todd moore | blood and fate under mad stars

Writing poetry in america.

Writing poetry in america under the sign of the gun. Writing poetry in some broken down american bar. Writing poetry while trying to drive a cab. In america. Writing poetry while working at the post office, some guy has a stop watch on you, the hangover you are sweating through is soaking the back of your shirt. In america.

Writing poetry in america when every knows that writing poetry in america is like playing against the very long odds. Writing poetry in america in the shadow of a police cruiser. Writing poetry in america while washing dishes in The Greasy Spoon Diner and some guy called Vinnie is yelling Where the fuck are the forks. Writing poetry in america on the back of some lost child poster you found blowing down the street. Writing poetry in america when writing poetry in america is reserved for the marginal, the outsider, the fucked up, the condemned, the outlaw, and the very very lost. Writing poetry in america when the only other option is to suffer silence as though it were a tumor.

Albert Huffstickler wrote poetry in beaten up american diners and stayed in old motels where the plumbing rattled and knocked and the air conditioning didn’t work in the heat and the heat didn’t work in the winter and somebody was always screaming or singing in the next room and it messed with his cadences.


Claude Walker
old saw-filer
in his sixties
wept drunk
in my arms
for his dead
fly open
stinking and
weeping who
downed double
shots like
sody pop
and worked a
sixteen hour
day still drunk
from the night
before at sixty
three: wept
in my arms
for a dead
child him-
self immune
to mortality.

From CITY OF THE RAIN by Albert Huffstickler

Kell Robertson writes poetry in america. Kell Robertson has written poetry in saloons and underneath bridges and on the tops of mountains and behind dumpsters and drunk and sober and with money in his pockets and with no money at all but with a can of beer in one hand and a borrowed ballpoint pen in the other. Kell Robertson is the kind of Outlaw Poet who could have robbed banks, maybe even did but isn’t telling. He doesn’t have to. His poems do all the talking.

Pretty Boy Floyd

with a banG
broke the laws & the banks
they called him chock
because he was part choctaw
& when he drove into town
the people cheered
they knew he was going to burn a mortgage
& take some money
away from the bankers
they wouldn’t turn him in
for the reward
though they were starving

Old Chock was alright
they’d say
Ain’t seen him
they’d mutter

But the law got him
shot him down in a cornfield
not because he was a criminal
but because he wasn’t organized

He was layin there
full of bullets
& the cops asked him
Are you Pretty Boy Floyd?
& he said
“My name is Charlie Arthur Floyd”
& died
like it was important to him


Maybe the most important thing about poetry written at gut level, the poem written at blood level, the poem written at Outlaw level is that your name is your poem and you die for the primal. And, because you know you are going to die anyway, you die for your name. And, because you are an Outlaw Poet when you die for your name you die for everyone’s name.

strange movie full of death

Strange movie full of death
asks us to play ourselves
as the front door falls face first
onto the floor.
Women and men explore consent
in the back alley
where memoirs get written
between gunshots.
Smiling zombies in police lineups of love
look painfully familiar.
The ER is overfull,
and First Class is on fire.
I went down and out to find gold under the asphalt.
I beat my chest and sang like a mockingbird.
The ambulance is coming to see you
and the murder rate has its own new hour show on HBO.
Beneath the bleeding stairs
an uneasy truce is reached,
and lovers intend to do their laundry
before the next attack.


Scott Wannberg writes poems that masquerade as film scripts for the Marx brothers, produced by the Coen brothers, story boards by Magritte. Nothing makes any sense in a Scott Wannberg poem because he writes in america and yet everything makes perfect sense. Once you realize that the true meaning of poetry is meaninglessness, you will understand everything. And, how might Wannberg’s poetry possibly fit an Outlaw scenario? The Outlaw Poet in america is both literary felon and literary victim and Wannberg is the perfect victim voyeur.


was the
one warren
oates was
of while
the cam
eras were
in the
while oates
the 50
gun barrel
men crowded
near the
wall &
in the
frenzy &
the passion
of his
in the
black mex
ican heat

Poem by Todd Moore, first published in Poesy XXXIV, the Outlaw issue.

Outlaw Poetry contains both ferocious laughter and comedic gunfire. And, it has an acute knowledge of both blood and fate.

and we sniffed the air like wolves for the scent of rain, probing the night for a vision in a clock of numbers under mad stars.

From Tony Moffeit’s novel BLUES FOR BILLY THE KID.

Todd Moore books/cds are available here… Scott Wannberg is avalable here… a Albert Huffstickler CD by Vox Audio is available here… a Kell Robertson book is available here… Tony Moffeit books/cd’s are available here… and last (but not least) click for Poesy Mag here…

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