My favorite poet is from Ohio. James Wright wrote When Autumn Begins in Martin’s Ferry Ohio. It is a sad, autumnal ode to the beginning of football season and in it, Ohio doesn’t seem a very cheery place. He describes women as “starved for love, like pullets” and the desperation in the faces of men at glazing windows and ends with a description of horror lined with beauty at the sight of young men playing football. It is one of those perfect American poems where this fine, underrated poet got the lightning into the bottle. Wright was a sad kind of poet. He won the Pulitzer Prize in his lifetime (as did his son, Franz, making them the only father-son combo in history to win this prize for poetry) but was considered a poet’s poet.
His love poems are darkly beautiful; love and death and winter often part of the same triangle; and his poems about the Midwest, specifically Ohio, with its paper mills and glass factories and dead-end factory jobs, comes into high relief in Wright’s aching poems. The marvelous collection is called, Above the River. Pick it up if you love poetry.
I have lots of friends from Ohio. My studio director, Stan Klein, is from Cleveland and is a walking testament to the solid midwesternism of the state of Ohio. He is practical beyond belief; nothing flashy or showy. He lets his pugnacious dog, Ella, sleep on his coat. He buys the Jewel brand jelly beans rather than the fancy Starburst kind which are more expensive because they are not practical. The jelly beans are merely a delivery system for sugar. Nobody says you have to enjoy them, so he gets the utilitarian jelly beans. My friend, the painter Jenny Scobel, is also a Clevelander and didn’t like the taste of eggs from the store, so she raised chickens to lay her fresh eggs; this is more practical.
People from Ohio are common-sense, no-bullshit types. They are creatures of logic and the most direct route.
I found a box of Ohio Blue-Tip matches at the Dominick’s the other night. I didn’t even know they still made these. And then I realized–of course they do. They are practical. They are matches for people who need matches for other things besides smoking; lighting the pilot light, candles, lighting the coals, striking one when a fuse blows. . .shit like that.
I just fuck around with mine. Of course I light cigarettes with them, but also fireworks; of which I have copious amounts.
Also, if you smoosh Ohio Blue tips into a pipe with Black Magnum powder. you can make yourself a damned fine pipe bomb or “Dago Bomb” as we called them when we were kids. I have two great joys. Making things. . . and blowing shit up.
In my last missive I discussed an Ohio girl I used to know who lit these matches greaser-style off of her zipper. She also drank these little bottles of creamed ale called “Little Kings.” They were small, but they possessed the authority of a blunt instrument. When she was done with the bottles, on occasion, she would fill them with gasoline and a rag and a cork stopper and make a midget molotov cocktail. She would then zoom by on her Suzuki and plant this fucker in some teachers mailbox and blow it to smithereens.
Man, that was a woman.