Interview with Frederick Farryl Goodwin

by on Mar.27, 2014


Tales from the Crypt: Year of the Horse—Codex Prime

Frederick Farryl Goodwin, author of Virgil’s Cow (2009) and Galactic Milk (2013) Miami University Press, interviewed by Geoffrey Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle

Is Frederick Farryl Goodwin the evental poet of this century?

Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics: I conducted this exchange with Frederick during the first three months of 2014. We still have never met, or spoken on the phone, we employed email. At jump I knew 0 about him personally. But his extra-orbital poems loosed a wanton force majeure sufficient to haul me to him pronto. Banished, vanished, well-hid F. shows lo to no web profile, a magisterial cloaking maneuver itself in our exposé ion eon. How truly create, if not ex nihilo? Our quandary isn’t how Something rose from Nothing, but where did Nothing come from? I give you his debut interview.

As standard Q and A soon quailed confronting such a world-reversing coup, I plied him instead with provocations, sub rosa “constellations,” subliminal suggestiones. Fred mailed back fifteen thousand (15, ooo) words . . . almost overnight. So, to immure and lure you in, please allow me to introduce twin flanking notes Frederick sent before, then immediately after decomposing the bodies of his corpus.

The first is his response to my curt and common question: “Does your email address [which here I must withhold] refer to Eve Futur, by Villiers de L’Isle-Adam?”

And the following, he (Croniomantal, poet beyond the tomb) wirelessed just one “morning after” inking his extended testament below.

Frederick Farryl Goodwin (JAN 17/14)

No, not consciously at least + I’ve not read Villers de L’isle Adam. But who knows the causality of things + the source of words in our lives? Having said that, there’s an anecdotal parallel between Master Janus who, while preparing to initiate Axël into the occult mysteries, asks his pupil whether he is ready to accept “light, hope and life.” Axël replies “no” which I can relate to—& recalls an experience I had w/ Salvador Roquet who once asked me the same question…..whether I was ready to accept “light, hope and life”….. asking me to step outside the room we were in and pass through a door where the light from a dazzling day was streaming in— I couldn’t. I told him so and somaticized my response immediately consumed w/the most excruciating pain, my feet feeling as if someone had basted them with napalm and set them ablaze. It followed two very punishing days with him in Western Mass. where, on the third day, he pulled a woman and myself from a group of thirty or so to do what he termed psychosynthesis in front of everyone for 10 hours — 30 participants + 10 or so therapist/healers of assorted stripes who assisted him— watching and collectively wailing and weeping as a nightmare unfolded. That day, despite myself, but perhaps through me, I was, as Roquet’s principal assistant said to me afterwards, “the spirital center for three days.” Perhaps, as Merwin says, all poetry begins as grief expressed through the wailing wall of the unbroken vowel— the Lament Configuration— until interrupted by the onslaught and tourniquet of the consonants to break the spell— the wife of a gracile/robust australopithecine man is killed by a saber-toothed cat or something like that. The demon was already out of the puzzle box of the collective unconscious for me before Roquet— he helped design and concoct the confection that would contain the demon I saw for the first time with my own eyes when I was 26—while watching a film the screen burned away in front of me from the center out and the red-face and horns came to greet me being of an age when it’s time to use harness the rope and traction of that energy to vatically climb the verticulum towards the other way while accessing the one realm which knowledge of the other allows. I like to think I played tiddlywinks with Oscar Vladislas de Lubicz Milosz in a dream as a boy while listening to my dear friend Grace Lake— Jewish visionary seraphim and feminist socialist revolutionary— tell me over and over again in that heartbreakingly, almost unbearably beautiful voice that was hers alone how she stared at the sun as a child until her vision was permanently impaired, transformed. Derek Dowson, illegitimate great-grandson of an Earl + nephew of the Decadent poet Ernst Dowson— later picked up where Roquet left off, taught me everything I know, saved my life and gave me both future + eon while my seasonal human nature…..drifter[ed] bye.

