Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Issue 3 of GUD pre-launch goodness!!!

Okie-dokie, folks! Please check out GUD magazine, issue number 3:

They're having a contest, so if you have a blog, and link to their blog, you could win a free set of issues.


Check them out!

Looking for a poem.

We're looking for a submission for this week's Blind Review Friday poem.

Just follow the instructions in the upper left sidebar. In the meantime here is a picture of a man putting his head inside the mouth of a giant catfish.

Somehow this image just seems to go with having one's poetry thrown to the masses for critique.


We've got three poems in the cue now! Thanks for the submissions. One of these three will be randomly selected for your perusal tomorrow. The other two will remain in the pile 'till picked at a future date.

Update 2:

Sources do confirm that yes indeed -the man in the photo with his head in a catfish is, former poet laureat, Billy Collins.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Poetry Fests—why not take the whole week off?

i have been to many poetry festivals. usually lasting 2-4 days, they consist of constant readings and socializing among poets, who, as we all know can be socially challenged. but when ALL around are poets, there is noone there to throw a stone. the stimuli build, books fly off shelves as collected words suddenly seem important enough to part with cash for, friends are made and bodily clocks lose and gain minutes.

never did i expect that one day i would pay air-fare and make hotel reservations to go and read poetry for ten minutes, and listen to 16 hours of others reading! i’ll write about two stand-out fests i attended.

the 40 years since Berkeley 1968 reunion of John Oliver Simon, Richard Krech & Charles Potts (May 11-14, 2008) included readings by Richard Denner, Hugh Fox, Alta, David Bromige & myself. it took place in Berkeley, CA on some of the same streets these hoodlums gathered on to gripe about Vietnam and civil rights. the poets, mainly in their late sixties, have writ all these decades, so inspired the few of us who’ve only recently encountered hemmeroids. all continue publishing, and each of them only with small, independent publishers you’ve likely not heard of. unless you are a fan of the underground scene. Krech is a lawyer, Potts made it big in real estate, Denner is a Buddhist monk, complete with robes. Hugh Fox is an archaeologist, who also happens to have been Board of Directors of COSMEP (1968-1996). i think what was remarkable (besides all of the grilled vegetables), was that for the younger gen who made it out there, these poets were proof one never has to pay a reading fee, or enter contests, in order to be published. they can be world-class salesmen, or physicists. and that indy poets are birds of a feather.

another took place in Northamton, Mass., in November. Fest Ecstatique, put on by Byron Coley (of Arthur’s Bull Tongue review) brought together Charles Plymell, & the aforementioned Potts & Krech & Simon, with the young Sonic Youth-inspired poets, like Angela Jaeger, Matt Krefting & Wesley Eisold. Mike Watt, yes, the bass player! read poetry for the first time. New York poet George Wallace (who came to Cleveland for Patchen Fest 2007) wowed the red barn with his poem on Big America. and the whole weekend was interspersed with noise music and indy beats, including a grand performance by Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore. the weekend was a chance to meet fellow pubs from places like Montreal & Delaware. again, the generations spanned from getting pretty old, to just getting away from the ‘rents.

keep yer ears peeled, (and inboxes checked) for upcoming fests put on by C. Allen Rearick and Mark Kuhar this late Fall. (anyone got the scoop on either of these fine functions?) each have intimated to me much poetry will be had. consider taking days off from work, to enter into the big, intertwining world of small poetry. what i have learned from such gatherings is the family tree of small press has a branch or twig for any ovus who care to be ‘in the leaves’.

What role should poetry play?

You have probably never heard of Alan Taylor, (in the photo at left, looking a bit like Steve Smith in a Tyrolean mountain climber's hat), but he is a poet who writes the World Class Poetry Blog, a very interesting little piece of work in which he comments, ruminates and opines about all topics poetic. Here is a bit of his wisdom:

"For much of the 20th century, poets have been fixated on experimentation and quite often in very odd ways. A reaction to this experimentation led to a movement in the past 20 years called New Formalism, where some poets tried to revitalize the old forms, but much of what has been done by them has been staid. I think it's time for a new movement. The 21st century is not just a new century. It is also a new millennium. This era is beset with new technologies, untold violence, and a topsy-turvy re-organization of old structures in religion (ordination of women and gay priests), politics (the spread of democracy and fall of authoritarian regimes), education (charter schools and home schooling), and morality (the rise of alternative lifestyles). We can argue about whether these developments are positive or negative, but what role should poetry play in that argument?"

