Friday, June 28, 2019

The Delicate Art of Communication by Ashley Orellana-Melendez

It is truly a beautiful thing to feel understood. As social creatures we crave this kind of companionship; it is in our nature. We are most comfortable in environments in which we can share our ideas, values, and beliefs with others free of the fear of being oppressed or judged. As a result, we seek out this safe haven anywhere and everywhere that we go. However, while this level of human communion is a common goal amongst our species, it is not easily attained. The problem that often arises is that we listen to react instead of listening to understand; we speak with the intent to dismiss instead of uplift. Lina Wertmuller’s Swept Away subtly hints at the breakdown of communication that has been occurring in Italian society. Through displays of both physical and verbal abuse, Wertmuller ably proclaims the lack of understanding as the root of sociopolitical turmoil. This film shows that communication is one of the most powerful weapons in our arsenals that could lead to devastation and destruction if abused.

In order to completely grasp the message that is being transmitted through Swept Away, it is vital to understand 1970’s Italy. At the time, Italy was a hotbed of social and political activism. Stark differences in the end goals of many individuals lead to the division of the country into two extremist parties, Socialists and Communists (Weston, par. 23). And while both groups were on completely opposite sides of the political spectrum, they did share one thing in common: the inability to give an inch. This impotence on their behalf opened the floodgates for violence. Bombings and shootings began to take place under guise of the greater good.  “Right and left wing extremists took arms to try to transform the Italian state according to their own visions” (Ancos, par. 4). In the midst of these countless acts of domestic terrorism, the Italian 1970s were fittingly coined with the term “Anni di Piombo,” which translates to “Years of Lead” in English. As these events continued to occur, it seemed as though compromise was unattainable, creating an atmosphere of severe animosity. 

It is evident that Wertmuller draws inspiration from the tensions that were rising in the 70s. The opening scene cleverly mirrors the hostile undertone of the Years of Lead while portraying the breakdown of communication that continuously plagues generations. Swept Away opens with a compilation of beautiful oceanic shots. The camera shifts from boats gliding along the water to families of people snorkeling and exploring caves. The scenic views are backed by an acoustic soundtrack, creating an ambience of serenity. Just as the wave of tranquility begins to set in, we become disoriented by the squabbling of Rafaella and her husband. The camera veers away from the picturesque coastline and becomes fixated on the bickering couple. The two argue over political issues such as abortion and divorce, failing to see eye to eye on these matters. It does not take long before their somewhat civil dispute turns into a full-fledged yelling contest. The husband, representing the Communist party, goes from saying “Alright, Rafaella let’s enjoy this beautiful place—please, it’s a paradise just as you said” in an attempt to diffuse the quarrel, to shouting “That is nonsense! You’re crazy, try and discuss something you know” (Wertmuller, 00:04:03). This dramatic change in tone from prudence to condescension causes viewers to feel uneasy, leaving us with the urge to pick a side in this argument. 

Not only does this scene expose viewers to a broken form of discourse, but it also reflects the communication styles that were prevalent amongst members of both the Socialist and Communist parties at the time. Rafaella, a progressive socialist, continues to push on the leftist front and shouts out to her husband, “You Communists are all the same. To conciliate the priest, you were ready to oppose passing a divorce referendum” (Wertmuller, 00: 04:15). It is clear that she has an undeniable passion for social reform; however, the way she goes about voicing this passion falls flat due to her inability to keep her feelings in check. This is known as the “attitude barrier.” It occurs when one feels strong emotions like anger or unhappiness, resulting in the halted effectiveness of communication. This barrier makes one less productive and cooperative (Vu, par. 9).  Her husband responds to her remarks angrily, saying, “Thanks to ten million Communists votes pushing the whole thing through, you’ve got divorce in Italy!” (Wertmuller, 00:04:19). Instead of recognizing the effort that the Communist party made to get divorce laws, Rafaella brushes it off and moves on to the next item on her list. She says, “Yes, that’s fine, but how about abortion? No one mentions it!” to which her husband replies, “How ignorant you are. You don’t seem to understand anything. The Communists are considering a bill right now on abortion. But you can’t mean free abortions! Now look.”  Perhaps predictably so, Rafaella retaliates with: “Free, that’s right! All abortions at no cost, or you must allow us the right to advertise contraceptives on TV.” Having had enough, the husband dismisses her and says, “Screw off; go on, Rafaella” while motioning her to leave him alone. It is important to note that the two failed to come to a consensus, as if they had learned nothing from one another. After having gone through that whole ordeal, they are both still stuck in their ways.

This short but intense interaction parallels the real-life exchanges that happened between the rival political groups of 1970s Italy, due to the fact that they were also unable to work towards a solution together (Weston, par. 18). It can be said that this scene is not exclusive to the communication, or the lack thereof, between the Socialists and Communists at the time. In a way, this small part of the film is a call to action that is still ringing in the ears of today’s generation. The only real difference, though, is that instead of debating divorce and abortion, we are struggling to come to a terms on immigration, gun laws, and so much more. The same problem remains: we fail to let go of our addiction to being right in order to effectively express our ideas. As a result, we move further and further away from compromise and closer to mutual devastation.

As the plot progresses, we are introduced to a new dynamic: the interactions between Rafaella and Gennarino, an alpha Communist crew member. Starting out as an emotionally strained relationship, Rafaella demeans Gennarino in every interaction. She lets her stereotypical thoughts take control of her conversations with Gennarino. After a while, it seems as though she purposely approaches him in ways that are sure to ruffle his feathers. For example, she makes Gennarino re-cook the spaghetti to her liking. Later, she makes him change out of his shirt because it is too “sweaty” and “smells.” These bossy behaviors on Rafaella’s behalf are clear exploitations of her social power. Wertmuller portrays this class gap by keeping Rafaella and her friends on top of the boat while keeping Gennarino and the crew below. Because he is getting paid by this “rich bitch,” Gennarino cannot express his disdain towards her. Instead, his anger fills up within him for as long as they remain on the boat. We soon see how their inability to express themselves in a respectful way leads them into devastating territory.

The idea that ineffective communication largely contributes to our social troubles is further reinforced by the physical abuse that is shown once they are marooned. One afternoon, Rafaella gets the bright idea that she wants to take a swim. She not so nicely asks the captain to have one of the crew members set up a dingy so as to take her out into the ocean for her plunge. Out of pure misfortune, Gennarino was ordered to carry out the task. As he is setting up, he notices a change in the tide and tries to persuade Rafaella to reconsider her swim. A thick-headed person, she refuses to pay mind to his concerns and decides to go anyway. Rafaella’s failure to listen results in the two getting shipwrecked. 

