Wild Moon Symphony
An interview with Jimmy Warner
By J. Allison Marlowe
Jimmy Warner's Home Page
Allison: As I look over your web site again, I am almost overwhelmed as to where to start . . . which talent do I interview? Which of your talents do you enjoy the most?
Jimmy Warner: It took a great deal of self analysis to realize that art and music were my father's idea. He wanted me to be like him and use my artistic eye to earn a living - commercial art, design, advertising, drafting, whatever. He thought music was something you did to ease the week of tension you built up from doing something horribly difficult with art.
My mother was a typist and encouraged me to write although I could never learn to type. I have done so much with these hands that they are becoming more difficult to use. When I was thirty, my mom sent me a box of everything I had ever written, and thus, another saga began.
Art, music and writing have always been the troika of my existence.
Exhibiting, painting, drafting, paste-up, technical illustration, during the week, playing on weekends, usually out of town, and stealing a few hours up late to write it all down. I enjoyed writing about my musical jaunts more than living them. And I love to illustrate all my misadventures with images that capture the mood.
Allison: Have you had showings with your art work? Tell me a little more about being a painter.
I studied painting at V.C.U. '63-68, took an elective in TV production at BU and graduated 1970. I really wanted to see my images pouring out of that picture tube, like stained glass. But I had to wait 30 years for PC's and the Internet to see it happen.
Meanwhile I found the Boston School, Romantic Abstraction movement, Okay, mini movement, and joined them. We painted huge 20 and 30 ft. canvases, all abstract styles from minimal to expressionistic (maximal). We had two shows in the fall of 71. Later I exhibited with Boston Visual Arts Union, two shows, won 2nd prize for works on paper, 1973. Philip Trumbo invited, insisted on my showing in Richmond so he blitzed the local Biograph theater with monstrous paintings at dizzying heights. The newspaper misspelled my name. I no longer enjoy that particularly frantic scene. I continue to paint for myself and friends, and take on commissions and bizarre projects.
Allison: When I read your poetry, I often imagine you playing your saxophone on stage in some smoky-bluesy bar, looking out over the room, formulating the next poem in your mind as you play. How long have you been a musician?
Jimmy Warner: I have been a weekend warrior since age 16, doing everything from kid stuff, to dance clubs, to country clubs, to studio work. I toured one season with Penguin / Coaster, Ted Harper. In Richmond I worked with The Robert Pecht Orchestra. Bobby can drop more names than I can. I have not played these past two years because of my health.
Allison: What is your passion?
Jimmy Warner: My passion tends to be anything mental that is difficult to understand (short of driving myself crazy)and difficult to do (short of hurting myself). Seven years ago I chose to investigate symbolism. Before that it was grand symphonic writing, and before that, barrooms. Having made the trip to hell (one of the lower barrooms) and back I saw that ancient mythological trips to the underworld actually made sense. Joseph Campbell (Transformations of Myth...) was like one of those lantern carrying figures for me. My other favorite on the subject of myth and symbolism are Joseph Warren Beach and John Senior. When you have a week Ill tell you about Giordano Bruno. I believe I already babbled on about the 2nd century Magus, Corpus Hermeticum, Neo-Platonism, Medici and Ficino, Gorfarius's illustrations, Tarocchi pastimes and the resurrected Cabala.
Allison: Yes, I think you did mention those subjects. My head is still spinning from the enormous amount of knowledge you have on the history of Tarot. The cards you have designed are truly beautiful. Your astrology readings are not a novice venture. They are intricate and detailed, another facet of Jimmy Warner unveiled.
You have written numerous songs and short stories and at least 8 volumes of poetry. The opulence of your language is reminiscent of Kerouac. His poetry and prose have that jazzy flowing never-stopping magical way of making picture after picture in every line. I have a quote by him that says "Work from the pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea." This is how your writing strikes me. How do you come up with all those metaphors?
Jimmy Warner: I keep a journal of remarks, lines, quips, ad jingles, news comments, Dan Rather-isms, notes from whatever book I've been reading, song lyrics, the gist of a magazine article, pieces of weather reports, CNN-isms, web site vagaries, Faith Popcorn-isms, jokes lost on the GP, MTV teen humor, the dark side of Swing magazine, E-mail, daily epistles and corollaries, computer shop talk, and when she lets me I quote my wife.
The technique of paraphrasing other authors has been called, "taking dictation". Of course the journal notes must in some way trigger memories, dreams, and nightmares of my own past experience. They must reflect my feelings about the process of creation and spiritual purpose. The scorpion that I am, needs to encode all things meaningful so as not to be completely obvious. For example I use the Bill & Monica mess, talking points, tie counting and word definitions such that they become occasional threads of a darker tapestry in the poem of the surveillance guy. The darkest country is himself, not nearly as well explored or embraced as his voyeurism. This character is based on several actual acquaintances.
After about six to twelve pages of that, which could be weeks or months, I usually burst into poetry. I try to connect the dots in my journal by making spiritual correspondences: As in poetry, so the world. As in the world, so in poetry. Et voila, Magic, the kind you can see. The results may take three hours to a week and I love to revise yearly.Vol.8 After the CometWriting can be a time capsule, a piece of cultural preservation hoping to reach the future. The spark of an idea is powered by reinvention, renewal, and a brave new twist. While tradition is nice, exploration is better. The tentative grasp of the search is more Compelling than the patent response.
Allison: You told me a story about reading some poetry for a Richmond "coffee house." Could you tell me that story for the interview?
Jimmy Warner: The "coffee house," anonymously refers to some friends (the management) of a local coffee house, where I made a subtle protest.
The focus of the evening's entertainment was the reading and recitation of foreign language poetry, which at this particular "coffee house" is something Charley the Tuna might do to show good taste. Since the speakers were not quite up to the challenge of translating their lofty poetry, I decided that there should be at least one sane moment of reasonable discourse, communication and yes, laughter. I waited at some length for my moment, introduced myself, and described the poems I would recite. The first, I informed them, I had learned as a student of the Russian language in college and had memorized the spoken word performance of Yevgeiny Yevtushenko, reciting 'winter,' a children's poem by Alexander Fet. I gave it my best Russian, then translated it. They loved it. The second was in Portuguese, but I confessed that I had not studied the language. I also did not give the title or the author, because that would have given away its punch. I told them it was a Portuguese love poem. After reciting three verses and a chorus I gave the translation: "Tall and tan and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema goes walking..."
They loved it.
Jimmy Warner: As my friends reminded me this season in a recent e-mail,
took their wagon wheels inside their houses,
lashed them with torches and hoisted them up
in the hope they would not be disappointed.
Today we mimic the operation of the sun
To Allison, thank you for your generous and attentive interest.
All contents of this page are property of J. Allison Marlowe and respective authors
Warner Design, 2016