Monday, December 31, 2007

Curator's Note: What I Read in 2007

As your humble curator, I thought I'd share some of the poetry books that I read and enjoyed in 2007. In addition to the books listed, I also subscribe to Poetry and The American Poetry Review. Very few of these books are recent, but these are the poets I was reading last year.

* * * * *

American Religious Poems: An Anthology by Harold Bloom -- A great collection of religious poems from the early settlement of America to the present. The introduction is worth the price of the book.

Poems for the Millenium, edited by Jerome Rothenberg & Pierre Joris -- A rather comprehensive anthology of modern and post-modern poetry. What the book lacks in depth on each poet, it more than makes up for in breadth. Still, more poems from each poet would have been nice.

New and Collected Poems (1931-2001), Czeslaw Milosz -- If you like Nobel Laureate Milosz, this is the volume to own. He was one of the great poets of the 20th Century, and his work will not soon be forgotten.

The Second Four Books of Poems, W.S. Merwin -- This volume covers Merwin's career from 1963 to 1973. He was working out the structures (and themes) that would inform his later work in these books, so they are somewhat uneven. But for any fan of Merwin, this collection shows the development of a very good poet.

The Collected Poems, Octavio Paz -- Another Nobel Laureate, Paz ranks alongside Pablo Neruda as one of the greatest poets in the Spanish language. More experimental than Neruda, and more connected to European arts circles, Paz (as edited and translated by Eliot Weinberger) is a monumental figure in Modernism.

East Window - The Asian Translations, W.S. Merwin -- Merwin has a good feel for Asian poetry. He is no Rexroth or Sam Hamill, but these are good translation from the Middle East as well as Asia proper.

So There, Poems 1976-83, Robert Creeley -- Creeley has had a huge influence on contemporary poets. His lines, his simple language, and his focus on objects (rather than ideas, though he does this too), have made him a leading figure in American poetry. The book begins with a series of poems that came from his journey to visit nine countries in the Far East -- to explore a sense of self in a foreign landscape. Great book.

A Short History of the Shadow, Charles Wright -- Wright is one of my favorite living poets. I try to read everything he publishes, and this one is from 2002. His poems are personal and introspective, but they sprawl in their associations and images. I think of his poems as "meditations," in the classical sense, and I sense in his later years a little Eastern philosophy influencing his distinctly American Christian background.

The Singing, C.K. Williams -- Williams is another of my favorite poets. More than most others I have read, his use of longer lines has had an impact on my own work. This volume delves into the world of domestic bliss and trouble, with a deep note of regret running through the collection. As always, he articulates the feelings and fears many of us would rather avoid, and finds some meaning in the process.

* * * * *

What have you read this year? Please feel free to share any poetry you enjoyed this year in the comments field.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Video - "Addressing America" featuring Allen Ginsberg

A contemporary adaptation of Allen Ginsberg's famous 1956 poem "America," featuring works by Francis Ford Copolla, Martin Scorsese, D.A. Pennebaker, Jim Morrison & The Doors and Mark Isham.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Poem: Bill Hotchkiss

Semester's End
(December 13, 2007)

It's two in the afternoon, last day of the term,
Incipient winter rich in the air as I walk
Across campus, a bundle of papers in hand.

Clouds form and abate, afternoon light
Touches the needles of a young ponderosa,
Just so, and each glows, radiates brilliance.

The pond water is still, reflects perfect
Trees and buildings, and the big perch glide
Slowly, not even disturbing the surface.

Stormclouds rise in the west, moving inland--
They'll bring rain after sundown, red sundown,
And I am walking away, not even limping,
I stride eagerly now toward this oncoming storm.

* * * * *

~ Bill Hotchkiss is my friend and mentor. He is a well-known scholar on the poets Robinson Jeffers and William Everson (of whose literary estate Bill is executor). He has published several highly regarded novels, several books of poetry (most notably Climb to the High Country), and has taught at Sierra College in Northern California for many years.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Year in Review: Major Poetry Awards

As 2007 winds down, I thought it would be nice to take a look at the major poetry award winners this year. Some of my favorites won awards, and many poets new to me also won (which is the fun part -- discovering new poets).


Pulitzer Prize for Poetry:
Awarded to "Native Guard" by Natasha Trethewey (Houghton Mifflin).


National Book Award for Poetry:

WINNER: Robert Hass, Time and Materials (Ecco/HarperCollins) - Interview

Linda Gregerson, Magnetic North (Houghton Mifflin Company) - Interview
David Kirby, The House on Boulevard St.
(Louisiana State University Press) - Interview
Stanley Plumly, Old Heart (W.W. Norton & Company) - Interview
Ellen Bryant Voigt, Messenger: New and Selected Poems 1976-2006
(W.W. Norton & Company) - Interview

Poetry Judges: Charles Simic (chair), Linda Bierds, David St. John,
Vijay Seshadri, and Natasha Trethewey.


The National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry:
Troy Jollimore, Tom Thomson in Purgatory (Margie/Intuit House).


ABA Booksense, Best Poetry of 2007 (Spring)

1. THE COLLECTED POEMS: 1956-1998, by Zbigniew Herbert (Ecco, $34.95, 9780060783907 / 0060783907) "Herbert is one of the truly great poets of the 20th century -- likely only his untimely death prevented him from being awarded the Nobel Prize. His verse is brilliantly conceived, delivered in a language of heart-stopping intensity, and it will haunt your dreams forever." --Shawn Wathen, Chapter One Book Store, Hamilton, MT

2. DISTRICT AND CIRCLE, by Seamus Heaney (FSG, $13 paper, 9780374530815 / 0374530815) "Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet Seamus Heaney fills his latest collection with homage to the everyday and to hard work. But also commemorated is the work of just living: growing up, giving due, persevering, and simply appreciating. Muscular, blunt, lyrical, and moving, this is poetry to return to again and again." --Herman Fong, Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA

3. BUCOLICS, by Maurice Manning (Harcourt, $23, 9780151013104 / 0151013101) "I'm so thrilled to have a new collection from Kentucky poet Maurice Manning! This Yale Series of Younger Poets winner continues to get better with each new collection." --Jen Reynolds, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, Ohio

4. REFUSING HEAVEN, by Jack Gilbert (Knopf, $16 paper, 9780375710858 / 037571085X) "Unexpected, surreal, sensual, and full of the world's joys and sorrows, Gilbert is the real deal. Give the human world a voice and it might sound like this one." --John Evan, DIESEL, A Bookstore, Oakland, CA

5. THE COMPLETE POETRY: A Bilingual Edition, by César Vallejo, edited and translated by Clayton Eshleman (University of California Press, $49.95, 9780520245525 / 0520245520) "Vallejo is one of the most original voices in poetry that I've ever read. His work is collected here in translation by Clatyon Eshleman, and it is full of mind-blowing imagery grounded in a brilliant humanism presented in experimental verse that will snatch your breath with an arrogant fist." --Josh Cook, Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA

