Poetry and Uppercuts: Orloski in 10 Sweaty Rounds

You get what you pay for, and if it’s money and debt, you get nothing, really. The money changers of culture have bastardized it until we have accepted 90 percent of NY books publishing and West Coast movie making. Forget about NYT Review of Books, APR, all the MFA rags, all the preening and ID politics and denuded life in all those poets’ works. Forget about Terri Gross of Fresh Air, The Q out of CBC, and freaks like Charlie “I Am an American-through-and-through” Rose. The sign of the times is cultivated high art, zilch for politics in poetry and even fiction, and a sense of a cloistered world of gladhanders.

I’ve been around poets and fiction writers, and even tangled with guys like Cormac McCarthy who vowed never to come to a creative writing class to talk about anything. I challenged him to come to a class I taught in the barrio, with high school aged students, some spooks (gasoline rag sniffers) and others abused chavos and girls who had been raped by daddy, etc., and encouraged him to talk to them about craft, about his books, ideas, creativity, something , since they were in my class on how to shoot and write about a community as journalists. Nah, not Cormac “I am Afraid of the Public” McCarthy. Wanted nothing to do with live, living, breathing people. The ones he writes about. These people are effetes. Now, Vonnegut and Levertov and Bly and Octovio Paz and countless others ARE real, ARE against this corralling of the minds with tenure track fears and self-referential readings and writing. I’ve broken tamales, drank tequila and toked a few cucarachas with them, all of them.

But, the landscape in America is plastered with middling poets, and those who fail to take a stand in their writing or in their communities. I see it in English Departments EVERYWHERE. And students of these faculty are just begging for something different, something more than quiet, folded-hands readings, and writing that has to be their MFA formula. PC imbued in all their writing, or infantilism, and always find the female side of your “self” to be a writer. It’s crap, and many of my colleagues play around with famous dead and sort of radical poets-writers, but in the end, when the living and breathing me is in their midst, all in your face, out there, not just outside the box, but eating the box with my Wheaties, well, these middle class folk with Subarus and soy candle making hobbies, well, these lavendar poets and teachers, they turn on you as if they are rabid dogs gutted by a Cormac line.

There are reasons why many in the white “race” are both toxin and virus. They are slowly turning people from outside their box into little mice in their shoeboxes.

So, Terkel, Studs, that is, oh, shit, nothing like that anymore on the larger landscape. Just Dissident Voice and Hollywood Progressive and Counterpunch. Meet, again, Mister Orloski, Taylor, Penn. Having this moment to ask Chuck Orloski some questions, well, I think readers of DV who enjoy the DV Poetry Page, Linh Dinh, Charles Fraser, Paul Lojeski, of course, you can understand the scope of the life lived, life observed, life confronted. Sort of the lay of the land from the perspective of the fallen, with the tired but oh-so clear voice of a whippoorwill.

My assignment was to look at some poets — those listed above plus Orloski — and write one of those bang-up things I can do for those literary rags I respect. It’s more work than anyone can think, to do it right, and I am in survival mode, a la 57, in a cool place, Portland-Hood River-Vancouver-Mt. Hood-Mt. St. Helens-The Gorge kind of place, but these are gentrifying times, and ageism is the proto-Jim Crow practiced by the very outfits I am trying to get full-time jobs with. So, that is on hold, for sure, until things settle down. I just did a 3,333-word piece on veterans, the Coffee Strong vet coffee house outside Fort Lewis, and my own buddies fighting Fallujah PTSD and a guy in Spokane who is trying to get a medical marijuana care center established for vets. No lazy days, and when I get my bicycling in, there is always two or three errands attached to my eventual ride through eagle-osprey-GBH-vole land.

In fact, this Q & A interrogation format works well for Chuck and I believe the others we carry as both poets and prose writers. Maybe I can get to all of those poets and probe their brains, their hearts, their literary spirits.

Really, though, we in America and in the English writing world FORGET voices that are not just off-the-mainstream, but off-the-beaten-path, and those that have been triangulated by the powers — no matter how small or obscure, the power bases in this society, in most societies, are fucked up, really. Give a woman a uniform or a guy a badge or a twenty-something a title or some old fart money, and, it all goes to their heads. Triangulation equals creative and forceful strangulation. This is the bizarre effect of way too much useless, bombarding information and junk and stuff in the air, in the clouds in bookstores. The things that sell, well, suspect. The things marketed, well, an elite few white males and females get to choose, get to be the gatekeepers of culture, insight, expression.

