Sunday, September 27, 2009

Top Poetry Peeves

Blogger Gary Sullivan lists his Top Five Poetry Peeves.

Around here, I don't think I see all that many poems beginning with "dear x", nor, for that matter, very many dedicated to dead poets (much less Spicer). I suppose maybe in Brooklyn that's all the rage.

Are the tricks and tics of poetry so dependent on location?

The only thing that really worried me was the ether.

For the past three years Visible Voice Books and Mac’s Backs paperbacks have sponsored a yearly reading honoring some outlaw or underground type author. First up was Kerouac coinciding with the gold anniversary of On the Road. Last year Bukowski was feted and this year staying true to the substance abusing manual typewriter pounding aesthetic Hunter S. Thompson was on the block.

I decided to hit the second day of the festivities held at the Barking Spider Tavern over on the campus of CWRU. The way the event works is that folks are invited to get up at the mic and read an excerpt from the celebrated writer’s work. I knew which passage from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas I wanted to perform, unfortunately I think my copy is sitting in Columbus in my son’s apartment. I knew Suzanne from Mac’s would have the book at the reading and I figured I would find the section once I got there.

But then I remembered the magic of the internet. Having five minutes to kill before taking to the streets I used Google Scholar and pulled up a PDF of the manuscript then did a word search for bath tub – I wanted to read the section where Hunter’s lawyer begs him to throw a plugged in radio into the suspiciously green water in which the attorney is soaking – found the passage – copied and pasted it into a Word document then printed it out. Mission accomplished with two minutes to spare. What a world.

Next year’s subject will be a different kind of an outlaw, the green ink using Pablo Neruda veering away from the influence of the inebriated muse. Here are some pics taken by Sara at the Barking Spider event.

Friday, September 25, 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.

(if you had work submitted and it has not yet appeared in BRF please resubmit - we unfortunately lost our backlog due to an e-mail accident.)

Last review's offering was from a Clevelandpoetics the Blog reader as is this week's selection.

coming home

lying back
her skin alabaster
he drinks her in with his greedy eyes

he lingers on
the gentle curve of her side
the space between bottom rib and rounded hip

he reaches yearning
his skin blue black, nearly ebony

to touch to feel to linger
her gaze never leaving his face

a sigh escapes him
his hand fits exactly into her curve

as though it was always there
just for him

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Look out for the Bats!

87690~Fear-And-Loathing-In-Las-Vegas-Posters Mac's Backs and Visible Voice Books in Tremont have collaborated on a weekend of readings for the last few years honoring influential writers. We inaugurated the events in 2007 for the 50th Anniversary of the publication of On the Road by Jack Kerouac. Last year we chose Charles Bukowski.

This year we are focusing on the work of the irrepressible, irredeemable, intoxicating, incomparable and intoxicated Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. The author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas pioneered Gonzo journalism, the art of using yourself as a character in non-fiction with some outlandish embellishment. A good deal of his most accomplished work appeared in Rolling Stone Magazine in the 1970's. His first article for Rolling Stone was also one of his best--Freak Power in the Rockies--- detailed his run for sheriff of Aspen, Colorado.

Thompson originally published an account of the Hell's Angels in a story for The Nation in 1965. He expanded it into a book after living with the motorcycle gang for a year and published Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs in 1966.

His gonzo writing have been collected into four volumes, including The Great Shark Hunt and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, documenting the1972 presidential campaign.

Choose your favorite Hunter S. Thompson excerpt and read at Visible Voice on Friday evening, September 25th or the Barking Spider Tavern (11310 Juniper Rd on the CWRU campus) on Saturday, September 26th from 4-6 p.m. Books will be available. Bottoms up!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Book Review: Towards Absolute Zero by Karen L. Newman

Toward Absolute Zero

By Karen L. Newman

$6.00, Sam’s Dot Publishing

Karen L. Newman has an MS in chemistry which has contributed greatly to her writing in addition to working a variety of jobs in academic, industry and government. She lives in Kentucky where her cat, Tri-Paw, helps her write occasionally. Her work has been nominated for both a Rhysling and a Dwarf Star Award. She edits the online magazine Afterburn SF and Illumen, Sam’s Dot Publishing’s magazine of speculative poetry. Her most recent collection is Towards Absolute Zero.

