Jasper Kerkau Interview with Dustin Pickering (Transcendent Zero Press)

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When Rich and I decided to move Sudden Denouement into the world of publishing, we were most fortunate to have the brilliant light that is Dustin Pickering to lean on. He is editor/co-founder of Transcendent Zero Press, along with Z.M. Wise, a distinct and powerful voice as well. Thankfully, Dustin gave of himself freely and has been instrumental in our evolution. We are grateful to have been given the opportunity to publish his forthcoming collection of poetry. I recently had an opportunity to sit down with Dustin and ask him some questions about his process and his poetry. Anyone who is not familiar with Transcendent Zero, or his journal Harbinger Asylum should take some time to acquaint themselves.

Jasper Kerkau: You are a writer who has utilized numerous forms over the years, how important do you feel it is for poets to challenge themselves in this manner?

Dustin Pickering: As far as form is concerned, one thing I learned is that form engages the writer more than free verse. You strain your phrases to fit syllabic demands or rhyme scheme, so you are forced to think outside of an empty box. Form is structure and structure often intonates meaning better than no form—in fact, a lack of form is inherently a form itself. Nothing exists in a vacuum. Writers should be free to experiment in a variety of approaches and work with what suits them best, yet I would recommend learning form for the same reason a musician would learn music theory. It is not terribly hard, and it enlarges your toolkit.

JK: Sudden Denouement is publishing your forthcoming collection of poetry, tell us a little about it and what you want readers to take away from it.

DP: Grey Soliloquy is the story of a performer who has been victimized by an obsessed fan. He accuses her of taking his words and using them in her songs. Her beauty and charm as a woman is called into question. One thing I try to engage with in this story is the way women are objectified and victimized by society at large. I explore, as a man, a woman’s psyche. This is a controversial approach to this question—it may be called “womanfacing” if there is a term. In this series of short poems, the performer speaks her side of the story after learning her fan committed suicide. She feels guilty, yet questions this guilt and is angry. I even delve into what I consider the hidden elements of attraction and romance between men and women, seeing it as a primitive animalistic pursuit. That animalistic quality is part of the original spark of attraction and the seeking of an Other. Jordan Peterson remarks that red is a powerful attraction color because it is the color of fruit, and engages our eyes more sensually. So I embrace lust as a kind of primordial dusk buried within our unconscious. Perhaps a genetic song seeking harmony. In these poems, the performer has a secret relationship with the fan in question—it is not a real, physical relationship, but a bond that brings them together in a kind of courtship of disaster. Her mixed emotions betray her sense of failing to fully understand her situation; she identifies with the obsession. I wanted this emotional complex to reflect reality, not a moral judgment. To be clear, I condemn acts of aggression and any act which limits or violates a person’s own will. The collection does not intend to persuade or cast stones as much as reflect a psychic struggle within someone whose situation creates moral ambiguity within them. Readers will decide if this attempt is successful.

JK: What is Transcendent Zero Press and how has it impacted you as a writer?

DP: Transcendent Zero Press began as a punk band. It was named after a word in the dictionary combined with the Smashing Pumpkins hit “Zero”. Later, I developed it into a concept after realizing the depth it could convey. It is a concept that reflects the non-being of God as an agent of creation. Non-being persuades, not initiates force. It exists, and as an existent it formulates possibility. Zero is the realm of nothingness and is neither a positive nor negative association. Transcendent is a realm of surpassing the ordinary, striving beyond the Self. Yet it does not reach into an Other, it goes above. Zero is an act of stabilizing polarities by observation, attaining a state astride quantum uncertainty. Transcendent Zero is a paradox, a conceptual interlude to the realm of Being. It became the name of my publishing company in 2010. As a publisher, I have networked with countless poets and writers, learning more and more from them in the process. I have learned what a labor of love it is to create a book. Writing is only the beginning.

JK: How would you characterize your poetry, and what writers had the biggest influence on your poetry?

