Friday, October 31, 2008

Haiku U and Other Stuff

Hi Folks: Last night I visited a gallery at W. 26th and Lorain for an opening exhibit that included the work of my friend, fine arts photographer Donald Black, Jr. He'd spent some time going in and out of abandoned, foreclosed properties all over the area including the southeast side of Cleveland and Shaker. His black and white images, sparse as a pine box--inspired this rough draft that came this morning. Would appreciate any and all feedback. Peace, Mary


For: Donald Black, Jr.

With or without my chain
I’m as impotent as a long old man
Handless, my skin chips drop
to a floor left like an unwashed
body. Splinters are tears
floating through this house, my core
wounded like a soldier’s spirit at war—
no noticeable scars.

I see cars drive by, a driveby,
the last U-Haul truck hauling
the last load away, hastily tossed
kid-shoes, mama curlers, housecoat,
running shoes, icebox with door
removed, stove with one pot,
dressers as weary as the face of my
lover, a side door, her name
the sound in this house as she closes
and locks, leaving me—a nude
front man—signifying nothing.

Mary E. Weems

Blind Review Friday

Blind Review Friday.

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.

This week's entry is from a local poet:


his her
consciousness flickers
the tongue of a serpent
sneaker speaking
good and evil
tasty ready-licious
wishes for
life beyond
the hard sell walls
prison bed springs
foot falls
bat wings cat calls
two of every creature
arking through
the flood limbs of time

she he is
our eternal after
birth fenced in
by this man sod
woman God
who admits
no fault
claims to knead
know defense
around his her
garden of eaten
sweet and
rotten fruit

and the hard burned
heart earned
lesson here is this

with her his
his her snakish
conscience also
flickers as this
two faced fork
tongued serpent God
woman man bitch beast
for a self mayed
dis-made myth
crucifies her him

to in tree daze
writhe again

Friday, October 24, 2008

Blind Review Friday

Blind Review Friday.

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.

Thanks for all the comments on last week's piece - The Quiet World by Jeff McDaniel. Word on the street is that there is a chance the author will be doing a reading at Cleveland State in the near future - this event is still in the maybe column as of this writing, let's hope it comes to fruition.

This week we have a local submission:

Its Gold Still Greens With Tattered Light

We held within ourselves a small infinity
when time had just begun and place
was anywhere we were.

We sang our hymn to all creation
the choirs in our souls hoshanned
no measure of our days was taken.

We signed a holy body language then
when love's alchemy raged across the sky
and we drank its rainbow potions.

Its gold still greens with tattered light
our run down and decaying shrines.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

NEO Poet Field Guide

Full name: Alice Cone
Age: Timeless
Habitat: Kent, Ohio
Range: Within a five mile radius
Diet: Novelists David Mitchell and Haruki Murakami
Distinguishing Markings: Two chapbooks: As If a Leaf Could Be Preserved (Finishing Line, 2006), Shattering Into Blossom (Interior Noise Press, 1998)
Predators: Distractions, doubt
Prey: Focus, understanding



It’s not that I love sorrow most,
it’s just that here, on the dark earth,
where the stars seem small, so far away,
when you gather together like this,
the solitary coals you offer become
a congregation of losses that discloses
what you are: lunar-orange luminaries
lighting the night sidewalk, unsheathed
candles raised in chorus.'

(re-printed from As If a Leaf Could Be Preserved, 2006)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Haiku Death Match featured in PD

Kudos to Karen Sandstrom, for her continued efforts to support the poetry community of Greater Cleveland. Check out her article from the Plain Dealer (photo at left also from PD, by Chris Stephens) on the upcoming Haiku Death Match. It starts . . .

"Back in middle school English class, haiku was the perfect poetry.

Haiku poems were short, and the rules of engagement were simple. The first line contained five syllables, the middle line contained seven, and the third contained five. If you had to read haiku, it didn't take long. If you had to write it, something about that 17-syllable construction made your poem sound not-half-bad.

Turns out all that simplicity was tad too simple. Haiku isn't always 17 syllables. Oh, and a haiku is supposed to allude to the seasons. There also should be a "cutting word," or a point in which the idea in the poem turns sharply in another direction."

