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Archive for October, 2010

the lady & the wig

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

Lady K in her poetry reading disguise – foto by Smith

I learned last night that I shouldn’t read four brand new poems in a row in public without practicing first. Still, three of the five worked. And the four old poems definitely worked. It was my shortest feature reading ever – 8 poems, 7 minutes. Sometimes less is more or less.

I’ve been much more productive since we’ve been back poetry-wise. In 2006 (the year we left the country for 31 months of living out of backpacks in foreign lands) I wrote xx poems. In 2007, x; 2008, x; 2009 (the year we returned to the USA) xx; and this year I’ve written xx, 25 in the past 3 months alone. For me this is real good, and some of the poems are even good.

Lady preparing her poet disguise – foto by Smith

Lady’s slowly venturing into performance poetry. Wednesday night at the Lix & Kix second anniversary reading she held and rocked her grandma on her lap while granny read her poem about her father rocking her as a child as he sang “Oh happy day oh happy day when Jesus took my sins away He taught me how to watch and pray and to enjoy night and day oh happy day oh happy day when Jesus took my sins away” with Lady singing falsetto while granny sang bass. (here’s a recreation of the song

I didn’t get a foto of it because I forgot my camera, but sometime over the next couple months Lix & Kix co-host John ‘Jesus Crisis’ Burroughs will put a video of it up on his blog the tao, how, and what now of Jesus Crisis and his Crisis Chronicles Online Library where right now he has 18 Lady poems and videos and another 30 poems and videos of me.

poets Jack McGuane and Lady K playing with Lady’s sock puppets – foto by Smith

At last night’s second Lix & Kix two year anniversary reading in three days, Lady donned a long blonde wig, her over-large Avatar 3-D movie glasses, and a Greek fisherman’s cap for her first poem which she read in her various sock-puppet voices, and when she got to the part about “pure cheesecake smile with calculus and moxie. . . oo oh . . . pure cheesecake smile with a cherry on top and a . . . wig” she ripped the wig from her head, threw it on the floor, replaced her cap and continued reading. Quite effective.

We have a performance piece we planned 5 years ago where I would crouch beneath her voluminous skirt and be the voice of her vagina, although since my leg is bad and won’t bend, I may have to make me a vagina costume and I’ll just sort of kneel beside her instead.

Smith & Lady – foto by Smith


poetry, painting, people

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

American Ego, 1984 – collage & foto by Smith

Tonight, Friday October 22 at 7 pm, Lady K and I will be the opening featured poets at the Lix & Kix monthly reading at the Bela Dubby coffee shop art gallery & beer bar at 13321 Madison Ave, Lakewood, Oh, 44107, 216-221-4479. We’ll be followed by Elyria poet Alex Nielsen and NYC poet Puma Perl, winner of the 2009 Erbacce Prize for Poetry. Lix & Kix is celebrating its second anniversary of monthly readings and is co-hosted by Dianne Borsenik and John Burroughs (aka Jesus Crisis).

Next Friday, October 29th, Lady and I each have a piece in the 19th annual Peoples Art Show at CSU — Cleveland State University, Art Building, 2307 Chester Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115-2214, 216.687.2103. I was in the first two People’s Art Shows back in 1984-85. The first year I won Most Outrageous Piece in Show, and the second year I won Most Original Use of Materials.

The first year I also was the subject of this Plain Dealer column by James Neff due to the titillating nature of my piece. When Neff first called me, he was hostile and sarcastic; but by the time we finished, he was warm and friendly.

Must Be Profound
James Neff
The Plain Dealer
December 3, 1984

Gracing our city are many profound examples of modern art. I know they must be profound because I do not understand them.

Take, for example, Isamu Noguchi’s sculpture “Portal” at the Justice Center. “Portal” still befuddles some citizens. It looks like a piece of a giant pretzel. The modern sculpture weighs 15 tons, stands 36 feet high and cost $100,000.

Art experts such as Sherman Lee called it “one of the best monumental sculptures produced in the world since World War II.”

To the untrained eyes of those who pass “Portal” each workday, it seems useless, just a giant pretzel. They might feel differently if they could snack on it.

Most of the modern art around here, however, is displayed indoors. That way, it won’t scare the horses.

At the Cleveland State University Art Gallery at E. 23rd ST. and Chester Ave., 172 area artists are displaying 335 creations, probably the largest such exhibit outside of the May show.

One such work certainly must be the most unusual work of so-called art to be put on display in our town.

The CSU gallery is full of paintings and sculptures you might enjoy. Abstract paintings full of interesting colors and shapes. A beautiful clear glass bowl. An oil portrait of a pretty woman in a pastel dress.

One sculpture is a chessboard; instead of the usual black and white pieces, the artist made them into Browns and Steelers football players.

Right when you come in, about 15 feet down on the left wall, is a work called “American Ego.” It is a collage of 12 snapshots, some of them splattered with tiny drops of paint.

