By Jimmy Jazz


You look like the kind of boy who would be popular in prison.
You look like the kind of girl who meets Ted Bundy at the supermarket.
You look like the kind of fat man who eats a half-gallon of ice cream in a sitting.
You look like the kind of fat girl who doesn’t want her uncle to touch her that way.
You look like the kind of young woman who cultivates her zits as a rape shield.
You look like the kind of old man who writes a check when the telemarketer screams.
You look like the kind of slave that says, “Yes sur boss.”
You look like the kind of cog who wastes his life in a factory.
You look like the kind of coward who leaves 11 dead on a derailed train track after failing suicide.
You look like the kind of teenage mother whose daughter will become a teenage mother.
You look like the kind of 15-year old Negro servant that a certain segregationist senator from South Carolina would knock up.
You look like the kind of 12-year old lolita who tempts older gentlemen.
You look like the kind of boy a priest would fondle.
You look like the kind of groupie R. Kelly would pee on.
You look like the kind of drunk who sips discarded well drinks.
You look like the kind of junkie who sucks dick in the public restroom.
You look like the kind of smoker who dies of emphysema.
You look like the kind of guy who did something amazing 10 years ago.
You sound like the kind of immigrant who will never learn English.
You sound like the kind of white liberal who doesn’t confront crackers when they talk racist shit.
You rap like the kind of rapper you heard on the radio.
You look like the kind of debtor who buys a new car at 26% interest.
You look like the kind of slut who can’t pick her baby-daddy from a police line-up.
You are the Viagra demographic.
You are a poster child for keeping abortion safe and legal.
You are the prom queen on the boulevard of broken dreams.
You look like the kind of xtian who tries to drive an s.u.v. through the eye of a needle, the Muslim who straps a bomb to his chest, the Jew who drives a Mercedes, the atheist who says ‘God bless you.’
You have the kind of face that men in wifebeaters like to slap.
You have the kind of face that raises the dander on a border patrol agent’s neck.
You have the kind of face that cops slam into the hood.
You have the kind of face that knows the difference between a quadratic equation and the square root of pi.
You smell like the kind of bum who doesn’t know which day the dumpster is emptied.
You smell like the kind of hippie who thinks deodorant is a conspiracy.
You think like the kind of woman who doesn’t want to hear what’s in the newspaper.
You think like a soldier. You think like a thief. You think like a poet.
You look like you sound like you smell like you think.

Daniel Johnson: Why did you start using the name Jimmy Jazz?

Jimmy Jazz: I wanted to create a public persona, partly because I was writing radical books while trying to work as a public school teacher. It was a ruse. I wanted to be part of the tradition, you know, poets adopting a nom de guerre, choosing your punk name was a rite of passage like Darby Crash, Joan Jett, Iggy Stooge or Stendahl.


Daniel: How has that worked out for you?

Jazz: If it didn’t create a split personality, it has certainly widened the chasm between my public and private self. Jimmy Jazz is sometimes perceived as arrogant, a wild ass, even belligerent. He has a problem with ethos. His job is to speak truth with absolute candor, which sometimes hurts people. So they cross their arms when he speaks. They turn their backs, but sometimes they laugh, and laughter brings us to the cusp of change. Laughter belies promise.


Daniel: Where Daniel Johnson is meek?

Jazz: I think people who know Daniel would describe him as shy, introverted, quiet. He recycles, tends a garden. No one would ever say Jimmy Jazz was meek, he speaks loudly in his own voice. He deals in cognitive dissonance. He’s rage personified and boiling toward transcendence. Where Daniel works a straight job to pay the rent, Jazz stays up late writing. Daniel got his daughter’s teeth fixed. Jazz wrote five novels. When Daniel got laid off from a job at a bank, Jazz had never been happier. I wrote a 500-page book since then. We wrote a book. Ten hours a day for a year. A book about books. The last book.


Daniel: You wrote a book about every book you ever read.

Jazz: Yes.


Daniel: Who do you think will want to read it? I mean, you’re no Art Garfunkel.

Jazz: Anyone who loves books. Or hates vapidity.


Daniel: You’ve said that Poets are klowns.

Jazz: Yes. I feel like a klown when I stand up in front of people. In the sense that klowns are performers, pandering to a crowd, or a choir, but also in the way the jester makes the king uncomfortable. And like the jester I feel my head hanging in the balance of every performance.


Daniel: I’ve seen you come out shivering.

Jazz: Yes.


Daniel: I’ve felt the tears run down your face.

Jazz: ——


Daniel: You’ve said that Belief is a form of mental illness.

Jazz: Yes, unqualified belief. If something is true you don’t have to believe in it. Someone recently accused me of closed-mindedness because I said that astrology and ‘determining personality by blood type’ were bollocks. Others try to tell me that being an anarchist, atheist and following a vegan diet constitute beliefs. They would torture language itself. I don’t believe in science. Science differs from religion in the ability to change. You go with what works. My vegan diet seems healthier for me and the environment. When you get a better model you change. Dogma never changes, only obfuscates. Capitalism works under the same rules. Show me some shred of evidence. Xtians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus— they have nothing. No more evidence to back up their stories (or their hypocritical moral systems) than a Mormon. If the Dali Lama wants his followers to believe in reincarnation, the burden of proof is on him. I would like to see poets get better control over their metaphors. If there was such thing as a “soul”, you could measure it. If prayers worked, for anything but pastime, you could measure the difference they make. If positive thinking altered reality, you could test it. There is no god, no magic, no miracles. Jesus never walked the earth, and the bible was cobbled together by an intrusion of ambitious politicians. Humans would do better to stop wasting time trying to dull the pain of existence with metaphysical palliatives and figure out how to live without destroying the environment. Until then my job is to softly rage.


Daniel: Wow, strong meat for a vegetarian. I wanted to ask about the solidarity you feel with contemporary artists…

Jazz: I felt a great solidarity when Incommunicado published The Sub alongside Nicole Panter, Pleasant Gehman, Iris Berry, Liz Belile, Peter Plate, Dave Alvin, Steve Abee, Barry Graham and Jervey Tervalon. Capitalism destroyed our small press, but that literary scene was crushed under the weight of entropy. Scenes always collapse. They are propped up by energy, by effort, by solidarity, and when that goes you, as a writer, are left alone with the blank page.