Saturday, August 21, 2010

The big-fun (and poetic, natch) . . .

. . odds-‘n’-ends . . .

. . . that . . .

Greying Ghost Press
in its
mailing envelopes!

(I kid you not!)

About two months ago, I ordered a book from Greying Ghost Press. Specifically, I ordered Naturalistless, a small collection of new-word poems by Christopher Rizzo. I already had another publisher’s edition of this book (and wrote about, here), but ordered up the Greying Ghost edition because when it comes to poetry I love, well, I’m a completist.

The ordered chapbook quickly arrived from Greying Ghost, in a standard-sized (6" x 9") mailing envelope (the corner of the envelope with the rubber-stamped return address is pictured above), and yes indeed, Naturalistless is a beautiful handmade production (see it here), as I believe everything is that Greying Ghost publishes.

But – as they say on TV – there was more, a whole heck-of-a-lot more (there’s more!) in addition to the chapbook. You see, the book – which not incidentally cost but two dollars, such a deal! – was enclosed amidst a small pile of paper odds and ends, most of which appeared to have been cut out from old magazines or books. This, I subsequently discovered from the Greying Ghost masthead on its website, is how that press rolls:
all of our mail orders are stuffed full with either old photos, fragments of old maps and books, comic scraps, and most importantly, FREE pamphlets of poems by people we admire.
How about that? You buy a book, any book, and you get the book and what amounts to a goofy treasure-stack of flotsam and jetsam (plus free pamphlets) that brings back the fun of (warning: boy and young kid allusions dead-ahead) opening a pack of baseball cards and seeing which players you got, plus the silly fun of the prize in the CrackerJack box.

Let me share with you here some of what came in the Greying Ghost envelope I received. For me, the stuff in the envelope seems to make a kind odds-‘n’-ends collage-poem, one with neither a straight-line narrative nor any consistent theme, but which pointed me towards a thing or three that made me smile. And laugh. And even dance.

I’ll go so far as to say that all the bits-and-pieces in the Greying Ghost envelope, in their poetic reverie-ing, reminded of the Robert Hunter lyric, “Once in a while / you get shown the light / in the strangest of places / if you look at it right,” except that with the Greying Ghost goofy-treasure envelope-inserts, you “get shown the light” whether you look at it right, left, up, down, or inside-out.

Know what I mean?

Well, if you please, take a look at what I first saw come out of the envelope:

Now somehow this very simple maybe even banal cartoon and caption has become this summer a most marvelous reminder of the proper mindset for reading poetry. Knothead, you may know, is Woody Woodpecker’s nephew. In the cartoon image, which measures 4.75" x 3.5", the kid-bird appears to exuberantly offer a guess as Woody and his niece (named Splinter) read a book, as we observe the trio through the window of a plane.

The key here, for me, is the caption:
Knothead Makes a Guess
Now that’s a slogan for the ages. May we all take a shot, venture forth with a conjecture, speculate a little about what we see or hear or think, just like the little bird-tyke Knothead. In short, may we all be Knothead! I’m going to get this thing framed!

The fun continues on the reverse-side of the cartoon cut-out, which presents a page of the Woody Woodpecker story from which it’s taken. The text presented, to go just a bit too far (but I insist it works) in its first two paragraphs raises interesting questions, perhaps of enduring (!) ontological and epistemological significance (!), before turning to more mundane narrative exposition:

The Greying Ghost envelope inserts also included this, from I presume some magazine:

and about this I think that yes, we all are “Curious Children” – or should be – whether we live in Bangkok or not. Then were also enclosed odd texts, including pages from a biography of an actress (transform reality, yes?) and from a recipe book (combine ingredients and cook something up!) -- click each to enlarge, if you please --

And there was the following, a pair of black-and-white photos from the pages of some old magazines, making for a wondrous odd couple:

And the stuff in the envelope continued with the following small rectangular card, a sort of Duchamp-ian readymade of a thing, presumably found in some discarded board game, and which makes me feel rich with wonder:

Also included in the Greying Ghost envelope was a 1.5" square card from the mudluscious press “Stamp Series Project.” The one I received is an untitled three sentence story-poem by Norman Lock, a writer whose fictions (which often border on prose poetry) I love. The mudluscious press project involves at present more than 60 different writers, each of which has written an approximately 50 word story that is printed on a small card. The cards are then distributed to twenty or so participating independent presses. Those presses in turn mail a card, as a kind of free bonus, to those who buy something from them. Now that is random fun like random fun should be!

