Tom came to Sushi Gallery out of San Diego’s poetry world, where he had begun in the late 70s to emphasize the performative aspects of poetry readings. He has continued in this emphasis and made his place among poets based on it. He has also always emphasized an anonymous or pseudonymous contribution to the scene. His career has been almost completely anti-professional, though it has provided us with (for awhile in the 80s) a newsletter called “Poetry Beat” and an anthology called The End of the World Project. He has also published many poems, essays, and reviews on paper and online.
Tom’s career as a “performance artist” was encouraged by a few venues in what is now called the East Village, as well as other parts of town. His most well-remembered performance at Sushi was called simply “David & Rachel Fall in Love.” It was a light-hearted mockery in homage to two of Sushi’s better-known guest artists, David Antin and Rachael Rosenthal. To perform it, Tom bunched his abundant hair under a skin-wig and hooked the characters together with a length of monofilament that had a #2 hook on either end inserted into the web of flesh between the thumb and forefinger on each hand. Being laughed at while bleeding was part of the fun for Tom.
This is what he looked like in his Sushi days:
and a more recent photo, at the second Women’s March in Santa Cruz:
Tom has returned to San Diego and performs here occasionally now in the 2020’s, sometimes with friends as The Survival Knives and sometimes solo as T.C. Marshall.