I suspect a lot of “rare” poetry is rare because it’s not very good. Its significance rests not with its quality rather with the importance of its author. Philip K. Dick was a brilliant author of speculative science-fiction; but of poetry, not so hot.
A little background: I saw six poems listed in a PKD bibliography, and couldn’t find anything more about them online. It took me a little searching to track down the original publications, and I finally got three of them through an Inter-Library Loan!
These came from Child’s Hat, which was published in San Francisco in 1966, and I don’t think they appeared anywhere else.
THE ABOVE AND MELTING
Soft as tin,
Melting in the rain,
Melting and dripping down,
Soft as stones that are limp,
That can be bent into shapes
And stretched out,
Soft as bones,
Mashed into paste,
Mixed with pale milk,
Soft as crystal,
Dug from sweet soil,
It is soft as these:
The moon on a warm wet night.
WHY I AM HURT
Stung by a jewel!
Piercing the hand,
Clinging against the flesh.
Stung by a jewel!
The point deep into the hand,
Driven in allowed.
Stung by a jewel!
The child shouts out,
Shattering the jewel.
Amber bottle-caps rain down,
Fragments of grief
Lost in the ground.
AN OLD SNAKE
Philosophy is an old web
Long deserted, The dreams
The spider wove into it
Glimmer weakly during night
In the sun they are only this:
Fragments of dread leaves.
thegoslings will be posting more of Philip K Dick’s poetry when available.
Years ago a friend wrote me a story about how we all started talking but in doing so, stopped listening to each other. It was a short and simple story, adapted I believe from its Aboriginal origins, that also explained how our ears developed their peculiar, conch-like shape.
Like all the best tales, it began: Once upon a time, in a land not-so-very-far-away, we were all connected to each other by a long umbilical loop that went ear-to-ear-to-ear-to-ear. This connection meant we could hear what each of us was thinking, and we could share our secrets, hopes and fears together at once
Then one day and for a whole lot of different reasons, these connections were broken, and the long umbilical loops dropped away, withered back, and creased into the folds of our ears. That’s how our ears got their shape. They are the one reminder of how we were once all connected to each other.
It was the idea of connection - only connect, said playwright Dennis Potter, by way of E. M. Forster, when explaining the function of all good television. A difficult enough thing, but we try. It’s what the best art does - tells a story, says something.
It’s what Rod Serling did. He made TV shows that have lived and grown with generations of viewers. Few can not have been moved to a sense of thrilling by the tinkling opening notes of The Twilight Zone. The music still fills me with that excitement I felt as a child, hopeful for thrills, entertainment and something a little stronger to mull upon, long after the credits rolled.
Serling was exceptional, and his writing brought a whole new approach to telling tales on television that connected the audience one-to-the-other. This documentary on Serling, starts like an episode of The Twilight Zone, and goes on to examine Serling’s life through the many series and dramas he wrote for TV and radio, revealing how much of his subject matter came from his own personal experience, views and politics. As Serling once remarked he was able to discuss controversial issues through science-fiction:
“I found that it was all right to have Martians saying things Democrats and Republicans could never say.”
His work influenced other shows (notably Star Trek), and although there were problems, due to the demands of advertisers, Serling kept faith with TV in the hope it could connect with its audience - educate, entertain and help improve the quality of life, through a shared ideals.
As writer Serling slowly “succumbed” to his art:
‘Writing is a demanding profession and a selfish one. And because it is selfish and demanding, because it is compulsive and exacting, I didn’t embrace it, I succumbed to it. In the beginning, there was a period of about 8 months when nothing happened. My diet consisted chiefly of black coffee and fingernails. I collected forty rejection slips in a row. On a writer’s way up, he meets a lot of people and in some rare cases there’s a person along the way, who happens to be around just when they’re needed. Perhaps just a moment of professional advice, or a boost to the ego when it’s been bent, cracked and pushed into the ground. Blanche Gaines was that person for me. I signed with her agency in 1950. Blanche kept me on a year, before I made my first sale. The sale came with trumpets and cheers. I don’t think that feeling will ever come again. The first sale - that’s the one that comes with magic.’
Like Richard Matheson, Philip K Dick, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Serling is a hero who offered up the possible, for our consideration.
