Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Death of small press publication, or a chance for resurrection?

A fellow poet recently passed along an article about e-publishing, which suggested that the internet is the beginning of the end of small press literary journals. We both attended a recent publishing workshop in which the leaders expressed the exact opposite opinions of this particular article, and now I find myself with mixed feelings.

I like paper. I like books. I'm a tactile person. I like to be able to hold a book, to turn the pages, to underline sentences. You can read a book anywhere, anytime. If the batteries run out, you can still read a book...because it doesn't run on batteries! Maybe I'm clinging to dinosaur sentimentalities, but I like being able to hold something that exists in the "real world", something that we might be losing touch with. So much of life right now takes place on a computer screen. It's where we conduct our relationships (i.e. FaceBook, MySpace, even this blog!), how we work, how we watch movies and television, how we attend classes, how we listen to music, how we receive our news--heck, you can even order dinner from your computer and have it show up at your door! There is very little that a person cannot do with an internet connection. I don't know that I want it to also be the place where I need to go to read my books.

Aside from that, there's the practicality and solidity of a book. You can loan a book to a friend, and unlike with the fiasco earlier this year when e-books bought for Kindles were being subsequently wiped, it's much harder for someone who sold you a book to then creep into your house and steal it back. And of course, with the internet, we've been told over and over again that publishing your work online leaves you infinitely more susceptible to plagiarism and theft of your intellectual property.

That being said, in case you haven't noticed, the internet is growing faster than any technology we've had to date and is solidly rooting itself in human life for the forseeable future. If you don't believe me, check out this video. So what does this mean for the small press industry and poetry publishing?

Poetry is already an artform with several strikes against it in terms of popularity and sustainability. Do we dare add one more by clinging to the small press format and shunning online publishing?

How much entertainment can be found (legally) for free on the internet right now? But small presses are still asking five, ten, twelve dollars, or even more for an issue of a print journal. I know that all writers would love to subscribe to as many journals as possible and support the organizations that support our work, but most can't afford to subscribe to dozens of quarterlies. So then we must ask what is more important? Getting money for our work from the handful who will pay for it? Or getting our work into the hands (or screens, as it may be) of eager readers?

Human beings are the most adaptable creatures on the planet. We have managed to survive in the hottest deserts, the coldest tundras, mountain regions, grassy plains, swamp lands, coastal regions. We can outlast hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, wildfires, and anything else that Mother Nature throws our way. So why is it that we as writers--not the entire human population, but only a very specialized segment of it--are having such difficulty adapting to this brand new terrain and climate called the internet?

I don't think that this means that all print publications should surrender all to online publication. I'm sure the answer lies somewhere in the middle, somehow creating a mutual relationship between the online world and the print, such that each can feed and nourish the other. The music industry is working hard to adapt to a new environment spawned by the advent of Napster and the like. There is an equally viable solution somewhere out there that the poetry world could employ to its advantage. We just haven't engaged our creative forces in that direction yet.

If smaller, struggling literary journals take notice and act now, this could be the opportunity to resurge and reach widespread audiences that formerly wouldn't take notice of a tiny little poetry mag. Or, this could be the end of the small press. But one thing is for certain: hiding in a fortress of paper and ink, hoping that all the ones and zeros will go away if we wait long enough, is guaranteeing extinction.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Reading at Joseph-Beth...January 6th 7 pm

Larry Smith (fictional character) in his novel THE LONG RIVER HOME will read from the novel and from THE KANSHI POEMS OF TAIGU RYOKAN (translator with Mei Hui Liu Huang) at Joseph-Beth Books in Legacy Village Wed. Jan. 6th 7 pm. It's a break for Bottom Dog Press to be welcomed by Joseph-Beth, so try to attend if you can. It's a nice place in out of the cold and you may meet a fictional character.

Also, see these YouTube videos for each book. And Thanks....Larry

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays from Clevelandpoetics the Blog

Christmas Bells
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Theory: In Which Skeletor Learns the True Meaning of Christmas

A William Burroughs Christmas



Wear your red suit and your boots
And that repulsive white beard
With the hardened saliva of sick nights in countless tenements,
That same red suit you bought at Woolworth's
With the money you made
From the flesh of the elves.

Poems That Were Considered and Rejected Before 'Twas the Night Before Christmas Was Established as "the Official American Christmas Poem."

True to its title, the new Romanian film “Police, Adjective” is a story of law enforcement with a special interest in grammar. Its climactic scene is not a chase or a shootout, but rather a tense, suspenseful session of dictionary reading.

Disturbing snowmen

Winter Night

(Boris Pasternak, 1913)

The day cannot be fixed with hymns of light.
The shadows cannot raise Epiphany’s white covers.
On Earth, it’s winter, and the lanterns’ smoke
Is powerless to raise the fallen buildings.

Streetlight-buns and donut-roofs, and black
On white, the villa’s doorjamb in the snow.
This is a rich man’s home, and I am just a tutor.
I am alone; I’ve sent my pupil off to bed.

No one’s expected. But—the drapes shut tight,
The sidewalk and the porch are all in snowdrifts.
Oh, memory, stay calm! Grow into me! Believe,
And make me, too, believe, that you and I are one.

Again you talk of her? But that won’t worry me.
Who told her dates and times, who set her on my trail?
That blow’s the root of everything. As for the rest
I, by her grace, have no more business with it.