Thank you for writing, posing the question as provocateur, and for the great kindness of your interest: the short answer is nope.

Frederick Farryl Goodwin (FEB 24/14)

[ ] . . . no doubt the torture wings of self-doubt and flagellation are hovering now above this.

I’ve just read what I sent you yesterday and now that the exhilaration of writing it has subsided it seems dreadful to me: slack-jawed, self-indulgent, roaming far outside of where I had hoped to go with this. It felt full when I sent, otherwise I wouldn’t have, but now seems worthy not of print but of burning. It seems now like so much fluff, like some extravagantly moneyed bastion of mediocrity whose volume is inflated by its own rhetoric. It lacks the hardness of a diamond which is always my objective. There’s a lack of focused intensity and, as a result, any real volume or depth. I’ve never been able to successfully answer questions about the simplest questions concerning my work or myself. I can see why now. I had thought myself done but can now see that it’s not even a draft, just vapor and slag, smoke and errors, an elaborate evasion of the truth if it exists and can be communicated. At best, there’s a line or two that says something worth saying while the rests veers between missing the mark or putting an audience to sleep. I don’t know what went wrong along the way except perhaps to say that in trying to get my arms around a life for the first time, in its interior and exterior aspects, I became disconnected as I often do and lost contact with my pulse and the blood that pumps in my own heart. I’d begun to sense in my e-mails to you that I was running out of compression and canned heat. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the lamentable slag heap of diction I sent your way. I’ve learned over the years there’s no connection between how I feel about the writing and its merit if it has any. I was excited and pressed the send key at midnight. Had I hated it, as I do now, I would have pulled out the carving knives and whittled it down to a sentence, rethought even that, and started from scratch.

With apologies the slow pace and the hit & miss, as well as gratitude for your patience, I remain, as always Frederick

Sure I Want to Go to Egypt. The Only Trouble Is, I Want to Go to Ancient Egypt!

the urban Voodou/culture of Elsinore.

Shiva at the zoo with her death fan and six foot/dihedral/cathedral of wing

(from Virgil’s Cow)

Let’s start far behind. Egyptian myth revels in confusion. You can be dead and talking. Gods R’ Us. New York’s Old Marble Cemetery across East 2nd Street broods beyond forbidden cataracts up river on the Nile. Night smiles like Bowie’s reptile. In a pile up of charades, baroque tableaux vivant, carnivalesque masks and Allegory’s debris, you strew compossibles in your wake like smoking ruins. The 10,000 year-old wailing relics of insane dead Merovingian kings, whose investigations into the occult won for them perfect vision beyond the grave, now live in teepees on Venus. Christian Cabbalists, too, fed you dark confections. Cool. Cold-blooded. Even, writing below zero, you unveil faith’s staunch refusal to do no more than believe.

Well, it’s easy to do this when the soul has risen beyond the body of senses and touched the forehead of S/He who bore us and returned from St. Teresa’s Sixth Mansion to a life in Framingham, London, Cambridge (UK] or Groton [MA]. Home is most naturally always in two places for me: the fiery abode of rapture in heaven with Her/Him and the dogshit reality of ordinary life where I’m forced to walk, a strongman walking along the ocean bottom of a magnetic floor wearing irons. Because they each exist simultaneously it’s natural to quote from each world from within the safe house and firestorm of consciousness. The intimacy of this conflation is the square root and molecular sequencing of the writing. Hopefully there are equal parts rapture and suffering as compossibles in a life of rupture and renewal. I am no longer acquainted with any notions of faith any more than the preposterous assertion that the atheist is void of love. The rapture of paradise is no less real to me than a root canal. Bernini came close in his rendering of Teresa. Five Finger Death Punch maybe comes close as well. If there is a staunch refusal it’s because experience trumps faith. It makes things easier when writing as you pass the smoking ruins of your life going downstream to death. All the while there’s the inexorable tug of the divine current pulling you further upstream to the orchard of paradise. The point of life is death. Without surrender of the vestments of flesh rapture could not be sustained. Pascal’s lasted a mere two hours during his night of fire and Teresa noted that her own experience never exceeded four days.

