Blues poet & artist Tony Moffeit, co-founder of Outlaw Poetry Movement talks about the Outlaw Tribe

"Outlaw is about bringing something new to the word, the poem, the lyric, or the music. Robert Johnson was an outlaw because of what he invented."

Tony Moffeit: Shaman of Outlaw's Tribe

Tony Moffeit is a poet, essayist, blues singer, songwriter, and artist from Pueblo, Colorado. Along with Todd Moore, he co-founded the Outlaw Poetry Movement. He is the author of over twenty-five books and chapbooks. His poems often have blues, jazz, rock, or country themes and language. In 1986, he was the winner of the Jack Kerouac Award for his volume of poetry, Pueblo Blues, published by Cherry Valley Editions. Cherry Valley Editions published two other volumes of poetry, Luminous Animal and Neon Peppers.

Tony Moffeit photographed by © Kyle Laws at the Taos Pueblo is the image used for the cover of Tony's book, Pueblo Blues (Cherry Valley Editions)

He was the recipient of an NEA creative writing fellowship in 1992. His essays, as well as his poems, are featured in Poetry Is Dangerous, the Poet Is An Outlaw, a 1995 volume from Floating Island Publications. His CD, Outlaw Blues Revolution, was released by DigiVintage Records in 2008. His latest book of poetry, Born To Be Blue, from Lummox Press was a finalist for the 2012 Colorado Book Award in poetry.

He has also been the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts creative writing fellowship in poetry and was the winner of the Thomas Hornsby Ferril Poetry Prize. Moffeit performs his original blues songs and poems with guitarist Rick Terlep, often accompanying himself on conga drum. Tony is also a visual artist who uses a unique process of turning photographs into stunning works of art that are an integral part of the poetry and music of the Outlaw Movement. Tony’s artwork has been shown in several Southern Colorado galleries and is featured on the cover of his CD "Outlaw Blues Revolution".

Interview by Michael Limnios

How do you describe Tony Moffeit’s poetry?

Tony Moffeit: I describe Tony Moffeit’s poetry as blues poetry, jazz poetry, and outlaw poetry. As a kid growing up in Claremore, Oklahoma, I listened to late-night blues radio stations from the south and to me the blues singers and musicians were my first gurus, my first mentors, my first shamans. Those sounds coming out of the radio were strange, hypnotic, alluring, and were what I lived for. I loved the transmutation of pain into rhythm, of suffering into a rocking blues. During the day I hung out at my father’s used car lot and salvage, and I would sneak off into the salvage yard and sit in the salvage cars and write my first blues poems and blues songs, pounding out rhythms on the dashboards. All I wanted to do was write the blues, to somehow transfer the rhythms, language, and symbols of the blues into a kind of blues poetry. People would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I would reply “a blues poet.” They would answer, “I’ve never heard of that.” I would tell them, “that’s because I’m going to be the first one.”

I wanted to internalize the blues, make blues poems and blues songs that were identifiable as “Tony Moffeit blues” or “Tony Moffeit poems.” The best of my poems, the best of my songs, have a Tony Moffeit mood. The mood is a combination of language, rhythm, symbols, personas, archetypes. Where does the Tony Moffeit mood come from? It comes from those early nights of listening to the haunting sounds of the blues and wanting to capture the sounds of the blues in the night. It also comes from New Orleans. On my first trip to New Orleans in 1988, I entered Chicken Man’s House of Voodoo, a voodoo shop. I met the proprietor of the shop who extended his hand, and told me, “I’m Chicken Man, Prince Keeyama, Voodoo King of New Orleans, the people of the city gave me that name.” I extended my hand, and replied, “Hello, Chicken Man, I’m Tony Moffeit, Blues Poet of Pueblo, Colorado, the people of the city gave me that name.” We shook hands and immediately became Chicken Brothers, because there’s not a whole lot of difference between a voodoo king and a blues poet, they are both looking for those  secret energies in the universe. When I would give poetry readings in New Orleans, Chicken Man would open my readings with a healing ceremony. Then, he would allow me to use dancers and drummers from his voodoo troupe. So, the Tony Moffeit mood in the poems and blues also comes from New Orleans voodoo: from voodoo ceremonials, from voodoo snake dancers, from voodoo drummers, from Chicken Brothers, from the conjure, the gris-gris, the juju.

