This February I found out about Holy Mountain, a DIY, indie record store here in Tulsa. My intention was to check out their music selection (specifically punk and ska) but instead I gravitated to the zine racks. I hadn’t even picked up a zine before, much less read one, which is odd, given the fact that I am a voracious reader. It’s not as if I had no idea of what they were, I did, but somehow I had never bothered to look into them. Until now that is. Holy Mountain stocked a nice mixture of styles, so I decided this was the time to try a few. But there was one that drew me more than the others, and that was Cometbus #53. Once I brought my zines home, it wasn’t long before I delved into the pages of my first issue of Cometbus and just like that, I was hooked.As soon as I finished Issue 53 I went back to Holy Mountain and bought another issue and then started searching out everything I could about the author, Aaron Cometbus. This hasn’t been that easy. It seems that even though he shares so much of himself in the pages of his zine (and other books he’s written) he also loves his privacy. Given the instant information age we live in, it might seem a bit odd for a writer not to have a website, twitter feed or even a Facebook page with which they could use to alert interested readers when they had something new to offer. Instead he does it the old school way, surprising everybody when he has a newly published zine.
The more I think about his whole process the more I’m convinced that this is a good thing and that perhaps the world needs more of it. After all, it’s quite a different thing to be anticipating something new, rather than knowing exactly when it is indeed coming. It makes me remember my younger days. Since I don’t know when a new issue of Cometbus or a book will be forthcoming, I have been doing the only thing that I can do, that is to go backwards. I am on a quest to locate all the Cometbus back issues I can find.
Besides a few obscure half issues, I have been lucky enough to get my hands on all the issues as far back as #47, as well as the books Double Duce, Add Toner, Despite Everything and I Wish There Was Something That I Could Quit. That brings me to my latest acquisition and the very reason I am writing this article, Last Supper, Aaron Cometbus’ first poetry collection. Before continuing, I feel the need to disclose that I never really “got” poetry when I was growing up. It always seemed to be much ado about meter and couplets and rhyming schemes that bored me to tears. My uneducated opinion was that poetry was brimming with the air of haughtiness, pretension and snobbery. I didn’t get it, there was no appeal for me. It just wasn’t (and still isn’t) my thing. Then in the mid-nineties I discovered what Henry Rollins had been writing and I was blown away. Suddenly this new incarnation of poetry made sense to me. In a strange way it also seemed to validate some of my own writing.
Flash forward twenty years and Aaron Cometbus is writing poetry in that same spirit. What spirit is that? Simply writing in his own straightforward, no nonsense style, describing what goes on around him; the people that he meets or sometimes doesn’t meet, but would like to; the overlooked day to day happenings that go on around him that most people may not notice. The fact that he does this and manages to make it interesting, shows the kind of writing ability that can only draw me in. I cannot stress enough how compelling his writing is for me, it’s hard to put into words. Simply stated if you like the Cometbus zine then more than likely you will also like Last Supper. The only difference is that his poetry is more concise than his zine which isn’t surprising because that’s often the case with poetry when compared to other narrative forms.
Thankfully, there is no haughtiness, pretension and snobbery in Last Supper. No rhyme scheme (at all), no attempt at having the stanzas equal the amount of words or syllables in each one, no attempt to have the lines equal each other in length. Just interesting, thought provoking poems about things that happen in Aaron Cometbus’ life. It doesn’t matter if you agree with his opinion on every subject, I don’t and that’s a good thing, for me there is enough here to keep me coming back to read more of Aaron’s opinions on life. I’ve heard him called a punk rock sociologist and I think that’s true so long as you define punk as looking at things in a different manner, far from the mainstream.
In my opinion the world needs more people unafraid to offer up their take on what goes on in their world and not give a crap what anybody else thinks of it. Aaron Cometbus does just that and will do so as long as he likes, on his own terms, whether you like it or not. His writing seems to have rare characteristic of being cathartic and thought provoking for the author as well as the reader. As for me, I’m still reading, I like what he does and enjoy the feeling of being inspired to do my own thing, which is what makes life worthwhile. Do yourself a favor, check out his writing and see how you feel about it, don’t just take my word for it.
Don Leach started writing his first zine called Exercising Demons this year and he tries to fit podcasting, telling stories, writing songs and writing reviews like this in between his family and his day job. You can find his blog at www.notmovingpictures.blogspot.com. His podcasts are at www.tenfortuesday.podomatic.com and www.notmovingpictures.podomatic.com and his twitter address is @notmovingpics. Getting a copy of Exercising Demons might be had by emailing him at email@example.com.