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Lucy In the Sky With Darrell: Actualism Part 3 PDF E-mail
Lucy In the Sky With Darrell
Part 3

The Story of Actualism
In Iowa City

Poetry Comics

To read the other ACTUAL chapters, click here
Lucy In the Sky With Darrell
Part 3

The Story of Actualism

In Iowa City

Poetry Comics

To read the other ACTUAL chapters, click here
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~18. Poetry Comics

Poetry in Motion


Jeff Weinstein

The Village Voice

New York, NY

Jul. 29-Aug. 4, 1981

Poetry in Motion--In 1978

someone told Dave Morice

that good poems would paint

pictures in yourmind. A

lightbulb went on over the

poet’s head. Why not Poetry


Unless you write poems, the chances

that you have read any contemporary

poetry within the last year, or even the last

10 years, or slim. This is not criticism of

the average reader, or of the average poet;

it’s just the way of the poetry world. You

may have nibbled at a sonnet with a

famous byline in The New Yorker, or tried

to swallow one of the well-meant meter-

laden exercises in the back pages of The

Nation, because this is all that’s generally

available. But do you remember the poem?

Do you talk about it? Do you want to read


New poetry is mostly for poets only.

Poets publish and distribute their own and

other poets’ work in hundreds of small-

press books and magazines. Poets read

these poems (at least they always read

themselves), argue about them, make a

living by teaching them. Poets attend each

others’ readings, praise and backbite, as-

sort themselves into schools of differing

influences and direction. The poetry world

in this country is a tight little island, even

more circumscribed than the art world or

theater world, which at least acknowledge

outside interest and support. Internecine

poetry-world struggles may seem lively to

an insider, but from outside, it’s a bit like

watching people eat their own vomit.

On the other hand, if poets don’t take

care of themselves, who will? Certainly not

major publishers, who aren’t disposed to

print literature for which screen rights

can’t be sold. A university press might, if

the poet teaches at the same university,

and promises not to feel too bad if the work

is remaindered in three months because no

one paid $12.95 for 87 unpromoted pages

in cloth. Government small-press funding,

an important source for poets and writers,

is slowly going the way of all funding: to

grants tomb.

Present exceptions to poets-onlyh poems

usually spring from the schools of poetry

that try to speak to specific-audience

groups: feminist, gay and lesbian, black,

Hispanic, and Native American. Not all

this work is wonderful, or even what the

poet-poets call competent--think of a cat-

agory where that isn’t true--and its au-

diences are insular by definition; but it is

being read by nonpoets. Although one

would hope that some poet-poets would

notice this, specific-interest poetry is not

taken seriously by “professional poets” be-

cause it breaks their rules: it supposedly

lacks awareness of formal English-

language tradition, it flaunts its historical

content, and untrained people can read it,

want to read it. Content and popularityare

anathema to most of the poets-only poetry

world; they connote a lackof seriousness.

The poetry world distrusts popularity so

much that it has sometimes disowned its

own stars.
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But lately, the poetry world has not

produced any stars. Nor is there a public

democracy of exciting poets. We can only

hope for Emily Dickinsons. Poetry, at the

moment, is quiet. It may be that this reti-

cence, this apparent unconcern with the

world, is a failure not only of the poetry

support system or of a postliterate, image-

oriented audience, but of contemporary

poetry itself. One of the tactics of modern-

ism, of contemporary art of any kind, is to

find its audience, toinvent it if need be, or

at least to try.


If I wasn’t on the outskirts of the poetry

world I would never have received copies

of Dave Morice’s Poetry Comics in the

mail. At first I didn’t know what they were,

couldn’t place them, which is a good sign.

As they piled up in the bathroom I began

to see first how amusing they are, and then

how smart. It’s one thing to illustrate, com-

ic-book style, Coleridge’s “Rime of the An-

cient Mariner” (issue number 12), a classic

story that lends itself to narrative illustra-

tion. Anyone who used Classics Illustrated

comics to slog through Adam Bede in high

school knows the predecessor here. It’s

something else, though, to break “The Red

Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams

(“so much depends / upon / a red

wheel / barrow / glazed with

rain / water / beside the white / chickens”)

into narrative frames, as Morice does on

the first page of the first issue, or to storify

excerpts from Robert Browning’s “Fra

Lippo Lippi” (everybody’s favorite), or,

most tellingly, to request submissions from

poetry-world poets to bge comicized. This is

not a Joe Brainard-like reciprocal col-

laboration of a visual artist and poets.

Although there is a tradition of inspiration

in English poetry, either by religion, the

secular muses, or the Romantic spirit of

nature and dream, Morice’s inspiration is

poetry itself. Poetry makes him want to

draw comics. He is also inspired by the

poets-only poetry world.

Of course, Dave Morice, 34, is a poet.

He has been writing poems since he was

six. Once a student at the University of

Iowa’s Creative Writing Program--Iowa

City is the geographic center of the poetry

world--Morice, sometimes known as Dr.

Alphabet, publicly spray-painted the

world’s longest poem, connecting New

Jersey and Pennsylvania, across the New

Hope-Lambertville Bridge. He invented

“Joyce Holland,” a minimalist poet (her

one-word poems, Matchbook, are stapled

inside matchbooks) and performance

artist who had no small effect on the

poetry world; for three years Morice hired

an actress to concretize her at readings.

Morice also single-handedly created a

now-famous school of poetry--famous to

poets, anyway--called Cutism. His Cutist

Anthology includes poems by Sally

Lunchkins, Tommy Triped and others.

“Have a nice day” artwork by Roberta

Periwinkleshoe, and the requisite de-

fensive polemic by Samuel F. Romular.

Morice’s send-ups attest to his connection

to a school of poetry that began in Iowa

City (a real school, I think) called Ac-

tualism. “Actualism does to things what

light does to them,” says Darrell Gray

in the Actualist Manifesto. “Cute, Cuter,

Cutist,” says Morice, in the lost Cutist


In 1978 someone told Morice that “good

poems would paint pictures in your mind.”

Morice wondered how “Prufrock” and Syl-

via Plath’s “Daddy” would look as comics,

so he drew them, publishing “Daddy” the

next year in Poetry Comics No. 1, which

he mailed to poets around the country. “Nev-

er liked Sylvia Plath before you,” wrote

Harley Lond, editor of San Francisco’s

small-press Intermedia magazine. Poet-

praise came rolling in: “Absolutely

brilliant…” (Bill Zavatsky), “i love ‘em &

so does my eight year old” (Joel Op-

enheimer), “Terrific” (Maureen Owen),

“… break through stony accretions!”

(Anne Waldman), “… best buy in the

universe” (Robert Creeley), etc., along

with offers to use their work. Since poets

]snapped at the bait, Morice published

their hermatic letters, and any others he

received, in the Muse’s Mailbag, now a

regular feature of the magazine. Poetry

Comics began to illustrate the boundaries

of the poetry world; poets love to be pub-

lished in any form.

The comics, however, are works in

themselves. Literary tradition sits heavily

on poets, and avant-garde poets since

Apollinaire have tried to throw it off by

attempty to “demystify” both their own

work and poetry in general. Morice de-

mystifies by juxtaposing familiar poems

with various--and variously successful--

borrowed and original cartoon styles,

sometimes to funny and sometimes to

touching effect. But he also creates a story

where little or none was apparent before

by heightening the narrative affinity of

language, an affinity more than one school

of present poets absolutely denies. Nar-

rativeness doesn’t harm poetry; even his

attempt to frame, for example, the non-

word syllables of John Cage into a nar-

rative progression still acknowledges the

randomness, the integrity, of the original.

Since narrative has had a bad rep among

modern poets, not everyone likes Morice’s

supposed playing around. Denise Levertov

mailed Morice her reservations, which he

published: “… The thing is, as with

parodies, a humorous angle on a non-hu-

morous work of art may have the un-

fortunate effect of spoiling the original--

i.e., one is liable to always have the recol-

lection of the jokey version looming up and

obstructing any further receptivity8 to

some beautiful poem or painting.” It’s a

weak poem that can’t hold its own, and

Levertov doesn’t see how the comics are

sometimes homages to the original, some-

times creative readings, and always work

in themselves. The “beautiful object” the-

ory of poetry has kept a lot of people at

arm’s length from some great work.

Morice’s comiocs do more than defusde cant;

they help to revivify poetry.

Comic books are worth attention too,

and so didact Morice, who teachers poetry

to children and senior citizens and is adept

at engaging them with tricks of the poetry

teacher’s trade., demystifies once again by

treating adult poet-poets to games,

puzzles, an elaborate poetry crossword

(first prize was $20 and 20 comic books,

and a poetry anthology), an Ana-

gramarama (Walt Whitman – Law? Haw!

I’m TNT), and Poetrivia (“In 1858 , Emily

Dickinson served as judge in the Bread

Division of the Cattle Show in Amherst”).

Last year Morice began to send PC out of

the poetry world, to a judiciously selected

group of “famous people” who are not, to

my knowledge, poets, and printed some of

the interlopers’ responses in the Muse’s

Mailbag. Art Linkletter, Liza Minnelli,

Virgil Partch, Elizabeth Taylor Warner, S.

I. Hayakawa, Vincent Price, Clayton

Moore (the Lone Ranger), Pearl Bailey,

John Kenneth Galbraith, or their secretar-

ies, to name a few, acknowledged receipt.

Many, like Ruth Gordon, were pleased:

“Your comics have a lot of style. A lot of

drive. And nice to hear from Iowa City. I

played a one night stand there in late 1916

or 1917 early on. Fair and Warmer. My

second year of acting and I was a leading

lady.” But others were less accessible.

“Since this type of humor is not the kind

that Lily finds amusing I am returning it to

you without having presented it to her.--

Julie Harding, Secretary/Assistant to Lily

Tomilin.” Morice sent these copies out of

curiosity, but also as a work of mail art.

(Mail art--using the post office to dis-

tribute work made expressly to be mailed)

has been utilized by artists like Eleanor

Antin to comment on, and solve by in-

corporating into their art, the problems

out of towners face in a New York cfen-

tered art and publishing world. With the

right mailing list…)

If only distribution were poetry’s major

problem. One can’t expect a public to hang

on every word of even the best modern

work the way a great proportion of the

English readership tracked Childe

Harold’s Pilgrimage as if it were news. (A

“great proportion” of England’s readers in

1812 was, however, a tiny fraction of its

population.) Of course, popularity alone

cannot be any measure of merit; the new

may be difficult, and, subject to the

motives and skills of the publishing in-

dustry, we can’t assume that the good will

out in any case.

But how has pleasure been drummed

out of the poetry we have, from a form that

so much depends upon a reader’s active

delight in language and surprise? Once a

student of English, and a teacher, I suspect

that some of the pleasure in creative,

polysemous reading is taught out of

poetry, for those who are exposed to it at

all. Dave Morice’s serious success in

Poetry Comics, “slight stuff” as one an-

noyed writer called them, is not only that

he tweaks the nose of the poetry world, but

that he dares to reactivate at least one of

poetry’s pleasure principles, the freadom

that “I can read it as I please.” A little

pleasure will demand more.

Poets and uninitiates alike can sample

a copy for $2--a lifetime subscription is

$50--by writing to Morice at Box 585,

Iowa City 52244. It is unfortunate that,

unless something changes, the inside of

that post-office box may be as close as the

two groups will get.



Andrei Codrescu

City Paper, Baltimore, Oh., Jan.16-20, 1981


City, Iowa 52244, has been rapidly “cartoonizing” the world’s great

poetry. All the cartoons are by the editor while the words in the balloons

of his incredible landscapes and characters and landscape-characters are by

Emily Dickinson, Shakespeare, Hart Crane, Walt Whitman, Wallace

Stevens, William Carlos Williams, John Cage, Darrell Gray, Pat Nolan, Clark Coolidge and others.

