Saturday, March 24, 2007

Misti Rainwater-Lites: Call for submissions

Misti Rainwater-Lites: Call For Submissions

The following post is from a great poet, Misti Rainwater-Lites:

Anthology To Benefit The West Memphis Three

I still haven't decided on a title for the anthology. I will be taking submissions until June.

If you are interested, please send three poems and a bio pasted into the message to me at

If you are not familiar with the West Memphis story, please educate yourself before inquiring or sending me poems. My vision for this anthology is to include at least fifty poets. With three poems from each contributor, the book will contain at least 150 pages. Depending on the base production price at, I will set the royalties at two or three dollars. I want to be able to send at least $100 to the defense fund. That is my goal.

If you know even a few things about the case, you know what an important fight this is. It involves every compassionate citizen not just of America but of the world. Three little boys were brutally murdered. Three dirt poor teenagers were convicted of the horrible triple homicide based on "Satanic panic" and gossip. How can we send someone to Death Row in the United States of America WITHOUT ANY EVIDENCE? Damien is on Death Row. Jason and Jessie are in for life.

I want to see those three innocent men set free and I want to see them receive millions of dollars from the state of Arkansas for the pain they have suffered for over a decade. I've read that Damien has been raped in prison. I don't know about Jason and Jessie but I'm sure they've also been brutalized in various ways.

It's good to send letters to the three men. They appreciate letters of support and encouragement. Writing letters is not good enough for me, however. I'd like to do more.I have tremendous hope for this anthology. Please spread the word and contribute if you can. Thank you.~Misti Rainwater-Lites

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Paul Whittington: Android 207

Reviewed by: Victor Schwartzman

Android 207 is not a poem, a short story or novel. It is a film—a ten minute black and white movie.

Why is it being reviewed on this site? Because it is fine underground work, and that is what this review blog is all about. Android 207 is fine alternative film making.

The film maker is Paul Whittington, his website is

Android 207 is one spunky little fella. He does not look quite like an android. His head, in particular, is a human skull, with pop-out white eyes. His body, while robotic, is curiously human. Especially his face: eerie, but human.

Our little hero finds himself, suddenly, in a vast maze. The maze is filled with threats. There are huge spikes that thrust out from the walls and then retract, pits to fall into, dangerous electrical bolts to fry him, moving try to crush him and, perhaps worst of all, a very nasty machine with rotating spikes is hunting him down.

There is even another android, hanging by its hands at the end of a corridor, who needs his help.

I first came across this film on It was stop motion animation, came recommended by the site, so I ordered it. The cost was well under $10.

I’m a big Ray Harryhausen and Willis H. O’Brien fan. They are the two prime movers in theatrical stop motion animation. Phil Tippett and Jim Danforth are other well known names. This Paul Whittington guy, making the most of his limited budget (the spikes coming out of the walls are just large nails), is as good as any of them technically, and superior to the last two in infusing his animation with emotion.

You forget this is a stop motion puppet. Android 207 quickly feels real. He is courageous, frightened, and compassionate.

The end of the film pulls it all together, but I am not a big fan of spoilers, especially in good films. Let’s just say that the film is an allegory of very real issues. An allegory about work and its tests. About manipulation and the big forces that try to control us. About our lives in this society.

What more can anyone ask of underground writing? So what if it’s a film?

Consider going to Whittington’s website to find out more about this film. Also check out indieflix, which has a large number of underground films, many of which look worth your time.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Coleen Rajotte: In a Voice of Their Own: The Video

Reviewed by: Jim Silver

We do not ordinarily review videos, but there is room for everything on this review blog that is provocative and nonmainstream. Check out this powerful video from one of Canada's First Nations. When I saw this review, I knew it had to be posted.

I do know Jim Silver, he's a great guy. You should buy his book. Jim is the Chair of the Politics Department at the University of Winnipeg, and author of In Their Own Voices: Building Urban Aboriginal Communities (Halifax: Fernwood Publishing, 2006).

I should also add that I am a proud member of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a very progressive organization dedicated to making Canada a better place. You can find the CCPA at Learn more about this great organization! The Office Manager in Manitoba is Harold Shuster, and I know him too.

The video costs $10 for non-profits and $20 for other organizations and government agencies. That's $10 Canadian. More information is available by phoning Harold Shuster at 204-927-3200, or by faxing (204) 927-3201. You can also e-mail

Snail mail?
Harold Shuster, Office Manager
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-MB
309-323 Portage Ave
Winnipeg, MB
R3B 2C1

In a powerful new documentary video called In Their Own Voices, by award-winning Aboriginal film-maker Coleen Rajotte, Aboriginal community development workers describe the distinctive and highly effective form of Aboriginal community development that they and others like them have created in recent decades in Winnipeg's inner city.