The big ones will one day eat up everything. Ya think?

So, for a year, Chuck and I have been exchanging emails. He’s been a writer’s dream through all the kudos and insights and spin-offs from my DV and magazine work. That is the gift of literary sharing, no ego, lots of riffs played back and forth. I know I have been remiss in answering in kind, but, shit, some are givers and others give but also take a little. Givers and takers. Daniel Quinn’s gorrilla talks of that in his book, Ishmael.

I do not label frequently or lightly, but the labels for Orloski are numerous. Maybe the questions I ask him below give the readers insight into the narrative configuration I was hoping for. This is sort of like a 10- round match with Hurricane Carter, RIP.

QUESTIONS for Chuck (CO) —
Round One

PKH: Three things you’ve learned about America over the course of your life that make you pause.

CO: In the late 1950s, Ike president, I was a small boy, only child, living in parents’ new home, Taylor, Borough, PA. Father Charlie, WWII vet, a truck driver, mother Mary a housewife, I had a sense of having it very good, in fact, much better than poor neighborhood friends, Anthony and Ronnie. At any rate, during the Summer of 1958, while playing outdoors, I heard “crack-crack,” gunshots, coming from a large pink house down the block, owned by well-off family involved in trucking fresh bananas to local markets. Afterward, word was passed that teen-age Marlene shot her mother after a fierce dispute involving a boyfriend

Later, on November 22, 1963, in Washington Elementary School, our teacher dismissed classes, “JFK was shot,” she somberly reported. Just outside school door, on way home, a neighborhood acquaintance, Clark Richardson, ran past, leapt up & down, and yelled, “Yippee, somebody shot Kennedy!” Mother and father explained this unsettling incident away by indicating Clark’s parent’s were staunch Republicans, and they preferred Nixon. Wide eyed, naïve, 11-years old at the time, I came to understand that America’s not quite the idyllic place depicted on Bonanza, Lawrence Welk, and Betty Boop cartoons. Even among best friends and small town neighbors, life more so resembled Tom and Jerry cartoon exploits, perpetual conflict, battling for comical turf/toys, and a strong will to live, get publicity, and compete next day.

The first experience of political discontent in my little world occurred upon entry into Washington D.C. , Summer 1964. JFK dead and buried, wilted flowers upon grave, my Aunt Sue Goodman drove me from her home in Laurel, MD, to downtown D.C. In awe, Aunt Sue encountered a traffic jam, a huge crowd assembled on D.C. street, and carried signs proclaiming, “Fair Play for Cuba.” This experience was an early political socialization, and the words “Fair Play” stuck, and here I am this afternoon, telling my story to you, a man devoted to pursuit of education and justice. Oh well…. Police maintained close eye on brown demonstrators, bang- bang, Wallace down in Laurel Shopping Center, old store owner Pat Langan stabbed in my hometown, and today – Corporate grocery stores DO NOT purchase bananas from local produce & transportation firms anymore.

Loquacious, like you, I can go on and on here. Emile Griffith knocked down Benny Kid Peret, a referee’s count, the man ain’t breathing, he’s dead. Recall the hit film and captured rebels shout, “I am Spartacus!” Oh man how I wished working people were actually like that, recognize common plight, stick together. (Pause)

Must credit all management tyrants (Melville Claggart’s), know human nature much better than me. And for a long time since, under the influence of Hollywood, I became an impractical idealist; late 1970s, a single & fire brand “Teamster for a Democratic Union” activist emerged. Naivety again reared head, I thought the world would one day end and resurrect, On the Waterfront, Marlon Brando style, but that’s simply not the case.

Round Two

PKH: Has your community changed much, and how, since you were a kid? How? Why?

CO: Taylor Borough has changed significantly. The old Moffit Anthracite breaker site’s coal culm banks used to burn red hot, and filled the entire community with harsh sulfur odor. Legendary, it was a good place for teenage motorists to let loose farts, while on dates, and blame foul odors on burning culm. I digress, laughter indeed makes life livable – The Taylor Borough Business manager Dan Zeleniak, engaged the Brownfields/Greenfields program, and as result, effectively cleaned-up this site, re-born, and now “Taylor Colliery” land is open for development; one can view this land on the internet.

