Sunday, October 21, 2007

Petition for, please read!

Outsider Writers, and the people signing this petition, urge to add an “Alternative” literature listing under its “Books” pull-down menu. Alternative Literature needs a room of its own. I have spent close to a year trying to get Amazon to make a decision on this issue without a response, so now it is time to see if people who buy and sell books on Amazon want to see have an “Alternative Literature” listing.

Amazon is an extremely important online sales tool for independent publishers and authors. Bookstore shelf space is more limited than ever, and it can be impossible to find new poetry or fiction from independent publishers. That is why independent publishers increasingly use online sites such as to market their books.

There are thousands and thousands of products listed on Amazon, but Amazon has made it easy to browse through products until you find what you want. Its site has pull down menus for main product categories. Click on “Books” and you will find extensive listings for everything from Graphic Novels to Performing Arts to SF and Fantasy. There is even a Poetry category. There is not such a Literature category, though.

The Amazon system works well if you want to browse through mainstream publications, or if you already know the author and/or title. But if you are looking for “Alternative” you have a problem. There is no Alternative category. The Alternative literature is there, but it is crowded out by the mainstream books. If you don’t know exactly what Alternative writing you are looking for, you won’t find it--but if you want to browse you will find plenty o’ pages listing books, but the Alternative writing is buried among the mainstream products.

It is time for Amazon to create an Alternative listing in its Books section, dedicated to alternative/underground poetry, fiction and prose. Amazon can start by simply listing books from small, independent publishers, and then can create subsections under Alternative, for poetry, flash fiction, political writing, and other subgroups. This would be great for publishers, authors, readers--and Amazon itself.

Victor Schwartzman

Outsider Writers

The petition can be found at:

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.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wred Fright: The Pornographic Flabberghasted Emus

Reviewed by: Leopold McGinnis

Yes, Leopold does know Wred. But Leopold also writes honest reviews, just like Wred writes honest novels. You can find out more about Leopold at

As for Wred, check out his site: It's worth the visit!

Available through: ULA Press. Purchase at:

A victory for literature that does not take itself so seriously.

The Pornographic Flabbergasted Emus is a great book. And it’s great without ever making any pretensions about being great. And that’s what makes it great. Got it?

It’s not the concept, but the execution that makes the Emus (and no I won’t be spelling that out in full again) such a good novel. In fact, you could argue that a book about a band has been done before. About a million, bajillion times. It’s even been done well in some rare cases – Hard Core Logo being a good example. But the charm of PFE is not staked in its concept, but in what has to say and how it says it.

In a world increasingly full of pompous, masturbatory, navel-gazing BORING books, The Pornographic Flabberghasted Emus is a rare and much needed breath of fresh air. So few band novels manage to grab the energy of actually being in or seeing a band, but PFE reads like a punk show put on in some suburbanite’s basement while the parents are away. It's something you just can't find but in an underground novel.

The plot of PFE is refreshingly non-complex. In fact, it doesn’t have so much a plot as a premise: the novel is about a group of zany housemates-cum-garageband who never come close to ‘making it’ but rock on anyway. And rock on they do, through a series of housemate/band related events, all of which are often too bizarre to be NOT true... Emus reads like a series of episodes, which makes sense as the book, in its original incarnation, was published as a series of 7 zeen instalments.

There's not much point listing all these zany and humourous events here because there are a LOT of them. They fly out of the cupboards, drip down the stares and blare through the doorways. There’s so many crazy, different and overlapping situations going on in the book, reading it is almost like running a gauntlet of chaos-induced fun. What one feels being part of the Pornographic Flabberghasted Emus might just be like.

I won’t leave you totally hanging, though. Some of the situations you can expect to enjoy in PFE are as follows: an episode of band-poster rivalry resolved through stapler-based violence; a housemate who is a witch and curses the band member’s girlfriend prospects, a safari-outfitted ethnomusicologist studying the band for his degree, lesbian groupies, a man wheeling a giant fridge from the suburbs into downtown so he can get his damage-deposit back, sound violations of various degrees and the usual sex, drinks and rock and roll.

It should be mentioned again, though, that the enjoyment of emus is not just in what happens (and a LOT happens as, according to the author, this is largely a collection of several years wroth of real-life band stories crammed into one year and one house), but in the characters and how they tell their stories.

The band is made up of 4 members who each take quick turns narrating the book from their point of view. George Jah, Theodorable, Alexander Depot and Funnybear. Chapters are divided up as one might divide up a song (with an intro, several verses, a chorus and a coda) and on top of this, several bit characters get a quick ‘Middle Eight’ in the middle of each chapter, offering funny (and rhyming!) insight into aspects of the story outside the main characters’ viewpoints. The splitting of the narration up into four people really helps drive the story. Due to the episodic and loosely-plotted structure of the novel, the multiple narrators really helps keep interest in the piece, and provides a lot of nice tension to keep the book moving.

I’m sure the book was written to be just fun, but it would be a mistake to take it that lightly. In between all the rampant tom-foolery and chaos the characters offer up a number of clever, insightful and original views on the world. More than once I found myself pausing in the middle of yet another example of band-debauchery to ponder aspects of feminism, capitalism, homosexuality, pornography, world politics, before being pulled right back into rocking out and having fun. This aspect of the novel gives the book a great realness. Just as one might expect in real life, most people are rather intelligent and insightful in their own ways – but 95% of the time they aren’t.

I’m a very critical person and I think the thing that made me most realize that this was a great book was that I couldn’t think of anything really bad to say about it. At worst, the serialized nature of the book takes away from the ‘building tension’ you expect from a novel. There’s no real climax, or mystery as to where all this is leading. But considering that momentum is the biggest trouble with novels about ‘nothing’, PFE did an amazingly great job of keeping my interest. And that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a climax, or, most importantly of all, a satisfying ending. Because Emus does.

Overall the message of Emus is of fun and tolerance. And that, if entertainment isn’t enough for you, alone is a great reason to read a fun book. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Misti Rainwater-Lites: Mnemosyne's Pool

Reviewed by: Pat King

It is not clear whether or not Pat knows Misti. However, Misti sent him her book, apparently. Misti did not send me her book. I'm jealous. What does Pat have that I don't? Well, don't answer that!

Misti's newest chapbook is available on Lulu, just type in her name!

Misti Rainwater-Lites is a super-talented and super-prolific underground writer. I just got her newest chapbook, Mnemosyne's Pool in the mail today and couldn't put the thing down until I reached the end.

Mnemosyn's Pool is a long poem that mixes mythology with the personal. Misti wails for the gods and wails for her humanity.

There's an angry music to her poetry, in short, tight lines. Sometimes one can hear the trumpets, sometimes a soft flute, sometimes a guitar, played slightly out of tune. Her anger is sad and beautiful. Wail, wail, Misti!
And play us some more sweet songs of loss.

Mnemosyne's Pool is available at

Blogperson's note: Misti has taken on an awesome project. She is preparing an anthology of poetry to help raise money for The West Memphis Three. Don't know who The Three are? They appear to be three men unfairly convicted of a horrendous crime, one of whom is on death row--Google The West Memphis Three and find out more. And go to Misti's site on Lulu, to contact her for more information about the anthology--or to pre-order copies!!

You can email Misti at You can order copies of the chapbook there, I'm sure, and also find out more about the anthology.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Todd Moore: The Name is Dillinger

Reviewed by: Victor Schwartzman

I've never met Todd, but we have periodic email conversations. Todd sent me several copies of his work, "The Name is Dillinger" being the oldest. So I started there.

