PARTY FOULS & OTHER ATROCITIES (PROLOGUE by John-Paxton Gremillion

On a summer’s day if you head east from Waco on Highway 31

you’ll notice a change when you get near the Trinity River.

The open skied landscape of blackland cotton fields and

mesquite trees turns into a land of proud tall oaks that

hem the horizon.

 

By the time you reach Malakoff, a grander cathedral of life

surrounds and its lush abundance offers the promise of

Eden’s embrace.

 

But when the sun sets, the summer heat swells from the

ground and closes your attention from Eden’s promise to

just the beads of sweat rolling down your skin. The hopeful

proud branches to the sun bleed into a black silhouette

cage against the dying light. Confidence withers and the

light dies.

 

Its replaced with a particular fear and loneliness that to

this day I can only attribute to this area, but perhaps is

common to all hot wooded horizonless places, a desperate

feeling only partially washed away by music, inebriation &

passion.

 

You’ve entered an East Texas night. When the civilized

white columns of the Baptist church and Courthouse shine

less bright, other forces creep up from the rolling muddy

waters of the Trinity and in from the whispering stoic

pines around the Neches.

 

It’s the gentle hum of registers in Caney City when

Henderson County is buying their beer and liquor. It’s the

boisterous and seditious rancor of a bar-b-que joint in

Moore’s Station or a lakeside bar in Gun Barrel City. It’s

the defiant and reckless whiskey fueled Saturday night at

Coal Miners, the debauched drug fueled dalliances at

Tyler’s Time Out Club or the drunken fistfights in dark

fields around bonfires. Its the quiet wind and starry night

along a forgotten backroad.

 

And then the sun rises.

 

From this clamor betwixt light and dark the blood and sinew

of Jeff Callaway and his poets soul was born.

 

Origins of Party Fouls:

 

Jeff’s spirit encapsulates both the hope and the doubt of

this place in East Texas. Jeff’s mother was a schoolteacher

and in high school he both played football and was the

senior class vice president. But while he thrived in the

above ground world of social clubs and strode in the life

of an all-American, the pull of the dark wilds captivated

his poet’s heart like a siren song.

 

The mystery of the dark and nostalgic loneliness underneath

the surface of the everyday was too enticing not to dive

into. Around him he found the writhings of Ginsberg’s Howl

swirling not off the streets of New York in 1955 but off

the blacktop backroads of East Texas in 1995. The drink,

the drugs, and wild spirited friends were all willing

participants to his existential explorations into the

infinities of raindrops and hot embraces. In bars and

forgotten corners too many heroes and madmen lived amongst

one another with stories untold. Tearing through Beat

writings and by connection Rimbaud 19th century poetry and

letters, he took these words to heart:

 

I say it is necessary to be a voyant, make oneself a

voyant. The Poet makes himself a voyant by a long,

immense and rational derangement of all the senses.

All the forms of love, suffering, and madness. He

searches himself. He exhausts all poisons in himself

and keeps only their quintessences. He is responsible

for humanity, for animals even. He will have to make

his inventions smelt, touched, and heard. A language

must be found.

– Rimbaud 1871

 

Jeff dove deeply into Rimbaud’s voyant and the road to

Party Fouls and Other Atrocities was begun.

 

On a warm spring day in 2000 Jeff Callaway was arrested

for contraband on a lonely & lush stretch of Hwy 175

outside of Athens, TX. His feet still wet with dew. He was

23. The prohibited possessions he carried are common in the

fertile fields of East Texas, spread like manna amongst

lightly forested cow pastures. Psilocybin mushrooms.

 

The simplicity of this fungi belie their potential to

delight, to dazzle and to madden. They can both broaden and

bewitch the mind but one cannot ignore what profundity they

can awaken to a searching soul.

 

For this fungus transgression Jeff was immediately wedded

by jail and probation to the hard times of Cedar Creek

Lake’s backwaters for the remainder of his youth and

eventually hard time in the Texas Penitentiary System.

Before his last longest time in State prison came due, Jeff

skipped out on his court date and escaped to Austin,

Texas’s cosmopolitan oasis, to ply the ears of the

receptive with his hard wrought words. He found mentorship

with fellow poets, came to parting terms with his

addictions and found listeners amongst the city’s eclectic

rabble. He also found his voice and his language. It was on

route to reading amongst fellow Texas Poets at Forest Fest

in La Mesa, Texas that the law caught up to him outside of

San Angelo.

 

Jeff was now a redeemed man drug back into his past for his

crimes of possession. But this time Jeff’s feet were dry

and he went back in with his eyes wide open.

 

In prison he honed and rewrote his poems, many from memory

and perfected his delivery to his fellow inmates. He wrote

new poems of East Texas and new poems of Austin. To his

cellmate he became “The Poet”. Those that listened were

stunned that something as antique as poetry could give

voice to the celebrations and tragedies from their

anonymous paths. His dark and light poems gave untold and

unsanctified experiences a value in a land where the

sufferance of silence rages king.

 

Texas Outlaw Press was started by Jeff and myself during his first time in the TDCJ system and went into full gear during his last and longest stint in prison, the summer of 2005. We published five chapbooks; Hotter than a Four Balled Tomcat, Rode Hard and Put up Wet, Satori in Paris Texas, On the Outskirts of Madness and Behind the Eightball. Party Fouls and Other Atrocities is the first compilation of  voyant poems that peer, frolic and weep into the darker side of life in Henderson County. Many revel in sublime friendship,  raucous camaraderie and ecstatic love. Scattered in are a couple of ribald and inglorious poems about Austin’s environs.

 

Party Fouls and Other Atrocities is the incarnate of this

lands bounty and schisms, beauty and horrors, glory and

hypocrisies. So as you embark, get ready to get low, get

high and cry out the“barbaric yawp”into the East Texas night.

 

– John-Paxton Gremillion (Texas Outlaw Press Co-Founder)

Click here to buy PARTY FOULS & OTHER ATROCITIES by Jeff Callaway!

 

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