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The Night Becomes Thick and Comfortable by Joel Colten and Randal Rupert: read by Peter Bushyeager

Joel Colten (1950 – 1980) was a poet and photographer who lived in Philadelphia and Manhattan. From 1976 to 1980, he was also coeditor of the literary magazine Hot Water Review.

During his brief career, Colten’s poetry appeared widely in U.S. and U.K. publications including American Poetry Review, Dodgems, Painted Bride Quarterly, and Little Caesar Press’ Coming Attractions: An Anthology of American Poets in Their Twenties. His photos were exhibited at Philadelphia galleries and at the Photocopia gallery in Bellingham, Washington.

His poems are collected in two books: the night becomes thick and comfortable, which includes drawings by artist Randal Rupert, and the only romance is what is accurate, which features photographs by Stephen Spera. During his year-long stay in Manhattan, Joel was active in the downtown scene and is briefly mentioned in Eileen Myles’ Inferno (a poet’s novel).

In 1980, Colten embarked on a cross-country road trip, stopping in Washington to see his exhibit at Photocopia and to photograph the Mt. St. Helen’s volcano, which had recently become active. He died in the volcano’s May 18th eruption.

As was his habit, during his trip he sent friends a steady stream of postcard poems. His last postcard had the following poem:

there had been nothing in the language
to suggest deception i entered the room
with movements not based on history
the body craved this obscurity but needs more
the room opened like a new city
the time of day does not matter

—Peter Bushyeager




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