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BOOKPITCH

In Book proposal on June 7, 2005 at 5:34 am

Thanks to a hand-out by the CEO, I signed up for BookPitch.

I’m not green enough to imagine that it will help get this or this published, but hopefully it won’t hurt, and you never know.

The CEO insisted that 200 publishers will be signing up for the service. Again, we’ll see. Hopefully, it won’t be too much of a gathering place for literary pederasts and predators. Would-be authors are easy marks, I’m afraid.

New and Improved Gypsies of Granada Book Proposal (My Life on the Holy Mountain)

In Book proposal, Flamenco, Granada, Gypsies, Spain on April 19, 2005 at 1:19 am

[Here is a piece on the same subject I wrote for Salon.]

[And here is what Prof. L.P. Harvey said about one of my models for this book, Richard Ford’s Handbook for travellers in Spain: “I am glad to see that Ford still has the capacity to set people thinking. They don’t make guide books like that any more.”] Read the rest of this entry »

My Life on the Holy Mountain: A Book Proposal

In Book proposal, Flamenco, Granada, Gypsies, Spain on January 29, 2005 at 9:44 pm

I have had this idea in mind for a long time. No one seems as interested in it as me, alas (alack). So, here it is. Admittedly, the “sample chapter” is a bit slapdash. Here is a better look at the topic.

A brief description of the book:

“My Life on the Holy Mountain” is a biography of Manolin Heredia Heredia, my oldest friend in the Sacromonte, an angelic picaro from an ancient Gypsy family, famous for their musicians. Manolin, in his mid-thirties, unmarried, with no prospects, member of a culture that is alternately despised and worshipped, is one of the happiest sad men I’ve ever known. As the Gypsies themselves say, he has the joy of being sad.

The book will cover not just Manolin’s life and struggles, but that of the community as a whole, the Gypsies of The Sacromonte, or “Holy Mountain,” a barrio on the hills on the north side of Granada, Spain where this people has lived for over 500 years.

Their unique culture, full of a passion for creating, is under-represented outside of the most vulgar or romantic books and movies. Metal work, guitar making, horse trading, lying, story telling, singing, dancing and drinking are all arts in the Sacromonte.

As Washington Irving put it almost two centuries ago, “Indeed, all this part of Andalucia abounds with such game-looking characters. Great gossips, great smokers, apt at touching the guitar.”

This story is the story of Manolin, but also of his community, of the Gypsy, of the force of imagination and freedom in a restrictive world. It is also the story of history – the history of Spain, of the Moors, the Jews, the Reconquista, of Europe, of India, of Arabia – a story of survival, cultural power, minority-majority conflict and dialogue.

The book will be a narrative, the story of Manolin, but it will necessarily also be a book about ideas – art, history, cultural survival. I have outlined possible chapters below, but please keep in mind this narrative that will hold all the cultural material in a meaningful context – the life of a man.

The manuscript details:

The book will contain approximately 11 chapters with approximately 250 pages. Each chapter should take about a week and a half to write, so the book should take about four months to complete. Research will take several addition months, bringing the book in at around six or seven months.

List of possible chapter titles:

Chapter 1: Un Gitano Legitimo (A Real Gypsy) Introduction to Manolin and to myself; our relationship.

Chapter 2: Hay Que Tener Arte (You Gotta Have Art) The function of art in Gypsy culture, the immediacy and ‘practical’ nature of their relationship to expression that makes it a part of living culture; stories of the great artists of past and present in the Sacromonte. Manolin’s birth and introduction into art as a method of cultural survival.

Chapter 3: Los Paredes de Jericho (The Walls of Jericho) Granada’s Gypsies through their history, from Arabic times through Franco and up to and including the landslide and current conflict with the city of Granada. The forces of history in Manolin’s life.

Chapter 4: Tiene Historia (He Has History) The story of Gabriel – his birth, death and rebirth. Manolin vs. one Gypsy ideal.

Chapter 5: Humanos Son Humanos (People Are People) The story of Manuel the Bricklayer and his sons and daughters. Manolin vs. the other Gypsy ideal.