Where can you get this book (24 pages, all one poem)? The edition I have is from Kangaroo Court Publishing. I could not find this small press when I Googled it--it probably no longer exists. I did check out Amazon, and found one used copy available, for $57.75.

It was a surprise to read “The Name is Dillinger”. First published in 1980, it is the American gangster icon John Dillinger musing in the first person about where he is from, what he means to other people, what he means to himself (what he means to himself seems to be what he means to others). The surprise? The writing style—not lean with very brief lines, but closer to Carl Sandburg with a heavy dose of Walt Whitman and some echoes of Allen Ginsberg: musical, long flowing lines filled with rhythm, invoking a song to America. No, not a song: a chant.

Dillinger is always on the run, “gun hand in my clothes”, both living and running past life (at least, the life the rest of us know). He has no peace except in tiny moments:

Turning my rabbit’s foot between my fingers
For good luck
Turning my lady on her back
Turning down a drink just before a job
Turning my name over in my mind
My magical Dillinger name
Turing the pages of a magazine
w/an article about me
turning my collar to the cold
asking someone to turn the eggs over easy
turning quickly on the avenue
for police
turning over in bed w/handful of pistol
whenever footsteps come up or go down the hall

It is not a peaceful life. He is always on the move, and always seeing people while moving.

The poem is not just about Dillinger, but about everything around him: people, cars, those who hunt him, the women who want him for what they think he is—it’s even about farm animals. He has a mother and father—he writes some about his mother, but it is his father who repeatedly reappears, haunting him. The women he engages in fleeting encounters are phantoms, as are the FBI agents watching for him. Of other human beings, only his father stays in his thoughts, always distant, waiting for his son to come home. His mother is warmth, the sun. His father is his lost life.

The poem is long, 24 pages. At times I would start to think it was getting repetitious, that I had already read these thoughts, but just as that feeling would begin there would be a twist. It was as if Moore was playing with the reader, bringing the reader along to an expectation, then playing with that expectation to show one more side of a man everyone thinks they know, but whom none do know.

The writing style is consistent. At one point, though, the page splits in half, with a line beginning on the left, then being finished on the right, only to lead to the next line on the left. While that may sound tricky, it worked, and did not feel like a “style tricky”. Like Dillinger doing a bank robbery, Moore gets away with it (except he is not stealing anything from us, he is giving to us). So no, not tricky: but then, there are very few poets who could write an extended stanza about urinating on various objects (okay, “pissing”) and get away with it—like a Dillinger getaway.

A man defined by how others see him, by what he does—but the real man himself remaining a dark enigma.

It is a long poem but suddenly it is over, at just the right moment and on just the right note.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Mike James: Alternate Endings

Reviewed by: Charles P. Ries

Charles does not know Mike. But can we trust them? Are they hiding something? Do inquiring minds want to know? Do inquiring minds care? Or are inquiring minds still waiting for news on those weapons of mass destruction (you know those weapons--they're called federal electronic voting machines).

As for Charles, if you've read other reviews on this blog, you know this, but if not, it's worth repeating: he lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and we have exchanged emails about cheese.

His narrative poems, short stories, interviews and poetry reviews have appeared in over one hundred and sixty print and electronic publications. He has received four Pushcart Prize nominations for his writing, and most recently read his poetry on National Public Radio’s Theme and Variations, a program that is broadcast over seventy NPR affiliates. He is the author of THE FATHERS WE FIND, a novel based on memory. Ries is also the author of five books of poetry — the most recent entitled, The Last Time which was released by The Moon Press in Tucson, Arizona. He is the poetry editor for Word Riot ( and Pass Port Journal ( He is on the board of the Woodland Pattern Bookstore ( in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Most recently he has been appointed to the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission. You may find additional samples of his work by going to:

Alternate Endings is published by Foothills Publishing, P.O. Box 68
Kanona, New York 14856,
Price: $7.00, 32 Pages/ 26 Poems

Alternate Endings is Mike James fifth book of poetry and a nice collection it is. The majority of the 26 poems are thematically rich and well structured; and a few blew me away.

“The Smiling Man: A Children’s Tale” does an eloquent job of telling a complete fable in just 17 lines. I enjoyed its economy of language and image. James also writes a nice batch of message poems. Poems that render a defining and insightful meaning such as “Poem”: “mother called crows / nothing birds // because she did not love them // because she knew / that magic of naming / what she did / note love”.

Another winner is “Homemade Routines”: “i finished the last part of today’s crossword puzzle / by throwing it in the trash // I need to waste some time every day / as surely as I need gossip and sandwiches // this morning i shaved at the sink / instead of in the shower // all day i’ve walked two steps slower then normal // too many days of this and my hair will grow long / I will begin to speak in riddles of broken syntax // too few days of this and not even my shadow / could find me beneath the sun”.

James brings wisdom to the common moment. There were only a few lines in this collection where I felt his work inched a bit too close to sentimentality, but this may be more a matter of my own tastes than any indiscretion on James part.

All in all, a very fine collection of poetry.

Mark Wisniewski: One of Us One Night

Review By: Charles P. Ries

I should have asked Charles if he knows Mark, but it was excited to receive some new reviews from him, so I posted this right away, and if you don't like it go sue me: my legal name for law suits is Vice President Dick Cheyney (oops, the secret's out). Later, Charles did tell me he does not know Mark, so you can sue Dick Cheyney about that also.

Platonic 3Way Press, PO Box 844, Warsaw, IN 46581
Price: $5
41 Pages/ 17 Poems

Mark Wisniewski writes long prose, short stories, and very short line poetry. He has held two Regent’s Fellowships in Creative Writing from UC-Davis and won the 2006 Tobias Wolff Award. It is exhilarating to read poetry informed and guided by the muscles of a long writer – not just a poet, but a true story teller.

One sees the usual conventions of the long form writing in Wisniewski’s poetry: dialogue, narration, tension, and structure all in a highly compressed form. This compression is further amplified because Wisniewski prefers short lines and limited punctuation. He gives the reader just enough information to hang his meanings on.

There are many gems in One Of Us One Night. His long opening poem, “Nebraska” is a beauty. Here is an excerpt, “a woman pulled over / & let me in // she was as ugly / as that October in Nebraska / & I was thumbing my way / away from myself // trucks full of hope for / sale swishing past // & all around us / were night-hidden wheat / stalks & silos & children who’d never / be rock stars // well this woman smoked & talked / about time in jail // & a man / who’d been hers // about her hatred of him / & all of them // they were all pussy- / sniffing bastards”.

In his four page poem, “Omaha” I sometimes found the short lines and the rapid bulleting of words tiring and making it hard for me to follow the poem. I wondered how this poem and a few others would read if reconstructed using longer lines and stanzas, but each poet to his own devices. One Of Us One Night is a wonderful piece of writing by a poet well schooled in the tools of the trade.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Sein und Werden: An Expressionist, Existentialist and Surrealist Feast

Review by: Ralph Robert Moore

I have not met Ralph. This review came to me through Charles Ries, who thinks Ms. Kendall's site is so terrific he wants everyone to know about it. Ralph gave his permission to use his review.

I checked out the site myself before posting this review. Normally we don't review zines, but Sein und Werden is something else. It really does deserve a wide audience--although it is edgy enough, bless its heart, that the 'mainstream' would probably never be interested. If you like horror with a surrealist bent, and bent is the word, Sein und Werden is a treat--in the trick or treat vein!

