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.

Monday, August 31

45s on 33 – #9: “Down on the Corner”

Some records still remind me strongly of childhood, which wasn’t a picture perfect one but not one that I remember as unpleasant either. I think few of us remember childhood as unpleasant because those mental defense mechanisms kick in where the brain compartmentalizes experience as it happens, so that the body can continue to move without becoming paralyzed by blinding darkness emanating from inside.
I’ve recently (ever since vacation) been playing dominoes. It was hard to piece together a full set because my youngest is a toy hoarder freak who takes little bits of this and that and puts them in bags and then stashes the bags. I think she may be part raccoon or some shit. But we had like four sets of dominoes but they’re all missing pieces. One of them’s a really nice thick vintage butterscotch set, but there’s two pieces missing forever it seems. But I did piece together two of the other sets which were same thickness/style into a full set (still need a pimp ass butterscotch set again though, just because anything butterscotch you do for leisure is goodness for the soul). But thinking on my youngest and her domino bullshit reminded me of my memory of dominoes as a kid. I set them up on this little broken ass organ thing I had in my room, which had been my dad’s chainsaw fixing shop (inside the house) but became my bedroom when a baby sister was born. The dominoes were set up along the organ’s top, and on the windowsill because the window on the back porch was right there. We came home from shopping or some shit one time, I can’t remember, but I went in and my dominoes were messed up. I went and told my mom, who told my dad. They both looked, and freaked because it meant somebody had broken in as the dominoes sort of worked as a line across the window. Dad disappeared into another room, and then was like, “we got ripped off.”
So yeah, some records strongly remind me of childhood, in good ways, and we try to sit at the kitchen table and play dominoes more often lately, which also is a good thing. Life is always gonna be fucked up, regardless of where you start, regardless of where you go. It is human nature to make life fucked up somehow. Thus it become imperative to try and find some fuckin’ chill.
"X" marks spot where knife carving
scarred tree; dude who did it's dead,
lady it’s for in hospice

45s on 33 – #10: “Follow the Leader”

I haven’t written much about the specific songs during this summer countdown of slowed down tracks, at least not in the digitized cyborg version, mostly because there are programs scouring for these things everywhere, just looking to send somebody a threatening email with vague legal bullshit being mentioned without heart. This is a strange time to be alive because we are more connected to things nowhere near us at all, and yet completely disconnected to our immediate surroundings. And then again maybe that’s normal now, and I’m a fucking idiot fool. Maybe that’s the new normal, and to not want to mention specifically what I’m actually mentioning is unnecessary obfuscation and I should just write the song titles on my dick and take a picture and make that the post.
Do the Knowledge is one of many planted in my brain by Rakim, who line for line had more depth than any MC ever. There is no doubt our depth of language has been lost, and that’s not just old man talk, that’s a byproduct of us being able to communicate quicker with more visual imagery. The necessity of actual lengthy language is no longer as necessary. It’s a strange regression, although that assumes that progress is more language, which may not be true either. Perhaps the ultimate form of expression is to just shoot single grunts at each other but be able to convey a depth of meaning within that grunt.
But a part of doing the knowledge was breaking things apart, digging out the meaning of the parts and what that all added up to as a whole. The parts are smaller now, but it seems like the meaning within those smaller parts might be a lot deeper than we realize, but we are only accepting the superficial surface meaning. Or then again, maybe everybody else is seeing the entire depth of meaning and I’m the lone idiot. I certainly feel that way most days lately. Whatever though.

Sunday, August 30

"one day a real rain's gonna
come along and wash all this
trash into the James River”

Saturday, August 29

45s on 33 – #11: “North, East, South, West”

To the north of here more immediately is a commercial clusterfuck that’s been developing just over the county line, where the Wal-Mart and Lowe’s and a weird diamond interchange that is confusing but not really just because you are going the wrong side of the road as they want to get people off the interstate quickly, even though not that much traffic is happening there, yet. I guess that’s a sign of things to come if they’re putting in housing sub-divisions and commercial complexes (more like complicateds) and shit like that. Far north is DC where the cultural decisions to move in directions like that are made for this nation I happened by chance to be born inside of.
To the east more immediately is just roads to Richmond, all of which I know in finding various paths to a nexus of my existence as an adult. Sometimes I go interstate if in rush, other times I go back roads if I want to vibe to the nothing much. Farther east is the Atlantic, where I need to dip myself more often, baptizing the filth away, absolving my self of the sins of being homo sapien as much as possible.
To the immediate south is Buckingham County, with a large percentage of working aged men lacking jobs, unemployed or disabled or given up, and it’s a sad place but people get by, somehow, probably in ways we all shouldn’t be proud of. Further south is not really that much further because that’s the gateway back to Southside Virginia, which is has had larger cultural influence on me through my presence there than anywhere else on earth. Southside Virginia is beautiful but also fucked, and being it’s not in the mountains, it lacks the known fuckedness of the Appalachians. But it’s like flat Appalachia basically, and I am simultaneously proud but embarrassed of it.
To the immediate west is the mountains, where I run off to do reverse baptisms, kiss the clouds a little while and try to get mind right through elevated state. This is a very necessary activity. Mountains and oceans are the twin rechargers of human mentality (heart), and thus rivers are sort of the conduit between the two, thus also fairly necessary. Further to the west is the rest of America. It could be suggested I should have seen more of all that, but at the same time it’s hard to fully experience even the tiny little region you are already in, not to any deep level, and at this point in my life I think I’m more dedicated to that depth of area’s knowledge than accumulating random distant spaces like baseball cards.
this gamble we call living,
doubling down on delusions
yet demanding safety nets