The sidewalk’s all in drifts. Amid the rivulets of snow
Black chunks of naked ice are frozen in, like bottles.
Streetlight-buns; just like an owl, the solitary smoke
Is perched, engulfed in feathers, on the chimney.

"Then the clocks go haywire. Sometimes a day is like nothing at all and then right on its heels comes a night that is like . . . a thousand days." from
Sixteen of twenty numbered sections from a piece composed by Rilke in 1898, when he was twenty-two, and never published in his lifetime.

"The cream in the instant coffee is always 'slightly sour' (100), the ice in the whiskey melting (159), the lunch hour nearly over." Marjorie Perloff on Frank O'Hara • Lana Turner

from the Poetry Foundation Staff: The Best Poetry of the Year

Here, in order, are the best selling books of contemporary poetry published in 2009

Watch as Skeletor learns about the true meaning of Christmas
...The He-Man and She-Ra Christmas Special

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Theory: How God Taught Us Planning

When geometric diagrams and digits
Are no longer the keys to living things,
When people who go about singing or kissing
Know deeper things than the great scholars,
When society is returned once more
To unimprisoned life, and to the universe,
And when light and darkness mate
Once more and make something entirely transparent,
And people see in poems and fairy tales
The true history of the world,
Then our entire twisted nature will turn
And run when a single secret word is spoken.

-Novalis 1800
translated by Robert Bly

From Thomas Aquinas and John the Baptist to cellular automata and intelligent design: How God taught us planning, and where we went wrong.

Electric Literature logo
Electric Literature’s mission is to use new media and innovative distribution to return the short story to a place of prominence in popular culture: Video Poems.

25 Important Books of Poetry of the 00s

The 50 Best Comic Book Covers of 2009

I am locking the Wikipedia Article on our sex life

“Oh, isn’t it a lovely sunset?” a young woman asked Robert Frost.

He said, “I never discuss business after dinner.”

The Transcript of Our Live Chat with Lydia Davis

Monday, December 14, 2009

Intrinsic Cinquains

image of the cover of the book Intrinsic Night
Some of the Cleveland-area speculative poets have been experimenting with the cinquain, a short poetic form similar in some ways to the haiku.
Prominent among these cinquainistas have been Joshua Gage and J. E. Stanley, and now they've collaborated on a book of cinquains, Intrinsic Night, just out from Sam's Dot (available here, or look for it at Mac's Backs).

The cinquain (sometimes called the "American cinquain," to distinguish it as a definite form, distinct from other five-line forms) is a verse form invented by Imagist poet Adelaide Crapsey (1878-1914). She was one of the very early admirers of Japanese poetry forms, and came up with the cinquain partly as an American analogue of these haiku and tanka forms. Like Japanese forms, it's distinguished by a pattern of syllables: the five lines consisting of a line of two syllables, four, six, eight, and then back to two.

Vertigo cinquainmoon cinquain
More complicated cinquain forms, like the mirror cinquain, butterfly cinquain, and so on (which Jim and Josh also use), build on the basic 2-4-6-8-2 structure.
As the poems in Intrinsic Night demonstrate, the cinquian builds up momentum and complexity of imagery as the length of the lines build up, and then detonates in a short final line. There's a lot that can be said, stories told and whole worlds built, in just 22 syllables!

Kerouac cinquain

Of the poems in Intrinsic Night, in the Simmons' Voice reviewer Stefanie Maclin wrote:
"Part science, part science-fiction, heavy on the folklore, the unexpected, and the odd shapes, findings, and beauty of everyday life, Intrinsic Night fits into no clear genre. But it also doesn't need to. Its unexpectedness defines the collection's true character."

Check it out.

Some links:

The poems from Intrinsic Night, with image layout by Joshua Gage, are used here with permission of the authors

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Rammstein VS Cookie Monster

Wonder where all the readers went? Virtually everywhere in the world people tend to be more educated than their parents. This is no longer true in the United States. A report by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities indicates that the U.S. is one of only two nations on Earth in which people aged 25 to 34 have lower educational attainment than their parents.
full cartoon here

History of the Scienceers - The First New York City Science Fiction Club, 1929

"Gustave Flaubert. . . said, 'I can imagine nothing in the world preferable to a nice, well-heated room, with the books one loves and the leisure one wants.'"

After much mulling and culling, we've come up with our list of the twenty best books of the decade. The list is weighted towards science fiction, but does have healthy doses of fantasy and horror.

Some Favourite Poetry Collections of 2009:

San Fran Chronicle 2009 Best of Science Fiction Books and Poetry Books

Best of Crime B&N LA TIMES

Best of 2009 from Salon and The Millions

Worst of the Decade list

Margaret Atwood's “Ten Gifts to Give Beginning Novelists”

Analyses of works by Herman Melville, Thomas Hardy, and DH Lawrence showed these "unique word" charts are specific to each author.

What is it about poetry that brings out the worst in people?

"It was already clear that his own special study would be the physics of light, and he was naturally drawn to the poem of that name, and learned its last dozen lines by heart."

"The great work of 'saving nations and people'": In his Irish Human Rights Commission lecture, Seamus Heaney pairs human rights workers and poets in bringing "to light violations and injustices done to human beings by others."