Speculative purists may balk at many of the poems in this book which are not truly speculative. Instead of pondering speculative situations, Newman instead creates metaphors using speculative tropes as the vehicles to describe non-speculative ideas. Thus, in the poem “Blue Vapor,” cigarettes and their smoke become “a mystic genie appearing/from a battered bottle/that has been tossed about the sea.” In the piece “Living Dead Girl,” a young lady who is “friendless/loveless/dreamless” imagines her emotions as ghosts “haunting the cemetery of her mind,” which is “buried in a decaying heart.” This use of speculative tropes, though not unique, certainly adds a dark horror to otherwise common people and ideas, and creates a resonant juxtaposition of these poems against the others in the book.

The other poems of this collection are quite speculative. For example, in “Frankenstein’s Monsters of Tomorrow,” Newman carries the idea of plastic surgery one step further, where people who have already received “enhanced breasts,/clipped flesh wings,/tucked tummies, respun varicose veins” now begin to receive other augmentations from “unwilling donors,” to horrifying allegorical results. “The Sands of Kentucky” imagines a future in which Kentucky has become beachfront property after “powerful men/polluted the sky with smokestacks” and “the second flooding came/from creeping icecaps.” Even this future is dark, though, as the narrator discovers not shells on the beach, but a piece of coal, and the sounds it makes are not those of the ocean.

Using her degree in chemistry, Karen L. Newman has concocted some explosive poetry. From one-night stands to breakfasts after Tiffany's, from little red churches to Titanic survivors, Newman lights the speculative fuse to our human and social foibles and rearranges our molecules.

(Published in Star*Line, July/August 2009)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Crisis in Mnemosyne

John Burroughs is featured this week in Mnemosyne.

Mnemosyne is a poetry site edited by Jen Pezzo ("Kerowyn Rose"). Every week it focuses on a different poet/artist, posting a new poem every day, and this week the featured poet is John Burroughs (who posts here under the nom de poetica "Jesus Crisis")... check it out.

(John's not the first clevelandpoetics blogger to be featured on Mnemosyne, by the way--- fellow Lix 'n Kix impressario Diane Borsenik has also been featured poet.)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Ohio Poetry Day

In 1938, the State of Ohio declared the third Friday of every October to be Ohio Poetry Day. Many states now have a official state poetry day, but Ohio was the first.

The Ohio Poetry Day celebration is at a different location in Ohio each year, and this year, the OPD will be close to Cleveland, at Mount Union College, in Alliance, October 16 and 17.

The Ohio Poetry Day sponsors the Ohio Poetry Day contest-- in fact, I should say contests, since there are actually 31 individual contests, and one of the things that the celebration event is for is to celebrate the contest winners*.

The celebration itself starts on October 16 with Friday evening "warm up" events at 7pm including refreshments, readings and writing exercises. On Saturday, the day starts with the OPD workshops in the morning, and then, after lunch, continues with a reading by the 2009 Ohio poet of the year, followed by reading of some of the Ohio Poetry Day Award-winning poems**, and (if it's like other OPD celebrations), closing with some open reading. Should be good fun.

Watch the site for more details.

Tessa Sweazy Webb was the poet who originally lobbied the Ohio General Assembly to create Ohio Poetry Day (that's her up there on the t-shirt). She also founded the Ohio Poetry Association. (Well, OK. Back in 1928, when it was started, she originally called it the "Verse Writers’ Guild of Ohio.") Check out their web site.

Oh, and if you're interested, the 2010 OPD contests haven't been announced, but watch the OPD site for news.

