While looking over William Taylor Jr’s web site one afternoon I came across some pictures of Taylor and Christopher Robin. There was not an explanation in the caption, but I figured they must be friends. I came upon his name on other sites as well. It kept popping up but still held the mystique of something transparent as he is not widespread on the internet. In my correspondance with Taylor, he mentioned Christopher Robin. He said, if you like my stuff, you’ll like his. Good enough for me– maybe an interview. Bill Taylor also said Chris was an undiscovered gem. I couldn’t find any contact info on him except a PO Box. Who the hell writes anymore?
Answer: Christopher Robin.
…………………………………………………………………..(Photo by Joe Pachinko)
I ordered Freaky Mumbler’s Manifesto from LuLu and when it arrived I gave it a quick read. Oh shit—not like Taylors’s stuff at all. Not better, nor worse–something different. It is 97 pages of poetry that you cross the street or turn your head to avoid when walking the dog. It is honest, raw, a bit raunchy, and from the heart, just the way Robin has lived it. Like he says, he writes for himself, to provide a bit of clarity to this messed up world. It was good stuff, so good I ordered his chap, Angleflies in My Idiot Soup from platonic3waypress.com and I wasn’t disappointed with that selection either. I would also recommend Zen Baby. For a couple of bucks and it is worth every penny and then some Christopher Robin will mail you a copy. If you like send Chris a little extra to keep you from feeling like cheap ass.
Christopher Robin has been invisible to all except his friends and maybe he prefers it that way, but I think he has something to say.
If Hipster’s Were Garbage Men by Christopher Robin
I would be one
if they had been given lobotomies
I would be one
if they were unsure of their next dime,
never graduated from college, had no resume,
I would be a hipster instead of a mumbly-headed American douchebag
with bad tattoos-
they throw their black hoodys onto their front lawns
their cd’s and their books,
in their semi-bad neighborhoods
where they drink beer on their crumbling front porches &
I move in for the kill…..
I am the king of cool then, on my yellow bike, selling their books
and wearing their clothes
I even have pictures of hipsters I have never met
on my fridge
I get them from garage sales
they throw away their lives like
they throw away their philosophy books-
they are college kids
and philosophies don’t last forever
sometimes I buy their bad art for 50 cents or a dollar
because I feel sorry for them
they gave up their art dreams way too early
but they are over it, they don’t care!
they’re headed for austin or san francisco
or l.a. tomorrow anyway
in their tiny compact cars
they’ll find another bad neighborhood-
unlike some of us, they don’t have to live in one forever
they come to my flea market spot on Saturdays, (not till afternoon of course!)
they like to buy 80’s records-
it makes them feel ironic
“dude, this is so bad, what if we like collected all this music
just cuz it was bad?”
I sell their books right back to them,
after rescuing them from the sprinklers,
camus, kerouac, orwell,
all in excellent condition-
and I’m sure I will do this more than once
because I am the garbage man of hipsters
that is my job.
Scot: You are a poet and a publisher. Which do you find the most satisfying?
Chris: As a poet I am only writing for myself, and it’s more satisfying in the way that I don’t put a lot of expectations into the finished product, no deadlines and nobody to please. Publishing zines and chaps is really the opposite; it’s my own creativity, ultimately, but so many other people are in my head. A lot of editors have told me the same thing, it’s hard to know what to give your energy to in the course of a day, especially if you have very little of it, energy, that is, which I often do.
Scot: How many chaps do you have out? Which one is your favorite?
Chris: I have three chapbooks, Who Will Pay the Royalties for the Voices in My Head,Freaky Mumbler’s Manifesto, which I published on Lulu last year, and the recent, Angelflies in My Idiotsoup from Platonic3Way Press. My first book, which came out in 1999 will always be my favorite, mainly for sentimental reasons. The first edition was typed and laid out on an old word processor, created long distance (over the phone) by a very good friend of mine who was also surviving on disability; and each book was hand sewn and stapled by her, 200 copies total. She believed in me and it really meant a lot to me that someone wanted to help me get my writing out.
