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Tapping My Own Phone

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"Ron Whitehead is energetic Bodhisattvic poetic spirt!"
   --Allen Ginsberg

"I have long admired Ron Whitehead. He is crazy as nine loons, and his poetry is a dazzling mix of folk wisdom and pure mathematics."
   --Hunter S. Thompson

Other reviews: The Mining Co., 6/9/98

Audio files | Companion Book | Marathon Tour

by Paul McDonald
(an editted version of this appeared the Louisville Courier Journal, October 25, 1998)

Ron Whitehead does not sleep.  Anyone who has known the Louisville, Kentucky 
Poet or had any contact with him over the last seven years knows this, and 
instead of beating his chest bloody and whining about it, he celebrated his 
lack of sleep with over 300 INSOMNIACATHONS, or marathon poetry readings, 
that lasted 24, 36, 48, even 72 hours in places as diverse as New York 
University, The Eisenhower Center at the University of New Orleans, and the 
Meer dan Woorden Festival in the Netherlands.

When that wasn't enough to keep him occupied he decided to try his hand at 
publishing, putting out rare viable poetic copy not only of the Louisville 
Community, but of cutting edge authors from all walks of life:  Professors, 
like Douglas Brinkley, author of "The Majic Bus."  Spiritual Icons, like the 
Dali Lama and Thomas Merton.  Nobel Laureates like Seamus Heaney and 
politicians like President Jimmy Carter.

This past winter, it looked as if Ron Whitehead would finally get a decent 
nights sleep as he quit his teaching job, unplugged his phone, turned off his 
computer, gathered his family around him, and began, " go underground."

Yet, Whitehead still refuses to acknowledge the duality of consciousness, and 
so his dreams have merged with the waking state.  This usually results in 
madness.  But Whitehead ascribes to the philosophy put forth by Salavor Dali:

                "The only difference between me and a madman
                 is that I am not insane..."

So even in the seemingly secure environment of home and hearth, Ron Whitehead 
has managed to articulate his dreams in a new spoken word CD entitled "Tapping 
My Own Phone..."

Allen Ginsberg once called Ron Whitehead an energetic poetic Bodhisattva.  The 
title piece delves into the price one must to pay to maintiain those 
Bodhisattvic Vows:

                "every time I hear an airplane or helicopter 
                or car door slam I know The Secret Service the FBI
                and the IRS Swat Teams have finally arrived
                cause I published a poem by the President of
                The United States of America without his
                fully conscious permission...
       yes I've become a little jumpy
                but I'm staying one step ahead tapping my
                own phone videotaping my every move
                watching myself day and night replaying
                the tapes cause I got a bad bad bad case
                of the deep fear paranoia anxiety despair
                and suicide blues..."

It is no secret that Ron Whitehead has a love for the Beat Generation.  Three 
poems are homages to that movement. "San Francisco, 1993" is about his visit 
to writer Lawrence Ferlinghetti;  "Calling The Toads" about his association 
with the late William S. Burroughs; and "Asheville" a stream of consciousness 
ode originally written in 1994 and revised upon the death of Allen Ginsberg.
The Beat influence is most noticeable in "GIMME BACK MY WIG: The Hound Dog 
Taylor Blues"(written after officiating at a basketball game where a spectator 
who didn't like Whitehead's calls or the length of his hair attempted to rip 
his head off), "Shithouse Manifesto," and "Without Blinking."  But even in 
those works the influence is secondary.  Most of the poems are drawn directly 
from the experience of living in Kentucky. The most riveting being "Jasper 
Joyce" written about his grandfather, a coalminer and Pentacostal Holy Roller 
Snake Handler.  In this piece Whitehead probes the fear and wonder a child 
feels upon seeing his grandfather speak in tongues and take up serpents.

Whitehead begins the CD with the poem "The Bone Man," a solemn shamanic 
invocation, and then, with each succeeding piece, shifts into a high-powered 
throttle of bardic recitative, drawing the listener deep into the poetic 
The intensity and energy vary enough to keep the listener intrigued.  Not only 
do these works soar like an Amiri Baraka Rant, they can take on a Zen-like 
subtlety most evident in the works "Netherlands,""You Grow Wild In My Heart," 
and "Listen."

The CD comes full circle from the beginning strains of fear and paranoia to 
the resolute conviction of "I Will Not Bow Down/Pledge of Allegiance":    

               "I will not Bow Down America
                I will not Bow Down
                        to your Government
                        to your Religion...
                I will not Bow Down America
                        to your invasion of privacy
                        to your moral absolutes...
                        to your Assassins...
                        to your attempt to make me the model citizen
                                of Your State of Your Church...
                        I pledge allegiance
                        to the woman I love
                        and to our children...
                        to my friends and allies
                        my guides and angels
                        both seen and unseen...
                        I pledge alligence to Resurrection of the 

"Tapping My Own Phone" is an important audio document of a restless poet who 
will not sleep and who will not be silenced.  

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