david lerner | mein kampf


“Gary Snyder lives in the country. He wakes up in the morning and listens to birds. We live in the city.”

– Kathleen Wood

all i want to do is
make poetry famous

ali i want to do is
burn my initials into the sun

all i want do do is
read poetry from the middle of a
burning building
standing in the fast lane of the
falling from the top of the
Empire State Building

the literary world
sucks dead dog dick

I’d rather be Richard Speck
than Gary Snyder
I’d rather ride a rocketship to hell
than a Volvo to Bolinas

I’d rather
sell arms to the Martians
than wait sullenly for a
letter from some diseased clown with a
three-piece mind
telling me that I’ve won a
bullet-proof pair of rose-colored glasses
for my poem “Autumn in the Spring”

I want to be
by everyone who teaches for a living

I want people to hear my poetry and
get headaches
I want people to hear my poetry and

I want people to hear my poetry and
weep, scream, disappear, start bleeding,
eat their television sets, beat each other to death with
swords and

go out and get riotously drunk on
someone else’s money

this ain’t no party
this ain’t no disco
this ain’t no foolin’ a

grab-bag of
clever wordplay and sensitive thoughts and
gracious theories about

how many ambiguities can dance on the head of a
machine gun

this ain’t no
genteel evening over
cappuccino and bullshit

this ain’t no life-affirming
our days have meaning
as we watch the flowers breath through our souls and
fall desperately in love

this ain’t no letter-press, hand-me-down
wimpy beatnik festival of bitching about
the broken rainbow

it is a carnival of dread

it is a savage sideshow
about to move to the main arena

it is terror and wild beauty
walking hand in hand down a bombed-out road
as missiles scream, while a
sky the color of arterial blood
blinks on and off
like the lights on Broadway
after the last junkie’s dead of AIDS

I come not to bury poetry
but to blow it up
not to dandle it on my knee
like a retarded child with
beautiful eyes

throw it off a cliff into
icy seas and
see if the the motherfucker can
swim for its life

because love is an excellent thing
surely we need it

but, my friends…

there is so much to hate These Days

that hatred is just love with a chip on its shoulder
a chip as big as the Ritz
and heavier than
all the bills I’ll never pay

because they’re after us

they’re selling radioactive charm bracelets
and breakfast cereals that
lower your IQ by 50 points per mouthful
we get politicians who think
starting World War III
would be a good career move
we got beautiful women
with eyes like wet stones
peering out at us from the pages of
glassy magazines
promising that they’ll
fuck us till we shoot blood

if we’ll just buy one of these beautiful switchblade knives

I’ve got mine

I wish

I had known about David Lerner about fifteen years ago. That kind of knowledge probably wouldn’t have changed his life or mine but it would’ve given me the privilege of knowing his work while it was coming out and he was alive. THE LAST FIVE MILES TO GRACE, Zeitgeist Press, 2005,  with a Foreword by Bruce Isaacson, brings together much if not all of Lerner’s published work. While David Lerner was closely associated with the Café Babar poets, the Poesy Fall 2005 issue is devoted to the Babarians, Lerner could have and most certainly would have been a major poet anywhere in this country, he was that good. At his electric genius best, Lerner could write as well as the best of them. He had a line that could suck the power right out of thin air and shove it into a high voltage poem. The only thing I can say is that most of the poems in LAST FIVE MILES work off some kind of huge duende, some cracked, damaged but still functioning power circuit that only a few poets ever tap into. The two poems that really work for me are The Future Task Of Language and Mein Kampf. “the future task of language/is to/drive a cherry-red Mercedes Benz/into the heart of hell/and place a bet on God.” You just gotta love that line. If you have any pretensions about being a poet, any kind of poet at all, you gotta love that line. And, this from MEIN KAMPF. “how many ambiguities can dance on the head of a/machine gun.” It doesn’t matter if you call Lerner a Café Babar poet, a Baby Beat, or what. What he absolutely was, was, he was truly a major poet and a natural Outlaw. Todd Moore


to Bruce Isaacson for the permit of publishing David Lerner’s poem on OutlawPoetryCom.


by David Lerner appears in The Last Five Miles to Grace and I Want a New Gun, as well as The Graceful Arc of a Missile. All these books are available via our THE SHOP page here… or just click on the following covers. THANKS !

