In the Footsteps of the Ragged Lion

Marco North - Wednesday, March 05, 2014
It is hard for me to name a Jack Micheline poem that doesn’t make me feel like grabbing a stranger and kissing them. On the page, they vibrate with a messy grace, balancing his macho swagger with an intense vulnerability. Jack saw the world the way a hungry, loopy child does. 

I knew Jack when he lived in the East Village during the mid 90’s. His hair a shock of white, he was introduced to me as the Ragged Lion. We spent a lot of time in the Mars Bar talking about wine and women, about Mingus and the brutal, delicious act of sitting down to write our hearts out. Under the big hat and the baggy pants Jack was still that tough kid from the Bronx to me - the very definition of New York, with chest-thumping opinions to spare. 

He was the most loyal friend a person could ask for. When his finger pointed in the air, and he began to read it seemed like the rest of the world has suddenly evaporated. In those rare moments, there was nothing but his yearning, his laughter and that scrappy engine turning inside him. I learned a great deal from Jack, not about writing so much as living the life of an artist. As he described Bob Kaufman – his life was the poem. He taught me to be generous, to be tough, to forget about being popular, to ask hard questions, to sing praise when something really rang the bell, to breathe in inspiration and hold it deep in my lungs. It is not that Jack got me to really believe in myself –that is too simple. No, he got me to believe in art. He got me to believe that it is its own reward, to be measured with nothing. 

We live in a world of statistics now. We live in a time when everything is measured and compared, when algorithms make recommendations. We live in a time when anyone can call themselves an artist, a writer, a photographer, a filmmaker. These are just labels, categories like the type of milk you buy in the market – a 1% story writer, a skim writer, an almond milk novel. The words have started mean everything, and nothing. 

The idea of creating an independent press went hand-in-hand with banishing labels, and genres. What is fiction? What is non-fiction? These are useless coats for mannequins that are better served by standing naked in windows. I am convinced that truth lies in words. Every piece of writing is a confession, a portrait, a voice in the noise.

Welcome to the new ink.

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