I’ve put together the entire collection of my collages into book form. This is a project I’ve wanted to do for many years and I’m happy that it’s finally complete. The book is 55 pages bound in standard US trade paperback form. Perfect bound with cream interior and black and white exterior with a slim spine and glossy cover. The book is titled The Heaven Antenna: A Book of Collages and costs $7.95. It is also available for a lower price as a digital download. You can purchase the book here, or though the link below.
If you’d like a review copy of this book contact me through this website.
“Go buy a copy. The dedication is genius and a poem unto itself. “The Resume” is genius and a poem unto itself. The poems in between are cutting, stark, and ghostly. Each one I read jabbed me like a knife. I had to put the book down in between poems just to recover from the sense of emotional violence. But words that can do this to a person should be shut up in a book for their own safety. Now I read them over again when I feel the urge to watch tv. There are no commercials in “death of an image.” – Amy Harper
The Temple, Inc., Walla Walla, WA 99362;
Copyright 2003; 2nd printing 2005
40+ pp; saddle-stapled paperback
A Fine Mess, Book Review of “Open Spirit”
by Jen Hawkins
“Somewhere, on some campus in America, a young poet is writing… with all of the totemic words, something like: ‘ The silence of my/blood eats light like the/breath of future water,’ which I have composed in less time than it takes to type…” says Robert Pinsky. And somewhere, in a drafty bookstore in Walla-Walla-Wa, Travis Catsull is, “mumbling in the immortal silence”. “With lonely jargon” he “…evict[s] the sun”. He goes on, “disappearing in the random stream of tragedy,” and on, “with mythological images dancing with the lights”. Until, of course, (alas, alack,) “…falcons of the black and white rainbow collide in quartz pyramids”. Uhuh. Hate it when that happens. Need I say more?
Confound it, yes! Because, for all its convoluted images, its water-torture incessant asides; despite all havoc reeked, peril fraught, and chuckles darkly hyenaed; though it treats syntax like a penalty fee for writing too close to the Utah border; by magic or miracle, this book is irreducible.
Each poem presents its own unique (bizarre) set of joys and agonies. There is innuendo, “A pirate waits in the emergency room. / Methodically rubbing his hook”. There is slapstick, “Been scared half to death, twice, still /…Swinging like cow tits”. Tone ranges from offhand to awestruck. In a word, schizoid. In another, static: Here, Jazz drips, red birds bitch, wives scream “Jehovah!” But our Hero mostly nurses hangovers. He operates in a kind of baroque fog. His world is a collage. Meaning comes in spatters, incidental — with all the immutability of a Rorschach blot. For better or worse, hiccup while reading Open Spirit, and forever lose your place. Glance down again, and be instantly engaged. Perpetual distraction.
In light of parasomnambulism – sufferers of which rape, plunder, and generally piss off their nearest and dearest while sound asleep – Catsull’s vow, “I am the aggressive sleeper,” makes surreal sense. Sense, as in the smart, sneering, snarl-drawling “Take Me to Texas”. Sense in taxidermy, reticent dimples, “(rubber nipples and a hair tattoo)”. And in “The Lover’s Wage” – esoteric as a wineglass snow-globe, with wax and bone and grape-silt flakes –seldom have sour grapes tasted so sweet. “I promise not to black out anymore,” he says. Likely story. Best to just marry fist to face and seek patterns in the pressure phosphanes. (“got a fish h o o k inya e y e ?ido”)
Lacking insight, I ruminate:
The bending thunder
killed a freak boy with extra ears[…]
Substitute children in blue suits and dresses
watered the sidewalk in sorrow.
Sobs filled their little extra ears[…]
– rank mannerism or the next Russel Edson?
[…]ghosts of pirates
[…]hide notes to us
under the wigs of statues
under ala carte trays in prisons.
– seer incoherent or Simic’s heir apparent?
I’ve cut my fingers on your hair too many times, paper doll(…)
(…)Invisible buzzards come for the blood on my shoe.
– dilettante Dylan?