6. THE BOOK OF MARTYRDOM AND ARTIFICE: First Journals and Poems 1937 - 1952, by Allen Ginsberg (Da Capo, $27.50, 9780306814624 / 0306814625) "Now, we can see how young Al Ginsberg developed his thoughts and what influenced his life and writing, including events in Europe leading to the rise of Hitler, his mother's schizophrenia, his homosexual awareness, bawdy songs of Barnard girls, lists of 'records to buy,' and more. The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice shows that keen observation and intuitive reflection developed early did not waver in Ginsberg's last days." --Carolyn Chin, Books On First, Dixon, IL

7. INCOMPLETE KNOWLEDGE, by Jeffrey Harrison (Four Way, $14.95 paper, 9781884800733 / 1884800734) "Jeffrey Harrison is an incredible poet who continues to perfect his craft with each new book. Incomplete Knowledge speaks to the loss of his brother through suicide. It is simply elegant and very powerful." --John M. Hugo, Andover Bookstore, Andover, MA

8. THE BLIZZARD VOICES, by Ted Kooser (Bison Books, $9.95 paper, 9780803259638 / 0803259638) "This collection tells of the blizzard of 1888 that hit our country's midsection from the Dakotas to Texas. Kooser's poems tell of the survivors and some that lost their lives: Teachers with students surviving in a haystack to farmers surviving by staying near their animals, all told in Kooser's wonderfully poetic voice." --Carl Wichman, Varsity Mart, Fargo, ND

9. ARGUMENTS FOR STILLNESS, by Erik Campbell (Curbstone, $13.95 paper, 9781931896269 / 1931896267) "Erik Campbell's poetry is wise without preaching, smart without intimidating, artfully fun without shallowness. Sit down, shut out the world for a couple of minutes, read three poems from this collection at random, and you'll see why I am recommending him in the same breath as Wendell Berry." --Eric Robbins, Apple Valley Books, Winthrop, ME

10. ONCE AROUND THE SUN, by Bobbi Katz, LeUyen Pham (Illus) (Harcourt, $16, 9780152163976 / 0152163972) "The award for most vibrant illustrations goes to Once Around the Sun. Pham's bright, bold illustrations are brimming with color -- enough to fill the book's pages and give life to its lighthearted poems, one for each month of the year." --Alison Morris, Wellesley Booksmith, Wellesley, MA


Academy of American Poets:

Academy Fellowship
James McMichael of Long Beach, California, was awarded the 2006 Academy Fellowship. McMichael, whose most recent collection is Capacity (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006), received $25,000. The annual fellowship is given in honor of James Ingram Merrill for distinguished poetic achievement. Fellows are nominated and elected by the Academy's Board of Chancellors. There is no application process.

James Laughlin Award
Brenda Shaughnessy
of New York City won the 2007 James Laughlin Award for her poetry collection Human Dark With Sugar (Copper Canyon Press). She received $5,000, and the Academy of American Poets will purchase approximately 5,000 copies of her book to distribute to its members. Peter Gizzi, Matthea Harvey, and Caroline Knox judged. The annual award is given to commend and support the publication of a second book of poetry. The next deadline is May 15.

Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize
Alice Notley
of Paris won the 2007 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for Grave of Light: New and Selected Poems 1970–2005 (Wesleyan University Press). She received $25,000. David Baker, Mark McMorris, and Marie Ponsot judged. The annual prize is awarded for the most outstanding book of poetry published in the United States during the previous year. The next deadline is June 15.


MacArthur Foundation
MacArthur Fellowship
Poet and translator Peter Cole of Jerusalem, Israel, and poet and fiction writer Stuart Dybek of Evanston, Illinois, won 2007 MacArthur Fellowships. Each will receive $500,000 over five years. Cole's most recent book is The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry From Muslim and Christian Spain, 950–1492 (Princeton University Press, 2007), and Dybek's most recent book is the poetry collection Streets in Their Own Ink (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004). The annual fellowships are given in a variety of fields to "encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations." There is no application process.


National Poetry Series
Open Competition
The National Poetry Series has announced the winners of its 2007 Open Competition, each of whom received $1,000 and publication of his or her poetry collection.

They are poets Joe Bonomo of DeKalb, Illinois, for Installations, selected by Naomi Shihab Nye and to be published by Penguin Books;

Oni Buchanan of Brighton, Massachusetts, for Spring, selected by Mark Doty and to be published by University of Illinois Press;

Sabra Loomis of New York City for House Held Together by Winds, selected by James Tate and to be published by HarperCollins;

Donna Stonecipher of Seattle for The Cosmopolitan, selected by John Yau and to be published by Coffee House Press;

and Rodrigo Toscano of New York City for Collapsible Poetics Theater, selected by Marjorie Welish and to be published by Fence Books.

The National Poetry Series annually publishes five book-length poetry manuscripts by U.S. poets through participating trade, university, and small press publishers.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Poem: Howard Good

Strangers and Angels

A stranger, they say, might be an angel
unrecognizable in the diffuse light

and the enigma of his arrival

who looks at you as through eyeholes
cut unevenly in a brown paper bag

and relates with ghostwritten words
the events which are about to transpire,

who feels a terrible need to confess
there’s another person with your name,

the downcast face of a sunflower
after the birds have scoured it.

* * * * *

~ Howard Good, a journalism professor at SUNY New Paltz, is the author of the poetry chapbooks, Death of the Frog Prince (2004) and Heartland (2007), both from FootHills Publishing. His poems have appeared in numerous print and online journals, including Right Hand Pointing, Stirring, Flutter, The Elegant Thorn Review, The Rose & Thorn, 2River View, Prairie Poetry, Poetry Bay, Juked, ken*again, and Lily. He was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2006.

Poem: Jess Henerson

no dancing

mama said no dancing
mama said her prayers
daddy took me dancing
prancing down the stairs
you were there
apathy with auburn hair
you did not care
mama said no drinking
mama said she cared
daddy took me drinking
sneaking up the stairs
you were there
apathy with blazing hair
you did not care
mama said no loving
mama left it there
daddy gave me loving
rolling on the stairs
you were there
apathy with scarlet hair
you did not care
you were there
mama loved her drinking
mama loved her prayers
daddy left me bleeding
crying on the stairs
you were there
apathy with bloody hair
you did not care
you did not care

* * * * *

~ This is Jess Henerson's first appearance in Elegant Thorn Review.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Poem: Tim J Brennan

Things Unsaid

after hours in a museum are as quiet
as the framed painting of three red chairs--
which once, you imagine, were occupied
by people laughing at each other’s humor.

that the lake of your father’s mind
must be lovely and quiet,
with small sunfish nibbling
delightfully at its surface.

the air above your sleeping
son’s head is as holy as the rain
outside his open window.

that nothing is perfect, not even
if the next person you meet
may be the only one you’ll ever have
a chance to be in love with.

the coming snow will make
so little noise while falling.

it is nearly midnight in October in Minnesota.

many of its small towns are left with fallen leaves.

* * * * *

~ Tim Brennan is a regular contributer at Elegant Thorn. You can find more of his fine work in the archives.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Three Photos: ~C4Chaos

* * * * *

* * * * *

Align Center

* * * * *

~C4Chaos is a widely known blogger living in Seattle. You can see more of his photos at his Flickr page.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Poem: David Luntz

It Could Be Any Winter Evening

It could be any winter evening,
that unbinds a memory of something tender:
a sparrow hit by a car, jerking in the gutter,
blood on its beak, that I scooped and cradled in my palms,
and felt its heart eddying wildly
toward the vanishing point of oblivion.