DP: My poetry is a challenge to whatever the status quo seeks to impose on others. Right now there is political correctness and its obscure morality. There is Trumpism and its absurdity. There is postmodernism. Post-truth is the refuge of those who deem themselves infallible, yet remain contemptuous. It’s a by-product of an age that lacks definition and purpose. This reaches across all aisles. Poetry is a social force, but that does not mean it is political in nature. It should not support an agenda, but rather serve as commentary. As commentary, it illuminates ideas and seeks the godhood of things. As such, it is balm for the troubled minds and can heal trauma. It strives for unity through analogies. A poem is a unified body that embraces the similarities between disparate elements. It makes the world whole again. It is prophecy. Richard Wilbur, who I spoke with over the phone before he passed away, wrote a poem called “Advice to a Prophet” which I take to heart. In it, he casts the visionary as one who affirms not denies, not increases skepticism but provides direction. Poetry is the grandeur of small things. It is one’s navigation to the divine. Through poetry, I seek to upset things and tip the balance while providing refuge. Poetry is the voice of Jesus himself, as revolutionary and seeker of the divine. Writers who influenced me vary. Some are not officially writers, just beings with a presence in the world that inspires me. There is Jesus Christ whose parables and sayings are not only poetry, but philosophy disguised. In fact, scholar Willis Barnstone composed a book of “poems” out of Jesus’ parables. The Kabalistic writers and mystics with their thoughts have provided me with wisdom and joy for years. St. John of the Cross inspires resilience. Plato’s allegories are suggestive in their merits. Musicians such as John Lydon, Jesse Michaels, and Rik L. Rik inspire me with their fearlessness. I’m a punk rocker at heart. Among poets, there are Plath, Lorca, Lorde, Blake, Shakespeare, Neruda, Frank O’Hara, Dante, Gluck, Rothenberg, Levertov, and Joyce. Among contemporaries, I recently read Safiya Sinclair’s book Cannibal which is a great work. I also like Kiriti Sengupta’s approach to literature. The Earthen Flute and Rituals are beautiful works. I appreciate paradoxical personalities and subtle thinkers. The Beats had jazz. The Pre-Raphaelites had opera. My poetry is primarily punk rock meets Plato. Blasphemy meets the edge of noon.

JK: As a writer and a publisher, what advice would you give writers in terms of getting their work published?

DP: Publishing is a gritty experience. You will be rejected, sometimes harshly. Be prepared. Submit to journals you believe are aesthetically similar to your own style or have your tastes. Don’t mimic except in your early phases. A poet I know, Robin Wyatt Dunn, an educated provocateur, has a writing approach that I cannot define as anything but anti-lyrical. It does not fit into anyone else’s box. That’s the writer you must be. The Nobel Prize for Literature, I read recently, is awarded to a writer who makes the marginal into the usual. To do this, you must be willing to face misunderstanding, fear, hate, and take appreciation in stride. Don’t develop an ego, yet don’t get discouraged. Be your own. Become a mystic in the proper sense. The Sufis have a word for a mystic who seeks divine favor by humiliating himself. In short, be your own and have attitude. You will have to work for that. Nothing is free, not even the Muse’s favor.

Transcendent Zero Press

Rehab Chronicles (excerpt) Jasper Kerkau

 

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The Rehab Diaries (excerpt) Jasper Kerkau

When I got off three vomitus days of detox, we had a game of Big Book Jeopardy. My team won. My prize was that I was given the honor of having a “little brother.” My understanding was sparse, but I was going to look after him for a week. I assume it is an easy errand, pointing out house rules, which I didn’t know yet, meeting schedule, telling him which members of staff to steer clear of, and where to put his cigarette butts. My “little brother” who looks like a broken down drunk, an elderly biker, with a long grey beard and a surly demeanor was actually a retired NASA engineer who had fancied himself a biker. He is shaking uncontrollably from the alcoholic DTs. Jacob, a young staff member, with an affable personality comes to me with a frantic look. He implores me to stay with Mike, my “little brother,” while they try and get the doctor on the phone.

