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     love letters to the world
     by Meia Geddes
     Poetose Press

Meia Geddes' Love Letters to the World is a collection of prose poems presented as letters. The six sections in the book follow a progression of seeking and knowing.

Geddes' poems are lyrical, rhythmic, and gentle whether the subject is love, adoption, or a meditation on a box of little Chinese clothes discovered in a closet. Intriguing images are woven together. We traverse beak-thorn-needle to "a body...safer out of light". When a man holds her arm one time and flies across the street the next, she contemplates her relationship to her "dear world". Metaphors raise new questions: toes in the tub, cashews as erotica, poets as almonds.

Throughout the diversity of subject and perception, there is grace in Geddes' voice as she leads us on a journey. Who is the dear world with whom she corresponds? The reader can look between the words to find their resolution.
~ Review by Richard Fox

     What We Know So Far
     by Robert Scotellaro
     Blue Light Press

My roommate was playing the accordion, leaning against the fridge. I’d broken up with Fran, was a bit pulpy and wanted to talk. When I told him how shitty I was feeling he squeezed off a polka, stamping his foot, saying what uplifting music it was. Told me to quit playing “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” in my head. I wished he was an older sister.
~ “Different/The Same”

From Robert Scotellaro comes another delicious collection; like a box of chocolates where every single one is your favorite, you keep going back for more, you simply can’t stop. Everything about these bite-sized morsels zings with raw human dynamics – from the foiled attempts of mother and daughter to communicate in “Radio Sunglasses” and the ex-traveling circus ring master in “Circle of Light” who likes to recite James Joyce with a mouth full of pebbles (to keep himself linguistically fit), to a triumphant kick in the balls, a choking father, and the melancholy of the parrot in “Pretty Boy,” this collection is Scotellaro’s best yet. He is what micro fiction is all about... and no one does it better!

     Inner Sky
       Lori Desrosiers
       Glass Lyre Press, 2015

Skin and bones and emotions are fragile, but the spirit is strong, and Lori Desrosiers' new book, Inner Sky, is a testament to this. With unflinching honesty, she describes her addiction to an abusive man, her fear of making him angry, and the shame of her inability to stop his cruelty to her children. The memories go deep, hit hard, and hurt bad in this powerful collection. But the trip to self empowerment is truly divine, and so is Desrosiers’ slender, elegant writing as she treats a painful subject with grace and style.

     A Review of Doug Holder’s
     Portrait of an Artist as a Young Poseur
     by Teisha Dawn Twomey

Doug Holder’s Portrait of an Artist as a Young Poseur is an intimate and compelling collection that offers its reader an insightful and accessible look into the history of Holders past. Set in Boston, Massachusetts and spanning the years 1974 to 1983, the compilation opens on the heels of the protagonist’s graduation from college, and the series of introspective verses that present snapshots of the inspirations, influences, and philosophies, which are seminal to the foundation of the prolific poet’s work today. The reader is introduced to a young man scribbling at his desk in a dilapidated brownstone, a member of the wannabe counterculture, the destitute and indigent, the drunks, rodents and roaches, those holed up in old bookstores, the poet recaptures an identifying stream of consciousness. This portrait exemplifies many of the practices and stereotypes of the emblematic Beat generation but it also implicates the modern-day reader and writer, broaching subject material that is universal in nature. My favorite Robert Graves poem , “To Juan at the Winter Solstice,” begins: There is only one story and one story only.

The universal story Graves implies here is that “of the grand narrative”, “the principle of the sublime,” which begins and ends with the same principles Holder upholds throughout his collection. The ideologies expressed revolve around a purpose; the achievement of true freedom through transformation; the liberation of self (as well as mankind) from the constraining control of civilization. This ethos and aspiration, inherently, expresses optimism about mankind and our nature. This mission’s values were expressed by the Beat Generation, later by the Hippies, and are still expressed in modern times by less well-defined counterculture groups.

Holder’s collection demonstrates, with it’s collective implications, a neo-romantic, transcendent spirit, with the ability to tell a universal story, and in doing so to offer his reader a doorway into a shared consciousness, a connectedness where one is enabled to ascribe personal meaning to Holder’s poems. His works accessibility opens up additional possibilities/appeal, as well as the likelihood that Holder’s collection may lend itself to extended interpretation (i.e. the propensity to give rise to further adaptations, new meaning, and the reader’s ability to build upon a preceding reading’s analysis). The circumstances of this prolific writer’s emergence and development as a poet are rooted in a discernible sense of self-awareness, a testimony to his literary progress and evolution.

The abilities Holder exhibits, to impart his reader with the transformational and influential propagative sources of insight inspiration, while also leaving room for readers to further extend upon the interpretations of his work, are hard-won efforts. So too is Holder’s ability to jump back in forth in time, seamlessly accomplishing the leap of narrative, so effortlessly that he makes such tasks (only the most skillful of literary veterans are capable of achieving) look effortless. This author’s process and expertly handled craft give rise to a collection, which catches and keeps it’s reader on tenterhooks, thirty or forty years in the past with a unique foresight to be capable of simultaneously looking back while inhabiting the present, as if the reader is sublimely suspended in animation, reading the only one story (and the one and only story) that’s ever mattered to anyone (as well as everyone).

Purchase Portrait of an Artist as a Young Poseur
Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene
Doug Holder CV
Ibbetson Street Press
Ibbetson Street Online Bookstore
Poet to Poet/Writer to Writer
Doug Holder's Column in The Somerville Times ( Online and Print)

     Inner Sky
       Lori Desrosiers
       Glass Lyre Press, 2015

Skin and bones and emotions are fragile, but the spirit is strong, and Lori Desrosiers' new book, Inner Sky, is a testament to this. With unflinching honesty, she describes her addiction to an abusive man, her fear of making him angry, and the shame of her inability to stop his cruelty to her children. The memories go deep, hit hard, and hurt bad in this powerful collection. But the trip to self empowerment is truly divine, and so is Desrosiers’ slender, elegant writing as she treats a painful subject with grace and style.

     Flash Fiction
      Very Short Stories From
      Around the World

       Editors James Thomas, Robert
       Shapard & Christopher Merrill
       W.W. Norton and Company,

       Review by Nancy Stohlman

       Buy it on Amazon

Your Passport to the World of Flash Fiction

I must confess that I’m already a big fan of the flash anthologies of James Thomas and Robert Shapard, aka the “Godfathers of Flash”, so receiving my copy of Flash Fiction International in the mail a few weeks ago was a little bit like a child anticipating a beloved sequel. For many years I’ve been reading and rereading their collections—carefully chosen smorgasbords of perfect flash representations—firstly for pleasure but also as a teaching tool and flash fiction textbook.

Thomas and Shapard are joined by University of Iowa’s International Writing Program director Christopher Merrill in their newest collection, which zooms out to offer the reader a world panorama. The writers and stories included come from diverse corners of the globe, and the Table of Contents reads like a meeting of the United Nations—writers and stories from Bangladesh to Chile to Poland to Zimbabwe to Australia to the United States and everywhere in between.

I read familiar names, favorite names, and a whole lot of new names, which is very exciting. As with any anthology, I have a superstition about starting at the beginning and reading to the end, always noticing the editors’ orchestration: the subtleties, the juxtapositions, the potent gaps left in between. This collection begins with Israeli writer Etgar Keret’s, “The Story, Victorious”, which declares: “This story is the best story in the book!” I trust the editors as they guide us through these 86 thrilling stops around the world, including Natalie Diaz’s “The Gospel of Guy No-Horse”; Palestinian writer Randa Jarrar’s “A Sailor”; U.S. Stuart Dybek’s “Bruise”; “The Snake” by Eric Rugara from Kenya; Afghanistan’s “The Tiger” by Mohibullah Zegham; “The Five New Sons” by Syrian writer Zakaria Tamer; “The Vending Machine at the End of the World” by Australian writer Josephine Rowe; “The Past” from Colombian Juan Carlos Botero; Mexico’s “Volcanic Fireflies” by Monica Lavin; “Skull of a Sheep” by Irish writer James Claffey; and I’m delighted to see some of my favorites from past anthologies including “Consuming the View” by Italian Luigi Malerba (appearing in the anthology Flash Fiction Forward) as well as “Funhouse” by Robert Scotellaro, a story that first appeared in a Fast Forward anthology I helped to produce in 2011.

And so many more favorites—many of them appearing here in translation.