Friday, August 28

45s on 33 – #12: “Cool Aid”

Hustling to work this morning, got in front of a rough-looking old Silverado pick-up with pieces about to fall off rumbling the same direction as me. It got on my ass for a minute as I got up to speed, and I could see multiple body silhouettes squeezed into the cab, steered by grizzled looking don’t-give-a-fuck dude behind wheel. We all got hung up at a busy back roads intersection stop sign, and rear viewing them, I saw the dude, with full haggard goatee of a man carefully trying to bridge business and party worlds, with what I assumed (because we are always making assumptions) was his wife at the passenger window. Both had that bulbous pear shape of the American underclasser fed a steady diet of corn syrupy shit lacking nutritional sustenance, so you are always eating but never feeling fed, and often times forced by circumstance to go for the most cost-efficient food, which tends to skew towards unhealthy in the long-term. I mean, they’ve never fed Sprague-Dawley lab rats Burger King dollar menus over long periods to see how it turned out, nor do I think they ever will, because we can’t have the truth as it’s not as “affordable” and profit-friendly.
There were two other lumps stuffed between this pair in the Silverado’s cabin – a girl who looked to be early teens, sitting beside the man. The girl had that gaunt ever-so-slightly weasel-like face of people with hillbilly genetics, which blends so well into drug addiction and hardship later in life. That facial structure fills court dockets across America. And there was a boy too, probably about 8 or 9, slouched up against the woman next to the passenger window. The boy was sleeping, dead tired sleeping, as there was no stirring about at stop signs or when we all started up on our little rat race hamster wheel pursuits again eventually. They were all so ugly in conventional sense, in a progressive sense, but such a beautiful sight in my Friday morning rear view mirror – simple little family tucked into a shit model Silverado, rumbling off to their day’s affairs and responsibilities placed on each of them by the society we all share, just barely.
The road into the small city all of us work at, all of us from all the surrounding localities long ago flooded by hurricanes or decimated by abandoned factories, all the little towns that dried up almost completely except for maybe a single “country” store, or the little towns still holding on despite half a century trends – we all work in this little small city. The two-lane opened its promising legs up to four, with a median strip, and there was a cop on motorcycle with radar technology stalking there, knowing all of us rats racing into our responsibilities were all late because of the bottleneck structure of this maze, and the two opening up to four allowed for bursts of frustration to move vehicles faster towards nowhere, and he wanted to be there to skim a little more ticketed profit off for the state.
The family in the Silverado took the right lane and I took the left, and they roared past, pieces hanging off the truck, bed literally full of trash bags that looked to be recycled beer cans, no tailgate just a tie-down strapped across for looks mostly, flapping in the air. The man at the steering wheel was peeking into his side view mirror, back at the cop, same as me, all of us making sure we were okay for the moment. Cops don’t respect that family’s type of beauty; they don’t respect my beauty. They only see delinquency, very little beauty in this world.
The Silverado kept plowing straight ahead as I veered left onto an interstate highway system that connects a lot of these cities but very few of these people. We’re all the fucking same, all fighting the same shit stream, trying to maintain our obligations while still staying halfway happy. We’re all trying to keep the business and the party both attended to, but it gets more and more difficult every fucking month. In that difficulty, we look at each other and see how ugly other people are, bunch of rats, weasel-looking assholes, the enemy. But that’s not the truth. We’re all beautiful, all just moving along the only way we really have been taught how. We haven’t engineered each other’s misery, not at all.
tendrils catching shade under
advanced cloud technologies,
accessible anywhere

45s on 33 – #13: “It Ain’t No Use”

Got that dilapidated camper love style, hiding out with extension cords running seventeen miles from your ex-mom’s house down back roads through logging trails mostly so you can keep your stereo plugged in and play them old Z.Z. Hill jams with exactly 36 tea candles lit up keeping it bright. Then maybe something gets kicked loose along the strand, or somebody unplugs it because let’s face it human beings are real dicks, and the lights go out so the music stops, but you still got all those tea candles, and you’re still in the dilapidated camper and everybody smelling like lavender oil, and that’s all good while things are active. But eventually you’re gonna be laying there on that weird plywood with mattress on top of stretch that also makes two bench seats and has the table that folds out because of dilapidated camper engineering, and you’re laying there thinking, “fuck man, my alarm’s not gonna go off now” because of the extension cord being unplugged. Sure, cybertron people got robot space phones with alarms that blast retro computer sounds at melodious irony level so you wake up with snarky smile on your face. But dilapidated camper motherfuckers like you ain’t got robot space phones – you’re using a fucking burner like season three of The Wire, which is ancient history, and in fact you still know where the three pay phones that are left are located because sometimes you use the one by the truck stop on 15 South to call people, not really because you need to since you actually do have your season three of The Wire burner by Tracfone, but because it’s cool to get three dollars worth of quarters and make some phone calls while people drive past and you smell fried chicken from the E.W. Thomas, so fuck it.
But eventually the tea candles burn out, and you’re laying there naked with another naked and you realize fuck getting up, fuck alarms, fuck extension cords full of electricity, fuck all this other shit that gets in the way of laying around naked. Not nearly enough laying around naked in our so-called civilization.

