Thursday, April 1, 2010

Issue #14

Mike Meraz

loneliness comes to me
late at night
and wakes me up
in the morning.
it passes by my door.
it opens its mouth.
it speaks to me.
it says, "I don't drink
but I need a beer."
loneliness does not come from
a lack of people
but from an inability
to connect with them.
look out your door.
open your window.
you will see me
walking alone
in beige shorts
and black sneakers
looking up at the sky

Biography Note:

Mike Meraz is a poet from Los Angeles who currently lives in New Orleans. He is the author of two books of poetry Black-Listed Poems and All Beautiful Things Travel Alone. Both are available at and He is also the editor of Black-Listed Magazine.

lost souls,‭ ‬all of us
Ross Vassilev

there’s the cleaning lady
after everyone else
goes home

there’s the kid sitting
in his room
listening to his parents
screaming through
the door

or walking alone at night
cuz there’s something
about the purple
dark and the way
it breathes

there’s the men and women
locked up in prison
or lunatic asylums
dreaming of better days

there’s the hungry
and the people living
in war zones

just think about all
those people the next time
you go for a coffee
at Starbucks.

Biography Note:

Ross Vassilev was born in Bulgaria and now lives in Ohio. He's a poet some of the time and the editor of Opium Poetry 2.0 and Asphodel Madness blogzines. He's been published here and there.

Stephen Jarrell Williams

No notes on the side of the page,
this is it...
going crazy
all over you,

you are everything
opposite the world,

roughing me up with your dress,
smoothing me down with a whisper,

giving me words
on your back spread on the bed,

apartment walls lit in the dark,
electric candles on your chest,
you control
with a slap of your hands,

and to think you leave...
the writing to me.

Biography Note:

Stephen Jarrell Williams loves to write, listen to his music, and dance late into the night. He was born in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. His parents are native Texans. He has lived most of his life in California. His poetry has appeared here and there and in-between...

Pain of Larks
Chris Lawrence

i have written to the lark
expressing my concern,
his voice a poignant song
from atop the lofty elm,
its a memory of a day
and a place i would rather forget,
being a bird of course
he cannot read,
so continues his incriminating
tearing open another

Biography Note:

Chris Lawrence lives in West Kirby, with his family and their fish, has written poems published in Troubadour21, and Deuce Coupe, and also can be contacted on Twitter @clawfish.

Night Blue Twilight
Serena Tome

A chill from the open window
awakens me. Beckons me. Come.
Look. There. A blue aura cycles moon’s
ova, painted ivory.
Distant cloud measurements
coupled with sound’s sweetness deferred
converts obscure skepticism into
undefiled religion

Biography Note:

Serena Tome launched an international reading series for African children to connect, learn and participate in literary activity with students from around the world via video conferencing. She has literary work published and/or forthcoming in The Legendary, Breadcrumb Scabs, Word Riot, Calliope Nerve, Counterexample Poetics, Full of Crow, Boston Literary Magazine, The Stray Branch, and other publications. She is currently working on her first chapbook. You can find out more about Serena at

Eric Harris

an ass emerged
from beneath
the setting sun
tired and needing
of my arrival

I took him
and led him
around behind
a dense growth
of bushes

so that he
might sleep

I turned
then found
my way again
back down
the washboard road

that wound
around a
of mobile homes

a girl
and her older sister
or maybe it was
her mother

sat smoking
and dropping
their ashes
on one another
as they disappeared
into the night's
squalid harbor

I took out a
mechanic's rag
from my pocket
and absorbed
the scent
in order
to resurrect
my strength
for reprisal

when the sky
for it

Biography Note:

Eric Harris has spent most of his adult life working nights at a factory in North Alabama County. In his free time he enjoys traveling down Sand Mountain (his hometown) to the Tennessee River Valley. You can find out more about Eric at

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Featured Poet #5

Five Poems From 'Songs of a Clerk' by Gary Beck


I seem to be so alone,
each night trapped in my room,
each day spent at my job.
No friends, home, comfort,
just the daily vision….
Daily failure.
Dare I name my hunger?
Just one hope, one satisfaction, writing.
Yet I neglect it.

Bitter Awakenings

We had a dream when we were young,
in the recess of a child’s fun,
that of future glories sung,
merely waiting to be won.
First school, then work the pattern,
avoiding much pain and care,
then deceived by a slattern,
taking refuge in despair.
The pause that suffering brought,
the vision of elation
that brings all passions to nought,
lost in time’s acceleration.


Subway faces
reduced from joy or care
to almost animal despair.
The fragments of laughter,
one brief and dear
mirror to the constant fear.
When underground hordes emerge
they appear new born
for a daring instant they return
to the shell of containment.


How to drive away this anguish?
This bleak man haunting my days
with too unstealthy force,
capturing my power.
The fingers of desolation grip me relentlessly.
All day, all night, no rest;
ever battered in restless dreams.
The days pass with fleeting swiftness,
as I sit dreamless and inactive,
waiting for beginnings.


Fires burn forever in the heart
loneliness breeds always in the mind,
fed with the barren fuel of repetitive days
we stampede to each weak diversion,
entwine ourselves within the coils of fantasy
dream of legendary deeds – any escape
from the sterile confinement of the office.

