Tuesday, August 7, 2018

#26 Backstory of the Poem "Devil In the Details" by David Herrle

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***This is the twenty-sixth in a never-ending series called BACKSTORY OF THE POEM where the Chris Rice Cooper Blog (CRC) focuses on one specific poem and how the poet wrote that specific poem.  All BACKSTORY OF THE POEM links are at the end of this piece. 

Title Photo David Herrle was taken in 2012 and given copyright permission from David Herrle for this CRC Blog Post Only.

#26 Backstory of the Poem
“Devil In the Details”
By David Herrle

Can you go through the step-by-step process of writing this poem from the moment the idea was first conceived in your brain until final form?  The main purpose behind Sharon Tate and the Daughters of Joy was to present a digressive, part-serious/part-sarcastic metaphysical forensic about the nature of the destruction of beauty, or about the nature of atrocity in general. So, having sensed (and forced here and there) a contextual relationship among poor Sharon Tate, Queen Marie Antoinette, Jack the Ripper-victim Mary Jane Kelly and, to a lesser degree, Princess de Lamballe and Elizabeth Short (the Black Dahlia), I blasted out a chopped-up disquisition on how beauty, art, envy-driven collectivism, self-destructive democracy and sexual hang-ups swirl together on this blood-drenched planet.

I began everything knowing that I wanted to end everything with a fantastic redemption of Sharon Tate (and Abigail Folger, Jay Sebring and Voytek Frykowski), Antoinette and Mary Kelly, effected by a meta-hero written in my image, but with some Zorro, Scarlet Pimpernel, Charlotte Corday and Humphrey Bogart added in. With that ultimate dramatic destination in mind, I worked out the path to it. “The Devil in the Details” is a sort of coincidental/contextual/interpretive frenzy of both speculation and fact surrounding the Manson Family massacre at Roman Polanski’s Cielo Drive home in 1969.

Where were you when you started to actually write the poem?  And please describe the place in great detail.   Several years have passed since that moment, but I’m fairly sure that I was probably on the ground floor of the Cathedral of Learning on the University of Pittsburgh campus in the Oakland area of Pittsburgh. Oakland has always been a fruitful environment for me, and much of the Sharon Tate book was composed there.

What month and year did you start writing this poem?  Having to guess, I’d say sometime in mid-2012. June or July. 

How many drafts of this poem did you write before going to the final? (And can you share a photograph of your rough drafts with pen markings on it?)  This piece must’ve gone through several iterations, mostly in the process of condensation and thematic grouping. Probably 90 percent of my writing is done via keyboard so I can see close to what the finished printed text will eventually look like. For me, handwriting is mostly relegated to note taking and marginalia. 

Were there any lines in any of your rough drafts of this poem that were not in the final version?  And can you share them with us?  Many lines were cut out by the final draft (which, really, is far from final), but, unless stuff is particularly valuable, I tend to delete for good. (Left:  David Herrle writing on his laptop in 2018.   Copyright permission granted by David Herrle for this CRC Blog Post Only)

What do you want readers of this poem to take from this poem?  A sense of history’s and human existence’s density and interconnectivity, as well as the pleasurable yet problematic ease of binding them in cute little nutshells, precious (as in affected) observations and artistic abstractions. Like the legendary synthesization of so-called Jack the Ripper (Right Top), “The Devil in the Details” (and the entire book it’s from) should be taken as conglomerated facts metaphysicalized my own perspectival obsessions. Also, in the spirit of J.L. Talmon’s (Right Middle)The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy (Right Bottom), I hope to show how bloodshed, dehumanization and sadism can spring from the banal, the moral, the utopian and the humanitarian as much as from the plainly criminal – if not more.  . Something Ben Hecht wrote in Perfidy (1961) puts it better:

What a dire word love has been in history. It has 
launched more carnage than any war cry of the species. 
For it is never love that an ideal has to offer, but love and
death. It is always, “Love me, or I’ll kill you.”

