Carson Pytell: Best of Poetry Showcase

black and gray abstract illustration

Photo from Jeremy Bishop (unsplash)

Cosmological Theorizing on Jackson St 

A Best of the Net Nominee first published in Sparkedlitmag April 2021

My attention snagged by a Pop!
First sight: a parasol. The day, stormy,
the fabric thin as patience and floral,
dragged by wind as though leashed to it.

Feet from the eye-catching flutter:
an elderly woman in a fur coat collapsing
and man sprinting into an alleyway
wearing a white T and blue jeans.

Maybe he couldn’t afford insulin or dope,
or she just couldn’t stand it nowadays;
they were sitting alone at opposite ends
of a car on the L-train when it happened.

Revolver out of pocket for efficiency
he menaced the legged pawnshop in back,
but her sky-old decorum refused. She steamed
and tucked her pocketbook under her arm.


In town only to buy more porcelain cherubs
she whipped out a parasol and atomized him
as though the criminal herself, pursued him
into the street. Where he stopped. Ended

the chase. And, ya know, it wasn’t so much
a pop that I heard, now that I see blood
pooling, the parasol swept away, but more like
the bang which chanced open the universe.

Shambhala

a Pushcart Nominee from Neoloigismpoetry.com first published there

At most upon the rock
you are none much taller
than Titans, Gods or God.

Everything besides this is a lie.

not an idea, they say, only some progression
unameably natural, small in all, as shoreline you
are tread on, eventually consumed by the one
certainty worth the time impossibly imagined,
unresolvable lest by ignorance or transcendence
through penance for the deeds undone by
or from fathomed fear, chiseled chance
or any other fancy we feed ourselves handfuls of
when we’re hungriest, none of which would exist,
not even the next you, if not for you, the mirror
in the studio where you don’t paint, but live in
reigned revelry because all’s for one who’s won it all,
be it nothing, or the back end of books earnestly
read, nevermind held limitlessly as you make it
by the limitless library to which you’ve made
only donations and from which you expect the same,
like the fib that the sky is blue or blue is the sky
or that telling the truth is what’s right or wrong
because what’s right or wrong, besides truth,
we get to decide whether or not is even true,
or the fallacy that death is more than reversed
birth, the ultimacy of knowledge told then known,
and if you expect more, if you say there’s more
than truth to nature, at least take a second to
watch a tree quickly dying and realize that

You’re just fooling yourself.

Under the rock
may we find we lie
truthfully at last.

L’Appel Du Vide & Here

first published in White Wall Review February 2021

  – for a poet I’ve never read.

To be drunk always is

never having to be sober.

The blood runs saccharine.

When I was young, yet not

enough to justify doing it,

I loved You and only You.

The only good stories I have I don’t.

Might monodies remember me

that I am, after all, a converso

to Myself, some martyr:

Human is not so bad a thing to be,

so Sisyphus, friend, follow me.

Let go. It’s halfway quixotic.

Here

first published in White Wall Review.com February 2021

Kilroy, whose nose is trodden

and fingers must be broken now,

is wrong. He was not there.

To see him is proof of this.

He is faded just like iron ink

patinized on yellow letters.

And once letters get that look,

especially that must, they and their ink

become far too wistful to be waste.

Kilroy, whose nose is trodden

and fingers must be broken now,

was wrong. He is always there

Where Home Is

first published in theracketsf.com Racket Journal 35

There’s no such displeasure
as waking up anywhere but home,
yet no greater liberty than
deciding just where that will be.

One evening, in my friend’s dad’s
G37x, we stopped at the ATM quick
so we had enough cash for popcorn,
soda and candy on top of ticket money.

We parked in the back of the multiplex
and got high before the movie, which sucked.
Or maybe it sucked only because of what
we saw just as soon as we exited the car.

A homeless man in a mid-90’s murder van
had both slide doors open and was pissing
right into the parking lot. Before he saw us
and almost caught his cock in those doors,

I glimpsed an old captain’s chair tucked in back,
an end table holding a full ashtray and neat brown
drink just next to it, and a Bakelite radio nestled on top
of a stack of newspapers, playing something jazzy.