Photo © by Justin Simenson - from the Kell Robertson Poetry and Music Tribute, Madrid, New Mexico, 2012

Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?

Tony Moffeit: The most interesting period in my life is right now. That is because with the deaths of two close friends, Todd Moore and Kell Robertson, within the last few years, there has been an increased awareness of the value of life, of living; of the value of health, of healing; and the value of what is left after death, in the case of both Moore and Robertson, an outlaw’s legacy. What transcends death? That pocket of energy, that internal universe, that summing up of one’s life in one’s own art, in one’s poetry and songs, so that you are identified as a unique individual with something to say. One of the last things Kell Robertson wrote me was “Hell, I’m trying not to fall into oblivion yet.” What transcends death is the idea, the emotion, the forging of a consciousness that has a hint of universality about it. And it is mainly carried through the people. Death is always a struggle with oblivion. One can only hope to leave maybe one word, one poem, one song, one idea, one emotion that is strong enough to fight oblivion for awhile.

What experiences in your life make you a good poet?

Tony Moffeit: The first thing that comes to mind is my fascination with the tape recorder and making poetry and music tapes. It is not enough to write a poem. I want to hear how it sounds.  So, I cannot wait to record it. Either a cappella or with accompaniment by my guitarist, Rick Terlep. I make tapes reading poems. I make tapes singing songs. I make tapes of those poems in which I read part of the poem and sing part of the poem. The natural extensions of this process are practicing for performance and studio work for a CD.

The second thing is constantly working on manuscripts, usually a few of them at the same time. Seeing how one poem interacts with another poem, how one section of a manuscript interacts with another section, how one subject interacts with another subject, in order to make a comprehensive whole. This process evolves into the acceptance and publication of books and chapbooks.

The third thing is the communication, the connection, one on one, dealing with the intimacy of individual to individual, will to will, outlaw to outlaw. Whether it is a voodoo king, a poet, a musician, or a visual artist, these one on one experiences are essential for producing extremely valuable ideas and emotions.

What does Music and Poetry mean to you & what do you learn about yourself from the notes and words?

Tony Moffeit: Poetry is more than writing poems. Blues is more than singing the blues. They are a way of life. I recently wrote a poem called “I Drive Around With My Poems.” It’s about something I practice. While I run my errands, I have my poems and songs in the car on the seat beside me, sometimes on paper, sometimes on a tape recorder. They are my friends, my companions. Sometimes I revise them. Sometimes I sing along with them. I am always working on a book, a manuscript, a song, a CD. So, there is always a poem or a song in the back of my head. What do I learn or what is the goal or what does it mean or what do I learn about myself? My goal is to get into a certain state of mind, a certain consciousness. That state of mind is similar to the state of mind I get into in performance. It borders on a trancelike state of ecstasy. The performer is separate, but in performance reaches a universality, a oneness that is shared. The performer intersects with that energy which is individual in its universality and universal in its individuality. Where does it come from? In my experience, it comes from primitive voodoo rites, dancers and drummers in the bayou outside New Orleans. It comes from this type of primal ceremony. It comes from the early blues singers, like Robert Johnson, who were one-man bands, writing, singing, and playing their own music. It comes from the outlaw poet, in a dark coffeehouse, wailing a blues poem. It comes from the conjure of the blues. It comes from the improvisation of jazz. It comes from the intersection of a time, a space with an energy. It is rattlesnake mojo. It is black cat bone juju. It is Robert Johnson walking down a dusty Mississippi backroad. It is rockabilly rebels, like Hasil Adkins, shrieking and wailing a wild, wild music. And especially it is about identity: forging a unique and independent individuality that speaks through the words and the notes.                                                                             (Photo: Tony in New Orleans by © Kyle Laws)

Poetry and music: can these two arts confront the “prison” of the spirit and mind?