Upon landing on a remote and deserted isle with no civilization binding them, emotions begin to run higher than before. After having had enough of Rafaella’s “bitchy” remarks, Gennarino snaps and begins to clobber her. As he strikes her, he says things like, “Now you’re going to pay for every single one of them, you ugly social democrat whore!” (Wertmuller, 01:08:15). With every beating that he administers, he associates a different hardship that he has gone through. He says, “That’s for causing inflation and not paying taxes” as he smacks her, and “That’s for raising the prices of meat and cheese, and the fares on buses and trains and the cost of gas” as he kicks her around. Here Gennarino has lost the levelheaded civility of resolving matters through discourse. He engages in violent deeds because he has exceeded his breaking point. This act of using brute force represents the fallout of violence that resulted in the Years of Lead. But in this case, instead of fighting back, Rafaella attempts to stop Gennarino from striking again by using reason. She says, “But why take it out on me? All of that isn’t my fault” (01:09: 45). Gennarino, though, continues to assault her and demand obedience. We should consider his actions as a vain means of communication that transcends its basic textbook definition. To communicate entails so much more than just speech; body language and physical signs can often say just as much, if not more, than words. 

Healthy and stimulating conversation with others is one of the principles that our society was built on. Without it, we probably would not have made it out alive of the Stone Age; it is key to our overall survival. The open forum to discuss our thoughts and ideas is the fundamental cornerstone of civilization. Swept Away shows that when we cease to communicate effectively, we open ourselves to a world of emotional and or physical hurt. It is when we flip the switch and decide to listen with the intent of understanding a fellow soul and speak with the desire to elevate that we reap the vast joys that come from the delicate art of communication.

Works Cited

Ancos. “Life in Italy 1970s to 1980s.” Life in Italy, 16 Jan. 2017.

Vu, Max. “What is effective communication?” Web.

Weston, Fred. “Italy on the Brink of Revolution- Lessons from the 70’s.” Web. 22 Sept. 2017.

Wertmuller, Lina. Director, Swept Away. Performances by Mariangela Melato and Giancarlo

Giannini, Medusa Film, 1974.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Uplifting Effects of Unfamiliarity in Walkabout & The Gods Must Be Crazy by Grace Langella

When the act of change is thought about by humans, it tends to be linked to many negative emotions and actions. This tendency for humans to directly correlate change with negativity results from all of the stress and anxiety that overcomes them once put into situations of unfamiliarity. Because of the disoriented feelings we get once exposed to something new, humans keep themselves tied to a monotonous lifestyle that holds them back from experiencing a new way of living. Although being fixed on a rigid way of life brings feelings of comfort and safety for humans, there is an importance that needs to be shed on breaking away from a repetitive lifestyle in order to understand the valuable disparateness that exists in the world. When exposed to differences that break them out of their comfort zone, humans tend to experience culture shock, for they have no idea how to behave in situations that are new and uncommon to them. Because of how easily people crack under the pressures of unfamiliarity, we are able to see how fragile homeostasis really is and how much one’s energy can drop as a result. In both Jamie Uy’s The Gods Must be Crazy and Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout, we are able to see the fragility of homeostasis and the drastic impact it can have on one’s life; whether one comes from an isolated, indigenous community or Western society, an abrupt change can be traumatic to survival and cooperation between members of a society.

For the Kalahari Bushmen, cooperating with one another is never an issue; living in apartheid South Africa, everyone goes about their day as they please, making sure to maintain a sense of peace and community. Contrary to Western civilization, the Kalahari Bushmen aim to keep their society simple by refraining from focusing on technological advancements and things that can disrupt the serenity in which they live. In order to show the great contrast between societies and draw a satirical depiction of Western civilization, Jamie Uys incorporates a voiceover in the beginning of the film, which comments on the need for people living in Western society to reinvent themselves every fifteen minutes (Uys, 10:03). By commenting on this ridiculous way of life, Uys makes it clear that Western society follows a structure that is needlessly strict, restraining humans from reaching a point in their life that is well balanced and valuable.

In The Gods Must be Crazy, Jamie Uys paints a picture of a civilization that is perfectly balanced and valuable for everyone that is part of it. Although the Bushmen’s prestigious society seems to be indestructible, their ideal lifestyle gets turned upside down and ruined once an unfamiliar object arrives and dominates the way that people behave. As a Coke bottle falls from the sky, it is seen as an “ubiquitous byproduct of the civilized world [that] becomes both a tool and an object of jealousy when a Xhosa-speaking Bushman, Xi, discovers it and brings it to his tribe” (Gottwald, par. 2). Once Xi brings the Coke bottle into his society, an immediate outbreak occurs and people that once lived “collectively, enjoying and praising nature,” begin to turn on each other and create disharmony in their once tranquil society (Eshetu, par. 3). At first, the Bushmen look at the Coke bottle in confusion, unsure of what to do with such an unfamiliar object; however, they eventually realize how great of an impact it can have on their everyday lifestyle, which causes their behavior to change and the fragility of homeostasis to be exemplified. The people within Xi’s society become filled with jealousy, anger, and violence because “for the first time in their lives, here was a thing that could not be shared because there was only one of it [...] a thing they never needed before became a necessity” (Uys, 10:28). Using the Coke bottle to “represent something so vast and unique as civilized society,” Uys makes it evident that anything that comes from Western civilization, even something as insignificant as a Coke bottle, has the ability to poison any balance and social dynamic that once existed in the Bushman’s society (Antoine, par. 4).

Another situation that Uys includes in his film to exemplify the negativity of Western civilization when compared to indigenous life is Kate’s experience as she moves from a civilized lifestyle to a more natural one. While living in Western society, Kate spends her time as a writer for a city newspaper; in doing so, she finds herself “letting social norms control her and what she writes about” because “instead of writing about something that peaks her curiosity, she is limited by convention to write about topics that are ‘sweet and light’” (Spellman, par. 5). After realizing that she is bigger than the bounds that limit her in Western society, Kate moves to South Africa where she finds her unique intelligence to be a factor of progression rather than regression in society. Upon her arrival into the Bushman civilization, Kate is taken in with open arms and praised for her willingness to educate and expand their ways of thinking—completely contrasting the experience she had while living in Western civilization. By having Kate’s experiences be drastically different in the two societies, it shows how harmful Western civilization really is. In Western society, Kate aimed for making a change by expressing herself through her writing but was so constricted by the limits of society that she was forced to quit. 