I read only some of the pieces, as I have just finished my first week back at work after six months' medical leave--and that's been 'surreal' enough, hahaha. But what I have read of it pressures me to read more, and I think you might feel the same. I'll tell you one thing: after reading one particular story on the site, I'll be DAMNED if I ever go skiing again (not that I ever have)!

After reading the review check out the site itself, which is easy. Just go to:

It's free. What are you waiting for? Godot?

If you want to purchase the print version, which would support art, it is available to purchase with Paypal or cheque/check, through Rachel Kendall or Spyros Heniadis, the print editor in America. Go to:
It is also available through

Meanwhile, if you're wondering about Ralph Robert Moore, he's never met Rachel, but emails with her, following her accepting one of his stories in an issue of Sein und Werden. Ralph's own fiction has been widely published. "The Machine of the Religious Man", a short story he wrote, was nominated as Best Story of the Year at the 2006 British Fantasy Society Awards. "Father Figure", a novel, was published in 2003. He is also an editor of the literary magazine Decoy. His website is it out!

The goal of Sein und Werden, as stated on its website, "is to present works that evoke the spirit of the Expressionist, Existentialist and Surrealist movements within a modern context," an approach founder Rachel Kendall refers to as "Werdenism." In late 2004 she created an on-line version of Sein und Werden; and in 2006 added, with Spyros Heniadis' help, a separate print edition.

The third issue of the print version of Sein und Werden is called The Collaboration Issue, in which two writers (on one contribution five writers), or a writer and an illustrator, work together on a project.

The collection opens with The Birth of Athena: Redux by Paul Bradshaw and Peter Tennant, the best tale in the issue, and in fact the perfect beginning for this collection, since it signals by its extreme language and imagery that "everything is permitted" in these pages. The story starts with a son beating his father to death, then deciding to have sex with his girlfriend while both are virtually on top of the corpse. Things get more depraved with each new plot twist.

Part of the game of reading is trying to imagine what will happen next, but in this particular game, Bradshaw and Tennant are so far around the next corner before the reader, you go down the pages with one surprise after another popping out of the paragraphs. Athena stands as an excellent example of how an idea, no matter how bizarre, can be developed into a full plot. It should be required reading for all aspiring authors.

The idea of collaboration is carried forward in an ingenious way in the next selection, Adam and Eve. Here we have Matt Williams transforming one of Juliet Cook's prose pieces into a poem, after which Cook turns one of Williams' poems into a prose piece, two writers' different talents entwining around each other, braiding; the dual triangular heads flickering with some terrific lines: "I had to force myself to look at her breasts and see them as evil apples."

The poem Ghazal, the product of five authors, is a meditation on Cleveland, effectively ending each couplet, with a 'Nevermore' constancy, by using the city's name: "your past industrial might, now just a shadow/the river is healing as in a fog you creep, Cleveland."

In the pair of poems that follow, Witches of the West by
Ellaraine Lockie and Gypsy on the Boards by Patrick Carrington, the theme of collaboration is carried forward in a less traditional manner, each author creating their own poem, set side-by-side on the page, collaboration here meaning two poets who both write poems with a strong sense of place, and who are now working on a joint collection based on their shared approach to poetry.

Career Path by Dominy Clements and DF Lewis is a short, haunting piece about a brother and sister who suffer separate misfortunes. He falls off stage scaffolding, becoming paralyzed, after which, wheelchair-bound, he gradually gains a great deal of weight; she, while snow skiing, pushed by the angle of the slope against a razor fence all the way down the mountain, is lacerated beyond cosmetic recovery (giving us the charming image of her, post-recovery, "smoking cigarettes and puffing the smoke through the perforations in her cheek.") This story can in fact be seen as a metaphor for the issue itself, in that both protagonists then create a third person, collaboratively.

To me, the best-written story in the collection, on a sentence level, where you admire each word choice made by the authors, is Atom Bomb, by Willie Smith and Paul Kavanaugh. Here's the first sentence: "'Leche fesses,' sings this queer mellifluously, dressed in lederhosen, extremely tight shirt, count the ribs in his chest, nipples erect belly button like a little clit, still reeking of Dresden." The observation "belly button like a little clit" reminds you, after so many 'like' and 'as' atrocities by others, just how powerful and apt a simile can be, and how graceful alliteration can be.

Along with several other stories and poems, including part three of Cameron Pierce's Keeping Angels, the issue also features a number of collaborative efforts between writers and artists. The best of these is editor Kendall's collaboration with illustrationist John Brewer, which plays with the idea of the exploration of a lover's bare back expressed in terms of cartography, producing a hush of words spread across a rear view of a torso and what looks like a reversed image of Great Britain.

Spyros Heniadis is the Print, Layout and Design Editor of the print edition. His vision contributes quite a bit to the "feel" of the magazine. The design of the previous issue, with its black brick wall, reminded me of something dangerous that might be rolled-up and slid into a pipe in a public bathroom, to be retrieved by someone looking over their shoulder while they needlessly flush the toilet. The present cover is a pale swirl of blue and white, like wallpaper in a hotel bedroom, in which faces and out-reaching hands can be discovered in the quiet patterns, every number dialed on the bedside phone producing an unending rhythm of unanswered rings.

Rachel Kendall is clearly trying to do something different with Sein und Werden. Of all the genres, horror has consistently been the one that achieves its best effects through the distortion of "reality" (the one word in the English language, according to Vladimir Nabokov, that should always be encased in quotes). Her exploration of the exaggerating techniques of Expressionism and Surrealism is exciting and, as evidenced by this issue, worthwhile.

I highly recommend the magazine.

Steve Dalachinsky: The Final Nite & other poems

Reviewed by Alan Catlin

Alan does not know Steve. Not really personally anyway, but he has exchanged emails with him. Apparently they have never met. Maybe they should meet. Good poets should meet. Send Alan and Steve money to finance this meeting. Don't you want to support the arts; or, in this case, the Alans and Steves?

Alan, by the way, is a very good writer. Google him. You can email him at, provided you will not tell him he has won a Swedish lottery he never entered, or that you have twenty million dollars in Nigeria to invest but need his bank account to do it. Instead, you should send those emails to

Ugly Duckling Presse,, (distributed by Small Press Distributor's) ISBN 1-933254-15-17, 247 pages, 2006, $16.00

Jazz is the subject, permeates the sensibilities, the words, the poems/meditations in this substantial collection by NYC poet Steve Dalachinsky. This is a life's work, spanning twenty years of concerts in select small venues around the city listening to jazz artist Charles Gayle.

"I stand outside
on the edge of my shadow
at the edge of the doorway
& the nite is crying
small tears
for me"
(from "poem 1 7-12-89")

Pick a page, any page in this collection, and you will find highly impressionistic, personal reflections on the music and the man, that is the primary focus of this work. As the poems are unedited, they do not have the feeling of polished gem making, of something honed to perfection and thereby deprived of life. Instead they have an improvisational feeling, fresh as the music that inspired them. The poet is willing to take the risk of originality at the expense of Art; as he would say, "It's about the music."

"& he said on the 4th day-
he simply said "blue"
& little else followed
& all around him
things swam like the blue
as if
blue were a new thing
which it was
as was swimming"
(from "god 3 (addendum blue) melody")

If there is such a thing as an approximation of music in poetry, this would be poem, all the poems in this section, would be among the best examples of one art rendered in another form. In addition to the well over 240 pages of musical musings, six color paintings of Gayle in his element, are included with the text.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Todd Moore: Dillinger's Thompson

Reviewed by: Victor Schwartzman

Victor has never met Todd.

