Eddie’s New Year Letter for 2011

My various mailings aside (both personal and literary), I haven’t done a New Year Letter as such since 1992. Which come to think of it, was the only time I did one. And that was really fun. All hand typed (manual machine, never cared for electrics), over and over until I got it right. Then making dozens of photocopies. After which licking envelopes and postage stamps. But hey, it worked. Same as typesetting and real cutting and pasting (and making printing plates from ‘old-fashioned’ layout sheets for publishing stuff) worked. Before computers came into vogue. We use the tools that are available, no problem. With only the inventors thinking, ‘Hmmm, maybe there’s another way.’ Like, I can’t imagine Shakespeare scratching his head between plays and sonnets and complaining: ‘I’m sick of this damn quill. If only some nerd would come along and invent a typewriter!’ Hell, I have one friend, a writer and editor even, who saves up my emails and replies to bunches of them all at once with handwritten postal letters. My archive people at Stanford are gonna love him (if they ever get round to buying another installment from me, that is!); they simply adore ‘holographs.’ And you know what else about ‘back then’? No bloody software updates, baby! Just a new ribbon when the old one wore out, plus ever so occasionally oiling the carriage. Cool, eh?

But okay, this is how I’m speaking to you now. With a brief review of 2010 as I experienced it. Counting my blessings for its many ups, while doing my best to wink at whatever downs. So here we go. In no particular order, either chronological or otherwise. Nor in any great detail. “Just the facts,” as Sgt. Friday was wont to put it. Or pretty much.

As many of you already know, thanks to a generous benefactor my 10-year old G3 iMac got replaced by a new Mac Mini computer system. Which in turn made possible the website you’re reading this on. And that, the website, would never have happened without my dear friend Chris Sanders. Who did so much more than just help. To begin with he set the site up for me. Then, over a period of weeks and endless hours of Skype talking, showed me step-by-step how to manage it myself. And is readily available for whenever I get into a bit of trouble. So once more: Thank you, Chris!

Chris and I go back a long way. To London, 1977. First at BIT (Information & Help Service). [1] And then International Times. [2] Of which Chris soon became the editor, and me (a little later) the Amsterdam editor. All of that, too, pre-computers. Well, not exactly ‘pre.’ Seeing as how the very first Apple came on the market in 1976. One of those (only 200 were produced) was sold at auction in late November for $210,000. Ah, and in the late 1950s yours truly was programming the IBM RAMAC, [3] described now as ‘a behemoth from the Jurassic Age of computers.’ That’s me, all right. Jurassic Eddie!

So yes, I’m pleased with the website. There’s more to do on it, which may include adding another section. As well as (and this is ongoing) posting more poems, more stories, more photos, etc. But it’s coming along nicely. And is also great for reconnecting with people. Such as two friends I’d lost touch with ages ago who found me via the site and then emailed me from the Contact page. And please don’t tell me that Facebook is better for that. I remain wary of ‘cyber social networking.’ My own site, combined with whatever comes up on Google, is exposure enough for me. Just as cell phone texting is fine but tweeting is out. Bas.

Bombay Brian has an email signature line which I love: I am waiting for Facelift and Twitter to go away…!!!

My eldest daughter Monika [4] came to visit in March. Together with her boyfriend Christian. We’d not seen one another since the spring of 2001, when I went down to Landshut. That’s the capital of Lower Bavaria, folks. And where I met her mother, in 1961. I was stationed there with the US Air Force for 18 months, before being transferred to Sembach AB near Kaiserslautern (canine corps time!) for another year and a half. And then to Wyoming to finish up my 4-year stint. I got out in late summer 1964. The USA has espied precious little of me since. Yo.

Christian and Monika

Monika and I have always been tight. And especially now, this closeness goes a long way towards taking the sting out of my not having any kind of relationship with her half-sister Cynthia. The younger daughter I lost when I left her mother. Managed to find forty years later (around the time she was also looking for me). And then, after a brief but intense ‘honeymoon period,’ lost again. When to all intents and purposes she disowned me. But okay (even if it’s not okay, and it isn’t!): I love her nonetheless. Should she ever come to her senses and want to discuss instead of judging, or revert to seeing me in a positive light, I’m here for her. [5]

I have three wonderful granddaughters in Landshut. And one of them, the lovely Hannah (17), is intending to spend a week of her Easter holiday here in Amsterdam. Followed sometime later by Rebekka (15). Sarah may also eventually come, perhaps accompanied by her mother. Sarah is 24 and has Downs Syndrome. Withal she leads a most fulfilling life. She has a job, she has hobbies, she’s traveled. During a holiday in Spain a few years back, she worked as an assistant cook in a local restaurant. She also had a boyfriend for a long while, until (yeah, well…) she got tired of him and broke up. In short, Sarah is a most delightful young lady. [6]

Christian Gröger and Sarah Woods

There were other visitors, i.e. welcome guests at Jane’s ‘new’ (since August of last year) Amsterdam Oost apartment. In June my young English friend Dominic Costa flew up from Switzerland to spend a week. And this time, unlike during his two previous visits (in ’06 and ’08), I wasn’t in one of my infamous depressions. What’s more, it was warm and sunny the whole time, which meant we could cycle everywhere. And in October Tate Swindell was here. Prior to which, in mid-July, Tate’s Unrequited Records released Harold Norse Of Course (Harold’s 1984 reading at Ins & Outs Press) on both CD and double-vinyl LP. [7] Tate was mainly in Amsterdam to interview me and Bill Levy for a Harold Norse documentary film he and his brother Todd are busy preparing.

