Friday, February 27, 2009

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 offering is from an established poet (the author's identity will be revealed with next week's Blind Review) - this week we are specifically looking for interpretations of the poem's main metaphor - what is the coat symbolic of?

My Father’s Coat

I'm wearing my father's coat.
He has died. I didn't like him,
But I wear the coat.

I'm wearing the coat of my father,
Who is dead. I didn't like him,
But I wear the coat just the same.

A younger man, stopping me on the street,
Has asked,
"Where did you get a coat like that?"

I answer that it was my father's
Who is now gone, passed away.
The younger man shuts up.

It's not that I'm trying now
to be proud of my father.
I didn't like him.
He was a narrow man.

There was more of everything he should have done.
More of what he should have tried to understand.

The coat fit him well.
It fits me now.
I didn't love him,
But I wear the coat.

Most of us show off to one another
Fashions of who we are.
Sometimes buttoned to the neck
Sometimes overpriced.
Sometimes surprising even ourselves
In garments we would have never dreamed of wearing.

I wear my father's coat,
And it seems to me
That this is the way the most of us
Make each other's acquaintance --
In coats we have taken
To be our own.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Where are the poems?

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, February 25, 2009

Book Tour: Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente, Mac's Backs, March 16

Tonight, Catherynne M. Valente will launch her newest novel, Palimpsest, in New York. She'll be travelling around the country, and will stop in Cleveland on March 16th. This is an extremely exciting book, as it represents the newest in a long line of absolutely luscious literary offerings from one of the best writers of her generation.

Valente's poetry and short fiction can be found online and in print in such journals as The Pedestal Magazine, Fantastic Metropolis, The Journal of Mythic Arts, Clarkesworld Magazine, Jabberwocky, Mythic Delirium, Lone Star Stories, Fantasy Magazine, Electric Velocipede, Cabinet des Fees, and Star*Line, and anthologies such as Interfictions, The Book of Voices, Salon Fantastique, The Minotaur in Pamplona, Paper Cities, Clockwork Phoenix, and featured in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror #18 and #21. She received a Special Commendation for Service in the Arts from California State University in 2003. Her story Urchins, While Swimming, received the Million Writers Award for best online short fiction in 2006. Her poem The Seven Devils of Central California won the Rhysling Award in 2008. Her poem The Dance of Uzume-no-Ama and her short story Bones Like Black Sugar have also been shortlisted for the Spectrum Award. Her poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize a total of nine times. Her critical series on feminine archetypes in Greek and Roman drama has appeared in successive issues of the International Journal of the Humanities.

Her first chapbook, Music of a Proto-Suicide, was released in the winter of 2004. Her first novel, The Labyrinth, was published by Prime Books in 2004, and her second, Yume no Hon: The Book of Dreams, was released in the summer of 2005. Her third novel, The Grass-Cutting Sword, came out in the summer of 2006. Under the Aegis imprint, Prime has also published two collections of her poetry, Apocrypha, and Oracles. Her third volume of poetry, The Descent of Inanna, was published by Papaveria Press early in 2006.

Her fourth major project, a duology of original fairy tales, The Orphan's Tales, was released from Bantam Spectra in the fall of 2006. Volume I, In the Night Garden, went on to win the James Tiptree Jr. Award for the expansion of gender and sexuality in speculative fiction, and has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award. Volume II, In the Cities of Coin and Spice, came out in the fall of 2007. As a whole, the series won the Mythopoeic Award for adult literature in 2008.

Palimpsest sounds like it's going to be absolutely delicious. Valente's prose is often called "poetic," and indeed, her previous novels and short fiction drip with it. I have no doubt Palimpsest will be a delight as well.

In the meantime, check out these trailers for the book:

Monday, February 23, 2009

Black Poetic Society @ East Cleveland Public Library

Hello all,

This is Kisha Nicole Foster
and I am inviting everyone who reads this to attend the event this Friday at the East Cleveland Public Library. Featuring is Black Poetic Society...Mary Weems, Sage the Wisecat, Rafeeq Washington, and Ebony Edwards...Cavana Faithwalker will be the MC and I am the opening act...whoooohooo....i am super excited about this folks...this show is sure to be explosive...they had a show last year at Cleveland State University that I had the honor of being a part of and the crowd was loving was a packed house and boy was it nice...this time around it is at the Greg Reese Performing Arts Center...For those not aware Greg Reese is the director of the East Cleveland Public Library System and fought real hard to raise monies for this performing arts center. Though I have not been there yet I'm sure that it is something spectacular...The event starts at 7pm and it is FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!WHHHHHHHHHHHHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEHHHHEEEEEEEE!!!

