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...]

A New Literary Memoir Recalls Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas, circa 1938
 Photo © Nora Summers / Jeff Town / Dylans Bookstore
Taken at the home of Caitlin Thomas's mother, Yvonne Macnamara, in Ringwood, Hampshire.

See update. A few weeks ago I remarked that Of Dylan and his Deaths, by Heathcote Williams, was so rich in the author's personal history and "so evocative of his first inspiration, Dylan Thomas," that it merited attention as a masterpiece of literary investigation. (The investigative aspect of the essay involves Williams's indignation over "the cultural theft of Thomas's identity by a famous imposter" -- namely Bob Dylan -- which is hinted at in the subtitle: "An Essay on Poetry and Fakery.") I also claimed that the memoir was infused … [Read more...]

‘War Makes People Crazy, Religion Makes It Worse’

Poking around the web, a friend came across "the strangest article." It had been posted in the Israel Times in August, 2014, and was later taken down with an apology by the author. It asked, among other things: “If political leaders and military experts determine that the only way to achieve its goal of sustaining quiet is through genocide, is it then permissible to achieve those responsible goals?” The headline had given the answer: "When Genocide Is Permissible." I replied that the guy who wrote the commentary was "a local yokel -- you … [Read more...]

Recapped: R. Crumb Epic Home Video (Un, Deux, Trois)

From 'CRUMB LINES ON PAPER' [2011]

This video was recorded on April 29, 2011 at the Society of Illustrators in New York City, where the exhibition ran from March 23 to April 30. Curated by Monte Beauchamp, editor of The Life and Times of R. Crumb, the show was a retrospective that presented key pieces culled from the underground art collection of Eric Sack, with contributions from Paul Morris and John Lautemann. The laid-on soundtrack is "Pennies From Heaven," from "Ben Webster: King of the Tenors" (part one); a selection from Satie's "Nocturnes," played by Aldo Ciccolini (part … [Read more...]

New from Cold Turkey Press: ‘Of Dylan and his Deaths’

Cover 'Of Dylan and his Deaths' [Cold Turkey Press, 2015]

A writer as prolific as Heathcote Williams runs the risk of having his poems and prose taken for granted. But this essay — a memoir so rich in personal history, so evocative of his first inspiration, Dylan Thomas, and so indignant about the cultural theft of Thomas's identity by a famous imposter — merits attention as a masterpiece of literary investigation. It stands out for high purpose even among his most provocative and polemical works. Yet it is infused with a private tenderness that defies and surpasses moral abstraction. It has a … [Read more...]

Burroughs Makes Inroads, But What About Algren?

Burroughs wearing his fedora. [Photo: Harriet Crowder]

The British have always shown a serious interest in William Burroughs, evidenced by the fact that the most authoritative Burroughs scholars are or have been Brits such as Eric Mottram, Oliver Harris, and Ian MacFayden, for three examples, and that the most authoritative Burroughs biography, Call Me Burroughs, was written by another Brit, Barry Miles. But when John Banville makes a "soft machine" reference to Burroughs in the conclusion of his excellent review of John Gray's "bleak yet bracing new book," The Soul of the Marionette, you know … [Read more...]

Poem for the Cleaning Women: ‘We Are All Holy’

Judith Malina 'We Are All Holy' [Sloow Tapes, 2015]

https://soundcloud.com/sloowtapes/judith-malina Courtesy of Bart de Paepe's Sloow Tapes This is a historical recording by Judith Malina, who died two weeks ago. I've transcribed the text the way it struck my ear, but its true power can't be fully appreciated until you've heard her read the poem for yourself. -- JH every one of the cleaning women / dreamt of something else / when she was seventeen. / they smile. / they joke. / they sigh / in their smocks and their comfy shoes. / they try not to recall the plans / for a miracle or a … [Read more...]

The Extinction Lesson of a Comical, Salutary Creature

Illustration © by Elena Caldera

But the bird was fearless and easily lured aboard By an offer of unlimited ship’s biscuits. By a miracle the bird survived the crew’s curiosity And their wondering if it tasted delicious. After it had lived out its life in England A taxidermist was called when it died. He stuffed it and, to retain its luxuriant plumage, Cunning preservatives were applied. Its first owner in its afterlife was John Tradescant, Who passed it onto Elias Ashmole, Since when this comical but salutary creature Has become a curator of the earth’s … [Read more...]

Sinclair Beiles: Poet of Many Parts and Places

Sinclair Beiles in 1969 [from 'Bone Hebrew,' Cold Turkey Press]

Dyehard Press has re-issued Who Was Sinclair Beiles? in a revised and expanded edition. I posted an item about the first edition when it was published five years ago. It's hard to believe so much time has passed. As I wrote then, Beiles was best known for his association with the Beats. He collaborated on Minutes to Go with William Burroughs, Brion Gysin, and Gregory Corso, and helped to shepherd Burroughs’ manuscript of Naked Lunch into print at the Paris-based Olympia Press, where he worked as an editor. "Best known" is a questionable term, … [Read more...]