About The Author

Lord Byron - Original

About the Author

Alistair McHarg spent his early years in Edinburgh and Amsterdam, moving to Philadelphia with his father, Ian, and mother, Pauline, at age six. He attended Germantown Friends School, Haverford College, and the University of Louisville.

The prestige of an M.A. in Creative Writing enabled McHarg to secure employment with one of Philadelphia’s least reputable taxi cab companies, where he pulled 12-hour shifts, 6 days a week, for a year.

Other forays into dead-end employment have included deckhand on a Norwegian tramp freighter, BLM forest fire fighter in Alaska, cross-country truck driver in Colorado, and guide at a Canadian wilderness survival camp.

Alistair has been arranging words for a living since 1983. He is the author of a bipolar memoir entitled Invisible Driving, two satiric novels, Moonlit Tours and Washed Up, and a recently released poetry anthology, 50 POEMS.

In addition to a vast catalog of original cartoons, Alistair is also the creator of Taz Mopula, whose enigmatic epigrams have become an Internet staple.

All four of Alistair’s books are available from Amazon.com. To learn more about them click on the Come In We’re Open sign.

Open Sign

The Intoxication of Poetry

Scorpions On The Face - Again

Two-time Poet Laureate, Howard Nemerov, and celebrated photographer, Diane Arbus, had a great deal in common. This talented brother and sister act shared what I would call an emotionally brittle nature, and a lifelong battle with depression. Arbus, famously, lost that battle at a young age. Her suicide was no desperate plea for help; she intended to go through with it.

It was 1969; I was a 19-year old freshman punk living la vida loca at Haverford College. My father, Ian, was almost at the zenith of his celebrity, turning up with tiresome regularity in every conceivable media outlet, doing his mad-as-a-March hare environmental activist with a thick Scottish brogue shtick. His base of operations was The Department of Landscape Architecture & Regional Planning at The University of Pennsylvania – a department he founded and chaired for decades.

The Professor was completely devoid of parenting skills, but – having written, and published, my first poem at age 6 – even he knew I was an incipient wordflinger. He taught a course entitled Man & Environment. Do not be misled by the apparent hubris of this title; since he did in fact know everything about everything the all-inclusive subject matter posed no problem. Plus, he invited a long string of tweed-jacket wearing, pipe-smoking, degree-wielding intellectual heavy-hitters to help.

In a rare moment of familial camaraderie he called to say Nemerov was giving a guest lecture and if I wanted to meet him I should show up at his office about 11:30.

So here we are, three guys in my father’s office at the U of P. Nemerov is pacing and twitching like a crack addict in a rehab. Finally he says, “Ian, I have got to have a martini.” My dad, enjoying this opportunity to swagger, tells one of his students to go to the bistro across the street, get a pitcher of martinis, and come back. The student points out that this is illegal and impossible for many reasons and my dad starts screaming at him. The terrified student races away – and is back in minutes with a stainless steel pitcher sweating chilly droplets. Nemerov’s eyes twinkle.

So I’m thinking – this is pretty cool – I am going to have a martini with one of the nation’s greatest poets. As this idea is simmering in my mind – Nemerov puts the pitcher to his lips and slowly, easily, drains the entire thing. My father and I look on in wonder, exchanging stunned glances. I will never forget what happened next. Nemerov stopped pacing, talking, twitching, fidgeting, glancing about erratically, and went perfectly calm. I had never seen a veteran, all-in alcoholic in action before; it was hypnotic.

The three of us walked down the corridor and into the lecture hall. Nemerov read his poetry for an hour; he was note-perfect. I doubt there were more than 50 people in the room, and he was a teacher, giving lectures was his bread and butter. It wasn’t about being nervous. Alcoholics get to the point where they need the toxin to be normal.

Poetry: Too Important To Be Left To The Sane

Poetry Is Far Too Important For Sane

As an insecure, fear-driven youth I relied exclusively on intellect. Lacking faith in social institutions, other people, or myself, I steadfastly trusted my mind’s ability to predict and manage life’s challenges. It made for a chilly, detached existence I found satisfactory.

