The Trash Dragon of Shensi

There was an ancient worm
on the hills of Shensi
which had six spines upon its back
that flowed red when it flew
at the Spring moon
ballooning and unballooning its awful wings
in the brick-hearted sun.

Now it has been caught.
They climbed the rootless cliffs
beyond Sian
(they were very brave and very determined)
and someone flung the silken ropes
while he was sleeping,
(dreaming of water and cloud spurts)
over the spiny angles of his rough heads
steaming like fire hydrants.

They damped him with fog,
and a promise of the disk like moon
for his own on Mondays.
They led him with milk.
And now he toils.
He is the eater of garbage for a whole prefecture.
He is known to every corner
as the Trash Dragon of Shensi.
And he is too full of old watermelon rinds
and millet straw to pay any attention
to his wings.

Only in sleep
vibrating his spiny reptilian pinions,
does a little steam nicker about his nozzle,
does he buzz a little, throb a little like a train.
He is thinking of red searchlights
in a fishlike moony sky,
and the mountains looking like
great flopped-over turtles below
weaving their legs and heads.

But he no longer believes in flight.
He has accepted his silken attachments.
He has even come—almost–
to believe in the ultimate dignity
of the transmutation
of fish bones and broken squash pods.

© Andrew Glaze, from The Trash Dragon of Shensi, 1978

If Picasso had a “Rose”, and a “Blue Period” for his paintings, then my father went through an “Asian Period” for his poems. In the ‘70’s and 80’s he periodically dabbled in writing Haiku poems and owned several books in that style of poetry. He took great pleasure from one or more large coffee table books on Asian Art around this time, and loved a newly acquired statuette of a little Hahn Horse so much that he eventually wrote a poem about it.  Years later, when it was thought that the statuette was lost during a move to Birmingham, he shed tears.

In a twist of fate, in 1978, when his book The Trash Dragon of Shensi was about to be published, they needed artwork for the cover design.  At the time, my brother was dating a Fine Arts Major from Brown University, named Kate Rivingston.  By happy coincidence, dragons were a favorite art subject for Kate, and so she became the cover artist for the book.  Ten years later, in 1989, she also became my sister-in-law.

Poet Madeline Kumin later said that this poem was a favorite of hers, and in 1978, the entire book received a rave review in The New York Times from writer Peter Schjeldahl.

 “Trash Dragon” is probably the closest my father ever came to writing a fable or fairy tale.

—E. Glaze

Trash dragon copy
Cover art © Kate Rivingston, 1978

Damned Ugly Children

My poems, you are damned ugly children.
I love every one of you anyway—
your scabby hook noses, wall eyes and crab feet.
I could swear I didn’t make you for their judgment,
and I’d only half lie.
I mean what do I care what they say?
And it’s true—somehow I never thought of us
as having business with their war of traffic.

We were being most ourselves,
I was making you for someone to talk to.
–Someone to stare with through that dirty window
out in the courtyard where the impossible squats
dressed in long rainbow-colored questions.
She was the only prophet I ever thought much of.

And because I made you against every possibility,
we shall never give up our old secrets, god knows.
Didn’t I get you out of the iron claws
of my own possessive guts
to give to myself for a birthday present?

© 1963, ’64, ’65, ’66, Andrew Glaze, from his book Damned Ugly Children.

Damned Ugly Children was my father’s first major book.  Poetry Anthologist Oscar Williams was the original force behind the decision for Simon & Schuster to print it in their Trident Press division. They did so with very little expectation of selling many copies of the book. Then, to their shock, The New York Times gave it a rave review, the American Library Association gave it a Notable Book Award for 1966 and libraries around the country and abroad ordered copies.  Insiders from the Pulitzer Prize organization told the publishers that the book made it to their final decision rounds for the 1966 Book of Verse prize. In the end, poet Richard Eberhart won that year. Ironically, he was the same person who wrote the rave review of Damned Ugly Children for The New York Times a few months earlier.

Suddenly the world went crazy and my father was in demand for interviews everywhere. Reporters from around the country were contacting him, and the first tongue in cheek question they all asked was, “Are your children really ugly?” In theory the reporters all knew that the title poem was actually referring to my father’s poems, but that depended on whether they’d read the title poem or not. When he couldn’t stand it any longer my father came home one day and asked me to find wallet photos of my brother and myself.  His response from that point on was to whip out the photos and allow interviewers to decide for themselves.

One day my father was contacted by another “Andrew Glaze” visiting New York City from out of state. They had different middle initials, but his namesake wanted a signed copy of the book to put on his coffee table as a conversation piece when visitors came.

The cover of Damned Ugly Children was by famed commercial and graphic artist John Alcorn. His career was at a high point during the ’60’s through 80’s and among other things he designed posters for Fredrico Felini movies.  The design he create for my father’s book was inspired by a poem titled, “Cats” on page 34. 

However, by far the most interesting link between my father and his book “Damned Ugly Children” was that of Fant Thornley, the Director of the Birmingham Public Library system between 1953 and 1970. I have no idea how they originally met, possibly through family, possibly through my father’s former job as a reporter, possibly because Fant was also a writer.

In 1964, Fant arranged a special exhibit when my father did a joint venture of poetry and art titled “Poems / Lines” with Colombian artist Umaña. The oversize artisan hand printed pages were displayed in a large glass display case just inside the entrance to the library.  When Damned Ugly Children was published in 1966, and the American Library Association loved it, it was a match made in heaven. Fant created another exhibit to showcase the new book at his main library building in downtown Birmingham.

Sometime in 1966 Fant Thornley visited us at our 9th Avenue apartment. He was on a business trip to Manhattan and I think he came to dinner. In any case, I remember meeting him at some length.  He died a few years later in 1970, at home, of a heart attack.

