it’s foolish to think
I could siphon
a single line
from these paint splattered street
Cormac set Suttree upon-
the best I’ll managed
is a road map to points
I’ve dreamt of
through glasses tinted
by some approximation
of a recycled originality
that might one day save me-
the tilt of flagstones
planted on legacy grounds
staring at art I’ll never hope to
all part of the fabrications
no one will step forward
I’ll circle back
a third time before
the night’s over,
rub a sprig of rosemary
between my fingers
and dream of home,
a comfortable chair beside
a fire I can stare into,
some distant kettle warming
the broth I’ll use
all of these dreams away,
clean and undisturbed
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Murray: I guess I stumbled into writing while I was performing in the clubs. I had a weekly sketch/improv/standup show at the Ice House in Pasadena. Myself and the other guys would meet every Thursday before the weekend of shows and write bits and jokes. At the time my influences – some might even might say I was stealing from – British comedy like Monty Python and The Young Ones. I also tried to be a lot like Woody Allen, which proved to be very difficult for an Italian raised in New Jersey. Eventually we shot a pilot for that show and like most pilots, it didn’t go anywhere. But the production company we were working with hired me to write another pilot. That did get picked up and that started my TV writing career. That sketch group dissolved and I continued on as a stand up and writer. Since then, I’ve performed in 6 different countries and I’ve written for TV, film, radio, newspapers and magazines. I feel very fortunate to have stumbled into something like writing that I love to do, but I don’t think it would’ve never happened if it wasn’t for stand up.
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Murray: I feel like my biggest influences today are my friends. I have somehow surrounded myself with some of the funniest people I have ever met. Their constant output of quality material – whether it be writing, performing or podcasting, really makes me try to step up my game.
Q3: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer/comedian?
Murray: I have always wanted to be a stand up, so there was really no pivotal moment with that. But it took some time for me to really pursue it. There was one moment when I was starting out that was extremely pivotal. I was supposed to do 3 minutes on an open mic. I had maybe 2 minutes of material. None of it particularly funny. The Emcee of the show left the room during my set and I ended up being on stage for 25 minutes. I was forced to think on my feet and riff for close to a half hour… and it went great. That night I realized I can do this… and then I went on to bomb consistently for the next 2 and half to three years, before I started getting any good.
Q4: Who has helped you most with your writing & comedic career?
Murray: I feel like if it wasn’t for the Executive Producer of that first pilot, Mack Anderson, I would be a totally different writer, if even a writer at all. He gave me a shot having never written for television before and showed me the ropes. He continued to hire me on different shows throughout the years and I believe my style of writing, especially for television is a direct result of him.
Q5: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing/comedy & did any travels away from home influence your work?
Murray: I was born in Memphis, but we moved around a bit when I was young. We eventually settled in New Jersey. I feel like having lived in the South, Midwest, West and East has been extremely beneficial when it comes to writing and standup. When I’m touring through those states, I can draw on my own experiences and knowledge of having lived there. Being that I write mostly from personal experiences, anything I can absorb and take in, can be pulled out at anytime. Since this question is about travel, I’ll give you an example. When my son was 2, we lived in a suburb of Calgary called Okotokes for about 3-6 months. Not really sure how long, I tried to block it out. It was rough. I was a stay at home dad, in a small town in another country where we didn’t know anybody and the town was shut down due to the worst flood on record. Again, it was rough. Four or five years later, I’m performing in Las Vegas and on this particular night there was a table of Canadian’s from… Okotokes. I ended up doing 10 minutes on a town that only 4 of the 300 people in that room have ever heard of and it was great. All 300 loved it. I have never done that stuff on Okotokes since… and I probably won’t.
Q6: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?
