RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition. He does have an amazing PATREON, but also *normal* ARTIST WEBSITE too.

Sunday, December 9

One Thousand Feathers winding down, explaining my madness

So the ONE THOUSAND FEATHERS KICKSTARTER, which has been wildly more successful than I ever thought, is winding down today. To be clear, I'm using each $100 to support one issue of this thing, so all the extra money is just supporting more of this craziness, not just lining my coffers with gold. Anyways, I showed my junkyard photographies and railroad spike haikus this weekend at a show, and response was strong. I wrote up an explanation of my different projects to have as a one-sheet explanation for folks at that show, and it seems like a pretty good explanation of what the fuck I am doing in my various ways so I am putting it up here for you to peruse and maybe support my kickstarter today. Thanks. Let's unfuck some shit down.

Rojonekku is a style of word fighting arts taught by me, Raven McMillian (aka Raven Mack) to various demographics of the Universal Underclass as a means of empowerment. A general socio-economic condition of the Universal Underclass is local legislations usually make illegal normal underclass means of survival, thus creating outlaws through normal living. The goal of Rojonekku is to channel these natural Universal Underclass psychologies and genetics into word fighting styles that are generally overlooked by local legislative bodies, who prefer to use the Freedom Charade Technique to keep the masses placated. Thus, word fighting can be disseminated throughout, in traditional means as well as through the use of newer developing social media technologies, without literally causing imprisonment.
I was born from trash psychologies and genetics, and it has taken me hard uphill work for most of my nearly 40 years to recycle myself into a positive enough force to not self-destruct, much less help others who come from similar backgrounds gain power over their lives, even if nowhere else other than the realm of the human word clusters that live inside our heads. When the world around you is a prison, sometimes literal and sometimes metaphorical, it’s probably a good idea to unlock the inner-worlds which go as forever as outer space. Big picture of the forest, that’s the goal of Rojonekku.
Inside that forest though, each tree cannot be a grandiose utopian dream. For the Universal Underclasses, life is hard work. So the trees of Rojonekku – the lessons I use with my students, the forms of writing we share with each other, the forms of expression you see here before you – they are all  work. There is dirt and grime and struggle in all of it, because that is what we come from. And instead of feeling ashamed of this dirt and grime and struggle etched into our bloodlines and scarring our insides, we need to embrace it, get the good out of it, and discard the bad. This is what I was born into, so beyond my choice, that is what my life’s work must be.

I had for years kept this box full of scraps of magazines cut to the same size, for so long I can’t even remember why. I think it used to be to glue into a writing trigger notebook, but then it became its own thing. At some other point, while deeply immersed in the rewarding life of being an hourly housepainter, I fell in love with haiku again and decided, “I shall write a thousand.” So I did, each one on its own notecard. As they started to pile up, I wanted to highlight my favorites, but all I had laying around was the box full of magazine pictures, as well as empty 12-pack boxes from my family’s recycling bin. So in the haphazard way, I started making Beerbox Haiku Plates.
Eventually, the plates piled up themselves, so I decided to put them together as wall-hangings in groups of three plates. All told, 1000 haiku (only 900 of which were used on boxes), 225 empty 12-pack boxes (most of which, unfortunately, I probably drank on my own, which in itself is 2700 beers), 75 total wall-hangings, not to mention the thousands of magazines pilfered for images over the years. I am glad to say that at this point in my life I no longer self-medicate with factory alcohol products, but piling these haiku up in such a literal sense around me in my life was an important step in moving beyond the self-medication/destruction tornado many Universal Underclass people like myself get stuck inside of.