One of the revelations I have as I engage with this collection is the uniqueness and distinction of culture and cultural interests and the universality of storytelling that crosses culture. Some stories, such as “Ronggeng” by Malaysian Yin Ee Kiong, allow an anthropologists eye into what feels like a very foreign mythology; others, like “Without A Net” by Argentinean Ana Maria Shua, feel as if they could have come from right next door. Cultural styles and themes certainly bleed through the stories regardless: the political themes in the Arab stories, the hints of magical realism in the Latin stories, the witty American narrators. But there is plenty of crossover—one of my favorites is Augusto Monterroso’s “Finished Symphony,” which has its Guatemalan narrator finding the ending to the unfinished symphony of German composer Schubert.

I also appreciate how the editors chose to “grandfather in” stories from canon writers that were created before flash was called flash. From W. Somerset Maugham’s, “Appointment in Samarra” to Franz Kafka’s “An Imperial Message” to Petronius and a tale from Ancient Rome, “The Young Widow”, these writers were embracing the artistic miniature long before we had a neat term for it. With their inclusion, the editors remind us of our flash heritage, remind us that we are part of a much bigger legacy that has been emerging in literature for much longer than 20 years.

Which, for me, negates the argument that flash is just a product of modern (read: lazy) readership: “those lazy kids-poor schooling-video games-corporate publishing” and the apocalyptic doomsday for literature as we know it. I believe too many writers and readers have accepted flash fiction as the clever gimmick to “make the people read again”, a sort of concession or grab for literary attention in an over stimulated world. I disagree. I believe that flash fiction is the natural evolution of storytelling, long overdue, that appreciates the higher intelligence of its reader. Flash fiction asks the reader to co-create the story. Here, hold this thread the flash writer says to the reader. Here, jump this gap. Here, fill in this blank. Flash fiction implicates the reader into the story, forces the reader to participate in its fruition. I believe it is a literary movement that is changing the way we all tell stories.

But don’t take my word for it: Check out the final section of Flash Fiction International, a brilliant inclusion the editors call “Flash Theory” (which is again a great tool for professors), full of quotes from Hemingway to Nietzsche to Joyce Carol Oates on the theory of precision and brevity in writing including one of my favorites by Elmore Leonard: “I try to leave out the parts that people skip.”

I guarantee there will be no skipping as you read Flash Fiction International. Let these stories be your passport to the world, and hats off to the editors for their continued vision and devotion to the form.

     breakable things
       Loren Kleinman
       Winter Goose Pubishing, 2015

       I wish I was someone else
       the moon
       and bloodless
       more loveable and perfect
       less breakable

       ~ “He Breaks Me Like a Glass Plate”

Yearning and cynicism collide with impossible grace in this new collection of poetry by Loren Kleinman. We are all broken—or breaking—in some way; molested as a child, cheated upon, lost a beloved pet, or had our heart shattered by a lover we knew was wrong for us but we couldn’t help ourselves. Pain breaks the man, says Kleinman, and Pain breaks the woman. But breaks have a Divinity all their own, reminding us that life is an exhilarating, exhausting process of hurting... and healing. Kleinman’s writing is exquisite beyond belief—elegant in its sorrow, bitchiness, and relentless insight. This is a truly great book.

     Haiku and Senryu
       Charlotte Digregorio
       Artful Communicator's Press 2015

       Without preaching conservation, good haiku inspires us to
       be stewards of the beauty around us. A good haiku poet
       notices nature’s beauty even in a weed or fallen leaves,
       as a Buddhist would. Don’t dismiss as trivial the ordinary
       things in your surroundings that others miss. There is
       undiscovered beauty to be found in common things.

~ “Haiku is All Around You”

If a book about haiku inspires the reader to create haiku, then Charlotte Digregorio’s Haiku and Senryu guide has done its job bountifully. I was no more than 5 pages in (during which time I learned what a “senryu” is and the proper pronunciation of the word “haiku”) before I reached for a pen and a nearby envelope and quickly wrote three – all of which met with the approval of my poetry group a few days later. Digregorio calls this “A Simple Guide for All” and she isn’t kidding. Her basic instruction simplifies the process of writing haiku without sacrificing the beauty and the pleasure that are essential. The examples of well-known haikuists shimmer with perfection, and she explains why each succeeds. And as you might expect, hers are terrific, too! Check out:

drifting snow...
tomatoes on the sill
ripen for salsa

Or this delightful senryu:
the clerk
“next window”

Of course Digregorio, who runs a daily blog charlottedigregorio.wordpress.com talks about the history and culture of haiku—but she also gives tips for teaching others. If you are interested in pursuing this lovely, subtle art form, THIS is the guide you need.

     The Vixen Scream and other Bible Stories
       Nancy Stohlman
       Pure Slush Books 2014

       How much are you getting paid to do this, he asks, a
       crease in his forehead.

       Enough to pay off my loans, I said as he begins to tattoo
       the Coca-Colo logo across my face.

       ~ “Indentured”

These delectible shorts from Nancy Stohlman are sassy, sophisticated, sometimes sweetly naive, and always brilliantly ironic. From the woman who hugs inmates on death row and the sexy homunculus, to the pawned boyfriend, the missing penis, and the mermaid who is no longer a mermaid, we are scooped up and taken to the craziest, zaniest, most unimaginably strange places; and yet in each place you find human-ness... tender vulnerability, the need to please, or at least understand.

       Do you feel old now? she asked.
       I shrugged. Do you feel young?
       We shared a soda as the Midwest rolled by.

       ~ “I Met My 20-Year Old Self in the Lounge Car of the Amtrak”

And then, of course, there is the fox... seductive, mysterious... the vulpes vulpes marking its territory with urine, its anal glands smelling of violets. Who can resist? Not you, if you read even one of the stories in this absolutely top-notch collection.

     Longshot & Ghazal
       Dennis Mahagin
       Mojave River Press


Dennis Mahagin’s collection of poems Longshot & Ghazal brings its reader to the cliff edge of the human race’s quest to achieve love, contentment and truth. These are the elements that solidify a relationship between a man and a woman. The poems settings are unique: Las Vegas, Austin, and support groups for the chemically afflicted.

In “Why The Snow Geese Talk To Each Other Before The Breeze Shoots Back” Mahagin mentions seeing an old man who resembles Robert Frost in a drugstore. The poet writes: “I do believe Robert Frost longed to brain me with his cane.” And, why not? Mahagin breathes life into his words, including nature; whereas Frost is boring.

In the poem “Tumbleweed Suite” the tumbleweeds are referenced as “/ some humans I’ve known, / none without / substance— / only blown …/

Most might nod with understanding of his statement.

Suspicion, Shame and Doubt are allegorical characters featured in “Longshot’s Allegorical Rag.” This profiles a person taking self-inventory and the struggle to improve while dealing with these three learned defects.

A journey to an A.A. meeting is a poem titled “Doc Williams’ 12 Step Blues for Longshot”celebrating the achievement of any amount of sobriety from a chemical, gratifying for the celebrant and those attending the meeting. No one in the city of Paterson or any city cares, the poet intones. It is the individual’s struggle the poet reminds us.

“Bar Code @ Walgreen’s” and “Novena Por Roulette” are reminders of George Orwell’s classic “1984.”

Mahagin writes in “Bar code: / are so many shark fin / slits of shadow light, / bandoliers of the Tonight Show / curtain closing / down on TV dinner / test pattern… /

And in the latter poem Novena…:“…but I have seen men fall / to pieces, / and put it all / on Red.” We are surrounded by controlling technology that we respond to and yet resent; another irony added to the human condition.

“Longshot Down Undah” involves Longshot meeting a woman at N.A. and the two of them going for coffee afterward. He insists on Denny’s, not IHOP. His reasons are hidden. As they settle in at Denny’s, she tells him about a cruise ship journey and meeting a man with a phony Australian accent calling him “sad killer of the sea cruise.” And that it became more of a trap than a trip. She touches Longshot’s trembling hand as he confesses he is lonely. In the poem the woman says to him: “you never told me what…you got against I HOP.” A literary painting. Two people finding each other and struggling to reach one to the other.

These few references to Mahagin’s Longshot & Ghazal illustrate the story within his poetry. We each desire love and commitment. We want contentment. We search for truth. We are stymied by what surrounds us in our world, and Mahagin reminds us we are part of a living earth. We are part of its life and when we venture inside ourselves for answers, we find the enhanced beauty of the outside world. We also must learn to accept the interruption of technology as a minor disruption of life.
~ Thomas Fegan

     A Shed for Wood
       Daniel Thomas Moran
       Salmon Poetry, 2014

       Some of my friends
       seem to be wearing out.
       Their pink becoming gray.
       Their tightness loosened.
       Some will be told, today.