“Writing below zero.” That’s very beautiful. In Letters to Magdalena: I’m the hero of a thousand zeroes.

Elegant negligence. Your Spell Check is from hell, or Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queen. Font looks like those railroad trax mottling Kurt Cobain. Your lyric: delirious, gifted only to the jeweled few. Love: Speech as second language.

The writing for what it is was born in the cauldron of deep disappointment despite knowing I wanted to write poems from an early age. When my mother committed suicide by putting a plastic bag over her head I was seventeen. I was under house arrest on suspicion of murder, police had assumed positions throughout the house, and a long blood patch on the wall was forensically examined for a match. I couldn’t hurt a fly but in my own mind my incarceration at McLean [Psychiatric Hospital, Belmont, MA] meant I had killed her. Nothing in my life ever fucked me up and out of trust with the world more than that place and the decision, insane in itself, to lock me up on account of my aphasia.

For nine months, I experienced Winnocott’s annihilation anxiety, attempted suicide numerous times, lay motionless in bed wearing the same clothes for weeks at a time, watched television 16 hours daily, kept company with the tarantulas in my head. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It was unlike anything I thought existed as possible for human beings. It differed not so much by degree from other depressive episodes in my life as by nature. I’m certain a thousand deaths would have been easier to bear. I had to wrestle with the Devil himself to return to this life. Friends kept me alive.

I would have called in an air strike on myself if I’d had the moxie.

Horrid, torrid, inordinately mordant, I’ve no wish to stress the morbid (the Addams family!) for your poems flutter by. Here’s how I’d class your books and words by flocks and herds in the animal kingdom: a dazzle of zebra, crash of rhinos, and a murder of crows.

Ancient suitcases with their asphalt/alphabets of paper wasps which fly./The Periodic table of Elements dispenses/the ghosts of the dead on its Ouija Board. The living clean the windshield,/ with Sophocles’ swords.

trout < ++++

(from Virgil’s Cow)

For me, the writing is not a component or extension of my life, it is my life, my daily bread in our fields of famine.

For three years, between the ages of seventeen and twenty, I was mute and enjoyed the mysteries of my own silence while reading continuously.

My dream was to go someplace exotic and interesting with my poems and be murdered as a literary type.

Graduated HS a virgin.

The other side of the metaphysical coin is the humdrum thrumming of the certainty of our annihilation as individuals within the corridors and humidor of the senses, the rich nutritive menses of one’s mensitivity basking capaciously out of doors in the vast outback of one’s singularity intrusion-casks of multiples in the perception of patina adoration of all offspring in the rainy season of an infernal and eternal séance of springs.

Language is a spirit wreathe in oscillation between the known octaves of human experience and the unknown. In the realm of the unknowable, languages and centuries blur. In The Salesman of Advertising Space, there’s this: “the orphanage’s maze and cavern/ its eternity of dark grace.”

I’d just done a film shoot for the BBC set to air on Saturday Evening Magazine, sold out every venue we’d played for the last two years and with just a handful of shows, including a truly great one at Paul Kelley’s (marvelous bloke) Café Berlin in Liverpool, I was already able to pack an auditorium at Liverpool Polytechnic with only seventeen poems to my name, because Dan Warburton (a genius and a madman) had amplified them into songs. The Bloomsbury Theatre in Euston bumped a major European orchestra to book our Modern Dreams / Ancient Nightmares (poetry in performance with music and screens) for a week.

A few years ago, we released the CD Compendium Maleficarum III on Josef van Wissem’s Incunabulum label. The title is taken from the 17th century book by the same name written by the Ambrosian monk Francesco Maria Guazzo. It’s a sacred text. A compossible which chronicles and hopes to purge the world of that which it chronicles. We don’t know if it’s a crime of distorted reportage, or female genital mutilation of the sacred witch.