The Manson Family lives in your neighborhood, Jim Jones lives right next door to you, and salvation doesn’t lie in art or literature. Far from it, for many artists and writers have been devils.  Manson’s groupies were worse than Manson, just as the members of the Peoples Temple were worse than Jim Jones himself, just as any dictator’s minions are worse than the dictator. (Left Top: Charles Manson Mug Shot 1969;  Left Bottom:  Jim Jones the day he and his victims died)

Finally, one of my premises is “Sin is in the eye.” Envy, covetousness and lust are gateways to crimes, particularly carnal ones. I doubt that a blind-from-birth person can sin, or they rarely do. Frustration with different kinds of beauty can very quickly lead to the drive to mar or erase those beautiful things if they can’t be properly obtained, or if they spark too much contrast between them and the would-be destroyer. (Right:  The Eye attributed to Salvador Dali)
Which part of the poem was the most emotional for you to write and why?  Everything in the book is emotional to different degrees, but, obviously, this part is extremely emotional, especially since it’s put through the voice of a semi-autobiographical narrator who has allowed the thematic outrage of the entire book to reach a fever pitch (which is certainly even higher in an earlier piece about the reprehensible French Revolution called “Rise, Antoinette! Rise, Antoinette!” (Left Top) In his pacifist song, “Everywhere,” Billy Bragg sang, “Over here, over there, it's the same everywhere/A boy cries out for his mama before he dies for his home.” Those lines always obliterate me, and my soft spot for the age-old phenomenon of mothers being in dying thoughts and on dying breaths is expressed here, overlapping Truman Capote’s and Sharon Tate’s (Left Bottom) respective pitiful final utterances:

Truman’s third-to-last dying words, as Joanne Carson — yes, Johnny Carson’s wife — claims, were “Mama, mama.” (Sharon’s last words were “Mother, mother.”)

Has this poem been published before?  And if so where?  Only in Sharon Tate and the Daughters of Joy, put out by Time Being Books in 2013, which was a follow-up to my Abyssinia, Jill Rush (2010).

Anything you would like to add?  Marie Antoinette never said “Let them eat cake.”

The Devil in the Details
My whole life has been decided by fate.
- Sharon Tate

Fate happens.
- Aristotle Onassis

It’s bad enough that Anton LaVey (Left Top), founder of the Church of Satan, played the Devil in Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby (Left MIddle)but Manson’s association with Thelemite/Aleister Crowley crony/Church member Kenneth Anger (Left Bottom), filmmaker of Lucifer Rising and Invocation (of My Demon Brother), added to Sharon Tate portraying the ravishing but Satanic Odile de Caray (Right Top) in J. Thompson’s (Right Middle) Eye of the Devil (Right Bottom), makes Salem’s past witch paranoia seem sober, especially when you know that Manson-fan Bobby Beausoleil (Bottom First) played the role of Lucifer in Rising (Bottom Second) (the original prospect, a five-year-old boy, had died after falling through a skylight — not
unlike how the film’s luminous namesake fell from Paradise). Bobby, who knifed Manson Family friend Gary Hinman, sociology Ph.D hopeful and peace-loving Buddhist, to death and left a bloody “paw” print because Charlie Manson needed to implicate the Black Panthers because he mistakenly thought (or pretended) they were after him for shooting “Lotsapoppa” Crowe (Bottom Third), a drug dealer who’d been ripped off by Tex Watson (Bottom Fourth) and mistaken as a Panther. Bobby, who Truman Capote called a “Forty-second Street Lucifer,” who jammed in a rock band called Love, whose surname means “beautiful sun” in French.

Gary Hinman, (Left Top) that credulous, idealistic wimp, bled to death while chanting “I devote myself to the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law” before his Buddha shrine, while losing his life at peacenik hippies’ hands, living the death that Beast Crowley’s Madame Blavatsky (Left Middle)  promised: the iron justice of the Law of Karma, delivering the same jaw punch that Marquis de Condorcet (Left Third) must have felt when his beloved French Revolution sentenced him to the guillotine — though he wrote praises to humanity’s “limitless perfectibility” until he died in prison while waiting for his turn at the chopping block.

Sharon, staying over at former-fiance Jay Sebring’s (Right Top) 9860 Easton Drive (Right Middle) (once home to Jean Harlow, whose hubby Paul Bern (Right Bottom), an MGM producer, shot himself in the head — or so it goes), awoke to hallucinate a “creepy little man” near her bed and fled to the stairway where she saw another man with a gashed throat tied to the post. The future blabs itself to us non-stop in the present, people, and if we’d just shut up and listen, we won’t be so surprised when our respective Reapers interrupt our silly paths and say, “Fini, your best-laid schemes, mice.”