Being constricted by the limits of society is something that people living in Western culture experience every day; however, it does not seem to bother them because they are brainwashed into thinking that living such a limited life is completely normal. Viewers are able to see the consequences of this mindless acceptance through The Girl and her little brother in Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout as they venture into the Outback and find themselves in need to connect with nature. Because The Girl and The Boy have grown up “in a world where they learned proper etiquette, were taught to get educated to ensure future employment, and were given food instead of having to hunt for it,” they find themselves completely lost the moment they are put into an unfamiliar situation and forced to adapt (Bellesheim, par. 2).

As time elapses and The Girl and The Boy meet an Aboriginal who is willing to help them survive, their lack of knowledge and inexperience of other cultures is exemplified even further when The Girl is unaware of the language barrier that exists between her and the Aboriginal as she attempts to ask him for water. Viewers are also able to see the inexperience of The Girl and Boy the moment that The Girl comments on her brother’s appearance, exclaiming, “You must look after your blazer. It’s got to last. We don’t want people thinking we’re a couple of tramps” (Roeg, 34:28). The Girl’s exorbitant concern about the way her brother looks in the middle of the Australian Outback, as they are barely surviving and getting through each day, goes to show how poorly Western civilization prepared them for times where they would be exposed to a new way of living that is completely different from anything they have ever experienced before.

When people are exposed to something that they have never experienced before, there tends to be various ways in which it is handled. For the Kalahari Bushman, the exposure to a foreign object, such as the Coke bottle, initially caused chaos throughout society; however, once they realized that the bottle was not worth the trouble it was causing, Xi walked to the end of the Earth to throw the bottle in the sea and allow his society to go back to living in tranquility. 

Although the return to homeostasis was easy for the Kalahari Bushmen, it was not as easy for The Girl as she returned home from the Outback and realized everything she left behind will never be attainable for her ever again. As Roeg displays The Girl grown up with her husband as he speaks about his promotion at work, viewers are able to see her in another world, ignoring everything he says, as she thinks back on her time in the Outback where life was much simpler and filled with happiness. Looking at how different both situations of aberration resolve, it becomes evident that real living is being one with nature through a more simplistic way of thinking; however, the only way humans will be able to understand this is by testing limits, experiencing culture shock, and comprehending the fragility of homeostasis.

Works Cited

Antoine, Myrtchena. “What Do You Do with Trash: A Review of WALKABOUT & THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY.” Taking Giant Steps, 2017,

Bellesheim, Allison. “Walkabout: Where the Wild Things Are.” Taking Giant Steps, 2017,

Eshetu, Hanna. “Pursuit to Restore Serenity.” Taking Giant Steps, 2018,

Gottwald, Benny. “Putting Masculinity on the Chopping Block.” Taking Giant Steps, 2018,

Roeg, Nicolas. Walkabout. Perf. Jenny Agutter, David Gulpilil, and Luc Roeg. Twentieth Century Fox, 1971. Film.

Spellman, Jennie. “The Dark Side of Civilization.” Taking Giant Steps, 2018,

Uys, Jamie, Director, writer and director. The Gods Must be Crazy.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Taking Giant Steps Reviews Was Out Jazz Zone Mad by Tony Adamo

This review was first published electronically by All About Jazz

Kirpal Gordon: As a bassist, composer and arranger who has worked with spoken word artists and vocalists, what did you make of the blend that Tony Adamo and his band created in his latest release from Ropeadope Records, Was Out Jazz Zone Mad? The first thing that jumps out to me is its jazz-funk-blues direction driven by that Hammond B3 organ and guitar.

Benny Gottwald: I was immediately hit by the power of that B3; Roger Smith and Mike LeDonne are not messing around! Another voice that jumps out to me, as a bassist, is Mike Clark’s superb drumming. He threw me for a loop! First he comes in with feel-good swing pockets on tunes like “Birth of the Cool” only to contrast that with his highly syncopated funk grooves in “Fly, Jump, or Die.” Clark speaks to the diverse and capable krewe at play on this record. Sticking with “Birth of the Cool,” I was also highly impressed by Adamo’s layering of references to the jazz canon; on that track, most obviously named in honor of Miles, the cat talks about taking “giant steps ‘round midnight.” He’s got the energies of three greats—Monk, Miles, and Trane—all intermingled in one big mind of a song, and if you listen closely, you can hear the band comping on the changes to “Giant Steps.” You gotta dig that layering of influence, all compounding together, balancing out the musical and lyrical blend.

Kirpal Gordon: I hear you on the layering and the blend in 
“Birth of the Cool.” Adamo is like a gone scat-singer 
improvising in and out of the song form. He bends-mends-
soars-roars syllables of whack-a-doodle wonder, incredulity 
and well-being on the chronic. He’s got that jazz DJ love of the
tradition, but now Hometown’s a blues shouter as well! He 
sang some on Tony Adamo & the New York Crew, an earlier 
CD, but he really stretches out with this band underneath him. You’re so right about the rhythm section, especially on the 
opening track, “Rain Man.” With Mike Clark working that drum 
kit, Adamo locks into that funky jazz feeling; it’s frisky, too. The
band is particularly steady and strong, throwing him invitations
to further his flow on two vocal tributes---“Bb King Blues,” a 
blues shuffle, and “Boogaloo the Funky Beat,” reminiscent of 
James Brown---and Adamo lifts off. He croons and then he 
rhymes, then sings some more; after musical solos, he 
improvs on the artists that he roll-calls to mind before returning
 to the head. It’s a joyous dexterity: vocalese hoo-doo meets 
the jazz tribute poem; spoken word spontaneity bursts into 
song. He’s gone to the Gil Scott-Heron School of Crossover Crossroads, and the band is with him working deep grooves 
that he slides his syllables through. The trick with funk is to 
keep it greasy and not let the riff wear out its welcome. The 
best example of the ensemble keeping its many parts well-
oiled is in the laid-back “Too Funky to Flush” (check “Stormy
Monday”), Adamo’s shout out to the Big Easy, its ettoufee and 
its clave, its blues wisdom and its Congo Square drumming. 
Let’s just say: smiles are guaranteed.

