Whose Side Are They On? Not Nelson Algren’s

New York Times headline (8-19-2015)

It doesn't take much for headline writers, editorialists, reporters, columnists, sports writers, what have you, to grab the reader's attention with a catchy phrase. Some phrases have become such favorites that you see them used over and over. But I would bet that in plenty of cases the journalists who make use of them don't know where they come from. This one, for instance. They probably think it comes from Lou Reed's song, when it actually comes from the title of Nelson Algren's novel, A Walk on the Wild Side. The phrase shows up so often that … [Read more...]

Islam’s Pashtun Warrior for Peace: Badshah Khan

Abdul Badshah Ghaffar Khan

Heathcote Williams is not a Muslim and finds the Koran "about as enjoyable as eating gravel." But his belief in, and devotion to, the "Muslim Ghandi" led him to write a book-length investigative poem Badshah Khan: Islamic Peace Warrior, published in June by the London-based Thin Man Press. It is one of Williams's best polemics in a Shelleyan genre that he has remade for our era. In the poem he describes Khan -- a lifelong activist for Pashtun independence and an opponent of religious sectarianism -- as a man who stood "six foot five inches … [Read more...]

Tibet Comes to Taos at ‘Enchanted Mountain’ Salon

CLICK for further details of Andrea Clearfield performance at the Enchanted Mountain Performance Space

The composer Andrea Clearfield will present her Tibetan Recording Project at the Enchanted Mountain Performance Space in downtown Taos, New Mexico, next Sunday, Aug. 30. It's free and open to the public. (See details of time and place.) "Clearfield's orchestral and choral works have been performed around the world," according to an advance program note. She will show original video and audio footage of her Tibetan music field work and discuss how it influenced both her life and her work. Clearfield will also perform examples of her compositions … [Read more...]

Time Capsule: Algren, Burroughs, Mailer, et al . . .

'The Z Collection' by Jan Herman [AC Books / NY], 2015

UPDATED: Aug. 25 -- The Z Collection is available for ordering on line. My staff of thousands insisted on a plug for me: The Z Collection: Portraits & Sketches -- my reflections on many of the writers and artists I have known, worked with, or written about -- is being published by AC Books in New York in time for the fall book season and is now listed for sale in the U.S. by Los Angeles-based RAM Books and Distribution. The title seems like a reference to “The X Files,” but I had something else in mind: the hidden “Z closet” at Harvard’s … [Read more...]

A Little-Known Master Artist’s ‘Uncollected’ Works

Norman O. Mustill with one of his wall-size collages. The photo, a self-portrait, was taken in 2005.

The pages of Uncollected illustrate the variety of the artworks that a little-known master artist produced over the years. Most of the pieces have appeared in scattered places but have never been collected in one place — thus the title. Norman O. Mustill, who died in 2013, also produced many other works that haven’t been collected or even seen by any but a few devotees, certainly not by art collectors. I’m thinking, for example, of the blazing series of riotous wall-size collages made of billboards fragments that hung in his California living … [Read more...]

‘Outside In’: Clayton Patterson at the Howl Gallery

Artwork by Clayton Patterson at 'Inside Out' exhibition, Howl Gallery, 2015

Now that ​A​i Weiwei has his passport back, ​will he​ ​​make it to New York in time to catch Clayton Patterson's art exhibition, "​O​utside In"? Ai says he's heading to Berlin, and he's planning shows of his own in London. Since 'Outside In" at the Howl Gallery runs only through mid-August, chances are he won't be able to make it. But it's worth noting that Ai Weiwei's admiration for Patterson is reflected in the catalogue for the show. "I consider Clayton a friend and I really like his style," he writes. "His style is like no-style. I … [Read more...]

‘Freedom Is a Career’ — Obituary for Mike Lesser

Mike Lesser

By Heathcote Williams His approach to life and politics was fueled by emotion rather than the twisted logic of compliance. Finding himself born into an era when life on earth seemed daily--and increasingly--under threat, Mike Lesser's logic was visceral. Other Angry Young Men long ago may have mellowed and somehow come to terms with a culture slouching towards self-destruction. He never did. Mike Lesser has died aged 71. He had a fiery baptism into the counterculture when arrested at the age of 16 along with the nonagenarian philosopher … [Read more...]

The Outsider Writer on the Inside of the Outside

Charles Plymell [photo by Gerard Malanga]

Charles Plymell (Charley to those who know him, Charlie to those who don’t) has been an outsider for decades, self-declared and otherwise, railing against everything that smacks of the inside -- especially the arbiters of government arts grants, who have unfailingly overlooked him, even against his old friend Allen Ginsberg, whom he relentlessly excoriates for having become an insider. Charley may be the most inside outsider around. It seems there’s no cultural/artistic/what-have-you outsider he hasn’t known at some point in his long life … [Read more...]