Everybody loves free...i sure do...if i'm not mistaken there will be an open mic, limited i'm sure yet there will be one...and if not thats alright, listening to this stuff sometimes is more enjoying than performing...i had a poetry slam at Cleveland State University Friday night which proved successful, about 60 people came children and was all love and very nice...the winners were: up and coming poet named Ashley, Eris Zion Venia Dyson, and Josiah "Zion" Quarles...Congrats to them...

I just picked up a gig at the Arthouse again...I taught these young students last year, thanks to Ray McNeice and Judith Monsour for the gig...I get to teach them again starting in March so I am excited about that as well as preparing for this Women of the World Poetry Slam...I am asking that if anyone has any advice on writing - i need help with imagery - or performing please let me know...i have skin like an elephant, what doesn't hurt me makes me stronger.,..and with that my peoples, I am signing out with all of my poetic love...please try to make the event this Friday - the library is on Euclid next to the Windermere/Stokes Rapid Station...if all else follow that new healthline thing it'll go right past is free to the public, all of the public!!! So try to make it...

This is the people's poet signing off...

kisha nicole foster

Book Review: The Memory Palace by JoSelle Vanderhooft

JoSelle Vanderhooft is the critically acclaimed author of poetry collections The Minotaur's Last Letter To His Mother (Ash Phoenix), the 2007 Stoker Award-nominated Ossuary (Sam's Dot Publishing), Desert Songs (Cross-Cultural Communications, forthcoming), The Handless Maiden and Other Tales Twice Told (Sam's Dot Publishing, 2008), Fathers, Daughters, Ghosts And Monsters (VanZeno Press, forthcoming) and Death Masks (Papaveria Press, 2009), the novels The Tale Of The Miller's Daughter (Papaveria Press) and Owl Skin (Papaveria Press, forthcoming) and Ugly Things, a collection of short stories from Drollerie Press to be released in 2009. She is currently at work on a series of novels for Drollerie press as well. Her poetry and fiction has appeared online and in print in a number of publications, including Cabinet des Fees, Star*Line, Mythic Delirium, MYTHIC, Jabberwocky, Helix, The Seventh Quarry and several others. An assistant editor of a gay and lesbian newspaper by day, she lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Vanderhooft's most recent poetry collection is The Memory Palace (A Poetry Memoir) which is available on Norilana Books as part of its Curiosities imprint. As the title indicates, this book is a series of poems through Vanderhooft's memories, pulling the reader through the experience of growing up gay. This is a dense book, in terms of emotion, and one that takes time to ingest. The poems are powerful, raw and at times, even scary. The feelings and images are layered and compacted, and the reader often feels helpless before them. However, this seeming chaos is expertly controlled by Vanderhooft allowing the reader to experience young adulthood. Emotionally, this is not an easy book to read; however, Vanderhooft is able to craft her poems through that emotion so that the reader is carried along for the ride.

The book begins with the section "Foundations," which explores adolescence and young adulthood through the eyes of a young girl beginning to acknowledge her desires, a non-Mormon moved to Utah, a young woman dealing with oppression, and a daughter dealing with a tumultuous family. These poems are at times innocent, confessional and downright terrifying. For example, "Blankets" uses the imagery of grandparent's afghans to create a bubble of safety for explorations into sexuality:

"It’s that awkward-gooeyness that feels
both wrong and right,
that makes my heart slow down
even as my breath speeds up.

Deep down, I understand it.
Deeper still, I know I probably don’t want to.
Instead I want to pin this moment
like wings in amber,
a monarch butterfly frozen in its footstep.

Let the world ramble on as it will.
I will transform into a patchwork blanket,
at once a shield and a mnemonic killing jar
in this perfect bubble of morning."

However, poems like "My Father's House" are much more foreboding. It begins "Your house is hungry, Father./At night I hear its old bones/shift beneath me like Leviathan/breathing out a nightmare." and proceeds through the experience of young girl, scared at night, dealing with a non-responsive father who calls her "a fucking baby/for looking into shadows/to see bones." The house, with her father and his new wife, almost consumes the young girl in this piece, swallowing the reader as well.

Poems like "You Know Who You Are" are even more terrifying, documenting the cruelties that children commit against each other and way adults refuse to act against such acts:

"I have been told I must get over it,
the glee with which two pre-pubescent boys
bruised my breasts in an open classroom.
I must let it go, they say,
because it happened back in 1988
and at least I wasn’t raped.
Yet every time I saw one of them prowl
through the corridors, seventh grade to senior year,
the rope coiled in my belly
jerked me into the girls’ room to hurl.
Back then his mother forced him to say sorry."

The next section of the book, "Walls," carries the reader through high school--an anti-religious father, his suicide, the awkwardness of being in love, and the pain of losing love.