Tony Moffeit: That is a great question. Because we are constantly imprisoning ourselves. How do we break free? I told you about writing a poem called “I Drive Around With My Poems.” I also wrote one titled “To Live Inside the Poem Is To Be an Outlaw.” The ideas in the two poems are similar. The primary theme is poetry as a way of life. Or, the blues as a way of life. Or, outlaw as a way of life. Driving these ways of life are particular individuals, particular ideas, particular approaches to consciousness. There are two approaches to liberation. One is self-creation. Through self-creation and the transferring of this self-creation through one’s poetry and music, one reaches a form of liberation. The other approach is through what I call a ghost reality. It is through letting go, letting the poem create you. Rather than the willfulness of self-creation, there is the surrender to letting yourself be created by universal forces. The first approach is Nietzschean, existential. The second approach is Zen, Eastern. Liberation is closely tied to forging a new consciousness, a consciousness that involves either self-creation or ghost language. Liberation is also closely tied to the creative act. Poetry and music are two ways of liberation, both as creators and as interpreters. Combining the two approaches to liberation is a function of the outlaw poet or the outlaw musician. The outlaw poet or musician comes out of the void, out of nowhere, without a name, without an identity, without a way, other than his own. He is free and alone. Then, he finds there are other outlaws on a similar path, that can be communicated with, outlaw to outlaw.

Kell Robertson, Tony Moffeit, & Rick Terlep belly up to Silver Dollar Saloon, Raton, New Mexico 1991. Photo by © Mark Weber

How did the idea of "Outlaw Poetry Movement" come about? What characterize the philosophy of?

Tony Moffeit: Todd Moore and I founded the Outlaw Poetry Movement in 2004 after over twenty years of discussing outlaw ideas. I’ll give you a brief summary of some of the main ideas.

The roots of the Outlaw Poetry Movement are in the word “outlaw.” If you can identify an outlaw, or an outlaw poet, then you can identify how the idea of the Outlaw Poetry Movement came about. Taking the word apart, there is the “out” portion, meaning the outlaw is out on the side, separate, independent, individualistic. He is that unique and independent individual who is separate, out on the side. The “law” part of the word means the outlaw is a law unto oneself. He creates oneself and one’s art, one’s poetry. The outlaw creates one’s own laws. He is an innovator in both his life and his art.

Outlaw is about self-creation. Outlaw is about forging a new consciousness.  A movement is about the awareness of a new consciousness. Where did the awareness of an outlaw consciousness begin? In western culture, it most powerfully began with the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. For Nietzsche, the essence of existence was in the individual oneself, the Overman, or Superman. The Overman forged a new consciousness through the will to power. And the Overman reached a universality through eternal recurrence. These are outlaw concepts. In eastern culture, outlaw began with Bodhidharma, the first Zen patriarch. Bodhidharma placed the essence of existence in the sudden enlightenment of the individual, a consciousness that was new, spontaneous, and dependent on the individual finding this consciousness through one’s own experience, one’s own creativity, one’s own existence. This is the foundation of outlaw in eastern culture.

In America, the first outlaws were Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry Thoreau. Ralph Waldo Emerson gave us the outlaw concept of self-reliance. Thoreau gave us his Walden experiment. Walt Whitman gave us the first American outlaw poet with an outlaw metaphysics, an outlaw philosophy embedded in his poetry and prose.

Tony Moffeit is a blues poet, who was the winner of the prestigious Jack Kerouac Award, also is the author of twenty additional poetry volumes.

The next important outlaw writer was Henry Miller, whose novels of autobiographical prose gave us a Henry Miller outlaw universe. Jack Kerouac followed Henry Miller as an outlaw novelist, absorbing and recreating the outlaw with unique jazz-influenced language, rhythm, and symbols.

