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

Monday, November 16, 2009

CPL Writers and Readers: Loung Ung

“I write books because nobody told me I couldn’t.”

Somehow I think Loung Ung would have written even if someone had told her she couldn’t.  Author of the two book length memoirs First They Killed my Father and Lucky Child chronicling her life growing up in war ravaged Cambodia and subsequent refugee experience in the United States, Ung exuded courage, strength and conviction as she spoke this past Sunday as the latest author presented by the Cleveland Public Library’s Writers and Readers Series.

Around four hundred folks packed into the Lois Stokes Wing auditorium to listen to this Cleveland based author talk about her writing and work as a human rights activist. A local writer friend of mine who knows Ung told me she was going to speak more about her writing than her activism during this session. She also told me that Ung was worried that there would only be a handful of people in attendance. The latter wasn’t a problem, the CPL’s Writers and Readers Series is turning into the worst kept secret of Cleveland’s literate.

Ung opened her talk by giving thanks for the gray skies outside, explaining that she was worried another in a set of recent bright sunny November days in Cleveland might keep folks away from the event. She also said that while the winter weather was not her favorite aspect of living in the City she did appreciate the quality of life and affordability of living here. When asked “Why Cleveland?” by various interviewers her reply is “Have you been there?” followed by the ubiquitous joke “we’re not Detroit.”

loung04Ung spoke about her early life  up until the age of five in Cambodia. Her memories are of a lush green countryside, Buddhist temples, flowers blooming in every season (which consisted of two – hot and wet and hot and dry) a country with a two thousand year history that would soon be devastated by four years of war. She grew up with two Elvis Presley wanna be brothers and three sisters. The sisters, she shared, were so noisy that her father often threatened to trade them in for a set of monkeys.  Loung had a pet chicken and her mother worried about her being too much of a tomboy. Her father, a military policeman, didn’t mind. “She is clever,” he said. “She gets herself into trouble – but she gets herself out again, she’ll be fine.” She recalled going to Sunday movies as a family, sitting in her father’s lap, crunching fried crickets.

In 1975 the soldiers came. Everything became banned – the movie theater, markets, school religion. Then the new authorities began rounding up anyone they thought might be a nuisance to their agenda – doctors, teachers, lawyers, musicians, and artists - finally they came for her father. Her mother knew the safest thing would be to split up the rest of the family. Loung believed her mother was weak for not keeping the group together, it would take her growing up to realize how wrong this idea was. This is the story of First They Killed my Father.

loung03 Lucky Child picks up Ung’s life as she travels as a refugee to the United States, her third choice of possible destinations that she selected as she waited to leave Cambodia. One of her brothers had managed to scrape together enough money, three ounces of gold, to get three people out of the country, himself his wife and after an agonizing decision process, Loung – the lucky child. The book also tells the parallel story of her sister, still in Cambodia.

The work of surviving peace can be as traumatic as that of enduring war. The American movies the refugees were shown in preparation of their shipping off to the country of big cities, discos, and people on roller-skates with boom boxes on their shoulders were of little use as preparation for Loung who ended up sponsored by a church group in rural Vermont.

The first thing Ung noticed was that everything was big. Big cars, big stores, big vegetables, big food in general and she decided that was why the Americans themselves were so big – they ate big things.  Even with all the best intentions, including Uncle Ben’s rice and the Brady Bunch, Loung was keenly aware of how much of an outsider she was. Loung had forgotten how to live in peace.

loung02 Then she discovered the public library. She didn’t have to be white, or popular, blond like Marsha Brady, or wearing the latest fashion to take a book from the library. All she needed was that little card and she could take the books home. At first she read to escape – she could be anywhere, anybody at any time. She solved mysteries with Nancy Drew, flirted with the Hardy Boys reading was a shelter. Then she read Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning and she discovered writing as a means of therapy and Loung began keeping a journal. Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings helped chart a path where Ung’s voice changed from that of victim to survivor from shame to pride and she decided she would write the story of her life. A multitude of readers are glad she did.

Loung Ung now owns a restaurant here in Cleveland and is very active in numerous human rights organizations with aid to victims of landmines topping the list. For more information you can check out her blog at:


Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Day in Autumn

It will not always be like this,
The air windless, a few last
Leaves adding their decoration
To the trees’ shoulders, braiding the cuffs
Of the boughs with gold; a bird preening

In the lawn’s mirror. Having looked up
From the day’s chores, pause a minute,
Let the mind take its photograph
Of the bright scene, something to wear
Against the heart in the long cold.