Morice, or “Dr. Alphabet” as he is fondly known, is a fine poet in his

own right whose sense of what poetry can do has gone beyond the page on

several occasions. He has invented Joyce Holland, a minimalist poet, who

made quite a name for herself both for her performances (an actress was hired fror them) and for her magazine of one-word poems, Matchbook, which was stapled inside matchbooks donated by local business. She would have gone on to a great career if Morice hadn’t abruptly blown her cover after three years. In two separate bids for entries into the Guiness Book of World Records, Morice wrote “the most poems at one sitting,” a 24-hour effort which produced one thousand poems in an Iowa Bopokstore, and “the world’s longest haiku,” a haiku with a mile-long middle line. People dressed in “poetry clothes” appeared with Morice on several TV shows. A senior citizen’s poetry class led by Morice made a “poetry chair,” completely covered with words, as well as a very fine poetry magazine. Morice’s playfulness is, in varying degrees, characteristic of the small group of poets from Iowa calling themselves “Actualists.”

“Actualism,” says David Hilton, who is in The Actualist Anthology (The Spirit that Moves Us Press, 1977), “is a perception of the world without preconceptions.” Darrell Gray, who baptized the movement, explains in his Actualist ManifestoP: “Actualism does to things what light does to them.” Since its inception in the early 1970s, Actualism has taken surprising flight. Some of the mgazines cnnected with it are among the finest poetry publications of the past decade: Toothpaste (edited by Allan Kiornblum), Suction (Darrell Gray), Search for Tomorrow (GeorgeMattingly, who later founded Blue Wind Press), Gum (Dave Morice), Matchbook (Joyce Holland)… The contributors have included well known contemporary poets alongside the originaol Iowa group.l Other magazines of the time took on an “actualist” tinge if only because the spirit was contagiouis. I can think of Blue Suede Shoes (Keith Abbott, in California), The End (Pat Nolan, in Californiaj), Strange Faeces (Opal L. Nations, England). Actualist sympathies were surrealist, New York School, cannabis, beat and Midwestern, and still are. Several “ActualistConventions” were held in IowaCity, Berkeley and San Francisco, wonderful events open to performance art, video and strange musical happenings. It all started as a “put-on esthetic movement” and went on to become an enduring sensibility.

Poetry Comix goes a long way toward demystifying the poetic act without taking away the greatness. Morice’s readings are accurate, respectful, awed at times, and always sympathetic. Even when he gives a somewhat “lateral” reading, as in the case of “Xanadu” where Kubla Khan’s “pleasure dome” is a huge skyscraper named “Samuel Taylor Coleridge” in the middle of a futuristic, solar city, the percption is right on. Poets have responded enthusiastically to the idea, as many of the letters reprinted in the magazine attest. A few, Denise Levertov among them, have objected to what they see as excess frivoli9ty, but they miss the point. If anyone is to go near poetry out of any sense other than duty, we need more not less humor. “Abuse the Muse” and “Amuse the Muse.” It does both, with great style.

--Andrei Codrescu, reviewer

CITY PAPER, Vol. 5 No. 86, p.22

Baltimore MD

The Muse’s Mailbag


By Poetry Comics No. 4 (PC-4), I’d been receiving lots of mail in reply. With that issue, I started a letters column. The title was a take-off of the Metropolis Mailbag appearing in Superman Comics. The letters column enabled readers to play an active role in Poetry Comics, to take part in it, to collaborate in it--and collaboration is one of the seven pillars of Actualism.


The comics sabotage the rhetorical

qualities of the poems, ballooned

into portentious fragility, much

needed in some cases. Why not go

for the real rhetoricians, John “The

Aesthete” Ashbery, Robert “Skunk

Hour” Lowell? Substantial works

come off worst in this form.

Romantics are abvious targets,

Elizabethans. Why not de-fuse the

cant of contemporary works? Bly,

for example.

Cheers. Change the world,

--David Gitin

Thanks so much for the new POETRY COMICS.

I and my wife have been enmjoying them tremen-

dously. They are absolutely brilliant, real

“translations” from the verbal to the visual.

Too bad Harcourt, Brace doesn’t get smart

and commission you to comicize T.S. Eliot’s

complete works.

I’d like to do a writeup on the series for

the spring issue of SUN. Should I stay away

from mentioning or reproducing non-public

domain material, like the Pound and Eliot,

etc.?--which might get us both sued? (I*’m

assuming you haven’t cleared rights to them

with the publishers.) Anyhow, I’ll be back

to you on this before long. Let’s hear from

you! Keep up the beautiful work…

--Bill Zavatsky, SUN

And so I said to myself, “Micki, what

better time to sit down and dash off a

billet doux to Dave.” A friendly letter

to let you know how much I enjoyed your

rendering of a favorite poem “Ozymandias”;

to express my sincere thanks to you for

printing my letter; to tell you how clever

and intellectually stimulating I found

your contest. And to let you know, in a

friendly way, that if I don’t win first

prize you can kiss that check for $10,000


Your friend,

--Micki Gottesman, SHANTIH

* * *


“POETRY COMICS #2 offers neither poetry

nor comedy.” (sent in an envelope addressed to


--SAMISDAT #86, review


Your abuse-the-muse comix were greeted here

with joy and enthusiasm as the proper aegis

for the new decade and were as such trans-

formed into coffee-house books (righ there,

on top of the TV where everyone puts the cup)

and seen by all.

Alice wonders if you accept contributions.

If so, she’d love to get down with Homer. Not

really, but she would like to know. Speaking

of Homer, he’s teaching in the Classics Dept.

at Johns Hopkins here. Several of him, that

is. If you want a professor, produce a child

& name him or her Homer. Then he can join us.

--Andrei Codrescu

Anselm showed me the comics which are genius

& I’d like to order for my Naropa students--

10 of each? Please send & bill me… Always

admired everything you’ve done all these years

& wish you a happy 1980! Beautiful, still,

discreet here in Sweet Briar. We’re about to

drink some “Old Bourbon Hollow” & I read


--Anne Waldman

Many thanks for Poetry Comics #3 & 4. I

especially enjoyed I WANDERED LONELY AS A CLOUD

& WHEN I HAVE FEARS, as did Shelley, my girl-

friend. Bright rays of light over our other-

wise potentially dismal vegetarian life. Storm

clouds now “usurping” the sky. I am moving

next week. Teaching high school still, & re-

cuperating from 4 days in the hospital with

pneumonia--a horrible ailment that attacks the

lungs and appetite. Your comics were a source

of great inspiration (as opposed to expiration).

Keep them coming! Maybe do D.Dickinson’s “I

Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died” or Weldon Keyes’

“The Crack”??

--Darrell Gray

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God – it’s been so long since we met & we

just got to talk so little & there were some

Other people there – it was all so wonderful –

& we xchanged periodicals & literary whatnots

across the burly brown spring continent.

Feel real dumb, believe you me, for not

writing previously. Rereading Speakeasy #3

terrific – I’m teaching elders now too –

my hand hurts – heavy – surprise…

Bill me for a subscription, Comix too.

They’re NUTS!

--Jeff Wright, Hard Press

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Everyone everywhere should be forced against

their wills to do poetry comix.

--Tom Ahernj, Diana’s Bi-Monthly

* * *


More pure joy from Dr. Alphabet. Dave Morice

has taken various “classic” poems such as “The

Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,””Daddy,” “Fire

and Ice” and “I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud”,

broken up the text into frames and illustrated

it. These comics are to their subjects what

Classic Comics were to Ivanhoe or Kidnapped, but

with a great, surreal twist. I can’t imagine

what poetry teacher, high school or college,

couldmanage without these classroom aids. These

works are all play and deserve to instantly be-

come underground legends. Send money. Now!

--Warren Woessner, in Abraxas #18-19

* * *


* * *

Thanks for “Poetry Comix #5! Terrific!

Your drawings are getting closer to represen-

tation. John Ashbery esp. looked just enough

like John to be completely funny & yet still

his handsome self…

--Maureen Owen, Telephone

I love especially “Some Trees,” in fact I

am rolling on the floor. I love the trees

growing out of J.A.’s ears & the look in his

eyes in that “frame.”

Have you thought of “Metaphysidal Poets”


--Anne Waldman, Naropa Institute

I think your idea of sending 10 back issues

of Poetry as the booby prize for the Poetry

Comics crossword puzzle is great: haven’t

laughed so much in a long time.

--Effie Mihopoulos, Mati

This thing (Crossword Puzzle) is fiendish.

One could easily spend the whole month on it.

--Richard Morris, COSMEP

Really delighted by your take on “OH NO”--

and grateful. You sure are a pleasure, and

if there’s ever chance for collaboration

from my side, we’ll see what’s possible--

you bet.

Meantime--do send one of these to JOEL


“Oh No” is one of his old favorites, making

me honorary few, as he used to say. Anyhow.

Here’s $3.50 for sub – best buy in the


--Robert Creeley

Your new POETRY COMIX is astounding! You

yourself are astounding, to come up with

such visually captivating depictions, the

syncopations, pacings from frame to frame to

frame are even more masterful. R. Crumb

looks plae and silly (irrelevant) compared

to what you are doing. I am looking forward

to doing the puzzle at the back of the book,

but paroxisms of hilarity overtook me after

SOME TREES and OH NO. David Gitin’s sugges-

tion that you do contemporary poems as well

is a fine idea. Good poems, of course, are

also the best--to illustrate Kilmer’s TREES

might be funny, but also “silly”--tho even

that, in yr hands (and pen) could be great!

I still think Dickinson is a “sitting duck”

for illustration, altho a great poet too.



definitive Thomas Johnson FINAL

HARVEST--a great book.) Another possibility

is Sr. Thomas Wyatt’s THEY FLEE FROM ME WHICH

ONCE THEY DID ME SEEK. These, of course, are

oldies, and as Gitin suggests, you might want

to move to more contemporary poets. To do a

Clark Coolidge poem would be a real chal-

lenge--a poem poem such as FED DRAPES, from

his book SPACE. I’m also wondering if you’re

open for submissions: I have a few short

pieces myself, which I’ll xeroxs and send to

you. I also love to read the letters from

the readers (that dumb one from the guy, or

gal, I can’t remember which, a while back

shows just how programmed some readers of

literature are!)

------ Speaking of “language poets”, I’m

giving a talk later this month at PANJANDRUM

BOOKSTORE, based on my essay THE NEW CONVEN-

TIONALISM, which has stirred up quite a furor

out here. I doubt that many language poets

will atend. Do you have a copy of the essay?

If not, I’ll send one on to you. Therein, I

raise the question of a strictly programmatic

approach to poetry: why writing in one foirm

(avoidance of linear meaning) is superior to

direct statement (not “confessionalism” per

se, but as in Dorn), but (as opposed to

Watten), there are NO intrinsically immoral

FORMS. Your work (in the Cjomiox) best exem-

plifies this, and if I could order about 20

copies of the issue that has THE LOVE SONG OF


as No. 5, with SOME TREES in it, I would be

grateful… My talk (“lecture”) is on Feb.

28th, so please respond as soon as you can.

I’m sure the audience will enjoy yr COMIX,…

I wish you all the best. And keep the comix


--Darrell Gray


(are 1 & 2 out of print?) hope not--enclosed

sub.)--they had me, Laurie, and Anne Waldman

(visiting) rolling on the floor, once

again--AW & I sent postcard, I take it she’d

like to use them in poetry classes at the

Jack Kerouac School of Poetics in Boulder

(she’s co-director of, w/Allen Ginsberg)…

Winter, finally, here, too-----but live in

hopes of Spring occurring, as it did last

year, 1st week of March---

FINITE CONTINUED, from Blue Wind (Box

7175, Berkeley, CA 94707), slated for March

15: WITH RUTH IN MIND, Station Hill Press

(Barrytown, NY 12507), roughly same date

(“tell the bookstores,” etc.)