And so I ask you, poets of Cleveland, in your opinion, what role should poetry play?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Haiku U and other stuff

Blog #1 --

Hi folks: I've been writing a lot of haiku lately...Not sure why...Could be because I'm getting a greater sense of time and how fast it passes...haiku has the power to say a lot in 17 syllables.

I share the following, taken from my forthcoming book "An Unmistakable Shade of Red and the Obama Chronicles" with Bottom Dog and ask poets so inclined to respond with a haiku of their own, or by someone else. Peace, Mary:


At night, crows enter rooms
of sexually molested daughters.
Make fathers eat them.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

What rhymes with thug?

Mark's post below serves some food for thought.

What other poets throughout history have reputations as being real jerk offs or worse?

Does having artistic talent provide a free pass for scurrilous behavior?

What about our buddy here to the right?

Mr. Pound was an unabashed Nazi collaborator.

Comments please – who belongs in the rogue’s gallery of poetic despots?

A poet and a mass murderer

We tend to think of poets as a cut above the average joe, perhaps a bit more in empathy with our fellow human beings, our surroundings, the environment and cosmic consciousness. How then does one explain poet, professor, doctor and politician Radovan Karadzic, former Bosnian Serb leader, who was arrested this past week for war crimes, including genocide in the 1992–1995 Bosnian War. With his crazy gray pompadour, he looks every bit the poet he was, not the mass murderer he became. I have to hand it to him, the guy belted out powerful poetry, just another in a long line of Serbian poets, such as Petar Petrovich Njegosh, Vasko Popa and yes, our own Charles Simic. But something darker lurked inside him, perhaps a lust for power that dismantled his capacity for empathy and ultimately transformed him into a monster. Being part Serbian myself, I am horrified by Karadzic's crimes, and I get disturbed whenever my illusions of the "golden poet" are shattered. Daniel Thompson took bread to the homeless, Karadzic was responsible for the murder of thousands. It is a stark contrast.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Blind Review Friday

Okay - here's our first blind review Friday selection. The author shall remain anonymous (unless they chose to divulge themselves in the comments.)
Those commenting are also welcome to remain anonymous if they wish.
Incendiary comments will be removed

If you would like your piece thrown to the wolves send it to with "Workshop the hell out of this poem" as the subject line.

From now on, I'm gonna need every letter beginning every sentence to fade out a little bit
because when I grab the back of your neck, I want it to feel like a whisper.
I want you to concentrate on my breath
your heartbeat pounding in my hand
my hand holding in your heartbeat
and I don't want you to tell me the difference
even when I am talking to you in another language, you will understand.

Sunday night and in the booth in front of me, Christopher looks white as a ghost
and Ulee walks in with a Greek Tony Soprano.
Christopher leans forward like he just killed somebody's poodle and Tony's unhappy about it.

Now when Tony ain't happy
ain't nobody happy.

Tony is a mad Greek
he is round, balding and straight to the point and he's got me shaking in my seat
and I like it. In between Tony's pauses,
I whisper confessions to friends across from me
I tap teaspoon against decaf coffee cup
waiting for the kiss of death
waiting atleast for the words, say me fee lay.

but I never hear him say it
I only imagine his love this devotion he has with each trip back to the table
and one more thing
and one more thing
and one more thing,

I love you, kid.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Goode story on CNN

It's 4:00 pm on Thursday, and the news story of the hour is Barack Obama giving a speech in front of 200,000 in Berlin. But on CNN's web site, the second top story is about poet Jon Goode.

