L Is For Liver

While Jenny was away in Rhinelander searching for the Hodag I downloaded all the panels from our new book to my laptop so I could blog about each one individually. The files were huge, and I had to download paint.net to open them. L Is For Liver.

If you don’t think children hate liver, consider this: my father began a lifelong fued with his older sister over being forced to eat liver as a boy. They never fully reconciliated, and the mere mention of liver was forbidden in our household. But not in our new book Atrocious Poems A To Z.

I understand the nutritional benefits of liver. and have made many attempts to embrace it as an adult, but it’s still… liver. Nothing anyone does to it can change that.

In a book about things that kids hate liver almost had to make an appearance. And Jenny came up with an ingenious illustration for my poem.

L

It’s one of my favorite pieces from the book, which is now available at Amazon and at the gift shop of the Rockford Art Museum, where all twenty-six poems from the book have been written on the wall by me next to the illustrations by Jenny Mathews. The show is called Bittersweet Observations, and will run until October 1st.

Eye Rhyme

Bullies

Outlaw Poet Writes Second Children’s Book

Outlaw Poet Writes Second Children’s Book

Outlaw Poet Thomas L. Vaultonburg has written his second children’s book, Atrocious Poems A To Z, to be released at a book party at Rockford Art Museum June 9th.

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True to his nature, Vaultonburg has cunningly written a book about mean, nasty things, and sold it off as a children’s book. It’s a true feat of termite insurgence. Infiltrate, inculcate, and educate.

Indeed educating people has become an act of trickery in trump’s paleolithic America. But then again, so has accepting the discordance for what it is: an act of self-defense by the planet.

Pro forma I am required to try and sell you this book. I will not be able to do so, but I will check it off my list and go get tacos, which is a win, also.

Even as the book is at the printers I realize a million ways I would have wanted to make this a better book. Even as I struggle to remember how to use words like inculcate in proper context I realize marshalling the creative verve to even finish another book may not be in my ken, I simply offer it as is. If I said it, I meant it.

My partner, Jenny Mathews’ illustrations are so good that all 26 are going to be on exhibit at the Rockford Art Museum this summer. I have to find something to wear for that. I’m teetering between wearing something zany and pretending to be this goofy eccentric and just wearing a black tshirt and blue jeans, which is what I’ve decided to do all summer to eliminate having to think about that anymore. I’m sure Jenny will weigh in as the show gets closer.

I’m left starting to panic over the questions I know they might ask me. “What did you mean by this poem?” “How did you get this idea?” Twenty years ago I would have had answers. I actually thought about such things. Now there are no real answers. I don’t mean anything by any of this anymore. The Universe has gone mad, and all creative endeavor is pointless now. Just ways to pass moments. Just distress signals sent nowhere particular.

I anticipate we’ll see the book back from the printer some time this coming week. That I am legitimately excited about. Creating is the only part of the process I have any influence over, and I accomplished my mission. The crushing feeling of defeat almost all artists and creators know when their creations do not inspire others to act is known to us all.

What a beautiful May day to be wracked by such needlessly torturous thoughts. I have a container of sparkly water, it is a nice May day, and the children will be home from their grandparent’s soon. I have fulfilled my obligation here to ask you to support this book. That alone is a testament to Schopenhaur’s thesis that we do all the things we do merely to avoid pain, not achieve any sort of pleasure.

Buy Atrocious Poems A To Z  a lovely and light-hearted children’s book that helps children cope with the anxieties of childhood and teaches some literary lessons, too.

 

This Is Not Outsider Art

I said something today on Facebook about being one of the few people who posts just text, because I had noticed almost all posts are accompanied by a link or a photo. Someone said that was strange because my partner is a world class illustrator. Illustrations aren’t appropriate for a Facebook post, but one of the reasons we met is because I wanted to do a children’s book, and Jenny is the finest drawer in this area. We did finish the book, The Toughskin Rhinoceros Wrangler Company, and seven years later we are still together.

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She did this illustration at Halloween. It’s a homage to Alvin Schwartz and his Scary Stories books.

