Ralph La Charity

     Marion Kimes is a pale, near frail-appearing FIREBRAND of a poet, 
     Red Sky's perdurable mavourneen/doyenne.  On the muses/Manifest 
     video, she plays a deceptively simple self-accompanying drum 
     pattern, her voice slowly building to an operatic crescendo that 
     brought tears to my eyes upon a recent re-viewing/re-auditing.  
     And yet her nine muses c-bk, CROWS' EYES.  of multiplication and 
     light., is taut with elegant restraint. Her whole ploy is black 
     print on whitest glossy paper, so that the text, focused as it is 
     on every least nuance of her compact with light itself, has 
     nowhere a design to amplify its aetheric distract, only that 
     white, valenced by that black.  Extra-text, her wrapping of the 
     book is very, very meant, with a binding solution as witty as the 
     twinkle in her Texas, far-horizon eyes, and a cover lay-out as 
     proclamatory as the muted appointments of a sanctuary.  This book 
     is perhaps the highpoint gracenote of the entire nine muses list.  

     As ever, it is too difficult to choose, so allow this one 
     favorite, its barefoot joy, of lesser delights conflating the 
     grand design after all:    

                    the last sparkler 
                         "stitched among stars" 
                               -Jeanette Winterson 

             three in each hand - my brother, his friend. 
             tumbling from hiding, "give me that one!" I beg. 
             on the run reaching for the feared-and-loved, 
             wildly I dance away with the one sparkler left 
             a child offers a hand again & again   trust 
             that rapid raucous light unfolds  born to 
             a drum's call   some lean back, they hesitate 
             yet they have to join-in when drums begin. 
             palming the drumskins, eyes glitter -
             like children's eyes clutching the very last 
             sparkler   drawing lit circles in air, hearts 
             pound   a sparkler's pinpoints prickle the skin 
             eyes dance laughter's far-flungs rumble & rip 
             soul music & no plan   untethered   free-fall 
             excitement   both lungs hang up   words rise 
             & the heart leaps (we know that drum!) 
             always barefoot, "stitched among stars" 
             light's concordant laughter lit. 

     On the performative case when margareta first arrived in Seattle 
     was the poets' collective previously alluded to, the Red Sky 
     Poetry Theater, founded several years earlier by Cajun congas 
     poet Don Wilsun.  Red Sky was multi-involved in the public poetry 
     life of Seattle:  they maintained a weekly open reading series in 
     addition to mounting special poetry events.  For many years, Sky 
     published the yearly literary anthology for Seattle's community-
     wide Labor Day shebang, the renowned Bumbershoot Arts Festival; 
     additionally, free spirit poet Roberto Valenza's public 
     performance poetry pachangas, the inimicable Alternative To Loud 
     Boats street fests, could not have continued their years-long 
     August runs without Sky's energy & backing.  Occasionally, poets 
     in the Red Sky family also issued self-published books under the 
     Red Sky imprint, as was the case with Mr Wilsun's own first book, 
     ORCAS ISLAND, published in 1980. 

     Significantly, Mr Wilsun would issue two books in the 90's under 
     the nine muses imprint:  SWEET SKIN (1993), and the 1996 chapbook 
     FROG LEGS (LES CUISSES de CRAPEAU). Over the years, mainstay Red 
     Sky operatives, such as the afore-considered Marion Kimes and 
     Michael Hureaux, were also to publish via nine muses. The very 
     fact that the founder of the precedant collective subsequently 
     published with the come-lately collective is instructive, for not 
     only was Seattle graced with two simultaneously active public 
     poetry collectives over this period of time, but the two 
     organizations acted in symbiotic concert to form a notably 
     fertile, non-competitive synergy.  When nine muses, in 1989, 
     evolved into video documentation (under an offspring strategy it 
     called nine muses mystery theatre, which, as braintrust-in-thrall 
     to video-grapher James Markham, spawned Manifest Arts Videos) 
     much of what its cams documented had to do with the poets and 
     events of Red Sky:  the work of Red Sky associates such as 
     Charlie Burks, Louise Dovell, Martina Goodin (whose own earlier 
     video work in Seattle also served as inspiration for margareta's 
     project), Bill Shively, Carletta Wilson, Marion Kimes, Michael 
     Hureaux, and David Lloyd Whited, are among some 16 Seattle 
     performers preserved in the nine muses/Manifest Arts video 
     archives, which videos were originally aired on Seattle public 
     television.  Whereas nine muses nudged Red Sky towards the arts 
     of book design & videographic documentation, the Sky learned not 
     only was it not alone, it had a dynamic and inspiring partner. 

