HTMLGIANT / Jack Spicer

STARK WEEK EPISODE 1: “The redonkulous and the sublime” — An interview with Sampson Starkweather

starkweekWEEKS: A lot can kill you in a week. Even more can eat you at your weakness. A whole week of hair growth depends on, uh, genetics? Weeks contain a finite series of burritos and an infinite burrito of choices. Hoopla, regrets, collapses, dancing so hard you have to pour a cup of ice water on your dome, other times that feeling like you have to drag yourself so hard by your own collar your shirt might tear. Huge trucks at night carrying turned-off, unblinking versions of those normally blinking signs that say CONSTRUCTION AHEAD or SLOW LANE ENDS, except the signs are big so the trucks themselves say OVERSIZED LOAD and are blinking, themselves, even though their cargo’s dark. What I would like to do is nominate Sampson Starkweather to rewrite the entirety of America’s highway marginalia, to be the official roadside spokespoet for all of America’s restless feelings. I don’t have shit to do with those decisions, so what is happening instead is that this week will be Sampson Starkweather week here at HTMLGIANT, aka STARK WEEK.

THE BOOK: Sampson’s debut book of poems, The First Four Books of Sampson Starkweatheris out now from Birds LLC. It’s really big. Like almost 400 pages. Who does that? It’s what it says it is. 4 books. All the feelings enacted in the opening paragraph happen inside of its four books, which are categorized as “poetry/life.” Sure, yes, yeah.

WHAT’S IN IT: It’s a book I’d give to someone just coming to poetry and to someone who feels totally burnt out on poetry. Those are kind of the same readers, I think. That’s why the whole week. Starkweather’s poetry is the existence of a nonexistent photograph of Andre the Giant jumping off the top rope. In his introduction, Jared White mentions “bass-voiced sexy soul-singer slow jams” and “punch-drunk Harlequin-robocop masculinity.” The poems have angry leaked dreams and love before roads and a pistol-whipped desire and the world’s saddest TV and offensive hurricane names and corpses wrapped in huge tropical leaves on islands named after them and that’s just in the poems you can read on the excerpt page.

WTF IS GOING ON: Over the course of this week, we’re going to feature a series of guests talking about Sam’s work in each of the books within T4B—1) King of the Forest, 2) La La La, 3) The Waters, 4) Self Help Poems—and also we’re going to hear from the awesome artists who made the covers for each of these four books. There will be criticism, talk of process, grand sweeping theories, tiny insightful scalpels. You’ll get to read some of Sam’s poetry. There will be some talk of what goes into, in 2013, putting out a 400 page book of your poems that is actually 4 books. Maybe there will be some interaction, multimedia, surprise. Buy a copy of the book if you want to follow along closely. I promise it won’t feel like being stuck on a brokedown bus at a rest stop in Connecticut. There are poems that feel like that, but not in this book. Here’s a list of who’s coming at you: Matt Bollinger, Ed Park, Bianca Stone, John Cotter, Melissa Broder, Eric Amling, Elisa Gabbert, Jonathan Marshall, Amy Lawless, Sommer Browning, and Jared White.

WHO IS SAMPSON STARKWEATHER ANYWAY, IS HE THAT GUY WHO DID THAT THING GUYS DO: The reason a lot of people want to share and talk about Sam’s huge ass tree-killer is because he and his work (which are impossible to unspoon from each other, which is how it should be) is like getting the best high five of your life from Teen Wolf. He is loved and easy to love and easy to mistake in rural supermarkets for Javier Bardem. He’s a longhaired poet surfer with a heart of messy pizza and manic kindness. Thank the exhausted fucking stars he is with us and with poetry. Enjoy STARK WEEK.

HOW DOES STARK WEEK BEGIN: To begin STARK WEEK, I talked to Starkweather:

1) Hi Sam. Welcome to Stark Week. This is how it starts, with an interview of you. Our interview starts with the “who is Sampson Starkweather and what’s going on, what is this stuff all over my arms, is this sap” portion of the interview. So let’s start at the start. Four books? Why? Why buck the prevailing model of slim little precious supermodel books? More importantly, why buck it in this beautifully thunking doorstop fashion?

