I've written a lot about poet Ron Padgett lately, as we hosted his tribute to artist and poet Joe Brainard last month. (Some of his poetry, as well as a review of his Brainard memoir, can be found on our web site, www.KingdomBks.com). Coming up on Monday July 17, 4 p.m., Ron will read his own poetry here at Kingdom Books, along with Tom Veitch. So let me fill you in a bit about Veitch, who has been under the radar in recent years as a Vermont bookseller.
As I said to the booksellers (with a few additions from Tom himself) --
I bet you think you know the booksellers in Vermont pretty well: their specialties, their tendency to post e-mails, whether they come to book fairs. But I'm guessing this e-mail might bring you a few new details about Tom Veitch of Lightgate Books. That's right, Tom with the thick shock of greying hair, bristling eyebrows, low gruff voice, plentiful suggestions about the new world of e-commerce. Tom whose shop in Manchester, Vermont (with Martha), specializes in history, travels, exploration, and comparative religion. Got it?
Well, Tom is actually one of the most published Vermonters! He started with experimental novels, and his noted "Eat This!" got praised by the Chicago Review ("His vision is perfect. He has written a masterpiece.") when it came out in 1974 through Angel Hair Books (think Lewis Warsh, Bernadette Mayer). This is a book that's heavy on wordplay, country life, alternative nutty characters, a few motorcycles and moccasins -- classic 1960s/1970s fun:
"It was night. It was day. It was night and the sky poured kerosene on the roofs of the sleepy village. Night spiders spun webs from tree to tree. The Grand Dolphin, an imposing personage of collected years, sat in the mellow light of the library, studying Mole through a lookingglass. In the darkest corners of the room the books opened and closed with clandestine sound, each whispering of the topic it knew best."
Tom's earlier work, published at first by Ted Berrigan, included plenty of poetry, too, and in 1976 Big Sky brought out his 1964-1974 collection "Death College & Other Poems," with an afterword by Allen Ginsberg, who said, "At the end he breaks through to mystical transcendence bullshit humor." Here's a Veitch poem from the collection:
They gave him a restingplace in a hurry
They had to, he was getting smaller
Soon he would disappear.
In the nick of time
They closed the grave over him!
At that moment the sun was eclipsed!
The astonomers in attendance
raised smoked glasses
and shouted: A major discovery---
Quotation marks around the sun!
Okay, now you think you know Tom a bit better. But wait -- From 1965 to 1968 he was a cloistered monk in Weston, Vermont. And after that, he wrote novels, a screenplay, edited his own magazine, and became intensely valued for scripting underground comic books. He broke through into true fame with his contributions to the Dark Horse line of Star Wars comic book titles, notably DARK EMPIRE and TALES OF THE JEDI. He also wrote for DC Comics (ANIMAL MAN; and two Elseworlds series).
Think you know him now? I bet you don't know enough yet. But if you come to his poetry reading here at Kingdom Books on Monday July 17 at 4 p.m., Tom will read collaborations with his longtime friend Ron Padgett (they met at Columbia in 1963). He'll also read from a book he is writing about William S. Burroughs. You'll at least be able to say you've heard his voice doing something outrageous and entertaining and provocative. You'll be able to shake his hand and say, "Hey, Tom, it's been real." Or more!
Come on up or over. The refreshments are on us, and you'll never think of Vermont bookshops the same way again.