The Oil Beast

The Oil BeastI have a love for Mythological creatures–monsters, mermaids, Selkies, golems and whatnot– angels of death. . .

Being a refugee from Catholicism, I’m acquainted with all manner of imaginary apparitions, angels and the like.  Being Irish there is also that whole passel of Jenny-Linds, faeries and bog-trotting terrors embroidered into our narrative as well.

I’ve always liked gryphons.  Nobody can tell you exactly their genesis, though they are spotted most often in the heraldic symbolism of the British empire.  The Ottomans were also quite fond of them as was the Indian poet, Rumi, who wrote of them as if they actually existed.  In almost all accounts they are part lion, eagle and goat of some wild sort, and they are stone bad-asses; reportedly as strong as ten lions, if you believe the Scots. ( I don’t.)  They are quite arresting visually.  A few years ago I began noticing them around New Orleans on crests for hotels and things like that.

I’ve been thinking about New Orleans a lot the last few days.  The  disastrous oil-spill that comes just as this holy place has found its footing again.  Through the monumental cultural efforts of people like Daniel Cameron, the visionary who brought (against great odds) Prospect 1 and soon, Prospect 2, the New Orleans Biennial, to this town and struck the first vital blows and arguments for the cultural revitalization of this city, David Simon and Eric Overmyer; who have filmed the engrossing and deeply-felt meditation of New Orleans and its people with the “Treme” series for HBO.  Catherine Brennan, of the Brennan restaurant family, who built Second Line Stages in the Lower Garden District to attract more film projects and thus more jobs to New Orleans.   Garland Robinette, who fights the good fight for his city every day on the radio and takes no prisoners and accepts no half-measures.

It is a city and a people worth every word ever written about them.  I also can’t help but miss the brilliant Paul Sanchez and John Boutte, guys who stayed and played the benefits, kept the faith, and loved this city with a fury despite the fact that New Orleans could love its musicians a little more.  After all, music is New Orleans’  first language.

About a year from now my New Orleans diary will be published.  It is called  A Thousand Beautiful Things and when I started it three years ago, honestly I thought I’d be done by now.  But as with everything else in New Orleans, this book took its own sweet time and will be what it wants to be.  I’m going back down there in early June to reconnect and finish my thoughts about our most necessary city; this place. . .our covenant with the old world. . .the place where I finally learned how to dance.

Published in: on May 2, 2010 at 2:33 pm  Comments (2)  

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  1. […] handsome a book can be when the publisher lets the author pick the artwork! Tony Fitzpatrick’s ‘The Oil Beast’ flicks it’s creepy-magical gryphon-y tongue at you, and the poet thanks him with a dedicated […]

  2. Reblogged this on The Armageddon of Funk and commented:
    I am thrilled to be performing poems from my latest book “The Armageddon of Funk” (Tia Chucha Press 2012) in Michelle Tea’s RADAR Reading Series next Wednesday, September 5, at the San Francisco Public Library/Main Branch, 6pm/FREE. Michelle wrote the first review of the AoF and she was as geeked by the cover art, “The Oil Beast,” as the poems (if not more). You can find that review in one of my earlier posts at “The Oil Beast,” is one more mind-blowing image from my old friend and collaborator Tony Fitzpatrick (see In one of Tony’s previous blogs (reposted here) he tells the story behind the art. I will follow up with my own story explaining how and why I selected this artwork for my book in a soon to be posted interview with Michelle Tea (follow Michelle’s wondrous goings on at

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