For a couple of years she was posting an illustration almost every day at Tiny Drawings, but now she has so many commissioned works that she rarely has time to just draw for the sake of drawing. I remember I’d come up with one of the whackiest ideas I could think of when we lived in different cities, and fifteen minutes later she’s send me the drawing.

04.05.12

For instance, I’d say, there’s this guy, and he’s a stalk of Celery, but in every way he’s just a normal guy, and not even an exciting guy, just a hum drum guy. That’s how Celery came about. It never really went anywhere because a lot of what we do just amuses us, and for about five years we were working so fast we’d even forget the last thing we worked on.

Bass Mermaid

This is from the Mermaids of North America series she did. She has designed the cover for our last two books in the Rock River Literary Series, and sometimes has two or three shows going on simultaneously. I’m really excited about her bees show. I forgot where it’s going to be, but we made a list of bee names a couple of weeks ago. My favorite ones I came up with were Busby Berkley and Bill Bixby, but I don’t know if she’ll use those.

Bee

I’m not sure if this is Bill Bixby, or Busby Berkley, but what a thing it is to get to work with an artist like this. We amuse ourselves by referring to her as the Art Department, but really she’s all the departments. I think she gets flummoxed with me for trying to fit her work into a category like Outsider Art, because she has a lot of training and experience, and isn’t mentally ill.

Also, she’s not responsible for that awful mermaids site I created. I just get a little overzealous sometimes.

Outlaw Poets From Rockford Breaking the Law In New Orleans

New Orleans vacation in the books. After the initial annoyance of the constant smell of garbage and urine wears off, one tends to find places that are less fake and touristy than some others. I enjoyed the cemeteries one didn’t have to pay to get into more in general. Something about paying to get in there to see dead people was upsetting. I found that many, if not most of the people you asked bout anything involving the city were telling the same lie. Either they didn’t know, or were making a profit telling the lie, or just didn’t see you as a tourist as someone worthy of getting a real answer. I didn’t give one damn or another about Marie Laveaux before I went to New Orleans, and I don’t now, but it seems every question I asked activated a rote response about her. I didn’t ask.

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Doorway on Peter Street in New Orleans by artist Jenny Mathews.

Here in Rockford a decade or so ago the mayor and civic leaders took a disliking to graffiti art, and went so far as to toss a couple of taggers in jail. It worked. Nobody does it anymore. Now the city holds a couple of summer festivals and invites those same artists to do graffiti art in the park while kids watch. In New Orleans they don’t seem to handle it that way. The artist Jenny painted into this piece, Achoo, is infamous in New Orleans. But after doing some research I discovered that doesn’t make him loved. There are videos of politicians and business owners offering a bounty for his/her arrest. I wonder if anyone has ever collected on that bounty.

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Outlaw Poet Thomas L. Vaultonburg pointing to a Zombie Logic Press sticker in New Orleans. I wonder who put it there?

The vacation was entirely enjoyable. One can be lulled into an easy assessment that the city is all piss and garbage if one remains in the French Quarter, but even there we saw world class art and antiques in the same building we had to step over a homeless man to get into. I also found a magic shop I thought was interesting. I bought a potion there called Fiery Blast of Will. I intend to dab some on my pulse points this evening and light my Creativity candle the kids got me for Christmas and write a haiku about the full moon.

The Toughskin Rhinoceros Wrangler Company

Another book I wrote was this childrens’ book titled The Toughskin Rhinoceros Wrangler Company. I wrote it for my now almost six year old guy, Jack, when he was just two because he had these stubby little legs and he reminded me of a rhinoceros for some reason. Four years later he has gotten skinny and soon his legs will get long and he hasn’t reminded me of a rhinoceros in a long time.

His mother, the artist Jenny Mathews, my partner, did the artwork for the book.

Rhinos

I wrote most of the book over a couple of days of Christmas when they were all in Texas and I was here in my small apartment.

Abbey Road Rhinos

The Abbey Road Rhinos. Jack did something that kind of blew me away last week. he made a pop up book. By himself. Well, he did ask me to cut out some trees. The book is titled Paper Out.