       ~ "Some of My Friends"

From the turtles hatching in the Galapagos to a lamentable encounter with Patti Smith in the Hamptons and a bug perishing in his drink, Daniel Thomas Moran sees it all through a master poet's eyes: the poignancy, the tenderness, the comical, and the just plain absurd. To bear witness to these moments is to experience the Divinity and the irony that is life.

And it all transpires in
twenty-seven minutes, more or less.
The previously prepared dish
emerging as a Queen from her carriage
All delivered to a platter like
the virgin on her wedding night.

~"Watching People Cook on TV"

But when Moran wants to deliver a punch to your guts, he succeeds. In Newtown he asks,"Who among us has words / to explain the slaughter / of the babies of strangers? / Who are these people / we claim not to know / but us?" and indeed, it's all about us humans being humans. How lucky we are to have poets like Moran to remind us to look around and be enchanted. What a beautiful book this is!

     What Happened Here
       by Bonnie ZoBell
       Press 53, Publishers

       Rose, so old she has to be eighty-seven, must have started        in her tan Denny’s uniform before any of them were born.        Heather can attest to the last six years, anyway, since that’s        when she turned sixteen and got her license and started        driving over for coffee to get out of the house. She can        hardly stand to look at Rose, whose life seems so squelched        that she cares more about the number of Splenda packets        people use than anything else. Heather imagines her going        home to a studio apartment above a bar, where a neon light        flashes blue into her living room and the closet contains        nothing but Denny’s uniforms.

What Happened Here is a collection of stories about a group of neighbors united by a deadly accident: 30 years ago two planes collided above their street and then crashed into their neighborhood at 300 miles per hour. “Twenty-two homes gone in a flash. Passengers and people, in their homes and on the street, dead.” Against this macabre setting in the days leading up to a block party to commemorate the anniversary, author Bonnie ZoBell introduces her cast of characters. Each story is different—some humorous, some not so much—but each story could be our own; relationship issues, failed marriages, disastrous childhood memories, depression and terminal illnesses. But don’t look for clichés here, because under ZoBell’s skillful hand the sorrow of each drama is beautiful and unique… and the joy–sacred.

Of course beneath the surface, something deeper is going on, as ZoBell urges readers to ask, How do you deal with the ghosts? Not the ghosts of those who died in the collision, but the ones in your head, who keep the past present. The title could be the question, “What happened here?” in other words, what caused this, what brought us to these circumstances? Not since John Updike has a writer treated with such tenderness the raw vulnerability of what it means to be human.

Check out more reviews of What Happened Here at http://bonniezobell.com.


     Twenty-Four Hours Anonymous
     Chapbook Project
       Twenty-Four Hours, publisher
       Edited by Josh Medsker

     "Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give      him a mask, and he will tell you the truth." ~ Oscar Wilde


"Get paid for depositing huge sums of money into your bank account, have solar panels installed for free, buy Viagra without a prescription, and impress your gal with your rock hard penis!"

Part One of the Twenty-Four Hours Anonymous Chapbook Project demonstrates the hilarious world online; and yet, is it really funny, or are there some incredibly creepy people out there? Part Two explores that big world outside the internet with beautiful poems of travel... the jazz, the flashing lights, the loneliness: It seems that the city / is not only alive, but / is making a concerted effort / to keep me uncomfortable.

Part Three completes the full circle of this ambitious project by focusing on the world now and the possible future, rounding everything off with an edgy, clever dialogue between a state trooper and a woman with a Jesus fish sticker on her car. This fascinating, and insightful project was created by poets and authors who willingly remain anonymous, and speaks of society and the planet we share.

     The Collector of Tears
       by Michael C. Keith
       Publisher: Underground Voices (March 21, 2014)


Michael C. Keith's ferocious imagination has been in overdrive, as usual, and the result is his latest book, The Collector of Tears. From the sassy, stoned babysitter to the stain-faced Doppelganger (and all the zombies, murder plots and suicidal raccoons in between) these 37 stories juxtapose traditional themes of good vs. evil with existential demonstrations that sometimes life is just plain random. A master of character, dialogue and stage setting, Keith hooks readers with openers like, "It was a momentary lapse in judgment—a split second impulse with unfortunate consequences—that impelled Connor Hickman to breathe his germs into his wife’s open mouth" and "'Hey, I ate a freaking jar of Pickled Snake Head Fish washed down by African Pee Cola, so you can do this,' declared Howie Clarkson" and each story is like being the passenger in a speeding car driven by a brilliant mad man; an elegant ride, but you don't know where he's taking you!

     All sins forgiven—Poems for my parents
     by Charles Coe
     Leapfrog Press

     Who hands out the happy endings?
     Who, late one night, stood outside
     my parents’ home, gazed a moment at some mark scribbled
     on the door, then just turned to walk away,
     the sound of footsteps fading on the empty street?

     ~ “A Poem for Happy Endings”

With breathtaking elegance, Charles Coe shares his experiences in role reversal, from the Christmas sugar-crazed little boy who has to be sedated with spiked nog before he’ll climb into the station wagon to the grown man urgently explaining to his elderly father why refinancing the house is not a good idea. His memories are of contentment and resentment both; tender, candid, and most of all, a reminder that life is short. Of his mother, he admits,

If I could travel back in time I would listen gladly
for as long as she wanted to talk. I would say
“I couldn’t agree more” and “Interesting” and
“Isn’t that something” in response to the never-ending,
seamless narrative of gossip, unsolicited advice,
soap opera plot lines, detailed accounts of shopping
trips and unexpurgated transcripts of conversations
with people I had never met.

Coe’s father, “a brown giant whose footsteps shook the earth,” was a cook, a lover of fishing trips, a handy man, and a lover of sports until age and illness took over, leaving Coe to wonder “who replaced him with the ghost who sat alone for hours on the back porch, staring into the dark?” The love is here, but so is the sorrow. Have tissues ready—these poems will break your heart over and over.

     Firewater & Pixie Dust
     Story by Karen Lillis and Art by Nate McDonough
     (Words Like Kudzu Press)

     eyescorpion@gmail.com and Etsy.com to order

     Review by Josh Medsker

Karen Lillis’s short story Firewater and Pixie Dust is the tale of an ill-fated love affair, told after the fact. It comes right to the point in the opening sentence. The narrator says:

If she thought about it, the whole affair with David had started in Sophie’s Bar on a sweltering July night and died somewhere on the way to the no-name pub on the first evening that tasted of Fall.

The story rambles pleasurably as we follow the narrator and David from lower Manhattan, to the subway, and through Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to this bar and that… running into all manner of NYC folk. A Bushwick hipster dressed like a Latin American left-wing guerilla (which may or may not be a Halloween costume), a woman on the subway wearing a Bjork-like swan dress, and another pop culture reference and another… It’s to Lillis’s credit that with all of the pop culture referencing, that this story moves along so well. She deftly juggles humorous moments and sly emotional insights. I will not give away the ending, but I will say that the final paragraph ties the whole story together masterfully. The story has a current of sadness running through it, and the end just drives that home. I cannot recommend this enough. The drawings by Nate McDonough were very R. Crumb-esque, compelling, and added a lot to the reading experience.

     Bridal Veil Falls
     by Carol Alexander (Flutter Press)
     Review by Josh Medsker

       The day room is meet for prayer,
       silver cup and host arranged
       on the altar when the soup,
       ham and bean, was spooned and spilled,
       where the trembling hands and souls
       proclaim ‘this is my body’,
       consecrated with the years
       of toil, tear, and midnight feeds.
       ~ "Sacrament"

The wonderful Bridal Veil Falls comes to us from New York City poet Carol Alexander, whose work is measured, and slow. I thoroughly enjoyed reading and re-reading her descriptions of nature and her literary allusions. These poems contain little jewels of extended metaphors that latch onto you with the first line and work you over six different ways, and she is a master of the elongated line, as can be seen in one of my favorite poems in the book, "Debts”:

squatters take on lordly names, daub the damp cave walls.
They leave strange murals with the ashes of their fires:
great horned bison, leaping deer, crosshatched reckoning of debts.

If you love well-crafted poetry, I am happy to recommend Carol Alexander without hesitation.

     Time Bomb
     by Richard H. Fox
     Kittacuck Press

       after the explosion
       petty fears are annulled
       tomorrows will follow
                     or not

      ~ "Time Bomb"

It's official—I need a phrase that goes beyond "brilliant genius" to describe Richard Fox and Time Bomb, his new collection of poetry. From a letter John Lennon sends to his son Sean's teacher explaining why he'll be out that day, to hippies, beats, Romeo & Juliet at Auschwitz, a lover named Madeleine, and Mrs. Noah's Bitch, this book is all over the place! Achingly beautiful, mercilessly evocative and compelling, these poems resonate with anyone has had to deal with sorrow and fear. The stakes couldn't be higher as we journey with him through his battle with cancer, so elegantly described in stark, heart rendering detail that you simply can't stop reading. With grace, courage, and humor, Time Bomb will move you, upset you, frighten you and inspire you. One of the year's best. By far.