Chapter 6: Los Hijos de Benjemi (The Sons of Benjemi)The clans of the Sacromonte and how they fight. Where Manolin stands in the complex politics of the Sacromonte.

Chapter 7: Cante Jondo (Deep Song) The development of cante jondo and flamenco music – the siege of heaven. Soundtrack to Manolin’s life.

Chapter 8: Caras Famosas (Famous Faces) The world looks at Granada and the Sacromonte, visitors who’ve been taken — Washington Irving, Prosper Merimee, John Ford, Malcolm Cowley and Glinka. Tourists, travelers and Manolin.

Chapter 9: Sr. Heredia Va a Madrid (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) The political power of half a million Spanish Gypsies and the fight against racism in Granada, Spain, Europe and the world. Manolin’s nascent political consciousness.

Chapter 10: Verdes Voces (Green Voices) Love, courtship, marriage – and Manolin’s “Ay, no hay chicas?” Manolin’s salvation and damnation.

Chapter 11: “Tenemos Que Irnos, Pero Granada Queda” (“We Must Leave, But Granada Remains”) Leave-taking and some notes on the future – of Manolin, the Gypsies of the Sacromonte and of Granada. Hope springs eternal. History is a heartless machine.

The Market:

A book on the Gypsies of the Sacromonte will be popular for a number of interrelated reasons. First, Gypsies have been made popular by, among others, Isabel Fonesca in her book “Bury Me Standing.” This book, however, was about Eastern European Gypsies.

Secondly, flamenco music, the characteristic art of Southern Spain’s Gitanos, made increasingly popular through Carlos Saura’s movies, the records of Ketama and other young players, has created an unfilled hunger for information on the people who make it. This book is, by necessity, a book on the flamenco subculture. This is in line with a general tendency toward appreciating the cultural products of the world’s varied peoples.

The final reason is the sheer paucity in English of books on Spanish Gypsies, ironically, the very Gypsy people with the most to offer culturally.

Generally speaking, the Western reading public deeply reveres examples of life lived “authentically,” of lives lived for deeper values. Hay que tener arte, say the Gypsies. You must have art. And the American book-buying public agrees.

And that same public has been primed by books like “Memoirs of a Geisha” to read history through personal narrative.

About the author:

Curt Hopkins is a playwright and poet who has spent the last decade working in the Internet industry and as a journalist. He has had essays, plays and poems published in Exquisite Corpse, Bluelawn, Amelia, Catalyst, Timberline, Dada and Big Talk. He has had plays produced at New City New Playwrights Festival in Seattle and Northwest Playwrights Festival in Oregon. He is co-founder of Emergency Horse Magazine and of the Big Time Poetry Theatre and The Making House/AutoImaginary Clown.com theatre groups. His journalism has been published in Newsweek, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Bay Guardian, Salon, Seattle Times, The Rocket, New Times and many other magazines and newspapers. He lived for a year among the Gypsies of the Sacromonte barrio in Granada, Spain. He has visited many times since then.

He has written previously about the Gypsies of Granada in Salon.

Sample chapter:

Every story purporting to be true is a story of memory. I have told so many lies about Spain, omitted so much that would be injurious to me, built up around the bad memories and superimposed, telescoped and colorized so much, that it will be a miracle indeed if I am able to tell the plain truth. And maybe the plain truth is not what a reader needs, or a writer. It’s possible that the construction in words of an atmosphere and a structure that the reader can gain from entering, and can enter at all, requires the relegation of the truth to the status of an incidental. But I don’t think so. I think there is some value to trying to tell oneself, and others, the truth. So I will try. In the end perhaps it will be a matter of which Me wins – the confessor or the writer. They are not always the same and they do not always share the same goals and values.

Spain made me. No, that’s not true, though it sounds good. Spain brought to the surface the best and the worst of me. That “worst” part bothers me. The egotism, selfishness, blindness, temper, sharp tongue, the dismissive, contemptuous, frightened and impotent part of me, that flails and lashes out against the chaos of living, that would rather put its eyes out than stare into the incomprehensibility of it all, that part escapes and catches on fire and to this day I have to stay on guard to keep it from flaring up again and burning those I love. And still, I am not always successful. But I am, however marginally, a better person, more aware, stronger than I was before I knew Spain, before, more accurately, I came to know Granada.

