I sniff the grass. It smells of clay and blinding light. Then a boot crushes it. I snarl. All those cells shattered to paste. I know those cells. I know that boot. I clamp my jaws around the ankle. I will never unclamp.
~ ~ ~
Hanging in air, bombarded by sound. Some of it I know and some I don’t. Traffic. Wind. Rushing water. The crack of…stone? wood? bone? I need to fly but can’t. The blinding light is knives. The talons hover. The crushing beak. I hang in air. I wait.
~ ~ ~
There in the gutter. I knew that. Meat roiled. What force, from the blinding. Swift wall then nothing. Gone. Meat roiled, was leaping. Was light, then nothing. Gone. Roiled. I knew that.
~ ~ ~
Verrrrrrry excited to have this new collection of poetry and flash prose released through Roof Books. It’s been a long time in the stewpot and contains quite a few newer pieces along with a strong selection of “greatest hits” that have never appeared in book form. Now you can have “Mud Song” forever at your fingertips! Not to mention “Bootism”, “Poems for a Centralized Church”, “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified clarity”, and many more. The first section of the book, What It’s Not, which contains the most recent pieces, might give you a clearer sense of how I experience life, which is kind of as a fluid…everything. It also, by the way, acts as a bit of a primer for how to view the rest of the pieces in the book. I so hope that you enjoy it.
But don’t take my word for it. Kim Shuck says,
I avidly look forward to each new Richard Loranger book. They have a very distinctive poetic voice, and it is on full view in Mammal. Equally persuasive on the subject of butterflies, pronouns, or insomnia, Loranger takes us all on a wild ride through levels of understanding. “As long as we think we’re our bodies / we’re fucked,” Richard offers, and it would be ungrateful to disagree.
And here’s a little of what Roof Books has to say:
Mammal posits new ways of understanding ourselves in relationship to our own minds, others, and the natural world. Ever the juicy provocateur, Loranger challenges the reader to consider that “you’re not really you” and that the “I” might be “a mirrored room / we build around ourselves without a door.” This presents a unique nonbinary and trans* transgressive intransigence, exploding thresholds through a hybridized continuum of approaches inflected with post-Beat neoformalism, spoken word cadences, queer disruption, conceptual audacity, and raucous experimentation.
Most kind of you, Roof.
Plus amazing cover art by Tobias Brill. Thank you, Tobias!
I think this is my best collection to date, and certainly contains my broadest range of ideas, styles, and play. I’d be honored if you’d check it out. To read more about the book, click here or on the title above, and to order directly from Small Press distribution, click here.
You’ll find more deets and blurbage on the Books & Chapbooks page.
So hirsute up and come along for the evolution!
BUT THAT’S NOT ALL :: One of my short memoir pieces about bike messenging has been picked up by The San Franciscan, a recent super-smart and pretty city journal focused on…I think you can guess. They’ve put out eight issues since 2019 and show no sign of slowing down. And for good reason!
In Issue #8, which you can order via that link, they’ve highlighted my story “The Day I Learned to Fly” about the time that I accidentally turned my bike into a light aircraft. It’s totally true I swear. It even comes with a full-page illustration by Nien-Ken Alec Lu, taken from a photo of myself from the era, of me careening through the San Francisco streets. How sizzling is that?
I’m thrilled to have this work represented by such a fab magazine. This issue includes work from twenty-seven talented creatives based in and around the Bay Area, and features fiction, poetry, art, photography, nonfiction, profiles, personal essays, interviews, and even a locally-themed crossword (it’s kinda easy). And just look at that cover! (Click or tap for a larger image.) If you’re from SF, you can have a major easter egg hunt right there.
I’ve written seven of these harrowing and bizarro tales of bicycling precariously through 1980s San Francisco, of which this is the first to hit the streets. I’ve been sending others out to Bay Area (mostly SF) journals and such, so keep your eyes peeled (yuck!) for word of any further installments!
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WHY I IDENTIFY AS MAMMAL
I find identity selection to be problematic, partially because it shouldn’t be a selection – it should just be. I should know it. For instance, they say I’m a white male, but whether I want to identify as one or even be one is another matter. I am undeniably White, for sure, what has been called Caucasian and European-American – though the latter is less certain since I’m one-quarter Russian Jew, and ancestrally beyond several generations I have no idea. But I am White and acutely aware of White Privilege, which I resist and disdain, and I get angry when I find it’s been a factor in my situation or my behavior. And I was sure raised into it, starting in 1960, and into White American culture in general, which is…what? Consumerism? Competition? Rote Christianity? Anyone who knows me know that I can’t stand organized team sports, which I see as a subtext for the artificial hierarchies of social oppression; that I can’t stand shopping and have been known to lose my shit in an Ikea; and that I abhor uncritical adherence to ideology, which certainly doesn’t mean all Christians or other belief systems (I did say “rote”), but does include irrational and fear-driven political and social stances. The latter does extend beyond White culture, but you get the idea. I never could find any meaning in the endless trudge from sports field to church to mall. So yes, I’m White, but it doesn’t bring me pride or joy.
