Tuesday, March 31

Nasreddin Shifflett sonnets

I was lucky enough to prevent a heroic crown of sonnets around a character named Nasreddin Shifflett this past weekend at an Appalachian Studies Conference. That sounds more prestigious than it really was, because basically I stood in front of like six people, most of whom I already knew. But the ideas were scattered, and sometimes they take seed and sometimes they don't.
I felt a strong pride in the work I do, which I don't often find due to the overwhelming obscurity of my creative work. I am not a marketer, and unfortunately in a system ruled by money where people validate their work through how much they sell to people, most of our creative industries are more ruled by marketing than doing the actual work. That's not meant to disparage all successful art as bullshit commodity, because good stuff does sneak through. But I find my time on this earth limited, and I can't dedicate that limited time to trying to convince others to focus through the unrelenting fog and acknowledge what I do. That's difficult to accomplish, and takes precious time away from actually working on new shit.
This is from a project called Freestyle Sonnets where I'm writing 76 heroic crowns of sonnets. A crown is where last line of one sonnet becomes first line of next, and the last line of the last sonnet in the set is the first line of the first one, thus making a circular crown, so to speak. In a heroic crown, the fourteen sonnets - in addition to being a circular crown - also have their last line combine to compose a fifteenth heroic sonnet. It's fucked up, mathematical, complicated, and fun as hell because I stick to the freestyle concept of not thinking about it and just letting my mind or heart or gut or whatever shoot words into place.
Anyways, since I presented this cycle of sonnets this past weekend, and I've yet to self-publish the first two volumes of freestyle sonnets (probably late spring for those books), I figured I'd share the Nasreddin Shifflett heroic crown - about a hillbilly mystic mountain man in Appalachia, touching on various aspects to mountain life (poverty, there's one about moonshining, one about ginseng harvests, one about privatized prisons, junkyards, so and so forth).

#197
Single drop of spirit born upon mountain top,
Nasreddin Shifflett birthed simple in dimly-lit
ramshackle cabin carved into Blue Ridge backdrop,
to mother of rabbit means, as well as dimwit
father who never bothered with numbers or books,
getting by with calloused hands able to twist dirt
into sustenance for his small flock, “stupid” looks
which knew not the names of famous men in silk shirt
pictures from history; but he could scan green land,
distinguish each plant, knowing their benefits range
in the old world ways of cunning folk, learned firsthand
listening at his grandma on limited grange
graciously scrabbled together on steep hillside,
piecemealing sacred life where faulty lines collide.

#198
Piecemealing sacred life where faulty lines collide,
blood native to this continent had existed
long before a new-found “civilized” world had tried
to buffer these “wild” men with crudely enlisted
indentured Celts, who pioneered west, through thick brush
of unplowed land, creating legal claims for lords
back east; further more, runaway slaves made bum’s rush
into hills to build life free of devils’ accords;
these various misfits for order intermixed
in meandering proximity, giving birth
to marooned people of mountains, living betwixt
the feral past of man, and this civilized earth,
developed with disgust for just one drop non-white,
so many ruled wrongly developed strong insight.

#199
So many ruled wrongly developed strong insight
into rhythms perhaps ancient, or maybe just
ignored by ears refined beyond accepting sprite
song or dark muses speaking of sin, cents, and lust;
classical training ain’t true to frontier’s strange twang,
so we made our own music, from soul, not the mind,
“always on the sunny side” young Shifflett’s voice sang,
echoing through hollers, hollering back in kind,
finding kin and kindling, forming choirs around fires,
feasting in communion with canopy of stars;
down below, fine folks muttered hymns under sharp spires,
navigating paved world in gold chariot cars;
our world’s too wild for soothing sounds to be applied,
hooting and stomping through days, with nowhere to ride.

#200
Hooting and stomping through days, with nowhere to ride,
Nasreddin Shifflett applied worn boots to railroad
ties, where tracks creepy crawled round blasted mountainside,
to haul plunder from earth’s belly, steel snakes’ full load
whining slowly away, while our mystic sat still –
idling – absorbing energy from all that work,
forged by lava fire, compressed into tools for will
of man; simple spike for example, born from murk
of iron and carbon, sledge-driven into ground,
to hold the snakes’ path in place, under heavy weights
both literal and psychic; the human force found
in each single chiseled spike intensely creates
power which can be conjured from cunning insight;
building sigils from detritus – that’s how we fight.

#201
Building sigils from detritus, that’s how we fight,
letting shined hot rods revert back to rust, resting
in pine shade, adding other dead rides; rural blight
filling fields with mechanisms, junked yard nesting
into edges of vast compounds, spread as needed
across family land, creating immense charge
of chi – dilapidated feng shui, lounge seeded
and scattered, storage shed schoolbuses looming large,
vehicles missing windshields, doors, quarter panels –
deteriorating hulks which once had power
still have power stored, psycho-kinetic channels
unseen but swirling in invisible tower
tornado of energy, attempting to stall
the spread of shineface logic, developing all.