So imagine my astonishment in 2011, when I typed “Fant Thornley” into Google one day on a whim, and learned that Fant now haunts the Birmingham library Linn Henley Building where he worked for twenty years.

Reports have him using the elevator late at night. Several random people have reported seeing an apparition of him, and multiple people swear they have smelled his signature Chesterfield cigarette smoke in parts of the building when no one else was around. Fant has become a legend in Birmingham history, and the man who once indexed books is now the subject of books himself.

I happened to visit the Linn Henley building a few years ago. Originally the main library building, it is now where the library archives are stored. I was amused to see a very large bust of Fant Thornley placed in a prominent location. I can’t remember why, but I immediately had the impression that everyone is quite fond of his memory and whispered “Hello Fant” as I walked past at one point. If my own reaction is anything to go by, it would probably explain why his ghost is perfectly happy to stick around.

 In 2015, my father was still alive, he was the Poet Laureate of Alabama, his latest book was recently out, and he’d just been inducted into the inaugural class of the Alabama Writer’s Hall of Fame. That autumn, the Birmingham Public Library organized an exhibit titled, “Days of Glaze”. It showed highlights, photos, and Birmingham links in my father’s career as a writer and poet. The exhibit was in a new building, built after Fant’s days as Director, but the glass display cases were probably the same ones he’d used. Some of the items in the exhibit had no replacements, and yet I somehow felt confident that, from his world or ours, once again Fant would approvingly keep an eye on it all for us.

—-E. Glaze

Damned Ugly children
Damned Ugly Children‘s cover design by famed commercial and graphic designer John Alcorn. Copyright Simon & Schuster publishers 1966.

IMG_20161023_0048
Press release photo, used on the back of the jacket cover of Damned Ugly Children. Photo by Susan McCartney. Copyright 1966, by Simon & Schuster.

 

Reality Street

Reality is something like me carrying
the bicycle down the steps in the morning,
with a grip at the seat socket on the left
and the stem of the steering post on the right,
carefully placing my recently broken right foot
on the tattered step covering,
crazing open the doors with a little help
from my Puerto Rican neighbors,
“Gracias, gracias!” saying, especially if it’s
the dark white-bearded one who shaves only once a week.
He will hold the beer can in the sack
with a far-away eye which seems to say
it is not I drinking this beer, opening the door
for this American with the suspiciously Spanish-looking wife.
Who rides a bicycle but a boy or a fool?
Help a fool is a kind of harmless custom.

The sidewalk is reality.
We have lost the last tree. The only one
to survive being pissed on and beaten.
And was getting to be a pretty good tree
in front of the shoe store, but obviously
rot had gotten in somewhere.
It failed in the wind last night,
and of course will not be replaced, except by
the beer cans and candy wrappers which seem to be
the true proofs of human occupation and human interest.
The bums in front of Garcia’s are watching to see if Anselmo
will continue to sleep when the sun
comes over the roof of the Brittany building
and shines hard in his eyes.
Their interest isn’t unkind.
Our bums take good care of one another around here.
I’ve seen two of them pick up a third
who had fallen off his egg crate in the street
and set him tenderly back up on end, teetering crazily,
and put his beer can again in his hand.

First, setting the bicycle off the curb,
I look back in the bus barn to be sure
nothing is coming out. With a quick hop and push
I set off against the traffic on the wrong side,
to the corner of 54th Street, then sweep
to the East, before them all, on that street, the one street
I know as I know my face or my kitchen table.
Reality! This is Reality Street—littered with
dog shit and broken auto parts, full of holes
and broken glass to protect a full block
of private cars of policemen in no-parking spots.
They know each other by their lodge signs.
Then the Youth Center, that used to be the night court.
I gather speed, sliding between the front bumpers
to the right, and the outside doors of cars to the left,
banking and spinning the pedals,
I’ve forgotten my broken foot, I’m flying!
Then I must wait to pass the paddy wagon,
they’re loading up with girls-the wigged and raincoated haul
from last night’s war sweep on Eighth Avenue.
The clean up! They’re cleaning up the Avenue,
and professional fucking is being abolished again.
It will have to stand for whatever is being washed this week.
The girls are bored and angry,
they don’t laugh when the cops joke
and the boys from the brick Greek church whistle.
The girls want to get on with their job,
of which this is a piece of the red tape.
I squeeze by and brake it at the corner.
Stopping, I rest, I beam at pedestrians.
It’s 9 a.m.—Exuberant senseless beam—
these are not natives, but people going to work.
Four cops discuss departmental gossip.
They cross against the red light.
No-one in this city obeys any law of any kind.
Cops less than anybody.

And then, I’m off again, going down
in the maelstrom of Reality Street. Everybody turns
at this place into 54th Street from Eighth Avenue.
Why? Are they going to the Municipal Parking Lot on the right?
Or to the unemployment office for waiters and dishwashers
on the left? (a mysterious place full of crises
and explosions). And there’s Bryant Hotel.
Alan Hovhaness lived there briefly last year.
I used to see his tall, hesitant, disjointed walk
mooning along thinking of distant extreme musical space.
“Hello Alan!,” I’d yell, he’d turn and look as though
he’d never seen me before or anything before
and grin shyly. “Hello,” he’d say.
Did he really know what was talking to him?
And now he’s living in Seattle. That’s reality.

Crossing Broadway is a sort of adventure.
This invincible instantaneous daredevil in me
is quite boiled down into a sort of egg-cup
of security and dutifulness,
but Broadway now, is something else, is always being excavated.
Don’t you suppose the Mafia is holding a secret convention
down one of the holes, or digging a mysterious subway to Sicily?
They pave it again with asphalt and sand
as soft as chewing gum.
My bicycle rises up and rolls down
through hole after hole like waves,
honking bravely at all the pedestrians.
They look offended. Impudent motorless wheels!
They defer to cars, they respect trucks.
They’ve been converted to a religion of pure weight!

