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At this site, we will honor poet, poetry editor, and librarian Kenneth Warren (1953-2015), who edited the astounding quarterly poetry journal House Organ from 1993 until his sudden death in 2015–via a brilliant simple format of several sheets of 8 1/2 by 11 pages folded vertically in half held together by a single staple, publishing, as John Roche indicates “most of the survivors of the Beat and Black Mountain and Deep Image and Outlaw poetry movements”, and other, and younger, writers of similar intent, to provide what Andrei Codrescu called “the best edited literary journal…in all that arrives by mail and email here.”

Alan Casline–“Ken Warren’s Mystical Morning”

KEN WARREN’S MYSTICAL MORNING
 
 
there is appearing and disappearing
by us thought of as birth and death.
bent back old men wonder where you have been
some others wonder what ever was.
feeling and intuition both must combine to make poetry.
a son speaks from the heart, honest,
without care how beautiful the words are.
there is no womb
in fact, nothing comes forth and nothing returns.
a picture, a landscape developing
for friends, place of meeting, gone friends
there is non-appearing and non-disappearing
not a place for every friend.
a grasp, seen faces –  where do they live?
two aspects which can
both receive and give forth all definitive concepts
one is enlightenment
the other is ignorance
instrumental in awakening of faith.
                                                                           Alan Casline
                                                               September 4, 2016
                                                                  Batavia, New York

 

Joe Napora, “KAW”

KAW

Ken Warren and I had been writing letters to each other since late 1980. I can’t find the first two letters, but below is an excerpt from the third. Ken was 27 years old when he wrote this letter. I was 36. I was older. He was wiser, smarter, and knew more than I about literature and culture. I had never, and haven’t since, met anyone who was so sure of his own literary mission and yet so open to work that didn’t fit easily into any literary category, program, school, club. I remember once I said to him that Wallace Stevens was more of a poet of place than Olson. He laughed. And so did I. But he considered it. Few who knew and so appreciated Olson’s work would have. A few weeks ago, after watching the meteor shower of August 11, I wrote my Stevens / Olson poem in Ken’s memory. A couple weeks later while sitting on the same porch, thinking again of him, I wrote another. A few years ago Ken temporarily took on for himself a totem of sorts, the Crow, KAW, his initials imitating the call of the crow, hence the poem. (And anyone interested in delving into the source material for Ken’s poetry needs to also look at crow mythology.)

The first time we met was in New York in 1982 to visit with Meridel Le Sueur when she was there to receive the Wonder Woman Award from the president of Dell Comics and to celebrate the publication by Feminist Press of her selected work, Ripening.

One little known fact about House Organ that people might be interested in. In the late eighties Ken and I talked about starting a literary magazine. One idea was to do “disposable” pamphlets that we place in public places, imitating the Watchtower publications of the Jehovah Witnesses. I think this was the seed idea for House Organ.

Ken Letter: 1/28/81

But the reticence, to keep the nitty gritty, dollar and cents stuff from the foreground is what I finally can object to, because this brings us to Pound as the key figure for the twentieth century–“money” and “time”. What the New Americans added to the cannon was the commoditization of personality in a collective context-and his is their value more so than the confessionals. Corso speaks of Beats giving birth bloodlessly etc. These are all issues that I am addressing in the work I am doing on 20th Century American poetry. Search for the descriptive terms, their field, you mentioned in your second letter. The mad scramble at the pyramid bottom never made more sense. So my handles are biological metaphors in poetics, money, time, the child, the family, and war.





KAW: At Home in This Wilderness
(August 28, 2016)

A murder of crows it’s called
of these dark birds gathering
in the upmost leaves and limbs
of the Beech saved
from men whose mission
is to turn Maple and Oak, Ash
Hickory, the rare thick Sassafras
Poplar and Cedar into timber.
And so it is. That crow
is at home. And
so am I.





The Stars We Say They Shoot
(August 11, 2016)

One.

After a night of meteors’ flight first
in a line east and then to west
as if flung a flaming spear from
a distant sun announcing here I am
a sufficient god for everyone.

I wonder where are the mosquitoes.
Why does that farmer’s mule
and why the cows express
their all night discontent?