Cookie Monster sings with Rammstein

Love Winter Too

Dear Earth take in this fairy breath. Let it
seep into the mischievous crannies, the
rooks and rocks. What is behind the lily,
the foregone conclusion? If we look
at the interstices, the common lines be-
tween sheets of rain. I wanted to write in-
to your heart but the chambers are closed. What
freedom in the rain when memory is for
sale? What response to give a fairy? We
manage, nonetheless, a raucous cheer
with the Daily Show, a tempestuous
cloud of letters. Even with pomegran-
ate molasses to soften the duck: we
cannot change, the most we can do is see.

They dance the serrated edges of the leaves, the milky surface of the pond.

--by Sarah Riggs

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Final Second Thursday poetry reading @ the Lit Cafe

Here’s a dozen pics from the final installment of the Second Thursday Poetry Reading @ the Literary Cafe. Thanks to you – Andy, Linda, Steve and Nick for four years of blood sweat and beers.

Friday, December 11, 2009

On the Verge of Expression…

Here’s a dozen pics from the Black Poetic Thursday 7pm series On the Verge of Expression at JOVELLE BREWERS 12204 Larchmere. This edition featuring Cleveland to New Orleans transplant Kelly Harris. Enthusiastically hosted by Clevelandpoetics the Blog’s own Kisha Foster.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Macs Backs 12-09-09 gottl - greenspan - tabasso

mb05Winter’s been laying low so far this year but it has finally started sending out scouts. The kind of wind that immediately changes the pressure in a room swooped onto the north coast yesterday. I had to fight with the steering wheel of my toaster inspired Honda Element  to keep the green box on the road as Sara and I drove to Cleveland Heights to catch the December edition of the Macs Backs Wednesday reading series.

The estrogen enhanced trio of features this evening were T.M. Gottl, Sammy Greenspan and Gina Tabasso.  Suzanne – proprietor of the book shop – got things rolling by welcoming folks to the reading and then taking suggestions from the readers and audience as to what order the poets should present their work. After an overtly civilized deliberation – alphabetical by last name was chosen.


Ms. Gottl opened her set by thanking the crowd of about twenty five for braving the howling December winds in order to attend the event. She read from her book Stretching the Window as well as some newer work which I noticed was still marked up with revisions on the page.

mb01 Much of the work Gottl presented this evening would fall into the realm of list poems if I were to be bold enough to categorize her poetry. Rich complicated and occasionally complex imagery, lotus blossoms making an appearance in a couple of the works. Stuff one might like to hear a second time . I consider this a good thing considering how many times I have been to a reading and wished I had the time back after listening to some pieces for the first time. She introduced her piece Throwing Rocks by talking about how interesting she found it when people offered up interpretations of her poems. How sometimes she was surprised by the meaning others attached to her work.

This is something to be expected when one threads images like popcorn on string for a Christmas tree. I found myself thinking about a documentary about the Jonestown suicides when she mentioned the smell of almonds (an odor I learned from the show very similar to cyanide.) Absolutely nothing to do with her poem and an idea lasting only a nanosecond – but this is the type of gut interpretation one inspires with a shower of images that are capable of soaking narrative.

Sammy Greenspan began her set with a piece of hers from an anthology of work inspired by Bruce Springsteen eliciting a hearty whoo hoo from a fellow fan of the boss afterwards. She than read a piece about peace coming ashore in Cleveland “dripping oily footprints”  as it walks through town “measuring our compassion in loose change”

Greenspan’s work came across more narrative in nature than the preceding reader. One piece she read about death though, I thought carried the story on maybe a stanza too long. Or rather her ending line appeared too soon in the work – one of those aha moments that one looks for in a poem that invites the reader to linger a bit but is pulled away like subtitles flashing by too fast in a foreign film.

Ms. Greenspan read a poem about driving between Cleveland and Columbus describing her reluctant East Coast transplant love affair with Ohio, it’s cows, soybean fields, and perpetual losing sports teams.

mb04 The final featured reader of the evening was Gina Tabasso who predictably opened with an equestrian themed poem. Anyone familiar with this woman’s work knows to expect equine oriented verse. This though, she informed, would be the only horse piece of her set and switched up a bit continuing by introducing what she termed as vignettes – snapshot writing. This plucked a chord with me because it is what I stress when teaching poetry, the capturing of an instant.

For me, this evening, Ms. Tabasso captured that just right balance of figurative language and story. I was particularly taken by her piece about a ballerina juxtaposing the art one sees onstage with the pain suffered in years of rehearsal by the artist. Her reading style was classic, even paced, dropping a bit at line breaks. She buffered the poems she presented with stories that didn’t so much explain the poem as the impetus for their genesis. Snippets about her grandfather and her visiting Rockefeller Greenhouse or her leading a lame horse back to its stall related in that casual way encouraged by the comfortably low ceilinged venue.

After the featured readers there was an intermission and Sara and I took the opportunity to sneak into Tommy’s next door for a snack before braving the blustery night for the drive home. Bellies full of humus and meat pies and our  minds rolling over the reading we had just been to we pointed our tires home – managing to keep the toaster on the road the whole way.