So, the Outlaw Poetry Movement inherited a whole tradition of individualism, independence, self-creation, separateness, innovation, and change in consciousness. And it brought to poetry something new: the combination of huge personas (pockets of energy, individual universes, internal metaphysics); blues and jazz language (an innovative use of the rhythms, language, and symbols of blues, jazz, rockabilly, rock, punk, and country and western music); an endless energy for the creative act, for music, for dance, for poetry, for performance; a loneness, going your own way, being out on the side, an element of being out in the margins, rebelling against everything; reaching another level of intensity in one’s art and one’s life; creating one’s own philosophy, one’s own ideas, one’s own revolution.

Outlaw is about turning the world upside down. Outlaw is about revolutionary thought, emotions, art, and action. The two main figures of outlaw are Friedrich Nietzsche and Bodhidharma. Nietzsche is the most controversial figure in western philosophy because he turned the world upside down. He anticipated quantum physics by placing reality directly in the hands and between the eyes of the individual. To find the outlaw you must look for the one who is the outcast, the outsider, whose power exists in his own world, whose power resides in himself. Who is the most controversial figure of philosophy?  Friedrich Nietzsche. Who is the most controversial figure in religion? Bodhidharma. Who invented themselves? Nietzsche and Bodhidharma. Who through inventing themselves, invented a new stream of thought and action? Nietzsche and Bodhidharma. Who is the outlaw? The one who invents himself and in the process invents a new way of thinking, a new way of writing, a new way of living. One who tracks a new path. One who speaks a new language. One who brings a new rhythm. 

Joel Scherzer, Jack Micheline and Tony Moffeit. Photo by © Kyle Laws in 1985

And for Nietzsche and Bodhidharma, just as important as your writing, your poetry, is who you are. The writing, the poetry is an overflow of intensified life experience. Let me give you an example of how that relates to outlaw poetry. Once I was writing my blues poems, I searched and searched for someone who might be doing a similar thing. I couldn’t find anyone who was approaching the blues poem in the way that I was. Then I discovered Jack Micheline. He was taking the rhythms, symbols, and language of the blues and integrating them into his own brand of poetry. I heard he was going to be at the Kerouac Conference in Boulder in 1982, so living in Pueblo, Colorado, I traveled to Boulder and saw him read. He arrived on stage disheveled, just out of the rain, his cab had gotten turned around, he barely made the reading on time, and his performance was nothing short of magnificent! He wailed and moaned the blues. He told stories that made him break up on stage from having a flashback. It was an all-time classic reading and I knew that something was happening. He took the blues to another level, and that level was outlaw. I had finally found another blues poet, and in doing so found something else, something I knew intuitively, but was made real by Jack Micheline: the turning of the world upside down, the forging of a new consciousness, the revolutionary experience of outlaw poetry.

I’ll give you another example. After discovering Jack Micheline’s blues and jazz poetry, I discovered and was influenced by the blues and jazz poetry of Charles Plymell and Ray Bremser. In August, 1998, I attended the Cherry Valley Arts Festival, at which both Plymell and Bremser gave phenomenal readings. But just as important as their performances were a couple of experiences. The first was my first meeting of Ray Bremser on the frontyard of Plymell’s great stone house. It was a joyous celebration with other poets around and much hand shaking and shouting! Then Bremser did something very unique. He said to me, “You want to know the secret of the universe?” I said, “Yeah. Sure.” He took me over to the side of the yard, away from the crowd of people, and said to me “The secret is: you gotta learn to love everything. Then he repeated the secret: you gotta learn to love everything: even hospitals! Ray Bremser died a few months later, in a hospital. But for three days in August, 1998, he was on fire. He reached an intensity in his readings, his conversations, his living on the edge that was pure outlaw.