By now, Granada is more a religion, or at least a cathedral, than a place to me. Granada rescued me by condemning me to see myself, and the world, as it is, or rather, as I always suspected it was, and was always told it was not. Granada showed me that joy was not an indulgence, but rather the point of life. If my evocation seems a bit purple and extravagant to you, sitting in your office or on your deck or in your coffee shop, surrounded by career worries and plans and money or its absence, your life full of necessities and pragmatism, no-nonsense and proud in your adulthood, having put childish things behind you, prideful of your ability to see through the fairy tales and take things “head on,” well, I blame Granada, and I give it the credit. But the place has grown, in the intervening years since 1987, abstract. And that’s not right. Granada holds, breeds, feeds abstracts, or non-physical, metaphysical realities, but it is not itself anything but made of stone, water, flowers, wind, music, food, vino mosto, language – things you can touch, taste, hear, smell. It’s real.

My way back from the abstract to the real is to tell you about Manolin. Manolin is Spain, he is Granada, and he is, despite the warp of light around him that will surely result in passing him from the Camino del Sacromonte through my mind and memory to you, quite real indeed, I assure you. Manolin is no idea, no symbol. He is a man.

To say Manolin comes from a family of famous musicians would be like saying someone from Amish Pennsylvania comes from a famous farming family. In South Africa, they mine diamonds. In Jiangsu, they produce silk. In the Sacromonte, they make music.

Manolin has been my friend for over ten years. His friendship has been one of those that changes your life, that remakes the scope of what is possible in your life. I first went to Granada with no knowledge of what a Gypsy was. I left knowing what it is to be Gypsy, ser gitano. Manolin has been my Virgil in a journey that seemed on the outside to be an attempt to understand the Gypsy people, their barrio of the Sacromonte, the city and state of mind that is Granada. But it was really a process of coming face-to-face for the first time with me, and with death. For that, above all else, is the purview of the Gypsy.

The Sacromonte, or “Holy Mountain,” clings to the hills on the south of Granada, Spain, a city its 17th century poet Pedro Soto de Rojas, called “paradise closed to many .” The Sacromonte itself was described by another native son, the poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca, as “the lost village in the Andalucia of cries.” It is a community of caves dug out of the hillsides and whitewashed. There we lived – my wife Susan, my friend Ian and I – first in a cave with dirt floors, then in a villa that used to host the legends of flamenco – Sabicas, Mario Escudero, Cameron, Paco de Lucia, Tomatito, Pepe Habichuela. From the terrace of this villa one could look across the lush tropical ravine of the Darro River and see, at night, the broken tower of the Silla del Moro and the sharp outlines of the Generalife and Alhambra palaces, lit up first by the fading sun, then, later, by electric lights.

Here Manolin was born, in a house at the intersection of the Cuesta del Chapiz – the road to the ancient Arabic quarter of Albaicin – and the Camino del Sacromonte. The house, which has stood in the same place and the same form for 500 years is a tiled apartment around a carmen or atrium garden. It stands as a sentinel between what is easily known and what is unknowable. Here the tourists, both foreign and Spanish, divide to the antique Arab gate and the Mirador de San Nicolas or to the Sacromonte. Either way they choose they will see the light as it plays over the glazed surface of the pottery embedded in the plaster, the copper ladles hanging from the cave roofs, the hammered gold and silver of the Darro in its weedy reaches.

There are few doors into the private carmenes of Gypsy life in this place where architecture is less in service to society than to a drunkenness of the soul. Gypsys are well aware of how to manipulate non-Gypsy images of the mysterious, dangerous, knife-wielding, palm-reading picaro. One of those few doors in it seems is to show up without any such images in your head, as we did. I had heard the world ‘Gypsy’ but had no idea what images I was supposed to be seeing so I saw none. We had no money, so we couldn’t get taken. We had no appointments to keep so we couldn’t be late.

Manolin and I sat on the wall overlooking the school yard one summer afternoon passing an Aguila and a pack of Fortunas back and forth. Behind us, over our left shoulder, on the hill where the monastery of the Sacromonte sat the olive trees rippled green to white with every breeze. He pointed across the Valparaiso, his blue-black hair shading his coffee-colored face.