He sits in the chair moaning. I lite his cigarettes and pat him on the back awkwardly. “You know all of my friends are dead. I have no children. I have a bad heart; I am going to die tonight and those cocksuckers are taking their time getting me my detox meds.” He stamps at the ground dramatically. I try not to laugh. I squeeze my eyes trying to figure out if he is going to die on my watch and wondering how I got into this situation. I ask him obligatory questions. He nods off and then wakes up to moan, curse and then regain a remorseful composure. He jumps up and grabs his heart, stumbling toward the office. “I am having a fucking heart attack, call 911!” I bolt after him and help him walk toward the office. David, a sixty year old who fluctuates between baffling ignorance and brilliance, is sitting at his desk. He seems to be in charge, though he actually job title is allusive. He looks at Mike and I over the top of his readers with a steely expression.

“What is it Mike?” he sounds perturbed. His voice is tense and raspy.

“I am having a fucking heart attack,” Jacob, the young tech has a deer in the headlights look. He seems to wants to usurp Dave’s aloof authority.

“Okay Mike, we will get you an ambulance.” He turns to Dave with urgency, “he said he is having chest pains; we don’t have a choice. That is the key phrase.” Jacob and I share a common peril. Neither of us want to deal with the Mike’s death.

“Bullshit Mike,” Dave barks, jumps out of his chair, regaining control. “You know good and God-damn well you are not having a fucking heart attack.” Mike stands with his eyes closed, clutching his heart. I get a panicked feeling. I want to go home.

“Fuck you David,” Mike opens his eyes and blurts out with a sudden alertness. David counters by kicking the chair. I automatically grab Mike by the arm and lead him out. He pulls arm away and turns to Dave.

“His name is Jimmy Boy, not fucking Roscoe!” Mike screams at David. I turn to Jacob shaking my head in bewilderment. He shrugs in agreement. “You can do a lot of sorry, rotten fucking things, like leaving your shit in another man’s garage for a year, but you don’t change a dog’s name.”

“Get the fuck out Mike, get your sorry ass out of the office,” Mike snaps back into his dying routine. I take him again by the elbow and to the door. David sits back down and tends to a bonsai.

“And the dog is Roscoe, not Jimmy Boy, you stupid fuck.” Mike gets in the parting shot as I close the door behind us.

“I guess you guys know each other?” I put Mike back in his chair.

“We were friends for twenty years, road Harley’s together. I tried to join the Banditos and David and I got into a fist fight at an AA meeting. It is a long story. He is supposed to be watching my dog, but he can’t perform one simple fucking task.” He never opens his eyes. “I am going to die. I need you to come and pray over me as I do.”

Happy Birthday – Jasper Kerkau

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Happy Birthday

The reason I get up in the morning is having a birthday. I remember standing in front of the hospital smoking, sending the pictures, beaming. Everyone wanted to know how much he weighed. I never wanted children until he came into the world. They told me my cholesterol was high when he was one. I drank apple cider vinegar and jogged a thousand miles. Before he was able to speak, he would clap his hands and bounced up and down when I came in. Life had meaning every time I heard his laughter. He was old enough to understand the night we had our last fight; he got down on his knees and cupped his hands and prayed. It broke my heart because I knew he sensed nothing would ever be the same again. He loves me more than anyone, even now as his bones pain from growing. I think about his birthdays, the Elmo cake he smeared all over his baby cheeks, the little boy birthdays with Nerf gun fights. Now there is the worst birthday. The one I would never see. The year that didn’t happen, the one that was stolen. I will light candles and think of the best thing I ever created. I will unwrap a present and patiently wait.

