Television didn’t arrive in England until the Fifties. Its images were of course in black, white, and grey, which fit perfectly with our childhood lives, already chugging along in drab monochrome. Light grey drizzle fell from the black clouds and specks of soot belched from the factory chimneys. It was grim. This monotony could only be broken by a visit to the cinema. Republic Pictures film serials and Flash Gordon were my guides to a more exciting future.
A film I remember fondly featured a scene where a tousle-haired man in a belted raincoat is leaning against a tall building in Manhattan. A cop walks by swinging his billy club. “Move along, buster!” he exhorts. “Do ya think you’re holding up the building?” The accused adjusts his battered hat and moves away as instructed. The building crashes to the ground in a flurry of dust and rubble. I had entered the world of the Marx Brothers and I would never look back.
Years later at art school I came upon a similar spirit of anarchy in the work of the Dada and Surrealist poets and painters. I was home, and dry. And yet, I was distinctly out of step with the prevailing ideology. I was surrounded by abstract painters churning out fake de Koonings and Rothkos. The collage novels of Max Ernst, with their haunting dreamlike imagery and absurdity, became my beacon as I tried to escape the prevailing orthodoxy.
My early attempts at prose poetry found their way into print in the samizdat publication Adventures in Poetry, published by the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church in the Lower East Side. Encouraged by poets Ron Padgett and Larry Fagin, I came to New York and read from my collected works. After years of neglect in my homeland I had finally found my audience.