Biograpy Note:

Songs of a Clerk, an unpublished collection of poetry, expresses the frustration of a young man trapped in a menial clerks job, while dreaming of a meaningful life.

Poems from 'Songs of a Clerk' have appeared in: Istanbul Literary Review, Agency Magazine, Fiction Press, Kyoto Journal, Poetry Life and Times, Rattlesnake Review, Written Word Literary Magazine, Pegasus Magazine, MadSwirl, YaSou!, Words Words Words, Juice Magazine, Struggle Magazine, Flutter Poetry Journal, Iddie, Strange Road, Halfway Down the Stairs, Poetry Monthly, Calliope Nerve and many more.

Gary Beck has spent most of his adult life as a theater director and worked as an art dealer when he couldn't earn a living in the theater. He has also been a tennis pro, a ditch digger and a salvage diver. His chapbook 'Remembrance' was published by Origami Condom Press, 'The Conquest of Somalia' was published by Cervena Barva Press, 'The Dance of Hate' was published by Calliope Nerve Media and 'Mutilated Girls' is being published by Bedouin Press. A collection of his poetry 'Days of Destruction' was published by Skive Press. Another collection 'Expectations' is being published by Rogue Scholars Press. His original plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes and Sophocles have been produced Off Broadway and toured colleges and outdoor performance venues. His poetry has appeared in hundreds of literary magazines. He currently lives in New York City .

Q @ A with Gary Beck

CH: How long have you been writing and why did you start in the first place?

GB: I've been writing a long, long time. I was compelled.

CH: Who or what were your inspirations?

GB: Walt Whitman, Byron. Lermontov, Mallarmé, Thomas Wolfe.

CH: What would you say is the hardest thing about writing?

GB: Being left alone to do it.

CH: What advice would you give to a new writer who is struggling to find his or her identity?

GB: Writing is doing, not discussing, debating, or self-examination.

End of Interview

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Issue #13

Two Poems from A.J. Kaufmann


This city, my city, a translucent fist
barb wire ghetto, history’s cripple
guard of Western code, ever leaning East
cornered everywhere, while little by little
these tenement houses, infidel streets
host voices of the homeless, sins of the free
this city, my city, panoptical screen
the scythe of a new war, the burning of will
a bigger sky is what we need
in bars the music never stops
a wider heart and hands of steel
sandpaper voice, a rifle-guitar
Tibetan flags at anarchy’s step
no fascist pigs, no Nazi threads of culture
the D.I.Y. sky, the D.I.Y. soul, perception, occasion
revision of more, a vulture
eyes be not closed, coins be never heard
oh city, my city – you dance while you kill
anti-depressives, a shot of cocaine
cowboy ego sent to Vietnam, again


Drifting without measure no point of return
only to burn
passing prisons
and nurseries of mind
leaving cinders
only to find

that it's my rebirth
the American wings
that shine
and it's my rebirth
the American wings

I've seen it before
I've been one of you
the chains of control
the carnival fool

Falling through the theater
watching the dogs
pleasing the gods
finding lanterns
and houses of crime
bathe in ashes
of lovers divine

lost in my rebirth
the American wings
that shine
yeah it's my rebirth
the American wings

Wasted, traceless
merged with the rain
river calling
my secret names
lifetime written
in solitaire blue
rotten eagles
feast on the truth

and it's my rebirth
the American wings
of fools
yeah it's my rebirth
the American wings
of fools...

I've seen it before
I've been one of you
the idol obscene
the carnival fool

Biography Note:

A.J. Kaufmann, born June 24 1989 is a poet, songwriter and traveler currently living in Poland. He's the author of "Siva in Rags", "I'm Already Not Here", "Pilgrims & Indians" and other poetry chapbooks. He can be found online at and/or at

Phil Lane

Hellborn, and like a Sioux,
every sunrise is a vice
to contend with,
a white man’s worst
tobacco, tents where no thieves
can break in, coyote runs
wild again, a child
grown so old, so
loveless, so thin,
on this postmodern frontier,
there is only one desk,
one chair. I escape and
trace a Marsh Hawk
above the water gap
where she turns a circle
and laughs
because a motel room
is a poor excuse for nature,
Budweiser, a poorer excuse
for whiskey, the tongue
does not burn, the heart
doesn’t jump,
it’s one thing to be lost
in the wild, but to be lost
at Exit 45 is neither heroic
nor romantic. Either way,
I am alone with my own blood,
carry my own history like a skull,
every past is symmetrical, intact,
ready for exposition,
even explication, if only
I had a brown-skinned woman
rather than a white-washed
imagination. Instead,
I fantasize where
a thousand others have before,
a cumcloud hung in the air
over the interstate.
When it all come down
to bones, to dust,
I hate to admit
that this is not Pocahontas,
and this is not Potomac,
this is the middle of nowhere
and it is now—

Biograph Note:

Phil Lane's poems have been published in various magazines as well as online. He is currently the editor of Breadcrumb Sins ( He lives in New Jersey and teaches English for a private tutoring company.