Thursday, August 27

45s on 33 – #14: “A Good Time Man Like Me Ain’t Got No Business”

I get too bogged down in bullshit all too often that I forget the entire beginning of this project, and what caused it – a jukebox sitting in a field that got plugged into a red maple tree not far from my giant pile of rocks that I’m going to buried under (somehow), which started emitting music, albeit slowed down music, one night when I was sitting out there. I hadn’t cut the field in a while, except for paths, hadn’t even chilled with the sunflowers, or taken rock offerings down to the pile of quartz altar, and that’s when everything seems to start to feel like too much. But I went down there last night, and just sat on my favorite milk crate, hearing the animals and insects of the night make their noises, looking up at a sweet moon floating over top a vast planet far larger than we pretend it’s been reduced to. Like, there are still so many corners (not really corners because they lack fences) to get lost in, shadows to dwell inside of, so many places to be what you are supposed to be. Why do make this assumption that everything is charted, everything is tracked, that we are being controlled? Billions and billions of people can’t all be controlled, it’s just not possible. The immensity of bureaucratic effort needed to even try such a thing (which they are in fact trying) is so large that even those within that bureaucracy would stop giving half a fuck, and even while you are being watched, there’s a good chance you are being poorly watched. It’s kind of like being afraid to shoplift – they might see you, but when you actually do it you realize that they mostly don’t see you. Sure, if you keep doing it, they’ll eventually see you, but you’re only going to get busted once for something you do ten times.
But that’s the other side to it – they have rules for everything, and they will selectively enforce them. All of us are illegal at any given moment, or at least it can be made to be that way. It just depends on whether they enforce their slew of legalities to the fullest extent or not. But if any of us is noticeably stepping out of line in any way that riles up the wrong bureaucratic feathers, they will put that shit in motion. Thus, dwell in shadows. You start showing your ass, and somebody’s gonna want to correct that ass. But you keep it discreet, no flaunting, you’d be surprised with what you can get away with. And it might come crumbling in on you at some point, but you have to expect devil ass world is gonna try to eventually oppress you. The trick is to keep it light, both in how you do your dirtgod, but also in how deeply you layer it. You can’t dig in your dirtgod activities as if it were legit business enterprise, because the devils will come shine a light in your shadows eventually and try to oppress. You’ve got to be able to move, weave, adapt, survive. Because fuck these devil ass devils.
"four-piece dark meat, mac-n-cheese
for both sides, and can I get
nothing but thighs, please?” I’ve asked

Wednesday, August 26

45s on 33 – #15: “Calling Dr. Love”

Many old songs of the patriarchal yet wild variety tend to be of the basic subject matter, “Hey, you don’t seem to be completely happy, so come here and let me fuck you happy.” I can feel that sentiment. Life has become mundane and somewhat meaningless. I feel disconnected to most organic aspects of my environment, and am distracted by the inorganic techno-vices that seem planted like land mines throughout my daily path. Shit is out of balance, but the world spins upon crooked axis so it pretends everything’s upright and kosher. I am not completely happy, so I need the universe to just look at my sexy dirtgod raven mackness, and fuck me good. And I don’t mean the negative “fuck” as in everything went bad. I mean a good solid sweaty fucking by the universe that pushes the dopamine and serotonin into a cocktail with the adrenaline, and everything is excited sunshine and rainbows and river water baptisms (but secular) all day long. If the universe is a doctor, it is what the universe should order up, if it could. So even though the digital realm seems (to me) like inorganic devilry full of the aforementioned techno-vices, I’m putting that out there with intent, as non-denominational prayer, as a dirtgod prayer, to hopefully be answered. In fact, fuck it, let’s just make it the Dirtgod Prayer:


"blessed are those that struggle"
went the words to ancient hymn
as performed by Killah Priest

Tuesday, August 25

45s on 33 – #16: “Open House at My House (Part 1)”