I skid to a stop at Seventh, and hurry across
through the taxi line for the airport trade
from the Hotel Americana. I park outside the crazy poster store.

Inside, I’m surrounded by Raquel Welch’s breasts,
girls with steak quarterings on their rumps,
blonde nudes climbing cliffs, Nixon taking a dump,
calendars of Kamasutra positions, one per month,
four foot long inspirational zen poems on purple banners,
red fire-lighters a foot long.
I buy my paper, I fold it neatly behind my seat.
The clerk asks me about my foot. That’s how
I’m fated to be remembered. The paper customer who broke his foot.
I walk the wheels to the corner
by half a dozen kegs of Schaefer beer booming down
in the belly of the cellar of a bar.
I cast off past the Half Note and Jimmy Ryan’s
to the Hilton, with its bus loads of Japanese tourists
craning their necks, casting about
at a crazily tilted perspective with sore ears
and sleep-confused eyes.
In these full, hurrying streets, what a difference!
Everyone is spruce, sure, full of purpose,
upholstered with money and sex in green,
knowing how to enjoy a breeze and walk hearty.
The flagpoles on the ABC, CBS and Burlington Buildings,
the Warwick Hotel, flap with taut-natured snap.
This too is reality—or is it adventure?
I’m sailing in rash seas.
The light changes, four cabs crash through the red,
but we’re wise to them—we wait,
and avoiding the dip in the street by the Athletic Club,
I nod at the doormen of the Dorset,
and now at the top of the rise, it’s home-free,
I sail past the back garden and the trees
of the Modern Art Museum, avoid the driver-training car
of the Rhodes School, look up the skirts
of the girls with their books and their backs to the walk,
neatly slip past the back corner of a growling truck,
and up to the curb at the service drive.
There’s a no-parking sign across the street
from the University Club. Really reality!

I put down my parking stand with a clang,
unlock the chain, unscrew the front half of my French bike,
it’s beginning to rust from too much rain,
and I lay the front half beside the back,
chaining the two with a $22.50 hardened steel five pound chain.
This is reality too. Adventure with prudence.
Standing here, I think, I’ve made it once again
without re-breaking my foot.
—Look how they’re watching me-. You actor!
A bicycle in two pieces! Such elan!
I stalk and limp to what will happen today.
Oh Fifth Avenue!

© 1991, Andrew Glaze, from his book Reality Street.

In 1974, “Reality Street” was the longest poem ever published by The Atlantic.
(Three years later The New Yorker published the companion poem “Fantasy Street” ; the longest poem they had ever published in their magazine.)

In an interview my father explained they were inspired by 17th century poet John Milton.  “I was trying to figure out how Milton would tackle “L’allegro” and “Il Pensero” if he were doing it in the second half of the twentieth century”.  “Reality Street” was written before “Fantasy Street” and my father referred to them as “Two Odes”.

I don’t remember exactly when my father first decided to bike to and from work, but I know it involved several generations of bicycles.  For a while he worked on his poetry and plays early in the morning, before work.  Eventually he decided lunchtime was a better choice, when the weather cooperated.  Since his office was at 5th Avenue on the corner of 54th Street (a one way street going East), and 53rd Street (a one way street going West) led to our apartment building on 9th Avenue, a bicycle was the obvious solution.

In the ‘70’s, creatively designed bikes for city dwellers became available.  They had smaller wheels, and you could easily take them apart for storage.  I remember a day when he chained the two main pieces of his bike downstairs to a lamp post and thieves stole the seat. After that he brought the seat up to his office.  There were other times when he brought various parts of his bikes upstairs as well.

Alan Hovhaness was a highly respected orchestral composer. They were acquainted, because Alan’s wife was from Birmingham. In the early 70’s they collaborated on a small musical that Joseph Papp wanted to produce.  It never happened, because Papp insisted on a small orchestra, and Hovhaness insisted on two pianos.

The entire poem is a poetic documentary of life in mid-town Manhattan in the early 1970’s. Eighth Avenue no longer has a prostitute on every corner, each wearing a more elaborate wig than the next. There is no longer a bus barn depot across the street from where we lived.  The bodega (grocery store) on one side of our building has been gone for decades, although the ghosts of the local drunks still linger.  The Brittany Restaurant on the other side of our building had excellent French food until a fire put them out of business.  Schaefer beer was bought out by Stroh’s and then Pabst.  Even the Rhodes Preparatory School for girls no longer exists; with an entrance up a few stairs, and a trend towards wearing the shortest skirt possible, up skirt views of the students were pretty common.  I’m not sure when the Hotel Americana disappeared.  And yet, as with all major cities, despite constantly evolving, the flavor of New York City always stays the same.

—-E. Glaze

1975 smaller size file
Andrew Glaze, with bicycles, in the living room of his apartment at 9th Avenue and 53rd Street.  His desk, typewriter, and working area is immediately behind him.  The rest of the living room is behind the photographer.
Property of the Andrew Glaze Estate.