**and the Ohio Poet of the Year, but that's for another post. Unless you click the links on this one, of course, in which case you already know.
**well, for full disclosure, I should mention that I won two of the OPD awards this year, so I'm not entirely disinterested.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lix and Kix 09-15-09

lk01 I wasn’t expecting the place to go topless. Swung by the Lix and Kix set last night. This reading series will soon be celebrating its one year anniversary

lk06 The monthly series has migrated around town a bit and has alit at Bela Dubby – a coffee shop/tavern/art gallery at 13321 Madison Avenue in beautiful Lakewood Ohio. Fliers say the show starts @ 7pm and the two effervescent hosts John Burroughs (aka Jesus Crisis) and Diane Borsenik got the thing rolling in front of a packed house of fifty or so just about on time. I say just about because the evening began with twenty five minutes of announcements. I wouldn’t recommend coming late to miss these preliminaries though if you hope to get a seat. I got lucky and found a single seat up front between Kathy Smith and some cat wearing a shirt with the mathematical symbol for pi on it.

lk04One of the things I enjoy about this series is on the couple occasions I have been able to attend they have mixed some music in with the readers. This evening Leah Lou, a precociously adorable singer songwriter opened the evening. Her voice comes across in a familiarly quirky and neo folk kinda way. Not being up on the names of all the contemporary practitioners of this genre I am at a loss to make an accurate comparison and will date myself by saying she reminds me of Melanie Safka. Her lyrics showed a healthy dose of self deprecating humor as did her easy stage presence. Definitely one of those folks that causes one to turn to their neighbor and say, “she’s just as good as…”

lk03 After the young lady finished her set Russell Vidrick took the mic. I’ve been seeing this guy around town for the last twenty years or so and the only thing that has changed about his hangdog look and deadpan delivery is possibly the addition of two or three gray hairs. This Cleveland poetic staple also hosts a second Saturday series at the Brandt Gallery in Tremont. Vidrick‘s set produced a déjà vu experience. I turned to Kathy and asked, “Maybe it’s just me – but is this the only poem this guy ever does?” Kathy said that he was stringing together several pieces but I felt sure I had heard all of the pieces he was doing the first time I saw him read a couple decades ago.

Even though I felt I was able to anticipate all of Vidrick’s punch lines, his reading was enjoyable and short enough to leave you wanting to hear more (a talent any poetry presenter would do well to cultivate.) If indeed Russ was stringing together several pieces I would have liked to know when one ended and the next began.

Leah Lou came out – did another quick four or five piece set and then disappeared into the night because her boyfriend had to go to work.

Okay here’s the topless part.

lk05 This evening the crowd celebrated Burroughs’s birthday. Unbeknownst to Jesus Crisis, his partner in rhyme had solicited lines from the far flung poetry community who have interacted with her co-host and assembled them into an epic approaching bit of verse. Dianne presented the poem, framed for display, to our surprised man of the hour and then read the two hundred plus line piece. A representative from the Ohio Poetry Association also gave our guy a t shirt proclaiming the wearer as an Ohio Poet. Egged on by the crowd John did a quick hootchie cootchie and donned the top.

lk07 The final feature spot of the evening was filled by California bartender/poet David Smith nom de plume Handsome Duke Deal. I knew I would have to hit the road right after his set so I moved over to the bar area bequeathing my front row seat to Terry Provost. Smith took the mic and informed the crowd that he had passed up a trip to France to come to Cleveland. The woman at the bar next to me and I instantaneously exchanged dubious looks. It is not beyond the pale to question the sanity of such a decision. Smith’s reading offered no confirmation of mental liabilities though.

This “outlaw poet’s” work came across as a well crafted mixture of wit and observation. He even threw in a piece about transvestites in Cleveland as well as one ruminating over a visit to Lakeview Cemetery. He read mostly from his new collection White Time published by Off Beat Pulp of Kansas. Here is an excerpt of his piece

GENOCIDE SUTRA - A LOVE POEM from the collection:

With ruby hearts at stress,
we march hand wrapped in hand
through the infamous gates
across the broken tracks
and into the empty yard;
where evil screamed,
and the devil harvested
the vineyard of the damned.

there is no pleasure in yesterday.

this little terror at the ass-end of the world. Truly.
The memorial here is an antiseptic lie.
An anemic and sterile victims' dude ranch.
Diluted. A soft and incomplete fable.

we stroll through this detached amusement park,
Poland's tidy and grand tourist attraction.

when you sleep with Dr. Mengele
you always sleep alone.



After Smith’s reading I unfortunately had to hit the road and missed the open mic. Lix and Kix the next installment is October 20 featuring broadside poet extraordinaire Ralph Lacharity. I recommend getting there early.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Where do you publish?

