hankrules2011

A polymath rambling about virtually anything

TODAY: 65 Halloween quotes that are sure to send chills down your spine

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 11, 2022

On Monday, August 8, 2022 — just three days ago — the TODAY Show had a themed party atmosphere for its show: a holiday celebration of Halloween. Aside from the minor confusion of this show preceding the holiday by over two months, I was all in because it’s always been one of my favorite holidays, like it is for so many others. I watched some of it. It felt like they went big and most of the studio time was spent with a lifestyle expert showing us what we apparently “need” for the best Halloween party and yes it was food-centric and yes everything looked festive and delicious but also, yes, I’d probably suffer horribly at my age if I were to eat half of that! Hey, I thought you got past that “after eating so much Halloween candy that you were sick for a week” kid’s problem as you got older.

Anyway I inadvertently found something very cool I certainly wasn’t expecting and thought I’d share it because not only is it fun and exciting, but it very oddly coincides with some research I’ve been doing on several of my old, rare out-of-print books, and particularly the one that has always remained in highest demand for the highest market prices and which has often been nearly impossible for people to locate. (It’s also one of my more ripped off books that Pirates sell illegally. This book’s original retail price was $7 in 1999 when published. A couple of months ago I found a pirate site allegedly “out of physical” copies, but happily offering a PDF for download at the starting price of $100. Which doesn’t come close to the highest prices I’ve seen for this book.

A Pirate site openly making PDF versions of the rare SC Holstad book SHADOWS BEFORE THE MAIMING available for $100/download! For a book that originally retailed for $7 and for which I get nothing. Because it’s ILLEGAL!

In any event, I ran across a fun article that was part of that overall Halloween themed-show on Monday and I found something unexpected. This article is titled “65 Halloween Quotes That Are Sure To Send Chills Down Your Spine” and it’s on the TODAY website.

TODAY: 65 Halloween quotes that are sure to send chills down your spine
TODAY: 65 Halloween quotes that are sure to send chills down your spine

I’ve actually had a lot of quotes of my own appear around for many years, mostly taken from my books, sometimes from somewhere else. I’m used to these kinds of lists and while I don’t get much out of the inspirational ones, I do like many of the theme ones because they’re usually a lot more fun and I know (or know of) more of the authors being quoted. The writer stayed with the holiday spirit theme of the show and made some good suggestions about using these in some fun ways like including them as Instagram captions and she made a point also that it was a diverse mix — funny, scary, goofy, clever — and the “famous figures” being quoted were coming from books, movies and songs rather than the standard isolated book. So, fun!

[Interjection. I later found this referenced on other websites with some stating they were all taken from movies — not true — and that some of these other sites were labeling or viewing them as the 65 BEST Halloween quotes. Impressive. I’d normally just expect some of the usual — King, Poe, etc. Which is cool, because I’m a horror fan.]

I started rapidly perusing the list because it was about 2 AM and I was tired. Thought I’d take a quick glance and maybe look in more detail the next day. I was happy to find the mix of the quotes was even more diverse than I expected. So not only King, Poe, Shelley, etc., but the author was right in the other sources because I found some I hadn’t anticipated. One that should have been easily guessed was “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” Others were quotes from “Monster Mash,” “Beetlejuice,” the theme song from “Ghostbusters,” and two especially seemed so cool that I couldn’t decide which was best so maybe you readers could weigh in and help: Linus, saying practically anything out of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” or the iconic Vincent Price with his spooky part in Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” It’s a tough one…

Now, jumping to authors and their books there are some great quotes from Poe, King, Shakespeare, Bradbury, Grafton, HP Lovecraft and Anne Rice (of course). But something niggled at my mind while I was scanning the list so I ran down it again, all 65. And then a third time because I couldn’t place it, but there was something… And then, BAM, there it was! I was surprised to see the 13th quote was an excerpt from Shadows Before The Maiming by Scott C. Holstad, published in 1999, fittingly by Gothic Press in Baton Rouge, LA. Um, that would be me. I’ve actually kind of done some big stuff before, like national syndicated radio and tv in very large markets like L.A., and I’ve been published with hundreds of “actual” stars, but I hadn’t known about this, wasn’t expecting it, so it was a nice surprise.

(Incidentally, I’ve been working on creating and expanding a list of some of the “famous” writers with whom I’ve been published. My “Famous” Writers webpage lists over 300 poets, novelists, essayists, artists, actors, musicians with some real legends. Many US Poet Laureates, a Nobel winner, many Pulitzer winners, horror and sci fi writers, other authors and some big names like King, Gwendolyn Brooks, Seamus Heaney, William Burroughs, Bukowski, Rice and many more. Check it out.)

A couple of final things on my end. If interested, you can find a few reviews of Shadows on my Scott Reviewed page. You can also find it in the ISFDB database, Google Books and many other places. It did very well as a “horror poetry” book, something I hadn’t planned to write nor known I’d written until it starting appearing in Best New Horror-type books and annuals, etc. Its Goodreads description includes a small article about my experience writing a “horror poetry” book without intending to or knowing it. It’s been out of print for years, is considered by many sellers and readers to be a collector’s item and I was lucky enough to run across a long buried box in my basement with some new, never-opened copies of some of my books I thought I’d never see again, so I’ve made some available on this site, though most extras will go to special collections libraries. They’re on my MINT SIGNED RARE HOLSTAD BOOKS FOR SALE page.

I thought it’d be fun to mention this article and its list, and it might be fun for some of you to read that list of 65 Halloween quotes for yourselves. I also wanted to give a thank you to the author of the piece, Sarah Lemire, as well as to TODAY. The final piece of this story is that the topic, and Ms. Lemire’s article, has been so well received that other groups have picked it up and published it on their websites, including YahooLatest Movs and Flipboard. Since then I’ve seen more sites “review” (gently and delightedly) this piece as well, so good fun.

Oh, and my quote? One of the 65? Well, you really should go to the article to see for yourself. You’ll find Scott Holstad, “Shadows Before the Maiming” in the 13 spot below Ray Bradbury, Peter Straub and HP Lovecraft and above Joseph Conrad, John Steinbeck, Lovecraft and more. Though I’m quite sure it’s not in that spot due to merit. It’s up to the graphic designers, no doubt. My quote is merely a tiny clause from a very long, somewhat notorious poem that’s frankly more fitting for a brutal holiday — ya know, horror. The ending is rather vicious so I’m glad that didn’t stop the writer from using this rather whimsical small part of the poem because at the risk of sounding a bit narcissistic, I think my little quote fits in very nicely with the others. Cheers!

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The Times, They Are a Changing

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 2, 2022

The times, they are a changing. The physical transformations that FIVE (5) DECADES of writing have forced upon Scott C. Holstad. 1988 – 2021.

A slideshow of the path my career and journey as a writer has taken me over a FIVE DECADE span (which is really hard to believe).

All of these photos representing 1988 – 2021 appeared in books of mine, publications I had material in, articles or reviews written about me, profile shots accompanying me in various locations I or my work have appeared. These are not necessarily exhaustive, but represent an interesting time of physical changes to correspond with what time and age has produced to the present. They’re not all flattering (if any are), but represent a fairly wide spectrum. Cheers!