Here’s the Norman Lock card I received, pictured first at something akin to its actual size, and then enlarged for your reading pleasure:

This little story, it seems to me, belongs to the same family as “Down the Drain,” the 1957 spoken-word prose poem by the great talker Ken Nordine. It’s on Nordine’s CD Son of Word Jazz, if you want to check it out.

The Greying Ghost envelope, along with all the above (plus about a half-dozen other things not imaged), also included three of the press’ pamphlets, each an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper folded to make a 5.5" x 4.25" booklet. I received In My Room, a flash fiction by Lydia Copeland, Wells!, a text by Carl Annarummo (who via the internet I’ve learned runs Greying Ghost), and The Cullings, a poem by Jon Cone.

The Cullings appropriates (and lineates) text from Reports of The Princeton University Expeditions to Patagonia (1896-1899) and is a cogitating hoot of flora-observations. The poem has 27 short stanzas, and here are the first four, offered to provide a taste of the lexical deliciousness of its details:
A creeping small,
            glabrous with short

Dorsally scabrous,
            subapically awned,
            the awn exceeding the flower.

Stems clustered from a running

Very closely imbricating,
            more or less silky.
The Cullings in this manner (I’ve added hyper-links beneath the words I needed or wanted to look up) goes for close to three pages, and it is quite a thing. It reminds me of an untitled poem (one of many) that Hugh MacDiarmid sets within Lucky Poet (1943, re-issued 1972 and 1994), his shaggy dog autobiography, in which he suggests that a botanist’s close study and special knowledge of a plant’s structure can add enormously to the aesthetic appreciation of its “complex beauty.”


Did you enjoy some, maybe even all of this stuff from the envelope? I sure did, so much so that – and this probably will come as no surprise – last night, while writing up this post, I decided to order up something else from Greying Ghost Press. So the chapbook Michigander, by B.J. Love, will soon enough be on its way, and I’m looking forward to getting it, for the (prose) poetry of Love, and the poetry the comes along with it, in the Greying Ghost envelope.



Tom King said...

Rich strange beautiful haul

marc said...

more book places should do this kind of thing - it's like mail art - you can't get this attention to eclecticism for free from

would make nice ghostly collage on grey background

i worked at the post office in salem for a spell, and frequented a used bookstore near the peabody museum, but for some reason, this one isn't ringing my bell

nice post

Steven Fama said...

Thanks Tom and marc, for stopping in.

I should have included in the post a photo of the whole dang lot of stuff from the envelope. Also, since the post my wife has pointed out other connections between the stuff received that I didn't discuss here. My guess is that the Greying Ghost Press people (person?) who does this doesn't entirely stuff envelopes with just random stuff.

awyn said...

Thanks, Steven, for the intro to Greying Ghost. I got a pretty interesting packet as well. Loved your comparison to Cracker Jacks. That's exactly what it felt like, opening up the envelope! Followed suit & blogged photos of my GG stash like you. Wanna trade your Woody Woodpecker for my Tarzan? Your brioche recipe for my Slim cowboy? :)

Steven Fama said...

Thanks for leaving a comment. I must disappoint you: I couldn't possibly trade my Woody Woodpecker, even for a Tarzan! I was more than half-serious when I wrote in the post that I'd get my little cartoon framed.

That's a beautiful post you've just put up on your envelope of Greying Ghost goodies . I hope you don't mind I've embedded a link to it in the previous sentence here!

That cowboy card -- "Slim" -- you received is a hoot as well as a mystery!