Posted by: M. J. Arcangelini | August 9, 2009

POETRY READINGS AT MOONSHINE & GENESIS, 1975 CLEVELAND, OHIO

All excerpts from my Journal and notebook are “[sic],” transcribed as close as possible to how they appear in the original.)

MJA @ Moonshine, Cleveland Heights, Ohio, Summer 1975 by Jim Lang

MJA @ Moonshine, Cleveland Heights, Ohio, Summer 1975 by Jim Lang

Following my return to Cleveland from the Pacific Northwest in 1975, I visited my high school friend, Linn Hopkins, who was then working at Coventry Books. Linn had previously spent several years at the venerable Publix bookstore on East 9th and Prospect. After lunch at Irv’s, Linn took me over to Moonshine coffeehouse and gallery for the first time. This was on February 13, 1975. He thought I might want to try reading poetry there. I have no idea how long the Moonshine readings had been going on before I found them. I first attended one on the evening of Thursday, February 21, 1975.

Moonshine was at 2806 Mayfield Road in Cleveland Heights, just around the corner from Coventry. It was one of those arts and crafts galleries were people rent space to display their work. In the back was a small area with tables and chairs where coffee, teas and baked goods, brownies, muffins and cookies, were served. Each week there was a featured reader followed by an open reading, for which one signed up.

That first night I read four poems including “Elegy for a Fallen Doe,” (see below, note #1) which, my Journal indicates, sparked “a bit of discussion.” Some folks felt the Elegy, a poem about hunting and killing a deer, to be too violent and protested on vegetarian and animal cruelty grounds. I was accused of wallowing in the blood and viscera of it all, of exploiting the death of a poor wild animal. But then, before I could respond, someone else jumped in, defending the poem as an accurate depiction of hunting and dressing out a deer which simply pulled no punches. The discussion sparked by the poem was occasionally heated but never less than civilized. I sat down, having started it all, and watched as people discussed and argued about the poem I had written and presented to them. I didn’t have to say anything further; I could listen. This is one of the reasons we write poems, create art of any kind – to make people think. It was a satisfying moment and I enjoyed it.

I returned on February 26, 1975, prepared to read more poems but, according to my Journal, “something very strange happened – 3 people read before me, the poems were all of the string-of-strong-words-to-shock type of poetry – i looked at my own and lost all confidence in its worth – i felt archaic… i did not read.” Out of this came a poem entitled “on feeling archaic for an evening” (see below, note #2) – this poem was dedicated to “Jim Lang and the others;” Lang was the poet whose work that week, augmented with music and slides of his own photographs, had made the strongest impression on me.

I came back on March 13, 1975 to read this new poem to the people who had inspired it. I read a number of other poems as well, but “on feeling archaic…” definitely got the biggest reaction. Barbara Hacker was the owner/operator of the gallery/coffeehouse and emcee for the readings. She told me that Jim Lang was not there that night, but that he was reading the next week and I had to come back and read it for him. So I did and after I read it the second time Lang came over to my table. He had a head of lettuce and was eating leaves like other people eat popcorn or potato chips. I thought he was going to yell at me, instead he asked me if he could have a copy of it. We’ve been friends ever since.

I became a regular at the Moonshine readings until early April when I got a job as a short order cook on the swing shift at Tony’s Diner on Lorain Avenue at W. 117th St. My only night off was Wednesday and since the Moonshine readings were on Thursday nights, I could no longer attend. Still, I managed to keep in touch with Jim Lang, and through him with the readings.