[Jasper Kerkau is a writer/editor/co-creator of Sudden Denouement. His personal blog is Jasperkerkauwriting.com]

A Note from Jasper Kerkau

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I want to take a minute and wish everyone a very happy holiday. This has been a wonderful year for Sudden Denouement and Sudden Denouement Publishing. The holidays can be blissful and arduous. I want to apologize for lack of communication over the last couple of weeks while I dealt with work and personal matters. Over the next couple of days, I will be finally have time to make corrections to the site, assign new editors and begin moving SD to the next level. I want to thank everyone who has given their time, passion, and vision to our humble collective. We have put together the premier collection of writers on the planet. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I will be working with others and make the process more cohesive and share the responsibility. I want to give a special thank you to David Lohrey, Nicole Lyons (thank you for your friendship and counsel), Olde Punk, Sam Lucero (there is a special place in the next world for Sam for the work she does without asking for recognition). I will be adding two new editors who I feel will bring new energy to SD.

There was a time I would bombard our writers with my emails—especially OldePunk.  As writers, we often fall into strange places. We live in the darkness and the light. I look forward to getting caught up with a lot of you, getting input about the direction of SD. I will get caught up on emails, but I promise not to overshare.

I appreciate every one of you. SD has been the beacon for me to find my way out of the darkness. The future is very bright. Each one of you is touched by the light of the universe. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. We are doing something special.

Jasper Kerkau

Jasper Kerkau talks with Dustin Pickering about Rana Kelly, David Lohrey, and Sudden Denouement

Dustin Pickering, of Transcendent Zero Press, and I were interviewed by Z.M. Wise. We discussed Dustin’s new book Frenetic/No Contest,  Rana Kelly’s Superstition, and David Lohrey’s forthcoming book of poetry Machiavelli’s Backyard.

Please check out Z. M. Wise’s YouTube Page, as well as Transcendent Zero Press.

I Survived the Storm – Jasper Kerkau

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I Survived the Storm – Jasper Kerkau

I survived the storm. Watched everything explode and evaporate in the slow waters of time, billowing out of the dirty earth, inching up sidewalks, devouring curbs, and quiet lives. It all goes away so quickly, the boring conversations, the Sunday afternoons, and fried chicken, the little lives of misery, heaped into the darkness, left silent in dusty rooms, soaked and miserable. Civility and comfort are all so fleeting. I shed the rain, the moon, the failures and regrets, bury heart and words under the pillow. I give them their leisure, and I take a million crosses and deformed shrines, puked up the unnatural pleasures and, alas, have all the pain.
I survived the storm. Molding my stars, peeling off the television and cycles of vomit and bile filtering through every fiber of my being. It is theirs; it is not mine. I will run in circles for eternity, eat fire, and resign myself to the arms of a beautiful girl with a big heart. I stuff mediocrity and resentment in empty potato chip bags and give back to the earth, hoping it will be recycled the next time around. A one-thousand-year event. A speck in time. A sneeze and cough on the big toe of forever. I will eat the water out of hand, starve no more. Drive away dark clouds and find the golden rainbows in my heart. Everything will be okay this time. The sun will come out, and it will all go away.

[Jasper Kerkau is co-creator, editor, and writer for Sudden Denouement, as well as the creator of The Writings of Jasper Kerkau.]

Jasper Kerkau Reading “I am a F#cking Writing” at SD’s Showcase 8/19

Sudden Denouement held its first showcase on August 19th in Houston. The event included a night of sonic power and lush sounds from: Housing Crash, Uffizi, Super Robot Party, The Thief and the Architect, and My Twilight Pilot. We had several wonderful writers indulged the crowd,  including Chris Wise, Matt Jackson, Jasper Kerkau, and Dustin Pickering from Transcendent Zero Press. It was a magical evening of shoegaze and poetry. In a hot, overcrowded room, something very special happened, a convergence of numerous poets and musicians all interconnected, displayed their craft and created a night that all parties involved will cherish. More videos forthcoming.

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