DIY Punk and Outlaw Poetry In Rockford, Illinois

I have never been a social creature. I certainly was not very social when I returned from the Marine Corps and started attending community college right about the time grunge rock was hitting. The people of the city I live in are famous for grumbling that there is nothing to do, but I don’t find that has ever been the case. In the 1980’s it seemed every major band in the world was coming to our Metro Centre, including the Rolling Stones.

But what also was always happening was there was a smaller, less organized music, art, and cultural scene that has always been unique and energetic. Former Rockford citizen David Ensminger writes about a particular era in that scene in his forthcoming book Out of the Basement: From Cheap Trick To DIY Punk In Rockford, Illinois, 1973-2005.

I collaborated with David on a couple of zines, and he is a very talented person who went on to make his mark in Houston. He researches and writes about the punk scene like no one else. I have never considered myself a punk, or even really a fellow traveler, which is probably why he refers to me as a surrealist in this interview for a French blog.

I’d say right about the time his examination of Rockford’s cultural scene ends, 2005, is when I really started becoming a more social and involved person, mostly because I was General Manager of a bar named Castaways, where I booked the bands and special events, including Zombie Night, and was also the publisher of Zombie Logic Press. I’m not sure if I made it into the book the way I did in the interview, but it was nice to think I was remembered for making a contribution, even during a time when I just wasn’t interacting with other people very much.

At nearly fifty, I find myself far more likely to find my way into a basement punk show on Saturday night than I ever would have 25 years ago. The days when I would self-described myself as a Surrealist are long gone, but I would never go so far as to describe myself as an Outlaw, either. I feel comfortable being an Outsider, even if I do tend to see someone I know and have probably worked with at every stop now. The music scene in Rockford is far less punk now, and even less metal, and probably more roots/Americana as it seems to be everywhere now, but there are surprises like King of the Demons, and their iconic frontman/shaman Jesus Correa. With Rick Zillhart on guitar and Mickey Rosenquist on drums, they had a great couple year run recently and were/are my favorite Rockford band.

Zombie Logic Press has several books in the pipeline, all from Rockford writers, and I have to admit some will be the furthest thing from Outlaw or punk, but this is a city represented by many different points of view. I sometimes wonder if in the future when books like this are written if Zombie Logic Press will be remembered. It’s not much of a factor in why I do what I do, but it’s nice to see your name once in a while.

Rockford Outlaw Poet Nominated For Pushcart Prize

Zombie Logic Press poet Dennis Gulling was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by the editor of Cultural Weekly. It came as a nice surprise to hear a book I edited, and feel very proud of, was thought so highly of by so many people. The Blood Dark Sea is a fantastic book of outlaw poetry, and an omnibus collection of one of the finest poets in Illinois.

It is fascinating that before I published the book I used to see Dennis at almost every cultural event I would attend. I even attended a New Year’s Eve party one year and talked to him and his wife for quite some time without knowing who he was. The Blood Dark Sea was the only book Zombie Logic Press published in 2016, and the cover was designed by Rockford artist Jenny Mathews.

Editing and publishing poetry seems like it might become more of a dicey venture under the new political atmosphere. Maybe that will make it all the more valuable culturally, or maybe the atmosphere will chill creative types from saying anything daring or controversial. There’s certainly not much political about Dennis Gulling’s work, but he’s not afraid to broach controversial topics like violence and crime. I dare say many of the characters in his poems might very well be potential trump voters.

I’m not sure any of the books I have published, or will publish in the future have much political content. Mostly I just like to publish stories about real life. We’ll see how current events change any of this, if at all.

What Bob Dylan Has Meant To Outlaw Poetry

Early yesterday morning it was announced that Bob Dylan had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Many people who had been fans of his celebrated. But some others were perplexed. They generally fit into two categories: 1) Those who just never liked or got Bob Dylan 2) Snobs.

Let’s talk about the second group because it is always a pointless exercise to question another person’s aesthetics. If one doesn’t like something, one doesn’t like it. No explanation is required, and many people just don’t care for Bob Dylan. I can easily accept that.

The second group annoys me.

I started to notice their Tweets and Facebook posts at midday. I interact with a lot of different kinds of people, and some are very, very accomplished writers, professors, editors etc. Many of these people opined that the awarding of the Nobel Prize to Bob Dylan cheapened the esteem of the prize and dumbed it down to the point where it meant less than it had before.