From the piece:

"Originally from Richmond, Virginia, Goode studied economics and finance at James Madison University in Virginia. His Southern-laced vernacular alludes to a rural upbringing. His bookish style -- starched short-sleeve button up with tie, wire-rimmed glasses and a straw boater hat -- is straight out of a Harper Lee novel. Friends liken him to "a civil rights leader that listens to rap music." Goode's spoken word performances are drawn from a collection of personal stories, most of which are true, he says. The seasoned wordsmith rose through the ranks to deliver his rhymes to the spoken-word mainstream. He's done writing stints and made appearances for Nike, Nickelodeon and CNN's "Black in America. But it was after an appearance on HBO's "Def Jam Poetry" that Goode really started to get noticed."

Check out the entire article here. It's always good when poetry gets a marquee position in the news.

Lake Erie Nirvana

Living in Northeast Ohio, I think it's easy to forget what Lake Erie means to the community at large, the regional ecosystem and especially the local creative mind. From underground publications such as Swamp Erie da da Boom, to artwork such as Diane Kendig's "Ghazals on Lake Erie in Winter," to poetry such as Susan Grimm's "Lake Erie Blue," that big ol' great lake looms as a gigantic inspiration, every bit as important to the psyche as the bricks and mortar of Cleveland itself. I had a rare opportunity to spend an entire afternoon sitting on the shores of Lake Erie, up by Ashtabula, last weekend. I was reminded once again of how the lake stimulates the senses and feeds the brain. If you have not taken a Lake Erie break lately, I urge you to find some time to sit next to the lake, breathe in the air, walk in the water, feel the breeze zipping off the waves, listen to the seagulls, let the sand and rocks fall through your fingers. Here's a poem that fell out of my head while sitting on a broken chair on the beach:

lake erie nirvana #67

where the sky meets lake erie,
where lake erie meets the beach,
the layers connect to the vast
expanse of land falling south,
and i am nothing of consequence
here, not a wave in motion, not
a bird in flight, not a hidden fish.
that which i hold too tight, lets go.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Northeast Ohio Poet Field Guide:

Full name: Roger James Craik
Age: 52
Habitat: Ashtabula, Ohio
Range: Cleveland, Youngstown, out of state and international.
Diet: Unknown
Distinguishing Markings: I Simply Stared (2002), Rhinoceros in Clumber Park (2003), The Darkening Green (2004), Those Years (2007), and poems published in national journals.
Predators: None Stated
Prey: None Stated

Friday night

My arms are folded
round the girl; the pillow’s
cool and simple to my cheek.

The ebb and warmth. Birds in
darkening trees.
Insensibly, beyond the reach of tenderness,
the mind
withdraws, goes embering down the years

to where a schoolboy’s on
his way upstairs,
-- no school tomorrow, or the next day too! --
and now
he is throwing off his clothes ecstatically to feel

the crispness
of this special evening’s sheets,
the pillow’s linen meadow at his
and in the dark to be imagining as real

within his
self-embracing arms a sleeping girl.

Contact info:

Monday, July 21, 2008

Redford and Youth Poetry

I have always believed that poetry and activism go hand in hand, that poetry is a verbal activism in and of itself, and a precursor to actual physical action. It is no surprise, for instance, that for many decades, Central and South American revolutionary activity has been accompanied by a ragged and beautiful poetry of the soul. Well, environmental activism is the revolution of the 21st Century. Here in the old U.S. of A, that movement is being fostered by young people, and it comes as no surprise to me that Robert Redford is behind some of it. Redford, known for his support of environmental causes, is apparently a big backer of youth poetry slams as a means to communicate the dangers of global warming. Check out the following story that ran on NPR.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Cat Valente Wins Rhysling

A quick heads up. On Saturday, at ReaderCon in Boston, MA, local author Catherynne M. Valente won the 2008 Rhysling Award for her poem "The Seven Devils of Central California"

From the SFPA site:

