The New San Francisco Poetry Underground:
Charlie Getter


Charlie Getter

Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 124 in September, 2010.

Bio in his own words:

I am a poet and performer from the street corner of 16th and Mission in San Francisco… have a birthmark on my belly the shape of the Island of Jamaica and that has grown as I've advanced in age and girth....have performed in ten different states and on the interweb....belong to the Collaborative Arts Insurgency that founded the 16th and Mission reading series and am a founding (and current) editor of the 16th and Mission Review... hold an MFA in poetics from the New College of California (may it rest in peace) and have been published just about everywhere I have cared to and also write plays, four of which have been produced. I have a yellow dog named Tugboat that weighs over a hundred pounds.

Soundbyte Interview:

How would you describe your writing?

Rhimey-rhimey, chimey-chimey, bittersweet indulgences

Why do you do what you do?

Poetry is an affliction…

Why are we doing this? This question is at the heart of many of these writings.

Well we have something to say… and we want to say it so that it’s heard…


I'm influenced by the winds and the tides... advertising and song lyrics…

What do you think of slam poetry?

Eh… it always goes for the common denominator… there are many great practitioners, but very few inspired souls

How much of the writing that you share would you say deals directly with your need and right for expression?

I don’t see a right… I see a privilege… granted by merit…

Can language by itself do the job anymore?

It is the job.

Interviewed by EVAN KARP



“it’s not that the rocks aren’t pretty,”
he told me,
“the gorges are gorgeous…
but what it is, is
the space

the space
between you and the rocks…”

When you live in a small room,
there are no small elephants

they take all the space
even if they’re well behaved

I remember thinking

because I used to do that

that if I could get this guy out
he would leave us be

I can make a trail of peanuts
and he would give us peace

but elephants never forget
and they don’t fit through
eight by four doors

and we don’t talk about the elephant
because we practice elision

I look at the sky—delete
I look at the sun—delete

I can replace the human race with a dog
I can replace the human race with a ficus

I can trade mankind for a rug doctor
and steam clean humanity away

Let’s see my room today
everything folded and put away

nobody believes it
nobody’s allowed to see it

because everybody—delete

dinner table—one seat

I’m making a roast in the oven
I’ve marinated for hours
and slice, slice carnivorous goodies

from what was once a cow

and drop the drippings
onto the roasted potatoes
and asparagus spears

and placidly carefully
consume them in the kitchen

and nothing needs to happen

no one needs to know
I’m feasting alone
I’m supposed to need you
I’m supposed to need people

but I have a dog
and I have a ficus
and safeway will rent me a
rug doctor

and I can steam clean away

people are people
and people are needy

why be like them?
maybe we can be better

but you’re not included in this we
this we is now just me

and obviously
I need nothing

which is why
I write this
for everybody

I lie
I cheat
I’m losing my pants in the seat
I’m the worst thing you’ve ever met
and I’m so sad you’ve discovered that

when I was young I was told
by my dad, who knew something about jazz

that Count Basie
didn’t play the notes

he played the space between them
and everything is in the spaces
and we leave them blank for a reason
we live on elision

because that’s what means something
what isn’t said is more important
than what is

because we talk alot

I talk all the time
and sometimes I rhyme

but do I ever say anything?

I remember everything
because I’m part elephant

except how to do the right thing
or do what I want to do

I’m on cruise control
up the 101 from Santa Barbara

back to the city

and the road curves hella worse
than the five

which you don’t have to be alive to

I’m in the corner of a bar
with a shot of fernet before me

and a beer beside it
and a belief that

through the intercession
of these two devices

I can contrive a therapy
to help me

because I can’t remember how to forget
but I want to