Horse shit.

These are the same people that tend to whine that their students and the American public don’t appreciate poetry, read it, or buy books.

Of course they don’t, because you treat them like dullards who are incapable of understanding it. You write indecipherable poetry only you and a few others seem to appreciate, then scoff at the rest of us for not wanting to join in. You pay your bills from the public trough and don’t have to create anything other people actually want to be considered successful, then you mock anyone who does.

I have written here that I actually enjoy the poetry of Rod McKuen.

I edit two publications: Outsider Poetry and Zombie Logic Review, where my editorial policy is generally if a poet has expressed themself clearly and with some sort of originality and energy, they get published.

Back to Bob Dylan. He has inspired me as a poet from an early age. This is probably my favorite example of his lyrics as poetry…

“It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”

Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the silver spoon
The handmade blade, the child’s balloon
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no sense in trying.

Pointed threats, they bluff with scorn
Suicide remarks are torn
From the fools gold mouthpiece
The hollow horn plays wasted words
Proved to warn
That he not busy being born
Is busy dying.

Temptation’s page flies out the door
You follow, find yourself at war
Watch waterfalls of pity roar
You feel to moan but unlike before
You discover
That you’d just be
One more person crying.

So don’t fear if you hear
A foreign sound to you ear
It’s alright, Ma, I’m only sighing.

As some warn victory, some downfall
Private reasons great or small
Can be seen in the eyes of those that call
To make all that should be killed to crawl
While others say don’t hate nothing at all
Except hatred.

Disillusioned words like bullets bark
As human gods aim for their marks
Made everything from toy guns that sparks
To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
It’s easy to see without looking too far
That not much
Is really sacred.

While preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the President of the United States
Sometimes must have
To stand naked.

An’ though the rules of the road have been lodged
It’s only people’s games that you got to dodge
And it’s alright, Ma, I can make it.

Advertising signs that con you
Into thinking you’re the one
That can do what’s never been done
That can win what’s never been won
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you.

You loose yourself, you reappear
You suddenly find you got nothing to fear
Alone you stand without nobody near
When a trembling distant voice, unclear
Startles your sleeping ears to hear
That somebody thinks
They really found you.

A question in your nerves is lit
Yet you know there is no answer fit to satisfy
Insure you not to quit
To keep it in your mind and not forget
That it is not he or she or them or it
That you belong to.

Although the masters make the rules
For the wise men and the fools
I got nothing, Ma, to live up to.

For them that must obey authority
That they do not respect in any degree
Who despite their jobs, their destinies
Speak jealously of them that are free
Cultivate their flowers to be
Nothing more than something
They invest in.

While some on principles baptized
To strict party platforms ties
Social clubs in drag disguise
Outsiders they can freely criticize
Tell nothing except who to idolize
And then say God Bless him.

While one who sings with his tongue on fire
Gargles in the rat race choir
Bent out of shape from society’s pliers
Cares not to come up any higher
But rather get you down in the hole
That he’s in.

But I mean no harm nor put fault
On anyone that lives in a vault
But it’s alright, Ma, if I can’t please him.

Old lady judges, watch people in pairs
Limited in sex, they dare
To push fake morals, insult and stare
While money doesn’t talk, it swears
Obscenity, who really cares
Propaganda, all is phony.

While them that defend what they cannot see
With a killer’s pride, security
It blows the minds most bitterly
For them that think death’s honesty
Won’t fall upon them naturally
Life sometimes
Must get lonely.

My eyes collide head-on with stuffed graveyards
False gods, I scuff
At pettiness which plays so rough
Walk upside-down inside handcuffs
Kick my legs to crash it off
Say okay, I have had enough
What else can you show me ?

And if my thought-dreams could been seen
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine
But it’s alright, Ma, it’s life, and life only.

-Bob Dylan
I think Bob Dylan is an excellent choice for the Nobel Prize in Literature, and his choice has been a great representation of America to a world audience that now considers Americans backwards, violent dimwits.


Is Anyone Interested In Outlaw Poetry?

I was toying with the idea of converting this blog into an actual literary review featuring Outlaw Poetry. I am already the editor of Zombie Logic Review, and the co-editor of Outsider Poetry, but those reviews don’t receive a lot of outlaw poetry, per se. I’m not even sure I know what it is when I see it. I suppose the most real indicator is if one self-identifies as an outlaw poet.