I wanted to save it, act the healer,
take it out of the cold,
give it seeds and water,
but it died several hours later in a shoebox
below the window from which it should have flown away.
The ground was too frozen to bury it.

So I put it in some newspaper or a discarded
supermarket bag (I don’t remember which),
and stuck it in the garbage outside,
dejected at the sordidness of the whole thing,
resentful that life once more turns me cynical.

It could be any winter evening,
as light falls on leaves, silence over shadows,
that I return home with little more than
bitter wisdom to comfort me,
since I know well now that what is desired
is sometimes better not to have.

* * * * *

~ This is David Luntz's second appearance in Elegant Thorn Review.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Two Poems: Julie Kovacs

Trading Favors

Escaping from highway gridlock on route 10 south
I hopscotch across the mountain tops
off into forests of job offers
shirts and skirts with my label on them
smiles that say comfort and ease
a coat of warmth that says thank you
for not using my coat from a four-legged
friend who used to be fed a bottle of formula
as an infant and played catch with a toy rubber ball
that belonged to my old ferret named Mandy.
Only twice now I didn’t notice when someone
wore a black cocktail dress of mine
but that was because I was too busy enjoying
chocolate truffles and herbal tea
made by the two gracious ladies.

* * * * *

Pot of Gold

Two heads facing downward
through the clouds contemplated
making a new world no concrete
skyscrapers or highways
exist supplanted by
fields of grass rock gardens
waterfalls splashing water
into ponds with small groups
of rocks each time
water covered a rock
the rock wailed
unheard by surrounding
waters moving backward
while the rock moved forward
unobserved by anyone
except the two radiant faces
leaving a rainbow surrounding
the rock in a bow
and a gold coin on the top
unremovable by anyone except the rock.

* * * * *

~ Julie Kovacs is a resident of Tucson, Arizona and an aspiring poet. Some recently publications include: Children, Churches and Daddies, The Flask Review, Issue 2, March 2007, Morsel(s), March 2007, and Because We Write, March 2007.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Two Poems: Isabella Mori

strega through the moonlight

strega through the moonlight
swishing by the stars with green-black robe,
waving long behind her, long, long, longer
than a comet’s hair.
strega luna, harvest moon behind her,
riding into autumn, riding towards snow,
into night and north and dark, dark caves,
into mysteries that stones know,
crows know, dark, cold clouds know,
deep into october, vember, cember
far towards a tiny ember
on the other side.

* * * *

judging judging judging

judging judging judging
her mouth too slim her teeth too small
his voice too loud his stories boring.
judging and then trying
to sit there, listen only, ears wide open,
heart without a curtain between them and me
soul without a them and me
just listening watching.
and then back to
judging judging judging
my judge too tough my mind too fast
my words so slurred my walls too high.
and then just
walking breathing driving seeing city lights –

the teetertotter
of being in this human cage.

* * * *

~ Isabella Mori is a therapist practicing in Vancouver, BC. You can read her blog, moritherapy, to find out more about her -- I'm a big fan of her blog.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Two Photos: John Craig



~ John Craig is a frequent contributer to Elegant Thorn Review. You can see more of his work (and buy prints) at his website.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Totality of Causes: Li-Young Lee and Tina Chang in Conversation

From The Academy of American Poets:

Chang: I read in an interview that you stopped using the word "God" and started using the word "Universe."

Lee: When I look at my shoe—or this cup, or this couch, or this jacket—if I think about how these things came to be, I'd have to account for the infinite net of circumstances, causes, and conditions that make each thing. We might as well say that each thing is a shape of the totality of causes. This is one shape of the totality of causes, that is another. But they look different.

And it seems to me that a poem is nothing less than that. It's not me who writes the poem, it's whether or not I had coffee that morning or did not, whether I ate red meat or did not, or whether I heard my sister singing in her room or did not. If you try to account for poem, you might think, it was that incident that I saw and that I wrote about, but it isn't. It's the temperature in the air, it's whether or not you had any sleep.

There's no way to account for any thing or any event. If you rigorously dissect it, you realize that everything is a shape of the totality of causes. What's another name for the totality of causes? The Cosmos. So everything is a shape of Cosmos or God. It feels like something bigger than me—that I can't possibly fathom—but am embedded in.

I think, too, that this is why the language in poetry is much more dense than in other conditions. Because, I think, the poet is actually experiencing the totality of causes. The poem somehow seems to have a 360-degree or spherical view of things. I think that's what makes poetic consciousness. That is, the consciousness that a poem imparts differs from other forms of consciousness.

Chang: In regard to writing poetry, Stanley Kunitz, said, "You have to move into areas of the self that remain to be explored, and that's one of the problems in maturing as a poet. By the age of fifty, the chances are that you've explored all the obvious places. The poems that remain for you to write will have to come out of your wilderness." By wilderness, he means the untamed self, all the chaos behind the locked door. Do you feel that you've explored all the obvious places or that you have more to discover?

Lee: Well, I feel both. I do feel that, as a yoga that one practices, writing poems is like any meditative path. You move through your own psychology, and then you move beyond your psychology. At that point it gets a little rough, because you have to posit something beyond your own psychology toward that which your psyche is embedded in. That adventure is, I think, an infinite proposition. That, to me, is the real wilderness. Beyond species-specific, beyond gender-specific, beyond culture-specific, what kind of poems are your cells writing? What kinds of poems come out of the space that is our bodies?

Read the whole interview.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Poem: AnnMarie Kolakowski

The Deposition of Belief

And when she picks up certain books---
the ones that gather sweet-smelling dust
as fragrant as a happy childhood
memory, shelved for Practical's sake---
the words move her again,
they spin her weathervane soul
and she shudders, to no one at all,
"This is true."

And when she goes to church, she still
finds seating in her favorite pew,
and whether it's time to stand or kneel
she strives to feel arisen, lifted high---
"These days, any emotion's worth a try."
Eyes to the arching ceiling, palms upturned,
she reverences every gesture
she has learned.

And when she hears the organ swell
she lends her voice, and tells herself
"Singing is like praying twice."
And her hymns shake that great edifice,
and all the prayers they pile tumble down
in witness to the omnipresent Frown,
its judgment seat in every human eye.
"I want to believe in God
before I die."

* * * *

~ AnnMarie Kolakowski has been selected for publication by Children, Churches and Daddies. This is her first time in Elegant Thorn Review.

Poem: Bryon D. Howell


My cat
used to be
an outdoor/indoor

She used to
playing catch with
field hockey with
hide and seek with
and tag, you're it -
with bees.

Today my cat,
is an indoor cat
due to circumstance
my control.

She hasn't been
in almost
4 years.

The other day,
a fly managed
to get

What a
welcome treat!

What a sight
for my cat's two

sore eyes.

