Friday, July 31, 2015

Outsider Art of Rowdy Roddy Piper, RIP

Like most of you, my afternoon has suddenly become very sad at the news of the passing of Rowdy Roddy Piper. I grew up watching wrestlers like Baron Von Raschke on NWA, then later Rowdy Roddy and others on WWF and WCW. I loved the movie They Live. But perhaps no one is a greater fan than my friend Jesus Correa , a great Outsider Artist, comedian, poet, and wrestling fan. He did this painting of Rowdy Roddy Piper, and I'm lucky enough to have it in my permanent collection. I don't have much more to say about this. 

Rowdy Roddy Piper painting by Jesus Correa

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Outsider Poetry Forever

I remember, like thousands of other writers, I wrote Charles Bukowski a fan letter in 1991 after my first book, Concave Buddha, was published. I had a car and a girlfriend and a book and I was pretty high on myself. Over the past couple of years I had published about 100 poems in small press zines, and if poetry can be called a career I felt like mine was going somewhere. Bukowski even wrote back and said something vaguely encouraging like don't forget to wipe your ass, kid, or something like that. 

Charles Bukowski's grave

Like most of the small press poets of the era I had the honor of publishing my poetry in the same mags as Charles Bukowski on several occasions. I really loved that time in American poetry because there was no snobbishness, mostly because there were no stakes or egos involved. Pre internet you really didn't know who these other poets you were publishing alongside were, what they looked like, or what their politics and religious affiliation etc were. The advent of the internet was a real blow to poetry publishing in America in many ways, not the least of which is that it took the mystery and specialness out of it. In 1990 almost no one had a full length of their poetry published. Most poets just had chapbooks which were mostly just copies made at Kinkos, folded, and stapled together. The process of publishing a book was still expensive and time-consuming. 

There was no method of seeing your poetry in print only moments after the ink dried. Here's how it worked if you wanted to see your poetry in a zine. You bought The Poet's Market and highlighted a few zines you were interested, typed out five or six copies of each poem you felt might rate publication, put them in an envelope with a SASE stuffed inside, went to the post office and dropped it in a mailbox. Then waited.... And waited... Some editors might respond quickly, which at the best meant two weeks. Others waited months. When you got that SASE back you felt it to try and determine if it was thin enough that the editor might have taken one or two of your poems out for publication. The grand slam was the envelope with only one slip of paper in it, usually meaning they wanted to publish all five poems, but occasionally being the dreaded I threw your poems out for no good reason and only returned a rejection letter in this envelope you affixed fifty cents of postage to. Because it also costed something to submit your poems besides effort. A buck a submission in stamps. Doesn't sound like much, but for poets it can be a fortune.

Then when your poems were accepted you waited. Again. A long time. The longest I ever waited was two years before acceptance and seeing the publication in the mail. Meanwhile, the rejections piled up. Shoeboxes full of them. Since simultaneously carpet bombing a bunch of zines with the same poems was something that was frowned upon and could earn you a bad reputation, a single poem you believed in might be out for weeks or months, then come back in an envelope still folded tightly, and you realized the editor probably didn't even read it. This whole dance made getting one of your poems published something special. Doubly so if it was a zine you respected and you got to be in it with other poets you admired.

That was before the internet. I could write a poem right now, publish it here, Reddit it, Stumble it, and have maybe a few hundred people read it in the next two hours.

Then what?

I could assemble all the poems I have on this site, put them in a PDF, send them to a digital printer, and have a book back here withing two weeks.


And almost nothing. Because it's not the poets that make poetry work, it's the readers. Granted, almost all the readers of poetry are also poets, but I wonder how many poets even read poetry anymore. 

So, get off my lawn, get on my lawn, I wish I had a lawn, I don't know. Poetry lives. And dies. And lives again in ways we can't even imagine right now. Outsider Poetry forever.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Tim Russert's Thrombosis

About six years ago my life became cripplingly boring, and I bought some canvases and acrylic paints and decided to create some painting. The only problem is I can't paint. Or draw. And I didn't have any ideas. Except one. I lived behind four restaurants, and I'd see busboys throwing garbage into a collective dumpster all night and think to myself, I wonder what the most disgusting Crayon color or Popsicle flavoe I can think of is, and if I could create a color for that? The first idea was the juice that would collect at the bottom of that dumpster, sort of like what they call a mat shot in the bar industry, where a bartender picks up the mat where they've been making drinks all night, pours it into a shot glass, and serves it to an obnoxious customer who has requested a knock out shot. 