After my conversation with Ray Bremser, I didn’t think things could get any better. But somehow, they did. Charles Plymell is a magnetic figure, gives magnificent poetry readings, and as with Ray Bremser, he is a living, breathing poem in himself. As you entered his great stone house, he would greet you, in his wild Wichita zoot suit (hepcat collar), dancing the most amazing dance to the high volume, deliriously rhythmic blues of Elmore James! He was the outlaw pied piper leading the way and everyone was required to dance! You conversed with people while dancing! The scene was magnetic and full of the wild joy of outlaw energy.

What characterizes your CD and the “Outlaw Blues Revolution”?

Tony Moffeit: My CD is one of the soundtracks for the Outlaw Poetry Movement. I do vocals and play conga drum. Rick Terlep is on guitar. It is the outlaw voodoo blues. It interweaves outlaw philosophy into the lyrics of the songs.

I’ll talk a little bit about my CD, which is titled “Outlaw Blues Revolution” and the  Outlaw Blues Revolution itself. The first song I would like to talk about from the CD is a song titled “Stones In My Pocket.” It is a homage to Robert Johnson. It is about a man attempting suicide by putting stones in his pocket and walking toward the Mississippi River. At the same time, the man is calling on the spirit of Robert Johnson to rescue him: “Mr. Johnson, Mr. Johnson, I’m in a bad, bad way.”

The CD begins with a nocturnal blues moan, “Give Me the Night.” “Her outlaw eyes, they shoot like knives, surprise, surprise, give me the night.”

“Voodoo Snake Woman Blues” is a voodoo woman song. In performance, I am often accompanied by a woman doing a snake dance.

“The Time Is Now” is an outlaw manifesto in song. “Write your words on the walls in blood, outlaw. Write your words on the walls in blood, then burn down the walls.”

“Learning How To Breathe Again” is a breathless blues moan about mad love. “I need to tell you, I need to tell you, this ain’t no lie.”

“I Want the Bones” is another voodoo number, asking for the bones from a number of historical figures, including Marie Laveau and Robert Johnson. “I’m dancing with the ghosts of the dead.”

“Voodoo Casanova” is an example of outlaw humor. It is about shrinking the head of the vocalist and letting the shrunken head swing from the rearview mirror after his death to “give your latest lover a hint, that the greatest master has come and went. I’m the Voodoo Casanova.”

“Tough Love” is pure outlaw blues rhythm. “Survival of the fittest. Tough love it’s tough enough. Don’t stop now. It’s tough enough. The real revolution lies deeper.”

“Wanted Dead or Alive” features the spirit of another outlaw persona in my work: Billy the Kid. “Wanted dead or alive when you take that outlaw ride. Words that are bullets, words that are knives.”

“King Cobra” is the grand finale. “Black cat done cross my trail. Rattlesnake mama make me end up in jail.” Bullets are flying, blood is swirling. It is a spontaneous combustion of outlaw blues language, rhythm, symbols, archetypes. “It’s a gundance.”

These are descriptions of ten of the twelve cuts. As you can see, the outlaw philosophy and emotions are integral to the songs. The blues are not traditional blues. They are outlaw blues, with the ideas, symbols, language, and rhythms of the outlaw movement. Rick Terlep’s guitar is an interesting complement to my lyrics and vocals and drives the music of the CD.

Again, the Outlaw Blues Revolution is about outlaw personas: the Outlaw, Robert Johnson, Marie Laveau, Billy the Kid, Voodoo Casanova, Voodoo Snake Woman,

King Cobra. It is also about outlaw philosophy and emotions interwoven into the lyrics as indicated. In addition, the music is outlaw blues: driven by the outlaw lyrics, the phrasing of the vocalist, the interplay of the vocalist and guitarist, it reflects the Tony Moffeit mood I talked about to begin this interview. It’s about an outlaw making one’s own music. An interesting connection to the Outlaw Blues Revolution is the outlaw manifesto which is included in the booklet of the CD.

(Photo: “Night Shots” taken at a bar in St. Augustine, Florida, after hours by © R. J. Howe who is better known as Orion)

What first attracted you to the Outlaw Blues culture and how has that changed your life?

