Sunday, May 4, 2008
One Hundred Project : Ed Skoog
What is on your stereo at the moment?
"Shake Some Action," by the Flamin' Groovies.
3 records that changed your life. Why?
"Paul's Boutique," The Beastie Boys and "Fear of a Black Planet," Public Enemy, from my freshman year in college, because it was my freshman year in college. It was one of the last albums able to sort through the full record bin for samples before the law stepped in and ruined sampling.
"Another View," Velvet Underground, bought at World Records on 6th Street in Topeka, because it was my introduction to music not on V100, and although it's not one of the great VU albums, it still told me important things about oblivion & liberty.
A cassette of Bill Monroe standards bought at some megamart on the way back to Manhattan, KS from seeing Urge Overkill in Lawrence, KS. Those were strange days, and among the strange things in the world, Bill Monroe's ragged and out-of-time mandolin is one of them.
What are you looking forward to?
Moving back to civilization and being around record stores and live music again. I'm looking forward to hearing whatever is onstage at the Tractor Tavern in Ballard. I'm also looking forward to going back to New Orleans this summer and hearing what's playing from cars driving slowly down my street in the Hollygrove.
What couldn't you live without? Why?
My banjo. I keep in the pick case six rocks I found on the Konza prairie, a piece of bark from Richard Hugo's grave, and some shards of mammoth ivory I traded a dulcimer for.
Most memorable gig?
In music, playing with Mike West and Myshkin at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, one hot afternoon in 2000.
In poetry, reading with Thurston Moore and John Hodgman and Kelly Link at the VFW Hall in Hadley, Massachusetts last January.
Who/what are your influences?
Alfred Hitchcock and Eddie Floyd.
What is the best and worst thing about the city that you live in?
Nobody's here, and the fishing's not great. No new bookstores, no good bars, and the movie theater only shows one movie at a time, the same one for weeks. The best thing is that an hour away, in Temecula, there's a small record store with a very expensive cardboard box of California psychedelic records of the 60s and 70s.
Given the accelerated pace of modern culture, what are we due a revival in?
Ragged string band music, of course. Probably vaudeville.
My grand-uncle E.E. Haley of Ottawa Kansas, because he died driving home from work at ninety-five years old. Next door to his office in Ottawa was an old music store, with a collection of exotic instruments in the window and throughout the store. Sitars, tablas, all dusty and unplayed.
Ed Skoog's first book of poems, *Mister Skylight*, will be published by Copper Canyon in 2009. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Paris Review, Poetry, Threepenny Review, Naked Punch (UK) and elsewhere.
Ed also suffers through life up here in Idyllwild with the rest of us except he gets to teach creative writing by day and take his two dogs for long scenic walks by night and occasionally he turns his soundsystem up to 11 and blasts out choice cuts from his small but perfectly formed record collection. He also contributes to the Ward Six blog where you can read some of his poetry, opinions and musings including this one. He isn't afraid of battling in a poetry-off, which he did with aplomb a few weeks ago at one of the many readings that he has organized up here at the academy. He'll be sorely missed when he moves onto pastures new in a few weeks.
I particularly like this poem of Ed's.
Like Night Catching Jackrabbits in Its Barbed Wire
It's my thirty-fifth birthday and some old friends
are visiting. We drive up to Pioneertown's
one bar and (separate) bowling alley
where the singer who calls herself Cat Power
has left her scoresheet on the wall.
We bowl better in her glow and original
pinks and greens of 1951 the alley's saved.
Back in our civilian footwear we walk
sand to Pappy and Harriet's Pioneer Palace
and drink our beers, play Quiddler with a fresh
deck as the band begins its roadhouse fight songs.
A marine with shaved head and band aid
on his nose plops down and steals my wife's beer.
She snatches it back, looks to me, my words
forming in my hand. The soldier's buddy
apologizes, says he's just returned
from the sandbox that afternoon, forty Iraq weeks
and they're getting him drunk. An officer,
my age, in slacks and button down, leans in
from the table behind, says he's watching,
not to worry. I've been here before, in dark
on a side road of my little town beside the army base.
I remember how beating felt, how good
in cold to smile at ways they beat me.
I'd always been hungry to be touched, and bread
they fed me was sweet. All things that happen bad
are soft to lay down on later. Once comfort
I hoped for was gone, what was sharp and bitter
was my mother. That was first Gulf War.
Back in the roadhouse we finish our game,
the bar closes, our wives go back to motel
and we still thirsty drive into town twenty miles
through summer's forest fire to Joshua Tree
Saloon, downroad from where Gram Parsons
died twice in 1974, overdosing on heroin.
The first time, his hooker expertly shoved
a cube from the ice bucket up his ass,
brought him back to life, yet he knew enough
of life to shoot up again an hour later,
when she stepped out for a cheeseburger.
It's hard to save your own life, to take
such extreme measures alone. The woman
at the saloon, heavy with heavy curls
collects drinks and asks are you a marine?
as I bruise past to the bar's blue ATM,
and I do feel underwater, undersea
five thousand feet above its level.
And when I wake from my drowning,
outside motel window the mountains
are still deciding what gown to wear.
Quail know the story. Between bushes
they sing it. A hawk listens from the arm
the Joshua tree waves with. My wife pours
orange juice into a green glass on kitchenette
beside black crumbs of birthday cake.
As an added bonus, I've decided to give you one of Ed's favourite albums in full.
Download Beastie Boys Paul's Boutique here.