Archive for the charles plymell Category

Drowning like Li Po in a River of Red Wine by A D Winans–Reviewed by Charles Plymell

Posted in A.D. Winans, charles plymell with tags on March 20, 2016 by Scot



Drowning like Li Po in a River of Red Wine: Selected Poms 1970-2010.  Bos (Bottle of Smoke Press)




Drowning like Li Po in a River of Red Wine by A D Winans is a book to be proud of. It’s a pick-it-up-random poem book that lipo2gets right to it, with selected poems organized chronologically from past publications, 1970-2010. One might think that 364 pages of verse (and colophon page) would be a lot to take in, but it is not. Everything is all right, like the years went by, exactly right, bringing it all back home. San Francisco was home to us all. She opened her doors to everyone, alone, weary, and timeless… from Jack Black to Jack Micheline. Everyone got a taste of that home, but Winans is the only one I’ve met who was born there. He must share her coiffed comeliness and spiritual highs, splashing her nacreous pearls from deep black water splayed into the fog of love, the mist from her eddies pressing back the lusty egalitarian thrust until it obeys. It always seemed a small town because it’s vertical, on different planes, each neighborhood seething with scenes. During my limited tenure, it seemed I lived on every street, if not neighborhood, or knew someone who was in this or that scene. And floating through those different planes were layers to its natural beauty that gave off the essence of love but could also sink down darkly and cruel as hell. Through the eyes of Winans one can live those streets again, like a Bob Kaufman looking out the window of a Muni bus in silent study of all action passing on her streets to the last window-framed panorama.


The book too, is exactly right, as a book should be made. The poems aren’t tucked in as a filler to the pretentious pages of slick magazines; they are presented in the best selection of typeface, the poems placed correctly on the page. Li Po would have approved. It has the right feel, the right dimension, and the right geography to go back to and turn the pages like wrapping dreams.


Winans and I are about the same age, and we both discovered the Beats in the late 1950s. We both had unconventional childhoods. My best times were in the fifties. We heard the McCarthy hearings in real time. We developed a similar political philosophy somewhere between Li Po and Upton Sinclair. Like most poets in the Bay Area grown into the sixties there was politics in our poetry. He served time in the service. Mine in the ROTC … a Clinton/Bush deferment. I arrived in his old middle class neighborhood, the Haight, as the decade of the sixties began, before the kids took over the streets from little Russian ladies. He knew poets I did and the bars they read in, and the magazines they published in. San Francisco was constantly changing, sometimes overnight.


charles pI didn’t know Winans in San Francisco but met him later at an Independent small publishing event. We took part in some of their organizations. We learned how the game was played and over the years watched it change as the poetry politicians began to take over as all things government do with friends rewarding friends. Over the years, we have corresponded and shared our views on poetry, political scams and awards. We spot the phonies and neither of us much cares for labels.  We’ve seen famous poets howl against Moloch and the government only to receive several thousands of government money and keep the Beatnik flack, not black, flying at the landmark tourist bookstore in North Beach. We’ve seen hypocrisy in all flavors in all the poets the city spawned. I’ve often wondered how Winans sees the invasion on his home turf.

My biggest regret is that I wasn’t with him when the great jazz clubs flourished in the days of Billie Holliday that he remembers in his poems, or the great blues legends like Johnny Lee Hooker. Yes, the times were always changing there. By the time Pam and I went to Mike’s Pool Hall with Ferlinghetti (Pam was underage), the Go Go girls were dancing in every joint. I got to see Sonny Rollins at an embarrassing two-drink minimum gig in North Beach when he was either too sick or too broken to wail. Yes, the city was built on Rock and Roll, Fillmore and the Avalon et. al. But the poets knew that it was really re-built, again and again. It all comes back in the works of Winans. It comes back as subtle and real as Bo Diddley’s words at the Avalon, a thriving line-in the street psychedelic hall bringing us the new sounds and lights. His words haunt me when he came to play to a handful, this then relatively unknown who said “And here I am now playing for you. Mercy Mercy Mercy.” I think I know what he meant. You will get the full history with Winan’s poems. They tell it real. San Francisco was always home to the outcasts from any origin. They became family. The moon on the water beckoning for all comers. The sun over the hills and bridges all bringing commerce, ships going to war. Friends and families living and dying. A changing city like the long nights and sunny days. My sister died in that Chinese Lantern of the Western Moon.