Read the rest of the piece here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Book Review: Dreams and Nightmares 81

David C. Kopaska-Merkel is an incredible and prolific poet. He is the author of fourteen chapbooks and hundreds of poems and short stories, which have been published in dozens of venues since the early 1980s. He has been nominated for many Rhysling Awards, which he won with Kendall Evans for their poem "The Tin Man." Recently, he was nominated for SFPA Grandmaster status.

It should be no suprise, then, that Kopaska-Merkel is also an incredible editor. He was for six years the editor of Star*Line, the journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. He currently is the editor and publisher of Dreams and Nightmares, which is now in its 81st issue.

Issue of 81 represents all genres of speculative literature, from horror to science fiction to fantasy and any melding or blend of the above, all of it worth reading. For example, the cover poem, a wrap around color collage of word and image by Steve Cooper, blends imagery from the CERN Hadron Collider, the Mayan Calendar and a suicidal protagonist. Between the covers, readers are presented with a mythopoetic castle by David R. Sullivan, a used android wife by Deborah P. Kolodji, and instructions for the apocalypse from Bruce Boston. Readers are also treated with short scifaiku, horrorku and tanka from Deborah P. Kolodji, assu and g smorpian, as well as illustrations by Randy Moore, Anne Stone, and Jeff Creek. There are short prose pieces from Nicholas Ozment and Ruth Berman, and a three page religious science fiction poem by Kendall Evans and Samantha Henderson. In these 20 short pages there are many dreams, many nightmares, and something to appeal to every reader.

What makes this magazine even more attractive is the incredibe price--$4!!! A poet can sell a $5 chapbook, buy a copy of Dreams and Nightmares, and have half a cup of coffee left in change! Also, Kopaska-Merkel is selling lifetime subscriptions--LIFETIME--for $90, which includes any available back issues, which I assume would include issue 81. This is a great deal, and offers up a lifetime of, from what the small sampling in issue 81 presents, great speculative reading.

Keillor to read poem by Dr. Larry Smith

Congratulations to Dr. Larry Smith. I hear that one of the poems from his tremendous collection, A River Remains, will be read on the Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac radio show on Saturday Nov. 8th...whatever time it plays in your area. "This is always an appreciation to have your work shared on such a populist network," Smith said.

Here is the poem:


I have left my wife at the airport,
flying out to help our daughter
whose baby will not eat.
And I am driving on to Kent
to hear some poets read tonight.
I don’t know what to do with myself
when she leaves me like this.
An old friend has decided to
end our friendship. Another
is breaking it off with his wife.
I don’t know what to say
to any of this—Life’s hard.
And I say it aloud to myself,
Living is hard, and drive further
into the darkness, my headlights
only going so far.
I sense my own tense breath, this fear
we call stress, making it something else,
hiding from all that is real.
As I glide past Twin Lakes,
flat bodies of water under stars,
I hold the wheel gently, slowing my
body to the road, and know again that
this is just living, not a trauma
nor dying, but a lingering pain
reminding us that we are alive.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Blind Review Friday

Blind Review Friday.

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.

We did not receive a piece this week so I am throwing up one by a friend from out of town I will reveal the author next week:

The Quiet World

In an effort to get people to look
into each other's eyes more,
the government has decided to allot
each person exactly one hundred
and sixty-seven words, per day.

When the phone rings, I put it
to my ear without saying hello.
In the restaurant I point
at chicken noodle soup. I am
adjusting well to the new way.

Late at night, I call my long
distance lover and proudly say
I only used fifty-nine today.
I saved the rest for you.

When she doesn't respond, I know
she's used up all her words
so I slowly whisper I love you,
thirty-two and a third times.
After that, we just sit on the line
and listen to each other breathe.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Holy F*** Girl

That was my IM to Patricia Smith - a dear old friend who just happens to be nominated for this year's National Book Award in poetry for her collection Blood Dazzler.

Patricia, four time National Poetry Slam champ, proves that just because you don't read in a monotone and believe an audience at a reading deserves a performance it doesn't mean your work can't stand up on page.