Poems like "Break Up" capture the loss eloquently:

"It’s like I have been shot in the same place.
This time the wound spreads across a summer,
my guts twist like shedding serpents
and someone I don’t know
lives in my body."

Poems like "Inquisition" bring up the confusion and terror of a daughter caught in her father's anti-Catholic tirade:

"When I think it’s peace time, that we can
discuss his brass model trains,
the tedium of seventh grade made worse
for gropes and death threats I’m scared to confess
he’ll give the screws a turn:
“You attend a church that financed the Crusades!”
I wonder why he brings this bogey up.
I’ve read the books, I’m smart enough to know
Father Sebastian will not exhort
the torching of the synagogues tomorrow.
But he persists until I nearly drop the phone.
Later, I wonder, if the tears he drew
were some proof of heresy."

Readers are swept up in this flurry of emotions, caught themselves in place of memory, reliving the joys and horrors of high school. Vanderhooft does not let go of her own story, however, and allows readers into the questions confronting a young woman who must constantly confront the demon of her dead father:

"I wonder, through the rain, what he would have said.
Would he have liked my speech,
or would he have shaken his head
condemning it and more accomplishments
as so much trash?"

However, Vanderhooft does not drown her audience completely. Despite suicide, cruelty, questions of sexuality, battles with mental disorders, poems like "Quo Vadis" take the reader through the turmoil, and offer brief slivers of hope:

"His voice is rose petal-soft as he lays out
three things, each round and real as rosary beads:
you’re welcome here, don’t leave us;
God would not try to break you on the world;
finally, as gently as he can
the teachings of the Catholic Church.
I hear the words disorder and desire
flail, mouth open, airless, but he stops,
strings them out like beads upon a chain
in sentences I can close my hand around.
Not as God intended, but not sin.
yet if I am to take a female partner,
few priests will put me to the Inquisition,
no crowbars raised to pry apart my skull
no eyes to stare into that well of conscience
where God echoes like water."

The third section, "Windows," continues that hopefulness. However, even this hope and recovery are painful, as explored in "To Forgive":

"Forgiveness is not generous.
It is not something granted by the proud,
not something given freely as a kiss.
Instead, it is an act of desperation,
the final rallying of sour passion
before bones collapse on their own weariness.
This is why I nod at his announcement
blood biting through the pucker of my lip
as I let it go."

Even more painful is the isolation one feels in the poem "Via Cruces," in which Vanderhooft comes to terms with her sexuality and contradictory teachings of the Catholic church:

"I ask every priest I know for their advice.
One of them, a stone-faced Latvian
tells me God did not make girls for girls,
and he once drove out a demon from a house
where two women embraced.
I leave, of course, in tears.

My friend Stephen calls it spiritual rape.
My mother says she never should have brought me
to the church that hurt her in her youth.
As for me, I feel I have been skinned."

However, this poem signals a change towards revelation and acceptance, providing the reader with a much needed breath in the journey through pain and anxiety:

"Today it is Good Friday,
the final Stations of the Cross for Lent.
I have processed around the church,
prayed before each icon and remembered
every sacrifice we make in love.
The censer’s smoke curls up to the rooftops
bearing with it my uncertainty
and, for a time, my fear."

The narrator continues through these moments of acceptance, acknowledging people from her past, and learning to grow beyond the injuries she has endured in her life. For example, in the poem "Flesh and Spirit," Vanderhooft explores her body, and learns to accept what she finds there:

"Arms I have just found encircle me
soft as petals, hard as diamonds at their core
to protect me from the world that peers through the blinds
fanged and hungry,
always on alert."

In the final section, "Rooftops," Vanderhooft fully acknowledges herself to herself and her readers in the revitalizing and honest "Apologia":

"Being Catholic and bisexual isn’t always easy.
Sometimes Catholics think that you’re a threat
to Mother Church, to mental health, to marriage.
After all, aren’t we criticized enough
for Purgatory and praying to the saints?
Better just to speak of them in whispers,
half-lidded eyes dividing them like grain.
Unless, of course, they make a point of it
leaving us no choice.

Sometimes bisexuals think that you’re a traitor,
to gay rights, to equality, to self-esteem.
After all, aren’t we criticized enough
for not making up our minds and being greedy?
Better just to speak of them in whispers,
half-lidded eyes dividing them like grain.
Unless, of course, they make a point of it
leaving us no choice.

I guess it’s nice when they agree on something.

I am not an ideal Catholic,
not the kind who should be introduced
to impressionable children and RCIA candidates.
I’m not even a good Catholic.
I swear like a parrot, pray like a thief,
miss church without a reason
good or otherwise.
I am not proud of it.