Where is everybody going? There are houses with no sign of people all over, other than NO TRESPASSING or PRIVATE PROPERTY signs posted because obviously derelict homes gonna get derelicted even more, always. But where has everybody gone? On top of this, most cities I seem to go around of various sizes have booming downtowns, at least in the sense of hammers pounding and nail guns shooting and cranes and scaffolding and basic (but very complicated) gentrificational rebirths happening. It’s a lot harder to get shot in a lot of places you could’ve easily been shot ten or fifteen years ago. But where have all those people gone that used to be there, that were mired in that shit to where shooting or getting shot at was normalized behavior? I’m not clear on where the human Americans have gone.
Through trick-nology algorithmic calculations, we have less jobless than ever before (they say), but I honestly know very few people happy about their work. There seems to be a pervasive frustration with stagnant existence, which generally is a nice way of putting, “I’m not getting anywhere in life, and in fact probably am sinking backwards, financially speaking.”
But all these empty houses just sitting there, with signs protecting their ownership against anyone actually using them without given proper paperwork to personal property ownership system. That’s some weird shit. I am more likely to be harassed by law enforcement if I’m walking around some vacant property, publicly, even though no one is there and I’m doing no harm to it, than if I were running some sort of financial scam on a group of people, so long as it was a legally acceptable financial scam (like home mortgages). Regardless of what devil ass math is used, America certainly has no shortage of PRIVATE PROPERTY signs. Legally, we love some private property. No need to simultaneously mention the criminalization of being homeless through vagrancy laws and ordinances, because those aware of such things are aware of such things, and those who don’t care already don’t care. But I’ve never understood, regardless of how callous a person may be, how you could care about inanimate structures and unoccupied parcels of land more than actual human beings. Even if those human beings made horrible decisions that left them in dire circumstances, we should be more apt to rehabilitate people than blocks of real estate. But we ain’t. Haters gonna hate, as well as redevelop with hate in their heart, exiling the hated to god knows where. There are some horrible suburban gulag ghetto tenements full of the exiled somewhere that none of us pay attention to or the common public knows about. Oh wait, that’s jail. Everybody’s in jail.
first letters - first and last names
carved into tree trunk, thinking
love eternal; it faded

Monday, August 24

45s on 33 – #17: “Scratch My Back”

The notion of “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch your’s” is the 69 of more decent and public inter-personal relationships. But it also speaks to a simpler philosophical outlook than might be applied to our current overly-complicated world. Not having access to high thread counts or scientifically mastered mattresses can make for aching backs that lack the same smoothness. Harsher laundry detergents for the poors, as well as cheaper second-hand clothes, not to mention tougher work environments create a leathering of the skin – natural animal reaction to outer layer being scuffed, scarred, tattooed, abused, stained, and minimally poisoned. Thus, the more sheltered and protected and coddled back NEEDS less scratching, and yet has more contact to actual back condition-altering scratching systems.
I was thinking on all this the past weekend, as I realized there’s a lot of shit at my compound I need to fix. This is always the case. We do not have the means to have other people fix shit, unless an absolute emergency, and even then it has to be a special emergency. Mostly, fixing our broken shit requires me figuring out how to fix our broken shit. I’d be the first to admit that my knowledge of fixing all things is limited to what I’ve been forced to do, and I am by no means an expert at fixing all things. Thus, a lot of what gets fixed gets fixed in most likely haphazard less than stellar ways, just to keep working.
Compounding this issue – as is the case for many people – is we are not in the market of buying luxury items or top level home appliances or vehicles or things like that. We get what we can afford, which often is the bottom of the line model (home appliances) or some “deal” we come across (vehicles). These things tend to break more often, thus more haphazard fixing goes on. These things also are not built with stiff metals and strong manufactured parts as they once were, because most companies that build such things have worked unregulated for three decades at cutting costs wherever they can, because that is how you build a successful business. A good cost-cutting method is to use cheaper materials. Negative effect of this is shit breaks down easier, but luckily the cost is cheaper too so often it’s just as affordable to buy a new piece of shit than to fix the old piece of shit. Unless you are not of that market. Then you fix your old piece of shit until your old piece of shit is absolutely unfixable, which probably happens even faster being you are the one who is forced to fix it, and then you figure out a way to juggle obligations and credits to get a new piece of shit, only when absolutely necessary. (Every small town and big city corner coin laundromat still exists due to the fact the juggle sometimes does not allow for immediate replacement, thus you end up spending even more to wash clothes even shittier at the coin laundry. It is not easy being not comfortable.)
The good news is the over-consumption of inferior material goods is not sustainable, and ultimately the entire thing will collapse, either because we as a civilization can’t keep it up, or because the very far down the comfortability scale start getting tired of this shit and begin slitting throats further up the pyramid scam. They won’t reach the upper levels, so unfortunately many people who are far below the power positions will probably die, but they’ll look further up the pyramid to those at the bottom. Hopefully, instead of being angry at those below, we can all share some perspective at this entire nonsense scam, and those who are getting their throats cut without actually being in power will look up further the pyramid and start slitting the throats they can see. This will be trickle-up slit throat-onomics, and it might actually effect actual change, where all our backs start getting scratched. Because if all your needs are getting taken care of, without thought, you have no idea how strong the itch can be.
double yellows even though
road looks straight enough, no cars
to pass nor to cop, drifting