Another falling rock across
the Great Bear’s seven stars
and the flame of utter and final
transformation. Against

the haze of a distant village light
the bats sweep overhead. I thought
I must be going blind in the morning
when to celebrate I read “The Comedian
as the Letter C”. He would laugh

at my modest proposition
that Charles Olson was Crispin.
Indeed. I so miss Ken Warren. And
distracted by the reflection
next to my mattress on the porch floor
this I could see was one more

slight obstacle to seeing.
One of the glasses’ lens shining
bright. He would say “Single vision &
Newton’s sleep” and so it was
not eyesight gone bad
and Charles and Ken were present
once again. He wrote says Maud
“I don’t of course believe at all
what Stevens proposes, that the poems
of heaven and hell have been written,
and it is the poem of Earth which now
is ours to write.” Another night

and if the clouds cooperate
there will be visible again
the stars which we
and why? call shooting
which surely is a limit
to our imagination.

Two.

Stevens offers two august propositions
that “man is the intelligence of his soul”
and “his soil is man’s intelligence”
and I see not his distinction not
either or but both. And Crispin?

Where after all is sad and done
is as he says of him a clown
“but an aspiring one.” Is this
enough? Enough to get Charles
into the poem? Isn’t it not so much

about Gloucester? But any place? Such as
the Georgia man “walking around pines/
Should be pine spoken.” My Charles
is a crisp one. Up right and up tight
not to learn what Williams did
and Stevens it is his words:
“The plum survives its poem.”

Three.

And so the stars turn to earth.
No angels Clarke (we only met
but once with Ken in Buffalo)
I think you had misplaced
a particular concreteness. It is
this that remains: distant
memories and those projectiles
in the sky above, and this protracted
and protective verse: Ken, Jack,
a book of collected poems
on the porch of a house half
built in Tennessee. And so
the stars return to earth.


Ken the Poet

Thomas Rain Crowe, New Native Press, asked Ken to submit poems to an anthology of poetry (Generations) and a collection of statements about poetry based on answers to questions that Thomas had prepared for each poet (A Living Legacy). Below are selections from both books. Few knew that Ken was a poet, a unique talent. Generations: A Centenary of American Poets (1919-2019) contains thirteen of Ken’s poems. It is also a great collection from several of the poets who published in House Organ. Both books are available from Thomas as well as online retailers like Amazon.

1./ “Place” occupies poetry in reality, and it remains a relevant concern. Is this idea important to you, or do you believe there are more current issues that poetry can or should evoke in our time?

KW: With all the force of the world, place implicates both poet and poem in the crucially extensive context of cosmos, history, politics, and psyche. By way of body and place, microcosmic and macrocosmic visions are generated from the poet and the environment. In the local imagination of the world, place compels to the poet to honor coincidence, existence, and kinship with the living and the dead. Broadly speaking, ancestral spirits, collective human pressure, elementals, history, geography, local lore, names, natural life, politics, and man-made objects generate an order of commonality and possibility in any given place. For the poet, place is ultimately where the mythopoetic language of the soul becomes emotionally entangled for the duration in the specificities of art, community, identity, and nature.


NOWHERE TO RUN

There’s nowhere
to run in marriage

Working and paying everyday
for wanting her,

But if you’d leap,
like Screamin’ Jay Hawkins,

Past the shadow curved around her,
into whatever’s left in your coffin,

You could rip free
from her wine sack

Your Noah, your Pip,
your keel, your breaker,

And sail with them
into the raging wave to come.

A Living Legacy: In Their Own Words, Some American Poets.
Generations: A Centenary of American Poets (1919-2019).
New Native Press, 2015.
Thomas Rain Crowe, Editor.
NNP PO Box 2554, Cullowhee, NC 28723
newnativepress@hotmail.com/ http://www.newnativepress.org


Ken was my constant literary companion for almost forty years.
I don’t have words to take measure of the loss.

Joe Napora

Robert Podgurski, “Thoughts After Life: Ken Warren”

