A.D. Winans, introduction by Jack Hirschman, The Other Side of Broadway. Presa :S: Press, POBox 792, Rockford, MI, 49341, www.presapress.com, ISBN: 0-9772524-5-0, 2007. 131 pages, $18
Way back when, in the early 70's, when I was a neophyte poet trying to negotiate the labyrinthine world of the small presses, I came across the name A.D. Winans. He was running the Second Coming Press then and I was intrigued by some of the outlaw poets he was publishing. Most of the books I bought back then have disappeared, been stolen, loaned and never returned, or thrown away in a move. One book I retained, however, ordering additional copies when I was sure it had disappeared yet again, was William Wantling's. 7 On Style. I have it here now and the words still fly off the page and grab hold of me and shake me to the core.
But I only knew Wantling through his words. Winans was his friend and his tribute poem "For William Wantling" offers a deeply felt elegy for the man who died way too young,
"Looking into the cracked lips of
Indeed, he is not. Winans is a poet, a man, who survives as so many of his friends and fellow writers did not. Other elegiac include poems include tributes to suicide d.a. levy, beat poet Bob Kaufmann, W. S. Burroughs and Kenneth Patchen. It is this instinct for survival with a keen eye, that separates Winans from other poets whose light burned brightly and were then snuffed out.
I can't say when I became aware of Winans the poet; it seems as if he has always been writing and publishing poems. He has professed, in his memoir and elsewhere, that Bukowski was a kind of "hero" despite rejecting him as a friend as he did so many others. Bukowski, for Winans, was the man who taught him what was essential to write about, who showed the way toward making the truest poem possible.
Despite the Bukowski influence, Winans is decidedly his own man. What he has taken from Bukowski is the spirit of the rebel, the outsider who cuts through the artificial and the crap to the truth. He does this without pretense, without chest beating, without the self-glorification of a poser but not without fire,
"The old man down on
the one with no legs
and a skateboard
has more balls than the President
this is a bitch of a poem
not a bitching one"
Unlike Bukowski Winans hasn't made a career out of complaining about how his life has been down and out, even when he is living (in Bukowski's case) the life of a fat cat on the money he made from his writing. Winans simply tells it like it is,
"these old men beat their heads
nightly against the four walls
forced to listen to death's call
the pain so great that
a bottle of aspirin
a fifth of whiskey brings
from "Old Men of North Beach
Also unlike Bukowski, Winans is not afraid to write overtly political poems such as, the inflammatory "Fourth of July Poem" or the "On the Bombing of Iraq. In addition to these polemical pieces are selections from his Panama sequence; first-hand observations from his time in the service, stationed in Latin America, where he witnessed one of America's systematic imperial incursions overseas.
"Panama City could have been Any slum city in America Run by corrupt police and politicians But when you add the American troops Sent there to safeguard the people It was worse than any slum" from "Panama One"
Ultimately, what all these poems share is an abiding respect and empathy for the underdog, the put upon, the disenfranchised, those forgotten and marginalized by society. The poet who will write disdainfully of "Tough Guy Poets" writes of the establishment poets in his "Poem for Jack Micheline",
"their faces are puffy their
they'll be sniffing
The implication is; the phonies will sniff at the grave of the true poet who refused to sell his soul for a poetry credit, a wine cellar full of vintage wine, and a tenure track teaching
position; give me fortified wine and a barroom with a microphone and we'll make some poetry happen. It is no accident that Winans chose to lionize his friend Micheline as he embodied, the rebellious spirit of his time.
In recent years, Winans has been photographing his milieu, the west coast towns and bars and water-fronts where he lives. The photos are poems in black and white, small stories in themselves as the cover photo, taken by the author, shows.
And while the poet is no longer young, no longer spry or the man he once may have been, he offers and assessment of his life in the final poem of this excellent collection, an epitaph of a kind, both brutal but to the point,
"Thirty degree nights won't kill
from "Winter Poem"
A word on Presa S Press. It's a relatively new press who have been publishing an excellent series of books by deserving poets and playwrights who have been paying their dues in the small press community for decades, often without the kind of recognition they deserve. In addition to Winans, this series includes, Stanley Nelson, Kirby Congdon, Glenna Luschei, Hugh Fox, Harry Smith (with Eric Greinke) and Lyn Lifshin among others.
Terry Reis Kennedy
BILLIE HOLIDAY ME AND THE BLUES
By A.D. Winans
erbacce-press, Liverpool UK 2009
36 pp., $8.00
hooked into money and fame. And Winans who always worked at jobs to support his art
never wanted to be part of any Gentleman's Club In “Post Office Reflections,” he notes:
its racist Klanism, its failure to perceive women as equal to men, in her performances she was able
to fly. Winans empathizes with her yearning for salvation through freedom. Consequently, he has
created this tribute, not only for “The Jazz Lady” (title of a poem dedicated to her); but he sings a
sad farewell to the Blues as well. For example, in “The Demise of Jazz in North Beach,” he writes:
No cool cats in North Beach anymore/No cool cats blowing the horn/No jazz at the old Purple Onion/No be-bop snapping fingers/No fallen angels spreading their legs/On the way home/after/A conversation with God/No black cats improvising the blues/No white dudes riding
the midnight express/No stoned soul train musicians blowing/Mean clean notes crucified suffocating/In the smoking mirrors of the mind/Gone buried in the decadence/