glimpses at poets and pubs dubbed underground

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.



  1. thats a neat story to hear, knowing you both...

  2. Knew Lang well in Columbus late sixties and Toronto thereafter. Shared home brew, a few lovers, darkrooms, stoned couches, many friends, insights and confusions… bottles of Ripple Pagan Pink. Lang prided himself in being able to speak words in burp syllables… and even fart syllables. One day the heady discussion we were sharing was interrupted by a flabby flatulent utterance… "Dostoevsky"

    Just by coincidence, about a month ago I was in my office (photo teaching) at University of Toronto. A few years back some stranger donated random photo equipment to the University including a dry mount press. I calculate that the device had languished in random storage rooms for about 45 years without being used. A student asked me to test it but the damn thing wouldn't close properly. I fiddled with hinges and nuts and bolts and levers but it never closed all the way. In the course of investigation, I pulled out a foam rubber pad and there it was! An almost virgin box of Kodak paper with maybe 90 sheets left. It was stale dated 1971. But in bold magic marker across the lid was a single scrawled word… "LANG". I'll have to find an old whiskey tube or cigar box and make some pinhole images.

    I am especially looking for a small Lang snapshot of a dripping water stain on a building wall…. a fine rapidograph pen stroked and circled a single word…. "pithy".

    He was one of the best inspirations I had as a photographer.

    1. i will post this on his FB page (made the day after we lost him) in case anyone knows of this photo--someone just might. what an amazing coincidence...or as he would say coincidance. thanks for sharing.