Based on interviews with some of the 26 Aboriginal community leaders interviewed for the final chapter of In Their Own Voices: Building Urban Aboriginal Communities, the video offers an insightful look, through their own voices, of the often difficult early lives of some of those who have become leaders in Aboriginal community development circles. These leaders describe how they overcame the barriers they faced, and the distinctive Aboriginal community development they have built in Winnipeg¹s inner city.

A powerful theme that emerges in the video is the damage caused by colonization. In the 19th century Canadians of European descent seized Aboriginal peoples' traditional lands, forced them onto reserves, removed the basis of their economic livelihoods, subjected them to the control of the Indian Act and Indian Agent, made every effort to eliminate their political systems and cultural and spiritual practices, and forcibly seized their children and transported them to residential schools where most were treated cruelly and where the deliberate purpose was to separate them from their families and communities, and thus from their Aboriginal cultures.

This was a deliberate strategy.

The idea, as the Department of Indian Affairs put it, was to "kill the Indian" in the child. Aboriginal people suffered immensely from this process of colonization, a process predicated upon the false assumption of the inferiority of Aboriginal peoples and their cultures. That false assumption continues to be widely held today.

Unfortunately, many Aboriginal people have internalized that false belief in their inferiority, and the result has been, for many, a loss of self-esteem and self-confidence, and a sense of worthlessness, often accompanied by despair and anger. One residential school survivor, for example, told us

"Two-thirds of my life has been severely affected, negatively affected, as a result of being a survivor of this system. I hated people. I hated White people, I hated churches, I hated God, I hated governments.

"These things I hated because they destroyed my life, brought it to a hope, a useless existence with no future in mind and all
I had was bitterness and anger."

But out of this anger and despair, and the harsh conditions of Winnipeg¹s inner city where poverty and racism abound, these Aboriginal leaders and others like them have built a distinctive and holistic form of Aboriginal community development that is rooted in an understanding of the damage caused by colonization, and of the need to de-colonize, and rooted also in the traditional Aboriginal values of sharing and community. Many of these people began their journey to becoming community leaders through exposure to some form of alternative education: Aboriginal training programs, adult education, specifically-tailored post-secondary education‹where they worked with other adult Aboriginal students and developed an understanding of colonization and its impacts.

This holistic form of community development starts at the level of the individual, and the need to heal from the damage of colonization. Part of this involves rebuilding Aboriginal peoples' identity and creating pride in being Aboriginal. The process of rebuilding themselves, recreating themselves, although it happens person by person, requires a strong sense of community--one in which Aboriginal cultures flourish--and this in turn necessitates the creation of Aboriginal organizations. Just as Aboriginal people work to reclaim their identity as individuals, so do they seek to reclaim their collective organizational identity via the creation of Aboriginal organizations.

This is a process that has been going on for more than thirty years in Winnipeg: the Indian and M├ętis Friendship Centre, the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, the Urban Circle Training Centre, the Native Women¹s Transition Centre, the Circle of Life Thunderbird House, the Children of the Earth High School, to name a few examples. Finally, a holistic form of Aboriginal community development involves an ideological understanding of colonization‹ an understanding that the problems that weigh so heavily on many Aboriginal people are not the result of individual failings, but of the process of colonization that adversely affected most Aboriginal people, and that require a process of de-colonization for their

This holistic form of community development, that takes place at the individual, the community, the organizational and the ideological levels, is a process of decolonization, of Aboriginal people taking back control of their lives after many decades of colonial control. It is a powerful force for positive change, created entirely by, and out of the often harsh experiences endured by, Aboriginal people.

In the video we hear Aboriginal people describe this process in their own words. The video, and the book upon which it is based, are among the many outcomes of the work of the Manitoba Research Alliance (MRA) on Community Economic Development in the New Economy, headed by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-Manitoba. Aboriginal people told us, when we embarked upon this research project, that they wanted to be full, participating partners in the research, and that they wanted the MRA to give back to the community what we have learned by working together.

The documentary video, In Their Own Voices, is one of the many ways we are meeting our commitment to work in partnership with the Aboriginal community, and to give back what we have learned. It is an important and accessible source of knowledge about the urban Aboriginal experience, about Aboriginal creativity and innovation, and about de-colonization.

The video is intended to be widely used in Winnipeg's inner city and beyond for educational purposes. Copies can be obtained from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-Manitoba.