R.S. Thomas (1913 - 2000 / Wales)

What F. Scott Fitzgerald’s tax returns reveal about his life and times.

Bibliotaphy - the silent killer

Hollywood's Favorite Cowboy -
Author Cormac McCarthy

Mikhail Kalashnikov, the Russian soldier who invented one of history’s most fearsome killing machines — “the AK-47 assault rifle, beloved of guerrillas around the world” — announced at a Kremlin reception on Tuesday in honor of his 90th birthday that he really wanted to be a poet.

Tutu: J'aime les touristes'je mange leur croissants!

I'm a poodle? I don't feel like a poodle. I bet I'm really a German Shepherd.


It's not very often we get to watch a film based on a book of poetry. The new Canadian film, Love and Savagery, released today is such a rare occasion.

“Translators are the shadow heroes of literature, the often forgotten instruments that make it possible for different cultures to talk to one another.”—Paul Auster

Scorched Maps

I took a trip to Ukraine. It was June.
I waded in the fields, all full of dust
and pollen in the air. I searched, but those
I loved had disappeared below the ground,

deeper than decades of ants. I asked
about them everywhere, but grass and leaves
have been growing, bees swarming. So I lay down,
face to the ground, and said this incantation—

you can come out, it’s over. And the ground,
and moles and earthworms in it, shifted, shook,
kingdoms of ants came crawling, bees began
to fly from everywhere. I said come out,

I spoke directly to the ground and felt
the field grow vast and wild around my head.

Tomasz Rozycki’s poem Scorched Maps

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Autumn Oak All the Wiser…

I sit here tonight at the age of twenty-nine wondering how far I’ve come in understanding writing and life, more importantly, the writing life and wisdom. I don’t necessarily mean my own, but the tangible, just tangible writing and even concerning scrolls and parchment and antiquity; even hieroglyphics, even caves and wondering.

I feel like I’m on the verge of thirty-something.

If writing were just communication, would it have come this far? Wouldn’t the mountains and birds and seas have quieted themselves by now? There is so vast a destiny in communication, so great an understanding, so therapeutic and at the same time jostling--like bowed instruments with crescendos and diminutives, like the rise and fall of empires, leaders, lives…They say the first real reporting were the annals of Greece and I wonder how wise society as a whole has become.

I’ve found personally that good writing comes with age, with wisdom. That my writing comes like a grape once from the vine to the bottle of the vineyard’s best.

So this fall has been especially beautiful in Cleveland to me, and I’m beginning to think it is because of my age. Because with age, I am noticing beauty better, more precisely, articulately, and yes, literally.

Michael invited me to be a contributor some time ago, but I wanted to post something meaningful and to this end, this entry is dedicated to Autumn ‘09. Especially as she closes herself for the coming winter on into opening the spring, on into next year, on into a more meaningful ‘fall.’

I hope anyone reading this has born witness to its beauty and wisdom this year.

Are you on PST (Poet Standard Time)?

Yesterday, I found myself once again running a couple minutes late, which stretched into ten minutes, then fifteen, then a half hour. While in the car pondering my tardiness, I mused to myself that that I used to always be on time (obsessive-compulsively early, in fact) before I became a poet.

The Poet Time Zone seems to be geographically ethereal, but it tends to fall at least half an hour behind any bordering time zone. I've heard emcees around town joke when a feature is running behind that we're all on "poet standard time" or that any legitimate poetry reading has to start at least half an hour late anyway.

Does it then become a self-perpetuating cycle? The poets don't expect the reading to start until half an hour late, and so don't plan to arrive earlier, thereby arriving even later, thereby delaying the reading...and on and on!

So is it poetry that makes us late, or does the character makeup of naturally late people cause them to gravitate towards poetry? Do our free spirits prevent us from being bound by such banal devices of restriction like...clocks? Do our creative natures transcend time and space? Nature vs. nurture?

Or...are we just trying to make excuses for ourselves?

Let me know if you find yourself likewise afflicted.

Veterans Day

A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim

by Walt Whitman(1819-1992)

A sight in camp in the daybreak gray and dim,
As from my tent I emerge so early sleepless,
As slow I walk in the cool fresh air the path near the hospital tent,
Three forms I see on stretchers lying, brought out there untended lying,
Over each blanket spread, ample brownish woolen blanket,
Gray and heavy blanket, folding, covering all.

Curious I halt and silent stand,
Then with light fingers I from the face of the nearest the first just lift the blanket;
Who are you elderly man so gaunt and grim, with well-gray'd hair, and flesh all

the eyes?
Who are you my dear

Then to the second I step - and who are you my child and darling?
Who are you sweet boy with cheeks yet blooming?