Sunday, August 23

tragic magical forest
blackjack, holding suicide
king, hoping for ace of spades

45s on 33 – #18: “Tired of Being Alone”

I wrote a cycle of sonnets about exercises in futility (probably multiple ones actually) and it seems even more relevant than ever as I continue to pitter patter through these processes very much like skipping pebbles into a creek in the middle of nowhere. The one difference though is pebbles into the creek put you actually into the woods, hearing the creek crinkle and trees rustle and shit like that, thus its not that futile. This exercise in futility called this here lacks that. There are only blips and bloops and redirects and refreshed loops.
I have a fairly hermetic personality, so I’ve often thought about what is a human’s true social nature. Are we tribal creatures, or are we fine all alone? Which is our preference? Through half-a-lifetime of self-science, I can say I’m firmly of the belief we are a tribal animal, and need that interaction, even when hermetic by our individual nature. Our technocracy feels uncomfortable to me, on a larger level, because this basic human necessity has been redirected (literally) through the technology, and though I’m not going to suggest that type of connection is fake, I will say it is not as deep and able to survive conflict. For example, if there were power grid failure for two weeks and all the battery power was gone from devices, those connections are gone, unless solidified in physical life as well.
There are times where solitude no longer feeds me. The problem is I mostly cultivate solitude, which reaps solitude. Being alone does not accidentally reap a bunch of motherfuckers being around. So when the solitude no longer feeds me, I have to go seek external sources of energy – not battery power type energy but that real fucking life energy that makes it so you wake up in the morning not wishing the day was already over. I can’t seem to find it right now though. I can work on inputs and try to adjust whatever factors internal chemistry might have in this process (and I’m so fucking thankful I’m way more conscious of that shit now than I used to be), but it doesn’t change the fact it seems harder to connect today. Even when connecting, the redirect gets in the way, perhaps for you perhaps for the other person, and true attentive connection is always just one window inside another person’s mind with about twenty-five tabs open at all times. It’s a weird fucking time. We may not realize it’s a dystopia until twenty years later. And most folks may not ever truly realize it. That’s why it’s called a dystopia.

Saturday, August 22

just another dumbass white
dude wearing blaze orange and black
basketball shorts, looking fine

Friday, August 21

Shakespeare Greenheart & Nasreddin Shifflett double book release interview!

Shakespeare Greenheart & Nasreddin Shifflett books now available:
signed copies direct from me at Workingman Books
e-book versions for all devices at Smashwords
and both print and e-book versions at Amazon

Raven Mack just released two books of poetry – Shakespeare Greenheart, and Nasreddin Shifflett – the first two in a series of four containing what he calls “freestyle sonnets”. He also recently put out a musical project with a young producer called C.S.X.T.C.. Additionally, he is part of me, or I am part of him, or one way or the other we occupy the same physical space although our individual motivations are very different.
Raven Mack still believes in the meritocracy. In our lengthy private discussions, I’ve tried to dissuade him from this naiveté, and encouraged him to cultivate a detachment from any possible fruits to his creative endeavors, not really so much as a jaded perspective but for his own self-preservation. Because that’s not how the world works, at least not that simply. One of the trademarks of human nature – one that seems different than the rest of nature – is to overly complicate things, and to underestimate the strength of simple but complex.
Anyways, with the arrival of these two new books of sonnets, I sat down with Raven Mack to interview him about Shakespeare Greenheart and Nasreddin Shifflett, as well as his other creative works, mostly as a partially patronizing act, but also because I feel sorry for him, for still believing in things that aren’t real.
- The Dirt-God

Dirt-God: So Shakespeare Greenheart and Nasreddin Shifflett are the first two books in this freestyle sonnet series. What’s the series all about, and what are “freestyle sonnets”?
Raven Mack: I started writing sonnets a couple years back on the spot, like sit down and whip one out without thinking too hard about it, much like freestyle rapping in the sense you were minimizing conscious mind that planned shit out and letting sub-conscious or unconscious or combination of both or all three or whatever the fuck it is that decides to speak in the immediate moment speak first and final. I got to where I was doing them in ten minutes, asking people for subjects, just whipping them out. So I started thinking about doing crowns of sonnets, which is where last line of one becomes first line of the next, and you can just run with that, or actually have the last line of last sonnet be the same as the first line of the first sonnet, to create a circle. Old school dudes used to do coronas of sonnets, which would be a hundred just like that. But you could also do a heroic crown which was when you’d have fourteen sonnets connect in that circle, but also the last line of each of the fourteen sonnets composed a fifteenth heroic crown sonnet. Being I’m ruled by math dork nonsense inside my own head, like counting steps, repeating numerical patterns, total secret to-my-self O.C.D. shit like that, it felt like a good idea to do thiat, and make it a project, to force over-indulging, which also tends to be a thing that rules me. At first I was gonna do 69 heroic crowns, because 69 is kinda my lucky number, but as I started doing them, for whatever reason, it made more sense to do 76, so that they made four quarters of 19.

