Oh Amber...

Thank god for google alerts. Without it, I never would have learned that my name, and my real name at that and not the initials I use when I publish, is like ash on Amber Tamblyn's tongue.

She is apparently unaware of the various six degrees connections between us that make me something more to her than just some random dude on the internet.

Some background: because I'm a poet that means I'm generally tapped into the poetry world at large. Dear reader, you may be shocked to discover that the poetry world at large is actually extremely small.

I first became aware of Amber Tamblyn qua poet when my friend Rachel McKibbens pointed me to a pretty ridiculous interview of Amber Tamblyn by Sage Francis. Sage Francis is most famous as a backpack rapper, and by most accounts is quite the gifted MC. Unbeknownst to many people who are vaguely aware of his records, he first made his name as a Slam poet in Massachusetts before he got "sick of waiting tables" and went into the music biz. It's this fact that made the interview particularly ridiculous. Tamblyn, who was dating Sage at the time, was represented as an authority on poetry slam in the interview in which Sage Francis fronted complete ignorance of the form. This of course presented a sort of cognitive dissonance to those of us who know that Sage Francis has been a member of slam teams representing his local slam at nationals, and that Tamblyn traded in her B list celebrity for D list poetry fame by first embarking on a career as a poetry slam dilettante.

Rachel, who I adore, is something I am not: a real slam poet. I have performed in slams and have a certain small amount of respect I think from the folks involved in the Seattle slam. Daemond Arrindell and Karen Finneyfrock have always been really nice to me in any case. But I have my own issues with slam and it's not something I've invested a lot of myself in. If I recall correctly, Rachel and some other slam poet friends found the article more annoying than I did, although I remember everyone thought it was kind of funny. It might have ended there, but it didn't.

See, a few years back I went through what can best be described as a sort of mental breakdown during which time I was obsessed with the Joss Whedon television show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." I bought all the tv series on DVD and watched them repeatedly. I branched out and even got the DVDs for the spinoff show "Angel." I lost weekends watching entire seasons back to back. I can offer no explanation for this disturbed behavior and now can only say in my defense that it was a pretty good show, all told.

This ties back to Amber Tamblyn because my periods of comatose Buffy watching were occurring right around the same time that I became aware of Tamblyn the Poet. So it's only natural I suppose that I noticed that Tamblyn had guest starred on an episode of Buffy, playing the slutty friend of Buffy's little sister Dawn. The plot of the episode doesn't matter other than to say that the costume guy for the show clearly was aware of Tamblyn's Lolitaish qualities. She was, I believe, playing a highschool freshman.

This tenuous connection to my then current obsession was really all I needed to dive in to Tamblyniana headfirst. I learned a lot. I read as much of her poetry as I could find on the web. I talked to people who had seen her perform. I heard stories that I take to be reliable but that I won't reprint because I don't have first hand knowledge of the facts and there's no point really in malicious gossip. Other people who know the facts are welcome to tell them, and tell them in this venue if they wish, but it's not something I'm interested in doing personally.

But what I really learned was this: Amber Tamblyn is a child of privilege who without any real dedication to the art managed to, at the age of 22, get a book of poetry published by Simon & Schuster. Yes, that Simon & Shuster. The Simon & Schuster that is a huge multinational media tank so well-known in literary circles for bringing the voices of young poets to the masses and expanding the readership of older more established writers. If you can't tell that I'm being sarcastic, well, I take it you don't really follow poetry.

See, the thing is, big publishing houses don't publish poetry. Most of the poetry that gets put on the shelves comes from small presses. This is where young poets, and generally speaking that means men and women pushing thirty at the least, get their first breaks. Most likely with saddle stapled chapbooks, or if they're truly gifted and excellent communicators, like my friend Tim Green (whose first book length collection American Fractal from Red Hen Press you should all go and buy), with something a bit more substantive. If and when larger houses do work with more established poets, it's the exception that makes the rule. Glancing at my bookshelf, the only books that really jump out as the exception are the Penguin labels on the spines of Alice Notley's books.

So, as a poet, someone struggling to have my work read and really only having myself to rely on to promote my work, and that only in my spare time after working my day job, when celebrities pop out of the wood work and declare that they too can write poetry, and the world pays more attention to their rather pusillanimous doggerel than it ever will to me—Or many of my friends and Colleagues for that matter. Whether they be Bob Grumman toiling in obscurity on a shamefully neglected branch of experimental American poetry, Mark Leidner writing fucking gloryholes of poetry like his book "Night of 1000 Murders," or me and my, I'm ashamed to admit, still un self-published manuscript, none of us will ever get interviewed about how our Amazon.com reviews make us feel by a major newspaper in Tampa. And all of them are better poets than Amber Tamblyn. I'd say that I am too, but, y'know, modesty...—well, it's irritating. And I think all of us who share these feelings would fully cop to the fact that there's a strong element of jealousy in that resentment, so don't go thinking I'm making the claim that I'm not. But not all jealousies are equal, and when some other lesser dude is fucking the love of your life, well, I think you're justified in being a little hurt and depressed by that.

So fair enough right? Griping by the fringe bohemians about the poseurs of the mainstream is not exactly news. Still, in this world where communication is ever more democratized, it's interesting that Tamblyn and I keep crossing paths. And it's not just the poetry thing. There's another rather interesting coincidence that ties me to her.