I am not an ideal bisexual,
not the kind who should be introduced
to skeptical gay leaders and nervous politicians.
I’m not even a good bisexual.
I hide like a turtle, scatter like a beetle,
call myself a lesbian to avoid
a confrontation.
I’m not proud of that, either.

Neither am I happy with that greasy tightrope
between the opposition of our lives:
bisexual and Catholic,
sick and well,
happy and unhappy,
dead and alive.
If it were up to me, I’d tear it down,
let us free-fall and flail in contradiction for awhile,
too scared, too hopeful to search for the net,
maybe not wanting one."

Vanderhooft also revisits many of the previous poems, illuminating them with this renewed spirit. "Graveside" places the narrator at the grave of the father:

"Five years until I can stand beside the headstone
without disrespect—my tennis shoe
grinding the dash that abbreviates his life,
or indifference—my unlined hands
slapping down poinsettias for his birthday,
sunflowers for the birthday he made up.
Perhaps because I simply lacked the language:
I failed out of the Latin program twice in college
unable to conjugate the dead back into life.
More than that, he never taught me Dutch,
the guttural infinitives he conjured into screams
as the Allies’ bombs devoured Market Garden.
So, I had no words but my poor English
to throw at his present absence,
brittle, bastard English words like “you” and “I”
“how” and “why” and “when” and “fuck, fuck, fuck.”
finally, just “Father,” “Daddy,” “Abba,” “Papa,”
The word that breaks most often on my lips
ricocheting through me like a bullet,
the word that splits me wider than a canyon
and drains all language finally from my eyes."

The Memory Palace is a frighteningly honest look at one young woman's religious, sexual and personal journey from adolescence to adulthood. It is a raw journey, and one that will thoroughly consume any reader who does not take it cautiously. JoSelle Vanderhooft carries her readers through the nightmares and scars, but also carries them back into the light, nearly out of breath but all the better for the ride.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Crater Cleveland Erie: a Poets' Indirectory

Green Panda Press announces the release of
Crater Cleveland Erie: a Poets’ Indirectory vol.1 .09

being the submissions by several poets of phone numbers and or addies, plus a hand of on-goings, in order for poets to reach poets, and as a resource for hosts of venues. the 'rectory is named after the regulation NBA court-sized crater which lived for a time on our Public Square.

while there are not poems in this stapled chap, excerpted are the words of Atkins, Crisis, Lang, & Thompson, on calling out. it is a fairly tongue in cheek produxn, as phone directories are rather passé now; in fact many poets chose to give their email in lieu of the digits.

two dollars gets you this book, unless you need it shipped.
one dollar from each will go to The Lit, as much-needed funds.

the books are available at Mac’s Backs and Visible Voice bookstores for two dollars, or by tucking three dollars into a letter mailed to Green Panda Press 3174 Berkshire Road Cleve. Hts., OH 44118

if you wish to make a larger donation to The Lit, or want several copies, make out a check to Green Panda Press, and the donation will be made in your name.

thanks, Bree

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 offfering is from a Clevelandpoetics - the Blog reader:

cleveburg ‘67

chopper parked angling curbside greaser dangling
over chromium handlebars black leather jacketed hippie
turning on to the scene
teeny-bopping blonde cutie in black leather flares
smoking reclining against the cool bar wall
frock you store open-doored and full
leather goods hats dresses feathers
head shop full of shoppers
looking for love and its talisman
mannequins standing colored bright
looking out at a turned off world
multi-colored dresses illuminated
smiling lovers of the shop
gave a rose to a cop
no bag baby walking hangup
unhip to the happenings of love
flaking off false turnings on
busting into a turned on crowd
went to a blast dumb as hell
and met a junkie loving fun
child-like woman full of sunshine
digging him up and down the pad
blasting on a madcap freakout

    love in be in lagoon happening
    seven hundred record sunday hippies
    tourists dancing singing children
    music floating on the backs of ducks
    floating on water walking running
    jumping playing happy being
    fuzz harassing busting mugging
    sun came through shining
    love line through crowd twining
    books candy records posters
    fill the shop and give it life
    head shop for a swinging set
    coffeehouse hangers speaking soft tones
    of understanding across metal ashtrays
    on coffee stained tables
    while players pinball happy
    run up colored lights to score
    for more rings and extra balls

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Lesser Forms, Part Four

The Mathmajora: After the emergence of haiku in the west, Dutch mathematicians began exploring the radical implications of the 5-7-5 formula, first doubling and then re-doubling the syllable counts (10-14-10, 20-28-20, 40-56-40, onward and upward). Here are two examples from Piers Drukker, an early proponent of the form (and also a third cousin, twice removed, of Philip Whaley Horseman):

My Labor

Only one thing from this poem may be asked;
least of all, should the question matter. Breath rises, swirls blue,
and then I count all morning in the cold.