I painted this Popsicle before I knew what the title was. I respect Tim Russert. His election coverage was funny, informative, and original. He died of a heart attack caused by coronary thrombosis in 2008. I was still in my 30's and decided to title this painting "Tim Russert's Thrombosis," and thought that was funny, until I had emergency heart surgery myself in 2013 to replace a portion of my ascending aorta and replace a faulty heart valve. I'm not retitling the painting because that's why I titled it and we live, we learn. I'm happy to have survived an aneurysm that probably would have been fatal within a few weeks. 

Tim Russert's Thrombosis
My artificial heart valve makes a ticking noise that you can hear from fifty yards away. I wrote a poem about that.

What Makes Me Tick

From conticinium
To Fourth Watch
My St. Jude 27 vavgj-515
Mechanical aortic valve
Thuds like a war bird's wings
In a hummingbird feeder.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Peter Carpenter Outsider Art

Peter Carpenter is almost like the male equivalent of Cassandra Peterson. He started as a male dancer in Las Vegas, then appeared in the Russ Meyer film Vixen as Mountie in 1968. He made only three other films, Love Me Like I Do and Blood Mania in 1970, and Point of Terror in 1971, which was released in 1973, two years after his death of what is believed to be a massive brain hemorrhage. Still others claim Carpenter did not die until the early 1980's during the early days of the AIDS epidemic. What I do know is he was a talented actor, writer, and singer, and Point of Terror and Blood Mania, both released by Crown International, are classics of that form of early 1970's exploitation/horror cinema. Here is a piece I did in honor of his movie Blood Mania.

The Midway Theater Box Office Becomes Outsider Poetry

My first summer living in Downtown Rockford everything seemed to become a poem. And one theme seemed to leap out at me: the unintended meanings of when words and images are combined. In this case of the Midway Theater box office I have guided the meaning of the piece to fit my theme, but in this Chamber of Commerce banner I saw dozens of time crossing the State Street bridge that summer the creator made the association themselves.

Instant poetry, courtesy of the Chamber of Commerce

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Four Examples of Outsider Pictorial Poetry

In 2005 I had just gobe through a decade long cycle in the service industry. I was burnt out, and I hadn't spent much time at all writing poetry for several years, so I bought a pack of yellow legal pads and decide to sit on a porch for thirty days and just write. Most of the poems I wrote formed the first half of my third book, Submerged Structure. I wrote loosely and with no expectation that anything I wrote would be published. This poem, Rockford CSI was written when I quite literally watched an ant crawl into an empty bottle of Grolsch and never find its way out.

I made a few of this in the past week I'll post here. This is the second one:
I wrote this Buck Owens poem while sitting on the banks of the Rock River at a location that had been both an ancient fishing village and an artist colony. It was a day off from work for me, and I was really trying to do anything but drawn back into the bar where I worked. This is a meditation about what happens when you try to hold on to time.

I was walking across the footbridge under Jefferson Street when I thought of this poem. At many points in my life, including now, it would have seemed too stupid to bother writing down, but I did anyway, rehearsing various versions of it in my head as I walked. I had really good luck in that spot one summer and wrote many poems there, although I have yet to catch a fish. 

Doogie Howser Outsider Poetry

I don't remember why I wrote this poem. It was just something that seemed funny to me after Neil Patrick Harris re-emerged upon the cultural scene. I'm not sure at all if my mental illness inspires some of my poetry, inhibits it, or prevents me from writing at times. It's just part of who I am. 


Over the past five years the creative team of artist Jenny Mathews of Tiny Drawings and Outsider Poet Thomas L. Vaultonburg have been compiling an impressive portfolio of work, including, but by no means limited to : Mermaids of America, Tiny Drawings, The Toughskin Rhinoceros Wrangler Company, Iced Cream, and several other art shows, logos, books, and advertising campaigns.  Represenative of their work is this piece title "Shingetsu," a Tiny Drawing Poem collaboration. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

"The Gifted Program." A Poem About Being An Outsider

The gifted program at Byron elementary School in 1977 consisted of a box made out of cardboard rigged up in a corner of the room, where one student, me, was sent to read books so as not to be slowed down by the other children. It was impossible as an eight year old to differentiate being "gifted" from being punished for being different. I wrote this poem because nearly forty years later I have trouble deciding if being different is a gift or a curse. 

