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
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
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 &
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
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!