But there is a story about why he wrote this review.

After a review by Christopher Robin (who else?) on a book of poetry co-authored by Todd, Victor sent Todd his standard email. It is longstanding ULA Book Review Blog policy (since three months ago) to send authors an email that their book has been reviewed. The idea is, respect authors enough to let them know their book has been reviewed.

However, I was told after sending the email that Todd wondered if it was some sort of spam, was a sneaky request for money, or whatever—spam on the internet can lead us to believe that an email from an unknown person is an attempt to get our money, one way or another—either by selling us penal enhancements, the opportunity to help someone from Nigeria invest twenty million dollars, or to let us know we have won a lottery we never entered. I was offended by the idea an author thought I was asking for money, although why I was offended is hard to say, since Todd is a total stranger and my emails can be even stranger. Like that last sentence.

Anyway, I decided I should read something of Todd’s as one way of showing my good faith, and found a used copy of Dillinger’s Thompson on Amazon. My, this is a long paragraph.

Where can you find this book? It's out of print, and thus available only in used bookstores (or through Amazon's network of bookstores). I found it through Amazon.

When Elliot Ness was shooting his hot seed from his Thompson sub machine gun, was he masturbating?

Todd Moore sees the 1930s’ weapon of choice--for both criminals and police—as erotic. In seeing the Thompson as erotic, he’s making a statement about how Americans see violence and power. What counts is indeed size, and how you use it—as the narrator basically says to J. Edgar Hoover while ridiculing him, the narrator’s Thompson is bigger than Hoover’s.

This book is short. I got it a few days before writing this review. I thought I would take a look at it before going to sleep. I figured I'd glance at it. Instead, I read it through. The poetry was instantly compelling, probably because it went straight to the heart of the dark side of the American dream.

The book is 53 pages. 12 of those pages are an introduction. The rest is a single poem whose individual lines are rarely more than three or four words.

In the introduction, Todd writes of the romance Americans have had with the Thompson sub machine gun, and then relates that romance of violence to his own childhood. He did not have an easy time, a street thief living in a sleazy hotel full of “marginal underworld toughs and amiable sociopaths”, finding escape in movies which reflected his life: “I remember shoplifting some stuff out of a five and ten just to get enough money to see The Asphalt Jungle. I remember putting a scar on a kid’s face right after coming out of The Big Sleep.”

In the context of American violence, automatic weapons are erotically charged, the ultimate. They spit out the lead without stop. And, of those automatic weapons, the Thompson is the classic, both from reality and the movies. “Maybe the marriage of Dillinger and the Thompson sub machine gun is the most subversive of all American couplings. It is one of the most extreme metaphors I can think of because it depicts the dark side of this country and it is a vision which will not go away.” In reading those sentences, I thought of the the coupling of America's foremost criminal with America's foremost romanticized violence, and then I thought of the current US President, who enjoys the image of himself as a quick draw cowboy, but who would never allow himself to get within miles of a shoot-out.

The poem that follows the introduction is part of a longer work Todd has been writing for thirty years (this book was published in 2002) and, at that point, totalled 50,000 lines.

There are four main characters: the narrator (at times Dillinger, at times perhaps Todd himself), Billie (his “woman” whom he sees only in carnal terms--they don’t talk about books), and Lester (a fellow criminal). And the fourth character: the Thompson sub machine gun.

The book begins with the gun.

Todd describes the weapon in erotic terms, unable to resist it:

…I can’t or don’t
want to resist
it knows the shape
the precise curve
the tight feel
of my trigger
finger the way
my mouth knows the
geography of a
woman’s breast i
want to hold that
gun in my lap…

The lines quoted above also help illustrate why the poetry is compelling. The language is direct to the point of being stark. The lines are short, and they are broken up in a fascinating manner, with “sentences” beginning part way through a line, or ending on the first word of the next line. It is not just a way of keeping your attention or making you read. There is a remarkable rhythm the writing establishes, pushing the reader along (not dragging, not pulling, pushing).

The writing is full of stark images that do not have any affectation, a mix of poetry with prose. In one section, getting shot by a Thompson is compared with being on the receiving end of having sex--getting fucked, not making love, with the bullets entering victims like a penis enters a body. In another section, Al Capone’s Thompson is described in loving detail.

This is poetry with intent and power, not poetry where the poet is desperate for the reader to whine with her/him about her/his navel. There is a lot more that I could write about this book, but this review already feels remarkably long, given it is about a single poem from a relatively short book. But Todd’s poem has that onionesque quality: the more you look, the more layers you see. Though unlike an onion it didn’t make me wanna sob, it was way too in my face for that—this poem is not a emotional kleenex you cry about, it is a dare.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Stephanie Hiteshew: Addiction Poetry

Reviewed by: Christopher Robin

Christopher has now written enough reviews that I feel profoundly inadequate. I have not written nearly enough reviews! Talk about setting a high standard! Anyway, Christopher does not know Stephanie, and Stephanie has said nothing at all about that important issue--although if you read the review, you'll find a link to where you can hear Stephanie's voice--but not about whether she knows Christopher--what is she hiding?

Stephanie Hiteshew, PO Box 2325 Ellicott City, MD 21041-2325. Or try: Or, how about James Michael Ward 13263 Spruce St Southgate, MI 48195

As a former addict, I found these poems to be thought provoking while mildly self indulgent, as addiction by its very nature is very self absorbed.

Once in awhile they attempt transcendence: “I’m talking about Iraq/I’m talking about 700 thousand dead/I’m talking about the needle in your skin/it’s madness,”(‘Madness’), and addiction is often a spiritual quest: “I believe in prayer/as self-meditation/the cure of my disease/begins with me/take your burnt lips/and black fingertips/rejoice in the beauty of the cathedral/knowing Christ a pauper who reveled in life,” (‘A Connection’); but mainly these are poems of struggle, poverty, and deep psychic pain.

The references to Jim Carroll and Bukowski are few and far between, as they don’t seem to be attempting “literary-cool,” via self destruction, which this reviewer has personally grown tired of.

The two authors run the gamut from complete obliteration: “fuck those politics/I’m feelin’ fine/ain’t that sweet/just one more time,” (‘Heroin’), to the euphoria of a few dry days: “I want to live to see my novels published/to kick around the script writers conference/can’t say I’ll never drink again/but a nice vacation from it/may help the health,” (‘A Vacation From It’).

This is poetry that is attempting to bring about salvation through the written word. This is poetry that is reaching out.

To hear Stephanie Hiteshew read out loud click here:

Blogperson's note: as an old hippy, I can note we all have addictions, albeit of differing types. Some of us stick needles in our arms, some of us smoke, some pop pills, while others drink too much coffee, and still others watch too much tv. These poems sound very interesting, and I'm gonna buy a copy, to check them out. One point: any writing done while you're stoned is usually gotta be as stoned to read it as the author was when writing it, usually. On the other hand, writers are observers, and see a lot of pain, and feel that pain. Anesthetizing themselves is understandable, even if regrettable and counterproductive. I refer readers interested in 'recreational drugs' to a post on my Hypertension blog, at, where I write about a time when tests were conducted on samples of Mescaline to see how good the stuff was. You may be surprised when you read the post...

Mark Wisniewski: One Of Us One Night

Reviewed by: Christopher Robin

Christopher Robin has not met Mark. By inference, Mark has not met Christopher. For that matter, we can infer that neither Christopher nor Mark have met Robert Frost. And it is highly likely that Robert Frost never met Aristotle (who did not write poetry but was allegedly pretty good at math). Christopher is a reviewing madman! He just won't quit! Nor do we want him to! Give this fellow a gold star!