On Rebuke

Some say last night’s open candle sputtered and died, its fine flame ruined by the one

Who bored us all with his mathmajoras improperly counted. I rebuke him here, now, having already warned

him once. Next, we cut out his tongue, burn him at the stake. Smoke rises in the morning.

It is perhaps ironic that the rigid, uncompromising standards of the Dutch masters eventually led to the mathmajora's demise. Due to their insistence on unbroken textual lines, the sheer size of their publications became problematic, (somewhere around the syllable count of 20480-28672-20480, the pages were so cumbersome that they could not be turned). Drukker, among others, began playing with elements of the formula: 5 letters, 5 words, 5 appearances by words containing umlauts, 5 references to dykes and flooded plains. These experiments ended abruptly, however, with the death of Drukker, who disappeared from his workshop at the age of 37. Some suspect he was formally censured by his fellow mathematician poets; others claim that his math inadvertently opened a portal in the space-time continuum.

Seeking to reign in the rampant immensity of their subsequent publications, the Dutch next introduced algebraic functions, and may have continued inevitably into calculus if not for the belated arrival of the initial book of haiku’s companion volume of tanka. Who among us can honestly say they would be willing to do all those calculations again?

Right after that, the whole thing with the tulips happened.

Friday, February 13, 2009

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.

Last week's basketball piece was written by Yusef Komunyakaa.

This week's offfering is from a Clevelandpoetics - the Blog reader:


you can touch me
if you want
I won't burst into flame
or into tears
you can touch me
to see if I'm real
to see if
I'm the genuine article
I won't shudder or
tremble or flinch
I won't melt like
the Wicked Witch did
when water touched her
and I won't turn into
gold, or stone, or salt
I won't faint
you can touch me
if you want
pretend you're God
and I'm Adam
index finger stretching
out to give the gift
of eternal life
or pretend you're
the Pope, bestowing
his papal blessing
or pretend
you're Tinkerbell, or ET
and touch me with
a glowing wand or
fingertip, your touch
a gift to me both
magical and mystical
you can touch me
and convince yourself
I'm silk, satin, velvet
soft, smooth, sleek
unlawfully unwrinkled
and altogether here
you can touch me
this skin I wear
like armor
like a shroud

but you can never
touch my

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Book & Film Review--Haiku: The Art of the Short Poem by Tazuo Yamaguchi

Tazuo Yamaguchi has earned a national reputation as a poet, touring performer, and filmmaker for almost a full decade through his solo tours, his films, his long list of collaborations with some of the nation’s finest poets and artists, two national haiku championships, and his "provocative" poetry workouts and workshops that guide the voices of youth to the elders. Direct descent to Shigin Poets and Royal Samurai, Yamaguchi has published 4 books of poetry, 6 recorded volumes, and produced 2002–2007 national Poetry Slam dvds.

His most recent film is Haiku: The Art of the Short Poem, distributed with an accompanying book by Brooks Books Press. Based on the Haiku North America Conference of 2007, this is the first feature length film about haiku in English, and contains not only panels and readings from the conference, including a head-to-head slam hosted by Yamaguchi himself, but also many insightful interviews with the poets and editors from the conference, including William J. Higginson, Jim Kacian, Bruce Ross, A. C. Missias, Peggy Willis Lyles.

What is interesting about the film are the many questions which it addresses. Discussions and interviews are focused on not only the history of haiku or the history of haiku in English, but also what it means for a form to be carried (translated?) from one culture to another, and what works in the new language and what does not. For many of the haijin interviewed, the seventeen syllable form is not as important as capturing a single moment which can resonate in the reader. That seems to be the only point on which they converge, with each author presenting their own take on how to capture that moment. This provides an interesting discussion and broadens the definition of haiku beyond the trappings of syllable count with which many students of poetry are familiar. The film also shows moments from readings and panels at the conference.

Of particular interest were comments made by Sonia Sanchez on her relationship with haiku, as well as the connection between haiku and the blues, in terms of emotion and immediacy. Though the film is the center piece of the project, the book serves as a companion, highlighting specific haiku from the film as well as pertinent quotes. There is nothing in the book that isn't in the film, but reading the haiku on the page allows readers to reflect a bit longer than allowed in the film. This is not to blame Yamaguchi for rushing. The film allows each haiku the length of space needed to breathe; however, like any good poem, a haiku should linger with the reader, and should be something they can revisit throughout the day or week to savor, and presenting the haiku in the book allows for this experience.

