Mark Hartenbach is the kind of poet where it's best to let the poems speak for themselves. For my money, he is at the top of the list of poets writing today. And, after listening to tapes of his songs, I'd say he rates as a top-rank composer as well.
Jennifer Bosveld of Pudding House Press
recognized this talent, and she backed up her recognition with action--in a little over a year she has published thirteen Hartenbach books of poetry, and recently she released Mark's first novella, Confessions of an American Garbage Head.
Here's Jennifer's introduction to Garbage Head:
After a year of poetry books, poetry chapbooks, and broadsides by Mark Hartenbach, Pudding House is stepping beyond our norm and releasing a novella by this amazing writer who lives in obscurity in a diminishing Ohio river town. Artist, writer, musician and composer, Mark Hartenbach is a renaissance man with a large following. But no one can come close enough to get the surety that what he's writing is fact or fiction, or anything close to autobiographical. He would say it doesn't matter, it's all story. Here in June of 2006 still another genre is released to Hartenbach's ever-growing reader base. And more poetry, prose poems, and songs are just around the corner.
Below is a partial list of Pudding-House Hartenbach titles and sample poems from each book. All books are chaps unless otherwise indicated.
You can order these books by mail from:
Pudding House Publications
81 Shadymere Lane
Columbus, OH 43213
or off the web at: www.puddinghouse.com
Book of Resurrection ($10)
“excess of sorrow laughs, excess of joy weeps”-wm. blake
when i’m in a manic state
peaking on chemical chance
i feel i’m staking out new territory
sacred ground with an incontestable world-view
where preconceived notions
can’t lock me in
until imagination atrophies
where i can debunk any theory
that the order was established
long before i arrived
where no one is concerned
with how deep i dig
or whether i dig at all
& they couldn’t stop me anyway
unfortunately it leaves me
& that exhaustion
inevitably feeds my despair
Greatest Hits ($8.95)
only the clock is illuminated
so we shackle ourselves to time
burn another totem
make another wish
brace for another fall
dangle cartoonishly from huge hands
dance to death rattle of classic thought
practice what they preach
by the numbers pinpoint control
sticky strips of permission
fleeting moments should not be caged
& put on display
few confound time
because few will try
there is poetry in numbers
though most are afraid to acknowledge it
or else they’re mired
in manipulative nostalgia
watch the spider tackle mathematics
& the sparrow obliterate myth of mechanics
right place, wrong time is headstone hoodoo
designed to maintain
the so-called natural order of things
Beneath the Valley of the Blue Eyed Boys ( $8.95)
one hundred-five degrees & rising above black
veil between life & death, to a world of porcelain
gloss & gelatin consistency. where television
squeezes out ghosts & school books are burned
in effigy. a world of arrogant isolation & super-
imposed wholeness. running the gamut from
lamentation to ecstasy in under ten seconds. too
new to ever be taken for granted. too high to be
mistaken for even a bird. like looking through
a view-master times ten.
i was exorcised of the ordinary at an early age
by feverish hallucinations that kept the rest at a
quarantined distance. blessed me with an
ambidextrous logic, a precocious insight into
abstract thought & given freedom of expression.
my frames of reference stretched wide open to
surrealistic possibility & letting me riff off not
only the serious & absurd, but also the hidden
& unnoticed. letting me test the limitations of
rational thought & correct punctuation.
but it also gave me an exaggerated, hyper-
sensitive response to the dull, innocuous
sounds & colors. an at times overwhelming
counterpoint. little tolerance for lowest common
denominator & banal cultural checkpoints or
part black elk, part john the revelator, part absent-
minded trickster. all attempts to indoctrinate me
into the ways of never-ever land failed. my roots
weren’t all that deep, but my antenna more than
made up the distance.
March (perfect bound book) ($14.00)
i’m looking for a biblical passage, or a small loan.
something to get me through till spring. as usual
i don’t know where to begin. this can be a heavy
cross to bear. i can’t ever remember not knowing
the dice were loaded. this has nothing to do with
transcendence & everything to do with crossroads.
i have enough irrational numbers that i’d sink like
a stone, but not enough to pay the rent.
i was once a whiz kid with ceiling potential. now
it’s blue limitations plastered on every wall, & a
cold floor that could be sold out from under me
at any moment. sometimes all it takes is one
wrong turn—especially when you have nobody
to bail you out. i plunge my hand in haphazardly.
i never have the patience to wait until i think the
moment is right—i haven’t got that kind of time.
Postcards from the Bunker ($8.95)
a porcelain bluebird precariously perched
on the shoulder of a man with a limp
i move much more deliberately now, even though
my mind still calls for drastic action sometimes.
when i hit my knees now i do it figuratively. there’s
no need for that sort of drama anymore. i hug my
arms tight against my chest, assuming the junkie
position. after all, there is no wine or bread waiting
for me & my hair shirt came unraveled long ago—
though at times i do wonder if i followed the
thread, would i get past theoretical reasoning, or
will i only make myself dizzy. does a revolving
cast qualify as gray area or will i have to resort to
more creative mathematics. what does jurisdiction
have to do with penitence anyway. i used to insist
on all the details, but now i settle for a glimpse
every so often. a few words of recognition is quite
enough to validate my increasingly erratic behavior
The Most Beautiful Man in the World ( $8.95)
my face is stuck to the pillow. every quarter inch of flesh that i extricate
burns & stings like hot quarters. i know exactly where the pain comes
from—though i’d been in an agitated, manic state the night before.