In early May, 1975, Barbara’s son, Brian Hacker, who helped his mother with the weekly poetry readings, was shot and killed by a bartender in the C-Saw Café on Coventry. Here follows the text of an article which appeared in a Cleveland newspaper at the time:

(headline) Bartender charged in gun death

Murder charges were filed in Cleveland Heights today against a 51-year-old Coventry Road bartender in the gun slaying of Brian Hacker, 22.
Police said William Sobo, the bartender, shot Hacker last night in the C-Saw Café, 1825 Coventry Rd., as they argued over a can of a soft drink Hacker had brought into the tavern.
The shooting occurred about 7:45 p.m.
Three patrons in the tavern told police Hacker hurled the can behind the bar during the argument. Seconds later, Sobo took a gun from behind the bar and fired at Hacker, police said.
Hacker staggered out of the bar, wounded in the chest, and collapsed on the sidewalk. He was pronounced dead at Huron Road Hospital 10 minutes later.
The victim worked for his mother, Barbara, in her Moonshine Inc. boutique around the corner from the C-Saw at 2806 Mayfield Rd. The boutique contains a coffeehouse, art gallery, craft shop and poetry reading salon.
Hacker, his mother and an 18 year old brother were living together at 2472 Overlook Road, Cleveland Heights.
Sobo lives at 2563 Warrensville Center Road, University Heights.

In my Journal for Wednesday, May 7, 1975, next to the clipped-out article, I wrote: “now a recent friend is dead – murdered over a can of pop – i met Brian at Moonshine when i was going there every week – the last couple weeks Barb wasn’t there and he took care of the place alone – he was very quiet – didn’t talk much – several times i tried to draw him into conversation but i am not much good at such things – especially with one who is shy or a bit introverted and quiet – i liked Brian – he used to give me free brownies and cookies and he sat so patiently through many hours of our poetry with little flinching”

Those of us who knew Brian, even a little bit, found these events to be unbelievable. It didn’t make sense. None of us had even seen Brian express anger before. What we heard through the grapevine was that Brian walked into the bar with a can of soda pop in his hand looking for a friend. The bartender told him that he could not come in the bar with his own drink and told him to throw it out or leave. The story goes that Brian refused, saying that he wasn’t sitting down he was only going to be in there for a minute looking for his friend. This is how the argument started between him and the bartender. At some point Brian threw the can behind the bar, whether he threw it at the bartender or not is uncertain. The bartender ducked to avoid the can, came up with the gun in his hand and shot Brian.

When I spoke with Barb about it she explained that they were into Scientology and that she believed that Brian went looking for such a situation, consciously or unconsciously, as a way to “drop his body” and move on to the next plane. That seemed to help her deal with the grief, and I suppose it was as good an explanation as any for the senseless death of a young man.

On Friday, May 16, 1975, I went out to Moonshine to talk to Barb. As most of us do in such a situation, I ask her if there was anything I could do to help. She asked me if I could take over running the poetry readings for a while; she said she just couldn’t handle it at that point. So I agreed, and that is how I ended up booking the Moonshine readings. In my Journal I wrote: “went out and talked to Barb Hacker today – i’ll be taking over the poetry readings – moving ‘em to Wednesday nights – i’m going to try to book people a lot of people – generate some excitement try to get something going – shit i hope I can handle it –“ I’d never done anything like that before and wasn’t even sure what to do. I was still pretty new around the Cleveland poetry scene myself and didn’t really know all the players.

My first night as coordinator, May 21, 1975, was just an open reading with no featured reader, to adjust to the new day. There were 5 of us there. Chaz Peterson & I read.

With a lot of help and connections from the people I’d met at Moonshine, Chris Franke was especially helpful with contacts, I lined up featured readers for the oncoming weeks. Attendance, only occasionally overflowing in the first place, at least did not seem to drop initially and everyone who was asked to read accepted the invitation.

Daniel Thompson reading at Genesis 1975 - photo by Jim Lang

Daniel Thompson reading at Genesis, Cleveland, Ohio, 1975 - photo by Jim Lang

On May 28, 1975, Daniel Thompson was the featured reader and attendance was up to 20. I was keeping a notebook to keep track of booking and contact information; some nights I also made notes in there. For May 28: “Went marvelously this evening – Daniel read long and well, good stuff – open readers good / good crowd, active & lively talk – hope to see more of this feeling & these people in the future”

Not long after Brian’s death, Barbara sold Moonshine. I never saw her again. She was a kind, generous woman who loved art and poetry and poets; she was very much missed.