And I am male, as I’ve mentioned – male-assigned-at-birth, as we say, cis male I guess. I present as male to most, but that itself doesn’t feel like “me”. Presentation doesn’t feel important enough to be a pivot. Maybe that’s because I’m also non-binary, that I do know, always have been, though I didn’t have the language for it until the last ten years or so. So that’s something. But I don’t feel the need to present as anything in particular. Gender doesn’t feel performative to me, or for me; it feels like it just is. It’s a consistent feeling and has been for a long time, so I guess that qualifies as identity of sorts (given what the word actually means), but it still doesn’t feel like it’s everything, that it’s all I am. Besides, to me non-binary doesn’t feel like “not one but both or in-between,” because the number two doesn’t resonate for me in this either. I don’t feel a sense of two genders, nor any particular number, so gender-wise I suppose I’m more non-numerical than non-binary. I could be wrong, but I don’t suspect there are a lot of people who share this experience, and I wonder how many it would take to qualify as a group to identify with.
In regard to sexual attraction or preference I am mostly homo but not entirely, historically at least a wee bit bi. But I’m also gray, that is graysexual, to some extent and more so as I’ve gotten older. I often require affection for interest and arousal, and generally always have, except on certain substances (which I don’t use any more). Gray- and asexual folks have often been marginalized within the broader gay culture, and I’ve certainly experienced being othered by more physically-focused gay men. Consequently I’ve never considered sexual attraction and practice to be core or central to my being or self-conception, and my social interactions have not usually been centrally focused on gay culture, though it is important to me, as are gay and trans and queer+++ rights and acceptance. Still, however or wherever on the queer spectrum I identify, and I do identify as queer, I think of myself much more broadly as human.
Now there’s a complicated one: do I identify as human? Hard not to, I suppose, meaning homo sapiens at least, what with the whole walking upright with opposable thumbs and speech centers thing, which might be a hubristic definition from the get-go; in fact maybe hubris is homo sapiens’ most defining characteristic. But seriously (and that was serious), what a messed-up species, with all its destruction and denial and animosity and manipulation, and on and on. I might identify as human, or this body as homo sapiens, there definitely seems to be a pattern here, but much like the whole White thing, that doesn’t mean I’m pleased about it or consider it to be fundamentally what I am or feel like I am on this planet.
So where does that leave me? I had a friend in high school, Dave Riley, ended up in lots of punk bands, who once told me that his goal in life was to become a successful mammal. Somehow that always stuck with me. When I first started considering the idea and act of identity, twenty-some years ago, that comment came to mind. I realized that whatever else I might be, I definitely identify as mammal. To wit:
- I am pleased and comfortable being hirsute
- I sniff things
- I like to growl
- I like nipples
- I embrace emotional response, which is one thing mammals have that other animals do not.
More than anything, it just feels right. I instantly like and relate to most mammals. I often feel I can empathize with them, and that they’re capable of empathizing with me. (Well, maybe not cows. They’re dumb and scary. But then again so are many humans.) It’s much the same with plants, but that’s another discussion for another time. Lizards, birds, and fish? Not so much. Every try to empathize with an iguana? Find one and gaze into it’s eyes and try to connect – and I’m sure there are some who feel they can and do. Rock on. But for me, mammals and the mammalian state hit the spot. When I consider it, that feels exactly what I am.
When I mention this in public, I am usually not taken seriously. Some people laugh, thinking I’m making a joke. Some laugh thinking that I’m ridiculous, while some think that without laughing, turn away or change the subject. One person commented that this perspective comes from White Privilege. (That person was also White.) And maybe that’s to some extent true. Though I have been attacked for being White, and for being queer, both physically and otherwise on numerous occasions, it’s not happened with enough frequency to be called consistent, and certainly in no way comparable to the experience of, say, Black persons or flamboyant gay men. I absolutely understand how essential it is to stand proudly against oppression. So maybe I have been able to arrive at this from a position of relative safety. But that doesn’t make it any less an arrival, a valid perspective, an identification, and it is certainly not a joke.