– Bob, that is (“Tangled up in… It’s alright, Ma…”) Or is this a Frida Kahlo Reader, complete with birthing, scraped-rolling, gold vomit and stillborn tombstones “…cold in the spine of whispers”? Open Spirit could pass for ekphrasis – of Kahlo, blood-caked Chagall, Bosch, or Picasso’s circus blues. And I can’t help but think some illustration, or melody, might lend context, containment, to this bubbling textual crude. Whatever the merits of mood music or decorative painting; language as mere sound or spectacle is, by definition, irrelevant. Small talk. All Tao aside, there is no “meaning for meaning’s sake”. Even dadaism serves a distinct, if kamikaze aim: to undermine the very stuff it’s made of.
The stuff of Catsull’s unchecked aestheticism is what Louise Gluck might call “premature linguistic satiation”. Premature ejaculation, if you like. His words can be as pretty, as substantive, as meringue. Long-of-beauty, short-on-brains lines can look rather like mutant genomes. Or those baffling lengths of macramé. Read this clotted yarn:
to growl in the alley where cats go and rot
towards stars charging the drunkened sky
with a penny in the well[…]
(the sound of silver sparks)
(mouse bones fall from the sky)
I am the fallen man bunking with the loafers.
…Catsull lacks, not talent, but discretion. His inclusiveness is a species of laziness. This nod-wink alone: ”I knew she was crazy / when that worked,” tells me he has the lucidity to expect more of us as readers. He expects us to expect more of him.
Catsull seems yet to know his own powers – how to allow words their rightful impact. He’s an overgrown garden, bright with strangling weeds. Feral, like the mauled cat he invites to live with him, “just next door / very quiet / no cussing”. Or he’s the Incredible Hulk learning table manners…
Even as I wish him a doorjamb, a net, a cleaver, a filter – there is undeniable dearness and modesty in Catsull. The Blue Universe has made a magnifier of his eyes; his mouth, its mouthpiece; his ears, appetites, are not his own. He is less protagonist than agape witness, gracious audience; his poems like backstage applause. I can almost hear him – “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain…” I hope Catsull gets over the rainbow. Hope he takes off his Oz-colored glasses and lays off our collective last nerve. There is hope for him, past fantasia, beyond those emerald gates…
“and the furthest word i’ve begun / is green”
Isle of Asphalt
Published in 2004 by Effing Press, Austin, Texas
36 pages of poetry. Limited Edition of 150. Out of Print.
“Catsull’s book is killer. His thoughts wing their way through burning tire smoke all in search of sweet rejoinding sleep.” – Thurston Moore
“This is powerful imagery from a quicksilvered polychromatic power house that can generate electrified influences as words wield even more inspiration. Lagging imagination soars and the doors of mind swing open to unthought of before images. Some of these words are so unique they should be carved upon
Joyce Metzger, CerBerUs and ZZZ Zyne
“He does what I could never do with language. He collects and collages seemingly random images. He is fearless in this. Some of this, I suspect, he brings with him (to the calling of poetry) as a gift. His sentences are riveting, and funny, very funny. And that makes them serious.”
Jim Bodeen, Blue Begonia Press
“Take the time to study the intricate layers of Travis Catsull’s poetry. You’ll find a host of targeted symbols and imagery, blended together in a mix that is at once powerful and beautiful. Though abstract, his poems always end with a punch, leaving you with a new impression of their writer and his form.”
Jonathan Penton, Unlikely Stories
“Catsull’s new collection is to enter a world lit with glittering images cut with knife sharp phrases. Single phrases contain chains of images and metaphor that click one after another like rosary beads or boxes folding and unfolding; each line becomes a poem in itself.”
Kelly Jean White MD
“I have never encountered anything like Catsull’s poetry. He reminds me of no poet I have studied or read, and it is apparent that he is forging either a new style of poetry or a new voice .”
Dave Anderson, Ibbetson Street Press
“Oftentimes, what he renders is genius. Catsull’s images are disturbing, more than a little tragic, and utterly original.”
Amelie Frank, The Independent Reviews Site
“If you mixed half a house of André Breton’s surrealism with another half of Charles Bukowski’s street cred, the results might approximate a shack and a half of Travis Catsull, the one hit with the wrecking ball in the picture on the cover of Isle of Asphalt. In other word Catsull spans the gamut from totally literal to utterly fantastic.”
Charles Potts, Tsunami, Inc.
Forthcoming Books of Poetry:
-Death of an Image and Other Poems
-Black Moon Elevator
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