#202
The spread of shineface logic developing all
with profit in mind, not sustaining existence,
much life requires time to take root – spring, summer, fall,
long dormant winter building rhizome resistance
to death’s incessant grip; Nasreddin watched ginseng
slowly grow wild on backwoods spiritual paths,
healing energy blossoming bit more each spring,
as larger biosphere commanded, despite math’s
devious calculations, valley world’s value
grew, imposing on poor folks the notion to pick
communal land plants for personal misuse through
selling off simple access to self-health for sick
stack of quickly diminished coins, abstracting fruits
into complicated wealth schemes, lacking deep roots.

#203
Into complicated wealth schemes, lacking deep roots,
men first dug holes into these mountains to extract
coal – powering that black-and-white world, simple boots
trudging into earth’s bowels with shovel, compact
pathways caved in at times, causing collateral
damage with public; thus dynamite tactics were
developed, blasting and scraping, mechanical
monsters replaced men’s muscle, energy transfer
from inside gaia to silk pockets, sediments
lost, landscape reshaped by bulldozer blade razing
heavenly hills down to denuded detriments,
scraps of what once was, poisoned well-meaning phrasing
legally stating the land was reclaimed; once tall
proud ridges flattened to manifest false windfall.

#204
Proud ridges flattened to manifest false windfall,
but worthless hollers still hide lost souls attempting
to tread water where economic wells have all
dried up; yet beyond relentless bills pre-empting
a simpler life in the hills, beyond the tragic
“Freebird” deaths of uncles and sons, past the turning
out of women’s dreams into tricks, there’s still magic,
a collective will of the wisp that’s still burning
bright at night – luciferin guides through long struggles
of darkness, the fire of the cunning fox shining
lime green as earth spirit aura guiding juggles
of manmade trifles in natural land, pining
for man’s hollers being full of wild rebel hoots,
some still sow redemptive seeds without thought for fruits.

#205
Some still sow redemptive seeds without thought for fruits
attached to actions, mashing corn into copper
kettles welded for self over all, putting boots
to wooded path hidden from sight, ragtag hopper
fermenting lightning under white shine of half-moon
crescent, smiling down like cheshire angel, distilled
spirits fill plastic and glass jugs – gallon platoon
to march off, concealed in metallic muscle, skilled
drivers at wheel, avoiding authority’s eyes,
flashing lights in rear views – fuck the law; we’ve always
scratched out this hardscrabble life despite wolf’s disguise
in white lamb’s cloth; we’re black sheep by birth, pointing gaze
at guidance of lunar light, not blind legal book,
fueled by spirits, circumstance forces us to cook.

#206
Fueled by spirits, circumstance forces us to cook,
sometimes disabled by the very hard life we
recklessly embrace, caught like human catfish – hook,
line, sinker; bottom feeders allegedly free,
trapped in our own rural rubble, rubbish broken,
and we know it, having had our noses rubbed hard
into our own natural lack, these words spoken
constantly combined with little past prison yard
or army deployment moving us before death,
leaves us self-medicating, numbing the self-hate,
stabbing endless pain with methamphetamine breath
and oxycodone bloodstream – speed up/slow down fate,
altering perception briefly, from life’s cruel ruse –
from birth, feeling firsthand how this world will abuse.

#207
From birth, feeling firsthand how this world will abuse,
taking up serpents daily, speaking in broken
tongues these suit-and-tie devils seemingly confuse
as foreign language, thinking their wealth is token
into paradise, but these golden idols they
worship ain’t possessed by holy ghost spirit – hell
no; we cast them out these hills; all days are Sunday –
we believe with all our hearts, struggling to expel
evil – ain’t no grave gonna hold our bodies down
when Gabriel’s trumpet starts to sounding on earth;
law ain’t about what’s right – we can’t worship in town;
but where law can’t reach, we experience rebirth,
in our being, through sacred promises we took,
aiming to live good life, not just reading good book.

#208
Aiming to live good life, not just reading good book,
this region fell upon hard times, struggling to find
means to keep folks occupied, as idle hands look
for trouble to get into, troubling peace of mind
of others with criminal mischief, which happens
all over; thus they built these prisons privatized,
operated at profit; applied for captain’s
position, standing guard over men brutalized
by life, made mistakes, mostly out-of-state, sent here
to solitary confinement in these mountains,
tucked away, making wealth off civilized folks’ fear;
it’s ugly, but trickle down ain’t made no fountain
of options out here, so I watch what y’all accuse;
we’re all behind walls, no matter which side we choose.