Mike Lesser, R.I.P.: ‘In Conversation With a Dying Friend’

'Death Taking a Piss' by Max Klinger with an excerpt from 'In Conversation With a Dying Friend' [Cold Turkey Press, 2015

Heathcote Williams's elegy is a meditation on death. Alan Cox reads it. The collage portrait of Mike Lesser as a young man is by Claire Palmer. https://soundcloud.com/jan-herman-gmail-com/in-conversation-with-a-dying-friend-by-heathcote-williams/s-WwPud The text of ‘In Conversation With a Dying Friend’ is posted for reading at IT: International Times. “ . . . my atoms will just disappear. “There’ll be a moment when I’m me, and then not. ...” -- Mike Lesser (quoted in 'In Conversation With a Dying Friend') Michael John Lesser, … [Read more...]

Artist Bronzes Writer’s Life and Work in a Store Window

Window Display by Vera Bronsen (Heidelberg, Germany), 2015 [Photo: Signe Maehler]

The German artist Vera Bonsen has a window assemblage currently on display in a Heidelberg storefront that bronzes the life and writings of the American expatriate poet Cody Maher. The paper hangings consist of poems, diaries, photos and so on from 30 years' worth of manuscripts. The artifacts include hats, a pair of boxing gloves, scattered notebooks, collages, and all sorts of props such as toys and figurines that he hoarded from childhood. Maher tells me, "I simply handed her my life, not on a silver platter but in a cardboard box." Have a … [Read more...]

A Spanking New German Edition of ‘Royal Babylon’

'Die Wiindsors Eine Schrecklich Nette Familie' Royal Babylon [Westend, 2015]

And now if you just care to look this way ... it's bi-lingual, too. The dark side of the English royal family From the publisher: Did you know that Queen Elizabeth II is the largest landowner in the world? She owns 10 times more land than the recently deceased King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. The history of the Windsors is as bizarre as it is appalling: arms deals, murderous feuds, xenophobia and undisguised sympathy for Nazism. The continuing positive image of the royal family can only be explained by the public's level of ignorance and … [Read more...]

Beat Scene Magazine Eyeballs ‘American Porn’

Review of 'AmericanPorn' by Michael Kearns in Beat Scene (winter issue, 2015)

My staff of thousands tells me that "American Porn" was reviewed in Beat Scene, a British magazine edited by Kevin Ring. That was news to me. Here's the review: The staff wanted to know what I thought of the review. I said I liked what the reviewer said about the poet: "Heathcote Williams is a troublemaker and has been for a very long time." It also pleased me that the reviewer took this quote from the liner notes: "His poetry is as radical in its polemics as Shelley's, whose visionary anarchism he considers indispensible." And of course … [Read more...]

‘The Multimillionaire Arms Dealer — By Appointment’

Illustration by Elena Caldera

A new poem by Heathcote Williams, posted at IT: International Times, begins like this: There’s no difference between being an arms dealer And being a wanted war criminal. Although you don’t have to get your hands bloody The results are equally abhorrent. But arms dealing will suit anyone used to gracious living In one dinosaur nest after another -- Such as Balmoral, or Clarence House, or Highgrove, Thanks to a billionaire mother. Read the complete poem here. … [Read more...]

The Prison Memoir That Caught Algren’s Attention

'A Memoir of San Quentin and Other Prisons,' by Malcolm Braly [1976]

Not long before the recent prison escape that's been making news, I mentioned to Colin Asher, who is writing a biography of Nelson Algren, that Algren once gave me a copy of Malcolm Braly's prison memoir. Braly recounts how he broke out of prison one time early in his career as a convicted teenage burglar. The escape was not very complicated, certainly nothing like the break from the maximum-security prison in Dannemora, but it was daring. It also wasn't long before he was caught. Algren liked the book so much he even signed it for me with one … [Read more...]

Carl Weissner Gets Stellar Notice in Book Podcast

Carl Weissner [Photo by Michael Montfort, 19XX, from 'Nachtmaschine']

In his latest podcast at realitystudio.org Jed Birmingham zeroes in on the immensely talented Carl Weissner and his cut-up novel The Braille Film. Birmingham, who met Weissner in New York and Paris, talks about what made him so memorable and how he bought the book at auction some years ago for $75, believing it and Weissner -- both -- were undervalued. The Braille Film, with a "counterscript" by William Burroughs serving as an introduction, was published in San Francisco in 1970 and was originally priced at $1.95. Today's asking price on the … [Read more...]

Of Poetry and Fakery, Cultural Theft, and Stolen Identity

Heathcote Williams [photo: JH]

The title of Heathcote Williams's memoir, Of Dylan Thomas and his Deaths, reflects the author's belief that the great Welsh poet died twice, not once. He writes, "It can be said that he was to suffer no less than two deaths at American hands." The first death, contrary to the accepted claim that he died of a drinking bout, refers to his "mistreatment with morphine by an incompetent and flamboyant doctor" in New York, who misdiagnosed his condition and "brought on the coma from which he would never recover." The second death came in the form of … [Read more...]