Benny Gottwald: Yes, “Too Funky to Flush” indeed had “black magic dancing in my veins.” I was immediately impressed by how such a lyrically evocative tribute to Nola could chill out on the axis of a smooth 6/8 feel. Talk about juxtaposition, especially when they hit the stop-time; that B3 keeps it real while Adamo paints a Big Easy portrait, letting the tune begin to cook just like mother’s gumbo. “Too Funky to Flush” is, of course, not the only tune where Adamo takes the sounds he’s heard in the street and throws them into the mix of a song. “Boogaloo the Funky Beat” does this big time. Yeah, one could couch it as a tip-of-the-hat to James Brown, but that funk won’t stay on the couch for very long; it’s a get-up-and-groove kind of vibe. Tony Adamo really is the chef on this record for sure, some lyrical spoken word benedictions here and some lofty crooning there. He tells us as much: “mixin’ it up now, home cookin’, rice and beans with cold beer on the side.”

Kirpal Gordon: Hey, Adamo is a force of nature. Now if we’re talking favorite track, I lean toward his tribute to Leon Thomas, “General T.” The band morphs out of guitar-organ funk blues to music that stuns and steps listeners into another dimension. Reverend Adamo marries his praise shouts to the spooky, trippy, atmospheric sound that drums, trumpet, bass, alto saxophone and piano lay down. Talk about a taste of Wayne Shorter’s “Iris” from the mid-Sixties Miles Davis Quintet: The band’s got tentacles reaching into space; they touch many stars. They comp, roll, weave, crescendo and wrap within and without Adamo’s recollections of Leon Thomas at the Village Vanguard. He describes General T’s approach as “Keepin’ his words zip-locked fresh,” but the same could be said of Adamo, whose power of jazz wit-ness never fails or stales.

Benny Gottwald: Adamo put me back in the Vanguard with General T himself. The Reverend is marrying musical elements left and right with unlikely beauty. Check the B3’s left hand on “I’m Out the Door,” giving hard swing and talking up a storm with the drummer—Joey Defrancesco and Billy Hart would be proud! One listen to that track and I am sitting in the studio while Bobby Hutcherson plays his last record, enjoying the view while the cats come out to play chorus by chorus. If you had to get my favorite track on this record, it might just be that one.

Kirpal Gordon: Taken all together, his tales and regales on these tracks celebrate his love of this musical art form. He’s acknowledging, much like Walt Whitman did on opera, that funk-jazz-blues is a manifestation of his muse. And like our national bard’s “Song of Myself,” Adamo’s song-poems celebrate his own exodus from the Moloch madness of Western civilization and his initiation into a deeper experience of meaning via the jazz life. No wonder he’s enthusiastic. He’s escaped the asylum. It’s all there on the final track, “Fly, Jump or Die.” Adamo mixes tales of his Bronx neighborhood jumping from building to building eight stories high with observations on how a tenor saxophonist flies, jumps or dies their way through a solo followed by a guitar solo that flies, jumps and re-births his theme. A smart end to a new direction from Adamo and krewe. Click this for more:

Personnel: Mike Clark: drums; Donald Harrison: saxophone; Bill Summers: percussion; Lenny White: drums; Michael Wolff: piano; Richie Goods: bass; Tim Ouimette: trumpet; Mike LeDonne: organ; Jack Wilkins: guitar; Delbert Bump: organ; Elias Lucero: gutiar; Roger Smith: keyboards; Kyron Kirby: drums.

Friday, June 14, 2019

The Art of Celestial Mechanics: Singing in the Dawn with Eric Basso; An Interview by Kirpal Gordon

KP: In perusing your 13 titles published by Asylum Arts Accidental Monsters: Poems & Texts, 1976; Bartholomew Fair: Fiction; The Beak Doctor: Short Fiction, 1972–1976; Catafalques: Poems, 1987–1989; The Catwalk Watch: Poems, 1977–1979; Decompositions: Essays, 1973–1989; Enigmas: Short Plays, 1979–1982; Ghost Light: Poems, 1990–1994; The Golem Triptych: A Dramatic Trilogy; Revagations: A Book of Dreams, 1966-1974; The Sabattier Effect, Plays; The Smoking Mirror: Poems, 1980-1986 I sense there’s some back story between 1966, the earliest date, and 1994, the latest. Take us right up to your latest publications, Umbra, just out from Asylum, and Earthworks, published last year by Six Gal­lery Press.

EB: My seventh collection of poems, Earthworks, took twelve years to complete. I was beginning to burn out when I wrote the first section, “A New Shade of Gray,” then gray went to black. I burnt out completely. Didn’t write a word for five years. I was also taking care of my mother, who’d fallen ill with Parkinson’s disease, twenty-four hours a day for six years. After her death, I began to crawl back into poetry, and finished the rest of the book in three years. I left the poems in chronological order, so the reader can follow my descent into the void and my climb out. Before the burn-out, I’d been prolific. Maybe I’d just run out of words, who knows? In December, I completed a new collection, Barbarous Radiates, which took a little over two and a half years to write. I’m back.

KP: What are you working on now?
EB: A new collection of poems, Palimpsest.
KP: Kirkus Reviews wrote this about your poetry: “A poetry of celestial mechanics, mysteries that are still, and forever, unfolding. Not a barren defiance, Basso's vision becomes a fruitful collaboration with the cosmos in the manner of the Navajo shaman who each dawn helps sing the wondrous into existence.” And Samuel Appelbaum, reviewing the entire body of your poetic work in Rain Taxi, writes, “Eric Basso has reconfirmed the pattern of prodigious visionary accomplishment he began more than twenty-five years ago . . . . through thousands of night shifts, Basso has done the kind of heavy lifting most of our more accessible, celebrated poets never had the courage to do in the first place. . . . Basso explores an eerie, uncharted realm, because that is where those who are absent, and their artifacts, are buried. Having harnessed his compulsiveness in the service of qualitative production, Eric Basso has become prolific in the most useful sense.” Do you have a favorite poem in Earthworks that I might quote, especially one that best represents the thesis/core/heart of the collection?

EB: There are several. Just off the top of my head, “Dark Crawling” comes to mind.
 (reads): 


dark crawling begins
an escape from bad dreams
and an even worse reality
animal warmth remains
but nothing more
just to slip off
all that is needed
you feel the air
tingling the hairs
on your body
the poem hangs in midair
the exercise you take up
at night without wanting to
new routine of an old age
you’ll never learn to live with
a coldness under your fingers
it’s marble from a country
that you will never see
from a torment
yet to be named
drunk or sober you are
committed to the passionless
exploration of what lies
beyond the pillow and
the night sweat
a swelling mud turns
to crust beneath you
the rumpitous monster
grins but tells nothing
of what it knows

still a long space to crawl
across this darkness
a light to imagine
at the very end
that won’t be there

That pretty much takes you into the heart of the process.