The nominees for each year's Rhysling Awards are selected by the membership of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Each member is allowed to nominate one work in each of the two categories: "Best Long Poem" (50+ lines) and "Best Short Poem" (0-49 lines). All nominated works must have been published during the calendar year for which the present awards are being given. The Rhysling Awards are put to a final vote by the membership of the SFPA using reprints of all the nominated works presented in this voting tool called The Rhysling Anthology. The anthology allows the membership to easily review and consider all nominated works without the necessity of obtaining the diverse number of publications in which the nominated works first appeared. The Rhysling Anthology is also made available to anyone with an interest in this unique compilation of verse from some of the finest poets working in the field of SF/F/Horror poetry. The winning works are regularly reprinted in the Nebula Awards Anthology from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc., and are considered in the SF/F/H/Spec. field to be the equivalent in poetry of the awards given for "prose" work--achievement awards given to poets by the writing peers of their own field of literature.

For more information about Cat and her work, visit her site:

Poetry, Marquess of Queensbury Rules

Okay, Cleveland. Check this out:

I know there have been some grumblings about the scene, so I'm wondering if this wouldn't shake things up a bit? The first question is, of course, does anyone know a place where we could set up a ring? Does anyone know of a a ring already set up somewhere--a gym, a school or someplace similar?

After that, I say we get a few teams together and duke it out. It could be a charity event for The Lit or someplace similar, but the idea of Salinger or McNeice hopping around in boxers and a robe going off on an improvisational rant tickles me to no end. I'm thinking team uniforms, tag events, an short announcer in a tight suit, the whole works.

This also reminded me of Steven Jesse Bernstein, and the fact that I haven't listened to Prison in a while. Great stuff, that. Check it out if you're not familiar with it. It should make it to Word Play, but I doubt the FCC would condone it. ;-)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Oh, Kay

What are we to make of Kay Ryan, recently named as the new U.S. Poet Laureate? Is there any honor in being named to the post at all? After Billy Collins, I thought not. When Charles Simic was so honored, i thought, "well, maybe so." I read a selection of Kay Ryan's work, and came away pleasantly surprised by poems that clunk you over the head, with tight language, but retain a sense of cool vagueness. It's like, "something is happening here, but you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?" to drop a Dylanism. And all her poems seem to end abruptly, with a jarring crunch, like a fighter jet landing on an aircraft carrier. I have to admit it -- I like her. Check out the following poem. The "nightmare water that won't break" gets me every time.

by Kay Ryan

In harmony with the rule of irony—
which requires that we harbor the enemy
on this side of the barricade—the shell
of the unborn eagle or pelican, which is made
to give protection till the great beaks can harden,
is the first thing to take up poison.
The mineral case is soft and gibbous
as the moon in a lake—an elastic,
rubbery, nightmare water that won't break.
Elsewhere, also, I see the mockeries of struggle,
a softness over people.

--from Flamingo Watching. Copyright © 1994 Copper Beech Press.

GV7 Documentary Review

GV7:Random Urban Static is a two hour DVD featuring fifteen performance oriented poets from the United States. Included in the mix are two time national slam champion Sekou (the misfit), LA Slam Masters Mollie Angelheart and Natalie Patterson, two time grand slam champion Bridget Gray, and many others. Poets and their performances are cut with interviews that connect performance poetry to hip-hop, question the importance of race and sexuality in performance poetry, and discuss the reasons behind performance poetry. The performances range from the wild and outloud, with Common Ground (Angelheart and Patterson together) getting right in the viewers face, to the deeply personal, whether it be The Lindz weeping or Nick Lopez’s nasal performance and introverted headturning, to the humor of Tony award winning Poetri and even the obscure and bizarre Eric Haber.

What was interesting, and what makes Bob Bryan’s film less of a "movie" or a "production" and more of an actual documentary was that there didn’t seem to be a message across the poets. Each poet was represented as an individual, with their opinions, beliefs and experiences allowed to interact and contradict. The movie opened up a discussion and didn’t try to pigeonhole any poet into a “performance” mold. Where one poet insists upon the poem working on the page, another poet insists that performance poetry is entirely focused on performance to the point that she doesn’t write her own work down. Where one champions directness and accessibility, another celebrates the bizarre and random. One defends the hip-hop connection to performance poetry, and another advocates breaking away from that connection and some of the negativity it brings to performance poetry. This discussion opens up the idea of performance poetry as an evolving movement with many voices, and not necessarily a static entity with no potential for growth or change.