Scot: Your friend William Taylor Jr. gets a lot of his material from the streets and bars of SF, where does yours come from?
Chris: I don’t hang out in bars too much these days, unless I’m looking for William Taylor, Jr, but like him I do spend a lot of time in my own neighborhoods, walking aimlessly and talking to the unfortunates, and I am one, but I don’t meet as many prostitutes as he seems to (at 3 a.m.). Nowadays I don’t write as much about the streets because I no longer live on them. My inspiration might come from stealing fruit from trees in the summer time, the end of the world, politics, my crazy friends, poverty, being a throw-away poet on ssi, synchronicity found around every corner, the magic of the everyday, the list goes on.
Scot: Why do you write?
Chris: for my own clarity, the process of writing distills things for me, maybe I can be in the world a little easier once I’ve broken it down, it clears my head and helps me take the world and my own problems less seriously. I’d like to be able to break it all down into very short, tight sentences, but I’m not there yet.
Scot: Unlike a lot of today’s poets, there is not much of Christopher Robin on the internet. Is this by design or failure to market?
Chris: Well, because of a certain cartoon character who spends a lot of time trying to steal my identity, you’d have to search pretty specifically. There’s a bit on my zine, Zen Baby, a lot of reviews over the years, (though there was another book that came out with the same title, after I started publishing); and thanks to Charles P. Ries a lot of reviews on my chapbooks. But it’s true I don’t submit a lot of poetry to online publications, I still prefer print, its more tangible, feels more permanent, and I prefer it. And I don’t google myself too much, I’ve heard it can make you go blind.
Scot: Tell us about Zen Baby? Do you take submissions or solicit?
Chris: I started Zen Baby zine in 2000. I’d quit drinking a few years earlier and was completely unemployable (still am, mostly). I call it the Literary Hijinks of Glorified Nobodies. It’s a bit of a literary mosh-pit, poems, continents, classes, ideas, all clashing and getting together in a mess of glue and smeared ink. I rarely solicit submissions unless I really like someone’s work and haven’t heard from them for a while. I get a lot of submissions, almost all of them through regular mail. The reason I don’t put my email online is because email submissions are too hard to keep track of. There is a lot of prisoner input, both artwork and poetry; (I also run a distro for prisoner-made zines, I Press On! Publications); it includes artwork, semi-coherent socio-political rants, and tons of small press poets and often some (mildly) juicy small press gossip (but not the mean kind, only satire).
Scot:“ Do you have a writing routine?
Chris: No, but I prefer to write late at night, unless internet porn or games are competing for my attention, or I like to spend an entire Saturday afternoon not getting dressed or brushing my teeth, just cigarettes and coffee, and not eating really, but that doesn’t happen enough, sadly, so I write whenever I can no longer stand the fact that I’m not writing.
Scot: I have seen pictures of you at a typewriter. So, how do you write—longhand, typewriter, computer?
Chris: My good friend and favorite writer Joe Pachinko took those pictures at my house. I think he wanted to camp it up a bit, he’s a clown and typewriter aficionado himself. I collect typewriters, I cherish them, they are treasures, but most of mine are badly in need of repair right now. They will also be our best mode of communication when the lights truly go out. I actually do most of my writing on an Alphasmart3000, which is just a simple, battery operated portable keyboard with no bells and whistles. It was invented for kids with ADD who get distracted by Internet porn, and I plug it into Word for editing and printing. It’s the best thing I’ve ever found, a nice middle ground between a typewriter and a computer.
Scot: Who were your favorite poets growing up? Did you have a major influence?
Chris: I discovered Bukowski when I was 15. I also read a lot of Brautigan and the Beats as a teenager. My mother owned a bookstore, so I discovered a lot of writers that way.