Tony Moffeit: Well, from very early on in my life, I was separate, independent, always going my own way, and noticing other individuals who were the same. I always noticed them, but seldom communicated with them. It was like these separate little universes going around alone. It was through the blues that these little universes started communicating with one another. Then, through outlaw poetry. It was through the blues, rockabilly, and rock music at first, and the performances that reached a universal level of communication. Then, it was the outlaw poet, on the page or wailing a cappella in a coffeehouse, that shook the world with something new. Getting to know outlaw poets was a revolutionizing force. Because through their poems, essays, and performances, they were creating these little pockets of individualized energy, these internal universes that were complete in themselves and yet universal enough to be shared through the people. Robert Johnson was important in this process because he was initially marginal, out on the side, with his own bundle of songs, his voice and guitar. He was also connected with blues voodoo forces. He was an example of one’s own universe, created by oneself, and yet in touch with a whole universality of individuals. Todd Moore was important in this process because he was noticing some of the same things, some of the same individuals, and he was an outlaw poet himself. So, through email, Todd and I communicated almost daily for years and years. Todd was a person who was on fire. He might send me a few poems and then the same day turn around and send me an essay on outlaw poetry. He was obsessed, he was possessed, with the outlaw spirit. And, he was creating this whole outlaw universe of individuals, ideas, emotions, symbols, archetypes, not the least of which was integrated with the real and imaginary life of John Dillinger. Then, suddenly, in the midst of this magnificent creation, he died. But the inspiration of this incredible pocket of energy lives on. The outlaw poet is identified by at first being marginal, out on the side, separate, in order to create one’s own universe. Then, through this individuality and independence, through this working out one’s own belief system, incorporating ideas from a number of sources, the outlaw poet reaches a universality of ideas and feelings. The best communication is outlaw to outlaw, individual to individual, universe to universe. Outlaw is an alternate way of living. It’s not for everyone. It’s for folks who are obsessed by following one’s own way and creating a whole interior universe. It’s wild. It’s dangerous. It’s revolutionary. It’s about not accepting anything that is not proven through your own experience. It challenges everything. At the same time, it accepts everything, as one’s own.                 (Photo: Todd Moore, Tony Moffeit and Mark Weber)

Why did you think that the Outlaw Blues culture continued to generate such a devoted following?

Tony Moffeit: Because it allows the artistic individual to be separate and yet together with other outlaws. It allows the artistic individual to create one’s own world, one’s own little pocket of universal energy, and to share that little universe with others. Outlaw Blues culture is open and accepting of individuals following their own way. It is about seeking out words, seeking out songs, seeking out individuals, seeking out ideas, seeking out performances, seeking out emotions, seeking out places that have that outlaw blues energy and communicating that energy. Outlaw blues culture allows the individual to be separate, even alone, and know that there is something that can be identified as true, and shared one on one. Blues outlaws are open and receptive to other blues outlaws. Outlaw Blues culture is a home for the independent outsider.

Tony channeling Robert Johnson in Outlaw Poets Summit, a poetry tour in 2011 in Colorado and New Mexico. Photo by © Lummox Press

What do you learn about yourself from the blues, what does the blues mean to you?

Tony Moffeit: There is nothing more universal than pain, than suffering. How we react to that pain, that suffering influences who we are. The blues is a very direct way to react, and that is by turning the blues into a slow moan or a rocking boogie. The beautiful thing about the blues and about poetry is that you can be unknown, marginal, out on the side, and still be an amazing creator. You can wail strong on some unbelievable night, produce the magic, and create an outlaw legend on the spot. For every Jack Micheline there is

a multitude of street corner wailers. For every d.a. levy, there is a multitude of outlaw poets. I run into them all the time and they inspire me. Their energy is pure. Their spirit is supreme. Their songs and poems are phenomenal. What the blues means to me is the healing power that comes from blues songs or blues poems or blues individuals. Let poetry be dangerous! Let the blues be dangerous! Let the blues singer be an outlaw! Let the poet be an outlaw!