Victor adds that the video has obvious value to people outside of Winnipeg, and deserves wide viewing!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

David Mason: Ludlow, a verse novel

Reviewed by: Cicily Janus

Cicily and David came from the same town but they do not know each other. She does know the publisher. And yes, I do know Cicily. There! so many of us know each other! Cicily and I have been emailing for over a year. She is an "emerging" writer with some great ideas. You can find out more about her through:

Ludlow is published by: Red Hen Press: Contact them for copies!

For 48 hours of my life, I was utterly mesmerized into another time and place with this magnum opus of prose. From the minute I opened this novel, written completely in verse, I could literally not put it down. It was almost as if there was a cast of thousands of miners working against my ordinary life, calling at me to keep reading, keep reading…. Or maybe it was just Luisa Mole, Louis Tika, or Too Tall MacIntosh, the MC’s of the book calling out to me.

Their haunting lives leapt out of the pages and into my heart. Although I could not identify with them in the most basic sense of the word, I could surely feel the sympathy for their trials in life. Stunned from page one, incarcerated by his words by page 17, David ominously begins his empathetic look at the miners life at the time of the Ludlow massacre:

The miners made widows too, when timbermen
or diggers deep inside the earth cut through
to gas and lanterns set it off, or when
the pillard chambers fell. You heard a slump
within, and some poor digger ran out choking
there was thirty boys still trapped in the seam.
And some days all you’d see was bodies carted
down the hill and bosses counting heads.

Not only is this passage particularly powerful and ominous to the rest of the book, but it is acutely relevant to the recent tragedy involving all of the mining families in the U.S. This portrait is so evocative, that I can only imagine that it was what was in the mind’s eye of all of those who suffered in those last moments.

David Mason poignantly looks at this tragic piece of American history and Colorado history in a fictional light and makes beautiful, heartrending poetry out of it. He blends the melting pot of the time into a stew of stories and catastrophes, turning the reader into a believer of the power of verse only to end it with:

I dream Luisa gathering her story,
no trace of her parents’ accents left in her,
though they are part of her life’s inventory.
She uses names like Tikas, Rockefeller,
Lawson, Mother Jones. The communards
have heard of some of these, and she unveils
a vision of the camps in simple words,
a scrap of song, a memory of hills.


I can only dream that maybe this is how David pieced his masterpiece together, with scraps of imaginings and songs, wafting down the peak through his window while he dreamt at night in the cool Colorado air. My hat goes off to David, and I pray that he produces a hundred more of these in my lifetime, as the world needs these stunning words as sustenance for the soul.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Brad Evans: and them and the jackals and the night

Reviewed by: Victor Schwartzman

I've emailed Brad, and he me. He lives in England, I live in Canada, and although we are both metric, we have never met. It all started when he emailed me with a request to review his book.

I liked what little I read at first, but wrote him that, given this book certainly gives a reader her money's worth--at 226 pages, it is not a slim volume--I would review it if I liked it, but not all of it. Too many poems, too little time! So I agreed to review only the political poems. I'm not fond of poems about the poet's girl or boy friends, her/his sex life and so on--just in general, nothing specific with Brad's work. My personal interest is in poems that want to change the world. Brad wants to change the world as here we are!

Where can you get this book? Good question. It is a DIY (Do It Yourself) book, i.e. independently published. Not that Brad has not been published before--the 'rap sheet' of print and online magazines which have published his poetry is lengthy indeed. If I were you, I'd email Brad at and ask to purchase a copy.

The "political" poems are in the "and the jackals" section. And how are they political? And what do they look like? And why should you care?

Check this out:

his first job

we competed for the same

in the end

Kevin got it,

began to pull in the wages
of an apprentice-


and the Boss got him

quick & mean,

and soon Kevin was breaking up
a swaying sea

of porkers and beef

over hooks of


I'd be there, watching him
sweat his

ring out

while the Boss sat &

it was later
that Kevin told me about

his near misses with
the blades

and how he almost cracked his skull
against the slimy

floor of the refrigeration

and then one day he slipped
with a

blunt boning knife,

felt the blade in his left

and I said to him

"Man, quit the fucking job, the Boss
is chewing you up!"

"Bullshit", he laughed.

and then in the following week

slipped again,

with blood bursting out of his right

he limped to the surgery with
soaked towels

& by the end of Xmas, Boss felled
him with

a nervous breakdown...

3 years later,

Kevin got his certificate

and quit,

went into something

the building

but that's another

The writing is direct, each word carefully chosen, measured against the next. Love that sly mention of "the building game"--any one who has worked in construction knows how safe that is!! This 'story poem' worked for me. It was about real life, a life most poets would not wish to touch unless a gun was pointed at their head: life for regular working people. Life in the slaughterhouse. There is a lot of truth in this poem. You should reread it.