#209
We’re all behind walls, no matter which side we choose,
what used to be land of my ancestors got claimed
by federal government to preserve (abuse)
wilderness areas, yet all these hills were named
for men who got run off by decree, eminent
domain forced mountain folks down to town lives lacking
the deep roots in nature we felt as resident
of those ridges; protecting land from attracting
actual human interaction, pretending
nature exists separate so that no one “owns”
these minerals and old growth, until bills sending
bulldozers in for selective extraction, stones
not left unturned by raw greed; but my mom and pop
was raised to believe your forced ways will never stop.

#210
Was raised to believe your forced ways will never stop,
you dam all that you can, trying to harness raw
energy, for your endless desires, talking shop
as in “buy” but never as in work; I stand tall
with simple roots, though y’all have beaten back my sense
of self by suggesting I’m stupid, unable
to accomplish much on my own, inelegance
of existence in my genetics, unstable
behavior looked down upon, but fuck yeah, I can’t
recognize the blessings of fences; I refuse
your “civilized” lessons, that animal and plant
and man ain’t the same, in good ways, from the same ooze
of primordial traditionalist life slop –
single drop of spirit born upon mountain top.

Heroic Crown #15
Piecemealing sacred life where faulty lines collide,
so many ruled wrongly developed strong insight,
hooting and stomping through days, with nowhere to ride,
building sigils from detritus – that’s how we fight
the spread of shineface logic developing all
into complicated wealth schemes, lacking deep roots,
proud ridges flattened to manifest false windfall;
some still sow redemptive seeds without thought for fruits,
fueled by spirits, circumstance forces us to cook
from birth, feeling firsthand how this world will abuse;
aiming to live good life, not just reading good book –
we’re all behind walls no matter which side we choose;
was raised to believe your forced ways will never stop
single drop of spirit born upon mountain top.

Monday, March 30

beyond civilized fence lines,
primal tornadoes spiral
into fresh oblivions

TOP TEN GONNA GET WORSE BEFORE IT GETS BETTER

#1: world is concerned not/with your inner-visions your/yearnings to release
#2: world controlled by grip/of financial abstractions/ - this is true worldwide
#3: woke up this morning/surrounded by thick grey fog/choking out aura
#4: numbers always leak/keep pouring in new numbers/try to stay afloat
#5: choking on numbers/drowning in digital fog/ - still, my sword stays sharp
#6: one day masters’ throats/will be slit lengthwise, blue blood/fertilizing “free”
#7: if you know comfort/know idle dreams, be thankful/ - life is a struggle
#8: one day this struggle/will swallow us all - it will/be ugly, reckless
#9: there must be wild fires/before new growth will blossom/ - true growth not “new growth”
#10: old growth abstractions/must be chopped down, chipped into/mulch to cover graves

Sunday, March 29

errant airborne lives survive
through viral immunity
acquired the hard way - ancient

Rojonekku Hand-to-Hand Haiku Tournaments 2015

So we've already done a couple of haiku events this year, but I've failed to update my site. Basically these are ongoing affairs of battle thru haiku, where I host/MC the event, and we all share through the crazy characters we indulge thru haiku, and fun is had and connections are made and the world's evil is destroyed with immensity of wonderfulness.
Here is a google doc link that explains how they work in greater detail than most humans think about caring for nowadays.
Also I can do this nonsense anywhere there is interest. I will tell tall tales of wonderful realness, as part of my philosophical wanderings thru the deserts of the North American wilderness. I work well with both children and the incarcerated (so far), and am able to talk in whatever direction might be important to you, so long as it is also halfway important to me. I'm not a prostitute, though I've got books and zines and other nonsense ephemera of Raven-life that I hopefully will sell enough of to get Greyhound bus money home. If not, oh well, I guess I'm homeless in your town. Congratulations. Just hit me up at ravenmack at gmail dotcom. Also I have a FB page and Twitter which I think are in the sidebar but maybe not too. Google that shit though. I'll show up.

Upcoming events:
WEDNESDAY APRIL 15 AT BALLICEAUX
IN RICHMOND VA - 8:00 PM FREE

FRIDAY MAY 29 AT THE LITTLE GRILL
IN HARRISONBURG VA - 8:00 PM FREE

WEDNESDAY JUNE 17 AT BALLICEAUX
IN RICHMOND VA - 8:00 PM FREE

PLUS PREVIOUS EVENTS THIS YEAR
First event in Richmond of 2015 at Balliceaux, Ryan Apehead won regular tournament in finals over Amy Wonderchicklady.

First event in Charlottesville of 2015, at Al-Hamraa in IX Art Park as part of IX@6. Mostly I yelled nonsense at people who didn't know me, and then Benji the Boatwright won a shortened field tournament.