If anyone who sees this is interested in submitting their poetry, and if it conforms to the standards of Outlaw Poetry, send me your work at I don’t make any promises yet, but I think I’d be willing to post it here if it had quality. Please make a note in your subject heading that this is poetry intended for the blog.

The Cubs played a real humdinger last night. I was completely prepared as the ninth inning started to wait until Thursday, then possibly lose to Johnny Cueto, who the Cubs have not hit at all. That 9th inning comeback was one of the most thrilling moments I can remember in forty years of being a Cub fan. I’m concerned now what happens after Lester and Hendricks pitch, and the bats are strangely quiet, but eight more wins and the Cubs will be World Series champions.

I have the window open and nice, cool breeze is coming in. Earlier I was pleasantly surprised when the ATT service tech was able to get my internet going in a 125 year old building where Zombie Logic Press resides. Nobody has probably had a phone line in here in over ten years, but he found a wire and made the connection.

All the building around Zombie Logic Press have been bought over the past two years and are being turned into antique shops, olive oil stores, rooftop bars, barber shops, and art studios. Soon unless I buy the building I’ll be forced out, and as much as I love this building it’s a real dump and worthless.


The Holmes Block building has been here since 1888, and I was surprised to learn when I researched it that it has always been residential. The two bottom units seem perfect for storefronts, possible even a gallery for Jenny’s work. An automobile museum has been moved in next door. The whole building is in the process of slouching into the middle. I can even see book cases sitting at a slant.

Eight years here now. At the heart of what the FBI now says is the most dangerous city in America with a population under 200,000. The gentrification process has begun. Soon I’ll want to go somewhere else even though I really do enjoy this place. I wouldn’t even know what to do with a building this big.

Anyway, if anyone wants me to read their outlaw poetry there are no guarantees I will publish it, but send it to me in an email and I’ll take a look. Please send a 3rd person biography and a picture if you don’t mind as Google seems to like that.


This Post Has Nothing To Do With Outlaw Poetry

I just want to stay up a little longer and watch The Human Duplicators on Mystery Science Theater 3000 and write a couple more blogs. Got my yoga done and took an acetaminophen. If I were more ambitious I’d get up off the psycho couch and put Dawn of the Dead in the VCR.


This is apparently a really big picture of the Thriller Video box for The Human Duplicators. I guess I could even take my shoes off now if I wanted to.

This will be my first time seeing Human Duplicators. I saw a copy of it for the first time on Ebay, but the bidding is already astronomical, so I guess I’ll just watch it on YouTube.

I feel like I’d like to have one more snack and a glass of milk before bed. Today I bought a Dungeon Master’s Screen. I didn’t have one when I had my original Dungeons and Dragons collection in the 1980’s. Now I will. Most likely.

Hugh Beaumont is in this movie! Ward Cleaver. I bet he plays some sensible science type. Or maybe he goes against typecasting and plays a way out Beatnik poet. Jaws from Moonraker is in this movie. The fat guy from Cannon is in this movie.

Now I’m just thinking about that final snack of the night. Had dental work again yesterday. But he didn’t have to do any numbing agents this time, so that was nice. Just pulled the temporary crown off and put the new one on. After a year of procedures I am getting near the end of all the procedures that are needed, and next year maybe we can do some cosmetic things. I wonder if I have maybe a short outlaw poem I can post here to stay consistent with the theme of the blog.

Her Last Few Fucks Were Wasted

I just had a sudden urge to write a poem titled
“Her Last Few Fucks Were Wasted,”
and even ten years ago
I would have too,
but instead I walked
to the bathroom,
trimmed my nosehair,
and decided this poem need not exist.
You’re welcome.

-Thomas L. Vaultonburg

Did I put that one in the last blog? I bet I did. Google is going to whack my peepee but I’m too lazy to look and change it. I just got a reminder from Facebook that I have one event today. Friends of the Library Book Sale. I assist the public library by buying all their books so they can stay open and do puppet shows and let people use the internet.

Also, it’s Fall Art Scene. I’m not in it this year because I didn’t do any art, and I don’t want to go because I stopped drinking carbonated and alcoholic beverages, so I think I’ll stay home. Can we do the final 33 words of this blog on gift certificate?