  • Scott Holstad in Washington DC late 1980s-HelterSkelter-1991
  • Scott Holstad, Phoenix alleyway, 2 weeks after living homeless in his car while the Bush 41 recession was about to hit.
  • Scott C. Holstad standing in some desert brush outside the Phoenix city limits. Photo taken in 1991, appeared on the cover of the 1992 book, Dancing With The Lights Out.
  • Scott C Holstad in a 1992 photo taken outside the city in the South Phoenix area. Its only use in publication was inside his 1993 book, Junction City.
  • A professional photo of Scott C. Holstad taken in 1994 on the Sunset Strip & appearing on the back of his 1995 book, Places, which was nominated for a Pulitzer.
  • A professional headshot of author Scott C. Holstad, used for an article on Holstad published in a 1996 issue of Higher Ground.
  • Scott Holstad on the Hollywood party circuit, 1996.
  • Scott C. Holstad immersed in the Beverly Hills party circuit, 1997. I *think* I was at the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills.
  • A rather mysterious photo of Scott C. Holstad in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.
  • Scott Holstad in Santa Monica in 2001 to meet an editor & an old author friend to "talk shop."
  • A 2003 photo of Scott Holstad taken in Greenville SC. Later used in a 2005 issue of My Favorite Bullet.
  • A professional photo of Scott C Holstad taken in Knoxville TN during 2003 photo shoots for his 2004 book, Cells. Used in articles published on Holstad in a variety of publications.
  • Scott C. Holstad on the party circuit circa 2008, slumming it with some NYC superstars.
  • A photo of Scott Holstad taken sometime around 2011 in the home of some friends he was visiting.
  • Scott C. Holstad & Chris Duncan, Poetry & Fiction editors for Ray's Road Review, in Atlanta, 2012.
  • A 2017 picture of Scott C. Holstad looking unusually presentable. Taken on Maryland's Eastern Shore, it has been used for both his consulting business & as a pic for his author profiles on Goodreads, Amazon, the Authors Guild & more.
  • A very unusual late 2021 photo of Scott Holstad looking like an old 1960s hippie burnout reject. It appeared on Medium & other places.
  • Scott C Holstad's most frightening picture, taken during 2021 & somehow appearing throughout Quotes.net & other similar websites.

If you enjoyed that slideshow, or perhaps suffered through it, here are a few more random pics and a plug to let you know that I’ve been working all year on a webpage on this site called Hankrules2011: A History-by-Pics. It has its own tab on the menu at the top of this website. It’s ever-growing as I come across more things and it’s got a TON of pics ranging from book and magazine covers, art-poetry collaborations, letters, articles, books autographed to me, screenshots of pirates ripping me off and selling my stuff brazenly, library archives, encyclopedia articles, fan mail, catalog and directory entries, stuff in German, Chinese, Finnish, and a lot more, and you’ll find combinations of tiles and stacked galleries, other slide shows, collages and more. Feel free to look at it because there’s always more showing up there.


One of my "grammar nazi" shirts. Used to be funny but now people don't seem to have a sense of humor.
One of my “grammar nazi” shirts. Used to be funny but now people don’t seem to have a sense of humor.
Gerald Locklin's The Firebird Poems - Autographed and continually used as letters to me
Gerald Locklin’s The Firebird Poems – Autographed and continually used as letters to me
Scott C. Holstad, official Amazon Author page
Scott C. Holstad, official Amazon Author page
Minnesota Review Vol 39 1992 with Scott C. Holstad's "Phoenix" published within
Minnesota Review Vol 39 1992 with Scott C. Holstad’s “Phoenix” published within

Flipside 84, 1993. Rodney on the Roq with Paul & Linda McCartney & the poem "nothing" by Scott C. Holstad
Flipside 84, 1993. Rodney on the Roq with Paul & Linda McCartney &; the poem “nothing” by Scott C. Holstad

Scott C. Holstad 1992-93 correspondence in Folder 248 of the Diane Di Prima Papers collection at UNC's Special Collections Library
Scott C. Holstad 1992-93 correspondence in Folder 248 of the Diane Di Prima Papers collection at UNC’s Special Collections Library


Posted in Publishing, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Scott C. Holstad’s TOP Subject Rankings in Open Library

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 19, 2022

Open Library is overseen and operated by the Internet Archive (https://archive.org/), the self-described “Digital Library of Free & Borrowable Books, Movies, Music & Wayback Machine.” It’s an online “Library” that loans many items out and makes others they claim have been donated to them for free distribution available to readers and users. Wikipedia states it claims to have over 20 Million records in its database, so it’s not a small operation. I have an author’s listing/profile there which was created by an Anonymous User on April 29, 2008 for reasons unknown and over 20 years before I ever heard of Open Library, let alone found I had a listing there.

My Open Library Listing: https://openlibrary.org/authors/OL2928969A/Scott_C._Holstad

Scott C. Holstad’s Open Library Author Listing

I honestly have some mixed feelings about the practice, this business model, because while they’re likely the most “credible” of such sites, like all of them they can be subject to abuse, usually unintentional, but during the pandemic, the Authors Guild (I am a 30-year professional member) lost it because it claimed the Internet Archive violated copyright laws, authors rights, basic promises they’d made to adhere to professional and ethical standards by the site’s decision to forgo the limitations they set for themselves, which is to “loan” only the literal number of copies they allegedly have for any given work – as a legitimate library does – but throwing that out the door and for the “good of the world,” I guess, making everything available to anyone with little to no limitations, which I disagree with as does the Authors Guild.

The Internet Archive has three of my books they’ve made available to all without my permission, with no thanks or acknowledgement, but there are serious Pirates out there making a killing illegally selling tons of my stuff all over the world and you have to pick your fights, so I’d rather go after thieves essentially stealing from me than a digital library that may take some liberties one doesn’t like but which isn’t anything like the Pirates.

For those interested, here is the Authors Guild stance on the Internet Archive, which they’re so ticked off about. It isn’t on their webpage of “Where We Stand” statements on issues like copyright, free speech, piracy, etc., but on their main homepage with its own special place. You can find it here: Internet Archive’s National Emergency Library is ILLEGAL. Here’s Why.


In any event, that’s not the topic of this post, but merely an introduction to Open Library if you don’t know it. You can find out more on their website or — as always — through Wikipedia. When I stumbled across my listing there a few years ago, they had probably about eight of my books listed. If you’ve seen my Goodreads or WorldCat profiles, you’ll know that’s a pretty small number compared to what I actually have. And since both of them — and every other catalog, index, etc., out there listing my books — are also way off, the only bibliography close to accurate is the one you’ll find here on my site. However, while some 30-40+ can be found here, as my Goodreads profile states no one really knows (including me) the actual total number of books I’ve edited or published over my career so estimates are higher. Thus eight on OL was a bit slim. It’s now up to about a dozen, and I’m really not very worried about it was I’ve been out of sight for awhile, I never was Stephen King-popular and I’ve got bigger things to concern myself with. That said, I sometimes take a peak at these various profiles just to see if there’s anything different so I went to my Open Library page a couple of months ago and realized — and I must admit a search engine query result for something else turned up a topic I never would have thought of which is why I pursued this — that apparently what I had listed in their database included tags or subjects for each of them and you actually can find lists of the top authors — in terms of quantity — for the most publications per any listed topic. Which I thought was kind of cool. Especially since this one search result informed me I was a top author for an OL topic that I’d never known about.