Imbibing some Pepe Lopez con cerveza,

Fleetwood Mac on local cultural radio,

gentle snores of Laurie (McElroy), Wanda

(Airedale), and Kissakatti (Baron Kissakatti--

Finnish for “Kiddycat”--foundling tiger,

eyedropper & baby bottle –raised, now 6

months & a terror: but, no kidding, he, too,

SNORES--gently--)--otherwise, All Quiet

Here in Sweet Briar Hobbitland--

Up to NYC this week, reading at Ear Inn

on the 9th w/Jeff Wright--traveling com-

panion & navigator, Andrei Codrescu (pick

him up in Baltimore: if you can, send him a

set of PC--he’d love ‘em--& back here for

St. Valentine’s Day. (He was toasted,


So, greetings--& let’s see abt these here


Say Hello to all dear friends--tell ‘em

I love ‘em, but only occasionally remember

how to write--

Oh ye gods, well, yes. How many lives

does one have? What? Just one? Who’s


--Anselm Hollo


* * *

We don’t quite know what to make of Poetry

Comics, but thank you nevertheless for sending

us a copy--and for your kind note.

--Phoebe-Lou Adams, The Atlantic Monthly

Thanks for sending us a copy of Poetry

Comics No. 6. Several people on your staff have

enjoyed it greatly.

--David Gates, Newsweek

Thanks for sending Poetry Comix to CHP. The

reaction here was mixed. Some liked the idea

of abusing the Muse, some liked to see “clas-

sics” being printed (in any form) some sniffed.

Anyway, Coach House wouldn’t be interested

in publishing poetry comix, besides you seem

to be doing an adequate job yourself.

It will be interesting though to see if your

idea catches on. Best of luck.

--Clifford James, Coach House Press

I enjoyed the Poetry Crossword and desper-

ately the solution. (The symbol of

comedy in the theater can’t be “somk.”)…

--Bess Osenbaugh

Active Image

Just received Poetry Comics #6 which was sent

to my old address on 95th St. where I haven’t

lived since 1970. I didn’t get No. 5 with

“Some Trees” in it--I’ve seen it but can’t buy

it anywhere--could you (please) send me a copy?

Thanx and best wishes.

--John Ashbery

I just got back from taking my last Ph.D.

exam in Denver. That last issue (esp. Ginsbgerg’s

Supermarket) was a howler, the best so far.

Back here, what do myh amazed eyes behold--the

Pope epigraph, which I’ve used as my own in

Three, by Randy Tomlinson, Victoria McCabe, and

myself. I left the half-finished crossword at

Victoria’s in Denver. It was a tough one.

--Jim McCurry, Delirium

thanx thansx for poetry comics – i love ‘em

& so does my eight year old, seriously. are

they distributed here anywhere?... can you keep

sending? do you want poems, or do you pick your

own? What are the answers to the cento, so i

can check. i’m sure of 15, pretty sure of 9,

pure guesswork on 6.

has anyone collected silver surfer’s corpus?

--Joel Oppenheimer

Am really enjoying your Poetry Comics! Can

appreciate the innovation not only in poetry

but the comix style & drawing. Let’s face it,

Muse, art & poetry need more humor. Congratu-

lations for coming up with something very fresh]

& clear--obvious, yet no-one thought of it…

--Bruce Houston

…Your comix really show that great poietry

is probably eternal and universal. Not so much

because it can be illustrated, but because the

language is shown to be so alive, and the

concepts can still freak you out.

I’m sending you a copy of my latest book

INRI in appreciation.

--Joe Ceravolo.

Many of your correspoondents seem to be

“rolling on the floor.” That is quite a nat-

ural impulse upon encountering Poetry Comics,

and I should not wish to discourage such

activity--but I feel obliged to inject a cau-

tionary word. Rolling on the floor is danger-

ous. I still carry deep bruises from my first

abandoned rollings about when your #1 and #2

appeared. (In my frenzy to roll, I forgot to

clear the floor of cat toys and various

shoes.) I’ve gotten smarter, and feel quali-

fied to offer the following advice:

1. Always clear the floor of sharp, hard


2. Wear knee pads, elbow pads, and helmets

a la skateboarders.

3. Use the buddy system. It’s much better to

bang into another rolling body than to hit

your head (you should wear a helmet but you

won’t, will you?) on the leg of the sofa

and lie unconscious for days alone with a

fractured skull.

1. Above all, roll moderately! Your shoulders,

which take the brunt of rolling, will thank

you, and you and your friends can have many

joyous rolling sessions per issue.

2. Vary your rolling with other appropriate

activities, such as slapping your knee.

(Avoid splitting your side!)

There’s my two cents. Let’s roll ‘em, Dave!

--David Hilton

PC # 6 arrived today. Again a delight: in

fact there are no words for it! What amazes me

is that you can, and DO, keep it up. You seem

to be branchiung out to new areas of stylistic

depiction, & that seems both good & excitingt.

The simple & clear line drawings in THEY FLEE

FROM ME, while being more “abstract” are no

less effective. I do prefer the more detailed

workings, as in THE WOODSPURGE (a poem I had

never read), especially the 1st & 3rd frame on

the 2nd page of that poem. (“My eyes, wide

open, had the run” hits the nail on its pro-

verbial head!) Also, most happy you illus-

trated my suggestion THEY FLEE FROM ME. I’ve

alwaysw been mind-boggled by that poem…

If I have a chance to teach poetry in my

High School classes, I will surely use yr

PRUFROCK (to complement the original text, and

some others). I may bet some flak from the

regular teachers, but--I’m temporary at best.

Cultureal sabotage is one of my most passionate

concerns, and where better to start than with

kids who are bored with school & would rather

be roller-skating or playing basketball. Your

comics are perfect for this purpose…

--Darrell Gray

Each issue seems to surpass the last in

some way. Keep it up. We want more. I took

one to work & found it to be totally access-

ible, although some didn’t understand that

you didn’t write the poems. They thought “She

Walks in Beauty Like the Night” was your

greatest work. I couldn’t say any different.

I’m looking at your cross-word puzzle. I

don’t know if you’ll get an entry from me. So

far I’ve got one answer, & I’m not too sure

about that one. Keep on confusing, abusing,

& maybe even amusing the muse.

--Steve Toth

Early on in Jan. I sent you a check for $4

for poetry comics 1-3 by the illustrious Dave

Morice. So far I ain’t seen either da comics

or my cancelled checfk. Did you folks ever get

my request & dough? Did mentioning I was a

friend of Woessner’s and Hilton’s get my

message pitched in the circular file? Do the

White Sox have a prayer in ’80?

I have heard veritable sagas about these

masterpieces, and I feel deprived that my

little irises have yet to lay themselves on

them. Postal system being what it is, it

wouldn’t surprise me if the request never got

there. Drop me a line. If I don’t get some

real Kulcha soon, I may be forced to go steal

James Merrill’s ouija board. Despareate men

say desperate things. Let me know the scoop.

--David Clewell

once again you’ve struck a popular chord

with your poetry concepts. Poetry Comics are

totally accessible and “pop”--the exact com-

mon denominator to reach a disinterested

American mainstream. Imagine them going over

great in a class of surly 4th graders. PITS

(Poetry-in-the-schools) poets should benefit

from this technique tremendously. Of course

you might end up with a whole generation of

cartoonist poets, but why not, I’ve heard

that anything goes in the future. …I hope

the issues keep coming. They keep me informed.

--Pat Nolan



Finally, for the poetry-jaded comes Poetry

Comics, good-natured trashings of poems by

Sylvia Plath, Robert Frost, e.e. cummings, and

W.C. Williams rendered in comic strip form.

Plath’s old man and W.C.’s wheelbarrow will

never be the same. Other poets should get the

Morice treatment. One hopes a sequel is on

the way.

--Eric Baizer, Gargoyle #14

* * *


I’ve put ou on our exchange list. Keep the

comics coming. I enjoy the certain levity they

bring to what too often is the deadly serious\

business of Literature!

--Len Fulton, Small Press Review

I have two hats, my sleeping bonnet in which

I write my poems, and my fascist general’s cap

in which I discuss ways for force-feeding

everyone poetry.

I do hope some day to do a largish magazine,

and I hope you’ll be able to contribute – but

the paroxysms of Nazism have abated just now,

so I wouldn’t send me anything for awhile.

You should collect these in a book. The let-

ters column reflects the enthusiasm I think

anybody’s feel.

Sieg heil

--Michael Andre, Unmuzzled Ox

Enjoyhed No. 7, POETRY COMICS. Cover was bril-

liant piece of lujnacy. Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

was freaky piece of work…

--Jim McCurry, Delirium


“Abuse the Muse!” urges Poetry Comics, now up

to No. 4. Editor Dave Morice mockingly illus-

trates the great Romantics,

half in tribute, half in pro-

test against academic mysti-

fication. His art, unfortu-

nately, ranges from poor to


Morice sent us a gift sub-

scription to his Poetry Com-

ics along with TheCutist An-

thology. Bob Hickey sent, with Laundrey Room

Poems, a gift membership in the National Rifle

Association. We suggest Morice and Hickey com-

bine resources to blow both books out their


--SAMISDAT #92, review

I’m pleased to inform you that I featured

POETRY COMICS No. 7 on my April 25th telecast

over MCAC-TV. POETRY COMICS has got to be one

of the more novel & original concepts in both

graphic illustration and literary good times

that I’ve had the good fortune to come across

in some time. My personal favorite in this

issue was “My Mistress” illustrating Shake-

speare’s Sonnet 130 with all the grace and

delicate precision of my corner grocerystore

meat counter. I loved it! I plan on framing

the single sheet & mounting it above my closet

door (all great loves do best in one’s closet).

--James A. Cox, The Madison Reviewq of Books

Loved P.C. #7. the best to date. front and

back cover ideas the work of a genius.

--Opal Louis Nations

All morning I have been staring at a dead

plant, right in front of my typewriter. I

wanted to write a poem, then it dawned on me

that the mail might have arrived. And, sure

enuf, there was PC #7. Hope you are in good

health and are able to continue the grand

tradition of making poetry fun in both a

graphic and verbal way, which you yourself

have started… Love the letters column: ie:

responses. Phoebe-Lou Adams from ATLANTIC

MONTHLY who says “We don’t quite know what to

make of POETRY COMICS” either lacks a sense of

humor or takes her life too seriously: I don’t

know which is the worse. It seems all too

appropriate that she is working for the mag.

I loved particularly the HERRICK poem (the

illustrations were dynamite) and A POISON TREE

(tho therein you are waxing a bit abstract).

The drawings were great, but somewhat evasive.

--Darrell Gray

Poetry Comics is one of the most enjoyable

jobs that I print. Here’s a little contribu-

tion for the pickle jar.

--Lynda Raybourn, Copy Center 3, Jefferson Bldg.


* * *

I really dig this abusing the muse stuff. In-

teresting in that the attitude is not too far

off from Dada that is making (locally anyway) a

kind of comeback. So, in order to recognize your

artistic achievement plus continuing to receive

more of the same I offer the meager sum of $5.00

American to you. Live Long & Perspire!

--Pat Dooley

We all found your Poetry Comics delightful.

Thank you so much for sending us this latest


--Juris Jurjevics, Editor-in-Chief, The Dial Press

Here, as if it were foretold to you in a

dream, are all my clams in one bucket. Still

can’t understand how my last missive didn’t

reach your coaxing fingers. Maybe the Poetry Mob

is platooning goons to discourage the exchange

of these incendiary materials. We’ll never read

about it in the Times, I’m thinkin’.

This check, I realize, puts me on your life-

time list – one I hope you don’t share with

unethical societies and brotherhoods who somehow

on their own find their way into the long hall-

way of my mailbox. But those comics – oh, those

sweet sweet comics – now, they can kick their

shoes off and drink my beer.

--David Clewell

I’ve been through a good 90 days of sorcerer-

retribution, karmic-backfire (right, writing,

arm) for two months, then fire ((!)) in my house

wrecking books, paintings, walls, etc. Now –

back in repaired, strangely vacant, ‘home’.

Last issue of Comics knocked me out, loved

cover, blake, Poetrivia. Here’s 5, keep em coming.

Oh, on submissions, how about YUCATAN from now

out-of-print 1st book GUITAR AGAINST THE WALL?

It’s the only poem of mine where I can imagine a

Morice to every line (chicken in every pot?

Hoover of West Branch). Do you have it?

