George Wallace (poet)
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Working from a base of operations in downtown New York City's poetry scene, from his family roots in Brooklyn and Long Island, and from his experiences living and working in Northern California, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oregon and the United Kingdom, Wallace has created a grassroots network of venues for poetry.
His own poetry, in particular his performance-oriented work, is imagination-based in its creation, emerging from a process of wordplay, surrealist deconstruction and bricolage into a final form that is typically characterized by accessible narrative and forceful rhythmic impetus. It is built on a foundation of a musical talent that emerged at the age of four, when he began reading and performing music, and shaped by his extensive readings in the literature of European Surrealism, the Whitman/Sandburg vortex, and the Beats. His work also bears the mark of 1960s concerns, particularly the social witness and aesthetic consciousness of that time.
His organizational efforts on behalf of poetry are based on professional training and disposition to community service developed through graduate studies with Guy Stuart and others at UNC-Chapel Hill in the mid '70s.
Early years, 1970–2000
Wallace was born into a New York family with associations to both popular entertainment and high culture - his grandfather was a muralist for vaudeville theaters, his father a 'Kiddie Troupe' dancer; and his maternal uncle a world-traveling figure in the Fifth Avenue fashion world. In the 1960s he was part of the Long Island music scene which produced such artists as The Young Rascals, Billy Joel and the Shangri-Las.
He attended Syracuse University 1967–71, met Allen Ginsberg and studied with W. D. Snodgrass, and then began a twenty-year career exploring the US, Europe and Asia. Occasional work, pursuit of community service, and cross-cultural curiosity resulted in extended stays in Boston (1972–73), India and the Middle East (1973), the San Francisco Bay area (1974–75), Korea (US Peace Corps, 1975–77), North Carolina (1977–1980), Sacramento (1981–83), East Anglia, UK (1983–85), before returning to his native New York.
Beginning in 1988 he began a decade-long career as a community journalist and building poetry communities from a base of operations in Huntington, Long Island — creating Walt's Corner, a column in the Long Islander Newspaper (founded by Walt Whitman), Long Island Quarterly Magazine, live performance venues, and local radio and television shows. His associations with East End Long Island poetry scene, in particular Westhampton Writers luminaries Budd Schulberg, Peter Swet and Dakin Williams, were supplemented by regular interactions with poets of national and international stature (including Robert Bly, Sharon Olds, Yevgeny Yevtushenko and Diane Wakoski), who served as Poets In Residence at the Walt Whitman Birthplace.
During this time, Wallace's own poetry began to be collected in chapbook form, with publications through Cross Cultural Communications, Writers Ink Press and others, producing work that featured a growing orientation to inventive and playful monologues.
By the late 1990s Wallace was recognized as a pre-eminent figure in regional poetry, and he was named the first poet laureate for Suffolk County, Long Island, in 2003.
Wallace's engagement in the extended world of Beat and post-Beat writing emerged during this period, simultaneously with his recognition of the opportunity of the Internet for creation of platforms for poetry, and for pan-regional networking of poetry communities.
Poetrybay, which he launched in 2000, established him as a respected national publisher of poetry. The online literary magazine was selected for international archiving and distribution through the Stanford University LOCKSS program.
Meanwhile, from 1999 on, Wallace began to devote more time to poetry and poetry-related activities. In 2000 and 2001, while he was writing exhibitions for a local historical society about Jack Kerouac's residence in Northport Long Island, his associations with the Beat and post-Beat constellation grew dramatically—interacting with such figures as David Amram, Carolyn Cassady, John Cassady, Charles Plymell, Nanos Valariotis, Janine Pommy Vega, Neeli Cherkovski, Jack Foley, Charles Potts, Larry Sawyer, Bob Holman, Steve Dalachinsky, Angelo Verga and Steve Cannon. A four-city marathon reading of Big Sur in 2001 (SF, Northport, Lowell and Orlando, Florida) brought a national spotlight to his work, solidified by his appearances at events and venues like Lowell Celebrates Kerouac, Insomniacathon, Orlando's Kerouac House, Bradstock, Lyric Recovery and Howlfest.
During this period, he began to appear regularly at venues in lower Manhattan, in particular at Bowery Poetry Club, Cornelia Street Café and Gathering of the Tribes Gallery. Frequent appearances followed in Lowell, Woodstock and the Hudson Valley of New York, and Wallace established strong connections to writing communities from Florida to Southern California, and from Cleveland to Oklahoma.
Since 2005 Wallace has solidified his role as a performance poet, poetry organizer and promoter of imagination based poetry at workshops and lecture venues worldwide.
And participation in a low residency MFA program with Pacific University in Oregon brought him the mentorship and support of Marvin Bell, David St John, and a position as a university lecturer at Pace University in lower Manhattan.