Notebook, June 11, 1975: “excellent night – lots of poetry – lots of people – energy running free flowing thru the whole place – many new faces – one guy played his poem on a harmonica – another read a collage with the help of two tape recorders and his own dramatic skills – the place really comes alive when the reading opens – much talk – people laughing – meeting people – discovering others – very good trip“

One night someone came to listen with a small child. The kid was attentive, sitting on his father’s lap, listening and watching everything that was going on around him. And I was watching him, amazed. When I got home I wrote this poem:

AS A CHILD

to see the world as a child
with the understanding of years.

each wonderful thing wondering
back at me
smiling
and opening to all facets of what it is
or was or could/would or might be.
each possibility.

as a child who
does not yet know what it all means
and
wants so to learn.

Notebook, June 19, 1975: “so i called barb today – she said that Mary Kay, the new owner, does want to end the readings but that i could try to talk to her – if she does then I’ll try to get the basement at Coventry books -“

The new owner was not as enamored of poetry readings and did not bother to attend the first couple of weeks after she took control. When she finally attended one I got a phone call the next day. We were being evicted. The new owner had taken offense at some of the religious references and some of the sexual references and the way that one piece in particular mixed religious and sexual references (a poem of Jim Lang’s). I’ve always kind of thought that was just an excuse to get rid of us anyway; like I said, she hadn’t been too crazy about the idea of poetry readings to begin with.

Here is the poem Jim Lang read that so offended the new owner:

JEZUS CRIST LIGHT

CRUCIFIED

JUST FOR SUGGESTING

TH POSSIBILITY

OF EATING YR SELF

Jim Lang, 1975
Cleveland, Ohio

Moonshine sign advertising Jim Lang reading - photo by Jim Lang

Moonshine sign advertising Jim Lang reading - photo by Jim Lang

Notebook, June 25, 1975: “feeling of a wake hung over the proceedings tonight – it is official – must find a new home for the readings starting July 2 – next week -“

So I cast about for a new location. Eventually I managed to talk the owners of Genesis vegetarian restaurant into letting us do it there. They were hesitant because the folks who ran the place were old enough (not really so old at that time) to remember the problems d.a. levy had and they didn’t want any police problems of their own.

In July we settled into Genesis, on Euclid Avenue near East 120th, across the street from the Free Clinic; a brief walk from the East 120th st. Rapid station. Attendance at the readings had begun to shrink and continued to dwindle when we moved – probably because of the location change. Either people couldn’t find us, or word hadn’t gotten far enough out or the effort to go that far away from the Coventry hub was too much to ask. For my part, working 6 nights a week and then spending the 7th on the readings was quickly beginning to wear thin.

My Journal says: “attendance been falling so much at the readings that i decided to let them die so didn’t get in touch with Horvath (Stuck-in-Nowhere) concerning his scheduled Primer night last night – announced that it might happen to 3 or 4 people who showed up last week then just let it go” But before anything was going to go anywhere, we were going to have some real melodrama.

I had penciled in a group reading on July 24 for the second edition of the Burnt River Primer, a mimeo magazine published and edited by Alan Horvath who, at the time, used the pen-name, Stuck-in-Nowhere. I had mentioned the possibility of a reading but had not confirmed the event with Horvath. I guess I didn’t think it would matter if I got hold of him to confirm or not because so few people were coming anyway I didn’t really expect anyone to show up.

But such was not to be the case. From my Journal: “15 or so people showed up including himself [Alan Horvath] & his entourage – after sitting at the next table to me for 45 minutes speaking only when spoken to – he took the stage for one of the most obviously pre-meditated acts of railing denunciation i have witnessed – aimed at me – seems word got to him tues that i’d scheduled him for weds. he grew angry at not being told so showed up quoted an unsure mention of a reading from a letter i’d sent him – shouted on about how i’d perpetrated this rip off upon him, his magazine & the people in it – what an asshole i am and various other things then burned a copy of the Primer & stomped out”.

