MR WHISKERS WITHOUT THE PICNIC BASKET

MARCUS SLEASE FICTION, NOMADIC SURREALISM, The Autobiography of Don Whiskers

The only award I ever won, and didn’t even enter, was for a poem called “Mr Whiskers and the Picnic Basket.” It was published in Hayden’s Ferry Review as a winner of the AWP Intro Journals Award. I was completing my MFA at UNC Greensboro at the time. Then it was republished at storySouth in 2004. This time of my life, in Greensboro, North Carolina with the terrific writing community of the UNC Greensboro MFA program, as well as the artist collective The Lucifer Poetics Group, was full of possibilities, wonder, and a sense of coming home as a writer. I mean, that is where my real writing life began. It was also one of the larger turning points in my life journey. Almost two years later, after a lot of personal therapy and marriage counseling, I reduced my life to 15 kilos and flew to South Korea to live. A few months after moving to South Korea, I signed my divorce papers. I also left the United States forever, although I have been back a few times to visit in the last 12 years.

It is 2018. So yeah, 14 years later, that one poem, “Mr Whiskers and the Picnic Basket,” rather suddenly infiltrated my novel manuscript The Autobiography of Don Whiskers, and that manuscript has already been infiltrated many times already. So, in other words, there is a lot of mutation happening. Various forms of alchemy.

For about six years, The Autobiography of Don Whiskers used to be called Never Mind the Beasts, the name of my MFA thesis, mostly coined by a good friend and fellow poet in the Greensboro MFA program, Dan Albergotti.

Never Mind the Beasts is also, of course, the title of this blog, in various incarnations since 2003.

Now my first novel manuscript has become The Autobiography of Don Whiskers. And Mr. Whiskers, from so long ago, is the main character. Of course, it is not quite the same character as the one in the poem. Don Whiskers has become fleshy and fully expanded and full blown. Me and not me.

The Autobiography of Don Whiskers is epic travels and immigration. It begins in Northern Ireland and then travels to Milton Keynes, England. Then Las Vegas, Utah, Washington State, North Carolina, South Korea, Poland, Turkey, England, and then the novel ends in Madrid, Spain. Part two picks up in Madrid. The autofiction of Karl Ove Knausgaard, as well as the surrealism of James Tate, Lukas Tomin, and Leonora Carrington, helped open up possibilities for this trilogy of novels in progress. Part one is called The Autobiography of Don Whiskers and part two, I am already 60 pages into it, is called Hermit Kingdom. It is a hybrid novel, a mix of various genres including prose poetry and flash fiction, but it is quite seamless as well. It is partly autofiction and partly nomadic surrealism. A nice blend.

 

Marcus-Slease-Reading-Joanne-Kyger.jpg

North Carolina in 2005

NOMADIC TRAVEL WRITING

from my notebook in 2005. Greensboro, North Carolina.

26 MARCH 2005

still breathing

A very intense dream the other night. don’t know if any of you out there ever feels a bit of despair over becoming wormfood, but lately the cycle has been a bit on the downside. Hence a dream to release my anxiety.

Quite a few of friends in this one: Angie and Jake Decola, Ezra Plemmons, Fay Dacey, Adam and Melissa, Dan Albergotti, Tony Tost, and a lot of people with bits of people I know.

So we are all in an old house lining up to be executed by firing squad. The soliders tell us if we don’t put up a fuss they will shoot us right in the head rather than riddling us with bullets (and more pain). I ask one soldier if he feels guilty about doing this and he says he’s just doing his job. So we all line up (in a manner familiar to receiving the eucharist). Some old men are excited. One 92 yr. old man tells me he is ready to go with drama. He tells me he is from London and lived through World War Two and is tired of his body. So I watch all these people I don’t know being shot in the head via firing squad. and then when they get to me and my friends they tell us we can go upstairs and compose ourselves for our execution. All of us go upstairs except Dan Albergotti. We are all in one room and some of us begin to cry. I try to imagine what it will feel like not to feel. Angie says she’s not ready. I sneak downstairs and Dan is in a chair and a twin Dan shoots him in the head and both the shot dan and the Dan shooting laugh. I run upstairs. Tony is playing with a large pot of jelly and says he wants to feel one last time. Ezra leads me to the balcony and it turns out it’s about a 100ft. drop to the rocks and ocean. He shakes his head and I get excited. I tell everyone we can tie some bedsheets together and try and climb down. Adam tells us we don’t have a 100ft of bedsheets. Fay tells us we must move into a circle and dance one last time. I move out to the balcony and find a large rain stick. a small camera is located in the top part of the stick. Jake tells me this is the camera they use to line up their guns. He asks me if I can reprogram it so the soldiers misfire. I dismantle the rainstick and somehow extract energy from it via some hand feeling technique. Melissa asks if we should consider an orgy before we are called down to be executed. Tony asks us all to feel the pot of jelly and estimate our lives. we all hear a few shots downstairs and then some screams. a man comes into our room with a bloody white smock and tells us he’s the barber and would we care for some opera? I quickly say no thinking it is code for something other than opera. He tells us all the girls must go to another room to prevent fraternization. So Tiffany, Angie, Fay, and Melissa all move to the room next door. We all hug. I begin to sweat wondering if I should just jump. Ezra suggests we steal the canons downstairs and put up a fight. Tony says he doesn’t want to be tortured by The Barber. Then we are called downstairs. We all sit in rows and watch a video of the conversations in our room. The chief of police pauses the video and tells us to get ready for some humor. He presses play and we all watch me singing and chanting with the rainstick. we all laugh. I realize my pointless ritual. We are then ordered to line up for our execution. Dan waves at us. The chief of police reminds us if we try anything funny the barber will make our endings less than pleasant. I look at Ezra and he nods. I look at Jake and he nods. Tony begins to sing a beautiful song to distract the firing squad. His song is something like Dancer in the Dark. Just as we are about to make our move the house peels back and the chief informs us we are released to enjoy the sea air one last time. But we will be rounded up again very soon. We run out onto the beach and I find Tiffany and we hug and breathe and weep. Tony sings to us as we all hug. Melissa and Angie and Jake and Dan and Adam and Ezra and Fay and me and Tiffany hug and laugh and sing as we run down the beach. I feel Relieved to breathe the fresh air. To watch the waves one last time.