DG: So how do you write them? Where do you write them? What has been your process for conducting this project?
RM: Well, I tend to have multiple heroic crowns going on at once, compartmentalizing them by notebook or computer device. Like I always have an ongoing one on my work desktop, and a couple different handwritten notebooks as well. I had a notebook a friend gave me with a raven in the boots on the cover which I only used in the gardens on both sides of the lawn at UVA during my lunch break, and I’d shoot for two or three per lunch break, but if I did one and that felt like it, I’d stop. I filled that notebook up, and most of the ones in there are in these two collections. I have a notebook that’s only for being in the woods at home, a tiny composition books like one of those mini-ones that I can only write in all caps in, all types of dumb rules I make so that I can have four or five different ones going on at once. Currently, the most work I’m doing is in a composition book where I’m working from both ends on separate heroic crowns, and I’ve been shooting for three for that every day at lunch, in about thirty minutes, plus writing one to three more on my desktop at work in free moments stolen back from workday, plus assorted other ones here or there, probably averaging about three a day. Also a friend has been filming one of the current ones, so I wait to write the sonnet while we’re filming, one a week, until we make a crown there. We’re four weeks into that one. They take anywhere from ten to twenty minutes each, the more I’m dialed in and doing it regularly throughout the day, the quicker they go.

DG: You realize that’s kinda fucked up, right? Like, that’s not normal at all.
RM: Haha, yeah, totally. I think that’s the hard part too, now that I’ve actually finished producing two books of them, is that it’s hard for people to really understand what’s going on with them. The reason they came out two at a time is because I actually had submitted the first book – the Shakespeare Greenheart one – to Copper Canyon Press in their open submission period, and it sat for a long ass time. Like I expected immediate rejection, in that first month like they say they let most everybody know, but it never came. Then it went two, three, four months, and I started to think, “Oh shit, they might actually publish my crazy shit.” But they didn’t. I was already pretty much done with the second quarter of the project though so I figured I might as well put them out as a pair.

DG: Why did you submit them in the first place? Copper Canyon’s one of the premier poetry presses there is, poet laureate material. You don’t seem to be even trying to get individual poems published in journals and the like, which is normal way to do such things. Why did you think there’d be success in the jump to actually having a book with no other published works?
RM: I figured all they could do is say no, and ultimately that’s all they did. I don’t really subscribe to the whole sending-poems-off-to-literary-journals method, which sounds egotistic as fuck, like I’m too good for that, but it’s not really that. I applied a few years back to the MFA program at UVA, both fiction and poetry, but didn’t get into either. I was told I almost got into the fiction program, like I was one of the last eliminations, but a certain faculty member there felt like I might do better through a more creative back door entry into the program, or I might audit a class or two and realize MFA route was not for me at all. He was right. That shit would’ve crushed me. That traditional route, which we’re still encouraged to respect as the way a writer gains success, has very particular tricks to that trade that you learn. There’s a certain amount of self-perpetuation that goes on, and you learn to take part in that. You become hazed into the elite fraternal organization of American poetry basically. I’m not really into that. And honestly, I feel like a dick submitting a poem for publication to anything that I wouldn’t read myself. And I wouldn’t read most of those literary journals that would be the ones I’d have to submit myself to.

DG: You realize all of that does sound exactly like you think you’re too good for it, right?
RM: Yeah, I guess. But I don’t feel too good for it, I just feel different than it. A lot of respected poetry and fiction and respected writers, they all feel the same to me. It feels like a thousand variations on the same shit. I’d rather not be that, which of course means, I’m outside of that, and it is exactly being that that encourages success in terms of being accepted as what a poet or writer means to everybody else. You either play the game as it is demanded you play it, or you’re not gonna win. It’s that simple.

DG: So you self-publish?
RM: Yeah. Self-publish books, self-publish zines, which is a culture I grew up with, just printing it yourself. Nobody writing about what you care about? Fuck it, write it yourself. But even with zines there was this sort of Zine Illuminati of zine figureheads that all got book deals and everybody knew and had their zines in national bookstores and shit like that somehow. I never understand how that happens. Same with self-publishing these books, I don’t understand how to make people know it exists.

DG: You mean “marketing” the books?
RM: Well yeah, I guess, but not really. I just want people to know they’re there, and exist. I feel like what I’m doing has validity, and deserves to be seen, but you know how you have people who say publishing has “gatekeepers” who decide who gets in and out? Even beyond that, it feels like there’s this giant wall that is an enclave of all that is accepted and respected, and I can’t even see over that wall. There’s this endless drone of noise going on, worse so now with the internet’s constant hum into our lives, and I’m yelling over the wall to get people inside that enclave to notice what I’m doing.

DG: But they don’t.
RM: No, they don’t. And even then, I realize what I’m doing is not really a part of being inside that enclave, like the shit I’m writing is for the misfits and malcontents and wretched of the earth, not those inside the in-crowd. But even among the misfits and malcontents, they tend to look inside those walls for what they get into, because goddamn the noise is so fucking loud from in there, it’s hard not to look at it for everything.