The common ranking is worded as the “Most Prolific Author” among authors who have written books that have whatever the subject is associated with that book. Obviously this doesn’t take into account authors who aren’t in the library or who are lacking all of their works (which would include me, Stephen King, etc.), who if subjects/tags were appropriate but don’t appear, it’s not recorded in the library’s database. Thus someone who may have only written six books on a subject with many books written by other authors may end up first because these authors may have written only a few or been credited with such. I know this is the case because I myself am listed high in areas where people more famous and successful than me should belong. So these rankings apply to Open Library ONLY. That being said, as of a couple of years ago, Open Library offered over 1.5 million books and has only grown since, so it’s still a nice statistic to have.

Well after I discovered this, I decided to waste a couple of hours trying to find if I was listed as a “Most Prolific Author” with other topics and if so, how many and which ones. And I came up with some surprising results which I am now going to share here despite any embarrassment I should feel but don’t.

Aside from any topics where I’m listed as first (accurate or not – recall this only relates to Open Library’s own database) with some topics, I weeded out official government historical census records, etc., because there may be hundreds for a topic while an actual “author” might truly be the top AUTHOR, which is the case for me with the subject of the city of Phoenix, as an example. So ready to find yourselves surprised? In no particular order…


  1. Long Beach CA. (Place)
  2. Psychological Horror. Genre (Subject)
  3. Los Angeles Poetry. (Place)
    • Scott C. Holstad is ranked #1 as the Most Prolific Author on the Subject of Los Angeles Poetry. Out of 179 books listed on this subject, I am attributed with seven (7) and several others are tied for 2nd with three each, including Suzanne Lummis and Charles Harper Webb, both of whom I know, particularly Webb.
  4. Phoenix. (Place)
    • Scott C. Holstad is ranked #1 as the Most Prolific Author on the Subject of Phoenix. Out of 316 books listed, the top three ranked are companies – seed and nursery companies – so I am the top ranked actual “Author” with five (5) books relating to Phoenix – with two people tied for #2 behind me with four books each.
  5. Dark Humor. (Subject)
  6. Confessional Poetry. Genre (Subject)
  7. Beat. Genre (Subject)
  8. Surreal. (Subject)
  9. Hate. (Subject)
  10. Social Activism. (Subject)
  11. Addiction. (Subject)
  12. Slasher Porn. Genre (Subject)
  13. Beat Poetry. Genre (Subject)
  14. Terror. (Subject)
    1. Scott C. Holstad is tied ranked #1 as the Most Prolific Author on the Subject of the Terror. I am tied with Stephen King and HP Lovecraft and you can’t do much better than that!
      1. https://openlibrary.org/subjects/terror
  15. Horror Poetry. Genre (Subject)
    • Scott C. Holstad is ranked #1 as the Most Prolific Author on the Subject of the Horror Poetry. (There are many, many authors all tied for 2nd place with only one listed book each while I am alone in 1st with four (4) listed books.)


I basically stopped with 15 Number Ones. Pretty diverse list, eh? A few odd topics? Some of the authors I’m in front of here — wacky! Of course we all know that if their entire catalogs were represented here, I wouldn’t even appear on most of those lists. There are actually a few additional topics where I am not currently ranked Number One, but I’m second or close so I’m listing a few here, but not all as that would simply be too many. I’m listing these due to personal interest and no other reason.


  1. Burbank. (Place)
  2. 1990s. (Time)
  3. Sanity (Subject)
    • Scott C. Holstad is ranked #2 as the Most Prolific Author on the Subject of the Sanity. I am behind the author ranked #1 by only one listed book. That author is Stephen King.
  4. Police Brutality. (Subject)
  5. Insanity. (Subject)
    • Scott C. Holstad is tied ranked #4 as the Most Prolific Author on the Subject of Insanity. Out of 1,019 books listed I am tied with several other authors at (four) 4 books, behind two authors with seven books each tying them for #1: William A White (American psychologist who died in 1937) and Richard von Kraft-Ebing (European psychologist who died in 1902).
  6. Violence. (Subject)
    • Scott C. Holstad is tied ranked #5 as the Most Prolific Author on the Subject of Violence. Out of 9,183 books listed, I am attributed with eight (8) and am tied at the #5 position, but not with an author, rather with an organization called Human Rights Watch. The #1 writer is Rene Girard with 15 titles. (I had to look this author up. He’s a dead [2015] and he was a historian and philosopher [What? But he’s FRENCH!] not a novelist or other form of creative writer.)
    • BTW, there are five authors listed ahead of me, but one of them tied for #4 with nine books is labeled “United States” and the titles seem to be historical documents produced by the U.S. government, so there are actually only four “authors” in front of me. Like #1 Rene Girard, Wilhelm Heitmeyer is not a creative writer, but a German social scientist of some sort, as his books deal with violence research, school shootings, etc. Additionally, the #3 author, Ted Robert Gurr, is also a researcher of some sort with titles like “Violence in America,” “Peace and Conflict,” etc. Finally the #2 author in the Violence category is a deceased researcher named Marvin E Wolfgang, who wrote many works on topics based in criminal homicide, criminal violence, criminal behavior, etc.
      • Thus, I guess the “good,” NO, “Awesome” news is that even though I’m ranked #5 in the subject of Violence, I’m actually the sickest bastard of all the writers as the four in front of me are all researchers while my books containing Violence as a subject or topic are all creative works, though many DO address the topic from a social critical, moral outrage perspective. That said, just as many are sick horror, “slasher porn” type pieces that border on infamous to some while a couple have been compared to American Psycho of all things. So I guess I could argue that in terms of creative writing, eliminating science or research for this particular topic, I’m a kind of #1 in Violence too, in a slightly sick, psychotic way. Whoa!!!

Finally, as I indicated, there actually are other subjects in which I am currently ranked #1 but I’m not going to focus on those or even really include them other then to note some I know exist. The reason these “don’t count” at this point is due to the fact that the only reason I have the top ranking is either I’m the only one with any books in that category or there may be one or two others, but we’re all tied with one each in a few cases. In other words, technically #1, but not really…

A list of some in no particular order. As above, oddly diverse.