Black Poetic
Presents "On the Verge of Expression" Thursdays

Return of the Queen! Kelly Harris MFA
JOVELLE BREWERS 12204 Larchmere
Hosted by Kisha Nicole Foster
$3 Cover :: Doors open at 6:45pm

The Cleveland native returns home to read her poetry and share her
New Orleans experiences. Her poems have most recently been published in
Yale's Cadecus Journal and Southern Women's Review. Her dynamic
performances and poetic insight are what made her one of Cleveland's
cherished talents. The Cave Canem Fellow and MFA grad will surely warm
us again.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

NEO Poet Field Guide: Cavana Faithwalker

Full name: Cavana Ibeji Opo Faithwalker, aka Cavana Faithwalker
Age: 53
Habitat: Cleveland Heights
Range: The Nia Coffeehouse, The Lit Café in Tremont, wherever Vertigo goes, there go I.
Diet: Jonothon Kozol, Frank Herbert, Octavia Butler, Jack Kerouac, Gwendolyn Brooks, Nikki Giovani, Langston Hughes, Gil Scot Heron, Countee Cullen
Distinguishing Markings: The Heights Observer, Muse magazine, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA)
Predators: lungs
Prey: oxygen
Predators: trees
Prey: carbon dioxide
Predator: man
Prey: trees
Suicidal souls enjoy paper products
On cold winter nights
in front of a warm fireplace.


If I could I might
for a start…
thinking it right
crawl inside your heart
on my hands and knees
and stand and move
to make room
for me, maybe
build an indestructible
soft spot
to which I was the key

Contact info

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Contemporary poetry

I'm sure that I've seen all of these at one open mike or another. You?

(courtesy of Anitra, and friends)

Theory: In which we wash our hands

This month we’re traveling in the world of science fiction. From nineteenth-century Pakistan to twenty-first century Russia, authors rocket through time and space to explore worlds uncharted yet oddly familiar. Replicants and aliens, spaceships and shapeshifters are all in play; the future mirrors the present, and the intelligence is anything but artificial. Lift off with Stanisław Lem, Tomasz Kołodziejczak, Olga Slavnikova, Zoran Živković, Hiroshi Yamamoto, Machado de Assis, Liu Cixin, Pablo A. Castro, and Muhammad Husain Jah, and prepare to be launched into the fantastic.

From the American Book Review:

100 Best Last Lines from Novels

The Atlantic's Literary Interviews

This exhibition explores the life, work, and legacy of Jane Austen (1775–1817), regarded as one of the greatest English novelists.

For the goth/horror/dark fantasy lit lover -
the Black Quill Awards

Shakespeare's trash

Speaking of Trash:

Sales boost for the physics book found in Tiger's car

More companies, including McDonald's, are being moved to verse to advertise their products. Is this a welcome development for poetry?

“Waste is good, important. Especially in art. It’s not the perfectly placed and chosen object that rules. It’s a pile of things and one might catch your eye but its always in context. We need too much. As long as we have hands and bodies.” - The Rumpus Interview with Poetry Rock Star Eileen Myles

A hopeful note:
Poems can stop bulldozers.

A Winter Evening
Georg Trakl

Window with falling snow is arrayed.
Long tolls the vesper bell,
The house is provided well,
The table is for many laid.

Wandering ones, more than a few,
Come to the door on darksome courses.
Golden blooms the tree of graces
Drawing up the earths cool dew.

Wanderer quietly steps within;
Pain has turned the threshold to stone.
There lie, in limpid brightness shown,
Upon the table bread and wine.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Poetry Back in the Woods – Shaker Library

Poetry Back in the Woods 
Tuesday December 15, 2009
7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
Bertram Woods Branch

Grace Butcher and David Hassler read their poetry.

photo of poetGrace Butcher is the editor of The Listening Eye, a national publication featuring the work of some of the finest writers in the United States and Canada. She is the author of six books of poetry, Grace Butcher: Greatest Hits 1965-2000, Orion Stepping Down, Horses in the Snow, Rumors of Ecstasy...Rumors of Death, Before I Go Out on the Road, and Child, House, World, for which she was awarded the Ohio Poet of the Year 1992. Her poems have appeared in Rising Tides: 20th Century American Women Writers, When I Am an Old Woman, I Shall Wear Purple, American Sports Poems, Best American Poetry 2000, and The Poetry Anthology: 1912-2002. A professor emerita from Kent State University-Geauga campus where she taught English for twenty-five years, Butcher is a lifelong runner, horsewoman and actress.
photo of poet
David Hassler is the Director of the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University and the author of two books of poetry. For his most recent book, Red Kimono, Yellow Barn, he was awarded the Ohio Poet of the Year 2006. He has received an Individual Artist Fellowship and an Artists and Communities grant from the Ohio Arts Council. Hassler received his B.A. from Cornell University and an M.F.A. from Bowling Green State University. His poems and essays have appeared in Prairie Schooner, The Sun, DoubleTake/Points of Entry, Indiana Review, and other journals.

Poetry in the Woods is generously funded by Friends of the Shaker Library.  

Reserve your place online.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Counting the Best American

The Best American Poetry website has announced the Best American Poetry of 2009.

I suppose I should really comment on the poems in it, but actually, I haven't seen the book yet, just the announcement on the site. (Not many reviews elsewhere yet, either, although a couple have popped up here and there on the web.)