KP: What is “rumpitous?” A “rumpitous monster"?
EB: I made it up.
KP: Rhymes with "bumpitous."
EB: I wouldn't want to give the impression that all the poems are this grim. Most are not. The cycle about Mr. Abattoria and his quest for an elusive, mysterious woman is often quite funny, in a twisted way.
KP: Is Mr. Abattoria you?
EB: No. When I wrote the poems, I became Abattoria.

KP: Why not read your favorite Abattoria poem?

EB: It's a bit long.
KP: We have time.

EB: (reads): 

the spinach on the grill
he didn’t want to eat it
refused point blank to sink
the tip of a tusk in

this was when he noticed
the waiter had dwindled
the man was slowly sinking
legs puddling out of trousers
Mr Abattoria hadn’t been
in the city for long when
he began to hear rumors
of the intimate herrings
they don’t resemble fish
the night clerk advised him
adding that the management
urged residents to avoid the stairs
spring being slow to come
love was not in bloom
but the promise of love lingered
in expectation of the herrings
Mr Abattoria combed his hair
and plucked his eyebrows waiting
for an intimate herring to appear
it could assume any form
that much he knew from
the lady who changed the bed
its properties were self-refuting yet
no one had witnessed a metamorphosis
what made these herrings intimate
was their overwhelming desire for
close contact with the human body
thus they were impossible to console
prowling the marina Mr Abattoria
wondered how dangerous it would be
to discover himself in the presence
of an intimate herring
the harbor patrol dragged the bay
for bodies but dredged up only
a few small foreign coins
a suitcase and a tub

an engine hummed in the alley
it was still winter and not
a mosquito to be seen as
a cloud dimmed the moon
intimate herrings were
the blind seekers
the dream flesh warmed
the nightmare
KP: Another elusive hunt for love.
EB: Yes!
KP: Any other poem in the collection that you'd say was representative?

EB: (reads) 

it steps out from behind the mirror
politely asks you to climb onto its back
then you’re off at a scampering gallop
riding the tin gorilla past hope and fear
past the lonely place where punishment
peels the glove from its frozen fingers
these shattered bricks cradle
the spume of an aching sky
through dreamless nights
a surrender to false horizons
to gigantic arches of mud and mist
as the tin gorilla gallops past
the clatter of its spiked fur
raises a terrible din and as you cling
to its shoulders you shut your eyes
praying this is not the endless
nightmare of the life after death
but the tin gorilla gallops on

I've spent twenty years riding the tin gorilla.
KP: Family obligations, deaths, illnesses.
EB: Mmmm. It kept me out of the loop.
KP: The literary loop.

EB: I lost touch with everything. The crowning irony is that twelve of my books were published during this time. Books I'd written years, sometimes decades, before. And I had no time to, well, enjoy it. I didn't even have time to read.
KP: So, the poems in Earthworks are, in some sense, a record of this.
EB: Some, like the ones I just read, are. Others carry forward the exploration I'd begun when I was nineteen.
KP: Which brings us to Umbra, your second collection of poems, just out from Asylum Arts Press. Why did it wait so long to see the light of day?

EB: I wanted to hold in reserve at least one of the books I wrote in my twenties to be published when I was in my sixties. Umbra was the most logical choice. It's a large, experimental collection, a revealing transition between my first collection, Accidental Monsters, and my third, The Catwalk Watch.
KP: Those early poems are surprisingly different from your later work. To create context, why not contrast a poem from Umbra with the two poems you read from Earthworks?
EB: (reads from Umbra):

with the last

places a spi-
der would not
want to touch
with its webs

once you have
begun to fall
through a few
black mirages
you let go of
everything in
the room that
might suggest
you are awake
KP: Interesting line breaks, especially the second line with spider cut in half! The whole book is columnar. Though the lines are not syllabic, they chisel a tombstone effect on the page. The lines, “to fall / through a few / black mirages,” might be the theme of Umbra. Throughout the book the historical reflects the personal, mixes with the natural and connects with the mythical.

EB: I began to write poetry relatively late, and I just plunged in. Accidental Monsters, a sizable collection, was written in six months.
KP: Every work is marked at the bottom with a completion date. Many of the events and characters you write about are so terrifically and terrifyingly interworldly that recording the moment you wrote it feels like an ironic touch.
EB: The dates of composition fix a moment in time — an epiphany, if you like. I’ve always included them in my books. I’m far from the first to do it. An awful lot of my poems were dictated into a tape recorder, in the middle of the night, while I was trying to get to sleep. My other writing — fiction, drama, criticism — was always planned out in detail, before composition began. Poems are different. For the most part, you wait for them to come.
KP: I have been reading with great fascination your poetry posts at Facebook. Are these poems new?
EB: They're from Barbarous Radiates, the book I completed in the fall of ’09. You've been reading the “Petroglyphs” section. Poems about, or inspired by, stones.

once you have
begun to fall
through a few
black mirages
you let go of
everything in
the room that
might suggest
you are awake

KP: The poems are written in deceptively-simple language yet, at the same time, the images you invoke are mysterious, enigmatic, often magical.
EB: I try to avoid simile, except in rare instances for musical effect, steering clear of philosophizing and metaphor, and keeping myself in the background. When I say “I” in a poem, I’m almost never speaking of myself. That “I” is the anonymous voice of the poem. I don’t want to “talk at” the reader. It’s not about me. It’s about opening the door, letting the reader in.
KP: What is the meaning of the sentence, “Eric Basso no longer writes”? I read that in Rattle, a poetry journal. The quote not only contradicts the many posts, but these new poems feel like classic Basso, and already seem so entirely connected from one to the next.
EB: “The Nets,” a poem from Earthworks, was published in Rattle during those five years the book's progress was interrupted. I was convinced I would never write again. But, I struggled back. It was almost like starting from scratch. As to the continuity you find in the Barbarous poems with the earlier books, I'm glad to hear it, but can't account for it. I’d to make clearer something I said earlier. My burn-out began two years before my mother fell ill. I was writing less and less. Her illness may, or may not, have prolonged my silence, but wasn't the cause.
KP: A few years ago, Asylum Arts Press published Revagations, the first volume of your book of dreams.
EB: The book begins in 1966. In other words, at the very beginning, when I was nineteen.
KP: And the book itself begins with a preface that begins with an exploration of the very nature of consciousness.
EB: That’s right. The preface, or “Prolegomenon,” is the result of a decade of research and experimentation on the mechanism of passing from the conscious to the unconscious state. Some excellent work was done on this around the turn of the last century by Henri Poincaré and Paul Valéry. I’ve recorded thousands of my dreams, over the last forty-four years. The first volume takes me from the age of nineteen to twenty-seven. All the dreams of that time are included. I held nothing back, no matter how insalubrious. What surprised me, in transcribing the dreams from my journal into book form, was how well the writing had held up. The dreams were scribbled out in haste each day, before I got down to my regular work. The depressing part was in discovering the need to add brief explanations, in brackets, to explain to younger readers who celebrities like Milton Berle were, and political figures who have faded from public memory.
KP: Many of the dreams are incredibly detailed.
EB: And outrageously indecorous. Some are farcical, others lyrical, almost poetic, still others are menacing or mysterious.
KP: There’s a unifying quality to your work, a sense that every book is another look into an intriguing world, starting with the first recorded entry, in the dream book, “Flight”:

"This island-city of rain, where a shower of drops constantly falls; not from the sky, but up from the surrounding sea — a fountain in reverse.

As the drops hit the windows, people look around from making hybernative love. People of the indoor air, who see me through the clear circle on their ground-glass windows.

I fly in the rain."
In the preface you record how writers have shaped dreams into literature, and how messages from dreams have instructed Paul Valéry, Victor Hugo, Shelley, Keats, Wordsworth, Yeats, Rilke, Coleridge, Stevenson, de Quincy and, most centrally, Gérard de Nerval, for whom you tell us, “the dream became a process of growth toward an occult knowledge.”
EB: With tragic results. They all took what they regarded as significant dreams seriously — composers, painters and scientists, as well. It’s amazing how many writers have kept a journal of their dreams, and later published them. Recording your dreams in detail is excellent training for a young writer.
KP: You were born in 1947 and although many American writers of your generation have had extensive training in grad school, you’ve avoided such an approach. You don't have an MFA degree.
EB: My training as a writer is unaffiliated with any academic institution.
KP: I tend to think of the MFA-ication of English departments — also music, dance, visual art, etc. — as part of a larger social breakdown. The under-enrolled university abuses its alleged value as a vocational training advancement but actually compromises talent and the training of artists in a world in which there is little performance feedback from an audience, or actual support of the art in the community, but advertises instant success for all. That’s sick, and preys upon our hopes, and turns everything to shit.
EB: In my estimation, the best course in creative writing consists of voracious transglobal reading, disrespect for authority, not paying any attention to your teachers, experiencing everything you can to the point of mental and physical damage, and drinking. That’s how most of the greats did it, and how it was meant to be done.

KP: The term avant-garde suggests something elitist, military, forward moving and ahead of its time. Your work, by contrast, strikes me as universal, something we already know but don’t know that we do until we read your words, an eye that moves forward as well as back in time but unites rather than divides our consciousness. In other words any human who can read imaginatively is your reader.
EB: I think of writers like us as the next stage in the long tradition, running from Homer to Beckett and beyond.

