Thursday, September 9, 2010

Remembering Paul Mariah — Part One.

Paul Mariah (1937-1996) is one of several forgotten San Francisco poets, and it was thus something of a surprise to discover his Spoon Ring poem in an anthology published this year entitled Persistent Voices: Poetry by Writers Lost to AIDS.

To make a spoon ring, you lop off the business end of a silver or silver-plated spoon and bend the upper handle around something hard and hammer it into a ring. I suppose the idea is to make a ring of high-quality metal without spending money.

It seems to be an ongoing occupation. I was messing around in the sidewalk artists’ stalls at the foot of Market Street recently while waiting for the 31–Balboa to make one of its infrequent appearances when I came across a craftsperson who had a whole table filled with shiny spoon rings, which gave me the idea to post Paul’s poem as it appeared in the AIDS anthology.

It refers to his imprisonment in the mid- or early 60’s at Menard Correctional Center in Illinois, where he ridiculously served time for 1) having gay sex, and 2) doing so with someone under 18. The poem describes how spoons would disappear from the prisoners’ mess hall and re-emerge for use as newly-created knives, or else as lovers’ rings.

Rich Tagett, who ran Manroot Press together with Paul, informed me that this was one of three poems on the subject, that it was originally published in The Spoon Ring by Peter Kilgore, Contraband Press, Portland, Maine, 1973. It was republished from the original with a prelude about Paul’s prison experience and a photo of the author upon release by Manroot Books, 1974. It was anthologized in Angels of the Lyre, 1975, and appeared in Paul’s selected poems This Light Will Spread, 1978.

This poem adheres to the standards established by the California School of Perceptual Palpability.

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