As an educational tool, this DVD invites students and teachers into the conversation and provides them with an idea of what is happening in the world of performance poetry with out being too overwhelming or too flashy. It also connects the poetry to the academy, as certain poets (Tim’m T. West and J. Walker) speak about their educational backgrounds and how that has influenced what they do in performance. While some of these poets are slam poets, this documentary also shows other aspects and venues for performance work, whether it be Hunter Lee Hughes shaking his entire body to his poem, Nick Lopez reading over a film, or even Jessica Healy taping her poems to bathroom stalls.

For more information about the DVD, visit:

Friday, July 18, 2008

Steve Ferguson

Well, to round out the portrait of Steve Ferguson, I'd have to say I came to know him in the last 3 years of his life, and found him difficult to deal with. He was very protective of his relationship with d.a.levy and distrusting of what he saw as outsiders from the group. He was very independent, and I can respect that, but he was complex too, and not a saint.
Larry Smith

Sending Steve

Sending Steve Steve Ferguson December 10, 1943-June 29, 2008

It’s a different thing getting to know someone thru letters, with stamps procured & envelopes licked. Script has got charm, (even if i type my own letters). Handwritings or margin sizes are as hairstyles, or trouser choices are to presenting oneself, in society. Stylish bits of the self are thus displayed. There’s almost no limit, with letters, on subject matter, because a decent one has only to fill the page. Few other rules apply. For quick messages, a postcard may be used. Some letter writers select papers based, i think, on how much they have to say; how much room they intend to fill. Perhaps only a handful of minutes are to be had for the letter, so a smallish stationary may be used. A special fold maybe, or margins are played with. Blank greeting cards for laudatory notes or special writings.

i got to know Steve Ferguson mainly thru letters. A sweet, brilliant man who never minced words, Steve floated his own boat. We met a few (brief) times at readings, but usually one of us was on our way to work just after the read, or some other thing prevented any real conversation. So what i know of Steve truly exists in his letters.

While i wrote him rambling, disjointed rants, poems, and dissections, what i pried open from Bridge Ave. # 4 was often pure literature. Perhaps Steve used writing me letters as an outlet for writing in general. His sentences, maybe on pedestrian matter, by rhythm and syllabic structure sounded off the page, for miles. Sometimes he told me he no longer wrote poetry. His next letter might contain a freshly-writ poem. Of course, our selves could not be questioned or disputed.

i never saved a copy of my letters, even though i drafted them on my PC, so i often wrote him the same things consecutively. Steve’s fine sentences were always new, and shifted from squirrels, to birds, to Beethoven & Bach, to his own piano playing, which involved all of the above. He often referred to his hero Steven Collins Foster. Several months before he died Steve hefted a piano into his home and acquired many Foster songs, to learn and play.

One poet told me, before Bill Clinton came around, Steve Ferguson was the Slickest Willy around. Thotful, sweetheart, wildcat, & from left field---all used by others to describe the man. i think the Steve i got was my own. Certainly, the ramblings i sent to Bridge varied from those i sent in post or email, to other friends. In a sense, he and i crafted ourselves and each other on mainly white, bleached papers for a handful of years.

Steve was a kind of private person. More than once he wrote, you better not tell anyone, but…. And so the idea of publishing,or giving the letters to some library special collection, say, causes me to pause. And consider. And go back. And consider, again. Like Steve, i am a too-thotful person.

Steve’s humility in general, and (chosen) anonymity make me hesitate even to speak of him after his death! O man, i’d like to scream it from the rooftops : STEVE FERGUSON WAS A FLIPPIN AWESOME POET, HAH! Franz Kafka made it explicit he wished certain works, such as The Kastle to remain unpublished, after his death. But his executor, who was also his best friend, put it and anything else he had of Kafka’s into print, finished or not. Max Brod felt these writings both personal or professional valuable to the world. Hart Crane destroyed too late, his early writings. Posthumously, these poems which embarrassed the author were collected, as an afterword in the Crane omnibuses.