I woke up relieved feeling fantastic. As cliche as it is, the morning air felt great.

Two nights before the dream, I watched this movie:

BRAZIL

lucifer poetics/ desert city reading series

MARCUS SLEASE POETRY, NOMADIC SURREALISM

The lucifer Poetics Group and the Desert City Reading Series (run by Ken Rumble) and the Blue Door (Todd and Laura Sandvik) and Carborro International Poetry Festival (organized by Patrick Heron) and lots of spontaneous events . . .  this is where I was given wings . . . . so much generosity . .  this is what it is about . . . community . . .

sooooooooooo much was happening . . . .

2004 season

http://715space.bandcamp.com/album/desert-city-2004-05-season

2005 season

http://715space.bandcamp.com/album/desert-city-2004-05-season

The Band ( I missed this):

http://715space.bandcamp.com/track/reading-in-the-mirror

my reading from 2005 . . . lucifer poetics . . . north carolina

NOMADIC SURREALISM

I was surprised by this . . . forgot about this work . . . and my voice/accent has changed from all the foreign traveling and isolation . . . i kinda miss this guy in the video . . . coming back around to that playfulness now again . . .  phew 🙂

http://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/v=2/track=3285123286/size=venti/bgcol=FFFFFF/linkcol=4285BB/

heading into 2009

NOMADIC TRAVEL WRITING

sometimes a wee bit of whisky and coke with mince pies loosens up the throat and ach so I can write by gooley. So it is nice to think again. Been meditating on my travels and attempt to re-invent myself over the last three years. Well over the last many years but in particular the last three years cause I packed up and left the United States in order to find other worlds and see what can happen with my writing well something happened alright what happened I am only now beginning to process I went into intense isolation post-divorce and had little contact with the poetry world for over three years but wrote didn’t like what I wrote at the time cause I was going at it blind but now after being in London for something like seven months I am seeing it seeing some kind of whole seeing the work as if for the first time again like when I was hanging with the Lucifer Poetics Group in North Carolina and getting my jollies with all those damn fine follies and jovial gatherings at The Blue Door and the Carboro Poetry Festival and Tony Tost was just getting engaged and William was making my head fly with some special mushrooms and David Need was pushing me toward a reconsideration of the lyric and Jospeh Donahue was making me gnostic yeah so that was some high time then the divorce and off to South Korea and Goshiwon and little outside contact and fast forward one year and I am in Poland and can’t even begin to outline what happened for two years in that country but after it all up pops something Godzenie a collaboration of all my musings and wankings in North Carolina Korea and Poland finally cobbled it all together in west london and a new manuscript shaping up fine called Alien Memory Machine so yeah things are coming out alright I am seeing again a new way in and reconnecting

poem klatch the other week and some great discussion and sharing of work and then a few days ago the Openned reading and chatting with Peter Jaeger and Tim Atkins and Michael Zand and Steve Wiley and Amy and Nikki and many many other fab poets and seeing and hearing Cole Swensen who remembered me a bit from her reading with Desert City Reading series run by Ken Rumble and now the Lucifer Poetics Group is on fire with Minor American poetry reading series and journal and London well London is on fire as well

so yeah community

that is what I am trying to say

Fucking beautiful to have a community again

not sure about a career and earning a living and all the rest but for now I am more than fine

more than fine for the first time since North Carolina and the Lucifer Poetics Group but it was the Lucifer Poetics Group that kicked it all off that cross country reading tour and seeing what was possible despite the meat sweats in Philly and just seeing what was possible getting high with Rod Smith and Mel Nichols and meeting C.A. Conrad drinking some chocolate alcohol beverage and doing This Is The Motherfucking Remix with Brian Howe (soon to be released with Scantily Clad Press).

More please

more more more

I want that obsessive drive and wild curiosity back again

it is finally returning

what did I learn in isolation

not big nuggets of wisdom

but something snapped many times

and my writing changed but my obsessions did not

they are back

glad to have them back

glad to be back

the moans took a hold of me for three years

now returning to Poland for Christmas see my friend Rodrigo and see my super life rescuing girlfriend’s parents yeah that is the ticket

it is all worthwhile

and so happy to read the poetry of W.B. Keckler and Sean Bonney (who is the best performer of poetry I have ever seen) and Frances Kruk and on and on and on

and then there is Jim Goar holy shit Jim Goar just keeps me ticking the one true friend I have had since Korea and he will have a book from a kick ass British press soon and he makes me smile I fuckin love that man

and the fiction of my cousin Andrew his obsessions and his drive to not settle for the hum drum existence and it just keeps coming

I want more more more

i want it all to begin again

notebook under the pillow

seeing poetry like I never seen it before

yeah that’s the ticket

new manuscripts for 2009:

1) Placebo: remixes of song lyrics from the band Placebo

2) Poems for films that don’t yet exist

meanwhile need to get Godzenie and Alien Memory Machine out into the world between the covers. Will try a few presses after Christmas.

Yip so katowice next week for a week

hope I still have an ESL/EFL job after Christmas no promises yet