Night Walk To A Country Theater

Drop from the train’s bottom step onto the grit,
turn out of the wind, ravel the hood of the parka tight.
It’s gristly clear, the black night fizzes with frost,
Venus and Jupiter sit near the moon like steps.
There’s an old barge canal and water locks;
You cross on the steel plates, rubber soles clanging.
First, a shallow skitter over frozen mud.
Then a steady booming of timed trudge
over the long bridge across the Connecticut,
frozen about the abutment islands.
They extend white claws.
Smoke steams from a chimney like a solid cloud.
Nobody knows you in any of the passing cars,
no obligation keeps you from climbing the rail,
dropping in the coiled swirls of the water below.
Your breath comes fast, your spirit jumps
high above the network of girders.
On the far side, a strip bar, evilly lighted, waits,
and long sidewalks of the tight-closed houses of strangers,
growling dogs, a rustle of distant throughway,
long lurching alone.
Then, through the darkness, rises up at last–
like a reward, as though you knew
this was how it should have been arranged–
warmth, singing, a cavern of people.
Your feet will have lost all feeling.
But the joy will come flying.
It works every time.

© 1982, Andrew Glaze by permission of The New Yorker.
From the 1991 book Reality Street.

 

Originally published in The New Yorker in January of 1982, my father began writing this poem in 1978. He was inspired by a train ride to Connecticut, and the short walk he made to a theater in Stamford. He was about to see my stepmom perform in the out-of-town “try-outs” of the musical “Ballroom”. It was the last chance for the producers to tweak the production before previewing and opening the show on Broadway, and it was an exciting time for our family.

“Ballroom” came about when the producers and directors of “A Chorus Line” decided to see if they could strike gold twice. Inspired by a successful 1975 TV movie titled, “Queen of the Stardust Ballroom”, the story was about a widow who finds a brand new life, friends, and a lover, when she takes up ballroom dancing.

At our apartment, the phone rang one day to say that Director and Choreographer Michael Bennett needed retired older dancers who were once part of the Broadway circuit. My stepmother had been in the original cast of Camelot in the 1960’s, as well as other shows, and the grapevine had tracked her down. The dancers also included Liz Sheridan, who eventually became Jerry Seinfeld’s mother on the TV show “Seinfeld”.

As with “A Chorus Line”, the participants in “Ballroom” were part of the creative process of the production, and their contracts offered a percentage of all future profits. The original cast members of “A Chorus Line” are still receiving residuals to this very day and the participants of “Ballroom” hoped for a similar fate.

My impression was that no expense was spared. I remember my stepmom “oohing” over the fact that their shoes were all created by the elite, Paris born, shoe designer Maud Frizon. They were absolutely gorgeous, and had to be specially designed and reinforced for ballroom dancing, but must have cost a small fortune.

On the Premier night, all the stops were pulled out and a huge post performance party was held at Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of The World Trade Center’s North Tower. The restaurant was only two years old at that point, and considered the very height of glamour. Family members were also invited to the party, which is how I ended up there. Traditionally, post-premier night parties go on until the early morning newspaper reviews come out. I think I ended up lying across a few chairs to take a nap.

The reviews were not unanimous in praise and, despite a score and lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, the song “Fifty Percent” was the only one that went on to post Broadway fame and fortune. Nominated for 8 Tony Awards, and 7 Drama Desk Awards, “Best Choreography” was the winner for both. 

But the main problem was the basic plot line. It featured an older cast, and a widow who finds a lover she’s happy with, but he’s a Catholic trapped in a loveless marriage. After an emotional struggle she decides to accept the situation. In the final scene she is voted “Queen of the Stardust Ballroom” and dances with her lover at her side, singing, “I wish you a waltz” along with the entire ensemble. 

Ticket sales struggled, probably because the subject matter mainly appealed to an older generation, a fan base of widows who were greatly inspired, and ballroom dancers.  I was in my 20’s and could see it was too realistic for dewy eyed young adults.  It also wasn’t something you’d take your kids to see for a family outing. The production ran for 116 performances on Broadway, before bringing down the final curtain.

Michael Bennett’s next endeavor struck gold in 1981. It was the original Broadway production of “Dreamgirls”.

—E. Glaze

indexAdriana Keathley (Glaze) wearing very expensive Maud Frizon shoes, and a Theoni Aldredge costume, with Victor Griffin. 1978 photo property of Ballroom Production.

 

Shipwrecked upon a Seacoast in Bohemia

— Hooper and Donna

 He spoke orations like a stream full of bumping logs,
sported legal erudition like a Blackstone larynx,
brave head wrapped like a turban in precedential fog.

Called Hooper, he was a tall, luminous paragon of the law
whose humor hovered over a quiver-full of jokes.
like a lion advancing a congratulatory paw.

He cheerfully scattered about himself as though from the roof
vast pronouncements like three-winged eagles,
absentmindedly shot them down with a hyperextended spoof.

Till the day came he met Donna, whose exciting battle of words
had been played out up north
in the home of the Broadway Theatre Birds.

Now she came flopping home like kingdom come
to settle for what was at hand
with ample illusion left to strike us dumb.

Unfailingly she was, as ever, theatrical, airy,
playing life off the tips of disdainful fingers.
Squirt, squirt, distributing the goodies, like a perspicacious fairy,

dropping one over there, two over here, ploop! ploop!
“So be it! If you don’t like it, dearie,
send an Email to my chicken soup!”

She was constructed like the bay bridge, all distances and loops,
in the clothes she made herself freehand, shaping the cloth
in romantic, visionary, scissor swoops.

Her full-length opera cloak,
included the hunt, the hunters, a dozen dogs, the deer,
and coming from behind, athwart the smoke,

a trumpeter signaling their approach
by honking the hours to his horse
and welcoming them to an inn with an approaching coach.

She’d happily turn and show you the panorama.
As she perceived it, life was the fluttery
festive commedia of a swiftly revolving diorama.

Their meeting—(it did come)—was as though Blackbeard the Pirate,
pistoleros smoking, climbed aboard
some gold-laden galleon with his shrieking parrot.

Such explosions! They huffed, joked, laughed, circled, sang,
challenged one the other, like craziness,
each clanging the other as though the Liberty Bell had rung.