DG: How do you get around that?
RM: I got no clue. I’m talking to myself, literally talking to myself, every fucking day trying to figure it out. And you see self-publishers do these corny ass “why I became a writer” things or hyping up projects that don’t seem all that hype. Or you get these internet celeb writers who start to have sort of an internet clever cult, where they say all these WACKY things that are so CLEVER because they’re not really being weird, they’re just pretending to be weird, so by pretending to be weird but still being functional human beings, they can be successful and not actually threaten anyone’s safety. And I just don’t get it. The shit is actually really confusing to me. So I don’t know how to get around it.

DG: In our previous conversations, I’ve mentioned to you many times about just doing the work, not worrying about what comes of it, accumulate the pieces and keep piling them up like rocks. Nobody may ever acknowledge the pile of rocks you’ve built up, and some folks may see it and really love that pile of rocks, but the majority will probably never wander across that pile of rocks you built up in the middle of nowhere, outside of I guess that wall you’re envisioning. Has that affected you at all? Has it changed the way you work at these projects?
RM: Well, it hasn’t changed how I work at the projects because I’m mostly always answering to myself then anyways. I guess it’s started to make it easier for me to let go once I’m done, and have a finished project to share with the random ass anonymous public that exists as this mythological entity with all sorts of discretionary income to spend, so that once I finish these two books and they are physically available for people, or I finish this music project I did with this guy Finn, I can shout into the droning void of social media, “HEY, I DID THIS NEW THING!” for a couple days, and then let it go. But it still bothers me. I mean if you’re doing these things, and you think it’s amazing, you want people to check it out.

DG: You ever think about the fact maybe it’s not that amazing?
RM: Yeah. I mean you see people who do shit themselves, and it’s horrible. I could name a few, but then again a few could probably name me, too. Look, when I say what I’m doing is amazing, that doesn’t mean I think I’m some sort of genius or some shit like that. Honestly, I feel like anybody could do what I do. In the basic pit of human potential everybody has, everybody is born with, anybody could do these things. But nobody else is, that I know of. And the things that are considered great by our cultural tastemakers, even the offbeat internet ones, don’t always seem that great usually.
I was lucky enough to be involved with a program called Open Minds in the Richmond City Jail, through a friend Liz Canfield, and met the guy who ran the jail school John Dooley. I sat in on a handful of classes of these people who were in the jail program, writing, filling composition books, not because of what they were supposed to, but because they had to, and it made them better people. That experience changed my perspective, for the better. Being part of that ultimately was my MFA program, to where now I’m trying to get through the bureaucratic hurdles to facilitate a similar writing program local to myself. It hasn’t happened yet, and fuck, after almost a year of emailing motherfuckers about it every month, I don’t know that it ever will. But I’d like it to. That writing from people society deemed unfit for freedom, was realer than any of the shit I heard in other classes. It was realer than any of the soft-spoken tired but acceptable metaphorical spiel I heard at poetry readings.
So what makes one person a successful MFA candidate, and another person somebody scribbling raps into a composition book in jail? Luck. Chance. Where you were born basically, and the connections both to other people as well as environment that your birth gives you. It shook the meritocracy notion for me.

DG: And yet, here we are, me interviewing you, which is essentially talking to yourself, to attempt to circumvent around to the inside of that wall, to that meritocracy still. Why?
RM: Haha, I have no fuckin’ clue. I love what I do. I love the poetry, I love the stories and essays I put in my Rojonekku Word Fighting Arts zines, I love the music I’m doing now, which I hadn’t done in a couple years, but I’ve got two or three different music projects going now too. It all doesn’t really feel like choice. I’d be a very unhappy, depressed, and likely suicidal person if I wasn’t doing it all.

DG: Shouldn’t that be enough? Why the fuck does it matter if strangers know it exists?
RM: Yeah. I don’t know. Like I said, I don’t read literary journals or shit like that. I mostly read old poets, used to always be hermit Chinese poets but the past couple years I’ve been studying the old Islamic mystic poets and philosophers a lot more. They tended to be that way too, to where they were doing all sorts of shit constantly, but there seemed to be an appreciation that was available to them, although I guess that’s filtered through the perspective of time. They might not have had that during their lifetime.

DG: So what’s next? You’ve released these two books, what do you do now?
RM: I’m just about done with the third set, just finished my 50th heroic crown last week actually. Once I get to 57, that’ll be the third book, then 76 to finish the whole project. I’m contemplating another sonnet-specific project after that, then shutting down from sonnets probably. I’m hoping to do some readings for these two books various places, try to sell books out the back of my truck like old school rappers selling mixtapes.

DG: At independent bookstores?
RM: Hahaha, no, not even. Independent bookstores are still very much inside those walls I was talking about earlier. I’m on the outside, so I figured might as well embrace that. I’m talking about doing readings by the river, selling books on the spot, catching a Greyhound to Pittsburgh or Cleveland or east Tennessee or really wherever somebody might give me a couch to sleep on that night before catching a bus home the next morning, to just read my shit out in the open, for whoever’s apt to come to those things, or fuck it, just for the trees if that’s all that’s there. People tend to suck anyways. Whenever the tree-to-person ratio gets below like a 5.0, it starts to get frustrating. But trees don’t buy books, and in fact my books are printed on tree flesh, which is really fucked up now that I think about it. I guess that goes back to our human nature complicating things.

