Weapon of choice

Yuyutsu RD Sharma


My mother taught me imagination and to read. My grandfather taught me to see." This is how the celebrated American poet Gregory Greyhawk answered my seemingly profound, pedantic question — "What are your influences?" He also confided that he started writing poetry at the age of eight when a nun accused him of plagiarising a short story he recited in the class. "I was elated. I knew I was doing something right. At 15, I won an award for a serious piece of four sonnets that spoke of the tragedy of sailors lost in storms on the Great Lakes; one season after my first season on the Great Lakes. I began to think that I knew what I was doing then."

A year ago I received Greyhawk’s collection ‘Wailing in Heaven, Whistling in Hell’. I wanted to share not just Greyhawk’s intense, hard-hitting voice but also the way the collection was produced, almost putting our literary publishing to shame. Lavishly illustrated, both books printed back to back in one volume with a fold out style broad sheet in the centre showing nudes and Greyhawk with his gangsters, ‘Wanted’ for telling the bitter truths of the world. The book includes calligraphy, a hieroglyphic composition and translation by Michael Annis: "I am Cat, fighter by the side of the Night, who brings destruction of the enemies of Truth."

Wyandotte/French-Canadian breed (Huron Indian tribe), Marine Corps sniper Vietnam, former hockey pro, rail jumper, third mate on ships and boats on the Great Lakes and the high seas, Greyhawk was born in Belle River, Ontario, Canada. Alan Dumas of ‘The Rocky Mountain News’ writes of him, "His imagery is often dark and violent — but always memorable.  Implicit is Greyhawk’s conviction that there is no other job as worthy as writing truly good poetry."

By all standards Greyhawk’s a difficult poet to tackle. His poetry defies any dogma or doctrine that you might be conditioned to unveil. In his poetry, language always denies you the truth. The word Truth, he says, was designed to prove that the skeptics are dizzy and the faithful fools. In Greyhawk one doesn’t encounter the disillusionment with the contemporary disintegration that our Asian audiences under the systematic academic study of Eliot- Pound- Stevens have been accustomed to explore in Western poetry. His is a legitimate anger, a buoyant uproar, and a polished rage of an individual looking for scheme of things from the other end.

Weaving the forgotten song of the marginalised communities, he shakes the whole river awake. Here one finds sensuous evocation of the roots, of the native American symbols and traditions and here one sees fury at the unjust system that obliterates marginalised cultures. And at the centre, very much like Walt Whitman, stands Greyhawk howling to untangle true definition of the complex knot of the word — Democracy.

Gregory plays with the various shades of truth and idea of true Democracy. Freedom from hunger, pain, disease, winter, lies and freedom to work, kill, speak, sleep, believe, forget, and wait. In his poetry, butterflies are flowers that fly, hung by the kites of the sky. Greyhawk speaks of Calm River and Trembling City and sings the war song for calling the dogs and evokes the shadows of the hawks to finally ask the formidable question — When would you give the land back?

Why does he write? — To find four lines that will last four thousand years. As far as contemporary American literary scene, he seems up against campus poet professors — It is smarmy, bled: untended: academe: computer mediocrity: pap and recycled mulch: chopped prose by feature-name faculty members invented by their smarmy and inbred culture of would-be-poet professors. There are masters and voices in the ether, and as we all should know the true aficionados of poetry are found in astute readership. I regret that students of the art with an eye and budding voice will see the nepotism barriers, as well as the required sacrifice of one’s identity to the conformity demanded to play the game, will find other means for creative expression.

But to him the onslaughts of corporate publishing industry seem to threaten the future of poetry: Now because of radio technology our voices can reach the stars. In the future,

may wiser, more elegant eyes choose the songs and poems we transmit when the interstellar chatter begins.