     The nine muses/Manifest Arts video project has great historical 
     value, given that these are the poets who were the public 
     performance standard bearers at a crucial time in the city's 
     inexorable torque toward hyper-clogged gleaming Northwest Coast 
     money-bub super behemoth status.  What is that city today? What 
     were its poets singing a scant ten years ago?  The nine 
     muses/Manifest Arts videos record the poets both in conversation 
     with the camera and in performance modes.  The styles of 
     presentation depart from there, each one as odd, as acute, as are 
     the books.  See poet Charlie Burks' head lift slowly from the 
     glassy surface of the waters-- he's wearing sunglasses, he 
     delivers a poem, his head slowly sinks back under those waters.  
     Again, you laugh till tears come, and you know you've been 
     afforded an image of Seattle poetry that might not come again.  
     So it went--  
                                              So it goes. 

     By 1992, nine muses was actively reaching past the gravitational      field of Seattle proper, even as the collective maintained a      principal and ongoing active linkage to that city. And although      it is terribly unfair to only hint at what margareta is finding      south of the Sound and west of the Cascades, here following is a      series of quotes from several of her further-flung seekers &      provocateurs: 1992 was the year Carol Barth (CA/WA, in transit,      to Montana) came aboard with the self-illustrated peach-colored      chapbook, "A WHITE HUMMINGBIRD." Typical to nine muses running      concerns with holy landscape & light, these lean, lucid lines      occur in her poem, "THE LACEMAKER"...            iii            In this valley of death            An eternal silence            Bathes the Panamints            In ethereal pastel.            Now and again            the cry of a raven -            After -            the silence hums.            A single rock sings arias            Of ochre and turquoise            And the vermillion blazes,            Glows, and dims            To the inky violet dome            Thick with stars and myth -      In 1994 came Kentucky resident Josef Knoepfler's poet-afoot-in-      the-Orient chapbook, CHINA POEMS, which includes ten short poems      (some very short, as in, say, the three lines of "THE HAN"... "In      a single line thin as thread the Han can read his history: //      Heavy the finest web: // Heavy the hand, heavy the heart.") And      I found myself haunted, oddly enough, by images of West African      mmigrant peddlars on 14th Street in Manhattan when Knoepfler, a      native New Yorker, recorded a vision from one of his walks on the      other side of the world:

                                            In the courtyard shills sell whistles, toy trucks and t-shirts.
                                            They have come from no place and they have no place to go.
                                            The lines grow longer; their history stretching
                                            into the next generation even before their parents wed.

     Only four lines out of the book's longest poem, a mere convenient 
     lifting from a 38-line meditation on the Chairman, "SHAO SHAN", 
     in which dead-gone Mao's continuing influence is found out to be 
     grey, bloated, shabby.  Yet the eerie echoing resonance of those 
     long o sounds is enough to effect a priority revolve rather like 
     a treadmill.  Knoepfler's China overwhems minutely, & in just 