Then to the third - a face not child nor old, very calm, as of beautiful

yellow-white ivory;
Young man I think I know you - I think this face is the face of the Christ himself,
Dead and divine and brother of all, and here again he lies.

The Poetry of War

When it comes to proving points and making cases, fiction’s day is done

The Failed Prophecy of Kurt Vonnegut (and How It Saved My Life)

Mexicans, despite their reputation in Latin America for ultrapoliteness and formality, curse like sailors, a recent survey found. They use profanity when speaking with their friends, with their co-workers, with their spouses and even with their bosses and parents. On Independence Day, the thing to shout above all else is “Viva Mexico, Cabrones!” a patriotic exhortation directed at either bastards or buddies, depending on the tone employed.

Orhan Pamuk’s real-life Museum of Innocence.

San Francisco Beat/hippie poet Lenore Kandel has died at the age of 77 - an appreciation of her work and a sample of her work

Imagine the technology of today with the aesthetic of Victorian science. From redesigned practical items to fantastical contraptions, this exhibition, curated by Art Donovan, showcases the work of eighteen Steampunk artists from across the globe.

Expect ’steam-powered’ computer mice, clockwork hearts, brass goggles and the latest state-of-the-Steampunk-art eye-pod (more...)

Everything I have I carry with me.

Or: everything that's mine I carry on me.

I carried everything I had. It wasn't actually mine. It was either intended for a different purpose or somebody else's. The pigskin suitcase was a gramophone box. The jacket was from my father. The town coat with the velvet neckband from my grandfather. The breeches from my Uncle Edwin. The leather puttees from our neighbor, Herr Carp. The green gloves from my Auntie Fini. Only the claret silk scarf and the toilet bag were mine, gifts from recent Christmases....

Herta Müller On Packing

State of Siege

Wherever to go and whatever from
can always
be said for certain: because it's Sunday
and three cars in front of the house
hour after hour
Marx Engels Lenin Stalin in the back seat
ad usum delphini

They've come straight from Utopia
Headquarters in Berlin-Lichtenberg
smoking and reading the paper and
waiting for objections
coming from my poor and hesitant words
newly hatched migrants
heading to a place where "talk of trees"
does not involve silence
where no one's going to
shut you up...

Günter Kunert

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Let's Dance

Are you ready to collaborate again?

After serious consideration of number of collaborative forms, I’ve decided that it would be fun to try a collaborative nested meditation. Easy to explain (Geoff already has), and I think that the shift of voice in each stanza will add breadth to the poem at the same time that each additional line adds depth.

To review:

  • The poem starts with a single line stanza that is a complete sentence. (I’ll provide the first stanza.)
  • Each successive stanza repeats the previous stanza and adds one more line that changes the meaning. Every stanza must be a complete sentence or multiple sentences.
  • The words from previous lines cannot be changed. The word order of previous lines cannot be changed. No exceptions.
  • Capitalization and punctuation of previous lines can be changed.

Each collaborator will add a complete additional stanza. You may add as many stanzas to the poem as you like, but please do not add two successive stanzas.

There’s no limit to the final length of the poem. I’ll declare the poem complete if there’s been no activity for one month.

As we did with the sestina, please cut and past the entire poem into your comment whenever you add a stanza.

I personally don’t care about subject matter. Meditate or not as you see fit.

OK. I’ll steal a line from David Bowie (no, not from Miley Cyrus) to get us started:

Let’s dance.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Cleveland, Wannberg and Smith

Oh my!
Remember Salinger's blog about California poet David Smith's spectacular September appearance in northeast Ohio? Here's a video sample from Smith's 9/15 reading, featuring a guest appearance by the Literary Cafe's Steve Goldberg:

Good news for those who missed it or want to hear more (I know I do!)... David Smith is returning to our area this week and bringing the incomparable Scott Wannberg with him. I devour a lot of books, and I must say Smith's White Time [just published by Off Beat Pulp] and Wannberg's Strange Movie Full of Death [Perceval Press] are two of the most delicious I've read this year. Don't miss your chance to see these two fine poets together right here in "the heart of it all"!

And that's not all.... The following is by no means a comprehensive list of northeast Ohio poetry events in the next ten or so days -- these are just the ones I expect to attend. If you know of others, feel free to mention them and provide details in the comments below.

Tuesday 11/10/09: Nia Coffeehouse at Karamu (6 p.m.) -- open mic hosted by Vince Robinson and his band the Jazz Poets.

