Readers of Zouch may be aware of klipschutz (aka Kurt Lipschutz) through poetry magazine Four by Two and his role as a co-writer with musician Chuck Prophet. This Drawn & Quartered Moon is klipschutz’s most recent collection, and it has a surprising amount of guzzle for a 21st century poet. According to the notoriously unreliable Wikipedia, “guzzle” is the Western pronunciation of the Arabic “ghazal”, a lyric poem beginning with a rhymed couplet that repeats a mono-rhyme in all even lines, written from the perspective of an unrequited lover, with religious overtones. This Drawn & Quartered Moon contains three ghazals and an odd little poem about the form itself. A true postmodernist, klipschutz overrides the rules he doesn’t like, and in “On Being Asked To Define Ghazal” exclaims that he’s “looked it up/again and forgotten myself”; of mispronunciation he stands “self-accused, unsorry”. This is poetry with a defiant, punk rock attitude.
Humorous rebellion of one sort or another links many of the poems in this original and ambitious collection, where politicians, architects, rock stars and lawyers jostle with Vietnam vets, Mafiosi and drug mules. Poetry may be considered elitist by some, but klipschutz takes inspiration from popular culture, making his work appealingly accessible. “The Love Bus” extends a portrait of a certain female rock star whose name is in the title to a stark generalization about celebrity:
That’s how it happens when it does –
Yesterday’s skank is tomorrow’s
Grammy nominee, yellow ribbon and all
in a loaned-out designed dress
nobody will dare ask her to return.
Klipschutz’s line of attack can be savagely satirical when there is an appropriate target, but it is often tinged with a more understanding pathos. In “The Attorney Arrives At His Office On April 16th” (the day after taxes are due in the U.S.), it is suggested that “people hate lawyers and pity the bean counter”, but at the same time he offers some sympathy to those who are expected to create miracles out of “flimsy alibis”. Satire is balanced by self-deprecation, and not even the poet is safe: at the hairdresser’s, “surrounded by spiked heels, hair wraps/and ambient Euro-noise”, he has “never felt less fabulous” (“The Barber Of Haight St.”), and “The Alpha Beta Male” pokes fun at the new metrosexual world of dusting, baking and coupon clipping.
This Drawn & Quartered Moon also demonstrates a range of influences and technical ability in synthesizing them as the poet’s own. “Northern California Dreaming” shows his Beat sensibilities through the bebop verve of zipping around with a “cruel tipsy blonde” and “a snap in the air and no sun to dry/the tomatoes”. “Green Glass”, an elegy to Jack Kerouac, emulates the intense rush of Kerouac’s prose poems. Klipschutz seems equally at ease evoking a Larkin-like trouble with commitment (“The Gift”) and a fear of the humdrum in “Larkinesque”. Also of note are two poems which head into the realm of graphic design: “The Plagiarist Hones His Apologia” owes an obvious debt to Apollinaire’s Calligrammes (which is both “written” and visual poetry due to the typographical precision) and “Domain” experiments with spatial awareness.
Klipschutz does not confine himself. He is equally adept with the portrait study in “Lester Rogers” (a detailed examination of someone down on his luck, which manages to incorporate both the reasoning for a bad decision and its dire consequences) and the more esoteric territory of “The Reelection of God (1999)”:
The pollster asked
Does God exist?
71 percent of us
said Yes. And this
is a democracy
and that, friends, is
This Drawn & Quartered Moon is a recommended read for those with an interest in the possibilities often unexplored in contemporary poetry, and an excellent introduction to klipschutz’s work.
Available through amazon.com or other Amazon outlets; it can also be ordered from independent bookstores.
Five minutes with klipschutz
CP: This Drawn & Quartered Moon is a relatively diverse group of poems. Were they written over a long stretch of time or in a quick burst?
klipschutz: Good call on “diverse.” Too much so, maybe. Poems take years and books take decades for me, at least when you figure in percolation, fermentation, execution, and antiheroic gestures of postmortem resuscitation. Have I mixed enough unrelated processes yet? It took well over ten years. When I actually do wake up, though, I tend to work in quick bursts.
CP: Does poetry need to be read out loud, or is reading it quietly at home sufficient?
klipschutz: Poetry needs to shut up and get busy! Preferably while I’m asleep, so when I come to all I have to do is put my name on it and watch a movie. No, seriously, it helps to hear a poem read out loud, if it’s read well and with energy and there aren’t three other poets afterwards.
CP: Who are your poetic influences?
klipschutz: Many of my influences are from other art forms entirely, not to mention prose. Patches of Henry Miller and Barry Hannah are better poems than most anything with line breaks. Then there’s music, but musicians don’t need any help from my meager name-dropping reach. Poets I admire: Kenneth Patchen, Lorca, Pound, Wallace Stevens, Ai (the early books), Alan Dugan, some of Jeffers, Villon, Basil Bunting, Frank O’Hara, Emily D., Wislawa Szymbroska, Frank Stanford, Theodore Roethke. That just scratches the surface, but it’s enough names for any list on a Sunday morning.
CP: Shelley said “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world”. Does this still apply?
klipschutz: Stalin wrote poetry. And killed poets to blow off steam. A quote by someone whose name escapes me comes to mind: “Poets have no respect for power.” I think I’ve evaded your question, but I did try.
CP: Do you have any readings planned, and when is your next poetry collection coming out?
klipschutz: I’m doing one locally on July 19. I don’t read often, but I enjoy it if people show up. A Visit to the Ranch, a short book of many years of mostly Pacific Northwest poems will drop in October, through Last Word Press, and I’ll be reading in support of it wherever they’ll have me.