Who was the audience, who were the performers?
At length, spent, like blown-out Etnas and Krakatoas,
they fell asleep in separate terra firmas.

If Bonaparte had entered the room with Pitt the Younger, no doubt
they’d have quickly learned the rule. One or both must depart.
Two grand styles cancel each other out.

© Andrew Glaze 2015, from Overheard In A Drugstore

 

I have to confess that I never saw this poem until January of 2015. As soon as I read it I thought, “Wow, I remember that party!”  It was either in the late 1960’s, or very early ‘70’s, and I had no idea my father had written a poem about it.

I’d love to tell you that I remember the real names of the people the poem is based on, but that information has long since left the building. “Hooper” had been to our home at least once before, was an interesting and entertaining man, loved to be in the spotlight, and knew how to hold his audience.

So I’m sure he was quite nonplussed by “Donna”, whose real name also escapes me.  I think our party may have been the first time I met her. She sat in a chair in the living room and held court.  And no, she wasn’t actually wearing a cloak with hunting dogs on it.

Between the pair of them, Donna won the living room territory. I remember initial moments when Hooper tried to interrupt Donna in her solo monolog, or start a dialog, but she artfully managed to evade him and disarm every attempt. Clearly this was not her first rodeo. Her theatre background gave her an advantage he did not have, and it was like watching a fencing pro parry and slide her opponents sword to the ground.

In the end she completed her reign seated in the living room, and he retreated to the opposite end of the apartment to hold sway in the kitchen. In any case, “Hooper” was the very last guest to leave that night.  I suppose that once “Donna” was gone he had the entire audience to himself once again and wished to linger in that glory. In any case, I still have a vision of my father saying “Goodbye, thanks for coming!” and then gently closing the door behind him.  In relief, we all leaned back against the nearest wall, looked at each other, burst out laughing, and agreed that it had been one of the most exhausting parties we’d ever hosted as a family.  It truly had been a battle of mega personalities.

Despite being shy, my father always loved parties, and hosted many of them in Manhattan. The collection of guests was varied, always interesting, and reflected my father’s circle of friends and supporters.  At age 94, when he’d become hard of hearing, his memory was beginning to fail, and it was often difficult to know if he was sleeping in his armchair or simply closing his eyes, I remember telling him “Catherine, your niece, and her husband are joining us later to celebrate your birthday”. He immediately looked up, as excited as an 8 year old, and exclaimed, “A Party!?” 

—E. Glaze

IMG_20180515_0007
Photo by Adriana Glaze. Property of the Andrew Glaze Estate.

A photo of one of our typical parties:
Don Nelson is in the foreground. He was a theater critic for the New York Times and his wife Ricki Fulmer wrote for magazines.  Poet and writer Norman Rosten was in attendance off screen and his daughter Patty is standing facing the camera. UN diplomat Cesar Ortiz-Tinoco is on the right in the background, wearing glasses. He was the husband of poet, cookbook writer, and Gourmet Magazine contributor, Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz. She was also in attendance somewhere off screen.

You And I Make A Movie

It’s the last cornball western,
and there you are,
the only lady flute-player, I guess, in 300 miles,
sitting alone like a cup of herbal tea,
like an everyday empress in exile,
reigning at one edge of the cardboard, sagebrush, town.

Around the corner
sprawl the tinkling cafes and bars.
You make them seem provincial and unseasoned.
Their music blows in your window,
it piles up on your floor like dead flies.

It is time for me to arrive,
I ride into town, I plunge, I man-stride,
the unbroken spirit of Golconda!
Is every inhabitant out in the street?
Everyone glued to his window?
I hang like a cigarette held at the side of my mouth.
My yippee skids in the air like a red fiesta.

I throw up my Stetson,
it catches on a passing kite.
I shoot my pistol at the klieg-light sun,
my silver spurs rattle like last week’s wages.

We meet
On a wooden sidewalk like tired old scenarios
laid down end to end.
You pretend to be shy,
I pretend I’d rather be
bulldogging cows in the mountains.
Something has happened.
— marked by an exclamation point in the treatment
scrawled on the edge of the afterglow.

The sun staggers over the hill of the studio fly-loft,
the moon bends down and falls,
doubled like a shot.

The bonfire flying flakes of coal
pop high and vanish.

Whicker-whicker – you fold and unfold my sleep
like a well-played hand of five-card stud.

© Andrew Glaze, 1981, from I Am The Jefferson County Courthouse

 

My father wrote this poem for my stepmom Adriana Keathley Glaze.

The first time I met Adriana was sometime around Christmas. I had just turned 11, my mother had asked for a divorce a few months earlier, my father was attempting to date again, and it wasn’t going particularly well. I remember one disastrous day when he invited a female work colleague to join us at Brighton Beach for the afternoon, I was enjoying playing in the surf, and in a split second my brother managed to get completely lost while heading back to our beach blanket. The rest of the afternoon quickly turned stressful as we fanned out to look for him among the multitudes of beach goers. Eventually my father came across him, on the Boardwalk of all places, accompanied by a kindly older lady who was trying to help him find us.

Later that year, in an effort to keep busy and productive, he decided to audit an acting course as an educational exercise to improve his play writing skills. Early on in the sessions he told me there was a woman in the class who had caught his attention.  The woman he’d noticed and was trying to get to know was Adriana. She also happened to be a ballet dancer, like myself, and was in the original cast of Camelot, the Broadway musical.