Two Poems from Michael Aaron Casares

The Neighborhood is Silent

The neighborhood is silent
against the raucous jeers
of abounding crowds.
Traffic rushes statically
on highways not for
from here.
The wind rhapsodizes dreamily,
lulling the silent, sleeping street.
But the neighbors are watching,
I am sure, as I carve an apple,
(its red skin sweating in the
pungent humidity).
I never speak to my neighbors.
We never barbeque, either.
We remain indoors, in our
closed circuit environments,
in our creature comfort habitats,
in our dens of solidarity.
The land has changed:
preference of security leaves
these remains, these dormant
people, silent and secluded
from extemporaneous movement.
Wheels on upturned bikes spin
like reels of family-time past
and the basketball, the children’s
games are completely forgotten.
The children are gone, locked behind
barred doors, or perhaps in their
basements. Slaves to their senses:
eyes and tongue.
The neighbors are watching though.
I am sure as I smoke a cigarette
and scream a verse or two that they
huddle quietly, waiting to break free


White walls awaken
me in the morning chill.
White walls now naked
unclothed they coldly
feel. This is home.

Rooms are rooms
of a home no more
where pictures once
covered them from
ceiling to floor. Arctic
winds through nicks
and cracks describe
the feeling this home
now lacks.

White walls awaken me
in the twilight din.
White walls now naked
form ice-like picks, a needle's
pin. This is home.

Hearts bleed hearts from
their home no more where
roots are shaken, taken from
their core and tundra’s touch
comes through each door like
winter’s grasp waits, wanting more.

White walls awaken me from sleep no more,
for without your warmth this house is poor.
A blanket’s comfort could not ignore
a home where love can live no more.
This is home.

Biography Note:

Michael Aaron Casares is a writer and artist from Austin, TX USA. He owns and operates an independent press called Virgogray. Recently his poetry has appeared in several publications both in print and online. He has two new collections just released, Green Tea America from New Polish Beat and The Winter King, an epic prose poem, from Shadow Archer Press.

Joanna M. Weston

roof and walls toss
rags of flame
from two-storey inferno

parents pin
tatters of fire
to film

children sit, catching
ash and spark
on hair, hands

in later years
will they screen home fires
keep nightmares undercover
let no one near bonfires with a camera?

or will they set match to paper
stand back and anticipate
the rush of flame
and wail of sirens?

Biography Note:

JOANNA M. WESTON. Has had poetry, reviews, and short stories published in anthologies and journals for twenty five years. Her middle-reader, ‘Those Blue Shoes', published by Clarity House Press. And poetry, ‘A Summer Father’, published by Frontenac House of Calgary. htt://

Mike Florian

The southeast wind is blowing a hundred and
The albatross flies easily over its home
Wings barely kissing the ocean
The barometer falls to unbelievable depths
The green sea rises ahead of you and
You pray the bow comes up yet one more time
You’ve held your pee for six hours
There’s no more strength
When the tide changes after the slack the wind stops
With the hot stillness the albatross disappears
Only the seagulls remain skimming the surface
Searching for a ball of feed

Biography Note:

Mike Florian had an article published in the late 60’s. He then took a fourty year hiatus from writing to do many things. Since 2008 he had a number of short stories published in various magazines including Word Riot, Ascent Aspirations. Albatross is his first published poem. He owns a manufacturing company located in Western Canada where he also spends a lot of time on the ocean.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Issue #12

Two Poems from John Swain


Incense like the amber lamp burns,
lights arrayed draped in silk robes
over the corner walls
as darkness eases over even the moon.
The crescent singes your fingertips
onto my back
as you let down long soft hair of rain.
The milk of feathers washes my garments
and then I am clean underneath.
I cover the empty antique birdcage
with a green sheet,
shadows fall like petals on the floor
as the imagined birds silently sing.
I dreamt of eclipse,
I am anointed in your eyelids red
as the moon before disappearance.

The Slightest Changing

Warm for an early winter evening
as archers cross the sky on horses,
I knelt on the rain ground.
We gathered for a birthday gathering
climbing the stairs in shards.
Starlings slept in a dead tree outside,
but we don't agree
and we don't sleep
while the downstairs neighbors tremble
and beat the ceiling.
We filled the room with bubbles
like little children,
pink and green filters jangled like light.
A girl with imaginary birds
punctured the glistening world,
she perceives the slightest changing.
She told me the kindest thing,
maybe one day I can believe,
she took pictures of our bare feet.
Dancing and hours
lost like our garments of darkness.

Biography Note:

John Swain lives in Louisville, Kentucky. His work has recently appeared in Asphodel Madness, Flutter, Counterexample Poetics, and others.

An Empty Room
Chris G. Vaillancourt

An empty room.
Its walls hinting at
possibilities that
were not to be.

My hollow self,
emptied of desire;
existing only as
coal on a bed of

An emotional cruise
on a distraught sea.
Ships of black sails
transporting me
through the jungles
of frozen destruction.

Where are our plans?
Where are our solutions?