     Eating Grief at 3 A.M.
     by Doug Holder
     Muddy River Books

       Sometimes you must follow
       The rat's path
       The vagrant,
      The scrawled invective of the graffiti
      The flow of some muddy, godforsaken creek
      Before you can truly

      ~ "Abandoned Warehouses"

When you open a volume of poetry and the first one is dedicated to Allen Ginsberg, man, you know you've stumbled onto something great. That's why it should come as no surprise that Eating Grief at 3 A.M. by Doug Holder is one of those rare collections with every poem as delicious as the stack of syrup-saturated pancakes you used to tuck into at Bickford's in the wee hours of the morning. (You were just a kid—in your twenties—and didn't get indigestion, and the coffee didn't keep you awake all night or make you get up ten times to pee.) On the menu are poems that nail the groove of those days, from admitting to ourselves that we wanted just a little to kill the brutally well-meaning father in Father Knows Best, and the cat who abruptly interrupts a languid existence to venture out to the street (and gets run over) to a bloody mugging in Times Square, a final showing of Rocky Horror, and the lament of a stockbroker chained to his office in a high rise. I had to laugh at Holder's frank chagrin at the "cloying cheap chirp" of an early morning songbird (secretly, I share his helpless rage.) The writing, of course, is breathtaking; stylish and elegant, like the cook himself, but with the unexpected bite of an otherwise polite terrier. But poets beware! You will be jealous! Possibly suicidal! Remember how Beach Boy Brian Wilson was partway through what he envisioned would be the greatest rock album of all time when he heard Sgt. Pepper? He ditched Smile and went into seclusion for about a decade. Reading Eating Grief at 3 A.M. is kind of like that. So yeah, Mr. Holder, we sort of want to kill you just a little, too.

     The Philosopher’s Daughter
     by Lori Desrosiers
     Salmon Poetry, 2013

       When someone on high waves
       his or her baton, is that that?
       is your symphony over,
       your song sung, are you done, finis, kaput,
       even if by some trick of Karma
       you missed the flight that crashed?

       ~ "Conducting In Thin Air"

Hippie child of divorced parents, Lori Desrosiers recounts her coming of age in this stunning array of micro-journeys. Stylish and sparse, but powerful in the tradition of the Beat poets, she brings to life a little girl growing up in an atmosphere of music, philosophy, and parents arguing; a little girl who loves and admires both her elegant mother and her brilliant father as she practices her violin, swims a mile for the Red Cross training, grows breasts, and giggles with her girlfriend that they let boys touch them everywhere “but there/vaginas safely tucked under layers of Carters, and slips.” Not all the memories are sweet, however, as she looks at a photo of herself as a bride and wishes she could have told herself to run, and it’s with painful clarity she recalls her father’s death to brain cancer. And what could be more horrendous than the time she accidentally left her four-year old at the pizza place?

       There were eight of us,
       five children, three adults
       in two vehicles and we each
       thought you were with
       the other one; but nevertheless

       how could I have done this—
       gotten all the way home before
       noticing you were missing?
       I rushed back across town

       to find you, tearful, surrounded
       by the waitresses,
       trying to get you to eat some pizza,
       but at four years old your eyes told me
       you understood very well what had happened.

       ~ “Still haven’t forgiven myself for leaving you at the pizza place”

This beautiful make-other-poets-jealous collection is exhilarating; tender, insightful, and unafraid.

     Lowlifes, Fast Times & Occasionally Love
     by Lawrence Gladeview
     erbacce-press, UK

       I’m a proctologist
       reggie said
       it would
       send her walking
       & we could
       get back to our beer
       he wrong.

Delivered by a lesser poet these vignettes would be amusing; but in the deftly aloof hands of Gladeview, they excel in irony, pacing, imagery, and dammit, likeability. From the defiant son in law who has unwisely decided to serve cider not eggnog, to the tough talking badass whose stance against a mugger makes his girlfriend laugh, these rapid-fire poems are clever without mercy. The sparse language strikes just the right tone for an affable wisecracking character navigating his way through the fast times of young adulthood; times, he will soon discover, that go by faster than he can ever imagine.

     Catastrophe Theory
     by Susan Yount
       Hyacinth Girl Press

       Hurt was hanging like an ambush,
       like an asshole just waiting
       to break up the night

       ~ Elementary Catastrophe

Stark, frank, and haunting, Catastrophe Theory excels as a collection of unapologetic vignettes featuring a narrative in search of her identity/power. Walking the path so many of us do, tethered to a man who doesn’t listen, doesn’t understand, or doesn’t care, poet Susan Yount demonstrates how the mathematics behind Catastrophe Theory—the study of abrupt changes in behavior—can be compared to human dynamics. Several of the poems incorporate equations where a = “An insect on a white wall should I kill it too late” and v = “restless vagina syndrome.” Other poems describe the harrowing adventures of being fragile, of trusting. In “I Worked for a Boss who Wanted Sex,” Yount describes various positions of subservience to icky bosses who thought she was smart, hated her, paid her to pose, liked to watch her work, and concludes with the boss who took her to lunch as a reward:

I thought. I noticed. I twisted my hair.
I drank cocktails, felt smart, could use tape.
I could pose. I had benefits. I gained pounds.
I talked business. I priced services. I had manicures.
I wore black shoes.

Is she happy? Is this what she wants? We’re not sure. What matters is that she is finally in charge. Yount’s skill and finesse and courage is on every page. She is a master and this book is a treasure.

     With Apologies to Mick Jagger,
    Other Gods and All Women

     by Jane Rosenberg LaForge
       Aldrich Press

We remember not with our anatomy,
but with our impulses; A precious
curtsy, the last cigarette, the grind
of ashes into wine and sand.

~ “Metaphor/Moth”

With a title like that, you expect sexy, steamy sass. At least I did—I’ve been a fan of Jane Rosenberg LaForge for a few years, and know her to be a mistress of imagery, insight and beautiful mindfulness. But I wasn’t prepared for this melancholy LaForge, this voice of sorrow, of bittersweet looking back. From poignant memories of her parents, to watching her sister die, LaForge paints a breathtaking picture of life’s Entirety with scenes that swing from a hygiene-challenged lover to a slumber party to her own profile on Facebook. Uh huh, it’s all here, and no, it’s not all pretty. But for me, the final powerful line says it all: “Where there is not a broken heart / but a muscle rendered blunt / into a numb instrument / there is a daughter.” With Apologies is an explosion of emotions, both grisly and exquisite.

Jane Rosenberg LaForge lives in New York City with her husband and daughter. She is the author of two chapbooks, After Voices (Burning River Press) and Half Life (Big Table Publishing.) Her short fiction and critical and personal essays have appeared online and in print.

     Interior Life
     by Katharyn Grant
       Monkey Puzzle Press

       There is nothing sadder than
       an idealistic young artist
       who agrees to sell his soul
       in exchange for a reliable position
       $400 a week
       and some benefits

       ~ “The Understudy”

With a deft poet’s hand, Grant conjures up images, characters, conflict, and powerful—often painful—epiphanies with a minimum of words. Lushly illustrated with her own paintings and photographs, Interior Life is an adventure for the eyes and a journey for the spirit. “With each new thought,” Grant writes, “I am multiplying exponentially, selves destined now to wander, air born, noiseless, but for the sound of wings beating against air. Perhaps this is what is meant by karma.” We think she’s on to something!

His eyes held a peculiar light
a familiarity
and yet so unknown

I wanted to see him everywhere

So I carried his face around
in my mind
a glowing embryo
until it gestated to term
and I gave birth to him

~ “Love I”

     With Apologies to Mick Jagger,
    Other Gods and All Women

     by Jane Rosenberg LaForge
       Aldrich Press

We remember not with our anatomy,
but with our impulses; A precious
curtsy, the last cigarette, the grind
of ashes into wine and sand.

~ “Metaphor/Moth”

With a title like that, you expect sexy, steamy sass. At least I did—I’ve been a fan of Jane Rosenberg LaForge for a few years, and know her to be a mistress of imagery, insight and beautiful mindfulness. But I wasn’t prepared for this melancholy LaForge, this voice of sorrow, of bittersweet looking back. From poignant memories of her parents, to watching her sister die, LaForge paints a breathtaking picture of life’s Entirety with scenes that swing from a hygiene-challenged lover to a slumber party to her own profile on Facebook. Uh huh, it’s all here, and no, it’s not all pretty. But for me, the final powerful line says it all: “Where there is not a broken heart / but a muscle rendered blunt / into a numb instrument / there is a daughter.” With Apologies is an explosion of emotions, both grisly and exquisite.