July also saw the publication of Richard Jurgens’ exquisite poems book One Summer. Poetry lovers would do well to order a copy! [8] While moving back in time from there, in late May I made my fourth appearance at the Fiery Tongues poetry festival[9] out at the artists colony village of Ruigoord. Then a touch further back to Easter and the ending of a peculiarly ‘long drought’ in my life. When I met a vibrantly attractive lady, with whom I quickly hit it off. The affair lasted about two months and we parted friends. I feel sure the encounter was a kind of ‘karmic response’ to a poem I’d penned in early January (and which hardly anyone had read) entitled “A Midnight Longing.” [10] Om Kali Shakti Om.

Winter arrived early this year, and looks like lasting a spell. But it’s not the weather that keeps guys like me in northern Europe! Nor is there anything wrong with going into semi-hibernation mode for a few months. Venturing out, especially any distance, only when necessary. As long as the central heating keeps working (what a blessing is that!), and the computer. There are poems and stories and other things to write. There are books to read, films to watch, music to listen to. All that good jazz. While the next thing you know (er, with any luck), it’s suddenly Spring. Which in Mokum* means and cafés and restaurants with open-air terraces. And that means…yes, it does!

Wintertime along the Amstel

Of the books I read in 2010, there are two that particularly stand out. Terry Tarnoff’s The Bone Man of Benares. An extraordinary travel adventure, overflowing with humor and wit and marvelously written. Highly recommended. [11] And N.E. Sjoman’s art: the dark side. A penetrating critique of the contemporary art world, coupled with a fascinating analysis of how it got that way. Guaranteed to make your mind shiver! [12]

Right then, before signing off here’s a quick look at 2011. Starting with Sacha de Boer’s upcoming photography exhibition at the Suzanne Biederberg Gallery on April 23rd. The day before Easter Sunday! I’ll be sending a lowlands mailing out as the date draws nigh, but those of you reading this who live in or near Amsterdam can already mark it down in your calendar diaries, your agendas. Yea, and granddaughter Hannah should also be here then!

I’ve beaucoup projects lined up for the coming year (and beyond, enshallah!). Among them continuing to assemble my book of poems and photographs entitled Whores and Other Lovers. For which, however, I desperately need to somehow score a slides and negatives scanner. In order to digitally process the hundreds of slides and negatives that are in my photo files and I do not have prints of. (The scanner I have my eye on is a Canon 9000f. Priced at 230 euros.)

I’m constantly writing. And have just hit upon an idea for a continually developing series called Eddie Woods Snapshots: A Memoir in Progress. About which I’ll say no more at this juncture, other than…be on the lookout for it under Prose. I further feel that it’s high time for me to write an in-depth essay or two on the subject of capital punishment, which has been a passion of mine from my early teens. When the Rosenbergs were executed and Caryl Chessman was still on death row, writing books! and waiting for his turn. It’s cruel, it’s inhuman, and it has got to go. Everywhere, but for heaven’s sake in America. A country that likes to view itself as a bastion of liberty but is increasingly doing its best to prove the opposite. Terrible.

There’s also the possibility of an Eddie Woods poetry cassette. You heard, cassette! To complement my two spoken-word CDs. Stay tuned!

I made passing mention above of my archive at Stanford University. They acquired the initial bulk of that (huge!) back in the summer of 2003. Although we’d in fact closed the inventory a year and a half earlier. Since then I have amassed an enormity of additional material. Which I’m rapidly running out of storage space for. Plus, I need the money! Hence 2011 is surely the year for me to get on their case and say: ‘Hey Fellas, C’mon. Can we please do it before I’m like dead?!’ Thing is, from whenever they might agree to another purchase, we’d be looking at a year or more to complete the negotiations and the deal get done. Ho-hum.

Ah, money. The response to my ‘Eddie is turning 70!’ mailing back in May was heartwarming. Many people sent support contributions. Mostly one-offs in varying amounts, several of which were fairly large. While a handful set up automatic monthly transfers to my Dutch ING account (though not yet to my Barclays in the UK). These range from 10 to 50 euros a month. And all of it is enormously appreciated. It’s what keeps me going; allows me to get on with my work, my writing. That and Jane (my guardian angel) providing me with shelter, along with helping out in so many other ways.

Those of you who would like to contribute to the, ah, ‘Eddie Woods Benevolent Association’ can do so via PayPal
or email me to ask how else to. Either directly if you have my email address or via the Contact page

You can also order books ‘n such here

Ever seen the film A Bridge Too Far? The World War II epic with an all-star cast. If so, you may remember the scene where the Robert Redford character (Major Julian Cook was his name) is leading a frantic small boats rowing charge across the Waal river in broad daylight, with enemy guns firing away and him loudly repeating: “Hail Mary, full of grace; Hail Mary, full of grace…!” Boy, can I ever relate to that. As I row, row, row (sometimes with the current, at other times against) across the river of life. Many of us have mantras and that is definitely one of mine.

Btw, does anyone read Maxwell Bodenheim [13] these days? No? I haven’t in decades, but maybe next year I will again. He’s pretty good. The King of the Greenwich Village Bohemians. My father used to regale me with anecdotes about him.

I wish you all a healthy and creatively prosperous 2011.

With love, EDDIE

“I studied deeply in the various religions and philosophies, but cheerfulness kept breaking through.” – Leonard Cohen

Footnote Links:
* Mokum
[1] BIT
[2] International Times (IT)
[4] Monika poem
[5] Cynthia poems
[6] Family photos
[7] Harold Norse Of Course
[8] One Summer
[9] Fiery Tongues
[10] “A Midnight Longing”
[11] The Bone Man of Benares
[12] art: the dark side
[13] Maxwell Bodenheim