Sharon and faithless but genius Roman Polanski, survivor of proto-Manson Hitler and director of Repulsion (starring Tate-level beauty Catherine Deneuve and lots of knife/blunt-force violence), of Knife in the Water, of Cul-de-sac (starring Deneuve’s sister, in an isolated castle atop a mountain), moved to one of Rudi Altobelli’s (Right First) properties, the former residence of big stars such as Michele Morgan (Right Second), Lillian Gish (Right Third) and Cary Grant (Right Fourth) and last lived in by Candice Bergen and Terry Melcher (Right Fifth) (Doris Day’s son): 10050 Cielo Drive (Sharon called it “the love house”), high up in Benedict Canyon, L.A., like an isolated castle atop a mountain, overlooking Babylon. Cielo means “heaven.” (So much for foreshadowing.)
Terry Melcher left his pet cats behind when he and Bergen moved, so kind-hearted Sharon made sure to feed them and their descendants — twenty-six cats in all — daily. (She was butchered to death at age 26.) Melcher: the dork who bagged model/Abbie Hoffman-groupie Bergen and produced the Beach Boys, the band that starred Dennis Wilson (in 1971 Left Second) , who was Melcher’s ride back from a tour of the Mansons’ Spahn Ranch commune — a ride back to Cielo Drive (Left First), a ride including none other than Charlie Manson, who rapped his knuckles on the front door of that same house a year later, after Melcher and Wilson flaked on a recording promise, and was told by guest Shahrokh Hatami (Left Third) to “take the back alley” after assuring him that Melcher didn’t live there anymore, so he tried the guest house where Altobelli (who later sued the Tate estate for the carnage-caused property damage) slammed the door in his face. Sharon saw Manson (and he saw her, imprisoned her image in his eyes, for sin is in the eye), and she asked Altobelli if “that creepy-looking guy came back” on a later plane trip. (Don’t forget the “creepy little man” at Easton Drive, Sharon!)

Remember Beausoleil, Satan role-player and Love guitarist? He was imprisoned for the Hinman murder, and Charlie, scared that he’d roll over on him to make a deal, needed to pin Hinman on the Black Panthers to exculpate Beausoleil: hence — Susan Atkins (Left Top) was later adamant about this — the Tate/LaBianca murders (Left Middle) were born. Beausoleil told Truman Capote in a San Quentin interview that Sharon and gang pissed off people with bad dope deals and were far from innocent. Voytek alone probably had more avengers after him than can be counted on two hands. (This is why Sharon’s father, Paul, (Left Bottom) questioned folks such as
Mama Cass (Right Top), druggie Steve McQueen (Right Bottom) and drug-pal Billy Doyle.) Bobby bullshitted that “everything that happens is good,” and when Capote asked him if that included war, starvation, pain and cruelty, Beausoleil, Love’s “beautiful sun,” said, “Whatever happens, happens. It’s all good.”
Stanton LaVey (Left-Top), son of Anton, called Manson “our own messiah” and told Marlin Marynick (Left-Bottom) that nothing was random in the murders by the Family — down to the very time. “Tex did not make a mistake,” Manson said. “There’s no such thing in my kingdom.” Filmmaker and
Kenneth Anger-pal John Aes-Nihil (Right Top) rejects coincidence, that the Manson and Tate circles were familiar (“everyone knew each other”), celebs slummed with hippie bums: porous Cielo having been a laxly public party pad and who knows what else (Dennis Hopper (Right Middle) claimed S&M). Gregg Jakobson (Right Bottom), Dennis Wilson friend and Manson admirer, let Family member Dean Morehouse (Bottom Left) (father of Ruth Ann Morehouse (Bottom Right), Family member who loafed on Temple and Broadway with 

Squeaky” Fromme (Left Top), Sandra Good (Left Bottom), Bobby Beausoleil’s buddy “Gypsy” Share, et al, during the Tate/LaBianca trial) stay at the house between Melcher/Bergen and Polanski/Tate. Bums such as Tom Harrigan (Right Top) and Pic Dawson (Right Bottom) (bestie with Mama Cass and drug dealer to both Voytek and Sebring) were regular partiers there. And guess who swam in Cielo’s kidney-shaped pool? Susan Atkins, the Manson girl who would be tempted to cut the living fetus out of Sharon’s corpse’s belly,
who said the bliss of stabbing and stabbing was orgasmic (Anton LaVey guessed that the crime was “a lust murder,” that the knives imitated sex), who dipped a towel in Sharon’s blood and wrote “PIG” on Cielo’s front door (with Roman Polanski.  Bottom Image attributed to Life Reporter and novelist Thomas Thompson.  Fair Use) because Charlie said to “leave a sign,” “something witchy.” Oh, they were in their wits and had volition, because Charlie wanted the deed to be deliberate, and, since (like antichrists Bormann and Himmler) they were worse than their master, their alleged dissociativity was due to bloodlust in human sharks driven wild by human chum. 