Philip K. Dick wrote an excited letter to Jeff Walker, at the Ladd Company, after watching a television preview of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, the film version of his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
October 11, 1981
Mr. Jeff Walker,
The Ladd Company,
4000 Warner Boulevard,
I happened to see the Channel 7 TV program “Hooray For Hollywood” tonight with the segment on BLADE RUNNER. (Well, to be honest, I didn’t happen to see it; someone tipped me off that BLADE RUNNER was going to be a part of the show, and to be sure to watch.) Jeff, after looking—and especially after listening to Harrison Ford discuss the film—I came to the conclusion that this indeed is not science fiction; it is not fantasy; it is exactly what Harrison said: futurism. The impact of BLADE RUNNER is simply going to be overwhelming, both on the public and on creative people—and, I believe, on science fiction as a field. Since I have been writing and selling science fiction works for thirty years, this is a matter of some importance to me. In all candor I must say that our field has gradually and steadily been deteriorating for the last few years. Nothing that we have done, individually or collectively, matches BLADE RUNNER. This is not escapism; it is super realism, so gritty and detailed and authentic and goddam convincing that, well, after the segment I found my normal present-day “reality” pallid by comparison. What I am saying is that all of you collectively may have created a unique new form of graphic, artistic expression, never before seen. And, I think, BLADE RUNNER is going to revolutionize our conceptions of what science fiction is and, more, can be.
Let me sum it up this way. Science fiction has slowly and ineluctably settled into a monotonous death: it has become inbred, derivative, stale. Suddenly you people have come in, some of the greatest talents currently in existence, and now we have a new life, a new start. As for my own role in the BLADE RUNNER project, I can only say that I did not know that a work of mine or a set of ideas of mine could be escalated into such stunning dimensions. My life and creative work are justified and completed by BLADE RUNNER. Thank you..and it is going to be one hell of a commercial success. It will prove invincible.
Philip K. Dick
The tragedy is PKD never saw the finished version of the classic science fiction film, as he died 5 months later, on March 2, 1982, just months before Blade Runner was given its cinematic release.
Philip K. Dick, Germs-manager Nicole Panter, author KW Jeter, and artist Gary Panter, at Philip K. Dick’s Santa Ana condo. From Nicole Panter’s Flickr account.
A rare look at the inside of Philip K. Dick’s condo! Here is the attendant interview, from Slash magazine, May 1980:
Philip K. Dick is 51 years old. Since 1955 he’s written 35 books that have been translated into eighteen languages. He has five ex-wives, two cats and lives 10 minutes from Disneyland. Of the books he has written, his personal favorites are, The Man in the High Castle, Dr. Bloodmoney, and Through a Scanner Darkly. His latest book, VALIS, will be released in February, with the sequel to be published sometime in the spring. Mr. Dick says he doesn’t take drugs anymore, but thinks about them all the time. Despite stories to the contrary, he’s a real charming guy.
The interview was conducted in Mr. Dick’s conapt by Gary and Nicole Panter. K.W. Jeter, one of Dick’s close friends and author of the yet unpublished but excellent DR. ADDER, attended and added his comments.
DICK: Um … fuck.
SLASH: I don’t drink beer.
DICK: I don’t drink beer either. What’s so … so … I’m tired of all this circle of … of effete intellectual … this circle of intellectuals who drink beer. (laughter)
SLASH: Is this a conapt?
DICK: It definitely is a conapt.
SLASH: Is a conapt a combination of condominium and apartment?
SLASH: So the people in your stories own their own apartments?
DICK: They own them and are doomed to live in them. And they are also doomed to participate in meetings with the other owners and have complaints made about their moral lives.
SLASH: Like in small towns … do you go to these meetings?
DICK: Yes, it’s mandatory.
SLASH: What do they say?
DICK: They say how come your car has got dust all over it? So I park in a dark corner of the garage so no one can see it. This one old lady built a little door for her cat to go in and out of and in a meeting someone complained that they saw cat shit out on the walkway and now she’s responsible for all the cat shit anyone sees around.
SLASH: Can they make you move out if the other tenants don’t like you?
DICK: No, they can’t get you out they can just sue you to death.
SLASH: Were you raised in a religious organization?
SLASH: Are you anti organized religion?
DICK: Yes. Technically, I’m Episcopalian, but I don’t ever go. I’m interested in them because they’re a barrio church and they do lot of civil service work … technically I’m a religious anarchist.
SLASH: Is this Orange County?
DICK: Very Definitely … I bet that’s good beer. The Germs are breaking up, huh? The cat’s laughing at me … But Darby Crash is going to start his own band.
SLASH: Yeah, how’d you know?
DICK: I know … I know this stuff. Did I do that right? I sure like the Plugz. Now the beach bands like the Circle Jerks …
SLASH: Darby has a mohican now which brings up the kids you wrote about that modeled themselves after South American Indians or was it Africans. When did you begin to write about mutant youth cultures?
DICK: In my writing? TIME OUT OF JOINT in 1958.
SLASH: Were you a beatnik then … a bohemian?
DICK: I was all of those things. I knew the first beatnik. His name was Charles McLane … oh, the first hippy. I’m sorry. He was into drugs - that would be hippy.
SLASH: What made a beatnik, alcohol?