He certainly made an impression on the folks gathered for the reading, not to mention the restaurant folks. And he was right and I knew it and I felt terrible. With the gift of hindsight I can see that I should not have mentioned a Primer reading to anyone without confirming with him first; such an event would involve considerable coordinating on his part.

There was silence and everyone looking at me after Horvath made his exit. Dramatic gestures are the currency of youth, and Horvath did not have the exclusive use of them. I stomped out soon after, throwing the reading wide open; paced around outside for a while and then came back.

To continue from the journal: “so Daniel Thompson, Geoff Singer, C.A. Smith, Tim Joyce, Jim Lang, Jim Taranto, Larry Weber etc. were all there & caught it all… [they were in agreement] that i was at fault but the punishment far exceeded the crime – … so i called off the rest of the schedule & publicly announced the readings had ended & i quit – then got talked down, to, & into doing it again… Daniel said i should schedule him [Horvath] every week just for the hell of it”. So the readings at Genesis continued, but nothing quite so melodramatic ever happened again.

I had no further contact with Alan Horvath after that evening, but understand that he has been doing some fine work promoting and documenting the writing and art of d.a. levy. I hope he has continued his own writing as well.

After the aborted Primer night attendance actually improved; maybe folks, including me, realized that we had something worth holding on to. I remember looking forward to those nights and the work shared there. The talent that assembled once a week remains amazing to me. The room often seemed to glow with excitement, poets bouncing words and ideas off each other. And this excitement could spill over into the night afterwards, as smaller groups of folks would gather at various watering holes to continue what could not simply be dropped just because the restaurant was closing.

Poets Simon Emler (left) & Lawrence Weber (right) Genesis - photo by Jim Lang

Poets Simon Emler (right) & Lawrence Weber (left) at Genesis - photo by Jim Lang

Notebook, August 6, 1975: “just about the best feeling reading since leaving Moonshine (which is now called ‘Suntree’)
“Danial was sad and read all love poems – mostly broken love, but perked up at the end when i requested “Anatomy of Love” – the[n] Lawrence read 3 love poems – i read one love poem & 2 others – Simon (who used to work at the Well & the Outpost – Cleve. legendary coffeehouses) read 6 or 7 poems – several love poems – Jerry read (for the first time!) 3 love poems – Muriel read two love poems –
“all of them sad – broken love poems – broken lovin poets -“

The energy at any poetry reading series tends to ebb and flow and eventually the Genesis series ebbed again, at least for me.

According to my Journal, I stopped coordinating the Genesis readings in October, 1975. There is no mention of who picked it up, only that I was “burnt out” and handing it over. I’m not even sure if the readings continued after that. For me it had been an amazing time, I think I can even with a straight face call it life changing. I made friends with, and was treated as an equal by those I admired. Friendships with Jim Lang, Chris Franke and Miriam Nathanson, which started at Moonshine, continue to this day. I had done things I’d never thought I could do and learned things I hadn’t even known were there to be learned. I have been involved with nothing like it since and have never stopped looking for something like it again.

Poets @ Genesis, Cleveland, Ohio, 1975 - M. J. A. 02/07/1976

Poets @ Genesis, Cleveland, Ohio, 1975 - M. J. A. 02/07/1976

Poets and listeners who participated in the Moonshine/Genesis readings during the 7 months I was involved, included Daniel Thompson, C. A. (Chuck) Smith, Tim Calhoun, Lawrence Weber, Eugene King, Timothy Joyce, Chris Franke, M. A. “Peg” Swiniarski, Jim Lang, Miriam Nathanson, Barry Greenberg, Jim Taranto, Georgiana Eckles, Simon Emler, Geoff Singer, Murial Tiktin, Jerry Keller, Ruth Griffin, Charles “Chaz” Peterson, Alan Schwartz, Dave Pishnery, Gary David, Tom Beckett, Rich Pike, Bob McDonough, Ed Biskind, Jim Miller, Alan Horvath (aka “Stuck-in-Nowhere”) and many others whose names escape me right now, but whose energy has never fully left me.