They were words spoken
by people who
will not caress
the torture of the future

Biography Note:

Chris G. Vaillancourt has been involved in the art of writing as long as he can remember. Chris is a Canadian poet who has enjoyed publication in numerous small poetry magazines and newsletters,such as Pagan Lady Poetry Journal, The Inkling; The Lance; Opussum Review; Red Dragon; Poesia International; Plum Ruby Review; Windsor Star; Quills, Poetry Sharings, Poesy, Poetry Stop, Detour Memphis,and a host of other print and ezine publications.. He has enjoyed the publication of several chapbooks of his poetry, such titles as "Slow Burn" (4 Winds Press) and "Teardrop of Coloured Soul" (PublishAmerica) and most recently, "I Walk Naked into a Cloud" (PublishAmerica)He has a BA in Psychology from the University of Windsor and a Diploma in Sacerdotal Ministry from the Saint Andrew Theological Institute. Chris lives in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.

Two Poems from Chris Butler

Cut and Paste

I sometimes

trim my

hemophilic skin

to feel the


felt pulled



my obese



with a buttered

butter knife

marinating in

the kitchen sink,

until this




and bleeds,

without infusing


with industrial





in this great

recession is

a subscription to


Wall Street Journal,

which you were

charged for,

but never


Biography Note:

Chris Butler is a twenty(3)-something nobody shouting from the Quiet Corner of Connecticut

Abseiling from Dreams in Hollywood
KJ Hannah Greenberg

Theodore thought carefully before

Abseiling from dreams.

It remained insufficient to repel

Down beyond nightmares;

He meant to descend, instead,

Leaving a fantasy, in which no less than sixty

Million women wanted him,

Sitting quietly in their prairie houses.

A steep drop,

Versus his daytime popularity,

Would have troubled the troubadour

Enough to break sombulance.

He’d have awakened sobbing,

A breathless balladeer at rope’s end,

Minus a knot or other constructive device

By which to climb back.

To wit, he flattening against

Fandom’s vertical cliff. The man

Sucked in gut and hope,

Exerted himself

Forward until plummeting

Toward an improved, spectacular ending.

After all, such diva curtain calls mean

Certain posthumous success.

Biography Note:

KJ Hannah Greenberg still giggles in her sleep. She contributes regularly to the speculative fiction ezine Bewildering Stories, and to the British continuum parenting publication, The Mother Magazine. You can find her writing under select budgies and in dozens of other places including, respectively, the wonderfully named venues of Fallopian Falafel, of Diet Soap, and of Morpheus Tales. In 2009, Hannah was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in poetry. In 2010, French Creek Press will be publishing one of her essay collections, Oblivious to the Obvious: Wishfully Mindful Parenting.

Ana Bitner

long stretches of nothing i try to

the answer

but the question

what was it

brightly dark

relentlessly intricate

half formed

push ahead

as if

it had
and lightness

an end

Biography Note:

Ana Bitner faces the fact that her life thus far is a write-off. She is scrapping it all and moving to Costa Rica, where she will live with sea turtles and howler monkeys and try to figure it all out.

My Reflection
Lilith Williams

I look in the mirror
and see so many faces stare back at me.
Eyes within eyes within eyes within
smiling and jeering and staring and still.

I saw a body once in a pond.
It was bloated and green and floating.
My friend screamed.
I didn't.
She doesn't talk to me anymore.

Their eyes are like his --
sunken and glassy and dead.
I tried explaining it once --
only once.
I don't explain it anymore.

Everyone prefers the dark and shadows,
no matter their sincere words.
I smile at the mirrors;
they never smile back.

Everyone knows the mirror lies.

Biography Note:

Lilith Williams lives in the Pittsburgh, PA area. She lives and breathes horror and likes to see how many mediums she can express it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Featured Poet #4

Seven Poems From Scott Owens

One Man’s Trash

Who would have ever thought
I’d pay for them. Growing up
near Sanford, breezy autumn days
welcome relief from summer heat,
we raked them from our yard to burn
with other unwanted things,
igniting childhood pleasure as orange
flames erupted from orange piles.
No one minded the big leaves
of oak or maple, but these too thin
to catch in the tines of metal rakes
were hated by all, and if left there,
they made the ground too slippery
for running, made grass impossible.

Now, needing the impossibility
of grass, I hand over $3.75
per bale to put down the baleful
things around trees and garden,
protect the wooden walls of house,
and show once and for all

the absolute relativity of value.


He never ran with us at practice,
counted laps, hit flies
with one hand, threw batting practice
without a glove, fielding anything
he didn’t have to bend over to get.

In games he stood on one baseline
or the other, middle-aged paunch
tightening only to yell, “Run,”
“Pick your pitch,” “Eyes on the ball.”

He wore a camelback beneath
his Dodger jacket, sucked the tube-end
between innings, after strikeouts,
errors, botched double plays.

Nobody knew where he came from,
whose relative he was. Not the kind
anyone was likely to claim. He seemed
mostly to belong to the field itself,
a fifth base, a spirit of baseball.

He taught us everything we knew
about the game and some things about life,
picking up the spin of the ball,
going for the extra base, using
both hands on every catch,
how to push the voices into corners,
use your relays , know the count
and the number of outs, how to keep

the bases filled, the bottle hidden.