Murray: I really feel like what I’m doing in my live show now, is probably the most meaningful work I’ve done. I had very serious health scare a couple of years ago. I ended up having emergency open heart surgery. Spoiler alert, I lived. I talk about that experience on stage now. After shows people come up to me and tell me how much they enjoyed the show and share their own experiences with me. I remember I did a fund raiser for the American Cancer Society. The room was filled with cancer survivors, people battling cancer and people who have lost loved ones. I was really nervous because I do a bit about how you will never forget the day you are told you are going to die… I know it doesn’t read funny here, you have to see the whole bit. I was debating on dropping that bit for the show. I didn’t know where these people were on their journey. I ended up doing it and it did great. But the best part, the meaningful part, was after the show at the meet and greet, people would walk up to me and say “I remember that day. May 3rd. 2007” “August 14th. 1998” “October 11, 2014. They gave me a year. I’m not even supposed to be here today!”
Q7: What are your favorite activities to relax?
Murray: My favorite activity to relax is probably surfing. It’s by far my favorite activity. Don’t get me wrong, there are days when there are double overhead waves and you are anything but relaxed, but for the most part being out on the ocean, watching dolphins swim under you and riding waves alone or with my friends not only relaxes me, but really balances out my head.
Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza/joke from you or others?
Murray: I do have some favorite lines I have written in the last 20 years, but I don’t know if I feel comfortable quoting myself here. A lot of my favorite lines from others, are just that, lines. One maybe two sentences in a song, a story or a movie that tells the audience there is something more here. I especially love it in comedies. I’m reminded of one of my favorite lines from the 1981 movie “Arthur” starring Dudley Moore. Moore, one of the greatest comedic actors of all time, plays a drunken billionaire who will lose all his money if he doesn’t marry a certain wealthy heiress. Ask anybody who has seen it and they will tell you it’s one of the funniest movies of the 80’s, if not of all time. But there’s this one line. Arthur is drunk at dinner with his arranged marriage fiancé and she asks him why he drinks so much and he says “Not everybody who drinks is a poet. Some of us drink because we’re NOT poets.” With that one line you go from laughing at a loveable drunk to really feeling for this extremely sad and lonely person.
Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?
Murray: I am really excited about my new music and comedy game show called “For What It’s Worth…” it started out as something to keep me occupied during the pandemic to one of my favorite projects I have ever worked on. The contestants are mostly comedians, but I have actors, musicians and writers on as well. I write fun trivia questions and music related games for the contestants to play. Again, I am very lucky to be friends with some of the funniest and most talented people out there. They all show up and bring their A game. I’ll be honest this show is really good, but the contestants I have on make it great.
From Murray’s Youtube:
with Greg Behrendt, Danielle Koenig & Paul Gilmartin
Go subscribe to podcast that feature Murray as I have throughout the years such as Road Stories and listen to comedians/writers tell stories from ummm…the road and travelling and it’s funny. Listen!
One of my favorite podcasts for several years has been Rock Solid hosted by Pat Francis and featuring musical guests and comedians. It is a quick spin of songs usually for a particular topic or musician. Throughout the years Pat has had co-hosts such as Murray, Mike Siegel of Travel Tales, April Richardson, Christy Stratton-Mann, Kyle Dodson, Jimmy Pardo, Mike Schmidt (not that Mike Schmidt…the 40 year old Boy for 40 straight years), David Gutierrez and many more.
So if you enjoy lists of songs by a theme with some great picks (usually Murray, Mike, April, guests) and some pretty good picks like the Cars (Christy), and usually something like Mike & the Mechanics, Def Leppard or whatever (Pat) maybe you love nu-metal (Kyle) this podcast is hilarious. In honor of this show here is a list below.
So here are my top 50 on my phone right now “Songs That Inspire a Sad/Anxious Poet to Write” No particular order, and oddly some are instrumental.