They became -
the best of friends

* * * *

~ Bryon D. Howell is a poet currently residing in New Haven, Connecticut.
He has been writing poetry for a great number of years. Recently, work of his
has appeared in poeticdiversity, Red River Review and The Quirk.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Two Poems: Karen Engelmeyer

The Kitten

When you asked me
whether I could
look after the kitten,
the one you'd found cowering
beneath your front steps,
that you'd taken in and fed
and now slept tentatively
(as though, already, she understood
the capriciousness of life),
on your living room floor
amid the mess and joyfulness
that, I imagine, is your daily existence, I said, "yes" almost immediately -
even before you mentioned winter looming, broached the possibility of snow,
the inevitable below-freezing temperatures.

Puzzled, and unsure
of my hasty response,
I thought of my father, long dead,
and how he'd wept
when I left him at the nursing home.
I remembered his face -
as I tried to explain
that I could no longer look after him
now that he had started to wander
in the night.

* * * * *

Going Back to West 87th Street

Yesterday when I phoned you
to tell you I had gone back
twenty-five years
and stood in our living room
with the brick wall
and the tiny adjacent kitchen
on West 87th Street -
I wanted to tell you
I had felt our love too.

You brimming
with stories about
your night
on stage.
Me, in your paisley robe,
laughing - no crying -
with delight
at your cleverness.

And then,
Your sadness
Engulfed me
like a giant wave and I was
gasping for breath.
After all these years I
still can't contain it -
that sadness
which followed us
like a shroud.

* * * * *

~ Karen Engelmeyer is an English (as in UK) English teacher working in the Princeton, NJ area and a closet poet. She's just started to submit her poems. This is her first appearance in ETR.

Two Poems: Jean Aldriedge

Face It

turn it over
a new leaf
the situation
before you
going on
in a
impulse upon

* * * * *

Morning Air
Cool brisk
Bitter cold
Followed me
Down to
The vale by
The crooked lake.
Chilly air
And iced
Dew as
We tangled
Across the fields
And through a
To the creek. Cold
Skies and
A gray moon

* * * * *

~ Jean Aldriedge is a new contributer.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Poem: Tim J Brennan

Father is Talking

about arms needing to reach
out to brush grass from her back,
telling her everything she will ever
need is still here, will always be
green & budding like spring


about a voice, a throat pinked
and smooth and still working,
speaking of Betty, the dancer,
clicking her heels at Bar Harbor
to Rosemary Clooney’s “Beautiful
Brown Eyes” or Johnnie Ray’s “Cry”

I am 1951, his voice says, I am

and he still listens from another
room like a womb at the edge of water
that evening his life was born


about feet moving, tiptoeing across a glass
floor, bubbles being thrown above their heads,
and her believing the evening was nothing more
than a little box filled with tinsel & triangles


about eyes picturing a ripe summer, telling
her she is beautiful without speaking, thinking
of a rose, instead offering a white daisy

“love,” he says, “is all about opportunity”


about words that are so far apart they are
more like fireflies, blinking short messages
like after the music stops, let’s go lean
against my car while kissing or better yet,
let’s look at stars until we both go blind


about tongues and red licorice, and how they
go together and how they sweet and curl
and how she still liked both, even after
forty-seven years of marriage


about missing all those things


~ Tim J Brennan lives in Austin, MN. He is a frequent contributer.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Review - Charles Wright: Littlefoot

Charles Wright is my favorite living poet, and one who is distinctly spiritual in his approach and content. This article appeared in the News Observer (North Carolina).

The graceful pilgrim carries on

Poetic careers take all sorts of paths. You've got your Allen Ginsberg, who burst onto the scene with what became his most famous poem, "Howl," and then he sort of noodled around for the rest of the run, becoming a personality as much as poet. Or you've got Sylvia Plath, who wrote most of her best work in the months before her suicide and was not around to see it gain the attention it deserved.And then you've got Charles Wright. Born in the mountains of Tennessee, Wright spent his early life in the lush landscapes of the Southern Appalachian mountains where his father, a civil engineer, helped build dams for the TVA. The arc of his career has been a steady hike beginning in those landscapes and heading straight for the celestial questions that arose out of early religious training at isolated places like Sky Valley camp in Western North Carolina and Christ School in Arden. He's won a host of major awards including the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award and Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His big project has been a trilogy of trilogies, nine books that taken together he calls "The Appalachian Book of the Dead." But in all that, Wright has continued to explore his approach to the poetic line, his use of narrative and his arrangement of images. This summer he published his 18th book, "Littlefoot." The title comes, somewhat enigmatically, from a horse on Wright's Montana ranch, where he spends his summers. But corralling enigmas is part of Wright's mission.

His is a pilgrim's journey of both technique and subject matter.

Read the rest of this review.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Three Photos: Matt Davis

"To See the Sea"


"Return to Nature"


"Shiny Water Ball"

~ Matt Davis lives in the United Kingdom. He has a lot more beautiful photographs at his DeviantArt page. This is his first, and hopefully not last, appearance in Elegant Thorn Review.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Two Poems: JB Mulligan

the rain

How is the rain about you? But it is
somehow. Outside, beyond the glass, it stays
at the edge of notice: nose and ear detect
rain's scent and whisper, which briefly distract
you from some indrawn task to a broader home;
while out in it and walking, soaked to the bone,
a smile from childhood plastered on your face,
the world reduces to this time and place.
The rain that was before and will not end
rises within you, and washes you beyond,
connecting soul and skin and sky with what
you are, and what will be when you are not.

* * * * *

deep surfaces

The heavy clouds collapse upon the hills,
breast to breast in a large embracing sprawl.
The river’s muscle-rippled surface spills
dull silver, spent. A storm came. That is all.

The insubstantial presses on the meat
embodying desire, and all that it
exchanges, as a part that must entreat
a possibility to a fleshy fit.

So you and I. So “ironworks and time”.
A surface, everywhere conjoined, can claim
infinite depth and influence sublime,
particular, and everywhere the same.

~ JB Mulligan lives in Washingtonville, NY. This is his first appearance in Elegant Thorn Review.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Two Poems: Doug Tanoury

The Presence Of Your Absence

Today, I came home to empty rooms.
Stillness and silence lie on the rugs
Like an old dog reluctant to move,
And I am reminded
By the ghost of motion,
A spirit of sound, some spectral
Scent that still haunts these rooms,
As I stand in the presence of
Of your absence.
If memory were a ragged couch
Or worn chair I would carry
It out and set it by the curb,
Yet I cannot cast out phantoms
That possess this place and
Follow me about from room to room
Like a loyal dog, unwilling
To leave me unattended.
Today, at the door I was greeted
By your memory and paused
At the threshold a moment
To acknowledge you gone,
Like a happy fixture,
A friendly furnishing
That sat in my living room
For many years, now
Replaced by empty space,
As I wait in the presence of your
Absence, there is nowhere to sit.

* * * * *

The Physics of Tea

Sitting in the living room
Drinking tea with her and
Talking about special relativity
And the fact that the most distant
Galaxies are racing away from us
At 80 percent of the speed of light and
As she considers this

Pulling a wayward strand of hair
From her face, she begins to twirl it,
Worrying it between her fingers, and
I am touched by the girlishness
Of this gesture, as she says very seriously:
"Gravity is a fear of being alone"
I laugh

Setting my tea down on the table
Hearing the percussion click
Of a china cup meeting the saucer and
As she smiles the freckles on her cheeks
Gravitate together in Newtonian fashion
And I know now that
What holds everything together
Is simply deep attraction.

