Postcards from the Land of the Dead: Introduction

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“The moment I finished reading I fell immediately into a deep sleep and had the strangest dreams I've ever had”—Marilyn Houlberg, Professor of Art and Anthropology at the School of the Art Institute, Chicago

In the spring of 1997 my friend Johnny Berst sent me the following postcard out of the blue. It had been a long time since I’d heard from him…

It’s strange…how everyone wants to go to heaven…but nobody wants to die. Everybody’s afraid of death…avoids it…lives in denial of it. Calls it the “opposite” of life. And yet…I find death to be one of my favorite parts of life. There’s nothing more beautiful on earth than dying corn stalks shaking in the October wind. Or the beautiful way flowers die…just as much a part of their beauty as the way they blossomed. Everybody should die at least once a day. This is Earth…things die!! What’s all the fuss about?? It’s like people moving to Olympia and then complaining about the rain. Things die…things get wet. Fuck…I’m soaked!

p.s. Mr. Muerte will cure your mopey heart!

This was the begining of a three-year call and response conversation—a Life line, connecting our lives and stories across the continent. His postscript about Mr. Muerte had set the tone; later, I wrote him this—

I grabbed a big handful of your postcards this morning as I walked out the door, thinking I would re-read them at lunch and they got all shuffled up, rattling around my lunch bag. I pulled them out and thought “pick a card—any card” and thought “Wow! These are just as good as a Tarot deck!” I can just pull them out and lay them down and tell fortunes! After all, as you said “seems like all we ever talk about is art, death, love and food” and certainly that's all that ever crosses the mind of an oracle —I always thought it would be good to write a poem for each Tarot card and memorize them and recite them at random—well, here it is in a way. After all, isn't the Scorpio born with the Tarot inscribed deep in blood within? Can a Scorpio poet ever really do anything but pick a card?

Although the cards were written as a dialogue, they really don't need to be read in any specific order. You can read them in the order I post them, which will be roughly chronological, or, just pick a card…

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John T. Unger poet

I'm best known as an artist and designer. Relaxing makes me tense, so I tend to put in a lot of hours on diverse projects.

Before becoming a visual artist, I spent 15 years as a poet. I studied poetry at Interlochen Arts Academy, Naropa, Stone Circle and on the streets. I performed my work for years at Stone Circle, solo shows, poetry readings, and at Lollapalooza in 1996.

I still write poems, but only if I can make them fit the constraints ofTwitter.

Mobile: 231.584.2710 (9 to 5 PST only) | Email me

Art IS my day job

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