Despite typical aberrations including local oligarch/politician alliances & subsequent abuses of power which occur everywhere, and are worsening, Taylor Borough was & is a relatively nice and quite place to live; keep a garden, construct swimming pools & fences, raise children, smoke weed in comfort of home, cheer for Riverside football Vikings every Friday night. (sigh)

Sincerely, despite insidious social changes, moral degradation, isolation, plentiful lousy jobs, extreme boredom, which are eating away at America’s mind and soul, I would recommend anyone’s plan to dwell in Taylor Borough, the N.W.O.s Sleepy Hollow with a WM landfill and nearby golf course, Many Taylor Borough neo rich domicile about a mile southeast, in a luxury hill top community called, Glenmaura. I know several such families, and the ones I know “made it” by doing the things I was taught to do as a young man by Cat Stevens, in song lyrics, “Work hard boy, you’ll find, someday you’ll have a job like mine.” Yikes…, it’s Spring 2014, Cat Stevens a Muslim now, on British terror watch list, and for first time in life, I am unemployed. Lots of small Convenient Markets getting knocked-over, armed robberies, heroin abuse on rise, more and more black & brown moving intp apartments, old folk locking doors. T Bone Pickens and 49ers won’t flock to Taylor, but chances are good one can walk streets alone at night and return home intact.

Round Three

PKH: Intellectualism is never dead, but seeing the world now, in 2014, it is certainly a concept that is muted or corralled, and those that are considered intellects are generals, CEOs, book writers and a few East Coast professors. What does intellectualism mean to you.

CO: Intellectuals (purebred) are rather aloof and scary to me. With considerable experience dealing with such people, I often feel that upon approach of notable intellectuals, I actually get an eerie sense of being at the gate of “House on Haunted Hill,” maybe Spahn Ranch. Seriously, during past decade at work, I encountered two rather brilliant intellectuals who being so devoid of conscience, and given OPPORTUNITY, would capably educate & train retro Gestapo, KGB, and Savat agents, bring something valuable to CIA and Mossad “Black Ops” operational tables.

Consequently, I would prefer an Intelligentsia in possession of even 25% of what used to be called decency and traditional principles. No doubt though, US proles unfortunately ignore traditional principles and consequently, make bad ethical choices and decisions. At this point, Paul, please be aware that I have endured an extraordinary series of management tyrants in my work life, and my view of US intellectuals is quite skewed, not always objective and positive like some N.W.O. apologists. But one supposes there are good CEOs and maybe good Generals somewhere who simply want to make a buck, pay workers livable wages, be humane, and go home?

For me though, I’d really have to buckle down, carefully define the word “good” before classifying many of our nation’s “Best & Brightest”as Non-DOT/Non-RCRA Hazardous Waste. Intentionally, I used the word WASTE; hearkening back to old cliche, “a human mind is terrible thing to waste,” and wasting one’s soul’s even worse, sometimes murderous, for example, in the case of those staffing Think-Tanks and the “Best & Brightest”cadets who blow-up 3rd World countries for energy, geography, and Israel’s will. Remembering the Dean Rusk and Rumsfeld Shock & Awe Society, and to paraphrase George Orwell’s essay on Gandhi, intellectuals should never be called saints until all deed receipts (votes) are in, tabulated.

Round Four

PKH: Railing against the system. Explain to youth why it is vital to rail and how to rail in this new normal of revolutionary (sic) Big Data and Big IT.

CO: All US tyrants know that railing against the system is vital. That is why tyrannical regimes, Pharaohs past and present, punish and inflict pain & suffering upon people who “rail” against it. Today, the US system is at great disadvantage because the internet gives dissidents a chance to speak and make friends, heaven forbid, and possibly form an under-cyber-ground resistance.

Big problem, as I understand matters, is that very little transpires in our T.I.P. society’s underground without our Occupiers knowledge and proactive attention. Cry for martyr Michael Hastings. Consider that the D.O.D. were first to put-up cash to design and implement the internet, and it would be quite foolish for anyone to think there was nothing built-in to prohibit snoops from extracting and using what speech transpires on the net. Er… that’s probably why our Black Widow makers called it the “world wide web” in 1st place?

