portion of the artwork for Charles Leggett's poetry

Charles Leggett’s Comments

“After Hours” and “But Now I’ve Gone” are both parts of a longer (chapbook-length) piece called “Hard Listening” that I'll start shopping around one of these days, the raw material from which is derived from journals dating from the summer of 2005 into early 2006. “Hard Listening,” to put it crudely, is an account of surviving a difficult life transition with the help of cigars, whiskey, jazz music—and writing. We’re talking wee hours, out on the balcony, cheap six-inch Churchills hanging out the mouth, crappy headphones, weathered Walkman, the local (well, Tacoma) jazz station, John Power and Sons Irish, and a fat green spiral notebook. And no sort of expert at all about the music: someone learning about it as he goes, by listening. Listening closely, devoutly, almost desperately, during a time of life when one’s heart is breaking, when one’s defenses are firmly raised up amongst people during the course of a day, and that much further let down when one is alone. “But Now I’ve Gone” emerges towards the middle of the piece; “After Hours” falls very near the end.

Another of the poems in “Hard Listening” imagines an analogous relation between a sublime moment in a Red Garland Trio recording and falling to one’s death from one’s high-rise apartment during a catastrophic earthquake. When I think of the piece, I think of the recording and the sensations that give rise to the comparison, and sometimes forget the other details. I very nearly submitted it to a journal out of Riverside, CA, called Epicenter, but narrowly averted disaster at the last minute by catching sight of the plangent plea in Epicenter’s submission guidelines to for god’s sake not send them writing about earthquakes. I did send them “Ginsberg,” however, and they published it in what turned out to be their final issue, in 2007. Thirteen years prior to which, at Seattle’s Empty Space Theatre (also now defunct), I was involved with creating a piece of late-night theatre about, and/or affectionately making fun of, the Beats. The thing was called Beat Degeneration, and I wrote “Ginsberg” for it; the poem lingered in the show’s lineup for a week or two of rehearsals—but by opening night the director had cut it. Have a look at Ginsberg’s “America” and you’ll see exactly what I’m up to.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 44 | Fall 2014