I'm not sure if I entirely agree with the concept that the "best American poetry" is so easily selected and condensed down to a single volume, or if David Wagoner (or series editor David Lehman) is the person who has, or ought to be given, the ordained right to figure out which poems are. Does he have an "inclusive" or an "exclusive" view of poetry? Does he reap poems from only the lit mags, or does he cast a wide net?

--well, actually, that last question is one that can be answered, because the site also lists the original publication source for the seventy-five poems in the volume. (Also the web sites for each of the publications, which makes a rather nice listing of poetry magazine websites, if you want one.) Uh, maybe I've never mentioned it before, but I'm a compulsive counter and classifier, so I've given in to the irresistible temptation to count and classify.

In this year's collection, the magazine from which the most poems were chosen was the Georgia Review, with a total of four poems selected-- a nice surprise, as the usual magazine topping the list, the New Yorker, got only two picked this year. (Fine with me; I'm often quite indifferent to New Yorker poetry-- who was it who said that they run bad poems by good poets?) Virginia Quarterly Review, Indiana Review and Five Points come in next, with three poems each selected. Four old standard "review" poetry mags (who was it who decided that a literary magazine has to be called a "review," anyway?), and one a relative new kid on the block (Five Points-- only been publishing for twelve years).

Of course, these are only one editor's opinions. The Best American Poetry anthologies have a different editor every year, and it's quite interesting to go look at where the "best" poems have been selected from for previous years. Going back to 2003, I count 534 poems selected from 176 publications.

For the most part, this is a list of "the usual suspects"-- almost entirely literary reviews that run poetry in that genre called "poetry of serious intent". Not a lot of new magazines here-- a few, but mostly these are the old establishment, and, although there are some independents (Shiny, Hanging Loose), a comfortable majority of these are edited out of the MFA programs of America. Not many Web 'zines here*, and while there are some that are outside the usual circle, the old canon mostly dominates -- look in vain to see Goblin Fruit or Asimov's or even Muse.

Still-- 176 poetry magazines. That's a lot of poetry!

So, for your information, here are the top 32 poetry magazines in the US (according to Best American Poetry). Here is where you need to be if, like a Hollywood star, you need to see and be seen. This is all the magazines that have had at least five poems selected in the last seven years, listed in order of how many poems they've had selected:

  • New Yorker
  • American Poetry Review
  • Poetry
  • Five Points
  • Kenyon Review
  • New England Review
  • New American Writing
  • Barrow Street
  • Ploughshares
  • Virginia Quarterly Review* (*tied with next)
  • Cincinatti Review
  • Shiny* (*tied with next three)
  • POOL
  • Georgia Review
  • Boston Review
  • Threepenny Review* (tied with next seven)
  • Sentence
  • Paris Review
  • No: a journal
  • New Criterion
  • Michigan Quarterly
  • Hanging Loose
  • Crazyhorse
  • Triquarterly* (*last nine are all tied at five)
  • Pleiades
  • Margie
  • Iowa Review
  • Gulf Coast
  • Fence
  • Beloit Poetry Journal
  • Antioch Review
  • Alaska Quarterly Review

*Although, to Wagoner's credit, this year several poems came from web zines. No Tell Motel made it, and La Petit Zine, and Jacket.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Poetry Keeps Coming

This is a far from complete listing of poetry events in and around the Cleveland area in the next couple of weeks. I'm sure it's missing something. If you know what it is, please provide details in the comments below.

Sat. 11/28/09 (1:30 p.m.) - Poet/physician John "Jack" Vanek reads from his book Heart Murmurs: Poems (Bird Dog Publishing & Bottom Dog Press) at MindFair Books, 13 W. College Street in Oberlin.

Tues. 12/1/09 (6 p.m.) - Nia Coffeehouse open mic emceed by Vince Robinson and the Jazz Poets at the Coventry Village Library, 1925 Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights.

Thurs, 12/3/09 (7:30 p.m.) - Twysted Thursday open mic for poets, singers, emcees, musicians, and comedians at the Olive Twyst, 26159 Euclid Avenue in Euclid - James "Poetryfeen" Kidd features - hosted by LS Royal Stewart and Keli Danice - $5 cover.

Fri. 12/4/09 (7 p.m.) - Free poetry workshop hosted by the Cleveland State Poetry Center, Main Classroom, Room 105, 1899 East 22 Street at Euclid Avenue in Cleveland.

Fri. 12/4/2009 (6:30 p.m.) - Ashland MFA grads Jen Kindborn, Maureen Flora, Joanne Lehman, and Sarah Wells will read poetry at Pumpkin Hollow Antiques & Cafe, 24 Bell Street in Bellville (just south of Mansfield). Event will include featured music by Allison Schuller and an open mic emceed by Mark Hersman.

Sat. 12/5/09 (9:30 a.m.) - Eastside Writers Workshop hosted by Alynn Mahle at the Euclid Public Library, 631 E 222nd Street in Euclid.

Mon. 12/7/09 - Poet Edward Tick, a nationally recognized expert on the psychological and spiritual aspects of war and the healing of PTSD - will give a slideshow presentation at noon and a reading at 7:30 pm., hosted by the Wick Poetry Center in Kent at the KSU Student Center.

Tues. 12/8/09 (6 p.m.) - Nia Coffeehouse open mic emceed by Vince Robinson and the Jazz Poets at the Karamu House, 2355 E. 89th Street in Cleveland.