The day I visited the gallery and witnessed “American Ego,” a group of CSU students in a beginning design class were checking the local artworks as a class exercise.

The class was mostly made up of women in their late teens, along with several young men.

When the students happened upon “American Ego,” many of them made comments. They did not remark about its composition, balance, vibrancy or classical execution. No, here is what they said.

“Gross,” said a young woman.

“That is embarrassing,” said another.

“Oh my God, it’s disgusting,” said a student named Janel Leurienzo. Then she added with sarcasm and a smile, “But, hey, it’s art.”

The 12 snapshots were arranged in a four-by-three grid. They were taken by Steven Smith. They were nude photos of himself.

This being an art gallery and all, you probably expect the photos to be the sort of classical pieces we associate with Greek art.

Oh no, this artist doesn’t mess around. The snapshots were of the real thing: close-ups of the guy’s, uh, groin area.

There were some different poses, to be sure. One was the guy’s private zone draped with a plastic fish.

Another was of a view of his bare buttocks. In this snapshot, rising up and proudly flying from between his upper thighs was one of those little American flags on a stick that you get at political rallies.

One photo treated us to a view of the artist’s personal part wrapped in Old Glory. The 12 photos were sewn onto what looked like those small, thin, square pillows you toss on your couch.

So there it was, an expression of modern art, hanging on a wall at a university for our appreciation.

The male student looked at “American Ego” from about three feet away and moved on. Many of the females looked much closer, maybe a foot away. Then moved on. Later, some of them drifted back alone for another, more private peek.

In their design class, the students discussed what they had just viewed. They liked most of it. Not surprisingly, they had a lot to say about “American Ego.”

A student named Tracy said, “It was different. They usually just show women.”

A young man named James said, “I thought it was funny.”

“I don’t think it was art at all,” Christie Gungl said.

Their teacher, Mary Stokrocki, an associate professor said after class, “I took it as pornographic. I think the university shouldn’t hang something pornographic. If I was curator for this show, I wouldn’t let people get away with that. There are certain things that are not art.”

The creator of the controversial piece, Steven Smith, was given a call. By day, he is a computer programmer out in the suburbs. By night, he lives in a warehouse downtown and makes things that hang in galleries.

“How did you get the idea for “American Ego,” he was asked.

“I was taking Polaroids of myself to get something going.”

“How often do you do this?”

“There’s very little nudity in what I do,” Smith said. “I think I’ve only had four pieces.”

“But what is ‘American Ego‘ supposed to mean?”

“It suggests the impotence of American foreign policy,” Smith said. “The false manhood, the macho thing, like in Grenada. Since we are all impotent in one sense, we try to overcome it. I don’t think we are living up to the American spirit when we tell people how to live.”

“Do people think you’re strange?” he was asked.

“Yes they do. I don’t fit in anywhere. Some artists in Cleveland are some of the nicest people I’ve met yet.”

Profound too. I know they must be profound because I do not understand them.

~ ~ ~

As I wrote in Criminal:

The pieces that got me my initial notoriety began late at night when I was drunk and wrapped my penis in small American flags, draped dead dried fish around, and snapped Polaroids. I felt the penis went with the flag because of our American Military might-makes-right philosophy, while the dried fish was a sly reference to the fish vagina smell of lore. I arranged 12 of the photos in a three by four grid, collaged the white areas around the Polaroids with torn strips of the American flag, splattered fluorescent paint on, glued down a large dried fish and some art glass scraps and titled it American Ego.
Then I took Polaroids of Masumi nude in an open shirt mom had made me out of old 48-star American flags. I arranged six of the photos into a cross, collaged the white area around the Polaroids with cut up bible pages, attached fringe to the bottom edges of the cross, pounded rusty nails into the photos, and titled it Cross Breeding.
Masumi was teaching art at CSU at the time, and John, a fellow instructor who had just begun, had brought the Peoples’ Art Show concept with him from Detroit. The idea, at least for the first few years, was no piece of art would be censored—the people could show whatever they wanted; everything submitted would be displayed. I contributed a couple interesting pieces I was proud of, but they weren’t shocking. John knew about my more controversial stuff from Masumi and mentioned to her he was hoping for something edgier to help jump start the show, so Masumi passed the word on to me and I gave him the two genitalia / American flag / dead fish pieces instead. They worked quite well, definitely jump started things.
Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist James Neff called me up during the show’s run and was quite hostile; he asked me “Why would you do such a thing?”
I told him it was a metaphor protesting America’s foreign policy–we’d just invaded Grenada illegally–and I explained my “American Ego” – “American Eagle” pun. By the end of the conversation, Neff was quite friendly and wrote a wry, fairly nice half page column.
My shock art is actually a pretty small percentage of what I do, especially anymore—usually I create stuff that’s odd, eccentric, weird, funny, beautiful, tender, political, social, serious or surreal, sometimes all at the same time. The scoundrel-sage Gurdjieff said people are asleep and often must be shocked awake to jumpstart their souls. Sometimes laughter’s enough; sometimes you can lure folk to new mindsets through intelligence, reason or beauty; and sometimes you just have to poke them with crude cattle prods to get their attention.
When Neff asked why I used nude male genitalia, and my own at that, I joked I was cheap and easy and available at the time; but mainly it was out of a sense of fairness. Respectable art and unrespectable advertising have always used naked women liberally. I dearly love naked women, often use them in collage. But I’ve also this large fairness complex, so to balance society’s and my nude female use, I used naked male me, myself and I.
There’s nothing wrong with shock. As Mae West said, “Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often.” There are an endless number of paths to the same place. Everybody thinks it has to be A or B, but in reality, it’s A and Z and everything in between. It comes back to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle: it’s all true all at the same time–it’s only lack of vision that reduces life or art to dichotomies.