Virgil’s Cow is a compendium, perhaps a compendium maleficarum, of writing that took place between the years 1983-1986 when I’d come up to Cambridge and another period of writing, 1996-2006, which followed my deportation from the U.K. in 1991 and a period of psychic, emotional, and spiritual healing that was set in motion when I met Linda Graff, part Cherokee, part Appalachian West Virginian, who brought me into the 21st century musically. My great friend Ferid Muhic, a national treasure of Macedonia, told me that Virgil’s Cow is not a book “but an anthology.” I’m not smart enough to know what he meant by it but it rings true.

At any rate, that book came out of a very unruly manuscript that I’d submitted to Keith Tuma in 2005 who wrote back to say he couldn’t publish it as is but that he wanted me to resubmit it if I could give greater shape to the cosmos of its universe but didn’t know how or would prefer not to say until I’d worked on it with “as many readers as possible”. Without my cherished friend Nate Dorward in Toronto, whom I worship and adore, there would be no Virgil’s Cow. He created the book, quarried it from the slag of over a hundred disparate poems, found patterns where I could not.

I argued unsuccessfully with the press that his name should be on its cover and not mine or, at the very least, that he should appear as co-author. The book is not mine but his. I only wrote the poems, which is different. Nate selected the poems and their order in all three books: Virgil’s Cow, Buber’s Bag Man (Gig Press, Toronto, 2010), and Galactic Milk.

As a boy I read a whole anthology of English Poetry and truly thought Keats, let’s say, wrote only its five poems. Call me a shade tree poet at the far end of the pasture. I miss my naïve misery. Some guidance counselor once admonished, “You can’t sit under a tree your whole life and write poetry.” They had nothing that I wanted, so that’s exactly what I did. What’s key? Me, I may have spent my whole life proving that churl wrong. What makes you write poetry?

I came up, as they say, to Cambridge [England] in 1983 after dropping out of Brown. Paul Muldoon’s wife, the novelist Jean Hanff Korelitz, was at Clare with me. Anne Stevenson became a close friend of mine, regularly exchanging letters and meeting for tea in the cafeteria of the National Gallery in London, a very pleasant place to have tea and meet in those days. Later, despite a boxful of letters, invitations to visit her in Durham [UK], etc. she said she didn’t remember who I was. She asked for a photo, which I sent which helped her fuzzily recall me. After that, I sent her some new work. She wrote back to say I was writing in a different language.

[The anglicized American poet Anne Stevenson was my first real sustaining mentor when I was incubating. Everything before England was juvenilia until I began to thaw out from the American fridge. Years later, when I was back in the states after a decade abroad, I sent her some recent work. She wrote back to say that “you are writing in a language with which I am unfamiliar” and no longer remembered who I was. With a boxful of early correspondence behind us, I was devastated. She was right.]

Cambridge was the only authentic “match” of my adult life where I began to write and found my voice for the first time. I had little to no validation as a writer at Brown. When my beloved English Professor Sears Jayne [USA] told me to drop out during my first year there unless I could study with John Hawkes, who refused me and sent me on to Michael Harper, who told me I couldn’t join his class, I was lost.

[I was under suspicion of murder when my mother died and there was a phalanx of trigger-happy policeman posted throughout the house. Her blood spray was on the kitchen wall and I was found upstairs in the artists loft of my parent’s house mute, writing suspicious things. So I’ve always connected writing with having a mortal consequence. The lab later confirmed the blood spray was from our dog whose tail had been cut from his neurotically chasing and biting it. McLean was a nightmare. Then, in my late twenties, after a morotcycle trip through Newfoundland and the Canadian Maritimes, I applied and matriculated at Brown. My first year I was advised by my beloved English Professor, Sears Jayne, the first performance poet I had ever seen though he was never called that by anyone to leave saying my needs were those of a graduate notundergraduate student. Either leave or ask John Hawkes who was there then and had written The Blood Oranges if I could study privately with him. I went to see Hawkes who was kindly and polite but told me I was a poet, not a fiction writer, and proposed that I study with Michael Harper as an alternative to droppingout. I followed his advice only to be told by Harper, after submitting a sample, that I was talentless and that hecouldn’t waste the time of his students or hisown by letting me join his class.]