Haiku, being quick observational flashes, indirectly led me to starting to take pictures of random roadside detritus along my life’s meandering path. At first this was with a Polaroid, where I just took pictures of old cars. But then Polaroid stopped making Polaroid film, and this became a hot commodity amongst artsy types, thus pricing me out of that realm. It was sort of cutting it close before they stopped making it, but I enjoyed the dirty effect of Polaroids enough to justify it to myself. Once prices went black market, I couldn’t.
We had multiple family digital cameras, so I took the older one, which has always had a nice feel to it to me. It’s been dropped a number of times so has a cracked bottom where the batteries/card are held in, and has to be duct-taped together to keep the connection working. Thus it looks like a homemade bomb. I bought a new digital Polaroid camera one time, thinking it would continue the Polaroid lineage, but it failed to match the simple megapixel beauty of the older digital camera. In fact, over time I have tried two other newer, better digital cameras, one even suggested by an actual protographer friend, but none of them gave me the happiness of the old ones weird settings. These pictures started going up on my website one a day, and I would write a gambleraku poem to go with them, and then they just started being their own thing. It’s a very meditative experience for me, to just wander around the back sides of the American Façade and take pictures of beautiful blight.

Gambleraku is a three-line form of poetry with 7-syllables in each line I started writing because I was feeling confined by the 5-7-5 standard westernized haiku structure, but do not support free form poetry, as it is not workmanlike. Free form poetry is vacation from constraints, and my life is all about constraints for the most part. My constraints have constraints. But I started tinkering with the 7-7-7 structure and enjoyed the flow of it, to use with my pictures I put on online. Somewhere along the way I stopped putting them online, but then I found a roll of receipt paper for a gas pump, and thought, “Wow, it would be fun to turn this into a graffiti scroll.” So I am, little by little.

Carving haiku into railroad spikes came to me as a great modern recreation of the work of my favorite rapper – T’ang era Chinese rapper Hanshan, who was a mountain hermit and scribbled poems into cliffs and caves. Where I wander, there are no cliffs and few caves, but there are tons of railroad spikes. These spikes are wild harvested from throughout Virginia, wiped down with vinegar, and then a haiku I’ve written is painfully carved into them, using an industrial back yard method that is loud and physical and really great. These haiku are only used for the spike they are carved on, then gone, so not only are no two alike, but that haiku is unique to that spike.
Additionally, railroad spikes are considered powerful objects in southern hoodoo magic, often used to bless or protect properties. The spikes are infused with the energy of labor, and for me also the spirit of the railroad which has always plucked an outlaw nerve in American history. With this southern hoodoo magic tradition in mind, where the spikes were placed at the corners of a house or property with the pointed edge of the top pointed inwards, I carve the haiku in such that the side with the pointed top edge is blank, and can thus be pointed in the direction you need the haiku to shoot. Conceivably, these haiku spikes could be driven into the ground with the point properly directed, and the energy and spirit of the haiku would shoot in that direction. There are aspects to Wilhelm Reich’s theory on orgone energy involved here as well, and honestly I am afraid to really explain all that these haiku spikes mean for fear of weakening their magic.
I am available for railroad spikes commission work for individuals or properties on a larger scale. This can mean either special requests, or a visit to your land or home, learning its history and your history with it, getting a personal sense of the place, and composing and carving original haiku in relation to the place. These are powerful objects, either for marking a space, or for helping heal a place from past activities.

One Thousand Feathers is a pamphlet project I’ve recently started that will involve the creation and dissemination of one thousand small literature tracts over the course of the rest of my life. Having a father and a father’s father who both died in their mid-40s, mostly from being caught in that self-medication/destruction tornado that afflicts the Universal Underclass, this project is a means for me to envision and shape the second half of my life beyond the age of 40. This is a portion of my life that I honestly did not believe would exist until recently, and I am excited to see how it unfolds. You can learn more about how to make it unfold, literally inside your hands, as it progresses, online.

Further information about all of these projects, or questions, request, or commissions can be done at www.ravenmillian.com (web), ravenmack@gmail.com (email), PO Box 270 Scottsville VA 24590 (mail), @SSVa_Raven (twitter), Rojonekku (google), or along the back roads of Virginia (life). Thanks for your interest and support.

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