Pop Up Book

For me the part that blew my mind is the trees he drew look exactly like the ones Jenny drew for The Toughskin Rhinoceros Wrangler Company. He’s only seen that book once, and wasn’t really very interested in the story. He engineered the pop up book so it worked without anyone’s help. I don’t have much more to say about Rhinos. I wanted to write a book for my little guy, and I did. We sold out the first printing, then did a second, but we haven’t sold many this time. I get tired of trying to hawk books. It’s a soul-crushing process. I think Jenny managed to update the listing so it is available at Zombie Logic Press.

Everyone in my house now is a much better artist than me. All of my friends are better artists than me. I am happy because I have plans to publish all of their books and I hope I am allowed enough time with my heart condition to do a lot more work.

I think this is the last book I have to profile here that I either wrote or published. I have edited a few. April and May have been extra exhausting for me for some reason. I can’t say response has been brisk to any of the writing I am doing here. But I never expected a large response. I’m proud of the work in and of itself, and I hope with the literary reviews I also edit, Outsider Poetry and Zombie Logic Review that I am at least doing my part to encourage others to believe in themselves and their work.

That Train Don’t Stop Here Anymore

Five more poems from Dennis Gulling’s recently released book of Outlaw Poetry The Blood Dark Sea. It is available at Zombie Logic Press.

MEMORY

Your memory

Is scorched earth

Inside me

If I prayed

For rain now

Would I feel

Your sweat

Against my skin?

 

SHOTGUN LOVE

He stood outside

In the pouring rain

With a shotgun in his hand

Shouting her name

She stood behind the curtain

Waiting for the police to come

Feeling her heart pound

Like a fist in her chest

When he heard the first siren

He fired a shot in the air

Grabbed his crotch

And ran away

She couldn’t tell anyone

How much she hoped

He’d come back tomorrow

And do it again

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Tiny Drawing by my creative partner and illustrator Jenny Mathews of Rockford Illustrating

 

RAIN

I took a stick

Wrote your name in the mud

And watched it melt in the rain

Then I threw

The stick in the river

And watched it float away

I walked home thinking

That somewhere in the wind tonight

Were the last words

You said to me

When I got home

I left the front door open

To let the rain blow in

 

GARBAGE MAN

It was Bobby’s first day

As a garbage man

He asked his partner Hugh if

He’d ever found any dead bodies

In the dumpsters

Hugh looked sideways

Flashed his big brown teeth

And said no but

Once I found

A dog’s head in a paper bag

It was fresh

No worms or flies

I stuck it on my fist

And hung my arm out the window

At people on the street

Going bow wow

You assholes

Bow wow

Train

Illustration by Jenny Mathews of Tiny Drawings

 

THAT TRAIN DOESN’T STOP HERE ANYMORE

I come from a town

Where you grew up

Just waiting to escape

And when you were all grown up

You stayed anyway

Because that was the thing to do

And life was just whatever

Happened next

Every night on my way home from work

I’d wait at the crossing

And watch the freight train

Crawl through town

More than once I wondered

Where it was going

And if it was a place

Worth going to

Then after a while

The railroad shut down the line

And the tracks were just

A long scar across the town

Nobody seems to miss it much

Except for me

But not in a way I can get a handle on

My grandpa used to sing some song

About how dreams were trains

Because they could take you

Anywhere you’d want to go

When I think about it more

Maybe the song didn’t say that at all

Maybe that’s just the way

I remember it now

Walking down this rusty scar

In the middle of the night

Dreaming out loud about

How I’ll just keep walking

Until I catch up with all the freights

And find out once and for all

Just where it is they were going

But I know I’ve got a job, a house

And a family back the other way

So the dream becomes a dim hope

That eventually becomes that

Little kiss of sadness

When you’re alone and getting

Drunk the right way

It’s the alchemy of surrender

And it’s always there

Whether you like it or not

Your dream means a little less every day

It pulls away from you slowly

And you keep running to catch it

But that train doesn’t stop here anymore