In the film, the late William J. Higginson asks "What is haiku for?" and answers "for sharing." Tazuo Yamaguchi has captured this aspect of haiku in his film Haiku: The Art of the Short Poem; I encourage all readers and lovers of poetry to receive the gift.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

NEO Poet Field Guide

Full name: Claire Ann McMahon

Age: 41

Habitat: Cleveland (Westpark’s Paddyland)

Range: The Literary Café, Lix & Kix, Barking Spider

Diet: Frank O’Hara, Seamus Heaney, Lou Suarez, Evan Boland

Distinguishing Markings: MoonLit, Emergency Contact,

Predators: Men with dual personalities

Prey: On Break (see above)


…Art of definition:
Language is
a sentence diagrammed;
A sum of solid parts,
ideas sorted
into clear speech parts.

Some nun told us that.
So we know and remember
some of what she said.

Contact info:

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Lesser Forms, Part 3

After the unfortunate subjugation of her form’s name by the villain, Seurat, and the wildly unsuccessful series of lawsuits brought forth by Gettouda Prederick’s equally unsuccessful heirs, Gettouda’s nevertheless brilliant poetry fell into obscurity before eventually being rediscovered by feminist writers in the 1960’s.

While there is much to be said about the politics of this form and the odd series of events which led these ambitious young writers to leap from a poetry devoid of prepositions to one relying so heavily on the ability to join together words and phrases and clauses, I prefer to move the discussion into the startling dynamics of the form, which requires that each line include at least one functioning conjunction, as evidenced by this epic stanza:

In the mornings, when I’m usually wide awake,
I love to take a walk through the gardens and down by the lake,
Where I often see a duck and a drake,
And I wonder as I walk by just what they’d say
If they could speak,
Although I know that’s an absurd thought.

The irony here, of course, is that later in Dorough’s famous poem the reader discovers that the duck and drake are pondering the very nature of conjunctions.

Next: The Mathmajora...

Saturday, February 7, 2009

What is a Community of Writers?

The word
stems from the Latin "communis," meaning "common" or "universal". This Latin word is made up of two parts--"com" or "cum," which means "with" and the root "-mu," which means "to bind." In other words, a community is bound together by commonly held ideas, values, etc.

What, then, is a writing community and how does it function? I am thrown back to a meeting at Naropa where the first and second classes of students of the Low-Residency MFA program were in a meeting. Bobbie Louise Hawkins, who was one of the professors who began the program, insisted that we send our work out to be published because only through the success of the students would the program be successful. Many of the students balked at this idea, and were angry that they were asked to do such a thing; their work was their own, and what they did with it was their own business. They were individual writers, and had no obligations to the group.

I wonder if there is some balance necessary. As a writer, I indeed am individual. I write differently than others, I take away different lessons from the books that I read than others do, etc. However, in calling myself a poet, I have an obligation to follow through with the practice of my craft: to write poems and to get those poems into the hands of the public, whether it be through publishing, the internet, etc. The way that I accomplish these goals may be totally different than other people, but I still have an obligation to do it. In calling myself a Cleveland poet, I take on other obligations. I, in some sense, represent Cleveland in every poem I write and every poem I read at readings. If my poems are dreck, then Cleveland and it's poetry community are taken down a notch. If my poems are solid or successful, or if I, as a poet, am successful, then Cleveland and it's poetry scene is raised up a notch.

However, there are other communities I belong to--Science Fiction Poetry Association, etc. Where these communities intersect, like the Cleveland Speculators, wonderful things happen. Where these groups clash, I find myself at a conflict of interest. For example, how does a member of the HSA approach some one writing abstract verses in 5-7-5 and insisting they're writing haiku. Does one community--the national or international--supersede the local or individual?

There is also a question of responsibility in response to the actions of other members. If a member of the Cleveland poetry community doesn't send their work out to be published, doesn't read at readings, etc. what should the other members of the community do? What happens when a local poet publishes a bad poem, or worse, a bad book? Should the other members of the community celebrate their success, or question their work. There is something to be said about supporting one's community, but there is also something to be said about setting a communal standard, or even establishing a communal discussion, to rebuke those members who may misrepresent the community or, through their mediocre work, bring the community down.

So, the question remains, what responsibility to poets have to their community of writers, and what responsibilities does that community have to the poets? Where do you fit in to the discussion?