“See that hill?” he asked, indicating a green and yellow ridge full of prickly pear, wild olive and agave. “That used to be full of Gypsies. You could see the smithing fires from here, and they could see ours. Look behind you.” He turned over his right shoulder and pointed his bottle of beer up past the Vereda en Medio Alta and the hand-pumped fountain. A smear like a giant hand could be seen all the way down through the re-build.

“In 1964 we had rains like we’d never seen. The whole hillside came down. A man and his grandson were buried right there where that cave is now.” So the government, he said, moved half the barrio out to a dusty shantytown in the Vega. It was supposed to be temporary but they remain there. The Sacromonte pays the price for the heartlessness of nature and man both.

Below us the kids squeaked and clapped, running after a red-and-white soccer ball as the habit-clad nuns kept them from rolling off into the ravine or sneaking off for cigarettes. Kiki called from Los Faroles, “I got a tortilla in the oven!” Later, later! We told him. His mother, clad in the black dress of the widow, sat in a cane chair beside the bar, tatting lace. The four-stroke of an old Renault unwound as a driver shifted down on the turn, honking once at Manolin. “My primo, Eduardo,” he said. Explanation enough. Silence descended as Kiki clanged shut the iron gate of his bar, the children disappeared back into the classrooms and the car made the turn by La Faraona. The sky overhead was the improbable robin’s-egg of a Titian painting.

Manolin Heredia Heredia, I thought, looking at my closest friend, angelic picaro from an ancient family. Manolin “tiene la alegria de estar triste.” He has the joy of being sorrowful. He’s a brooding, tender soul, quick to laugh, out with his feelings, open-handed, suspicious, naïve, easy-to-offend, forgiving. The Abadia bell rings lauds, vespers and compline and in the silence afterward the smoke of blond tobacco and the tower of the muezzin under the magnified stones of the stream.

Juanillo waved from the green balcony of his restaurant. Juanillo was a leader in the community and owner of the best restaurant in the barrio. He had a beautiful wife and polio-stricken leg. Sometimes we hung out after the restaurant closed, Manolin, La Susana, Ian and I, sitting on the terrace playing the guitar, singing soleás, drinking sherry in the humid summer night air, the sigh of wind through the trees on the riverbank far below us.

Around us stitching in and out of sight and weaving the material of the Sacromonte together were the people. Rarely does an invidual have the sight to see the hidden raices of his life. Here they were like the everyday miracles of the Hebrew prophets. Ratón, on-street hash connection and a singer of unusual power. Manuel, construction worker, singer and father of the dancer Belen. Gabriel, archangel who served seven years in the carcel under Franco, scars like a raised, white spider web across his chest from an attack by a grieving woman. The angry American who stole money from us and occasioned a show-down with the Guardia Civil. Pilar, the black widow. Mondeja, the painter and his arch-enemy Antonio, who nearly came to blows over whose carnations were more beautiful.

Hay que tener arte, the Gypsies say. You must have art.

We believe love is real, sometimes we believe G)d is real, we believe when we’re young in things like art and freedom. But in Granada you do not have to operate on faith. Those things are real like water is real, like the agave and figs on the hillside are real. You can touch them. You do not have to believe in them any longer. You can pull them up by the roots.

I had first come to Granada with Ian, who had discovered flamenco and cante jondo music, the Gypsy-figured music of Southern Spain that united elements of Byzantine liturgy, Andalucian folk song, Arabic music and Jewish prayer, while working alone in the middle of the snow and coyotes at the Pine Mountain Observatory in Central Oregon. There, alone under the cold echoing dome, tracking the stars, he had discovered his own rhythms and progressions he later discovered to be solea and bulerias. For years I was bothered by Spain. It hung in the corner of my mind like a dream I couldn’t shake.