See, once upon a time I was a musician. And by saying that I don't mean I spent my early twenties bashing out Dave Matthews Band songs on an acoustic guitar at open mic nights in the hope of nailing sorority girls. Although I've pulled that kind of shit, don't get me wrong, I have no shame. Well, I have some shame. I would never play a Dave Matthews Band song at an open mic, not even to get laid. No, I was a serious musician. I spent four years studying music and record production at the rather well regarded Berklee College of Music in Boston. I'm a 2 credit class in traditional counterpoint shy of a Bachelor of Music degree. I have forgotten more about music theory and composition than most amateur musicians will ever know. The story of what I'm doing in Music now is best saved for another time; it's really not important to the story. What is important is that while I was at Berklee, some friends of mine were in a band called Cybin's Path that played a sort of tripped out Progressive Jam Rock and who I and many of our circle thought were fucking brilliant. I also worked for the same company, Cakewalk Music Software—the company that got me started in call center work, among other things; I worked their for two years, and my biggest claim to fame from that time is that I came up with the name for their flagship software product "Sonar", all neither here nor there—with the guitar player for Cybin's path, a very talented musician and laid back guy named Steve Geuting.

Well, as happens from time to time, Cybin's Path broke up. Three of the guys from the band then joined a Rhode Island Jam band called Gruvis Malt. All of this doesn't really matter much to the story except for a chance encounter a number of years ago, well before Tamblyn's poetic turn. I had gone to the Vera Project in Seattle to see a hip hop show that Sage Francis was headlining, albeit primarily to see the opening act, incomparable Seattle rap group Blue Scholars. I was standing outside having a cigarette when who should walk by but Steve Geuting. As it turned out, Gruvis Malt was on tour with Sage Francis and were also playing as his backing band. Which, I suppose, puts me only three degrees of separation from Tamblyn. All of which is notable only as a sort of "it's a small world" observation about the fact that Amber Tambly is now citing this Amazon.com review of her first book as an example of how sensitive she is. Apparently it hurt her so much that she "still remembers my name." Which is, of course, how this all got started. She named me in an interview and being an egotistical jackass, I found out about it almost immediately thanks to the narcissistic glory of Google Alerts.

I wrote the review during my brief annoyance at her exemplifying yet another celebrity getting undeserved acclaim for writing bad poetry. And it really wasn't personal. So Amber, if you as a fellow narcissist are reading this, please consider this a sort of apology for any bruised feelings. I'm sorry if it upset you. My intention was otherwise. It appears that you've grown as a poet and made a strong effort to take the form more seriously.

That having been said, I do think it's pretty funny that someone would leverage their fame to get a book published and then be surprised when people take exception to the unmerited accolade. But that's neither here nor there. The bottom line is that if I hurt your feelings, then I'm sorry.

As a sort of postscript, I also think its kind of funny that Tamblyn "jokingly" said that one of her poems in the new book was inspired by me. But that's funny because way back when, I wrote a poem for her. It's a part of my Household Activities series of poems written as a sort of response to Gertrude Stein's Tender Buttons, perhaps the most important self-published book of the 20th Century. It's always been my intention to self-publish Household Activities in tribute, and someday I may get around to launching Wet Asphalt Press and doing that. In the meantime, if you're curious, here's the poem, circa 2005:

Household Activity No. 36
for Amber Tamblyn

On disc two or three on DVD so no commercials compete her complete
here the sixth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer yes oh Amber

Here come the place where the pause button allows spent hours
come to contemplate to the hips of young

Amber Tamblyn plays "Janice" who come on shows so much skin in this
episode comes really its sort of remarkable how far

television comes. So it goes. She's this bad book of poems and with the come on line
"I mean, our kind of sex makes animals fuck like it's humanistic!"[sic]

It sits there. Seriously. And like licking the things spent
for pennies like those that flipped like girl hair hanged

I believe it because I can see it.
She's on TV. That's close enough.

come. sit in the dark.
watch more.

Oh Amber, it's all from a place of love, don't you see? I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me and if you're ever in Tucson look me up and I'll be happy to buy you a beer and do a whole drunken mea culpa. The world is too small to make enemies of people who might otherwise find eachother pretty tolerable.

Comments

Poet feuds. Who knew?

Poet feuds. Who knew? Honestly, this post is worthy simply because it turned me onto Rachel McKibbens, who I had never heard of. Astonishing stuff.

Rachel is vastly less famous

Rachel is vastly less famous than she should be.

True story: I was kicked out

True story: I was kicked out of Cybin's Path during their second rehearsal ever.

(Yes, J and I met at the Berklee School of Music.)

In all fairness, Graham

In all fairness, Graham Richards was a way better keyboard player than you.

And thanks to Google Alerts, I found this article! haha

Some of the details you've written are false. That being said, the only thing I care to clear up is the information about how I feigned ignorance about Slam or the poetry world during that interview. The way that interview was printed really disturbed me. It was a great misrepresentation of the conversation we actually had. Initially, I was told that we would be interviewing each other. Turns out they only wanted to print a puff piece for her book with me acting as the guy supplying underground cred. So be it. There's no doubt that Amber benefits from nepotism and privilege, but there's no need to get worked up about it or point it out. Everyone knows. Who keahz. Enough about her though. Please tell Rachel I said hi. She's always been mean to me in a really hot and steamy way.

well, i'm just sourcing on

well, i'm just sourcing on memory and personal knowledge and quite a bit of hearsay, so i have no doubt i got some of the story wrong. That having been said I agree that theres no reason to get worked up, hence the apologetic tone of this blog post which really isn't sarcastic at all. although i could see it being read that way. that having been said, what I've read of Bang Ditto is superior in quality to what i read of Free Stallion, which means that to her credit Tamblyn is at least taking it all seriously, whether or not her publishers and the public at large are.

I will say hi to Rachel for you, but it may take a while because she is very far away and we chat infrequently.