I once had a investigation case involving a slaughter house. The most striking impression when I walked in was how cold it was, about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The workers wore white coats, but underneath they wore jackets to stay warm. Can you imagine how difficult it would be working in such cold temperatures every day? Not to mention cutting up a pig for a living?

Brad's spare style works well throughout his writing, whether a story poem or something more direct. For example, in on being asked how I felt about australia's involvement in East Timor he does not deliver a lecture, but instead creates an image of a desert, where a flock of vultures feed on a carcass, a "benign brotherhood" of carrion. Nice imagery!

Then there is this one:

classroom incident

my voice
my presence

reminds him
of his father

but I don't know it,
until he breaks down
and cries by the whiteboard.

and not being a father
I am not aware of the importance
until now...

as 8 y.o. Jamie
tells me his father
is nurturing a company


out of

Too bad dad is not nurturing his child instead of the company, eh? Such spare lines, such full meaning! This is almost simplistic writing (because on the surface there are no flowery passages, no self indulgent pompous poetics) with an unmistakable underlying depth.

As with any book containing so many poems, inevitably some read weaker than others. Some feel...slim...compared to the ones I have quoted in this review. But the vast majority of the poems are very much worth your time, and they are all about something. The "jackals" section could really exist on its own, with very few trims.

And though I may not want to admit it, the romantic poems were...well, okay, I'll write it, gritting my teeth: I liked many of them, they were, okay gosh, romantic.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Mark Howard Jones: The Garden of Doubt on The Island of Shadows

Reviewed by: Matt Merritt

I won't mention if Matt Merritt has met Mark Howard Jones, nor would I want to say that ten times fast.

This novella comes out of the Sein Und Werden crowd, well it's not a crowd, it's sorta one person really: Rachel Kendall. But she probably has friends, and they crowd around her, I'm sure. The Sein Und Werden web site is worth checking out, but be warned: it is surreal horror, not for the feignt hearted, or is that Fay ain't hearted? Well, you know what I mean.

You can find Sein Und Werden at the following website, and you will, if you're not a great big scaredy cat chicken:
And, at that site, if you look, you will find ordering information for the novella reviewed below. It costs 1.99 pounds, or is that kilograms?

Matt Merritt is an English journalist and poet. His debut chapbook, Making The Most Of The Light, was published in 2005 by Happenstance Press. His blog is Polyolbion -

The island of the title may be surreal, unreal even, but what makes this fine novella work so well is the skill with which it deals with the harsh reality of death.

There are no answers offered, no easy consolations for the reader, but the unflinching portrayal of grief and loss manages the seemingly impossible task of making the conclusion both devastating and life-affirming, and all the more convincing for it.

The plot centres on the mysterious disappearance of a rock star, and his girlfriend’s search for him by following clues in his lyrics.

As for the central character, she is both well drawn and sympathetic, and Mark Howard Jones succeeds beautifully in using her to highlight the ultra-thin line between hope and self-deceit.

The background in the world of 1970s rock is excellent too, my only complaint being that I might have liked more of it.

But that’s a minor quibble – this is both compelling and moving. Twists are used imaginatively, to advance and deepen the plot rather than just to shock, and the control and restraint exerted by the author suggests he could make a similar success out of a much longer work.

Scott Virtes: Peripheral Visions

Review by: Charles P. Ries

I have no idea whether Charles has met Scott. However, I do know that Charles has met cheese, and liked it. So he'd probably like Scott also. Not that I am saying Scott is cheesy.

Assume Nothing Press. E-book: $5 order at
Chapbook $6 order by sending e-mail to thepoetrymarket@yahoo.com36 pages / 22 poems.

In an interview with LB Sedlacek of The Poetry Market Editor, Scott Virtes explains why he chose Peripheral Visions as the title for his most recent collection of poetry. “I've always been amused by seeing things in peripheral vision. The edges of our vision like to play tricks on us, so the collection is about things which are almost real or blown out of proportion.”

This collection is a thoughtful reflection on the small and almost unnoticed; the life that surrounds us and often escapes our acknowledgement. Here is an example of Virtes ethereal observations entitled, “Transformation”: “the Me who commenced this is dead --/ broken apart, transformed, new, / having left pieces behind displaying / how he has changed to become / Me who is about to finish”. Virtes’ collection of narrative poems is written in clear, spare language. He provides only enough narrative structure to allow the reader to experience his meanings, but not be led to their conclusions.

Here is another good example, “damn the night before continued”: “it returns, reminds us / days are numbered / randomly / a surge of smiles / undertone bass / raising and falling / moving away in patterns,/ everything was here / we came, we saw, we were, / we needed no more.” This is thoughtful nuanced collection of poems.

The World Is Ours--and Yours!

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