The Gifted Program at Byron
Elementary School

Was two isolated makehift cubicles
Shoved into one corner
Under a map of Antarctica where me
And Michael  Robinson
Studied humanity

Antarctica is the place where
Special people go,
Ms. Stieglitz said

We spent the year alternately
Being President, Vice President
Ulitimately declaring anarchy
Though the mordent precision
Of our isolated orbit
Assured nothing would ever be
Out of place

They fed us Animal Farm,
Rice crispy treats,
All the loneliness the "special"
Amongst us deserve as they learned
To make more and more elaborate
Dunce caps out of papier mache

You designed something I can't
Even pronounce, died last week

Maybe you've gone back to Antarctica

I hear they need an Ambassador

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Three Dog Poems

A Large, Smelly Beast

Small packs of children
Laugh hysterically as
I crush rotten vegetables
In the huge excavating
Machine that is my maw,
And there’s a crescendo
Of hoots as I lather my
Thick hide in a cologne
Of mud and feces then
Saunter over to mount
My bulldozer of a girlfriend.
You’ll surmise I’m a sluggard
As the homosapien hoses down
My perfectly fitting hide,
But I’ve seen them carry
Seven generations of snow
Leopards out of here
And while you were mocking
Your wife was home
Fucking the Great Dane.


I saw this movie about
A dog and his master.
The man starved the dog
So he got all hungry and mean.
He was a good boy but
He was hungry.
The man had a plan to
Use the dog for nefarious
He introduced his boss
And his ex wife and
The tax collector to
The dog and he ate them.
Then he starved the dog
Some more and invited
Rod Serling over
But he slipped and fell
And the dog ate him.


A bell sounds
And three dogs,
A Great Dane named
Basso, a collie named
Archibald, and a
Dachshund named Federico
Begin to salivate.
A mousy lab assistant
In a dingy frock
Serves the frothing dogs
Pig entrails and mash.
The dogs eat ravenously.
Later the dogs talk
Amongst themselves.
They agree the humiliation
Is a small price to pay
For aiding Pavlov in his
Crucial research and
Besides the lab girl
Has nice legs.
Federico says
It’s poker night.
The dogs laugh
In dog language.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Three New Poems By Dr. Millard Rausch Unearthed

Three new poems unearthed from the private letters of Dr. Millard Rausch.

Fashion Advice

“You’re perturbing the daisies,”
I say to her
As we walk along
The only river
In this poem.
Their agitation seems
To stem from the
Unrealistic depiction
Of daisies on her
Blue dress.
“I’m beginning to
Like April,” she says
As we near the
Hot dog vendor.


For 1,000 days
The bonfire I started
With the idiot’s maps
Who landed me here
Has burned on the hillside
To advertise my
Lonely planet.
Tuesday after the government
Broadcast of Gilligan’s Island
Your spaceship crash landed
In my spice garden,
And watching the
Hatch open I thought
“Fuck rescue,”
There are fruit
Trees here.

Medicine Cabinet

Behind the bicarbonate
Is a cure for what
Gives the morning fangs,
A sort of way to fade
Demurely into an afternoon
That had it out for you anyway,
Though you’ll probably
Pull down the shower
Curtain when you fall
And lose you security

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Monday, July 6, 2015

Five Low Down Dirty Outlaw Poems From Flesh Wounds

When Thomas L. Vaultonburg published his third book of poetry, Flesh Wounds, in 2011, it's unlikely anyone cared. It had been twenty years since his first book Concave Buddha thudded upon the scene like a cow's liver dropped on the floor of a butcher shop. The poems, true to the title, were mainly meditations on the corrupting force of easy money, booze, drugs, loose women, and getting paid way too much to drink all night and celebrate with other people. 


If you can’t write a poem
In the bathtub
You may be suffering
From iron deficiency
And I don’t recommend
Eating wrenches and pliers
But you sure could lay off
All the bloodletting
And the leeches aren’t
Helping one damn bit,
For chrissakes kid
Nobody wants to steal
The soap it’s already
Been used.

Outsider Poet Thomas L. Vaultonburg as a Rooster


“I’ve come to save the azaleas,”
She says,
And begins spritzing them
With a 20-20-20 liquid
As per her instructions
I strip her naked and
Penetrate without asking.
She folds her arms across
Her chest and I’m fucking
The dead.
She says we’re going to Hell
And I say as long as
We don’t have to take the bus.


Again, third time
This week.
I unwrap my toy
And discover scars,
And a Mayan tattoo.
She bends over one
Of my strongest lines
And as my right hand
Grips the temple of
Machu Pichu and my
Left a handful of goodwill
Towards men (with forty dollars)
I appreciate how entirely
Much more life I’ve had
Than Kafka, Keats or

Outsider poet Thomas L. Vaultonburg punching a shark during Shark Week

The Souvenirs

I find the takeout menus
And martini graphs
From the restaurants
And bars where I
First met them.
I think of that
First kiss and smile.
I also keep the reminders
From the bus stations
Basement apartments
And motels where I
Last left them
To their doctors, car
Salesmen or
I find these jammed into
A book to mark the page,
Forget the anger,
And smile.