KP: A quality you have in common with those European writers is a more elastic sense of literature, one not so driven by the narrow categories of our mega-book stores. Your work makes me think of a remark Yusef Lateef, who was inducted into the NEA Jazz Masters last month, made when asked about musical genres, “It’s segregation and has nothing to do with the music.” Stephen-Paul Martin remarked in “Bashing the Mainstream,” “[Eric Basso] remains one of the most interesting writers in the country, someone whose work does not fit conveniently into categories like metafiction or language-centered po≠etry, but whose poetry, fiction and dramatic writing extend our sense of what terms like modernism and postmodernism mean.” Blessing or a curse?
EB: Both. You know, I’m only first-and-a half generation American, and grew up around older relatives who were bilingual, so I’ve always felt at home with the European tradition in literature. I realize that sounds a little crazy, but it’s the only way I can explain how I took to it when I was young while a great part of the Anglo-American tradition left me cold. I found its relative insularity and parochialism of little interest. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about the great works — like The Waste Land, Nightwood, To the Lighthouse, Ulysses, Under the Volcano and others like them, speaking of the 20th century alone. But England, and particularly America, has had a long tradition of insularity, of the narrow focus, that has isolated it from the broader tradition.
KP: Very few independent presses in American publishing remain standing after thirty years. You’ve been there from when Greg Boyd started it and since Jordan Jones has taken it over. What’s the ride been like? What’s the future look like?
EB: Greg Boyd began publishing Asylum magazine in the spring of 1985. I was a regular contributor from the first issue. A few years later, he branched out into book publishing. The first of my books he published was the big drama trilogy, The Golem Triptych. Over the next seven years, nine more of my books came out under the Asylum Arts imprint. As we both know, small press publishing is seldom a money-making proposition. Greg’s integrity, as both a publisher and author, resided in his willingness to take chances by publishing, and creating, literary works that were, shall we say, not “the usual.” He kept things going as long as he could. When Greg was no longer financially able to continue, Asylum Arts passed to Jordan Jones who, for years, had been publishing a fine magazine of his own, Bakunin, from 1989 through 1996, and who had started Leaping Dog Press in 1999. What I’ve said about Greg’s integrity can also be said of Jordan. He had already begun Leaping Dog Press when he took over Asylum Arts’ backlist, and has kept those books in print. Jordan has added three of my books to the Asylum Arts’ list: Revagations, Decompositions and, most recently, Umbra. As a way to limit expenses and expand markets in creative ways, Jordan is in the process of shifting from reliance on the standard distribution channels, to newer “long tail” publishing strategies such as print-on-demand and eBooks. The fact is that independent publishers have many challenges fitting into the increasingly commoditized world of publishing. But the problem is not new. New Directions publisher, James Laughlin, carried many of his authors for years until their books finally began to connect. Our generation cut its teeth on those paperbacks published by New Directions and Grove Press in the ’50s and ’60s.
KP: Those books were indispensable. But Laughlin had inherited a fortune. It was a lot easier for him to keep his backlist in print.
EB: Which makes Greg and Jordan’s accomplishment more admirable.
KP: Back to your poems on Facebook. Regarding your time away from the lit scene, if I’d gone Rip Van Winkle for twenty years and saw those poetry posts for the first time, I think I’d be amazed at how the technology has put reader and writer together with no middle player controlling the means of production and distribution of your literature.
EB: I didn’t think Facebook would be for me. Social networking isn’t really my style. My publisher urged me to join and post my poems to as many people as possible. Soon I was posting to multiple lists. The number of lists grew. After a year and a half, I found myself posting poems to around three hundred people. Jordan [the publisher] realized that I’d blundered onto something more effective than a personal Web site. I’ll paraphrase his words: “You’re bring it to them instead of waiting for them to come to you.”
KP: Many poems posted on Facebook receive little more than a generic thumbs-up or a word of wow, but your respondents are quite articulate in their praise. What do you make of the technology? As to your posts, am I right that you’ve only chosen poems from the “Petroglyphs” section of Barbarous Radiates? These are poems about, or inspired by, stones?
EB: For years I wanted to write a cycle of poems about stones. “Petroglyphs” is the second section of Barbarous Radiates. The response on Facebook has been incredible, detailed responses from all over the world. I was surprised. They get it. They really get it. Many have told me they’ve become obsessed by my poems. I’ve also posted poems from Earthworks, which was published by Six Gallery Press in 2008.
KP: And the technology?
EB: That’s a different story. Anyone who’s on Facebook knows that the interface can be very clunky.
KP: Reading the “Shoals” and “Petroglyphs” section of Barbarous Radiates caused me to reflect on the Kirkus Review description: “A poetry of celestial mechanics, mysteries that are still, and forever, unfolding.” This sense of co-participating with unfolding mystery might also be said of your fiction, yes?
EB: Also my plays and even, to a certain extent, my literary and art criticism. My work, in general, avoids the timely in favor of the timeless. For me, it’s an exploration of both the possible and the impossible. The language of my poetry is fairly simple. There’s also the dark side, which is very dark with me, a theme that runs — or, rather, zigzags — through most of my work: the sense that a story, novel, poem or play is completed by the very thing that destroys it. So, that “unfolding mystery” ultimately perishes before it can be solved or explained. A short, concrete illustration of this would be the climax of my drama trilogy, The Golem Triptych. the Creature, as the Golem is called, demands its own death because its existence as a living (but not human) being is a blasphemy of sacred law. The trilogy ends with the fall of Prague, a tragic dissolution, a desolation.
KP: There’s also a sense that you are “inventing” your predecessors. In a 1971 lecture Borges gave in London, just published by Obscure Publications, he states that a writer of importance creates his own forerunners. For example, he sees Kafka in Hawthorne’s “Wakefield,” the story of a man who goes into voluntary loneliness, and in Melville’s “Bartleby,” a tale Borges argues is “far more Kafka than Kafka perhaps.”
EB: Ah, Bartleby. One of my American lit professors didn’t agree with me that the more alarming figure in the story is Bartleby’s employer, who seems paralyzed to take action by simply firing him. And it was Kafka’s The Castle that brought me to this conclusion. The castle officials are terrified of the so-called land surveyor, K., who, far from being a passive “victim” is the aggressor, in much the same way Bartleby was before him.
KP: I’m reminded of Mike Begnall’s review of your book of essays, Decompositions, in which he wrote, “Basso occasionally verges into the philosophical, as in his discussion of Mallarmé’s courting of ‘Void’: ‘Thus we have the conscious mind, always at one remove from its core of being, able to conceive an idea of — but unable to know — itself, and, by such ignorance, reducing all notions of personal identity (which implies consistency) to a nebulous comedy of ever-changing masks.’ But it is not always this . . . rarefied, and of course it was Mallarmé who became obsessed with nullity before his descendant Basso.” As if to further a response to the Begnall review (which had not yet been written), Marie-José Fortis in wrote in Collages & Bricolages, “Is The Golem Triptych confusing? Not if you let yourself in on the phantasmal world of reality, or into the reality of dreams/nightmares; not if you defy time conventions and decide to travel forward into the past, trying to grasp . . . ‘the memory of the future.’”
EB: I’d call my proposition “anti-philosophical.” I prefer that term because some have called the essays “existential.” Maybe they were thinking of Sartre’s incomprehensible Being and Nothingness. But, in The Golem Triptych, we do travel forward from the 20th century to the turn of the 17th century, and enter “the memory of the future.” And in my play, The Sabattier Effect, the memory of a past the characters can no longer control threatens to engulf and annihilate an already-ambiguous present. I like presenting ambiguous situations. It seems to me a great part of our inner and outer lives are ambiguous, if were honest about it. Maybe I’m a realist, in that respect.
KP: Do you think some would find your essays incomprehensible?
EB: I’m certain of that. But they’re really studies of the incomprehensible. Mike Begnall’s terminology might differ a little from mine, but he gets it, as does Marie-José Fortis by focusing on “the memory of the future,” where conventional notions of time and space can fall like a veil from our eyes. Did I just use a simile or a metaphor?
