I was considering opening this note by paraphrasing the Sheldon Levine character from David Mamet's spectacular Glengarry Glenn Ross, or a line or two from the Maysles's Salesmen, but thinking those two great works through to their conclusions caused me to, let's just say, take pause and reconsider.
Let me start over. In September of 1995 my now good friend and business partner Joyce Linehan threw a giant wrench in my life. Maybe she didn't actually throw the wrench, but made the wrench available for the throwing. All I know is a wrench that had not previously been visible to my naked eye materialized. (Understand that she is going to strangle me dead for implicating her.)
Anyway, back in 1995 I was groping toward the completion of my Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at UMASS. I also played in a little combo called the Scud Mountain Boys, just for fun. I wanted to be a poet, maybe even teach...Along comes Joyce with a wad of Warner Music cash about this thick and, well, what can I say? I'm weak. (Enter wrench.)
I did finish my degree by the skin of my teeth. I remember flying home from San Francisco, after the Scuds played a three week tour with Joe Henry, and defending my thesis the next day. I smelled like a nightclub. I was sick as a dog, and my performance during that oral exam was less than stellar; a "defense" worthy of the name I secretly and audibly called myself for some weeks after: Maginot Joe; I thought it had an anemic Dimaggio ring to it.
I never thought I was much of a scholar, but I did like the book I had been working on. It certainly wasn't finished, but I threatened its completion more than once. In one of his poems the poet Tomas Transtromer talks about the way old letters tucked away in a drawer can hum and throb, letting their recipient know, for better or worse, that they are still there.
So my good friend Frank Padellaro says, "You should finish your book and publish it." My good friend Joyce, removing the splinter from my foot, the log from my eye, the wrench from my machine, says, "Ashmont (Books) should publish your book." I thought about it for a while and agreed, not without reservations; I feared (and still fear) not only the suspect quality, but also comparisons to an infinitely more famous female singer-gone-poet whose stuff occupies a place at the antipode of all things literate. I don't want to get too stuffy or mean about it, but she's probably outsold Williams or Whitman or Wright or all of them combined which speaks volumes (pun intended) about more things than I have the desire to tackle.
All of that said, I finished my little book of poems. It's called Two Blind Pigeons, and if you'd like to read it, I'm pretty sure I know where you can get a copy.
-JP, 9/02/01 (Brooklyn)