DICK: Some were into drugs. The difference was there was more of an emphasis on creative work with the beatniks. You had to write … much less emphasis on drugs.
SLASH: How far does a bohemian or lunatic fringe go back?
JETER: To the Bohemians in the twenties …
DICK: Wrong! Puccini’s LA BOHEME describes people who were poets and singers and who burned their pictures in the 19th Century. The furthest I can remember back is the thirties to the WPA artists paid by the government. They became the bohemian strata of the United States.
SLASH: What prompted you in 1958 to begin writing about this kind of youth culture? Kids with teeth filed to points?
DICK: Yeah, I don’t know. It wasn’t until ‘71 in a speech I delivered in Vancouver that I was consciously discussing the rise of the youth culture. I glorified punks “kids who would neither read, watch, remember, or be intimidated.” I spoke of the rise of a youth culture which would overthrow the government.
SLASH: Do you still think that’s the case?
DICK: I certainly do.
SLASH: Have you got a timetable?
DICK: What time is it now? (laughter) Any day now I expect to hear that swarms have entered the White House and broken all the furniture.
SLASH: What comes after that?
More of the Philip K. Dick interview from Slash magazine after the jump
Philip K. Dick’s third wife Anne R. Dick has written “a biography dressed as a memoir” called The Search for Philip K. Dick which has just been published by San Francisco press Tachyon. Anne and Philip were married for only five years but it was a very vital period in Dick’s evolution as a writer. As poet Jack Spicer said in regards to his own Muse (and this could certainly apply to Dick) “the Martian kept rearranging the furniture in his head.” In Dick’s case, the Martian was moving at the speed of sound.
Any new book on Dick is an event as far as I’m concerned and this one looks to be a significant contribution to the understanding of one of America’s most underrated and least understood writers of major distinction.
The book, while refraining from literary analysis, is invaluable for Dick fans and scholars because it’s told by the one person he was close to at an important turning point in his career. He wrote or developed roughly a dozen novels during his time in west Marin, including “The Man in the High Castle” (1962), his only novel to win the Hugo Award, science fiction’s biggest prize.
The writer Jonathan Lethem, who included five novels from this period in the Library of America anthologies he edited of Dick’s essential works, calls it Dick’s most fruitful time.
“The river of his literary ambitions — his interest in ‘respectable’ literature — joins the river of his guilty, disreputable, explosively imaginative pulp writing,” Mr. Lethem said in a phone interview. “It’s the most important passage of his career — more masterpieces in a shorter period of time.”
Read the NY Times piece on The Search For Philip K. Dickhere. And to purchase it click here.
A Day In The Afterlife: BBC documentary on Philip K. Dick in its entirety (57 minutes).
A Day in the Afterlife focuses on the man himself, in all his crazy, drug-addled, paranoid glory. The mind behind some of my favorite books is fascinated by the constant bombardment of advertising, the effects of giant media conglomerates, and the overwhelming feeling that the world in which we live exists only in the glowing vacuum tubes of countless television sets. It is an ode to one of the most creative minds in science fiction, and another step in the crusade for a wider recognition of his accomplishments.” Ross Rosenberg
(Dick, right, with Blade Runner director, Ridley Scott)
Fascinating 3-part interview with sci-fi author and visionary Philip K. Dick (VALIS, Ubik, Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said) conducted for French television. Footage of Dick is hard to come by. Equally hard to come by? Passionate boosting of France! Watch below as Dick discusses his (seemingly justified) paranoia, equates being a writer with being an enemy of the state, and schools us on the Nazi origins of “egghead.”
Check out this LA Times article on the 10 years Philip K. Dick spent in Orange County, on leave from Berkeley. This is how I feel about living in LA on exile from New York sometimes. But lord, the O.C.? No wonder he was so paranoid, his neighbors probably WERE all spying on him…
Isa Dick Hackett, daughter of Philip K. Dick, who wrote Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which Blade Runner is based on (although the title itself comes from William S. Burroughs), is claiming Google is using names taken from her father’s work to brand its Nexus One telephones. She is threatening to sue Google for infringement of intellectual property rights. Something tells me there is going to be a nice payday in this for her. Google IS using names from her father’s work:
She has sent a letter to Google demanding that the online giant changes the name of its new phone, which was launched as a direct rival to the iPhone.
She said: ‘Google takes first and then deals with the fallout later.
‘In my mind, there is a very obvious connection to my father’s novel. People don’t get it. It’s the principle of it.
‘It would be nice to have a dialogue. We are open to it. That’s a way to start.’
The new product is based on Google’s Android technology, launched two years ago as a way of gaining a share in the mobile phone market.
Family of sci fi author Philip K. Dick to sue Google over name of Nexus One phone (Daily Mail)