  • Glendale CA
  • Knoxville TN
  • Bar Stories
  • Phoenix AZ
  • Coffeeshop
  • Tits
  • Knoxville TN USA
  • Long Beach CA USA
  • Bravado
  • Big Tits
  • Misogamy
  • Populist Poetry
  • Self-Loathing
  • The Beautiful People
  • Dystopian Futures
  • Crude
  • Bukowski
  • Moral Outrage
  • Social Dysfunction
  • Breakdown
  • Psychotropics
  • Regrets
  • Government Criticism
  • Koreatown-Los Angeles County CA
  • Fantasy Death
  • Crude Humor
  • Theater of Absurd
  • Disturbing
  • Raunchy
  • Social Outrage
  • American – Psychological Horror
  • Bleak
  • Long Beach Poetry

Just a last note. If any of you found this post interesting and are curious about the books or why I’m apparently such a freak, you can find more out on this site (and elsewhere like Goodreads, LibraryThing, etc.). For a brief list of many/most of my books, anthologies, etc., you can look here (all of these links I’ll put should be accessible by the tabs at the top of my homepage). The webpage also includes over a dozen Identifiers, which you’ll find on my Wikidata page with even more if interested.

For more details on my books but much more such as research (some found on Google Scholar and Academia.edu), citations, resources, references, readings, libraries, and more, my ever growing Scott C. Holstad: Selection Publications page is the place to go (while starting to border on overkill, admittedly).

If you’re curious what others have said about some of the books and other writings of mine, you can find reviews and excerpts of reviews of all sorts dating back to 1990 on my Scott Reviewed page.

And in case you don’t know my work or can’t find my books, well there are reasons. The foremost reason is for the most part, my books are out of print. Including ones that were successful and/or that have remained in demand for years. Nuts, huh? Some did go through several printings and one or two were republished, but essentially, they’ve largely disappeared. You can find a couple for sale online, usually used and it depends on where and when you look. Some you’ll never find, some you might but they’ve always been in demand and may be priced fairly high, certainly compared to their original retail list price. (And some are cheap.) In case you’re interested, I actually have gone some years, mainly because of some large moves, without ANY copies of my books or anything else! This has driven me nuts. But after much searching, earlier this year I found copies of many of them, as well as some hundreds of magazines that published me, although hundreds more remain missing. The point is, I found extra copies of, I think, 8 of my books, including 3 that have never been sold online and my 2 most popular, rare collector’s items. Additionally my 2 best selling books, and a few others. Some of these have been ripped off for years by various Pirates who’ve sold them illegally and it’s really ticked me off. Most are in digital formats, and none of these were ever in that format; all were hard copy. I recently saw a copy of one of my most “infamous” and valuable books — Shadows Before the Maiming — which I’ve found used on occasion for over $275 being sold by a Pirate side in PDF format for $125! Crazy! There are even sites out there that CHARGE people to write custom book reviews about THAT book (and some of my others), which is nuts! Who would pay for that? I’m not a damned household name. Well, anyway the point is I decided to make a few available for sale — the few others are going to special collections libraries. I tried to price them competitively with the market and actually marked them down as much as possible but a couple may still seem a tad pricey. But if anyone is interested in getting one, bear in mind that as opposed to the used, beat up print copies one may find at a bookstore or on eBay or any of the illegal digital versions, these are original “new” hard copy books in Mint condition, never used, read, handled or out of their respective boxes straight from the publishers (and with some, I only have a few copies). Not only are they legal and authentic, but I’ll autograph each and if asked, custom autograph it as well for free, for what that’s worth. And since I don’t have a store nor do I plan to, this isn’t an eCommerce site but I was able to put up a simple page that allows one to purchase any of the 8 listed via PayPal or a credit card, the caveat being I had to add on a $5 fee to cover shipping, fees, etc., since I have no means of doing so otherwise. You can find this on my newest webpage: MINT, Signed Books For Sale. There’s a Contact form at the bottom of that page if anyone has questions and I guess that’s it for now. I’ve been working hard on a total overhaul of this website for months now and I hope to do a different post sometime soon letting you know about some other things one can find here. For instance, I’ve put together a page of actual famous writers I’ve been published with over the years and at this point, the list is over 200 and while some won’t be known by many, others are actual household names and some aren’t even famous as authors necessarily, but they’re damned famous (some infamous too) and it’s been interesting to see them join the list with me and others. Enough for now. I hope this post was interesting. I was fun to discover all of this and to put this together. Til the next time…

Scott


Posted in Poetry, Publishing, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Family Jewels (Central Intelligence Agency)

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 8, 2022

"Family Jewels." First 6 pages. "Approved For Release June 2007" [2nd Frame]. The CIA's official admission to illegal activities over a 25-year period.

“Family Jewels.” 1st 6 pages. “Approved For Release June 2007” [2nd Frame]. The CIA’s official admission to illegal activities over a 25-year period.

This. The infamous series of reports officially admitting to & describing secret illegal activities conducted by the CIA between 1959 and 1973. Most of these were declassified & released in 2007 due to FIFAs filed by the National Security Archive. These are copies of the original photocopied “secret” level memos & reports compiled at the behest of former CIA director Schlesinger as a result of enormous Watergate backlash (& initially “broken” as a NY Times front page feature in 1974) & this heavily redacted 700-page “book” was delivered to William Colby when he replaced Schlesinger. It is preceded by a short summary literally stating that the “Central Intelligence Agency violated its charter for 25 years until revelations of illegal wiretapping, domestic surveillance, assassination plots, and human experimentation led to official investigations and reforms in the 1970s.” This was delivered to Congress members many years before being declassified.

The contents are controversial for many reasons & many are obvious. The CIA officially admitted to 18 “issues,” some of which were fairly well known yet officially unconfirmed in some sectors (well above the rumor level). (I forget the reason, but these 18 issues were then reduced to only 8 in the attachments to the memo introducing this book–these documents.) Some then-suspected & later publicly infamous examples included the Nosenko defection, Project MOCKINGBIRD, assassination plots/attempts against Castro (shock!) and possibly as well as African & South American leaders, and moving on, illegal domestic surveillance of specific targets & more. Among traditional “conspiracy theories” addressed, these documents validate the numerous accusations of the Mafia’s direct involvement with/in CIA attempts to assassinate Castro — rumors long denied. Such admissions led to later further “embarrassing” revelations about the COINTELPRO program, the Church Committee, lesser known programs, various black ops activities (allegedly influencing American culture as seen in films like Apocalypse Now) & an untold number of potential human rights violations — particularly in South America — that included everything from (potentially lethal) torture (the infamous “Psychological Operations In Guerrilla Warfare,” modified several known times [yet rumored by some to have been modified several more times] provides a formal example of various strategies that, IMO, mirror Ho’s numerous effective tactics such as emphasizing the importance of the political component along with the military while engaging in unconventional warfare. Some of the changes made in revisions included replacing the term “removing” selected targets to instead “neutralize” them, how to frame the narrative to the local peasants after shooting a specific individual, & while discussing the illegality of certain actions, providing helpful suggestions such as “… professional criminals will be hired to carry out specific selective ‘jobs” — a section deleted in later versions of the manual, as well as selecting a person (presumably unknowing) to possibly die during a demonstration & thus create a martyr & “a situation which should be taken advantage of immediately against the regime so as to create greater conflicts.” [This section was also modified in later versions of this manual, which was written specifically for “freedom commandos” in a very well known country which was literally identified on the first page of the Preface itself.] to psyops to working with liaisons from friendly agencies to finding reliable interpreters & much more.