M.J. Arcangelini
01/01/08-01/27/08
Sebastopol, CA

NOTES

1

ELEGY FOR A FALLEN DOE

Fallen to the ground I see her,
breath coming heavily,
The bullet has hit her lung, the soft
tissue becomes engorged with blood.
Her eyes stare ahead, then to the
side to look at her killers
Then ahead, bulging and round.

Her rib cage expands, contracts
in great spasms.
The soft grey fur of the shoulder
grows wet, sticky.
.22 at the base of the skull
and it’s over,
Mercy at the trigger.

Cut the jugular then, before the head,
the split down the belly
From neck to ass hole and,
if done properly, the guts
Will spill out of themselves with only
a few perfunctory slices,
A few snips of muscle and organ.

Your descriptions are vivid, my friend,
and with memory’s help
I can see the carcass now, separated
into meat and waste,
Your bloody hands sifting through
the warm organs for those few
Which taste dictates as edible.

Steam rises into the cool evening
from those dead parts,
The heat of life still in them.
Is it then you found
The foetus? Warm, still in the womb,
the tender meat of the unborn
Ripped from the mother’s body.

Cast to the tall grass, left lying
amid bladder and mammary
Left to lie with the waste,
the too young fawn.
Then to the barn. Down the
mountain to the barn.
Slice the hind leg tendons

Pass through the rope, over
the rafters and it is up.
Her liver lies steaming in a
bowl of salted milk.
The initial cuts are made and the
hide, with little difficulty, separates
What is it you called it, my friend?

“Takin’ her pants off.”? Then let
us take her pants off,
I will hold your light. I cannot
condemn you nor the act,
Yet I cannot help. Let me
hold your light.
I have killed her vicariously.

The proud flesh hangs, purple,
wrapped in cellophane it seems.
The calves of the legs, booted in fur,
the only reminder of recent life.
The hide, with almost no holes,
is hung on the wall.
After this the rest comes easy.

Hot grease, so quiet, erupts with
slices of gentle heart.
We praise the tenderness of the meat,
the nobility of that heart.
We wonder at the odd warmth
it holds in our mouths.
It does not seem born of a stove top.

The carcass will hang for three or four
days, a sheet to keep off flies,
Hung high enough to discourage household
pets and wilder visitors.
Supple flesh will grow a little stiff,
the agile bones grow stiffer,
The blood totally drain into straw.

Noble animal, what can I say?
What sort of apology make?
I cannot condemn nor stand
above. I am too weak.
The meat you become is too
sweet, too tempting to be
Turned down on philosophical grounds.

Take this small note and heed
to the questionable consolation
It may hold. I too shall die, perhaps
even be killed. I too shall be
Naked meat, food for the plants
that were food for you.
I can offer no more.

05/29/74
Curry Co., Oregon

“Elegy for a Fallen Doe” is in the book WITH FINGERS AT THE TIPS OF MY WORDS , 2002 http://www.sonic.net/~joearky/

2
ON FEELING ARCHAIC FOR AN EVENING
(for Jim Lang and the others)

like the man who,
calling out his pain,
reaches to clutch and soothe
a leg long lost to
the surgical theater
i reach to calm a force
long subdued.
your strong words
strung out to the air
like a Thompson on fire
awake this lost limb of a
past creative identity.

i would rather it had stayed asleep
not to bother me with the times I’d
spent hours studying dictionary and thesaurus
to find that “new” word which
none but a select few would understand and
myself not even for long
then taking all my shiny new words
would string violent textures
rough and jagged
caccophonaic clouds of blood
and fear and obscenity
til people became numb to their images
and i the numbest.

my art was true Dada.
it self-destructed.
and when it did i drew from
it’s ashes and rubble
my poetry,
finding communication in the simple words of men
beauty in the natural
and began to consider myself
blessed
to be able to transcribe and relay
to others
these things laid in my path.

so now, to hear your poems
i shudder
frightened by this jet flow of images.
yours is poetry born of a city
and i…
i have been in the woods too long
to ever truly come back.