$5, Platonic 3Way Press, PO Box 844 Warsaw, IN 46581. Or, why not try:

The second in the Platonic3Way Evil Genius Chapbook series, Wisniewski writes deliberate prose-like poems of observation and funny circumstance, evocative of William Taylor Jr or Bukowski. Poems that create sparse images allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions: “& I’d keep standing& watching & she’d/dance/we’d never share/words/or money/or disappointment/it was a kind of celebration/generally impossible/in the world,” from ‘Waiting for the Elevator’, a poem about seeing a belly dancer in his hallway.

In ‘Mute,’ he finds fear in common with “rich whitey/on my ass in that Hummer,” in regards to the “leak in the nuke plant 10 miles west.” Over the years I have observed Wisniewski to have a gift for telling funny tales about being a somewhat hapless writer, in “An Office, Tons of Pussy, & Sabbaticals, Too,” and while describing a break up in ‘California Girl’: “but she didn’t deserve my computer/or printer/or monitor/so I carried these out/one at a time/placing each in the trunk/then slamming/it shut as I thought: there/but I’d just brought groceries/so again I returned/irked by how easily she could/leave me.”

Wisniewski also has a knack for making himself the butt of the joke, of surrendering to things he can’t control, like ants: “& I keep waking at 3 a.m./descending the stairs/to eat unsugared cornflakes/after kneeling on floorboards: a civilian forever/on watch,” (‘Sectarian Violence’).

My favorite poem in this chap is ‘Nebraska,’ a hitch hiker’s nightmare come true: “there’s a pistol/she said/under that sweatshirt/on the back seat/& despite myself I turned to see she was right.”

Wisniewski writes simple poems that are complex with human feeling and humor.

Blogperson says: could anyone possibly ask for anything more than the description in Christopher's last line? You should buy a copy of Wisniewski's chap, and see for yourself!

Robert Pomerhn: Abuse Art, Not Children

Reviewed by: Brian McMahon

This review was forwarded courtesy of Christopher Robin, and was originally posted on Christopher says he has permission to do this. He says that Brian is a friend, but that he has not met him. Brian has not said anything. Confused yet? But the book sounds very good & thanks to Christopher, who we believe may abuse art, but not children.

Poetry& Visual Art by Robert Pomerhn
HighestHurdle Press, $10,,
and...Robert Pomerhn 660 Cleveland Dr #3 Cheektowaga, NY 14225 (or Border’s Books)

At once the “cunningly clever” poet trashtalking in rhyme on the basketball court at the public park, the janitor of swirling thoughts, meditating while mopping an elementary school bathroom, and the buttondown poetry teacher, applying a lifetime’s wisdom to the purpose of putting art into action, Robert Pomerhn is the populist poet.

His third book, Abuse Art. not children, is a guided tour through the crumbling American mindscape, with stops at the Gulf Coast post Katrina, the dead-eye glow of TV programming, credit-fueled conspicuous consumption, the stagnant slam poetry scene, the failing 21st-century family, and America’s bedrooms, boardrooms and war rooms.

In “Family Tree,” the poet gathers together postwar Americana in a surreal consideration of domestic violence: “Leave it to Beaver/ to go after Ward/ with June’s meat cleaver.” In “Bush League,” Pomerhn lists the statistics of catastrophe after Hurricane Katrina sank New Orleans, writing, “174 portables pumping an open pit of putrid pampers, pus & piss/ into the Pontchatrain—PRICELESS.”

By deploying the signifiers of American popular culture in the form of rapid-fire rhymes and alliterative tongue twisters, Pomerhn puts our disasters in perspective, often hitting upon the humor and absurdity of contemporary life. But Pomerhn is a poet in transformation. While much of the work in the present volume extends the populism of his earlier books, there are new strands here as well. The intricate collage work, “found poems,” and pieces such as “this hearse doesn’t have seatbelts” and “da da cument” present snapshots of Pomerhn’s evolving poetics.

In “Till Death do Us Art,” he writes, “This is not an unfinished/ but an unfinishable work/ In saying this/ I am setting very/ high standards/… logic strikes me as a boring kind of game.” While logic may bore him, there is nonetheless a method to Pomerhn’s madness.

Abuse Art. not children demonstrates the influence of the poet’s work as a mentor to the teenagers who attend his “Art in Action” program at the Dulski Center on Buffalo’s East Side. The poems that have come out of that exchange express a deep meditation on the boundaries, purpose, and redemptive potential of art.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Joe Pachinko: Stumpfucker Cavalcade

By: Christopher Robin

Christopher and Joe are both poets, and are also both members of the ULA. I assume they know each other. Me, I’ve corresponded with both, but unfortunately have not met either.

$10. Available through:,, and

Stumpfucker Cavalcade details the freak show horror of everyday urban life when combined with mind numbing jobs, crushing poverty, and a belly full of booze. It is a cacophony of verbal bile from the lowest depths of the human mind, “dog shit and agony,” at the end of the planet.

In “The Garden of Diarrhea,’ he pokes fun at Billy Collins: “Billy Collins/poet laureate of the U.S., has drunk enough herbal tea in his poems to have the shits for the rest of his life.” In ‘Fear Was Always an Unseen Crewman,’ he goes to the local wino mart to buy some Ramen noodles, a story that ends with a gun shot and blood on the counter. In ‘Listen Up DumbFuck’ he challenges anyone who says: “oh, everything’s been done.”

But Pachinko is no cynic, and writes: “saying that everything’s been done is like saying that everybody has already been born, newness comes with every sunrise and every new person, and every dream, every hope and every orgasm…”

These titles will rivet and surprise you: ‘The Caffeinated Falafel Regatta of Wheelchairs,’ ‘Humor is an Orgasm of the Mind,’ ‘The Four Fuckholes of My Inflatable Sheep Love Doll Are Nothing Like A Dead Goats Anus’, ‘The Ballad of Harry the Half Head,’ and ‘Requiem for A Corpse Rape’.

He is the red-faced man on the Midway with a cigar in his mouth, beckoning you in to the real live 21st century carnival of the damned that is dead-end work and a dead radiator in East Oakland, if you dare.

And much like his predecessor Bukowski, he finds the diamonds in the shit, the glory in the muck: “cat vomit is one of the building blocks of existence,” and also throws in some humorous-hard-won-wisdom, as well as the profundity in simple things like a human touch: “a six foot three TGirl once crouched down next to me as I was/barfing between some parked cars/outside Baggy’s by the Lake, and she rubbed my back…she rubbed my back, and asked me if I was O.K. /it was one of the nicest things anyone had ever done to me,” (‘Puke for Peace’).

I highly recommend a dose of some of Pachinko’s undiluted reality that may make you laugh, wince and maybe even enjoy poetry again.

The blogperson adds:
It took me a while to read this book, possibly because the title gave me unshakeable images of splinters in the worst place possible.

However, when I did read it--and I agree with Christopher's review--this is one book of poetry it is impossible to breeze through. You can't flip through the poems. You won't go from a description of a sunny blue sky to a field of lovely yellow daisies--that ain't what Joe writes about, nor are the poems that light so you can read one, say to yourself "Oh yeah, okay" and then move to the next.

This is a book where you REALLY should read just one poem and then stop reading for a day. Not just stop reading the book, but pretty much stop reading anything. Maybe you should even stop watching tv (if you can). Instead, just think about the poem and what it is all about.

Then, when you're ready, read another one.