The memo refers to only 8 issues (and one would think a couple seem benign, which naturally is shocking…) yet within the 700+ pages, one finds documented mention of other known and unknown spurious and/or illicit programs such as Operation Phoenix. (The claims made by Director Colby in a Memo to Lloyd Shearer, Editor of Parade Magazine on January 10, 1972 would seem to literally contradict the reality of what has become known about that program in South Vietnam. The director states emphatically that the CIA “does not and has not used political assassination as a weapon.” Which can be interpreted in many ways and I’m confident the director consulted with lawyers about that wording to ensure what was literally said in that statement would hold up as accurate in court. My personal theory. However, one might surmise from mountains of plausible evidence over a much larger period of time than was studied for this report — and note the director does not put a timeframe around that assertion, so he must be 100% accurate throughout the entirety of the CIA’s existence, technically. Which seems to be quite doubtful to me, but I have no personal knowledge, so again, merely a theory. The second of three sections involves plausible denial as the director attempts to shift responsibility for “running” Operation Phoenix from the CIA to the Government of Vietnam. In this, that’s almost certainly an accurate statement, but many would argue only technically and not functionally in any feasible way. It’s common for many military advisors (and associated advisors) of many nations, including the US, to set programs up for training purposes to get local/sovereign governments, militaries, agencies, contractors, rebels, etc., to do the work themselves for this very reason — to be able to legally deny responsibility for any potentially illegal activity that could result in negativities, whether human rights abuse charges or an outright act of war (the US was not supposed to be allowed to enter Cambodia, for instance, as well as  Laos — at least until 1965 in Laos. Officially. “Officially.” But just because the US couldn’t legally go certain places didn’t mean locals trained by the US couldn’t, etc. Yet then there’s the little thorny issue that “official” sometimes doesn’t translate to “literal,” for whatever that tidbit’s worth. You can look it up. Last, Colby’s 3rd point is a strong assertion that Operation Phoenix was not a “program of assassination,” and admitted VC members died but typically resisting police arrest and relatively few at that. Well, this is not universally agreed upon, but there has been enough evidence, eye witness accounts from both CIA and US military involved, not to say Vietnamese as well, that it’s hard to put a completely accurate number to things, but first — yes, I would agree with Director Colby’s statement that “Operation Phoenix is not a program of assassination.” Director Colby is exhibiting skills he no doubt learned while attending Columbia Law School, and which most law school students regardless of the institution learn — everything depends on the words you use and the way they are arranged. It’s how you “frame the narrative.” Yes, I went to law school as well and I spent 12 years working in the legal field. I’m not the sharpest person out there, and not nearly as much as Mr. Colby was, but I can usually argue any topic I want or am faced with using the most bizarre, unlikely, fantastical arguments or assertions and yet make my case over and over because of how I frame my words, how I present my case. You don’t gain admission to a postgraduate level leading scientific “academy” that REQUIRES either an MD or PhD in one very narrow medical/scientific field, as well as some 20 years of experience — part clinical, part research — when you have earned degrees, including a terminal degree, and when you have over 30 years of professional experience — but NONE that have anything to do with that specific scientific field unless you can do your due diligence, build a case and frame your argument in a convincing enough fashion to be basically the lone person ever admitted without any required credentials. Because I DO/DID meet the standards in terms of multiple degrees, including a terminal degree, and while my 30 years of work experience weren’t all in that one narrow specialty, I can make a case I’ve often made which is basically simply because I lacked the official job TITLE of “X” didn’t/doesn’t mean I didn’t do that job. In point of fact, there were times when I did little BUT that job for any number of roles and companies while often wearing many hats, without the specific title (and often the salary to go with it). Moreover, I was able to show over 100 medical/scientific postgrad-level books I’ve read and researched over the years to the point where I have literally taught small lessons and classes to scientists and surgeons in that field, and I HAVE worked in other medical/science fields and published at the peer review level, and much more, and I provided evidence over a period of weeks, provided a detailed personal research proposal, which I literally had been working on just on my own — cause I’m weird like that — and it worked! And that’s worked dozens of times and I’ve never lied and it’s always been legitimate. One other example. How do you gain admission to a narrow, highly focused professional organization with tight high-level admission criteria when you lack any degree in that one field and the org requires multiple degrees in it, as well as the required 20+ years of verifiable work experience at a very senior level — again, verifiable — when you never had that job title, nor those official responsibilities? Same method. I have more degrees than they require, but in other fields of study. I never had that job title, but I did in related fields and have been a professional member of a major professional organization of that related high-tech field for decades, and I was able to prove that while not having that title, I nonetheless fulfilled such a role in nearly every company for which I worked for over two decades. Case closed.