~ Doug Tanoury was born and raised in Detroit and attended Wayne State University. His work has been published widely both in print and in electronic form. A number of his poetry collections are available in e-book form at his web site.

Two Photos: Carina

"salto para o infinito"

"I'm Not Crazy"

~ Carina (lacrymosagigia) lives in Portugal. I found her work at DeviantArt, but you can also find her at her MySpace page.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Two Poems: Barbara L. Thomas

Sugared Umber in Winter

Bathed in morning sunshine
(a heartbeat away
from my breakfast toast
and preserves) a doe
licks her fawn. I watch
her sip a snowy liqueur
from my birdbath
and browse among
the foliages of thyme
and the wild strawberry.
When she drops beside her fawn
only the twitching of an ear
reveals their bedding
among fescues
and scrawny lupines
sugared umber.

Warmed by my tea’s
steaming fragrance,
I watch the red-headed
flicker thump one
Ponderosa after another,
her collect, the remains
of viburnum fruit.
The great-horned owl
leaps from her perch
as if pursued. Doe
and fawn, in carousel,
stream from the preserve.
Doves flutter, the raven,
wings outstretched,
soars overhead.

* * * * *

Infants Abroad

Long ago, before children’s car seats,
One of our four disappeared into a tangle
Of huckleberry almost before her father
Had braked the car. Laura the one
Who at six would write in her journal
Of seeing a bear, Big as Daddy, while
We traipsed over Idaho, British Columbia.

Boxes packed for picnicking at Tally Lake,
Laura eases over corrugated roadway,
The ten-mile route shrouded by firs
And the dust of approaching vehicles,
Her mother and children belted against surprise—
A moose calf moseying the roadway,
Another intrepid child, seemingly untended.

Laura’s father was Tommy to his sister.
A child of huckleberry tangle, he, the one
Who backed our station wagon up to the tent,
Gathered in the children and drove ten miles
To a service station bathroom to avoid thunder,
Lightning strikes, rain-sloshed pajamas—
His signature, a hike along the shoreline’s indigenous path,

Still trod as it had been for eons.

~ Barbara L. Thomas lives in Montana. This is her first appearance in Elegant Thorn Review.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Mark Doty: Speaking in Figures

Nice article at The Academy of American Poets:

Here's one of those stories everyone swears is true, though they always seem to have happened to a friend of a friend, and are never quite verifiable. I heard it from my friend Genine, and I'm not quite sure where she got it. A man was telling his therapist about a fight he'd had with his mother. They were standing together in the kitchen, arguing, and then, he said, "My mother put the icing on the cake." The therapist said, "Oh?" "Yes," he said. "She put the icing on the cake?" "Yes." The therapist persisted: "But how did she put the icing on the cake?" "She put the icing on the cake." And so it continued, until they realized they were talking about a literal cake; the mother was holding a knife covered with butter-cream frosting.

Just this summer, in Prague, I had the opposite experience. Considerately, restaurant menus often offer English translations beneath the Czech listing, but the translations are often dodgy. "Beef consommé with faggots," for instance, took us aback, but nothing was as hard to figure out as an appetizer called "smoked language." Then one of the diners at our table decoded the dish, which was tongue.

The therapist assumes language must be metaphoric; the dogged but well-intentioned menu translator assumes it must be literal. I tell these two little bits of anecdote because they point to the absolute centrality of figurative speech. You could say that all language is metaphoric, since the word stands for the thing itself, something the word is not. In her evocative memoir, The Names of Things, the Egyptologist Susan Brind Morrow points to the origins of letters in the observation of nature, how the scuttle of crab claws on sand, for instance, influenced the hieroglyph for "writing." To use words at all is to use them figuratively; we breathe metaphor, we swim in metaphor, we traffic in metaphor—and the verbs in those three phrases illustrate my point.

Poetry's project is to use every aspect of language to its maximum effectiveness, finding within it nuances and powers we otherwise could not hear. So the poet needs to be a supreme handler of the figurative speech we all use everyday, employing language's tendency to connect like and disparate things to the richest possible effects. In poetry, figuration is at its most sophisticated: condensed, alive with meaning, pointing in multiple directions at once.

Read the rest.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Poem: Tim J Brennan

Not Far From Virginia Beach

Part i - Night Folks

Buddy lives here, stoned
& flaccid, near the buried
clams for which people search

he took a tranquilizer (twice
and sat in his chair, the only
piece of furniture to move
for thirteen hours (he told me

night folks came to him last
night to pilfer his possessions

last night he was awake all night
until the sun rescued his (paranoia

from another night not unlike last night
when the night folks came (or so he said

this all occurred while the spiders hung
from his glass chandelier like strange thoughts
and possums celebrated living (in his walls

Buddy tells me he sometimes talks to them
like brothers he never had, not one picture
is in the house like no one (has lived there

except Buddy and his short term memory

Part ii - A Perfect Color

a person lived here once

i see him in a picture from 1968:
wild hair, arms flailing in air

i read his third grade report card:
“Buddy is regressing”

i hand it to him, ask if he wants
to keep it,
his mother must have kept it to prove
she had a son once

his eyes say "yes"
though his mouth says “pitch it”
along with his stepfather’s WWII burial flag

i place the report card on the table next
to his cigarettes, the twice filled ashtray
and a yellow bag of peanut M & M’s

there are two empty tuna cans
this morning when i return,
they weren’t there yesterday,
the bag of food i left is full

his mother’s name was Polly
she rose and died in 1989, no mention
of where she’s buried
for all i know
she might still be in the walls

i threw out his leather coat yesterday, spiders
were living in the pockets, enjoying themselves
in his leather pockets

Buddy tells me he is fucking mad
about the coat, tells me the .38 revolver
in the pocket is now gone
and what is he going to do
when strangers come in the night
for his bones

i tell Buddy about the spiders, how they lived
in his leather coat pockets
Buddy says to hell
with you, "I’m gunless now"

i tell myself i will keep trying:
i leave another sandwich, a bag of yellow
cellophane potato chips

the next morning a possum is in Buddy’s closet,
trying to live

i throw the possum out, he of skinny tail,
by the tail, its red eyes screaming at me
with hate

i throw out the rest of Buddy’s things:
glassware, tax returns from 1983, screwdrivers,
a jar of mayonnaise

everything goes into the dumpster, sitting like
a tar pit in his driveway,
everything Buddy has ever known
will soon be sealed within its pitch:

toxic, highly-flammable,

a perfect color

Part iii - Living Ugly

no mail is delivered in the four days
i am there

no phone calls
no hot water, no ice is in the house,
all the windows are covered in spider

Buddy pleads for his Lazy Boy,
like his life, to be placed
in the emptied space
of his living room

for a day and a half
i wash his glassware in the street,
the only things of real value
Buddy owns,
watching neighbors come and go
like October moths
banging into cold night
porch lights

at the core
there’s something to be said
for living ugly,
for even a dried vine will hold on
to its grapes

ask anyone who finally finishes
with a task he never really wanted
to do in the first place

~ Tim J Brennan lives in southeastern Minnesota. His poetry has appeared in many nice places. His first chapbook "Fifty White Stones" is available through him or at Pudding House Press.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Three Poems: Priscilla Frake

And Still, I Can Hardly Believe

it actually happened;
I wanted, desperately,
to be anywhere else
but that gurney,
about to be delivered

of my tumors. I wanted
to skip my appointment
with Dr. Poison
and his gag assistants:
hair loss, bloating, and vomit.