--David Gitin

Active Image

The 10th ACTUALIST CONVENTION, just over this

past weekend, went great!...2 full days of

poetry, dance, theater, music, mime, film,

video, & much more. It was the biggest turn-out

ever. THE ACTUALIST BOOGIE BAND that provided

the finale for the first night knocked everyone

off their feet--Those who were previously

grounded quickly soared & hit the ceiling. We

still have bits of hair & eye-lashes to clean

off the ceiling, but that’s the price you pay

for turning people on.
Active Image

Right on “the heels” of The AC came PC#8. The

John Clare poem knocked me out! But my favorite

in the issue was “712” BY Ms. Dickinjson. Who is

this creep from SAMISDAT #92? who says “His art,

unfortunately, ranges from poor to mediocre…”

My take is that the guy is trying to play base-

ball on a football field. He and Phoebe-Lou

Adams (from the ATLANTIC MURKY) would make a

great pair. Even ole Ez said the last thing we

need in approaching “Literature” is solemnity.

--Darrell Gray

We really dug Poet’s “Mental-Block” Remover

on issue #7. If youo have any more picture/

explanations, would you be interested in sub-

mitting it/them for KAYAK?

--Marjorie Simon, Kayak

Thanks as ever for 8th issue of your charming


--Robert Creeley

In answer to your question on how I’m going

to use POETRY COMICS on my periodic poetry

shows on MCAC-TV I use the drawings as graphics

for the camera while reading the poems as a

voice over. Simple, but effective.

It’s always a pleasure to give over air time

to a new idea. And new idea is a working

definition for your little magazine.

--James A. Cox, Editor

The Madison Review of Books

When are we (your readers) going to see a

Dave Morice poem illustrated? (Joyce Holland

would be interesting also--esp. since she’s

concrete to begin with.) We just got your

latest and of course both read it right away.

--Sheila Toth

Thanks for the Comics! Yeah, here’s the

latest. I remember this article on you in Coda

a million years ago…alphabet man hits the

streets or something. Good luck with this

latest project.

--Rick Peabody, Gargoyle

Joel Oppenheimer called last night & in the

course of our conversation mentioned your

series of poetry Comics. If I’d send you 5

bucks, he said, you’d send me 4 issues…

Joel’s recommendation’s good enough for me.

He mentioned in particular your comics based

on works of Thoreau, Blake, Emerson, & the

Rubaiyat. Has anybody attempted converting

modern poetry into comic book form? I can see

some Wallace Stevens comics, or maybe even one

based on Charles Olson’s The Kingfishers. The

Waste Land would be a great one, don’t you

think?... See you in the funny papers.

--Tom Patterson, Pynyon Press

Well, I’m delighted (about winning the

Crossword Contest)--

Seem to recall that a couple of things did

send me to the Library--tho’, obviously, what

w/ those 5 incorrect sqaures, research shdve

been even more extensive).

Thank you for the check. & I think I’d like

to have the Oxford Book of English verse--the

American’s even more aggravating, & besides,

duplicated by the Norton anthologies.

I’m glad I won the Crossword Puzzle Contest!

(Greg and I that is.) Received the Almanac and

comics in good order. You have the touch of a

genius fund-raiser. When I get rich, I’ll be a

benefactor. Meantime, please wait for my five

bucks as I’m overdrawn. Poetry Comics are not.


--Martha King

…Thank you! It’s always a crazy pleasure,

better than the NY Times crossword puzzles.

--Shelley Kraut


This guy’s got a great idea: illustrating

famous poems. Sound familiar? His latest

features Ashbery, Ginsberg, and Creeley.

--Mike Ellsworth, Editor, Plainspeak

Many thanks for all the poultry comix each &

every one of which is a knockout, usually in a

different sense on each of the (many) re-read-

ings! And enclosed are our latest (& it looks

like probably our last) books, which I can only

hope delight you as much as your use of the post

office has delighted us! (Have I been Skinner-

ized by PC’s Letters section into utter blurb


…I really don’t know exactly which agent you

should try--but wd suggest you ask one of the

more published & easterly of the Famous Contrib-

utors to the Letters column (!) for *agent and

*sympathetic editor connections. Short of which

take a look at the Agents list in Literary Mar-

ketplace. It seems to me that there are two

equally good approaches to “marketingt” the

comics: #1) this is exactly what the Education

Establishment needs (and pays fortunes for) to

get kids excited about reading in general &

literature (poetry) specifically. THIS IS NO

JOKE: there’s a HUGE market for hair-brained

bozoid “Words Are Fun” pseudo-textbooks whereas


audience is where the money would be & perhaps

a textbook publisher would realize that. (I

won’t recommend text pubs--they’re mostly alike

anyhow; what you need is a specific, sympathetic

editor). #2 I think a sharp editor/publisher

could make a book of PC sell like crazy--as a

“whacko” item in trade paperback format, of

which plenty are published & sold every year

(xmas usually), but almost none of which have

the solid (if wild) attractions of your comics.

#3 of course: you could do BOTH of the above…

William Burroughs (& his secretary, James

Grauerholz) were over for dinner last night. A

great evening. I think William is one of life’s

born storytellers--his recollection of watching

a soap opera on tv isnearly as riveting as

Naked Lunch. One of life’s truly civilized &

wonderful humans. (The business occasion for the

get-together was his signing about 400 books:

which he did as naturally & efficiently as a

bird flies, with nary a p[ause for small sip of

weak vodka tonic!)

Lucy & I naturally have mixed feelings about

quitting publishing whenever we get together

with a great writer, expecially when his works

are as under-appreciated as William’s--let alone

Keith Abbott’s--or Anselm’s--the list goes on.

But finally we had to admit that it didn’t

feel like “publishing” when only 300 copies of

a book sold, after the tremendous amount of time &

money was invested… The demise of the indepen-

dent bookstore & the utter commercialization of

the ones left…added to the astonishing erasure

of real literacy in the country at large…makes

our ambitions practically quixotic. So (at least

for the moment) we’re on to other things. E.G.:

a 3-week space-warp to Hawaii next month…

--George Mattingly, Blue Wind Press
Active Image


* * *

We have enjoyed No. 7 of Poetry Comics. The

combination of the 2 forms is really not as

strange as it might seem; actually, the 2 are

natural allies as you obviously understand.

…enclosed are a couple of my own poems.

Being raised on comics, I can’t resist the urge

to try you.

--David Childers

Thanks for the Poetry Comics and the note! I

don’t know when I’ll read again in Iowa City--

The Sheriff jas been alerted & I probably

wouldn’t make it into town.

--Robert Bly

Under separate cover I’m sending you a sample

copy of CJ (then, it was called X a journal of

the arts). After our fiction issue, we are doing

a GENERAL INFORMATION issue on the arts and lit-

erature and I’d like to ask if we could use your

Poetrivia (PC 7) in it. Please rsvp as soon as

possible as the issue is jamming up. So far,

interviews with Ascher/Straus and Hugh Fox;

lists of poets according to schools by Richard

Peabody; favorite books; neglected authors

lists; etc. Your gathering of general info

would work perfectly in the issue.

Your comix are amazing; where’d you ever come

up with the idea? The Stan Lee of literature.

--George Myers, Jr., Cumberland Journal

Many thanks for “Poetry Comics.” Very enjoy-

able. I especially like the Poet’s Mental-Block

Remover & “My Mistress.” Did I read somewhere

your “A cigarette is a glass of milk?” That’s a

kind of line Benjamin Peret would have wor-

shipped. I love it too.l Do send other issues if

you can.

--Charles Simic

I bite. Here’s eight more dollars. Mark it

lifetime, & since I’m 26, and Poetry Comics is

forever, we should have long correspondences.

--Bob Holman

Your “Poetry Comics” is an interesting con-

cept--but all the drawings look the same, no

variety, etc. Though you do indicate that you,

personally, draw each of them--I’d think a

number of cartoonists would add some much

needed variety/appeal to your magazine.

As for exchanging*--TM doesn’t engage in

any such programs. As for giving away copies,

I will do that to selected people upon re-

ceipt of an SASE of 9x12, with 80¢ postage

affixed. Send an SASE and I’ll return the

latest issue to you.

Thanks for letting me read your mag--I’ll

list it in the next issue.

*This may well account for our large cir-


--Gary Lagier, The Literary Monitor

Hey, once again many thanks for the PC’s,

I enjoy every single panel, and the variety

of your drawing style is terrific. Also

thanks for finding inspiration in the “Haiku

Issue” of the end, a magazine that has, sadly,

come and gone. I doubt that it’ll be revived

either. I had a “final” issue planned (#10)

but ran afoul of the anti-mimeo art & funky

mag factions of the grant funneling organi-

zations. Incidently, I loved the fuzziness

of your note on my magazine (PC9)--done in

the true “funky” mimeo fashion. Also loved

“Haiku” Maze, though have yet to try my hand

at it. Perhaps illustrating haiku by Basho,

Issa, or Kerouac might be in order. Maybe

not. Constantly digging the whole “idea” of

your poetry comix. Was always impressed by

the Brainard et al. collab comic books--C

Comics, f’rinstance--and your works rank up

along side--a nice variation on the idea to

say the least. The Pablo/Emily pairing, by

the way, is ample proof of your genius, your

“pop” genius. Also the Tender Buttons--right

on. Don’t work too hard, pace yourself, hire

help, get tons of money, but don’t poop out

on us.

--Pat Nolan

The Poetry Comics are great! Yes, send

more! I think they prove something but I

can’t figure out what.

--Donald Hall

mostly a bomb, but it’s as good a chance as

any to say hello & thanks for thinking of me

& you’ve done better, by gum, and will again,

and what would be the harm in giving Ez’s

words (PC 2), I mean really, eh?

Lord, trying to be funny is the longest

weird longshot, but it’s all I try too,

lately. Is Knott’s secret that that’s not

what he tries?

--George Starbuck

all the stuff is lovely. i can’t believe

you’re doing it in iowa city--the heart of

the enemy! jad seem the poetry city button at

buffalo last year--on, i think allan kornblum,

toothpaste press maybe?--buthe didn’t have

any extras.

i enclose my shortest poem (“ars longa/vida

blue”), made into a button by terry smith of

rocky mount nc, for delivery of a paper on

baseball literature. wear it proudly. nobody

out there will know what it means, at least

on campus…

lem looks forward to the haiku machine, as

do i…

--Joel Oppenheimer

Active Image

The comix arrived in yesterday’s mail, much

to my delight. My wife Ellen was in stitches

over your rendition of “Prufrock” in #2 and

Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy” in #1. Those were my

favorites too, along with Pope’s dog collar &

Pound’s 2-line metro station imagism. The “Ana-

gramarama” in whatever issue that was, waS

nice too. Your cartoon work reminds me of Mark

Alan Stamaty, currently my fave comic strip

artist, whose work you’ve probably seen in the

Village Voice, but you’ve certainly got your

own individual train going here and these

comics--very unique stuff, & I hope to be see-

ing more. In the meantime here’s your copy of

Red Hand Book, as requested… I’ll be pleased

if you enjoy this anthology half as much as I

enjoyed your comics. I’m now in the process of

collecting material for RHB II, scheduled for

publication in later December, and I wonder if

you’d be interested in contributing a poem/

comic strip. Since we have in mind getting the

book out on the occasion of Charles Olson’s

70th birthday, it would be especially appro-

priate to have a Morice-style rendition of one

of his poems…

--Tom Patterson


* * *

What a great birthday prez--Poetry Comics for

life! I’ve the whole bunch in hand & am pleasur-

ing myself shamefully with them. Happy Days!

--Ron Bayes

I’ve been enjoying the Comics, which are a

fine madness indeed, but I’m not sure about

running any in HL. They seem to really stand on

their own, in proper comic book size. But the

idea is intriguing.

--Robert Hershon, Hanging Loose

I can’t understand the people who see what you

are doing as only satire. Some of your readings

are brilliant critiques, with the added advan-

tage that you are saving poetry from the aca-

demic taxidermists. Please continue. Please

expand. Please to “The Emperor of Ice Cream”.

--Rodger Kamenetz

I would love it.

