Commiserate 2014! February – Dan Meth

February 2, 2014

Commiserate is a monthly experiment in poetic collaboration.

15131_246709547456_1590620_nFebruary 2014 — Remember 12 Things

Commiserate is back for more poetic collaboration in 2014 and I’m glad to start the year off with a new work from myself and Dan Meth. Meth and I have known each other since the 90’s. He’s a cartoonist, illustrator, director, friend and probably my longest lasting artistic relationship. At the end of 2013 Meth and I were in Kentucky for a friend’s wedding. For some reason, we were laughing at the title of a Dave Matthews Band album. I guess we thought there were more than two things to remember. Some personal, some philosophical, some just ridiculous.

Dan Says: When you’ve been friends with someone as long as Ryan and I have and you’ve rambled far and wide together, you acquire an archive a mental encyclopedia of non sequiturs and running jokes. We didn’t discuss what this collaboration would be about before or during the process. All we needed to do was crack open those encyclopedias and start connecting entries. The times you laughed hardest are going to have just as much purpose later on as the times you cried. Fun is not frivolous and this piece became a manifesto to that.

‘Remember 12 Things’

1. When mistaken for a jazz saxophonist or mustachioed matador, soft stab your fork into meat like a professional. Take a breath deep into your lungs, let out a slow solo. All the world is a stage, but no one gets their hands on the script.

2. We get through the day, we win or lose and it is hard to tell the difference between the train and the air raid sirens. There are shouting nights I wouldn’t exchanging for anything. There are days we lost innocently; pennies from a pocket. So, considering we made it this far, considering the curtains fall before the show is over,  maybe it is not so difficult to open a bottle?

3. We’re gonna die. So we better burn — be the ashes of stardust fertilizing the garden. Call Crazy Janey and the Ace of Spades and tell them we’re bringing some angel tears in a glass bottle that gets shattered. ‘cause the stars are like headlights shinin’ cross Greasy Lake. Throw those cards into the mud, everything lost in the flood, now you are being dealt the infinite game. You’ll never lose when your hair’s combed, alright.

4. You always have at least enough time for good penmanship. Even if the wind is blowing, it is cold to the bone and Christmas time too you can always get the train down to the parking lot and spell a name in petals.

5. Call me when your house is burning down. I’ll do my best to douse it with a hose that sprays commiseries.

6.  The signs for the bus stop have been demolished, that’s how you know we’re still living in Rome. The roads may be paved, maybe you can drive, but you’re inside ancient future footsteps.

7. The airport bar is always bad. But you have no other options and it’s the same out there. Laugh at the decor, puff your biceps, get yourself awesome and order one of whatever they’re having.

8. Ingest at breakfast, not at dinner. Otherwise, you’ll taste the self-doubt. Self- loathing and self-importance are coiled together tightly like the tendrils of a coat hanger femur. You don’t know shit about Kierkegaarde. But you knew it complete when you wore a younger man’s clothes. And you don’t know shit about Namor, how moonlight and water makes men heroes.

9. Follow the old lady into the woods. You don’t know where she’s going. The autumn dread of being alone. Leaves under your feet crunch like time. That’s how you know it’s the best direction. Simply the best.

10. A man who met Billy the Kid could have also met John Travolta. The accordion of lives.

11. A Married Robot still needs a remote to control the television.

12. When we’re walking down atlantic avenue, remember to be hip to it. Like you are dancing under dinosaur bones as if art never mattered. You can see the world from erection to resurrection, from tango to tongue, you put the blood in the coconut and you drink them both together. Sun bouncing off the swiss girl’s hair, a summer refrain of awesome rocking and mungo jerry juice.

Dan Meth is an cartoonist/director/writer whose art you may have seen on the internet when you should have been working. He created the award-winning web series “The Meth Minute” and has made videos for Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, IFC, and MTV. On the flipside of his comedy work is a steady stream of existential and experimental multi-media art that has been witnessed by audiences in North America, Europe, and recently Asia.

Poetry is for Reading

April 26, 2009

Poetry Is For Reading Part 1 – An Explanation. Etheridge Knight.

