Monday, May 9, 2016

Todd Moore, The Founding Force of Outlaw Poetry, and Dennis Gulling's The Blood Dark Sea

Most people don't know this, even people sort of well-versed in the history of the small press, but Outlaw Poetry was started right here in the Rockford area. Belvidere to be exact. By an English teacher at Belvidere High School named Todd Moore. I read with Todd Moore several times, including one time in a basement in Stillman Valley with another legendary small press poet, Lyn Lifshin. he is one of the few poets I ever sent a fan letter to, and my geographical proximity had nothing to do with that. He was a revered small press poet, and probably had a better chance being recognized in Los Angeles than here in Rockford. Like virtually every small press poet I wrote to, including Charles Bukowski, he turned out to be friendly, encouraging, and took time to answer my questions about what it meant to be a small press poet.

he made an impression on a great many prospective writers, including one of his students, Dennis Gulling. So much so that Dennis became a sort of protege of Todd Moore, and began writing his own impressive Outlaw Poetry during high school. For nearly thirty years he has been quietly compiling some of the most impactful poetry of anyone writing in the Midwest. Because of his reclusive nature this has gone unnoticed to many. But those who know speak the name of Dennis Gulling with a respect and appreciation for his canon of work.

Now, for the first time, his poetry has been collected into a full-length book of poems, The Blood Dark Sea. The selections were made by Dennis Gulling himself, and compiled and published by Zombie Logic Press, also of Rockford, Illinois. I am, in fact, the editor of that book, Thomas L. Vaultonburg, and I can report the more I read these poems, and I believe I may have read them more than anyone else on Earth, besides Dennis Gulling, the more I am convinced this is a tour de force of not only Outlaw Poetry, but poetry itself. 

I start out this sequential set of poems from The Blood Dark Sea with the poet's own ode to his mentor, Todd Moore. 


The words poured off him like water
Through a broken dam
I was sucked
Into the flood
Clear and cold
Held under by its weight
And I’ve been
Drowning ever since
Diving deeper
Into the darkness


Bill Quincer banged on
My back door with a towel
Wrapped around one hand
Said he’d cut off
A finger with his band saw
And wanted me to drive
Him to the hospital
On the way over
He took a bloody handkerchief
From his shirt pocket
Held up the finger
And said
What’ll you give me
If I walk into the emergency room
With this thing up my nose?


The guy in the trench coat
Paced back and forth
Outside Goodman’s Cafeteria
With his hands pushed
Deep in his pockets
Putting his face to the window
Every few minutes
Until he fell back suddenly
Into the shadows
As a guy in a leather jacket
Came out the door and started
Down the street
Trench coat stepped out
Of the darkness
And said a man’s name to his back
Leather jacket turned around
And his eyes got big
He made a run for it
While a pointy bulge
Appeared in trench coat’s right pocket
Something popped
And leather jacket was pasted
To the air just for a second
Then he started walking
Like the sidewalk had melted
Did that for a few yards
Then stopped in his tracks
In front of Greenberg’s Variety
His legs jackknifed at the knees
And he went over sideways
Between 2 parked cars
Trench coat’s giggle
Was broken glass in the night
He danced a little jig
Then walked the other way


She shot him
In the head 3 times
Then chopped his fingers off
With a hatchet
And put them in her purse
Beside chewing gum
Kotex and keys
At the Hoot ‘n’ Holler CafĂ©
She dropped a thumb
In an ashtray
Next to a smoking butt
And laughed
All the way out the door


A voice in his head
Told him his index finger
Was evil
So he took a ginsu knife
And cut it off
Then he left the house
Until the evil could
Run out the open end
His wife came home
From the grocery store
And dropped her bag of stuff
When she saw all the blood
On the kitchen counter
Then noticed the finger
On the floor pointing toward
The front door like it was saying
He went that-a-way

1 comment:

  1. These are mordant, wickedly funny and concise poems that read like gripping "thrillers." Well done!