I wanted to escape the machine
that caressed me with damaging neutrons.
I’d like to spit out the elixir
for aging, the sepia pill
I take every day to prevent

a recurrence. I want to pretend
I’m immortal, and normal,
but I’m here as it happens,
outside the garden looking in
to where azalea blossoms

drop along the walk like burned-
out matches; and my daughter,
caught in the shadow
of the iron gate,
turns her flower face to me.

* * * * *

Inanna’s Descent

Based on a passage about the Mesopotamian goddess, Inanna,
in Close to the Bone by Jean Shinoda Bolen

At each gate I leave something behind:
innocence, hair,
my breasts. I descend
without a guide

through fluorescent waiting rooms,
and enter a maze of corridors
walled with scuffed cinderblock
and the incomprehensible

names of diseases.
At each desk I surrender
a watch, a ring, a purse,
daylight, health.

I am strung up with tubes
and left hanging.
I am laid out on a table
and given to the knife.

None of the guardians
tapping away at computers,
shoving forward papers
can tell me why.

None of the presiding gods of that place,
complacent in their sterile coats,
will venture if
or even how.

It is up to me to learn
what is being born
as I labor in the belly of the hospital,
nine months in treatment.

It is up to me to decide
if I should wail and shake
my empty cup on a dismal corner
or stride like a queen through the underworld

and claim my exile.

* * * * *

What My Hand Knows

My fear lacks claws, fangs,
or baleful eyes. It takes the shape
of a rose window: a stained glass
honeycomb of vibrant cells
back-lit in the mind’s blue gaze;
one cell distorted and branching, growing
too fast.

As I sat idly sketching, my hand
drew this image before my mind recognized
what it saw. Two years out from chemo,
I walk through a labyrinth, a minefield.
Any step could rip my life apart.

I keep my fear before me
as it oozes, darkly,
forward into darkness.
It knows the way and I do not.
I follow, lightly.

~ Priscilla Frake's poems have appeared or are forthcoming in many literary publications in the U.S., including Atlanta Review, The Sowʼs Ear Poetry Review, The Carolina Quarterly, The Midwest Quarterly, The Spoon River Poetry Review, and The Sun. Her work has also appeared in journals in Great Britain and Ireland including: The New Welsh Review, Cutting Teeth, Orbis, Cyphers, and Deliberately Thirsty. She has lived in New York, New Mexico, California, Texas, West Virginia, China, and Scotland. Her chapbook, Argument Against Winter was published by Cloud in the U.K

Sunday, July 29, 2007

What is poetry? And does it pay?

A great article from Harper's magazine. Nearly every young poet has been tempted by contests promising fame and wealth. Here is one man's amusing research into the realm of vanity publications preying on young poets.

What is poetry? And does it pay?

By Jake Silverstein

In song oracles were given, and the way of life was shown; the favour of kings was sought in Pierian strains, and mirth was found to close toil’s long spell. So you need not blush for the Muse skilled in the lyre, and for Apollo, god of song. —Horace, Ars Poetica

Summer in New Orleans is a long slow thing. Day and night, a heavy heat presides. Waiters stand idle at outdoor cafés, fanning themselves with menus. The tourists have disappeared, and the city’s main industry has gone with them. Throughout town the pinch is on. It is time to close the shutters and tie streamers to your air conditioner; to lie around and plot ways of scraping by that do not involve standing outside for periods of any length.

I was so occupied one humid afternoon when I came across a small newspaper notice that announced in large letters, “$25,000 poetry contest.” “Have you written a poem?” the notice began. I had written a poem. I had even considered submitting it to contests, but the prizes offered never amounted to much—a university might put up $100 in the name of a dead professor—and I hadn’t sent it off. This was a different proposition. With $25,000 I could pay off my debts, quit my jobs, and run the air on hi cool for a while. I submitted my poem that very day.

Two weeks later I had in my hands a letter from something calling itself the Famous Poets Society, based in Talent, Oregon. The Executive Committee of its distinguished Board of Directors, the letter informed me, had chosen my poem, from a multitude, to be entered in its seventh annual poetry convention, which would be held September 16–18 at John Ascuaga’s Nugget hotel and casino in Reno, Nevada. “Poets from all over the world will be there to enjoy your renown,” the letter boasted, “including film superstar Tony Curtis.”

This was not exactly what I had imagined. The notice in the newspaper had said nothing about a convention in Reno, and I had expected simply to win, or not. I felt almost foolish. Poets, I suspect, make good marks. In his study of Dryden, Lord Macaulay observed that “poetry requires not an examining but a believing frame of mind.” Evidently the same conclusion had been reached in a rented boardroom in Talent. I was about to throw the letter away when it dawned on me that there was still the matter of the $25,000.

The letter was from Mark Schramm, the executive director of the society. He informed me that should I choose to make the trip, I would be honored with the “Jacob Silverstein 2001 Poet of the Year Medallion” and the “Prometheus Muse of Fire Trophy,” both of which I would find to be “unique.” Schramm continued: “The fabulous Tab Hunter has asked that you personally walk with him in our Famous Poets Parade! As our Grand Marshal, he invites you to bring a poem of peace to release ‘on the wings of Pegasus,’ during our Famous Poets for Peace Balloonathon. Your poem is your message of love to the world. . . . I also look forward to seeing you win our poetry contest! Imagine yourself with a $25,000 check in hand and being crowned ‘Famous Poet Laureate for 2001!’ I can already hear the crowd cheering as the laureate crown is placed on your head! How beautiful you look!”

I knew that everyone who submitted a poem had been invited to Reno,1 and I knew that Tab Hunter had never said anything to Schramm about my walking with him, but the fact remained that someone was going to win $25,000 and get to wear a crown. I wrote back to say that I would attend.

Five days before the convention was to begin, terrorists attacked the United States, but the Famous Poets Society decided to push ahead with its program as planned. It was felt that poetry was needed now more than ever. It was also felt that there would be no full refunds of the $495 registration fee, in the event of a canceled flight or a distraught flier. I flew to San Francisco, rented a car, and drove up into the Sierra Nevadas, over Donner Pass, to Reno.

I arrived at the Nugget and identified myself as a famous poet.


1. Later on I was to learn that a few of the entrants are not invited to the convention. As Naythen Harrington, Schramm’s assistant, explained it to me, “You can’t put limits on poetry, but at the same time we’re not going to offend a bunch of people if someone’s like, ‘I fuck goats five times a day and I’m gonna piss in my eye.’”

Read the whole article.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Review: The Wisdom Anthology of North American Buddhist Poetry

Tom Morgan, over at In the Becoming Undone, takes a look at a new anthology of Buddhist Poetry, The Wisdom Anthology of North American Buddhist Poetry.