Thoughts After Life: Ken Warren

     Self-suspended sacrifice to the cause, the well lived and well hanged man. That’s what initially comes to mind when I think of Ken Warren. 23 is the number of the Hanged Man and it’s also a chapter from The Book of Lies, where we get “What Man is at ease at his Inn? / Get out…The Way out is THE WAY.” Ken got out alright. Shortly after his retirement from over 25 years as the Director of the Lakewood Public Library he left behind his old life in Cleveland, and on sheer impulse bought a house on Lake Ontario in western New York. Water was essential to his working. Even in the dead of the Great Lake winter he’d do his Qui Gong every morning, sometimes lying flat-out on the frozen water. His was a special attunement that I only knew a portion of. So I could speculate on many aspects of this life hotly pursued but it would be mere fictive uncertainty. Faced with this aporia I’ll stick to what I narrowly know about Ken.
In The Special Body “we look at the body and yet avert any look into its anatomy (from outside). It’s us, rather it’s the option to hear that gets passed over” (240). In the case of Ken Warren probably one of his greatest gifts or should I say talents, amongst many, was his laugh. Upwelling from his gut and soul Ken’s baritone laugh was a piece of magical vibration that could alter most any mood on the spot. Born from a finely tuned orator’s voice proprioception at its finest. No matter how bad things were going Ken’s laugh could always effectively subvert the negative. It had to be heard. In his written legacy a hint of this joyous outpouring can still be sampled (See Captain Poetry’s Sucker Punch, Blaze Vox Press, 2012). His laughter brings to mind the legend of Tyl Eulenspiegel, from the low country of medieval Europe. Eulenspiegel, translates roughly as owl glass or howl glass, the incorrigible jester whose jokes and witticisms were devised to expose and or reflect the folly and irony of all around through his poignant interpretation of their machinations. Ken’s writing demonstrated a high degree of self-awareness, a veritable speculum that reflects on him as much as it does on his readers. Literature at large was open game for Ken Warren. He knew not to take himself seriously, and in the “Emperor Wears No Clothes,” even though he had his fans, Ken realized that he enervated quite a few people with his own peculiar take on the Ferrini/Olson arena. He enjoyed it. With the realization of this series as an intrepid exposure he laughed all the way to the intellectual off-shore anti-academic bank of independent learning.

For Ken, as he told me in one of our last conversations, “The Book is the Womb, the repository and safe space of all that is worth anything here.” This was his strong belief in every way and his maintaining the journal of House Organ for 22 years, beginning in the winter of 1993, was the proof in the pudding of that devotion. The book as a touch-stone fetish. As a result he never afforded House Organ an on-line presence or made available an e-version of his zine–this would have been an affront to the whole project.
Milton suggested the poet’s life should be a poem. To this aspiration The Special Body queries “What is mortality? Has anyone raised that question within the interpreting guises of poetry or cultural artifact?” (144) As a testament of sorts those of us who knew Ken Warren understood that he was House Organ–artifact and artificer covalent. Ken was the father of his Organ(ized family and anyone who got to know him through his magazine will attest to the level of care and enthusiasm he gave. The Organ subsequently has ceased pumping, being pumped. As for Dorn “The Earth is a Turbine, a new stand-in for ‘the machine’ ” (139) so is House Organ an engine, a series of stanzas in Ken Warren’s living poem or l’ouevre vie. Each issue was full of various poets’ lodes with Ken’s essays in the back, typically forming some psychopompic midrash to the encradled verse of that given issue. Towards the end his prose gained greater clarity and insight and concision. Who knows what he may have achieved had he been able to continue. The cessation of his word, breath, logos, the grinding still of the Organ answers an aspect of that question of mortality. There’s an old saying, “reality grows out of the end of a loaded shot-gun barrel.” Emptied, does it go beyond I wonder.

                              Then came suddenly
to rest, the barrel utterly justified
with a line pointing
to the neighborhood of infinity.
Ed Dorn, Gunslinger

The emperor stripped of the sheath, his pen set down: these lines do point toward an infinite unfolding. The significance is laid open as its source is shut as if the words were part and parcel of what Bruno called the continuous body. The continuum is forever enriched where we are left to cope with remains.
Ken’s turbine was the anima mundi. And being a lover meant the world to him. His understanding of relationships was rooted in the animus. “The animus has hooks” Ken once stated to me, and “we have a choice, we can either avoid them, stay in isolation, or allow them to grab us and take us for a ride.” He then proceeded to elucidate on a number of poets who are armchair enthusiasts of the animus as far as he was concerned (who shall remain nameless). Ken himself was certainly not one of them by a long-shot. He embraced the wonders of eros and danced that tarantella as long and as hard as it would take him. In The Special Body “(Pleistoncene-ly aware) Soul…an erogeny of being beyond proof, beyond the capable negation of consciousness, re-instituting the positivities of eros as ore.” (135) In Sufiesque fashion to Ken it was the erotic ore that holds the real charge that digs us. He was devoted to matters of the heart and the heart’s matter oddly enough was his undoing on this go around. But the contra dance goes on no matter what and I’ll wager Ken’s probably having a ball on his new alternate line.
Death is a negation of sorts, the penultimate apophasis for many minds here. At the close of Kydd’s “A Spanish Tragedy” Revenge suggests that the “endless tragedy” begins in the afterlife. Hieronymo’s bit off his own tongue, silenced himself, and then killed himself thus putting an exponentially reinforced termination to his word. Is this negation doubled or just madness taking care of business? In the case of Hieronymo the question will always arise: was he crazy like a madman, a fox or a little bit of both. Ken, the defrocked emperor, is undoubtedly a fox whose quill holds a knife’s edge and a long shelf-life. His tricksterly spirit should continue to reflect and multiply with each reading’s polishing action. The big laugh will have its traction beyond our time.