Eventually he invited her over to our apartment for a visit. It was around Christmas. At the time my brother Peter was living with our mother, and visiting us on weekends. My main memory of that first meeting is that Peter was so oblivious to everything else except his Christmas gifts that he knocked our Christmas tree over 3 times. For some reason my father recorded this entire event on audio tape. For years afterwards he enjoyed replaying the tape, which essentially consisted of repeated crashes in the background and me screaming “PETER!!!!!” every time our tree fell over. Clearly he found it very funny. 

Amazingly enough, Adriana decided to stick it out with us. Once she and my father began dating in earnest, we would often meet her at the stage door of the Majestic Theatre at the end of a performance. Richard Burton had already left the cast of Camelot for Hollywood and Elizabeth Taylor, but Julie Andrews didn’t know about Mary Poppins yet, Robert Goulet wasn’t doing Vegas or TV yet, and Roddy McDowell was still playing the character of Mordred.

In 1962 they married, and my father and I moved out of our apartment in Greenwich Village to merge households with Adriana at 9th Avenue and 53rd Street, around the corner from her own original apartment. By the time my brother turned 6 he moved in with us as well.  This was because our mother was in Europe touring with a theater troupe, and it was time for him to start school.

Adriana continued to dance ballet for many years, and in 1987 she was in the original cast of the Michael Bennett Broadway musical Ballroom. Eventually, she switched over to acting, and stayed with that for many years. Supportive of my father until his dying day, he dedicated at least two of his poetry books to her using her nickname “Cusi”.

—E. Glaze

 IMG_20161023_0011 
Adriana Keathley Glaze in the wings of the Majestic Theater, circa 1960, during the run of Camelot. Photo by Dawn Mitchell.

A Letter To David Matzke

The beautiful is always bizarre–-Baudelaire

 

I tell you, David,
poetry ought to be shocking,
and poets ought to be dangerous people.
In whatever country, honest feeling is always
shocking and dangerous.
Anyone true to the heart can simply enough and at
any time be both.

But for their contempt we’ve ourselves to blame.
We’ve been cowardly.
We’ve made the stuff so cheap
begging their love
that poets are poor people
from wearing out the money of never was
passing it back and forth among themselves.

Rub the truth in their faces!
What is the point of being a poet, anyway,
if you can’t be a kind of prophet?

Hold their nose to the stink,
Say “look, this is it!
We are here by ourselves,”
say “there’s no kind uncle,
you will have to furnish the kindnesses out of your
own pocket.
If you see that, nothing can hurt you!
Stop kissing essences. Learn to respect
your essential rumpy importance.
And for God’s sake, don’t mistake my words for food,
when they’re nothing but spoons.”

Say with whatever gestures are customarily indecent
and the wildest possible musical accompaniment
“The sky will not move
for buckets of moonlight and French quotations.”
While they’re watching you chant like a demon priest,
kick away all those roses covering the cesspool.

How else make clear
that if there’s a reason
we bawl these songs to ourselves
as we push this stone to nowhere
for no apparent reason,
the reason is too simple to be believed–
like the snake swallowing his tail.

That music is useless,
That music is to eat and to make love and to make music,
one’s own music.
That music is music.
Why, this alone, if they could understand it,
would overturn all their systems.

Shout something simple and sensible.
For instance, that nothing done in boredom
is a human accomplishment.
They’ll think you’re talking about leisure
or the family cookout. Make it clear you’re not.
Don’t worry. If you brandish it seriously or humorously
and go ahead and shout it in the street,
they’ll only mistake you for an arsonist or a communist.
And smelling out the truth with their fear,
roll you in the garbage to comfort their taught lies.
You have to understand them.
They’ve only this one poor fence against accepting the nature
of themselves
and they truly fear it.
They’ll never suspect you’re a poet.
They cannot allow you a worthwhile reason
to deserve to be punished.
So they won’t punish you for the right reason.

When you speak of love,
they’ll try to pretend you mean Cleopatra
or some other anal-vaginal queen.
And only two or three will dare recognize
your corrosive subversity.
Make sure they have to make fools of themselves
to ignore the difference.

Are you afraid?
If you’re not, there’s something wrong with you!
To tell them what they care for most
is as relevant to their souls
as the sugar level of the urine of pregnant beetles?
But you ought to be more afraid of dying without
having tried!
What is important except to be what you are?
Make them call out the cops if possible.
Poetry had better be shocking or shut up.
What earthly good to say
that Spring will be around again next year ?

© by Andrew Glaze, 1963, from Damned Ugly Children.

 

ABOUT DAVID MATZKE:

The first time I met David Matzke he was called “Jeff Davis”, had a wife named Connie, a young son, and I was 7 years old.  In 2006, my mother reminded me that Jeff and Connie originally came into our lives through her.

In 1957, our first true apartment in Manhattan was the ground floor rear garden flat of a brownstone on 102nd Street. We were half a block from Riverside Drive. I had the only bedroom as well as direct access to the backyard. A friendly artistic black couple named Oscar and Zizi lived directly above us. After years of trying to treat blacks in the South as equals, only to find that the blacks were terrified to accept the invitation for fear of outside retribution, my parents were ecstatic to be able to freely strike up a friendship.