Yes, I went on too long, but to prove a point. Director Colby is accurate in stating “Operation Phoenix” is not a program of assassination.” But look at the words used, the word choice. This wasn’t under questioning where one has to think on their feet. This was a letter sent to an editor in which Mr. Colby, and even colleagues — such as agency lawyers — would have had ample time to prepare to a legal, technically accurate way of responding to each of these issues while skirting admission to what may otherwise amount to the same. Because while it was not a “program of assassination,” there is little doubt that it WAS a program of A) intelligence gathering (typically under incredibly inhumane torture methods that left few survivors — but they weren’t “assassinated” and B) an official VC “Neutralization” program in which South Vietnamese PRUs went to villages in search of individuals on lists given to them daily labeling certain persons as VC they needed to find and “neutralize.” And am I making this up or writing in a subjectively critical fashion. No, I don’t believe so. Not only have I studied this program using articles, books, documents, etc., written and published by former CIA and US military professionals involved with the program, but I’ve read explicit accounts of aspects of it as reported by various South Vietnamese witnesses and survivors. And indeed, even straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak as one of the program’s major proponents who was so very publicly and who was one of the US provincial leaders (and yes, it wasn’t “run” by the CIA, but it WAS created and funded by the CIA, if not administered as well, which is merely splitting hairs with Colby’s choice of words in “run by”) — Col. Andrew R. Finlayson (Ret.), USMC who joined the program in a leadership role in the summer of 1969 under the umbrella of the CIA. He wrote an infamous piece called “ A Retrospective on Counterinsurgency Operations: The Tay Ninh Provincial Reconnaissance Unit and Its Role in the Phoenix Program, 1969-70″ that was published in a journal called Studies in Intelligence Vol. 51 No. 2, 2007. It’s not a household name journal because it has a very niche audience. But guess who reads Studies in Intelligence? You’re right — me! As I write, I’m looking at the cover of an issue titled “CIA and the Wars in Southeast Asia 1947-75” from the August 2016 issue. Fascinating. And beside it I have Col. Finlayson’s own article in its entirety, which I had already read and just read again. And despite claims of NON-government attribution in the journal as the material is “created by individuals other than US government employees,” the publisher of this journal is the Center for the Study of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, Washington D.C. 20505. 🙂 Get that? I guess the only way the CIA can back that assertion up is by having Retired individuals “create” the material published in the journal because otherwise it’s nothing BUT US government and CIA-focused! That’s awesome. I like playing word games like that. The point is though that the colonel talks a good game and is a good PR manager for the program — for HIS territory, but can’t speak on behalf of the others. But it was very effective in his territory. I’d wager many would say it was extremely effective in its goals by any standard, so he has little to brag about. When your goals are detain (or shoot on sight), torture and torture to death in many cases, and “neutralize” “suspected” VC adversaries — and the word “neutralize” can take on so many meanings — you can afford to claim you’re not assassinating people and you can afford to even possibly claim those killed were largely “resisting police arrest” and then basically end your argument by saying that besides, the CIA’s “abuses” couldn’t possibly compare to “the Viet Cong’s conscious campaign of terrorism…” Beautiful. Lawyer-speak. Of course your opponent is much more vile than you, so you can admit to being vile — just not as bad as the other guy. You can say no assassinations, but admit to people getting “killed in the course of military operations” or “resisting police arrest” when you know — but the civilians don’t — that those two phrases merely mean having PRU squads headed by US CIA and military leaders go from village to village with a list of people to obtain and “neutralize,” resulting in a large majority being gunned down in the villages before ever making it back to get interrogated. Moreover, as has always been the case in such warfare,  but as Americans only started learning then and didn’t really “get it” until decades later in the desert, various forms of unconventional warfare can complicate things because when you have to capture and detain specifically named persons in areas where there are no street addresses or phone numbers and worse, NO Uniforms so one can tell the difference between combatant and civilian, well as most people know by now, when you can’t tell ‘m apart, you just start shooting. (You never know who’s going to be the suicide bomber…) And with even the operators in this classified program getting daily body kill count quotas like the regular army units, there was pressure and temptation to just start producing bodies and label them whatever the adverserial label was for that day — Viet Cong, VCI, whatever. So the colonel is right in arguing Phoenix’s effectiveness. Between Tet and Phoenix, the VC were basically wiped out. But Colby plays a nice legal trick on the editor by his choice of words and his intentionally downplaying Methods of death (indiscriminate murder but not assassination could be one way of looking at it) so that they would be viewed as both understandable (in a war zone, not a prison) and even desirable (resisting arrest? They probably deserved it, especially since they were commie terrorists) and the icing on the cake was Colby’s assurances that there really weren’t that many “abuses” and besides the VC were SoMuchWorse!

Just for the record, since it’s impossible to know how many deaths to attribute to Operation Phoenix, that doesn’t mean that haven’t been many attempts to do so on behalf of many different groups and the generally agreed upon minimal is about 25,000 killed and the Facts And Details site refers to Wikipedia in stating that between 1965 and 1972, “Phoenix operatives had ‘neutralized’ 81,740 suspected NLF operatives, informants and supporters, of whom 26,369 were killed.” I happen to know that Wiki got that info from MACV itself, ie., the US military/government. So as with all of the body count numbers there, how reliable are those? Col. Finlayson tries to justify the program’s effectiveness AND the raw deal it’d gotten in the press as a human rights criminal program by stating “only 14% of the VCI (their prey) killed under Phoenix were killed by PRUs” … while most of “the rest died in skirmished and raids involving South Vietnamese soldiers and police and the US military.”

Wow. I don’t know about you, but wow. If that’s not a prime example of “changing the narrative,” I don’t know what is. PRUs were “Provincial Reconnaissance Units” designed solely for the Phoenix program, described by Finlayson himself as “the most controversial element of Phoenix.” Paramilitary forces known as “Counter-Terror Teams.” Over 4,000 of them operated throughout South Vietnam and were originally under the individual command of US military officers until the end of 1969 when they were handed back to the CIA. The 18-men teams were heavily armed in addition to having state of the art med kits, radios, motorcycles and 4×4 Toyota trucks. The colonel’s original assessment was that they “lacked fire discipline,” which he doesn’t adequently define leaving readers to guess if that implies they were basically cowboys who started shooting at first sight until they ran out of ammo, thus accounting for a good portion of the 14% the colonel claims the PRUs were responsible for killing. Recall, the US government itself claimed over 81,000 people died under Phoenix, so if the PRUs “only” killed 14%, that would come close to 12,000 people. And that’s a number to be proud of, according to the colonel, since others did “most” of the rest of the killing. In other words, those other 70,000 dead people weren’t his fault so lay off him. Yes, it’s that damn simple. And yes, Colby did what any good lawyer would do and misrepresented facts by framing them in vague terms with zero specifics and comparing the assurance of a small (undefined) number of “abuses” and killed to the horror that the enemy doled out, allowing the American public to feel some relief from any war guilt they may have been feeling. And since this letter was written in 1972, a shitload of Americans were feeling shitty about a whole lot of things. So it was good to not feel shitty about one of those things, right?

Okay, I apologize for getting way off track, but I sometimes enjoy getting carried away. Retirement does that to you. You feel the need to babble incessantly at times, a fault my wife kindly reminds me I’m guilty of at times.

So going back to the original top of Family Jewels, I started to try and attach it as a “family member,” so to speak, of one of the infamous “CIA torture manuals,” in this case the “Psychological Operations In Guerrilla Warfare” manual, which I’ve had and studied for years. And I have the other torture manuals. But I have to be candid in stating I know those much better than Family Jewels for many reasons, but one is simply that I rarely have the time these days to read a 700-page tome with everything else I do so I’ve read bits and pieces of it and I’ve read a lot About most of it, which is where I got the info to spit out something about the CIA finding 18 “issues,” though only 8 are outlined in the memo. One issue that often is associated with all of these documents and manuals is training. Specifically the training the CIA does (and the military and now also private contractors, formerly referred to as mercenaries) for tens of thousands of international militaries and police units. And unfortunately with a number of those trained later being accused of human rights violations. Some have called it a “Culture.”

One aspect of this culture that seems to have been there from the beginning through the present is the military & police training of a rumored number of students numbering in the hundreds of thousands, largely through the School of Americas (SOA), now renamed, which trained military & police leaders from hundreds of countries since its creation in 1946 with a special emphasis on Latin American students & with a focus on counterinsurgency used to allegedly fight communism during the Cold War but since the dismantling of the Cold War, a new focus on illegal drug lords & gangs, who were allegedly rebranded “terrorists” after 9/11, but which resulted in autocratic countries led by so-called dictators, most accused by various organizations of being guilty of US-backed atrocities & human rights violations as it was alleged that many labeled whomever they wished (political opponents, unruly peasants, etc.) as “terrorists” to eliminate via infamous, feared “death squads.” Examples of such who were alleged graduates of SOA, newly American trained, include Argentine General Viola, Panama’s Manuel Noriega, Guatemalan Colonel Alpirez (allegedly killed US citizens, among others), Honduran General Discua, Salvadoran Colonel Monterrosa, Guatemalan Colonel Osorio (convicted of murdering anthropologist Myrna Mack) & virtually all of the officers working for the most notorious of them all, Chilean General Pinochet, such a brazen “terrorist” that in 1976, two Chilean diplomats were assassinated on the streets of Washington, DC itself, stunning both the world & the US federal government. The fact that the Letelier political assassination was carried out by Chilean secret police in the US (through the South American Operation Condor project) has led some to question whether the CIA would have been aware of such activities, though I’m unaware of anything considered definitive on the part of anyone.