The movie was a comedy, something with names
but no substance. I just couldn’t stop thinking about
how my friend loved it, and how we’d get high again,
then drunk on iced Ketel One before I slept over at his place.

Globe of Death

first published in Backchannels Edition No. 9

You must remember.
It was at the Altamont Fairgrounds
when we’d both strayed from our class
and became part of the crowd surrounding
the massive mesh-metal sphere with motorcycles
inside, revving the whole way around, earning their living.

Each time they neared the top you squeaked,
jumped as on a pogo stick. I was watching, 
frightened of a crash, when you shocked me with a hug 
then paralyzed me with a kiss on the cheek. You turned
and started clapping, yelling like life could really be as easy
as that moment. I turned and realized how difficult it would be.

You must remember, I do. It happens
each time I sit at the window after meals or poems
and a girl who isn’t you scorns me for smoking
then puts her hands on my shoulders and kisses me
anyway. Remembrance is like that. Life is déjà vu.
Experience – only something which might guide reaction.

It’s hard. Sometimes I don’t get it – most often I do.
Like when my wife’s done kissing me and, though I’ve wished
for each kiss from her, I start off dreaming I’d once have kissed you.

Bio: Carson Pytell is a writer living outside Albany, NY whose work has appeared widely online and in print, including in Ethel Zine, Perceptions Magazine, Rabid Oak, Backchannels and White Wall Review, among others. He participated in the Tupelo Press 30/30 Project in December 2020 and his first two chapbooks, First-Year (Alien Buddha Press, 2020) and Trail (Guerrilla Genesis Press, 2020), are now available. His third, The Gold That Stays (Cyberwit Publishing, 2021)

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Carson Pytell

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Carson Pytell

with Carson Pytell:

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Carson: I was roommates with a man named Larry for a short time in the Summer of 2014. I was into the Beats. I was reading William Burroughs Jr’s Speed/Kentucky Ham. He asked what I was reading and I told him something like: “The autobiography of a tweaker turned drunk.” He advised me against emulation. I told him the author’s last name and he was relieved. I still don’t know why. It was just what I said. Took a minute to tell him it wasn’t Burroughs Sr. too. I appreciated the advice, though.

So we began talking after that. He taught me chess and eventually asked if I had heard of The Columbia Riots. Of course I hadn’t. Being young, all I thought happened that year was the DNC in Chicago. Welp, he was one of the couple hundred or so students arrested. It seems that moment broke him. His parents drove down from Saratoga to check in, but he locked himself in his dorm room because: “[He] was just so fucked up.” That from a some one who favored pitchers of beer and cigars over pot or LSD before he was 21. “I liked my consciousness the way it was,” he’d say.

So he left a little while before I could, and left me his phone number. I’ve lost it. I wish I hadn’t. But Larry is not my first writing influence, not even close to why I began writing. I already had been, at least what I called seriously, for a few months prior to that Summer. Short stories that were sentimental, grandiloquent and embarrassing. Obviously, to me, they were gifts to the world so as soon as they were all rejected by those journals the things deserved to be published in, I got angry.

I stopped writing. In the Spring of 2019, aged 26, I started again. This time poetry. I began submitting as soon as I started and was lucky. In June of that year I had my first publication credit and just short of 200 have come in the two years since. Also four chapbooks. I’m unemployed going on a decade. Too much time on my hands.

But, to answer your question:

Kids started paying me to write their English assignments in middle school. By far the most money I’ve ever made writing. That’s really when I began. It was more serious to me back then too. Probably more so than it will ever be.

Also, my first literary influences were as aforementioned, the Beats. Hunter S. Thompson too. But I don’t do drugs anymore. Still, a portrait of Kerouac hangs on my bedroom wall.