Yes, Manson didn’t point to Cielo on some roulette wheel, but ordered Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel (Left Top) and Linda Kasabian (Left Bottom) to do the devil’s business “where Terry Melcher used to live.” Not much different from Hitler’s (Right Top) international tantrum born from interminable frustration, mediocrity, post-war shame and the back-stabbing Versailles Treaty (Right Middle). Once an obscure loser in a Munich crowd then making Neville
Chamberlain (Right Bottom) his Brit bitch in the same city twenty-four years later, every sleepless naught remedied by infinite war, impotent rage channeled into blitzkrieg, gas, ovens. Or, for you vampiric literati, “Take the back alley” is like young Thomas Sutpen being told by the house negro to go to the back door in Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!: that discovery of shame fuelling his lifelong (and thwarted) ambition and his regular scraps between “wild negroes” — as if lacerating the memory of that humiliating day.

Finding his Fifteen Minutes between the Yippies and the Yuppies, Manson, lord of what he dubbed the Slippies, took Abbie Hoffman’s (Left First) outrageous admonishments to the next — actual — level, as director John Waters (Left Second) observed. Waters, who dedicated Pink Flamingos (Left Third) to “Sadie, Kate and Les” (Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten) (Left Fourth), had drag-hag Divine refer to Sharon in Multiple Maniacs and dedicated Female Troubles to Tex Watson. Charlie went back to the Polanski house to assess the success of the killing floor. Imagine the car taking them higher and higher, toward the literal and figurative mansion on the hill, up and up: the low places rising like backed-up sewage to the high places. Ascend, scum! Thrust
yourselves up, crustaceans! Rise, rise like the bone-turned-weapon from the world’s first murderer in Kubrick’s 2001 (Bottom), rabble! Rise, rise, lowlifes! Crawl from the obscure streets, the anonymous desert, storm the palace and slay the Queen and her privileged court!

Was Roman mixed up in some occult soul-selling? Did he portray key elements of his wife’s bloody future in a cinematic past? For instance, filming Rosemary’s Baby at The Dakota (Left Top), the place where John Lennon was gunned down by Satanic Mark Chapman (John Hinckley’s (Bottom Far Left) unwitting mentor). The Beatles (Bottom Middle), Manson claimed — oh, he didn’t believe his own bullshit! — used their White Album (Far Right) to subliminally endorse Helter Skelter, the ultimate race war in which blackie would rise up and slaughter whitey en masse until “blackie” fucked it up — as “blackie” always does — and the savior Mansons would crawl up from the Bottomless Pit to grab the reins and make it work — as whitey always does. According to Charlie.

The Beatles (who hail from Liverpool, home of the famous art gallery, Tate Liverpool (Right), of all names) probably
stayed at 10050 Cielo Drive back when Melcher and Bergen lived there (Lennon conflated it with Doris Days’ pad since Melcher was her son). The band might have known Ken Anger and been courted by or involved in The Process, the occult church that gave Manson the Bottomless Pit idea and the melding of Jehovah, Lucifer and Jesus, the church that might’ve inspired Sirhan Sirhan (Left Top) to kill Bobby Kennedy (Left on the cover of Life Magazine commemorating his death), brother-in-law and lover to Jackie O (Left with Ari on their wedding day), whose look-alike “cameoed” in Rosemary’s Baby’s Satanic rape scene (when Rosemary was impregnated by hell’s seed) and married criminal/Kennedy-nemesis Ari Onassis (who cursed Camelot at a Haitian voodoo ceremony — not knowing that Bobby coincidentally owned an Onassis voodoo doll).