Jane Rosenberg LaForge lives in New York City with her husband and daughter. She is the author of two chapbooks, After Voices (Burning River Press) and Half Life (Big Table Publishing.) Her short fiction and critical and personal essays have appeared online and in print.

     Amytis Leaves Her Garden
     by Karen Kelsay
      White Violet Press

     You always stopped for no apparent reason,
     whenever we walked into town—it drove
     me crazy. Every slightest change in season
     you'd find a little coppice in the grove,
     or see a beetle laboring across
     a fallen leaf. I had to break my pace,
     transform into a stone that gathered moss.
     I couldn't keep annoyance off my face.
     And then my knee decided I should learn
     to stroll with leisure, letting pain be teacher.
     I spotted lilies, pale asparagus fern,
     looked up to see the pear tree's every feature.
     A faster stride? It almost seems unholy.
     How glad I am you still like walking slowly.

                                                                               ~ “Gathering Moss”

In this pop culture world of free verse, iPods and grit, is there a place for formal rhyming poetry? Three days ago I would have said No. But then I read Amytis Leaves Her Garden by Karen Kelsay, and my perception of formal poetry was flipped over, like an unremarkable egg transformed into a magical omelet! No tedious descriptions here, as I feared, but vibrant, colorful characters engaged in very real life—from the disillusioned lover in “A Beating Wing” and teasing “A Proper Man” with a silken thigh, to the heartache of watching parents age, Amytis is funny, sad, and encompassing of all the powerful beauty in each day through the eyes of this exceptionally gifted poet.

The Tortoise and the Hare

It's difficult to figure who'll go first;
mom, with her heart attack, pinched nerve and hip
that wakes her in the night—the chemo drip
still in her veins, or dad, his mass submersed

in slothfulness, who might conceivably
sit in his chair and sink into a coma,
unnoticed, till the dinnertime aroma
would cease to wake him (unbelievably).

My mother swims ten laps a day, hell-bound
to ride her bike at eighty-five. She walks
and chatters constantly. Father seldom talks,
embellishes dessert with cream. The ground

moans beneath his widening girth. My mom
is trim and neat, her sewing room's in order;
dad's office looks like he's a first class hoarder.
The winning post waits like an atom bomb,

or unseen trophy in the 4th dimension.
My father sitting on the couch, no stress,
and mother cooking in her Sunday dress.
I watch the finish line with apprehension.

     From a Distance, Dancing
     by Carol Gilbertson
     Finishing Line Press, 2011

     And large-eared deer lift their silhouettes
     against the sky's last bloom
     as the dark earth reaches up
     to nudge the crescent moon
     into its dim position.

     ~ “Night Rising”

Carol Gilbertson is one of those poets whose writing is so gorgeous that even though you plan to come up with a way to say how wonderful it is you wind up quoting her. From the "stun of colors" of an early June day to "the certainty of Midwest wives who chose a marker for both, her date still blank after the dash," you find yourself marveling at Gilbertson’s appreciation of the lyrical world all around. But her eye detects and delights in irony, too, as she stands before the judge wishing she had the right not to serve on jury duty, or in the rueful ponderings in "Lapse"—a shoe raised to the foot before the sock is on / the alarm shut off before bed / jam put away before the toast is done. This collection is a powerful performance and exactly what poetry is meant to be. Dancing, indeed!

     Feel and Beat Again
     by Jim Davis

     Reason maintains many things, though not
     the rings left on the Oakwood table,
     the torn labels from bottles of India brew.
     I got fat. She was sad
     to be falling out of love with me.
     I raised my hand into the air.
     Walking through Chicago winter, you can
     only see your breath if you stop moving.
     A taxi slowed to see if I was fare.
     And that’s pretty much the whole story.

     “The Winter I Drank Mostly Pale Ale”

Down and out doesn’t even begin to cover it, but the good news is, Jim Davis doesn’t want you feeling sorry for him in Feel and Beat Again, his new limited-edition collection of poetry. Sure, he’s walked off a wine buzz too soon, he’s broke, he’s using a bundled-up sweatshirt for a pillow, and the bruised walls are peeling. But all he wants, really, is to take you for a road trip past all the gritty, raw scenery in his head. Here you will meet Rick and Johnny, the “overworked software repairmen who loosened their ties” and started a post-punk rock group “with jazz indecencies;” the old man at the train station who once got to talk to Mohammed Ali; the girl who played classical music for her dog; the dead rat with flies in sockets “where there used to be hunger and light.” Make no mistake, this ride is grisly! But somehow Davis makes it a gas with his wry Zen acceptance of what IS, the way the Beats did in those moments of startling wisdom. Canny, brilliant and unerringly insightful, Jim Davis lives in a world where nothing is ordinary. Visit him at jimdavispoetry.com.

I wonder if those ferns are real,
if any of these plants are real—
the plastic bastards
have tricked me before.

“Assumed Plants”

    Eyes Like Broken Windows
    by Seth Michelson
    Press 53, 2012

     A friend falls in love because his girl
     likes to screw with her boot on.
     Another is so lonely he weeps
     while he masturbates. A third,
     our most peculiar, found his wife
     at a church social, fell
     lustily for her egg salad
     the way you or I might crave cleavage.

     “The Tempest”

From a father battling cancer and a persistent skunk’s nocturnal visit to a survivor of Auschwitz and a lesson in how to grieve, it’s all here in Eyes Like Broken Windows, the new collection by Seth Michelson. Nothing is too painful to hold up to the light for examination, and nothing tender and beautiful goes unnoticed. Astonishing and heartbreaking, these poems will leave you breathless; like the hottest, saddest sex you’ve ever had, you’ll wish you could have more, even though with the rapture comes pain. Because that’s what life is, isn’t it? Broken windows, indeed.

    Contains Language
    by Ian C. Smith
    Ginninderra Press, 2011

Now a single engine is the only sound.
He thinks of describing to the pilot
the world within a world in his mind
but his buckled self is used to silence.

~ “His Silent Summer”

A rarely-seen oarfish sets the stage for this collection of unexpected treasures reeled in from the depths of Ian C. Smith's psyche. The bait? Tidbits of life—from a liver-spotted man's visit with a daughter he has not seen in years, to a husband dancing with the woman he loves at a party he threw for his wife, to a poet's list of fantasy blurbs (“These clever characters are hard to like. Savagery, but with pity” - John Updike), Smith's writing brazenly acknowledges all that is solemn, sorrowful, and sardonic.

    Riches for One Poverty for Two
    by Jenny Rossi
    Deadly Chaps Press, 2011

Perhaps I am an acolyte, loving
too often the shadows of men
never the men themselves.

~ "What they say: You should go out more"

Resentment blends with sorrow in Riches for One Poverty for Two, the new collection of poetry by Jenny Rossi. Each brief poem is terse and acerbic, and even Bukowski and Kerouac aren't safe from Rossi's wonderful candor. Darkly honest, these poems face pain with courage, humor, and grace.

    Lithium Witness
    by Nina Bannett
    Finishing Line Press, 2011

We were passing out your business cards
a woman artist and her daughter,
a madwoman and a four-year old.

~ “Rachel St. Michael”

Tender innocence collides with the harsh reality of mental illness in Lithium Witness, Nina Bannett's collection of poetry chronicling her mother's descent into madness. Powerful, painful, and ultimately filled with grace, these poems treat each moment with a compassion that warms, a patience that endures, and a love that transcends.

my mother and I are flanked on all sides.
This waiting is a serious business,
these trenches,
this series of stiff chairs and couches
have been placed here by our enemies,
our dentist and his secretary.
Suspended in space,
I am waiting for time to begin and end.

Outside, as we prepare to surrender,
the red brick houses
stand at attention.
What are they thinking?
Right and left: my police car, her ambulance.

Undefeated, my mother screams my name many times.
She will not be vanquished in her psychosis—
convinced that the hospital would be the best place for me, too.
Shattered, I sit in the front seat,
squashed into the squad car radio,
huddled against what I have witnessed.

~ “War Story”

Nina Bannett is department chair and associate professor of English at New York City College of Technology in the City University of New York (CUNY) and teaches courses in writing and women's literature. She has published articles on Louisa May Alcott, Elizabeth Stoddard and Anzia Yezierska. Her poetry has appeared in Open Minds Quarterly. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband.