Repeat until you have finished the book.

Don't worry about it taking a while. Life takes a while.

Todd Babiak: Choke Hold

Reviewed by: Leopold McGinnis

As you will soon discover, Leopold has communicated with Todd.

Turnstone Press, 237 pages. Published in 2000.

A few months ago author Todd Babiak contacted me about some disparaging remarks I had made on my site ( about his writing.

Apparently ‘his friend’ ‘who has nothing better to do with his time’ ‘got kicks out of finding places on the internet that made fun of him.’ He took issue with me off-handedly labeling his writing inane and then (passive aggressively?) asked to interview me for the Edmonton Journal.

In that interview, Todd told me he’d buy a copy of my book (Game Quest) and check it out. I didn’t believe him of course, but since he’d taken the time to do the interview (and listened to my wild rants, as well as fairly represented my opinions in his article - at least as far as a mainstream newspaper will go with any controversial opinions), and since I had sorta labeled his work inane without reading enough of it to accurately make that call, I decided to pick up a copy of his first book, Choke Hold, to find out what I really thought of Babiak’s writing.

I figured an author’s first book is a better representation of how they
write, who they are, want to be, what they want to say, etc… and the
Garneau Block was too steeped in media hoopla and its apparent ‘gimmick’ (it’s set in Edmonton!) for me to take seriously even if I tried. (In retrospect, my comments about inanity were probably more a reaction to the ridiculous hype and ingratiating Journal adds.) I thought that the premise of this book had much more promise and since it was written when Todd was unknown, I figured I could give it a more preconceptions free read.

So I read Choke Hold, about Jeremy, a martial-arts obsessed young man who returns to his small Alberta hometown after his martial arts school fails when one of his students murders a gay man. Thematically the book is about fighting, about viewing the world through fighting and how that gets in the way of living.

Plotwise, the book works fairly well. Thematically – which should arise from the plot – not so much. Babiak’s writing style is tight, personable and (what I like best) non-phoney. Character comes out very well through the text and he has a unique flair for doing quick ‘scenario’ setting – getting us physically into a scene in a very natural way. By the end of the book I found this a bit overused and unvaried, but I was impressed with it nonetheless.
Something I myself might work on.

The first half of the book was quite good and I had my hat nearby so I could eat it. The plot moved quickly, had a lot of potential, and was relatable. I’m not the sort of person who has trouble putting books down, but I ripped through the first half pretty quick. Yet, with any book you get a better sense of it the further you get into it, and about halfway through I grew less and less interested.

The vast majority of the book takes place in small-town Seymour, even though nothing really important relating to the plot happens there. Halfway through the book, several chapters seem devoted entirely to showing what goes on there (parades, fairs, etc…) without adding to the plot. There’s a friend Jeremy reacquaints himself with who adds nothing to the plot or theme, other than to make it ‘Canadian’ or ethnically balanced--and while one of the more interesting characters, still isn’t quite nteresting enough to be worth having anyway. A few pages are devoted to a couple bozo characters at a fair for no apparent reason, etc… These would be minor pace-slowing issues at this point if it weren’t for the fact that the plot had stalled and it was becoming quickly apparent that the thematic elements were going off the tracks.

Not wildly, but you felt like the train was just kind of meandering, wouldn’t get into the station on time, and you weren’t sure if it was going to arrive at the station you were promised when you got on. The thematic principle of the story is that Jeremy is an angry young man who sees everything in terms of fighting. This manifests itself in his hatred of his father, his failure to live with the woman he loves, to succeed in his business, etc… The problem is that this theme seems laid on top of the plot, rather than growing from it. The characters act as if the above is true, but the reader is never given sufficient evidence to believe it. Jeremy’s hate for his father is disproportionate to the perceived crime – his father dating an older woman Jeremy once had a crush on – and we aren’t given sufficient reason to understand or relate to Jeremy’s hate. Jeremy just seems like a passive aggressive, whiney mope. People who seem just as much interested in fighting, if not more, keep criticizing Jeremy for his interest in fighting.


The big questions that keep coming up are ‘is Jeremy gonna stay in town now that he’s back’, and ‘will he choose to be part of his family?’ These are only questions because the author keeps raising them – not because we’re asking them ourselves. Honestly, the further in I got, the less I understood why Jeremy came back at all. He doesn’t seem to like anybody, nobody is really interesting, everyone is pretty much a loser, he doesn’t like his family, have a job or anything to do. Ok, I guess he’s lost and falling back and that’s ok, but I don’t understand why his returning was a plot-driving question and had no reason to believe this was important. If I were Jeremy I’d hop the first bus out of that bumhole – Boston (where he has escaped from) was more interesting.

Furthermore, I didn’t understand why Jeremy didn’t want to be part of the family in the first place, let alone why he’d then chose (as he does in the end) to be part of it again.

I think my reaction to this can sum up my feeling of the book overall: I understood but failed to be convinced and therefore failed to care. It’s hard enough to accept Saturday Afternoon special endings in books where you really care or feel the outcome, but by the last few pages I just felt ‘meh,’ rushing through to finish. It was a typical ‘literary’ ending – kind of like the taste of the paste they give you in kindergarten to use as glue. The last line, how it’s left hanging, is great. Really great. Strangely satisfying, in its avoidance of a conclusion, but with enough of one to feel meaningful.
But it’s a small comfort after not really caring about what happens for the last 100 pages. Like a tasty burp at the end of a mediocre meal.

The book certainly isn’t bad, though. It gets originality points for being about martial arts. I thought the real potential of the book was here. There was a lot more opportunity to develop and explore this original theme. But the book quickly falls back into the dully dominating feature of all Canadian literature – small town nowhere. A lot of the exciting parts of the book happen in Boston but, because of the non-chronological nature of the book, appear near the end of the book after you already know what’s going to happen. By this point the events are distant and feel like footnotes.

Again, the writing style is good, and the first half moves nicely.
In some ways, until halfway, I thought of this book as a second coming of age story. We always get the first in lit – puberty – but people make a second big stride sometime in their twenties as they start to find out who they are, and what they think. This is rarely written about and was a big strength of the first half, but the book doesn’t take that direction in the end.

Frankly, this book is another excellent addition to the vast canon of well-crafted but passionless books in the can lit scene about small towns and understanding yourself. Choke Hold is mildly exciting, maybe even a little bit new and different, but still very safe within that genre. It’s nothing drastically new and though I’d say my opinion of Mr. Babiak’s writing is better informed and higher than where I expected it might be, it’s still well within the standard realm of Can-mush I expected it to be.

Certainly Babiak is fairly good at what he does, it’s just being done by a lot of people and doesn’t feel very…what’s the word…thrilling. No offense to Todd – it’s not like he needs my approval, you can’t walk ten paces in Edmonton right now without finding someone fawning over the Garneau Block. You can’t please everyone – and I’m hard to please.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Louis McKee: Near Occasions Of Sin

Reviewed by: Charles P. Ries

I think we've already been through this Charles knows Christopher thing, don't you? Why do you keep pressuring me?

You can get this book from: Cynic Press, Post Office Box 40691, Philadelphia, PA 19107
Price: $8.00, 44 Poems / 79 pages
ISBN: 0-9673401-6-0

Amazon also has a book with this title, but do not be fooled: maybe it's a good book, but it ain't Louis'.
Word Count: 556

Louis McKee exemplifies the ‘philosopher poet’. From the title of his lasted collection of poetry, Near Occasions of Sin to the content of his poetry we see a writer who is not just good with word, or good with image, or selective about the moments in time he chooses to inspect, but a poet who is capable using his well honed skill with word, image and observation and elevating all of them with a philosopher’s mind.