Unlike others who earned success via early participation in Slam, Patricia never turned her back on the genre by bad mouthing the scene or it’s participants as low brow. She has continued her support of the up and coming and it is rumored she is looking to compete again soon.

Congrats to strong and talented woman.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

NEO Poet Field Guide

Full name: C. Allen Rearick
Age: Born in 1978
Habitat: Cleveland, Ohio
Range: I have read as such locations as: Verlies Café (OH), The Metropolitan Ensamble Theater (MO), Pat’s in the Flats (OH), Cuyahoga Community College (OH), The Collinwood Arts Center (OH), The Prosperity Social Club (OH), The Language Foundry (OH), The Maple Grove (OH), The Spider Room (NY), Visible Voice Books (OH), Mac’s Backs Books (OH), The Literary Café (OH), Bela Dubby (OH).
Diet: Raymond Carver, Kurt Vonnegut, Sharon Olds, John Dorsey, Thomas Mann, Zygote In My Coffee, Happiness, Bella, Waking Life, American Beauty, Julien Donkey-Boy, Harmony Korine, Gus Van Sant, Guerilla Poetics Project poets, Ron Paul, The Bible.
Distinguishing Markings: Through These Eyes (Tainted Coffee Press, 2008), Mad Hatters’ Review, Opium, Posey, Identity Theory, Dogmatika, Zygote In My Coffee, Orphan Leaf Review, Words Dance, Get Underground, Open Wide Magazine
Predators: Being caught in the stasis of just living. That instance between time and waking. Being stuck between the transformation of amber into orange. We are all capable of madness at some point in our lives.
Prey: The belief that people still care.

“My body aches. I want
to feel again the touch
of a woman, fall in love
with a complete stranger,
stand barefoot outside atop
the heat of clumsy sidewalks
in the rain – both our bodies
tickled by liquid kisses
as thin as pin-pricks,
content in the imperfection
of our not yet knowing
each other’s needs or secrets…”

-From “In This Bedroom”

Contact info:

Friday, October 10, 2008

Blind Review Friday

Blind Review Friday.

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.


All night I’ve sat alone in front

of my bedroom window, my thoughts

clinging to the image of a kid

whose voice trembled like a

riot in his school’s parking lot

before the start of class.

His cries for help unheard, muffled by

a ripple of steel in the catch

of his voice. The taste of potassium

nitrate, sulphur, and charcoal

quieting on his lips as he carved

backwards with a bullet,

the march of his loneliness.

The suddenness of it all like

déjà vu or a snake bite. His head

exploding like a disturbed

bees’ nest, coloring red the pavement

with the name calling,

punches to his face, chest and stomach,

as students and faculty

members stood stunned into

perfect grace. That which the

agnostics speak of being unknowable

passing like a requiem through

their bones. I do not know how

hard a life has to break in order

for someone to want to take it,

though sitting here in this

empty room with nothing to keep

me company but my thoughts and an

ugly reflection of my face lost

somewhere between the night’s

rain and a thin plate of glass,

I imagine it isn’t


Thursday, October 9, 2008


Once again -

Billy Collins is peering inside the giant catfish searching, searching, and searching for a poem to fill this week's Blind Review Friday slot.

We're hoping for some new voices, and submissions from folks who have not submitted before will go to the front of the line.

Help the guy out – send your piece to

with the subject line workshop the hell out of this poem just like it says over there in the left sidebar.

All poems received will be put into the cue.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Political Metaphors

Below is a clip from an article about the current presidential race in which author Sophie Keller analyzes metaphors by used by Sarah Palin.

"I decided to write this article while I was watching the Vice Presidential Debate as it really struck me that Sarah Palin continuously uses war metaphors. "We will fight," she kept saying. "We will attack" etc. Like McCain, she obviously sees life as a battle and every encounter is a competition or a struggle, in which she is either winning or losing.

"Now, we all use metaphors in our every day language and the metaphors that we use will govern whether we see life as exciting or frightening. If, like Sarah Palin, you go through life as if it's a struggle and each day you wake up to 'battle a new day' how stressful do you think that would be on your body?