On weekdays, my father took the subway to work at British Tourist Authority after dropping me off at school in Greenwich Village, and my mother was the Superintendent of our building. In exchange for using the repair and maintenance skills she’d learned while she and my father renovated our house in Birmingham, we had free rent. Very early in their marriage my mother said she’d complained “You get to do all the fun stuff”, because cooking, cleaning, and laundry never held much interest for her. He listened, and they agreed to split the jobs between them. Years later, she taught me how to dry wall and helped me renovate parts of my home. Most memorably, in 1989, when she decided I needed to learn how to change the oil of my car, she placed a huge piece of cardboard on the ground under the engine, gracefully slid on her back to get to the oil tank, and began to demonstrate. All while wearing a pale pink pencil skirt suit, stockings, and high heels. My father became the person who dragged me off to buy good hairbrushes, to the dermatologist for my skin, and made sure I was brushing my teeth regularly. But I digress…

Every evening, after my father came home, my mother would head off to her second job as a chorus girl. She was performing in an off-Broadway comedy spoof called, “Best of Burlesque”. TV comedian Tom Poston was the headliner, and retired burlesque stripper Sherry Britton was the narrator. My mother was one of “Nelle’s Belles” and with great delight the producers gave her the stage name “Sugar Glaze”. “Lilly White” was another cast member. Nelle Fisher, the only dancer on the Captain Kangaroo TV Show, was the choreographer. For years, Nel taught movement/dance lessons in the studio building attached to Carnegie Hall. I remember sitting and watching my mother in one of her group classes during this time. After that, whenever the Dancing Grandfather Clock appeared on Captain Kangaroo, I knew it was Nelle Fisher.

Every weekend my mother would bring her evening job costume home to hand wash and hang it up to dry. It was a sort of flesh colored leotard with a poufy tutu ruffle around the hips and butt, a bra sewn inside, many sequins, and white elastic shoulder straps that had been dyed with facial foundation makeup to make them blend in with skin tones. I was fascinated.

There is a 2008 New York Times obituary for Sherry Britton that states, “Ms. Britton was the onstage narrator of “Best of Burlesque”, a two-hour show at the Carnegie Hall Playhouse, which also starred an eye-rolling Tom Poston as the top banana, or star comedian. With poker-faced chorus girls singing off-key and rhythmically chewing gum, the show spoofed what was by then a lost art form.”

Yes, I can proudly state that my mother was one of those poker faced, rhythmically gum chewing, off key singing and dancing girls. In 2004, when she came across an out of print encyclopedia of Broadway and Off-Broadways Shows, she showed it to me, gleefully pointed out the name “Sugar Glaze” in the list of performers, and burst out laughing.

It was during the run of “Best of Burlesque” that Jeff Davis’ wife, Connie, became friends with my mother. Connie was one of the wardrobe ladies. When we moved to Greenwich Village a year later, my father met Connie and her husband Jeff. They were both contemporary art painters. Interestingly, my mother later said she’d always felt that Connie was the more talented of the two. However, she never saw any of Jeff’s later work. Somehow my father and Jeff struck up a friendship.

In the ensuing years, my parents divorced, my father remarried, and we moved to 9th Avenue and 53rd Street on the West Side of Manhattan. We were near the Theater District and Lincoln Center. Then one day my father came home from work and told me he’d bumped into Jeff …except that Jeff was now “David Matzke”. It seemed that he’d used the name Jeff Davis to avoid jail, but eventually had been tracked down and sent to serve a prison term in upstate New York. Now he was out, back in Manhattan, back with Connie, had a second son, and they lived around the corner from us. At some point, I remember my father explaining that David had become addicted to codeine cough syrup, and had broken into a home, or possibly multiple homes, to search the bathroom medicine cabinet.

Since I was an art major at the High School of Music & Art, in an effort to help them financially my father asked Connie to give me oil painting lessons for a while and David built me a wooden easel. The close proximity brought David to our house regularly. At times he’d visit for long therapeutic talks with my father, and I’d find them ensconced in our living room. On other days he’d bring paintings. Our 9th Avenue and 53rd Street apartment was what is described as a “railroad flat”. This is because it was the length of the entire building and you had to walk through every single room to get to the very front end or the very back end, just like you do on a train. As a result, we had loads of blank wall space, which David did not. And so for the entire duration of the 1960’s our apartment became an ever changing art gallery of David’s paintings. He’d hang them to dry and then come to replace them with new ones. To this day, the smell of oil paint and linseed oil immediately takes me back to 803 9th Avenue, at 53rd Street. It was a win-win situation. We had constantly changing art and he had a safe showplace.

Then one day David screwed up and everything fell apart.
It all started because my father bumped into Zizi, our artistic black female friend from our days living on 102nd Street. It turned out that she’d also moved into our neighborhood! So he invited her over, and David stopped by while she was visiting and was introduced. I remember arriving home from school that day and greeting them both. The problem was that Zizi and David continued the acquaintanceship and ended up having an affair. When his wife Connie found out she kicked David out. It’s hard to remember all the details now, but I’m pretty sure I remember a half-hearted suicide attempt – it may have been Connie, something about a child falling off a fire escape from a lower floor, and an eviction notice, but that wasn’t even the full extent of it. What I do remember is relating a lengthy dramatic saga to my best friend at school and closing with, “If anybody had brought a movie script like this to a Hollywood producer, they’d have said it’s too unrealistic.”

So David left the city, and returned to his birth state of California. It proved to be an artistic rebirth for him. He eventually came back to Manhattan producing paintings in a new style with vibrant colors; a result of mixing his own paint and painting in the California sun. We still have one of his paintings from this period. It’s called “Fire Birds”. My personal favorite was a painting with blue flowers that an acquaintance of my father’s purchased.

I’ve always remembered something my father once related to me. He said that David had vivid memories of being a baby, and young child, who was obsessed with painting his crib mattress and walls. It was a constant issue and struggle with his parents, because, lacking any other medium to use, the only “paints” available were his own feces. Clearly, David was born to be an artist from day one. It was in every fiber of his being.

Somehow around this time, David met his next wife, Lisa, whom we all liked very much. Young, but with an old soul, she was a lovely person. They lived in Brooklyn Heights at the time and stayed in touch with us. I remember sitting on the fire escape just outside their kitchen window one evening and enjoying chatting with her brother when he visited from their hometown of Charleston, SC.