I have driven every way but West, the way they always say to go. Insects spatter the windshield, splayed in their armor like dead Greeks, then jets of wiper fluid blast away their epic. I turn the music up so high the speakers buzz and shake the window, but no bass line can kill the record spinning backwards in my head. The gods are flying fast above me, and I'm wishing we had never met.

~ Four Lanes

Nothing in life is ordinary to Mark Neely, whose new book, Four of a Kind, examines the fascinating, the flippant, the frantic and the infuriating. From a traffic jam on Locust Street and a kid hoping he won't have to go to school the day after his grandmother dies to a flattened opossum rotting by the side of the road and pretentious poets who are too busy to read, each page hosts an identically-sized quartet of prose pieces to form a window into the mind of the poet. Winner of the Concrete Wolf Poetry Chapbook Award, Four of a Kind is sharply insightful; ambitious and ingenious and full of brilliant Beat inspired lines like: “You've heard the womb is warm, but only from escapees who left it behind like a car driven three hundred miles in the heat, the engine ticking madly under its scalding hood.”

Mark Neely's poems have appeared in Boulevard, Indiana Review, Barrow Street, Southeast Review and Salt Hill. He teaches at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, where he lives with his wife, writer Jill Christman and their two children.

    Poems by Adam Hughes
    NYQ Books

Today we coracle spin
like nest-guarding gulls;

tomorrow we'll break through
the Pillars of Hercules.

~ “Here There Be Dragons”

They say that great poetry transports us to a different place, and that is exactly what Adam Hughes has accomplished with Petrichor. Drenched in insight and powerful imagery, Hughes writes with an elegance that would make any poet jealous. From the pool at a YMCA and Pleasant Hill Cemetery where he had a job mowing the lawn, to Gaza where he looked for the Afghan woman on the cover of National Geographic (the one with the beautiful eyes) to Bengali Island, Bimini Road and the rings of Saturn, and back to Ohio—all are stops along his peregrinatio, his holy journey. It was an honor to accompany him.

I heard a train last night, a little
after one. Its coyote-call
whistle conjured up vagrants
and sojourners riding
in empty boxcars, cattle-catchers
on the front of locomotives,
and the commemorative caboose
in Sugar Grove—a museum
that no one visits.

But upon hearing the nocturnal
call of freight in transit
I'm left with the feeling that deep
thoughts about locomotives do not
make me an engineer.

~ “Upon Hearing a Train”

Adam Hughes was born in 1982 in Lancaster, Ohio. He is a pastor and poet and has worked as a program director for individuals with cognitive and physical disabilities since 2007. His first chapbook, Pilgrim Poems was released in 2010 by Pudding House Press and his poems have appeared widely in print and online in journals such as the New York Quarterly, Tipton Poetry Journal, The Foliate Oak, and West Ward Quarterly. He resides in Lancaster with his wife and two-year-old daughter.

    Your Left Front Wheel is Coming Loose
    by Laura Rodley
    Finishing Line Press, 2010

Sand falls out of the mouth
of the dried sand-dollar, three years
after it is plucked from the bed of the ocean.

~ “Miracles”

Not even the tiniest incident of beauty slips past Laura Rodley's watchful eye in her new collection of poetry, Your Left Wheel is Coming Loose. With tender elegance she presents an array of scenes, from immigrants on Ellis Island to men at war. And overseeing it all is the noble blue heron, reminding us that life is about testing the current, gaining strength, and swallowing the wind.

The frost on the hood of our car where I found

my husband had written my initials and his inside a heart
gives me hope, even if later in the day the sun evaporates our
initials, not like cutting them into a tree

but that they were there before he left all day
when I would not see him, that gives me hope.

~ excerpt from “Hope”

Laura Rodley's poetry has appeared in the anthologies Crossing Paths, 911 Peace Project, Anthology of New England Writers, and in the journals Massachusetts Review, Sanctuary, The National Audubon Magazine, Boston Literary Magazine, and Quick Fiction, and has been read on WHMP, KVMR, 89.5 FM radio in Nevada City, California, and NPR-affiliated station WAMC in Albany. Your Left Front Wheel is Coming Loose was nominated for a PEN New England L.L. Winship Award plus Mass Book Award, and Rappelling Blue Light was also nominated for a Mass Book Award. Her work has been nominated for Pushcart Prize twice and Best of the Net. She is a freelance writer and photographer.

    Woman on a Shaky Bridge
    by Millicent Borges Accardi
    Finishing Line Press, 2010

You see it was very much like this.
In the flatland dregs, the fat-coated
soldiers knocked at the door, so a woman
was forced, with a gritty smile,
to invite them in, to sit by her
yellow fire, to swallow up her walls.

~ “Only More So”

Drawing from an experiment in which men who'd been instructed to cross a shaky bridge were more inclined to invite the attractive female interviewer on the other side on a date than men who had just crossed a solid bridge, Woman on a Shaky Bridge by Millicent Borges Accardi demonstrates that there is no more fascinating lab animal to study than ourselves. In sixteen haunting literary portraits, she deftly paints women raped by war, jazz clubs, and two little girls—one will be sent to a concentration camp, one will be rescued from a well. This stunningly successful blend of heartbreak and happiness takes readers all over the world, and ever closer to that scared, sacred place within.

They watch Little House on the Prairie
and cry when Mary goes blind.
They get laid off from the oil company
and go back to art school.
They let their wife work in a bank and stay
home playing Scrabble and pretending to
write grants for Planned Parenthood.
They are married for 18 years,
then take up with an old high school sweetheart
they found on the internet who stalks them.

~ “This is What People Do”

Millicent Borges Accardi has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Arts Council, and the Barbara Denning Foundation. Her work has appeared in over 50 literary publications.

    Bear in Mind
    by Anne Whitehouse
    2010, Finishing Line Press

    In the heart of the rose
    gnaws the beetle.
    The bright orange pest
    consumes the flower
    in a few minutes
    and moves on.

     ~ “Elegy for William”

    Blessings and Curses
    by Anne Whitehouse
    2009, Poetic Matrix Press

    My body fills with breath,
    my heart at front and center,
    thoughts dissolved,
    thoughts dissolved,
    softening, deepening
    into the interval
    where a goddess passes by.

     ~ “Blessing XXXV”

Bear in Mind and Blessings and Curses by Anne Whitehouse

Self-help guru Wayne Dyer has said that when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change, and no one seems to “own” this wisdom more than Anne Whitehouse as she masterfully demonstrates in her two collections of poetry, Bear in Mind and Blessings and Curses. She doesn't deny that life is difficult—from the holocaust to the death of a beloved pet to a fly that resists all attempts to escape out the doors and window that Whitehouse has left open rather than disposing of him with a rolled-up newspaper—but celebrates the Divinity of life, love, and what it means to be a human “being.” Heartfelt, profound, and deeply insightful, her poems matter. A lot.

I don't remember how I ended up in the room
where the Buddhist monks were making a Mandala
by pouring colored sands from little bottles
to form intricate patterns. They worked their designs
on a tray on a table in the middle of the room,
while viewers watched and cameras recorded their moves.
Three men with shaved heads in saffron robes:
one was older, and two were young. As soon
as I entered,I felt their peace and wanted to stay.
One of the younger monks explained
how the museum had invited them to New York
from their monastic exile in norther India.
They carried the images they made in their heads.
The Mandala would take two months to finish.
“And then?” I asked. He smiled, and his gold tooth
winked at me. “We will take the Mandala
to the Hudson River and offer it to the water.
The museum wants to preserve it.
They will use sprays to fix the sands,
but they won't work. It will be given back;
for cycle must continue.”
It seemed tragic to me, but not to him.
His inner equilibrium wasn't disturbed.
It mattered not to him that nothing lasted
and I counted it a blessing and a curse.

     ~ A Blessing and a Curse

Anne Whitehouse was born and grew up in Burmingham Alabama. She graduated from Harvard College and Columbia University. Her novel, Fall Love, can be purchased from her site AnneWhitehouse.com. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.

    If There is a Center No One Knows Where it Begins
    by Renee Podunovich
    Art Juice Press (2008)

The sea like a tear
holds what is precious,
impossibly huge, I drink it
with a straw.

~ “If There is a Center No One Knows
Where it Begins”

“The obsidian morning. I hurl my heart out into this incomprehensible starscape...” begins If There is a Center No One Knows Where it Begins by Renee Podunovich, a breathtaking tribute to the seasons of the spirit. With irrepressible zest, she takes us on a Sacred Sight/Seeing tour; from the “vastness of cosmic womb space” to the delicate beauty of the hummingbird's egg shell. “Don’t expect the shoreline to be solid or resemble what you remember as you return from the exhilarating dive under,” warns Podunovich, because Nature, like the inescapable Experience of Life, is always changing, always surprising, and, through Podunovich's eyes, always delighting. “Listen. The belly of the canyon is growling, the wind carries the rain far and away....” and instantly we are there, alert with head tipped, a brisk breeze making us hunch our shoulders, in love with being alive.