*************************

I stood by the open train window, the overnight from Madrid. Over the fractured, broken land of the southern La Mancha plains Quixote’s windmills and villages of white blocks turned slowly on the red earth. It wouldn’t be long, the slow rise at the end of the plain, the drop into the verdant trough of the vega, the Moorish castles broken apart atop the weathered crowns of the hills. Then, the city itself, laid out like jewelry against the backdrop of the hide-scraper peaks of the everwhite Sierra Nevada…

Sunday Driver at the Friday Mosque, The Road to Oxiana Revisited: A Book Proposal

In Afghanistan, Book proposal, Writers, Writing on January 29, 2005 at 9:39 pm

“Five men left a West-end hotel last night on a secret expedition. It may prove to be the most romantic expedition ever undertaken.” — Daily Express, London, 1934

Sunday Driver at the Friday Mosque is an article that will document my travels from Jerusalem to Mazar-i-Sherif, Afghanistan, passing through Syria, Iraq and Iran. This journey is the re-tracing of a journey originally undertaken in 1934 by Robert Byron and Christopher Sykes. That journey resulted in the travel classic, “The Road To Oxiana.”

This trip will providing an exciting travel narrative through countries that have become extraordinarily important in the last years, including information on how the Iran-Iraq war, Iran’s religious revolution, Iraq’s invasion by the U.S., Afghanistan’s fight to expel the Soviets and its subsequent internecine struggles and invasion by the U.S. have effected the people involved, the United States, and some of the most important historical remains in the Middle East.

The original journey was supposed to have been taken in an experimental charcoal-burning motor car. Unfortunately, the car did not show up in time due to mechanical problems. The present-day travelers will attempt to approximate the spirit of the intended journey by traveling in the 21st century equivalent of the charcoal-burner, a DaimlerChrysler Necar 5 hydrogen fuel cell car.

Although the account of the new journey will comment on the historical and literary ground covered in “The Road To Oxiana”, it will, in fact, be a totally different journey, in a different time, undertaken by different people. Current issues and concerns will be the core of the article. It will provide an opportunity for a big picture of the Middle East. What precisely is happening in each of the areas? How do the people involved deal with their circumstances? What is the human story? The military and strategic story? The cultural one?

This is a journey in which the hardships and potential for discovery equal, perhaps surpass, the original. The current journey will pass through still-uneasy Lebanon, with its Syrian, Druze, native Christian and Muslim combatants still in occasional conflict, into Iraq, where the war and occupation are keeping the citizens of this ancient place on edge, into a newly reawakening and newly threatened Iran and into the still active theatre of Afghanistan. Each place ancient and modern, fascinating in its ruins and its ruination, its history and its history-in-the-making.

In addition to a modern geopolitical survey, the scientific and cultural value of the mission will be a painstaking cataloguing — both written and photographic — of the ruins originally commented on by Byron. What is still standing? What condition are they in? Where, exactly, are they located? The last question will be answered more exactly than previously possible using a global positioning system (GPS).

Enclosed is a detailed itinerary that indicates the scope and vision of Sunday Driver at the Friday Mosque.

Itinerary

This itinerary describes the intended journey. It may not be possible or desirable to stop at each location. The conditions of conflict and the political situation may occasion changes of route. At other times circumstances my require us to stop at places not on the itinerary for food, supplies or rest. However, this document is as faithful a guide as possible to our intended route.

ISRAEL

Jerusalem

LEBANON

Beirut (Beyrouth)

Baalbek – Six Columns, etc. [Heliopolis]

SYRIA

Damascus (Dimashq) – Ummayad Mosque

IRAQ

Baghdad – Ur, Arch of Ctesiphon

Khanikin (Hanaqin)

IRAN

Kasr-I-Shirin (Qasr-e Sirin)

Karind (Karend)

Kirmanshah (Bakhtaran)

Tak-I-Bostan (Taq-e Bostan) – grottoes

Bisitun (Bisotun) – cuneiform inscription

Kangovar (Kangavar) – Gumbad-I-Alaviyan Seljuk mausoleum [tombs of Esther and Avicenna]

Hamadan

Tehran — Gulistan

Ray (Reyy) – grave tower

Veramin (Varamin) – grave tower, mosque

Gulhek (Galanduk?)