I don’t have anything unpublished that I want

to publish. The house is absolutely full of

partly-assembled poems, possibly the ingredients

of four books…and nothing finished. Strange


In lots of ways, I would prefer it to be an

old poem. I wonder if you would think about a

terribly old poem here, an anthology piece of

mine, toward the beginning of this book, called

My Son, My Executioner. It might lend itself to

illustration! Or The Sleeping Giant. Or what

have you? Keep the book (The Alligator Bride).

--Don Hall

“To (True Romances) Celia” in PC 10 is a true

gem. I can imagine Peter Sellers (the late)

playing the lead male role.

--Opal Louis Nations

Thank you for the Comics. Do choose something

from one of my books.

--John Cage

We received the latest issue yesterday.

Enclosed are the latest issues from myself.

Being off work is terrific for getting things

done. You noted that your drawings got more

detailed, I’ve found my poems becoming longer

& also that I was working on several things

in my head at the same time. Amazing after a

couple of years at full time jobs. I hope you

like the poem SIC which I’ve been working on

for about 3 years. Also the poem TABULA RASA

which was written at HAMBURG INN when you

were saying how easy it is to write a poem &

to prove it we both set out to write one im-

mediately using the same first line. I saw

yours in QUICKSAND & just found the notebook

page after it being lost for years…

Please consider the entire batch here as

submissions to your doggedly fantastic mag.

It has been my fantasy since issue one to

have you “do” me up right. These works are

longer than usual for me, but you might be

able to use a stanza and & call it “FROM--”

--Steve Toth

Your comics a great source of joy around

here. We admit a preference for your treat-

ment of the classics anyway.

--Jim Haining, Salt Lick

Just got PC 10 this morning. Your vision

of Darrell’s “The Poem Machine” is brilliant.

And the full-page takes on Browning, Hopkins,

and Blake are marvelous. Loved “To Celia.”

One of the great numbers of PC!

What do you think Reagan will do about PC

after he’s elected?

--David Hilton

I don’t know what of my work you would

want to do in one of your issues, & wouldn’t

want to pick out anything myself. Give me an

idea of what you might like to do and I’ll

give you an answer.

--James Dickey

I get a laugh out of your comics but also I

have reservations. The thing is, as with

parodies, a humorous angle on a non-humorous

work of art may have the unfortunte effect

of spoilingt the original--i.e., one is liable

to always have the recollection of the jokey

version looming up and obstructing any fur-

there receptivity to some beautiful poem

or painting. Parodies of bad art are instructive

as well as funny--but one doesn’t want to

de-bunk something which was not bunkum in the

first place. Your comics aren’t exactly

parodies but the same thing applies. Before

you go ahead & ‘do’ one of mine (old or new)

I’d appreciate it if you’d let me know your\

point of view on this matter.

The Poem-Machine seems to me to work per-

fectly because the poem…--, it seems to

have been written expressly to be so illus-

trated. I don’t mean that negatively.

--Denise Levertov

Muchas gracias for #9: loved format of

Blake--have arrived at similar ratio for

image/words (one line per full page) in at-

tempting slightly RAUNCH SIZZLE-O treatment

of early Mallarme “Black Lass” (Une Negresse).

Actually you hit upon a lovely variation of

style/visual texture--“A Song” with cross-

hatchings, so deliberate, and the brush draw-

ing “How Do I Love Thee?” so… Chinese

Chinese and deliberately unpremediated? Who


--John Batki

How can I thank you--let me count the ways!

PC #10 arrived today, and I am overjoyed. Never

in my wildest dreams did I anticipate you illus-

trating one of my poems, and you did it beauti-

fully. The rest of the COMICS were dynamite

also--you hardly ever let us down. Thanks also

for mentioning the rebirth of SUCTION magazine

and the forthcoming anthology of “heteronyms.”

Certainly Joyce Holland will be included, as

she is a pure example of the genre. In a time

when contemporary poetry is dominated by either

evocative slush or “contemplative purity”… a

real return to the purity of Joy is deeply

needed… The obligation of the poet is NOT to

tell the Truth (a capital T), but to make the

truth interesting. I appreciate the fact that

this is what you do in the Comics.

Finally, where the hell is the head of Gary

Lagier, of THE LITERARY MONITOR, who states in

the letters column: “all the drawings look the

same, no variety…” Pat Nolan’s letter

debunks this accusation, and I agree whole-

heartedly with him…

Don’t let the constipated academics get you


--Darrell Gray

I’m still doing a few comics with my brother

Rick. We’re working on a 100-pager that we

hope to sell to a big-time publisher--Rick has

a couple ideas about doing poetry in comic

form--so maybe you’ll be hearing from us one

of these days!

--Tom Veitch

It really is – or they really are – funny.

Especially of course the ones from the old

masters/mistresses. who today would dare to

come up with the wonderful –

‘That’s my Duchess painted on the wall’

Certainly not the hoaxy Ms. Holland.

What about some from Marlowe (whoswe death

was a hoax) ‘Holla, Ye pampered Jades of Asia/

What can ye draw but twenty miles a day?’

or Webswter (1602-24) after those dates there

are no traces to be found of his existencee –

but he continued to write… from Malfi:

‘We are merely the stars’ tennis balls,

struck and bandied/Which way please them’ or

‘When I look into the fish-ponds in my

garden,/Methinks I see a thiung arm’d with a

rake/That seems to strike at me.’

oh well – I’m sure you have too many ideas

anyway –

--Susan Howe

Active Image


POETRY COMICS, by no. 7, has become a cult.

Considering what else has, that ain’t no


--SAMISDAT #98, review

Abuse the Muse is what it’s called. And

according to David Morice, it’s fun. It’s

also brilliant, dnjoyable, readable, enter-

taining and humorous. Putting such classics

as e.e. cummings, Sylvia Plath, Robert

Frost, W.C. Williams, and others, to the pen,

Morice renders their words into magic cartoon-

like characters, which come to life and run--

yes run--off the page at you. Excellent for

teachers in elementary schools who would like

to get the idea across that poetry is fun…

Subscribe/order now and “Abuse the Muse!”

--CONTACT II, review


* * *

My father, Tom Clark, has given me several of

your Poetry Comics to read. I* enjoyed “Rose

Aylmer” (in no. 10) very much. You seem to have

much the same opinions and ideas of poetry as

I do!

--Juliet Clark

*Whereas I particularly enjoyed “I Am Not a

Woman” in #11.

--Tom Clark

Much liked the Hollo you chose to do in last

PC, incidentally & how you did it. My favorites

still are the POEM Machine & TENDER BUTTONS

sequence (in fact, wldn’t mind reprinting lat-

ter if it’d be okay w/you). Saw Levertov’s

point but doubt if great art can ever be over-

whelmed by a parody (& in many cases, what yr

doing isn’t really a parody but an extension,

an elaboration, a new work as arts often play

off each other--Jess Collins playing off Dick

Tracy in last SOUP for instance). I suppose

it’s a rare feat when comics & poems completely

jell, just as when poetry & jazz truly jell, or

when even poetry by itself truly jells, but is

that any reason not to dare the risk? “Only

those who attempt the absurd are capable of

achieving the impossible” as Unamuno wrote.--

--Steve Abbott, Soup

You are industrious the way ants are. Friends

of mine collect instances of homemade signs

using quote-marks. What I learn from your maga-

zine is not so much what single lines in boxes

do, but how odd and interesting a line is in a

balloon--said from somewhere. Space or direc-

tion as ascription. I enclose my invidious

drawing of Diane Wakoski. Anch’io sono pittore.

--Gerald Burns

God only knows I’ve been meaning to write to

you for… er… some time now: to thank you

for all the “Poetry Comics”. I admire very much

your spontaneity and energy. I admire, I envy,

and I thank you.

--Joe Brainard

I am only a young pillow and have been edu-

cated at home, so many of these poems are not

familiar to me, wuch as Joyce Holland’s “Ubble

Snop,” and William Wordsworth’s “I Wandered

Lonely As a Cloud” (to mention two of my fav-

orites), but I have enjoyed all four issues

that have come to my attention very much

indeed. (Especially since I am otherwise not

allowed to read comic books.)

Do you likie haikus? I hope so, because I am

sending you my first book of poetry, HAIKUS

OF A PILLOW published by Bellevue Press. If

there are any you can’t understand, let me

know and I’ll explain them. Poems often are

hard to understand. One time I read a poem

that said “Garlic and sapphires in the mud

clot the bedded axle tree.” Really. I wish

you’d make that into a comic strip, and then

maybe younger readers such as I could under-

stand it.

Tom Disch, with whom I share my apartment,

has asked me to ask you to send him copies of

Poetry Comics that he doesn’t have, and is

sending a check to you (inside my book). He

likes PC too, but he says he wants to write

to you himself when he’s not so busy.

Warmest regards,


First a word about No. 11. In wildness is

the preservation of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18.

All frames are great, but I would single out

for mention a few: the exploded frame that

doth shew how “summer’s lease hath all too

short a date”; the simple but effective

Cyclops wherein “the eye of heaven shines”;

the indescribable frame for “thy eternal

summer”; and a frame that surely bears out

Rodger Kamenetz’s comment about “brilliant

critiques”--“thou wander’st,” spoken by a

Pegasus wandering like Sidney’s poesy within

the zodiac of its own wit.

I am enclosing a few postdating my switch

from cabbie to English instructor at Carl

Sandburg College (it’s true), a community

college situated allegorically bgeside Lake

Storey near Galesburg, Illinois.

--Jim McCurry, Delirium

…Speaking of 11, this issue is tremendous!

Steve Toth’s Zen-like realization “About Yes &

No” struck the depth of NANCY CONSCIOUSNESS in

me. In 4 brief frames we have a realization of

samadi: both funny & instructive, as the Zen &

Sufi masters would conjoin them.

Your visual orchestration of Billy’s #18

(Shakespeare) is, to my mind, one of the best

to date. Referring to David Hilton’s comment

about Mr. RayGuns possibility of election: May

a wild mongoose urinate on his Ultra-Dry. In

any case, I’m sure the Comics will continue.

Sonnet 18 is the STAR WARS of poetry!

But back to Earth, I must take objection to

Denise Levertov’s letter. On the one hand she

admits that she laughed at the Comics, then

had “reservations.” “A humorous angle on a

non-humorous work of art may have the unfortu-

nate effect of spoiling the original.” Her

comment on my poem (as you depicted it) was

totally off-base. I wrote the poem as an “ex-

ercise” back in 1969, & it was purely verbal

experiment:P I just wanted to see how often I

could use the word machine in a poem. As to

“spoiling the original” (ie. illustrating the

poems as you do), she seems to think you are

out to “de-bunk” poems. This implies that your

Comics are a kind of Primer, & not at all in-

volved in a retrospective vision--a second

take on words in action we have all too long

taken for granted.

If poetry can corrupt the youth, as Levertov

suggests, all power to it! We need more (and

God knows they do) than to read the words, tho

they often suffice.

Yours for a Very Visual Year--

--Darrell Gray

Active Image

#11 is a treat again, what you do with Dickin-

son is so beauitiful & crazy, just like her, it

matches her genius for pure American styhle and

meaning and eccentricity (which might be what

Denise Levertov is afraid of, as expressed in

her cautions in her letter, afraid of you turn-

ing something “serious” into something forever

unserious…give us a break Denise, we can still

read…most of what you do Dave only heightens

the beauty & power of the language in the best

work & gently, sometimes almost childishly, in-

nocently pulls the coat off the wrok that has

either taken itself too seriously or been sub-

jected to the shallow reverence of those who

think they’re the keepers of the flame when

theyre only managing to keep their own torches

glowing from the fire of the geniuses they ex-

ploit & misinterpret & pass on as their personal

possessions to the unsuspecting etc. etc. –

actually Levertov once visited a workshop at

Iowa when I was there & after commenting on

several poems on a worksheet, including I think

one by Darrell Gray & one by Ray DiPalma, skipped

the only one left, which happened to be one of

my homages to the love-of-language-especially-



formally-introduced-to-“culture”-etc & she re-

acted to someone’s pointing this out to her,

her skipping my work, with “Oh that. That’s not

poetry!” & I could only think, in me ‘umble way,

what it’s not is it’s not English or Spanish or

French or Russian or anything outside or influ-

enced overwhelmingly by work outside the USA &

she’s too much of outside the USA to dig it,

anway, she should welcome whatever attention

you might give her work. As to what you did in

#11 with contemporary stuff, you made new work

out of every one of those excerpts including

mine & I’m “totally grateful”…if I might add

to everyone else’s please you should get some

TerenceWinch, or Tim Dlugos, & DiPalma would

be a challenge & a treat, Robert Slater has

done some short works that are so crisp & accu-

rate you couldn’t miss…& what about Alice

Notley?...Zukofsky & O’Hara? bout Patti

Smith’s stuff, she can be pretty unintentionally

hilarious too in her seriousness, but pure Amer-

icano despite the Frenchified d.d.d.d.d.illusions

…hey, get Dylan’s ass a little, or check out

some of Van Morrison’s sometime genius strokes,

imagine Lennon’s “Imagine” as a cartoon…shit

Dave, yhou’ll have us all making endless lists

again, what if he did…Berrigan, Kelly, Dorn,

Warsh, DiPrima, Schuyler, Elmslie, Whalen, Bly,

the prospect of seeing you doing stuff I’m inter-

ested in or can see as potentially a goof.