02/27-03/01, 1975 – Brook Park, Ohio
Written following a poetry reading, 02/27/75,
at Moonshine coffeehouse – Mayfield Rd., Cleveland heights

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Responses

  1. Not just a witness, but a participant. I suspected as much as I began to read the long-since-forgotten poem. Kesey called it “taking personal responsibility for our diet”. I remember returning to Cleveland, June 1976, just as you were leaving, opposite orbits, as you circled back to the West Coast and I arrived back East, not knowing I would remain. During your time of the 1975 poetry readings, your friends Mureen, then Ray, then Linda Wharton, then Danny and Laurie, having reunited in Wisconsin snows, all converged in Miami. The city was not for Danny at that point. Leaving Laurie, returning to Oregon. Living on friends’ couches, in the truck, having given up the place we now know had a name: Mountain Ranch, across from Colgrove’s former store. Reuniting with Ray at 44 acres of Chetco Indian life estate secured by Guy Wienert, the rest of the time you spent in Cleveland in 1975, Danny spent on that land, reclaiming it from the blackberries, debris, who knows how many years of dementia causing its former tenant to piss in bottles and stack them up against the wall. Fortunately we only broke one or two of them on the way to the dump. What a year it was. A year of building, learning, ecstatic joy, and dark disillusionment realizing that a life of poverty would likely ensue if unwilling to work in the mill, unable to work in the woods or on the water. So 1976 brought again the city. Leaving Oregon, not knowing it was for good. It was summer. “Thunder Road” was in the air. I added “Cruising Down Lorain”, my own coming of age story. My Oregon guitar rang in the Cleveland coffeehouses, bars and university lawns. It was glorious.

  2. Each highway we’ve traveled throughout our years of dangerous living have been benchmarked with tales and words..thank god we can still remember…

  3. joe…Session XII is about to start
    http://www.theundeniables.com
    would love to have you on board for this writer’s workshop…
    contact erik at:
    erikmatsu@gmail.com
    commitment? a [pick your genre] a day…
    We hereby invite you to either join or continue in this quest for The
    Undeniable, Session XII. It is a big one. They are all big ones.
    Each and every day we jot something down, it opens a portal to that
    dimension called improvement. All we can ask of ourselves is to
    become a little better than we were yesterday. Everyday.

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to reply to this
    e-mail with your Link and Genre, and we will get you posted come
    September 1st. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out
    our FAQ: http://www.theundeniables.org/faq.html . . .

    We look forward to continuing this journey together.

    • Linda: I didn’t respond to this at this time because i’m not sure yet what it is or what i would be commiting to – so i will look into it & contact the folks you suggest – maybe in October? do they start anew each month?
      – joe

  4. alan horvath, d.a.levy’s bibliographer, died earlier today during a dialysis treatment – he helped me assemble a lot of the chapbooks i published during the 70s

    rjs

  5. Found you searching for stuff on Genesis Vegetarian Restaurant in Cleveland. I used to play there circa 1977-78 with Tom Moore (flute). There was another guy there Willis Lyman who used to play trumpet and piano and sat in with us sometimes. I’m looking for photos of the place or anything else. Any help is appreciated.

    • Rick: my time @ Genesis was all in 1975 – i didn’t shoot any photos there myself but I have a friend who was shooting a lot back then & he may have something – the photos in the story were shot by him – let me find out if he is OK with it & if so i’ll put you two in contact – i do have some more photos of the poetry readings in 1975, all taken by that same friend – i’m actually flying to cleveland tomorrow morning & will be seeing him – let me know what your e-mail is if you want me to connect you two – i am at joearky@sonic.net – Joe Arcangelini


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