KP: Bettina L. Knapp, author of Theatre and Alchemy, wrote: “. . . the atemporal time scheme used by Basso serves to integrate past modalities into contemporary actualities. Gone is the world of pseudo certainties relied upon by many today to keep body and soul afloat. Gone as well is the dividing line between life and death; conscious and unconscious; dream and reality. Instead, presides the infinite unknown with all of its wondrous and terrifying possibilities — both human and divine.” There’s an invocational quality running through The Golem Triptych as well. There’s the golem, for sure, with a four-letter Hebraic word emet (truth) marked on his forehead, but erase the first letter and it’s met (death). The gaining or erasing a letter is fascinatingly paralleled in the human characters as they “undie” by embodying new roles and names throughout the trilogy. One thinks of William Butler Yeats’ grand scheme in A Vision with its widening gyres and ever-turning phases. There are other echoes and threads: Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” a story in which a mesmerist hypnotizes a dying man at the instant of his death and keeps him in a trance, Borges’ elliptical “The Circular Ruins,” the flavor of Marlowe’s Dr Faustus in your blank verse, Carl Jung’s Red Book of psychic visitations from mytho-historic personae and Nietzsche’s Cycle of Eternal Return mixed up with historical events like the Black Death that plagued Prague under Emperor Rudolf II. While enfleshing a non-Christian identity of self, one outside the wrathful reach of a jealous theocrat, you’ve woven in a web of rarified Renaissance elements charged with Faustian energy: necromancy, astronomy, alchemy, sexual bewitchment, magic and mirrors to make a trilogy scary and hilarious at the same time.
EB: When Stephen-Paul Martin wrote about the Tryptych in his piece, “Bashing the Mainstream,” he pointed out that, as the characters change in identity from play to play, their previous identities lend a strange, unexpected depth of complexity to the later identities they assume. In the third play [The Fall of Prague], the mob boss, Canamine, of the second play [Joseph in the Underground], becomes the flamboyant astronomer, Tycho Brahe. The historical Brahe is known to have been a man of violent temper, gargantuan scientific ambition and gross appetites. Martin understands that Tycho, who often behaves like a thug or a mob boss, carries his previous incarnation within him. And this enhances the ambiguity of identity that runs through the three plays. Is this really Tycho? Or are we in some parallel universe as we plunge into that “memory of the future,” and 20th-century characters suddenly find themselves in Prague at the turn of the 17th century — the historical past, ambiguous at best, having become their future? The only character who remains constant is the old man, Joseph Golem, but he ages backward from play to play! And, in the final play, he is forced, by a bizarre turn of events, to assume the identity of the missing Rabbi Loew, the fabled creator of a golem, with both hilarious, and ultimately tragic, consequences.
KP: Another discovery is the music you composed.
EB: I was classically trained for six years, as a child. The Golem Triptych was the first of my dramatic works for which I composed and orchestrated incidental music. I never dreamed that early training would someday come in handy. Music runs on my father’s side of the family. It practically gallops.
KP: The incidental music is essential to the overall effect of The Golem Triptych.
EB: Absolutely.
KP: You’ve written the whole thing in British English and the last play, The Fall of Prague, in Elizabethan English. Were there reasons?
EB: A number of reasons led me to write the last ten of my twenty-one plays in British English. It began with the Triptych. I realized that a dramatic work of such large dimensions would require the forces of the Royal Shakespeare Company or the National Theatre, and actors trained to perform Elizabethan drama. So, I learned a foreign language, British. It’s a lot more complicated than some would think. There are both subtle, and dramatic, differences between British and American English, to say nothing of British regional idioms and slang. I immersed myself in it. My novel, Bartholomew Fair, was set in London, and entirely written in British, both high and low British. It was written between the second and third plays of The Golem Triptych.
KP: The last act is in Elizabethan English.
EB: Each day, before writing, I read parts of Elizabethan and Jacobean plays at random for around twenty minutes, to get myself into the rhythm, the music, of the language. I used mainly Marlowe and Shakespeare. The Fall of Prague gradually eases itself into the language. It begins with prose. The plan was to ease it into full-blown blank verse, which I was dreading. I figured that would be really difficult. It turned out that the verse meter made it easier to reproduce the idiom, as if it were built in. You mentioned Doctor Faustus. Quite a few people have told me that my Elizabethan reminded them more of Marlowe than Shakespeare.
KP: It ties in with what Marie-José Fortis has written: “There is deep mysticism in atheism. With Basso . . . this translates into a poetic absurdism, a feast for the lyric intellect. . . . The Golem Triptych makes madness and civilization, being and nothingness cohabit, be one.” For the Veda, Advaita, Buddha, Tantra, Jain, Sufi, Tao, Zen and Shinto lineages, mysticism is the act of erasing the separation between being and nothingness, madness and civilization, perceiver and perceived. In these atheistic/non-theistic traditions, cohering opposites and returning to an original integrity is what art-literature-meditation-moksha-enlightenment-satori-samadhi is all about: a standing-under/under-standing often expressed in deep laughter and re-cognition. Your eye to human identity as a trick of the mind has much resonance with these non-theological liberation methodologies. Like protagonist Joseph Golem, the way out starts with the question, who is the self?
EB: Marlowe was a professed atheist who exhibited a staggering gift for the epic image. In spite of his personal convictions, he depicts Mephistophilis’ inconsolable sorrow at the loss of heaven in a moving, and entirely convincing, way. He does the same with Faustus’ despairing panic toward the climax of the play. And, of course, Marlowe was no stranger to mysticism and the occult. As to questions of “the self,” I’ve always thought you can learn a great deal more about what people are through immediate experience and a close reading of historical biography than any speculations philosophy can come up with. And it’s not a pretty picture. It’s complicated and disordered. Why look for order where none exists?
KP: Stepping into a fuller rapport with the mysteries of existence is the outcome of the play. It makes the search for an abstract salvation from a sinful human nature through an invisible mediator seem like a sad charade. What could reveal a sinful nature more than out-hustling other sinners for entrance into a select paradise filled with the most selfish?
EB: True. The Golem Triptych is a work of tragic loss on an epic scale. In the end, it’s more about the forest than the trees. Everything falls to ruins. The very act that completes the drama as a structured whole is also its annihilation. Everything is lost. There has been betrayal, murder and mayhem, dissolution, the Holy Roman Emperor has gone insane, and Joseph — whose identity has become hopelessy confused with Rabbi Loew’s and the golem’s — is destroyed at the very moment he complies with the golem’s wish to be destroyed. They go out in a blaze together because Joseph Golem and the Rabbi’s creature are mirror images of each other. Which is why, when the creature tells Joseph to look deeply into its eyes, instead of his own distorted reflection, he sees the creature’s!
KP: Continuing on with this notion of identity as fraud, masquerade or social construct, Rosette Lamont wrote regarding Enigmas, your trilogy of one-acts, “Taken together, the plays in this handsome volume raise the question of a person’s identity, the manner in which the Other sees the One, and even questions as to the nature of the One.”
EB: What we call “civilization” — the social contract— stands on dangerously thin ice, and is easily undermined by the legion of intangibles, and tangibles, that come at it from every direction. The frightening thing is that, on the much smaller scale of the individual, it doesn’t take all that much for the comfortable, delusional conventions in which we live to break down. And this, too, can set off a chain reaction that can cause mayhem, and destroy more than one’s sense of identity. I’m saying it’s all up for grabs, that order is nothing more than an agreed-upon fiction, a social contract that can be torn to shreds at any time.

Eric Basso was born in Baltimore in 1947. His work has appeared in Bakunin, The Chicago Review, Central Park, Collages & Bricolages, Fiction International, Exquisite Corpse, and many other publications. His novel, Bartholomew Fair, is available from Asylum Arts. He is the author of twenty-one plays. His critically-acclaimed drama trilogy, The Golem Triptych; the complete short plays, Enigmas; his play, The Sabattier Effect; a book of short fiction, The Beak Doctor; and five collections of poetry, Accidental Monsters, Umbra, the Catwalk Watch, The Smoking Mirror, Catafalques and Ghost Light, are available from Asylum Arts, along with Decompositions: Essays on Art & Literature 1973 –1989 and Revagaions: 1966 –1974, the first volume of his book of dreams.
Basso’s seventh collection of poems, Earthworks, was published by Six Gallery Press in 2008.