Jack Micheline came by to rally me to read and bring the word to the people. I had a good job on the docks and was starting a family. Besides, I said to him, how would you compete with the fame of sensational book trial no matter the poet and poet store owner was out of town and let the Japanese-American clerk who sold the book stand trial, just in case it backfired. The days of Life and Time are over. They just want the tourist version. Micheline left dejected, but hopefully to Gino and Carlos bar to have a drink with Winans and revitalize the words again. Or the Anxious Asp to hear poets insult the poets from Cleveland in their hippy drag. It was like that. It could be a tough town. We didn’t walk to the docks with Longshoreman hooks in our belts for nothing. The town was built on many layers of compassion and destruction, giver and taker, almost religiously. I wonder sometimes how a poet would live all his life there. Probably by writing lines to William Wantling, an example of the many poets who walked the streets of his town: Looking into the cracked lips of sorrow/I walk the harsh streets of tomorrow. (Pg. 297).Pick it up and open it anywhere. But to really find out how the poet down South who wrote about the poet up North and what happens with the poets from the East who come to the West and drank at the bars in Winan’s home town, you’ll just have to open the book in a river of red wine on pg 183.


–The hardback is sold out, but paperback copies can still be obtained from the publisher.  Contact Bill Roberts at


Posted in charles plymell with tags on October 26, 2014 by Scot

the church is all we get
a shield, a blanket of memory
put our slippers down in the universe
and forget where we put them
the night is a container of faith
to rot like a can of beans in the cupboard
maggots crawl from under things
like warriors of the carcasses
the shooters of lost souls
that mothers cry to disown
flesh and blood that found faith
no longer cowards to themselves
another hour on this watch brings darkness


Posted in charles plymell on February 4, 2014 by Scot


— 2011

Poetry postcard #1 by Glass Eyes Books/Ecstatic Peace Books.
Printed at Flying Object, Hadley, MA, in an edition of 200/26 signed, May 2011.

Rapid Ronnie Rap Back Jive: 1955 by Charles Plymell

Posted in charles plymell on July 15, 2012 by Scot

Doc Moonlight bought brand new T-Bird from writing scripts
For Bennie-hard bodies dancing.. digging the Bebop steps
Long ago Granddaddy bought a paint horse in Dodge City
Wyatt Earp’ s grandson now sells used cars in Wichitity.

Life on the high plains, hot checks & pile of loans
Ronnie read hot chicks Pound’s Selected Poems
Outside Zip’s Club smoked boo & pissed
Inside, Pack Rat picked his bass in bliss
His eyes rolled back, into bouncing fret
Scoo bop to do diddy bip bop…next set
From hep to hip cat combo characters sit
Swiiinging go man go! work! bass man star
His nose Inhalers stashed behind the bar
Candy wrappers, cosmos and Benzedrine
Dragnet, luncheonette & make the scene
Play it straight if fate say best stay clean
Really bad,half sad,oh fay,oh say, Ms.O’day
Scuffle on down & slide away from the mass
Wanna smiz -zoke a jiz -ziont of griz -zass?

Rapid Ronnie Rasamutin Runamuck:
Thief, pimp, artists.. hood
Alias Barbital Bob….stood
Under the neon of Zip’s Club.

His subterranean boyhood bellhop forays
Found Kansas’ big vortex of wild of mores
By the light from the stained glass windows
He drew cartoon characters between shows
He saw all his dreams flyspecked with glory
Filled his pockets with dope & dates of whores
And gazed far beyond the gaily painted doors.

Rapid Ronnie rode on the moonlight highs
Pack Rat scoffed pills and played melodic
Drank Oxybiotic that made him neurotic
Jimmy Mammy, just outta the joint, heard
Big Indian was gonna steal Doc’s Thunderbird
Ronnie went along reciting Pound’s verse
Into the crashing crossroads of the universe.

Big Indian let out a yell of centuries of pain
Drove into the Bulldog’s tractor-trailer’s lane
Jimmy Mammy broke his jaw & lay in years of highs
Ronnie grew old and secret under California skies
Big Indian lay dead..his eyes..confused
Staring at the heavens,,,,forever wider
Than the moon’s new earth that refused
Him shelter from the great white spider.