Instructor’s Manual 2009

In case of emergency, do not panic.
If you don’t stay calm the phones
in every room will scream out alarm.
Do not incite panic in others.
Do not endanger yourself to help others.
Do not use the elevator or cellphones
(known to detonate bombs).
Do not attempt to flee
as you may block traffic.
Do not walk alone.
Do not get in the car.
Break glass, aim at the base, and pull trigger.
Do not attempt to disarm.
Do not speak unless spoken to.
Do not make the attacker feel stupid,
ashamed or otherwise insecure.
Do not stare.
Do not look into the attacker’s eyes.
Do not talk down to him
or speculate on outcomes or causes
or how he feels about his mother.
Avoid argument.
Avert temptation.
Request identification.
Do not leave those who are suicidal alone.
Do not attempt to play therapist or priest.
Do not attempt to convert, exorcise, or revive
unless properly trained.
Do not put your hands in blood or vomit.
Do not attempt to clean up a spill.
Do not touch the suspicious package.
Do not remove writing on the wall.
Stay away from windows.
Avoid flying debris.
Assume the fetal position
and hide beneath the heavy desk.
Do not turn on or off the lights,
light matches or use computers.
Do not open the door.
Do not attempt to retrieve valuables.
Do not lose this manual.
Do not leave this manual where those
who might wish us harm could find it.
Do not write poems in this manual.
If you survive and seek publication,
do not mention the school
or the writers of this manual,

and change the names to protect yourself.

Smells Like a Man

Do you have a body that sweats,
sweat that has odor,
odor that smells,
smells like a man?

Do you want to change
what you are,
what you were,
what you were
meant to be?
Do you want to be
something more
or less than you are,
something more
or less than you were,
something more
or less than you were
meant to be,
something more
or less than human
wanting to be something more
or less than this?

Do you want to be
the perfect semblance
of something human
that never smells
like something human,
or always smells
like powder,
like cool rush,
like desert spice,
like something human
always smelling
like powder,
like cool rush,
like something
not quite as bad
as something human?

Do you want a body
like this one,
like that one,
like almost anyone
except your own,
a body that’s perfect,
the perfect semblance
of something human
without the flaws
of something human?
Do you want a body
big in all the right
places, so big
in all the right places
that someone thinks
it’s perfect,
so perfect
that someone thinks
they shouldn’t touch it,
that someone thinks
they might leave smudges
in its perfection
or cause it to sweat,
sweat that has odor,
odor that smells,
smells like a man?


In my grandma’s world view
there were only six kinds of birds,
most simply named by color:
bluebird and yellowbird, blackbird
and brown, redbird and buzzard.

When I asked her about the birds
I’d seen that were purple or green
or orange, she said anyone
who looked at birds that close
had too much time on their hands.

An accidental conservationist,
she was just as frugal with containers
as she was with words, every glass
a jelly jar, bread bags and coffee cans,
foil and feedsacks always emptied
and saved, rinsed out and reused.

At meals, too, little was wasted.
We ate the sweetbreads of animals,
the fancy parts, livers and hearts
ground or fried, pressed into loaves
and baked. Even chicken bones
were crushed and buried in the garden.

All scraps were saved for the dogs,
scraped into the bowl by the sink
and set out at dusk. Only eggshells,
corn husks, potato skins were thrown
over the fence for cows and chickens
or any of the six birds she named.

She never bought a new piece of furniture.
Everything, she said, could be repaired
or covered. She used the same beds
her family had owned before her, and we slept
two boys each in two single beds,
back to back and feet to head.

Clothes, too, were passed from one
generation to the next. Hand-me-downs
never so worn they couldn’t be mended
or patched or at last stitched into quilts
whose squares felt as familiar

as anything saved from oblivion.


How is it possible I still remember
the green shirt Frank Ellis wore
the day he pushed me down on the playground
in first grade and then, with Everett Jackson
in his orange tee with a brown collar
sitting on my back, proceeded to scoop
handfuls of dirt in my mouth without
remembering why Frank disliked me so?

Was it that I was poor, and he
was frightened by the mere proximity
of such poverty, that Mrs. Olson
liked me better than him, that I knew
my alphabet, my left from right,
could count to a hundred, and read
stories he could only stare at?

Did he really care that the shirt
I wore, simple, pale blue oxford
with a stiff collar, still too big
for me, had once been his,
taken from the poor box
in Ms. McCabe’s office?

I still remember Blake Elementary School,
the color of bricks, playground,
chain-link fence, children desperate
for hope, a place given to easy wounds,

this one the one thing I never remember.

Work of Art

The potter’s shoes are molded
through labor, baked on
in the heat of creating, splattered
with unformed parts of pots
and vases, plates and cups,
the living pieces of earth
he rubs from mud and clay,
magically pulling shapes
from his open hand, pinching
art in his fingertips,
pressing their bodies in his palm
casting his pulse
and the wheel’s pulse

into new beings of fire.

Biography Note:

Scott Owens has received awards from the North Carolina Poetry Society, the North Carolina Writer’s Network, the Academy of American Poets, and the Poetry Society of South Carolina for his four collections of poetry and more than 400 poems published in various journals and anthologies. He is co-editor of Wild Goose Poetry Review, Chair of the Sam Ragan Poetry Prize, author of “Musings” (a weekly poetry column), and founder of Poetry Hickory. He teaches creative writing at Catawba Valley Community College and has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes.