--Michael Lally


* * *

I just remarked to Darrell Gray in a letter

that the COMIX are keeping us all in touch (the

“POETRY COMMUNITY”) as we all read eachother’s

letters in your letter column…

--Sheila Toth

I’ll take a lifetime subscription to Poetry

Comics in exchange for a possible business

transaction which only you can effect. I would

like to purchase the original of one of the

pictures in your current issue (no. 12). This

is the central panel of the cartoon strip illus-

trating “If Only” by Ruth Krauss. Please convey

this information to the artist and ask what he

or she would take in payment for this extraor-

dinarily affecting work. If this purchase can

bge negotiated for a reasonable amount, I will be

happy to take out a lifetime sugbscription to PC.

--James Dickey

I saw Poetry Comics in Dick Higgins corres-

pondence file which he has placed in the arch-

ives. I loved it the minute I sawq it…What do

you mean by a life member? How do you arrange

this? My life or years?

--Jean Brown

I’ve had a wonderful time with Poetry Comics

#1-12--a funny, happy, inventive way of reading

poems. Much more pleasure and truth than in

nearly all the reading-in-public that is “criti-

cism.” and more fun, too, than nearly all “comix.”

For what the reader-response is worth, I enjoy

the mixing of old poetry and contemporary a

lot--would hate to see you go all onme way or the

other. And I guess most people find it hard to

resist suggesting a poem--“The Darkling Thrush”

(“An aged thrush, frail gaunt and small,/With

blast-beruffled plume,” and those opening lyres,

weakening eye, etc. seem promising)?

Anyway, and mainly, I’m glad to see you taking

poems out of church in this friendly, appealing

way, and glad to have caught up with it.

--Robert Pinsky

My reservations about comics (& indeed about

other kinds of illustrations too, though I

adore some of the older & even some more

recent children’s book illustrations) are un-

changed--but go ahead & ‘do’ one of mine if

you want to, I guess it can’t hurt. I do

mildly enjoy yr. publication (i.e. not wildly

but quite.) And don’t want to be a spoil

sport. With good wishes,

--Denise Levertov

Got yr address from Bill Berkson w/raves.

Would you like to Xchange Buzzard for Poetry

Comix? See we are bothin Telephone this

issue. Loved yr cover--

--Dotty LeMieux, Turkey Buzzard

What a dog I am! It’s hard to explain why

heretofor I’ve not written because it is not

from lack of being an avid Poetry Comics read-

er, cause I tis. Could be because I’ve never

written to any comic series before though I

will admit an affair with the Marvel Comics

group. Probably the reason is that I write

letters for a living and have a horrible time

doing it for my own. Rochelle and I are run-

ning the Monday poetry series at St. Marks

which is a lot of fun. A terrific new poet

read last night, Fleming Meeks, by name and I

bet you could do something with his work. #12

looks great in fact the one liners are some of

my favorites ever! Even the pages of one lines

make whole senses…

Lots of babies and kids in NYC poetry cir-

cles now. Parties more fun with scampering

people bending your knees. Aliah, our 2 ½ year

old, came into the kitchen with a toy skillet

filled with magnetic alphabet letters, he\

said, “Cook A B C!” thought you’d like that.

I was sitting in on a workshop given by

Maureen Owen and she passed out (!) Poetry

Comics for everyone to look at. An entire

room full of people reading the PC gave me a

vision: why don’t you tackle the Norton

Anthology? You could do more good than all

those Poets in all those Schools--purty soon

they’d be gassing about poetry in the teachers


--Bob Rosenthal, Frontward Books

#12 as striking & inventive as usual. Especi-

ally adore “A Breath of Applause.” I think yhou

should reduce that lady & her breath & get a

rubber stamp made. Also like Popeye (now playing

on Boylston in Boston). As for the cover drawing

of famous poets my immediate thought was the

candidates for the new Reagan cabinet. They

all somehow look sleezy if not to say shifty,--

I wouldn’t trust any one of ‘em with a monosyl--

labic sentence… The Cage piece is nice. Re-

minds me of some of Themerson’s work… You’ll

be putting out a P.C. anthology soon for all

those folks who want a complete in one binder??!

--Opal Louis Nations, Strange Faeces

You really did a swell job with your Cage

text--bravo bravo bravo…

Seems I’ll be coming to Iowa in mid-April for

a conference on the avant-garde at the Univer-

sity--something Stephen Foster is organizing,

and judging from his high batting average it

should be quite excitingk, whether or not there’s

any such thing as an avant-garde (maybe there is

a plurality of ‘em, but I still hate that word).

--Dick Higgins, Something Else Press

Thanks for P-C., enclosed is $ 10 toward a

lifetime subscription (more to come later)…

Cinda Kornblum sent me some pages from A Visit

from St. Alphabet. To be frank, I was floored by

how lovely they were. Your line drawings with the

faded-looking colors pick up on a tradition in

illustration that has been lost since Tenniel’s

Alice. I can’t see why it wouldn’t become just

as classic.

--Jim Hanson, In The Light

I spent too much “dinero” on zerox, etc. for

the St. Mark’s workshop & have used up (already)

my allotment of “extra” funds. So what I did was

to take all the Poetry Comix I had & distribute

them to my workshnop, (however I have about 45

people in my workshop so only every other person

got one). So now I don’t have any more Poetry

Comix….sob…sob. & Since I can’t live without

my P.Comix to peruse, I should like to purchase

a “set” for myself. How much is it? If it’s more

than $45 – I fucked up. Ulp. Hope not. Let me

know soon. I’m perishing in sobriety!

--Maureen Owen, Telephone


Among little magazines, Poetry Comics is

unique, to say the least. The contrast between

it and Blue Buildings is--well--apparent. While

Blue Buildings is a subdued, exquisitely printed

showcase for contemporary poetry, Poetry

Comics is a wildly enthusiastic display of

one man’s whimsy. That man is Dave Morice of

Iowa City who, as editor, publisher & author

of Poetry Comics, invites readers to suggest

poems they would like to see illustrated.

Morice will give any poem a try. If the illus-

trations work, he prints them. Morice’s aim,

as the covers of Poetry Comics suggest, is to

“abuse the muse.” The results are witty and

sometimes thoughtful but always irreverent.

Some issues are taken up with the illustration

of one poem (The Love Song of J. Alfred Pru-

frock) while others contain 3 or 4 short

poems. Authors treated (or mistreated, depend-

ing on your viewpoint) range from Sir Thomas

Whatt to Ezra Pound. Some of the illustrated

poems are only silly. But others, such as

Thooreau’s “I Am a Parfcel of Vain Strivings,”

are hilarious.

Whatever one’s opinion of Morice’s approach

to poetry, there is no quibbling bout his

abilities as a comic strip artist. He has

turned out 7 issues of this stuff and there

is little repetition in any of it. Each issue

contains some special features. “Poetrivia”

lists “notes, quotes, and anecdotes about

famous poets--all true!” “Anagramarama” (a

word that won the Oneword Poetry Contest in

Matchbook, see below) is a column of anagrams

made out of poets’ names (Walt Whitman--Law?

Haw! I’m TNT!) The “Muse’s Mailbag” is given

over to comments from interested readers.

Poetry Comics is the only magazine currently

published by Morice under his imprint, Happy

Press. He started the Happy Press some years

ago as part of his participation in the Iowa

City literary movement called Actualism. His

imprint is aptly named, for only bubbling en-

thusiasm could account for the number & vari-

ety of magazines that have issued from his

press. Happy Press has been responsible for

Gum, probably the littlest of little magazines

ever published, Matchbook, a magazine of one

word poetry, each stapled to the inside of a

matchbook, the Alphabet Anthology, a collec-

tion of one-letter poems, the Paper Comet,

a transcript of a mikle long poem and the

Cutist Anthology, a parody (of course) of

poetry movements. Poetry Comics may not be the

most cerebral poetry magazine available, but

it achieves its purpose: it is entertaining--

and it certainly abuses the muses.

--Michael Roughton, reviewer

Serials Review, vol. 6 #4


We suspect Dave Morice keeps sending us

POETRY COMICS for the same reason the cat

Lorna Dee Cervantes gave us keeps proudly

gbringing home dead grasshoppers.

Active Image

* * *

Active Image

Thank you very much for sending the drawing

of the face I have come to know and love. It

more than fulfills my ex-

pectations! As soon as it

arrived I sent it by cour-

ier to Frameland, where by

now it surely has been mat-

ted and framed.

Thank you also for add-

ing my name to your lifetime subscription

list. I will be perusing each issue in search

of creatures to befriend the one I know have in

my possession.

Enclosed is a check to you for $50. I look

forward to many happy years of gazing on this

winsome visage.

--James Dickey

Thanks for thinking of me ande I enjoyed

looking at your work--you are crazy & wonder-

ful--I hope someday we will meet! All the


--Dom De Luise

Poetry Comicslooks & sounds intriguing. I

especially liked the Terry-Toonish cover (#10)

as well as the Joyce Holland sham. Many dream

of pulling something like that off, ‘s a neat

trick. So, of course, I’ll swap ya for a copy

of P.C. I’ll be having a coupla new books

coming out in about a month, (I think). I

didn’t even know I was mentioned in Heavy

Metal until I started receiving requests in

the mailfor Nart. ‘Twas a pleasant surprise.

--Jim Siergey, NART comics

Sorry I didn’t have PC last fall. Students

in my modern American Poetry course would have

gone crazy of “The Hollow Men”.

--Bruce Bennett

Highlight of PC 13 has to be good Emily’s

letter to TW. Particularly liked the panel de-

picting the words at what I imagine to be some

place like Curly’s Chop House. But then again,

I’ve always been an excitable boy. Also liked

the Don Hall and Jim McCurry contributions. We

will--all of us--be one day driven to the bringk

of hamburger madness.

Did you happen to see David Hilton’s penguin

piece in FLOATING ISLAND? And just when we were

beginning to think the 80’s were devoid of

spiritual leaders, too…The boy had better

watch his step or he’ll be overfrun with truth

seekers in the streets of Baltimore, demanding

perfect quiches and ultimate lawn ornaments.

You’re working at Walden’s, huh? Put away any

good books lately? They say that by the end of

1983 some 55% of all books bought in the

country will be pried from,the jaws of the big-

gest chain outfits. PT Barnum is alive & well.

--David Clewell

Thank you for sharing your poetry with me.

At this time I have SOOOO much paperwork,

that I wouldn’t have time to read more. I book

through much of 1981 . . . so have little time,

even for letters. Best wishes to you.

--Phyllils Diller

We love Poetry Comics! Perhaps the best thing

to happen in poetry since the Great Vowel Move-

ment of the 14th century--at least the best

since Poetry Matchbooks!

We want you to read here (Creede Repertory

Theatre this summer if you can. We’d have $200

(plus some expenses, hopefully.)…

You, my dear friend, are probably the only

true genius in American poetry today.

