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Rocky Wilson: poet, teacher, Puppet Laureate of Camden, NJ. His poetry offers a glimpse into the beauty of America's "poorest city."
37 backers pledged $1,580 to help bring this project to life.

About

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$1,580

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In the 70's, Rocky felt the need to return to the decaying city of his birth, Camden, not to evangelize, but simply because the rent was cheap. Unpretentiously, he would begin to spread enlightenment to the wounded city. And to Rocky that involves both poetry and puppetry.

“The puppet man” some call him, he prefers to declare himself the Puppet Laureate of Camden. Why not? Rocky Wilson is an outsider who makes a real difference in America's most infamous city, along with priest and poet, Father Michael Doyle. Rocky lives the pure life that aspiring beatniks could only wish to lead; he is the grass, one blade among many.

Rocky and friends visiting Walt on his birthday.
Rocky and friends visiting Walt on his birthday.

My name is Sean Lynch, and I'm the editor of Rocky's poetry collection, "The Last Bus to Camden." The reason why Rocky and I are fundraising on Kickstarter is because we want to avoid the politics and tedious process of publishing with an academic institution or press that's not independent. Independent small presses need help to finance a book, and so we're doing this for the publisher in order to make a direct connection with the audience.

Rocky's puppetry brings joy to the hearts of Camdenites. As a substitute teacher in Camden, Rocky has built relationships with residents of the city that have endured for decades. In the late summer of 2013, Rocky Wilson and I were enjoying a beer along the Delaware River with Lamont b. Steptoe when he urged Rocky to finally publish a debut collection of verse after decades of writing poems. In the two years since, Rocky and I have frequented the Paul Robeson library in Camden countless times to work on his poetry book.

Rocky and Sean editing "Last Bus to Camden."
Rocky and Sean editing "Last Bus to Camden."

We've finished the editing process now, and here are what some important poets think about the end result:

Rocky Wilson’s the real thing: not another rubber-stamped MFA poet but a writer whose work begins from feeling & builds its case for what is felt in sure, solid lines. Like his spiritual grandfather, Walt Whitman, he allows only the authentic to represent him on the page. Frank and fun is the atmosphere here, so that when Wilson is moved to elegiac reflection in poems like “Short Cuts” and ‘Stopwatch,” it can seem startling and the results more startling still as he approaches hard moments with the kind of knowingness which is of a piece with the Chinese masters, and of course with Whitman, who will be well-pleased to receive this volume in whatever celestial den he currently resides.

-Jim Cory, MacDowell and Yaddo Fellow

Rocky Wilson is not just the muse of Camden, New Jersey, the poorest city in these rich, un-united states, he is its soul. Camden is where he finds redemption for a lifetime of loss, “What saves our lives:” he writes, “a 6th grade girl, a little cloth monkey, a dull knife, an angel's wings brushing through the ghetto night.” These are beautiful poems composed by a beautiful man who thrives in a place where beauty is rare. There’s no doubt in my mind, that if Walt Whitman were alive, he would be Rocky Wilson’s biggest fan.  

-Peter E. Murphy, Founder, Murphy Writing of Stockton University

Risks and challenges

If this campaign does not raise enough money, we will still go ahead with publication, but just on a much smaller scale. Instead of printing 500 copies, we'll only do 100.

The more money we raise here, the more we'll be able to spend on paying the designer and for distribution, as well as expanding book readings and marketing. The book is done. We just want to get it into the hands of as many readers as possible.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    Rocky will write you a haiku or two on a postcard sent from Camden, NJ.

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    Pledge $20 or more About $20

    A signed copy of Rocky's book, "Last Bus to Camden" delivered to a lover of poetry anywhere in the world, from the city of Camden.

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    Pledge $30 or more About $30

    A signed copy of Rocky's book plus a signed copy of the editor's poetry collection "the city of your mind."

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    Two signed copies of "Last Bus to Camden," a signed copy of "the city of your mind," and the haiku postcard.

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    Pledge $125 or more About $125

    A poetry reading by Rocky Wilson at a venue of your choice (within the local area) as well as a signed copy of his book (hand delivered to you by Bongo).

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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    A personal tour of the city of Camden given to you by none other than Walt Whitman himself. Walt will show you his house on Mickel Street, the ferry crossing he frequented along the Delaware River, and will conclude by bringing you to his tomb at Harleigh Cemetery. Walt will even recite some of his poetry along the way.

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Funding period

- (30 days)