Q @ A with Scott Owens

CH: How long have you been writing and why did you start in the first place?

SO: That's a tougher question than it might appear. I first wrote poems in grade school as a way of getting positive attention from my mom and teachers. They were, of course, horrible poems, very derivative, imitative, cliched and predictable. Then sometime during my late teen years I started writing darker poems that cautiously revealed some of the uglier details of my childhood. I didn't show those to anyone, but they helped me move out of pure imitation in poetry, and I wrote more in that style throughout college and up to the publication of my first book, The Persistence of Faith in 1993. Shortly after that, the reality of needing a consistent paycheck led me to stop writing for about a dozen years. I started back just two and a half years ago when my daughter started going to school in the mornings. So I guess I'd say I started in high school, around 1980, but I've only actually been writing for about 15 years. As for why, initially for the pats on the back, later because I needed to get some things "out," and now because when I'm not writing I just don't feel very satisfied.

CH: Who or what were your inspirations?

SO: Obviously, that is something that changes as a writer changes, but my first role model in poetry remains one of my current role models. I've always admired Robert Frost's work, and while I wouldn't say I emulate his style any longer, I do still hear occasional echoes in my work, and I'll probably always identify with his perspective on place and human existence. The next great teacher for me was Galway Kinnell. I still consider his "Book of Nightmares" the greatest book of poetry ever. A poem I wrote just the other day, in fact, began with a line from his poem "Little Sleep's Head Sprouting Hair in the Moonlight." And I suppose my third vital influence was and is Donald Hall. His theories on organic form helped me find a range of voices that I've become quite happy with. And, of course, there is a laundry list of others whose work has inspired and influenced me in various ways, going all the way back to Donne, Browning, Keats, Whitman, Housman, Hopkins, Williams, Stevens, Baudelaire, Berryman, Roethke, Creeley, Plath and Sexton, Wendell Berry, Tim Peeler, and a number of international writers including Yehuda Amichai, Yannis Ritsos, Neruda, Cavafy, Seferis, and Robert Desnos.

CH: What would you say is the hardest thing about writing?

SO: Two things, and to some degree they're the same thing. Time and keeping one's mind relaxed enough and undistracted enough to allow a complex series of associations to play out and actually attend to that play well enough to get it down on paper. There is a sort of zone I enter when I'm writing successfully. I'll think of a line or image or idea that will stick in my head, and as I go though my day or several days, that germinal element seems to collect other elements from memory, experience, perception, history, literature, wherever, and all those things that were not consciously tied up into one thought before become so. It's tough to stay in that zone when you get up running to get everything else done and never get the 2 to 3 hours needed to just sort of immerse yourself into an open state of mind that lets things happen.

CH: What advice would you give to a new writer who is struggling to find his or her identity?

SO: Read and write, Read and write, Read and write some more. Immersing oneself in language is probably the best way to help things that use language to start happening. At the same time, I would say achieve some balance. Ivory tower writing is often pointless. If you work 8 hours a day, sleep 8 hours a day, spend 4 hours of quality time with your loved ones, and 1 hour taking care of yourself (food, bills, travel, email, etc.), that still leaves 2 hours a day to read and another hour to write. And finally, I would say be patient. During my first career as a writer, the roughly 7 years in the late 80s and early 90s, I labored over every poem. Then after a 12 year hiatus, things seemed so much easier. So, if you think it's meaningful to you that you write, then I'd say just keep doing it and eventually you'll likely hit your stride.

End of Interview


Monday, November 30, 2009

Issue #11

Two Poems by Ross Vassilev

Jerusalem is your holy land but not mine

I’m old enough to remember
when they were still putting out music
on cassettes
I’m even old enough to remember vinyl
and Dawn Wells in Gilligan’s Island reruns
back then
there was hope in the world
at least for most people
before America’s endless wars
and global economic crises
now I’ve given up trying
just lie on the couch all day
while the spiders wrap their victims
in the corners
I’ve given up on sunsets and rainbows
and basic human decency
just waiting for the monster
with the body of a lion
the head of a rat
and darkness pouring from its eyes.

yellow eyes

my head dripping sweat
on the desk
my mind dripping
green bile
the nightmare flies
and the worms of my heart
maybe there’s other
lonely insane people who suffer
as much as I do
and I’m sure they’re all poets
I’m still fighting the Turks
kill the lights cuz
the Russians are coming
heed America’s
national paranoia doctrine
or they’ll throw you in prison
without trial
I’m a crazy person in a land
of loonies
feeling right at home.

Biography Note:

Ross Vassilev was born in Bulgaria and now lives in Ohio. He's a poet and the editor of Opium Poetry 2.0 ( and Asphodel Madness ( blogzines. He's been published here and there.