Yes, it is grand to study a poet, to examine the mechanics, to see how the machine works, to admire technical brilliance and the resonance of influence and allusion. Yet I, like many readers, sometimes just want to enjoy poems the way I enjoy TV, a novel, a comic book or a new cd.

wirePoetry, like all of these mediums, comes with the risk that if you just dive in – you’re going to sink into limitless depths of banality, rubbish, or things you just don’t like. TV is an evil glowing devil box full of people trying to get famous and comic books are for kids. But we, the discerning ones, we know better. We find Mad Men. We know Brian Michael Bendis‘ run on Daredevil. We share these things amongst us as part of, and perhaps as measure of, our enjoyment of them. We pass DVDs of The Wire to each other, make mix tapes. We don’t de-construct or analyse. We get excited.

Many months ago my friend Morgan asked me to recommend some newer books of poetry to him. Books I had gotten excited about. Sure, he’d read what he’d had to read in school and had gone through some classics at his own pace but felt he had no foothold on more current work. Somehow we got side-tracked, however, talking about insane things Mike Tyson has said and I’ve felt guilty ever since for allowing the conversation to degrade and for  not giving him a thorough list of readable books.


The troubling thing is that there is a lot of accessible poetry out there. Poetry that doesn’t require one to be a poet nor a scholar. Poetry that sparks and crackles and is as good as the new Decemberists album. But, there are an awful lot of books in that dusty cannon, ones taken like pills or praised by people who never liked AC/DC, or are simply competent or technically proficient.

In reading a New Yorker article about two of my recent poetic obsessions, Matthew and Micheal Dickman, Joseph Millar said, “They talked about poetry the way that young people used to speak about rock and roll, or surfing, or cars.”

Now, I’m not going to compare poetry to rock and roll or surfing but, in this little series, I intend to gush. I’ll recommend books to sit down and drink a beer with, poets you may or may not have heard of whose work you can ingest like your favourite cd, work you’ll want to share with your friends, books you might want to read all of, borrow or buy.

Of course, these are just my opinions based on my own travels, my interests and peccadilloes. Everything is individual, but please let me know if I switch you onto anything that you like. Similarly, feel free to share your opinions with me.

knightI’ve already gone on too long talking about the conceit of this concept and now, nervously, recommend a poet:

Etheridge Knight.

Knight found his way onto my love-shelf thanks to Michael Burkard who gave me a cassette of a Knight reading. I  knew nothing of Knight beyond his threadbare voice on that cassette. I learned from his poems that he’d been incarcerated at Indiana State Prison, that he was African-American, and was addicted to heroin. His voice sounded lived in and just about on the right side of cozy. His poems were rhythmic, brutally sensitive, funny, and honest. His poem Hard Rock Returns To Prison From The Hospital For The Criminal Insane had the eerie feel and humour of One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest.

You can hear him read it hear at about 1.30 minutes in:


And then he read what is just about one of my favourite poems. It has a vulgarity to it, sure, but it has a cut and beating heart too.

Feeling Fucked Up

by Etheridge Knight

Lord she’s gone done left me done packed / up and split
and I with no way to make her
come back and everywhere the world is bare

bright bone white crystal sand glistens

dope death dead dying and jiving drove
her away made her take her laughter and her smiles
and her softness and her midnight sighs—

Fuck Coltrane and music and clouds drifting in the sky
fuck the sea and trees and the sky and birds
and alligators and all the animals that roam the earth
fuck marx and mao fuck fidel and nkrumah and
democracy and communism fuck smack and pot
and red ripe tomatoes fuck joseph fuck mary fuck
god jesus and all the disciples fuck fanon nixon
and malcolm fuck the revolution fuck freedom fuck
the whole muthafucking thing
all i want now is my woman back
so my soul can sing

There is a bio and a selection of poems available at

·You can find Etheridge Knights work at the Scottish Poetry Library in The Vintage book of African American Poetry.

·You can buy the Essential Etheridge Knight (University of Pittsburgh Press) here.

·Read about another poet – Hayden Carruth.

·Cartoon by Dan Meth. My voice is in it.