Sorry about the sap “this forest / is unusually horny.”

cowboysamIn the end it came down to precisely the opposite of your question: “Why not?”  Why not 4 books in 1? Why not a 328 page monster poetry collection that sounds like a seminal lifetime work by some famous, award-winning, about-to-die poet who now tends a garden, published by some big-ass conglomerate press like Penguin, but is actually by some dude with a ridiculous name that no one has heard of (and sounds like a character from Game of Thrones) and has yet to publish a full-length book, on a small indie poetry press that, oh yeah, he just happens to be a publisher/founding-editor of? It seemed ridiculous, audacious, absurd, unheard of, taboo, laughable—in other words, perfect.


HTMLGIANT Features / 5 Comments
July 15th, 2013 / 1:28 pm

Spicer on Whitman

Forgive me Walt Whitman, you whose fine mouth has sucked the cock of the heart of the country for fifty years.  You did not ever understand cruelty.  It was that that severed your world from me, fouled your moon and your ocean, threw me out of your bearded paradise.  The comrade you are walking with suddenly twists your hand off.  The ghost-bird that is singing to you suddenly leaves a large seagull dropping in your eye.  You are sucking the cock of a heart that has clap.

from “Some Notes on Whitman for Allen Joyce”

Power Quote / 12 Comments
February 19th, 2011 / 2:19 pm

Don’t Bitterness! Be Happy–You Sellout! Now with Banjo, Accordion, Wallet Chain, & Jack Spicer

[Jeremy Schmall, by way of reply/addendum/rejoinder to Jim Behrle’s essay about how to become a famous poet overnight that Ken linked yesterday, sent me the following  – JT]

(1) To ease the bitter bitter cynicism: httpv://

(2) This power quote from Jack Spicer seems especially resonant now:

“But the point is that most people will exploit poets. They’ll exploit the older ones for the knowledge they have, and they’ll exploit the younger ones for the promise they have, which somehow or other gives the people some kind of thing that maybe they have promise too, which they don’t.

“Essentially, what I mean is, stay loose. Stay absolutely loose, and don’t accept any offers whatsoever.

“But you’re not just a poet. You’re also a human being who wants to be recognized and everything else. One of the best things that I heard on that was last night on KCBS where some guy–his name was Anderson–was talking about peach farmers, and he said the peach farmers didn’t know a good goddamn thing about the number of peaches that were needed in the market. In other words, they would send in peaches, and peaches would go down to one cent a peach, or whatever it was, and that this had a great deal to do with farm labor.

“What I’m saying is that you’re going to sell out eventually. You have to, just for economic reasons. But when you sell out, know exactly what your peaches cost. Know exactly how many peaches there are on the market. Know exactly what is the price you can sell out for.”

– from Lecture 4, “Poetry and Politics,” July 14th, 1965 (page 154)

Web Hype / 5 Comments
March 10th, 2010 / 10:39 am

A Poem is a Counterpunching Radio: Jack Spicer Better Late than Never

There should be no rules for this but it should be
simultaneous if at all.
Homosexuality is essentially being alone. Which is
a fight against the capitalist bosses who do not want
us to be alone. Alone we are dangerous.
Our dissatisfaction could ruin America. Our love
could ruin the universe if we let it.
If we let our love flower into the true revolution
we will be swamped with offers for beds.

– “Homosexuality and Marxism” (from Three Marxist Essays)


Several months ago Wesleyan University Press sent me My Vocabulary Did This To Me: The Collected Poems of Jack Spicer (Peter Gizzi & Kevin Killian, eds). I got side-tracked and hadn’t really looked at it, until the other day when I read Language, a collection from later in Spicer’s life (he died at age 40, in 1965). It right about knocked me on my ass, and you’ll be hearing more about Vocabulary in the weeks to come, but for right now, here’s some of Spicer’s work that’s available online courtesy of the Electronic Poetry Center. Also: audio at PennSound. Also, if you’re feeling like you need a proper introduction to JS, here again is Jared White’s fine long essay on Vocabulary, which I linked to in passing several months back.

Author Spotlight / 12 Comments
May 29th, 2009 / 9:56 am

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