Tues. 12/8/09 (9 p.m.) - Spoken word artist Future performs at the B-Side Liquor Lounge, 2785 Euclid Heights Boulevard in Cleveland Heights, hosted by ChiefRocka Entertainment.

Wed. 12/9/09 (7 p.m.) - T.M. Göttl, Gina Tabasso and Sammy Greenspan will be featured poets at Mac's Backs Books on Coventry in Cleveland Heights. Open mic will follow.

Thurs. 12/10/09 (7 p.m.) - Poetry hosted by the Brunswick Art Works at the Beuhler's Foods Community Room, 3688 Center Road in Brunswick. Includes open mic.

Thurs 12/10/09 (9:30 p.m.) - Poetry night blowout at the Literary Cafe, 1031 Literary Road in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland, hosted by Steve Goldberg and Nick Traenkner.

Fri. 12/11/09 (8:30 p.m.) - Mark Wilson will be featured poet during the Deep Cleveland Poetry Hour at Borders Books, 17200 Royalton Road in Strongsville.

Sat. 12/12/09 (3 p.m.) - Round robin style poetry reading hosted by Russ Vidrick at the Brandt Gallery, 1028 Kenilworth Avenue in Cleveland's Tremont neighborhood.

Sat. 12/12/09 (7 p.m.) - Saturday Night with the Poet's Haven features poets Wendy Shaffer and Eric Alleman, along with an open mic, at Phoenix Coffee, 1300 W.9th Street in Cleveland. Event will be recorded for podcast.

Tues. 12/15/09 (6 p.m.) - Nia Coffeehouse open mic emceed by Vince Robinson and the Jazz Poets at the Coventry Village Library, 1925 Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights.

And finally, I beg you to indulge me in a bit of shameless self promotion:

Tues. 12/15/09 (7 p.m.) - In our last regular Lix and Kix at Bela Dubby before we go on a sabbatical of sorts, Dianne Borsenik and John Burroughs will host an open mic and two featured poets: Heather Ann Schmidt and Nin Andrews. A poetry and music open mic will follow.

poster by Dianne Borsenik

Heather Ann Schmidt
will be here from Michigan to launch her just released Crisis Chronicles Press chapbook The Bat's Love Song: American Haiku. Heather is an adjunct professor at Oakland Community College. She edits the tinfoildresses journal and is the publisher for recycled karma press. Her chapbook Channeling Isadora Duncan was published earlier this year by Gold Wake Press. Her Transient Angels will be published by Crisis Chronicles next year and she has a full collection of poems forthcoming from Village Green Press. She received her MFA from National University and hopes to begin pursuing her PhD in 2010.

Nin Andrews will be here from Youngstown, Ohio, celebrating the release of her new book Southern Comfort (from CavanKerry Press). Nin received her BA from Hamilton College and her MFA from Vermont College. The recipient of two Ohio Arts Council grants, she is the author of several books including The Book of Orgasms, Spontaneous Breasts, Why They Grow Wings, Midlife Crisis with Dick and Jane, Sleeping with Houdini, and Dear Professor, Do You Live in a Vacuum. She also edited Someone Wants to Steal My Name (Cleveland State University Press), a book of translations of the French poet Henri Michaux.

The Crisis Chronicles Press anthology Fu@k Poetry will also be available that evening (12/15) at Lix and Kix. A year in the making, Fu@k Poetry features work by nearly forty no-BS poets from around the globe - including many from northern Ohio.

All around Cleveland, the poetry keeps coming. Consider it a multiple orgasm.

Peace and poetry,
John Burroughs

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

It was actually all Sergeant Knight’s fault that Yossarian busted Nately in the nose on Thanksgiving Day, after everyone in the squadron had given humble thanks to Milo for providing the fantastically opulent meal on which the officers and enlisted men had gorged themselves insatiably all afternoon and for dispensing like inexhaustible largess the unopened bottles of cheap whiskey he handed out unsparingly to every man who asked.

Even before dark, young soldiers with pasty white faces were throwing up everywhere and passing out drunkenly on the ground. The air turned foul. Other men picked up steam as the hours passed, and the aimless, riotous celebration continued. It was a raw, violent, guzzling saturnalia that spilled obstreperously through the woods to the officers’ club and spread up into the hills toward the hospital and the antiaircraft-gun emplacements. There were fist fights in the squadron and one stabbing.

Corporal Kolodny shot himself through the leg in the intelligence tent while playing with a loaded gun and had his gums and toes painted purple in the speeding ambulance as he lay on his back with the blood spurting from his wound. Men with cut fingers, bleeding heads, stomach cramps and broken ankles came limping penitently up to the medical tent to have their gums and toes painted purple by Gus and Wes and be given a laxative to throw into the bushes. The joyous celebration lasted long into the night, and the stillness was fractured often by wild, exultant shouts and by the cries of people who were merry or sick. There was the recurring sound of retching and moaning, of laughter, greetings, threats and swearing, and of bottles shattering against rock. There were dirty songs in the distance. It was worse than New Year’s Eve.
Joseph Heller, Catch-22 

Chapbook Review: "Demon Lovers and Other Difficulties" by Nicole Kornher-Stace

Demon Lovers and Other Difficulties
By Nicole Kornher-Stace
Fresh From The Vine

Summer of 2009 brought the first of what readers hope will be many installments of “Fresh From The Vine,” a chapbook series put together by Amal El-Mohtar and Jessica Wick, editors of Goblin Fruit. The first offering in this series is “Demon Lovers and Other Difficulties” by Nicole Kornher-Stace. This chapbook contains eight poems, including one collaboration with C.S.E. Cooney, and is gorgeously illustrated by Oliver Hunter.