If there is anyone out there looking to make connections between the increasingly popular world of American Buddhism and meditation and contemporary poetry, Andrew Schelling's The Wisdom Anthology of North American Buddhist Poetry provides a one-stop shop for all things Buddhist and poetic. Published in 2005, it is an extremely handsome volume with attractive, glossy cover, leaf flaps, excellent paper, readable font, ample margins, outstanding layout, and informative notes on each poet that make for a very enjoyable read and a beautiful reference. The anthology covers both what we might call the New American and more mainstream poetry. Included are, of course, the obvious heavy weights: Gary Snyder, Jane Hirshfield, and Philip Whalen (the only non-living poet included in the volume). Experimental writers such as Leslie Scalapino, Norman Fischer, and Will Alexander are set in alongside other writers more known for their prose then poetry, such as Eliot Weinberger and Dale Pendell. Ecologically inclined poets, including Arthur Sze and Cecilia Vicuna, are also given ample space. And, in what is without a doubt my favorite part of this volume, Schelling's introduction tracks the various attempts — formal and otherwise — of reconciling Buddhist practice and poetic practice in a way that is both academic and useful to the lay person. This essay alone is worth the $22.00 sticker price.

Read the rest of his post.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Flash Fiction: G.A. Scheinoha

Grand Central

Because night forgets, you never will. Because darkness never cleanses so much as sheds the skin of today, then slithers underground towards the epidermis of tomorrow, you stow it all away.

Wound up, small, round, tight as a subway token, slim sliver slipped through the turnstile of your arms.

"All aboard!" comes the conductor's falsetto cry. This isn't the polar express. Just a passage in which pain is drawn by the caricature, painted in the expression of everyone present.

A rackety, tail bone rattling excursion through countryside made indistinguishable less by failing light than the pulled in focus, concentrated on the coach inside.

Despite the dim, details leap out. Stiff wood backed seats, overstuffed cloth cushions, occasional rips, shockingly white where batting protrudes, a row of thin clerestory windows, stained glass panes leaded into the double tiered ceiling. You might've stepped straight back into the past; late Victorian or Roaring Twenties.

Somehow though, the features of anybody riding in those seats is lost. Either to dusk or simply, the tendrils of pea soup thick, London fog remembrance.

And the final destination is always the same, no matter when or where they disembark. It begins and ends at that depot. . . just beyond your shuttered eyes.

~ G.A. Scheinoha lives in the country where he was born and raised in a typical, blue collar working family. When not laboring as a warehouse packager or caring for an aged parent, he pursues a third, more public life as an author. His prose poems, plays, short stories, verse, reviews and commentary/opinions have appeared in newspapers, magazines and websites in Australia, Canada, England and all across the U.S.

Poem: Kit Kennedy

Snow is Like This

crunch of boot

woman looking
from window
pulls from plant
dead leaf

the huge
is nothing
the small
can’t cover
make still

~ Kit Kennedy has had work in many magazines, including Animus, Bayou, Bombay Gin, Cezanne’s Carrot, The Comstock Review, Karamu, Mannequin Envy, Pearl, among others. She hosts the monthly All Poets Welcome Reading Series in San Francisco and is a columnist (Conversations with...) for Betty’s List (

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Photo: Peter


~ Peter (Fingret at Deviant Art) lives in Sweden. This is his first appearance in Elegant Thorn.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Two Poems: David Chorlton

Rain Meditation

On days of slow rain the house
shrinks a little, its rooms
hold their occupants with a more
than usual gentleness,
and its windows shiver in their frames
without sunlight. Grey absorbs
all thoughts while the radio
emits what warmth there is
along with a stream
of songs in Spanish. The hummingbird,
flicker, and two cactus wrens
come to the offerings
suspended from a porch beam,
each bringing its flash
of color from the wild. Water slips
from the overhang
to pool among the dormant stems
of plants in winter,
and then sink into darkness
that runs deep in the ground
where the future depends
on resources available
for those who will take our places
at the glass, on a day like this,
listening to the minutes
dripping through the clock.

* * * * *

In the Middle of Nowhere

A picture on the television screen shows fields
with a forlorn path winding between them

and trees heavy with afternoon sun
where the announcer states

a casino will be built in the middle of nowhere
as if a roll of the dice will turn

land into a place. Some nowheres
stretch between horizons and exist

only in the dizzy memories
of those who went there by mistake, or sought

a corridor to the future through
a wide expanse of thorns and thirst. Some

are grassland, others are brush.
Weapons are tested in the middle of nowhere

because they can’t destroy what doesn’t exist.
Armies practice warfare there

and become invisible. Land speed records
are set where there is nowhere to arrive when the fuel

runs out. Empty spaces rest
uneasy on the curvature of Earth. A province

of sand blows away in a storm. A continent of ice
is melting into history, to be mentioned on the page

that lists whatever disappeared for want
of being recognized for what it is.

~ David Chorlton lives in balmy Phoenix, AZ. This is his first appearance In Elegant Thorn.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Three Poems: Margaret James

not yet named

I will not feed him beef,
nor chicken, though I've made no friends
in that family. We mothers worry so,
it is no wonder she worries.

But I refuse to feed him beef
because I once had a summer friend
who became winter sausages
and I do not eat my friends
nor feed them to hungry relatives.

But, yes, I agree to teach him the Bible,
and make his pillow God.
He will hear the parables of Jesus
our fish will multiply in the form of broccoli and sweet potatoes.
I will show how we should share bread
and sit back and watch our baskets overflow.

I will show him Krishna, the dark haired flautist,
I will teach him how Radha longs,
the painful joy of Mirabai
and how, if you stay up all night chanting,
the light will come in one form or another.

I will teach him how to bow deep in prayer
five times a day, so unlike those heathens
who only rarely think of God.
We will lift our hands and cry “Allahu Akbar”!
and know there is only God.

We will sit with Him at the dinner table,
carry Him in our pockets to school
and uncover Him in the smallest
sugar ant.

I will instruct him how to sit still
to find silence…
how to love everyone,
because they are yourself
and never eat your friends.

But all this planning is for nothing.
She'll return from Las Vegas like Jesus
rises each Easter. And if not,
she'd never leave her son to such a radical life,
though she really likes the sound
of pillows stuffed with God.

* * * * *

Outside of the Garden

It is because I can't stray so far from home.
Even now I know God is in the garden saying,
“where are you? Why have you hidden from me?”

But I haven't hidden, I've just covered myself in absence.
It is a bitter/sweet apple, this city life.

On rainy nights the garden beckons with the call of the wind
but in the morning the children's voices cry louder
for breakfast.

I bit the fruit, fell into another warm body,
wailed in the pain of birth.
Yet still he calls to me from the garden
wanting me naked and in the Presence again.

He is looking for me
and I will not stray too far from home.

* * * * *


I always return
to see how God has been coming through me.
Here, he is a dream of arrows;
there, he is the slingshot and the giant.

I am always waiting for the one to come
with the ring:
the reminder of why I've been sitting so long,
the reassurance that we will be reunited.

His Name is the thing that makes rocks float.
He says it isn't his power, we are the magicians
traveling his galaxies.

He watches in awe while we pray
and learn to walk across the water.

