Mainline to the Heart was originally published by Diane di Prima's Poets Press in 1966, with an introduction by John Wieners. Copies of the book were confiscated by British Customs in 1967, and returned to the author a few months later. The poems had been judged "borderline pornographic."
Mainline to the Heart and Other Poems was reissued by Regent Press, Oakland, on March 11, 2009. This new edition of Clive Matson’s early poems includes all of Diane di Prima’s “Poets Press” version -- 1,000 copies were sold out in 1966-67 -- and adds significant unpublished pieces from the same period.
At once obstreperous and innocent, these poems celebrate a place where emotion, sex, and religion come together with overwhelming intensity. In the Fifties and Sixties Beat Generation writers were revisiting this edgy, full-blooded romantic tradition and Matson joined the exploration with youthful energy. But the quest was fraught with tension.
To Matson’s heart and mind, the Beatific vision morphs into something as sinister as it is beautiful: sex is utterly consuming yet fosters hostility, emotion is an exhilarating current as dangerous as a tsunami, drugs are glorious and bring one to the brink of death. Writing these poems was a crucial part of the author's growth, as demonstrated by the open, accessible style. The poet’s overriding concern is understanding the self and the world. Be-bop and cool riffs, common in the Beats, are truncated or undercut in Matson’s work, to arrive quickly and precisely at the point.
Mainline to the Heart and Other Poems expresses a confluence of personal and historical forces. Clive Matson was coming of age at the same time the culture was at the height of its 1960s explosion. While the poems cast a sobering light on Beat exuberance, Matson’s vibrant imagery makes the personal, visionary, and sexual excitement impossible to deny. Steve Weltner writes, “These poems speak about desire with an exactitude too excruciating to be pornographic. The power of their eroticism has not diminished.”
Regent Press, 2009
Distributed by Ingram, Baker & Taylor
format: perfect bound, 8.5 x 5.5 inches
numbered pages: 90
Buy Mainline to the Heart on Amazon
Excerpts from Mainline to the Heart
Teardrop In My Eye
Fuck you, Huncke.
hung up for junk, waiting
alone in a dark room candles
you lit burn down in.
They unwind curls of smoke
like incense I remember we offered
It is Nostalgia.
I treat you mean
and I get what's coming
down on Lonely Street.
I walk amid cold winds,
while I blow.
No one to hold my hand.
Tompkins Park ~
a violet night sky looms,
one icy star in it. Is it
And on 3 sides
fountains I see thru squinty eyes
squirt white geysers like cocks:
streetlamps seen thru tears.
Wish you were here
& cruise empty benches
for the familiar body.
What's the use.
Turn a corner, God
I'm relieved! Gone the terror.
No more hairy lump between thighs or
mornings he slunk away
thru dawn's pale blue light as
as I reach long arms
& grasp a rumpled blanket.
I hoped for joy.
Why did he go?
This affair started with a smile that
opened caverns in his skull
When he gave me a blue china bowl.
For weeks after
we took off
together jiving our way along
for outer space as
only we can. Will we
space out once more.
Have I got heart for it,
Now I'm free I can
go to Chatham Square a vulture,
follow the fading rumors he left
behind with me. & these memories
I would live again.
My Love Returned
The Moon rises
ass heavy: on the wane.
Wish it was full.
I dream &
a huge bat wing arcs over skeleton buildings
and dips to touch ruby pinprick traffic lights
on the street's horizon in mute salute,
when I take in another block
the black wing blacks out the lights
and I know it is the Vampire,
my love returned
in the city calling me to bed
with faint irresistible siren
over the cool line of telepathic desire
or echoing "could be" to my need
broadcast live out dewy eyes, glib tongue
and come-on slouch for months.
How does she know? How the seasons change
and my veins hold new blood for her to suck now,
new blood I can bleed
over the white & untried bed
and my teeth are white and sharp to eat with.
Now I brim over with come to shoot in her,
I flap my jaw
and smile goofy at strangers
in the fullness of it.
Glad I'll kill myself
& build a life with her. Glad
I'll gaze into the wide blue eyes
I cannot fathom.
Not Christine not Huncke
not Martha could take her place.
I loved each and let each loose
the beautiful face no matter or
how strong my yearning ache,
at dangerously hot by a circuit breaker
or fanned to blistering flame so
she turned cold shoulders in disgust,
Useless to give my all when it's already given
to end lying anguished mornings on the same wrinkled sheet,
some yellow belly demon inside calculating
to save me for the One
or can I love at all?
Hear dark silence for the answer
& I've torn up the map, all highways
lead to the same dead end where
I see no exit
away from the Horror,
why not embrace it.
Love is possession
and we possess each other on a bone level
I don't understand but we keep
a dim promise of happiness alive
or magic descends from the ceiling
& days light up now and then like sparkling incense,
I do what I want with her
as nuptial joy lifts toward bliss
that can not come true
and will carry me
thru boredom, fighting, anguish
the same scene repeated endlessly
1966, 1969, 1975 as
over the years
Time binds us tighter together
in orbit around our asteroid or lovely room
where we are each other's parasite
and no friend in sight,
where we'll die
within the same few seasons fatally wounded
our better half destroyed
or God insert the drug, body, faith
can bridge to the old dream she devours
& I love a spirit of the Dead.