Here’s the thing: we identify with various groups on different levels, starting, say, with family (like it or not). Within a given identification group, people have their complex human interactions – they nurture, they squabble, they fight like hell. But insult or attack that family from outside and chances are you’ll be in for a world of hurt. Say that’s a Jewish family, one that supports and disagrees with other Jewish families within their community, with perhaps more disagreement with other branches of Judaism; but attack Jews in general, a common pastime in America, and you’ll meet a united front. The broader the identification group, the more likely those within it are to empathize and the less likely they are to ostracize or marginalize each other. And within that group, their affiliations with more specific groups will likely be stronger. This helps to explain why, as a mammal, I tend to hold humans in general in my heart, despite our differences and the fact that they sometimes hit or maim or oppress or appall me; these things happen every day in the family to which we belong. So if it might position people to empathize more broadly, I wholeheartedly encourage and espouse identifying as mammal.
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DO YOU KNOW THE ORIGIN AND ROOT MEANING OF THE WORD “IDENTITY”?
: the distinguishing character or personality of an individual : INDIVIDUALITY
: the relation established by psychological identification
: the condition of being the same with something described or asserted
: sameness of essential or generic character in different instances
: sameness in all that constitutes the objective reality of a thing : ONENESS
: an equation that is satisfied for all values of the symbols
: IDENTITY ELEMENT (mathematics)
Middle French identité, from Late Latin identitat-, identitas, from Latin identidem meaning “repeatedly”, often construed as a contraction of “idem et idem,” literally, “same and same.” Note that there is some ongoing debate about other potential (though related) origins, but this iteration exists in most threads of discussion.
In terms of our social and sociological usage of “identity,” this etymology can be read in a few different ways, and three in particular that stand out. The first and most obvious is in identification with a group, as in, “I relate to what we have in common; we are one in this.” So you’ll have to pardon me if I have a hard time identifying with a species that maims, destroys, and kills with stunning malice and indifference, however capable of compassion it can also be. Am I allowed to semi-identify, or do I need to break the species down into “people who connect” and “people who compete”? Oh wait, we’re all both!
The second and I find more interesting reading is the identification of another through what is perceived as a repeated quality or behavior, etc., i.e., we become to others what they find to be most re-cognizable in us. This can further be applied to personal recognition of one’s “self”, as one “finds” and locates oneself in perspectives, reactions, and cognitive processes that seem to recur – often to the exclusion of (many) others that don’t for whatever reasons seem as relevant or engaging, that do not capture our attention. “We” are repetition manifest.
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MAMMAL TOUR 2023 :: a slo-mo whirlwind to deliver the posthumanist word of Mammal to the unsuspecting East Coast of the United States of America – here’s the LD with all deets as usual on the Events page – I am not foolin around! :: FIRST STOP: CAMBRIDGE, on Wednesday, October 4, 2023 – okay, I didn’t ask in time to have a chance to feature, but I’m gonna check out Poetry Night @ The Cantab Lounge – What’s goin on in Boston? Gonna find out. :: SECOND STOP: WOODSTOCK, on Saturday, October 7 (yes, that Woodstock) – gots me a featured reading at Woodstock Shivastan Poetry Ashram – The Ashram says: “It’s our usual community garden poetry party with featured reader, bonfire, open mic sharing circle, & a vegetarian potluck.” Sounds yum all around! :: THIRD STOP: NEW YORK CIT-AY: Appetizer on Thursday, October 19 – okay, this isn’t a feature either, but I’ll be stopping into this event with glee, and sharing a poem and everything – what event? why, none other than the ¡DADA! DO Maintenant 17 Party at the Jefferson Market Library in good ol’ Manahattan. Dada! :: FOURTH STOP: NEW YORK CIT-AY: The Main Course on Saturday, October 21 – Book Launch for Mammal from Roof Books (yay!) – I’m excited to be co-featuring with R. Erica Doyle in the Segue Reading Series at Artists Space – the event starts promptly at 5pm Eastern and will be live-streaming on Zoom (did I say yay?!) :: FIFTH AND FINAL STOP (THAT I KNOW OF): PHILADELPHIA on Friday, October 27 at Brickbat Books – co-featuring with Alina Pleskova and Lonely Christopher and hosted with love by The Mighty Ted Rees :: Then I’mma gonna find a nice quiet field in central Pennsylvania and have me a lie-down.
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I am milk gushing. I am gushing. Rush to me! I am warmth. I am food. I am bursting. I am yours.
~ ~ ~
My nipples in air. Scent of blood. Scent of sex. My thrust and cut. Shaking and settling. Scent of leaves. Scent of soil. My head full of knowing. Hearing life and wind. My sight of place. My gait.
~ ~ ~
Every hair on my limbs awake. Pores listen and plan. Nape reads the expanse. No movement escapes. Clumsy shadows. Tendons bide and remember. A glint of light, blinding an instant, from above. Shadow tenses. I launch.