So what is the value of a writer’s wish?
i wish i knew what things i could print or say about Steve, and still be respecting.
Perhaps i jes' better read more well his letters.

Steve Ferguson published and promoted poetry around Cleveland consistently in the seventies, when some poets took a break, after so much drama. Since, he has lived a quiet life in Ohio City, working in a grocery near West 25th and Fulton Ave. He is known of course for his relationship with d.a. levy, a local legend of the small press poetry scene who hand-crafted books in friends houses, in places like Shaker Heights. Steve edited some grass roots literary newspapers, like the Buddhist Third Class Junkmail Oracle, and was a mainstay in the scene. But like many Clevelanders, he was not known to draw attention to himself. Not seeking a limelight. And so in obscurity, he spanned his time, most recently with a she-cat named Lena. There is a beautiful obit by a man named Mark Stueve:

There is also a ‘little book’ by Steve Green Panda Press originally published, as part of an anthology (Animals Without Backbones Cleveland, OH 2008). If you would like a copy, please email with a mailing address.

One word

I love this site -- it's a great 1 minute writing exercise to wake up the mind. No fair cheating and taking more than the ascribed minute. Yesterday's word was SCARF. Below, my response.

Draped about her neck, scrunched up against the cold, colorful silk or wrapped about the hair tying every strand out of sight. What scarf do you wear to go out in the cold? What keeps you warm and tells the world who you are?

Deep Cleveland Poetry Hour -- Danilee Eichhorn Feature

Last friday (7/11 for you slurpee fans) Danilee Eichhorn was the featured reader at the Deep Cleveland Poetry Hour. I was under the impression that she had a book to sell, as she has lots and lots of poetry, but no publisher has picked her up yet. (Big Hint!!!)Still, she blanketed us with lots and lots of poetry. It was a very solid, mystical evening with some sex and romance thrown in. Danilee is beginning studies this fall in Religion (BTW, the Danilee Eichhorn Empty Pocket Fund is accepting donations. Please help support the arts and give her money.) and many of her poems reflected her already rich knowledge in this subject. I opened with a translation of Hafiz, which was a solid choice, considering the mystical connotations to most of Danilee's work. If you have not heard her read, I strongly recommend it. Check out her blog here:

Among the open mike participants were team Smith, Jesus Crisis, Diane Borsenik, Theresa Gottl, Chris Franke (Deep Cleveland Feature August. 8) , Ralph Ryan, J. E. Stanley, Dan Smith, Jack McGuane (Deep Cleveland Feature Oct. 10), Roger Miller (Deep Cleveland Feature Nov. 14), Eric Anderson, Mary Turzillo, Geoffrey Landis, Wanda Sobieska, and many more whose names or faces I have forgotten over the past week.

Speaking of faces, Geoffrey Landis was snapping pictures. Here are some:

For more information concerning upcoming Deep Cleveland Poetry Hours:

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Welcome to Clevelandpoetics – the blog!

We hope for this forum to be an adjunct to the Clevelandpoetics list serve. You want to know what is happening, when, and where, literary-wise in Northeast Ohio – subscribe to the Clevelandpoetics list serve.

You want that ya should chew the fat about those events, the scene, talk shop or read posts from some of the top writers and publishers in the area and leave your two cents on what they have to say – this is the place for you.

There is no set format although we will have a few recurring themes – if they work out we’ll keep them if not we’ll try something else. What we really need is input via comments and submissions to make this thing float.

We’ve assembled a pretty crack crew to get this baby rolling and each has free reign over what they want to post and each is a volunteer. We think you’ll be happy with this initial incarnation. Later we’ll be looking for guest posters and switch up the writing staff just enough to keep folks guessing.

Thanks – we’ll try real hard to be worth your attention.

Clevelandpoetics: the blog
We'll be going live with content tomorrow Friday the 18th of July!


The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau