great for both of those things.

Bree: favorite Cleveland band/artist just now?

MG: The Revolution Brass Band! They play deep instrumental funk, all acoustic. It’s two trumpets, two trombones, two saxes, tuba for bass, plus kit. Last Sunday of every month at Edisons, plus other assorted gigs.

Favorite Cleveland artist . . .  Jeez. I love Brinslye Tyrell’s Ohio landscape enamels—enamel glaze painted in ohio landscapes, baked onto metal panels—wild colors and flowing lines. I also really like Chris Pekoc’s stitched up goddess, and Doug Utter’s magnificently cracked puddles of latex worked into portraiture and landscapes. And Amy Casey’s houses and neighborhoods teetering on stilts and swinging from power lines. they kill me.

Bree: was it a good year for allergies?
MG: Yeah, for me it was pretty good. I think largely because I keep them under control with various medications. I’ve had prescriptions to deal with this for years, but what makes the difference for me between a good year and a bad one is my own responsibility to taking the stuff. I snort flonase some days. If I did that every day I’d probably never have a bad day. I also inhale Advair, which keeps me breathing well. The other thing that will help me deal with this is when my cats die. My allergy issues—esp. athsma—became a real concern when we got two cats. I love them dearly. It will be horrible when  they finally do die, but I will be able to breath without meds.

Bree: FREE TIMES versus SCENE, whats different?

MG: Crazy swings, even within those individual papers, depending on who owned them and who was in charge. When I started at the Free Times it was owned by Village Voice Media, was in competition with the Scene, then owned by New Times, out of Phoenix. Both papers had 50 full timers—a total of 100 people working in Cleveland altweeklies.  Neither was run by the people who launched them. Next stage for the Free Times was a smaller staff, and a ridiculous amount of editorial freedom . . . but constant worry about whether we’d be in business the following month, because the competition was so fierce. Then it began to feel like we were stable, and we had a good cohesive crew in the Editorial side. Then came the merger, and we all felt like we could relax economically.  That hasn’t really worked out that way, as changes and layoffs continued. There are just 23 full timers employed in Cleveland altweeklies now.

The more interesting differences had to do with changing editors and editorial staffs, though. Each editor had different interests. David Eden was very aggressive and cranky and loved to bash city and county government. Of course that was an important thing to do sometimes. Frank Lewis gave us huge liberty, was interested in subtlety and complex stories, and especially willing to let writers pursue what interested them. That’s when I wrote about race relations on the slam scene, graffiti writers along the red line, wild dogs in Rockefeller Park, the anarchist Catholic Worker community getting arrested for protesting the war.  These days we’re more focused on finding stories that have compelling narrative lines.

Bree: when did u know it would be journalism?

MG: It took me a long time to get to journalism. In college I never thought that would be me, and so I never pursued it. I expected to be a college poetry professor or something. So I went to grad school, got an MFA, published a couple of poetry chaps, took a PR job in DC because it was DC and good, stable money. Quit after four years to move to Ecuador to learn Spanish so that when I went to PHD school for my (then planned) comparative lit degree, I’d have the language part nailed. That didn’t work out, so I came back to Cleveland, got into the poetry scene in the early nineties, started doing PR for Beck Center. Did that until 2001 when I got my first journalism job at age 34. These are the best jobs I’ve ever had because we find our own stories. If I were advising anyone younger who had any interest in journalism, Id advise them to not wait as long as me to get into it, but also to be prepared for lots of economic uncertainty.

Bree: poetry or red wine?

MG: Lately it’s been non-fiction and red wine. Though I did binge on all the Harry Potter books, to keep ahead of my daughter. Right now I’m reading Bikesnob’s book. For the uninitiated, Bikesnob is the New York blogger who writes with great wit and prodigious sarcasm about bicycle culture. His blog is better than his book. The more careful editorial process that goes into books took some of the life out of his prose.

Bree: fine dining or outdoor on Erie shore?

MG: I love the erie shore, but I like to be in control while eating. I have a little bit of the same issue with fine dining. It’s great to have someone take care of you, and great food is magnificent, but I’m a real fan of cooking in my own kitchen and having people to eat with there. My family –Lisa and two kids— sit down to eat together most days. At the moment we’re all happy with fresh veggies from the garden.

Bree: what drives you into the sunset?
MG: Besides Lisa? I’d have to say my new bike. I raced bicycles in the eighties, then stopped, and so for the last ten or so years I’ve biked a lot, but it’s all been back and forth to work on the same Raleigh mountain bike, set up with fat slicks for the city. Great for pot holes and curbs, but sluggish in its handling, and slow as hell. So I went shopping on craigs list and found my new bike. I never though I’d be psyched about a Schwinn bike. My old racing bike was a Colnago with top quality racing parts—the kind of machine you’d carry on a romance with. But my new schwinn . . . totally built for speed, too, and with Columbus tubes, Cinelli bars and stem, and a total suntour group. It’s from 1987, but it looks like nobody ever rode it. I rode it to work for the second time today. It flies. Totally old school, but my hand falls right into place to reach the down tube shifters. Bicyclists reading this will know what I’m talking about.

Bree: any big plans?

MG: Boy oh boy do I have big fucking plans. When I finish rebuilding my front porch ceilings I’m going to jack up my sagging back porch. I’m headed for Vermont in August and taking my bike with me.

My book—the woodcuts with children’s rhymes—I’m hoping to finish that before the year is over, though the odds are against me. I want to show the prints at a gallery and have a book launch party.

I want to go back to the UK with some old friends and hike Offa’s Dyke Path.

I want to write a book called “The Bread machine is a tool of the Revolution,” and another one called “The Opposite of Vandalism.”


BIO Time:

Michael Gill sayeth:::::::::::: I was born at Fairview Hospital, which is technically in Cleveland. I grew up in North Olmsted while there were still vacant lots there. Interstate 480 didn’t exist for some of that time, and neither did Great Northern Mall. I went to St. Ignatius High School, played football and wrestled, but also got heavily into biking and dropped the other sports.

I knew by then that I liked to write. I went to Hiram College to study English. Moved to Washington State for graduate school, got an MFA in poetry there studying with James McCauley and others. I started playing flute at that time. By now I’ve been at it 20 years, mostly self taught, mostly improvising.

 Having spent a term in England during college I went back there fur a summer between grad school years to work as a laborer on the first passive solar heated building in the UK—the Caer Llan field study center, near Monmouth, Wales. There were sheep farms and stone houses hundreds of years old, and here and there pre-roman stone monuments.

After grad school  I moved to Washington DC, living on Capitol Hill and in Adams Morgan, writing press releases for the Federal Government. Quit that job after four years, moved to Ecuador, where I collected graffiti, taught English, broke up with a longtime girlfriend, hiked the Inca trail, and so on. Read Pablo Neruda.

Back in the US I once had five part time jobs, writing freelance for a newspaper, technical writing about machines, teaching English 101 at a community college, slinging coffee at the University Circle Arabica, and another freelance writing gig. I went to work for one season at an outdoor education camp in central Ohio, taking 5th graders out in the woods.

Some time after that I started working for Beck Center. I had been doing poetry readings around town, organized a series at Beck, and when they had a pr job and I was living in a roach infested efficiency, I took it. I worked there for 7 or 8 years. Got married. Bought a house. Had two kids. The hugest things are what we toss off in these short sentences. Got married. Bought a house. Had two kids. Sometime in the midst of that I started working for so called alternative newspapers. 

(Michael Gill looking off at the Erie Shore).