What were you in jail for? How did a jail term affect your writing?
I spent to two years at Schyulkill Federal Prison Camp for tax evasion. I loved being taken out of society and having the free time to concentrate on my writings and my workouts. It was the time of my life. I was known as a rapper and a boxer and all the ethnics in the jail gave me a big greeting. I went from being a reject in the business world to being a hero in the prison world. I loved it. I was in jail for tax evasion. It was a very complicated matter. My vice president was charging up $40,000 a month on his Amex card at the Waldorf. I ripped up his card and told him I'd give him forty thousand dollars a month of clients' checks to cash. He said he had a friend at Nat Westminster Bank who'd do it. He didn't really. While he was married with three kids, it turned out that he was gay and having an affair with a gay escort who worked for a service that he was a partner in. He used a network of gay friends in Delaware to cash the checks. He was using much of the money for a sex change operation for his boyfriend, just like Dog Day Afternoon. Eventually, the feds contacted me and told me that a million dollars worth of checks for my firm were cashed in Delaware. I didn't even know this. But as the head of my firm I was automatically guilty. It's ironic that, being homophobic, I ended up the head of a gay money laundering operation. I was kind of the almost innocent guy who was burned, so when you tell me you hate to see an innocent man suffer I'm not sure I really care because I suffered yet I suffered and grew from the experience. In jail I wrote fourteen movies. Two were accepted in the Angelika Film Festival and were semi-finalists in the Screenwriters Mag contest. I also wrote a book of poems, Steel Toe Boots, which received some good reviews. I loved writing in jail. The authorities tried to take my life away from me but I took my life back for me through my writings. They tried to diminish me but I grew. I was a winner. It's like when you get punched in the face and instead of backing down you smile and let your opponent know he's about to get killed.
Photo by Robert Ecksel
Have you sent your political/social commentary poems to many publications? What have been the responses so far? Why do you think this is so? Why does nobody want to touch them? As a publisher and editor, I sometimes disagree with the writer's viewpoint, but if it is well-done and aesthetically pleasing, I throw bias out the window, or try to, at least.
Whenver I defend war against villains or knock peaceniks the literary magazines turn up their noses at me. A few have even written me nasty notes because my opinions didn't correspond with theirs. The mags believe in free speech but don't allow you to speak in their pages if you don't parrot their archaic opinions. They are afraid of dialectic because they are the weak voices of protest and they have to gather all their wagons together to keep the Indians out of the range of possibility. Paranoia grows out of weakness. They are afraid to meet you head on and publish your views and see who wins in debate. They cannot incorporate the opposite side. They are afraid of it. All they have is their opposition. They are not part of the muscular world of finance or sports. They refute by receding from open mindedness. They dress alike, they look alike, they read the same books, they like the same films, they have the same confidence in their fake humanitarianism and they are a sham. They are wee intellectuals gathering together on a cliff around a campfire not knowing whether to be more afraid of falling off or staying up.
What is it that makes the literary world, in your opinion, so left-leaning? Any theories?
The literary world is left because it can't afford to socialize with the right. They generally love literature and intellectual pursuits which offer no cash. Thus they lack the sex appeal of the rich and the Hollywood types and hide amongst themselves to protect their interests in literature. I understand this because I'd rather be literary and broke too. However, they go too far and adopt every cliche of the left rather than those that are useful in protecting their pursuit of writing.
You have a Ph.D. and were once a professor. What was your dissertation on? What kinds of courses did you teach? Who have been some of your biggest influences as a student and professor of literature? Have you thought about going back into teaching?
My dissertation was on the metanovel. The opening chapter was published in College English around 1976. I was rewriting it as a book when I went into business. As for my teaching I was mostly freshman comp which was a drag. I'd get an occasional literature course which was good. When I was young my biggest influence was DH Lawrence. Then I fell in love with Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti and WS Merwin. I later learned that Ginsberg only wrote one good poem, "Howl." Aside from that he was a slobby, fat sweetie pie, not my kind of fellow at all. I guess I've liked hundreds of other writers. I've read too much over the years to say anyone really influences me now. I find new ideas in my own writing like I want to use staccato sentences, or I want to abandon logic and let lines complete themselves according to the images or I want to leap to a new concept every two lines, etc. I would like to teach writing poetry. Just workshops. Going through individual poems and making them new. I could teach that and still teach boxing. I don't want to be all words and no action. I still need the physical in my life. I want to write from a hard body and a crazy mind. Logic is for scientists and weakness is for the weak.
Where did you get your Ph.D.? Did you start seeing left-wing dominance at this school and subsequently, where you later taught?
I got my Ph.D.at CUNY Graduate School in 1976. When I did, it was the third best English Ph.D. Program in the country (I believe). The school was completely left wing at the time. We were coming off Vietnam and I was also completely left wing. I hated the business world, war, violence and the industrial military complex. I believed love was related to humanism and forgiveness was a saintly quality. My heroes were Gandhi and Martin Luther King. In an ideal world those values made sense. But the world has become soiled with the reality of its own self-centeredness and if you are paper you can't fight fire by throwing yourself in the blaze like those crazy monks who burned themselves up protesting Vietnam in the sixties. The members of Al Qaeda are not loving reformists who want to better the world. All they want to do is kill westerners. They don't even have an ultimate purpose except our eradication. They are not struggling to give their people more jobs and a better education. Their lives are based on destruction for destruction's sake with some tarnished patina of religious hocus pocus. When we protested Vietnam in the sixties we wanted a better world with equality for everyone, including Asian peasants. The Moslem protesters don't care about better for anyone; their ambition is to see us dead. And I'll be damned if we let some weak, primitive, backward, uneducated people conquer the world. The brazenness of their attack is so infuriating that it drives me beyond rational revenge and I'd like to kill every one of them. If I didn't, I would be a wimp or someone with no feeling for the survival of his own people. It's disgusting that when 9/11 occurred the New Jersey Arabs were celebrating and dancing around the foothills of Jersey City.
You have had so many exciting, unusual things happen in your life by almost anyone's standards -- multi-millionaire on Wall Street, professional boxer after 40, Ph.D. in English literature, commerical model, former jailbird -- that I wonder if you frequently get people questioning your honesty or accusing you of pulling their legs at best, outrageously fabricating things at worst. If so, how do you react to these people?
I don't meet many new people. I'm pretty much a hermit except for teaching boxing and coming home and writing. So most people who know me know my history and know it's all true. By the way, just by way of boasting, I was also ranked in the East in tennis and ski racing. I love sports. Nevertheless, many people who read Dementia Pugilistica thought I was bragging. The reviewer in Oyster Boy Review thought it was a fake. Yet all my poetry is ripped out of my heart and a thousand percent true. I wrote that critic a response in Oyster Boy. I don't remember what I said. I don't care in any event because the past doesn't interest me. My memory has been a little affected by my boxing and I have some minor brain damage. Like I loved jail, I love brain damage. It provides spaces between my thoughts and allows me logical leaps I couldn't make if I were stuck in the dull syllogisms academics pass from one to another like worn-out coins. In any event, if no one believes me, what do I care? I feel my heart is larger than Whitman's and I don't have the complications he did. He was gay in a conservative era. Despite society's desire to embrace homosexuality I can't see how the ramifications of gayness wouldn't effect one's antagonisms and self-perspective. But then again, I'm not politically correct.