A.J. Kaufmann

My old lines – mistakes
My new ones – routine
Where’s the man I’ve been looking for
His machine

Where’s the burden, the ghost
The begging scrawl of years
Bowl of rice, the guest
Lines austere
Lonely lantern Annie
Silver on her breast
Songs of the sunken streetlight
Oceans, regret

My poem sleeps alone
Half-done, half-dead
The singer bows to the writer
Where’s the music,
The sincere, the jazz

Where’s the river, has it changed
City, remote heart attack
Tent of stars, minor concert
Yet another autograph
Is it me behind the glasses
Am I there

Why hide
I haven’t written for ages
Just collected, walked on by
My old lines – more mistakes
My new ones – not worthwhile
Winter – overwhelming
Prisons open wide
Wisdom crawls the gutter
Jokers ride the sky

Biography Note:

A.J. Kaufmann, born June 24 1989 is a poet, songwriter and traveler currently living in Poland. He's the author of "Siva in Rags", "I'm Already Not Here", "Pilgrims & Indians" and other poetry chapbooks. He can be found online at and /or at

Two Poems by Eric Miller

Coke Bottle Glasses

“How’s that?,” the optometrist
asked, as he slipped my new
glasses on.

“Spectacular,” I replied, despite
being worried that I would be
making a spectacle of myself
wearing these new coke bottle

But as I walked out of his door and
into the world, which had previously
been a blur to me, the curtain rose,
the music started, and I took my seat
to enjoy the spectacle of life, for which
I must admit I was delighted to have a

White Highways

From a hammock slung
between two leafless
trees, I stared at
contrails in the sky

Although they were
ice crystals formed by
planes flying through
freezing cold air, they
blanketed me in warmth

The white inked sky
spoke words of mythic
Greek and Roman gods,
mapping undiscovered
thoughts which carried
me to a place called
Slumber, located far
from white highways
in a special place
between two leafless

Biography Note:

Eric Miller is a retired dentist who has laid down his drill for a quill. His stories and poems number more than a mouth full of teeth and appear in many different publications.

Living on an Island
Alice Folkart

There we are, on the map,
that little green splatz
almost lost in endless
Mercator blue, longitude
and latitude with attitude
gliding right by.

Say "Hi!"
to the continent
when you get there.

The trade winds died
from an overdose of something,
and the weather lies gloomy,
gray, even greasy-dark upon us.
No end in sight, not even night
to promise cool.

When it's like this,
you can't see nothing much
whether you're looking out to sea
searching for the horizon,
the tightrope to a dream,
or at a map book or a globe.

All you'll see is a bumpy plain
oozing out across space
like the skin on rapidly-cooling oatmeal
that ain't going to be any good if you don't eat it now.

Biography Note:

Alice Folkart lives and writes on the island of Oahu. Her short stories and poetry have appeared in a number of Internet literary journals and print publications.

Kenneth P. Gurney

This not knowing
my child,
this fear of shadows
in the dark.

In the spaces between
letters typed
the dead hold their breath,
hope for a speaker.

The colored light
remains an hour away
from emerging
out of the blackness.

The dead who visit me,
like the alarm clock,
fade like the ground fog
as the sun rises
and work begins.

Biography Note:

Kenneth P. Gurney lives in Albuquerque, NM. His work appears mostly on the web as he spends SASE & reading fee monies on flowers for his lover. To learn more, visit

Doug Mathewson

Unexpected early dismissal from jury duty
left me on my own
midday midweek midtown
used book store cafe near the court drew me in
juror parking was free so I still had ten bucks
clerk with race-car tattoos and vertical hair took my six of my dollars
for a poetry book and a scone
scone was pear and almonds
book was Richard Garcia
both were great
reading and eating in a sunny spot
playing out my own alternate lives
with sailor me lost at sea
when cowboy me moved to town
disco me died too young
astronaut me who never took off
royal me without a throne
monastic me who suffered alone
the afternoon was passing
time to head home
the evening was still open
for us to decide who to be.

Biography Note:

Doug Mathewson is an editor and writer of short fiction who lives on Connecticut's eastern shore. He is editor of Blink-Ink, a contributing editor @ MUST, a photographer, and environmental artist. Most recently his work has been published by The Boston Literary Magazine, The Binnacle, Callused Hands, e-Muse, Full of Crow, Right Hand Pointing, riverbabble, and Poor Mojo’s Almanac(k). His somewhat more episodic fiction True Stories From Imaginary Lives is available at

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Issue #10

Two Poems by J.S. MacLean


It hides behind dusty colors
in antique shops and peeks
over hedgerows
just after high summer.
You can see it in faces
if you first focus
at a point far behind.
It is in the mirror
poking through hair
that’s been spent
like breadcrumbs
on a one way trail.

The hands of a friend
remind you of a parent.
There are no old people anymore,
once simple gardens are overgrown
and green.

The Caregiver

She cradles the dry leaves,
anointing them gently
so they don’t crumble
too soon,
touches the sprouts
misshapen by frost,
warming them open.

Hand, eye, muscle,
and memory
for the failing,
a heart
for the alone.

Holder of the names
of hidden ones,
doer of
private things,
a target, sometimes.

beyond glossy faces,
beyond pounding buds,
not an angel or a star,

she curves her arms
against the tide,
around those love words
in the sand.

Biography Note:

J.S. MacLean lives in Calgary Alberta. His work has appeared in such places as ditch, Why Vandalism? Battered Suitcase, Soundzine, The Toronto Quarterly, and various others. In 2007 he won first place in poetry in THIS Magazine's Great Canadian Literary Hunt. In his spare time he wears various hats on the staff of a new online journal, The Triggerfish Critical Review.

