portion of artwork for Phil Estes's poems

Phil Estes’s Comments

In “Dream about my future, after the big bomb planes of the spy army swarm the capitol,” the title, the line “relentess clutches of a cigarette octopus,” and Mike Hartsock’s description of the the chemical men come from comics by Fletcher Hanks (1887-1976).  The big bomb planes and the line appear in “Presidential Assassination” featuring Stardust the Super Wizard.  The octopus appears in the  un-PC “Slant-eye” comic also featuring the Super Wizard—Stardust punishes a Chinese villain, obsessed with gold,  by flinging him into the hands of a gold octopus.  I don’t mock Chinese by the use of this line; I like the idea of punishment by your own obsession. The descriptions of the chemical men, and the creatures themselves, appear in “The Flaming Claws” featuring Fantomah.  She is the classic blond jungle woman who protects the Amazon from white males—when she punishes her foes, her face turns to a skull.  Hanks worked early in the golden-age of comics, 1939-1941.  Fantagraphics Books collected some of his comics in a volume called I Shall Destroy All Civilized Planets.  Not to sound like an advertisement, but they have a second collection out at the end of July—You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation!

My friend Brandon, who studied at The Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont, showed me the book when it came out.  We used to drink beer in his parents’ garage and some nights his dad came out to bum a cigarette.  Brandon’s dad was fifty-one around then and dreamed of being an astronaut most of his life.  The closest he got was his work on tubes and temperature rings that go into space shuttles. The idea started there, but continued when I thought about some scenarios I’ll be in late in life.  The suburban house and hope for some sort of material and emotional success.  This also involves glowing interaction with the opposite sex, but, of course, that would probably never happen.

The Kansas City line in “Elegy for John Belushi” and the descriptions of Eric Idle and the queen come from separate episodes of season two of Saturday Night Live.

My friend Darrell drives a Frito Lay truck for a living and is a polite and smart guy.

I don’t really understand all of the concepts of flarf, and I’m not a big fan of it in general, but I like the idea of the implementation of pop or low culture artifacts in poetry—the use of language and the art we encounter to develop a sort of collage.  I think this does a greater job of resonating than evoking “high-brow” or academic culture and art. It also reveals a sort of vulnerability of the poet—you’re showing what you’re really like. I’m more interested in people who feel, do, or say guilty things in their work. Quotes of Ovid or Byron or Shelley don’t hit me֫neither do the Beatles, who I think get overused in everything. I hope that’s what flarf is; I have a difficult time defining my work.

Mike Hartsock is real—he’s the sports guy on WHIO-TV Channel 7.  I imagine he's timeless and will still exist in the future.


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