During my one and only tutorial with JH Prynne [England] he announced in his inimitable way, no, rather wondered aloud might be more accurate, if I might be the most miserable human being on the planet.

He said it so matter of factly— as if he were asking if I thought it might rain today.

During my one and only tutorial with the much feted, young, glamorous Shakespearean scholar John Kerrigan in his rooms at St. John’s— this vast room of his where we sat on the floor, empty and utterly devoid of any furnishings except a French Horn in the exact middle of the room he said to me: “it’s a mystery which only G-d can understand why someone like you would be blessed and bloating with strange linguistic gifts.”

When I met Martin Amis a few years ago [USA] I had been helping a friend film at a house in CT where Amis’ daughter was hanging out and was nearly killed ferrying her to the train station in a car my girlfriend was driving at speeds in excess of a 100 mph. We disliked each other immediately.

Modern Dreams / Ancient Nightmares opened at T— Lecture Theatre off T—‘s Great Court and ran for three consecutive nights. We charged admission but still every performance sold out. The Master of my college Father—, a Jesuit priest, was in attendance. I thought I would be bounced from the college as a result, but instead received a note from him congratulating me on “a singularly successful performance.” The college would offer financial support for future shows and he would present me with the equivalent of a Cambridge “Blue” at a college Society Night. Strange times. His note to me misspelled the word “singularly” as “sungularly.” Years later I was to be deported from the U.K. because of that misspelling and he, Father—, austere spindly Jesuit priest and Master of St. —, would go on to allegedly commit murder, a fact never publicly revealed before now and a crime for which he was never tried or convicted.

Christopher Ricks, the great Tennyson scholar, was at Emmanuel and chairman of the English Faculty. I didn’t know him personally so was surprised when I received a note from him inviting me to lunch at Emmanuel. He must have attended, or gotten reports of, the performance piece we were then doing. One of the first things he asked me was my opinion of that week’s theatre review in The New Yorker. I had just seen The Last Poets in London so I asked him his opinion of their performance.

[Tennyson scholar Christopher Ricks invited me to lunch at Emmanuel asking straight off what I thought of that weeks’ theatre review in The New Yorker. I indignantly said with barely concealed disdain I hadn’t read it and by the way what did he think of The Last Poets performance in London a few days ago. It was a tremendous performance but he was as clueless about my world as I was of his.]

Off the record, I didn’t give a shit about The New Yorker then and don’t give a shit about The New Yorker now.

“Fa ra fa ra bo ra sa ba rara ba rara roro radara sa ra podo no floro.” (Wm. Blake)

“Parfaupe ouclaspa nannanbryle anaphi ologi psycocline ixispad anlana e’ghia n’ rbiol’ oblijouter tetumaine ennoconc.” (Jacques Lacan)

Poe Posies Poesy
Sad-ism Dizzy-ism.

Inane antics ineluctably
Fucked. Insatiable banalities.

Now, I’ll ask you what I wish I could ask Racine. Orphaned and imprisoned, how did you ever learn to write 17th century classical French like Jean Genet?

Two months on the rode in the saddle will make a good rider out of a real joke of a rider.