His work was recognized by the Beat Museum in San Francisco, Lowell Celebrates Kerouac, and Incwriters in the UK, and is now archived in the Special Collections archives of Hofstra University. His poetry was the subject of critical commentary by Hugh Fox, Jack Foley, Lenny Dellarocca, Robert Peake, Kirpal Gordon, John Amen, Doug Holder, Nancy Henry and others. He was profiled in Greenwich Village Gazette, Cafe Review, Newsday and The New York Times. A dozen or more chapbooks of his poems, increasingly performance oriented, were published during this period, among them books that were released by Green Panda, Butcher Shop, NightBallet Press and Three Rooms Press.
During this period, Wallace became writer in residence at the Walt Whitman Birthplace, and his reach as an organizer of events and activities in poetry expanded dramatically. With Oklahoma poet laureate Carol Hamilton, Wallace conceived the Woody Guthrie Poets, which beginning in 2004 organized an annual poetry reading at the July Woodyfest in Okemah Oklahoma. He began participating in communal poetry events in Cleveland and in Northampton, Massachusetts, through Bree Bodner of Green Panda Press. Through association with Alexsey Dayen in New York City, he edited a novel manuscript by No!Artist Boris Lurie. Through association with Herbert Kuhner in Vienna, he edited the poetry of Alter Brody. Downtown New York City poetry associations have grown, including Jane Ormerod (Great Weather for Media) and Kat Georges and Peter Carlaftes (Three Rooms Press).
His international profile began to emerge during this time as well. His writing came to the attention of La Finestra Editrice, in Trento. Italy, which translated and published two collections of his poetry. He appeared for workshops and readings in Rome, Paris, Belfast and in Greece. An appearance in the Lake District of England for Words By Water resulted in an extended relationship with UK poetry, principally through association with Cumbrian poet and organizer Geraldine Green. In the UK, chapbooks have been published with Troubadour Books and Flarestack, a CD with Tony Lamb; and he began regular tours of England — in particular Liverpool, Manchester, Cornwall and particularly such Cumbrian towns as Keswick, Kendal, Penrith, Carlisle and Ulverston.
Wallace was also featured in Leisurama, a documentary film about the 1960s vacation housing development in Montauk, New York. The film was first broadcast on New York's public television station WNET in 2005 and later went into national public television broadcast distribution in 2008.
Publications and CDs
- EOS: Abductor of Men / ΗΩΣ Απαγωγεας Ανθρωπων translated from English into Greek by Lina Sipitanou (New York: Three Rooms Press, 2012) ISBN 978-0988400801
- Poppin Johnny (New York: Three Rooms Press 2009) ISBN 978-0984070022
- Who's Handling Your Aubergines (Green Panda; Cleveland, Ohio 2008) greenpandapress.blogspot.com
- Sunnyside Up The Dream Cloud Egg (Good Japan NYC NY 2008) www.myspace.com/goodjapanpress
- Summer of Love Summer of Love (Shivastan; Woodstock NY 2008) www.shivastan.org
- Wrestling Godzilla (Green Panda; Cleveland, Ohio 2007) greenpandapress.blogspot.com
- Sky Is, with The Moontones (Cornwall, UK 2007) cdbaby.com
- When I Was Dead (Flarestack; Birmingham, UK 2006) www.flarestackpoets.co.uk
- After The Fall (Butcher Shop Press; NYC NY 2005) blogs.myspace.com/butchershoppress
- Burn My Heart In Wet Sand (Troubador; Leicester, UK 2004) www.troubador.co.uk
- Without Benefit of Men (Chlemskyia Zhurnal; NYC NY 2004)
- Fifty Love Poems (La Finestra; Trento, Italy 2004) www.la-finestra.com
- Greatest Hits (Pudding House Press; Columbus, Ohio 2003) www.puddinghouse.com
- Swimming Through Water (La Finestra Editrice; Trento, Italy 2003) www.la-finestra.com
- For Immediate Release, (e-book, Sniffy Linings; Seattle, Washington 2002) www.sniffylinings.com
- Sesquicentennial Suite (Sons of the Golden West; Sacramento, Ca 2001)
- The Poems of Augie Prime (Writers Ink; Selden NY 1999) writersunlimited.org/LIPS.htm
- Butterflies and Other Tattoos (Bootleg Press; Hempstead NY 1993)
- Tales of a Yuppie Dropout (Writers Ink; Selden NY 1993) writersunlimited.org/LIPS.htm
- The Milking Jug (Cross Cultural Communications; Merrick NY 1988)
- Tie Back the Roses (Explicitly Graphic; Bury St Edmunds UK 1986)
This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (February 2010) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
- New York Times, "Mission of this Poet"
- New York Times, "Poetry Theater"
- Newsday, "Suffolk Names First Poet Laureate"
- About.com, "Poetry Comes To Guthrie Festival"
- Greenwich Village Gazette, "Wallace Tours"
- "Our Man In Vienna" on "Alter Brody"