"If you start to become conscious of the language that you use you will begin to have an idea of what your metaphors for life are. You may think 'Life is like a battle', like Palin obviously does or perhaps it's like an adventure, a garden, a race or a rollercoaster ride."

I was wondering if others have/could come up with any metaphorical observations about life during a political season, specifically about the presidential race, obsurdities, truisms. On the subject of obsurdities, I'd like to suggest that this William Ayers guy is really just the Cuyahoga River with legs. He managed to survive some dangerous times, seems to be flowing peacefully into the sunset, and hasn't caught fire in years.

Anybody else got one? The debate last night must have inspired some.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Review - Gary Gildner @ JCU

George Bilgere brings some pretty great poets to John Carroll (Billy Collins, Ted Kooser) and I do my best to get over there when I can.

This past September 30 Gary Gildner graced the podium in Rodman hall. I’ve got to admit, I am not all that well versed on a lot of the academic poetry folks around but I had heard of this guy before. His work is accessible yet technically tight. I can really appreciate a piece that transcends narrative without feeling the need to stab it in the back.

Gildner looks more like a retired cowboy than a poet. Tall and split rail thin, blue jeans, a striped long sleeved button shirt grizzled salt and pepper stubble. One could easily imagine him pulling up thistles in the corner of a pasture (part of a story he told in introducing one of his poems about coming face to face with a puma.) His demeanor was relaxed and somewhat soft-spoken with the comfort and sense of humor of a man who has achieved success in a field he loves. Having sold the movie rights to a novel he had written and subsequently buying a piece of a mountain with the aforementioned thistle bearing pasture he exuded the air of humility reserved for the truly accomplished.

To borrow an overused performance poetry term, Gildner’s “signature piece” is a short poem called First Practice. Gildner began his reading stepping away from the lectern with an explanation of the moment that inspired this piece – the first meeting of a newly formed 8th grade parochial school football team – and the genesis of the poem itself. Being a fiction writer he had made several attempts at capturing the moment in prose – each to no avail. Finally he made a list of all the most important images from the event. Looking at this list he realized he had written his first and arguably most celebrated poem of his career. I was heartened to hear this approach as it is a technique I use with students when teaching poetry writing – we start with lists all the time.

The relaying of this story though, took over twenty minutes and I was happy to hear him recite his first poem of the evening. I figured we were about to get into the meat of the reading but after the quick appetizer he began spinning another story explaining how a writers job was to translate feelings into words. In fact in over an hour of reading Mr. Gildner recited only six short poems. Mind that each was a wonderful piece with some of the best flowing of imagery I have heard this side of James Wright, but still at the end I felt a bit cheated. He weaved his poems into his monologue so that when they did arise they caught you a bit by surprise one or two lines into the piece like a trout taking a fly.

Like watching Michael Jordan playing minor league baseball, Gildner’s stories were better than everyone’s in the stands and maybe half the folks on the diamond but I couldn't help wanting him to air out another poetry dunk. His piece about a roofer watching a woman walk to her mailbox especially captured and magnified an instant into a revelation. And because of this I felt less than full after the reading. Not in the leave them wanting more way as much as the - is that all there is? - fashion.

Now, I did buy one of Gary Gildner’s collections in order to get to know more of his work, and having been to the reading I can hear his voice as I read the poems. But, it is just not the same as hearing the words from the author’s mouth. Perhaps this was his goal – though I doubt it. He did not strike me as one of those mercenary poets trying to push product – I think he just really liked to tell stories. To which I would reply, “Mr. Gildner, more poetry please.”

Friday, October 3, 2008

Blind Review Friday

Blind Review Friday.

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.

Our pile is currently empty - so please send in a piece you'd like to see featured.


A red slipper
under the stool.
A red towel
molted to the floor.
The damp breath
of shampoo
still hanging
in the air.
The clock
drips its seconds
into the sink,
one by one,
by one,
by one;
counting the long pulse
when you are away.
The bathroom
is never empty of you,
like a skin
hung open,
for your bones
to arrive.


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