Burmese Days: Catch It. Draw It. Mark It Off, To Keep It Holy
Poet, performer Holly Anderson met Mission of Burma when she and they were taking their work in new directions and to wider audiences. Her poems were coming off telephone poles and into publication, and their music was about to be recorded for first releases. One of Holly's poems, “White Story,” became an emotional high point in Burma sets as Clint Conley’s song, “Mica.” In our video interview, Holly traces the beginnings of “Mica,” working with Burma on the art for their record covers and the continuing impact of the song. In an exclusive, original memoir, “Catch It. Draw It. Mark It Off, To Keep It Holy,” Holly draws a self-portrait of a young artist and writer discovering the visceral pull of two lodestars, Virginia Woolf and Patti Smith.
Catch It. Draw It. Mark It Off, To Keep It Holy.
Right below the fold on the op-ed page of the New York Times, March 12, 2007, Ain’t It Strange By Patti Smith. Her byline burns like an ember. About to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, she writes she’s accepting this accolade for all of us. Time hasn’t diminished her potency. She’s still the oracle. Still the skipping shaman from suburban New Jersey.
So there I am, sitting on an uptown-bound 4 train but peering through a lenticular lens: it’s 1975. There’s a scrawny girl; corn-fed and grass-finished. A blue-collar girl of 20 walking head down at a fast clip into November winds with a curtain of hair that shudders and jumps. There’s a first pressing of Horses with a b/w cover photo by Robert Mapplethorpe and 4 beautiful boys on the verso under her arm. This LP, bought in a rush just around the corner, and now she’s late (again) for work. She’s got a guard job at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. The 4-year art school next door to the MIA has stopped making any sense so faretheewell to that BFA. But getting so high just staring at the hard thrusting triptych of Max Beckman’s “Blindman’s Buff” or that Otto Dix, a blue-veined ghost of a young girl and her ivory plum pudenda, looking like she’d just been pried from a frozen lake, still makes sense. The hot-colored, radiantly naked Bonnards work their logic, too. She devours all. Looks and looks as slivers of poems get written in the white corners of those calm galleries. Elliptical exhortations are squirreled away in the pilled pockets of some strange boy’s Holy Communion pants from Veteran’s Thrift. Always hungry, always in rapture. She packs a walkie-talkie that drags the woolly pants down into her clippity cloppity clogs as she moves pale-eyed and wide open.
Just another mess of inchoate and recursive longing wandering in the wrinkled white shirt she wears on the job. She’s living the Bukowski life in a dog brown 3-story boarding house run by a widow in a Dacron wig. Junkie wannabes or blackout drinkers and their gamine girlfriends fill every floor. There’s an ancient Cassandra living in the attic who screams curses whenever she descends the stairs, there’s a little mink-colored bat hanging in the communal bathroom, and there’s the long-legged cipher of an ex-boyfriend who sometimes shares her bed. He pisses in the pink kitchenette sink when he’s too loaded on Jack and beers to make it to the toilet down the hall but he’s brought his dinky stereo in a box so why complain.
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