True Stories By Outlaw Poet Thomas L. Vaultonburg

I don’t feel like a bad ass. But when I read my own poetry it is clear to me that I am. Not the kind of faux bad ass I have seen posting poems that are Bukowski rip-offs for decades now, but the kind of a bad ass who just did it. I think of this today as I am attempting to give up my three cups of tea I drink daily, and debating if I should have chicken wings later. I don’t long for the days when I was out of control at all, nor do I romanticize or glorify them. I just feel as if I’ve never been cheated. I don’t look back and wonder what it would have been like had I been braver or more insistent on myself. I did. And it was great. My poems are never wish fulfillment. If anything, I’ve toned it down out of respect for my family now.

A True Story

You ruined my marriage
You son-of-a-bitch

She wrote in an electronic
Mail that appeared
From nowhere

You had drinks with
My husband at
Some dive bar and
Now he thinks he’s
A poet.

What’s wrong with that?
I replied.

He left for Canada two
Days ago to cut timber
And be a poet.

Does this mean
You’re single?
I inquired

She wasn’t.


Her Last Few Fucks Were Wasted

I just had a sudden urge to write a poem titled
“Her Last Few Fucks Were Wasted,”
and even ten years ago
I would have too,
but instead I walked
to the bathroom,
trimmed my nosehair,
and decided this poem need not exist.
You’re welcome.


Suicide By Poet

She drove me to
The highest point in Illinois
And demanded I throw
Her off.

Suicide by poet.

Failing to incite my
Altruistic instinct to
Make the world a better place,
She regaled me with stories
Of infidelity all the way down,
Then we ate at Denny’s.

I drove past there again
Last week and the
Illinois Department of Transportation
Had torn the tower down.

Maybe some poor bastard
Finally took her up
On her offer.


The Old Neighborhood

You fucked my sister,
Didn’t you, she said
Brandishing a spatula

You don’t have a sister,
I said,
Suddenly desiring flapjacks.

You created an imaginary
Sister with big tits
And fucked her in
Your dreams,
Didn’t you, you bastard?

Yes, I was forced to confess,
I fucked your big-titted
Sister in a dream,
And she had red hair.

Tuesdays were always
Strange around there.

-Thomas L. Vaultonburg


I voted for Hillary Clinton today.



Thomas L. Vaultonburg Named MVP of Outsider Poetry Slam League of America 2016

As Willa Wonka says, “A little nonsense now and then….” In that spirit I would like to announce, because no one else will, that Zombie Logic Press publisher Thomas L. Vaultonburg has been named MVP of the Outsider Poetry Slam League of America for the 2016 season.

OPSLA Logo 2

Vaultonburg began the season with his hometown Rockford Pages, but was traded to the Chemung Shamans with only a week left in the season. Both teams went winless in their first season in the OPSLA, but that did not deter his fellow outsider poets and poetry slam fans from voting him league MVP. The results of the vote were announced Friday by league commissioner Dr. Millard Rausch.

It is unclear where Vaultonburg will play next season. Commissioner Rausch announced eight new teams will join the league next year, and it is rumored he may travel west to join the league champion Rancho Cucamonga Kookamunga squad, or slightly east to play for runner up Kokomo Oralists.

Rockford poetry may never be the same after Vaultonburg’s departure. Although Zombie Logic Press operations remain in Rockford, as they have been since 1997, making them the longest publisher in constant operation in the city, he has been receiving overtures from Sheboygan, Paducah, Chemung, and even Yakima to relocate the operation.

Blood Mania

I wanted to quit Rockford Poetry many times, go somewhere else where they take it seriously, but I was born in the hospital a block away from the building Zombie Logic Press has now called home for a decade. Where would I even go? And as Don Henley says in his song “Sunset Grill,” besides, all my friends are here.

Too much afternoon, too little to say. The family has gone to yet another birthday party. I have opted out to sit here and do whatever ridiculousness I am doing, and watch Point of Terror again on You Tube. I really need to delve into my Peter Carpenter investigation a little deeper. It’s odd that before the internet people could just die mysteriously, or disappear, and there’s no trace. Even people who had made movies. No one can confirm what happened to this man. Why did he just stop making movies? These are questions for another blog, another time.