I usually say, a work of fiction by, or sometimes more facetiously say fikshun, and then i walk away ‘cause no one’s gonna claim it’s them in any of these stories.
but i spent a minute talking to a guy, and then i wrote this. i was inspired by him. to document this ridiculous chase i’ve taken for a lot of decades.
so this one’s a little different because it’s inspired and some things could be pointed to that seem like corollaries. one thing reflects on something that unfortunately happened. however.
i don’t know none of them. the characters within are fabricated and don’t represent anyone. but one time i walked into a buzz saw, and then afterwards into a bookstore, and i found a mimeo that started this ridiculous quest for information.
no allegory. no corrollary. Point: Haran goes full launch – I’m critical.
No one – it’s one.
Just inspiration: Spent a minute talkin’ with a guy and writ. that guy’s nowhere here.
just inspired. lookin’ back at my own claims
The 1960’s brought an unprecedented threat against the nation’s security. That threat is once again broaching our southern border: Immigrants are here. Illegal immigrants are being brought into this country. There is an architect behind it.
Thirty-two years ago, that is, from the time i wrote this, I walked into a buzzsaw. I walked away, split in two, and consequently, when I walked into a used book store in Bloomington, Indiana and saw a book with a two-faced man – half black, half white – I picked it up, because it felt like a reflection.
As I leafed through the poems, within, I believed I held in my hands, the words of someone that knew what was going on.
For the next twenty years, I delved into who the person was that was Jau Billera. Occasionally: The internet happened, and slowly bits have trickled out. I always look for his and others in used book stores. When I picked up that little book, I imagined he was well-known and prolific. He was neither.
I found another book of his at John King. I found a few snippets on the internet. I eventually found a book at Cleveland University that was enlightening – yes, a pilgrimage.
The man was once denoted Joe Bolero at Ted Joans birthday party, where he wore a toilet seat around his neck.
He married Eleanor “Ellie” Santa Vaccarro on April 27, 1961.
He hosted a radio show on WCLV that showcased poetry. He and his wife published the poetry quarterly, “The Podium,” for many years.
There were snippets. One scenario claimed he put a bullet in his head in a hotel room, in 1981.
More have claimed he sucked exhaust fumes, three years later: I saw a missive from his wife, once, that said he’d struggled for a while.
The most information that is out there, post the ‘60’s, is from his publication issued in 1979. He says (no clue to the veracity) he was nominated for a Pulitzer. He apparently worked for Amway. He says he was an inspirational speaker.
There is a snippet about him discussing poetry and sharing poems in a paper.
There’s not much out there.
I’ve reached out.
Reactions have been mixed – mostly there’s a lack of information.
He is who he was: An inspiration that introduced me to poetry – I’d seen poetry. I’d read poetry. I’d never held deep interest.
Through Jau “Joseph” Billera (word), I was introduced to a world of remarkable poets: Of course, d.a. levy. But no less, Russel Atkins, Russell Salamon, Adelaide Simon, RJS, Tom Kryss, and the dude – Kent Taylor. Because of Jau, I bought Elyria and learned about Alex Gildzen – who reached out to share a couple of recordings of Jau’s radio show, with d.a. levy & Kent Taylor reading poems. It was striking to hear their voices. Even more so when recently, Kent Taylor reached out.
I have so much appreciation for the people that I found because of Jau. But further, for the story – rather, the history – of that time in Cleveland, in the 1960’s. Of a crazy moment where there was a concentration of creativity and awareness in a Midwest city that was considered such a threat that those sharing words were arrested, and the senate even held a closed-door session to indict them.
Those names mentioned, have been shadows that shaped my life since I became aware of them. They are people that I respect, and appreciate, and that I hold with reverence. They have been with me since I was put through a grinder, at 18.
It came to a crescendo about a decade before writing this, when tidbits leaked onto the internet. Not just Jau. But the others. The story.
I delved in and drank of it. It culminated with the trip to Cleveland.
I say names. I quote things. I talk about things that happened. The family roll their eyes. Say, “This is one of those Cleveland guys.” It’s true.
My Cleveland guys.
I stopped obsessing about ten years ago. I dug in, delved in – read a lot of poetry.
Some, like Haran – I don’t get.
When I started reading Atkins – lost to what the man was doing.
However, I often say, I can’t feel a story until I find a rhythm. Until I hear the voice the author wrote with.
Some – are easy. Because the authors’ write in their voice. And if you hear an author speak a little bit, you hear them in what they write.
But others are different. Some authors try new things. Some write with different voices.
Because it’s a long-time habit, I occasionally wander back to thoughts of Cleveland, and not so long ago, found Atkins said, “I would ‘compose‘ like a painter and write poems like a composer.” There was a rhythm to his writing that I’d missed. I gained deeper appreciation.
I recently talked to Kent Taylor. I had little interesting to offer him, but enough that he shared his perspective, his knowledge, and his memories. We joked, speaking of Jau, don’t meet your heroes. I’ll always appreciate the man for – just like Haran says – giving my mind something to bite into at a time that was desperately needed. I’ll always be grateful for the larger story he led me to. Regardless of their origins or reasons, i will also, always appreciate his poetry.
My dreams, and a bit that sounds like something my grandmother might have written – the magnificent Berniece “Mir” Estey Bixler: Artist and poet.
As for meeting Kent Taylor – speaking with Kent Taylor: I walked away from that conversation holding him in higher esteem, yet.
New World City has nothing to do with any of that, but it’s the inspiration: The path to discovery, the path to growth. Finding a block of history and becoming fascinated by what happened and those that were part of it. And, not finding information at all.
The immigration aspect – i have no idea why that slipped into my thoughts while i was writing.