[Karag]

[Calus]

[Bandar-e Anzali]

[Rasht]

Kazvin (Qazvin)

Sultaniya (Soltaniye) – mosque

Zinjan (Zanjan)

Miana (Miyane)

Tabriz – bazaars, Blue Mosque, the Ark / the Citadel

Maragha (Marage) – grave of the Mother of Hulagu

Tasr Kand (?, a few miles from Maragha) – Rasatkhana, 12th century tower

Saoma (?, on towards Miana)

Kala Julk (?, further on)

Saraskand (?, further)

Dash Bulagh (?, further)

Ak Bulagh or (?, near Miana)

Miana (Miyane)

Zinjan (Zanjan)

Tehran

Ayn Varzan (Sarbandan?)

Firuzkuh / Amiriya

Samnan (Semnan)

Damghan (Damgan) – grave towers, Tarikgh Khana mosque

Shahrud (Sahrud)

Gumbad-I-Kabus (Gondbad-e Qabus) – tower of Kabus, “Alexander’s Wall”

Abbasabad

Sabzevar – minaret of Khosrugird

Nishapur (Nesapur) – [home of Omar Khayam]

Kadam Gah (Qadamgah) – shrine of the Imam Riza

Meshed (Mashad) – tombs of Harun Al Rashid and Imam Riza

Sengbest (Sangbast) – mausoleum and minaret

Tus – mausoleum

Turbat-I-Sheikh Jam (Turbat-e Gam)

Yusufabad

Kariz

Tayabad (Tayebad)

AFGHANISTAN

Islamkillah (Eslam Qale)

Herat – Musalla minarets and mausoleum, Citadel of Ikhtiar-ad-Din, Gazar Gah resort, Takht-I-Safar gardens, Friday mosque

Karokh (Karuh)

Pala Piri – tomb of Seikh-al-Islam

Laman (?, A76 north between Karohk and “Morgab”)

Kala Nao (Morgab?)

Moghor

Bala Murghab (Morgab)

Maimena (Maimana)

Faizabad (?, on the road to Andkhoi)

Andkhoi (Andhoy)

Khoja Duka (?, on road to Akcha) – Shibargan castle

Akcha (Aqce)

Balkh (Balh) – ruins

Mazar-I-Sherif (Mazar-e Sarif)- shrine of Ali

Tashkurgan (Hulm / Tasqorgan)

Khanabad (?, on road to Kunduz, Hanabad?)

Kunduz

[Sir Han – Oxus River / Amu Darya / Jihun – Hazrat Imam, hot springs at Chayab, Chitral road through the Durah pass]

Baglan

Bamian (Bamyan) – Buddhas in cliff gallery

Shibar (Sibar)

Charikar (Carikar)

Kabul – Dar-al-Aman & Paghman

Ghazni (Gazni) – Towers of Victory, tomb of Sultan Mahmud

Kabul [from here Byron & Sykes are out via the Khyber and Peshwar]

[Qandahar]

[Herat]

IRAN

[Meshed to Tehran on highway #6]

Kum (Qom) – shrine

Delijan (Deligan)

Isfahan (Esfahan) – Chihil Sutun, Maidan, Friday mosque

Julfa (across river from Isfahan) – Armenian cathedral

Abadeh (Abade)

Yezd (Yazd) – Friday mosque

{Kirman (Kerman), Jabal-I-Sang, Friday mosque, College of Ganj-I-Ali Khan, Kuba-I-Sabz}

{Mahun (Mahan) – Shrine of Niamatullah}

Abadeh (Abade)

Pasargadae (Pasargad) – Cyrus’ palace

Tahr-e Garnsid – Persepolis

Shiraz (Siraaz) -Friday mosque, College, Khatum, Hafiz & Saadi gardens with poets tomb

Kavar

Firuzabad – Kala-I-Dukhtar & Kala-I-Pisa, Ardeshir’s palace, Sassanian tower

Ismailabad

Ibrahimabad

Shiraz (Siraaz)

Kazerun – Shapur

Bahramabad (?, on road)

[Return route through – Cenar-e Sahigan; Masiri; Ahvaz; Dezful; Pol-e Dahtar; Eslamabad-e Garb; Sar-e Pol-e Zahab; Qasr-e Sirin]