Friday, February 6, 2009

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 offering is from an established poet (the author's identity will be revealed with next week's Blind Review) and chosen with the fact that the NBA Allstar game is a little over a week away:

Slam, Dunk, & Hook

Fast breaks. Lay ups. With Mercury's
Insignia on our sneakers,
We outmaneuvered to footwork
Of bad angels. Nothing but a hot
Swish of strings like silk
Ten feet out. In the roundhouse
Labyrinth our bodies
Created, we could almost
Last forever, poised in midair
Like storybook sea monsters.
A high note hung there
A long second. Off
The rim. We'd corkscrew
Up & dunk balls that exploded
The skullcap of hope & good
Intention. Lanky, all hands
& feet...sprung rhythm.
We were metaphysical when girls
Cheered on the sidelines.
Tangled up in a falling,
Muscles were a bright motor
Double-flashing to the metal hoop
Nailed to our oak.
When Sonny Boy's mama died
He played nonstop all day, so hard
Our backboard splintered.
Glistening with sweat,
We rolled the ball off
Our fingertips. Trouble
Was there slapping a blackjack
Against an open palm.
Dribble, drive to the inside,
& glide like a sparrow hawk.
Lay ups. Fast breaks.
we had moves we didn't know
We had. Our bodies spun
On swivels of bone & faith,
Through a lyric slipknot
Of joy, & we knew we were
Beautiful & dangerous.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Couple Contests

2009 Pinewood Haiku Contest
1st Place - $100, 2nd Place - $50, 3rd Place - $25 Winners published in April 2009 issue of Wisteria. Entry fee = $ 2.00 -- per poem or 3 poems for $5. Maximum of 3 poems may be entered. Cash or money orders only. No checks accepted. Money Orders should be made payable to: T.A. Thompson

Any topic, form = Contemporary English-language haiku with no rules as to syllable or line count. See website for specific info on how to submit and address to mail submissions. No previously published works accepted. No email entries. Winners notified by email and postal mail. No SASE necessary.
http://pinewoodhaik u.blogspot. com
Deadline: Feb. 14, 2009

Firstwriter. com's Fifth International Short Story Contest.
This competition is open to fiction in any style and on any subject under 3,000 words long. The prize-money for first place is £200 (over $300). Ten special commendations will also be awarded and all the winners will be published in firstwriter. magazine and receive a subscription voucher to the site worth $30 / £20 / €30! The contest is open to stories of any style and on any subject, but they must not be longer than 3,000 words.

The closing date for submissions is April 1, 2009, and there is a reading fee of $9.75 / £6.50 per story. Alternatively you can enter two stories for just $8.63 / £5.75 each, three stories for only $7.50 / £5.00 each, or five stories for only $6.00 / £4.00 per story.
http://tinyurl. com/3vbzus
Deadline: April 1, 2009

Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest -
No Fee to enter. 8th annual free contest with a special twist. Fifteen cash prizes totaling $3,336.40. Top prize $1,359. Submit one poem by April 1 deadline. No entry fee. Winning entries published online. Judge: Jendi Reiter. Sponsored by Winning Writers. Guidelines and online submission at www.winningwriters. com/wergle
Deadline: April 1, 2009

Skysaje Enterprzes Fifth Annual Poetry Contest -
Guidelines are: 1. all submissions must be typed in 14 pts font, 2. authors name and contact info must appear on every page submitted, 3. submit no more than five (5) poems per entry, and 4. a $15.00 non refundable entry fee must accompany all submissions. Prizes: $250 us. first prize and three $25 us. honorable mentions will be awarded. Make checks payable to L.Berger and send your entries to:
Skysaje Enterprizes
50 Amesbury Rd.
Rochester, NY 14623
Deadline: April 30, 2009

Margaret Reid Poetry Contest for Traditional Verse
In its sixth year, this contest seeks poetry in traditional verse forms such as sonnets and free verse. Both published and unpublished poems are welcome. Prizes of $2,000, $1,000, $500 and $250 will be awarded, plus five High Distinction awards of $200 each and six Most Highly Commended Awards of $100 each. The entry fee is $7 for every 25 lines you submit.

Submit online or by mail. Early submission encouraged. This contest is sponsored by Tom Howard Books and assisted by Winning Writers. Judges: John H. Reid and Dee C. Konrad.
http://www.winningw contests/ margaret/ ma_guidelines. php
Deadline: June 30, 2009

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Kisha says:

Greetings all,
this is kisha nicole foster.
I had a very entertaining weekend hanging with my two kittens, Mattie and Valerie...they both came from the same is black(mattie) and one is striped(valerie).

Tonight is B-sides poetry night at Euclid Hts and Coventry, downstairs from the Grog starts at 9p and admission is 5dollars...

I have a show coming up on Feb. 20th at the Howard A. Mims Cultural Center at Cleveland State University. Admission to that is free and we have food...all are welcome...