Bruce Springsteen : The River
Leonard Cohen : It Seems So Long Ago, Nancy
Bob Dylan: To Ramona
Simon & Garfunkel: The Sound of Silence
Philip Glass: Mad Rush
Harold Budd: The Room of Ancillary Dreams
Prince: The Beautiful Ones
Tupac Shakur: Changes
Nicole Atkins: A Dream Without Pain
Marissa Nadler: Said Goodbye to that Car
Gene Clark: Echoes
Townes Van Zandt: For the Sake of the Song
Tom Waits: Martha
Tom Waits: Ol’ 55
The National: Pink Rabbits
Brian Eno: The Big Ship
Brandi Carlile: The Story
Patti Smith: Kimberley
Amanda Shires: Bulletproof
The Band: Whispering Pines
Velvet Underground: Candy Says
Big Star: Thirteen
Elliott Smith: Christian Brothers
Bob Dylan: A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall
Leonard Cohen: Famous Blue Raincoat
Angel Olsen: Windows
Fleetwood Mac: Rhiannon
Pink Floyd: A Pillow of Winds
Joni Mitchell: Black Crow
Neil Young: The Needle and the Damage Done
Buffalo Springfield: Expecting to Fly
Amigo the Devil: Cocaine and Abel
Big Thief: Not
Bert Jansch: Needle of Death
Chris Cornell: Seasons
Alice In Chains: Heaven Beside You
Pearl Jam: The End
The Beatles: Across the Universe
John Lennon: Imagine
Marvin Gaye: Piece of Clay
Belle and Sebastian: Seeing Other People
Tim Buckley: Song to the Siren
Bauhaus: All We Ever Wanted was Everything
Leon Bridges: Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand
Valerie June: Stay
Bobbie Gentry: I Wouldn’t Be Surprised
Broken Social Scene: Cause=Time
Chris Bell: I Am the Cosmos
Jimi Hendrix Experience: Castles Made of Sand (there are thousands more but a top 50 is better to read than a top 1000)
The sea of pink was a major lift—
“You know,” I said, getting off the bus,
“I used to pace alone before I knew ya.”
Some people had been here before,
to push against the closing doors
and all the system tries to do to fool ya.
Democracy was moving too—
not a victory march, but not a crime.
In passing, even the Guard gave their thanks to ya.
Our group did our best, but it wasn’t much,
wedged away to the side by the baffled crowd,
but famous speakers always say the same things to ya.
So we sat and snacked, and thought of how
they broke our throne and didn’t care.
We swore our lips would be what overthrew ya.
Then next to us a circle formed,
much stronger than a marble arch,
and they were singing Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
We joined in, though we had no proof.
We were pilgrims who had seen no light.
It was cold, and not a time for “Hallelujah.”
Still, we sang the truth we could not touch.
Our hopes were high, love was on our tongues—
a strength below from broken “Hallelujah.”
Poetry Showcase by Lorna WoodPoetry about the Pandemic by Lorna Wood
Bio: Lorna Wood is a violinist and writer in Auburn, Alabama. Her poetry is forthcoming in 2% Milk and has appeared in Before I Turn Into Gold (David L O’Nan, editor), Angel Rust (Best of the Net nominee) and Poetry South (Pushcart nominee), among others. Her fiction has appeared in Doubleback Review (Pushcart nominee) and on the Litro [USA] Lab and NoSleep Podcasts. Her creative nonfiction recently appeared in Feed, and her most recent scholarly essay is in The Palgrave Handbook of Affect Studies and Textual Criticism. Find out more at https://www.amazon.com/author/lornawood or from her blog, Word Music, here: https://lornawoodauthor.wordpress.com
Yesterday, I took out the bottle of dye I found
under the bed in my grandmother's hut,
and I drew with it - a triangle on my heart.
In that triangle, I engraved the memories -
of my life as a pilgrim - who is a survival of
myriad of life's experiences as a child.
Outside this triangle, I wrote myriad of names,
some were those who - in my life on earth
have played one role or the other hand - alive or dead.
As I tried to limit the names for the next day to come,
for what I have written here is the beginning-in my heart,
it is what I can hold out today, as the triangle expands.
& as I held out my hands to draw on my heart,
it all became visible, the words of my grandmother,
she had once told me, there is a dye to write memories.