DG: Well, good luck Raven Mack.
RM: Thank you, Dirt-god.

Raven Mack can be reached through this site you are already looking at. If you'd like Raven Mack to come talk shit somewhere convenient to you, hit him up. Meaning me.

45s on 33 – #19: “Let the Drums Speak”

I like to waste time scouring the digital camps of bands and clouds of sounds, looking for African producers of today music. Cultural anthropologist know-it-all justice bridgers love to point out how the drum is part and parcel of the African experience, which I’m not convinced “drum” is basic to all of humanity though certainly more prevalent in some cultures than others, but fuck man, all people historically have had elements of their culture who like to bang on shit rhythmically. Nonetheless, post-digital influence on music making, where live bands are replaced by dudes with laptops, it is interesting to go seeking out post-digital music (beat) makers from the African continent, where live drumming is still a larger part of actual real life. (To clarify, I’m not dissing modern beatmakers or being like “LIVE DRUMS BETTER THAN STUPID COMPUTER PEOPLE!”)
Drums make backbone rhythm of most music now, regardless of whether that came from Africa or not, that’s fact. (You could add bass to that as well, but let’s stick with drums for the sake of this word meander, okay?) You could consider drums laying the path that a piece of music follows, where the drums guide the music as well as the listener as to the direction to follow. Thus, the move to digital production of music, where samples are used or machine-generated drumbeats are done at an incremental piece of time then looped so as to repeat the pattern takes the path and eliminates some of the meander that live drums have. Basically, it is the difference between a traditional footpath which became a trade route, which might pass around this mountain but then curve back organically to this river confluence, and a railroad town built all at once, strict squares in place, streets all straight as they can be, ground leveled to allow for this. That’s the difference between live drumming and digital drumbeats. Again, not dissing the new, because even in a gridlocked little town built by the company’s devious master engineers, you can vandalize the fuck out of everything to make it beautiful. You can still meander off the straight path.
But the beauty of the meandering path is that you can meander off that too, and then you are meandering off a meander. (That feels like some shit Pooh bear would say, not cartoon Pooh bear but old ass book Pooh bear. Again, not dissing the new Pooh bear – each epoch needs its versions of shit, especially in a capital system where you’ve got to squeeze more fucking profits out the poor Pooh bear’s throat.) Thus I find myself wandering the gridlocked squares of the internet, trying to find “producers” from Africa, who combine the new-fangled looped path, but with the meandering philosophy deeply ingrained in who they are as well, as it is still part of their life (I am assuming… let’s not even start opening up that Pandora’s planet rocks). Thus you have the straight path complemented by meandering path, still letting the drums speak, not just forcing them to repetitively say the same shit until it’s beaten into your head, as if your head was a drum instead of the drum beaming into your head.
Actually, that thought kinda fucks me up, that we are now the drum, being beaten into a rhythm to hold, by unseen hands. So with that existential crisis, I guess I’ll leave you for the moment.
so many motherfuckin'
buddhas stalking my compound;
what if they all come to life?

Thursday, August 20

45s on 33 – #20: “Between the Sheets (instrumental)”

Perhaps it’s because I was born a poor Southside Virginia boy with a sandpaper soul, but I never understood the allure of silk sheets, or silk pajamas (although Claire Huxtable sort of did them right in my mind for a while), or silk boxers. I understand silk boxers the least of them all, because why conceal natural nastiness within ornate finery? And that ends up being where I stand on silk sheets as well, because generally life is a nasty and somewhat ugly endeavor in which one tends to get stankified. It is impossible to be clean when slipping into bed, thus the silk is useless. In addition, hopefully there will be some nastiness in the bed as well, which also negates any premium qualities of silk sheets. And I would prefer to encourage nastiness in my life than stifle it for whatever benefit silk offers in sheet form.
As for being clean when you go to bed, that is often in my mind the defining distinguishing characteristic between shitty physical work and lazy (yet also shitty) non-physical work – when do you shower. If you shower in the morning before work, you are most likely cubicle livestock. If you shower after work, it is because you are nasty from work, and probably not comfortable polluting your home environment with the toxins of construction, so you shower immediately after work. Of course all this assumes one showers every day they work, which is kind of a privileged assumption in itself. But fuck, I’m writing words in a secret works file while sitting at a desk, because I think anybody gives a fuck what my stupid mind thinks through language. Privileged assumption is sort of my forte. And yet, I still don’t like silk sheets.
mimosa blossoms curling
and stretching with the solar
shine, pink reflecting yellow

Wednesday, August 19

solitary bird circles
underneath big beaming monster's
electromagnetic screams

Tuesday, August 18

vines are nature's ropes, while
ropes are man's vines, except man
is part of nature, sort of

Monday, August 17