Monday, December 14, 2009

2009 goes to Frank Sherlock's "Over Here"

Someone recently asked me why the sexiest poem award has to be political, and added, "What's so sexy about politics?" Actually it goes to a "finely crafted poem demonstrating a fearlessness which confronts injustice." Sexy is subjective, obviously, but for me sexy is a tenacious DEFIANCE for culture's endless forms of violence to our fellow humans, other animals and the environment. Abbie Hoffman was sexy right up to the day of his very mysterious death in Philadelphia, Huey Newton, Judi Bari, Marsha P. Johnson, MLK, MalcolmX, Harvey Milk. Meanwhile Bernardine Dohrn and Mark Rudd used to be sexy when they dared to give a shit. Gloria Steinem was sexy until she worked for the CIA and dated Henry Kissinger (what the FUCK was she thinking by the way????). The truly sexy never retires the fight, the Ralph Nader's, Vandana Shiva's, Medea Benjamin's, Penny Arcade's, Larry Kramer's and Amy Goodman's. Or Selma James and her many comrades at The Global Women's Strike. Anne Waldman and her fierce Outrider wisdom. Or kari edwards who continues the fight beyond the grave.

Which brings me to one who fought the grave while fighting the tyranny of culture. Frank Sherlock is the recipient of this year's Sexiest Poem Award for "Over Here," also the title of his book out now from Factory School's Heretical Texts Series (cover painting by the amazing Amze Emmons). Critiphoria Magazine published this online PDF of the poem. "Our true stories have always been different than their / true stories" as he writes, like the best poets who have ever lived, with a clear, untrusting, perfected eye. Sold nothing he doesn't already want to drink.

When I say he fought the grave, the long sequence "Wounds in an Imaginary Nature Show" in the book is a near-death experience poem unlike anything you have ever read. I gave a talk about it at Kelly Writer's House, a firsthand witness to his remarkable will to live in the back of the ambulance. The definition of Shamanism is tainted these days with the jangle of the cash register and an almost goofy impersonation of anything remotely believable. But in the truer sense of the word, the act, of Shamanism, the shaman is one who has slipped into near death, and come back with new knowledge for the tribe.

The poem "Over Here" was written after the near death experience. Let's not play games here, as this near death experience was exactly that: heart stopped, kidneys stopped, flat line, I was there. And while he needed help to come back with the syringe and the incredibly fine work of one EMT worker named Lynette, his need to, and want to, LIVE, brought life back. While I've always been a huge fan of Frank Sherlock's poems, everything after "Wounds in an Imaginary Nature Show" is new in that NEW way that's inimitably new when a choice has been made at an intersection of many choices. And Frank seemed to know exactly which road to take and has not stopped.

There's no room for bullshit in his poems, "In search of local flowers / fists & arrows / are drawn in the soot of each other's skin / Ill lighting from the burning raw fuels can bring anyone / closer w/ the ruinous allure of the hillsides" but much room for never taking time for granted. Essential revelry in the chaos, and time for love in this cesspool of war and lies, "Welcome home now get / back home The oven's been exploded / the bread is still expected This is for you let's eat"

I created a (Soma)tic Reading Enhancement for the book Over Here and other favorite books of poetry from 2009. And to preempt the comments, "You gave the Sexiest Poem Award to Frank? But he's your friend isn't he?" YES, and is it my fault I have such great taste in friends who write such great poems?

BUY THIS BOOK, have a great new year, and take nothing for granted!

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