( Reprinted and newly edited from FOREVER WIDER by Charles Plymell
published by Scarecrow Press. London, Metuchen. N.J.,
edited by Robert Peters for Poetry Now Series)

Charles Plymell on Bob Branaman

Posted in Bob Branaman, charles plymell with tags , , , on July 15, 2012 by Scot

The first time I remember Bob’s drawings I was sitting in a club in the early to 50’s in Kansas. There was the typical live combo of sax, bass, drums and singer. Bob had some paper and a pen and began sketching. We were among a large post-war sub-culture that associated itself with drugs, whores, and jazz and cars. We saw a lot of each other and went to parties and clubs and enjoyed the Benzedrine and Boo and cartoon life the nights had to offer.
Continue reading

Charles Plymell on Bob Branaman

Posted in Bob Branaman, charles plymell with tags , , , on July 15, 2012 by Scot

The first time I remember Bob’s drawings I was sitting in a club in the early to 50’s in Kansas. There was the typical live combo of sax, bass, drums and singer. Bob had some paper and a pen and began sketching. We were among a large post-war sub-culture that associated itself with drugs, whores, and jazz and cars. We saw a lot of each other and went to parties and clubs and enjoyed the Benzedrine and Boo and cartoon life the nights had to offer.
Continue reading

For Glenn Todd by Charles Plymell

Posted in charles plymell with tags on May 12, 2012 by Scot

We’ve seen the trace of tears on dusty Texas cheeks
      and cliffs of far away Pacific spray
            eat away timeless Redwood scented root.
We’ve caught the salty tang of brine
       diffusing on our tongues for all eternity.
Innocent, foolish fun loving seekers
     mixed our presence in the hot baths
   cleansed the poison from our spores
         before the new age occupied Big Sur.
Thanks, Charley. It is indeed a beautiful poem and it touches me that you recollect that weekend. Of course I too remember the Big Sur hot springs. How we stood that night on the wall above the bath, overlooking the dark Pacific without our clothes — you, Maureen, and me, our bodies outlined against a starry sky. A voice (Alan Watts) from the recess of the bath telling us how beautiful we were — like Grecian statuary, he said.


Posted in charles plymell with tags on April 29, 2012 by Scot

Jewels of nature are no longer found along the
roadside, no scraps of tin from ancient tinker man
they buried now by the tossed Budweiser can
and  reflective shards of bottle moonlight glint
distant bulb kitchen light alone on prairie sod
like a lantern flicker in the corner of the night.

Rusty diner neon signs gone with waitress love
an apron in roadside rubble cactus blossom rot
lost kiss against numb thruway battered cheek
the gas attendant gone, the sunflowers tip their
heads to sundown and pack the night mysteries
of the universe so tight a flirt of coffee cup drips.

No thought given void and matter if truth did beckon
words stuck to vipers tongues ready to strike if
banned from new vocabularies of the smart phone.

The denver sandwich now the western omelet
and menus the extent of word consciousness
of dead walking in human form ghostly rhythms
of the earth leaking like contents of a broken jar
one thing no longer illuminates another dead end.

COLLATERAL DAMAGE by Charles Plymell

Posted in charles plymell with tags , on April 25, 2012 by Scot

for Joanna McClure
The moon is sometimes bathed in night’s full light
and the earth is aroused as when a woman bathes
turns in her phases bringing blood to half the earth
of men’s rallied avarice and ambition and battle cry
of eternal wars we do not know women would wage.

The eternal wound I know not of but almost certain
that the eternal sores of life are fed by fear of death
and my remorse is forever lasting as empty space
knowing that battles and wars will continue when
earth falls ill with battle and thunderous wars from
every side to keep the blood of innocence flowing
in collaterally damaged fatally wounded virgin birth.


Posted in charles plymell with tags , on April 14, 2012 by Scot

qoud permanat enim disolitur, inert ergo. (Lucritius)
(for that which permeates is dissolved, perishes therefore.)

You leave once more….
car readied to the northwest winds
the smell of incense gone
voices of those who listened
to The Argument have joined new age
body spirits torn in the winds of eternity
dissipated into the commerce of the day.

Those who once climbed your ladder
bow their heads like the broken rungs
we’ve known so well where talent failed
signaling their sycophants to be silent
creativity but a word to them, not a life.

The visit over in the wake of climb without ascent
that graced memory’s spirits they’ve never known
lesser arguments piled draught in compost bones.

— Cherry Valley, April 10, 2012