IRAQ

[Return route through Baquba; Bagdad; Ramadi / Dulaim; Rutba]

SYRIA

[Return route through Dumayr; Damascus (Dimashq); Dimas]

LEBANON

[Return route through Chtaura; Beirut (Beyrouth)]

, , ,

Hoax Poets: A Book Proposal

In Book proposal on January 29, 2005 at 9:33 pm

Inspired in part by Scoble and Israel’s The Red Couch, I am posting my book proposal, such as it is. Earlier, I posted a sample chapter on Thomas Chatterton. So, to the hundreds of editors who regularly read this blog: please contact me if you are interested in a history of poetic frauds with an attendant anthology. And who wouldn’t be? Really, it’s just common sense.

***

Hoax Poets is a book about a different kind of writer. Each chapter discusses a different person writing under a manufactured identity in order to spoof popularly accepted poetic sensibilities and standards. Some writers were satirists giving ruthless comeuppance to the arbiters of taste, some were merely pranksters looking for a bit of fun and others were devoted to recreating a past that never existed as a “harsh corrective” to the short-comings of their own age. But no matter the motivation, all of them successfully hoodwinked readers into embracing works that were something less than genuine.

Why do we want to read hoaxical poetry? Hoax poetry not only defies our literary standards and tests the integrity of our taste, it challenges our very faith in the relevance of the artistic act itself. Such challenges demand intelligent, thoughtful response, and serious readers of literature welcome the intellectual stimulus that a hoax poem offers. In addition, we naturally have an enduring fascination with hoaxes, wherever and whenever they are revealed. Why else have the Hitler Diaries, Howard Hughes’ Will, and Piltdown Man continued to grip our imagination many years after being declared bogus by authorities? At some level we admire the hoaxer. Just as we might respect an outlaw’s audacity or an art thief’s daring, we respect the hoaxer’s ability to reveal ourselves to ourselves—render naked our gullibility and puncture our pomposity.

Currently, there are no books about hoax poetry on the market. With Hoax Poets, we wish to fill that void. The popularity of recent titles such as The Professor and the Madman, The Web of Words, and Ether Day has demonstrated that audiences are eager for books that spotlight neglected areas of our culture. We believe that the mystery, intrigue, humor, and audacity inherent in our focus will be appealing to a wide range of readers. Formally, another option we may wish to consider is that of an anthology with each entry prefaced by a short essay.

Enclosed is a detailed table of contents that indicates the scope and vision of Hoax Poets. I have also enclosed a sample chapter, on Thomas Chatterton, that will give you some idea of the tone and inherent interest of these stories.

Hoax Poets: A Literary History of Manufactured Identities.
Table of Contents

Chapter One. An introductory chapter consisting both of a survey as well as analysis will open this first-ever literary history of poetic hoaxes. This analysis will discuss who perpetrates poetic hoaxes and toward what end. It will examine the intended results of these hoaxes and the actual results. The chapter will be the first complete assessment of poetic hoaxes and will appeal to the bright, demanding general reader, due to its humor and drama and the new light it throws on literature, the map of human thought.

Note: Each subsequent chapter will explain the anatomy of the hoax: who did the hoaxing, why, who got hoaxed, how, who exposed the hoax and what the outcome of the hoax and its exposure was.

Below are the first possible eight hoaxes; others may include Mlle. Malerais de la Vigne, Bob Folder, Trabeus and Hardy-knute.

Chapter Two. “Ossian, the Son of Fingal,” perpetrated by James McPherson. (1760s)
An 18th century minor Scottish poet named James Macpherson published what he claimed were fragments of an ancient Scots Gaelic epic poem. He fooled titans of the time such as Goethe and Napoleon. Samuel Johnson, poet and critic, and philosopher David Hume decried the hoax, but were not proven right until the 19th century.

Chapter Three. “Thomas Rowley,” perpetrated by Thomas Chatterton. (1769)
Chatterton was an 18th century golden boy, praised by Wordsworth, Rosetti and Coleridge. His “discovery” of the poems in Bristol was disbelieved by Horace Walpole and Thomas Gray. A year later, he killed himself at age 18.