My point in belaboring that last mentioned aspect of the Family Jewels documents is that a major “issue” the CIA possibly found itself “guilty” of during a 25-year period could conceivably be representative of the agency’s entire history of its training international professionals, possibly through the present. That is purely speculative, but cannot be ruled out.

Ultimately while both scholars & critics (as well as victims) have been happy to have so much documented information released, a number of people have asserted that it’s difficult to believe that over a 25-year period, “only” 18 “issues” (let alone 8!) were found & self-reported by the CIA when skeptics assert there surely must be much more than “only” that many. I personally have no knowledge or theories regarding that as I am merely a student of history & remain absorbed in reading, research & analysis with documented histories of any number of subjects, as my weakness is that I’m interested in too much & thus spread myself too thin.

I could go on endlessly, but I’ve already devoted too much time & energy to this post. But both for anyone interested as well as to publicly emphasize that ALL of documents & information described & discussed herein is “open source,” declassified & identified as such, readily available to any interested parties at multiple sources & one only needs a search engine & several minutes to find, access & obtain this & additional documents at will. As I stated, I am a student of history & take such seriously. As a result, I view it as necessary, essential & intellectually honest to (re)learn the standard fare we all receive but to be honest & objective enough to find & learn about the warts & possible ugliness regarding not only world history but nationalistic history & thus to eventually gloss over the perennially regurgitated & THINK, because we aren’t used to doing that & it’s actually often discouraged in some areas. Thus I’ve pondered things my entire life & found myself wondering how Hawaii became a US state, because no one ever learns about that, or why did Puerto Rico become a US territory before 1900 yet while many residents have pressed for official statehood status, it hasn’t happened & yet Alaska & Hawaii flew by them many years later. Why? History indicates the participants in World War I were so exhausted & everything had become so futile that it was rumored that they were in the process of brokering a peace when US President Wilson entered the fray at the last minute (to some), resulting in an alleged unnecessary extension of the war with an alleged million additional deaths & if remotely true, why? For that matter, we don’t learn about additional Wilson-led adventures following the war, ones that might surprise some people were they too read of this history. And moving beyond the US, we rarely learn much of anything other than Western European history. That is fascinating but there’s more to the history of the world than just that. What about good Mr. Rhodes? Why the India/Pakistan partition when Britain released its former colony? Why do we not learn about the one tiny, backwards third world country to effectively defeat three of the greatest powers in the world, all within roughly a 3-4 decade period & initially lacking weapons, financing, infrastructure, technology, etc.? Why have we forgotten Gary F Powers? And on and on. There are so many questions and so many mysteries and so much fascinating information to be gleaned from history that I could have devoted my entire life to learning and only have gotten a fraction of the way there by this point. And now I’m going to cut it off early because despite being able to write more, I’ve been up all night doing this and it’s now morning and it’s time to start the coffee. I hope this post was informative and interesting for some and oddly, I didn’t come up with this idea on my own. I was pinning a document on a Pinterest board when a popup appeared urging me to write something, and without my realizing what that would lead to, I did. And I’ll know better next time, but it was fun and gonna go now. Have a good day.

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A Review of Marilyn Kallet’s How Our Bodies Learned

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 26, 2022

Marilyn Kallet: How Our Bodies Learned
Marilyn Kallet: How Our Bodies Learned

How Our Bodies Learned by Marilyn Kallet
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Superb. Everything Marilyn Kallet produces is consistently at the very highest levels of quality and craft, something one can say about few others. Indeed, if there is one certain area where you can count on inconsistency, I’d wager it would be writing, and possibly even more so, poetry. In fact — and I draw on my own career to illustrate — many/most writers can be so predictably inconsistent in the quality of their work (accusations seemingly thrown at virtually every poet who ever wrote) that it’s not only inevitable for a poet to be known for one or two of their works/books (if good and lucky) while simultaneously having some to most of the rest of their work ignored, spurned, criticized, etc. One thing that is especially frustrating, and I include myself as a party in this, is that there’s little worse in the field that an uneven book! A collection comprised of some gems, surrounded by duds dying on the vine (sorry for the mixed metaphor). One of my own books has several sections and in retrospect, it nearly pains me to look at it at times because one of those sections stands out — to me at least — as particularly weak when compared to the others, something no reviewer was ever brutal (or honest) enough to write. Marilyn? Hell, not only can’t I think of a single person, publication, review, etc., that has ever said or inferred anything remotely indicative of these literary challenges about Marilyn or any of her work, but I myself can’t think of a single book of hers that doesn’t meet the highest of standards — and yes, I do hold her to a higher standard than most others because I think she’s THAT good, and she always exceeds those standards. Not only am I a poet, writer, author, scholar, but critic as well. Having written hundreds of book reviews and having written and published a number of critical essays in various journals (peer reviewed), I read friends and colleagues’ works with a critical eye as well as those I don’t know. I don’t do this for an ulterior motive or with a negative intention — it’s just part of the job, so to speak. I’ve been lucky enough to know Marilyn Kallet personally for close to 40 years now (egads!!!), so I admit to bias. I view her as a dear personal friend, a valued friend in letters, a person to look up to for many reasons, and I read her work and I have gone to as many readings of her as possible — something hard to do when you’ve spent most of your life hundreds of miles away. But here’s the deal, and I’m sure Marilyn would agree with, vouch for, or otherwise concur — she and I write quite differently, and often on different topics using different poetic techniques and devices, likely have very different audiences and to be candid, despite having spent far too much time obtaining far too much education and teaching at several academic institutions, on the whole I’ve never been a fan of “the Academy” and I’ve much preferred to hang out in the slums of the small press, the zines, the cross-genres, the vast international media, the crazies — hell, anything but the stereotypical Iowa Writers Workshop alums! I’ve written poems about this and actually one or two became pretty well known, anthologized, and I actually saw fan mail published by editors because of some highly critical poems about the perceived typical mainstream/academic poet. One that proved pretty popular was titled “to all you goddamn nature sissies.” That should give you an idea of how I often view “mainstream” poetry.

