Late night, December 5, 1986, halfway through my senior year of college, I started working on a sequence of 45 ten-line poems about a character named GOAT. I’d been carrying this idea in my head for about a week, and had jotted down a list of titles on a piece of paper. Six hours and four hundred and fifty lines later, right as the sun was rising over the Cascadilla Creek Gorge on the morning of December 6, I finished typing in the last line of the last poem.
It was not my first all-nighter, but it was, I knew even then, my first piece of mature verse; of something I thought would last a little longer than most undergraduate-age work. A few years later, in my small press days with a gang of college friends and an old Challenge proofing press, I published GOAT in a limited edition letterpress printed, hand-sewn format, with half a dozen lino-block illustrations by a young art student named Tom Williams. Twelve years later, when I co-founded a print-on-demand self-publishing company Greatunpublished.com, later to be called Booksurge, GOAT was the first volume off the press and through the binder and trimmer.
Every year on December 6th across these three decades I have set aside a little time to mark the anniversary of those six hours of writing that resulted in this complete sequence. It has remained a pleasant and quiet anniversary, even with the thrashing of stubby (and stubborn) horns throughout these poems, the destructive romp through MOMA with Troll, an incident with escaped zoo elephants, guest appearances by Jerry Falwell and Johnny Carson and Andy Warhol, and a singularly devastating meeting in a subway train involving Chicken Little…
Since GOAT is mostly narrative and broken up into these ten line poems, I thought this year I could share it as a kind of serial poem, with perhaps two installments a day, and see if anyone else enjoys inhabiting the strange little world captured so many moons ago in that one long night of writing. The next post on this site will be the first of forty-five. I hope a few of you come along for the ride. The hills, I hear, are full of rocks and beasts.