Cross Breeding, 1984 – collage & foto by Smith


Concrete, Shadow, Leaf, Rust

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

Photos by Lady


Ragged Robin

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Ragged Robin Cookies

1/2 C raisins (yellow, not brown)
1/2 C nuts (of course, chopped–not too fine)
3 C all-purpose flour (prefer _off_ brand)
1 t baking soda
1 egg
1 t vanilla
1/4 t salt
1/2 C butter
1/2 C shortening
1 C sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Scald nuts and raisins: bring 2 C water to a boil and add chopped nuts and raisins. Simmer.

Meanwhile, sift flour, soda and salt (or mix).

Grandma is perturbed about our measuring cups:

In separate bowl, cream butter, shortening and sugar; add eggs. Beat. Add vanilla. Add flour mixture gradually. You may need to use your hands!

Scoop nuts and raisins into dough and incorporate (it’s OK to get some of the water into the dough to help with its pliability).

Drop onto greased sheet (approximately 1 T of dough per cookie). Bake 12-15 minutes until light golden brown.

Grandma: This was the first recipe in my file. I copied it from the American Weekily Section of the Plain Dealer. I am now 86 years old–was 15 when I copied it. If anything seems unusual, it’s because I make slight changes to suit myself!



Thursday, October 21st, 2010

noir v̩rit̩ Рfotos by Smith


According to community owned reality
you can’t boil watched water
or save stitched nines in time
but clean underwear is next to giddiness
the first squeak gets both the oil
and the fast bed early rise prize
while money parts fools with ease
though not all the time
in a government of the eatable
too often beaten
by bad breath gift horses
in homes housed unholy
some Simons so simple
made to drink water
roll through lone moss unstoned
absolute corruption
in gelded gold glitter
their beauty self inflicted
skim deep disturbing
carpe per diem
in well ending wallow
back bridges burning
many eggs in one basket
silent forest unfallen
since sometimes the right hand is wrong
when tossing apples at doctors
too easy to get gone
the do down done diddled
bathwater from baby
to soft pillow the conscience
on single step journeys
where the weak shall inherit our mirth

v̩rit̩ noir Рfotos by Smith


random art round the hood

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

random art round the hood – fotos by Smith


bad learn

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

moon frog in the river – foto by Smith

X (solve for) =

I get up in the morning
and I know nothing
I do bad during the day
and learn from my mistake
do bad again, learn again
bad, learn
bad, learn
bad, learn
and by the time I go to bed at night
I’m wiser
I’ve learned stuff
I know things
I know how to do tomorrow better
I go to sleep
I forget
I wake
I know nothing

witchywoman – foto by Smith


2 ladys, 1 flower, and a pop bottle cap

Monday, October 18th, 2010

2 Ladys, 1 flower, and a pop bottle cap – foto by Smith


slice & splice

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

worldgirl – foto by Smith

Slice & Splice

I’m my main me
You’re your main you
They’re their main there too
and we’re all comingling
doing the DNA dance
the sexual sequence
the mixed membrane mambo
horizontally bopped
down at the eternal worship
of the body shop
chopped and re-channeled
in flannel reflux
full fool folder fodder
when down on our luck
and we’re getting older
so best line up our ducks
since we all star in our own movie
infinitely more groovy
than where why or when
which leaves everyone else extra
to weave us within
so seven billion movies
with seven billion bit actors each
leaves 49 quintillion extras
running around loose
no wonder we’ve cooked
poor Mother Earth’s goose

windowwoman – foto by Smith


free barcode bred

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

earth, feather, sky – foto by Smith

Uneasy Street

Too many levels
to steady the stoner
too many leaks
to let lies lie
ain’t got a boat
to breach the borders
ain’t got a plan
to fly the plane
so count me out
of the inner circle
call me free barcode bred
it ain’t my spine
that solicits your mercy
it’s the normalized pain
of enduring the day

feather water – foto by Smith


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