Robert Podgurski
On the North Carolina Piedmont
8/25/2015

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Crowley, Aleister. The Book of Lies. New York: Samuel Weiser Books, 1980.
thilleman,t. [Thilleman,Tod]. The Special Body. New York: Rain Mountain Press, 2016.
Warren, Kenneth. Captain Poetry’s Sucker Punch: A Guide to the Homeric Punkhole, 1980-2012. Buffalo, NY: BlazeVOX [books], 2012.

Anna Soo-Hoo, “his nudge of a post-it”

The Fall 2013 issue came with a post-it: “Might you still be writing? I’d be happy to see more of your work.” That marched me back to the blank page again, after I had confessed to the post-it that for a longish while I hadn’t put my hand to writing any poems. Over the next couple of months I was able to send Kenneth Warren a few, and then a few more. I owe all those pieces to his nudge of a post-it. Never met him in person, but reading his essays was and still is like going on an adventure.

Richard Martin, “At the Beach–In Memoriam Kenneth Warren”

At the Beach

           In Memoriam Kenneth Warren

The vertiginous sea stomachs the mind
I’m here in the amphitheater of clouds
Without phone or calling card
There is space between perceptions –
Field of scarlet behind closed eyes

The sun resumes divinity
And disrobes the objects of consciousness
I’m a tree in a pagan forest
The sacred bird of tomorrow sings
Beauty intensifies

Language drops from magnificent heights
I could use a drink
Or a wind of fermented seeds
Rocks litter the shores of thought
Stars populate dreams

Richard Martint

MARGUERITTE–4 poems & a note

the fealty of the wolf

she remembers the seven lakes of Yaddo
that fed her when she was hungry;
at the edge of each, she sat scribbling poems;;
she was never connected to the connected world;
she orbited nothing; nobody; she’s not sure
what Bach pulled off (according to poet, Salamun);
whatever the magic, it kept her in tune with forces
that kept him in and out of tune; when smothered
by contradictions, she suckled the breast of memory
buried in her ear eye, imbedded in her spine;
she wished for a statue of all this; something indelible;;
it will take the eye of a bird (preferably a hawk)
to see, so to still the fusion of shadows at dusk;
they see but do not know her; it will be blind rumor
that announces her departure from the planet;;
she preferred talking with the wolf;
not the dog she loved and never a cat;
the wolf was patient, and like gloom, steadfast;
perhaps constant would describe the wolf best;
it was the way he clouded oblivion that impressed her;;
Naco had knocked her out; she needed distance,
quiet and wind; even a harsh wind would be welcomed;;
she could not count the horns of death
though they were coming more into focus;
she’s heading out to the desert once more
to join the lizard; coyote; have a few chickens again;
the excretions of these beasts ran in the blood of her veins;
she asks you not to sneer at her perseverations;
she will not hang up her strings to shrivel in the sun
nor banish the keys that sing to her;;
there will be figs for a feast and a chorus of coyotes
to enliven the evening’s edge; she vows to teach
even the most vile of creatures to sing and dance;
the wolf will come by; congratulate this feat
(he cannot dance); he’ll explain in not too vulgar diction
and with allegretto glee that a child could understand,
that she is not brought low by tribulations;
if you could see…if you could see