Out of my curiosity as a growing grandchild,
I visited her hut every cool evening with oozing winds,
and she would say, there is a good day to write memories
of those life has blessed us with - though they are not here,
this dye is specially meant to be used in writing in our hearts,
except for such moments, the dye stays hidden from the eyes.
I reached out my hands yesterday under her bed,
in that her small hut after many years of her death,
I am blessed to have found the dye for which I am using now -
To write about my memories with her,
our times together is what I am about to write here,
as it started from the gathering of clouds that rained.
The gods, if They Are in Existence
The gods in our frivolous perceptions of them,
has stricken us - with ignorance in our perceived cultures -
and left us more wounded in the hands of evil.
With strength we walked miles into the tip -
of the mountains, and the forest of wide animals -
plants, we have cuts the best trees and shrubs.
Making many images as craft of our hands,
and imagination of our hearts - but -
has not behold the gods - helping us
to drag the woods home.
With the same wood - our strength - and the craft,
we have - factioned images - according to ourselves -
and bestowed them the name - gods - and we bow in ignorance of our minds. -
With dirtiness of our hearts, we did eat ourselves, -
causing harms - to ourselves just because of ignorance
and we run to - the carved - woods and kneeling down,
we ignore our common sense and our ability -
to be gods in our own.
We sacrifice the best of our animals for the carved image,
with obliviousness of cleanliness to our environment & health;
we run worshiping what supposes to worship us, -
The gods, if they are in existence.
Our Wedding Pictures Were Flash of Lights
How it all happened was like a man in a day dream,
the many wishes of the attendees to the event.
Post your styles and this is the best posture,
the ones we have selected from flash points.
The road is far from home, so, make it a memory,
to remember our journeys from the distance land.
This is our stories to tell those that are at home,
that we travelled from far away land for a wedding -
whose pictures were just a flash of light of cameras,
our memories of the wedding still lives with us,
As it could not live with pictures we posted to take,
and the camera man made us believe we were taking
real pictures and not just flash of camera lights.
The Owls City
It was once called the city of owls, a city from where silence oozes at noon, and at night, its inhabitants' howls,
In an unknown tongue of hoots; just as their songs are in dirge; from the sorrows of their past: they assailed once their sorrows, hooting and hoping for joy, maybe the one from a distant future not seen.
It is called the city of owls, where its dwellers are drawn, in the Waterloos of many dreams, as their twilights are full of lament; and longings for memory, one they once call their own in joy, where oozing breeze never hurts them, those who are called by the name.
It is the land of fathers that lost in the morning, straying away from homes we once dance and play with our ancestors in flutes, where our mothers dance with their waist bent low to the ground, and the children playing at the full moon of our lands.
A poem I wrote after William Shakespeare's "Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer Day"
Shall I not liken your beauty as a day in paradise?
You are more lovely and more gentle as a dove:
Though rough winds of life had shaken your wings,
And the summer's rain-drenched your feathers;
Sometimes you are too cold of our love because of fear,
And often, you choose to dim the light of our love;
And every dark from the dark side of our love, you declines,
By chance or out of the unknown you feel untrimmed;
But I assure you, our home is eternal and shall not fade,
Nor shall there be any dispossession of our dearer;
Nor should death brag and shades our love to eternity,
When in eternal lines to life we shall grow,
So long as the Rivers never runs dry or eyes can see,
So long as this love gives our lives a meaning to live.
