clint catalyst's cottonmouth kisses

The publication of Cottonmouth Kisses is an event which has had Clint Catalyst’s fans salivating for months. Finally in one volume are gathered together many of the fugitive poems and stories which until now you had really to be a club and/or zine devotee to appreciate. For the rest of us, Cottonmouth Kisses offers an unusual backstage look at a world that, well, I sort of knew was going on around me, but didn’t know that much about.

Catalyst’s characters are speed freaks, junkies, male whores, people in recovery, transsexual ravers, and all of the above, whipped by crystal into a “Gen-X post-John-Hughes apocalyptic romance.” One girl, Justine, rising from the narrator’s bed, sighs with contempt, “Whew! Wake up and smell the junkie.” A boy warns his buddy that from his face dangles some “V.C.R.” Turns out that stands for “visible crystal residue.”—Who knew? The stories are uniformly dry, ironic, like John Updike’s, delicately exploring the impinging conscience of the young drug user. It’s the poetry that really lets itself go, in howl after howl of abrasion, ecstasy, regret and “words,/ words a trail of birds then/ carrion.” Death and decay are very much on the mind of our man Clint, and why not, he seems to have lived the nine lives of the cat and then some, coming out the other side into relative sobriety. So that San Francisco represents decadence, excess, Goth club tears, while Los Angeles reveals itself as a nest of peaceful AA and NA assemblies, like the primitive Church.

Goya’s painting “Saturn Devouring One of his Children,” referenced early on in this book, is an apt analogue for the kind of expressive, over-the-top effects Clint Catalyst is aiming for. By and large he succeeds, and his picture of accelerated lives and disjunct, even cruel romance is nearly a complete one.