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

Carson: I really wish I’d have put that Post-It with Larry’s number on it in a safe place. Literarily, however, today I cite the following artists as my foremost influences, far from only writers: Yevgeni Bauer, Constantine Cavafy, Erich Von Stroheim, Odilon Redon, Ian MacKaye, Henry Green, the guy who wrote the novel Stoner, El Cid, Emily Dickinson, Charley Patton, Hart Crane, Bukka White, Rev. Gary Davis, Townes Van Zandt, Wystan Hugh Auden, Victor Sjostrom, Ingmar Bergman, Sophia Loren, Vittorio Gassman, anything on Boxing History, Thomas Stearns Eliot, Lauren Bacall, John Ford, Buster Keaton, Paul Strand, Henri Carier-Bresson, Mike Nichols, Fernando Pessoa, Van Gogh, Chopin, Andres Segovia, Artur Rubinstein, Dave Van Ronk, Francisco Goya, Thomas Cole, Edward S. Curtis, Eugene O’Neill, Simon Perchik, Ida B. Wells, Marco Panella, The 47 Ronin, Francis Bacon, Edward Burra, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Frank Stanford, Emil Cioran, Bertrand Russell, Philip Larkin, Nicolas Martin (painter based in Montreal), and my friend Zebulon Huset. Zeb is my biggest literary influence today. Do yourself a favor and check out his poetry (just Google his name), his journals Sparked and Coastal Shelf, as well as his writing prompt blog Notebooking Daily.

Q3: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Carson: I’d like to say it happened when I cashed my first serious paycheck earned from my writing, but everyone would recognize the BS in that. Pivotal, though? No moment at all I could pinpoint immediately, just all of them together in retrospect. Nothing special according to me. If I must finger it, however, I’d have to say it happened when my friend paid me to write two poems for an assignment in community college. I wrote them, he turned them in. After a while he got his grade and texted me to come see him. I assumed we didn’t do well, but all he asked was whether he had my permission claim credit for one of the poems which his professor wanted to include in his next semester’s handbook. I was relieved. But, yeah, if not for that I’d have cited a good paycheck if it ever had happened. It won’t. Sorry.

Q4: Who has helped you most with writing?

Carson: By far and away I’ve learned most about the craft from my friend, Zebulon Huset. On second thought, Zeb is really the only person to have taught me anything about the craft.

Q5: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing & did any travels away from home influence your work?

Carson: I was born in Albany, NY halfway through the summer of 1993. I was the first baby my parents got to bring home. I was then raised in West Sand Lake, NY. I have been living there my whole life. Farthest I’ve ever been away from home was a week long field trip to D.C. either sophomore or junior year of high school. I think I’d like to visit other places, just only without all those people around. I’d really like to. But there’s always so many people around. So, given my lack of travel, I can say both that personal travel experiences never influenced me and that second-hand traveling has spirited me as much as a pot of pitch black coffee. Jack Black, for instance. No, not the actor. Jack Black, the golden age hobo, who wrote a book called You Can’t Win. I read that after all the Beat stuff I could find. All of it. My local library spent a month trying to find And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks. They couldn’t find You Can’t Win, so I had to spend almost twenty bucks just to get to read it. I’d like to go hobo myself sometimes, but I’m a Type-1 Diabetic. Life’s a bitch, huh?

Q6: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?

Carson: Ehh. Nothing yet. Just practicing the art is the most meaningful work a writer can do no matter who and at whatever stage.

Q7: Favorite activities to relax?

Carson: Pot is fun. Wine and Brandy too.

Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem/writing of yours or others? Do you have a favorite piece of art?

Carson: “The game enforces smirks; but we have seen
The moon in lonely alleys make
A grail of laughter of an empty ash can,
And through all sound of gaiety and quest
Have heard a kitten in the wilderness.”

I paint also. My favorite painting recently is Edward Burra’s ‘Sugar Beet East Anglia’ (1973).

Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?

Carson: Here’s a link to my books on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Carson-Pytell/e/B08BMY7RCL

Other than those, I’ve been shopping another chapbook length manuscript around and also compiling what I’d like to be my first full-length.

Social Media:

Instagram: @carsonpytell

Twitter: @CPytell93

Website: carsonpytell.wordpress.com