Armed Forces Remembrance Day
Fellow soldiers tonight
With these one thousand candles
& this ten thousand matches
We will all match to the year 1976
& to all those soldiers who died
& to all those innocent infants
Who could not utter a word of theirs
But was hit by a life bullet of anger
To the voluntary soldiers &
To the mandatory fighters
To the circumstances men of arm &
To the professional mem of arm
And to those men who died in the dark
And to those who died in the bright day
And to those who become like mist
And they fly away from our midst
With these candles, and flames
We will match into their tombs
And together we shall mourn them
Bent down to their graves and say
Here is your light cut short again
And We Call to Mind
To those beautiful souls long forgotten
and to those souls who irrigated our deserts
To the ones who graced our history as a race
and to those great legends in our journey
To the ones who retold our African tales
even with the languages of the conquerors
And bring to the limelight our ancestors bravery
Now speak to us through the flute and the gongs
Tell us what you are like in the great beyond
and we will advance and change our course
For life hereafter your departure is fitful
To that Akara woman at the junction
The one who rises with the first cockcrow
and begin to make Akara for the inhabitants
All for her son to see the four walls of -
But to whose son left school for fraternity
And died as a result of one rival scuffle
Leaving the woman heartbroken and dead
For all her hard-earned money is become -
Like a bottle of oil punctured on a sunny day
To which there is no way to be scooped up
For after you left here, life has become jaws of life
To Madu the young man who angry mobs -
gathered at the market square weeks ago
Whose voice and agony the mobs overpowered
rendering him powerless to the point of death -
To which he has been a survivor in many ways
Kill him, kill him, kill him, why should he live again
He came to buy market with counterfeit notes
In a country where everything is a counterfeit
To Amaechi the only surviving daughter
The one out of the benevolence of the villagers
She was sent to the college for more education
Blessed by the gods as she harnesses talent upon talents
Are they who are blessed by the gods supposed to be -
left alone to suffer from man's cruelty
Amaechi after two months in school was raped
Raped to her death by boys in men's clothing and who
lacks the will to control the man underneath them -
and leaving us with a question to ask, where were the gods
Does it mean even the gods sleep in our plights
I am becoming a watchman
To watch over your inks that flow into tiny air
I am becoming an African
From the Southern tip of Africa
I am becoming the first inhabitant of the Cape
I am becoming the first owner of the land
I am becoming the first race known as the San
I will go with my bands into the forest and pick wide berries
I have become the hunter and gatherers
We will go into the mountains and pick pebbles
Each man on his bands, we will gather up stones
We will return to use the stones to make you a grave
For you died a hero in the land of your so journal
We will use our stones to build you a grave,
Wolfpack Contributor: John Chinaka Onyeche “Rememberajc”New poem “Journey of Love” by John Chinaka Onyeche
Bio: John Chinaka Onyeche (Rememberajc) is a poet from Nigeria, he writes from the city of Port Harcourt Rivers State, Nigeria. He is currently a History and Diplomatic Studies student at Ignatius Ajuru University Of Education Port Harcourt Rivers State.
Notable works are found at: Spillwords, Melbourne culture corner, Nnoko Stories, TunaFishjournal, Moreporkpress, Nymphspublications, Youthmagazine, Acumen uk, Zindaily, pawnerspaper, Conceitmagazine, Mosi oa Tunya Literary Review, Rigorous, Opendoorpoetrymagazine, Feverofthemind Magazine and are forthcoming at Kalahari Review and Ethelzine.
He can be contacted with the following links:
Bio: Barney Ashton-Bullock, is the poet/librettist in the ‘Andy Bell is Torsten’ music-theatre-poetry collective and he narrates his own verse on the Downes Braide Association albums. He is the founder of Soho Poetry Nights. He has poetry published, or pending publication, in a wide range of cult poetry journals**, in the ‘Avalanches In Poetry’ tribute anthology to Leonard Cohen, in the Dreich pamphlet ‘Famous’, in the Pilot Press ‘Queer Anthology Of Healing’ and in the ‘Soho Nights’ anthologies published by The Society Club Press who also published his first collection ‘Schema/Stasis’ in 2017. His latest poetry pamphlet ‘Café Kaput!’ was published by Broken Sleep Books in 2020. (**the Wellington Street Review, the New River Press Yearbook, SPAMzine, Re-Side Magazine, -algia Press, Scab Mag, Pink Plastic House Journal, Lucky Pierre Zine, Poetry Bus, Neuro Logical Magazine and the Babel Tower Notice Board)