By most accounts, going by her CV, her bio, her career — Marilyn should fit within those biased, ugly parameters I just described. But she doesn’t — never has, never will. Because even though she and I write about different things in different ways to different audiences, Marilyn is so much more than just a damn label! She comes from and resides in a world of rules, of “successful” and “accepted” poets and writers because they meet certain criteria, but quite often whose work so very bores me to tears — along with millions of others who WANT to like poetry! — who can’t possibly speak to or for me and Marilyn has spent years in this world, but to me and many others, she’s a real person with a real life and real life view who can flow into and out of different scenarios, emotions, contexts, periods, schools, genres, places, etc., and feel comfortable in all, act comfortable in all, be welcomed in all — because she allows herself to shine out through her poems and can’t help but impact a person, typically in the most positive of ways. She gives of herself and welcomes you — the reader — to join her, to appreciate her craft — because she IS a master of craft (damn all what they say about Donald Hall!) — and at this point, I’m babbling, but I do want to make one point that represents a thought I’ve long held about Marilyn and her poetry. Poets will try to convey, elicit, induce a variety of emotions, responses, etc. I want this to sound right: I’ve long viewed Marilyn as being so engaged in her craft, so engaged in her subject, in her reader, so enthralled with the word, the cut of the line, the nuance, that it’s like Marilyn and these poems are lovers — not in some sicko, kinky way, but as in she and her poems share moments most of us hope to attain yet never do. She has a near-sensual relationship with her poems; the intimacy is incredibly powerful and I view that as a sign of a truly gifted poet and writer, and it’s something that seems so natural for her that it’s a bit awe inspiring because I can name 5-10 writers off the top of my head right now who’ve tried to get that close, move us that much, convey things, feelings, thoughts, desire, admirations, emotions, appreciation and despite spending their entire careers — their lives — making such efforts, if they ever did accomplish such a thing, perhaps it may have been in just one of their collections. Marilyn seems to almost effortlessly accomplish this in every book of hers I’ve ever read, and while my own work has often been described as very impacting, it’s for radically different reasons. I think I know how difficult it is or must be for any poet or writer to achieve what I just (poorly) attempted to describe, and therefore I know and I believe that Marilyn must work so very hard and yet you never get that idea when reading her words. It’s just so natural. So Marilyn Kallet. So damn good.

So do I recommend this book? Hell, if you must be fed info on that, you didn’t read the damn review! Get this book. Read this book. But remember, she’s got quite a few others out there and they’re all worth reading, so please consider and recall that you don’t have to be a poetry fan or lover to appreciate the words and poems inside these pages because I think they transcend the limitations we place on them via labels at a bare minimum. Most strongly recommended.

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Have Some Caffeine!

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 2, 2022

I’ve been crazy busy the past five weeks and haven’t had a chance to get online very often, but one thing I’ve been able to make a little time for is finally unpacking some boxes that have been in storage for the past few (okay, many) years while trying to find old contributor copies of magazines and journals that published me, of copies of my OWN books, as well as anthologies and textbooks and more. The “More” has turned out to be a whopper, but I don’t have time for that at the moment and frankly I don’t have much time at all right now, but I’ve wanted to post something so I am. I’ve been running across items in these boxes that have been surprising in that some I don’t recall ever seeing before, writing, editing, collaborating, and on to finding opened and unopened letters from all types for all sorts of reasons, contracts, uncashed checks from universities and libraries for my books, pleas for me to help finance some arthouse films, screenplays with requests for comments and criticisms, art-postcards I literally don’t recall seeing and more! Fun and a little crazy.

I decided I’m going to post a few pics of things I find along the way, some of which I haven’t seen in decades, literally, and some I’ve never seen, or at least that’s what my imperfect mind tells me. Sadly, I don’t even have time for an appropriate explanation, so you’ll just have to take what you see in front of you and maybe a few words of mine too. Caffeine was one of the best, most hip/professional lit zines I’ve ever seen and it was dearly missed when the editor, Rob Cohen, decided it was time to move on. As you’ll see, he wrote that for a good part of the 1990s, it was the biggest damn poetry magazine in the country, and that’s not referring to its dimensions. It came out regularly and it came out it what would be massive press runs for a free lit zine — along the lines of 20,000 copies per issue or so. Compared to 250 – 500 copies for many university literary reviews, more for commercial ones.

I got to know Rob before he started this up. He was a pretty good guy. UCSB grad, big ambitions. We met for lunch in Long Beach one day and he told me he was lining up some heavyweights and wanted to go just as cool and edgy on the graphics as on the poetry, which was great to hear because he obviously knew that so many lit pubs out there may as well have been church bulletins or med textbooks in their eye appeal. And we were both big Bukowski fans. I can’t remember if he met him or not. I’d “known” Bukowski for several years by then, been over to his place in San Pedro a few times, had some books he’d been cool enough to autograph for me and one damn t-shirt which I haven’t been able to find for years. HTH to you lose an autographed Bukowski t-shirt? I thought Rob’s project was great and I asked if he was going to go out of SoCal and he did intend to so I asked him about writers — were they going to be SoCal largely or from a wider base? He did things big. I was able to help out a bit, I like to think. I knew a ton of poets and writers around the world, so he let me have a bunch of fliers and upcoming debut issues and I mailed them around the country, gratified to see Caffeine apparently appealed to a whole lot of people as I saw name after name appear of people who never might have seen, let alone been published, in it if not for landing on some doorsteps of people who then sent some on to more like-minded poets and lit fans. Rob was cool enough to publish me from the first issue on. That would be with Ginsberg and Bukowski, among many others, though admittedly I had been and would be published alongside them elsewhere during my career. Still, not only an honor, but a damn fun, kickass mag overall! I don’t recall if I ever had all of the issues, but it’s irrelevant because it’s been probably around 25 years since I’ve seen any anyway, so they’d all look new to me anyhow. So here are three collages I just made of items of mostly recent findings. I’ll let them speak for themselves. Except I didn’t know which poem of mind the person writing the editor in the Issue 9 collage was referring to. I was curious so I had to start digging. And then I found it! Not the issue, but at least the title of the poem. And then it all made sense. The “goddamn poem” she thought “was so true” was titled “to all you goddamn nature sissies.” Heh.


Caffeine Magazine was THE poetry magazine of the 1990s!
Caffeine Magazine was THE poetry magazine of the 1990s!


Caffeine Magazine Issue 4
Cover of Caffeine Magazine, Issue 4. A photo of Bukowski graces the cover with a list of some contributors headed by Scott Holstad


Caffeine Magazine Issue 9 with fan mail for Scott C. Holstad
Caffeine Magazine Issue 9 with fan mail for Scott C. Holstad

Next time I post here I may try to write about or possibly post pics of some of the letters, postcards, invites, etc., from the stuff I’ve been running across lately. Might be some fun stories behind them. Like when I was oddly named one of Knoxville’s 10 Most Eligible Bachelors back in 1987. I actually found the letter from the MDA thanking me for agreeing to be a part of the bachelor auction, formally called the Great Date Bachelor Auction. (I had no choice?) Terrifying then, funny now. I guess the word “flattering” should have appeared somewhere. It didn’t. Or invites to some swank Beverly Hills and Hollywood gigs. You couldn’t tell by the invites, but trust me, when you’re wandering around in someone’s backyard behind the Beverly Hilton (where they have the Golden Globes ceremony) with Oscar winners and household names, it’s a combo of surreal and Oh Shit and they make for some funny poems and stories. Just don’t be stupid enough to agree to autograph your new book that comes out a year later with a piece taking some funny jabs and potshots a few Hollywood stereotypes at an unnamed but very obvious such party for the owner of the mansion you’re describing before he’s read it. Or any time. You find yourself in that position, you sign, say thanks and run like hell. Hahaha! We’ll see.

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