eventually i’d downed three quarters of a bottle of bargain whiskey
before i commenced to carving—but i remember every moment of
i don’t like to even run my finger along the edge of a knife or razor, though
i appreciate the beauty of a well-made knife. i can barely handle a paper
cut without a histrionic dance. i’ve never been a cutter—that is, those with
mental health issues that feel the need to punish something deep inside
by slicing their skin, usually their arms.
with one eye lifted high enough to survey most of my room, i
see the six inch blade that i’d recently had sharpened, still lying open
on the small stand next to the bed. it’s sitting in a puddle of blood.
it’s dark & makes me think of animals. those gutted squirrels that laid
on newspaper on a friend’s kitchen table when i was a kid. they were
barely a step up from the gutter. nobody could persuade me to taste a
bite—no matter how drenched in ketchup or steak sauce. despite their
ugly, rat-like faces i always felt an overwhelming sadness &
compassion for the poor creatures. this couldn’t be mentioned of course.
Land of Nod ($8.95)
the world (or should i say one of its representatives)
dangles riches in front of me
brushing against my bruised hands
but each time i reach out
to grab a few dollars worth
it’s still inches away
it seems i move too slowly to catch anything
i have this mule that i call the world
& that i insist on carrying everywhere i go
two worlds that deny one another’s birthright
yet both have me
where they can manipulate me
both have me
where they can dream on my shoulder
Carp Head Replica ($8.95)
flower with severed limbs
it’s so hard not to give myself away. it’s terribly
difficult to try to explain what i mean when i make
such a fuss. i reckon something had to give eventually.
so why not throw it down when it comes up initially.
why fight it. it’s time consuming & there’s no way
you can’t lose. the only way to close the gap, even a
little, is self-destructive voodoo that might give a
glimpse before the ground is pulled out from under
us. as soon as we cut through one link in the chain
another immediately replaces it. as soon as we get
one unpleasant memory rubbed out another is
waiting silently to takes its number. it’s all futile & makes for
bad comedy—these exorbitant superhuman requests that
never stop screaming through our skulls. maybe exhaustion
is the answer. but i’m too tired to think about that right now.
Black Notebook (book of aphorisms) ($8.95)
theory is watching paperwork to see if it sprouts wings.
the void is promiscuous.
a crucifix is a smoking gun, not a fashion accessory.
sophistication is for those who have little else to offer.
art is the unnecessary formed into something indispensable to the soul.
Confessions of an American Garbage Head (novella) ($10.00)
i’m trying to be quiet as possible as i squint to read each
bottle in the medicine cabinet. i’m searching for something—
anything to help me forget. that might sound like a poor excuse,
even a cop out, to be sneaking through a friend’s meds—but
in the world i live in i know they do the same to me. does this
make it right? of course not. but it’s survival. if you have a
conscience—then you better get out quickly before you’re
spit out with pieces of black liver & whatever a cottonmouth
can cough up.
i always keep my stash well concealed. i go to ridiculous
lengths to justify my paranoia. paranoia is a word that’s
bandied about a lot in my circle. it’s become such an ambiguous
word that it can stretch far past arm’s length.
i find a vial of percocets. there are only four left—so i take two.
this seems fair enough. it seems like a safe number. my
arithmetic is on a floating scale that corresponds with my
need. mostly it continues to rise so it becomes necessary
to get more creative with the numbers. i was good with
numbers at one time. now it’s difficult to keep the columns
straight in my mind.
i close the cabinet & catch a look at myself in the mirror.
i don’t like what i see. but i didn’t like what i saw before
i became immersed in this ugly lifestyle of deceit & betrayal.
that’s what backed me into this dark corner of the world. at
least what i’ve convinced myself has put me here. it paradoxically
helps me cope with the self-loathing that comes on hurting with every
downside of the high.
Other Hartenbach books available from other presses:
Unless otherwise indicated, order from the author at:
636 Avondale St.
E. Liverpool, OH 43920
Add $3 postage for the first book, 50 cents for each additional book.
giants, windmills & snake eyes ($7)
smiling dog press/9875 south fritz rd./maple city,MI/49664
appalachian koans ($3)
peshekee press-tandava poetry/box 689/eastpointe, MI/48021)
The following titles are available from non compos mentis press:
a flock of blackbirds in potter’s field ($3)
zen bastards, black cats & death sentences ($3)
appalachian book of the dead ($3)
book of the ecstatic [pseudonym: moki baba] ($2)
voice of america [pseudonym: marko x] ($2)
a jeremiad for the fallen sparrow [ishmael doe] ($3)
the impossibility of crows [ishmael doe] ($3)
prayer of an infidel [as ishmael doe] ($3)
thirteen ways of looking at a crow [as ishmael doe] ($3)
the book of immaculate misconceptions ($3)
the incorruptible remains of an excommunicated saint ($3)
when the crow flies home to purgatory county ($3)
monster poems ($5)
institution blues ($3)
the insignificance of being marko x [marko x] ($2)
insurrectionist manifesto [marko x] ($2)
appalachian mule manifesto [marko x] ($2)
outsider/individual/visionary manifestos [marko x] ($3)
the ascension of saint ishmael ($3)
sermons, meditation, lamentations & ecstasies of saint ishmael ($3)
blue guitar ($3)
shake off the flesh ($3)
1954 (with ron androla) ($3)
illuminations (with larry tomoyasu) ($3)
small box ($3)
mantras of infinite bliss ($3)
yeah (with larry tomoyasu) ($3)
thirteen red ($3)