“Then have your killing,” Jehovah declares in The Process’ Robert DeGrimston’s (Right Top and Right Bottom is the logo of the church DeGrimston founded) Jehovah on WAR (“WAR”: what Patricia Krenwinkel carved into victim Leno LaBianca’s fat belly the night after the Cielo Drive massacre). Sirhan Sirhan was imprisoned at San Quentin (Left Top) while Bobby Beausoleil was there and spoke to
ever-curious Truman Capote, who wrote In Cold Blood (Left Bottom)— which Sirhan claimed inspired him to self-entrance via mirror-gazing as one of the killers in the book had done — and saw Theosophical fingerprints at the crime scene. Truman’s third-to-last dying words, as Joanne Carson (Bottom Left) — yes, Johnny Carson’s wife — claims, were “Mama, mama.” (Sharon’s last words were “Mother, mother.”) Imagine the grief of Doris Tate, Sharon’s mother (Bottom Right), when she heard the grisly news of her daughter’s death. Doris, who, worried sick over her daughter’s relocation to L.A., told her psychologist that she felt that Sharon would be attacked or murdered over there. Her fear came true in a nightmare about a cowboy pointing two guns at her and Sharon in the Cielo living room and announcing, “Today you will die.” Dream-Doris fled but realized that Dream-Sharon couldn’t escape the mad cowboy and had been murdered on the couch.

Nine Inch Nails (Right Top) founder Trent Reznor (Right Bottom) lived in the Polanski house and named his recording studio Pig, after the bloody word Atkins left on the door (the door he later relocated to his new Nothing Studios), and a sign on the door read “COME IN HERE AND BE KILLED” the night of his housewarming party, which was attended by Butthole Surfers’ lead singer, Gibby Haynes, whose first name is eerily the same as murder victim Abigail “Gibby” Folger. What was recorded at the Pig studio? Marilyn Manson’s  (Bottom Far Left Manson perfroming at Ntohing Studios) (ahem!) Portrait of an American Family (Bottom Middle) and Nine Inch Nails’ Downward Spiral (Bottom Far Right)albums.

The Mansons (such a warped portrait of an American family) had lived in a Topanga County house they called the Spiral Staircase (Left Top) (which shares the title of a Robert Siodmak (Left Bottom) film about a woman-terrorizing serial killer), a place probably once owned by a Church of Satan disciple, but they relocated to George Spahn’s ranch (Bottom One and Two), which had been used as a town set for King Vidor’s Duel in the Sun (Bottom Three and Four, a film starring Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotten and — can you guess? — Lillian Gish, one of the many former celebrity residents of 10050 Cielo Drive.

For years I worked as a proofreader, a research librarian, a technical writer, even a caregiver. For over 15 years I’ve produced the writing/art site SubtleTea, and I also maintain Bookolage, a site featuring reviews of new books. I also do some freelance writing/editing/manuscript consultation. Married, children, do crossword puzzles, crush on Miss Piggy. (Right- David Herrle in 2018. Copyright permission granted by David Herrle for this CRC Blog Post Only)


001  December 29, 2017
Margo Berdeshevksy’s “12-24”

002  January 08, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher’s “82 Miles From the Beach, We Order The Lobster At Clear Lake Café”

003 January 12, 2018
Barbara Crooker’s “Orange”

004 January 22, 2018
Sonia Saikaley’s “Modern Matsushima”

005 January 29, 2018
Ellen Foos’s “Side Yard”

006 February 03, 2018
Susan Sundwall’s “The Ringmaster”

007 February 09, 2018
Leslea Newman’s “That Night”

008 February 17, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher “June Fairchild Isn’t Dead”

009 February 24, 2018
Charles Clifford Brooks III “The Gift of the Year With Granny”

010 March 03, 2018
Scott Thomas Outlar’s “The Natural Reflection of Your Palms”

011 March 10, 2018
Anya Francesca Jenkins’s “After Diane Beatty’s Photograph “History Abandoned”

012  March 17, 2018
Angela Narciso Torres’s “What I Learned This Week”

013 March 24, 2018
Jan Steckel’s “Holiday On ICE”

014 March 31, 2018
Ibrahim Honjo’s “Colors”

015 April 14, 2018
Marilyn Kallett’s “Ode to Disappointment”

016  April 27, 2018
Beth Copeland’s “Reliquary”

017  May 12, 2018
Marlon L Fick’s “The Swallows of Barcelona”

018  May 25, 2018

019  June 09, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher’s “Stiletto Killer. . . A Surmise”

020 June 16, 2018
Charles Rammelkamp’s “At Last I Can Start Suffering”

021  July 05, 2018
Marla Shaw O’Neill’s “Wind Chimes”

022 July 13, 2018
Julia Gordon-Bramer’s “Studying Ariel”

023 July 20, 2018
Bill Yarrow’s “Jesus Zombie”

024  July 27, 2018
Telaina Eriksen’s “Brag 2016”

025  August 01, 2018
Seth Berg’s “It is only Yourself that Bends – so Wake up!”

026  August 07, 2018
David Herrle’s “Devil In the Details”

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