McKee is rich and textured in his yearning observations, nimble in his rich insights and wise in his conclusions. I felt I was not only being entertained, but learning. I was growing larger because of his clarity and counsel. It is not surprising that McKee has led an examined life as suggested in his poem, “After The Sixth Visit”: “That’s that one / when you lie / back and say no- / thing, everything / having been said / at least five times / already, and she / says well, what / are you thinking / right now? And you / tell her that / you’re thinking you / want to fuck her / and she says why / do you think that / is? but it is / too late, time is / gone, fifty minute / hours, seventy / dollars, and you / know when you leave / that you won’t be / back, you are better / then you have / any right to expect.”

McKee is a man who wants love, who loves love; a man who adores women but has had more then his share of challenges getting them, keeping them, and loving them. He, like all lovers (and writers), is a work in progress. This is illustrated in his poem, “Failed Haiku”: “This evening I took a moment / to indulge a fantasy – you, / walking naked along a Jersey beach, / the sunlight on your lovely ass. / An ancient Japanese master / could work miracles with as much. / I am content with this.”

And again from his poem, “The Reason I Write”: “I like to think she gets naked / and looks at herself in the full-length mirror; / as she does, and with a smile, slips /into soft bliss of soapy comfort, / the almost-too-hot water uncomfortable / for just a moment but then just right. / With her wondrous hair pulled up, / she uses it as a pillow, pours a glass / of wine, then picks up a book of poems. / This is the reason they were written. / The rest of you, get your muses where you can. / I write for this woman, naked in a hot bath / under a modesty of bubbles. This is our / moment. Our poem. You find your own.”

As I read this, McKee’s thirteenth collection of poetry, I could not help but think of the late great small press poet Albert Huffstickler (who passed away in 2002) who, like McKee, had the ability to yearn and observe so purposefully. When I read poets of McKee or Huffstickler’s emotional depth I wish they wrote novels. I wish these short, rich, textured scenes and their meaning could be extended 300 more pages. Many poets write well, but few poets give us work as rich and profoundly meaningful as Louis McKee.

Christopher Robin: Freaky Mumbler's Manifesto

Reviewed by: Charles P. Ries

Charles knows Christopher. So sue me. I've read Christopher's book and very much liked it myself. So sue them. Or should it be so sue them and then sue me? Why are you so litigacious? Are you at a tourney (of litigation)? Does sueing suit you?

You can get Freaky Mumbler's Manifesto at: I Press On! Publications,
Post Office Box 1611, Santa Cruz, CA 95061-1611
Price: $10
95 Pages/ 48 Poems
You can not, unfortunately, get this book from Amazon. Type in Christopher Robin, and all you get is something about a bear, which I found unbearable.

To one extent or another, poets draw their material from the worlds that surround them. These observations become our window to their soul. How wonderful it was for me to enter into Christopher Robin’s world through his second collection of poetry entitled, Freaky Mumbler’s Manifesto. True to form, Robin gives us a view from the street as he studies his circle of friends, poets, losers, and lovers. His stories are mesmerizing in their own right, but come to life due to his significant gift at creating memorable metaphors and word unions.

As I read Freaky Mumbler’s Manifesto I found myself underlining his odd word couplings. Here are a few examples. From “Who We Kill”: “The service workers who spend their pay / in local bars / and their imaginations on satellite dishes”. Or in “Clown Fish”: “gender mutant / of the sensual circus / lilting ghost radio / in my nerves”. In “Caveman Days (for Jules)”: “My girl friend is full of art and sensation / my girl is soft but wiry to the touch / barks at civilization / scoffs at my little vanities / bleeds on my white things”.

And again in “Butterfly”: “That summer in your lovin bus / in Big Basin / you introduced me to “speaking breathing / standing people” / I use to call them trees / and to the angels and fairies / all things that walk without words”. In this collection we see Robin maturing as a writer and poet. His signature bent-in-the-brain view of the world is still wonderfully evident, but now, more often than not, he elevates humor with revelation and pathos.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Patrick Carrington: Rise, Fall and Acceptance

Reviewed by: Charles P. Ries

Charles has met Patrick, but they don't seem to be buddies or anything, the review therefore is not compromised. However, are we not taught in school that compromise is a good thing? Or, do we mean that other compromise? And what other compromise is that, anyway?

For more information on Charles, please see the end of this review. He is poetry editor of Word Riot (

Available for $12, through: Main Street Rag Publishing Company,
4416 Shea Lane, Charlotte, North Carolina 28227
80 Pages/ 56 Poems
ISBN: 1-59948-042-5

Rise, Fall and Acceptance is Patrick Carrington’s first collection of poetry. For a first outing, this is an exceptional work. Its depth and workmanship suggest poetry born over a long period of time and many rounds of edits. This diligence is found not only in the written word, but in the meticulous care taken with line breaks and stanzas. Here is an example from “Brothers On the Crossed Hill”: “Do you forget who lies / under the wild grass, / disgracing with your lips / this hill his horses rode, / their hooves and his / flattening the green blanket, / that mighty rug / that tops him now?”

I asked his publisher M. Scott Douglas of Main Street Rag why he choose to publish this collection of poems. Here is what he told me, “I am often asked why Main Street Rag chooses a particular manuscript for publication. Time and again the deciding factor is the way the words come alive on the page. Rise, Fall and Acceptance by Patrick Carrington was one of these collections that caught my attention not just by its organization, its great use of words—particularly action verbs—but because the poems were alive with experience and involve the reader. Mr. Carrington gathered a collection of sometimes very personal poems in a way that avoids the maudlin and mushy and draws the reader into the experiences that inspired this collection.”

The tone of the poems in this collection is quite formal, and I wondered if Carrington had training as a writer, “I have advanced degrees in English Literature and Education. But for the most part, what I have learned about poetry has been self-guided and self-taught through enormous amounts of reading and research and a good deal of common sense. I do teach writing for a living and have taught at levels ranging from junior high to honors level high school seniors. I also tutor privately. I did this when I knew writing is what I both love most and what treats me best emotionally and spiritually.”

I was surprised to learn that while Carrington was not new to writing he was very new to poetry. He told me, “I wrote and submitted my first poem a bit over two years ago. Four years ago I began reading poetry, and simply fell in love with it. It became my daily leisure activity, and still is. I began devouring everything I could get my hands on. And one night, after reading a poem I fancied very much, a voice popped into my head. “I think I can do this,” it said. He went on to say, “There’s a finished novel gathering dust on my shelf. A first draft, completely unedited. If the mad dog of poetry ever stops nipping at my ankles, I might find time to repair it someday.”

No question but that Carrington is a strong writer, but I sometimes struggled not to get bogged down by his excessive use of metaphor and image. Granted many of these poems are image driven and set upon a delicate narrative framework, but I wanted some of the poems to be trimmed back. I wanted him to weave some straightforward language into these pieces as a way to balance their complexity. Here is an example from “Balancing Pens In Belfast”: “By day the seams and shadows / of their ruin unstitch and steal / my air and crush my bones / their powered hair and homes /that puff and fall in winter’s winds / and hand, the swinging noose / of England choking rough / and tumble songs they sang / in tall and long defiance, / defense of son and land.” And again in his poem “Strawberry Moon”: “Strawberry moon spreads its will / like jam, sweet with sugars / of song and sunfade, and I see / the back of sadness break. // Mockingbirds scoop the music / of a stream and fly it to the trees, / share the throat of that new sisters // as they sing. Rich with birds, // the willows whistle and dance, / waving their fronds like the wings / of their siblings. The tender joinings // of evening call me, / water to wing to willow.” His language is beautiful, but at times slips over the too sweet for me line.

