He calls himself Mingus Tourette. He drives a pink ambulance. He is from Edmonton, Canada, and has been photographed holding a cigarette and a shouldered shotgun.
Tourette is another in a long line of literary badasses, most patently Bukowski, wringing art out of a life of drinking, brawling, sex and desperate dark nights of the soul. Featuring references to Dostoevsky and Henry Miller (whom he calls his "patron saint"), Tourette's 2004 book nunt (zygote publishing) chronicles in blank verse the harrowing two-year journey across America he took after walking out on his marriage.
If you haven't heard of Tourette or nunt, it's not because Canada's critics haven't tried. Tourette's in-your-face poetry was matched against not only that of his visceral forebears but also contemporary works such as Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club. It was a contest Tourette was often judged to have won, along with the Writers Guild of Alberta's Stephansson Award for Poetry. "Nunt makes Fight Club look like Three Little Bunnies," wrote critic Daniel Richler, praising how Tourette "wrenches tormented, nihilistic and surreally brutal feelings out of the pornographic and into the poetic."
Or as Tourette puts it, he's "writing without any context/without/any description or future plan/discarding the flowers of speech/on napkins and toilet paper/along the way."
You could read nunt's 63 terse, profane verses in about 12 minutes, though you might take longer pondering where Tourette's heart lies between bloodied testimonies to his love for his ex-wife, Nat, and the surface misogyny of certain pornographic scenarios ("Relax, girl./It's like taking a big shit./Only in reverse") and mere addiction ("you know i/lean on women/like any other kind of drug"). In any case, it's hard not to appreciate someone who cops to taking a corrective black marker to inarticulate bathroom graffiti; "the language of cock jokes," he explains, "needs a guardian angel/to ensure it's properly spoken."
This is where the pink ambulance comes in. Last year, Tourette organized the Write the Nation tour, driving poets around Canada in the decommissioned ambulance to symbolize the state of emergency the neglect of verse has wrought.
Now, Tourette is headlining the latest installment of the Perpetual Motion Roadshow, a touring circuit for indie-press types inspired by the DI-why-not of punk. The six-city circuit includes New York and Chicago as well as Pittsburgh; it stops at the Mattress Factory on Wed., Oct. 26. Tourette will be joined by Toronto-based novelist Jason Anderson and "Asian-Caucasian" rapper Coolhandluke, also from Toronto.
And if you're still unsure what Tourette is all about, here's his own description:
Purveyeor of Fine Apostasy
Notorious Drunkard, Esquire