My opinion – how to best “rail” against the modern system is still best done in the classic Bolshevik style, confidante-to-confidante, and build-up from there, but its way too late for that. Bolsheviks apparently got financial help from German Hohenzollern’s who had interest in bowling over Russian Romanovs. With some ingenuity, knowledge of devil’s rules of engagement, one can see through today’s elaborate System, and identify our Occupier’s greatest fear as US (and world) oligarchs’ investment of billions of dollars into the rise of either a Ralph Nader, maybe Dennis Kucinich, or Jill Stein movements. That will never happen here, of course, hell’d freeze over, and even the most radical dissidents are too often co-opted by our Occupiers, and are made into celebrities, for example, Michael Moore and Jesse Ventura. Gosh, how old proles like me wanted Jesse the Body’s Truth-er movement to grow Olympic legs. Alas, there will be no Bill Gates, Sheldon Adelson & Adnan Kashoggi funds thrown into “railing” D.V. editorial staff coffers and Oliver Stone documentaries.

Round Five

PKH: What does it mean to be a worker in America?

CO: To be a worker in America is hard to categorize. One of the great advantages working in favor of our Occupiers is that the American people are stratified in terms of individual jobs and earnings. Divison is a virtue for bad bosses. By design, this clever Process of course, starts at birth, evolves through kindergarten and grows up to taking S.A.T.s, and as John Lennon once said in the song Working Class Hero, “as soon as you’re born, they make you feel free, by giving you nothing instead of it all.” Therefore, when one attempts to describe the American worker, all are born to live and die in biological COMPETITION. I know some high-level environmental service managers who are paid six figure salaries, and are the most unhappy, high living, religious, & crooked people on earth. I know a 21-year old guy who works in Price Chopper Market meat department whose thrilled to be making $11.00 per hour, live home with mother, put gas in car, take girlfriend on dates, afford ½ oz of marijuana every month.

But foremostly, I know myself, having worked 22-years in the incredible 24/7 environmental cleanup & response racket. Yes, I made “honest” living, provided for family, but when I lost my job this past March 4th, I sincerely exhaled, and felt a sense of release from Folsom Prison. Contradicting what I said above on intellectuals, for wisdom’s sake, I look back to Noam Chomsky who pondered and identified how clever are criminal capitalists in having devised a System of gilded slavery where US workers willingly enter workplaces and participate until either retirement or death, whichever comes first.

Round Six

PKH: Why do you write poetry?

CO: Writing poetry. Why do I write poetry? Here I am caught like Admiral Stockdale in VOPTUS debate. After fleeing 10-year employment as a Teamster dockworker, Roadway Express, Tannersville, PA, I entered the University of Scranton. With some good professors egging me onward, I began to write a series of poems about lives of Northeast Pennsylvanians. I titled the series “Valley People,” and the University’s poetry journal Esprit, published two of the poems, one titled “Psalm of the Soup Kitchen.” The Jesuits apparently saw some light and promise in my rather crude & rhyming poetry, and offered me to join their organization, aspire to write for America Magazine. Too attracted to woman’s charms and delights, could not “keep dick in pants,” come 1989, I married Carol, and got hired as an EH&S Manager. As my life became ever so cramped with a very demanding 24/7 emergency responsibilities , I began to write more and more poetry.

Come 2004, aftermath of awful Shock & Awe, in face of Ari Fleischer’s behavioral warnings, I wrote a dissident poem, submitted to Counterpunch editor J. St. Clair, and to my shock & delight, the poem was published. At present, some kind people say I am a new manifestation of a “Beat Poet.” I appreciate such compliment, but as I see it, many classical “Beat Poets” did not enlist into daily job slavery, but I did so, and subsequently, I sort of prefer being called a “Beaten Poet.” BEATEN, that’s accurate, by years of managerial lashes & insults, and these days, and to finally address your question, Paul, I often write to exhaust HURT, seeing things awry, and imagine someone shall connect with my experiences, maybe get a sense that they’re not alone on neo slavery plantations.

Round Seven

PKH: This moving train USA is barreling along at 65 mph into a giant basalt wall. Riff with that analogy.

CO: Your image of USA barreling at 65 mph at a giant basalt wall is a good one to bounce off. And bounce off we must! The US is as occupied as any colonial nation of the past. People are reluctant to admit such government structures are implemented in a democratic Republic, but such is the case. High profile and controlled “polls” decide who are fit to run for POTUS & Congress, and then the Real powers take over and purchase stock in the poll victors. Amazing to date how, without major repression including round-up of US Thought Criminals, the US government hides its totalitarian nature? Sadly, our nation resembles Gogol’s speeding troika, in Dead Souls, and the basalt wall is actually mobile & speeding toward our GM troikas, and our disgusting Occupiers have elaborate escape plans prepared, even underground shelters in case of nuclear war catastrophe with Russia and P.R.C., they will not let the evil seeds die.