Clearly I don’t know how to pose a question. I respond to nerve, instinct, pulse and . . . fucking exultation. The first words I wrote in youth were smut. Whuh! I wrote reams, and effortlessly. Later, when I discovered poetry, (El Desdichado, Gerard de Nerval) I wanted mine to have the same immediate physical impact as had lurid porn. And to prove as gratifying! Lubricious. I’m an ecstatic, dope addict. Above certain speeds, I can’t keep my balance. I’m always flying off the handle, thinking my shit’s gold the minute it hits the page. Thing is, I never went to college. So, why do grads react against their education always by dumbing down? None of ‘em ever really rebels by getting smarter than college! You write like a spotted lynx! Like King Richard the Lion Hearted! I went clinically insane. Gobbledy Gook is my last name. The challenge and thrill for me hides in completing a ravishing sentence. While you propound an ethos: mood as a mode of living. Half of bookish Brooklyn’s talking baby talk—thinking it’s chocolate candy but it’s (s)not.

A black tong of x-box voodoo :: ::

The oasis of a burial herd.

The tribe’s delirium hive.

(From Galactic Milk)

The death experience: a spiralling of the spirit placed into vortex accelerating as it climbs itsvertical ascent chakra b chakra the body can not hold the spirit any longer and the spirit isthus release through the ishmus and crown chakra exiting the body through the top of the head and entering the sacred realms climbs at light speed higher and higher till it touches the forehead ofthe one who alone can bear me sight and sensation without sound withoiut taste the vibrational field of the cosmos deep molten yellow realkm of gold alchemical ocean of the universe outside of time and space middleless yet at the center rippling he eats limitless fieldof pulasating energy cresting wirerrod of slipstream erupting the concourse of all energy radiating out the other being absorbed the molten explanation of all opposites unidfied and explained theplanets so small in comparison to this lilitless enormity of meteoric amplitude of love’s holy canonical might absorbed tranfigured then eh shroud of self in perish the ego disaaamblimg spiritual rebirth on the brink at the doorstep of what is mostholy fear the serpent and snake pelt of fear choking the ascension and transfiguration …iforced myself to recitetelevisioncommercialsto keep the contact points of the contours of the egointact withits magneticmortal tacks and came back tothte suburban mortal attack the apocalypse of the quotidian returned my parents came back…

who might i have been had i had the courage toenter the passion of his love fully &remained

as always, thank you

Crypt (ick) / G C-H: To end on a funereal note, my mother died, though not a suicide, when I too was 17. I took the call alone in my solo prep school room. Wood floor, one window, books, bunk. The Stooges and The Doors. Draw your own conclusions. I have traveled from Paris to Kyoto, NYC to Tikal. Every room I‘ve lived in ever since, apartment, hotel or boarding house has always looked eerily the same.

(Book covers by Jeff Clark)


4 comments for this entry:
  1. adam s

    Honestly I am too distracted to have gone through the whole exchange, but from what I see this dude seems really adorable; I love his rebuttal to his initial response, and the diamond bit is a fun (perhaps even Hetero?)revamping (vamp, wow lol, totally mix-metaphoring sexualities now)of Pater with his crystalline flame; mmm, a flaming crystal is just sexy and perfect for describing a gorgeously bodied dude. Happy Spring for all!

  2. adam s

    …The bit about wanting to go to Egypt but, alas, wanting ancient Egypt not that of here-now–so cute!

  3. adam s

    Wow–read the rest: intense but still I find myself–perhaps counter-intuitively–feeling surely this dude is a sweetheart! That this dude embodied subaltern and fairly–potentially–connected positions braids interestingly to me. I love how he argued the Toronto friend should appear as author or at-least co-author; cheers for the distinction between writing the poems and making the poems a book.

  4. Geoffrey Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle

    Retractions: File Under Fun from the Past. I take back what I said about Heather Chrystle’s look in her back cover author’s picture on What Is Amazing. I was spurred on by galloping rhyme. You recall I do find that book amazing—perfect, in a word. In a similarly headlong mis-coronation Embassytown by China Miéville is not the best novel of this century. Dennis Cooper’s The Marble Swarm indubitably is.

    G C-H