Wednesday, July 27, 2022

RIP Mick Cusimano

Mick Cusimano passed away last weekend, and the first thing I felt was regret.

Among my on-hold Stone Soup history projects, I wanted to reach out to recording artist Tracy Chapman. Why? Because of this written account from Mick on his website on the early days of Fire of Prometheus: 

In 1985 we invited many musicians and poets to an all day show on the Boston Common. We found one woman performing next to us in a Harvard Square doorway and invited her. Tracy Chapman was her name and she did several songs to a polite crowd.
A small account, but one that cries out for more elaboration. I wanted to ask Chapman if she remembered anything about Fire of Prometheus. Mick? That guy with the whip? Surely Bill Barnum! 

I still haven't attempted to make contact with her.

Yesterday, I finally asked myself, Why didn't I just ask Mick about it?

Mick and I were poets and creators from two distinct eras of Boston's poetry scene. Like oil and water, we didn't quite mix, though we were frequently together. We were on similar journeys, just very separate lanes.

I found him to be a pain in the ass at times. I'm absolutely sure he felt the same about me. One old codger and a slightly older codger, both set in their ways, keeping out of each other's way. It seems almost charming now. 

Because of the late start time, I only rarely made it to the Squawk readings he helped organize. I would see him more occasionally at Stone Soup (including for one feature I've written about elsewhere) and Deb Priestly's Open Bark readings. 

I even went to a gathering where he showed some of his films, which I believe took place at his apartment. Watching his Clowns On The Left animated feature with the screen propped on a bed definitely helped helped reinforce the surrealist tone he wanted to convey.

Mick wanted to come back to Stone Soup with a band, but it was during COVID when I still wasn't comfortable with having live shows. Best decision I could make at the time, but it comes out as another regret. 

Mick's s sendup of Highway Poet K. Peddlar Bridges

As a comics fan, I first knew of Mick in the mid-nineties through his cartooning work in various zines and his own self-published Underground Surrealist magazine. 

Mick's comics work was quirky and eccentric enough to stand out among countless other cartoonists emulating the 60's undergrounds and 90's autobiographical cartoonists. His work never shook off its caricature roots, which made it more charming.

Though I ended up liking Mick's comics, I didn't know what to make of them at first, and other poets seemed to know even less. 

One time a flustered writer told me that Mick should stop with his drawing to focus on poetry primarily. 

As little as I knew of Mick, that didn't seem like a possibility or even a good idea. Looking at what he accomplished with his film work, it's clear I was right.

Mick chased his passions in as many mediums as he could with a fervor that I wish I could replicate now. 

I've also tried to branch out in other areas artistically, but I know how little I know in any other field. It gives me pause more and more as I get older. 

I think Mick liked not knowing, plunged forward, and he still came out on top. That takes determination.

This week, I'll be pouring over Mick's website, saving what images and words I can. I don't suspect it will remain up for much longer, which is a shame. 

His website is a wonder to behold with it's 90's design and its tough to navigate links. In it's own way, it serves an immaculate time capsule to that time in poetry just as slam was taking root, and just before Jack Power's proteges started printing poetry books with real binding.

It's a glimpse of a scene that could have otherwise been lost to time and the internet.

Mick probably never meant to be an archivist, but it's a role I'm grateful he fell into naturally. 

I wish I knew of his struggle with brain cancer. I would have pressed harder to have him read again.

I think of everything he uploaded to YouTube over the last decade. How much more was at his apartment, not yet worked on, left to be thrown away by relatives and landlords?

Mick deserves a proper sendoff, with as much absurdism in the face of cynicism as possible. Sadly, the one most qualified to create that sendoff was Mick himself.

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