Ray McNiece with Major Poets

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Ray with major poets


Click LINKS below to go to the poet on this page: 

Yevtushenko      Ferlinghetti      Kerouac House      Bly

The McNiece and Yevtushenko Tour

Photo, Ray and Yevgeny at Bratsk Station, Yevtushenko's famous poem and book...

?In Russia a poet is more than a poet.? - - YevgenyYevtushenko
Ray and the legendary Yevtushenko at Bratsk Station

On the Road in Russia,
by Ray McNiece

"As an American poet accustomed to meager readership and small audiences for public readings, I traveled to Russia with Yevgeny Yevtushenko in July of 2001 anticipating, if not the legendary soccer-stadium size crowds of the ?thaw,? at least a deeper and more widespread appreciation for poetry by everyday people. Though the flame of poetry has been somewhat dampened by the advent of consumer/pop culture, the average Russian still has a connection to poetry that can only be called soulful. The tour proved to be an arduous ? the Russian infrastructure is slowly crumbling ? but wondrous journey that revealed how pervasively poetry imbues the national character.  After all, for nearly a century the poets were, in the face of the official social realist truth, speaking the simple human truths ? the truth between the lines.  For the people that truth was as sustaining as good brown bread.  One can live by it. They have not forgotten that.      

The occasion of our tour was Yevtushenko?s annual birthday performance at the Moscow Polytech and the opening of the Poet?s House, a museum in his childhood home at the Siberian crossroads of Zima Junction.  Our cast included a international line-up of poets, critics, and Yevtushenkologists representing Poland, France, Nicaragua, the United States and the whole of Russia from St. Petersburg to Kamchatka.  Over the course of two weeks I participated in a dozen readings, four tv/radio interviews and a panel discussion, ?Poetry in the 21st Century.?  The one constant on the trip can be summed up by Gogol?s quote from the last century, ?the two problems with Russia are the roads and the food.?  That being said, the Ray McNiece and Yevgeny on stage performing in Siberiahospitality and poetic intelligence of the people more than made up for any inconvenience."
To continue and read the full text of the article with many additional photos, click to go to Articles in Ray's Place...

Written by Ray McNiece, published first in Ohio Writer Magazine in edited form, 2001.

Siberia:  Yevtushenko with his hard hat, Ray on guitar, both performing "The Workers' Song" ("I ain't got no work.."), a protest song on the LTV steel plant closing. 


Ray's "RESIDENCY" at the Jack Kerouac House, Florida

                                          (ray's poem below)

     "I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till I drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion."   
 - - Jack Kerouac,  On the Road

Photo:  Ray McNiece standing on the porch of the Kerouac House
Ray on the porch of the Kerouac House in Florida
 where Jack lived when On the Road rose to prominence in 1957

Jack Kerouac:  Jack Kerouac died in Florida in 1969 at the age of 47. He came to represent to the world "the Beat Generation", a mantle he loathed, writing in the late 40's, the 50's, and 60's. A poet, a writer, a wanderer, a traveler, he crossed the country and he crossed the world. Friend and compatriot of Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady, and William S. Burroughs, he is most famous for the gem of "On the Road", written in only 3 weeks, coming to fame and attention in 1957. Other works of note include:  The Dharma Bums (praised by Henry Miller), The Subterraneans, Desolation Angels, Big Sur. From his modest beginnings in Lowell, Massachusetts, he has risen to the level of legend. 

Photo:  Ray McNiece by the photo poster of Jack Kerouac

Photo:  Ray McNiece in Jack Kerouac's bedroom
Jack's bedroom, with another poet sitting on the bed, the golden scripture unrolling...



        Ray in the living room, by a poster of Jack...             

Letter Left on the Porch of the Kerouac House

So as I sit still on the porch 
in the warm breeze cooling 
the outskirts of downtown
Orlando, gray-green moss swaying 
from this 300 year old live oak 
like American bhikku beards 
speaking the long vowels 
only the stretched ears of a buddha 
can hear, I ponder one word 
I could give at the end of the road.

one word as small as the seed 
I once spit from this porch.
Smell that orange blossoms wafting 
below the skyline of high-rise banks, 
the tallest adorned with black horns,
the white church spires beneath  
reflecting in the glass boxes 
here on the whirlpooling edge 
of the Disney vortex like the wheel 
of samsara that spins all matter out.

I was poor when I came here 
and never really made enough 
dough for more than a good bender 
though the estate sold the original 
teletype manuscript of On the Road 
to a pizza mogul for 2.6 million.
I never genuflected at the altar 
of the almighty dollar when I went
down on my knees praying at the end.

But there is no end, only the golden 
scripture unrolling and outlasting 
the teletype, the live oak, and the horned
cash cow. What is the commerce 
of eternity?  Ask Walt Disney 
who plunked down his dream 
of automated fun in the middle
of panther extincting swampland 
that became an empire so rich
he could freeze-dry his remains 
under the magic kingdom.

what would Walt Whitman say,
who praised the live oak arms 
upraised in steady ablutions,
as he hands out one flower 
with every Sunday newspaper
he?s selling at the intersection 
of Colonial and I-4 as America 
rushes by him towards Autogeddon?

The same meat wheel spun them 
both to this sense realm.
The black and white cat sitting
on the car top lives also no less, 
nor the chameleon scuttling over
dry leaves stopping to tilt its head
and bat a translucent lidded eye 
in a wink of awakening I saw
as the world refracted in a drop
of sweat dangling my eyebrow, 
catching on one lash, the oceanic
prism of light that flesh is heir to. 
Open your eyes and close them ? 
being and nothingness in a nutshell, 
but for that one drop at heart 
that booze could not blot out.
Those days I would shower 
six times a day and prayed 
rain would cleanse the ignorant 
steam of mind, listening to it fall, 
that blatting of motion and stillness.

What good that teletype roll 
of the road, or even this letter,
a goodbye as soon as a heads-up 
howdy do, going, gone -- condensed 
to a postcard of live oak and shack ?
Wish you were here.  Guess what,
dharma bum, you are! And the word 
that bubbles up from the bottom 
of Lake Adair fed, this clear bubble 
of breath bursting empty sounds?still.

For additional poems and a published article on Ray's stay at the Kerouac House,
click here to go  to> Ray's Place


Ray with Lawrence Ferlinghetti in Italy and with Italian Poets, and the Tour

Ray in Florence

Ray in the City of Florence, Italy

Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Ray McNiece
 at the opening of City Lights Italia

Ray and Ferlinghetti

City Lights Italia



Poetry and wine at City Lights Italia



Ray McNiece hits his stride at the opening performance.


Ray performs

Ray writing

Poems flowing at the Ponte Vecchio Bridge

Post card

Post cards announcing the Italian tour, a sort of  "Who's Who" of poets from around the world.

Post card tour

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Four poets:  (L to R) Aggie Falk, Jack Hirshman, Ray McNiece, Janine Pommy Vega

Ray and poet friends

Ray and Luigi Greci



Ray sings with the man known as the "Italian Bob Dylan", Luigi Greci, in Vallombrosa. 




Ray McNiece with Robert Bly

Featured speakers Ray McNiece and poet extraordinaire Robert Bly
at the First Coast Conference

Ray with Robert Bly

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