Every year this:
a blanket of snow, uninterrupted
but for standing dead stalks,
skeletons of what lived, exuberant, in summer,
turned crimson, then gold,
now brown, dry and empty.
They will become the red clay soil
from which to grow again,
will become invisible underground hands
welcoming the deconstructed self.

~ “The Transparent Hands of Winter”

Renee Podunovich's writing has been described as merging science, nature, and soul. She explores human experience in relation to a living planet. Renee lives off the grid in southwest Colorado in an “Earthship” home. Her most recent publications include White Whale Review, The View From Here, RATTLE, Mississippi Review, Boston Literary Magazine and SW Colorado Arts Perspective. To purchase a copy of If There Is a Center No One Knows Where It Begins please visit www.ReneePodunovich.com.

      She kept a tight
      Leash on him.
      Pulling harder
      when he strayed.

      They walked through
      The park
      With the same, clipped
      Brisk gait,
      Their eyes squarely
      On the well-worn path.

      Coming home
      To the tasteful,
      Well-appointed living room—
      And he knew his place,
      Scurrying to his usual corner.

      She knew then
      That they would be
      Ready to marry

      ~ “Training Her Pet”

A true poet not only sees Divinity in the mundane, but is able to make others see it too. That's exactly what Doug Holder accomplishes with The Man in the Booth in the Midtown Tunnel (Cervená Barva Press, 2008), an extraordinary collection of poems about regular people caught in the act of being fascinating. With humor and compassion Holder presents their stories one by one until you begin to feel as if you are at a party. In a psych ward. And guests wander by, spewing words of wisdom or insanity, and their chaotic thoughts sound uncannily like your own. From the dying man's last request for a hotdog to the colonial woman at the Au Bon Pain to Holder's own niece with her uninhibited breastfeeding policy, you'll meet all the unforgettable people in his life, and like him, will appreciate the humble nobility of their Sacred Process.

Doug Holder's poetry and prose has appeared in The Boston Globe Magazine, Rattle, Café Review, the new renaissance, Poesy, Home Planet News, Main Street Rag, Caesura, Quercus Review, Illyia's Honey, Istanbul Library Review, Dudley Review (Harvard University) Sahara, Northeast Corridor and many others. He is the founder of the Ibbetson Street Press of Somerville, Mass, the cofounder of the Somerville New Writer's Festival, the curator of the Newton Free library Poetry Series, book review editor of the Wilderness House Literary Review, arts editor for The Somerville News, and the Boston editor for Poesy. He also teaches writing at Endicott College in Beverly, Mass. and Bunker Hill Community College in Boston.

    The Whole Enchilada
    by Ed Miller
    Published by Cervená Barva Press

...but you can't smoke in coffee shops
like you could in the old days
and you can't rub out the past
like a butt in an ashtray.

     ~ “Appraisal”

When confronted by a title like The Whole Enchilada you don't know what to expect, and the cover's mysterious and smudged skull offers no clues. With a tabula rasa, I read the first poem, and simply wasn't prepared for the onslaught of rueful wisdom delivered by this earnestly down and out poet. Miller's wry observances of ordinary events—the drawer so stuffed with memories that you need to wrestle it open, the plain and yet somehow appealing girl in the car outside your office window, and the grim napkin summary of a life decidedly not well spent—amuse, bring pain, cut to the quick. No wonder this chap won the Cervená Barva Press Chapbook Prize! I consider it one of the best chaps I've ever read. And trust me when I say I've read about a million!

Take the shopping cart and start the trip.
Did you bring your list? You need your list.
This is the Shopping Mall of the World.
All sales are final. We prosecute shoplifters.
Ask a Sales Associate for details. We thank you
For your patronage. Our friendly staff is here to serve you.
Truckers welcome. Buses welcome. Everybody's welcome.
If for any reason you are dissatisfied with our service,
Please ask to see a Sales Associate. As the Sales Associate
To explain our easy payment plan. Ask the Sales Associate
To describe the Seven Heavenly Manifestations of the Eternal Godhead.
Ask the Sales Associate to unriddle the coefficient of pi.
Ask the Sales Associate to make you some cookies.

~ “The Whole Enchilada”

  by Ryan Flaherty
  Published by Bateau Press

Chaos, confusion and despair meet fantasy, imagination and introspection in Ryan Flaherty's Novas. His elegant writing style and unique slant on life can best be summed up by a line from the book itself. It's "A series of events lined up on the table and wrapped in language." It's all that, but it's so much more. Edgy, moody—not your ordinary chapbook. A must read!

A story is falling apart in the dull one's mouth.
It is sandstone, alluvial, the taste of old machinery,
a toddler falling into either an ocean or his mother.
The last thing anyone wants is one more new spun story.
"The chicken coop started out as a playpen for the children,
but they all died, moved away, became unforgivably literal.
They didn't plant one garden or invent one new engine."
The likeness that holds the sandstone together is lacing
into me. Accidents are falling apart in my mouth.

~ Excerpt from Nova 1

Ryan lives in Dover, NH. His chapbook Live, from the Delay, is available from Small Fires Press. His poems have appeared in a range of journals including Denver Quarterly, Conduit, the New Republic, and Columbia.

  by Allan Peterson
  Published by Bateau Press

Life, death, birth, imperfection. Omnivore, by Allan Peterson, addresses all of these and more. Not to remind us that life is hard or that we are flawed. On the contrary! Omnivore assures us that in the midst of life's hardships, in the center of our pain, in the depths of our sadness, all is perfect. The Universe goes on. A beautiful little book, filled with the promise of hope on the horizon.

All of the present was prehistory and all of history
was stone hardening, hearing nothing but the artificial
stasis we take for undersanding, the perfect rose
unopened, silver untarnished, an entire room
or ocean reappearing in water drops
Stand back far enough and we are cratered like the moon
pocked as if saucers had been dropped
But the planet had softened the outlines with ferns
and holly and wild allamanda, mosses and they sank
among them as silent as G in sovereign

~ How the Craters Disappeared

Allan Peterson's work appears widely in print and online literary journals. He has published two award winning full length poetry collections and five chapbooks. Honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the State of Florida and ten nominations for Pushcart Prizes, along with a variety of poetry prizes and anthology inclusions.

Visit his website www.allanpeterson.net

  Pacing the Moon
  by Sandy Green
  Published by Flutter Press

“...then the future shifted
behind me
and I didn't notice
that my best friend had moved out of town
and my husband went along for the ride.”
      ~ What Happens to Busy People

Marvin Gaye sang There's always one who loves more than the other, and Sandy Green absolutely nails this theme in her first chapbook, Pacing the Moon. Beautifully presented by Flutter Press and startling in its imagery, this richly-textured collection is full of painful insights into humans at the height of our vulnerability.

In the ballet Les Sylphides,
the poet gets to hold hands with two girls
and neither one seems to mind the other,
so he doesn't think you would either—
He wanders around as if he's in a dream
because most of the time
he is
and when he's awake
his eyes are half-opened
or half-closed
depending on your point of view;

He'll stand and support you
when he's not busy showing off
and look at you with bedroom eyes,
but that might mean he's about to fall asleep

At the end of the day—
or the ballet,
he still has two girls draped on his shoulders.
How nice for him,
but is that what you really want?

~ “Why He Wants to be the Poet from Les Sylphides in Your Life”

Sandy Green, a poet and children's author, has been writing fiction since 2004. Her work has appeared in Victorian Violet Press, Stories for Children, Grey Sparrow Journal, Ibbetson Street Press, Monongahela Riview, and anthologies including Chicken Soup for the Child's Soul. She was a 2008 nominee for Best of the Net and won honorable mention in Robert Brewer's Writer's Digest Poetic Asides Chapbook Contest. She lives in northern Virginia with her husband and two children. Visit her at www.SandyGreen.webs.com.

  Rappelling Blue Light
  by Laura Rodley
  Published by Finishing Line Press

       “There are no maps in the
              love compartment,
       just your breath upon mine,
     your eyes resting on my hair.”
                ~ Iridescent

From Pushcart Prize nominee Laura Rodley comes this exquisite collection of poetry. Here minnows trust the sky to bring them gnats, a young woman takes an impromptu road trip to Michigan financed by asparagus-picking money, a dearly-loved ancient dog noses the footprints of raccoons, turtles cross a busy highway to lay eggs, and a close friend loses her hair during chemo. In short, Rappelling Blue Light is about all the most sacred aspects of living, and the importance of observing, experiencing, and being. Perhaps the words “stunning” and “elegant” are overused; but perhaps they are not strong enough to describe Rodley's work.