Wednesday 11/11/09: Kazim Ali and Nin Andrews read at Mac's Backs Books on Coventry (7 p.m.) -- and the subsequent open mic will feature an appetizer of poetry by David Smith & Scott Wannberg.

Thursday 11/12/09: The Literary Cafe in Tremont features David Smith & Scott Wannberg (9:30 p.m.) -- with an open mic and free-for-all to follow.

Friday 11/13/09: The Deep Cleveland Poetry Hour at Borders Books in Strongsville features John Burroughs (a.k.a. Jesus Crisis) at 8:30 p.m.-- with an open mic to follow.

Saturday 11/14/09: The Brandt Gallery in Tremont (3 p.m.) hosts a round-robin style open poetry reading led by Russell Vidrick.

Saturday 11/14/09: Saturday Night with the Poet's Haven (7 p.m.) features Gina Tabasso and Terry Provost at Angel Falls in Akron.

Tuesday 11/17/09: The Lix and Kix poetry series at Bela Dubby in Lakewood presents three more fine poets: Mnemosyne editor Jen Pezzo (aka Kerowyn Rose), MoonLit editor (and author of the vanZeno Press collection Emergency Contact) Claire McMahon, and (from Cincinnati) novelist (and author of the West End Press poetry collection Crow Call) Michael Henson. An open mic will follow.

Peace and poetry,
John Burroughs

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sherman Alexie at Firelands College Tuesday

Poet and fiction writer Sherman Alexie will be on our campus at the new Cedar Point Center at Firelands College, off of Rye Beach Rd. Huron, Ohio...this Tuesday Nov. 10th at 7:30 pm.
As a fellow writer, I want to invite you writers and readers. He's a wild man with some great writing to his record. Join us if you wish.
Larry Smith

Theory: Mash-up

How to Write a Great Novel

From writing in the bathroom (Junot Díaz) to dressing in character (Nicholson Baker), 11 top authors share their methods for getting the story on the page.

A Common Nomenclature for Lego Families

Far Away (Oedipus Rex)

Stravinsky... And then somebody asks about Calcutta’s writers.
And Oedipus Rex again. Before the new phases of the moon
begin and you will fall in my veiny
hands again.

Grzegorz Wróblewski

"Edmund Wilson regrets that it is impossible for him under any circumstance to take part in chain-poems..."

Is there any good in saying everything?
~ Bashō

A poet in the Peace Corps in Mozambique

50 Years of Naked Lunch:

Panel bares all at ‘Naked Lunch’ conference

The Obakemono Project, a guide to Japanese folk monsters.

What to wear to sell a book

Citizen and Poet:

Ferlinghetti on the beginnings of his political consciousness

"Look, a poem either sends you a bill or writes you a check." David Kirby on Amy Gerstler • The New York Times

Ancient Music

Winter is icummen in,
Lhude sing Goddamm.
Raineth drop and staineth slop,
And how the wind doth ramm!
Sing: Goddamm.

Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us,
An ague hath my ham.
Freezeth river, turneth liver,
Damn you, sing: Goddamm.

Goddamm, Goddamm, 'tis why I am, Goddamm,
So 'gainst the winter's balm.

Sing goddamm, damm, sing Goddamm.
Sing goddamm, sing goddamm, DAMM.

- Ezra Pound

Robbing Hakiu

Can you turn a Robbery Bank Note into verse? Below is a link to actual bank robbery notes - some very close to haiku.

I have a gun in my bag.
Give me $5,000 please.
Thanks a bunch.

Robbing a bank is as simple as putting pen to paper. Here are actual demand notes used in successful and unsuccessful unarmed bank robberies - - accompanied by a photo of each robber and appended with details about the robbery itself.

Wiig Reads Somers

Friday, November 6, 2009

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 a Clevelandpoetics the Blog contributor.

Perky Flarf

Before I begin I just wanted to take a moment and

make your butt as perky as you want.

In a society where baby-boomers seem to be the ones

engaged in noisy recreational activities for nearly 50 years

even learning how to flirt,

opponents twice a year,

goths, perky goths, cyber goths, mopey goths, traditional goths--

their goal remains to make a difference.

Jennie pointed you my way,

you get to breathe deeply a few times and then cough.

Studied, poked and prodded,

the market is not for the hard truth.

Desperate to see

this should be a fun week for me.

Moral panics rip through cultures,

and the "right-thinking" folks

find out what others are saying about you.

It just offends me

the canny folk

laughing at the paranoia.

Cover your mouth and nose.

Good-bye can be painful, but the pain is intensified.


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