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Verse: A Murder Mystery

Posted 12.16.10

This original series, about a young poet who discovers a lost manuscript and "the only key to an unsolved thirty-year-old murder," is written by Susan Brennan, directed by Ram Devineni, and produced by Rattapallax Productions. Two episodes have been released and can be viewed at rattapallax.com/blog/verse.

Reader Comments

  • rattapallax says...

    Claire Wilks was brutally murdered on April 16, 1974, silencing the voice of the charismatic New York downtown poet for the next thirty-six years. Her body was found hung from a steam pipe in “The Bunker” in The Bowery, the dungeon lair of legendary writer William S. Burroughs. Burroughs, a friend of Wilks, was in Tangier at the time of her death.

    Wilks was a vibrant force in the downtown New York poetry scene in the early 1970s. She spearheaded untraditional readings in public spaces, often inviting audience members to participate in the “poetry of the moment” (as she was fond of calling it). The Gaslight, Andy Warhol’s Factory, CBGB’s, and the Ear Inn were just some of Wilks’ haunts. Mostly, she avoided the “scene” in favor of “spontaneous occurrences” in public spaces, frequently performing for strangers on the New York City subway.

    Wilks was born just outside of Minneapolis, MN, on March 23, 1953, where Wilks’ father was a truck driver and her mother a diner waitress, both very active in the American Communist party and various labor unions. Through her parents’ monthly labor meeting, 11-year-old Wilks met many wandering folk-singers such as Woody Guthrie, who inspired her to write poetry. At the young age of 17, Wilks felt she had to escape the shadow of her parents’ prolific activism to define her own brand of expression. Although she had learned much about mobilizing workers, rallying for human rights, and self-printing leaflets and effective poster art, Claire was searching to say something larger and louder.

    When her father discovered she had secretly dodged a bar-workers picket line to read poetry with friends, he locked up her volumes of poetry by Emily Dickenson, William Blake, and Federico Garcia Lorca. Wilks impulsively boarded a Greyhound bus to New York City, never to see her parents again.

    Influenced by, but breaking from the Beats, she absolutely forbade publication of her poetry. She wanted all her poetry to remain “live, fresh from the tongue,” eventually developing a spontaneous style of reading, a pre-cursor to the spoken-word movement. The police attributed her impulsive, sometimes reckless, lifestyle to her death, her murder remaining a cold case.

    In May 2010, poet Jon Sands, while working as a bike messenger, stumbled upon Wilks’ manuscript. Weaving through New York City’s literary history, Sands pieced together Wilks’ manuscript and story, as well as unwittingly exposed her murderer – the clues were in the poems. Many poetic giants such as John Giorno, Taylor Mead, Bob Holman, and Eileen Myles helped Sands trace Wilks’ past, uncovering her deep involvement with the Poets Freedom Project (PFP), a violent anti-government organization, and her murderer, Mark Green. Green, a poet, Wilks’ ex-lover, and a fugitive living in Berlin, was finally arrested and charged, thirty-six years after the crime.

    Sands’ exploits were dramatized in the series, VERSE: A Murder Mystery, which is distributed online through KoldCast TV and is soon to be available on cable television as part of KoldCast Presents, a half-hour series premiering September 23, 2011. In addition to the series, Sands also worked with Susan Brennan, the series’ screenwriter, to edit Wilks’ poetry collection, DRUNKEN OASIS, which was published by Rattapallax Press in fall 2011. Although Wilks felt that words were best tasted on the wind, we can be grateful, after missing her for so many years, to have her spirit preserved in her poems. Her book is available at BLURB.

  • rattapallax says...

    You can now watch the episodes at

    http://www.koldcast.tv/#/show:verse_a_murder_mystery

    VERSE: A murder mystery. When a young poet discovers a lost manuscript, he is drawn into the New York City literary world with the only key to an unsolved, 30-year-old murder. Starring Jon Sands, Angel Nafis and Mark Greenfield. Produced by Rattapallax Productions. Directed by Ram Devineni. Script by Susan Brennan. Music by Shira E. & the Tiny Tornadoes.

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