Midge Raymond says, it's September, and the literary magazines that slumbered all summer are coming awake; it's submission time.

So, where do you publish?

Where are the current markets? Who wants what? What's hot, who's not?
Lit magazines? Small press? Your church newsletter?

Let's hear it!

And how about internet journals: electronic ephemera? Or the wave of today?


Friday, September 11, 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.

(if you had work submitted and it has not yet appeared in BRF please resubmit - we unfortunately lost our backlog due to an e-mail accident.)

Last review's offering of "September Song" is written by Geoffrey Hill - this weeks selection is from a Clevelandpoetics - the Blog reader:

The Rise

The gush of the morning wind awakened my still into the freshness of the day.
A green pasture that was my bed, damp with dew tickled my rested body
And as I rose the fragrance of pine danced across my nostrils as the trickling
Creekwater massaged my ears.
My feet moist with nature’s damp essence, moved across the grass in jubilation
Whilst the gentle breeze stroked my face to awaken it with it cool kiss.
As I walked the trees waved to greet as the sun glanced at me with calm rays of light.
It was a good day to rise.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Back at the Bamboo Room

Congratulations to everyone who worked on the Bamboo Room sestina. We completed 6 stanzas. Personally, I’ve enjoyed the process and the result:

They met at the Bamboo Room;
there's no bamboo there, but plenty
of privacy, in the booth there
where smoky jazz tinged the air a translucent blue.
A guy could get lost in the dark
while fumbling for a last-chance breath,

her grass skirt rustling like when the wind breathes
as the guy gasps for air, give me room, room
to move, space to roam. She looks back, her eyes dark,
wide, an open field with plenty,
like a vast sea of ionic cobalt blue.
"These colors kill me," he says. She says, "There, there"--

and takes a drag from her cigarette. Their
lips meet. He savors the rum and the smoke on her breath,
recalling last-night's dream, somehow crystalized and blue.
"The color's different," she says, "in my room.
There's wine and sad music and plenty
to do." Her pink orchid lei smells like dark

blossoms opening, like night flames for Jeanne d'Arc
and he's burning, they're spinning, they're
adrift in blue oceans; mad, mad. But plenty
of heat. Fevered moans erupt in gasps of rhythmic breath;
for every bride, a groom, and every room
inside their bodies sings with music Coltrane blew.
He shakes his head, steals her cigarette, and says, "We blew
hard, baby, like a storm, like thunder crashing through the dark
like soul pirates," in his eyes betrayal of rheum.
Still blazing, she licks away his tear, melding their
...their what? Silence, then. Then only their breaths,
and the subtle whisper from the bass. That's plenty

of cool to heat two hearts, plenty
of fire, enough to singe the cold, white moon. Blue
are the scales he knows, blue the width and breadth
of his sadness, his knowing that this is the last time, that dark
notes will blue this melody, and their
song become an endless ache once they leave this room.


Do we want to leave it as is or write a final 3-line stanza? Does it feel finished? Thoughts on a title?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

There's too much money in poetry!

(You don't get rich from poetry, part 2)

Despite Robert Lee Brewer (not to mention Robert Graves) saying "there's no money in poetry," Micah Mattix tells us that he knows what's wrong with modern poetry: it's corrupted by too much money.


He's commenting on his earlier article, "Poetry and Subsidies: Is Materialism Ruining Creativity?", and the criticism of it.

Too much money? Well, maybe he has a point. He says: "The fact is, if you add up all of the lectureships and professorships at creative writing programs at universities, and add this figure to fellowships and prizes, there are more institutional funds (both private and public) devoted to poetry than ever before."
He quotes from Dana Gioia's classic essay, now 18 years old:

"Decades of public and private funding have created a large professional class for the production and reception of new poetry comprising legions of teachers, graduate students, editors, publishers, and administrators. Based mostly in universities, these groups have gradually become the primary audience for contemporary verse. Consequently, the energy of American poetry, which was once directed outward, is now increasingly focused inward."