Since his poetry is quite structured I wondered who had influenced and shaped his poetic voice and the choices he makes when constructing a poem. He told me, “There is such a large number of poets/writers, past and present, whom I love to read. Too many to list, but here are a few: T. S. Eliot and Dylan Thomas. Hemingway and Steinbeck, whose prose reads to me like poetry without line breaks. And so many of today’s poets knock me out: Tony Hoagland and Bob Hicok. Kim Addonizio. Mary Oliver. Subconsciously, I’m sure they have all influenced me to some degree. They’re boiling in my head, like a bouillabaisse. My own writing cannot help but be imitative of that stew, to some degree.”

As noted, my reader’s eyes were sometimes distracted, specifically by three aspects of Carrington’s writing. I asked him about these.

I found too much alliteration. Here are a few examples: “Scrubbing MacGillycuddy’s Reeks”: “footprints / ground-frozen fossils that flinch.” Also in, “Inking The Road Again”: "while his neglected wife stripped / skin from a biker, / sucking highways out” He told me this, “ I do think alliteration can be overdone, like anything else. Whatever alliteration I use in my poems seems to happen by itself. I don’t consciously think about it when I write, nor about meter or sound. But sometimes I feel a beat, a rhythm in my head. I think most poets probably feel that, each different from the other, their own personal jazz. And there is no denying that poetry has a long tradition with sound.”

I also began to find line breaks and stanzas jumping out at me rather then melding effortless into the whole. There are very few small press poets I can name who could match Carrington’s precise use of this device. More often then not I see this convention used by poets who have been academically trained. Even the back cover blurb by Harvey Stanbrough, Editor of Raintown Review, notes line break and use of stanzas. Here is what Stanbrough says, “It (Rise, Fall and Acceptance) should be used to teach aspiring poets the importance of word choice, the line break, and the use of stanzas.” Here is want Carrington told me about this aspect of his work, “Unlike alliteration, line breaks are something I take great care with. Enjambment (the continuation of meaning, without pause or break, from one line of poetry to the next) is one of the devices I use to try to make my writing different, and fresh. I have developed some thoughts that guide me. I am convinced that the most important word in a line of poetry is the last one. I think that is where a reader’s eyes settle for a split second longer than anywhere else. I try to take advantage of that phenomenon when I line break, using the end placement to magnify a word, give it importance, or to create multiple meanings, or ambiguity. Unless I have a good reason to do otherwise, I like to break my lines after nouns or verbs, before prepositional phrases (to give the modified word both its own place and a second meaning when later joined by the phrase following it). I have started to break after adjectives also, if I want to “punch” that adjective. For me, breaking lines after unimportant words, articles, prepositions, conjunctions, usually feels wrong. The same can be said with stanzas. It is not only to add lightness to the page, but to give a group of words and ideas their own identity, besides being a part of the whole. It’s a complicated question to answer, since many of my decisions are intuitive.”

And finally an over abundance of language and metaphor (yes, I know we’re talking about poetry here) like in, “Balancing Pens In Belfast”: “By the say the seams and shadows / of their ruin unstitch and steal / my air and crush my bones, / their powdered hair and homes / that puff and fall in winter’s winds / and hands, the swinging noose / of England choking rough / tumble songs they sang / in tall and long defiance, / defense of son and land.” Certainly there is music in his words, and his love of language is noted by the acclaimed poet, Bob Hicok in a second back cover blurb where he says, “I can feel this poet’s love of language and his deep sense of truth in every poem.” While with Hicok, I sometimes stumbled over the abundance of metaphors. Here is want Carrington told me about these choices, “That poem was written specifically targeting a web journal I like very much, Alan Heinrich’s Carnelian. He publishes a lot of rhyme and sonnets. I prefer Popeye to Petrarch, but I thought I’d give internal rhyme a try and submit to him. I’m surprised to see you quote that particular poem, since it is not at all representative of the collection as a whole. It’s the only piece where sound and form are as important as content. As far as the formality of language, that seems to touch the on-going debate as to the value of academic vs. small press poetry. Writing is a 2-person enterprise, author and reader. I do think a poet who gets too far away from the life and experiences of that natural partner is doing both the reader and himself a disservice. Too large a gap may be one of the things that has moved poetry books into the dusty corners of bookstores, and turned poetry into a sub-culture where the only people who read one’s poetry are other poets. But I think there is and should be a natural and wider space between writer and reader in poetry than prose. I find the main difference between poetry and prose to be the degree of the creative process that the writer gives to the reader, prose being a heavily writer-based undertaking, poetry a more even split. Poetry that simply reads like prose with line breaks seems to indeed be prose, to me.”

Carrington’s quick rise as a poet made me curious about whether he felt he had locked in on his poetic voice. Here is what he had to say, “My poetic tastes are wide and cover both ends of the poetic spectrum. I very much like (most of) the poetry I read in Poetry Magazine and academic journals of that ilk, and I also very much like (most of) the poetry I read in the small press. I suppose that fact has created in me a double voice when I write, as I search for the one voice that will eventually become me. I love metaphor, as well as ambiguity and a certain amount of pointed obscurity. When I write from the academic half of my poetic schizophrenia, that personality comes out. I also love the ‘plain speak’ I read in so many small press poets, and when that side of me feels dominant, it’s the way I too speak. My poems have found acceptance in both academic and small press journals, and it is probably for that very reason – that I love and write in two distinct voices. This book reflects that, I think. Both voices are there, the abstract and concrete, the stretch of language and the down-home and real. And I think if I were to totally ignore one side or the other right now, so early in my writing life, I would not be true to myself. Both voices are part of me now. Whether and when one of the two takes over and becomes louder in my ears, I have no idea. Right now I answer both calls, and favor neither.”

Despite my problems with this book, there are still many exceptional poems. I find it remarkable that a writer wakes up to poetry and two years later, has over 100 publication credits, a pushcart nomination, is the poetry editor of Jennifer VanBuren’s very fine e-zine called, Mannequin Envy ( and most recently won the Codhill Press Chapbook Award. Isn’t that amazing - has ever a prose writer crossed the great divide to poetry as quickly? Carrington has a bright future both within the non-academic small press, as well as the better funded academic world. He possesses enormous heart and emotional depth, but (as a reader) I sometimes could not find my way through his imagery to the purity of his experience. I would ask that as he elevates his game he remember to always keep one foot firmly planted on the everyday.

To find additional samples of Patrick Carrington’s work please follow these links:

Kennesaw Review: Rock Salt Plum Review:
The New Hampshire Review:

And, since Charles is so helpful to Patrick, here is a Charles update:
He lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His narrative poems, short stories, interviews and poetry reviews have appeared in over one hundred and sixty print and electronic publications. He has received four Pushcart Prize nominations for his writing, and most recently read his poetry on National Public Radio’s Theme and Variations, a program that is broadcast over seventy NPR affiliates. He is the author of THE FATHERS WE FIND, a novel based on memory. Ries is also the author of five books of poetry — the most recent entitled, The Last Time which was released by The Moon Press in Tucson, Arizona. He is the poetry editor for Word Riot ( and Pass Port Journal ( He is on the board of the Woodland Pattern Bookstore ( in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Most recently he has been appointed to the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission. You may find additional samples of his work by going to: .

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