Scot: Who are your heroes?
Chris: `I don’t really believe in heroes, but I have some ideas: G o AWOL, feed a hungry person, don’t fear the government, stand up for your rights and of those around you, don’t be silent, speak up for prisoners, publish your own shit, don’t join any groups. In a fascist country, these are heroic acts, in my opinion.
Scot: What is the most unlikely place you ever gave a poetry reading?
Chris: I’ve read at people’s houses, in bars, in the parking lot outside of our open mic after they closed our venue recently, don’t know how unlikely those places are. I don’t know if reading inside of a Laundromat for 4 years counts, there are other readings in Laundromat/Cafes but not many, I suppose. Long live the Wired Wash Café!
Scot: What is it to be an underground poet?
Chris: To be invisible except to all of your friends, to be mildly appreciated by those who have nothing else left in life; being constantly busy sending letters and obscure mail art for no apparent reason to people I’ve never met. Life in a mailbox is not a lonely life, though some would say it might be futile, but I don’t mind. We create community from wherever we are, virtually or through the mail. I know people from all over the country and overseas, and I probably will never meet most of them. The small press and zines are the only truly free press that we have left, that is, not controlled by corporations or government, vital and necessary forms of communication, I say.
Scot: If you could ask a literary figure a question—a sit down–who would it be and how would it go?
Chris: I would love to talk to Jack Kerouac, he’s appeared to me in a lot of dreams that I chronicled in a zine many years ago. I don’t have the dreams anymore, sadly, but I considered them a gift, as I have felt a spiritual kinship with him for years. And I wouldn’t mind talking to Allen Ginsberg or Neal Cassady, but I wouldn’t ask them anything, I would just sit silently and listen while they babbled on about important, mystical and nonsensical things.
Scot: When not involved in poetry, what occupies your time?
Chris: Riding my electric scooter, playing internet games, making, copying, distributing zines of all types, riding the nearby roller coaster, writing letters, drinking coffee, smoking, listening to Flipper records, sleeping, watching Adult Swim Cartoons, swimming in the river, going on road trips, gambling, collecting clowns, doing odd jobs. I stay pretty busy. I play constantly, and avoiding manual labor also takes up a lot of my time, never enough time in a day.
Scot: What writers today do you like to read?
Chris: Joe Pachinko, Nicole Henares, William Taylor, Jr, Misti Rainwater-Lites, Michael Lites, Jennifer Blowdryer, Lauren Masaka, Nancy Gauquier, Debbie Kirk, Brian Morrisey, John Sweet, Jesse Beagle, Bruce Isaacson, Todd Moore, S.A. Griffin, Scott Wannberg, John Dorsey, David S. Pointer, Charles P. Ries, Frank Walsh, those are just a few of my favorite poets right now.
Scot: Does poetry really matter?
Chris: Not really, but it matters to those of us that write it. Too many writers, very few readers and/or buyers. I try to support a few poets that I really like, by actually buying chapbooks from them, trading is great but we all gotta eat, and the small publishers who do good work, they should be supported. As far as the mainstream goes, poetry might be considered the lowest form of art right now. I blame slam poetry and constipated- academic-poetry for this. Slam poetry has tried to turn poetry into an MTV commodity, and it’s succeeded, it’s popular and lucrative, but that’s where the conformity and lack of soul comes in. People don’t realize there are alternatives to these types of poetry, so they ignore us where it might count. There are so many amazing books from small press writers, really good writers, who should be on the bookstore shelves, not just in our living rooms. It is a shame how many good writers go under appreciated and unnoticed in this culture.
Scot: What question would you like someone to ask, but they never do?
Chris: “Can I cook dinner for you and then have sex with you and then leave you alone so you can write poems about me?” Well, I get that sometimes, but not enough.
Correspondence here: Christopher Robin P.O. Box 1611 Santa Cruz, CA 95061-1611
Guild of Outsider Writers