Well, he may have a point. There are 2618 accredited four-year colleges and universities in the US-- probably twice that number when you add in community colleges-- and a good fraction of them have creative writing departments. Poets get hired, getting promoted, get awards and fellowships and sabbaticals and tenure based on publishing poetry in the "right" 'zines, the "literary" ones, the ones with "high ambition" that are "highly selective."

What is this doing to poetry? All those literary quarterlies and reviews-- just who's actually reading them, anyway?

Brewer had said, "I think the lack of money in poetry helps take the pressure off the art form. It's really all about a great line, a wonderful image, something that sticks with the reader." But that "lack of money in poetry" is an illusion-- if you count creative writing departments, it sure looks like poetry is a business churning through hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Have we evolved a professional poetry-business? A "large professional class for the production and reception of new poetry" that has "gradually become the primary audience for contemporary verse?" Wait a minnit! What about poetry that people actually like to read?

Is that what's wrong with contemporary poetry?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

You don't get rich from poetry

Robert Lee Brewer, in his Writers Digest blog, is asked the question "How much money does a poet make?"

His answer is "Many journals pay in contributor copies (and some don't even do that). The few that can afford to pay in actual money usually offer less than $100 for a poem. And publishing a book isn't going to rake in the cash either." Final word is that, if you're not a celebrity or the National Poet Laureate, "bottom line: There's no money in poetry."

Yeah, I already knew that. Anybody here surprised?

(Empty Mirror Books says about the same thing. For that matter, so did Robert Graves-- "There's no money in poetry, but then, there's no poetry in money, either.")

He continues, "But is that such a bad thing? I think the lack of money in poetry helps take the pressure off the art form. It's really all about a great line, a wonderful image, something that sticks with the reader."

Yeah, I already knew that. (Not that I wouldn't mind a little cash, now and then.)

Wadda ya think?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

NEO Poet Field Guide


Full name: Steven B. Smith

Age: 63 – born 3.9.1946

Habitat: Near West Side, Cleveland Ohio – a.k.a. Tremont

Range: Born in the Bitterroot Range of the Rocky Mountains and raised on a 40-acre farm on Paradise Prairie in Washington State, I've been as far west as Hawaii, as far east as Croatia, as far north as lower Canada, as far south as Oaxaca Mexico.

As for poetry: second Thursdays at The Literary Cafe; Second Saturdays at the Brandt Gallery; third Tuesdays at Lix & Kix; Maj Ragains Jawbone and Water Street Gallery readings; assorted free-range open mic venues wherever and whenever.

Diet: artist Marcel Duchamp; singer songwriter Bob Dylan; book Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu; musician Charles Mingus; movie Mind Walk; song Everybody Knows by Leonard Cohen; rocker Elvis Presley; rock person John Lennon; spiritual person the Dalai Lama; group a tie between Meat Beat Manifesto and The Rolling Stones; favorite person of all is my wife Kathy Ireland Smith a.k.a. Lady K; favorite hyphenate poet/artist/publisher/writer/outlaw me.

Distinguishing Markings: Cleveland Poetry Scenes; Hotel Poem; ArtCrimes #1-21; Clevebland Rag-o-zeen; Green Panda Press; Taproot; Little Albert; Whiskey Island; Brain Cell; Generator; Troubadour 21; Hey Daddyo; Split City; The Coventry Reader; the Crisis Chronicles Online Library; Zen Over Zero; etc

Predators: "We're all perfect potential / cept maybe republicans, lawyers, / the true organized crime called police / the true whores called priests." Toss in CEOs, bankers, Dick Cheney, neoconservatives, the religious wrong, the flat earthers, the rich, the greedy.


Prey Has No Name

We fish with human face
such depths of want
and need
heart drums beat
to pulse blood hope
in womb warm wonder
Lying lizard in the sun
in spring full breadth
of coiled light
our brain bridged push
mute witness
for those who died
in black and white
before elective gray


The Grasshopper’s Tale

My life’s dog food for do gooders
Hot dodgers dogging God’s zone
Fur sure of itself
Per path and position
Point portion pursued

We who rise in heat from dream
Lick recollection loose
From cold fire’s template
Futility’s fog
We bleed in abandon
Dance dawn’s dapple light

Contact info


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