Round Eight

PKH: What do you see as good in America?

CO: I see lots of good in America. When I lost my job, friends & neighbors poured hearts out to my family and offered all kinds of help, guidance, some gave of groceries. My parish priest, Reverend Fran Landry, gave me precious advice on how one gets family health insurance coverage restored under Obamacare. A Taylor cop, bitter over my being fired, began a campaign to help find me another job. To paraphrase the old T.V. show, The X-Files,” the good is definitely out there in America, but it’s too often downplayed, tucked away in small pockets, exhibited in campaign slogans, Bush family “Points of Light.” And given the government’s desire to create a nation of informants, one should take care and not jump to place trust in just anyone. Our nation’s having a “left & right” is a positive thing, but of course, our ever clever Occupiers have turned this healthy phenomenon into a divisive political weapon which is exploited for 1%ers benefits. The good is out there but its being carefully anesthetized, X’d.

Round Nine

PKH: Why have most Americans turned belly up and flatulent around stuff-stuff-money-money-One Million Bytes of Digital Fame? That is, we are a nation of selfie’s and cult of celebrity and sort of fat but violent parodies of some of Chaucer’s and Dante’s characters. Charles Dickens would be carrying an AK-47 if he was alive today.

CO: After decades of careful programming, social engineering and patient experimentation, our Occupiers have devised an elaborate culture which encouraged people to “belly up around stuff-stuff, pay homage to money-money, worship ordained celebrities.” Interestingly, very intellectual and devoid of Pinocchio conscience, they did not have to resort to open and strong-armed Nazi methods of socialization. And like Charlie Manson once knowingly said to Geraldo Rivera during an interview, “Ya keep telling kids to light my fire, light my fire… ‘ya know what Geraldo, they light fires.” The flames of consumerism & decadence are burning hot in the US, and its very natural for citizens to worship freaks like…, well you know who they are as well as anyone, Paul. Some US popular cult names are so blasphemous & stupid as to even merit a mere small town guy’s John the Baptist cry of protest. The more idiotic and deranged stars get, the more popular and wealthy they become. You tell me where to go from here, Paul? On CD “Blood Money,” Tom Waits tagged it, said, “lawyers, murderers, and thieves are in charge,” and people should never submit to such rule, but they always do. I for one try to cope and hope.

Round Ten

PKH: Where is America in 2020? Or 2050?

CO: Wherefore America in 2020? Many wise historians have recorded cycles of a nation’s birth, growth and death. At present, America resembles ancient Rome when their rulers recognized everything had gone to shit, wasted war, compromised Emperors, coffers broke, and aware that a new venue (home) for 1%er operational base was needed, they moved the Empire east to Byzantium. Think for a moment? Here in Scranton, all the wealthy people are escaping (fleeing) to idyllic areas, those with gates, less crime, except for those the arrogant & selfish inflict upon the general population. Our Occupiers, under significant Zionist influence, understand what a volatile wreck they have purposefully created throughout American cities, and weekly, guys like Linh Dinh and you write and record the mean proceedings. America in 2020, Netanyahu’s heir looking for another “best friend?” Well given the national debt presently registered at $14 trillion, the transparent “surge” for war against Russia and China, and increase of natural disasters, including earthquakes, I believe Americans should anticipate major human suffering. Recently, I heard Supreme Court Justice A. Scalia talk about good possibility for future American internment camps.

That’s where I believe America will be, come 2020, and I sense who ever is in charge of the future Occupation, maybe a new Paul Bremer, will make sure they are tucked safely within a US “Green Zone” while madness prevails outside. That’s probably the actual scenario all the latest zombie flicks are pointing too, Paul.

Thank you, pax, down with Corporate America, and long live the Resistance.

Bell — Match Over: PKH, 28; CO, 31!

PKH: Thanks, and More Later. Take your TIME,

Best of writing, your friend, Paul of DV fame.

Paul Kirk has been a journalist since 1977. He's covered police, environment, planning and zoning, county and city politics, as well as working in true small town/community journalism situations in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Mexico and beyond. He's been a part-time faculty since 1983, and as such has worked in prisons, gang-influenced programs, universities, colleges, alternative high schools, language schools, as a private contractor-writing instructor for US military in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Washington. Read other articles by Paul.