ABUSE THE MUSE! (and find seven gods…)

--Walter Hall

…by redirecting a PC to me you cost me 53¢

on a day I was penniless. Got another one 2 hrs

beforeo--charmed charmed by the quick skim.

Thanks also for the quarter-page, really.

Note: you also function as a current-address

sheet, yr letters. Highly useful.

--Gerald Burns

I would like to thank you very much for your

gift of the magazine, “Poetry Comics.” It

really pleases me to know that the music works

for you in exactly the way that I would like

it to work. I hope you keep listening.

Thank you again for your thoughtfulness.


--John Denver

…Your cover (of PC 13) well illustrates

the literary jungle of confused ideals

--Opal Louis Nations, Strange Faeces

Opened PC 13, read it straight thru--said

after Dickinson collage “Ah God,… That’s

great”--which probably sums up the sentiments

on that you’ll receive, perhaps your greatest

work to date, in PC.

By the way--another instance of either/or

thinking--Denise Levertov (for whom i have the

greatest admiration) doesn’t seem to realize

the same act of mind doesn’t necessarily em-

brace reading PC & reading poems, pure &

naked. There’s no need for comparison. The

world allows, persistently, opening for all

kinds of alternatives… side by side. N need

to choose among them (except to say, “What

shall I do?” in any given moment). It’s not an

Either-Or. PC enriches the universe. Also,

poems do. One neither vitiates nor enriches

the other, as i see it--though i like the

cartoon you made of “New Babylon” a helluva

lot better than my original poem (as I re-

member it.)

--Jim McCurry, Delirium

My name is Ivo Kamps, and I am one of the

people working on “The Styllus”, the literary

magazine of Quincy College. We are planning to

put out a new issue before Easter break, & we

really want to make it somewhat more unusual

than it has been in previous years.

Jim Haining (editor of “Salt Lick”) gave me

your name and showed me some of the poetry

comics you have published--I especially enjoy-

ed the issue on the romantics. My question is:

would you care to submit some of your poetry

comics for possible publication in our maga-

zine? We would be honored if you did. Our

deadline is Feb. 17. I know I am givng you

very short notice, but if yo8u have some ready-

to-go material it might work out…

--Ivo Kamps, The Styllus

Thanks for #13--Yes, I’ll send work, & yes,

yours is a fix we all need. $20 for a lifetime

subscription? OK, I’ll mortgage the cats.

Stoogism can’t be fooled.

--Paul F. Fericano

Sometimes I feel I am losing my mind, but it

is always good to find it again in yr Comics.

#13 came today, & I don’t mean to drag my

qualms with Ms. Levertov, for poetry, after

all, is serious business, but, unfortunately,

it payslittle. And asold Ez pointed out

“solemnity” is an emotion totally out of place

when approaching literature…

Donald Hall’s The Corner is a gem. I had not

read the poem before, and I take it the spaces

between phrases indicate line breaks. To vis-

ualize a poem, in whatever manner, makes that

poem a new creation. After all, it was Johnny

Keats who said his name was “writ on water.”

What a far out idea! I think you could even

do justice to Donne’s Holy Sonnets… Poems

are not inviolable, no more than any object is,

emotional hermeticism aside…

The Hollow Men was a gas! Ispilled a glass

of sherry reading it. Perhaps a cartoon angel

descended & snatched it away, for, alas, I

needed it not. I had never read the poem from

the point of view of women! Sure, we can get

away from all that mythology now, and the poem

comes alive, just as THE TAMING OF THE SHREW

comes alive when the actor/cartoonist plays it


I’m spreading theCOMICS around out here, &

everyone loves them. As Sheila Toth said, the

letters column is a great way for people to

get to or keep in contact. As it widens, we

all know what each other thinks.

--Darrell Gray

Another great issue, #13, especially the

smiley face on front cover & Santa Buddha (from

Naropa?) on back. Thanks also for the opportu-

nity to reprint your trivia list (PC 7) in

Cumberland Journal’s gossip/list/general infor-

mation issue…

--George Myers Jr., Cumberland Journal

Yes, we definitely want to continue getting

POETRY COMICS. I’m amazed that it took us this

long to find out about them.

Here is our check paying for the two “life

time” subscriptions, in fact make it 3…

--Bob Wilson, Phoenix Book Shop

Thank you for the enclosures but to be per-

fectly frank my mail is so weighted down with

things that I have made up my mind never to

encourage anyone to send me anything.

--Isaac Asimov


It’s very nice of you to have sent along

some issues of Poetry Comics. In the desolate

piles of literary debris on the desk, I see

issues 8, 10, 11, and 13. Please send me what

back issues are available & what is to come.

Lifetime subscription check is enclosed. May

I say it is refreshing to see Iowa City pro-

duce something beside ‘the usual’. Poetry in

Iowa seems remarkably stone –age, like the

congressional representatives that North

Carolina sends to Washington.

I’ve put a few of myh postcards in this en-

velope, along with Gnomon Distribution cata-

log, & a copy of Bill Anthony’s BIBLE STORES,

which may be to your taste. My work owes some-

thing to Burma Shave signs & to such subver-

sive, anti-Jerry Falwell manifestations as

Batman & Robin… Lately, B. Kliban & Claes

Oldenburg have amused me greatly and I prize

them as persons exploring a world I also live

in. Your Emily Dicinson pages certainly

freshen that lady up for me….

--Jonathan Williams, Jargon Society

John asked me to thank you for the Poetry

Comics which he found quite amusing.

Keep up the good work--I think you are


--Joan Edwards, Personal Assistant

to John Travolta

Finally got a chance to read all the Comics

you sent me and after reading them I can’t

wait to see future issues of PC. In looking

at all 14 issues it’s nice to see you are

constantly experimenting with different ways of

telling the poem. Your letters pages are lots

of fun, but it would be even more fun if the

letters pages were more two-way, if you would

response at least to the letters requesting

response. Still in all it’s bgetter than any

other letters column in an other comix.\

--Jamie Alder, Tales Too Tough for TV (comics)

Here is the copy of POETRY COMICS that you

sent on March 26. (PC-13)

Since this type of humor is not the kind

that Lily finds amusing I am returning it to

you without having presented it to her.

--Saw your cartoon “The Pinball Manifesto” on

the front of the latest Poetry Flash hereabouts

& wanted to send congratulations & admiring

words. I’vfe seen some of your other works (in

various books I guess) & it occurred to me to

write to ask if: a( you might be willing to let

us reproduce the PINBALL drawing in a magazine

of prisoners work which I’m currently putting

together or b) maybe you have another drawing

which you would like to submit to the magazine.

We could pay something – say $40. from our

contributors fund, as a token of our gratitude.

The magazine, KITE, is a quarterly of poetry

& prose written by men & women in prison in the

U.S. Since most of these people don’t see a lot

of other literary efforts, I’m sure they’d

enjoy being introduced to your work. We hope to

get the 1st issue out in May so the sooner you

could reply the better. I’m new to the prison work

habing previously been involved with Sanddollar

Books & Turtle Island press & am currently

spending time with folks at Blackstone Press.

--Susan Roether, Kite

I very much enjoyed your latest PC (13)

with all the sandwich board poets on the

cover. I recognize my own school there on

the far left.

I really enjoyed “The Corner”, and the

exclamacolons, etc.

I’m also writing to invite your participa-

tion in a health fair… I was wondering

if you might like towrite/illustrate a

poem--around the health fair? On any health-

type topic? Maybe spontaneous short poems

conveying your impression of what’s going

on at the fair? Whatever--you’re very welcome

to “demonstrate poetry”

--Jeff Weih

“You see someone’s head, and you want to

push it, squeeze it, see what happens..”--Philip Guston

Your comics bring startling fresh dimen-

sions to poetry & break through stony accre-

tions! Three cheers. “Artist Room” (PC-14)

was like a dream I had the other night. Also

enjoyed the pickings in New Blood magazine.

I read recently that you can start teaching

your baby to read at 6 months by flashing

word cards (with drawings). Perhaps I should

commission you to makesome”? Have to make up

a list: fish, kitty, buddha etc. Edwin

Ambrose LeFebre Bye will be 6 months on April

21. His favorite word is “boo” which is

popular at poetry readings.

Happy penning!

--Anne Waldman, Rocky Ledge

Thank you for sending me such a nice letter

and also a copy of your publication, Poetry

Comics. Certainly is interesting and I’m so

glad to know you enjoyed my peformance of

Mark Twain in Iowa City.

--Hal Holbrook

The two issues of PC that I’ve seen are,

quite simply, real good! Imaginative inter-

pretations, various drawing styles, very pro-

fessionally done. Emilyh Dickinson was your

“tour de force{“ I’d say, & in fact, just have.

The Hollow Men has a distinct mood about it.

Very eerie and very effective. The shorts are

terrific too, my personal favorites being,

Seurat & Gris meeting (what a nice touch,

protraying them in their artistic styhles),

the cinematic “Recollection” and “Spiritual


You have a very likeable drawing style,

light & airy, but yet each poem is drawin with

a subtly different approach.

Well, here’s my latest… Surf ‘n’ Turf…

which is available from me for $2 ppd. if you

know of any interested parties. Hope you

enjoy & that we can keep an exchange/dialogue.

--Jim Siergey, NART comics

PC-14 is straight dynamite, esp. the BACK

COVER! Here’s a new poem celebrating the

imminent* decline of western civilization.

Thought it might make a good comic. Thanx

again for last THRILLING ISH.

*(er was that last week’s news??)

--Tom Clark

The whole staff of The Wolfman Jack Radio

Show loved the issue of “Poetry Comics” you

sent along. Since I’m the writer of the pro-

gram and because Wolf is usually too busy to

respond to letters personally, I thought I’d

drop you a line to applaud your ‘zine.

I took special interest in the mag for]

reasons twofold--

firstfold: When I’m not immersed in projects

writing for da Wolf, I contribute to few

small pressesl.

secondfold--I am currently involved in

starting my own small publication; a literary

mag called ‘fat tuesday’.

Morefolds – Perhaps you’d be interested in

submitting a few illustrations (5x8) for the

debut issue of ‘fat tuesday’?

--would you like to illustrate, for a future issue

of “PC”, some of the verse Wolfman has

done on his radio show?

…Hope to hear from you soon, (an a thankya

an hi from da Wolfman!!)

--Frank Cotolo

Thanx for PC-14! Wonderfuller & wonderfuller!

Great to see “Big Ant in Springtime” by David

Hilton) in 2-D. Pick me! Pick me!

--Warren Woessner, Abraxas Press

Did many people get you on spelling for

Dickinson (PC-13)? It still startles me when

established in-the-business verse people

can’t spell.

--Gerald Burns

Here are your originals from the Olson

strip. Feel free to reprint this cartoon in]

an upcoming issue of PC, don’t bother to

request permission etc. acknowledgments wel-

come but optional. It was a real privilege to

publish it in Red Hand Book II. I think it’s

among your best comix, along with the Eliots

(Prufrock & Hollow Men) & a few others. I keep

going back over the past issues & notice that

some of the strips, in particular, get better

with every reading. This Maximus takeoff

is one of those. It certainly added its own new

dimension to the bgook. I never met Charles O,

but I have a feelinghe would have gotten, or

did get (wherever he might be) a kick out of it.

--Tom Patterson, Red Hand Book

Thanks for publishing “Surprise.” It defin-

itely works. Poetry Comics is an inspired way

to promote poetry & you are to be congratu-

lated. As far as Raw Dog Press, we are slowly

making progress and will send you our chap-

books when they are printed….

--R. Gerry Fabian, Raw Dog Press

Please accept my deepest apologies for the

lengthof time that has elapsed since you sent

us your proposal for POETRY COMICS. (By the

way, Carol Wallace is no longer here at Work-

man.) I am returning herewith all of the

materials you had sent usw since, I’m sorry to say,

we do not feel your book would be right

for the Workman list.

We do thank you for having thought of Work-

man and wish you better luck elsewhere. Once

again, our apologties for taking so long to

respond. Sincerely,

--Jan Hershkowitz, Workman Publishing

Just got #14 in the mail--$ just in time.