0 Replies to “david lerner | mein kampf”

  1. I’ve written at length about David Lerner before but somehow neglected to leave a comment so here it is. Lerner’s poetry is just about as good as it gets. After all the smoke and ashes have cleared Lerner’s work will continue to be read.

    Todd Moore

  2. Lerner was true visionary: he saw the future in yesterday and knew it was an eternal present. A sick but beautiful eternal present. And that is how I regard his poetry: an ugly, but necessary, stroke of truth. And truth is always beautiful. Especially when it is so creative and urgent and dynamic. Lerner’s “Mein Kampf” was a huge discovery for me and has become one of my all-time favorite poems. Upon listening to it the first time (I have a recording of Lerner doing an impassioned reading) — I felt as if I had written it; it was something I had connected to so intensely…

    If my own work could possess a 1/3 of his insight and feeling — I’d have accomplished something grand.

    NYC should have more poets like those madmen from ages ago…and the world at large should demand it–because Lerners are needed now more than ever.

    Peace to you all. Thanks Todd Moore for your insights, thanks Zeitgeist for having the guts to publish, and thanks Outlaw Poetry for this fine site. (Additional kudos for holding up a torch for Bob Kaufman!)

    R.I.P David.

    – signing off from 125th street, Harlem, USA
    the Nomad Junkie

  3. When I first read “Mein Kampf” in the summer of 2000, I was on the verge of suicide, from getting sober for a wife who was leaving me to being 3,000 miles of anything I was familiar with, I saw no purpose in all of it. With the discovery of this poem, as well as the band Blood for Blood, I was convinced I wasn’t alone in this world, regardless of sick my head told me I was. Shortly afterward I started writing poetry.
    Just recently I have had a few pieces published by Criminal Class Press, and I have been making head way in the Slam scene. I read and write with the intensity influenced by Lerner. If it wasn’t for this man and his words, I would be just another nobody rotting away in some doorway with a dope habit and only a bottle of whiskey to keep me company.
    Thank you David. Give ’em hell, where ever you are.

  4. I knew David back in the ’70s, when we hung out together in Palo Alto and slung words around at various poetry readings. He was flat funny, chewing up ideas and spitting them out for the rest of us to ponder. I always thought of him as a son of Zeus, thrown out of Olympus by his father and forced to deal with a raging Athena springing out of his head by stuffing her words into poems. I lost track of Lerner when our lives took different paths; I wish I’d known him when Zeitgeist took shape.

  5. Hi, I was searching for some new generation American underground poets through saint google and there I’ve meet with Lender by cosmic chance. I immediately fell in love with his words and translated Mein Kampf into Turkish. I’m also writing a short-piece of article about him as called A Poet who runs behind an Utopia: David Lender” Unfourtunately I wasn’t able to find many written material on him on the net but thanks to you guys and Bruce Isaacson, I was able to put some words for his quest to change the world with poetry. This translation and the article will be published soon in one of the Turkish Literary Magazine called as Karayazı (Blackart) Once the work has been published I’ll let you guys to read it on my blog.
    M. B. Sezer
    Istanbul / Turkey

  6. My response

    So if you wish to go to Africa,
    you dine with a dinosaur
    or else you let Borges describe
    how you descended from the Arabs.
    Films are made to stick out tongues
    without the need to say a word.
    Yet Jackass is one which sounds
    like a kitchen brass band
    when pots fall to the ground
    and no one is there, except
    Carlos William Carlos who saw
    in his help she had more veins
    than he did to embrace
    a coloured mix of race.
    That is why adaptation
    to future life on this planet
    is easy when still a boy
    riding a bicycle, but somehow
    those ages are lost
    on a cold winter day
    when gazing out the window, and
    nothing makes sense any more.
    Anyhow, it is late for obituaries
    since dead poets hang around
    like those ravens close to the ground
    when winter months won’t recede
    and everything appears darker
    than on the other side of the moon.
    Forsaken land, no forgiving the tone.
    A cry will not do to hush the baby.

    Hatto Fischer

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