I am apart of the show at the East Cleveland Public Library on Feb 27 with Black Poetic Society and Cavana Faithwalker is the i get pdf files of these shows i mos def will post them..

thank you my sara for the congrats..

going down to IWPS has pushed me as a writer to take that extra step and use the formula that Salinger has been putting in my head since day one...for those who don't know i cannot say today..its too much...and it never fails when i am in his class i am in it...participating...i paid attention for real this time because what he was saying is what slam is all about...taking skyscrapers and making them jump under bridges, asking what is black toast and the answer is a sweatsock on a broke hand...and making the emotions become real with the words which describe the emotion, not just the emotion and the sound like a scream or some crap like that.

In my earlier years that was my voice developing, now this is my voice, the one that takes the scream and wraps it around a thousand underprivileged school children desperate for an answer to their questions...

anywho, i am out...

i am tired and will return when I get some more news...

the peoples poet is signing off and out...

all of my love,

kisha nicole foster

Plucked from Clevelandpoetics the listserve...

This Thursday, Feb. 5, our new fiction writer at
John Carroll, Mike Croley, will give a reading.

8pm in Rodman A. Mike is a southerner and promises
to read his fiction in an authentic southern accent.

See you there,


George Bilgere
English Department
John Carroll University
(216) 397-4746

SALON 2009

Monthly read-around, feedback, interactive critique.

Every month, in the banquet room of a restaurant in east Columbus, a diverse group of thinking people meets to eat, breathe, drink, sculpt, hammer and polish poetry. We work on craft, presentation, voice and style, persona, place, voice and content, freewriting, seed poems, how to become selfless at the microphone, and much, much more. Each poet consumes as much of this sustenance as he or she can contain. A unique synergy fills the space. A unique bond is created over the common love of words.

You are invited to join us!

First Saturday of each month, February through December 2009

9:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

MCL Cafeteria

East Main Street
Ohio 43213

participants: Please plan to have lunch at MCL. Light lunch (soup or salad with
drink just over $4, full lunch meal (entrée, two sides, drink, plus) approximately $7-10. Coffee with unlimited refills is $1.25. Tea/hot water available.


Small presses have an uphill struggle to gain recognition. One measure of success is getting favorable reviews. Drinian Press author, Tom LeClair, is managing to get some "ink" for his latest release, Passing Through".

For those interested, here are the links:


Drinian Press, LLC
Huron, Ohio

Monday, February 2, 2009

Book Review: Basho--The Complete Haiku, trans. Jane Reichhold

Rarely can a book of poetry
be considered essential. Sometimes, as in the case of Ginsberg's Howl and Other Poems or Rich's Diving Into the Wreck, it is a book's historical socio-political importance that makes it essential. Sometimes it is the magnificent size and depth of the project, as in the case of Sanders's 1968 or Hughes's Ask Your Mama. Sometimes a book is simply so beautiful that every serious student of poetry must read it. With Basho: The Complete Haiku, the first complete collection of haiku master Matsuo Basho's haiku in English, translator Jane Reichhold accomplishes all three.

Reichhold organizes Basho's haiku chronologically, showing us his progression and personal growth as a haijin. In addition to presenting each haiku, Reichhold also provides notes of commentary, as well as the original Japanese, the romaji and the "literal" translation for each haiku, inviting readers to participate deeper in each piece, and perhaps even translate a few haiku themselves. Sometimes these notes give us some insight into Reichhold's process, or explain a specific Japanese reference or allusion in the poem. Occasionally, there is a pun in the poem that needs to be explained. However, Reichhold often gives two translations of the same piece:

At the house of Hosho Sadayu at a
three-poet party

growing old
one does not even know it
after forty
growing old
one who doesn't know it
is the chickadee

In the notes, Reichhold explains that the last line of the haiku, "shijukara," could mean "after forty" or "chickadee" She writes "The wordplay allows two distinct haiku--one with a nature reference and one without."

In addition to the translations, the original texts, and the accompanying notes, Reichhold also provides a biography for Basho before each chapter, as well as an introduction, explaining the importance of Basho for contemporary poetry. As if this wasn't enough, Reichhold provides an appendix detailing the techniques used by Basho with specific haiku used as examples as well as a glossary of Japanese literary terms.

As many poets know, translation is not an exact science. The Latin root of the word means "to carry over" or "to carry across," and a translator is essentially asked to carry what they can from a poem over into another language, hoping that what is lost will not read as a detriment to the original piece. There are many versions of Basho by many translators, each with their own nuances and choices. This website lists fifteen versions of one haiku, this website thirty versions of another. With that in mind, I'm sure there are scholars and nitpickers who will explain where Reichhold went wrong or why their version is better than hers.

Those sorts of discussions and debates are best left to those who know the Japanese language and culture, and I'm sure Reichhold will be able to hold her own. For the time being, Basho: The Complete Haiku stands as the most complete study in English of Basho's work, and is a mandatory read for anyone interested in poetry.


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