Do you know why Blues and Poetry are connected to underground and outlaw culture & what characterizes the sounds of outlaw culture?

Tony Moffeit: It’s about naming the unnameable. It’s about making visible the invisible. It’s an underground culture of those who have rebelled against being called any name but their own. “Where do you get your power?” the outlaw is asked. And the outlaw answers, “From myself.” The blues and poetry are connected on an underground level because the musicians and poets have a common ground. Robert Johnson created himself and became a legend. Jack Micheline created himself and became a legend. The blues singer and the poet create their own personas through the power of their lives, the power of their words, the power of their performances, the power of their communications. I communicate one on one with blues singers and poets or I communicate through a tribe of individuals in performance. What characterizes the sounds of outlaw culture? In addition to the internal metaphysics, the creation of little universes of internal ideas and emotions through poems, fiction, and essays, the poetry underground is charged with the energy of tapes, CDs, and videos. Throughout his life, Kell Robertson made and circulated cassette tapes of his performances of his poems and songs. His many versions of his original song, “Junkie Eyes,” are personal favorites. Kell never owned a computer but wrote marvelous letters on a manual typewriter and made up cassette tapes of his performances, both of which he circulated to friends for years and years. Also circulated in the outlaw underground were a number of cassette tapes of performances of Jack Micheline, including the performance mentioned earlier at the Kerouac Conference. Most of the tapes are of a cappella performances, although some of them are with the backing of a jazz saxophonist. A supreme underground voice is the voice of Charles Plymell on videos by Laki Vazaka. Plymell reaches another level of performance with the riffing of his voice. There are many other outlaw voices on underground cassette, CD, or video.

Tony at Taos Pueblo by © Kyle Laws / Tony in Performance by © Gary Colnar

What are the reasons to become Jack Micheline, Ray Bremser, and d. a. levy, a legendary generation that left its mark through the years until now?

Tony Moffeit: They followed their own way to the very end. They created their own individual cosmologies, their own individual universes, their own internal worlds that reached universal proportions. They were shamans of the tribe of the Outlaw. They were the first poets of the tribe of the Outlaw. They weren’t so much about social issues as they were about the Individual. They were more than poets. They were separate and independent individuals who were examples of a way of life. A way of life that brings about a new kind of consciousness. A way of life that originated most intensely with Nietzsche and Bodhidharma. A way of life that is uncompromisingly individualistic. 

The Outlaw Movement is the recognition of a change in culture. Around the turn of the century, the energy of the underground outlaws exploded. These outlaws, and their audiences, were summing up and being summed up through poetry and song. The music and poetry they read and listened to was their own and what they listened to in other outlaws. These outlaw poets were bringing something new to poetry, song, and the songpoem. Outlaw is about bringing something new to the word, the poem, the lyric, or the music. Robert Johnson was an outlaw because of what he invented. Jack Micheline was an outlaw because of what he invented. d.a. levy was an outlaw because of what he invented. Kell Robertson was an outlaw because of what he invented. Woody Guthrie was an outlaw because of what he invented. Todd Moore was an outlaw because of what he invented. Friedrich Nietzsche was an outlaw because of what he invented. Henry Miller was an outlaw because of what he invented. What did they invent? They invented new approaches to the way we think and feel. They changed our approaches to consciousness. They said that by following your own way to the extreme you can reach another level of intensity in your art. Then, they proved it by their words, or their songs, or their performances. The Outlaw Movement takes it one step further. It says that the unknown poet on the street corner can invent the same thing. d.a. levy is proof of this. So yes, the Jack Michelines, the Ray Bremsers, the d.a. levys are out there tonight, lone wolves wailing at the moon.

Tony Moffeit @ official website

Tony Moffeit @ Outlaw Poetry site

                                        Tony Moffeit play conga at CSU Pueblo by © Judy Fodor


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