“Poetry is far too important to be left to the sane.” Taz Mopula

Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder) changed all that for me. It was obvious that even my most faithful ally, my mind, was untrustworthy.

When I sat down to write Invisible Driving, my bipolar memoir, I knew I was taking a risk – remembering my mania to write about it might easily have sparked another episode. Revisiting my terrors was the very last thing I felt like doing.

Ultimately it became clear that, unless I faced my demon down, it would keep coming back and my next encounter with it might well be my last. So, I went sailing head first into darkness, I unwrapped the gift of desperation.

“Great soldiers are brave; great poets are reckless.” Taz Mopula

My rational mind dearly desired to control, to soar above events and manipulate them like a puppeteer with marionettes. But the task at hand took precedence over my ego, and because it did, I trusted the process itself. After so many years of being a shoemaker, doing piecework for nickels and dimes, I became a real writer not because I thought my way into it but because I surrendered to it.

“We write to discover who we are, and in the process, become somebody else.” Taz Mopula

I do not deny the importance of craft, if one wants to be a guitarist one must learn how to play the guitar. But it is not the fingers on strings that make you an artist; it is the story they tell, and the way it reaches, and moves, others. You don’t play music; you find it. It isn’t in a curvy wooden box; it passes through you like wind through a canyon, coming out of nowhere, on its way to parts unknown.

“Writing great poetry becomes much easier when you’re willing to die for it.” Taz Mopula

My dive into darkness replaced fear with faith, not just faith in myself, but faith in the unknown, and unknowable. I embraced chaos without judgment or disappointment; I understood I could rely upon uncertainty.

“Without life, poetry itself would be meaningless.” Taz Mopula

In the end a writer is merely a man in a room with a typewriter. He arranges words like a Byzantine artisan laying tiles into a mosaic which gradually reveals an illustrative pattern quite possibly unknown even to him until the very moment of completion.

“It’s always darkest before the movie starts.” Taz Mopula

Tristan Tzara, Marcel Duchamp & René Magritte Enter A Non-Existent Bar…

nude descending staircase

Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 – Marcel Duchamp

Strolling through… WWW.ALISTAIRMCHARG.COM …one is inevitably struck by the austere minimalism, opulent use of white space, and painstaking attention to detail which combine to create a rarefied atmosphere at once calm, cool, and occasionally collected.

“Ultimately it’s not what you don’t say that matters most so much as how you don’t say it.” Taz Mopula

My work requires such a setting to be appreciated and, as a rule, visitors enjoy a brief respite from the nightmarish cacophony of what is laughingly referred to as modern culture.

“White is the new black, silence is the new eloquence, and obscurity is the new fame.” Taz Mopula

Taz Mopula snippets of mildly enigmatic pseudo-profundity are updated daily.

“To live happily it either is or is not essential that one learns to embrace self-contradictory concepts.” Taz Mopula

My cartoons – which precariously straddle the netherworld separating good-natured merriment from acidic, irreverent iconoclasm – are also updated daily.

“If you cannot see yourself as others see you, you will never understand why they are laughing.” Taz Mopula

Hep cats, deep thinkers, and sensitive artistes should be sure to visit the poetry alcove. Beware, poetry is powerful voodoo and best consumed in small doses. Poems are updated weekly in order to give readers time to recover.

“Without life, poetry itself would be meaningless.” Taz Mopula

Members of the press, and others with a desire to know more; can follow links to a plethora of audio, visual, and written deconstructions of my creative enterprises.

“Reality can only be found in artifice; mere facts simply aren’t honest enough.” Taz Mopula

The blog you are reading now is updated regularly and provides a repository for words too portly to be used elsewhere.

“We write to discover who we are, and in the process, become somebody else.” Taz Mopula

Our Gift Shop, conveniently called BOOKS, is always worth a visit! There you can purchase my redoubtable bipolar memoir, Invisible Driving, and my two satirical novels, Moonlit Tours and Washed Up, in paperback or digital download.

One click convenience HERE takes you right to the checkout line.

…and the bartender says, “Pamplemousse!”