Chapter Four. “Bilitis,” perpetuated by Pierre Louys. (1894)
Louys was a French male author of the fin de siècle, a friend of the poet Paul Valery and the composer Claude Debussy. Taking advantage of the age’s rage for Hellenism, and for ‘decadence, Louys united the two elements in the construction of Bilitis, a Greek-Phoenician Lesbian poet. In his Bilitis manuscript, Les Chansons des Bilitis, and its introductory essay, thick with artificial scholarship, he represented the poet in her three “Classical” stages of maiden, nymph and crone: first as a lover of Sappho and other (in both senses) Lesbians, then as a courtesan, finally as an old woman.

Chapter Five. “Emanuel Morgan & Anne Knish,” perpetrated by Witter Bynner & Arthur Davison Ficke. (1916)
Perhaps the single most famous poet hoax, Bynner and Davison unleashed on the credulous world of modernist poetry a furious condemnation of poetic excess in the form of the “Spectra” movement. Taking in everyone from Edgar Lee Masters and William Carlos Williams to politicians on the campaign trail, Bynner and Davison wound up with an event that in itself was praised by Carl Sandburg as fine art. Most critics retained their feeling, even after the hoax was exposed, that Morgan and Knish were simply better poets than Bynner and Davison.

Chapter Six. “Earl Roppel,” perpetrated by Malcolm Cowley, S. Foster Damon. (1917)
Earl Roppel, “the ploughboy poet of Tioga county” was a hoax by the critic, poet and novelist Malcolm Cowley and his poet friend S. Foster Damon, as a response to the Spectra hoax. Roppel’s verse was stiff and faux-rural, extolling the virtues of America and nature. Among the achievements of this hoax was a letter of praise by Witter Bynner and the setting of one of the poems to music by a San Francisco composer and its subsequent, and non-ironic, debut where it was sung by 3,000 voices.

Chapter Seven. “Isidoro Capdepon Fernandez,” perpetrated by Federico Garcia Lorca & friends. (1920s)
Modern Spain’s most important poet, Federico García Lorca, held a tertulia at the Café Alameda in Granada for years where poets, scholars, musicians and others would meet to discuss art and life. A great booster and detractor of Spain in general and the city of Granada in particular, this Rinconcillo, or “Little Corner” created the personification of hopelessly outdated and florid academic poets in the person of Isidoro Capdepon Fernandez. Among other activities they put his name forward for a chair in the Royal Academy and succeeded in placing three articles on his work in a prestigious Madrid weekly.

Chapter Eight. “Ernest Malley,” perpetrated by James McAuley & Harold Stewart. (1944)
Two bored Australian officers stationed in-country during the Second World War, McAuley and Stewart created Malley as an expression of what they loathed most about their contemporary poets, such as Dylan Thomas and Henry Treece. Using lines culled from random documents on their desks and a dictionary of quotations, which they mangled and misattributed, and assigning him an early death, they gave the avant-garde what they believed they most wanted: a tragic hero. After their exposure, which was worldwide news, and the publication of Malley’s verse in Australia’s most important magazine, the Australian police seized the issue for obscenity! Of all the hoax poets, the reputation of “Malley’s” work has lasted the longest, supported by poets such as John Ashberry and Kenneth Koch.

Chapter Nine. “Araki Yasusada,” perpetrated by Kent Johnson. (1997)
A spectacularly successful, and very recent, hoax, Yasusada was made out to be a victim of Hiroshima. His ultra-modernist verse was embraced by the American poetic establishment whole-heartedly, including widespread publishing and praise in American Poetry Review and Grand Street and book plans by Wesleyan University Press. One of the hoax staples was used to create Yasusada, the mysterious notebooks of a dead poet. In the insulated world of hyper-specialized post-modern poetry and semiotic criticism, Yasusada was snapped up as an emblem and venerated. He was the Perfect Victim and when the hoax was exposed, the rage was humourless. The hoaxed spent hours and pages decrying the alleged hoaxer as little more than a racist and decrying the “criminal act.”

Chapter Ten. A concluding chapter will tie the individual instances, in which the tones or themes of hoaxing are visited with subtle difference, back into a single stream. What does hoaxing tell us about ourselves? About authorship, about identity?