_______________________

gangrenous grief

they all seemed to have known each other
as though they grew up together
(like the produce guy and the dairy guy
whose mothers gave birth side by side);
a kind of uninterrupted continuity
as familiar as poles flags and tree trunks
of a certain Italian painter;;*
so much pretext assaults her,
leaving grimacing footprints,
slamming doors and traps to trip over;
even the coyotes fling their souls
against the desert floor and titter when she stumbles;;;
his thinking was so akin to her thoughts
it’s as though he asked her permission
to formulate his own ideas
(Nietzsche or Lucretius for example);;
she wonders which is more deadly…
silence or speaking in too soft a voice to be heard;
surprisingly, when the voice shouted,
she did not step up to base;;
it seems she brought the wrong tools
for this planet; at this time; in this place;
she appreciates the soaring beauty
of the vultures circling her shack
and the slow trot of javelinas
crossing their young on a dusty road;;
light has begun to disengage itself;
the door to emptiness has a loose latch;
she can enter anytime it all comes together;;;
Bella’s ashes mix with Indian shards,
out there, off Old Lonesome Road;
Bo’s will rest ‘neath the flapping wings of crows
that fly in the shade of San Jose Peak;
the small grave she discovered in the desert
circled by its owner’s leash and packed with sand,
guards the votive lamp with a burned out wick.

*Tiepolo

______________________________

…to wrap around thoughts
(for the seekers of enigma)

she wonders about those who give up
before birth; who continue a life in that state,
with the back of Time their last vision;;
at some point the intelligentia will accept
the magic that can sever light;
who can resist a star out there
where half buried rocks create
more than beds for scorpions;;
should she return; dig it all up again;
has she taken on this body
for the sake of the invisible;
how many times she has awakened
having left behind body
and all else, to sink into hidden;;
so not to slave away in the same place,
she moves; keeps moving
to maintain detachment;
she is both rock and cloud;
her nimble will hangs from the sky;;
the last time they spoke, they talked of
woodlands deep in snow;
of the tall trees creeking in the wind;
the slow crack before one falls;
how she can no longer join him on trails
with stones rolling from her grasp;;
sometimes her tongue feels weighted, refusing
to wrap around thoughts; to create words;;;

the other two (Asians),
are like a bird-couple; inseparable for life;
they are looking down at a fallen nest;
at lumps of broken blue shells;
the old lady says they are watching themselves
preparing to return; but she’s just an old lady;
what can she know.

__________________________

advertorial

she listens to the wind rushing from her throat;
notices the skin on the tips of her fingers that
draws her to darkness where she sees everything;
she hears the sound of the universe
there in the throat of a sparrow;
in the movement of rose petals as they open;
she easily gets lost in the darkness of her own eyes;
sinks into that darkness where she has seen it all;;
there was an order to take no action but
it is time for adjustments,
so answer nothing without my permission;
she said, he’s dead, isn’t he
or he may have wandered off;
but he was there pilfering her books;
(Philosophical Investigations, gone);;
one cannot refute a toothache,
the decline of a once vibrant body,
nor the vivisection of a windfall;;
she knows a wicked genius
resides in the head of falsehood;
(it may be why the birds wear strange masks);
it all may have been an elaborate practical joke;;
that door was intended for her; it is closing;
it is the time of winter and white hair;
of reading maps etched into the faces of the ageing;
their hands, highways to the unattainable.

_______________________________

handwritten note:

attention Stephen Baraban
I am so sorry not to be able to
attend Kenneth’s memorial–
He has published me in House
Organ for over 20 years. Though
a distant one (I’m in the AZ
desert) it was close. I miss him
terribly but being 85, we may be
seeing each other soon.

Thank you

MARGUERITTE

Burt J. Kimmelman, “I no longer remember…”

I no longer remember when I first started receiving House Organ in my mailbox, sent from Ken Warren’s Lakewood, Ohio eyrie. I do know that I was immediately taken with the writing I found in it as well as both its format and the journal’s material circumstances, its production and physical existence. I started to publish in it, under Ken’s kind auspices, and when a new issue would arrive in the mail I was thrilled. Ken was doing something, not merely as a writer, which in recent times approached the unique. I soon, too, realized that he had created a vibrant community of writers, people whose work I happened to be interested in, and among whom I wished to be seen, and whose readership I cherished.

I got a sense of who Ken was but had never met him–until a conference in Orono brought us together. Meeting him was a highlight of that conference for me. Feeling since then that I actually knew Ken, finally, the news of his passing was devastating. He died too young. What he created, for so many people, cannot be replicated. But that’s alright. I understand how the world changes. I’m just so very lucky to have known him a little, and to appreciate how gracious and astute he was. The world changes, yes, but I continue to miss Ken.

Burt Kimmelman