Crane’s “in the Dessert” has always been my

lifesaver. But your cartoonization of it is a

whole roll of lifesavers. Brilliant & enter-

taining…. My satires are getting easier to

write, thanksto Ronnie Raygun & his cowboy

grin. It’s find a decent home for them--

that’s difficult, still. Yeah, “Meanwhile Back

in New York” was rejected by The New Yorker.

But I asked them to. And they still didn’t get

it. So much for stooge heaven. “REJECTION SLIP

Rejection Slip”: bullseye.

--Paul Fericano

Andrei Codrescu says I should definitely re-

view your Poetry Comix in Smoke Signals. Would

like to do a page feature on it, but haven’t

been able to get hold of any. If you can send,

would appreciate greatly.

--Mike Golden, Smoke Signals

I’m a maschochist from way back. I’d like to

submit to your abuse. Here are three poems that

were published in TELEPHONE 13 & 16…. The

other poems have not appeared anywhere so if

you would like to horse-whip them….just bew

sure you wear plenty of chrome & leather…

--Rich Murphy

Poetry Comics--it fills a void! Have you

considered sending a few issues to junior high

schools? What an innovative way to introduce


My favorite “poems” of the issue you sent

are “Fra Lippo Lippi,” “In the Desert,” and

“Secrets of the Estate.” I think you’ve come

up with the first new idea to hit poetry in

decades! I’m not sure your creative interpre-

tations will work for all poems, but they

certainly add a twinkle to the 3 I mentioned.

You must keep[ this going, going…Keep on!

One suggestion: you might consider using a

display type for your cover logo. Orplid or

Futura Black or Umbra might suit your taste.

You could adapt the typeface to make it “your

own.” A typeface “adds a little extra.”

--Charles Lebeda, Street Bagel

#14 is a dinger of an issue as usual. Too

bad John Keats didn’t write his “This Living

Hand with foot-notes. Have you ever tried to

make, with little line as possiblee, a bunch of

large written Chinese characters into a

Chinese cartoon strip?

--Opal Nations, Strange Faeces

Thanks for PC-14, which looks great. I’m

glad you used the little poem of mine. And

I’m glad to send you the enclosed Triangles,

which I owe you anyway!...

--Ron Padgett

PC-14 arrived today & as usual was totally

entertaining & enlightening--as for the ex-

cerpt from that love poem of mine about being

“crazy”--you sure know how to make things new--

thank you--it made me laugh like usuall only

others do--out loud & unselfconsciously--

--Michael Lally

Never quite pictured my lineslike that--

looked like Lucky & Pozo in “Waiting for Godot.”

Perhaps one day you’ll take a stab at “Pru-

frock”--“Like a patient etherized upon a table

should be fun. (oh no--I see, from a letter in

PC-13, you’ve already done it) ….do like the

letters idea very much. (Basically, I’m a


--Diane Kruchkow, Stony Hills


My thanks for sending all those issues of PC.

I think I’ve been abusing the Muse in my own

right. It’s the only way to go…

You have not only been abusing the Muse, but

you have also been amusing the Muse.

--Russell Edson

I have read every item in your #15 including

the letters. Somebody suggested your adopting

a format for the covers. I second the motion.


Now it is obvious that you can do comics ac-

dording to the style of most any well known

cartoonist. Which is great. I know we cn’t ex-

pect you to go to the technical perfection of

Prince Valiant. Most of your readership would

not find that funny enough anyway. However I

much prefer the ones where you show your full

professional workmanship, suchas QUICK TURN

and the back of #15, which I consider a stroke

of Genius!!!! La Belle Dame is masterful, but

I dislike A FACE & “Perifery.” Let some 5 year

old do them. They look as if you had been

smoking something at the time of drawing.

I also second Charles Lebeda’s suggestion.--

Toward the end of TYGER you seem to have gotten

tired. But more power to you. I can see it

coming right back in turning the pages of the

untitled book.

--Car; T. Endemann

I understand from Jeff Weinstein (after I’d

read his piece in the Voice) that you might have

a booklength Poetry Comics in mind or in prepar-

ation. I’d like to discuss this with you if

you’d care to.

--James Raimers, Senior Editor

Ticknor & Fields / Houghton-Mifflin

…One good anecdote here. I grabbed the

issues you sent & started reading on the sub-

way home one night. I was so delighted by one

poem that I laughed out loud. A woman next to me

looked over (as usual), undecided whether to

back away from a potential crazy or just take

her chances), we began talking. I passed her

an issue, she reminisced about her poetry

course in college20 years ago, we traded fav-

orite frames from the issue we were reading.

(She had to gert off at 14th St., I recall,

with great reluctance. Truly an underground

fan club for PC…

--Anne Kostick, Seaview Books

…as I think the CUTIST ANTHOLOGY is one of

the best books published in ’79, I was de-

lighted to see John Keats rendered “cute”

(PC-15)--such cutistic treatment should be

extended to dark bards everywhere, including

Baudelaire. Baudelaire was CUTE! Rimbaud too.

However I’ve discovered the cutest poet of all,

thanks to a friend in London: Ella Wheeler

Wilcox, a Victorian cutologist… Needless to

say her “authorised editions” are uniformly

bound in “limp whnite cloth…” She was, of

course, an American & quite famous, although

I doubt she realized just how cute her work

was. For my prt I will spend the rest of my

days constantly quoting from her work.

--Derek Pell, Hyena Editions

Just a quick note to thank you for your let-

ter & thoughtful comments. It was good to hear

from you and to share your Poetry Comics. You

do an excellent job. With all good wishes.\

--Elizabeth Taylor Warner

…Thank you so much for sending the draw-

ings to us, & also for the interview I en-

joyed very much helpingto produce the piece

for the weekend All Things Considered progtram,

& I had a good cackle over some of the PCs.

You mentioned a future project of documentj-

ing the history of poetry through comics.

Maybe as a sideline you could include the

history of comic art in poetry…that probably

starts with William Blake, or even with

the ancient Egyptians…

--Alex van Oss, All Things Considered

…One suggestion for PC: poems that are bet-

ter known/more familiar may be more appreciated

in the comics form onlyh because the specifics

of the translation/interpretation would be more

apparent (to more people). Also: more recent

poems, & consequently, those with less of a

“structure” seem to lose their “poemness”, seem

not to read as pems in the comics form.

--Alison Podel, Holt, Rinhart & Winston

…I feel so much in sympathy (like an ally)

with your work that I’d be willing to help out

somehow. I’ve not done comic strips before, but

I feel inspired. Something in your work clicks

more than in, say, Lichtenstein’s paintings of

comic book heroes/lovers/brushtrokes…

Do comic strips have to imitate various mas-

ter cartoonists? I wonder & yet the way you

combine familiar cartooning styles with unfam

iliar or forgotten lines of poetry seems Right

On! There must be lots of peolple like who

can’t memorize poetry or even song lyrics.

Poet’s isolation today is dreadful! The comic

strip form or something like it is the ticket,

I’m positive. Maybe it does trivialize a great

program or fragment of one. It’s something like

diagramming sentences back in high school.

Your comics are new growth such as takes

over a burned out field in nature! That’s it!

I got it! Diagrammed sentences keep branching

out and branching out. THE WORD IS A GREEN FACE

IN A MARBLE THICKET, wrote Kenneth Patchen.


I’ll send you My non-narrative poem as soon

as I tinker with it some more. I want it pub-

lished as a comic strip. I want to see my

bumper sticker verse shine in the fog around

us. I can draw. Pencil lines are the ribcage,

not the heart of the drawing. Theheart goes

flub dub flub dub the junior high instruction-

al film told us.

--Phil Gore

Sorry to be so long in writing, but I really

have been very, very busy. Anyway, it was good

to hear from you, & especially to receive

Poetry Comics. I think they are very funny, &

that you are very talented.

Thanks again. Stay happy & healthy, & good

luck to you with your career.

--George Burns

…Have you put your Poetry Comics through

the cartoon syndicate mill as yet. I think you

should.--newspapers can use something different!

--Virgil Partch, “Big George”

I recently read an article in the VILLAGE

VOICE about your periodical, POETRY COMICS.

I enjoyed the article a great deal, & was much

tantalized by the snippets of your creations.

It occurs to me that an anthology of the

best pieces from PC, or perhaps some thematic

selection, might make a very nice, & very suc-

cessful, trade book. I wonder if this has oc-

curred to you, & if so, if you have any ideas

or suggestions. If this notion appeals to you,

perhaps you could send me a sample of some of

your favorite works which I could show around

here to get some feedback from other editors

&, ultimately, the Editorial Board…

--Robert C. Eckhard, Simon & Schuster

…It’s the first issue (PC-15) that seems

to me a falling-off from yhour standard--maybe

because of the large-figure Codrescu/Slater/

Brainard pages (not sure brush is a good no-

tion…) but really think (a) the horror

motif’s so valuable given your magazine’s

appearance & expectations that it’s a shame

to waste it on Blake, & (b) your other Name,

the Keats, while lovely as local surprises,

is (sort of almost) more contrived toward

those surprises than usual. By contrast it

makes your usual moves graceful throwaways,

as if really lucky lucky hits--things that,

elated by malice, you happen on. Which raises

the question whether you think ‘em through

first, since some of your freshness seems to

come from just-thought-of glee.

Philosophically, it could be that horror

comic graveyards and happy faces are recognizable,

& the recognizable is hard to work.

Then, you’re not graveyard-in-general bgut de-

liberate Fstein film cliché, & as I recall the one

to excell in that line is the early

(comic-format) Mad rendering thereof, I think

dropped brain & all. Again, the genuinely

mythic…maybe should have gone to a slighter

or at least recent poem, for the contrast.

(Tyger & Merci maybe too close to same kind

of stuffed building.)…

--Gerald Burns

The Village Voice description of y0our PC

sounds so good that I don’t even mind that

you psychic-ly swiped my branichild--Prufrock


--Karla Mallette

You are a master of a thousand styles.

Impressive. I like your magazine.

--Johnny Hart, “B.C.” & “The Wizard of Id”


I’ll start off with Dave Morice’s Poetry

Comics. Dave used to edit Gum and the smallest

mag I’ve ever seen, Matchbook (poetry issued in

real matchbooks). Now he works with poetry,

kids & the elderly. The them of Comics is

“Abuse the Muse”… The 19 pg. magazine comes

replete with 2 pgs of letters much like the

letters to Stan Lee in the real comics. Only

here, poets write the letters… Morice’s draw-

ings are not great & the renditions are not

generally awe-inspiring. But they are enjoy-

able. It’s about time poets put the smirk back

on their faces & Morice is helping us do that.

--Diane Kruchkow, from MWPA Newsletter 30

…So do you. & so does Dve Morice, editor

of PC, whose own word “cartoonizing” seems a

good one for describing this process of the

reader’s making the poem by reading it…

There, sharing the page, are the poetry, Mor-

ice’s images & my own cartoonizing… Morice’s

drawings flow & move, pushing me forward &

pulling my eyes from the sitting words. Sur-

rounded by strong, mobile images such as hi8s,

how can the text seem but secondary? If you

don’t think Blake should run second to Morice,

beware… Moreover, I mayu know the poemj before

I get to PC. Then the cartoonizing I have al-

ready done & carry with me comes forward out of

its cave at the call of the text, to meet Mor-

ice’s--as one’s own sense of a novel is laid

against the director’s in the film version…

My reaction overall to Morice therefore comes

down to whether I find his drawings to be

clever, witty & interesting enough to put aside

my own cartoons & my own cartoonizing tempor-

arily. & I do… Morice deserves credit for

attempting to combine popular & serious culture

& make a new thing in the reader’s mind. Is it

a unified thing, or is it comics sweetening

poems, sentences holding up pictures, a poetry

plot to return more of us to verse or a comic

plot to return more of us to images?...I do

know that once I give myself to Morice’s comics,

they affect me eventually the way I am affected

by reading the cartoonizing of other literary

critics: I see freshly my own resonses to lit-


--Nowel Stein-Michael

from The St. Louis Mirror, Oct. 81, Vol. 1 No. 6
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