Unfortunately and tragically, when David & Lisa’s first child was born, he had cancer at birth and died not long afterwards. The shock sent them both into a spiral of depression, they parted for a period of time, and Lisa returned to Charleston. After awhile, David joined her there and they eventually had two daughters.  David moved to New Orleans when they agreed to separate at a later point, but they reunited again in 1977 and had a son while living in Louisiana. 

In 1981 David died in a mysterious fashion.  His family tells me that he went off on a motorcycle ride to cool off after a heated argument with Lisa, and never returned.  It was two years before they discovered what had happened to him.  in 1983, the police found his remains in a wooded area on the other side of a nearby lake and used dental records and his wallet to identify him.  Piecing the evidence together they concluded that his high blood pressure must have caused some sort of heart issue, he didn’t have his medication with him, and he died after dragged himself off the road.  His daughter tells me that Lisa always felt in her heart that he must have died, and felt certain that he would never have willingly abandoned them.  In 1983 Lisa called my father and stepmom to tell them the news.  

ABOUT THE POEM:

The poem proved to be a problem child, not unlike the title subject.

In 1964, if anybody had predicted the future and warned my mild mannered, non-confrontational, kind, witty, intellectual, and bow tie wearing father, that this one single poem would create a firestorm of problems for him that would linger for years afterwards, I believe he might have reconsidered publishing it at all, much less in his very first book. Although he did later say it was one of the best poems in the book, in his opinion.

The poem immediately attracted reviewer’s attention, and they either hailed or hated it. William Packard, a publisher and a professor at New York University, loved it so much he used it as an example in his teaching textbook The Poet’s Dictionary: a handbook of prosody and poetic devices.

On the “Hater” side, fifteen years later in 1979, Harvey Curtis Webster still held a grudge when he reviewed The Trash Dragon of Shensi for Poetry Magazine. My father referred to this in 1985 during an interview with Steven Ford Brown.

“Brown: You once remarked that a poem from that volume, “A Letter To David Matzke” was quite misunderstood by most people. And that it still got you into trouble?

Glaze: “A Letter To David Matzke” was like a red flag to a bull to a lot of literary types, and to a lot of the literary movement, apparently because of its naive calls for “honesty”. In that wing of poetry which believes most strongly in artifice, craft, technique, indirect allusion, tradition and various theories of semi-mystical inspiration or hermetic art, it was regarded as a rude and sophomoric Jeremiad. As recently as four years ago, I got a review in Poetry which totally ignored the book ostensibly under consideration (Trash Dragon) and made a violent attack on this poem. All of which is pathetic, since I’d written the piece as an aesthetic guide for no one except myself. I never even had the intention of stepping on anyone’s toes. The piece has been considered an apolgia for “beat” poetry, “confessional” work, overtly sexual content, and heaven knows what else. Things which did not interest me at all.  Most readers who objected, got angry so quickly they didn’t read much past “Poetry had better shock or shut up”.  Sense went out the window. Some reviewer mocked poetry with such pretensions which lacked incest, homosexuality or rape to keep it honest. It makes one wonder what poetry is to a lot of people. Something pretty petty, which deserves whatever death it chooses for itself.”

My father later revealed the full extent of his subsequent ostracism, and how he came to understand the source, in an email. I’m not sure who the recipient was.

“Dear Steve:

Now that’s what I would call thoughtful. EPOS! I don’t know when they went out of business, but it must have been decades. And I was relieved to find that I could still read the poems without wincing. (Referring to poems of his in the EPOS anthology.) Let me see. That was after my first book, and just before Tony Rudolf in London broke his own rule and printed something that wasn’t a translation. (Referring to his poetry booklet “A Masque of Surgery”.)

I was getting discouraged about ever getting a second book despite 30 or 40 great reviews.

I never discovered why till I went to a lecture in the village (NYC), and Richard Howard was introducing whoever it was. At the intermission he came up to me, which puzzled me, because I’d never met him. He said, “Sir, when I chair an event like this I always pick an intelligent face in the audience to talk to. In this case it was you. Do you mind my asking who you are?”

I replied “My name is Andrew Glaze”. His face flooded with astonishment, “You’re Andrew Glaze!” he said, then with a kind of horror “YOU’RE ANDREW GLAZE“! He backed away and avoided being anywhere near after that!

That was my introduction to how the poetic establishment operates underground and covertly to try to force people to write as they wish.”
(He then went on to mention additional names as part of a tightly knit “clique”.)

Lacking acceptance into the poetry equivalent of “The old boys club”, he determinedly forged ahead and managed to find his own path to publishers, magazines, and fans to share his poetry with.

Currently, what amazes me is the fact that, despite the obstacles he overcame to get his work published, and a very long bibliography of known published work, I still continue to discover new entries to add to it! Clearly, given a choice between writing and record keeping, my father always picked the former. In a poetic sense, it appears that I’ll be spending time with my father for many years to come as I search across the web and his papers for signs of further publication. Luckily, I don’t mind; along with Poet Laureates, I have librarian DNA in me. I tend to enjoy the challenge of the search.

— E. Glaze

Fire Birds adjusted
“Firebirds” by David Matzke (as seen from below). Property of the Andrew Glaze Estate.

 

1975 David Matzke's paintings
One of David’s paintings is on the wall to the right. Others are on the left and down the hallway beyond. The photo makes the painting look dark, but in reality it was not. I always thought of it as “The Chair”.  Photo property of The Andrew Glaze Estate.
david matzke

David Matzke 1929 – 1983

img_20180430_0001.jpg
Original Cast Album cover, “Best of Burlesque”, 1958.

Dot circa 1958
Dorothy Elliott (Glaze) Shari. These professional theatrical “Head Shots” were made around the time of “Best of Burlesque”.