Wednesday, August 24, 2016

JOURNEY TO PLANET WRITE: Nipples and Cocaine

by Catfish McDaris

The writing bug bit me while I was in the army in Germany. I’d write family and friends about all my experiences: castles with paintings where the eyes seemed to follow you around the room, shooting cannons, the pretty frauleins, and rough toilet paper on the trains. Everyone looked forward to my letters.

I’d been reading westerns and war books because they fit in my pocket. I learned about the classics from different authors of all nationalities. I decided I could write, so my first attempt was a western set in my home state of New Mexico. It never got published. I finished my three-year hitch, then headed “back to the world.” I explored Mexico where I fished for sharks, lived in a car through a winter in Denver, built adobe buildings, worked in a zinc smelter. I kept a few notebooks from then, but never sent anything out. Later I moved to Milwaukee, got a job in the Post Office, and married a beautiful Mexican lady.

I discovered small presses and Bukowski. I started sending poems (which to me were always stories) and short fiction to magazines in 1992. After lots of rejects, I began to get published. I was able to write at work in small notebooks or on scraps of paper, then rewrite on my typewriter. I figured Buk did it this way. In 1994 I went to De Paul University to read at the First Underground Press Conference and met many publishers and writers. I organized several charity music and poetry events in Milwaukee called Wordstock. In 1997 I was published in a three-way chapbook called Prying with Jack Micheline and Charles Bukowski. By then I’d done five or six solo chapbooks. In 1998 I went to Cherry Valley, NY to Ginsberg’s farm and read with all the Beatniks left alive. (Burroughs and Ginsberg were dead) This was a three-day event that got real wild.

In 2007 I took my wife, Aida to Paris for our 25th wedding anniversary. I read at Shakespeare and Co. Bookstore. I also read on 42nd in NYC with a Jimi Hendrix impersonator. All of my readings were practiced and rehearsed in Milwaukee at various venues.

I was leery of the small press on the web. I was so used to the envelope, snail mail, SASE method. I didn’t trust or like computers. I had what I called my Hammer. It was a Smith Corona word processing typewriter. It held ten pages of memory, then you had to erase it. I’d written 20 chapbooks on it. Finally my wife gave me a computer and a few lessons. I was amazed at the ease.

I’ve met people from all over the world because of the web. I’ve been translated into many different languages. I quit counting Pushcart nominations after 15 and Best of Net. I’ve won a few things over the last 25 years. I was a contributing editor to Latino Stuff Review for over ten years and Shrimp over five years. I earned lots of money for Hope House here in Milwaukee for abused women and children. The sheer joy of writing has opened my eyes and heart to many things.

A few years ago Marquette University Special Archives bought my collection of books, magazines, and broadsides. They also collect anything electronic about me or from me in their archives. Now I can read over the phone on radio shows. Technology is amazing. I hope writing is never replaced by computers. Now I’m going to take a walk down to Lake Michigan, good day.

The Mirage

Spaniard screamed in the rain and drank from the sky trying to figure where he went wrong and lost his way. He met a beautiful maiden, they ate rabbit and quail and soon she led him up a steep trail.


Catfish McDaris has been active in the small press world for 25 years. He shot howitzers three years in the army and used to fish and hunt as a boy in New Mexico. Sometimes he goes down to Lake Michigan and feeds seagulls and dreams of mountain horses. He’s working in a wig shop in a high crime area of Milwaukee. He’s been translated into Spanish, French, Polish, Swedish, Arabic, Bengali, Mandarin, Yoruba, Tagalog, and Esperanto.

His book, Sleeping With the Fish, contains poetry and prose and is 265 pages for under $10 from Pski’s Porch

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