Nicole Kornher-Stace was born in Philadelphia in 1983, moved from the East Coast to the West Coast and back again by the time she was five, and currently lives in New Paltz, NY, with one husband, three ferrets, a brand-new baby boy, and many many books. Her short fiction has appeared in Best American Fantasy, Fantasy Magazine, Ideomancer, Zahir, and Rhapsoidia, is forthcoming in a yet-to-be-named anthology from Prime Books, and was nominated for the 2007 Pushcart Prize. Her first novel is due out in July 2008 from Prime Books.

Many of these poems appear as part of the feature in the Summer 2009 edition of Goblin Fruit. These poems provide a short feature of the contents of the chapbook. The darkest, perhaps, is “This Is Not A Love Story,” in which the speaker warns a young girl, presumably her daughter or granddaughter, against believing in stories, exploring what happens, both good and ill, to young ladies in tales who wander after lovers. The advice the speaker gives is haunting, and hints more at her own past than anything useful for the young woman to follow. Take, for example, the suggestion “better a monster’s dedication than an angel’s disregard,” or the suggestion that young girl will know her lover “from his smell like gallows new-built/like trespass, like wrack, like homecoming.” This is the sort of exploration of folktales that Kornher-Stace follows, not so much a retelling of tales, but a reimagining of what came before or after, and the ominous lessons people should learn from them.

The pes de resistance of this collection is “Other Difficulties,” a collaborative piece written by Kornher-Stace with C. S. E. Cooney. This magnificent piece is framed as two letters between a witch’s “Fetch,” or ghost double and her lupine familiar, “Catch.” The word play and imagery in this piece is stunning, such as the familiar contemplating it’s creation: “Am I wolf by birth? Of worse? Torqued up from baby bones/Or golemed from the garden earth, her fevered spit/Her breath that smelled of primrose?” This piece is wistful, eerily lonesome and haunting, a folkloric tour de force that readers will want to return to again and again.

Nicole Kornher-Stace’s chapbook, “Demon Lovers and Other Difficulties” is mandatory reading for anyone interested in mythic and folkloric poetry, as well as anyone interested in speculative poetry in general. By purchasing this chapbook, readers will not only add significantly to their poetry library, but will also encourage the award winning editors at Goblin Fruit to produce more chapbooks in their “Fresh From The Vine” series, a double benefit certainly worth pursuing. 

(Published in Star*Line, Sept/Oct 2009)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Kenneth Patchen

This week, the poet on's featured poet page is Kenneth Patchen, born in Niles OH. It's good to see some of the beat-era Northeast Ohio poets remembered-- Patchen has always been one of my favorites, partly because of the way he integrated poetry and art in his witty and whimsical picture-poems series.

Some links:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New York Times finds Poetry in Craig'sList

In Friday's New York Times, poet Alan Feuer finds poetry in the "Missed Connections" section of the New York Craig's List: Poetic Connections: Heartbreak. He admits to adding line- and stanza-breaks, but says that the words themselves are verbatim.

Just one example from the many found poems:

the flowers i sent to you anonymously

are wilted by now,
as is my heart.
and completely

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

This Week in Northeast Ohio Poetry

Thanks to everyone who made Tuesday's Lix and Kix poetry event at Bela Dubby a success - especially my co-host Dianne Borsenik and our featured poets: Jen Pezzo, Claire McMahon, and Michael Henson.

Here are a few other groovy poetry happenings around Northeast Ohio the rest of this week.

Wed. 11/18/09 at 7 p.m. - Nepalese poet Yuyutsu Sharma reads at Visible Voice Books (on Kenilworth in Tremont)

Thurs. 11/19/09 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. - Yuyutsu Sharma and Celeste McCarty read at Mac's Backs Books on Coventry in Cleveland Heights.

Thurs. 11/19/09 at 7 p.m. - Sammy Greenspan, Fran Immerman and Terry Provost read during Poetry Back in the Woods at the Shaker Library, Bertram Woods branch.

Thurs. 11/19/09 from 7:30 to 10 p.m. - Keli Danice and L.S. Stewart host Twysted Thursdays open mic at the Olive Twyst (26159 Euclid Ave. in Cleveland).

Thurs. 11/19/09 from 7 to 9 p.m. - Kelly Bancroft, Philip Brady, William Greenway, Mindi Kirchner, and Steve Reese read at the Lemon Grove Cafe in Youngstown.

Thurs. 11/19/09 at 7:30 p.m. - Helena Mesa, Mathias Svalina and Allison Titus read at Cleveland State University.

Wow! Five poetry events on Thursday and none on Friday, Saturday or Sunday? I have to be missing something. If you know what it is, please share details in the comments below.