“I lift to your lips
water, the circle of our lives.
I hold to your lips
the answer to your prayer:
Drink this, if you can,
swallow this, if you can.
I lift to your lips
a milkshake.
I lift to your lips
the straw you suck to finish the glass.
I do not know
if in five minutes you
will bring all this up
out of your body.
I do not know if right now
you will choke
and I will have to watch
your life leave in blueness
if you cannot catch your breath;
you are on DNR orders,
I could not breathe my life
into your lips to save you.
I could only call an ambulance,
hold you while you shudder,
your lungs filling with
your body's waves.”

~ Caregiver

Laura Rodley's poetry has appeared in the anthologies Crossing Paths, 911 Peace Project, Anthology of New England Writers, and in the journals Massachusetts Review, Sanctuary, The National Audubon Magazine, Boston Literary Magazine, and Quick Fiction, and has been read on WHMP, KVMR, 89.5 FM radio in Nevada City, California, and NPR-affiliated station WAMC in Albany. She is a freelance writer and photographer.

  After Voices
  by Jane Rosenberg LaForge
  Published by Burning Rive

     “No generation can know itself
           if its greatness is too soon

             ~ Highway 5 Stockyard

In 2003 Jane Rosenberg LaForge's father was diagnosed with throat cancer, and her rueful recollections of a voice that wasn't just loud “but voluminous, plunging through a room with all the aplomb of a rock hurled toward a window” inspire us to re-learn with her the seeds of language, the origin of human sound, the words poets have left behind, and especially “the stuff that comes before words.” From nighttime radio shows where deejays held séances for Jim Morrison to stockyards where the cows went on forever, this beautifully-brilliant book is ablaze with savvy, style, and tender insights.

“I am not acting now. I am even wearing my glasses.
I want to die, not to be famous or even dead, but for the view,
to see the salt and claw of the shore below,
the mucus and terror I know live in your lungs,
to fling them into the watter. There is no other way
to measure you beside the sinuous line, to re-trace
your footprints that dissolved in the muddy luster.
A legend will last only as long as the film stock,
or perhaps only as long as the Library of Congress.”

~ From the Palisades

Jane Rosenberg LaForge's work has appeared in Ottawa Arts Review, Makeout Creek, Bateau, and La Petite Zine. Raised in Los Angeles, she now lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.


A Change of Pace (2007)
Natural Instincts (2008)
by Emily Scudder

Finishing Line Press,

It's not just that I can smell the salty ocean air and hear the gentle waves whooosh...shooooo on the shore when I read Emily Scudder's poetry... it's that I find myself transported to a place of closely-examined ennui, dissatisfaction, and desperation for just one hour alone - you know, the mental activities we all engage in but don't have the guts to 'fess up to? Scudder's writing is so honest, so relatable, so likable, dammit! I just want to hang out with her! But at the same time, this is a masterful poet who loves her husband and children, and who possesses an enviable, nearly Zen-like connection with Nature... a woman who appreciates the small, sacred moments of each day:

     If you leave a soda can on the lawn
     bees begin to hover. They know to come.

     Ants lift a blue chip.

     A hamster eats her gummy stillborn, more
     protein than progeny now.

     Like the tree knows when to fork itself.

     Nature rivets. Screws me into dramas
     in the kitchen, past the yard.

     Behind the house a black snake tried
     to swallow a brown frog. It gave up.

     Slithered to the brush.

     Gleaming in snake spit, the huge frog
     sat, stunned in the sun.

     10 whales washed up.
     8 bottle-nosed dolphins too.

     Volunteers came quickly. They found
     some alive & picked at. The gulls did it.

     On stretchers, the dolphins clicked & clicked.

     ~ "Natural Instincts"

A resident of Cambridge, MA, Emily Scudder's poems have appeared in Agni Online, 2River.org, Pinyon, Blue Ocean Institute Sea Stories, Jabberwock Review, and Mochila Review, and have been included in World of Water, World of Sand: A Cap Cod Collection of Poetry, Fiction, and Memoir (Cape Cod Literary Press.) Her chapbook review blog can be found at: www.fiddlercrabreview.com and copies of both books can be purchased at Amazon.com.

Object of Desire
by Carol Lynn Grellas

Finishing Line Press, 2009.

The most noble emotion is love, of course. But where there is love, there is pain, and nowhere is this more evident than in Object of Desire by Carol Lynn Grellas. As stylish and sophisticated as the beauty who adorns the cover, this collection presents with warmth and grace each sacred moment of being alive—the blessings, the losses, the haunting image of an opportunistic fly loitering on the slack jaw of your beloved pet.

Woven throughout is the story of a woman grieving for her mother; spending the first New Year's eve without her, waiting for an epiphany / or message sent by an archangel / telling us she's arrived at her destination. For me, the most powerful poem is “An Unexpected Toast,” which I have yet to read without choking back tears:

      For the women who came before me
      with a tipple of champagne I'll click
      my glass against the crystal sky...

      My Mother-in-law
      Who in the middle of her stroke
      grinned while she snuck a couple of grapes
      off the coffee table, then sprawled
      along the celadon sofa like Cleopatra
      without the Egyptian gown.

      My Grandmother
      Who danced The Hukilau after returning
      from a cruise to the Hawaiian islands,
      wrapped in her flame retardant grass skirt
      barely moving her hips in a figure eight
      due to severe arthritis.

      My Aunt Ida
      Who died from barren nest syndrome
      after a lifetime deprived of being
      with child, yet gave us everything
      imaginable till her heart exploded,
      from holding too much love.

      My Mother
      Who had the grace of a saint
      yet depleted of hope
      through her miserable illness.
      Who while her body was ravaged
      by an insufferable disease, mustered
      enough strength to write in chicken scratch:

      This is a wonderful day.

The fourth time I read this poem it was to my mother, and I know we were both thinking of the other emotion that goes with love—gratitude. Mine is profound, and I thank Carol Lynn for the reminder.

To purchase a copy of Object of Desire, please go to Amazon.com.

Pack Your Bags
by Steve Meador

Pudding House Publications.

As incredible as it seems, I didn't even know what a chapbook was when I first started this magazine. Then one of my favorite poets and our first Writer In the Spotlight Steve Meador sent me a copy of Pack Your Bags. I was so enchanted by the format and his presentation that a few months later I started a chapbook publishing company.

From extreme poverty and a first theft to throwing a cat off the roof to see if it would really land on its feet (it did!) Meador brings us on a sweetly-nostalgic trip back to 1950s America. But growing up wasn't always carefree, and Meador also tells tales of whippings from a drunken father and the devastating effects of Agent Orange. Masterfully depicting high drama as seen through young but wise eyes, he succeeds in reminding us of our own childhood days, where the sight of a menstrual pad evoked a blend of curiosity and horror, and a miracle could be found as close by as next door:

      I was so out of breath
      that I was bent over gasping.
      Barely had the strength to pound on the window,
      in the Savannah heat,
      but this was The Miracle,
      The Sighting,
      The Resurrection,
      and somebody else had to know.
      "Teddy, you have to come out. Teddy!"
      Eyes and ears appeared beyond the screen.
      "It's Daniel Boone. Honest to God.
      Get the needle and punch out my eyes!
      It's the truth."
      The screen door slammed,
      almost before my last raspy sentence flashed out.
      We ran, Teddy in underwear and both barefooted,
      over the burrs, stickers, acorns and ants,
      to the edge of our lot.
      He was still there.
      Buckskin jacket, coonskin cap, rifle cradled through his arm
      and us with chin scraping in the red clay.
      "I'm Daniel Boone," he said for the second time that morning.
      He really was.
      He bought the lot, chopped the trees and built a house
      from fiberglass panels,
      the rippled kind that you put over a patio.
      He killed snakes, hunted and cooked "various critters,"
      and shot vaseline-coated batteries from a pipe with a
      cherry bomb.
      Didn't matter if he hadn't wrestled a bear,
      or fought with Indians,
      or lead a pack of pioneers through the neighborhood,
      we still lived next door to a man named Daniel Boone.

         ~ "Meeting Daniel Boone"

Pack Your Bags, and Meador's other chapbook, A Good Sharp Knife, were released by Pudding House in 2007. His first full-length book, Throwing Percy from the Cherry Tree, was entered by the publisher, D-N Publishing, for a 2009 National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. All can be purchased at hangingmossjournal.com.

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