Salvatore Buttaci

blood-puddled war
sets landmines
with a twinkle
in its stormy eye
because it knows
the march of soldiers
how they tramp
on mud and green
under which one day
they finally rest
and so it goes
the kaleidoscope
of battles
of weak treaties
of time’s
brutal hands
oh, beware, beware
the rustling leaves
in placid gardens
the howling wolf
stretching its snarl
to bite
the solicitous moon

Biography Note:

Salvatore Buttaci is an obsessive-compulsive writer who plies his craft daily. His poems, stories, articles, and letters have appeared widely in publications that include New York Times, U. S. A. Today, The Writer, Cats Magazine, and Christian Science Monitor. He was the recipient of the $500 Cyber-wit Poetry Award in 2007. Buttaci lives with his wife Sharon in West Virginia.

I Still Sit By The Water
Mike Meraz

when I was 13 I would
sit by the water
and wonder what would become
of my life.

at 22 I would sit by the water
and wonder what I was going to do
with my life.

now at 38
I lay in bed and realize
water is pointless
yet there is something in me
that wants to get up
head to the Mississippi and watch
the boats go by, it is not the water
that matters so much, but a large space
of calmness, something to aspire to,
something that is traveled on, enjoyed
and breeds life.

I still sit by the water.

Biography Note:

Mike Meraz is a poet from Los Angeles who currently lives in New Orleans. He is the author of two books of poetry “Black-Listed Poems” and “All Beautiful Things Travel Alone.” Both are available at and He is also the editor of Black-Listed Magazine.

Lady of the tide-
Loren Fay

She sits beside the moons twilight
& changes your quiet thoughts.
She holds on to your cherished
life & moves within the perfect tide.
Swift as the current is wide
& as beautiful of an eve as tonight.
Swirling your arrogance
to sooth your exulting intuition.
She is the harbor of vessels
& the lady of great virtue.
Switch about your foolish pride
& come to attention at her side.

Biography Note:

Loren Fay is currently a college student at St. Petersburg College in Florida. She is working on her Bachelors’ degree, majoring in Space Research, and minoring in Creative Writing and Poetics. She has been published numerous times in local news papers and literary magazines. She wants to become a Missions Specialist at the Kennedy Space Center at NASA. She is currently writing a fiction novel (which is under secrete knowledge about its content). Follow her fan page on Facebook at Loren Fay (the writer). Check out her blog at

Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal

I shook his wrinkled hand.
His angry wink stared me
down. I shook his hand and
he killed me with his eyes.

Down the stairs I tumbled
like an old man without
balance. Perhaps I was
cursed by the old man’s stare.

I had an old wrinkled
hand and the old man’s stare.
He was me and I was
he. My angry eyes looked

long and far for the old
man. I wanted to kill
him. I wanted my old
hands and my old eyes back.

Biography Note:

Luis works in the mental health field in Los Angeles, CA. He was born in Mexico. His latest chapbook, Overcome, was published by Kendra Steiner Editions, and includes photography by Cynthia Etheridge.

Fire Song
KJ Hannah Greenberg

White wisps, blue tendrils,
Flame yellow kissed
Jewel weed bursts,
Red starred hearts,
Warm, then wane.

Wafting past earthen lances
Advancing only to sing
Where death wrings
Woodland mysteries.

Besot by unplanned grandeur,
Mysteries of blessing
Evade touch and thought,
Mimicking worse moments.

Birds nest where lives,
Beaten down, slip
Alone among reserves.
Temple records, only,
Remember our remorse.

Biography Note:

KJ Hannah Greenberg gave up all manner of academic hoopla to chase a hibernaculum of imaginary hedgehogs and to raise children. Blessed to be the parent of two girls and two boys, three of whom are raging through their teen years, and one of whom is threatening to spring from preadolescence, Hannah discovered, (all things being unequal) that it is both more rewarding and more difficult to raise children than to instruct thousands of college students on the nuances of human interactions.

Her poetry has appeared in numerous international venues, including: Joyful!, Ken*Again, Language and Culture Magazine, Literary Mama, Poetry Super Highway, Scribblers on the Roof, Tertulia Magazine, The Externalist, The Mother Magazine, The Shine Journal, The New Vilna Review, and Unfettered Verse.

Drowning In Pairs
Kyle Hemmings

You're carrying your puppy
past the skunk cabbage and poke berries,
the one with the terminal condition
a missing branch off the heart,
you'd give her yours
but you're only a girl
with damaged blood supply,
a pink shell of a heart
at times
a loss of pulse
a pulse-less unaccountable sea.

You gently hold her above the brook
that reflects the aspens and cassias
the deep blue maddening of the sky.
Damn God. And damn his shunted creations.
You swore you'd never get this close
to such a creature in need.
Your plan is to drown her,
but the thought of bubbles
stirring, clamoring to the surface
and your own reflection
you'll try hard to avoid
and you know
you'll be drowning

Biography Note:

Kyle Hemmings lives and works in New Jersey, where he skateboards and sometimes falls and can't get up.