Peace and poetry,
John Burroughs

NEO Poet Field Guide: Bonnie Jacobson


Full name:  Bonnie Jacobson
Age:  76 in November, God willing
Habitat: in my head
Range:  oh the sights I’ve seen
Diet: Russell Edson, Frederick Seidel, “Moonstruck,” “Pulp Fiction”
Distinguishing Markings:   2 collections (Stopping for Time, In Joanna’s House); 
2 chapbooks (“On Being Served Apples,” “Greatest Hits”);  poems in The Iowa Review,
The Gettysburg Review, Prairie Schooner, Rattle, Runes, etc.)
Predators:   zealots, death, and the humorless
Prey:okay, so I’m a carnivore
Contact info:

           HER BODY

           When she thinks of her body she thinks of his.
           There is no distinguishing.
           Or rather, there is and is not, as in
           This is my hand and these are its fingers.
           If he were to die, and years after
           At some party or other, you
           Saw her dancing
           You would be wrong.
           She was only remembering dancing.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Nepalese Poet Yuyutsu RD Sharma

sharma Nepalese Poet
Yuyutsu RD Sharma

Wednesday, November 18, 7:00 p.m.
@ Visible Voice Books

Thursday, November 19, 7:00 p.m.
@ Mac’s Backs

Yuyutsu RD Sharma is a distinguished poet and translator. He has published eight poetry collections including Space Cake, Amsterdam, & Other Poems from Europe and America (Howling Dog Press, Colorado, 2009). He has even launched a literary movement, Kathya Kayakalpa (Content Metamorphosis) in Nepali poetry.

Sharma has read at many prestigious venues including Poetry Café, London, Bowery Poetry Place, New York, The Guardian Newsroom, London, and the Gunter Grass House in Bremen. His works have appeared in Poetry Review, Chanrdrabhaga, Sodobnost, Amsterdam Weekly, Indian Literature, Irish Pages, Delo, Omega, Howling Dog Press, Exiled Ink, Iton77, Little Magazine, The Telegraph, Indian Express and Asiaweek. The Library of Congress has nominated his recent book of Nepali translations entitled Roaring Recitals; Five Nepali Poets as Best Book of the Year 2001 from Asia. Yuyutsu’s work has been translated into German, French, Italian, Slovenian, Hebrew, Spanish and Dutch.

- - -

Space Cake appeared in The City:


“Don’t panic,” they said,
remain cool like your Krishna ,
meditate maybe like Buddha,
uttering ‘Om Mani Padme,’ jewel in the lotus,
or lie down and relax
like Vishnu on the python bed
to float on the ocean’s currents,
buoyant on the invisible thread
of your breath in slow motion…

Millions of cats prowled around me.
Smoke from shared sex
and hashish joints stung my eyes.
Unsettling tongue
of an awkward fire fed my stomach.
I skidded queasily towards
towards the formidable edge,
unknown ominous frontiers of human life…

They laughed a secret laugh
behind my back – “Isn’t it crazy that
this man from Kathmandu should get stoned
from a piece of space cake in Amsterdam ?”

“Don’t be serious, laugh,
celebrate the flame of life!” a woman’s voice said.
“Hold my hand; I can imagine
you are alone on this trail.
I’v been there once,” she whispered.
Her tongue curled like a dry leaf in my ear
and crackled “How much did you take,
just a piece? I took thirty-eight grams once,
It can be crazy if you don’t know it’s coming.
Just don’t worry too much.
Don’t lose your control over things.
You can kiss me if you like,
You can pat my back,
tickle my belly or stroke my breasts
for a while, if it comforts you.
Sometimes it can be heavenly,
this licking the rim of the forbidden frontiers of human life.”

“That’s what he wants, that’s exactly
what he’s looking for,” a voice leered far off.
“But I have to go ultimately,
I’ve a man waiting at home for me.”

“Maybe read a poem of yours,”
someone said. My heart raced wild
and I heard some girls gossip in the next room—
What if he gets sick in Europe?
Don’t we get sick in Asia?
“Just take it easy,” another voice echoed
“You won’t go psychotic. Remember one thing,
whatever happens, you can always make a comeback.”
Faces of my dear ones veered past my face.
I felt delicate thread of my life
slipping through my fingers
“Hey man, it’s fine. Don’t worry too much.”
My host shouted. “Drink lots of water.”
“Drink black tea or coffee,” a guest suggested.
“Or take lots of orange juice.”
“Maybe sing your favorite song,” a woman said.
“Or recite one of your Hindu mantras.”
“Maybe stick your finger into your throat,”
another voice came sheepishly, “and throw up.
You probably haven’t digested everything yet.”

Questions came like wind slaps.
“Can you tell me what they call boredom
in your mother tongue? Do you remember
your email account and password?
Discuss your children, if you have any.
Shall I bring my little daughter before you?
Maybe you’d feel better then,
seeing her brilliant eyes.”

I imagined a child’s face and clung to it,
like a penitent would hold onto
a sacred cow’s tail in his afterlife,
and slept on it, all through the river of blood…

Hours passed by
and then I heard someone say—
“What if he had freaked out?
What if Death had stalked our house tonight?”

Hearing these words, I woke up
knowing I’d come back, stepped on
the familiar shores of life
where Death’s feared, a distant distrustful thing.
My drowse burst like a glacial that cracks
from rumble of a seed of fire
that explodes somewhere in earth’s deep sleep.

Yuyutsu RD Sharma


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