     1995 saw the publication of Gary David's masterful "TIERRA ZIA",      already mentioned. And in 1997, editor/publisher poet dan      raphael of Portland, Oregon, a word-rapt visional spellbinder,      calmed his trademark witty overload just enough to spark with      uniquely raphaelean scathe thru the "senselessness // of what      can't benamed or resisted." dan remains restless & wary, full of      hope yet paranoid as all get-out in his c-bk, "trees through the      road." Here are the last lines of the book's finale, a rich      warning of a poem entitled "set a name=emanates" which carries      this quote-dedication snippet from the fugs, a heroic poets' band      from the 60's, "beware the man not moved by sound" ... capitalism's precarious geometry requires no questions, requires internal confusion, that only professionals sing and dance, that a name --soon to be a non-mathematical number-- is forever, is legally sanctioned. as life can be copyrighted, so can names, words, ideas; energy is owned by those who steal it from rivers, coal and atoms in the name of progress in the name of democracy in genesis, god didn't bother to name things-- she knew them, was intermingled with her works. we label jars in case we forget, for the benefit of others who are sent to the larder: whatchu makin? whatchu call that? whose names do i whisper or scream in peaks of darkest terror? in my dreams, no one has names no one talks much-- things just happen      Ah but, enough & too much histo-detailia & clumsy critique doth      bog the tale. E-mail margareta, write to her, phone her up:      nine muses is a still viable, still evolving & utterly self-      cognizant collective (as is, incidentally, the Red Sky Poetry      Theater). Forsooth, each & every poet is a secret in their      community. And the calling of attention to their being in the      ville is dangerous work, often because the very activity of      calling that attention-to shines a mutating light on a fertility      that is always contingent and mycelial, a fertility nowhere      guaranteed. We whisper to one another of the existence of these      rare birds for good reason: were we to raise our voices too      loudly on their behalf, the manifold vulgarities of the epoch      might well turn them into star system cult figures, bought-off      folk, shills or worse, hungry wee peddlars of canard and      anecdote, fable and faux-flux flummox & beggar. This is one      reason a small-scale collective of poets might be crucial in our      time: would that the poets hold the throttle mutually, would that      they check and balance one another with volunteer alacrity, that      they themselves take responsibility both for each others humility      and for each others' tending to the mycelial & to the contingent,      which intangibles comprise the living stuff of actual day to day      poets' practice. Stay humble, viable, on task, and utterly unapolo- getic, unbeholden. Alive as secrets, their pursuit of the sacred is yet protected and honored. And if that collective goes about its work in the creative mines of a city that worries odd & hoary quo- tients of greatness, so much the better: an articulated substrate is demonstrated, a sublime complaint is present and accounting.      Whatever greatness accrues will come frisked, not celebrated, by      Song. Yea, and margareta waterman, small-scale to an infinitely      delicious degree, is nothing if not frisky. In her, the town had      another conscience, and the poets of the town had a hungry new      labor-intensive champion: nine muses books, in Seattle over the      course of the late-80's to mid-90's, was doing Song's unsung deed      with dispatch, calling attention to the existence of an actual      Sacred. The evidence ongoes: seek said secrets for yourselves . . .      To conclude this overview, a paragraph quoted from the 1997 nine      muses c-bk, "THE DEMON IN THE BENCH," a prose work written &      illustrated by Jean Ferner(CA). Let the bench & the vision it      contains project nine muses' muse: "She sidles up to the bench, trying to avoid looking at the monster, yet unable to keep from obliquely glancing at it. It has scared her from the moment she first saw it, this monster in the bench. So real, it seemed to her, that she could see it moving. Sometimes it stretched. Sometimes it looked right at her and grinned. Several times now, she had thought that it might be gaining on the little running man. Its out-stretched hand could easily grasp not only his heel but his ankle. Yet, it held off, perhaps playing with its victim. Finally, as her hands clutch the bow and attempt to wrench it from Amos's fist, she looks directly at it. The monster is, indeed, moving. One of its arms cradles Amos's head. The other has reached under his knees. The monster is holding Amos as if he were a baby. And then, it looks at her over Amos's shoulder. A look of love. It is not a monster at all, she thinks. It is the magician's mother. A huge, strange mother who lives in the bench. The bow comes loose, and the child holds it to her chest. The huge mother nods, shuts her eyes, sleeps. It's only a carving, the child thinks.
contact & list information nine muses books nine muses mystery theatre 3541 kent creek road winston oregon 97496 541-679-6674 nine muses publications/productions 1987- 1999
     books by 11 writers (titles listed below):      Carol Barth, Gary David, Jean Ferner, Martina Goodin,       Michael Hureaux, Marion Kimes, Josef Knoepfler, dan      raphael, Roberto Valenza, margareta waterman, Don Wilsun      2 poetry broadsides: Marion Kimes, margareta waterman      84 postcards in 2 sets, 21 poets:      Jim Andrews, Carol Barth, John Berry, Gary David,       Rajkhet Dirzhud-Rashid, Noel Franklin, Michael Hureaux,      Paul Hunter, Marion Kimes, Josef Knoepfler, Barbara La       Morticella, Martha Linehan, Ezra Mark, Carla Perry,      Steve Potter, Robin Schultz, Roberto Valenza, Nico       Vassilakis, margareta waterman, David Lloyd Whited,       Carletta Wilson      2 audio cassettes of performed poetry & music:      Willie Smith, Don Wilsun 15 1/2-hour poetryvideos, full       feature of 15 of Seattle's best at the turn of      the 90's: Charlie Burks, Louise Dovell, Martina Goodin,       Michael Hureaux, Marion Kimes, Gretchen Matilla,      Tom Prince, Judith Roche, Robbo, Donna Sandstrom,       Bill Shively, Wally Shoup, margareta waterman, David      Lloyd Whited, Carletta Wilson, and Theresa Clark
     Carol Barth: A White Hummingbird      Gary David: Tierra Zia      Jean Ferner: the demon in the bench      Martina Goodin: An Ordinary Housewife      Michael Hureaux: black dog blues       hallelucinations       fool moon risin      Marion Kimes: Crow's Eyes. of multiplication and light      Josef Knoepfler: China Poems      dan raphael: trees through the road      Roberto Valenza: poems for the glancing eye       maha kala in the center       precious umbrella      margareta waterman: the seed of osiris       eleusinian theatre       red sky sketches       moon riding backwards       cracked crystal      egyptian night       walkin' occam's razor       lady orpheus       astarte calling clytemnestra       some south american colors      five songs from the primordial alphabet       tara's consort Don Wilsun: Sweet Skin Frog Legs (LES CUISSES de RAPEAU)      (author's credit: Ralph La Charity is the poet/percussionist      who, since 1986, has edited & published the monthly samizdat      poets' magazine, W'ORCs/ALOUD ALLOWED, based thru the years in      Europe, Texas, &, currently, southwestermost Ohio. He is the      author of the legendary lost Seattle ur-text, SEATTICUS NIGHT,      among many other titles. As a performer, his precise      incantatory fire is but one more whispered Amerishan secret,      loose across America's abundant hide.)

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