Thursday, August 25, 2011


In 2002 I was living on Jefferson Street in Moscow, Idaho. I was playing a major role in the local radio station, I was helping operate KUOI FM 89.3, I was watching bands like Animal Collective and Old Time Relijun play to crowds of 30 in my basement, I was making junk sculptures, I was reading Kerouac and Ginsberg. Every once in a while Brad Watkins would come home with something else to read, Charles Olson or Crag Hill, I would watch him read from a distance, and when he went off to wherever he went off to, I would steal what he was reading and read it to.
Brad's taste in "experimental literature" (is that what he called it?) resonated with me. He had this "procedural" book of writings (did we even call it poetry?) by Jeff Noon called Cobralingus. In addition to being vaguely Oulipean (not that I knew that then) it was riddled with references to European electronic music. The Thermals slept on our couches and passed typewriters around with us. Then I met the folks on the Hobo-a-go-go to tour Patrick, Elkins, Jason Voss and Justin Shay who had a lot of "poetry" and music in them, and a whole lot more that seemed positioned in between.
A year or so later I dropped out of college for a minute, and made a trip across the country to see my family, stopping in Ann Arbor, Michigan to play music with Patrick Elkins and Dustin Krcatovich (Actual Birds). Dustin and I recorded an EP of poetry and noise called "Small Creatures of the Wood Play Well Together." I went back to Idaho. I, at least sort-of, graduated from college. I started doing the odd reading. One was at the 1912 building and Crag Hill read, with one of his kids, I guess it must have been Noemi, one his knee, reading stories they wrote together. The reading was apparently secretly intended to be a pulpit for some evngelical folks, but we did a decent job of underminding that.
I moved from Idaho to Arizona to live with Brad. It was hot and boring but occasionally I went to open mics and read poetry. The poetry "scene" was boring, too but it gave me something to do. Brad and I moved to Portland, Oregon a few months later. I started going to readings at Tony's Talkin' To, and hanging with a guy who called himself Frank Sauce. Frank told me about "Language Poetry" and also that Crag Hill was the torchbearer for concrete and visual poetry in the United States.
I started reading language poetry and the scene in Portland got to seem more and more boring. I started writing letters to Crag, and told him this. He pointed me in the direction of Spare Room. He specifically said "meet David Abel, Mark Owens, Maryrose Larkin and Joseph Bradshaw." I went to one reading, and I don't remember it, but I did chat with Mark and Joseph. Then I moved to Alaska. Or tried to. I sat in a cabin in Fairbanks for a couple weeks and made "poems" with black pens and red markers. I came back to Portland.
The second or maybe third Spare Room reading I went to was their hundredth - a marathon! One hundred poems by one hundred poets from the last hundred years. I even got to participate in it, and as such was introduced to the work of Andrew Joron, Kevin Noonan, and John Taggart.
When Joseph invited me to open for Jim McCrary at a Spare Room reading, Crag came to town. Around this time he introduced me to the work of Nico Vassilakis, and I travelled to Seattle for a Subtext reading with the intent purpose of meeting him. In August 2010 Crag, Nico and I went on a short tour of the midwest, doing readings in Chicago and Madison, and attending the Avant Writing Symposium in Columbus, Ohio, where I met, read, and performed with mIEKAL aND, Camille Bacos, John M. Bennett, MusicMaster, Maria Damon, Matthew Stolte...
I had a birthday last week and Crag was in town. I'm still wearing his performance. Happy birthday to you, Crag.

1 comment:

Crag Hill said...

Thank you, Jamesian!