Prologue: 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. It’s the quite 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 writings 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 though 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 night in 2000 Jeff Callaway was arrested for contraband on a lonely & lush stretch of Hwy 175 outside of Athens, Texas. 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 the profundity and peace they can awaken in 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 and longest time in 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. In 2005 on route to a reading amongst fellow Texas Poets at Forest Fest in La Mesa 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 unspoken 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 5 chapbooks and one compilation, Hotter than a Four Balled Tomcat, Rode Hard and Put up Wet, Satori in Paris Texas, On the Outskirts of Madness and Behind the Eight-ball. Party Fouls and Other Atrocities is the ﬁrst compilation and contains Jeff’s voyant poems that peer, frolic and weep into the darker side of life in Henderson County. Many revel in the sublime of 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 an incarnate collection of bounty & schisms, beauty & horrors, and glory & hypocrisies. So as you embark, get ready to get low, get high and cry out the giant “yawp” into the East Texas night. – John-Paxton Gremillion (Co-Founder)