How to Leave

Place 10,000
In Monopoly money
On the counter and
Explain this should
Cover the broken
Windows and back
Rent. Take a good
Hard shit in the
Toilet and leave
Bacon grease on
The stove. Make
Sure to toss a sixer
Of something classy
Like Blatz in the cooler
For the next broken
Down sucker to come
Through here.

Five Outsider Poems By Thomas L. Vaultonburg

Thomas L. Vaultonburg founded Zombie Logic Press in 1997. Almost twenty years later Zombie Logic has been called "America's most dangerous small literary press" by NPR. In 2014 they published Iced Cream by former Green Party mayoral candidate Jesus Correa, the self-described "world's best dishwasher." In 2015 they will publish the first book of noir poet Dennis Gulling. Here are five poems by Thomas L. Vaultonburg from his book Flesh Wounds. Feel free to submit your Outsider art and poetry to editor Olivia Suchs at

The Trouble

The trouble with
Maintaining standards
And appearances
Is the bad behavior
Gets all the good words
Like philandering,
Malfeasance or
And if you do it well
They call you a knave
A miscreant or
A rogue
And those are beautiful
I know it’s a weakass
Poem but if you’d seen
The young girl who
Insisted on wearing
A short, red skirt
Despite the subzero
Weather who inspired
It you’d understand.

Among the Breeders

They want safety now.
A world without botulism,
Rabid badgers
Or faulty airbags.
Are these the same
Motherfuckers I saw
Tearing up my universe
And despoiling my
Gardens and faeries
Last year?
They’ll get what
The rest of us get:
Rusty nails, live
Wires and all the
Carnage their stomachs
Can hold.

The Books

Unsatisfied with the original
Wound, you return
For The Books.
Dylan Thomas, Henry Miller and
Pound were always mine
You sneer, and when
You bend low to grab
My Cummings
I make the fatal mistake
Of noticing the new
Tits your lover bought you-
A thrust and twist
Of the shiv.
As you round the corner
` I toss Adrienne Rich’s Collected
After you and yell
“Just keep your hands off
My Bukowski’s you fucking

Home Delivery

The truck’s impassive
Rumbling shook
The poems right out
Of me. Poems about
The lonely men begging
Us to stay for just one
Beer and the lonely women
Angling for illegal
Hookups. We left them
With machines to clean
Up the blood and tears.
We got back in
The truck.

The Outsider Poet Thomas L. Vaultonburg at Gulf Shore 2014

Planning Your Free
Paris Vacation

Move to Quebec and breed.
They have French blood
And feel superior,
But outnumbered,
And will pay you
To eat croissants,
Wear a beret and
Learn French while you breed.
Take your time
And read some Proust
While breeding,
Then collect your check,
Leave the children with relatives,
And go to Paris.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Outsider Surrealist Poetry By Bradley Lastname


She grew weary of being someone of her ilk,

so she cashed in her freakquent flyer miles,

and spent the summer in Sardinia,

where she could be someone of her ilko,

in a caftan made of silko,

listening to Wilco,

crying over spilled milko,

watching Sargeant Bilko

on a black and white old Philco.


Linda Lovelace is lovelorn.

Linda Lovelace loves Lorna.

Linda Lovelace loves Lorna Doone.

Linda Lovelace loves Lorna Doone's buggy.

Linda Lovelace loves it when Lorna's doone buggy runs.

Linda Lovelace doesn't love it when Lorna's doone buggy runs
over Frank O'Hara.


Bruce Mandolin

Wayne Banjo

Gilbert Balalaika

Sterling Lyre

Van Koto

Lance Sitar

Enzo Zither

Tim Charango

Seymour Lute


Sneeze on Monday, sneeze for danger:

Sneeze on Tuesday, kiss a stranger.

Sneeze on Wednesday, you're on t.v.:

Sneeze for Duchamp, you're Rrose Selavy.

Sneeze on Friday, lose some snot:

Sneeze for edison, you're Fred Ott.


If the lights have gone out at the dinner table,

use an imaginary clock to describe to your diners

the location of the food on their plates.

For example, the chicken cordon bleu is at twelve o'clock,

the mashed potatoes are at 9 o'clock,

the broccoli is at six o'clock,

and the hash brownie is at 4:20.


The price of wisdom is above rubies.

The price of extracting Jack Ruby's wisdom tooth is above diamonds.

Kenny Rogers wants to know:

Jack Ruby, are you contemplating going out somewhere?

Because your wisdom tooth is the only part of you that's ever leaving the

        Dallas County Jail.