~ Margaret James (Metta) is a frequent contributer to ETR. You can read more of her poems at her Zaadz blog.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Two Poems: Tim J Brennan

Fifty White Stones

blue sky blends
into somber fog,
a soon-darkness
that will drop the ground
a little lower

and if i am to be translated
like this winged she creature,
she of bending back and black
wings, if i am ever to be
as permanent, let it be here
in this northern field
where i have stopped
among fifty white stones, long & flat;
being here is less like surrender

fifty years will do this to a person looking
for signs, looking for any reason that having been
can be as lasting

* * * * *


we heal, simply, others,
like leaves resting next to a bare tree stripped
naked by seasons, naked like we all are
at birth

workmen took rest here, next
to this tree, a hundred years ago;
their sweat still lingers in the air.
Down-river the bridge they built
still stands. the same names carved
in its railings as in their granite headstones


we heal, simply, our children,
like some kind of morality play. We
put leaves, like tiny boats, into cold water,
watch in mystery as they float away
like so many emigrants


we heal, simply, ourselves,
and in the silence near our death, we hear
our own hearts beating
as quietly as falling leaves

~ Tim J Brennan is from southeastern Minnesota. His poetry has appeared in The Elegant Thorn Review, Shampoo, The Rose and the Thorn, Main Channel Voices, The Green Blade, and is forthcoming in River Walk Journal. He is frequent contributer here.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Flash Fiction: Lorena Smith


The first time I thought about rebellion was in a Sunday School Class. The teacher was telling us about John the Baptist and immediately my 8 year old imagination was captured by this figure. In my minds eye he was dressed in black leather, eating locusts (which I thought was a kind of bread), camping out in the desert and telling people to shape up or feel the wrath of God. He was a cooooool dude. Later after I heard that locusts were like grasshoppers and he was really wearing camel skin (furry and smelly) my interest waned a little bit. But my fascination with rebels continued. I was always drawn to them, in books and in cinema. I rejected James Dean (too wishy-washy - he didn’t even have a cause!), fell in love with all the boys of the Outsiders and longed for the day when I too could get a tattoo and piercing to prove my rebellion

High school of course was like the hot bed of rebellion. Everyone was rebelling. Piercing practically dripped from every lip, eyebrow and tongue. Tattoos flowered like a poppy field in bloom. The uniformity of our rebellion resulted in conformity like never before. I found myself annoyed and disgusted by this whole-hearted show of fitting in while trying to stick out. Where had all the rebels gone?

And then I met Maria. I literally bumped into her on a flight of stairs. I was running down them, she was walking slowly up them with a cane and a bag of groceries precariously balanced. I rounded a corner and my black leather jacket flew open and swept the bag of groceries straight out of her arms and onto the floor. I opened my eyes wide in horror and looked up at the kindly eyes looking back at me. Even with my not so imposing height at 5’2” she was much shorter than me and had to peer up. Her back was bent with osteoporosis and she wore very sensible shoes. Not my picture of a rebel at all. More a picture of my grandma. But those eyes. Full of sparkle and humor.

I helped her pick up her groceries and carry them to her apartment. When I got in there I saw row upon row of African keepsakes. Tall, carved statues in ebony of tall men and women with babies on their backs or with spears in their hands. Paintings of Lions, Elephants and Wildebeests. A huge leopard skin stretched on the wall. My mouth literally fell open. Her apartment smelt like spices and warm milk. There was a jungle of plants in her tiny living room. Crocuses and Hibiscus and Fikus plants.

She told me she’d spent most of her life in Tanzania working as a nurse in a remote jungle hospital. She said how her parents hadn’t wanted her to go, but the pull had been too strong. She had left. She had photos of the babies she’d delivered, of the people she’d helped. And all long before the time of international phone calls and e-mails. The fact that a tiny woman would venture out to this country where she had never been to serve people she had never known boggled the mind." But we were foolish you know” she smiled, “rebellious, wanting to live, to learn, to do something different.”

She poured me another cup of tea and I felt my tongue piercing clang ineffectively against the rim of the cup.

~ Lorena Smith appears in Elegant Thorn Review for the first time.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Poems: Kit Kennedy


I watch the sunflower grows menacing

Sunset frames plum blossoms

Storm tonight litter of petals

Walked through the other side of rain no fish caught

Just like a riddle bowl of lemons & a carafe

Stares down winter spring stares back in her glass

Smelled the fecund in a potted chive told me she loved me

* * * * *


you would still be
Before you were
in the womb
of ancestors
to danger.

the body
& holy
what it can

~ Kit Kennedy’s work appears in Animus, Bayou, Bombay Gin, Cezanne’s Carrot, The Comstock Review, Karamu, Mannequin Envy, Pearl, Poetry Super Highway, Runes, Saranac Review, Van Gogh’s Ear, and The Wild Goose Poetry Review. She hosts the monthly All Poets Welcome Reading Series in San Francisco and is a columnist (Conversations with...) for Betty’s List (

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Two Poems: Greg Braquet


Is it a defect in the eye,
or a misfired synapse in soul?

Darkness and dawn appear
as synonym ,
the sun and moon are identical twins,
black or blue sky, blend as one bruise.

Wind blown rain = squalling dust=
swirling snow = a makes
no difference sum.

My blood has coagulated as sand,
but feels the same as when it had
long, liquid legs.

I can now turn myself over and
over to measure time,
ridiculous and awkward
as oO, Oo , oO , Oo
     Oo   oO   Oo   oO

I speak silently to myself as
a mark against the void, but
the echo fades like dripping
spit from an observation desk.
Does it ever reach the bottom
as I have?

A sweet butterfly lands on my
tongue, its feet soured in a lemon tree;
I taste only the talc of web and again,
the blurring of differentials leads to a
threshold without form. Is this oblivion?

Then, a letter comes explaining
all the particulars of your exit,
the precise definitions of
of how love is lost, and how,
theoretically, gains can come
from such loss.

And now I start to remember;
the sun is the hot, shiny one.

* * * * *

And Thy Has Brought Me

My catacomb in progress flares,
again my quivering hand to scratch
the chronic scab, bone driven.

Layer after morbid layer
picked away, my neck to rubber
watching how the dead flesh flakes,

shedding by habit,
unveiling a raw ghost
not ready for life.

One day that salivating,
shroud black maw will
invert and swallow whole.

Till then, the ash between my
joints beckons other ash
and the dust on my tongue

thickens, becomes
more palatable.
An immediate presence

falls from my eyes,
always farther in the
direction of the night.

Out there in the unforeseeable
void, a nomenclature is forming
using all of my being for its

voice, and even with so
much of myself committed, I can
not bare to mouth the words.

~ Greg Braquet exists in New Orleans, but like most poets lives in a world of his own schmoosing. His poetry has appeared in such publications as The New Laurel Review, THEMA, Poems Niederngasse, The 2006 Rhysling Anthology, Red River Review, The Pedestal Magazine, Pierian Springs, Tryst, Side Reality, The Adagio Verse Quarterly, The Little Green Tricycle, The Junket, L'Intrigue, Branches Quarterly, Stylus Poetry Journal, Subtle Tea, The Exquisite Corpse, Slow Trains, Mannequin Envy, Zygote In My Coffee and The Melic Review.